It is widely recognized that financial literacy impacts a person’s overall economic success. In fact, studies have shown that individuals who are exposed to economic and financial education at an early age are more likely to exhibit positive financial behaviors when they are older (e.g., maintaining high credit scores, accumulating wealth). As a result, many states are requiring high school students to take a course in either economics or personal finance before they graduate.1
Whether you are just starting out and beginning to manage your own finances or simply want to stay on top of your current financial situation, it’s important to always keep these basic principles of financial literacy in mind.
1. Create a budget and stick with it. A budget helps you stay on track with your finances. Start by identifying your income and expenses. Next, compare the two totals to make sure you are spending less than you earn. Hopefully, your budget is still on the right track. If you find that your expenses outweigh your income, you’ll need to make some adjustments. Finally, while straying from your budget from time to time is normal, once you have a solid budget in place it’s important to try to stick with it.
2. Set financial goals. Setting goals is an important part of life, particularly when it comes to your finances. Short-term goals may include saving for a new car or building an emergency fund, while long-term goals may take more time to achieve (e.g., saving for a child’s education or retirement). Over time, your personal or financial circumstances will most likely change, so you’ll need to be ready to make adjustments and reprioritize your goals as needed.
3. Manage your credit and debt. Reducing debt is part of any healthy financial plan. Whether you have student loan debt, an auto loan, and/or a credit-card balance, you’ll want to pay it down as quickly as possible. Start by tracking all of your balances while being mindful of interest rates and hidden fees. Next, optimize your repayments by paying off any high-interest debt first and/or taking advantage of a debt consolidation/refinancing program.
4. Protect yourself. When it comes to insurance coverage, are you adequately protected? Having the appropriate amount of insurance to help protect yourself against possible losses is an important part of any financial strategy. Your insurance needs will depend on your individual circumstances and can change over time. As a result, you’ll want to make sure your coverage properly aligns with your income and family/personal circumstances.