Women are strong. There’s no doubt about that.
Between casually continuing the human race, shattering the glass ceiling and pushing for equality, we’re pretty busy. And sometimes, it can be easy to let our finances slip. It happens to the most boss babes out there (myself included!) and getting back on-track financially can be exhausting when you haven’t stretched that savings muscle in a while. What’s a girl to do?
Follow these four simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to building up your money muscle without breaking a sweat. Flex those finances, girl!
1. Slay at saving
The first step to becoming a money maven? Mastering the art of saving.
Trust me, I know that saving is easier said than done when you’ve got rent to pay, sales to shop and brunch to bang out. But all financially fierce women have one thing in common: They consistently save money and have the self-discipline socking away that cash requires.
Not sure how much you should be saving? A good guideline to follow is to put 20 percent of your take-home pay toward saving or paying down debt. Because, #adulting.
The easiest way to start saving is to automate it! You can’t spend what you can’t see, right? Have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited into a high-yield savings account. Then, you can look, but you can’t touch! You can also bump up your savings by saving any $1, $5 or $10 bill you get your hands on.
Not quite sure what exactly you’re saving for (I mean, it’s not like you can take it with you, right?), then check out a few common savings goals for 20-somethings to consider:
- Building an emergency savings fund. Even optimists need a plan B! Everyone needs to have at least four to seven months’ worth of expenses saved. You need funds to fall back on just in case life throws you a plot twist.
- Planning for your retirement. Yes, really. Start saving for retirement RN, and watch compounding interest work its magic. Take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans, if your company offers one—plus, they might match your contributions up to a certain percentage. Yay, free money!
- Saving for something fun! Seriously. If you’ve been wooed by wanderlust and are tempted to take an Insta-worthy trip, starting saving for it now. It’ll build your savings muscle while giving you a sweet reward at the end.
2. Demolish debt
Debt can put a pretty big dent in your money-savvy master plan, so demolish it ASAP.
First, establish the order in which you’ll be wiping out that debt, starting with any high-interest debt. Ramp up your payments on that high-interest debt to get it paid off faster, even if it means trimming a few of your “fun” expenses. Those shoes are much less cute when buried under a pile of pitiful debt.
If you have a significant amount of high-interest credit card debt spread out across multiple cards, consider consolidating it with a balance transfer credit card. This type of credit card will ultimately reduce the amount of interest you’re paying, saving you money in the process.
There is one kind of debt that you shouldn’t stress too much over: student loan debt. Didn’t think you’d ever see “student loan debt” and “stress-free” in the same sentence, did you?
While you should never miss a payment on your student loan debt, you also don’t have to scramble to pay it off fast. Paying it off fast is great, but not at the expense of other financial obligations, like saving for retirement. Federal student loans offer low fixed rates, long repayment periods and flexibility. So chill, girl!
3. Build killer credit
Now, this step (kinda) goes hand-in-hand with demolishing debt. Building killer credit is key when it comes to mastering your money, and it takes a bit more than just swiping your plastic to prove you’re a reliable borrower.
Building good credit means achieving a good credit score, which is the number that lenders look at to get a snapshot of what type of borrower you’ll be. Bad credit can kill your loan application—whether it’s for a car or home—and you’ll get slapped with some pretty high interest rates. “How low can you go” isn’t really a game you want to play with your credit; the higher your credit score is, the better.
Ready to bulk up your credit and get it in tip-top shape? Here’s how:
- Pay off your credit card balances in full, on time, every time (ignore the minimum payment; it’s a trap!).
- Keep a low credit utilization ratio—just because you have available credit, doesn’t mean you should use it. It’s a tease, I know.
- Pass on store credit cards. They’re disguised as deals but can come with superhigh APRs.
4. Invest like a boss
Investing sounds pretty intimidating, doesn’t it? All those spikey charts and graphs, tickers and financial jargon don’t help, either. But if your finances are in shape (as in, you’ve slayed those three steps above), the younger you start investing, the wealthier you could be.
In your 20s? You can be a bit riskier with your investments since you have a longer time to ride things out. When it comes to investing, the best place to start is with learning the basics of asset allocation and diversification. Then determine how much risk you’re willing to take, and how long you plan to be in the market.
Hot tip: If we’ve learned anything from Snapchat’s IPO, it’s that the new, shiny thing isn’t always the savviest way to go … even if those dog filters are pretty dang entertaining.
You don’t need to be rolling in dough to get started, either. There are so many apps out there, like Stash or Stockpile, that allow you to buy fractional shares of stock. So if you’ve got $5, you have more than enough to get in the game. Skip your morning Starbucks, and start investing in your future self.
Being a fierce financial female all begins with saving, so find a great bank account below to get started. And tell me what makes you feel financially #fierce every day on Facebook!