Managing Finances

8 Four-Letter Words You’ll Love for Financial Health

In my career as a financial planner, I meet regularly with young adults to help them learn how to manage their money well. As a fellow parent of college students and college graduates, I want all our children to be financially successful. I wrote Coin and created the companion website for it, as resources that lay out the fundamentals of personal finance with wit and humor. I add new information to the website weekly and have included a recent column here that I hope you find as useful as well.Judy McNary

Share this column with your student to spark a conversation about finances!

8 Four-Letter Words You’ll Love for Financial Health

Why is it that a few four-letter words have given thousands of perfectly good four-letter words such a bad rap? It doesn’t seem fair, does it? I took it upon myself to give them a break. Make a habit of putting these eight words into use and this will be the strongest financial year you’ve ever had. They won’t offend anybody. You can even say them in front of your parents — how great is that? Why eight? Well, I was reading an article about how we can be pretty hardheaded when it comes to making changes. The author suggested sometimes we need to get hit over the head with a (figurative) two-by-four to get a message. Multiply two by four and you get eight.

Here you go!

1. PLAN. Let this be the year you outgrow impulse spending. If you’ve got some exciting goals — and I hope you do — planning before spending will make those goals happen sooner. Whether it’s clothes, groceries, or basic household matter, make a list before you head out to spend. You’ll get everything you need and you’ll be less likely to end up with 3 jumbo jars of peanut butter in the cupboard!

2. COOK. Sure, you’re busy, you’re tired. You come home and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking a meal from scratch. I get that. Take baby steps and make it fun. When you’ve got a little downtime, check out a few online cookbooks and find a new recipe to try. There are millions of recipes that don’t take long, don’t take many ingredients, and make great leftovers. Aim for eating one less meal out and cooking one more meal each week.

3. SWAP. Tired of wearing the same scarves and belts over and over? Tempted to go out and buy a bunch of new ones? Host a swap party instead. Start simple. Invite a few friends to each bring 5 accessories they’re willing to give up for a while and exchange. It can be temporary or permanent — you decide. Everyone will feel like they got something new to freshen up their wardrobes but nobody spent a dime. This doesn’t have to be just clothing, either. Sporting goods, furnishings, kitchen items, tools, and electronic gadgets are great candidates for swap sessions.

4. SAFE. Do what you need to do to keep what you’ve got. If all your electronic accounts still use the same password you’ve had since seventh grade, it’s time to change. No matter how fond you are of CheetosRgr8t you need to come up with something new and tougher to crack. Don’t use just one password, either. Set up different passwords for different accounts.

5. SAVE. You know I was going to put this in here, right? I am sure you are already saving, so bump up your saving percentage by 1%. Go ahead, you’ll be glad you did. Little increases add up to big results.

6. ROTH. Start now. Open a Roth IRA and set up automatic transfers from your checking or savings account into it. You will be so glad you did. I promise. Ever wonder why it’s a Roth? That’s because the legislation was introduced by Senator Roth of Delaware. Just think, if you ran for Congress you could introduce a bill and have something named for you for ever after. Pretty cool.

7. DEBT. Yes, this can be a good four-letter word. If you’ve got debt of any sort, the good news is you are building a credit history. Make sure it’s a good one by paying your bills on time. At some point or another, you need to have a credit history in order to qualify for (more) debt. I know, that sounds a little strange but if you want to buy a house someday, you get a better rate if you’ve got a higher credit score. The score is based on how well you’ve done in the past with paying off debt so show those financial institutions you’ve got it together.

8. GIVE. Almost all the healthiest, wealthiest folks all give time, money, or both to help make the world a better place. If you haven’t done this before try it, you’ll like it. Start giving just a little bit and you’ll be hooked. And if you’re already a giver pat yourself on the back and keep on keepin’ on. Take these eight four-letter words and make them a part of your life. By the end of the year, you will be in a stronger financial place than you are right now.

Want to learn more? Read Coin! A great four-letter word and a book that is guaranteed to make you the very picture of perfect financial health. Learn more at Judy McNary

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