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Do you often find yourself struggling financially, and wondering if there’s a better way to manage your money? If you do, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are facing the same financial challenges you are, and the stats bear this out, as 38% of American households carry some sort of credit card debt, and the average amount of that debt has ballooned to over $16,000. Additionally, fewer Americans are saving for retirement. Less than half of all Americans have $400 on hand to deal with emergencies.
It doesn’t have to be that way! You can overcome many of these challenges with a little financial literacy. Even if you’re not wealthy, you can gain a better understanding of personal finance and manage the money you do have much more effectively. Here are four great ways to increase your financial knowledge right now.
1. Check Your Credit
When you decide to have a better understanding of your finances, one of the first things you should do is start monitoring your credit. Your credit rating is extremely important. It affects your access to the money required to own a car, purchase a home, or start a business. It may even affect your ability to get a job, especially if you want to work for the Federal Government.
Start monitoring your credit as soon as you can. Many banks include services that allow you to track your credit score free at all times. Many financial apps, such as Credit Karma or CreditWise, enable you to monitor your credit score closely as well. You can also order a detailed credit report, which will give you a better understanding of what the credit bureaus see as your major financial strengths and weaknesses. You can download a free credit report every year from annualcreditreport.com, one for each of the credit bureaus.
2. Leverage Technology
Do you know how much money you have in your bank account, how much your electric bill is this month, or the balances on all your credit cards? If finding the answers to these questions will take you some time, you’re doing it wrong! The same tech that you use to post photos and keep up with your friends can help you maintain a clear picture of your financial situation, so start using them.
Apps such as Mint can let you control all aspects of your finances with your smartphone. You’ll be able to track your bank and credit card balances, pay bills, and even monitor your credit. Other apps, such as Venmo, can make it easier to manage expenses more precisely, and let you divide shared bills amongst multiple parties. There are even programs that’ll let you channel that loose change you have into real money; apps such as Acorns can help you invest small amounts of cash into an account that earns you a return.
3. Take a Trip (to the Library)
If you think you have to pay money to increase your financial knowledge, think again. Numerous free resources can help you gain a much better understanding of the world of money and personal finance. One of the best places to start is at your public library. If you get yourself a library card, you’ll be able to check out and read the best books on personal finance. Many libraries will also have major periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, or Forbes available as well. If you get in the habit of visiting your library each week and perusing them, you’ll start rapidly building your financial literacy. Finally, many libraries have access to expensive financial databases that can invaluable if you decide to research publicly traded companies, mutual funds, real estate, or other potential investments.
4. Find an Expert
Unless you have a significant amount of free time, or you already have a background in finance, it’s difficult to get all the expertise you need to manage your money on your own. If you want to increase your financial knowledge, one of the best ways to do it is to find an expert you can trust to help you understand your finances better and make informed choices about your money.
A certified financial planner can help you find ways to save and invest your money more effectively and assist you with planning for retirement. A good accountant can assist you with tax planning and preparation, and help limit your exposure to state and Federal income taxes. If dealing with debt is a major issue for you, a credit counselor can help you determine the best ways to deal with things such as credit cards and student loans.
Find Success When You Increase Your Financial Knowledge
Personal finance doesn’t have to be some incomprehensible subject you’d rather avoid. Let’s face it; no one can really afford to be financially illiterate these days. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to gain a better understanding of money and use that knowledge to get the most out of the cash you have on hand. So, put these four tips to use and start managing your money more effectively today.