As I mentioned earlier, I was in an accident at the beginning of January and I’m still recovering. And as part of my treatment, I’ve been instructed not to spend so much time thinking about the current political situation because it stresses me out which tenses up my muscles and prolongs the healing process. Woof. It’s obviously not easy or even possible to avoid it altogether, but this post is an attempt to redirect my focus for a bit. So…

MONEY.

What could be stressful about that?

Here’s my mini soapbox rant real quick – WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY isn’t financial literacy a requirement in high school or college? How can we expect to have a healthy economy or functional citizens without teaching young people the basics of handling money? Yes, we can hope that parents pass down these lessons, but even the most financially savvy of parents aren’t guaranteed to do the job. Why risk it? Instead, high schools should have a class required on how bank accounts work, how to avoid inappropriate debt, how to create a budget, how to save for retirement, how to make major purchases, and how to choose a financial institution to hold on to your money. And good grief, college students should be required to take a class in their first semester or quarter on how to make smart decisions (like not signing up for every credit card offer that comes in the mail and how to handle student loans) and another in their last on how to start repaying loans or how to create a budget or how to negotiate your salary or what to look for in a job offer’s benefits. What could be more important as we send young people out into the world on their own?

Ok. Rant over. And if you happen to be an expert on all financial matters, I applaud you. But if you’re like me and many of my friends, you might need some tips. I’m not an expert but I’ve gathered a decent amount of knowledge from my work experience and from reading a lot and getting advice from older co-workers. Like most of the topics I’m covering on Just Be Better, this will require multiple posts. But to get you started, here are a few of my favorite resources:

The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke by Suze Orman: Definitely worth the $10, this book explains overwhelming subjects like credit reports, budgets, debt, investing, and major purchases.

Credit Karma: You may already have your credit score if it is provided by your bank or if you had to move recently or opened a new financial account, but this app does more than show you the number. It breaks down the score and shows you how to improve it. For example, you may be using too much of your credit (at or nearing a credit card limit) or maybe you aren’t paying your monthly minimum payments. Even if you have a pretty good score, it doesn’t hurt to know how to make it even higher.

Money Under 30: I may be a smidge over 30 now, but this website is helpful for all ages.

NerdWallet: All you need to know about credit cards, banking, loans, investing, insurance, and more.

Planet Money: This is one of the best podcasts out there, period. Each episode is really well done, interesting, and understandable. It covers things as high level as inflation, oil, and #Brexit as well as topics as specific as why textbook prices keep rising. Subscribe.

Bad with Money: This podcast is by Gaby Dunn and is definitely for a younger crowd (read: sometimes NSFW). She talks openly about how little she knows about money and how to handle it, but also interviews guests about things like getting paid as a freelancer. Some episodes are more universally applicable than others, but all are sure to be interesting.

Budgeting Tools: Yes, budgeting feels like a bad, scary, overwhelming word. But unless you have an idea where your money goes, you can’t really have any control over it. And it feels good to have a sense of control, doesn’t it?

The Best Financial Decisions to Make in Your 20s: Last but not least, here is a quick article from my friend Talitha with a few basics summarizing what I will hopefully write more about soon.

Ok, so this post is all about resources and not specifics, but I can’t let you go without mentioning one specific thing. Employer 401k matching. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask someone in HR if your employer provides 401k matching. Why? Because it is FREE MONEY. Your employer provides a 401k for you to invest in. So you say okay, I can go without a certain % of my salary (especially if it is taken out of my paycheck because it’s almost like it was never there for me to spend in the first place) and those funds are invested for your retirement. And if your employer matches, that means they take additional money NOT from your paycheck but from the company and invest it in YOUR retirement account. Not all employers provide this benefit, but if yours does, you absolutely must take advantage because otherwise you are literally throwing away free money. FREE MONEY! Sign up immediately! Don’t waste another dollar minute!

Help me make this series better! What questions do you have about money?

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