If learning how to build wealth is important to you, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, Business Insider has rounded up 10 quick money lessons that will teach you how to master your money — from how to automate your savings to investing in the stock market when you’re not an “investor.”
Of course, this isn’t all there is to know about personal finance, but setting aside a few minutes to tackle these lessons can only put you that much closer to finishing rich.
How to calculate your net worth
“Your net worth is a measure of your financial health,” said certified financial planner Mary Beth Storjohann, founder of Workable Wealth.
It’s the result of your total assets minus your liabilities, or the amount you owe, and you should be checking it at least twice a year.
“Net worth can also be used to measure how far you’ve come over time,” Storjohann says.
Here’s the exact method financial planner Sophia Bera uses, as explained in her book “What You Should Have Learned About Money, But Never Did”:
I have a spreadsheet that I pull up, I log into my accounts online, and I enter the balance of each of my retirement accounts, savings, investments, and so on. Then I enter any debts and subtract this number from my assets to determine my net worth.
If you own a home you can pull the approximate value of your house on Zillow.com, and then subtract your mortgage balance to determine how much home equity you have.
How to change your mindset about money
Contrary to popular belief, finishing rich isn’t necessarily dependent on the size of your paycheck — and it has more to do with psychology and mindset than you may think.
This should strike you as good news, since anyone can change their thoughts, beliefs, and habits to reflect those of the rich.
You can start by thinking of money as something to invest, rather than something to save or spend. As self-made millionaire Grant Cardone writes on Entrepreneur:
The only reason to save money is to invest it. Put your saved money into secured, sacred (untouchable) accounts. Never use these accounts for anything, not even an emergency. This will force you to continue to follow step one (increase income). To this day, at least twice a year, I am broke because I always invest my surpluses into ventures I cannot access.
How to figure out where all of your money is going
Keeping tabs on where your money is going, whether fixed expenses like rent or mortgage payments and transportation costs or discretionary spending like dining out and travel, is a crucial part of mastering your money.
Setting up a spreadsheet or using a service like LearnVest or Mint can help you make cuts where necessary and even set you on a path to early retirement, if that’s what you’re after. It can be as simple or as detailed as you like, and it often only takes a few minutes to set up.
How to prioritize debt
Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive and the founder and CEO of Ellevest, says paying down high-interest debt should always be prioritized, even above building an emergency fund.
She explained the math in an article on Ellevest: “Say you have $5,000 of credit card debt at an 18% interest rate. Say you happen upon $5,000 of money. If you take some of the advice out there, and split the use of that $5,000 (half to establish an emergency fund, half to pay down credit card debt), you still have $2,500 of credit card debt and $2,500 of money sitting in cash.
“The $2,500 of credit card debt at an 18% interest rate costs you $450 a year. The emergency fund earns almost nothing in interest. So you’re out $450.”
Bottom line: You’ll save more paying off the debt than you’d earn if you invested it, whether in a high-yield savings account or the stock market.
How to pay yourself first — automatically
“People still don’t grasp the fact that they need to save a dime out of every dollar,” author and self-made millionaire David Bach told Business Insider in a Facebook Live interview.
He said the average American who’s saving money is saving just 15 minutes a day of their income, when they should be saving an hour.
It’s all part of the “pay-yourself-first plan,” as Bach calls it, which takes the effort out of manually saving and ensures that your money will grow exponentially over time thanks to compound interest.
If you’re a salaried or non-hourly employee, all it takes is a simple calculation to find out your income for one hour.
Suppose you make $50,000 annually and you work a full-time job, 40 hours a week. You’ll be paid for about 2,080 hours of work in a year, equaling roughly $25 per hour. Bank that much each day, and you’ll “never have to worry about money,” according to Bach.
“When that money is moved before you can touch it, that’s how real wealth is built,” said Bach.
How much money you should be saving
The money you “pay yourself” should go toward the two most important personal expenses: a retirement fund that’ll carry you through your post-work life and an emergency savings fund to cover any unexpected expenses that crop up along the way.
Check out Bach’s general rule of thumb in the chart above for how much you should be saving in every decade of your life, broken down into retirement savings and emergency savings.
“Typically the older you get the more you earn and spend. And if you lose your job it can take longer to find a job that replaces that income,” he said. “When in doubt with emergency money, more is always better.”
Equally as important: Where to store your emergency savings. Bach recommends the best place is in a money market account or high-yield savings, where it’ll be safe and liquid.
How to invest in the stock market
Though it may seem intimidating, investing is anyone’s game. You don’t have to be a stock-picking genius or a earn a massive paycheck to make great returns over the long term.
In fact, according to John C. Bogle, the legendary founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group, the best way for the average person to make money in the market is to invest in index funds.
The “classic index fund,” which he defines as holding many, many stocks, and operating with minimal expenses and high tax efficiency, works for two main reasons: They’re broadly diversified, which eliminates individual stock risk, and they’re low cost.
“It is a simple concept that guarantees you will win the investment game played by most other investors who — as a group — are guaranteed to lose,” Bogle writes in his book “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.”
You can start by opening an account online with Bogle’s company, Vanguard, and invest in their index mutual funds, which charge relatively low fees for investing directly (an average of 0.13%).
Always remember that in the long-term, you’re better off being in the market, even a volatile one, than staying out of it.
How your partner views money
As uncomfortable as they may be, money conversations are a crucial aspect of a healthy relationship. After all, arguments about money are a leading predictor of divorce.
“Smart couples talk about money all the time,” Bach writes in his book, “Smart Couples Finish Rich.” “When you work together on your finances, you can compound the results. When you don’t, the same can be said for the mistakes you will invariably make.”
Where do you start? First, you’ll want to understand the financial background of your partner, Bach says. You’ll want to find out how your partner feels about money and what they consider to be its purpose in their life. This will allow you to understand how they make financial decisions.
Next, you can discuss the more concrete details, such as who is responsible for paying which bills, whether you want a joint account, and what your specific money goals are as a couple.
How much money you need to keep in your checking account
Bera recommends at least a month of net pay: “A good rule of thumb is to keep at least one month of net pay in your checking at all times. Look for a checking account with no monthly fee and no minimum balance. Even better, find an account that reimburses ATM fees from other banks. One of my favorites is Schwab’s online checking account because the bank will reimburse you for ATM fees worldwide.
“Some checking accounts pay interest, which is great if you tend to keep a high balance in your checking account. But if you are not earning much interest, I generally recommend that as long as you have enough to cover a month’s worth of bills, you move the rest to a high-yield savings or money-market account so you can earn about 1% on your money.”
She also warns against overdrafting, which will result in a fee. To be safe, get overdraft protection, but be aware there may also be a (smaller) fee associated with that.
What kinds of insurance you need
Everyone has to have health insurance, or pay a fee. If you have a car, you’re required to have auto insurance. If you own a home, you must buy homeowner’s insurance.
But beyond that? Here are a few rules of thumb: If you support yourself, get disability insurance. LearnVest has an easy-to-follow primer on how to calculate how much you need.
If you have children or other dependents, share outsized debts like a mortgage with a spouse, or have substantial private student loans, get life insurance. Term policies are sufficient for most people. If you have a high net worth, you might want to look into whole life insurance for its tax breaks.
If you are a renter, get renter’s insurance. In addition to covering break-ins or damage from a fire or severe weather, renter’s insurance will cover you if your car is ever broken into. “Anything that is not part of your vehicle that is stolen from your car — golf clubs in your trunk, for example — is not covered by auto insurance,” Jonathan Meaney, a certified financial planner and wealth manager at Carter Financial, told Business Insider, “Your renter’s insurance on the other hand, will cover those items.”
When everything is going swimmingly, insurance seems like an unwelcome extra cost. But when the waves start breaking and something goes seriously wrong, it can make all the difference.
~ Thomas Jefferson