In the last column we laid out some of my favorite key lessons for pre-teens and teens that parents and grandparents can use to increase their financial IQs, especially during April, which is Financial Literacy for Youth Month.
As promised, in this column I will set out some of my favorite key lessons for 20- to 30-year-olds, adults and seniors. I distinguish 20- to 30-year-olds and adults, because, in a recent survey, a significant number of millennials reported that they felt that they were adults at age 30.
Lessons for 20- to 30-year-olds
1. Always carefully read and understand all of your financial documents, including cell phone, internet and cable contracts, apartment and car leases, mortgages, credit card and store charge agreements, bank account and investment agreements, insurance policies, and every other agreement that can affect your finances, directly or indirectly. Also, do the math yourself — don’t take anyone’s word for it. You “can’t afford” any surprises.
2. Have appropriate insurance coverage for your circumstances. One uninsured loss could financially wipe you out. When appropriate, have homeowners or renters insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance.
3. Always have an appropriate emergency savings account, because bad things happen to good people. Also, always have savings for anticipated expenses, like car repairs for your 7-year-old car and replacing your old appliances. Those and other savings will help you to avoid consumer debt, like credit card debt. So anticipate them, and always save for vacations, before you go on them, holidays, including gifts and entertainment, and special events, like weddings.
4. Remember that a good credit report and credit score are critical. Pay everything on time, don’t incur more debt than you can reasonably repay, and don’t miss payments. If you ruin your credit, there will be consequences, like losing out on a job, because everyone today checks credit.
5. As a consumer, set a lifetime goal to pay as few interest dollars as possible. Unlike a business, you can’t pass the interest you incur on loans on to a customer, and still make a profit. Get that three- or four-year auto loan, not the seven-year one. The payments will be higher, but you will pay less in the end. The same is true with a 15- instead of a 30-year mortgage. Remember, that when it comes to loans, it is about the interest rate and the term (length) of the loan, not the monthly payment.
6. Now is the time to start putting together longer term financial goals and plans. Will you be financially ready in the future for marriage, children, a house, health care expenses and, yes, retirement? Who in your family — parents, aunts or uncles, grandparents, or cousins, or among your friends — knows about and practices good financial management and investing. Talk to them and/or a fee-based financial planner. Everyone can benefit from a financial mentor.
7. Have a budget so that you can live within your means. Good news: There are many apps now that can help you with that.
Lessons for adults
1. Read all my past columns at mpnnow.com.
2. Make sure your children and grandchildren know the money management lessons for them that we have discussed in the last two columns.
3. Make sure that you are on track for a retirement with dignity, and avoid withdrawing money from your retirement account without talking to a financial adviser and exploring every other option. Also, as difficult as it is for many to accept, beware of letting your children’s education interfere with your savings goals for retirement. You may need to sacrifice more to do both.
4. Make money matter in everything that you do. Use more cash, avoid credit card debt, and save for anticipated expenses, including health care, and emergencies. Also, have a budget, so that you can track and analyze your spending. Then you can make smart choices about needs vs. wants, wishes, luxuries and conveniences, and live within your means.
5. Have a will and, if appropriate, adequate life insurance.
6. Research how and take the necessary steps to prevent identity theft as much as possible, including checking your three credit reports annually at annualcreditreport.com.
Lessons for seniors
1. Create an annual written budget for your charitable giving, and stick to it, unless you talk to a family member or your financial adviser.
2. Make sure that your family or your financial adviser knows all of your finances, and create a file that documents your finances, should something unexpected happen to you.
3. If you have a spouse, make sure they can handle everything they need to around your home, should something unexpected happen to you.
4. Don’t hesitate to ask for help and advice if you can’t handle things, financial and otherwise, as well as you used to, or if you need anything that you can’t afford.
5. Avoid debt, which can be very stressful as you get older.
These have been just a few of my favorite lessons for Financial Literacy Month.