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Get Rich(er)

Get Rich(er)

Get Rich(er)

    It is true that no one can serve two masters, and slavish devotion to unrighteous mammon is indeed a road to misery.  Ambition to produce and “be rich” is not necessarily a bad thing, though.  And if you’re reading this, you’re likely among the richest 1-2% of people who have ever lived.  Historically speaking, you’re not just rich.  You’re super-rich.

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    This means a couple of things.  First, it means that foregoing generations have left us with the capital, technology, and institutions we need to produce staggering amounts of wealth (which isn’t just “stuff;” wealth is whatever people value).  They have done this by establishing legal systems conducive to trade, by establishing an ethic of inquiry, and by refraining from consumption so as to leave us with plenty of resources that we can use to produce current and future output.  How, then, in this environment, should one grow wealthy?  And what are the social implications?  Here, I will relay some of the best advice I have gotten and discuss some of the social implicaitons of “getting rich.”  First, here’s how to do it:

    1.  Stop renting and buy a house. Homeowners build equity while renters line their landlords’ pockets.  This require a few important caveats.  First, don’t buy a house you can’t afford by agreeing to terms you can’t meet embedded in a mortgage you don’t understand.  Second, it is better to rent than to buy if you are only going to be somewhere for a very short period of time.  We bought our first house about a year ago, and we bought conservatively: we bought in a nice, semi-urban neighborhood based on the assumption that we would have to pay for the house on a single income.  We’re happy, we’re building equity, and we aren’t over-extended (yet–we have a six-week-old!!).

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    2.  Step away from the latte. The Automatic Millionaire author David Bach refers to what he calls “the latte factor,” which consists of the money we spend on small, incidental purchases: a $3 latte here, a $15 lunch there.  It all adds up.  Of course, there is something to be said for having your morning coffee, and for some of us, it is more efficient to get our fix from Starbucks.  A first step might be to size down–Starbucks does sell a “short,” though it isn’t on the menu–or to go with a regular coffee that costs $2 rather than a $4-5 specialty drink.

    3.  If you’re being paid $50,000, do $55,000 worth of work. One of the best ways to ensure job security is not to do the bare minimum necessary to get by, but to do enough that you are competitive for another job.  In academia, our brass ring is tenure, which gives us wide-ranging freedom to explore the world of ideas.  Last summer, I heard it put this way: “don’t worry about being competitive for tenure.  Worry about staying marketable.”  If you’re marketable–and you may be perfectly content wherever you are–then you shouldn’t have to worry too much about job security.

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    4.  Save. If you aren’t contributing to your 401k or your 403b and you don’t have an excellent reason not to (we didn’t during my first year at Rhodes because we were saving cash to buy a house), you’re throwing money away.  A Roth IRA is a fantastic deal if you’re young, and a 401k can reduce your tax liability considerably while giving you room to grow your capital in the future.

    5.  Bank the raises. What do you do with those little boosts to your income?  Do they go straight down the drain on a bunch of stuff you don’t need?  Or do you put them in the bank?  We have a system that has worked reasonably well in our house.  Whenever, we get unexpected shocks to our income, we split it four ways.  The bank gets 25%, the kids get 25%, my wife gets 25%, and I get 25%.  This has proven to be a somewhat reasonable and easy way to splurge every so often while making sure that we are wise stewards of what has been entrusted to us.

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    6.  Be a cheapskate. This is something we have some trouble with.  When your income goes up, it’s fine to splurge a little.  My wife and I both have iPods, and we have a nice TV.  However, we had one car for our first four years of marriage, and we bought a deeply-used second car last summer from a Rhodes graduate who was advertising it on Craigslist.  We’ve never had cable, we just switched from cable internet to AT&T (slightly slower, much cheaper), and we try to take advantage of cheap entertainment (our church library, for example, has a ton of stuff).

    7.  Go with equities if you’re young. The younger you are, the better it is to invest in stocks because you have plenty of time to take higher volatility in exchange for higher returns.  As you get older, you will want to make your portfolio more conservative, but now is the time to take on risk.  Even in the current crisis, there is reason for optimism because it’s a great time to buy.  After you’ve salted away two or three months’ income in order to deal with unanticipated emergencies–like the new kitchen floor we had to get last month–you should begin investing in equity-heavy mutual funds.  Many companies offer funds that rebalance toward greater conservatism over time, substituting bonds and safer securities as you approach retirement.

    8.  Get educated. The market is screaming “stay in school!”  Wages for low-skilled occupations have stayed flat while wages for high-skill, high-tech occupations have risen dramatically.  If you’re serious about it, college is a great investment.  Strange as it may sound, the increasing cost of college is another reason to be optimistic.  Higher costs for higher education suggest increasing productivity in other sectors as well as general expectations that there are great opportunities in the future for the educated.

    9.  Be generous. Finally, it is important to remember all the cliches about wealth.  All that glitters is not gold.  George Bailey was the richest man in Bedford Falls.  It doesn’t profit a man to gain the world and yet lose his soul.  Ebenezer Scrooge, for all his wealth (which produced higher incomes for many people, by the way), appears to have had a miserable and wretched life.  Money cannot buy happiness or love, but it can buy a lot of things that contribute to happiness–such as the ability to help people who truly need it.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

    Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

    Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

    This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

    Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

    What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

    Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

    When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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    How It Leads to Financial Improvement

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

    Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

    Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

    It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

    Types of Personal Finance Software

    When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

    Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

    For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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    Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

    When to Use Personal Finance Software

    So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

    Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

    1. You Have Multiple Accounts

    There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

    If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

    Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

    2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

    Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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    There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

    With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

    3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

    Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

    Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

    Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

    4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

    Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

    You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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    How to Get Started

    From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

    Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

    It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

    When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

    Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

    Final Thoughts

    Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

    In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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