7 in 7: Money Monday

I named this blog Proverbial Girlfriend to reflect that we modern women have a lot to be inspired by the woman described in Proverbs 31. So it always bothers me that some people get the idea that to be a traditional Christian and be proud of authentic femininity is backwards or even misogynist.  Have they even read Scripture? One area in particular is  money. That Proverbial Woman knows what to do with it:

“She brings him profit, not loss,* all the days of her life.” (12).

“She picks out a field and acquires it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.” (16). ” 

“She enjoys the profit from her dealings; her lamp is never extinguished at night.” (18).

“She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.”

Now that I am an unmarried adult on the scary side of 25 with a job, rent, bills, and a credit card, I figured it was time to take charge of finances. But I had not a clue where to start. So, if any of you readers are like me and want some financial advice, this post is for you. I asked a few people and got a few pointers. L.S. is a dear friend and accountant for a multi-use college facility; PM is my momma; and Guy with Money is another dear friend who happens to be younger than 30 but pretty monetarily savvy. Graduated college with no debt; invests; you get the idea.

It is important to note that the following tips are just that…tips that have worked for some people and ideas to generate questions to speak over with trusted advisors. Also, they can be useful for any person–not just us single ladies!

1) L.S.: “Time is money. Whatever you can save now, you should. Giving up a coffee to put $5 in retirement a month will pay off huge dividends when it comes to retirement age. If you don’t have a retirement benefit account through work that will match your retirement savings, open a ROTH IRA. I believe Fidelity will let you do this with no maintenance fees. So, I would say to research Fidelity, Ameriprise and other companies online to see what has the most beneficial fee structure and return for you. Another thought is to look at the Catholic Order of Forresters (I’m sure I spelled that wrong–Ed. note: there’s one ‘r’). My mom and sisters have annuity accounts with them that are providing above average returns, and it’s benefiting a Catholic organization as well.”

Ed.: So, my company offers a 401(3)b (non-profits) with match. It’s very simple to work out a pre-tax percentage of my weekly paycheck that won’t break the budget. Some plans give you an option of types of investments. One rule of thumb is the higher the return possible, the higher risk. Do what’s right for you in your situation, and always know you can adjust contribution level as needed (and possibly even type of plan)…just don’t withdraw early!!!
2) L.S. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or man, married or unmarried. Focus on what’s important to you, and work toward it accordingly. Something I consider one of my greatest traits is that I live below my means. Just because I get a raise at work doesn’t mean I spend the entire raise on stuff. That said, I am focusing on balancing life, so I am putting some of that raise toward travel/vacationing. The first thing my financial advisor had me do was to write down all my dreams. Start there and see where that leads the money.”

Ed.: For a while it was really important to me to try to save toward a down payment for my own home. I’ve had a couple unexpected expenses, but because I had savings, I didn’t dig a hole too deep and the experiences motivated me to re-pay myself that amount so I don’t get too far behind. I agree that balance is a great goal, and living below means is GREAT ADVICE. When the going is good, you have the freedom to occasionally splurge on meaningful things (trip to see cross-country friend, pilgrimage, sabbatical from work, etc.); when the going gets tough, you have a cushion AND the ability to live a leaner lifestyle without being miserable.

3) from PM: “Never pay full price if you can help it. Coupons, discounts, sales, coupons on top of discounts at sales…”
Ed.: May I also add, coupons.com; as well as Target coupons. Learn the little tricks: Target will accept one of their coupons and 1 manufacturer’s coupon. Use both on a product also on sale, and the total just divebombs, which is always fun to see. Couponing can get a little extreme. So do what’s comfortable for you. I am thinking of joining SavingStar, which gives you money back. And records everything on your store cards: no clipping! As a person who worked retail and has read some things…not every item is worth full price.

4) from PM: “Always pay off every credit card balance every month. In full.”

Ed: I also have a friend who, upon returning home from a shopping trip, calls up the store, and places an amount on her account so she covers what she just bought! I also don’t wait until the monthly statement. I put a reminder on my calendar, phone, or mirror even to check my online management system and pay then and there. My primary general credit card is a little different, but I never ever let myself hold a balance. Plus, certain credit cards will never charge a fee if you pay in full on time every month. I’ve found this trains me to spend within my means and to really think about big purchases. If it’s meaningful, like a trip to see family, or necessary, like an insulated coat that will last and last, Ill know what I’ll have to do to make sure it’s covered.

5) From Guy with Money: When you are ready and have managed debit/savings/credit card, consider researching credit card with best rewards: cash back, no hassle airmiles, purchase eraser, etc. Put everything you would have put on debit/cash (because it was already in the bank) onto the card. Pay it off every month. You’re still buying everything you were with a bank card, but now with possibly more fraud protection and perks. but you have to be disciplined to time the pay date with your rent,  bills that don’t allow credit payment, and income available in your checking. If the numbers don’t add up for you right now, you should not do this. But it can be worth it.

Ed: I wasn’t ready to do this for a few years–especially not before I had a full-time job that could last for years. But already doing #2, thinking about my dreams, I knew I wanted more visits with friends–which means travel, so I’ve got a miles card that I quite like. Just be careful that you don’t select a card with the super sign-up bonus…often those huge rewards come at a huge cost…spending and paying off $10,000…in three months. 😛  To me, this advice feels like training ground for betting on yourself and investing. I’m not ready to make that jump to pick stocks or a portfolio myself, but it’s nice to know I’ve developed the habit of researching, attaining some basic financial literacy, weighing risk and reward, and planning ahead. Which really, is the best advice possible: do those things.
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