Our Favorite Financial Tips
From the Versant Capital Management Staff
Given that it’s America Saves Week, the Versant Capital Management staff decided there is no better time than now to round up our favorite financial tips into one helpful read. From great ways to budget to how to boost your savings, these nuggets of financial wisdom can help you get a clear view of your finances, set savings goals, and create a plan to achieve them.
Credit Card Points
Optimize your cash flow plumbing. Using credit cards to pay your bills, grocery tab, gasoline costs, other bills, and even insurance premiums can rack up travel points or points for other consumer services or durables and even cash benefits. Points and benefits add up quickly when used for most or all household expenditures. Our vacation trips and home furnishings were paid for in this manner. And it helps your credit score along the way. This process only works if you pay off your credit card balances quickly before interest charges accrue.
Thomas Connelly, CFA®, CFP®
President and Chief Investment Officer
Stay in the Market
Investing consistently can help build your budget around setting up your future. Like Tom Connelly always says, it’s almost impossible to time when it’s best to invest in the market. If you’re always investing on a periodic basis, you can help set yourself up for retirement.
Young Adults and Money
A wise man (my dad) told me when I was young and just starting out with credit cards, to always pay more than the minimum amount due. When you’re young, having a credit card may seem like a gift of unlimited cash, when in fact, they can be a very expensive trap! Paying only the minimum amount due each month will leave you with an ongoing balance and accruing interest, which can land you over your head if you’re not careful.
Another wise man (Tom Connelly) told me early on in my career that one of the best things I could do to help meet my retirement goals was to contribute the maximum amount allowed to my 401(k) each year. As I now near retirement, that has proven to be a very effective tool. While it may seem like a lot of money out of your pocket when you’re young, this one strategy really adds up over time!
Laura Countiss, FPQP™
Administrative Processes Manager
Love Your Work
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
― Steve Jobs
At a young age, I was taught to “work hard and find passion in the small things.” I have learned over time that small things eventually become big things. Steve Jobs’ quote has always stuck with me because if we are completely honest with ourselves, there are parts of every day that we may not love. But, having an opportunity to help people with their financial lives motivates me and pushes me to consistently do the best work I can. Through this mindset, I have found passion, meaning, and satisfaction, which has created a sense of fulfillment in my work as a financial professional. I apply this quote in many other areas of my life as well. Although it’s simple, it’s often something we take for granted.
Grandmother’s Sage Advice
My Nanny always said that just because you can afford to doesn’t mean you should.
Liz Shabaker, CFP®, CDC®
Chief Executive Officer
Benefits of Saving Early
I talk with my college-age twin boys often about the benefits of saving money at an early age. When you’re young, retirement seems like a lifetime away. You may not be making a lot of money, but you have time on your side. While it may be fun to enjoy your 20s with your full income at your disposal, it will be harder to put money away each month as you get older.
At Versant, I’ve learned about “making money on your money,” the concept behind compounding. The money you earn from your investments is reinvested for the opportunity to earn even more. The earlier you invest, the longer your money has the chance to compound. So, start young!
Chief of Staff
Teaching Kids About Money
As parents of young children, my wife and I constantly struggle with how to teach our kids about money. An idea that we stumbled upon last year was to distribute a weekly ‘family profit sharing’ distribution instead of giving our kids a weekly allowance. We found that this subtle reframing gave our kids a greater sense of responsibility and obligation to contribute to our household and what it takes to manage it.
When it was simply a chore for money transactions, the kids’ chores were often skipped because the kids didn’t feel like the money was worth the effort. Now that the money received is related to being a member of our family, the kids have a higher value for what they receive each week.
We also implemented a policy wherein the kids would have to ‘pay’ for any portion of their weekly responsibilities they choose to shirk. For example, if one of the kids fails to clean his/her room, we dock their profits by a dollar or two to demonstrate that they’ll have to pay others to clean their homes in the future if they don’t choose to do it themselves.
We’ve also begun to experiment with a strategy that teaches about taxes, savings, investing, charitable giving, and spending using jars. When the kids receive their weekly profits, a portion needs to be paid in taxes, and other portions should be earmarked for saving, spending, giving, and investing.
Brent Pressentin, MBA, CEPA
Senior Wealth Counselor
So often, people rank finances as their number one source of stress. One way to combat this is to track your monthly inflows and outflows. There are numerous apps available for phones and computers to help make this process easier and guide you through how to establish a budget. They’re free, allow you to be in control, and know exactly where your money is going.
I often suggest not setting a budget for the first month but rather simply track where your money goes. This is eye-opening. Then at the end of the first month, set goals for spending in the different categories of your budget. Remember, it’s okay for your budget to change month-to-month as different life events occur. This one step can help dramatically decrease the level of financial stress in your life and move you forward toward your financial goals.
Sarah Szczublewski, CFP®
In college, my economics professor constantly reminded his students to have at least six months of savings set aside for emergencies. At that time, that seemed like an impossible task, but as my income grew, I was able to accomplish this.
Manager of Technology & Investment Operations
Spending Tracker Apps
I keep track of every single dollar I spend in a spending tracker app. Each transaction is categorized, so at the end of the month, I can look at precisely what I spent and determine if there are any areas where I could reasonably cut back, like “dining out” or “entertainment.” For example, when I started focusing more on saving for a large purchase, these steps helped me realize that stopping for coffee a few times a week quickly accumulates to hundreds of dollars a month, so I knew exactly where to start changing my habits!
Power of Compound Interest
My parents told me at a young age to “make your money work for you.” They helped me open a bank account and showed me the interest I was earning. I thought that was the coolest concept!
Also, these quotes have impacted my approach to finances:
- “More money has been lost reaching for yield than at the point of a gun.” – Raymond DeVoe Jr
- “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” – Yoda telling investors to diversify
Brandon Yee, CFA®, CAIA
Director of Research
Importance of a Monthly Budget
When it comes to taking ownership of your finances, a great place to start is understanding your monthly budget. But sometimes, the word “budget” gets a bad rap. For many people, it conjures up negative emotions and can cause them to stall and procrastinate taking action. A budget isn’t complicated; it’s simply a math equation.
Start by adding up your monthly cash inflows, then subtracting your outflows. This will let you know if you’re spending too much or have money left to put toward your financial goals, such as building an emergency fund, paying down student loan debt, or saving for a home or vacation.
I learned from my dad from an early age to always shop for quality items that will last, even if it means you have to wait and save for them. This is so true! When I was young, I bought a particle board dresser, and after a couple of moves, it was history. But I still have an Ethan Allen dresser that my parents bought fifty years ago that has been with me through three states and 20 moves, and it’s still perfect. Sure, it was a lot more expensive than my particle board dresser, but it’s outlasted it by forty years! I know that’s probably such a common thing, but we are in such a buy-it-cheap-and-get-it-now society that it’s easy to forget that quality still counts.
Long Term Investing
These financial tenets have stuck with me over the years because they speak about the benefits of long term investing:
- The best time to start investing was yesterday; the second-best time is today.
- Time in the market beats timing the market.
- Automate as much of your finances as you can. Set up a system where you save and invest without even thinking about it.
Austin Anthony, CFP®
Flexible Family Budgeting
One of the most applicable financial tips I’ve received has been to adjust my budget at least once a year. In my case, it’s been especially useful with the year-by-year changes that new babies can bring to a family and the costs of goods and services often changing. In the first year or so, you’re budgeting for diapers, formula, and clothes. In the second and third years, you have to consider the costs of daycare in addition to diapers, food, and clothes. Having a fluid budget that moves with the changes that comes with a growing family has been very useful to my family and me.
Unsubscribe from Retail Emails
Retailers make good use of technology to reach their audiences. When you buy something online, you then receive constant advertising emails from that company. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “deals too good to pass up.” (How could I not buy those boots I didn’t even know I wanted? They were 50 percent off.) That’s spending money under the guise of saving money. It’s great to get things on sale, but if you’re acquiring stuff you don’t really need, your bank account may suffer.
What can you do about it? Unsubscribe from retail emails. If you’re worried you will miss a sale, adjust the email preferences to opt out of daily emails. And don’t provide your email or cell number to “get an extra 15 percent off,” because you’ll get bombarded with emails that entice you to buy things you might not need. If there’s something you want or need, just research the best deals before you buy.
Save Your Change
My grandpa would give all the grandkids five dollars for Christmas every year and say, “no matter what you spend your money on, save the change you get back because even if you’re spending your money, you know you’re also putting a little cash away each time.” Then, when a time comes when you need a little extra money, you will always have some put away. I use this wisdom with my kids to show them that no matter how much you have saved, a little at a time makes a difference when you need it.
Executive Assistant/Portfolio Associate
Let it Go
This quote has impacted how I think about planning for a secure financial future:
“If you want to be financially free, you need to become a different person than you are today and let go of whatever has held you back in the past.”
— Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad
Wealth Management Intern
This quote succinctly sums up the case for buying an index fund:
“Don’t look for the needle in the haystack. Just buy the haystack”
― John C. Bogle
Anthony Calderon, CFP®
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