Balance is an essential element of living a well-rounded life. It’s why people often refer to the saying “work smarter, not harder” when discussing productivity and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The popular saying doesn’t just apply to your career, though—it applies to finances, too.
1. Get a bank account with interest
Building an emergency fund is essential, so if you’re going to have money sitting in savings, you should definitely try to get a bank account with interest. Earning interest on money you have stored in savings is a great way to grow your account without having to lift a finger. Of course, the amount you earn in interest depends on how much you have saved, and though interest rates usually aren’t very high, the more money you have, the more interest you’ll receive. Overall, this is a good incentive not only to have money saved up but to also continue adding to your emergency fund.
Two good options to look into for your emergency fund would be a high-yield savings account or a money market account. Almost all high-yield savings accounts are found online, so you’d have to use an online bank for this. Currently, Bask Bank seems to be the most favorable option with 0.80% APY (Annual Percentage Yield), zero minimum balance requirements to start earning interest, and zero monthly fees. LendingClub, CIT Bank, and Barclays are also good options, but the rates, requirements to start earning interest, perks, and fees all vary from bank to bank. Money market accounts are similar to high-yield savings accounts, though they sometimes come with debit and check-writing capabilities, and can be opened at most local or online banks. However, they usually require larger deposits and are typically allotted a smaller number of withdrawals and transfers. Regardless of what you choose, be sure to do your due diligence and look over everything before you open an account. You want to make sure you’re going with the best option for you and your needs.
Much like the interest you earn off of a savings account, you will earn money off of investments—but at a larger rate. Investment portfolios are designed to grow your money, and the earlier you invest, the more time your money has to grow. This is also a great way to invest in yourself, save for the future, and combat inflation. Having investments helps you stay ahead of inflation because you’ll earn more and the value of your money will increase over time.
The good news is that you don’t need a lot of money to start investing. In fact, most experts recommend starting small and gradually adding to your investment portfolio over time. The money you have left over after paying for your living expenses and contributing to an emergency fund could be put into investments. It doesn’t matter how much you start with; all that matters is that you start. Invest in what you believe in, and let the money do the work for you.
Admittedly, being a first-time investor can be scary. Thankfully, there are numerous free websites available to help you learn and get started. Investing.com offers free email subscriptions so you can get daily or weekly economic and stock updates right to your inbox, and Public offers an app you can use to build all your investment portfolios and learn more about investing in general, which is great for beginners. Ellevest is an investment tool specifically geared toward women that uses stocks, bonds, and alternative funds to help you build a diverse investment portfolio designed with important realities for women—such as pay gaps, career breaks, and longer average lifespans—in mind from the start.
3. Track your income and expenses
Let’s be honest for a minute: It’s easy to lose track of money. After all, we live in a fast-paced world and, oftentimes, things add up faster than our brains can calculate. Tracking your income and expenses—regardless of your financial situation and income—is key to knowing where your money goes, and knowing this will help you become more financially productive. You can track everything through spreadsheets or templates on platforms like Google Docs, using budgeting apps, or by hand. The goal of this is not to make you stress or worry over money. Rather, it is to make you more mindful of it and what you’re spending, which will ultimately help you become more financially productive and successful.
4. Learn about and invest in capital assets
Contrary to popular belief, not all debt is bad debt, and investing in capital assets—such as stocks, baskets of assets that diversify investment portfolios like mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), real estate, or collectible artwork—can be a great way to generate income years from now. A capital asset is an investment that’s expected to generate value over a long period of time. Knowing what you’re spending your money on and the estimated return of income (ROI) can help you make better financial decisions.
A good example of this would be deciding between buying a home or buying a car. Sure, a car might be more flashy and thrilling, but it will only depreciate in value over time—you likely won’t make back the money you spent on it. A home, though, is very likely to generate value over time. You have the ability to rent it out for short-term income, and eventually, if you decide to sell, you’ll probably be able to make back what you bought the house for and then some. Real estate typically appreciates in value over time, and any additional work put into a home or piece of property will only increase its value.
5. Practice smart spending
Being strategic with how you spend your money and saving whenever and wherever you can is something that your future self will thank you for. In addition to building your savings, investing, and knowing where your money goes, it’s also important to practice smart spending. You don’t have to count every penny you spend, but being smart with your money is only going to enhance your financial productivity.
Look at all areas of your life: school or career, housing, living expenses, and amenities. Are there any areas you could cut back on or consolidate to save more? For example, if you’re fresh out of college and trying to get on your feet in your career while paying off student loans and are choosing to pay for an apartment when you have the option to live at home, you might want to consider letting go of one expense and moving back home for a bit. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but you might be surprised at the ways you could be missing out on saving money. Even something as simple as cutting back on streaming services or canceling a gym membership and using free workouts available on YouTube to work out at home instead can be helpful.
Practicing smart spending now will help you save better for the future, make more strategic investments, and overall live a more financially productive life. Remember that staying on top of your financial wellness means having a healthy financial life, and financial health is wealth.