Today is April Fools’ Day. A day associated with pranks and hoaxes. At school, when I was a kid, my classmates and I would act together to play jokes on our teachers and (for the most part) not get in any trouble. It was like having a free pass! I specifically recall our entire seventh-grade science class hiding on our unsuspecting teacher. That’s a pretty big feat for 25 young teenagers to pull off. The jokes were harmless and almost always ended in a laugh.
So today, on April Fools’ Day, I want to bust four myths about money, as your relationship with money is no joke. How you deal with your money has a great impact on your life. Money infuses almost everything we do.
Once we face our financial life head-on, we can gain control of it and move forward. So in the spirit of April Fools’ Day, I want to have some fun with the topic of money. I believe we can lean into The Joy of Money, improve our financial situations, and reduce stress and worry in the process. Let’s start busting those myths!
Myth 1: Maybe I’ll win the lottery…
Maybe I’ll win the lottery is not a financial plan. Sometimes, I buy a ticket or two of Florida Lotto when the jackpot gets high. If I were to win that would be the best bonus ever but it is never part of my plan. The “maybe I’ll win the lottery” thinking is not just literally about actually winning the lottery, it is about delaying dealing with your current money situation. You could replace maybe I’ll win the lottery with:
- When I get a higher paying job
- When my kids are older
- When I get my tax refund
- When I get my inheritance
There are a myriad of other “whens” with which we can fill in the blanks. The problem with this kind of thinking is it takes you out of the driver’s seat. It also takes you out of the now and puts your current money situation on hold. I believe we start wherever we are, with whatever we have, at the present time- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s own our current financial situation, unravel it, and move forward clearly.
Myth 2: I don’t make enough money to save for an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is your security when you get hit with an unexpected financial surprise expense. We all will have financial emergencies of some sort in our lives, it is inevitable. Those emergency costs will have to be paid. If you do not have an emergency fund in place, these surprise events can wreak havoc on your finances.
Related: Emergency Fund- Let’s Do This!
Often times, these unexpected expenses get put on a credit card or the money to pay them has to be borrowed from someone. Then the stress of debt is added to the scenario and our money situation gets heavier.
I call an emergency fund paying myself first. It is one of the first “expenses” I pay every month. Knowing I have money set aside, and that I continue to grow my emergency fund monthly, helps me have peace of mind. When I need the money for whatever financial emergency comes up, it is there. The key is to keep building your emergency fund and only use it in the case of a financial emergency.
“I call an emergency fund paying myself first. It is one of the first ‘expenses’ I pay every month.”Susan, The MoneyMaestra
If you look at all the money you spend every month on non-essential items, I bet there is a little money you can redirect to your emergency fund. The first goal of an emergency fund is $1,000. There is something freeing about knowing you have a grand set aside for you- in case of an emergency. It is not just having the physical money, it is the knowing you are taking care of yourself. You are making yourself a priority.
The second big goal of an emergency fund is three months of living expenses. A fully-funded emergency fund is 6 months of living expenses. It can take quite a while to reach these goals but the journey to the goal is a journey worth taking.
A client of mine, a woman in her twenties, started an emergency fund and began budgeting it into her monthly expenses. Her car battery recently died unexpectedly and she was able to use her emergency funds to pay for the new battery in full. She told me it was such a good feeling to know the money was there, ready to use. She subsequently let me know she has already put the money back into her emergency fund and will continue to grow it. Emergency funds are our safety nets.
Myth 3: I don’t understand investing/I don’t have enough money to invest
You don’t need to be an expert in investing to invest your money. Yes, it is good to educate yourself on the different types of investments and the risk levels of each but most people who invest money are not experts in investments. There are a multitude of reputable financial institutions that have professionals to help you start an investment account. The key is start investing and the younger the better. Money grows over time.
Compound interest is interest calculated on your principal investment and any accumulated interest. Compound interest is beautiful to behold. I started investing at age 23 and that is one of the main reasons, besides my pension, I was able to retire at 50.
If you start with an initial principal balance of $200 and add only $50 a month at 5% interest compounded annually in 10 years you will have $7,877. Without the compounding you would have $6,200. The difference is $1,677 of free money! Or what I like to call making money while you sleep!
Now, if you can increase the starting principal balance to $500 and add $100 a month at 5% interest compounded annually in 10 years you will have $15,916. Without the compounding you would have $12,500, that’s $3,416 in free money!
The more you can budget into your investments the quicker your money can grow. All investments do have risks though, so determine your level of risk before you invest your money. Remember, the younger you invest, the more time you have for an investment to recover and grow should it dip.
Here is a MoneyMaestra tip I used throughout my career, in the IRS and Department of Justice, to increase my wealth. Whenever I received a promotion or raise, I increased the amount of money I invested. I already knew I could live on my current salary, so when I got a raise I paid my future self with increasing my investments. Today that future self is saying a big thank you to my younger self.
Even if you start late it is never too late to take control of your money.
Here is the link for a compound interest calculator. Play with the numbers and see how your money can grow. https://www.nerdwallet.com/banking/calculator/compound-interest-calculator.
Myth 4: I am too embarrassed about my money situation to seek assistance
Many people get tripped up by money- that’s a fact. Look at the debt statistics in the United States alone. Experian Credit Bureau reported that in 2020 the average consumer credit card debt balance in the United States was $5,315.
Creditcards.com stated the average interest rate for a new credit card in March 2021 was 16.12%. So if you combine those two points- there are many people with large credit card balances and high interest rates. That is just the average statistics on credit card debt.
If you search the internet (on reputable sources) you will see that many people are not prepared for retirement, have little savings and investments, and are concerned about how they will put their children through college.
You are not alone if you are concerned about your current financial state. The key is facing your money situation head on, wherever you are. Blinders off. Autopilot off. The best time to start is now.
“Money is a neutral. You give it the positive or negative charge. If you have decided that you are embarrassed or ashamed of your money situation- that is a decision that can be changed. You have the power. You can choose differently.“Susan, The MoneyMaestra
Learn to control your money, instead of it controlling you. It is empowering to direct the course of your financial life.
I created MoneyMaestra because I realized that financial literacy and financial responsibility teachings are largely missing from our educational systems and society at large. We need to talk about money. No embarrassment, no shame, bring it to the light. And that’s no joke.
Susan, The MoneyMaestra