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Wake Up! Time To Figure Out Your Finances

By David Bakke

start figuring out your financesFrom time to time when I am at my regular job, I do find myself speaking about personal finance issues with my co-workers. I don’t consider myself to be any kind of expert and most co-workers don’t even know that I write about personal finance here. However, every once in a while, if there is a piece of advice that I think they will benefit from, then I will pass along that advice. The subject of money can often be a touchy one, so you need to approach it like you are trying to be helpful without acting like you are condemning them or being a know-it-all. As with a lot of things in life, leading by example can sometimes be the best way to positively affect others around you.

Talk At The Water Cooler

What’s funny to me is that whenever I am having these discussions at work, I sometimes overhear some of my other co-workers say things like…

“How does he know about all that stuff?”

Or…

“Boy, I wish I had my finances figured out like that.”

Or…

“I need to get around to doing that myself.”

These remarks have always mystified me. They mystify me for the following reasons:

  • I never studied personal finance in school.
  • I don’t spend a ton of free time taking care of it.
  • When it comes down to it, it’s not that hard.

Along the way, I have learned a lot of lessons about life and personal finance. I’d like to share a few of them with you now.

The Time to Figure Out Your Finances Is Now

Those times in the past of economic prosperity (doesn’t that seem so long ago?) made it almost impossible for us to wake up and figure out our finances since everything was going so smoothly. But our economic climate of today should be enough to tell you that the time to wake up and figure out your finances is now. Even if you have not had the misfortune of losing your job, I think it’s safe to say that we are all “struggling,” or at least, needing to cut back as much as we can in order to weather the storm. If there were ever a time to make sure that you’re not spending any money unnecessarily, it would be now.

No One Else Will Do It for You

This is another lesson that was quickly made abundantly clear to me. When I first realized that I needed to figure out my finances and get on the road to financial recovery, sure, I had people who would help me along the way, but no one, I repeat no one, will do the work for you. Why? There are a lot of reasons.

First, because everybody already has their hands full with their own finances.

Second, because when it comes right down to it, nobody cares. As I said, you can find people to help, but if you think somebody will drop down from the heavens and sweep all your personal finance issues away, you are sorely mistaken. And of course, when I say this, I am excluding the option of hiring a professional who does this for a living. In rare instances or in cases where finances have spun out of control, you may need to hire a personal finance professional who can do all of this for you, but in most cases, you can do it yourself without a whole lot of effort or time.

Where Do You Start?

If you decide to finally take an interest in the way your own money comes in and goes out of your life, you may have no idea where to start. Here are a few fast and quick pointers to get you going in the right direction:

  • Review Your Bills. Open up each and every bill you receive for one month and actually look at it beyond the “amount due.” Look for charges that don’t belong there, and if you see something that you don’t understand, follow my second tip…
  • Ask Questions. Yes, sometimes you may have to actually pick up the phone and ask somebody a question. It’s called “taking an interest.” And you may have to do it from time to time until you get a firm grip on your finances. I have saved immeasurable amounts of money over the years by simply asking questions. Asking questions about my bills, asking questions before I buy something, asking questions before I sign up for something.
  • Read Money Crashers! I have never outwardly plugged this blog before, but if you want a ton of great advice about how to fix your finances, or avoid a financial pitfall or a ton of their great personal finance topics, then sign up for Money Crashers email alerts. There are also dozens of great personal finance blogs that we encourage you to read, and we usually highlight some of them in our weekly blog round-ups. Some topics might be right up your alley, some may not apply, but why not have them sent straight to your inbox every day so you can get headed in the right direction?

Have any of you recently “woken up” and began to pay attention to your finances? If so, we’d love to hear your comments. What caused you to wake up?

(photo credit: alancleaver)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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  • http://www.investitwisely.com Kevin@InvestItWisely

    One of the main steps I propose is to consolidate expensive mutual funds and other similar investments into low-cost index funds. One really doesn’t need to hold many different funds for diversification. A total stock market fund and a bond fund can already meet the needs of many investors, and without the costs and hidden fees of traditional funds sold by advisors.

    • david/moneycrashers

      Kevin

      Very good advice.

      “Diversification” does not necessairly mean spreading your money out into 100 different vehichles.

      That’s for the input

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