This post shares tips and strategies from my own experience with money. Make sure to consult with a licensed financial professional to make informed decisions about reaching your goals.
What do you need to manifest your goals?
It’s no secret; we’re not escaping anything if we’re only focused on survival.
According to pewresearch.org, the cost of renting went up 18% in the last five years, and the cost of goods and services went up by 16%. In 2020, 46% of Americans spent more than 30% of their income on housing, and 23% of that group spent more than 50% on housing.
Salaries have not kept up. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages for the majority of American workers have been suppressed by policies favoring those with the most income & power. In fact, data from 1973-2013 shows wages increased only 9% while productivity increased by 74% (Mishel, et al).
While employee wages have not kept up with inflation or productivity for many decades, wealth inequality has also continued to increase. Since 1979, the top 1% benefited from 138% wage growth while the bottom 90% experienced only 15% growth in wages (Mishel, et al). This pattern continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the net worth of the top 1% increasing by 23% while the bottom 20% only increased their wealth by 2.5% (Houten and Daco).
What many of us need is MONEY. Money to secure stable housing, maintain our health, and pay our bills, all that which can provide some peace of mind and protection to pursue change. Data shows that employers have not had many of our financial interests at heart – it wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve felt exploited working for anyone in the last few decades.
This post serves to recognize the tangible need for money and assets & the importance of setting yourself up with a solid financial foundation, especially in this landscape. The goal is to live a balanced and fulfilling life and potentially work for yourself (and pay yourself your worth).
My situation is not ideal but I’m lucky and privileged to be able to take this sabbatical and pursue my escape. My family provided the emotional and financial support for me to focus on my education, allowing my older self to focus on work, build my savings, and pursue opportunities like publishing a poetry book and getting into real estate. I’m able to make my escape now because I have rental income & enough savings to cover some months of negative cash flow.
When discussing money and all the bootstraps you could pull, it’s important to recognize the roles of generational wealth and support systems, as well as the extreme imbalance of wealth in America. I don’t believe in blanket statements like “anyone can do it!” because it depends on who you are, what you want, and your specific situation. Not everyone will be able to make huge life changes following these financial tips, but anyone can improve their money habits & begin their journey toward building a solid foundation for their pursuit.
8 STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU’RE IN DEBT & HAVE NO MONEY
- Stop spending money you don’t have. Credit is powerful if you use it correctly, and that means paying off your monthly bill in full & on time. If this is not possible, never skip paying your minimum required payment & try to pay a little bit more than your minimum to help your credit score. Not only will you remove the stress of trying to keep up with your payments, but you will also increase your chance of getting a loan if/when you need it. The same principle applies – don’t get a loan unless you have the income to pay monthly repayments in full & on time.
- Make money. No shit, but how? Get creative! If you’re having trouble finding a job, reach out to your network & ask if they know anyone hiring or if they need help with anything. Find companies you want to work for & get on their email list for job openings. If you are unqualified for the jobs you want, commit to learning and mastering those skills. Entrepreneurial spirit? Become an independent contractor in the gig economy or consider starting your own business. Write up a concise business plan to find an investor or get a small business loan. If that is daunting, join the many free business planning resources and workshops offered by Small Business Administration partners like the Inland Empire Women’s Business Center (IEWBC), which has programs for all entrepreneurs not just women.
- Volunteer! It seems counterproductive to work for free, but you’re checking a lot of boxes at once – getting experience, building your network, and getting in front of a potential employer. This all gives you the confidence to persevere (and network) much more than keeping your job search at the ends of your fingertips. Visit volunteermatch.org to find opportunities relevant to your interests.
- Get help. If you’re returning to work after taking a long break or have a criminal record, reach out to Chrysalis in Los Angeles or other nonprofits offering employment and economic development services in your area. Some offer professional development classes, resume writing, and professional interview clothes for those who need more support.
- Take inventory of your assets & liabilities. What’s making you money & what’s losing money? Do you own a car or home? Consider renting your car when you’re not using it or renting out a room or extra space in your home. If you rent your home yourself, you may still be able to make income – just check with your landlord and lease agreement to confirm they allow subletting. Do you have marketable skills? Play on your strengths to find work. Your gift of gab or your customer service skills could help you make extra income as an event host or virtual assistant. Also, did you know the best life insurance policies can be used while you’re alive too? If you opened one for yourself before you hit your 20s (highly recommended) or know your parents or relatives opened a policy for you, check with the policy provider to see if you have cash value you could use without incurring any fees.
- Ask for help. If you’re in debt, it’s worth asking your creditors or lenders if they’re willing to work out a payment plan or a reduced payment to remove debt quicker. If there are language barriers or you need more support, you can reach out to community mediation centers like APADRC in Los Angeles, which also provide mediation services between consumers and creditors as well as between businesses. Another resource is findhelp.org, which offers a variety of support like housing assistance and community gardens.
- Get informed. Learn key financial concepts to set yourself up for success. Many business owners don’t fully understand their own finances because they rely on their hired accountants and tax professionals. Nobody is going to take better care of your money than you are, so define your goals, learn the fundamentals of money management, and know your tax codes. Continue educating yourself while consulting with financial experts to make sure your accounting, investments, and policies work for you.
- Get free money. Apply for grants offered by nonprofit organizations, governments, or local programs. These usually have specific requirements with limited funds so speed and diligence will pay off.
While these tips are directed at those with minimal resources, even those with money can benefit from important principles like maximizing assets and minimizing liabilities. Here are even more tips and reminders for those who have some money & want to level up.
8 STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU HAVE SOME MONEY
- Budget. Include paying off your debt in your budget, as well as planning for your investments, expected repeating expenses (sinking fund for holidays, tuition, etc), and an entertainment fund. After all, life is to be lived. You’re budgeting for the lifestyle you want, which should include ways to relax and enjoy your hard-earned money responsibly.
- Build your emergency fund. This is what will prevent you from spiraling if/when an emergency comes up. Avoid late fees and dipping into important savings buckets by building up 3-10 months of living expenses. If you are working on a career transition or starting a new business, make sure to have up to one year of living expenses to protect yourself in your pursuit.
- Do not cosign. Showing up for your loved ones does not mean risking your financial future by carrying the burden of their financial future. Life has so many variables, and your money management strategy should include known, reliable factors as much as possible. Instead, you can help your loved one find a lender that works with lower credit scores or specializes in alternative lending sources. If you must, lend them money rather than risk your credit score – but keep in mind you may not get your money back & relationships may become strained if money becomes a factor.
- Act broke! Remember to maximize your assets and minimize liabilities. We all have our vices & of course, we make money to create our ideal lifestyle. Choose wisely to avoid spending your hard-earned cash on too many indulgences like the latest clothing trends, a daily latte, or God forbid, keeping up with the Joneses. Learn to be resourceful & live off humble means. Making money is also about keeping money.
- Make a business plan. Have you been sitting on genius business ideas? Join business leadership groups & learn if you’re ready to run your own business. Corporate entities have more favorable tax laws than those for employees. If you’re already an independent contractor, consider incorporating if this fits your vision and financial situation. As always, consult with a licensed financial professional to discuss your goals and develop a game plan.
- Diversify your income. Add passive income sources, like real estate that you can live in while renting space you’re not using. As of late October 2022, interest rates have skyrocketed so taking a loan out, especially without 20% down, isn’t ideal. That doesn’t mean you can’t start planning and exploring options like alternative lending programs or purchasing a property with a friend (or two). If you’re interested in learning how to start your homebuying journey, check out my post or schedule a consultation with me. If you’re an artist or creator, another income source is royalties! Don’t leave any of your money-making assets unturned, because a passionate side hustle can become the job that gives you financial freedom and, wait for it, fulfillment too.
- Use Other People’s Money. Maximize employer matches for 401K if offered. Apply for scholarships or grants for your education costs. Apply for business loans to build good debt & reap the tax benefits of owning your own business. If you are also looking for housing, consider collaborative strategies like buying a duplex with a close friend or joining a Community Land Trust, which lowers the barriers to owning property and building generational wealth.
- Protect your money. Life Insurance policies are tax-exempt ways to save, grow, and use your money without penalties like 401Ks or stocks. Leave me a comment or schedule a consultation if you’re interested in learning more about this with me & my financial advisor.
I hope these steps can help you move forward in your pursuit as they’ve helped me, but the overall lesson is to elevate your relationship with money.
In America, we live to work rather than the other way around. Corporate exploitation and a lack of work-life balance are practially tenets of American society. We can remind ourselves that money is not the enemy nor is it the all-saving force. It is a powerful tool and concept we can reclaim without losing ourselves in employer demands or grind culture. In other words, play the game; don’t let the game play you.
What strategies do you use to set yourself up for financial success? Please feel free to comment & share so we can build on our collective knowledge.