10 ways to boost your financial awareness

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People often avoid talking about money, but many people have a million questions about what to do with it.

Bankrate has been around for more than 40 years for this exact reason — we want to be a source for reliable and accessible financial information, so that you can feel empowered throughout your financial journey.

So while we celebrate financial awareness everyday here at Bankrate, nationally Aug. 14 is the official day of celebration for this important topic.

To celebrate Financial Awareness Day, here are 10 things to get you talking and thinking about your money.

1. Start small

If you’re already on a tight budget, saving anything can seem impossible. However, even if it’s saving a few bucks every now and then, it counts as progress and can help build the habit of saving.

“Breaking down big to-do’s into smaller ones makes money goals feel much more doable,” says Mary Wisniewski, Bankrate’s banking editor and fintech features reporter. “Nowadays, there are a number of mobile apps that can help you out, too – Digit, Dobot and Qapital among them.”

To learn more on getting in the habit of saving, check out these tips.

2. Fund your emergency savings

The foundation of a solid financial plan is building and maintaining an emergency fund. This designated savings account can be a lifesaver when unexpected expenses come your way, which unfortunately, will happen at some point. By being prepared for the unexpected, you are putting yourself in a much better and less stressful situation.

For tips on how to start (and build) an emergency fund, check out this helpful guide.

3. Open a high-yield savings account

You’ve probably heard it before, but we’re gonna say it again: Make your money work for you.

One of the easiest, most risk-free ways to do this is opening a high-yield savings account. These accounts essentially pay you to store your money. The longer your money sits, the more it grows. This method requires no heavy lifting on your end, just regular contributions so that your money can continue to grow.

If you’re looking for a new savings account, use Bankrate to compare the top interest-bearing savings accounts.

4. Re-evaluate your budget

A lot has changed in the past year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and there’s a good chance that it’s impacted your budget in some way. If you haven’t already revisited your budget, now might be the time.

Anytime you go through a serious life change, you should take a fresh look at your budget as it will likely need to adapt to your new way of life.

In today’s world, that may mean you’re working from home, which could mean you’re spending less on transportation and more on food — that needs to be reflected in your budget. The same goes if you’re one of the millions of Americans who found themselves recently unemployed.

Keeping your budget up to date and adapting it to your current circumstances are key to your financial success.

For tips on how to create a budget, check out this helpful guide.

5. Evaluate your investments (or get started)

If you’re new to investing, one of the most important things you need to know is that a diversified portfolio is vital.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; instead, spread your money across various stocks to keep your risk low.

A good place to start is with an S&P 500 index fund, which offers stakes in America’s top 500 companies. Yes, this can be volatile and lose value; however, on average, investors earn 10 percent over time or a cash dividend of around 2 percent a year.

To learn more about how to start investing, check out this helpful guide.

6. Plan for retirement

Retirement may seem like light years away when you’re young, but it’ll creep up on you sooner than you think. You want to be financially prepared for when that day does arrive.

There are a few ways you can plan for retirement, but some of the most popular plans include:

  • 401(k): These retirement plans are offered by employers and typically come with a match. Be sure you’re maxing out the match to get the full benefit.
  • Traditional IRA: A traditional IRA allows you to contribute pretax dollars, which means that any contributions are not taxable income. These contributions grow tax-free until the account holder withdraws them at retirement.
  • Roth IRA: A Roth IRA is similar to a traditional IRA; however, the main difference is that contributions are made with after-tax money, meaning you’ve paid the taxes on the money already and won’t have to pay anything when you take it out for retirement.

Bottom line: Make retirement planning a priority now, so you can enjoy it when the time comes.

7. Take stock of your debts

Coming up with a plan for tackling your debt shouldn’t be something you put off.

Depending on the type of debt you have, there are a few things you will want to consider. For instance, if you have multiple student loans, then refinancing may be an option to consider.

In general, there are three types of repayment strategies to consider:

  • The debt snowball: An approach where you gradually pay your debts from the smallest amount to the largest. This method is encouraging because you can see the progress you’re making earlier on.
  • The debt avalanche: This method is similar to the snowball, but instead orders debt by interest rate. You’ll prioritize paying off debt with the highest annual percentage rate (APR) before moving to the next, and so on.
  • Debt consolidation: If you have various debts to repay and are finding it difficult to keep track of, you may want to consider debt consolidation. This method rolls your debts into one loan with a single interest rate.

Bottom line: Having a plan will help you breathe a little easier knowing that you’ve taken the first step to tackling your debt.

8.Write down your financial goals

If you think about your finances and don’t have a specific goal in mind, that’s a good sign that you should sit down and figure out what those are. By setting a goal, you will be able to come up with a more specific saving strategy.

Some common financial goals to consider:

  • Retirement
  • Emergency Savings
  • College
  • A mortgage
  • Vacation

Your goals will likely range from short term to long term, which each typically require a different savings strategy if you want to be an effective saver.

9. Digitize your finances

One of the easiest ways to keep track of your finances is by digitizing them. Apps like Mint make it super easy to keep track of everything in one place and as a result, make it a whole lot easier to create a budget by taking everything into account.

You can also set these apps up to alert you when you’re approaching your budget for a certain category or when you have an upcoming bill.

10. Follow Bankrate to stay on top of your game

Be sure to follow @bankrate on social to stay informed and educated. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

“My first role with Bankrate was on the copy desk, so it was my job to read all of the content we published,” says Lance Davis, Bankrate’s editorial director. “I learned so much from that, and it legitimately changed my financial trajectory.”

Bankrate also offers a free personalized dashboard that’s designed to help guide and empower your financial journey. The dashboard is tailored to your financial goals and interests, so it’s everything you want and need all in one convenient location. You can also opt-in for our various newsletters, so you can keep up with the latest trends in your inbox.