Apps, Software, Blogs, Videos and TV gurus..... are you getting overloaded with searching personal finance information.
I am sure there has been countless people who finally make the plunge and decide to build a clear set of financial goals only to end up getting lost and confused on what to do. This is a big problem and I can fully understand the helplessness one feels when trying to get themselves on the right path. The internet and social media has developed so much content on personal finance, all readily available for us to utilize in order to help us mange our finances and help build success.
“Sometimes there is just too much information and people just end up either confused, frustrated and even giving up on trying to learn.”
Find what works for you
Ok, easier said than done, I agree, for me I think of it as a journey, a long term commitment to understanding what I need to do in order to succeed in meeting my financial goals. It was through trial and error and several years of learning to finally find a formula that worked for me. Trust me, it was not easy and sometimes I think many experts over simplify the changes someone must make to meet their goals. Yes I finally found the right path but you need to remember your goals may be different than someone else’s so you need to find what works for you. The following briefly explains some of the paths you could take.
Talk to a financial Advisor/Planner
I lumped professional advisor and planner, there is a small difference between them, however generally speaking these are professionals that you can find at a financial institution such as bank, these professionals provide many services such as organizing and planning your savings and investments for retirement, help with debt consolidation, estate planning, taxes and other financial related activities to help you with your financial decisions. Remember when dealing with financial advisors at a bank or investment firm, they will ultimately be steering you to their products, so there is self interest in ensuring your buy into their products and service offerings, which may cost a little more than you expected or provide returns less than you planned. As you can read in my other blog posts, my experience has not been great and I took a different direction when my investment strategy was not aligned with my advisor. Like anything else such as buying a car, house, going on a trip, you need to take the time and do a little research when selecting a advisor, it’s hard to know what to expect from a financial advisor/planner and even harder to know when you’re dealing more with a salesman than someone who is truly prepared to look after your needs. On a positive note, there has been a push over the last number of years to ensure financial planners are certified such as CFP (certified financial planner), meaning they have studied curriculum on financial planning, passed a standard exam and met all the experience requirements. This however does not guarantee that they will end up helping you meet your goals.
Talk to a financial coach
Besides financial advisors and planners you can reach out to Financial Coaches also commonly called money coach, to help you with your finances, personally I like financial coaches better in the sense they really do help you understand the fundamentals of personal finance, unlike financial advisors and planners who basically come up with the investments and plan for you to follow, they are not teaching you much and steering you to their suite of products. Coaches on the other hand look more towards your habits and help build realistic goals to help you over a period of time, and more importantly, follow up with you to ensure your progressing and helping make adjustments as you move along the process. There is a time and cost commitment but in the end you may end up developing sound financial habits that allows your wealth to grow and help you succeed.
Learn on your own
Getting your finances in order and learning the basics of budgeting takes time and effort, for most, it can be a difficult journey because most of us are really not taught much on personal finances by our schools and parents. I initially used financial planners and investment professionals but the services and products they provided where too costly and did not help me met my financial goals. In retrospect I think I felt pushed into products and services I really did not need or want which resulted in poor returns. Yes I do have some regrets but the experience forced me to sit down and finally figure out a plan that I was comfortable with. This did not mean I changed my habits and investments over night, in fact I took baby steps by first learning about budgeting and cash management before moving on to savings, investing and retirement planning, all of this took about five years to master when you include insurance and tax planning, yes, it was a long and slow journey but I learned a lot.
So if you chose to go on your own, my only suggestion would be to start slowly, trying to make too many changes too fast can overwhelm you and even make you end up going back to where you started, simply try to develop a simple plan such as developing a budget or emergency fund. Once you are comfortable you can move to other aspect of your finances and even get into more complicated areas such as investments (bonds, stocks).
When learning on your own one key aid you can leverage is financial software such as financial apps and templates for example the Acorns app, some of these apps are simple and easy to use while others are very complex. Finding the right software tool to help you develop your budget, track your spending and progress can be daunting. This was one aspect of my self-learning that I initially hated the most, I tried many types of software and even some templates but in the end I just developed my own spreadsheet from scratch. My method is different and unique for budgeting and tracking but after going through all the technology available I found a way that works for me.
“I can help provide suggestions but ultimately you need to make the decision your most comfortable with”
I really do get it, it’s not easy to navigate through the mass amount of information on personal finance, heck I am even contributing to it, however at least there is plenty of information available for you to search and read through in order to come up with a way to manage your finances, you may decide on a financial professional or look at a financial coach, which in my opinion are very sound decisions and there is nothing wrong if you go that route, if it works out great if it doesn’t then at least you can learn from it. I can only provide suggestions and let you the reader decide on what works best, even when you are not sure at first, you may end up finding the right formula.
Keep in mind regardless of the choice you make, you will still need to do some homework, I will never suggest jumping into a big decision such as retirement planning from the first person I talk to, give it time, let the information peculate in your head, talk to people, do some reading and then determine your best course of action.