Invest in Yourself

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed this weekend and came across a photo of a group of women holding their passports in a circle. The caption was something along the lines of "One Month. No hair and nail appointments. No frivolous spending. Why? Instead, invest in a passport. See the world." It was a stock photo posted by one of those annoying robot accounts with no original content. Normally I would just scroll through, but this one caught my eye.

"Invest in a passport."

These women realized that you really can't have it all, but you can set a goal for yourself and do everything you can to reach it. They saw traveling as a goal and in turn, an investment. They chose to make sacrifices to save up for a small paper book that could literally give them the world. I promise, when you are at the top of the Eifel Tower with a flute of champagne looking out over all of Paris, you won't care that you missed a few nail appointments. You won't be thinking twice about how your highlights need to be touched up as you sip Chianti in a Tuscan vineyard. And I guarantee you couldn't care less about all the fast food you gave up as you sit in a thermal bath in Budapest.

You can keep scrolling through your Instagram feed and be jealous of Megan with the brand new goldendoodle that just graduated freshman K-9 classes. Or Tyler who is spending the next six months backpacking across Europe. Or even Ashley who just paid for a brand new Jeep Wrangler in cash. But can you really be that jealous or feel that sorry for yourself if you aren't actively trying to set and reach your own goals?

Whether it be a passport, a new car, or that designer puppy you've been eyeing, choose to invest in something you love. Set a goal for yourself and make small steps to ensure you reach it. Don't view your saving as sacrificing going out to lunch every day or letting your hair and nails suffer. View it as investing in yourself.

The puppy gif was inspired by Zack Mathis, as were all the correctly spelled words

Your Cut and Dry Guide to Retirement

 Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a household where financial conversations were common around the dinner table. I vividly remember discussing mortgages, living within your means, and the value of a dollar. One of the most valuable lessons I was taught was to spend less money than you make. This seems simple enough. If you make $40k a year and spend $45k, you have a negative net worth #math.

It probably didn’t mean much to me at 14 when I was bringing in a few dollars a week by unloading the dishwasher and attempting to vacuum, but definitely started to hit home once I began earning a real income and accumulating very real expenses.

At 18 it meant drawing up a budget for a new car purchase. How many hours did I have to work in a pay period to afford the Nissan with the sunroof? At 21 it meant finding an apartment and a roommate to split rent with. How many nights could I still afford to go out? Could I afford to travel at all? At 25 it means consciously calculating a purchase and being aware of my spending habits. When will I be able to buy a home or retire?

The severity of the consequences increases with age, but so does the reward. My 18-year-old self didn’t have any other expenses other than the car payment, at 21 I could have moved back in with my parents, but at 25 you should start getting your shit together.

The simplest way to do this is to spend less money than you make. I’m a firm believer in paying your savings accounts and investment accounts before you spend a dime of your paycheck. You earned the money, you should pay yourself before you get to treat yo self with any of that money.

I recently explained how I got my ass handed to me because of compounding interest, but you can use its powers for good as well. In my Target situation, I was drowning in fees and fines and late interest. I was the borrower. As the lender, you get to reap the benefits.

Early Retirement Grid.PNG

The most simple way to set yourself up for success is to spend less than what you bring and be smart about how you invest and save the extra.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have landed the job I did straight out of college. It was one of those gigs where you learn more than you ever think you will, and not just work-related topics. The office mainly hired entry level positions and we were all hired on at the same dollar amount. It was reasonable and fair, but it was less than 40k. This job not only taught me the ins and outs of the professional world, but I also learned how to thrive on a budget.

I’m a very firm believer in that this set me up for success for the rest of my life. I started out being conscious of my spending and saving up to do the things I enjoyed. I learned the happy medium between spending and saving and how to do so on a pretty low salary. Fast forward three years and I’m still accustomed to the lifestyle of someone making less than 40k, but making much more. Since I haven’t allowed my expense to fluctuate along with my increase in salary, that extra chunk of cash gets thrown into assorted investments.

Unfortunately for my graying hair and drastically deteriorating eyesight, my retirement is still at least 40 years away. However, this gives my money plenty of years to multiply and grow. I learned my lesson early on about compounding interest and found a way for it to benefit me.

Learn from me, save a healthy amount early on. Give your money time to grow instead of rushing to fund your retirement later in life.

Zack Mathis is the adult we all need. Thanks for the punctuation, fam. 

Retirement Accounts 101

 Photo by  Alice Pasqual  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

Note* I am not legally allowed to give you investment advice pertaining to how or what to invest in. 

I know saving for retirement can seem unnecessary and abstract when you’re fresh out of college. You just earned your degree and landed your first job, and you already need to start thinking about retirement? But the earlier you start saving, the longer your money has a chance to grow. If you’re anything like I was at 22, you’re juggling rent, student loans, car payments all while maintaining a social life. It took everything I had to pry my hard-earned money out of my hands when I knew I wouldn’t see it for another 45 years. 

But that money is sitting comfortably in varied investments, multiplying, while I sit pretty. By putting a little bit of each paycheck aside starting at 22, they money has decades to grow before I’ll ever need it. While I can't give you specific investment advice, I can tell you that the sooner you start saving and investing, the better off you'll be. 

I’m not saying you need to max out your IRA right away or cut your social life just so you can throw a high percentage of your paycheck into a 401k. But I definitely am advising you to see what you can afford to invest and continue to live comfortably. I’m guessing that $100 a month won’t drastically change your lifestyle now, but it’ll mean the world to you when you retire. 

Saving for retirement can seem scary and unmanageable, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several different ways to invest specifically for retirement, you just must decide what’s best for you. Factors such as your age, company, and flexibility will help you decide which retirement account will be the best fit for you.

Out of all the retirement account options, one of two will most likely be best suited for you. Either a 401k or a Roth IRA (or both) will get you started on the right track. 

401k (or 403b)

This retirement plan is offered by your employer. This option will be the easiest and lowest maintenance for you. Some employers require you to be with the company 30, 90, or 365 days before offering this benefit, this should all be drawn out in your offer letter or onboarding package. 

Employers normally match a certain percentage or dollar amount of the money that you put in up to a predetermined dollar amount. This is free money. My suggestion is to get all the free money you can. 

Get a spreadsheet out. Or use an online calculator. Or email me. You can also ask your HR or onboarding team member. Basically, if you raise your hand, people will help you.

All you have to do in this process is determine the amount to invest and choose an investment strategy. Your company will likely give you options and you’ll pick from there. That’s it, not scary at all. I chose to throw my 401k money into a Vanguard 2050 fund, this was the most aggressive option offered by my employer. I can't touch the money until I turn 65 anyway, I might as well give it some room to grow. 

Your company will take the money from your paycheck, pre-tax, and take it from there. You don’t have to do any of the trading, research, or maintenance on the account. The money is taxed as you withdraw it once you retire. 

Roth IRA

This is my personal favorite, just because I like to flirt with trouble. An IRA is an Individual Retirement Account, meaning you DIY. TD Ameritrade is my favorite platform, open an account here. As a single person, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually into a Roth IRA. 

This money has already been taxed once you invest it, so the amount you see is the amount you have. This is beneficial especially if you think you’re in a lower tax bracket now than you will be when you retire (you most likely are). 

This is a little more complicated than a 401k in that you do the investing yourself. However, this gives you a lot more freedom to educate yourself on what your money is doing. 

The benefits of a Roth IRA are that you’re able to withdraw that money back from yourself in certain situations, penalty-free. The only catch is that you're not able to recontribute it once it’s been withdrawn. These include a first-time home purchase, some education expenses, or if you become disabled. There are certain restrictions to this, of course, but it’s nice to have a backup plan. 

I know retirement may seem like an abstract dream, especially at this point in your life. But the sooner you start putting money away and planning for your future, the better off you'll be. Take a second and decide what you can comfortably save and make money moves. Your retired self will more than appreciate it, I promise.