No matter how enthusiastic our New Year’s resolutions may have been to save more, spend less and/or take total ownership of our finances in 2021, they might now be losing their luster. The days since we made those ambitious resolutions are quickly passing and the shine is wearing off. Can’t we just cut ourselves some slack and do what makes us feel good and safe in the immediate sense, even if that means forsaking our lofty financial goals?
Try, if you can muster the energy, to return to that place of desire for a better financial life. If you feel that you’ve already blown it by, say, spending beyond your weekly budget or skipping a credit card payment, remember that a mistake doesn’t mean you can’t try again and have success.
“Many people simply track their finances automatically with an app – which is a great start, but what these apps don’t account for is when you stray or get off-target with your financial goal, which happens a lot,” says Amanda L. Grossman, a certified financial education instructor and personal finance blogger at FrugalConfessions.com. “What you want to do is to start calculating and then tracking the gap between where you are, and where you should be, according to your financial plan or goal.”
What this means, Grossman explained, is “charting where you should be each week or month (or even daily) to achieve your financial goal, and then also charting (in a different color) where you actually are. The space between the two lines will be your ‘gap’, which can either mean you’re behind, or ahead, or ‘the curve’. The curve being the numbers you need to be hitting to hit your overall financial goal target.”
2. Examine 2020’s Spending Habits and Plan for 2021
“The pandemic helped consumers reevaluate spending in terms of what they needed, versus what they wanted,” says Angela Holliday, president of Frost Brokerage Services, Inc. and Frost Investment Services, LLC. “With this in mind, take a look at how you managed to cut costs in 2020 and apply that where you can in 2021. Then, use the extra cash to pay off your debt. This will help you continue good habits so you can prosper in the new year.”
“Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, ‘If you want to make saving a priority, take a look at how you budget. Do not save what is left after spending; instead, spend what is left after saving,’” says Dr. Robert R. Johnson, professor of finance, Heider College of Business, Creighton University. “If one truly wants to make savings a priority, it cannot be a residual — what is left over. It should be a line item on your budget. You don’t successfully build wealth by simply taking what you have left after all your expenses. We accomplish what we prioritize. Prioritize savings and invest those savings.”
“Writing down ‘I will save more’ isn’t tangible, and quite frankly, comes off more like a lofty wish than an actionable goal,” says Nishank Khanna, CFO of Clarify Capital. “Your goals should be specific. If you really want to save more, come up with a number and write that down. Whatever you write should be concrete and measurable. When you’re able to quantify your objectives, you’ll find it much easier to track progress and work towards goal achievement.”
Additionally, if you are able to write down your financial goals with a pen and paper (as opposed to using a phone or computer), you should do so. Research has shown that the manual act of writing can enforce our memory, potentially helping us more easily recall our goals later.
Once your goals are written down, set dates in your planner, revisit them regularly and check your progress. “Then remember those accountability dates by setting reminders on your phone and sending emails/texts to your future self,” says Shaun Morgan, personal finance blogger at Simply Know Money. Morgan also recommends printing out your goals and placing them in areas where you might stumble upon them without meaning to.
5. Get a Separate (Online) Savings Account for Emergency Funds
“To help [prevent] overspending, I generally recommend having separate savings account beyond the primary checking and savings account at your primary bank,” said Todd Bryant, founding partner and financial planner at Signature Wealth Advisors, LLC. “Although rates dropped significantly on savings in 2020, take a look at an online high-yield savings account for this secondary account. Use this not to replace your primary checking/savings, but to supplement them as a place to keep your rainy day/emergency fund. By having it at a separate institution, it tricks your brain into thinking it’s harder to access that money.” In separating your accounts, you might not as freely transfer money in and out like you would between accounts at the same bank. “Plus, the online high-yield banks generally will pay much higher interest rates than the traditional brick & mortar,” Bryant says.
2020 was the year of the subscription service. Maybe 2021 can be the year that you take it down a notch; after all, these things add up and those free trials tend to be woefully short.
“Many people sign up for monthly subscription services, [and] once they’re signed up, they rarely go back to reassess,” says Steffa Mantilla, a certified financial education instructor and founder of the personal finance site, Money Tamer. “Make a list of all your subscriptions and critically assess whether you’re getting the full value out of them. Many people find that they have two or three services that offer the same type of service. By cutting even a few of these subscriptions, you’ll save hundreds of dollars every year.”
“In our country today we require more formal education to drive a vehicle than we do to manage money,” says Harry N. Stout, author of the FinancialVerse, personal finance books and content. “People are just not prepared to address the financial matters they face in life. Study after study shows that Americans lose over $1,000 annually by not properly understanding basic household finance issues — that’s about the monthly mortgage payment on a modest home or over two average car loan payments. There is payback in improving financial literacy.”
“Financial literacy is defined as being educated about money and finance, with a special focus on an individual’s personal finances,” Stout continues. “Being financially literate enables smarter money management decisions to be made that lead directly to a financially secure future, one that protects assets and loved ones. Categories that typically come into play with financial literacy are everyday financial issues like budgeting, spending, debt, taxes, retirement savings, college savings, mortgage management and tax and estate planning. If sufficient time is not spent learning about better managing money matters, individuals will not be able to reduce financial stress and anxiety. Knowledge is power.”
To continue where Stout left off, note that knowledge can also be free if you know where to look. Debt.com’s 12-month self-improvement email course #WeKnowDebt is free of charge. The course gives Americans “a comprehensive breakdown of basic personal finance topics [including] budgeting, savings, interest rates, taxes, and good credit – just to name a few,” said Howard Dvorkin, CPA and chairman of Debt.com. “The course also provides support through a Facebook group for those who sign-up and have questions along the way. Each email lesson in the #WeKnowDebt course is jargon-free and comes with a unique list of resources — along with a ‘Learn this’ and ‘Do this’ section. Anyone interested in making financial literacy a year-long goal can sign up for the free, #WeKnowDebt email course.”
“It’s one thing to have financial goals, but it’s another to have financial goals with no viable strategy in place to meet said goals or track implementation of employed strategies,” says Jasmine Young, founder and CEO of Southern Tax Preparation & Services. “A CPA can help you do both ─ but not if they only see you during tax time. CPAs perform relational work, meaning that if they have formed a relationship with you and you are checking in with them several times throughout the year, they are abreast of events that have happened throughout the year that can affect your finances and are better able to provide you with more guidance and advice as to how to reach the financial goals you set.”
Remember those super-specific goals we made you write down? Well, when you revisit them, be open to revising them. Try to pinpoint the “why” behind them. As we change, so do our wants ─ and sometimes even our needs.
“You might be going down a track for one thing but now you have completely different goals,” says Tolen Teigen, Chief Investment Officer of Financial Decisions. “Take a step back and think about what you want to accomplish. Many people have had a lot of major changes. Maybe now is the right time for a career change or moving out of state or elsewhere.”
“The goal isn’t perfection, it’s progress. Celebrate the little wins,” says Melbourne O’Banion, co-founder and CEO of Bestow. “When it comes to managing your money, don’t make perfection the enemy of progress. Checking important items off your to-do list is an incredibly valuable part of meeting your money goals, such as finally buying that life insurance policy you’ve been putting off, setting up auto deposits into an IRA or brokerage account or creating a will. Plus, that sense of accomplishment will motivate you to keep up the momentum and do more.”
How much you will spend each year on raising a child goes up almost every time parents check. Consequently, how much you think you should save may not necessarily be enough. For parents who plan to have children at a certain time in their lives, they tend to be more proactive in building a fund to support that child before and after he or she is born. These types of individuals also statistically are ones to start saving for college at birth.
For those who may not have designed their lives to have children by a specific date but did, its not too late to start a college fund for them. Now, when the term “college fund” is used that doesn’t mean that the money saved must be for that particular form of higher education. It can go towards enrollment in a trade school, moving abroad or purchasing home once that child becomes an adult.
Cryptocurrency is not intended for minor use, but it should still be taught to them what it is as the physical currency they are currently familiar with may be phased out in the next 10 – 18 years. Teaching them about crypto now is a perfect time to start a crypto fund for them.
Invest In Stablecoins For Your Kids
A stablecoin is just as it sounds, it is a digital currency that is set to a more steady (less volatile) reserve asset like gold or the U.S. dollar. Stablecoins are constructed to lessen volatility comparative to untied cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The key feature of a stablecoin is that its worth will stay stable even after five or more years, thus easing losses with a considerable fall in the crypto market.
To earn interest on stablecoin deposits you would open an account with a crypto loan platform that can offer anywhere around 10% interest on your deposits.
Top Stablecoins By Market Capitalization
Here are the 10 largest trading stablecoins by market capitalization as tracked by cryptocurrency data and analytics provider CoinMarketCap.
When working in banking it was personally observed how individuals handled money as an adult based on what they were taught about it and provided as a child. For young adults who would get a $300 credit card and max it out before the first statement, it was clear they did not have money teachings growing up. Typically, for those who were given a large inheritance or even savings as low as a couple thousand, they managed money and credit much better.
It’s a good idea to teach your child the basics of crypto, letting them know the benefits of allowing their youth crypto college fund, or crypto savings account, to grow so that they can start to live a comfortable life financially when they do turn 18.
Article By K. Crystal Carter
K. Crystal Carter is originally from Oakland, California where she was employed in banking for 7.5 years and a cannabis grow director and cannabis advocate at local City Hall meetings for 6 years. She currently resides in Las Vegas as one of the Earthy Realist team members.
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Cryptocurrency investing has a steep learning curve. Even personal finance expert Suze Orman found it “aggravating” when she first attempted to invest using a cryptocurrency exchange.
“It was just too complicated for me,” she recentlytoldNextAdvisor.
And as a volatile, highly speculative investment, many investors are appropriately cautious. But for those who are interested in crypto but not in buying and holding actual cryptocurrencies, there are still ways to invest, albeit indirectly. And you might already have exposure to cryptocurrency without even knowing it.
The easiest way to get investment exposure to crypto without buying crypto itself is to purchase stock in a company with a financial stake in the future of cryptocurrency or blockchain technology.
But investing in individual stocks can bear similar risks as investing in cryptocurrency. Rather than choosing and investing in individual stocks, experts recommend investors put their money in diversified indexfunds or ETFs instead, with their proven record of long-term growth in value.
“Believe it or not, most individuals with a retirement plan or an investment portfolio allocated in an index fund already have some exposure to crypto,” says Daniel Johnson, a CFP with ReFocus Financial Planning.
Many of the best index funds — like S&P 500 or total market funds — include publicly traded companies that have some involvement with the industry by either mining crypto, being involved in the development of blockchain technology, or holding significant amounts of crypto on their balance sheets, says Johnson.
For example, Tesla— which holds over a billion dollars in Bitcoin and accepted Bitcoin payments in the past— is included in any funds that track the S&P 500. Since its 2020 inclusion, it’s become one of the most valuable, and therefore influential companies in the index. And Coinbase, the only publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange, is in the ARK Fintech Innovation ETF.
However, if you have some extra cash (and you’re tolerant of the risk), you can choose to allocate a small amount of your portfolio to specific companies or more specialized index funds or mutual funds. “An investor bullish on the future of cryptocurrency could invest in the stocks of companies working on that technology,” says Jeremy Schneider, the personal finance expert behind Personal Finance Club.
Experts generally recommend keeping these speculative investments — whether a single company’s stock, specialized index funds, or cryptocurrency itself — to less than 5% of your total investing portfolio.
Investing in Companies with Crypto Interests
That’s how personal finance expert Suze Orman initially did it. She recently told NextAdvisor about how she invested in MicroStrategy, a cloud computing firm that holds billions in Bitcoin, because its CEO was putting all of the company’s working capital into Bitcoin. She figured if Bitcoin increased in value, so would the value of Microstrategy’s stock.
But as anyone who follows Orman’s advice knows, she recommends index funds as a much better investment strategy than picking individual stocks.
Rather than buying shares in any single crypto-forward company, it’s better to maintain a balanced portfolio by identifying companies with crypto interests, and making sure their shares are included in any index or mutual funds you put money into. Not only does that allow you to invest in the companies where you see potential, but it also helps you keep your investments diversified within a broader fund.
If you invest with Vanguard, for example, you can use the site’s holding search to find all the Vanguard funds that include a specific company. Just enter the company’s ticker symbol (like TSLA for Tesla) and the tool will offer a list of all the Vanguard products that have holdings of its shares. Other investing platforms offer similar ways to search by company within index and mutual funds.
But specialized ETFs or mutual funds can also come with higher fees than total market indexes, so pay attention to how much you’re going to be charged for buying shares. Schneider considers an expense ratio (what you pay in fees) under 0.2% to be very low, and anything over 1% to be very expensive. For an already speculative investment, high fees can hinder your growth even more.
Here are a few more examples of publicly-traded companies that are adding Bitcoin or blockchain technology to their business. These are definitely not the only companies involved, and more are joining the list every day. (Circle, a digital payment platform specializing in crypto payments, for example, just announced its intended IPO):
MicroStrategy offers business intelligence and cloud services, and invests its assets into Bitcoin.
Marathon Digital Holdings (MARA)
Marathon Digital Holdings aims to be the largest bitcoin mining operation in North America.
RIOT Blockchain (RIOT)
Riot Blockchain is a Bitcoin mining company.
Bitfarms operates blockchain computing centers.
Galaxy Digital (BRPHF)
Galaxy Digital is a broker-dealer involved in crypto investment management, trading, custody, and mining.
Tesla’s founder Elon Musk, is a proponent of cryptocurrency, and the company holds over a billion dollars worth of Bitcoin. It temporarily accepted Bitcoin payments in early 2021 before ending the program, but Musk recently said Tesla will “most likely” restart Bitcoin payments.
PayPal is a payment platform where people can purchase cryptocurrency.
Square recently announced that it would be entering the decentralized finance space.
Coinbase is the first public cryptocurrency exchange. It debuted on the Nasdaq in spring 2021.
ETFs — exchange traded funds — operate like a hybrid between mutual funds and stocks. An ETF is essentially a group of stocks, bonds or other assets. When you buy a share of an ETF, you have a stake in the basket of investments owned by the fund.
While many ETFs — such as total market ETFs — have very low expense ratios, specialized ETFs can be closer to the 1% ratio that Schneider would consider very expensive. This will make less of an impact if more expensive ETFs comprise a small portion of your overall portfolio, keep in mind the cost when considering options.
ETFs are often grouped by what sort of investments they hold, so one way you can indirectly invest in cryptocurrency is by putting money into an ETF focused on its underlying technology: blockchain. A blockchain ETF will include companies either using or developing blockchain technology.
Many people who are skeptical about cryptocurrency but believe in the “transformative” blockchain technology behind it see blockchain ETFs as a much more sound investment.
It’s like the California gold rush of the 1800s, says Chris Chen, CFP, of Insight Financial Strategists in Newton, Massachusetts, for a recent NextAdvisor story about blockchain technology: “Lots of people rushed in there to dig for gold, and most of them never made any money,” he said. “The folks who made the money are those who sold the shovels. The companies that are supporting the development of blockchain are the shovel sellers.”
ETFs are created by different companies, but you can often buy them through whichever brokerage you typically use to invest. Just like you can search your brokerage for individual stocks, you can also search for funds using the symbols associated with them. Here are a few blockchain ETFs currently available to investors (with listings on popular brokerages like Fidelity, Vanguard, and Charles Schwab):
BLOK (Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF)
BLOK is the largest blockchain ETF by total assets. It’s largest holdings are PayPal, MicroStrategy, and Square.
BLCN (Siren Nasdaq NexGen Economy ETF)
BLCN’s top holdings are Coinbase, Accenture, and Square.
LEGR (First Trust Indxx Innovative Transaction & Process ETF)
LEGR’s top holdings are NVIDIA, Oracle, and Fujitsu.
For would-be crypto investors who are deterred by exchanges or buying and holding actual coins, one simpler way to invest — via crypto or Bitcoin ETFs — has remained out of reach.
Plenty of companies — from crypto exchange Gemini to longstanding investment firm Fidelity — have attempted to offer Bitcoin ETFs. But so far, all such U.S. proposals have either been rejected by the Securities and Exchange Commission or remain under consideration, as the SEC continues to drag its feet through the approval process.
A crypto ETF would be a major step in bringing cryptocurrency to U.S. investment portfolios,
offering American investors the ability to invest in digital currencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum without having to learn to trade on a crypto exchange.
The only similar option for U.S. investors today are private trusts that hold cryptocurrency, such as Grayscale Bitcoin Trust or Osprey Bitcoin Trust. These funds allow accredited investors to buy shares directly at market value, but anyone can buy secondary market shares through a brokerage account with a traditional firm, like Fidelity. There are management fees associated with the trusts to keep in mind, though (2% for Greyscale and 0.49% for Osprey) which can make this method of Bitcoin investment more costly than a commission-free blockchain ETF or buying crypto directly from an exchange.