I love learning new things and often attend webinars and podcasts to gain financial knowledge and/or continuing education credits for my CFP® and AFC® as well as to connect virtually with others.
Below, in no particular order and on a variety of topics, are nine financial “nuggets” that I heard recently.
The Key to Building Wealth
There is no “secret” formula for wealth accumulation. Rather, the way that most people accumulate assets and become millionaires is to save as much as they can as soon as they can. Wealth is built by investing over time and compound interest over four or five decades of regular deposits is the key to success.
That said, it is important to acknowledge that many people get a late start. That is reality and late savers need hope, encouragement and options. Saving later in life is still much better than not saving anything at all.
The Power of Empowerment
People often have more power than they think they have, can do with a lot less shame and blame about past mistakes, and need to feel that they are in charge of their life. Financial well-being begins with a strong foundation of positive cash flow.
An analogy used in a financial webinar is that, just like you don’t put on perfume without first taking a shower, you shouldn’t buy investments without having a budget with positive cash flow. Budgeting is the cornerstone for financial well-being.
Key Financial “Need to Knows”
A panel of personal finance teachers on a CNBC webinar for Teacher Appreciation Week described the following concepts that all students need to know.
First, start investing today, invest with low-cost investments, check for licensed sellers and registered investments, develop and follow a budget, understand your retirement savings plans, and consider a target date fund as a retirement plan investment.
A speaker at the three-day Wall Street Journal Future of Everything Festival noted that a big post-pandemic issue will be the large amounts of money put into the economy and the inflationary stimulation this is causing.
A second issue is the grief experienced by many people, which has focused their priorities and clarified what matters.
Many more employees today are vocal about work load concerns and work-life balance.
They have also realized that they can be pickier about ways that they “lean in” at work and don’t need to be at every event. They can pick and choose.
We should all expect that the process of re-emerging from the pandemic will be awkward. CDC guidelines will continue to evolve over time and people have different levels of “cautiousness” as they have had throughout the pandemic.
Companies in many industries (e.g., restaurants, ball parks, and airlines) are trying to anticipate how their employees and customers are thinking and to make them feel comfortable. Not every company will get it right.
Retirement Plan Withdrawal Caution
A financial webinar, The Impact of COVID-19 on Retirement Savings, by Consumer Action, noted that the CARES Act made it easier for people to take withdrawals from their retirement savings plans to pay bills. That said, participants were advised not to do this unless they absolutely have to.
Alternatives to generate cash include savings that is not in a retirement plan (if any), employer assistance (e.g., giving circles), family and friends (even if it is embarrassing to ask them), and tapping a home equity line of credit.
Women, the majority of U.S. nurses and teachers, have been “beaten down” by COVID-19. As a result, many have stated “I’m out at 62,” so they can collect reduced early Social Security benefits.
There is concern, however, as to whether they will be able to live comfortably throughout the remainder of their lives. Using the Rule of 72 with 3% inflation, prices will double in 24 years (e.g., from age 62 to 86).
A recent study found that 47% of women cannot afford a $400 emergency expense and 21% use a credit card for emergencies. Another Consumer Action webinar speaker ominously predicted “we will see caravans of homeless women in this country” (a la the movie Nomadland).
Working Past Age 70
People should not plan on doing this when they are calculating how much they need to save for retirement. Ambitious plans can go awry. Ageism is a very real thing and those who plan extended careers must absolutely keep their skills and professional contacts up to date so they can provide value to an employer or clients (if self-employed).
Two risk factors, besides ageism, are health and ability to work. Benefits of working longer are delayed withdrawals from savings, more time to save money, and increased formula-based pension and Social Security benefits.
Getting Started is Hard
Many people don’t invest (or take other actions to improve their personal finances) because they don’t know where and how to start. Financial educators need to remember this and break financial actions down into a series of process steps and offer encouragement along the way.
Another financial webinar tip is to make financial planning activities seem urgent and important. For example, investing is important because it is a proven way to build wealth over time.
The #1 pre-requisite for making a change is a sense of urgency.