Getting out of the paycheck-to-paycheck mode is about more than just spending less. Erin Lowry from Broke Millennial explains how to stop scraping by.

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Show Notes

Are you tired of scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck? Erin Lowry from Broker Millennial joins us to share strategies on how you can get out of your financial rut.

Erin Lowry is a millennial personal finance expert and the founder of BrokeMillennial.com. She’s also the author of the forthcoming book BROKE MILLENNIAL: How to Stop Scraping by and Get Your Financial Life Together. Lowry has contributed to Forbes, Business Insider, New York Magazine’s The Cut and U.S. News & World Report. Some of her insights have been featured by outlets including: CBSSunday Morning, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Marketplace Money. Lowry lives in New York City with her spunky rescue dog Mosby.

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Hosted byMiranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteven Flato
Music bybensound.com
Erin Lowry

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One of the most important relationships in your life is the one you have with money. Make sure you build a lasting connection to your finances.

Do you feel connected to your money?

One of my biggest fears is that apps will get in the way of my relationship to my money.

While apps like Mint make it easy to see where your money is going and get a handle on your finances, these apps aren’t everything.

In fact, they can get in the way of your relationship to your money. And that’s a problem. If you want to have the best results with your finances, you need to feel connected to your money.

Personal finance is hands-on.

One of the biggest problems I have with apps is the fact that you don’t really have to think about what you’re doing with your money.

Just sync up your account and check every now and again to see if you have the money available to make a purchase.

This approach doesn’t encourage you to think about what you’re spending your money on — or why you’re spending it. One of the biggest mistakes I made with money was spending without know my priorities.

When you’re connected to your money, you pay attention to the reasons behind your spending. If you step away from the app and track your spending manually, you develop a more intimate relationship with your finances.

And you know exactly what’s going on.

Even though I use personal finance software (Moneydance), I refuse to sync up it up with my accounts. Instead, I update everything manually. I go in there, receipts in hand, and log every purchase.

This forces me to confront the reality that sometimes the things I spend on don’t match my priorities or help me reach my goals. I spot problems faster — and can work to solve problems faster as a result.

Money is a tool.

Being connected to your money allows you to see it as a tool, rather than an end itself.

How many times have you lamented your lack of cash? I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to think that money is going to solve your problems.

The fact of the matter is that more money won’t change your habits. If you’re just looking at your app in despair, you’re not going to really get in there and tackle the underlying problems.

Look at money as a tool. It can help you do what you want.

With money, you can save for that vacation, plan for a truly golden retirement, and even provide for the security of your family.

Building that connection takes more than just looking at the cool graphs some app provides you. Instead, it’s about planning. You need to check in with your finances. Is your money plan working? Is it helping you reach your lifestyle goals?

Being connected to your money is about knowing what you have coming in, and being aware of how you direct those resources so that you are building something of value in your life.

What about automation?

Even though I’m not a fan of using apps to sync up my bank accounts, I am a fan of automated finances.

Rather than write check after check, I like setting my accounts up for automatic payments. My insurance, internet, and other bills are automatically taken care of. Hell, I even donate to charity using my credit card to make automatic payments.

When I first started automating everything, I wanted to make sure I didn’t end up becoming disconnected from my money. So I make it a point to manually enter purchases into my personal finance software. I also reconcile my accounts every month.

Many people think that they don’t need to reconcile their accounts each month. After all, thanks to online banking, it’s possible to look at all of your account each day if you want. You can look at what’s cleared and catch fraudulent charges quickly.

However, I like reconciling my accounts. It forces me to review all of my spending again and look at patterns. When I reconcile an account, it means that I have to stay connected — even though I automate my finances for the most part.

You don’t have to give up your apps.

Of course, you don’t have to give up your apps to remain connected to your money.

There are plenty of ways to stay connected to your finances, no matter how you choose to manage your money. Here are some things you should do on a regular basis to ensure that you and your money maintain a strong relationship:

  • Review your spending regularly. Don’t just glance at a graph or get your information from an app. At least once a month really dig in there. Look at some of the individual purchases you make. Do those things match your priorities? Are you starting to drift into “wasting money” territory?
  • Review your investments. From your retirement account to any sort of taxable investment account, you should regularly check in with your returns. Does what you’re setting aside still make sense for your goals? Have you seen an increase in income that means you should be investing more?
  • Create a long-term financial plan. Put together a long-term financial plan that looks at your finances holistically. Pay attention to where you are now, and use your life map to hone in on your priorities. Create a long-term financial plan that takes into account your goals and lifestyle requirements.
  • Make adjustments as needed. It’s not just about making a plan and then forgetting about it. You should revisit your long-term plan at least once a year and make adjustments as needed. Life changes you. Your goals change. You need to change things up.

Remember: your money works for you. However, if you aren’t paying attention and if you aren’t connected to your money, it won’t do you any good. Pretty soon, you’ll find you’re a slave to your finances.

There are plenty of great financial tools that can help you move forward in life. From apps to automatic payments, you can use these tools to streamline your finances.

But you can’t let them come between you and your money.

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Choose one of these best bank accounts to handle your finances like an adult.

If you don’t have a bank account yet, you should open one. (Continue reading for some suggestions.) Anyone who earns money from a job or any other source — even if there isn’t a lot of money to spare — should be using a checking account at the very least.

My bank tells me I’ve been a customer since the year I turned 13, so whether it was from an allowance, from taking care of my neighbor’s cat while they were on vacation, or from my first job in retail, I was at least trying to have a positive money attitude, inspired by my parents.

It’s possible to be successful without a bank account, but without one, you’ll have obstacles in today’s society. You can work at a job where you’re paid cash, or you can use check-cashing services at Walmart or storefronts. Prepaid debit cards can help you buy things in an increasingly cashless environment. But all these workarounds are expensive and limit your financial possibilities.

Bank accounts can be expensive, too, and many of these financial corporations will try to fleece you at any opportunity with overdraft fees, minimum balance requirements, maintenance fees, and ATM fees. The list of hidden fees seems to go on forever. Avoiding fees sometimes requires some attention, but when you can, checking and savings accounts are much better than “alternative banking products.”

You don’t need to go crazy. You can do everything you need with one checking account, but to make the most out of benefits banks have to offer, you’d need one savings account as well. That will help you earn interest on the money of yours you let the bank use — yes, when you deposit money in a bank account, you’re letting the bank use your money, so they should be giving you something in return (in addition to your ability to withdraw any amount of your money at any time).

I prefer the KISS strategy when it comes to bank accounts: Keep It Simple, Stupid. (No offense.)

Choose one of these best bank accounts to open.

Best Overall Bank Account for an Adult.

Fidelity Cash Management Account. This is the best example of the KISS method of banking. It’s a checking and a savings account in one, though the amount of interest you earn is minimal. But for a primary bank account, that’s just fine. Everything is free. Let me repeat: Everything is free. There’s no minimum balance. When you want to use an ATM, the owners will charge a fee, but Fidelity pays you to cover that fee.

You receive free checks to use. (You should learn how to use a checkbook and how to write checks if you don’t already know.) You can deposit any checks you receive using an app on your phone. Of course, you receive a debit card to access your money using an ATM or for purchases. Open a Fidelity Cash Management account.

Best Bank Account for an Adult Who Doesn’t Trust Banks.

Your local credit union. Not a fan of the financial industry? Credit unions don’t answer to Wall Street, so they’re not always trying to profit from their customers. Credit unions are owned by their members (who are also their customers), so it’s a system that makes the needs of the customers their priority.

Many community credit unions are open to anyone, but some have restricted membership. Navy Federal Credit Union is one of the best-reviewed credit unions out there, but you need to be affiliated with the military or the Department of Defense (or have an immediate family member who is) in order to join.

The Navy Federal Credit Union e-Checking is that organization’s best option taking all the facets of banking into account.

An independent credit union may also be the best option for Socially Conscious Adults. (Trump fans should head to CitiBank or Wells Fargo; the president owns stock in these companies.) Search for a credit union.

Best Bank Account for an Adult With Limited Mobility.

The branch that’s local to you. For a while in my adult life, I didn’t own a car. That really limited my ability to get around to a distant branch. This might apply to someone who lives in a walk-able city, too, like New York City.

Convenience is an important factor in choosing a bank account, sometimes more than a tiny bit of interest you might earn. So if you have a bank within a walking distance of 60 seconds, no one would ever judge you for choosing that bank’s free checking option over another bank.

Almost every bank account in existence today can be managed online, so there should be very few things you need to actually travel to a branch for. But sometimes, something comes up. But any online account should also be good for someone without access to transportation. Ally Bank is a strongly-reviewed online bank with a standard checking account. Simple is another interesting choice.

Best Bank Account for Adults Who Earn Interest.

Synchrony High Yield Savings. If you want just one bank account, choosing a checking account like one of the above. If you’re ready to have both a checking account and a savings account, and you’re moderately good at managing your money, a high yield savings account is a good choice for a second bank account.

And in recent years, Synchrony has offered one of the highest interest rates around. As of right now, that’s 1.05% APY (annual percentage yield). What does that mean? If you deposit $1,000 on day one and do nothing else, on day 366, your balance will be $1,010.50.

Not a huge increase, but it’s better than ending up with less. And we’ve been at a low point in interest rates. They will rise in the future — we just don’t know when. Open a Synchrony High Yield Savings account.

Best Bank Account for Adult Entrepreneurs.

Citizens Bank Clearly Better Business Checking. It’s important to separate your business finances from your personal life. If you develop a business, or you start earning money from your hobby in a serious way, you’ll want a business checking account. Make your business official with the state and federal governments, then open this account.

There are no maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirement, so it’s perfect for your side hustle. The bank offers 200 free check transactions, which should be sufficient for most small businesses. Open a Clearly Better Business Checking account.

If you have a bank account, which account do you have?

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Before long, there will be a recession, depression, or financial collapse. You can count on it. You can also prepare.

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OMG. Are we facing another financial collapse?

Some people think that we might be facing another recession — or even a depression.

Even though downcycles are a normal part of the economy, it’s hard for us to feel good about them. After all, no one likes the idea of hard financial times.

While we might not be facing a total financial collapse, the reality is that things might be getting harder for the middle class. Widening income inequality and a fraying safety net could lead to problems.

If you don’t want to be caught up in the problems, it’s a good idea to prepare your finances so you are ready for whatever comes.

Concepts

  • An honest look at the reality of downcycles and recessions.
  • Why it’s important to understand that there is no way to avoid all financial problems.
  • Is a complete financial collapse truly likely?
  • The importance of looking at your own life, and not just focusing on the wider economy.
  • Consequences of a shrinking safety net at the same time income inequality is growing.
  • The importance of cultivating income diversity as a way to proect yourself.
  • Potential skills that can transfer from one career to the next.
  • Financial moves, like paying down debt, you can make to better position yourself to avoid being a victim in a financial collapse.
  • The truth about stockpiling gold.
  • The kinds of survival skills that are actually useful during a true apocalypse situation.

Don’t forget to stick around for this week’s “do nows.” We talk about how you can create a financial priority list to protect you from problems, as well as start updating your resume and brushing up on in-demand skills.

Our listener question tackles the idea of moving abroad to escape the financial collapse you might be worried about.

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Resources

The next financial crisis has already begun
Donald Trump will boost national debt
The American social safety net is gone
How to build long-term food storage

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If you can handle a credit card like an adult, you might as well maximize the benefits! These best credit cards offer bonuses and other perks.

Handling your finances like an adult includes knowing how to deal with credit cards. We all make mistakes sometimes. For me, it was taking a cash advance from a credit card when I hit my personal rock bottom. I felt like I didn’t have any other choice.

But years later, I’ve turned the tables on the credit card industry and now use credit cards to earn cash back and collect points for free travel, which I do often.

Here are my picks for the best credit cards across the different types of credit card offers that are available today. Note: all credit card deals are only worthwhile if you pay your balance off in full each month, like a proper adult. If you have to pay interest or a late payment fee, forget about maximizing credit card offers. Focus on getting your finances in shape first.

Best credit card bonus (for the not-so-typical adult).

Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000 Bonus Points. If you visit a Chase branch, you can apply for the 100,000 bonus points offer. If you can’t get to a branch, you can apply online for a reduced bonus point offer of 50,000 points. That’s still pretty substantial. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, but you will receive a reimbursement of up to $300 for certain travel expenses like checked-bag fees.

The rest of the benefits may be worth the $150 difference between the reimbursement maximum and the fee. You’ll need to spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months to receive the bonus. Get the 100,000 bonus points and you’re straight fire.

Best cash back credit card offer (for adults who like money).

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. The keys to a good cash back card are avoiding the annual fee, eliminating any hassle to retrieving the cash you earn, and finding a cash-back rate that’s above the average offer. 1% cash back is easy to find, but Blue Cash Everyday beats that with 3% cash back on groceries (limited), 2% at gas stations, 10% on restaurants for the first six months (limited), and 1% on everything else. Right now, AmEx is offering a $100 cash back bonus, too.

Best travel rewards credit card offer (for adults who have places to be).

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card, you should expect to find features that make travel easy. The biggest benefit, especially for the world traveler, is having no foreign transaction fee. Bank of America’s offer makes that happen, and does not charge an annual fee, either.

You earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend, unlimited, and those points are redeemed for a statement credit that covers flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees. There’s no need to convert points to miles or points with a specific airline or hotel chain. Because you use the card normally to pay for your travel expenses, there are no black-out dates.

Best balance transfer credit card (for adults who need to simplify).

Chase Slate. If there’s one thing you want from a credit card you wish to use to transfer a balance, it’s the lack of a fee. If there’s another thing you want, it’s a low interest rate so you can pay off that balance transfer without any extra costs. Chase Slate has the perfect offer. For the first 60 days, you can transfer balances from your other cards for free, and you’ll have 15 months to pay off that balance without paying a cent in interest (0% APR) as long as you pay at least the minimum due each month.

This is the perfect opportunity to consolidate your balances across several cards and create one manageable, monthly payment. But pay the balance in full within the introductory period and don’t add to the balance with purchases!

Best credit card offer for students (for adults who are trying to adult).

Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students. I got my first credit card in college. I signed up and got a free tee-shirt. You get more when you are approved for Citi’s card for college students, probably the credit card offer with the most chill. There’s 2,500 bonus points available for those who sign up, and you have to spend only $500 in the first three months to qualify.

The purpose of a student card is to help you build credit, so don’t expect too many frills besides the basic rewards and introductory 0% APR for 7 months.

Best small business credit card (for adults who think they’re important).

Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express. This is the standard, and if you’re building your business beyond yourself, this is a great choice. Watch out for the $175 annual fee (waived for the first year) with the AmEx Business Gold Rewards Card. But, there’s currently a 50,000 bonus points offer, requiring only $5,000 in purchases over the first three months.

This is a charge card, not a credit card, so you pay your bill in full every month.

Best credit card for building credit (for adults who are just starting to adult).

Discover it Secured Credit Card. Building credit can be difficult if you didn’t have certain advantages growing up, like parents who had their own solid credit and a desire to ensure you were starting your adult life with good credit. Without those benefits, creating a solid financial future for yourself and your family will have more obstacles.

Secured credit cards help establish credit, which allows you to qualify for better mortgage rates (or a mortgage at all) when the time comes, better interest rates for other loans, better prices on insurance, and even better apartments. While you’ll be approved for the Discover it Secured Credit Card without a credit history, this is more than just a basic card. You earn cash back on every purchase (limited) and receive your FICO credit score for free.

What’s in your wallet?

Tell us what kind of card (or cards) you have. And what’s the best feature or you? Cash back, travel rewards, or something else?

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Just like any good relationship, you need to nurture your money relationship. Here’s how to prepare for a good date with your money.

When you a that big date, you want everything to go right.

If everything goes just right, you’ll get lucky. Maybe enjoy more than dinner and drinks.

To have the kind of fun you really want to have, you must first prepare. You need everything in its place, everything looking good. And feeling good.

To get the results you want, you must plan, plan, plan.

This is the same when making a date with your money.

If you want your money date to be bigger, better, and more exciting, this six-step plan will satisfy you.

Prepare.

Sure, you could dive right into it and hope for the best. With a little pre-date prep, though, you can make your money date pleasurable and certain.

Get online access to all your accounts and account statements. Include investment and savings accounts with bank and investment firms, retirement (company sponsored retirement plans and individual retirement accounts, such as your Traditional or Roth IRA), and credit card accounts.

Don’t forget about your Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Get access to your mortgage account and any personal and home equity lines of credit (HELOC).

Get access to any account you have anywhere. Have all this information accessible so you can peek at it as needed.

Gain an understanding of what kind of accounts you have and how they work. If you have a company-sponsored retirement plan, what kind of plan do you have and how does your employer manage it? If you have a HELOC, know your terms, such as withdrawal limit, interest rate, and payoff requirements.

Lay the groundwork for a successful date with your money so you aren’t stuck.

Get intimate.

It’s hard to get what you want when you don’t know what you want. You can’t be fulfilled if you don’t know what you crave.

To get the most from the date with your money, know your goals and dreams. If you don’t know your goals and dreams, do some self-reflection, meditate, journal, read, and talk with friends and family.

Find out what it is you most want in life and then structure your financial plan to achieve those goals.

While you’re self-reflecting, figure out what scares and concerns you. If you’re afraid to lose money, for example, you want more conservative investments.

If you’re concerned by what would happen if you lose your job, you want to devise a plan to save six-months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account.

Be honest about your limitations and weaknesses. If you’re prone to misuse credit cards, then all those credit card hacking articles you’ve read don’t apply.

If your dream is to be a social worker, then a top-tier college that costs six figures doesn’t make sense.

Understanding what you desire and what you can handle will take you a long way in creating a financial plan that works for you. Most people create a financial plan to simply look like they’re doing better than their neighbor.

That’s a plan for failure.

Shoot to score.

If a date with your money includes someone else, good on you. The more the merrier.

If your money date includes someone else because that someone else is included in your family plan, know all the above about them as well as you do about yourself. When you have that level of understanding, you can seek mutually happy endings.

Money is one of the top three leading causes of stress in relationships. Understanding your partner’s financial personality and having them understand your financial personality will help you both feel satisfied.

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need to have the exact same financial goals as your partner. You can support your partner in reaching for their individual financial goals.

Protect yourself.

Because you’re getting so intimate, it’s wise to use protection.

Get life insurance, even if you don’t have a spouse or children. Today’s life insurance isn’t our parent’s life insurance.

Policies today often allow you to leave an inheritance to heirs that include partners, children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or anyone unrelated to you by blood but related to you by love.

Many policies permit leaving charitable donations. You may leave a donation to one or more organizations in your name. If you choose the latter, it’s wise to assign a trustee to your estate to oversee that the donations are distributed appropriately and not a la Eva Peron.

Get life insurance as soon as possible because the earlier you do the cheaper it is.

Whether you have health insurance through an employer or through the Affordable Care Act, make sure you have enough coverage to meet your needs. Risking that you won’t get sick or hurt is taking the risk of losing your health and your wealth.

Bank or credit union savings accounts or money market accounts with no bells or whistles are ideal to use as emergency savings accounts. You don’t want this money too easily accessible, so decline debit cards and check writing.

In a real emergency, you won’t mind driving to the bank or requesting a wire for this money. If you have an urge to buy a new television, the effort it takes to access your emergency savings funds may motivate you to find the money elsewhere.

Clip, pare, prune, and trim.

Less is more. As designers, writers, and editors often say, “Edit. Edit. Edit.”

That’s often the case that our lifestyles grow proportional to our incomes. We spend all we earn – and sometimes more.

In any case, cut excess spending and waste. When you trim, your prize becomes clearer and appears bigger. You will achieve any and all financial goals sooner rather than later.

Concentrate.

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that balancing your accounts and paying bills is low on your list of enjoyable activities.

To make this date with your money a quickie, take a deep breath, relax, and release. The more you focus on the task at hand and the goal in mind, the sooner you’ll be finished. We don’t always want dates to end quickly, but sometimes it’s all we can do.

With these steps, you can have the money date you need and achieve the money goals you want. It’s only as hard as you make it or want it to be.

Now make that date!

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Clayton Daniel shows how you can use the money and time you have today to fund your ideal lifestyle.

Once in a while, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! Subscribe on YouTube to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Show Notes

Our regular hosts, Harlan and Miranda, are joined today by regular Adulting.tv contributor and guest co-host, Jana Lynch. Today’s guest is Clayton Daniel, author of Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle.

What is it that you really want out of life? Are you spending too much time at work? Here’s how to stop feeling like you’re wasting the best years of your life.

Happiness and fulfillment come about when you identify what you want and find ways to achieve it with the resources (time and money) that you do have.

Clayton Daniel is a personal finance expert specializing in cognitive minimalism: the belief that outsourcing the greatest stresses in life such as money to technology and automation, result in better performance across every other area of life. Visit Clayton online at Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle.

Clayton spent ten years of his corporate career in accounting and financial advice. As personal finance flourished online, Clayton identified a broadening gap between what could be offered through financial planning, and what genuinely helped people succeed in achieving what they wanted out of life.

Clayton’s professional experience is in tax accounting, and financial advice with Dixon Advisory, AMP and his own company Hillross Silverstone. He has worked with the AFA, XY Adviser and the University of NSW.

Listen to the podcast audio by using the player above.

Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteven Flato
Music bybensound.com

Like what you’ve heard?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!