Welcome to adulthood. So, you have scored your first job. Before you celebrate your impending financial independence with an unnecessarily expensive handbag, remember this: with pay check No 1 comes great responsibilities.
But we’re only human, and adulting — whether you’re 21 or 41 — is hard. We could all use a little reminder sometimes. So, we reached out to Mark Lee, CEO of Wellspring Investments and father of four, who shares his seven golden rules to managing your money like an adult:
1. Get Organised
It’s important to organise your personal financial system. This includes knowing how to operate online bank accounts and recording passwords, physical filing of statements, tracking personal financial information such as monthly spending, and even something as simple as knowing where your bank tokens are.
If this system is in a mess, it will become time-consuming and frustrating to manage and review your finances regularly. This results in ignoring or delaying managing your finances. On the other hand, good organisation can make a more productive, fruitful and (even) pleasant experience of managing your money.
2. Educate Yourself
There are many financial tools out there that are designed to help people with their finances. These include various types of savings accounts, and insurance and investment platforms. All of these instruments serve different purposes, and it’s important to understand how they can serve your individual needs.
However, be careful of believing everything you read or hear. Exercise common sense and speak with people you know and trust in order to understand what is going. This way, you will be able to take advantage of financial instruments optimally.
3. Regularly Audit Your Financial Situation
It’s imperative that you regularly take stock and review your financial situation. Has my life situation changed and will it affect my finances? Has my income changed, and is it going to be stable for the next few years? Will I have more expenses to pay to support aging parents or to have more children? Have I bought a new car which will require maintenance (insurance, road tax, regular servicing)?
Regularly reviewing your financial situation will keep you on top of things financially. It provides a strong foundation for planning and acting on your goals.
4. Look Ahead and Plan
Based on your situation and an understanding of financial tools available, plan accordingly. How should I apportion my income into spending accounts, savings, investments and insurance?
It’s also important to build a contingency fund that you contribute to regularly. This contingency fund could serve many purposes, like sudden injury or even helping a friend who is in need. Planning helps you to be aware of how you spend. Constant review is also important so that the plans will not be sidelined and forgotten.
5. Spend Within Your Means
It’s important to live as simply as you can. I’ve found that many people who lose a grip on their finances do so because they are unable to control the urge to spend more than they can afford to. Sometimes it’s because of the influence of the world around them (envying friends’ Facebook posts, for example) and want many things that may be out of their financial league.
Prioritising your spending is important. Devise a way to formally track your spending — this should give you a good idea of what you can and cannot (and should not) indulge in.
6. If You Must Get Loans, Look at the Interest Rates
Borrow only when you absolutely need to and calculate the costs that you will be incurring from borrowing. This is why you need to pay attention to interest rates when you compare loans in Singapore, as this determines the true cost of your loan.
Also, be aware of any potential increases in fees. For example, interest rates on mortgages can increase over time.
7. Avoid High-Interest Debt
High-interest debt includes credit card debt. Never use your credit card as a source of credit. If you have an overdue balance on your card, pay it off immediately and prioritise it over any sort of spending. This will keep you from losing money on high-interest payments.