Are you financially literate? With a bit of time and effort, you can be — and it will almost certainly lead to a stronger financial position. Here are five ways to become money smart:
Make a date with yourself every week to work on your finances
Financially literate people spend at least 20 minutes a week learning about money matters and staying on top of their finances. They read about wealth, meet with advisers, work on their budget and pay bills.
Whether they like the subject of money or not, immersing themselves in financial learning every week helps the financially literate stay on top of financial goals.
Carve out time every week to start learning about money. There are literally thousands of free resources online, and hundreds of documentaries to watch. Start with a search about how to save more money.
Investigate lenders before committing to one
In a recent survey conducted by Loans Canada, nearly 40 per cent of respondents — all of whom were already indebted — skipped out on comparing offers from lenders.
Unfortunately, loan stacking — having multiple loans from multiple vendors — tends to be a result of not being strategic about what you borrow for, and from which lender. And that stack of debt can be tough to handle efficiently.
Comparing loan terms, rates, frequency and amount of payments allows you to make an informed decision and gives you leverage to negotiate with competitive offers. And it’s fairly easy to do through online loan and rate comparison websites.
Work your budget
A 2019 Government of Canada financial capability survey found that Canadians who stick to a budget — about half of those surveyed — are better able to stay on top of their spending. People who budget also tend to have squirrelled away enough savings for emergencies and retirement plans.
One of the biggest barriers that non-budgeters say gets in the way is a lack of time. There are, however, hundreds of digital tools to speed up the process compared to even a decade ago. And if you prefer to keep your banking separate from your budget, you could use a free Google budgeting template.
Keep a pulse on your credit score
Financially literate people keep an eagle eye on their credit score to prevent fraud and to monitor their progress toward improving it. Generally speaking, a score less than 600 is suboptimal with 900 being the highest. Paying bills on time and in full and reining in your credit cards is the best way to improve your credit score.
And there are plenty of free credit score tracking services like CreditKarma.
Seek the advice of a qualified professional
When it comes to your personal finances, never guess. There’s just too much at stake. If you don’t know what to do about your finances, or you are just unsure, get help.
Having low financial self-awareness is dangerous and generally leads to poor money decisions. Working with a professional, even if it’s just for the short-term, can help improve your financial self-awareness and increase your financial literacy.