I believe there are 3 things that are essential in your life that school and higher education never taught you.
Emotional intelligence (EI)
Digital intelligence (DI)
Financial intelligence (FI)
Emotional intelligence, well, because we are all emotional beings and in order to better understand, support, and thrive as an individual and help others do the same. You need a high level of EI.
Digital intelligence because it’s a digital world my friends. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re pretty much plodding through a pixelated highway of digital tech that governs our daily lives So, it makes sense to understand how to make the most of it and how you can control it, not it control you right?
And finally, Financial Intelligence – why? Because money makes the world go round. I hate that phrase but it’s true. Whether you’re here for a good, short time or hopefully a long time, you’re going to need money.
This is why I want to focus this article on exploring the ways we can raise our FI (remember Financial Intelligence) and set ourselves up for some form of success in this sometimes chaotic world so we can be in the best place possible financially in as many phases of life as we are lucky to get.
We can track most of the world’s biggest problems back to money.
From wars to divorces, corporate espionage to poverty, all these things have money at their core.
During my years of education, not one minute of one lesson covered the importance of personal finance. I spent many an hour studying Pythagoras and other equations I’ve never used in my 14 year career but no one told me shit about pensions and savings.
And in my opinion that’s plain wrong.
I thought the purpose of educational establishments was to develop future generations for success. So, how about less lessons on baking cookies and talking about useless to the real world equations and more telling me about budgeting, so I don’t starve to death in my 20’s?
Look, education failed us here. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take control and educate ourselves on this incredibly important topic.
But where to start? Let’s keep it simple shall we?
Here’s some basics that I think most if not all us will benefit from:
Learn how to budget your finances
Excel has become my best friend when calculating what comes in and what goes out. Nothing fancy here, a good old spreadsheet will keep you up to date.
This article from Moneysavingexpert.com will teach you everything you need to know on this. You can also find a bunch of apps on your local app store that can do this for you too. I’m not going to recommend any specific ones as I don’t want this to be biased.
Plan for retirement aka old age
I’m from the UK so when it’s time to be old and leave the world of work, we rely on government pensions (which are rubbish) and a personal pension which we hopefully invested in during all those years of work.
Whatever the equivalent is in your country, make sure you have one and are investing in it.
Look I know if you’re in your 20’s and reading this you might be thinking “I’m too young for this yet” well you’re wrong and you should be looking into this.
Don’t do what I did and car crash through your 20’s and not even consider retirement planning until your early 30’s, when you suddenly realise this ride could last longer than expected. You don’t want to be living in a dustbin collecting tips for playing a banjo in run down city centres when you’re 85 because you didn’t plan for this stage of life.
No one knows when this game ends but prepare for everything. Yes, I have a pension now and I max the the shit out of that now because I was dumb and never paid attention in my 20’s when I had more disposable income.
Don’t be me, be smarter, care about this.
Get yourself setup with your employer’s retirement planning programme. In the UK you’ll find many employers will match your monthly contributions to a certain %. If you can, take advantage of that – if you put in 5% a month and your employer will match that, then that’s 10% for you total. Do it for your 85 year old self!
Some useful resource to help expand your thinking on this:
Build your savings
At some point it will become clear to you (if it hasn’t already) that you need to use your money to make more money.
With inflation rising every year and bank interest rates at all time lows it’s not easy but you can still grow your wealth with a little work. If you’re a fellow UK citizen I recommend you do your research on ISA’s (instant saving accounts) which offer fixed interest rates for your savings.
Again, don’t be like me and arrive at this party too late (Yes I’m looking at you 21 year old me and your stupid tight £50 armani tops – I mean seriously!).
For my friends outside of the UK, do the same. Research the options for savings accounts in your country, find out who offers what and what are the best rates. Even if it’s less than 1% right now, which I know is painful, it’s better than nothing.
If you can, be early to this trick, use your money to grow your wealth right now and if you’re a late arrival like me, there’s still time friends. Remember, do your own research on all of this, I’m not a financial adviser and have no qualifications to advise you on anything, these are just thoughts from one human to others.
This is the reality of personal finance that education never tells us.
You’re not going to get a wage rise every year (unless you’re damn lucky) and even if you do, it probably just and I mean just pays off the increased taxes. But inflation never sleeps, it’s here every year, bigger and badder than ever, so get ahead of it.
Last note on this, saving is also key if you ever hope to buy a property and it’s always smart to save for a rainy day as they say. You never know when your washing machine, cooker and TV will decide to fall apart in one day.
The golden rule = spend less than what you make.
Upskill yourself on the financial operating system you live in
I’m talking about stocks, crypto, commodities and all assets.
You don’t need to be an expert or invest in anything (and nor am I advising you to, remember not an advisor, not qualified, just a human). Just understand how it all works at a basic level and if you can utilise these tools for your benefit.
Be in the know on the current offer of financial products across the FOS (financial operating system) in your region. Many people shy away from products that financial services offer because of the stupid jargon their plastered with and believing that they arn’t intelligent enough to understand it all.
That’s absolute bull, don’t fall into that thought process. Do your own research to demystify the jargon and learn what’s on offer.
This isn’t just limited to the traditional banking system. In the last few years we’ve seen and continue to see an explosion in the fintech space. Financial tech is big business right now and we’re seeing challenger banks and services popping up all over the place looking to get your cash.
It’s an interesting time with new ideas in the financial space and these are the types of trends you want to keep track of. Financial knowledge or education is not something you want to become outdated in.
It’s never been easier to access know-how, service and products. Financial inclusion is expanding and at a fast pace. You can research and pick-up lots of financial solutions straight from your phone. And, it’s with this boom that financial education and inclusion can be scaled for all to benefit from.
Even if you don’t plan to use any of the financial products you read about, it pays to stay in the know. You can easily keep up with economic and market movements with lots of finance updates from Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Motley Fool and many more.
Learn how to regulate emotions with money
Know the difference between a want and a need
You might like that shiny new toy but do you really need it?
This is something we all struggle with – determining a want and a need. Times of mass sales are when the struggle is most real. Seemingly too good to resist offers everywhere for high-end goods that prey upon the dopamine rush flowing through our brains.
But, ask yourself do you actually need any of it?
What we need to do is one, breathe, two, step back and three, ask yourself “What’s wrong with what I currently have?” Yes, a new super sized TV with 5 million features looks tasty.
Yet, what’s wrong with the trusty set-up that’s been working fine for the last 6yrs?
This is a choice we all have to make: continue to chase the thrill of new gadgets at supposed cheap prices (normally they aren’t) or make a decent investment up-front and have something that can last perhaps a lifetime.
Acquire, educate, grow
To wrap this up, your FI is incredibly important and the learning never ends. At the very least give yourself a basic grounding in personal finance 101. Knowledge is power but it’s useless without application.
Go forth, help yourself out, ditch Pythagoras and keep learning.
I’m not a financial advisor, this is not financial advice and I’m not qualified or licensed to provide anything like this. This content is a bunch of thoughts from a fellow human for educational purposes only — that is all.
Before you go… 👋
If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.