## Master Your Money Bootcamp: Calculate how much you need to save to achieve your goals

Welcome to the fourth week of the Master Your Money Bootcamp on deciding what you want. This week, we’re crunching the numbers!

Saving money for a big purchase or event can seem overwhelming if you start with nothing or very little in the bank.

By breaking down the big goal into a series of smaller ones – such as per paycheck or per month – you can illuminate a path that feels far more achievable.

The goal for this week: Calculate how much you need to save on a regular basis to achieve your goals when you want.

1. Pull out your list of goals from the exercise in week two. These should be prioritized and each should have a target date for when you would like to have the money.

2. Decide on a target number for each savings goal. For example, if your goal is to buy a new car in two years, how much do you want to spend?

3. Plug the numbers into the following formula and repeat for each savings goal:

Target account balance ÷ the number of years until the event or purchase ÷ number of paychecks in a year = how much to save every time you get paid

Here’s an example for buying a new car:

\$20,000 ÷ 2 years ÷ 24 paychecks in a year = save \$416.67 per paycheck

If your income isn’t regular, use this formula:

Target account balance ÷ the number of years until the event or purchase ÷ 12 months = how much to save every month

For debt payoff, you need to know your minimum payment amount and annual percentage rate (APR). The easiest way to figure out how much you will owe each month is to plug those numbers into an online debt payoff calculator.

For retirement, you need to think about how much money you will need to live on each year – most experts recommend at least 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement salary. Then divide that number by 4% (the standard investment withdrawal rate) to get the target balance needed to retire. Then use an online calculator, which will take into account investment returns, to calculate how much you should save each month. (For a more accurate projection for retirement savings, visit with a financial planner).

4. Once you have the monthly or per-paycheck savings amount for each financial goal, go back to your budget and see where you can free up cash to save. It’s likely that you will need to go back and adjust the target balance or target deadline for some of your goals.

When you work backward – first identifying your goals and then returning to look at your financial situation – you can allocate your cash and figure out what else it might take to hit those future milestones, whether that’s increasing your income or cutting back spending.

Having clear goals in mind and seeing what it takes to achieve them can make some of today’s sacrifices more palatable.

As a reminder, here’s what you’ll accomplish in this month’s Bootcamp (we’ll link to each exercise as it goes live):

For each exercise, you’ll get a detailed explanation of how to complete it and why it’s important. Use the hashtags #MasterYourMoney and #MasterYourMoneyBootcamp to share your thoughts, progress, and connect with others across our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as you make your way through each exercise, then join us for the live events.

## Master Your Money Bootcamp: Identify what’s standing in the way of your financial goals

Welcome to the third week of the Master Your Money Bootcamp on deciding what you want. This week, we’re problem solving.

## Exercise 3: Identify what’s standing in your way

You have your financial goals listed and prioritized, so now it’s time to figure out what’s holding you back from achieving them tomorrow, next year, or in 20 years.

When things are going badly, financially or otherwise, we often point the blame at outside factors. To some degree, that’s fair. Layoffs, health crises, recessions, and systemic issues like the racial wealth gap and gender pay gap are beyond our control. But there are several things within our control that we tend to overlook when evaluating our ability to afford something.

Paying off high-interest debt, reconfiguring your budget, improving bad credit, or increasing your income is totally up to you, and it can lay the groundwork for achieving your biggest dreams.

The goal for this week: To identify the financial barriers within your control and evaluate the options for overcoming them.

1. You need to save or invest money to achieve most financial goals. What do you think is holding you back right now?

Here are some common examples:

• I want to save for a vacation, but I have too much debt
• I want to save for retirement, but I don’t earn enough
• I want to save for an emergency fund, but my expenses are too high

2. Next, consider your options. What specifically could reduce or eliminate each of your obstacles?

Here’s what that looks like for each obstacle:

3. Pick a solution, or multiple, and get going.

The initial work that goes into creating this plan is important, but your priorities may shift and other obstacles will likely arise. Don’t beat yourself up if circumstances changes. This framework for identifying which challenges are within your control and evaluating the options you have at your disposal is one you can apply repeatedly.

As a reminder, here’s what you’ll accomplish in this month’s Bootcamp (we’ll link to each exercise as it goes live):

For each exercise, you’ll get a detailed explanation of how to complete it and why it’s important. Use the hashtags #MasterYourMoney and #MasterYourMoneyBootcamp to share your thoughts, progress, and connect with others across our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as you make your way through each exercise, then join us for the live events.

## 3 steps to start tackling huge student loans before you make a single payment

• Personal finance professionals Tarra Jackson and Kelly Lannan joined Insider’s Master your Money Virtual Event.
• They broke down the best ways to tackle debt repayment, including huge student loans.
• Before you try to pay them off, make sure you have savings, know what you owe, and contact your lender to get your options.

Before you start tackling an enormous debt like a student loan, experts have some advice.

Kelly Lannan, Vice President of Young Investors for Personal Investing at Fidelity, and Tarra Jackson, author of “4 Financial Languages” and “Financial Fornication,” explained during Insider’s virtual event, “How to control your debt, build your credit, and set yourself up to build wealth,” that there are a few steps to take before you start writing checks.

## 1. Figure out exactly what you owe and can afford to pay

Before you pay off your debt, you need to know exactly what debts you have, Lannan said. For a lot of people, this is easier said than done.

“Sometimes if you’re scared of the numbers and what they’re going to show you, it’s like inertia sets in and you don’t check them,” Lannan said. “But if you have no idea what you even have to begin with, how can you ever take action on it?”

Lannan recommended using apps to get an overview of your finances, but you can also start a basic spreadsheet or even a written list of your debt amounts, interest rates, and lenders to keep everything in one place.

Knowing what you owe and to whom is one side of the coin; knowing how much you can afford to pay is the other.

Jackson explained that before you consider refinancing or consolidating your loans, make sure you have a holistic picture of your spending and you know how much you can afford to pay your lenders each month. If you need to pay more than you can afford, she continued, use this as an opportunity to take a closer look at your spending habits and see where you might want to make a change to free up some cash.

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Jackson, who held the role of interim president and CEO of a credit union, suggested that borrowers struggling under large debts get in touch with their lenders to figure out all of their options for repayment. The lending institution might offer a deferment program, suggest refinancing, allow borrowers to split up the payment or extend the term of the loan to lower payments, or have other options for situations of financial hardship. As Jackson put it, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”

In her role at the head of a credit union, Jackson remembers struggling borrowers offering to give up their home or car in lieu of payments. But the union doesn’t want the collateral, she explained. “Most financial institutions, all they really want is the money,” she said, and they’re willing to work with you to get it.

## 3. Make sure your emergency fund is on track

One of the first steps in paying off a large debt balance seems counterintuitive: Start saving.

Before you worry about paying off your debt, make sure you’re saving an emergency fund. Lannan said, “The most important thing is that you make sure you have money set aside in case the unexpected happens.” An emergency fund is generally defined as about six months’ worth of living expenses saved somewhere easily accessible, like a savings account. That money is earmarked for an emergency like a job loss or medical emergency – something that might otherwise cause you to take on debt.

“What we don’t want to have happen is people are not prepared for the unexpected, and then they go further into debt, because they either can’t pay off the debt that already existed, or they have to take on more loans to do so,” Lannan said.

It’s important to save this fund somewhere separate from your checking account, to reduce the ease (and temptation) of tapping it when you need a little more cash in checking, added Jackson. She recommends automating your contributions, and then leaving that money entirely alone – no debit card, no regular access to the account. “That’s the best way to build your savings,” she said. “Set it and forget it.”

## Master Your Money Bootcamp: Dream about what you want to accomplish

Welcome to the first week of the Master Your Money Bootcamp on deciding what you want. This week we’re dreaming up goals!

## Exercise 1: Dream big

Money is a ticket to freedom. When used strategically, it can help you build a fulfilling life. But you have to start somewhere.

It can be hard to see the path from Point A to Point B, especially if you want to go from \$0 to an early retirement, homeownership, or taking a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Making a plan can reduce a lot of that mystery.

So, grab a glass of wine, cup of tea, or soothing beverage of your choice (not mandatory, but it doesn’t hurt), and let’s get to it.

The goal for this week: Pinpoint the goals that require capital to achieve.

1. Step back and consider: What exactly do you want in the future that you don’t have now?

Write down everything, whether it obviously requires money (“throw the wedding of my dreams”) or not (“marry the person of my dreams”).

Here are some examples to kickstart your brainstorm:

• Pay off my student-loan balance
• Own a home
• Stay out of credit-card debt
• Rent an apartment in an expensive city
• Save up a one-year emergency fund I can dip into when family members need help
• Run a business that generates X dollars a year
• Work from anywhere
• Spend half the year traveling
• Have enough savings to pay college tuition in full
• Retire at 60 and …

Dream big!

2. Isolate the dreams that require money to achieve – star them, highlight them, or write them on a separate piece of paper. Sit with them for a while. Next week, we’ll prioritize.

As a reminder, here’s what you’ll accomplish in this month’s Bootcamp (we’ll link to each exercise as it goes live):

For each exercise, you’ll get a detailed explanation of how to complete it and why it’s important. Use the hashtags #MasterYourMoney and #MasterYourMoneyBootcamp to share your thoughts, progress, and connect with others across our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as you make your way through each exercise, then join us for the live events.

## The Master Your Money Bootcamp will help you put a price tag on your dreams – and figure out how to turn them into reality

The thing about dreams is that we often assume they’re completely out of reach. Sure, if \$1 million came our way, we’d pay our student loan debt off in full. Or take a safari. Or buy a house. Or throw the wedding of our dreams. But without that windfall, who can afford it, right?

If you do the math, you might be surprised.

Over the next month, that’s what we’ll be focusing on: Putting a price tag on your dreams and creating a plan to help you afford them in the future. We’ll start with pinpointing what exactly it is you want to accomplish with your cash, identify the right first step to take, and identify any challenges standing in your way. Then, we’ll calculate exactly what this goal will cost, and lay out a timeline for how long it will take to achieve.

We’re not going into this blindly. We know that the ability to afford your dreams depends on a lot of things: your job, your living situation, your credit, and the flawed systems in the US that favor some people over others. We know that if you dream of a private island, you’ll probably need more than a month of strategizing. But if you dream of things like laying the groundwork to become debt-free, or a homeowner, or pay for your children’s college, we can get you started on that journey.

## Welcome to the Master Your Money Bootcamp

Over the course of 2021, we’ll conduct four of these Bootcamps, each culminating in a free, live, virtual discussion among experts about how to make the most of the tasks you’ve already accomplished. You can take all four Bootcamps this year, or pick and choose the ones that give the guidance you need most.

For each exercise, you’ll get a detailed explanation of how to complete it and why it’s important. Use the hashtags #MasterYourMoney and #MasterYourMoneyBootcamp to share your thoughts, progress, and connect with others across our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as you make your way through each exercise, then join us for the live events.

While you’re here, feel free to visit (or revisit) our first Master Your Money Bootcamp of the year, which broke down the major task of demystifying your finances into four achievable steps.

Our first Bootcamp exercise launches Monday, May 17, 2021. You don’t have to sign up – just dive in! Here’s what you’ll accomplish in just one month (we’ll link to each exercise as it goes live):

## Master Your Money Bootcamp: Make a list of all your debt balances

Welcome to week two of the Master Your Money Bootcamp on demystifying your finances! This week we’re focused on managing debt balances.

## Exercise 2: Figure out how much you owe, to whom, and at what price

Not all debt is bad, but it can be expensive and, at times, messy. Attention to detail is critical when it comes to getting organized.

Whether you’re carrying a balance on your credit card, paying off a new car, or chipping away at a student loan or mortgage, the best way to manage debt is head on. Being specific about the stakes of your debt – how much you owe and when it’s due – can feel daunting, but it’s key to getting out from under it.

Remember, you don’t need to be debt-free to be good with money, but you do need to be in control.

The goal for this week: To get a clear picture of all your financial liabilities. You need this information to make a plan for paying off your debt.

1. Open up a spreadsheet or get out a blank sheet of paper and write down all the financial categories where you hold debt, such as:

• Credit cards
• Home loans
• Student loans
• Auto loans
• Personal loans

2. Go through each category and write down the bank, credit union, or another lender that falls under each one. For example, the US Department of Education might be listed under student loans, while Chase Bank might be listed under credit cards.

3. Under each lender, write down the following:

• Your balance as of a specific date
• Your interest rate or annual percentage rate (APR)

As a reminder, here’s what you’ll accomplish in this month’s Bootcamp (we’ll link to each exercise as it goes live):

For each exercise, you’ll get a detailed explanation of how to complete it and why it’s important. Use the hashtags #MasterYourMoney and #MasterYourMoneyBootcamp to share your thoughts, progress, and connect with others across our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as you make your way through each exercise, then join us for the live events.

Ask just about any personal finance expert how to start taking control of your money and they’ll give you the same advice: Figure out where your money goes.

It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Have you ever left a bill unopened, to deal with it later? Are you 100% sure which subscriptions are charging you every month? Which of your debts has the highest interest rate? Quick, off the top of your head: How much money do you have in cash savings?

Chances are, you can’t answer some of these questions without a good deal of password-finding, terms-reading, and note-taking. And that’s normal! But being aware of your money (all of it) is a crucial step on the path to building long-term wealth.

## Welcome to the Master Your Money Bootcamp

Over the course of 2021, we’ll conduct four of these Bootcamps, each culminating in a free, live, virtual discussion among experts about how to make the most of the tasks you’ve already accomplished. You can take all four Bootcamps this year, or pick and choose the ones that give the guidance you need most.

For each exercise, you’ll get a detailed explanation of how to complete it and why it’s important. Use the hashtags #MasterYourMoney and #MasterYourMoneyBootcamp to share your thoughts, progress, and connect with others across our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as you make your way through each exercise, then join us for the live events.

Our first Bootcamp exercise launches Monday, April 19, 2021. You don’t have to sign up – just dive in! Here’s what you’ll accomplish in just one month (we’ll link to each exercise as it goes live):

## 7 signs you’re rich, even if it doesn’t feel like it

• “Rich” doesn’t necessarily mean owning a huge mansion or taking luxury vacations.
• You’re wealthy if you can afford to save money every month and are on track to retire when you want to.
• Another sign you’re wealthy is being able to make choices based on what you want, not just your financial needs.
• Visit Personal Finance Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“Rich” is relative.

Maybe you think it means being in the top 1% of earners in some of the wealthiest cities in the US. Maybe it means being able to buy a flashy mansion or spend your life flitting from luxury vacation to luxury vacation.

But former investment banker Kristin Addis told Insider she feels richer earning about 40% of her previous six-figure salary while she travels the world. Nick and Dariece Swift, who also left their jobs to make a fraction of their former income, said they’re happier earning less. The self-made millionaire stars of “West Texas Investor’s Club” say their relationships are more valuable than the money they earn.

Ultimately, “rich” can be just as subjective as “happy” – it’s different for everyone. However, there are a few universal indications of wealth, no matter how you view it.

## 1. You can save money

“Most people fail to realize that in life, it’s not how much money you make. It’s how much money you keep,” writes Robert Kiyosaki in “Rich Dad Poor Dad.”

At the end of the day, money does not solve financial problems – in fact, it often exacerbates them. Consider the lottery winners who lost it all within a few years, or the professional athletes who made millions in their 20s and wound up broke.

“Money often makes obvious our tragic human flaws, putting a spotlight on what we don’t know,” says Kiyosaki. “That is why, all too often, a person who comes into a sudden windfall of cash – let’s say an inheritance, a pay raise, or lottery winnings – soon returns to the same financial mess, if not worse, than the mess they were in before.”

If you can hold on to a portion of the money you earn, you’re in good shape.

## 2. You can live comfortably below your means

Living below your means is one of the major tenets of responsible money management: spending less than you earn, however much that may be.

Self-made billionaire Anthony Hsieh told Insider that learning to live within his means was a lesson he learned from his parents, who immigrated to the US from Taiwan.

The habit “has helped me quite a bit and that’s one of the reasons I’ve survived and flourished in consumer lending for 30 years,” he said. “My career spans four different economic and housing cycles and I’m still sitting at the table as a key executive in consumer lending. I think part of that is my discipline of making certain that the company and myself don’t overspend.”

Living within your means might not sound like a big deal if you’re already doing it, but not everyone can manage. A 2019 report released by GOBankingRates found that a third of Americans surveyed are living paycheck to paycheck.

## 3. You will eventually be able to pay for the things you really want

If you can go out and buy a yacht in cash today, most people would agree that you’re rich. However, if you can go out and buy that same yacht five years from now after setting a savings goal and socking away money on a monthly or annual basis, guess what? You’re probably still rich.

Survey after survey turns up the same dispiriting result: Americans aren’t saving all that much. The same GOBankingRates survey reported that 45% of respondents had no household savings, and an estimated 40 million households have no retirement savings whatsoever.

Which brings us to our next point …

## 4. You’re going to be able to afford to retire as planned

Retirement is expensive. Experts say that to live lavishly in retirement, you need to replace about 70%-80% of your current income (although that number is disputed). Even if you’ve downsized, and maybe even relocated to an area with a low cost of living, retirement is still a prolonged period of supporting yourself on little or no income.

Traditionally, “retirement age” is 65, but that’s changing as more Americans find they’re unable to float 20-plus years of living without a paycheck. Data from a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that nearly 20% of Americans age 65 and older are still working.

If you can afford to retire when you want to, it’s a luxury.

## 5. You aren’t motivated purely by money

One common thread you’ll find among self-made millionaires and those who study them is that “rich people” tend to focus on something other than the dollar signs: They’re solving a problem, or following a passion, or striving to build their business as much as possible.

That, right there, is a luxury. If you can’t make ends meet, you can bet you’ll be focusing on the dollar signs over the intellectual fulfillment of your job.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy to earn a sizable paycheck or you can’t be excited to watch your investments grow, but money isn’t your chief motivator or source of joy. If you have the luxury to focus on something other than the money, you’re in a good place.

## 6. You view money as an ally

“Most people have a dysfunctional, adversarial relationship with money,” writes self-made millionaire Steve Siebold. “After all, we are taught that money is scarce – hard to earn and harder to keep. If you want to start attracting money, stop seeing it as your enemy and think of it as one of your greatest allies.”

The reason wealthy people earn more wealth is because they’re not afraid to admit that money can solve most problems, Siebold says: “[The middle class] sees money as a never-ending necessary evil that must be endured as part of life. The world class sees money as the great liberator, and with enough of it, they are able to purchase financial peace of mind.”

If you aren’t scared of money – if you view it as an ally, and a tool that can help you achieve what you want in life – you’re ahead of the game.

## 7. You aren’t stuck

“What I have realized over time is that in many ways, money spells freedom,” self-made millionaire and NastyGal founder Sophia Amoruso wrote in her book, “#GIRLBOSS.” She continued:

“If you learn to control your finances, you won’t find yourself stuck in jobs, places, or relationships that you hate just because you can’t afford to go elsewhere. … Being in a good spot financially can open up so many doors. Being in a bad spot can slam them in your face.”

Kathleen Elkins contributed reporting.

Related Content Module: More Personal Finance Coverage

## 2 ways the pandemic can change your taxes for 2020, and how to prepare

• Tax season, when it will be time to file your 2020 taxes, is right around the corner.
• If you donated to charity this year, you can claim a deduction worth up to \$300 on your tax return.
• Remote work became the norm in 2020, but depending on where you worked from and for long, you may have additional taxes to pay.

Your financial life may have changed a lot this year, including experiencing some “firsts” that could mean your tax situation will be different when you file your 2020 tax return next year.

However, there are still opportunities to take control of your finances, including planning around your tax refund. I want to help you to get smart about your situation now, so you know what to expect and what steps to take now so there are no surprises at tax time.

Here are two tax issues to be aware of this year:

## 1. Claiming the new charitable tax break

Let’s start with good news: a new tax break allows people who don’t itemize the opportunity to claim a charitable deduction for cash donations (or a cash equivalent, such as a check, credit card, money order, or mobile payment).

You’ll get to deduct up to \$300 from gross and taxable income on your return, reducing the amount of taxes owed. Keep in mind, the donation must be made to a qualified charitable organization, must be a cash or cash equivalent donation, and must be made by December 31, 2020. Donations of clothing and other non-cash items don’t qualify.

The rules for recordkeeping still apply for the donation. If you donate less than \$250, you must have either a bank record such as a cancelled check or credit card statement or a receipt showing the name of the charity, date and amount of the donation. If you donate \$250 or more, you need a written acknowledgment from the charity.

## 2. Paying income taxes while working in a different state

The pandemic closed many offices and sent people home to work. If working remotely means you don’t cross a state line you usually cross or, in some cases, don’t enter a different city, you should keep detailed records of:

• When you started working from home
• If and when your employer reopened your office and invited you back to work
• If and when you returned to your office

Generally, cities and states that have an income tax only tax income of people who live or work in that city or state. If you are one of the millions of Americans working from home, it is possible you will owe tax only to the state where you live and work beginning from the time you started working from home. These records will help you and your tax professional determine how to allocate your earnings between multiple states and cities should that be the case.

Accurately allocating your wages in 2020 as a remote worker and ensuring the correct amount gets reported to each state and locality will result in some taxpayers receiving a refund and others owing tax. The rules for each state are different and some rules are changing during the year so tracking the state and local rules and decisions will be important if you normally work in multiple states.

Kathy Pickering is the chief tax officer at H&R Block, and a member of BI’s Money Council.

## 21 insights from personal finance professionals to help you make a plan for your money in 2021

• Over the past year, dozens of financial professionals sat down with Business Insider to discuss millennials and their money.
• They’ve offered advice and inspiration on everything from setting goals to tackling student-loan debt to investing.
• Here are 21 of their best insights to help you make a plan for your money.
A comprehensive financial plan maps out all aspects of your money to chart a path to your goals.

“Let your life lead your money — that’s the first thing. What is it that you aspire to do? What do you value? What are your goals? Let’s start there. Then the money is not necessarily a second. It’s a complement; it’s a partner.”

— Preston Cherry, certified financial planner and founder of Concurrent Financial Planning

### Leave some room for the unexpected

“When I see people with a financial plan, one of the things I tell them is to expect the unexpected.

“As long as you’re walking on this earth, you’re going to have an unexpected expense. I call them ‘the known unknown,’ and those are expenses that you know are going to happen, but you don’t know when.”

— Tania Brown, certified financial planner with SaverLife:

### Automate your money to make progress a no-brainer

“What I like to have clients do is automate their transfers to whatever the goals are, things that they’re trying to achieve, and have those in separate accounts so that they can clearly see their progress. And it’s all just sort of set up, and it’s happening for them. So they make the decision once, and then it triggers on its own.”

— Anna N’Jie-Konte, certified financial planner and founder of Dare to Dream Financial Planning

Read more » How to make a plan for your goals, no matter how big or small

A budget might seem intimidating, but you can’t control where your money goes without one.

### Keep your goals top of mind

“The main point of financial planning is to use your money as a tool for life. As far as the budget goes, understanding what you actually want to do in your life is very important to build that plan.”

— Eric Roberge, certified financial planner and founder of Beyond Your Hammock

“I would say that the first step — I’m always surprised at how many people either discount this or put this off or just don’t know — is really being honest about how you’re spending your money. You have to know how much is coming in versus how much is going out on a monthly basis.

“It might sound simple, but to me that’s the very essence of what it means to start thinking about a budget. That term doesn’t have to be so scary, but if you don’t take that step back and evaluate this, you’re never going to be able to move forward.”

— Kelly Lannan, the vice president of Fidelity Investment’s Young Investors for Personal Investing

### Add savings into that list

“Start tracking how much you save each year and aim to save 10% to 15% of your income as an ‘investment’ in yourself. You’ll be amazed how quickly it will add up.”

— Kristi Rodriguez, vice president of thought leadership for Nationwide Financial

### Consider giving your credit cards a break

“I always suggest trying a cash diet, where maybe you take a week or a couple of weeks where you don’t use a credit card and start using cash only.

“That way we’re just a little bit more mindful about how we spend. I know we use credit cards for everything today, but this way it makes us really be more thoughtful.”

— Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, certified financial planner and board chair and president of the Charles Schwab Foundation

“A budget is essential, but it can be even more powerful when you have that support system of people who share the same goals. That’s what we’ve seen to be extremely effective and powerful.”

— Sunny Israni, chartered financial analyst and founder and CEO of Clasp

Read more » Money can’t buy happiness, but how we adjust 3 financial ‘levers’ can drastically affect how we feel

Debt can feel like a heavy burden. But with a plan, you can begin to tackle it systematically.

### Build a personal balance sheet

“To quote my grandmother, ‘Facts are stubborn things.’ And so I think that the mistake that many people make is embarrassment, shame, bury their head in the sand.

“The best thing that anyone with any kind of debt can do is build a personal balance sheet. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can just be pencil to paper on a legal pad with your debts on one side, and your assets on another.

“And human capital is an asset, too. So, if you have a salary, if you have money coming in, certainly list that. But those facts are stubborn things, and you need to know exactly what you’re facing, what your payments are, and have an idea of how you’re going to approach it.”

— Alison Hutchinson, senior vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman

### List every loan and its terms

“The biggest advice is to get organized around your student loans. Write them all down, and see what you have to tackle.

“It always seems like a bigger task at first than it really is. And once you get organized, you can kind of see the big picture a lot clearer, so you know who your loans are with, are they subsidized, are they unsubsidized, are they private loans, are they federal loans, and getting an understanding around that. And then just going and looking at your options.”

— Carmen Perez, personal-finance blogger at Make Real Cents

“Irrespective of whether you decide to take on your partner’s debt or not, that debt is going to affect your relationship. Because it will either limit your partner’s ability to do certain things or it’ll limit your ability as a team to be able to go out and do future things together.

“So what I recommend to couples is to tackle debt as a team, even if you’re not taking over that person’s debt, or paying, or contributing to the payment of that debt. The best part about being in a relationship is you have a partner to help you navigate all that.”

— Aditi Shekar, founder and CEO of Zeta

### Check up on your credit

“Review your credit reports regularly. They provide a complete record of your debt-related financial relationships, can be used as a resource for working with your creditors on payment planning, and are a critical tool in managing your debt through difficult financial situations.

“Keeping your debts as low as possible will put you in a better financial position when the economy emerges from this crisis.”

— Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and advocacy at Experian

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Investing can be right for anyone, not just the wealthy or finance-minded.

### Leave your emotions out of it

“Active investing is a skill that can be learned and developed over time. For those that do it successfully, it is not an emotional exercise. In fact, successful active investors put measures in place to protect themselves from emotional decision making. If one lacks either the will, skill, or time, passive investing is likely a better strategy.”

— Wilson Muscadin, a financial coach and founder of The Money Speakeasy

### Don’t be afraid to start small

“You don’t want to be silly about how you invest and incur costs that are perhaps not necessary, but I don’t think there’s any amount that’s too small.

“I’d rather you do something than nothing, especially with a 401(k) when your employer will match whatever you put in. That’s basically a 100% guaranteed return. You don’t get a lot of free lunches, as we say in finance. That might be one of the few, and you’re giving up on an incredible opportunity if you don’t put any money away at all.”

— Scott Pedvis, financial advisor at Wells Fargo

“It’s very important to stick to your game plan, to understand what you’re going to be using the money for, and really know that there are going to be points where the market is not doing so great.

“But if you have a long-term game plan that you want to stay in with a risk associated with your investment portfolio, it’s best to stay the course. And if you can’t stomach the risk the portfolio you’re in might be subject to, then reevaluate and determine whether it makes sense to scale that risk down.”

— Joseph Edmondson, certified financial planner at Equitable Advisors

### Ignore the day-to-day market movements

“One of the big things you want to know is to take comfort in the context.

“You don’t want to focus on the 30 to 45 worst days we have seen in 10 years and let it make you forget about the good times that we had for 10 straight years. You want to have that context and know that long-term investors almost always win.”

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Managing your money is an ongoing task, and you’re better off striving for consistency than perfection.

### Take a long-term view

“We’re living through extraordinary times. While each of us is learning to persevere through this moment, don’t anchor your vision of the future to the current environment.”

— Sandi Bragar, certified financial planner and partner and managing director in planning, strategy, and research at Aspiriant

### Identify what you can control

“What I find people do is they focus on a thing that they cannot control and ignore the things they can.

“For instance, if someone loses their job, they had no control over the job loss, but you have 100% control over calling your creditors and letting them know you may not be able to pay the bills. You have 100% control of going in your budget and cutting out unnecessary items, like cable.”

— Tania Brown

### Stop comparing your situation to others

“My biggest piece of advice, and this is hard, OK, I’m not saying it’s easy: People have to stop comparing yourselves to others, especially over social media.

“You have to define your own goals, because we all know what makes us happy. You have to start to align your money to your values, to the things that make you happy. That can be at least an important first step in trying to not compare yourself too much to others.”

— Kelly Lannan

### Don’t wait until tomorrow or next month to get back on track

“When you’re looking at your spending for the month, if you go over on a category and then you say, ‘OK, well, I’ll just start over next month,’ I always tell people that’s not the way to go about it.

“It’s the same with nutrition or health goals. It’s not like, ‘OK, I’ll just start over next month’ or ‘I’ll start over next year,’ but it’s ‘OK, what can I do for the rest of the day to make this better?’ Or ‘What can I do tomorrow to make this situation better?’ So maybe it’s ‘OK, if I overspent on this category, is there another category that I can cut back on for the rest of the week or month?'”

— Katie Oelker, financial coach

### Aim to be good with money, not perfect

“Being good with money doesn’t mean you’re perfect with money. None of us are. I think that’s one of the things that we have to tell people to come to grips with: You will do things that you’ll look back and wonder why. But no one’s perfect with money.”

— Rod Griffin

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