FPF SERIES: HOW TO SAVE YOUR MONEY

Let’s talk about how to save your money, on the daily, monthly, and long term scale!

Although I'm not a client, I recently chatted with a @JohnHancockUSA financial planner to make sure that my budgets were in check (especially since I just moved to an uuuuuber expensive city). 

Here are some general tips we covered, as well as what has personally worked for me!

Step 1: Saving money begins with your mindset.

The word “budget” just sounds… not fun. It’s restrictive. It means you can’t have fun or be spontaneous. Right??

It’s important to shift your mindset from thinking budgets = restrictive. I know, it can really feel that way. But instead, I find that focusing on what I AM doing and CAN do with my saved money is way more empowering. It’s a plan I get to put together to strategize how I want to spend my money. And the best part is… it’s totally up to me what I spend my money on. For example, I love traveling. So I spend a lot of money on it. My budgets help me remember that so the next time I want to buy clothes or expensive concert tickets, I just ask myself the question, “Is this more important to me than traveling?” If yes, then I go for it. If not, then I set it aside".

Budgets don’t mean that you stop spending money (on fun things). It just means you have the chance to prioritize what financial goals are more important to you.

Step 2: Get serious about your budget.

I highly recommend reading the first and second post in this series to get deeper into the savings mindset. If not, here’s the short version:

Saving money early is good. The more you save (in proportion to your income), the earlier you will be able to retire or be financially independent.

To set my budget, I use an Excel spreadsheet. Trust me, it sounds way more complicated than it is. Basically, you have to try to inventory:

  • What are big things you are saving for? — i.e. retirement, vacations, houses, new sound system

  • What are you spending money on? — i.e. necessary monthly expenses like rent, food, medicine

  • What are little things you want, but don’t need? — i.e. clothes, fancy vegan cheeses, etc

  • What are fun life things you want to cover? — i.e. restaurants, entertainment, shows, etc

When you’re ready to start putting it all down, check out this Excel Spreadsheet and copy it to make your own personal budget sheet.

Having things in spreadsheet form is super helpful. A lot of times, it’s just your best guess, but when I write things down it really helps remind me where exactly my money is going and WHY. I think about whether or not I want to save for something AND I think about how much to save… both of which reinforce my motivation for sticking to it on the long term.

Not sure how much you want to save? Folks in the personal finance space generally recommend the 50/30/20 budget for smart money management: “Devote 50% of your income to necessities, 30% to wants and 20% to savings. If you find one of your allocations exceeds these percentages, make some adjustments to fit the formula”. (source: https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/022916/what-502030-budget-rule.asp)

Step 3: Set up your direct deposit*

THIS STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT. It’s like magic. I think Hermione would be very proud of me.

*IF you are able to have your checks direct deposit, don’t forget this step. I set up separate bank accounts for things I’m saving for: House, Travel, 401k (they are all housed within the same overall account at Capital One). When it comes to set up direct deposit with my employer, I tell them to NOT deposit my whole paycheck into one account… but rather certain amounts into certain accounts.

For example, I’ll do:

  • $500 into my “House Fund”

  • $100 into my “Travel Fund”

  • $100 into my “Roth IRA”

  • Remaining amount into “Checking Account”

THEN the only account I use for day-to-day spending is in my checking account. I know that all the money I need to save has already been siphoned off, so I don’t need to worry about it. I’ve essentially already budgeted, so whatever is leftover… I can spend freely.

Make sense?

It’s a small thing, but this way it takes the burden off of you for keeping track of everything yourself. The less you have to think about it, the easier it will be to get used to and turn into a habit.

If you don’t have direct deposit, don’t fret. You can also do this part manually yourself. But basically this step is just finding ways to make saving happen automatically for you. You got other things to worry about ;)

Step 4: Use tools to hold yourself accountable.

Once you have your budget all squared away, it’s time to use tools and technology to keep you accountable! Otherwise, it’s just another piece of paper or magical spreadsheet in the internets that you’ll quickly forget about.

My favorite tool to use is Mint. I link up my accounts and can easily monitor my spending, trends, and budgets. If I go over any of the limits I’ve set, Mint notifies me that month.

Whatever tool you use, play around with it and make sure it works for you and your lifestyle! The most important part is that you feel motivated to pay attention and care about it :)

Step 5: Adjust, if needed!

You won’t get it perfect the first time around. Promise.

And that’s completely okay! The spreadsheet is meant to be actively updated and you can see in real time what these updates will do to impact your bottom line. If you just finished up a month and had a lot of spending in a certain category… ask yourself: Is this going to be a normal thing? Or was it just a one-time thing? Where did you save? What did you learn? What would you do differently?

Generally, I like to recalculate the entire budget once or twice a year (once I have more than 1-2 months of data).

Well, that’s generally it!

This whole process should take anywhere between 1-3 hours, depending on how much you want to budget for. YOU GOT THIS. John Hancock and I are cheering for you!

Happy Saving! <3

Personal Finance 101

[DRAFT] SERIES: PERSONAL FINANCE 101

OKAY! So the very requested, long overdue series on Finance is here. Every Friday for the next month, check in to the blog for a new post about finances and how to be a BOSS at handling your budgets!

But first, here are some very important disclaimers:

  1. I am not a financial advisor. Everything I say on finance in these series are MY OWN personal experiences and thoughts, NOT advice for you and your own situation. For advice, please reach out to a financial advisor!

  2. My situation is not the same as yours. There are certain circumstances that are unique to my own situation. I’ll try my best to ID all of these beforehand so you can better figure out how to apply what I’m talking about to your own unique situation.

OKAY LET’S DTDT (DO THE DAMN THING).

Lesson 1: Time Value of Money

So the first thing I want to talk about is a fundamental principle that dramatically changed how I viewed and approached personal finances: The Time Value of Money.

The principle is that one dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future. Which is weird, yeah? Because a $100 bill today should have the same value as a $100 bill one year from now, right? That’s because a dollar in hand today can be invested to turn into more money in the future.

To calculate how much something is worth in the future, you use this formula:

PV = FV ÷ (1+I)^N, where:

PV is the present value
FV is the future value
I is the required return (rate of interest)
N is the number of time periods before receiving the money (in years)

SO let’s say someone says: “Okay Chi. I can’t pay you back your $1,000 today. But I can give you $1000 4 years from now once I graduate from college.

To which I would say… Okay. But assuming an interest rate of 5%, $1,000 four years from now is actually equal to…

1,000 = FV ÷ (1+0.05)^4

FV = $1,215.51

Lesson 2: Retirement Funds

Okay okay, some of you might be like… what? What does that even mean, and how does this apply to me?

The best example I can give you is through retirement funds.

Many people in their 20s view retirement funds and 401ks as long, far away things for future them to worry about. Right? Anyone else think that?

Well let’s see. Imagine the following two individuals:

ASH is 21 and fresh out of college. She lands her first gig at a company and is in the middle of choosing her benefits. One benefit the company offers is providing her with a 401k account (let’s assume for the sake of simplicity that this company does not offer matching funds for 401k accounts). Ash doesn’t have much money, but she decides that she wants to put $100 every month into her retirement account.

BENTLEY is also 21 and fresh out of college. He decides that his retirement account is future problems for future him! He’s young and retirement is 44 years away! Instead, most of his salary goes towards rent/food/clothes/etc. However, once he hits 26, he does decide that he should probably start contributing. He decides that he wants to put $100 every month into his 401k (again, no matching from this company).

GREAT. You guys still following?

So the next step is calculating how much Ash and Bentley will have in their retirement accounts by the time they retire. Here, we’re going to assume that (a) there is no company matching and (b) they maintain a $100/month contribution for the rest of their lives.

To calculate, I used this website.

So if ASH contributes $100/month for 44 years (until she is 65), and we assume an investment rate of return of 5% for her 401k account (industry average), she will have $181,371.61 in her account by the time she is 65.

OF THAT $181,371.61, ASH actually only contributed $52,800 of it…. which means that $128,571.61 is from INTEREST (just the money you make from letting your money sit in an account with compounding interest).

BENTLEY on the other hand will have $136,914.03 in his account. OF THAT $136,914.03, BENTLEY only contributed $46,800 of it. Which means that he made $90,114.03 from interest.

So what does this mean?

BECAUSE ASH STARTED SAVING 5 YEARS BEFORE BENTLEY, SHE HAD AN EXTRA $38,457.58 FROM INTEREST.

And this effect just compounds the more money and time you have.

If we changed the examples to both of them saving $300/month (instead of just $100), then….

  • ASH will have $544,114.82

  • BENTLEY will have $410,742.08

  • DIFFERENCE between them: $115,372.74

Y’ALL, THAT’S INSANE. Just 5 years will yield a difference of $115,000!!

Well, what about an example where Bentley contributes more, but still starts later?

ASH

  • Starts saving at age 21

  • Contributes $300/month ($150/paycheck)

BENTLEY

  • Starts saving at age 26

  • Contributes $400/month ($200/paycheck)

The end result:

  • ASH will have $544,114.82, contributed $158,400

  • BENTLEY will have $547,656.11, contributed $187,200

  • DIFFERENCE between them: $3,541.29

SO, while Bentley technically will have $3k more than Ash by the time they’re both 65, he actually contributed almost $30,000 more to his fund over his lifetime. Ash was able to end up with roughly the same amount, but because she started 5 years earlier, she could do MORE with LESS money.

TLDR*;

Start saving now, with as much as you can.

It may not feel like you’re doing a lot NOW, but with interest and time, a little short term sacrifice can yield some dope results in the future. And if you’re more of a Bentley than an Ash, DON’T DESPAIR. Whatever more you can do now will help in the long run. This is just to help you figure out how and what to prioritize when you’re setting budgets!

*TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read

OKAY, there goes the first post! Leave a comment with your thoughts/questions/concerns. I’d love to hear from you!

Let's Talk About Gut Health

Let's Talk About Gut Health

Bowel movements. Pooping. Constipation. Digestive health. Not the most sexy of all wellness topics, am I right??

And there’s SUCH a taboo about it! It can be really embarrassing to admit that you have problems in the bathroom.

But hey, I’ll admit it.

If I’m not careful, it can be easy for me to be constipated or bloated — especially when I am traveling. Things can feel out-of-whack, and when those signs hit me, I know it’s time to pay more attention. Anyone else feeling me on this?

So I thought it would be a good time to dive into some basics of digestive health and how probiotics can play a good part in keeping things moving!

Gut Health 101

“All disease starts in the gut”. ~ Hippocrates.

Most people think about their guts as a relatively straightforward one-way machine. Food goes in, nutrition is absorbed, waste is excreted. Most people also understand that certain inputs, such as fiber and liquids, can dramatically impact the machine. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not so black and white. Your gut microbiome is incredibly complex and is connected to our immune system, mood, weight, digestion, and overall wellbeing.

Here are some more facts to blow your mind:

  • Your gut has been recently termed as your second brain, with over 95% of serotonin receptors located here. Check out Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being for some FASCINATING gems and insights.

  • According to the NIH, “Within the human gastrointestinal microbiota exists a complex ecosystem of approximately 300 to 500 bacterial species, comprising nearly 2 million genes (the microbiome).1 Indeed, the number of bacteria within the gut is approximately 10 times that of all of the cells in the human body, and the collective bacterial genome is vastly greater than the human genome.”

  • Health benefits of microflora include, but are not limited to: modulating our immune system, production of vitamins B and K, improve digestion and absorption of nutrients, weight management, protection from pathogens, and other long-term health consequences. We are JUST starting to learn about how interconnected and impactful our microflora are.

Warning Signs of Poor Gut Health:

  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, constipation or abdominal pain

  • Food sensitivities or allergies

  • Shifts in mood or anxiety

  • Eczema or acne

  • Frequent infections

  • Autoimmune Disease (example: Crohn’s disease)

  • Extreme tiredness

Simple Ways to Improve Gut Health:

  • Drink plenty of water (recommended daily intake is 2.7 liters or 11 cups for the average adult female)

  • Reduce stress levels

  • Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep a night

  • Take a probiotic supplement — my favorite is Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotics

  • Eat foods low in processed sugars and high in fibers (i.e. fruits, vegetables, whole grains)

  • Exercise regularly

  • Eat fermented foods that promote gut health like kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, sourdough, yogurt, kefir


My Personal Experience Traveling

In October of 2018, I traveled to Europe for 5 weeks. I * KNEW * that constipation and gut health would be a big concern since I wouldn’t be cooking my own food and the majority of foods I would be eating would be heavy, salty, cheesy restaurant food (not the ideal for gut health).

So for the 3 months leading up to it, I asked around for probiotic supplements that folks liked and I tested many out. The ones that worked for me (think: regular pooping like clockwork, travel-safe and no refrigeration needed) were from Renew Life! Here are my thoughts:

Pros:

  • Many strains — Renew Life has a BUNCH of different strains to reflect your gut’s natural diversity. In fact, 3X more good bacteria and more strains than most!* They also have a bunch of different types depending on what your needs are (take a probiotic quiz to find out yours!)
    *Compared to the Leading Brand’s 10B CFU Probiotic

  • Travel friendly — No refrigeration needed, so great for being on the go

  • Budget friendly — As far as probiotics go, these were definitely more affordable than other brands I bought

  • Once daily — Just have to take it once a day! (which I do every morning with my coffee)

  • Regulates the BMs — My bowel movements have been SO much more regular since I started taking these (seriously, v noticeable)

Cons:

  • Some packaging is a little wasteful as each pill is individually wrapped in a foil container. But I just switched to a probiotic with a normal pill bottle, so that’s good!

  • They are clear capsules with white powder in them… so I was worried bringing them traveling through airport security.. but that’s just me being paranoid! Haha.

Seriously… I don’t really have any real complaints when it comes to the probiotics I’ve tried with Renew Life. The more I’ve taken them, the better I’ve felt (AND the more I’ve learned about gut health — double bonus!).

So what are you waiting for? Get yo gut health on! #WhatTheGut