Control The Controllables

You wake up on a cool spring morning in March 2020. Quarantine just started. Summer feels like it’s right around the corner. Working from home feels like an exciting new change.

Then, you check your investments and have to do a double take to make sure you’re seeing it correctly.

Your investments are down more than 20%.

Panic sets in.

Everyone begins to wonder, “are we experiencing the 2008 stock market crash again?”

Fortunately, no. It actually ended up being the shortest bear market in history lasting just 33 days.

Now, there’s few things that we have control over in our life and the stock market is definitely not one of them. When it comes to personal finance, there’s much more to take into consideration than just the stock market and your investment returns.

So, what are some things that you can control?

Paying off credit card debt

There’s few places you’ll find a better return on your investment than by paying off credit cards. Generally, credit cards have absurd interest rates. Sometimes over 20%. By paying off your credit card debt, you’re effectively giving yourself a return of whatever the interest rate is. It’s hard to find 20% returns elsewhere, even with investments.

Building an emergency fund

An emergency fund is the most important part of your financial foundation. Without an emergency fund, everything else is at risk. By saving 6-12 months of your monthly expenses, you can confidently start building towards financial freedom and not have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.

Investing in yourself and your career

By investing in yourself, you can build your skillset and set yourself up for future career success. Whether it be reading books on a topic you want to improve on or taking a class, you’ll see the benefits personally as well as financially.

Evaluating your housing

Housing is probably your biggest monthly expense. Renting can be a great option when you’re young to avoid having all the extra expenses of homeownership. However if you own, refinancing your mortgage may be able to free up hundreds of dollars per month so you can pay down your mortgage quicker, invest more, or pay down debts.

Automating your savings

If you’re like most people, saving money probably isn’t the most enjoyable thing to do. But by automating your savings, you’re removing the human error part of the equation and guaranteeing that money gets saved every month. Whether it’s $50 or $1,000, the important part is to get started.

Maximizing your company benefits

By maxing out your 401k to your company’s match, you’re earning free money. Yes, FREE. They’re giving you money to incentivize saving for retirement yet most people still neglect this huge benefit. They may also offer company-paid insurance and other benefits and if you’re not sure what your company offers, check with the HR department. They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions. That’s what they’re there for!

Taking advantage of compound interest

“Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world” - Albert Einstein

If Einstein said it, it must be true right? But really, compound interest will change your life if you let it. And the best part is you don’t have to do anything. By simply investing while you’re young, time will take care of everything else.

It’s like if you started playing piano when you were six years old. By the time you’re 40, you’ll be pretty damn good at it. Those skills and efforts compounded over time and investing is no different.

. . . .

While we can’t control what the stock market does, we can control a large portion of our financial life by building a solid foundation and being as efficient as possible in these areas.