Saturday, August 1, 2020
Every advisor should have a library of financial wellness content, but it is also helpful to have other resources at the ready. These are some of our favorite resources that we have recommended again and again to participants, clients, friends, and family.
There are a lot of personal finance blogs. On the one hand, it is awesome that lots of people are so passionate about personal finances that they want to write and share their knowledge. On the other hand, while I am a huge advocate of entrepreneurship, I find a large number of work-from-home/side business posts resemble multi-level marketing. (Frequently the path to financial freedom that is prescribed seems to be starting your own personal finance blog which you can do if you buy their book or join their paid community.) While a side business can be a great way to improve your household finances, a lot of businesses are never profitable and can distract from other things one can do to improve their personal balance sheet. (I recommend to people to start a business if it is something they are passionate about. Even if they are not profitable they still will enjoy the journey.)
J.D. Roth’s long-running blog is a wealth of information written in an approachable manner. One could easily find themselves spending hours on the site reading about the many topics that he has covered over the years. His personal voice makes the posts as inspirational as they are actionable.
A lot of the personal-finance blogosphere centers around financial independence and the Mad Fientist blog is one of the grandfathers of that genre. If the goal is to get out debt and build enough means to live life on your own terms then this blog is a great place to start mapping out your journey.
Here are some links to articles we have written outside the Wallet1000 blog:
Building a budget: category by category
Personal Finances: The Income Waterfall
I have bought multiple copies of the Total Money Makeover as I keep giving my copy away. This book will resonate more with someone who is struggling to make ends meet or who is deep in debt than someone with more means and further along in their financial journey.
A reader does not have to agree with everything Dave says in order to find wisdom in his relatable and no-nonsense advice.
Another book that takes a simple and easy-to-understand approach to personal finance. It is a good read for someone struggling to build a financial plan and take the first steps towards achieving their financial goal. The sections of the book cover personal discovery (what are you working towards) before getting into how to spend, save, and invest to reach those goals.
The content is actionable in a way that a lot of other books fail.
My favorite personal finance book and the one I recommend most often. It takes the philosophy of John Bogle (the father of index funds and founder of Vanguard) and applies it to many aspects of personal finances including investments, asset allocation, insurance, college savings, and retirement.
If there is a common theme to the advice in this book it is that one should always question the advice they receive from someone trying to sell them a financial product.
Not technically a book but one of the most educational readings for investors of all levels. Buffet explains his investing philosophy using a mix of stories and metaphors which makes it approachable to the average investor while still providing insights that make it eagerly awaited by professionals every year.
Almost everyone can find answers to their questions in /r/personalfinance where a large (> 14 million) and passionate group of people help people with their financial questions. A lot of the questions are from people who are struggling with their finances or have issues with their employer, family, or creditors and are looking for help on how to navigate a situation.
Another large Reddit community is /r/financialindependence which is more focused on investments and asset allocation as a path to FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early).
The Bogleheads forum has been around for many years (and the forum software might be a bit dated) but it is quite active. Thousands of link-minded people are helping each other with their (simple and quite complex) personal finance questions. You will often see that someone has built a model to arrive at what the best decision is from a mathematical perspective.
Personal finances is as much about emotions as it is about numbers. Emotions drive actions which in turn drive the numbers. Because of that the listener calls are my favorite part of Dave Ramsey’s. Those put a real human voice to financial difficulties which makes the stories relatable in a way that an article never will. Hearing how someone in an even worse financial situation than you was able to overcome is incredibly inspirational.
Where Dave Ramsey’s podcast is inspirational, Money Girl is actionable. Each episode is about ten to twenty minutes (they have been trending longer in the past few years though) and takes common financial questions and distills them down into easy to understand steps. If you have a question about personal finances then I guarantee she has an episode on it.
For people looking to better educate themselves about investment options and asset allocation, Money for the Rest of Us is a great listen. The host, David Stein, talks through his own investment decisions as well as answers listener questions. One can learn a lot about macroeconomics by listening to this show.
A budgeting spreadsheet can be as simple or as complicated (detailed) as you want it to be. I always love talking personal finances with people that use spreadsheets to budget because it allows us to dig into actual numbers rather than creating a generic budget that is not personal enough to be much help. A lot of financial wellness success is had by making small improvements that add up over time. A good spreadsheet unlocks that data.
In our experience the key to successful budgeting is to track your spending throughout the month. If you do not know where your balance in a given budget category before you make a purchase you are destined to go over budget and have to make it up again next month. Tracking your spending helps you break that vicious cycle.
From the book, The Four Hour Workweek, this is a wonderful exercise for couples. I typically recommend that they look at a three-year or five-year timeframe. What it entails is each partner writing down five things they want to do in the next five years (e.g. get married, visit Europe, or remodel the kitchen), five things they want to have (e.g. new home, $20,000 emergency fund, or two children), and five things they want to be (e.g. fluent in Italian, in medical school, or debt-free). Then they set aside time specifically for discussing their filled-in worksheets.
This helps a couple to ensure that they are on the same page about their goals and the trajectory of their life together. It is difficult to make progress in a household’s personal finances if people are pulling in different directions.
This is the most-used personal finance software as well as the most-misused personal finance software. It is great that it lowers the friction to create a budget and track your spending but so many people end up either installing it and forgetting about it or creating a budget but not checking on their spending throughout the month. When I recommend it to people I urge them to put on their calendar three budgeting “meetings” each week in which they open up the app and check their finances. On Friday, before they do their weekend things such as going out to dinner with friends and the weekly shopping, on Monday, to assess what they spent that weekend and where they stand for the week, and on Wednesday, for some midweek planning.
You Need a Budget is the only budgeting software that I have heard people be passionate about. Before it was a web app, it was a desktop application which required users to manually enter every receipt from every transaction. That proactive approach to budgeting helps an individual know where they stand in each category at all times. If it is the last week of the month, and they only have $50 left in their grocery budget, they know they are going to have some pasta for dinner that week. Going over budget becomes a conscious choice rather than a regular accident.
Our software provides people a holistic look at their finances with every participant receiving a personal financial plan. All guidance is truly objective as we do not sell any products or any user information. Our goal is to help your participants achieve theirs.