There’s something to be said for working hard to make money. But does your money work hard for you?
The methods we talk about today enable you to build a solid foundation of personal finances, giving you the means to work hard (and play hard!) without counting pennies in between. We work through the best money tips for paying off debt, and show you how investing helps grow your money so that you get to do what you want without financial stress at the end of it all.
What does it mean to use your money to make money?
Before we jump in, let’s establish a framework for what it means when we say, “Use your money to make money.”
Your money can earn interest, working to increase its value when you invest it in the market. If you decide to just leave it in a savings account, the little bit of interest you earn is less than the inflation rate. In the end, you are actually losing money.
The rich get richer by making their money work for them, and you can do the same thing.
7 ways to make your money work for you in 2021
What is the first step if you want to get your money working for you? Leaving your budget behind! So many of us have been raised to think that as long as we stick to a strict budget and work harder than everyone else, we will eventually have the financial stability to do what we want.
It turns out that on a $40,000 a year income and an average budget, it will take you almost 65 years to become “rich” in America. Who wants to work harder and save every penny for the next 65 years before they can enjoy their money. Not me!
For exactly this reason, these 7 methods around making your money work for you are so important. Throw out the budget and working harder mentality, and let’s take a look at what it means to make your money do the work instead.
1. Eliminate debt
The whole point of making your money work for you is that each penny, dollar, and dime that you have invested and saved adds to itself exponentially. If you have any debt, the exact opposite is happening. Every dollar you are in debt is exponentially costing you more dollars in the long run. Although it might not feel great to chuck gobs of money at your debt instead of carefully putting it away, it will end up benefitting you hugely in the long run. The longer you stay in debt, the more the debt costs you.
Unfortunately, organizations like credit card companies and banks that give out loans aren’t working to try and help you. All that money you are losing each month is what funds the organization. Instead of your money working for you, it works for them.
There are all kinds of debt you might be in nowadays as our culture and generation have come to accept debt as a part of life. This is another mindset you need to get rid of. Throw it right out the window, so you never revisit it.
The truth is, there is no reason that you have to accept debt as a part of your life. Here are some ways you can streamline your path to a debt-free life.
- Figure out exactly how much you owe. You need to own your debt. It is only by knowing exactly how much you owe, to whom, and what the interest rates are to pay it off effectively.
|HOW MUCH DO YOU OWE?|
|Name of Credit Card||Total Amount of Debt||APR||Monthly Minimum Payment|
2. Set up a strategy. Your debt-free strategy has more to do with the amount you owe to each company and their interest rates than with anything else since the higher the interest rate, the faster you want to pay it off. Figure out how much money you have each month to give to your debt. Try to be enterprising and honest with yourself. It is hard to get rid of debt, but not impossible.
Once you have done these two major steps, you are well on your way to getting out of debt. Ready to keep going, making the process even more streamlined? Read this article to get the rest of the process.
Stop right now and do this.
Congrats! Taking the first step is one of the hardest parts — now you’re well on your way to a Rich Life.
If your total debt number seems high, remember two things:
- There is a large group of people with more debt than you.
- From this day that number is only going to go down. This is the beginning of the end.
If you need help getting out of debt, check out my absolute best resources on getting out of debt below:
- How to improve your credit score
- How to get out of debt fast
- How to use credit cards to rebuild credit
2. Invest in your 401k
A 401k is a retirement account that your employer sponsors. As an employee, a 401k allows you to dedicate a portion of your salary before taxes to the 401k each month. The best benefit of a 401k? Many company’s offer ‘401k matching’ where they will match your contributions to a certain percentage.
Not only does that mean that you are saving for your retirement with the help of your employer, but it is also not a taxable account until the money is withdrawn at retirement age. In other words, the more you earn, the more you can invest in it, the more your employer puts in it, the more that it compounds over life.
Here’s an example:
For easy math, let’s imagine you earn $100,000 each year. Your company offers you a 3% match on your 401k. That means if you put in anywhere from 0.04% to 3% of your total income they will match that investment. They won’t match beyond 3%, although you can put in more if you want. That means that if you invest $3,000 each year, you would also get a free $3,000 from your employer, $6,000 would siphon into that account each year. Over ten years, you would have about $60,000 put away. Mind blown, right?
Be sure to take advantage of your employer’s 401k plan by putting at least enough money to collect the employer match into it. This ensures you’re taking full advantage of what is essentially free money from your employer. That match is POWERFUL and can double your money over the course of your working life:
|Age||Your Contributions||Employer Match||Balance without Employer Match||Balance with Employer Match|
Keep in mind that a potential decision to leave your job would end up impacting this account, particularly if there are unvested contributions that are outstanding from your employer. Don’t worry, though. Every penny that you invest is forever yours to keep.
3. Invest in a Roth IRA
A Roth IRA is another option that you can use instead of or in conjunction with your 401k. It is another tax-advantaged retirement account that has the potential to grow your overall earning and savings potential over the span of your working life.
The major difference between a 401k and a Roth IRA is the taxing system. A Roth IRA comes from your after-tax income. Then, when you withdraw it at retirement age, it is not taxed — major benefit.
Similar to a 401k, you want to max out on the outstanding potential of a Roth IRA. We recommend starting by investing in your 401k to capitalize on the employer match and then invest as much as possible into a Roth IRA. The annual contribution limit for 2021 is $6,000, or if you are over 50, $7,000.
There is quite a bit more that can go into a Roth IRA and how you invest the money in your Roth account if that is what you want to do. If you are interested in learning more about this kind of retirement fund, check out this article about 401k’s and Roth IRA’s to make informed decisions.
4. Use target-date funds
Target-date funds can also be called lifecycle funds. They are structured to grow in assets and continuously rebalance over time to optimize your savings over a specific time frame. They are a safer way to invest, helping you manage investment risk. They are also a great way to structure your retirement fund if you don’t want to dig deep into setting up your portfolio mix.
Target-date funds work based on your age and when the fund is set up for a return. They are more diversified when you are younger, increasing your risk and increasing their value, hopefully. As you age, the funds will automatically readjust to make themselves more conservative.
The type of target-date fund you would choose should be set up for the approximate year or age you plan to retire. For now, many of the target-date funds are set up for a return in 2050 and are offered through a wide selection of banks and money lenders. As we get closer to 2050 and you get closer to retirement, the funds become more conservative instead of being as aggressive as they would be now, in 2021.
Although there are some cons of target-date funds, the biggest pro is their simplicity. If you want, you can practically put the initial investment in and then forget about it until you retire. It is easier than debating about stocks, bonds, or other retirement portfolios.
The initial investment for a target-date fund is often between $1,000 and $3,000 and is an essentially painless way to invest in your retirement.
5. Automate your savings
Your savings and how you structure them for the future is one of the best ways you can make your money work for you now. If you want to buy a house or a car, you don’t want to have to scrounge around looking for money or take it out in a gigantic loan or credit card debt. In a perfect world, wouldn’t you already have the money?
Guess what? You can craft your own perfect world with a little bit of forward-thinking.
No matter how much you earn, automating your savings can end up saving you thousands down the road. For most of us, managing our money is about as fun as cleaning out your garage. Don’t try to convince yourself to do it every time you get paid. Instead, set up an automated system one time and you won’t have to think about it again.
Using automated systems means that your account does it for you. You don’t have to touch a button once you set it. The five major buckets you should divide your paycheck into include:
- Recurring monthly services
- Sub-savings accounts
The first thing we want you to be is realistic. This system will only work if you are brutally honest with yourself about what you do and don’t spend each month. If you have an automated system working for you each month only to find yourself sneaking money out later on, it really isn’t working, is it?
We understand that there will always be emergencies or even once-in-a-year-maybe-even-lifetime experiences that crop up. However, if these things are popping up every month, you probably need to modify your savings accounts to include these kinds of expenses.
Start allocating money to the fixed costs that you can’t use a credit card for, and your bills. Make these withdrawals automatic and factor in the rest of your automatic payments from this point.
From here, set up automatic payments using your credit card for recurring services like Netflix, Spotify, and gym memberships. We get into this more in our next point, but using your credit card for these kinds of purchases helps you automatically take advantage of credit card rewards (but ALWAYS pay off your credit cards each month — credit card debt = bad).
Take full advantage of your investments next, especially ones you can max out on, like your Roth IRA and 401k. If you have an employer willing to match your 401k payments, you should always hit those.
Now consider the kinds of things you want in the future and what you spend each month. Setting up automatic payments into sub-savings accounts is like giving your future self a present. One day, when you are ready to buy that car or make a down payment on your house, you look into that account and be pleasantly surprised to see how much it has added up to month-after-month of automatic saving.
What you have left should be enough to realistically cover all of the things you like to do during the month and other things you need to pay for, like groceries. If you don’t think it is, then adjust the amounts that go into your savings accounts.
Keep an eye on this over the next several months and adjust according to the reality of how you live. From there, you shouldn’t have to worry about it again until your income grows.
6. Take advantage of credit card rewards
Many people think of credit cards as being a gateway to debt. However, they don’t have to be. Done wisely and carefully, credit cards can absolutely function to make you money on almost every penny you spend. You shouldn’t try to use this method unless you are already free of credit card debt and always pay your bill in full each month.
Almost every credit card comes with a reward system nowadays. These are set up to help you earn money on purchases you already make — for example, those monthly subscriptions.
Some credit cards have better rewards than others. To get those, you often need a good credit score.
You can use credit cards to earn money for specific things, such as rewards for purchasing fuel or a flight. Having various credit cards that work together to earn you money back on every purchase is the best way to go about it, as long as you can pay off all of them each month.
Also, keep in mind that applying for a new credit card initiates a hard credit check on you, which impacts your credit score negatively. In other words, apply wisely and only for the ones you can really use and believe will accept you.
7. Earn more money
Finally, you don’t always have to wait for your money to earn for you over the long term. You can also work in the present to earn more money. Then, the more money you earn, the more it can work for you, the more you have in the following years.
There are many ways you can earn more money. Most of them take either a dash of ambition, a twist of creativity, a pinch of confidence, or a combination of them all. As long as you are willing to look for it, though, there is always another way to earn more money.
One of the ways include starting a side business. For example, you could turn a hobby into a money earner. If you are an artist, you could sell your artwork on platforms like Etsy. If you enjoy hiking, you could offer guided local hikes through a medium like MeetUp.
You could also work with the job you already have and negotiate a raise. If even the thought of this makes you break out in nervous goosebumps, read this article on how you can effectively negotiate your salary.
Invest in a Rich Life
At this point, what is there left to do but to pick one or two of these methods to begin with and get started? As they say, the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is now. Take advantage of the present and invest in your future, cultivating your tree of financial stability starting today, starting with freeing yourself from debt.
If you are thirsty for even more information on these main points and how to make your money work for you through successful personal finance management, your next step should be digging through My Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance. Learn how to change your mindset and change your financial life through strategy and a different way of thinking about money.