Thank you for visiting Money Smart Guides! I created this Start Here section to save you time from jumping all around this site trying to figure out what it is all about. Of course, you’ll want to take a few minutes to search around the site too and read my About Me page to understand who I am. Below you will find the best and most important information you need to know to get off on the right foot.
What Is Money Smart Guides?
In order to understand what Money Smart Guides is all about, you need to first understand what personal finance is. Below is how I view personal Finance:
Personal finance is the management of a person’s or family’s money in regards to budgeting, saving and investing, over time while taking into account various financial risks and future life events.
In other words, handling everything that involves your money is what personal finance is all about. But the real key to all of this is the word personal. Your finances are personal. This means what works for you might not work for me and vice versa. This is why so many people have an opinion on whether you should invest your money or pay off any debt you have.
At the end of the day, you have to make the financial choices that are right for you and your family. This doesn’t mean you should ignore personal finance news and articles. They are a great way to find new and useful ways of doing things. I even find them helpful. Many times I will read someone else’s experience with a topic and know it will not work for me. But I can tweak it a bit and it will work for me.
What Money Smart Guides Is Not
Before I get into helping you navigate this site, I want to take a moment to set some realistic expectations for you upfront.
- You won’t get out of debt overnight
I hate to disappoint you, but this site won’t be telling you how you can get out of debt overnight. The reason is because 99.9% of the time, you can’t get out of debt overnight.
When you think about your debt, you will realize that the debt you currently have is from months and/or years of living beyond your means. Since it took you this long to get into the debt you currently have, why think that you will get out of debt overnight?
The reason is simple: we’ve become an instant gratification society, which is what got you into the debt you have in the first place. You can and will get out of debt. This site is here to help. You just have to stay committed and accept the fact that you won’t be debt free in a week.
- You aren’t going to crush the market with 100% annual returns
When it comes to investing, Money Smart Guides isn’t going to provide you with a “magic bullet” or analysis that allows you to crush the market, year in and year out. That doesn’t exist. In fact, no one can beat the market consistently.
The person that has had the most recent investing success is Bill Miller from Pimco. The fund he runs beat the market every year from 1991 – 2005. Then he stopped beating the market. The odds of replicating his feat of beating the market for 15 straight years: 1 in 2.3 million. Even Mr. Miller said his run was more luck than skill.
- You aren’t going to ‘Get Rich Quick’
Just like there is no magic investment that will make you a millionaire, there is no product or step that you can take that will have you filthy rich with little to no work and in no time at all. Getting out of debt takes work and time. Building a sizable investment portfolio takes work and time. In fact, everything great in this world takes work and time. You learn to appreciate things and experiences more when you have to make some sacrifices to achieve your dreams.
So Why Money Smart Guides?
You may be wondering why even bother with this site if it isn’t going to magically change your life for the better overnight. It’s simple really: I believe you can overcome the debt, invest wisely, and reach your financial dreams.
Money Smart Guides is a personal finance blog whose goal is to get you out of debt and starting investing for your future. I believe that everyone can live the life of their dreams. Sadly, many of us are too caught up in chasing material possessions as a sign of wealth. These things are not wealth. Your life, your friends, your family, and your experiences are the wealth in your life. Having money allows you to take advantage of time and experience life with these people.
Furthermore, I am here to help you reach your financial dreams. View this blog and myself as your guide. I’ll do my best to teach you about personal finance basics so that you can make the best financial choice that is right for your situation. Remember, personal finance is PERSONAL. What works for one person might not work for the next person.
My hope is that you learn new concepts, ideas and tricks and use what works for you and are able to tweak other things to benefit you as well.
Where To Start
Now is the time when you can start exploring the world of personal finance and living your life to its fullest. To begin, I suggest you sign up for free email delivery of new posts. By doing so, you’ll be the first to know when new posts are published. Don’t worry, the only emails you get from me will be when I post a new article. Nothing more.
From there, I encourage you to follow the suggestions below based on which area of personal finance you need help with. It can be one or all.
Debt can be overwhelming. I know because I was in credit card and student loan debt after college. I even failed many times at trying to get out of debt. See if this sounds familiar:
Unfortunately, most of you are struggling with this same thing. The good news is that I got out of debt and you can too. Here is how:
Your first step when overcoming debt is to be honest with yourself. Understand why you are overspending.
From there, you need to set up a budget so you can see where your money is going.
If you want your budget to involve the least amount of setup work for you, I suggest you take a look at You Need A Budget. Many people swear by it and it has helped them to transform their financial life to the positive.
If on the other hand, you want more control over your budget, I have a handful of free budget spreadsheets for you to download and use.
Next, you need to see how much money you can put towards your debt each month and then see if there are any expenses you can cut to so you can pay more towards your debt each month.
Finally, you need to set up a plan for getting out of debt. Luckily, I wrote a detailed post about all of your debt payoff options here.
Of course, I have more information on this 4 step process. I encourage you read through each of these posts:
- How to get out of debt (my debt story and how to be honest with yourself)
- Cutting your monthly expenses (handful of tips to cut expenses so you can put more towards your debt)
- How to make extra money (an ever expanding list of ways to bring in more money so you can pay more towards your debt each month)
I hear many people tell me how confusing and complicated investing is. The reality is, investing is actually relatively simple and rather boring. That is if you are investing the right way. Here is how to invest the right way:
Create an investment plan: without a plan, how do you know where you are going?
DIY or Professional: decide if you are going to do-it-yourself or if you want the help of a professional. There are pros and cons to each method. When in doubt, I suggest using a professional simply because an investor’s greatest enemy is himself. If you need help choosing a broker for your investing needs, use my online broker comparison chart as a tool to help you find the best one for your needs.
If you allow your emotions to get involved with your investing, you are bound to lose. Of course, when it comes to using a professional, cost becomes a topic of concern. This is a valid concern since most investors pay too much in fees. To avoid this, I recommend Betterment. You can read all about it here.
If you go the Betterment route, all you have left to do is set up and automatic investment and you are done. I told you it was easy! Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stop learning. You will be tempted to try to beat the market. Let me save you lots of time and frustration: you can’t beat the market on a consistent basis. No one can.
If you instead choose to go the DIY route, you need to read my post about sample model portfolios. It shows you that you really only need 3 funds to have a diversified portfolio. Of course, you need to read the posts below as well!
Here are the continuous learning posts you need to read:
- Active vs Passive Investing (learn the difference of these two approaches to investing)
- How to become a stock market millionaire (a step-by-step guide to becoming a millionaire through investing)
- Buy and Hold – The Path to Wealth (why the average investor never makes any money investing)
- The Importance of Investment Diversification (why you need to be diversified. Hint: lower risk!)
- Understanding Risk Tolerance (learn how to see how much of a risk taker you are)
Finally, I have an investing eBook, 7 Investing Steps That Will Make You Wealthy, that you should definitely check out. It comes with a free PDF of index mutual funds and ETFs that you should look into when investing (you can forget about most all other mutual funds). The link above will take you to the description of the book.
Aside from investing for your future, you need to consistently build wealth. This includes being a smart consumer when it comes to spending your money, making money and saving money.
For most people, they focus on cutting as much from their monthly budget as possible. While cutting your expenses is a good thing, your expenses are finite. This means you can only cut so much until you start lowering your quality of life.
In other words, you can cut your food budget to $0, but you are going to be very unhappy, very quickly. Because of this, you need to also look at your income. You need to find ways to increase your salary and even find other sources of income to boost your bottom line.
If you can both increase your income and reduce your spending while still living and enjoyable life, there is going to be a nice gap of money there. This money should be saved and invested so that you can one day reach financial freedom. Quit your job and do what makes you happy.
Here are some important posts related to this topic to help you build wealth:
- 3 Ways To Save Money – A Lot of Money (3 easy tips to help you save a lot of money)
- Compound Interest (learn the easiest way to earn money)
- Facebook is Stealing Your Money (if you spend time on Facebook, this will open your eyes)
- How To Get Ahead At Work And Become Filthy Rich (tips for earning the most from your job)
- How To Live On $1,000 A Month (a fun game to see if you can survive on $1,000 a month)
One more area for you to check out is my resources section. This section provides you with the products and services I personally use. While I don’t expect you to use all of them, there is most likely some here that can help you with your financial goals. In many cases, the product or service is offering you freebies and bonuses when you sign up through my links.
You can also read this post I wrote about the various tools I use to manage my money.
I just want to finish off by saying that I’m here for you, not only as a guide while you begin or continue your journey of getting out of debt and investing, but also as a friend. I do my best to respond to all emails as I do not hold myself above anyone.
I’m nothing special, I’m just a guy who made some dumb mistakes while younger and had to dig myself out of credit card debt. I was lucky enough to have a great teacher in high school that introduced me to investing and I have studied it ever since. Do I consistently beat the market every year? Honestly, I doubt it. But beating the market isn’t my concern. My concern is reaching my financial dreams and I can see myself getting closer whenever I look at my investments and net worth.
Thank you so much for your support. If you’ve made it this far, I’d love for you to come say hi to me on my Facebook Page. I’ll definitely respond, and I look forward to meeting you!
[Photo Credit: Kalen Emsley]