• Harry N. Stout

17 Minutes Per Day to a Better Financial Life


As I wrote in the FinancialVerse – A Common Sense Approach for Your Money, there are 10 Must Do’s to manage your financial life. The first is to spend two hours per week or 17 minutes per day learning, studying and participating in personal finance matters. I call this habit Spend2. A subscriber asked me if I could give them a detailed framework for how they should spend that two hours. In this post I will do just that.


Action Steps

As with all goals, let’s break it down into smaller, actionable steps. Two hours per week is about 17 minutes per day. You can find that amount of time. The key is to turn spending this time into a good money habit. According to Encyclopedia.com, a habit is defined as a way of behaving that is repeated so often it no longer involves conscious thought. Developing good financial habits and overcoming bad financial habits are essential to success in the FinancialVerse. Making time in your schedule to Spend2 is a good habit that will pay you continued dividends. Creating your weekly two-hour money habit should be built around the following activities. You can do a little bit each day or set aside a two-hour block one day per week.


Check Your Bank and Investment Accounts

Checking your bank and investment accounts is a good way to track your spending, discover bogus transactions and get positive feedback on your efforts to control spending or earn interest. If you automate all your accounts, this task should take only a few minutes per week. I do this using smartphone apps from my product/service suppliers.


Set-Up and Review Bill Due Dates

The easiest way to minimize time spent on paying bills is to automate all your payments using your bank’s bill pay capability, making recurring credit card payments or arranging with the vendor to take payments directly from your checking account. I know that some people do not like the latter because of concerns with the vendor withdrawing erroneous amounts. I have had no issues with this practice. Personally, I use a combination of reoccurring bank payments and credit card payments in order to generate as many reward miles as I can. I spend just a few minutes each month making sure I have turned on bill pay or credit card pay for all my regular bills. Putting bills on autopilot means you don't have to worry about writing out checks, missing due dates or incurring unnecessary late fees.


If you have concerns with specific bills or are sensitive as to when certain payments are made the bank and credit card payment applications will usually allow you to set up notifications as to when payments were sent.


Review Your Budget

As I have written, having a budget is one of the most important things you can do in managing your money. It should be your most important habit. I would spend at least one hour per month or 15 minutes per week on making sure your cash inflow and outflow is going as you have planned. Take note of any recurring expenses you could reduce or eliminate, or any upcoming large or non-recurring outlays you’ll have. For example, if it's time to pay your annual life insurance premium, your apartment rental insurance or your quarterly car insurance premiums, make sure you're budgeting extra for that expense. To make this process easier and less time consuming you might consider linking your bank and credit card accounts to a one of the budgeting apps we have discussed in our posts.


Visit Websites That Can Help

I would spend 30 minutes weekly visiting one of the websites I have identified in the Spend2 tab of the FinancialVerse website. My suggestion is to find one or two websites that you like and subscribe to them. You can put their apps on the home screen of your smartphone or tablet and view the content as time allows.


There are a number of other website resources available to assist you with your journey that offer ideas, financial-planning software, financial calculators, detailed product information, and investment-planning applications. These applications can be obtained from the websites of your local banking institution, LifeHappens for life-insurance-related materials, Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association (LIMRA), the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and from investment management companies such as Fidelity and Charles Schwab. I have a number of these on my home screen to allow me to do quick research.


Read Major Personal Finance Publications

I subscribe to and read three hard copy financial publications on a regular basis. The number of personal financial publications available in hardcopy continues to decline as most publishers convert all their content to online or digital formats. These publications provide great sources of information, practical ideas, and suggested strategies for what can be done with money and how to address certain financial risks. You can find my recommended publications under the Spend2 tab of the FinancialVerse website.

Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are a godsend when looking to obtain personal financial knowledge and to fit the learning time into your schedule. As I am an auditory learner, I am an avid listener to podcasts and spend over two hours per day listening (yes, I know that seems like a lot). I do this during my exercise times and as I go about my daily routine. My message for you is that you can fit this valuable resource into the busiest of schedules. You can listen on your smartphone, desktop, or tablet while you drive, shop, exercise or walk. Please go to the Spend2 tab for a list of the podcasts I have found most valuable and worth the time.


Summary

Just how you spend your two hours per week should be based on where you are in your journey to better financial knowledge and practices. The key is to make it a habit that you enjoy each week. If you don’t spend time learning about the FinancialVerse and managing your money matters, you will not be successful. Like many things in life, money practice makes perfect. You must make boosting your financial literacy and actions a priority.

Spend2 is my way of stating the priority you need to make on your financial education.


Knowledge is power particularly when it comes to financial matters. Spend2 — it will change your financial life.

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