What’s the best financial advice you’ve received?

What’s the best financial advice you’ve received?
June 10, 2021 | Katie Levene

Financial lessons are all around us. Sometimes we learn from a financial pro we found online or a mistake we’ve made. Other times we get fantastic tips from our family and friends. Our Alliant employees share some of their favorite financial advice. We hope these tips inspire you to share your financial knowledge with friends! Because the more we talk about money with those we love, the more financially savvy we all become.

Spending on your terms

Arek G: Ignore peer pressure
My parents taught me to ignore peer pressure - fancy cars, apartments, clothing. Even though it was hard to resist, I did my best to stay strong and be smart with how much I spent on each of those. Seeing many friends getting huge car loans or mortgages they could barely afford taught me to stay true to what I want/need instead of what I wanted my friends to see.  

Priscilla T: Find a balance
The best money advice I’ve received is that it comes and it goes. You have to balance what is best for you, and while it is important to save, it is also important for your mental (and sometimes physical health) to live a little too. 

El Z: Think about the hours you worked for your money
I was taught to think about my spending in terms of hours at work versus dollars. Before purchasing something, I ask myself, how many hours will it take for me to pay for my "want" and is it worth it? I can't tell you how many times this has helped me. 

Jamie L: Use your credit card rewards
We've set up a dedicated savings account for vacations, we use credit card points, gift card deals and cash to fund our trips. It feels great knowing that we don't have to worry about making monthly payments to pay off vacation expenses after coming back from our trip. 

Dan C: Be aware of trade-offs 
The best financial advice I have ever received is that the act of purchasing something means you are foregoing spending it elsewhere.  When you buy something, make sure it is what you want the most.

Mallory K: Automate your savings
I was taught to put money into savings automatically from each paycheck. Then, any time I got a raise, I increased the amount that goes into my savings by that much. If you’re comfortable living on your current salary, then it's best to put the extra money away for a rainy day or for that next vacation you want to plan. Following this over the last 10 years has helped me to be financially stable and allowed me to take some epic vacations! 

Planning pays off

Marcus T: Plan for savings, not spending
The best financial advice I've received is this, "If you don't have it, don't spend it. If you do have it, save it!" Earlier on I found it difficult to save money and establish a "nest egg". I found that it was because my perception of money was distorted. Every time I received large amounts of money; I would plan how to spend it, not how I would save it. I've learned how to prioritize needs versus wants and this concept allows me to suppress impulse buying and gain financial stability. 

Felix S: Have a plan for your family's finances
I was advised that most people don't plan to fail, but fail to properly plan. And as such, people don't often speak about issues that affect a person's personal and familial finances like a sickness. Life insurance will protect you and your family from financial loss due to the loss of a loved one, especially when the loss is that of the primary financial provider in the home. So, the advice I was given was to solidify the foundation first by prioritizing in this way:

  • Protection (Life insurance with living benefits)
  • Emergency savings (at least 6 months of your monthly expenses)
  • Bills/debt (they'll always be there, so prioritize your foundations first)
  • Investments

Saving for the long-term

Janet M: Join an investment club 
One of the best pieces of financial advice was to join an Investment Club. It is a great way to invest in the market beyond a company 401(k) - and with the group of investors, you have more buying power to purchase pricey stocks. Most importantly, it is a learning opportunity. Whether it is stock research or understanding factors that influence the market, there are no silly questions within the club. 

Caroline S: Don't react to every stock market change
I was taught to remember to look at the ups and downs of the market as a long-term strategy. It’s important to sit back and ride the waves. 

Michelle S: Start investing early 
My father told me to start investing early. He showed me easy ways to research funds with Morningstar and that gave me confidence right out of college that I could figure out investing for retirement. Here are a few of his high-level basics: 

  • Focus on Mutual Funds
  • Look at the Morningstar fund rating (number of stars)
  • Look at the average annual return (look at 5 years and even 10 years) - you are in this for the long haul
  • Look at management fees (the lower the better)
  • Make sure you agree with what the fund invests in

Rich H & Maria D: Save for retirement when you're young
The best financial advice I received was to begin planning for retirement at an early age. Join your 401(k) immediately and start with at least the amount that is matched by your company. Then every year when you receive a salary increase, raise your contribution rate by at least half of the increase. You won’t miss the extra and you still realize a small increase in your paycheck. It’s amazing how the funds in your plan grow and grow, setting you up for a comfortable retirement. 

Pam L: Prioritize retirement savings
My parents taught and modeled frugality and living below your means, which have been key to every financial milestone I've achieved. But two key pieces of retirement advice I received in my 20s have helped me to be in a position to retire at 60 (hopefully!). 

  • When I was a wet-behind-the-ears newbie at my first job, my coworker Matt asked if I'd signed up for the 401(k). When I said "Not yet," he told me that I had to sign up, then took me to lunch the next day and walked me through the sign-up forms, tax advantages, company match, and fund options. When I retire, I'm stopping on my way to Wisconsin to buy him dinner and drinks at Rockford's finest restaurant! 
  • My dad told me that I should check into saving with a Roth IRA in addition to my workplace 401(k). Because I listened, I now have a hefty emergency fund and better tax diversification for my retirement.  

Managing debt

Terry H: Think of credit cards as a loan 
I was taught to think of credit card spending as taking out a loan every time you use your card. That simple mindset shift to thinking, "Would I apply for a loan to buy this pizza?" made me think twice about every credit card purchase and helped me to responsibly use credit cards.

Mary S: Pay extra on your mortgage 
I transfer some money every paycheck to my savings account so by the end of the year I can make a big extra mortgage payment. It feels like a small amount every month, but at the end of the year, it feels good to make an extra payment. Every little bit helps pay down the principal. 

Maggie T: Establish credit early and pay it off right away
When I was getting ready to start college, my mom helped me open my first credit card. She told me to use it once a month on something small, like gas or pizza, and pay it off immediately. I followed her advice and it helped me build my credit. 23 years later, I still have that credit card and while it's not my primary card (because my Alliant Visa credit card gives me way higher rewards!), I still have one recurring bill and an automatic payment set up on it. It's now my oldest credit line, which is one of the credit score factors


Inspired to learn more? Check out these other great money tips:

Katie Levene is a marketer fascinated with finance. Whether the topic is about the psychology of money, investment strategies or simply how to spend better, Katie enjoys diving in and sharing all the details with family, friends and Money Mentor readers. Money management needs to be simplified and Katie hopes she accomplishes that for our readers. The saying goes, "Knowledge is Power", and she hopes you feel empowered after reading Money Mentor.

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