We all know that abusing a child is wrong. Dead wrong. But I wonder how many parents consider not properly preparing their children to be financially stable and responsible adults as its own form of abuse; especially if you take into account a Dr. Phil definition of the word that I really like — "Abuse is 'abnormally using' something."
I know that growing up, this wasn't the biggest priority in my home and boy did I have to learn some lessons the hard way once I was out on my own. Don't bounce checks. Don't get a credit card without a job (heads up on that, college freshmen). SAVE MONEY. If you're going to be a freelancer, hire an accountant. The list goes on and on.
Hmph. Apparently, I'm not alone because according to "This Is How Much Debt the Average American Has Now—at Every Age", people my age (I'll be 45 this year) are, on average, $133,100 in debt. Folks who are under 35? At least $67,000.
You don't want to wait until you're my age (or your parents' age) to start caring about how to handle your coins because when you're financially ill-prepared, life has a way of beating you up (and down) like nothing else can. That's why, even if you're in your 20s, trust me, you want to be vigilant about setting a few money goals so that you can be proactive rather than reactive with your money.
In my opinion, here are 10 to put on your priority list:
1. You Need a Weekly, Monthly, and Annual Budget
I have a friend whose accountant told him that he's been wasting thousands of dollars annually on eating out. It's so out of control that he's been placed on a dining-out budget. Although that might sound crazy to you at first, dig this. It's been reported that if you spend even $100 per month on takeout, that's $1,175 a year!
This is what happens when you spend without a budget. If you want to keep your bills paid (on time) and have a leg up on not accruing debt, it's important to have a weekly, monthly and annual budget. Your weekly one should consist of things like gas and food. Your monthly one should focus mainly on your bills. Your annual one should be all about big purchases and vacations.
If you need a little help putting a budget in place, there are some cool budgeting apps here.
2. Open an Account with a Credit Union
I'm not sure why more of us (me included) don't have accounts with credit unions. They certainly come with some perks that make it well worth our while. For starters, they typically have lower fees and interest rates than most banks. Plus, if you have bad credit and you're trying to change that or qualify for a loan, they tend to want to work with you more than other financial institutions do. According to my friends that use them, another bonus is they provide top-notch customer service.
Every coin has its flip side and credit unions are no different. The two biggies are most have "qualifiers" (like living in a certain region or needing to be in school) to join. Also, since they are smaller than banks, their locations and hours may not be the most convenient. But when you think of the advantages that come with them (especially if you want to buy a house in the near future), they're at least worth looking into.
3. You Should Have a Savings Account (with at least $1,500 in it)
Some people think that the purpose of a savings account is so you have money for emergencies. No, that is what you need an emergency fund for (which we'll get to in just a sec). A savings account is for long-term goals or simply money that you can have set aside that can accrue interest.
If you know you are pretty frivolous with your spending, that's another reason to get one because most banking institutions will limit the number of transfers and withdrawals you can make (it's typically around six a month).
How much should be in your savings account? A lot of financial experts recommend no less than $500 but you can really pat yourself on the back if it's $1,500 or more.
If you want to start a savings account online, check out "Best High-Yield Online Savings Accounts of 2019".
4. You Should Also Have an Emergency Fund
Here's a reality check like a mug: Did you know that 80 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck? This means if they lose their job, they probably can't even cover the following month's expenses.
This is why having an emergency fund is so crucial. Although we hope you won't get a pink slip or your car won't break down any time soon, you don't want to feel like you're up a creek without a paddle if either thing happens.
How much should be in this fund? At least one month's worth of expenses. But even once you reach that goal, it's a good idea to put $50-100 each month into this particular account if you can.
5. Hire a Tax Accountant
Last year, NPR did a special entitled "Freelanced: The Rise of The Contract Workforce". It revealed that approximately 1 in 5 workers are freelance workers. I happen to be one of them.
While nothing beats the sheer pleasure of working in my PJs from the comfort of my crib, let me tell you who I am consistent rivals with — the IRS. I've owed money to them, in some form, for almost 20 years now. A part of the reason is due to filling out 1099s instead of W-2s (which means I'm responsible for my own taxes). But real talk, another part of it is because I didn't invest in a tax accountant the moment I decided to freelance full-time.
Another great read is "Female Entrepreneurs Are the Next Wave of Business Success". If you don't plan on working for someone else, or you'd prefer to be a freelancer, spending money on a tax accountant is money well spent.
6. Download a Money-Making App
I can't tell you how many times I've made some last-minute money to cover an unexpected expense by knowing some ways to make a little cash on the side. One way to do that is by downloading a money-making app.
Ibotta gives you cash back, just for shopping. Field Agent pays you for completing small tasks around the house, etc. iPoll gives you gift cards and airline points in exchange for your opinion. There's a whole world of these kinds of apps at your disposal. And every little bit counts.
7. Reduce Your Amount of Credit Cards (and Credit Card Debt)
Personally, I don't have a credit card. Not one, and my needs have been met and my life hasn't fallen apart. One reason why is due to the fact that I recently read that while the average American household has around $8,000 of revolving debt, about 80 percent of it is due to credit cards. I'm not interested in being a part of that statistic.
Listen, credit cards are not giving you free money. They are high-interest loans that come in the form of little pieces of plastic. Convenience-wise, a debit card can do the same thing a credit card can (hold or book a reservation, etc.). If you're using them for big expenses, saving up and paying cash is the much smarter route. You'll own whatever it is you purchased and you won't have to worry about receiving a bill in the mail later.
But if you absolutely must have at least one in your possession, look for a low-interest card and pay your card off monthly. Otherwise, the interest alone may have you constantly playing catch-up.
8. Tithe to Yourself
All Christians reading this, I am well aware of Malachi 3. Yes, tithing is important. What's also important is self-care.
Oftentimes, what used to get me into financial trouble is, I'd randomly go on a shopping binge or treat myself to a spa appointment without taking my other financial obligations into consideration. This isn't a problem since I now set money aside each month for myself.
A lot of folks who live by this principle, set aside 10 percent of each paycheck for themselves. It goes to things like pampering, entertainment, or even travel. But even if that's too steep for you, do try and set aside between 3-5 percent. If you make $2,000 a month, 3 percent of that is $60. That's a mani/pedi each month or, if you save up for six months (and you look for deals), $360 can earn you an entire spa day (and then some) — all without pulling away from your cell phone bill or rent money in order to make it happen.
9. Make (at Least) One Investment
Investments are something else that pays off. Word on the street is, smart ones for people in their 30s include buying property and investing in stock-based index funds (which can help to set you up for retirement), like bonds and cryptocurrencies.
Even if you already own or, for whatever the reason, don't want to purchase a house to live in; I have a friend who's turning 29 this year who owns three Airbnbs in downtown Nashville. And chile, he's clearing $6,000-9,000 each month on those alone. No joke.
10. Get a Side Hustle
If someone were to ask me what I do for a living, I'd say I am a marriage life coach, a writer, and a doula. I'm pretty passionate about all three, so I wouldn't necessarily call any of them "side hustles". But the point I'm making here is I don't have all of my eggs in one basket.
Neither should you. Another friend of mine runs his own business. He's in his late 30s and cleared over $250,000 last year. But he's constantly talking to me about how it could all end in a blink (he's in the music industry; that's why he says that) and so he needs to come up with other sources of making income.
Being in your 20s and having a regular gig and a side hustle?! Just knowing the importance of having multiple streams of income will make riding this financial roller coaster ride we're all on so much easier to handle. Believe that.
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Feature image by Getty Images.
Originally published on February 8, 2019
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s people who perform songs, and then there’s performers, and let me tell you something: Victoria Monét is a PERFORMER. I first fell in love with her as an artist after hearing her hit song “Moment,” and then when her album JAGUAR was released in 2020, I was hooked. JAGUAR was one of those albums that I kept on repeat as I and the rest of the world were going through the motions of being in a pandemic. I remember watching her perform her single “Jaguar” from the album on her YouTube channel, and the way she performed so effortlessly with such confidence, I knew I had to see her live.
Luckily, I got the opportunity. Along with dropping JAGUAR II, which features the viral single “On My Mama,” Victoria also announced The Jaguar Tour, and as soon as the tickets dropped, it quickly sold out. I attended her Atlanta show at the Buckhead Theatre, and besides being met with a sea of concertgoers from wall to wall, my ears were immediately hit with a beautiful voice from none other than Alex Vaughn, who opened for the mother of one. Once Alex finished her set, it was time for the main event.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
As soon as Victoria stepped on stage, it was hers. She commanded the room with her sultry voice and hypnotic dance moves, performing songs from albums JAGUAR I and II and previous projects such as Life After Love, Pt. 1. Fans were singing her songs word for word to the point where, at times, you no longer heard her singing. However, it was clear that she was in a room filled with love and support, and she also showed it back on stage. The singer rarely took breaks in between songs and dazzled fans with her smooth moves that is reminiscent of the legendary Janet Jackson.
One of my favorite moments was when she performed “Cadillac (A Pimp’s Anthem).” She dressed in a trench coat and fedora, complete with her pimp cane, and another big moment was when she performed “Stop (Askin’ Me 4Shyt)”. Overall, it was nice to vibe out to live performances of some of my personal faves like “Ass Like That,” “How Does It Make You Feel,” “Alright,” and “Big Boss.” In a recent cover story for Galore, Victoria revealed what she hopes concert attendees walk away with.
“On tour, I really wanna give people the best version of Victoria on stage, better than I’ve ever been before. I’m hoping people have the time of their life at the show,” she said. After working behind the scenes as a songwriter for so long, the California native now has all eyes on her, and it’s clear she was ready for this moment.
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Feature image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images