How Can I Become the Master of My Money?

Paul Atherton |
23-09-2021
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Your money shouldn’t control you. Here are six tips to help you take your control back.

You don’t want to be a slave to your money.

Everybody wants enough money that they don’t have to think about it.

I’ve seen people that earn 10s of millions a year, and even they can be slaves to money. So it’s not only about how much money you earn.

So, let’s get to some of the belts and bracers stuff about how to become a master of your money.

1.  Understand your budget and your spending.

Budget is snooze territory, but it’s something that everyone needs to understand.

If you’re going to become wealthy, you need to have a grip on your budget.

You can’t become wealthy if your spending is out of control.

There are people that earn an awful lot of money that have terrible finances because they don’t have a grip on their budget or their spending.

But I’m not saying build a spreadsheet and count every penny.

You don’t cut lattes to become a millionaire.

Financial advisors telling people to cut back on everything enjoyable and count every penny is the equivalent of a personal trainer telling someone you need to work out for five hours a day.

Five hours feeling terrible, then the rest of the day feeling exhausted from those five hours. Who wants that?

Budgeting to every penny is a great way to suck all the enjoyment out of life.

So, instead, I go with the 80/20 rule—80% of your income should go to your needs AND wants, and you should save the other 20%.

A good rule of thumb is to spend about a quarter of your income on rent or mortgage. For example, if you spend $1000 a month on your mortgage or your rent, your total budget should be about $4000.

But you may be a huge spender. So, it’s highly individualistic, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

It doesn’t take long to do an 80/20 rule on your own budget. Then put a fudge factor in there of perhaps a couple hundred dollars for things you might have forgotten you spend money on.

I have a budget, and I only go over it once a year. I spend a few days going over it, seeing if there’s anything in there that I’m spending money on and no longer use (signing up for product trials and subscription services like Stan are an easy money-suck), and cancel them or make any suitable adjustments.

I’ve gone a bit more in-depth on budgeting before, which you can read here.

It shouldn’t be overwhelming.  And if you are overwhelmed by looking at your spending, it’s probably a sign that you have a spending problem, and you really need to get that sorted out first.

Spending problems may not even be your fault and be simple to fix. They could be spending more than you need on insurance or bank fees, for example.

The second part of budgeting and saving, and my favourite part, is looking at your income.

Remember that budgets have two sides: they have expenses, and they have income. This is where I diverge from many other financial advisors who tell you the only way to balance your budget is to cut back on the lattes.

2.  Increase your income.

You can earn more money.

One good negotiation with your boss can be worth tens of lattes a day. So, brush up on your negotiation skills. Work on the income side of your balance sheet, not just the expense side.

And if you’re in a position where you can’t just ask for a raise, consider earning some money from your hobbies.

For many people, these small businesses end up becoming their main business, and they can get rid of their boring day job.

The next tier is navigating debt.

3.  Reduce your debt.

Debt is like the terminator. It doesn’t give up. Ever. So don’t get into debt.

But what if you’re already in debt? Don’t worry.

You just need a plan to get out, so let’s look at that.

I break debt into two different kinds.

The first is mortgage and HECS. Mortgages are above inflation, but you can get some very good rates. HECS is at inflation.

Even so, you should still pay them off when you get a chance, particularly your mortgage.

If you want to see someone who’s happy, go and talk to someone who’s paid off their mortgage!

One of the key ways to take control of your debt is to pay off everything you owe on time.

I often see people with excellent finances, and a great income, but they’ve got a very bad debt structure. I want to help them restructure. But guess what?

At first, even I struggle to restructure their debt because they keep forgetting to pay their bills.

Their credit scores show late payments, and late payments are a sign that you’re under financial stress. That’s what a credit agency will think. It’s what a bank will think. It will look like you’re under financial distress.

So, please pay your bills on time, and keep a great credit score. You can check your credit score out once a year for free.

4.  Get better deals.

The next point is to hunt for a better deal. There’s always a better deal, especially on things like utilities. Get used to haggling; just ask for a bit more.

Most successful businesspeople really haggle. They argue over everything when it comes to deals.

You don’t have to be aggressive, but you should train yourself to ask.

5.  Invest in yourself first.

There are many ways to invest in yourself, but my advice is to always build your communication skills.

Take some courses on public speaking and communication. Invest in yourself, your skills and your abilities.

Invest in your career. Walk up to your boss and ask, “what do I need to know?”

Then after you’ve invested in yourself, after you’ve invested in your career, invest regularly in the stock market. Invest regularly. Use the powers of compounding and dollar-cost averaging.

6.  Divide your money into separate accounts.

When you are earning enough money, start thinking about separating it into different accounts, not just one lump account. It’s very simple in our modern age.

Have four accounts: an everyday account, a savings account, an emergency account, and an investment account.

Your bills get paid out of our everyday account. Savings account is where you’re going to have some fun.

Having an emergency account is incredibly important and highly underestimated. Most Australians and US citizens don’t have enough money put aside to live their regular lives for a week without their weekly salary.

Just imagine sitting back and knowing you had six months to 12 months of salary if you needed it. And if that money is in a high-interest compound savings account, it will keep building itself.

The mental clarity, the safety, and the comfort having an emergency fund can bring you is unbelievable.

Set a goal, say, six months’ salary. Save that up, then when you spill over that, start putting it into an investment account.

To master your money, remember…

  1. Mastering your money isn’t just about earning more—even people with high incomes can fall victim to overspending and unmanaged money.
  2. Understand how and where you spend your money—this helps you cut out unnecessary spending.
  3. Pay off your debts as soon as you can—the longer you take to pay, the more you will pay on top of the principal.
  4. Pay bills on time—your credit score will thank you!
  5. Always ask for a better deal—if you don’t ask, you won’t get a bargain.
  6. Invest in yourself and your skills—whether they’re skills for your own personal gain, or for bettering your career, always invest in yourself when the opportunity arises.
  7. Divide your money into separate accounts for easier budgeting—have an everyday account, savings, investment, and an emergency fund.

For more tips on taking control of your financial future, sign up for my newsletter below.

This information has been provided as general advice. We have not considered your financial circumstances, needs or objectives. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice. You should obtain and consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and seek the assistance of an authorised financial adviser before making any decision regarding any products or strategies mentioned in this communication.

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Who is Paul Atherton, That Wall Street Guy?

An ex-Wall Street advisor who worked with major players in the global financial industry for over 30 years, Paul’s mission is to help regular people reclaim their wealth and financial security.

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