Ask anyone what they’d like to be a little better at and most people will immediately turn to finances. It’s no accident that “learn how to save,” “create a budget” and “pay off my credit cards” are popular New Year’s Resolutions. We all want to be better with money — but so many of us have no idea where to start. A financial advisor? Too daunting. A talk with a wealth management consultant at the bank? Too much like a trip to the principal’s office! An honest and open conversation with friends who seem to be on top of it? How do you even get there?
You can — and probably should — work up to that meeting with a financial adviser, but for now, let’s start with something a little safer: Podcasts. Sure, they’re great for when you need a fix of true crime or comedy on your commute, but did you know there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of podcasts devoted to making your money work for you? And that many of them aren’t just educational, but also insightful and even, dare we say it, life-changing?
We’ve rounded up the best advice from the best money podcasts to give you a place to start.
Prioritize debt repayment and saving
The winner of many distinctions, So Money is created and hosted by finance journalist and money expert Farnoosh Tarabi. Each week she gets real with the top players in the field — Barbara Corcoran! Mahisha Dellinger! David Bach! — and also answers listener questions, providing advice we wish we’d had all our lives.
On a recent episode, a listener with a whole heap of college debt (with one loan at seven percent interest) asked Farnoosh just how much was enough for a rainy day fund and whether money left over should be used to pay off debt or invest.
The answer was eye-opening (especially if you’re someone who’s heard “invest, invest, invest” enough times to make you dizzy).
First, Farnoosh made it clear that we all need to have six to nine months of savings in a healthy, liquid account for a rainy day. The amount of money shouldn’t just be “six to nine months of income” but “six to nine months of living expenses.” That means rent, food, cell, money for doctors’ bills — all the necessities. Farnoosh suggests counting up all your expenses and multiplying by six to get a rough estimate of how much should be in your “break in case of emergency” accounts.
Once that’s done, though, you aren’t in the clear to dump all your remaining ducats into low-risk, high-yield investments. Instead, Farnoosh stresses that it’s important to pay off any high-interest loans so they’re not adding up while you’re winning at the stock market (and life). And don’t forget to max out any 401Ks and Roth IRAs.
If you want to be so money you’ve got to save, contribute as much as you can to your retirement accounts, and pay off debt before jumping on E*Trade.
Stop paying unnecessary fees
Life Kit is a series of NPR podcasts that gives you the down low on what you should know to live a successful life (in the realms of money, health, and parenting). The program’s financial offerings include advice on everything from how to get out of debt to how to pay for college (or a house) in NPR’s breezy, entertaining, no-nonsense style.
If you’re looking to become the captain of the SS Healthy Bank Account (not an actual ship name yet), the show’s mini-series on freeing up money is an invaluable tool for success. One important tip? Don’t get stuck paying fees you can curve.
These fees include overdrafts and credit card late charges. Make no mistake: Free banking isn’t free. And the people who are living their lives without fees, the show makes clear, are basically being subsidized by those who aren’t so good with checking their balances or paying on time.
So what to do? First, set up auto-pay on anything that might incur a late fee so you’re never caught unaware. Then, pay off as much as you can on your credit cards each month so you don’t have to worry about charges piling up when you only pay off the minimum. This might require a bit of finagling because many cards just grab the minimum from autopay (another trick!), so you’ll just have to go into your account and change that setting.
But wait, you might be saying, what if paying my bill overdrafts my account? That’s $35 per transaction! Good news: You can link a checking account to a savings account so that any overdraft comes out of that (who knew??) and doesn’t cost you anything.
The better fix is to use your credit card as you would a check card. That means only using it to spend on things you need right now (otherwise it’s too expensive) and saving up or taking out low-interest loans to pay for the big things.
Recognize your money patterns
Do you have dreams of buying a house? Retiring comfortably? Quitting your job? Living your best life on an island in the Bahamas? Then you’ll need to figure out your priorities. On Afford Anything, Paula Pant teaches listeners one important lesson when it comes to money — you can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything. Far from being limiting, the reality that you can’t buy everything is empowering. It allows you to think about what you really want and direct your focus to achieving that goal.
On an episode that aired in April 2018, Pant spoke with Dr. Brad Klontz, who bills himself as a financial therapist. The major takeaway? How you spend and save is actually tied to your psychology — deep-rooted beliefs you have about money. And some of these beliefs — such as the idea that money solves everything or that net worth and self-worth are intrinsically tied — are incredibly unhealthy.
You can change how you are with money
First recognize what your money beliefs are and where you got them. Maybe sit down and write it out. This way, you can become aware of the patterns you follow and what your relationship with money looks like. Then, you can start figuring out what behavioral changes to implement in order to take control of your finances.
“Save for the future” and “don’t spend more than you make” are basics all of us know, Klontz says, but they become much more complicated once you add in all the internal (mindset) and external (society) factors that influence money.
One of the best ways to change behavior? To view your financial self with compassion and link your money habits to the money stories you grew up with. Once it’s clear why you acted the way you did in the past, you’re ready to let go shame and guilt. Only then can you move towards a stronger financial future. You’ve got this!