Co-Editor's Blog

Financial Literacy and 5 Questions to Get You Started!

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Financial literacy may not hold the allure that other, more coveted skills do, but it is one that can and should be learned. To be financially literate means to possess fiscal knowledge and apply it effectively. Yet research indicates that just 57% of adults in the United States are financially literate.[1] For some of us, the topic alone is as broad as it is intimidating, full of treacherous territory we’d rather not negotiate, for fear of the ghoulish things we might happen upon. Every person has their own set of specifics that dictates how their monetary life will play out. This could be why financial literacy is often left for the individual to find their way to, using the trial and error of others to guide them.

To first rein in your finances and better understand its parts, here are 5 basic questions to ask yourself:

1. What are your tangible goals for the present and the future?

Write these down, with the utmost detail and data. This information can help measure how much your personal story intersects with the money helping facilitate it.

2. What is your current financial state?

Get to know your wages well. Figure out what you earn in a day, a week, a month, and a year.

3. What do you spend the most and the least on?

There is rent or mortgage, food, utilities, medical and life insurance, taxes, and maybe pets. The number of necessary items can seem endless. Then there are those pesky incidentals that spring up like weeds, only they arrive at much greater speed and demand swift action.

4. What can you omit from your spending list?

Of course, the answer to this will vary drastically with each person. But unnecessary spending today can require even more necessary spending later. As this author’s former self can attest, the obscenely priced sports jersey from that auction site was not worth the dramatic fallout it spawned.

5. What does your budget statement look like?

If you don’t have one already, they’re easy to create using spreadsheet software, or if you prefer the analog method, they can be drawn and written out on paper. The budget statement provides a thorough, visual look at the array of purchases made along with those that are expected. Here you obtain exact calculations which will either be revelatory or reassuring or both.

All these questions can serve as a prelude to achieving financial literacy.

The adage holds: “Money is only as useful as the way it’s treated.” Let’s further explore this concept with something akin to a word problem.

Ann makes $18 an hour. Mia earns $28 an hour. The ladies each work 40 hours a week and have the same deductions, with near-identical domestic circumstances. At first glance, one might suspect Mia probably lives comfortably, while Ann struggles.

However, Ann manages her money prudently, while Mia spends frivolously and finds herself entranced by the smoke billowing from her debit card every time she swipes it. In this scenario, budgeting prowess matters more than numbers on a paycheck. Financial literacy must be taken as seriously as every other aspect of life, a fact that swipe-happy Mia will have to ultimately acknowledge.

Whether you identify with Ann or Mia, the path to a healthier financial state is navigable for everyone. Like with anything new or less understood, it’s best to start small, perhaps with a reputable book or a similar resource, and develop your acumen from there. Initially, managing one’s money can look menacing and rife with complexities this article doesn’t even start to cover. But if approached optimistically and undertaken carefully, financial literacy can enrich you in ways far beyond a bank account.


[1] S&P Global FinLit Survey. 2015.

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