How to Make 2021 Your Year for Financial Learning

How to Make 2021 Your Year for Financial Learning

by Grant T. Gallagher, Financial Wellbeing & External Affairs Manager

With 2021 shaping up to be a year of economic difficulties but also a year of economic recovery and growth1, it may soon be possible to move beyond financial survival mode and think about getting back on the path to financial wellbeing and reaching key goals and milestones, including paying off debt, buying a home or retiring. But even after the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to wear off, millions of Americans will face a preexisting obstacle: lack of financial knowledge.

Not knowing every detail about managing your finances is nothing to be embarrassed about; over the years, the complexity of financial products and services has increased, leaving many otherwise worldly people in the lurch as they struggle to keep up with the terms and “fine print.” Lack of education about mortgages, for instance, was partially to blame for the Financial Crisis of 2008 and the subsequent Great Recession, as consumers did not understand that the terms of the mortgages into which they entered were predatory, and basically impossible to sustain.

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What further complicates things this year is that many people are undoubtedly still struggling or only just beginning to recover from the pandemic, meaning they will be looking for ways to climb out of debt or maintain their lifestyles that could involve taking out new loans, refinancing, or extending lines of credit. For example, there are some scenarios where paying an annual fee for a credit card can be worth it2, but this isn’t beneficial for everyone, and unless you understand all of the terms of what you’re signing up for, you can quickly reach the point where it’s unclear if you’re getting a good deal. To avoid ending up in a regrettable situation, it’s paramount that you make a commitment to ongoing financial learning. So, how can you start doing that?

• Read up on personal finance news: Though there are definitely core, unchanging fundamentals of personal finance, it’s important to recognize that best practices are always changing in line with the evolution of financial products and services. Keeping tabs on the latest news and insights in personal finance, via sites like NerdWallet or Affinity’s Connect Blog, or the personal finance columnists of major outlets like the New York Times or CNBC, can keep you updated, give you great ideas for pursuing financial wellbeing. Some writers who offer regular insights in personal finance include Nicole Spector, a freelancer who writes frequently for Gobankingrates.com, Casey Bond at HuffPost, Ann Carns at the New York Times, and Amrita Jayakumar at NerdWallet. My advice is to bookmark these sites or particular bloggers and columnists on your web homepage or “Like” or follow them on social media, so you don’t have to remember to keep checking each day.

Listen to podcasts: If you don’t have time to read articles or blogs, personal finance podcasts are a great resource, since you can listen to them while commuting, working at home, cleaning, or exercising. Some relevant podcasts include Paychecks & Balances, Clever Girls Know (which covers personal finance issues and empowerment for women), and Financially Naked. If you are looking to expand your knowledge base into the greater world of money and economics, I can personally recommend Planet Money or The Indicator. You can find a longer list of top personal finance podcasts here.

Take personal finance courses: To really make 2021 your year of financial learning, you might want to consider taking an educational course in personal finance. If you’re already dismissing this option due to time and cost restraints, I’m happy to inform you that If you’re a member of Affinity Federal Credit Union, you have access free of charge to our Enrich financial learning platform, an online, on-demand resource with nearly two dozen courses for you to boost your knowledge on your finances. Every course provides a customized action plan based on your responses, so you can interactively tailor your strategy for financial wellbeing. Enrich also offers articles, infographics, videos and tools to help you learn how to achieve your financial goals. Additionally, Affinity also hosts weekly webinars, on a variety of timely topics, presented by subject matter experts that can answer all of your questions, and you don’t even need to be a credit union member! See here to view upcoming webinars and register.

Finally, if you’re an Affinity member, our trained professionals can always be reached by phone, branch or online, and can help you achieve your financial dreams. As we’ve renewed our focus on members’ financial wellbeing over the past year, Affinity’s staff have pivoted toward one-on-one, customized planning services that also educate you on your finances, no matter how simple or complicated your situation may be. 2021 will surely be a trying year for many people, but there’s no reason you can’t make it the year you got your personal finances on the right track and learned vital lessons about keeping them there!

                                                   

This information is for informational purposes only and is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition are made.  

1 Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/

2 Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/