The events of 2020 and 2021 have reshaped our world in innumerable ways, resulting in work-model shifts and mass layoffs that led an increasing number of people to question the status quo when it came to their professional and financial lives. This past November, a record 4.5 million people quit their jobs, and the Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing soon.
Maybe you’re ready to pivot to entrepreneurship or make some essential money moves. Whatever your situation, 2022 can be the year you start setting and meeting new goals. Entrepreneur asked three personal-finance experts how you can most effectively put your money to work for you this year. Her First $100K founder Tori Dunlap, DigitalNomadQuest founder Sharon Tseung and Chloé Daniels from Clo Bare Money Coach share what you can do to set yourself up for financial success today and all the days that follow.
Below, Her First $100K founder and Financial Feminist host Tori Dunlap discusses personal-finance fundamentals that will give you a strong start.
Negotiation is an ongoing process, not a one-time event
It’s estimated that women lose almost $1,000,000 over their lifetime to the wage gap. Couple that with the inflation we’ve seen in the last year, and there’s never been a better time to negotiate your pay. If it’s been more than six months since you’ve met with HR, schedule a meeting and bring every big and little win you’ve had alongside reputable salary data to the table. Talk to your colleagues about compensation, and advocate for yourself if you realize you’re making less than your counterparts. If a monetary raise is off the table, there are other benefits to negotiate such as vacation time, health insurance and 401k matches.
Negotiation is like riding a bike: Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it gets easier every time.
Make the most of your tax-advantaged retirement accounts
In my Beginner’s Guide to Investing episode of the Financial Feminist podcast, I talk about the biggest mistake I see new investors make. Often, thinking that simply opening an account is “enough,” they forget that just because the money is in an IRA doesn’t mean it’s invested in the market. A brokerage account, IRA or 401k is only a container — you still have to decide where you want to spend that money.
The second is not taking full advantage of employer matches and maxing out tax-advantaged accounts. An employer match is free money, and taking advantage of that should be a priority. January is a great time to set goals around investing to make sure you get the most out of these accounts.
Debt payoff is a good thing, but it’s not always a priority
A great frustration of mine is seeing advice that warns young people specifically to pay off all of their debt before they start investing. While I agree that high-interest debt like credit cards and certain other loans over 7% interest should take priority, you can still invest while paying off lower interest debts like student loans. This is because the market, on average, has a return rate of 7% — meaning your money will work harder for you in the market than as an extra payment towards your debt.
For a quick win, open an HYSA for your emergency fund and short-term savings
This is the easiest, most accessible personal-finance tip I have. An HYSA is just like your brick and mortar bank’s savings account, except you can earn up to 10 times more in interest. HYSAs are great for emergency funds and short-term savings goals because they generally do not have deposit limits and allow you to withdraw funds up to six times a month without penalty. It’s a quick win to make sure your money is working for you in 2022.
— Tori Dunlap, founder of Her First $100K and host of Financial Feminist
Related: Pandemic Puts Personal Finance on High School Agenda
Once you’ve become well-versed in the art of negotiation, harnessed the power of tax-advantaged retirement accounts, figured out your debt-payoff plan and opened that essential HYSA, you might want to explore other ways to boost your income and invest.
DigitalNomadQuest founder Sharon Tseung has firsthand experience when it comes to taking those exciting (and sometimes daunting) next steps. Here, she shares her tips for revving up your side hustles and real-estate investments.
Start a side hustle
Having multiple income streams allows you more safety and security. In case something happens to your day job, you won’t have to worry as much about drastic change when you have other ways of making money. That’s why the average millionaire has seven sources of income working for him or her.
There are many side hustles you can start even if you don’t have much capital to work with. This might include freelancing on Upwork, starting a YouTube channel, selling digital products on Etsy or selling custom merchandise through Merch by Amazon. Even if they take time to build up, it’s worth the additional income and stability they give you.
Invest in real estate
Andrew Carnegie said “90% of millionaires invest in real estate.” And it’s because there are so many benefits to real estate, including cash flow, appreciation, leverage and tax benefits. If you want to start investing in real estate, read books like the ones in the BiggerPockets collection, listen to podcasts and attend meetups to network with other investors and agents. Start practicing how to research your target market and analyze deals that cash flow. When you’re ready, take action to grow and learn through experience!
— Sharon Tseung, founder of DigitalNomadQuest and Youtube-channel host
Related: 10 Side Hustles You Can Start From Home in 2022
Maybe 2022 is the year you plan to graduate from side hustler to full-fledged business owner. If that’s the case, you might have a lot of questions about what your finances will look like as a new entrepreneur. What about retirement accounts? How will the transition impact your expenses? Your budget?
Chloé Daniels from Clo Bare Money Coach made the life-changing leap herself after she began her budgeting journey in 2018. Here, she shares her tips for navigating finances in the context of a new professional terrain.
Get your self-employed retirement account set up
Soloprenuers and small-business owners have several options when it comes to saving for retirement. Make this year the year you open your Solo 401k, SEP IRA or Simple IRA for your business. These accounts allow you to contribute more money to your retirement than a regular IRA. With a Solo 401k you can contribute as both the employer and employee, which means you can contribute up to $58,000 in 2021 and $61,000 in 2022. SEP IRAs also allow you to contribute up to $58,000 in 2021 or $61,000 in 2022, while SIMPLE IRAs allow you to contribute up to $13,500 in 2021 or $14,000 in 2022. These limits are much higher than the standard $6,000 IRA contribution and can lead to some serious tax savings in the year you contribute to them.
Prep a list of all the different expenses you have throughout the year
As our businesses grow, it’s easy to forget about all the different tools and subscriptions we pay for. Do we really use all the things we signed up for over the years? Use the start of a new year as the time to review your expenses. Mark on a calendar when they come out, and decide if those expenses are providing you with the value equal to what you’re paying for them. So many of us end up with duplicate services that we don’t even realize we’re still paying for. Doing this once a year is a great way to make sure we’re never paying for something we don’t need or use.
Set up a spending plan
Something I hear from entrepreneurs is they can’t budget because they never know what their income will be. But a budget is a plan for your spending, not a plan for what you make. Our spending won’t change all that much month to month, unless we’re experiencing some major life changes. To get started with budgeting, first figure out what your bare minimum “need to make” number is. List out all the expenses you’ll have to pay for each month even if you don’t make a single dollar. This is your baseline for your budget. Then, anything you make above that — assign it a job like saving, investing or paying down debt. The key to a successful budget is making sure you’re telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.
— Chloé Daniels from Clo Bare Money Coach
Related: Here’s Why It Pays to Track Every Tiny Business Expense