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It literally pays to be productive with your money. We talk a lot about being efficient with your time at work, but what if we applied the same methodology to our money and talked about financial productivity? Getting paid is one of the biggest reasons people work in the first place, so it makes sense to look at how productivity can be applied to our financial health. Plus, managing stressors and anxiety around personal decisions actually helps us stay focused and productive in the office. 85% of people have admitted to occasionally feeling stressed about finances, so the better educated we are on this stressor, the more energy we have to devote to actual work.
In the spirit of extending productivity into every nook and cranny of your life, we’ve teamed up with the financial gurus at Stash Wealth to break down five different financial productivity hacks that your future self will thank you for.
Use time to your advantage. You’ve likely heard that it takes money to make money, but it also takes time to make money. Every dollar you save in your 20s will be worth about $16 in retirement, whereas every dollar you save in your 30s will only be worth $8 in retirement. The concept at work here is called compounding. You can obviously catch up, it’s just not as fun.
But don’t let the “time” factor deter you — no matter when you start saving, you have to let time pass so the compounding can actually happen. This principle holds true whether you’re saving for retirement, a new home, or your kid’s education. Start saving as soon as possible to optimize productivity of your saved dollars.
Maximize free money. There are a lot of times that employer benefits, like equity, stock options, RSU, etc. come with strings attached (taxes, a vesting schedule, upfront outlay of capital to name a few). That said, the company match on retirement accounts is usually not one of them. If your company matches any part of your retirement contributions, make sure you’re taking full advantage. For example, if the match is 50% up to the first 6% of your contribution, you should be contributing 6% of your income – no excuses. Anything you can do to earn free money is super productive 😉
Pay less taxes. Just because you make $100,000 a year doesn’t mean you have to pay taxes as if you do. By setting money aside away in an HSA, FSA, 401(k), 403(b), SEP, or Traditional IRA, you can keep more of your earned income in your pocket. For each dollar you stash away, that’s one less dollar that gets taxed. So let’s say you contribute $10,000 to your 401k and another $1,500 to an FSA, you’ll only be taxed on $88,500, rather than $100,000. At the 25% tax bracket, this could be as much as an extra $2,875 in take home pay for the year. This is a major key to financial productivity.
Use a HY Savings Account. Lots of H.E.N.R.Y.s™ [high earners, not rich yet] are hoarding money in their checking account. This money is losing productivity by the second! While you should never invest savings that you may use in the next few years, you also shouldn’t keep that money in your checking account.
Instead, use a High Yield savings account. These are typically offered by online banks. Some of our favorites are Ally, Marcus, and Amex. Right now, online savings accounts are paying 200-220 times more in interest than a standard brick and mortar checking account! $20,000 sitting in a regular checking account earns around $2/year. At an online bank, it earns $440 (at time of publishing)! Making the switch is an easy way to get your money working harder for you.
Build a cushion. When sh*t hits the fan, because it always does, people often look to their credit card for help. Not only do credit card dollars contribute nothing productivity-wise, they are actually a net-negative because you’re paying for the right to borrow (i.e. accruing interest). So you’re basically going in reverse.
Instead, build up a cash cushion (i.e. emergency fund, rainy day fund, f*ck off fund, etc.) worth 3 times your monthly expenses. Other financial gurus suggest 6, or even 12 months, but for optimal productivity of your savings, we suggest no more than 3 months. This becomes your first line of defense, not your ONLY line of defense. This money should sit at an online bank so while you’re not using it, it’s working for you. Wondering what to do about the lag time in accessing this cash (usually 2-3 business days) when an emergency strikes? Use your credit card to pay for the emergency while waiting for the funds to transfer. Then use the funds to pay off your credit card bill in full!
Now, we’re not saying you’ve got to employ all of these grade-A money productivity hacks, but starting to implement one or two of them can make a huge difference, especially if you’re early-on in your financial life (but it’s NEVER too late to get more productive with your cash). And if you need more financial intel, visit our friends at Stash Wealth.
The information provided in this article, its distribution, and accompanying material is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered financial advice. You should consult with a financial professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.