April is National Financial Literacy Month. Just like you don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve to make a money resolution, you don’t have to wait until April to follow a 30-day plan to turn your finances around. You can find that exact 30-day plan at financialliteracymonth.com.

For the past few years, Paychecks & Balances has celebrated Financial Literacy Month by interviewing financial experts, hosting a Twitter 30 for 30, and posting an Instagram 30 for 30. Here are some additional personal finance lessons I learned this year that will help you better manage your money 365, 24-7.

1 in 3 Americans Have $0 Saved for Retirement

If you’re in the 1 in 3 with $0 saved, I wrote up a full post this National Financial Literacy Month with tips to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, grow the gap between your monthly expenses and income, and how to start saving for retirement using automation.

You Don’t Need More Ideas, You Need More Action

I was asked again recently about my goals for Paychecks and Balances. Honestly, our mission has shifted over the years but in its simplest form, it has remained consistent. We set out to normalize discussions around money and career. If you’re looking for money financial advice or possibly investment tips, getting in touch with a financial expert such as Lindsay Rosenwald or someone similar could be very beneficial.

Everyone already knows this is very different from everyone already does this. Don’t mistake knowing about an idea as a reason to avoid implementing it. You don’t need more ideas. You need more action.” – @JamesClear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

When it comes to your money and your career, doing something is generally better than doing nothing. But, doing something is scary and the result is usually unknown. Conversely, doing nothing feels safe and comfortable until career and money stagnation arrive at your doorstep. Although doing nothing might not change your situation, at least you’re familiar with the current state: tomorrow will likely look like yesterday. Most people’s issue is not a lack of access to information, it is a failure to act on the available information they have access to or they struggle to determine the difference between good and bad information to use. Through P&B, we strive to help people become more prepared to take calculated, well-informed risks to better themselves, their careers, and their finances.

For example, neither host is an investment pro, expert, or adviser. We do, however, interview a lot of experts. We’ve managed to accrue reasonable investment portfolios for our ages compared to our peers and get out of debt. We are not special. Whereas some people think with the best of intentions and do not act, we made strategic career choices and acted on what we knew based on the information we had. You probably already know what you should do. You just need to do it.

Related:

I have a fairly simple life philosophy. My coworkers hear it from time to time: “If you could, you would.” Followed by, “It is what it is.” I have the latter written on a whiteboard in my office. Feel free to stop by my office or inbox at any time to have a frank discussion, but if the discussion doesn’t end with how we can make it better, faster, or different, I consider that no more than a venting session. I prefer solutions, resolutions, and action items because those are easier for me to follow up on, measure progress, and demonstrate success (or failure, which by the way, is not the end of the world). I have learned more valuable lessons from my failures than my successes.

Put another way, I know I’m not the brightest crayon in the box. Apparently, this allows me to get out of my own way on most days because I don’t get caught up in proving I’m smarter than I am, or smarter than anyone else. To be perfectly honest with you, I think I’m a high-functioning idiot. The benefit of this for me is that I collect information from people or sources I consider smarter than myself. I make a decision based on this information, and I implement the decision, then I move on with my life until or unless I need to revisit that decision.

I did not/do not consider this a talent. However, a lot of people go days, months, years or an entire lifetime without ever making a decision that is not forced on them by circumstance or outside forces. Obviously, given so many people do it, this is a perfectly fine way to live your life. I talk to, interact with, and meet and counsel people far smarter than myself all the time. I’ve now collected 36+ years of observations. I can reasonably say that my anecdotal data has resulted in the following conclusion: In a lot of cases, the only thing stopping some individuals from reaching their full potential?

Themselves.

Automate Your Investment Strategy

A lot of personal finance advice focuses on what should be instead of what is. Sure, everyone should save at least 20-percent of their income one day in this utopian vision of the future, but in the present day, people only save 0 to 5 percent. That is a big gap between expectations versus reality. I believe it is important to recognize the facts versus only preaching about the ideal state.

I get that it is easier for people to talk about the ideal state than it is to face the current state, which is often uglier, less neat, and more difficult to overcome. If you’re always editing the unwritten future, it is easy to ignore the imperfections of the present. That, however, is not how life works. We have to address these imperfections, just as we have to look to options for investment now. Even if it’s a step as simple as downloading Etoro or some other app, or speaking with an investment broker on your lunch break.

While it is fascinating to witness someone be their own greatest obstacle to their own progress, in most cases, their inaction doesn’t harm anyone. This is not true when it comes to personal finances. If you have trouble making decisions (which is fine, if you acknowledge it) when it comes to your finances, I suggest you work with someone that can help you make the decision, or do what I did. Automate your finances. For example, this Financial Literacy Month I saw a simple way to automate your investments on Personal Finance Club’s Instagram:

“At least the core of every investment portfolio ought to be indexed. I recognize, however, that telling most investors that there is no hope of beating the averages is like telling a six-year-old that there is no Santa Clause.” – A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-tested Strategy for Successful Investing by Burton G. Malkiel

There will be people that promise you they can beat the stock market and that index funds are a “bad” investment. Most of those people will try to charge you a fee, move you towards investments they themselves don’t fully understand, or they work in an industry that profits or competes against index funds. I, on the other hand, am completely indifferent about what you do with your money before or after this post. I also practice what I preach by using index funds myself. You can choose which one of us you want to listen to, or ignore us both.

Saving Money Is Nice, Making More Money is Nicer

This year, I was reminded again that most people could care less about saving more money or getting out of debt. Well, to be fair, people are generally interested in those topics but they are more interested in making more money. Even those who talk a good game about money management still struggle to align their own actions with their words. There is a whole social science and psychology behind this, but I won’t bore you with that today. Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, put it succinctly:

Source: Twitter

I don’t disagree. Therefore, as not to be a hypocrite, I will end with a few ways Paychecks and Balances plan to make more money. Maybe some will work for you. If not, that’s what the comment section is for. Spread the wealth.

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