Written by: Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
It’s shocking how complex modern life seems to be. How many decisions must be made before breakfast, not even counting the ones you need to make once you get to work. As a result, many of us yearn for more simplicity.
Especially when it comes to finances, the number of financial products available is staggering, and there’s little formal education. Though many consumers aren’t aware of it, often the so-called “new” products are simply old ideas renamed to be attractive in the current circumstances.
The 21st century requires us all to deal with money, which seems to be increasingly more complicated. The question for everyone in business is how to work most efficiently with their money in both their personal and work lives.
The secret is that finance doesn’t have to be complicated to get you where you want to go. Certainly not as much as it’s made out to be. Yes, you can drown in a quagmire of private equity, stock option trading, cryptocurrency, short selling, and remainder trusts if you like. However, it’s not required, especially for those of us busy with running our own empires.
In reality, there are just three rules to focus on that will help you focus on what you need to focus on. (Say that three times fast!) They apply to both personal and business finance.
1. Mind the gap
If you’re a Brit, this should be familiar! We’re not talking about the gap between the platform and the train when it comes to both personal and business money management. It’s the difference between income and expenses.
And unlike railway construction, where finances are concerned, it’s in your best interests to make this gap as wide as possible.
Making more money is a great way to enlarge the gap. In your personal life, this could include asking for a pay raise, looking for a job that pays more, or adding another income stream through a side business, or monetizing a hobby.
In business, you may need to simply raise your prices. 2021 might very well be the time to do it, especially if you’re underpriced relative to your competitors or haven’t raised them in a few years. Also, consider adding a product line or revising your marketing or sales strategy.
This one should be pretty obvious! You get a much bigger gap through increasing income and decreasing spending. Audit your budgets at home and work to see any recurring charges for things you don’t need or use anymore.
When buying something new, consider the ROI or return on investment. Do you need the brightest, fanciest, loudest widget that’s also the most expensive? Can you use a different one that’s less expensive but still takes care of your needs for now?
Sometimes you do need to buy the higher-priced option if it will last longer than its cheaper competitors.
Debt decreases the gap.
Just a reminder that you have a lot more options when you're debt-free. In addition to the interest payments that bulk up your budget, debt itself reduces the amount of money you could be using to invest instead.
2. Use the power of compounding to invest the gap
Speaking of investing! With compounding returns, the longer you let assets grow, the better off you’ll be. You’re probably familiar with stock market returns and interest compounding, but it works for non-financial assets as well.
Letting the power of compounding work for you is especially helpful when it comes to investing for retirement. You don’t have to set so much aside if you get started early and allow the money to grow.
Don’t try to time the market. $10,000 with a 6% return grows to almost $18,000 in ten years and doubles in 12, without any additional cash injections. And more importantly, without any withdrawals of cash (before retirement).
Treat your retirement portfolio as you would a surly teenager. You know how annoyed it gets every time you open the door to its room. (And you really don’t want a close look at what it’s up to in there.)
Over time your surly teenager grows up and becomes a functioning adult. Eventually, you’ll have a reasonable portfolio on your hands, but the more you try to interfere with it, the worse it performs.
Unless you’re a money manager, you probably won’t do a lot of investing in stocks and bonds in your business. But you will be investing: in people, in your own skills, in equipment, etc. Your firm’s growth compounds over time when you invest properly. Investigate the assets you’re considering carefully, human and otherwise. Investments are a major component of success.
3. Let it go
There are things in life that you can control and things you can’t. Trying to manipulate outcomes when they’re genuinely out of your hands is a recipe for stress and distress.
When it comes to money, there’s a lot that you have no authority over. Not just you personally, but most people have no say in them. Spend your energy on what you can affect, and let the others go.
What you can’t control: this is a selected list, but there are plenty more!
Recession and/or stock market drop within the first years of your retirement
How any given asset class will perform in a particular timeframe
The available investment options in your employer retirement plan
Whether an expensive piece of machinery will break
How other people invest
How other people view you and/or your business
What you can control: unfortunately, this is pretty much it.
Your own actions. For example:
How much you save
How much you spend
Whether you have exposure to different asset classes in your investments
The principles and values underlying your life and/or your business
Whether you prepare contingency plans
By making these three actions into habits, you’ll take charge of your finances without introducing a lot of complexity. In your business, you’ll be able to make good investments that help grow it instead of slowing it down or saddling it with too much debt. Your personal money life will be easier as well.
Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Jennifer “JJ” Jank works with women who are making the leap from employee to entrepreneur through courses and a book to be published in February 2021. She also helps businesses build their online credibility through eBooks, testimonials, and articles.
JJ holds a BA in Physics from Rutgers University and an MBA in Finance from New York University. She is a Certified Financial Planner ™ professional. Currently, she’s the President for Women Leaders Forum in Coachella Valley, as well as the webmistress for the Palm Springs chapter of AAUW. She is also a speaker on various topics including personal finance and entrepreneurship.
JJ has been published in Journal for Divorce Financial Analysts and Coachella Valley Weekly, among others.