Dani works in Human Resources full-time. She spends her free time sharing financial tips on her Instagram as she aims to make personal finance information accessible to everyone.
Q: What is your current position/role and when did you first develop an interest in finance?
A: My full-time job is in Human Resources. On the side I run an Instagram account that is focused on financial literacy and career tips. I studied economics in college, that was my first exposure to how markets and money works. When I graduated, I started a job in HR, which gave me more of an insight into employer-sponsored benefits like 401(k) and taxes and HSAs. Between studying economics and starting in HR, I became interested in my own finances and created my first budget, made a couple of mistakes along the way, and learned a lot. It eventually got to the point where I started to become the go-to person for my friends with any of their financial questions. I realized that they are really smart people but that had no exposure to anything related to personal finance and didn’t even know where to look online to find that information. So that is what prompted me to start the Instagram account, I wanted to: 1) make the information accessible and 2) to boil it down in a way that is easy to understand.
Q: What challenges have you faced with personal finance?
A: I’ve been privileged in the sense that I didn’t have student loans, so I think that already set me up to be more successful than your average person. I believe that is often one of the most challenging things for people.
One of my biggest challenges is becoming comfortable with investing. It is often described as a complicated, convoluted thing that only a select group of rich people should be doing. It didn’t feel accessible to someone like me. But I became more educated and started actually doing it and that was the best lesson for me, because it’s not that difficult once you learn the basics and just start.
Q: If you could give advice to your 18 year old self about managing your money, what would you tell yourself and why?
A: I would say to budget. It gets a bad rap for being super restrictive. I disagree with that mindset; a budget is a tool and it’s very helpful especially when you’re young and just starting to look at your own finances – maybe you’re just getting money for the first time and you need to figure out how to best allocate it towards all of the things in your life.
Becoming comfortable with a budget and regularly looking at your finances is very important early on because once you have more money later you can leverage that to best allocate it.
Q: What is your top tip for budgeting?
A: The biggest thing with budgeting is being consistent with it. I always tell people to schedule a money date with themselves and I recommend at least once a month, ideally twice a month or more so you can stay on top of it.
I think the problem with budgeting is that people will build a budget and never look at it, which just defeats the purpose. Schedule time a specific time with yourself to sit down, look at your budget, and see what’s going on with your money. It helps you get a real time feel for how you’re spending.
For example, if I budgeted $200 a month to go shopping and it’s the 15th of the month and I’ve already spent $150 that’s a trigger for me. Then I know I can’t spend much more on shopping for the rest of the month because I’m already over the 50% mark. So, it’s a good checkpoint with yourself to regulate your spending.
Q: What do you think is the most critical step to ensuring financial independence?
A: I have to say budgeting. That will allow you to really maximize the money that you have because even for people who are spending less than their earning, which is the goal, sometimes they’re just letting that money sit there. For example, in a month I earn $100 more than I spend. A lot of people would let that $100 just sit in their checking account, but a budget allows you to be really deliberate with that money. I say, “Okay what am I going to do with that $100? Should I put that towards my debt? Should I save it as my emergency fund? Should I invest that money?”
Focusing on budgeting will allow you to capitalize on the extra money that you have to then put towards the financial goals that you have.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: Your first step when focusing on your personal finances should be to save your money to an emergency fund, I recommend saving 3 to 6 months worth of living expenses. It can be daunting for people to have a lot of money saved up in their account, but in the case of an emergency it is so important to have it so that you don’t end up going into more debt.
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