13 Things You Must Do for More Financial Success

Laura Adams is celebrating her 13th year hosting the Money Girl podcast. To commemorate this big milestone, she's sharing 13 critical things for achieving more financial success. Find out which ones you're already doing and which you should adopt now to accomplish more with your money.

Laura Adams, MBA
9-minute read
Episode #694
The Quick And Dirty

13 things you must do for more financial success:

  1. Protect your ability to earn an income.
  2. Maintain a healthy cash reserve.
  3. Adopt long-term thinking.
  4. Stay focused on your money goals.
  5. Stop overspending.
  6. Watch your cash flow.
  7. Use automation to your advantage.
  8. Manage your debt carefully.
  9. Have the right insurance.
  10. Ignore those who don’t support you.
  11. Don’t get discouraged.
  12. Focus on what you can control.
  13. Get professional help.

To celebrate my 13th anniversary writing and hosting the Money Girl podcast, I've compiled a list of 13 things that are critical for financial growth. Creating your own definition of success and being proactive about reaching it is a surefire way to accomplish more with your money.

Here’s more detail about each of these money tips:

Tip #1: Protect your ability to earn an income

Protecting your income or creating additional sources of income is probably the best thing you can do for more financial success. Not only does an extra income stream help you pay the bills and eliminate debt faster, but it helps you stay safe if one of them dries up.

Consider how you can use the skills you already put to work in your job to create a profitable side business. What interests do you have that other people would pay for, such as online tutoring, gardening, driving for rideshare apps, caring for pets, or writing?

If you don't have time to create an additional source of income, could you ask for a raise or promotion at work? Taking a higher-level job may be the ticket to earning more or staying as relevant as possible to your employer. 

Tip #2: Maintain a healthy cash reserve

If you've been following the Money Girl podcast, you've probably heard me discuss the importance of building a cash reserve, also known as an emergency fund. It should be a top priority, so you're never backed into a corner, financially speaking.

Having savings is one of the best ways to have more financial success because it protects you from hardship, such as having a significant unexpected medical expense or losing your job or business income. If you don't have a financial cushion to fall back on, it could force you into debt and take years or decades to recover.

If you get a raise at work or have a profitable year in your business, it can be tempting to spend the excess. But the trick to building a healthy cash reserve is to save diligently when times are good.

The trick to building a healthy cash reserve is to save diligently when times are good.

Before you book a vacation or buy a coveted luxury item, make sure you have plenty in the bank. I know saving isn't as much fun as splurging. But the best way to make sure you're ready when bad luck strikes is to prepare for it today.

Keep your emergency money in an FDIC-insured bank account, so it's completely safe. No, you won't earn much interest there, but that's not the goal for your cash reserve. Ideally, you should save at least three to six months' worth of living expenses. However, depending on your work and family situation, you might need more.

If you haven't started building a cash reserve, I know it can seem daunting, but don't worry. It only takes a few small steps to get started. Make a goal to accumulate $100, then $500, and $1,000, as quickly as you can. Not only does having an emergency fund protect your finances, but it also gives you incredible peace of mind and eliminates a lot of stress. 

Tip #3: Adopt long-term thinking

Everyone's definition of financial success is different. For most of us, it won't come from an inheritance or winning the lottery. Reaching significant achievements, such as saving enough for a comfortable retirement, results from long-term planning that may have taken decades. If you make small, continuous improvements that compound over time, you can achieve just about any desired outcome. 

For example, if you want to retire with more than a million dollars, you need to invest $300 a month starting in your 20s, $800 a month starting in your 30s, or $1,200 a month starting in your 40s. The more time you allow investments to compound, the less you must invest to achieve your goal. The sooner you take a long-term view, the easier it is to build a secure future or achieve any dream you have.  

Tip #4: Stay focused on your money goals

If you don't set financial goals, you'll probably spend money on a thousand other things. So, take some time to figure out what you want to achieve with your money. What financial and non-financial dreams do you have? 

If you're not sure what your financial goals should be, I recommend this simple exercise: Imagine your life five years from now. Consider where you're living and how you spend your time. In five years, what would you be proud to say that you had accomplished between now and then?

Stretch your imagination out further and do the same for your life in 10 or 20 years. Then imagine you're on your deathbed with just a few hours left to live. What accomplishments would make you feel good about yourself even in your final hours? 

These big questions can help you know what you genuinely want to achieve with your money and inspire you. Without clear financial goals, it isn't easy to see what you're making sacrifices and working for.

An excellent resource to help you get started is the free Financial Planning Workbook (PDF). Download it and set aside some quiet time to complete it. Get your spouse or partner involved so you can create goals that align with the future you envision for yourself and your family.

Tip #5: Stop overspending

A critical thing you must do for more financial success is to live within your means. To be comfortable later, you may need to feel slightly uncomfortable today. 

So, evaluate your priorities carefully and give up unnecessary spending that's holding you back from achieving more. I've found that calculating the value of your time is a powerful way to understand what something truly costs. Before you reach for your credit card, do some quick math.

For example, if you earn $60,000 a year, you earn about $30 an hour. If you see a pair of shoes or something you want online that costs $300, you'd have to work 10 hours on a pre-tax basis to pay for it. 

To figure the cost of an item after-taxes, take about 20% to 25% off your hourly rate. That would take you from $30 to $23 an hour, which means you'd have to work more than 13 hours to pay for a $300 item. If you wouldn't happily trade 13 hours of work for something, forget about it!

Tip #6: Watch your cash flow

Understanding exactly how you earn, spend, and save is vital because it's the foundation of your financial life. If you're not sure how much money is coming in and going out, you won't be able to manage it intentionally.

The best way to watch and manage your cash flow is to use a digital tool that aggregates your financial accounts in one place. I'm a big fan of Quicken for individuals and QuickBooks for small businesses, considered the gold standards in personal finance software. 

You only need to enter the credentials you use to log into various financial sites once. Then every time you open Quicken or QuickBooks, it automatically connects to your accounts and pulls in your new transactions. You can categorize each entry using suggested or customized labels, such as groceries, insurance, medical, or rent.

If you want to track your cash flow the old-fashioned way, you can use an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets. You can even automate the process with Sheets by subscribing to Tiller, which connects to your financial accounts and imports transactions. 

As you review your cash flow, be vigilant about categorizing income and expenses correctly so you'll have accurate reporting. That's the best way to understand your spending and where you may be able to cut back.

As you review your cash flow, be vigilant about categorizing income and expenses correctly so you'll have accurate reporting. That's the best way to understand your spending and where you may be able to cut back. 

Most personal finance programs or apps allow you to create a budget. You set a maximum dollar amount or percentage of income for each spending category. Then the program shows you how your actual spending compares with your budget.

If you're self-employed, like me, you may have variable income, which can make it challenging to budget. I use a top-down approach to pay for my goals, such as retirement and other savings, first and then living on the rest. However, creating a budget may be an essential part of getting and keeping your finances on track. 

How to Grow Rich Without a Budget

Tip #7: Use automation to your advantage

In addition to monitoring your cash flow and spending consciously on priorities, a key to financial success is automating your money. Without it, you risk having your financial targets fall through the cracks. 

Automating various parts of your finances allows you to build safety nets, such as an emergency fund and retirement savings, without thinking about them. One tip is to ask your employer to split your paycheck between your checking and emergency savings. 

Workplace retirement plans work so well because contributions must come from your paycheck before you have the chance to spend them. If you don't have a plan at work or you're self-employed, you can set up an automatic transfer from your checking into a retirement account, such as an IRA or SEP-IRA.

You can set up recurring transfers to automatically move money from your checking to other accounts, such as a health savings account, 529 college savings plan, holiday gift fund, or any other goal you may have.

Tip #8: Manage your debt carefully

Another key to having more financial success is reducing what you owe. Having fewer or smaller liabilities can take the pressure off if your pay gets cut or you lose your job or business income. It can also help you live within your means if you tend to overspend.

Even if you don't have extra money to whittle down debt balances faster, you can cut your interest expense by simply tackling your debt from highest to lowest interest rate. Also, consider options such as refinancing, doing a balance transfer, or changing your student loan payment plan to make the debt more manageable.

Get Out of Debt Fast - Laura's Bestselling Online Course

Tip #9: Have the right insurance

In addition to protecting your income and having cash in the bank, consider how various insurance products can create more financial success. 

For instance, health insurance is essential for maintaining your physical and your financial health, even if you're young and healthy right now. While having emergency savings is critical, it probably wouldn't be enough to pay for ongoing medical care if you had a severe injury or illness. Even a quick trip to the emergency room could set you back thousands of dollars. 

Depending on your income and family size, you may be eligible for government assistance to reduce the cost of health coverage. You can learn more about health care subsidies at healthcare.gov.

Remember that health insurance pays a portion of covered medical expenses but not your living expenses, such as housing, food, or debt payments if you can't work due to a health problem.

Disability insurance is an often-overlooked financial product that replaces a portion of your income, such as 60% or 70%, if you can't work due to a covered accident, illness, or injury. It gives you the ability to keep up with your bills and meet living expenses while you recover.

Remember that health insurance pays a portion of covered medical expenses but not your living expenses, such as housing, food, or debt payments if you can't work due to a health problem. If you don't have the option to purchase disability insurance at work (or you do, but it's not sufficient), buy a private policy for yourself. In many cases, a monthly disability premium is less than a data plan for your cell phone.

Having life insurance won't help your finances, but it can ensure the financial success of those you leave behind. Consider purchasing term life insurance if you have a partner, spouse, or children who depend on you financially. They can be set up as beneficiaries and receive a payout after your death. Life insurance is most affordable when you're young and in good health, so don't wait to get coverage if you need it.

Tip #10: Ignore those who don't support you

The people you spend the most time with always influence you the most. If you're hanging out with family or friends who don't support your financial goals, listening to them can decrease your likelihood of success. 

Instead, spend time with people who are encouraging and genuinely want you to achieve your goals. You'll be glad you did.

Tip #11: Don't get discouraged

If you've ever felt discouraged or upset about your financial life, you're certainly not alone. Many people go through years, or even decades, not earning enough, not spending wisely, or not having sufficient education to make the best money decisions. 

The fact that you're reading this article or listening to the companion Money Girl podcast means that you're on the right path to more financial success!

Tip #12: Focus on what you can control

Often, we worry about things that are not in our control, making us feel powerless. Instead, turning your attention to what you can control can set you up for much more financial success. 

For instance, you can't prevent having a disability that keeping you from working, but you can purchase disability insurance to mitigate that risk. In other words, you can't stop bad things from happening, but you can anticipate many problems and prepare financially for them.  

Tip #13: Get professional help

One of the fastest ways to have more financial success is to work with a financial advisor or retirement planner. They provide various services but are typically used to create a detailed plan for long-term goals, such as saving for retirement. An advisor may also help you see options and solutions to any financial challenges you're facing.

About the Author

Laura Adams, MBA

Laura Adams received an MBA from the University of Florida. She's an award-winning personal finance author, speaker, and consumer advocate who is a frequent, trusted source for the national media. Money-Smart Solopreneur: A Personal Finance System for Freelancers, Entrepreneurs, and Side-Hustlers is her newest title. Laura's previous book, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love, was an Amazon #1 New Release. Do you have a money question? Call the Money Girl listener line at 302-364-0308. Your question could be featured on the show.