We are taught so many things in school. History, English, math, and physical fitness are all in the course catalogue, but financial literacy, a.k.a. how the heck to deal with money, is not. Alexa von Tobel, founder of personal finance site LearnVest, noticed this early on. Even when sitting around with her smart girlfriends who worked on Wall Street she found that none of them knew the difference between an IRA and a Roth IRA. "I went to Harvard and Harvard Business School and it doesn't make a difference. People don't know this stuff," she recently said at the party for her new book Financially Fearless .
Instead of just complaining about it, von Tobel made it her life's work to educate people and help them take control of their finances. When she launched LearnVest in 2009, the site's mission was to provide young women with interactive tools and guidance on personal finance — now it offers these services for people of any age or gender. Through the site, you can get professional financial advice for $399 (plus a small membership fee.) A typical CFO will cost you about $5,000, so LearnVest is the perfect choice for a young woman starting out.
Financially Fearless offers lots of the same advice for even less money (plus readers get one free phone call with a LearnVest financial planner, as well as a $50 gift card to put toward the site's services.) In the meantime, Bustle caught up with the energetic author at her book party and got her five best financial tips for 20-somethings.
1. Set goals and write them down
"Having a plan is critical. Not having a plan is also a plan, but it's just a really bad one."
2. Start getting comfortable talking about money
We know money is one of those things you aren't supposed to talk about but hey, this is 2014! We talk about everything else, so why not this? "Start talking about money, whether it's with your friends with your family or your spouse. We need to get more comfortable with this."
3. Implement the PERK system
Von Tobel came up with a clever acronym to use when reviewing your expenses that should help to trim down your budget. "Try sitting down and reviewing all your expenses in each category to determine which costs can be "Postponed" until a later date, "Eliminated" from your budget, or "Reduced" going forward, and which expenses you absolutely have to "Keep" (hence the acronym PERK)."
4. Calculate value
Make sure you're really going to use that $30 lipstick you had to have. American women ages 30–49 spend an average of $1,200 on cosmetics per year (but guys are up there too, so don't feel bad.) Von Tobel says you don't have to cut out all your high quality beauty products (or accessories, or clothes, or whatever), but make sure to analyze the value by comparing the price vs. how much use (or happiness!) you will get out of it.
5. Set up an emergency savings fund
You need to have a back up in case you get sick, are just absolutely miserable at your job, or need to get out of a live-in relationship fast. You need to have financial freedom, von Tobel says. LearnVest recommends having at least six to nine months-worth of expenses saved.