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Take The 30-Day Finish Rich Challenge to Turn Your Finances Around in 2021

By: David Bach  |  Last Updated: January 6, 2021
Financial Expert & 10x New York Times Bestseller
IN THIS ARTICLEDay 1: Get organized
Day 2: Understand where your paycheck is going
Day 3: Automate your retirement contributions
Day 4: Increase your retirement contributions
Day 5: Automate your emergency savings
Day 6: Make your emergency money work harder for you
Day 7: Put your bills on autopay
Day 8: Make sure you’re paying more than the minimum on your credit card balance
Day 9: Pull your credit card statements and analyze your spending
Day 10: Cancel subscriptions you don’t use
Day 11: Set up a system to track your spending
Day 12: Look up your credit score
Day 13: Request a free credit report
Day 14: Review your life insurance policy
Day 15: Review your health insurance policy
Day 16: Review your homeowners or renters insurance policy
Day 17: Review your car insurance policy
Day 18: Review any other insurance policies you own
Day 19: Come up with a plan to tackle debt
Day 20: Renegotiate interest rates on your debt and start paying it down
Day 21: Review your employee benefits
Day 22: Refinance your mortgage or ask for a rent break
Day 23: Make sure your retirement money is properly invested
Day 24: Start investing outside of your retirement account
Day 25: Write down 3-5 specific money or wealth goals
Day 26: Have a productive money conversation with your partner
Day 27: Come up with ways to generate more income
Day 28: Make a will
Day 29: Come up with a plan for donating
Day 30: Consider hiring a financial advisor

If 2020 was a tough year for you financially, you’re not alone. The United States economy officially entered a pandemic-driven recession in February 2020. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and have been unemployed for months. 

But we have a new year upon us — an opportunity to turn things around. To help you gain control of your finances in 2021, Finishrich.com has created a 30-day challenge that will set you up for your best year yet.

Below, you’ll find 30 smart money moves, one for each day. By the end of the month, you’ll have extra cash, the insurance you need, a plan to achieve your money goals and much more.   

Some days will require more time than others, but most of the daily tasks can be completed in an hour or less. If you miss a day, don’t sweat it, but jump back into the challenge the next day so you don’t lose momentum. 

Cheers to a prosperous 2021!

Day 1: Get organized

The first day of the challenge is dedicated to getting your financial life organized. If you want to make any progress, you have to first fully understand your current financial situation — how much money you have, where it’s parked and just how accessible it is. 

Go through the list of seven questions below to get a better idea of where you stand. Write down the answers, pull the relevant documents and keep everything in one, accessible place.

1. What’s your net worth? (To calculate this, take the value of your assets and subtract the liabilities you owe.)

2. What’s your gross income (your pre-tax income)? What’s your take-home pay (your income after taxes)?

3. What are all of your fixed costs (housing, food, transportation, insurance, etc.)?

4. How much money do you save per month? How much goes to your retirement account? How much goes to other savings? 

5. How big is your emergency fund? Where do you keep your emergency savings?

6. How much money do you invest outside of your retirement accounts (in the stock market, real estate, etc.)?

7. Do you have any debt — students loans, auto loans or credit card debt? If so, how much? And what interest rate are you paying?

Keep all of this information you’ve gathered accessible, as you’re going to refer back to it over the course of the 30-day challenge.

Day 2: Understand where your paycheck is going

Paychecks have a way of disappearing quickly. Today, you’re going to figure out exactly where your money is going every month and make tweaks if necessary. 

The 50-30-20 rule of personal finance explains how your take-home income should be divvied up: 50% should go to necessities, 30% should go to wants and 20% should go to savings and debt repayment. Using some of the numbers you pulled yesterday, you’re going to put this rule into practice right now:

  • Take your monthly after-tax income and multiply it by 0.5. That’s how much money you can afford to spend on necessities (housing, food, transportation, insurance, child care, etc.) each month.
  • Take your monthly after-tax income and multiply it by 0.3. That’s how much money you can spend on “wants” each month. This is the money you can spend on “fun,” like travel, entertainment, dining out and electronics.
  • Take your monthly after-tax income and multiply it by 0.2. That’s how much money should go to savings and debt each month. 

Now that you know how your paycheck should be split up, compare those numbers to what you actually do with your paycheck. Do they align? If not, tweak them to make sure you’re saving enough. 

Day 3: Automate your retirement contributions

The next couple of days are dedicated to making “an automatic plan” for your financial life. This is a plan that, once you’ve set it up, allows you to go about your daily life and not spend any time thinking about or worrying about your money.

Today, we’re going to focus on automating your retirement contributions. Retirement may seem far off, but the longer you wait to start saving for your future, the further behind you’ll fall. 

If you’re not already enrolled in your employer-sponsored 401(k) or 403(b) plan, sign up today. If your company doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan or if you’re self-employed, you can open an individual retirement account (IRA) — either a traditional, Roth or SEP IRA.

Regardless of the type of retirement account you’re funding, you want to set up a system so that a certain percentage of your paycheck gets deposited directly into it. If your company offers a plan, they’ll automatically deduct your contributions from your paycheck so you never even see the money. If you’re funding an IRA, have a certain amount of money transferred from your checking account to your retirement account every time you get paid. 

As for how much to contribute to your retirement account, ideally, you’ll set aside 10-15% of your income, but it’s OK to start small and gradually get to where you need to be. Even if the best you can do is to save 1%, start there and commit to increasing it over time. 

Note that, if your company offers a 401(k) match, contribute enough to get the full match. It’s essentially free money! 

Day 4: Increase your retirement contributions

If you opened a retirement account for the first time yesterday, great! Double check that you set up automatic contributions so your account can start growing. 

If you’ve already been regularly contributing to a retirement savings vehicle, today’s task is to up your savings rate. Start by looking up exactly how much you are contributing — then, increase that percentage by 0.5%, 1% or more. Try to be ambitious. Most of us tend to underestimate how much we think we can manage. 

A helpful tool some retirement plans offer is “auto-increase,” which allows you to choose the percentage you want to increase your contributions by and how often. See if your plan offers this feature (contact HR if you are unsure) and set it up. That way, your contributions will automatically go up by a small percentage every six months or every year. Chances are, you won’t miss this money because the bump is so small but, over time, it can significantly increase the value of your nest egg.

There are contribution limits to be aware of: In 2021, you can contribute $19,500 to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan (plus $6,500 more in “catch-up contributions” if you’re 50 or older), $6,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older) and $58,000 to a SEP IRA.

Day 5: Automate your emergency savings

Having a cash cushion to fall back on if you lose your job or rack up a large medical bill is more important now than ever. You want to have at least three months’ worth of expenses set aside in an emergency fund, though, the more you can save for a rainy day, the better. The exact amount that makes sense for you ultimately depends on what you feel you need stashed away in order to sleep well at night.

Figure out what you spend each month, multiply it by three (or however many months’ worth of expenses you want to save) and start working toward saving that amount. The key is to make it automatic, so set up a recurring, monthly deposit from your checking account to your emergency account. 

Not sure how much to send to your rainy day fund every month? Run the numbers based on how much you want to save and when you want to have it saved by. For example, if you want to save $6,000 in one year, that means you’ll have to save $500 each month. 

Pro tip: Put this money in a separate account from the rest of your savings. It’ll create a barrier between you and your emergency fund — after all, you want to keep your hands off of this money unless you’re dealing with an actual emergency.

Day 6: Make your emergency money work harder for you

Where is your emergency money parked? If it’s sitting in a standard savings account, chances are, it’s not working very hard for you. The national average interest rate on savings accounts is a scant 0.05% APY.

You want your emergency money to be highly accessible, but at the same time, you want it to earn some interest. The best solution is going to be a high-yield savings account. These are offered at online banks, which are just as legitimate (and FDIC-insured) as the big, traditional banks. The reason internet banks can offer much better rates than their brick-and-mortar counterparts is because they don’t have to spend money building thousands of branches and hiring people to fill them. 

Before Covid-19 hit, internet banks were offering interest rates between 1 and 2%. That’s 20 to 40 times higher than the national average. While the pandemic has driven interest rates down significantly, you can still find some savings accounts out there with appetizing yields, especially compared to the national average of 0.05%. 

So, if your emergency money is currently sitting in a savings account earning next to nothing in interest, research high-yield savings accounts like Varo, TAB Bank, CIT Bank, Synchrony and Marcus by Goldman Sachs and transfer your money today.

Day 7: Put your bills on autopay

Most bills today can be paid online. Even better, you can likely set up “auto-pay,” which will prevent you from ever missing a payment or owing a late fee. Plus, not having to pay individual bills at the end of every month will save you time and energy.

Go online and set up automatic payments for each of these bills:

  • Rent or mortgage payment
  • Car payment
  • Cell phone bill
  • Internet and utilities
  • Insurance 

You’ll be asked to link your bank account or a credit card (the amount you owe each month will be lifted from whatever account you link). Schedule your payments five days before your bill is due, just in case.

Day 8: Make sure you’re paying more than the minimum on your credit card balance

Like most bills, you can automate your credit card payments by linking your bank account. The trick is to set up autopay to cover your full balance — not just the minimum!

Most credit cards only require you to make a minimum payment each month, which is typically about 2% of your balance. Paying the minimum is tempting, especially during an economic slowdown like the one we’re experiencing now. But the less you pay now, the more you’ll pay later.

There are a few significant consequences that come from carrying a credit card balance: One, you’ll be in debt longer. And two, you can rack up massive interest charges, thanks to egregiously high interest rates. (The average credit card interest rate is 16% as of December 2020, but rates can be even higher, 25% or more, if you have bad credit.)

If you already have autopay set up for all of your credit cards, log into your account and make sure it covers your full balance. If you aren’t using autopay yet, set it up today so you never have to worry about missing a credit card payment. 

Day 9: Pull your credit card statements and analyze your spending

Credit cards make it easy to mindlessly spend money. Today, you’re going to get a grasp of exactly what you’re spending on. You might be surprised with what you find.

Pull your three most recent credit card statements. Look at the total you spent each month. Then, go through all of the charges. Where do you spend most of your money? Restaurants? Food delivery? Clothes? Beauty products? Tech gadgets?

Next, think about where you can cut back. Building lasting wealth and becoming financially free isn’t about how much money you make — what matters is how much you keep. To keep more of what you make, you have to first know where your money is going.

Day 10: Cancel subscriptions you don’t use

How many “free trials” have you signed up for and never cancelled? Are you getting the most out of your gym membership? How many streaming services do you pay for? 

If you’re not careful, memberships and subscription services can add up — cancelling just one could save you hundreds of dollars a year. If you cut multiple, or one big one like the gym or cable, you’re looking at thousands of dollars in savings.

First, figure out exactly what you’re paying for. Pull out the credit card statements you looked at yesterday and circle all of the recurring charges that pop up. These could be meal subscription boxes, news and magazine subscriptions or video and music streaming services.

Next, ask yourself which ones you can eliminate. Do you need Netflix, Hulu and HBO? Are there any services you haven’t used in the past six to 12 months? 

Finally, cancel all unused or underused subscriptions either online or by calling the company.

Day 11: Set up a system to track your spending

Now that you better understand your spending habits (and where you tend to overspend), it’s time to set up a tracking system so you’re always aware of where your money is going. 

The easiest way to track your spending is to track it automatically. Online services like Personal Capital and Mint can make the process easy — you connect your accounts and the app will provide you with reports on your spending, assets, liabilities and net worth.

You can also record your expenses in a notebook or using a spreadsheet on your computer. This habit will help you become a more conscious spender, buying more of what you need and less of what you want.

Day 12: Look up your credit score

Your credit score is a three-digit number that typically ranges from 300 to 850. It’s meant to give lenders (think: banks providing mortgages, credit card companies or car dealerships financing auto purchases) an idea of your ability to handle credit and repay loans. 

The better your score, the more likely you are to get a good deal on a home or car. It could affect whether or not you can open a credit card — or even how much you’ll pay for car insurance. Needless to say, it’s important. 

Today, your task is to look up your credit score. Most credit card issuers provide credit scores to their customers for free. Log on to your credit card’s site to find your score — if you can’t find it, call the company and ask if they provide it. You can also check with your bank or loan company, or through free sites like Credit Karma.

After you have your score, evaluate how strong your credit is using the FICO Score ranges (FICO Scores are the most widely used credit scoring model):

300-579: Very Poor
580-669: Fair
670-739: Good
740-799: Very Good
800-850: Exceptional

If your score needs work, you’re going to want to bump it up by doing things like making any missed payments and keeping your balance well below your credit limit.

Read our full guide to improving your credit score.

Day 13: Request a free credit report

While your credit score is a good snapshot of your financial standing, your credit report is much more detailed and breaks down what is actually affecting your score. It’ll show if you have a history of late payments, if you’re using too much credit or if you have any other suspicious financial activity. 

It’s critical to look through your report and make sure there are no mistakes that are hurting your credit score. And right now, it’s easier than it’s ever been to check your credit: By law, you’re entitled to a free credit report from each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once per year, but right now, due the Covid-19 pandemic, the bureaus are offering free weekly reports through April 2021.

Go to www.annualcreditreport.com for your free report and comb through it for any errors that could be damaging, like late payments that were actually paid on time or credit limits that are lower than they should be. 

If there are errors, you’ll have to send a certified letter to the credit agency, which will be required to correct inaccurate or incomplete information in your report within 30 days after it’s pointed out to them.

Day 14: Review your life insurance policy

Days 14-18 are dedicated to making sure you have the right insurance you need. Insurance can be complex and confusing, and therefore easy to put on the back burner — but buying the right policies is critical to a healthy financial life.

Today, we’re going to focus on life insurance. If you don’t have life insurance, you’re going to first think through whether or not you need it. Life insurance isn’t for everyone — if you’re young and single, with no dependents or debt, you probably don’t need it. But if you have anyone you love (a partner, wife, husband, child or children) dependent on your income, then you’ll want to buy an insurance policy to protect them financially in the event of your death and loss of income. 

If you’re new to life insurance and don’t know where to start, buying term insurance is a good option. It’s the simplest and cheapest form of life insurance. With term insurance, you pay an insurance company a premium and, in return, the company promises to pay your beneficiary a death benefit when you die. Specifically, term insurance provides you with a set amount of protection at a set price for a set period of time. As long as you pay the premium, you’re covered for the time period you signed up for (usually anywhere from five to 30 years). 

If you already have life insurance, review your policy. What type do you have? What are the terms? Is it still appropriate for your situation? 

For more information on life insurance, read our guide to term insurance, how much you can expect to pay for life insurance and how to pick the right life insurance plan for every budget.

Day 15: Review your health insurance policy

While open enrollment for 2021 health insurance coverage ended in December, it’s still a good idea to review your policy and understand your plan and what it covers.

If you have an HDHP (a high deductible health plan), you may qualify for an HSA (health savings account), which is an excellent way to set aside tax-free dollars. HSAs are designed for you to pay for qualifying healthcare expenses (things like doctor’s office visits and co-pays, prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, flu shots, contact lenses and more). Your pre-tax contributions can be used for medical expenses of your choice. There’s no “use-it-or-lose-it” rule, meaning your unused funds will roll over year to year.

Best of all, HSAs offer a triple tax benefit: The money is tax deductible when you put it in, it grows tax-deferred and you can take it out tax-free if you use it for qualified medical expenses. And, when you reach age 65, you can use your funds for non-medical expenses, which makes this type of account an appealing retirement-savings tool.

If you have an HDHP and can open an HSA, start contributing today. For 2021, the contribution limit is $3,600 per year if you’re single and $7,200 per year if you have a family. If you’re 55 or older, you can make an additional $1,000  in “catch up contributions.”

Day 16: Review your homeowners or renters insurance policy

If you’re a homeowner, it’s smart to review your insurance policy every year. Your home insurance amount might have been perfect when you first took out the policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s still perfect today.

You may have taken on various home-improvement projects that boosted total replacement costs. Perhaps your home is now worth $400,000, but your coverage is only for $300,000. That’s a problem.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you’re looking over your policy:

  1. How much coverage do you have? You want to insure more than just the actual cash value of your home — thanks to factors like inflation, depreciation and rising construction costs, that may not turn out to be enough to rebuild after a disaster. Instead, insure the replacement cost, which is the rough estimate of how much it would take in labor and materials to repair and rebuild the entire home. Premiums might be 10-15% more than if you were just insuring the cash value, but it will be well worth it if you ever have to file a claim.
  2. What does your policy cover? Standard homeowner policies cover some areas of damage, but not others. Flooding, for example, is generally not covered in standard homeowner policies. Depending on what natural disasters your location is prone to, make sure you have the coverage you need.
  3. Are the contents of your home covered? It’s not just four walls and a roof that make a home valuable – it’s also what’s inside. Generally speaking, contents can be insured up to a percentage of the structure’s overall value (roughly between 50-75%). You want to make sure your contents are documented (an easy way to do this is by using an app like Sortly or Nest Egg). That way, you won’t have to haggle with your insurance company when you file a claim.
  4. Can you get a better deal? If your insurer is hiking up your rates, check to see if there is better or more affordable coverage out there. Insure.com is a useful resource to use to get insurance quotes. Another way to save on homeowners insurance is by bundling your policy with other areas of coverage, like your auto insurance.

For more information, read our guide to homeowners insurance HERE.

If you’re a renter, you need what’s called renters insurance. Also known as an HO-4 policy, it’s essentially financial protection for you and your possessions. It’s like homeowners insurance for tenants, but it’s a lot cheaper because it only includes what’s inside your home (and not the actual structure of your home).

Some landlords require you to have it before signing a lease, but it’s usually up to you to decide if you want to buy it. For most people, it’s a smart investment that could prevent you from having to pay out of pocket to replace damaged and stolen belongings.

Renters insurance is one of the most affordable insurance policies you can buy. The cost varies by a variety of factors, including your location, how much coverage you want and your deductible, but the average renter can expect to pay about $180 a year for coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute — that’s only $15 a month!

If you already are covered, great! Look over your policy and make sure it’s still appropriate for your situation. How much is your premium? You may be able to save money if you bundle your renters insurance plan with another insurance plan, like car insurance, or if you agree to pay your annual premium upfront instead of every month.

If you don’t have renters insurance yet, sign up today. Like you should for every type of insurance, shop around with three to four different companies to get quotes. That’s the only way to ensure you’re getting the best deal. (You can also do this if you currently have renters insurance and think you can score a better deal.)

Read our full guide to renters insurance HERE.

Day 17: Review your car insurance policy

If you don’t have a car, excellent! That’s one less expense you have to worry about. You can use today to analyze your transportation costs and look for ways to minimize them.

If you’re a car owner, today’s focus is lowering your auto insurance. Like cable bills and monthly internet modem fees, car insurance rates have a tendency to incrementally rise over time, and it’s often up to you to notice and take action. It’s smart to review what you’re paying once a year and spend time shopping around for cheaper car insurance.

You can do this in one of two ways: One, call your insurer and ask for a lower price — and don’t be afraid to mention you’re considering switching to a competitor. Or, you can shop around with a competing service and jump ship with your current one if you find a better deal.

Day 18: Review any other insurance policies you own

Congrats! You’re over halfway through the challenge and made it to the final day of dealing with insurance.

Now that you’ve reviewed and potentially lowered your premiums on life, homeowners, renters and car insurance, take a look at any other insurance policies you have (or may need), including:

Disability insurance. If you rely on a paycheck, you should get disability insurance. It’ll pay a portion of your income if you get injured or sick and can’t work for an extended period of time. There are two main types:

  • Short-term disability insurance typically replaces 60% to 70% of your base salary and pays out for a few months to one year.
  • Long-term disability insurance typically replaces 40% to 60% of your base salary and pays out when your disability ends. (If it continues, benefits may end after a certain number of years or when you retire, depending on the policy.)

Pet insurance. If you have a dog or a cat, you may want to consider buying pet insurance to help cover expenses if your pet gets in an accident or gets sick. Like human health insurance, deductibles and reimbursement rates can vary widely.

For more information, read our full guide to pet insurance HERE.

Day 19: Come up with a plan to tackle debt

If you carry a balance on your credit card, you’re not alone: Almost half of Americans, 47%, currently carry credit card debt. Ultimately, if you want to build lasting wealth, you need to get out of the red. Today, you’re going to come up with a plan to tackle your debt. 

(If you don’t have any debt, excellent! Take today and tomorrow off and resume the challenge on Day 21.)

But if you have credit card debt, today’s task is to get organized. You need to first figure out how many credit cards you have. Next, go through your statements to see what the balance is on each card. Once you’ve tallied the grand total of what you owe, it’s time to start chipping away at each balance. We’ll get to that tomorrow.

Day 20: Renegotiate interest rates on your debt and start paying it down

Today, you’re going to take action on your debt and work on making your current situation better. First, I want you to call up your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate, which is a super simple way to save money on interest payments. As for what rate to ask for, look at the national average for credit card rates (it’s 16%, as of December 2020) and ask for lower than that. 

Next, you need to come up with a savings plan that’ll not only get you out of debt, but will also ensure you’re saving for your future self, too. In an ideal world, you’re saving 10-15% of your income for retirement. If you’re in debt, you’ll need to follow a slightly different plan: Whatever amount you decide to put away for retirement, split it in half, with 50% going to your future and 50% going to your debt.

Say you earn $50,000 a year and can afford to save 10% of your pre-tax income. Normally, this would mean you’d be putting aside $5,000 a year, or $416 a month, for your future self. But if you have credit card debt, you’ll split the $416 a month in half, putting aside $208 a month for yourself and $208 a month to debt reduction.

This way, you can make progress on your future while also getting yourself out of debt. The rationale is as much emotional as it is financial: By doing both at the same time, you’ll feel your progress. You’ll see money being saved and debt being reduced.

The easiest way to follow through on your debt-repayment plan is to make your payments automatic. To do this, call your credit card company and tell them you would like to arrange for them to make an automatic debit from your checking account each month to cover at least your minimum payment. If they can’t do that, check with your bank and see if they offer online bill-paying services that allow you to arrange to have money automatically transferred from your checking account to your credit card company on a specific date each month. 

Day 21: Review your employee benefits

If you’re an employee at a company, you may have benefits beyond health insurance and a 401(k) match. Your company may offer mental health services, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), financial wellness benefits like access to financial planners or employee discounts on products, events, car rentals and more.

Take today to go through all of the benefits your company offers and make sure you’re getting the most out of them. 

Note that benefits may have changed amid the pandemic. If you’re having a hard time understanding everything your company offers, reach out to HR and ask.

Day 22: Refinance your mortgage or ask for a rent break

If you’re a homeowner, use today to fully understand your mortgage: What type of mortgage do you have? What’s the size of it? What’s the interest rate on your mortgage? How many more years do you have until it’s paid off? 

Now that you have that information handy, look into refinancing your mortgage, which could potentially save you hundreds of dollars a month in interest payments. Right now is a particularly good time to refinance, as interest rates have been setting record lows for months. 

Read our full guide on how to refinance your mortgage HERE.

If you’re a renter, you might be able to save, too. Rent prices have been dropping since the start of the pandemic in the spring, plus vacancy rates have been rising in big, expensive cities.

It’s a good time to ask your landlord for cheaper rent or perks like free parking. Do some research to see what similar apartments in your area are going for and, if you’re a diligent tenant with a history of on-time payments, make sure you highlight that when making the ask.

Day 23: Make sure your retirement money is properly invested

Earlier in the challenge, you set up a retirement savings account and/or increased your contributions. Today, you’re going to take a closer look at that account and make sure your money is properly invested.

Whether you opened a 401(k) plan at work or an IRA, once your money is deposited into your account, you need to select an investment. The account itself is just a holding tank. It’s the investment you select that determines how fast your money will grow.

Look to see how your retirement money is currently invested by logging into your account (if you signed up for a 401(k) through your company, it’s probably managed by a separate financial firm, like Vanguard, Fidelity or Schwab).  

When it comes to choosing your investments, a simple and effective way to go is using what’s called a target-date fund, which many 401(k) plans offer. These funds have a specific year in their name (for example, the 2030 fund or the 2040 fund), the idea being that you select the fund closest to your projected retirement date. They help you pick an investment fund of funds that will be professionally managed with a “target date of retirement.” Say you want to retire around 2035. You simply select the fund with “2035” in it. Then, the fund manager builds a diversified portfolio that will be automatically rebalanced over time, as you get closer to retirement.

If you want to select a different mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF), you’ll want to do some research before making your selection (you can use Morningstar to look at a fund’s fees and performance over time). Pay close attention to the expense ratio of the fund (you’ll want one below 1%) and what companies, sectors, stocks and/or bonds comprise the fund (you want your investments to be diverse, meaning your money is spread around different asset classes).

Most importantly, make sure your retirement money is invested! If you don’t select an investment, it will sit in a money market account and hardly grow over time. 

Day 24: Start investing outside of your retirement account

Today, we’re going to take your finances up another notch and help you invest beyond your retirement account. Smart, consistent investing is what will help you build lasting wealth. The sooner you start, the better.

If you don’t have a fully funded emergency fund and/or are still paying down high-interest debt, skip this step. You want to have a solid cash cushion in place before you start investing. 

But if you have an emergency fund with at least three months’ worth of expenses, have tackled your credit-card or any other high-interest debt and are saving in a retirement account, today you’re going to open an investment account

Even if you feel like you don’t have much money left over at the end of each month to invest, you really don’t need much to get started. Thanks to micro-investing apps like Acorns and Stash, and robo-advisors with low account minimums like Betterment and Sofi, you can open an account with just a couple of bucks. Another simple, beginner-friendly option is to invest in low-cost index funds, which Warren Buffett champions. 

What matters more than how much you contribute is getting started and making investing a habit. Of course, the easiest way to make it a habit is to put it on autopilot — meaning, have money automatically taken out of your paycheck or checking account and deposited into your investment account.

Day 25: Write down 3-5 specific money or wealth goals

If you want to have a strong 2021, you have to intentionally plan, create and design it — so, today you’re going to set specific goals. 

Think about what you want to accomplish financially over the course of the year. Do you want to up your savings rate? Do you want to invest in real estate? Do you want to pay off any lingering debt? Do you want to earn more? 

The more specific you can be, the better. If you want to up your savings, what percentage of your income do you want to set aside? If you want to invest in a home, how big of a down payment do you need? If your goal is to pay down debt, when exactly do you want to be debt-free? If you want to earn more, how much more? 

Write down three to five goals. Then, tape your list to your bathroom mirror or refrigerator — somewhere you’ll see them consistently — so you’re motivated to actually follow through.

Day 26: Have a productive money conversation with your partner

More than half of divorced individuals, 55%, cite financial problems as a major reason for divorce. While we can’t always avoid financial problems, prioritizing money conversations and establishing short- and long-term goals with your partner is one key to a long and healthy marriage.

What often gets in the way, though, is the discomfort of talking about money. But the sooner you and your partner start working together, the sooner you’ll improve your financial picture — and the less stress you’ll face in the future. 

Start by talking about and understanding your partner’s money background. Then, discuss money goals, how you both feel about the importance of money in your life and how you’re going to organize your finances as a unit this year and who’s responsible for what.

Day 27: Come up with ways to generate more income

We’ve spent a lot of the challenge focusing on ways to save and cut back. Today, you’re going to think about ways to increase your earnings.

The simplest way to boost your income is to ask for a raise. Of course, before asking your boss for more money, you want to be prepared to prove your value and give a clear rationale for why you deserve a raise. Even if now is not the right time to ask, prepare for a future negotiation by making a list of all the things you’ve accomplished in your current role. You can also spend time looking at the salary range for someone with your level of experience in your industry, which will help you understand what you’re worth. 

Look at your current income and set a goal for what you want your income to be by the end of 2021.  Then, figure out how you can get to that number. If you can’t count on a raise, brainstorm other ways to generate more income, such as real estate rentals, a side hustle or a part-time job. 

Day 28: Make a will

This isn’t a fun topic to tackle, but having a will in place is an important part of the financial planning process. During a public health emergency like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it’s essential. 

Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, a will is a prudent thing to have.

The good news is, with more and more online options available, putting together a will is easier than ever. Services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer allow you to easily create a will by answering a series of questions about your finances and personal circumstances and then export a finished legal document.

All you need to start the process is to know what you own and decide who you want it to go to. Hunker down and prepare a draft of your will today. 

Day 29: Come up with a plan for donating

You’ve spent most of the month focused on bettering your finances. Today, think about how you can give back (in the form of time or money) to those who are less fortunate.

Arrange to automatically fund a charity of your choice through a series of small, regular contributions. If you plan to make a lump-sum contribution once a year, you may not get around to it, but if the process is automatic, you won’t put it off or forget about it.

Not sure where to give your money? Use Charity Navigator to learn about over 160,000 charitable organizations and find one that aligns with your values. You can also look into Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs), which allow you to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction and then recommend grants to your favorite charities over time. Think of it as a charitable investment account: You contribute money and your funds will grow tax-free, but instead of taking that money out for yourself, you use it to support any IRS-qualified public charity.

Day 30: Consider hiring a financial advisor

Your 30th and final task of the challenge is to think about whether or not you would benefit from hiring a financial advisor. Working with a professional can help you reach your financial goals faster and avoid costly mistakes. Depending on your financial situation, which you now have a greater understanding of, hiring an advisor can be a fantastic investment.

There are a few scenarios in which an advisor might make sense for you: If you recently experienced a major life change, like getting engaged or married, having a kid or if you’re going through a divorce; if your wealth increased significantly; if you feel behind on retirement savings and overwhelmed about getting back on track; or if you continually put off important money decisions and need someone to hold you accountable.

An advisor could help you take your finances to a whole new level in 2021. For more information, read our full guide on how to choose a financial advisor HERE.

Congrats on completing the 30-day challenge! You should feel in control of your finances and ready to tackle 2021 head on. But just because you put in 30 days of good work, don’t completely lose sight of your finances. Financial planning is an ongoing process. While you don’t have to spend every day thinking about money, check in on your goals and progress every month or so to make sure you’re still on track and doing everything you can to live rich now!