Brittney Castro is a certified financial planner (CFP) for Mint, and the CEO and founder of Financially Wise, a Los Angeles-based financial planning and education firm whose mission is to teach individuals and couples the art of managing their finances in a thoughtful and proactive way.
What is your top advice for people attempting to improve their financial well-being?
Invest time and money into your financial education. I have been a CFP for 15 years and have learned a ton over the years with my school, education courses, and working with clients, and still to this day, spend time and money constantly learning about new financial topics and strategies.
You should commit to your financial education and every year build upon it, depending on where you are at in your financial life and your goals. Learning is fun and the greatest masters of the world constantly spend time improving their craft, skills, wisdom, and knowledge. Enroll in an investing course, hire a financial planner or coach, find a financial mentor, read financial books and blogs, monitor your spending in an app, and spend time every week improving your financial wisdom.
What are the best ways to improve financial literacy?
Educate yourself on smart money management strategies by turning to financial blogs and trusted news sources, or reach out to a CFP to help you. I also encourage people to read books that not only teach them about money, but that will inspire as well. A few of my favorites are “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace Wattles and ”A Random Walk Down Wall Street” by Burton Malkiel.
How can you financially plan for the unexpected?
Though you can never know what the future will hold, you can give yourself a safety net to deal with the unexpected by having an emergency fund. Setting up an emergency fund means you are creating a cash cushion to cover you when any emergencies or unexpected events occur.
Start with building up at least a few months of your committed expenses in some sort of high-yield savings account. We don’t know what life is going to throw at us and having a cushion can help you navigate the uncertain times. But it’s not all about having a secret stash of cash to deal with unexpected bad news (medical bills, car repairs, etc.), it can also be about having the cash to seize an exciting opportunity. Having savings gives you the freedom and security to deal with whatever life brings your way — good or bad.
What are the first steps someone can take to minimize their debt?
A good rule of thumb in debt repayment is to start with debts that have the highest interest rate while paying minimums on the rest. Start by listing out all your debts in order of highest interest rate to lowest. This will allow for the most efficient use of your dollars.
Also, make sure you have an adequate cash cushion (3-6 months of your committed expenses) when working on debt reduction. That way, the next time you need immediate money for things like a medical bill, job loss, etc., you can pull from your cash account and not have to use the credit card you worked so hard to pay off. To help, an app like Mint and its personalized feature Mintsights can provide users with suggestions based on their financial history to help save money and pay down debt faster.
As the pandemic has uprooted many people’s lives and financial security, how can one best financially prepare for success despite the unknown future?
Well, none of us know the future ever, so we are all just doing our best to plan based on where we are at now and what our goals are for the future. It is best to build a financial plan, have an emergency fund, and diversify your investments based on your goals, risk appetite, and philosophies, and review it and adjust it as life happens. The best way to prepare for the future is to stay in the know with your money and be flexible to pivot as life changes around you.