When we think of self-improvement, we often think of it as something that costs us money and reduces our financial viability. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Yes, you can spend money on self-improvement. That doesn’t mean that it’s money poorly spent though. In fact, your efforts for self-improvement can be an investment that pays off and helps your finances down the road. Here are some examples of how self-improvement can benefit your finances:

Invest in Better Education

Better education can cost money, but it can also boost your earnings down the road. Those with bachelor’s degrees have higher median earnings than those with high school degrees.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get a four-year degree to be successful financially though. In some career fields, an associate’s degree can be just as lucrative, as can certain training certifications. Be careful about how you go about it, but a better education can improve your life, boost your skills, and make you a better person. It can also help you earn more money.

Informal Education Can Work Wonders As Well
Don’t assume that all education has to be conducted formally either. If you are willing to read up on business and money management, you can better direct your financial resources in a way that boosts your ability to take care of yourself.

I just finished reading a book on retirement planning. And while I already heard of the ideas that the author presented in the book, I will benefit financially from spending the money to buy the book and spending the time to go through it. That’s because reading the suggestions motivated me to come up with a plan to convert my 401k into a Roth via a multi-year Roth conversion to save taxes down the road. It was something I’ve been meaning to do, but I keep getting sidetracked and eventually forgot about it.
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ice cream cone
My most recent spending temptation was an adorable Jack-o-Lantern bowl I saw at Wal-Mart on the Saturday before Halloween. I imagined putting candy in the $2 bowl for our trick-or-treaters, and it would really liven up our Halloween. Theoretically, I was in the store to get a prescription filled, but spending an extra two bucks for the grinning bowl wouldn’t make that big a difference in my total. I was at the checkout before I realized that I really didn’t need this particular item since it was only useful one night a year. That realization was enough to have me put the bowl back on the shelf. I haven’t always been so disciplined though.

Avoiding spending temptations isn’t easy, considering the fact that we are constantly surrounded by things to buy. The best way to avoid spending money is to know what triggers your spending impulses. Here are a few ways that might help you to say no the next time temptation strikes:
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Debt is a source of financial concern and anxiety for many people – and, as a nation, we have a lot of it. In the U.S., the average household carries over $16,000 in credit card debt alone! Everyone wants to get out of debt, but it’s so much easier to have wishful thoughts about being debt-free than to start doing something about it, right?

If you’re buried in debt, the first recommendation is to concentrate on not letting the hole get any bigger. Get your spending under control, close credit card accounts that are consistent pitfalls for you, and even go on a spending freeze, if need be.

But then there’s the debt you already have. There are numerous methods and strategies for digging out of debt, and each guru swears by their own system. I’m not here to give you a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather to point out that when it comes to digging out of debt, there are different “shovels” for different people. Here’s an overview of some of the most common debt repayment methods and how they cater to different personality types, motivation points, and even levels of debt.
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One of the sources of emergency funding that many of us turn to is the credit card. A credit card is easy to use as an emergency fund since a credit card is accepted almost everywhere (if issued by a major bank, and with a major company logo). It’s very liquid and you can usually take your time to repay the money that you spend.

While it can make sense in some cases to use a credit card for unexpected emergencies, you do need to be careful. It’s vital that you not go overboard and that you have a stash of cash as well.

Credit Card for Quick Access

In some cases, you might not be able to quickly access the cash in your emergency fund. This is true if you take steps to keep your ATM card for your high yield account somewhere safe. Or, if you are traveling and need immediate access to resources, stopping to get cash or waiting three to four business days to transfer money from your online account to your primary checking account isn’t feasible.

A credit card can be used in these cases to get you by. Using a credit card immediately has helped me out of several tight spots. However, your credit card should not be your only emergency funding source. It can be part of your overall strategy, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you rely on in a pinch.

When I use a credit card in an emergency, I immediately pay it off with my regular emergency fund funds. The idea is to have the instant accessibility without the worry of paying interest. Otherwise, you risk making your situation even more difficult since you may start piling up credit card debt.

Have You Thought of Using an Investment Account as Your Emergency Fund?

Notice I didn’t really explain yet where I actually keep my emergency fund. That’s because, unlike conventional wisdom that says I should have the money in a risk-free savings account, I keep my emergency fund in a “regular” taxable investment account. I started doing it a few years ago and so far, it’s worked out reasonably well for me. I have a more liquid account with less money, just for quick access, but I have a good amount in the investment account that can be drawn on.

Advantages of Using an Investment Account as an Emergency Fund

One of the things I’ve really liked about using the investment account is that the money grows faster. If you put your emergency fund in a savings account, the low rate means that you are lucky to get 1% APY.

You can use a CD ladder, but you have to be okay with having the money tied up for longer periods of time.
I invest in an all-market ETF with the investment account, and the money has grown nicely over the last few years. I use an automatic investment plan to have the money automatically taken from my checking account each month and invested in the fund. The money offers the potential for better returns and it’s fairly liquid. It usually only takes a few days for me to get my money if I need it (as I did a few years ago to pay for the aftermath of a flooded basement).

However, it’s important to note the risks. Even though an all-market ETF is generally considered fairly low risk, it’s still an investment and it can still lose value in the short term. For this method to make sense, your funds need to be invested for longer periods of time like five, ten, or even longer.

If you end up in an emergency before then, you might have to sell at a loss. That’s why this only really works in your favor if you have a larger investment account where the chance an emergency will wipe out a significant portion of your entire account is low.

Things to Keep in Mind with an Investment Account Emergency Fund

If you decide to go this route with your emergency fund, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Plan For a Delay: It usually takes between three to four business days for me to get my money when I need to sell an investment and then move it to a checking account. That means that I have to plan for the wait. So far, none of my emergencies have required the need for immediate money, so the wait hasn’t been a problem. But if I was in a different situation, I could use the more liquid portion of my emergency fund to hold me over for a few days.

I can also shorten the delay to two business days if I find a brokerage firm that has the check-writing ability, but I haven’t needed that extra day so far.

Choose Something Relatively Low Risk: Your investment should be something that is relatively low risk. I chose an all-market ETF because it exposes me to the whole market rather than hanging my emergency fund on my stock picking ability. As long as the market is trending generally upward over time, my emergency fund should do okay. One of my friends chooses a bond fund for his emergency fund investment. Do what works for you.

Use Dollar Cost Averaging: Be consistent as you build your fund. Dollar-cost averaging can help you build your emergency fund automatically. Like I said, the higher your balance and thus the better chance your money stays invested because emergencies won’t devastate the balance, the higher the chances that this strategy will work in your favor.

Bottom Line

Many people turn to credit cards when emergencies come up. When you don’t have time to get the cash, or when you don’t want the risk of carrying cash around with you, credit cards make a great option. However, don’t use your credit card as the only emergency fund. Back it up with an account that you can draw on later and that you can use to pay off your emergency purchases.

Even an investment account can work as an emergency fund. In fact, it can work wonders. Would you consider using an investment account as your emergency fund? It sounds dangerous but it’s nowhere as dangerous as relying on just a credit card for emergencies.

One of the great satisfactions of achieving financial success is the knowledge that you can provide opportunities to your children that you never had. But leaving them a large fortune can be a double-edged sword. It’s a cliché that the children of self-made men and women have no respect for the value of the dollar, but it’s a stereotype that seems to be based on human nature.

These concerns are the reason why many magnates, including Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, won’t leave their vast wealth to heirs. As Buffett famously put it in 1986, the perfect inheritance is “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”
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Money is so often a taboo subject that it can feel difficult to impart financial lessons to our kids – particularly when they’re very little. How do you teach young children and toddlers about money, while also protecting them from your money stresses?

Money management is just like reading (or any other complex skill), in that your kids need to learn age-appropriate little lessons as they take the path to proficiency. You don’t expect your kids to suddenly be able to read without first learning and practicing their ABCs, so you shouldn’t expect them to suddenly understand how to handle money because they reach a certain age. Instead, you need to start early.

Here are four money lessons you can teach your kids so they’ll be on the path to financial literacy — before they’ve even entered elementary school.
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