The Ultimate 30-Day Action Plan To Help Black Women Fix Finances Fast
In 2016, the National Institute of Retirement Security found that women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished in retirement. This is coupled with the facts that Black women often head multi-generational households on a single income and are risking financial ruin repaying their children’s student loans.
This tremendous financial distress necessitates that we make changes in how we handle our money. The following 30-day action plan can do just that by helping Black women make weekly and monthly goals that support their financial wellness and overall wellbeing.
Week 1: Get Organized
During the week, you’re not going to focus on paying bills or crunching any numbers. Before you can build a strong financial home, you have to build a strong financial foundation.
Centralize. During this week, you’re going to decide where you’re going to keep all of the bills, financial statements, and other money-related documents that come to you. Something as simple as a shoebox or envelope will suffice (You can always upgrade to a more sophisticated system later on).
Use this week to also create what I call a “Financial Freedom Fund,” which is a mason jar or unused cookie jar to deposit all of your loose change on a daily and weekly basis. Money from this fund can be earmarked for a “pleasure purchase” or to help you tackle a bill.
Schedule. In addition to housing all of your financial documents in one place, you will need to block off at least 30 minutes three days a week to attend to bill paying, reviewing online and offline accounts, and making phone calls related to your financial future. I highly recommend you choose days and locations where there will be little distraction.
Week 2: Run the numbers.
Once you have all of your bills and outstanding debt accounted for, it’s time to actually figure out the specifics of your financial landscape. Here are some of the numbers that you’ll need to run this week.
Net worth: Use this week to calculate your net worth, which is the total value of your assets minus the total costs of your liability. Ideally, you want to have a positive net worth, but if you’re just out of college or graduate school, burdened with a lot of student debt or have just purchased a home and have little equity, your net worth will be in the red. In these instances, a negative net worth is a temporary situation and created due to asset-appreciating purchases like education and property.
Spending plan: Create a simple spending plan that accurately reflects how much you’re spending on needs and wants in a given month. It should also include how much you save and/or invest on a biweekly or monthly basis.
Retirement income: Even if you’re at the beginning of your career, you’re eventually going to retire. Typically, you should aim to replace 70% to 90% of your annual pre-retirement income through personal savings and investments and Social Security. For example, a retiree who earns an average of $63,000 per year before retirement should expect to need $44,000 to $57,000 per year in retirement.
Side-hustle income goals: If you have a passion for business or just desire to consistently bring in extra cash every month, then you need to determine how much money you want to earn with an added income stream. For example, if you want to earn an extra $500 a month, you may decide to work five extra hours at work, complete surveys at sites like inspiredopinions.com, host an indoor yard sale, or sell your unwanted textbooks on Amazon.com.
Monthly Bills: Monthly bills reflect the amount of money that’s needed to run your life on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Many of us don’t really know how much it costs to live our lives in dollars and cents. Knowing this number will help you create short-term social plans with ease and make smarter career choices.
Outstanding Debt: Sometimes outstanding debt is confused with bills, but there’s a distinction. The former is a function of past expenses and, in theory, does not have to exist once it’s repaid. On the other hand, bills consist of the monthly recurring charges that reflect your fixed and variable expenses. You should have an action plan for both.
Credit Score: Credit worthiness is important when you’re in the market for a home or a car. Even employers are checking credit scores as way to measure responsibility and job readiness.
Having clarity on these magic numbers will make it easier to make financial decisions. With this level of precision and clarity, you’ve created a roadmap for financial wellness and financial peace. It also keeps you from second guessing where your money goes.
Week 3: Create an action plan.
Once you have a clear landscape of what’s going on in your finances, you can plan purposefully.
Pick three. Write down three money goals as it relates to savings, debt elimination, or establishing your first business. Aim for one short-term, mid-term, and long-term goal.
Be SMART. Make sure your goals are S.M.AR.T. SMART goals are specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and time-bound. Here’s an example of a SMART debt-elimination goal “ I will eliminate $2,500 in credit card debt in 5 months. I will repay $500 each month. I will find $125 each week.”
This goal is obviously specific, measurable, and time-bound. If you’re able to find this amount of money each week through decreasing your expenditure or increasing your income, then it’s also a realistic goal.
Week 4: Work your plan.
Plans without work are futile. And honest talk, that’s the only difference between women that achieve financial freedom and don’t: deliberate action.
Create daily deliverables. Once you make the decision to fix your finances, you have to commit to breaking down your three goals into daily deliverables. Daily deliverables are the small tasks that will help you reach your financial goal within your desired timeframe.
For example, if you want to start the home ownership process, three daily deliverables may include:
- Opening a savings account specifically to house money for this goal;
- Setting up automated withdrawals of 5% biweekly for your “homeownership fund;”
- Seeking real estate agents through referrals or online research.
Create accountability. Look for support online in a Facebook group or on Meetup.com. Scour your in-person networks for financial friends. In addition to accelerating your success, having a community of support reduces overwhelm, builds confidence, and helps you set goals in other areas of your life.
As Black women, we need to replace the “underdog” narrative and step into our financial wellness and goodness. This means that we have to get serious about getting our finances fixed fast in a way that keeps us feeling encouraged and focused.
Kara is the founder of The Frugal Feminista, an award-winning personal finance and personal development site dedicated to helping black women radically transform their relationships with their money and themselves. She hosts Fix Your Finances, Fix Your Life events all over the country and is author of Unmasking the Strong Black Woman and The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan.