Article Bank Description
This section will be used to share articles on smart financial living. These articles will be focused on different approaches to spending, saving, and giving from both the financial and theological aspects.
"Can the Church and the minister afford each other?" by Molly T. Marshall

The following article was repurposed from Baptist News Global. You can find this article here.

Over the past couple of years, with the support of Lilly Endowment, select theological schools have been studying the issue of educational debt, and we are discovering a grave miscalculation. What it costs to prepare for effective ministry may never be fully discharged if one stays in ministry. When an entering student carries significant debt from an undergraduate degree, the compounding of additional educational costs creates an almost insuperable burden.

Seminaries are generous to a fault in providing scholarships, and donors are keenly interested in assisting students in this way. Yet, seminaries cannot control what a student can borrow from a federal loan program, unless a school opts out of the program altogether. That “nuclear approach” would make it impossible for many to respond to God’s call. Coaching for increased financial literacy can also assist, but habituated approaches to money management require more stringent approaches than many schools can muster.

In our school’s particular study, the level of financial obligation some students bring has astonished us. Regrettably, some have never gained essential financial planning knowledge, and others have “spiritualized” educational debt, believing that if one followed God’s call to ministry, God would take care of the finances. While I appreciate great faith, a level of naiveté shapes some entering congregational leadership, and the economics of ministry are irreducible.

Theological students are not alone in racking up educational debt. It is a national crisis in higher education, and this kind of debt now outstrips what persons owe on their credit cards. The difference is that there is a clear bankruptcy option for the latter; student loan debt is with you always, unless you can prove extreme hardship — which is not done easily under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.

At the other end of the calculus is ministry compensation. Yesterday in a Christian Century blog, David Lewicki calls churches and judicatories “to equalize pastor salaries.” He articulates the stark realities faced by underpaid ministers. “How do you pay school loans, afford a mortgage, make car payments, save for college or retirement, and occasionally enjoy a night out?” he queries. What if a health crisis ensues on top of all of that?

The “noble profession of ministry” is above earthly concerns, some members of personnel committees surmise, and they fail to do the math on what commensurate schooling commands in the marketplace. A master of divinity degree parallels a doctor of jurisprudence in length of academic program, yet the salaries of ministers and lawyers are widely disparate. The consequences of this are harmful to churches and communities.

As Lewicki argues, “When pastor salaries in small urban or rural churches aren’t enough to survive, it creates a pervasive structural incentive for clergy to move up and out of those neighborhoods — not seeking riches, but simply seeking a livable wage.” This reality discourages creative leaders who once deeply desired to be transformative in these contexts, often the most in need of stable congregations.

Monastics may vow poverty voluntarily, but there are helpful considerations: there are few wardrobe requirements — they keep it simple — and health care for life is part of being a member of their community. There is no such concomitant vow for Baptists and other clergy, but often it seems as if such a vow is expected. Some do earn a fair salary, but far too many do not. Then there comes a tipping point as ministers realize that they cannot support their families at the level of their pastoral compensation, and the significant investment of time and resources, personal and institutional, seem futile.

Our times call for fresh thinking on the economics of ministry, which is a constellation of issues. Educational debt, ministry compensation, rising health care costs, diminished congregations and a culture of credit all conspire to make the question “can the church and the ministry afford each other” more challenging.

It is high time seminaries and churches and judicatories find ways to engage these concerns. We are united in our desire for ministers to have the freedom to serve with energy and confidence, and we know that stewardship requires a better interface between the cost of preparing for ministry and actually serving in ministry.

In seeking to address this urgent situation, our school is convening an Economic Summit on Oct. 1. We want to gather finance, stewardship and personnel committees from churches, judicatory leaders, financial coaches, retirement advisors, grant writers, church administrators and students for a day of learning. We need to talk to one another! And churches and prospective ministers need to know what is at stake in these days.

As we think about the changing landscape for congregations, it is paramount that we invest resources in sustainable forms of excellent ministry. Pastoral leadership will be more inviting, and congregations will be more equitable in their practices.

"The Science Behind What Motivates Us to Get Up for Work Every Day" by Walter Chen

The following pictures and article were repurposed from the BufferSocial Blog. You can find this article here.

The Science Behind What Motivates Us to Get Up for Work Every Day

By Walter Chen, founder of the project management tool IDoneThis.

So, here is the thing right at the start: I’ve always been uncomfortable with the traditional ideal of the professional — cool, collected, and capable, checking off tasks left and right, all numbers and results and making it happen, please, with not a hair out of place. An effective employee, no fuss, no muss, a manager’s dream. You might as well be describing an ideal vacuum cleaner.

I admit that I’ve never been able to work that way.  There is one thing that always came first and most importantly for me: How am I feeling today? I found that it can easily happen to think of emotions as something that gets in the way of work. When I grew, I often heard that they obstruct reasoning and rationality, but I feel that we as humans can’t shut off our humanness when we come to work.

Feelings provide important feedback during our workday. It doesn’t make sense to pretend that it’s best or even possible to keep our emotions and work separate, treating our capacity for emotion and thought as weakness. I wanted to look into whether there was anything besides a gut feeling to my suspicions behind keeping the head and the heart separate in business.

What does emotion have to do with our work?

It turns out, quite a lot. Emotions play a leading role in how to succeed in business because they influence how much you try and this is widely misunderstood by bosses and managers.

Psychologists Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer interviewed over 600 managers and found a shocking result.  95 percent of managers misunderstood what motivates employees.  They thought what motivates employees was making money, getting raises and bonuses.  In fact, after analyzing over 12,000 employee diary entries, they discovered that the number one work motivator was emotion, not financial incentive: it’s the feeling of making progress every day toward a meaningful goal. In Fact, Dan Pink found that actually the exact oposite is true:

“The larger the monetary reward, the poorer the performance. – money doesn’t motivate us, at all, instead emotions do.” 

In the famous expriment by Dr. Edward Deci clarified again whether emotional feedback or money would engagement with work.  People were sitting in a room and tried to solve a puzzle while Deci measured how much time they put in, before giving up.  For Group A, he offered a cash reward for successfully solving the puzzle, and as you might expect, those people spent almost twice as much time trying to solve the puzzle as those people in Group B who weren’t offered a prize.

A surprising thing happened the next day, when Deci told Group A that there wasn’t enough money to pay them this time around: Group A lost interest in the puzzle.  Group B, on the other hand, having never been offered money in exchange for working on the puzzles, worked on the puzzles longer and longer in each consecutive session and maintained a higher level of sustained interest than Group A. So if it not money what else really motivates us?

The 3 real reasons that motivate us to work hard every day

Pink explains further that there are in fact just 3 very simple things that drive nearly each and everyone of us to work hard:

  • Autonomy: Our desire to direct our own lives. In short: “You probably want to do something interesting, let me get out of your way!”
  • Mastery: Our urge to get better at stuff.
  • Purpose: The feeling and intention that we can make a difference in the world.

If these three things play nicely together, Amabile and Kramer called this the somewhat obvious “inner work life balance” and emphasize its importance to how well we work. Inner work life is what’s going on in your head in response to workday events that affects your performance.

The components of the inner work life — motivation, emotions, and perceptions of how the above three things work together — feed each other. So ultimately our emotional processes ultimately our motivation to work. They end up being the main influencer of our performance.

Deci’s experiment showed that payment actually undermined intrinsic motivation because such external rewards thwart our “three psychological needs — to feel autonomous, to feel competent and to feel related to others.” As he told, “You need thinkers, problem solvers, people who can be creative and using money to motivate them will not get you that.”

What’s going on inside our brains that connects our emotions to motivate you as a thinker and problem solver?

Amabile and Kramer tell us this:

“depending on what happens with our emotions, motivation for the work can skyrocket or nosedive (or hardly shift at all).”

So how does our brain deal with emotion and connect it to such practical results like motivation and productivity? Well, the ironic part is that the parts of the brain that deal with emotions are actually connected to those that deal with cognition. Richard J. Davidson explains how emotional and cognitive functions interrelate. To get all “brainy” with this:

The brain connection of cognition and emotion is not segregated. The idea is that your “limbic system” is the seat of emotion […] and it is critical for your cognitive processes (e.g., the hippocampus for memory).

Emotions are wired straight into our thinking and cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and reasoning.

Let’s switch this around. We know what happens if we positively affect our emotions. But what about the other way round? Famous psychologist Alice Isen found that positive moods facilitate creative problem-solving. Negative emotions, on the other hand, lead us to think more narrowly:

“Negative emotions like fear and sadness can lead to brain activity and thought patterns that are detrimental to creative, productive work: (a) avoidance of risk; (b) difficulty remembering and planning; and (c) rational decision-making.”

Personally, I found this particularly interesting. I always had a good hunch that positive thinking will improve my daily performance. The impact of negative emotions was never that clear and gives me a lot to think about working hard on limiting these emotions.

3 Most important things to improve your inner work life and manage your motivation:

Yes, it’s done! With the knowledge about the impact of a positive inner work life and our emotions’ connection to great performance, I think we win the battle against the reserved, rational robot.

The key takeaway here for me is to pay more attention to our emotions and thoughts. It’s simple, we use them to be more awesome at what we do. Following on from the studies above, the following three main actions have proven the best results for keeping our emotions and positive thinking the highest:

  • Exercise – How to get started and why: We’ve discussed before in detail how exercise makes us happier. Any work-out will automatically release mood-enhancing chemicals and endorphin into your blood. This can immediately lift your mood and lowering stress. Exercise and maintenance of our physical health boosts our emotional health. The hard part here is of course how to get started with an exercise habit. Whatever it is you want to get into, the key is to start with easier task than you could actually do. Yes, that’s right. If you feel comfortable lifting 10kg, make it 5. The art is in the start as this post found.
  • Set yourself up for success – here is how: Amabile and Kramer’s most important finding is that making progress at work is the main way to fuel positive inner work life. Making progress is easier said than done but breaking it down to ask what will facilitate progress can be helpful.  Identify barriers and remove them, whether it’s too many meetings or micromanagement. Identify facilitators and implement or improve them, such as better communication or increased autonomy.  The feeling of progress triggers the emotions and brain activity that result in creativity and your best work.
  • Reflect and review through work diaries:  Pay careful attention to your inner work life by writing down thoughts and feelings about your workday in a work diary by yourself or with your team using a tool like iDoneThis. A regular practice of reflection helps you recognize patterns, gain insight about your work and work relationships, celebrate and appreciate achievements and gestures, and puzzle out what helps and hinders progress. Journaling itself will improve your inner work life, lifting your emotions and aiding cognitive processing and adaptation. Take ten minutes out of your day to reflect, vent, and celebrate.

Quick last fact: Emotions are the key driver to make your daily decisions

Here is an interesting last fact for you. Making decisions is all about our intellectual capability, right? I thought so too, turns out, that’s completely wrong. In an experiment by Antonio Damasio, named Descartes’ Error he discovered that the key element for making daily decisions is to have strong emotional feelings:

“One of Damasio’s patients, Elliot, suffered ventromedial frontal lobe damage and while retaining his intelligence, lost the ability to feel emotion.  The result was that he lost his ability to make decisions and to plan for the future, and he couldn’t hold on to a job.”

The way our brains are built make it necessary that emotions “cloud” our judgment. Without all that cloudy emotion, we wouldn’t be able to reason, have motivation, and make decisions.

Of course, I am sure that you have tons more insights into how you manage your own work-life balance and which things help you to stay motivated every day. What have you found to be your main driver to get up for work every day? Do you think some of the new habits mentioned above could be useful? I’d love your thoughts in the comments.

"The Power of a Meal, Mindfulness, & Generosity" by Geoff Maddock
The following picture and article were repurposed from the Common Change Blog. You can find this article here.

The Power of a Meal, Mindfulness, & Generosity


By Geoff Maddock

It’s Saturday and the finishing touches are placed on the table: a delicate vase of flowers and delicious biscuits straight from the oven. An ease and familiarity radiate around the room. The good company and hearty Irish stew generate warmth. The relaxed banter tapers off as one of our hosts explains the purpose of our gathering. Twelve friends lean in to learn about the needs of some of our neighbors and to carefully make an account of our resources.
Can we help? If so, how?

This is the simple work of a generosity event. We contemplate the dilemma of a friend whose ability to make a living ended when his car stopped. Another elderly neighbor and her partner are sleeping on the floor after their bed, an air mattress, sprung a leak.

If you wandered in on this scene you would notice two things. First, the group is obviously made up of people who know one another. Guests are lightening fast with a quip and equally quick to laugh. Secondly you would witness the good and important work of neighborliness; when geographically connected people pay attention to the needs and resources around them.

The conversation meanders and eventually questions about poverty, injustice, personal responsibility, and public policy beg for our attention. These systematic issues can be overwhelming and paralyzing, robbing us of a sense of agency to make things better. It all seems too much. At this generosity event, however, we are saved from despair by the needs raised. They bring focus and clarity to the conversation. We are back to considering the immobilized car and the deflated mattress.

Can we help alleviate these particular struggles? If so, how?

Everyone around the table knows this is not just about money. All of us have resources in the form of friendships and contacts that can even be more valuable than cash. We discuss the cost and next-steps for getting the car back on the road. Anyone know a good mechanic? Who will make sure the mechanic does a good job? We move on to contemplate the uncomfortable fact that some of our elderly neighbors are sleeping on cold concrete. What about buying a mattress for them? We discover that someone at the table has a connection with a local bedding retailer. Can we ask the company to donate a bed?

Our convener makes notes about how to move forward and considers how to budget the money we’ve pooled to meet direct needs. One by one the guests excuse themselves and leave to get on with their weekend activities. We all go away from the table a little more conscious that we are in this world together, that we are able to make a difference for good. It’s a small step closer to living in the community we long for.

This is what neighborliness and generosity look like up close. You will be glad to know the vehicle is back on the road and our friend back to work. You will also sleep better knowing our neighbors have a new, donated bed.

Learn More About Generosity Meals Join Common Change
"10 Reasons Bivocational Ministry Matters" by Chuck Lawless
The above picture and the following article were repurposed from the Thom S. Rainer Blog. You can find this article here.

“I didn’t come to seminary to be a bivocational minister, to have to get another kind of job,” my student told me. I may not have agreed with my student, but I did understand his thinking. Back then (almost 15 years ago), we weren’t talking much about bivocational ministries.

Now, that conversation has shifted. Pastors are beginning to embrace as their primary calling the role of bivocational minister. Some even intend to remain bivocational regardless of the size of their church as it grows. If the Lord were to call me into a bivocational church role, here is why I would gladly follow His leading.

  1. Bivocational ministers serve the church without being dependent on them for income. I affirm full-time pastors; in fact, I served full-time for 14 years. Further, I do not want even to hint that being dependent on a congregation for salary somehow leads to compromise. Nevertheless, I do suspect there is some freedom in leading a congregation that does not pay the bulk of your salary.
  2. Bivocational ministers are often more connected to non-believers. No full-time pastor I know wants to be disconnected from people who need to hear the gospel, but that separation happens. Unless they intentionally fight against it, full-time pastors can be cocooned in the church world. Bivocational leaders can be equally cocooned, of course, but their work outside the church at least provides a roadblock to that process.
  3. Bivocational ministers lead churches that often have a higher percentage of funds available for ministry and missions. In most churches with full-time staff, the largest percentage of their budget goes toward personnel. Funds for doing ministry are often lacking. The church that has fewer personnel commitments, though, can free dollars to reach their neighbors and the nations.
  4. Bivocational ministers make starting more churches possible. To reach North America, we need more churches – healthy, outwardly focused churches. Young churches, however, usually don’t have the funding to support a full-time pastor. A bivocational church planter can provide leadership without straining the church’s budget.
  5. Bivocational ministry models good missiology. Getting the gospel to the world will require efforts far beyond full-time missionaries. Businessmen and women will need to carry the message as they travel the world. Others will start businesses around the world, and they will use that work as a platform for Great Commission work. Bivocational pastors can model that same general approach in North America.
  6. Bivocational ministers must learn how to train workers and delegate ministry. Burnout is always a danger for the bivocational minister unless he learns to share the load. His role should push him toward a 1 Corinthians 12 ministry, recognizing that God puts everyone in the church as He wishes to play a particular role in that body. The bivocational minister realizes he cannot do ministry alone – a lesson I wish I had learned years ago as a full-time minister.
  7. Bivocational leadership affirms vocation as ministry. Pastors speak the language (“Every member is a minister”), but we don’t always help our members understand this truth. We still too often promote a clergy/laity divide that lacks biblical warrant. The bivocational minister, however, brings these worlds together. His workplace is his mission field.
  8. Bivocational ministers likely better understand the struggles of laypersons. Bivocational pastors know what it’s like to work in the secular world for eight hours, run home to have dinner, and then spend the evening at church. They understand the pull of a world that daily beckons church members to live like that world. They know the struggle of trying to be a tentmaker and an evangelist at the same time.
  9. Bivocational ministers can now get theological training without leaving their place of ministry. Via online education, bivocational ministers can now earn fully accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees while keeping their lives planted among the people they seek to reach. That approach is educationally solid and practically relevant. Some denominations, in fact, are providing funds for their bivocational pastors to get this training.
  10. Bivocational opportunities invite us to challenge all our church members to consider God’s calling. Following God’s calling does not always mean leaving home and occupation. It might mean staying where you are and doing what you do as a base for ministry. Indeed, it may mean recognizing that God has given you your job so that you might lead His church.
What other thoughts would you add?  What might we learn from bivocational ministers?
"10 Life Lessons for Excelling in Your 30s" by Mark Manson


The above picture and the following article were repurposed from the Huffington Post Blog. You can find this article here.

10 Life Lessons for Excelling in Your 30s

By Mark Manson, entrepreneur and author

A couple weeks ago I turned 30. Leading up to my birthday I wrote a post on what I learned in my 20s.

But I did something else. I sent an email out to my subscribers and asked readers age 37 and older what advice they would give their 30-year-old selves. The idea was that I would crowdsource the life experience from my older readership and create another article based on their collective wisdom.

The result was spectacular. I received over 600 responses, many of which were over a page in length. It took me a solid three days to read through them all and I was floored by the quality of insight people sent.

So first of all, a hearty thank you to all who contributed and helped create this article.

While going through the emails what surprised me the most was just how consistent some of the advice was. The same 5-6 pieces of advice came up over and over and over again in different forms across literally 100s of emails. It seems that there really are a few core pieces of advice that are particularly relevant to this decade of your life.

Below are 10 of the most common themes appearing throughout all of the 600 emails. The majority of the article is comprised of dozens of quotes taken from readers. Some are left anonymous. Others have their age listed.

1. Start Saving for Retirement Now, Not Later

"I spent my 20s recklessly, but your 30s should be when you make a big financial push. Retirement planning is not something to put off. Understanding boring things like insurance, 401ks & mortgages is important since its all on your shoulders now. Educate yourself." (Kash, 41)

The most common piece of advice -- so common that almost every single email said at least something about it -- was to start getting your financial house in order and to start saving for retirement... today.

There were a few categories this advice fell into:

  • Make it your top priority to pay down all of your debt as soon as possible.
  • Keep an "emergency fund" -- there were tons of horror stories about people getting financially ruined by health issues, lawsuits, divorces, bad business deals, etc.
  • Stash away a portion of every paycheck, preferably into a 401k, an IRA or at the least, a savings account.
  • Don't spend frivolously. Don't buy a home unless you can afford to get a good mortgage with good rates.
  • Don't invest in anything you don't understand. Don't trust stockbrokers.

One reader said, "If you are in debt more than 10 percent of your gross annual salary this is a huge red flag. Quit spending, pay off your debt and start saving." Another wrote, "I would have saved more money in an emergency fund because unexpected expenses really killed my budget. I would have been more diligent about a retirement fund, because now mine looks pretty small."

And then there were the readers who were just completely screwed by their inability to save in their 30s. One reader named Jodi wishes she had started saving 10 percent of every paycheck when she was 30. Her career took a turn for the worst and now she's stuck at 57, still living paycheck to paycheck. Another woman, age 62, didn't save because her husband out-earned her. They later got divorced and she soon ran into health problems, draining all of the money she received in the divorce settlement. She, too, now lives paycheck to paycheck, slowly waiting for the day social security kicks in. Another man related a story of having to be supported by his son because he didn't save and unexpectedly lost his job in the 2008 crash.

The point was clear: save early and save as much as possible. One woman emailed me saying that she had worked low-wage jobs with two kids in her 30s and still managed to sock away some money in a retirement fund each year. Because she started early and invested wisely, she is now in her 50s and financially stable for the first time in her life. Her point: it's always possible. You just have to do it.

Gee whiz! Saving is so easy and so fun!

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

"Your mind's acceptance of age is 10 to 15 years behind your body's aging. Your health will go faster than you think but it will be very hard to notice, not the least because you don't want it to happen." (Tom, 55)

We all know to take care of our health. We all know to eat better and sleep better and exercise more and blah, blah, blah. But just as with the retirement savings, the response from the older readers was loud and unanimous: get healthy and stay healthy now.

So many people said it that I'm not even going to bother quoting anybody else. Their points were pretty much all the same: the way you treat your body has a cumulative effect; it's not that your body suddenly breaks down one year, it's been breaking down all along without you noticing. This is the decade to slow down that breakage.

And this wasn't just your typical motherly advice to eat your veggies. These were emails from cancer survivors, heart attack survivors, stroke survivors, people with diabetes and blood pressure problems, joint issues and chronic pain. They all said the same thing: "If I could go back, I would start eating better and exercising and I would not stop. I made excuses then. But I had no idea."

The key to salad is to laugh while eating it.

3. Don't Spend Time with People Who Don't Treat You Well

"Learn how to say "no" to people, activities and obligations that don't bring value to your life." (Hayley, 37)

After calls to take care of your health and your finances, the most common piece of advice from people looking back at their 30-year-old selves was an interesting one: they would go back and enforce stronger boundaries in their lives and dedicate their time to better people. "Setting healthy boundaries is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself or another person." (Kristen, 43)

What does that mean specifically?

"Don't tolerate people who don't treat you well. Period. Don't tolerate them for financial reasons. Don't tolerate them for emotional reasons. Don't tolerate them for the children's sake or for convenience sake." (Jane, 52)

"Don't settle for mediocre friends, jobs, love, relationships and life." (Sean, 43)

"Stay away from miserable people... they will consume you, drain you." (Gabriella, 43)

"Surround yourself and only date people that make you a better version of yourself, that bring out your best parts, love and accept you." (Xochie)

People typically struggle with boundaries because they find it difficult to hurt someone else's feelings, or they get caught up in the desire to change the other person or make them treat them the way they want to be treated. This never works. And in fact, it often makes it worse. As one reader wisely said, "Selfishness and self-interest are two different things. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind."

When we're in our 20s, the world is so open to opportunity and we're so short on experience that we cling to the people we meet, even if they've done nothing to earn our clingage. But by our 30s we've learned that good relationships are hard to come by, that there's no shortage of people to meet and friends to be made, and that there's no reason to waste our time with people who don't help us on our life's path.

Gently let go of those who are not making your life better.

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

"Show up with and for your friends. You matter, and your presence matters." (Jessica, 40)

Conversely, while enforcing stricter boundaries on who we let into our lives, many readers advised to make the time for those friends and family that we do decide to keep close.

"I think sometimes I may have taken some relationships for granted, and when that person is gone, they're gone. Unfortunately, the older you get, well, things start to happen, and it will affect those closest to you." (Ed, 45)

"Appreciate those close to you. You can get money back and jobs back, but you can never get time back." (Anne, 41)

"Tragedy happens in everyone's life, everyone's circle of family and friends. Be the person that others can count on when it does. I think that between 30 and 40 is the decade when a lot of shit finally starts to happen that you might have thought never would happen to you or those you love. Parents die, spouses die, babies are still-born, friends get divorced, spouses cheat... the list goes on and on. Helping someone through these times by simply being there, listening and not judging is an honor and will deepen your relationships in ways you probably can't yet imagine." (Rebecca, 40)


5. You Can't Have Everything; Focus on Doing a Few Things Really Well

"Everything in life is a trade-off. You give up one thing to get another and you can't have it all. Accept that." (Eldri, 60)

In our 20s we have a lot of dreams. We believe that we have all of the time in the world. I myself remember having illusions that my website would be my first career of many. Little did I know that it took the better part of a decade to even get competent at this. And now that I'm competent and have a major advantage and love what I do, why would I ever trade that in for another career?

"In a word: focus. You can simply get more done in life if you focus on one thing and do it really well. Focus more." (Ericson, 49)


Another reader:

"I would tell myself to focus on one or two goals/aspirations/dreams and really work towards them. Don't get distracted." And another: "You have to accept that you cannot do everything. It takes a lot of sacrifice to achieve anything special in life."

A few readers noted that most people arbitrarily choose their careers in their late teens or early 20s, and as with many of our choices at those ages, they are often wrong choices. It takes years to figure out what we're good at and what we enjoy doing. But it's better to focus on our primary strengths and maximize them over the course of lifetime than to half-ass something else.

"I'd tell my 30-year-old self to set aside what other people think and identify my natural strengths and what I'm passionate about, and then build a life around those." (Sara, 58)

For some people, this will mean taking big risks, even in their 30s and beyond. It may mean ditching a career they spent a decade building and giving up money they worked hard for and became accustomed to. Which brings us to...

6. Don't Be Afraid of Taking Risks, You Can Still Change

"While by age 30 most feel they should have their career dialed in, it is never too late to reset. The individuals that I have seen with the biggest regrets during this decade are those that stay in something that they know is not right. It is such an easy decade to have the days turn to weeks to years, only to wake up at 40 with a mid-life crisis for not taking action on a problem they were aware of 10 years prior but failed to act." (Richard, 41)

"Biggest regrets I have are almost exclusively things I did *not* do." (Sam, 47)

Many readers commented on how society tells us that by 30 we should have things "figured out" -- our career situation, our dating/marriage situation, our financial situation and so on. But this isn't true. And, in fact, dozens and dozens of readers implored to not let these social expectations of "being an adult" deter you from taking some major risks and starting over. As someone on my Facebook page responded: "All adults are winging it."

"I am about to turn 41 and would tell my 30 year old self that you do not have to conform your life to an ideal that you do not believe in. Live your life, don't let it live you. Don't be afraid of tearing it all down if you have to, you have the power to build it all back up again." (Lisa, 41)

Multiple readers related making major career changes in their 30s and being better off for doing so. One left a lucrative job as a military engineer to become a teacher. Twenty years later, he called it one of the best decisions of his life. When I asked my mom this question, her answer was, "I wish I had been willing to think outside the box a bit more. Your dad and I kind of figured we had to do thing A, thing B, thing C, but looking back I realize we didn't have to at all; we were very narrow in our thinking and our lifestyles and I kind of regret that."

"Less fear. Less fear. Less fear. I am about to turn 50 next year, and I am just getting that lesson. Fear was such a detrimental driving force in my life at 30. It impacted my marriage, my career, my self-image in a fiercely negative manner. I was guilty of: Assuming conversations that others might be having about me. Thinking that I might fail. Wondering what the outcome might be. If I could do it again, I would have risked more." (Aida, 49)


7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

"You have two assets that you can never get back once you've lost them: your body and your mind. Most people stop growing and working on themselves in their 20s. Most people in their 30s are too busy to worry about self-improvement. But if you're one of the few who continues to educate themselves, evolve their thinking and take care of their mental and physical health, you will be light-years ahead of the pack by 40." (Stan, 48)

It follows that if one can still change in their 30s -- and should continue to change in their 30s -- then one must continue to work to improve and grow. Many readers related the choice of going back to school and getting their degrees in their 30s as one of the most useful things they had ever done. Others talked of taking extra seminars and courses to get a leg up. Others started their first businesses or moved to new countries. Others checked themselves into therapy or began a meditation practice.

As Warren Buffett once said, the greatest investment a young person can make is in their own education, in their own mind. Because money comes and goes. Relationships come and go. But what you learn once stays with you forever.

"The number one goal should be to try to become a better person, partner, parent, friend, colleague etc. -- in other words to grow as an individual." (Aimilia, 39)


8. Nobody (Still) Knows What They're Doing, Get Used to It

"Unless you are already dead -- mentally, emotionally, and socially -- you cannot anticipate your life 5 years into the future. It will not develop as you expect. So just stop it. Stop assuming you can plan far ahead, stop obsessing about what is happening right now because it will change anyway, and get over the control issue about your life's direction. Fortunately, because this is true, you can take even more chances and not lose anything; you cannot lose what you never had. Besides, most feelings of loss are in your mind anyway - few matter in the long term." (Thomas, 56)

In my article about what I learned in my 20s, one of my lessons was "Nobody Knows What They're Doing," and that this was good news. Well, according to the 40+ crowd, this continues to be true in one's 30s and, well, forever it seems; and it continues to be good news forever as well.

"Most of what you think is important now will seem unimportant in 10 or 20 years and that's OK. That's called growth. Just try to remember to not take yourself so seriously all the time and be open to it." (Simon, 57)

"Despite feeling somewhat invincible for the last decade, you really don't know what's going to happen and neither does anyone else, no matter how confidently they talk. While this is disturbing to those who cling to permanence or security, it's truly liberating once you grasp the truth that things are always changing. To finish, there might be times that are really sad. Don't dull the pain or avoid it. Sorrow is part of everyone's lifetime and the consequence of an open and passionate heart. Honor that. Above all, be kind to yourself and others, it's such a brilliant and beautiful ride and keeps on getting better." (Prue, 38)

"I'm 44. I would remind my 30 year old self that at 40, my 30s would be equally filled with dumb stuff, different stuff, but still dumb stuff... So, 30 year old self, don't go getting on your high horse. You STILL don't know it all. And that's a good thing." (Shirley, 44)

9. Invest in Your Family; It's Worth It

"Spend more time with your folks. It's a different relationship when you're an adult and it's up to you how you redefine your interactions. They are always going to see you as their kid until the moment you can make them see you as your own man. Everyone gets old. Everyone dies. Take advantage of the time you have left to set things right and enjoy your family." (Kash, 41)

I was overwhelmed with amount of responses about family and the power of those responses. Family is the big new relevant topic for this decade for me, because you get it on both ends. Your parents are old and you need to start considering how your relationship with them is going to function as a self-sufficient adult. And then you also need to contemplate creating a family of your own.

Pretty much everybody agreed to get over whatever problems you have with your parents and find a way to make it work with them. One reader wrote, "You're too old to blame your parents for any of your own short-comings now. At 20 you could get away with it, you'd just left the house. At 30, you're a grown-up. Seriously. Move on."

But then there's the question that plagues every single 30-year-old: to baby or not to baby?

"You don't have the time. You don't have the money. You need to perfect your career first. They'll end your life as you know it. Oh shut up... Kids are great. They make you better in every way. They push you to your limits. They make you happy. You should not defer having kids. If you are 30, now is the time to get real about this. You will never regret it." (Kevin, 38)

"It's never the 'right time' for children because you have no idea what you're getting into until you have one. If you have a good marriage and environment to raise them, err on having them earlier rather than later, you'll get to enjoy more of them." (Cindy, 45)

"All my preconceived notions about what a married life is like were wrong. Unless you've already been married, everyone's are. Especially once you have kids. Try to stay open to the experience and fluid as a person; your marriage is worth it, and your happiness seems as much tied to your ability to change and adapt as anything else. I wasn't planning on having kids. From a purely selfish perspective, this was the dumbest thing of all. Children are the most fulfilling, challenging, and exhausting endeavor anyone can ever undertake. Ever." (Rich, 44)

The consensus about marriage seemed to be that it was worth it, assuming you had a healthy relationship with the right person. If not, you should run the other way (See #3).

But interestingly, I got a number of emails like the following:

"What I know now vs 10-13 years ago is simply this... bars, woman, beaches, drink after drink, clubs, bottle service, trips to different cities because I had no responsibility other than work, etc... I would trade every memory of that life for a good woman that was actually in love with me... and maybe a family. I would add, don't forget to actually grow up and start a family and take on responsibilities other than success at work. I am still having a little bit of fun... but sometimes when I go out, I feel like the guy that kept coming back to high school after he graduated (think Matthew McConaughey's character in Dazed and Confused). I see people in love and on dates everywhere. "Everyone" my age is in their first or second marriage by now! Being perpetually single sounds amazing to all of my married friends but it is not the way one should choose to live their life." (Anonymous, 43)

"I would have told myself to stop constantly searching for the next best thing and I would have appreciated the relationships that I had with some of the good, genuine guys that truly cared for me. Now I'm always alone and it feels too late." (Fara, 38)

On the flip side, there were a small handful of emails that took the other side of the coin:

"Don't feel pressured to get married or have kids if you don't want to. What makes one person happy doesn't make everyone happy. I've chosen to stay single and childless and I still live a happy and fulfilled life. Do what feels right for you." (Anonymous, 40)

Conclusion: It seems that while family is not absolutely necessary to have a happy and fulfilling life, the majority of people have found that family is always worth the investment, assuming the relationships are healthy and not toxic and/or abusive.

10. Be kind to yourself, respect yourself

"Be a little selfish and do something for yourself every day, something different once a month and something spectacular every year." (Nancy, 60)

This one was rarely the central focus of any email, but it was present in some capacity in almost all of them: treat yourself better. Almost everybody said this in one form or another. "There is no one who cares about or thinks about your life a fraction of what you do," one reader began, and, "life is hard, so learn to love yourself now, it's harder to learn later," another reader finished.

Or as Renee, 40, succinctly put it: "Be kind to yourself."

Many readers included the old cliche: "Don't sweat the small stuff; and it's almost all small stuff." Eldri, 60, wisely said, "When confronted with a perceived problem, ask yourself, 'Is this going to matter in five years, ten years?' If not, dwell on it for a few minutes, then let it go." It seems many readers have focused on the subtle life lesson of simply accepting life as is, warts and all.

Which brings me to the last quote from Martin, age 58:

"When I turned forty my father told me that I'd enjoy my forties because in your twenties you think you know what's going on, in your thirties you realize you probably don't, and in your forties you can relax and just accept things. I'm 58 and he was right."

Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Mark Manson is an entrepreneur and author. This post first appeared on his website, Become a subscriber here.

"4 Tips For Building an Emergency Fund" by Jonathan Roisman

The above picture and the following article were repurposed from the Huffington Post Blog. You can find this article here.

4 Tips For Building an Emergency Fund

By Jonathan Roisman,

Many Americans aren't saving money, but it's not because they don't want to. That's according to a GOBankingRates survey that asked people about their 2015 financial resolutions. In fact, saving money is Americans' No. 1 financial goal this year. The problem, however, is that 37 percent of those surveyed said they think they're too broke to save. And for those who are saving, priorities varied by age group: Millennials are trying to save most for a big-ticket purchase, like a car, while baby boomers are focused on adding to their retirement fund.

That may not be all that surprising, but what stands out is that younger Americans aren't preparing to save money in case of an emergency. There are a number of good reasons to save money, whether it's for retirement, a home, a car or even a much-needed vacation. Although this may not always be the case, most people's first priority should be to have an emergency fund to help cushion themselves from unexpected expenses. In addition, starting an emergency fund is a great way to build toward your long-term financial goals, such as saving for retirement. It can be the first step toward financial security.

How to build your emergency fund

As good as our planning may be, life rarely goes according to plan. This is especially true when it comes to personal finances. Your car might break down, or you could incur an unexpected medical expense -- it happens. That's why being prepared for such an event is so important. It's easy to fall into credit card debt when you don't have a safety cushion, and you could be in trouble if you don't have any money saved when an urgent need arises. Here's how to prepare for such a situation:

1. Figure out how much you need. A common rule of thumb is to save anywhere from three to 12 months' worth of expenses. This will probably be less than three to six months of your salary, especially when factoring in the taxes taken from your paycheck. It's good insurance if you lose your job and need to pay the bills without a main source of income for an extended amount of time. Saving that much money still might look like an insurmountable goal, so start even smaller. Financial expert Dave Ramsey recommends that your first step is to save up $1,000 and go from there.

2. Isolate your fund from daily use. Emergency funds should be liquid, meaning they need to be available whenever needed. The problem, however, is that it can be tempting to dip into it if you put it with the rest of your daily spending. Another issue is if you tie up your funds into a CD or savings bond. Sure, the money is guaranteed, but it'll take months or years for the interest to appreciate and there can be nasty penalties for withdrawing early. That's where online savings accounts come in handy. They offer higher interest rates than savings accounts offered through traditional banks (and are competitive with short-term CDs, as well) and the money is available anytime you need it.

3. Continually add to it. Treat saving money like it's a monthly expense that needs to be paid off every month. Start small -- $50 or $100 a month, if at all possible. Your emergency fund will grow at a healthy rate and you won't notice the missed income after a while. Try and find ways to cut back on discretionary purchases as much as you can, at least in the beginning. Add money to your fund directly from your paycheck with direct deposit so you don't even see the money or have the temptation to spend it. Don't worry -- it'll be there when you need it.

4. Try saving exponentially. You might be saying, "Fifty dollars a month is a lot of money to me. I need that income every month!" That's understandable and true, so let's take an even smaller approach to saving your money. Try the 52-week money challenge. Here’s how it works: Save just $2 your first week, then $4 the second week, and $6 the third week, etc. After 52 weeks, you'll have $2,756! Even if you stop after 26 weeks, you'll still have $702. This kind of exercise is a good way to build confidence in yourself and learn that saving money is possible, and it doesn't take leaps and bounds to get there. It all starts with one baby step.

Read more about how you can save money and how online savings accounts may be the best option for you.

This blog post originally appeared on
"How to Budget Your Money with the 50/20/30 Rule" by LearnVest

The above picture and the following article were repurposed from the Huffington Post Blog. You can find this article here.

How to Budget Your Money

With the 50/20/30 Rule

When it comes to our money, there is no shortage of ways we could spend it: food, rent, gifts, medicine, clothing, education, technology, gym membership, gas ... you get the picture. We're often asked, "How to budget my money?" -- so we came up with a guideline to consider for when you set up a budget: the 50/20/30 Rule.

When creating a budget, which you can do for free in the Money Center, it may be tempting to throw up your hands, say, "Forget it," and hope for the best.

The 50/20/30 Rule helps change that.

No matter whether you're a mom with two kids or a recent college grad working your first job, this rule can help you not only figure out how much you should be spending in each area every month, it will also tell you in what order you should be spending your money.


The 50/20/30 Rule Broken Down
The 50/20/30 Rule can be easy because instead of telling you how to break down your budget across 20 or more different categories (who could possibly keep track of that?), it splits everything into three main categories:

1. Essential Expenses
No more than 50 percent of your take-home pay should go toward Essential Expenses, which are the expenses you need in order to maintain the fundamentals of your life: shelter, food, heat, etc. Only four expenses should go in this category: housing, transportation, utilities and groceries.

2. Financial Priorities
At least 20 percent of your take-home pay should go to Financial Priorities, which are the goals that are essential to a strong financial foundation. These include your retirement contributions, savings contributions and debt payments, if you have debt.

You should make these contributions and payments after you pay your Essential Expenses, but before you do any other spending.

3. Lifestyle Choices
No more than 30 percent of your take-home pay should go to Lifestyle Choices, which are personal, voluntary and often fun choices about how you spend your discretionary income. They often include cable, internet and phone plans, charitable giving, childcare, entertainment, gym fees, hobbies, pets, personal care, restaurants, bars, shopping and other miscellaneous expenses.

While Lifestyle Choices are the last things you should buy in your budget, you should never feel guilty about that expensive purse or ordering a nice bottle of wine at dinner ... as long as you've taken care of your Essential Expenses and Financial Priorities first.


How the 50/20/30 Rule Works in Real Life
The flexibility of the 50/20/30 Rule can make it easily adaptable to real life. Let's compare two real budgets, one for Molly and one for a couple, Sarah and Tim.

Molly is a 22-year-old recent graduate with her first job, working in Chicago. She has student loans, but she is still able to meet her student loan payment every month and contribute to a Roth IRA, plus pay all her bills.

Her income: $36,000 a year
Her take-home pay after taxes: $2,250 a month (we're assuming 25 percent of her salary goes toward a combination of taxes and her 401(k) contributions)

Essential Expenses:
Rent: $750
Transportation: $75
Utilities: $75
Groceries: $200
TOTAL:  $1,100, which is 49 percent of her take-home pay

Financial Priorities:
Student Loan: $225
Roth IRA contributions: $200
Travel savings fund: $50
TOTAL: $475, which is 21 percent of her take-home pay

Lifestyle Choices: $675, which is 30 percent of her take-home pay

Because Molly is on a tight budget, her Essential Expenses are very close to the 50 percent limit. Still, she is able to make her student loan payment and even put 9 percent of her take-home pay toward retirement, where the money will have a long time to grow

Sarah and Tim
Sarah and Tim are in their mid-40s and have two children nearing college age.

Sarah and Tim's household income: $150,000 a year
Their take-home pay after taxes: $6,767 a month (we're assuming 30 percent of her salary and her husband's go toward a combination of taxes and their 401(k) contributions)

Essential Expenses:
Mortgage: $1,200
Car payment and insurance: $600
Gas: $250
Groceries: $400
Utilities: $150
TOTAL: $2,600, which is 38 percent of their income

RELATED: How I Paid $100,000 Off My Mortgage in Under 2 Years

Financial Priorities:
Roth IRA contributions: $833
529 account contributions: $1,470
Vacation fund: $200
TOTAL: $2,503, which is 37 percent of their take-home pay

Lifestyle Choices: $1,664, which is 25 percent of their take-home pay

Sarah and Tim's situation shows how flexible the 50/20/30 Rule can be. Essential Expenses are supposed to be "no more than" 50 percent, and Sarah and her husband have actually been able to keep them well below that threshold. They paid off one of their cars a while back and haven't bought a house that stretched their budget.

What they're doing with the money they're saving on Essential Expenses is putting it into their kids' 529 accounts. But they are still maxing out their Roth IRA contributions because saving for retirement is a higher financial priority for them than saving for their children's college funds -- not because their children's education is less important, but because they could always take out a loan to make up any shortfall to pay for college tuition, but they can't take out a loan to pay for their retirement.

In order to meet their 529 savings goals, they have decided to be as frugal as possible about their Lifestyle Choices, which is why they are allocating only 25 percent of their income to those.

One Note About Retirement
As you might have noticed, the 50/20/30 Rule applies only to take-home pay. Any contributions you make to retirement before your paycheck hits your bank account are not included. For that reason, you may actually be contributing more toward your Financial Priorities than this breakdown would suggest. But we urge you to keep that retirement money out of sight, out of mind!

(If you are self-employed and don't have your retirement contributions taken out of your paycheck before it hits your bank account, you should make sure you're hitting your retirement goals, and that could mean contributing more than 20 percent of your income to Financial Priorities.)

How the 50/20/30 Rule Can Apply to Your Budget
Now that you see how the 50/20/30 Rule applies to two very different situations, it's your turn to consider using it on your own budget. The LearnVest Smart Budget will analyze your current spending to see how it stacks up against the 50/20/30 Rule. If you don't already have a budget with LearnVest, sign up here. The sign up process will ask you to enter your Essential costs and your Financial Priorities, and at the end, you can allocate money to your Lifestyle Choices. And setting up a budget that can help save you money is absolutely free.

This story originally appeared on LearnVest.

"How Saving Less Can Help You Save More" by Sarah Greesonbach


The above picture and the following article were repurposed from the Huffington Post Blog. You can find this article here.

How Saving Less Can Help You Save More

(Yes, You Read That Right)

Written by Sarah Greesonbach, Personal finance writer and CEO, Greesonbach Creative

Life is full of troubling paradoxes. Whether you call it a Catch-22, opposites attracting, or simply "Things that don't make sense," this phenomenon can spill into relationships, educational institutions and even national policy.

Well, now you can add finances to that list.

The basics of personal finance always seem to start with save, save, save. Even if you're only saving a small safety net, it's still the first step in many financial education courses, like Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace program and Suze Orman's tips and advice, just to name a few.

Which is why when I consciously started saving less and ended up with more money, things got really weird.

Saving is always the first step... but should it be?

I am one of those repeat offenders who can save $1,000 a hundred times.... and still never seem to have any money in the bank.

There's always some pressing reason that we need to transfer that money out of savings. Maybe an important car repair comes up, or we need to buy groceries but a freelance check hasn't come in yet.

(Before you say, "Sarah, that's not what an emergency fund is for, that's what a car repair fund and a grocery budget are for," please keep in mind we're at the beginning step of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace program. Getting and keeping $1,000 in the bank and paying down debts are the most important goals.)

So you can imagine what this habit did to our bank account: We save up $1,000, but it's never there for long. We find a way to transfer $100 here or $300 there for different things that come up, with money moving in and out like a revolving door.

This put our finances in a constant flurry, like little money-waiters whooshing through the kitchen in-and-out doors at a busy restaurant. Despite feeling like we were working hard and saving money, we never gained traction on our savings goals and we constantly reinforced our own bad spending behavior. And that's when I knew we were in trouble.

Solution: Saving Less, But For Long-Term

It turns out I was not managing our money realistically. While saving is an important step in learning to manage your finances, saving too much too soon can be just as damaging as not saving enough.

Automatically depositing an unrealistic amount of money into your savings account will cause you to repeatedly access your savings account for soft emergencies. And this behavior will create an unhealthy savings habit that can indefinitely stymie your financial progress.

So, I tried something new. For the past two months, I've started not transferring money into our savings account unless I was 100 percent, no-seriously, perfectly free from needing it for the foreseeable future.

For example, rather than "saving" all of a $600 check that comes in, now only $150 might go to savings and the rest would go in the intermediary fund waiting for the next impromptu bill. Much to my surprise, I've been putting a lot less in savings but keeping a lot more in savings at the same time.

This has brought about two seriously awesome changes:

1. The money in savings is truly there for savings, and

2. I don't have to transfer money out of the emergency fund because I've got my bases covered with a temporary fund.

Obviously the goal is to not have surprises anymore because you're budgeting for them elsewhere. But until we get to that magical land of money unicorns and coin baskets, this is how I will approach our revolving door savings account problem. And we've managed to build up that $1,000, and more, and this time for good.

So, the next time you set up a transfer to put money into savings... pause. Are you 100 percent sure that you won't need to call this money back into your checking? Then proceed. If not, you might save more in the long run if you save less now.

Have you ever found yourself "saving too much"? Do you even think that's possible?

A version of this post originally appeared on Life [Comma] Etc.

"5 Common Money Mistakes That Even Good Savers Make" by LearnVest

The above picture and the following article were repurposed from the Huffington Post Blog. You can find this article here.

5 Common Money Mistakes That Even Good Savers Make


It's no wonder so many Americans consider saving money their number-one financial struggle: Saving money consistently takes discipline and hard work.

In fact, a survey last year revealed that more than a quarter of Americans have no emergency savings whatsoever, and half have less than three months' worth of expenses socked away.

So if you're part of the minority and are putting money away regularly, congratulations -- it's an important part of laying the groundwork for a more secure financial future. But just because your balance is growing doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement in the way you save. At LearnVest, our financial planners recommend that most everyone have at least six months of net income saved up in an emergency fund, when possible.

Want to know some of the best practices for maximizing your savings account? We asked LearnVest Planning Services Certified Financial Planner™ David Blaylock to analyze five common savings strategies -- and offer advice on how to work on adopting even better habits.

Strategy #1: "I Save What's Left Over"

The risk with this: So you pay your bills, maybe make a few "fun" purchases too, then you transfer whatever is left over in your checking account to savings. The good news? You're diligently trying to save.

The problem with this strategy is that when you leave money that's earmarked for savings lying in your checking account, you may start thinking you have more money to spend than you actually should! "Because you feel more confident about your balance, you won't mind going out and spending more," Blaylock says.

It also may be harder to set savings goals for yourself because you probably never know how much money you'll be able to sock away.

Try this instead: Pay yourself first. "The first bill you should pay every month is your savings bill," Blaylock says. Of course, only take the "pay yourself first" approach if you still have funds available to cover your regular monthly bills.

How do you put this system in place? Simply create an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings, either from every paycheck or at the beginning of the month. If you "set it and forget it," you just might be shocked by how quickly your nest egg can grow.


Strategy #2: "I Transfer Money Into a Savings Account Linked to My Checking"

The risk with this: You're flexing your savings muscle on a regular basis, which is great! And having your savings account linked to your checking definitely is convenient, but you risk dipping into your savings to make ends meet -- or even to fund an impulse purchase -- because that money can be so easy to get to.

Try this instead: While it's advisable to keep a portion of your savings in an easily accessible account in the event of emergencies, it can be smart to keep the rest at a distance, in a separate "untouchable" account, says Blaylock.

"If you have to go somewhere to get that money or it takes a few days to get access, that's usually enough to deter us from spending on a whim," he says. "It's a powerful tool, especially for impulse buyers."

Opening a separate account is often as simple as finding a savings account with a bank other than where you do your main banking. But Blaylock also recommends exploring online banks, which may offer high-yield savings accounts. Usually, you can still easily access your money in online accounts, but it might take 24 to 48 hours to transfer funds once you request them.

Strategy #3: "All My Savings Go Into One Pot"

The risk with this: You're socking money away at an impressive rate -- and pooling it in one account, since it's so much fun to see that balance grow, but, with this approach, it can be hard to know how much you've saved for different goals.

For example, if your emergency fund is commingled with your down-payment savings for a future house, you could easily deplete your emergency fund when it comes time to buy property. Similarly, if your baby savings are in there too, it can lead to false confidence about how much you've actually saved, because mentally you've earmarked that money twice!

Try this instead: Give yourself a more visual overview of your savings progress by creating separate sub-accounts for different objectives, like your emergency savings, a down payment on a house, or a future vacation. Many online banks make this super easy, and you can even nickname your accounts so you know exactly what each one is earmarked for.

There's a tendency to go crazy with this idea and parse your savings into 50 different categories, Blaylock says -- but, for clarity and sanity's sake, resist. Keep your accounts limited to your top three to four objectives, and revisit them on a regular basis as your finances and objectives change.


Strategy #4: "I Save Big Chunks of Money When I Can"

The risk with this: If you only save big chunks of money whenever you get a windfall or feel like you can afford it, you may be an all-or-nothing saver who gets a thrill when you move the needle in a big way, or someone who tends to "borrow back" that savings from themselves. Meanwhile, one way to savings happiness is saving a manageable amount on a regular basis.

Try this instead: Come up with a real budget for how much you have to save each month instead of guessing. And the same goes for windfalls: Decide on a specific percentage of the money you'll transfer to savings.

"We all lead busy lives, and the last thing we need to do is keep moving money around all the time because that causes stress," says Blaylock. For instance, if you get disappointed in yourself for having to take the money out of savings, it might derail you from saving in the future.

The solution? Pick a savings goal that is sustainable -- and stick to it. You can always revisit the amount if you think you can consistently start saving more.

Sticking to a set monthly figure can also help get you off the emotional rollercoaster that can come with saving and unsaving. A lot of clients experience "feelings of exuberance when they save and then feelings of guilt when they have to take the money back," Blaylock says. "Steady is better."


Strategy #5: "I Save as Much Cash as I Possibly Can"

The risk with this: Saving is your top priority, and you can get borderline obsessive about it. You may be so intent on seeing your savings balance climb that you ignore other financial priorities -- and deprive yourself of the occasional treat that would keep you happy and sane.

On the other side of the coin, there's the type who may love having cash on hand a little too much. Instead of investing your money, you prefer to keep all of your savings liquid -- but you may be missing out on the opportunity to let compound interest work its magic.

Try this instead: Make sure you're not saving at the expense of other goals, like paying off your student loans or paying down credit card debt. "These things have to be worked on in tandem," says Blaylock. "Anyone who thinks they should focus on just one area of their financial lives ... it's generally not the right approach."

Though there is one exception to that maxim, Blaylock says: "If you don't have one month of net income saved up in your emergency fund, you should consider forgoing all other goals until you get that saved," he says. After that, you can work on putting some money into savings, some toward debt, and some toward any other financial goals, like your house down payment or a vacation fund. And don't forget to treat yourself now and then. A new handbag or a fancy dinner on the town can be all the more enjoyable knowing you can afford it.

Once you top off your six-month emergency fund? Blaylock says it's time to shift your strategy. Since "cash pays too little," he recommends putting long-term savings you won't need for at least five years (money earmarked for retirement or college, for instance) into an investment account in order to potentially grow your money.

This post originally appeared on LearnVest.