It’s the last week of 2021 and the perfect time to reflect on how far you’ve come since January. Though we continue to live in a pandemic, there are still many reasons to celebrate. Some people started their own business, others got promotions, some got married while others had children. There are even those who paid off their debts, invested for the first time, maxed out their 401k or met their savings goals. When reflecting on how your year has been, focus on the wins and the lessons you learned. This will be your fuel and motivation for 2022. To end the year on a high note, let’s reflect on 5 money lessons 2021 taught us.
1. We All Need An Emergency Fund
2. Budgeting Is Important
If you don’t have a budget, you cannot say you’re serious about your personal finances. A budget is the only way to determine if you are on track to achieve your financial goals. The pandemic forced many people out of a job or into very limited work schedules. By managing their home budget, many were able to cut back on spending in areas that were discretionary. Budgeting is also an important tool used to determine the minimum income required to cover all your essential monthly expenses. The latter is important especially for those who had to rely on the government while they sought to secure another job.
3. Practice Delayed Gratification
Delaying gratification is probably one of the hardest skills to master. We are constantly surrounded by images and messaging that says we should live our best lives now because tomorrow isn’t promised. Well, while tomorrow isn’t promised, the best gift you can give your future self is to put in the work now so that your future self can be happy. In 2021, we had to stay in for many months, forgoing travels we planned, socializing with friends and spending time with our families. We also had to curb our spending as jobs just did not seem secure anymore. We saw our investment account drop as the markets reacted to the news of the Delta variant. 2021 taught us to prioritize our needs and, if even just for a couple of months, forgo our wants.
4. Speculating Is Not Investing
There was a rise in meme stocks this year. These are stocks that, for a short period of time, prices rose due to a high demand of retail investors, with no change in the company’s underlying value. Buying/selling meme stocks is speculating, not investing. Investing requires analysis of the industry and company to determine its value (i.e. stock price). It requires forethought and knowledge that would allow the investor to reasonably predict if the stock value will increase in the future. Much of the activity we saw around GameStop, AMC and others were speculation. It was individuals promoting companies that one would describe as “Zombie” companies. While a few select group of people made up to a million dollars, a majority of the investors who bought those stocks lost a large amount of their money. The lesson here is do not take stock pick advice from a stranger on Meta (previously Facebook). Instead, spend the time learning and studying company’s and the industries in which they operate before investing. For those who want a simplified approach to investing, try investing in an index fund or ETFs (electronic traded funds).
5. Money Is Not Everything (quit your job)
There is nothing more important than your happiness, physical and mental health. You should never feel that there is a price to sacrifice any of these things. Millions of U.S. professionals left their jobs in droves to pursue more meaningful endeavors. They recognized that life is short, and it was not worth the money to work for companies that did not value their contributions to line the pockets of C.E.Os. They also recognized that they want flexibility in their jobs to pursue their own business ideas, to further their education or to just spend time with their children. Personally, I think this is a good thing. While many people actually love what they do or just feel obligated to stay in a job they hate, I think professionals should go where the opportunities are. The goal should be to better your life not the owners of the corporations most of us work for.
Despite the global pandemic, 2021 was a great year for me. I conquered my fears, overcame challenges, took risks and loved hard. I did it with the support of my friends, family and mentors. I’m looking forward to the personal and financial growth that 2022 has in store for me.