12 Day Financial Wellness Challenge
The end of the year can be rough on the budget: gifts, travel, maybe some splurges on yourself!—All worth it. But come January you’re paying for it…literally.
Lucky for you, the New Year, is the perfect time to get your financial sh*t together, and while this is not something that happens overnight, with many small wins you can make big changes.
That is what our New Year’s 12-Day Financial Wellness Challenge is all about. To help you kick-off 2022 with your personal finances in order, we have gone ahead and broken down this (somewhat) daunting task into digestible and doable mini tips, starting January 3rd. But, in case you’re tuning in a few days behind, it’s never too late! Anybody can start any day.
Most importantly, you’re not alone in this! Do this with your partner or a group of friends! Share your experiences by tagging @whalesfund in your story using #NewYearNewGoals2022. You can even download the daily mini-tips onto your personal calendar to help stay on track!
After these 12 days, you should feel empowered and in control, with a clear path forward on how you are going to tackle your 2022 financial goals!
Day 1: Download a budgeting app
First things first: Understand your financial landscape.
What is your checking account balance? How much do you have in your savings? Are you on track to paying off your debt? What is your net worth?
A budgeting app makes answering these questions as easy as unlocking your phone by consolidating all your financial information in one place. Our personal favorites are Emma and Mint. But we recommend downloading a few to take for a spin, and see what jives with you!
Take note of the answers to the above questions, as this is your baseline from which you will make all decisions moving forward.
Day 2: Audit your credit card statements from the last 3 months
You spend at least 40 hours a week making money; you can spend a fraction of that time to see where it’s going. Yes, it’s somewhat laborious, but SO worth it!—And you don’t have to be sitting at your desk, hunched under a glaring light to do it. Think a generous pour of your favorite wine, fuzzy socks, sweatpants, and your couch. Let the wine numb the pain and put in this time:
Are there charges you don’t recognize, subscriptions you forgot to cancel, double charges that don’t make sense? Based on your monthly income, are you over-spending?
On this day, we are not asking you to take any action yet. Just answer these questions as you comb through your statements.
Day 3: Find one subscription that you can cancel
Forbes reported that in a study conducted on 2,500 Americans, 84% underestimated how much they spend on subscriptions each month. To make matters worse, 27% of those who underestimated, did so by $100-$199—That’s up to $2,388 unaccounted for in one year!
So, it’s time to take action after your in-depth audit of your purchases. I mean do you really need Netflix, Hulu and Peacock? Maybe a free trial ended on a random app you never use that you forgot to delete?
Take full advantage of that new budgeting app, as most of them will aggregate all your recurring charges to view together. So, you can decide what you can live without. Emma even lets you cancel your subscriptions straight from the app!
No subscriptions to cancel?—We bet there was a charge you didn’t recognize from yesterday’s audit that requires further investigation. Most fraudulent charges are intentionally small enough, so that you don’t notice them, or don’t think it’s worth the time required to figure out whether it’s fraud or that mindless self-indulgent purchase you made after bottomless brunch. But today, you make the time!
Day 4: Identify spending habits to change and set a savings goal
On Day 4, we reflect. So, ask yourself: Were all my purchases from the last 3 months worth it?—Like those pricey jeans you bought on Black Friday, that you wear all the time and you’ll have forever. Or, are there things that you could have lived without?—Hindsight is 20/20!
Beyond taking note of these insights to apply to future purchasing decisions, we challenge you to make another tangible spending change for 2022, and apply those savings towards reaching a goal.
What does this look like?—For example, “Last year I spent on around $450 on UberEats monthly for lunch at the office. This year I am going to bring my lunch from home and add $400 to my investment portfolio monthly.—Woo!!
Write these savings goal(s) down, as a reminder to keep yourself in check!
Day 5: Make a plan to pay off debt
If you have any amount of debt, paying off a realistic amount of it should be one of your 2022 goals. The more you pay towards it now, the better because you’re dwindling away at the principle in which you have to pay compounding interest—i.e. paying $400 today, will save you $400 + whatever crazy interest + (most likely) monthly compounding!
What is the maximum amount you could contribute monthly to chip away at your debt? Multiply this by 12, and vwala there’s your path forward to reaching one of your 2022 goals!
Day 6: Create your monthly 2022 budget
You’ve learned a lot about yourself the last 5 days: You understand your financial landscape, you know where your money is going, and you’ve already made some positive changes.
Now it’s time to construct your monthly budget. Our rule of thumb? The 50-30-20 rule where your monthly income is divided into three parts: 50% to needs, 30% to wants and 20% to savings. But if you cannot allocate 20% of your monthly income to savings (chipping away at that debt is understandably a priority!), contributing something is better than nothing!
If you’re feeling stuck, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Financial Mindfulness that takes you through the ins and outs of crafting a budget using the 50-30-20 Rule.
Pro Tip: Use your new budgeting app to see if you’re on track each month! We recommend checking in at least once a week.
Day 7: Automate monthly transfers to savings! (PYF!)
Pay Yourself First or PYF, is one of our favorite quick tips to improve your financial wellness. PYF means transferring the savings amount specified in your brand-new budget the day that you are paid from checking to savings. This way you are not saving what is left after spending, but instead spending what is left after saving.
We recommend automating these transfers, so you can set it and forget it. Good habits are the secret to success, so why not automate them!
If your emergency fund is all set (3 months of income), make these automatic transfers go to your investment portfolio. With School of Whales, you can set-up recurring investments straight from your Dashboard!
Day 8: Master your understanding of compounding
Compounding and time—these two concepts, alone, govern wealth building. Understanding compounding will create that urgency that you need to begin investing (if you haven’t already).
We have several blogs that walk you through compounding and its integral role in making your money grow exponentially: Time is Money and What is the Compounding Effect & Why You Should Care.
Perhaps you’re a “learn by doing” kind of person. In that case, play around with Nerd Wallet’s Compound Interest Calculator, and see for yourself how compounding and time can make you wealthy.
Did you learn a thing or two? Share your takeaways with fellow whales on our Discussion Board!
Day 9: Start investing or add to an existing investment
After the compounding run down, you’re probably feeling motivated to get in the investing game. But before you put your money anywhere, do your research. School of Whales’ guiding principles: Invest in things you understand, create a diversified portfolio and think long-term.
Whether it’s stocks or real estate, this is money you should be ready to forget about—Yes, that’s right, literally forget about it. Unless you’re reinvesting your earned interest, or sitting down for your scheduled check-in, you should let your portfolio do its thing.
Don’t believe us? An internal performance review by Fidelity that assessed investor returns in the stock market from 2003 to 2013, concluded that the best investors were dead! Why?—Well, because death removes the emotional human inclination to sell a stock simply because the price of the company went down for a day. Or, in the case of real estate, list the house because the housing market is weak. It’s about the long-game.
If you already have investments, take this day to look into further diversifying or simply add to your existing diversified portfolio.
If you’re specifically interested in real estate, School of Whales is a one stop shop for a diversified commercial real estate portfolio, and it only takes 3 minutes to get started.
Day 10: Invest in yourself
Your finances are shaping up, but what about you?—yeah you! While financial stability is the necessary foundation to build a happy and healthy life, investing in yourself plays just as big of a role.
Today we want you to identify an investment you can make in yourself in 2022. Everyone has the ability to be wealthy. No matter where you are starting your journey, you can grow. Always. So, think—what is holding you back? What can you do to increase your earning power? How can you position yourself to make sound financial decisions?
There are plenty of free courses both in-person and online to develop any and every skill one could imagine! Maybe there is someone in your life that could help you learn something new, and you just need to muster up the courage to ask!
YOU are your biggest resource, and investing in yourself pays major dividends in the long run.
Day 11: Set measurable financial goals for 2022
Armed with 10 days of learning, you are ready to apply all your newly acquired knowledge to strategically craft your 2022 financial goals.
Set measurable (and attainable) goals, as well as a concrete plan on how you are going to get there. For example, instead of making your goal, “This year, I am going to invest more money,” it should be “This year I am going to invest $6,000. To do this I’m going to contribute $500 monthly to my portfolio.”
It is these goals, whatever they may be—paying off debt, creating an emergency fund, starting to invest, even saving for a dream vacation—that should be your guiding compass for all financial decisions you make this year. Remember to include your Day 4 savings goal and Day 5 debt goal to your list!
Write all your goals down, so that they exist in the physical world and put them somewhere visible: your bulletin board, your refrigerator door, even your phone screen saver! That way, every day you know what it is you’re working towards.
Day 12: Money Date—Reflect on progress and set all 2022 Money Dates
A Money Date is the hour of time that you should block off on your calendar every month to sit down and review your personal finances from top to bottom. While you have done this the past 11 days and more, periodic check-ins are the key to reaching your goals!
Are you sticking to your savings goal set on Day 5? Are there any adjustments you need to make to your budget based on your 2022 goals that you set yesterday?
Lastly, block off the time on your calendar for your next eleven 2022 Money Dates, and most importantly, make sure to celebrate the enormous progress you have made this month!
It starts with your goals and ends with the small steps you take to get there. Success—whatever that may mean to you—is the result of many small efforts.
Keep your money goals realistic and measurable. The ultimate goal being to attain absolute peace through financial stability.
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