As a young person who KNOWS that financial health is important, it’s still tricky to understand what you need to do — and when. After all, there are so many differing opinions and facts all across the internet (and from the people you know), which makes it confusing and hard to know what you should actually be focusing on.

All in all, it’s really more simple than you might make it. The best things you can do? Stick to these financial non-negotiables — keeping debt low, saving money, and paying attention to your spending. Once you have the non-negotiables down, you can start to focus on the fun things — like investing! Plus, you can trust us… it’s all a lot easier than it sounds. 

Here’s what you need to know to prioritize your financial health.

Financial Non-Negotiable #1: Pay off *high-interest* debt.

Here’s the thing: high-interest debt that keeps on compounding is one of the biggest culprits in the way of financial health. While there are certain things (think: student loans, car loans) that tend to have lower interest rates, things like payday loans and credit cards can rack up interest quickly — making it borderline impossible to get ahead. 

First step? If at all possible, make sure you’re not contributing to the debt further. Second, call the provider and see if they can lower your interest rate (even a little is helpful). Next, start focusing on that high interest debt until you’ve begun to chip away at it. By clearing off some of that debt, you can feel more confident in your financial future.

Financial Non-Negotiable #2: Build an emergency fund that makes sense for YOU.

Next up, get some savings in the bank. An emergency fund is the easiest way to guarantee that you don’t backslide back into debt, and it’s also the best feeling you can have. Whether you need new tires on your car or run into an unexpected layoff, an emergency fund is absolutely essential. However, you don’t necessarily need a full six months of expenses, like you may have heard in the past. Some people need less, and some need more. 

Your job? Just to make sure that you feel comfortable with what’s in your savings. We’d always recommend that you keep a smaller amount directly accessible, and then consider putting the rest in a higher yield account. No matter what, just ensure that you save before you ever invest.

Financial Non-Negotiable #3: Keep an eye on your cash flow.

The quickest way to lose track of your money? It’s simple: it’s to not pay attention to where it’s going. So often, we tend to ignore our finances — and then deny them. Truthfully, it’s just human nature. However, even slightly tracking the coming and going of your finances can make a massive difference in your day-to-day cash flow.

Wondering how to do it? It totally depends on you. For starters, hold yourself accountable to checking your bank account everyday to keep an eye out for any fraudulent transactions and to make sure you know how much you’re spending and saving. Next up, consider budgeting with apps like Mint or Copilot. The goal? To be conscious.

At CIFS, we’re here to make finances equitable for everyone — and that starts with the fundamentals. Need support or community to make it make sense? We’re here for you, and ready to help.