Say hello to October’s Females and Finances feature: Angela Fitzgerald! Angela is Summit’s Financial Education Coordinator, so she may have a trick or two up her sleeve that we can all use. Find out how Angela got to where she is today and what resources she still uses to keep owning it!
- What does “owning it” mean to you?
“Owning it” means having complete control over my financial condition. Having this control requires that I am aware of every aspect of my financial situation (including income streams, debts, investments, savings, etc.) and feel empowered to bring about changes in these areas that benefit me and my family as desired.
- Tell us how you got to where you are today.
Wow, that’s a tough question – but I’ll try to keep it brief! I believe the switch flipped for me in the area of finances when I was in graduate school and in pursuit of homeownership. I was nearing the end of my lease, and apartment rental costs were similar if not more than some mortgages in the area that I was living in at the time – which made me think, Why not consider buying a home?
Up until that point I had not paid a lot of attention to my finances. I knew they existed, but I wasn’t focused on planning for the future as it relates to my money. But when the idea of home ownership popped into my head, I became hyperaware of my finances. I did some preliminary research on home prices that I felt comfortable with managing, and incorporated that estimated monthly mortgage into my budget as a renter – so that I could get into the habit of paying that amount. My logic was that if I could comfortably handle that payment as a renter, I could more easily transition to being an owner.
I then went through the preapproval process, connected with a realtor and also took advantage of first-time homebuyer resources in my city – while maintaining my practice homeowner budget. The process took a tad longer than I expected, but I ultimately reached my goal of homeownership at 26. That process was just the start of my financial story, and kicked off my journey as not only a homeowner but also a landlord and real estate investor.
My three-bedroom home afforded me the opportunity to rent my two extra rooms to other students and became an instant income stream. Fast forward eight years and it is still producing income for me, even though I’ve moved out of state. This series of events whet my appetite for wealth building strategies and fueled a passion for sharing what I’ve learned with others – which has gotten me to where I am today.
- What would you say are your most important lessons learned about finances?
Save, save – and save again! Life happens and sometimes in unexpected ways. Not being prepared or in a position to handle those situations can lead to stress and debt. I’m a strong advocate for having a minimum of $1,000 stashed away for a rainy day, and putting aside a minimum of 10 percent of every dollar received and directing it toward specific savings goals.
If saving is a challenge, evaluate your financial situation. Are there expenses that you can reduce, freeing up your finances and allowing you to more easily save? Or are there opportunities for you to create additional income streams that you can divert toward your saving goals? Taking an honest look at your finances can help you to identify the best approach for you.
Read the fine print and budget for anticipated expenses. There are often hidden costs that we assume without fully understanding or even realizing. For example, some car insurance providers charge a fee for paying your car insurance premium in monthly installments. That fee is removed when you pay that premium in one lump sum. So, you end up paying more for the same amount of coverage on your vehicle by choosing to pay your premium in installments, rather than in full. Now, some people choose to pay monthly because they don’t have the full amount on hand. But if you know when your insurance will be due, you can budget for that amount in advance, allowing for you to save and be prepared when the bill arrives, avoiding unnecessary fees.
Also, don’t underestimate yourself. You are more powerful and can do more than you realize. Do your research. Have the conversation. Create the budget. Plan for your future and watch things change for you financially.
- What’s your current favorite financial education resource?
My current faves are YNAB, Rock Star Finance and the Finance Bar. YNAB (www.youneedabudget.com) is the budgeting app I use daily to manage my and my family’s finances. It allows me to track my spending and saving, and project for the future. I also enjoy reading the articles posted on Rock Star Finance (www.rockstarfinance.com), which is a collection of personal finance articles gathered from across the web. Lastly, I’m a big fan of the Finance Bar (www.thefinancebar.com). I love their content and their creative mode of delivering financial education – through a tricked-out school bus!