Five personal finance skills everybody should have

Money and personal finance is very important in everyone's life, so make it your goal to learn as much as you can. Start by opening your first bank account, become financially savvy, and build a good credit history that could help you in the future. 

Reuters/Nicky Loh/File
A US dollar note and a Chinese yuan banknote are seen through a pair of spectacles.

Just a decade ago, I would have considered myself financially 'illiterate.'  I had no idea how  finances worked, what a credit score was.  I didn't even have a debit card.  But, after seeing how important money and personal finance was in your everyday life, I made it a goal to learn as much as I could, and started by opening my first bank account.  Here are some essential skills that you need to know to consider yourself financially literate.


At a minimum, you should have a checking and savings account.  Paychecks are largely deposited electronically nowadays, so if you have a full-time job you should already have one.  Savings accounts are good for that emergency fund and for general savings as well.  With a debit card and bank account, you'll be able to pay bills online.  I would recommend memorizing your bank account number and routing number.


You should understand how your credit score works.  This is one of life's big mysteries for some and the more you understand, the better rates you'll receive when you ask for a loan or mortgage.  It will also make you a more responsible spender.  You should understand what APR rates are (and what the rates are on your credit cards), and what fees your credit card charges for foreign transactions and missing a payment.


You should absolutely understand how the market works, what a security is, and how your 401k and Roth IRA work.  You don't have to have extra money to participate in the market, but understanding annual reports, dividends, stocks, bonds, and what a balanced portfolio looks like is essential for your retirement account.


It's important to understand how to file taxes, and how tax brackets work.  If you have multiple lines of income, and it's confusing (trust me, it is), know that hiring a tax accountant may be a good option.  And, when you receive that tax return, know how to invest it properly!

Personal Life

I've always been bad about keeping a budget, but the better you can keep a budget, the more financially free you will become.  This means comparison shopping when you're buying an item, not purchasing too much that you don't need, cooking at home, and understanding that living within your means is the best way to live.

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