With fewer deals to go around, many markets experiencing a downshift and more agents than ever, it makes business sense to reach for the fundamentals. That’s why at Inman, we’re going Back to Basics with curated throwbacks to some of our most-read stories as well as new insights from agents in the field — all culminating in Inman’s Playbook for the Fall Market, a two-day virtual event that you should make plans to attend.
Time and time again, I hear, “I wish I had learned more about personal finances when I was in school.”
Now, maybe this comes up more often in conversation for me since I am a financial planner. Still, I am guessing you have heard this same sentiment periodically from clients as they go through the loan approval process before beginning their home search.
I think we can all agree, no matter our personal level of financial education, that increasing our financial knowledge will have a positive impact on our lives.
So, how does one go about raising their financial IQ?
Here are five habits that will increase your financial IQ and as a result improve your quality of life.
1. Read publications — just like this one
As you might have guessed, reading financial content is one of the top ways to increase your financial IQ.
And the fact that you are reading the article means you are already headed in the right direction.
I always recommend checking out the financial sections of publications that you already read within your industry, as opposed to searching for stand-alone financial content.
Why? Because, more often than not, financial articles published in places you enjoy reading will do two things:
1. They will cater to your specific needs because you are the target audience.
For example, as a real estate agent, you likely won’t find a ton of value in learning the ins and outs of optimizing a pension benefit because you don’t have one.
Rather, learning about the differences between retirement plans that are available to small business owners, like a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k), could mean saving thousands of dollars on your tax bill each year!
2. They will speak your language.
There isn’t a lot of value in reading financial content using industry jargon that goes right over your head, leaving you no better informed than when you started reading the article.
We’ve all been there.
But financial articles in publications you already read are, again, written with you as the primary audience and should be written in a manner that meets you at your current level of financial knowledge.
2. Read books
If you are ready to take the next step beyond the bite-sized articles you have been reading to grow your financial knowledge base, consider stepping up to a book.
Books allow you to deep-dive into the philosophy of industry experts and really unpack the details of how things work.
I am often asked, “How do I find the right books to read?”
This question is massively important due to the time commitment required of reading — you don’t want to waste your time on a poorly written book or irrelevant content.
In my experience, asking a mentor or colleague you respect for a recommendation is the best solution.
I have found this advice much more valuable than any Google review.
And with that, I will leave you with my favorite book about money: The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards.
I highly recommend it.
3. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks
For most of us, the biggest obstacle in our way of learning isn’t desire — it’s time.
You are busy, and podcasts are the perfect fit for scratching your financial education itch as you drive from showing to showing.
Now, you likely have discovered the wealth of knowledge available via podcasts for running your real estate business on topics like marketing or managing your CRM. But don’t sleep on the financial planning podcasts either.
As with any content, you want to be sure you trust the information you take in.
One way to help your odds of finding quality and reliable financial education is to listen to a host who has met educational standards by earning a designation like the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) certification.
A great example of a retirement planning podcast that checks all the boxes is Stay Wealthy with Taylor Schulte.
Give it a listen to see if it deserves a spot in your podcast rotation.
4. Take a class
Classes are an excellent way to access experts in areas you want to learn more about.
The low-hanging fruit for classes is professional presentations at your brokers’ sales meetings.
It is pretty common for brokerages to bring in a CPA around tax time to discuss updates to the ever-changing tax code for you to be aware of in your business. This is a great opportunity to ask high-level questions that you might be considering.
If you really want to up your game, check out the Center for Realtor Financial Wellness.
This is a program available through NAR that offers regular webinars on financial topics specifically for real estate agents.
5. Engage your financial planner
If you work with a financial planner, you have access to financial advice tailored to you, but how often do you utilize it?
Admittedly, the ideal situation is that you have partnered with a financial planner proactively engaging you with educational conversations on a consistent basis. But not all financial planners live up to this standard.
Your financial planner’s interactions don’t need to be full-blown sit-downs in a conference room every quarter (again, you’re busy working on your business!) Hopping on a quick Zoom call every three months seems to be a comfortable cadence for addressing questions as your life changes.
What should you talk about?
Well, most financial planners have a systematic approach to financial planning that allows you to learn more about each of your personal finance areas throughout the year.
Topics your financial planner could cover include:
- Tax planning (forward-looking)
- Cash flow management
- Retirement plan selection
- Risk management
- Rental real estate modeling (if applicable)
- Estate planning
Plus, as life happens, you can simply email your financial planner questions as they arise, and your planner will be ready to dive into the topic with you on your next Zoom call.
And remember, there are no dumb questions. Your financial planner’s job is to meet you where you are and grow your understanding of your personal finances.
Jordan Curnutt, CFP, is a Certified Financial Planner professional for top-producing real estate professionals who want to strategically manage their wealth, optimize variable income, build a balanced net worth, and mitigate what is likely their biggest personal expense, taxes. Reach out to Jordan on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.