Money Girl: How to Grow Wealth

This author and podcast offers her top tips for living a richer life.

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Laura D. Adams, the forced behind the Money Girl podcast and new book, Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich, has worked as an accountant, business owner, and real estate investor. Then, when she returned to school for a MBA program, she decided her true passion is spreading the word about smart money management to other people. That’s when she became a podcaster and author. “My goal is to make complex financial topics easy for listeners to understand,” she says. U.S. News recently spoke with Adams about her new book and top money tips. Excerpts:

[In Pictures: 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes]

Why did you write this book?

I knew that in order to cover more in-depth information about important financial topics, I’d need to write a book. Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich includes chapters about choosing the best bank accounts, creating a realistic financial plan, dealing with debt, investing for retirement, managing money using technology, buying real estate, and lots more.

What are your top tips for young people?

Young people have an incredible opportunity to build a huge amount of wealth if they follow some basic smart financial moves. Here are three of my top money tips for anyone who’s just starting out:

1) Create a financial safety net. Having a financial cushion that’s worth at least three to six months’ of your living expenses will keep you safe if you lose your job or have an unforeseen emergency. This is so important because for many people, their only option in an emergency is to rack up high-interest credit card debt. Expensive debt can literally double or triple the cost of the emergency depending on how long it takes you to pay it off.

2) Start investing now. Many young people procrastinate investing for the future because they don’t think they earn enough. It’s true that you probably won’t make as much money as you want when you’re just starting out, but young people have something that no one else has—time. The power of compounding interest can make your investments explode in value over time, even if you don’t have much to put aside. Investing small amounts on a regular basis earlier, rather than larger amounts later on, can give you much more for less.

3) Set up money management systems. One area where young people dominate personal finances is using technology to their advantage. Track your expenses and create a spending plan with a free online app like Mint.com or use free desktop software like Gnucash.org. Using free web tools and mobile apps—like online banking, bill pay, e-statements, and e-alerts—is the best way to stay on top of your banking and to make sure your bills never fall through the cracks. Paying bills on time is the best way to build credit quickly, which qualifies you for the lowest interest rates when you apply for a credit card or borrow money for a car or house.

[In pictures: 10 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2011.]

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about money?

The biggest misconception about money is certainly that having more of it will make you happier. We all need to create financial security and you can accomplish that on a modest income using the information and tips in my book. But thinking that you can be happy with a high-paying job that you dread going to every day or having a profitable business that you hate is a fallacy. It may be necessary to work multiple jobs or to do unfulfilling work on a temporary basis in order to pay down debt or to deal with a financial crisis; however, your lifestyle is a much more important factor for creating lasting happiness than money.

What do you struggle with most personally?

When given a choice, I tend to save money rather than spend it. Even though my savings and investments are pretty much on auto-pilot, sometimes it’s still tough for me to let go of my frugal tendencies and spend money so I enjoy myself in the present moment. There’s a balance we all need to strike between spending today and saving for tomorrow. Funding your long-term goals, like retirement, using payroll deductions or recurring monthly transfers from a bank account is a fool-proof way to make sure the job gets done. Then you can rest easier knowing that you’re automatically building wealth on a consistent basis and creating a richer financial future.