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What Exactly Is a Financial Adult?

Being a financial adult can actually be easy and straightforward.


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Being a financial adult is a lot less daunting than it sounds. It doesn’t mean you know everything about money or never make any mistakes. I still make mistakes all the time. We’re each on our own money journeys and will continue to grow, learn, and make mistakes. It’s all part of the fun.

Being a financial adult can actually be easy and straightforward. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to dedicate some time and put in some work, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to give up your current lifestyle in exchange for your financial future. Personal finance is, as the name suggests, personal.

A Financial Adult Takes Small, Consistent Steps That Add Up to Big Results

When it comes to improving our financial lives, action is everything. We can learn and read about money all day, every day, but until we take action, it won’t meaningfully impact our lives.

What I find has the biggest impact is taking small consistent steps over time. Not only does that make change a lot more manageable (and easy), but we also start to see results and that builds our motivation. This inspires us to take more steps and our results become exponential.

So, it’s a win–win. Small steps make it easy but also lead to big results. This financial adulting program will provide you with the small steps needed to get there.

A Financial Adult Understands What’s Happening with Their Money

This one might sound simple, but it’s actually tremendously powerful and profound. Understanding what’s happening with your money means you know what’s coming in and where your money is going, whether that’s where you’re spending it or how you are allocating it toward your goals.

As a financial adult, you have a clear picture of what you have and where you have it and understand what’s happening with your investments (including your retirement).

We have a tendency not to want to know what’s happening with our money. We might be afraid of what we’ll find, thinking it will be less stressful to not know and remain unaware. But until we know what’s happening, we can’t do anything about it. And there’s no power in that.

Once we know what’s happening with our money, we can make conscious and intentional choices. We can make sure our finances align with our goals and what’s most important to us. We can choose to support organizations and causes we believe in and vote for our values with each dollar we spend and invest.

Clarity and awareness give us choices. And that’s exactly what we need before we can make a plan. I feel a sigh of relief already!

A Financial Adult Feels Confident in Their Financial Plans, Knowing They Will Get to Have and Experience What They Want in Life (Which Is the Whole Point of Having Money Anyway!)

This one is a biggie! Financial plans often get a bad rap. We think of financial plans, especially budgets, as being overly restricting or limiting our fun. That’s why we understandably avoid making them. But that comes at a really high cost.

Having a financial plan actually does the opposite of restricting us. It gives us peace of mind. Can you imagine knowing exactly how and when you will reach your financial goals? Now imagine that you can also build in the things that make you happy. You can spend on the nonessential things you really want without feeling guilty because it’s all part of the plan.

Now we’re talking.

A Financial Adult Understands the Critical Context of Equity and Personal Finance, Recognizes That Privilege Can and Should Be Used to Help Close Racial and Gender Wealth Gaps, or Realizes That They May Be Starting at a Disadvantage Due to Historic and Systemic Obstacles

We can’t talk about personal finance without talking about equity. While much of the financial adulting work you’ll be doing is about transforming your own financial wellbeing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t systemic inequities at work.

We don’t start on an equal playing field. BIPOC communities face significant disadvantages compared to white communities, LGBTQ+ communities face discrimination and costs that straight communities don’t, women are not on an equal playing field to men, and BIPOC women, specifically Black women, Latinas, Native women, and mothers, face both systemic racism and sexism. There are racial and gender gaps in earning, debt, investing, homeownership, and the list goes on and on.

Financial adults understand this critical context and recognize that their privilege can and should be used to help close racial and gender wealth gaps. Financial adults also understand they may be coming from a place of disadvantage due to historic and systemic obstacles.

I am by no means an expert and still have a lot of learning to do, which is why I turned to experts in my book.

What I do know is that the more BIPOC, feminist, and anti-racist people build individual wealth, the more we’ll see the institutional changes, changes in leadership, and changes in policy we want to see.

This article is an excerpt from Financial Adulting, Everything You Need to be a Financially Confident and Conscious Adult by Ashley Feinstein Gerstley.

About The Author
Ashley Feinstein Gerstley

Ashley is the author of Financial Adulting, a guide that breaks down everything you need to be a financially confident and conscious adult. She is also a money coach, author of The 30-Day Money Cleanse, and the Founder of the Fiscal Femme, a money platform on a mission to end inequality through financial well-being.

As a trusted money expert, she has appeared on or been quoted in The Financial Times, the TODAY Show, CNBC, Forbes, NBC, Glamour and The New York Times

Ashley has worked in the financial services industry for over fifteen years: first as an investment banker, then in corporate finance, and most recently running The Fiscal Femme. She graduated with a bachelor’s in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.