When you hear the word ‘wellness’, what do you first think of? Perhaps it is physical well-being or a reminder that it is time to schedule your yearly doctor appointment. You may also imagine the latest trend making headlines, like celery juice or gua sha. But what about Financial Wellness? The health of your finances is just as important as your yearly check-up. What Moves Her is sharing some easy-to-implement strategies designed to boost your overall financial health, and help you build the future you desire and deserve.
Here’s a sobering statistic: just 39% of Americans could pay for a $1,000 emergency expense.
With numbers like that, it’s easy to see why the topic of finance is so stressful and uncomfortable. It also speaks to the urgent need for more education on financial wellness. Sadly, that’s a subject that many Americans simply weren’t taught in school. Fortunately, there is a wealth of information online about financial wellness, financial literacy, financial management apps and tools, tips for tax season, and strategies for building and sticking to a household financial plan. Nobody is going to mistake it for beach reading, but content like this is absolutely essential if you want to gain financial independence, and spend less time worrying about your household finances.
Knowledge is Power When it Comes to Financial Wellness
In order to achieve a degree of financial wellness, we need to hold ourselves accountable for our own education. We need to understand that the responsibility is on us to become financially literate…and that’s empowering!
As women, one major hurdle is the gender pay gap. Fortunately, as real estate professionals, we are more than up to the task to tackle this head on. In fact, most of the skills we use every day in our careers can be put to work for our own financial wellness.
In the real estate business, we are used to setting goals, doing our research, taking bold action, and putting the time and effort to get the job done. To succeed in our industry, that’s just the cost of entry. We’re used to tough challenges, so it won’t be trouble for us go “all-in” on our own financial wellness. That means:
- Declaring our intention to learn the fundamentals of wealth management
- Creating actionable goals to measure our progress
- Dedicating time to check in on our finances regularly
What Moves Her is providing concrete strategies for women in our industry to improve our financial wellness. Topics we’ll cover include:
- Potential tax issues for independent contractors
- Building a budget
- Thought-starters on wealth-building
- Fundamental investing concepts
To kick things off, let’s discuss how real estate differs from many other industries in terms of employment status and tax implications.
Understanding Potential Tax Implications for Real Estate Independent Contractors
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), nearly 9 out of 10 Realtors are considered to be independent contractors. Though there are tons of benefits to this classification (flexibility, getting to be our own boss and of course, no salary cap), it does make certain financial aspects of our job a little more complicated than the traditional nine to five.
For starters, if an individual providing services is determined to be an independent contractor (based on a variety of factors), then they are not considered to be employees of the business. Rather, for tax purposes most agents are classified as self-employed sole proprietors—even if they’re affiliated with a brokerage. This can make taxes more complicated, as the bulk of them often are not withheld from your paycheck. As a general rule of thumb, Personal Finance blog The Balance suggests that you set aside approximately 30% of your income to cover your income taxes as well as the self-employment tax.
On the plus side, independent contractors may be able to take advantage of a wide range of tax deductions. Intuit Turbotax has a handy guide to some of the most common agent and broker deductions, including:
- Marketing. Sales and open house signs, flyers, web development and maintenance. Plus, business card and mailer costs
- Education. Real estate coaching, training and other continuing education costs
- Licensing. Real estate licensing and renewal fees
- Transportation. Automobile maintenance and repairs, gas, as well as auto insurance, mileage, parking and even lease costs potentially may be deducted.
Budgeting as an Independent Contractor
Since our income can fluctuate, it can certainly make budgeting trickier from year to year. Everyone’s financial situation is unique and what’s right for one agent may not be right for someone else. With that said, it’s still critically important to build a budget and stick to it. Need help?
The Independent Contractors Benefits Association has a helpful article detailing Eight Steps to Making a Budget as an Independent Contractor. It lays out everything from how to figure out your monthly income, to determining your spend, to managing cashflow, to tracking it all. For something more real estate-specific, Inman has a helpful guide crafted for first-year agents on how to help agents keep their financial life on track as they’re first starting out. Whether you’re a new agent or a seasoned veteran, you’ll find lots of helpful advice there.
Strategies for Building Wealth as a Real Estate Professional
Financial Wellness is not about merely surviving month to month. It’s about thriving. That means saving up money over the long-term to gradually build up wealth. The good news is, you don’t have to be a financial genius, hit the lottery, or run a Silicon Valley startup to build wealth. The most important factor of all is time. It’s not all that different from investing in real estate—over time, prices historically have had a tendency to go up.
Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, described his strategy for wealth building like this, “Start early. I started building this little snowball at the top of a very long hill. The trick is to having a very long hill is either starting very young or living to be very old.” What Buffett is referring to is the power (some call it “magic”) of compounding interest. E*TRADE has a good explanation of how it can work over time to build wealth.
Of course, that wealth isn’t going to build up sitting in a 0% checking or low-interest savings account. To maximize your financial wellness, and turn your annual income into long-term wealth, you should consider investing.
Strategies for Building Wealth Over Time
- Learn about Exchange-traded Funds. One popular, low-cost investment is exchange-traded funds (ETFs). E*TRADE describes their benefits here. Similar to a mutual fund, an ETF “invests in a variety, or basket of securities such as stocks or bonds. When you won a share in an ETF, you own a fraction of that basket of investments”. Another positive aspect of ETFs: they’re a quick and easy way to stay diversified (more on that later).
- Consider an Automatic Investing Plan. As real estate professionals, we are far too busy to sit around and watch the market all day. That’s why Automatic Investing plans can be such a powerful tool for us. They remove the guesswork by automatically investing into the market at regular intervals—weekly, monthly, etc.—regardless of share price. It’s a strategy known as Dollar-cost averaging. If you have a retirement account such as an IRA or 401(k), your contributions use dollar-cost averaging, too.
- Stay diversified. Also known as the “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” theory. Instead of investing all your money into one or two stocks, keep it spread around. As Kiplinger’s says, “Spreading your assets among a number of investments will keep a downturn in one of them from tanking your whole portfolio. The counterintuitive rule of thumb is that if part of your portfolio isn’t underperforming at any given moment, then you’re not diversified enough.”
- Consider investing in real estate. For something (literally) closer to home, you could also look into investing in real estate. NerdWallet has an excellent guide to How to Invest in Real Estate: 5 Ways to Get Started. It covers topics such as investing in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), rental properties, flipping properties, and renting out a room. Of course, like any investment, there are risks. But it’s an industry you certainly know well, and could offer an interesting alternative to traditional securities such as stocks or mutual funds.
Challenges Women Face in Today’s Economic Climate
Did you know that when it comes to financial wellness, women are often falling behind their male counterparts?
Statistics show that only 52% of women say they are confident, compared to 68% of men, with managing their investments. And with women living on average six to eight years longer than men, we will likely need more money for retirement and to face the challenges of taking more time off from the workplace throughout our lifetime.
All of this is a LOT of information. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But remember—financial wellness is a journey. There may be some ups and downs along the way, but if you remember the basics as outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your financial goals, both long and short-term.
Don’t forget to celebrate the small victories and successes along the way!
Helpful Financial Resources
Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. There are plenty of apps and websites dedicated to helping you achieve financial wellness. There are far too many to name them all, but here are a few good ones that are easy to use and helpful. Please note: though some of these are free, some others charge a monthly or annual fee.
- Simplifi by Quicken (great overall budgeting tool)
- You Need a Budget (another powerful overall budgeting tool)
- Stride (excellent for tracking expenses)
- E*TRADE (free with E*TRADE account)
- Robinhood (free with Robinhood account)
- Charles Schwab (free with Schwab account)
This material has been prepared for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors for answers to specific questions and before making any decisions. This website contains links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser; Realogy and its affiliates do not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.