Who’s the best money expert? GOBankingRates asked, and you answered.
Throughout February, GOBankingRates — in collaboration with ImportantScore.com — invited readers to vote for their favorite #MoneyIdol in its sixth annual Best Money Expert competition. The 16 finalists were selected by GOBankingRates’ editorial team and represent the top experts, influencers and thought leaders in personal finance.
From Feb. 1 through Feb. 24, 2017, readers had a chance to vote once daily for the expert whose advice they valued most. The finalist with the most votes earned the title of Best Money Expert of 2017.
To help readers pick their favorite, GOBankingRates shared the finalists’ best money advice to get ahead in 2017. The experts offered tips ranging from making more money to setting yourself up for a dream retirement. But among all of their advice, there was a common theme: It’s up to you to take charge of your finances.
Nicole Lapin Named Best Money Expert of 2017
For the second time in a row, readers named Nicole Lapin as their favorite #MoneyIdol. She received 46 percent of the votes cast in this year’s Best Money Expert competition. Runners-up include best-selling personal finance author David Bach in second place and 2014 Best Money Expert Josh Felber in third place.
Lapin teaches people about money on many fronts. She’s a mentor on the CW’s business competition reality show “Hatched.” She’s also the author of the best-selling book “Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together … Finally” and the forthcoming “Boss Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career.” Lapin is also Redbook magazine’s first-ever money columnist.
Why Her Money Advice Resonates With People
In an interview with GOBankingRates, Lapin said she couldn’t believe she was chosen the Best Money Expert of 2017 among a field of such stellar experts. “I’m in awe of what everybody in the competition has done,” she said. “It felt like a friendly celebration of what we’re all trying to do, which is democratize financial content.”
Lapin, in particular, has tried to make personal finance more accessible. Throughout her career, she has strived to cut through money jargon and offer advice anyone can understand. And, she’s not afraid to share her own money missteps to help others learn better financial habits. Lapin said this honesty is what resonates with people.
“I put my money where my mouth is,” she said. “I’ll tell you the ways I messed up along the way.” By showing people how she’s recovered from her mistakes and educated herself about money, Lapin hopes she’ll inspire others to do the same.
“We didn’t learn this stuff in school,” she said. “It’s not our fault — we don’t have to be hard on ourselves. But we can’t bury our heads in the sand.” You need to understand money and finances to become empowered, she said.
Nicole Lapin’s Tips to Become Financially Empowered in 2017
To help people become financially empowered, Lapin shared her top tips with GOBankingRates. She said you need to do these key things to take control of your money.
1. Stop the smiling and nodding syndrome.
Lapin said she wasn’t taught anything about money while she was growing up. “Finance jargon freaked me out,” she said. So when people talked about things such as stock buying and selling strategies, she would smile, nod and not ask questions.
She realized that was a mistake, though. “It was only when I stopped smiling and nodding, and [started] asking questions did I feel empowered,” Lapin said. She stopped letting financial jargon be a barrier by learning what it meant so she could take control of her financial life.
If you want to become financially empowered, the first thing you need to do is stop smiling and nodding — and start educating yourself about money.
2. Figure out what you want.
You can’t take control of your finances unless you have financial goals. “If you don’t know what you want, you can’t get it,” said Lapin.
This can be different for everyone. That’s why you have to figure out what’s important to you when it comes to your finances, your family and even having fun. Write your goals for all three of these aspects of your life, and make sure they’re compatible, said Lapin.
Then, break down your goals into specific steps so you can reach them. “Figure out the life you want, then how to get it,” she said.
3. Create a spending plan to get what you want.
Once you’ve figured out what is important, you should create a spending plan. Unlike a budget, “a spending plan is not about deprivation,” said Lapin. That’s why it works.
A budget — like a diet — feels like something you can’t sustain because you have to deprive yourself of what you enjoy, she said. And cutting out little luxuries can backfire because you’ll end up spending more to overcome your feelings of deprivation.
A spending plan, on the other hand, allows for small indulgences, said Lapin. The key is to plan for them. Your spending plan should include essentials, your end game and extras.
For example, Lapin said 70 percent of your income should go to essentials — things you must pay for such as housing, transportation and food. Fifteen percent should go to your end game: retirement and savings goals. Give these savings accounts names so it feels like you’re investing in yourself or something you want rather than putting money into an endless abyss, she said.
The final 15 percent of your income can be spent on extras, nonessential expenses or small indulgences. But “take the fun money out in cash,” said Lapin. “When it’s gone, the party is over.”
4. Change your money mindset.
Many of Lapin’s biggest fans are women because she targets her advice to them. For example, her new book “Boss Bitch” aims to help women believe in themselves, take charge and be successful in their careers and in life. So, these next two tips are geared more toward women seeking financial empowerment.
Women who want to be the boss of their financial lives need to change their mindset about money, said Lapin. Too often, women feel challenged by financial tasks. “I hear women say budgeting sucks,” she said. “But so does being broke.”
But if they change how they view money, women can feel more positive about their financial situation and become a money magnet. So, think about what you want and how money can help you achieve it. You’ll feel inspired to make the changes you need to get your finances under control and make more money.
“Money is so awesome,” said Lapin. “Why would you not want more money?”
5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
It’s well known that women are paid less, on average, than men. If women want to close the gender wage gap, they need to stop being afraid to negotiate their pay and start asking for raises. “They’re not going to open up the corporate coffers for you if you don’t ask,” said Lapin.
To increase your chances of getting a pay bump, go into negotiations prepared. Bring documentation of what you’ve worked on and achieved, create a presentation and practice what you’re going to say. Know how much of a raise you want to get or any perks you want, such as the ability to work from home.
Be willing to negotiate in other areas of your life, too. Lapin recommended calling service providers to get lower rates and lenders to negotiate your debt or interest rates. “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” she said.
Learn More About the Winner: Money Lessons From ‘Rich Bitch’ Nicole Lapin