Financial planning seems like an intimidating topic to talk about—what more actually getting into it? The first time I met with a financial advisor was when I was in my early 20s, and even though I didn’t completely understand it at that time, I already had a vague notion that investing in my 20s would benefit my future self a lot. It took a while, but I eventually started in my mid-20s. To this day, I sometimes still have to recall the terms, and I’d always have to clarify things with either my advisor or the Cupcake. I was never good with numbers (which is why I prefer working with words), and the very act of managing my finances can still be a challenge for me. To think—I’m already in my 30s!
Early this year, investing was something I convinced my office babies to consider as well, especially because they’re currently in their early 20s and only on their first or second jobs. They had so many questions, and were incredibly overwhelmed by the idea that I thought to myself, “Maybe if there was a way to simplify it, it wouldn’t sound so daunting.” In a timely turn of events, I reconnected with a schoolmate from high school, Mariel Bitanga, who I had the honor of interviewing.
Mariel was trained by the Registered Financial Planners of the Philippines, and was licensed by the Insurance Commission of the Philippines. She started her own boutique financial firm, Simply Finance, to empower modern-day Filipinas by providing financial solutions created according to their unique goals and aspirations. I asked her questions that clients often raised, and had my own questions as well.
1. What is Simply Finance, and how did it start?
Simply Finance is a boutique financial planning firm committed to empowering Filipino women by providing financial solutions created according to the unique goals and aspirations of modern-day Filipinas. We help create concrete step-by-step action plans and recommendations to help women achieve financial security and success.
I started my career in financial planning five years ago. I was working and had several multiple streams of income, but I did not know how to manage and invest my money. I met with a financial planner, a family friend, and because I was so happy with my progress I wanted to spread the word to my friends. I then joined her team and became a financial planner myself! I became licensed with the Insurance Commission of the Philippines, and became a Registered Financial Planner with RFP®️. Learning more about the importance of financial planning and the positive impact I was making on my clients, I then decided to build Simply Finance to be able to reach and help more women by simplifying the process for them and making the world of personal finance a little less daunting. I wanted to create a safe space and platform where women could be empowered to take control of their finances and reach financial independence.
2. What’s your process in helping individuals or companies with financial planning?
The process always starts with the client, and where they currently stand financially. It’s also important to know what their midterm and long-term goals are. These are the first steps to really get a grasp of where the client is, and where the client wants to go. After finding out these information, we then create an action plan with recommendations and timelines on how they can reach their financial goals. We also conduct coaching sessions to be able to help the client get a more holistic understanding of personal finance. After, we keep in touch and have finance check-ups to see how they’re doing with their financial life, and if there are new factors to consider (pay raise, marriage, pregnancy, etc.).
For companies, the process is a little bit the same. I help companies through financial wellness workshops, as well as helping them set up their health, insurance, and retirement benefits for their employees.
3. I’m in my 20’s, how do I start investing?
Before you start investing, you should have your foundations set up first. For starters, you should have your emergency fund, HMO, critical illness insurance, life insurance, and no debts. Once you have done all these, you can start investing already! I suggest for first investments, go for low-mid risk investments just so you get used to the idea, and the discipline of investing. An example of this are pooled funds which you can get at banks or mutual fund companies. Once you have your first investment, you can then move on to higher-risk investments. There are so many types of investments out there; the key is to just really do your research, and make sure you understand and like what you are investing in. There are always risks involved so also make sure you know your risk appetite.
4. Is it too late to start investing if I’m in my 30s?
It’s definitely not too late! As long as you have your foundations set, don’t waste another day and start investing. As long as you start now and do it consistently, you will be successful. This should be seen as a long-term act. Don’t just invest one time, and be done with it. Continued consistent investing is key!
5. How to budget and save money? There seems to not be enough with all my expenses.
Start with really listing down each and every monthly expense you have, and subtract it from your monthly income. Assess if there are things that you can cut out and improve. Usually, you’ll see some items that you could lessen buying or not really need. Make a budget and stick to it. Also, pay yourself first. After getting your salary, before any expenses, set aside some for your savings first.
6. Do I need insurance even if I am single?
Yes, you do. Focus on getting health and critical illness insurance. If you get critically ill, and not be able to work, this will replace your income. Also even if you’re single, I suggest having enough life insurance to cover at least your funeral expenses. Not to be morbid, but if you pass away before your parents or siblings, you don’t want to give them the burden of spending for your funeral and burial. Those things can get expensive.
7. Best financial tips for women in their 20s.
Strive to have multiple streams of income, stick to your budget, pay yourself first, have your foundations in tact, and explore investment vehicles. Time is your biggest asset, not the amount of money you earn and have. Maximize all the years you have ahead of you by investing early. Also, keep growing your knowledge and network. This should be consistent.
8. Best financial tips for women in their 30s.
Assuming you have your foundations and first investments set already, continue to grow yourself and your network. Be more open to investing opportunities, but of course always do your research and due diligence. This is also the time to start building on your retirement fund if you have not already done so. I can help you compute how much you exactly need for your retirement with the type of lifestyle you desire.
9. What to do about my finances during this pandemic?
This is the best time to organize your expenses and cut down on the unnecessary ones. This is also the time to look for other streams of income if you haven’t yet, as many companies and employers are not stable right now. If you have investments, don’t panic sell. Think of your long term objectives. If you do not have health and critical illness insurance, now is the time to get one!
Need more tips on how to mange your finances during the COVID-19 crisis? Download Simply Finance’s Financial Planning Guide in Time of Crisis here.
10. Are there any tools or apps you would recommend to help me save or grow my money?
You can search for T. Harv Eker’s Money Jars System to help you allocate your budget. As for apps, I don’t use budgeting apps because I find using Google Sheets better for me. It’s usually trial and error, and eventually you’ll find what works for you. There are auto investment and auto savings programs in banks and insurance companies that can help you automate your savings and investments. Again, do a lot of research, and trial and error. Find the system that works best for you. You may also book a free discovery call with Simply Finance to help you further!
To know more about Simply Finance or book a free discovery call, visit their website here. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram. I hope this post was able to simplify financial planning for you as much as it inspired me to do better at managing my finances!
Simply Finance by Mariel Bitanga: Financial Planning for Women