You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

13 signs you're better with money than you think you are

Business Insider 3/09/2015 Libby Kane

Take it easy on yourself — you're doing a good job.© Business Insider Take it easy on yourself — you're doing a good job. On the surface, dealing with your money sounds complicated.

Do you need a Roth or traditional IRA? Should you open a 529 in your home state? Do you need an accountant to do your taxes? How much are you supposed to save?

It can be overwhelming, and it's easy to think you aren't doing what you're supposed to.

Chances are, however, that you're doing better with money than you realize. Take a look at the accomplishments below — and they are accomplishments — to get some perspective on your finances.

1. You have a steady flow of income, and you know how much you earn.

© Business Insider If you're earning a regular paycheck, you're in a good place. Once you have that money coming in, knowing how much you earn logically follows.

We're not talking, "I earn $85,000 a year" — we're talking, "After taxes and any other withdrawals from my paycheck, I bring home $4,000 a month."

Living within your means is a critical part of staying in the black and growing your wealth, and first, you have to know what your means are. Without knowing how much money hits your bank account each month, how could you ever know how much is available to spend?

2. You know how much you spend.

© Provided by Business Insider The other half of knowing how much you earn is knowing how much you spend. Whether you use an app like Mint, LearnVest, or You Need a Budget to keep track of your monthly spending or you're a die-hard Excel addict, knowing how much money it takes to sustain your lifestyle is key.

Once you know how much you earn and how much you spend, some simple arithmetic will reveal how much you can afford to save, invest, or spend on high-tech headphones.

Bonus points if you've progressed beyond tracking your income and spending to establish a monthly budget. (For tips, check out these real people who keep diligent budgets.)

3. You can pay your bills each month ...

A 2015 study from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 55% of Americans either break even or spend more than they make each month.

If you can afford your housing and utilities, basic food, transportation to work, student loan payments, and any other important, recurring needs every month without going into debt, you're off to a good start.

Once you have your immediate needs covered, you can turn your mind — and your money — to growing your wealth.

4. ... and you can buy things you want.

© WestEnd61/REX If you can afford not only your monthly necessities, but also have the cash on hand to buy some of the things you want (think concert tickets, a trip to the beach, a bagel on the way to work when you have perfectly good oatmeal at home) without incurring any kind of debt, you're ahead of the game.

Not having to worry about whether you can afford lunch with coworkers or that cool embossed leather notebook you've been eyeing is a luxury.

5. You're saving money.

Pew Charitable Trusts found that 33% of Americans have no savings at all.

If you can cover your necessities, afford things you want but don't need, and stash away funds for the future, you're doing something right.

Experts recommend leaving about six months of living expenses untouched in a savings account to serve as an emergency fund should something go wrong. Bonus points if you have or are building an emergency fund to protect yourself against future disaster. 

6. You've given some thought to your retirement.

© Business Insider Have you been able to look up from the day-to-day and zero in on the future? According to a 2015 global report issued by HSBC, 38% of working-age people haven't begun to save for retirement, and don't intend to.

If you have, you're on a good path.

Saving for retirement can take a few different forms — a company-sponsored 401(k) or an IRA are two of the most popular savings vehicles — but no matter how you choose to save, the best thing you can do is start early. That same HSBC report found that 36% of retirees wish they had started saving earlier, and 38% think it's prudent to start planning by age 30.

Check out this impressive demonstration of the power of compound interest to understand why.

Even if you haven't started putting money away, even having considered what you want your retirement lifestyle to be like (Travel? Move nearer your family? Downsize your house? Take a part-time job to keep busy?) is a good start.

7. You're planning ahead for a major purchase.

Speaking of planning ahead: If you've foreseen, priced out, and started thinking about how to afford a purchase more than a few months from now, you're in good shape.

Whether you're saving for your kids to go to college, or to hold a wedding, or to take a big trip, setting financial goals complete with price tags is an important part of being smart about your money.

8. You've checked your credit score and/or report.

© JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Cor Your credit score, a three-digit number based on the activity detailed in your credit report, is an indicator of your trustworthiness, and helps lenders decide whether they feel comfortable lending you money — which can make all the difference when it comes time to buy something major, like a car or home.

A survey from Bankrate.com found that less than half of Americans have checked their credit score in the last year (26% have never checked at all), and 35% have never checked their credit reports. By being unaware of their credit, they're setting themselves up for a potentially upsetting surprise the next time they apply for a loan.

Sites like CreditKarma, CreditSesame, and Credit.com will give you your score — or at least a very close approximation — for free. You can check your free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Still curious about credit? Take a look at the things every functioning adult should know about credit scores.

9. You aren't carrying any credit card debt.

Debts can largely be lumped into two categories: good and bad.

Good debts come from investing in your future, such as buying a house or taking out loans for a college degree. Bad debts, along with typically high interest rates, don't help you build wealth or assets. The prime example of bad debt is credit card debt, and if you don't have any, you have a leg up on the 34% of Americans who do.

That's not to say that having credit card debt makes it impossible to build wealth — it just means you'll have to work a little harder to get into the black. Take a look at 13 tips from people who paid off thousands of dollars of debt for inspiration and ideas.

10. You've spoken to your significant other about money.

© Provided by Business Insider A 2015 study from Fidelity Investments found that many long-term, committed couples overestimate their ability to communicate about money.

According to that study, more than 40% can't accurately say how much their partner earns, and there are disconnects on how much couples have in investable assets, how they expect to live in retirement, and how they're planning for retirement at all.

If you and your partner have regular conversations about your financial reality and future, you're ahead of the game. If not, take a look at seven important conversations to have with your partner about money.

11. You choose to learn about money.

If you've picked up a book, read an article, or listened to a podcast to improve your handling of money, you're taking a proactive approach that will give you an advantage over many of us.

Multiple analyses of rich people have found that they value continued self-education and reading to learn more about the world. If it works for them, it could work for you.

12. You've made a financial choice that took some research.

<p>You invest.</p>© Business Insider

You invest.

On the heels of learning about money, you should be commended for doing research on your last big financial decision, whether that was choosing the right credit card, figuring out which 529 best fits your family's needs, picking a savings account, or finding a home within your price range.

Needing to do research means you have more than one option, which in turn means you have the money available to afford multiple options, as well as the sense to realize that one might be benefit you more than the rest and the diligence to figure out which one that is.

13. You invest.

You can make a few positive generalizations about people who invest:

• They're forward-looking, and give thought to their financial situation years out.

• They either have enough money that they can invest the leftover cash, or they prioritize investing over spending on something else.

• They refuse to be intimidated into paralysis by the seemingly complicated, nuanced world of investing.

These are all good things.

Investing your money has the potential for growth far beyond what you'd see in a traditional savings account, and to do it successfully, you don't have to be a pro who cherry-picks "winning" stocks.

Even billionaire Warren Buffet recommends a conservative approach — low-cost index funds — and online services such as Wealthfront and Betterment have sprung up to handle the ins and outs of investing on a day-to-day basis.

More From Business Insider

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon