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February 19, 2019
Christian Matney, 22, and his wife, Aubry, 23, haven't let their youth hinder them from big financial goals.
The Austin, Texas-based couple — content creators at YouTube channel “The Matneys” — are travelers, entrepreneurs and homeowners, thanks in part to their commitment to financial minimalism. The approach involves decluttering accounts, obligations and balance sheets.
“We got things simple enough (to) where we both knew where our money was going,” Christian Matney says.
Here's how financial minimalism can help you clarify goals, reduce stress and focus on what matters.
LIST YOUR MOTIVATIONS
Minimalists live intentionally by carving out goals around which they center their lifestyles. But the key is knowing what those priorities are.
“If you're not directed and know exactly where you're going, something's going to be directing you,” Christian Matney says.
The Matneys married in May 2016 and began mapping their goals and documenting milestones on YouTube. At the time, both were employed at the same startup, working long hours and unable to commit much time to one of their top goals: travel. They set about simplifying.
When they moved into an apartment together, they purged many of their belongings — and many of their financial obligations. “We had tons of unnecessary expenses we didn't even know were there,” Christian Matney says. He notes they went from 30 monthly bills — including subscription accounts and donations they didn't realize had piled up — to five.
They then bought a van and, in 2017, moved into it, taking their jobs with the startup on the road. Along the way, they continued building their social media brand. By 2018, Christian says, they were able to quit their jobs and become business owners themselves, focusing on their brand and building websites for other companies.
For the Matneys, it was a matter of visualizing a goal — travel — and organizing their lives to meet it.
“The money follows, the steps follow and everything follows, but you've got to know where you're going first,” Christian Matney says.
WEIGH VALUE VS. STRESS
When deciding whether to buy, skip or toss an item, minimalists try to determine whether it adds value to their lives. Apply that to your financial accounts.
Beyond holding your money, accounts should save you time, fees and, perhaps most importantly, stress. For 64 percent of Americans, money is one of the most common sources of stress, according to the 2018 American Psychological Association's Stress in America Survey.
If your accounts are stressing you out, switch, close or consolidate.
“If you can take four different accounts and move them into one, on your brain, that makes such a tremendous impact because your finances are so much easier to manage,” says Brent Sutherland, a certified financial planner and self-proclaimed “semi-minimalist.”
Take a look at:
Bank accounts. Keeping track of checking, savings, money market and/or CD accounts can be daunting and expensive, thanks to service fees. Resolve to manage only a few low-cost options. For the Matneys, one savings account and two checking accounts suffice. Some online savings accounts pay upward of 2 percent annual percentage yield, much higher than the 0.09 percent national average.
Credit cards. Clear out plastic that no longer fits your spending habits or charges an annual fee. If you have an older card with a high limit, closing it can ding your credit scores, but you can still move it to a sock drawer.
Debts. Moving debt to a balance transfer card can mean paying less interest. If student loans are part of your debt mix, you can consolidate or refinance. Automating your payments can help, too, especially if you're still writing checks or paying via multiple creditors' websites.
Investments. If you've changed jobs, see if you can transfer your old 401(k) to your new employer's plan, or roll it over into an IRA. If your other investments are scattershot, transferring them to a single brokerage firm can help you better track your allocation and performance, Sutherland says. (Before doing so, ask about costs for such transfers.)
SPEND WITH PURPOSE
In 2018, the Matneys became homeowners, splitting the down payment and monthly mortgage 50/50 with Christian's grandparents. All four are on the deed, and they all live together.
Adding responsibilities and roommates may seem at odds with minimalism. For the Matneys, who still travel, the arrangement makes sense.
“It gives us a home base at an affordable rate, an investment property and an ability to take care of my family, which is a huge factor for me,” Christian says.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Melissa Lambarena is a writer at NerdWallet.