Can You Answer These Financial Questions?


I think we can all agree that personal finance is, well, personal. I can share information and examples and suggestions all I want, but when it comes down to it, I have no way to know the situation of every person who reads this blog. That’s why it’s very rare for me to write a post talking about what you “must” do or “should” do - I don’t live your life, so I really don’t have any business dictating how you live it.

All that said, today is one of those rare moments when I’m going to tell you something you “should” do. You should be able to answer all of these financial questions, and if you can’t, you should take some time to make sure you can.

1. What is your income? Let’s start with an easy one. How much money do you (or does your household) make in a month? How about a year? You’d be surprised how many people have never really added it up. When I lived paycheck to paycheck, I never thought beyond the next time I got paid because it was too stressful. But I also didn’t have a realistic idea of what I could afford.

2. What are your monthly expenses? Do you know the dollar amount (within reason) of your bills each month? I didn’t for a long time. I just paid the bills when they came in and prayed I didn’t run out of money. When I actually sat down and looked at what I spent on things like gas and dining out, I nearly died of shock. My guesstimate of my expenses and what I actually spent in a month were two different things.

3. What would happen if you died tomorrow? A little depressing, but it’s important to have a plan for what will happen when you die. Who will take care of your kids? Who gets all your stuff? How will your family pay for your funeral? Don’t assume that someone else will take care of it - the worst thing in the world is losing a loved one AND having to panic about what they would have wanted.

4. Where could you get $500 in an emergency? $500 isn’t a huge sum of money, but it can sure seem like it if you need it and don’t have it. If your washing machine exploded next week or you became violently ill and needed expensive medication, where would you get the money?

5. What would you do if you got fired from your job? Again, not something anyone wants to think about. In this economy, though, you need to consider whether any job is really safe. And you need to have a tentative plan for what you would do if you suddenly didn’t have one.

6. How will you live in retirement? If you’re an adult and don’t know the answer to this question, you’re already in trouble. Unless you want to work until you’re 84 years old and drop dead on the job, you should be doing something, ANYTHING, to save for old age. Even if you’re only saving $50 a month, that’s better than nothing. Let’s face it, Social Security probably won’t be here much longer, and even if it is, is that how you want to live when you’re old?

7. What could you sell to make extra cash if needed? I’m not saying you should go sell all your stuff. But by keeping inventory of the things you could, theoretically, let go of in an emergency, you’ll be able to act quickly if you ever have to.

8. Does your spending align with your values? Make a quick list of your top 5 ideals or values. Then make a list of the top 5 things you spend money on (after bills). Are you spending money on the things that matter most to you? Or are you wasting your money on crap?

9. What are you teaching (or will you teach) your kids about money? I’ve written several posts about this. (See here and here.) Have you thought about how your habits will affect your kids’ and grandkids’ attitudes toward financial issues in the future? What will they learn from you? Will that be through your words, your example, or both?

10. What steps can you take today to improve your financial situation? This one is always hard for me. I’ve been doing really well where money is concerned (especially compared to my former self), and sometimes it’s easy to forget that there is always room for improvement. But when you get complacent and don’t spend time thinking about and dealing with money, that’s a perfect time for bad habits to creep in.

So, How YOU Doin’?

Were you able to answer all the financial questions above? Anything you need to work on? What did I forget to include in this list?

22 Responses to “Can You Answer These Financial Questions?”

  1. Michelle says:

    I can answer most of these questions, except how I will live in retirement and I still need to sell a lot of useless things in our house. We are of course saving as much as we can, but don't know if we'll retire at 45 or 65.

  2. moneyaftergrad says:

    1. What is your income? Greater than $50,000 but less than $100,000

    2. What are your monthly expenses? Do you know the dollar amount (within reason) of your bills each month? Total monthly expenses come to about $1,200.

    3. What would happen if you died tomorrow? All my assets are to be divided equally between my siblings. I don't have a will, but I've named them as the beneficiaries when I opened the accounts. Because I don't really own anything (no house, no car) I like to think this would be relatively uncomplicated.

    4. Where could you get $500 in an emergency? From my emergency fund!

    5. What would you do if you got fired from your job? Look for casual immediate work on Craigslist or Kijiji (just yesterday I saw a post looking for someone to clean a garage: 2 days, $200 — that's ok!) then look for "filler" work like at a Starbucks or local restaurant that can get up to 40 hours but with a flexible schedule so I can apply for a real job. Then I would apply like mad to every professional opening in my city. My resume is up to date so I'm pretty ready for this.

    6. How will you live in retirement? Like a baller. I have a pension through work and my own retirement savings plus whatever the government of Canada will give me.

    7. What could you sell to make extra cash if needed? Not much because I don't own much. Actually I can't really think of anything.. I think I've sold anything I can sell.

    8. Does your spending align with your values? Not always. I waste a lot of money on crap.

    9. What are you teaching (or will you teach) your kids about money? It runs out fast, be careful.

    10. What steps can you take today to improve your financial situation? Stop using credit cards (even though I'm pretty good about paying of the balance), stop buying coffee every damn day, pay debt more aggressively.

  3. Jai Catalano says:

    I am constantly answering those questions. I think I am tackling the answers slowly but surely. I am at a cross roads and hopefully will be able to answer all of those questions with a lot more pride in the near future.

  4. seedebtrun says:

    Great post, Andrea.
    I am certainly in a better position than I was a few months ago, to answer these questions.

    However, I truly don't have an answer for #5 or #6.
    If I lost my job, both my wife and I would be scrambling- any way we could to find additional income. But we certainly don't have an emergency fund stocked to handle a long layoff.

    For #6, my retirement is a work in progress. I have a 401k funded and building, but it need to multiply many times over to make it a true reliable retirement option.

  5. fugalportland says:

    I can answer most of these questions (though nobody knows what to do if I died, that's for sure) but maybe I need to go through them again and think about it closely.

  6. Ashley says:

    I especially like the question of does your spending align with your values. I'm aggressively paying down my debt right now, so I have an allowance each paycheck, and I definitely think a lot more about what to spend it on since I have so little! Most of the time, it's spent on activities with friends or family, or gifts for birthdays and holidays, because those are both important for me to maintain, even while I'm paying off debt.

  7. Lance@MoneyLife&More says:

    Those are some great questions everyone should have answers for. I don't know exactly how much I spend every month but I know I keep it under my budget and that is good enough for me. I could pretty much answer the rest.of the questions I think.

  8. @dracoangelica says:

    Just started a new job and while we're able to cover the expenses, my monthly income (around 1600) is just now meeting my monthly expenses (around 1550). Things are going to ease up once the other incomes start up. My husband is still looking for a job…but getting our debt paid down will move the expenses from 1550 to about 1100.
    So ridiculous to have all that debt, but honestly, I look and look and I can't see how I would have been able to do any better than I've done.

    School loans suck and so does debt. Hopefully we'll snowball it down and be ok soon.
    As for the emergency $$$ questions…Working on it.

  9. evencheap says:

    I can answer these questions. I think about them almost daily, especially how I will live in retirement.

  10. bogofdebt says:

    Number five is a tricky one for me. I'm working on getting a efund into place but work around here is scarse and I know that it would be really tough for a while. I do keep an eye out for jobs as a just in case moment and I've been working on networking. I was pretty proud-if you would have asked me these questions about a year ago the answers would have been "UHHH…UHHH. Hmm. I don't know, next."

  11. @thefrugaltoad says:

    Great questions and yes I can answer them all. One thing I might add for Parents would be how are you going to fund college for your children?

    • Andrea says:

      Oooh, that's a good one! Though I think I'd word it, "DO you plan to fund college for your children?" That's a whole post of its own!

  12. Tie the Money Knot says:

    Those are really good questions. Further, some of these I think of quite often - as in daily/weekly top of mind. What's remarkable is that there are many folks that probably don't have the answers to more than a couple of these questions, if that.

  13. Charlotte @ GoBeRich says:

    All good questions. I need tro re-read this post and take the time to answer those questions. Thanks for the homework!

  14. Liquid says:

    These are very important questions to bring up. They're also sneaky curve-ball questions you can ask people on first dates :) I can answer most of them but I know a lot of my results will change in the future. But it's a good idea to revisit these once in awhile because people change, and things change. Another good question might be 'what are your retirement plans?' because everyone retires sooner or later.

  15. Shovellicious says:

    I'm still trying to find the right answer to some of these questions. So "work in progress" But another one I ask myself from time to time is if I want to rent apartment/house for the rest of my life or I want to have something for my own (or for my children after I my death) and if so, how to do that?

  16. Mochi & Macarons says:

    The only thing I would note is what your gross and net income are in question #1.

    When I first started, that was something I had to be aware of! Taxes!!

  17. Budget & the Beach says:

    Good questions! I can only guess an average of what I make/month because of being a freelancer. I'm using it based on last year's average, and always of course hope to make more than that per month. My emergency savings is barely there anymore, so I need to work on that…and once that is filled up I can get back to saving for retirement.

  18. Catseye says:

    Excellent questions, Andrea! I've got the answers to most of them, but some of the questions hadn't even occured to me and they should have, especially with what's going on in my life right now. I need to write the answers to these questions down, then keep the list where I can access it easily. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  19. Brilliant Finances says:

    I have not thought much about #8, but thanks for making me do some more work.

  20. SB @ OCAAT says:

    I can answer this, but this is why I am also a blogger giving advice. Very important questions and a wonderful way to tell people the basics of personal finance.

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