The 20-Day Cash Problem: The right way to Set Up Your Monetary Future


Just reaching adulthood and figuring out the financial realities that await you? Or keep a pandemic promise to restart the existing ones? Now is a good time to resolve them, and the good news is that we are here to help.

We know your financial life often feels more complicated than it should be. Finding the mental and budgetary space to save money, for example, when you knock down a decent chunk of student debt can be overwhelming. Or maybe you’ve got a job with a decent salary but don’t know how to optimize your finances or what priorities to set.

Every individual’s situation is different, but there are certain principles that apply to all of us. So we’ve picked 20 really important money lessons coupled with simple tasks for you to take on. Sign up for the 20 Day Money Challenge and we’ll send it to you in free bite-sized pieces every day. We have a bit of banking, some investing, a helping of student loans, and other debt management – and credit so you can borrow with confidence when you need it. (Note that you can register for the challenge at any time.)

Why now? If you’re relatively new to adulthood or the world of work, the sooner you get the basics covered, the better you will feel. We’ve been there – and we’ve personally tested this advice every 20 days in our 10+ year writing about money for the New York Times.

We’d also like to make a few promises – and some suggestions – to get you started.

1. No shame, no guilt. Don’t understand how to invest? There are millions more like you. Are you in debt? Two thirds of all university graduates do that. If you are here, you are already ahead of the game.

2. We’ll make it short. Just two minutes of reading a day, with a relatively quick task to complete when your work is done. Or not! There’s nothing wrong with reading these messages and saving them for a big future fiscal wellness day when you cross dozens of to-dos off your list – or put aside some of the ones that don’t apply yet but crossed off become the line.

3. Jargon is the enemy. We are trying to speak in simple English here, as we would address siblings or work friends who often (actually quite often) come up to us to express one or the other deep confusion.

4. Sharing is caring. Money clubs, like book clubs, are one thing. Why not form an ad hoc group of friends or colleagues to tackle these tasks – or whatever you can think of – together? And by all means, send this to anyone you know who could use some help to get their financial life organized better. (Parents of adult children, we’re talking to you.)

5. Imagine the end. You probably already know it – the flash of joy, the noticeable relief when you’ve paid your bills on time, and money is in the bank when you’re well sorted. Now imagine 20 days of it – or whatever you can create. We guarantee a satisfied feeling if you survive even half of it.

OK? OK. We’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Ron Lieber has been a columnist for Your Money since 2008 and is author or co-author of five books including “The Price You Pay for College” and “The Opposite of Spoiled”. Tara Siegel Bernard is the New York Times personal finance reporter.