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Personal Finance Basics for Soon-to-Be and New Lawyers

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Unfortunately, it is quite common for law students to graduate with insufficient personal finance knowledge and financial literacy, a concerning situation after having invested substantial amounts of time and money in academia. Financial literacy is one of several basic skills that is key to success after graduation but is rarely taught.

Not surprisingly, a lack of financial literacy keeps graduates from fully realizing the benefits of their academic investment and limits career satisfaction, career options, and quality of life. It is especially troubling that lack of financial knowledge disproportionately affects disadvantaged lawyers and contributes to a lack of diversity in wealth, leadership, and thought. This guide can empower new lawyers by providing a starting point for foundational financial skills and knowledge, guidance for further financial education, and carefully curated financial resources.

Please Note: This guide does not contain financial, legal, tax, or other advice and should not be used that way. Rather, the author shares practical, basic financial info gained through research, studying financial best practices and varied approaches to money management, and conversations with financial thought leaders. You may use this guide and the accompanying resources, for educational purposes, as a starting point on your financial journey. However, it’s up to you to analyze your own goals and finances and make the best decisions for you, including looking to advisors as you move forward.

Each section of this guide covers a financial topic in a practical way, building a foundation of financial knowledge across sections. As you listen to each section, please consider your own life, career, and financial goals and how they connect to what you’re hearing. At the end of the guide, you will find resources to help you dig deeper, keep learning, expand your thinking, and find the financial approach and thought leaders that click with you. Most importantly, this guide and the accompanying resources can be your first step toward taking action, gaining confidence in managing your finances, and using money as a tool to build and live the life you choose!

Introduction

This introductory recording introduces the author and her perspective on personal finance issues. We’ll also address the impact and importance of financial literacy on your life and career. Finally, we’ll talk about what you can expect from this guide and what it can do for you.

Financial Goals and Perspective

We’ll kick things off by talking about your perspective and opinions about money. We’ll then talk about your life, career, and financial goals (not to worry if you don’t feel clear about them yet!). Finally, we’ll talk about how your perspective and goals impact your approach to managing your finances.

Budgeting

Next, we’ll talk about budgeting, what it can do for you, why budgeting doesn’t need to feel tedious and groan-worthy, and how to approach budgeting in a simple way.

Emergency Fund

Here, we’ll talk about what an emergency fund is, why you should have one, how much you need, and why an emergency fund is a more attainable goal than you might think.

Debt

(Another unnecessarily groan-inducing topic.) We’ll talk about different types of debt and how to approach and manage them (yep, including student loans).

Insurance

Here, we’ll demystify basic types of insurance, talk through typical options, and discuss how to approach them.

Saving and Investing

Next, we’ll cover the connection between your goals and your savings, different types of savings, including retirement funds, and how to think about what you might do with your money and in what order. Once you start saving money, it helps to understand where you’ll put it beyond basic savings. Again, we’ll connect investing to your goals and talk through how you can think about investing at an introductory level.

Help and Resources

Now it’s time for you to take action! Here, we’ll cover how to approach getting financial help and looking for financial advisors. Finally, here is a list of resources so you can take start taking action toward the next step of your financial journey!

Katie Ahern Kate Ahern, JD, LLM (aka Kate Unfrazzled) helps lawyers avoid burnout by taking back control of their time, making room for their own priorities, and tackling the factors that get in the way. She provides individual mentoring and strategy to lawyers, as well as training programs for law firms and organizations. Kate has over a decade of experience guiding lawyers on time management, productivity, and the related impact of gender bias and other external pressures. She’s on a mission to make legal practice doable and available to everyone and to boost diversity in our profession. Kate is also a former AmLaw 200 transactional attorney, an experiential law professor at Roger Williams University School of Law, a state women’s bar past president, an Ada Sawyer award recipient for the promotion and enhancement of the status of women in the legal profession, a past board member of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, the founder of the former Women Lawyers News online publication and community, and generally more fun than her LLM in tax might otherwise suggest.