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The 4 Pillars of Personal Finance Mastery (1 of 4)

In last week’s column, I ended it by stating the importance of deeply understanding and mastering your personal finances. Doing so is the surest way to discover excitement and curiosity in your career rather than being a slave to bills and never-achieved dreams. The first pillar of a mastered financial life is to track your inflows and expenses. This means knowing where your money comes from and where your money goes.

I am still in awe of what my mother accomplished with our family’s meager household income. She had a few secrets to making things work and one of them was her impeccable personal accounting. At every point in time, she could tell you how much she had taken to the market and how much she had spent on specific items. This was back in the day before electronic money transfers and ATMs. She was paid in cash and then had to do the deposits herself. Whatever money was meant for the house was then fastidiously tracked. After doing the month’s shopping, she would write out what she had bought and their corresponding prices. She could see where she had spent more than usual or where she had cut down spending. Even after her salary was paid via transfer and ATM cards became commonplace, she did not abandon her discipline of tracking her spending.

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When I started earning money, I tried ignoring my mom’s example. Once I received that monthly paycheck, I just wanted to spend and splurge as the spirit leads. As soon as I started tracking my spending, my financial life transformed immediately. For one, my spending dropped dramatically. Simply being aware of your buying has the added benefit of making you less likely to indulge impulse buying. Second, I eliminated all forms of buyer’s remorse by being more deliberate and thoughtful about my purchases. Finally, I found that I was much happier with the things I did choose to buy. Tracking my expenses also enabled me to direct my energy and savings toward big life goals.

As the new month kicks off, I challenge you to spend the next 30 days tracking your inflows and expenses. You may not have my mother’s discipline – very few humans do – but there are apps and tools to help you track your spending. In fact, I so believe in the power of expense tracking that I’ve devoted my professional life to helping people enjoy its benefits. Visit my website – – or download the REACH app on your phone and let it help you track your expenses in these next 30 days of June. To join this challenge, here are the steps I recommend:

1. Take a personal financial health check –
2. Download an app or set up an excel sheet to document your expenses – if you’ve got an Android, I recommend you check out the REACH app.
3. Identify where most of your money goes each week, month, year – you may need to edit or update details on certain expenses to categorize your transactions. Again, an app is really good for this kind of task.
4. Once you see where most of your money goes, it’s time to assess whether or not your spending aligns with your life goals. If it doesn’t, you now know and are equipped to make the necessary adjustments.
5. Pro-tip, save your receipts and write notes and memos to yourself after each shopping experience. Users of our app that do this are 80% more likely to stick to their financial goals than users that do not save receipts or write notes. The simple act of note-taking and saving receipts can boost your odds of success by a whopping 80%.

The year is basically half done but your goals need not be a bust. Challenge yourself these next 30 days to be vigilant and diligent about your personal finances. Next week, we’ll be discussing passive income and some ways to make your money do more work.


Every Monday, JR discusses topics focused on career and money management, seeking to highlight the lessons being learned by young professionals navigating similar paths. If you would like to submit a topic or question, please send a DM to his social media handles – jrkanu on Instagram or email


JR Kanu is the creator of the app, REACH: Expense & Money Manager – This app has helped thousands of young people across Africa to better understand and manage their money. He is also the author of the book, Money Brain: Career & Money Management in Your 20s and 30s – He lives in Lagos with his wife and son .

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