The 20-Day Money Challenge: How to Set Up Your Financial Future

Just hitting adulthood and figuring out the financial realities that await you? Or following through on a pandemic pledge to reboot the ones you already have? Now is as a good a time as any to sort them out, and the good news is that we’re here to help.

We know, your financial life often feels way more complicated than it ought to be. Finding the mental and budgetary space to start saving money when, for example, you’re staring down a decent chunk of student debt can be overwhelming. Or maybe you’ve landed a job with a decent salary, but you aren’t sure how to optimize your finances or what to prioritize.

Everyone’s situation is different, but there are certain fundamentals that apply to all of us. So we picked 20 truly essential money lessons, paired with simple tasks for you to take on. Sign up for the 20-Day Money Challenge and we’ll send them to you, day by day, in free bite-size pieces. We’ve got a bit of banking, some investing, a helping of student loan and other debt management — and credit, so you can borrow with confidence if you need to. (Note that you can sign up for the challenge whenever you like.)

Why now? If you’re relatively new to adulthood or the working world, the sooner you have the basics covered the better you’ll feel. We’ve been there — and we’ve tested all 20 days of this advice personally in our decade-plus of writing about money for The New York Times.

We also want to make a few promises — and some suggestions — to get started.

1. No shame, no blame. Don’t understand how to invest? There are millions more like you. Got debt? So do two-thirds of all college graduates. If you’re here, you’re already ahead of the game.

2. We’ll keep it brief. Just two minutes of reading each day, with a reasonably quick task that you can tackle once you’re done. Or not! There’s nothing wrong with reading these dispatches and saving them for some grand fiscal wellness day in the future when you’ll tick dozens of to-dos off your list — or putting aside some of the ones that don’t yet apply, but will down the line.

3. Jargon is the enemy. We’re trying to speak in plain English here, the way we’d address a sibling or the work friends who often (quite often, actually) approach us to express some or another deep confusion.

4. Sharing is caring. Money clubs, like book clubs, are a thing. Why not form an ad hoc group of friends or co-workers to tackle these tasks — or others that you dream up — together? And by all means, send this along to anyone you know who could use some help getting their financial lives more organized. (Parents of adult children, we’re talking to you.)

5. Envision the ending. You probably know it already — the glint of joy, the palpable relief that comes from being well sorted when you’ve paid your bills on time and there is money in the bank. Now, imagine 20 days worth of that — or whatever you can manage. We guarantee a satisfied feeling if you get through even half of this.

OK? OK. We’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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