When your day job--starting up a business--involves a lot of risk and uncertainty, your own finances should be a lot less unpredictable.
A lot of entrepreneurs won't admit it, but here's the cold, hard truth: Just because you manage the finances of your own business doesn't mean you're savvy at managing your own money.
In fact, often because entrepreneurs are busy starting up and managing businesses--an inherently risky endeavor--they overlook their own personal financial risks. But you can't afford to do that. Especially when your business introduces a fair amount of uncertainty in your life, your own financial situation should be comparatively less exciting and unpredictable.
Here, then, are five money moves every entrepreneur should consider.
Get a Game Plan
First-time founders: If you haven't already, figure out how much money you have (i.e., emergency savings) and how much you have coming in (say, from investments or part-time work). Then, estimate your expenses, both personal and business-related. You want to be clear about what you need in order to get your idea off the ground--and how long you can feasibly bootstrap until you enter the danger zone. I recommend shoring up at least six months' worth of emergency savings for individuals and nine months if you're a parent. If you're paying off debt, see what you can automate to make your life easier and ensure those expenses get paid.
Take a Money Minute
Each morning, I like to take what I call a "money minute" and check my account on LearnVest's financial tracker. Mostly I'll do this when I'm just getting into the office and planning my day. I'll simply log in and take a peek at my investments, then check for any erroneous fees, which sometimes happens when I dine out. From there, I'll try to get a sense of my personal spending--have I been eating out too much or overspending on travel? The answer usually keeps me and my husband, who shares my credit card, in line.
Side note: I've learned to do this for LearnVest too, except rather than view things all at once, I take some time each week to review separate emails and a dashboard which shows how many users signed up each month. As with my personal finances, I try to figure out what we should be doing more or less of and understand why something is happening. I look for patterns, behaviors, and insights to see where we should invest, where we should cut back, and how to plan for next season.
Know Your Risks
As an entrepreneur, knowing how your personal finances are connected to your business is crucial because you're so vulnerable. Let's say you take out a credit card for your business expenses. You'll be liable if you default and the card's in your name rather than a corporation. Similarly, if you take out a small business loan, the bank could come after your personal assets. Neither scenario is ideal, so if you're boostrapping, be sure you know your limitations. If you're running your business as an LLC, a limited partnerhip, or a sole proprietorship, your actual accounting of your finances will appear on your tax return, so it could impact your personal finances, not just those of your business.
Get a Roth IRA
Saving for retirement is probably not high on your to-do list when you're in the process of staring up--but it should be. A Roth IRA, which grows absolutely tax-free, is one of the best and most flexible vehicles out there for retirement savings (though there are some limitations, depending on income). You can invest in it almost whatever you want--from mutual funds to bonds up to $5,500 in 2013 ($6,500 if you're 50 and older)--and if you're ever in a bind, you can access some of that money without major penalties. Another perk of the Roth IRA? If you've just quit your day job, you can roll a traditional IRA or 401K into it.
Consider Umbrella Coverage
Let's say a colleague slips and falls at a company party and decides to sue. He threatens to wipe you out financially and shut down your business. With an umbrella or excess liability coverage, you help to protect yourself from big financial threats. This kind of policy goes above and beyond auto and home insurance, which is good since you have more to lose. Think of it as an additional layer of insurance, worth up to $1 million to $2 million. Most umbrella insurance claims are related to car accidents, but they also offer protection for accidents at work.
ALEXA VON TOBEL is the founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, the financial-management and lifestyle website. She was recently selected as one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and highlighted in Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list of cool young entrepreneurs.