What comes to mind when you think about financial planning?

Stocks, bonds, mutual funds?

Although Wall Street is hyperfocused on investments as the most important aspect of your money, financial planning involves so much more. Honestly, the most important part of a person’s financial plan has nothing to do with money at all!

Proper financial planning begins and ends with you. It’s focused on your goals, your dreams, your aspirations, passions, and loved ones.

Yes, money is necessary. But, it’s merely the tool you need to accomplish your goals.

If you don’t know what your goals are, how do you know how much money you need to accomplish them?

 

Goals first, money second.

 

And even when you’re clear about your goals and how much they cost, the conversation is never about investments alone. In fact, there are five fundamental financial pillars that comprise your financial life, and all of them require your attention.

 

The 5 Pillars of Financial Planning

 

 

When it comes to creating a comprehensive financial plan there are five components that you need to consider.

Taxes

Tax planning is about looking to the future to ensure you aren’t paying more than your fair share of taxes. Effective tax planning for retirement begins now, not when you’re already retired and it’s too late.

 

Estate planning

Estate planning ensures you leave your wealth to the people you love and the causes that are most important to you. It also enables you to control how you are physically and financially cared for as you age.

 

Cash flow and debt management

Managing your paycheck, building an emergency fund, and keeping your debt and spending under control are critical money management skills you need when building a stress-free financial life.

 

Risk management

Having the proper insurance in place protects you and your family and provides peace of mind. A good financial plan should address all of your insurance needs – life, disability, long-term care, homeowners, auto, medical, and others. You should know if you have the right amount of insurance, and if you are paying too much or paying for something you don’t need.

 

Goals-based investing

Goals-based investing helps ensure you keep your investment objectives front and center at all times. It is “investing with purpose,” as opposed to investing to achieve the highest rate of return.

 

How to Start Planning for Your Financial Future 

 

If you’re like most people, you’re used to seeing the five financial pillars as isolated bits. Because of this, we tend to deal with each pillar as a separate issue, either going it alone or calling on multiple professionals in different offices who each only focus on their small piece of the pie.

This makes financial planning way more complicated than it needs to be. The good news, it’s not necessary to take this segregated approach to financial planning.

 

 

A Simple Start to Financial Planning

 

Financial planning happens in two steps:

      • Having clear goals
      • Addressing all five financial pillars in an integrated way

 

The first step is to start with your goals. Ask yourself questions like:

      • What am I passionate about?
      • What kind of retirement do I want?
      • Do I want to travel?
      • Do I want to help pay for my children’s education?
      • Do I want to buy a sailboat and sail into the sunset?

Don’t hold back when you think about your goals. Really allow yourself to dream.

Our dreams and goals are our motivation for building wealth. Without a clearly defined vision of the future, it’s hard to stay on track when it comes to saving, investing, and paying off debt.

 

The second step is to look at the five pillars of your financial life. Ask yourself:

      • Do I have the appropriate professional support for each pillar?
      • Do these professionals talk to each other?
      • Is each pillar part of a cohesive financial plan that is specifically designed to support my goals?

At this point, it’s okay if you don’t have all of the answers. Not having all of the answers means it’s time to get the help you need so you can make a financial plan that will help you achieve your goals and dreams.

 

Financial Planning is So Much More Than Investments

 

Creating a comprehensive financial plan involves so much more than investing. Whether you have a financial plan in place, or you’re just starting to think about your financial future, make sure you consider each of the five pillars to ensure you cover all of your bases.

We find that it helps to put pen to paper when creating your plan, so feel free to use the table provided below to begin working through the five pillars.

Wishing you happy planning!

 

The idea that financial planning is only for the rich is one of the more pervasive money myths.

It’s easy to believe because the concept of “financial planning” or having a “financial planner” can come off as a bit elitist. You might think, “if I don’t have a lot of money, what’s there to financially plan?” This misinterpretation of “financial planning” enables this myth to persist.

Let’s examine it more closely.

 

What is Financial Planning?

When you hear the words “financial planning,” what comes to mind? Can you define it? Can you identify the tasks involved in creating a financial plan?

“Financial planning” is the process for making smart decisions with your money so you can achieve your life goals.

This is something everyone should do. Following a process to “make smart decisions with your money” isn’t reserved just for the rich.

It’s not about having the most money; instead, it’s about making the most of the money you have. It’s about using your money as a tool to support your values and goals so you can achieve your vision of success.

Still not convinced?

 

Your Net Worth is Not a Reflection of Your Self-Worth

 

 

Ask yourself this — how much wealth do you need to go on a hike? Swim in a lake? Watch a free family movie at the local park? Go to the library and borrow a book? Take a walk with your best friend? Bake cookies with your kids or grandkids?

The truth is you are more than the sum total of your bank accounts, whether that’s a lot or a little.

The concept of financial planning is confusing because many financial professionals only work with rich people. This reinforces the myth that only rich people deserve the security and freedom that comes from quality financial planning.

Don’t let this discourage you. You don’t need to work with a financial professional to be financially secure. You can plan your finances, cultivate your money, and live a full, rewarding, and successful life without having a million dollars in your investment portfolio.

Let’s be clear,your net worth is not a reflection of your self-worth. Never let anyone tell you or lead you to believe otherwise!

 

What to Consider in your Financial Plan

If you want to start making smart decisions with your money so you can achieve your life goals, what should you consider?

 

Where Do You Want to Go?

Proper planning starts with knowing where you are going.

If you’re familiar with Dr. Stephen Covey’s seminal work, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this is habit #2 – “Begin with the end in mind.”

 

 

People often create their plan without first knowing where they’re going. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, start with the fun part — where you want to go.

What are your financial goals? What are your dreams? Do you want to retire somewhere sunny, take your family on vacation regularly, or pay off those pesky student loans?

This is the time to get real with yourself. What do you really want out of life? What things stir your soul? What do you want your days to look like when you’re older? Who do you want to spend your time with? Envision the possibilities — and write them down!

 

You Are Here

To get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are.

Start your financial planning with a review of your assets and debts. Assets include things like your home, car, and retirement savings. Debts include your mortgage, car payments, credit cards, or student loans.

Make an inventory of your assets and debts. This will give you a clearer understanding of your net worth. This is the jumping-off point you need to start planning for your financial future.

 

Take Action 

Now it’s time to take action. How are you going to get from where you are now to where you want to go? How are you going to save, invest, and pay off debt? How are you going to achieve your retirement goals?

 

Do you have an emergency fund?

Do you have the right amount and types of insurance in place?

Do you have a will?

Financial planning is not just about saving and investing. A good financial plan is one that is comprehensive and covers all areas of your financial life.

When it comes to executing your financial plan, you can go it alone, or you can reach out to a financial professional. If you want support from a financial professional, make sure you look for someone with reputable credentials such as a CFP(R) (Certified Financial Planner).

 

Financial Planning is for Everyone

Whether you have $10 or $10 million in your bank, everyone should have a financial plan. Financial planning is not just about how to invest your money, it’s about planning every aspect of your financial present and future so you can reach your life goals.

On a final note, please remember – your self-worth is not a reflection of your net worth. Money is not what defines you. It is a tool to be used to help you achieve your goals, dreams, and aspirations.

Don’t wait. Create your financial plan today — your future self with thank you!

Are you intimidated or bored to tears by your finances?

 

First, let’s be clear, traditional money talk can be boring.

Rates of return?
Correlation coefficients?
The efficient frontier?

Gahhhhh, what? No, thank you.

But, personal finance is so much more than complex buzz words.

The truth is “financial stuff” is about you; that’s why it’s referred to as
personal finance.

It’s about your goals, aspirations, and values.

It’s about knowing how much money you have coming in and going out, ensuring you have enough in an emergency fund, deciding how much you need to reach financial freedom.

It’s about the money decisions you make daily – “Do I need this new dress?” “Should I refinance my mortgage?” “How am I going to pay back my student loans?”

 

Personal finance is as much about how you live your life as it is about your money.

 

While some aspects of finance might seem intimidating, there are things you can do to increase your understanding and feel more in control.

By increasing your financial literacy and learning to ask savvy money questions, you can take charge of your money and ensure you’re making smart decisions that support your short and long term goals.
Might there be some challenges as you work through the learning curve?

Absolutely.

Does it help to have trustworthy support from a money mentor or a qualified financial professional?

Immeasurably.

Will you run into old beliefs that you’re “bad at math”?

You might.

Being an effective manager of your money will require some effort, but you know what? It’s so worth it!

 

Why is finance so complicated?

 

 

Why do so many people feel intimidated or ill-equipped to make meaningful money decisions?

Why is a tool (money) we use multiple times a day for nearly every day of our adult life feel so foreign to us?

Well, there are plenty of reasons.

 

Financial jargon

Every industry has its own jargon, but the financial industry is one of the worst offenders. People are intimidated by simple financial concepts because they’re talked about in an overly complicated way (i.e., using a ton of unnecessary jargon).

Sometimes this is a tactic used by financial professionals to make you feel like you need them. Like your finances are so complicated you couldn’t possibly do it without them. Fortunately, not all financial professionals are like this.

On the other hand, some financial concepts are complicated. A financial professional who has your best interest in mind can do a lot to help clarify these money mysteries without making you feel inferior in the process.

 

Money is taboo 

How are you expected to know about money when it’s not okay to talk about it? Money is one of those topics people don’t want to discuss. How do you demystify and simplify a subject you can’t talk about?

 

Lack of education 

We can’t expect people to be interested and well-versed in the subject of money when they receive no formal education. Until courses in personal finance become a regular part of the school curriculum, money will continue to be a topic that feels out of reach for many people.

 

How to simplify your finances

So, how can you begin to demystify and simplify your finances? How can you work towards becoming the informed manager of your family’s money?

 

Find an advisor

You don’t need to go it alone. When we want to learn how to swim, ski, or read, we seek a teacher or coach to help us. The same is true when it comes to your finances.

A good financial advisor can help you to weed through the jargon and provide you with a solid financial education. You can ask them questions that will help you develop an understanding of your financial situation, and you can work with them to set up a plan that will allow you to reach your short and long term money goals.

 

Use online resources

While the amount of information online can be overwhelming, it can also be incredibly helpful. There are a ton of useful financial resources available, and many of them are free. Of course, it’s important to find resources that come from reliable sources. Look for information from people with a strong financial background. Credentials and hands-on experience are paramount.

Here are a few I recommend:Nerdwallet, Girlboss, and “>America Saves.

 

Take it one step at a time

When you start on your journey to improve your financial education, don’t try to learn everything at once. This is a recipe for overwhelm.

Instead, take small steps daily toward increasing your financial literacy. Start by finding a book or financial blog that speaks to you. Highlight or write down terms you don’t understand and google them. Start a glossary.

Here are a few I recommend: On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, Woman’s Worth: Finding Your Financial Confidence by Elenor Blayney, and Women with Money  by Jean Chatzky

Reach out to a qualified financial professional, specifically an AIF(R) (Accredited Investment Fiduciary) or a CFP(R) (Certified Financial Professional). These professionals operate as fiduciaries, which means they must make financial decisions that are in your best interest (instead of their own).

By taking small, consistent steps, you will begin to increase your financial knowledge and confidence. There is nothing more powerful than being in control of your money.

 

 

 

No one cares about your finances more than you.

 

Your finances are the foundation of security, health, and opportunity—for you and your family. Smart money management is the key to having control over your money and your life.

Remember, no one cares about your finances more than you do. So, what small step will you take today to increase your financial knowledge?

Money Myth #1: Women Shouldn’t Talk About Money

 

Does talking about money make you feel uncomfortable?

Be honest, does talking about money make you uncomfortable? 

If you answered yes, you’re not alone.

A survey of 1,202 Americans conducted by Capital Group found that people are more comfortable talking about marriage problems, drug addiction, race, sex, mental illness, race, and politics then they are about money. 

In a time where oversharing every detail of our lives on social media is the new normal, it’s somewhat surprising that talking about money is still so taboo.  

 

Why is the topic of money so taboo?

 

The idea that it’s “rude” or “ill-mannered” for women to talk about money is about as relevant as saying “women shouldn’t work.” It’s an archaic notion, one rooted in keeping a woman “in her place” and out of power. Yet, for women, money is still one of the most taboo topics in America. 

With all of the progress women have made in the realms of education, health, and work, why is money still so off-limits?

 

Family

Most of our beliefs and values come from our family. Our beliefs about money are no different. If you grew up in a family that didn’t talk about money or a family who thought money was the root of all evil, or a family who constantly fought about money — then it’s no wonder if you’re not open to talking about it. 

 

Shame

There is so much shame around money. 

Shame if you have too much, shame if you don’t have enough. Shame if you feel like you lack the financial literacy necessary to start or engage in a conversation about money. 

Enough with the shame.

 

Culture

Many ideas about money are deeply rooted in tradition and culture. Many women don’t talk about money because society has told them it’s not ladylike or it’s tacky. 

Traditionally, it was the man that made the money, invested the money and controlled the money. Women were often (and sometimes still are) oblivious to their families’ financial situation. Women make up nearly 47% of the workforce and 41% of mothers have taken the role of sole or primary breadwinner for their family. Things are changing. 

While there are personal finance communities where it is viewed as normal or, dare I say, even fun to talk about money, these conversations need to move to a bigger forum. Talking about money needs to be commonplace at a societal level. 

 

Why we need to start talking about money 

 

Empowered women present a challenge to the status quo of a leadership that is predominately male. One way to curb this challenge is to silence it – to punish, reject, or shame women who talk about money.

If we want to overcome this, then women need to start the conversation and then keep it going. 

Women deserve the opportunity to take control of their lives and experience the freedom and confidence that comes from being financially stable.

 

 

Women need to talk about money to increase their financial power in their home, their community and on a global scale.  

By removing the stigma and putting the topic of money on the table you can begin to help those women who are experiencing financial hardship but are too afraid to reach out or are too embarrassed to ask for the help they need. 

By starting the conversation you can create a network of support to help ensure women aren’t trapped in abusive relationships because they don’t have the financial means to leave. 

By starting the conversation about money you can discuss wages and your company’s or industry’s pay structure to ensure women are getting paid an equal amount when compared to their male counterparts. 

The importance of women talking openly with each other about finances isn’t just about individual equality. Being financially empowered is bigger than you. Your example and your mentorship are powerful tools for helping other women achieve financial (and full) equality.

So, if you want to be a part of the conversation, or better yet, if you want to start the conversation, what steps can you take?

What can you do to ensure your daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers, coworkers, and friends have the confidence and knowledge needed to take control of their financial futures? 

How to start talking about money

 

Talk to your spouse

If you’re comfortable enough to sleep in the same bed or even share a pet with someone, then you should be able to talk to them about money. 

Why is this important? Well, money is one of the main things that couples fight about and it’s one of the leading causes of divorce. If you and your partner share a bank account, a debt, or if you’re financially reliant on your partner, you need to be on the same page. 

Both of you should be aware of your financial situation. You should be aware of how much money is in the bank, how much money you have invested and, if you’re carrying any debt, how much. You should be part of the conversations with your financial advisor and you should know the passwords to all of your financial accounts. 

When it comes to money don’t put your head in the sand and rely on someone else to make the decisions. There is nothing more empowering than taking control of your finances. 

 

Talk to your friends

Start to make the topic of money more commonplace by bringing it up in casual conversation. You don’t have to make people feel uncomfortable by asking how much their house cost or what they spend on their monthly car payments. 

Instead, use conversation to share ideas about money. Educate each other on interesting and useful things you’ve learned. Share financial resources or attend a financial event together and make it a fun and educational night out.

Talk to your kids

Children are the future so set them up on the right financial path. Make money a topic that is open for discussion, make financial literacy a family goal, and seek opportunities to teach your children about money management. 

If you don’t feel like you have the financial education needed to give your kids advice then make an effort to learn together. Check out some personal finance books at the library or find some good online resources (there are tons of them). Or, seek outside resources – bring them with you when you go to speak with your financial advisor and have them ask some questions.

 

 

You should be talking about money. You should be talking to your spouse, your friends, your children, and anyone else who wants to join the conversation. 

Talking about money doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. You don’t need to ask overly personal questions about how much money they make or how much debt they have. The goal is to start discussing money to increase financial literacy and to normalize the topic.  

By having a conversation about money you are demonstrating that it’s not a subject that should be kept secret. It’s not a topic that is shameful to speak about.

So, are you in? Are you ready to bust this money myth and start the conversation?

 

These are interesting times we live in.

One day we’ll be able to tell our grandkids about the “Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020” and the life lessons learned from having lived through it.

We realize there are a lot of people who are hurting.  Physically, emotionally, psychologically, and financially.  There are few places unaffected by these trying times. It’s a lot to take in.

While bad news abounds from every corner, it’s not all bad news.  Even in the worst of times, opportunities present themselves if we look for them.  This time is no different.

Here are 4 steps you can take today to strengthen your financial position and build towards a better tomorrow.

 

Refinance Your Student Loans

 

woman thinking about student debt

 

Interest rates are at all-time lows, which represents an opportunity for those with student loans.  This is true if you have loans for yourself or if you are a parent and have PLUS loans.

I’ve seen variable rates under 3% and fixed rates as low as 3.45%.

And, unlike refinancing a mortgage, there is far less red tape to work through.

Further, if you’ve looked at refinancing in the past and have been disappointed, I have good news.  There are a plethora of new players in the student loan space who have made the refinancing experience far more consumer-friendly.  A few to consider are:

** Note: The new CARES Act includes several provisions that apply to certain federal student loan borrowers. Before moving forward with refinancing your federal loans, determine how refinancing would affect these benefits.**

Additionally, if you’re having difficulty making your student loan payment, DO NOT avoid the problem.  Call your lender immediately and let them know of your hardship. They will work with you to find the best possible way to address your issue.

The worst thing to do is to do nothing and hope the problem will go away.  It won’t.

 

Refinance Your Mortgage and Home Equity Line of Credit

 

 

Just as with student loans, mortgage interest rates are at historically low levels.  Consider refinancing your first mortgage or even consolidating your home equity line of credit and having one mortgage payment.

The general rule of thumb is if the new rate is at least 1% less than your current rate, consider refinancing.

With that said, this is just a rule of thumb.  If you’re not sure, run the numbers. There’s no harm in doing so, and you could actually save some money.

Further, the 1% rule only applies if you’re doing a straight refinance.  Meaning, if you’re looking to consolidate other debt into the mortgage, you can throw the 1% rule out the window.  The rate differential could be a lot less than 1% and still make sense. Again, run the numbers.

Your mortgage is often your largest expense.  It’s worth it to inspect your mortgage further to ensure you’re not paying more than you have to.

 

Reflect on Your Financial Goals and Engage in Values-Based Spending

 

 

Many of us have a lot more time on our hands due to the US going into lockdown mode.  Why not take advantage of this time to reflect on your financial goals and put a plan in place to achieve them?

True fact: people spend more time planning their annual family vacation than planning for retirement.

Another true fact: having written goals, you regularly review, dramatically increases your chances of success.

Use this pause in the action to spend time on yourself.  Write down your top three financial goals and don’t be afraid to dream a little.

You can further increase your chances of success by following the SMART methodology for goal setting:

      • Specific
      • Measurable
      • Achievable
      • Realistic
      • Timely

Here’s an example:

Goal: Provide 100% of in-state school tuition and room and board at a four-year institution.  The cost is $25,000 per year in today’s dollars. The money should be available by July 1, 2030, which is the summer before college.

This goal hits all of the SMART criteria. It is specific ($25k per year for four years). Is measurable. We will assume the goal is achievable. It is certainly relevant. And it’s time-bound (by July 1, 2030).

Once you have a clear goal, you can find the right resources or professionals to help design a plan for reaching the goal. And you can confirm any assumptions (i.e., it’s achievable).

Imagine how your life might change if you identified your 3 most important financial goals, put them front and center, and developed a plan for reaching them.

 

Review Your Credit Card and Bank Statements for Spending 

 

 

 

Another good use of time is to inspect where your hard-earned dollars are going.  People are often shocked at where they’re spending their money.

“$110 this month for coffee?  $83 at the local gas station that wasn’t for gas?  There’s no way we spent that much on dining out.” And the drum beats on…

Chances are you are spending in ways that aren’t always consistent with your values or what you’d deem as “worth it.”  There’s no reason to guess when you can review your numbers and know for sure.

It’s a simple process.  Grab your most recent bank and credit card statements and review them line by line.  If you look closely enough, patterns will emerge. Sometimes it’s spending at a single location. You may find you have a Target or Amazon addiction. Or, you could be frequenting the same type of stores, such as fast-food restaurants, far more than you realized.

If you pull statements for several months, you may notice you’re consistently making several larger purchases each month or every few months.

Add it all together, and you can see why it feels like you never have enough money.

 

Crisis Creates Movement

Change is hard.  It often takes a crisis to get people to change their behaviors even when they know those behaviors are bad for them.

I’m not a fan of the dogma “never let a crisis go to waste,” but if we can walk away from the current crisis with one or two steps that can positively affect our lives, then at least some good will have come from this.  As they say, when life gives you lemons …

 

I don’t know about you but I love quotes.  They say so much in just a few words.

Here are 10 of my favorite money-related quotes and how you can use them to guide you on your life’s journey.

 

 

This one cuts both ways.

It illustrates the power of compound interest to help you build wealth.

It also illustrates how the power of compound interest works against you when you accumulate debt.

 

 

 

 

 

I love this because it redefines the definition of “wealth.”  Is one wealthy just because they have a lot of money? Or, can you be wealthy if you don’t have much money but few wants?

I’ve worked with people who have tons of money, more money than they know what to do with, and they are miserable.

I’ve worked with people living on income just over the poverty line and they were richer than those who made 5, 10, 20 times more than they do.

They’re wealthy because they even though they have little, they want for nothing, and that has made all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

In our hyper-connected society, where everyone has a front-row seat into the perfect lives of others, it’s hard not to fall into the comparison trap.

The funny thing is we often try to impress people we don’t really like or care about.  After all, the people we like and know best don’t care how much money we make or how much stuff we have.

Seems backward, doesn’t it?  I mean, why do we even care about what the not-important people think about us?

 

 

 

The older I get, the more I buy into this.  Sure, college and formal education pay well.  Investing in the stock market also has its place.  But, I’m convinced continuing to build one’s knowledge and skill set gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

Having an “always improving” mindset is the dividing line between average and exceptional.

 

 

 

There are two parts to this.

  1. Stop saying ‘yes’ to everything that comes your way
      • Your time – and therefore, your talents – are valuable.  Too valuable to give away or underutilize out of fear of saying “no” or being judged.
      • One of the most important skills you’ll ever learn is how to set priorities and saying NO!
  1. Accepting less than you’re worth
      • The best know what they bring to the table and charge accordingly
      • Don’t be afraid to negotiate for a higher salary or charge what you’re really worth
      • Remember, talent is always in short supply.  Know where you fall on the continuum and don’t be bashful about asking to be paid accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

People would be far better off if they lived by these two quotes.  When you take on debt, you are robbing your future self. You force your future self to pay for something you bought in the past.

Sometimes this is a necessary evil such as buying a house.  But, for far too many, having debt on the books is a way of life.  It’s a way to fuel their unsustainable lifestyle.

If you value your future self as much as you value your current self – which you should given they are the same person – then you should be very cautious about ever taking on debt.  That shiny object you buy today will long be gone tomorrow and you’ll still be paying for it.

 

 

 

I find this quote poignant and amusing.  It’s a little dated because the price of big tv’s are so cheap these days but the point remains.

Rich people spend far more on knowledge and education (i.e. libraries) than those who aren’t rich.  Those who aren’t rich often spend more on the latest entertainment gadgets (i.e. big tv’s) but spend less on the attainment of knowledge (i.e. small libraries).

Amusing and insightful.

 

 

 

I love this, especially for kids.  If you can instill the savings habit into someone when they’re young, it’s proven to be a gateway for positive habits in the future.  Interestingly enough, making your bed every morning is also a gateway for positive behaviors (look it up).

Saving money means you need to delay gratification, this teaches patience.

It trains forethought as it doesn’t make any sense to save if there isn’t something to be gained in the future.

It cultivates a sense of order by prioritizing savings above spending.

In order for someone to buy into the idea of “saving,” it takes an open and thoughtful mind.  Which is why it’s so hard for people to do and also why its virtues are so far-reaching.

 

What We Gain By Living Through These Quotes

Put them all together and here’s what you get:

  • Building the habit of saving helps build other positive habits.  The virtues of saving money go far beyond money.
  • Your time is valuable.  Be careful not to give it away indiscriminately.  Don’t sell yourself short and don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.
  • Compound interest is either your best friend or your worst enemy.  Know the difference and impact of each.
  • Investing in yourself is often the best investment you can make.  Even more powerful than compound interest (which is amazing in its own right).
  • Your future self is just as important as your current self.  Don’t put an anchor around your future self’s neck, an anchor called debt.
  • Spending to impress people you don’t like or who are unimportant in your life is toxic.  Don’t let these people hold power over you. The people who matter don’t care about superficial things.  Spend with them in mind.
  • Redefine wealth beyond money.  You can be wealthy and not have a lot of money.  You can have tons of money but be poor beyond measure.  Have fewer wants and see how much your life improves.

 

Distilled further…

You can be immeasurably wealthy if you have few wants.
You can be unendingly poor if you always want more.  

Debt robs your future.
Spending to impress robs your soul.

Saving money builds keystone habits.
Saving can harness the power of compound interest to fuel your future.  

Investing in yourself pays the best interest.
Your time is more valuable than money.  

 

So, what do you think?  Which of the quotes above is your favorite?  Do you have a favorite money-related quote not on this list?  Please drop some knowledge below and leave a comment!

 

 

 

After 31 years of marriage, it finally happened.  Her husband told her he wanted a divorce. This wasn’t “in the heat of the moment” stuff, but a non-emotional directive.  He wanted out and that was that.

It wasn’t completely unexpected but it was still jarring.  And painful.

Once past the initial shock, her thoughts turned to the realities of divorce and the decisions that needed to be made.  Her first thought was “where am I going to live?”

 

What to Do With the House

 

“Where am I going to live” is not only a financial question, but an emotional one.

Buying a home is often the most expensive, and emotional, financial purchase we ever make.  It goes beyond four walls and a roof, beyond the money. For some, their home is their identity.  For others, it represents safety and security, it’s their sanctuary. For many moms, there’s the added emotions of “this is where I raised my children” and it hits them hard.

Unfortunately, emotions don’t provide clarity; they cloud judgment.

When the subject of the house came up with her divorce attorney, she was confused and unsure about what to do.  Buy out her husband and keep it? Have him buy her out and let him keep it? Sell it outright?

Her attorney suggested she meet with a realtor to get a value for the home and explore her options.

By the time I met with her, she had already met with the realtor and had some numbers.

Here’s how it went:

    • Based on your income, your earnings support $4,000 in credit and housing debt
    • Of that, $2,800 could go towards the home
    • Your monthly non-housing debt (i.e. credit card, car loans, etc.) could be a maximum of $1,200
    • Currently, you’re at $725 per month for your car, student loan, and credit cards, so you’re fine there
    • The home we’re looking at is around $2,250 per month including property taxes, insurance, PMI

On the surface, this seems reasonable.  Consult with an expert who can tell you your options.

The problem is they were putting the cart before the horse.

Yes, it’s true, she should know the value of her home; no problem there.  But, it was far too early to be looking at new homes and pricing out payments.  Had they considered not jumping into a mortgage again, maybe renting for a year?

 

 

 

 

A better approach is to first determine how much home she could afford and then tailor our search based on this number.  Looking at homes this early in the process, particularly in cases of divorce, often leads to unnecessary emotional strife (looking at homes you can’t afford) or financial struggles (buying the home anyway).

 

Bankers Have No Idea What You Can “Afford”

 

We often look to bankers (and car dealers) to tell us how much of a home/car we can afford.  After all, they’re lending us the money so they should know, right?

Wrong.

Banks have no idea what you can “afford.”  When they tell you you’re eligible for a $2,800/month mortgage payment, this does not mean you can “afford” it.  It just tells you the upper limit of how much the bank will lend you.

 

There’s a major difference between how much a bank will lend you and whether or not you can afford it. 

 

Borrowers often conflate the two which all too often leads them to buy too much home.  By the time they realize their mistake, it’s too late. They’re stuck with a payment that haunts them for years or even decades to come.

A better approach is to start by calculating what you can afford and then go looking for homes in that price range.

This is the approach we took.

 

The “How To”

 

There are several steps to this process but if you take them one at a time it’s totally manageable.  You don’t need mad math skills for this to work for you. The stakes are high so it’s worth a little extra effort to get this decision right.

The first step is to calculate your monthly take-home pay.  Take-home pay is the amount you receive after taxes and all other deductions have been taken out of your pay.  In short, it’s the amount deposited to your bank account.

In this case, it was $5,875 per month.

We then added up all of her committed expenses.  This includes any liabilities (car loans, credit card debt) and monthly expenses she couldn’t realistically avoid (i.e. groceries, utilities).

 

 

 

After paying her committed monthly expenses, she had $3,160 for the rest of her monthly spending including the new mortgage.   

If we plug in the mortgage number from above, here’s how it looks:

 

 

 

This means she’d have $910 per month left over for “lifestyle spending.”

We then listed her most common lifestyle spending:

 

 

 

We didn’t plug in numbers in each category because: 1) it isn’t necessary and 2) we’d just be making up numbers.  Knowing we have $910 to cover all of these expenses is good enough. [See Budgets Are Bullshit for a better way to manage cash flow.]

Finally, we listed future spending/savings needs not currently being addressed:

 

 

 

Armed with this information, we could (finally) have a realistic discussion about how much home she could afford.  She could weigh the impact of buying more or less home against how it would affect her lifestyle spending.

To understand the give-and-take relationship between the new mortgage and lifestyle spending, think of it as pulling on a string.

If you pull the string (money) towards the home, it means pulling dollars away from lifestyle spending.

If you pull the string towards lifestyle spending, it means pulling dollars away from the home.

 

 

 

You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t increase your mortgage payment without concurrently decreasing your lifestyle spending.  Conversely, you can’t increase your lifestyle spending without decreasing the amount of home you buy.

The good news is you get to choose what’s more important to you.  It’s entirely within your control.

 

Not Just for Divorce

 

This “pulling on a string” dynamic isn’t just true in cases of divorce but all situations where you’re making a long-term financial commitment.

The next time you consider taking on a long-term financial obligation and need to know if you can “afford it,” walk through the steps outlined above first.  The true cost of the decision – both in financial terms and in lifestyle spending – will be evident and put you in the best position to make an enlightened decision.

 

 

 

Your kids.  They’re your everything.  You give your all to them in the hopes they have a joyful and fulfilled life.

The sacrifices parents make for their kids is almost a badge of honor amongst parents, especially moms.  “That’s just what you do for you kids” is a refrain repeated over and over by parents everywhere. It’s even said about adult children.

It’s a noble refrain.  What’s more important than taking care of your children?  It’s pure. There’s no quid pro quo when you give to your children.  It’s all about them.

Which is why it’s one of the more abused phrases in the parental lexicon.

“That’s just what you do for your kids” has become a catch-all phrase to justify even the most over-the-top financial decisions.  It’s used as justification for buying things we can’t afford and taking on the financial burdens of our adult children. And it’s become a scourge to a growing number of would-be retirees as they struggle under the weight of their adult children’s financial issues.

What Are We Teaching Our Kids By Giving Them Everything?

Kids need limits.  We know this. And yet, when it comes to money, we often fail to set appropriate boundaries.  We bend over backwards for our kids to pay for the expensive private school, to get them the car they want versus the car they need, so they can play club sports.

We do this even if it means they aren’t saving enough for our own needs.  We retire later or live on less, carry thousands of dollars in credit card debt, deprive ourselves of the things that bring us joy and fulfillment.

Why do we do this?

Queue the refrain – “That’s just what you do for your kids.”

There is so much that is wrong with this way of thinking.

 

 

Dividing Lines

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be doing as much as we can for our children but we have to be realistic given our financial situation.

There’s a big difference between overpaying when you can afford and overpaying when you can’t.

While I question the wisdom of overpaying because “that’s just what you do,” I understand it IF you can afford it.  

But, for those who can’t afford to overpay, it’s an absolutely devastating practice.  Putting your retirement, health, and well-being in jeopardy to indulge your children is a terrible idea.

Indulging our children only makes sense if you can afford it – and even then it’s debatable.  The problem is we rarely see our “indulgences” as “indulgences.” We see them as “responsible parenting.”

Private schools.  Overly expensive first cars.  Club sports. Rent for adult children.

It’s easy to justify these expenses.  Private schools tout their track record versus public schools to justify the high price tag.  Car dealers beat you over the head with safety statistics and visions of your girls waiting on the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive.  Coaches talk up your girls’ talents and how they just need a little something extra to get them over the hump.

Faced with these arguments, would you feel like you’re overindulging your kids or just being a good parent, affordability be damned?

Let’s face it, no mom (or dad) wants to think of herself as a bad mom so there is a strong bias to do more than less.  Because “that’s just what you do for your kids.”

Guilt is a powerful motivator.

 

 

Where to Draw the Line

One of the problems is parents often engage in dichotomous thinking.

Dichotomous thinking is the tendency to think in terms of polar opposites.  Things are either good or bad; it fails to accept the myriad of options that lie between the two extremes.

Parents often view their support decisions through this “all or nothing” lens.  Private schools are good, public schools are bad. A new car is good, a used car is bad.  Good parents take care of their children even if they’re adults, bad parents don’t.

Real-life is far more nuanced than that.  Which means it’s gonna get messy.

Sometimes, private school is the best option because the public schools in your community aren’t safe or don’t foster a positive learning environment.  Sometimes, not always.

There are pros and cons to paying for club sports even if you can afford it.

Buying a new or expensive car for first-time drivers is almost never a wise thing to do.  Sorry. I see no good reason to buy an expensive car for a first-time driver.

Not paying for your adult children’s expenses doesn’t make you a bad parent.  Paying for them doesn’t make you a good parent. In some instances, it’s actually bad parenting.

The point is life is messy and we need to guard against our tendency for all or nothing thinking.


3 Ways to Guard Against Doing Too Much

    • Throw all of your preconceived notions out the window.  For example, don’t assume private schools trump public schools.  Research both options thoroughly and then make your decision.  Weigh the pros and cons of each school and the costs associated with each option.  The private school may have a slight edge overall but with a price tag of $10,000 per year, perhaps those dollars are better spent on college or retirement.  You have to determine how much bang you’re getting for your buck.
    • Buy (very) used cars for first-time drivers.  They cost far less, insurance is cheaper, and a “safe” used car is still “safe.”  Repairs are cheaper and dents in used cars, which teenagers are prone to, often go unfixed.  Lastly, get them a AAA membership and let them make the call if the car ever breaks down. Even newer cars get flat tires.  Better to deal with these things under the watchful eye of their parents than when they’re off to college and have to fend for themselves.
    • Stop supporting your adult children.  This is a serious problem. For them and for you.  Kids, even adult kids, will take as much as you will give them.  If you keep giving, they will keep taking; it’s not supernatural.  Instead, start setting specific boundaries. For example, set up a schedule that reduces your support by 25% every three months.  After one year, you will not provide any financial support at all. Your support should be a life line, not a way of life.

 

 

 

Let Go of the Guilt

Kids are expensive.  There’s no denying that.  Even if you’re just providing the basics, they’re expensive.  And if all you can afford to do is provide the basics, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s awesome. You’re doing everything a parent should be doing for their children.

Anything beyond the basics is gravy.  They’re “nice to-dos,” not “must-dos.”

Free yourself from the pressure, anxiety, and guilt that comes with feeling like you’re not doing enough for your children.  

It’s time we stop saying “that’s just what you do for your kids” as justification for making bad financial decisions or for taking on an adult child’s financial burden.

So, what do you think?  Have you ever fallen down this mental trapdoor?  Have you seen others struggling with doing too much for their children?  Please share this blog or share a comment below!

 

 

At one point, the “rich” were looked up to in society.  We saw their accomplishments and thought, “one day I’m going to be rich and have that life.”

Today, “rich” has become another 4 letter word often causing as much contempt as it does respect. And, while we can spend time begrudging those who have more than us it’s more useful to focus on what we can learn from the rich.   What habits or ways of thinking can we incorporate into our lives to make it better?

Six Rich Habits

 

1. They Pay Themselves First

 

 

Paying yourself first means before you spend a dollar of your paycheck, you route a specified amount of money into savings.  The rich do this because they care about their future selves just as much as their current selves.  If you think about it, investments are just “future spending” without having to work for it — which is a really smart idea.

 

To put this advice into practice, here are two “pay yourself first” tips:

 

      • Invest in your company 401k plan.  This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to pay yourself first.  You set it up one time and every pay you have money routed towards retirement.  If you’re already investing in a 401k plan, increase it by 1% every year for the next 5 years.  You will hardly notice the 1% increase now, but it will make a significant difference in the future.
      • Set up direct deposit to a separate savings account at an online or local bank.  This builds the habit of “paying yourself first” while giving you a get-out-of-jail-free card if you need the money.

 

 

2. They Know Their Numbers

 

 

No, this doesn’t mean all wealthy people keep a watertight budget.  Hardly. But, it does mean they know their most important numbers. This includes how much to save, how much debt is reasonable, and how much they can afford to spend.

So ask yourself, do you know your numbers?  If not, check out this blog Budgets are Bullshit.

 

 

3. They Invest in Themselves and Others

 

 

Investing in yourself and those you love is just as important as investing in the stock market or real estate.  The rich invest in workshops, seminars, and gurus to help them in their careers and to build their skill set. They invest in their children’s education by sending them to quality schools or for tutors.  They invest in their health by hiring personal trainers or nutritionists.

 

How you can emulate them:

 

      • Put money aside for continuous learning.  Whether this is an investment in an online course or traveling to a conference in your field of expertise – learning new skills and networking is always worth the money.
      • Start saving for your children’s education early. This will help to ensure that you have a healthy amount stashed away by the time they’re ready to go to college.
      • Take care of yourself. You don’t need to hire a personal trainer or professional chef — you do need to eat healthy food and exercise regularly.  Not only is this an investment in your physical well-being but it will also help you to avoid the high cost of future healthcare bills.

 

 

4. They Don’t Have FOMO

 

 

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) or keeping up with the Jones’ is a killer habit — and it is most definitely a habit.  Those who engage in this way of thinking (and spending) don’t just do so in one area of their life — it’s a common thread.  Not only do they own the fancy car, they also need the huge house, the fancy clothes, and the swanky jewelry.

If you want to be rich then just say “no”.  It might sound like obvious advice but it’s worth saying.  To ensure you can afford these higher-end purchases, apply a few rules of thumb:

      • Pay cash for your cars
      • Save at least 15% of your GROSS (before tax) income
      • No credit card debt

While it’s not a foolproof plan, it’s a good start.

 

 

5. They Don’t Go It Alone

 

 

The rich understand the importance of making smart decisions, not only with their money but in all areas of their life. This means working with other professionals and subject matter experts to help them make the best decisions possible. They aren’t afraid to pay for professional help to avoid a bigger mistake by going it alone.

Having a team of professionals at your beck and call may not be feasible, but knowing when to pay someone for their knowledge and when not to is important.

For example, if you have a complicated tax return, it’s worth it to pay a CPA to ensure it’s done right and avoid an unnecessary heart-to-heart with your local IRA agent. Or, if you want advice on how to invest your money and save for retirement, it may be worth it to speak with a financial advisor.

 

 

6They Aren’t Afraid to Fix Things Themself

 

 

I know I just proclaimed the importance of hiring help, so this might sound like contradictory advice.  When it comes to complicated financial or legal decisions, leave it to the professionals. When it comes to troubleshooting your slow computer or painting your bedroom, these are things you can do by yourself in order to save money.

Before you become a “do-it-yourself master,” make YouTube and Google your new best friends. As you probably already know, you can learn almost anything on the internet.  Instead of starting by making a phone call to your local fix-it-man (or woman), give it a shot yourself.

A small word of caution – when it comes to fixing anything that could be dangerous (like something electrical), it may be best to leave it to the pros.  Safety first!

Some safe examples of things you can fix on your own:

      • Computer repairs
      • Small car repairs, issues (oil change, replace your tail light)
      • Household maintenance (fix a leaky faucet, painting)
      • Exterior maintenance (lawn mowing, snow removal)


Start living your rich life

It’s time to stop resenting the rich and instead set yourself up to join them.  If you have dreams of being financially free and living the “rich life” then start incorporating these 6 habits.  Building wealth doesn’t happen overnight but with some hard work, discipline, and time it is achievable.

 

 

 

 

In the last blog, I introduced the concept of Guiding Principles – a collection of personal beliefs and values you design to guide your money decisions.  Having written and visible Guiding Principles apprises everyone of the rules of engagement when money decisions become hard, or it’s unclear what to do.

Click here for the Guiding Principles our family lives by.

As you put your list together, target anywhere from 6 to 12 principles.  If you have too many, it’ll be a jumbled mess, and they will no longer be “Principles.” Too few and you’ll face too many situations outside the scope of your principles, thereby minimizing their effectiveness.

The key is to know what your personal beliefs and values are and create Guiding Principles in alignment with them.  This is no time for “follow the herd” thinking. You must craft them with your specific values in mind.

Why Time is More Valuable Than Money

Today we’re focused on one of the keystone guiding principles – time is more valuable than money.

Time is more valuable than money for a simple reason:  you can get more money, but you can’t get more time.

Time is fleeting.

You can’t slow it down.  You can’t make more of it.  You can’t borrow it.  You can’t store it or harness its power later.  You can’t go back in time, and there are no do-overs. It’s the epitome of “use it or lose it.”

Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

The same can’t be said about money.

You can work harder, longer, smarter.  You can get lucky, marry right, innovate.  You can store money, even harness its power for greater output later.  There are tons of ways to get more money.

But, no matter what you do, you can’t get more time.

On the surface, this may not seem like a significant idea, but when I see so many people spending their money on less important things, it’s an idea worth exploring further.

 

 

I’m Sooo Busy, All of the Time

Stop me if you’ve been here before:  you ask someone “how’s it goin’,” and they immediately rant about “how they’re soooo busy” or “how they don’t have enough time to get it all done much less do anything for themself.”  

Ever run into this?  Um, yeah, like all the time!  Heck, you’ve probably caught yourself doing the same thing a time or two.

This isn’t to judge those people (or ourselves).  The reality is we live in a hyperfast, time-strapped world, particularly so if you’re raising a family.  There never seems to be enough time to get everything done.  Some of this is on us and our inability to say no, delegate, or prioritize.  But, it’s also due to people not using their money in the best way.  And using money to buy more time is one of the best ways you can spend your money.

Change How You Think

So, how can we use money to give us more time, and when is it appropriate to do so?

The first step is to change how you evaluate purchases.  Before you buy something, you assess the value of the purchase; you weigh the cost against the benefit. You should also ask yourself if you can “afford” it.

This is how most people evaluate their purchases.  But, for those purchases that save us time, it’s inadequate.  You must also factor in the benefits you get from the “extra” time your money buys you.

An example best explains the concept.

Say you go to the grocery store and buy a “Meal To Go kit.”

If you’re unfamiliar with a “Meal To Go kit,” it’s exactly as it sounds.  The grocery store has prepackaged everything you need to cook a meal all in one convenient place. It’s, literally, grab and go.

Here’s an example of a “Meal To Go kit” from Giant Eagle:

 

 

 

By their description, “our meal kits make cooking deliciously simple, providing handpicked, market-fresh meats and produce with step-by-step instructions.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

You come across this Meal To Go kit and (unconsciously) go through your cost/benefit analysis:

    • You scan for quality – What are the ingredients?  Is it healthy?  Will it be delish?
    • You scan for price – Is this a good deal?  Is it too expensive?
    • You look for additional benefits such as convenience – It’s a lot less work, you don’t have to think, you can blame Giant Eagle if it sucks

This is the typical pattern we follow.  Scan for quality, scan for price, scan for convenience.  Buy or don’t buy.

But, to truly appreciate the value of time-saving purchases, you need to take it a step further.

You need to ask yourself, “How much time will this save me?” Followed by, “What will I do with this time?” 

You see, you’re not just buying a meal and convenience, you’re also buying time.  If you’re not consciously deciding how you’re going to spend this additional time, there’s a good chance you’ll squander it.

It’s easy to dismiss this as much ado about nothing, but because time is so precious, shouldn’t we be more protective of how we’re spending it?

For example, I often hear people lament about “how much yard work needs to be done this weekend.” What they’re really lamenting is having to spend all weekend doing backbreaking work they don’t enjoy instead of having fun or spending time with the people they love.

When I ask, “why don’t you hire someone to do the work for you,” it’s usually met with a litany of “I ca n’ts” or “it’s not worth it.” Sometimes, it’s met with guilt; they feel they’re being lazy or stupid if they hire someone to do work they could do for themself.  Noble, but misguided.

This “I can’t, it’s not worth it, I can do it myself” way of thinking all have the same fatal flaw – they don’t take into account what they get to do with the extra time.

They think hiring a landscaper is about avoiding backbreaking work and having a pretty yard.  And at $35 an hour, “it’s not worth it.” But, it’s not just about those things. It’s also about giving you more time for the important things in your life. It’s about getting to see two more of your girls’ soccer games.  About going on four more hikes.  About going on two more dates with your spouse or significant other.

How about doing absolutely nothing for a weekend? What’s that worth to you?

It’s okay to let go of the guilt that often comes with making these types of decisions. It’s okay to buy yourself more time so you can spend it with the people you love or on taking care of yourself.

You’re buying you so much more than a pretty yard.

The good news is these time-saving purchases are all around us if we look for them.  We usually dismiss or don’t even notice them, but they’re out there.  You just have to pay attention.

Time is more important than money is a guiding principle, but there are a couple of ground rules to follow.

First, you need to be honest with yourself about how “time poor” you are and not farm out every job just because you don’t like the work, it’s hard, or you’re just being lazy.  If you have more time than money, the impact of this principle is diminished (which is perfectly okay).

Second, you must be able to afford it.  For example, if you’re knee-deep in credit card debt, but have someone cleaning your house, doing your laundry, cooking your meals, and delivering your groceries, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

You need to find the right balance.

Every purchase – even time – must be measured against the reality of your financial situation.

Bigger Bang for Your Buck

How much bang for your buck you get is directly tied to what you do with the “extra” time.

A good exercise is to ask yourself, “If I had three extra hours per week, what would I do with them?” Don’t get hung up on the details like “weekdays or weekends” or “is that one hour 3x” or “one three hour block.”

Keep it simple.  Think about what you’re missing out in life and how you’d address them if you had more time.

Once you know this, think through which “purchases” offer you the biggest bang for your buck.

To do this, go through the typical cost/benefit analysis but add the components of:

    1. Calculate how much time you’re saving (per week or per month) with the purchase
    2. Determine what you will do with the extra time

 

 

Here are some examples of where money can buy you more time. 

Banking

      • Automate every bill you have
      • Use bill pay
      • Automate all savings and investments
        • Retirement
        • College
        • Emergency Fund

Household

      • Housekeeping
      • Landscaping
      • Dog walking
      • Laundry
      • Household repairs

Make use of your drive time

      • Audiobooks
      • Podcasts
      • YouTube – listen, don’t watch!

In business

      • Virtual assistant
      • Hire specialists
        • Payroll, bookkeeping
        • Taxes
        • Insurance
        • Investing
      • Marketing, social media

Online shopping for staples, recurring purchases

      • Subscription services for:
      • Coffee, tea
      • Paper towels, napkins, dish soap, dishwasher detergent
      • Laundry detergent, dryer sheets
      • Shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, toilet paper, razors
      • Kleenex, toothpaste

Meals to go

      • Delivered to your door
      • Precooked at the grocery store (heat and serve)
      • Prepped at the grocery store to cook at home
      • Grocery delivery service

As you can see, there are a lot of ways your money can buy you more time if you look for them.  And they stack.  If you incorporate several of these strategies, you can easily find a few hours per week of additional time to be used on the important things in your life.

If you find yourself constantly pressed for time, take a moment to reflect on where it’s going.  Then, determine if you could use your money differently and, without guilt, find more time to spend on the things you love with the people you love.  You may find out it’s the best money you ever spent.