Life can be busy and complicated, especially as we head into 2021.

If you’re looking for ways to streamline your life and finances as we head into the New Year, then you’re going to love these four easy steps for simplifying your financial life.

1. Consolidate

Consolidation is the process of combining lots of little things into one larger, more effective thing. In the case of your finances, consolidation can be used to simplify bank accounts, credit cards, and other debt.

Some simple ways to begin the consolidation process include:

  • Consolidate your bank accounts. Unless you’re running a business, you probably don’t require multiple bank accounts. Having one checking account and one high-interest savings account will make it easier to keep track of your money.
  • Eliminate credit cards you don’t need. If you’ve lost count of the number of credit cards in your wallet then you have too many. The fewer credit cards you have, the easier it is to control your spending and prevent credit card debt. If you’ve already racked up a few credit cards then you may want to consider consolidating all of your balances onto a single low-interest credit card.
  • Consider a debt consolidation loan. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your debt, consider combining all of it onto a single consolidation loan. If your loan is at a lower interest rate, your debt could disappear faster. Plus, because you have a set payback schedule, it may help reduce your overall debt. Now instead of having 3 or 5 or 10 debtors to pay, you simply have one. But, be careful not to run your credit cards back up and make things worse!

 

 

2. Automate

Now that you’ve cleaned your financial house by consolidating, it’s time to simplify things even further. Automating your finances may take some initial effort, but it will afford you more time and money in the long term.

Some simple ways to automate your finances include:

  • Direct deposit. If you haven’t already, then sign up to have your paycheck directly deposited into your checking account. This will save you the hassle of having to go to the bank to deposit your paycheck.
  • Automate savings. As soon as your paycheck is directly deposited into your checking account, you want to automate it so that a portion of your paycheck goes directly into an emergency savings account as well as your retirement savings account. By automating this process, you take away all of the barriers that can prevent us from making smart financial decisions like a lack of motivation or effort.
  • Automate bill payments. If you have recurring bills then you can also automate these payments. This can help you to avoid missing bill payments and getting hit with late fees. You can set up auto-payments for your mortgage or rent payments, utilities, and any memberships.
  • Automate investments. The last thing to automate is your investments. Not only does this simplify the investment process but it will also stop you from trying to time the market.

 

 

3. Use cash (and one credit card)

Have you ever noticed that it’s much harder to part with a crisp twenty-dollar bill than it is to swipe a credit card?

There’s something about the tangible feeling of money leaving your fingers that makes even the most seasoned shopper think twice about their impending purchase! When you use cash it’s easy to recognize when you’re running low. All you have to do is look in your wallet. You feel the immediate effects of your spending. The same is not true with a credit card.

A classic study of behavioral economics by MIT professors, Drazen Prelec and Duncan Simester, found that people are willing to spend up to 100% more when using their credit card as opposed to cash. Other studies have found that people make larger purchases when visiting a department store and leave larger tips at restaurants when paying with their credit card.

Credit cards make spending too easy and they remove a lot of the emotion. When shopping with a credit card there are no immediate consequences; you often won’t see any evidence of overspending until you receive your credit card bill.

All this being said, it is 2020 and the world is largely going cashless. There are still many times when you may need a credit card. So, keep one on hand and get rid of the rest.

 

 

4. Create a “things I didn’t buy list”

Now that you’ve consolidated, automated, and started using cash, you’ve set yourself up for success. There’s one last tip to simplifying your finances. It’s time to create a “things I didn’t buy list.”

When you feel the urge to spend money on something you really want but you don’t need, then you simply write it down on your, “things I didn’t buy list.” Simply record the item and the cost. For instance, “Striped sweater – $70.”

The goal is to do this for a month. At the end of the month, you go through your list and tally up everything you didn’t buy. The total tally might shock you, and you’ll probably feel very happy and proud that you didn’t spend the money.

Now you can take all of the money that you saved by not buying little things that you don’t need and you can put it towards a bigger goal. Perhaps you invest the money, create an emergency savings fund, or start saving for a dream vacation. The point is, when you stop buying all of the little, unnecessary things, you can save more for the big, important things.

If you want to take this a step farther you can also record how you felt when you wanted the thing that you didn’t buy. Were you happy, sad or stressed? How did it feel to say no? All of this extra information can reveal some interesting trends. Maybe you learn that you find it extra hard to say no when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work. You can use this information to change your behavior in the future. When you start to feel overwhelmed, you can head to the gym or go for a hike instead of visiting the mall.

 

 

Are you ready to simplify your financial life?

Getting your finances in order can seem like an uphill battle that you don’t want to fight. But it doesn’t have to be a struggle. With these four steps, you can begin to create a simplified financial system that largely takes care of itself. You can focus your attention on growing your savings account by shopping with cash and continuously updating your “things I didn’t buy list.”

 

 

The end of 2020 is just around the corner, and the New Year can’t get here soon enough. Whether or not you’re someone who sets New Year’s resolutions, it’s a great time to initiate change. Why not make 2021 the year you (finally) position yourself for financial success?

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the world is unpredictable. And while many things are outside of your control, you have the power to take control of your finances. With this simple six-step program, you can make 2021 the year you begin to build lasting financial success.

The 6-step program for financial success

 

 

1. Create a cash reserve and emergency savings program

I don’t need to explain why an emergency fund is necessary. We’ve all just received a first-hand lesson in why having a cash reserve is essential. No one could have predicted a pandemic would sweep across the globe and throw everything into chaos. Remember, it’s often the things you can’t foresee that get you!

We don’t know what 2021 is going to bring. Heck, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Having an emergency savings program is the first step to creating financial stability. It gives you the ability to live life without fear of losing your house or pulling the kids out of private school if something bad happens financially.

The goal is to have three to six months’ worth of savings in your emergency fund, but it’s okay to start small. Open an online savings account and automatically save into it via payroll deduction or automatic transfers from your checking account. The key is to automate the process and start building your lifestyle continuation plan immediately.

 

2. Invest more money for retirement and college

The next step is to bump up your investments to your retirement and college saving programs. If you haven’t started investing for retirement or college, the new year is a great time to build new, healthy financial habits.

If you’re in a 401k plan, increase your contributions by 1%. Now before you chime in with, “I can’t afford that,” check your skepticism at the door. Chances are you won’t even notice the difference in your take-home pay. If I’m wrong, it’s super simple to change back to where you were before. But, if I’m right, you may be able to retire a year earlier or be able to take an extra vacation every year in retirement.

In this example, the noteworthy change isn’t the “1% increase in 401k contributions.” No, it’s to get out of the habit of thinking, “I can’t.” When “I can’t” is your financial default – “I can’t save more, I can’t stop spending, I can’t make more” – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What do you think the impact would be if you changed your default from “I can’t” to “I’ll try?”

You know, there’s an easy way to know for sure, right?

 

 

3. Reduce high-interest debt already on the books

Getting your high-interest debt under control is one of the best money moves you can make in the new year. There are different approaches you can take in your debt repayment journey.

Snowball method – Assess your debts and put them in order from the lowest balance to the highest balance. Aggressively pay off your lowest balance first while making the minimum payments on all of the others. Once you’ve paid off the lowest balance, you move on to the next lowest balance account. But, instead of just making the minimum payment, you add the amount you were paying on the first account to the minimum payment, thereby making a larger payment.

Like a snowball gathering snow and getting bigger as it rolls downhill, as you pay off each account, your payment gets bigger and bigger until you’ve paid everything off.

If you’re someone who needs to see progress to stay motivated on your debt repayment journey, this is a good plan for you. By paying off the lowest balance first, you feel a sense of accomplishment which is motivating and encourages you to keep it up.

Avalanche method – Order your debts based on the interest rates, from highest to lowest. Aggressively pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first while paying the minimum payments on all of the others.

This plan is best if you’re able to focus on the prize at the end of the game versus getting some wins along the way. Because you’re paying off the highest interest debt first, you will pay less in interest and shorten your payback period.

I find the snowball method to be the better of the two approaches. While the avalanche method works better on paper, in the real world – where you and I live – the snowball method wins. Hey, we’re humans. We need to see tangible progress if we’re going to stick with something as difficult and emotional as debt-reduction.

 

4. Avoid new debt

If you want to get ahead, you need to avoid taking on more debt. Do anything you have to. Cut up your credit cards, block your favorite online stores, and don’t buy things if you don’t have the cash in hand to do so.

If you don’t make enough to pay your bills each month, perhaps it’s time to focus on increasing your income. If you’re in a position to ask for a raise, do it. If there’s an opportunity to take on a higher paying role with your company, go for it. Perhaps you start that side hustle you’ve been thinking about – pick up some quick cash by selling things you don’t use on Facebook Marketplace – or even get a second job.

I’m not saying it will be easy, but it may be necessary. If you want to build lasting financial success, sacrificing in the short run is often the way to go. Whether that means spending less, working more, or both, it’s a proven recipe for success.

 

 

5. Create spending habits that align with your values

Once your debt is under control, it’s time to focus on what you’re doing with your hard-earned dollars. In other words, how you are spending your money.

The key to this step is to ensure your spending aligns with your values. Ask yourself, “What do I value? Who or what stirs my soul and provides me my fondest memories? What brings me my greatest levels of personal satisfaction?”

Is it time with your family, personal development, giving back to your community? The practice of values-based spending is about becoming more conscious of what you’re doing with your money and why. Moving forward, all spending should pass through your “values” filter. Constantly ask yourself, “Does this purchase align with my values? How does this add to my life?”

 

6. Know where your money goes

The last step is about money awareness and is a natural extension of the “spend your values” philosophy outlined above. I’m not suggesting you create a spreadsheet and input every nickel and dime you spend. That sounds too much like a budget and you know how I feel about budgets (see Budgets are Bullshit blog).

No, I simply mean knowing what your top 5 spending categories are. If you know your top 5 spending categories, you can then compare them against your values and determine how you’re doing. Without running the numbers, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re doing a good job when you’re really failing.

You can’t fix a problem you don’t think you have.

 

 

Many folks are feeling as much anxiety about the end of this contentious presidential election as they were feeling during the long months of campaigning. It’s impossible to predict with 100% accuracy what a new president and a new Congress are going to do. That feeling of uncertainty can send out ripples through our financial and political systems until we get a clearer picture of the agenda for the next four years.

As important as elections are, we believe a solid financial plan gives you the tools to keep improving your Return on Life no matter what’s happening with our nation’s politics. Instead of fretting about what may or may not happen starting in January, try to focus on these three areas of your life that will help you control major transitions.

 

 

1. You can’t control the economy … but you can control your career.

Elections sometimes spark short-term volatility in the financial markets. But the economy is bigger than any one president, especially while Covid-19 continues to change everyday life and global business.

As companies continue to adapt to the pandemic landscape, job opportunities are becoming less centralized and more diverse. You might be able to take your dream job on the other side of the country without leaving the home your family loves. Or, you might spot an emerging market in the middle of all this displacement where you can open your own company.

 

 

2. You can’t control taxes … but you can control your saving and spending.

Presidential candidates talk a lot about their tax plans on the campaign trail. The need for Congress’ cooperation to put that plan into action usually isn’t discussed quite as much.

Whether your preferred candidate won or lost, there’s no guarantee taxes are going up or down. But, you can anticipate when your kids will be going to college, if you’ll need to replace the family car soon, or if you’re not prepared for retirement.

Yes, tax rates will play a role in handling these transitions, but your level of saving and spending have a much bigger impact on your financial plan than any other factor. If you’re not connected to your money and spending in BAD ways, make it a goal to change that in 2021.

Sit down with your spouse and weed out all those recurring subscriptions and memberships you’re not using. Make a weekly meal plan so you’re not eating out so often or buying the most expensive items on the top shelf. This could easily yield a couple hundred dollars each month and help you build that all important retirement nest egg.

 

 

3. You can’t control who’s president … but you can take control of your financial plan.

Per the clamor on social media, was this really “the most important election of our lifetimes?” It could be decades before we have enough perspective to judge. But as far as your financial planning goes, here’s another way to think about presidents:

A 67-year-old baby boomer eyeing retirement might have taken her first part-time job when Lyndon Johnson was president. As of 2020, that senior has lived and worked through ten different presidents.

It’s doubtful you’re going to love every single president who serves during your career. Yes, there are things each one does that might move the needle on your retirement accounts in the short term. But those who stick to their plans and continue to save and invest regardless of what’s happening in the outside world are the ones who build long-term wealth. You don’t need to invest large sums of money, either. But you need to get started as soon as possible and put time on your side.

No matter how you feel about the election, you can take action today to keep your financial plan on track or get started on one. Control what you can control and don’t waste time, energy, or effort on everything else.

 

We all have beliefs about money. These beliefs are important as they inform our financial decisions, for better or worse.

Below are five widespread myths that women cling to when it comes to money. All too often, they hold women back from achieving the financial future they’ve always wanted. It’s time to dispel these myths and implement simple strategies that enable you to grow your money and help you accomplish your most important life goals.

 

1 Money is too complicated

It’s true, the topic of money can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately, the financial industry uses so much jargon and so many acronyms that it sounds like they’re speaking another language. You’re not alone if you feel confused or overwhelmed.

When it comes down to it, money isn’t nearly as complicated as it first seems. Instead, it’s the terminology and the people using it that make it difficult to understand.

We use money every single day. If you buy into the 10,000-hour rule (it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something), then many of you are money experts. You might not feel like an expert but, if you’ve been buying groceries, paying rent, or investing for years, then you know a thing or two about money.

If you have 10,000 hours under your belt and you still feel overwhelmed by the topic of money, then you can try to simplify things by looking for resources that speak your language. Seek out blogs, podcasts, and books that break down complex financial information into simple, easy to digest terms.

 

 

If you work with a financial professional, ensure their goal is to help you understand your money instead of trying to sound smart and confuse you with unnecessary jargon.

With the right resources, some focused effort, and time, you will come to find that money is not so complicated.

 

2. “I have time”

It’s hard to think about things like retirement when you’re young and focused on having fun. Who wants to put their hard-earned cash into a retirement account when it could be better spent on travel or concerts, right?

Wrong!

The best thing you can do for yourself when you’re young is to start saving and investing. This is because of a little thing called compound interest … you may have heard of it.

Compounding occurs when you put a sum of money into a savings or investment account and it earns interest. The magic happens when you earn interest on your interest, and your money begins to grow more rapidly.

As a simple example, let’s say that you put $100 into an investment account that earns 5% interest annually.

Year 1: Invest $100, earn 5% interest. $5 in interest earned. $100 + $5 = $105
Year 2: You now have $105 to invest. 5% interest on $105 is $5.25. $105 + $5.25 = $110.25
Year 3: You now have $110.25. 5% interest on $110.25 is $5.51. $110.25 + $5.51 = $115.76

After ten years, you’ll have $162.89.
After twenty years, you’ll have $265.33.

So, when you hear people say “time is money,” this is what they’re talking about!

Compounding works because you’re earning interest on your interest. Given enough time, your interest will be worth more than your initial investment.

The key is time.

Compounding can work wonders if you have time on your side. This is why it’s essential to not fool yourself into thinking you have “lots of time.” Every day you wait is a day lost and that means money lost. Remember, time is money!

Oh, and don’t fall for the idea you need a lot of money to make money. Investing even a small amount over a long enough time can yield significant gains.

 

3. It’ll just work itself out

If you think your money problems will just magically work themselves out, I hate to break this to you, but they won’t. In fact, they’re far more likely to get worse.

 

 

Like a little baby, your money requires attention and nurturing if you want it to grow and flourish. Making your money work for you doesn’t have to be a monumental task. There are a few simple steps you can take to help your money thrive.

  1. Be connected to how you’re spending your money – you don’t need to have a budget with 20 different spending categories to know where your money goes. If you’re like most people, you have a few usual suspects where you do most of your spending. Start by identifying your two or three biggest spending categories and work toward reducing your spending in these areas.
  2. Invest – investing allows you to save for the retirement you’ve always wanted as well as other future goals. The key is to get started today and let compounding do its thing.
  3. Automate – to keep a hands-off approach to your finances, you can automate your savings and investments. Set up your accounts so a percentage of your paycheck is automatically deposited into your savings / investing account before you even see it.
  4. Seek advice – if you’re confused or overwhelmed by your finances, then find someone who can help you. Look for fiduciary financial advisors who work on a fee for service model.

Money doesn’t just work itself out. If you want to reach your financial goals, you have to be an active participant. Remember, money is like a baby, and no one will care about your money or your baby (or grandbaby) more than you, so take action.

 

4. Men are better at it

If you’re under the impression men are better with money, you’re wrong. There is evidence to suggest the opposite is true, at least in the investment arena. When it comes to investing, women have been found to outperform men. There are a couple of reasons for this:

Women tend to take a more long term perspective when it comes to investing. This results in fewer trades and a greater propensity to stick to their original plan. On the other hand, men tend to be more overconfident in their investing abilities, trade more frequently, and invest in more speculative stocks.

Women are also more cautious with their money, whereas their male counterparts tend to take on more risk. While this isn’t always the best tactic, it does curb the chances of making a large, speculative investment mistake.

The bottom line is men are not better at money, though men and women do have different approaches.

 

5. It’s too late

Just as it’s never too early to start caring about your money and investing for your future, it’s also never too late. Starting to save at 40, 50, or 60 means you’ll have to save more than if you began to age 22, but having something is far better than having nothing.

 

 

There are things you can do to accelerate your retirement savings if you’re getting a late start.

  • Up your monthly investments – invest as much as possible to try to grow your retirement savings. Look for opportunities to supplement your regular income like driving for Uber or Door Dash or even picking up a side gig during the holidays. Hustle your way to more money!
  • Reduce your expenses – consider downsizing when it comes to big-ticket items like your home or vehicles.
  • Avoid debt – do your best to avoid taking on any additional debt, especially credit card debt.
  • Avoid risk – if you’re getting close to retirement age, you don’t want to take on overly risky investments in an effort to make greater returns. Align your investment risks with your age. If you need help with this, you can always speak with a financial advisor.
  • Ask for help – talk to a financial advisor about what you can do to achieve your retirement goals.

 

 

Bill Clinton famously said, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Okay, that’s not exactly how it went. James Carville, Clinton’s chief campaign strategist, coined the term and wrote it on a whiteboard in Clinton’s campaign headquarters. It was his way of reminding Mr. Clinton of what the people really cared about.

And he was right. It was the economy. And it still is.

Even in the time of COVID?

Yes, even in the time of COVID.

Skeptical? Stay with me.

Before we get into why that is, let’s get on the same page and establish a working definition of the “economy.”

According to Investopedia:

An economy is the large set of interrelated production and consumption activities that aid in determining how scarce resources are allocated.

In an economy, the production and consumption of goods and services are used to fulfill the needs of those living and operating within it. (emphasis added by me)

 

IMO, this is a darned good definition.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t have this definition in mind when we refer to the “economy.” We think of the “economy” as if it was a singular, non-living entity with a sole decision-maker at the top. We think of it in the same way we think about a business, but on a massive scale.

This is a terrible mistake. The economy is not a business. It’s not a singular entity with centralized decision-making at the top. It is not non-living.

The truth is the economy is comprised of people. It’s the accumulated output of people. In short, the economy = people.

I’m talking about real flesh and blood people like you and me.

In America, it’s hundreds of millions of people all trying to have a good life and make the most of our existence. It’s the mom worried about how remote learning will affect the social development of her children. The pilot who wonders if she’ll have a job come October or if she’ll be furloughed. It’s the new homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage because they aren’t allowed to go to work.

The economy is comprised of sisters and brothers, moms and dads, neighbors, co-workers and strangers. People from all walks of life.

When the “economy” isn’t doing well, it means people aren’t doing well. People are struggling to pay their mortgages. People are collapsing under the weight of life without a paycheck. People are stressed to the max worried sick with how they’re going to support their families.

 

 

It’s easy to say “shut it down, it’s only the economy” when we think of the economy as a nameless, faceless, non-living thing. We don’t have empathy for inanimate objects. But, we should have empathy and understanding for people because there is real damage being done to them.

It’s not difficult to understand why so many have this perspective. How we see the world is colored by our lived experiences. For most of us, “shutting down the economy” hasn’t hit us where it counts: our pocketbooks.

Setting aside the unprecedented amounts of government support for the unemployed and small businesses, let’s dig into one of the key components of the economy: unemployment.

Currently, we’re at an unemployment rate of approximately 10%. We can all agree this isn’t a good number by historical standards. Here’s the thing: an unemployment rate of 10% means 90% of the labor force has a job and is working. It means 90% of us aren’t taking on the brunt of the “just shut down the economy” mantra. It’s one thing to acknowledge that a 10% unemployment rate is bad. It’s a completely different experience to actually lose your job.

It’s easy to speak about “making sacrifices,” “doing the right thing,” and “it’s only money, we’re talking about lives” when the burden falls on someone else, when some else’s livelihood is on the line, when the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of others crumble at the feet of a shutdown economy.

Thankfully, most of us aren’t taking on this burden. Remember, 90% of the labor force is still employed. That’s the upside.

The downside is it’s a lot harder to empathize and understand what life is like for those who aren’t working, for those bearing the brunt of the economic shutdowns. If we continue to think of the economy as some nameless, faceless, non-living thing, we’ll continue to be blind to the human costs incurred and that’s a human tragedy we can do something about.

I don’t say this to criticize those who believe shutting down the economy is the right thing to do. That’s an entirely different discussion.

 

 

My point is simply this: we need to be more mindful of the human costs incurred for “shutting down the economy.” We need to weigh the human costs that come with an economic shutdown.

If we do that objectively and ultimately decide the costs are worth the benefits, so be it. But, it needs to be a thoughtful evaluation of what is at stake.

If we think of the economy as real people and determine the sacrifices they bear is the lesser of two evils in the quest to stop COVID, okay then. None of us have a crystal ball and knows exactly what to do. At the very least, we need to treat the “economy” with the same care and understanding we have for our family, our neighbors, our fellow citizens because they are one and the same. The economy = people.

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

Politics aside, whether you’re a fan of our 42nd president or not, he was right on this point. Although, I think I’d change the slogun to, “it’s about the people, stupid.”

 

 

Whether you are young and single, married with children, or retired and widowed, financial planning should always be a priority. No matter what age or stage you’re at in your life, having a plan for your money is essential.

When is the right time to do financial planning?

We’re so glad you asked.

The “right time” is Right. Now. You are the right person, and now is the right time.

I know that sounds cliche. Stay with me.

Financial planning is the process of making smart decisions with your money so you can achieve your life goals. It’s about you. And, just as financial planning isn’t reserved for a specific type of person (i.e., “millionaire investors” or “successful career women”), it’s not reserved for a specific time in your life.


Why
Right Now is the Right Time for Financial Planning


Just as you continue to evolve and change, so too does your money. You would never take a few years off from brushing your teeth or washing your face, would you? So, why would you take a few years off from making the smartest financial decisions you possibly can? There’s no reason to wait or postpone your money matters now.

 

 

Why You are the Right Person to do Your Financial Planning

 

Financial planning is for all women, and there isn’t a time in your life when it isn’t appropriate.

Of course, depending on what stage you’re at, your financial needs will be different. The needs of a new mother are far different than that of a grandmother who just lost her husband — but every single woman has important decisions to make. All women deserve the benefits of being financially smart and confident.

Besides, no woman has ever had just one title or only one role. No, your identity, like your life, is always evolving.

For instance, you may be in one or even several of these stages simultaneously:

      • Growing your career and planning for your future. All the more reason to put a solid plan in place to get you where you want to be 5, 10, or 20 years from now. The sooner you start, the sooner you can begin to achieve your financial goals.
      • Changing careers. Making a career change can be exciting, terrifying, liberating, or a combination of all three. You want to know what you should do with your retirement plans, what insurance options serve you best, and how your new life and work will affect your tax situation.
      • Raising a family. When you have a family, there’s a ton of critical financial decisions to make for your children, spouse, or partner. Decisions about everything from education to vacations to how your dreams will take shape. The sooner you start planning, the sooner you can all start working together towards your future.
      • Navigating a divorce. It may have happened by surprise or been long in the works. Either way, it is one of the most challenging times of your life. Your whole world is turned upside down, and you’re concerned about the fallout. Having a strong legal and financial team makes all the difference in the world.
      • Caring for an ill or disabled family member. Caregivers typically care for a family member more than 24 unpaid hours each week, often while holding down a full-time job. In this demanding and vulnerable situation, it is critical you don’t go backward financially as you care for those who need you most.
      • Coping with the loss of a partner or spouse. This is one of the most challenging transitions of your life; it will rock your world, no matter how prepared you are. The profound loss is compounded by fear about whether you’ll have enough, and what you should do now. You don’t have to make these financial decisions alone.

 

How to Start Planning for Your Financial Future

 

 

Having a financial plan helps you work towards the future of your dreams. It also enables you to prepare for circumstances that you can’t predict and are outside of your control.

If you have yet to start your financial plan, don’t worry. It’s never too late. You are here and reading this, so you’re on the right track.

To start on your financial planning journey, think about where you are right now. What life roles do you currently fill? Employee, mother, manager, widow, student, wife, caretaker.

Next, brainstorm three ways a financial plan can help you to achieve the financial support you need right now. As an example, perhaps you need help putting together a debt repayment plan which would significantly reduce your stress and allow you to sleep at night. Or, maybe you’ve recently had your first child and you know you need to create a will, but you’ve been putting it off. Once you’ve finished brainstorming, write your three ideas down.

By writing down your three reasons, you’ve given yourself a starting point. You’ve outlined your “why.” These three reasons represent why financial planning is important to you.

The next step is to take action. Start piecing together your financial plan. This includes everything from investing to debt repayment to insurance and ensuring you have a solid emergency fund.

This may seem overwhelming at first, which is perfectly natural. Just take things one step at a time. It’s not a race, and there isn’t a test at the end. So, take your time and dream a little as you work through this. This is your life, and this is your plan. You’re worth the time and effort!

Remember – right now is the right time. You are the right person. Financial planning is for all women.

 

Have you ever heard someone say, “Finances are a guy thing, let them handle the money?”

Umm, I don’t think so. This sentiment is just so wrong.

Women are more than capable of managing their own money.

Unfortunately, the myth that “men are better at money than women” is still around, and it’s one of the main factors contributing to why women struggle to achieve financial equality.

Are men born with a personal finance gene?

Imagine you and your male partner are in a meeting with your financial advisor. Your advisor starts talking and within 30 seconds you feel totally lost.

But, what about your male significant other?

You look over and he just seems to “get it.”

Have you ever wondered, “why?”

Why does “he” seem to get it while you’re sitting there struggling? Is there some sort of personal finance gene that’s only on the Y chromosome — something that gives men the innate ability to understand money better than women?

If you’ve ever gone down this rabbit hole and wondered why you, a smart and accomplished woman, are struggling while your male partner isn’t, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-familiar scene, and it needs to stop.

 

Women as Better Money Managers?

 

 

The truth is there is no “finance gene,” and men are not inherently better at managing money than women.

In fact, there’s research to suggest (here and here) that the opposite may be true. When it comes to investing, women often outperform their male counterparts.

Despite this evidence, the majority of financial advisors are men. Financial services is an industry built for and dominated by men. Men who’ve been taught to “sell” to the male ego and the way men think about money. Consequently, there’s a lot of posturing, one-upmanship, and an obsession with “performance.” It’s aggressive, competitive, and numbers-driven.

In other words, the language of finance was created by men for men. Is there any wonder why men “get it” and women so-often don’t?

But … what if the language of finance was created with women in mind? What if the financial industry encouraged women to believe they could be competent and valuable managers of their own money? What if women felt they were just as capable (if not more capable) and had just as much at stake as men?

If women had all of this working for them, do you think that maybe women would start to “get it?”

Absolutely.

 

Wealth is Shifting from Men to Women

 

Despite decades of under-serving women, the financial industry is slowly changing as the wealth in this country is shifting from men to women.

Women have held the majority of college degrees for four decades. Women account for 50% of the college-educated workforce, and it’s becoming increasingly common for women to be the primary household breadwinners. There is no reason to believe women are not capable of making their own money and then managing it successfully.

But, there also needs to be a culture shift. We need to see more women in finance, specifically in leadership roles. We need women to feel confident and capable. The financial industry needs to start appealing to women.

On the other hand, women need to stop turning over major money decisions to men as if it’s their birthright. Remember, you are one hundred percent capable of managing your own money.

Yes, the financial language barrier is real, the jargon used by financial professionals makes everything sound far more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t let this get in your way. Your ability to manage your finances is too important. After all, no one cares about your money more than you do.

It’s time to put an end to the myth that “financial planning is a guy thing” because it’s Just. Not. True.

 

 

How to Take Control of Your Money

      1. Believe you can. One of the main reasons men seem to just “get it” when it comes to money is because they are confident in their own abilities (sometimes for no good reason). It’s time women claim some of this confidence — start to believe you are capable of managing your money because you are.
      2. Become financially literate. Knowledge breeds confidence, so start to learn as much as you can. Yes, there’s a lot of financial jargon that makes things difficult to understand, but you can overcome it. There are plenty of financial resources available to help you learn financial concepts — you just need to find them. And let us point out you’ll find a lot at enlightenHer.com! We’ve created a learning environment built specifically for women and how you think about money.
      3. Find experts that speak your language. A good financial planner can help you cut through the financial jargon and explain things in a way that makes sense to you. She will increase your knowledge and confidence when it comes to personal finances. If you’re interacting with a financial advisor that only speaks to your male partner or makes you feel silly for asking a question, it’s time to jump ship and move on. There’s plenty of good advisors out there, but you might have to “date” around!

 

Financial Planning is a Guy Thing, But It’s Also a Gal Thing

 

If anyone ever tells you that financial planning is just for men, be sure to give them an education and bust that antiquated myth. Financial planning is about you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. It’s about creating a plan that allows you to achieve your dream and your goals.

So, start to take charge of your finances. Take one small step today — read another post on our blog, take out a personal finance book from the library, or listen to a financial podcast. Over time these small steps will add up, and your financial knowledge and confidence will continue to grow!

 

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?