October 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
Budgeting is one of the things I discuss often with just about everyone who comes into the office. Even with folks close to retirement, we discuss again what their retirement budget might look like and how to expand or contract things based on cash flow.
So let’s talk about budgets. I prefer to deal with this starting with FIXED expenses and always as a percentage of what you have, even if you practice charitable giving or tithing, the money you have left is the 100% from which we begin calculations. If in any of these calculations you find yourself over the recommended percentage, that’s fine. But it is the reason why spending for things besides bills, or the category called LIFE, feels tight.
- First and most substantial fixed expense is HOUSING. This accounts for 35%. It includes more than your mortgage and insurance. This 35% also includes utilities, such as electricity, gas and water. It also includes a savings category call ‘maintenance,’ which equals 1% of the value of your home set aside each year for repairs. Ex. If you house appraises at $100,000, save $1,000 a year for maintenance.
- Second largest fixed expense, at 15%, is TRANSPORTATION. As with housing the category does not only include car payments. It also covers insurance, gas and ‘maintenance.’ I would say that means estimating the cost of tires, oil changes and registration. Add up you annual expenses, then divide that number by 12- since our payments are usually on a monthly basis.
- Next, also at 15%, is debt repayment. If, in learning the hard lessons of life, your debt repayment far exceeds the 15%, you have probably figured out that that’s the reason there is little fun money.
- The last fixed category is SAVINGS at 10%.
- The rest of your money, 25% in this example, is for LIFE. That covers allowances for the kids, vet visits for the pest, food and eating out, clothing, gifts and vacations.
If you are not saving and you have little money for LIFE using this percentage budget you can more easily see what is causing the squeeze.
November 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
We all know how the costs can add up around each special event and holiday. How can we be thankful on a budget? We can and if we are careful we can lift a lot of stress for our shoulders and make the day more about gratitude for all of our blessings and way less about us.
Food – Reward cards, loyalty programs, coupons and cash-back may all be ways to get the turkey and side dishes more cheaply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, September turkey prices have historically been LESS expensive than the price of turkey in November. Though it is already November you can still save money now by stocking up in the weeks prior, when there are deals on canned or frozen veggies. Try not to buy things the day before you need them. In a frantic, last-minute search of the store we tend to overspend.
Sharing – If everyone brings something to Thanksgiving dinner, expand what the potluck needs may be so that people bring a COUPLE of dishes instead of only one. ‘Sharing is caring,’ right? Supercharge the concept, accepting how others prepare favorite dishes, so that you can save on money and hassle and allow them an opportunity to give to others. Let others help in the festivities, my friend.
Décor – Studies have shown that the average family spends $100 on decorations for each holiday. You may have the luxury of doing even more than that. BUT you could make this a cost-effective holiday by making this cozy chic. Instead of buying everything, think more creatively.
Having a lot of company with not enough matching dishes? Use mismatched plates for a chic and cozy look. Use the amazing talent of kids in your circle to help with décor. Have the kids decorate paper or even fabric napkins. Use brown paper as a table runner and have the kids decorate that as well. Collect cones and branches from the neighborhood, or lovely red Winterberry from the roadsides for displays around the house. We are blessed in this region with a bounty of beauty right out our door. You can make the house festive for free. Get on Pinterest and get some excellent and cost-saving ideas.
It doesn’t cost anything to be thankful. Gratitude is a matter of the heart, my bud. Remember the why of the holiday and relax. (CR11159)
May 28, 2015 § Leave a comment
What is important to you about money?
I ask this question of every client so I can better understand what motivates them in their decisions. Each person’s unique concerns sets the foundation for their financial plan.
Security – What’s important to you about money? Happiness or security are the most common first responses to this question. What drives you? What’s your underlying reason for working hard for your future? Understanding your primary values concerning money helps you and your advisor be on the same page in creating the best financial plan for your specific needs.
Family – Why is security or happiness important to you? Why are those values important? And a common answer to the query is that people want to make their families cozy and safe. They want to spent time with them, relaxed and not feeling stressed by the hectic work world. They realize that every day that goes by cannot be relived and they want to be strong, not fretful, and content and not harried, when they are with their wee ones.
Giving back – What else is important to you about money? For many, giving back is seemingly part of their DNA. They hate to see others suffer if they can do something to help. They may not be millionaires, but they feel compelled to give. These are people who want to use their resources, their money, compassionately in the community, meeting needs. These givers care about men, women and their children, down on their luck, those who are homeless or hungry, and animals who are abandoned.
Making a difference- What’s important to you about money? Often having enough money to share means being able to make a difference, to change the world even if it is on a small scale. The importance of money is not just for self, in the minds of many. Money’s import is further exemplified by making the world a better place, whether it means giving of yourself as a volunteer or with your checkbook.
Understanding what’s important to you about money is a critical element in setting up your financial map so that your money’s activities are consistent with your heart’s desires. (CR10780)
March 18, 2015 § Leave a comment
In my practice a common and growing concern is building order in YOUR finances with the pressure of adult children and their unexpected financial needs. Parental emotional concerns and financial issues collide. What can you do?
Unexpected beginnings – Everything was fine until…something happens that causes an adult child who was living on their own to come back to their parent’s house. It could be job loss, injury, divorce. Of course you want / need to help your baby when they are hurting. Who else should they be able to rely upon? The problem becomes a more apparent concern as the days turn into weeks and weeks and then into months with no clear plan of normalcy.
Time to draw the line – Eventually, and preferably earlier than later, well before everyone loses their cool and the financial drain takes you all down, parents recognize the need to set the little birds free and get them BACK OUT on their own. To get clarity from the chaos emotions need to be politely kept in check and your most excellent raising-responsible-adult-parental hat needs to be firmly affixed upon your sensible head. Set a goal that in two months this situation will be changed and your ‘baby’ will be moved back to their own place and out of yours. Then figure out how to get to that goal.
Make a plan- This adult is overwhelmed and they have no idea where to begin. This life event is new territory for all of you and they have much less life experience than you do. You have seen others experience this problem. You know a thing or two about how to proceed to make a new path.
Once again, as a parent your life experience is the best help of all. What is the cost of housing in the area? Will roommates be needed to move to the preferred area of town? If that is the case would renting a house be a better idea so there is adequate room? Is subsidized housing a part of the plan? If so, get on the waiting list NOW.
Will they need financial help in the transition? Is that something you are able or willing to provide so they can get out and on their own feet? Can you subsidize their rent payment in a place prior to the more permanent housing arrangements?
You taught them so many practical and important things in life. Now teach them how to budget. Do YOU know how to budget? Get online and get some tips. Or get them, and possibly you as well, some financial counseling from a local non-profit financial counseling agency or a wise friend.
Introduce them to people so they can network for job opportunities. Introduce them to people who can give them tips on their job hunt. Help your son or daughter know that more than one job may be necessary or that a change in their education may be a help.
Help them get information regarding refinancing school loans or the repayment provisions based on income.
Ultimately, you and your adult child who benefit from helping the ‘little birds’ be free. It is for your sanity as well as theirs that this be a time only of TRANSITION and not a new lifestyle. (CR10642)
February 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
With a growing population of wealthy women financial service professionals are looking to win your wonderful selves over to using their expertise with your asset management.
Some advisors, like me, have always known your value. But others are now noticing you because of your growing wealth.
Here are the reasons advisors want you and some of the transitions that usually prompt a visit.
Wealthy – You may be a woman who is in transition. You may be a widow or divorced, or perhaps you just had a baby. That is typically a time when getting a second opinion for your finances is wise. You may have shared in the family’s money management. But with life’s changes perhaps you are managing alone. Instead you may prefer to have a coach who can help you as you reassess your goals and make sure your financial plan is up to date. You may not have a plan at all. The busyness of life may have made the planning of finances something you meant to address but it just never got done.
Loyal – Women customers invest in stocks and relationships. To a woman a work relationship is not considered merely ‘transactional.’ Women make friends with their advisors so tend as a group to be loyal clients.
Perhaps because of this close bond women are generally wary giving their trust and are very careful in committing to a professional. They do research and have an idea of what’s important to them and their family. But once they have decided on you, they are very loyal.
Refer – And loyal women clients are eager to help their friends and relatives know about their professional. When speak to each other, as they research and consider important characteristics, they tend to refer to one another.
If you are a woman, you are just the person the financial services industry is seeking. Be on the lookout for their wooing because, to quote from a famous poster, ‘they want YOU.’ (CR10607)
January 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
A typical New Year’s resolution is to pay down/off debt. If this is your 2015 goal how can you do it? Here’s some ideas to help you succeed.
Choose your strategy – Do you want to pay on the card with the highest interest or the card with the lowest balance? You decide, but from an emotional satisfaction perspective, choosing the smallest balance and aiming to pay that off gives your goals a huge boost because you can actually PAY A DEBT OFF in a timely fashion with that method.
Additionally, do you want to aim your extra cash towards ONE credit card or pay the extra $300 equally towards all? That, too is a decision that you make. Though I would once again suggest that focusing on ONE credit card could provide quicker satisfaction by achieving your partial goal by paying of a few smaller cards with laser focus.
Simultaneously save? – What about simultaneous saving? Some folks discourage any but TOTAL focus on all extra money going towards repayment. But that leaves you nothing for the next broken appliance fiasco or car repair. So I think saving for both long-term (retirement) and short-term (emergencies) is an important disciple in this time. My suggestion would be to save small amounts as the bulk of your funds are paying off debt. But saving at the same time would be great for your future.
Stop the madness– Of course, you need to not add to your debt while you are paying things off. It will hard to do that as there will be emergencies and life will not go as planned. But if you wait it out and look for alternative solutions to the immediate use of credit cards, things will open up and you will find perhaps a much better solution not seen in your past because of the pressure you felt to act NOW and use the card.
Good luck on this excellent goal. (CR10559)
December 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s a good time to plan for end-of-year financial options. Having a bit of time, instead of waiting until next year, allows you to keep your eyes open for your personal possibilities. Please speak with your tax advisor when making some of these decisions.
Maximizing retirement – When was the last time you increased the contribution to your 401(k)? The maximum contribution you can make according to the IRS is $17,500. And if you are over age 50 you can add another $5,500 to that for a total if you are over 50 of $23,000. And that is before your employer’s contribution. If you are doing a small percentage and always meant to increase you amount, maybe now is a great time.
Required minimum distributions – If you are age 70.5 have you taken this year’s Required Minimum Contribution? Penalties for NOT taking these contributions are quite steep. If you are required to take an RMD and fail to do so, ‘the amount not withdrawn is taxed at 50%,’ according to IRS.gov
Using flex accounts – If you have a flexible savings account at work and need to use it or lose it, now is the time to get the glasses or getting your teeth cleaned. Even though this time of year is busy, you’ll want to get this done in a way that works for your needs.
Charitable giving – The tax code is written in a way that your generosity is rewarded in a tax benefit to you. So GIVE. All year you have seen difficulties and noticed the organizations that have stood in the gap for those who suffer. Now is the time when you can include these good organizations in your holiday giving.
This is certainly not a complete list of things to keep in mind. But giving yourself time to consider your financial end-of-year options will allow a possibly more directed outcome. (CR10393)