Simple Truths About Money

5 Ideas to Protect Your Email Accounts From Cypercriminals

Rayi Christian WWe all know that hackers and cypercriminals are out there and probably not going away anytime soon. In fact, their crimes, like the recent Russian hacking incident, get bolder all the time. The truth is that criminal networks are conspiring round-the-clock to hack into our email accounts to find ways to steal our money!

A particular type of email fraud referred to as “a hostile email account takeover” is a growing trend. In this type of fraud, a hacker uses malware such as a keystroke-logging program to take control of a victim’s email account, often by secretly stealing their log-in credentials. The fraudster then monitors the email account and identifies the financial institutions or financial advisors with which the victim does business. For example, the hacker will contact financial advisors disguised as their client and ask for a wire transfer. Or, a fraudster will send an email from someone familiar to you who claims to be in trouble, out of money, and needs your immediate financial help.

We are all vulnerable to this type of fraud, but there are ways to protect yourself. Taking action may be a pain, but it would be more painful to be a cypercrime victim.

Here are 5 ideas to put into action to protect your email accounts from fraud:

1. Use strong passwords and change them often (every three to six months). Strong passwords have the following characteristics:

* Do not include dictionary words – if you use dictionary words, replace some of the letters with symbols.
* Do not include consecutive numbers or numbers that match your address, phone number, date of birth. last four digits of social security number, or other easily identifiable numbers.
* Do use a mix of symbols, numbers, lower and upper capitalization.
* Are longer than six characters.
* Are customized for each log-in.

2. Get clever with your passwords.

* Create a goal setting password. For example, floss teeth daily, stay on budget – just be sure to drop some letters and replace with numbers or symbols.
* Use a line from your favorite poem, song, or prayer and knockout some letters and replace with symbols.
* Think of your favorite books, plays, musicals and do the same.

3. Be vigilant when opening emails. Don’t open attachments or click on links from unreliable or unknown sources – this is how malware gets on your computer.

4. Keep your computer healthy by updating your operating system periodically, activating your computer’s firewall, installing and regularly updating anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

5. Use extra caution when using a public computer or logging in away from home.

If remembering multiple passwords is the bane of your existence, you can try password managers such as LastPass or 1Password. However, a password manager is only as secure as the password you assign to it. Another way to play it safer is to sign up for the two-factor authentication offered by many online services – before logging in with your password, you will have to enter a code sent to your smartphone or tablet.

Don’t be a victim, protect yourself now.

photo by Rayi Christian W, from Unsplash

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

5 Ideas to Protect Your Email Accounts From Cypercriminals Read More »

Mothers, Daughters and Money

parents financial habits

parents financial habits

My mom quit her blossoming career as a buyer at the Emporium in San Francisco to become a 1950’s-style housewife. As a dutiful Catholic wife, she gave birth to 6 healthy children and spent the next 16 years or so cooking, cleaning, and loving us all as only a mother can.

My dad gave her an allowance which I’m sure was modest. She rarely bought herself anything new and for years she made all her own clothes and some of ours too.

She spent money on food and other necessities. She kept within budget by watching the pennies. For example, she didn’t buy T.V. dinners or other packaged foods that were convenient, but cost more per serving. Rather, she cooked from scratch, with the help of a few canned and frozen items.

We ate simple meals which rotated weekly: Monday-chicken, Tuesday-spaghetti and meatballs, Wednesday-enchiladas, Thursday-pork chops and Friday-always fish and usually breaded-and-fried fillet of sole.

She and my dad rarely went out to dinner and even many years later, she couldn’t accept restaurant prices. She would always go for the cheapest thing on the menu. It got so that when my siblings and I would take her out to eat, we wouldn’t let her see the menu but rather ask her what she felt like eating so she wouldn’t order the house salad!

admin-ajax

We all learn about money in various ways. Our parents behaviors around money can trigger different reactions.

I am nothing like my mother was with money. As soon as I started to have discretionary income, I would treat myself to what I wanted. I believe in living within your means, having an emergency fund, and saving for financial goals and retirement, but I also believe that money is a tool to create a life filled with experiences and things you love and enjoy.

I think my mom was content. But I also know that she would have liked to go out more, get dressed up, maybe go dancing now and then. She would have liked to travel more and she would have liked a new piano. She could have had all those things, and I wish that she had.

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Mothers, Daughters and Money Read More »

Book Review: The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money

The Behavior Gap

The Behavior GapAs a financial advisor, I published my free ebook, The 10 Simple Truths About Money, because I strongly believe that it’s true that, “Learning financial concepts and managing money can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are simple truths about money that can change your life.” I wanted to help alleviate some of the stress people feel around money.

After reading Carl Richards simple but powerful book, The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money, I realized that a better title for my ebook would have been, The 10 Simple (But Not Easy) Truths About Money. As Richards says, “We often resist simple solutions because it requires us to change our behavior.” Thus, the behavior gap.

Richards displays a true understanding of human nature with his words, but also with his disarmingly simple sketches that portray powerful truths about people’s behavior around money. You will recognize yourself in many of them. With amazing insight into how our brains work, he uses real-life stories and humor to show how we are our own worst enemies when it comes to money management. He also offers up great advice on how to make better money decisions.

Some of my favorite “behavior gap” insights include:

  • Investments don’t make mistakes. Investors do.
  • Figure out which emotion is the bigger issue for you—fear or greed—and invest accordingly. You can’t have it both ways.
  • Planning for your financial future is a balancing act rather than a single-minded pursuit of the highest return.
  • There is no such thing as the best investment.
  • Planning for your financial future is personal. A good plan will be unique to your situation.
  • No one knows what the future holds.
  • Our real task is getting to know ourselves and our goals, making choices aligned with those goals, and adapting to the surprises that are bound to come along.
  • Financial decisions are almost always life decisions. Before you decide on your financial goals, you need to choose your life goals.
  • Focus on your personal economy and stop worrying about the global one.
  • Our deepest instincts will tell us that money doesn’t mean anything, it’s simply a tool to each our goals.

Two thoughts kept running through my head as I read Carl’s book: “I wish I had written this” and “All of my clients need to read this.” Even if you don’t have time to read the book, flip through and take in all the sketches. They tell the story of our behavior gap just as well and may just motivate you to stop doing dumb things with your money!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Book Review: The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money Read More »

A “Finglish” Tutorial

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Brett Arends, “A Tip for Financial Advisers: When Possible, Use English,” began with the statement, “If you’re in the finance industry, there’s a simple way to make your clients a lot happier: speak English.” But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

The reality is that financial and economic terms are confusing—and not just to non-finance types. Plus, new financial terms crop up all the time to label or explain a new product or strategy (QE2 anyone?). It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Since the news is particularly ripe with financial terms right now (due to the dismal state of the U.S. economy), I’ll take a stab at explaining some commonly used examples of “Finglish.” Hopefully, this will increase your financial knowledge, or, at the very least, prevent your eyes from glazing over the next time you read “yield curve.”

Federal budget deficit: This term is in the news constantly and for good reason—the federal deficit is huge at $1.4 trillion. This means that the federal government is spending $1.4 trillion more than it is earning in revenues over a year. Why? Because entitlement spending, interest paid on the national debt and defense spending are much greater than revenue from taxes. And when the economy is weak, as it is now, tax collections are down.

Entitlement spending: Another ubiquitous concept, entitlement spending refers to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid outlays by the government. Even though we pay into this system during our working years, with rising costs of healthcare and longer lives, much more goes out than comes in. Our country’s leaders know that entitlement spending has got to be cut to fix the debt problem, but it’s a political minefield, and things will probably not change much until after the elections of 2012.

National debt: The amount of gross federal debt outstanding is an unable-to-imagine $14 trillion. The national debt increases or decreases based on the annual federal budget deficit or surplus. But a surplus has not been seen since 2003 and the deficit is now growing at a rate of $1 trillion a year. Together with the budget deficit, this debt was one of the reasons Standard & Poor’s gave when downgrading the United States’ credit outlook to “negative” on April 18, 2011.

Debt ceiling: The federal government is limited by law as to the total amount of debt it can issue. This limit is known as the debt ceiling. Currently the debt ceiling is $14.3 trillion, an amount that was technically exceeded on May 17. Fortunately, the government can continue to operate and pay its obligations through various accounting mechanisms and Congress will mostly likely vote to increase it.

And finally, quantitative easing (QE). This is a tool in the Fed’s arsenal to help the country out of a recession when all else fails. This is also referred to as “printing money.” The Fed tends to use QE when interest rates have already been lowered to near 0% levels (as they are now) and the economy doesn’t improve. Quantitative easing increases the money supply by flooding banks and other financial institutions with capital in an effort to promote increased lending and liquidity. The downside is that this could lead to inflation as there is still a fixed amount of goods for sale (too much money chasing too few goods leads to higher prices and inflation). The Fed will complete QE2 in June. There is much controversy over what effect this will have on interest rates, Many economists expect them to rise, causing another set of issues for the economic recovery.

This would be a good time to explain “yield curve” because when the Fed expands the money supply it also has the effect of lowering interest rates further out on the yield curve.  But I think this is enough of a Finglish tutorial for one blog post—I just know your eyes are glazing over. Stay tuned for the next Finglish lesson. I plan to write at least one blog post a month on the topic!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

A “Finglish” Tutorial Read More »

Simple Truth #6: Saving, Investing, Diversifying and Rebalancing Lead to Financial Success.

Saving, Investing, Diversifying and RebalancingThis is an investment strategy that works, all it takes is a good plan and discipline.

Simply Put

Saving is the process of reserving a portion of current income for future use.

Investing is putting those savings to work to increase wealth.

Diversifying and rebalancing are investment strategies meant to increase the likelihood of success.

Not So Simply Done

Most people understand saving. Investing is a much more complicated process which tends to produce feelings of fear and inadequacy in many people.

With good reason – over the last 10 years we experienced two market meltdowns and in result, a negative return on U.S. stock market indices. In volatile markets, investors tend to experience see-sawing emotions of fear and greed causing counter-productive behaviors like selling at market bottoms and buying at market tops – a recipe for financial failure.

Some Simple Steps That Lead to Financial Success

Believe it or not, some investors were able to achieve positive returns over the last 10 years. How did they do it?

By being diversified.

These successful investors didn’t have all their money invested in U.S. stocks. Sure they had some, but they also owned different types of bond and alternative investments, international and emerging markets investments.  These investors also rebalanced periodically – selling assets that gained enough to cause their original asset allocation to get out- of- whack and buying assets that didn’t do so well.

The end goal: staying properly diversified so the portfolio doesn’t became too conservative (by having too large a position in fixed income) or too risky (by owning too many stock investments).

Over time, this type of portfolio should be less volatile (decreasing the chance of emotional buying and selling), therefore boosting returns.

How to Do it:

1. The first step to building an investment portfolio is deciding which asset classes will be included and determining the target percentage for each asset class.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of assets classes to start with:  larger-cap U.S. stocks, smaller-cap U.S. stocks, international stocks, emerging markets stocks, investment-grade bonds, inflation-protected bonds, international and emerging markets bonds, real estate, and alternative assets (precious metals, commodities).

Basically the more risk you can take, the more stocks you want to own as they have higher return expectations. In addition, large-cap stocks are less risky than small cap and U.S. stocks tend to be less risky than international.  Before deciding on an asset allocation, do some research or hire an investment advisor to help you.

2. The next step is choosing the securities within each of the asset classes.

Choosing individual stocks isn’t the safest or easiest way to build a portfolio. Most people are better off choosing mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that invest in the particular asset class.

For example, there are large cap stock mutual funds and international stock (or bond) mutual funds.  Another distinction: there are actively-managed mutual funds and passively-managed mutual funds (better known as index funds). With actively managed funds a manager(s) picks the stocks that go into the fund, with index funds the stocks in the fund are determined by a pre-established index such as the S&P 500.

As in everything, there are pros and cons to both – do your research.

3. The third step is to rebalance your portfolio.

Once your target asset allocation is set (you’ve decided what percentage of your money will go into each chosen asset class), you’ve invested the money in chosen securities (mutual funds or exchange-traded funds) – you’re set until you decide to rebalance the portfolio. Once a year is realistic and doable.

This is how it’s done: Let’s say your U.S. large cap stock allocation was 40% when you started. At the end of the first year it is 50%. At that same time you note that your investment in international stocks went from 20% to 10%.

What you want to do is sell 10% of your U.S. large cap security and buy 10% more of your international security thereby rebalancing back to your target allocation. Note you are also selling something that has gone up and buying something that has gone down increasing your chances of making money over your investment horizon.

As you get older and reach retirement, you will want to review your target allocation and add more fixed income.  This is only prudent as you transition from earning a paycheck to withdrawing from your investments.

However, as we live longer the need to maintain a balance between growth and income is important, so stocks should be a part of most portfolios at any age.

Here are some resources for further education on this topic:

And some great blogs to follow:

Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?

The Happiness SpreadsheetIf you want to think differently about the relationship between your spending, your values and your happiness, then sign up to get your FREE copy of The Happiness Spreadsheet.

Like this post?

If you found this blog post useful or inspirational, please share it on your favorite social media network!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Simple Truth #6: Saving, Investing, Diversifying and Rebalancing Lead to Financial Success. Read More »

Simple Truth #5: The Longer You Live the More Money You Will Need

Retirement Planning Truth - The Longer You Live the More Money You Will Need

None of us knows how long we will live. But you can be sure that the longer you live the more money you will need – unless – you’re willing to reduce your lifestyle in retirement.

According to IRS-issued life expectancy tables, the life expectancy for a 25 year old is 83.2, for a 50 year old 84.2 and for a 75 year old it’s 88.4.

Retirement Planning Truth - The Longer You Live the More Money You Will Need

Simple Truth #5:  The Longer You Live the More Money You Will Need

The older you get, the more years you are expected to live. We can thank medical science and our healthier lifestyles for this increased longevity. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 47 years old!

Some of you reading this post may be so far away from retirement that you don’t think about it. You’re more concerned with building your career and trying to make enough money to do the things you want to do now.

Others may be realizing that it’s time to get serious about having a plan. Then there are those who are either near retirement or retired and know that the nest-egg has to last.

The bottom line is: once you stop earning income, you will start withdrawing from your savings to support your lifestyle. These savings (plus social security and if you are lucky, a pension) will be your new “salary.”  If you retire at age 65, your savings will need to last for 20-30 years or more.

How can you be sure that you will have enough?

Fortunately, an incredible amount of research has gone into determining how much a person can withdraw each year from their savings and still have enough to last to their life expectancy. The most widely accepted solution is the 4% withdrawal rate formula. This is how you calculate it:  Total value of savings at retirement x 4% =your  first year withdrawal amount.  Each year thereafter increase this amount by the rate of inflation (assume 3%).

The 4% Withdrawal Rate Formula Illustrated

Nancy

Nancy is 65 and about to retire. She has saved $1,000,000 that she has invested in stock funds (60%) and bond funds (40%). 4% of $1,000,000 is $40,000. This is the amount that Nancy can safely withdraw from her nest-egg in the first year to start her withdrawal program. She also is entitled to $21,600 in Social Security benefits.

Nancy will need to develop a lifestyle (all expenses plus taxes) around this amount of $61,600 a year to protect against running out of money. In each year thereafter, Nancy can increase this amount by the rate of inflation (let’s assume 3%), so in the 2nd year she can withdraw $41,200 and in the third year $42,436 and so on.

Unfortunately, Nancy’s  pre-retirement lifestyle cost $75,000 a year.  She delayed doing any kind of retirement planning and in result, will have to make some sacrifices or move to a less costly area to preserve her capital.

Sarah and Mike

Sarah and Mike are both 45 years old and plan to retire at age 66. They hired a financial planner to help them determine how much they need to save in order to retire and maintain their current $125,000 a year  lifestyle.  They have saved $750,000  so far which is invested in  80 % stock funds and 20 % bond funds.

They are expecting a total of $45,200 in social security benefits a year between the two of them. They are saving $12,000 a year each in their 401k’s but are not saving outside of their retirement plan.

The financial planner prepared a retirement projection (also referred to as a capital need analysis) for them and came up with the following:

Retirement Projection

Assuming a 7% average rate of return on their investments, a life expectancy of 90 years old and an average 3% inflation rate, Sarah and Mike will need to save approximately $1,600,000  more by age 66. With their current savings rate they will fall short. They need to increase their savings by $9000.00 a year to reach their goal.  Sarah and Mike plan to go back over their cash flow to see where they can cut back. Also, Mike is anticipating a big raise next year so it will get easier. They are relieved to have a plan and know what they need to do to reach their goals.

Since the longer you live the more money you will need, it pays to plan. Who would you rather be? Nancy facing some tough decisions right when she retires, or Sarah and Mike who have clarity and a road map for where they want to go.  Of course, there are going to be big bumps and little bumps along the way, but it pays to plan.

Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?

The Happiness SpreadsheetIf you want to think differently about the relationship between your spending, your values and your happiness, then sign up to get your FREE copy of The Happiness Spreadsheet.

Like this post?

If you found this blog post useful or inspirational, please share it on your favorite social media network!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Simple Truth #5: The Longer You Live the More Money You Will Need Read More »

Simple Truth #4: Inflation and Taxes are Money’s Enemies (Saving and Investing are Money’s Friends)

Inflation and taxes

Inflation and taxes

Inflation and taxes can wreak havoc on the best-laid financial plans unless you arm yourself with the knowledge and tactics to prevent the most damage.

Today we’ll focus on inflation, which is one powerful enemy. Why? You can’t see it, there are are no laws protecting you from it and it’s not selective. Every single dollar is subject to its eroding influence.

What is inflation?  – Get to know your enemy.

Inflation refers to the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which tracks the prices of goods and services that most of us buy. Inflation has averaged 3% a year from 1926 to 2009.

When prices rise, each of your dollars buys fewer goods and services – eroding your purchasing power. Just think about the price increases on everyday items such as milk, bread and eggs over the last few years. Or, consider the rise in your medical insurance premium or the tuition for your children’s education.

It’s not hard to see that if your income doesn’t rise with the rate of inflation, your lifestyle can be dramatically affected. Not all goods and services rise at the same rate, however. If you buy more items that are rapidly costing more money (education, medical costs) you’ll be more adversely affected.

How can you fight inflation?

There are a few ways to fight inflation and fortunately you don’t have to take on this fight all-alone. One of the Federal Reserve’s (the Fed) key duties is to keep inflation under control or in Fed speak: to maintain stable prices. They do this by manipulating monetary policy – usually by raising short-term interest rates but they have other tools as well.

But since inflation is a persistent foe, all the Fed can do is control the rate of inflation, not stop it altogether (which could lead to deflation, but that’s a whole other story).

Five Inflation Beating Tactics

Fortunately, there are some actions you can take with your money to hold off or minimize the erosion of your purchasing power:

1. Invest your cash reserves wisely. Financial institutions are more than happy to take your cash and pay you a low interest rate. Then it’s invested for a higher return elsewhere! Keep up with current savings and money market rates and move your money to where you can get a competitive rate on your cash. Note: money market fund rates tend to move up quickly when interest rates rise.

2. Get the raise that you deserve. When it comes time for your performance review, let your boss know what a good employee you’ve been and ask for a raise when appropriate. A stagnant salary combined with rising prices is a formula for a less abundant lifestyle or the accumulation of debt.

3.If you’re self-employed, price your product or service competitively and take price increases when you can.

4. Monitor your investments based on your time horizon (when you will need the money) and risk tolerance (can you sleep at night?). Being overly fearful of the stock market and holding too much cash will not bring you abundance in your golden years.

5. Certain assets rise with inflation. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, gold, commodities, and real estate are examples of assets that typically rise with inflation. If you own a home, this is probably enough real estate.  One of the easiest ways to invest in commodities and gold is through exchange-traded funds.  Careful though, these assets can be volatile and you would only want a small percentage of a balanced portfolio invested in them. Educate yourself or get help before dipping your toe in!

Here are a few resources to get you started on inflation fighting.

From the Get Rich Slowly Blog: Best High-Yield Savings Accounts

From Morningstar:  Exchange Traded Funds

From the SEC website: Asset Allocation, Diversification and Rebalancing

Next Up:  Money’s Enemy #2:  Taxes  (To be posted soon).

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Simple Truth #4: Inflation and Taxes are Money’s Enemies (Saving and Investing are Money’s Friends) Read More »

Simple Truth #3: Contrary to Popular Opinion, You Were NOT Born to Shop

There are things you can do to take control of your spending. Here’s a strategy to get your started!I’m a financial advisor. But I’m also a normal person just like you, and I know how difficult it is to be an American and somehow not feel it’s your duty to shop.

Our economic and social system is based on capitalism, which is partly defined as the creation of goods and services for profit in a market. The consumer (you) is a very important part of this equation because if there are no buyers for the goods and services – what happens to the economy?

Economists watch consumer spending like hawks – and no wonder:  it fuels about two-thirds of total economic output in the U.S. Talk about pressure! Consumer spending is so important several indexes have been designed to measure it. The most widely used index is the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index and among other factors is used to determine the direction of the economy.

The perfect agent for promoting consumption is the advertising industry. Advertisers want us to consume. Their mission is to make products and services as enticing as possible so we buy them whether we need them or not. Watch a few episodes of Mad Men to learn the tricks of the trade. Watch T.V, drive down the freeway, listen to the radio, log on to a website and you’re bombarded with advertising messages.

It’s almost impossible to escape from the influence of advertising unless you live like a hermit. A quote from Wikipedia describes advertising as the “pillar of the growth-oriented free capitalist economy” and states that “contemporary capitalism could not function and global production networks could not exist as they do without advertising.”

Born To Shop?

No wonder we sometimes feel we were Born to Shop!

The problem: economists and advertisers aren’t concerned about your personal bottom line. Just like you, they’re concerned about their jobs, their families, their standard of living and their ability to retire comfortably.

We need to adopt a “me vs. them” mentality. When we open our wallet to buy something… let’s stop and think: do I want “them” to have my money, or do I want “me” to have my money? The person on the other side of the cash register doesn’t know if you can afford the item you are about to purchase – nor do they care. Think of shopping as a psychological battleground – that’s how advertisers think of it.  Do you want to be the victor or the vanquished?

Feeling vanquished when it comes to your personal finances isn’t a good thing.  It probably means that you’re in debt; you’re anxious about your future and you feel stuck. Is all the stuff worth it? Probably not.

Excess stuff clutters your environment and the collective environment and excess debt can ruin your credit score and your relationships. So it’s time to denounce popular opinion, admit you weren’t born to shop, stop spending more than you earn, and live within your means.

Like anything psychological or emotional, it isn’t easy to change. Read Simple Truth #2:  “Your Money Personality Affects Your Money Behavior”  for more insights on this topic. But there are things you can do to take control of your spending.

Here’s a strategy to get your started:

Balance Your Budget

1.  Using an excel spreadsheet list all of your expenses subtotaled as follows:

  • Fixed and necessary expenses: these expenses are the same every month and/or are necessary to keep you housed, clothed, groomed, healthy, fed and mobile
  • Other committed expenses: child related expenses, pet care, fees to professionals, adult education, gym membership, insurance premiums, debt payments
  • Discretionary expenses: vacations, dining out, entertainment, hobbies, electronics, gifts, home improvements, furnishings
  • Auto-savings: retirement contributions and other savings

2. Total all the subtotals to come up with your total monthly expenses. Subtract this amount from your total monthly income. The outcome will either be a positive or a negative number.

3. If it’s a positive number, congratulations. You are living within your means. If you know you’re saving enough for retirement and other financial goals and have no debt to pay off, then you have some discretion as to how you use the money. If the outcome is negative, go back and rework your expenses until it comes out even or positive.

A hint: You will have the most flexibility to adjust on discretionary items, but you can also try and negotiate savings with service providers or increase deductibles on insurance policies to save on premiums.

Note: It’s important that you pay off your high interest consumer debt as fast as possible, so if you can increase debt payments do so.

4. Now that your cash flow is neutral or positive, this becomes your working budget. Need help staying on a budget?

Some Tips for Staying the Course

  • Use mint.com – software that tracks all of your expenses, income and savings on line. You enter your budget and it will send you an email when you overspend on a budget item.
  • Try the envelope system: place your budgeted amount for discretionary items such as clothing and food-out in an envelope in cash. When the cash is gone, you can’t spend on those items again until the next month.
  • Leave your credit cards at home. Become more conscious that the money you spend is from a finite source. Try paying cash or using your ATM card whenever possible.
  • If you are tempted to buy an item that you don’t really need, leave the store, walk around the block and think about it. Nine times out of ten you won’t buy the item.
  • Print out a copy of your budget. Post it somewhere that is visible to you regularly. Keep it top of mind.

Remember: It’s “me vs. them”. Who gets your money?

Reward Yourself

Each month that you stay within budget, reward yourself in some small but significant way. Indulge in a nice lunch out, get a pedicure; order a nice glass of wine with a meal.

Earn More

If after completing the budget exercise you find that it’s impossible to balance your cash flow or you don’t want to live so frugally – look at the income side. Can you ask for a raise at work? Find a higher paying job?  Freelance?  Start a small business? Rent a room out? Sell belongings to raise cash?  Explore all avenues. Exercise your capitalist gene by thinking about all the ways you can produce goods and services for profit – for yourself!

Below are some additional resources to help you start living within your means:

Please feel free to share your comments about how you keep on a budget and/or what you have done to bring in extra income.

Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?

The Happiness SpreadsheetIf you want to think differently about the relationship between your spending, your values and your happiness, then sign up to get your FREE copy of The Happiness Spreadsheet.

Like this post?

If you found this blog post useful or inspirational, please share it on your favorite social media network!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Simple Truth #3: Contrary to Popular Opinion, You Were NOT Born to Shop Read More »

Simple Truth #1: Procrastination is the Cause of Financial Fuzziness

In the course of my financial planning practice, I meet many people who share similar attitudes, fears or misconceptions about money management. It turns out that most people make money way more difficult and scary than it needs to be.

In response to all this, I came up with 10 Simple Truths About Money in order to point out and identify some critical financial concepts that are easy to understand and implement. My next 10 blog posts are meant to inspire you to incorporate these truths into your actions around money.

Ready? Let’s go!

Simple Truth #1: Procrastination is the Cause of Financial Fuzziness

Simple Truth #1: Procrastination is the Cause of Financial Fuzziness

Does any of this sound like you?

  • There’s 10 months of accumulated mail  – all unopened – that contain your investment account statements and they are all dumped into a drawer you never open.
  • You have $30,000 sitting in a savings account at the bank earning 0.15 interest.
  • You refuse to automate your monthly bill paying on-line, even though you often forget to pay your bills and end up with late fees.
  • You sold all your stock mutual funds in March because you couldn’t stand to watch them go down anymore and now they are sitting in a money market account earning 0.35% interest.
  • You know you need to do something, but you don’t.  This is called procrastination.  And, it doesn’t feel good. It generates feelings of confusion, guilt and worry – fuzziness!

If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone.

However, that doesn’t make it better or okay. This type of procrastination can have serious consequences for your finances:  the spending power of your dollars gets eroded by inflation, your credit score gets downgraded, and you have constant fights with your honey about money. Not good, and even more to the point, not necessary.

Being up to date and clear about your finances can relieve so much stress, and really, it’s just a matter of making it a priority.  This is a great time of year to get started. 2009 is almost over, and January 1 is right around the corner.  If you want to call it a New Year’s resolution, go ahead.  If that doesn’t do it for you, get started anyway!

Here are some tips to get started:

Most time management experts will tell you that the best way to tackle a big hairy project is  to do a little each day, or divide the big project up into smaller ones.

So for a great first example, let’s take that pile of mail.

First day:  Take all the statements out of the envelopes and arrange them in date order, the oldest date on top. See! You’re already making progress!

Second day:  Starting with the oldest statements, glance at the first page which summarizes what’s inside.  Pay careful attention to any deposits or withdrawals – if anything looks strange – investigate.  If not, move on to the next statement. Keep going until you have reached the latest statement and set aside.

Third day:  Spend some time on the latest statement, as it should summarize what went on in your account year-to-date: total withdrawals and deposits, investment gains or losses, total interest or dividend interest earned.

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of the activity in your investment account over the time period that the statements covered.

Fourth Day:  Determine whether you need to make any changes to your investments (or find a financial advisor that can help you with this step). For example, if one of your mutual funds is down 50% year-to-date…go to Yahoo Finance and type the symbol in the search box….read up on this dog-of-a-fund and see if there is a good reason to hold on to it, or chuck it at the soonest opportunity!

From now on, when you receive your monthly investment statement in the mail, open it immediately, glance at the aforementioned items and file it (in date order) with the others.

I suggest keeping a year’s worth of monthly statements, but hold on to your December statements for 3 years.

I can feel that fuzziness clearing up already, can’t you?

Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?

The Happiness SpreadsheetIf you want to think differently about the relationship between your spending, your values and your happiness, then sign up to get your FREE copy of The Happiness Spreadsheet.

Like this post?

If you found this blog post useful or inspirational, please share it on your favorite social media network!

If you found this information interesting, please share it with a friend!

Simple Truth #1: Procrastination is the Cause of Financial Fuzziness Read More »

Curtis Financial Planning