How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 – 1861

(Updated and financialized by Tana Gildea)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee enough to live within our means

So we shall never face the collections fiends

And we can be debt-free at the end of our days.

My 401k can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of our being at an ideal pace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, without going into debt and causing us to fight.

I love thee freely, with all my spending in plain sight.

I love thee purely, with my assets protecting us each night.

I love thee with the passion to invest our assets with good use

Without my old fears, and with a conservative faith.

I love thee without needing jewels,

Or endless stuff like some fools. I love thee with the bonds,

stocks, and security of a good financial life; and, if God choose,

I shall save and invest until we part in death.

Who do you love enough to create financial security for? Hopefully yourself!

To your financial (and Valentine) success!  Tana

Two Questions

Happy New Year! I am personally and professionally on an “improvement quest.” I’m trying day-by-day to get just a little bit better. I cannot make the grand gesture, implement the great plan, or adhere to a massive life overhaul. I just can’t manage that and “regular life.” Perhaps you feel the same way. So, let me just ask you two questions:

  1.  Is your financial life better today than it was yesterday?

If the answer is yes, then question 2 is: What are you going to do today to make it better for tomorrow?

If the answer is no, then question 2: is What are you going to do today to make it better for tomorrow?

What? That’s the same question, you say. By gosh, you are right. Whether yesterday was perfect or a disaster, what matters is what you are going to do today to allow yourself to answer question 1 with a resounding YES tomorrow!

We only have today. We only really have this moment to make a choice that will benefit ourselves tomorrow. Let’s all get just a little bit better and make the choice in this moment that propels our future self forward toward are deepest goals and desires. Let’s make a sacrifice in this moment so that tomorrow we can be proud that we took a step forward instead of a step backward. Let’s put away the massive overhaul and focus on the baby steps. Baby steps repeated moment by moment by moment are so much more powerful than a huge leap that leaves us on our backside, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Be there; done that so many times.

Really, then, there is only 1 question: What are you going to do today to make your financial life better for tomorrow?

To your financial success (moment-by-moment)!

Tana

1% Better

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out ~ Robert Collier

 

Indeed it is! As we consider our money, small efforts add up over time (and small drips do too!) Rather than consider a major rework of your spending or saving, try the 1% better approach.

  • Cut back your spending by 1% this month or
  • Increase your savings by 1% this month or
  • Increase your debt payments by 1% this month

Then keep doing that! Next month 1% more. Inch your way to success.

This is the season of benefits enrollment and updates for many companies. Take a look at your 401k or other retirement plan and increase the contribution by 1%. In 6 months, maybe you increase it by 1%.

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still. ~ Chinese Proverb

Let’s not stand still with those money habits; let’s consistently grow slowly.

To your financial success (1% at a time)!

Tana

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.










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Financial Habits

“We are what we repeatedly do.” ~ Aristotle

 

I am obsessed (at the moment) with habits – understanding them, creating them, breaking them, and using them to fuel my success. The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg), Mini-Habits (Stephen Guise), and The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy) all have provided the impetus for this fascination with the powerful psychology of habits. Brian Johnson (optimize.me) and his Habits 101 (and nearly every course he teaches) succinctly and powerfully present the background and the practical wisdom for helping you identify and refine your habits.

 

In the course of actively creating new habits, it occurred to me that all of our interactions with money are likely running on habit – some of those are propelling us toward our goals (auto-saving to our 401k) and some are getting in the way (eating lunch out every time I work in the office.) Today as you go about your day habitually doing the things you do, try to be in the moment when you pull out your wallet or credit card and identify if what you are doing is habitual or consciously-chosen.

 

“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.” ~ Horace Mann

 

To take it a step further, try to identify all of your financial habits and then classify them as either moving you toward your goals and dreams or pulling you away from them. This one exercise will prove very enlightening. Knowledge is power and once you have the knowledge, it is within your power to take action to break a bad habit, build a better habit, or create a new habit. Duhigg has some great resources on his website and the book is filled with great info – check your library as I’ll bet they have a copy (I was able to download one to my Kindle).

 

The real power, though, is in following Guise’s Mini-Habits advice (or as Martha Beck would say, “taking turtle steps”). Stupid small behaviors are so ridiculously easy to do that you can’t fail. His example was his workout plan of one pushup a day. So easy – why wouldn’t he do it? Boom, 3 seconds, and he has a win! What could your “stupid small” financial habit be?

 

“It’s not the big things that add up in the end; it’s the hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary.” 
~ Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success

 

Identify your habits; decide which you want to keep and which you want to ditch; replace a bad habit with an empowering habit; make it stupid small; make it a habit; win every day.

 

To your financial (habits that lead to) success!

Tana

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

What Gets Maximized?

I read one of Seth Godin’s blogs that asked that question. I thought it was a pretty good one. In our lives, what gets maximized? When we spend our time, what gets maximized? When we deal with our money, what gets maximized?

Decide right now, what do you want to maximize financially? Do you want to maximize your 401k savings? Your IRA savings? Your savings toward your kids’ education? Maybe it’s important to maximize your travel fund each year. Or is it maximizing your emergency fund or your debt repayment? Talk to your spouse and see if you are on the same page with what you want to maximize. If not, perhaps that is your first step; come together on what you want to be maximizing.

Next step is to track your time and track your money. See what you are currently maximizing in both areas. How does that match up against what you want?

Now is the time to take steps to fix things if you don’t like what you are maximizing right now. Today is the day!

To maximizing your financial success!

Tana

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

Reward Yourself – Fuel Rewards

As competition among retailers becomes more and more intense, it makes sense to maximize the rewards that they offer us as consumers. While not new, fuel rewards are an expanding area to review if you are not already taking advantage of them.

My husband and kids have long taken advantage of the Kroger fuel rewards program (until recently, I had an electric car). By using your Kroger Plus card (which you should definitely use if you shop at Kroger!), you can get cents off gas purchases at Kroger fuel centers as well as at Shell stations. My near-adult children who pay for their own gas race each other to the fuel center after dad’s weekly grocery shopping trip to snag the discount!

According to the Penny Hoarder website, there are many grocery stores across the country that offer similar programs. Check their article, 21 Grocery Stores That Help You Save Money on Gas, for information and to find out the best deals for your situation.

The newest member of the “extended” fuel rewards program is Shell. Not only do they have a traditional rewards program (buy more, be tracked, save more), but they have moved to a “Upromise-esque” model where you can link credit cards for additional points, go to your account on their website and “click through” for online shopping, travel, and dining. (I have long touted the benefits of Upromise if you have kids and are saving for tuition or paying Sallie Mae student loans.) Of course, you get extra points for referring people, taking advantage of special offers, etc. If Shell is your station of choice, sign up for their rewards program and maximize your discounts. Go to: https://www.fuelrewards.com/GOLD

Time or money? Yes, it takes time to sign up, learn the program, and try to consistently follow the rules to maximize points and rewards, but the spoils go to those who do it. If you drive a lot, that means you spend a lot on gas and cents per gallon discounts can add up to real money over time.

To your financial success (and rewards!),

Tana

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg. They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; recommendations may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to acting so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

It’s Half-Time

Just like that, in what seems the blink of eye, 2018 is half over. We’ve hit halftime of our year and like any good football fan knows, halftime can make or break the game. There are those teams who can come together at halftime, assess what has worked, what has not worked, and make just the right adjustments to close out the game with a win. The big question for each of us: can we assess what is working in our financial lives and what is not? Of course, we can so the real question is will we? We each have to make the choice to come into honesty, invest the time to reflect, to confirm our feelings by looking at the numbers, and to chart a course to get us moving toward our goals.

Ask yourself:

  1. Am I meeting my savings goals?
    1. If not, what is one thing that I can do now to move myself toward my goal?
    2. If I am, can I inch up my goal a bit?
      1. Can I increase my 401k savings by 1%?
      2. Can I increase my monthly transfer to savings by $25/50/100?
    3. Is my debt situation better or worse than on January 1?
      1. If it is better, what is one thing that I can do to speed up the rate of debt reduction? Can I add $25/50/100 to my planned payment?
      2. If it is worse, what is one thing I can do to refocus on my goal of reducing debt?
    4. Is my insurance correct for my situation?
      1. Have I reviewed my home/auto/umbrella to make sure it is appropriate, and I am paying the least amount possible?
      2. Is my life insurance (and my spouse’s) enough to meet the needs if one of us dies prematurely? Do I know when the terms end on my term policies and have I planned to replace it? Are my beneficiaries correct?
      3. Is it time to investigate long-term care insurance?
      4. Is my disability coverage appropriate?
    5. Are my estate documents up-to-date and accurate?
      1. Wills
      2. Financial Power of Attorney
      3. Medical directive/Health Care Power of Attorney
      4. HIPAA privacy release

2018 is half over. AND there is still time for you to meet your goals. Getting yourself on track is a gift to your January 1 self. Think about her and what she needs. Think about how proud she will be if she can answer these questions positively on January 1st. If you want your life to change, your actions must change. It’s halftime. It’s time to make things happen.

To your financial (and 2nd half) success,

Tana

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or as the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

I’m Glad I Can Cry

“I’m so glad that I can cry in front of my advisor,” a client told me recently. Of course, you can cry! Laugh, rage, pound the table if you want. Her need to shed a few tears had nothing really to do with the dollars and cents; it was the knowledge that her and her husband’s lifetime of saving had provided enough that could help their child who was struggling without unhinging their own goals and dreams for themselves.

Money touches everything in our world – you are sick – money helps; it might not cure you, but it can buy a lot of treatments and specialists and care-givers. Your child is in trouble – money helps for treatments or legal fees or therapists. Your parents are struggling to cover their costs – money helps to buy care-givers and drivers and deliveries. You lose your job – money helps cover your costs until you can land the next job. Have a great passion? Money helps to fund it or develop it or further it.

Everyone knows this; it’s why our whole society is built on the pursuit of the mighty dollar. But when you really stop to look at the list of those items, items that stir up a lot of emotion, items that can move you to tears or fire you up or drive you into action, nowhere is there any of the stuff that we throw in our shopping carts or “one-click” to buy. Yet, so many people give up saving so that they can have the latest this or that or the other thing that will end up at the bottom of a drawer or in a give-away pile or a trash can in no time. I look at my throw-away’s, give-away’s, and “what do I do this” pile and I do want to cry but for a totally different reason!

Are we putting our money toward the really emotional aspects of our lives? Those things that bring tears to our eyes, inspire our most creative selves, change the world, or change our perspectives of it? Are we tapping into the hard-wired emotion of money to get us where we want to be instead of just giving us more of what we already have too much of?

Take a hard look at where your dollars are going and rate the emotional impact those dollars have on your life, your future, and your world. If your “emotional impact” score is not where you want it to be, shift $1 toward something meaningful and significant today. Keep doing that until your dollars inspire you.

To your financial (and emotional) success,

Tana

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or as the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

Change is in the Air


Tax change, that is. My last post went through the basics of your tax return. I want to stick with the tax topic for one more week to give you a quick guide to understanding how the new tax laws will impact your 2018 tax return. Remember, knowledge is power! (Note: this is a very high-level overview. As with all things tax, there are “if, and’s, and but’s” to everything. This is simply to help you identify questions you should be discussing with your tax advisor.)
Rates – for married filing joint taxpayers, the rates are lower for 2018 than for 2017 at all but the lowest (10%) bracket. The amount of the rate decrease varies by income level so take a look at the rate tables to see what has happened to your rate.
Income – yep it’s still taxable – no change to the “normal” items like wages, dividends, capital gains, etc. The only “common” change is in relation to alimony received so make sure you talk to your tax advisor if you are divorcing. This provision relates to divorce agreements after 2018.
Adjustments – there were not a lot of changes in this area but a couple worth noting:
• Alimony paid will no longer be an adjustment for agreements after 2018.
• Domestic production activities deduction is no longer available. See line 35 of your 1040 to

Area 2017 & Prior 2018 to 2025
Medical Expenses > 10% of AGI is deductible > 7.5% of AGI is deductible (for 2018-2019)
SALT – State & Local Taxes Unlimited Limited to $10k total (that’s state taxes + property taxes)
Mortgage Interest Acquisition debt limited to $1.1 million in order for interest to be deductible Acquisition debt limited to $750k – HELOC interest not deductible
Gifts to Charity Limited to 50% of AGI Increased to 60% of AGI
Casualty & Theft Losses > 10% of income deductible No deduction
Job & Misc Deductions > 2% of AGI is deductible No deduction (this is your tax prep fee & investment management fee and well as unreimbursed job expenses)
Limitation on itemized deductions Itemized deductions limited for higher income levels Repealed – no limitation

Standard Deduction – doubled. Look at line 40 of your 2017 tax return. If it is less than $24,000 for married filing jointly, you won’t need to itemize for 2018 (assuming no changes in these areas). That makes some of the Itemized deduction changes/limitations mentioned above meaningless. This is the big area to consider as you are looking at your tax situation for 2018.
20% Deduction for “qualified business income” from certain “flow-through” entities and sole proprietorships – this relates to certain K-1 income from S-Corps and partnerships but also potentially from Schedule C businesses. This is an area that is quite complex and has a lot of exclusions so if you have K-1 income, definitely discuss this with your tax advisor to see if you will qualify, and if so, what the impact will be.
Personal Exemptions – gone. Ouch, the $4,050 per dependent reduction in AGI to get to taxable income has been repealed. Look at line 42 of your 2017 tax return to see the impact. At high income levels, these phased out anyway, so it may not impact you.
There are many, many more components to this tax legislation, but I wanted to hit the high points so that you have some idea of the new rules for the tax game. It’s your money so make sure you understand the rules you are forced to play by!

To your financial (and tax) success!
Tana

Information is taken from sources believed to be accurate, but you should not rely on this information except as the basis for discussion with a knowledgeable tax professional.
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or as the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.

Spring has Sprung

As we skip into springtime, we turn our attention to cleaning up our yards and our houses, getting rid of the dead plants and leaves outside, airing out the house, and tidying up our financial lives. Say what? Tidying up our financial lives? Since when did “spring cleaning” include financial housekeeping? Well, since right now.
You filed your taxes (or are really close to doing so) so it is the perfect time to sort, file, and box up those financial records. Here is my financial spring cleaning list:
• Gather all of the tax return records and receipts, scan them, load an extra copy to a thumb drive, and put that, along with the paper, into a large envelope or small box along with a copy of the return. Label it and store with prior years’ records.
• Sort all of your remaining stacks of paper into two stacks:
o Scan
o Shred
• Scan the scan pile and then add it to the shred pile
• Shred all of the old documents
• Reconcile your bank accounts (just in case you have gotten behind during the year)
• Update your net worth spreadsheet (this is done for you if you are using Quicken or mint.com)
o If you use software, take a look and make sure you have included everything – add new assets or liabilities; clear out
old ones.
• Is your net worth moving in the right direction? If you have kept track year after year, are you satisfied with your progress? If not, what is your plan to turn that around this year?
• Take a look at your liabilities – do you have a strategy for reducing them? If not, now is a great time to make a plan for reducing your debt.

How was your savings last year? Did you save at least 10% to your “long-term freedom fund” (meaning resources to provide for your future self) and 10% to your “short-term freedom fund” (meaning resources to keep you safe and secure from current problems and issues)? If not, how can move toward that savings goal this year?

Getting your financial house in order may not be the first thing you think of in spring but maybe it is time to add that to your “spring cleaning” mindset. We all need some kind of prompt to get our bearings, assess our progress, and renew our commitment to our goals. Tax time may not be a fun time, but it is a great reminder to review the year and chart our course for the coming year. I hope your spring cleaning refreshes you, revives your focus on your financial goals, and brings you satisfaction over a job well done.
To your financial (and spring cleaning) success!

Tana

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Tana Gildea and are not to be construed as individual advice or the advice or opinions of Homrich Berg; They should not be considered recommendations as each person’s financial situation is unique to her; they may or may not apply to your situation. If you believe that something communicated may be relevant to your situation, Tana strongly encourages you to consult with your individual tax or financial advisor prior to taking action so that the totality of your unique situation is considered.