The Gift of Awareness

There is freedom that comes with awareness, because with it comes the opportunity to make a choice. Madisyn Taylor

Happy New Year! This is the fresh start, anything-is-possible time of year. Our hopes are high, and we see the potential for an amazing year. That’s why I loved the quote about awareness. For some reason, in the dawn of the new year, there is an awareness of possibility that I don’t feel as keenly at any other time of year. It is certainly available to me any time but the start of something new brings a heightened sense of awareness.

You are in the right place to make that amazing year possible for yourself. Working On Your Now is all about putting purpose and possibility into your life, regardless of the area of your life that you want to work on.

So take some time today to cultivate your own awareness of what is truly important for you in this new year. Look at the various areas of your life and describe exactly what you want from each of them. Paint the big, bright, beautiful picture of how your life will be one year from now and then start taking little steps in that direction.

For your financial life, pick just one thing to make your overarching focus this year. What is one thing that you can do to alleviate fear, dread, anxiety or stress in this area? Become aware of that one area that needs your attention and then take the opportunity to make a choice to improve it.

The dreams are in your head; the truth is in your heart; the power is in your hands. Be aware, make a choice, and take action.

To your financial (and 2017) success!

Are you God?

Of course you are not.  But, some people act as if they are.  These are the people who act as if they are above reproach. They  always seem to find fault in everyone else. They love to connect themselves with people who may not be on their same socioeconomic level so they can be looked up to.  They like to appear smarter, wealthier and better.  Their egos are typically highly inflated  and they find it difficult to find any flaws within themselves.

The “god person”  gives the appearance that they have no worries and no trials. This person generally believes they are above the rules of society and should be given special consideration. They want you to believe  they are in control of everything because they truly believe it themselves. There is no one who is far greater, more superior, more perfect, more untouchable than they themselves.– or so they think.

For those of us who believe in God, we know that these people are a far cry from the omnipotent that we love and serve. Here are few tips on dealing with a human and fallible god.

Respect Yourself –  First and foremost, you have to lead by example.  It’s true. If you don’t respect yourself, then no one else will.  You have to be confident and remain confident when in the company of  these people.  (To thine own self be true -William Shakespeare) In other words, don’t get caught up in trying to fit in. All of us have a a gift that God has given us. Find your gift and use it.

Set Limits– You may live with this person. You may work with this person. Or, you may  have a relationship with this person. However you are connected, you will need to decide how you will keep your sanity. You have to set limits on what you will tolerate and what you won’t.  Make your own rules and have that person abide by them or else you need to move on and get out of the way. This goes back to being respectful of yourself first and not allowing others to disrespect you. It’s a choice. It may be a hard one. But, it is a decision that you will only be able to make.  What can you put up with and what is non-negotiable? Let the “god person” person know this and you make sure that they respect the boundaries you set forth and you make sure you follow through.

Assert yourself – There is a difference between being assertive and aggressive.   Assertive is to go after what you want without putting everything and everyone else at risk at any cost. What you want is to not to be demeaned, ridiculed or passed over. You have to be confident. You have to be pleasantly  persistent and thoughtful of others even when this person takes your patience to a whole other level.  You cannot allow their ways to rub off on you.    Aggressive means all bets are off. Anyone and anything that gets in an aggressive persons way can be viewed as collateral damage. Aggressive people don’t care how it gets done. They just want it done by any means necessary. And they want it done Now!  Be assertive. Be clever. Be smart. Get what you want on your terms  without intimidation or questionable tactics. After all, you are already dealing with someone who thinks they are god.  If you don’t feel as if you can deal with the “god person” on your own, consider seeking professional help.  More importantly,  seek  the real God to help you navigate through your ordeals.  God is the real deal. He knows it. Do you?

 

 

What Success Will You Bring to 2017?

The holidays are fast approaching and then immediately we launch into a new year. New goals! New plans! New resolutions! This year, before the hustle, bustle of the holidays gets into full swing, I am stepping back and thinking about what is important to me for 2017. I have a couple of things: 1) January is bringing a clean eating, no sugar in any form, challenge, and 2) a year-long focus on getting rid of college debt (since I will have 3 in college come August of 2017!). 2016 seemed to be the year of the house so I am sending out the cosmic message that the house stuff is done, thank you very much, and it will please remain in full working order next year so that I may shift focus.

Cosmic messages aside, I am turning my own thoughts and energies toward setting up for the successes of 2017. On the eating front, I am reading books, looking at interesting “clean” recipes and preparing myself for the biggest obstacles – no half and half in my coffee (dairy is not allowed) and no wine. I must mentally prepare to change what have been deeply engrained habits – coffee in the morning, wine on the weekend. I am trying to come up with substitutes so that I don’t lose the coffee, I just put in something else (hemp cream is a no so I will continue to experiment with other nut milks.) I need to think of what concoction will evoke the “ah, the week is done and now I relax” state that a glass of wine currently creates. Luckily, I have a few weeks to ruminate on such topics before the big launch on January 1.

Similarly, on the “pay off student loans” front, I have started to take a hard look at where the cash went in 2016. Yes, the money pit took a larger than normal bite last year (but that’s done, I say) but groceries and “stuff” could be trimmed a bit. Here was my financial review process. See if this might be helpful for you:

  1. Download the credit card transactions for the year (I use one for nearly everything so that is easy).
  2. Once in excel, sort by the payee. That way the Kroger and Target and other common payees get put together.
  3. I created some columns that were important to me. This is the most critical part – don’t get granular here – that’s what makes it so tedious. Instead, think of what categories you sense are a problem AND that you have some control over in the future. Here are my categories:
Life Groceries Unusual Dining Kids College Stuff Reimbursable Biz charity

 

I put “life” as the head of the main column because most items weren’t going to move out of that column. Cars, medical, utilities, haircuts, etc. are what they are. I just left all of that in the main column. Then it was easy to cut and paste the expenses into the right columns. I especially wanted to look at groceries, dining and stuff (clothing, books, electronics) because I do have some ability to plan around those. I pulled out the other categories just so I could see what the bottom line on “life” was. (expensive is the answer there!)

 

If you don’t use a credit card significantly, it may be more meaningful for you to analyze the activity from your checking account. If you use Quicken or mint.com or something similar, you can get to the data just be sure you are not in so much detail that it isn’t helpful for setting your goals and plans for next year. You can export the data to excel to move it around to meet your needs.

 

The main point is to see where your money is going and then decide how you feel about that. I feel that we spend way too much on groceries. Yes, I have 2 teenage boys at home but I know that I can cut that back. Dining out wasn’t that bad. I don’t love eating out so that was reasonable, but if that is a problem area for you, consider setting a limit and then only spending cash for eating out. When your monthly allowance is gone, it’s gone. I have other indulgences that I plan to pare back to make more available to throw at those loans.

 

The bottom line is that what we focus on expands in our lives. I want to focus on eating delicious, healthy “clean” food and on channeling every penny possible toward that debt. What will you be focusing on for 2017? What can you do now, mentally, physically, energetically to set yourself up for success?

 

To your (2017) financial success!

What is Your Imprint?

I’m not typically the person who leads the conversation in politics. As a matter of fact, if I feel that it’s going to cause an upset or argument among people I’m with, I will avoid it. Why? Because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and me getting worked up to try and prove my point (whether it is right or wrong) is just Mine and only MY opinion.

With that said, it doesn’t matter whether you are a Democratic or Republican, this election will go down in history as probably one of the most vindictive, and divisive elections ever.  Why? Because everyone has an opinion. And both parties think that their opinion is the right one. But, the fact is no matter what your opinion has been, the winner of the 2017 presidential candidate will be determined tonight.  Yes, despite the rhetoric and speculation surrounding voter fraud – your vote will count.  And yes, your vote is STILL your opinion.

So, what do you want your imprint to be?  Are you doing things in life that will make you controversial, have questionable integrity or place doubt in others about your ability? Or will your imprint bring a positive outlook, give hope when things seem hopeless, solve problems, and make a difference?

No matter who wins tonight, an indelible mark of racism, feminism and vicious personal attacks will probably linger throughout the years of this presidency.  The imprint of this campaign will be hard to erase.

You don’t have to run for president to make a positive imprint.  But you need to run for something and you need to make an imprint. Run for what you believe in, run to support others or run to just  prove to yourself that you can.  Just run.   The decision of how you run will have an impact on your imprint.  Of course, it’s just my opinion.

You Know What Time It Is

Well, we crossed that invisible line this week. That line that divides The Holidays from The Rest of the Year. November begins the season of spending. We have Thanksgiving which means, perhaps, travel for us and our family or inbound travelers staying with us. What it means regardless is more money spent on these seasonal things like trips and extra food and more wine. That is quickly followed by the gift-giving season. It all amounts to budget-busters unless you stop, take a breath, and make a plan.

Here is your quick and easy template to stay on top of your spending so that you enter 2017 large and in-charge of your checkbook!

 

Why Am I Spending? Comments Last Year I Spent This Year I Plan to Spend
Holiday Travel      
Extra Meals      
Thanksgiving Dinner      
Holiday Cards (and postage)      
Gifts: (list each person)      
       
       
       
   Total      

 

Fill this out (excel would be best so that it can do the math for you) and consider what you did last year, how much that cost, and what you are planning for this year.

Consider the enjoyment that you get from this. If you love it and consider it priceless, then you are doing the right thing to allocate funds toward it. If you are anything less than ecstatic, think about what you could do instead. If you hate traveling to a relative’s house, could you have them come to you instead? Could you put in a plan to alternate going forward?

Gifts are important so I encourage you to be mindful about who, what, and how much. Can you give something that is very thoughtful, very personal, and inexpensive? What talents do you have that others would love to experience? Yes, this takes time to think and plan and create AND that’s why you are going through this exercise now….

You are in charge of your wallet, your plans, your gift-giving, and your holiday experience. Start now and make sure that you can afford the plan, that the plan lines up with what is truly important for you to experience this holiday season, and that you come out the other side without a big, fat credit card bill!

To your financial (and holiday) success,

Tana

You Just Never Know!

Someone that I know died last week. She wasn’t a friend, but was someone I have known for a long time, and most shocking, she was my age. Death is the one thing just about guaranteed to rock our worlds even if it is peripheral to our day-to-day lives. She has a daughter the same age as my son and my heart breaks for the family to lose someone from their immediate family. It is a hole that can never be filled and my prayers are with them especially today for her funeral.

That brings me to the awful topic of being prepared for such an event. With my clients, this is always a topic of conversation as we get new clients integrated so I want to share some of the important things that we discuss with them. You just never when “your day” might be and it is so much easier on those you leave behind if you take a few unpleasant steps to be ready. It is especially important if you are married to make sure your spouse has done these things as well. Death is hard enough without having to wrangle with legal things that could have been handled and were not.

So, the list:

  • Do you have current wills, properly executed in your current state of residence?
  • If so, do you know what they say?
    • Who is the executor, trustee and guardian for minor children?
    • Do you still want those people in those roles and are they still capable of fulfilling them?
    • If you have children in their late teens, even 18 or 19, is the plan specified in the will going to work? Moving them to your sister’s in Iowa may have seemed fine when they were 2 and 3, but now at 17 and 18, it just may not work.
      • My son just turned 18 and is still in high school. He may be legally of age but yikes, I would not want him on his own if something happened to both my husband and me!
    • Does the will still refer to a “credit shelter trust?” If so, you may want to consider updating it because the estate tax exclusion is much larger now than it was prior to 2010. This doesn’t mean your will isn’t valid, it just means that you need to understand what assets may end up in such a trust.
  • Do you have a Health Care Directive, valid in your current state of residence, and has it been updated within the last couple of years? This isn’t something you need if you die, but it is important if you are in an accident or have a catastrophic event. You can update these without an attorney if you so choose. Go to caringinfo.org for the form and good information about completing it. Again, it needs to conform to your state’s requirements so be sure to pick your state of residence. If you are updating your will, attorneys typically update both powers of attorney as part of the package.
    • Are the people you have named in your directive still the appropriate people?
  • Do you have a Durable Financial Power of Attorney? Again, this is not helpful if you die but is critical if you are in an accident or are otherwise incapacitated. If you have divorced, you may want to update both powers of attorney if you have not already.
  • Do you know who the beneficiaries are on your insurance policy (both the policy through your employer and any individual policies that you have) and your retirement accounts? This includes IRAs, Roth IRAs, and employer-provided plans. Again, if you have divorced, you should update as those plans typically name the spouse.
    • Consider if your children are over 18 if it is appropriate to have them as contingent beneficiaries (or primary if you are not married). There are many considerations here so talk to a financial advisor or an estate attorney to fully understand your options and the impact. There are a lot of tax considerations as you look at retirement and other tax-deferred plans so be sure you are clear on that aspect as well.
  • Passwords: Does your spouse or your executor know where all of your passwords are? There are certainly workarounds, especially if you are married, but do you want your grieving spouse to be fumbling around trying to get access to your computer in order to pay the mortgage right after you died? This is a biggie as more and more of our lives are lived in the virtual world.
    • I believe that Facebook now has an authorization form that you can process online so that you can leave them access in the event of your death.
  • Letters to your children or other family members: Have you left anything for your kids that they can hold onto in the event of your death? When my dad died suddenly at my age 12, I would have given anything to have a note from him. I left letters with my will so that my kids will know what hopes and dreams I have for them. They were not so easy to write, and I hope they don’t get to read them for a long time, but it is important to me that they have something from me to them to hold onto when the time comes.
  • What is important to you? There may be specific things that you want specific people to have now that you are older. Your china, jewelry, scrapbooks and photo albums are all important items. If it is important to you that certain people get them (or don’t!) then you need a provision in your will to recognize that or at least to refer to such a list that you may prepare. Talk to your attorney about these things.
  • Special circumstances: As our kids grow, marry, divorce, have kids, get sick, get rich or poor, or have troubles, we may find that the plan we made when they were kids is not appropriate any longer. Step back and think about who will be your beneficiaries, how much money they will ultimately receive and how old they are. Are they mature and responsible or likely to blow through money quickly? There are a lot of estate planning tools available to address just about any situation so if you have some concerns about how your death will impact your heirs, talk to an estate planning attorney so that you can have a plan you feel good about.

We all hope that we will die in our sleep at a ripe old age, in perfect health but that is not the case for most. For some, death appears too quickly at the door. It is not fun to think about or talk about but being prepared today is the greatest gift that you can leave your family.

To your financial success (and your family’s)!

 

Are You Ready for One of Those Months?

It started with a text from my neighbor, “are you home?” uh, oh. My mind is racing, “was I home last weekend? Kids have a wild party? Hit their mailbox? Tree fall in their yard?” When we met at our side yard, it was worse than that, “I think this river of water is coming from your house.” Yep, it was, and $2,000 later, I had a new water main coming in to the house and a $270 water bill. Thankfully, I got some relief on the water bill.

[Quick aside: Did you know that the water company has a “leaks adjustment” department? I didn’t, but I do now. Good to know. You email them a copy of the repair bill and they look at your water usage history and (hopefully) give you a credit for the cost of the water that cascaded into your neighbor’s yard. Nice. Every little bit helps.]

Strike 2 came a week or so later, when my son walked up the stairs on a Sunday afternoon and said, “bad news.” That one was a $6,700 car repair bill for coming around a curve and running over a construction pipe encased in cement that was in the middle of the road. “Mom, it was either hit an oncoming car head-on, go into a ravine filled with trees, or try to clear the pipe.” Thankfully, he tried to clear the pipe but …. Thank heavens my son is ok and that insurance is covering all but $1,000 of the repairs. Still, it’s $1,000.

Strike 3 is a longer story but suffice it to say that it added $5,000 to the outflow. That’s a pretty expensive month at my house! Seems like things come in threes but usually the not so great things. Next time, I would like a three-pack of scratch-off tickets that strike gold, please! (Actually, I would be ecstatic with one!!)

There is no use crying over spilled milk or thousands of dollars of repair bills so what can you do but look at the bright side and start to rebuild the emergency fund. Speaking of emergency fund, now might be a good time to review your emergency reserves before you have a month like I did:

  • Do you have enough money in cash to cover any deductibles that you have for your house or your cars? Do you even remember how much the deductibles are? Best check now when all is clear. If it’s too high, you may need to save up or call your agent. If it’s too low, you are over-spending on premiums.
  • What about deductibles on health insurance? A big, bad medical emergency can add up quickly so be sure you know what your plan would cover.
  • What big ticket items around your house might be dying a slow death? I once had 2 air units within 6 weeks of each other. That hurt. Furnace? Water heater? Appliances? Think about the big items that are getting old and create a plan to address them (or at least set aside money for them) before you are shivering on that first cold night of the winter when the furnace is MIA.
  • Look at those cars – how’s the maintenance been on those? How many miles have they logged?
    • Start planning and saving now for that next car replacement. If you aren’t paying cash for your car purchases, it’s time to start making a plan to do so.
    • Does your auto mechanic have a credit card that gives you six months with no interest? Tires Plus has one, and believe me, with 6 older cars in the Gildea auto pool, I always seem to be paying off some repair.
  • How long would your savings cover if you or your spouse lost a job? Three to six months is recommended.
  • Think back on some of the “bad months” that you have had in the past. Are you prepared if any of those things should repeat?

I really hope that the things that come in threes for you are the happy, cash-in types, but just in case, shore up your emergency fund and make sure you are ready. Here’s hoping next month is great one for all of us!

To your financial success!

 

 

I’ve Been Irresponsible

I have heard that type of comment from clients or participants at speaking engagements but most recently it came from a friend telling me about divorce and the financial fallout in the aftermath. Yes, we’ve all been irresponsible at one time or another. We live in a culture that thrives on spending, living in the now, and has a focus on the material world. Yes, my friend, we have been irresponsible, our government has been irresponsible, our world has been irresponsible. And so it is.

So what have you been? What words do you use to describe yourself and your management of your own financial life? If it is more condemning than uplifting, then maybe it is time for a change in approach. When we berate ourselves (or others), we chip away at our confidence and our abilities. We undermine ourselves in the very area where we most need to be confident and self-assured. So the next time you beat yourself up, stop for a moment, and reframe your thoughts.

“I felt irresponsible/out of control/ashamed when I ________________________________. Next time, I can turn that around and feel responsible/in control/proud if I _____________________________.”

Focusing on what you can do, the way you want to act, or how you intend to face a situation that empowers you and sets you up to succeed. From today forward, drop the recriminations and focus on everything you want to be today and let go of what happened yesterday. We all can do better, be “more responsible” with our money, and turn our financial lives into something that we are proud of. Today is the day!

To your financial success!

Hello inner peace…we’ve been waiting for you!

Let go and unplug! That’s right. Unplug the phone. Unplug that computer. Unplug that TV and anything else that keeps you distracted from doing the things that are really important. Make yourself a list that says, I will let go of_____ and fill in that blank! Make a plan of how you are going to let it go and more importantly what it will free you up to do once you do oust it from your over-plugged life.

VISUALIZATION
Try this: Close your eyes, take two deep breaths and count to sixty. Go ahead. Do it now. What happened? Did you enjoy complete silence or was it interrupted by some form of technology or another distraction? If you were uninterrupted, congratulations! But if you were, think about what you can do to get those sixty seconds back of uninterrupted time.

TECHNOLOGY ETIQUETTE
Do you remember the time when going out to dinner was special? People talked quietly to each other and had respect for the people who were seated nearby. Now in even some fine dining restaurants you see people texting and chattering on their cell phones. Even in church, you can’t listen to a full sermon without hearing the accidental ring tone of a cell phone or the sound of the typing from a tablet or other device. I’ve even heard a phone ring in the pulpit once. I couldn’t believe it.

GUILTY PLEASURES
Don’t get me wrong. I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to technology. However, I do make an exception with my family that there are no phones allowed at the dinner table. That is the one time when we actually talk in real-time with each and have a face-to-face conversation. However, I am guilty of having my phone right next to my bed every night. But I do say, “Good morning” to my husband when I wake-up before I check my phone. For many of us, our phone is the first thing we reach for before we are even out of bed.

YOUR MUCH NEEDED BREAK
What about you? Is technology like a drug? When it isn’t around do you begin to have withdrawals symptoms? Can you leave your cell phone at home, or do you find yourself being totally lost if you don’t have it with you?

When you can’t find a remote to the TV are you agitated that you have to actually get up and change the channels manually? When your computer is slow, do you become impatient or wait patiently to see if the problem is only temporary.

When does your break from technology actually start? Or is it constantly on auto-pilot? There comes a point and time when we have to make ourselves accountable for our own inner peace. You may think so, but technology is not going always going to give it to you. Believe it or not, that inner peace has to come from within your inner self. We have to go to the very soul of our being to find answers and listen to what our inner spirit is saying to us. We can’t hear anything if we are distracted by the day to day interruptions of our technology. Every day we must find a way to be still and unplug — even it’s just for a few moments.

Find a way to eliminate distractions that are keeping you away from doing what is really important. I know it will be hard at first. But, if you make time to take a break each day, it will get easier. So go ahead. Turn it off. Who knows? That inner peace that you have been searching for may actually find you!

Hate to fail? Then you will never succeed

Did you watch the NBA play-offs? Even if you are not a basketball fan, like me, you know that the Cleveland Cavaliers won. If you didn’t know – and are reading this post–you know now. LeBron James and his teammates proved that it’s not how you start out, but it’s where you finish. The result? The biggest comeback in NBA Finals history to knock off the Golden State Warriors and deliver Cleveland its first professional sports title in 52 years.

Fifty-two years? Wow! It took over a half of a century to earn an NBA title. What in the world was going on with the team for the past 51 years? The answer: Failure. I read the story. There were a lot of great times and a lot of failures. They were some great coaches and not so great coaches. But in the end, all of those years of losing the NBA title and tasting the bitter taste of failure finally led them to the sweet taste of success.

In many ways, many of our stories are like the Cleveland Cavaliers. We work really hard to do the things that society tells us we should do. We think we have the right team in place and we are confident in our ow abilities and our decisions. That combination alone makes us sometimes feel like failure is not option. We have our own playbook for our professional lives. And just like NBA coaches, when things don’t work, we reevaluate. We draft new members, expand our team, hire and fire new personnel, trade-in our old tactics for new ones and sometimes we still never get our happy ending.

Let me be clear. I am not a sports fan. So this is not an endorsement for LeBron James. But, I do admire his playbook and I think we can all take a page from it. No matter what people think of LeBron, he thinks more of himself. No matter how many cynics there are out there that tell him he can’t, he believes that he can. The difference between a winner and loser is that no matter how many times a person loses; he never gives up until he wins. A loser will always be a winner as long as they never take on a defeatist attitude. A winner will eventually lose when they forget that winning does not come easy and they become passé about the work that it took to become a winner in the first place.

If we pause and think about all of the basketball greats, every last one of them has experienced failure. One quote in particular is one that I really admire by Michael Jordan: I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

So, the next time you deem yourself a failure, remember that no one becomes successful without it. So fail away! Your success is probably closer than you think! Let’s just hope it doesn’t take 52 years!