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Finish Strong!

2017 is flying by! Today as I write this, we enter the 4th quarter of 2017. How is it going? For me, each quarter is a transition point, a signpost to acknowledge that time is passing, and I need to pay attention. As I have written in the past, this has been a year of frenzy for me personally and professionally and seems to be a blur. I am consciously choosing to stop and be aware in this moment, to stop moving and reacting in a frantic way and to consciously choose how I experience the last quarter of this year. I very much want it to be different from the last 3!

I am looking closely at my spending (a lot) and saving (not enough). That, for me, is a symptom of living at too fast a pace – no time to plan or prepare or think ahead – let me just grab it, order it, drive through – frantic, frantic – no time for looking at my spending plan – just get it done. This is the time for me to stop and say “enough.” Settle down, take a breath, align with what is important. Here are some things that I am thinking about for this last quarter:

• What is truly important to me? Does my spending match up to that?
• Where is my money going? Is that supporting and enriching my life?
• Do I feel financially safe? How can I use my money to improve that?
• Have I done everything possible to minimize my tax bill this year?

o Keeping close track of charitable deductions
o Maximizing retirement savings plans
o Keeping my files organized so that tax prep is painless
o Keeping up with all of my business expenses
o Fully funding my health savings account

• Do I have a plan to manage the holidays without debt?

o How can I recognize my family and friends in a way that does not jeopardize my goals and my financial health?
o What will bring joy to my holidays rather than stress?
o What gifts can I give that will be the most meaningful? (Likely that has little to do with money.)

I hope you will join me in a quick time out to think, to plan, and to prepare for this last quarter of the year. Too, too soon I will be writing about 2018! Savor the moment. Seize the day. Finish the year strong and confident in your plans.
To your financial (and 4th quarter) success!

Tana

Lighten Your Load

“It’s difficult to clearly see what needs to be done when your environment is burdened with half-completed projects, unfinished to-do lists, old files, clothes that don’t fit, and equipment that no longer works or serves any purpose.”  Debbie Ford – excerpt from The Best Year of Your Life

I am coming through perhaps the busiest and “mentally heaviest” season of my life. I didn’t handle it especially well. Ok, I completely dropped the ball on “life management 101.” I didn’t stick to my solid, I-feel-great workout and healthy eating plan. I didn’t stick to my systems to touch once, clean out my email daily, and take time to stop and clear my thoughts. I didn’t rest enough, and I did run in chase-my-tail, fight or flight mode. I didn’t stick to my money goals. “No time to make my lunch; I’ll just buy it.” Yuck. It was awful and I don’t want to go there ever again.

I saw this “lighten your load” quote and felt that she was talking to me. It is mentally heavy to have a bunch of things partially done; stacks of papers, magazines, bills calling out to us. “Mental residue” is how Brian Johnson describes it from some author that he was quoting. Every glance at the stack is a taunt, a failure, and an energy drain, constantly weighing us down.

This also applies to your money. Do you have accounts scattered here and there? Do you have small balances on credit here and there? Do you have bills coming in through paper, email, or hanging from your front door?

We all need a solid, one system way to manage our work, our lives, and our money. Here are a few questions to get us all (4 fingers pointed at me!) moving in the right direction:

  • Where can we “lighten the load” and create a good system for staying on top of our money, our bills and our accounts?
  • Can we focus on the smallest dollar value credit card and just knock out that balance while making sure that we don’t add to it?
  • Can we give up the multiple store brand credit cards in favor of one all-purpose (high reward) credit card as one way of lightening the load?
  • Can we consolidate accounts, synchronize bill due dates, automate payments?
  • Can we automate savings so that it “just happens” and we don’t have to think about it?
  • Can we find a good tracking software (Quicken, mint.com, etc.) so that everything shows up in one place?
  • Can we list out every bill that we have monthly, quarterly, annually and list out how it comes to us, when it is due and the average amount payable?
  • Can we get in place a system that we document and follow and schedule so that your money management is not a bunch of “half-completed projects, unfinished to-do lists, old files” and haphazardness?
  • Can we create and follow a system to clear out old documents, scan and shred so that everything we need is at our fingertips?

I am trying to view my recent “quarter of chaos” as a chance to see how bad the “don’t” picture is and purposefully create a “do” picture that keeps me out of such a chaotic situation in the future. I am trying to use this experience to batten down the hatches, refocus on the systems that work, rework those that don’t, and clear out the partially completed “stuff” that is stressing me out. I am trying to reflect on what I learned by being in over-drive for the last several months so that I cling harder to structure and systems, say “no” and “good enough” a bit more, and insist on time to rejuvenate and regroup. I am trying to dig in, finish things, clean up the mess, put away, throw away, and eliminate one source of mental fatigue at a time.

Where can you lighten the financial load so that you are not feeling stressed and chaotic? Pick one little thing and do it today. You will feel so much more in control, powerful, and competent! Getting better every day….

To your financial success (and “lightness!”) ~ Tana

Balance or Fall off!

A balanced lifestyle is simply a state of being in which one has time and energy for obligations and pleasures.  ~ Madisyn Taylor

A balanced financial life is one in which you have the money for obligations and pleasures. This is the never-ending dance of what we want versus what we need; what is right-now-in-the-moment versus what is my biggest, most important goal. I tend to slip too far on one end of the “teeter-totter” or the other too frequently. The problem with locking into too much austerity is that the caged animal (me!) eventually goes completely berserk and unleashes in a wild spree of mindless spending. “I want, I want, I want” becomes overwhelming and the spoiled brat takes charge.

The key is balance. Oh, that is a word that I am just not great at applying in my life – anywhere. I seem to love being at one end of the teeter-totter or the other. So, my behind is either in the mud or dangling precariously off the end of the board. Fine when you are 7 but less great at 50-something!

This year, I want to sit in the middle of the teeter-totter by building in the small pleasures (a monthly facial – what a treat!) and adding in just a bit more toward the obligations. I am going for a bit of this and a bit of that rather than all or nothing. I am programming myself to think of my monthly facial every time the brat in me wants, wants, wants. “Do you want this or that, little 4-year-old self? Pick one and go skipping off happy and satisfied.”

Yes, I want my financial state of being to be one in which my spoiled brat and my task-master are both co-existing together, quietly, maybe on a blanket, under a nice tree, far, far away from the teeter-totter.

To your financial success (and balance),

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

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!

Warning: Shopping May Lead to Your Garage’s Peril

About every 10 years I get the bright idea to have a garage sale. Every single time that I have given in to this urge, I have sworn up, down and sideways that I will never, EVER have a garage sale again no matter what. Not ever. And yet, all winter, I was in a purge mode to beat all purges. I was ruthless in clearing out cabinets, drawers, and closets. The attic, the basement, and the garage could not escape my keen eye or my burning desire to turn my trash into treasure. The day dawned, my whole family helped me haul and organize and price. My eyes gleamed – this was good stuff! I was ready to make a killing.

As I sat waiting and waiting and waiting for the masses to arrive and begin fighting over the priceless items that I was parting with, I started to mentally calculate the amount of money that all of this stuff had cost at full retail. Jewelry upon jewelry, scarves, cooking gadgets, boxes and boxes of boxes, videos, video systems and games, candles, oh, my heaves, I could have lit up the city with the candles! Stuff, stuff and more stuff. Tens of thousands of dollars of stuff that I sold for, wait for it, $127! Yes, hauling, organizing, and spending a day of my life to make $127. Not to mention the thousands of dollars represented by all of that stuff. That is fractions of pennies on the dollar. I don’t even remember buying some of it; couldn’t recall why I got it or if I even used it. What a waste.

I compare that feeling to the feeling I have when I walk into my remodeled bathroom. The cost of that was probably far less than the accumulated value of all that stuff, but I smile every time I walk in. I am happy every time I shower and don’t worry if water is leaking into the basement. I know that redoing the bathroom added to the value of my house; it is giving me enjoyment many times a day, and its value will last years rather than days or months.
This whole comparison gives me great pause now when I am tempted to toss something into the cart at Target or the clothing store. Is this really going to bring more than a fleeting moment of value to my life? Do I need another necklace, a candle (NO), or a book that I could get at the library? Probably not. Is this thing going to end up at my next garage sale 10 years from now when the garage sale blues have faded?

I hope that I will focus more on spending money on the big things that bring real value to my life and not the little trinkets that drain money and just create more clutter. How about you?

To your financial success!

The Graduate’s Guide to Money = Energy

Last time, I talked about thoughts becoming money. Of course, not every thought becomes money but we can’t get money without thoughts. I thought I would take an excerpt from my book to put it another way.

Excerpt from The Graduate’s Guide to Money
Money is energy, plain and simple. Humans had to create something tangible to represent their energy in order to make it easier to exchange.
Think about the cavemen days when there was no money or gold or anything at all to use as a medium of exchange. The cavemen bartered; one guy wanted something that the other guy had so either he clubbed him over the head and took it, or he started offering up things he owned which could be traded. Maybe somebody had meat and somebody else had berries. The two had to haggle to figure out how many berries would be equal to how much meat. At the very core of that exchange was the fact that one guy exerted effort to kill an animal to get the meat and the other guy exerted effort to pick all of those berries. There are other factors that enhance or detract from how much value is placed on that energy. Things like scarcity, access, and difficulty of obtaining will make the meat or the berries more or less attractive. Since each caveman was different, there was a different value placed on every exchange.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and the energy that was traded was more likely to be physical energy; the energy used to grow vegetables versus the energy used to milk cows. People traded sacks of flour for eggs or milk or a visit to the doctor. The doctor gave not only the energy of examining you but the stored energy of years of studying medicine.
So this isn’t some new-age “think about money and it will show up” philosophy. This is about turning your physical or mental labor into a paycheck. By working, you literally turn your energy—mental or physical—into money. The energy you give exactly equals the money that you earn, assuming, of course, that neither party is taking advantage of the other.

BTW: Volunteering works the same way as your paid labor, only you don’t get paid in money; you get paid with other energy, but that’s a different conversation.

End excerpt

When you think about the energy that you give and the money energy that you receive, is it a fair trade? I should also mention that we don’t always get 100% of our compensation in the form of money. Lots of people put a higher value on serving their fellow man than on financial rewards – all forms of public servants from teachers to stay-at-home parents to fire fighters and police officers and soldiers are not getting paychecks remotely close to the energy or value that they are giving. They are getting a form of energy worth more to them than money energy. Working with awesome people, being recognized, doing something meaningful or fun or invigorating are all part of the package. I guess the better question might be, is your energy equation in balance? Money is not the most important thing but being happy with your energy is. This week consider if your energy equation is in balance. If it is not, what steps are you going to take to bring it into balance?

Please visit www.graduatesguidetomoney.com to learn more!

To your financial (and energetic) success!

Graduating to…

For many, May is the season of graduations. It’s so busy, so exciting and sad and involved. There are activities and tasks and parties. There are pictures and gowns and diplomas. It is a whirlwind of action and everybody talks about “graduating from” – from high school, from college, from grad school. It’s funny that we don’t talk about what people are graduating “to” – to the next level in school, to a job, to “real life.” It’s there in the background, but at graduation time, we are looking backward and not forward.

So what is your graduate graduating to this year? Is he graduating to a new level of responsibility with his money? Is she graduating from being dependent to being independent financially? It’s helpful to take this time of year and see how you can help your kids graduate to a new financial level.

For grade school kids, perhaps you set up a weekly allowance and tell them that’s all they get – treats, activities, things that they want all must come from that one pot. It will be interesting to see how each child manages their pot of money. The older they are, they more than should be responsible for.

For middle school kids, perhaps they need to earn their pot of money – bigger jobs equal bigger pay. Initiative and creativity result in bigger payouts. This is a time when kids can be a babysitter, a pet sitter, or provide some basic yard work around the neighborhood. What is the rule about giving, saving, and spending when they earn their own money?

For high school kids, it is really time for a job. For anyone under 16, those jobs need to be local but for those over 16, hit the fast food places and find a way to make some money. What have you discussed about saving some of those earnings for college? Now is the time to set an expectation.

For college kids, it is really the time to talk about managing money, having a spending plan, and setting up a savings strategy. These folks ought to be working or at least interning in their field to start getting ready to launch into financial independence. It is important for them to start getting in tune with how much “bills” cost – cell phone, car insurance, health insurance, etc. These not-very-fun purchases will soon be part of their everyday lives – are they getting ready?

Amid all of the excitement about graduating from, take a little time to focus your kids on what they are graduating to with this new school year. Summer is a slower time for most so seize this time and start focusing them on graduating to good money habits.

To your financial success!