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The Energy of Money

Today and during the week, I want you to think about your relationship with money and financial topics. Every time you pull out your wallet, look at money, pay bills or think about anything “financial,” whether at work or in your personal life, pause and think about how you feel, in your gut, at that moment. Make a note in your phone or notebook without judgment but with curiosity.

Pull out a journey or notebook and answer these questions:
*  When do I feel bad (guilty, anxious, afraid, uncertain, inadequate, lacking knowledge) about money?
*  How do I react in these situations?
*  How would I like to react in these situations?
*  What financial topic am I the most uncertain about?
*  When do I feel good (confident, knowledgable, sure of myself, competent, in control) about money?
*  What have I done in the past to lead me to this good feeling?

Other questions, thoughts and memories may come up as you think through these questions. I encourage you to let them come up, explore them with curiosity and to try to let go of judgments and condemnations. If you wouldn’t make the comment out loud to a friend, don’t allow yourself to say it to yourself in the silence of your mind!

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore some of these questions and consider how that energy, good or bad, positive or negative, impacts your dealings, your relationships and your interactions with money and money matters.

To your financial success,

Tana

And The Top 10 is…

When I wrote The Graduate’s Guide to Money, I came up with a Top 10 Money Principles list. I wrote about them in the book, and I reference them when I speak with groups so I thought that every now and then, I would sprinkle in one of my Top 10.

In classic David Letterman style, we’ll start with number 10 – Investing: Just do it.

When I speak to groups, whether it is to a women’s group or a group of college students, investing is the topic most frequently brought up by participants. Libraries have been filled with books on investing, and it is downright intimidating to try to dip your toes into that kind of pool. I know because for years, I kept my money nice and safe in interest only investments and missed out on the greatest stock market run in history – oops.

So, when you have money that you don’t plan to use for 10 years or more (like your 401k or IRA if you are a decade or more away from retirement), get it invested. Take 10 minutes a day to read the info on your plan website, chat with the rep from the 401k plan, or schedule an appointment with an advisor, but put together a plan to get your money invested.

It is really quite easy now with the multitude of index mutual funds and broad market mutual funds. Don’t know what a mutual fund is – check out Investopedia.com. Want to see information about a stock or mutual fund? Try finance.yahoo.com. This site is free. Enter the name or symbol of the investment and you can get all kinds of information. You can see a chart of the price over time. You can compare it to indices, and you can link to all kinds of information – analyst opinions, price estimates, or key statistics among other things.

If you want to invest just a bit on a regular basis, you can use Computershare to buy U.S. companies in a dividend reinvestment plan. There are all kinds of ways to get going but get going. Do some research. Read some magazines. Talk to someone in the know. You want your money to be working for you and especially in this interest rate environment, you need more than interest only.

Interestingly, I wrote the preceding in early January prior to the market volatility that we have seen since January 5th (and really experienced this week with a 3.7% drop in the S&P 500 on Wednesday.) This is the environment where most investors want to “run out of the store” because the sale is happening so fast and furiously. However, that volatility is your friend if you don’t panic and you remember: you haven’t lost anything if you don’t sell! Prices go up and they go down – all day, every business day. Some days they go up or down a little and some days they go up or down a lot. The key to unemotional investing is to realize that everything is temporary, the market moves in cycles, and over long periods of time, the markets historically go up.

Generally speaking, down days are better days for buying than for selling. Up days are better days for selling than for buying. (Remember the old “buy low, sell high” rule?) Whether those principles apply to the individual securities that you hold is impossible to say, but generally speaking, when you invest in mutual funds and broad-based index funds, the risk of everything going to zero is low. If the S&P 500 goes to zero, I think we are facing bigger issues than how much money we lost – it might really be the zombie apocalypse! Can individual stocks go to zero? Yep. They can and do, unfortunately, so heed grandma’s advice about not putting all of the eggs in one basket.

The bottom line – a principle is a principle because it nearly always applies so the post that I wrote in early January still applies: Investing: Just Do It.

To your financial (and investing) success!

What’s Your Dragon?

As you have probably guessed if you have read many of my blog posts, I love quotes. Love, love, love quotes. The right quote can hit you right between the eyes, pierce your heart, or stoke your internal fires. Here’s one that I love from The Best of Success:

Overcoming the negative is the price of achievement – the price of greatness.

In a world where “the negative” sells, this is a very applicable quote! All around us (and within us), we see and hear the negative. Right about now is when the credit card bills from the holidays may be rolling in. The tax return documents are showing up in the mail box. The luster of our New Year’s resolutions is getting a bit faded and our jeans may still be a little too tight from those holiday indulgences. Bluck!

Ah, but now the gauntlet has been thrown down – overcoming those negatives is the price of greatness! Wow. Greatness! I can achieve anything; aspire to greatness if I just hack my way through the grit and grime of all that negative.

Where is your financial negative? Is it the credit card bills or the thought of slogging through the tax return? Is it getting your financial life organized or devising a plan to fund that IRA by April? Is it figuring out how (finally) to get your 401k invested? Whatever it is, see that as the dragon that you and you alone can slay. We all love the hero’s journey so paint yourself the hero of your own financial journey. See that negative as the dragon standing between you and your financial greatness.

You get to write the story of how you overcame that dragon, stood tall in the face of fear, uncertainty, and negativity, and came out victorious on the other side. Yes, it’s just a tax return, but that isn’t what’s important about the story; what’s important is that it was your personal dragon and you fought through and found achievement and greatness in this moment.

For this week, when you see negative, picture the dragon and then see yourself, sword in hand, fighting through it, overcoming it, and standing in your greatness.

To your financial GREATNESS!

Want to know about Tana?

visit  www. graduatesguidetomoney.com

Follow her on twitter @Grad_Guide

2016 – The Year of …

What? What will this year be for you? It is a new year, filled with promise and anything is possible. Oh, the things that we can do with a whole year ahead of us! The goals we can achieve; the adventures we can have! Whether it is making new friends or finding new passions or reaching new heights, anything can happen, but the only things that will happen are those that we make happen. So what is important for you to make happen with your money this year? If we really want to control our destiny and make this year count, we have to have the vision to see where we want to go, the focus to stay on task, the commitment and dedication to take action consistently, and the obstinance to push through barriers and obstacles. So first and foremost, what is your most important financial vision for 2016?

Just one thing – your #1 most important financial priority for the coming year is:

____________________________________________________________________________________

For example, it may be to increase revenue in your business by x% or to pay off a specific debt or to save $x. It may be to redo your will and other legal documents or increase your life insurance. Consider what 1 thing that you could achieve that would make you feel financially fantastic. Pick that as your one area of focus. It may be something you can achieve within a week or 2 or it may take you an entire year. Importance is not measured by how hard or easy it will be to achieve but rather by how much of a weight it is on you to have it hanging over your head or how great it would make you feel to accomplish it.

I have a format that I use for helping my readers set and achieve financial goals that is very focused and specific so I have provided that format below for your use. Since Working On Your Now is all about balanced living and a whole life approach, I set this up for all of those WOYN areas of your life.

Simply drop in your current situation, what you want to be different in 1-3 months, 3 specific actions that you can take to create that change, and then consider what obstacles are likely to get in your way. The more that you can plan for overcoming those obstacles before they come up, the better chance you have of knocking them flat when they rear their ugly heads.

Situation as it is today What I want to  be different in 1-3 months 3 Actions I can take to create this change What obstacles will I face to making this change?
Personal Growth

 

1.

2.

3,

Career

 

1.

2.

3,

Finance

 

1.

2.

3,

Spirituality

 

1.

2.

3,

Health & Wellness

 

1.

2.

3,

 

I set this to measure for 3 months to narrow the time-frame so adjust your target accordingly. The best way to achieve big goals is to break them up into smaller goals. If it works better for you to focus on a month or even a week, adjust to what will work for you.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to think about each of these areas of your life and consider what would be the most impactful thing that you could do in each area that would make all the difference in your 2016. Only you can envision your best year, focus on consistent action to make it happen and blow through obstacles. 2016 – The Year of…..

To your most successful year yet!

 

What Do You Think of When I Say “Thanksgiving”?

Did you say turkey? I bet a turkey or pumpkin pie or cooking was the first thought that popped into your head. Those pilgrims had no idea the fuss they were starting way back when they planned that first shindig! The advertising folks at Butterball and Sarah Lee have fully ingrained in us the need to cook that big meal and gather some people around our table. But beyond the hours of cooking and the big meal and the pies for dessert, have you given thanks for your financial blessings lately?

The idea for the post came up several weeks ago, long before I turned my calendar to November. I was lamenting to myself that my husband and I have seemed, for a lot of our relationship, to be in different financial cycles with our careers or companies – I had a job and he moved to Atlanta when we got married so he was job hunting. I left corporate America to be a stay-at-home mom while he made good on the corporate front. He left corporate to start a business, and I went back to work. “Why can’t we both be on the upswing at the same time?!

And that comment hit me like a bolt – “thank heavens that we haven’t both been on the downswing at the same time!” What an incredible blessing it was right there in front of me, and I didn’t even recognize it for what it was. A blessing that when he has been down, I have had opportunity, and when I have been down, he has risen up. And what if everything was a blessing? Every time that we had a bit extra saved up, what if it was in preparation for the dead battery, broken washing machine or root canal that we needed? What if my needs were actually being taken care of before I had the need or knew that I had the need?

All of life is in how we interpret the situation in front of us. We can lament incomes moving up and down or give thanks that we have counter-balanced one another. We can lament having to use our extra this month to fix that washing machine or we can give thanks that we had some extra to cover it and that we even own a washing machine! We can worry over rising costs or we can give thanks that we are participating in this great economic wheel that we call the American dream. Many people the world over would give everything they have just to come here and have a chance to own a washing machine.

What financial “laments” do you have that could be turned around and viewed as blessings or wake-up calls or opportunities? What financial blessings do you have that you take for granted as we all do? I’m pretty thankful for that washing machine! With 4 kids, I spend a lot of time with that little miracle and don’t ever pause to give her a little pat on the side and appreciate that I could be out in a stream beating my clothes on a rock if not for her magic! Speaking of, I do need to change the load now so I will leave you to give thanks for the wonders of everyday magical machines, financial blessings, and that big, delicious turkey and pumpkin pie that will be sitting on your table come Thursday.

To help you get in the Thanksgiving spirit, here is a Gratitude Assessment created by Darren Hardy (Success Magazine).

To your financial thankfulness as well as success.

Happy THANKSgiving!

 

A New Money Attitude in Four Steps!

Well, we crossed the half year mark last week. At this time of year, I like to stop and reflect on how it is going with my goals. January seems a long time ago and many, many things have come up to take my eye off the goal. So how are you doing with your financial goals? If you aren’t happy (or you didn’t set any financial goals!) then let’s turn it around.

 

A few weeks ago, I talked about the language that I use around money and financial topics and that ties in directly to uncovering your money attitude. If you didn’t get a chance to read that, take a look, and then think about your own attitude. Sometimes there is emotional and mental money clutter that may be holding you back or weighing you down so as you look at setting and achieving your money goals, let’s also look at 4 steps you can take today to sweep out some of your emotional money baggage and get your financial goals moving forward.

 

  1. Tell the truth – to yourself and your spouse

Now is the time to ‘fess up and get it all out in the open. If there are bills and credit card balances, let’s pull out those statements, log in to those accounts, and face the truth. You can’t get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. Admitting to mistakes and short-comings is the first step to healing, redemption, and a new action plan.

  1.  Take responsibility for where you are

As you look at your savings accounts and your debts, you just have to own where you are and what the situation is. Even if the other person did the spending, you did the avoiding, the looking the other way or the abdicating of responsibility.  If you didn’t take an active role, at least monthly, in reviewing and monitoring spending, account balances and debt, you abdicated, avoided or denied.  You are still responsible for your inaction.  If you fell asleep in the backseat, don’t blame him that you woke up in Canada when you wanted to go to Mexico!  Wake up!  Look at the map!  Help navigate!

 

This applies even if you are single. You chose to look the other way when the statements came or when the savings didn’t happen. You chose not to actively make a plan for your financial life and you just “let it happen.” You got in the car and just started driving without a map or destination in mind. That was then, and now you are awake and alert and ready to…..

 

  1.  Forgive

Forgive yourself for mistakes, bad judgment, ignorance, apathy, spending, ignoring, avoiding, materialism, greediness, and other grave financial sins.  Forgive your spouse for all of the above.  To paraphrase Maya Angelo, when you know better, you do better. You may not have paid attention in the past but today is a new day! Now you are ready to turn it around and seize control. You cannot move forward if you are anchored to past mistakes, so LET IT GO!! Forgive and…

 

  1.  Change your perspective  

There is no more blaming – you and your spouse are one economic unit.  You both have equal responsibility for your financial health and well-being.  Instead of seeing your spouse as trying to control you, limit you, or take away from you, view your participation and “frugality” as a gift that you give to the person you love.  There is no greater gift than financial peace-of-mind whether you have a partner or not.  Everyone should be determined to chart their financial course, define their ideal financial life, and create a step-by-step plan to move toward that life.

 

View a spending plan as a framework for helping you get everything that you ever dreamed of and a way of eliminating all of the “trash and trinkets” that are taking away from your big dreams. Start seeing the shiny objects that are vying for your attention (and your money) as obstacles to what you truly want and create a plan to get those things out of your way so that you can focus on the big dreams – a home, travel, financial security – whatever the most important aspects of your life may be. Make a plan to fund the big goals, be willing to save for them, and have the determination to continue to move slowly, step-by-step, month-by-month, little-by-little toward them.
Then What?

These 4 steps are not “one and done.”  It’s not “paint the house;” whew, that’s done for 5 years.  It’s the laundry; it’s done for today but tomorrow or the next day, sweaty, smelly clothes will reappear. You can’t avoid the truth, the responsibility, the forgiveness, or the change in perspective any more than you can ignore those nasty workout clothes.  If you do, you get the same result – a big smelly mess!

 

Understand that there will be mistakes and missteps so frequently tell the truth, accept responsibility, forgive, and think about the new perspective of embracing opportunities to save for the big, important things and push aside the little distracting things. Keep looking for those tips and tricks to save here and save there and keep revising, reviewing, and revisiting the plan. Old habits die hard so be gentle on yourself and your spouse and try, try again. Saving is a process that happens over time. Changing behaviors, habits and attitudes is a process as well. If you keep at it, you will find yourself with a healthier savings account and a new money attitude before you know it.

 

Let me know how you are improving your money attitude.  To your financial success!

Changes and Rearrangements

Last week, we looked at your balance sheet and found out exactly where you are financially.  Now it’s time to think about how you feel about your situation and what changes you might like to see in your net worth.

Assets:

How comfortable (or not) do you feel about the amount of cash and money market savings that you have? How many months of expenses could you cover if something happened to your income? How safe do you feel with the amount of cash you have available?

If you have less than 6 months of expenses, you might want to consider creating a plan to bump that up. There is always something going on that gobbles up our excess cash – this time of year, it is graduation and end of school events. Then comes vacation time, and back to school and the holidays. Always something. Is there one thing that you could cut back on to squirrel away a bit extra each week to put toward savings? For example, if you usually get $60 in cash each week, could you just get $40 and move $20 to savings? That is a small thing but probably doable. The point is, nothing changes unless you have a firm action that you can change, in this case, the amount of your weekly ATM draw. What could you change to increase this area?

If you have well more than 6 months of expenses, perhaps you should consider converting that to an investment so that you have the potential for some investment growth. What is holding you back from putting some of your excess cash to work?  If having more available cash makes you feel better or if you feel that your income may be at risk, then holding on to cash makes sense. The point is to have a plan for how much you need and why.

As you look at the other assets on your balance sheet, the main question is how you feel about what you have. If you are heavy into illiquid investments, be sure that this is your intention and that you are comfortable with that situation. How about retirement accounts? Do you feel that you are on track?

Regardless of your answers, ask the questions and think about what changes you would like to see in the composition of your assets and the growth of your assets and make a plan to move in that direction.

Liabilities:

Take a look at your short-term liabilities – credit cards mostly. How do those numbers make you feel? Are there balances there that you would like to be rid of? I don’t like having debt but when I get interest-free financing on things like furniture, appliances or car repairs, I take it. I make sure I pay it off well within the defined period but seeing that balance still makes me uneasy. How does seeing a debt number make you feel? Would you be willing to “rearrange” some of your monthly spending to pay more on the outstanding balance?

Do you know how much that debt is costing you annually? Take a look back at your statements and see the amount of interest that you are paying. Could you make a plan to get that debt paid off? Again, “a plan” means a specific action, (“I will not eat out on Friday nights anymore and instead put what I usually spend toward this debt”) that you can perform weekly or monthly. You have to change your behavior to make your balance sheet change.

What about long-term liabilities?  How does that make you feel? How important is it to you to be debt-free? It can become a reality if you make a plan for it to happen.

Net worth:

This is just the difference between assets and liabilities and indicates basically how much of a safety net you have created for yourself. The point of looking at this, and at the individual components that make it up, is to empower you to consider where you would like to be, what makes you comfortable, and take action to implement changes. By changing a few habits and making a few changes, you can make a change to increase your assets, reduce your liabilities, and increase net worth.

It is always within your control to move in the direction you want to go. Make a decision to create change and you will!

Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring cleaning was an annual event at my house when I was a kid. The whole family had to dedicate “as much time as it took” on a Saturday to clean the house, top to bottom. I hated the process but I have to admit, it gave me such a feeling of freshness and renewal. That spring tradition has been lost for a lot of us, but I think it is worth resurrecting for our financial houses.
Taxes have been filed which is a good trigger for gathering our financial paperwork from the prior year and getting it stored in the archives. Here are some ideas for some spring cleaning:
• Organize all of your tax return receipts with your tax return. Get an oversized envelope, label it 2014 taxes and store it with at least the prior 6 years of returns.
• Go through any old statements that you have accumulated through the year. If you want to keep copies, considering scanning everything to a thumb drive and storing it with your tax return or put them all in an oversized envelope, label it, and store somewhere out of the way.
• For those old bills, statements, and notifications that you don’t need, be sure to shred them. My policy is to shred every piece of paper that has my name on it.
• Look through all of your electronic files and delete those that are no longer relevant. For everything else, create a backup copy, slip it into an envelope, label it, and store with your tax return. That is an easy, year-by-year way to store backup copies.
• Set a calendar reminder to back-up your computer at least once a month. I use an external drive so that it is big and easy to find versus a small thumb drive. Regardless, store it in a safe place so that all of data doesn’t find its way to school as part of your child’s history project.
• Set up your tax files for 2015. My firm created a really nice expandable file with labeled tabs for income, investments, charity, business, etc. but you can use any filing system that works for you. The important thing is to keep all of those receipts organized in a way that is easy to use and will make preparing next year’s return a snap.
• Make sure that you reconcile your checking and savings accounts to the bank at least every couple of months. I do find things that I missed even with my Quicken download process so take the time to clean up your accounts and make sure you know where you are.
• What else in your financial house is a bit messy? Make a plan to do some spring cleaning in that area as well.
Cleaning up, getting organized, and managing your financial house will give you a sense of accomplishment and control. It doesn’t take that much time – even spending 5 or 10 minutes a day will move you forward. Once it is done, you will be glad you did it.

Until next week, here’s to your financial success!