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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

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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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.

Are You a Financial Olympian?

Did you watch the Olympics? Sadly, I did not see nearly as much as I would have liked, but I popped in here and there. The level of discipline, dedication, single-mindedness, and commitment that these athletes have is so incredible! I saw the ski jumpers who train and train for years, and they get just a minute or two to perform. Years of commitment and sacrifice for 2 minutes on the hill. A split-second on the landing might mean a medal or a face full of snow.
That is a crazy level of dedication for a brief shining moment. I know there are other events during the year, but the input seems much greater than the results on the other side. Yet they do it. Hundreds of athletes, thousands really when you consider all of those who came up a bit short in their quests to make Olympic teams around the world, give their all, pour everything they have into one single goal.
What if we were able to do just a hundredth of what they do? What if we could sacrifice just a bit more for the goals that are really important to us? What if we could stay focused on one really important financial goal and not allow ourselves to be distracted by lots of other competing goals? We might just be financial champions in our own little game of life.
I saw Lindsay Vonn in an interview about her come-back – “it’s all I think about” was her comment. What if paying off that nagging debt was “all we thought about.” It’s not quite as fun as imagining ourselves on the podium getting a gold medal, but it will give the same sense of accomplishment! Sadly, there are no cheering fans, no endorsements or interviews for us non-athletes who are striving for our personal goals, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
So, let’s use that Olympic spirit to create and focus on our own financial goals. Let’s apply that Olympic discipline, perseverance, and single-minded stubbornness to defeating debt or going after that promotion or building that 401k balance. It’s never fun in the trenches, not for athletes during the workouts and drills, and not for us making sacrifices and saying no to things we’d like to do, but the payoff can bring gold to both.

To 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.

Be Where You Are

2018 is two months behind us and many of our new year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. The luster of the new year and the anticipation of the possibilities in front of us may have been washed away with the rain, snow and gloom of the winter months. The gray days drain away our drive.

Ah, this is where we are as March is underway. The sun is starting to shine, but that cold wind pushes us back inside. And how about your relationship with your money? How is it holding up after the flurry of holiday spending and the arrival of the bills? How are you feeling about the way that 2017 wrapped up? Let’s take a moment and think back through the year and note a couple of things that you wish had gone a bit differently financially. Where do you want a do-over?

List two things that weigh on you from last year. Own them – “ya, wish I hadn’t done that.” Now, list what you wish you would have done differently. That is the lesson learned! The feeling of regret is not there to weigh you down; it is there to guide you to something better. Sure, you had to pay a little tuition to get one of life’s lessons, but that’s ok – this is where you are. Now you know better. Now you can set yourself up for success in 2018! Use that regret to fuel your journey to success.

Now, list two or three or four or more things that you are really proud of. “Ya, I totally rocked that!” Let’s take a minute to bask in the awesomeness of financial control and acuity. Wow, that feels so much better. We definitely want to feel more of this.
So what steps can you take to stand firmly where you are, full of the knowledge of past successes and opportunities for do-overs this year, and plan for your 2018 success?

Ready, set, shake off the gray, embrace your goals and make 2018 your year of financial prowess.
To 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.

‘Tis The Season!

‘Tis the season of magic with Santa and elves and flying reindeer. ‘Tis the season of wonderful smells with the freshly cut Christmas tree, the candles, and the holiday treats. ‘Tis the season of giving and receiving. What a delight! Not so delightfully, it is also the last month of the tax year – your last chance (kind of) to get some tax deductions tucked into 2017.

It is also the season of tax reform, tax proposals in both the House and the Senate, and a big push for Santa to put a shiny new tax package under the tree – talk about the magic of Christmas! Keep an eye out for actions between now and year-end. I can assure you that everyone and their dog will be writing about what, when, why, and how so stick to the reputable websites, understand the key provisions, and consider how it will impact your tax return.

There are a lot of things to think about with taxes and a lot is about the timing – do you want income or deductions in 2017 or 2018? It just depends on your tax situation at the moment.

  • If you had a big income year in 2017, you will likely want to find/create deductions in 2017. That probably means retirement plan contributions or charitable gifts. Those 2 items seem to be safe bets for staying in place regardless of tax reform.
  • If you had a llow-incomeyear but see brighter skies for 2018, you may want to shift those deductions into 2018. The beauty of retirement plan contributions (for the self-employed or for those who don’t have a work plan and instead make IRA contributions) is that you have until April 15th of the following year to deposit those contributions. For the self-employed, you may have until the due date of your extended tax return to make those. That gives you a lot more time for analysis and for saving.

First, perhaps a quick tour of the tax system would be helpful for those who don’t know much about the tax game that we are all playing. You may want to go to irs.gov and pull up Form 1040 to view as we walk through the sections of the return – this will be fun!

Income – the US taxes your worldwide income on a cash basis. That means that if you earned income and received the cash in 2017, it is taxable in 2017. For those of you who own a business that uses the cash basis (you are a sole proprietor or LLC and file a Schedule C), you may have some control over the timing of cash receipts based on when you do your billing. Perhaps it makes sense to push income into 2018. Talk to your tax accountant or run a tax projection to see if that would be beneficial. (Note – simply putting the check into a drawer and holding it until January 1 is technically tax evasion so if you got it, deposit it, and include it in your income.)

 

  • One thing that is possible with respect to income reduction relates to capital gains and losses. If you have “capital” property, the most common of which is investments like stocks and bonds, you might have the opportunity to “tax loss harvest” if any of your investments have lost money.
    • You can take up to $3,000 in losses from Schedule D on your 1040. Losses above $3,000 are carried forward to next year. The markets have performed pretty well this year, but if you do have positions showing a loss (the market value is less than what you originally paid), you could sell those positions to take the loss.
    • As long as you don’t repurchase the same or “substantially the same” security within 30 days, you can take the loss. Note that transactions in tax favored accounts like IRAs and other retirement accounts don’t have a tax impact so you would have to look only to taxable accounts.
    • The losses would first offset any realized gains or capital gain distributions from mutual funds. A reduction of income is a reduction in income so talk to your financial advisor or tax professional to see if this might apply to you.
    • It doesn’t look like tax reform is going to impact investors much, but we obviously won’t know for sure until something becomes law.

 

Adjustments – these are subtractions from income. The more common items are:

  • Educator expenses – teachers of grades K through 12 can use up to $250 of paid expenses to reduce income. Planning to get some supplies for the classroom? Perhaps you want to do it in 2017, save your receipt and take up to $250 off your income. Hey, every little bit helps.
  • Health savings account – if you have a high deductible health insurance plan that qualifies for an HSA, you have until April 15th of 2018 to fully fund that account for 2017. Check all the rules but you want to do everything possible to fully fund the account. See IRS Publication 969 for all of the details.
  • IRA contribution – this is another one where you have until April 15, 2018 to make a contribution for 2017. There are income limits for the deductibility of your contribution, especially if you have a retirement plan through work, so do your research. Irs.gov is actually a really easy site to use and it is the ultimate source – search IRA and you will get all the information that you need.
  • Student loan interest – if you are paying on student loans, consider making your January payment in December so that you slide a bit more interest into 2017. This adjustment “phases out” at higher levels of income so check IRS Publication 970 for details. (This also applies to your home mortgage payment. That interest is a deduction on Schedule A but the same strategy applies: get more deductions into 2017.) Student loan interest is on the chopping block for tax reform so stay tuned. Mortgage interest is NOT. It is explicitly protected, at least today.
  • Others – there are some other adjustments so take a look at the Form 1040 under “Adjustments” and see if those apply to you. The big ones apply to the self-employed so if that’s you, make sure you maximize those items.

 

Deductions – these further reduce your taxable income. There are 2 ways these play:

  1. Standard deduction: you just claim it – no receipts, no fuss. The amount is based on your filing status (single, married filing jointly, etc.) The tax proposals look to dramatically increase the standard deduction. This goes into the “simplify” category.
  2. Itemized: you fill out Schedule A and keep receipts. The only “safe” items under the tax proposals are mortgage interest and charitable deductions. In terms of taking some actions this year to increase deductions here:
    1. Make your January mortgage payment in December.
    2. Make your charitable contributions by year-end. This includes both cash donations and your clothing and household goods donations. As you look at the latter, do make a list of every item you donate (12 men’s dress shirts, 4 men’s t-shirts, etc.), do use a value guide (Goodwill’s website has one) to value each item, do keep your actual receipt from the charity with the list and the calculated value, and do make sure to include it on your Schedule A if you itemize.
  1. If you give more than $500 of items to a single organization, you will have to fill out a separate tax form. If you have a high volume of items, consider splitting up your donations among several organizations to make this easier. Keep good records of exactly what you are giving to which charity.
    1. Pay your state income tax estimated payment in December. For the self-employed who make estimated tax payments, your 4th quarter estimate is due January 15th but if you pay it in December, it will go on the 2017 Schedule A. If you are in this situation, you should consider which year is best. However, under the tax proposals, the deduction for state income taxes is on the chopping block. Keep a close eye on the final package to see if this will be relevant or not.

 

Exemptions – these are fixed amounts that reduce your taxable income and are based on the number of dependents that you have. There is nothing to be done here but I do want to mention that these are on the chopping block under the tax proposals. (The tax rates are proposed to decrease and that in combination with other changes is not supposed to create higher taxes for most. We’ll see.)

 

Alternative minimum tax – this is a (hated) second way to calculate your tax to make sure that “high income” taxpayers pay their fair share. It may or may not apply to you (look at last year’s tax return), but it is definitely on the chopping block under tax reform, and everyone hopes it is finally, after decades of discussion, chopped! (Santa, all I want for Christmas is an end to AMT!)

 

Tax credits – these are dollar-for-dollar reductions in your tax. These are super valuable so check the list of items (page 2 of Form 1040) and make sure you claim any credits that you can. The most common are the child tax credit and the credit for child and dependent care. You either have kids or your don’t so nothing much to be done on these except to be aware of them and make sure you claim them if they are available to you. Two that could be relevant are:

  • Education credits (see publication 970 for details.) This is one where you may be able to pay tuition due for your child’s winter/spring semester in December if you have not already maxed out the amount of eligible tuition paid for you or your dependent. There are a lot of rules, income phase-outs, etc. with respect to these so take a look at the Publication. The IRS also has an Interactive Tax Assistant to help you determine if you are eligible. Tax reform could chop 2 of the 3 credits but the proposal keeps the more valuable one – The American Opportunity Credit – so stay tuned to see how it fares through the debate and compromise.
  • Residential energy credit – if you made (or make in December) certain home improvements that improve energy efficiency (wind, solar, geothermal heat pump) and qualify for the tax credit, you may get some help from Uncle Sam. Watch this closely as the House proposal and Senate proposal differ on these. Who knows what will happen in the final approved version.

 

So that is a not-so-quick overview of the tax items most likely to impact you. If you learned something new and are thinking, “rats, I could have done that on my 2016 return,” fear not! The IRS allows you to amend a prior year’s tax return for up to 3 years in order to correct errors or missed deductions. Talk to your tax return preparer (or get yourself one!) to see if this makes sense for your situation.

 

One last thought on taxes:  Taxes are confusing, contain a lot of rules, a lot of exceptions to the rules, and are just not fun. I get it. Unfortunately, we all have to play the tax game. It is really worth your time and energy to understand, at least at a high level, the rules of this game. It adds up to a lot of your money so it is worth it. Do a bit of research. Ask questions. Read the updates so you know what is happening. Look at last year’s tax return so you can see what may be changing for this year. If you are confused and unsure, the services of a qualified tax preparer could more than pay for the cost of the return so consider getting some help. May the magic of the season be with you whether or not Santa delivers a magical tax package.

 

Savings FAQs

I get asked a lot of questions about savings so I thought I would answer them for everyone.
The number one question I am asked when I speak to groups – both from the group and as people come up to me afterward is “how much should I be saving?” My stock answer of “it depends” still applies! Everything always depends on your situation but here are some ideas.
Think about the 50/30/20 plan.

• 50% of your take-home pay goes toward your living expenses.
• 30% goes to wants, and
• 20% goes to savings. (I would break that up to 10% long-term financial freedom (aka your 401k) and 10% to short-term savings).

You can also think about reversing those numbers and doing 20% to wants and 30% to savings. In this model, the other 10% may be going toward a longer-term goal like buying a house, saving for children’s college, or starting a business. Of course, if you are making a very minimal salary, your living cost may be eating up more than 50% of your take-home pay. In that case, you really need to keep your wants small and make sure you are hitting that savings number. One of the best ways to create financial stability is through saving and that takes some short-term sacrifices.

As your income increases, try increasing your percentage to move from 20% to savings up to 30% to savings. Inch the percentage going to your 401k until you are maxing out the contribution. For 2017, it is $18,000 for those under 50 and an additional $6,000 catch-up for those over 50.
How much of my savings should I keep in cash (money market)? A lot of this depends on the number that makes you feel safe. At a minimum, you should keep 3 months of your living expenses in a money market savings account. If you want to take the other 3 months of expenses and put it in a 3 month CD, you can earn a bit more interest but you cannot take investment risk with this part of your savings. Once you have 6 months, you can start a fund for investing the savings above the 6-month level.

Should I pay off debt instead of saving? Generally, I would say no. Saving really needs to be a part of your cash flow plan both for the long-term (401k/IRA) and short-term. This is the area where you can think about that “30% to wants” category and cut that down in the short-term to focus on debt if you have credit cards or student loans. You can never get the time back for missed savings, though, so make savings priority one.

What if I don’t have the ability to save 20% right now? Make a plan! Often the cost of living increases faster than our income. My cell phone bill is more than my first car payment! Insurance is through the roof for everything. Kids are expensive! Look for small ways to save. Small amounts add up. Every time you are ready to click buy or throw something in the cart, ask yourself if you can do without that and put the money in savings instead. (It’s super easy on your bank app!) Five dollars at a time will add up and it’s better than nothing. Go through your expenses and look for ways to trim – can you cut that TV package back one level and send that money to savings? Gym membership? All the little 1.99/mo apps? Even moving the coupon savings from the grocery store each week to your savings is something. Do it right when you leave the store so you make it happen.

I hope these FAQs help answer some of your questions about savings.

To your financial 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