Financial Wellness Month
We at Allgen would like to help you achieve your financial resolutions. We want to help you start your new year with a fresh financial start. We’ve decided to do 20 days of financial wellness tips in January, which also happens to be Financial Wellness month. We will be posting daily “tips of the day” on social media with a link to our website, which will have more information on these tips. If you have any financial planning questions, call us today for a free consultation.
Tip #1: Write Down Financial SMART Goals
Tip no.1 is to write down your Financial SMART Goals. What are SMART goals? Smart goals are goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. Below is a definition of each of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria:
Specific: Make sure you are specific with your goals. Where or what is your money going to go toward? For example, instead of saying “I would like to spend less money this year,” you should say: “I would like to start saving more money to contribute more to my child’s future education or to contribute more to my 401k.”
Measurable: How much money are you going to start saving? Include a specific number. A great example of this would be, “I would like to start saving $1,000 a month for my child’s education.”
Actionable: What actions do you need to take in order to achieve your goals? Always attach an action to your goals. For example, “I will install direct deposit on my checking account so that my bank automatically transfers the money to my child’s education fund.”
Realistic: Make sure your goal is realistic and that you’re passionate about it. If you don’t truly believe you can achieve this goal, you’re doomed from the start.
Time Bound: How much time will it take you to achieve this goal? 1 month, 6 months, 1 year. Visualize the day you achieve your goal and how accomplished you’re going to feel.
Make sure to put this list somewhere you can see it every day!
Tip #2: Get a Financial Check-up
Tip no. 2 is to get a financial check-up. This is important because in order to make your next financial move you need to know where you currently stand. At Allgen we use a Net Worth statement (page 3) to do your financial check-up and to determine your benchmark (where you stand. A net worth statement allows you to add up your assets (what you own); then subtract your liabilities (what you owe). This will show you whether you’re in the + (green) or the – (red). By getting a financial check-up you can plan and prioritize your savings and spending for this year.
If you’d like to double-check your work do not hesitate to contact our financial planning department.
Tip #3: Create a Spending Plan
Tip no.3 Make sure to create a spending plan. Now that you’ve made your list of goals and you’ve completed your financial check-up, it’s time to plan for the future. Use our Spending Plan worksheet (page 4) to itemize your monthly expenses, both your essentials and nonessentials. At Allgen we believe you should always prioritize two things: debt elimination and savings. Sometimes it’s helpful to just automate these line items.
- When you are about to buy something, make sure it’s in line with your financial goals for the year.
- If you spend more than you had planned, adjust your plan.
- Don’t fall into more debt than you can handle.
Tip #4: Have Monthly Financial Meetings
“Belgian plow horses are really strong. You can hook one up and it can pull 8,000 pounds. That’s around the weight that a Ford F-150 can pull. The interesting thing is that if you put two Belgian plow horses together, they can then pull 24,000 pounds. Two Belgian plow horses can do more together, even when not trained to work together, than just doubling their individual strength. They feed off one another. They encourage one another. But if you take two Belgian plow horses and train them to work together, they can pull 32,000 pounds. You need to get into tractors, semis, and other heavy machinery to pull that much…
We, like the Belgian plow horses, can do much more together, especially trained together, than we can do apart.”
Make it a habit to do monthly financial meetings with your significant other, if you have children include them. Share your financial priorities, spending plan, and appropriate documents for that month.
Tip #5: Build an Emergency Fund
- First, begin with a starter emergency fund of $1,000. This will cover you from small unexpected life events such as a flat tire, your car breaking down, getting a ticket, and so on. This account will help you break the cycle of accumulating new debt when you’re trying to get rid of the old one.
- Once you’ve put together your started emergency fund, we would like for you to focus on debt reduction. Do you have a game plan for knocking out your car payments, credit card debt, and any other standing you might have that does not include your mortgage? *Check back in later this week to learn about the best practices for reducing debt.
Lastly, begin to build your full emergency fund, which consists of 3-6 months of your income. This will protect you from life’s big unexpected moments such as the loss of a job, the joy of a new child, etc.
Tip #6: Don’t Procrastinate on Financial Tasks
- Prepare your tax paperwork– The sooner you file your taxes the faster you can get your tax return. Here’s a great article that will walk you through what you should be doing today to prepare, click here.
- Fill out FASFA- Parents with children in college, you can begin to file for your child’s FASFA and input your taxes paperwork once you receive it. To begin click here.
- Research Scholarships- keep your eye out for scholarships that open in January this is a great opportunity to reduce college costs. A quick google search of “Scholarships that open in January 2015,” should do the trick.
- Look into the new retirement contribution limits– The Treasury Department has announced inflation-adjusted figures for retirement account saving for 2014, this will affect wage and salary types and the self-employed. To learn how you can bump up your contributions to the new max, click here.
Tip #7: Get Rid of Your Debt
Tip no.7 Let 2015 be the year you break free. Getting rid of your debt this year can be as easy as you would like it to be. Imagine never again getting a letter in the mail with big red numbers telling you it’s time to pay off that coach you bought 4 years ago. The easiest way to accomplish getting rid of your debt is by:
- Preparing: Create a list of everything you owe. Start from your smallest debt to your largest i.e. Visa card- $200, Master card- $1,800, Car- $3,500, student loans- $5,000, etc.
- Taking action: You will begin by paying your smallest debt first. Yes, that’s right we said the smallest one! These small victories can go a long way, paying your smallest debt will keep you motivated and will keep your momentum going as you continue on to the larger amounts.
When deciding what you want to pay off, you have to keep a few things in mind. First, make sure you are paying all of your essential bills first: shelter, food, water, and light. Second, avoid accumulating more debt in the process! You do this by following tips 1. Setting goals, 3. Creating a spending plan, and 5. Plan for the unexpected. Make sure you aren’t tempted in any way to use your credit cards. Get creative with this part: Cut your credit cards. Burn them and then post a video on Facebook for the world to see it’s ok to not be like everyone who has debt. (If you do this please tag us!) Freeze them. Involve your kids in this activity and make it a learning experience. Keep your eye on the prize this year, we’re rotting on you!
Tip #8: Ask a Professional Financial Advisor for Help
Tip no.8 Ask for professional help, some activities are just meant to be outsourced. When you have a headache, you go see a doctor. When you have a toothache, you go see a dentist. Isn’t it reasonable to hire a financial advisor if you’re having financial difficulties? A financial advisor can point you in the right direction with:
- Managing your money, if you aren’t sure where to even start
- If you want a professional opinion about a plan you have already created
- If you don’t have sufficient expertise in certain areas such as investments, insurance, taxes, and retirement planning, rolling over your 401(k)s
- Have an immediate need or unexpected life event: got laid off, new baby, deciding to buy a house, etc.
- Need someone to hold you accountable
- Would like us to recommend other professionals to you i.e. accountants, attorneys, realtors, etc.
Our job is to get you to the right place as efficiently as possible. Trust us because we can show you the way.
Tip #9: Automate Your Bank Accounts
Tip no. 9 Automate your bank accounts. This is the financially wise people’s key to managing their money. Automate your bank account to transfer money from your checking account to your saving account, to pay your bills, to your retirement funds, etc. By doing this, you will automatically know where your money is going every paycheck, you’ll never acquire another late fee again and whatever money is left over you know is spending money. You can automate your bank account via online or over the phone with your bank. Here are a couple of notes:
- Continue to keep track: make sure you keep track of how you’re spending that leftover money to avoid overdraft fees.
- Don’t steal from yourself: do not transfer the money back from your saving account to your checking if you run out of money.
Tip #10: Keep Good Financial Records
Tip no.10 Keep good financial records. This is essential because, with tax season right around the corner, you’ll want to make sure you have all of your documentation in order. Keeping your financial records in order will relieve you from any stress of being unprepared to see your accountant.
Here are some recommendations for keeping good financial records. You should consistently swap out the outdated records with the new records being sent to you this year (shred the outdated ones unless otherwise advised). Keep original files in a fireproof cabinet or insulated steal box with a lock for privacy. Copies could be held in a more accessible location, but make sure it’s just as secure. Wealth Tracker is an example of an online tool that Allgen gives its clients to keep electronic versions of statements in one accessible and secure place. Through Well Tracker we are also able to collaborate with other personal advisers such as attorneys, CPAs, estate planners, etc. Examples of documentation that should be kept include: bill payment receipts, education records, family health records, income tax working papers, insurance policies, tax receipts (such as those received for charitable deduction), annual investment statements, etc. Last but not least, make sure a family member or a trusted friend knows where to find your records in case of an emergency.
As we mentioned above, tax season is right around the corner so click here to read an article that provides a checklist of documentation you want to have together when going to see your accountant.
Tip #11: Give When You Can
Tip no. 11 Give. At Allgen, we envision a society that is financially wise and fulfilling its calling. That clients’ and team members’ lives are being transformed and in turn, they are transforming people around them. As we guide you through your financial journey, you will find that giving is a key step toward achieving your financial legacy. We want you to leave behind a great legacy for your family, as well as your community.
Giving, like me and you, comes in many forms and sizes. You can give your time, a monetary donation, non-cash items such as food, clothes or school supplies, etc. When giving, you need to be two things: proactive and realistic.
- Being proactive when researching the organization you’re giving to will protect you from being scammed. Key things to research when determining if an organization is legitimate include: confirming 501© (3) status, obtaining copies of its financial records, and more.
- You must be realistic: Do you have the financial foundation set in stone that will allow you to help others? Does this organization align with your values? How much time/material/money will you be providing to this organization? How many times a year will you contribute?
For more tips on giving and information on tax benefits, click here.
Tip #12: Negotiate with Service Companies
Tip no. 12 Negotiate a better deal with your service companies. As loyal customers, you have the right to know if you’re getting the most bang for your buck. How do you start? Well first, put on your negotiating hat! Second, call your service providers. Some great services to look into calling to renegotiate include:
- Cable services: How much time do you spend a week watching TV? Would it be better to just cut your expensive monthly payment and instead subscribe to Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Apple TV? These streaming services are becoming very popular, due to their entertaining series, free movie access all month long, and accessibility, you can stream everything onto your phone or iPad. Estimated saving: $90 a month according to The Columbus Dispatch
- Gym membership: How many times a month are you actually attending a Zumba class at your local gym? Is it time to take on an extracurricular activity that doesn’t require a monthly payment? Putting on a pair of sneakers and going for a 30-minute walk/run in this beautiful Florida weather does not cost you a dime. YouTube is also a great source to find awesome workout videos that you can do in the comfort of your house.
Estimated saving: $400 a year according to Bankrate
- Cell phone rates: Calculating how much data you use up a month or how many minutes you spend talking on the phone can help reduce your monthly payments. Instead of having unlimited data, you can always go for a plan that has 1 GB and use Wi-Fi when you’re in public places. They may also have a more affordable plan you can switch to. Estimated saving: $20-$600 according to I Will Teach You How to Be Rich
Negotiating a better service deal can help you cut monthly costs, so call your service companies today and take advantage of New Year specials!
Tip #13: Find Someone to Keep You Accountable
Tip no. 13 Find an accountability partner. You may choose a significant other, your sister, cousin, mom, or financial adviser to be your accountability partner. Whoever it is make sure your accountability partner is someone who fully understands your financial goals and the new lifestyle you’re trying to achieve, who will celebrate with you when you’ve achieved an objective, and finally someone who will cheer you on when you’re losing sight of the purpose. Keep in mind your significant other may not always be the best person to take on this role because they may let you get away with things. Even though your partner should be on the same page as you as stated in previous tips, sometimes finding someone to be an accountability partner for both of you may be more helpful.
Tip #14: Carry Cash with You
Tip no. 14 Carry cash. Carrying cash will help you take control of your spending. When you carry cash you tend to spend less, compared to when you carry a credit card, because you can see how much you have on hand and how soon you’re going to run out. You begin to weigh your options more thoughtfully because you want to stretch your dollars. As soon as you start carrying cash and realize just where your money is going you will begin to spend less.
Tip #15: Optimize Your Financial Resources
Tip no. 15 Optimize your resources. When was the last time you spoke to your employer about new government benefits that may be available to you? Have you checked if your spouse’s insurance coverage plan is better than yours? Did you recently get a new job? –You may be eligible for a pension from your former employer. If you’re approaching retirement age, discuss with your financial planner when is the best time to file for Social Security benefits.
Tip #16: Think About How Purchases Will Impact Your Financial Freedom
Tip no. 16 Think before you… buy. Sometimes we cave into all of the noise and daily pressures that surround us; such as family, friends, trends, and other interests. We need to take a moment to drown out the noise, stop, and think: How will this expense impact my budget? How will it impact my financial freedom picture? Will it be worth it? Can I be getting a better deal somewhere else? Can I do something more useful with these resources? How can I make a greater impact?
Dave Ramsey makes a solid point when he says, “we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
At Allgen, we want you to make sure you are keeping your goals in sight during every financial decision you make.
Tip #17: Stay Motivated on Your Financial Journey
Tip no. 17 Stay motivated. When you are making a financial life change we don’t want you to feel like you are walking toward a goal you are never going to reach. We are here to remind you that it doesn’t have to be all work and no play. We want you to stay motivated by celebrating the big victories as well as the small ones. When creating your “SMART GOALS” (tip no.1), include with whom and how you will celebrate the small victories. Will you uncork a wine bottle when you have eliminated all of your credit card debt? Maybe you will share your success on social media, and see all the positive feedback you will receive from your family and friends. Call your financial cheerleaders and throw a random dance party. The important part of it all is that you are making progress, and you should not stop here. Keep your financial freedom picture in sight and the momentum going!
Tip #18: Plan Your Estate
Tip no. 18 Organize your estate planning. Did you know that 69% of parents with children under the age of 18 do not have a living will? Are you prepared to leave a legacy behind? If you haven’t already planned for this, schedule a meeting to talk to your attorney to create a will. Make sure you have meeting notes together to give to your other advisors i.e. CPA, Financial Adviser, etc. For more information on finding the right estate plan for you click here.
Tip #19: Have More Than One Income Stream
Tip no. 19 Earn money from more than one source. If you’re having trouble keeping yourself from spending, another alternative may be to earn more money from another source. You can acquire a part-time job, work overtime, have a garage sale, or start a small business on the side. This may also help you pay down debt and build your emergency fund faster.
Tip #20: Revise Your Financial Plan
Tip no. 20 review and revise. This may be the single most important tip on the list. Continuing to review and revise during the duration of your financial journey will keep you motivated, and on track to meet your SMART goals, and save you from a lot of unexpected circumstances. Make sure you’re always updating your documents and budget numbers, informing your advisers of any changes, and adjusting your plan accordingly. Reviewing and revising will help you determine if by spending less on eating out for lunch during your work week, will allow you to instead take your significant other out for a date night. Whichever the reason we recommend you do this on a monthly/quarterly basis.
The first month of 2015 is gone, and you have 11 months left to achieve this year’s SMART goals. We hope you continue to use these tips as guides throughout 2015.