I saw Dave Ramsey LIVE! other other exciting developments...

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Last month I had the awesome opportunity to attend a coach training event with 180 financial coaches.  Enrichment 2018 was held in Nashville at Dave Ramsey’s Headquarters!  Above is a photo of me on a coach’s panel sharing some of my professional experience and knowledge with my fellow coaches.  I promise you I spoke but this was the best picture I have of the entire panel... :) It was exciting to be back in beautiful Nashville and exhilarating to attend a training led by the top finance guru in the country! 

Here’s why this means so much.  Nearly 19 years ago my husband, Chris, found Dave Ramsey on the radio while driving to work.  We were deeply in debt at the time and making dumb financial decisions.  When Chris began to listen to Dave and shared what he learned with me, our eyes were opened.  We were tired of being broke people who went to work and faked it every day. Routinely I thought that I made too much money to have nothing to show for it.  Finally, we decided to host a Financial Peace University class and invited all our friends to join us.  Over the next 5 years we paid off nearly $100,000 in debt!!  Because of that experience I wanted to help other people do the same thing.  In 2005 I started Tailor-Made Budgets and went to Nashville for official training in 2006.  I travelled back in 2010 for an Enrichment training experience just like this one but I haven’t seen that beautiful green Tennessee landscape since then.

I’ve been in the trenches of coaching for 13 years and have worked with hundreds of clients, but everyone needs to refuel, enhance their skills, and sharpen iron with like-minded individuals.  That is exactly what this training did for me.  Since I’ve been in the game for a while, I was asked to be on a panel of coaches and share some best practices that have made a difference in my coaching business.  What an honor that was!  It isn’t every day that you have the opportunity to be on the same stage that Dave Ramsey teaches on!  We also had some amazing sessions with Christy Wright, Chris Hogan, Donald Miller, and Dr. Henry Cloud.

There is no way I can sum up the entire training experience in one blog post, but I will share a few highlights that stood out to me while at Enrichment 2018.

  • Be intentional in everything you do.  If you think you can wander around and reach goals you are wrong.  You must prepare and then ACT.  - Dave Ramsey
  • Create goals centered around your career, social, financial, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and family aspirations.  If you ignore any one of these areas it will affect another.  - Dave Ramsey
  • People are watching you so always live with integrity.  - Chris Hogan
  • Learn from your mistakes and adjust where necessary to serve people better.  Be authentic in the process.  - Chris Hogan
  • Confidence is a muscle.  The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.  - Christy Wright
  • Good supportive relationships are an essential component to building better boundaries.  - Dr. Henry Cloud, That is what I strive to provide in each coaching session. 
  • A coach is a guide, cheerleader, and mentor not a superhero.  It is my job as the coach to make YOU the hero of your own winning financial story.  - Donald Miller

I’m definitely attending Enrichment 2019 next year and I can’t wait to see what nuggets I will bring home then.  For now, I’d love to help you reach your fullest financial potential.  If you are interested in…

1.      Getting unstuck financially

2.      Understanding the best path to debt-freedom

3.      And avoiding money pitfalls

… reply to this email or check out my calendar here to find a 30-minute time to chat that works for you!

Are You a Good Team?

A few years ago I coined the term “Team Couple” to describe the way a couple operates together with their money.  They don’t always agree.  They will not see eye to eye 100% of the time either.  But they have each other’s best interest at heart.  They want the very best the relationship can handle where it concerns financial matters and they are willing to go the distance as a team. 

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Here are 7 dos and don'ts to becoming a team couple when it comes to finances:

Do:

  • Talk about everything.  If you don’t discuss where you want to be financially then don’t complain when you get nowhere.  You must have the hard conversations about paying the bills, buying a home, and child care expenses.
  • Share the load.  Use your gifts, talents, and interests to determine who is best suited to do the budgeting, pay the bills, or invest for your future.  Don’t force your partner to do something that is inherently challenging for them.  Figure out what you are each good at and incorporate that into your monthly financial activities.
  • Value one another. Each part of this team is needed so value what you bring to the table.  One person might be a free spirit and loves to spend money on fun activities.  The other person might get great satisfaction from saving money for the future.  Both perspectives are necessary to having a financially successful relationship.
  • Check-in.  On a regular basis check in to ensure you are making progress toward your goals and review whether or not some things need to change.

Don’t:

  • Undermine the plan.  Once you agree to how you will handle the finances don’t sabotage the plan but doing something totally different.  Stay committed to your partner and that will change how you approach your financial habits.
  • Keep secret accounts.  If you have to keep secrets more is going on.  It is perfectly fine to have more than one account and even one the your partner isn’t on.  Honesty and transparency will help you trust one another.
  • Control everything.  Give your partner something to do where the finances are concerned so they feel a part of the Team Couple that you are a part of.  Each party needs to know that their voice is heard and their opinion matters.  When you break down the walls of control then you show them you care.

Give yourself the opportunity to become a Team Couple.  Employ some of these habits and see how much closer you become to one another.  Finances are just one piece of the puzzle but a very important one.  If you get this right you are ahead of the game.

 If you and your spouse need a little extra help communicating and getting on the same page, schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with me. I'd love to help you be the best Team Couple you can be!

 

Get Out of Debt - FAST!

It can be a challenge to navigate your way out of debt.  For the most part I subscribe to the snowball method of getting out of debt.  But sometimes knowing the right place to begin and understanding how to get out of debt the fastest way possible is a frustrating obstacle to overcome.  Check out a few tips I always give my clients who are looking to finally get free in a short amount of time.

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  • Stop investing right now.  I know this seems impossible and may unwise to some but it really works for 2 reasons.  It gives you clear motivation for not remaining in debt for a long time.  You don’t want to be out of the market for long periods of time.  This also frees up some cash to put towards your debt without changing your budget.
  • Don’t give the government and interest-free loan.  So many people love getting tax refunds but what they don’t realize is that they could be using that money in their budget towards their debt every month.  Check out irs.gov and use the withholding calculator to determine your optimal exemptions so that you break even on your taxes (you don’t owe, and you don’t get a large refund).  Then make the necessary adjustments with payroll so your take-home pay is larger.  Finally, apply those extra funds toward your debt.  If you received a refund this year then put it to good use and apply it to your debt immediately.
  • Use cash.  People always ask me what I mean by this.  I mean use cold hard cash for purchases.  You will spend 12-15% less when using cash for your groceries, while dining out, and other general shopping.  Yes, it is partly psychological, but it works!
  • Use your skills.  This is a good time to go to work!  We all have gifts and talents that are not being used.  Take the time to figure out what you can do after work and on weekends to earn extra cash.  The more you make the faster your debt goes away.
  • Finally, use credit to your advantage.  If you have good credit and pay interest on your credit cards right now, you may be able to transfer balances to another card with a 0% introductory rate.  Check out creditkarma.com and they will show you cards that you could qualify for.

Getting out of debt isn’t easy but it is worth it.  Do all you can to get free as quickly as possible because then you have the freedom to do anything you want with your money!

Don't Bother Setting Goals This January

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Yes. You read that right. Don’t bother setting any goals in January.

I recently read in Forbes that over 92% of people who set New Year’s Resolutions in January don’t succeed in achieving those goals. With only an 8% chance that you’ll beat the statistics, I say don’t bother.

I know it’s blasphemy!

Why is it so hard to keep resolutions? Well, part of the reason is that the months leading up to this “new beginning” are filled with so many distractions. You have holidays, family, decorating, shopping, parties, cooking and maybe even a Hallmark movie marathon. Yep that was me…   By the time January comes around, you’re impossibly overwhelmed and tired so it’s no wonder that people don’t succeed.

But, just because you don’t set goals or make resolutions, that doesn’t mean that January is a waste. Quite the opposite in fact.  Use the month of January to reflect. Take a pause and look at the previous year.  Celebrate your successes and take note of where you could have done better.

Use the first 31 days of the year to get organized. Gather all of your receipts together. Revisit your budget and make adjustments as needed. Get your current credit score so you can see where you start out for the year and measure along the way as you make progress.

Look at your spending habits. Don’t be afraid. It’s just a number. You have to take a look at it to know what you need to change for improvement. 

Once you’ve had a chance to reflect, organize and revise, then start to set your goals for the new year. Set reasonable goals that you can achieve. Look for ways to insert milestones so that you can stay on track easier as the months tick by.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to be like everyone else who rushes into January overwhelmed and feeling like they have to lose 100 lbs and pay off $100K in 30 days. Goals and resolutions made with this kind of emotion are generally not effective. Remember to think of your year as a marathon rather than a sprint. 

 

Open Enrollment Season - Are You Ready?

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Fall is not just beautiful leaves and cooler weather. It's also the signal for open enrollment for health insurance. Whether you have insurance through your company, through the marketplace or even on Medicare, this is the season to review your coverage and consider any changes you need to make. Here are a few tips for you to remember:

1. Open enrollment season has very specific dates. In fact, the Marketplace is only open Nov. 1 - Dec. 15 this year (that's shorter by 45 days!). They're also not open every day of the week so pay attention to the hours. If you're expecting to call them on Sunday afternoon, you could be disappointed.

2. Also for you Marketplace folks, Anthem is no longer participating so if you have Anthem or were hoping for them, you need to look at other carrier options. 

3. Consider your particular healthcare needs. Review your healthcare spending last year (include premiums, copays, all out of pockets, etc.). Don't make a decision on your premium alone. Even if you have coverage through your employer, you need to review your coverage. 

4. Don't forget to take advantage of the tax savings for flexible spending accounts and HSA accounts. These can be a HUGE savings for you every year so if your employer offers any cafeteria accounts, you need to check into it.

5. Talk to someone if you are confused or overwhelmed. Don't feel like you have to do this all on your own. Healthcare coverage is so important that you need to spend the time to get the information you need to make this decision.

The bottom line is that you need to pay attention and make a decision carefully. Don't just assume you have the right coverage and make sure you do this every year.

 

Equifax Data Breach - What You Need To Know (and do)

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A lot of folks have been asking me about the recent Equifax Data Breach so I thought I would take a moment to go over a few things you should know.  

More than 143 million people are potentially impacted by this breach so chances are pretty high that you are vulnerable.

The first thing you need to do is to go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. This is the secure website set up by Equifax for you to check for potential personal impact. Once you are there, you'll be asked to enter your name and last 6 digits of your Social Security Number to verify if your data may have been part of the breach. You'll get an answer right away. For couples, one person may be impacted while the other may not be so don't just check for one of you and assume that's all you need to do.

Next, you should sign up for Equifax's TrustedID Premier. Even if you weren't impacted, you will be prompted to sign up. It's being offered to you at no cost. This program will provide you with 

*$1M in ID Theft Protection
*Credit monitoring from all 3 agencies
*Current credit report
*Equifax credit lock
*Social Security Number scanning

If you aren't comfortable using the free identity theft protection with Equifax (totally understand) then check out:

lifelock.com or zanderins.com.

You may also want to consider a credit freeze on your credit report.  It costs just a few dollars but will be able to prevent anyone including you from getting any type of credit while it is frozen.  You can unfreeze it at any time for a small fee.  This just makes for certain no accounts are opened in your name.

Privacy breaches can be a scary thing but the best thing you can do is to measure your impact early on and then take the necessary steps to get protected. Once you receive your credit report, go ahead and review it for any new accounts opened that you did not initiate or activity that does not belong to you and then report it. 

Your credit is an important piece of your financial health so make sure to take care of it!

 

My Office Facelift - On a Budget of Course!

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I recently decided that it was finally time to decorate my home office space. For the most part, until this year, I've met with clients at a separate location so I haven't spent as much time in my home office for it to really matter how it was decorated. I decided that needed to change.

But, I practice what I preach so I wasn't about to make this radical change without some planning and some saving.

First, I set myself a budget. I knew exactly what my overall budget could allow so my parameters for what I would spend for this "remodel" were very clear.

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Next, I shopped around. I wasn't clear from the beginning what I wanted but once I was, I shopped around to get the absolute best price. I was patient and waited for things to be on sale. I even looked around and took advantage of every opportunity to "join a newsletter list" to get a % off of my purchase.

To make my purchases, I used Scrips, a program where when we buy gift cards, a portion of the value of the card gets credited back to my daughter's marching band account for color guard. It's like getting PAID to shop!  

Finally, I leveraged the power of rebates. I got a rebate from my paint purchase but I took it a step further and watched for the price of my items to go down and got a rebate from that as well. That move alone got me $200 back on a desk that was already significantly cheaper than everywhere else I'd looked!

When you layer your savings like I did with patience, coupons, discounts, rebates and a budget you are able to do a lot. I decorated my office from top to bottom and wall to wall but I came in under budget and ended up with a space I love!

Home (office) improvement projects don't have to break you. Just be smart about them and you too can recreate your living spaces without going broke!
 

 

School's Back In - Did You Prepare?

For parents, the beginning of a new school year can be both joyous and stressful. This year is especially exciting (and expensive) for our household since we now have a high school senior!!  It seems like every year, our kids need a longer list of special supplies, new clothes, and a funded lunch account. Here are four things you can do to help alleviate the stress of going back to school.

  1. Review your history. Take a look back at the previous year and see what you spent in July-September on school preparation. If you use a tool like Quicken, Mint or Every Dollar, you have an easy way to see your history. Take a look at what actually happened vs. what the budget said so you can prepare appropriately for the next couple of months. 
  2. Look for holes that need to be filled rather than just assuming you need everything. You don't need to spend unnecessary money. Have your kids go through their closet thoroughly. If their jeans are good and their shoes are fine, you don't have to buy new ones just because it's the beginning of the school year. Budget for new ones but get them when you actually need them. Take stock in school supplies. You may just find that you don't need to buy near as much as you thought. 
  3. Budget for it. Write it all down and figure out when it's going to happen so it doesn't sneak up on you. Budgeting a little bit each month over a year's time will not sting nearly as much as paying a few hundred in August.
  4. Watch for sales. Lots of stores have incredible back to school sales. You can get some supplies for pennies! This is a great time to stock up a little. If you know you're going to go through 20 spiral notebooks in the year, get them while they are only 10 cents instead of paying $3 or $4 for them.

Back to school should be a fun time. You should be able to focus on enjoying the process of meeting new teachers and settling back into a school year routine. If you'll do these things, I promise it'll be much less stressful!

 

Financial GPS

It’s funny how we will take hours to plan a 7-day vacation or even just a weekend getaway but we won’t take the time to plan our financial future.  Maybe we need to create a financial destination as exciting and motivating as our vacation destination.

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Vacations Don't Last Forever

It's summertime and that usually means it's time to relax, take a break, and hopefully take a vacation. We relax our wardrobe to shorts and flip flops. We go on vacation and relax our minds and bodies. Unfortunately, we also tend to relax our watchful eye on our money. When we do that, we can easily get off track.  And 3 months without budgeting becomes a problem!

No matter what time of year, it's still important that you stay on track. I get it, though. I'm right there with you. It's hard. If I let a whole week go by, there is a 100% chance that I will veer away from my money plan and overspend. So, you might be saying, if Ericka has trouble, what am I supposed to do?

First of all, don't feel like you can't enjoy yourself and take a little bit of a break. You can. You just need to plan for it.

Planning for it can take many forms. You can say "this month, we're not going to pay anything extra towards our debt."  Just make sure it's only a month and then you get right back to your plan. You see, that's not getting off track. That is a planned pause at the station before continuing on your journey.  In addition, this keeps you from using a credit card to fund your summer fun.

Lastly, when you decide to take a break, don't let yourself feel guilty. You've planned for it. I've given you permission (if that's what you need to take a break).  There must be no guilt. Enjoy the break. If you don't, then you will have a much harder time getting back on track or worse, you'll get burned out with staying on the plan and end up quitting all together.

The key here, as always, is to plan. Keep in mind that this is a break and not a stop and you'll be just fine. So go enjoy the lazy days of summer but don't let yourself get too lazy when it comes to the budget. Think of this as your summertime refresh.  Now go enjoy, stay on plan, and stay the course!

 

Why Buy-In is a Must for Money Conversations

So far, we've talked about shared goals and accountability. These are both critical to success when it comes to your financial plans together as a couple. But, perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle is that of Buy-In. Buy-in is always necessary when you are making changes.

Consider this. So far, you've both made goals together. Is it enough to just make the goal? You both want it (probably badly) but if that was enough, wouldn't you already be on your way to achieving that goal? It's because you didn't have buy-in. 

Buy-in takes more than just asking your partner to give up going out to lunch. It takes more than just sacrificing expensive vacations to get to the goal line. The good news is that the other two pieces that we've already talked about (shared goals and accountability) are actually part of the buy-in process.  

So what else gets us to buy-in?  Here are a few things that can help get you both moving in the right direction:

  • Recognizing that each of you has a specific role in the success of your goals. This can instill a deep sense of pride and purpose which encourages buy-in.  One of you may do the planning and the other does the tracking for example.
  • Create incentives. I love a reward system and encourage my clients to set rewards as they achieve certain milestones. It doesn't have to be super expensive or extravagant but if you know that you can go to our favorite restaurant to eat when you pay off that next credit card, you may just be more willing to make the short-term sacrifices to get there.  This also works great with kids too. 
  • Understanding the "Why". At the end of the day, when you know what your big "Why" is for getting out of debt, you are more likely to succeed. Having a big "Why" to remind you along the way can help keep you engaged in your plan together and prevent potential derailments.

Try these things with each other and watch for how much more excited and on-board you each are for working toward your goal of financial freedom. Buy-in can make ALL the difference!

 

Accountability Can Take Many Forms

Last week, we talked about the importance of shared goals and how to create them. This week, I want to dive into the subject of accountability. Whenever I talk about accountability, I always think about programs like Weight Watchers. The concept of weight loss isn't unique to Weight Watchers. Yes, they have their own "system" but at the end of the day, doesn't it really boil right back down to making healthy choices? The system is what makes it different and the most important part of that system is accountability.
 
Each week, you go to your weigh in. You know that the meeting leader is going to see how your week went by the numbers on the scale. Those who are successful get a star and perhaps some other 'attaboy' or 'attagirl'.  Those that don't have the greatest week will get encouragement and maybe even some tips on how to make next week better. These are all hallmarks of an accountability system.
 
We do better when we have someone holding us accountable. The same is true in your relationship. When my husband and I were working on getting out of debt, there was a time when he took my credit card from me and I haven’t used one since. I used to go out to lunch a lot and that was a habit that I couldn't seem to break without that level of serious intervention. He and I had agreed on our shared goals and our commitment to them was firm but without him helping me stay accountable it wouldn't work. Using cash for my lunches out was another way to stay accountable to our goals.
 
Understand that sometimes accountability takes shape with a simple "check in" and other times it's more extreme (as it was in my case). As a couple, talk to each other about what accountability looks like between the two of you. Agree to how you will each hold the other accountable and what actions you should take when the other partner needs it. 
 
Having these ideas agreed upon in the future will make for a much smoother accountability partnership between the two of you.

 

Forget SMART Goals - It's All About Shared Goals

We all know about SMART Goals - and yes, they do work.  I completely recommend them to all my clients. But maybe they need to be called SMARTS goals where the final 'S' stands for Shared.  I'm here to tell you that shared goals are absolutely key when it comes to you and your honey paying off debt and creating a secure financial future.

When we talk about shared goals, I'm not talking about a goal that you share (tell) someone else.  I'm talking about a goal that you both create and are both passionate about.  

What's so special about shared goals you might be asking? Imagine if you and your partner create goals separately. You have a goal to lose 10 lbs by the summer and he wants to learn to be a pastry chef before the annual neighborhood bake sale. It's going to be harder for you to achieve your goal if you support his goal and he won't be at his best in his progress if he's fully supporting yours. You'll both be going in different directions and neither one of you ends up accomplishing what you wanted.

If you create goals together, you can both support each other fully and celebrate that much more when you get there.

If you haven't done shared goals, I recommend that you sit down with your partner and discuss your goals and if they aren't an exact match, work together to see how you can find compromise and make a shared goal together.  Trust me, your end result will be well worth it!

 

Here's Why You Aren't Making Progress Getting Out of Debt

I see it time and again. Couples sitting in front of me in their first coaching session with me completely dumbfounded why they haven't been able to get out of debt. They've read the books. They've created the budget. They're smart people who just can't seem to get traction.  
 
The truth is that it's not that you're not smart enough. It's not that you can't get out of debt. What nobody is telling you is that you're missing some key ingredients to success in your plan - 3 key ingredients to be exact.
 
First of all, let's talk about goals.  No, this is not another post about SMART goals. What most couples are missing are shared goals. These are goals that the two of you create together. When you create these shared goals together, you are so much more likely to get to the finish line together.
 
Secondly, we have to talk about accountability. As a couple, you need to be each other's accountability partner. You have to promise that even when it's hard, each one has to tow the line for the other. 
 
Finally, you have to have buy in. Everyone involved needs to have input.  This way they will want to complete the tasks at hand.
 
If you've read my brand new book, Naked and Unashamed: 10 Money Conversations Every Couple Must have, you're probably chomping at the bit to get started. But, if you AND your partner don't both buy in to achieving a life that is debt free, it will not work effectively.
 
I promise, if you add these three ingredients in with your other tools, you will start to make progress and you'll see those debt numbers shrink.
 
Be sure to stop by the blog throughout April (Financial Awareness Month!) as I dive into each of these ingredients in detail so you can really put this information to powerful use in your family.