There are things you must know...

Have you ever heard the saying "You don't know what you don't know?"  I'm sure you have and you understand what it means.  There are blind spots that keep us from seeing exactly what needs to get done or happen next.  Usually someone else can see your blind spot much more clearly because they've either been down this road before or have been trained to see things differently. Most of us have financial blind spots.  We go through life thinking everything is ok and really we are only doing what we know to do.  In our business and personal lives that simply isn't good enough!  Here's why.  If no one ever told you that 60% of the people over the age of 50 don't feel like they have enough saved for retirement you would see how important it is to begin now.  If no one ever told you that 68% of small businesses perform no cash flow analysis you wouldn't understand why so many don't last longer than 5 years.  Now that you know these things, you can shift what you are doing to avoid that statistic for yourself.

There are some numbers that you just NEED to know.  If you focus on these numbers you can make better decisions around your finances.  Track the following for the next 3 months and pay attention to what changes in your confidence, planning, and outcomes.

As a small business owner and household financial manager you must know...

  • Total household income
  • Total monthly expenses
  • Household bank balance
  • Business bank balance
  • Total receivables
  • Total payables
  • Revenue forecast
  • Total business expenses
  • Emergency fund balances
  • Total debt owed
  • Total net worth
  • Credit score

These are your critical pieces of information that you need to track on a regular basis (quarterly).  Over time you will know exactly what items you need to work on.  Keep it simple but make sure it happens.  Your future, goals, and financial health depend on it.

 

 

From Scarcity to Abundance!

Let me open a window in my life right now.  8 Years ago my husband and I got out of nearly $100,000 in debt.  I have worked with over 200 people to do similar feats.  I have spoken to numerous audiences about money, finances, and debt-reduction.  But here is my dark little secret… Get ready because this is hard for me to say… I don’t have it all together!  I’m still a work in progress!  I have my own money issues just like you do.  How? Why? You ask… Well I have had a scarcity mentality.  Or, I have been happy to live in the land of just enough.  Playing small so I don’t have to stand out from the crowd was safe space.  Feeling guilty if I had “too much” was a regular occurrence.  I never wanted to show off or make others feel bad when I could make financial moves they could not.  I learned to make any amount of money work for both my family and others.  When there wasn’t “enough” we cut back.  When there is more than enough we use wisdom about what to do with the extra.  My husband has taught me how to have fun with money because that didn’t come naturally to me.  But I am just finding out that I’ve been holding myself back by not striving for more.

God desires you to “have life and that more abundantly”.  But, for some reason I am just now coming to the conclusion that it directly applies to me.  God wants me to play a bigger game so that I can have abundance, give abundantly, and help others do the same.

The scarcity mentality holds you back and therefore will hold others back because of your playing small.  The abundance mentality reveals that there is always more than enough for everyone and your participating spreads the wealth around.

My question to you is where on this spectrum do you live?  Are you playing small by not fully utilizing your gifts?  Are you settling for what you have right now and not striving to go the next level?  Can you dream beyond getting out of debt or making ends meet?

I challenge you to step back and evaluate where you are on the abundance spectrum.

Poverty                Scarcity                 Just Enough            More Than Enough          Abundance

Think about this in terms of your thought life and your reality.  Can you envision yourself moving through these phases to your own next level?  If not, what is stopping you?  The answers to these questions will help you get free! It did for me! Set up a 30 minute Abundant and FREE Session today if you want your answers now!

Refund or Not?

It’s tax season! You have 1 week to complete your taxes if you haven’t done so already.  Some people love tax season because they know a refund is in their future.  Others are dreading it because they always owe.  The best way to successfully maneuver through tax time is to have a plan.  Here are some suggestions whether you face either scenario. Let’s talk worst case scenario first.  If you owe the government here are some things you can do to recover well…

  • If you don’t have all of the money right now, the government does take payments.  So don’t be afraid to file if that is the case.  Just be honest about what your budget says you can afford and do your best to pay it off by April of 2013.  We don’t want this to linger very long.
  • Estimate your withholdings with the “withholding calculator” at www.irs.gov. Then go to your payroll department and change your exemptions so enough money is getting taken out of each check.  It is best to plan ahead than find out you will owe again!
  • Review your budget.  Make adjustments to your budget because now you need to live on less.  Find out what is unnecessary and reduce it or cut it out entirely.  Be sure your budget balances with the change in exemptions and/or your monthly payment to Uncle Sam.

If you always get a refund here are some suggestions to make the most of your money…

  • Put some money in savings!  If you don’t have $1,000 in savings then you need to make that 1st on your list of to dos.
  • Pay off some debt!  List your debts smallest balance to largest balance and see how many you can pay off within your refund amount.
  • Set aside money for any upcoming expenses (car repairs, non-monthly bills, etc).
  • Have some fun!  Yes I said it!  Go out to dinner, take your kids to the museum, or buy something pretty for your home.  Of course, I don’t want you to spend all of the refund on fun but a little fun makes you feel like you got something extra.
  • The best way to handle a refund though is to actually get it in your paycheck throughout the year.  If you received $2,400 from the government, I think it is better to get $200 more each month instead.  Go to www.irs.gov and estimate your withholdings with the “withholding calculator”. Then change your exemptions with your payroll department so you just break even.  Imagine having more money each month to pay down debt, save, or simply have fun!

Whether you have a refund or not I hope these tips will help you to be a better steward over your taxes this season.  Making smart decisions with your taxes can have a positive impact on your future.

Are our Finances Healing? Experts Give Advice...

We are finally beginning to see a turn in our unemployment rates and some experts think we’ve bottomed out in the housing market. So maybe, just maybe, we are heading in the direction of a recovery. But if our nation is finally healing… are your finances healing too? It would be nice to think that all will be well in the world if everyone who wanted a job got one and could get “back to normal”. But what is normal? And do we really want that? For years, Americans have overspent therefore, creating obscene amounts of personal debt. For the last several years we have had no choice but to tighten belts and spend less. Now that many people are back to work and/or getting raises, have we learned our lessons? Now is the time to get out and stay out of debt! Now is the time to save money for your future. Now is also the time to lay a solid foundation for your finances. You can do it if you keep that belt tightened just a little longer… Read more in a recent AZ Republic article Ericka Young was featured in…

To Your Success!

Way to Save!

Last month I received a terrific question from a subscriber.  Since the answer can help everyone I’ve decided to make it the main topic of this month’s newsletter. “There are so many different kinds of savings accounts and so many different institutions to choose from.  What kind of institution would you recommend and which type of savings account is best and will pay the most interest?”

First of all, you must understand that there are several reasons for saving money:

  • Emergencies
  • Large purchases
  • Future goals (children’s college, retirement, etc)

I’ll explain the last one first.  Long-term savings is for goals that are at least 5 years away.  You could be planning for retirement, kids college education, a child’s wedding, etc.  No matter what the long-term savings is for, the general rule should be that you save it in mutual funds, stocks, etc only if you know you won’t need the money for at least 5 years.  The reason behind this is volatility in the stock market.  Over long periods of time the stock market is a great way to save for future endeavors.  You could see 10%, 12% or more in returns.  But if you need your money in a relatively short period of time you don’t want to pull funds out of the market during a potential down period.  Historically speaking, the stock market is a great way to invest for your future but you will have ups and downs so be prepared.  Understanding your risk tolerance and time horizon is critical to your long-term investment strategy.

A large purchase is something that will take less than 5 years to save for.  That means you are saving in a more stable type of account because you don’t want to run the risk of volatility in the market with money you will use soon.  Large purchases include: cars, household furniture, major car repairs, vacations, planned medical expenses, appliances, home down payment, etc.  I recommend saving for these items in a money market account.  Money market accounts typically earn more interest than the average savings account.  Basically if you don’t need it right away and the total amount you must spend won’t fit into your monthly budget then you must begin a regular savings for it until the amount you need is available IN CASH!

Saving for an emergency is vital and the critical first step in everyone’s financial plan.  You must keep $1,000 in the bank before beginning your debt reduction plan.  Once you have the $1,000 saved you move on to getting rid of all your debt except your mortgage.  Next you increase your $1,000 emergency fund to 3-6 months of expenses.  Here again I recommend using a money market account to save.  You earn higher interest, retain your principle deposits, can withdraw at any time, etc.  Some banks offer check writing privileges for minimum amounts.  You may need to keep a minimum balance, but this is savings right?  You want a minimum saved!  There usually are limitations on how many times you use the account, but the idea here is that you aren’t treating this account like a checking account.  There shouldn’t be an emergency or large purchase several times each month.

There are tons of banks to choose from when opening an account.  Online banking is making it much easier to sock away cash without leaving the comfort of your home.  Check out www.bankrate.com for rate comparisons between accounts. Make it a priority to save and your money will begin working for you!  Then later you don’t have to work so hard for your money!

Check that Book

Personal finance is just that… personal. In this day and age no one wants to admit to having trouble in the area of their money. We are responsible right? We know what to do right? No problems here… Well take a look at the housing market right now and see for yourself if we really know what we’re doing. We as American’s have not made good decisions with our money and now many of us are paying the price.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your financial life is Check that Book! Many people come to me because they are dealing with overdraft fees and bounced checks. We’ve all done it, but there is a lot of shame, guilt, remorse, and stress over making this particular mistake. I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Actually, this is the reason that I am doing this business. Making smart decisions with your finances begins with tracking where all your money is going. Miscalculations quickly lead to overdrawn accounts. How do we end this cycle? There are several things you can do to get on the right track if this has happened to you.

1. Start with today’s bank balance for your account. Write it in the checkbook immediately.

2. Write everything down!!! All of your ATM debits, checks, debit card purchases, withdrawals, automatic payments, service charges, dividends, and of course all deposits must be written in the checkbook. Many people forget about the automatic payments or checks that were written several weeks prior. If you authorized it, it will hit your account soon. Review the transactions the bank already took out. Insert any transactions that haven’t yet hit your account in addition to outstanding checks you’ve written.

3. On an ongoing basis it is imperative that you write down all transactions as soon as they occur. If you are utilizing a software tool for your checkbook like Money or Quicken then you must keep all receipts in a convenient place so you can record everything as soon as you can get to your computer.

4. Bring the balance down! If you don’t subtract or add your last transaction and know the balance remaining then a checkbook is worthless. The whole point is for you to know exactly how much money you have currently in your account.

5. Accuracy is key. Never round up or down to make it look like more or less is in your account. All that says is that you don’t want face the truth. This whole process is about facing the truth. Your checkbook balance may be just the reality check you need.

6. Remember that using your debit card can also post as a credit card purchase. If you use your pin number during the transaction it posts to your account immediately. If you sign without using your pin number then it is run as a credit purchase and could take several days to show up. Do not allow this to be a checkbook catastrophe. Just because it doesn’t come through today doesn’t mean it is never coming through. Record it in your checkbook just as if it debited your account immediately.

7. Balance it. Be sure to check each transaction with your bank at the end of each month with your bank statement. I check off each transaction when it comes in. This way I know what is still outstanding. OK my engineering background is about to come out… Remember this equation.

Bank Balance = Confirmed Bank Transactions – Outstanding Transactions

You want to make sure not to forget any checks that are more than a month old. Sometimes it takes people a while to cash checks. At least this way you can give them a reminder call to let them know the check needs to be cashed. Otherwise you might feel that you have more money available than you truly do.

You can face the checkbook giant. Actually, conquering this beast will bring freedom and control. Knowing exactly what you have in your account at any given moment helps you to make sound decisions with you money all the time. Even if there isn’t much in the account at least you know. If there is a lot in the account… at least you know. Ignorance in this area is certainly not bliss and could lead to financial stress and countless fees. Make it a point to begin utilizing your checkbook.

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds”

Proverbs 27:23

Budget Control Act

If you’ve never thought a budget was for you then I am here to tell you that you absolutely must have one now! You could have avoided it before. You may have had some excuses in the past. But, now you have no choice. It is time to BUDGET! Why you ask? Because you may be getting a pay cut. I do not enjoy being the bearer of bad news but the government may be holding on to more of your hard-earned dollars. Yes, the government is at it again. The Budget Control Act was passed a few weeks ago and it may affect YOU. Here are the details that you need to know.

Our nation’s debt is increasing by $1.2 trillion by the end of 2011 even with necessary spending cuts. There are no tax increases yet to balance the budget however many familiar deductions may reduce or go away. The following deductions are subject to change: 1. Mortgage interest 2. Medical expenses 3. Charitable giving 4. State and local tax 5. Itemized deductions The good news however is that Interest rates are still at historic lows so now is a good time buy or refinance a home. But please make sure it is within your budget!

These tax deduction changes affect how much money you have to work with at home. What would you do if 5% of your income was taken away today? If you have a budget then it makes your personal changes easier to identify. You can see it all on paper.

The only way to mitigate the risk of governmental decisions is to take control of your own finances. Pay down your own debt, get on a budget, and by all means show the government that real change begins at home.

If you need help with your own budget give me a call. You can also sign up for my upcoming classes. Click here to learn more.

You've Got the Power

I speak to people everyday who are looking to improve their financial lives.  Each day with my family, friends, clients, and anyone else who will listen I advise and encourage them to be their personal best.  That is why I enjoy the work I do.  I can look at a situation from a different set of eyes and see possibilities that others have been unable to recognize.  This brings me great joy and fulfillment to share unique ideas or solutions with enthusiasm.   Maybe you’ve had a major financial setback, or you never really learned how to manage your money properly, or the weight of all the economic troubles going on right now have forced you to take a closer look at your financial plan.  No matter how you got to where you are today, you are there.  Now is the time to find a way out!  If creditors are calling you everyday, your judgment is altered.  They make you think that their bill is the most important one to pay right now.  They make you think you have no other choices other than what they are telling you to do right now.  They also make you think they have the power.  What you need to know is that YOU have the power and absolutely no one else!  You have the power because your income earning potential lies solely in your hands.  Your boss can lay you off, but the skills, abilities, and know-how you’ve attained are easily transferable to another position.  Your creativity, determination, and strength are priceless and cannot be taken from you.  Your creditors can threaten you but the money you earn goes into your bank account not theirs.  The power is yours because you determine who gets paid what and when.  Never allow anyone to take that from you!

So what do you need to know when facing creditors who are demanding money from you that you may not have right now?  Knowledge truly is power so remember these few things:

  1. You do not have to speak to them if they are being rude, mean or obnoxious.  Let them know that if they call to swear at you or threaten you, you will hang up.
  2. Talk to them no more than every 2 weeks.  Tell them that when they call more, you will always hang up on them. Collectors try to call you at breakfast or dinner time, since you tend to be more emotional then (more tired, dealing with kids, stressed, etc). Don't get emotional. If you have talked to them within the last 2 weeks, tell them so and hang up.
  3. Collectors can't call you at work.  If they do, tell the collector that you are officially telling them not to call you at work. Then send the credit card company a certified letter, return receipt requested, saying that you have told them not to call you at work.
  4. Collectors go over the top and try to scare you into paying them before buying food or paying the light bill. Tell them that your necessities (food, shelter, transportation, etc) are more important.  You pay them after your necessities.
  5. Never give a collector electronic access to your checking account or send them post-dated checks. If you do, they will clean out your account because you legitimately owe them the money.

When we are vulnerable and emotional we do and say things that later on we will regret.  Never allow that to come into play with creditors that you owe.  Your family, personal well-being, and ability to make money are worthy of being protected.  Take care of those first and deal with your creditors with a plan.  God is the one who gave you the power and a gift from God is worthy of holding onto tightly. 

"And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.  –NKJV

Do Something Different!

Have you looked in the room of your children or someone else’s child lately?  Toys are probably everywhere!  Are you tired of trying to figure out what toys they already have?  With Easter just wrapping up and the many Easter baskets given, filled with candy and toys, I'm reminded of a much more valuable gift to give to your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; even if it's small amounts appropriate for holidays like Easter.  Maybe it is time to give a gift of future to the children we love and care about. 

How about gifting some funds toward college education for the children in your life?  $20 or $30 may not sound like a lot of money to give towards higher education, but if several family members do it the savings can really add up.  College savings accounts regularly send coupons for giving to the manager of the account for just this purpose.  Send your family members a letter stating the importance of a change this year with the coupon inserted. 

If the child is old enough to count money and understand the value of education then this could really be a teachable moment for him or her.  What an amazing gift to give a young person!  The parents will also appreciate this investment in their future too!

I'm doing it this year.  Won't you join me?

Count the Cost

How many times have you written out goals or tackled a large project and failed to reach the goal because of a lack of planning in the beginning?  I’m sure everyone has had that experience.  We all want to go further in life whether it is personally, professionally, physically, spiritually, etc.  Striving for more is what keeps us going and motivated to do awesome things here on earth.  But what happens when we don’t reach our goals and we look back at what we wish we’d done?  Obviously nothing can change the past, but with proper planning ahead of time you can definitely change your future.  One of the keys to achieving any goal; be it financial, physical, professional, personal, etc. is to sit down and weigh what needs to be done before you get started.  This may take a lot of research depending on the situation, but wisdom and knowledge are worth all the effort needed to gain it.  This critical step may keep you on the path to reaching levels never before achieved because you know more of what to expect and you have check-in points all along the way.  What I am suggesting is that you count the costFor which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.- Luke 14:28-30 KJV

This passage of scripture describes the person who does not sit down and understand what is involved in an endeavor before he proceeds.  We don’t use the word “counteth” so I will use the word calculate.  To calculate means to reckon by exercise of practical judgment or to plan purposefully.  Failing to complete this step can cost your reputation, money, time, etc depending on the gravity of the project.  Budgeting is counting the cost on an everyday basis so that you can live beneath your means and reach your financial goals.  Performing mortgage calculations and estimates is counting the cost when purchasing or renting a home. 

Counting the cost can be useful in many other ways such as determining:

  1. How long it will take to get out of debt.
  2. The affordability of moving up in home.
  3. How long it will take to retire.
  4. How much to save for your children’s education.

Sometimes these goals are not financial.  You may need to count the cost of beginning an exercise program so that you know how much time and energy is needed to reach your goal.  Counting the cost may involve writing down the pros and cons of staying on a job or moving on to a new position.  Counting the cost is simply being thorough in your approach to a new situation so that you increase your chances of success.  In the passage above, the man didn’t even get past the foundation before he realized it was too much.  In what ways do you need to count the cost?

We have saved $321 using coupons!

In 2 months, my family and I have managed to save $321 in coupons!  This is not just at the grocery store or for items we will never use.  We shop at the normal places: Fry’s and Safeway, Costco (of course), Macy’s, Justice, Ulta, Lowes, etc.  But the difference is that I almost never walk into these places without a coupon.  So I decided to add up the savings!  So far I am on a roll to save at least $2000 in 2011 on coupons!  My husband is also on board now!  He called me to say that he looked online for a Lowe’s coupon, printed it, and the cashier took it even though it was expired!  He is getting just as excited as I am!  That $10 we saved at Lowe’s can now either be used for something else or saved!  I want you to join me!  Watch my video and get excited with me.  Post comments, questions, and your experiences on my facebook fan page and my blog.  Let’s all join in the savings!  Let’s see how much we can all save by simply looking for coupons before we spend our hard-earned money.   This could help you with your savings goal, a vacation you want to take, or get out of debt!

In April, August, and December there will be a drawing for anyone who has participated in this challenge.  You could win free groceries at your favorite grocery store!  I look forward to chatting with you on my fan page or blog!

Manage Your Resources Daily

Many people believe that they are too busy to take the time to get organized financially. Even though they want to see positive financial change in their lives and know it is a priority, most people still don’t sit down and write a plan of action. They will spend more time reacting to financial disasters and mistakes than planning for what will definitely come. Let’s face it.  The air conditioner will need maintenance.  Your children always need shoes.  And let it be no surprise that your auto registration must be renewed every year.  Begin to anticipate those everyday natural occurrences by having a plan ahead of time.  No it doesn’t need to be set in stone or disrupt everyone in the household for it to be a success, but it should encompass the way you want your household finances to flow.  It is stressful for bills to come due and you don’t know where the money is coming from.  Your budget is your plan.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to begin a plan that works just for you. There are specific techniques and/or tools you can use to gain control over your money rather than allowing it to control you.  The first step is a reality check.  One of the services that I provide is the purchase and setup of software packages that give you a running balance of your accounts.  My clients are thrilled to finally have something in place that will record their spending habits historically so they can more accurately plan for the future.  This tool is simple to use and easy to become addicted to.  If you don’t currently keep a checkbook, want to manage your resources better, and own a computer this tool might be for you.  By using a software tool you can:

  • Manage all your financial accounts in one place
  • Participate in online banking
  • Track spending for long periods of time without adding it up yourself
  • Monitor and schedule bills
  • Pull multiple reports and account registers
  • And much more!

The response from using these tools is amazing!  Every person now using this tool is addicted to controlling their money!  Once you get started using it for some reason you can’t stop!  What many didn’t know initially is that a small investment of time and resources pays many times over in reduced financial stress. Sometimes just knowing what you have is freeing because ignorance when it comes to your finances is not bliss!

I couldn’t believe it! Coupons savings truly add up!

As a family we saved $168 in January 2011 on coupons!  In one year that adds up to $2016!  If you want to have a starter emergency fund there it is!  That was amazing to me.  Yes I have clipped coupons for years.  Yes, I go on websites and find coupons if I know I am going to a particular store.  Yes, we get the weekly newspaper, I clip the coupons and we do read the paper.  This has been a part of my life for a while now, but I never knew how much it made a difference until now. The last week of December I decided to add up all of the savings I capitalize on throughout the year 2011.  I wanted to see what it could really amount to.  And so far I am stunned!  Sometimes we believe that the little bit of money saved with coupons doesn’t make a difference.  But it does add up!  Last week I saved 62% at the grocery store!  The original bill was $55 and I paid only $21!

My friends make fun of me because I always have a coupon, discount, or certificate.  But this helped me get out of $100,000 in debt and is keeping me from going back.  Paying attention to these small details is one approach to managing your money well.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the last few weeks:

  • You are crazy if you don’t sign up for the club card deals at your local grocery store or pharmacy.  I am not including the club card savings in my coupon total but it always adds up to more savings at the checkout.  You can also load coupons on your store card online so you don’t need to cut them out!
  • Have deals sent to you via www.groupon.com (nationwide), www.livingsocial.com or www.enamor.com (PHX residents), etc.  These sites feature a deal of the day.  I recently purchased a $20 amazon certificate for $10!  I didn’t need to look for it because the message came right to my email inbox.
  • Some stores take competitor coupons like Fry’s.  Right now I can take in my Fresh and Easy coupons along with my normal ones and save big!

Get involved!

If you are looking for ways to increase your income or decrease your outgo think about coupons.  I just want you to do something different.  Try it on for a month.  Add up your savings for 30 days and then determine if it is worth it.  If you choose to accept this challenge, go to my facebook fan page and become a fan.  Each quarter I will randomly choose one of my fans who is sharing coupon ideas, asking questions, or simply commenting on the site.  They will receive a gift card for their favorite grocery store.  Start saving now!

Secret Nuggets

The process provided by Tailor-Made Budgets only really works when you know where you want to go.  It is time for you to dream, plan, and execute.  Below is some motivation inspired by "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind" by T. Harv Eker.  If you pick just one of these nuggets to focus on next year it would give your dreams and goals new dimension and life.

  1. To master money you must manage money and rich people are good at managing their money.
  2. If you want to be rich you have to be adding value to other people's lives.
  3. The happiest people are those who use their natural talents to the utmost.
  4. It's time to start sharing your gifts instead of hoarding them or pretending they don't exist.
  5. Poor people make choices based on fear.
  6. Rich people take educated risks.

Write down these nuggets on an index card and put it somewhere that you go everyday.  The bathroom is probably best :).  Make sure to read it and internalize any changes or adjustments you need to make so that the importance gets deep on the inside of you.  Only then will it become a reality.

Start planning for what you want in 2011 today!