Normally, I would charge $250 for this financial service package but I’m giving this away for free. I am an Army Brat and a Naval Veteran. My HEART goes out to those that are going thru the shutdown. Before reading this, please consult your investment, financial planner, or lawyer, like Global Accounting.
My heart is going out to the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Retirees, government employees, and government contractors that are not getting paid, from the shutdown. The financial package, that I’m giving away for FREE, help you write down income, investment, and expenses that will give you a “Big Picture” idea.
If you want low-cost guidance in picking and managing investments, online services called ROBO-advisors can help. The computer-based services have low fees and low or no account minimums, and many offer access to humans when you have questions
Or you can hire a human financial planner. You don’t have to be wealthy; some planners charge an hourly or flat rate for advice. Fee-only financial planners don’t make commissions on selling products, so they can provide objective guidance without conflicts of interest.
There are Steps to Financial Freedom
(1) KNOW your current financial situation
(2) KNOW and develop financial goals
(3) KNOW and identify alternative courses of action
(4) KNOW and evaluate alternatives
(5) and KNOW and creating and implementing a financial action plan
KNOW Your Current Financial Situation
Income – Current Savings & Investments
This is all about knowing your numbers. How much is in each account? Is it in cash? Stocks? Bonds? Mutual Funds? ETFs? Annuities? Is your account taxable, tax-deferred, or tax-free? Are there limits on how much you can put in or take out each year? Do your investments match your personal comfort with risk and the length of time you want to keep money invested before taking it out? It takes some soul searching, research, and possibly an investment advisor but it’s worth it to maximize how efficient you are in growing money. Archive
Write down your income and expense on the financial worksheet, add them up.
Sometimes committing to living within your means, saving for an emergency fund, and reaching for financial independence means saying no to certain purchases and activities. It could mean letting your friends and family know that you won’t be buying holiday gifts this year. Achieving your financial goals might require sacrifices here or there, but will be worth it when your purchases no longer come with a cost of credit card interest or future security.
Having a budget that details your income and expenditure will help you to maintain control of your finances and, if necessary, help to illustrate the problems you may be having with your creditors. It’s true that your debt problems won’t be solved by the fact that you have a budget alone. But beginning with this basic information about the reality of your current situation is essential.
When assessing how much time you have before your cash reserves run out, assume you’ll have no income for the first few weeks.
This goes back to knowing your numbers and definitions. What kind of debt do you have? Mortgage? Credit card? Student loans? Personal loans? Home equity loans? 401(k) loans)? Life insurance loans? Archive
Next, what is your balance for each of these? Your interest rate? Is there a set payback period? Are there penalties for early repayment? Are you going about this in a systematic way or just throwing money at the debt hoping it goes away? The two most common methods are exact opposites of each other. One says to pay off the highest balance with the highest interest rate first, the other aims for smaller victories along the way by paying off the smaller balances first and then, like building a snowball, roll those payments into paying off the next debt.
Housing is generally the average person’s greatest monthly expense. It’s best to keep your housing costs as low as possible, but under no circumstances should you allow more than 30% of your take-home pay to go toward housing. If you’re a homeowner, that 30% includes not only your mortgage payment but also your monthly property tax and homeowners’ insurance payments as well. Income and Investment
The 50/20/30 rule
When creating a budget, you can list each and every monthly expense you incur as its own line item, or you can combine some of your expenses and follow what’s known as the 50/20/30 rule. The benefit of the 50/20/30 rule is that it groups certain expenses together to make your budget easier to track. The 50/20/30 rule splits your living expenses into three main categories:
- Fixed costs that stay the same month after months, such as your rent or mortgage, car payment, and cable bill. Fixed costs should take up 50% of your income.
- Variable costs that can change from month to months, such as entertainment, groceries, and clothing. Variable costs should take up 30% of your income.
- Savings, which should take up 20% of your income
The 50/20/30 rule allows you to retain some flexibility in your budget while saving a nice percentage of your income. While you can always adjust these percentages to accommodate your circumstances, limiting your fixed costs to 50% of your income should leave you with enough money left over to save and cover your variable expenses. Along these lines, allocating 30% of your income to variable costs means you’ll have a decent amount of wiggle room within that category alone.
Identifying essential costs
A big part of saving money is learning to distinguish between essential and non-essential living expenses. Essential living expenses are non-negotiable; you simply can’t function without them. Examples include housing costs, auto insurance, and food. Non-essential living expenses include restaurant meals and fancy electronics, which may be nice to have but aren’t necessary. Limiting your non-essential living expenses can help free up more of your income for more important things, like savings.
KNOW and Develop Financial Goals
Investment –SAVING & Investment
What is your savings rate? Do you save a specific amount from each paycheck or are you an accidental saver? Most of us are accidental savers, meaning the plan is “if there is money left over I’ll move it to my savings account.” Archive
From history and math, we know that the ideal savings rate is between 15%-25%. If you are a systematic saver, check where you fall on that spectrum. If you are an accidental saver, it’s time to make some rules. My suggestion is to not jump in the deep end at 25%—start with something comfortable and work your way up over time. The good news is, you don’t need anyone but you to get started and the amount you save has more impact on how much money you’ll have later in life than anything else. Income and Investment
KNOW and Identify Alternative Courses of Action
You need to evaluate possible courses of action, taking into consideration your life situation, personal values, and current economic conditions. When your life consequences of choices, understand the outcome.
Every decision closes off alternatives. For example, a decision to invest in stock may mean you cannot take a vacation. A decision to go to school full time may mean you cannot work full time. A decision to start a career instead of starting a family. Opportunity cost is what you give up by making a choice.
Basically, I need to bring in enough income to satisfy my costs. That means getting a job with retirement or a good salary, and most likely in the local area. (There are some exceptions, as always.) So, I am working on some connections, jobs in one or more of my career fields, as well as working on Zumba and writing – from a business perspective. I’ve also considered strongly setting up a business for making pillows and quilts – two things I do – and selling them commercially. I don’t feel that starting any of these as a business are LIKELY to help me reach my number in my time frame unless somehow I write the next Harry Potter and “get found” but I will go with the odds on this one. So, find a job.
I have not yet decided which debt I am going to pay down first; I use the method of the best return on the investment, but I have also to deal with real options and how to value those. Should I pay off my 2nd mortgage which balloons in 7 years or pays off a credit card? Currently, the card is at zero percent and the mortgage is at 8 percent. Hmmm. I can roll over the card to another one, but that will cost 3 percent, plus whatever rate I find (I have finally received one for zero, with a 1-year time limit, like this one was). Still, better than 8 percent and gives me a year to find a J.O.B. if i don’t find one soon. It also makes the rent on the house close to covering my mortgage. Ahhhh, another avenue to pursue.
I have applied to refinance my mortgages with my mortgage company (the main one anyway) to see if they would be willing to consolidate the two loans and lower my rate. Given that if something doesn’t break for me by June that I am likely to go into foreclosure, it would seem in their best interests to buy off the other mortgage for me and put me into something lower on both of them so that I can continue owning the house and they won’t have to sell it. I can keep paying them for it, that is. Here is a good example of where marriage is a financial decision. Without a job, I lower my fiancees (husband then) ability to get a good rate, and he raises mine (much like that commercial on t.v. where they are living in her parents’ basement). If I get a job this summer, then there is no blip on the credit, only in the working (which is perfectly acceptable to me, given the circumstances).
If this seems muddy to you, it’s not. It’s just full of options, if/then statements, and the like. Having a steady income eliminates a lot of those. Then it will be: pay off the debt, including the 2nd mortgage as much as necessary to refinance to the lowest I can get, and re-evaluating whether to transfer some of the CC debt to another card and pay the remainder off during the next 12 months. As different information becomes available, more paths are opened or shut.
Once the debt is paid off and income is acceptable, then it is a step back to evaluate how the other businesses are going and whether they should be infused with time/effort/money, left as-is, or stopped. Constantly revisiting what is working and what is not working is good; it does not mean that something should be changed right away. Sometimes waiting and seeing is the best answer, too. BE PROACTIVE in your FINANCIAL SITUATION. Archive
This cost, commonly referred to as the trade-off of a decision, cannot always be measured in dollars.
KNOW and Evaluate Alternatives
Decision making will be an ongoing part of your personal and financial situation. Thus, you will need to consider the lost opportunities that will result from your decisions. Uncertainty is a part of every decision. Selecting a college major and choosing a career field involve risk. What if you don’t like working in this field or cannot obtain employment in it?
Other decisions involve a very low degree of risk, such as putting money in a savings account or purchasing items that cost only a few dollars. Your chances of losing something of great value are low in these situations.
In many financial decisions, identifying and evaluating risk is difficult. The best way to consider risk is to gather information based on your experience and the experiences of others and to use financial planning information sources.
Relevant information is required at each stage of the decision-making process. Changing personal, social, and economic conditions will require that you continually supplement and update your knowledge
KNOW and Creating and Implementing a Financial Action Plan
To this point the financial planning data has been gathered and analyzed, financial planning statements have been created, goals and objectives have been measured and financial gaps found.
The next step in the financial planning process is implementing the financial plan’s recommendations. Though this is not the last step in the process, most of the hard work is behind you. With that said, the best financial plan is worthless if it is not implemented.
Purpose of Accomplishing Goal– Next your financial planning action plan should include a description of what the recommended action accomplishes. This helps communicate the importance of accomplishing the recommendation and provides an audit trail of sorts. This will come in handy if you change financial planners or want to refresh your financial plan.
Target Date – All great goals and objectives are time driven. This means choosing a reasonable amount of time in which to implement the recommendation. This is the easiest way to keep everyone on track.
Certified Public Accountant– A CPA can help with the preparation of financial statement and budgets. In addition, they will also help prepare your taxes and suggest opportunities to reduce your tax liability.
Insurance and Brokerage Services– Insurance and investing are two pillars of sound financial planning. As part of your financial planning action plan, you may need to open a brokerage account and request a consultation from an insurance professional.
Estate Planning Lawyers– Estate planning is predominately based in law and property rights. Finding a good Lawyer will help you navigate the complexities of the law and help determine the best services for your situation.
I have always been a fan of making life simple. This is why I try to automate as much of my budget as possible. Automating a budget is extremely easy thanks to online banking and direct deposit. When you choose to implement one of the most challenging parts of your financial plan, the budget, you are increasing the probability of financial success.
Implementing a financial plan takes a lot of discipline and sometimes a little help from specialists. Ensure that your action plan includes the recommendation, its purpose and an accomplishment date. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.