Tag Archives: behavior changes

Intimidating: Opting In

Personal finance is intimidating for many people. While we all love to seek out media which is scary, from movies, books, TV, to live theater and other works of art, those are things we generally opt into. Personal finances are a complicated part of modern life and sometimes we feel as if we don’t have the tools to deal with the situations we find ourselves in.  Can you opt out? Sometimes not. 

I meet people who tell me that their own finances scare them. They find it daunting to sit down and confront their balance sheet, regardless of how many digits are to the left of the decimal point. Professionals bandy about words and phrases like tax burden, cash flow, budget and the scariest phrases of all,

“Where do you spend your money?”

“If you have an unexpected bill of between $400-$2,000, how will you pay for it?”

“Have you begun to save for your retirement?”

and in Seattle, “Do you want to buy a house?”

This can be enough to send you screaming from the scene, while nervously looking over your shoulder, while thinking “I never want to see THAT again!”

I read this article in The Atlantic this week, about how people live paycheck to paycheck, even as they live a middle-class life. The online comments were mean and full of blame. To be sure, there is shared and personal responsibility to be had. No, maybe the author shouldn’t have drained a 401 (k) to pay for a wedding; no, he shouldn’t have missed a writing deadline and had to pay back the advance, but let the person out who has never missed a deadline in her life cast that stone. I don’t qualify.

Financial advisors are here to help and support people to make good decisions about their cash, their future and their piece of mind. We also want to help you move forward from bad decisions you own, or which were forced upon you. I believe my job is to meet you where you are, and help chart the path forward. For you do need a path, a vision, or some goals; otherwise you are just looking at your feet, not where you need to travel.

IMG_1731

This path leads to a well-defended castle. Photo by Dana Twight

Opt out of the intimidation, and opt in to a new path for your finances. Collaboration might reduce the fear factor and even generate some satisfaction.

Zombies and Zinfandel: Handling Your Financial Monsters is tonight!

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Filed under Be Prepared, Financial Wellness, Self Awareness, Shame and Blame

How Do I Love Thee (Post Valentines Day Edition)

How Do I Love Thee? On Paper, Online and On Time

In life and in death, let me count the ways that I love thee.  Let’s review the beneficiaries, the online accounts, and the papers.

Rosemary is for Remembrance

Rosemary is for Remembrance. Wikimedia

To paraphrase Meghan Trainor, modern philosopher:

It’s all about that signature

It’s all about survivorship

It’s all about that heir, no trouble.

When you love someone, you are told you should have “your affairs in order”.

This is much harder to do than say. What affairs, what is order?

When you have a family, you want to look ahead into a future where you may not be in the picture.

“Yikes, this means I have to pretend I am dead; that makes me uncomfortable and I’ll just hope nothing happens.”

It’s going to happen, trust me. Photo credit: http://www.pdpics.com 4211

This is a common reaction, due to your present, your past or reluctance to look too far into that uncertain future. I have met many people who think that they don’t need to consider these things, because “they don’t have any assets”, “they don’t have any children”, or all they have are the photos on their Facebook and Instagram pages. But you do, you do! You have your organs, your online life and photos, and your entire financial life to care for and secure.

You may have missed the opportunity to send roses or a sentimental card this past weekend, but here are several steps to take in this next week, to say “I love you” to those special people in your life. I’d like to help you move into action!

On paper: Check your retirement plan beneficiaries at work and for your personal retirement accounts. Do the beneficiaries match up with your current sweetie and family? Just sayin’. By the way, for those of you with older pension plans (could be frozen, or discontinued), check those too and keep a copy of the beneficiary page.) You can keep a paper copy, scan or photograph, then store in your cloud somewhere.

Real life story: This just happened to a friend-her husband hadn’t updated his old pension plan documents when he got married. When he passed away suddenly in 2014, his cousins were still his beneficiaries, not his wife. These cousins were sympathetic, but not all relatives would be as thoughtful.

It is important to create, review, or update important documents (will, power of attorney, health care directives) before any major life transitions. This probably also applies to people who take part in extreme sports, marathons, and those races in the mud. If you are in the military, they will place you in a workshop with your significant other to cover many things like this before deployment.

Online: However, online access may still be a problem. In real life, (IRL) your loved ones do not have the access to your emails, online accounts and photos that spammers or identity thieves do. In the Terms and Conditions of our online accounts, there is usually a line or two which explains this privacy policy. Google has tried to fix this with their Inactive Account Manager, and just last week Facebook offered the opportunity to set up a Legacy Contact after your death is proven. Yahoo Japan launched a service to manage your digital profile after you die. https://ending.yahoo.co.jp/ See if you want to set up one of these contacts.

Real life story: http://cnet.co/1Mn3RPO Yahoo denies family access to dead Marine’s email.

 On Time: This has to do with matching your documents and decisions to your actions. Wedding coming up? Do you need to alter your current will and property distribution? Would the laws of your state (and your family) allow your loved one to make medical decisions for you and visit you in the hospital?

Real life story: a relative with a terminal illness lived into the last month of his car loan, so his wife didn’t have to  worry about that last payment. This relative also hadn’t changed two pieces of property to be jointly owned with his [second] wife, so altering those property deeds occupied some stressful hours of his last days.

Love in a box, or a document, or in your will...

Love in a box, or a document, or in your will…

PS For those readers who may have several kinds of pensions (military, Social Security, employer plans), it is important to check the pension payouts with your spouse. For example, will you choose a single life or joint and survivor payout? A single life payout goes for one person’s (the retired employee) life. A joint and survivor payout is calculated over the joint life expectancies of the couple. It is usually less than the single life payout, but it provides a lifetime income for the survivor. See definition of joint life payout from Investopedia here.

If this post inspires you to take action, from creating new documents to reviewing existing ones, you will feel better afterwards. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the relief generated upon accomplishment will feel wonderful. Plus, your family members will thank you for remembering them.  Get from To-Do to To-Done! (Shout out to https://transmutable.com for my first To-Done experience.)

Related links

http://organdonor.gov/index.html 

http://www.usa.gov/topics/money/personal-finance/wills.shtml

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/advancedirectives.html

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/powerofattorney.asp

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Filed under Be Prepared, Everyday Financial Tasks, Life and Death

New Year’s Resolutions-How Are You Doing?

As a nation, we are making fewer New Year’s Resolutions each year. Usual categories are in the areas of smoking (less), eating (less and better), and finances (all the things). Which ones are easier to keep?

General_Work_Out According to a study by Fidelity: financial resolutions are easier to keep than the ones about smoking and eating differently!

42% of people surveyed find financial resolutions easier to keep than smoking less or exercising more.

And, the top three financial resolutions continue to be:

  • Saving more (55%)
  • Paying off debt (20%)
  • Spending less (17%)

After six weeks, many of us give up forget revise our resolutions (you can ask me about my goals for planks!)

Very different from planking! By the way, I would be most likely to be seen planking in a public library.

"Planking on a people mover" by Danielleevandenbosch - Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Planking_on_a_people_mover.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Planking_on_a_people_mover.jpg

“Planking on a people mover” by Danielleevandenbosch – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org

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Filed under Everyday Financial Tasks, Self Awareness

Personal Budget or Plan? Words Matter

Words matter.

A picture is worth one thousand words.

It has been said that it takes from 4-7 positive comments to overcome 1 negative one.

How can we use these three statements to improve our spending habits?

If you made a visual spending plan and tried out new self-talk each month, would that make a difference? Might that keep you from derailing yourself? I challenge you to make it so.

For example, you could find a photo of your financial goal and place it in a prominent position-where you can see it every day.

  • Try a sign that says $500 savings balance/emergency fund. (save this in one year<$10/week!)
  • Take a photo of your full refrigerator-for someone trying to cut down on eating out.
  • Post an image of your public library card-so you have the visual trigger for downloading music, book reading or borrowing a movie from the library instead of purchasing  any of those items online. Or send yourself a text message to that effect!

I have three points here that go beyond the usual budgeting tips.

  1. How you talk to yourself about your spending matters
  2. Use visuals as well as words to make the point to yourself (and your family, if need be)
  3. Use affirming language, praise and encouragement to support your behaviors.

Instead of, “I wish I could pay my bills on time”, say to yourself, “When I pay my bills on time, I feel good and I will have more money to spend, because I won’t be paying late fees.

Instead of, ” I must have that new song from iTunes right away”, remind yourself of your online music spending plan, and figure out if you have the funds this week. When you match up your plan with your spending, it is a powerful feeling and you can reinforce it. Oh-“I don’t have more money in that bucket this week, I’ll place this song on the top of the list next week”.

iTunes

iTunes (Photo credit: ʇhamin – free lancer)

Instead of saying to yourself, “I’ll add to my emergency savings account at the end of the month, or at the next pay period”, say,”I will send a sum each pay period to my emergency fund via direct deposit, so that I am able to meet small unexpected expenses without using my credit card”. Doesn’t that feel more powerful?

Save Money

Save Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2012)

When you do something right, affirm that behavior in your head and heart to reward yourself. It is important to acknowledge these smaller steps as you build new habits.

Say, “Wow, I did that”; or “It will be so cool to see my savings account grow”; or even, “I didn’t know that homemade sweet potato fries would be so tasty”.

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Filed under Everyday Financial Tasks, Women and Finance