The new year is upon us. Which means that it is time to consider how you want to manage your finances. Hopefully, you had some things go well financially and may have experienced some setbacks also. Hey, it happens.
The good news is that you can learn from all your financial experiences. The three key things to consider to improve your 2017 finances are spending, savings, and income.Spending
Spending is by far one of the things that get a lot of people in trouble. Most people do not even realize how much they spend on a monthly or yearly basis. It is easy to spend more than you earn if you do not track it. Using credit cards and debit cards can sometimes mask spending levels. The reason people overspend on cards is that they spend quick and reconcile transactions slowly.
Few people check their credit or debit card transactions on a daily or monthly basis. A lot of individuals will wait until the end of the month to review purchases. So by the time you look at your spending you see a huge total.
The way to fix your spending is, first of all, to know what you spend on. Most banks or financial institutions will provide a year-end summary of spending. Sometimes you will even have your spending broken down into categories for more insight. Of course, you have essentials like lodging, transportation, and required monthly expenditures. But a close look will reveal what your next biggest items are.
So let's say food or clothing are your highest costs after the things you must pay each month. You have to ask yourself is there a need to cut back. Spending can be one of the biggest impediments to staying on track financially. Using cash helps to check spending. The rationale behind cash is that it is hard to spend because it is hard to let go. You tend to think more about how much things cost when paying cash.Saving
Everyone wants to save money. It's one of those things that is easier said than done. One of the issues that people face when trying to save is the fact that life happens. So you have expenses and unexpected expenses that are out there to derail you.
Still, there are plenty of options when it comes to saving. One thing you can do is to revisit the first suggestion which is spending. By adjusting your spending or finding cheaper alternatives you begin to have money to save. So let's say you get a latte every day before work, which could cost about $5 a day. By switching to a cheaper option of coffee which could cost about $2 a day, you have a $3 per day savings.
Knowing you are saving that amount is only half the battle. You have to find ways to separate the funds saved so that you do not spend them. One of the best ways to do this is to make it automatic. Set a savings goal for a particular timeframe, say each week or month and put the money away. You can use a bank account, a piggy bank, a safe or whatever means you like to safeguard the funds.
One of the cool things that I decided to do for next year is to save all my change. I bought a digital coin counting bank to help me save. The cool thing about this is that my bank offers free coin counting. So once the bank is full, I'll take it to my bank and make a deposit. One option for you if you want a coin bank like I am referring to is the Digital Money Jar by Sharper Image.Income
The last thing to consider to make your 2017 finances great is income. None of your financial objectives get met without income to get the ball rolling. Figure out if there is a way to increase your income for the year. Maybe you are due for a raise. Or you are a freelancer who can raise your rates. Maybe you could put in a modest amount of overtime or find a side hustle. There are lots of ways to increase your income; you just have to find one that will work for you.
As an added benefit to you, I have included a link below to a previous post I wrote related to finances for the new year.New Year, New Finances
It’s the holiday season, which also means that it’s time to begin giving gifts to people you care about. The cool thing about giving gifts is that you can personalize it for the recipient. This post will cover gift ideas for the person in your life who loves finance.
A good book about finances is always a welcomed gift. It is something that the recipient can refer to over and over again. Also, something that can pass on in the future to someone else interested in finance.
Everyone likes a good film. So one that is entertaining but also ties in financial lessons will be great for someone who loves finance. My favorite financial film to be released this year is The Big Short. This movie explores issues related to the housing market that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
Pay a Bill
Paying a bill can be an amazing gift to give someone. Now by suggesting to pay a bill, I don’t mean anything extravagant, like a $2,000 mortgage. I mean something thoughtful to let the other person know you thought about them. An example is a friend who spent $80 to have a cleaning lady come out to clean her friend's house. Simple, but it meant a lot to the mother who had to skip a few cleanings due to a tight budget.
Magazines are an excellent way to keep up on the financial news that is coming out. Most magazines offer reduced subscription fees that make it attractive to become a subscriber. If you look inside of most magazines, you will find a small card that can be filled out to start a subscription. The ease of signing up and low cost make this a great gift to give. Some magazines to consider giving for someone interested in finance are Kiplinger, Money, and Forbes.
Subscription services allow you to get more of the things you want at reduced cost. Find out what the person is interested in, such as films, books, or music. Some of the notable subscription services include Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, Netflix or Apple Music.
One of the most popular financial games has to be Monopoly. It's great to play with friends and family, and everyone has a great time. But there are also important lessons to learn in Monopoly such as managing your money and assets. Many other financial games teach similar or varying concepts as well.
Lots of items to pick from in the decorative gift category. Mugs, shirts, bookends, ties, etc.
Everyone loves a good gift card. Especially if it is a place they already intended to go. When in doubt this is a fantastic option to give to someone. The cool thing about giving gift cards is that you now have cool sites that sell them at a discount or buy them back if you do not plan to use them. A few of the sites where you can conduct such transactions include Carpool, Gift Card Granny, and Raise.
Lots of people have causes or organizations that they care about, which makes a charitable contribution an excellent option. It shows that you not only care about the person who you donate on behalf of, but that you also care about the things that matter in their life.
A nice piggy bank is a great way to keep track of extra cash. An electronic bank takes the guess work out of how much is being saved. It can be a great tool if you set goals based on saving change or extra funds.
Conference or Seminar on Finances
Most people who are interested in Finance look for events that will advance their knowledge. A reasonably priced conference, seminar or even webinar would be a great gift to receive.
You may or may not like the lottery; that's fine. A lot of people do. Giving lottery tickets has become a popular gift and lots of people enjoy receiving these.
A financial tool is something that helps an individual stay on top of their finances. Some things you could give include a budget book, expense tracker of savings planner.
Time with an Advisor
Being able to speak to a financial planner can be a nice catalyst toward reaching financial goals. A lot of planners offer hourly or monthly rates. Imagine how grateful someone would be if you got them this as a gift.
It is possible to gift shares from your portfolio to someone. Certain rules and implications apply. If you go through your investment company they will typically require written instructions detailing what should be gifted. You even have companies like Give A Share that have been set up to sell single shares of stock as gifts.
Technology has made it easier for consumers to manage their money and financial lives. The days of going into a bank and having to get a brochure or inquire about rates are coming to an end. Customers are increasingly adopting new technologies to suit their changing lifestyles. The frequency of going into a physical branch may have declined for lots of customers, but people still enjoy the option. Let us take a look at how technology has advanced Banking and Investing.
There are 1,000’s of ATM’s across the country. Which means that even if it is not an ATM from your bank, you can still get money and conduct transactions. Some benefits of ATM’s include: checking balances, transferring funds, and depositing funds (both cash and checks).
Mobile apps are streamlined for interacting with your accounts. They allow you to find a branch, ATM and even contact your bank. Using mobile apps makes it easy for people to review account info like balances and transactions. You can instantly switch funds between accounts this way as well. For investors, you can make changes to your investment portfolio also.
The benefits of going paperless extend beyond the obvious impact on the environment. Paper documents are often lost, and unavailable when needed. By going paperless you will have access to all your documents online where they can be easily retrieved. This will cut down on clutter, and keep you organized. It also lessens the chance you will experience fraud from having someone get their hands on your paper documents.
It is easier than ever to send cash to another person.There is no need to write someone a check or go to their bank and add funds to their account. By having an email or phone number you can quickly send people cash. Among popular services for transferring funds to people are Google Wallet and Paypal.
If you have been banking for awhile there is a chance you have multiple cards to carry. Debit cards, credit cards, and gift cards can take up a lot of room. If you loose a purse or wallet it is a task to report and replace everything. Which is why mobile payment services like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are so helpful. You simply add your payment methods and then you can pay with your phone when mobile payments are available.
This is fantastic for lots of people. It can be a burden to receive paper checks which need to be deposited and then have a waiting period for funds to be available. An added benefit is that money is available immediately once it hits your account and sometimes even a day earlier.
Check the mailbox for all the bills, then write a check or go get a money order to pay. Then mail the payment off, but only after finding stamps and envelopes. Sounds tedious right, it can be. This makes bill pay such a huge benefit. You can add a payee and schedule a one-time or recurring charge.
Shared branch is a feature of credit unions that I am very happy exists. If you are not close to a branch of your credit union you can find a shared branch to conduct your transactions.
Credit cards carry a lot of benefits and can be helpful if used correctly. For instance, you don’t need to carry a lot of cash or to convert currencies when traveling. You get a lot of protections when making payments using your credit cards. When lost you don’t feel the same impact of cash or debit cards.
Technology has made it possible to have a banking relationship with a company that has no physical location. Examples of virtual banks include Ally Bank and Discover Bank. The process of choosing an account, opening the account, funding the account, and managing the account can be done online.
You can set your accounts up to send alerts about stuff that is important to you. Ultimately alerts allow you to stay on top of your finances. I once experienced fraud on my account where someone wrongfully sent $2,000 out of the account. Well, I got an alert that someone was added as a payee, and then another that there was a transfer of cash. Because of the alerts, I was able to catch the issue and dispute it before the funds left my account. Below are some common alerts.
Track portfolio activity
Balance and position changes
Price changes of a security
Market and investment research updates
There is an incredible amount of data right at your fingertips. If you want to research a bank or investment company just do an internet search. It is easy to compare institutions in terms of what products/services they offer to see who will meet your needs. You can even research the investments you are considering putting money into.
Cost & Access to Investing
Technology has substantially lowered the cost needed to invest. Lots of discount brokers have cut the price of stock purchases to under $10. Mutual funds tend to have minimums to purchase starting around $2500. Which for a beginning investor may be an obstacle to investing. Now you can set up automatic contributions to an account and an automatic investment so that you can still invest if you don’t have the minimum amount upfront.
Protecting Financial Accounts
There are a lot of potential risks that people expose themselves to when using new technology and conducting financial transactions. Even though technology makes it easier to bank and invest, it also creates a need for upgrading safeguards to customers assets. Your bank or investment company should have a defined security policy that details how they protect your assets. One big benefit that typically comes from investment firms is a policy for reimbursing customers for losses in their accounts when there is unauthorized activity. The coverage your assets have depend on where they are, so you want to check. If you cannot find the security information on a company website, then it is fine to give them a call. Below are some things to do to protect yourself and your assets.
Set up unique passwords and do not use the same passwords for financial accounts. I know sharing is caring, but not when it comes to sharing account details like passwords. Make sure that a website is secure. Look for https:// and the padlock symbol in the address bar. Watch out for phishing schemes looking to gather information. When unsure you can call your company or log into your account and send a secure message. Be sure to always check statements and review transactions regarding your finances. If you have not done so, signing up for identity protection is helpful.
Ways Companies Protect Your Accounts
Timed Logoff- After a period of inactivity, say 10 minutes you are signed out.
Strong Encryption- Having secure websites, ones that have https://.
Fraud Detection- Looking for suspicious activity and contacting you if something is off.
Automated Alerts- Sending you notice when certain activity occurs like an address change or email update.
Have you ever wondered where all your money goes. Chances are that you have. It may not be something that is constantly on your mind, but you have considered it. Maybe it crosses your mind after paying bills or going out on the town for a night of fun. In order to see where your money goes you have to really evaluate your spending. Four areas to take a look at in regards to spending are: debt, recurring bills, eating out, and impulse purchases.
Some of the types of debt that individuals have include: personal loans, auto loans, student loans, mortgages, and credit cards. Having debt is not necessarily a bad thing if you are using it wisely. The problem lots of people run into is that they begin to take on more, and more debt. Then at some point it seems like a huge burden that must be paid back. As the amount of your debt rises, so must those payments to satisfy what you owe. By having to put more of your money toward paying debt you are ensuring that those funds are blocked from being put toward more rewarding things.
Think about the amount of recurring bills you have signed up for. When I say recurring bills I am not referring to the necessities that you must pay to live your life. I am referring to those things that you feel enhance your life in some way so you decided to pay for it on a monthly basis. Gym memberships, massage programs, and organization costs are some of the recurring bills I am referring to. Dig even further and you find monthly expenses like Amazon Prime, music streaming services, wine of the month clubs, etc. So for all those monthly bills you pay to those things, how many are you able to use on a regular basis?
Now amounts like $5.99 or $8.99 may not seem like a lot of money, but it adds up fast. Looking at the amount you pay on a monthly basis makes that expense seem cheaper. Take those monthly amounts and convert them to yearly payments and you begin to see the bigger picture. $5.99 turns into $71.88 a year and $8.99 turns into $107.88. I know those amounts still seem small. So lets average the two amounts together, and assume that you have 10 recurring payments that fall into this category. This means that you pay an average of ($14.98 per expense x 10= $149.80 per month x 12 months=$1,797.60) a year for all those expenses combined. Now when you look at that you can see how nearly $1800 a year gets blown.
Buying food can be very expensive. It always feels like you are paying a fortune when you buy groceries at the store. But when you consider how many meals you can prepare the cost is typically less than if you were to eat out. Many workplaces across the country provide employee cafeterias, so it is common for employees to eat/pay for their meals there. If you are not eating in a cafeteria then maybe you are going out with coworkers for meals. Those costs begin to add up. Thats not even considering the fact that you may routinely buy coffee, deserts or something similar.
Companies design entire stores so that customers make impulse purchases. You think it is a coincidence that when you checkout at the grocery store you suddenly need that candybar or pack of gum. No, it is designed that way. Sales pitches, commercials, and bargains are designed to be executed for a limited time only so that you do not have enough time to consider not buying something. A lot of impulse purchases end up being unused which totally makes a lot of them a waste of money.
What You Can Do
Take a look at how you are spending your money and look at areas to improve on. Consider ways to reduce expenses and begin to save. The things you spend money on that add no value, cut those things. If you can justify that an expense saves you money or time then that expense is worth keeping.
My financial life has had many ups and downs. I know what it’s like to be a cash-strapped college student, to get a decent job in corporate America, and also to take on the challenges of entrepreneurship. The thing that really transformed my way of thinking in regards to finances was working in the financial services industry. As a former stockbroker and registered investment advisor I was able to speak to people at all points in their financial journey.
I was able to speak to recent grads starting out, who were trying to figure out what to do with their new salaries. I was able to speak to parents, who knew tuition would skyrocket and wanted to plan for their kid's education. I was able to speak to soon to be retirees who had worked diligently their whole life to amass their nest egg and wanted to protect it so that they could enjoy retirement. On the other hand, I also spoke to people who could never retire, who struggled to make ends meet, and who had made horrible decisions when it came to managing their finances.
The thing that really put a spin on my perspective was working in a specialty group that helped people to transition assets once a death had occurred. At the end of one's life all the material things, financial gains, and experiences will really tell quite a story. But what will that story say? What will what you have accumulated in life say about you as a person or your experience here on Earth. It’s easy to look at a bank account and see hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of dollars. It’s easy to look at a garage and see cars, boats, bikes or an RV. It is also even easy to look at pictures of trips taken and places visited to think about the experience gained. But what do these things really say about the way you lived.
Ultimately the reason that I believe Financial Health matters is because it has such a huge impact on the way you live. At the end of the day the thing you need to have a healthy financial life is the same thing you need to have a healthy life, and that’s balance. Many individuals get so focused on one aspect of managing their finances that they stop seeing the forest for the trees. Some of the areas where people get hung up in managing finances include debt, savings, and retirement planning. Paying attention to the pain points for you financially is not a bad thing, but it must be done with balance.
You can focus so much on cutting down debt or saving money, that you never use any funds to enjoy yourself. Some people plan diligently for retirement saving relentlessly, only to pass away before retiring and enjoying the fruits of their work. So to be healthy financially you must plan as diligently for tomorrow as you live for today. So take a moment, to be honest with yourself about your finances. Then take an inventory of your debt, savings, and goals. Then look at ways to meet your financial goals and practice healthy financial living.
So you just graduated college. Congratulations. Now you have the task of managing your finances ahead of you. The great thing about college is that it sets you up for success, but things can differ from your collegiate experience once you graduate.
Some of the things you lose after graduating include: a meal plan, work study, financial aid, a reasonable expectation of expenses, and student housing. Lets break each of these concepts down.
Having a meal plan means that you are guaranteed to eat a certain number of times a day. That number could be two or three, it really depends on what you decide. Most colleges also have other onsite restaurants where you get a dollar amount to be used there as well. Having to buy groceries really makes you appreciate how much food you can get with a meal plan.
Work study is really advantageous to college students. It allows you the ability to earn money, have a flexible schedule, and a modest work commute. You know upfront how much you have been granted for work study so it helps you to decide how to allocate the funds. As long as you show up to work, you get paid.
Financial aid is the total of the scholarships, grants, loans and other aid that you receive as a student. Hopefully you receive lots of grants, and scholarships so that you have to take little or no loans out. Essentially what financial aid does for lots of students is allow them to focus on school, without having to worry immediately about the cost.
The reasonable expectation of costs comes from the fact that typically the school will publish an expected cost of attendance. So you are able to calculate how much you will pay during the time you are in school, based on your course load. If you are already in school then you have an idea of what the additional fees are that you incur.
Student housing is a great benefit to students because of the interaction you get on campus. You are close to your classes, activities, and your peers. Depending on the school housing can be a few thousand a semester upwards. Ideally student housing is much cheaper that being housed off campus in the surrounding areas.
So what does this mean for you as a new graduate. It means that your activities are not likely to be so centralized. Also that you must make plans for all the things you once received under the umbrella of tuition and fees as a student. Now you will not only have to budget your money, but your time as well.
As a working professional you need to know exactly where your money is going. Something you will soon come to realize is that all those costs add up fast. For instance, if you eat in a workplace cafeteria you will see hundreds of dollars a month going toward that expense. Which may mean it will be cheaper to pack a lunch. Essentially what you will have to determine is what expenses to keep and which ones to minimize.
Chances are you have a money mindset and don’t even know it. The money mindset is the way you view money. Either you come from a place of abundance or a place of not enough. Think about it for a moment. How do you view money? Do you view money as a tool to accomplish the things you would like to do or do you see money as an obstacle that prevents you from doing the things you want to do?
Regardless of how you view money, it’s all about perspective, and that perspective can change over time. Every experience you have, every decision that you have made about your finances has developed that money mindset. Some lessons you learned long ago, in adolescence. Think back to being a kid and being faced with the prospect of needing new shoes. Lots of children may want a $100+ shoe. Now your parent may be able to buy you the shoe with no problem. For the sake of argument, your parent counters the single hundred dollar shoe purchase by showing you that you are able to get two to three of another shoe.
Now you are faced with the dilemma of being practical or just going for the top thing you desire. In this situation, neither is the wrong choice. However as you become an adult deciding between competing offers becomes a slippery slope. There are people who will have higher salaries than their peers but still manage to have less money than the people that make less than them. How is that possible? It’s because of the money mindset.
Some people as they have increased wages, also tend to have increased expenses. So even though you make more, you simply find more ways to give it away. Things like saving, investing, and budgeting should be important to everyone. Especially if you want to have a good money mindset. Once again money is a tool to do the things you desire. So if you mismanage your money it means you are bad with your tool. Also, if you have an abundance of money, but are afraid to use it for the things you need you are still bad with your tool.
Do you talk to your kid about finances. Chances are that you don’t. The reason a lot of adults struggle with managing their finances is because they did not learn important lessons as a kid. Every child should understand the value of a dollar.
Parents always joke that kids think money grows on trees. If you say that same saying about your child then it is your fault. You go to work to earn money and then those funds are expected to cover any and everything. Your children should know that money has to be earned and that you have to balance spending choices to get things you desire. Putting children on an allowance will provide so many benefits to both child and parent.
By placing kids on an allowance they learn that money has to be earned. They will also learn to save, and delay gratification to purchase things they desire. What it does for the parent is to make it easier to have conversations with their children about money. For instance if times are tough you are able to speak to the fact that you may not have funds to cover some of the things the kid desires, and because the kid now understands that you must work for money they will understand.
A lot of banks and credit unions will have special accounts for kids that pay special rates to promote savings. Sign your kid up. Take them to the bank and explain how certain accounts like checking or savings work. When time comes to pay bills show them the process. By letting them see how bills are paid they will have an understanding of how to deal with expenses. Introduce kids to investing at an early age so that they can develop an interest. Lots of parents set up education accounts for kids but rarely discuss the purpose or benefit of the account with the kid. Image what it will do for your kid to see an account start with a small sum of money grow over the years into something that will pay for college.
You may not think your child is old enough to understand finances or that it will not make a difference, but it will. Just remember that children tend to mimic the behavior that is shown.
Have you ever considered the fact that thinking too much about money can make you worse with money? The way it works is you tend to obsess over the need of money and all the things that you need cash for. Next what happens is the issue that you have, i.e needing funds begins to appear bigger in your eyes. Then instead of something that you could reasonably address it looks as if it is this insurmountable obstacle that cannot be tackled.
Three of the main areas that people get caught up with in terms of money are making it, spending it, and saving it. If you look at your income as not being sufficient to cover your expenses then thats exactly what it will be. Receiving a raise or additional streams of revenue are not even guaranteed to change that either. Some people have an issue with spending where it seems like everything they get is going out. If you do not monitor your spending it means one day you will be in for a rude awakening. The number of people who live at or above their means and do not know it is mind boggling. Some people view savings as this giant obstacle thinking they have to put away some extremely high amounts to be successful. Fact of the matter is some savings beat no savings.
One of the best things you can do when it comes to money is to take an objective look. After all it is your financial situation, so you have a vested interest. The problem is that the vested interest you have does not always insure that you are doing whats in your best interest. The greatest thing that any individual can do when it comes to money is to change the way they view money. By changing how you view money eventually you will also be able to change your behaviors with money.