Month: April 2017

Financial Capability Step 8: Find Your Starting Point

Calculating your net worth is as simple as comparing what you owe (liabilities) and what you own (assets)

 

Calculating your net worth is as simple as comparing what you owe (liabilities) and what you own (assets). Use the simple form below to determine your net worth as of today.

Net Worth Worksheet

Assets: $ Liabilities: $
Cash and Equivalents Mortgage (principal only)
Cash
Checking/Savings Other Debt
Other Home improvement loans
Student loans
Real Property (Mkt. Value) Credit cards
Real Estate Car loans
Car Other
Personal Property
Other Taxes Owed
State and local
Investments Federal
CDs
Stocks/Bonds Contractual Obligations
Mutual Funds Leases, tuition
Other
Total Liabilities
Retirement Accounts
IRA Calculate your net worth
Pension Fund (vested) Assets
Other Minus (-)
Liabilities
Other Equals (=)
Total Assets NET WORTH

 

Calculating your net worth is the best way to know exactly what your starting point is, in any financial plan you develop. It’s essentially the foundation of your financial plan and goal setting and needs to be updated at least several times a year so that you can track all of your progress. Putting together a balance sheet is quick and easy, even if you aren’t a finance expert!

A balance sheet calculates your net worth, by comparing your financial assets (what you own) with your financial liabilities (what you owe). The difference between the two is your net worth. Don’t be discouraged if your net worth is negative — keep in mind that this should be an accurate depiction of your financial situation. Setting goals is much easier once you know what your current net worth is.

Before you get started, pull together all of the information that you have available. You’ll need your latest bank statements, as well as the principal balance of any loans you have. Once you have all of that information available, start developing your balance sheet by listing all of your assets (financial and tangible assets) with the values. You can use the tool on the microsite, or create your own version on paper or in a spreadsheet tool.

• Cash (in the bank, money market accounts, or CDs)
• All investments (mutual funds, college savings accounts, individual securities)
• Home value (the resale value of your home)
• Automobile value (the resale value of your car – use Kelley’s Blue Book if you don’t know)
• Personal Property Value (resale value of jewelry, household items, etc)
• Other assets

The sum of all of those values is the total value of your assets. Your goal should be to continually increase your assets.

Next, you can look at your liabilities, which should be everything you owe. Here are some common liability categories:

• Remaining mortgage balance
• Car loans
• Student loans
• Any other personal loans
• Credit card balances

The sum of all of the money you owe is your liabilities. As you start to pay down your debt, your total liabilities will decrease. The difference between your assets and your liabilities is your net worth. You can start to increase your net worth by decreasing your liabilities, increasing your assets, or by doing both! Make sure you continuously update your balance sheet – at least twice per year – to ensure that you are meeting all of your financial goals.

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Financial Capability Step 7: Make Your Money Count

 

To develop an accurate picture of the amount of money you will have in the future, take a look back.  Decide if your income will be from the same or from different sources and the amount of income you can expect to earn in the future.

In our uncertain economic time, it’s very important to take stock of what you have and that includes your income. Much like how you got a clearer picture of your finances when you reviewed your credit history and credit score, reviewing your income and your income sources will be very important in establishing a baseline so you can make smart money decisions going forward.

If you are currently working, the largest source of monthly income will be from your job. The easiest place to look for that information is on your paycheck. Your paycheck will tell you your gross income for that pay period. If you’re paid monthly, then you have the numbers you need for the income worksheet. If you’re paid every two weeks or every week, you will need to do some math so that you get an even and reliable monthly figure. If you are paid every two weeks, multiply all the numbers by 26 (there are 52 weeks in a year, so you’re paid 26 times a year) and then by 12 (the number of months in a year). This will give you monthly figures you can use in the income worksheet. If you are paid weekly, multiply it by 52 and then divide by 12.

If you have multiple jobs, you will want to combine all the numbers you get and fill out that chart.

If you have some irregular income from side jobs you may do, you can add that under Additional Periodic Income.

When you’re done, you should have a good picture of how much money you put into your pocket each month. This is important because when you go to create your budget, you will want to ensure that your total spending is less than your total income. If you spend more than you earn, then you’re going in the wrong direction. You’ll only know that if you do the homework up front and figure out how much you earn.

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Financial Capability Step 6: Clean Your Credit

Credit is a major part of personal finance. Keeping your credit clean is easier said than done. Make sure to check your credit quarterly for errors and erroneous reporting of accounts and personal information. If you find an error be sure to dispute it.

 

Many of us have score impacting errors on our credit reports. In fact, this is the reason that a good number of us can have a 50 point swing in our 3 credit scores from the three credit reporting agencies.

If you find an error on your credit reports, you’ll need to know your rights. Your most effective weapon in dealing with the credit bureaus is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Legally, the FCRA protects you by requiring credit bureaus to furnish correct and complete information to companies requesting credit histories for evaluation. If you find an error on your report, simply follow these steps:

  • Write to the credit reporting agency disputing the item and include any supporting documents. Keep a copy of all documents for your files.
  • When the credit reporting agency receives your letter disputing the item, they must investigate the item in dispute (usually within 30 days) by presenting the information you submit to the creditor.
  • By law, the creditor must review your evidence and report its findings to the credit bureau.
  • The credit bureau must then give you a written report of its investigation and a copy of your report if the report results in a change.

You can also fill out an online dispute form provided by the credit bureaus. I prefer offline filing as it allows you to keep a paper trail. The websites for the three major credit bureaus are:


Since it’s a lot easier to correct bad data than to change your actual behavior, this is an important early step towards credit management.

Your most effective weapon in dealing with the credit bureaus is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You can read it if you’d like but here’s the skinny. Legally, the FCRA protects you by requiring credit bureaus to furnish correct and complete information to companies requesting credit histories for evaluation.

If an item on your report is found to be an error and is corrected, you can request that the credit bureau send corrected copies of your report to any creditor who received your report in the previous six months or any employer who received your report in the previous two years. If you are not satisfied with the results of a formal dispute, you can also seek resolution with the source of the information.

To do this, write to the creditor disputing the incorrect entry. After receiving your letter, the creditor may not report the information without including a notice of your dispute. In addition, once you have notified the source of the error in writing, it may not continue to report the information if it is an error. You can use a company to do this for you. Many companies charge a lot of money and all they do is get power of attorney and write letters on your behalf. This is fine because you have to make sure that you stay within a certain timeframe when making disputes. We all know life gets in the way and if you try to do it yourself, you may miss an important deadline. If you are prudent and feel that you can handle this yourself, then go for it!.

If you opt for a company to do it for you, read the fine print and be aware of any add-on charges before you sign a contract with them.

Dispute Consumer Credit Reporting Errors and Fix Your Credit Report

The three credit reporting bureaus deal with a substantial amount of information daily. As a result, mistakes can occur on your credit report. By requesting and reviewing the free annual credit reports from each of the credit reporting bureaus, you can be on the lookout for errors that may exist on your report.

Watch out for the following types of errors on your credit report:

  • Information that does not belong to you. This type of error is not only a concern for identity theft victims, but for everyone. Those with common names and those with a junior or senior suffix attached to their name may also find information that does not belong to them. Regardless of the nature of the information (positive or negative), you should work to correct it.
  • Inaccurate dates. Making sure dates are accurate is particularly important for credit accounts with derogatory information because the date of the event is the basis for when the negative information will be removed from your account.
  • Old information. Don’t assume that old information has been removed from your report; see for yourself that the matter is taken care of.
  • Other incorrect information. Account balances, payment dates, and credit limits (especially if you’ve consolidated accounts) should be checked for accuracy.

What to do if you find an error on your credit report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers’ rights by requiring credit bureaus to furnish correct and complete information to companies requesting credit histories for evaluation. If you find an error on your credit report, there are some steps you can take:

Write to the credit-reporting bureau disputing the item and include any supporting documents. Send copies of the documents, rather than originals, and keep the originals for your records. You can also visit the credit bureaus’ Web sites and fill out their online forms.

When the credit reporting agency receives your letter disputing the item, they are required to investigate the item in dispute (typically within 30 days) by presenting the information you submit to the creditor. By law, the creditor must review your evidence and report its findings to the credit bureau.

If the report results in a change, the credit bureau must give you a written report of its investigation and a copy of your report. If your request to remove an erroneous item on your credit report is denied after going through the dispute process, you may add a statement (100 words or less) to your file giving your version of the dispute. The credit bureau must normally include a summary of your statement in future reports.

Before you try disputing the negative information on your report, know that this works only for errors. In fact, credit-reporting agencies often flag suspicious disputes. The only way to remove accurate but negative information is to wait.

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Financial Capability Step 5: Order Your Credit Report

Being financially capable means being prudent with your credit. Your credit reports can provide a snapshot of your overall financial situation. Reviewing your credit reports for accuracy can also help you to identify errors or fraudulent activity. Fortunately, it is easier than ever to obtain copies of your credit reports.

Your credit reports can provide a snapshot of your overall financial situation. Reviewing your credit reports for accuracy can also help you to identify errors or fraudulent activity. Fortunately, it is easier than ever to obtain copies of your reports.

The FACT Act gives every consumer the right to a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To get your free report, simply fill out the request form. You can also visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.

The three major credit bureaus are separate entities. It is important to know this because the information in their reports may vary slightly. Different creditors use different reports (or a combination of them) to determine whether or not you are creditworthy.

Your creditworthiness matters most when you are trying to obtain credit. If your credit report indicates that you have maintained your credit well, you should have a good chance of receiving additional credit when needed, provided you have enough income to qualify for additional credit.

Credit reports might also matter when renting an apartment, obtaining insurance or securing some types of employment. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates that credit information is accessible to others only for certain permissible purposes. For your protection, you are entitled by law to know who has received a copy of your report or inquired about it.

I’m keeping today’s post short because you have work to do. Order your credit reports today and we will begin the necessary steps to clean your credit in tomorrows post.

“Stop being chained down by bad credit I have the key to set you free…”
― Tyler Gregory

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Financial Capability Step 4: Set Yourself Up For Success

Set yourself up for success by getting organized and save money

 

Now that we have cleared the financial clutter, it is time to get organized. While all members of the family should be aware of the family’s overall financial situation, choosing one person to conduct the day-to-day financial tasks is a good way to stay on top of things. The appointed individual should be organized and a good communicator. They should be given uninterrupted time to do their tasks effectively. I’m sure you can guess that the appointed person in my family is Moi!

Consider making the job of family CFO easier by establishing an online bill payment service (offered free-of-charge by many banks and credit unions). Even better, check with your creditors about setting up automatic bill payments.

Designate a spot in your home for organizing financial paperwork. Used office supply stores offer great bargains on filing cabinets, or consider small plastic filing cabinets instead of metal or wood. If your goal is to have a paperless filing system, make sure that you back-up your computer regularly and invest in a good security program to prevent criminals from obtaining sensitive information. To keep your most valuable documents safe, consider opening a safety-deposit box at your local bank or credit union.

 

5 easy steps to get organized and save money

Did you know that being organized saves you money?

• You waste money buying duplicates of items you didn’t know you had
• You waste money on late charges because you can’t find the bills you need to pay, or you forget to pay them on time
• You also waste money not deciding in the store where you should store the item you’re thinking of buying, and then not using it

So now that you know why you should get organized, let’s discuss some practical tips to show you how you can get your finances organized.

It’s a big myth that organizing is difficult and time-consuming.

Yes, you do have to take some time initially to set up your system but unless you want to make things really complicated, it’ll only take you about 15 to 30 minutes.

1. Put all bills to be paid in a specific folder
When you bring in the mail, throw away the junk mail and envelopes immediately. Only keep the actual bill in a dedicated plastic see-through envelope in a specific place. Arrange the bills in order of when they have to be paid so that the one facing you is also the most urgent bill.

This way you and the rest of your family always know exactly where to find all the bills.

2. Automate as many bill payments as possible
We live very busy lives so if you don’t have to think about paying it, all the better for you. That said, schedule a day of the month to check your online payments against your actual budget.

3. Dedicate a specific day or days of the month to pay your bills.
Mark off a date on your calendar when you pay bills. If your bills are due on different days of the month, you may need more than one date.

Because life happens, schedule the date a couple of days before the payment is actually due so you don’t incur any late fees.

4. File
Once your bills are paid, file them in the way that’s easiest for you to manage. If you’re not a file puncher, don’t fool yourself that you will start punching and filing. The road to hell is paved with good intentions!

Rather use a filing system where you simply drop the paper in and it’s done.

5. Maintain
Restrict your filing space so that it forces you to clear out old bills every 6 – 12 months.

I actually keep my bills for 12 months because I have all my household categories in one file binder.

This easy-to-use system will take you only a minute or two a day, and about 30 minutes when you sit down and pay your bills.

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Financial Capability Step 3: Clear The Financial Clutter

Getting your financial house organized is a great way to begin on your path toward financial wellness. But before you bulldoze that pile, you should know that some things are worth hanging on to. The key is to know what keep and what to toss. Let's clear that financial clutter today

So far, we have committed to change and assessed our financial situations. I know you may be anxious to get started, but it is hard to get motivated when you are knee-deep in paperwork. Getting your financial house organized is a great way to begin on your path toward financial wellness. But before you bulldoze that pile, you should know that some things are worth hanging on to. The key is to know what keep and what to toss.

  • Grocery receipts and other nondeductible expense receipts and statements can be destroyed after they have been recorded for budgeting purposes.
  • Paycheck stubs should be checked against your W-2. If it’s a match, you can toss them. If not, request a revised W-2, called a W-2c.
  • canceled checks should generally be saved for three years. Keep those related to your taxes and business expenses permanently.
  • Utility bill stubs may be destroyed after recording, however, you may wish to hold onto these for a year to compare monthly costs.
  • Household documents pertaining to buying, selling or improving your home should be kept as long as you own the home.
  • Receipts from major purchases should be kept as long as you have the item.
  • Credit card receipts can be destroyed once you have reconciled with your monthly statement.  Additionally, credit card monthly statements can be destroyed on an annual basis.
  • Individual tax return documents should be kept for seven years, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS has three years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors. However, the IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more.

Years ago, my financial life was a disaster. My bills were behind and I was living poor check to poor check, trying to keep up appearances. I thought as long as I could keep up the farce, I would be able to dig my way out of the debt abyss I created.  Needless to say, that wasn’t true. I suffered tremendously from my secret.

Even though I was not consciously aware of it, my financial mess was always on my mind. I would run numbers in my head regularly.  As the financial clutter grew, my life and options became smaller and smaller.  Picture an upside triangle with financial burdens, debt, and out-of-control expenses on the top. As you move down the triangle, you and your relationships become more and more stressed, your health and well-being is compromised, and you end at the bottom with Financial, Emotional, and Spiritual Depletion.

Over time I was able to reverse my financial situation and in the process, I decided I wanted to help others do the same. For a few years,  I worked one-on-one with friends and family to help them bring clarity to their financial lives. As a result, I eventually started this blog.

Many of my clients were overwhelmed with financial clutter. Their bills would be scattered around the house: some would be in a kitchen drawer, others might be piled on a table, while still more were in the car or a handbag.

Their method of bill-paying was to wait until their utilities were turned off. Then they would frantically find the quickest way to pay so they could get their telephone or utilities turned back on. Other bills would be ignored until the telephone calls from creditors started. Many of my clients admitted they live among constant clutter, with financial clutter just a part of it.

There is a way to turn financial clutter into clarity, and I’d like to share it with you. Here are the steps:

1. Track all your money. This will get you conscious and connected to your spending and earning behaviors. Use a checkbook register for keeping track of all spending that flows through your bank account, use another one for tracking cash, and keep a third one for any credit card purchases. I can’t tell you how powerful this is.

You have heard many times that you should write your spending down for a week or thirty days. But my experience is that most people who have money problems need to do this for a much longer time.

I have been writing down every penny I spend for the past twenty years!  It has become a habit just like brushing my teeth. I love the way it keeps me grounded in my money behaviors.

2. Plan, plan, plan. I like using the term “spending plan,” rather than “budget.” Planning my spending and earning has changed my life forever. I strongly suggest you do a plan every month because each month is different.

Then, as you plan monthly you’ll have the data you need to create an annual spending plan, so you can see the big picture.  If you plan at the beginning of each month, you will know if your plan will work. If, after adding expenses and subtracting expenses from your income, you see it will not work, you’ll need to make adjustments.

Tip: Always be mindful of your needs before your wants. We can never get enough of what we don’t need. Neglecting needs or “making do without” will lead to deprivation – which is the opposite of fulfillment.

3. Stay connected to your plan. If you deviate from your plan, it is usually for one of three reasons: you didn’t plan enough, something came up you couldn’t have planned for, or you bought something impulsively.  When this happens you will need to continue adjusting your plan throughout the month.

Get help! Whether these steps sound too simple or too overwhelming, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional money coach who can hold your hand through the process. If you could do it on your own, you would not be where you are.

Starting the process of Tracking and Planning is the beginning of coming out of the clutter and financial fog. You deserve to have a life of clarity, which will lead to a balanced, meaningful life of joy and fulfillment.

Finally, before taking out the trash, be sure that all identifying information has been destroyed to avoid your personal information falling into the wrong hands.

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Financial Capability Step 2: Assess Your Financial Situation

As we continue our journey to financial capability, the most important step is to assess your current financial situation. Many don't want to face this step, but it is vital if you want to improve your finances

Now that you have committed to changing your financial situation, the next thing you must do is assess your current financial situation. Facing the fact of your situation is probably the hardest thing you will have to do in order to improve your financial situation.  This step, however, is essential if you want to create a better financial future. No one I have coached was able to conquer their debt without first finding out what they owed.

What if you just can’t go there? For many of us, assessing our current situation is much more than just adding up the numbers. It brings up intense feelings of fear, shame, anxiety, regret, anger and so much more. Sound familiar?

If you’re stuck here, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You can find a trusted friend to help, for example. Tell them they don’t need to offer solutions. They just need to be there for you, to remind you that you are so much more than the balances on your credit cards.

Even better, talk with a professional credit counselor or trained money coach (I know, shameless plug there.) They understand what you are going through and what you are up against, and will be able to provide objective advice – and help you find solutions.

I won’t make today’s post long because I want you to take the financial assessment quiz below. Don’t worry, I won’t see your answers. This is strictly for YOU. I want you to get a clear picture of where you are financially. Tomorrow, we will dig in and begin the process of laying the foundation of where you want to be in your financial journey.

 

As Benjamin Franklin warned, “He that can’t be counseled, can’t be helped.”

 

As a rule, do you?

Always, Sometimes or Never
1. Pay the rent/mortgage payment and utility bills on time?
2. Save at least 10% of your net income?
3. Keep three months net income in reserve for emergencies?
4. Plan ahead for large expenses?
5. Set and keep financial goals?
6. Follow a budget?
7. Comparison shop?
8. Regularly review your credit report?
9. Examine your checking account statements often?
10. Continue your financial education?

Scoring:

Add your points using the column provided. Never = 0 points, Sometimes = 1 point, Always = 2 points.

0-10 Points: Indicates a need to take control of your finances; following the 30 step plan will go a long way to achieving this.

11-15 Points: Reflects a good effort to manage your money effectively. The 30 step plan can help determine changes that can be made to improve your financial well-being.

16-20 Points: Demonstrates ability to manage your finances successfully. The 30 step plan can help you continue to make money management a priority.

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Financial Capability Step 1 Commit To Change

Step 1, Commit to change. April is the official National Financial Capability Month; however, regardless of the day or month of the year you begin, the 30-step path will help you to create a successful strategy to better your overall financial position.  Today, we discover the first and most important step in developing and following a financial plan is to examine your attitudes about money.

As we have already identified, April is the official National Financial Capability Month; however, regardless of the day or month of the year you begin, the 30-step path will help you to create a successful strategy to better your overall financial position.  Today, we discover the first and most important step in developing and following a financial plan is to examine your attitudes about money. Are you ready to accept responsibility for changing your financial situation? Do you believe that you can and will change the way you make financial decisions? Can you identify at least one benefit you hope to gain by changing your money management behavior? Last but not least, can you commit to changing your money management habits?

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Cliché, I know, but true. Taking the first step in anything is hard (like dieting and exercise), and it certainly holds true when it comes to financial health. We are barraged each and every day with the doom and gloom reports of the economy, stock markets, and bailouts. Is it time to turn off your TV and replace all the doom and gloom with some bloom and boom?

The building blocks to financial well-being are made of focus, control, commitment, and action. Fear has most people clenched in its grasp. Don’t let yourself be part of that group. Turn your financial fear into focus.

Focus on what you CAN control – your own spending and how you spend your time. Financial Capability Month offers many tools and resources for financial education and tips for taking advantage of opportunities to increase your financial success. By taking control of your own financial decisions, you will not only impact your own financial well-being, your positive actions will also impact your community, your state, your nation and the world economies.

This is your opportunity to put yourself back in the driver’s seat! Review your last several month’s bank statements. Exactly what are you spending your money on? It adds up quickly. Did you know that if you brewed your favorite coffee at home instead of buying it on the way to work every morning you could save yourself over $1000 this year? (And that is just one cup a day…) With that simple change in your routine, you would save $1000 and still have your favorite coffee every morning!


Do a thorough review of your bills and you might just find:

  1. Monthly automatic charges to your credit card or bank account that you are no longer using or getting any benefit from.
  2. Insurance charges – have you reviewed your insurance lately to see if you are getting the best rates?
  3. Are you getting the best interest rates on your credit cards? Transfer high-interest credit card balances to low-interest ones and then commit to paying them off.
  4. Have you read the fine print on your credit cards? Many credit card companies can raise your interest rate if you have ONE late payment to ANY creditor. It is up to you to know this.
  5. Are you an impulse shopper?  Today if I see something I want, I make a game out of it. I set it aside and walk away to continue shopping. If I REALLY still want it after 2 minutes, I buy it. What happens most of the time is I am too lazy to go back to get it….thus I save myself the time and the money!

How do you spend your time?

Think about how you spend your time. Fear paralyzes people. Get to the head of the pack by using your fear to motivate you to take action instead of paralyze you.

  1. Start a part-time business from your favorite hobby. Could you use an extra $100 every week?
  2. Instead of spending every evening watching tv or playing on the internet, volunteer at your favorite charity. The more you give, the more you receive. Not only will you be helping others, you will be meeting new people….maybe even your next business partner!
  3. Have a garage sale…it really works. My daughter raised $1500 on one Saturday alone…in just 5 hours.
  4. Don’t be alone. Find people who share your passion and brainstorm ways to make money together. 1 + 1 can equal 11 — if you put your heads together.
  5. Look in your local newspaper for free seminars on investing. By educating yourself you will be able to start spotting opportunities that are right in front of you!
  6. Start educating your children about money. Help them start a business. By talking to your kids about money and helping them you will be giving them the gift of a lifetime…financial education. You may even learn a thing or two yourself through the process.

 


I am a firm believer that it is more effective to commit to financial habits, than to money outcomes. If you are making better choices on a day-to-day basis, inevitably you will see the results you want. Here are the three habits you should commit to that will get you the better money outcomes most of us want.

Habit: I pay myself first. This is likely not the first time you’ve heard this. Paying yourself first is the first rule of money management, but most of us don’t follow it, and many who do, don’t stick to it. Paying yourself first means putting away a percentage of your income, ideally 10 percent, exclusively for long-term savings and investment goals. This “payment” should be treated like your mortgage, rent, utility or any other bill, paid every month, no matter what. That means training yourself and building your budget to live on 90 percent of your income.

So what are you paying yourself for?

Your first goal is to accumulate savings equal to 6 to 9 months of your annual household budget, to be touched only in case of loss or interruption of employment income. After you’ve reached that savings objective, you can earmark additional self-payments towards long-term goals such as a down payment on a home, capital to start a business and building an investment portfolio. Keep this money in an account separate from your main bank accounts, to reduce the temptation to dip into it. Also, pay yourself by automatic deposits from your paychecks–just as income tax, health insurance contributions, and other costs are deducted. By the way, your financial capability fund is in addition to, not a substitute for, the money you should also be saving toward retirement. Consider monies earmarked for retirement as down payments to finance your future. Even if you’re paying down debt, you must still pay yourself, just as you wouldn’t skip a rent or mortgage payment. If you must, you can reduce your self-payment to 5 percent of your income, building back to 10 percent as you eliminate debt and/or increase your income.

Habit: I do not live in debt. Of course, to make this habit a way of life, you have to be serious about reducing the debt you have. One way to go is to focus on paying off your smallest debts first, quickly getting rid of them so that you can apply those payments toward progressively larger debts. For example, you might pay off the $500 credit card balance, then move on to the card with the $900 balance, before focusing on the one with the $2,000 balance. Knocking out the smaller debts quickly can provide you with the positive motivation to attack the larger debts.

Another way to go is to focus on the debts charging the highest interest rates and work your way down to the ones with the lowest. This really makes sense if you are still carrying debt on high-interest rate cards. This approach will help you save money on interest payments in the long run. Again, as you eliminate each debt, apply those payments to the remaining debt.

No matter which way you go, always make at least the minimum payments on all outstanding debt, avoiding late fees by always paying on time (ideally three days before they are due). Also, any payment agreements you’ve made with a creditor or debt collection agency should be given priority in your strategy. Most important: Stay focused on not creating new debt as fast as you get rid of the old. Remember, never use credit to buy anything that you can’t afford to pay cash for.

Habit: I do not spend more money than I make. When it comes to getting your money right and gaining financial freedom, not spending more than you make is the most important thing you can do. Whether your household is in the top 1 percent American earners or one of the other 99 percent, learn to live within your means. Unfortunately, on average, Americans spend about a dollar and 25 cents for every dollar they earn. How? By not following a spending plan, also known as a budget, and by using credit as a substitute for the cash they don’t have.

Wealth is not a matter of how much you make, but how much you keep. So the person who makes $30,000 dollars a year and manages to save $5,000 of that income by the end of the year, is wealthier than the person who makes 3 million dollars a year but ends spending $4 million, creating an additional $1 million dollars in debt and liabilities. That’s how so many individuals with high incomes, such as many pro athletes, end up bankrupt.

Living beyond your means leads to financial disaster no matter how big your paycheck. That’s why you need to make living within your means not just a goal to strive for, but a habit today. This starts with reviewing your budget or creating a new one, that accounts for all of your monthly income and expenses. If the latter is greater than the former, you only have three options: make more money, cut expenses or some combination of both.


Commit to these three habits, and your finances will improve. Without them, the chances of you keeping any other financial commitments are slim to none. It’s about establishing good habits, not just chasing desired outcomes.

During Financial Capability Month, take advantage of the opportunities being offered. Make a pledge to yourself that you are ready, willing and able to take responsibility for your financial future. It is the first step towards achieving financial health. It is during times like these when great fortunes will be made by people who educate themselves and take action.

There is a saying, “For things to change, you must change.” The first step is always the hardest. Promise yourself to do just one thing at a time….and start today! By taking action today…Tomorrow will be a brighter day…filled with Bloom and Boom!

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April Is Financial Capability Month

The month of April is synonymous with many things — spring, taxes, April showers,April Fool's Day. What it should perhaps be most associated with is financial empowerment, which is no joke. April is Financial Capability Month. Learn the basics over the next 30 day's and get your financial life in order

 

The month of April is synonymous with many things — spring, taxes, April showers, April Fool’s Day.  What it should perhaps be most associated with is financial empowerment, which is no joke. In 2004, the Senate did precisely that when it officially recognized April as National Financial Capability Month. Over ten years later, those poor fiscal habits are still a challenge for many people, from every economic rung on the ladder. As a financial educator and coach,  I see the consequences of these bad habits every day. A lack of knowledge about financial matters is the root cause of many poor decisions about credit, saving money, investing, banking, and many other issues that seriously threaten the financial stability and well-being of individuals and their families.


Financial Illiteracy Costs $9,724.83

3,006 people in six age categories across the US. People were asked, “Across your entire lifetime, about how much money do you think you have lost because you lacked knowledge about personal finances?”   Respondents estimated that their lack of financial knowledge cost them between $9,724.83. This figure is looking at the low end of the spectrum. If you look at the high end, respondents estimated a whopping $13,237.94 lifetime loss due to financial illiteracy. Reported lifetime losses over $15,000 were reported by 1 out of 3 respondents. 1 in 4 people reported losses over $30,000 due to a lack of financial knowledge.
When I look at these figures, I think of all the experiences I could have or things I could do with that lost money. Don’t fall prey to financial illiteracy, educate yourself on money matters.

 Common  Facts and Fixes

In honor of Financial Literacy Month 2017, I am pleased to highlight some facts about how well (or not so well) Americans are managing their personal finances these days, as well as suggested “fixes” that can help you overcome these common obstacles to better financial health.
Fact: Only 40% of U.S. households report good or excellent progress in meeting their savings needs.
Most U.S. families are struggling to reach their financial goals. This might mean not saving enough for the family vacation and charging the flight on a credit card. For many of my clients, it can often mean not having enough for gas from week to week, or taking out illegal payday loans.

Fix: Whether on your own or with a financial coach, you can identify obstacles and create a plan (and a budget!) to guide you. In many cases, it starts with a look back to where your money is being spent, and then identifying expenses that can be cut, maximizing your income, and taking advantage of income-support benefits. Keeping your goal front and center is crucial.


Fact: 64% of Americans do not have enough cash to handle a $1,000 emergency.

Most people can recall the exact moment when they fell into their debt spiral, and it is very often when a crisis arises. Without savings on hand, you will have to either borrow money from friends and family or use your credit card.

Fix: It’s simple. Start by creating a financial capability fund, and stick to it. One of the major determinants of financial security is the ability to consistently save a portion of your income. Start with whatever amount you can afford – $50 or $5 a month – and increase the contributions as you grow your income and optimize your budget.


Fact: One in four student loan borrowers are either in delinquency or default on their student loans.

Student loan debt passed the $1 trillion mark in 2012 – exceeding both credit card and auto loan debt. If you are not in default, but still struggling to keep up, you have a few options. You might be able to resolve a delinquency with a deferment or forbearance if you qualify, which are ways to temporarily pause monthly payments. You might even qualify for an income-driven repayment plan where your payment will be determined by your discretionary income. For tools and resources, go to http://www.studentloans.gov and https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.

Fix: Once your federal student loan is in default, your options are limited. You must either rehabilitate the loan or consolidate it out of default with a new loan. Though servicers are supposed to thoroughly explain your options, you can also speak with an impartial financial counselor or professional. In addition, access the U.S. Department of Education’s special portal developed for students in default at http://www.myeddebt.ed.gov.


Fact: Medical bankruptcy is the number-one cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the threat of medical debt doesn’t seem to be subsiding. Americans pay three times more for medical debt than they do for bank and credit-card debt combined. Even with more people covered by some form of insurance, medical debt is still stymieing progress toward achieving financial goals.

Fix: Ensure that any upcoming procedures are covered under your insurance plan  If you have a high-deductible insurance plan, make sure that you have at least the amount of the deductible saved in your financial capability fund. You might want to consider low-deductible insurance plans, but be ready to pay more in monthly premiums.

It never hurts to ask for a discount before securing services. In fact, many local, government-funded hospitals offer a sliding scale for services and procedures. For the uninsured, utilize community health centers and other free or low-cost programs and services.


Fact: An estimated 825,000 adults lack even a basic checking account.

Banking is a crucial pathway to financial inclusion and security. It provides a platform for effectively managing your money. Without access to affordable banking products you are robbed of the benefits of the formal banking system and are often forced into more expensive and less secure alternatives.

Fix: There has been a lot of progress in making bank accounts accessible for low-income Americans. You still need to watch out for fees. Banks are now offering more options and there’s a proliferation of free online bank accounts.


Today is April 1! We still have time to mark the occasion by making ourselves a promise to become more educated about our finances. Personal finances can be tricky and intimidating. With the right resources and support, everyone can move closer to financial stability and achieve goals they set for years to come. Join me over the next 30 day’s for 30 step’s you can take to become financially literate.

Disease Called Debt
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