Category Archives: Finance

How We Improved Our Financial Health

Several years ago my husband and I were in quite a financial fiasco. We were behind in payments on our housing, autos, utilities, and installment loans, and creditors were calling us constantly. Our young marriage was rocky at best due mostly to the financial stress. After much hard work, though, we managed to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in, and I’m happy to say we are now on a much firmer financial footing. I’ve tried to put together an outline of how we improved our financial health. I put them in some sort of order, but many of them must be done simultaneously.

Change your attitude

This was the first, and most crucial, step in turning our financial life around. We had to accept responsibility for the choices we had made and make a conscious decision that we no longer wanted to live that way. We wanted a better life for our family with less stress. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, the change in attitude in one area of our life slowly overflowed to all other areas and many of the problems we were facing seemed to disappear. Now I look back and realize how much of an impact our attitudes had on our lives and marriage.

Set goals

Preferably with your spouse so you can work together. As I learned in the early part of our marriage, it’s very difficult to get anywhere when resources are spent trying to go in two separate directions. And if you don’t set a specific goal, like saving for a down payment, paying off credit cards, or going on a family vacation, you are less likely to actually set the money aside.

Analyze spending

Starting with the monthly bills and getting right down to the little things like the candy bar at the gas station. The simple act of writing down everything you spend (and your spouse) for thirty days can be a huge eye opener. I resisted for years, and when I finally stuck with it for 3 months I was amazed at the potential savings I had overlooked for so long.

Start slashing costs

How drastic you need to be depends on how desperate your circumstances. Start with things you and your family are least likely to notice and that will provide motivation to continue.

Research, research, research

There is information everywhere on every subject imaginable. Check out books at your local library and do online searches for finances, saving money, living cheaply, or a specific area you want to save money on. Find like-minded people who you can share with and learn from.

Make and stick to a realistic spending plan (aka budget)

Do it simple or fancy, just get it done. Write down all the income and the bills and fill in with the extras like groceries, gas, allowances, clothing, etc. It must work on paper before it will work in real life! Dave Ramsey and Mary Hunt both have excellent advice on budgeting and getting out of debt.

Start paying off debt

Of course, you must stop buying things with credit if you ever want to pay it off. Most of our problems were old bills we had let lapse into collection. Once we had adjusted our attitudes and set up a plan, I started paying the bills off one by one. I started with the smallest ones and paid those as the budget permitted. There was a great sense of achievement after the smaller ones were gone. Then I moved onto the larger bills, which required making phone calls to creditors whom we hadn’t been in contact with for some time. Those calls were extremely difficult! Not only was my pride a little bruised, but I often had to deal with rude people. After having my feelings hurt on more than one occasion by what I felt was a lack of helpfulness, I finally started asking to speak to a different person. If that didn’t work, I simply hung up and called again until I was speaking with someone who wanted to take my money without insulting me. And one last note: Save records of everything you pay off! This is especially useful when cleaning up your credit report.

Plan, plan, plan

I don’t believe in unexpected expenses; I simply think they are unplanned. Everyone gets sick, the car will eventually break down, the dog will have to go to the vet. Just make sure you set aside a little bit at a time on a regular basis and the money will be there when you need it. Mary Hunt calls this a Freedom Account. Planning also applies to purchases of all kinds. Amy Dacyzyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette, says you should plan purchases in such a way that you get them before you need them at the lowest possible price. If your kids need winter clothes for next year, get them this summer at yard sales.

Clean up your credit

This should not be an immediate concern! If you are serious about getting out of debt then you don’t need to worry about how great your credit is. However, it should be done eventually since it takes years for bad stuff to disappear, and you may want to buy a house down the road. I didn’t tackle this until we were paying our bills on time and had paid off the collection items. It was a huge undertaking that took up a lot of hours over a couple of weeks. First I went to a link from Dave Ramsey’s website and ordered a 3-in-1 credit report so I could see everything at once. I did a rough read through to see what was immediately incorrect and then started digging deeper. My records from paying off old collection bills were very helpful. Once I had a list of all the items that needed to be corrected I went to the credit agency’s website and filled out a dispute form. They responded to each item I questioned and sent me a new credit report after all the changes were made.

Money Management Tips for Your Child’s College Degree Education

Proper financial planning and money management for the purpose of college education of your children is absolutely essential, in view of the fact that the cost of college education has almost doubled in the last ten years and it is likely to become more expensive in the future. As we have entered an era of knowledge economy the advantages of a college degree have increased manifold.

It is an undeniable fact that young people who earn a college degree are more likely to have a higher income, enter an occupation that is more satisfying and get more opportunities for growth, than someone who doesn’t have a college degree. College education equips young people with critical and analytical thinking skills that are important in almost all fields today, especially the highly technical fields.

The cost of college education includes tuition fees, room and board fees, cost of books and transportation costs. If you wish to provide college education for your children you must plan ahead from now and this is where personal money management comes in. The earlier you start the more flexibility and choices you will have. Later on you will have other expenses and financial goals like buying a house and planning for retirement. In fact it is best to start saving and investing for your child’s college degree from birth to ease the pressure later on.

Saving and investing for college education will require a special program to be pursued specifically for this purpose. Your financial planning and money management strategies for college degree will depend on how early or how late you start. If the goal is far into the future, say ten years or more you can use aggressive investment strategies that involve some risks. When you are planning for long term you can use a variety of investment options so that your money can grow significantly. In case it is near you can use only low risk investments

The advantage of long term planning is that through compounding your money can grow to a significant amount over time putting less pressure on your earnings. Just setting aside a small amount every month will be sufficient to cover future college degree expenses of your children and you will not be under pressure when you will need to buy a family home and plan for retirement expenses. Of course these can also be included in your early financial planning. This will allow your children to complete college with less or no debt and they will have more choice of colleges and courses to join.

For the purpose of proper planning and execution of your college degree financing plan you need to assess the number of years until your child goes to college, projected cost of college education at that time in view of the past rates of escalation, amount that can be easily set aside from the household income, rate of inflation, possibility of student employment during college, availability of student loan, etc. A clear picture will no doubt help you to clearly chalk out your money management strategies for savings and investment. You can then look for and evaluate investment alternatives that will help you achieve your goals by balancing safety and yield.

You should diversify your investments so that the growth of your funds can outpace the rate of inflation to a great degree. According to financial experts you should aim at a return of around 3 percent over the rate of inflation because promises of more returns can be risky. You must keep in mind that investments with much higher yields will put your capital at risk. Liquidity may be also an important consideration for you but you should remember the fact that more liquidity might mean slower growth of your investments.

Various investment options are available for you depending on the age of your child. If you start before your child is 12 you can consider investing in stocks and/or growth-stock mutual funds. For children up to 16 years a series of bonds that mature each college degree year can be considered as they carry lower risk. If the child is above 16 then you should move into low risk investments so that the capital is protected. Short term government securities, money market funds, savings bonds and certificates of deposit are a good choice at this time.

In addition to the money management strategies described above other options for funding college education of your children are also available. Some states allow you to prepay college tuition fees. You can purchase one, two, three or four years of college in advance for your child’s college degree but you have to be sure that your child will not need to study out of state as each state has its own procedures and policies. If the refund policy and other terms suit you then this avenue should be definitely explored.

Another possibility is to borrow from a 40(K) retirement account but the limitation is that the amount has to be repaid within five years. A home equity loan which may also be tax deductible, can also be considered for funding your child’s college education. Thus if you wish to save for a college degree for your child, the essential money management and investment strategies are to begin as early as possible, save regularly, evaluate the risk and return of various types of investment and diversify your investments. It is important to regularly keep reviewing and adjusting your investment portfolio for maximum return on investment.

Benefits of Family Financial Planning: Why and When Families Should Get Professional Money Advice

The best way for families to achieve their financial goals is through proper financial planning. Registered and certified financial planners can help families when they have saved a decent amount of money or when their financial circumstances have changed – redundancy, job promotion, having more children, etc.

The benefits of family financial planning are myriad. Here are six reasons to get professional money planning advice.

Boost Household Savings and Investments

A financial advisor can look into a family’s financial circumstances and help them maximize their savings through various financial products and investments. The financial planner can also help the family to borrow for investments. Called gearing, this powerful strategy can help households grow their financial assets faster than conventional savings and investment methods.

Manage Tax Effectively

For many Australian families, managing tax is a tricky thing, especially when investments and superannuation come into the picture. To have an in-depth and clear understanding of tax implications, it’s best to review them through a registered financial planner. He will help the client to fully understand any potential risks involved in the investment decisions as well as recommend effective strategies to maximize returns and achieve short- and longer-term financial goals.

Help Families Get the Right Insurance

Although insurance premiums can be rather costly, sufficient insurance is crucial to protect the family and its assets against unforeseen circumstances. Life insurance, income protection insurance, health insurance, trauma insurance as well as home and content insurance are necessities for families. A financial advisor will be able to structure the right level of cover for a household’s needs and specific circumstances, depending on the family’s financial situation.

Financial Advice When Job Changes Occur

Salary cuts, redundancies, changing jobs and promotions at work affect families’ financial situations. Each time any of these occurs, it’s important to review superannuation, investment and insurance needs. A financial consultant can help his client make informed decisions about revising his financial plan, making employee payments and getting ample insurance cover.

Assist in Retirement Planning

Retirement planning should be part of a long-term financial plan and start early. Financial planners can help people plan for their retirement and maximize their retirement income to help them achieve the lifestyle they want when they are no longer in the workforce. Those on the verge of retirement can also benefit when financial planners help them invest their savings.

Estate Planning for Families

Estate planning is a very important part of any financial plan. However, it is also often the most neglected part. With proper estate planning done by a financial consultant, a person’s family affairs and family members will be appropriately cared for according to his wishes in the most tax effective manner if he suddenly passes away or becomes incapacitated.

Professional money planning isn’t just for wealthy people or big businesses. It’s for average households too. The benefits of family financial planning include the ability to maximize savings and investment returns, manage tax effectively, get the right insurance, have sound financial advice when there are job changes as well as get help in retirement and estate planning.