As the new year dawns, lots of thoughts go to getting in shape. Getting in shape does not mean going to the gym only…. getting in financial shape is important also.
Getting in shape is not just eating right……
Unlike the advertisements for Las Vegas tell us, mistakes do follow us throughout our lives. One bad financial decision or a failure to properly plan for our future can take years to remedy. Educate yourself to make wise financial decisions.
- Negative Spending
Have you created a budget and do you stick to it? If not, you may be spending more money than you make. People who have created a budget have a good idea of their monthly income and expenses and can accurately diagnose their financial condition. Other signs of negative spending include the inability to pay off credit cards each month and spending money on fun things before you have paid for necessities.
- No Rainy Day Fund
Do you have little or no money in savings accounts, retirement plans, and investment portfolios? When something breaks, or difficult circumstances such as unexpected medical expenses or a job loss happens you must draw down what little savings you have and go deeper into debt.
- Too Much Debt
Do you have so much debt that you are having difficulty meeting your expenses each month? Are you ‘borrowing from Peter to pay Paul’? You may have re-financed your home or consolidated debt to get cash to pay for other debts (maybe more than once). Re-financing or consolidation can be a very good tool to help you, but the ultimate goal must be to reduce debt.
- No Plan
Do you have a written financial plan, to help you plan for unexpected things and future goals? A comprehensive financial plan used to be difficult to come by unless you had substantial assets, but with a financial plan you can take control of planning your future.
- Optical Rectitus
The condition in which your optical (eye) nerve gets crossed with your rectal (anal) nerve and you see the world through a crappy disposition. You can choose to be negative or positive. Whichever one you choose will set the course for your life. You can either make the best of what you have, or be a victim of circumstances and spend your life blaming others for your situation. Having a positive attitude creates the state of mind for success and overall health.
You live mainly for yourself without thinking of the world around you. You buy things that please you alone, and then you don’t share. For instance, what good is it to buy a new gas grill then never have a cookout? You are enjoying your holiday meal without even a thought about donating to a soup kitchen or food pantry. Your children are enjoying opening their holiday gifts, but you didn’t think about donating a gift for a needy child. You don’t give money and time away. You spend your time and money on yourself, or on those in your very small circle. You will find liberation if you think of others and ‘higher things’ before thinking about yourself. Giving money away can be the best “investment” in how you feel about yourself and the world around you
- You and Your Spouse Don’t See Eye-to-Eye on Money
Perhaps one of you is a procrastinator and spender and the other is a saver and has a ‘get-er-done’ attitude about finances. This problem can be overcome, but it requires a lot of work from both of you. Financial counseling may be in order in extreme situations. Sometimes separate checking accounts, but joint savings and investments can help. Creating and sticking to a budget is essential so that the ‘spender’ isn’t always blamed for financial difficulties. Also, remember that a lot of marriages break up over fighting about financial matters. The small amount of time planning and working through financial responsibilities is well worth marital harmony.
- Either Trust Too Much or Don’t Use Advisors at all
You assume that anyone can make financial decisions and that everything will work out in the end. You don’t keep up with the news so you were unaware of things such as predatory lending practices on your ‘interest only’ mortgage or the 400% interest you paid to the ‘Get Cash Now’ store. You are certain that the odds are truly in your favor to win this time so you are buried in magazines that you bought to increase your chances to win. Your basement is filled with products that you will sell someday; you just had to get the minimum amount so that you could be an official distributor and save more money. Remember, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.
Have you put off seeking help from financial, insurance, legal and tax advisors. Many people procrastinate to the detriment of their financial condition. We all have to pay taxes and we all need insurance and a will. Perhaps you don’t want to make the hard decisions that they may tell you to make (like saving more money and buying insurance, or delaying the purchase of things you want now). Tax and legal advisors may save you money and legal entanglements.
- Living Large
Do you spend money on homes, cars, vacations, or hobbies at or a level above your income bracket versus a notch or two below? Bigger homes, and cars, more sophisticated appliances or whatever you buy, will cost more to purchase, fuel, maintain and insure. The nicer vacation spot will cost you more for your lodging, meals, and for everything else while you are there. Have you ever allowed warm fuzzy feelings to dictate the purchase of a pet without properly budgeting for all of the expenses it would entail? Don’t buy anything if you can’t afford all of the expenses that will come with it.
For some, the desire to pay bills, budget, and plan finances falls somewhere below getting a root canal without anesthesia. Sometimes procrastination or a desire to avoid difficult topics (like thinking about your death for Life Insurance or creating a Will) can keep you from achieving your dreams.
Being successful with the money you have is not easy or quick and there are no short cuts. Continue to educate yourself about financial matters and obtain and follow a financial plan. If you work hard to achieve the goals laid out in your plan and avoid these mistakes you will be well on your way to funding your dreams.
By: Author Kent Irwin