Category Archives for "Finances & Careers"

Jun 13

Now You’re Married, What About Your Career?

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Now You're Marriage, What About Your Career?Note: This is a guest post from Amanda Brown.

Although there is an increasing trend of later-in-life marriages in the United States, plenty of young lovers are still tying the knot as their first step towards building their lives.

But once the wedding has come and gone, it may be time to think about adding full-time employment to your routine. It’s a daunting task, but the emotional and financial benefits of managing your career and family are worth it in the end.

Why Get Married First?

There are plenty of reasons why someone might want to start a family before settling into a career. Married men typically make more money than bachelors, and it’s definitely easier for a new mother to ease into maternity without having to schedule long periods of time off from work.

Finally, you have the rest of your life to settle into a work routine, so you might as well spend your youth with someone you love.

Work and Family Don’t Mix

Once you’ve started working full-time, you need to remind yourself to keep your work life and your family life separated at times.

If something bad happens at home, you have to leave your feelings behind once you step into your office. The same goes for stressful work situations; don’t let them affect you when you’re back at home.

Keeping your job and your family in different places emotionally will help maintain your positivity overall when trying to balance the two.

Support Your Spouse

Separating your two lives doesn’t necessarily mean building a brick wall between them, however. You will frequently face tough decisions at work and at home, and you shouldn’t have to face them all by yourself.

Involving your spouse in your more troubling moments will make the decisions easier to make, as well as strengthen the connection you share. Do the same for your spouse. Get to know the kinds of issues they have to deal with on a daily basis and figure out the best way to help them through.

And, of course, always make financial decisions as a pair, especially if your marriage included joining your bank accounts.

Prepare to Make Sacrifices

Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that you will often have to make sacrifices when it comes to your family and your job. An important project at work might keep you from seeing your kid’s school play. Likewise, you might have to stay home from work to take care of your spouse when they are sick.

Accepting that sacrifices are unavoidable will help you understand the benefits of making them, whether that means a well-earned bonus check or a stronger bond between you and your loved ones.

Do What You Love

You love your family, why not love your work?

Although not everyone can snag their dream job, it’s likely that there’s something out there that you will enjoy. If you have a passion for cooking, try to get into a restaurant’s kitchen. If you love to help others, you can obtain a nursing degree.

But even if you can’t think of anything you’d like to do for a living, you can at least try find some friendly coworkers you enjoy working around. Being happier at work will make you happier at home.

Take Time for Yourself

Regardless of how much you care about your job and your spouse, you cannot forget about the third thing you’re trying to juggle: yourself. Putting all of your time into your work and your family can be incredibly rewarding on those fronts but might leave you feeling stressed and depressed.

You have to find some time to be alone every now and then. Do something nice for yourself, like taking a long bath or buying yourself a little gift. Taking time for yourself will refresh you when you return to your main tasks as an employee and a spouse, helping you work harder and love longer.

Juggling your family, a career, and your own personal life is no easy feat, but coming up with a plan and seeing it through will certainly help your bank account and your relationship in the long run.

Note: This is a guest post from Amanda Brown.

May 05

Warning: Debt freedom can make you complacent!

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

debt freedom can make you complacent“We feel so stupid. What we were thinking? We are so much smarter than this.”

These comments came out of a past conversation with a fellow Financial Peace University graduate.

The couple, with college degrees, student loans, and decent jobs, had taken the baby steps to heart and began to budget their way to debt freedom.

In spite of continued pressure from their friends and family, they remained intrepid apartment dwellers, patiently waiting and building towards a brighter future.

They got debt-free, and when they felt ready, and after much searching and consideration, they bought a house.

Much later they began to panic, as they realized they weren’t ready financially for the true cost of owning the home they chose.

What happened?

 They learned debt freedom can make you complacent.

When my husband and I were working our way towards debt freedom, I read a cautionary tale from a fellow FPU Facilitator about moving beyond Baby Step 3.

At that point, you are a freshly minted debt free couple—woohoo!—and have a fully funded emergency fund.

He wrote that the inclination is strong to celebrate your hard-won progress by letting go of the tight grip you’ve had on your budget and loosening the purse strings.

You tell yourself you deserve it, you’ve worked so hard and for so long, and besides, you have so much more disposable income now!

Upon further conversation with the aforementioned worried home owner, this is what happened to them.

Truth be told, the complacency happened to us, too.

Frankly, I was shocked at how easy it was to slip into spending more and tracking less.

The start of the slide to complacency: Losing track of the true outgo

These unhappy homeowners started to do what they termed retroactive budgeting.

That’s the practice of logging into your budgeting software every month or six, and just matching your budget to what you spent.

It’s just so much faster, easier, and less limiting to do it that way. 🙂

Again, I speak from personal experience, too.

My husband and I have been guilty of this, and after a very, very long stretch of being pretty focused, we just did it this past month. Ugh.

But how do you miscalculate on a house purchase?

You begin to do what I call winging it, speaking from my own pre-FPU experience and that of my fellow FPU learners.

  • You are already not keeping really close tabs on your finances—retroactive budgeting, if you are budgeting at all—so you are missing the big picture.
  • The mental list of potential current and future expenses for your dream home is fuzzy and incomplete, but it’s probably close enough.
  • You lose perspective on what even a good home price means to your budget, so you don’t really crunch the numbers.
  • You want to have a family, and you neglect to fully factor those expenses and possible loss of income into your decision.
  • The bank is willing to lend you much more than you would need, so that must mean the home is well within your grasp.
  • There aren’t a lot of cute and decent starter homes in your city that are in good neighborhoods with a semi-reasonable commute, so when one comes up you just have to grab it.
  • You suspect your current income won’t be quite enough, but assume your future self will get raises and be able to cover expenses.
  • You love the house so much you completely lose your Walk  Away Power.

Basically, I believe you allow your inner Free Spirit the upper hand in making your financial decisions without the benefit and balance of input from your inner Nerd.

Consequently, you begin to regress to ostrich status, to that time before budgets, when you would stick your head in the sand and hope everything was going to somehow turn out alright.

Moving away from complacency

There are different paths back to active financial management and better decision-making.

Remember this is nothing more than a course correction for your good ship Home Budget.

As captain, you monitor your progress and regularly tweak your course to keep your craft headed in the right direction.

The typical correction doesn’t require returning to port and beginning again, although there are rare moments when that might the right decision.

Here are five places to start if you have become complacent:

Re-calibrate your perspective on budgeting. If you’ve gone back to thinking about budgets as being more like cod liver oil than peaches and cream, read this for inspiration.

Set yourself up for convenience. If budgeting is a hassle, you will avoid it, so you have to find a system that works for you. Dustin shares about YNAB here, a terrific piece of budgeting software. It’s what my hubbie and I use and enthusiastically recommend. Plus, it’s now free for college students. Hooray for free!

Take on a like-minded mentor who will teach and encourage you. Having someone to call who has walked in your shoes and is now walking the talk is priceless for providing guidance to help you move forward in your financial goals.

Ask someone to be your financial accountability partner. The thought of being transparent about your salary and expenses may make you hyperventilate, but I can’t recommend this enough if you and your spouse have difficulty climbing out of the complacency trap. This person will help you stay on track with your goals, but be sure this person can be trusted with your information. This is not a task to be taken on lightly. We have done it for other couples, and they have told us the accountability was critical to their progress.

Find experts to help you determine the true cost of purchases, especially for a home. As painful as it can be to see the cost of a potential purchase like a home spiral out of reach on paper, it is more painful to have the costs pile up, tip over, and bury you in real life.

Make no mistake: Debt freedom is a worthy destination and one that will bring you much joy. Like any journey, however, the better aware and prepared you are, the easier it is to successfully navigate the twists, turns and potential pitfalls.

Comment: What tricks and tips have you used to navigate through the bumps along the way to and beyond debt freedom?

Photo: Marcelo Jannuzzi via Flickr

Apr 07

10 Places to Find Free and Nearly Free Stuff

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

10 places to find free and nearly free stuffSome folks are just not comfortable with the thought of obtaining previously owned clothing and household items, and that’s fine.

Others, like my husband and I, make our dollars go much further by taking advantage of gently used goods.

What we especially love is finding merchandise in good, usable condition for free or nearly free.

We joke that we have a finely tuned sense of Freedar—that’s like Radar, only different 🙂 —that alerts us to big bargains.

This has been developed over the years due to our desire to get the most Wow! for our money.

Plus, we get a real charge out of discovering deals!

To help get you rolling towards more savings and a debt free marriage, or just for the thrill of the hunt, here is the list:

Ten places to find Free and Nearly Free stuff!

1.  Free pile at work.  More than one previous employer had a designated area, such as a side table in the cafeteria, where employees were welcome to bring in clean, usable items. Books, clothes, holiday decorations, household goods, and more made regular and very short appearances there. If your workplace doesn’t have a free pile, you can always suggest they start one, and you can offer to oversee it.

2.  Church clothing exchange.  Our church hosted these twice a year. In May and then again in October, families would bring in clothes they no longer wanted or needed. The event lasted for about three weeks, which gave plenty of time to donate and “shop.” Whatever was left at the end was donated to a local charitable thrift store.

3.  School clothing swap.  Our daughters attended a private elementary school, where we held a similar twice yearly exchange. This was incredibly helpful financially, as the children wore uniforms. In another local public school, the parents group organized a clothing swap for the families. Kids grow so quickly, so it it’s always helpful to find free clothes!

4.  Rummage sale.  Watch the public bulletin boards in your local grocery store, in the library, and of course, Craigslist, for notices of rummage sales (usually under the garage sale category). Typically, clothing and so much more can be had at very reasonable prices. If you go after noon, though, they tend to offer huge deals so they don’t have to handle leftover donations.

Get to know the dates of the best annual events, and mark them on your calendar for next year. We had a couple of huge ones where I previously lived, and people would line up at least an hour in advance to get first crack at the bargains. Our daughter furnished her first after college apartment almost completely during the late afternoon big bargain time at one of these very inexpensive and fun sales.

5.  Craigslist.  This busy site has a Free section within the For Sale area. Although the pickings are a little slim here, sometimes you can find a real gem. The trick is to just keep checking. In the Yard Sale section, folks will post “Curb Alerts.” These are notices of yard sale leftovers they are leaving for free on their front lawns/curbs, or things they no longer want or need.

Always be courteous, do what you promise, and be safe. If you are new to Craigslist, take the time to read over their FAQ’s, including the information on general help, fraud, and safety.

6.  Freecycle.  The goal of this network is to reduce and recycle goods you no longer want by giving them away to others. They have over seven million members worldwide, and over 5,000 groups. My town of just over 2,000 individuals was even part of a small area group. You sign up for one or more groups in your area. When another member posts an item, you email them to let them know of your interest. Like Craigslist, always be safe and smart about your on and offline transactions.

7.  Family and friends.  Let these folks know you are interested in locating particular items for free or nearly free, and offer to stay similarly on the lookout for them. Putting the power of a larger group to work is a wonderful thing. We always have other folks in mind as we peruse merchandise. If we pick up something and the person no longer needs or wants it, we can just give it away, no harm done.

8.  Town convenience/recycle center. These places may have different names depending on where in the country you live. Many of them provide an area where you can drop off used goods for others. I know of a wealthy town whose area is so well-stocked and wildly popular that the managers have created a two-step ID check-in process to keep out non-residents.

9.  Neighborhood curb shopping.  Most suburban areas have a regular trash pickup day. Find out what day that is, and drive there the night before. If you see something on the curb you’d like beside the trash containers, you can check with the owners before taking it. Let comfort, common sense, and courtesy be your guide! Trent of The Simple Dollar wrote about this practice here. You can certainly do this in your own neighborhood, but some folks are just more comfortable curb shopping where they aren’t approaching friends and neighbors.

10.  College campuses.  At the end of the year, students are focused on final projects, exams, and going home. In their hurry to flee, they often leave lots of useful merchandise at the curb. This is true for dorms as well as off-campus housing.

This list should give you plenty of places to start your search for free and nearly free goodies.

Remember this: Just because someone has discarded an item does not automatically mean it is trash.

It may very well be the treasure you have been seeking!

Question: Where would you recommend searching for free and nearly free stuff?

Photo credit

Mar 24

Letting Go of The Jones’: Finding Relief from the “Supposed To’s” of Financial Goals

By E.J. Smith | Finances & Careers

Letting Go of The Jones': Finding Relief from the Supposed To's of Financial GoalsIf you ask me what my least favorite topic to write, talk or counsel others about in the entire world is—I will tell you right now, it’s money.

Which is terribly inconvenient for several reasons, not the least of which being that finances are still touted as being close to, if not #1 on the list of common reasons why couples divorce.

In many ways, it makes perfect sense.

Money is a part of our daily lives.  You either learn how to deal with it, or eventually it railroads you.

Although theoretically for much of the population, money should be a fairly straightforward topic.  The exchange of a valued item (money, shells, a camel or two) for a good or service is practically as old as civilization.  And figuring out whether you have enough money to pay for that item doesn’t change very much whether you’re using Quickbooks or an abacus.

The fact that we still haven’t really come to grips with how to manage it is both impressive (in a morbid sense) and raises the question: 

Have we been trying to keep up with the Jones’ since the dawn of civilization? And more importantly, how do we keep our relationships healthy in the midst of it all?

Before I share more about this effort to keep up with those pesky Jones’, I want to take a minute to highlight some of the resources already available to the Engaged Marriage community: Married Money Management (a multi-step guide to rewriting your financial future as a couple), as well as this fantastic piece on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps that is definitely worth checking out.

And finally, from around the web here’s a quick listing of Do’s and Don’t’s that seem pretty spot-on from an communication/therapy perspective as well.

I’ll encourage you to read all of these pieces, and to do so with 2 things:

1) An open, creative mind – not everything is going to true for you.

(Have you read the comments on the Joint-or-Separate Accounts article?!) so you’re going to have to be prepared to tweak things here and there to get them to work for you.

2) A healthy sense of humility –  let go of the expectation that you need to have all the answers right now.  You can’t learn anything if you’re too busy justifying how perfect your system is right now.  No one’s system is perfect. Everyone can learn something.

So beyond the articles I mentioned, what can I invite you to consider regarding relationships and money?  The most important concept that I’ve found—and to be honest, something that my husband does much better than I—is letting go of the “supposed to’s” that often accompany our struggle to keep pace with Jones. 

Letting Go of “Supposed to…”

Tell me, do any of these ring true?

  • “You’re supposed to take care of the house, you’re my wife.”
  • “I have a college degree, I’m supposed to be able to find a job!”
  • “You’re supposed to take a luxury vacation every year.”
  •  “You’re supposed to get married/have kids/finish school/buy a house by ___ age.”
  • “I’m supposed to have acquired _____________ by now.”

The “supposed to” conversation is a common one in its many and varied forms.  What I would like to know, however, is who is writing these rules? Who said that you had to get married by a certain age?  Who said that you were supposed to have a 2 story 2,000+ sq ft house in the suburbs? Who said those things?

Now don’t mistake my message—getting married, buying a house, taking a vacation are in and of themselves good things. It’s great to have goals, and typically I tend to think that our friends and family give us advice that comes from a place of love and caring.

However, anyone can get married by 25. And as the housing market collapse, and $16,000 in credit card debt carried by the Average American illustrate, the financial powers that be are more than happy to exploit our feelings of “supposed to.”

The invention of credit has allowed folks to fake their way into luxury homes and cars on par with their personal Jones’ expectations.

But again, who is setting this standard?

Of course there’s the somewhat commonplace answers: we can look at friends, families, coworkers and celebrities—even people we genuinely dislike and want to be “better than.”

But what if – and this is a very real possibility – that your spouse is the one who keeps setting the socioeconomic benchmarks higher and higher with little or no concern for your bottom line? What if the worst financial decision you ever made was linking your bank account and your credit score to the person you love?

The truth is being irresponsible with your finances and disregarding your spouse’s financial goals in marriage can be equally as poisonous to the health of that relationship than if you slept with your financial planner.

Trust, security, and safety are foundational to a healthy relationship—ANY relationship.  Wondering whether or not you’re going to be able to pay your mortgage next month while your husband rides around in a new sports car or your wife is doubling her shoe collection is not only unfair—one could make the case that it’s downright abusive!

Now of course I’m not talking about that one month where you accidentally went a teensy overboard.  I’m talking about a month upon month, year upon year, failed promise to “cut back.”

To be honest, I’m really not sure how we start healing this issue as a culture.  I think one place to start is recognizing where our “supposed to” traps are hidden and make conscious efforts to release them.

We need to remove the shame that some how got associated with living within our means and silence the “They” and “Jones’” that would have us think otherwise.  Keeping up with the Jones’ and the endless list of “supposed to’s” is exhausting and expensive.

So what are the “supposed to’s” that you find yourself or your family struggling with?  Is it having the latest technology? A new car? Taking an annual family vacation or paying for extravagant Christmas presents all on a credit card?

Better yet—what are you going to do TODAY to address it?

 

(photo source)

Mar 03

Your Life is a Job Interview: 10 Tips for Creating Luck

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

Your Life is a Job Interview: 10 Tips for Creating LuckEvery day, whether you realize it or not, your life is a job interview.

You might be interviewing for a promotion, a change in responsibilities, or a completely new job, even if you aren’t necessarily looking for something different.

These stealth Q & A’s can happen in these situations, for instance:

  • When you ask a business to fix a mistake
  • When you shop for a new house
  • When you reach out to help others

Honestly, though, they can happen anywhere or anytime.

The common thread, of course, is the quality of interaction you have with others.

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate how life is a job interview.

Our oldest daughter had been going to the local library since she was a baby. By the time she was a fourteen, her overwhelming enthusiasm for books, her quiet and polite demeanor, and her general knowledge of the library was well known to all who worked there. Around that time, the head librarian offered Alexis a job. Our daughter was thrilled at the opportunity and remained with them throughout high school.

Some years back, I was helping my husband pick up loaner gas grills for our annual church barbecue. At one stop, we chatted at length with a friend from church. One topic led to another, and the conversation ended with us trading phone numbers. She wanted to schedule me for interview for a position that was due to open up in a few weeks in her office. I was offered and did take the position.

Neither of these positions were ever advertised as available.

They were filled by virtue of people who had “interviewed” us over time.

Each interaction, request, and problem was an opportunity for others to see our abilities and character in the real world.

We were able to show over time what kind of individuals we were rather than just say it in an interview.

Earl Nightingale said that luck is where preparedness meets opportunity.

I would say that is exactly what happened in our case.

Following are 10 tips to help you to create that same “luck” in the job market:

1.  Keep your skills polished, and add new ones, too.

2.  Embrace failure, as it’s part of stretching your comfort zone.

3.  Maintain a positive attitude, especially when the going gets tough.

4.  Treat others with respect.

5.  Be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and learn to fight fair.

6.  Keep your social networks clean and appropriate.

7.  Practice gratitude, particularly by being generous with thank-you’s.

8.  Perform random acts of kindness regularly.

9.  Offer help with no strings attached.

10.  Encourage others.

It’s really about putting your best foot forward daily.

Not only will you be happier, but you will also shine brightly as a potential job candidate!

Question: What step can you take to be better prepared for the next stage of your work life?

(photo source)

Feb 28

“We know how much money you have.”

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

"We know how much money you have."Note from Dustin: Enjoy this great post from my buddy Derek!

All throughout high school and college I suffered from extreme allergies.

My allergies would come out of nowhere, hit me like a train, and leave me in bed for days trying to recover and regain my energy.

After college when I got my first real job my allergies made things difficult. Sleeping until Noon was no longer an option when I was so tired I couldn’t get out of bed. I would take naps at work and even call in “sick” several times a year, not because I was sick, but because I was exhausted.

I was worried my boss would think I was lazy or trying to get away with something. I wasn’t either of these things, I was exhausted.

I didn’t know I had allergies at all until I told a co-worker why I wasn’t at work one day. He told me about his experience with allergies and how he used to feel exhausted all the time too. He (along with another co worker) had been getting allergy injections for years. He told me the injections had changed his life. He no longer felt tired all the time and had plenty of energy.

I looked into it.

Yup, my allergy test came back off the charts!

Three years and hundreds of injections later I was no longer allergic to 95% of the things that used to put me in a coma. It has been five years since I quit receiving the allergy injections and I am still 95% allergy free. It worked!

I didn’t know I had allergies. I thought being exhausted was normal. I was missing out on so much of my own life and didn’t even know there was another way. How could I possibly know when my own personal experience was all I had to go on?

Sometimes it scares me to think of how my life would have gone if I had never told anyone about my exhaustion. To be honest, I was a little embarrassed about sleeping so much and that kept me from telling anyone. Also, I simply thought it was normal, I thought everyone was always as tired as I was. I didn’t even think of myself as being tired at all, I thought it was normal.

Thank God it came out and I learned about this ‘other way.’

I know how much money you have.

I believe that bringing another couple into your financial situation can have many financial and relational benefits.

Financial miscommunication remains at the top of the list for divorce. Financial miscommunication dumps mountains of stress on lots marriages that don’t end in divorce. Our goal isn’t simply to avoid divorce but rather to continuously grow and enjoy our marriages.

BMO Survey Suggests Money Trouble Remains Top Reason For Divorce.

“Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, the survey found that 68% of respondents said fighting over money would be their top reason for divorce, followed by infidelity at 60%…”

(Fights over money are more likely to end a marriage than infidelity!)

Personal finance, not private finance.

Financial stress has more power, authority, and influence over your marriage than it should be allowed to have. Most people keep their financial life private. Does anyone else see a link between these two statements?

Clearly something isn’t working. I wonder what would happen to all that stress if more people were open, honest, and transparent with their personal finances.

Accountability couple

Sharing with another couple creates a safety line that extends beyond just you and your partner. Once you break through the imaginary line surrounding you and your partner, fresh air will blow in. Establishing a link that moves beyond your marriage will bring your situation to another level of reality. “It’s not just us anymore trying to figure this out” can be an incredibly helpful feeling and reality. Don’t wait until it is too late to throw out the safety line.

Sharing your feelings about your financial situation with another couple could inspire the other couple to action as well. Chance are high that the other couple is also trying to improve their relationship in the financial arena.

Thousands of accountability couples!

My wife Carrie and I have thousands of accountability partners. We post our financials on our website.

Derrick and Carrie

Think about it.

Why do you keep your financial info private? What are YOUR reasons?

Have you thought of your own reasons or do you just keep your info private because that is what everyone else does? What are your reasons apart from what appears to be everyone else’s reasons?

(I have news for you, not everyone keeps it a secret)

What do you have to lose?

How many people know how much you earn?

How many people know how you spend, save, give, and invest your money?

How many people know your net worth?

I bet the answer to all three questions adds up to less than five. (Your boss, someone in payroll, the person who does your taxes, and your spouse.)

Is it helpful for so few people to know about your financial life?

What do you have to gain?

Have a conversation with your partner about the benefits of letting another couple in on your situation. We focus on and give too much power to the negative/awkward reasons against being transparent. But what about all the potential upsides and benefits?

True, there are reasons for and against keeping it private. There are also reasons for and against opening up and sharing. Both ways will have positive and negative results.

Keep it private has its own set of negative results that you are experiencing right now whether you know it or not. Sharing your financials with another couple has benefits that you are currently missing out on.

The devil is in the details.

Ok then, leave out the details.

A conversation about money doesn’t have to include all the details in order to be incredibly helpful. A casual conversation about your current financial situation will be infinitely more helpful than no conversation at all. You don’t have to share specific numbers in order for the conversation to be helpful. Simply talking about your experience, your current circumstances, and your financial goals can be enough to make the time well worth it. Take it slow if that is more comfortable for you.

Success

  • Successful people ask for a second, third, and fourth opinion.
  • Successful people have a default attitude that they do not know everything.
  • Successful people have a default attitude that they do not have all the answers.
  • Successful people ask for help, often.
  • Successful people realize there is always more to learn.
  • Successful people know they can learn more, and faster, from others than can be learned from their own personal experiences alone.

Challenge

Talk with your partner and identify another couple you both feel comfortable sharing financial info with. Talk about the benefits of letting another couple into your financial world. Talk about your fears and what resistance you have to sharing financial info. Talk about the downside of not letting someone in on your situation. (Forward this post to the couple you have in mind.)

Go slow

When you approach the couple you have in mind with this idea, ask them to think about it too. Ask them how they feel about the idea. You can bring it up and then revisit the conversation days, weeks, or months later if you like. The other couple doesn’t have to share their numbers with you if they don’t want to.

Carrie and I talked and prayed about posting our numbers for over a year before we started doing it. The positive feedback has been amazing. We both felt liberated, like a huge burden was suddenly being carried by thousands of others, not just us anymore.

Derek and Carrie encourage married couples to strengthen their marriage through having better conversations on money.  Thanks to them for an awesome guest post!

(photo source)

Feb 03

7 Steps to Leaving a Legacy of Love

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

leaving a legacyWhen you think of leaving a legacy of love, what comes to mind?

How about writing a will, choosing a guardian for your children, and generally leaving your affairs in order?

Those suggestions probably are not the ones that came to the forefront.

After all, no one likes to think of themselves as mortal, especially when they are young and vibrant.

I imagine that may be the case with you as well.

Let’s face it: This is a discomforting thought and one we’d rather not dwell upon.

Here is the problem, though.

When you move on without having a plan in place, completely apart from dealing with the grief, life for your loved ones gets really, really, difficult.

This is true whether you are single, married, with or without children, or whether you are 21, 102, or somewhere in between.

When you do lay the groundwork, even though it may sound cold and clinical to do so, you are leaving a legacy of love.

In essence you are saying, “Here is a lifeboat. I know I can’t prevent the storm, but this vessel will help ease the way to calmer waters and sunnier days.”

Chanel Reynolds lost her husband and was left behind as a single mom:

The reality of my financial situation hit me like a ton of bricks: our income immediately went from ‘healthy’ to ‘zero’, we did not have an emergency fund, our life insurance policy hadn’t been updated in 5 years, we had no disability insurance. Without short term help from friends and family and the life insurance that came later, I would have quickly lost everything, including my sanity. I was frighteningly vulnerable, it’s embarrassing, but it’s true. And it is true for many of you.

She shares her hard-won lessons about getting your life together and planning ahead at her website, along with tips, resources, and hope. (Caution-strong language warning.)

Following are seven steps to leaving a legacy of love.

1.  Get yourself and your marriage debt free. Dustin addresses the reasons for this here. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it can’t be said enough. Being debt free means there aren’t lots of bills to track and pay when your mind is elsewhere. It also means you aren’t at risk of losing your car or other property because, in your grief, you forgot to or couldn’t make the payments.

2.  Create a Legacy Drawer. This is the mother lode of all of your critical information. Dave Ramsey describes the what and how here. I will caution you from experience that putting all the information together can be a bit daunting. It is much easier for you to do it now, though, rather than leaving your loved ones to ferret out this information.

3.  Get your passwords into one place. How many passwords do you have for all those sites you belong to? Be sure they are accessible. This will be part of the Legacy Drawer, but deserves its own mention. I like a duel-pronged approach. Keep a paper copy on hand, using a word document or index cards. You can also save passwords digitally and be more secure online using a password manager program. LastPass and 1Password are a couple of reputable sites. Reviews and more choices are here.

4.  List your social media sites and any related information. Have you thought about what happens to your digital life when you pass away? Mashable provides insight here. I had never thought of adding a social media clause to our will as they suggest, but will be doing so.

5.  Purchase term life insurance for you and your spouse. There are other types of coverage, but my husband and I sit firmly in the term camp. We follow Ramsey’s recommendation of at least ten times your yearly income so that you can live off the interest without touching the principal. Remember that whether you work or stay at home, you will need to replace an income, all the work your spouse does, or both.

6.  Make a will. Again, this is part of the Legacy Drawer, but absolutely worthy of a separate note.  If you don’t have a will, the state will decide via the legal process who gets what. Wouldn’t you rather be in charge of those decisions? You can contact a lawyer, or a website like LegalZoom or TotalLegal to make your will. If you have made one already, be sure to update it as your life changes.

7.  Choose a guardian for your children. I believe that of all the steps, this is the most difficult. After all, there is no one who will parent exactly like you. However, if you don’t choose, the courts will choose for you. To get a sense of considerations, check out The Baby Center. I would add a couple of key questions: Who will love my children as I do? In whose home will my child feel deeply loved and cared for? Sometimes it helps to get a fresh point of view on a tough decision like this. I recommend this helpful technique to provide perspective from the future.

Make a plan to tackle each of these areas, and commit to being done by a particular date.

Consider that getting this organized is a very good thing, as it will also make your life run a bit smoother.

Remember that you certainly want to live a story worth telling, but you’ll also want to pave the way so the next chapters can to be written with more comfort and joy.

Question: What steps have you taken so far for leaving a legacy of love and what would you add to this list?

Photo credit: Sudanshu Goyal

Jan 28

Financial Planning: The Costs of a New Baby

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Note: This is a guest post by Georgia Banks.

The Costs of a New BabyLet’s say you’re either planning to have a baby or have learned that you’ll have one soon.

First, congratulations! It’s exciting news.

But it can also be a financial bomb. By the time your kid turns 18, they could cost you well over $230,000.

But don’t panic! With a little bit of planning, you can gird yourself against the pecuniary storm on the horizon.

Pre-Birth

Many first-time parents are surprised by the costs that a baby incurs even before it’s born.

Prenatal Vitamins
These are essential to making sure your baby has the best health possible when it’s born. Most adult diets are lacking in the nutrition necessary to sustain themselves, let alone sustain a baby.

Baby-Proofing
Making your home safe for your little bundle of joy is a critical step. Some of the baby proofing tools and products are expensive, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Nursery
Setting up a proper nursery can set you back thousands of dollars. From the crib to the changing table, from diaper storage to a sleepy-time swing, there are many things that you should acquire and set up now, before you have your hands full.

The Birthing Process

The average cost of a birth in the US is over $9700, around $3700 for those with insurance and up to $50,000 for those without.

Did you know that a C-Section can cost $10,000 more than a natural birth? Have you thought about what your family will do if your baby needs to visit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?

These are scary things to think about, but they need to be considered before they’re right in front of you.

Some choose to plan for a home birth, often utilizing a midwife or birthing coach. This can mitigate the costs of birth, but be advised that there’s always the possibility that you’ll end up needing to go to the hospital, anyway.

Birthing centers across the country are generally proven to be safe, so look into your options to choose what’s best for you.

As a note, I moved from the US to Australia a while back- the average birth cost here is the second most expensive in the world and it still only costs 2/3 that of the US.

Be mindful of what procedures and medications your doctor recommends- the amounts of tests and supplies hospitals suggest or use is often unnecessary.

Medical Costs

If you’ve been blessed enough for your baby to be born healthy, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

For the first year of your baby’s life, you’ll need to bring him or her in to see a doctor pretty regularly.

Most docs recommend coming in every month for the first 3 months, every 6 weeks until 6 months, and then every 3 months until the end of the first year. This is for vaccinations as well as for check-ups for appropriate development.

While important, it can also really add up financially.

Day to Day

Clothes
Children grow out of clothes at a ridiculous rate. Buying a whole new set of clothes each time your baby outgrows an outfit is a great way to waste hundreds of dollars.

If you have friends or family members who have had children recently, consider borrowing their resources.

Diapers
Disposable diapers can be the bane of a parent’s existence.

Some choose to utilize cloth diapers to save money and reduce waste, but this isn’t feasible for everyone.

Food
Homemade baby food can save you thousands of dollars.

Instead of buying individual jars of baby food for every meal, try your hand at mashing peas and carrots, yourself. There are plenty of guides online and you’ll make sure your baby is eating fresh, healthy foods.

Toys
Toys are one of those things that all of your friends and relatives will jump to get for your baby’s birthdays, showers, and just because.

Such being the case, there isn’t much need to spend a ton on toys that might fall out of favor at any time. The only “toys” you should be concerned about are those used for teething, learning to walk, and recommended learning aids.

Little Things
Nose suckers and burping cloths and breast pumps aren’t necessarily things that you know you need right away. They can sneak up on you when it comes to cost, too.

Try to give yourself a budget margin so that you have the wiggle room you need to take it one day at a time.

Future Costs

Daycare
With two working parents, you’ll need to find a good daycare that you’ll be willing to trust your baby with. Some of the best care facilities can be quite costly, so consider asking your parents for help a day out of the week.

Education
It’s best to get into the habit of putting a percentage of your paycheck into a college or trust fund every month so that you won’t need to worry about tuition when your child grows up.

In the meantime, you’ll face many of the challenges in choosing schools that you face choosing daycare.

Insurance
It isn’t just your baby’s well-being that you need to be concerned with. Now that you have a baby, you need to keep an eye on the future.

Life insurance becomes much more necessary when you think about what position your spouse would be in if you pass. I helped my sister-in-law compare insurance options at Suncorp.com.au when she found out she was pregnant, which was a useful process when deciding which kinds of coverage she needed.

I’d recommend doing the same with your insurance provider.

You’ll come across many costs, expected and unexpected, when having a child. You’ll also pick up many money-savvy habits and tricks (couponing can be a lifesaver!) as well as home remedies.

Preparation is the best thing you can do to secure a future for your child. Plan smartly and utilize your support structure and you’ll be able to focus on the joys of pregnancy instead of the stress.

Jan 18

How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together“It would be great to pay off our debt and have more money for things we enjoy. But where do we start?”

“We’ve tried budgeting before, but it never sticks. Plus, it’s boring!”

“I try to save money, but she’s a spender.”

“When he questions what I spend, I feel like he doesn’t trust me or understand how much things really cost.”

“It’s been years since we’ve even talked about our dreams for the future. It seems kind of pointless when don’t have any extra money.”

There’s no question – Money is a huge issue in your marriage.

Managing the family finances can create a lot of stress, so it’s no surprise that money fights are the #1 cause of divorce.

Of course, when it’s handled the right way, money can also be the source of much joy in your marriage and family life.

Getting debt free was one of the most rewarding experiences in our marriage. Along our bumpy road, we learned how to budget effectively, save on our spending, earn more income and ultimately how to live with contentment and plan for the future we want together (and start to live it).

It took us many years to get our money on track through a lot of trial-and-error and many missteps. Fortunately for you, there is a “fast track” option that I’m proud to be able to offer you today.

I’m excited to share that help is on the way – real, practical help that I know is going to give you the money plan and fun tools you need along with a lot of excitement to put it into action.

We’re hosting a very special online event called “How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together.”

I’ll be joined by my go-to resource on this topic – Ann Arceo of Savvy Duo Financial Planning, Inc. – who will be our main presenter. Ann has helped couples across the world get on the same page with their money so they can be happier now while preparing for an exciting future enjoying their dreams together. Here’s a brief bio:

Ann ArceoAnn Arceo is a Financial Planner and President of Savvy Duo Financial Planning, Inc. Savvy Duo Financial Planning, Inc. provides affordable flat fee financial planning to newlyweds and couples.

Ann began her career in financial planning at PartnersInWealth, a wealth management firm based in Houston, Texas. The firm catered to high net worth individuals. Ann worked with the firm’s President to train the financial planners. She developed a new method of training to help the advisors learn to deliver technical financial plans in an easy, “plain English” format that clients would understand.

She then worked for LPL Financial, an independent broker dealer, where she earned her Series 7 & 66 securities licenses. She worked alongside a branch manager creating financial plans, account summaries, and investment performance reports for high net worth clients.

Ann holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Houston, Victoria, and she is currently working towards earning her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™ designation. Ann lives with her husband in Los Angeles. They enjoy spending time with friends, hiking, hanging out at the beach and of course planning their financial future together!

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be covering in this live workshop:

  • How to create a financial plan together that works using SMART goals
  • How to create a simple, non-boring budget using the 3 bucket system
  • How to pay off debt quickly & start saving $$$ right away
  • How to start a savings & investment plan to support your future ambitions
  • How to discuss money with your honey – so you can be happy now while you create the future you desire…TOGETHER!

We’ve decided to keep the cost of this workshop very reasonable, and in addition to some awesome “take action tonight” live training and lifetime access to the recordings of the event, you’ll also have the opportunity to ask any question you’d like of Ann and me.

Plus, Ann is including copies of TWO of her company’s most popular money resources for couples – The Savvy Duo Guide to Getting Financially Intimate with Your Partner workbook/video and The Savvy Duo Budget Tracker for everyone who joins in the fun.

The live event takes place on Thursday evening 1/23, but if you already have plans, no worries – everyone who registers gets a full recording (both video and audio versions) to enjoy at your convenience and you can submit questions in advance.

That said, we have to limit the number of “seats” to the event because our webinar service can only accommodate so many live attendees, and we want to be able to respond to every question that’s submitted personally and thoroughly. So grab your seat soon.

Reserve my SeatClick here to reserve your seat to this special event

By the way, I’m all about delivering the goods and making sure you love your experience with this event. So, even though I’m sure you’ll love what Ann has to share, I’m covering all attendees with a 100% guarantee. If you’re not blown away by the workshop, I’ll refund your money – and you can keep both the Budget Tracker and Guide to enjoy!

I’m so excited for this third Engaged Marriage “How-to” Workshop, and I hope you will join us for a marriage-enriching event!

Jan 06

Budgeting: Change your perspective, change your life

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

Budgeting change your perspective, change your lifeWhen I think of budgeting, I am reminded of what Elizabeth George wrote in Putting on a Quiet and Gentle Spirit about learning to read the Bible:

There is the cod liver oil stage when you take it like medicine; the shredded wheat stage when it’s nourishing but dry; and the peaches and cream stage when it is consumed with passion and pleasure.

That quote has stayed with me, especially because I felt that way almost my entire life.

I was a cod liver oil gal for sure—Why in the world would anyone read the Bible?!?—and then, less than ten years ago, I was introduced to the beauty and blessing of having a relationship with Christ.

My world was forever rocked.

Now I’m a peaches and cream girl. 🙂

I realized that my hubby and I followed that same thought process with our finances.

We knew budgeting existed, but what a bothersome thing to do.

Why, it would be like taking cod liver oil when we were FINE.

*Shudder*

What would be the point?

The point is that budgeting is either tasty preventative medicine to help you become even more financially healthy or a welcome and necessary cure to help you back up onto your feet.

The truth is that about 7 out of 10 Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

According to an article on CNN Money:

Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.

. . . online lender CashNetUSA said 22% of the 1,000 people it recently surveyed had less than $100 in savings to cover an emergency, while 46% had less than $800. After paying debts and taking care of housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there just isn’t enough money left over for saving more.

Living on that edge means one event can push you over the cliff, and the odds of you going over are much higher than you can imagine.

Budgeting helps you avoid that steep and painful fall.

I have put together ten tips to help change your perspective so you can become a peaches and cream budgeter, too.

1.  Accept that in the beginning it may taste like cod liver oil. Yes, putting ALL your debts, expenses, and income on paper is painful, but it’s far better than continuing to live in ignorance. Been there, done that. Trust me on this, and please, just take this step. Dustin has a great how-to on the basics, and more on why to budget here.

2.  Understand where you are is not forever. Putting those figures down doesn’t condemn you to that place for your life. It’s  just a financial GPS so you can see where you are right now.

3.  Realize that once you have your bearings, you can plot your journey forward. You will never be able to move to where you want to be unless you figure out where you are.

4.  Know that you will mess up. Yes, failure is an option and an integral part of the learning process. It’s like piloting a ship to a distant port. The craft can’t travel in an absolutely straight line. The captain doesn’t throw up his hands in anger and irritation every time he goes off-course. He just adjusts direction as needed.

5.  See budgeting as freedom. Yes, sweet, sweet freedom! You may believe as we did that budgeting meant we’d never have fun again. EVER. But, like the optical illusion below, what we saw depended completely on our perspective. Duck or bunny? Chains or freedom? Once we realized the budget was our opportunity to choose intentionally where each dollar went, we saw the freedom we could have from guilt, worry, and fear.

duck bunny optical illusion6.  Embrace the hope that follows budgeting. We have seen hope bloom in folks my husband and I have helped with getting their finances in order, and we felt it ourselves. I can’t explain it. I can tell you there is a mental load you are carrying you probably don’t even know is weighing you down. Once you begin budgeting, you will be surprised at how much more hopeful you feel.

7.  Enjoy greater confidence in handling financial emergencies. Our youngest daughter and her boyfriend decided to surprise us at Christmas by driving nearly non-stop from Montana to New Hampshire. The 2,500 miles were not without excitement. They hit a deer, which ripped off the right side of their bumper. They drove over two big potholes in the middle of the night, which flattened a tire and bent a rim. The service that came to help backed into their car and put a hole in what was left of the bumper. The intrepid travelers had to rent a car to finish the distance from western NY to NH, and back again. Needles to say this was costly, but they handled it all in stride.

8.  Find a method to make it easy and convenient. Find a way that works for you, whether it’s on paper or in the computer. The longer you create budgets, the easier it becomes, and the more you can see the distance you have covered. That makes life go down so much more sweetly!

9. Use the power of the Wow! Factor. It’s about figuring out the opportunity costs, determining what you truly value, and what really fits you and your family today. Integrating these areas brings lots of joy and satisfaction to the process and follow-through.

10.  Remember that budgeting is a tool. It is a means to an end to help you to achieve a goal, like a car gets you to work. Just. A. Tool. When you realize this, you can let go of the negative emotions attached to budgeting.

Everyone has problems, and if you try to run away from them they tend to eventually run you over. Instead, embrace them and learn what you can. It is often the most difficult times that grow you the most, but are also the most gratifying.

Solving problems, whether after the fact or preemptively, is a task for which budgeting is wonderfully suited.

Now go create your budget so you can change your life for the better!

Question: Where are you in the budgeting process? Cod liver oil stage? Peaches and cream? Please share in the comments so we can help one another!

Original image credit: Alan Cleaver