In speaking with clients over the past few months, I found that time and time again they were dismayed to find themselves back in the same hole they had worked so hard to get out of. There isn’t just one challenge that faces individuals trying to get financially healthy, but rather several common mistakes that collectively seem to steer individuals off track. I want to take this opportunity over the next several months to map out some common errors and make suggestions to help you find solutions that will put you back on a successful path!
1 – Understand to the penny where your money is going.
I know that whenever I bring this first step up I get the sigh and rolling eyes as clients huff and puff about having to do this AGAIN. (This feels the same as when I’m in the car with my kids and from the back I get the usual ”are we there yet?” whine). Yet as much as this step seems to be despised, many simply don’t do it for reasons such as procrastination or simple denial. I recommend you track this over several months, not just a week. This is a great way to get a true grasp over where you are spending your money. The good news is that today there are many templates and work sheets your advisor can provide for you. To track cash, here is a hint:
If you pay your bills on line start by looking for a summary of your bill payments for the current year and previous year then all you need to track is where you spend the cash that you take out of the ATM.
2- Create a budget
Once the tracking is accurately complied over several months a true picture will emerge as to where your money goes. These facts will then enable you to put together a realistic budget. You’ll be amazed as to how much more in control you’ll feel once you’ve gone through this exercise! However, this budget MUST be revisited consistently over time. If your goal is to revisit it once a year, make sure you set a date each year and stick to it. The goal should be to first see how closely you stayed within the budget and then how to cut the budget by about 5-10% for the coming year. I can tell you that the nuisance of changing an insurance carrier or a phone provider is something I personally dislike, however, if the short term inconvenience saves me money, so be it.
3- Pay Down Debt
Another practice you’ll need to implement at this time is increasing your payments to the debt side of the equation. Paying minimums once a month will only perpetuate your debt indefinitely. List your debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest and start to pay more than the minimum on the highest interest rate account, as well as increasing the frequency of the payments.
Next month I want to move to the second step in our road map plan which will address living within your means. As our country struggles to get back to economic health you’ll hear rhetoric about consumer spending a lot. Unfortunately, what’s been supposedly good for the country over the past decades is not good for us the individuals. Addressing this next step will mean some serious soul searching both as individuals and as a society at large.
Advisory services are provided by SlateStone Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor. SlateStone Wealth has gathered the information presented from sources it believes reliable, however the accuracy and completeness of any sourced data is not guaranteed.
Ronit Rogoszinski has been demystifying investment strategies for individuals, families and business owners for over 25 years. Specializing in transitioning widows and widowers, pre-retirees and divorced individuals through major life changes, Ronit’s expertise is translated to actionable, prudent strategies that are customized to each individual’s unique situation. As a result, Ronit has become a trusted advisor to her clients, developing lifelong friendships while partnering in the management of their financial plans.