Fall! Is that you?? The holidays are coming, it’s football time, the weather is cooling off, Richmond festivals are ramping up…what’s not to love about this season?
If your summer flew by as quickly as ours did, you may have missed out on the personal finance topics we’ve been focused on the past few months. Here’s a quick refresher to get you back on track:
July: Simplifying your financial life:
People often talk about feeling overwhelmed when they start digging through their finances. They have investment accounts scattered here, there, and everywhere, with statements piling up on their countertops each month. They have multiple credit cards, student loans, car payments, and mortgages and don’t know how to organize their debts. They want to start saving, but don’t know where to put that hard-earned money, how much to put away, and when. It seems like there are just too many moving parts to get a handle on it all.
It’s extremely common to feel uneasy because your personal finances have become too complicated to wrap your head around. If you’d like to simplify a few things, here’s a list to get you started:
- Consolidate any unnecessary investment accounts. Old 401(k)s are often at the top of this list.
- Pay off one of your credit cards.
- Create a financial plan. If you already have one, spend some time reviewing and updating it.
- Review your subscription services (music, TV, movies, gym memberships) and see if you can drop one.
- Automate your monthly payments and your monthly savings.
- Request that your monthly paper statements be switched to paperless.
Always remember that little changes can make a big difference. If you don’t have the time to do a thorough review of everything, tackle one task at a time. Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of any help along the way.
August: Why financial goal setting is so important:
One of the first things we like to find out about a new client to what they’re trying to accomplish. Seems simple enough, right? But the question “What are your financial goals?” can be quite complicated to answer. Most of the time, people are trying to accomplish all kinds of things. They’ll have short-term issues they’re working through, like paying for an unexpected home renovation, to long-term aspirations, like being able to afford to send their kids to college, saving up enough to retire early, and traveling the world.
Oftentimes people get so bogged down in simply making it through the day, month, and year on the money they have that they start to lose sight of why they’re working so hard to begin with. It’s the whole “can’t see the forest for the trees” mindset. That’s why setting solid, achievable financial goals is a must do. How will you be able to successfully get where you want to go without having a plan to make it happen?
Many financial goals take decades to reach. Don’t let that fact overwhelm you, and definitely don’t let it make you think you can’t get there. Take some time to sit back and think about what you want out of life. Write down what you come up with and revisit your list often. Then, get going. Start small, be consistent and keep moving in the right direction. You’ve got this!
September: Managing your cash flow as the holidays near:
Cash flow is the movement of your money. Money comes in and money goes out. It’s a relatively simple concept, but the key is how to manage that flow of funds. You need to know how to save, how taxes come into play, what your expenses are each month, and what discretionary expenses you have on an ongoing basis.
As the holiday season approaches, people’s discretionary spending (i.e. the money you spend on non-necessities) tends to climb. Presents are purchased, treats are bought (“Why not, it’s the holidays!”), retail sales are in full swing, and travel increases dramatically. All these things can make your monthly cash flows look pretty grim.
Are you tracking your discretionary spending? You should! Don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself you’ll worry about it after the holidays have come and gone. Make yourself a spreadsheet now of what your monthly cash flows look like, in case you don’t already know. Track what you expect to happen to your money in the next couple months, and what really does happen. Numbers don’t lie and seeing what you’re planning to spend vs. actually spending can be a reality check. That way, you won’t get to year end with that “Hey! Where did all my money go?” feeling.
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