The Hardest Part is Showing Up

Recently, I underwent that procedure no one my age likes to talk about. As much as I dreaded the exam, it was nothing compared to what I went through to get ready for it. Just seeing those words on the office door made me want to cut and run: Certified Financial Planner.

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But we did it. My husband and I showed up and spent several hours planning our estate which is a pleasant way to say we talked about getting old and dying.

Here’s the question that started the ball rolling: “When would you like to have the option to stop working?” Selecting a date gave the planner a frame of reference to begin creating a plan that will allow us to do that. 

Secure Your Future Before Assisting Others

Reading the email message from Joann reminded me of the safety speech flight attendants give before takeoff. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

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“… In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you…. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.”

That is an instruction with universal application because the foundational truth is rock solid. You cannot rescue someone who is drowning if you are injured or cannot swim yourself. Joann’s letter brought all of these images to mind.

“My mom is 85 years old and widowed. Mom has raised three of her grandchildren and now is trying to help raise a great grandson.

Tricks Retailers Use to Get Us to Spend More

Who knew that the male brain is hot-wired to believe if a price tag is printed in red, it’s a bargain–even if when that items not on sale and it’s just the regular price? I didn’t, but I don’t doubt the Oxford University study that found men most often believe that if the tag is printed in red they are saving twice as much as when the very same price tag is displayed in black and white. 

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That red tag thing isn’t the only game that retailers play to boost their profit margins Every year the retail industry spends gazillions of dollars to learn how our human minds work and then use that information to trick us into spending more.

Take a store’s floor coverings for example. Smooth floors guide you in, carpet makes you more likely to slow down and browse. And the deeper the carpet’s pile, the longer you’ll linger. Next time you’re in a supermarket, pay attention to the flooring. See those large floor tiles in the open areas, but smaller ones in front of the pricey seafood and meat counters? That’s by design. As your roll your cart over the small tile, the wheels click more often fooling you into walking more slowly. 

When It Doesn’t Pay to be Cheap

There is a predictable progression many of us go through as we make a decision to stop living beyond our means. We get cheap. In fact, some even call us cheapskates—a label that personally I enjoy because it proves that I’m not the person I used to be—a credit-card junkie and a totally whacked out spendthrift. 

Some rights reserved by erix!

Some rights reserved by erix!

It didn’t take long for me to adopt a mindset that if cheap was good, then cheaper must be even better. As noble as that thought might see–and it pains me to admit it–that is not always true. Sometimes the cheapest option ends up costing the most. It’s a wise person who can see the big picture not just the cash outlay on the front end.

Case in point: Our house was in desperate need of paint. Spending thousands of dollars to have it painted made me queasy. So when one of the bids came in much lower than the others, I jumped on it. I figured paint is paint. We’d get the house painted and still have money in the bank. 

Danger Signs You’re Headed for the Debt Trap

Debt. It’s a four-letter word and certainly not ideal under any circumstances. Being debt-free is always better than being in debt. But not all debt it created equal. Generally, debt comes in two flavors: Secured and unsecured.

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Secured debts are “collateralized”. That means the borrower pledges something of value to the lender that acts like a security deposit. If the borrower defaults, the lender gets ownership of that valuable asset. A home mortgage is probably the best example of reasonably safe, secured debt. In a mortgage the property becomes the collateral. The lender can take it if the borrower doesn’t perform as required.  

Keeping Up with the Joneses is a Loser’s Game

We all know the Joneses, that family with the perfect home and cars, the perfect kids and marriage. And tons of money. Admit it. You’ve been trying to keep up with them, haven’t you. You want to be like them because they have it all, without any of the stress or pressure that the rest of us have to put up with.

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There’s a Jones family on every block, in every neighborhood, church and community. Your “Joneses” might be a neighbor, friend or relative. While some may find it easy to shrug their shoulders and say they don’t care, the truth is that many people feel compelled to not only keep up with their Joneses, but to outdo them.

How to Break the Habit That’s Killing Your Finances

Let’s not beat around the bush. Eating out is eating up your future. It’s gobbling down your present and keeping you stuck in the past. That heavy debt you’re hauling around didn’t happen while you were asleep. Chances are pretty good that you’re eating your way into debt.

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Breaking the eating out habit isn’t easy to do, but it can be done. What it takes is motivation, determination and perseverance.  

Cost. Let this exercise act as a quick-start motivator: For one week, track your household spending on every form of eating out including coffee, donuts, restaurants, cafes, diners, street vendors, food trucks, fast food … all of it. Once you have that number, multiply by 52. But wait, there’s more. Estimate the cost of all of the food that you throw in the garbage every week because you buy it then eat out instead. You may be looking at the reason you aren’t saving for retirement, building an emergency fund or stuck in debt.

Gross factor. I don’t want to get too graphic here describing a negative motivation that might persuade you to eat at home more often, so let me allow the CDC to do that: Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in five restaurant workers admit coming to work while sick with diarrhea and vomiting–two main symptoms of the stubborn norovirus, which understandably is now running rampant. The problem lies with these sick workers who take a bathroom break, do not wash their hands with soap then return to prepare and serve our food. Not only is it expensive to eat out, your chances of getting sick are increasing as well.

Like It or Not, You Need a Good Credit Score

In my perfect world there would be no credit scores. And while I do not believe that credit is necessarily evil, in that perfect world of mine, there would be no need for any of that because it would be, well … perfect!

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Back to reality. There are myriad reasons we need to have good credit histories and excellent credit scores. 

Like it or not, lots of things are now predicated on one’s credit score. Take automobile insurance premiums, for example. Want the best rates? You’ll need a good credit score. 

Want to make sure that out of all the applicants, you get that really great apartment? You must assume that your potential landlord is going to look to your credit history to determine if you will make a reliable, on-time-paying tenant.