Oct 31

Of all the potential problems life can serve up to us, money problems rank among the most stressful without a doubt. Ruminating about mounting debt, having trouble paying bills, knowing we are making bad choices can do quite a number on us mentally. If denial is no longer doing it for you, and you are ready to move towards a more ordered financial life, here are some helpful strategies to get you there.

Do a Mental Purge

One of the reasons we let our money troubles get so out of hand is our tendency to push our troubles out of our minds and go into denial mode. Obviously on some level, we are aware of the damage, but so long as we don’t fully face up, we can continue to divert our attention elsewhere.

Actually thinking about the situation for too long is unpleasant to say the least, but this refusal to think about it is just prolonging the suffering. One of the first steps in righting your money wrongs is doing a mental purge of all your worries and problems. Face them head on. This is very powerful.

So, bust out a pen and paper—this is more powerful than just typing it out—and write down all the stuff that has been floating around in your head. What money worries are you currently dealing with? What do you fear will happen now, or in the future because of these problems? Don’t hold back..just let it all out.

What Will Provide Immediate Relief?

You didn’t get into a financial mess overnight, and you can’t expect to clean it up this quickly either. But, don’t focus too much on the whole picture—it will just make you feel super-bummed, and your motivation will drain very quickly. Think about what you can do immediately to provide some relief.

Perhaps there are some inaccuracies with your credit report that need your attention. If they are bigger issues, or you don’t have the time to stay on top of the process, it might be a good idea to find a reputable credit repair company to assist you in correcting these errors. If you haven’t filed your taxes, do so, and once the bill comes, call the IRS to discuss a payment plan. If there are any expenses you can cut immediately that will put some extra money in your pocket, do it.

No matter how small the step, it is a good thing because it moves you out of a place of feeling powerless.

Visualize the Improved Situation

There is a lot of power in visualization when it comes to making positive change. It gives us something to focus on. When we get into a space where we can see and feel the more ideal circumstances of a particular aspect of our life, it motivates us to make this our reality.

What would a better financial life look like to you? Do you see yourself making regular deposits into your savings account? Do you see yourself truly enjoying nights out because you truly have the money to spend on a nice dinner or concert? What does this life feel like? It probably feels pretty good. Think about the lack of anxiety and fear that comes with having all bills paid on time, budgeting properly and managing debt responsibly. How much more peace would you feel if you had a nicely padded savings account, or the oft-talked about ‘emergency fund?’

Visualize yourself as being responsible with money and financially savvy—this may seem challenging from your current space. But, it is important to realize your situation now was not borne of some DNA defect that made you bad with money. It was borne of bad habits, lack of education and awareness and poor decisions. All of that is of the mind and can be changed.

Where you are now probably feels really uncomfortable. Facing up to our money troubles is scary, but this willingness sets a very powerful intention. So long as you commit to following through, and taking things a step at a time, you can turn things around.

 

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Oct 26

This year has flown by and as we approach year end, the IRS shares the numbers that will impact your 2015 retirement savings limits. 2013 inflation was low enough that we saw no increase in ’14. 2015, however, sees a bit of a bump, so let me share these numbers.

Employee contributions to 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $17,500 to $18,000. The cath-up provision, for those 55 and older in 2015 is also increased a bit, to $6,000.

The IRA limit is unchanged at $5,500 with a $1,000 catch-up for 50 and older. The phaseout for IRA deductibility for a single filer covered by a workplace retirement plan is between $61,000 and $71,000, and for married filing joint, between $183,000 and $193,000. The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $181,000 to $191,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $183,000 to $193,000 for married couples filing jointly.  For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $116,000 to $131,000.

There are still quite a few numbers we need to see. Marginal rates, HSA limits, FSA limits, etc. As soon as I see the IRS press release, I’ll share the numbers.

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Sep 13

IncomeGapAn issue that wont go away and lately, pretty tough to ignore.

written by Joe \\ tags: ,

Sep 12

Babies are expensive. They go through a lot of diapers, baby wipes and clothes. These expenses can be a lot to handle for young parents or those that are already on a tight budget. You can be frugal and still enjoy life. Saving money is important, especially when you have a fast growing newborn that is going to require new clothes and bigger diaper sizes frequently.

Make your Own Baby Wipes

Using items that are already in your home, you can make baby wipes which will save an average of $30 per month. To make your own, simply use a good brand of paper towels and separate them into a stack. Make a mixture of one cup of water, a tablespoon of baby wash and 2 teaspoons of baby oil. Soak the paper towels just one at a time when you need them or have a few that are ready to use in a plastic baggie.

Use Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers are reusable and washable. This saves over $100 per month on the cost of diapers. It does take a little practice to get the hang of putting them on but you will find that it is far more cost efficient to buy cloth diapers once and wash them.

Consider Eliminating Cable Television Service

With the availability of streaming services and some major networks offering prime time television on their websites for free, cable television is not necessarily a necessity in this day and age. The expense alone cuts an average of $60 per month from the budget. This frees up money for items that the baby needs such as formula, bottles and specialty products.

Start Couponing

If you don’t use coupons, you are missing out on a lot of savings. There are several ways to obtain coupons including online, manufacturer websites, on products in a store and in the Sunday newspaper. The savings can help make it possible to afford everything that your new baby needs. Many stores double coupons or make their value an even dollar when they are less than one dollar.

Saving money can be done when you have a newborn if you work at it. This may mean missing drinks with friends once in a while or not going to dinner on Friday night, but making sure that your newborn has what he or she needs is far more important. Date nights and entertainment will return once the baby his or her growth plateau, but be forewarned, it won’t last long. 

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,

Aug 22

A couple weeks ago, I read a Times’ article The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less. The punchline of this article was the fact that the US median household saw their net worth fall from $87,992 in 2003 to $56,335 in 2013.

The article linked to a report, Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality, and the Great Recession. It offered further context to the median wealth numbers.

WealthData

Keep in mind, during this period, stocks, as measured by the S&P 500, rose by an inflation adjusted 61%. Yet, total wealth (look at the first line, the mean number) fell by 8.6%. This would be disturbing enough, but the top 5% saw an increase 14.4%, identifying a large shift in wealth to the top. Three quarters of households fell behind, losing 36% or more of their wealth.

The ten year period in question contained the housing crash, and the losses shown reflect the fact that even at the 75th percentile, much of one’s wealth is contained in their home. Overall, real estate represents less than 25% of wealth in this country, but this number doesn’t spell out how this is distorted at the sub 75th percentile. For the median family, most, if not all of their wealth might be in their home.

Back to the title of this post. These ten years reflect the continuation of a frightening trend, a middle class that is fading away. Income hasn’t kept up with inflation or with the long term trend of improved productivity. In other words, the average worker is producing more, yet seeing no increased reward for the fruits of his labor. We’ve seen the results of economic bubbles, how a too-high NASDAQ (remember the dotcom bubble?) will come crashing down. We saw the housing crash. Now, I’m looking carefully at this statistical shift in wealth. A democratic society can’t continue on this path, as this trend simply shifts more and more wealth to a select fewer and fewer people. I don’t have a solution to offer, only these observations. And the desire to see a strong middle class return to this country.

written by Joe \\ tags: , ,