Summer is unofficially coming to a close. Kids are going off to college. High schools that follow the college semester structure are opening next week. Despite the fact that the solstice gives us another month and a half of technical summer; for kids – it’s just about over. Don’t let your beloved offspring jump off into their own lives and worlds without taking the time to educate them on their own financial responsibilities.
The State of Illinois, where I live, requires one semester of Consumer Education. Unfortunately, many teachers dread teaching this course, most students take it knowing it’s required, and enthusiasm on both ends is completely lacking. This equates to a waste of time unfortunately. This is probably one of the most important classes you can take in your entire lives! But parents, don’t allow the schools to teach it all. Since conditions are never perfect and kids need repeated prompts to learn anything, it is most important to teach financial lessons at home. Now.
For example, I took my high school senior to the bank to open a high school checking account. He already had a savings which we linked to his new checking. With his part-time summer job, I explained how to put the money in the ATM machine, 1/2 into his checking and 1/2 into his savings account. Because he is under 18, I have access to both accounts. He was given a debit card that will only be used from his checking account. Therefore the money in his savings is untouchable. All personal spending that he chooses to do will be with his debit card so that we can monitor and keep track of it. I explained every step, process, and reason. This has given him the independence and responsibility that boosted his self esteem and promotes his self worth. He is not just learning the concepts of earning and saving, he is physically doing it.
As we continue to use and monitor this account, I will also make certain, he analyzes what he is spending to make great choices and decisions now and in the future. By giving him this responsibility, he will learn early on the concepts of saving, necessities, wants and delayed gratification. We won’t go anywhere near the $0 mark as to avoid all fees. In this learning process, that is my job as the parent to cut it off if that should happen. This is a fantastic financial independence step into adulthood. Every bank offers a high school checking account that has no or relatively low fees and a minimal balance. Start this process now.
Use this last week to deliver values that will benefit your children for a lifetime and beyond. As you teach kindness, gratitude, consideration, responsibility and values, always include finances. The world will be a better place for it.
Now that the Fourth of July festivities are over and our country made it through with minor scathing, it’s time to get back to business or back to summer break as usual. I love summer because when I get up right before 6:00 am, it’s already completely light out! There is so much possibility and time in the day to get everything done that needs to be done and time left over for play. However, this requires prioritizing.
Youch! Prioritizing? During the summer? Isn’t that supposed to be a time for freedom and leisure and taking a break? Of course, but there are some necessary items that must be taken care of consistently. Like bills! If you have automated all of your fixed bills (good for you!), but that doesn’t account for all the other items you are spending. These must be adhered to as well. You can’t break from your expenditures and say “I’ll just look at these in the Fall”. With rising interest rates on credit cards you will paying these expenses for years to come.
Pay attention to your daily expenses. Look at your bank account and compare it to your debit card transactions. Look at your credit card expenses online and daily bank account transactions. Are you spending the same each month? More? Did your monthly interest charge go up? Can you transfer your balance to a 0% interest 15 month credit card? Can you develop a plan to pay off your bill before the 0% runs out? Seriously ask yourself these questions. Plan on the next week taking a hard look at your daily spending habits. You will learn a lot! Force yourself to come to terms with your spending habits, deserved or not. As you enjoy your summer, you must also be cognizant of your bills. Don’t let them slip away as you bask in the sun or float down the river. It’s worth the little extra time you may have and do have once you prioritize.
June 21st marks the first day of summer. It is a pleasurable season for most people. We slow down, enjoy the weather, spend more time with the kids and just give ourselves a reason to relax temporarily. This could be a costly experience or a cost saving experience depending on how you plan. Taking the family on lavish trips because time is available and all your friends are doing it, could prove to be a very costly experience. Exploring what your city has to offer and enjoying the solitude of your own backyard is a cost saving experience. Each scenario may or may not fit into you “budget “or time schedule. Both result in fabulous memories to cherish for a lifetime.
So how can you decide if indeed you can spend that money on that once in a lifetime vacation and not stress over the bills that accompany it later? What happens if you have it booked and are set to go within the next 2 months but you suddenly regret that it has a nonrefundable $1000 deposit? Then it is time to scrutinize your finances. And yes, summer allows you the time to relax and slow down and ………crunch numbers. It is an invaluable project. I know it’s hard to put money aside each month towards a vacation fund. This is something that requires delayed gratification which has become a lost art. Most people don’t think like that. They want. They do. They finance it. They stress and regret.
I challenge you in the last week of June to pull up your credit card statements and bank account statements for the last 3 months. Determine which expenses are fixed, meaning they are the same every month and do not change (car payment, mortgage). These should be automated. They should be set up to be taken out of your bank account every month on the date you choose (preferably before it’s considered late). Take away the thought process, time and burden. As the summer progresses, I will take you through some more tips on rediscovering your finances so that you can take those trips, stay within your means, pay it off before you travel and remain free of regret!
Doesn’t it feel wonderful to have your closets organized just the way you want it? Whether you pay a professional to do it or just find a rainy/snowy Saturday afternoon to put the time in yourself, it feels amazing!!!! Your whole outlook on life can change and get simplified and free your stress. You don’t need 5 black tank tops. You don’t need 6 black blazers (unless you are Rachael Maddow). Eliminate and consolidate.
The same philosophy can be applied to your finances! Eliminate and consolidate! Just as you would evaluate your entire wardrobe before you decide what stays or goes, that’s what you need to do with your finances. Take all of your expenses and put them together to see exactly what you have. This is the consolidation phase. You may find redundancies or surprises or just plain what was I thinking (like that multi-colored ruffled skirt lying on the floor of your closet). Now we can eliminate! Your first priority in your financial organization is credit card debt!
With interest rates on the rise, despite the advantages of your investments increasing, did you realize that your credit card interest rates will also rise? Why should you pay more than what you bargained for? Figure out what you can eliminate from your expenses and put that money towards paying off your credit cards before they become even more expensive.
Don’t have a clue how to begin this process of organizing your finances? Call an expert! Just as you would pay a fee to professionally organize your house or closet, you can hire someone to organize your finances. It is an investment in you. You not only deserve it; you need it!
The month of February brings cold, dark days if you are living in the Midwest so the holiday makers invented Valentine’s Day smack dab in the middle of it. I know that really isn’t the history of Valentine’s Day, but it is nice to remember to honor the one’s you love in the longest, shortest month of the year. It is also the time for pulling your tax documents together. Can you love this process? Well maybe not, but it is an incredibly important task. Let’s start with your year end credit card statement. Obviously, most people are using their credit cards for numerous purchases (as established by the high rate of credit card debt in this country). Most banks will send you a statement that categorizes all your spending on that card for the entire year! This may not be accurate to a T, but is a wonderful place to find a lot of information! Use this for business expenses, real estate taxes (if not paid within your mortgage), charitable contributions, medical expenses, and any other itemized deduction expenses you may have charged. It is very useful and you can learn to love it. Maybe it will help you develop a budget for 2017 too!
As the end of January approaches we can be grateful for the slow progression of increased daylight, our renewed attitudes on changes we are making for 2017, and the gathering of our financial information for the upcoming tax season! This a perfect time to start that “budget” that we always wanted to begin. Days are still gray (certainly here in Chicago!) and new dreams and destinies are percolating. Let’s take the time and energy to gather our financial documents. Sound exciting? Maybe not. Sound important? Absolutely! More than you can possibly imagine. Nobody wants to be on a budget, but it is the first step towards your desires, destinies and financial independence. Over the next couple of weeks I will explain the importance of knowing, analyzing, understanding and keeping personal financial documents. We will learn where to find your inflows and outflows of money. This is an instrumental step in your brand new successful 2017.