Riding the Financial Roller-coaster!

When the ball dropped marking the beginning of 2014, many people made resolutions. Some pledged to exercise more or eat healthier and others to grow their businesses, get out of debt, or add to their savings to help secure an exciting future for themselves and their families.  Recently I was in Florida with my family riding the roller coasters at Universal Studios.  As we rode the “Hulk” and the “Rock-it” I couldn’t help thinking about folks that resolve to get their financial house in order only to let life get in the way allowing the sickening ups and downs of their financial roller-coaster to continue.   Most people can’t get off the financial roller-coaster alone because changing the way we relate to money – intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually can be too difficult without support and guidance.  Here are some helpful tips:

1. Gather your data (statements, tax returns, etc.)
Gather the most current statements for all your accounts: banking, savings, retirement, credit cards, loans, insurance plans and mortgages. You can go online and download your most recent statements, or call the institutions to get updated statements sent to you. Also get a copy of your most recent tax return. While you are doing this, take an extra few minutes to be sure your personal information is up to date with each of your financial vendors. Check that your current address, phone number, passwords and email are on file. You should also double-check that your beneficiaries are up to date, and ask if there are any new online services that would be more convenient for you to access your accounts.

2. Outline your financial position (income/expense, assets/debts)
A good way to get started is to collect all your financial data by tracking your expenses and income and confirming your assets and how much you owe.  This can be as simple as drawing up a few lists, or as complex as using a more formal budget tool.

3. Prayerfully consider your financial goals
Now for the fun part: prayerfully consider your future and your goals.  How has God wired you and what dreams has He given you?  Do you want to pay off debts? Are you ready to have a family? Thinking about going back to school? Preparing to retire? Want to invest in property?  The whole purpose of financial planning is to help you steward your resources wisely en route to those goals, promoting contentedness, gratitude, joy and generosity now while preparing for the future God has for you.  Take some time and write out your short-term life and financial needs, as well as your long-term goals.

4. Lay out a plan (spending plan)
You can use online calculators such as Mint.com or the federal government’s MyMoney.gov, which has budget templates and other tools to get you organized. But if you aren’t a technology wizard, don’t let that stall you—a simple list is all you really need to get started. The important thing is to try to be as comprehensive as possible so you can get a full picture of where you are financially.

5. Turn to Your Team
Folks who say they’re going to get to the gym more often know that a good path to success is getting a trainer to keep them honest, and this strategy holds true for finances as well.  Those of us at the Good Sense Movement want to be on your team and Freed-Up Financial Living can be a sound trainer to help you “lay out a plan”…..to “take hold of the life that is truly life” (I Timothy 6:19b)!   Or perhaps you are at a point where your children are ready to go to college, or you are nearing your retirement and want to be sure you have a game plan in place to help make good choices for the future. Freed Up in Later Life, Raising Financially Freed Up Kids, and Freed Up from Debt can help you make informed choices:  http://goodsensemovement.org/resources-store/

5 Steps to Take Control of Your Personal Finances

Author: Brittney Castro via Entrepreneur.com

When I started my financial planning career seven years ago, I quickly learned that the people who were financially successful were the ones who dedicated time and energy to regularly budgeting, managing and planning out their finances. In other words, they had the discipline to get a financial education and continue to expand that education over their lifetime.

A financial education is something almost no one receives growing up, yet it’s one of the primary components of financial success. If you’re new to personal finance or simply looking for ways to expand your financial knowledge, here are five easy steps to gain the financial foundation you need:

1. Schedule weekly money dates.

Millionaires spend, on average, 8.4 hours a month managing and planning out their finances, according research by business theorist, Thomas Stanley. While many people want to be millionaires, most also don’t devote the time and energy necessary to making it happen. So don’t make that mistake.

Instead, set up a recurring event in your calendar for a weekly money date, and allocate at least one hour a week to your finances. During your money date, you should update your budget, review any upcoming expenses, pay bills (although you should automate those as much as possible), review your accounts for accuracy and handle any other pressing financial matters. Make your money dates as enjoyable as possible — listen to music, dance, light candles or do anything else that makes the personal finance process fun for you. The more fun it is, the more likely it is that you’ll continue to do it — and consistency is what counts.

2. Commit 20 minutes a week to reading about personal finance.

Don’t try to learn everything about personal finance all at once. Instead, break up your financial education into digestible chunks. Allocate 20 minutes a week (as part of or in addition to your money date) and read about personal finance topics. Choose one topic a week and read about just that topic until you understand it, then move on to something else. Some great books to start with include: I Will Teach You To be Rich by Ramit Sethi, On My Own Two Feet by Manisha Thakor and Soldier of Finance by Jeff Rose.

3. Talk to people you admire.

As you begin to learn about personal finance topics such as spending, saving, credit, debt, investing and retirement strategies, apply what you learn by talking about it with those you admire. I often find that there is a lot of financial chatter out there, but most of what your friends and family know about money is wrong.

Instead, talk to mentors and other entrepreneurs who are successful in their financial lives. Ask them about their successes and failures. Just like in business, I’ve found I can avoid a lot of financial mishaps by learning from the mistakes of others. Also, note that talking about money is still a sensitive subject for many people, so start small and work your way into more in-depth conversations. Be respectful of what people share with you, and always thank them for their advice.

4. Test out strategies in your own life.

Most entrepreneurs realize that the best way to learn if a business idea will work or not is to test it out. This same philosophy is true with your personal finances. I constantly remind my clients that different financial strategies work better for some people than others. Take budgeting, for example. There are tons of systems and programs out there to help you budget your monthly income and expenses, but you won’t know what works best for you until you try them. I did this in my own life. I tested lots of budgeting systems until I finally realized that the good old Excel spreadsheet I custom-designed for myself works best for me. But I had to try many other options to come to this conclusion. Until you try something, you won’t know if it’s right or not for you.

5. Hire a certified financial planner.

At the end of the day, everyone needs professional help from time to time. You know you need to hire a CFP if you:

  • Have little or no experience with financial planning.
  • Have no inclination to do it all on your own
  • Want an objective, unbiased opinion
  • Have a complex financial situation
  • Don’t have the time to do it all on your own.

If you’re still not sure, check out this video that offers five key questions to consider.

Regardless of where you are on your financial journey, dedication and commitment to continued financial education are key. True mastery of any subject comes from constant practice, training and sharpening your craft. Make sure you continue to devote the time and energy to your personal finances throughout your lifetime.

Why Americans’ Efforts to Save Still Don’t Add Up (Infographic)

The good news: Most Americans have a savings account. The bad news: It’s not enough.

According to data compiled by independent research firm Next Advisor, 25 percent of U.S. families reported having no savings at all in 2012, and 40 percent say that they are not saving for retirement.

The average household debt in the U.S. is about $117,000, according to the findings, while the average savings account balance for those who are managing to save is $3,800. What’s more, it’s difficult for that savings to grow, since the average annual percentage yield for savings accounts is a paltry 0.01 percent.

For more stats on U.S. savings take a look at the infographic below.


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February 2014 Transforming Truths

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much, and whoever will be dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”
– Luke 16:10-11

Do you ever catch yourself saying, “Oh well, this is such a little thing it really doesn’t matter if I cross the line of integrity a bit.” In these verses Jesus makes it clear that how we act in little things is an indicator of how we will act in matters of greater significance. And based on Jesus’ teaching, it would seem that one of the best indicators of our trustworthiness is how we handle money.

Jesus makes it clear that mishandling of the “little” stuff of worldly wealth jeopardizes our being entrusted with true riches from God. In fact, verse 12 (“If you’ve not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”) makes it clear that while worldly wealth remains the property of God (it’s someone else’s, entrusted to us), the “true riches” become our personal property!

May our stewardship ministries and our own example help all to learn and act upon a biblical understanding of and relationship to their worldly wealth – to the end that they are given the Father’s true riches. May those we influence truly be on a path to Freed Up Financial Living.

Stories of Transformation