Ever realized that you were 40 (or 35 or 50) and needed to take a serious look at your finances? This space is designated to helpful, inspiring money advice. There is no shame here, we’ve all had ups and downs, the focus is moving forward, not looking behind.
You know those goals you have? Have you written them down? If you said “yes” – fantastic! If you said “no” – why not? Goals that are not written down are simply wishes. They don’t have the same intensity as they do when you write down what you want and intend to achieve. Your goals may be huge and feel like they can’t be put into words, but the soon you put into writing, the sooner you will see those goals becoming real. Every day, read those goals, every day re-write those goals. Every time you repeat the message to yourself, you are reminding your conscious and unconscious mind of your intentions.
In this blog, I focus mostly on money and investing. Those goals are just as important *if not more* as goals you create for your career, for your personal life, and more. What you focus on expands. So… Write. It. Down. Give yourself the power to achieve those wishes you have rolling around in your brain. You deserve it. You can do it. And, it has been said that the first step is always the hardest. For me, the first step is formulating the goal i want to achieve, and then writing it down. Heck, I can do that all day long. It will push you to take that next first step, which just may be the most difficult. You got this. <3 Bobbi
I love reading. I read a lot of everything, except maybe sci-fi. As I’ve been on this journey of becoming more financially secure and working towards a better future, it is natural that I would continue to read from as many sources as I find in regards to what other people suggest. I’m far from an expert, but rather a supporter. I see myself as a cheerleader from the sidelines, supporting everyone in their journey. Part of my cheerleader role means looking for opportunities that might work for you. I recently read a blog post from 2004 (see reference at the end of this blog post) about getting ahead without a budget, the writer simply started writing things down. In doing this, you realize what you are actually spending, not what you think you are spending. It sounded vaguely familiar, remember when you got your first checking account and received a register where you were supposed to write everything down? If you are more “mature” like me, there wasn’t access to online banking, so you had to know where your money went. Checks did not equal money. (A hard lesson for many!)
I’m crazy about checking my accounts every day – all of my open checking and investment accounts, along with my credit cards. I want to know where every dime is going and how much interest I’m gaining, but I started asking myself if I could be doing better… So, the past couple of weeks I’ve tried the experiment of writing down each time I spend money. From groceries, to gas, to giving my son’s daycare $3 so they can go to DQ on a sunny day… WOW. I can say that for as much as I feel that I have a handle on spending, it is eye opening. There is something about the process of writing something down that causes you to processes your spends differently. I’m not terribly crazy when it comes to spending, but I manage a budget where I see little amounts being spent nearly daily that happen with little to no thought. The stop at the convenience store for this, overspending by making impulse purchases while grocery shopping, and a run through the drive thru for lunch, it all starts adding up. Over a week it might be an extra $100 in spending, but over a year that means $1200, imagine over 20 years. In 20 years, that mindless spending would be $96,100, with interest (assuming an average of 7%) that becomes $210,100. So imagine doubling the money that is being mindlessly spent and putting in a place where it grows for your future. That drive-thru lunch that wasn’t all that great and I didn’t care about immediately after eating, suddenly becomes something I do care about!
Using easy math. Assume you spend 20 years in retirement… That small investment, using money you don’t even realize you are spending, would mean an extra $875/month in spending money. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have more freedom tomorrow, than spend money on stuff I have no record of.
And through all of this, I found a neat app for recording the expenses. It is called “Daily Budget.” It can be found in the Apple and Android App Stores. There is a free version that can do most of what you need the app to do, but you can also connect to family members and set a daily budget. Every expense that is recorded lowers the available daily budget, anything that is not spent rolls forward to the next day. I’m challenged to keep that number growing, so at the end of the month it gets moved to savings.
I think as I work through this journey the biggest thing I’ve realized about money is that it is so rooted in psychology, and we are all effected differently by how we earn and spend money. The trick is figuring out something that resonates with you and that will help you build the future you want for you, for your family, and perhaps your legacy. <3 Bobbi
Jesse Mecham – A Tip To Managing Your Money? Write it down! –
Compound Interest Calculator –
I was thinking about a post I did on Index Funds a couple days ago. I made mention of how much you would have saved if you invested $1,000 30 years ago, and subsequently invested $1,000 each year. (As a reminder, that amount was $260k.) Of course, that is at 12% average annual interest, which as been the historical average for Index Funds. So, you are probably thinking “why in the world is she bringing this up?”
Here’s why… I’ve talked about starting small many times, I do over and over again with friends and family, really anyone who will listen. I truly believe that starting, and if that means small, is the hardest part. I could have used a number much larger than $1,000, but I didn’t for a reason. The average annual salary in the US is $40,000, so you will find me using that amount quite often. $1,000 is 2.5% of that salary. $1,000 broken out over 52 weeks = $19.23. If stashing away $19.23 per week is too steep, lets look at stashing away $10/week. If you decided today that you were going to open up an automated fund and put in $10/week. Let’s also say that you are 40, expect to work until you are 70, and are going to budget for 25 years in retirement.
This works out to $520 stashed away annually. If you get a 12% return rate, after 30 years, that would be $140,500 (roughly.) Broken down further and not taking into account the interest you will gain even after you’ve entered retirement, that $10 investment would become an extra $468/month you could draw to help cover living expenses (you’ve essentially turned $10 into over $100.) Now, lets say you COULD find and extra $20/week to stash away. That number then becomes $260k. That $468 becomes $867 (or you turn $20 into over $200/week.)
Imagine if this amount is $50 or $100. When I start playing with the numbers, I get so inspired. I love to think of all that can be, all of the possibilities that discipline and a continued focus on making the right choices. To steal from the jist of a recent Suze Orman blog, is a daily latte worth the freedom you are not allowing your future self to have? And, of course it could be anything – if you are not a coffee drinker, maybe it’s the daily lunches out when you could save by brown bagging it. You got this! <3 Bobbi
Yes, I know the feeling. You are trying so hard to stay on track and something comes up, it always seems to come up. How is it possible to ever get ahead when this always seems to happen? I don’t have an easy answer for you, but I can tell you that you are not alone. There are things you can do to help your situation so when things do come up you feel better prepared to handle them.
The first thing you can do is make sure you have enough in savings to cover the unexpected. I’ve heard 3x your month salary all the way up to 1 year salary should be in savings. I don’t know about you, but that can really feel daunting and especially unrealistic. I honestly wonder what the people who have 6 months – 1 year salary sitting in a puny little savings account, making less than 2% interest, are doing with the rest of their money. In my opinion, I think it’s a poor investment strategy to have that much sitting there and not working for you. I do understand the comfort level that may come with that much, sitting at your fingertips, for anything that might come up. But, I guess I like to live on the edge.
My suggestion is to keep as much in savings as you are comfortable, and able to. I do not know your personal situation, so I will speak in general terms for what works for me. I always try to keep at least $1000 in savings, anything above $5000 should go into a greater interest bearing account. My savings account will ebb and flow a little bit, because I do budget pretty tightly and things do come up (it seems, $100 at a time.) I find myself rejiggering to ensure that I stay on track for my long-term goals and don’t feel like I need to throw my hands up in the air and give up on having a budget when I find out something will end up costing $200 more than expected (because it has, this weekend, in fact.)
So, breathe (that’s always my first piece of advice,) know it will all be OK and it will work out. Even the tough times eventually get better. If you are going through a tough time financially, being cognizant of what you are spending will help you get through this time. If you are doing great financially and just got a raise, or have always been prudent with spending. Kudos to you, you may be in the minority (talking in general terms for the US.) I’m glad you found this space. I hope we can all learn something from each other. <3 Bobbi
Great! I’m a big believer in having a typical savings account and also investing. I keep the savings account as my emergency fund, that I have access to when needed, or for saving for a larger purchase that will happen in the near future. Outside of that, I move my savings to investments. This does not include my automated 401k plan through my employer. This is supplemental savings that I’d like to grow quicker than my lack-luster savings account interest rate provides.
Currently, the trend is to invest in Index Funds. Nearly every blogger, investment site, major personality talking about investing is talking about them. Why? They are easy to understand, easy to invest in, and provide relatively low risk and expense. In short, when you invest in Index Funds you are getting a cross section of an investment sector, it can be the S&P 500, International Funds, Large Cap (largest companies,) Small Cap (smaller companies which pose more risk, but possibly greater potential in returns) and more. The reason these funds have become so popular is that instead of betting on one company or one industry (technology for example,) you are essentially betting on that cross section of the stock market. The fund that is referred to often is the Vanguard 500 Index Fund. Historically (the past 30+ years) it has averaged 12% growth annually. That number means that if you invested $1,000, 30 years ago, it would be worth nearly $30,000 today. If you added $1,000 each year, (so a total investment of $30,000) it would be worth $270k!
Please remember this amount is averaged, when the stock market falls as a whole, the value of the fund drops as well. Most recently was the recession in 2008, however December 2018 was a crummy month in the world of investing and it would have been easy to run when values drop. So, I’m warning you of two things 1.) I’m not an investment professional, but rather someone who has interest in sharing what I’ve learned over the years 2.) Investing is not for the weak, you must be willing to weather the highs and the lows to see long term growth.
You should not invest your emergency fund, as tempting as it may be to see faster growth. You never know when you will need your emergency fund and need access to it within hours, vs days. Any money that is invested in the stock market or mutual funds, should be money that is intended for long term growth, or growth with an end date in mind. One of the easiest ways to do this is to automate your savings. You likely do this with a 401k, where it is pulled out of your paycheck before it hits your checking account. It becomes something you don’t even think about. I’ve been using STASH and Ally. I’ve automated a certain amount each week to be deducted from my checking account. You can start with as low as $5. There are several other options out there, as well. I use STASH for my Roth IRA, and Ally for investing in the stock market and mutual funds. There are other, managed options out there, too. If you have a relationship with a broker, or even the person who manages your 401k at work, please do not hesitate to reach out to that person for advice that will pertain to your situation. Everyone is different.
Below is a list of Index funds, what their expense ratios are, and a small description of what they are. If you are interested, please don’t let my blog be the end of your research before diving in. I hope it piques interest in investing, and creates a desire to build your future. Best of luck! <3 Bobbi
As I write this, I’m enjoying a cup of coffee in my favorite chair in my living room. It’s still a bit dark and I’ve already taken the dog out and fed her, so she’s laying quietly at near my feet. In the background I hear my boys (mostly) getting along. The older one is reading to the younger one, from time to time the younger one interjects and frustrates the older one, causing a mini-argument.
I remember long ago, it seems, how much I used to love Saturday mornings. The quiet. The time to be in my thoughts, read, plan for the upcoming week, figure out which friends I’d hang out with during the weekend. Now, we juggle work, oil changes, kid play dates, and overall, planning kid-stuff seems to trump planning adult stuff. I’m OK with it, it’s fun and it’s an exciting time in our lives. Our boys are young enough to still love us, not be annoyed by the silly things we do, and they look forward to everything. Whether it is going out to our local kid-friendly-until-8pm-bar for dinner, or planning a trip out of town for a weekend, it’s all met with excitement. As I reflect, I know that excitement is something that I can use a bit more of. Instead of just doing, being excited that I get to do.
Those reminders of excitement bring me to gratefulness. In many blogs I read, I am met with reminders of being grateful. Even with the busy weekend I’m beginning to impart, I’m grateful that I get to have a busy weekend. I know that the time with by boys in this time and space will be fleeting, just like the first 8 years have been. I’ve taken a leap. For the past couple of years I’ve had a part-time job. This part-time job hasn’t amounted to a lot in terms of income, as I average 10 hours a week, but I always looked at it as my “outlet.” It helped my boys become closer to their father. It allowed me to feel closer to an industry that I’m slowly becoming disconnected. Earlier this week I was met with tears when my oldest son realized that I wouldn’t be home that evening until after his bedtime. I then realized it was time. My “fun” part-time job was starting to make me feel stretched. Stretched between home and something else. Stretched between enjoyment and resentment. So, I put in my notice.
My husband and I talked about re-jiggering our budget so we stay on track for our goals. We will miss the extra little paycheck, but I don’t know that it was enough for the stress being away has started to provide. I find myself giving up volunteer efforts because of my “fun” part-time job, adding up all of the time away from home. I want to show my children the joy of giving back and being part of a community. However, lately when those opportunities have come up, I’ve been so tired (did I mention that I have a very busy full-time job, too?) that I’ve passed on them.
So, in my reflection this Saturday morning. I’m breathing. Knowing I’m doing the right thing. That feeling guilty because I’m leaving a store when it is already short-staffed is OK for my own sanity. That time is more valuable than money. And, that everything works out in the end. <3 Bobbi
Creating a bucket target is one of the easiest ways to start budgeting. I mentioned previously about creating your “Need to Have” bucket and your “Want to Have ” bucket. In each of those buckets are things that naturally fall into the categories. Housing, transportation, groceries, utilities, loan/credit card payments all fall into this category. The amount you allocate into this area depends on what your goals are and what your lifestyle is.
These allocations can change as you move towards reaching your goals. For example, a few years ago, I was in the beginning stages of closing a business, for which I had taken out debt against. I was paying those debts down, along with two children in full-time daycare. Thankfully, I had a husband whose income was supplementing mine as we were both working full-time. We were able to make it work, even though there were times when we thought bankruptcy would be the easier way out. We stuck it through and are at the point now where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, the light is simply because of being consistent with spending and an eye to the future. Even when things were tight, we were saving. As our incomes have grown and the bills have gotten smaller, we have tried to stay on the budget we had when things were tight. We’ve shifted the bills we pay to savings and taking care of other debts, like our mortgage. Paying off our mortgage means freedom to us, so for us that is a priority. For others, paying off a mortgage may not make sense or even be reasonable. I get that, which is why I even bring it up. I want to help you on YOUR path. My path is my path, I’m simply here to help you find what makes sense to you. From time to time I will bring up examples and stories of my own journey, but please do not take that as baked-in-stone advice.
So, back to the bucket allocations. Below is a simple tool that can help you get on top of where your money is going. Budgets do not have to be complex, they are simply helping you analyze where you want to spend the money you work so hard for. I’m linking this Excel spreadsheet on my website so you can try it out if you choose. To use the spreadsheet, simply fill in your information, target %, and the items that fall into your buckets. Even if things are tight, always remember to budget something in your “Want to Have” bucket, otherwise you will feel far too restricted. I always recommend targeting the “left over” amounts to push towards savings. This helps when you have expenses that haven’t been budgeted. In the example below, I indicate there is a car/car insurance, however there isn’t a budget for monthly maintenance, that needs to come from somewhere, preferably not a credit card. Using a budget like the one below pays down debt without incurring more, while encouraging savings to help when the unexpected happens.
Good luck. Give it a try, even if this isn’t the right budget format for you, you may find that it puts you in the frame of mind to start taking control of your financial life. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Thank you for coming along with me on this journey – <3 bobbi
Yes, its important to budget for fun. If you take your life and your budget too seriously, it will all fall apart. Think of it like the last diet that went miserably for you… Or, maybe it’s just me, I start these fantastic diets that I know will cause me to lose 20 lbs in two weeks. How often does it last? And if I make it through the miserable two weeks, how often have I lost the 20 lbs? Both scenarios are bleak and completely unmotivating. I think that’s how many of us have become lost when it comes to budgeting. Setting ourselves up with unrealistic expectations, with a diet that consists of taking away everything that brings joy, with the expectation of happiness in the end. It’s all a bit twisted.
I think of budgeting in buckets. There is the “Need to Have” bucket and the “Want to Have” bucket. The size of the buckets should be based on your priorities. Which, I think it is extremely important to remember, is based you YOUR priorities. If having an active social life is important to you, it is imperative that you budget for that. Otherwise, your budget will not align with your personality and you will be setting yourself up for failure. That being said, the buckets are give and take. If you choose to spend more money on entertainment, you will naturally have less money for other areas. The important thing to remember(I realize I’m taking about a lot of important things here, but hang with me) is that with a budget, you are telling your money (your tool) how it is going to be spent (no surprises at the end of the month.)
To get started…
-Determine your total income for the month
-Determine how much of your income goes to the “Need to Have” bucket. This includes housing, basic food needs, required bills, etc.
-Determine how much of your income goes to the “Want to Have” bucket. This includes entertainment, shopping, dining out, etc. I always recommend having a “Want to Have” bucket. Even if you don’t spend it all, at the end of the month you can shift the money towards savings, but you don’t feel deprived and had the funds available to you.
-Remember, your budget may look different each month. I’ve mentioned before that my spending shifts during the summer as I spend more on entertainment. That’s an example of a personal priority I have.
To conclude… Budgets do not need to be restrictive, they are meant to guide you so that you are able to reach your goals (or help you get your current spending in check, so you can reach those goals.) I’m trying to make this simple, so that you don’t give up before you start. It’s worth it in the end, to create personal wealth and freedom. It’s the bumpy path I’m on and I’m so thankful you are joining me.
The whole purpose of this blog is to help others and I welcome any and all questions, feedback, and all that good stuff. I just received my first DM question regarding why I’ve focused on investing less than $100 a month on this blog so far. The question asked if I really thought it was realistic to encourage people to think so small.
The question gave me pause, and reiterated my purpose with this blog. Yes, I am encouraging all my friends to start small because it’s a start. Maybe $20 a week all you will ever be able to save because of your circumstances, and I will NEVER (I don’t use that word often, so please know how serious I am) make you feel smaller or lesser because you can’t invest more than that. Twenty dollars today grows exponentially the same way that $100 or $1000 does. The fact that you are putting away towards your future is your superpower (by way of compound interest.)
So, starting small is more than OK. Another focus of my blog is figuring out what will work for you. I think looking at the math for what you will need to create financial freedom or as you plan into retirement sets you up for the reality of what you will have, not some sort of unknown territory that may leave you unprepared.
One last note – The most important part of starting small is that I’ve found that realizing your super power encourages you (or read that as, it’s found me) to look for other ways to grow that power. Carry on and feel free to reach out anytime!
(ps, it’s super exciting for me to receive a question from someone who isn’t a family member or friend, keep them coming!)
For real. Compound interest. It’s a tool to harness, understand and make yours. I love listening to podcasts and reading interesting articles about the crazy rich people in this world, the real people who have worked in a way the Kardashians don’t understand. The Warren Buffets, the Bill Gates, you know, the American Royalty who have worked hard, creating wealth for themselves and are working to create a better world for those around them.
It’s inspiring. I often think about (well, let’s be honest, it’s only when the jackpot is super high and I play, with the odds stacked against me) winning the lottery. I create lists of people I would share my wealth with, that never-ending wealth (hey, this is my dream.) My dreams always include figuring out ways to #1) Automate a continued stream of wealth through various methods of investing, and #2) Taking care of the world around me. When you are working with numbers like 500 million, the compound effect of saving and investing can be mind blowing. I imagine how many people I could help, how many I could inspire to grow their own wealth with the seeds I help them plant. Then, I snap back to reality and hope my $20 website can do the same.
Back to compound interest. It’s the littlest thing, but it’s also the biggest thing of importance when saving. It’s what turns the money you save today into an amount 3x . For example, I’m 40 and I start saving today, putting $100/month into an Index Fund mutual fund (if you are starting out, this is a great way to harness the entire stock market and see positive results over time, more to come on that.) By the time I retire, in 27 years, I will have invested $32,400 BUT the total amount of my savings becomes $95,637 through the phenomenon of compound interest.
When “experts” talk about retirement, they often refer to the $1 million or $2 million you MUST have in order to retire. I don’t know about you, but that number is pretty daunting. Let’s break it down to see what makes sense to you… So, lets say that $100 a month is all I can afford, and I start today. At retirement I have the $95,637. I expect to live an average number of years (81.) Let’s say I know my average Social Security benefit is expected to be $2200 per month. The $100 a month I started to save at 40 would afford me and extra $567/month. I used an average rate of return of 7% (index funds have historically returned 12% over the last 40 years.) So, looking at the $100/month, what makes sense to you? What do you need to live a comfortable life that actually works for you? That’s the biggest question mark for all of us, and the number doesn’t need to be something that feels impossible. Baby steps for the win! Let compound interest do the heavy lifting 🙂