On the Move: Figueroa Financial is Relocating

On the MoveHello everyone!

I just wanted to let you know that I am in the process of moving this blog to a new hosting provider.

The process has just started and it should not take very long.

But until I the migration process is completed, I won’t be posting new content.

The blog should be available for the most time during the transition and I am also keeping the same URL.

But if you have trouble accessing it is most likely due to the migration.

I will return with more updates soon.

Thank you!

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Posted in Coaching by Jose Figueroa. No Comments

Money Management: Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Marriage

Money Management: Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Marriage

I am a blessed man. Today I am celebrating 12 years of marriage with my precious wife Stacey.

I know that as Scripture says, she is a blessing from the Lord (“House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” – Prov 19:14).

I believe one of the reasons our marriage works well because we have learned to work together with our money.

It wasn’t always that way but I hope the lessons we have learned that can help you as well.

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1) Don’t carry the burden alone.

When we first got married, I took care of paying all the bills and of managing our debt.

My wife knew very little about our monthly obligations and our level of debt. She was ok with that for a while and so was I.

But eventually the financial stress became too much for me. After 18 months of marriage I knew something had to change. We needed help.

It is not healthy to be in marriage where you are not working together in all areas of your life. And arguments and stress about money are the leading cause of divorce.

Once we decided to start working together on our money, things began to improve.

2) Both partners have a voice and a vote.

It is critical that both of you have an input into the money decisions.

You may have different strengths and different perspectives but you have to get to a plan that it is agreeable to both of you.

In our case, I am very detailed oriented so I am the one who prepares our monthly budget. But the budget is not final until both of us agree to it.

My wife has great insights into our financial situation and I have learned to trust her wisdom.

Since we started working together on our finances almost 10 years ago, we have not missed a monthly budget committee meeting.

The budget gives us an objective way to make joint decisions about our money.

Our ability to communicate about money matters has drawn us closer in every other aspect of our marriage.

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3) Stay the Course

As I mentioned above, my wife and I have been working on our finances together for almost 10 years now.

In doing anything for a long period of time, you are going to have ups and downs. You are going to experience victories and setbacks.

We had to work hard to get out of debt. We had emergencies along the ways which slow down our progress. We had to make sacrifices and learn to wait for what we wanted.

No matter what, you have to stay together and stay with the plan. You have to stay the course.

“Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.”
Zig Ziglar

Financial Lessons from Downton Abbey: Invest in What You Know

Financial Lessons Downton Abbey

Are you familiar with Downton Abbey? It is a TV series, set  in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, and it depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th century, with the great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy.

My wife and I have been hooked on it since we started watching it a few years back (it’s now in its 5th season). It is filled with great acting and great story lines.

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When the series starts, the servants seemed to be resigned to just being servants forever. But as time passes and British society is changing, some of them begin to think of different possibilities.

The Situation: Investing for the Future

In a recent episode, the topic of investing for the future came up. The head cook in the Abbey, Mrs. Patmore, receives an inheritance from a distant relative.

She wants some advice on how to put that windfall to work for her future. She asks Mr. Carson, the butler who is in charge of the entire service for the house.

As such, he is the overseer of all the servants and everyone looks up to him with respect.

Mr. Carson agrees to offer her some advice about investing. However, his information only comes from a brief conversation with Lord Grantham, the head of the family.

The family has been considering some renovations in the estate and he mentions a particular building company to Mr. Carson. Mr. Carson does not ask many questions about it, but he thinks he has enough to go back to Mrs. Patmore.

He tells her that investing in a building company would it be a good place for her money. But, as she asks questions, it is obvious Mr. Carson does not know much more of what he heard. He can’t even tell her if the company has gone public and it is open for investing.

Mrs. Patmore is not too comfortable with Mr. Carson’s advice. She eventually figures out a different option for her investing.

She decides to purchase a property that she could rent now, and then later it could serve both as a retirement home and also as a guest house which could generate some income.

When she conveys her decision to Mr. Carson, he is a bit disappointed that his advice is not taken to the letter. He says this option is just “very small beer”.

However, Mrs. Patmore explains that she is thankful for the advice. But she has to invest in something she understands. The way she puts it I think is brilliant: “It’s my kind of beer and I know how to drink it.

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The Lesson: Invest in What You Know

There are some great lessons we can learn from Mrs. Patmore and her investment decision.

First, it is good to think and plan for the future. Mrs. Patmore was thinking ahead to the day she would no longer work at the Abbey.

You may be just concerned with the day to day operations of your household, but planning for the future should always be part of your financial plan.

Second, when it is time to invest your money, asking for advice it is always a good thing. Mrs. Patmore looked for advice from Mr. Carson, someone she respected.

Ask for advice from trusted friends and professionals and gather as much information as you can.

Third, invest only in what you understand. Mrs. Patmore understood food service and lodging, so she was comfortable in dealing with that and not with investing in the market directly.

You need to invest, not because someone on TV said so or because some family member told you about it.

You need to understand the investment vehicle well enough, so you can explain it to someone.

Of course, learning more about that particular type of investing is always an option so you can invest in it later. So maybe it is not right for you today, but down the road once you know more it could be an option for you.

Finally, and perhaps more important than anything. It is your money so it is your decision. Mr. Carson was not too happy with Mrs. Patmore’s decision.

But here is the thing: It was her money and not his money.

As you gather information and ponder your options, not everyone is going to agree. But you are in control of your financial destiny.

So have the courage to make your own decisions. At the end of the day, we are talking about your financial destiny.

Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.
Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.
Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

Marriage and Money: Agreeing on Large Purchases

Marriage and Money: Agreeing on Large PurchasesAs you get your budget under control, get out of debt, and build an emergency reserve, you will have increased cash flow.

With more money coming in, you will have the opportunity to make large purchases.

Question is, how do you decide on what to purchase first?

Let’s assume of course that you will save the money for the expense and will not use debt.

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How then do we agree with our spouse on a priority order on the purchases?

Invariably, you will have different ideas on what to buy.

One of you may want to save the money for a nice vacation while the other person wants to beef up the emergency reserve a little more.

Or one of you wants to do a home remodeling project that has been put off for a while, and the other person wants to buy a full entertainment system.

Here is an approach my wife and I use to come to an agreement about large purchases.

As you look at shared goals for this year, this might help you as well:

  • Make a list of all the potential expenses. Some examples include: vacation, car replacement, kitchen remodel, new couch, big screen TV.
  • Assign an estimated cost to each item.
  • Each person then goes down the list and assigns a priority (1 to 10) to each item.
  • Compare your priorities. Share with each other why each item is important.
  • Come up with a combined priority list.
    • Here is where the art of compromise comes in.
    • You are building a life together, so surely you can build a priority list together.
  • Total the amount required for all items. Based on your financial picture you might not get to all of them this coming year.
    • But you will get to the items that are important to both of you.
    • Now you know where to target your savings and you have a common set of goals.

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When you are married, the only way to win with your money is to work together with your spouse.

Healthy finances lead to healthy marriages.

If you are not working with each other you are working against each other.

Try this method and let me know how it goes!

Should Your Finances be on Cruise Control?

Finances on Cruise Control

Do you enjoy road trips? It is one of my favorite ways to go on vacation, and at least once a year my wife and I take such a trip.

To avoid the strain on our own vehicles, we usually rent a car. For a long road trip, one of the must-have features for that car is of course cruise control, which allows me to set the speed at a fixed amount.

On those long portions of the trip, it is nice to put something on “automatic” and out of your mind.

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The Danger of Finances on Cruise Control

In some instances, putting some elements of your finances on cruise control or “automatic” can be a good thing.

For example, if you are working on developing your savings habits, it might be a good idea to setup an auto-draft from your checking account to your savings account each month.

Or, if you want to make sure you are consistently saving for retirement or college expenses, an automatic transaction to your investment account would be a good option.

However, putting things on “cruise control” with your finances could also present a problem. That recently happened to me with our home insurance policy.

We had been with the same home insurance company for almost 20 years even through our move from Round Rock to Frisco. In all that time, I really did not have a reason to complain about coverage or service.

I also got into the habit of receiving the annual policy renewal letter on-line as opposed to receiving the paper version.

So far, nothing wrong with any of that. It saved me time, it minimized the amount of paper I had to file, etc.

But here is where I ran into trouble:  Two years ago, I received the notice of renewal but I honestly gave it only a cursory review.

There was a big cost increase in the insurance premium and even though I saw it, I did not really process it.

It really did not hit me until I received a notice from my mortgage company with the corresponding increase in the monthly escrow amount.

I was a bit surprised, and of course, our monthly budget had to be adjusted. So even though we could handle the change, the fact that I had let something like that slip by me, left me with a bad taste.

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Lesson Learned: Automate Your Finances but Don’t Disengage

So what did I learn? Well, I always tell you that you have pay attention to your money in all aspects. I had to apply that lesson to myself. Again.

This past December, when I received the annual renewal policy for our home insurance, I did a more detailed review. This time there was no major increase, no major surprise.

However, I took it one step further. I decided to look for other options with insurance to see if we could do better with coverage and get more value for the cost.

I contacted a trusted insurance agent and he reviewed our needs for both home and auto insurance.

I was pleasantly surprised that I could save about $400 annually combined between our home and auto insurance premiums. All I had to do was to take the time to ask for different options.

I made the switch and I am glad I took that step. Reviewing your insurance needs is just one example of looking at your overall financial plan.

So regularly, take a moment to review what you are spending on different areas of your budget (food, internet service, phone service, etc.). Take the extra step to look for alternative options.

You may end up not changing anything, but then again, you could find savings and more bang for your buck.

Now, where is that cable bill?