Year End Financial Checklist

Year End Financial ChecklistCan you believe we are near the end of the year already?

Time flies and I am sure that if you are like me,  you are looking forward to the holiday celebrations and some well deserved rest.

However, before the year runs out, I wanted to give you a year end financial checklist.

The great Zig Ziglar said: “It’s true. Spectacular preparation precedes spectacular performance.

These actions will help you prepare to  start the new year on the right foot with your finances:

1. Check your Credit Report

Have you checked your credit report lately? This is something you should do at least once a year.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.

Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

So take the time to request a copy of your credit report.

  • You can order your free annual credit report online at annualcreditreport.com, by calling 1-877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to:
    • Annual Credit Report Request Service
    • P.O. Box 105281
    • Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
  • Get a report from each one of the agencies.
    • They are supposed to cover the same information but there can be differences.
    • In some cases entries in one report will not show up on the other reports.
  • In case you cannot get a copy of your report from the online website, proceed with the phone call or complete the form to request via  mail.
    • Just make sure you get your hands on that report.
    • If I had done this, I would have taken the steps to correct the problem before starting the mortgage refinance.
  • Review your report for any inaccurate entries.
    • Keep in mind that only entries that are inaccurate can be removed from the report.
    • Don’t fall for scams that promise to “clean-up your credit”.
  • If you find any inaccurate entries, contact the appropriate credit reporting agency.
    • Send a letter via certified mail, return receipt requested detailing the inaccuracies.
    • Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information.
    • Inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 30 days.
    • Additional information can be found at the FTC website.

Subscribe to future Blog Posts

2. Assess Your Insurance Needs

As you work on your financial plan, I also want you to consider the need to manage the risks to your finances by evaluating the role of insurance in your financial plan.

What is the role of insurance? In simple terms, insurance is the tool that is designed to protect you and your family against what might happen.

Ensure you have the right type of insurance and the right coverage to protect your financial plan.

3. Check Your Retirement Plan

Understand how your plan is progressing and make adjustments as needed.

Even with all the focus on personal finances today, planning for retirement is one area where we continue to come up short.

The good news is that you can do better than average. Seven years ago, I was part of those statistics but now I have a plan that is yielding good results.

Here is how I am preparing for retirement.

4. Prepare a Will

Do you have a will? If not, you are among 50% of Americans with children who have neglected this important step.

So what are some of your reasons for not dealing with this issue? You might think it is costly (it is not), or complex (it is not), or that simply you don’t have anything to leave to anyone so you don’t need a will (oh but you do).

Or you might just not want to think about your own mortality.

However, the reality is that we will all face death and the sooner you face that fact, the better off you will be.

So here are the 3 Reasons you should prepare a will:

  1. Because it puts you in control:
    • If you die without a will, the state takes over deciding what happens with your property.
    • The state already has too much say in what happens in our private lives.
    • There is no wisdom in leaving the disposition of your assets to the government.
  2. Because it is simple and cost effective:
    • You don’t need a high priced estate lawyer to do this. For most of us it is really a simple process.
    • Personally I used an online service that provided my wife and I with the required state specific forms for our wills.
    • It just took a few hours and less than $50 and we are able to put our last wishes on paper.
  3. Because it shows love for your family:
    • Imagine if something were to happen to you. In the midst of the grief and sorrow of losing you, your family also has to deal with the legal ramifications of what to do with your assets.
    • Don’t leave a problem behind. Love your family to the end by taking care of your will preparation today.

Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

5. Get on a Budget

I have always told you, the budget is the key to your financial success.

If you can’t control your money, you can’t build savings, you can’t pay-off debt, you can’t plan for the future.

Make 2015 your best financial year by starting to get control of your money today!!!

What other steps could you take this month to help you make progress with your money in 2015?

Redeem the Time: Make 2013 Your Best Financial Year Ever

Sand Glass (Redeem the Time)Subscribe to future posts from Figueroa Financial by e-mail

Can you believe half of 2013 is gone already? Last week at work I had my midyear assessment, and it was a good time to review how my team and I had performed against our objectives for this year. In summary, we are doing well but we can do better.

In addition to my work objectives, I had set personal goals, and goals for Figueroa Financial for 2013.

This past weekend I had the blessing of a long break thanks to the 4th of July Holiday, so I took the opportunity to evaluate how I am doing against those goals. In some cases, I met or exceeded my goals, and in some cases I came up short.

But the important thing is that I took time to stop, do the review, and see how things are going. I know where I am and I know what I need to do for the rest of this year.

You can follow the same process with your money. Did you set some goals back in January for your finances? How are you doing?

I don’t want you to get discouraged if you are not doing as well as you wanted. You still have half of 2013 in front of you. You can still redeem the time and make 2013 the best year for your finances. It’s time to review, reflect, and reset the plan for your money.

Review

What goals have you achieved this year? How are you doing with your monthly budget? Have you completed your beginner’s emergency fund? Did you finish paying some of the debts on your debt snowball?

As you review your results, take a moment to celebrate. Every step you take in the direction of financial wellness is a step in the right direction.

Every victory counts in your battle to get control of your money, so don’t forget to celebrate when you win!

Reflect

As you review your results, there is the danger that you might get discouraged if you are not careful. To avoid that, I want you to do 2 things.

First, I want you to first think about how far you have come since you began. If you have made changes to the way you handle money, you are making progress.  Don’t forget that you are not where you used to be.

Second, try to focus on why you are working hard to get control of your money. Maybe you were tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe you got sick and tired of carrying the debt burden. Perhaps you wanted to change the legacy for your family and leave a great inheritance to your children and their children.

Remembering the “why” will empower you and keep you going even when things get difficult.

Reset

As you look at your results, you might need to reset your strategy. Think about what worked well for you and think about what could have gone better.

Be honest and remember that this is a process, and that implies that it takes time to get it under control

Are there any categories where you can reduce your spending? For example:

  • If you had trouble with certain categories like groceries or restaurants, you might want to start using a cash envelope.
  • Could you get a better cell phone or internet service deal?
  • How about exploring options for reducing your insurance expenses?
  • Or could you reduce your recreation/entertainment expenses by choosing cheaper alternatives?

And what could you do to increase your income? For instance:

  • Is it time to pick up more hours at work?
  • Could you pick up a part time job or do some freelance work?

Your goal is to improve your cash flow by reducing your expenses and increasing your income. Every little improvement can help you to balance your budget and give you great traction.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
J. R. R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Please leave me a comment and let me know about your financial plans for the last 6 months of 2013.

Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

Financial Literacy Month: The Budget Series

Financial Literacy Month (FLM) Budget Series

Subscribe to future posts from Figueroa Financial by e-mail

National Financial Literacy Month (FLM) is recognized in the United States in April in an effort to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.

This is a great effort as statistics tell us that Americans are still carrying a great deal of consumer debt (over $2T), the majority still don’t prepare a monthly budget (65%), and the personal savings rates continue to be low. For more information on Financial Literacy Month go to: http://www.financialliteracymonth.com/.

So in honor of this FLM, I will share some of our previous posts on what I consider the four key categories for financial management: budget, savings, debt elimination, and giving. I believe if a household can learn how to deal with these 4 areas of money management, it will get on a path to financial wellness.

This week we will start with the Budget Series. Because if you can’t control your money via a budget, you can’t build savings, you can’t pay-off debt, and you can’t plan for the future. That’s where it all starts.

The Budget Series

Presione aquí para la versión de este artículo en Español.

7 Budgeting Questions and The 30-Day Budget Challenge

Budget Q&AWhat does it take to be successful in managing your money? Just a little over 7 years ago, our family began a life changing journey with our money. Based on the results, I feel I can answer that question from my own experience. The truth is that having a working budget every month is the key to winning with your money.

If you develop the skill of budgeting, you will unlock all the potential of your income. With that in mind I would like to answer 7 questions you might have about doing a budget.

After you review these 7 questions I urge you to take the 30 Day Budget Challenge sponsored by Jeff Ehrlich (@DebtFreeSquad). Jeff introduces a 30-day budget series that will guide you every step of the way. Lift the burden of debt, and take on the 30-day Budget Challenge!

7 Budgeting Questions

  1. Is having a working budget absolutely necessary to manage my money? Yes. A working budget is fundamental to your success. If you can’t control your money via a budget, you can’t build savings, you can’t pay-off debt, you can’t plan for the future.
  2. Can I budget even with a limited income? The reality is that whether you make $40K or $400K, you need to do a budget. A budget gives your income more muscle because when you know where every dollar is going, you will avoid wasting money. And, when you stop wasting money, you can begin to live on less than you make.
  3. Is budgeting hard? Not really. The mechanics of setting a budget are simple. It’s a matter of simply listing all your income on one side of the column and listing all you planned expenses on another. Make sure you “spend” every dollar on paper first. This means, allocate your available income to a spending category.
  4. I am not good with numbers, what tool should I use? You can use something as simple as a yellow pad and pen or something more involved such as an Excel spreadsheet or a computer program such as Quicken. Today there are also tools on the Internet such as Mint.com or YNAB. Use the tool that fits you, but make sure you use something! For me, an Excel spreadsheet has served me well for the last 7 years.
  5. Do I have to prepare a budget every month? The answer is yes simply because every month is slightly different. For example in one month you might have more birthday celebrations than others (for us June is a big one). Also things such as registration or inspection fees for your vehicle are not due every month. And of course Christmas expenses are very different than say Easter expenses. The more you carry on the practice of doing a budget, the easier it will be to manage the differences every month.
  6. Does doing a budget take a long time? No. It might take you longer the first few times you do it as you gather information on your bills and get a hold of historical data on your spending. But after the first few months, it will become a routine. For example, after 7 years I spend less than 20 minutes drafting our monthly budget.
  7. I hate talking about money, can’t I just leave it to my spouse? No. If you are married, you both need to be involved in money discussions and decisions. You each have a vote. One of you maybe more naturally inclined to handle the mechanics but you both have to be in the game. You are building a life together, surely you can handle money together. And if you are single, you need someone in your life who loves you well and who will tell you the truth. That person should review your budget to give you direction and ask the tough questions.

Do you have any other questions on budgeting? Share them and I will be happy to answer them! Remember to take the 30 Day Budget Challenge. Happy budgeting!

Additional Information

Presione aquí para la versión de este artículo en Español.

Perseverance, The Key To Your Financial Victory

Where are you on your financial journey? Are you just getting started? Have you been at it for a while?

How are things going for you? I think it is important to remember that the path to financial well-being is not a 100 meter dash. It is indeed a marathon.

I can tell you that there will be good days and difficult days. Recently I heard leadership expert John Maxwell say,  Good things don’t come quickly. Good things come over time.

In order to stay in the battle for the duration you have to be ready to deal with obstacles.

Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

You will face 3 Big Ds in doing anything that is worth doing: Distraction, Discouragement, and Doubt.

How do you keep fighting until you achieve victory?

You need perseverance which Merriam-Webster defines as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition“.

So here are 4 reminders that will help you persevere until your financial victory is achieved:

1. Remember the Why

In the midst of the day-to-day grind, you have to keep the big picture in mind. You could easily get distracted from the goal with everything that it is going on and you might wonder if it is worth it.

You need to remind yourself  that you are doing this because you want to take care of your family. You want to be free from the slavery of debt. You want to have savings for emergencies and for the future.

You want to retire with dignity. You want to leave a legacy for your family. You want to give generously and help others.

2. Relish every Victory

It might take you several months to achieve total victory. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day.

However, it is important to take time and celebrate your victories. Did you have your budget meeting for this month before the month started? Celebrate!

Did you actually finish your beginner’s emergency fund? Celebrate!

Did you pay off that first credit card? Celebrate!

Enjoying the victories along the way will help you to stay focused on the goal.

Subscribe to future Blog Posts

3. Remember How Far You Have Come

When you face a difficult day or week, you might be tempted to give into being discouraged. That might be a good time to reflect on what you have accomplished to this point.

Maybe you now have a working budget. Maybe you have knocked off a couple of items on your debt snowball.

Look at all the progress you have made. It will encourage you and give you renewed energy to keep going.

4. Rest on the Truth

You might face doubts of whether this will work or not. However, these are God-given, time-tested principles for winning with your finances.

Use a budget to live on less than you make. Save for emergencies and for large purchases.

Break free from the chains of debt. Plan for the future. Give extravagantly. These principles work and that is the rock solid truth.

Don’t you quit. Don’t stop. Don’t you give up until victory is achieved. Persevere!

“Discipline, not desire, determines destination.”
Dr. Charles Stanley

Please leave a comment below and share what has worked for you to stay motivated.