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.

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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.

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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?

7 Principles For Financial Success

How are you building your financial household? Is what you are doing working? Do you see positive results?

Our family has been on a financial transformation journey for a little over 9 years now and I have had some time to reflect on how far we have come.

We have experienced the rewards of applying God-given, time-tested principles for winning with your finances.

I wanted to share these 7 Principles for Financial Success with you today because I firmly believe you too can win with your money if you are diligent in applying them.

If you want to know more, you can check my e-book in which I share more about how these principles have changed our lives.

If you are winning with money, I would love to hear how have you applied these or other principles to succeed. Share those blessings with others!

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
Psalm 19:7

7 Principles for Financial Success

The Opposite: Financial Wisdom From George Costanza

The Opposite: Financial Wisdom from George CostanzaIf you are a fan of the classic sitcom “Seinfeld, you are very familiar with the travails of George Costanza.

George was Jerry’s best friend and the prototypical underachiever, loser type.

George wanted all the benefits of a great life but was unwilling to pay the price required.

Instead, he would much rather lie and take the easy way to get there.

Only once did George experience some level of success.

In the episode “The Opposite“, George realizes that every instinct he has ever had, has been wrong.

He then decides from that moment to do the opposite of what his instincts tell him in every situation.

Here is the video:

What can we learn from George Costanza?

We could take a cue from George with regard to our financial wisdom.

If you do the opposite of what most people are doing with their money, you will succeed.

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Here are some examples. Statistics come from the 2014 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey conducted by the National Foundation For Credit Counseling):

  • 61% of Americans do not have a working budget to manage their money and keep track of their expenses. If you get on a budget, your money will work harder for you. Trust me, you will feel like you got a raise.
  • Only 29% of Americans are spending less than they make.
  • 34% of Americans do not have any non-retirement savings. This means that when an emergency comes, they have to borrow more money.
  • 32% of Americans do not allocate any money to retirement savings. This means they are relying on the Social Insecurity system to take care of them in their golden years.
  • 34% of Americans carry credit card debt from month to month. This means they pay more and longer for their purchases.
  • Many adults (41%) would give themselves a grade of C, D, or F on their knowledge of personal finance. Lack of knowledge leads to mistakes and lost opportunities.
  • Most Americans (71%) are worried about their financial situation. They lack financial peace.

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Are you in one of those groups above? If so, what will it take for you to change course?

You can get your finances on track, you can learn how to handle money. You can get out of your current situation.

Unlike George Costanza, your success does not have to be temporary. Make a decision today that will really change your life for good.

There is always Help and Hope for Your Finances!!!

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
Psalm 20:4 (NIV)

3 Questions to Ask Your Financial Planner

3 Questions Financial PlannerIf you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you know that I am all about helping you to win with your money.

I want to share what I have learned about budgeting, saving, and getting out of debt, which are the keys to prosper in your finances.

But there are areas of personal finance in which I myself need help and wise counsel.

For example, I am not a certified financial planner or investment professional.

I do have investment principles I follow, and I also understand what my current investments are and how they are performing in the market.

However, I am not an expert in the area of investing.

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What do I do then? I have an investment professional that helps my wife Stacey and me. And unfortunately, I had been remiss in meeting with him for more than one year. He had sent me an e-mail earlier this year indicating that it was time for a sit down review.

Being so busy, I promptly ignored the e-mail and went about my business. Then a phone call followed up and Stacey answered it. As a good wife will often do (Proverbs 31:10-11), she said something to the effect of: “We are paying him, we might as well take advantage of his expertise.”

Of course she was right as usual, so we made the appointment. We had a great discussion with him and we got a great sense of where we are.

I thought about the appointment beforehand, and I want to leave you today with 3 questions to ask your financial planner:

1. Are We investing in the Right Things?

As I mentioned before, we do have investment principles we follow and investment vehicles we chose personally. You should only invest in something you understand and can explain to someone else.

You should also monitor the performance of your investments on a regular basis. I don’t mean obsess over the daily ups and downs of the market. But do check it quarterly or monthly as appropriate.

So my first question was, are we investing in the right things? How have those investment vehicles performed recently? I wanted to make sure we are still making wise choices.

Our financial planner explained that most of our investment vehicles were doing well, but there was one that had underperformed recently.

Based on his analysis of the results, he gave us a recommendation for a change. Based on his counsel and our understanding of the information, we took his advice and made the change.

2. What is a Safe Withdrawal Rate for Us in Retirement?

This is a question that’s often debated in financial circles:  what to do at the point in your life where you are no longer drawing income from a job or a business? You probably have heard numbers between 4% and 8%.

Your income then will come from your retirement savings. So, how much can we safely withdraw every year in order to make the money last through our retirement?

While I have heard and read about the different percentages for withdrawal, I wanted our planner’s expert opinion as it applied to our personal situation.

We only have one son and he is on his own and no longer dependent on us. We also carry no consumer debt and our mortgage should be paid off within the next 10 years.

So given all of that, what’s that number for us? Because he understood our situation and also knows how our investments are performing, he gave us an answer that we feel very comfortable about.

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3. Are We on track for Retirement?

This is the ultimate question in terms of finances, right? Will we have enough to carry us into our golden years? Will we have enough or will have to work into our 80s and depend on Social Security?

Now listen, I want you to work and do something you love doing until the day you die if that’s your choice. Work is a blessing and we were created to work, excel, and bless others with the fruits of our labor.

But, I only want to do something because it is my choice. I don’t want to work because I have to work. The point of prospering with money is that gives you options and freedom to do what you want to do.

So that’s the question I had: given everything you know about our situation, are we on track for retirement?

I wanted to know if everything we have done in the last 8-9 years was putting on us on the path we wanted to be.

I have been blogging for about 4 years now and sharing with you what I have been doing and encouraging you to do the same so you can prosper.

So this was a good litmus test for all that advice I have been dispensing.

Thankfully I can say that based on our planner’s analysis of our current savings, our current investment rate, and our plans for retirement, we are definitely on track to retire with dignity. We are on track to reach our goals to enjoy our later years in the strength of our financial resources.

Now, no one can predict the future. But you have to analyze and plan as if you are going to be here for a while. You have to understand where you are headed with your money in case you need a course correction.

I am glad we took the time with our financial planner. I am glad he has a vested interest in our well-being. I am glad he took the time to explain to us how we are doing.

So remember, we all need help sometimes. We all need wise counsel from time to time.

You don’t have to go at this alone. Take advantage of the expertise available to you.

Make an appointment with your financial planner today!

Question: Do you know if you are on track for retirement?

Savings Guidelines

A while back, I posted the budget guidelines to give you a quick reference guide to plan your monthly budget. That was a very simple but very popular post.

Today I want to give you a similar quick reference on the topic of savings.

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Savings Guidelines

The Savings Guidelines

 “He who spends more than he earns is sowing the winds of needless self-indulgence from which he is sure to reap the whirlwinds of trouble and humiliation.”
George S. Clason (“The Richest Man in Babylon”)

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