YOUR FINANCIAL WEALTH 2020!
It is common knowledge that the main two topics creating friction among couples are sex and money. The beginning of a new year is a good time for couples to revisit their financial situation and common goals.
What is your relationship with money? Do you have different approaches as a couple? Are your goals in alignment? Are you trusting each other and are fully transparent about money?
Significant stress comes from budget mismanagement, over-spending, and spousal disagreement about money. We tend to become emotional or irate when talking about money as a couple, especially when there are significant differences in financial habits. Learning healthy communication and open-mindedness is key.
A lot of psychology goes into how we behave with spending and savings, some coming from our upbringing and some from our personality and personal experiences.
How we deal with money is also closely linked to how we value ourselves. Money is a tool for some people to attempt to show their worth. Are you insecure or do you have a healthy self-esteem? Start to pay close attention to what you tell yourself? How do you value yourself? Are you relating everything to money, or do you have an identity separate from all material things and what you can accumulate?
Our relationship with money is also influenced by our personality type. Are you outgoing and more likely to take decisions on the fly or more calculated and you consider all angles before taking a financial decision? Do you seek instant gratification not questioning how you will repay the debt and do not think about it twice?
How we manage our money is intimately linked to how we handle the rest of our lives. It all comes down to healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries in finances, healthy boundaries in food, career, and relationships. It often goes hand in hand!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO IMPROVE YOUR FINANCIAL WEALTH 2020?
– Discuss it honestly with your significant other, if not single, and decide on a few rules such as:
o An acceptable spending limit where you do not need to tell your spouse
o A monthly individual allowance for incidentals and personal self-care
– Live within your means. Spending more than what you make is a powerful recipe for total disaster. According to CNBC, in 2019, 78% of Americans lived paycheck to paycheck.
– Track your spending. Create or revise your budget: a budget is crucial for you to understand what is coming in and where the money is being spent. It provides a higher level of confidence and empowerment. It also pinpoints areas where you might be spending more than you would like and gives you the opportunity to investigate and adjust accordingly:
o Revisit all contracts you have including car/house insurance contracts, TV/entertainment, termite bonds…. Are you using all the services you are paying for?
o Be smarter about how you spend. Avoid paying late fees, shop smartly, avoid wasting food, pay attention to how much you spend eating out
o Be on the look-out for discounts and coupons. Download the apps of the places you regularly shop at and monitor coupons
o Put aside 20% of what you make for investments and savings. Autopay is perfect to get into the habit of saving. Money you don’t see is money you can’t spend! You might have to set aside more then 20% if you are closer to retirement and do not have invested enough
o Get accustomed to seeing your monthly bills as a daily average amount by dividing monthly bills by 30. You can do the same with what is left after paying all bills and investments
o Educate yourself about finances, know the difference between good debt and bad debt.
o Itemize all bills that are not monthly bills such as HOA payments and put them into a monthly amount so you can set the amount aside monthly. When the bill is due, the money is accrued
o Put on auto-payment most of your bills, especially bills with fixed amounts
o Get into the habit of only spending if you know you can pay it all off at the end of the month.
o Pay liabilities off early when possible. Send one extra payment each year to your mortgage company, it will save you a good amount of interest in the long run
o To easily monitor certain expenses like food, decide to only use one specific credit card for it
o Experiment with your ability to be disciplined and build on it. Decide to restrain from buying for a month or 2, it could be clothes, shoes… Consider a small reward when you succeed. Choose your reward wisely, concentrate on experience. Chose a reward that is a lot lower in spending amount. Meet your spouse for a drink somewhere or chose quality time with a family member or close friend
o When you can identify your patterns of spending, find another less expensive habit such as going to the gym at the times you are most likely to head to the mall. Exercising improves mood and feeling of self-worth. Find other activities you enjoy. Be mindful to not switch from one unhealthy habit to another. For example, from spending to emotional eating or drinking
o Design an improvement plan with small steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.
o Enjoy life and have a budget for activities to do as a couple. Discuss what you both enjoy and decide on a budget. It could be dining out, travelling…
o Know your net worth which is your assets minus your liability or debt
– Do you have a saving’s strategy?
o 3 to 6 months of savings for emergency fund
o Have a financial plan as a couple. You can organize it by life transitions such as finishing paying for college, career, starting a family, first time home buyer, college for the kids, retirement, estate planning…
o Retirement strategy:
§ Invest as early as you can and learn about the power of compounding!
§ Revisit your investment accounts and your diversification strategy yearly. Do you need to shuffle investments to get back to your desired diversification goals?
§ Never take money out of your retirement accounts
§ If you received a raise, increase your investment rate
o Start a College fund after you have paid yourself first
o Educate your children about healthy spending and savings. This will be one of the most valuable lessons you would have shared
– The beginning of the year is always a good time to pull your credit report to review its accuracy. Check your FICO score and investigate how to improve it. A high FICO score will give you a lot of power including finding a good job or a lower premium for car insurance…!
– Connect with like-minded individuals! Are your friends financially responsible? If you are trying to improve your financial situation, revisit various friendships and navigate more towards individuals with healthy financial boundaries. If you are a big spender, staying close friend with another high spender will not help you reach your new financial goals.
– Manage your moods, anxiety, stress level, and sleep. You are less likely to spend if your life is well-balanced. Consider finding other ways to relax and stay away from retail therapy.
– Pay attention to what you eat. We are what we eat! If you eat junk food, we do not feel well and are most likely experiencing mood swings which could fuel emotional spending.
– Be on the same page with your spouse for support and motivation. Check in regularly and praise one another for the small steps taken towards your financial wealth 2020!
If you have unhealthy spending habits or are not disciplined enough to stick to a plan, seek the help of a Life coach, therapist, or financial advisor!
Portfolios and wealth accumulation take time and discipline to build. The compounding effect works both ways, it has miracle powers for wealth building and disastrous for debt accumulation! Digging ourselves out of a hole takes time, avoid putting yourself in that situation! Be honest with yourself and get professional help before it is too late!
Celebrate your financial wealth 2020!
Sophie Webster, MBA, Certified Life and Health Coach