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Know Your Plan Before You Die…

Most employees do not know what their Social Security benefits will be.  They don’t know what their 401(k) will provide for them at retirement, nor when they will be out of debt.  Few employers provide disability insurance if you get hurt or sick, so what will happen if you become sick or hurt?  And health insurance is a “can of worms.”  If you are self-employed, and/or running a small company, many more questions exist than there are answers.  What will you do when you die or your spouse does?

Everyone should know what benefits they are going to enjoy, and communicate with a spouse about them at least annually.  Things change so fast that if you think you have benefits and don’t, you can go broke in a single week!  It is not hard to gather all your financial information together and review it.  When you have a question, make the effort to call and get answers. 

To see how this works in the real world, I want to share one of my client’s stories:

The husband passed away suddenly at age 64 and his wife had never worked outside the home.  He had $20,000 of group term life insurance and they had $52,000 savings in a 401(k) account.  Their home was worth $230,000, but they still had $189,000 mortgage.  The wife is in good health and expected to live beyond the average life expectancy for women of 87.  The husband’s funeral cost $15,000.  The wife has the option of accessing Social Security benefits of $1,245 a month, or to wait another three years and get $1,570 a month.

What would you do in this situation?  Their monthly living expenses before the husband passed away had been $4,000 per month. Now there’s no money to live like that. Will the wife have to sell the house since the Social Security income she could take now will basically pay the monthly mortgage and that’s it?  If she does sell, where will she live and what will she live on?

This couple had not talked about early death or how one or the other would live once one of them passed away — there was never this kind of detail discussed, ever. They just went along thinking nothing would change.  But it did change and the woman in this situation is in a really bad place financially.  And it will change for you too.  It is only a matter of time before big changes come to your world.  Get prepared.  Review all your benefits and make decisions today as if one of you has passed away.  Play this game over and over until you feel comfortable that you have your financial situation right.

In my experience, most people die with nothing more than a simple will. Their assets have to be probated in court until they are cleared for distribution.  This can take two years.  The expense of having a judge decide how to divide up assets can drain another $30,000 off your assets.  And in many cases, the surviving spouse still needs an income to live on.  What if health problems arise?  

The best way to start preparing for coming changes is to stop spending any more money until you have a Spending Plan in place and have learned how to track that plan so you can see where you are wasting money. Once you do so you will find a surplus that you can begin saving. Fund your future with this real money, that comes from getting your spending and debt under control. Then make sure you create a living trust. Transfer your assets into the trust and make sure nothing goes to the court to decide. Go to www.easylegalplanning.com and see how simple it is to get organized and match assets with a real plan document.  Don’t delay and become part of the majority that leaves your family out in the cold, unable to help themselves.  The memory of you that will be left will not be good.  To learn more go to www.moneymastery.com or contact me: peter@moneymastery.com.

Beware of “Financial Plaque”… It Can Kill All Your Best Laid Plans

This illustration of plaque buildup in the arteries makes me sick.  Millions of people have plaque that has the potential to cause huge health problems.  The same can be said about the “financial plaque” that so many people carry around with them. They have allowed their spending to overcome their income and use credit almost exclusively to live on. When you consider the interest expense that accompanies this widespread use of credit, the damage can be just as detrimental as plaque in the arteries.

What kind of damage is debt doing to people?

  • No money set aside for emergencies, which are bound to occur.
  • No money set aside for emotional impulse spending, which is also bound to occur.
  • No hope of retiring, ever.
  • Lost opportunities to create wealth that puts money to work rather than working for money.
  • Lost opportunities to help those in need, to create jobs for others, to form philanthropic organizations.
  • Almost certainly guaranteeing problems paying for healthcare in old age.

The remedy for plaque and heart disease is to eat properly, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Financially, the remedy is to build a Spending Plan and track expenses according to that plan in order to create a cash surplus.  Saving that surplus is the same as getting plenty of rest for the body. 

Learn to put work clothes on your savings and send it out the door to work instead of working your entire life to pay off debt. This will bring not only financial health, but physical health and happiness as well. 

To find out what’s building up in your “financial arteries” visit www.moneymastery.com. today.

What Happens When You Earn 75 Cents and Spend $1

Did you know that for every 75 cents the U.S. government is taking in, it spends $1?  Further, if this continues, within ten years the 75 cents will be used to pay just the interest on the debt.  Shame on the government — but wait, shame on all of us as this is exactly what we are doing with our personal finances. That’s why the average person reaching age 65 still has a mortgage, still has credit card debt, and is still worried about retirement.

The solution to all this nonsense is to spend less than we make.  I challenge you to do this for one month and see how great you feel at the end of it! Then try to see if you can do it for two months and so on until you are saving 10 percent of your income each month.  To accomplish this you must build a plan to spend your money differently.  Go to www.moneymastery.com and sign up for the select program.  Use the online software to build three plans:  Spending, Debt and Retirement.  Then look at how all three can be worked on at the same time. For more information and help, please contact me: peter@moneymastery.com

How to Live a Long Life and Love It

One of the secrets to living a long and happy life is to save 10 percent of your income for the rest of your life.  If a person can save 10 percent of their income when they are a teenager, they are smart.  If a person can save 10 percent while going to college and not incur student loans, they are brilliant.  If a person can save 10 percent up and through their working years and into retirement, they are an absolute genius.  Which one are you?

Take the example of a person you work with who always comes to a scheduled meeting late.  That is just them.  They are late, late, late all the time!  Ask yourself why?  To me it is a habitual thing.  They just don’t plan to be early. 

So it is with money. Many people just don’t plan to save as much as they should. Why is it that most people don’t have money saved for an emergency? To me it is a habitual thing.  They just never got in the habit of doing it, so they have no plan to secure it. In addition, they don’t save money into the right categories. Not only should you be saving 10 percent of your income, but you should split that savings into three categories:

  • Emergencies
  • Emotional
  • Long-term (Retirement)   

Nothing will derail a long-term retirement plan quicker than putting all your eggs into a deferred investment program where you have no access to liquid funds. Break off some of your savings into a liquid passbook savings account that you can get at in case of an emergency, because they are guaranteed to happen. If you have nothing with which to replace the broken water heater, for example, you will put that expense on a credit card and incur further debt. Piled up debt will eat into all that long-term retirement money when it comes time to withdraw it. And on top of that, it’s not likely that the conservative funds you are invested in with your 401(k) or other IRA program are going to give you a rate of return greater than the rate of interest you are paying on your debt.

Another event that’s sure to happen will be emotional spending, where you spend money for nothing more than pleasure or impulse. There is nothing wrong with this, if you have planned for it, because this impulsive spending is bound to happen to all of us. The problem is when you don’t have any money saved for such events in an emotional savings account. You see a  new pair of shoes you really must have and purchase them on impulse with guess what — that’s right, your credit card. This kind of spending without a liquid savings plan to account for it will, just like emergencies, pile up debt to the point that your retirement income is in jeopardy.

Breaking old habits — like not putting any money away or worse yet, not putting that money into the right savings categories — is hard to do.  But it can become easier if you forecast yourself into retirement and envision what it will be like if you haven’t saved for emergencies, emotional needs, and long-term goals.

We all can learn new tricks, even if we are old dogs.  Don’t give up. Read the book, MONEY:  What Financial “Experts” Will Never Tell You” for some great info on how to start saving today, even if it’s only 1 percent, and working your way up to the magical 10 percent amount — a savings amount that truly will affect whether you live a long and happy life, or not.

The U.S. Budget vs. a Family Budget

Following are some numbers showing how the U.S. government spends money. These are big numbers, so it’s pretty hard to get any kind of perspective on what they really mean to you personally:  

U.S. Government Spending

  • U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
  • Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
  • New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
  • National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
  • Recent [April] budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000

The Gainesville Tea Party has taken these very large numbers and given all of us a very simple way to wrap our heads around these complex figures by simply lopping off 8 zeros (i.e. divide by 100 million) to produce a “pretend” U.S. household budget correlated to the U.S. government’s budget:

Sample U.S. Household Spending (Correlated to Actual U.S. Government Figures):

  • Annual family income: $21,700
  • Money the family spent: $38,200
  • New debt on the credit card: $16,500
  • Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
  • Budget cuts: $385 (You can see once you take off all those zeroes, that in comparison to the U.S. budget cut, this doesn’t amount to much of a cut.)

If you or I tried to pull off the kind of financial insanity you can see the U.S. government is attempting, we would be forced into bankruptcy!  My experience shows 90 percent of all Americans over-spend their income.  This is why so very few people have enough money saved for retirement.  Keeping  our nation’s spending in mind, as shown above, check how you are doing.  Place your numbers alongside the sample U.S. household numbers above and see if you’re acting just as irresponsibly as the federal government. Make changes as needed.

For help in making those change go to www.moneymastery.com or send me an email:  peter@moneymastery.com.

What Happens to You Financially If Your Health Changes?

According to the Social Security Administration, 41 percent of all workers are required to retire earlier than planned due to a personal health problem — that’s four out of every 10 Americans. And the National Council on Aging has stated that about 91 percent of older Americans have at least one chronic health condition; another 73 percent have at least two.

What will you do if you’re one of the four out of 10 people who have to retire early?  How will you manage, and do you have enough money?  Get serious and create a plan based on the assumption that you might have this problem. After all, as stated above 91% of all seniors have a serious health problem — don’t gamble with those numbers and hope that whatever condition you get won’t keep you from working as long as you need to.  

Here are three things to do if you physically have to retire:

1.  Cut spending down to what money is available.

2.  Apply for Social Security benefits under handicapped status. This may take 6 months, but can help your income a lot.

3.  Stay mentally engaged with family, community and friends.

As you rearrange living expenses, this may lead you to consider downsizing your home.  This can help lower the cost of utilities and property taxes.  Think long-term when you are making these adjustments.

The Social Security administration has provided for those who get disabled at an age younger than 62.  This could be a source of income for the rest of your life.

When people finally retire, the most successful are those who stay actively engaged with the world.  They volunteer to make a contribution to the community around them.  By staying engaged, they are more alert and have a higher quality of life.

Plan for the event of bad  health and then if it doesn’t happen, you’ll still have the extra money plus you’ll have peace of mind, no matter what happens, and that is worth its weight in gold. peter@moneymastery.com.

Spend All Your Money on Paper so You Can See How to Create a Cash Surplus

We all want more money, but how can you make that happen?

First make a list of why you want more money.  Be comprehensive and make sure you don’t leave anything out.  Dream big and write down as much detail as you can so when you refer back to your list, you will be reminded of all these wonderful things.  Do this now.

Second, write down all the income sources, assets and other resources you have available to spend on this list.  Remember one of your assets is time, time to work extra hours, and time to get a better education and improve your ability to make more money.

Third, subtract the money you have from the list of wants and see if you come up short. This is the amount of money you need to find, learn how to earn, or acquire by selling an asset.

Let’s solve this money shortage problem right now.  In the illustration above let the circle represent all the money you will ever have in your lifetime.  Now you don’t know how long you will live, but just let this circle be the total amount of money you will have.  Don’t be critical of yourself for past mistakes in investments, don’t deride yourself for not getting more education, and don’t get depressed, just stay focused on this activity to the end.  I promise you will soon have more money.

Since this circle represents ALL the money you will ever have, why not spend it?  Use your list of wants and spend your money.  Take a slice of the circle and spend it on food and housing.  Then do the same for medical and dental expenses.  Spend some for vacations and fun activities.  Don’t use a monetary figure, just a percetage, like 1.5% for example.  Slice up your total money supply pie until it is all spent.  Don’t forget transportation costs and travel.  Now sit back and examine the money picture you have just drawn.  Remember you can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything you want.  So if you are a physician and will make $9,000,000 over your working life, you will not be able to spend more than that much money.

Your action item now, something for you to do immediately, is to take your “pie of money,” totaling all the money you will ever have, and spend it is such a way as to have a surplus and accomplish the essential goals of your life.  Don’t just spend it all, spend it so as to have a surplus. Doing this little exercise will help you see where you are spending money foolishly or help you see what you may need scale back on so that you can have a small surplus each month.

 Here are three case histories to put your “pie of money” into perspective in terms of creating a surplus:  The first case study is about a schoolteacher who lives in the mountains of Missouri making $23,000 annually.  She has debt and saves $300 each month.  The second study comes from Florida where he is a plastic surgeon making $100,000 a month, but has over-committed on leasing his building, equipment, plane and automobiles, so when he was called out of military reserves to serve a one year commitment in Afghanistan (making $29,000 a year), this forced him to have to file bankruptcy.  The third case history is a retired 87-year-old woman who lives in Stockton, California successfully living on $1,022 a month. We can see from each of these stories that it matters not how much you make but what you do with your money that counts. The school teacher isn’t making much and has debt but she still manages to create a surplus every month so she can save $300. The doctor is living large and has now lost that massive income on foolish living. He could have amassed a huge surplus by now but has spent it all. The elderly woman on a fixed income is managing her money by being smart about the way she spends so she has money to live on. Donald Horban taught this essential concept:

“We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants.  Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.” 

Our financial peace of mind is to learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but one who needs the least.

Don’t be discouraged, even though in my experience spending all your money on paper so you can see where you lack a cash surplus will be the hardest thing you will ever do.   Don’t procrastinate, create a circle representing your entire income of money and spend it.  Money is not the most important thing, but if you don’t have a surplus of it when you need it, it becomes really important.  I wish you all the very best! peter@moneymastery.com.

Have We Become a Nation of Spoiled Brats?

In 1935 our nation was in the worst economic depression of all time.  Unemployment was at 40% and senior citizens did not have enough food to survive.  President Roosevelt created a welfare system called Social Security.  It was designed to help give the bare necessities of life to the very poor of the poorest. When this new welfare system went into place the average person was living to the age of 67.

Fast-forward to today and we see that the average person reaching age 65 will live to be age 84 for males and age 87 for females.  The average family will have made $2,500,000 over their lifetime of work, yet have less than $60,000 of total assets to show for it, including equity in their homes! To top this off, 91% of all people retired are totally dependent upon their monthly Social Security check.

What happened between 1935 and today?  My thought is we got spoiled with all the new growth of our nation’s population and technology. We took for granted our better education, incredible travel opportunities and medical improvements.  We assume all these improvements are just expected and natural and assume they will never stop!  In short, we have become spoiled.

If we went without the latest gadget, clothing fad, classy automobile, and foreign travel, surely as a nation we could have saved more by now.  We have not been willing to wait for things we want and have spent our future.

Don’t be one of our nation’s spoiled brats. Learn how to control spending and get out of debt!  This applies to me just as much as it does you. In a country where there is so much opportunity to spend, it can be hard to learn how to control it. But we can all do better and we should.  Let me just be the voice of warning to help encourage us to change our course of action and do better.  For help, please contact me: peter@moneymastery.com

There Must Be Fun to Make the Hard Parts of Life Worth Living…

The Money Mastery system of personal financial management teaches that savings is actually just “delayed spending.” What this means is that all money is to be spent — some will be spent now, and the so-called “savings” we create will be spent later for future events.

So what kind of “delayed spending” accounts should we create? There are three:

  1. Long-term
  2. Emergency
  3. Emotional

The Long-term account is obvious — we need the most money here for the end of our life, when we stop working and hope to retire so we can do so comfortably.  I have written extensively about how to create this delayed spending account and I urge you to check out some of those posts here.

The Four C’s of Retirement Planning

How to Determine Retirement Needs Accurately

How You Define Retirement May Mean You Actually Get to Retire

The Emergency account is also obvious — problems crop up all the time and as I have tracked the emergencies my family has encountered it adds up to an average of $383 every month.  Because I have a historical picture of what life  has been like for our family through tracking, I just go ahead and set the $383 aside each month so I have this money to spend later when these emergencies arise BECAUSE THEY WILL HAPPEN JUST LIKE CLOCK WORK.  What about your family? Do you know what you need to set aside each month to plan for the inevitable?

The last account, Emotional, gets overlooked or in most cases has not even been considered as a needed delayed spending account.  But just like emergencies, the need for impulse spending for the sheer fun of it is bound to happen TO ALL OF US and if you’re not prepared for these events, you will spend money you do not have simply to fulfill an emotional need. And let’s face it, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending money impulsively, for no other reason than because you want to have fun and enjoy life — that is unless you have not prepared for it. Then spending money this way is what gets people into debt and keeps them that way for a long time.

My advice? If you don’t think you have much to set aside for emotional spending, start with a small amount like $25 for example. Put this away every month and then work your way up a little. That way, in a few months you have money that has been set aside only to be used when you want to do something fun on the spur of the moment. You can still pay your monthly bills while not depriving yourself or family members of the fun and enjoyment in life. Or let’s say you get a tax refund (which is something I suggest you not be getting every year but that’s a post for another time), but if you’ve gotten a recent tax return, I suggest you take a portion of that return, at least $500 of it and put it aside into a savings account to only be used when you want to do something fun on the spur of the moment. 

Now let’s spend this $500.  Let’s suppose that your spouse comes to you and tells of friends who went to a resort with natural hot water swimming pools.  He or she is sad and wishes your family could do something like this.  You spring into action and say, “Honey, let’s check our emotional account and see how much money we have.”  WOW, you have $500 and it would only cost $235 to do this same trip to the hot water pools.  All of a sudden your family gets to put some excitement back in life and together you have a wonderful family-bonding experience that provides happy memories for your children.

Not having money saved for emotional spending needs is like going on a diet and expecting to never eat another cookie or indulge in another ice cream cone again. Those kinds of diets do not work because they are too strict to give you the motivation you need to stay on them. Eating right is fine so long as you can splurge occasionally. The same goes for proper financial management. Fun times are needed every once in a while if you expect to stay on track. But, those fun times need to be properly funded, in advance.  Plan for emergencies, plan for retirement, but don’t forget to plan for emotional activities either.  Learn how by going to www.moneymastery.com.

What Is a True Financial Coach and How Do They Differ from and Adviser?

Many people confuse financial coaches with a financial adviser. These are two very different animals that need distinguishing.

Financial Coach:  A true financial coach focuses on your knowledge, your habits, and your ability to make wise decisions.  They don’t superimpose their feelings upon you.  A true financial coach knows that each person is unique with different goals, different attitudes about money, different challenges with math, and different strengths/weaknesses.  A true financial coach will know how to strengthen your where you are weak.

Financial Planner or Adviser:  This person is most often selling a product.  A financial adviser wants to profit on the money you have already accumulated.  The problem is that this is not what most people actually need.  Most people need and want to know how to create the money in the first place and then how to manage it wisely, perhaps with the help of a financial adviser, once they acquire it.

Think about how a salesman wishes to make money.  They sign up with an institution and then submit to their training.  What kind of training will that be?  Will it be training on five other competitor products so they can sell for them as well?  Absurd, not ever!  This employer wants to train you on his or her own products.  In the Time and Moneycase of a financial adviser, who are truly not a lot more than sales representative, they are encouraged to acquire knowledge and even
seek degrees like Certified Financial Adviser, to show the public that they are knowledgeable.  All of this effort by the sales representative can be helpful to you with a small part of the puzzle, but they very rarely have all the answers to every part of your financial life.  Have you ever thought about asking a financial adviser about what to do about your overspending? Of course not, they wouldn’t be likely to have much information about how to help you with this, and even if they did, this is not what they’re paid to do. What about how to get out of debt, or to create a passive income from better managing  your own money? They wouldn’t know the first place to start helping you with these important matters.  Where they can sometimes help is in what to do with extra money you have created, but that’s really where their “advising” ends.    

Here is the real difference between a coach and an adviser.  A coach helps you with problems you are having with managing your money and your emotions. People have lots of emotions surrounding money. The products financial advisers sell have very little to do with how to manage emotions and get in control on a grassroots level. They don’t teach you principles of financial management, they only sell tools that can help you once you have money to manage. A coach, on the other hand, offers solutions on how to control spending, get out of all debt, save for retirement, and pay the right amount of taxes. If you don’t have someone who can teach you how to do all of these things (at the same time) then you aren’t getting advice from the right place.

Here is a test question to ask a sales representative to determine if they are an adviser or a coach: “What do you recommend I do?”  Then listen carefully as to how fast they go directly to a product that they think you need.  If they make a specific recommendation they are a financial adviser.  If they say, “Tell me more about what you are trying to accomplish, today and in the near future?”  Then they search out your true feelings and even coach you along these lines before identifying options.  A true coach will strengthen you until you are making good decisions. Once you are making better financial decisions, then you can talk about what to do with your money from there.  

There are huge differences between a coach and an adviser, but it will take some time interviewing and asking questions of these people before you will see  how they approach helping you.  Most likely you will find 1 out of 25 advisers that will serve you like a true coach will.  For true financial coaching without the pushing of products, visit www.moneymastery.com