“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve, American Actor 1952-2004
Are you drowning in stuff? “Tidying guru” Marie Kondo tells us, “Most people have three times more stuff than they need.” Not only does having too many things suck energy to manage and maintain them, but it also perpetuates the overlooked personal problems caused by debt.
Since the economic meltdown of 2007/2008 a new and different economic landscape has risen up from the ashes. With the good old days of the dot com and housing bubble but a memory, all things financial are different now. We have had to learn how to navigate in unfamiliar territory. Some call it the new normal, other the new economy. At any rate, it appears that the rules to the game of long-term financial stability have definitely changed.
While the cost-of-living has risen dramatically for basics like food, housing, and energy (which are NOT factored-in to the official rate-of-inflation), earnings have remained flat, at best. The spend, spend, spend, model has failed almost everyone, except, that is, the traditional financial services industry that happily collects their credit-card interest income.
In my opinion, the name of the “making it” game today consists of two main components:
- Reallocation, and
- Increased earnings
In the world of personal finance, the four major moving parts to coordinate are: how to earn, spend, save and invest. A less well-known, but vitally important player is reallocation. In other words, the liquidation of big-ticket items such as boats, homes, cars, saving, or money from the stock market etc., in order to reallocate funds to move your life forward in some way. It could be to pay down debt, create a down payment, provide emergency funds to hold you over until you find new work, invest in a cash-flow business, or purchase a needed something. The point being that by reallocating your existing assets, your quality of life will be improved and give you more options (and breathing room), going forward.
Here are my personal finance recommendations to help you build that all-important solid-financial foundation. Savings and investments are very important but in today’s new economy the MOST important thing is to ensure your financial foundation for long-term peace of mind. You’ll know the “foundation” has been established when you have more money coming in to your household than going out for at least four consecutive months.
1. Write down your short-term, mid-term, and long-term financial goals and put them somewhere to easily reference.
2. Review your goals weekly.
3. Assess your current financial status. On a monthly basis, how much money a) comes in, and b) goes out? Dedicate a notebook or Excel spreadsheet to this four-month project of tracking your expenses. Create a line-item and category for each and all your expenses. Don’t forget things like eating out and entertainment. Save all receipts and record out-of-pocket information each day. On another page, track the source and amount of money that comes in each of the four months.
4. Be diligent, watch and learn and try not to judge yourself.
If after your four months you find you have more money slipping through your fingers than coming in, consider the following:
5. Use your list of current itemized expenses to create an action-plan. Decide how and by when you will lower the cost or eliminate entirely certain line-items. Be bold!
6. Make debt-elimination a high-priority, the final goal is to be able to live within your means and pay-as-you-go.
7. All the while as your expenses and earnings start to align, it is still very important to actively seek and find ways to increase your monthly cash flow. Otherwise you will fall back to accessing credit again in order to stay ahead of cost-of living increases that just keep coming.
8. As you focus on ways to increase cash flow, consider an independent trade or service that people will always need. For example, car mechanics, computer techs, hair stylists, barbers, clean-water suppliers, delivery-service providers etc. Additionally, you can find legitimate ways to earn good money from online.
9. Once you have diminished or paid off credit-card debt, destroy all but one credit card since easy-credit access becomes an addictive mindset regarding the perceived need for instant gratification. Do NOT keep this remaining credit card in your wallet. Leave it frozen in a bowel of water in your freezer to build time into your decision-making process.
10. To ensure your financial foundation more quickly, you may want to reallocate existing assets. Since money (itself a debt instrument) is worth the most today than it will be tomorrow, it’s best to put it to work for you, today. Don’t forget to consider anything you have in savings, retirement funds or the stock market. (Remember the stock-market 2008, and for your information, the U.S. Government is currently floating the idea of nationalizing. e.g. borrowing from, your 401(k)’s and IRA’s given the 19.3 trillion-dollar deficit. In other words, individuals would lose control over their account while the government instead would ration out annuity-type payments.)
11. Use cash. Most people will pay more attention to what they spend when it comes straight out of their wallet.
12. Stop using shopping as a form of entertainment. Shop purposefully using coupons, during sales, and buy bulk whenever possible. Also, consider shopping recycled, including for cars.
13. Include and educate your children in the how and why of your decision-making process (should you accept this mission) and invite their imitation of your mindset and efforts.
14. If you do have savings and/or investments (after possible reallocation), keep some of YOUR money entirely outside of the banking-services industry. They use your money. More and more people are moving their bank capital into hard (tangible) assets that can hold value.
A stable present-time financial situation will increase your well-being. Increased personal well-being allows for a more well-thought-out decision-making process.
I hope by now you realize that the corporate financial-services industry will never tell you the whole truth about how money works against you. Yet official statistics of entities such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve provide huge clues reflecting the hidden story.
The missing (secret) piece is systemic in nature, not political. The impersonal mechanics of a man-made monetary system grind away giving obscene profits to those at the top of the money pyramid while, at the same time, serving only to make everyday families increasingly vulnerable. The only way out (short of a new global system) is to personally make it a priority to learn new strategies designed to assist wealth-building for the “little guy,” and that are relevant to the economic times we live in.
In closing, may this recent New York Times excerpt be motivation to help move you into action!
“The average 65-year-old borrower has 47% more mortgage debt and 29% more auto debt than 65-year-olds had in 2003, after adjusting for inflation, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released Friday.” Wall Street Journal, February 12, 2016