Smart Money Moves Aren’t Really Complicated

Smart Money Moves Aren’t Really Complicated

I have Google Alerts on almost every aspect of personal finance (PF). So on a weekly basis a lot of PF articles and blogs posts come across my screen. Some are written by experts sharing their money management perspective and tips; others, by non-experts sharing the lessons learned from their personal financial journey. As I read a blog post this afternoon, my response was, “Ugh, this is so obvious!” After rolling my eyes, I refocused on the page and scanned the piece hoping the writer would tell me something I didn’t know or provide me with a new way of looking at what I already believe I know. No. Such. Luck. This is not a tirade against the author. In fact, her tips were excellent and someone will read her piece and get immense value from the advice she shared. My sentiment is more a reflection on the industry. It is one that I know can you help you achieve your life and financial goals and dreams and solve some of your problems; one that I love; and one whose good intentions get overshadowed by inundating you with personal finance information that is as dry as hell! Because it’s easier. It’s far easier to tell you, “save more, invest better, spend less, earn more,” in a hundred different ways than it is to challenge you to go deep and tap into the “why” behind the financial choices you make and actions you take. It’s far easier to get you to pay attention to the part of the equation that contributes the least to your financial success. Despite research that proves...
Get Unstuck: Have a Close Encounter with Your Money Baggage

Get Unstuck: Have a Close Encounter with Your Money Baggage

Everyone has money baggage in some way, shape or form. And, the influences are many – family, friends, colleagues, society at large, consequences of past choices, etc. Typically, your awareness of your money baggage largely lies dormant until something happens. Usually something big. Like a marriage. Or, a divorce. Or, a lay off. Or, buying a home. Or, the birth of a child. Or, starting a business. Or, trying to figure out why you don’t feel comfortable raising your prices. Examples are aplenty. But one of the things these events all have in common is that you are often thrust into a situation that simultaneously triggers a financial fear that directly challenges a financial aspiration. Now, the cat’s – aka your money baggage – is outta the bag. Your money “stuff” has been brought to the surface. And you realize it’s keeping you from moving forward with financial goals more clear, confident and in control. So, you take action. Yet, something is not working. Probably because you’re making a common mistake: Most people focus on the transactional side of money – what they do with it – when they’ve decided it’s time to do something about their baggage. If that’s you, STOP! Money baggage is just as much about what you do with money as who you are with money. For greater financial success and more sustainable results, it is beneficial to also invest the time to explore who you are with money. It’s not woo-woo…it’s smart and strategic. It’s how you turn worry into action. It’s how you turn preparedness into sustainable results. It’s how you answer the...

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back & Why Mindset Matters

“Are you working toward business owner goals with a self-employment mindset.” Tara Gentile I’ve talked about the importance of and the role of mindset when it comes to reaching your goals here. So, I understand quite well that there exists a powerful connection between one’s mindset and the successful achievement of your goals. But last week, Tara Gentile, my business strategist and the creator of the Quiet Power Strategy, took this connection to a whole new level for me and wrote a piece that just rocked my world. In it, she raises the above question and I haven’t been able to stop mulling over it ever since. On so many levels, it is such a powerful question. Sterling is an S-corp; so, based on my tax status, I own a business. But if you pulled back the curtain and unpacked how I have made some business decisions, those would clearly fall in the self-employment mode. Neither her post nor the epiphany it held for me is about whether owning a business is better than being self-employed. That’s a personal and strategic business choice. However, it is about this: That moment when you realize you think you’re behaving one way when in fact you aren’t! Perhaps this disconnect is behind why some of the moments I declared were my tipping points, didn’t actually tip my business forward to the next level like I wanted! Can you relate? After all, you don’t need to have a business to benefit from exploring whether there is a mismatch between your goals and the mindset you’re relying on to achieve them. If you have...

A Layoff Can Help You Create a Fool-Proof Financial Plan – Really

If you’ve recently been laid off, as someone shared in response to last week’s post, and your emotions are still raw, you may want to read this later. It may be hard to imagine, but in some cases a layoff can actually be a good thing for your personal finances. This is not as heretic as it may sound. The employment landscape has changed significantly in the last 40 years. Yet, our collective expectations around how we work in terms of the employer/employee relationship hasn’t really evolved to match today’s reality – on both sides of the equation. If it did, all employees would be emotionally and financially prepared for the possibility of a layoff. They’d have multiple streams of income. Or, at least have a “just-in-case” financial plan if conflicts of interest prevent you from having a side-hustle. Do you? If it did, all employers would realize you can only cost-cut your way to growth but so much. At some point, innovation is needed. Do you work at a company where ideas are embraced from all levels of the company; where failure is not avoided; where “innovation” isn’t a buzz word but rather it is seen as tool for broader, strategic goals? The unlikely reason a layoff can inspire a fool-proof financial plan is this: it can foster a fresh start and better way to manage your money. In three specific ways: Review the last twelve months of your banking and credit card statements. Not to beat yourself up about what you did or didn’t do prior to your layoff, but to isolate patterns of financial behavior and...

The Financial Choice That’s Most Important When You’ve Been Laid Off

Yesterday, a friend shared that she was laid off this week. Three weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal laid off approximately 100 staff – many of whom were personal finance journalists. Hmm… Recently, Microsoft announced it was laying off 7,800 additional (!) jobs. Layoffs are typically associated with tough economic times. But, our economy is steady! Even with this week’s weird concatenation of events (Greece’s debt crisis, China’s market meldown, and the NYSE’s three hour tech-outage), the U.S economy continues to grow – albeit slowly. And the “market” as measured by these key indices – Dow Jones Industrial Average; S&P 500; and Nasdaq – rallied to end the week in positive territory and not too far from their 52-week high. The reasons for the layoffs are as varied as the firms conducting them. For some, it is purely expense containment and reduction; for others, it is triggered by a needed shift in the company’s business and business model. Regardless of the reason, there is a person and family emotionally and financially affected by this decision to reduce staff. There is a person who now needs to work on plan B for their career and mostly likely their personal finances, too. Is this you? Have you recently been laid off? If so, you may feel tentative, anxious, short on confidence and may be even a little guilty. If this is a repeat layoff, the emotional scar of multiple layoffs may run deep. And you might be freaking out, mad that you have to start over (again) and wondering, “How am I going to bounce-back this time?” or “When will I...

If You Live With a Financial Stranger, Experiment With This

You know that side-eye, raised-eyebrow look that says with some incredulity, “Who are you?” Well, after the release of Fidelity’s biennial survey, “Fidelity Investments®’ 2015 Couples Retirement Study,” I bet a lot of couples are looking at their mates a bit askance. According to their survey of 1,000 married partners and people in long-term committed relationships, 43% of these folks had no idea what their partner earned. And for those who claimed to know, it turns out they were approximately off by $25,000. That means 4 in 10 couples have no idea about, what seems to me, to be a financial basic. Yet, they live together!!! Talk about sleeping with a financial stranger. Does this describe your household? If you live together; if you share other vital aspects of your lives together; if you, presumably, do some sort of tax planning together, and you don’t know your household’s total income, what else don’t you know? Are there purchases about which you don’t know? Are you in the dark about debts? Is there an account or asset that you don’t even know exists? And how might what you don’t know impact your financial foundation and security? Or, trust? Talking, But Not Saying Much Fidelity’s survey led to a flurry of articles and news reports with many saying that couples don’t talk about money. As you may know, I disagree. I think people talk about money all the time; they’re just not having the right conversations. Whether in my former role as a money manager or my current role as a financial coach, what I have noticed is that most people...

Summertime Lull: Don’t Let Your Money Take a Vacation, Too

The Summer Solstice is tomorrow. That means summer is officially here and in full swing; time to enjoy the festivities of the season and (hopefully) take time off to relax and unwind. Your pace may slow down a bit, but I bet your thinking about money doesn’t. Yet thinking about money and making sure it, too, isn’t taking a holiday aren’t the same thing. Here are 6 choices to make to ensure your money works for you 24/7 – even during the Dog Days of Summer: Re-balance your investment portfolio If you self-manage your investments, review your current allocation between stocks, bonds and cash (across all your investment accounts) and reset them as necessary. And if you work with an advisor, schedule a quick check-in call to confirm you’re following the guidelines of your Investment Policy Statement. (Don’t know what that is, let’s chat.) Review your banking and credit card statements Sure, you probably log into your banking and credit card accounts daily, weekly, or monthly to ensure the transactions noted are accurate. But how often do you review them to ensure you are on track in terms of your earnings and spending targets? From a recycling perspective, paperless statements are fantastic! From a standpoint of paying attention to what you’re actually doing with your money vs. what you say you want to do with it — not so much. Now is a good time to review, assess and adjust, if necessary. Make (or update) copies of the contents of your wallet If you lost your wallet (or God forbid it was stolen), would you be able to easily...

Would You Feel Obligated to Share $100K Windfall? Why CBS’ ‘The Briefcase’ Disturbs & Excites Me

Have you seen or heard about CBS’ summer reality-tv series “The Briefcase?” Here’s the premise: Each week the show features two families experiencing a financial setback. The families are presented with a briefcase containing $101,000; a windfall that will solve a multitude of problems and give each family some much needed financial breathing room. They can do whatever they wish with $1,000. But there’s a catch with the balance and this is where the social experiment element comes into play: they can keep all of it; give all of it away to another family in need; or a combination of both. Over the course of three days they learn details about the other family’s circumstances. The presumption being that this insight will help them make an informed decision about how much of the money to share – if at all. The cost of charity is… And this is why the show both disturbs and excites me! When I watched the first episode, I really did have low expectations. However, they dive into some meaty social issues regarding money that go well beyond the numbers. Values Everyday life The fragility of our economy and our emotions The role of empathy and guilt Faith vs. anxiety Being selfish vs. selfless Judgment Generosity Action vs. results Vulnerability The windfall effect is one of the reasons I find the show disturbing. Unexpected cash will certainly resolve most (if not all) of your financial struggles in the short term. (I could think of a lot of things to do with $100k I wasn’t expecting!) But only a strategic plan will ensure the benefits of...

Americans Spent $70 Billion on Lottery Tickets; Here’s How This Can Help You

According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, Americans spent $70 billion on lottery tickets in 2014! When I first read this stat in an Atlantic.com article, I was horrified. That’s a lot of freaking money spent, usually by those who can afford it the least, to play a game you’re likely to never win. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized my shock wasn’t just confined to the amount of money spent in a single year. It was also because of what I viewed as the relationship between effort and opportunity. Misplaced Effort Equals Missed Opportunities I have only ever purchased a lotto ticket a handful of times; usually when the jackpot is ridiculously high and I join the chorus of, “you got to be in it to win it.” I am best described as a casual, infrequent participant who plays solely for fun and entertainment. But, there are others who play on a weekly basis with hopes that winning will solve all their problems and woes. It would be easy for me to stand on my high-horse but for this fact: At the end of the day, we are all chasing our hopes and dreams. We each do this in our own way. For some, playing the lottery is a way. And the slim odds of winning seem just as probable as anything else you might endeavor to do to fulfill your goals and desires. Given my line of work, I find this disheartening. Given my line of work, I also know you don’t have to actually play the lottery...

Make This One Choice and Money Will Never Be the Same (or Boring) Again

Here’s what you probably know: I am slightly obsessed with getting you to embrace the idea that financial success isn’t just about the dollars and cents. It’s a message that is imbued in everything I do! What you probably don’t know is the back-story of my obsession. On October 19, 1987, the stock market crashed. I was still a newbie and green behind the ears, just a year out of undergrad working at an investment bank. I can still vividly recall the frenzy of that day as if it were yesterday. Some people were absolutely beside themselves, freaking out. While others were moving about in a rattled, but calm, way. I was completely fascinated by this disparity… This is when I really fell in love with Wall Street. This is the day that planted the seed for my ongoing quest to discover the dynamic relationship you and I have with money. Questions like – What role do emotions and psychology play in how you make financial decisions? and How do the consequences of your past money decisions impact your future decisions? – became an integral part of my working parlance and framework. Clearly, I’m not the only beset with this fascination of human behavior and money. There’s an entire academic field of study (behaviorial economics or behaviorial finance) dedicated it; there’s even an index for measuring how you feel about your money and the economy – The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. If that isn’t enough, there’s a study by the Carnegie Institute of Technology, which found that “85% of your financial success is due to your personality...