Tapping Into What’s Golden

Happy belated Thanksgiving, all! Hope you enjoyed the holiday with traditions, family, and of course bountiful food. I think I might have consumed enough tryptophan that could honestly send me into hibernation until the new year…yikes. Like other fellow Oregonians, I have been & will be experiencing much of the C&C: craft beer & college football (the infamous Civil War game feat. Oregon State University vs. University of Oregon will be happening this Saturday – yes, I will be there in the stands even at temperatures of 25 degrees & potential snow fall).

In the spirit of the gratefulness that is involved with Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I wanted to share a post that features a way to tap into golden sources of wealth in your life that are…believe it or not…non-monetary. We all know that securing our finances is vital, but sometimes it’s about pinpointing & learning how to grow other sources of wealth in our lives that do not include tangible items or paper. This goes beyond the norm of my usual posts, but quite honestly a few of these here and there will give you a break from the ring of feeling like you’re getting knocked out by dollar signs & interest rates for a quick minute.

You may be questioning, ‘Sources of wealth that do not involve money?’ It may be difficult to sift through the finances that are ridiculously fast-paced through the holidays. Let’s spend a little time tapping into what’s golden:


 

  • A wealth of knowledge

      • Whether you attended a 4 year university, received your Associates, continue to pick up a book each and every day, watch an educational TED Talk, or attend lectures – education is an infinite continuum.
  • A wealth of relationships

      • From friends, to family, to co-workers, to mentors & beyond – investing in relationships and building a network that will facilitate your growth throughout life.
  • A wealth of inner balance

      • You may choose to mediate, soul search, practice faith, write, or just plain think – exploring your mind creates visions & goals of what you would like to obtain in life.
  • A wealth of physical activity

      • Whether you run 5 miles a day, dance like crazy, bike, walk to your job, or even just do squats from the couch to the TV to turn off Netflix (4 total squats, heck yes!) – it is feasible to increase your heart rate in some fashion at any moment in the day.
  • A wealth of conversations

      • With family, friends, maybe even pets – Okay, so some people say it’s a sign of confidence even if it means you’re talking to yourself (anyone ever have to practice their speech in a mirror before presenting it in lecture? – hey there, Comm 101!)
  • A wealth of time

      • Momentarily, you may feel strapped (…how am I supposed to work, eat, exercise, go to meetings, attend holiday parties, keep up with friends, and watch the full 5 seasons of Breaking Bad all this week to catch up)?! – In reality, time is relative. If you need more time, you can & physically will make it happen.

 

This list does not even begin to scratch the surface of golden wealth sources in life that are not measured my monetary amount. You choose what you would like to invest in each of these areas of life. If you put your relationships, passions, and physical ability to work they will compound and grow into what you envision them to be. For instance, think people who never ran a day in their life to becoming an avid marathon runner. A person who moved to a new town with 0 friends, but put their best foot forward to get involved with Meetup.com, local organizations and clubs. Someone who is a first generation student in their family that received their diploma. Allow yourself to succumb to viewing your envisioned life on a macro level, versus compartmentalize each aspect in a micro fashion. Yes, the day-to-day nuances can leave us feeling just a tad bit grumpy or down, but what is the broad picture?

If you feel investing 40% of your time to your job (on a micro level) is outlandish, think of how you can invest the other 60% of your time into the holistic picture that completes your life. Suddenly, time seems to be a lot more freed up in that context! The possibilities are absolutely endless.

This is when the non-monetary, golden wealth portion comes in. You have the tools, connections, confidence & personality to create the enriched wealth in all areas of life that you choose. Invest in what makes you the person you would like to be and the wealth that accumulates will be overwhelming.

As examples of these wealth sources from me? I am grateful for each and every viewer that takes the time and consideration in viewing this Generation YRA blog. For all of you (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you!):

  1. Aid me in expanding my personal finance knowledge
  2. Open doors to new & existing relationships with incredible people who are inspired/inspire me
  3. Provide me with a sound inner balance that I am learning to secure my financial present & future
  4. Given me motivation to also take care of not only my financial, but my physical well-being
  5. Generate conversation of topics featured to friends, family, professionals & new acquaintances
  6. Perpetuate my habits of staying organized in order to create time for everything I would like to accomplish daily, weekly and monthly

This list gives me a vast amount of things to smile about as I review my golden sources of wealth. The opportunities that have presented themselves since starting this blog only a few weeks ago are more than I could have ever asked for. As far as I can tell, I am just getting started with this venture. I hope that you continue to follow me, and join in on the Generation Y movement to secure our personal finance journeys.

If you’ve got some time, whip out a piece of paper & jot down all the categories that are sources of golden wealth listed above and how it applies to you. Keep it folded up in your pocket, wallet, purse, or tape it to your bathroom mirror. Leave it at your night stand and read it each night before you fall asleep. You will be flat-out amazed how much golden wealth you have each & every day surrounding you. Just imagine what it will be like just a couple of years from now.

Building your personal finance wealth (monetary, or non-monetary) one blog post at a time…

I hope you had an absolutely fantastic Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

All my best,

Alyssa

Jingle Bellin’ On A Budget

Jiminy Christmas! You mean to tell me Christmas is almost here?! Why, yes…I too couldn’t believe it as I realized Thanksgiving is just a mere one week away. Time to hop on that sleigh and let’s take a ride. In this short & sweet post we’re going to cover 5 tips for jingle bellin’ on a budget.

According to Market Watch consumers in the U.S. say they will spend an average of $781 this Christmas.

In some terms – that may be our total expendable income after bills in a month, close to 2 or 3 car payments, roughly 174 medium sized coffee drinks, 7 or more concerts, or even a round trip flight across the country and back. No matter how you choose to look at it, that’s a hefty chunk of money. Let’s explore 5 tips on how you can make the most out of your holiday season jingle bellin’ on a budget, while still coming out on top to conquer those New Years resolutions feeling vivacious (and not financially defeated):


1. Create a new gift giving tradition with friends & family

Brainstorm the possibility of a ‘Secret Santa’ or ‘White Elephant’ gift exchange with friends and/or family. This encourages creativity and togetherness. You can also establish a spending limit, so each person is held to the same rule (you will also know what to expect dollar amount wise, so you can plan ahead). This eliminates having to purchase several gifts for one another. Even if you wanted to give someone else a gift that you didn’t get as a ‘Secret Santa,’ you could surprise them on another month with one when they least expect it!

2. Take advantage of cash back rewards while shopping with your credit card

Several credit cards offer 1-10% cash back incentives on purchases during the holiday season. Create your budget of what you can afford and only spend that dollar amount purchase on your credit card. That way you can feasibly pay off the amount, and get rewarded for it! That’s earning money on the holiday shopping you were already planning to do…that’s a killer deal. For the last two years I’ve used my Chase Freedom credit card to receive extra cash back boosts for my holiday shopping & I am beyond thrilled with the offers and rewards (more to come with future posts on credit cards & incentives later).

3. Get inspired & crafty with it 

I am a huge advocate for handmade gifts. Knowing that someone put thought, effort, energy & time into a gift is incredibly profound & meaningful. Utilize Pinterest, Etsy, YouTube & DIY blogs as springboards to get your creativity flowing. You would be surprised how many things are feasible to craft. There are an immense amount of ‘hacks’ and tutorials that can help you save over 50-75% on items you would normally buy in stores. Also, you do not just have to save on gifts! You can save on gift tags & cards by creating your own! For kicks, here are a few I made with my boyfriend’s mom & sister the other night (we’re meeting up again tonight to add more to our homemade holiday stockpile of cards & tags)

diy gift cards diy gift cards 2

4. Start your online research now

Several stores are already offering free shipping & discounts with offer codes. It’s almost as if ‘Cyber Monday’ has become ‘Cyber month of November & December’ instead. Starting early (and not procrastinating) will reap huge benefits and cash breaks. A useful app to cross compare & gather all your wish list items and purchases in one spot? Try downloading the mobile app ‘Keep.’

5. Mentally prepare yourself to resist the urge to impulse buy

As we all know, ’tis the season to be inundated with deals & wonderfully executed marketing. Set your comfortable dollar limit of what you want to spend and stick to it. Resist the temptation to make impulse buys after you have completed all your purchases. You will feel much more sound in knowing the exact dollar amount you spent, rather than realizing how much those impulse buys have snowballed to create a rolling decrease in your account.

 


 

The following are just 5 tips to create the framework to get you jingle bellin’ on a budget. Utilize these tips (and create your own!) to help save you dollars throughout the holiday season. I want you to have less stressing to spread more holiday blessings.

 

Until next time, red & especially more green ($$) look good for you this holiday season!

 All my best,

Alyssa

Thank You Very Much, Mr. Robo-Advisor

What in the world is a roboadvisor, you ask? Well, it’s the evolving way of having your investment portfolio managed & automated in this day and age.

According to Investopedia, the definition of robo-advisor is:

an online wealth management service that provides automated, algorithm-based portfolio management advice without the use human financial planners. Robo-advisors (or robo-advisers) use the same software as traditional advisors, but usually only offer portfolio management and do not get involved in more personal aspects of wealth management, such as taxes and retirement or estate planning.”

In the past, some of the few ways of investing were through your own personal effort, or you had to hire a professional to overlook your portfolio for you (with a heavy cost associated). Alright, so don’t think of it as just feeding money to a crazy robot (sounds like a terrifying episode of The Jetsons, could you picture that maid Rosie chomping on your dollars?). Through robo-advising, there are a lot of people behind the scenes ensuring that the algorithms & automation are optimized at top efforts to make your investments reach the goals you set in place. Although, you are not meeting with a person face to face, it is not just robots simply taking over your money. There is a lot of human element that aids in the success of robo-advising.

Since I wanted to make the money I saved work for me (why just let it sit in a savings account with very minimal interest?), I decided to take on this robo-advising venture. It felt like the first comfortable step before looking into investing in strictly the stock market.

There are several robo-advisors out there, but I decided to start my robo-advising journey with Betterment. Here is just a small list of some incredible things I’ve learned so far by setting up an account with Betterment:


 

  1. The initial start up requires no minimum investment amount (some require $5,000 minimum to invest, or more). Not to mention, the cost to invest is incredibly inexpensive. Don’t believe me? Check out their completely visible pricing structure here – Betterment pricing.
  2. The very first day I set up my account I sent out a tweet featuring their services. That same day (even within hours), 5 of their employees acknowledged and/or liked what I had to say through Twitter. Yeah, it may seem a bit elementary – but when you’re excited about a company’s services & you’re providing free marketing for them, it makes you feel pretty warm & fuzzy inside when they acknowledge you!
  3. I watched an interview of Betterment’s CEO & Founder Jon Stein on Fox Business (want to watch? click here). Overall, he just seems like a charismatic and well-rounded guy. He also has the credentials to back up this wonderful business he’s started. He seems like a person I’d really get along with if I ever got a chance to meet him, kinda like that nice neighbor down the block. It makes me more apt to utilize Betterment’s services with a CEO & Founder who has a lot of composure.
  4. It’s not all just robots, thank goodness! Within the first month I had to contact Betterment’s Customer Service because I was rolling a 401(k) (turned IRA) balance from a previous employer to my account. I thought it would be a very daunting process but their customer service was impeccable. They sent me emails (even completely personalized ones!) that were checking in/guiding me on how to execute the process precisely. I received an email response from one of their employees that was not automated, but personalized on questions I had. Also, when I called in for additional questions – one of their Customer Service employees that helped me put me at such ease and took care of absolutely everything I needed, in a short time frame. I cannot even remember the last time I have received such stellar customer service via email & telephone through a company!
  5. Although the rebalance of my portfolio is taken care of for me, monitoring the activity is absolutely seamless. Their simple and crisp online platform, as well as their mobile app is beyond accessible. I would say they are both incredibly user friendly. It is nice to be able to observe my progress any time I would like without complication.

 

Okay, so the list above features just a couple key points that have stood out to me with my experience with Betterment. I encourage you to check it out and research by visiting their homepage here – Betterment (there are also other robo-advisors out there, so I encourage you to do some research and find the best fit).

Before you leave, check out this short video on what Betterment has to offer via the Betterment YouTube channel. This may answer any additional questions for you that I did not address.

P.S. as an added bonus, if interested – I’d like you to check out what Betterment has to offer. Click the link below for:

up to 6 months of service free if you sign up here.

Until next week, building up your personal finance game plan one blog entry at a time…

All my best,

Alyssa

I Like Big Budgets & I Cannot Lie

BUDGET:

That 6 letter word that is fairly difficult to converse about with your friends, family, and co-workers. The reality is that it should not be such a taboo topic. Yes, we have trial & error processes that we take on ourselves, but when we collectively learn from others we may gain knowledge of what is positively working. Why not learn different approaches to increase the discretionary income in your pocket each month? Budgeting can be a difficult process because oftentimes we take it all on independently. We choose not to discuss our personal finances in fear that we are dealing with them incorrectly or improperly. But the truth is there is no right, or wrong approach. There are immense amounts of possibilities to deal with your personal finances. The trick is finding which method works best & most comfortably for you. Even better, modifications to your budget can always be made at any time! So how about considering making a financial game plan?

I like to view a budget as a positive experience, not a binding negative one (say what?!). Creating a plan for yourself to recognize how you can save and spend, and not just making yourself feel guilty for making purchases. The idea is to create a financial game plan that allows you flexibility and the room to face unexpected life happenings without flushing out all of your cash. Kind of think of a budget like the infamous course Syllabus: you’ve got your outline of what to expect for the course from start to finish (your expenses & financial goals). You have readily available resources of what to prepare for (save for). From time to time you may experience that unexpected pop quiz (out of nowhere life occurrences). But since you have that syllabus (budget), you can utilize it as a reference guide to aid you in dominating that class (your awesome life)!

I do have to bring up the realistic side that one of the toughest issues that may come forward with tackling a budget is making the choice to only hold yourself accountable, or allowing people to support you in the process. In times of stress and high emotions, we may make financial choices that could have been redirected if we took ownership of our finances (versus neglecting them), or allowed someone to support us through the process. With the encouragement of others, we could have rerouted a potential financial devastation. Through your personal finance journey you are going to have points where you want to jump & and down and maybe scream that iconic phase from Jerry McGuire: ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY!’ (excuse some of the language in this clip). At other points in time you may want to cringe and feel like crawling underneath the covers of your bed for months. Each financial path will not be alike from person to person. The basis of this entry is to encourage you to create a plan that will lead you to the successes & goals you want to accomplish.

A key thing I’ve learned through creating a budget is: you do not want to put yourself in financial misery simply to satisfy all those around you, or for short term gain. You have ownership of your personal finances and you get to decide how healthy you want them to be. If you want to make sure you are not missing out (vacations, lifestyle expenses), prepare to save enough in advanced so that you aren’t scrambling to make ends meet in the longterm frame of mind. Ensure that you evaluate options that will allow you to obtain your financial goals in the future. After all, more responsibility is taken on after we leave college (bills, rent, student loan payments, car payments, insurance, cell phone, etc.). Preparation to dominate these bills and have residual income will allow you to breathe & rest easy each night. So get that beauty sleep you deserve.

So how do I go about creating a (real) budget?

That was my initial staggering question. Okay, so maybe I kept some tabs in college – but let’s face it, I was more concerned about studying for my next midterm, writing papers & working internships than studying my personal finances. It may seem like a daunting & time consuming process, but it does not have to be! Allowing yourself about 20 minutes to an hour will create a strong foundation for your financial present and future. You do not have to sit and tackle your budget all at once, remember you can take a break and revisit (hopefully in a short time frame so you do not put it off). Through this post I am going to approach different strategies for budgeting. You can try each one for size, modify, or maybe it will be a springboard for how you can create your own budget tailored to you. I am also going to provide you with online resources and mobile apps that are tools used to generate your budget. Let’s get the complicated & messy notion out of your mind for budgeting by utilizing seamless & easy to use budgeting apps (because who wouldn’t want pop up notifications now and again that congratulate you for your savings?!). If you do not want someone physically holding you accountable for your personal finances, leave it to the advancement of technology to keep you on track.

So without further ado, in no particular order let me introduce some budgeting strategies:


 

The first strategy is a breakdown: how much do you spend, creating goals and spending habits to match, keep consistent track of your spending to fit the perimeters.

According to CNN Money – there are 3 steps to creating a budget (if you haven’t yet, check out CNN Money – it is a great source of each question you probably ever had about personal finance):

  1. Identify how your money is currently being spent.
  2. Evaluate the spending to see if it meets your financial priorities.
  3. Track your ongoing spending to make sure it stays within those guidelines (or understand how your budget needs to be revised).

Here are the measures & steps I’ve taken to accomplish these steps:

  1. I’m pretty old school sometimes, so I like writing things down to see them visually with pen & paper. I also enjoy tracking my bills through an Excel spreadsheet (bill name, payment date, cost and whether they have been paid for that month or not). Break down your bills and general (or specific) expenses. How much do you allot for groceries per month? Do you want to allocate any money for eating out & coffee? How about any general health & wellness expenses? There are several categories you can generate, so get creative because each person has their own hobbies & spending agendas.
  2. One of my main financial priorities by becoming financially sound after college is simple as this, am I spending less than I am making per month? It is important to understand what your net pay per month is (click here – or refer to your earnings statement to see the breakdown, and how much Net Pay you receive each pay period).
  3. Here comes the tricky part, ensuring that you’re tracking your spending and not letting it go ablaze. Fortunately, there are several banks that offer website platforms and mobile apps where you can track your spending online, or through your phone. If you opt not to go this route, I would suggest physically writing down your purchases & gains in a day. This may seem tedious, but it will allow you to pinpoint your strengths, weaknesses & patterns (kinda like a food or exercise log).

 

Here is a quick example of how to determine your take home pay per month less your fixed expenses (these are hypothetical ball park numbers, make sure to utilize your figures to determine your proper net pay per month)-

Say you make $40,000 per year. You are likely to have a net pay per month in the $1,000 to $1,200 range (this number is after federal taxes, state taxes, withholdings, how much you elect for your 401(k), etc. are taken out).

Next, you take that figure (let’s go with $1,200) and multiply it by the number of pay periods you have with your current employer. If you get paid bi-weekly, that is 26 pay periods per year. So we now have $1,200 x 26 = $31,200.

Now, to break it down by month, divide this number by 12 (for each month in the year). You now have $31,200 / 12 = $2,600.

Voila! You will have $2,600 per month in pocket. To go further to determine your budget, subtract your obligated expenses to reveal your amount of discretionary income. So say your combined total of bills & fixed expenses totals to be $1,500. We take $2,600 – $1,500 = $1,100.

That’s $1,100 per month that you can allocate to spending (or saving) any way you like! Now that seems pretty realistic doesn’t it?

 

The second strategy is the 50/30/20 rule:

For this, it is simple as no more than 50% of your take home income goes towards necessities, 30% allotted to lifestyle, and 20% towards driving down debt and/or saving.

Building off the example as listed above with a take home of $2,600 per month. With this budget structure you would only want to spend $1,300 on necessities (2600 x .50), $780 on lifestyle (2600 x .20), and $520 (2600 x .20) on savings & driving down debt.

 

The third strategy I like to think of as reverse method:

Why I like to think of this as reverse, is because the emphasis is on setting money aside for the vacations, fun events, etc. and essentially money that is intended to be spent. First, determine what your fixed expenses are, and after you have done so utilize an account (or as some people prefer, setting physical cash aside in envelopes) that can and only will be used on rewarding yourself. This creates the concept of budgeting to not be such a strict endeavor. The money that you have left over can then be divvied up among savings & goals. Now, this may seem like similar as the other mentioned strategies – but it psychologically gives you room to know that the process of budgeting does not need to be a scary & cumbersome task. There are benefits to recognizing what your money is being allocated to (hello more visits to Cuthbert, Roseland, Crystal Ballroom, Edgefield – it’s nice to see so many live artists in your wonderful venues). 

 

The fourth strategy is a list of Needs vs. Wants:

It is as simplistic as that. Create a list with only two columns. In the Needs column list items such as housing, food, transportation, or any additional item that is a necessity to carry out your every day life and activities with the dollar amount. In the Wants column, list anything that relates to lifestyle, hobbies, new technology, entertainment, and anything you feel will fit this category with the dollar amount (this is just generic, sometimes a hobby is a Need in order to keep you sane)! If you feel you want to allocate more money to satisfy Needs, find ways you may be able to reduce the Wants category and vice versa. Now this a method to get a great overall picture of your finances in no time!


 

Okay, so we’ve now got a hold of some different budgeting methods to do ourselves. But what if we ‘re feeling just a teensie bit lazy & want someone or something else to do it for us? Well we’re in absolute luck, because there are several ways that technology can monitor our budgeting and track spending with minimal effort.

 

Let’s venture into the world of budgeting mobile apps/websites that can make this a seamless process:

Lately I have been dabbling with apps like Mint, Level & LearnVest. There are several apps you can download in order to help with your budgeting, tracking & saving. Some may have their limitations, so find the one that works best for you – or, use a few!

Mint/Mint.com – To me this is one of the most expansive & in-depth budgeting sources to utilize. Once you sign up for Mint (for free!), through your login you link which accounts & investments of yours you choose (no need to worry – they are backed by encryption & high security). You then can set up budgets and goals according to your lifestyle. It is visually appealing and breaks down your finances in a clear and crisp manner. There are a vast amount of options to get involved with that Mint will actually make budgeting & spending fun (yes, I said it)!

Level money – Dubbed as the ‘mobile money meter,’ this nifty app creates a more simplistic approach to your spending. What’s nice is that after you connect your accounts & input your monthly plan of income/expenses, it breaks down the amount of money you have available per day, week and month. For each dollar you do not spend in a day, it rolls over to spend in the weeks to come/entire month. Level also provides you with pop up notifications such as, “Whoa, back-to-back days spending below your daily budget. We’ll roll over that $99.71 into your savings. Keep it up.” Talk about positive reinforcement & encouragement for taking accountability of your personal finances!

LearnVest – I have a many great things to say about this gem of a site and app. Once you sign up for a free account, you receive multiple financial tools and a powerful platform (also for free!). Not to mention a daily newsletter that I enjoy delving into each morning. If you are feeling like this site is something for you, there are also several financial planners you can get connected with. Alexa von Tobel the Founder of CEO of LearnVest holds the mentality that financial planning should be available to everyone, not an expensive out of reach endeavor.


 

Quite honestly, there’s a plethora of ways to create a budget. I have only touched on just a few ways to give that initial push. The first step is always starting. So consider this a virtual high five from me for the beginning of something beautiful! Look at creating almost a game from taking on this new personal finance journey. For me, I like to challenge myself. If I find I have a certain number of transactions between each pay period, how can I get creative enough to find a way to NOT have that many transactions. The reward? More dollars to get even more creative with in the months to come. Or maybe if you overspend in one category (we all know from month to month life isn’t always the same), then find ways to spend less in another category. It’s all about keeping everything in equilibrium that you create for yourself. Once you come to terms with your finances and realize you are responsible, you know what you want in your life (or at least a great general direction), you can & will conquer your budget.

 

So get going on that financial game plan, you’ve got what it takes!

  All my best,

Alyssa