How a Personal Finance Journey Is Like a 3 Mile Run

So you might be thinking: running & finances…how in the heck are these two related? Instead of personal finances being like a run, I would much rather run away from most financial situations (don’t make me choose whether to rent or buy a house!”) But hear me out. Just like any type of work out, it’s as if our brain starts to get more in tune. We start to channel in on thoughts that are undiscovered territory in our minds.


 

The last time I went on a run I couldn’t help but recognize how parallel it was to a personal finance journey (p.s. this was within the last few weeks – trying to work on finishing that next half marathon). Just like any type of work out you engage in you may feel moments of pain, willpower, defeat, determination, and ultimately triumph. The rewards that follow are the pinnacle of everything you had to endure throughout the process. Here is my 3 mile run from start to finish as related to a millennial’s personal finance journey (if you don’t run, that’s okay! Insert any sport or work out of choice. Even studying can be inserted into this example):

 

The first strides, my music’s pumping. I feel like I’m ready to own this run.

Heck yes, these are the good spirited times where our theme song playing in our head seems to be “Just got paid” (or maybe “A milli” by Lil Wayne…you never know). It could be a Friday where we’re ready for a night out on the town, a weekend trip, or date night. We’re feeling financially free & groovy.

1/2 a mile goes by, the rain starts pouring down. I’m leaping & dodging over deep puddles.

At times, we may feel down and a bit under the weather. “Gosh I didn’t save enough,” or “I spent too much.” It seems like the sunshine and better days are far from arriving. But somehow we are able to just miss those potentially terrible/bad luck scenarios. We are prepared for it. If we try hard enough, we can avoid such situations even when it seems like the rain won’t stop.

I press on, I persevere. I know that hot shower is waiting for me back home once I’m done.

We’ve got to remember to visualize. Although it may seem far & we’ll never make it… (you’re telling me I’ve got to save for 40 more years, say what?) the golden retirement years are waiting for us & are always within reach if we work hard for it. As some people may say, we’re gearing up for the longest vacation of our entire lives. How would you want to spend it?

Mile 1. I’ve got this. Cars start to whiz by as I hit the main road stretch.

We may feel like people are passing by faster than us in terms of raises, promotions, internships, diplomas…or even just life. But the glory is we have our own strength to propel us forward. No need to look at those passing you by, you’ve got your own goals and the strength to accomplish them. Get to work and don’t stop moving forward.

Going on mile 2. It feels like my breathing can’t get into its normal rhythmic pattern. My internal body temperature is rising & sweat starts to pour.

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. If anyone’s ever said that working on personal finances is always easy, they have got to be absolutely kidding you. As millennials we are working on driving down student loan debt, saving for down payments on houses, incurring wedding costs, putting money towards retirement, and ultimately saving for our future and current families. At times it may feel like we can’t even breathe. But we take it one stride at a time and break it down piece by piece. We put our focus on how we will end up feeling accomplished even at our worst of times.

Mile 2.5. What was I thinking, why am I doing this? Wait…my breathing is back in sync (finally)! My adrenaline kicks in and my pace begins to quicken. Take that average mile time, I’m going for a new personal record.

The moment we begin to question ourselves is the moment that clarity kicks in (ironic how that works, right?) We’ve been working hard consistently and our savings are rolling over from month-to-month. We start to recognize that everything becomes in tune and our finances are strengthening. We’re on top of the world, hey! (cue in Imagine Dragons)

Oh my goodness, mile 3. I’m almost home. I can almost feel that steam on my back. The wind is doing everything in its power to make this home stretch harder than it should be. Hey lungs…please don’t burst on me, okay?

Once again, life feels like it’s pulling all the stops to push back on us. We encounter moments that tempt us, or make us stray away from our financial goals making it incredibly hard to stay on track. But we’ve got this. We are so. close. to everything we’ve been working for.

HOME. Oh, you’ve never looked so sweet! I may be gasping for air but I’m having an absolute endorphin rush. My run is complete.

There it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! We’ve reached what we have been saving for. In the long-term it can be our retirement, in the short-term it could be paying off all of our student loans. Accomplishment is radiating, and dang it sure feels great.

 

And there we have it. My 3 mile run is just like a personal finance journey. Through all the grueling moments, feelings of victory, temporary defeat…the end result will always be worth it. Keep taking our personal finances in stride, and we can accomplish all that we want to. What type of work outs or moments are just like your personal finance journey?

 

Strengthening you personal finance game one stride at a time…

All my best,

Alyssa.

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Guest post ft. Steven A. Branson: “You can Ignore Most Financial Planning Rules – here is why”

Hey everyone!

I am very pleased to announce my first guest post on the Generation YRA blog featuring the writings of Steven A. Branson.

To learn about Steven, check out this quick introduction right here:

Steven A. Branson, Esq. – founder/contributor for http://50.97.175.6/blog.html (blog for www.millennials-money.com), founder/owner/contributor for www.sab-esq.com and its newsletter, and leader/tenor/composer for www.stevebransonbands.com

For nearly 30 years, I have been creating financial plans for my clients and I love it!  When I noticed that planning services have been out of reach for many Millennials, I saw a chance to help.  The world is changing and the financial services industry needs to change with it.

I am Steven A. Branson, financial planner, photographer and musician (Education: Harvard Law School, UMass/Boston, Berklee College of Music and University of CO.; founder of law Steven A. Branson, Esq. dba Financial Strategies in Dedham, MA, leader & tenor sax in Steve Branson Bands and contributor at www.500px.com/Steven_Branson)

So without further ado, I present Steven A. Branson’s guest post: “You can Ignore Most Financial Planning Rules – here is why.” A huge thank you to Steven for providing his content!

 

 

You can Ignore Most Financial Planning Rules – here is why:

General rules of thumb for financial planning rarely work.  As with any set of rules, adjustments need to be made for specific situations, in this case, your own finances.

Here are some typical rules with my critiques:

 “Save 10% of income annually” – Decent rule; 15% is better – however, some may need to save even more and others may have no savings need.  As with the life insurance rule above, your goal should address your lifestyle.  For retirement, you want to save enough to add to investments so that the total portfolio at retirement funds your lifestyle for the remainder of your life expectancy.  The sooner you start saving, the less you have set aside:

 Consider this scenario: If you begin saving for retirement at 25, putting away $2,000 a year for just 40 years, you’ll have around $560,000, assuming earnings grow at 8 percent annually. Now, let’s say you wait until you’re 35 to start saving. You put away the same $2,000 a year, but for three decades instead, and earnings grow at 8 percent a year. When you’re 65 you’ll wind up with around $245,000 — less than half the money.  Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/financial-literacy/retirement-planning-for-20-somethings-1.aspx#ixzz3PPCzwJH5

Put another way, the 35-year-old would need to boost her contribution rate to 9 percent to achieve the same result as the 25-year-old starter who was saving 6 percent.  Read more: http://blog.taxact.com/retirement-saving-for-young-people/

“Stocks minus your age should equal 100” – Bad rule – your investment allocation depends on your risk tolerance, the rate of return required to achieve your goals, how much and when you add your savings to investments, along with inheritance or other sources, and when you remove investments to fund lifestyle needs.  Here are two examples:  Frist, if you have a very long horizon and are not bothered by the volatility of the stock market, you could have a 100% allocation to stocks.  Most likely, you would have a larger portfolio at retirement for having taken this risk.  Second, if you have a short time horizon, no matter how young you are, you cannot risk a high stock allocation, as you may need to withdraw funds when the market is down.

“Hold six months after-tax income for a rainy day” – Decent rule – however, this depends on liquidity, borrowing ability (e.g., home equity line of credit) and cash flow.  If your annual income permits substantial savings, such that you could pay for a new roof without affecting lifestyle, your “rainy day” reserve can be much less.  On the other hand, if your income is uncertain and you are concerned about unforeseen cash needs, then you need to set aside more.

“Delete collision coverage on a car more than 7 years old” – Decent rule – as with the “rainy day” reserve, this depends on cash flow and other resources.  It also depends on whether the car is an “antique.”

“Monthly payments on debt should not exceed 20% of income” – Decent rule – in fact, most lenders apply rules like this to limit mortgage payments plus home insurance and property taxes to a percentage of income.  As with the savings rule, your level of debt may be more or less depending on cash flow, investment assets, risk tolerance and lifestyle costs.  A related matter: do not rush to pay off a mortgage if you can afford the payments, as doing so may leave less invested for other goals.

“Do not refinance until rates drop 2%”– Bad rule – the test is simple: how soon will the cost of refinancing be recouped by lower payments?  With no points/no closing cost loans, this can occur in a year or less.  “Buying down” the mortgage rate by paying points will make sense if the pay-off is in 12 to 24 months and if you plan to stay in the residence for seven years or more.  (If you plan to move, then a variable mortgage may make sense, as the rate will be lower, and total interest paid will be less even if rates go up.)

“Life insurance must equal six times compensation” – Bad rule – your spouse or partner will use all of your resources, including insurance, to fund lifestyle needs after you die.  If you review these sources and see a short-fall, then that is the amount to be funded by insurance.  It could be more or less than the six-fold multiple, depending on what you spend, your lifestyle, and on how much you have already saved.

“You only need 70% of income in retirement” – Bad rule – in fact, many people spend more in the first years of retirement as they travel more while spending far less in their 70’s and 80’s as their needs become fewer.  The retirement goal is to fund lifestyle, which may not directly relate to earned income.  If you have created a company and later sell it, your income could be modest, while your lifestyle cost is much higher, and you would fund those costs from the after-tax proceeds on sale of your company.

“Do not spend more than 7% of income on long-term care insurance” – Uncertain rule – some people may have sufficient assets to self-insure (ear-mark a portion of their own resources as being dedicate to long-term care).  Some people will not risk nursing care due to bad family health history; they will want to pay for full insurance.  Like other insurance decisions, purchase of long-term care insurance depends on your comfort with perceived risks more than on some percentage of your income.

Thank you so much for checking out the writings of Steven A. Branson! Make sure to check out his blog: Millennials-Money. The more places to learn about personal finances, the better. You’ve got this.

 

Providing you with different sources of content to strengthen your financial game plan one post at a time…

All my best,

Alyssa.

Automate to Alleviate

When you wake up in the morning, you’ve got a routine down like it’s nobody’s business. Hop in the shower, dry off, cook breakfast, fix a lunch, sip that coffee cup, brush your teeth, check your email – etc. You’ve got your routine down to such a science, that even if you woke up a half hour to an hour later you could complete your morning routine checklist…with your eyes closed. It’s second nature. Quite honestly, it may be the one part of your day you do not even have to remotely think. You can accomplish tasks & prepare for the day pretty much, automatically. There may be a few other things in your life that may be this automatic, but maybe not every facet of life is just as mechanical.

What if I told you that your personal finances could be automated…would you be interested? No more staying up late at night tossing & turning only to jump out of bed because you forgot to pay one of your bills (please, please do not charge me a late fee!). Not another minute spent on whether or not you remembered to set aside money to your savings. You have the ability to create a structure in which your money can be designated, moved, transferred and more that does not require any manual labor. Of course there is the initial set up – but these set ups will save you minutes & hours…more time to spend on the things around you that you know and love. Not to mention – you can establish the comfort of knowing that all your bills are paid & accounted for, your savings/nest egg is taken care of, and you, my friend are one personal finance idol!

Fortunately, millennials are incredibly comfortable when it comes to technological advancements. Something new to make a task more easy & convenient? Sign me up! There’s an app for that? Right on! That’s why I have faith in knowing that each and every one of you are indeed capable of automating your finances. Here’s lookin’ at you Gen Y’er!


 

 What are some ways I can incorporate automation to my finances?

There are an incredible amount of ways to automate your finances (especially depending on what you view as “automatic”), but I am going to get you started with just a few. Here is a list in which you can create a seamless process for your finances to work themselves with minimal effort required (just gotta get through the set-up phase)!

1. Sign up for automatic deposit to your 401(k) 

This is glorious because you can have your set percentage/dollar amount pulled directly from your paycheck. You won’t believe how much you won’t even miss the money because it does not touch your bank account! There is no temptation to spend the money that has been set aside to your retirement. One step closer to dipping your toes in the sand in your golden years.

2. Participate in automatic bill pay

If your service providers have automatic bill pay programs where a designated account/card can be billed, take advantage of it. You can set which date you would like for your account/card to be billed specifically, that way you know when the withdrawal/charge will occur. Most programs will also allow you to set up a notification for when the billing will take place via email, text message, etc. In fact, some companies will provide a discount for enrolling in automatic bill pay. On the contrary, some companies will bill you extra if you pay manually for your bill. For example, a processing fee of $3.50 is tacked on to  your bill amount. That additional $3.50 charge is an extra $42.00 you are paying per year by paying a bill manually – taking away your precious time in the day!

3. Set up automatic transfers through your bank

Want to set aside some savings, but always seem to forget & all of a sudden the money you meant to save…is well, oops – spent? Prevent that from happening! Set up through your bank or credit union to have automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account. You get to choose which dollar amount you would like to have transferred. With this, you can also choose the day in which you would like this automatic transfer to occur. Want to set it up on your pay-day? Just like your deposit to your 401(k), you won’t even realize the money has left! Whatever money is left in your checking account after your deposits & transfers is what is meant to work with. Rather have your money automatically transferred to savings at the beginning of the month? You’ve got it! Contact your bank today for additional questions and how you can get started.

4. Create automatic payments to your credit card

Don’t want to think about having to pay off your credit card before the due date? There’s a way to do that as well! Just like automatic bill pays, you can also set up automatic payments to your credit card on a designated date of the month. Most of the time, you can choose whether you want the minimum, or full amount paid that has been charged to your credit card. Be sure to contact your bank when determining if this is an automation method that would work for you.

5. Utilize an automatic budget

Just like in my ‘I like big budgets & I cannot lie‘ post – utilize tools & apps to create automated budgets. Sign up for Mint, LevelMoney, LearnVest and more! The best part? Most include tools to see what kind of timeline you’re working with to accomplish a savings goal if you set aside a particular dollar amount. This could help determine that automatic transfer to your savings account! Are ya starting to visualize how all this automation works hand-in-hand with your personal finances?

This is great! How do you automate your finances?

I’ve been working on creating my little system of automated finances since I read the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Remit Sethi (highly recommend). There were some automation aspects I utilized already, but by incorporating more automation aspects I am able to maintain my spending and grow my savings with very minimal stress. Do keep in mind, regardless of automating to keep things easier – I do still go through and view/monitor some of the automation. This allows for no unexpected expenses/bill payments to occur, or laziness to ensue. It also reminds me that if I end up changing a credit card, or leave a particular service company that I will need to engage in the process to stop automatic bill pay. Here are the ways that I utilize automation for my finances:

1. Bi-weekly my chosen percentage/dollar amount is taken from my paycheck & deposited into my employee sponsored 401(k) program

2. Every week a chosen dollar amount is automatically deposited into my Traditional IRA, Emergency Fund, & designated Savings Goal through my roboadvisor – Betterment

3. Each monthly bill (water & electric, additional utilities, car payment, car insurance, internet) is set up through automatic bill pay

4. Each month a designated dollar amount is transferred to a 2nd checking account (for Short Term Rewards Savings/discretionary spending) & my savings account

5. My monthly budget is automated through Mint, LevelMoney & LearnVest (I use all 3 just because I like using the different features they offer – you really only need to use 1!)


 

 

So there we have it…I’d like you to consider to automate your finances in order to alleviate the stress! Besides the ideas I have mentioned, look in to some other ways you can automate in order to create more confidence in your personal finances. You’ve got the ability to create ways to build up that savings, beef up your retirement fund, and take care of your monthly bills in a timely & responsible manner. Create your own personal finance system today and put those hard earned dollars to work – you then will start to realize how much more money you actually have to treat yourself too!

 

Shaping up your financial game plan to be more stress free one post at a time…

All my best,

Alyssa.

In Need of a Guest Blog Post/Freelance Writer?

Hey there!

In need of a guest blog post, or perhaps you are looking for a freelance writer?

***Contact Me***

I would be beyond grateful to write a guest blog post, or provide some freelance writing for you!

Whether it is a paid or unpaid opportunity, please feel free to reach out to me.

Email me at Alyssa.Windell@live.com, or contact me through LinkedIn.

Also, I am always looking for people to provide guest blog posts for Generation YRA.

If you are searching for any guest blog post opportunities, please feel free to reach out as well.

I’m looking forward to it!

 

All my best,

Alyssa.

How I Went to the Rose Bowl – Guilt Free

Yes, at this time last week I was well on my way to the grandaddy bowl game of them all: The Rose Bowl. Located in Pasadena, CA the stadium stands erect with utter class. I have been to many college football games, but never a bowl game – especially not like this. From fireworks to stealth bomber fly overs, fans to pandemonium, this bowl game was outrageous. Outrageously awesome, that is! Not to mention the University of Oregon Ducks trumped the Florida State Seminoles with a 39 point spread (side bar: I graduated from Oregon State and I am a huge Beavers fan. I received a job offer in the city of Eugene post graduation and I moved on down to Duck territory. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend and his family, dedicated Duck fans, that I started attending UO games. Now, I fully support both schools…until they play each other! If you have ever met anyone from the state of Oregon, most will support both teams. There are the few who will detest the other team they do not root for…I just do not fall into that category). Can you say you’ve been to many college football games that had 5 turn overs?! Needless to say, this trip was fantastic and I had such an amazing time with my boyfriend and his family. I am going to tell you the game plan on how I went to the Rose Bowl feeling no guilt with the money I spent on that ticket. I would like to introduce you to the glorious concept of Short Term/Rewards Savings.

 So first off…weren’t those tickets really expensive?

Unlike most events I would normally attend, the tickets were in the 3-figure dollar range. Our Rose Bowl game tickets at face value were $175. To me, I would much rather splurge on experiences (i.e. concerts, sporting events, Groupon activities, classes, etc.) than any type of clothing item, makeup product, or gadget. Experiences resound in my memory for years to come, where the amount spent pays itself off fairly quickly. For example: do you remember your first concert, skiing trip, etc.? It is much more vivid to recall than say, what was the first sweatshirt you ever bought? I am a huge advocate of collecting memories, not just things. But this is where the really cool part comes in…I set aside $100 a month as Short Term/Rewards Savings for events specifically like the Rose Bowl that I splurge on. If I do not use that $100 for a particular month for a reward, I roll it over and combine it to another $100 the next month. Before paying for the ticket, I had $200 saved up as Short Term/Rewards Savings (note: this is completely separate from my Emergency Fund and other investments) and was able to pay for my ticket with some cash leftover…guilt free! We all work hard by putting money aside to our retirement, student loans, bills…why not set aside money that is specifically for rewarding yourself?!

 

How do you save for & use Short Term/Rewards Savings?

Let’s break this down into 3 easy steps:

1. Be aware of your take home income per month

It is pivotal to understand this dollar amount so you can factor in your flexible spending. I utilize a budget to separate my fixed expenses, savings goals, variable expenses, etc. I also utilize financial apps/platforms that notify me if I overspend and/or under spend in different categories (shout out to Mint & Level Money). I know that not everyone believes in budgets, but it is at the very least beneficial to understand what your take home income is per month in order to not spend more than you make.

2. Decide on a dollar amount that will only be used to reward yourself

After you have a general idea of your budget and/or take home income, decide on a dollar amount that will be used for rewarding your awesome self. It can be either large, or small – ranging from $5 to $300+. The choice is yours, whatever you are comfortable with. In order to stay organized, I transfer my chosen Short Term/Rewards Savings dollar amount per month ($100) to a separate checking account from where my bills & automatic investment transfers are handled. Some may prefer to withdraw as cash to see the reward physically, or some people may mentally separate that dollar amount in one single checking account. There are many methods when it comes to organizing your Short Term/Rewards Savings.

3. Reward yourself by spending, or roll over that cash!

Here comes the greatest part, rewarding yourself! Whether that is getting Starbucks for a whole week straight, purchasing that pair of shoes you had your eye on, or trying out that new, expensive restaurant – the possibilities are endless & should be catered to what you want. Use this dollar amount to reward yourself for all that hard work you have put in to saving & perfecting your profession, or craft. One of the perks? If you do not choose to use that dollar amount for a month, roll it over to the next month for an even bigger reward. Say you set aside $35 per month for Short Term/Rewards Savings, that’s $70 you can have the next month! Or maybe you decide to forego rewarding your present self to give your nest egg an extra perk after months of Short Term/Rewards Savings. If you kept rolling over that $35 each month, you could have an extra $420 in one year alone.

 

How else can Short Term/Rewards Savings be used?

Have a wedding in the summer to attend? Need to purchase a couch for your apartment? Have a future plane ticket you know you need to purchase to visit family back home? These are all future events that you can utilize Short Term/Rewards Savings for. Take for example visiting family back home: a round trip flight may cost you about $250 dollars. Start setting $100 aside just 3 months in advanced before purchasing that ticket and you will have $300 to spend on that plane ticket alone – with cash to spare (hello, magazines & a brand new book for the flight)! It is an expense you prepared for in the short-term that you now have the money to spend guilt free. Short Term/Rewards Savings are also great to use to prepare saving for holiday gifts, Birthdays, and/or Anniversaries. These are events that we tend to spend a little extra dough for to make someone’s day extra special. Buffer your spending by preparing for it in advanced with Short Term/Rewards Savings.

 

Utilizing Short Term/Rewards Savings is a great way for you to give yourself financial freedom. It may seem like the reverse mentality of typical savings (wait, I’m saving..to spend??), but you can feel empowered to spend money however you like because you knowingly made it that way. By consciously setting aside money to spend on rewards you allow yourself to get treated which can help prevent money blunders/spending mistakes. Allocating a particular portion of your earned money to Short Term/Rewards Savings will give you peace of mind that you were prepared for it to happen – it’s not just an ‘oops!’ or a spending moment you regret (we all know how awful that can feel, yikes…). So give it a whirl!

 

Do you have any future events you could use Short Term/Rewards Savings for? What do you spend money on in order to reward yourself?

 

Giving you more plays for your financial game plan one post at a time…

 

All my best,

Alyssa.