The Finance Checklist You Need To Work Through This Fall

The Finance Checklist You Need To Work Through This Fall


If summer’s self-care mood is “treat yourself,” then fall’s self-care mood is “let’s do the damn thing.” Enter: financial self-care. Because a) summer was expensive (lookin’ at you, Charleston vacation), b) September is Self-Care Month anyway and it’s better late than never (it’s a thing, I promise) and c) getting your money stuff in order feels A-Maz-ing.

It’s good for present-day you: Sometimes the best way to beat stress is to look the stressful thing in the eye and conquer it. And it’s good for Future You, too — the sooner you get started, the more time you have to work toward your goals. And it’s good for stress: In one survey, 73% of people who had clear financial goals also said they had lower stress levels. Plus, like with any self-care practice, the more consistent you are with it, the better it gets.

So here’s your fall financial self-care checklist. Grab your calculator & not the one on your phone because it’s probably right next to the FB button. Nope, grab a real-life 1980’s style calculator! What? You don’t have one of those? #geeksneedlovetoo Grab a calendar, a notebook, and sharp pencil or whatever it is you use to “do the damn thing” and let’s get down to it!

Your Financial Self-Care Checklist

1. Track down your most recent pay stubs

Start by getting an understanding of how much money you have coming in each month. Grab your paycheck stubs from the past month and give them a look.

First, calculate how much you’re making after taxes — aka your take-home pay. This may or may not be equal to the final amount of your check: If you have money withheld for 401(k) contributions, insurance premiums, or other employee benefits like that, then those will come into play later. For now, just look at your gross pay minus taxes. How much take-home pay do you earn in one month?

If you get paid irregularly, like if you rely on freelance income, then this might be a bit trickier. We recommend calculating your take-home pay from the last few months and then taking an average.

2. Get to know your current spending habits

Next, pull up your debit and credit card statements and look through your past few months of purchases. Categorize them into three buckets: needs (groceries, rent, etc), fun (eating out, buying things you wanted, etc), and “Future You” (saving, investing, and debt payments beyond the minimums).

This is where those paycheck withholdings we mentioned above come in. Any 401(k) contributions you’re making go in the “Future You” bucket, and insurance premiums go in the needs bucket. You can categorize any other withholdings however makes sense — for example, a public transit benefit might go in needs, and a gym membership might go in fun.

Finally, add them all up. How much are you spending on each bucket per month? There are no wrong answers — this exercise isn’t meant to make you feel guilty, it’s just to see where you’re starting from today.

3. Set a goal for your future spending habits

Now it’s time to make a plan. We like the 50/30/20 rule, which is a high-level framework for organizing your spending. It uses the same buckets we mentioned above. Traditionally, following the 50/30/20 rule means 50% of your take-home pay will go to needs, 30% will go to fun, and 20% will to Future You.

But those percentages might not be realistic for you — which is why step two on this list was so important. Based on your spending habits today, set yourself a realistic goal for tomorrow. Maybe it’s 70/20/10, or 60/20/20, or 80/15/5. It’s flexible.

Even if you can only put 1% to Future You, start there. Over time, you can work on trimming expenses or boosting your income so that you can increase that percentage over time.

4. Take the next step with your 401(k)

Two things, specifically. First, if your employer offers a 401(k) employer match but you aren’t taking full advantage of it, then sign up and start contributing enough to get the full match. That’s free money, y’all.

Second, if you have an old 401(k) or two (or however many) from a previous employer just chillin’ out there, think about rolling it over. You could roll it over into your new employer’s plan if they let you, or an IRA. Either way, it can be super helpful to get everything in one place. (PS: This isn’t as much of a process as it might seem. When you start a rollover with Ellevest, we’ll guide you through the steps.)

5. Prioritize your debt payments

Being in debt — credit cardsstudent loans, personal loans, etc — doesn’t feel good. But paying your debt off does. The fastest way to do it is to pay more than the minimum required payments if you can. That will also save you money because the longer you take to pay debt off, the more interest you’ll owe.

So if you have debt and can make extra payments, the next step is to figure out which debt you want to focus on first. There are two popular strategies: To start with the balance that has the highest interest rate, or to start with the balance that has the smallest outstanding balance. Here’s some more info on those two methods and how to put them into practice.

6. Set an emergency fund target

Financial emergencies are a fact of life. Cars need repairs. People (and pets) get sick. Phones and computers break. This is why building an emergency fund is a big part of getting your financial life in a stable place.

We typically recommend saving between three and six months’ worth of your take-home pay. (Here’s how to decide exactly how much is right for you.) That might sound like a lot, but it’s totally OK to start small and work your way up over time. But today, your goal is just to figure out how much you want to aim for. Maybe, if you don’t have high-interest debt, you even open an account and make your first deposit.

7. Start investing toward your goals

If you’ve finished the first six steps of this checklist — first of all, you’re crushing it. Keep the momentum going by starting to prioritize and invest toward your long-term money goals. Goals like ramping up your retirement contributions, or like buying a home or starting a business.

Financial self-care checklist complete. Now light an apple-scented candle, put some chili on the stove, and enjoy the fall vibes.

Are you ready to start investing in yourself? Start here!

“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”

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Easy Steps To Invest Consistently

Easy Steps To Invest Consistently

Investing consistently is the very best thing you can do for your future you. I get it the struggle is real! There are so many things vying for our attention that it’s easy to put things off or forget about them completely. Your future will be here before you know it. Believe me, I woke up & found myself at 49! How the hell did I get here so quickly?

Your future you will thank you for taking the time today to plan for tomorrow. What do you want to be or do when you grow up?

Do you want to:

  • Travel the world
  • Open a restaurant
  • Pay for your kids to go to college
  • Live your future life comfortably

If you answer yes to any of these things then you need to come up with a plan now rather than later.

MAKE IT A HABIT

Investing consistently, a bit out of every paycheck, is powerful. There’s the plain and simple fact that you’re building up your wealth, deposit by deposit. And if you put it on autopilot, there’s the whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

There’s another reason why the practice of consistent investing has historically been good for investors. And it’s so compelling that it even has a name:

DOLLAR-COST AVERAGING

Boring term. But a BFD for your bottom line.

Dollar-cost averaging is investing a consistent dollar amount at regular intervals of time, no matter what’s going on in the market. Example: a $100 recurring deposit into your investment account every month.

Why Does It Matter?

Ellevest says investors want returns. And some investors, in an attempt to earn as much in returns as possible, make a grave mistake: attempting to “time the market.” They think they can guess what will happen next, and try to “buy low” and “sell high.”

Bad idea. No one — no one — knows what the markets will do tomorrow. Not us. Not that confident-sounding guy on TV. Not even the people who are paid to do it.

That means you’re inevitably going to feel it on days when the market goes down. Bummer, yes, but it’s not all dark and gloomy. Here’s why: When the market’s down, that $100 deposit will get you more shares of stock. (That’s why you might hear people say that the markets are “on sale.”)

Example

Say the market was humming along, then plummeted, and then started to come back up.

Here’s what would happen if you were to keep investing consistently the whole time:

And here’s what would happen if you were to keep your money in a bank account while the market was down and then invest what you’d saved once it started to come back up:

In the first example, while your investments did lose value temporarily, it worked out pretty well for you after the market rebounded. In the second example, you missed out.

Back to real life. By using dollar-cost averaging, you take your own emotions (aka an investor’s worst enemy) out of the equation. You get rid of the risky guesswork, make investing a solid habit, and give yourself the opportunity to grow your net worth steadily over time. Pretty compelling reasons to invest regularly, right?

Here’s a compelling reason why “regularly” should start … right now.

Are you ready to start investing in your future you? Ellevest can help!

*I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.

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Facebook & Instagram Land Another Kick In The Gut For Small Businesses Everywhere

Facebook & Instagram Land Another Kick In The Gut For Small Businesses Everywhere

We should be used to it by now, every few months Facebook & Instagram find other ways for them to make more money and that has our reach shrinking faster than a $3 shirt from Walmart. They can’t stop a Russian from interfering in our election process but they can sure as hell drop your page likes like a hot potato fresh out of the oven!

Listen, FB knows it, we know it, hell even the kids down the street know it. Even with all of the turmoil, they cause somehow they are still the best marketing game in town. Even with the changes, they are making and there are many it’s still easier and more cost-efficient to run FB ads over any other kind of ad. It just is. There are 2.27 billion (That’s a Billion with a capital ‘B’) and 75% of us log in every single day!

So what are these big changes you ask? Well, let me count the ways…

  1. The desktop FB feed is getting a total overhaul. There will be an algorithms update sometime in the Fall of 2019.
  2. Organic Targeting improves your ability to increase your organic reach on FB pages.
  3. Comments & shares will become more valuable and a heart will be worth more than a like.
  4. Organic reach will depend on relevancy and quality.
  5. The more engagement=the more reach.
  6. On FB mobile feeds you will only allow 3 lines of text & smaller image sizes.
  7. On Instagram, likes and video counts are going away.  Lower interactions and the new social proof is catching one’s interest.
  8. Removing low-quality posts, the explorer feature or low-quality hashtags.
  9. Comments will become more important.

So what can you do, the small business owner, that will keep your business in the green & keep you from seeing red when you’re FB or Instagram reach grows smaller and smaller.

  • Don’t waste money boosting posts.
  • Have a sales funnel in place.

You have to do seven things:

  1. Grab attention.
  2. Acknowledge pain point.
  3. Encourage immediate attention with a great value offer (39% of users will interact with what they see as a good value.
  4. Maker yourself relevant– Build that know & trust factor.
  5. Build relationships.
  6. Capture as little information as possible (Name & email).
  7. Nurture your future clients.
  8. Your email list is your most IMPORTANT ASSET!
  9. Close the sale.
  10. Follow through and up with.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this information? You can’t beat it and you should probably join them because let’s face it FB ain’t going away any time soon.

 

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Clever Emergency Fund Solutions To Keep You From Becoming Homeless

Clever Emergency Fund Solutions To Keep You From Becoming Homeless

Picture this: Your car blows up & your warranty is a thing of the past, you get sick and can’t even go to work much less pay the doctor, your employer folds up and files for bankruptcy or that baby you have been waiting for turns into three right before your very eyes.s What are you going to do?

Your stress level just shot through the roof, but this is life and nobody’s lane is bump-free. Hell, I’m not sure mine is even paved. It’s small things like this that can throw you off track quickly.

According to the Fed’s most recent survey40% of Americans would struggle to pay for an unexpected $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money. So whether you think of it as an emergency fund, a rainy day account, a financial cushion, or an “uncertainty fund,” you need one.

HOW MUCH DO YOU REALLY NEED TO HAVE IN AN ‘EMERGENCY FUND’?

At Ellevest, we typically recommend that you set aside three to six months’ worth of your take-home pay for emergencies. That can feel like a really big number, especially if you’re starting from scratch … but it’s one of the most important things you can do with your money. Because imagine if you needed it and didn’t have it. (Ouch.)

We can almost hear you thinking it: Three to six months is kind of a range. How much do I really need? There are two things that come into play during that decision: how much uncertainty you might have to face and your personal comfort level.

The shakier your financial ground is, the more you need to have.

FOR EXAMPLE

if you freelance full-time as a single mom and own a fixer-upper, you’re probably going to want closer to six months’ (or more) of your salary saved up. (Also, you are a superhero and we bow down to your amazingness.) Or if you’ve been in a steady, salaried job for a while, share finances with someone (like a spouse), and have no dependents and no mortgage, three months is probably good for you. (Heck yeah. You’re killing it.)

But maybe you’re in a stable, salaried job and share finances with someone in a stable, salaried job — and yet, three months doesn’t feel like enough security for you. In that case, save more. These are just guidelines, so do what feels best for you. (Just don’t keep all your money in cash. That can really cost you — here’s why.)

Once you’ve decided on how much you need to have there are three things that can help you get there.

  1. Pay down high-interest-rate debt — anything more than 5% — before you get started. Waiting to pay that debt off can really cost you.
  2. Find a high-level budgeting guideline that’s flexible enough to work for your life. Like the 50/30/20 rule.
  3. Work your way up, and set mini-goals along the way. Maybe your first goal is $1,000, and then one month’s expenses, and then two, and then three.

WHERE SHOULD YOU KEEP YOUR EMERGENCY FUND?

Keep your emergency fund in cash in a bank account. Make sure that’s FDIC insured.

Ellevest’s Emergency Fund goal is held in FDIC cash, so that might be a good place. High-yield savings accounts are another option. We don’t recommend putting your emergency fund in a certificate of deposit (CD) or any other type of account that doesn’t let you make withdrawals whenever you want. Don’t risk it.

WHEN SHOULD YOU USE YOUR EMERGENCY FUND?

Definitely an emergency: Anything unexpected that you absolutely must pay for. Your water heater breaks. You have to travel to see a sick loved one.

Definitely not an emergency: Things you want but don’t really need, or things that you could save up for. Think last-minute vacation plans or your annual insurance premiums.

But there’s also a gray area, and that’s different for everyone — here’s Ellevest’s best advice to help you decide what is and isn’t an emergency for you.

Saving up three to six months’ take-home pay, in cash, for emergencies only, is one of the earliest steps you can make if you want to take control of your financial future. (Wondering about the others? We’ve got you. Here are smart money moves to make at every age.)

Are you ready to start investing in your future you? Ellevest can help!

*I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.

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You Need To Start Investing ASAP & Here’s Why

You Need To Start Investing ASAP & Here’s Why

Have you come up with excuses why you’re not investing right this minute?

Excuses like these:

  1. It will be easier once I get that raise.
  2. I just don’t have time.
  3. It’s overwhelming to think about learning to invest properly.
  4. Money just makes me squeamish.

Believe me, I used all of these excuses and even more. I have avoided money conversations my whole life, but at 49 I realize that I am only hurting myself. If I had started younger I’d be much better off when I get older. Still starting is much better than not… at any age.

WE LOSE MONEY EVERY SINGLE DAY WHEN WE DON’T INVEST

It’s easy to put investing off. But every single day you wait could cost you about $100. Yes … a Benjamin according to Ellevest. Click To Tweet

Give Ellevest a try!

“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”

 

 

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How To Completely Change How You Feel About Dealing With Money & Ditch The Overwhelm

How To Completely Change How You Feel About Dealing With Money & Ditch The Overwhelm

When I was growing up talking about money was a definite “no”. My parents never discussed things like pay vs. bills, money issues or even how to manage a checking account. So it’s no wonder that today when thinking about money I start to get anxious immediately.

My stomach starts hurting, I can feel my heart beating faster and I want to run far, far away. Even as a business owner dealing with the financial aspects like paying bills, investing in my business or even sending out invoices stresses me out.

I’m tired of feeling like this and I just bet that I’m not alone. Do you feel anxious or stressed when you think of your finances? My biggest fear is becoming homeless even though it’s basically happened twice & we’ve survived both times. I have nightmares of living in a cardboard box, under a freeway bridge searching garbage cans for scraps of thrown out food.

This year, I’ve decided to put myself smack in the middle of that ‘uncomfortable’ feeling and find ways to be able to gain that financial freedom, ditch the nightmares, pull up my big girl panties and put a stop to those overwhelming feeling.

That’s why I’ve partnered with Ellevest who specializes in investing for women. Here is what they say about the ‘overwhelm of money’:

That kind of feeling comes in a lot of different flavors. For some of us, the words “money” and “someday” always go together — it just never seems to be the right time to think about it. Some of us give a hard pass to the thought of making a budget. Some of us have made a few mistakes along the way that we’re scared to face. And some of us just feel lost and overwhelmed about knowing where to start.

So that’s us. If it sounds like you, here’s something good to fight the bad. Those feelings are valid. And they also don’t have to be permanent. You’re not alone. And no matter where you start, there are always things you can do to move forward.

Six Steps To Overcoming Financial Stress

You might think that sitting down to organize your money will be overwhelming and generally unpleasant, but we’re willing to bet that it’ll actually make you feel more in control. All you have to do is do the damn thing.

But you don’t have to go into this process blind. Here’s a checklist of steps you can take (and some deeper advice on each one, too). We recommend starting at the top and working your way down, one at a time, at a pace that works for you.

  1. Give your brain a boost. Picture a future where you’ve already done the thing. You don’t magically have a ridiculous pile of cash — but you’ve taken the time to think about your goal, you’ve thought about tradeoffs along the way, and you’ve mapped out the steps you’ll take. Sometimes projecting that feeling of accomplishment before you do anything else can get you from “bad feeling” to “hey … I can do this.”
  2. Look at your current spending habits. Use them to make a high-level spending plan for the future. Here is a great how-to
  3. Join your employers 401k plan. Here is why they are so important.
  4. Pay off your highest-interest debt first. It’s costing you a lot so getting rid of that is a huge money-saver. Here are a couple of approaches that can work.
  5. Set a goal for an emergency fund. Work on building it up so you don’t have to play that dreaded ‘what-if’ game any longer. This can help.
  6. Make a plan to invest for your goals. That might include retirement, buy a house someday, have kids, starting your own business, or just growing your net worth.

Some Ideas To Make It All Easier

Break It Down

If that list above looks like a mountain, just break it down into smaller more doable bits. Something like this:

GOAL

  • Look at your current spending habits and use the 50/30/20 rule to make a future spending plan.
  • Log in to your bank account and download your most recent account statement.
  • Make three “buckets”: Needs, Fun, and Future You. Categorize each purchase from your bank statement into one of these buckets, and then add them up. This is how your spending looks today.
  • Look at your most recent paystub. What’s the final amount of the check? That’s your take-home pay. Multiply that by the number of paychecks you get each month to find your monthly take-home pay.
  • Calculate 50% of that number (for needs), 30% of that number (for fun), and 20% of that number (for Future You).
  • Look at your current spending habits and see whether you can make adjustments so that you’re spending within those buckets. If it isn’t doable, adjust the buckets’ percentages until they work for your real life.
  • Aim to stay inside your buckets next month. Then, next month, see if you can tweak things to get them closer to that 50/30/20 ratio — and then plan to keep adjusting on the reg.

Once you have your little bitty steps, you can start with just the first one. Or maybe you do three little bitty steps at a time. Or you go until you really want to stop, and then you take a break.

This can really help you build momentum — and it can also help you avoid that big overwhelmed feeling by focusing on one small thing at a time.

SCHEDULE A FUN THING LATER

If money stuff has a history of making you feel bad, try this trick: doing it right before doing something you know will make you feel good. Like drinks with friends. Or your favorite workout class. Or curling up with a good book. (Sure, it’s a little Pavlovian, but hey, mood boosters are mood boosters.) if you have something to look forward to after you do The Big Thing, you might be more motivated to keep going as you work through it.

LET GO OF ‘HAVE-TO’

“Ugh, I really do have to sit down and deal with my money this weekend” probably isn’t a mindset that’s doing you any favors. Neither is “I have GOT to stop spending so much” or “Wow, I have to stop being such a hot mess with my money.” You wouldn’t try to motivate your best friend that way, would you?

Switching off the “I must do this” mindset — which can feel unforgiving and judgmental, and who needs more self-criticism? The magic is trying to shift it to something more positive. Maybe a “This is a thing I’m doing for myself” mindset. Or a “Hey maybe I can’t get a raise tomorrow but I can do this” mindset. Or an “” mindset. Or whatever mantra works for you.

THINK OF IT AS SELF-CARE

The idea behind today’s self-care movement is to protect your mental health so that you can bring our best self to your everyday life. The stress will disappear, your self-esteem will get a huge boost & you’ll feel better about today & tomorrow.

But here’s the thing:

While money is people’s number 1 reason for stress , the act of saving and investing are the biggest boost of women’s confidence when it comes to building the future we want. So if finally dealing with the money stuff is going to improve your mental health — by helping to knock out all that stress and guilt and anxiety about money, and helping you feel good about tomorrow — then doesn’t that count as self-care too? (Note: This is also extremely compatible with candles and wine. Just sayin’.)

Bankrate.com has written a great piece on the benefits of paying off debt and you can find it here.

Are you ready to ditch the overwhelm & prepare for the future you want to have?

Give Ellevest a try!

“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”

 

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