Financial Wellness Can Be Easier Than You Think
By Phyllis Smith
For so many women, myself included, the concept of being confident and capable around money is fraught. We often do not feel like we have the skills or expertise to effectively manage our investments. Others have started down the path of financial independence but might need some support to develop an effective strategy. Our Women Inspiring Women network got to hear some great tips for being fearless with our finances from Chelle Martinez from Tax Trailer. We all agreed that money equals opportunity. Such an empowering mantra!
Making that row of ducks
Chelle’s first tip for achieving financial confidence is to enhance your awareness of your situation. She suggested starting any investigation into your finances by knowing what you are responsible for in terms of payments, stressing that proactivity can create positive change in your financial situation. As I worked up my courage to leave my job and head out on my own, I knew I had to understand how I was going to cover my expenses.
As I have mentioned in other blogs, I am a list maker. I started with a list of what I spent money on. I went through my checking account and my credit card statements for the previous six months and created a spreadsheet with all of my expenses. I didn’t look for trends or areas to change. This was a simple fact-finding mission. This effort took me about half a day but was worth it as I knew what I required each month.
Creating the budget buckets
Handling money is a lot like writing a blog. First, you start off with an outline of your ideas which in the financial case is a list of expenses and income. Next, you have to set some parameters. In writing that involves fleshing out your ideas. The next stop on my finance journey, which Chelle reinforced on the call, was to create a budget.
For me, this turned into determining my budget buckets: a detailed list of the categories of expenses I had seen in my previous review. I then divided up the buckets into two other large groups: Survive and Thrive. What expenses did I need to have in order to maintain the basics of my lifestyle? The rest of the buckets accounted for the money I spent for fun and to expand my horizons, such as education and travel. My first piece of the puzzle of having an organized approach to understanding my finances was in place.
Working through the idea that paperwork s@#$ks
Chelle’s next suggestion was to work with a finance professional who will support your goals, which could be an accountant, a bookkeeper, a financial advisor, or a coach. I already had access to some good support for the income change involved with a change in career. Here’s how that came about! When I first graduated from college and got my first full-time job, I went back and forth about paying someone to prepare my taxes, thinking I should be able to tackle the job. After struggling with all the complex forms in the time before online preparation, I took all my paper statements to a neighborhood accountant.
The CPA proceeded to ask me what I did for a living. When I said I was a software project manager, he said, “I would never expect to be a software project manager one day a year. Why do you expect to be an accountant for a few days each April?” From then on, I’ve used a professional CPA to do my taxes. My current person helps with end-of-year gains and losses and is very knowledgeable about the changes in the laws and forms required. I trust him completely. It gives me the confidence to stretch my financial muscles. Chelle called this having an expert in your corner, and I would highly recommend it!
Keep it simple. That is a key approach to financial wellness as well as general wellness. Our minds can get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves about our abilities and about the possibility of success when making any change. It is crucial not to let this get in the way of our handling our expenses. Chelle stressed avoiding getting hung up in the weeds of your finances. She suggested consolidating your accounts so that you have fewer places to track, understanding your debt responsibilities, credit score and tax status. Being organized is not easy but if you keep it simple—fewer budget buckets for example—you will be successful.
Don’t rely on luck
Chelle’s final and key tip was to be proactive with your finances. Get ahead of your situation by formulating a good plan and making sure you track your budget on a timeframe which works for you. I check my expenses monthly because I found if I made adjustments any more frequently, they were not as effective at containing my costs. I’ve put my overall financial wellness on the same plane as my health and mental wellness. It all comes together to help me build a great life worth living!