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Financial Empowerment Simplified

By Colleen Gillespie, CTFA, AIF®

Welcome 2019! Another year, and another chance to move the dial towards financial success. In past articles, we offered ideas for making your financial life easier by using available apps for tracking expenses or budgeting tools. If you’re looking for additional tools, see Stacey’s column below with a cornucopia of ideas to get you organized. Anything we can do to pay attention to what we can control, is key to reaching our goals. 

Recently, I received this sketch in an email from Carl Richards, a Certified Financial Planner™ turned Sketch Guy for a weekly column in the New York Times. Carl is adept at taking complex, and often emotional issues around our relationship with money and simplifying them into drawings that make sense. For the new year, I thought I’d share his simple, yet not always easy way to reach financial success. Oftentimes, it’s the simplest of tasks repeated often over a long period of time that can help us achieve our goals. Rinse and Repeat!

Here is “Carl Richards’ Very Unexciting, Four-Step Plan to the Financial Life of Your Dreams!

Step 1: Pay attention to your spending. 
Call it budgeting if you want, but I'm essentially talking about paying close attention as you spend money. This could be as simple as keeping an index card in your pocket and writing down every transaction or purposefully reviewing your monthly credit card statement. Whatever your method, just start noticing how you’re spending money.

Step 2: Find wasted money. 
The hard part of saving isn't saving itself. The hard part is finding the money to save. Not long ago, I figured out a routine that helped. I printed out my credit card statements and went through each charge. On one statement, a few lines down on the second page, I found a charge for GoGo Internet service. That’s the Internet service available while flying on many airlines. I recall the charge being $39 per month for unlimited access (now it’s $59 per month). After highlighting the charge, I leaned back in my chair, deep in thought. How long had it been since I last got online at 35,000 feet? In a moment of Zen-like clarity, I realized I hadn’t even been on a flight that month. I did the math and discovered it had been more than a year, 13 months to be exact, since I had used this service. For 13 months, I'd been paying for something I wasn’t using. I'd wasted more than $500. It's crazy I let it go on for that long, but I'm glad I found it!

Step 3: Automate savings. 
 If anything qualifies as exciting, perhaps it's this: I just found $39 a month to start saving. Because I was already spending that money, it wasn’t even going to hurt. All I had to do was log in (not at 35,000 feet) and set up an automatic investment for $39. Don’t get hung up on finding the best investment. That reeks of excitement, and we’re not into that. Just do something boring, like a Vanguard S&P 500 fund, or send the $39 to your kids' 529 account. The important part is automating the behavior.

Step 4: Repeat. 
 At the risk of making the plan sound fun, what if you decide to turn it into a game? Kind of like a treasure hunt! Every month, pull out your credit card statements and carefully take notice of every charge, look for wasted money, and add it to your automated savings. See how often you can move that number up. See if you can start a streak and raise the amount each month, even if it's just $5 or $10. I know it may sound boring to save $39, then $50, followed by $65, or even $67 (those two bucks matter). But over time, those dollars add up. How high can the number go?”

At Sawston Wealth, we can help you automate your savings for retirement, discuss an easy way to save for college, or if you’re already retired, work with you to develop a sound plan for taking monthly distributions so you won’t outlive the funds you’ve saved. And hey, remember in this game of making and breaking resolutions, it’s not how many times we fall that counts – it’s how many times we get back up and try again! 

May 2019 bring you great health, plenty of laughter, and abundant prosperity!