Wasatch Peaks has decided to make this the year of guiding new investors. Throughout the 12 months of 2017, Wasatch Peaks will provide you with 12 easy-to-understand steps about investing, making you a savvy, confident investor by the time the year is out. If you missed our first step, follow this link to learn about getting your finances in order, then come back here for the second step!
Don't invest a penny before you build a substantial savings account.
This might sound counterintuitive to a wannabe investor, but it's important to have a solid cushion of savings before you start putting your money into the market. Life is full of surprises. You don't want to be caught in an emergency that leaves you desperate for cash when all your funds are tied up in bonds, CDs and stocks.
This month, work on building up your savings to minimize risk. Here's how:
What steps have you taken toward building your savings this month?
With snow piled taller than me, it’s unthinkable that someone would wait in line for two hours to play in the snow. But, my sister and her family went to a Winter festival in Houston, Texas, and the city had hauled in a load of fake snow for it. There was a long line of Texans waiting to play in the “snow.” Being from Utah, she was amazed. Her kids wanted to wait, but she couldn’t make herself wait in a line for two hours for fake snow. I wish I could mail some of Utah’s snow to my Texan nephews. We are running out of places to put it.
I’ve lived my entire life in Utah. For quite a few winters I took care of babies, and we hibernated. I took the snow for granted. A couple of years ago, I decided we would dress warmly and start adventuring out into the snow. I wanted to enjoy the winter too.
Last Saturday, my family went to the Winter Festival at Wasatch Mountain State Park. After receiving six inches of snow that morning, it was the perfect day for a party to celebrate winter. We went cross country skiing for the first time. Snow shoeing and riding snow bikes were also available. Lunch was provided. The whole event was free for us. The only thing that we had to pay for was transportation to get there. Utah has 43 state parks, so if you are looking for a staycation or a day trip, state parks could be a good fit. The fees are low at most of the state parks. We bought an annual state parks pass $75 ($35 for seniors), and it has been well worth it.
To find out about upcoming activities, you can check out the Utah State Parks website. This year is the 60th anniversary of the state parks. Each week there will be some activity at one of the parks to celebrate. There will be “hiking, fishing tournaments, dances, winter festivals, and more!” We were told that each state park has its own mailing list, which is how we found out about the Winter Festival. Iif you are interested in a particular state park, you can ask to be put on their email list. There are two Winter Festivals this weekend! One is at East Canyon and one is at Bear Lake.
Over New Years we went to Zion’s National Park and saw tourists from all over the world. This made me realize how neat our Parks are and gave me the desire to go to them more often. Because they are so close, sometimes I take them for granted.
Staycations and day trips are great and Utah has so much available, but kids grow up. I want to do a big trip to Disneyland and San Diego. My sister’s family just moved to Alaska. I miss her, and I want to visit them. She’s very adventurous and has found so many beautiful and adventurous activities in Alaska, which we would like to do. We also are planning a trip to Spain in a few years.
While growing up, my husband’s family didn’t take expensive trips. They loaded their family in a Volkswagen Rabbit and went camping. My husband loved it. He didn’t feel deprived. He is content taking camping vacations. Their family lived debt free.
My mother-in-law is one of the wisest women I know. So, I asked her if she would do the same kinds of trips that she did having the perspective that she does. She said that she would see everything close in Utah, but she would also put a few dollars away each month to be able to go on a neat big trip every few years. She would still pay for them in cash, but she would prioritize doing some trips that are important to her family. She regrets not doing a few more big trips.
Personal Finances are just that - PERSONAL and INDIVIDUAL. Which means that budgeting is not just mathematical, it’s emotional! The emotional aspect of personal finance can be the hardest part. It requires self-discipline, focus, and delayed gratification. It’s an emotional struggle to delay gratification! With our budget, we plan to enjoy staycations and day trips at Utah’s many state and national parks, but we also look forward to big trips that are important to our family.
Congratulations! You've made the important decision to invest some of your money this year, and it's your first time ever. You're eager to get your money into the market, yesterday.
But where do you start?
Lucky for you, Wasatch Peaks has decided to make this the year of guiding new investors. So, even if you don't know a merger from an ETF, and your finances are a mess, you'll find clear, concise instructions for making your money grow in a safe, responsible way.
Throughout the 12 months of 2017, Wasatch Peaks will provide you with 12 easy-to-understand steps about investing, making you a savvy, confident investor by the time the year is out.
Jumping into the market without first taking careful stock of your finances is like asking for seconds at the dinner table before finishing your first portion. Though you can technically invest before your debts are paid off, financial planners advise strongly against this move, as it is somewhat irresponsible. So, before your money gets near the market, it's time to kiss your debt goodbye!
To live completely debt-free, examine every aspect of your financial life. Here's how, in four easy steps.
Be aware that this process may take a while. What's important at this point is that you have a plan to become debt-free. While your debt is slowly shrinking, you can follow Wasatch Peaks' next few steps toward investing. And, if you begin aggressively paying off your debt today, you will be ready to invest sooner than you think!
Have you taken real steps toward putting your finances in order and paying off your debt? Share your success with us in the comments!
You know that it’s January when ... you drive around the gym parking lot for 10 minutes without finding a parking space!! That happened to me last week. Finally, I stopped, waited for someone to come out of the gym, and I followed her to her car so that I could get a parking spot. My friend and I call this the January Gym Crowd. After January, the crowd usually shrinks. The gym was so packed one night that I couldn’t even park in the parking lot!
Ever since that night, I’ve been thinking about the resolutions we make. The resolutions that don’t last are the ones that I'm not really resolved to do. The resolutions that stick are the ones that help me to become something, rather than to do something. When I resolve to change who I am in order to become healthier, it doesn’t matter if I miss a workout or overeat one day. My commitment helps me to try again the next day. I have written many blog posts about how to do something related to finance. I am not talking about how to make or do anything today. This is all about how to become financially fit by committing to financial fitness.
I struggle with consistency. A friend told me that there are different seasons of our lives. She helped me realize that I can’t be consistent in everything all the time. When it comes to finances, we don’t always have the same level of consistency, but we can be consistent in our commitment to our financial health. Our effort doesn’t always have to be equal. There are seasons when we spend more time on our than other seasons. That is okay.
My commitment to personal finances has developed over time and with different experiences: my dad’s death, my friends retiring early, and experiencing unemployment. No one can give this commitment to you, you have to find the reason for your commitment. I’m committed to financial fitness because I want to have financial freedom. If my commitment isn’t strong enough, I won’t stick with it.
Once you’ve make a commitment to financial fitness, you can expect it to be tested. My commitment is often tested. Here are a few suggestions that help to stay committed.
It takes a lot of inner strength in order to avoid comparison. Last October, I realized that comparing was a weakness of mine, and since then I have been practicing eliminating comparisons in my life. The effects of comparison are really damaging. Either I feel better than or worse than someone else. I don’t like that feeling. Plus, comparison can kill commitment if I let it. Comparison is a bad habit that is tough to break. Here are a few exercises I’m doing to help break the comparison.
Yesterday I told my friend that we aren’t able to meet our retirement goals, but we’re doing more than others so if we are not okay financially in retirement, no one else will be okay. I thought about the comparison I made and realized I was trying to justify not reaching our goals. I thought about how I can change what I said next time.
I’ve been journaling and call it my journal “JOYrnal.” I try to live with childlike joy. On Friday night, I bought pizza for my kids. My son’s eyes lit up and he screamed, “We’re having pizza!” It amazed me how much joy he found in a $5 pizza. To help me remember to journal, I write before I eat dinner. I learned that from a musician, Lindsey Stirling. In an interview, she said that she never forgets to eat so she ties important things that she wants to do with eating. I never forget to eat so that has helped me!
The past few months I have exercised with an awesome friend. She is always encouraging me to be my best. I hadn’t lifted weights for a long time, and I started out with small amounts. She told me “Good job!" when I completed a set. She strives to be her best and doesn’t compare or compete against me. My husband also does this. He encourages me. One day after taking a cycling class, Ty asked how it went. I told him that it was rough and I didn’t do very good. He said, “You made it there. That’s good!" Last week, it was a struggle for me to get out of bed and get to the pool. After I swam, I encouraged myself.
Even though my husband and I are not maxing out our retirement plans, we are contributing! We are teaching our kids to save and invest! I encouraged myself to keep investing. We are meeting with an investment adviser this week. That is good!
I make mistakes all the time, in every area of my life. Forgiving myself allows me to stick with the commitment. This weekend I watched a talk by J.K. Rowling, who is super successful writer, and she talked about how she had failed in so many ways that it helped her to focus on the one area she had left. Her talk actually inspired me to fail! She said that a benefit of failure is that it allows you the chance to rebuild and commit.
Focusing on one goal helps me stick to my commitment to be financially fit. Looking back, in 2010, I was trying to do everything financially. Each time that I would hear a new suggestion, I would add it to my list. I was saving for retirement and paying down our mortgage. I was also saving for my kids marriage, mission service, and college as soon as they were born. I actually TOOK my newborn and my young kids to the credit union to set up an account for the baby. This is really comical to me now. I LOL at myself!
I had to learn an important lesson about focusing. By trying to do everything financially, I didn’t see progress. I only saved a few hundred dollars towards college. I ended up having to use the kids marriage funds for something else. So, I stopped doing everything, and in 2010, I focused on saving an emergency fund. It took two years to build it. Then, I focused on increasing our retirement. By focusing on one financial goal, it has allowed me to relax and experience grace with my finances. I don’t feel bad that I’m not saving for my kid’s marriages. In a few years, that will be my focus. Right now I just want them to stay little!
Committing to financial fitness is so important. It will help you avoid comparisons and distractions. It may be the most important resolution you make!!
Happy New Year! Not a lot changed at the end of 2016 for me, but the holiday is a break from school, so we took our family on a vacation. I started to say, “This was a budget trip," but I caught myself and stopped. I thought about how I was going to use the word budget. So many times we use the word budget to mean cheap. It was a cheap trip. So, I changed my wording and said, “It was a cheap trip.” Budgeting gets a bad reputation when it is used to mean being cheap. Budget doesn’t mean cheap. Budget means a plan. I like how I feel when I follow plans. Think about how you feel when you are following a health plan. Maybe over the holidays you ate without a plan (like I did), and maybe you felt pretty yucky (like I did). Think about the times when you did follow a plan to exercise and eat healthy. It is hard at the time, but I always love how I feel afterward. Over time, I see great results from following a health plan.
Imagine building your home without house plans! I have several friends building beautiful homes right now. I can guarantee that every inch of those homes was included in the plan in order for them to turn out the way that my friends want them to look.
Budgets are financial plans! How do you want your finances to look? If we could think of budgets like building our dream financial home, budgeting could change. We could be excited about it even though we may hate some of the work and discipline involved in the details. There are so many decisions to make when you build a home. Some are big decisions, like square footage and number of rooms. Some are small, like style of doorknobs. Some are almost permanent and some are temporary. It’s not easy to knock out a wall, but changing a door or the color of paint is relatively easy. The more you think about the details, the more likely you are to get the house that you want.
We have big financial decisions that impact us for years, and then we have minor ones that still impact us but not as much. How would our finances be different if we had to submit a plan before we could spend? Well, no permits are required in order to spend money. So, we have to require ourselves to budget. Budget is both a verb and a noun. It’s an actual piece of paper that details out what you will spend, but it is also a process of using that piece of paper and referring back to it before we spend. You don’t have to be perfect. Budgets are flexible. When we do make mistakes, we can change by remodeling. However, we can prevent having to redo a lot by planning!
I love the feeling of being on a plan and a budget, and even though I get off track in the holidays, it’s a NEW YEAR, and it’s a new month. What if we could change the way we view budgets and make them a part of our lives? They aren’t required of us like building plans are, but we can require them….every month. I can’t force you to do one. Wasatch Peaks can’t force you to do one. But we are here to help and encourage you to budget so that you can create the financial house that you want, and feel great about it! I promise you great results as you follow your financial plan over time.
Wasatch Peaks has the option to create Budgeter Accounts. This makes it easy to save and budget by allowing you to have up to 30 budgeting accounts withing your account to put money into and keep seperate for easy tracking. Each budgeting account has a specific name for each budgeting category (Rent, Insurance, School Expenses, Groceries, etc.) so that this budget plan can be customized just for you! It can be pre-set so money is automatically tranferred to your Budgeter Account from your savings or payroll and divided up into each budget account.
Every trip is a budget trip. Every decision is a budgeting decision! I am going to make my January budget right now and invite you to make yours! If you have any questions or want someone to help keep you accountable, please post. Please post your struggles with budgeting. For me there are a handful of categories (food, vacation, clothes) that I have to watch carefully, but the other categories are fixed and don’t require much. Where do you overspend?
This morning was hard to get up. My husband's alarm went off and I woke up to use the bathroom. My body felt sore. I felt the effects of the cookies, bacon, and chocolate covered popcorn, which I ate yesterday. I felt cold as soon as I got out of my bed. I wanted to go back to sleep. I felt gravity pulling me back to my warm bed. I thought of all the work ahead of me today. Except for the bathroom, every room looks like it experienced a tornado. Christmas was a busy day for my family. I visited 3 families, attended two church services, and had a sick child. The house was now a disaster zone. This can also happen financially over the holidays.
Somehow, I found the strength to walk past my bed without getting back into it. Somehow, I meditated and planned my day. This was a HUGE victory for me today. I think it was because Christmas gave me the belief that I can change. Seeing friends and family and feeling loved inspired me to keep trying. Experiencing kindness and generosity inspired me to want to keep moving forward. Even though I overspent, I can recommit. Even though the house is a mess, we can restore order one item and one room at a time. Sometimes we don't feel like waking up financially, but every day is a new day. If we mess up and give in to a purchase we didn't plan on, or miss a budget meeting, we can start again any and every day. In the big picture, it's not really going to matter that I spent a few more hundred dollars than I wanted to spend, as long as I keep trying.
During this holiday, several of my friends and family have told me that they want to get on top of their finances. They want to budget. They want to plan for taxes. They want to invest. These friends and family have asked my advice on budgeting and asked what app or system they should use. Some of them face huge obstacles in doing this, so I don't want to minimize how hard it can be to change financially. I will compare it to my experience with exercising.
I started exercising regularly a couple of months ago. At the gym, I am surrounded with healthy and strong people. I think about what they had to sacrifice to build the muscles that they have. It is a long and gradual process, and it can't be faked or sped up. There is no shortcut. I can't just be stronger because I want to be. For the first time, I have been weight lifting with a bar and weights. I started with just the bar and am adding small amounts. I can't just put a 35 pound weight on the bar and lift it. I have to sacrifice, plan, and build up the strength. I have to commit. On Christmas Eve I went to a hard interval training class. The teacher pushed herself and admitted it was hard, but at the end she encouraged us and played inspiring music that talked about getting back up and try again. I left feeling so inspired to celebrate my victories and keep trying.
There is no magical app that will make me in shape or get my friends to budget. It doesn't really matter what app you use. There are a lot of good tools, but there is no magical app that will force us to be disciplined. However, exercising at the gym helps inspire me. I believe I can get stronger.
Consider this blog to be your financial gym. Come here to believe that you can change, and surround yourself with people who are growing stronger physically and believing that they can improve. Happy New Years. Enjoy the holiday!
My family listened to a financial course on CDs as we rode up to the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument over our fall break. Our kids groaned and complained. Listening to novels is much more entertaining than listening to financial education. But, it’s important that we understand these concepts so that we can make good spending decisions. These terms and topics often scare people away.
We may not know the word elasticity, but we experience it every time we shop for groceries. There is a whole set of vocabulary that comes with finances. It may seem like a foreign language even though the words are English. How do we learn foreign languages? Over the past 4 years, my kids have been learning Spanish in their school’s immersion program. From the first day, these kids are “immersed” for half of the day in Español. At first, they don’t know what their teacher is saying, but that’s okay that they are clueless at first because their willingness to submit to this immersion speeds up how fast they can learn the language.
Radio: I often put talk radio on so that my kids are exposed to financial terms and concepts. They often complain about it, but I can tell that they are learning as they ask about different things that are said. We listen to music and books on tape too, but in the rotation, some of them are financial education.
Stories: Stories are a great way to teach finances. One story my husband tells is that in high school he drove a VW bug that he could gas up for $1 per gallon and $10 would fill up the tank. Kids love to help fill the car up with gas, so I will point out the price per gallon now and show them the total. This gives an opportunity to talk about supply and demand, inflation, and more. My kids and I learned about supply and demand as we shopped for their Halloween costumes. My oldest three children all wanted Star Wars themed costumes. The cost of these were $20 or more because Star Wars is very popular. In contrast, my youngest wanted to be a purple witch. I don’t know about purple witches, but witch costumes have probably been around as long as Halloween has been and there is a big supply of them, which drives the cost down. We were able to get the witch costume for $7. I’m sure we will notice this as the Christmas season arrives, too.
There are economic principles that we ca learn through everyday experiences and stories. They become part of our vocabulary. Merging it with life has been the most effective way to immerse my kids. As we use our credit or debit card, I explain financial terms. My 8 year old knows about mortgages. In contrast, My 6 year old thinks that lunch is free because he has a lunch account that money is loaded onto so he doesn’t pay cash. As they grow and experience, we talk about these concepts.
Work brings up a lot of opportunities to talk about finances. Kids can learn to work from very young ages and increase their ability. It exposes them to many economic principles. We went to the economics fair at our school last week. The sixth graders had different booths with some kind of money earning activity. It was like a mini-carnival and they had each come up with an idea. I love that kids were learning these principles in a fun and creative way.
Economic and financial principles apply to all of us. Don’t let them scare you away.
What do rain, sleepovers, stories, flags, flowers, presents, travel, and cemeteries all have in common? As I have been preparing for Memorial Day this week, all of these memories from past Memorial Days have come to my mind. My birthday is on May 30th, and one of the times it fell on Memorial Day, I slept over at my grandparent's house and then we decorated grave sites together. I remember my dad telling me stories about his grandparents as we visited their graves. After I was married, I remember pushing strollers full of children up to the cemetery while rain sprinkled on us.
Since the 1800s, Decoration Day/Memorial Day has been celebrated as a federal holiday in order to help us remember men and women who died serving in the armed forces while defending freedom. The Star Spangled Banner lyrics describe the U.S. as, “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our nation’s flag will be flying everywhere we look this weekend to honor those brave people who defend our freedom. As I think of the sacrifice of those lives, I want to honor their memory and appreciate the freedom that we enjoy.
Memorial Day, was also always a holiday to remember my family members who have died. As I remember my dad, I remember how hard he worked. A year before he died, he was hospitalized for almost a month. I remember that he asked for his planner, which had all of his contacts, so he could make phone calls from his bed in the ICU. I wanted him to be able to focus on his health. I wanted him to be able to retire.
I wanted him to not have financial stress on top of the physical stress his body was going through. This is WHY I am passionate about financial education. From childhood, I’ve had a desire to help others, and I memorized a line from Emily Dickinson’s poetry that has become a theme in my life: “If I can stop one heart from breaking I shall not live in vain.” I thought that I would do this by becoming a nurse, but realized that nursing was not for me and my passion for helping others with finances began.
My Grandpa died a couple of years before my dad did. I spent a lot of time with him. Remembering Grandpa inspires me to help others like he did. Grandpa gave me a Ford Taurus when I graduated with my Master’s Degree. At that time, I was pregnant with my first child, and we had one working car. Ty and I planned to repair his old Volkswagen so that he could drive that when I needed the car. My grandpa gave it to me and told me that it would help me take care of my new baby. It did and I appreciated that so much. He and my grandma helped support me on my mission and through college. I want to be to use money to help others like he did.
Many of the posts I write are practical topics about managing finances, but this post is about the reason for managing our finances. This is the “personal” part of personal finance. Your reason for becoming financially fit is different from mine. Without it, Ty and I would not be able to fight through the obstacles and financial challenges. Remembering why we do what we do is so important on Memorial Day.
I hope you’ll think about it and write it down, and I hope it motivates you to keep going when times are challenging.
The first official day of Spring was warm and bright the other day at our house. My kids were so excited to eat outside, and we spent the afternoon enjoying the weather. One of them even complained about it feeling too hot. Lately, Spring Clean-up has started. One of my neighbors was raking his dead tree limbs when I walked by. This weekend my husband trimmed the raspberries, brought in new dirt, and planted peas and flowers.
Spring Cleaning for Your Finances
In Utah, some days it feels like Spring: other days it feels like Winter, but it really is Spring. I invite you to join me in some Spring Clean-up of financial records and habits.
My family is going to Parent Teacher Conferences today and tomorrow. School homework is a regular weekly task for us now. Sometimes I feel jealous of the schools who don’t send home any homework, because it is a stressor in my home. My second grader took half an hour just to find his homework the other day, which happened to be in the homework organizer. He isn’t used to having it be where it should be.
My kids have also struggled turning in their homework after they get it done. I thought my family was the only family that struggled with this. Last week I put my kindergartener’s homework in his backpack after asking him to pack it up three times. Once it’s in the backpack, sometimes it never makes it from the backpack to the basket. My older kids have turned in all of their homework this year!!!! YAY! While volunteering, I talked to another mom who said her daughter doesn’t turn in her finished homework either. Their teacher told us that she gives them two skittles, which is a tiny treat but that motivates my son enough to turn in his homework.
We all have “homework” that we don’t like to do. It can take longer to think about doing the homework than it does to actually do it. Laundry and dishes are some of mine. This weekend I visited my sister, and her dishwasher was broken. As we washed dishes by hand, I realized how little time that job really does take me to load the dishes and put them away.
For a lot of people, it is harder to think about budgeting than to actually budget because I think deep down we all know what we want, but it’s tough to make that happen. Planning how to spend our money through budgeting has become a habit for my family after doing it for over a decade. I haven’t had to think about doing it or fight those overwhelming feelings for quite a while.
However, with all of the radical life changes and emotional ups and downs that came along with unemployment and job changes, budgeting felt overwhelming. We went into survival mode this summer: we paid the bills and we cut back expenses, but we weren’t planning like we did before. I’ve been going through the motions of budgeting: tracking, allocating our paycheck to expenses, and paying bills. My family’s budget has been under construction the past few months as we adjust to our new income. And even though budgeting is part of our life, it has been a struggle.
My friend who is also a financial coach/counselor invited my husband and me to come to a Financial Peace University class that she is coordinating. That class has given us the support and motivation we need to keep working through the overwhelming feelings. We have started by talking about our plan for the holidays. I really wanted to dress up all the kids as characters from Frozen, but some of them don’t want to do it, and as we talked about the price of the costumes, my husband and I decided we would rather spend the money on Christmas than on costumes that they don’t want to wear.
Sometimes we are the teacher giving the homework and sometimes we are the student receiving the homework, but either way, budget homework is do-able and we can all help each other overcome the overwhelmingness of it all.