We recently had our piano tuned, and our tuner shared part of his life story with me. He told me that he is “retired” from his job that he worked for over 40 years. He doesn’t “have to work” because he needs to earn money, but he enjoys tuning pianos, so he works part-time. Through his story, I picked out several keys for staying motivated to invest — no pun intended.

First Key: Personalize Retirement

Our piano tuner told me that he worked because he wanted to work. He loves music, enjoys working on pianos, and he likes to visit with people. He still has plenty of time to spend with his family and on other hobbies. This works well for him.

In contrast, I know retirees who like to travel. Others like to watch their grandchildren. Some like to garden. Not everyone would enjoy working as a piano tuner. We all have our own interests.

I had a college professor who wanted to volunteer at a local library by reading to children when he retired because he really enjoyed reading to his children. Another acquaintance got more involved in government and became a state senator when he retired from full-time employment. The options are endless!

I’ve been thinking about what my family wants to do in retirement. Whenever I try to do what someone else is doing, I lose motivation. I have to do what’s right for me and for my family. What does YOUR custom retirement plan look like?

Second Key: Prepare for Decades

He and his wife worked 40 years in their careers and saved for retirement. I’m not even 40 years old yet, so it impressed me that they had prepared for this stage of their life for longer than I had been alive. Even though I know how important it is to save for retirement throughout our working career, meeting someone who did it makes me feel like I can do it too.

I have had other friends and family members who have also retired, and their examples have helped motivate me to invest for retirement. They have me given me hope that my personalized retirement plan is possible — especially when we were unemployed and had to stop retirement savings. Their examples motivated me to start again when we were able.

Having mentors who are in retirement is very helpful because they have already done it and can guide us. Both sets of our parents are in retirement and we see what costs they face and how they differ from costs in our stage of life. Preparing for retirement throughout life gives you freedom to do what you would like to do.

Third Key: Enjoy Your Work

Our piano tuner can make the piano sound amazing when he plays it and tune it. He is a pianist, and his love for the piano shows. He has a good sense of humor and makes piano jokes. I can tell that he completely enjoys piano tuning and interacting with his customers.

His story was a great example of working during retirement. He does something that he enjoys. He makes a good amount per hour, but it really didn’t seem like “work” to him. He is his own boss. He schedules as many jobs a week as he would like to work, and he schedules those jobs around his life. Seeing him enjoying retirement so much motivated me to work towards it.

I have another acquaintance who “retired” from his job of 30 years to serve a volunteer mission for his church with his wife. He had always wanted to do this and was still young, so after he finished that, he worked for a friend doing something else. He has freedom to work how he would like to work. Both are enjoying their work.

Statistics show that so many people are not saving enough to retire the way they want to retire, but it's really so simple. Meeting people like our piano tuner help me to realize this. Why aren't most people saving then? Well, it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the immediate expenses and put off saving for retirement.

Hearing his story helped spark my imagination to think about what job would be good for me at that stage of life. What did you learn from this piano tuner’s story? Who do you know who is retired? How has his or her story influenced you?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 15:13

Step #5: Learn The Costs Of Investing

You've learned to invest 15% of your household income into retirement. Now what? The ultimate goal of investing is to let your money work for you and provide you with stable, passive income.

But getting there is going to cost a pretty penny.

This month, take the time to learn the dollars and cents of investing. Of course, you knew that investing was going to mean coming up with the actual money you’re putting into the market, which always holds the possibility of being lost forever. But did you know there are going to be various fees, commissions, and taxes you’ll have to pay, too?

Let’s take a peek at an actual investment to illustrate this. The company and amounts have been changed, but they’ve been accurately scaled down to size.

Suppose that, on Aug. 13, 2015, a share of stock in Apple closed at $43.26. During the next few months, Apple issues four dividends of $0.55 per share. On Aug. 25. 2016, a share of stock in Apple closed at $51.23.

Let’s say you chose to invest $1,000 in Apple on Aug. 13, 2015 and you withdrew it on Aug. 25, 2016.

At the time of your investment, $1,000 would buy you 23.25 shares of Apple. Over the year, you would have received $51.16 in dividend payouts. When you withdrew from the company a bit over a year after your initial investment, you’d sell that stock for $1,191.09.

It seems like your gain from this stock is $242.25, broken down into $51.16 in dividends and another $191.09 from selling the stock. Simple, right?

The problem is, though, you haven’t exactly earned that much. Here’s where the costs of investments come into play.

First, the dividends would be subject to income tax. In this case, the dividends are considered qualified dividends, and would therefore be taxed at a rate of 15% by the federal government and possibly more by state and local sources. As a result, $7.67 of that dividend gain is eaten up by these taxes.

Second, you’re going to have to pay your broker for the cost of buying and selling the stock. Let’s say, hypothetically, you’ve used an online discount stock brokerage firm. The buy and the sell would each cost $9.99. That’s another $19.98 dropped from your gain – although this fee is tax deductible.

Third, the gain on the sale would be a long-term capital gain, so 15% of that gain goes to the federal government. Since your gain was $191.09, you’d be paying an additional $28.66 in taxes on the sale.

In total, your expenses for your gain add up to $56.31. Just like that, nearly 30% of your gain is gone!

Even if your investment is a loser, you’re still paying the brokerage fees and will earn less in dividends.

The moral of the story? Investing costs. You’re taxed if you gain, and you’ll get hit with brokerage fees whether you win or lose.

Some forms of investing have lower costs than others. If you invest directly with an investing house, you can bypass the investing fees and only pay the taxes on your gains. However, you’re limited to the offerings that the investing house has available, and you’ll be subject to their often inflexible minimums for investing.

You could also simply invest in a money market account or other savings option at Wasatch Peaks Credit Union. Your returns will come with fewer or no costs. Plus, your balance isn’t at risk. Yes, you might “lose” some gains by only having the cash in a savings account, but your money is earning a steady return. If you invest elsewhere, it’s possible that the costs, the fees and the taxes can easily eat up a substantial amount of whatever you gain or make an already painful loss even harder.

It’s important to note that the bigger your investment, the smaller the impact such costs have. At the $1,000 level, the investment fees in the above scenario typically eat up about 2% of your balance. If you’re investing $10,000, the fees will only eat up 0.2% of your balance, and if you invest $100,000, the fees eat up only 0.02% of your balance.

Thus, as a beginning investor, it’s crucial to know the total cost of ownership of an investment as you consider it. Even a small fee can significantly lower your total return when you’re starting out with small investments.

That’s why it’s best to take it slowly at first and continue learning about the market and stocks you’re interested in. Know exactly what you’re going to invest in – and what all of the costs of that investment are – before you put down any of your money. After working out the math, you may find you’d rather wait until you have a substantial amount saved up for investing, as these fees don’t make such a big dent when the gains are larger.

So, before you make that first investment, learn the costs and be sure it’s worth the price!

Did you get hit with any surprise costs on your first investment? Share your experience with us!

Published in Blog

Now that you understand the basic investing terms, your first actual investment is going to be one in your future. Experts recommend allocating 15% of your monthly income toward retirement.

Before you start exploring your options, though, you’ll need to set a goal, or a target number. This number will represent how much you need to have saved for living comfortably and independently throughout your retirement. A good way to set a target number is to take your current living expenses and multiply that by 400. This will give you the amount you’d need to have to sustain yourself, based on a 4% investment return.

There are many investment options to consider for retirement. The most common are 401(k)s, IRAs and Roth IRAs, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s what you’ll want to look for:

1.) Matching funds

This refers to matching monies offered by employers. Most will offer to match your contributions up to a certain limit. For example, your employer may offer a 100% match on the first 3% of your salary. If you earn $60,000, that means for the first $1,800 you have withheld from your paycheck and put into your retirement account, your employer will gift you an additional $1,800 in completely tax-free money. Even if all you do is park that money in something stable like a trust fund, it’s the highest, safest, most immediate return you can earn anywhere in the stock market. Don’t leave free matching money on the table!

2.) Tax-deferred growth

If a retirement vehicle is tax-deferred, this means all the assets parked in that particular fund will not be taxed until they are withdrawn. This allows the money to grow, untouched, for years.

3.) Tax-deductible

If a retirement fund is tax-deductible, every dollar you put into that fund is subtracted from your taxable income, automatically lowering your taxes. For those in their peak earning years, this can provide considerable tax savings.

In the table below, we offer a brief summary of the pros and cons of each retirement vehicle for easy comparison.
 
Features/requirements 401 (k) IRA Roth IRA
Matching Funds Yes No No
Tax-deductible Yes Depends on income, tax-filing status and other factors No
Tax-deferred Growth Yes Yes No
Taxable Withdrawals Yes Yes No
Maximum Yearly Contribution (2017) $18,000.00 $5,500.00 $5,500.00
Maximum Yearly Contribution Age 50+ (2017) $24,000.00 $6,500.00 $6,500.00
Age Limit For Contributions None 70 1/2 None
Income Eligibility (2017) Any income earned through a company that offers a 401(k) Any earned income as reported on a W-2, wages from self-employment, tips and alimony Any income with a gross worth of less than $118,000-$133,000/yr or $186,000-$196,000/yr for taxpayers filing jointly

 

Once you have chosen your retirement fund, you’ll need to choose somewhere to invest the money. Low-risk investment vehicles, such as federal bonds or trust funds, are usually the best choice.

If you are saving for retirement through the use of a 401(k), be sure to check if your employer offers a target date fund.

The term “target date” refers to your planned retirement date. You’ll know your employer offers a target date fund if there’s a calendar year in the name of the fund, such as A.J. Holdings Retirement 2050 Fund. Simply make an estimated guess of the year you’d like to retire, and then pick the fund with the date closest to your projected retirement.

A target date fund is a smart choice because it spreads the money in your 401(k) across many asset classes such as large company stocks, small-company stocks, bonds and emerging-markets stocks. Then, as you near the target date, the fund becomes more conservative, owning less stocks and more bonds, automatically reducing your risks as you near the date of your retirement.

To get the ball rolling on whichever retirement plan best suits your needs, you’ll need to speak to an HR representative at your workplace. With a bit of work and a lot of planning, you’ll have your future secured in the best way possible.

What steps have you taken toward securing your future? Share your retirement plan with us in the comments!

Published in Blog
Thursday, 18 May 2017 16:28

Regulation D: How Does It Affect Me?

Have you ever wondered about the real differences between your savings and checking accounts? Many people realize there must be more to it than just the fact that one includes checks and the other does not. However, they just don't know what those differences are. So let's look at some of the technical differences that define each account type.

Reserve Requirements

Did you ever wonder how much cash your credit union keeps in its vaults? It's not all the money that members have deposited into their accounts. If that were the case, the credit union could never lend or invest money, and you could never earn any dividends on your deposits. Your credit union would simply function as a gigantic communal piggy bank.

There are laws determined by the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, called reserve requirements, which govern how much cash financial institutions (including credit unions and banks) must hold in reserve against the accounts at that institution. The portion of federal regulations that contain these rules is called Regulation D - Reserve Requirements of Depository Institutions.

The percentage of funds that must be kept by institutions is currently 10%. But here's the catch: Only accounts that are defined as "transaction accounts" are considered when calculating this ratio. Other types of accounts do not have the same requirements. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Transaction accounts, such as checking accounts, are used by account holders on a daily basis for their personal finances. That being the case, there is a great likelihood that the credit union will need to come up with a portion of those funds each day. On the other hand, non-transaction accounts, such as savings accounts and money markets, are intended more for long-term savings, so account holders usually leave the deposited funds in the account to grow over longer periods of time.

This also explains why savings accounts frequently offer higher dividend rates than checking accounts do: because financial institutions can use more of the funds on deposit to make money with savings deposits than they can with checking deposits.

Transaction Vs. Non-Transaction Accounts

What accounts fall into the category of transaction accounts? These include demand deposit accounts, also called checking accounts and NOW (negotiable order of withdrawal) accounts.

What characteristics do transaction accounts share? The depositor is allowed to make an unlimited number of payments and transfers from the account to third parties as well as to other accounts belonging to the depositor. The account holder can perform these transactions in various ways, such as by writing checks and by using a debit card and online payment services, among others.

Which accounts are non-transaction accounts? These include savings accounts and money market accounts. What characteristics do they share? Firstly, financial institutions must reserve the right to require at least seven days of written advance notice before account holders intend to make a withdrawal. This right is rarely if ever exercised, but it is included in the account agreement. Additionally, the account holder is limited to making no more than six "convenient" transfers or withdrawals per month.

These "convenient" transfers include preauthorized automatic transfers, transfers and withdrawals requested by phone, fax or made online, checks written to third parties and debit card transactions. Less convenient transactions, however, are unlimited. This includes any transactions made in person, by mail or at an ATM, and phone withdrawals requesting a check mailed to the account holder.

If a depositor tries to exceed the six-per-month transaction limit, the financial institution is required to refuse transfer privileges or convert the account into a transaction account. When this happens to them, many people are unaware of the laws in Regulation D (and never bothered to read their account agreement) and think their credit union or bank has a strange policy. But the truth is, if you don't like it, you're going to have to take it up with the Federal Reserve. Your financial institution is just following regulations.

Of course, there are simple solutions that allow savings account holders to avoid the issue. If you need to make more than six payments or transfers from your savings account, you must be up for a little more inconvenience and may need to complete the transactions in a less high-tech method than usual.

Did you ever discover, by mistake, that your savings account has limits to the number and type of transactions? What happened, and how did you deal with it? Share the experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://wallethub.com/edu/checking-vs-savings-account/10554/
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/banking/checking-vs-savings-accounts.aspx
https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/reservereq.htm
https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/int_depos.pdf
http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=b6764ba4ce5e10f0e23adeb56b31ce44&mc=true&node=pt12.2.204&rgn=div5
https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/7500-500.html#fdic7500204.4

Published in Blog
Monday, 13 February 2017 17:07

Saving Strategies that Work

According to ycharts, the average personal savings rate in the U.S. at the end of 2016 was 5.5%.

That is what my family was saving, so we are average savers right now. Savings doesn’t happen without strategy, so this statistic shows we are prioritizing savings, but we can improve this percentage.

Eight years ago, my family had a savings account with a few thousands of dollars in it. We emptied the account in order to pay for a new roof. We saved for a couple more years and then we emptied it again to pay for a fence in the backyard, which we justified as an “emergency.” It felt like we couldn’t get ahead because we were filling and emptying our savings and couldn’t ever move on.

At the same time, I was feeling pressure to save for retirement, vacations, and my childrens' future college and marriages. I wanted the time value of money to be working for us in all of these areas. That resulted in me using that marriage fund for another expense. We only saved a couple of hundred dollars for college, and our retirement savings was minimal.

Focus on One Savings Goal

In 2010, we decided to focus on one savings goal and invest 3% towards retirement. We decided that our first goal would be to fully fund an emergency fund, which we would only use for emergencies. (Home improvements didn’t count as emergencies for us anymore!) About a year and a half into the goal, we had saved ¾ of our goal amount. I felt tired as we hit a savings wall. I started to justify that we had enough saved, but our commitment to this goal helped us to stay focused on it and climb over the savings wall. About a month after hitting that wall, Ty received a promotion and large raise from his employer. This raise was 5X bigger than any raise he had ever received in the past, and it allowed us to reach our savings goal within a few months.

I remember the Magic Eye 3-D images that required me to relax, focus, and disregard all of the distracting images in order to see the 3-D image through the busyness. You have to be committed to finding that 3-D hidden image. That’s what happened when we focused on one savings goal. We were able to ignore all of the busy distractions. We relaxed and focused in order to see the goal realized.

Savings Snowball

I don’t know who to give credit for the term “savings snowball.” When we were going through our Savings Attention Deficit Phase, I knew about the debt snowball. This focused on paying one debt off at a time while paying the minimums on everything else, and I thought it would be great to do that on the savings side so that we could avoid debt. I googled “savings snowball,” and found the phrase several times, so I wasn’t the first to coin it.

Think about how we make snowballs. My kids have been making a lot of snowballs. They can make a lot of little ones for a snowball fight, but to make a snowman, they have to focus on one and roll it until that snowball gets bigger and bigger. Pretty soon, we have a large snowball to use to build the base of a snowman. Once the snowball is big enough, we can move to the next snowball, which doesn’t need to be the same size as the first. We decide how big it needs to be, and then we roll it until it gets to be that size.

We started doing this with our savings. After saving for an Emergency Fund, we saved for a trip to Disneyland, which was a much smaller goal that we reached quickly. Then we saved for a minivan. Now we are saving for an SUV to replace my husband’s SUV. The savings snowball has worked well for us because we see progress in reaching our goals in a relatively short amount of time.

This method also helped me relax and focus. I don’t goal hop anymore or try to do everything. The percentage of our income that we saved has changed. We started with about 5%, and each time we got a raise, we put it towards savings until we were saving 20%. Then, with our job loss, we weren’t saving at all for a short time. Then, once again, we started saving 5%, which is where we are now.

Look at your budget to determine what percentage number is right. As you free up money by reaching your savings goal or increasing your income, you can add to that. What other savings strategies have helped you?

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.

Step #1: Get Your Finances In Order

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.

  1. Track your expenses. Save every receipt. Hold onto every grocery bill and each restaurant check. Keep the tabs from the dry cleaners and the gas station. Everything counts - even the 5 bucks you blew on a grande latte. At the end of the month, add up your total living expenses and see where you can cut down. Any money you can save by trimming your expenses is earmarked for paying down debt.
  2. Increase your income in any way possible. Now's the time to ask for that raise you've been wanting, freelance whenever possible, or even seek better or more employment. All extra income goes toward getting rid of that debt.
  3. Get rid of all credit card debt. Examine every credit card statement and begin paying them off, starting with the one that has the lowest amount. Don't concern yourself with interest rates unless two debts have similar payoffs. In that case, start paying off the higher interest rate debt first. Your goal is to get rid of these bills completely, one at a time.
  4. Pay off all personal and student loans. You don't want to owe anyone a dollar, so pay back all money you've borrowed as soon as you can. If possible, consider shortening your mortgage or, if you have the means, even paying it off completely.

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!

Published in Blog
Monday, 16 January 2017 16:11

Making Resolutions That You Can Commit To!

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.

Find Your Commitment

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.

Stick With Your Commitment

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.

Don’t Compare

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.

Evaluate What I Think And Say

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.

Practice Gratitude

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!

Encourage Others, Including Yourself!

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!

Forgive Yourself

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.

Focus

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!!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016 19:34

Get Up When You Fall Financially

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!

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