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Think Outside the Box

I am a “check it off the list” kind of person. From getting the laundry done, to the bathrooms cleaned, to going to the grocery store… these daily tasks become more like goals if I can check them off a list.

When it comes to finances, and life in general, it is extremely important to have goals written down, and posted in a place that will constantly remind you what your ultimate goals are. In our finance Family Packets, we include an “Our Family Goals” page for this very reason.

I was recently talking with one of our clients. They are newly married, and have been renting an apartment that they love… however, their ultimate goal is to save for a house. They have decided to part ways from their apartment, live in a less expensive situation for a limited period of time, stash as much money away as possible, and put themselves in a position in which they can check “Purchase Our Home” off their goals list. It takes sacrifice at times, a lot of work and effort, but if you’re willing to put in the time, your goals can be accomplished.

You may not be in a position that you can move, but that just means you need to come at your goals a different way. Sacrifice going out to eat as much, have a garage sale, cut lawns for a while, babysit… Think outside of the box when it comes to making money. What are your skills?

Right now, the number one goal on “Our Family Goals,” is building a fully funded emergency fund. We want to have the comfort of knowing we have an emergency fund in case an occasion arises that we cannot budget for. A broken air conditioner… a water heater than needs replacing… whatever might come, we want to be as prepared as possible.

So, we are working for it. Luke is picking-up more hours at work, I am taking photography jobs if they come up, and Luke has even decided to add a bit of woodworking into the mix! What’s funny about this, is that as soon as Luke decided to try to make some extra money woodworking, we get a call from one of our friends who does amazing interior decorating, Tara at the nest (http://www.keepyournestfeathered.com/). She needs a floating desk made for one of her clients. Perfect! God DOES provide! As I’m typing this, Luke is out there in the garage building this desk… Working to make our goals a reality.

Now the challenge.. We’ve included a checklist for you… Here it is…

  • Set Goal
  • Make Plan
  • Get to Work
  • Stick to it
  • Reach Goal

Keep us posted on your progress!!!

Take Control

In addition to the many blessings life offers, there are also a variety of obstacles. However, with those obstacles comes the opportunity to overcome them. There is no way to know what tomorrow holds, we do not have any control over that. But I heard from a friend recently, you do have control over how you react to what tomorrow holds.

With that being said, you can’t control what you might be diagnosed with in the future when it comes to health. But you can control what you do now. You can choose to eat healthy, you can choose to exercise, you can choose the lifestyle you live. The apple or the pie? Exercise or watch TV? The choices are yours.

It is the same with finances. You can choose where your money goes. Please know that we completely understand why you may have decided to purchase that car with a 10-year loan. Or why you bought that brand new dining set with a credit card. A lot of times we do not know any different. Luke and I didn’t! But in the end, nobody forced us to spend money we didn’t have. We chose to become indebted to someone. Perhaps you have to? We know that temptation! We are an instant gratification society and the credit card companies thrive on that!

Now, it’s time to choose to live within your means. It’s time to forget what everyone else is doing, and to do what’s best for you and your family. It’s time to take control of your money. It’s time to tell your money where to go. It’s time to live debt free, and stop living paycheck to paycheck. It’s time to not settle with what life is throwing at you, but rather, take control of how you handle what life is throwing at you.

I understand that everyone’s financial circumstances are different. However, no matter where you’re at, or where you come from, you now have a choice to change your future. You can choose to get prepared for life’s emergencies, life’s uncertainties, and even life’s certainties. You can choose to start fresh!

We have been building our fully funded emergency fund for a while now. But we have had to pull from it numerous times. While we are extremely grateful that we have had the knowledge to have an emergency fund we can pull from (instead of charging a credit card for emergencies) it has been taking us months to get it to where we want it to be. Finally, we chose to make it happen. Luke is choosing to work more. I am picking up some more work. We are getting that emergency fund to where it needs to be. We are choosing to put the work in to reach our goal. We’re taking control!

Believe me when I say that years ago, when we would get paid and our account would increase to -$800. When we had our water shut-off for not paying our bill. When our outgoing calls on our cell phone would go straight to the Verizon billing department because we hadn’t paid our bill. We NEVER thought we would see the day that we would be debt free… or a time when we would have the ability to build an emergency fund. It takes time, it takes work, and honestly, it is not always fun. But we have no doubt that it is completely worth it!!! It’s one step at a time. And the first step is getting on a budget. We promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We have actually thrived more with money than we ever have by living on a budget.

 

Money and Our First Year of Marriage

What made our first year of our marriage rough was not figuring out how to live together, that came relatively easy for us, but rather, the financial situation we were in.

Before we were married, we had a small amount of knowledge of what each other’s finances looked like, but we had never really sat down and talked about it. I can say through experience, this is so important to do.

After we got married, Luke discovered that he was marrying a woman who had a credit card that was maxed out, mostly on Starbucks runs, a car loan, and a decent student loan. I discovered I was marrying a man with an even higher car loan (brand new truck), a student loan, and an adjustable mortgage. Once the mortgage adjusted, we began to slowly drown.

I remember our cell phone carrier would stop our outgoing calls because we hadn’t paid our bill. I remember a guy walking across the front of our yard, lifting the lid to where our main water valve was, turning it off, and adding a lock to it. Yes, no water because we hadn’t paid our bill. I remember being stuck at a gas station because I was out of gas and we didn’t have any money in our account to fill it up. I remember Luke working numerous side jobs trying to just make ends meet. I remember days where we both would get paid, and our account increased to -$800. And I remember dreading driving home because it felt like I was headed straight for a black hole.

But, what I also remember, is Luke stepping up to better our situation. He didn’t hesitate trying to reach out to get help, because he knew we needed it. He didn’t let his pride get in the way. All he cared about was making sure that his family was taken care of. I have to credit him for bringing us to where we are today. Without him taking those first steps (which I was initially against), we would not be debt free, we would not have realized the freedom that comes with living on a budget, and we would not have started this business trying to help others get financially organized.

1 Timothy 5:8 reads, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Luke was providing for me, he knew what I needed was to feel secure with our financial situation, and he took the necessary steps to make me feel secure. He helped strengthen our marriage… he helped me realize that I married a man that I knew would take care of me. And, as I’m writing this, I realize that he also brought the respect that I had for him to a whole new level.

Money is one of the number one causes of divorce. It shouldn’t be… Luke took action to turn our dreadful financial situation into something that brought us closer together. I cannot thank God enough for that, and I cannot thank Luke enough for being man enough to seek help.

Why are we Doing this Business?

Years ago Luke and I were sitting in church. The pastor was talking about different nonprofit organizations, volunteering, etc. I remember he said, to find what your calling is, you have to find something that brings you to tears. There’s something inside of you that yearns to help. I was a bit disappointed. While there were a lot of things that pulled at my heartstrings, there was nothing that really seemed to grab me. I wanted to help people, but I wasn’t being drawn to anything specific. However… God likes to teach patience…

We have been listening to Dave Ramsey a lot lately. If you do not know who Dave Ramsey is, he is an extremely gifted financial advisor. He encourages people to live outside the norm by becoming debt free, and enjoying a life not being slave to credit card lenders, and other interest-greedy companies. On his radio show, he has people go on to do the “Debt Free Scream.” Once they have paid off all of their debt, they go on the show, tell their story, and at the end scream, “We’re debt free!!!!” Every time I hear that scream, I get a bit teary-eyed… I have found it. God has led us to what we are supposed to be doing.

When we sit with couples to try and show them how to become financially organized, we have no doubt we are doing what we are meant to do. To help people see that living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t have to be indefinite, and show them that they can become financially free… It’s exciting!

We know it’s not easy to become debt free, we understand that becoming financially stable takes time and patience, but we love it when people grasp the fact that they can do it. What eats at us the most, is when we come across those that feel like there is no way out, that they are not the ones that will ever become financially stable… It is all in the mind. The power of positive thinking, and the power of prayer can lead you to places you never dreamed of. We hope and pray every day that we can get people to realize this. Do not succumb to the negativity gnawing at you. Take control of your life, take control of your money, and know, without a doubt, that nothing is impossible.

Luke 16:11, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches.” Money problems, any of lives’ problems, are not resolved by sitting back and waiting for something to happen. They are resolved when you take action. You face the beast in front of you, and you don’t back down until he’s gone.

Our First Budget Workshop

We held our first Budget Workshop this past Saturday. We didn’t really know what to expect… and we had no idea how much fun we would have with it!

Yes, we started at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning… But don’t worry, coffee was provided! After making sure all coffee cups were filled, Luke opened up in prayer. When going over budgets and finances, it is crucial to ask God for guidance!

Following prayer, everyone was given the option of two different Family Finance Packets. We thought it would be nice for people to choose a packet that fit them the best, that way they look forward to doing their budgets! After decisions were made, we began working through the packet.

We went over what it takes to become financially independent, what all of lives’ financial necessities are, and then we dove into budgeting. After explaining how we do our budget, and how the pages are setup, each person worked through their own budget. At this point, it was crucial that everyone brought their “homework” assignment. It really aided in helping them create a budget that fit their specific needs. Luke and I were nearby during all of this to help with any questions that came up.

Once everyone completed their budgets, Luke was up! He touched upon short-term savings accounts, long-term savings accounts, the differences between life insurances, how compound interest works, etc. At first it may sound a bit overwhelming, but the way he broke it down, and the material he used made it extremely simple! Believe me when I say that I am not a numbers person, and even I understood it!

We loved being able to share this information with people, and are so thankful for those that were there eager to learn. We loved that we were able to do the workshop together, as husband and wife, and really share our passion for helping others get financially stable. And we loved the variety of people that attended! From grandmothers, to single guys, it proved that it does not matter where you are financially in life, or how old you are, it is never too early or too late to start setting and accomplishing your financial goals!

Below is one of the comments we received back regarding the workshop…

“In attending the finance Family Budget Workshop, I was able to see putting a budget together was easier than I’ve ever made it out to be. Aubrey was very thorough, and Luke showed us the importance of protecting your income, and saving for retirement. I highly recommend attending one of these if you don’t already have a budget in place, you don’t have your income protected, or you don’t have your future planned for retirement. It was amazing.”

Josh and Heidi… Back with Their Thoughts on Retirement

Thank you so much Heidi for taking the time to write about yours and Josh’s Retirement! You guys are a great example of a couple who understands the importance of being financially stable and prepared… We can all learn a lot from you! Thank you!

In Heidi’s words…

I remember when I was in college, one of my business professors asked the class, “How many of you have a retirement set up already?” Out of 40+ students only two raised their hands, and I was definitely not one of them. I was 20 years old at the time and my biggest concern in life was playing soccer for my college team and getting through school. I didn’t even have a “real” job yet, so why did I need a retirement? Retirement is for older people who have established a career, bought a house, have a bunch of kids, and maybe even grandkids!

It wasn’t until I began my career as a hair and makeup artist that I realized the importance of saving for a retirement. As a self-employed person, I was in charge of EVERYTHING regarding finances. I didn’t have taxes taken out of my “paycheck” and I sure as heck didn’t have a built-in 401k that my employer and I contributed to. Because my job requires me to stand on my feet for long periods of time, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to be a hair and makeup artist until I was 65. I mean, who would want to hire a 65-year-old wrinkly makeup artist anyways, right?

At that moment I evaluated my long-term goals, and knew I needed to do something about it. After sitting down with an expert in the financial world, I was able to calculate the amount of money I’d need to retire at a younger age. I was shocked at the number. Can you guess it?

…. If I wanted to even consider retiring at 55 years old, I needed close to 3 million dollars. MILLION! … THREE OF THEM!

In my little brain I thought that $200,000 would be a lot of money to retire with. NOT! Think about it. If I retired at 55 years old, I’d still have at LEAST 20-25 more years to live, assuming I stayed in good health and didn’t have an accident and croak. And let me tell you, when I imagine my retirement years I imagine traveling, enjoying life, blessing my kids and grandkids, etc. The time that you used to spend working will now be free time, and in your boredom you will want to spend your money on things like I mentioned. All of that takes money… And lots of it. Not to mention that in the next 30-40 years the cost of living will be vastly different than it is now. At that rate, I probably need FOUR million to retire just to be able to live comfortably. Crazy, right?!

But it doesn’t stop there. Setting a goal requires action. Initially it pained me to have to take money out of my “paycheck” every month to contribute to my Roth account. I also contribute to two separate bond funds to save for a new car in the next 5 years, as well as a down payment on a home.

Our culture nowadays wants instant gratification, and I’m guilty of that too. We want to contribute $25 and see it multiply to that 3 million tomorrow. NOT GONNA HAPPEN PEOPLE!! After doing all the calculations, though, I regret not starting sooner. Even if I could only have afforded to contribute $25 a month at 20 years old… I wish I would have. Now that I’m almost 30 I have to contribute MORE monthly just to catch up for the years I didn’t put that $25 in.

On a side note, my husband has a “normal” job and works for the government. We decided that even though he does have retirement through work, we thought it would be a good idea to open a separate retirement account with Primerica as well. We realized we didn’t want all of his eggs in one basket, so now we have three total retirement accounts between the both of us. Yes, THREE! That may sound ridiculous, but we’d rather be safe than sorry.

Hopefully we won’t even need all the money we will have by the time we retire. In that case we can leave a substantial inheritance for our future children. Regardless though, we now have the financial peace of knowing that our ducks are in a row for later in life. We are doing the work NOW so we aren’t a burden to our children. Not only are we saving for retirement, but we are also saving for a retirement home when that time comes too.

Being financially independent at all ages is a big goal of ours, and we are taking the steps now to get there. Don’t be that 55 year old wishing you could retire in 5-10 years and feel helpless because you didn’t plan for it. Be proactive and responsible. If you’re retirement plan involves winning the lottery, good luck to you! I’d rather invest those few dollars it cost to play the Powerball in an account that is guaranteed to give me a huge return later. Stop waiting and stop “thinking” about it. GO SET UP YOUR RETIREMENT ACCOUNT. Although it’s never too late to start, you will ALWAYS wish you had started sooner.

Our 2017 Pay Cut

This week I received a call from my editor. I have been getting paid a part time salary for the company that I work for. However, due to some cutbacks there, starting next month I am going to be getting paid per assignment. In other words, I will not be making nearly what I have been making, and the amount will fluctuate per month depending on the number of assignments given.

We have been extremely blessed with how the company has handled my payment and hours, especially after our two little ones were born, so I definitely cannot complain. I understand the need for the cutback, and I appreciate them wanting me to continue working for them. I am not writing this to put them down in any way, I am writing this in hopes of reminding people that you never know what tomorrow holds. And it is crucial to be prepared for anything.

We do have money in our emergency fund, and also have been setting money aside in mutual funds, and there is no doubt in my mind that God will help us through. He has always guided us, and as long as we continue to look towards Him and seek Him, I know He will continue to guide us. But I have to admit… putting the amount of time and effort into creating our budget a certain way over these past few months, and really starting to see the positive impact a consistent budget can have, it was a bit disheartening getting the call that my pay was changing. But that’s life… You never know what tomorrow holds.

Now, after wallowing for a bit, I know I need to figure out how to adjust to these changes, and move on, stay consistent. It has also given us the motivation to continue to share what we have learned in our financial experiences, and hopefully try and help others as much as possible.

If you have experienced a similar situation in your marriage, you probably know that something like this could create a rough spot in your marriage, or it could bring you and your husband closer together. When I called Luke to tell him what happened, he didn’t get upset, he didn’t sound worried, he just said, “Ok, we’ll figure it out.” He has continued to remind me that God will take care of us, and we will make it work. Not a day passes that I do not thank God for blessing me with him as my husband. These past nine years of marriage, he has taken care of our family, and I have no doubt he will continue to do so.

We will keep doing what we have been doing, make the necessary adjustments, and move forward!