August 4, 2009

Financial Planning

Today, Knute and I have our yearly meeting with our financial planner. It's always an appointment I both look forward to on the one hand and get frustrated by on the other. While it's good to hear that we're doing the right things to stay prepared for our financial future (investing for retirement and college; owning enough life insurance for everyone), it's frustrating to not be where I want us to be financially...not yet, that is.

But that's the status quo for us; we've moved and faced so many changes during the years of our marriage that it's taking us a bit longer to get to that consumer debt-free place. We've been there before, holding no debt but our mortgage (which is, if you're lucky enough to have a home that's holding it's value, an investment not a loss), so I know we'll get there again.

I'm the money manager for our family; I pay the bills and keep the budget in check for us. It was a system that worked for us back in our Navy days when Knute was deployed for long stretches of time (months, really). Since I do everything electronically online, Knute has instant access to our accout status as well; we also talk quite frequently about finances and our short-term and long-term goals. It helps that we are both frugal and non-splurgers by nature, too. We're financially compatible.

As I look at this past year and beat myself up for not making more headway on our debts, I'm trying to remind myself of all the successes we have had, like:

-->Saving roughly 40% average each week on groceries, effectively lowering our grocery bill by about $200/month (and that's a rough/low average)

-->Paying off our 2004 Sienna early by about five months; we now own both cars free and clear and both are in great condition.

-->Paying down part of our other debt on schedule.

-->Saving for and paying our (2) oldest's Catholic school tuition in full once again this year (making it our second year in a row of putting that money aside from our montly budget)

-->Continuing to invest in our retirement and our kiddos college funds as well as continuing to maintain our life insurance policies for all of us (we have a combination of whole/term for ourselves as well as whole life insurance policies we purchased for our children when they were babies).

-->Investing in home improvements that help to maintain our home's value.

But there are some areas I still want to seek improvement as we go forward, such as:

-->Increasing our cash reserves for emergencies. Ideally, I'd like cash to cover three months worth of basic living expenses should we need it. Our emergency fund isn't there yet.

-->Starting a car replacement/repair fund. Knute's car is a 1999 Taurus, one we bought new and have always maintained well. But we had a huge repair on it last fall (4 digit -- ouch) and it would be wise to dedicate some funds to vehicle repair/eventual replacement.

-->Increasing my earnings. Shockingly, blogging here isn't making me rich! ;-) I keep this blog going more to keep me accountable to myself for our finances and my day-to-day spending. Blogging is a great tool for this purpose and there are so many fine blogs out there that can offer you knowledge in the realm of personal finance. But unless you devote yourself to blogging as a nearly full-time endeavor (and not just blogging, but social media at large), you won't make oodles of money doing it. With my youngest now 3.5 years old, I can start looking more seriously at earning a steady paycheck again, be it working at home (my choice) or in the workforce.

Those are my thoughts today as I get ready to sit down with Knute and our financial planner and talk turkey about our money.

If you've ever wondered what a financial planner does or if it's worth your time and money to use one, I can tell you that we've benefited from using ours and our expenses in using one were minimal and limited to our first year of investing. We've been with the same financial planning company since 1998 (back in the Navy days, pre-kids) and having a financial plan that we've stuck with has given us a strong financial foundation despite all of our moves and job changes (both being spendy endeavors).

Do you use a financial planner or do you have a financial plan for your future that you've crafted on your own? Share what you know in a comment below!

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  1. Luckily my husband is a financial planner. Once married he turned me into "Frugal Jen".

  2. I try to do my own. I am awful with money. I would love to know how people stay on thier budget. Honestly. This is the hardest thing for me to do. I always over spend. Please tell me how to stay on budget?

  3. Michele: I wrote a series of posts about basic budgeting right here.

    The best advice I have on budgeting is to be completely honest with yourself about where the money is going. You can do this by tracking every.single.dime you spend for a month and then looking back and seeing where you spent more than you had originally thought/planned.

    Best of luck! You can read more at my Back to Basics: Budgeting series right here


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