Develop Your Own Financial Game Plan – The Beginning, Part 2

Wad of moneyWhen we last visited I outlined some of the basic principles that need attention to more effectively chart our financial course in life. The start of any journey requires proper preparation, and that’s what ‘the beginning’ is all about. Today we’ll revisit briefly those concepts, put the pieces together and look at another exercise for the parents among us.

The four elements of financial living we’ve looked at are:

  • What we have already
  • What we owe
  • What we earn
  • What we spend

Knowing what we have and what we owe allows us to create a Balance Sheet. Our assets (what we have already) minus our liabilities (what we owe) show us our Net Worth. Understanding what we earn and what we spend allows us to create an Income Statement. Our income (what we earn) minus our expenses and other debt payments (what we spend) show us our Net Income. Each is a point in time snapshot of the key elements of our financial health. Ideally, over time our Net Worth grows and our Income Statement never goes negative, or ‘into the red’.

While both an accurate Balance Sheet and Income Statement are elementary tools, it’s surprising how few can produce either when asked. For those who handle their finances manually, the task of creating an Income Statement should be undertaken once a month. A Balance Sheet should be updated at least quarterly. Both should be maintained with your other financial records. Since family finances are a ‘team sport’ it is important for both spouses to review these documents, and it’s even better if both participate in creating them. Also, if there are children, these are worth sharing in an age appropriate way. Our children need to understand how money works. It’s vital to their better future.

Quicken for MacAs an alternative for doing this work manually, I’m a big believer in Quicken or other similar software programs that are available at a nominal cost. My family tracks EVERYTHING in Quicken, even logging cash expenditures and others at a very detailed level. At first, it was tedious and seemed overly time consuming, but today it’s become something we look forward to doing as we chart our progress forward. And it’s even paid us back, by allowing us to fully maximize our deductions at tax time and in a host of other ways.

Next, let’s look at the concept of budgeting.

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Develop Your Own Financial Game Plan – The Beginning

Financial Game Plan - 1For many, the area of personal finance remains a mystery. Financial success seems elusive and nearly unattainable. Others think that things are fine in their world, that they’ll be one of the winners, beating the system. Yet the numbers that were true more than thirty five years ago when I secured my first licenses in the financial services world remain unchanged.

Out of every 100 people alive today in the United States, only one or two will become financially independent. Five or six more, with modest adjustments to their lifestyles, will be able to meet their needs for their allotted time, assuming no major economic upheavals. For the rest, their golden years are altogether different than what they had hoped for and dreamed about when they were young. Unfortunately these numbers, which have their root in reports generated by the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, apply equally to both Christians and non-Christians.

Financial Game Plan - 2So, what are we to do? How can we gain the understandings and insights needed and apply them effectively so that we can be assured not to be among the 92 to 94 percent? How can we lead ourselves and our families to different, better outcomes?

In the coming months, we will look at many of the tools, tactics and strategies that I have utilized over the years to help make a difference, one life and one family at a time. Occasionally you will find yourself nodding in agreement with me. But often you will find the thoughts and ideas shared to be contrary to “common wisdom” and the teachings of those who many view as the “Gurus of all things financial”. All I ask is that you keep an open mind.

So now, on to the beginning . . .

Please allow me to preface the core message in this posting with this observation:

Personal finance is a team sport!

What I mean is, if you have a spouse and/or children they should be part of the process. All too often, I meet with families where only one spouse handles the family finances. This can potentially be very damaging to the relationship between a husband and a wife and it eliminates the opportunity to parent and teach our children many critical skills they’ll need later in their lives, none of which will cross their paths at school.

Financial Game Plan - 3Before any substantive move in a more positive direction can begin, we must first understand exactly where we are now.

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