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How to Get Started Building a Financial Plan

If I’ve heard it once (or some version of the following), I’ve heard it 1,000 times: “I don’t like numbers, they scare me.  I can’t seem to sit down and put together a budget even though I know I really should.”

So let me get this straight – you’re scared (which means you’re not thinking as clearly as you’d like to), you think you’re “supposed to” put together a budget (which is like the universal swear word of money), and you are “shoulding” on yourself that it’s an exercise you have to go through (and be tortured it sounds like to me).

C’mon….how about a little compassion for yourself please?  Is it possible for you to see that maybe it doesn’t have to be torturous and if you just had the right tools and information it would be easier?  I’d like to help you shift your perspective to have building a financial plan be a more joyful experience so that you can have the financial freedom, independence and choice that you’re seeking.

The way I see it, there are 3 steps that are required “pre-work” before you ever start looking at numbers to develop your financial plan.

1)      Retire the word budget from your vocabulary – I would say eliminate it, but since other people still use it frequently and we need to be able to recognize the word (I can only educate so many people at a time!), we’ll “retire” it for now.  Why retire the word budget?  Energetically speaking, budget just feels awful. It feels like you’re choking and like if you have a budget you’ll never be able to buy a cute pair of shoes or the newest technological gadget ever again.  Sounds pretty miserable and life-sucking if you ask me, no wonder no one wants to put together a budget! 

Instead of the word budget, I suggest using the phrase “savings and spending plan.”  As one husband reminded me across the kitchen table during a session with his wife one day, “Beth, it’s the same thing, why get caught up in semantics?”  My response? “Well your wife seems to be much more willing to participate in the conversation when we call it a “savings and spending plan” than when we call it a budget, right?”  The husband smiled and said “excellent point.” Sometimes it really is the small tweaks in life that make the difference!

So stop thinking about budgeting as something that weighs you down, and instead start thinking about a “savings and spending plan” as something that is just a financial illustration of how you want your money to move in the world that will help you get from “here” to “there.”

2)      Get really clear on what you want for your life – Before you plan your money, you need to spend a considerable amount of time thinking about what you want for your life.  Money is nothing but a tool to help you move from your present to your future (from “here” to “there” remember?), and without some sort of path to follow money will just exist without purpose.   Unless you tell money where to go it will go just about anywhere it wants to!

Being financially authentic means that you use your money in a way that aligns with what matters to you in your life.  When you’re financially authentic, a financial plan is nothing more than the full expression of what is important to you and all of a sudden the energy around money becomes much less chaotic, and financial decisions are simplified.  You have a road map for your life and your money and it provides you with clear guidance and direction.

In the end, a solid financial foundation and a good financial plan simply requires that you’re intentional, authentic, and proactive with managing your money.  Get clear and get real about your life, and using your money efficiently and effectively will become much easier, I promise.

3)      Set some specific goals with timelines – Now that you’ve gotten some clarity around what you want for your life, it’s time to set some specific goals so that you can then determine whether those goals will require money to support them.  Not all goals need money, although many goals do need some level of financial support at some point in time.  

When setting goals, I encourage people to think about them in 3 different time-based groups – short-term (1 to 3 years); medium-term (3 to 10 years); and long-term (10+ years).  This is important because depending on the goal, it can impact whether or not it’s a goal that needs to be reflected in the current financial plan or whether it can wait to be included in a few years.  Remind yourself when you’re setting your goals to be realistic – saying that you want a Ferrari in a year isn’t likely to be something that you can achieve (unless you randomly hit the lottery, and the lottery isn’t a financial plan it’s a fluke!).

Once you’ve determined which of the goals need money to support them, consider the short-term goals first and state the goals in a very specific and measurable way.  For example, saying “I want to save more money” isn’t very specific, whereas “I want to save $1,200 in the next year to take a vacation in spring 2014” is very specific.  The more specific goal allows you to measure out that you’d like to save $100/month toward that goal ($1,200 total / 12 months), whereas the more general goal doesn’t give you a solid target.

So before you even start to concern yourself with looking at the numbers, take some time to sink deep into your head and your heart to think about what you really want for your life.  Are you happy as you are?  Do you want to set a really big goal that needs financial support (i.e. like starting your own business)?  Do you want to simplify things and live more peacefully and calmly without as much “stuff” cluttering up your life?

The options are endless, it’s simply up to you to choose and design a financial plan to match your life!

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Why it Matters: Living a Financially Authentic Life

Why it Matters: Living a Financially Authentic Life

One thing that intrigues many people that I meet is how I came up with the name of my company, Financially Authentic.  It’s not exactly a common term, so I find myself having to explain it often.  It’s an interesting story on how it came to me, and in a way it was divinely given to me in a “thought flash” early one morning (and the website domain just happened to be available too…how convenient!).  As background, one of my lessons in life has been to find my way back to a place where I can be all of who I am meant to be, and I call this my journey to authenticity.  It’s been a long journey (and it’s still ongoing) and it hasn’t always been easy, however it has always been worth it in the end.  So my company name is a blend of my love for finances and my own personal journey of becoming more authentic.

Now that you know the personal story behind how I came up with my company name, would you like to know how I define it in the context of my work with others?  As I started on this journey and before I started my own business, I found that when I used my money in a way that mattered to me (i.e. experiences, things, etc.) that the energy money had in my life decreased significantly – things felt lighter and more simplified.  When I share what it means to be financially authentic, I explain that when you use your money in a way that is aligned with what is really important to you in your life that you can then use money as a tool to live your life with more confidence, ease, and grace.  Essentially, building a stable financial foundation filled with clarity on what you want in your life is the beginning to bigger things.

So why does being financially authentic even matter, you might ask?

Well, it has to do with those “bigger things” I just mentioned.  When you are financially authentic in your life and have gained financial clarity and stability, this then leads to space to be able to think, breathe and reflect because you’re not stressed about money.  As you have time to think, you can consciously decide who you want to be and what you want to do…you get to have choice.   With choice comes the ability to live in a more conscious way which usually leads to the question of “what am I here to really contribute?”  And when everyone in this world is really making a powerful contribution, then this world will become a much more connected place.  Because if you haven’t noticed lately, we’re in a bit of a dark place with a lot of negativity surrounding us and it doesn’t have to be this way.  You can have clarity, choice, contribution, and connectedness….if you’re willing to be brave.

Ok, wow – that felt like a lot to get out all at once.  It’s all part of my bigger mission beyond spreadsheets for cash flow and net worth – to help people make a bigger impact with their lives and contribute and connect.  I’m not 100% sure how it’s all going to work, but it feels right…so I’m moving ahead and have faith that it will all work out!

Beth, this is all great, but how do I get started with being financially authentic – HELP?!?

This is a great question and don’t you worry…I wouldn’t leave you hanging without some practical tips to get started!  Here are 3 key ways you can get started on your own journey to financial authenticity so that YOU can have more clarity, choice, contribution and connectedness:

Step #1: Know Your Numbers  – It’s very difficult to be financially authentic if you have your head lodged firmly in the sand about your financial situation.  It can be very painful and stressful to feel like you’re not in control of your money.  There’s blame, shame, guilt and embarrassment that you don’t know how to handle your money as well as you would like to.  STOP IT.  Stop the blame, shame and guilt, and instead know that you’re not alone – almost 70% of people live paycheck to paycheck these days, and that includes really successful people too.  Personal finance simply isn’t taught in our society, and it needs to be as a critical life skill.  Be kind to yourself, be willing to look your financial situation in the eye, and ask for help.  There are many compassionate and non-judgmental professionals out there willing to help.

Step #2: Consciously Decide How to Spend Your Money – In our fast-paced world where we’re always on the go, and we’re constantly bombarded by online advertising and social media, it’s hard to control the urge to buy and satisfy the desire to immediately reward ourselves with something for working hard.  In my experience, it’s only when you consciously decide in advance how to use your money that the unconscious spending stops.  I’m convinced from what I’ve seen in my own life and with my clients that when you take responsibility for how you use your money that you’ll be happier and that you’ll actually attract more money into your life as a result.  (PS – this is that “financial alignment” I referred to earlier…decide to use money in ways that matter to you!)

Step #3: Always Be in the Financial Flow – Always being aware of your financial situation takes some routine and discipline, so I recommend to everyone to just start with a weekly money date.  A weekly money date is like going to the financial gym, if you will. Once a week, sit down to pay your bills and handle any other financial matters that need to be addressed (i.e. follow-up phone calls, etc.).  Having a plan to use your money intentionally and purposefully is important, however life is always changing and so our financial plans have to adapt with those changes as well.

In the end, be sure to remind yourself of this often (I know I need to)…financial authenticity is a journey, not necessarily a destination.  So hop on the train wherever you’re at, and enjoy the ride to a more meaningful and impactful life, ok?

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