BeforeYourNext Birthday-DeniseFisher’s Blog

Get fit, get organized, & get your financial affairs in order

Posts Tagged ‘financial management’

Top 10 Financial Urgencies – Getting Your Financial Affairs in Order

Posted by denisefisher on November 21, 2010

All money matters are not of equal value, and while it would be nice to go through an orderly plan of reorganization in a standardized step-by-step plan, there are issues in your finances that need your urgent attention and can’t wait until they come up in the rotation. I have tried to speculate on the categories of imminent financial matters that should be at the top of the list for handling, and added specific issues that may apply to you. There may also be other issues that need your urgent action that are not listed below, but this listing should help prompt you and identify the financial matters that are screaming for your attention.

Print out this list, put stars next to any issues that apply to you, write your specific circumstances in the margins, or recreate your own personalized list to identify the financial tasks that need your immediate attention. I have arranged the categories below in what could be the general order of importance, but you know your circumstances best and can identify what issues bother you most. In any case, having that list is the start of creating an action plan, feeling a sense of accomplishment as you achieve your critical tasks, and experiencing peace of mind in knowing that your critical issues have been identified and being able to see what remains to be done.

Take care of these critical issues before getting back to your other financial planning matters.

 

1. Collect money that is due to you

  • Tax returns
  • Child support
  • Reimbursement by employer for expenses, tuition, travel, purchases, etc.
  • Returning recent unwanted purchases or damaged goods
  • Filing rebates
  • Filing insurance claims, warranty or service claims due to you
  • Collecting on personal loans to friends/family members
  • Claiming or cashing in on gift cards, uncashed checks, store credits (or giving them away)
  • Getting credits for billing errors, unfulfilled or unacceptable goods or services
  • Billing for services performed but not invoiced/charged/requested

 

2. Make sure you have cash flow coming in

  • Get a job (if you don’t have one)
  • Find additional work if needed
  • Sell things that you don’t need to bring in cash
  • Start any processes that are needed for getting financial support

 

3. Keep debt issues from causing further damage

  • Stop spending on any non-essential purchases or services (you know this already, but you may need reminding, and you definitely need a conscientious plan to address this if it’s an issue)
  • Avoid the use of credit cards, loans, and other financial fixes that only make matters worse
  • Contact those to whom you owe money and can’t pay on the original terms (whether it be a utility company, bank, credit card company, friend or family member); it’s better to address the situation and try to work out a solution than to ignore it and cause further damage to your credibility
  • Refinance mortgages, renegotiate credit card terms and loan repayments where you can and where it makes sense (consider any additional fees or other terms that may not be beneficial)
  • Do not raid your retirement funds or home’s equity without serious consideration of the penalties and financial losses, and even then, this option should only be done in a desperate situation (not to pay credit card bills) – this may require some serious research or outside consultation from a trusted source

 

4. Pay money you owe

  • Money that is past due, coming due, or needs to be addressed
  • Taxes due
  • Housing, Utilities, Auto, Insurance, Child Support
  • Medical expenses
  • Personal loans, maintenance fees, service charges, late fees, penalties, any payment issue that accrues additional fees from your inaction
  • Payment owed for goods or services delivered
  • Anything that involves a warrant, potential court case, collection agency, seizing assets, personal embarrassment
  • Traffic Tickets, licenses, registrations, other auto-related issues
  • Any other payment issues that bother you because you haven’t taken action or followed through (replacement of something you borrowed and then damaged or lost; payment of an item for which you were not charged, etc.)
  • If you are told that you owe money, but you dispute it, this may be the instance for you to put your dispute in writing and send it to where it needs to go – the idea is to resolve any debt issues that continue to hang on and cause you stress

 

5. Take care of critical repairs

  • Maintenance or repairs of plumbing, heating, cooling, doors & hardware, appliances, roofing system, electrical service, building structure, etc. that affect your security, safety, health, or prevents further damage from occurring (whether you own your home or rent)
  • Maintenance or repairs to your vehicle that can make matters worse if not attended to, especially if they can put your vehicle out of commission, affect your safety, or cause further damage
  • Maintenance or repairs that (though they may not be critical) seriously affect your quality of life, especially if it’s to the point that you are depressed or not fully functional, due to your living circumstances
  • Health maintenance, screenings, testing, prescriptions, etc., especially as they apply to your health history, preventive measures with good return (e.g., dental care), and procedures/actions that have long-range impact and affect your day-to-day living capabilities

 

6. Eliminate recurring expenses

  • Monthly, seasonal, or annual services you don’t use, don’t need, or could do without
  • Warranty/service coverage on electronics, appliances, utility services that are not beneficial
  • Low deductibles on insurance coverage
  • Features on your phone, cable that are wasteful expenses or excessive for your financial situation
  • Storage/rental costs – portable or self-storage units, garages, marinas, boat slips, and other places where you pay to keep vehicles, sports or recreational vehicles/equipment, furniture, personal items, collections, memorabilia, unfinished projects, items needing repair, and things you don’t know what to do with
  • Memberships that are not fully utilized or participated in
  • Magazines/publications that you do not read regularly
  • Expenses that you pay that should be paid by someone else (this can apply to parents who continue to pay expenses of their adult children, even when they are fully employed [or capable of financial responsibility]; or people who pay recurring expenses of other friends or relatives and find it to awkward to tell the beneficiary of their support that they want to discontinue their financial subsidies)

 

7. Eliminate bad habits that cause you to spend money

  • Gambling
  • Smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, partying
  • Recreational shopping for clothing, hobby items, sports equipment, décor, tools, etc.
  • Bargain shopping for food, household items, clearance items or purchases that are a good deal, items with perceived collectible value, items for projects you intend to take up or complete, home improvement purchases that go unused, items bought to stock up supplies (but which are eventually thrown out or not used)
  • Spontaneous purchasing (especially under pressure or in social settings)
  • Social spending on restaurants, entertainment, sports, events & activities
  • Replacement purchases made to avoid dealing with lower cost repairs
  • New trend purchases
  • Convenience purchases, resulting from lack of planning (everything from ATM charges and bottled beverages to airport neck pillows and full-price tickets)

 

8. Prepare for upcoming financial deadlines

  • Avoid fees, penalties
  • Don’t miss financial opportunities (credits, rebates, returns, incentives, reimbursements, expense reports, income from sales, job opportunities, investment or purchase opportunities, grants, scholarships, tax deductions, credits, interest income, cash-ins, sales, bundling, advance payment discounts, advantageous actions that must be taken before tax year or tax filing deadlines)
  • Maintain credibility (and your credit ratings)
  • Protect your assets
  • Reduce stress caused by not having your finances in order (owing payments, having utilities shut off, accounts closed, garnishment of wages, collection agents, IRS dealings, liens, court filings, eviction, conflicts with friends/family members between whom money is owed, general financial anxiety)

 

9. Determine which financial (or financially related) issues are not worth acting on & officially let them go

  • Non-collection of personal loans you’ve made to others or financed on their behalf
  • Unfiled expense reports, claims, lawsuits, or paperwork to get money you are entitled to
  • Unreturned items with missing receipts, past the warranty or return deadline
  • Purchased goods or services that are not being used and still taking up space or incurring expenses
  • Holding out on the sale of a house, car, or other item you own that you think should sell for more money
  • Lost opportunities of any kind

 

10. Change your mindset

  • See yourself as a person who is financially responsible
  • Become conscious of your spending, your income, your savings, and your financial decisions
  • Realize that you need support from financial experts, and see yourself as a manager of your financial team (even if some of your team members are just authors, journalists, or economists)
  • Start watching, reading, and listening to financial news, trends, and advisories as if they affect YOU

 

Next Steps

Here’s what to start thinking about for next steps:

  • Identify your personal & specific issues that fall into these urgent financial categories
  • Make a list that summarizes all your urgent issues
  • Rank the urgent issues, using a rating system or prioritize them intuitively

Posted in Finances, Financial Management, Time Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Getting Your Financial Affairs in Order – Organizing a List into Categories

Posted by denisefisher on November 7, 2010

Organizing the List

Having written a list of everything financial I could imagine wanting to organize (in my previous post), getting my financial affairs in order still seems a bit overwhelming and without an identifiable course of actions. So I grouped my financial issues into categories, and was able to pinpoint the category with the highest priority for action.

Now all this planning and writing about how to get things in order may not seem like the most effective way to get things done, but I’ve found that thinking about what I have to do is part of the process.  And separating the thinking from the doing allows for focus and keeps me from second guessing whether or not I’m working on the right task.

After some thought and some editing, and an attempt to list these categories in order of priority, I ended up with 13 categories. This is how my organized list turned out:

Imminent Issues & Recurring Events

  • Timely financial follow-ups
  • Bill paying procedure
  • Eliminate recurring costs, avoiding penalties
  • Not giving away time, services, or reimbursable expenses
  • Leaving money on the table
  • Maximizing income
  • Additional sources of income

 

Getting in the Financial Mindset

  • Read, watch, listen to sources of financial information
  • Identify books, publications, online sources, radio, TV, podcasts to follow, courses to take, discussions to have, materials to use, experts you trust
  • Establish routines, times, goals for keeping up on financial issues and news topics
  • Create a plan of what to do, where and when to do it, and an estimate of how long it will take
  • Adjust your plans and timeframes, as your financial organization progresses
  • Allow time for research, decision-making, and breaks to catch up on your plan

 

Big Picture Assessment

  • Net Worth
  • Credit reports and FICO score
  • List of all assets, debts, accounts, terms, beneficiaries

 

Back-up Plans & Getting Ahead of the Game

  • Emergency savings
  • Payback strategy
  • Maintenance/repair/remodel/replacement plan

 

First Steps of Estate Planning

  • Will
  • Revocable living trust with incapacity clause
  • Advance directive & durable power of attorney for health care
  • Updated list of beneficiaries

 

Record Keeping & Filing (including setting up a filing system)

  • Identifying all areas of finance and other important papers and things to file

 

Financial Review of Things Already in Place

  • Retirement
  • Savings
  • Spending Patterns
  • Loans & Credit
  • Investing
  • Real Estate
  • Insurance
  • Estate Planning
  • Taxes
  • Recurring auto payments and deductions

 

Identify what needs to be changed, added, and eliminated

  • Note the obvious and the things you don’t know
  • Research or consult to help make your decisions
  • Define how to make these changes and what steps need to be taken

 

Goals & Policies

  • Gift Giving
  • Housing/Real Estate
  • Savings for College/Education/Training (self or others)
  • Retirement Plans
  • Travel
  • Next Career or Business Plan
  • Purchase Plans & Wish List
  • Borrowing/Debt Policy
  • Net Worth Goals
  • Integration of Other Life Goals with Financial Goals

 

Automating Finances

  • Savings
  • Payments
  • Retirement Funds
  • Tracking Expenses & Financial Status
  • Paperwork Management & Tax Records
  • Inventories of possessions
  • Financial Review Plan

 

Finding & Using Financial Professionals

  • Tax planning
  • Purchase plan
  • Inventory documenting all possessions
  • Tax planning, record keeping & filing
  • Paperwork management

 

Revisiting the Topic of Additional Sources/Streams of Income

  • Insurance assessment (including Long Term Health Care)
  • Financial goals (and integration with other life goals)
  • Electronic financial record keeping
  • Borrowing/Debt policy
  • Financial review plan

 

Integrating Other Aspects of Your Life Plans (Get Fit, Get Organized, and Get Financial Affairs in Order)

  • Purging, liquidating, consolidating, and reorganizing your stuff
  • Planning meals, food purchases, and food inventories that support your budget & health
  • Making choices about your lifestyle and activities that support your financial goals
  • Teaching your children or other family members responsible financial management

 

Next Steps – What, Where, and When

My next step will be to identify specific concerns that fall into the first category – Imminent Issues and Recurring Events. I want to rank them into a prioritized list so that I can tackle them completely, one at a time. Working “at” a task isn’t usually the difficult part – it’s FINISHING that’s the toughest. But finishing is what needs to be done to get results. The “where” and “when” of my next step will follow my previous weekly routine. Weekly progress may seem like a slow pace, but it IS progress, and it’s realistic for me. So that’s what I’m going with for now.

  • What: Identify my imminent financial issues, and recurring expenses, and put them in writing
  • When: Sunday, 11 am – 2 pm
  • Where: My designated work table (this is a clear space away from my usual desk, where I know I will get things done – you should try to find such a place for yourself, if you don’t already have one)
  • Pre-planning task: Scan through financial files and paperwork no later than Saturday evening for reminders of pressing matters, making notes as needed

Posted in Finances, Organization | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »