Posts Tagged ‘pursuing happiness’

Financial Goals for the Real World

October 26, 2010


It’s in all the advertisements for financial service providers: “Let us help you achieve your goals!” “Your life. Anything is possible.” “Take charge of your financial future.” “What’s your dream?” “Together we’ll go far.” And the commercials with attractive silver-haired Baby Boomers sailing the ocean blue or chuckling over the Wall Street Journal while sipping coffee… does anyone really aspire to that?



But the point is, without a bit of a dream behind them, financial goals can be as wishy-washy as a weight loss goal without a fitness and nutrition plan. You need motivation and some guidelines to stick with it or like a diet, the first chocolate cake you encounter will have you off the wagon and giving up.

But what does it really mean to set financial goals? What are your goals? Wait, you haven’t really thought about it? Many people don’t because they don’t think they are in a place to do so. They say things like, “I don’t have time or money for any new goals in my life.” Or, “Just getting the kids to and from school and putting food on the table while growing my career is enough of a goal for me!” Sound familiar?

So let me re-frame the question: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do differently? Move to a different neighborhood? Go back to school? Go on a safari? Pay off your credit cards? Or even just hire a housekeeper? These are financial goals.

So go ahead, list them out. Then try to put a price on each goal. For example, a move to a different neighborhood could be as simple as the cost of moving: $2,000 for movers, $1,500 for a security deposit, $500 for those miscellaneous things that you always seem to need when you move like new wastebaskets and perhaps a small furniture piece.

For others it might require accumulating a down payment and getting your current home ready for sale. That’s going to require a bigger budget.

Not sure how much your goal will cost? Start doing some research. Call your community college to inquire about the average cost of a Master’s degree. Google “house cleaning” to find out what cleaning services in your area charge. Just doing the research and finding out a bit more about your “someday” dream will make it a touch more real and set you up to being closer to making it “today.”

And just like that, you’ve set some financial goals! With that out of the way, it makes it much easier to figure out how to achieve them. And trust me, it’s really not that difficult. I’ll be covering those steps in a future post, so stay tuned!


How’s Your Attitude?

September 9, 2010

Do you ever have one of those days when everything just seems to click? Like the stars have aligned perfectly and everything you touch is golden? For example, you’re on your way home from running morning errands when you notice a parking meter open right in front of the coffee shop. Perfect!

You decide to take your chances by not paying and run in to grab a quick cup. When you swipe your loyalty card you learn you’ve earned a free coffee so you don’t owe a dime, and you glimpse the meter maid approaching just as you pull away…a close call! Lucky day! Suddenly it seems you only have green lights and no traffic and you don’t forget anything at the grocery store and you wonder what else you can accomplish on this great day!

The thing is, you probably still sat at a couple red lights. And you might not have forgotten anything, but Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell frozen garlic bread or your special brand of soymilk, so you’re still going to have to go to the “normal” grocery store later. But these things don’t bother you like they might because you have the attitude that, “This is MY day.” Other days you might grump about having to shop at two stores, or notice how many pedestrians walk into traffic without looking, or become annoyed when your coffee drips on the seat of your car. But not today. Hakuna matata!

Sound familiar? Ever have those days? Did you ever examine it just a little more closely and realize that there wasn’t that much special about that day, it was really that you just happened to notice the good stuff? It turns out my mom was right. It really is all about your perspective or your ATTITUDE. It reminds me of the paragraph that hangs on the wall in her office by Charles R. Swindoll:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

So how’s your attitude today? I know I’m keeping mine on cue to notice the good stuff and try not to dwell on the bad stuff.

Reflections on Achieving Goals

May 11, 2010

These days I am constantly reflecting on the time in my life about three years ago when I began to lose 30 pounds, which put me in the best shape of my life. Not only did I look great, but I felt fabulous and it showed in all areas of my life: personal, professional and spiritual.

I was able to maintain my weight (and the resulting “glow”) for at least 2 years, so no one can blame it on stress, life changes, a fad diet, etc. In fact, I like to think that I returned to a state of equilibrium because of the things I was doing and I can’t think of a healthier time in my life.

But somewhere along the road in the last year or so, I stopped doing some of the things that got me so healthy and I find myself digging out my “fat clothes” to get through it. This reminds me of one of the best lessons I took away from my weekend at Life Success Seminars two years ago.

That lesson had to do with achieving goals in life and sustaining the results. There are specific things we do that get us to our goals; they might include journaling to get through a tough time, exercising to achieve a body-image goal or counting pennies to pay down debt.

Whatever it is that we do, we often stop doing those things once our goal is achieved. But what I learned at Life Success is that we need to keep doing the things that got us there in order to sustain the desirable result. So I am asking myself, what did I STOP doing that derailed my healthy look, outlook and lifestyle?

Too often when we find ourselves in a place we’d rather not be, we think of restrictions to get us back on track. Cutting out cookies to lose weight, trimming back on shoe-shopping to get out of debt, avoiding painful subjects that have us feeling low.

I’d like to propose the opposite: instead of thinking of what you can stop doing to get yourself back on track, think of what you can start. For me and getting back into my skinny jeans, I will start taking long walks and practicing yoga again. Journaling about whatever is floating around in my head. Taking time to check out and “just be” every once in awhile. These are all things that I was doing when I lost all that weight that have been crowded out lately by other activities.

How about you? What is it that you may have stopped doing that you could start again that would get you back to where you want to be?

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Goal: Affording Your Dream Vacation!

February 1, 2010

Too many people go to their graves having never taken that one trip they always dreamed of solely because the total cost of the trip was too daunting. Follow these steps to “find” the money and set sail within just a couple years.

Financial goals are rarely about dollars in the bank — they are about realizing a dream that requires financial backing. So rather than using the word “goal,” which can sound restrictive or negative, I like to use the word “dream” when helping clients set up a savings plan. And “dream” doesn’t mean unattainable or far-reaching. In fact, if you’ve stopped dreaming, I bet you often find yourself asking, “What’s it all for?”

Therefore the first step in setting and achieving financial goals or dreams is to re-start your dreaming. Do you have a trip, home or purchase that you’ve always passed off as pie-in-the-sky or “someday?” When you look at the total price of such a dream, do you sigh and think to yourself, “Maybe when I win the lottery?” Well, today is the day that I challenge you to turn someday into an actual date, no lottery ticket required. With a smidge of discipline and a little time, you can take that trip or have that house.

Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of taking an Alaskan cruise. With flight and cruise packages, this fantastic trip can cost upwards of $5,000 for two people. (This figure is based on a room with a balcony, departing out of Seattle for a 7-day roundtrip cruise) That amount can seem daunting and impossible if you are a typical American who struggles to keep $5,000 in the bank for emergency purposes. I’m here to tell you that it is entirely possible with a little planning. Here’s how:

Let’s say you and your beloved are preparing to celebrate your 38th wedding anniversary. (Congratulations!) Wouldn’t it be a treat to embark on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate your 40th? If you start saving today, you can get there without even breaking out a credit card. This year, rather than giving your sweetie a store-bought gift for your anniversary, head down to the bank or credit union and set up a 40th anniversary trip savings account.

Start your account with an initial deposit of $100 — remember you don’t have to buy an anniversary gift this year, so stretch a little to start saving toward your dream. You then need an additional $4,900 to realize your dream. Since you have two years, or 24 months until the big day, you’ll need to put away about $200 per month.

If you are paid every other week, that equals $100 per paycheck. When you split the amount with your beloved (after all, your gift to him is STARTING the account, but he should help you get there), it’s just $50 each per pay.

Make your savings automatic via payroll deduction or automatic transfer, and without any pain at all, you will be setting sail for glaciers, polar bears and Eskimos. Bon voyage!

A version of this post was published in the Cincy Chic column “Cents & Sensibility” on February 1, 2010.

Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

January 4, 2010

I entered the West Chester Conference Center on April 3, 2008, for the first time filled with anticipation and not having a clue what to expect. I had finally taken the plunge and signed up for Life Success Seminars’ Basic workshop after months of prodding from a friend. Everyone who had been through Basic promised me that the weekend would change my life. And considering where I was at that point in my life: bored and frustrated with my career and feeling like I needed to embrace a new start, I was ready for it!

LSS uses the tagline, “If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always got!” It is upon this idea that a weekend of self-exploration and new beginnings is built. The purpose of Basic is to have participants shift the direction of their lives just one degree. Like a ship on a course across the sea, one degree doesn’t seem too far off when the shift is first made. But as time passes and the ship continues on its new path, it eventually ends up far from its original destination, perhaps even on a different continent.

During my weekend at LSS, I had some pretty powerful realizations. One was the fact that despite a high level of achievement in my life, I was actually coasting and taking the easy road with my career. But what I didn’t know was what I should do next. I was impatient to figure it out.

Eventually I would come to realize that I had gained the skills and self-awareness at Life Success to find the answers in time. While my career at that point was one that was financially lucrative, I knew in my heart that I could be doing more to feel fulfilled, but I just didn’t know how. I did know for sure that it was not about money. I had played it safe for the first years of my career and was financially secure for someone in my situation. I knew by then that a cushy salary did not equal fulfillment. But what did?

A progression of small steps and risks eventually led to the answer and the launch of my financial coaching practice. Two years ago I would not have dreamed of doing such a thing — putting my life savings on the line and quitting the rat race to depend solely on myself for my next meal seemed scary and absurd. I certainly didn’t wake up one morning after Basic and say, “That’s what I’ll do!” What Basic did was open my mind to the possibilities within me, which allowed me to think a little bit outside the box.

Once I took one step out and survived, it gave me the courage to take the next step. Then the next step and so on. By the time I was officially announcing the launch of my business, it simply felt like the next natural thing for me to do. As Christopher Reeve is known for saying, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and … they soon become inevitable.”

What Life Success helped me discover over time is that life is not about the safety of the balance in your savings account, it is about the purpose you are saving toward. For me it turned out to be discovering and following my dream of helping everyday career-people gain a grasp on their money. If it hadn’t been for that one degree shift, I could still be coasting along on the easy road, agonizing over that deep down intuition that told me there was more to life than a salary.

A version of this post was published in the Cincy Chic column “Cents & Sensibility” on January 4, 2010.

Giving Thanks for What $$$ Can’t Buy

November 23, 2009

As I sit down to write this post, I can’t believe it is already time to embark on the annual holiday rush. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this time of year, particularly the festive atmosphere and time spent with family and friends, sharing age-old traditions. But it is easy to get swept up in the madness of parties, shopping and obligations, leaving us breathless and exhausted on New Year’s Day.

Before the chaos kicks off with Black Friday (which is the earliest I will consider putting up a sprig of mistletoe or snowflake ornament), I’d like to share a tradition that helps me enjoy this special time of year even more. It’s really quite simple, and you may already practice a variation of it yourself. I call it my “reasons for gratitude that money can’t buy.”

I propose performing this exercise close to Thanksgiving, before the holiday hubbub kicks into full gear. Give yourself an hour or so and find a place that is quiet and comfortable. Grab a pen and journal, perhaps a mug of hot cider and play relaxing music.

Now you’re ready.

Make a list of everything in your life for which you are grateful. Don’t filter, and make sure to cover all aspects of your life: people, career, travel, pets, possessions, activities, health, etc. My list includes such things as my parents, a beautiful home, dependable transportation, darling cats and nearby places to enjoy a refreshing hike.

Next, review the past year of your life. Make note of what may have changed and what is still the same. Revisit significant events and contemplate whether they enhanced your life. Perhaps you traveled somewhere exotic, met that special someone or earned a promotion at work. Or maybe you gained a couple pounds, lost a loved one or lost your job. Write these things down too.

Now go back over the list.This time, mark which aspects of each you might change. Again, don’t filter. For example, I would change the fact that my parents live eight hours away or the rate of rent I pay. And despite having driven it for more than six years now, I am not a big fan of my car, so I would modify that. Other alterations: Less cat hair and more hikes. My cats have this annoying habit of shedding on every surface of my home, and there never seems to be enough time to hike.

Finally, start a new list from the work you’ve done so far. Think about each blessing you listed and what you would change about it, then see how none of it really has to do with money. My parents may be a day’s drive away, but they know I am happy living in Cincinnati. Also, phone calls and e-mails keep us close. I’m simply grateful for the loving relationships in my life that sustain me even through the rough patches.

And sure it’s cool to live in the heart of a city undergoing a renaissance despite the high rent, but I’m just grateful to have the means to earn money to maintain the roof over my head.

Of course I wish my jeans fit as well as they did last November, but at least I have the physical ability to work out and eventually fit back into them. Or if my car broke down, I could walk many places or at least to the bus stop. Ultimately, I’m grateful for my health.

One of the most influential people in my life often says, “The stuff you own ends up owning you,” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s not about the stuff, it’s about relationships, experiences and living in the moment. Keep that in mind this holiday season. I hope you’ll find this year that you derive even more meaning from the things that money can’t buy.

A version of this post was published in the Cincy Chic column “Cents & Sensibility” on November 23, 2009.

Welcome to Financial Coaching

June 13, 2009

I believe money is just one tool in our life toolbox, and that our ultimate purpose in life is to find our passion, pursue it doggedly and enjoy each second on this Earth. As far as I know, we only get one ride! Money helps, but it is not the end-all, be-all route to happiness and fulfillment.

Like Dave Matthews so eloquently put it, “Is it not enough, this blessed sip of life? Is it not enough?” Yes, we all have a tendency to let day-to-day life get us “all assed up,” but I make my best effort to keep it all in perspective and live in the moment. And I think the ultimate purpose of my little life is to help others learn this attitude as well. Using the knowledge and experience I’ve collected through my years in public accounting, tax preparation, trust officership and financial advising, I am pairing the two together as a Financial Coach, seeking to remove the confusion surrounding financial planning while empowering others to live their best life.

Stay tuned to this blog for information relevant to budgeting, saving, financial planning, estate planning and other topics affecting your financial health. Please let me know any specific topics you’d like to have covered – I’m here to serve the people!