Budgeting tips for beginners
As those of you who follow Olderhood will know, my business partner Bill Storie is a Scottish chartered accountant and the undisputed financial whiz kid in the family.
This is good in that it alleviates me from the responsibility of offering strategic financial advice to our followers, but it also makes it tempting to imagine that I don’t really need to be skilled in this area, because I can always just tell people to “go ask Bill”.
Now that fellow Royal Gazette columnist Martha Harris Myron has joined the Olderhood family, you might think that I will never need to think about brushing up on my financial skills again, but you would be wrong.
In fact, the truth is just the opposite — I now need to work harder than ever just to keep up with the level of the conversations that we have.
In some ways being the novice in this category has its advantages. While I challenge myself to learn as much as I can about long-range budgeting and financial planning, I am not expected to have all the answers and I never need to feel awkward when I want to ask a question.
What this unexpected foray into the world of financial planning has taught me is that everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to have adequate budgeting and savings skills, an understanding of the collective state of their family finances, and an awareness of the long-term consequences of their current spending habits.
If you are married, under no circumstances is it OK to not know what your combined household income is, what the total amount owing is on all credit cards, how much you have each contributed to government and company pension plans and exactly how much your household spends in a month (and what you spent it on).
Once upon a time perhaps our ancestors did live in a world where only one person in the household worked and that person also looked after all the money matters and paid all the bills. Those days are no more.
There is no excuse for not knowing what is going on with your money at any given moment and telling yourself that it’s OK to run around town using your debit card willy-nilly because you can sort things out when you get your bank statement. That is just setting yourself up for failure.
After all, if you don’t have a predetermined spending limit for each category of your monthly budget, and you don’t keep track of how much you spend each time that you make a purchase, how in the world will you ever know whether you are over or under budget when you are standing in front of a shiny new trinket that has caught your eye?
Even worse is the habit of telling yourself that you have balanced the budget because you made it to the end of the month and still have a few dollars left in your account. This is probably the biggest budgeting mistake you can make if you have not also diverted a portion of your wages to a short-term savings account, a long-term investment account and an emergency fund.
Just remember, you can walk barefoot on the beach but you can’t eat your shoes.
Those shoes that you couldn’t resist might look great on your closet shelf but which would you really rather have when you reach retirement — a closet full of shoes or a healthy savings account?
• Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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