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When I graduated from high school, I knew I was going to college, but I had no idea what I wanted to study. My teachers told me to find a career that fit my passions and my goals, but I couldn’t find one.

I loved music so I followed a path to graduate with a music education degree, but the whole time it didn’t feel like it fit me.

After too many coincidences I found PFP or Personal Financial Planning. I didn’t even know it existed. I was really intimidated at first; I felt like I was not smart enough to be in this career, and I had no background in business.

My professors continued to reassure me that as long as I have the people skills they could teach me the math. I’m so glad I have stuck it out because I have loved all of my finance classes. I’ve had amazing opportunities to work with real clients and learn the beauty of helping people find peace with their finances.

I want to help people find peace with their finances.

What is PFP or Personal Financial Planning?

By definition, Personal Financial Planning is simply making a plan to help individuals and families reach their goals. You can do this yourself, but money can be complex and difficult. That is why people hire financial planners–to help them navigate through the mud.

The key to personal financial planning is in the last word: PLAN! Imagine a lawyer walking into a courtroom with nothing prepared. It doesn’t work. My job (and your job!) is to prepare not fix. Your financial situation can only improve if you take the right steps towards stability.

Why is money so hard to deal with?

We are taught to not talk about money. It makes people uncomfortable. Families can be torn apart, marriages end, people go to jail, people get desperate.

Some people have this really old fashioned view of money that if you just work hard and budget that you will be OK. And that is true to an extent but living in a predatory economy means if you want to be well-off you have to work smarter, not just harder. Investing young can be a key factor in how your finances turn out in the long run.

Finances can be a scary thing. Never feel alone when you are struggling with your budget, your debt, or any other part of your goals. Help is out there!

Make a solid plan before going into any financial debt

How do you feel about debt?

I would like to first speak to the people who are afraid of debt because you are the minority. I have met people who will never take a loan out or pay for something with a credit card. Your fear is logical and debt is scary, but if you understand debt, it can sometimes be a tool to MAKE money, not just lose it.

Taking out the minimum in student loans will allow you to afford basic necessities while you are in school and not working full-time. Basic necessities include rent, food, and other needs (your spring break vacation is not included in this list). While student loans are paying for your needs, you can take more classes and graduate faster.

If you graduate sooner, you’ll be making your “real job” income sooner in your life and everything is better off! You’ll be investing more in your retirement, your student loans can be paid off sooner (therefore accumulating less interest), and you’ll have money to invest in your younger years. Long story short: student loans can be good. Now on to “bad” debt.

The US has a combined 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt. Let that sink in for a moment. I myself have student loan debt. What I do NOT have is thousands of dollars that I will never be able to pay back.

It is estimated that in my field, I will make $60,000-$100,000 in one year. This means I will be able to afford to pay back $5,000 dollars in student loan debt (plus interest).

The amount of your student loan debt should be directly correlated with your future job. You have to have a plan, yet people are swimming in debt with no plan except for bankruptcy.

Debt is borrowing from your future self. It is an investment in your future, which is why I believe in modest debt. Modest student loans, a modest car loan, and other modest debt (did I say modest enough?) is perfectly ok! You’ll be able to pay off that car loan because that car got you to work every day. You’ll pay back those loans when you become a doctor.

The mantra you should live your life by is “live within your means”. Debt is no joke and so do not get into it if you do not have a plan.

A basic plan to help avoid debt and establish security is to create an emergency fund.

An emergency fund is an essential part of a sound financial plan

Why should I have an emergency fund?

I grew up watching Dave Ramsey with my parents and then in high school during finance classes. I disagree with some of his ideas but one that I absolutely love is the emergency fund.

Life happens. Saving money for a “rainy day” can save you a lot of stress when your tire blows, or when the main income earner loses their job. We need to save when we are doing well so that we have enough when we are hurting.

Dave Ramsey suggests saving 3 to 6 months, but I would suggest saving even more. The decision of how much is completely up to you and your family. Every circumstance is different but contributing a little of your monthly income into this fund will pay off later. Guaranteed.

What tips do you have for budgeting?

The first step to financial health is having a budget. If you don’t have a budget then you don’t understand where your money is going. We are creatures of habit. Come face-to-face with your spending habits.

Ignoring the fact that you’re spending too much money on Starbucks is so bad for your financial health. Make yourself an expense report and compare it to your budget. Do not get frustrated with yourself if it is not correct in the first few months; it takes time to make a good budget.

Be realistic! Do not leave $40 dollars for your eating out budget if you eat out every day. Zero your budget! This means have a plan for every single dollar you make. Divide each dollar into categories so you know where it is going. If you only spent $30 instead of $50, stick that $20 into savings! There are too many tips and tricks to share in this post, so look for my “How to Create a Budget” post coming this month!

Teaching your children through your habits

Your children are watching you. They are listening to you. My mother only let us leave the sales rack on special occasions. The result? I’m an excellent sales shopper, and I have more money. If they hear you complain you do not have enough, they will always want for more.

Teach your children how to give. Giving makes everyone feel better! It is the medicine to self-pity. Express gratitude for EVERYTHING you have because you’d miss it if you lost it.

Generous giving is a blessing from financial planning

Bad mentalities about money

“I deserve this”, “YOLO”, “But It’s my money”. If I had a dollar for every time someone said one of these phrases, I’d be stinking rich.

First off, you “deserve” basic human rights, not a mani-pedi for finishing your test. The “treat yo self” mentality is not one you want to have when it comes to money. Budget your money to make room for things you enjoy, but never excuse your impulse shopping with “I deserve this”.

“YOLO” is a bad tunnel-vision motto that means you do not care about your future. Almost all of my clients have been older people who are in bad financial situations due to poor choices in previous years.

Think about your future! If your choices are not reflecting that future, then make changes quickly.

“But it is my money” is a selfish phrase that I have caught myself saying too often. Usually, this is said in families when multiple people are working and they see their incomes as individual incomes. That is not how a family works, and it is not how income works.

Try to cut this saying from your mind completely. Unless you are completely alone in achieving your goals (which you never are), then it is not your money, it is OUR money (you and your spouse, you and your parents, you and your friends, etc).

“Money can’t buy happiness”

Everyone’s favorite mantra about money is “money can’t buy you happiness.” It’s true. The things that make me most happy in this life are my nieces and nephews, my husband, my siblings, my parents; my family. No amount of money will keep them here but there is more to happiness than just “happy.”

Your spouse can bring you happiness, but if you are feeling stressed about money you won’t have true peace together. Peace can be happiness. Peace comes from financial stability. People sometimes use this mantra to say that they don’t need to save or that being poor is OK, and it’s not. Taking care of your needs and your family’s needs IS happiness.

Meeting your family's needs will provide great financial peace

How do I choose a financial planner?

There is a huge world of financial planners. Sadly due to a lack of national laws and regulations, there are some scrubs out there. People who are faking it to take your money. Your financial advisor is only there to help you achieve the goals you have set. They are not there to invest your money for you (that’s another career path!); they are not there to tell you to do anything.

Your financial advisor should feel like a friend. There are thousands of different personalities in the world so shop around until you find one that fits you. Do not fall for their marketing tactics to keep your business or to buy their products. A good financial planner would sell you the best product for you, not just one their company has made.

Look for a CFP certified financial planner. These financial planners are required to be fiduciaries: people who are looking out for your best interest over their own.

Talk about money

We are told not to talk about sex, politics, religion, and money. I do not care what you do about the first three, but please talk about the fourth!

Talk about it! Make sure your goals are in line with your spouse’s goals. If one spouse wants to buy a boat and another is saving for a house you will be highly disappointed.

Set specific goals not just “I want my kids to be comfortable.” It will be easier to take the small spending steps when you are aligned with your future goals.

Last bit of financial wisdom

Please please please remember that money cannot go with you when you leave this life. I have already worked on cases where families are torn apart because a rich relative left thousands of dollars to be split among the members of the family and instead it split the family.

I am not saying you can’t leave a trust fund for your future generations but really think about what money can do for you now. It’s a balance.

Live an enjoyable life and plan for a comfortable retirement and future. Don’t miss opportunities to enjoy fun experiences with loved ones, but don’t forget that money doesn’t grow on trees. Be grateful for everything you have and continue to be the hard-working person you are!

-Madison

What questions do you have about budgeting or finances? We’d love to help!

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