Life lately has been very much a series of good things followed by something bad. Luckily nothing so far has been too terrible, but it can still make for a rough week.
Andrew officially graduated with his MBA with NYU commencement at Yankee Stadium and then the Stern School ceremony at MSG. That was the good. The bad was that we got rear-ended while driving home from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Luckily traffic was moving slow enough that no one got hurt. I may have freaked out a little, but I’m 8 months pregnant, what do you expect?
So, that has left us dealing with our car insurance company to negotiate repair costs and figure out how to get it fixed. The saga is still ongoing but we will get it done eventually.
We also headed down to Virginia to see my family for a baby shower over Memorial Day weekend. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate with family and friends. We are heading into the home stretch with baby now!
How We Manage Our Personal Finances
In preparation for the budget review we are about to do in June, we have been talking more about how we manage our finances jointly and how we view personal finance in general. Andrew and I are very much on the same page when it comes to money. We are both financially conservative and don’t make big purchases without lots of thought and research. The impulse purchases usually happen at Target in the home section for me or on the candy aisle for him (he has a major sweet tooth).
Since the beginning of our relationship, we have both been very open about our finances. While we were dating, we tried to split things. For example, on one of our early dates, he bought the movie tickets and I bought the snacks. We were both college students at the time so it wasn’t like one of us had a ton of play money to do things with.
We have always wanted to be on the same page because money can be a huge stress point in a relationship. And as our relationship got more serious, we started talking about bigger picture things like goals for a family and a house. I think it was good for us to start talking about it early. And, I think working in the industry helped me understand how important it is.
Transition to Joint Finances
Once we moved in together, we really tried to divide as equally as we could but knowing that he was making more than I was. So, if he wrote the rent check one month, I would cover groceries, laundry, and other bills as they came up.
After we got married, we moved our money into joint checking and savings accounts. For us, that worked best because it made things easier to keep track of and all the bills could come from one place. We would also get a little more money in interest on the savings account that way. It’s not much but it’s something.
We know that having bank accounts completely combined is not for everyone. We have some credit cards that are under both our names and then we each have one that is separate. It’s not intentional, but it makes sense if we need to buy a gift for the other person and don’t want them to see the transaction on the statement. Otherwise we pretty much know what each other spends on a regular basis.
Our Married Money Philosophy
Since we got married, I’ve found it interesting to see how other couples manage their finances. Some consolidate completely, others not at all. For some couples doing it separately but with good communication around it can work well.
But, where doing things separately can cause issues is goal planning if the communication good. If you and your partner aren’t on the same page with your finances, then it will be difficult to plan for your joint goals. As a couple, I think it’s important to be on the same page about what you want to accomplish and when. It’s the basics of goal setting, but so important.
Since I have been with my family recently, I thought it would be interesting to see how my sister, a fellow Millennial, feels about money but at a different point in her life.
A Different Millennial View on Money
My sister Lauren is only three years younger than me, but I wanted to talk with her about her views on money since she is in a slightly different place in life than I am. A short bio: Lauren is an ER nurse who just got into Georgetown University’s Masters of Professional Studies in Disaster and Emergency Management program. Her big sister is so proud! She is single and currently living and working in Raleigh, NC.
How do you feel about money and personal finance?
I’m probably more like a typical Millennial. As long as more is coming in than going out, I feel OK. I also don’t have a budget. I don’t think I’m a great money manager, but I have managed to save $10,000 in the last year. So, something about what I’m doing is working! I’ve also always been a money hoarder even when I was a little kid. I had stashes of coins and bills from birthdays and holidays all over the place.
Are you going to make any changes to pay for grad school?
I think I need to not spend as much or go shopping whenever I want to. I plan to monitor my finances more closely with grad school. I would love to come out of grad school without debt, but I will probably have some.
Before I got into grad school, my goals were to travel and save for buying a house, but now it is paying for school. I think goals have to change as life changes. I know that my degree will pay off with the job that I can get once I’m done, which makes it easier to make life adjustments to pay for it.
What do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew more about the investing side of personal finance. I have some money from grandparents that I’m planning on using for school, but I want to make sure that selling the mutual funds to pay for school is the best way to go. There is just so much to learn in that area.
Lessons to Learn
I think my sister falls into the group with a lot of single Millennials. Goals are in transition as their lives are. Budgeting is something that no one wants to really spend the time doing unless there is a specific motivation. And like most of us, understanding how investing works is the biggest challenge. And she has read The Millennial Money Fix. But I know it is a steep learning curve to understanding how investing works given that most of us don’t learn about it until we have money to invest.
I also think that deciding to get a graduate degree is something that younger Millennials may now be giving a little more thought. They can see from their older cohorts that it may not always lead to the job they want and then they are stuck with the large bill. I hope that it does give some perspective to those still in college or considering a graduate degree.
It may be hard to make that kind of decision, but what you do in your younger years, can have a large effect on your future.
Since the weather has finally improved we have been able to do some work outside the house. In the fall we had a large evergreen tree removed from the front of our house. It was covering the whole front picture window and growing too close to the house. Since then the front flower bed has just been a big sad empty space.
The previous owners didn’t do us any favors either. The backyard was mostly overgrown, and the front was lacking any plants. But our house has a sprinkler system installed and flower beds that are nicely laid out so someone at some point put some time and money into the yard. Now it was our turn to bring it back. That included buying lots of new plants and splitting and moving some existing plants. Oh, and replacing an expensive part on the sprinkler system that was leaking (add another home expense to the budget…).
We had some help from family with planting and putting down much because being 7 months pregnant, I wasn’t going to be helpful moving heavy plants or lifting bags of much. However, I am a very good supervisor! Thank goodness for family help! I’m so glad we were able to get this done now because I anticipate lots of visitors this summer with the new baby and want the yard and house to look good.
I’m sure those of you with little kids right now are thinking, “oh, how she dreams”. I don’t anticipate being able to do a lot of upkeep on the yard or the house with a newborn, but I feel better having put in the effort now. And for the inside of the house, I’ll just keep some Clorox wipes handy to make things look like they were really scrubbed.
How We Are Preparing for Baby
This weather change and the rapidly growing baby bump has us realizing that baby will be here sooner than we think. I personally have gotten a little complacent with baby prep because it felt like it was still winter, and baby wasn’t coming until summer. But May is here, and July will creep up on us fast.
In this post, I want to share what we have been doing and would like to do to prep for baby. I’ve read all sorts of articles like this one from CNBC and this one from Dreaming of Baby and made lists because I love a good list! So here we go:
Things To Do for Our Financial Life
Top off cash reserve.
We always keep a decent cash reserve on hand, especially this year with the house and baby expenses, but now is a good time to make sure we are set for a while. Once baby is here, I don’t want to have to worry about making sure we have enough cash on hand to pay for all the bills.
We did a lot of this when we moved into our house for things like water, gas, electricity, mortgage, etc. Now is the time we are making sure all those are running fine and coming from the right accounts or being charged to the right credit card (we like to build points for some bills if possible). Life will only get busier, so not having to worry about paying some bills is a weight off our shoulders. We just make sure to check our bank account on our phone apps (because, you know, #Millennials) and see that all the payments have shown up.
Update the budget.
Yes, we are still keeping track of expenses and in June I will do a big update post on that (spoiler, April was a negative month with taxes, eeek). We are also starting to look ahead at what things will look like when we add in child care.
There has also been talk of when to buy a second car. Currently, we share one car because we didn’t have one when we lived in the city and both usually have the same commute so it’s easy to share. But with a child, we figure at some point, one car may become an issue. There isn’t money in the budget for that right now, but it is a financial goal in our near future.
Things To Do for Baby
Prep for the hospital.
I am working on filling out the hospital registration forms so that it’s one less thing for us to do when we arrive for delivery. We also scheduled a one-day class about the birth process, what to bring to the hospital and tour of the Labor and Delivery floor.
I’m a type A person that likes to be prepared so I think this will calm some of my nerves about having a baby. I’ve also started looking at lists of what to pack in the hospital bag. I’m not there yet, but come June, I’ll want that bag packed and ready.
Get updated on health insurance related items.
This includes making sure we know if we have to ask questions at the hospital about things like is the anesthesiologists covered and getting up to date on bills. I can just see the bills piling up on the kitchen counter in our sleep deprived state.
Finish the baby room.
This is an obvious one. I have baby showers in May so can’t really go buying everything I need until after those, but come June, I will be making sure we are ready to go when the time comes.
Make decisions about rules around the hospital, family and baby.
This is a tough one, but it is something Andrew and I will for sure be discussing in the coming weeks. Family will obviously want to see the baby as soon as they can, but we want to make sure who is around and when is right for us as the new parents. We don’t want to be overwhelmed with having tons of people around and learning how to take care of our new baby.
We will also talk about who can be where and when at the hospital. I’m sure there will be a point when I don’t want a bunch of people around or in the room when I’m getting ready to have the child or right after so establishing our rules in advance will be helpful. It also feels like a good communication decision so that both of us are on the same page before we get to the hospital. The last thing I want to do is be arguing over what happens when we are there. We will also want to talk about extended family and who to share the news with when and who can visit when.
Things To Do For Our Personal Lives
Have some date nights.
A neighbor advised us to go out on some date nights before the baby arrives because it will get more difficult once he is here. Then it will be planning with a babysitter once we even get to the point where we feel comfortable leaving him with someone other than our immediate family. Our lives have been busy lately with more obligatory things, so we haven’t done this, but maybe soon we will make time for it. It also seems like a good thing to do to help us stay bonded as a couple.
Review the calendar.
Between work schedules and events, family engagements and just regular things to get done, we are going to sit down and go over the calendar for the summer and early fall before baby arrives to make sure we are aware of what is going on and when. Life is going to get crazy so if we can plan, it should help a little.
We also try to set calendar reminders on our phones and invite the other spouse to things they should know about. For example, making sure Jeter gets his flea and tick medicine and heartworm medicine on the right days is a calendar item. As are which weeks the recycling gets picked up. They are small things but ones that can be easily forgotten. Pregnancy brain is real y’all!
This is a lengthy list of things that needs to get done in the coming months, but I’m a list person so even just writing it down makes me feel better. I don’t go with the flow very well, so I prepare as much as I can. This will also be something I work on when the baby is here because I know I won’t be able to plan as much or stick to a plan with a newborn.
In the meantime, we are just trying to enjoy the process of having a baby (although not without its road bumps). As much as we are looking forward to the baby, I hope Andrew and I can enjoy these last few months as just the two of us (and Jeter) before the baby arrives. It is a big life change and one that I think we are becoming more ready for each day.
Years ago, my older brother, living in Minneapolis, asked me walk into the Peloton studio in downtown Manhattan to do some reconnaissance on this fancy bike. After checking out the latest that fitness technology had to offer, I knew it wouldn’t take long for him – an avid cycler and tech junkie – to buy one. When Heather and I flew to visit him, there it stood proudly on display in his studio apartment. Of course, he told me how great it was and that we too should consider buying one. Having logged only one spin class in my life, I curtly told him, “I don’t spin.” Heather was intrigued. But with fancy gym memberships, and an even smaller apartment in an even bigger city, there was no room for this bike in our lives. Literally.
When our daughter Hazel came into the world, our lives changed in an instant. They became work, Hazel, sleep, Hazel, sleep, work, Hazel. Aside from power-walking a bassinet up Third Avenue, all physical activity came to a grinding halt. We complicated things more by deciding not to stay in the city after all, and began the insane process of buying a home with a newborn. Work, Hazel, sleep, work, home, Hazel, sleep…
By summer 2017, our daughter was thriving, but we were not. I have been described by many as a tall, noodley gentleman, so I was absolutely stunned the first time my suit pants and tailored button-downs started to feel snug on my body. Heather will be the first to tell you how awful she felt after trading in nine years of walking miles a day for a family SUV and five minutes at lunchtime to stretch her legs.
We considered the options of joining a local gym or buying a Peloton. As you might have guessed, one of us really wanted that bike. Having just setted into our new home, the last thing I wanted to do was buy an expensive piece of exercise equipment that could easily become a glorified dust collector in our home. But since Heather knows exactly how my financial advisor of a brain works, she asked me to look at the costs to see if it owning one made sense. Challenge accepted!
The first thing I did was research what the average cost of a gym membership is today. According to a few reputable websites, including one article by CNBC, it appears that your average gym membership costs about $50/month. However, if catering to your bougiest desires, you can easily spend closer to $200/month at establishments like Equinox or Lifetime Fitness. By the way, this does not include initiation fees, which can range from $100-$200. Things don’t get any better with non-gym alternatives like Physique 57, which can run anywhere from $120-$350 month depending your needs. And with your average yoga class costing $12-16/namaste, running up the tab isn’t all that difficult.
Now, for the bike. The cost of a Peloton breaks down like this. The bike itself is $1,995, without delivery, a subscription to the classes and taxes. A 12-month subscription is $39/month and delivery costs $250. Naturally, you’re going to need some mandatory gear such as shoes ($125/pair), but the rest is optional (e.g. a special floor mat, weights, clothing, etc.). It’s worth noting that Peloton offers a few accessory bundles, which can save you a few bucks if you’re going to splurge on gear. Therefore, at a minimum, you’re looking at $2,850 before taxes, rounded.
Now, when we purchased ours, we took advantage of their financing offer, which was 0% interest for 39-months. The only “catch” to this offer is that you are obligated to buy 39-months of classes at the standard rate. That’s $1,521 worth of service. It’s a commitment for sure. So, if using this offer, you divide your total purchase price, which includes tax, by 39. The result is your monthly payment. For us, it came out to $109/month, all in.
While these financing offers are attractive, remember that failing to make your monthly payments and failing to pay everything off by the end of the 0% offer could result in some hefty interest charges and penalties. Furthermore, I’d be remiss if I failed to encourage anyone to carefully examine how borrowing, in general, fits into your overall financial picture. Because this decision is not a small one.
By taking advantage of the financing offer, things didn’t appear all that bad. For $109/month, we would be paying roughly the same amount of money for two people to go to your average, local gym. In being really honest with ourselves, if we did join a gym, we would probably be signing up for a place that was more expensive than $50/month. Therefore, owning a Peloton, despite being hailed as a piece of luxury workout equipment, didn’t seem all that “luxurious” on our wallets. I will admit, however, that without the financing, the purchase would have been a significant outlay of cash. So, I encourage those who are paying upfront to configure your own breakeven point in the future if trying to replicate this exercise (no pun intended).
Now, one thing we must consider is that a Peloton bike is not full-service gym. It’s not like we’re comparing apples to apples here. Remember when I told my brother, “I don’t spin”? Well, not enjoying this bike would likely pose a major issue for me, let alone anyone, when thinking about if buying a Peloton is “worth it.” I honestly wasn’t worried so much about Heather getting on it frequently enough as me, but I was still concerned that life would simply catch up to us once again, especially if we wanted to have more kids and not to mention our increasingly busy careers.
In the end, the Peloton vs. gym argument came down to how demanding our lives are. The fact that Heather and I both commute to the city for work most days of the week and have a toddler to smother made the cost/benefit relationship of owning one very attractive. Waking up even earlier than we already do or finding the energy at the end of a long and exhausting day just wasn’t going to fit in our crazy lives. We don’t even have enough consistency in our workweeks to take turns going out to a gym at night. And if you think that’s nuts, we know people that hire babysitters so that they can sneak out to the gym! I don’t like to exercise enough to pay two people for me to do it.
And surprisingly, I enjoy our Peloton more each time I ride it. So far, I’ve completed about 50 rides, which has me exercising 3-4 days a week. What’s even greater than the convenience of a solid workout right in my home is the fact that I am getting to do something that’s a hell of a lot more fun than what I’d be doing at a gym. Full and fair disclosure, it’s not more fun than playing tennis or volleyball, but being told I am a “boss” and that “my best is good enough” by some your favorite instructors is pretty sweet if you ask me (shout out to Ally Love and Alex Toussaint).
As a financial advisor, it’s my job to make sure my clients are making smart decisions when it comes to their money. There’s no question that frivolously spending more than $3,000 on some trendy exercise equipment is a bad idea, but I what I hope this blog post provides is how one should think about purchasing a Peloton in a way that makes as much financial and practical sense as possible. It you’re going to use it, and use it consistently, it could very well be one of the best investments you could make in yourself.
What’s new in the Weitzman household? Well, I had food poisoning which took me a week to fully recover from. When you are pregnant it can be dangerous, but I tried to keep hydrated and took it easy so that my body could recover. Baby was fine, but I think he was stealing any nutrients I took in for himself. Guess I better get used to that!
We wrapped up our taxes and sent the government some money. Add that to the budget for this month. We might end up with a negative number for April sadly. Maybe on our 2018 taxes with owning a home for a full year and a baby we can owe less or have a small refund. One can dream!
Jeter is finally learning that the soft, wet white stuff on the ground isn’t a permanent feature. He is loving rolling around in this stuff called grass! I think he is feeling like we all are and ready for the warm weather to arrive and stick around.
And Andrew cut his finger trying to open an avocado (he’s fine now). #Millennialproblems According to my sister who is an ER nurse, it is a fairly common injury they see.
As this baby thing becomes more real (and Andrew can start to feel him kick from the outside), we have been talking more about making sure our family is protected and taken care of. Both our parental instincts are kicking in. I want to share with you what we have done and are planning to do in regards to protection planning which includes life insurance and estate planning.
At the beginning of the year, we applied for term life insurance policies. For us, those achieved the goal of protection in case something happened with affordability. It is one more expenses to tack on monthly, but if something happened to one of us, the other would certainly need the money to do things like pay the mortgage and child care, etc.
We chose the amount of coverage based on current incomes and what we think we could be making down the road and what our lives will look like. It is different for everyone, but it is all about your level of comfort. There are plenty of calculators out there and professionals that can help you figure it out.
I know some people think, do I really need life insurance. Seems like I’m placing a losing bet on myself. I get it, it’s another cost, and no telling what can happen. But that’s the thing, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You have insurance for your house and car and those are possessions that you may need to replace. What about a person? You can’t replace them, but you can make sure you can still survive and have the life you want even if something happens to them.
If you want to read more about why you should have life insurance or some good basics on how to shop for it, check out these articles that Douglas has been featured in:
We have not yet done formal estate planning; however it is something we will do this year. We have done some things as stop-gaps in the meantime such as making sure beneficiaries are all update on retirement accounts and adding Transfer on Death designations to non-retirement accounts (which is kind of like a beneficiary). These are not full solution, but something is better than nothing.
Before we meet with the attorney, and yes, we will be using an attorney and not an online site because I don’t trust my legal knowledge to not mess up some wording that screws it all up, we wanted to make some decisions ourselves. Here are some of the questions we have been talking about:
Q: If something happens to one of us, what happens to our assets (both monetary and physical)?
A: The other gets everything. That’s an easy one.
Q: If something happens to both of us at the same time, what happens?
A: Here’s where things can get tricky. Where do the assets go? Who will be the guardian for our child and Jeter? I think anyone in our families would take Jeter because he is adorable. This is where we are spending the most time playing out scenarios and trying to decide who in our families would be the best guardians. We know they are all going to love our baby so much and we are lucky that we have great families who would do pretty much anything for this kid, but that doesn’t mean that everyone may be in a place in their lives to raise a child again (our parents) or for the first time (our siblings). It’s a tough conversation.
We are still talking it over, which is part of why we haven’t met with the estate attorney yet. And the other thing we are considering is that, maybe we pick guardians now, but it will change in the future. Life situations change and whomever may be the best fit now, may not be 10 years from now.
Having to think and talk about these decisions is not a fun conversation to have, but unfortunately in my line of work, I have seen tragedies happen where having estate planning done, makes the lives of loved ones easier. And I would rather know that things are taken care of then leave our families with a mess to deal with on top of the emotional distress of someone passing away. And once we tackle this, we don’t have to talk about it again until we want to, or something changes.
Douglas has also shared some insights into what you documents you need and some other good starting points for estate planning. Check out these articles:
This may fall more under saving for our baby’s future, but another thing we would like to do when he is born is open a 529 College Savings Plan. So many people have said that we should encourage family and friends to contribute to that if they want to do a gift as opposed to lots of toys or clothes. Babies don’t need endless toys or outfits, so why not encourage those who are offering to do something that can help his future?
I think it is a great alternative. My baby doesn’t need expensive outfits that he will inevitably throw up on within the first 10 minutes. Because I feel like those are the stories you hear. The kids seem to know they are in nice clothes and get them dirty instantly. Put them in the Old Navy outfit and it stays clean for a little longer!
Andrew and I are also thinking about ways to save outside of a 529 for our son. When I was born, my great-grand parents and grand parents opened investment accounts for me (along with all the other grandchildren over the years) to help us pay for college. Side note: this was in the early 1990’s before 529 plans had grown into what they are today. Luckily for me, I went to a public state school that my parents could afford without using that money. So, once I graduated college they said I could do whatever I wanted with it.
Last year, Andrew and I used some of that money towards the down payment on our house. I am so appreciative to have had that money to help us put down roots and have a home to start a family in. And I know my great-grand parents and grand parents would be proud of how I used the money.
We are hoping to do something like that for our son over time as we have the means in addition to a 529 plan. We hope it is just one more way we are taking care of our family and setting everyone up for the best future possible!
We have crossed the halfway mark on pregnancy which feels great! Kind of…ok, I’m exhausted all the time and now wearing what I call “Steve Urkel pants” to fit over the bump, but otherwise great! We also got to see baby Weitzman again on the ultrasound and watch the little arms and legs wiggle around.
A few weeks ago we started a registry at Babies R Us, but have to scratch that now since it looks like they are really going under. Womp, womp. Bye, bye Geoffrey! Andrew is crushed by this turn of events and is determined to buy a Geoffrey stuffed animal to give to our son as a last vestige of a better time. Think he’s being a little dramatic? I didn’t say it.
Over to Buy Buy Baby and Target for us, I guess. And one note on registries, even if someone isn’t throwing you a shower, be it bridal or baby, most stores offer discounts on anything you buy off the registry after the event. I’ve seen anywhere from 10% to 15% which can be a nice way to save on things you need to buy for either a new home together or a baby.
Now to the real talk of this week. I wanted to share with you our adventures with health insurance and having a baby. So, apologies in advance that this post will be very baby focused because the bump is growing and bills keep rolling in. And frustrations keep increasing too.
Health Insurance Basics
I don’t know much about how health insurance works or the political debates surrounding it. It even seems daunting to try to understand, which is probably part of the issue with healthcare in general. But, I know that I do need to understand at least how my health insurance works. Every bill that comes in or call with the insurance carrier leaves me more confused and less like I have a grasp of how it works.
To start this adventure, let’s have a vocab lesson on health insurance terms. Thank goodness my husband works in the insurance industry and can explain these terms to me (although he doesn’t deal with healthcare). Side note: we get our health insurance through his work, so it is with one of the major health insurance companies. Not everything may apply to how your insurance works, this is just what our situation is.
Important Vocabulary (aka if the SAT tested things you will actually need to know in life)
Deductible – The minimum amount you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance company has to pay out anything
In-Network vs Out-of-Network – If your plan is a “network” plan, then you need to be aware of what doctors are considered in-network meaning that they accept your insurance and claims are paid at the highest level. If a doctor is not in your network, then the insurance company may not pay for any of the claim or may pay a reduced amount of it. Basically, know what type of plan you have and if a doctor needs to be in-network, ask before you make an appointment with the office.
Co-Pay – The amount that your plan may require you to pay for a service
Out of Pocket Maximum – The annual maximum amount you have to pay with your plan. Once you hit that number, the insurance company is responsible for the remaining costs of covered benefits.
Explanation of Benefits (EOB) – a statement sent from the insurer to your listing the services billed and what they cover verses what you may be responsible for. Note that this does not mean that is what you are actually going to pay. Sometimes, the insurance company and doctor’s office go back and forth on the charges and you may have to pay less than that. You won’t really know until the doctor’s bill shows up in the mail. This can cause some panic situations when the EOB shows a really big number but it’s not what you end up having to pay.
Doctors vs Insurance
It seems that insurance companies and doctors don’t have the same mindset about how healthcare works. For a doctor, they see something like genetic screening tests as a way to get ahead of any potential future issues with the baby. However, insurance carriers are like, nah, we won’t pay for that because it’s “experimental”.
As a patient, I find this disconnect troubling. You hear all this talk about “preventative care,” which makes sense, why not try to prevent problems that will be costly beforehand instead of paying for them later. Yet when push comes to shove, other than that annual physical we get for free as “preventative care”, the message seems to be don’t even bother unless you are willing to pay full costs out of pocket.
Can I really get the best and most advanced care available if insurance is years behind what doctors are deeming valuable? What insurance companies seem unable to understand is that if patients knew there was going to be an issue, we could prepare better for it. And maybe it would cost them less in the long run to care for the person with that disease. In short, interests seem misaligned when it comes to healthcare.
What’s Covered for Baby
Now that we’ve got that all out of the way, let’s look specifically about the costs of having a baby. I talked about budgeting already in general for a baby, but healthcare costs are one of the biggest expenses we are going to have for the baby this year.
At the beginning of this adventure I called the insurance company to let them know and see what resources were available. They sent me some documents and went over some things on the phone. I felt like I had a good understanding of what was covered…which sounded like all the regular prenatal appointments and testing. That makes sense, all these appointments to check on the baby’s health are necessary.
Fast forward to after the first appointment and a bill shows up in the mail. Andrew asks why we got it since we thought that the blood test it was for was part of prenatal coverage and was either covered or we would be billed at the end for everything.
Time for Call Number 2
In total we probably spent over an hour on the phone between two separate calls trying to understand how the plan works, what is covered, what is not covered and when we would be billed. Now, we are two educated individuals, we should have been able to easily figure this out. Think again.
On the second call we even asked if they had a list of what was covered. Well, that list doesn’t exist but they were happy to provide us with a list of what isn’t covered. This takes me back to the root of the issue. Insurance companies are about what they don’t have to pay for not about what care is needed for the patient.
Watch any movie or ask a parent about the pregnancy process, and without a doubt the moms will say that they were constantly poked and prodded for numerous blood tests, weighed and measured, and had at least one ultrasound, possibly more. Yet despite being told that all prenatal care is covered and that all of these blood tests and ultrasounds are essential prenatal care (according to you know, the medical professionals) the insurance plan makes us pay something for each and every test.
What we seem to have gathered from these calls is that there is no copay for the office visits for prenatal care, but we pay something for each lab visit and more for ultrasounds. One other fun fact we learned was that delivery is not 100% covered meaning we will pay something for those costs. I get that they don’t pay everything, but the end game here of having a baby is delivering it, right? Not really an optional part of the process? So why isn’t more of that covered?
I understand that some of the genetic screening is still considered “experimental” and therefore not covered, but I’ve yet to meet a doctor that doesn’t recommend it or push it.
We also got billed for the gel they use for the ultrasound. Ultrasounds aren’t really an optional procedure anymore either and the gel is kind of a necessity. Try making a PB&J without the J. Feels like money grabbing if you ask me. I hope I don’t need a tissue at the office!
And don’t even get me started on their website. All of these challenges have me referring to our insurance company as “expletive Company Name”…you can use your imagination on that one. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this way about health insurance.
Even some big non-insurance companies announced recently that they are trying to solve the problem that is health care. I would be thrilled if there were a better answer out there. It is something everyone has to deal with but so complicated that most adults don’t really understand how their health insurance works. A little free market competition could go a long way…
If you want to read more about all kinds of costs surrounding starting a family, here are some articles to start with:
Before diving into this week’s post, let me start by saying how honored I am to have you reading our blog. Even if this is your first time visiting, we’re thrilled you are here with us. A little more than a year ago, I broke away from my partnership at a traditional wealth management practice to chase my dream of running my own firm focused on high powered Millennials in and around New York City.
In this short period of time, we’ve been able to provide meaningful financial content and materials so that individuals (not just Millennials) can have the knowledge and power to invest in themselves and toward their financial goals. We hope you’ve found our blog, infographics, worksheets, newsletters, media features and, of course our book, The Millennial Money Fix, helpful in securing your own financial future.
Moving forward, we will not only continue to produce meaningful financial content, but we are now going to organize and synthesize it into something that’s a bit more tailed to our respective audiences. If you have read our last few blog posts, you have noticed that Marie, our VP of everything here at Bone Fide Wealth, has now taken control.
All the amazing things she’s going through in her life (i.e. buying home, having kids and being an organizational boss) make for some extremely relatable Millennial content that we know will continue to help our broader Millennial audience.
Meanwhile, I will be writing monthly posts that will be geared towards the themes and financial issues that my clients have and continue to face throughout their lives and careers (think older Millennials). Lastly, you will also see the transformation of our Downloads page into a #FitLit System that anyone can have for free. I am super excited about adding greater context to our already amazing content. Stay tuned for that and enjoy the post.
The True Cost of Making Partner
About 10 years ago, I fled the warmth of South Florida for New York City. I remember it well. There are few experiences in life quite like a “My First New York” experience. Sure, I could have done without the entire economy melting down the moment I jumped off the airplane at JFK but surviving The Great Recession has become an essential component to my personal and professional growth.
The same happens to be true for many of my clients. Together, we went through an insanely challenging time in our lives. We overcame severe financial and economic obstacles just to put ourselves firmly back on track so that we could someday achieve some of the great things in life. For some of us, one of those great things includes attaining partnership at a company or firm, which is often considered the pinnacle of professional accomplishments.
From high profile law firms to some of the most sought after private equity firms in the world, I’ve had the privilege of having a front row seat to see what it takes to reach partner status. I’ve personally witnessed the work that goes into earning a seat at the table as well as the spoils that await those who made it. Moreover, I’ve helped my clients navigate their financial lives before and after reaching this impressive accomplishment.
Oh, some of the stories I could tell you! But you already know I won’t be naming any names. After all, confidentiality is a must. However, I will share with you some of my observations on what it could take to make partner. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The first thing I will share with you is that these folks aren’t messing around with their work week. There’s basically no “punch card”. Saturday and Sunday morning might as well be Monday morning. Say bye-bye to your weekends. But that’s just the beginning because when your life is consumed by your work, the impact goes deeper than just the loss of your free time.
This sacrifice of time does taps directly into your quality of life, which is something our generation seems to value quite a bit. The level of dedication required to make it to the top not only diminishes your ability to have a personal life but, as a result, it can place significant stress on your interpersonal relationships like your friends and loved ones.
The pathway to partnership is a savage beast as I’ve seen it cause countless of break-ups, several divorces and, sadly, create a handful of absentee parents. That can be downright depressing, but the sooner you wrestle with the fact that you might not have a normal social life (or even a normal life altogether), the better you can mentally prepare for the realities of what it means to make partner. Clearly, this lifestyle is not for most people.
Additionally, if you think that once you make partner you will get some of your precious time back, guess again. In fact, most of the partners I work with tell me that there’s even more pressure on them once they’ve made it. For some, it’s in the form of constantly needing to develop new business. For others, it’s having to deal with new managerial responsibilities. So, while your income and level of professional achievement may be going up, the time you’re spending in your career could be as well.
Speaking of money, not all partnership opportunities comes with a fat sack of cash the day you make partner. At least not right away. Not only could you find yourself committing even greater amounts of your life to the cause, but you might also find your financial commitments increasing as well through events like equity buy-ins and capital contributions.
While all firms are different when it comes to “buying in”, many will require you to make significant financial contributions to the partnership. So, just as you’re getting read to sock some serious cash away for retirement or put a down payment on that house you’ve always wanted, you may just find yourself putting it right back into the very hands that feed you.
However, keep in mind that the larger idea is that, somewhere down the line, you’re going to get more out of the partnership than what you put in by sharing in the profits of the firm or by directly investing in the firm’s investments.
Indeed, the burden of these financial commitments won’t last forever, but for many freshly minted partners, it could be years before you start seeing the rewards from your investment(s) in the partnership. On the bright side, I have also seen firms increase compensation and bonuses (and even offer financing) to help their junior partners soften the blow of their required contributions.
Is it all worth it? That’s not for me to say. I know many who have made it and they will tell you they’re “living the dream!” On the flip side, I could also share stories of those who look back and have more questions than answers. Some wonder what they could have done with the time they spent on pursuing partnership. Either way, one thing is for sure. The amount of energy it takes to achieve this level of professional growth is immense and it’s worth thinking long and hard about what it is that you truly want for yourself before going all in.
Therefore, so many who attempt to climb Mt. Partner burn out well before getting there or lack the stamina to remain seated at the table. Again, it goes well beyond logging hours and sacrificing your personal life. The physical exhaustion of it all is one thing, but the mental energy that goes into competing day in and day out while enduring personalities and stresses of all kinds, is a whole different test of fitness.
Also, keep in mind that those above you in the organization are usually the very people you’re trying to become (current partners). Do you think they care how tired you are? Most won’t because they have already been through this and, of course, they think they had it worse than you did. So much for that.
Look, nothing is certain in this world and that 100% includes making partner. Even if you possess the talent, put in the time, cough up the dough and expend the energy, there’s zero guarantee you’re going to make it. That can be downright frightening when you’re about to invest a solid decade plus of your life sacrificing and hustling you butt off.
But no risk comes without its rewards and I can tell you that those who have made it never allowed their emotions get the best of them. Ironically, their anxiety has proven to be their best motivator. They use it as a secret weapon to push themselves further than they thought they could. Sometimes it’s right up to the point of breaking, but it’s quite amazing, and downright humbling, to watch them find their resolve and grab the brass ring.
For those of you anxiously awaiting an update on our roof situation, I have an update. And not a good one. We had two different companies inspect it, and both said we needed a new roof. One estimated the age to be between 12-15 years and the other said 17-18. Based on a quick Google of “average lifespan of asphalt single roof,” those are not good numbers.
Happy Valentine’s Day to us! Yes, this all happened on Valentine’s Day. And I couldn’t even have a glass (or 3) of wine to ease the pain. #pregnancyproblems
When we bought the house, we knew from the inspection that the roof was older and had been patched. We were going to have to put a new roof on the house at some point, we just hoped to stretch that as far out as possible. Less than a year was not the game plan.
Oh well! I don’t want to sleep under a waterfall on rainy days. We will use some of our savings to pay for that repair and put that in the February budget. Fingers crossed that no other big issues come up with the house this year.
Andrew did find a way to save us some money though on our homeowner’s insurance. He figured that since we put a new roof on, there is less liability for the insurance company. He was able to call and get them to reduce our annual premium by 5%. It’s not much but any little bit helps!
Bye, Bye Fridge!
Because my husband loves me dearly (and knows once I decide I want something, that’s it), he was willing to go look at appliances in person over President’s Day weekend. We had done research online and made a spreadsheet to get a sense of what appliances fit our budget. I love a good spreadsheet! We agreed that we wanted nice appliances, but not ones that were too expensive because it wouldn’t be worth it for the value of the house.
We keep our house value in mind when we do most of our upgrades because it is only a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath house. We will outgrow it at some point down the road. We know it isn’t our long-term house, so resale is always in the back of our minds.
For the appliances, we knew that holiday weekends mean big sales on appliances. We decided when we first started looking that we would zone in on what we wanted and then wait for a big sale weekend to buy.
Lucky for me, that weekend arrived! We did it. We bought a new fridge, stove, and dishwasher. We put in a new microwave over the stove when we moved in because there was just a range hood and counter space was sparse. We got a really good deal on prices, and my husband negotiated them down even a little further. He is great at that and loves it. Me, totally hate it and almost blew it. I should just keep walking around the store next time.
How Did We Afford It…Comfortably?
We also did something that neither of us love doing usually. We opened the store credit card for the appliances because it gave us 18 months with no interest to pay it off. Neither of us like to carry balances on our credit cards, but we decided that with the roof also this month, we would both feel a little better if we didn’t wipe out such a large chunk of our cash reserve all at once.
Once the first statement comes in, we are going to set up automatic payments and make sure it is paid off well before the 18 months. We will both keep a close eye on it. And we will make sure we understand all the fine print because most cards like that have interest rates that skyrockets after the promotion time is up.
And this one did have some fine print. The appliances had no interest for 18 months, but the “accessories package” i.e. the new hoses for the fridge and stove only had no interest for 6 months. It’s only $47 for the accessories, but the interest rate goes up to 27% after 6 months. Woah! So, we are going to make sure that gets paid off before then for sure.
Both of us are very prudent with our money and have the same philosophy about it, which is good for our marriage, especially when it comes to big purchases. We know what the other is or isn’t comfortable with and neither of us will make big purchases like that without careful consideration. Although, don’t send me into Target alone unless you want me to come out with things from the dollar bins and some sort of seasonal décor in addition to what we really needed. Target is my happy place!
I Still Wanted the Fridge OR How to Save Money When You Can’t Find Your Money Tree
In light of the big expenses going into the budget, we also returned to our budget to see where we could save more. To start, I reviewed some articles Douglas has been in for ideas:
One area that has the potential to save you money, or at least feel like you are making some while you spend it is credit cards. There are tons of choices out there for card types and rewards systems that can fit every lifestyle. We have friends that travel a lot, so they have the cards that are best for travel and flights. We don’t travel that much and that will decrease even more with a dog and baby now, so that’s not a priority. What is a priority for us is everyday things like gas, groceries and restaurants (not fancy ones, but Panera, Five Guys, etc.).
When we were getting ready to buy the house, we started saving up rewards points so that we could cash them in for hundreds of dollars’ worth of gift cards to places like Home Depot. When you know you are going to buy over $1,000 in paint for the whole house, having the gift cards makes easier. Moving into a house has a lot of costs already, so we were strategic about using our rewards to push cash expenditures down the road.
We also save up reward points now for the holidays. Come November each year, we decide what gifts we are getting for family (if we don’t already have anything) and see if we can use gift cards to make those purchases. To us, it’s a nice way to stretch the budget a little farther by using those rewards points.
I <3 Costco
When we moved to the suburbs, one of the first things we did was join Costco. My husband loves a good bargain! He also finds Costco fascinating. He hates regular grocery shopping with a passion, but loves a Costco trip. Go figure?
My family has always done shopping at bulk wholesale clubs, so I’m very familiar with the drill. It’s not for everyone’s lifestyle, but we try to do it in a smart way. Here’s what we like to do:
Buy meats in bulk and subdivide at home into freezer bags. We have an extra fridge in our garage, so we have 2 freezers to store things in.
Buy paper goods and cleaning supplies and store the extras in a basement closet (because we have one of those in the suburbs- yay!)
Buy pre-packaged snacks. I know it’s not the healthiest thing, but we need easy grab and go sometimes.
Croissants. Always buy the croissants. They are my favorite! 12 is too many for me to eat before they mold because Andrew doesn’t like them, so I divide the pack in half and freeze some. Why Andrew doesn’t like them, I will never know!
Don’t buy the fresh fruit or veggies if you won’t eat it. The two of us can’t eat such large quantities of fresh things so we buy the normal sizes at the grocery store.
Other Savings Tips from the Weitzman Household
At the regular grocery store, if they have a free rewards or frequent shopper card, we always get it. Our store lets you load coupons to the card through their website, so I don’t have to actually find a newspaper and clip coupons. We don’t subscribe to a print paper because we get our news from the internet like any good Millennial.
When we got married, we created a separate Gmail account to coordinate with all the vendors and sign up for mailing list. We still have that account open because stores will email you forever with coupons and discounts. You can never have too many Bed Bath and Beyond coupons!
When we moved, we changed our address with the USPS, and for $1 they will forward your mail and send you a whole bunch of coupons. You will get some junk mail, but also some incredibly valuable coupons. Our favorite is the 20% off your whole purchase at Bed Bath and Beyond. That coupon is gold if you are doing a big shopping trip. We saved a lot of money when we moved into our house with that one. As my husband always says about that $1 to the government, “Find me a better ROI than that one, you can’t.”
Speaking of Bed Bath and Beyond, our families also collected coupons for us when we were moving. We keep those in the car, so we always have them with us. I don’t like to ever buy anything there without a coupon. I also get the email and text ones too, leaving plenty to go around.
We also bought some furniture from Wayfair with coupon codes for new shoppers. They are always having sales too, keep an eye out if you shop there.
When we got our dog, we looked for puppy coupon books because getting all the supplies for a new dog costs lots of money. PetSmart had one you could buy for $15. I don’t like paying for coupons in that way, but we knew we would use most of them and make that money back. It gave us savings on training classes, food, toys, and even a free bath. The free bath is helpful because Jeter, our English Cream Golden Retriever, enjoys rolling around in the mud.
You Don’t Have to Be a Coupon Queen
The opportunities to save money with little effort are out there. Especially for a big purchase, you just have to look around or even be willing to negotiate. I’m not clipping coupons out of the newspaper for the grocery store, but I’ll add some from the website. I’ll check my email before I go to a store and see if I have an email coupon. I’ll buy in bulk to save a few dollars.
My life is not going to become an episode of “Extreme Couponing” to save some money. I could certainly do more to save money, but convenience wins out most of the time. Maybe I’ll do more but for now, I’ll tell Netflix that yes, I’m still watching.
P.S. I’m writing about these things based on my experiences and because I like them. No paid promotions here, although if someone wants to send us free stuff or coupons, you know where to find us!
Douglas has written a lot in the past few years on the blog about challenges Millennials face and how to tackle them, but what does it look like when put into practice? I am here to share that with you through a series called, “Millennials, Money and Marie”!
A little background: I am Marie, the VP of Bone Fide Wealth and have been working in this industry since 2013. My husband, Andrew, and I are both 28 years old (solidly in the Millennial generation), graduates of the University of Virginia and my husband has his MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. We live in New Jersey but both commute into Manhattan for work.
What I am Sharing
It is my hope that through these posts, I can share how we tackle some of the challenges most Millennials face including buying a house and starting a family. Oh yeah, my husband and I bought a house in New Jersey last summer and I’m pregnant with a boy due in July. And we got a golden retriever puppy at the beginning of the year. So, when I say we are tackling these challenges for real. I mean it. As one relative said, we are going full suburbs! House, dog and baby all within one year! Are you as exhausted as I am, and the baby isn’t even here yet?!
I’m going to be writing about what we are actually doing, or attempting to do…like creating a budget. Some of the other areas of personal finance that I will explore are buying life insurance, doing estate planning, general budgeting and budgeting for a baby, how we are preparing our home and family for a baby, our home buying experience and more as we come to it in our own Millennial journey.
I hope that this will pull back the curtain on some of the most common financial planning topics for Millennials and let you see what trying to put things into action really looks like. (And let you know that your feelings are totally justified and normal!) It’s easy to say “track your expenses for 3-6 months” but what does that look and feel like? Here’s a hint: exhausting.
Creating a Budget
I am starting this project with budgeting because it’s an area where we need some work. My husband and I have “started” that project many times over now. But for the sake of the blog, we are going to finish it! To start, I took a look back at some of these articles and blog post that talk about budgeting:
It is expensive to have a baby, but planning ahead can help.
Where we spend money after baby arrives will likely shift. We may spend less on eating out and entertainment and instead be buying diapers and formula.
Establishing a budget takes lots of work at the beginning but once we get rolling it should be easier to track and maintain. Let’s hope so!
Find motivation to keep up on it. I think the impending due date of the baby is taking care of that.
Taking the First Step
With that in mind, I opened Excel (my tracking method of choice – I have tried to use Mint in the past and found that I spent more time recategorizing everything than doing anything else with it, but that’s a personal preference). I put our income at the top and then started listing expense categories. I went through things that are fixed like mortgage, car, utilities, etc. They do shift a little month to month but it’s something that generally I can’t reduce.
Next came the variable expenses such as gas, groceries, Costco, shopping, health care, puppy, etc. Yes, I included puppy expenses on our budget sheet because they are a big category right now. Our adorable golden retriever is still in the phase of vaccines so medical costs are higher. He also goes to doggy day care when both of us go into the city for work because it’s too long of a day for him to be home alone. And yes, while we have him enrolled in doggy day care, we are also looking at day care options for our child. I’ll talk more about that adventure later.
So with all the categories listed out my husband and I looked at what was spent in each during the month of January for variable expenses. For fixed expenses, we used an average of the last 6 months. For things like utilities, that gives us a decent sample of summer and winter numbers on things like electricity and gas bills.
Some articles say to look back 3-6 months to create a budget, but in the last 6ish months we bought a house that had a lot of initial expenses and there were the holidays. It’s easier to get a more realistic idea of a long term budget and expenses when there aren’t a lot of life changes. However, all we have are life changes right now so we decided the closest we could get was to start fresh with 2018 and see how things go as we approach baby time.
Last year we did have a lot of one-time costs with buying a house which is to be expected. For us that include a new king size mattress and bedroom furniture to upgrade from the Ikea full mattress we had in the city. Bye, bye Ikea bed! We had put some money aside for those so it wasn’t a big hit on our savings.
Tracking our Progress
We will be tracking our expenses for the next 6 months and I’ll give an update at the end to see if we were consistent and to outline what our budget goals are going to be for the second half of the year with baby in tow!
And we know life happens. We already know that medical expenses will be more than usual with having a baby and there are a few house projects we still want to tackle before baby arrives. We are hoping to upgrade our refrigerator and dishwasher. They are both starting to have issues and I don’t want to have to deal with that when baby arrives.
However, after the recent rainy weekend we discovered a leak in the roof, that cause water to drip through the ceiling in our master bedroom and onto our bed. That “life happens” thing never “happens” when you want it to. While we wait to see if it can just be patched or we need to replace the whole roof, I’m seeing my shiny new fridge disappear. If we want to do both, we may have to go into our savings. Which is why we have it. We didn’t expect the roof to leak but it’s part of being a homeowner.
Day Care (for Humans this Time)
We already addressed doggy day care, but I was told that child care needs to be sorted out pretty early on. My husband and I put together a list of places in our area and started looking at hours first because we knew we needed something open until 7:00pm because we both work in the city and the commute is much longer. That instantly ruled out a number of places.
I made calls to places that I had heard good things about or looked decent enough from the website. The place I had heard was the best in town didn’t have openings for infants until February 2019. Yes, 2019! Are you doing the math now like I did?
Anyway, I think we have finally found a place that has openings when we need it later this year and where we like the people and facility. And at a price we think we can afford. See why starting to work on that budget was so important? We had to know what was currently left over each month to know what we could afford to spend on child care.
And unfortunately, some of the nicest places are ruled out by price which is a tough pill to swallow. You want the very best for your child, but it may not always be within reach. We are just going to do the best we can for our circumstances, which are pretty good by most standards.
Cost of Living
Speaking of standards, let’s talk about cost of living in the tri-state area. While working on our budget and talking with my family that lives down in Virginia, it can be a little discouraging to see how much more expensive things are in this area. We are paying for the convenience of living so close to New York City and all that is has to offer, but it can also make life tougher.
I know we shouldn’t worry about “keeping up with the Joneses” but let’s be real. We all do it. We all look around at friends in our similar life situations and try to see if we are doing better or worse than them. The trick is that you never really know how they are doing. Much like social media, people portray the version of themselves they want you to see.
But in everyday life, it’s hard not to compare. My mom would chime in right about now with some advice from Yoga philosophy (she’s a yoga instructor amongst many other things) about focusing on yourself or deep breathing or who knows what. Can you tell I’m not really the yoga-type person? I like the workout side of it, but the lifestyle piece isn’t for me.
One of the interesting things about my job is that I do get to see how people are really doing. I get to see the lifestyle they live on the outside and what things actually look like on the inside. It helps to keep things in perspective. We are doing the best we can for us and that is what matters.
What does it take to “retire rich”? How much money do you need to be financially independent?
To answer those questions, you need to know what financial independence looks like for you. “Rich” is a vague term. Does it mean you want to be able to take one vacation a year later in life or do you want to be able to travel all the time? You must put some context behind the word. You need to know what your priorities are and what your goals are. Financial planning can certainly help with this, but if you are looking for some starting points, I have them for you.
How much should I have saved?
Most Americans don’t have enough money saved for retirement. But how much is enough? One rule of thumb says that you may need 70%-80% of your current income per year in retirement. It’s a good place to start but a question to ask your self is do I want to be able to spend more or less than I currently do? If the answer is greater, then you will need more for retirement.
But is what you have saved enough? The 4% rule can be a good place to start. This rule says that you can withdraw 4% of your savings each year to live off during retirement. However, it too is just a general rule of thumb. A lot of factors can play into that such as lifestyle expenses in retirement, market returns or even major life changes in retirement such as health issues.
The other thing you could look to is an online calculator. There are many simple ones out there. They won’t give you as good of a picture as a professional can, but you can play with the factors to learn what kind of an impact things will have. Social Security may be a factor for many Millennials, because it will probably look very different by the time we reach full retirement age.
How do I save more?
If you did some of the work above and figured out how much you need to have saved for retirement, then you probably realized you need to save more. The best way to do that is to start early. If you are a young Millennial and have some income available for it, start putting money into that 401(k) now. The power of compounding is on your side. Here is a good primer on the power of compounding. If you are an older Millennial, then you still have time on your side, but you should get started. Everyone has priorities, but don’t neglect the ones that seem far away for sooner ones that truly may be less important.
If you are a freelancer or part of the gig-economy, then I understand that it may be harder to save for retirement. You should still try to find ways to prioritize saving for the future. There are plenty of options out there to save any amount.
Also, there is the old standby of taking a closer look at the budget and seeing where you can cut costs. It may not be as fun, but a little here and there can make a difference. Bring lunch from home, ride a bike to work, go easy on the night out or any number of things from this Mic.com list. It doesn’t have to be complicated but look for the little changes to make in your life to secure your future.
Do you think your financial health is good shape? Or are you worried about something? It’s ok to feel nervous about finances. Most people do because they don’t know what there are reading or hearing about. There is a lack of financial literacy among all generations, not just Millennials that keeps everyone on edge about money. That is one of the reasons I write this blog and tweet and create all kinds of content. I want to help educate everyone about personal finance because it is part of our lives every day. But how do you know if you need to work on something? Well, below are 7 financial red flags that can be warning signs that you need to spend some time looking at your finances. Take a look and see if there are areas for improvement in your financial health.
You don’t have goals. – You’ve got to have financial goals. If you don’t have any goals in life, then what are you working towards? What’s the point of trying to save money if you don’t know why you are saving it? Goals give you motivation. You need motivation to manage your finances properly. Take a few minutes and just jot down a few goals using this worksheet. The goals don’t have to be complicated, but you just must have something.
You don’t have a cash reserve. – If you don’t have at least 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses in a cash reserve for an emergency then that is a major red flag. Life happens, and you should be prepared for it. If you get laid off and it takes some time to find a new job, you need to be able to pay rent and buy groceries. Don’t let a situation like that derail all your goals because you have to tap into other sources to cover an emergency.
You don’t have a handle on cash flow and budget. – Cash flow is a tough one to master, but if you have no idea what you are spending your money on then you aren’t in control of your finances. It’s not fun to look back at your expenses (buying that extra round of drinks for the group maybe wasn’t the best call), but you have to be in control. Once you see what you are spending money on, you can create a budget to give you guidelines going forward. Sticking to that budget will allow you to work on achieving your goals.
Your debt balance keeps you up at night. – If you have debt, then you already know that it can be challenging, but it can be more than just the numbers surrounding your debt. How you feel about your debt can be a red flag too. If you don’t feel in control, then now is the time to do something about it. It’s up to you how you prioritize your goals to handle the debt. If you have other goals, you might want to stick to your current repayment plan versus accelerating it. And maybe it’s not the balance that keeps you up at night but the interest rate on your debt. A high interest rate can add up over time and mean you end up paying even more for your debt. If it is really high you might want to consider options to possibly refinance and lower the rate or pay off the loans sooner. Just be cautious with refinancing.
You are drowning in debt payments. – This goes hand in hand with cash flow and budgeting. If you can’t even make the minimum monthly payment, then you have hit the point where you need to make some tough decisions. What is the reason you can’t make the payments? Are you truly working as hard as possible just not making enough money or do you need to work on your budget and cut back on frivolous spending? There are some last-ditch options such as switching to an income-driven repayment plan, deferment or forbearance. But those can have consequences. The better plan might be to work on your budget and find ways to bring in more income. There’s a reason so many Millennials have a side-hustle.
You have no long-term savings. – For younger Millennials, this may not be in the cards yet, but for older Millennials, if you don’t have anything set aside for financial independence, that is not a good sign. Time is on your side when saving for long term goals so take advantage of it and start saving now. This should be one of those goals on your list. Don’t just assume you can save later for that. I know it seems like a long way off, but as life progresses with houses and kids, the amount of money you may feel like you can set aside may decrease. If you get in the habit of saving now, you can better handle cash flow down the road.
You haven’t done any protection or estate planning. – If you are a little farther along in life and have things like a mortgage and family, then you should have considered life insurance and estate planning. They are an important piece of your overall financial health but often forgotten. If you don’t have these then you may not be adequately protected for the future or the future of your family. Don’t leave the most important things in your life unprotected.