Whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool minimalist, had a passing interest in Marie Kondo’s magic tidying book, or approach any effort to pare down your belongings with some skepticism, you’ve likely given some thought to decluttering your physical space.
But have you ever thought about decluttering your financial life?
Utility bills, gym invoices, insurance premium notices, and property tax statements may be important, but can add to financial clutter. Physical clutter, aka things lying around in an untidy mass, can make it tough to enjoy your living space. Financial clutter, on the other hand, makes it challenging to enjoy your life. Getting bogged down with routine and random financial tasks can stop you from forging ahead towards reaching big financial milestones and living with purpose.
Let’s imagine that your life is represented by a jar, and all your financial priorities need to fit into that jar (I mean, life). Large rocks represent the big, long-term financial goals (college funding and retirement), pebbles represent medium-term priorities (family vacations, and growth in your professional career), and sand represents day-to-day tasks (bills and living expenses).
If you only fill that jar with sand (spending your energy on daily tasks), there won’t be any room for the pebbles and rocks (your priorities and goals). However, if you go in reverse order – filling the jar with rocks (getting clear on long-term goals), the jar will still have space for pebbles (other priorities), and sand (your daily tasks).
As a financial planner, I recognize that many of my clients (who have busy families and plenty on their plate) can be mired in daily financial tasks to the detriment of wealth creation. That’s why our conversations often cover these tangible ways to declutter their financial lives:
Automating savings: putting a certain percentage of their paycheck into their 401(k) and setting up monthly transfers from their bank account to a brokerage account or college savings account to be invested.
Did You Know?
Every October, the IRS reviews contribution limits and determines whether they should go up. In fact, in 2018 employees under 50 could contribute no more than $18,500 annually to their 401(k), whereas in 2019 the contribution limit went up to $19,000.
We communicate to our clients these changes, and in conjunction with how their compensation evolves, provide an updated recommendation for savings.
Contributing at least enough to receive the company match (if one is offered) means that you aren’t leaving part of your compensation on the table.
Automating bills and payments: Setting credit card bills to be automatically paid from their checking account, as well as any insurance premiums that can be set up online. Monthly memberships, utility bills, car payments and other recurring expenses can often be automated as well.
Did You Know?
Part of our comprehensive planning includes a review of life, disability, and property and casualty insurance – to ensure that coverage is both appropriate and cost-competitive. A policy (and associated premium) may have been appropriate when it was purchased, and yet be sub-optimal given current life circumstances.
Automating expense tracking: Using programs such as Mint or Personal Capital to examine all your spending across credit cards and bank accounts, will allow you to see at a high level the categories your spending is going towards – the first step to understanding if your dollars are being spent on what you value.
Did You Know?
For many clients, their spending today may not resemble the life they want to lead in retirement. We encourage them to find ways to add activities that inspire them – they may not be able to take a months-long safari now, but working in a shorter trip around school calendars and professional obligations can be a meaningful reminder of what they’re working towards.
If you feel that you’re missing the forest for the trees (financially speaking), and that your energy is going towards bills and daily responsibilities rather than towards building your family’s financial success and well-being, we encourage you to reach out. Talking with a Modera adviser can help you cut through the clutter and re-focus on what matters.
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