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When I was starting out on my own with my first apartment, car payment, insurance etc.. CASH was King. Times have changed. Most people today prefer to bank electronically with large, national conglomerate banking systems like Wells Fargo or Bank of America.
It is most common to have paychecks direct deposited, and most consumers opt to have an automatic withdraw system in place for monthly recurring expenses.
Having little to no physical connection with your money is the key factor in financial failure.
“Out of sight, out of mind”…
Our first step in gaining control and achieving financial freedom involves a little legwork. If you are serious about getting your finances in order, improving your credit, and taking control of your future, you will need to take initiative and build the groundwork for your goals!
First, large national banking systems (as mentioned above) are a trick box-
When you find a discrepancy in your personal banking accounts, who do you reach out to for help?…
These large conglomerate banks will NEVER be able to share your concerns or personal financial goals because of the millions of account holders they service on a daily basis. When you speak to a customer service representative (CSR) from these large banks, an agent will address your concerns from a far-away office somewhere, completely disconnected to you and your situation.
The CSR’s job is to protect the BANK and it’s shareholders- not the consumer.
You are nothing more than an account number, waiting in que and praying that this agent will share your concerns about your accounts and circumstance.
to financial freedom is to ‘take your money into your own hands’…
Pull your funds from those large conglomerate banks. You will be searching now for a smaller, more localized institution to house your funds.
There are fewer options today for small banking, that is true, but you WILL be able to find a bank in your area such as a CREDIT UNION. Here, you can speak to a REAL person and bank regularly on a face-to-face basis.
Why is this important?
When you are speaking to a CSR or teller in-person, you are creating a human connection to your money. I’m sure that you have felt hopeless in the past when speaking to agents over the phone- whether the cell phone carrier, the internet provider, or the Amazon associate… It’s tougher to communicate your stress and resolve an urgent issue long-distance. This is especially true with financial services.
This is easily remedied by taking a few minutes IN PERSON to handle your accounts.
Why do I recommend credit unions?
I like credit unions because when you open an account, you become a MEMBER of that institution… Each member of a credit union owns a small share of it. You are not just a consumer, you are a co-owner, a SHAREHOLDER.
You will be able to earn interest and dividends on your savings accounts. The interest earned will be minimal, but the real advantage is that you will have a stake in the success of the credit union- this makes you a meaningful partner. The credit union will be much more interested in your personal financial goals, and will be quick and diligent when handling your issues.
If, in any case, you are unable to become a member of a credit union- there are still plenty of opportunities to go small-scale with your bank.
Seek out local banks that are limited to serving your immediate area. Smaller banks have fewer customers, and can usually dedicate time and superior service to their clients.
*NOTE- Be aware that some small-town banks and credit unions have come together to form banking “webs” in recent years. If you consider your finances to be important to you, it is up to you to take the time and do the research necessary to find the best place to house it. Do your due-diligence when choosing a financial institution, and you WILL reap the rewards!
REMEMBER-YOU ARE HIRING THE BANK TO SECURE YOUR FUNDS. THE BANK WORKS FOR YOU!
As consumers, we have been conditioned to act as if the bank has the ultimate authority. This is untrue. Part of taking control of your finances is learning to do business only with those institutions that provide you with the best service at a fair rate. Find a bank that you’re HAPPY to do business with- in the case that you become unhappy, never feel obligated to stay. We should be able to trust our financial institutions. If you should ever become unhappy, you absolutely should re-direct your funds to a new institution!
STEP 2- ‘SEEING IS BELIEVING’
Now that you are getting comfortable with taking control of your funds and future, It’s time to GET PERSONAL with your money!
More groundwork is needed to control and monitor your success.
CHECK YOUR STATEMENTS.
This may seem like a no-brainer- after all, how can you know what funds are available to you and how much you may be paying in fees if you don’t regularly check your accounts?
The truth- we have so many obligations on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, it can be difficult to keep up sometimes!
I recommend setting a reminder on your phone, or downloading your bank’s app (if they have one.)
Check your deposits, debits and fees on a regular basis. Bi-Weekly is a good start, as this is how most employees are paid.
Once you begin implementing these strategies, your savings will begin to add up quickly! You will soon become excited to check your balances more frequently!
Maybe you are reading this because you have paid hundreds in overdraft fees, or taken a big hit from a credit reporting agency and need massive action. Maybe, you are saving for a large purchase and you want to meet your goal with a quickness!…
Whatever your reasons for digging in to personal finance skills, it is CRITICAL that your end-goal is always at the forefront of your spending decisions!
Do yourself a HUGE favor- find an image of the success you wish to attain!
If this is a hugely successful person you are trying to emulate, maybe it’s a vehicle upgrade- physically print a photo and pin it up somewhere you will see the image EVERYDAY. You can also download this image as a screensaver on your phone or computer.
Every time you see this image, you can imagine yourself having the same success-
EVERYTHING YOU DO NOW WILL BE TO ATTAIN THE SUCCESS YOU KNOW YOU DESERVE!
Are you saving for the new iPhone? A new game system? A car?
MAKE IT VISIBLE.
I print photos of the things I strive to acquire- (a pretty farmhouse style TV console, the newer/ bigger vehicle) and hang them on my fridge, the calendar, the visor (of my current vehicle)- I see these images everywhere throughout my day…
I KNOW WHAT I’M WORKING FOR.
The psychology of these images is far more powerful than a bank statement! Even if you believe you’re a focused person with reasonable and clear financial goals, something about an image plants itself deeply in our subconscious, and drives us to commit fully in our vision!
This is exactly why companies spend billions each year in visual advertising.
SEEING IS BELIEVING! MAKE YOUR GOALS VISABLE AND TANGEABLE.
STEP 3- ‘MOBILIZING’
Ok, so have chosen a financial institution that you are happy and comfortable with. You have made your financial goals and personal success visible in your environment. You have the vehicle in place to achieve your financial success! Now, let’s talk about the journey…
Organizing is boring- unless you’re like me and love to-do lists! Some days I would rather organize than take physical action on my projects..
But organization is at the top of the to-do list when it comes to a long-term goal! You’re efforts WILL PAY OFF!
You are putting habits in place now that will continue to benefit your bank account, even after your initial goals are realized! You can put a small effort into organization and habits today that will change your whole view of money and benefit you far in to the future!
To my knowledge, these habits are not taught in any classroom or seminar.. I have a few tedious, but extremely beneficial habits for you in step 3- passed down by generations of doers and achievers!
If you read about my story, you know that I worked in customer service for many years. I dealt almost exclusively with cash when I began my journey in finance. I still believe that cash is an invaluable resource– especially in preparation for an unforeseeable disaster!
Building up a supply of emergency cash takes time, this is true. It will be important for you to keep this emergency fund goal in the periphery as you build your savings and contribute to your short-term goals!
For those of you who live with cash- you are in the BEST PLACE to learn guidelines for managing it! Please see THE ENVELOPE METHOD!
For the rest of you who live with direct deposit , debit cards, and auto-withdrawals, I am going to share with you my fool-proof way to see almost immediate savings balances creep up to meet your short-term goals!
Because we don’t live with cash, we have almost ZERO connection with our money. Remember that “Seeing is Believing”, and bank statements aren’t exciting, but we can organize our account screens to reflect that we are getting closer to our goals!
We can visually maximize our relationship to our finances by giving our money “places to live”.
My strategies for financial success include a lot of talk about envelopes. This is an old-school method of saving and spending in the most pure and honest form!
The basis of “envelope style finance” is simple- if the cash isn’t in the envelope, you CAN’T spend it. Having dedicated “homes” for your money is an extremely effective way to allocate funds where you need them and when!
As you probably guessed by now, those folks with cash create labeled envelopes to place cash as they get it- for recurring monthly living expenses and separate savings envelopes for each savings goal.
Fortunately, online banking can provide the same “envelope” type strategy to achieve long and short term goals!
You can set up multiple accounts through your banking institution and view these using an app. You are allowed to direct deposit (of course) and transfer funds from a main account into separate accounts, or opt for a percentage to be automatically transferred weekly, bi-weekly or monthly!
At the core of your strategy will be a checking/debit account. This is the account we will use to pay all PRIORITY monthly expenses.- rent/ car payment/ utilities/ insurance..
Before you direct your entire paycheck to your debit account, take a few minutes, grab a latte and jot down your ACTUAL priority expenses. You can use a notebook, Evernote App on your smartphone, or a Word document on your PC.
Total your monthly expenses and subtract that figure from your income. This is your “freedom money”- the money from which you will be able to achieve your goals! The money that will propel you into financial success when properly managed!
With this simple calculation of your living expenses and income, you are taking huge leaps forward into financial security. This exercise allows you to form a relationship to your money.
Your success depends on your honesty,
so always over-estimate your expenses. If you feel you are wasting funds on non-priority spending, you will now have some clarity, and can begin “cutting the fat” in your spending.
You are in control now! Remember that thing you were saving for? The iPhone? The car? That hand-made beautiful rustic, yet refined TV console at your favorite boutique downtown??
Now that you have a “home” where your security (savings) lives, you can create a home for that thing pinned to your refrigerator! Now, you will create a second savings account.
How much were you able to roll over into savings after priority spending? Could you have kept MORE? Honestly answer these questions and build on your experience. Was it more fulfilling to dine out with friends? Hit the Starbucks drive-through? Or, was it more fulfilling to see the savings account balance and realize that a few months of roll-over would put you on a path to a vacation, or a down-payment on a car?!
See how we did that?!
Your money is a TOOL available for you to use as leverage to achieve lifestyle goals! Take care of the TOOL and you will be able to rely on it!
For the second savings account, you can choose a more immediate reward. Again, you will use the roll-over method from the first savings account. You are creating 3 envelopes of funds to pull from-
Roll over up to 50% of the first saving account into the second.
Label your accounts. The second saving account should be labeled after your short-term goal.
You will soon be able to pull funds from this account to pay for your reward, and subsequently re-label the account to reflect a new short-term goal!
At this point, I would LOVE to hear about your goals and success! Please post a comment below, or better yet- send me an email and tell me your goals and your progress!
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