Posts Tagged ‘Financial Literacy’

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How Crayons Create Financial Peace

April 22, 2011

Crayons Create Financial PeaceMy biggest revelation about how to help others with their financial issues came when I began working on my own financial issues. In Telling the Truth, I point out the rather obvious fact why so many Americans with money problems can’t seem to get beyond them: we don’t talk about money so we have no opportunity to tell the truth about it.

We are a financially illiterate society. There are few places that you can go to work on your money, talk about your money, make your money better. I lay awake at night sometimes dreaming up solutions to this societal problem. And bit by bit, I create answers. That’s how we came to start Financial Boot Camps, and that’s how I tripped upon creating this exercise for a Boot Camp: draw your financial life with crayons.

The accountant in me questioned the exercise that the right side of my brain had created. “Um, that’s silly.” But the right side of my brain, the creative side that has been fed and nurtured by studying a lot of research into the psychological and emotional aspects of our relationship with our money said: “Forge on!”

The exercise was simple. The boot campers were to draw their financial life in a crayon pie chart, Read the rest of this entry ?

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Telling The Truth

January 5, 2011

Many experiences in my career explain my evolution to becoming a “Money Wise Woman.” My tenure at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC), my time at the financial helm of CARES, an agency that I helped grow from $500,000 to $3 million in three years, and the past 13 years I’ve advised, coached and counseled hundreds on their business and personal finances at Creating Answers.

For Financial Clarity, Tell the TruthBut those experiences aren’t why I’m a Money Wise Woman. There was a point in my life that I awoke to the fact that I had placed myself in serious financial trouble, and that’s when I started telling the truth about it.

Even with all I knew, and no matter how hard I tried to get myself out of it, for whatever reason, I couldn’t. That’s when I started seeking more answers. And not just from fellow financial professionals, but from coaches, mentors and counselors. And that’s when I had my big “ah ha” moment, when I realized what keeps so many people stuck in their financial lives.

We don’t tell the truth. We don’t talk about money, so we have no opportunity to tell the truth about it. There are few places to go when you feel stuck with your money and don’t know what to do. When you’re a financial professional, it’s even scarier. I was stuck in denial, fear, shame and blame. Having the courage to start telling the truth made all the difference in the world.

For years, I had many clients who didn’t want to take the time to talk to me about their money. I was their accountant, and it just wasn’t a priority for them. Now it’s a cornerstone of my practice that every client talks to us about their finances every month. It makes a marked difference in their financial clarity, and their financial peace.

My advice to those of you who feel stuck in some area of your financial life: Talk to someone consistently and productively. Your bookkeeper, your accountant, a coach, a trusted mentor, a trusted colleague. Draw a circle of support around you, tell the truth, and create some accountability in your financial life. It will make all the difference.

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15 Days til New Year’s Eve…The Time is Now

December 16, 2010

Countdown to New Year'sWhile everyone else is busy counting days until Christmas, accountants are busy counting days until New Year’s Eve. And here’s why:

Do you itemize your deductions? If yes, look at your spending plan for charitable contributions. You have 15 days to maximize your gifts. Plus your favorite nonprofits are busily trying to meet their year-end goals, so gifts that come in during December are hugely appreciated! Have you spent out your Health/Flexible Spending Accounts? Now is the time.

Are you a business owner? If yes (and you file cash basis) then every dollar you spend in the next 15 days saves you in the neighborhood of 25 to 40 cents. Our advice to clients at year end: Any equipment you plan to buy in the next six months, buy it now. Any bills scheduled to pay at the beginning of January? Pay them now. And on the income side, for every dollar you put in the bank, you’ll be sending 25 to 40 cents to the IRS on April 15th. This is the one time of year you ease up on your receivables calls, slow down your invoicing process, walk to the bank very slowly.

And for my nonprofit clients? You have 15 days to maximize contributions for the year. Call one key donor every day until the 31st. You can ask for support, or just wish them a happy holiday and thank them for their support. Craft one last personal email solicitation. People want to give this time of year, and it’s your job to remind them.

Happy New Year!

(The accountant’s disclaimer: this is clearly generalized advice. It’s something to be discussed with your trusted advisor. If you don’t have a trusted advisor, we know some great ones!)

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2011: Is your plan in place?

December 10, 2010

Winter is a time of reflection, both personally and for our businesses. How did this past year go? Did I meet my goals? Um, did I have goals? What do I want next year to look like? What do I have to do to get there?

At Creating Answers, it is the time of year we are busy working with all of our clients on 2011 goals and budgets. It is one of my favorite times of the year because you get to do two really fun things: analyze how last year went, and draw the financial road map to follow next year. It’s financial art at its most fun.

If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers. I invite you to think of it as a game, or a puzzle. Make it a date with yourself. Go to your favorite coffee house, or pour yourself a bottle of fine wine. And then…start asking yourself questions.

What percentage of your total income goal did you reach this year? 120%? Great! 85%? Not so great. What do you need to do differently in 2011? What amount of marketing dollars would have closed that 15% gap? Do you need to increase your networking time? Upsell existing clients? Raise your prices?

“If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers.”

Take a look at your discretionary areas of spending? How much did you spend on marketing and advertising? What were the financial results? Professional development? Results? Equipment? Results?

How much did you spend on staffing and/or outside consultants? Did they work at capacity? Did you generate revenue from your staff? How much? A great rule of thumb to start with is three times their cost.

While it is difficult to assign numbers to each of those questions, the exercise of trying will create answers. What if you spent nothing in each of those areas? What if you spent three times as much?

Most importantly, don’t overdo the process. It’s more effective to do a really thorough look at your 15 most critical spending areas consistently than it is to look at all 60 of the expense accounts you have in Quickbooks. (And if you have 60 expense accounts in Quickbooks, you should give us a call!)

Find out more about what we do at http://CreatingAnswers.com.

Here’s to a prosperous new year full of financial clarity!

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Holiday Financial Clarity

November 24, 2010

Manage Holiday Spending

Want financial clarity for the holidays?

Entertaining, stocking stuffers, extra travel expenses, cookies for the neighbors, decorations, office holiday party gifts, holiday grocery shopping and of course, presents… these are just a smattering of expenses that are about to edge their way into your spending plan over the next several weeks.

Whether you’ve been saving all year, plan to squeeze it into your regular monthly spending, plan to not partake in any of it, or have a credit card you use for the holidays, now is a good time to make a plan. Even if you don’t stick to your plan completely, just spending the time to fill out this handy holiday plan will provide you a road map for the trip you are about to take.

What are your priorities? What are your limits? What are your expectations?  How do you feel about the money you’ve spent during past holidays?  What could you do differently? And a favorite question from our Financial Boot Camps, what would your hero do?

 Print the “Manage Your Holiday Spending” guide from the AFSA Education Foundation. Take a walk, think it over, journal the above questions if you’d like, then get a pencil and a calculator and make your plan!

And… enjoy the season.

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An Extraordinary Connection with Your Business’ Finances

July 1, 2010

I love financial tools! Excel, Quickbooks and Microsoft Money are just fun. Today’s software lets me fly creatively when I’m trying to help a client understand how their business is doing, what’s working, and what’s not.

But as with most things there is a flip side to the amazing software we have at our fingertips. Quickbooks, meant to bring simplicity to accounting, easily becomes a behemoth, spitting out 3 page reports that no one could understand or connect with. And that is the point, the goal, of accounting: to connect with your finances. It’s not all about filing your tax return at the end of the year. It’s about understanding your business and the financial impact of your decisions and activities. Your numbers should tell you a story, a story that you feel connected to.

My first experience with accounting was at 19, bookkeeping for my family’s business, the The Buz Buszek Fly Shop. I used ledger paper. I don’t feel old enough to be saying that, but I guess I am. Today, one of my tenets for those who are having a difficult time connecting with their finances  is to pull out the old ledger paper.

The Old Fashioned Way

I’m not suggesting you literally do your accounting on ledger paper. What I do mean, though, is to get a pencil out, and a calculator, and a piece of paper. Write down, every single month, the 8 to 12 numbers that are really important to you. Not the 50 or 100 numbers that Quickbooks is telling you. Just the 8 to 12 numbers that help you feel connected to your business.

If you’d like to learn more about having an extraordinary connections with your finances, I’m being interviewed by Marcia Brixey on July 6th at 11:30am as a part of her Money Wise Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series. You can participate by signing up at:

www.moneywisewomengetsmart.com/upcoming.html

You’ll also find a lot of great past teleseminars you can listen to. A personal favorite of mine is Mikelann Valterra’s interview  “Earn at Your Potential: Embracing the Seven Challenges.”

Happy learning!

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Cost of Manufacturing in China

April 18, 2010

I love Planet Money, NPR’s economics podcasting team. They can make you actually understand what a credit default swap is. And, they make it entertaining. Fun!

This podcast explained exactly how China manipulates their currency, and what that means to everyday Americans, and everyday Chinese. It was fascinating. If you like that kind of stuff, here it is:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/03/podcast_why_chinas_central_ban.html

But if you just want the cliff note, the part I found so stunning, it is this. They were talking to a small business owner that manufactures his his product in China. No surprise. We all know much of what we buy is manufactured in China. You don’t have to be an economist to know it must be way cheaper to manufacture in China. What I didn’t know was how much cheaper.

90%. That is stunning. If you were a mattress manufacturer, and could sell a mattress for $1,000, would you pay an American company $500 to produce it, or a Chinese company $50. Duh. I had no idea that it was that much cheaper.

How do we reduce the carbon footprint of global manufacturing when individual business owners are faced with such temptation?