Posts Tagged ‘personal finance’

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Financial Accountability and the 21 Day Accountability Challenge

March 14, 2012

Click image for larger view.

What could you accomplish in 21 days if you knew someone was watching you, checking in on you, facebooking and tweeting about you? Would the goals that you daydream about become clearer, more tangible? Would you be inspired to turn them into SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely)? Would you triumph under the magnifying glass of accountability?

21 days ago, my company, Creating Answers, launched the 21 Day Accountability Challenge. We asked people to send in their goals and we chose one lucky person to support, watch, Facebook and Tweet about his or her progress towards his goals. And the lucky winner was:

Kevin Knauss of Insure Me Kevin. Hands down he was the winner. He sent us nine goals and he was clearly excited and ready to hit the ground running. We were concerned that his nine goals were a bit lofty, so we did what we do. We sat down with him and helped him translate his goals into numbers.

3

“Make my website a wealth of information and the hub of my marketing efforts” became “Blog at least 3 times per week,”

100

“Expand my small group health insurance clients” became “Complete 100 direct mailings each week for the next 3 weeks,” and

1,500

“Expand and fine tune my social media marketing plan” became “Have 1,500 Twitter followers by March 14th.” As of March 13th, he’s at 1,300; go follow him @InsureMeKevin!

Being an entrepreneur requires a unique kind of willpower. There’s no one, in the short run, watching you every day and holding you accountable. You have to really want to do what you’re doing, and you have to follow through. In the long run, your customers will hold you accountable. If you don’t provide value, they won’t return and you’ll run out of money. That’s long term accountability. But in the short run, no one is paying attention to how you show up in your business. Kevin has made amazing progress in the past three weeks because he was willing to expose himself while propelling himself forward.

When it comes to managing our money, many of us have willpower issues. For those of us that are single, there is no one else giving us feedback about our financial decisions or asking us if we did what we said we were going to do.  We have no one to be accountable to, no one to answer to when we spent twice what we said we would on eating out. Rarely does anyone ask us the question: “are you funding your retirement?” or “do you have 3 months of reserves in the bank?” Even for those of us in a relationship, the money is often handled by one person, and the other person doesn’t really want to know what’s happening. I’ve had many a client lament that his or her partner won’t even talk about financial decisions. They just want it handled.

How can you use accountability to propel yourself forward with your finances?

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Stacey Powell builds financial muscles at TheFinanceGym.com and shows off Financial Art at Facebook.

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3 Words to Small Business Success: Easy, Fun and Popular

June 8, 2011

What’s the attitude you show up to in your business each day?

Are you having fun?

Does it lift your spirit to connect with those you need to connect with to be successful in your business?

In my blog Community Service, Leadership and Small Businesses, I told the story of how my best friend Tina Reynolds, long-time small business owner of Uptown Studios, uses her love of community service to drive the marketing for her business. I met Tina 15 years ago, when she was doing volunteer work for a local HIV/AIDS service organization, and through the years I cannot begin to recall how many organizations, actions and activities she has led or been part of. Her dedication and stamina for community service are unparalleled, and as a result she frequently receives awards, honors and nominations.

At this week’s California Small Business Day, she was honored by California’s Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as the Capital Region’s Small Business of the Year. Senator Steinberg made an excellent choice. From the vantage point of a best friend I’ve watched Tina’s business grow, and then sputter, and then grow again. I’ve watched her maneuver through the economic challenges of the past few years, always with a positive attitude.

So how exactly do you get to be a Small Business of the Year? What makes Tina and her business stand out as a role model for entrepreneurs? To use Uptown Studios’ tagline, be Easy, Fun and Popular.

Easy

In my Forbes Profile I write about blocks I’ve Been Around: putting $10 of gas in my car because that’s all I had. This was years ago, so I’m going to out Tina: she was the one I passed that $10 back and forth with. Sometimes I needed it; sometimes she did. Entrepreneurship isn’t always glamorous. But Tina, no matter how challenging a client project or how tough a business issue she faces, always has a can-do attitude and exudes to her staff and her clients that it’s easy. “Let’s just jump in and get it done.” And to persevere as an entrepreneur while enjoying a personal life, having an “It’s Easy” attitude is vital.

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How You Do Your Money…

May 24, 2011

…is how you do the rest of your life.

I was talking to a yoga teacher about a friend of hers who was having money problems. Actually, he had been having money problems for most of his life. She told me that there is a saying in yoga: “How you do yoga is how you do the rest of your life.” In my years of working with others around their money, I’ve found this to be equally true: “How you do your money is how you do the rest of your life.”

If I gave you a list of all of the clients’ businesses and professions that I’ve ever worked with, and asked you to select which one of those clients was, by far, the most at peace with his or her financial past, present and future, you would never select the right one. If I gave you a list of all of their gross revenues, you would never select the right one. If I gave you a list of their net profits, you would never select the right one.

But, if I gave you a list of other attributes of each of these clients, it would be clear to many of you which is most at peace.

Do you have set work hours, take regular vacations, fund your retirement every month, pay yourself a steady salary, don’t draw additional money from your business, have proper insurances in place and utilize appropriate professional advice? In your personal life, do you eat well, exercise, and balance playtime with responsibility time? How do you do the rest of your life? Does it look like how you do your money?

I’ve learned a lot from this client. How did she come to be at peace? Consistency, and years of it. Paying a little extra on her mortgage every month, no matter what. Funding her retirement every year, no matter what. Using business debt very carefully and cautiously.

What could you do, in your life, to be at peace with your money?

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Stacey Powell, creating more financial clarity at CreatingAnswers.com, tweeting at @CreatingAnswers and showing off Financial Art at Facebook.

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The Power of Stating your Intentions Out loud

May 11, 2011
Amgen Tour 2009© waynepowellphoto.com

Amgen Tour 2009© waynepowellphoto.com

Tomorrow I leave on a 330-mile, 4-day cycling adventure: the NorCal AIDS Cycle. I’m a little impressed with myself. “Athletic” is not a word frequently used to describe me. As a kid, I wasn’t picked last for team sports, but I was never picked first. And until three months ago, I had never cycled more than 10 miles at a stretch. My last training ride was an easy, fun, quick 30 miles. I have good reason to be self-impressed.

Do you have a big financial goal? Something that feels unattainable, that you can’t see yourself ever reaching? Would you like to be self-impressed?

Say it out loud.

When I first uttered that I was considering the ride, it wasn’t a fully formed thought. But I’d said it out loud, first to a friend that serves on the Ride’s Board of Directors, and then to my daughter, and then to a best friend. It snowballed from there. My daughter wanted to do the ride with me, and then her godmother, and then a best friend, and then a client.

Ask for support.

One of my life’s intentions is to be physically fit. That’s not my sole reason for doing this ride; a long-time passion of mine is raising desperately needed funds for HIV/AIDS. But the ride was a goal that I could speak out loud, ask for support from my family, friends and colleagues, and be lovingly held accountable to completing my goal. The first $100 donation I received sealed the deal; there was no going back. Someone gave money in support of me. I was accountable.

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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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Date Night With Your Finances

March 30, 2011

Financial Art 2010Date night with your finances? What’s that supposed to mean?

Just what it says. The phrase “Date Night” evokes thoughts of fun, special, coveted. For many, the phrase “Bill Paying” conjures ugh, drudgery, lack. What would it look like if we felt differently about our finances?

Most of us have it backwards. Its no wonder we think of our finances as drudgery. This is how the majority of us “do our money.”

  • We squeeze the chore between the laundry and washing the dog.
  • We collect our bills; we log in to get our bank balance (and hope that everything has cleared the bank); we pay our bills.
  • We look to see how much is left, and hope there is some.
  • Then, when we’re tired, over it, a little grumpy, and the dog still smells, we make the important decisions. This goes to savings, that goes to debt, and this gets set aside for car repairs.
  • But the dog smells, and company is coming for dinner, so I’ll make those decisions next month.

Would you like to do it differently? Would it be all right if life got easier?

That’s a phrase I learned from Maria Nemeth, a pioneer and visionary in the field of our psychological and emotional attitudes about money. She published “The Energy of Money” in 1997, when few were addressing the important issue of how financial decisions are made.

When it came time for “Telling the Truth” and dealing with my own financial problems, one action I took was Date Night with my finances at my favorite café. Me, my portable financial binder, and my dreams. I coveted those luxurious Saturday nights, not squeezed between laundry and dog-washing (okay, I don’t really have a dog.) I used the time to dream, to look at the truth and to plan. Bill paying happened elsewhere. Each consecutive month, I got a little more clarity, planning became a little easier, and my dreams felt more attainable.

Our money and our financial decisions should not be a chore. Bill paying is a chore. Financial decisions impact our future, our dreams, our peace of mind. They intertwine with who we want to be and who we are. We should have a little fun. We should make it a date night!

Last summer I hosted my first Financial Art ~ An Interactive Art Experience. Hundreds walked through our office courtyard, and a couple hundred picked up crayons, a piece of paper, and an egg timer. In three minutes they drew their financial lives or their financial futures. Then they hoisted their drawings, as Tibetan Prayer Flags are hoisted, as a wish to their future. The cool thing about it was there were couples out on a date talking about their money. Happy, excited, hopeful; the antithesis of drudgery. It was a simple bit of collective fun. Interactive community art. A way to do it a little differently. And a great launch to Date Night with Your Finances.

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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!)