With unemployment at around 8 percent and hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes, all of us are probably only one or two steps away from knowing someone who has lost a job or home in today’s economy.
If this is you or someone you love, read on. And if not, read on anyway because we all need a financial game plan during, or in preparation for, a major financial transition. In the best of times, job security is negligible and a medical crisis can upset the most robust apple cart.
Step No. 1 - Get Real
Evaluate current expenses, income, and assets. No heads stuck in the sand. This is a time where knowing is much better than not knowing. Find a cash flow calculator online. You’ll find a half dozen or more on the first page of search results.
• Take the time. Sit down with spouse, friend, or family, gather necessary receipts and documents and complete the calculator. Know where your money is going so you can make realistic decisions.
• Cut back. Make a game of finding all the places you can do so. You can do what it takes to get through. Board games versus theater, consignment store versus department store, walking versus health club.
• Evaluate investments. Need to lessen portfolio risk? Draw income from assets? You may want to have a financial advisor help assess what’s needed for the immediate future.
Step No. 2 – Get Clear
After you’ve stabilized your crisis situation, get clear about what’s important going forward.
• Identify key categories. What are the current and future financial categories for which you need to plan or revise habits? For example: Business/career, retirement, professional development/education, vacation, etc.
• Identify priorities. Write down financial goals and dreams for each category. Maybe things you’ve always thought you wanted aren’t as important now, and some dreams you’ve let go of may resurface. A beach house may have sounded wonderful, but when you look at all the costs involved, renting may be more appealing.Be willing to look at all the possibilities and get creative. This isn’t about giving up or giving in. It’s about moving things around and finding out at a deeper level what’s really important to you. The things you do to cut back during a crisis may become activities you want to maintain when your financial situation improves.
• Make a budget. Use the results from your cash analysis to establish a monthly budget. Let each person be in charge of some part of the budget and keeping the others mindful of how that part operates. If you’re solo, form a budget club with a group of close friends, meet monthly and review how you did on your budgets. Support each other and stick to the process no matter what.
Step No. 3 – Get Focused
Dreams come with stumbling blocks as well as positive expectancy. Look at what has held you back previously, especially turning around limiting beliefs. Notice how you respond to these statements excerpted from my Money Beliefs Worksheet:
• I believe I will always have what I need financially.
• I deserve to do work I love.
• I believe I can change my financial future.
• I am good at making money.
• I deserve to prosper.
• I generally feel positive about money.
• I communicate well with my family about money.
• I believe money is neither good nor bad.
Remember: a transition has a beginning, middle, and end. Take the opportunity to examine, plan, and prioritize. Today’s tragedy could hold the seeds for a wonderful something new tomorrow.
• Cynthia K. Fick is founder of Financial Life Planners LLC in Ahwatukee. Reach her at (480) 346-4073 or email@example.com.