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Let’s disrupt generational poverty

Everyone has been preaching for years that people need to focus on creating generational wealth for their families. During my time as a financial services practitioner, I’ve read hundreds of articles, research papers, and studies, all of which shed light on the fact that the wealth disparities in the United States continue to widen. So, are people focused on creating wealth or just earning enough to get by? The wealth data I continue to review year after year seriously disappoints me, which prompted me to start The #BuildWealth Movement™

I can see the problem, clear as day. Our society speaks about how this is the land of opportunity, how you can create generational wealth, how you can “live the American dream.” Well, that dream isn’t a reality for millions of people, and it looks more like a nightmare. So, how about this? Let’s focus our attention on how we can disrupt generational poverty™.

Disrupting generational poverty isn’t something that my Movement can do alone. I’m just one person who is working to change the way people THINK and FEEL about money. During any interactions with individuals or groups, I feel that I’m doing my part to help disrupt generational poverty simply because I’m an expert. I’m giving really good advice. What people decide to do with that advice is up to them.

The way people THINK and FEEL about money causes you to do one of two things, make a decision or not make a decision. Notice that I didn’t say good decision or bad decision. Every decision you make has consequences one way or another. But, the thoughts and emotions around money play out in our everyday lives, sometimes to the detriment of future generations. Let me give you a few examples to drive home this point. I’ve had someone (actually, multiple people) say the following to me:

“My parents didn’t leave me anything, and I don’t plan on doing that for my kids. They’ll figure it out.”

“I had to work two jobs and I took out loans for college. I want my kids to learn the value of hard work.”

“I make good money, but I still feel like I’m living check to check.”

“Growing up, talking about money was always considered “grown folks” business.”

“My bank isn’t paying me much in interest, but if I put my money in the stock market, I could lose it all tomorrow.”

Now, how do you think hearing things like this makes me feel? In my earlier years as a financial planner, I used to get upset. Over time, I used such remarks as fuel to my fire, continued to work my plan, and ensured that people never EVER say such a thing like that again. 

I also realized that many people don’t have examples within their families or community of what wealth looks like. It just doesn’t seem to be obtainable. Think about the kids who grow up in the hood. They idolize drug dealers, gang-bangers, professional athletes, or entertainers. Why? Because that’s all they see or hear the people talking about in their hood. If that kid is lucky enough to get some exposure to the outside world, they’ll most certainly aspire to do something different.

The same thing happens to adults. Many of us have been deemed successful by our peers or family because we have a fancy job title, nice car, and a house. You “appear” to be successful, but when you begin to delve into your financial situation, you realize the ugly truth. The job stresses you out, and you always fantasize about your dream job, but you’ve got bills, so those dreams get put on the back burner. You have a massive student loan balance, and you feel like it’s going to take decades to pay it off, if ever. The car is nice, but you have a huge car payment each month, and the car’s maintenance is a cash drain. The house, maybe it’s a decent spot, but you’ve got that mortgage and other expenditures coming out of your bank accounts just to maintain the place. Now, you’re left trying to figure out how to invest for retirement, paying for more life insurance, or saving money for a child or your children’s college education. Then you might be considering making an investment into more real estate, building an emergency fund, making sure your credit stays above a 720, meeting with an attorney to get your wills and trusts done, or maybe even starting a business. 

Whew!! That’s a lot huh?

No wonder people can’t disrupt generational poverty. There just isn’t enough time in the day (so “they” say) or enough money coming into our bank accounts to handle all of this stuff. If you don’t personally know someone taking care of business, you don’t believe it’s possible. And, if nobody in your family or community is living the life you dream about, then YOU MUST BE THE FIRST! 

Here’s my strategy on how we can all disrupt generational poverty. I am going to keep it as simple as possible. Experience has taught me that more people can adopt simple, as opposed to complicated. So, here it goes!

  1. Write down the financial goals you want to accomplish. Be sure to segment them out based on time – – short-term (less than one year), intermediate-term (1 year – 5 years), and long-term (5 years+). 
  2. Take inventory every quarter; the best tool to do this is called a balance sheet. If you need one, send an email to info@ready2buildwealth.com and write “Balance Sheet” in the subject line.
  3. Do a budget; I don’t care if you use pen/paper, an app, or some fancy software. Pick a budgeting strategy you can commit to doing.
  4. Strive to get all your credit scores above 720
  5. Have a FULL understanding and leverage ALL employer-sponsored benefits
  6. Get PLENTY of life insurance; If you’re single, you should get some. And, the coverage you have through your job isn’t enough, or it’s only enough while you still have employment with that company. Life insurance from your job is rarely portable.
  7. Invest for retirement outside of what your job offers. (If your budget allows)
  8. Have a non-retirement based investment account (If your budget allows)
  9. Buy real estate 
  10. Have good tax person
  11. Start saving/investing for your child’s college education right after their birth; (Everyone gets an 18-year head start, so what are you waiting for?)
  12. Have a good estate planning attorney
  13. Review and update your plan WHENEVER you have a life-altering event.
  14. Start an investment club with your family or friends
  15. Read this book called The #BUILDWEALTH Challenge: 8 Challenges to change the way you THINK and FEEL about money

Imagine if everyone followed these 15 steps. Of course, there are probably more things I could’ve listed, but this list is pretty solid. I even feel confident enough to guarantee that we could disrupt generational poverty for sure if everyone followed those 15 steps. But, I know people will make the conscious decision to do something different, even though I’ve given them the “cheat-code.” 

Where do we go from here? Well, I need your help in spreading the word. I will not be able to disrupt generational poverty all by my lonesome. It’s going to take an army. I have many ideas on how to address this issue of generational poverty, and if you’re open to having a conversation and helping me out on this quest, shoot me a note to info@ready2buildwealth.com, and in the subject line, write “Let’s Work.” 

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The Project 100 recap

I had this crazy idea that I acted on as 2019 concluded. I wanted to kick off 2020 with a challenge and not some fitness or dieting challenge. I wanted a challenge that would focus on spreading financial literacy to the masses. I decided that I would attempt to conduct 100 free financial planning workshops. I would focus specifically on non-profit organizations, and I figured some for-profit entities would come along (and perhaps even pay me). Either way, I had a number, and I was going to focus on hitting it.

I determined that non-profit organizations would be a great target because they generally don’t provide (or have the budget) to conduct comprehensive financial literacy training for their staff. Yes, I realize some non-profit organizations have a huge bankroll, but I know that many non-profits don’t. Not only did I want to assist the staff, but I also wanted to extend the effort to any people in the community that the organization served. I had one stipulation, for any session that I was going to conduct, I required (20) people to attend. I assumed that it wouldn’t be hard for twenty people to gather and talk about money. I mean, so many people complain and are upset about the wealth disparities in this country, so people should flock to a free financial planning session. Right?

I knew doing this challenge alone would be silly, so I reached out to my Urban Financial Services Coalition – SF Bay Area Chapter (UFSC) family and explained the challenge. They were onboard and specified that I do something unique just for them. We decided on doing a Project 100 session every 2nd and 4th Wednesday virtually. This way, I could open up this opportunity to anyone across the world who had an internet connection. And, since I had all these Wednesday’s, this would give people ample chances to attend at some point. I would do something different for these virtual sessions since I was in full control. I set a deadline for getting the twenty people. Since the event was happening Wednesday nights, I put a deadline for registrations. The deadline was always at 6:30p PT on the Monday prior. If I got the twenty, the session happened. If I didn’t, the session wouldn’t happen. Since this was a free effort, I wanted people to help promote it because I knew that I alone wouldn’t always be able to muster up the twenty. Plus, if ten people registered and brought one other person, that would get us to twenty. Easy right?

So, here are the final numbers from the Project 100:

Number of sessions conducted – 54

Number of people impacted (attendees) – 892

At first glance, yes, I failed miserably. The goal was to conduct 100 sessions, and I fell short by 46. So, if I were in school, a grade of 54% would be an F. Luckily for me, this isn’t school, and despite this grade, I looked at this project as a huge success. 

Success #1: This Project forced me to create a marketing plan and stick to it. Part of that plan was putting together a short video clip where I laid out “my ask.” I recorded a short video stating (1) the purpose of my effort and (2) encouraged people to register for one of those Wednesday sessions or schedule a time to discuss the details of speaking at their organization. I posted this video EVERY…SINGLE…DAY on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I dialed things back in November, but I went “hard in the paint” for ten straight months!

Success #2: Some people couldn’t believe what I was attempting to accomplish and thought it was quite admirable. They repeatedly asked how else could they support me, so I sent them the link to purchase copies of my book The #BUILDWEALH Challenge – 8 Challenges to change the way you THINK and FEEL about money.

Success #3: I kept showing up on people’s social media feed so much throughout the year, that I landed new clients and customers due to my marketing efforts. (They opted to skip my workshop and just wanted to get down to work. I love people like that!)

Success #4: I made connections with leaders of organizations that I probably would have never had the pleasure of meeting. These leaders have taken it upon themselves to do this incredible work within their respective communities, and now I can say I have a personal connection with them. 

Success #5: I helped almost 900 people begin their journey to becoming a financial rockstar or enhance their current financial plans.

Despite the awesomeness this project produced, it also served as a valuable learning experience. The things I took away from this project will definitely shape future efforts for The #BuildWealth Movement™.

Learning #1: People don’t value free financial planning information.

Learning #2: More people commented on my videos about how much my hair grew over 2020. (As a result of the pandemic, I didn’t spend much time in the barbershop during the year) Many of those same people never attended a session.

Learning #3: Even when you’re a credible person who is adequately licensed and has over a decade-plus experience within the industry, people will still think you’re a snake oil salesperson if you’re giving something away for free. 

Learning #4: People will get to work on their financial plan when THEY are good and ready. Many people registered for multiple sessions throughout the year and never attended. I guess they think waiting is the answer to their financial struggles. (Insert slapping yourself in the face emoji)

Learning #5: I have a gift. That gift lies in my ability to break down the complexities of financial planning in a way that is easy to digest. I also sprinkle in a bit of humor, which always goes over well with any audience. And lastly, the activity that I conducted during those 1-hour sessions blew people’s minds! (Multiple people gave me that feedback after the sessions)

I thoroughly enjoyed this Project 100 experience. I haven’t the slightest clue what wild ideas my brain will draw up next, but I know that I will act on it when it happens. Plus, I feel really good inside because I was able to impact so many lives. I may not always get validation from people after a session, but I know that my message was and is being shared with hundreds of people that I’ll probably never have the chance to meet. That’s why I do what I do.

I’ll conclude with this. Suppose your organization (not-for-profit or for-profit) is looking for a dynamic speaker who can assist you with your financial education efforts. In that case, I’d love to connect and take you through the workshop that so many experienced in 2020. Just send your request to info@ready2buildwealth.com.

conflicting priorities

Conflicting Priorities

Setting up and sticking to a financial game plan is hard for most individuals. Adding a child to the mix makes it even more challenging. Parents have tough decisions to make every single day of their lives. One of the most significant financial decisions they must make is deciding how they want (if they have the desire) to fund their children’s college education. In addition to college planning, most parents also need to make sure they are properly planning for retirement. So, which one is more important?

College is not getting any cheaper. With the continual increases in tuition and fees, parents need to seriously consider the various options they can access for college planning. The most popular vehicle today is the 529 college savings plan. Aside from the 529 plan, parents can also utilize a Coverdell Education Savings account, UTMA/UGMA, Life Insurance, IRA’s, or U.S. savings bonds. Each of these solutions has pros and cons, so be sure to consult with your financial advisor about which option makes the most sense for your situation. Suppose none of these options has ever crossed your mind. In that case, there are other methods of funding a college education which most of you are familiar with – – loans, grants, and scholarships. With grants and scholarships, the money is given to you, but loans you must payback. If you can outright avoid loans, please do, but they are a great source of funding and sometimes they end up being the only option.

Retirement is on every working adult’s mind and when that day comes, hopefully, you are financially prepared. If your employer offers a retirement account (like a 401K), you should be utilizing it. Suppose your employer doesn’t provide such a benefit or you’re the business owner. In that case, it’s up to you to take care of your retirement program. Depending on where you work, your company may still offer a pension plan, which means the company is putting money into an account on your behalf to utilize during retirement. Pension plans are slowly becoming a thing of the past because they are costly to keep in force; thus, companies are putting more responsibility on the individual to take care of their retirement needs. In addition to those retirement options, the government will provide some assistance via social security. By itself, social security will not be able to support you during your retirement years altogether; thus, you need to make sure to take full advantage of your retirement benefits through your employer if offered. If those retirement benefits are not in place, then you should pick up the phone or send an email to your financial advisor and get to work.

Have you figured out which one is more important? Your answer should have been retirement, and here’s why. With retirement, if you don’t set up a plan and stick to it, there are no loans, grants, or scholarships to bail you out. At that point, you only have two choices: (1) retire with less money or (2) work longer. Most people probably don’t like either one of those choices. Still, unfortunately, that is going to be a reality for many people. College planning is a huge priority for many parents, but there will always be loans, grants, and scholarships. Such options don’t exist when it comes to retirement, so if you are a parent and try to figure out which one to focus on, choose retirement.

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5 Timeless Financial Tips

Most people would agree that discussing your finances can be extremely challenging. The biggest hurdle that plagues us – – getting started. Like anything else, when it comes to beginning your journey to financial glory, you must set a goal. Once the goal is set, now it’s time to take action.

Of course, there are no “one-size fits all” type of approach, and no matter where you are in your life, you may need to address one or all of the following as it applies to your financial game plan:

(1) Create a spending plan (also known as the budget).

How much do you earn? How much do you spend? How much are your bills each month? How much do you save/invest? Try your best to stick to a spending plan each month and have someone hold you accountable when you do not stick to it. Please do not beat yourself up if you don’t stick to it each month because it’s hard to change your spending habits overnight. Grade yourself on a 3-month basis because if you can manage this over an extended period, then guess what, you’ve created a brand new habit! And if the conventional way of “budgeting” doesn’t work for you, consider an alternate strategy, like the 50/20/30 plan.

(2) Pay off credit card debt.

We all know that credit card companies make money off the interest they charge on your account. Here are a couple of tips: 1) Stop spending money that you don’t have; 2) Pay off the card with the highest interest rate; 3) Consider paying off the smaller balance (this will give you the emotional jolt to continue to fight against the larger balance) 4) If possible, pay more than the minimum payment each month. 5) Try the debt-snowball technique

(3) Build an emergency fund.

Make sure to have between 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved at all times. Or for those over-achievers, considering having 9 months to 1 year’s worth. This may be a challenge, but you will never be upset with yourself for saving money when an actual emergency pops up.

(4) Determine personal insurance needs.

Many people may be uninsured or under-insured, which could prove detrimental to your overall financial game plan if the unexpected happens. Consider your situation and see if life insurance and disability income insurance provided by your employer will sufficiently cover your needs. If need be, consider owning personal insurance outside of what is offered through your job. Please note, if you change jobs or lose your job, you will typically lose those employer-provided benefits because the employer is paying the premiums; thus, you don’t “own” the policy. Personal policies can help ensure that you’re protected, no matter where you work or what happens with your job situation. Also, your age and health play a HUGE role in how an insurance company will set the price of their policy, so please keep that in mind.

(5) Begin/review your retirement plan.

We all work extremely hard, but what do we have to show for all our years of service? Many companies are doing away with pension plans; thus, the responsibility of putting money away for retirement falls on our shoulders. Take advantage of your employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401(k) or 403(b) because these plans allow you to invest monies tax-deferred. An excellent benefit of these plans is that they take money out of your check before getting paid. There are also ways to save for retirement outside of an employer-sponsored plan. Consider opening an IRA (traditional or Roth) or a brokerage account. An annuity or life insurance contract could also be an option. If you decide to save for retirement outside of your employer-sponsored plan, consult with a financial professional. You’ll need to be aware of contribution limits, tax treatment, and how the accounts work.

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5 Planning Tips for the soon-to-be parent

The best time to get money-wise about parenthood should be before a child is born. Most soon-to-be parents are probably thinking about all the glorious elements of being a parent; the snuggling, baby baths, feeding, or changing diapers. The last thing newly minted parents are thinking about is making sure their family is set up for financial success. If you are a parent-to-be, preparing ahead of time will enable you to think through all your options and create a solid financial plan.

1.      Create a (parent) budget

When a child arrives, your family budget will change dramatically. Make sure to factor in the cost of diapers, baby formula, child-care, clothes, toys, and the list goes on.

2.      Start an emergency fund

Start saving three to six months of household expenses in an account that you can readily access. For those who wish to be a bit more aggressive, aim for six to twelve months.

3.      Review your insurance coverage

The primary goal is to make sure your family can continue to keep the household going financially if something unexpected were to happen. This involves you conducting a thorough analysis of your life insurance, along with short- and long- term disability insurance.

4.      Think retirement before college

Students have options for funding their education – – grants, scholarships, loans, and any savings or investments you’ve put aside. You don’t have such a variety of options to fund your retirement, nor can you make up for that time lost. Understandably, you want to provide proper funding for your child’s education. Still, your financial independence should be the top priority.

5.      Make an estate plan

Make sure your family’s wishes are carried out in the event something happens to you. Your family’s details will end up in court with a judge deciding what he or she thinks is best if you don’t have documents such as a will, trust, or power of attorney.

Please make sure to speak with a financial professional as it relates to these tips. Doing so will ensure that you and your family will have peace of mind related to your financial decision making.

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You Need A Financial Planner

Financial planners were put on this earth for one reason, to help people get and keep their financial houses in order. But so many people avoid financial planners. Why, exactly is that? Are you one of those people who think you’re better off on your own? Perhaps. Are you the person who says you don’t make enough money; therefore, there’s no need for you to meet with one? Or maybe you’re the person who says, “I don’t want someone all up in my business.” Whatever your reason, you should seriously consider having a conversation with a financial planner because the data doesn’t lie! As a society, we are seriously failing at financial planning.

If you have some time, research this piece that the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors published in 2012. The findings are quite disturbing. In that piece, they reference an organization, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which conducts an annual consumer financial literacy survey. Take a look at their survey in 2013 and 2014. It should come as no surprise, but the numbers continue to be extremely disappointing year after year. And, if you’re wondering how things are going today, not much has changed. On the flip side, this should encourage any financial planner to continue to reach out to and follow up with their clients, ask those tough questions, and challenge their clients to be better financial stewards.

Financial planning shouldn’t be something that we fear, but something we should embrace. If you are someone who doesn’t have a plan, you need one. If you’re someone who already has a plan, maybe you’re overdue for a review. No matter your situation, having a financial game plan will most certainly guarantee you financial independence (however you define it) at some point in your life. And just like that adage says, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

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Taking Inventory

Getting your financial house in order is a goal that most people set for themselves. Of course, not everyone will get things in order at the same stage in life. Like anything else, most people will do things when they are ready, not when some financial professional tells them to do so. Or they will decide to take action as a response to a life event. Here are a few examples.

Let’s say you have a friend (who has young children and a spouse) that passes away unexpectedly. After witnessing that, you decide to get serious about having adequate life insurance to protect your family. Or you have a co-worker who is getting well into their golden years but still HAS to work because they didn’t save/invest appropriately for retirement. Only then do you decide to start taking retirement planning seriously.

No matter your excuse or fear around financial planning, you must take it step by step. You have to crawl before you can walk, and you must walk before you can run.

Completing a personal balance sheet is the “crawl” step that everyone should take. This document, which you can find pretty much anywhere on the Internet, is easy to complete. It’s going to require you to list everything you own (assets) and everything you owe (liabilities). With some basic math (assets – liabilities), you will be able to determine your net worth.

Taking this “inventory” enables you to focus on where you need to start related to your financial plan. Plus, as you continue to move forward with your financial plan, this can serve as your barometer of financial fitness. The goal is to continue to grow your assets while decreasing your liabilities.

Some experts will recommend that you update your balance sheet once a year. However, if you are the type that needs more frequent feedback, perhaps you should consider updating your balance sheet quarterly or twice a year.

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How Can A Financial Planner Help Me?

Having a conversation about financial matters is a struggle for most people. We all understand that it’s imperative to have your financial house in order; however, most people typically don’t. The fear that you face around this issue will never subside until you decide to take action. You either need to do-it-yourself (which most won’t commit to doing) or enlist the aid of a financial planner.

Financial planners don’t get a ton of fanfare, but they should. The issue stems from the fact that people don’t understand the value that a financial planner can provide. People don’t know that a financial planner may be the solution to all of their money woes. People don’t understand that a financial planner needs to be cherished just like your barber or hairstylist. Wait, like your barber or hairstylist? Yes!! When you need your hair done for an event or before you go on a trip, you will move mountains to get that appointment. Or if your person doesn’t do appointments, you will wait as long as it takes. Why?? Because looking good is non-negotiable!! However, when it comes to financial matters, you’re okay with NOT taking immediate action and continuing a life of financial misery. There isn’t a sense of urgency in interacting with a financial planner, nor is there typically a quick (there are exceptions) outcome received. Thus, people tend to shy away from meeting with a financial planner or constantly reschedule their appointment.

Now that we’ve addressed the psychology behind why people avoid financial planners, let’s move on and look at what you need to consider when you are ready to find your go to person. For starters, whoever you decide on, you need to like them. It doesn’t make much sense to do business with someone that you don’t like. Next, it’s recommended that you should interview 2-3 candidates before making your decision. Before finishing that first meeting (which is typically the free consultation that most will offer), you should know precisely how they get paid and what they can do for you.

Here’s a menu (of sorts) that you should consider when walking into that first meeting. A financial planner usually works in one of 3 ways:

Transactional-based business (Needs Analysis):

Think of this level as the basic package. You need a solution, and this planner can sell it to you. The planner will capture the necessary information as it applies to your need, conduct an analysis, and conclude by recommending a solution(s). It doesn’t require much follow up after the transaction is complete. The planner will be in touch at a minimum annually to review or be in touch periodically for service-related matters. The planner earns a commission on the solution that is sold.

Managed Money (Wealth Management):

This can be considered the “I’m in it with my client” level. You are entrusting the planner to manage a certain amount of money for you. The services at this level may involve the following as it relates to your money: 1) how your portfolio is allocated amongst the different asset classes 2) managing risk within the portfolio 3) enhancing (growing) your portfolio and 4) tax planning. You will probably meet with your planner quarterly to review your account. The planner will charge a quarterly fee based on the solution chosen and the account size. A fee-based relationship requires the planner to act in the client’s best interest because their compensation is tied directly to performance. Good performance, better pay, poor performance, less pay.

Comprehensive Financial Planning:

This level is like the deluxe service at the car wash. The planner will assist you with an in-depth analysis of some or all of the following areas: Net Worth and Cash Flow, Investment Planning & Allocation, Risk Management, Retirement Planning, Income Tax Planning, and Estate Planning. At this level, you will meet as necessary to help ensure that you understand your financial plan. At a minimum, you will conduct an annual review of your plan. Compensation at this level is two-fold. First, there will be an agreed-upon fee for the financial planning service. Second, the planner’s commission or fees will be earned if you decide to purchase any solution(s) to implement your financial plan. Some people choose to have the planner produce their financial plan, pay the fee, and opt to implement a solution(s) with another planner.

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The #BuildWealth Challenge Results Are In

How did this #buildwealth challenge come about? Simple, I was trying to determine what financial areas were causing the most issues for people. Was it a lack of understanding of the complexities of the various insurance and investment-related products? Or was it dealing with basic money management skills and credit? I set out to see if I could get 500 people (ended up with 510) to respond to my brief survey.

Please note that I am not an academic, and this research project wasn’t as thorough as I would have liked. I didn’t capture any detailed demographic information (I got plenty of feedback about that); however, the respondents of this survey come from various age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, educational backgrounds, professions, etc. Despite all of that, I think the results we very revealing about the relationship people have with money. I have plans for future #buildwealth challenges. I will most certainly do a better job of capturing more detailed information.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the results!

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I know some may argue that they track their financial success somehow, but I felt strongly that someone’s net worth tells the “real” story. You can determine your net worth by using a simple formula, Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth. This formula can be found on an important financial document called a balance sheet. Please familiarize yourself with this document because it’s a significant first step to getting your financial house in order. Completing a balance sheet will require you to gather all your financial information as it applies to what you own (assets) and what you owe (liabilities). Think of this (taking inventory) as the all-important first step on the road to financial rockstar status.

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For starters, the fact that two people skipped this question is kind of crazy. I’m not sure what to make of it. For the 9% who put “neither,” that intrigued me because it says a couple of things; 1) they don’t have the slightest clue about where their money goes on any given month, or 2) they just don’t care about knowing where their money goes. So, who is in control, you or your money? People feel like they are living check to check because they haven’t taken the time to do some form of a budget, which would provide some level of control. If the old school way of budgeting doesn’t work for you, try the 50/20/30 plan or some other budgeting method. The key is to figure out what method works for you and stick to it. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself if you can’t master the budget right away. Keep in mind that you have to crawl before you can walk.

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Understanding the importance of credit is critical to living a decent life in this country. I was happy to see that over 60% of the respondents were in the good/great category. For the small percentage who stated they have “no idea” about their status, I hope they exercise their rights by obtaining one free credit report (no score) from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. The interesting thing about credit is that you can screw it up, then clean it up, then screw it up again, then clean it up again. And you can repeat that for as long as you would like. Once you clean up your credit, unless there are some unforeseen circumstances (i.e., job loss, divorce, becoming disabled), it should not be hard to maintain a positive credit standing.

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This question wins the prize for “most skipped,” and that wasn’t a big surprise. The way the question is phrased probably has something to do with it, as I didn’t specify what type of insurance. Plus, most people don’t truly understand why insurance is the cornerstone of their #buildwealth plan until something goes wrong. Let me ask a question. If you were going to build a house, where would you start? If your answer was anything other than the foundation, we need to talk! When it comes to building a home, a solid foundation sets the tone for the remainder of the house.

Regarding your #buildwealth plan, not having a strong insurance foundation may jeopardize your saving, investment, and retirement plans. If you were to get seriously sick or injured, your bills don’t stop just because you’re not working. Unless you have adequate savings, I seriously hope you have the proper amount of disability insurance. How about if your spouse/significant other (who happens to be the breadwinner) dies unexpectedly? Again, unless you have savings or other assets that you can liquidate immediately, I seriously hope you have enough life insurance. I’ll stay away from medical insurance because I know everyone who has medical coverage is grateful. Clearly, the insurance conversation isn’t a fun one to have, but hopefully, I’ve shed some light on how insurance can affect your overall financial well being.

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There’s going to be a day when you don’t want to get up and go to work. When that day occurs, hopefully, you have more than enough money to survive. Retirement, whether you’re just starting your career, a seasoned professional, or winding things down, should be on your radar. The younger you are, the more time you have, the older you are, the less. It’s scary to know that some people have worked 30 or 40 years and have nothing to show for it. Or they are in their early 70’s or even 80’s and “have” to work because they can’t afford to.

Having your retirement plan in order is of the utmost importance. Back in the day, your employer typically took care of retirement planning for you; however, the responsibility now falls on your shoulders. Many companies have done away with pension plans (because they are expensive to manage). The long-term viability of social security seems to be an issue. Still, I’m optimistic that our government will figure out how to make it last. Some employers don’t provide a retirement account. That’s okay because there are plenty of avenues for you to open one up on your own. There isn’t a good excuse as to why you shouldn’t have an account (be it with your employer or on your own) that’s dedicated to retirement. If you are one of those struggling with the question of “how much should I save for retirement,” the answer is simple…A LOT!

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Risk is another area that more of us need to discuss when thinking about our #buildwealth plans. Let’s get one thing clear; there is risk in every single type of account that exists. The big question when it comes to risk is how much can you tolerate? If you’ve ever worked with an investment professional or opened any type of investment account, you’ve taken a risk questionnaire. Some experts will say that if you’re young, you should be aggressive, and if you’re older, you should be more conservative. And, of course, there is everyone else in between. The theory makes sense because if you’re young and you’re investing aggressively for the long-term, you will probably be satisfied with the growth in your account despite the ups and downs of the market. Just search for any historical data about the stock market’s long-term performance, and you will understand. On the flip side, when you’re older, you may be relying on those funds to live; thus, it’s all about preservation. You might not be able to live comfortably if a major dip in the market occurs, and your account balance is cut in half.

Managing risk will ALWAYS be a work in progress for everyone. Life will cause you to think differently about risk. When you’re young and single, you make different choices in relation to someone who is older and has a family. When your salary is $150,000/year, your investment decisions are different from earning $80,000/year. When you are an educated investor, you’ll tend to make riskier investments instead of a novice investor. I could go on with examples, but you get the point. Be mindful of the risk that you’re taking and make sure you are the one that’s driving your decisions on risk and not your emotions or some outside influence.