Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Keeping Resolutions

How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?  Did you decide to make a budget?  Having a hard time sticking to it?  Here is a short video that we hope will help.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fiscally Physically Fit

Money is a resource and so is your health. If you lose all your money, you can find a way to earn it back. You cannot always get your health back. The state of Iowa champions an annual 100 days, live healthy campaign, with the goal to bring together friends, families, businesses and communities in team-based wellness challenges.  This promotion for positive lifestyle change is part of Live Healthy America and kicks off January 23, 2012.

The goal of Live Healthy America is to provide the tools, resources, and technology to assist individuals, organizations, and corporations in creating a culture of wellness. It has grown to a wellness solution that motivates, educates and empowers organizations to make positive and lasting lifestyle changes to achieve optimal health. All this helps to drive down lifestyle-related health care costs, which benefits you, your family and your employer.

Shaving calories and increasing your activity will help you lose weight, save money, reduce medical expenses and can help you live a longer, healthier life. Go online and check out your options today. Pull together a team. Challenge your friends and neighbors to join the Live Healthy Campaign. Staying physically fit is one of the best things you can do to help you stay financially fit.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Budget Challenge

Okay, so you have been tracking your expenses and you are getting ready to set your budget based on your values. Now I want you to consider incorporating some values into your budget, such as 100% or 90/10 or 80/10/10.

Goal of a budget is to spend less than you have coming in. The old rule of thumb is to save 10% of your income and live on 90%. This is great advice given our economic time and job uncertainty. You should be putting at least 10% of your income into retirement savings, and then you need to have an emergency fund as well. The key to savings is to PAY YOURSELF FIRST! Treat your savings like a bill that you would never miss. With each pay check, transfer money into your savings account. Even if you have other bills to pay, I feel it is important that you save on a regular basis. This gets you in the habit of saving, even if not at 10%.

Now the challenge is to reflect your values. The 80/10/10 rule is where you live on 80% of your income, save 10% and give away 10%. Personally, we value our community and we feel that it is important to give back to our community. When we were in college without any income, we would give back in our time and talents by volunteering.

If you are currently on the 100% plan or the 100+% plan, sit down and see if you can work towards either a 90/10 or the 80/10/10. The good news is that it is up to you on where you give back, and how much you give. I would encourage you to start with 98/1/1 where you live on 98% and give and save 1% each. Try that for the first year and then see if you can go to 96/2/2 until you get to where you want to be.

Money is just a resource and it should be used as a reflection of your values. Your budget is to help you use your money as an expression of your values. Share with us how it goes and ways you give back. The paradox is “the more you give, the more you get.” Good luck and happy budgeting!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reboot Your Budget

2012 and the New Year’s Resolutions are two weeks old. So how are you doing? Did you make a commitment to finally make and follow a budget? If you did, you are not alone. Budgets seem to be easy to make, but really hard to follow. If this sounds familiar, here are a few pointers that may help you stick to your budget.

When you think of budgeting and making a budget, first take a moment to reflect on your values. Money is just a resource and using this resource should be a reflection of what you value. I’ve always thought that if you want to see what people value, look at how and where they spend their money. A budget should allow you to express what you value and help you from running out of money by planning out your known expenses.

Do you know where your money is going? To make a realistic budget, first track where you spend every penny, --yes every penny, for two months. At the end of the first month, review where you spent your money. Keep going for another month to catch all of your expenses and income. There are software packages like Quicken or to help you track your expenses. It doesn’t take a smart phone or expensive software. You can track your spending with a little notebook that you keep with you 24/7. If you want control over your weight, write down everything you eat. If you want control over your money, write down where you spend every penny!

Now that you have two months of spending, categorize your spending and estimate your expenses, spending, savings and investing for the rest of the year. Don’t forget the non-routine expenses, such as vacation, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. Make sure your budget reflects your values.

To help you stick to your budget, go with one of the oldest budgeting techniques. Use cash and envelopes. Write the category on the outside of an envelope and when you get paid, put cash into the envelope. When you go grocery shopping, take your “grocery” envelop. When you go out to eat, take your “dining out” envelop. Yes, using cash is old fashion, but it works.

If you share expenses with someone else, get that person involved in your budget. Create the budget together and have weekly budget meetings. Make sure you agree that your budget reflects your values and that you both agree to the budget. Keep the conversation focused on the budget and not on past spending. Keep the conversation positive and keep working on a common goal.

This is a real quick overview on budgeting. Let me know if it works, what questions you have and ideas for blogs that will help you succeed in your personal financial goals.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tax Time – Withholdings on Target?

From Guest Contributor Ila Zimmerman

For the last 10 years I have prepared tax returns on weekends for a couple hundred clients. No matter how much income individuals make, they always welcome a tax refund and scorn paying more taxes. The tax refund is like a gift from the government even though it is your money.

If you want to make every frugal penny count, calculate what your tax liability is going to be and make sure you are withholding just enough each paycheck to cover your tax liability. The government provides the W-4 form and instructions to help you project your withholdings for the year. Withholding more than your liability is simply letting the government use your money for free instead of you earning interest on it. When I don’t see the money in my paycheck, it’s much easier not to spend it. To get a chunk of money all at once seems to have lots of possibilities. With your tax refund, you might be able to invest in an IRA and save yourself a little more. Or maybe you can pay off debt, pay cash for a trip or an electronic gadget instead of putting it on a credit card.

On the other hand, it can be very stressful if you do not have enough taxes withheld and have to pay the government more money when you file, especially if you do not have the money and/or if you have to pay a penalty. Generally, if you have at least 90% of what you owe in taxes withheld or 100% of what you paid last year (110% for higher incomes) then you will not be assessed a penalty. The penalty is an interest charge on the portion of taxes you did not have withheld throughout the year and is based on your federal tax rate. If you don’t pay the money you owe by the return due date or if you don’t file a return and owe money, then the interest charge can climb to 25% or greater. Bottom-line: Pay your taxes on time.

Finally, if you have a refund and do not file your return for three years, you will not get the refund. But if you owe, the balance due will not go away. Specific questions about taxes? Go to I would be happy to help you determine a comfortable withholding amount, help reduce your tax stress and help make your tax time a pleasure.