The path to financial freedom

Know thyself (financially).

You MUST understand your finances before you work on it. This is not one of the cases where you want to depend on luck.
Track your past expenses
Check your credit report
Understand your net worth
These are the most basic steps to truly understanding your finances.

Determine what drives you

Realise why you want it, articulate your motivation. There are going to be difficult times, there are going to be temptations a long the way. Have a solid foundation to go back to whenever you are in doubt.

“I want money” is too vague. Money is a tool, not a goal. The underlying reason for most of us is that we’d like to fix our finances.

Here are some examples:

  • I want to give more. I am well aware that you don’t have to have much money to give it away, but I want to give my children/family/charity more than I do now.
  • I want to provide security for my family.
  • I want to travel. I love to visit places I’ve never been, meet the people, see the sights, and taste the food.

Let’s break it down: How much do you need?

Ok, you want to travel, to give, to have, to do… Translate it to a number, how much money should you have in order to do these?

After that, break it down some more. How are you going to get this number? This is the time to break it to a monthly, or even weekly goal – make it specific, measurable goal. These periodical goals are good to check that you are on track and also to celebrate small achievements along the way. We tend to lose our steam if we can’t stop and celebrate a couple little victories every once-and-a-while.

Write down your goals, or even schedule a weekly/monthly date with yourself to check on them.

Action!

So you know where you are, where you want to be, and how you want to get there – great! Time to walk the walk.

I’ll help as much as I can. Subscribe to the automatic email updates, take whatever advice and tips resonate with you and skip the rest.

File all papers

Being organised is the first step to having control and visibility over your financial situation. It will save you money and time and you might even find money you didn’t know about.

Steps to organize

  1. Collect all documents listed below. Some of it can be found online.
  2. If the documents you found are more than a year old, call and ask for updated documents.
  3. Scan it with a scanner, with one of the scan apps (e.g., Scannable)
  4. Have another text file with user names and HINTS to passwords to all institution websites. Do not write all passwords directly but a hint, such as: Nat’s year of birth, my first child name with $.

Folder: paychecks, expenses, banks and credit cards

  • Work contracts
  • Paychecks (weekly, monthly, annual)
  • Taxes – Income tax, social security
  • Bank details and last year statement
  • Checks
  • Credit card reports
  • Loans

Folder: Housing/Rent or Mortgage

  • Renting
    • Rent contract
    • Bill receipts for renting period
  • Purchasing a house
    • Purchase contract
    • Plans
    • Mortgage contract, payments
  • List of all suppliers (internet, cables, cellular, land phone, electricity, gaz, …)
  • Contract for all suppliers if relevant
  • Bills from all suppliers for the last two years
  • List and contracts for all subscriptions (newspapers, gyms)
  • House purchases: Receipts, warranties

Folder: Car

  • Buying contract
  • Ownership/Registration, license copy
  • Insurances
  • Garage treatments
  • Fuel receipts
  • Toll roads, parking tickets, etc.

Folder: Family

  • Diplomas
  • Certificates: Birth, Marriage
  • Vaccinations data
  • Last medical info

How many credit cards should I have?

This is a question I get quite often… The people I consult usually have quite a lot of credit cards – Some of them have so many that they forgot some of them exists. Naturally, it is easier to track less credit cards balance than more – therefore if you want to have full visibility on your finances, it would be easier to have less than more. But how many?

credit cards pic

As usual when it comes to a financial decision, the answer is: It depends! Lets list the different factors:

  • First, lets see why it is good to have multiple cards:
    The benefits that a single card can give you vary:
  • Frequent flyer miles (or points)
  • Discounts for specific things
  • Free (or discounted) entrances to places
  • Reduced rate for exchanging currency
  • Having multiple cards can create backup in case one does not function
  • Some businesses do not except certain type of credit cards so having multiple credit cards basically means having “full coverage”

On the bad side:

  • Each card has a minimum amount you need to spend on it every month/year
  • Each card has a monthly fee after an initial period

And there is the additional management overhead:

  • Each card is charged differently and paid on a different date from your bank account
  • Each card expenses is listed on a different website
  • Each card requires you to maintain another account in balance

Once you have these factors in mind you can evaluate appropriately how many credit cards you should have and which ones.

My rule of thumb is a credit card per person in the household and additional one for fixed payments (bills, insurance, etc.). That way you know exactly where to look if your were over charged in your bills.

Also, every person holding a credit card should be responsible to update all expenses that were made.

cutting credit card

 

How to prevent money from killing the romance?

Decide together on your financial goals, have a joint budget and assign the house “treasurer”.

Taking care of your own personal finances is simpler: You had to decide what to buy and when to buy, you tracked only your expenses and you were accountable to yourselves alone. In a relationship, there is an equal partner who is making expenses and equally accountable but has different priorities and different habits when it comes to financial management.

It is natural to have different opinions regarding financial matters. We grew up in different households, with different socio-economic class and varied experiences and perceptions about money. Some of us like to know about every transaction when it happens and spend only what they have and others like to enjoy the moment and use credit. It is important to sync regarding your common financial goals and in order to do it, here are a few tips:

Define common financial goals

Money is essential to achieve goals in life so stop for a moment to define these goals. What matters to you? Travel three times a year? Go to a restaurant once a week? Buying a flat? Retire early?

Do not avoid the points where there is a gap – Find a common ground and set your goals accordingly, set when you would like to achieve them and derive a realistic budget.

Have a joint spending budget

Face the numbers… know the actual data regarding your incomes, expenses, savings, investments and assets, loans and other liabilities. Check your expenses periodically comparing to the budget you set for yourselves. If you want to learn how to track your expenses and budget, follow my course on Udemy.

Assign a treasurer for the household

It is everyone’s responsibility to manage money, but as the saying goes: “If it is everyone is responsible then no one is responsible”. Assign someone to monitor the expenses and have a weekly meeting to sync about it. Check and verify that everyone knows and agree on the treasurer.

Have a honest and respectful discussion about money

If money conversations ends with arguments, fighting or tears – you are probably postponing the talk too much. It is imperative that you have a periodical meeting and sync about all financial matters that way a small difference of opinions won’t grow to a disagreement and argument.

 

The first decision when running a joint household is whether to have a joint bank account or separated ones…