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How to Back-up Your Life

How to Back-up Your Life

Too often people go through life with a tunnel vision approach of how they plan to go about their daily activities, long term goals and work related endeavors. Any well thought-out strategy is successful because the planners know that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.

Life is always tossing in the monkey wrench. You should never assume that what you plan today will work for you tomorrow. We see examples of these alternative plans everywhere, yet most of the time they go unnoticed. What does this say about our priorities? By putting some focus on the areas we have neglected to plan for, we can get a better understanding of where our life priorities really stand and where they really should be.

Why is having a Plan B a vital part of success? Not only do back-up plans keep you calm in times of duress, but they also offer two important attributes that should always be accounted for before planning anything in life: flexibility and adaptability.

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Flexibility allows you to change plans without notice which means you can adapt to any situation that arises to achieve your intended goals. There are areas in life where you should always have a back-up plan. We know one thing for sure: that change is constant. You have to be able to handle change whether good or bad. Here are some suggestions in areas that may need attention.

Your Career

-Always back-up your career. This is something to consider now when the economy seems to be headed into dire straits. I know too many people who have been laid off and have no idea what to do if they don’t find another job in their field. Always find something you can do in lieu of your dream job.

-Update your resume often. Whenever you finish a big project, switch jobs or get a new title, it is important to update your resume right away. Not only will it save you time later when you need it, but it is always good to have it updated for spur of the moment career opportunities. I have seen people lose promotions because their resume was not ready to go and they took too much time to update it.

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-Save, Save, Save. Financial planners recommend that you have at the very least two months pay saved up. If you get laid off or worse, fired, there is no guarantee of a severance package. If a medical condition befalls you and you need to take an extended leave of absence, this is a security blanket that will see you through to your recovery. Even if you cannot seem to save that much, save something or meet with a planner who will help determine the plan best for you based on your current salary that will stick.

Your Finances

-Always have a retirement plan. If you are at least 30 years of age and have not opened a savings account, 401K or Roth IRA, do it now! This is especially important for those earning a living in the blue collar or hospitality industry with companies that do not offer you benefits for retirement. Retirement may seem like a long way off, but by opening an account is a step in the right direction towards ensuring your stability later on in life.

-Plan for divorce. It is not a pretty phrase to read, but let’s face it, more than half of all marriages end in divorce. Of course we all tell ourselves that we will be the exception, but it is still a financially independent and intelligent thing to keep in mind, especially for women, so that we have financial security should the marriage fall apart. It is as simple as starting a separate savings account. You can find amazing deals right now if you do it online with interest rates up to 4.75%! That is as good as a CD and you can keep adding to it for the life of the account.

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-Plan to be widowed. The last thing you need when something so horrible happens is to have to worry about finances. Whether you are 20 or 60, you should have a living will. If you need a good reason why, let’s remember Terri Schiavo. She was only 25 and the absence of a living will kept her in a vegetative state for more than a decade. You and your partner should have life insurance policies with the other being named as the beneficiary.

Also, any retirement plan should also have the spouse’s name on it in the event of a tragedy. Each of you should also have your own credit card. Too often I see spouses just added on as users to the credit cards without realizing that they are just authorized users and not actual account holders. It is important to build your own credit and not just rely on your spouse’s.

-Always insure valuable items. The engagement ring you bought your wife, the family heirlooms your mother gave you, antiques of value in your house, etc. It is important to inventory your items of importance in case of a natural disaster, fire or robbery. Get them appraised first before insuring. You might also want to take photos of the items and put them somewhere safe.

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Your Personal Records

-Always back up important records. Plan a day each month to back up your files on your personal PC, laptop and work computer. I recommend an external hard drive. What size you will need depends on what kind of files you work with each day. External drives have come down in price and are much easier to use and less time consuming than CD burning. Instead of amassing a bunch of CD’s, you can just update files on the external hard drive.

This also means scanning in and saving important documents such as birth certificates, any financial records such as taxes and of course, work files! In case of a fire or computer crash, you will still have this valuable information. Your birth certificate can be certified by a notary public without having to go through vital statistics from the state you were born. You may also want to look into a safety deposit box for heirlooms and important records. Not only will these items be insured, but they will be safer than in your personal possession.

Back-up plans should not only be applied to business projects, educational goals, but everywhere in the real world: dealing with children, spouses and social environments. It is important to pay attention and start planning the alternatives so you are not left in the dust unable to adapt because you failed to develop a Plan B. Lack of planning robs you of your flexibility because unfortunately, failure is always an option and if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. You may never use your back-up plans, but like the flood insurance you purchased, it’s always nice to know you have it.

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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