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2013 – A Retrospective

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I always love this time of year because everywhere you look, there is a retrospective on popular events, people, music, movies, television shows, news headlines, etc. of the year past. I love to read and watch every single one to remind myself of what treasures the year gave us. With 24 hour news channels, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs, texting, emailing, etc. it is easy to get inundated with information and forget the details along the way. Retrospectives help us remember the highlights. I am excited that this year, I can blog my first retrospective and keep it as a small part of my time capsule of life.

Rollercoaster

2013 was a tumultuous, exciting, scary, amazing year in my life. For those who do not know me, I am 35 years old. And I have had a number of crazy years in my life, but to date, this one takes the cake. I began my year working for Merrill Lynch as a Financial Advisor. I loved my job, but felt as though I was missing something. It was wonderful working with my clients and helping them achieve financial goals; however, I often wished that I was not limited to working only with people who had $250,000 or more in assets. In addition, I also wanted to start a newsletter that I was going to call “Financially Blonde.” Unfortunately, life at a large financial institution is limiting, and I could not achieve either of these goals.

A Child Is Born

Somewhere around February, I began to formulate my thoughts for the perfect financial services company. This company was one that didn’t focus on assets, but focused on the financial health and well being of its clients no matter what their financial shape or size. In particular, this company would target young people as they were starting their financial journeys because making smart financial choices as soon as possible, leads to easier choices down the road. I consulted with friends, family, clients and industry specialists about this company, and I got various responses. And the funny thing was that the responses completely aligned with the age group of the person questioned. I found that Baby Boomers did not understand the concept at all, and they all wondered how I would make money. Gen Y or Millennials said there was absolutely a need, and my Gen X consultants were somewhere down the middle. Given the fact that there was the most support from my target market, I made plans to leave Merrill and start Next-Gen Financial.

In August, I officially started Next-Gen, and a month later began my blog Financially Blonde as the fun way for me to communicate with my friends and clients about how to have fun, live fabulously and be financially fit. In addition to the blog, I also finished my first book which is a great tool in taking the first steps to achieve financial health. I am now three months into both endeavors, and I have never been happier professionally. I have the ability to help people truly achieve their hopes and dreams in life through strong financial health, and there is nothing more rewarding. I love being in the trenches with my clients, holding their hands and cheering them on as they work hard to live a more financially rewarding life.

Not All Fun and Games

As with every year, there are ups and downs. Professionally, there were a number of ups. Personally, I had a number of downs. Isn’t that always the case? You can’t have it all. I lost three family members between January and April of this year. Even though, I know better than anyone that there are no guarantees in life, it is still always a struggle to say goodbye to those we love. I have been married for 10 years, and earlier this year, my husband and I really had to fight for our marriage. We have an immense amount of love for each other, but sometimes life wears you down and you have to regroup and determine what is important. I am happy to say that we celebrated 10 years in October and without a single reservation. I have a 7-year-old son who has ADHD and sometimes transition is difficult for him. And second grade was one of those difficult transition times. But with the help of an amazing child psychologist, I am happy to report that he too is doing great heading into 2014. Here is a picture of us from my son’s first football game.

family steelers game

My Blog

I only began this blog three months ago; however, there are a few blogs that I am particularly proud of and would like to highlight.

1)   Don’t Buy It – Try It – I let my readers in on my secret of “free” facials and makeovers at Sephora.

2)   Make It Hard – I highlighted the importance of making shopping a fun challenge to not only save money, but to look fabulous as well.

3)   The Me Market / Vegas Baby– As a financial planner, I am always asked about investing, and these two blogs capture the essence of my message to clients.

Other Blogs

As I am new to the blogging community, I have been actively blog stalking and finding blogs I love. Here are a few that either have retrospectives or previews into their 2014 blogs. I can’t wait to continue to follow them.

1)   The Heavy Purse

2)   Frugal Rules

3)   Young Adult Money

4)   Frugal Beautiful

5)   Commonsense Millennial

I hope you enjoy a wonderful send off to 2013 tonight, and a fun, fabulous and financially fit 2014!

 

 

Music Mondays – Big Girls Don’t Cry

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Holiday Fatness

We are just about a week past the holiday season, how is your financial picture? For most of my clients, despite the fact that we talked and planned for a better way to financially manage through the holidays, I know that they are not as financially healthy as they should be from their holiday spending. Just like a Weight Watchers leader is stressed about his or her client’s overeating during the holidays, a financial planner is stressed about his or her client’s overspending during the holidays. The fact is, the spending is over. Even if you were “bad,” the damage is done and now is the time to deal with it. I play this song for client’s who get upset about poor financial choices they have made in the past. The reality is that unless you can return and get refunded for those poor choices, you can’t cry over it. You can only “put your big girl panties on” and deal with the after effects.

Big Girl Panties

If you got carried away this holiday season, stop thinking about what you did wrong and figure out how you are going to make it right. Here are 5 steps to take to manage through this:

1)   Assess the damage – Is it on your credit card? Did you hit your savings?

2)   Make a plan for fixing it – Create a realistic budget for 2014. In your 2014 budget, plan for your 2014 holiday spending. Figure out what you are going to cut out from now until your “fix” your holiday spending. Just as you overeat during the holiday and have to eat better in January and February, you need to do the same financially.

3)   Give yourself specific dates and goals – Just as we are more successful at work with deadlines and specific goals, we need to create the same for our financial goals. Determine when you would like to “fix” your financial mess and put those dates in your calendar.

4)   Review your progress – This exercise is only valuable if you constantly review it and check in on your progress. Put weekly calendar reminders in your phone or computer to make you aware of your check-in time.

5)   Celebrate your success – Once you “fix” your holiday issues, celebrate. Give yourself a small reward like a mani/pedi or bottle or wine to celebrate your financial responsibility.

Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions

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I am actually notorious for not setting New Year’s Resolutions because I never seem to keep up with them, and I ultimately fail. As someone who hates failure, I just refused to set myself up for it, so I stopped creating them. The truth is that frequently we create resolutions that are too broad or too difficult to begin with, and then we make the mistake of forgetting about them. This year, I am making sure that mine are specific, attainable, and most importantly, in writing for my review throughout the year. I will keep you posted on my progress!  Good luck on yours!

10) Blog at least three times a week

9) Lose 10 pounds by the summer and keep it off

8) Go to the dentist twice this year

7) Finish my second book

6) Make four new recipes every month

5) Get rid of cable

4) Work out at least three times a week

3) Schedule at least one Ladies Night a month

2) “Spring clean” in my house at least four times this year

1) Make sure that every day those I love know that I love them

Music Mondays – My Grown Up Christmas List

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Mindful Holidays

This holiday season, I have taken my Music Monday posts to help frame a conversation around the holidays, and how we can become more mindful about what is important to us during the holiday season. I began the season with a reminder to not get caught up in the holiday marketing and overspend what you don’t have. Then I wanted the remind everyone to remember that it is the people that we love that are truly what the holidays are all about. Next I cautioned about asking for too much from loved ones during the holidays. Financial strain and stress during this time of year are avoidable and it starts with the creation of wish lists. And last week, I discussed focusing on people in need to truly enjoy the best Christmas ever. This week, I will share with you my Christmas list and my Christmas confession.

Christmas Confession

I grew up in a home with five children. In fact, we just recently watched home videos of Christmas’ past, and even though Christmas was always “big” because there were seven family members, it was never “big” for any one person. My parents struggled enough to make ends meet, and the holidays were always a challenge. Of course, I did not realize this when I was little; however, I do now. As an adult, I overcompensated for my limited Christmas gifts with over the top experiences for those I love. The last few years, though, I have become more mindful of the holiday experience, and I have scaled back my gifting. Not because I have become a Grinch, but because I think it is a responsible exercise for everyone. Through this evolution, though, the fact is that no matter how big or small the holiday, I always enjoy it. There is truly magic around this time of year, and I thrive on the holiday spirit. So my confession is that I lost my way in the “stuff” of Christmas for a number of years; however, I am happy to report, that I have found my way back. If you have lost your way, I hope you make it a challenge to find your way back. I promise you won’t miss anything!

My Grown Up Christmas List

On that note, here is my Christmas List for 2013:

1)   Happiness and health for those I love

2)   Safe travels for those I love

3)   Quality time with my husband and son

4)   New Perfume (I am not completely reformed!)

5)   A rice cooker (I broke my last one)

6)   A few hours of uninterrupted time to read a book

7)   A Christmas morning wake up after 8am

What’s on your Christmas List this year? I hope that you enjoy this week and challenge yourself to remain mindful this holiday season. You will find that no matter what is under the tree, your enjoyment level will remain high!

Top Ten Year End Planning Musts

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With only 11 days left in 2013, I am taking this Friday to remind you of items you should check off your list before we hit 2014. I know there is a lot going on for most people between now and the end of the year, but take the time and review this list to make sure you have done everything you need to do in 2013.

10) Review your credit score – You should do this regularly, but definitely use this time of year to check in and make sure everything looks okay. I love Credit Karma because it is free and gives you a report card telling you what you can do to improve your credit score.

9) Confirm your healthcare coverage for next year – Did you lose it because of Obamacare? Did you confirm it with your company? Do you need to go to healthcare.gov? Make sure you and your family are set for 2014.

8) Business Planning – Do you own a business and need new equipment or new to make other business related expenses in 2013? If you plan to write them off for this year, then make sure they are purchased before year end.

7) IRA Contributions – You technically have until you file your taxes to take care of this, but if you were planning on making a contribution to your IRA for 2013, why not take care of it now?

6) Gifts to Family or Non-Profits – If you were planning to give cash or stock gifts this year, you need to make sure those are done before the calendar year end.

5) Doctor appointments – Have you gotten your money’s worth on your doctor visits this year? If you have access to these through insurance and you have not scheduled them, get them in before year end. Typically people forget eye doctors, dentists and your general physician for your annual physical. Preventative care is essential for long term health and wellness.

4) Donations – Make sure that you give your clothes and goods to your charities before the end of the year, especially if you plan to include them on your tax return.

3) Flex Spending – If you still have money in your flex spending account, make sure you make purchases before year end so you can use it and not lose it.

2) Investment Portfolio Review – If you have non-retirement investments, you should review your portfolio for gains and losses and determine if you want to take them before the end of the year.

1) Budget for 2014 – The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on the previous year and lay out the plan for the next year. I know most people think that budgets are a nuisance, but it is the best road map you can give yourself to assure that you achieve all of your financial goals in life. I have suggested sites to help with this, but you can also just use a simple spreadsheet to plan it out.

Who’s Your Goose?

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You haven’t heard of Top Gun?

At 35, I do not consider myself “old,” yet recently I recounted my love for the 1986 movie classic, Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise (before he became a couch jumping, Scientology supporting crazy man) to a 26-year-old friend of mine. To my great dismay, I discovered that she had not seen the movie, and barely knew the reference I was making. If you are like my friend and you have in fact not watched the cheesy brilliance of Top Gun, please stop reading this right now and proceed directly to your most convenient streaming source (Netflix, I-Tunes, Cable, Satellite) and rent this movie. The volleyball scene in the middle is worth the $4 alone. If you have seen this movie, then you know are aware of the nickname, Goose. He is probably one of the greatest movie buddies of all time. In the movie, Goose, was known as a “REO” or navigator on a fighter jet. It is a REO’s job to be another set of eyes on the plane to make sure that the pilot is fully aware of all of the risks surrounding him while flying. As you can imagine, this is an important relationship as the pilot is truly entrusting his life in the REO, and vice versa.

A Financial Buddy Can Save Your Life

Even though it did not end well for Goose, I bring up the importance of a buddy like this because I believe it is important to have a buddy when you are trying to become financially fit. Two years ago, I was 50 pounds overweight, and I joined Weight Watchers. In 8 months, I achieved my weight loss goals, and I fully attribute it to the fact that my husband, Bill, was my weight loss buddy. He kept me on track and had my back through the entire process. Even when he achieved his goal, he continued to partner with me until I achieved mine. I believe the same relationship is absolutely necessary for achieving financial fitness. If you are in a relationship and one of you is a saver and one is a spender, it is difficult to get ahead and for you to achieve all of your goals as a team. If you are trying to save, but you have friends who are constantly trying to get you to go out and spend money, then it will be difficult for you to achieve your savings goals.

Make an Effort to Find Your Buddy

So, I challenge all of you to find your Goose where financial fitness is concerned. Partner with someone and share your goals with each other. Then work together as a team to make sure you both achieve your goals. Your Goose does not have to be a spouse or significant other, but it is always nice to have each other’s backs like that. Whoever your Goose is, choose someone you would trust with your life because your financial health is truly as important as your physical health and that person should feel the same way. If you agree to be someone’s Goose, you should have their back and help them make smart financial choices. If your Maverick has a tough time sticking to them, look for ways to help him or her with those challenges. Financial health, as in many areas of life, is so much more fun and achievable with the help and support of people we love.  Do you already have a Goose? If so, let me know. Let me know what you do to support each other. If not, find one and have each other’s backs so you can achieve the most out of life possible.

Music Mondays – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

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Childhood Joy Becomes Adult Concern

This is probably my favorite “non-holiday” holiday song. Since I was a little girl, I remember liking the music; and despite the fact that Pop Up Video found numerous flaws in this song, I still love it. What I love most about this song now, is that it is a reminder to think about others around this time of year. We all get consumed with providing the best holiday that we can for those we love, but there are people who have very basic needs that they can’t fulfill this holiday season, and there are ways that we can help them. I have a 7-year-old son and for the last three years, we take this week before Christmas and make him go through all of the toys in his room and pick the ones that he will donate to children in need. We make sure that he picks good ones because we don’t want to give someone something that he wouldn’t want. We also take him shopping to pick out toys for Toys for Tots.

Other than toy and clothes donation, there are always charities looking for food, money or your time around this time of year. Once I got married, my mom made a habit of volunteering at a soup kitchen on the Christmas’s that I spent with my in-laws. When my son is older, I plan to do this with him.  Below are a few links to help you find ways to give back this holiday season and help other’s know that it is Christmastime.

Ways to Give Back

5 Charities That Accept Toy Donations

The Heavy Purse – A great list of projects to do with your kids

Feeding America – Find your local food bank to give or volunteer in

All for Good – Helps match you with volunteer opportunities

Military Benefits – Here are ways to help military families

Top 10 Holiday Movies

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10) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohlSF_TNrBo

9) The Santa Clause

8) Mickey’s Christmas Carol

7) Charlie Brown Christmas

6) How the Grinch Stole Christmas

5) Home Alone

4) A Christmas Story

3) Elf

2) Love Actually

1) Christmas Vacation