When it comes to tracking your financial health, H. Jude Boudreaux, CFP, says you should ignore the headlines.
"Take the time you'd normally spend worrying about the next big things, stick to disciplined, time-tested principles, and enjoy the things in your life that money can't buy," he says.
The founder of Upperline Financial Planning, a fee-only service, recently checked in to offer more advice on how we can manage our money better so that we can live our life more fully. Read on:
Tell us about Upperline Financial Planning ... what services do you offer?
We do Fee-Only Financial Planning. We do what's called "Financial Life Planning" in some circles; we think it's just financial planning done right. If we can start with what is most important in a client's life, it helps us put all of their other decisions in the appropriate context.
Why was it important to you to be a fee-only planner? How does this set you apart from other planners?
I truly believe it's the only way to work with a planner. You'd never go to a doctor who told you, "You don't have to pay me, just buy the prescriptions I recommend from my pharmacy and I'll get paid that way." The conflicts of interest present with commissions that other advisors can receive are very difficult to overcome, and as Upton Sinclair said, "It's difficult for a man to understand something, when his ability to pay his mortgage depends on his not understanding it." Better to just be explicit and clear with how one is compensated, and to provide value for that fee rather than dealing with commissions and the filter they create.
What's your philosophy on financial planning ... how do you look at it differently than other planners out there?
We believe that financial planning should be available for people beyond those who have large pools of money to invest. We're pioneering new business models that allow us to work with young professionals and entrepreneurs who are underserved by traditional models. It's not just about managing assets, it's about maximizing your time here on earth and using your income and assets to support your life choices.
What do you talk about when you sit down with a client for the first time?
In the first meeting with a client, I want to ask two questions. What's on your mind that has led you to want to talk to a financial planner, and what else?
We are big on creating a safe place for clients to talk about anything that is going on in their lives. Beyond the challenges, I want clients to paint the picture of what their ideal future is. At the end, we'll talk about their resources and explain to them how we work with clients.
Why is setting goals so important to managing money?
You can't say no until you have a bigger yes. Budgeting is about saying no to certain spending, and having a very clear big goal makes it easier to make the spending choices you need to make on a daily basis.
What do you your clients struggle with the most when it comes to personal finance? How do you coach them?
Getting in the habit of checking in on their weekly spending. Talking about investments and the other components of planning is more exciting, but if you could do just one thing that would have a tremendous impact on your financial life, it would be to get in the habit of checking in on your spending on a weekly basis.
What sorts of advice do you offer clients who are overwhelmed by the current financial situation - either they have loads of debt or they're nearing retirement or haven't saved enough, etc.?
Nobody's ever sat down to talk to me and felt like they had made all of the right financial choices, and we don't need to fix the next 20 years right now. Let's get clear about the current situation and start to talk about how they can make one day's worth of positive choices. Then, how can we have a string of successful days.
What are some of your favorite tools or resources for people trying to get a handle on their money?
I personally use Mint, and I often recommend it to clients. I love the concepts of The Planning Center's First Step Cash Management system. We love to get clients thinking about Money Past, Money Present, and Money Future to break down their financial choices.
What tips on spending, saving, budgeting, etc., do you find yourself sharing over and over again with clients?
Plan your spending, and spend on experiences. If you feel guilty about spending money on going out to eat, decide what you want to spend each week, and then actually go and spend it! When you do, don't feel guilty about it. Feel proud that you've made a plan and your spending is exactly what you decided to do with that money, so enjoy it fully. Plan your spending for big things in advance, especially travel. If you can have a trip paid for before you take it, research shows that you'll have a lot more enjoyment of the trip.