Just the thought of setting a budget can be enough to send us running for the hills. The other day, I had lunch with a friend who is a fellow career mom. We often swap stories about our busy lives and commiserate about how hard it can sometimes be to balance work and motherhood. Her career has taken off over the last year, but she looked more relaxed than ever. She shared that she and her partner had decided to outsource many of the household responsibilities they had historically struggled to keep on top of and often bickered over. After telling me what an amazing gamechanger this had been for her mental health and her family, her expression quickly changed to one of guilt as she admitted that the services were costing them quite a bit. Despite her increase in income, she felt embarrassed and irresponsible about how they much they were spending on services some would consider unnecessary. To her it sometimes felt as if they had traded their weekly arguments over household tasks with monthly disagreements over money.
I could relate to her experience on both a personal level and a professional one. After assuring her this was a common struggle, I shared tips with her that have helped many of my clients over the years. The traditional guidance for people grappling with feelings of guilt, self-reproach, or insecurity over their finances is to create a strict budget and stick to it. Some people enjoy a disciplined approach to things, but for many of us, avoiding the need for strict budgets can be a primary driver for saving and working hard. Tracking every small expense, feeling guilty about how much you spent last month, questioning partners on their expenditures, and generally feeling restricted—what’s to like? It’s right up there with counting calories, so I understand why people avoid it altogether.
If you’re like many high-income earners and people who have saved well, you might feel that avoiding the need to budget is a right you have earned. After all, you’ve worked hard so you don’t have to count every penny, right? The trouble is that it puts you at risk for not meeting larger goals such as a comfortable retirement, paying down debt, college funding, or making a large purchase; and it can also leave you feeling out of control and dissatisfied. Whether you are a busy professional struggling to figure out why you don’t have more money at the end of every month or you are already retired and unsure how to balance your personal spending with other goals, there is a strategy that can help you feel more in control of your money without having to budget.
Pre-Retirement Reverse Budgeting Process:
By taking these steps, you ensure your savings goals are met first, and anything that remains can be spent on whatever you desire, without guilt!
- Identify your goals.
- Determine how much you need to save on a periodic basis to meet these goals—the easiest way to do this is to work with your financial advisor to create a financial plan.
- Set up an automatic savings plan with a combination of payroll deductions and automatic monthly transfers.
- Enjoy the freedom to spend what is left as you choose and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are able to meet your goals!
To make this process work for you, it’s important to start with a cushion in your checking account and to review your checking account at least monthly and before making large purchases to ensure you are maintaining a sufficient balance. If you find yourself running short, you can pull back slightly on small discretionary purchases and build that cushion back up so you aren’t forced to dip into your savings for something other than the goals you have set. We all tend to spend more when we are feeling flush, so checking your bank balance periodically should allow you to reign in non-essential expenses for short periods and return to guilt-free spending in no time. If you find a significant gap, you may need to examine recurring expenses for areas to cut back or reassess your savings goals.
Retirement Goal Funding Process:
You worked hard, you saved, and now you are living the retirement dream, but that doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished all your financial goals. Many people in retirement want to leave a certain amount to charity, help their children buy a home or start a business, help their grandkids with college, save for a large purchase such as a second home, or plan ahead for long-term care expenses. When you have a set amount of assets that need to provide for a lifetime of expenses and several other large goals, it can be hard to determine whether you have enough and what you can afford.
It’s also common for retired people to struggle with the transition from saving to spending. If you have been a disciplined saver and enjoyed watching your nest egg grow, the idea of diminishing it can be incredibly stressful. This process has helped many of my clients discover a new sense of financial comfort and freedom.
- Identify your goals. What do you anticipate for recurring annual spending? Do you have any legacy goals, plans for long-term care, or larger purchases, gifts, and donations to consider?
- Work with your financial advisor to run financial projections that account for investment returns, market volatility, inflation, taxes, etc.
- If the projections show you are not able to attain every goal, work through prioritizing and adjusting your goals until your projections show results you are confident in.
- The end result should provide you with an annual amount you can confidently spend while giving you peace of mind that you are able to meet your other goals as well!
One final, crucial step in the financial planning process is to meet with your advisor periodically to make sure you stay on track to meet your goals and discuss how goals may change for you over time. A great advisor will review your entire financial picture to make your money work its hardest for you and not only maximize your potential for meeting those goals but also encourage you to reach for the stars and live fully along the way. If you’re not already working with an advisor or are looking for someone who can provide this type of comprehensive support, we’re happy to help—schedule a consultation now!
Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such.
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The client’s overall well-being is Sarah’s constant focus. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Chartered Retirement Plan Specialist with eighteen years of experience in financial services, and enjoys helping clients set and achieve goals so they can live life to the fullest.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™ and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements. CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst® are trademarks owned by CFA Institute.
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