Bite 5 - Finances --
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Blog: Life Management
How Do You Eat An Elephant to Get Organized?
Bite 5 - Finances

In Bite 4 I talked about establishing a Home Office to manage the many details of running a home. Many use this home office for both personal and professional use. One of the personal issues dealt with in the Home Office is finances. I can hear the moaning out there about how you weren't born a financial wizard so you'd prefer to push this area of getting organized to the rear of your time. That's exactly why I put this bite on the rear of the elephant.

It's been said that the only thing most people know about money matters is-that it does. It certainly does matter! Do you know that 85% of all women will live alone at some time in their lives due to death or divorce and I've added disability. My husband, after 44 years of excellent health was suddenly struck with a Grand Mal seizure. CAT Scans revealed that he had large mass of malformed veins, larger than a man's fist, was located on the right front lobe of his brain. An AVM (Arterial Venous Malformation) had been sitting there since birth known only to the good Lord himself because it is a fetal malformation meaning it had been there since being knit together in his mother's womb. He literally had been living with a bomb in his brain waiting to go off at any given time.

He used to run in our local River Bank 15k Run, enjoyed aerobics, tennis, golf, etc. He, unlike many men, went to a yearly physical, however, something like this can come out of the blue. Though Jim's AVM had not bled at that point it became a major source of concern that it might which would mean instant death or potential disability from a brain hemorrhage. He endured non-invasive procedures at the University of Virginia Medical Center in hopes that it would shut down this mass, however, almost to the year the bomb went off. When I took him into the emergency room that night I was told he'd had a massive brain hemorrhage, he wasn't going to make it, and I should call our children home. Our lives changed in an instant.

Thankfully, we'd been working together on "getting our house in order." When Jim was taken down I was not taken under from the pressure of not knowing where things stood in our finances. About five years prior to learning of this AVM while everything was perfectly normal Jim had been lead to read a book by Larry Burkett entitled, Debt Free Living. I believe it was the nudging of the Lord himself to Jim that moved him to get serious about our finances. Though it sounded like Greek to me at the time I joined Jim in the endeavor to bring our family to debt free living.

About two months prior to Jim's brain hemorrhage we paid off our final and largest debt, our home. As I say in my talks, "I stand here humbly, not proudly, to say that we remain debt free to this day." After getting 3 kids through college debt free, then 3 weddings debt free, and building a handicap accessible home for Jim debt free I can honestly say it's the least stressful way to live. I believe the Lord wants us to live within our means. I give praise to God for providing for all of our needs and many of our wants throughout these past 15 years.

Financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce. We don't get into debt overnight and we don't get out of debt overnight but there are ways to do this and Larry Burkett's book explains one of those ways. I urge you to consider this for your own life if you're not already living debt free. Another book by Larry Burkett to help get all of your finances in order is his "Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples." Don't rule yourself out too quickly, this means anyone under retirement age.

It's been said that one of the most loving acts you can do for your family is to have your finances in order. A great little booklet to help you do this is, "Before The Other Shoe Drops". This is a bright colored booklet that will give you a place to record where all your financial information can be accessed. If/when something happened to you your family could take that booklet and manage your estate. You don't even have to show it to your family ahead of time. Simply tell them you've prepared it and that it's with your financial information.

I saw many men in the brain injury units where my husband stayed whose wife had a sudden stroke or a car accident. They were clueless as to where they stood financially. I once read that in 78% of household's the woman handles the finances. As I've taken a show of hands poll in many of my speeches I can attest to this statistic. It doesn't matter who handles your finances but what does matter is that you could take it over at any given moment should you have to. Approximately once a year you and your spouse (or whomever is handling your finances) should go over it together and alter any details that may have changed in the past year (i.e. financial advisors or figures that went up or down.) If ends are not meeting you need to realize there are two choices: 1.) Increase your income or 2.) Decrease your spending. It's as simple as that to get things back in balance.

I'm also a strong believer in the proper use of credit cards. If you can't pay them off every month you might want to use a recipe I heard awhile back: lay all of your credit cards out on a cookie sheet, set the oven at around 400-450 degrees, place the cards in the oven-about 20 minutes ought to take care of your problem!

If you use credit cards be sure to have a system for recording what you've charged. My system is to use my checkbook record for not only checks but also any credit card purchases. I record a V (for Visa) in the check number column, record the date, the item, the amount of the purchase, and subtract this amount from the balance. I know exactly how much money is in the account and it's waiting in there for when the balance is due. Instead of worrying that the check will get lost in the mail going to the credit card company I have authorized an automatic withdrawal each month. I know the money is waiting in there because of my system. When the credit card statement comes I go over each item and justify it to the checkbook record.

Checking the statement is vital to knowing if everything is correct. At least four times in the past number of years I've found mistakes. Once, early in my husband's long hospitalization (he came home a year to the day after the brain hemorrhage), there was a parking violation in California (on the opposite coast!) I knew that no one in my family had been in California so when I reported it to the credit card company they put a hold on it, checked it out, found it to be a mistake, and took it off my balance.

Another time I made a purchase in a local department store. When I was justifying my statement I noticed a charge for $184. I could not figure out what that could have been so I called the credit card company. They told me that there had been a fraudulent ring in the store and that they were all now prosecuted and in jail. This charge was taken off my balance but I've often wondered if they ever would have notified me of this error had I not called to check it out.

And, one mistake was after my son took my husband, who doesn't drive, Christmas shopping to get a gift for me. It was a darling "little" outfit and I wished I were that small. My son offered to return it for me and after doing so gave me the paperwork. While checking the statement that month I realized they didn't give me credit but instead charged that same amount again to the credit card! After a quick trip to the store to explain the mistake it was adjusted properly.

You just can't assume that there will be no mistakes on your credit card or bank statements. If nothing else human error can easily come in when processing your statement each month.

Though you may not feel yourself to be a financial wizard the least you can do is to balance your checkbook and credit card statements. Once you have that habit going you can begin to make sure you're contributing to an IRA and other investments in preparation for retirement. If you don't pay attention you may "pay in tension" (a quote from my friend and author, Neil Atkinson in his book "The Shrewd Christian: You Can't Have It All But You Can Have More Than Enough.") No one else is going to look after what income you will have to depend on once retirement time rolls around. And, trust me, it'll roll around much faster than you can even imagine!

An interesting and informative book by another friend on the subject of investing is "Savvy Women, Smart Choices: 42 Smart Choices Women Can Make in Financial and Estate Planning", by Marcia VanderWoude. You'll journey through the lives of many women, told in unique story form, as you learn from their good choices and regretfully poor choices.

I realize the subject of finances if a heavy one so meet me here next week when we'll deal with a lighter subject-your closets. Or, is this the dark hole of Calcutta in your home? Join me as we venture into your bedroom closet with the 4 Box Cleaning Method.

posted on: 11/6/2007 12:00:00 PM by Judy Warmington
category: The Mental Side

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Life Management

by Judy Warmington

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Judy Warmington, Woman Time Management (owner) -- Busy wife, mother of three adult/married children, grandmother of 10 (5 boys and 5 girls!), former high school teacher (M.A. from W.M.U.), Speaker, Author, Radio Personality, and Trainer of Professional Organizers.

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