Personal Finance in Paradise – Debt Elimination Series: Part 2 – 5 Steps to get a handle on your debt

Hanauma Bay

Image by propst7pl

This is part two of the personal finance in paradise debt elimination series. The focus of today is to set a step-by-step process of getting your credit card debt down, and to be able to set up plan to follow so there is no wiggle room..

The major thing that holds people from investing and building wealth is credit card debt. If you are getting charged anywhere from 12.99% to 24.99% on credit card debt, it is going to be an uphill battle to building wealth if you’re losing money by paying interest.

This is a simple detailed plan of what to do and how to get out of debt so you can begin building wealth.

1. Find out where you are: in scientific studies, it has been found that people are really bad estimators. When it comes to managing their time or estimating the amount of debt that they owe, people tend to underestimate the amount of debt they really do have in their accounts. For instance, a person may think that they have $10,000 worth of debt, when in reality it can be anywhere between $12,000-$15,000.

There are online websites such as CreditKarma.com, credit.com, and mint.com that’s are good resources which I have used in the past. These resources can access your account information and give you an overall picture of the types of debt that you have.

CreditKarma.com and Credit.com both have access updating your FICO scores as well. These may not be completely accurate at the time, but it gives you a good idea of where you currently stand.

Think of it as your adult report card. It gives you a snapshot of how well you are doing. If you have a negative net worth you can be doing better, and if you have a positive net worth, what can you do to invest more.

2. Negotiate Interest Rates: one of the ways to pay less on your credit cards is to lower your interest rate. It’s pretty easy to do, all you need to do is call your credit card company to ask for a lower interest rate. Give them a compelling reason, like you been paying on time, you have been a longtime customer with the company, and or you have also been struggling with payments. It may not work the first time or with the first person that you speak with, continue to call and ask for manager if necessary.

I personally have called the credit card companies when I have missed the payment, and my interest rate shot up from 9.99% to 24.99%. They were very lenient and they had told me that I needed to pay on time for six months or my interest rate would shoot back up to 24.99% if I miss another payment. It’s worth a try, you may get shot down, continue until you are able to get that credit card breakdown.

3. Stop getting credit card offers: when I began college, I got stacks upon stacks of mailers from credit card companies to sign up for their cards. To prevent being enticed by the credit card companies stop the credit card offers from coming to you.

One way to stop credit card offers is to contact one of the three U.S. credit bureaus three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, and have them remove you from all pre-screened credit lists. When you contact one of the credit bureaus they must contact the other two to let them know that you do not want to receive any offers from credit card companies.

Another way of doing this is to go to optoutprescren.com and click on the bottom link that says “Click Here to Opt-in or Opt-Out”, and fill out the the form and mail it in. I sent in the information, and I do not receive any other offers.

4. Choose Your Strategy: Use the debt snowball strategy, popularized by Dave Ramsey, which lists your debts in order from smallest to largest. You start to paying off the smallest debt with all the extra money you have while paying the minimums on the rest of your debts. Once the first debt has been paid off, take the money you are putting to the smallest debt and use that money to pay down the next debt on your list. Continue doing this until you you are done paying off your debts.

5. Track Your Progress: Make sure to log your progress. It’s easier to keep going if you know how well you have been doing.  You want to be able to create good tracking habits so that you can focus on the rest of your life.

One good habit is to put reminders on your phone calendar every month to update your accounts, or piggy back a habit on something that occurs regularly.

Personally, I track my information on Quicken and I forecasts my expenses for the month on an Excel sheet. I get paid on the 15th and the last day of the month. I update my accounts and prepare for the next month on payday.

it doesn’t matter how you track, just find a system that works for you.

 

Personal Finance in Paradise – Debt Elimination Series: Mindset

Kahana Bay

Debt elimination strategies should always start with how you think about money and how you use it.

I feel that it is easy to blame ourselves for the debt situation that we are in. it is easy to be the victim and take no responsibility for what we have done to ourselves. Does take a bit more courage, and small tasks to step up and take real responsibility to pay off all of the debt we have accumulated.

At the same time,  we have a chance to remember that we have more than 80% of the people in the world.  It is better to focus on what is going right in our lives, and to appreciate what we already have what we have right now.

Marie Forleo has a great video about how to have a mental shift around money. I find it really helpful because the six steps she talks about are ways all of us should be reminded about how we can make small changes in mindset. It’s always the small things that can do on a daily basis to feel a little bit better about our situation.

Carol Dweck also has a great book called Mindset. Its main focus is to teach us about the growth mindset. This is where we look at the positive side of the situation, not in a sense where we pretend that the negative isn’t there, and seeing the situation or how it can make us be a better person.

It is a chance to grow from the struggle, and a chance to work through the problem to be a better person. Paying one small debt, choosing not to buy a cookie or a DVD, and finding ways to save money will help build new habits and get us one step closer to financial freedom.

Money is a powerful force that can destroy you if you let it. You have to learn to control your money instead of letting it control you. If you don’t, you will never get out of debt and will continue to dig a deeper hole.

Be honest with yourself, and and really examine the reasons why you are and that. Be aware of your desires and you wants.

Personal Finance in Paradise – How to develop a Financial Plan

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“If you were to show me your current financial plan, would I get so excited by it that I would go across the country and lecture on it? If the answer is no, then here’s my question: ‘Why not?’ Why wouldn’t you have a superior financial plan that is taking you to the places you want to go?” — Jim Rohn

Many of us have never been taught how to develop a financial plan, and we walk through life guessing what is the next financial move that we should make. It’s possibly the main reason why people are live paycheck to paycheck.

It took me a year or two of research and testing to figure out what I wanted in my life. One thing I recommend is the worksheet from Missouri State University which is provided in the link. The worksheet is a good start point.

The process

1. Determine your current financial situation

One of my mentors told me that your net worth is your adult report card. We lose sight of how we are doing financially, and one way is to measure how we are doing is by looking at your net worth. My financial plan started out with me being $66,500 in debt in 2007 and no savings. I started to track every purchase, and it helped me to clarify where I wanted to go in the future.

Begin with how much you have saved up (in savings accounts, Roth IRAs, and other investments), and then subtract your liabilities (all of your debt from credit cards and loans). Begin tracking your expenses and organize your financial records.

2. Develop your financial goals

I wanted to get out of it the fastest way possible and not lose any of the activities that made me happy. I asked the following questions. It helped me find out where I wanted to be in the future.

  • What do you want for the future?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Do you want to save a certain amount of money a month?
  • Where do you want to travel?
  • What are your financial values?

3. Identify alternative courses of action

Seeing that my purchasing behavior and spending got me into trouble, I knew that the behavior was the first thing to change. I thought to myself “there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes with money. Learn from the experience and move forward.”

Remind yourself that there is no reason to beat yourself up over the situation that you’re currently in. Your circumstances can change. It’s a learning process and it’s alright if you don’t know everything now.

4. Evaluate alternatives

Because the $66,500 price tag was looming over my head, there needed to be a major decision to be made. How much could I put toward paying down the debt. After running numbers in my budget, I decided to put $1,250 a month to the debt and that was the first thing to come out.

Of course I had to give up a few luxuries like being able to eat out often. As I learned and searched for alternatives, I gained respect for money, and relearning delayed gratification. The choices you make now get will get you closer to your goals in the future.

Weigh the costs of the choices that you make. For instance, Can I make steady payments of $650 to my debt per month? What better choices can I make with my money so I can get to the $650 goal

5. Create and implement your financial action plan

After I decided to take action, all the stress and emotion was taken out of the decision making process. It ended up becoming a game of how could I make better decisions to pay the debt down faster.

Once you have made a few decisions on what you want, and the direction you want to go, it’s time to make that plan work. This is the testing phase to see if you are able to work with your plan, and if it will work for you. The hardest part of gathering all the information and planning is complete.It will be hard at first, and the process will be worth it because you are beginning to change habits that you didn’t know you had before. You are on the road to becoming better with money.

6. Review and revise the financial plan

Your first plan isn’t going to be your last. As you move along in life, your financial situation is going to change. My financial situation changed many times over the years. Yours will too. Trust in the process, adjust when you have to, and restart from the beginning when you have to.

For more detail go to wikiHow to get deeper into the planning. Let me know if this helped you, or if you have any suggestions please let me know. See you again soon.

If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us. – Jim Rohn

10 Things Americans Waste Their Money On

Dave Ramsey posted a while ago 10 Things Americans Waste Their Money On, and they are:

  1. Credit Card Interest
  2. Deal Websites
  3. Appetizers
  4. ATM fees
  5. Overdraft Fees
  6. Speedy Shipping
  7. Designer Baby clothes
  8. Unused gym memberships
  9. Premium cable packages
  10. Daily coffee trips

I agree that some of these are wasteful, for instance #1 and #4.  There shouldn’t be any reason why you should be paying fees on things you could get for free.

My personal experience with the top ten are

  • Credit Card interest – Since I have a balance transfer on my credit card, the company is trying to have me pay interest. I will be paying the remaining balance this month so that I won’t have to deal with that anymore.
  • Deal websites – I don’t shop on deal websites, but I do occasionally take part on deals when it comes to getting cheaper quality clothing. I like to shop at H&M or take advantage of workout clothes from Hylete.
  • Appetizers – If and when I go out with my wife or friends, sometimes I’ll order an appetizer as my main dish. It comes out faster and it’s generally cheaper than a whole meal.
  • ATM fees – I don’t pay these ever.
  • Overdraft fees – I have an overdraft account that helps me speed up the process of paying down my debt.
  • Speedy Shipping – normal shipping is fine for me. I’m not in a rush for immediate gratification.
  • Designer baby clothes – I don’t buy these
  • Unused gym memberships – I go to Crossfit a 3-5 times a week. So my membership is fully used.
  • Premium cable packages – My wife pays for Netflix, and I tend not to spend too much time watching TV.
  • Daily coffee trips – I don’t drink coffee

What do you think of the list above? How do you compare to what Dave Ramsey thinks people waste their money on.

Money Moves October 2015

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Welcome to Money Moves for October. This is the section for review and to reflect on the things I have done and what could have been done better for the month. I hope you find it interesting. Hopefully it will help you make better decisions for yourself.

Let’s begin with what the end of the month with my my financial report card. It looks something like this:

Net Income from Work  $2652.99
Expenses $2652.99

Reoccurring Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $1045 1 bedroom 1 bath. It’s Hawaii, rent is expensive
Car Payment: $316.97
Student Loan $202.05
Life Insurance $187.51
Extra to debt 130.98

Assets:

Cash value in 2 life insurance policies $16,276.48
SEP IRA $11,630.85
Total: $27,907.33

Liabilities

student loan $20,023.06
Car loan $10,015.61
Chase credit card $3448.54
miscellaneous loan $6312.88
Total: ($39,800.09)

Current Net Worth: (11,892.76)

A few things to note, I had my credit card paid off, but  I had an idea a few months ago that  I could do a balance transfer and continue to use my credit card without paying interest due to the CARD Act. I wanted to continue using my credit card to take advantage of the 1% cash back, and it would benefit me as long as I continued to pay my balance off in full. I confirmed it with a representative, and he confirmed that I could use my credit card and not be charged interest.

When I got the statement the next month, I found saw that I was charged interest. I had to talk to two different managers to find out that the initial guy was wrong. I have nothing against with balance transfers, if you have a plan to pay it off and get the right information. To say the least, the idea bombed, and I get to have a nice conversation with my credit card company to reverse the interest charge.

 Another thing you might notice is that my expenses are exactly what I make in a month. I pay for all of my purchases in the same month that I charge them, and I am paying more toward the principal balance of the loan. Essentially, I am using the debt snowball method of paying down my debts.

My checking account is attached to a personal loan account where an overdraft amount is taken out to cover any charges that I make beyond what is in the account. There is no fee charged if I use the overdraft amount, which is really nice, and I am able to pay down my balances on my debts a little bit faster.

Using the debt snowball method and using all of the money in my checking account; I save a little bit on interest charged daily.

I have cash value in my whole life insurance policy (actually it’s 2 policies) that I use as a bank. Cash value life insurance has many living benefits, and being able to use the money in your policy as a “banking system” gives a person a lot of flexibility when purchasing something and being able to grow and get dividends on the amount in the policy as well.

The last thing to note is that I received income from my employelr in a retirement fund. As you can see above income, from the SEP IRA, has been into the 70% stocks and 30% into bonds. Using Fidelity as the brokerage firm, the money is invested into a few stocks of Netflix, a total stock index fund from Vanguard, and a total bond index from Vanguard. I did that so that I would have the ability to have growth in the stock market and pay the least amount of fees possible. I’ll talk about fees and how it hurts the growth of your investment in the future.

Plans for the Next Month

I’ve finalized how I am going to pay off the debt in the most efficient way. I’m going to pay off the remainder of my credit card balance with cash that is in my whole life policy. That way I won’t have to pay any interest on my credit card, and I no longer have to call my credit card company to reverse the interest charges.

Paying myself back for the loan balance I have taken out at my insurance company. The policies do not accrue interest on a daily rate like credit cards, and interest is only charged to me when my premium is due. That means that I pay my premiums in in July and October, and if there is an outstanding balance, I pay interest then. Also, I’ve got it set up where I don’t have to pay interest at all on the loan by filling up my policies before the billing statements come out.

Setting up this website and making it look presentable. I’m doing my best at getting this website started with a little mishap of setting up the domain and host of the site. As this site begins to grow, I hope that I can add more to it in the future.

Welcome to Personal Finance in Paradise – What This Site is About

Welcome to part two of my financial adventure. I’ve been wanting to heart a blog and put my thoughts out into the world so that people can learn from what I have been learning. I feel that people can learn from my mistakes and also from my victories along the journey.

I hope you get to share some thoughts with me along the way, and that we are able to learn from each other.

I’m excited to be able to go on this journey with you, and that we are able to be driven to grow your net worth, destroyed debt, be able to construct good habits around money, and change your mindset along the way to become prosperous during the journey.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for joining me