Why We Approach Financial Planning and Budgeting Differently

Picture of Jesse Mecham, founder and CEO of YNAB.
Jesse Mecham, founder of online budgeting tool “You Need a Budget.”

Disclaimer: Neither the author, nor Providers & Families Wealth Management, LLC or its employees, are affiliated with, compensated, or endorsed by You Need A Budget (“YNAB.”) This is not an endorsement of YNAB and should not be read as such.

On his company’s website, Jesse Mecham (founder and CEO of online budgeting tool “You Need a Budget,” or YNAB for short) explains in his like-titled book how budgeting and financial planning are different:

If it is impossible to perfectly predict your expenses, a budget needs to be nimble and adaptable, right? Except most budgeting systems are decidedly “set it and forget it.” You make a budget at the beginning of the month, set it in stone, valiantly try to bend the fates and laws of the universe to make the month turn out exactly like the numbers you guessed, er, projected. Oh, and then beat yourself up and feel guilty when it doesn’t.

In retirement planning, “forecasting” is very useful. We forecast what we will spend, how much things will cost, and how much more expensive they’ll get over time. We even forecast how are investments will perform, even though there’s no guarantees.

Related: Yes, You Can Keep a Budget

When it comes to budgeting, forecasting is much different. If we forecast what we’ll have, we’ll forecast how we can spend it, and often make the mistake of spending it now. This is why YNAB’s approach to budgeting is so unique: you only focus on what’s in your bank account today, and you split it up into bitesize pieces designed to accomplish its own tasks.

Budgeting is a fluid, active process that requires dilligence and awareness.

Most budgets are backward. You start by projecting or guessing what your income will be, then plan how to spend that money. The farther out you go with this exercise, though, the less accurate your guesses–about your income or your expenses–are going to be. (Go ahead, I dare you to try and perfectly predict your expenses even for a week). The result? You are always in the dark, guessing, and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

With YNAB, you only budget money you have right now. It’s an allocation system, rather than a forecasting system. Therefore, you are on solid ground, fully aware of what you have and where you are going.

What about that big bill next month? Slow down, we aren’t there yet. With YNAB’S approach, we focus on what are current money is doing. And if it our current money isn’t helping us achieve our objectives, then we need to rework it.

Check out YNAB for yourself here.

About the Author

Scot Whiskeyman is Founder and Partner of Providers & Families Wealth Management, LLC., and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM . His primary focus is on retirement planning for established professionals and estate planning for seniors. He can be reached by e-mail at scot@providersandfamilies.com.

A New Year’s Toast

Cheers!

In the spirit of New Year’s Eve, I’d like to make a toast. If you’re reading this, join me in raising your glass, coffee mug, water bottle, or whatever.

It seems like just yesterday 2018 was beginning. Scary how the years seem to zip by faster and faster as we get older, isn’t it? But that’s not what this toast is about.

This New Year’s Eve, I’d like to make a toast in your honor. I may not know you, but I believe you have the power to be great – so here goes.

Here’s to your potential. To the greatness and success that lies just around the corner from you. To your wealth, our prosperity, and generosity. To your success.

Here’s to all of the love you have to give, and all of the love you were born to receive. To new beginnings, and to the great places they’ll lead.

I’m not saying it will all be easy. In fact, the average person may cower away when challenges arise. But not you. You’re anything but average. So here’s to your bravery in the face of the impossible, and your ability to overcome it.

You are brave – braver than you knew in 2018. In 2019, you’ll worry less, because you know there’s plenty of time, and plenty of love to give and to get. And you know that you’re edge greatness. Any challenge life might decide to throw in your way is only temporary, and yours to overcome.

Because in 2019, you’ll be fearless. Whatever you’re faced with – financially, professionally, or personally, you’ll think to yourself “I’ve got this.” And you’ll be right.

Here’s to fearlessness.

About the Author

Scot Whiskeyman is Founder and Partner of Providers & Families Wealth Management, LLC., and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM . His primary focus is on retirement planning for established professionals and estate planning for seniors. He can be reached by e-mail at scot@providersandfamilies.com.

Free Employee Benefit Available for 2019: Naps

Pictured: how napping can make you feel.

Here’s a riddle: you can’t put a price on it, but it’s tremendously valuable. Without it, you wouldn’t be alive. What is it?

Did you guess “the mind?”

Few things peeve me more about our culture than the value we put on a single key ingredient to a healthy mind: sleep. Isn’t it insane that we still give people 15 minute smoke breaks (one of my first jobs offered two fifteen minute smoke breaks each day) – and yet napping is stigmatized?

I don’t have time to point cite any studies, but you can them up, and you’ve likely heard about what research shows about sleep. Well rested individuals get more done, are more effective and getting things done, and are at a lower risk for a myriad of diseases. In short, if you get plenty of sleep, you’ll be healthier and richer.

When it comes to employee benefits, we offer insurance, gym memberships, onsite cafeterias, retirement plans, company cars, and more. I even read an article recently about businesses building sound-proof phone booths for personal phone calls. Employers offer these things because they know that healthier, happier employees = more productive (read: profitable) employees.

Wait, you want to sleep? Stop being lazy!

Think about how absurd that is. As an employee benefit, it wouldn’t cost more than a mattress pad like these ones available on Amazon and semi-private designated sleeping quarters (i.e., an office.)

But to do all that, we need to stop stigmatizing sleep. Being well rested is not about just “going to bed earlier” (although that certainly helps.) We now know that sleep cycles, when interrupted, results in us feeling more tired and groggy…regardless of how many actual hours of sleep we got.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not me saying “forget the rules! Stay up until 4am! Take a 6 hour snooze after lunch!” Try to go bed at a normal time, and try to get up at a normal time. But if you can’t make that happen, don’t punish yourself. A 20 minute snooze can give your mind that extra push to get you through the rest of your day.

Last week I wrote about us living in an abundant universe. One of those things that is abundant in our universe is time. Therefore, don’t feel bad for giving yourself time to rest. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. If anyone asks why you were sleeping, there’s a simple answer: “I was tired.” If you get pushback, such as, “you need to go to bed earlier,” you can respond, “I did, but I couldn’t sleep.” If you then run into “you have things to get done,” simply respond “no one knows better than me what I need to get done, which is why I wanted to get some rest so I could concentrate.”

I’ll say it. I’m not ashamed. I take naps. I take them during the day. I take them in my office. I take them in my car. I know this totally spoils your image of me (lol) but I promise you that I am a hardworking individual. Sometimes I work so hard that I get tired. And sometimes that getting tired happens at 2:15pm instead of 10:00pm.

 

Time Can Be Your Enemy or Your Friend

Like in a sand timer, a few small things add up to something big if enough time has passed. This is a great metaphor for compounding interest.
Image source: www.videoblocks.com

In the 1973 classic Time, Pink Floyd member David Gilmour eloquently states how time can slip away, working against us if we aren’t careful:

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

These lyrics sum up an interesting point about life and how we move through it. As humans, we tend to focus on the immediate, and find thinking too far ahead difficult. The consequences of this are that by the time we get into a “distant” future, we take look around and have no idea how we got there. My hope is that after reading this article, you may feel empowered to not end up ten years older, trying to get your bearings and feeling broke, but rather happy that you took the time to be a diligent saver.

Three Lives, Three Different Choices

Let’s imagine three friends – Chris, Susan and Bill – graduate from college. They each enter into their respective career fields, fully employed. Their incomes are the same. Their decisions are drastically different.

Out of the three of them, two (Chris and Susan) begin saving right away.

Susan saves money for ten years, and then stops – perhaps she gets married, has kids, and her spouse is the sole bread winner.

Chris saves the same amount, but instead of stopping ten years from now, he continues to save all the way to age 65.

Bill doesn’t worry about saving. He decides that he needs to focus on paying down student loan debt. He uses this as an excuse not to keep a budget. Because he doesn’t budget, he unwittingly spends lots of money on drinks, shopping, and new furniture.

All three of them:

– Save $5,000 annually

– Earn the same rate of return

– Retire at age 65

Who comes out ahead?

The Results

Susan saves $50,000 over her lifetime. Bill saves $150,000 over his lifetime – and he didn’t begin until 10 years after Susan – when he realized that he needed to spend less money on partying. What does this mean for their retirement? Astonishingly, Susan will have over $60,000 more than Bill, who saved three times as much.

Now consider Chris, who started saving right away, and didn’t stop until he retired. By saving $50,000 more than his college friend over the course of his career, he ended up with over $1 million – nearly double both of his classmates.

Of course, this is all just a thought experiment – in real life, each of the three would like have different incomes, different amounts of debt, and different life circumstances. Nevertheless – the choices they made rippled through the years until washing ashore in retirement.

Compounding interest rewards those who begin saving and investing early, as illustrated in this chart from JP Morgan.
Image source: www.jpmorgan.com

The Bottom Line

Time moves quickly, and it’s easy to let it move you forward without being aware of what you’re leaving behind. If you aren’t saving, start now. If you’ve been considering putting away a little more, start now. Review your savings strategy on a regular basis – the difference could be hundreds of thousands at retirement, when you need it most.

What do you think? How have you overcome financial challenges to continue saving? Comment below!