2017: Try Budgeting Yearly

budgetingAs the year 2016 draws to a close, I invite you to try something different for the coming year: yearly budgeting.

If you’ve done any kind of budgeting exercise, you’ve probably made lists or spreadsheets of your monthly expenses. Things like rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, and student loan payments.

Why should we budget for a full year? It’s because if you set aside just enough money to cover your monthly bills, you won’t take into account all the unexpected or one-time expenses that are bound to happen. Such expenses do not only include bad stuffs like car repairs and medical bills. One-time expenses include holidays too!

Budgeting yearly makes it easier to save up for those expenses. By working those items into your budget, you can work backwards and save a little each month toward your goal.

If you’ve tried monthly budgeting in the past and found yourself coming up short because of unexpected expenses, try yearly budgeting to give yourself a cash cushion.

Money Advice that Don’t Grow Old

Personal finances2

Many recommendations I’ve made are as applicable today as they will be in future, and they bear repeating. Here are some of the best financial moves for you to consider:

1. Understanding and managing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money is as important as understanding how money works. Our brains are programmed to make poor financial decisions. Exploring your money history and learning to identify your unconscious beliefs about money can change your financial behaviours forever. It is important to gain control of your finances and become comfortable using money as the valuable tool it is.

2. Building an emergency reserve to cover living expenses for three to months if you lose your job or experience a business slump is a necessity. If you are retired, having one to three years of cash available to cover living expenses can help you avoid taking money out of investments when their value has declined.

3. Retirement will happen, sooner than you think. Start early — as in the day after university graduation — and be consistent in investing at least 20 percent of your paycheck.

4. Learn to appreciate the word “budget”. Creating a way to track and manage income and expenses is an essential skill to thrive financially. Numerous free or inexpensive tools, like Mint.com and Expensify, can help.

5. Run from consumer debt. Personally, I use credit cards for almost every purchase for convenience and cash back rewards. However, it’s of vital importance to pay the card off every month, without fail.

6. A house is a home, not an investment. Don’t buy more home than you can afford, and don’t buy without a down payment.

7. No asset goes up forever. Price declines, even crashes, are part and parcel of investing. It’s essential to understand that the value of your portfolio will fluctuate. Be prepared to ride out downturns. Selling in a down market is a big mistake that will cost you dearly.

8. The fundamental strategy for managing market ups and downs is asset class diversification. This doesn’t mean having money in different banks, with different brokers, or with different fund managers. It’s about having a good balance of mutual/exchange-traded funds that invest in SG and International stocks, SG and International government bonds, real estate investment trusts, commodities and junk bonds.

9. There are no free investments. Pay attention to the fees associated with any investment, as well as how the advisor recommending any investment is compensated.

10. Pay yourself first. The most successful savers and investors I know simply take all their fixed expenses, taxes, and retirement plan contributions off their income earned, then spend the rest. This means learning to live on 30% to 50% of how much you earn. Certainly, it isn’t easy, but one of the most valuable money habits to cultivate is to save something for the future, instead of spending everything that comes in.

You may have likely heard of these pieces of advice before. There’s a reason for that: it works, and never goes out of style.

4 Smart Steps to Financial Freedom

Financial freedom is defined as the state of not having to work actively and be able to sustain a desirable lifestyle. You will have the ability to make choices, to spend time with your family and loved ones, to travel the world or to pursue a lifelong interest which you haven’t been able to. All these can be done without worrying about money. Read on to find out what are some steps which you can take in your pursuit of financial freedom.

1. Create a budget

budgeting

If you are earning an average annual income of $50,000, in 35 working years you will earn a total of $1.75 million in today’s dollars. If inflation averages 3%, this becomes $3 million. But how much are you likely to save? Some people may say, “If I earn more in future than what I get now, I will be fine.” But in reality, this is easier said than done.

Whether we earn $2,000 per month or $20,000 per month, we ALL have a problem with saving money. The more we earn, the more we tend to spend. People who have worked for at least a few years can testify to that. Some fresh graduates earn about $3,000 per month. Three years into the workforce, some of them draw as much as $5,000 to $6,000 per month. Guess what? They feel poorer than they first started out. This is naturally so when you have multiple credit card bills, a car loan to service, a family to support, gym membership fees and many other expenses.

Therefore, it is wise to do a monthly cash flow budget, so that you know where your money goes. It is perhaps the first step to finding the extra dollars for saving and investment.

2. Protect your family and yourself

Our government consistently sets aside 20% of national budget on defence. Without a doubt, protection is of utmost importance. Isn’t it only appropriate that we allocate 5% to 10% of our income to defend against untoward circumstances?

Once you have set aside an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of your living expenses, you should get down to taking care of your protection needs. This essentially means insuring You, because You are your greatest asset. We should be buying as little insurance as you need. But for most people, these protection needs are quite a lot.

3. Live well below your means

frugal

Being frugal is the fundamental of wealth building. Yet, too often, we have the false impression that all millionaires lead an extravagant lifestyle, which is exactly opposite from the truth! People whom I talk to who are financially carefree are usually living well below their income. They still pamper themselves with the occasional indulgence and frequent holidays. But trust me, these people do their sums.

You should always discuss with your spouse on both your spending habits and hopefully arrive at a consensus. A couple cannot accumulate wealth if one of them is a spendthrift. Few can sustain lavish habits and simultaneously build wealth. Singaporeans generally build wealth by keeping a tight budget and controlling their expenses.

Remember, “The lower your lifestyle, the greater your true wealth”. How so? Say A earns $50,000 a year, spends $20,000 in a year and has $200,000 in saving. B earns $300,000 a year and spends $250,000 in a year and has $1.5m in saving. A is wealthier than B because if both of them lose their income, A can survive for 10 years based on his saving of $200,000 whereas B can only live for 6 years. Wealth is the duration your savings can last based on the lifestyle you are used to if you stop work now.

4. Don’t plan to save cash

Look at your monthly budget. You should have $600 left over every month and save $7,200 a year but where is the money? From my experience, Singaporean can’t save cash, or they simply save only to spend it all later. These folks faithfully put aside $600 every month, only to wipe it all off with a long December holiday. Some prefer to splurge on furniture and electronic gadgets, others on cars and home renovations. The money disappears naturally.

A typical Singaporean worker’s mindset is “I work so hard so I need to spend money to pamper myself.” Notice the logic, work hard and spend hard, work harder and spend harder. The only solution to this vicious cycle is to ensure that you have some form of disciplined and regular savings to help you set aside a certain percentage of your income every month.

Some practical tips are listed below:

  • Get yourself started in a profit participating insurance policy, variable life policy or “Buy Term and Invest the Difference”. Just get started on “something” and see it through!
  • Be persistent in setting aside at least 10-15% of your income every month; never waiver in this.
  • Immediately invest or allocate any unexpected windfall you receive, like a bigger than usual bonus. Chuck it away before you spend it away.