I recently finished reading The Next Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and Sarah Stanley Fallaw and found the following quite interesting:

WANTED: Household CFO

Description: The role of Household CFO is to ensure his/her household is building wealth in order to ultimately achieve financial independence.

The Household CFO will oversee the household’s budgeting and financial planning. He/she will be required to create, manage, explain, defend and negotiate household budgets annually, and monitor spending and saving related to said budget. He/she will be required to plan for the financial security and longevity of the family, focusing specifically on retirement planning, college savings planning, and other larger expenses in the foreseeable future. The Household CFO will be required to balance checkbooks, file tax returns, pay bills on time, create financial plans, create estate plans, research investments, monitor investments, and generally run all financial matters for the household. The Household CFO will serve as a check on household spending, and thus will work closely with the following individuals: Household Chief Procurement Officer and his/her team members (read: spouse/self and/or children). The Household CFO may choose to outsource any number of his/her responsibilities to trusted advisors, and therefore, part of the Household CFO job may include the ability to research and hire quality professionals who act in the Household CFO’s household’s best interests.

What are your thoughts when you read this job description? Does it excite you or overwhelm you? For many, the answer to this question is that they are overwhelmed and the majority tend to avoid this role or do the very bare minimum. However, treating your finances as a job is an important step to take because no matter how much you try to avoid it, it relates to almost every aspect of your life.

From where you live and your children go to school, to where you go on vacation and the general lifestyle you lead. It’s the groups you associate with and the opportunities that are afforded to you. How great would it be knowing you had a good handle on all these areas versus floating along and waiting for things to happen to you? No … you will be the one making things happen!

This may seem insurmountable but I encourage you to take the following steps. Tiny, little, baby steps that you can work on each week or each month that will lead to a greater understanding of your personal finances and set you up for success.

1. KNOW YOUR NET WORTH

This is one of the most important figures you need to know and understand. It doesn’t have to be a fancy balance sheet or anything complicated. You simply write down everything you own which includes your house, vehicles, checking accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts and any other property you own. Then you write down everything you owe. This may be a mortgage, auto loans, student loans, credit cards or anything else you may owe to somebody else. Next, you take your total assets and subtract your total liabilities. The number you end up with is your net worth.

Why is this so important? It gives you a snapshot of your current financial standing. Whether you calculate this figure monthly or every six months there is one thing you’re looking for. And that is whether or not your net worth is growing or shrinking. If you find that your net worth is shrinking, it’s important to take steps to find out what the underlying issues are.

2. HAVE A BUDGET IN PLACE

Oh, the dreaded “B” word. When I talk about budgets I can literally see people squirming in their chairs sometimes. You shouldn’t think of a budget as a punishment but rather a path to financial independence. A budget tells you what you CAN spend so let’s just change the name of it and call it a spending plan. The thing about a budget is that it is never a set it and forget it kind of tool. It’s something that is always going to fluctuate and something that should be interactive. There are so many online budgeting tools available that it comes down to choosing what works best for you. For some, that may mean using the tried and true envelopes with cold hard cash.

A budget puts you face to face with the facts. Can we afford this? What bills are due every month and what do we have to set aside for those infrequent bills? What is important to us when it comes to spending money? You may find family vacations are a top priority but they’re not happening because you dine out too frequently. Once you put your spending plan in place you will find everyone begins to get on the same page and work towards the same goals.

3. REACH YOUR SAVINGS GOAL

At this point, you know your net worth is growing and you’re following a sensible spending plan. Within your spending plan, you should have set aside money for savings. However, do you know what you’re saving for? Do you know exactly what you need to do in order to accomplish those goals? Just remember the term S.M.A.R.T. Your savings goals need to be SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT, and TIMELY.

For example, instead of saying “I’m saving for a house,” you should be saying “I am saving $70,000 for a down payment in the next 3 years.” This tells you how much, what it is for, and for how long. Knowing specific goals allows you to measure your progress and if it works with your spending plan you know it is attainable and timely. And finally, if you’re married with kids, this certainly makes a home purchase relevant to your current situation. On the other hand, if you came to me wanting to buy a helicopter, I would most likely question you to figure out the relevance and why it is so important.

LEARN AS YOU GO

Unfortunately, personal finance is not a topic that our schools put a whole lot of effort into teaching. It’s left up to the parents and if parents don’t have the solid money habits to pass along, well … you know how the story goes. This is why it is so important to just start doing it and to learn as you go. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes but the beauty of mistakes is you learn from them and get better. This is your entire future that you have control over and a little education here and there can go a long way.

Learn the basics and do them well, as time goes on and things become more complicated, you can begin to outsource the complex things to trusted advisors. And whether you decide to take the role on by yourself, or your spouse goes it alone, or you do it together, communication is key to any successful financial plan. Ensure you both are on the same page with the same goals, priorities, and an understanding that you can always reach out to a trusted advisor when the time is right.

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