4 Steps To Control Your Money
By: Roger Sorensen
Everyone I have ever spoken with claims to have the desire to be in control of their money. Most of these people will admit that they don't feel like they have very much control over where their money is spent and a surprisingly large number tell that their money is in control of them. The people who feel like their money is out of control are not the same people who don't know how to stop spending when they are out of cash, or when their checking account is perpetually overdrawn.
If your money is controlling your life, you may have the feeling that you get up in the morning and go to work for the sole purpose of bringing home a paycheck and signing it over to the mortgage holder, the auto finance company, the utility providers, your eldest child's college tuition office, your youngest child's youth activity director and every door-to-door child pitchman selling school fundraising items. How can you tell when your money is out of control? You fell as though it is simply getting up and leaving your wallet whenever it darn well feels like it. So what are you to do about your money and controlling where it goes?
Know where you stand
Anytime you are going to go change anything in your life, you have to know what it is that needs changing. This is the same whether you are talking about your finances or your weight.
What you need is a snapshot of where your finances are right now. The only way to do this is to create a Net Worth Index. There is only one way you can create a Net Worth Index - and that is honestly. Drop the kids off with your in-laws, sit down with your spouse and start writing everything down on paper. You can use a computer spreadsheet if you want to.
Start by listing everything you have that can be sold, and how much you could reasonably expect to get for it. Do not claim your 19th Century rocking chair from Grandma Hopscotch is worth $500 if someone who isn't sentimentally attached would only pay $100.
While you and your spouse are taking inventory, remember to include watches, diamond earrings, boats, vacation time-shares, stocks inherited from Uncle John and your retirement accounts. List everything and its' sale value. When you do things like Certificates of Deposit and IRA's where there is substantial penalty for early withdrawal use the face value. For our purposes we'll figure you won't be taking the money out until it has matured.
Now that you have inventoried everything of value and totaled up what it is worth, do the same for your debts. Add in loans from family, friends, banks, businesses, and mortgage companies, past due accounts with the Gas Company and all credit card balances. This is not the time to "forget" someone you owe.
Subtract how much you owe from how much you own. This number is your Net Worth and should be a positive one, though it could be kind of tiny. You won't need to use this number again until next year when you calculate your Net Worth Index again.
If your Net Worth Index reveals a negative number you are definitely doing something right by working to bring your money under control. What you'll have to do is follow these four steps, and if necessary taking drastic measures such as a second job, selling valuables, or even selling your current house and moving into a smaller, less expensive dwelling.
Develop Your Goals
After you know where you stand financially, you need to decide where you want to go. This involves setting some reachable targets or goals. Goal setting is not very complicated and in this instance, we are referring to the overall target of gaining control of your money. To do this requires a few measurable small goals, sort of like baby steps. Your first baby step is to create a plan to pay off your debts. Look at your list of debts again and find which one is the smallest. This is the one you want to pay off first. Pay your minimums on all the others, and then pay everything you can extra a month on the smalle