Why Waiting 6 Months to Update Your Financial World is a Bad Thing

Thanks to an illness, I let my financial world slide a little (not just this web site).  This all started around November (right after I went to a financial blogging conference). The whole episode has caused a lot of agitation in my life, but I am hoping things are back on track.

I continually harp on the need for a Plan B, and Emergency Plans, yet I really didn’t have one. Luckily, I didn’t have to take too much time off work, but illnesses mess up more than just your job. My home life has suffered but my wife has been very patient with me.

emergency plan

The one thing I really let slide was the day-to-day financial aspects in my life. I hadn’t updated Quicken or any other aspects of my financial tracking system since November, which was a very bad thing. Trying to catch up on 6 months of financial tracking is very frustrating, and painful.

I ran into a few specific issues:

  1. Although I managed to pay most of my bills on time, I did find two credit cards where I had missed a payment and I was paying interest on the balances. I fixed that problem first.
  2. Going back six months to find your financial statements on-line can be a royal pain in the rear. Most on-line sites are OK for this, but you have to dig around to find them.
  3. Trying to catch up using Quicken (Canadian version, not the new version) is an even bigger pain in the arse.

Let me pass on a few conclusions that I have come up with in terms of illnesses and having Plan B’s and emergency plans.

  1. Having an emergency plan for your employment is important.
    • If you have a short-term disability plan at work, are you a member? When does it kick in? Can you top it up, and how much does it pay (rarely does it pay 100% of your salary). This is really important.
    • How about long-term disability? I was lucky my issue was only a short-term problem, but it could have put me out for longer. Long term disability is usually expensive, and will not pay your full salary, but is still a necessary evil.
    • How does your work deal with sick leave? You need to understand this before you need to use the system. Will there be gaps where you don’t get paid if you have a serious illness where you are absent for an extended period of time?
  2. Having an emergency account (most likely in your TFSA) is a very good idea. Do not assume you will have credit available in the situations. You will not be able to live on your credit cards or short-term credit for long, and the mess this may create could be lethal to your finances (in the short and long-term).
  3. Does your spouse or significant other know enough to be able to take over the financial world you have created? At my Church there are countless cases where the spouse was unaware of how the money worked because they just were never told. Ignorance is not a good thing when it comes to your financial life. How will your finances work when you are ill, or worse?
  4. Do you have a Will, and power of attorneys set up? If not, why not? Yes it is a morbid topic, but if you don’t do this, you are giving the government a gold opportunity to make a money grab from your estate. In my case I have a disabled son, so I really need to have specific instructions in place for financial stuff.
    • If we are going to be morbid, does your family or spouse know what you want done should you die? I have been clear that it is up the chimney with me (cremation) after all bits someone could use are gone. As I age I suspect my bits are a lot less useful for other folks. Next, have a lot of drinks afterwards, tell plenty of stories about what an idiot that I was, and then spread my ashes somewhere nice. I have sworn that if any money is wasted on a lavish funeral, I will come back and haunt anybody involved (possibly writing a ghostly blog from the hereafter).
    • What about all of those logins for all those financial sites? Does your spouse know what they are? I am talking about a list in a very safe place, that is kept up to date.
    • What about your on-line persona? How will the Big Cajun Man live on after my death? What about the passwords to the 70 different accounts I use on-line? Interesting thing to think about too. What will happen to this hallowed site?

I am only scratching the surface folks, and remember this is an ongoing process. Keep all of this up to date. Yes, I can be a little obtuse, but this is a short list in terms of things to think about if you get ill.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Sometimes Monty Python sums it up best:

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Bad Financial Planners Can Help

I am a mediocre planner (I view my Father as the greatest planner), however, knowing that I am not that good at planning gives me a peculiar talent, in that, I can spot (easily) flaws in other folks plans. I think of myself as a “risk editor” for plans.

Financial Planning

Plan and Then Revise

Let me explain, if a good planner looks at your plan, they will overlay their own fastidiousness onto your plan, and will assume you have “dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s”, which is a dangerous assumption for many plans. Most plans I have seen do not get down to most of the gritty details needed to make it an actual plan (e.g. Dates on which you will make deposits, pay bills, what you will do with found money), and that is where most of them fail.

For someone like me, who has failed at planning so many things in my life (not just financial things), I easily see these flaws in other folks’ plans, because I overlay my own shortcomings and just start asking questions about things (in a financial context):

  • Did you think about what would happen if you lost your job?
  • What if you or your wife had a catastrophic illness next week? How would your plan work?
  • Paying off your credit cards is here, but are you going to keep using those credit cards? You don’t seem to mention that in your plan.
  • What if interest rates suddenly jumped to 6% in 6 months? Can your plan withstand that kind of stress?
  • Are you being overly optimistic with your plans? Few of us plan realizing our own shortcomings.

Most folks really hate when I do this, because they answer me the same way my daughters did when I asked questions like, “Did you pack your runners?”, when going to an out-of-town basketball tourney. The answer is “YES, I DID!” (Read that with a snarky sarcastic tone), and then we get to the tourney, and the shoes (in fact) are still at home.

What Are You Saying?

I am not telling you to find a bad financial planner and use their plan, what I am saying is create a financial plan, and then have someone you trust (or a real financial planner) review it to see if there are risks or details that you have overlooked. Different sets of eyes sometimes can see new things.

Once you have a plan, treat it as a living document, review, revise, and update

Image courtesy of Goldy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Hippocratic Finances

Hippocratic finances would follow  the Hippocratic Oath (taken by Doctors) is Primum non nicer  or in English:

First, do no harm

Hippocratic Oath

Do No Harm

What does this have to do with your financial planning? Any changes you plan on making financially should follow Primum non nocere, just like for the Doctors.

  • Do not harm savings you have built up.
  • Do not harm your long-term plans (whatever they might be).

The one problem with this is you can end up a little too conservative if you live to this credo, but it is something to keep in mind when you feel like treating yourself, if you find some money.

Do No Harm

I think making sure you can stay sane with your finances would be important as well. If you are harming yourself worrying about your money, you are not doing any good either.

Question: How other ways do folks to harm to their finances?

 

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Finance Things To Do On The Last Day of the Year

This being the last day of the year, and it falling on a weekday, means you can try to sneak in one or two financial transactions for the calendar year 2015 (or any other year if you are reading it some other time). Is this a good day to be calling in to your banks call-in centre? Absolutely not! You will be on the phone for a very long time, I would suggest doing anything on-line, and if you cannot do that be very patient with the folks on the phones.

2015 the Year of the RAM

Good Bye 2015, I do so love Geek Humor

Fun things to get done on the last day of the year:

  1. TFSA withdrawal, yup, you can take something out now, and then replace it some time next year (which would be tomorrow). Is this a good idea? No, especially if it is for impulse buying, but if you will need to, then I guess it is an OK idea (but I am not saying it is OK, just that it works).
  2. RESP, TFSA, or RDSP deposit ? Not really, it is never a bad idea to put money in these saving vehicles but the limits tend to roll-over to the next year, so no point in wasting your time, unless, you have some left over cash that you got for Christmas, then maybe today is a good time to put that away in savings.
  3. Withdraw lots of cash for a huge party tonight? C’mon guys, blowing huge wads of cash to celebrate the end of one year or the start of another year is just dumb.
  4. Make your quarterly tax payment? If you are on a payment plan with the CRA, maybe it is time to get that done?
  5. Stop by the Licensing bureau to renew your cars registration? Again, be patient, remember, this is your fault!
  6. Got any old insurance claims you haven’t submitted? Might want to get those done too.
  7. Here is a good one to do, make a charitable donation, this is the spirit of the season and you get a tax break in March.
  8. Make resolutions for the coming year? Nah, that is hokum too.
  9. Start your financial plan for 2016 is the best thing you can do on this last day of the year.

Enjoy the coming year, hope the year that past was OK for you too! Remember the fiscal year typically only ends in March and that Chinese New Year is still a few weeks away.

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Financial Redundancy

In the high-tech world the term redundant is actually a good thing. Most folks think of redundant in terms of jobs, and being declared redundant (i.e. being laid off, or the like), however in the high-tech world redundant is actually a vital part of reliability. If there are redundant systems in place, or redundant connections then there are backups in place to take over if one of the systems fails, and that is what I mean by Financial Redundancy.

Last week there was a very good tweet that inspired me to think about this concept.

The point being made is that you need to have a separate bank account in a different bank or savings concept (trust company or the like) just in case your main bank account or bank gets compromised in some way. What do I mean by compromised?

  • Your account has been hacked and thus locked out so you have no access to it, until the issues with the security intrusion is remedied.
  • Your bank “goes down”. This can be a myriad of possible issues including: Interac failure, Computer system crash, bank is hacked (as mentioned in the tweet), etc.,
  • Your bank fails? Yes, this is ridiculously drastic, but it has happened, and I am sad to say, it will happen again (ask the folks who had money in Savings and Loans in the states)

Really the question is what do you do if you don’t have a redundant money supply to fall back on? You could use your credit cards, and you already have a redundant system there don’t you (pretty much everyone has more than 1 credit card, a Visa, a Mastercard, an Amex, maybe even a Diners Club), so why don’t you have some redundant savings in place too?

Redundancy

This Seems Redundant

An idea is maybe putting your Emergency Fund (which we all should have in some fashion) at a different bank? That way it really can help in an emergency.

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