Tracking Expenses – Take Control of Your Finances

Tracking your expenses is a good habit, and it serves much more than simply having an overview of where your money’s going. It also helps you feel in control and indirectly reducing some of that financial stress you might currently be facing.

I help my clients with budgeting their monthly expenses, while keeping in mind their short and long term goals. This helps them stay on track and on top of their game, and serves as a benchmark at the end of each month.

Values and Information are meant for demonstration purposes only.

By creating financial awareness, you know where your money goes and how you’re spending it. Small daily expenses and indulging in seemingly insignificant bad money spending habits can blow your budget and impede you from ever reaching your financial goals in life.

It’s not anything uncommon when my clients tell me they don’t feel like they’re reaching any of their financial goals they’ve set for themselves. Without a good grasp of personal finance foundational concepts such as compound interest and without clarity of what it takes to achieve these goals, it’s incredibly easy for us to indulge in instant gratification.

Values and Information are meant for demonstration purposes only.
*ANB = Age Next Birthday. The age choice for retirement for this demonstration is 65 years old.

In my financial planning work, I make it a point to display my client’s financial goals as clearly as possible, detailing the timeline, goal to achieve, and which accounts are currently funding this goal.

Dashboards provide quick insights.

I like summarizing things.

Tracking expenses and looking out for blindspots in your personal finance planning may seem like a lot of work when you first begin, but you can make it as simple or complicated as you want to.

The easiest way to start is by identifying spending issues and spending priorities. Anyone can start building their wealth by having a tighter control of their spending habits and changing their money beliefs.

If you need access to my financial budgeting sheet, feel free to contact me.

Young women in tech are alarmingly ignorant of their finances

I trudged up the stairs and into the next conference room, with a panel of women set to speak about their tech founder experience and journey. I groaned inwardly, knowing exactly how the entire panel experience will be conducted like some sort of banal, insipid script for a play that by now seems trite and almost clichéd.

The entrance to the conference room was left wide open. Women of all walks of life filled the space with laughter and ebullience. The women founders in the room, women who’ve founded some sort of movement, charity, company, or their long-lost cat, were flushed with excitement, chattering away with eager attendees who’d stop at nothing to snap and upload wefies onto their Instagram stories and feed, and race their fingers across the screen of their smartphones, ferociously typing out captions and hashtags with such ardor.

“Cherieeeee,” screeched a familiar voice from behind. A slightly inebriated woman the host of this conference— teetered towards me with a microphone in her hands. She clearly was in need of assistance, also, flat shoes. As the host of the conference, she probably felt obligated to be decked out in an arresting outfit – the striking contrast between mandarin orange and ivory complimented her apparent zeal.  “You can’t imagine how glad I am to have you here. You need to be up on stage! You need to promise me that you will speak at my events again, especially since you’ve taken such a unique path in your work!”

The breathiness of her voice made it sightly difficult to discern the level of seriousness she had in her tone. I returned a quick nod and flashed a smile, knowing exactly how things would play out from here. It was like clockwork, with everything pre-planned to the minute: I got to speak with women who attended the conference, shared my work and purpose.

I talked to a lot of women under thirty who, when they found out I was a financial planner, said things like, “Oh, I should talk to you” or more alarmingly, “Oh, yes I know, I need to plan. I’m so bad finances. I’ll think about it”

Needless to say, I felt nauseated.

Now, of course, this is an observation that likely only I would have made at this conference, as I was the only financial planner there (that I know of), who rose from an intensive background in software and business. Perhaps my experience transitioning from a software business into the world of financial planning was the answer to addressing this alarming lack of financial knowledge in the world of tech, particularly so for women.

The specific questions I got from these women were about stock investments, or “investments”, and crypto. Which, frankly, scared me a bit. Surely these investments are interesting, but on the priority list of “What You Need to Focus on to Strengthen Your Financial Health and Wealth”, they’re so freakin’ far down they could almost fall off the bottom.

Here are these young, promising women who in just a couple of years were propelled into a career that was financially rewarding and purposeful, which could give them so much power and choice in their life in a mere 10 years down the line..and they’re too distracted and intimidated to see further than what media and society has painted out for them.

Imagine if all the women in tech, all the people in tech, started learning about personal finance: how they could control their finances, and taking full advantage of the financial opportunities they had going for them. What could happen if all of these women had the financial muscle to make decisions they needed to make, decisions they wanted to make, and not just decisions that were unfairly and disproportionally influenced by the likes of media and society? I have a good feeling it would change things for the better — for women, for the industry, for our society.

Who runs the world? Uh, clearly not girls. Yet.

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Money and Marriage

(Using this time between appointments and meetings to pen my thoughts down on the relationship between money and marriage. Specifically how the third-party — in this case, Money — plays a crucial role in the make-or-break of every relationship, but not in the way I expected.)

While income had an impact on one’s well-being, it was the perceived financial security that leaves a significantly larger impact.

I got to know of a lady who was married to a rather eccentric fellow. No matter how much her ex-husband earned, no matter how grand the vacations they took together were, her anxiety was ever-present and strangely exacerbated whenever more money was spent. It took me a while to realize that it was the spending habits and personal beliefs around money that her ex-husband held on to that triggered her anxiety attacks. Long story short, this marriage didn’t last and ended up in an divorce.

A couple’s relationship with money is indeed much more nuanced than one might think. In many cases, more money doesn’t necessarily lead to more marital peace and contentment. The presence of financial security (or the lack there of) perceived by each partner can make-or-break relationships, and unfortunately it seems these problems only surface two to three years into a marriage. In comparison, successful couples have shown that they were capable of keeping the relationship together by addressing the topic about money as they would about each other’s terrible hygiene habits and morning breath — by talking about it openly and honestly. 

When a couple has shared financial beliefs to serve as a neutral ground for them to retreat to and discuss methods to face the financial problems together, it helps them focus on the problem than rip each other apart. (Marital arguments about money escalate pretty quickly!) When this common ground is lacking, either one or both partners can be easily tempted to take reckless measures (further and unnecessary borrowing) and actions (filing for a divorce).

For couples who’re newly weds or recently married, it would be good to allocate some time to discuss each other’s personal beliefs and internalised assumptions or rules about money. These assumptions and personal beliefs are what subconsciously drives our daily actions and decisions that we make with money from what we buy, how we live, how we save, and how we plan for our financial future. These assumptions and personal beliefs are also unfortunately commonly outside our conscious awareness, and takes a teensy bit more effort to become aware of and to be emotionally detached from, in order to prevent them from dominating our minds and taking control of our decision-making process in times of financial peril. Finding a common ground can be difficult, and most of the time, it’s not something that magically resolves overnight. Take time and effort to sort out the intricate relationship between money and your marriage, as this will help you and your spouse with larger life transitions expected in the future — a bundle of joy (or two!), family business succession planning, and retirement planning.

The Sense of Cents

It can be difficult to accurately imagine and feel what life is going to be like when we retire. Variable factors, risks and associated (possible) returns, and the “what-if’s” tend to make it even more difficult to articulate or express what life in the next decade or two would be like in the most realistic sense. Sometimes, we refuse to grasp the difference between our ideal future and the (often bleak) reality that stands before us. Planning for our financial future can also be overwhelming. Our day-to-day lives consume so much of our time and energy. Taking on the additional burden of planning for a future that’s “so far away” seems quite unnecessary.

So most of us kind of just default to dealing with it later. Or, we make irrational assumptions of what our financial future will look like while we allow our bank accounts to go down on us every day.

How much longer can you wait though? How much risks are you willing to stomach for the potential returns it can realise, if it does at all? From mismanaging our savings in the good times to indulging in materials and experiences that bring instant gratification, we’re reducing our abilities to provide for the rest of our lives, especially in our silver years.

No, it’s not difficult. But it does require some getting used to, especially if you have to stay within a spending budget lower than what you’re currently used to. No, it doesn’t always mean you have to give up your wants and desires. We all want to have our cake and eat it too.

Start with small, baby steps. I like to spend an hour or so of my weekends looking through my expenses for the week and how it falls into my personal budget. A small tweak like that can help you make sense of the money that goes in and out of your accounts on a weekly basis. If anything at all, you’ll gain comfort by understanding the inflow and outflow of your money. Trust me, it helps you start the new week on a good note.

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