2023

3 Things To Do In February For Financial Health

Hello February!

On my end, it’s been a rather . . . intense start to this new year. I’m looking forward to calmer days in the weeks to come. That being said, I want to encourage you all to continue taking steps to improve or protect your financial health, even when life is hectic. This month, I wanted to focus on a few things that can be done quickly and that don’t take a lot of time. Taking care of your finances doesn’t require a ton of time-consuming projects.

Here are three things you can do to stay on top of your finances in February:

  • Pull your free annual credit reports. Annual credit reports are a right. This website will allow you to get free copies of your credit reports from the three reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) for free. Just because you pull the reports doesn’t mean that you have to analyze them today: put them aside until you have the time to review them. If it helps, schedule the time needed to review them, so this task doesn’t fall through the cracks. Also, Equifax is currently allowing up to SIX free reports per year for anyone within the United States (these extra annual reports will be available until 2026). So after you make corrections to your report, you can allow a month or two, then pull the Equifax report to see if the changes are displaying.
  • File Form 1096 for information returns. If you or your business made payments that should be reported on 1099s, 1098s, W-2s, and a number of other information returns, then you have to file this form. Depending on the number of forms that need to be filed, this may not necessarily be a quick task. But it’s the beginning of the month: if you do paper mailed information returns, it’s still early enough to order this form from IRS (you can’t use the online version for submission). Form 1096 is the cover sheet for hard-copy information returns: you simply have to count how many of each information return you’re sending into IRS, then jot it down on the form. If you don’t have to file information returns, then of course you can skip this tip.
  • Move your savings to an account with a better interest rate. Bankrate has a listing of the current rates of both physical and digital banks offering high yield savings accounts. Do your research then move your coins.

That’s it for February: short and sweet, because your time is precious. Talk to you all soon!

What You Don’t Know About Industries That Attract The Ultra Wealthy

One way to acclimate ourselves to wealth is to become familiar with the patterns and traits of the wealthy. I enjoy reading research from a variety of sources, but one of my favorites is Wealth-X. This organization publishes several reports throughout the year, with information about the wealthy, including where they live, how they spend their time, and how to best connect with them if you would like to make them your clients and customers.

Recently, Wealth-X published their 2022 World Ultra Wealth Report, which gives a high level profile of the wealthiest individuals in the world. One of the fascinating parts of this report is the section on wealthy women. This is where I learned a less-known – but crucial – fact about the industries that attract the ultra wealthy.

On the whole, we tend to think of the wealthy in a very generic way. However, gender and source of wealth are highly influential when it comes to the industries that most attract the wealthy. According to the report, 55% of ultra wealthy women inherited some, if not all, of their wealth. On the other hand, 25% of ultra wealthy men inherited some or all of their wealth (75% are self-made multimillionaires). This exposes another trend: proportionally, individuals that earn some or all of their ultra wealth tend to be less interested in industries that don’t generate more profit for them. In the report, the top five industries that attract ultra wealthy men are: banking and finance, business and consumer services, real estate, manufacturing, and technology. Meanwhile, the top five industries that attract ultra wealthy women are: non-profit and social organizations, banking and finance, business and consumer services, real estate, and hospitality and entertainment.

This report shows that painting the wealthy with a broad brush will likely result in reaching inaccurate conclusions, or putting your focus on the wrong sectors. If your ideal client is a wealthy woman , it’s worth noting that more than half of them are heiresses, and thus won’t relate to the struggles of building their entire wealth from the ground up. So, if your product or service is designed to appeal to the bootstrapper, less than half of your female targets will resonate with this message. Likewise, if your target customer is a wealthy man, focusing solely on trust fund kids will reduce your target market by 75%! Most of your ultra-wealthy male clients are focused on generating more money, as opposed to finding ways to create social change through their spending. How the wealthy got their money reveals pertinent clues about where they spend their time and energy, and with this information, you can craft products, services, and marketing that are irresistible to your clients and customers.

That was just one of my takeaways from the 2022 World Ultra Wealth Report. If you enjoy analyses like these, let me know, and I’ll be sure to share more of them in the future! Also, if you want a breakthrough from your current financial situation, and a smooth transition into a new income bracket, contact me for a skills audit and values assessment. With these two reports, I show you the intersection between what you do well, what you enjoy, and what matters most to you. The sweet spot between these things is where money magic happens. Click here to learn more about these reports.

It’s Time To Talk About Sam (Bankman-Fried) and The Crypto Industry

I haven’t discussed cryptocurrency on this blog before, because, while it’s an important topic, it’s something that I couldn’t wholeheartedly endorse. My caution against promoting crypto as an investment vehicle wasn’t misguided: I’d seen enough money scandals to know that banging the drum for anything financial is always done carefully.

Then FTX and Alameda Research collapsed. And at that point, I knew that more discussions around the risks of crypto were worth having.

If you’re unfamiliar with FTX and Alameda and the founder/CEO of both companies, Sam Bankman-Fried, don’t worry. I’ll give you the abbreviated version of what’s happening. FTX was a billion-dollar cryptocurrency trading company that went bankrupt in November 2022. Alameda Research has been accused of market manipulation, profiting from the GameStop stock trading frenzy, and contributing to the volatility and lack of regulation in the cryptocurrency market. Bankman-Fried is charged with eight counts of fraud and will go to trial in October 2023.

The investigations into Alameda started in early 2021, when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) probed into whether the company was involved in manipulative trading practices on the derivatives market. Specifically, the CFTC is investigating whether the firm used wash trading, a form of market manipulation where an individual or group trades with themselves to create the illusion of market activity, to artificially inflate the value of certain cryptocurrencies.

FTX’s affairs are so bad that the company’s current CEO, John J. Ray III, commented what he observed as regards the state of internal accountability. He stated that he, “had never seen ‘such an utter failure of corporate controls at every level of an organization.’ ” This is coming from a man that was the CEO of Enron after it collapsed in the early 2000s.

Currently, $700 million in assets have been seized from Bankman-Fried, and I anticipate there will be more revelations in the months to come. That being said, I think it’s time to finally talk about crypto and Sam (though, this could be applied broadly to many other founders and CEOs within the crypto world).

The cryptocurrency market is still a relatively new and developing industry, and there is a lack of oversight and protection for investors. Lack of oversight and protection means that there is no recourse when things take unexpected turns: if there is an unlawful loss, there is no one coming to help you. Unless you truly have money to “lose” (and some people do!), crypto is not a sound investment. Between the high volatility, lack of regulation, uncertain long-term value, and lack of real-world utility it is, at best, a high-risk investment. If you’re interested in investing, you may want to consider alternative investments that have a lower risk and greater potential for returns. It’s always important to do your own research and invest only what you can afford to lose. This market is vulnerable to manipulation and fraud, making it far too unsafe for primary investment purposes.

Now, on to Sam: Bankman-Fried is a lesson in the cult of personality. While he is undoubtedly intelligent and capable of growing a billion (!) dollar business, he benefited heavily from cultivating an image of easygoing tech genius. Vox described it this way:

” The media portrayed him as an unassuming, nerdy savant, frequently noting his down-to-earthness, his messy mop of hair, his penchant for wearing T-shirts and shorts, his Toyota Corolla. Investors were enamored of the fact that he wasn’t a buttoned-up entrepreneur; he played computer games during pitch meetings, and like other modern-day founders, his eccentricities were taken as proof of his distinct genius.”

Part of his appeal was that he didn’t appear arrogant, stuffy, or flashy: he was ordinary but had certain quirks that read as “genius”. It’s important to remember that the cult of personality isn’t limited to “shiny” personalities: anyone that charms on a public platform can fall into this broad group. In the end, the unassuming nature was part of a public image that hid poor internal processes and (alleged) fraudulent behavior. It’s a cautionary tale on not believing what we see or hear, and to do our own research and listen to our guts.

I’ve been fascinated with the FTX, Alameda, and Sam Bankman-Fried drama, and I’ve found this case to be full of lessons for everyone. Have you all been following this case? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

My Big, Dreamy Financial Goals for 2023

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post discussing how to plan your financial year, and the strategy behind reaching your big, dreamy goals in 2023. At the end of the post, I admitted that I didn’t have any goals for the upcoming year (quite surprising for me, the perpetual planner and consummate dreamer). I promised I would come back and share those goals when I understood what I wanted in 2023.

Well, here I am: I identified my goals, and I’m ready to share! Here are my 2023 financial goals:

  • Increase my income by 25% (using last year’s gross salary as a baseline)
  • Monetize my YouTube channel
  • Average 25 book sales per week
  • Remit 4 additional mortgage payments

I’ll add more details as I continue fleshing out all of the steps I need to take in order to ensure that I hit my goals. However, even now I can confirm that the goals I have feed into one another: monetized content and consistent book sales will feed into the overall income increase, which will make it possible to remit additional mortgage payments (shortening the length of my mortgage and freeing up resources to put towards my next large purchase). I have many other goals for the year, but these are the big ones when it comes to finances.

Here’s the thing about setting goals: they can be as big or as small as you like, so long as they delight you. If a small goal feeds into a bigger one, that’s fine, but a small goal – that isn’t necessarily part of a larger plan – is nothing to despise. If it’s what you want, then it’s worth pursuing, regardless of how big or small it is.

I’ll aim for quarterly updates, to show you all how I’m progressing toward my goals. I’d love to hear all about your goals: please leave me a comment, so I can cheer you on!

3 Things To Do in January for Financial Health

Welcome to 2023! I hope that the end of last year and the beginning of this year was enjoyable for you all. In the Mid-Atlantic region, we were delighted to get some warmer weather just in time for the New Year. It was a pleasant change from the bitterly cold temperatures we had during Christmas weekend. As the clock switched from 2022 to 2023, there were many things to celebrate and appreciate: I count all of you, dear readers, as blessings.

To start your financial year right, here are a few things that you can prioritize for January. It’s early enough to get a great headstart on a lot of tasks that can feel overwhelming once the calmness of the holiday break transitions back to business as usual.

  • Continue refining your financial vision and commit to eliminating any habits that don’t serve your financial health. I’d advise you reject the New Year resolution mentality (unless it works for you: in that case, do it!) If resolutions haven’t been successful for you in the past, it’s time to try something different. Instead of coming up with a large, dramatic change for the year, why not just spend a little time refining your vision for the year (I discuss this vision in December’s financial health recommendations). Even if you did a great job of creating your financial vision last year, or in other years past, it’s still a good exercise to review what’s working, see what isn’t working for you, and make sure what you’re currently doing is putting you on the path to what you desire. If you identify any sabotaging activities or habits, commit to eliminating the one that is easiest to drop. If you focus on dropping a simple but damaging habit, then you can get a quick “win” that gives you the momentum to take on bigger challenges as they arise.
  • Download a tax calendar and start putting the dates on your digital and paper calendars now. It’s so easy to pull up the calendars, print them, and forget them. Don’t do that! You can find IRS’s calendar here. You can find additional federal tax calendars for specific professions and businesses here, and you can search for “tax calendar” on your respective state and local websites to see additional dates that need to be recorded on your business and personal calendars. If you pay a financial consultant, accountant, or tax preparation service to manage your numbers, you can help them to help you, by knowing when certain payments or forms are due to be submitted. Little known fact: one of the penalties that IRS regularly enforces is failure to file timely, and it is one of their heaviest (non-criminal) penalties. You can avoid it just by keeping up with the dates!
  • Pay your last estimated tax payment for tax year 2022. This payment is due to be submitted by January 17 this year. Use Form 1040-ES to submit it. If you had a particularly successful final quarter of 2022, consider adding a little more money to your payment, to help prevent underpayment penalties.

Those are the three tips for January, just in time to help you all hit the ground running! Have a great day, and I’ll talk to you all soon.

Planning Your Financial Year

As we draw closer to the end of 2022, there is a feeling of hope in the air: tomorrow always holds the potential for us to be better, happier, and more successful than we were yesterday. One of the biggest advantages of embracing hopeful energy is that it motivates us to plan and prepare for the future we desire. With hope on your side, anything is possible!

With that in mind, I’m excited to share with you some easy steps for planning your financial year. It may seem daunting at first, but it’s surprisingly easy and quick to plan a financial year that will bring you joy instead of tears. The key to planning anything is breaking it down the big goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. Then, once those pieces are defined, take action daily in order to make your dreams come true. I’m getting ahead of myself: let’s start at the beginning.

Ask yourself, What do I want? Vague goals get vague results. Get specific and stop excluding yourself from your desires: eliminate the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. If the goal feels so huge that you doubt that it can happen, then take it down half a notch, but never make it so realistic that it doesn’t excite you. Your goals should light you up: if it feels lackluster, it isn’t big enough. Big, dreamy, specific goals are what you need to keep you motivated throughout the year.

Ask yourself, What will it take to get what I want? Break your big, dreamy goals into smaller, specific steps. If any part of your goals rely on luck, specify that, but also focus most of your attention on the actions that are within your control. If you identify a step that feels a bit overwhelming, then break that down into a much smaller, more manageable sub-steps. The objective of this exercise is to make your big goals feel obtainable (because they are!)

Ask yourself, What can I do today to get closer to what I want? Consistent, daily action is what takes a dream or plan and turns it into reality. The biggest problem I’ve seen people encounter on the path to their goals is believing that they need to take grand actions in order to make progress. If you wait for the right time to make big moves, you’ll find yourself frustrated, stuck, and feeling like a failure. Rarely do we get a “perfect” time to take big actions: we either sneak up on our goals or we hope for the stars to align before we make moves (I don’t recommend that you do the latter).

I’m still thinking of my big, dreamy financial goal for 2023: once I’ve identified that goal, I’ll share it here, and give you all my process for achieving it. Look out for those posts in the next few weeks!

I’d love to hear what your financial goals for 2023 are: please let me know all about them in the comments below!