A new tradition

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What is this tradition? First it, is a ritual that occurs around new years. How do you do it?  Every year, you revise your List of Assets to reflect the December 31, 2012 balances. After you have the year end balances, you add up the total. Then do the really smart, Hot Flash Financial thing– Celebrate what you did right. And use your new List of Assets to make some decisions to improve your financial security next year.

If you have not developed your own personal List of Assets, create your first one today. (Go to the Tools Tab and select List of Assets.)  You take the same steps as someone who has a List of Assets.

Here are the steps you can use to follow the ritual. Go on-line to access every one of your retirement accounts, as well as investment and savings accounts. If you already  created your list of assets, add a column and mark it December 31, 2012. Input the dollar values for the last day of the year for every one of your account balances.  Then add the dollar values all up to get a Total. Now, do what comes naturally. Find out if your retirement account balances are higher than last year.

The next part of the  Hot Flash Financial Tradition is crucial: figure out what you did right! Also figure out what needs to be improved.

What you did right:

  • If you added more money to your retirement accounts, the total should be higher.
  • If you were invested  in stocks (or stock mutual funds) your balances may be as much as 10% -13% higher. (The S & P 500 booked a 13% increase over last year, 2012. If you invested a portion of your portfolio in Bonds, you may not be as high. But you got stability or less crazy fluctuations in your account values. Why? you reduced your risk by investing in bonds. Reducing risk has a cost. But it also has a strong plus–it allows you to sleep better at night.)

This is the most fun of this ritual. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate what you did right!!!!!

If you added money to your retirement account, but the increase did not meet your expectations, figure out why.

What you could improve in the future:

  • Did you add enough money to your retirement account  to make the total budge?
  •  Are there other reasons for the shortfall in your expectations about your retirement account balances, and your overall Hot Flash Stash of Cash?
    • Did you decide to save for the future, but you deposited that money into a savings account instead of your retirement investment account(s)? A savings account probably gave you about 1% return in 2012  By contrast, the stock market gave about 10%-13% in the same year. Did you make the right decision, saving in a savings account rather than a retirement account? What will you do in the next 12 months? Invest in your retirement account or in a savings account?
    • Savings accounts are nice. They reduce the risk that you will lose the money you deposited. But remember there is a “risk-return” trade off. If you take on more risk–investing in the stock market, you are likely to get more return. (In this case, the return in 2012 [and most years] would have been positive, although the market did move up and down a lot during the year. While the dollar amounts fluctuated, over the long term, in this case a year,  you were ahead.) If you take less risk–investing in a savings account–you are likely to get a lower return. Lower risk is often correlated (as we say in the biz) with lower return.

Your handy- dandy List of Assets becomes a really important reference point.  It also enables you, no actually empowers you to make some important decisions and improve your financial security. Your decisions can increase the number of things you do that are right over the next few years. So you can celebrate more. 

After celebrating, take a closer look at your List of Assets to figure out what you can do to increase your own, personal financial security in the coming 12 months.

Since we can’t shut up, we will suggest you do 2 things.

  1. Increase the amount of money you deposit in your retirement account. Increase it by 1%. And, if you can, work toward increasing your contributions, over the next year or 2 or 3, to deposit the maximum legally allowed.
  2. Decide if you are comfortable with a bit more risk. If so, invest a greater portion of your retirement savings  in the stock and bond markets, for the long term. If not, stick with savings accounts.

Make this  Hot Flash Financial tradition, your tradition  every first week in January. That way, you have more control. You have the knowledge of what you have done well. And you can take the steps you need to take to improve your financial security over the long term.

New Year’s Resolution

Here at Hot Flash, we  LOVE  New Year’s Resolutions.

If you make a New Year’s Resolution, you are more likely to take action to improve your life (than, of course, someone who has not made a resolution). And that is what Hot Flash Financial is all about—helping women, like you, improve your finances and your economic security.

So, if you resolve to save more money this year, pay down some debt, find out why you never seem to have enough money, or just get your financial life in order, Hot Flash Financial can help you with that. And  you won’t have to do this all alone.

Help is what most people need in January when they make a New Year’s Resolution. Because more than half will not keep their resolutions by July. You can’t just rely on your own good intentions. You do better if you set a specific goal, and use a clearly defined strategy, and follow a set of steps (without reinventing the wheel).

Set a specific goal, like—

    • I want to save $50 (or $500, etc.) from my paycheck every month. That is better than just saying you want to save more money, or
    • I want to track my spending so I know where my money goes. That way you can gain more control over your income and make careful decisions about spending, retirement, and/or other future spending such as a home  or car purchase, or
    • I want to reduce the total balance on one specific credit card by X amount of dollars by the end of this year. That is better than saying  you want to get out of debt.

At Hot Flash Financial, we recommend that you write that specific goal down–on an index card, or sticky note, or in some app. Writing it down just makes it seem more real.You need a clear strategy and set of steps that you can follow. That will work more than good intentions.

Professionals, like those of us at Hot Flash Financial, know what methods work, and can offer a clear set of steps that you can follow. Just click around  HOT FLASH FINANCIAL.com to get the list of steps that you need to :

    •  Save a specific amount of money each month. If you want to jump into this and you have an amount in mind, you can direct that money to a savings account. Or, you might want to direct that to an account that will be most beneficial to you over the long term. So you can click on the link   How to build  Then, if you are saving for the long term, look at Hot Flash Financial’s recommendation of the best account for saving—one with a tax break, Where to Stash it, as well as Start depositing now.
    • If you would like to have more control, and make more intelligent decisions about your money and its use, it often helps to figure out where your hard earned dollars go. Professionals call this process  Tracking your spending. It requires more steps, but has a bigger potential payoff. Because tracking  makes it  easier to make informed decisions about reducing spending in some areas. It has the potential to reduce tension about spending changes within a household or marriage, because you have a lot of numbers to point to, and multiple  points or expenditures to discuss. We can give you the Steps you need. Just click on Track it to find a list of great gismos you can use, or select the “lazy way.”  Then click on Track and Decide to help you select the best ways for you to find money to save or deploy for more important issues.
    • Reducing credit card debt can be a challenge. But Hot Flash Financial has some ways to help you. Follow our Hot Flash Financial Plan. You can skip Steps 1 and 2, and jump to Step 3 and click on How to pay it down. Then continue to Steps 5-8 so that you can use a superb method to pay it down—over time— with the Extra Hot Flash Amount

 

There are a few more secrets to fulfilling your Resolution. Most of us need a few emotional boosts, and some rewards to keep us going beyond January.

Emotional Boost and Rewards. You probably know that change is not easy. You may need a little boost to help you stay on course. So take our silly quizzes and look at our laugh button.

You can turn to a friend, loved one, or our site to ask for support, and gently remind you to get back on track if you stray a bit. In fact, Hot Flash Financial recommends that you  “Go On Record” with that friend or our site. You can Twitter us or use your own Facebook page, or show her/him your index card. Use either the hi tech or low tech method to share your specific goal and the steps you will take.  (Easy cheat sheet: the set of Steps we give you at Hot Flash Financial. Print them out and check them off as you do them). Research shows that you are more likely to fulfill your Resolution if you do that. Then, each month, you can brag about your success on Twitter and/or Facebook or friend. Oh, and when you achieve the goal you set for yourself CELEBRATE! You can give yourself a reward each month for a) saving that amount you resolved to save $50 or $500 or b) reducing your debt by the amount in your resolution.

Penalty. Don’t hesitate to create a little fine if you don’t follow the steps you set for yourself, or fall off the wagon for awhile. Have fun with this “punishment.” You decide what it will be. Here are some ideas:

  • allow a friend to tease you
  • pay a small “price” by giving money (a token amount) to  that friend, or loved one. (Don’t send money to our site. [We are not Soupy Sales.] Send money to a charity that you hate—like a charity that supports a cause opposed to your own preferences. For instance, if you support gun control, send a $25 donation to the NRA [National Rifle Association]. Now that is a penalty that will probably make you focus more clearly on meeting your own specific money goals for yourself.)

We hope the clearly defined steps outlined in this blog help you have success with your Resolution. And if you can’t wait until  2013 to take more steps to improve your finances, click on Hot Flash Financial every week, and Friend us on Facebook, sign up for our Tweets, and follow our blogs.

We welcome your clicks all year long.