My Three SMARTEST Financial Goals of 2019

Wow! It’s been a minute since I’ve blogged here. Turns out, it can be really hard to juggle transitions of life, almost entirely taking on the care of someone else, and maintain an existence you’re proud of when there isn’t that much working in your favor.

The unraveling I went through in my personal life began in 2017. It took almost two years for me to feel like I’d completely hit rock bottom. Now though, I’m ready – once again – to get the financial aspect of my life under control. It takes a lot to remain optimistic in the face of global events, but I’d rather look forward in life with joy than worry about how things may or may not stress me financially. I’ll say it another way: I’m digging myself out of a hole, so there isn’t a real reason to count on things I don’t have.

Now here is the part I know you’re probably reading for – my financial goals for 2019. This year, I started by taking the SMART approach to goal setting, but when I sat down to really carve them out? I felt something was missing.

For those of you new to the acronym, SMART goals are goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive.

When you use this to flesh out a goal, you get a deadline-driven task that makes a point. SMART goals are good goals, but I wondered, “Are these the best kinds of goals out there?” A quick Google search turned up the SMARTER acronym. A SMARTER goal has everything a SMART goal has but starts to get at the “Why?” behind your reasoning for setting it in the first place.

A SMARTER goal is a goal that is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-sensitive, Ethical/Energizing, and Reviewed regularly.

This really got the wheels in my head turning and flutters in my heart going. I was finally on track to set a goal I wouldn’t write down on a piece of paper only to forget about them a week into the new year. Still, my imagination was trying to narrow down how to set a goal that truly spoke to what it was I wanted to accomplish. Another Google search turned up exactly what I was looking for: the SMARTEST goal (anyone could possibly come up with).

The SMARTEST goals that we can set for ourselves get to why we are motivated to do something in the first place. It is a goal that is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-sensitive, Educational, Significant, and moving Toward something.

Finally, I had something that got to the most important aspect of goal-setting. It also got to the reason I have been less than successful in reaching many of the goals I set for myself. With this framework in front of me, I was excited to put pen to paper and work through fleshing these goals. The process was an involved one, so I’ll be sure to share how I went about identifying these goals and figuring out what milestones I wanted to achieve in another post. For now? My goals are below!

My Three SMARTEST Financial Goals for 2019

* Saving at least $800 for emergency living expenses in my Chime account by March 31, 2019 will allow me to have a sound peace of mind should I have to travel unexpectedly.

* Save $3,000 of living expenses in my Bills & Utilities account by June 30, 2019. These savings will allow me the opportunity to practice mindful living and improved financial habits while improving my overall well-being (I’ll stress about the day-to-day less).

* Paying at least $450.00 a month toward my federal student loan debt by December 31, 2019 will allow me peace of mind and improved self-esteem.

As you can see, many of my goals this year are around an improved quality of life and improved self-image. I look forward to sharing my progress with you all throughout the year.

Have you set any financial goals for yourself? Don’t forget to share them in the comments below.

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Financial Inventory (Part 1)

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I decided to sit down one night and do an exercise I was calling a “financial inventory.” Realized as I went on that it would have to be a bit more comprehensive that what I was prepared to do and that I was afraid to get this honest, especially since I was committed to putting it on my blog. This post will initially be a two-part post. The part you’re about to read are my estimates because I’m not ready to really find out how bad my financial state is (it’s 8:56pm and my goal today is to go to bed without drinking so spare me). The second part will have actual numbers.

The second part will be the cold, bitter, hard-to-swallow truth. I know it’s bad and right now, knowing that is enough. Without further ado, here is my financial inventory.

Age: 29 years old

Assets

  1. What assets do I own? Off the top of my head, none.
  2. Why are these items assets? N/A

Debt

  1. What debts do I owe? Student loans, personal loans, fines levied by the state of Michigan, and medical expenses.
  2. Amount owed: $125,000
  • Student Loans: $96,000
  • Personal Loans: $16,000
  • State Fines: $4,000
  • Medical Expenses: $1,500
  • Things in Collection: $7,500

Current Net Worth: -$125,000 (estimated)

Reflection Questions:

1. Who do I feel like I owe? I feel like I owe everyone. It causes and immense amount of pressure because it feels like a weight I’m being crushed under. I feel like my phone rings off the hook with bill collectors (which makes me think of my personal relationships with people) and I feel like some sort of fraud. At first, I told myself that “getting by” was okay because it could and would get better. But it has actually gotten worse.

2. Who do I actually owe? Sallie Mae/Navient; Brown Univ.; State of Michigan; Credit Acceptance; and Various Collection Agencies

3. What do I feel like I owe? I feel like I owe so much money that I’ll never own my name. That’s what it feels like. It feels like I’m a slave to this debt on an emotional, mental, and physical level.

4. What do I actually owe? I estimated $125,000 (based on the numbers the last time I looked at anything). I have to actually look it all up.

5. Why am I motivated to change now? Freedom; and I feel like I have to.

6. If I had $15,000 ($15k), what would I do right at this moment? I’d pay down my debt.

7. Did that answer really improve my life AS IS? No (and I’m thinking of life as is as the emotional response I had to that idea). It did not. As soon as I wrote it, I realized that emotionally, I felt like I couldn’t find joy and I don’t know why that is.

Starting Over

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It seems I’ve talked a lot about that on this here blog but here I am, yet again, with a report of having to start over.

Life became a bit more than I could handle and I found myself having to make what felt like dire decisions to just get to the next day. In a period of five weeks:

  • Broke my foot (this cost me over $600 out of pocket);
  • Lost my apartment (cost me over $2,300);
  • Finagled a last minute move that was crazy expensive (cost me over $200); and
  • Spent over what I would have normally spent to get to work ($30 a day or $150 a week).

I was making $14 an hour and I thought that spending money I didn’t have to spend was the worst of it. For a while, it was. Then I took a trip to Hawaii (that had been paid for the year before) and lost my personal identification and bank cards. Oh joy! That was surely going to be the worst of it?

Not. At. All.

It seemed as though collectors and creditors knew I was in dire straits and called for every single dollar they’ve ever leant me to be paid back. By this point, I was living with my Mom and had to enlist her help in this. The final verdict? She wouldn’t be able to help me.

And this is where I find myself today – steeped in embarrassment at my financial state and wondering IF it ever actually gets better for the poor folks who were born poor?

It might not but after some deep soul searching, I’ve recommitted to the idea of starting over, really starting over, so that I can eventually own my name. My debt has become a noose around my neck and while I know that money doesn’t buy happiness, it would certainly allow me to afford the scissors to cut myself loose.

We shall see!

Super Financial Intentions

The New Moon always feels like a good time to set intentions* and this go round, I set intentions with a “Landmark Birthday” in mind. Granted, these intentions are lofty (they may be bigger than lofty but we’ll go with that) so I’m calling them my Super Intentions. Since this blog deals with my financial state, I’ve decided to share my Super Financial Intentions with you all.

Without further ado…

By my 30th Birthday/Life Anniversary, I will…

  1. Have erased at least 80% of my student loan debt (roughly $81,000).
  2. Have amassed a savings of $20,000.
  3. Have cleared ALL of my medical debt (approximately $2,700).

Now you are probably wondering why these are being called SUPER INTENTIONS? Not only is this month’s new moon considered a Supermoon (the moon looks larger because it’s a bit closer to Earth) but my Landmark Birthday is 504 days away. That makes these goals completely outlandish seeing as I take home roughly $1,900 a month.

These goals are so crazy that I was almost afraid to write them down but there is something about putting pen to paper that makes a goal seem more attainable. Now you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay Young. That’s cute. But come on, how are you going to do this?”

Short answer – I have NO clue whatsoever but as my Life Coach Stephanie would say, “[My] job is not to figure out the details.”

Longer answer – I have thought about it and I plan to take baby steps. In light of this, I came up the following “rules” for myself.

  1. Unless a trip is sponsored, I will cease traveling until after my 30th
  2. For each leisure purchase, 15% of the total purchase price goes to the smallest uncleared loan.
  3. Every penny counts so all of my “extra” money will be split evenly between my three goals.
  4. I will stick hard to a budget because I don’t have a choice here. My priority? My financial freedom.

I will be keeping a tally of where I am on these goals and I’ll be sharing with you all (so you can share my joys and defeats).

Do you all have any financial goals by a Landmark Birthday? If so, share below in the comments.

~Young

*I’m not superstitious, I just like rituals.

Is This Thing On?

*taps mic and cues intro from Public Service Announcement*

Allow me to reintroduce myself… MY NAME IS YOUNG!

Well, actually, it’s not. That’s just a nod to Jay Z, or as I like to call him, the Best Comeback Artist since Jordan Actually Retired.

Hello Good People, Followers, Readers, and Others who just haphazardly stumbled across my small space of the internet. It’s been a long time since I blogged (unintentionally, it’s been exactly a year), but not having a laptop, internet connection, and emotional wherewithal will zap even the mightiest Greek god of the urge to share.

I’m going to keep this short, as it is just a quick note to let everyone know that I’m back (for mostly good). For the newbies, I’ll take a moment to share some things about myself.

From my name, you should be able to tell that I AM Young, Gifted, Black…and well, Broke. To say the same thing differently, I’m an under-30, Ivy-League and two-time graduate who is overeducated and underemployed. Although my current job isn’t the most ideal, I stay because the benefits are great and I work with this fine ass man who I might or might not want to have babies for. To top it off, my net worth is currently so far in the negative, I laugh in sheer desperation when I log into Mint.com (#shoutout to da mints).

Even with all of that and a grasp of basic financial principles, I AM STILL BROKE.

The reality is that I’m like many of my peers and much of America. If there were a self-help group for people who “have it together” but still (BARELY) live paycheck to paycheck (P.O.P. Hold it down!), I’d nominate myself for President without a moment’s hesitation. The crazy thing is that although I know I’m not alone (statistics don’t lie and too many people like my tweets about Sallie “Navient” Mae on Twitter), I still feel isolated.

And that’s why I write this blog. To get the emotional “yuck” that’s tied to my dire financial situation out. I’m not alone and I don’t want anyone else to think they are alone in this either.

Here’s what you get here:

  • Regularly scheduled posts two to three times a week
  • Honest accounts of my financial status and my progress to reaching my personal goals
  • Information that I have found helpful in my goal of erasing my debt and starting anew

Here’s what you don’t get here:

  • SOUND FINANCIAL ADVICE BECAUSE I AM NOT A FINANCIAL EXPERT (my name is not Suze.)

If you’ve stuck around through my unintended and accidental hiatus, thank you from the bottom of my heart which is way bigger than my bank account. If you’re new here? Welcome, welcome, and welcome! I hope you stay around.

~Young

#DailyTaxTip – Questions to Ask Your Tax Preparer BEFORE Filing Your Taxes

After having a conversation with a coworker where I asked what questions they’d have for a tax professional, I realized that many people don’t interview the person that plays a significant role in their financial life for the year. With that, I began to think of things you should ask your tax preparation specialist BEFORE having your taxes done and the “Top 10” questions are below. Remember, this is just a starter list. Whatever comes to mind during your conversation should be asked but make sure you interview them.

After all, they work for you.

  1. How long have your completed tax returns for people?
  2. Do you have a current PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number)? (NOTE: Every tax preparer who is compensated for completing tax returns for other individuals should answer this with a yes. If they do not, ask what year was their last official PTIN issued.)
  3. Do you have a current EFIN (Electronic Filing Identification Number)? If not, why? (NOTE: While most tax preparers need both numbers, those who utilize electronic software or work through a company tend to work under an umbrella EFIN of the larger organization.)
  4. On average, how long does it take you to complete a simple tax form (1040EZ)? How much longer does it take you to compete a tax form complete with extra schedules (1040 with extra forms)?
  5. Which forms are you most comfortable filling out? (NOTE: The more complex your financial situation – you have multiple income streams and qualifications for credits – the more forms your preparer will have to complete. It is easy to get confused in this process so be sure to understand which forms apply to your situation and what your preparer is able to handle.)
  6. How many clients do you file for in a given tax season?
  7. How many of your clients have been audited? (NOTE: I encourage people to ask this question because it speaks to the quality of the work. You can also ask if a particular type of client is audited, i.e., a business owner, to get an idea if it’s a simple trend that can be explained.)
  8. Do you work outside of the regular tax season? Why or why not?
  9. What advice do you give to your clients concerning their financial status/habits? (NOTE: Most tax preparers are not financial planners/professionals BUT they should have something to offer you concerning your financial situation, especially for common situations like saving for a child’s education or for retirement.)
  10. How and when can I contact you if I have further questions?

You should never feel pressured into using a service, especially when your finances are concerned. The moment you do, collect your things and run for the hills (or just exit quietly through the door). I hope these questions help you become more comfortable discussing your tax situation and other financial issues.

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Since 2010, Courtney has been using her training and expertise to provide affordable, accurate and ethical tax preparation services to those in her community. She firmly believes in the saying, “When you know better, you do better,” and it is always her intent to educate others on things that significantly impact their lives. 

#DailyTaxTip – Credits! Credits for Everyone! (February 22, 2014)

Good morning! The Daily Tax Tip is back and today I’m explaining credits.

To begin with, you need to understand what a credit is. Simply put, a tax credit is an amount that’s deducted from the total amount of tax a person owes back. A tax credit differs from deductions, which reduces the amount of money the government can tax, and are given out for various reasons. The most common tax credit is the income tax and it recognizes what you’ve already paid toward your tax burden. Other credits may be offered as a subsidy (think the Health Care Tax Credit that’s being offered now) or to get you to invest or spend money on certain things.

Below is a list of the three most common tax credits available:

Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is available to you if you worked but did not make a lot of money. Granted a “lot” is predetermined by the government and is based on your total income and filing status, but it is worth the research. This credit is a refundable credit (which means you see the money in your refund). There are different qualifiers for this credit and the caveat here is that you usually see the money if you have a child (there have been some cases where people qualify for the credit without children but that amount isn’t as much).

Child and Dependent Care Credit

This credit is available to those who have qualifying child OR dependent care expenses. The credit is given to you in the form of a percentage of the expenses you spent during the year (up to $3,000). Generally, you receive the credit for children less than 13 years of age or a mentally/physically incapacitated dependent. There are some caveats to this credit, so if you receive it, be sure that your tax professional explains it to you.

Retirement Savings Contribution Credit

If you make eligible contributions to a recognized individual retirement account (IRA), you may be eligible to take a credit based on the percentage you contributed during the year. With this credit, there is an income ceiling (you can’t take the credit if you make over a certain amount) and your income determines your credit rate (the lower your income, the higher your credit rate).

 Your tax professional should walk you through an interview before they even complete your paperwork to understand your spending behaviors for the past year and your goals for the upcoming year. If you are eligible for credits, they should also take the time to explain why you received the credit. These two conversations will allow them to offer you advice on credits you should be aware of, what you can do to take advantage of other credits in the future and provide you with some security if you’re questioned about it.

**

Since 2010, Courtney has been using her training and expertise to provide affordable, accurate and ethical tax preparation services to those in her community. She firmly believes in the saying, “When you know better, you do better,” and it is always her intent to educate others on things that significantly impact their lives.