The last few weeks have been unprecedented in so many ways. We’ve seen what the ravages of a viral pandemic can mean for our health, our economy and our very way of life. Nearly every aspect of our lives has been disrupted and none of us knows when or what “getting back to normal” looks like. As a wealth manager, I’m spending large chunks of time with investors who are experiencing the full range of emotions as they face the uncertainties of a world with COVID-19. While many are cautious, some are opportunistic. Others have expressed fear and a few are downright angry at the recent turn of events.
One thing they all have in common though is that they can use this time to organize their financial affairs. The study of behavioral finance tells us that people want to feel “in control” of a situation. The greater the sense of control a person (in this case an investor) has, the better they will feel about creating a positive outcome. So, what can investors be doing right now to organize their financial lives and create that positive outcome?
For starters, this is a GREAT time to review your financial plan. You do have a plan, right? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If you don’t have a plan, you plan to fail”. While that may not be entirely true of every situation, creating a singular, cohesive and comprehensive financial plan can save you from a multitude of mistakes and ensure nothing in your financial life gets overlooked or left to chance. A comprehensive plan should address current and expected needs around each area of wealth management: Investments, Insurance, Cash Flow, Taxes, Estate Planning, and Charitable Gifting. It’s common to have addressed one or two of those areas while neglecting others. If so, use this time to add to the pieces of your existing plan.
For those of you who have a well-written plan, when was the last time it was updated? I recommend at least annually and, certainly, every time there is a material change or transition in your life. It could be a job change, a move, or perhaps you’ve recently married. Even just the recent fluctuation in the stock market may be enough reason to review your plan. Are your investments performing how they are supposed to? Since the purpose of any plan is to keep one on track to meet certain goals, do you know your next steps if you discover you have strayed from your plan? This is the perfect time to answer questions like that.
What else can you do to organize your financial affairs? Make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date. You may want to leave your ex-spouse your 401(k) but my guess is you probably don’t. While that’s the classic example of *oops*, the action of matching an account to the correct beneficiary also serves the purpose of making sure all accounts have beneficiary designations. Among other things, it might keep your estate out of probate. Also, don’t forget many accounts will allow for both primary and contingent beneficiaries in case you want to name your children or charitable organizations. In conjunction with the beneficiary information, you’ll want to make sure your will and/or trusts have been updated and reflect your wishes.
Finally, as you think about organizing your finances, you may even want to consider using online services where all your documents can be stored safely and securely. Companies like Everplans allow you to digitally store wills, trusts, passwords to accounts, insurance policies and anything else you’d like to place in a centralized location for you or other family members. This can be a real time saver, as well as provide protection for identity theft, ease of transfer to other parties, and serve as a storehouse for both personal and business affairs items.
If you have time on your hands now, make the most of it to get your financial lives in order. Some of the suggestions I’ve made can be implemented on your own, while others may require the assistance of a trusted professional. When seeking help, always find a fiduciary who will put your interests first! At TWM, we do just that.
By Jane Moore
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
Downsizing is a commitment to a simpler life, unburdened by the clutter of accumulated possessions. It means living in a smaller home with more manageable living expenses and reduced property taxes. It also means paying lower mortgage payments, which is welcome in an area like Denver where home prices have jumped (up nine percent since last year). If you’re looking for more freedom, a smaller home also means less maintenance and upkeep inside and outside. However, it’s not always an easy change to make.
Getting rid of belongings that have personal meaning and which elicit memories can be a daunting emotional challenge, and it requires a commitment to see it through. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and to approach the task methodically so you don’t become overwhelmed by its psychological and physical demands.
Take Your Time
Take the time to do it right. Go room by room, handling each item before deciding whether to keep, donate, or throw it away. Ask yourself why you purchased this object in the first place, and whether it’s serving any useful purpose. Will anyone miss it? Does it have too much personal meaning to get rid of? Do you have room for it at your new home?
Once you’ve answered these questions, make separate piles and follow through on your intention with each pile. Don’t just leave items you intend to get rid of piled up in a corner or shoved in a closet. Put the objects you’re going to donate in your car so you can drop them off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If you have belongings you just can’t decide what to do with, consider putting them into storage for a while before making a commitment.
If you have a lot of papers to go through, make a pile for official documents, receipts and things you need to keep or can scan and store on your hard drive. Take the old bills and other papers you can purge to a shredding facility if you aren’t able to shred them at home. Remember, the majority of your papers aren’t important enough to hang onto.
Know Your New Space
If you don’t know how much space you have, you could end up with more stuff than you have room for, so take measurements in your new home before jumping into the downsizing process. If you’re moving into a considerably smaller space, it may be necessary to get rid of a few pieces of furniture or place them into storage. Knowing what you have to work with will also make it easier on moving day, since you’ll know exactly what pieces can go where, and which rooms each box should be left in for unpacking.
Keep Up the Good Work
Once you’ve purged yourself of all those duplicate items, the old keepsakes you can’t remember why you kept and ATM receipts from three years ago, maintain the good habits you’ve begun by downsizing. It’ll keep the clutter under control and help you reap the benefits of fewer belongings. Keep papers separated according to importance, and clean and organize things immediately rather than allowing them to pile up. Go through your clothes at the beginning of each season and decide what you can do without. Throw away or donate all those old ties you haven’t worn for years. And once you’ve finished, consider hiring a maid service for a one-time cleaning, which can cost you between $25 and $50 per hour.
If you still have a few things that you want to keep but simply don’t have room for in your new space, consider renting a self-storage space to house them. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to pay a monthly fee for this service, so make sure there’s room in your budget and that you research rates in your area. For example, in Denver, you’ll pay around $80 a month on average for a 10’x10’ unit, but you can find a same-sized unit for $35 per month.
Be Discriminating with New Items
Be careful not to undo everything you’ve achieved by piling up new objects you may not really need. When considering a new purchase, think through how often you’ll probably use it, how much you really want it and whether you have room for it in your smaller home. This is good advice for young people who don’t have as much experience managing a home as their elders. There’s no sense moving into a smaller house with less storage space if you continue purchasing things you don’t need.
Be Honest with Yourself
Downsizing is a lifestyle decision that can help people of all ages live simply and more efficiently. Be honest with yourself and be ready to ask yourself tough decisions as you assess whether you really need each item. Above all, take the time to do it right. You could easily make mistakes and lose things you want to keep by trying to do it all in one day.
In today’s society, tiny houses have become more desirable than large homes. While living in a tiny house is not for everyone, it offers unique benefits for those who are interested in a more minimalistic lifestyle.
A tiny house is only a couple of hundred square feet. In a tiny house most of your space is within easy reach, so living in a tiny house makes it easier to multitask. However, before you move into one there are some things that you should do. The first of these is to purge most of your belongings. You will not have room for nonessential items and keepsakes, so you have to decide what you can live without. There aren’t many places in a tiny house for knick-knacks. Storage space is at a premium!
On the other hand, a tiny house is a lot less expensive than a regular house. In many cases it is also mobile. A tiny house can be purchased for around sixty thousand dollars. A regular house costs a lot more, plus it cannot be moved. Even with the tiny house being cheaper, there are things that need to be considered, such as:
- Land – Do you have a piece of land to put your house on or do you need to buy/rent land?
- Utility costs – How will you obtain utilities…sewer, water, electricity?
- Upgraded – Any upgrading that you make will add money to the cost of your tiny house.
- Maintenance – Maintaining your tiny home and the land it is on will be an added cost.
- Towing equipment – If you plan on moving your house, does your car have the proper towing capabilities?
In your tiny house, most areas serve more than one purpose. You may need to store clothing in your kitchen or bathroom area. The stairs should be built with storage areas underneath. Most furniture is built which that locks you into a particular layout, but it keeps cleaning to a minimum.
Living in a tiny house is a whole new way of living. You can spend more time with your family and in the outdoors. Since storage space is minimal, your money will not need to go to buying stuff.
If you like entertaining, you can always build a fire pit with an outdoor barbecue area or have a movie night with a projector in your garden.
The tiny house experience is a minimalist lifestyle. You will find yourself doing more with less and cleaning will be a breeze.
With a tiny house, you can own your own home sooner than expected. If you want to move, you can take your home with you. A tiny house doesn’t have to mean you are giving up anything, instead you are taking time away from things and focusing on experiences.
Living in a small space takes some getting used to, but once you’re comfortable with it, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Name: David Lahav
Happy New Year! Our first blog of the year comes from Jennifer Hanzlick of Clutter Trucker. They are a junk removal and hoarding cleanup company in the Denver area.
Most people are familiar with clutter, messy rooms, excess junk in the garage and the occasional backed-up sink or broken refrigerator. Everyone has faced an unkempt home at one time or another, whether it’s the result of a big party or a temporary aversion to house-cleaning.
The point is, for 99 percent of the population, a messy home is a temporary, rare situation. For people who suffer from a psychological problem called “hoarding disorder,” it’s an everyday reality. Professionals have studied the condition in detail and categorize sufferers into five distinct groups, referred to as the “levels of hoarding.”
Here are the key points about each level, beginning with Level One, the least serious of all, and ending with Level Five, the most dangerous of all.
The Levels of Hoarding
- Level One: The sufferer doesn’t
like to throw things away and often buys items for which they have no apparent
need. The space only has light clutter but no blocked entryways or walkways.
It’s hard to notice hoarding at this early stage.
- Level Two: People at this stage
don’t allow visitors, are often embarrassed by the clutter, have a few blocked
walkways or exits in the home, and are unable or unwilling to clean the
- Level Three: Sufferers at this
stage often have emotional problems, eating disorders and live in an extremely
cluttered, unsanitary space. Fleas and other pests can be a problem, bathrooms
might be non-functional and there are strong odors everywhere.
- Level Four: Serious hygiene and
mental health problems are apparent in level four, along with mold, mildew,
sewage problems, excessive clutter, various pests, animal waste, blocked exits
and unusable rooms.
- Level Five: The home is not fit for habitation, sewers are backed up, bathrooms are unusable, all space is cluttered, walls are broken and there are numerous fire hazards within the residence.
How To Deal With the Problem
There are two steps to the process for handling a hoarding situation. The first is to get psychological help for the sufferer as quickly as possible. The second involves cleaning up the residence so that people can live in it without the danger of acquiring an infection or illness of any kind. Proper, comprehensive cleanup also opens the space up and allows for easy passage from room to room, unobstructed entry and exit, and a sanitary living area for all who reside in the home.
Checklist courtesy of Tri-Star Cabinet & Top Co., Inc.
U – Upkeep
While organizing is the crucial first step, upkeep is just as important. No one wants to spend time and money organizing a space just to have it go back to its original chaotic state! Systems (ahem, and following those systems) are the key to upkeep! When organizing any space make sure to:
- Keep ‘like’ things together in categories
- Find a space that will fit each category
- Pick your space based on how you function in the room
- Purge until the items fit into their designated space
- Label spaces if you think you (or someone else) might have a hard time remembering where things go
For upkeep of your organized space, make sure to:
- Assign homes to all new things that come into the space
- Continue to purge old things as new one’s come in
- Put things back into their designated space…every time
- Put things back on a regular schedule of upkeep (daily/weekly/monthly)
- Reorganize if the system you’ve chosen is too difficult to maintain
It’s not enough to simply make a space organized. The organizational system must be created with the people who will be in charge of upkeep, in mind. This is why I like to organize a home/office with its people, so I know how they function in their space and what they are and are not willing to do to maintain it. Organization is only half the battle. Upkeep is other half.
T – Time
Time is the one things everyone wishes they had more of! Time to spend with family and friends, time to do fun things, and time to actually get things done! So, since we can’t have more time, we need to figure out how to best use the time we have. For many people, time management just does not come naturally. Even those of us who help others with their time management find ourselves in time-suck activities and feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day! For example, instead of writing this blog, I spent 20 minutes reading “The 10+ Most Hilarious Parenting Tweets of the Year So Far”…and I don’t even have children (you got sucked into it to, didn’t you?).
Time flies or drags depending on what you’re doing. Two hours at the DMV can feel like 12 years. However, a long weekend away can be over in the blink of an eye.
The following techniques will help you become the master of your own time:
- Carry a schedule and record all your activities for a week. This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going.
- Any activity that’s important should have a time assigned to it. Schedule appointments with others and yourself and create time blocks for high-priority items.
- Schedule time for interruptions. Plan time to be pulled away from what you’re doing.
- Take the first 30 minutes of every day to plan your day. Don’t start your day until you complete your time plan. The most important time of your day is the time you schedule to schedule time.
- Practice not answering the phone just because it’s ringing and e-mails just because they show up. Disconnect instant messaging and block out social media. Don’t instantly give people your attention unless it’s absolutely crucial to offer an immediate human response. Instead, schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls.
- Outsource or get assistance with anything that you can. There are services that can help with everything from grocery delivery to virtual assisting to Professional Organizing!
Time, unlike money is something you can never get back or earn more of. Figure out your priorities and then budget your time according to those priorities.
Everything is made up of systems; from the Circulatory System in our bodies to the Solar System in space, to the necessary Septic System. Systems are crucial to life! They are also crucial to an organized life. Just like we couldn’t live without our Respiratory System, we can’t live in an organized way without systems for our belongings.
If we think in terms of organizing survival, we’ll realize the importance of using systems. Now, coming up with the ‘right’ systems is trickier. This is where most people draw a blank, and where Organizing Professionals come into play. Here are a few things to think about when trying to figure out what systems are right for you.
- How you function in your space – How do you use the space you have? A person who does a lot of baking and cooking would create kitchen systems that are much different than the person who prefers to eat out most of the time.
- What’s working – Think of any systems you have in place and why they work. If you put your keys in the same place every time you come home and therefore never have to look for them, that’s a working system.
- What’s not working – Isolate the main problem with the disorganized areas. Is it lack of time? Then a simple system is best. Are things hard to find? You may want to consider hidden/visible storage system options.
- Consider active vs passive space – the things you use regularly (toilet paper, pens, dishes, etc) should be in your active space and the things that are used infrequently (holiday decorations, ski clothes during summer, serving platters, etc.) can go into your passive space.
We all strive to put things away, but we don’t do it because, often, we don’t know where ‘away’ is. We blame it on being generally disorganized, not having time or not taking the time. Creating homes for everything and systems to get those things into their homes will eliminate the “where does it go” blues, as well as piling and clutter areas.
R – Real
Let’s be real here!
Do you feel like you have too much stuff?
Is it taking over your space?
Are you unsure how it got to this point?
Do you feel like you should be able to handle it on your own?
Are you stuck?
If you answered yes to the questions above, then, realistically, you need some help. There’s no shame in it! If you needed to lose some weight, would you feel bad about getting a personal trainer to help accomplish your goals? If you had a toothache, would you avoid going to the dentist in the hopes that it will just fix itself? Would you torture yourself by doing your own taxes? We hire people to help us do the things we have trouble doing ourselves or that we just don’t want to do. They help us with the needs we have and we help them put their talents and knowledge to work and pay their bills – It’s a symbiotic relationship!
Our brains are all wired a little differently. I have a very smart client. She and her husband are both doctors. They have 3 kids and not much free time. Every time I work with her, she tells me I’m brilliant for figuring out a solution to a particular organizing issue she’s having. She often wonders why she can’t come up with these solutions. I tell her that we each have our strengths. I certainly couldn’t perform surgery!
I try to be a do-it-yourselfer every chance I get, because I like figuring out how to do things. However, my brain seems to shut down at the thought of numbers. I used to make myself do my own taxes, but it made me miserable and I wasn’t getting all the deductions I could get because I just didn’t know what I was doing. Now, I happily take all my paperwork to a tax preparer and don’t have to give it a second thought! That gives me more time to spend doing the things I need and want to do. And I’m confident that the money I spend paying someone else do my taxes, is returned to me in the form of tax deductions and time to work with clients!
There are people out there with expertise and knowledge on just about everything! Organizing, taxes, finances, health, etc. So get real about what’s keeping you down and get a Professional to help turn it around! Oooo, that rhymed!
Q – Quick
In our speedy society, we aim to do as much as we can in as little time as possible; get a quick bite to eat, grab a quick shower, quickly run to the store. However, organizing your home doesn’t sound like a quick thing to do, but it could be…
Here are 5 quick organizing tips:
- 2 minute rule- If something takes 2 minutes or less, do it right away.
- Put a read newspaper in the recycling bin
- Put a dish in the dishwasher
- Hang up a shirt
- Quick purge – if you put on a piece of clothing and it doesn’t look good on you, put it into a bag for donation right away.
- Mail rule – When the mail comes, open it immediately and decide what you need to do with it next…Recycle, file, pay, reply, etc. Then put a sticky on it with that direction.
- Running Errands – Keep all return items in your car, so they’re with you when you happen to be driving by that store. If you have multiple errands, go in order of where they’re located so you’re not driving back and forth across town.
- Basket system – get everyone in the household a basket. When you’re cleaning things up around the house, toss each family members items in their basket and have them put their items away at the end of each day.
See, organizing can also be a quick process! There are many more tips such as these! If you liked my tips, please subscribe to my Tip of the Week newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Monday (no SPAM guarantee!). Just click the Organizing Tip of the Week link on the right side of the page.