Automate Your Way to Wealth

Zebert L. Brown

Whenever I ask people what’s their #1 reason for not sticking to a budget, I normally get “lack of time” to manage it properly.  I then ask, “Have you tried automating your finances?” It’s at this point folks do that old “I Could’ve Had a V8” bonk upside the head thing.

In today’s busy world, it can be difficult to keep track of your spending especially if you’re still doing it the old fashioned way with pen, paper and calculator.  But if you automate your finances, your world will become a whole lot easier.  Trust me! 

I remember the first time I automated my finances using Direct Deposit back when it was the newest wave in banking.  At the time, I would receive paper checks because I didn’t trust the accuracy or timeliness of the Electronic Funds Transfer system.  But once I saw the benefits of it – no waiting in lines to cash my check and instant access to my money – I was hooked on the new banking technology and I haven’t looked back since.  I’ve even paid off three vehicles using auto-payroll deduction where the car payments were automatically deducted from my paycheck and my budget never missed it!

Today, there are multiple ways to ease the burden of maintaining your budget and you can increase your net worth in the process just by automating your finances.

  • Saving and Investing through Auto Payroll Deduction. The easiest way to get started in investing is to pay yourself first.  That means making regular deposits to your savings account.  But if making regular deposits into your savings account is a habit that remains elusive, you can take the strain out of the process by automating your savings using automatic payroll deduction.  The process is easy: Just contact your HR department, determine the amount of funds to be withdrawn from your pay each pay period, fill out the necessary paperwork and submit them to your bank, credit union or other financial institution and within a payday or two you should start seeing your savings increase.  You can also automate contributions to your 401(k) or IRA (whether Traditional or Roth) using auto-payroll deductions.  Not only is this a fast and effective way to increase your investment portfolio, you can also reduce your taxable income in some cases allowing more of your earnings to go into your bank account and less going to Uncle Same.  Once established, all you’ll have to do is sit back and watch your retirement nest-egg grow and grow and grow.

  • Online Bill Pay. Ever miss a payment on a bill and kick yourself for it?  You can save yourself the agony of watching all those late fees eat away at your hard earned income and stop kicking yourself in the butt in the process by paying your bills online.  In most cases, you simply log in to your creditor’s website, i.e., utility company, mortgage company, car finance company, insurance premium, etc., provide the appropriate account information and the payment is automatically withdrawn from your bank account or credit card.  The neat thing about online bill pay is you can either make a one-time payment or set up a payment schedule where a specific amount is withdrawn from your bank account at the interval you specify (i.e., once a week, bi-weekly, once a month).  There are three benefits to online bill pay: 1) your payment is usually processed within 24-hours saving you a late fee; 2) you save money on postage; and 3) you can stop or start the process, or change the payment method at your convenience.

  • Pros to automating your finances:

    • No hassle savings and investing.

    • Prompt payment processing

    • No late fees

    • Quick payment confirmation (usually via email)

    • Easy payment tracking (i.e., email confirmation, creditor’s website or banking app)

    • Saves time

       

  • Cons to automating your finances:

    • Easy to fall into that “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and forget to account for such deductions in your budget

    • Halting or changing payments made by auto-payroll deduction can take time for the required paperwork to get processed

    • An error in a payment amount could throw off your account balance and take time to correct

It’s important to monitor your banking statements and your budget in order to keep on top of your spending when automating your finances, but the pros far out-weigh the cons.  One word of caution:  You should automate your finances only when you’re absolutely sure your budget can handle it.  If your finances are tight and you’re still not comfortable with your spending being on auto-pilot, automating your finances may not be for you.  But once you get your finances on track and you start seeing consistent positive cashflow in your budget on a regular basis, I would highly recommend calling “All Systems Go” to automating your finances.

That’s my blogpost for this week. Join the discussion by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to tune in next week where I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

10 Tips to Improving Your Financial Literacy

 LeeHeadShot4 In last week’s blogpost, I outlined the importance of becoming more financial literate.  This week I provide ten important tips you can use to improve your financial literacy skills and start your children off on the right track to becoming more fiscally responsible.

For Adults:

1. Take a financial management course. You can contact your bank or local community college to see if they offer such a course, or you can contact the American Consumer Credit Counselors for a free credit counseling session.

2. Learn common financial terms. Asset, depreciation, liquidation, equity are all basic terms you’ll come across in nearly every financial situation, but if you don’t know what these words mean or how they apply to your financial situation, you can’t make financial decisions that are right for you and your economic situation.

3. Read the small print! I can’t emphasize this enough. No matter how much pressure you get from slick talking salesmen, you should always take your time to read over ALL documents pertaining to your personal finances before you sign them. After all, you work hard for your money and no one’s going to look after your best interest except you.  Give yourself at least 24 hours to review any document before you sign on the dotted line to make doubly sure you’re making the right decision.

4. Diversify your finances. The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is true. Assuming you can afford to spread the wealth around, you should try to put your money in investment vehicles that stand to earn you money other than a simple savings account or a 401k plan with your employers. An IRA, stocks, bonds, mutual fund or exchange trade funds (ETF) are all investment vehicles that can provide a decent return on investment over the long haul.

5. Ask questions. If there’s something you don’t understand about a potential financial situation that could obligate you to a long-term financial commitment, ask questions – as many as it takes for you to fully understand the situation at hand. And if you don’t feel as if you’re getting the right answers from one person, ask to speak with the manager.

For Children:

1. Talk to them about money. Believe it or not, children learn how to manage money from watching their parents. Of course, if you’re not “penny wise” odds are your child may very well pick up some poor spending habits from you. The sooner your child learns the value of money, the sooner he/she begin to take a personal interest in his/her ersonal economy.

2. Give them an allowance. Most parent may not believe in giving their child an allowance, but an allowance gives them a  sense of ownership for “a job well done”. Moreover, they quickly learn that “money doesn’t grow on trees or comes from the ATM” each time they run out of their money.

3. Take them shopping with you. Let your child pay for groceries (small purchases, of course) and show them how to bargain shop. This way not only do they learn that you’re not an inexhaustible source of money, they also learn how to look for the best deals right along with you.

4. Give your child a piggy-bank. There’s nothing like the sound of a bunch of coins clanking in a glass jar or that pink plastic pig. Your child will have a sense of pride for all the money he/she saves up to purchase that special item on their wise list. As an alternative to a piggy-bank, you could also start a savings account for your child and let them make the deposits.  This way they learn about bankng, saving and investing early in life.

5. Play board games that involve money. Monopoly, Life, Payday. These traditional board games are not only fun to play, they also teaches your child about the world of finance. Every kid loves being the banker. Let them learn about financial management by playing with play money so that once they experience the real thing they can apply what they’ve learned in real life.

That’s my blogpost for this week.  Join the discussion and post your comments below.  And don’t forget to tune in next week where I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations.  Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.