Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Financial life: There's an app for that? (Please God)

What does it take to make a financial plan?

I grew up the daughter of a Dutch farmer. I don't know if you know what that means. I'll say it, I'm not embarrassed: I'm cheap. In fact, I think I'm rather proud of this fact.

Being cheap -- er, frugal -- means that I've been able to build financial stability. I'll be honest: it's kinda easy for me. Like I said, I grew up this way. Talking about money, about finances, was a common thing in our house. But it's not like that for everyone. So when I have to explain how or why to do something (financial decisions), I falter. I just know: it's like intuition. The percentages speak to me, the discipline is easy. Spending is the hard part for me.

In this phase of my life, one that's shared so intimately with another being, I'm finding it hard to decide what to do next when they don't have the same background, the same innate understanding of "The Right Thing To Do." I feel like I'm relearning how to read. Go ahead, think about it. Do YOU remember how you learned to read?

Do we visit a financial planner? Shouldn't I be able to do this myself? Should we do THIS or THAT? I feel intuitively that I know. How do I explain the answer in a way that makes sense instead of feeling like I'm just forcing my opinion?

I feel like there should be a spreadsheet out there. A piece of software I can use. An app, ideally.

Of course, I know that and exist and can keep track of your personal budget. But how to decide where to put your money to begin with? How to decide on your goals, what to pay off first, where to best put windfalls so that you get the best outcome?

I started years ago, reading MoneySense magazine. I skipped the articles meant for rich people and focussed on those in dire straits. In those articles, there are profiles of couples (and sometimes single parents and others who've found themselves in an interesting dilemma). In each of these, a selection of paid financial planners give their expert advice on what the "client" should do for the best outcome. It's not rocket science. They weigh the percentages and tax benefits and so on. They calculate the cost-benefit of each scenario. Pay off the credit card by this date by cutting out cost A and B. Then put the money towards X until that's paid off. Then split the money into account Y and Z so you can afford that goal you've had your eye on. Simple -- most efficient way to get there!

Well, where's my calculator?
This is the internet people! Everything's supposed to be done already.

The internet is supposed to make my life easier, so I want my Google'd answer. Preferably now. Preferably NOT after I have to put together my own startup to make this happen. That is NOT part of my financial plan.

And so, since this is the internet, I put it out to my social network to point me to this magical software and save my relationship.

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