Office Hours Roundup: How do I Talk to My Partner/Family About Money (and Other Questions)

Office Hours Roundup: How do I Talk to My Partner/Family About Money (and Other Questions)

We hold office hours once a month. People sign up for free and we talk about money.

We wanted to start highlighting a few of the many great questions people ask so that we can all learn from them and weigh in as a community.

The questions have been changed slightly and generalized to make sure to protect the privacy of these sessions.

 

Question #1: How do you help a partner or family member who isn’t as engaged in their finances as you’d like?

This is such a tough one and every situation is very different but I feel like the thing that spans every case is more communication … which is way easier to say than to do.

You’ve got to figure out ways to bring money into the conversation. Until that happens things are never going to get better.

BUT… let me be clear. Talking about money doesn’t mean that you jump right into the most stressful issues or tell them all about the things they really ‘should be doing’. Creating a foundation of communication is way harder than that. It will take time. It will take patience (on both sides).

I recommend to start with some fun topics. What do you wish there was more money for? What would you do with all the money in the world? What do you love spending money on (only a good question if it can be asked with judgement)?

And when the other person opens up… listen. Don’t try to fix things right away. Don’t leap into action unless they actually ask you to. Just listen. Just be there for them.

Most people avoid money because of the intense feelings of shame and inadequacy is brings up. Remember that and be as gentle as possible.

AND… if starting these conversations is simply impossible. Start having them on your own. Work in your own money fears and work into the conversation whether they respond or not. One day they might join the conversation.

Question #2: I’m doing okay and have a bit of extra money every month but I’m not sure what I should be doing with it… RRSP? TFSA? Mortgage? General savings?

First of all, it’s difficult for me to give any specific advice about what are the most efficient options without really diving into your numbers and projections, so here are some general thoughts.

What I would encourage you to do is to really think about what your overall goals are. Is this money for 30 years from now? Do you have upcoming things that need funding? Which out of these goals are the most important to you right now.

Getting really specific about which goals get fed first is going to help you allocate funds when they’re available. This is especially important for self-employed folks with variable income. We don’t know exactly how much we’re going to have available for these goals. But we can have a list of how we want to attack them when money is available.

Once you’ve got the list you can get a little more specific about action (this is not a recommendation, but just a hypothetical). 

  1. Pay off credit card – I’ve automated payments so this is done by November. Where did this debt come from? Am I making sure I’m protecting myself against building more debt?
  2. Pay down mortgage in 5 years – How much does it take to do this? What’s your pre-payment amount every year?
  3. Contribute to TFSA – how much do you want to aim for? What is this money for? Retirement?
  4. Build an emergency fund – what would this fund help you do? How much would you like to have in it?
  5. Contribute to RRSPs – how much contribution room do I have?

By looking at your numbers I can come up with the ‘most efficient’ choice, but that’s only one factor. When it comes to which tools are right for you make sure you’re always fixing yourself to a goal and then applying the tool … not the other way around. 

 

Question #3: How to I wrap my mind around the costs of living in another country?

 

This is such a stressful thing. Moving is hard enough, but moving to a country adds so many unknowns to the equation.

I think the most helpful thing for me would be to start getting organized. When I’m packing for a longer trip I have two piles: things I’m taking with me, and things I’m leaving behind. You can do the same thing for your expenses.

Make a big list of what you spend on right now. What are your fixed costs, your other monthly spending and the annual stuff that happens every year.

Now… make a second list for your new country of residence. What are the expenses that you’re taking with you? Which expenses will probably be different and what expenses are going to get added to the mix?

That list is the collection zone for all your stress and you can use it to slowly start researching and putting together an answer to the question of ‘how much are we going to need when we move’.

Spend the next few weeks and months chipping away at this list one item at a time: what will we have to pay for housing? Are there any curve balls in renting that are different than here (in some countries you need to bring your own kitchen appliances or provide your own floor)? What might food cost?

Use google or ask people who have lived in these places what good thoughtful numbers might be.

If you’re not sure or can’t find good resources for where you’re moving make sure to budget for ‘a period of adjustment’. It always takes time in a new place to get set up and find the less expensive stores. There are also extra costs for setting up a new place.

The most important part of this exercise is to actually write it all down. Getting these thoughts and numbers out of your head is going to make it way easier to start wrapping your mind around the move.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

You Need a Budget…And Maybe Some Donuts

You Need a Budget…And Maybe Some Donuts

My name is Dashon and I’m an opera singer just like Chris. We met after many years of hearing of each other, but, as it often works in the classical singing world, we didn’t meet each other until we were eating meringues together in the heart of Paris. C’est la vie!

I have known Chris’ wife Mireille Asselin, another amazingly accomplished opera singer (seriously, you have got to listen to her amazing voice!) for many years, and she has told me about Chris many times. To meet up with friends, old and new, is always a joy! Between bites of stuffing our faces with lovely food, we started to talk about our projects. As much as we love music, when you’re in “the biz,” it’s also great to share what gets you excited about the world outside of the arts, as well. When we got to sharing about our love of budgeting, it was a lightning bolt right in between my eyes!

We all have these moments when we know that we have found a partner to navigate the rough and choppy waters, and for me, even though I had just met Chris, I felt very welcome to talk about my finances and the practical pressures of being an artist. Having a mentor is absolutely essential in our field, and looking up to peers is just as important for me; they understand exactly what I’m going through in a way that few other people can!

 

The YNAB Connection

Chris and I both have wonderful histories with the app You Need a Budget (YNAB), and for good reason! It has truly saved my sanity, which has in turn allowed me to save my finances and to conceive of my limited resources differently. However, the road to using it as often as I do (I love getting to it every day, it helps my system not pile up, and it definitely helps to remind myself of my goals for the future) wasn’t always so straight.

I started using YNAB about 6 years ago, after I read about it on the Internet (my true love in this world, second only to an excellent donut…). People were saying all sorts of things that piqued my curiosity:

“It changed my life.”
“It’s amazing.”
“I finally got out of debt.”
“I was able to save up to help my family achieve their dreams.”
“This is the most delicious thing I have ever eaten, so perfectly crisp and filled with my favorite Bavarian Cream, I will definitely be back!”

(One of those might have been about donuts, sometimes I confuse my open tabs, of which there are many…)

So, I fired up the computer, signed up for an account and promptly used it with the vigor of a New Year’s Resolver for a few months.

Then, not really having identified any goals… it just became another way to track my money. I’d been using other apps to do so, and while it certainly was interesting to see how much money I was spending on various things, there wasn’t a true understanding of what it was doing for me. So I went back to my other hobbies and other interests, and I just let it go.

 

Rinse, and repeat. For the next two years.

I’d give it a go, and would get tired of tracking, and didn’t really know what I wanted anyway. Even though I had student loans, and credit card debt, I never really thought about that. To borrow a phrase from another friend: those things were “a problem for Future Dashon.”

After a while, though, I started to get a knock at the door of my heart. I have no clue who let him in, or how he found me (my sense of time as a musician is usually great, as long as I don’t have to count higher than four), but there he stood: Future Dashon.

He wasn’t so bad looking, which was nice, but he definitely had a few harsh words for me, which wasn’t so nice. My finances had become messy, and I started to realize exactly how stressed out I was.

 

As artists, we are so used to improvising, and the idea of the “starving artist” is so pervasive, that it becomes a part of our self identity.

I didn’t believe that I deserved to be free of stress, because I just thought that’s how things were!

Great things to hand down from generation to generation via the mentor/student relationship: vocal technique, an endless curiosity and love of your craft, and respect and love for the traditions that you encounter which speak to you. Not such great things to hand down: the idea that getting ahead is impossible, the notion that in order to be successful you absolutely must sacrifice everything financially, and other assorted stereotypes of artists.

 

Go time.

So, after a couple of years of back and forth, I decided to really settle in, buckle up, and ask for help. One of the best things about YNAB is the community of users on the Internet. The official support staff, as well as other wide-eyed travellers were at the ready to help me, and are definitely ready to help you with any questions. I explained my situation to them, posted a lot of screenshots, and they helped me clarify my needs and wants. Finally, things were starting to click in.

More so than the actual method, what was clicking in for me was the need to make goals. Even if I couldn’t stick to them perfectly, knowing what my priorities were (and are) saved my sanity. And that, in turn allowed me to know not only what to spend money on, but why I was spending on those things. That, my new friends, is true freedom. The “learning curve” isn’t as steep as it may seem, and if you can master Yelp to find the best donut shop, you can definitely master your budget. Equally delicious.

Celebrating my YNAB Birthday

Just as I am writing this, I’ve decided to think of one of my favorite days of my life: my YNAB birthday. February 25, 2013 was so important to me! Even though I had a very circuitous route to learning how to use the software in a way that brought me freedom and joy, it’s a great thing to celebrate. Make today your YNAB birthday! Reach out to any of us here and we’ll help you along the way. Your future self will thank you.

Check out You Need a Budget HERE.

Dashon Burton

Dashon Burton

Opera Singer and YNAB Enthusiast

Dashon Burton is a singer based in New York City, and dreams of donuts on the reg. Raised in the Bronx, he found a musical life while in high school in Williamsport, PA that changed his life forever. After graduating with a degree in Vocal Performance from Oberlin College, and later received a Master’s degree in Early Music from the Yale School of Music in 2011. Since that time, he has been a full time performer and educator, and has sung in opera houses and with orchestras around the world. For more information: dashonburton@gmail.com
What Artists Believe About Money: Infographic

What Artists Believe About Money: Infographic

Whenever Emily or I do financial workshops with a group of creatives one of the first questions we ask is what people believe about money.

It might seem like a pretty hokey way to start a financial seminar, but it’s really important.

The things that we believe about money have an immense amount of power. They can filter the way we hear information. They tell us what’s possible and what’s not. They shade everything.

And sometimes, that’s a good thing, but other times those beliefs really aren’t helping.

Those discussions are always really empowering for me. So many of the beliefs people share are ones that I’ve struggled with and felt I was alone in.

So, we put a call in the creative community for the ‘things that people believe about money’ and put together a list for you below. While you’re reading through it keep an eye out for the ones that make you say “well that one is actually true”… that’s a tell tale sign that it might be a belief that you’re carrying around the world.

Remember, usually beliefs aren’t myths. Beliefs are often based off of true experiences. Building awareness around them isn’t about debunking them or exposing them as lies that we’ve built our lives around.

The question is… does this belief still serve me? Is it helping me build the life I want or is it holding me back?

And if it’s holding you back… how can you nudge it in a more helpful direction.

What do you think? Any of those jump out to you? Is there something that you believe that’s missing… leave a note in the comments!

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Budgeting Bipolar: How to Manage Your Money When you Have Bigger Fish to Fry

Budgeting Bipolar: How to Manage Your Money When you Have Bigger Fish to Fry

This post was commissioned as part of a pilot program at Rags to Reasonable. In an effort to both support artists and gather financial resources and stories, R2R is offering money for content (written, visual, or video).

If you’re interested in pitching an idea fill out .

If you have any questions, email me at ragstoreasonable@gmail.com

Picture yourself at midnight. Your to-do list is just too long for you to successfully complete before bed.  Your bank balance is just thirty dollars under rent, and maybe you have that between your couch cushions, but you also have to buy food.

If you are anything like me, this might be when your alarm goes off to take your medicine. And here is where you learn two things about me: one, that I take a number of medications to keep me sane. And two, that on this particular night, I’m down to my last few. Time to stock up again.

So here’s a little background. I’m a full-time freelancer now, setting my own hours and working for hire on all kinds of music related work…and I’m also bipolar with a small sprinkling of anxiety issues. This means that on top of the regular struggles of being a freelancer I’m also balancing doctor’s appointments, sessions with a therapist, and the financial cost of medication, which adds up very quickly when you have multiple mental health issues.

So when you’re in this situation, what do you do? What happens when managing your money plays second fiddle to staying healthy?

I have a few strategies to manage this:

  • If you’re on expensive medications, ask your doctor about insurance options, or less expensive (generic) substitutions. In the province of Ontario, there’s a government drug subsidy that limits the amount you pay per year – your deductible – to 4% of your taxable income. And generic drugs, when available, are typically cheaper than their brand-name counterparts, but contain the same active ingredients. But don’t make those decisions until you consult a medical professional!

  • When budgeting/planning your spending, have strict priorities – and then have a category or two with no upper limits. When I look at my monthly income, the first gigs and contracts go directly towards my rent, and the next towards transportation. But after that, I have two categories where there is no limit – food, and medical expenses. I would rather go without just about everything else than go without food, and I need my medication to ensure that I’m sane enough to work, and that other people will still want to work with me. (This also helps me manage the manic spending impulses – buying all the snacks at the grocery store is still cheaper than buying too many clothes on a shopping spree!) So if you need to cut back in other areas, do it; make sure your essentials get taken care of first. No one cares if you wear the same clothes every day (well, unless you smell as well). But they will care if you’re a good person or not.
  • Preventative measures are smarter investments than damage control later. Staying physically active and eating healthy is essential. So, if that gym membership down the street or your yoga classes or the gear for your beer league is going to be money you’ll be happy spending, then invest in it. If you’re out a lot and healthier choices are a little more expensive, it’s probably still a better investment than that third latte. And if therapy is the answer you need: there are cost-accessible options out there. But putting the time into therapy and doctors and care you need means that you won’t end up in the hospital later.

  • Money is no substitute for time. If you need to take the time off to treat your mental health – even if it means taking a little less work – it is an investment in your future, both personally and professionally. Self-care is important!

Money, for me, is always one of the biggest stressors in my life. And we need it to survive. But you only get one body and one mind, and you can’t take care of your money if there’s no you around to save or spend it!

Chelsea McBride

Chelsea McBride

Paid Contributor

Driven by an endless need for expressing herself creatively, young composer and multi-instrumentalist Chelsea McBride has burst onto the Toronto jazz scene. Whether it’s her big band (Chelsea McBride’s Socialist Night School), her jazz trio (Chelsea McBride Group), her pop-fusion band (Chelsea and the Cityscape), her Latin-soul nonet (The Achromatics) or her video game cover band (Koopa Troop), Chelsea is a diverse musician who refuses to stay in one creative box. Chelsea can be heard around Toronto playing several shows per month. She has released three albums with Chelsea and the Cityscape and two albums with her Socialist Night School.

You can find out more at www.crymmusic.com

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

How This Actress Saves 10% of Her Variable Income

How This Actress Saves 10% of Her Variable Income

This post was commissioned as part of a pilot program at Rags to Reasonable. In an effort to both support artists and gather financial resources and stories, R2R is offering money for content (written, visual, or video).

If you’re interested in pitching an idea fill out .

If you have any questions, email me at ragstoreasonable@gmail.com

Actress saves 10%

In 2009 I taught English conversation in Algeria earning $3/hour.

I hadn’t made that little since I babysat my cousin in 1992. This was my day job. I led conversation classes while my husband and I created a theater company that offered workshops and solo performances.

We were always paid in cash.

When we got married my husband had no savings. I had $2500. I also still owed $14,000 in student loans. Mohammed had always lived in his family home in Oran, Algeria. I had been living on my own for 4 years in Minneapolis. I hadn’t really figured out a good savings strategy.

I had opened up a ROTH IRA but no one told me I needed to contribute to it monthly. I thought somehow my $1000 would magically turn into $1,000,000 by the time I was 65 on its own.

OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT IN ALGERIA WAS TRICKY.

Apparently it’s not for everyone. You have to have proof of income and they interview you. Luckily, I had a contract from an early education center where I was to offer three weeks of drama in the classroom workshops for preschool teachers. Every time we were paid we had to take the cash to the bank.

Once, my husband was paid about $500 with a cheque. He had to take it to the bank where the cheque was issued. They didn’t have enough cash on hand so he had to wait two hours until someone came in and made a cash deposit.

Our income came in fits and starts. Sometimes we’d travel around the country. Sometimes we’d work nearby. We didn’t pay money for rent—we lived with my mother-in-law, so I would say we paid rent in dish-washing.

Over the course of a month our income might have looked like this:

  • $60 (a week of teaching English conversation)
  • $300 (a performance for a cultural center)
  • $50 (a commercial for the national electric company)

In my mind I had one thing I was constantly focused on: how do I not get stuck here?

How do I have enough money to travel and take a break from the in-laws? How can I save enough so we can move to the US in two years?

I used to listen to podcasts while I cleaned, did all those dishes and took bus after bus after train around Algeria. The one I liked the best was Marketplace Money. At the time, Tess Vigeland hosted it and she often had David Lazarus answering listeners’ questions. I heard Tess interviewed by Joel Saul-Sehy a few years after she quit, saying that she had gotten tired of answering the same questions every show. But the weekly repetition of the same answers to the same questions was exactly what I needed. Over and over again I heard them say:

Save at least 10% of every paycheck.

Actress saves 10%

This is what getting paid with a bag of cash looks like

THAT BECAME MY MISSION, MY LASER FOCUS, AND MY RAISON D’ÊTRE. TEN PERCENT.

My husband would bring home a bag of cash (I’m not kidding. Sometimes it was a plastic bag of cash wrapped in newspaper) and I would take 10% off the top and put it in my special leather billfold.

Even if it was $20. $2 came off the top and into the billfold.

It didn’t matter.

10% of everything. It became a ritual.

Get paid, come home, hand me the cash and take 10%. When my billfold was hard to zip I took it to the bank. Sometimes even sooner because I worried about being tempted to touch it.

Once, I deposited $5 in the bank. It wasn’t next door either. I had to take a bus from the suburb we lived in to a stop at the edge of Oran called “Les Amandiers.” Then I could take a taxi or a bus and get off three blocks from the bank. This took about 40 minutes if everything was running smoothly.

40 minutes on public transportation to deposit $5 into our savings account.

In 2009 we collectively earned $6000. In 2010 we earned $8000. In 2012 when we did Mohammed’s visa paperwork and bought two Algeria-Minneapolis plane tickets we had saved $3000.

IN 2012, NOW IN MINNEAPOLIS, THE 10% HABIT SUDDENLY WAS GONE.

Our routine was so different. We paid rent in dollars and not in dish-washing. We had some regular income and some random freelance income. Without the framework and the clear laser focused goal of moving to America pushing me along, I floundered. Until one day I looked at our bank account.

Almost year after living in Minnesota I panicked, “Mohammed we don’t have anything extra. What happened? This makes me so anxious. Where is all our money going?”

And he said, “remember when we used to take 10% of everything. That worked really well.”

I no longer had Tess Vigeland and David Lazarus in my ear every week driving the point home. But we started it again. We opened an online savings account with a higher interest rate.

10%. Without a goal it’s harder. So I made some goals and posted them on the fridge.

  • $15,000 emergency savings.
  • $10,000 to have a baby.
  • $30,000 to buy a house.

In 2016 we made close to $50,000 between theater work in Minneapolis and TV work in Algeria.  We’re on our way again.

It’s harder somehow with bigger numbers.

I have to construct the same urgency that I felt when I knew I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with in-laws. I had to reform the habit. But now it’s back.

I brush my teeth, I take out the trash, I meditate 10 minutes, and I save 10%. No matter how small the paycheck. $60 for writing this blog post? $6 into savings.

Except this time without a 40-minute bus ride.

Taous Claire Khazem

Taous Claire Khazem

Paid Contributor

Taous Claire Khazem is an actress, teaching artist and director based in Minneapolis, MN, USA. She also appears on the Algerian sit-com Sultan Achour 10. She is a recipient of the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships.

For more information check out HER WEBSITE.

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

Lindsay VS her debt: 5 tips for getting your debt back on track

Lindsay VS her debt: 5 tips for getting your debt back on track

5 ways to get your debt back on track
Who’s it for: People who are paying off their debt.

What’s it about: Getting back on track when you lose focus.
This is Part 5 in a series. You can read PART 1 HERE.

It’s been a while since I’ve been back to school, but there’s still something about the fall that has that “back to reality” feel, even though I’ve been working all summer. Time to re-evaluate. Time to get down to business.

I’m going to be honest – the summer slipped away and so did my budget, my plans, and my goals. The summer was glorious – don’t get me wrong – but now that the fall reality has set in, I’m feeling a bit disappointed with myself. What happened to my plan of being debt-free by 30? I found myself living in a way that I was really trying to get away from – living too much in the moment without thinking about consequences. This is how we get ourselves into debt, friends. I always want to be as present as I can be, but I also need to live in my own reality. And my reality is that I’m loaded with debt, and I don’t want to live that way.

After some reflection, I knew it was time to take real action. So here it is: my not that fun debt crackdown.

STEP 1:

Credit card goes away.

I clearly can’t handle having a credit card, because somehow during my debt-free challenge I ended up increasing my credit limit, and then maxing out the card. UGH! Some financial gurus suggest you cut up your card. I personally am just going to lock mine away – I’m not going to give up over 10 years of credit-building history, thank you very much. It’ll just be away.

STEP 2:

Save $1000.

A Dave Ramsay special. Right now I don’t have any savings, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. $1000 will probably be enough to take care of me in any kind of minor emergency.

STEP 3:

Save up one month of budget-necessary income.

Alright. I had a budget crack-down. I LOVE giving myself flexibility and room to enjoy my life, but one day I’m also going to love not having to make payments. I’ve made a minimalist budget of $1800/month, and I plan on sticking to it!

STEP 4:

Suck it, subscriptions!

Netflix stays, but everything else has gone. I’ve cut my phone bill from what once was $103 per month to about $45 per month. Some things I’ve been lucky enough to save on via family share. Thanks mom & dad!

STEP 5:

Track EVERYTHING the old fashioned way.

No more apps. No more automation. Just me, paper, pen, and (let’s be honest), the calculator on my phone.

STEP 6: (bonus step?)

Read all the books and blogs.

I’ve found that I’m having a really difficult time staying focused and motivated on debt payment this time around. I was wondering why, until something hit me like a ton of bricks. What I realized is that by just living day to day, we’re constantly being pulled to consume. Waking up and going to work and coming home is filled with temptations and pressures to spend. Last time I was paying off debt, I was constantly reading through debt payment blogs and books. This time, not so much. I’ve realized that for me, I need for debt payment to be a stronger message in my life than the message to consume, and that takes work. By reading books, blogs, and scrolling through debt-payment Pinterest pages, I can try and counteract the spending pressures with messages of saving, and improve my chances of success.

 

So where am I at today? My total debt iiiissss: $10,470.29

Am I going to pay off all of that in 3 months? Unlikely. But am I going to make a solid effort? YOU BETCHYA! Wish me luck!

5 ways to get your debt back on track

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact… I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be ‘financially out of control’.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money… that doesn’t stop… the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what’s made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I’d love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE by checking out my SERVICES page.

EMAIL ME