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Personal Finance column: Doing your dollars differently

Danielle Howard
Personal Finance
Danielle Howard

We are on the cusp of spring. Daffodils and crocuses are pushing their way through the hard packed earth. While we don’t know when the coronavirus “winter” will subside, it will. Humans and our economies are resourceful and resilient. We get to decide now who we want to be in the midst of this challenging season and how we want to emerge as better people. We have financial choices to make now that will shift the trajectory of our journey.

There are four overarching themes of your financial life: How it comes to you. How you share it. How you protect and grow it. How you spend it. What are your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in each of these areas now, and what do you want to consider shifting, changing or embellishing on as we move through this time of profound change?

How money comes into your life: The cash flow faucet may be down to a trickle given your employment situation. Now is the time to look at what you want to do for a living and make a shift if you want. It is time to do some soul searching. Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton of Princeton University found that when they looked at affective measures, happiness did not rise after a household reached an annual income of approximately $75,000. Yes, adjust this for inflation and living in the Roaring Fork Valley, but the crux of the study was that more money does not equate to more happiness. Now is an opportune time to look at what you want to do to bring money into your life, get creative and resourceful and move in the direction of making a life along with earning a living. Are you on the cusp of or in retirement? Does money come to you from retirement accounts, a trust, Social Security, rental property, business assets, investments? I find that many people have a hard time shifting from exchanging work hours for a salary to receiving income from savings built up over time. In our current environment, you need to be strategic over which “buckets” you tap. Considerations around lifestyle, liquidity, longevity and legacy will dictate how you can best use the financial tools you have.

How to share what you have: Elizabeth Dunn, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and co-author of the book “Happy Money,” discusses the paradox of money. Having more can enhance our well-being, but we are happier when we share with others. This pandemic has created the great equalizer. It impacts every man, women and child, regardless of color, creed, political affiliation or economic standing. Giving generously to causes and organizations as well as your neighbors is no longer a luxury of abundance but an expression of sufficiency. There are creative ways to give, and the Cares Act has provided a couple of new nuances. The is a new partial above-the-line deduction for cash contributions up to $300 for those people who are not itemizing their deductions. The Cares Act has also temporarily modified the itemized deduction for 2020 to 100% (up from 60% in the past). You will also be able to carry forward that which is not offset in 2020 to future years.

How to Protect and nurture your monetary resources: Now is the time to revisit your estate planning and discern direction of your investments. Do you have a will, medical directives, HIPAA authorizations, beneficiary designations and Power of Attorneys reviewed, updated and put in place? Does your situation warrant creative trusts or can you keep things simple? Do you have life insurance that needs to be reviewed? Now is the time to open your statements and look at your investments. Are there companies you want to be a part of or stay away from as a matter of principle? Socially responsible, Impact, and faith based investing are options you have in order for your investment dollars to speak for you. Are there tax loss harvesting opportunities you want to avail yourself of? Now is the time to strategically reposition your portfolios to take advantage of the growth opportunities we will see in the future. Please seek wise counsel as you consider any of these financial facets.

How you spend mindfully with joyful intention: Never before have we experienced an opportunity to mindfully spend our money on products or services that are meaningful to us. I make a thoughtful list of items to pick up at the grocery store that will last us for two weeks. I had purchased a fancy coffee machine as our Christmas gift to ourselves, and it hasn’t worked correctly. I contacted the company and was impressed they were so quick to respond and resolve my issue. I had to send a picture that I cut the electrical cord to render the machine useless, then they will send us a new machine. I was horrified that they aren’t going to fix the small leak and repurpose the machine. We live in a “throw away” world, and it needs to change. I strive to make purchases based on “soul needs” versus “ego desires.” I don’t have it down pat yet, but an experience like this emphasizes the need to really think through our purchases. With time on your hands, going through your closets, purging — take pause. What do I want to change moving forward about how make purchases? I can appreciate what I already have and find substitutes for things I can’t run out and purchase. We can live in sufficiency and our “enoughness.” We can find joy in ways that circumvent the consumer world we have been immersed in. We can have economies that grow based on our soul needs and thought out desires.

I hope you will take the time to look at these four financial themes in your life and how you want to do your dollars differently moving forward. We are all part of the problems, and we are all part of the solutions moving forward to a better world.

I am giving away my book “Your Financial Revolution — Time to Recognize, Revitalize and Release Your Financial Power” (https://rewire4u.com/book) until the 15th of May. You will need to have an Apple iTunes reader or Amazon Kindle reader to open.

Danielle Howard is a CFP® and CKA® with Wealth By Design LLC in Basalt. Check out her retirement podcasts and blogs at daniellehoward4u.com.


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