USA Wellness Café
Stress Management Take-Out Course:
Money Issues

Written by Staff Writers of USA Wellness Café ™

Financial problems can cause significant stress for individuals and families. Pressures related to debt or lack of income make any of us feel out of control. In addition, money problems can erode the emotional health of your marriage or other close relationships.

Money is a tool. By learning how to take control of money, you will have more control over all aspects of your life. Using it wisely makes everything else in life come together more smoothly.

In this short review of money issues, we will learn how to:

  • Create Net Worth
  • Understand a Financial Statement
  • Determine Discretionary Income
  • Get Spending and Saving Under Control
  • Purchase Assets to Build Net Worth

Net Worth: Your Financial Measuring Stick

Key Point

Reducing debt will build up your net worth, if you already own assets (things of value).

Let’s begin by envisioning what “net worth” really means. Your financial goal throughout life is to build net worth (which is your nest egg), so you will have a financial cushion when you retire. Net worth also matters if you need a loan or mortgage. It shows a lender than you are financially on track. The fact that you know how to create a nest egg shows a lender that you are a responsible financial planner.

Net worth is determined by tallying up what you own and subtracting what you owe. If you have a house worth $300,000, offset by a mortgage and debts that total $200,000, your net worth is $100,000.

Exercise:

  1. Total up all of your assets (home, a vacant lot, stocks and bonds, and antiques, for example).
  2. Subtract the total amount you still owe on your mortgage, credit card debt and any outstanding loans.
  3. Define the difference between these two figures. As stated above, this amount is your net worth.

By understanding this, you can envision why it’s important to buy assets along the road of life. Start small by purchasing a modestly-priced house or buying a few stocks. Focus on acquiring assets that will slowly grow in value over time.

A Financial Statement: Your Money Picture on Paper

If you were to apply for a loan, your bank would require you to show a financial statement. This report would list your total income sources (your paycheck, income from rental property, etc.) and your total listing of debts.

Your debts will include total amounts for what you owe all creditors. A lender would review your monthly payments such as a mortgage payment, car payment, payments on credit cards and your utility bills. These amounts for the entire year would be compared to your total income for the year.

The financial statement would list your assets such as:

  • Your home
  • Your car
  • A boat
  • A vacant lot you own

You would also need to list your relationship with banks, such as lending institutions where you hold any type of savings or checking accounts. Details concerning personal financial business must be entered in a financial statement that a particular lender will go over in detail.

This statement reveals a lot about any individual or couple. Money habits speak volumes about those in charge of money management. How a person earns, manages and invests money over several years creates a clear picture. A lender or financially savvy person can quickly tally up your total income and subtract total liabilities (debt). It’s simple to do the math to obtain your financial bottom line -- your net worth.

Keep in mind that your payments to the utility company, life insurance company, fuel costs for your car and so forth, do not count as liabilities against your net worth. These are gray areas that play into your financial picture, but these gray areas are important. They hold the key to positive change in your financial stress. It’s the gray areas that can be managed better. Study the gray areas to see if you can cut some spending or rework them in some manner for your financial benefit.

Assets for Growth: How to Afford Them

We all realize that a car or boat will decrease in value over the years. While both are assets (because they can be sold for cash), they certainly are not ideal assets. It’s best to buy real estate or stocks that will not likely depreciate (grow less valuable) over the years--although they are never any firm guarantees. You want assets that you hope will increase in value as time goes on.

Key Point

Unless a rich uncle’s has bequeathed a trust fund to you, the only place you can find money to purchase assets is from your discretionary income. This income is what’s left over each month after you pay your bills.

While the real estate market can fluctuate, more millionaires have built their net worth by purchasing real estate (homes, commercial buildings, land, and so forth) than any other type of asset. Real estate, throughout the ages, is known to appreciate (gain value) 3% each year when averaged over the long haul--even with the real estate market fluctuating drastically at times. Uncle Sam provides all sorts of tax breaks for real estate as well.

It’s also possible to invest in business ventures or a house full of antiques at an estate sale, for example. Plenty of people make money purchasing those types of assets. However, you must learn the difference between a good deal and a bad one. Do your homework thoroughly before purchasing any type of asset--especially if you will borrow money to buy it. Your research will cut your risk. Never blindly purchase something because a friend tells you to do so.

Use the advice of people who have nothing to gain or lose by assisting you in the screening process of buying something that will grow in value over time. Don’t rely on the advice of just your family or friends--although you can certainly take their points into consideration.

You can save your discretionary income for years and pay cash for an asset. Or, you can make payments with your discretionary income for something you’ve bought.

If you borrow money to make mortgage payments on a rental property, for example, you may need to pay the mortgage from your discretionary income at certain times. (Your renters may fall behind or move out before the lease is up, so you’ll have to cover the payment out of pocket). Furthermore, you might not find a suitable tenant for a month or two--or longer. But, if you have some savings in the bank acquired from discretionary income, you can tide yourself over until a new tenant is enlisted.

By working on keeping more of your own money--versus paying it out to others--you will have money to purchase assets. Building up savings to purchase an asset, or make a down payment on real estate, for example, comes from wise decisions on retaining your money.

Control Measures: Ways to Retain Your Money

By taking small steps, you can get in the habit of responsibly hanging onto your hard-earned money. Don’t become a miserly-type of person. Do become a responsible type of person (acting appropriately to put away some money as you enjoy using money for fun and recreation along the way).

Key Point

Be on the lookout for areas in which you could save money. Envision an asset you might purchase with a lump sum saved. Keep in mind that it’s the consistency of saving small amounts of money that will add up.

By taking small steps, you can get in the habit of responsibly hanging onto your hard-earned money. Don’t become a miserly-type of person. Do become a responsible type of person (acting appropriately to put away some money as you enjoy using money for fun and recreation along the way).

Let’s say you want to strategize to keep more of your income. You might do the following:

  • Chisel $50 per month off your electric bill (by regulating the thermostat to prevent wasteful heating and cooling).
  • Shave $50 per month off your grocery bill (by purchasing store brands only or using coupons).
  • Keep $50 per month by eating out less often.

This amounts to $150 per month. In one year, that’s $1,800. In four years, that’s $7,200--not counting any interest earned.

With $7,200, you might start a home-based business or make a down payment on a rental house. You don’t want to underestimate the complexity of starting a business or buying property, but many millionaires started just this way (with a few thousand dollars) to attain their fortunes.

For example, if you and two additional investment partners each have $7,200 (totaling $21,600), it’s easier to apply for a business loan of $75,000 or more. With zero savings on your part, is would be difficult to engage business partners in the first place. With some cash in place, it’s easier to evoke a banker’s faith in you, too.

Exercise:

  1. your expenses for the month.
  2. Figure out places you might cut spending.
  3. Tally up cumulative savings you could build by trimming expenses in a number of areas.
  4. Write down this amount of money to inspire you to take action.

Your earning power increases significantly when your assets start to make money for you. It’s difficult for most of us to earn a lot of money for building an impressive nest egg through our day-to-day work.

However, picture this: If you own three rental houses whereby your tenants’ rent monies pay the mortgage on each of them, you will be much better off financially15 years from now. Will it be easy to become a landlord? No, it will not. You will need to study all of the legal and emotional ramifications of dealing with any number of tenants with challenging personalities or challenging financial circumstances. But, in most cases, it’s worth the effort over years of time.

Money you acquire in terms of building net worth can enable you to do a number of things (start a business, invest in someone else’s business) or retire a little earlier. The equity in a house--which is the difference in the home’s fair market value and all liens against the property--is money that allows you to make productive choices. You can borrow against the equity in a home or sell the home and buy something else with the equity dollars.

Discretionary Income: Key to Net Worth

If you earn $900 this week, and you owe $700 from your paycheck to cover expenses, you will have $200 left. The $200 is your weekly discretionary income that you may use for savings, investments, tithing or giving to charity, etc.

Investing discretionary income can lead to owning large assets. The key is to start small and look for ways to make money grow.

For example, let’s say you want to get your discretionary income up higher. By watching how you spend, you might increase your discretionary income from $800 per month to $1,500 per month.

Chiseling expenses is critical. It’s one way to “give yourself a raise” without actually earning more money. Money you retain is your key to positive change.

In addition to cutting your grocery bill or eating out less often, you might also:

  • Save $300 on your car insurance per year by shopping around
  • Save $300 per year on your family vacations by booking online
  • Reduce your cable and phone bill $50 per month by renegotiating your package
  • Trade your gas-guzzling car for a fuel-efficient model, saving $1,500 annually

Saving money is great, but now we’re to the point where you can see that it would take forever to simply save your way to riches. You need a better financial plan, which is this: Your money must work for you. You want to invest your savings so that your money begins to earn money.

You might buy stocks and bonds which average a 4% yield each year over 10 years. Or, you might buy a small commercial property with friends whereby income from tenants will make the mortgage payments. Don’t overlook investing in a business started by an astute business group in your community (whereby you take on the role of what’s called an “angel investor”) in order to earn a good return over a five-year period. Again, do your research and homework with input from wise owls in your business community before making any investment moves.

Acquiring income and assets, while trimming debt, is critical to moving up financially. Look at the small steps you can take to reverse any money challenges you now have. Then, do your homework to make decision about how to invest in productive business opportunities.

Click here to print our: USA Wellness Café Financial Planning Guide Sheet

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Universal Wellness Online, LLC is a specialized work/life publishing group based in Cornelius, North Carolina.