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Debtors

Choose A Happy Holiday Season

By | Advice from Julie Murphy Casserly, Blog, Debtors | No Comments

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It’s the beginning of November which means holiday spiced coffees, the excitement of spending time with family and friends and the beginning of that yearly holiday spending spree. From holiday travel plans (those flights aren’t going to pay for themselves) to Secret Santa’s to making sure there are enough gifts under your own tree, this season brings so much joy – and so much stress; especially for those prone to charge now and pay – and stress – later.

Is this you?

As a financial planner, I deal with debt a lot. Like most young people, I came out of college with debt and created more throughout my twenties to just keep up the pace. It’s an overwhelming and sometimes down-right depressing cycle to find yourself in. You want to do all the things your friends and family are doing – especially during this very special time of year – but you don’t want to dig a hole deeper than the one you’ve already created. When the holidays are over and all is said and done, we know what comes next. With overspending always comes the self-imposed guilt.

“I should know better than this.”

“I didn’t have to buy that purse. Why did I do that?”

 “No one else would have gotten that if they were in my situation.”

It’s time to stop. All of it. Stop maxing out the credit cards with no plan to soften the financial blow. Stop dipping into your savings to buy “just one more thing.” And, most importantly, stop beating yourself up over doing things that most of us have done at one time or another.

One of the most useless human emotions is guilt. Guilt is saturated in judgement and negativity. Why are you inviting those feelings and thoughts into your being? Just because you’ve made a few mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human. There is nothing you’ve done financially that can’t be fixed with some targeted moves in a different direction. A direction that moves towards the financial life you desire. It’s more than possible, and all you have to do is choose to make your financial health a priority.

Action step

It’s never too late to make the financial changes you need to make in order to get that life you desire. Spend time over the next few days looking at your financial habits. Where is your money going? When are you most prone to spend? What feelings are associated with what purchases? Write down the answers to those questions and think about how those answers make you feel. Next, look at what makes you the most nervous about these next two months. Is it maxing out your credit cards? The interest rates? Getting the bill? Or is it dipping into a savings to buy a coworker a gift that – let’s be honest – you’re not even that invested in?

It’s still early enough in the holiday shopping season to set up a good financial plan. Look at the last few months of bank statements and determine where you’re spending your money. Figure out what you can adjust without completely limiting your daily life. Then devote a few hours to laying out a plan of attack; determine how much money you’re comfortable spending this season and start setting aside money from each paycheck to put towards that total. This will allow you to comfortably manage your cash flow while still being able to enjoy the holiday season without maxing out your credit card, depleting your bank account or feeling the full effects of the “holiday hangover.”

Your Emotions Behind Debt

By | Advice from Julie Murphy Casserly, Blog, Debtors | No Comments

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Not many things are more American than debt. If you really think about it, it’s amazing how easily we as a nation became so comfortable with it. We’ve gone so far as to classify our debts as good (student loans) and bad (credit cards) with so many things in between (mortgages, car notes, medical, etc.). Yet all of us struggle with the negative emotions attached to our money, especially our debt. And we find ourselves making major life choices based on the state of our finances.

You have a responsibility to go to work and pay that debt down until its paid in full. This causes you to put money in the spotlight, along with how many hours you work, how much you make, how hard it is to get ahead, etc. And don’t let something bad happen – a dead car battery, a busted furnace, a medical emergency – because you have to both take care of both your “right now” issues and still pay your debt.

You see how this affects our emotions? From anxiety to fear to hopelessness to anger, we constantly find ourselves trapped in a dangerous cycle, and our negative feelings about money are at the center of it all. Those feelings and thoughts will eventually turn into negative words and actions. Often, this self judgment may come off as logic, truth and reality. You know what you’ve said to yourself:

“I won’t spend any money until all my debt is paid off.”

“I hate this job, but I can’t leave it. I have too many bills to pay.”

“I can’t afford it, but I’ll just charge this dinner. I want to make my friends happy.”

Those statements above are examples of ways we trick ourselves into thinking we’re doing something good. Drastically cutting spending or staying at a job we hate to pay off debt on the surface are great ideas. In practice, it’s impossibly difficult and it invites negativity. We’re essentially punishing ourselves right now for our past choices. Some people take a total opposite approach and choose to spend freely on themselves and the people they care about, even if that is at the expense of their own financial stability.

These negative thoughts wrapped in seemingly positive actions do more damage than they do good. Debt has a strong affect on our psyche. Fortunately for us, however, our minds are incredibly powerful. We need to start using that to our advantage, not our detriment.

Action step

Are you ready to tackle your debt and other financial obstacles? Don’t let your head be filled with anything but positive thoughts. Remember, positive thoughts lead to positive actions. Our perceptions create our reality. Learn to recognize self-defeating thoughts and words. It makes an enormous difference in your ability to make changes in your life – financial or otherwise.

Minimize your debt: Set Boundaries

By | Advice from Julie Murphy Casserly, Blog, Debtors | No Comments

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What’s more American than debt? From the bottom to the top, the majority of us know a 25-year-old law school grad with over $200k in student loan debt and someone twice their age owing $300k or more on a mortgage. Even our country champions debt; America’s trillion-dollar debt will never be paid back.

Debt is a way of life.

Many of my clients are pulled both ways. They’re taking care of both their aging parents and their soon-to-be college-aged children. And let’s not forget about their debt; mortgages, car notes, student loans of their own and credit cards are part of their monthly expenses.

Does this ring true in your life?

This week, I want to talk about boundaries. All of us have a lot on our plates, you included. We’ve got kids growing up seemingly at the speed of light. Our parents are getting older, sicker and needier. Work obligations. Friendships to maintain. Church commitments.

Maybe a part of the reason why we’re drowning in debt is because we have trouble setting boundaries.

Picture this. You have a few low-interest credit cards you pay off at the end of every month. You spent a few years working on paying down your student loans, and now you pay a little over the monthly minimum to finish it off. Your mortgage is reasonable, your car is paid off and you have enough disposable income left over to live comfortably.

Now think about you. Is this what your financial life looks like? Is this what you want it to look like? Consider setting some boundaries. Start saying “No” to things that don’t fit into your ideal financial life. Spend a few hours deciding what you want your ideal financial life to look like, then spend the next six months to a year living that ideal.

It’s time to place a premium on yourself. Remember your worth; the people who truly care about you will understand if you turn things down for a few months. Saying “no” to things for a few months is a good reset not just financially, but personally as well. Discover what you truly desire, what your ideal really is. Setting boundaries is an important choice during this phase of your life for you, your life and your debt.

When debt is your deciding factor, choose to change.

By | Advice from Julie Murphy Casserly, Blog, Debtors | No Comments

blog-imagePast debts can be like a black cloud constantly hovering over our heads. Credit cards bills, student loan payments and even our car note can turn into very unpleasant reminders of our former lives. But for many of us, debt has just become a way of life. It causes us to put money in the spotlight, along with how many hours we work, how much we make and how hard it is to get ahead.

Sound familiar?

These types of conversations are pretty popular in the media these days; even some social conversations that turn to money end up being of the “I worked X hours this week” variety. The more comfortable our society has gotten with debt, the easier it’s been for people to find a reason to get into a lot of it. Students are coming out of college with six figures worth of debt and a mid-five figure income — if they’re lucky. Yet it’s okay because “everyone has it.” If this is true, then why do so many of us have this burden of debt on our shoulders?

I’ve talked a lot about the crabs in your bucket; crabs are the people or things that pull you back down when you’ve made progress towards a goal. Often times, this is can be debt. When you allow things – or people – to be a crab in your life, you are giving away your personal power. Every time you’ve said you couldn’t do something because of your debt (weekend getaway? new dress? get married or have kids?), you gave your debt more credit than it deserves.

Don’t make debt the major deciding factor in how you want to live your life. Will your debt make some things more difficult to accomplish right now? Of course, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start chipping away at what’s truly important to you. Taking small steps towards big goals is a great way to both pay down debt and live a life you’re proud of. Start making choices that vibe more with your authentic life, and let go of the thinking that things can’t be done because of debt.

Your life doesn’t have to be run by the money that you owe. Creating a life that you love shouldn’t be defined by the one you fell into in the past. Look for small ways to make big changes in your life right now regardless of money. That could be anything from making better choices with food; changing jobs for more income and better quality of life; or picking up new hobbies and expanding your social circle.

Nothing is set in stone; your life will be dictated by your debt for as long as you allow it. This is your life, not your debt’s life. Choose to change right now in the small ways that you can, and the money situation – as well as the debt – will work itself out.