Her children arise and call her blessed. Proverbs 31:28

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The Art of Living Below Your Means: Part 2

Mary Hunt

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The Financially Confident Woman

Q&A with Author Mary Hunt

Q: My schedule is so busy. How can I find the time to manage my money closely?

A: I hear you. I have a busy schedule, too. But I still find time to shower every day, brush my teeth, and manage to get in for a cut, color, and style every six weeks. We always find time for those things we believe are necessary. I don't know about you, but I could really use all the extra time that these tasks entail. Here's my point: managing your money is as mandatory to your life as your daily shower. What's important is to come to the point that you believe it is so important as to be mandatory to your future. If you get to this place, you will find the time to do it.

Q: I am recently divorced, and I have never handled the finances. Where do I begin?

A: First, take a deep breath. What you are going through is not easy. And being in the fog about your money situation is not going to make it any easier. So let's clear that fog. You are going to have to start from scratch the same way anyone else would. Get two pieces of paper. On the first, write down all your dependable sources of income-your net take home pay, any alimony and or child support you're receiving, plus any other money you can count on each month. Add it up. These sums are your means-the amount of money you will have to live on each month.

Now, take the second sheet of paper and write down your known monthly expenses. Start with the rent or mortgage payment, and then add in food, utilities, car payment, gasoline and so on, right through to your credit-card payments and other obligations. And don't forget to allot a set amount to save in your emergency fund. Add these expenses together. How does this total compare to your total monthly income? If less, great. If your expenses are more, you've got to get to work reducing them until they are less than your income. And that's the place to start.

Q: I am getting ready to get married. Should I keep my own savings or checking account or only have a joint account?

A: Call me old fashioned, but I believe that a marriage is the blending of two lives-bodies, souls, and assets. What was "yours" and "mine" is now "ours." And I'm talking about the paychecks, student debt, and all other assets and liabilities. For you to keep separate bank accounts with each of you kicking in half on the bills does not recognize this amazing and wonderful thing called marriage. In other words, you need to say buh-bye to your individual accounts in favor of new joint accounts. This does not mean that either of you cannot have some money to call your own. Just make that amount something you both agree to and know about. Money secrets in a marriage can ruin everything.

Q: I am trying to overcome my shopping-addict ways. What tips do you have for fighting temptation?

A: Get rid of the credit cards. They are what enable you to shop your brains out. In fact, I suggest you cut all but one card into tiny pieces. Keep either a MasterCard or VISA that you've had the longest. Take it and freeze it in the middle of a block of ice. Keep it in the freezer where you know it will be safe-from you! Put yourself on an all-cash diet and I know what will happen: Your propensity to shop too much will go away. Without that credit card to use for payment, everything is going to change-and for the better. I know because I've been there.

Q: My husband handles all of the finances, but I would like to become more involved. How can I begin to make that transition?

A: Start simply by discovering your net worth. One day soon, ask him, "Honey, how much money would we have left if we liquidated all of our assets, and then used that money to pay off all of our liabilities?" That is the definition of net worth-a number you need to know and recalculate once each year. Now I do not suggest you go out and liquidate all of your assets. But that question alone is going to open the door to money conversations. Be interested; ask questions. Then, offer suggestions for how you and he can improve your net worth. Offer to do your part, and I bet he will welcome it. It's a lot of pressure to carry the financial weight of a home, family, and household. I think he's going to enjoy knowing you are willing to help shoulder the load.

Q: How can I start to save? I'm living paycheck to paycheck, and there doesn't seem to be anything left after the bills are paid.

A: Sometimes we have to play games with ourselves to make progress. Let me ask you a question: If doctors determined your child, who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, could be cured with a miracle drug that would cost you $50 out-of-pocket every week, what would you do? You'd stop eating if you had to, just to come up with the money. That's how serious you need to see saving. I suggest you step out on faith and save $50 from your next paycheck before you pay a single bill. Open a savings account and arrange for automatic deposits. I predict within three months you will not miss that $50. We don't miss what we don't see, and that's the beauty of automatic deposits.

For further information, to request a review copy of The Financially Confident Woman, or to schedule an interview with author Mary Hunt, please contact Cathy Hollenbeck at DPL Press, Inc.: 562-630-6474 X 109, cathy@dplpress.com.

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