Tag Archives: Cash Flows

FOUR Financial Lessons from the Homeless

New York is one of the biggest financial capitals of the world. Finance is everywhere in this city, whether in the billion dollar hedge funds that are making million dollar deals or the restaurant owners calculating bar tabs, brunch receipts or tenants saving for the unruly rent they owe their landlords at the start of each month. 

One lesson I have learned from observing the homeless on my street, is that being a pure minimalist has its benefits. These people carry with them only what they need and nothing more. It would be inefficient to carry around dead, excess weight. We as millennials need to understand why excess is bad and recognize how our spending habits are based on desire instead of necessity. If we all became more aware of the things that we buy and their ability to clutter our lives, we might start to realize that material goods do not help us meet our goals or delay the process.

The second lesson we can learn from the homeless is how we can market ourselves well to attract the attention of others. I regularly encounter homeless individuals on the subways and in the streets. They are holding signs that tell their story or are yelling at passengers about their specific misfortunes. Many of them have had a lot of practice doing this, so they know what works and what doesn’t. They are forced to put their best foot forward and try and try again to sell the bystanders on a few dollars of investment into them. They are essentially pitching themselves to an audience of investors, like you see startups do on Shark Tank. When you want money for an investment or business, or are trying to land the perfect job, you need to market yourself to your best ability. This means looking the part and connecting with the given audience on a personal and real level. The homeless live it everyday. Their survival depends on it.  Since yours doesn’t, if you were to apply the same sincerity and passion into improving your current state, you would likely get very far.

The third lesson is utilizing the resources around you to the best of your best ability. I was in the train station one time and a homeless man was cleaning all of his clothes in the bathroom sink. Since the station is a public facility, this was free to him. He was being resourceful. I also see many homeless people using public places for shelter or the public library for entertainment to pass the time and read or subway seats as beds. We as millennials also have boundless resources around us that will cost us little to no money to utilize things such as books, mentors, the internet, newspapers, other people in our field willing to help us if only we just ask. Many of us do not use these resources to our advantage as we should.

The fourth lesson is that homeless people ask for what they want. If asking doesn’t work with one person, they try and try again. They are relentless because they need to survive. They will badger so many people and most of the time it works. I know because I see so many people fall prey to their tactics and reach into their pockets to grab money. Its human nature to feel empathetic towards other people and want to help them out. Ask for what you want and if you get denied ask someone else.

The final lesson to consider is that homeless people use a cash based accounting model. These days everyone is in debt. Debt is a tool, but most of the time people, especially people our age, abuse this tool. Homeless people collect cash, use that cash and simply go and try to get more when they run out. They don’t just put their purchases on a credit card. People need to realize that we should only spend what we have available. Try carrying around a specific amount of cash each day, spending only what you need and nothing more. Don’t always be putting the little things in life on a credit card because it creates bad habits that are hard to stop.

 

Why You Need To Look Into Tax-Free Spending Accounts Now

 If you are currently employed, you should at least take a look and see if your employer can offer you  these spending accounts and you could save more money for yourself and give less to Sam.

Flexible Spending Accounts

“Approximately thirty-five million Americans are covered by a flexible spending account (FSA).* FSAs are employer-based programs that allow consumers to set aside tax-free dollars to purchase medical products and services – from bandaids to smoking cessation programs and tens of thousands of products and services in between (FSAStore.com)”.

This is yet another program offered by your employer so you can make them work for you. Sites like FSAstore.com let users purchase everyday items such as glasses, contacts, thermometers, bandaids, sunscreen etc. basically all out-of pocket health care costs with tax-free money.

Your employer will front you up to $2,550 from your annual salary in the beginning of your plan year. The amount can be up to $2,550, but the one trick here is that you have to use all that money you set aside by the end of the year or else it will be returned to the employer. So, you have to hedge your bet that you will use the allotted money within the year time period. (FSA Calculator)

If you normally buy the many products approved for flexible spending accounts, then this is a great program and can save you lots of money (up to $1009.80). Depending on your employer, they may offer you one of two options:

  1. You may receive a “grace period” where you can get up to 2.5 extra months to use the money in your flexible spending account, or
  2. You may be allowed to carry over up to $500 per year to use in the following year (healthcare.gov).

Commuter Benefits Accounts

If you are a millennial living in the city, flexible spending accounts also have good commuter benefits. I know that many New York companies have transportation reimbursement program where they will reimburse you for public transportation (this also applies to all major cities). This can be a great way to use tax-free money for your daily commute. This year, New York City increased subway fare. Even more reason to save as much as $550 (39.6% tax bracket and 116.5/month for MTA subway pass) using your commuter benefit options with your employer. Look into Wageworks.com for more information.

If you haven’t heard of a these spending accounts and are interested in saving money on things you would end up purchasing anyways I strongly recommend you look into a tax-free.

Sources:

https://www.healthcare.gov/flexible-spending-accounts/

https://www.fsastore.com

3 Resolutions To Get Your Finances In Shape This Year

It’s the start of the year all over again. “New year, new you,” you’ve heard it a million times. Everyone says it. The time to change things around and turn over a new leaf, form better habits and start living a more fulfilled life, or so you think. Everyone wants a strong body, a fit mind, to worry less, love more blah blah blah. Well what about a fit wallet? Maybe this year, it is time to start building a sturdy base for financial success that will carry you through your life. Why don’t you make this year about ramping up your PFS (Personal Financial Statement)? This is the year to start seeing less red and more GREEN. I want to share with you some of the resolutions you should make during this new year that can help you get growing!

First and foremost, save money. I cannot stress this enough. Whether it’s in a savings account, checking account, certificate of deposit, retirement account, 401k, etc. If you are only going to do one thing this year that is going to put you on the path to saving, open one of these accounts. Even if you only have a little to save, just the act will make you feel better about your future. Furthermore, if you can constantly contribute you will soon watch your money grow and mature, your financial self esteem will increase and you will become more proud of yourself and more confident in your ability to save. Start this habit NOW, so it can become second nature.

Dabble in investments. Saving money is important, but it won’t make you rich. You need your money to work for you. This is another crucial process necessary to grow your wealth. You need to make smart investments with your money, investments that will grow and give you good returns in your future. Examples of smart investments include opening a brokerage account for trading stocks, investing in business projects, friends businesses, your passions, land, properties etc. If investing is too scary of a step at this point, do some research! Learning about different opportunities can help you get your foot in the door. Read a book that will increase your knowledge in the subject or ask friends, family and colleagues about their investing experiences. Knowledge is power and the more you know the better your decision will be regarding certain investments. A book I strongly suggest above the others is ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ if you haven’t read it already. It will change the way you think about money and wealth for good.
The last resolution you need to stand by is ridding yourself of impulsive spending. Take control of your money and your wallet. This is by far one of the most important resolutions because it can impact a lot of your everyday decisions. Make a list and take a hard look at what you spend, what you need and what you can live without in 2015. Do you need a Starbucks coffee everyday? How about a $5 breakfast sandwich? Can you bring your own lunch instead of paying $11/day? Do you actually need to buy new shoes every month or go shopping every weekend? Can you save by eating in? Why don’t you try cooking, it might save you money and calories! Why don’t you try fixing things that are broken or torn instead replacing them? Get creative with your life. Learn to create things instead of buying them. You are more able than you think. Don’t buy artwork for your apartment, make your own art. Stop spending money when you don’t have to or can do something for less. As the millennial generation we tend to fix problems by throwing money at them. Learn to take control of your problems and try solving them yourself before you open your wallet or pull out your card. Buy simpler foods, use less resources, buy a bigger blanket and use less heat at night. Become a minimalist and get rid of excess. Only spend money that you have and not money that you borrow. Leave your credit card at home. Once you do this, go back to the first resolution I mentioned and start saving your money!

Why You Need The App Venmo Now

So if you haven’t heard of Venmo, stop reading and look it up right now. What do you think? Every one of us millennials should be using Venmo all the time. Venmo is a practical smart phone app that allows for friend groups to keep track of finances and pay each other back instantly. Venmo is linked directly to a bank account of choice, allowing for rapid money transfers from account to account with a click of a button. Just think about how much easier this will make your life. An app like this takes the awkwardness out of IOU’s and the ‘you owe me this from god knows how long ago’ situations. With Venmo, you can split bill with your buddies, break up grocery costs with your roommates, taxi fare, drinks, dinners, shopping etc. There is even a part of the app that lets you request money owed. This is like a virtual IOU reminder for your friends letting them know how much they owe. Having Venmo is like having electronic cash right in your pocket, and the best part, payments can be accurate, down to the exact cent.

Although Venmo may not directly save you any money, considering the fact that being a mooch is no longer an option, it does allow you to be more responsible with your finances. Another benefit to the electronic component of the payment system is that all transactions are listed on your online banking account website, making spending tracking easy, especially when using mint.com as well or other budgeting resources.

Another great feature of the app is it links to your Facebook account as well. This means that there is a social component to your account as well. With every transaction you are able to send a message or details of the payment that can be posted publicly or kept private. Usually my roommates and I try and one-up each other with how ridiculous and funny we can make our comments. Facebook also makes it easy to find the people you need to pay back because your Facebook are also your Venmo friends.

Venmo will save money in the long run and allow you and your friends to be more stringent. You can keep tabs on your electronic finances. When everyone has the app, paying the bill is only as hard as drunk-texting. And we millennials have gotten very good at that. So go, download this app if you don’t already have it. You won’t regret it.

Treat Your Life Like A Business With These 3 Statements

Businesses, like people come in all shapes and sizes. From big corporations, partnerships to sole proprietorships and LLC’s. These companies can range from businesses like Apple or Google to your sisters haircutting service or the local popcorn salesman on Main Street. You are a business, every day you make financial decisions and transactions with your finances to better yourself. You are constantly mirroring the acts of businesses all around you. Therefore, in order to be financially successful in your life you should always be thinking and acting like a business would, except instead working for a  product or service, you are in business for yourself and your product is a fulfilled life and financial security.

Budgeting with a ‘business sense’ is one of the tools that will get you there. A budget can be created by using the information from 3 different statements that businesses use everyday.  Like any business, you need to keep in touch with your accounting and finance department regularly in order to make smart life/financial decisions. This way you are aware of where your money is going and how you can make it work for you in order to get the best possible return. Using these statements or a financial tool like mint.com will help you keep track of your finances and how much you are spending and are going to spend on your “business”.

Income Statement

This is the statement that shows you your income in relation to your expenses. This statement usually is a single column report with income at the top showing your personal revenue. It doesn’t matter if the money is coming in from your job or other alternative sources of income., this just shows your inflow. The expenses are your outflow. The report will give you your NOI (net operating income) which is basically your personal profit. This will let you know if you are spending too much money. This way you can tell if you need to stop shopping in SoHo on Saturdays or buying too much late night pizza on the Lower East Side at 4am.

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(Click to Enlarge)

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is your statement that tells you your net value at any given time. This statement breaks down your assets and your liabilities and what you physically own (equity). Here you will show your assets on the left column. These are things  like your cash, money that people owe you, your car, house, value of your investments etc. The right side has your liabilities. These are your debts, such as loans that you have yet to repay for a house or car, and/or your credit card debt. The left side is also where you put your equity. This is essentially your value or ‘net worth’. Your assets are going to equal your liabilities plus your equity. So the right side should equal the left. See below for a visual representation.

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Statement of Cash Flows

The statement of cash flows is important because this is where you are able to financially model where you will be at any given point in time.  this future value is based on certain assumptions such as how much you predict you will be making and how much you will be spending at a future point. This shows on a scale of time your income minus expenses.  It is usually a good idea to stay on the more conservative side because the future is never certain.  So it’s good to not overestimate income and underestimate expenses. Using this statement is helpful because you can see where in the future you will be able to afford more expensive things like a new car or vacation. This will keep you prepared. Click on the visual to see how this works.

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Even if you’re personal versions of these statements are on the more basic level that is okay. You are still making progress and will be more financially informed about your money. These are just power-ups to bring your budget to the next level. I would recommend updating them once a month, so you can always have an accurate sense of where you are. When finances are constantly on your mind you will be more self-aware when spending and save more money.