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It is time to clean out your "financial junk drawer" and get ready for a New Year?

Everyone has something in the "financial junk drawer". It can be old bank accounts, credit cards that need to be closed, a list of incomplete financial goals, and sometimes some secrets.

  • The one item in your financial junk drawer you are least willing to talk about is the one you should work on first. Maybe you are hiding purchases, not saving for college, not contributing to your retirement savings, or ignoring growing credit cards debt.

  • Here is a three-step plan on how to attack those hidden financial challenges.

Every house has a kitchen drawer that accumulates batteries, random tools, scissors, rubber bands, super glue, and stuff we are afraid to throw away. Everyone also has a “financial junk drawer”. It is a place we put incomplete financial goals, financial statements we do not want to deal with, and possibly some secrets. Some of those secrets can include making significant purchase and not being honest with our spouse about it. Maybe it is paying full price for something but saying you got it on sale, hiding income, large credit card debt, or having a secret bank account. These are all forms of financial infidelity, according to a paper in the Journal of Financial Therapy.

Just like keeping a closet door shut on clutter, it can be just as tactical in steering others away from their financial realities. Common strategies include not talking with your partner or spouse and not seeking help from a financial advisor, or worse just hoping it will go away. First try making a list of items in your “financial junk drawer”. Rank them based on two criteria: items you are most likely to talk about with a friend, partner or professional to what you are least likely to discuss, and then rank these items based on which one give you the most anxiety. The items that you are least likely to talk about and give you the most anxiety are the ones that need the most urgent attention. By working on these difficult issues first you will be able to reduce your anxiety and being to work on clearing out the biggest items in your “financial junk drawer”.

Step One: Stop keeping secrets

Once you have identified your most closely held secret, bring it out into the light of day. These are the things that will sabotage your financial success and possibly even your family’s financial success. If you have been using a secret credit card, take a moment to reflect and ask why you kept this a secret. Try to figure out what made you think you could not share this with your partner. Because your children are leaning how to deal with finances by watching your behavior. Sometimes children pick up on parent behaviors and emulate it later in life. Whether it is a financial advisor, therapist, accountant, or even a religious advisor seek help. Then, admit it to your partner and rebuild trust. This involves clear and regular communication about your financial affairs and not leaving anything out. Organizations such as the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education or your local accountant can help you find professional support.

Step Two: Take baby steps

Most people do not know that much about personal finance and that, of course, makes financial projects overwhelming. Instead, break down tasks into smaller pieces to make each task less daunting. If you have credit card debt, start paying off one credit card at a time by paying more than the minimum balance. Choose the card with the lowest balance and add as much as possible to the minimum amount. Continue paying off any other cards at the same time. Finding the extra money may mean a few lifestyle changes such as eating at home more or taking lunch to work.

Step Three: Set positive goals

Several things can get in the way of crossing things off your list from past years, but what it really boils down to is your behavior. Whether it is saving more money, getting a will written or changing jobs the best way to achieve a goal is by embracing an action, not avoiding one. You are more likely to succeed in changing your behavior if you decide to stop buying on impulse and just work with what you already have. You might think saying, "I won't make any new purchases" would make sense. Instead, try to shop your closet and rediscover what you already have, and then get creative putting together a new outfit.

If you are looking for a Financial Consultant that can work with you to develop a strong strategy for next year - contact Stephen Westurn (214.240.0701) or Stephen@Westurnconsulting.com for a complimentary session.

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