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The Art of Finance is a fee-based financial planning firm dedicated to helping creative minds negotiate the complexities of personal finance.
Financial Planner, Austin, Texas, Artist, Creative, Creativity, Actor, Dancer, Art of Finance, The Art of Finance, AoF, finance, money, personal finance, creative minds, ATX, TX, Capital
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12 Dec The Vet Bill

She was covered in blood.


I almost didn’t notice because people in front of me had walked right past her.


But there was something about her that made me pause and take a closer look. She had her phone up to her ear and a look of shock on her face.
“Are you ok?” I asked. (Ugh. Only the lamest question the English language can put together.)


“No. My dog just got run over by a car. I’ve had this baby for four years. I can’t believe this.” Now the blood and matted dog hair all over her made sense.


I came across her while at a conference a few weeks back, standing outside a vet’s office, as I was moving from one session to another. But I just couldn’t pass this woman by. And here I was, in a horrible situation of desperately wanting to help but feeling like there was nothing I could do.


She watched as the car that had dropped her off sped by and said, “Oh, I think they kept my money.” Apparently the person who hit her dog had stuffed a few dollars in her hand but then her ride drove off with it.
So, we just fumbled about as best we could. I ran over to our conference HQ and grabbed a handful of granola bars and kombucha and tried to convince her to come and sit down somewhere. But she understandably wanted to stay at the vet’s office. I told her to holler if she needed me and that I would be close by. Of course, I didn’t get her full name or number. Dumb dumb dumb. And all night I just thought about her and wondered what I could have done differently.


Then it struck me. Maybe it wasn’t too late! There might be something I could still do.The next day, when I returned to the conference I walked into the vet office and asked what had happened. Turns out it was the worst of the worst: her poor pup had to be put down. I asked, “Does she have an outstanding vet bill?” Yep. $545 dollars. Can you imagine? Being heartbroken and having a massive bill to pay? So out comes my phone and I check the giving line-item in our YNAB budget. “I’ll pay it in full,” I said.  


Pause.
“Are you sure?” Darn right I was sure.


Now listen up. I am not some super generous angel person. I drive by people I could easily help every day of my life. It’s not something I’m proud of, but that’s the truth. But I truly think MOST people would want to do the exact same thing in this scenario. After all, I wasn’t the only person who gave toward that bill! Apparently, 2 or 3 other strangers who had come in contact with her had done the same thing. But if I’m honest, I look at personal budgets all the time and depressingly few of them have a single line-item for giving. So I am just sharing this story as a reminder. Somehow all of us (including myself) are continuously convinced that taking that next dream trip, buying that outfit, or upgrading our living space will give us that “thing”. You know what that “thing” is for you right? I know I do. And sure, it does, sort of. But it’s kind of like candy. Sweet and fun and gone in a few days, if not a few moments.

Spending money like this is like eating a healthy, delicious meal. It’s not like a party but it’s deeply satisfying. It’s as though, somehow, my money is getting to do what it’s truly MEANT to do.


And gosh, now with a baby, I feel like my empathy is on a whole new level. I see my child’s face everywhere; Syria, Guatemala, in Flint, Michigan. And I see my own face as a mother everywhere. Sometimes I just get so overwhelmed by it all I sort of break down. But that’s no way to live. So let’s just not forget in our busy lives that this is why we’re really here. To look out for one another. And yes, sometimes we look out for people with our MONEY. And if you want to get to be the person who buys groceries for your hard-up friends or smashes GoFundMe’s in the face, then determine that THIS is the day.

Today you’ll decide to finally promote yourself to CFO of your own life. Heck, that’s what we do! So call us. Or pick up a book. Start that course. Climb on board the financial peace train, my friends, however you choose to hop on. It’s not an easy ride all the time, but it’s so, so worth it.

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10 Feb Oh boy! … or girl

Looks like a small human (with a very distinguished profile) is going to be making an appearance in the Olson household in 2018.

We had been toying with the idea of 2017 being the year of the opening the family door for a while. So barely two months before little bub showed up, we started the “Baby Fund” line item in the budget. Yep. Our baby’s first “appearance” was in our budget. But I didn’t take it deadly seriously. It was just meant to be symbolic of a slight shift. A dinky $200 towards something that might never even happen. But looking back, I think this was more than just a new line in the budget. It was a way for us to irrefutably document our decision to give this crazy thing a shot, together.

Honestly, this area is one of the few things where I have felt a gap of understanding between me and our clients. I’ve paid off debt when I’d rather go in vacation. I’ve scrimped and scraped to save an emergency fund. I’ve bought a house. I can personally commiserate with all that. But supporting kids? It’s just not something that I have had to do.

But here we are.

Trying our best to plan and prepare for the unknowable.

Every day I have doubts. Have we put enough away? How can I make sure the business keeps humming in my absence? Will it be healthy? Will having a biological kid totally mess up all my adoption plans? Holy moly, what about college? Am I literally going to shift from human to animal from sleep deprivation? Labor?! I can’t even…

But the horrifying truth is, we are all looking into the dark when it comes to the future. There is nothing guaranteed about life, let alone the next five minutes. All we can do is commit to learn from whatever gets sent our way to help ourselves and those around us.

Thanks in advance tribe for your support. We look forward to sharing parts of this new journey with you all.

Now I’m gonna go get some more sleep.

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26 Jan The Tax Man Cometh

Surprise surprise, it’s the end of the year!

Time to address everyone’s favorite subject:

TAXES

Or more specifically, Public Law no. 115-97 “The Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”

Catchy, no?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which I wouldn’t blame you for) you know that the tax reform bill is now law. Taxes are the #1 expense in your entire life, MORE than food or shelter. So it pays to pay attention here. Here are a few changes that you might want to be aware of.

1. You will probably pay less. – With the standard deductions doubling and some of the tax brackets shifting, it’s quite possible you will pay fewer taxes for 2018. The IRS is set to clarify the new withholding tables sometime in January. So, in February you can choose to change your withholdings so you don’t end up overpaying. Just ask your employer for a new W4 form if they don’t already offer it to you on an annual basis.

2. If you’re self-employed in any way, you will almost certainly pay less on that income. – If your business is a sole-proprietorship, a partnership, an LLC or an S-Corp, the income you peel off from your business is “pass-through income”. You will now be able to deduct 20% of that income right off the top. Nice right? But of course, it’s not quite that simple for everyone. There are a bunch of if/and’s/but’s in there. This article was helpful in breaking it all down in plain English! https://www.greenbushfinancial.com/pass-income-will-taxes-2018-small-business-owners/

3. Child tax credits will double – These credits will shift from $1,000 per kid under 17 to $2,000. (Nice timing little Olson girl/boy). The income-based phase out for this is also shifting up from $110,000/couple to $400,000.

4. No more “individual mandate” – The penalty for not having health insurance is dead. It’s assumed that many of the lower-risk people who bought into the exchange because of the penalty will hop back out. So, many of the people who do not get insurance through employers could have their premiums spike as a result. We shall see.

5. Mortgage deductions are changing. – I have heard a lot of people worrying about this . But they probably shouldn’t. Mortgage interest deductions are already capped at loans of $1 million. All they’re doing is sliding that down to $750,000 for all newly purchased first and second homes. Unless you’re planning on borrowing more than $750,000 for a mortgage sometime after 2017, don’t worry about it. And even if you ARE, it’s still not that big a deal.

There are obviously many more changes than the ones I listed here. Here’s a great breakdown of more of them. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-republican-tax-proposal/ Whether this tax bill ends up being “good” or “bad” for the country, I’ll leave that to you to decide. I at least just want you to be informed on the basic facts. Please don’t take what you see on Facebook as gospel about this stuff. Do your own reading then talk to your CPA and financial planner about how this could be affecting you starting next year.

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12 Jan Our PBS show!

It was a MASSIVE week in The Art of Finance world last week.

OUR PBS SHOW DEBUTED!!

You guys. I cannot CONTAIN the caps on this one. We have been working on this for almost two years and are so excited to finally bring this out into the world. We partnered with Andrew and Katie Matthews (the amazing husband/wife production team behind The Best Worst Movie and Zero Charisma) and created a brand new online show called “Two Cents”. They’re similar in format and content to the videos we’ve made in the past only way way WAY better.

So far, our pilot episode is around 910,000 views. Holy moly.

To be clear, it is not going to be on your TV. It will only be accessible through Facebook’s new video platform called “Watch”.

Check it out here!

https://www.facebook.com/TwoCentsPBS/

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06 Dec Freezing credit

While it might not be freezing right now in Texas, there is something that you should consider putting on ice.

 

Your credit. 

 

As you may be aware, hacks of large financial and retail organizations are becoming worryingly commonplace. The most recent and large-scale of which was Equifax, one of the largest credit-reporting agencies on the planet.
As of October 2017 they have reported that information for as many as 146 million Americans has been compromised. This means you have a 50/50 shot of your information being up for grabs by some rather unsavory characters. And this isn’t just any old boring, out of date information. This is your social security number, your birth date, your addresses; all the information it takes to open new credit cards, bank accounts and a host of other things.

 

So what is a normal, not-normally-paranoid person to do?

 

Well, the best option at this point would be to put a freeze on your credit. This just means placing a hold on any new credit being opened in your name with your information. Now, don’t do this if you’re in the middle of getting a mortgage, renting a new apartment or anything that necessitates a credit check. But if you’re not in need of any of those things for the near future, we recommend taking the following steps.

 

The four largest credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Transunion, Innovis and Experian. You can sign up for a freeze with each one. And yes, three will charge you to do this. It’s definitely annoying. However, Equifax is waiving the the fees through January 31st, 2018.

 

I personally worked through every one of these in order and it took me 13 minutes to complete.

 

Transunion: (this one cost me $10)
Experian: (this one cost me $10.83)
Innovis: (this one was free)
Equifax: (free…for now)
Believe it or not, but Equifax has yet again fumbled the ball. I filled out the credit freeze form and got this wonderful answer below. Seems like their site can’t handle the number of credit freezes that people are requesting. Guess I’ll try again in a few hours.

 

Keep in mind that you will be setting up PIN numbers for most of these. You’ll need to have that on hand when you want to un-freeze your credit in the future.

 

Best of luck!
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20 Oct When spending doesn’t work anymore

July was the largest month ever for our business. So, we paid ourselves a lovely bonus on top of our normal salary.
Being the budget evangelists that we are, we made sure to put the extra money toward some goals as well as pump up a few of our normal categories.
We increased our dining out budget from $200 to $300.
Our grocery budget from $500 to $600.
That sort of thing.
How fun! I thought. We’ll get to loosen up a bit and go to a few extra places just because! How fancy! And in the back of my mind, I thought this would equate to turning up the super-happy-fun-dial.
And yes, I’ve gone into to restaurants I normally pass by. Hit up my favorite thrift stores more than once. Even set aside a chunk for new furniture! But somehow, I feel less content than I did before. Analysis paralysis seems to haunt everything little thing I buy. Guys, I stood in line at a register for what must have been eleven million hours, just trying to decide what to order. We haven’t even spent most of the increases we’ve applied! What on earth is going ON?! I thought I was going kind of crazy so I asked Philip “Has having more money to spend on eating out made you happier?”. This man LOVES eating out y’all. It’s his thing. So I honestly expected him to say yes. But he just paused and said “Hm. No, not really.”
HOW AM I SURPRISED BY THIS YOU GUYS?! I preach this stuff all day! And yet, I still struggle with putting money on the pedestal it doesn’t deserve to be on.  Maybe I always will.
Fun fact: you know the only part of my budget I’ve remained super jazzed about? Giving. We give a set percentage of our income, so a big bump in pay means a big bump in giving. Playing fast and loose with that money has totally played out like I thought it would. I kinda wish everything else had.
I’m not sure if I have a crystal clear lesson today friends. Just wanted to share the realness. Since this money stuff is kind of my job, I feel the need to dig down and come up some gold nugget of wisdom for you. Usually working on these newsletters helps me get to the bottom of things! But all the threads I followed don’t seem to lead to anywhere clear.
So I’d be interested to know, have you had a similar experience?
Gotten more money to do something you’d always wanted to do and found it a let down? Or am I the odd woman out here?
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29 Sep A Workshop!

I’m obsessed with marriage and relationships.
I read books about it, I’ve paid experts for years to teach me about it, and of course, I do all of the online quizzes.
Maybe it’s because I got married so young, or maybe it’s because I’m a hopeless romantic.
I’m not sure.
But here’s what I AM sure about:
Learning how to financially thrive while being attached to another human does not happen by default. And financial strain in a relationship is almost ALWAYS merely a symptom of a relational strain. 
So we decided to take a stab at addressing both sides of the issue!
We’re combining our financial brains with the heart and smarts of a dear friend and highly sought after marriage therapist, Melody Li, into a one-of-a-kind workshop you’re not going to find anywhere else. We’re calling it Love, Money, Growth!
Things to note:
1. It’s going to be VERY small. Only 10 couples max.
2. This is not going to be a five-hour-lecture. God forbid. This is going to be a workshop. Where we’re going to work alongside you on making tangible things you can walk away with.
3. If working with a financial planner or working with a marriage counselor is super intimidating, this is a GREAT way to dip your toe into the pool instead of jumping into the deep end.
4. We are offering an early bird discount! $50 off if you reserve before Oct 15th!
Check out the video below and SIGN UP HERE TODAY to reserve your spot. (It also makes a great early Christmas gifts for the newly-weds in your life!)
Ps- Let us know if you have questions!
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21 Jul Socially Responsible Investing

Your money is a gift. You are blessed with the ability to earn it and use it to make a positive difference in your own life and the world at large.
That’s what Julia and I believe anyway.
These days, multitasking purchases with social good is becoming commonplace. Think of TOM’s shoes, Burt’s Bees or The Body Shop. These brands have their missions interwoven throughout their products. Through your purchase, you become a part of that mission. It’s only natural that many people, especially us idealistic creative-types, want to do the same with the money they invest. So we wanted to give you a very quick guide to navigating this relatively new and expanding world of “Socially Responsible Investing”
What is it? 
Socially responsible investing is an investment strategy that factors in both financial return and social good when picking investment vehicles. With the ultimate goal to bringing about social change.
Most people take part by putting their money into mutual funds that invest in groups of companies with similar missions or structure.
What do I need to know? 
Twenty years ago, socially responsible funds simply omitted companies involved in tobacco, guns and alcohol.
Now, the landscape is much more diverse. Different fund groups focus on different things. Some group companies that pass certain environmental impact benchmarks. Some are all about women-led corporations. While others can be about forgoing foreign child-labor or treating employees especially well.
You need to look closely and do research before putting your money anywhere. Just because it says “socially responsible” doesn’t mean it’s focusing on the thing that YOU actually care about. Get specific on what your personal mission is and try and focus there.
What’s the cost?
Everything costs something.
What if I asked you to go into a grocery store and find me the absolute best deal on my dinner ingredients, but you could only shop on two aisles.  That would be tough right? As Wealthsimple puts it “there is a good reason for the higher fee: someone smart needs to screen for the most socially responsible companies by combing through reams of data and designing cutting-edge analysis tools. And smart people usually don’t work for free.”
Sometimes they can lag the market at large as well.
Where can I find them? 
Thanks to Google…all over the place! Some robo-advisors like WealthSimple offer them at the click of a button. You can also check out http://www.socialfunds.com/ if you want to get really nerdy with it.
I think the most important thing to remember about this kind of investing is that the perfect fund doesn’t exist. All companies are flawed in some way because all people are flawed in some way. But don’t let the quest for the perfect become the enemy of the good!
Have more questions about this? Hit us up!

 

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30 Jun What I tell my foster kiddos

Every semester I get to do something awesome.
I go to a group of kids who are about to age out of the foster care system, not having been adopted, and talk to them about money.
Looking at their faces always makes me feel like I’m about to explore unspoiled territory. Make no mistake, many of them have experienced extremely hard things. And now that they’re in their later teens, they have started to navigate their financial journeys. But for the most part, they’re not jaded!  They haven’t yet had to rely on a paycheck or heard Uncle Sam knocking at the door. Most have big dreams and lots of excitement around the topic of money.
I have a specific script I use (because actor-habits die hard) and it occurred to me that it might be good to share with our broader tribe! Hopefully, you’ll find it as enlightening as I did when I wrote it years ago.
——–
“I’m here to make you a millionaire. That’s right. At the end of this talk, I want you to walk out believing that you are perfectly capable of being a very wealthy person.
This is crucial. Because nothing I teach you today will have ANY effect if you don’t believe yourself to be capable of making it happen.
So everyone repeat after me: “I will be a wealthy person someday”. Excellent.
Now, I’ll be upfront and tell you that what I’m going to teach you today is not normal. I acknowledge and understand that many kids in the foster care system long for normalcy. I totally get it and respect that. However, when it comes to money I want you to shun that. Because the American normal when it comes to money just sucks.
For the most part, people don’t have enough money:
– to protect themselves from emergencies
– to get out of debt
– to stop working when they’re body has worn down
– to get OUT of a terrible relationship situation because they can’t afford to leave.
WHY? It’s not because people are stupid, I’ll tell you that.
Here’s my theory. It’s because people have a super crappy relationship with their money. They take it for granted, they obsess over it, they ignore it, they feel entitled to it, they allow it to walk all over them, they bad-mouth it, they complain about it, they horde it.
What if a friend treated you like that? What if they mostly ignored you? Or what if they were overwhelmingly obsessed with you? What if they didn’t want to share your friendship with anyone else? What if they acted like, no matter how they treated you, you’d just always be around?
There’s a specific word for this kind of relationship. It starts with “A” and rhymes with “Exclusive”.
Abusive. That’s right. You’d want to leave, wouldn’t you? And you should! In my experience, money is no different. We should treat it like a friend we care about. We should care about getting to know it. Treat it preciously, but not too much so. We should care enough to work out our differences when they come up and not just give up on it.
I want to teach you is that money isn’t just a numbers game. It’s not about being good with math, it’s not about knowing all the right stocks to pick, it’s all about your RELATIONSHIP. If that’s in good order, the rest will follow.
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06 Mar Budgeting like a Boss – #2 – Debt Payoff

OK guys, time to buckle up… 

 

On our regular budget blueprint, we always put debt directly below essentials.  Making it stop #2 for our dollars. Why? Because you need to get debt out of your life. 

 

But debt allows us to realize our dreams faster, visit far-flung locations, and shuttle our families around in safe and reliable cars, right? At least that’s what all those high-budget ads would have you believe. Unfortunately, it’s just not the full picture. We’ve been conditioned to believe that credit cards and auto loans are just a natural part of everyday life. But don’t fool yourself into thinking a credit card company cares about your dream vacation. They’re in the money-making business. And they ARE smarter than you. They know the easier they make using their product, the more likely you are to use it at the exact moment you shouldn’t. As anyone with a load of credit card debt will tell you, this is the opposite of freedom. 

 

Through debt, we get things now and pay for them later. This preys upon one of our deepest human weaknesses; always wanting to have our cake AND to eat it too. And with credit cards and student loans and car loans, you can get pretty full. For a while at least…until it’s time to pay the piper.

 

I get it. Putting your hard-earned dollars towards debt is one of the LEAST fun things out there, right alongside paying taxes. But if you’ve ever thought “Dang, giving my hard-earned dollars to someone else every month sucks” then join the dump-debt club, my friends! Transitioning to paying for things with money you have is the best. There are no bills to be afraid of. No collectors to dodge. No futures to sabotage. You are free to do EXACTLY what you wish with every paycheck that you work for; it’s a fabulous feeling.  

 

That’s why we put debt payoff just below rent and groceries and above things like investing into your retirement. Investing while carrying debt is like running a marathon with weights tied to your ankles. For goodness sake, you need to unshackle yourself, and then continue the race. If getting rid of debt gets top billing in your world, it will happen. As Dave Ramsey says “You can wander into debt, but you can’t wander out”.

 

So, then the question becomes, which debts to pay off and how.

 

Well, here’s a video for you dears, where we answer that exact question. : ) 

Next time, we’ll tackle Retirement!  

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