Financial Advisor | Austin, TX | The Art of Finance | Blog
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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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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19 Jan Budgeting Like A Boss – #1 – The Essentials

Like Julie Andrews says, let’s start at the very beginning.

It’s a very good place to start.

Most budgets take the form of a list. Whether it’s in a spreadsheet or just on a piece of paper, your expenses will show up in some sort of top-to-bottom fashion. To be a total budgeting boss, you have to get the order right, starting with the most important things at the top. Maybe that seems elementary. But I can’t tell you how many budgets I’ve looked at that are not set up this way.

Why?

Humans have a limited amount of willpower. Studies show that we succeed when we create the proper environment. We do not succeed when we have to constantly fight against our surroundings. It’s this science that resulted in a container of Nutella surviving an entire year in my pantry. Because it was in the back, hidden behind canned beans.

Just as out of sight is out of mind; top of sight is top of mind.

So, when we budget, we need to take care of what some people refer to as “the four walls” first. People sometimes like to try and get fancy with it. But just ask yourself the following questions and you should be good to go:

  1. What do I need to have effective shelter?
  2. What do I need to be able to work?
  3. What do I need to be properly fed?
  4. What do I need to remain clothed?

The answers to those questions are what go in the top section. Thankfully they should be the easiest expenses to isolate.  For example, your mortgage payment, your electricity money, your gas money, your grocery money…those should be showing up here. These are NOT always your “bills”. I have plenty of bills that are not essential. Like life insurance, Netflix, or our counselor. None of those are essential to my continuing to eat, have shelter or get to work.

Make sense? Good.

Next time, we’ll go to section #2. Debt!

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23 Dec Uprooted…or why you NEED an Emergency Fund.

A strange thing happened this weekend.
I woke up on Saturday morning to our backyard tree completely uprooted. It was jarring to see it that way after seeing it standing tall for the last five years.”How could this happen?” I asked Philip.  He pointed out that the last year had been unusually rainy and as a result, the tree had doubled in size just in the last twelve months. Then it began to make sense. The tree had outgrown what its roots could support.
In our world, those “roots” are your emergency fund. An emergency fund is a pile of cash specifically set aside for large, unexpected expenses. And without a doubt, it is the most overlooked piece of the financial puzzle. 
That new “zero interest” monthly payment, that pair of expensive jeans, that car upgrade you don’t need…they’re all limbs on your tree. Now, having lots of great things is not bad. But this tree is teaching us, if you add things onto a weak foundation, it will inevitably come down. Our financial tree tumbled down around eight years ago. In 2008, a storm of taxes nearly wiped us out. It was totally our fault for failing to plan properly. Thankfully, we had a baby emergency fund, so we did not have to go into debt. But it took everything we had. It was terrifying, but we learned our lesson.
Is building an emergency fund the most fun or sexiest thing you can do with your money? No. You can’t exactly brag about it on Facebook. But you know what is sexy? Confidence. I’m not talking outer confidence, the kind that shoes or a car can give you. I’m talking capital C – Confidence. The type that lives in your core, in your gut. This is the confidence that allows you to grow in ways most people can’t. For example:
– I left my day job of 4 years without worry, because of my emergency fund.
– We had a client decide to finally travel the world without an end date, because of her emergency fund.
– Another couple paid for an expensive surgery for a beloved pet without going into debt, because of their emergency fund.
– A person this very morning told me how she weathered a layoff in a city she had just moved to, because of her emergency fund.
Have I convinced you yet?
Now, in order to work properly, the emergency fund has to fit you. They’re not “one size fits all”. And you don’t have to save into them forever! They actually have an end point. So how much do YOU need? Respond to this email, we will ask you a few important questions and you’ll get your answer. For free.
We wish you all a very merry Christmas! It is a privilege to get to share our hearts with you.
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15 Dec Giving and Getting

Giving is in the air every holiday season, but this year I find myself digging deeper into WHY we give. Is it because we want to be seen as a “good person”? Or is it an outpouring of the abundance we feel we personally live in?

 

Many of our clients are surprised by our teaching that being generous is a fundamental part of managing your money well. This is because most people believe, as we once did, that when they feel financially secure enough, they will start giving generously. I’m here to tell you that that time never comes. No matter the income level, most people don’t feel comfortable giving away their time or money. But don’t lose heart! The great part about this is that it actually works the other way around. Consistent generosity leads to wealth. You don’t have to wait for one to have the other! I’ll give you an example from my own life.

 

After a year of talking about it, we finally took the plunge and got involved volunteering with a foster care agency in north Austin. Each week, we babysit a sibling group of five and give some hard working foster parents some much needed relief. You’d think that we gain so much by being around these kids, and you’d be right. But the real value is getting to see the foster parents in action. They have selflessly volunteered 24 hours, 7 days a week to take in these kids. They are the superheroes of this story, not us.
Watching them not only gives me enormous hope for humanity but it makes the resources I have seem larger than they did before. By giving our time and money, we basically get a passport to be around “next level” people who put our giving into perspective. Just by being in their presences, we are challenged to push our generosity to new heights. That is a huge benefit that I think is mostly missed in around the conversation of giving. Combine that opportunity with getting to be around the irrepressible spirits of those sweet, tenacious, funny kids, and our time with them becomes a source of invaluable wealth. The more time I spend with them, the harder I want to work to make sure they have the things they need to keep going.

 

In 2016, we gave away more of our time and money than ever before and we are more financially and spiritually wealthy than we have ever been. I’ve seen the correlation in enough of our clients to know that this is not coincidence. I would hope you’ll take some time this Christmas season to reflect on how your generosity and sense of wealth are related. Share with us how you will take your generosity game to the next level so we can cheer you on! 
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12 Dec A Gift

Budget. 

I love saying this word out loud to the groups that we speak to. I can immediately feel the crowd shift uncomfortably and I can almost hear the voices in their heads start to pipe up.

“I should maybe do that someday.”

“I don’t really make enough money to budget.”

“Oh yeah, I have MINT for that. Check.”

“I make a pretty good income, I’m fine.”

“Maybe on January first…”

I know that voice all too well because I heard it all the time. But even though I was the “we-need-a-budget” instigator in our marriage, I was the worst at sticking with it. I’m just one of those people that really enjoys starting projects, not finishing them. It just seemed like every time I’d jump on the budget bandwagon, a week or two later, I’d fall off and get trampled over. At the time, I just couldn’t figure it out why. It’s not like budgeting is a hard concept. But after going through countless tries and helping other people build out their own budgets, we’ve figured out something important.

A budget includes all the categories you spend money on, but an EFFECTIVE budget has them in the RIGHT ORDER. Why? Because visuals are SO important. For us creative people, the idea of going into a black and white excel spreadsheet every day is about as appealing as going to the dentist.

It was out of this realization that our “Best Budget Blueprint” was born. Our hope is that you take advantage of our years of budgeting experience and use this to create a budget that you’ll actually stick to. We did. It works.

Click HERE to get it for FREE.

 

Merry Christmas!

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15 Feb Let’s Get Real

Are you surprised…or rather, ambushed…every year by the holidays, vacations, and buying gifts? Lots of folks take a trip, finish their holiday shopping, or get past the New Year and finally look at their account balances and EXCLAIM their costs were “a lot bigger than we thought they were going to be!”….yet again.

 

DON’T LET HOLIDAYS & GIFTS SINK YOU

 

That happened to us for many years too. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. At first, we made outlandish resolutions like:

 

“We’re just not gonna give gifts this year…”
“We’re gonna hand make EVERYTHING!”
“No trips for two whole years!!!”

 

Sound familiar? Yeah….that never really pans out very well. Now, we have specific steps we use and recommend to others to avoid that looney spending cycle.

 

1. Get HONEST about your spending habits

The key to this one is…drum roll… “honesty”. If you typically take 2 to 3 trips per year, start being honest with yourself about that. If you typically spend 5,6,7, or $800 per year on Christmas, be honest about that. You don’t need to judge yourself, just be honest about the facts.

 

2. PLAN your spending for 2016

IF you’re honest about your spending, then you know what to expect this year. AND, if you know what to expect, you can make a plan. Let’s be honest, this year will probably be, on a grand scale, somewhat predicable. Christmas won’t disappear, Christmas won’t happen in July, you probably won’t hunker down in a bunker in the woods all year, and you will have expenses.
So, if that’s the case, it’s actually pretty easy to start saving for those expenses now in little amounts each month.
For example, we save a few hundred dollars every month for vacations, whether or not we have a vacation in mind. So, IF we decide to suddenly take that exciting random trip to Marfa…or Belize…there’s a few thousand dollars in there waiting for us. We don’t have to steal from our emergency fund, our giving bucket, or something else that’s way more important like car repairs or health costs.
Which, brings us to budgeting for your expected costs…

 

3. MAKE a budget

If you have a budget, awesome! We STRONGLY recommend this for everyone. Saving for your long-term expenses is SO MUCH EASIER with a budget.

Why?

It’s all part of making a plan. For example, Christmas…surprise, surprise…happens on the exact same day, every single year.However, for some ELUSIVE reason, Christmas expenses seem to throw us for a loop every single year, too.

With a budget, you can be prepared. It’s that simple. If you’re 11 months out from Christmas, like we are right now, you can start saving around 50 bucks per month, and you’ll have around 600 bucks by the time Christmas rolls around.

Life is WAY less stressful if you have a budget, because you can just let it accumulate in a line item category. We personally LOVE the online budgeting app “You Need A Budget” or YNAB, which lets you do just that. But, if you’re old school or…God forbid…if you’re not budgeting at all, you can just have a side bank account that’s designated for specific purposes. You could set up automatic transfers from your main account to designated accounts for a vacation fund, a Christmas fund, and other long term expenses. We always recommend using some sort of budgeting system, but this can at least help you accomplish the same thing

 

4. WATCH this video…

If you’re “just not getting it” after reading that, watch this helpful video we put together. It illuminates our savings and budgeting principles even further. Check it out by clicking here!

We are always happy to help you in whatever way we can at The Art of Finance. If you haven’t, make sure you like our page on Facebook. In exchange for that, we’ll keep bringing you awesome and helpful free content!
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