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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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26 Jan The Tax Man Cometh

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

Time to address everyone’s favorite subject:


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!

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. 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.


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!

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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 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.


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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