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own your life

The title is more of a question than a statement. Do you own your life or do you just survive? If you are not sure of the answer, don’t be discouraged. These next five articles are geared to help you get control of your life and the information is absolutely free. Answer these next questions to see where you stand.

Do you have a working monthly budget?

Do you carry less than 30% in revolving debt?

Do you save at least 10% of your income?

Do you have a retirement plan?

If you answered yes to all these questions then you do own your life. All I ask is please educate as many people as you can about your success. If you answered no to any of the above questions then you are working just to survive. Life is too short for this pressure. Please continue to read on and open your mind to create a new plan for success.

One of the most frustrating things you can do is set up a budget. “It’s just too complicated” or “I really don’t want to know the truth”. Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes. High school never prepared me for financial success. I jumped into this world buying what I wanted and never cared about getting older. Eventually, every time I got paid, it went right out to debt. Finally, the debt grew and surpassed my income. So I did what a lot of people do, I buried my head in sand, wishing it would just go away.


After getting sick of all the collections threats, I decided to find the quickies way to solve this problem. I went and saw an attorney about bankruptcy. He made it sound so easy. Just file on your debt and spend the next seven years rebuilding your life. Then it sunk in, I’m 22 years old and I qualify for personal bankruptcy. This is just sad. There has to be a better way than reneging on my obligations.

I went to the Library because the Internet wasn’t available, that’s how old I am. I researched books on budgeting. It was clear to me that these books were written in debt-free times and had no bearing on today’s life. I was too far gone for a Leave it to Beaver budget. So I took some of the concepts and sat down and created a basic budget. By the time I was finished, I was $450 a month short. So I had two choices, find a better paying job or buckle down on my personal expenses and get out of debt. It took me 22 months to pay off $19,000 in debt. BTW; the better paying job came after I was debt free.

Today I am a Certified Credit Counselor at A Debt Coach. We help people achieve their debt-free dream. So the rest of this article is what A Debt Coach teaches to its clients. Don’t worry, you can always call us for free assistance.

Step One – Financial Goals


The first thing everybody needs is a Financial Goal.  When you’re struggling to make ends meet and nothing looks better than the bed at night, you need a motivational goal to strive for. Goals are simple. My first goal was to create a workable budget. My Second was to use the allotting income for my bills to invest for my future, once I was debt free. So don’t overdo your goals. Keep them simple and obtainable and this will keep you focused. Once you get control of your life, you can always add more goals to strive for.

Setting financial goals is one step toward creating your dream life. In fact, the research has pretty much settled it: setting goals improves your performance across every facet of life; whether you want to lose weight, be in better shape or save more moneySuccess only happens if you set and pursue your goals the right way. (Why do you think 92% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them?)

A Debt Coach is here to help you with not only setting your financial goals but getting to the finish line.

Read on for the steps that can help make your goals a reality.

List your financial goals – Don’t stress about making this step perfect, your goals are going to change over time. Start with what are your top three today: buying a home, opening an investment account, paying off your student loans? All three? O.K., now write your goals down. Why? Because research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them.  Use the form on the next page to start listing them.

Make your goals specific – Research has shown again and again that the best goals are clear, measurable and require you to rise to the challenge. In other words, “Get better with money” will do nothing for you, just like “lose weight” doesn’t seem to move the needle on the scale. Make your goal “pay off my $9,000 in student loans by 2017” and you’ll know exactly what your goal is and when you’ll achieve it.  Also, research shows you’re less likely to give up on a goal when you can see the finish line. And, like with exercise, your goal should involve a challenge; it can be demotivating when your goals are too easy to reach.


Figure out what your real motivation is Knowing the motivation for achieving your goal is important to reach it. As you write down the goal list the motivator and make sure it is intrinsic, not extrinsic. Extrinsic motivations are reasons that are given to you whether you like them or not, whereas intrinsic motivations are ones you have for yourself. For example, a goal of, “Create an emergency fund because that’s what everyone is doing” is extrinsic, where a goal of “Create an emergency fund of $5000.00 so that I can stop worrying about my finances” is intrinsic. Get the idea? Good, write them down.

Evaluate your Budget – What do you have available to put towards your goals and is it enough?  20% of your monthly income should be going toward your goals. More than that and you could be setting yourself up for failure. Less than that and you will be selling yourself short by not leaving enough to reach your goals.

Pay yourself first by listing your goals at the top of your budget.  If the amount at the bottom is a negative (more money going out than coming in) look for ways to cut back on you’re spending before looking at cutting back on your goals.  Is dining out, having cable and internet, or going to the movies every week worth not reaching your goals?


“Stack” your goals – If your current budget can’t afford all your goals then “stack” them. At A Debt Coach, we recommend you work on three main goals. First, you should have an emergency savings fund which is enough to cover 6 months of expenses. Second, you should pay off all your unsecured debt. Third, you should be saving something for retirement.

 Now, these goals may sound “boring” and “un-motivating”.   To make them more exciting “stack” them. By that, we mean making the “boring” goals the first step toward getting to the fun goals. For example: “Once I’ve paid off my credit card debt, I can start saving for a new car that actually runs.” Or, “When I have six months in emergency savings, then I’ll start saving for my own beautiful condo with hardwood floors.”

Automate it – Don’t rely on your unfailing willpower. Automate your progress. Set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account for the amount you want to save, and have the transfer happen right after your paycheck arrives so that you barely see the money. Then set up a spending control system like the “Envelope System” where you split your paychecks up between separate envelopes, one for each spending category, which helps you keep within your budget.

Buddy Up Research shows that doing all the above steps – coming up with goals, writing them down and setting up controls are great, but sending those commitments to a friend (or working with a professional) can increase your odds of achieving that goal. Research shows that if you are held accountable for doing something you are more likely to not give up.  Pick a supportive friend, give him a copy of your budget, and check in once a month/quarter to share how you are doing. Or you can always use A Debt Coach and we will be happy to hold you accountable and help you reach your goals. It’s what we do.


Celebrate – Once you’ve reached your goal, you can consider rewarding yourself for a job well done with a well-earned splurge. Treat yourself to something you like, invite friends out to celebrate with you, or reward yourself with a weekend away so you can really savor your accomplishment.

Please use our goal worksheet to set and track your 2015 goals

Financial Goals Worksheet


Goal #1: ______________________________________________________________

Motivation: ___________________________________________________

Goals Cost $___________________   Time Frame _____________________


Goal #2: ______________________________________________________________

Motivation: ___________________________________________________

Goals Cost $___________________   Time Frame _____________________


Goal #3: ______________________________________________________________

Motivation: ___________________________________________________

Goals Cost $___________________   Time Frame _____________________


Goal #4: ______________________________________________________________

Motivation: ___________________________________________________

Goals Cost $___________________   Time Frame _____________________


Goal #5: ______________________________________________________________

Motivation: ___________________________________________________

Goals Cost $___________________   Time Frame _____________________


Own your Life – Income and Expenses. will be published on 1/23.  This sections will explore expenses and maximizing income to prepare for a working budget. At any time, feel free to ask questions or express concerns. Please call A Debt Coach at 888-767-9155 for assistance. My advice is always free and I’m here to help.