Achieving Your Goals Takes Time: Remember This As We Head Toward the New Year

I loved to bake.  Muffins, homemade French bread, homemade sandwich bread, cakes, brownies, you name it, I made it.

And then I found out I was gluten and wheat intolerant.  I tried to bake gluten free items, but I didn’t understand how all of the different flours worked, and after making pan after pan of hard, tasteless gluten free baked goods, I gave up.

Just recently I tried again, and this time I hit upon success.  I learned how to make my own gluten free all purpose flour (thanks to the Internet), and I found a recipe for gluten free pumpkin bread.  I used that recipe and altered it to make a delicious, sugar free, GF banana bread.  But my daughter is egg intolerant, so, after I perfected the recipe, I experimented with making it egg free, and again, I came up with a good bread.

My love of baking is returning.

What does this have to do with personal finance?

Actually, quite a bit, especially as we enter the last few weeks of 2013 and head into 2014.

In just a few short weeks you’ll notice blog writers changing their focus from how to save on holiday gifts to setting goals for the new year and steps to achieving your goals, especially financial goals.

Maybe it’s that people drink too much during the holidays, or maybe it’s that people are unbelievably optimistic as they head into the new year, but many of us set ridiculously difficult New Year’s goals.  And then we’re disappointed with and hard on ourselves when we fail.  (And often we fail the first week of the new year.)

Change takes time

Change is a step-by-step processMaking any big change doesn’t happen overnight because the calendar turns to a new year and you’ve made a list of things you want to accomplish.

Change is a step-by-step process, and it can be a long, painful journey.

It took me a year to finally learn how to make a good gluten free bread and enjoy cooking again.

Likewise, my husband and I are 25 long months into our debt repayment journey, and we’re only now reaching the halfway point.

In those 25 months, though, we’ve learned how to wait to purchase things we want rather than rushing right out and buying them, and we’ve learned to stay within our budget.  Would I like to be debt free now?  You bet.  But I also appreciate the valuable lessons I’m learning along the way.  After all, those lessons will help us stay out of debt forever in the years to come.

As you enter this holiday season, go ahead and think about things in your life that you’d like to change.  Maybe you’d like to put more money in an emergency fund or add to your retirement account.  Set your financial goals, but don’t expect changes in your behavior to happen automatically.  Know that any good change in habit takes months, maybe years, to be cemented in as a permanent part of your fabric.  Be patient with yourself and know that each step you make in the right direction is a step that is getting you closer to your goal.

What steps do you take to make sure you are achieving your goals?

The Smell of Napalm

Napalm is a sticky, flammable substance that was invented in the 40’s, and used in several wars.  Because of it’s stickiness, it attaches itself to everything, then burns at somewhere over 800 degrees.  When it’s done, there’s no more jungle.  No more enemies walking around.  It’s vile enough, that it’s use on concentrations of civilians was declared a war crime by the UN in 1980.

By now, you’re probably wondering why a site about personal finance is discussing Napalm. Well.  Here’s the thing.  Debt is a funny thing.  Most of us have it.  Some of us have quite a bit.  And most of us would like to get rid of it.  In fact, most of us would just love to Napalm our debt.  One fell swoop.  Drop some sticky burning substance on it and have it gone in a few short minutes.  We’d like that so much that we buy lottery tickets, raffle tickets, and buy books and products that promise some get rich quick scheme.  People with debt are always looking for the debt Napalm.

We like to fantasize about what we would do if we won a couple million in the lottery and set our debt on flames.  Erasing it, with one fell swoop, while getting rich at the same time.  Much like Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, we love the “smell of [debt] napalm in the morning.”

Napalm: War on debt Crime

Instead, we’re given the “debt snowball“, or the “debt avalanche.

The truth is that debt is so easily gained, we want to find a solution to it that is just as quick.  An afternoon with a credit card and a shopping mall can add thousands to the total. Thousands that could take us years to pay off.  We wish we could find the Napalm to incinerate our debt.

Some people think that bankruptcy is that Napalm.  But, as quickly as a bankruptcy can eradicate your debt, it doesn’t leave you without any scars.  For many years afterwards, you, and your credit score, will suffer the consequences of the bankruptcy.  Credit will be nearly impossible to attain.  Prospective landlords and employers are even running credit checks before renting or hiring people.

We need to stop looking for the Napalm.  We need to stop assuming that all is lost.  We need to take some responsibility, find ways to make more money, save more money, and pay down more debt.  We need to stop adding more debt.

If you want to get rid of your debt, it’s a slow burn, not a Napalm strike.  Even in the world of personal finance, Napalm is a war crime.

Original image credit: korea by the U.S. Army, on Flickr

Finding Low Cost Term Life Insurance

If you’ve been considering life insurance, you’ve most likely heard financial planners and advisors tout the benefits of term life insurance. Term life insurance is known as the cheapest and most popular type of policy available. This is because there are dozens of different kinds of term life insurance policies addressing every life situation you may be facing, not to mention the fact that it is typically the most affordable coverage for a person of any age. Determining the best type of term life insurance for you depends on multiple factors, including your age, health, present and future income, assets and liabilities.

Term Life Policies

There are many types of term life insurance policies, among them level term, increasing and decreasing term, high risk, survivorship, group, guaranteed, no exam, and mortgage life insurance. Level term offers a low, fixed premium and stable death benefit for a term of 5, 10, 20, or 30 years. With decreasing or mortgage term life insurance, the death benefit and premiums decrease each year based on the insured person’s age or the principal owed on the mortgage, allowing the cost of the policy to adjust as your income increases year after year.

Decreasing term life insurance, similar to mortgage life insurance or credit life insurance, is usually used to cover a debt like a mortgage loan and both the death benefit and premiums decrease over time as you pay down the liabilities. Banks, lenders, or financing companies may sometimes require life insurance as collateral for a business or personal loan, too.

Renewable

Some term life policies may be renewable at the end of the term. It is important to check the policy provisions to see if a medical exam or physical is required at the time of the policy renewal. Generally, renewable life insurance offers more benefits to young individuals or parents since rates of renewal policies are not as cheap as an insured person grows older. Renewable policies are a low cost alternative to permanent life insurance policies – whole and universal.

Convertible

Young people may want the benefits of whole or universal life insurance, but not be able to afford the premiums in their budgets. Convertible term life insurance allows the policyholder to change or convert the type of policy from term to whole or universal life when their budget permits.

With convertible life insurance, families and seniors still have the protection of affordable term life with the option to purchase additional coverage with options at a later date. This is a good low cost option for individuals who intend to use life insurance as part of financial planning.

No Exam

If, for any reason, you think you would be ineligible for or denied coverage by the insurance company, you can apply for a no medical exam policy. Although the premiums will be higher, this type of life insurance exempts you from the usually physical exam and blood tests required for underwriting. Instead, you will be asked to answer questions regarding your current state of health as well as offer a full medical history. The death benefit is typically limited, but older applicants or ones with pre-existing health conditions are able to get enough protection to cover final expenses. Other terms and conditions or exclusions may apply, such as no payout or claims covered for the first 2 years after issuance, so read the fine print when considering no exam life insurance.

Who Should Buy Term Life?

Since rates are largely based on the age and health of the insured person, a term life policy offers the cheapest premiums and greatest advantage to young individuals in good health because they can lock in the cheapest premiums for 20 to 30 years.

Beyond the probable fact that most Americans need life insurance, protection is most essential if you fall into the following categories:

  • you’re married
  • you have kids or dependents
  • you’re single but have financial dependents or loan co-signors (i.e. your parents for student loans)
  • you have grown children and want to leave them an inheritance, and need a policy to cover estate taxes

The bottom line is – any time you have someone financially dependent on you, you likely need to buy life insurance.