Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What do you do with your money?

Back in the last century (1990's), I attended a 6-week workshop titled "Master Your Money." Maybe it was a symptom of where I was in my life at the time, but it struck me then, and several times since, as the best approach to personal financial management I've ever seen. That's not to knock some of the others like Larry Burkett or Dave Ramsey (who recently acknowledged both Burkett and Blue in his Great Recovery presentation). And I'm currently following Joe Sangl (see my post here), who credits Dave Ramsey for a lot of his ideas. But Blue's approach focused on tracking spending, not just budgeting. I was so impressed I took the course twice, then taught it around a half dozen times. The course is dated now, but still has some great ideas.

Ron Blue said there are basically four things you can do with money: 1) Give it away, 2) pay taxes {groan}, 3) repay debt and 4) spend it. Anything left over after these four constitutes your cash margin which can be used to accomplish your long range objectives. Only by increasing the cash margin can you really make a difference in your long term plans. Once Blue walks you through tracking your past expenses, he asks a Dr. Phil question - "How's that working out for you?" (Ok, he really didn't ask that back in 1990, but he could have). Blue asks you to look at each area of your expenditures and determine if you want that to go up or go down. Would you like to give more or less over the next few months? Do you want to spend more or less on eating out? Do you want to pay more or less in credit card interest?

Another focal point I learned from Ron Blue's course was that there are no independent financial decisions. Every dollar you spend at McDonald's is a dollar you can't spend on a new house. A dollar spent on wine can't be spent on books. And a dollar spent on cigarettes can't be spent on clothes. He calls this integrated planning and says it's the "allocation of limited resources to unlimited alternatives." (Joe Sangl says that Income minus Outgo must equal Exactly Zero or I-O=EZ - he's so proud of that idea he trademarked it).

A couple of months back, I told you (if you read my blog here) that you would probably earn $1million in your lifetime. The question is, what will you do with it? Dave Ramsey says you can go through life "like Gomer Pyle on valium" or you can track and plan your life. Which will you do?

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