Some of you have been getting weekly newsletters from Carlos Dominguez, the portfolio manager for the Dominguez & Jones Wealth Management Group. His newsletters are geared towards current events due to market & economic related activities. Once a month I will start sending out a newsletter that has nothing to do with the market and economy. As one of two of the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals with the group I’ve noticed some specific planning topics when working specifically with women clients. I’m starting a series of monthly newsletters with topics that relate to women and investment planning. For the men reading these writings you may learn more about the women in your life so keep reading just for fun and please forward these newsletters to women that may find them useful.
The women’s series will be broken down into three groups: Worries & Concerns, Life Changing Events and Solutions. The reason I’m writing these newsletters is to offer resources for specific topics that may be of interest to you.
The first topic I will write about today is something I get asked all of the time: Should I pay off debt or put more money in my cash-emergency account?
I believe it’s imperative to have a cash account to rely on for emergencies. I’m not a fan of “rule-of-thumb” rules, but I’ll give you one anyway so that you have a base: If you are married then you should at least have three months of living expenses in cash and if you are single you should have at least six months of living expenses in cash. I would like to follow this up by saying if you are conservative and you prefer to put more in cash, but do not let it hinder your retirement savings and the overall growth you will need long term to retire.
As we all know it’s hard to save into a cash account when your dollars are pulled in so many directions; student loans, credit cards, the mortgage and regular daily expenses. So, this is my advice do it all in small increments and if necessary do a thorough study of your spending habits and make changes – if you haven’t taken a good look at your spending in a while you may be shocked at what you find. This is the process I take my clients through that need to achieve all of the above:
Step #1: Budget Review
- Look at the last three months of spending and categorize it and get a monthly average. Months will differ that’s why I recommend an average of three months. (There is an expense & income sheet online; please click here).
- Please include all savings you are currently doing in your expense worksheet which could be cash savings and retirement savings.
Step #2: Discretionary Income
- If there is income left over then this needs to be divided between debt pay-off and cash savings.
- This depends on how much debt you would like to pay-off and how much cash you already have in savings.
- This is where the planning comes into play
Step #3: Debt pay-off target date planning
- Before starting the pay-off plan it’s important to be sure your debt is at the lowest interest rate possible
- Once we get to this point I develop a spreadsheet for my clients with each debt that’s important to pay-off and I develop a monthly payment for each debt with a time frame.
- It’s important for the debt to be at the lowest possible interest rate so that the time frame is short and more of your monthly payment is going towards principle and not interest.
- If you want to tackle debt start with unsecured debt first which is anything that isn’t collateralized such as credit cards or student loans – these loans usually have the highest interest rates.
- It’s important to have your cash account set up so that you can stop using credit cards. They are easier to pay off if you aren’t using them even if you need to make smaller monthly payments.
- Paying off debt and having a secure cash account is a decision based on your comfort level so do what’s right for your personal situation.
If you have any questions or would like any help achieving the above please let me know.
Next month’s topic will be: How do you know you’re saving enough for retirement?
To learn more about how we help our women clients please click on this direct link to our Women & Wealth webpage: www.dominguezandjones.com/
If you have anything to add or would like to learn more about a specific topic please let me know and I will be happy to add it to the newsletter topic list.
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
Any opinions are those of Christina Jones and not necessarily those of Raymond James.