Divorce Financial Planning: Take Control of Your Finances

Do you know your credit score or the details of your Social Security report? Can you find the deed to your house, mortgage, life insurance policies, car title, car insurance policies, tax returns for the past 5 years, brokerage and bank statements for the past year? Do you know what your spouse earns or how much is going into a 401k plan annually?

Getting divorced is often a wake up call when it comes to finding out what you know and don’t know about your family finances.

Managing your finances is not about knowing which stock, bond or mutual fund to buy. It’s about knowing what you own (assets); what you owe (liabilities); what’s coming in (income) and what’s going out (expenses). It is about paying attention to where your money is going and being organized.

You’re going to be asked to produce a lot of financial paperwork and documentation for the court, your attorney or mediator and for your soon-to-be ex spouse. So, let’s get started:

Clear off a workspace and gather all your statements: bank, brokerage, credit cards, etc. Other supplies to gather: paper, pen or pencil, 3-ring binder, hole punch, index dividers, highlighter and sense of humor.

First, we’re going to tabulate your net worth (difference of what you own versus what you owe): make a list of everything you own: house, car, brokerage accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts and their value (the internet can help- try KBB.com and zillo.com). Then, list everything you owe: mortgage, car loan, credit card debt, school loans and their outstanding balance. Keep this information stored in the first section of your 3 ring binder.

Next, find where your money is going (the cash flow), or the reality of not having a clue as to where you spent all that money. The easiest way to determine your cash flow is a computer program like Quicken or QuickBooks. A useful website is mint.com. If you prefer not to use the computer, this can be done with Excel, columns on lined paper or on graph paper.

To make a budget, gather your checkbooks, check stubs and charge card statements. Give each expenditure a category and a subcategory. Example: Utilities: phone, Utilities: cell phone, Utilities: cable and enter your expenses for each month. You will get a total for each subcategory as well as a total for the whole category of Utilities. Don’t forget to enter your income, including income from child support and alimony. Print a report every month, and a quarterly report every 3 months. Put these in a Cash Flow or Budget section of your binder.

It may take you several months to get a picture of your income and expenses but it will become the foundation to manage your finances as well as negotiate child support and alimony.

With a handle on your cash flow, you can look for places where you can reduce expenses or control spending. Try taking 10% off the top of your income as savings. Then, rework your expenses to see if you can still manage. Utilize whatever amount of money you are able to save to:

• Get out of debt – pay down credit cards and loans

• Have an emergency fund not invested in the stock market. Aim for a minimum of 3 months of household expenses in savings. If possible, have an additional 3 months in a short term CD or money market account

• Take advantage of retirement plans

Put this information in your Savings Goal section of the binder.

Armed with this information, a consultation with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, early in the process, can help you meet the challenges of divorce with more confidence and dignity than might otherwise be the case.

The Wright Place – Finances

Women have a love/hate relationship with money. Most of us do not enjoy dealing with it, yet we know not having finances under control will cause our entire family to suffer.

A recent guest on the show Karen Franks, explained how important your credit is and how you should check on it often. ‘At least twice a year”, says Karen Franks. Checking our credit is one important proactive way we can make sure we are in good financial shape. She also mentioned that many married women have better credit score than their husbands, even if they do not make as much. When another show guest, Dan Contreras talked about financial planning, he stressed using a professional. ‘Don’t rely on hearsay, get some real understanding about your situation.” And Linda Hollander the author or Bags to Riches says “Mentors are the fast track to success”. Find someone who has reached the same financial goals you want to reach and then do what they did. This simple technique works even if your goals are modest. While everyone’s situation is different, I really just want to motivate you to do something to have a positive effect on your finances. Here are a few simple things you can do that will start the ball rolling.

1. Get a copy of your credit report and check it for errors( free if you have been turned down for credit)

2. Look at your savings plan, are you on track, do you need to increase or decrease the amounts you are trying to save?

3. Look for your insurance policies, be able to get them immediately, know exactly where they are.

4. Start some financial education with your children. Start a student saving account.

5. Start planning next year’s financial goals. What do you want to change, what goals do you want to accomplish, what new accounts do you need to open and which accounts should be closed.

If you handle your finances you’ll be in The Wright Place!

Getting Relevant Traffic to Your Finance Website

You want to generate traffic to your financial website. That’s understandable. Who wouldn’t want that? After all, without traffic, you won’t be able to gain traction with your site or blog. The truth is, getting traffic to your website is easy. Within a day or so, you can get floods of traffic.

Which would you rather have, 100 people who visit your website looking for quality finance-related information, or 5,000 average schmoes who won’t know a stock symbol from a hieroglyph? It’s likely you chose the 100 relevant visitors.

Perhaps you can brag to your friends that your website got 5,000 visitors. But, bragging rights do little to build a long-term financial website, one where people revisit often. That is a true test of a successful financial website (or any website, for that matter), how many people return! How many people sign up for your newsletter? And the truest “litmus test” is how many people buy products or services from you?

How to Get Relevant Traffic

Before you make your fingers bleed writing a bunch of useless articles or blog posts on your blog, take a step back and ask what you want to accomplish with it. What are your goals for your website? You should not proceed without having this basic information formulated. Otherwise, you’ll be shooting in the dark, randomly selecting topics that won’t make much of a difference towards generating any traffic, let alone targeted traffic.

After you have a grasp on your goals for the site, ask yourself who do you want to visit. You will read about phrases such as customer avatars or targeted customer, etc. Whatever it’s called, it’s a way to determine the demographics of your website.

You can get this information by checking out who visits your competition. Look up a competitor’s Twitter profile and visit the Twitter feed. Find out who is following that company or website. Those people are part of your target market. You can do this same exercise with any social media platform.

Don’t get too hung up on the demographics. You can refine the process later. Just get a get initial feel for who you believe would be the best target audience you want visiting your website.

Is the Financial Blogosphere Too Competitive?

There are thousands upon thousands of financial websites and blogs in existence. In another year, there will be thousands and thousands more. It makes you wonder if it’s worth it to continue with maintaining a finance-related website.

Here’s the good news. Just because there are thousands of websites dedicated to financial topics, most of them are junk. These websites contain sales pitches, or they contain garbage content that drives visitors away. If you can rise above this trash and give readers what they want, you will open the floodgates to not only traffic but beautiful, targeted traffic. It’s the kind of traffic bloggers dream of, but most fall short of getting.

Creating Great Financial Content

To keep yourself away from the digital riff-raff, you need to create content that wows your readers. That is essential. Otherwise, your finance site is going to be just like the rest, lost in the virtual abyss!

The big question of the day is how do you create great content? It can’t be just good. It has to be great. Now for some bad news – it won’t be excellent when you first get started. Let’s face it; most people aren’t good writers or content creators. It takes practice just like anything else.

One way to come up to speed quickly with content creation is to emulate what the top bloggers are doing. This doesn’t mean copying them word-for-word. You want to get a sense of the tone and style of their websites and tailor that to your own style.

What About Keywords and SEO?

Bloggers are all-too-familiar with the terms keywords and SEO. Keywords appropriately mean what keywords will your target market use to find the information they are looking for. SEO is a bit trickier for the uninitiated. It is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It’s techniques which are supposed to help the search engines figure out what your content is about.

The biggest problem with both of these concepts is they change all the time. The Master of the Search Engine Universe (Google) changes these rules as do the other less-significant search engines. What worked two years ago can put your website into search engine neverland.

One underlying concept that has withstood every change search engines make is quality content. In other words, don’t worry so much about the keywords or SEO. Just write from the heart and do it consistently. Write what you believe will be of value to your readers. Nothing more!

Another common tactic is to get other bloggers in the finance world to guest post on your blog or website. Preferably, you want to choose people who are rising in the ranks of influence. Although these influencers are competitors, the web works best when everyone works together to give the readers the best value possible. Everyone wins when this happens, even all the participating competitors.

If you don’t have time for content creation but still want to generate quality traffic to your website, consider outsourcing the task. You may have to go through a few outsourcers to find ones who will do a great job for you. But, once you find them, as long as you are willing to keep them happy ($$$), you won’t have to keep looking for them.

On this note, don’t skimp out on price when looking for a quality writer. They are qualified for a reason. If you bottom fish, you will constantly be looking for new writers. When you find a good writer and pay him or her a lousy rate, it won’t take long for him or her to find another client who pays better.

It’s worth it to pay up for your writers. When you give them what they deserve, and you are fair to them, you have them for life. You will get a return on that investment by growing the right kind of audience for your financial blog.