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In a Nutshell: If you follow the SmarterSquirrel 12 Month Plan to Improve Your Finances starting with Month 1 - "Where are you now?", you should be on your way to improving your financial situation. In this first month, you'll get a better understanding of your assets, liabilities, net worth, cash in, cash out, net cash flow, and your credit score. Having this baseline will allow you to better understand where you are currently, before you start to make financial changes for the better.

After 12 months, you can put your feet up and relax!

12 Month Plan to Improve Your Finances:
Month 1 - Where are you now?

“You should be well on your way to improving your financial future...”
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Many of you aren't doing enough to make sure you have a financially comfortable retirement. Of all Canadians aged 55 to 64 who won't have a pension, half of them only have enough saved to last one year ! Only 1 in 20 Canadians say they have more than enough saved to retire comfortably, that means there's 19 of 20 Canadians with not enough saved to retire comfortably! In the US, about half of married couples rely on Social Security benefits for more than 50% of their income in retirement. One in 5 married couples rely on Social Security for 90% of their income in retirement!  Two in 5 unmarried retirees in the US rely on Social Security for 90% of their income in retirement! The average Social Security benefit per month is $1,413, that means for those relying on it for 90% of their income, their total monthly income is $1,570! That's it! These are some very depressing facts. It saddens me that people are heading into retirement woefully unprepared to finance their golden years. It means their retirement years will not be golden at all, but will be anxiety filled and they will be living close to poverty, probably having to work until they are physically unable to continue working. And this is why I've decided to do something about it!

For each of the next twelve months I'm going to give you one monthly financial task to complete. I'll write and post that monthly task the first of every month. If you follow along and accomplish each task each month for the next twelve months, you should be well on your way to improving your financial future. 

BUT REMEMBER... I have no professional training, skills or accreditation in personal finance... so if you need professional personal financial advice, seek advice from a professional. I'm not a professional, I'm just a guy with a blog who figured some stuff out for himself and am just sharing what I know and what I've learned over many years. Some of my friends ask me how to get on the same financial road I'm on, and so I thought I'd tell them and you how to do what I did, through this SmarterSquirrel 12 Month Plan to Improve Your Finances, starting with Month 1... 

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MONTH 1 - WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to determine where you are now in terms of your finances. The key to improving your finances is to figure out where your finances are currently. So I ask you, where are you now? Hopefully the answer isn't as depressing as the song by Mumford & Sons, but even if it is, it's ok, we're going to work on making your finances better over the next twelve months. But we can't figure out where you're going financially until we know where you are now.

So, this first month, I'm going to ask you to assess your current financial situation. This is going to be a deep dive into your finances and it may be painful, but it's the first step in a twelve step process that should get you on the path to a more secure financial future. 

So go get all your papers together or get another tab open on your browser and start finding all the information. Don't worry you have a whole month to do this! That should be plenty of time. But don't procrastinate, better to buckle down and get it done in one sitting.

I'm going to include a spreadsheet for each month's task to help you capture all the information you need to capture and so you can use that spreadsheet as a tool for improving your finances all along this 12 month journey.

For those that aren't that comfortable with spreadsheets, or even if you are, I'll also be helping you capture the information by just talking you through everything you need to do.

So, "Where are you now?" or "Assess your current financial situation", really boils down to, what is your current net worth, what is your net cash flow situation and what is your credit score... 

Net worth is a very easy formula...

ASSETS - LIABILITIES = NET WORTH

Net cash flow is also a very easy formula...

CASH IN - CASH OUT = NET CASH FLOW

Credit score can be figured out by using a credit score service to see where your rating currently is, that will be your...

CREDIT SCORE

So let's figure out the first bit of your MONTH 1 task...

Mumford & Sons ask, "Where are you now?"

ASSETS

Assets are anything you own that have a value. For the purpose of this financial exercise, I'm going to leave out things like carpets, chairs, spoons, and old CDs. Unless you are a collector of vintage items that you know you can sell profitably, let's stick to the basics. 

REAL ESTATE - Do you own any real estate? If so what is each property currently valued at? Ignore any mortgages for now, we'll get to that later. Just figure out what the price would be if someone were to buy it from you. Do you have any properties that are rented out either on a monthly lease or through a service like AirBNB? If so total your monthly rents received. And as a bonus question, at what rate has each property been appreciating or depreciating at for the last year? Write it all down or put it in the spreadsheet.

STOCK PORTFOLIO - Do you own any stocks? If so, what is your entire portfolio worth? It can be stocks in your registered accounts, registered education accounts for the kids, unregistered accounts... what is the total value? Do you know what your % gains have been on average over the past 5 years, if so keep that amount handy for later on? Do you know what dividends or distributions you get each year in total, if so keep that dividend amount handy for later on? Write down your total stock portfolio value or put it in the spreadsheet.

BOND PORTFOLIO - Bond, Any Bond... hopefully 007 music is playing in your head now, it's the only way to make bonds more interesting for me anyway. Total all your holdings of bonds and also make note of the average interest rate you are getting on your bonds. Write it all down or put it in the spreadsheet.

PENSION - Do you have a pension? Congrats if you do, very few have one. If you have one, write down the current value of the pension or put it in the spreadsheet.

INSURANCE PLAN SAVINGS - Do you have an insurance plan that goes beyond term insurance and provides you with a savings/investment amount? Write it all down or put it in the spreadsheet.

ANNUITY - Did you buy an annuity that gives you a fixed amount of cash on a regular basis? How much did you put in the annuity? Write it all down or put it in the spreadsheet.

SAVINGS - Do you have cash sitting in a chequing account? Sitting in your investing account? Saved in a high interest savings account? Saved in a GIC? Saved in a vault in your home? In your mattress? Lying around your house? Write down how much you have or put it in the spreadsheet. If you have it in a high interest account or GIC make a note of how much interest you are getting on it. 

​PRECIOUS METALS - Do you have any gold, silver, copper, lithium, plutonium (apparently available in your local drug store since 1985 according to Doc Brown)?? Write it down or put it in the spreadsheet.

VEHICLES (including boats, airplanes, RVs) - What is the remaining value of any vehicles you own, remember the value is best described as what you could sell the thing for... looking on Autotrader can give you a very accurate idea of what your vehicle is selling for.

COLLECTORS ITEMS OF VALUE - Let's not waste your time writing down things that you won't get more than a few bucks for, but if you have collectors items of real value that you could get significant sums of money for like a painting by Picasso or a mint condition comic book that people are willing to pay a lot of money for, write that down and put it in ths spreadsheet.

OTHER - Any other things that you consider assets that I didn't include in the list. Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

TOTAL ASSETS - Ok total all that up. That's your total assets! Take a moment... enjoy this moment... it feels good to look at asset totals. 


​Ok, that's enough... that was the good news part of this exercise, now get ready for the bad news...

Doc Brown discusses plutonium

LIABILITIES

Liabilities are debts, or money owed to someone that isn't you. For now I'll leave out the small little things like maybe you owe someone coffee next time you see them because it's your turn to treat or maybe you lost a five dollar bet, or you said something at exactly the same time as someone else and they said "jinx! owe me a coke!" before you were able to say it. Ok, I've made this part of the exercise as light as I possibly can... ahhh forget it, let's just dive in and do the painful work of figuring out your liabilities.

We are going to capture everything you owe and the interest rate on those debts, loans and liabilties.

MORTGAGES AND HELOCS - Remember earlier when I said ignore mortgages, well we can ignore it no more. Collect all the information on all the mortgages you have, totalling the current amount owing on all your mortgages. Also capture what the interest rate is on your mortgage. Do you also have a HELOC (home equity line of credit)? Write down that loan amount as well, and the interest rate on your HELOC. Write it all down or put it in the spreadsheet.

MARGIN ACCOUNTS - If you don't know what a margin account is, consider yourself lucky. It's loans you take on stocks you own, to invest using leverage (none but the most experienced professionals should ever do this, so hopefully you haven't done this). If you are using margin, write down what amount you have borrowed to invest and write down what interest rate you are being charged. Put it in the spreadsheet.

LINE OF CREDIT - Have you taken out a line of credit? How much have you borrowed on your line of credit? What is the interest rate being charged? Put it in the spreadsheet.

CAR LOANS (and any loans on boats, airplanes, RVs) - How much do you owe on any and all vehicles and what is the interest rate being charged? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

CREDIT CARDS - Find every single credit card you have, bank credit card, department store credit card, and any other credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, whatever it may be, even your work credit card (there are those of you who don't get your paperwork done in time and wind up paying personally for interest or fees for no reason!). Write down every single dollar you have as a balance owing on your credit cards and capture for each card what your interest rate is on each credit card for later. Put it in the spreadsheet.

STUDENT LOANS - I know I've been there. What do you owe for having invested in your education? Write down the current amounts owing on all your student loans and capture the interest rate you are being charged. Put it in the spreadsheet.

TAXES OWING - Do you owe taxes to the government? Hopefully you haven't buried your head in the sand and are actually in communication with the government to work out a payment plan with them. If you owe taxes, write down the total amount owing (don't worry about what you're going to owe when you file your 2018 taxes, I'm talking about back taxes owed). If you are being charged interest on those taxes, write that down too. Put it in the spreadsheet.

LAYAWAY PLANS OWING - Are you buying something on layaway? Write down what you owe.

PAY LATER PURCHASES OWING - Did you buy a bunch of things like furniture or electronics where you don't pay now, you pay later? What do you owe for all those purchases? How much are you on the hook for? Write it all down. What is the interest rate going to be? Put it all in the spreadsheet.

HEALTH BILLS OWING - Do you owe anyone for any health related bills, dental bills, ambulatory bills, hospital bills? What interest are you being charged? Write it all down and put it in the spreadsheet.

RRSP LOANS - Did you borrow from yourself and the government has a plan to make you pay yourself back? Write down what you owe and what interest rate you have to pay.

SPOUSAL LOAN - Did you do some tax efficient planning and give a spousal loan so your partner could invest and be taxed at a lower rate than you, well it's still a loan, so how much is it and what is the nominal interest rate being charged to make it legitimate for your revenue agency? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.


PAST DUE BILLS - Do you owe money to any cable, electric, water, heat, cell phone, internet service companies? I'm not talking about your monthly current bill, I'm talking about past due bills that you still need to pay but haven't yet. How much do you owe and what is the interest rate being charged on your past due bills? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

OTHER DEBTS/LOANS/CREDIT/LIABILITIES - Ok, anything else I haven't covered that you owe to anyone. What do you owe and what is the interest rate? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

TOTAL LIABILITIES - Ok total all that up. That's your total liabilities! Take a moment... endure this moment... it feels terrible to look at total liabilities. (Unless you don't have any in which case it feels great.) But it's worth really looking at your liabilities. Some of you may have made good decisions on your liabilities, some of you may have made bad decisions on your liabilities, some may have a mix, but either way, really look at your liabilities long enough to let it make you start questioning how you're spending your money, and whether you've been spending it wisely. Remember this exercise is about getting you on a better financial path. Doing that will have some painful moments like examining your decision making process when it comes to taking on liabilities.

​Ok, that's enough... that was the bad news part of this exercise, now get ready for the result...


NET WORTH

Well I shared the equation earlier:

ASSETS - LIABILITIES = NET WORTH

So earlier you totalled your assets and then you totalled your liabilities. So, do the math, subtract your liabilities from your assets. The number you see in front of you once you do that is your current net worth.

What does it mean? Well that's what you are worth financially today. Knowing that number can be of some use. You can use it to see how you're doing relative to other people. 

Statistics Canada provides the median net worth for economic families and persons not in an economic family in Canada in 2016, which was $295,100. Based on the age of the major income recipient the median net worths by age were:

under 35: $35,200
35 - 44: $219,600
45 - 54: $432,100
55 - 64: $669,500
65 and older: $517,100

Another way to look at the data for Canada, is the median net worth by quintile (or dividing everyone into 5 groups)...

Lowest quintile - $2,500
2nd quintile - $70,600
3rd quintile - $295,100
4th quintile - $687,000
Highest quintile - $1,650,000

How does your net worth compare? Do you feel good about where you are relative to others in Canada? Do you think you have room for improvement?

Are you living in the US? How does your net worth compare with the networth of Americans? 

The net worth of Americans at the following percentiles in 2016 was:

10% - $962
25% - $10,243
50% - $97,226
75% - $369,514
90% - $1,182,390
95% - $2,377,985
99% - $10,374,030

As an American how does your net worth compare? Are you happy with your net worth? Is there room for improvement?

Well we are done with the first major part of  figuring out "Where are you now?". It's a good a time as any for you to take a break and get a coffee or something stronger. Rise and stretch, but come back... we are about to dive into figuring out your cash flow situation next!

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​​​CASH IN

This one is relatively easy. What are your sources of cash coming in? Maybe you work just one job and that's it for sources of income. Maybe you have multiple jobs as sources of income. Maybe you have a job and real estate investments. Maybe you have dividend income. Let's capture all the various sources of income you have and write it down.

EMPLOYMENT INCOME - This could be from one job or several where someone pays you for your work. Let's only write down take home pay after all taxes, employment insurance and other government fees are taken out... what is your annual take home pay from all your jobs including bonuses, stock grants and company match for retirement savings? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

SIDE GIGS - Anything you do on your own that you don't consider employment income that gets more money in the door for you, maybe you drive Uber, maybe you deliver food, maybe you tutor, perhaps you run a daycare business on the side, maybe you run a blog, Instagram account or a YouTube channel that gives you income from ads or for services or products you sell or recommend. What is your take home pay from all those side gigs in a year? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS - What rent do you get coming in from tenants or people using services like AirBNB? What is your annual total of rents collected? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

STOCK TRADING - If you stock trade, chances are your number is very volatile, look back three years and see what your average gains are from stock trading in one year. Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

DIVIDENDS and DISTRIBUTIONS - What dividends or distributions do you get in a year from stocks and investments you hold? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.


INTEREST - Do you have money put away in a high savings interest account or a GIC? What interest do you earn on your money in a year? Do you lend money to others (maybe a spousal loan) and get interest paid to you on the loans you make to others? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

SMALL BUSINESS - Do you run a small business? What income do you take out of the business each year, either paid to you as a salary, or drawn as dividends or any other form of withdrawal from the business and into your personal account or hands? What is the total you take out of the business in a year? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

TAX REFUND - Do you tend to get a regularly occuring tax refund every year? What is the average refund you get per year? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

CRYPTO TRADING - If you are fortunate enough to have not lost money in crypto and have traded crypto and actually wound up with a gain, how much of a gain did you make in the last year? Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

OTHER CASH SOURCES - Ok, are there any other sources of cash that you have that I haven't covered that you get? Perhaps alimony payments, child support payments, regular gifts of cash from relatives? Anything I haven't already considered, add it all here. What other cash do you receive in a year. Write it down and put it in the spreadsheet.

TOTAL CASH IN - Add up all those different sources of cash in and you have your total annual cash in. Enjoy this number. Look at it for a while. Bask in it. Ahhh... feels good right? 

Ok that's enough of that good feeling... now we look at your cash out! 

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CASH OUT

This one may take a little more work. Where does all your money go? And how much of it goes away every year? You can go through your old bank statements and figure it out. It will take some time if you aren't using a spending tracking app or if you aren't tracking your spend on a daily basis. I'll help you figure it out by giving you some spend categories to look at but hopefully you can go through all your credit card statements and bank accounts and come up with an accurate number for your cash out in a year. Most people underestimate it by a lot. So if you're going to focus on working hard anywhere in this exercise, this is where the hard work is required.

I'm just going to list all the categories of spend where your money might be going. You think about each category, collect as much information as you can and be as honest as you can on your annual spend and write it down and put it in the spreadsheet. Remember, we are looking to write down the annual spend in each category.

SAVINGS - how much cash are you putting into a savings account whether high interest savings or GIC?
INVESTING - how much cash are you putting into investment accounts, whether registered or not whether in ETFs, stocks, bonds, mutual funds or other investments?
CHILD'S EDUCATION SAVINGS - what are you putting into an RESP or your child's education savings plan

MORTGAGE PAYMENTS  - For all real estate you own
RENT - what do you pay if you rent where you live
HOME EQUITY LINE OF CREDIT PAYMENTS - what do you pay annually on your HELOC?
MAINTENANCE FEES or COSTS - For all real estate you own, including repairs, services for lawn mowing or snow clearing, plumbers, electricians, any maintenance spend
REAL ESTATE INSURANCE - For rentals you own and primary residence you live in
RENTAL INSURANCE - if you rent where you live
REAL ESTATE UTILITIES - Electric, heat, oil, water, etc for primary residence and rental if you pay the utilities on the rental
CABLE INTERNET HOME PHONE CELL PHONE BILLS
OTHER VIDEO SERVICES - Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple iTunes, Video on Demand through your cable provider
PROPERTY TAX - On all owned properties
LINE OF CREDIT PAYMENTS - what do you pay annually on your line of credit?
CREDIT CARDS PAYMENTS - what do you pay annually on all your credit card debt? How does that compare to the interest you're being charged on all your credit card debt?
STUDENT LOANS PAYMENTS - what do you pay annually on your student loans?
MARGIN ACCOUNTS - what do you pay annually on your margin accounts?
TAXES OWING PAID - what do you pay annually for taxes owing both from previous years and if you usually wind up owing more taxes each year at filing time, the average annual amount you owe at filing as well
GROCERIES AND HOUSE SUPPLIES - everything from food to cleaning supplies
YARD, GARDENING, TOOLS AND HARDWARE - lawn mowers, shovels, salt if you experience winter, plants if you plant them, hedge trimmers, yard gloves, yard waste bags

HOME DECOR AND FURNITURE - everything from a soap dish, to dishes, pots and pans, tea towels, chairs, sofas, wardrobes, desks, lamps, you name it...
CAR PAYMENTS - Whether leased or financed, or if you bought outright divide what you paid by the number of years you think you will keep the car, that's your annual payment
CAR MAINTENANCE - What does your car usually cost you to keep it running in terms of gas, oil changes, tires, car washes, windshield fluid, repairs, mechanic bills, registration fees, licensing fees, SIRIUS satellite radio subscription?
CAR INSURANCE 
ALL OTHER INSURANCE - Life, health, dental, pet, disability, etc...
PET CARE - pet food, pet toys, dog walking services, pet grooming, veterinarian costs, horse costs, pet kennels for when you go on vacation without your pet, etc...
CLOTHING and ACCESSORIES - clothes, underwear, overcoats, gloves, hats, watches, Apple watches, Fitbits, jewelry, shoes, boots, wallets, belts, purses, sunglasses, clothes for you or anyone else you buy for... if you wear it include it here
COSMETICS, TOILETRIES, PERFUMES - men and women, hair product, shampoo, gels, conditioners, hairspray, make up, deodorants, razors, shaving creams, skin care products, Q-tips, cotton balls, eyelash curlers, hairbrushes, toothpaste, etc...
BOOKS, MAGAZINES - in print or electronic
ALCOHOL - wine, beer, vodka, rum, whisky, bourbon, scotch, ciders, coolers, anything with alcohol in it
CIGARETTES AND VAPE - any tobacco products whatsoever, cigars, cigarettes, vape products
MARIJUANA - the kind you smoke, or eat, or drink or vape, any marijuana at all
VACATIONS and STAYCATIONS - road trips, package deals, flights to anywhere, train trips, hotel stays, entire spend while on vacation, every meal while on vacation, every entrance fee, vacations you buy for relatives so they can join you on vacation, local events where you spend money, etc...
GIFTS AND SPECIAL OCCASSIONS - people underestimate this category so much that I've created an entirely separate exercise for figuring out what you spend on gifts and special occassions in a year, so go and do this exercise for figuring out what you spend on gifts in a year and then come back and report how much you spend here.
CLEANING SERVICES - Do you pay someone to clean your house?
DAYCARE, PRE-SCHOOL, PRIVATE SCHOOL, AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS, BABY SITTING, NANNY - What do you spend to have someone provide care for your child or children?
DINING OUT AND ORDERING IN- Anything you consume outside of the home, coffee, croissants, donuts, bagel sandwich, ice cream on a summer day, brunch with friends, lunch at work, dinners out, popcorn at the theatre, and food delivered to your house whether its pizza or your favourite Thai food
MOVIES, SPORTING EVENTS, LIVE MUSIC, PLAYS, MAGICIANS, DEBATES, MUSICALS, OPERAS, BALLET, SYMPHONY - Anything where you pay to sit and watch other people do things, capture it here
ACTIVITIES - anything where you pay in order for you to be active... snowboarding, skiing, curling, tennis clubs, gym memberships, golf club fees or green fees, kids gymnastics, kids hockey, kids any sport where you pay something for them to play, yoga classes, dance classes, archery classes, painting classes, pottery classes, acting classes, guitar lesson, swimming lessons, anything at all where you pay to play... capture it here
SPORTS EQUIPMENT - whether you buy or rent, hockey gear, skates, sticks, snowboarding gear, skiing gear, horse riding gear, new tennis balls, new racquets, yoga mats, weights, exercise machines, bicycles, stationary cycles, etc. capture it here
PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP FEES AND DUES - do you work in a profession where you need to pay an annual fee to belong to a board or society or college of practitioners? Is there an insurance you have to pay to protect yourself from lawsuits? capture it here
ELECTRONICS - cameras, desktop and laptop computers, TV, stereo, sound bars, smartphones, smart watches, wifi hubs, smart speakers like Amazon Echo, or the Google or Apple equivalents, Ring for monitoring your door, Nest for monitoring your home temperature, kitchen appliances, etc...
MUSIC EQUIPMENT - guitars, pianos, saxophones, violins, drums, and all the lessons that go along with them, and music sheets you pay for
ART AND CRAFTS - knitting, painting, wood working, metallurgy, jewelry making, dark room photography, digital photography, anything you spend on to be creative
TRANSPORTATION - parking fees, transit, Uber, taxi's to the airport or around town, parking tickets, speeding tickets, other fines
LEGAL FEES - any time you need a lawyer, you're going to spend money, capture that spend
MEDICAL, OPTOMETRIST, DENTIST AND ORTHODONTIST -any spend on any of these categories for you or family members that isn't covered by insurance
DRUGS OVER THE COUNTER OR PRESCRIPTION - everything from Aspirin to Xanax (basically any drug you spend money on...)
PERSONAL CARE - haircuts, massages, accupuncture, chiropractor, physiotherapy, psychologist, personal trainer, counsellor, nail salon, dietician, and personal care supplies and devices, etc...
​TUITION AND BOOKS - If you're a student what are you paying to attend your educational facility? If you're paying for your child's education capture it here.
SMALL BUSINESS EXPENSES - How much money do you keep putting into your small business every year?
SUPPORTING OTHERS - How much money are you giving to others to help support them, perhaps elderly parents in need, perhaps other family members or friends in need?
DONATIONS - How much money are you giving to charity every year?
OTHER CASH OUT - Ok anything that I haven't considered in terms of cash leaving your wallet, include it here, anything at all.

TOTAL CASH OUT - Add up all those different outflows of cash and you have your total annual cash out. Endure this number. Look at it for a while. Think about it. How do you feel about this number? Are you putting your money where you want to be putting it? Are you making the best use of your cash? Have you seen cash go to categories that you didn't realize it was going to or the extent of how much was going there? 

Ok that's enough of that sobering feeling... now we look at your net cash flow.
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NET CASH FLOW

After that grueling exercise you just went through. This part is easy. Take your annual CASH IN and subtract your annual CASH OUT... the number you are left with is your NET CASH FLOW.

If the number is positive then you've at least got that to be happy about, though in future months we will look at whether we have room to optimize your CASH IN and your CASH OUT. If the number is negative, we have a problem.

But don't worry. This first month isn't about tackling the problems. That will come in later months. For now, we wanted to get a very strong understanding of "Where are you now?".

If you get to a zero net cash flow and you're maxing out your saving, investing and putting away for your child's education savings, then you're doing alright. If you have positive net cash flow, maybe you can increase the amount you're saving, investing or putting away for your child's education.

So with a detailed understanding of your net worth, and a detailed understanding of your net cash flow, we are almost done. There is just one last status check to complete the first month task of determining "Where are you now?".

The last thing to check, is your credit score.
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CREDIT SCORE

Your credit score and credit report can have a tremendous impact on your life. Banks use your credit report to decide whether to lend to you and what interest rate to set, landlords use it to decide whether to rent to you, insurers use it to set your rates, and employers use it to decide whether or not to hire you. As a result, it's in your best interest to know what your credit report says about you and to know what your credit score is. Sometimes errors can creep into your credit report affecting your credit score, so making sure it's an accurate reflection of your actual status is beneficial to you. It can also be an early warning system if someone tries to open a credit card or a loan under your name, and so being aware your credit report can also give you some peace of mind when it comes to identity theft.

So make sure you get your hands and eyes on your credit score and your credit report to check not only the accuracy of it, but to see where you might need to make improvements to help yourself get to a better score. As you start on this journey of improving your financial situation, knowing where your credit score was at the beginning will give you a good baseline to compare against as you start advancing in your journey.

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WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

I've included the "SmarterSquirrel 12 Month Plan: Month 1 - Where Are You Now?" Excel spreadsheet below to help you enter and track all the information. Click the link below to download it and fill it out. If you have any questions, just email me at [email protected] 

Are you done all the work in the spreadsheet? Don't forget to save a copy for yourself. Congratulations... you've completed your task for Month 1. Make sure you come back at the first of every month to get your next monthly task on the 12 Months to Improve Your Finances Journey!

Continue on to the Month 2 step on the SmarterSquirrel 12 Month Plan to Improve Your Finances: Month 2 - How much do you need to retire?

For Month 3 - Pour More Into Your Bucket... Click here

Be a SmarterSquirrel... Save. Invest. Enjoy!


​Remember to sign up for the SmarterSquirrel Monthly Newsletter and to follow me on Twitter so you get updates when I publish a new blog, a new step on the 12 month plan, or when I add stocks to the SmarterSquirrel Mock Portfolio.



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SmarterSquirrel 12 Month Plan: Month 1 - Where Are You Now?
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Lessons Learned:
  • In 12 months, we can get you headed towards improving your financial situation
  • Month 1 is focused on understanding "Where are you now?"
  • What are your assets?
  • What are your liabilities?
  • What is your net worth?
  • How much cash comes in every year?
  • How much cash goes out every year?
  • What is your net cash flow for the year?
  • What is your credit score?
  • Knowing the answer to all those questions allows you to have a detailed understanding of where you are now on your financial journey and allows you to establish a baseline to compare with as you move forward in improving your financial situation
  • Come back the first of every month for the next step in the SmarterSquirrel 12 Months to Improve Your Finances Journey

Read these SmarterSquirrel investing ideas...

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