Financial Wellness, Our Only Hope to Financial Wellbieng

Why only now?

As a major driver of economic activity across the world, in any industry, culture, race or nation, money as an incentive for work done or any other transaction has only been seen as a trading tool replacing the ancient batter trade. Many studies available on personal finance have neglected what is now being revealed as the most critical character of money. That is, its ability to influence people’s emotions. It is true that money is used for trading, but that is a very narrow and limited definition. It’s like defining what a car can do, without paying any attention that for the car to do what it does there should be a well trained driver, who is very sober, knows, understands and complies with the rules of the road. A car in wrong hands can kill and destroy. The same can be said that money in wrong hands can both kill dreams and destroy families. You need only look at the global household debt levels, and gigantic companies and governments that are being destroyed by greedy individuals, whose emotional needs for money has overtaken their conscious and sometimes moral compasses.

Is there a need?

The recent 2008 – 2009 global economic crisis has become our perfect reference, that when emotions kick in, the entire rationality flies off the window. It is seen by economic experts as the worst economic downfall since the Great Depression of the 1930′s and was triggered by three major emotional factors, and that is Greed, Fear and Irresponsibility or lack of discipline. According to his June 2008 speech, President and CEO of the New York Federal Reserve William C Dudley blamed the US shadow banking system and the trading of toxic assets backed by ghost money for the crisis. It wouldn’t have been possible without the superficial lifestyle and instant gratification culture of the average American consumer.

A close analysis of the situation above can be downscaled in simple terms to our daily personal lives. The US is known for its Super Power, and “Greed is good” culture. And to many, this economic bubble burst was no surprise at all. If a country has an unconscious, and unspoken egoistic believe system that becomes a frame of reference for most citizens, it goes to prove that there are indeed money personalities that are mostly influenced by our environments, whether internal or external. Like any other believes that affect many adults, they are inherited from parents or the societal influence during the person’s upbringing.

Financial wellness is therefore a holistic approach into personal financial management. It is a combination of behavioral finance, a highly specialized study discipline that has existed for decades and is based on an understanding that people are emotional beings and trying to predict or justify their actions with financial scientific models is futile without taking their emotional influences into consideration, and financial planning which only looks at the financial needs of the individual, and recommends strategies and products to best fulfill these needs. This study was only limited on studying investment behavior trends in financial markets, and only until recently was never brought to the professional personal financial planning level.

What is the difference?

The difference between traditional financial planning, and financial wellness, is that in financial wellness the individual becomes the centre of the exercise, not the product, or the financial advisors anxiety or ambitions to meet sales target. It’s not about determining whether the product fits your needs, but about first understanding your needs holistically, drawing a path, and then devising a strategy (Unique portfolio) made out of one or different products that can best achieve those goals. Financial advisors were not trained to provide financial counseling that is why the onus of ensuring that the core financial needs are met lies with the individual. Financial wellness must remain independent, equipping the client, with the knowledge and tools to make objective plans and decisions, to understand both their emotional and intellectual states in relation to their financial needs and goals.

In simple terms, what does it mean for me?

The holistic financial wellness approach seeks to answer age old unanswered questions into wealth and happiness. Like how much is enough? Now people will be able to truthfully put money where it belongs on their hierarchy of priorities, without any fear or guilt that they might not be doing enough to secure a better future. Financial wellness has opened a window of hope for anyone willing, to have a balanced family, social, and career life.

Federal Financial Aid – Tips for Filing for FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most critical financial aid forms a student will have to complete. The FAFSA determines how much federal aid a student is eligible to receive (in the form of grants or loans) based on U.S. Department of Education guidelines. Filling out the form is much like filling out a bank loan application since you must include information on family assets income.

It is easier to file the financial aid application once parents have completed their taxes, however, the FAFSA can be filed using the best estimate of your prior year’s income. The state in which a student resides and their choice of school and academic standing are components which contribute to the total amount of aid a student will receive in the form of scholarships, grants and loans. It is important for students to understand that the chances of receiving federal aid are directly related to filing the FAFSA on time and the financial strength of their family.

The FAFSA measures your family’s expected contribution toward the cost of your education and, as such, a bit of planning prior to preparing the FAFSA can help you save thousands of dollars toward the cost of a college or technical education. Following are strategies FAFSA filers should investigate to reduce cash assets and lower reported income:

  • Prepay state taxes by December 31. Paying a due amount by December 31 will reduce your cash assets and entitle you to an additional deduction on your tax return.
  • Maximize retirement saving contributions.
  • Make charitable donations.
  • Contribute to a Health and Dependant Savings Account (flex spending). Flex contributions are deducted from your gross income which greatly reduces the amount of income you report to the IRS.
  • Make purchases before the end of the year such as a qualified energy efficiency improvement to your primary residence by December 31. This will reduce the amount of cash you have on hand and, under the Energy Policy Act, you may get a tidy tax credit.
  • Pay off loans. Make an extra payment toward the principal amount of your home loan. You will pay less interest and build a nest egg in the form of home equity.
  • Pay off bills. Paying for services upfront reduces cash assets and may entitle you to a discount, such as receiving rebates from an automotive insurance provider by paying for the year in full.
  • Sell bad investments by December 31 to offset capital gains.

Since funding is on a first come, first serve basis, be sure to file your FAFSA the second you are eligible on January 1. Doing so will increase your odds of getting federal aid and you may actually receive more financial assistance because the money pool has not been diminished. Don’t attempt to file the FAFSA prior to January 1 because the application will not be processed.