Financial Budgets And Your Retirement Plan

Budgets can be a hassle. I haven’t met anyone yet who loves to sit down on a Friday evening and sort out his or her budget before the weekend.  No matter how annoying or boring budgets may be they are a necessary evil.

These days we have many options to manage our money, make financial goals, and make sure we stay within our means. For the last several years computers have been helping people and businesses manage their money. The most flexible and reliable program out there is Microsoft Excel.

There are many programs to help you manage your finances but Excel has been there since the beginning. If you can find a quality spread sheet then you will be equipped with the tools you need to track your money effectively.

After trying several spreadsheets out I couldn’t find one that had everything I wanted. The best thing about Excel is the freedom and flexibility to making something from scratch. However, this is also the worst thing about finding an Excel spreadsheet to help you manage your money because you never know what you’re going to get when you try out a new template.

Since I couldn’t find what I wanted I went out and made it. I’ve looked at several spreadsheets. Many of them were ugly, had bad directions, or didn’t help me visualize where my money should be going. After looking at all the pros and cons I’ve decided to base my spreadsheet on MONEY magazines paycheck pay out percentages. MONEY magazine has a paycheck break down, which you can see here.

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Automobiles
  • Debt
  • Savings
  • Clothing/Shopping
  • Entertainment
  • Personal/Misc.

The spreadsheet I created has this breakdown presented in a pie chart. Everyone has a different story though, so MONEY’s recommendations are just that, recommendations. So that is why I made another pie chart for you. You can move the percents around a little bit to best fit your lifestyle but don’t stray to far from the recommendations. Try to stay within 5-10% in each category if you can. I like the percentage breakdowns because percentages don’t care how much money you make and thus they apply to everyone. As you get promotions and raises in the future the percentage goals you’ve made won’t change, just the amount next to the dollar sign.

After you make your own pie chart some of the numbers on tab two automatically get filled in for you. The second tab is a more zoomed in look at each category. The categories MONEY came up with are pretty broad and tab two breaks them down. Tab two allows you to see from month to month if you are on budget in each category.

This is a pretty simple spreadsheet. It doesn’t get into a lot of messy stuff like taxes and such. This is a basic approach to seeing where you want you money to go and tracking it to see if you are on budget.

This budget spreadsheet works for me but I want to know what you think. Drop me an email or comment if it works for you or if you have any suggestions.

If you prefer new school technology to set a budget then I’ve got a post for that too.
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The Dow Jones Takes A Dive

With the Dow Jones Index currently around 6700 points today, its lowest point in nearly 12 years, I hate to say “I TOLD YOU SO!”Oops, I guess I just did.

However, although I am not a big fan of investing money in mutual fund-based investments, like 401(k)’s, IRA’s, etc, I NEVER want people to suffer heavy losses that compels them to wake up and listen to what we are teaching. Nevertheless, loss does cause us to question our assumptions and explore new, and more effective, possibilities.

I had several clients last year (when the Dow was around 11,000) ask me about what I felt the market would do. I told each one of them that even though it seems irrational (at that time), expect the Dow to tank somewhere near 6000, and quite possibly lower because a Depression IS coming. Some took action while others did not. The ones that took action, even when it hovered around 8500, are smiling much bigger now that they took their own initiative to reallocate to safer funds.

For those that still question whether to get out or what to do, I will have you answer the following questions so you can decide for yourself:

  1. Do you KNOW what the market will do next?
  2. Do you keep hearing financial “experts” telling you to stay in for the long haul, although the long haul seems to be getting longer?
  3. Can you make the markets go up?
  4. Are you only investing in these because someone, like a financial planner or HR representative at your company, told you it was a “wise” thing to do?
  5. Will these vehicles REALLY help you retire well?Watch “The Retirement Titanic.”
  6. Are you “in the dark” about what is the best investment for you?

You are not alone if you couldn’t answer these confidently. Will you wait for it to drop further before you do something? If you have more questions, feel free to comment, email me, or Dale, at or