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    Start Your Financial Plan with The Sound of Music

    By Brandon Miller, CFP–

    December and the end of the year may have you thinking about getting your finances in order. My thoughts, however, drift to … the annual airing of The Sound of Music. I can’t help it; I love that movie. I still hold my breath when the von Trapps are hiding in the convent cemetery. And I still feel a pang of betrayal when Rolf literally blows the whistle on them. How could someone so handsome be so cruel?

    Before I go too far down lederhosen lane, let’s get back to putting your finances in order. Financial planning can be somewhat intimidating, and especially if your wealth doesn’t justify a full-service financial advisor. Luckily, there are other options. Lots of companies are democratizing financial planning and how advice is delivered.

    And every one of these options has the same starting point. So, in the words of Julie Andrews as she’s teaching the Captain’s children to sing, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

    Cash flow is where it all begins.

    If you don’t know where you are, how can you move forward? Start by figuring out the money that moves through your hands each month. How much is coming in, how much is going out and how much—if any—do you have left over? Cash flow is so basic that many people overlook it, but being in the dark means you have no idea how much you have to invest or how deep a hole you’re digging.

    If you’re racking up debt faster than savings, you’ll obviously need to make changes in your spending habits, get a second or better-paying job, or find a sugar daddy or mama. That also applies if you’re saving, but at a rate that will require three lifetimes before you have enough.

    There are lots of online tools that can help you to figure out your cash flow and take control of your budget. Perhaps start your quest at your current bank, where they may have online cash-flow tools. A budgeting tool I like is Mvelopes, an updated strategy from our great-grandparents, that uses digital envelopes and automatic transaction tracking to help you plan for and see where your money goes.

    Ready to invest? Move to Step 2.

    Create a plan with automated and/or human help.

    As I mentioned, this is a new era of democracy in financial planning. You can be as hands on—or off—as you want or your financial situation dictates.

    Your options now include:

    • Online tools and resources—Educating yourself about financial strategies is easier than ever with the internet at your fingertips. I particularly like Dinkytown ( https://www.dinkytown.net/ ), which has a gazillion calculators that let you easily perform what-if situations.
    • Robo-advisors—These focus on the numbers, not your life goals, but they can work fine for basic investment plans.
    • Hybrid solutions—Even established organizations are embracing some benefits of automated planning, and offer a robo-advice solution with the option for human oversight and input.
    • Advice by the hour—If you just want a one-time or sometimes relationship with a human advisor, paying only when you want advice may be a good option.
    • Full-service advisors—Yes, you’ll pay more. But you’ll also get help understanding the nuances of your goals, creating a plan customized to those goals, adapting to life’s changes, and keeping you disciplined and accountable.

    Implement your plan and stay on track.

    Once you have your financial roadmap, don’t neglect to actually follow it! Invest the amount you planned when and where you planned. Make it automatic so that you don’t have to remember each month.

    Two incredibly easy ways to start investing are:

    • Acorns—rounds up your transactions to an even amount, harvests that change and invests it for you.

                    https://www.acorns.com/

    • Stash—offers fractional shares so you can invest as little as $5 at a time in stocks, ETFs, and bonds.

                    https://stashinvest.com

    Now that you know some new options, I hope you don’t let another year end without getting your financial act together. Just follow the advice of the future Mrs. von Trapp (sorry, I should have given you a spoiler alert). Start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

    The opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. Brio does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always, please remember that investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital; please seek advice from a licensed professional.

    Brio Financial Group is a registered investment adviser. SEC Registration does not constitute an endorsement of Brio by the SEC nor does it indicate that Brio has attained a particular level of skill or ability. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Brio Financial Group and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Brio Financial Group unless a client service agreement is in place.

    Brandon Miller, CFP®, is a financial consultant at Brio Financial Group in San Francisco, specializing in helping LGBT individuals and families plan and achieve their financial goals.

     Published on December 5, 2019