I Have 3 Kids and Too Many Expenses To Track—I Want To Feel on Top of My Finances

Photo: Getty Images/Marc Romanelli
So you want to have a healthy relationship with your finances and prepare for retirement, but you’re not sure where to start or how to get there. With Money Talks, three people in different life stages outline their experience of working with a financial professional for the very first time. As it turns out, it’s never too early or late to chat through your goals with someone who can help.

Before meeting with a financial professional to talk through money roadblocks and goals, it's key to get clear on where you are currently and where you ideally want to be. Here, meet one of the three participants ahead of her conversation with the pros, and learn about her specific background and money intentions.

About me: I'm a 45-year-old educational leader in Columbus, OH, and I'm married with three kids. My partner and I share money, but we receive no other external financial support. My current relationship with my finances is avoidance until that's no longer a choice. I'd like to get a better handle on what my financial situation looks like period so that I can feel empowered rather than anxious and unsure about the choices I make. Learning how to track my expenses better will hopefully help me know I'm saving smartly while also living a lifestyle that affords me the ability to enjoy my family and our life.

Household income range: $215,000–$540,000

What are your regular monthly expenses?

Between food, clothing, and just general living expenses associated with having a family of five, we have a long list of monthly expenses that come out of the income we bring in. Here are our biggest expenses—though, rest assured, the others do add up:

Mortgage: $5,000

Direct deposit to emergency savings: $1,000

Direct deposit to kids' college funds: $450 each ($1,350 total)

Automatic withdrawal into 403(b): 6 percent of paycheck

What are your short-term financial goals?

I would love to learn how to better track my expenses so I can grasp where the money is going. In considering the previous question about simply listing my monthly expenses, I realize that having a greater awareness of my expenses might benefit the way I approach establishing a sense of financial health. I'd like to come from a place of knowledge about where I  stand financially.

I would love to learn how to better track my expenses, so I can grasp where the money is going.

I'd also like to increase my savings for quality-of-life categories—vacation!—and, in general, increase my sense of financial flexibility and decrease anxiety I feel around money.

What are your long-term financial goals?

I'd like to leave my kids as much as possible. (Is it possible to start a cycle of generational wealth, and am I too late?) I would also settle for ensuring that I don't leave my kids saddled with any debt.

I would also like to be able to afford to take one or two big trips per year.

What are the barriers in the way of you achieving your financial goals?

My biggest financial barrier may well be my own limited thinking—it's something I'm working to change, and I'd appreciate tips here. I also am known to purchase things I don't need but want. Is there a school of thought on shiny things and how they factor into a person's budget without derailing any financial goals?

I also believe I have an income ceiling in my current role—it's something I'm working on.

What do you consider your biggest challenges when it comes to managing your financial wellness?

I have a strained relationship with money that I'd probably call unhealthy. I find myself completely avoiding financial matters until I'm forced to confront them. I don't think this is the best way to go about things—it certainly doesn't make me feel empowered.

What is your current strategy for retirement planning?

I contribute 7 percent of my pay per month to a retirement account, but I know it's not enough.

How do you feel about retirement?

My general feelings is a combination of head-in-the-sand, deer-in-the-headlights. I'm cautiously optimistic that I can still get my act together to make a solid plan that will allow me to enjoy some high-quality post-work years. I just need to take some actionable steps to make it feel doable while I navigate my set family expenses and lifestyle.

Have you ever worked with a financial professional? No.

What emotion does talking about finances evoke for you? What emotion would you like to feel surrounding your relationship with your finances?

Great question! I would love to feel knowledgeable, empowered, clear, peaceful, purposeful, confident, and proud. At present, I lean more toward… icky?

Describe your relationship with your finances as it currently stands as well as historically.

I’m a lot less secure with my finances than I’d like to be, and that has been a pretty consistent theme for as long as I can remember.

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