The Best Way to Understand Personal Finance

When we are trying to understand Personal Finance, the best thing to do is to understand what Personal Finance is NOT.

Many people think that accounting and personal finance are the same, but Personal Finance is NOT Accounting.

On the surface they may seem the same; they both have something to do with money. However, the definitions will help us better understand the differences.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of accounting is “the system of recording and summarizing business and financial transactions and analyzing, verifying, and reporting the results.”

Based on this definition, we see that accounting is the process of analysing and recording what you have already done with your money.

This is why having an accountant is usually not enough when it comes to your personal finances.

Accountants generally don’t concern themselves with personal finance (there are some exceptions to this rule). Unless your accountant is also a financial advisor or coach, he or she will likely just look at what you have done with your money at the end of the year and provide you with a report of their analysis.

This report is usually your tax return; what you owe the government or what the government owes you.

Very rarely does the accountant provide an individual with a Balance Sheet or Income Statement or a Net worth statement; all very helpful tools that are necessary to effectively manage your personal finances.

Personal Finance is looking at your finances from a more pro-active and goal oriented perspective. This is what provides the accountants with something to record, verify and analyze.

The Merriam-Webster’s (Concise Encyclopedia) definition of “Finance” is the “process of raising funds or capital for any kind of expenditure. Consumers, business firms, and governments often do not have the funds they need to make purchases or conduct their operations, while savers and investors have funds that could earn interest or dividends if put to productive use. Finance is the process of channeling funds from savers to users in the form of credit, loans, or invested capital through agencies including COMMERCIAL BANKS, SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATIONS, and such nonbank organizations as CREDIT UNIONS and investment companies. Finance can be divided into three broad areas: BUSINESS FINANCE, PERSONAL FINANCE, and public finance. All three involve generating budgets and managing funds for the optimum results”.

Personal Finance Simplified

By understanding the definition of “finance” we can break our “personal finance” down into 3 simple activities:-

1. The process of raising funds or capital for any kind of expenditure = Generating an Income.
A Business gets money through the sale of their products and services. This is labeled “revenue” or “income”. Some businesses will also invest a portion of their revenue to generate more income (interest income).

A Person gets money through a job, or a small business (self employment, sole proprietorship, network marketing or other small business venture). The money coming in can be a salary, hourly wage, or commission, and is also referred to as income.

A Government gets money through taxes that we pay. This is one of the main ways that the government generates an income that is then used to build infrastructure like roads, bridges, schools, hospitals etc for our cities.

2. Using our money to make purchases = Spending Money.
How much we spend relative to how much we make is what makes the difference between having optimum results in our personal finances. Making good spending decisions is critical to achieving financial wealth – regardless of how much you make.

3. Getting optimum results = Keeping as much of our money as possible
It’s not how much you MAKE that matters – its how much you KEEP that really matters when it comes to your personal finances.

This is the part of personal finance that virtually everyone finds the most challenging.

Often people who make large incomes (six figures or more) also tend to spend just as much (or more) which means they put themselves in debt and that debt starts to accrue interest. Before long that debt can start to grow exponentially and can destroy any hope they would have had to achieving wealth.

Personal Finance made simple

Personal Finance doesn’t need to be complicated if you keep this simple formula in mind:

INCOME – SPENDING = WHAT YOU KEEP

For Optimal Results you simply have to make more than what you spend and spend less than what you make so you can keep more for you and your family!

If you are not actively working towards an optimal result you will by default get less than optimal results

It really is that simple!

Now that you understand personal finance and WHAT you need to do, the next step is learning HOW to do this!

The best way to start is by following these 3 simple steps:-

1. Know what you want to achieve – “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there” has become a very popular quote, probably because it is so true. One of the habits that Stephen Covey highlights in his book “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, is to always start with the end in mind. Knowing where you want to go will be a big help in ensuring you get there.

2. Have a plan – that you can follow that will get you to your goals. Knowing how you will achieve your goals in a step by step plan is invaluable. Sometimes this is easier with the help of an advisor or a financial coach.

3. Use tools and resources – that will help you to stick to your plan and not become distracted by the things in life that could limit our incomes and make us spend more than we should. Don’t try and work it all out in your head! You will end up with a massive headache and your finances will become one gigantic dark fog!

Business Finance Misinformation and Confusion

Confusion about commercial loans and working capital financing seems to be increasing despite efforts by the federal government and commercial lenders to suggest that there is ample business loan funding. As a result, the actual availability of business financing for commercial finance programs such as commercial mortgages and business cash advances is unclear to most business owners.

It seems apparent that there have been many reports suggesting that normal commercial finance channels are either frozen or extremely sluggish. In reality there are probably more opportunities for commercial loan needs than suggested by such reports. However, increasing uncertainties in financial and credit markets have produced conflicting and misleading information about the availability of commercial financing. For most business owners, it is probably not clear if business finance funding is realistically available to them or not.

In spite of some admittedly bad news, there continue to be to reliable funding sources for commercial real estate loans, working capital loans and especially for business cash advances. At the same time, the current negative economic conditions will prove to be difficult for most businesses. Commercial borrowers should expect that extra efforts will be required to successfully arrange commercial financing. An especially harsh reality for business financing is that many banks have discontinued all or most of their business lending activities, often with very little advance notice.

One common example of commercial finance misinformation distorting what is actually feasible is that some kinds of commercial financing have been more disrupted than others by recent events. Commercial borrowers might be unnecessarily confused by reports that do not refer to all commercial loan situations but rather primarily apply to a very specialized form of business financing. For example, by most accounts commercial construction loans are in short supply currently. Such specialized business loans are not as easily available as they were just a few months ago, and a more accurate accounting would reflect that the number of commercial lenders currently active in construction financing has shrunk dramatically. At the same time, most commercial real estate loans without new construction have not been as severely impacted as funding requests which do involve construction financing.

Several publications have reported that most new business financing requests are on hold or have simply been rejected due to recent financial market uncertainties, and this is another example of how business finance funding reports might confuse small business owners. While the sources for this information might have been honestly told by one or more lending institutions that they are in fact deferring new commercial loan funding, this does not mean that is the case for the entire country. If the discussion involved automobile sales, it would be comparable to concluding that nobody is selling cars anywhere after learning that several major dealers and two manufacturers announced that they were going out of business due to lack of adequate sales. Just because one or more banks fail or stop making business loans, it does not mean that there are not commercial loans available from other sources.

Commercial borrowers would be wise to maintain a cautious perspective in determining how to refinance or obtain small business loans simply because the banking industry has been involved in financial disruptions of an epic proportion. Many banks are sounding and acting like they have been through the equivalent of a train wreck. In such a natural disaster, it might not be prudent for business owners to seek the advice of banks which effectively caused the train to derail in the first place.

Despite reports about limited availability of business financing, some commercial lending activities such as business cash advance programs are actually as active as they have ever been. In the current commercial funding crisis, small business owners should seek a commercial loans expert for a realistic assessment and candid discussion about working capital loans and business finance programs.

A Bumpy Ride For Business Financing

Based on how chaotic the commercial banking climate is currently, the situation described in this article is expected to prevail for a long (but unpredictable) period of time. In spite of the confusing and frustrating commercial loans environment, a prudent business financing strategy is likely to produce the most effective results that can be hoped for by small business owners. With working capital financing and business loans, commercial borrowers need to be prepared for a long and bumpy ride.

Misinformation and insufficient information will play a somewhat unpredictable role in achieving the desired outcome of business borrowers finding appropriate commercial finance solutions. The eventual success of commercial financing efforts will depend on an individualized and detailed assessment of the unique financial circumstances for a specific business, although it is appropriate to note that there are new and effective business loan options that will satisfactorily fill the commercial funding gap for many small business owners impacted by their current ineffective commercial bankers.

Anticipating the long and bumpy ride that lies ahead for even the most ordinary business financing request will be prudent and wise for small businesses. It has not been unusual for commercial borrowers to wait for one to two months before their bank finally declines to make a commercial loan that had appeared to be a mere formality when the lending process began, either because banks do not want to publicly admit that they are not presently making business loans or perhaps due to their somewhat secretive and changing guidelines for making such loans. Regardless of their prior description of “normal” for working capital management and commercial financing options, many business owners have already discovered how much and how quickly this has changed.

A prevailing banking climate that is characterized by misinformation as well as insufficient information about current commercial finance options for small businesses provides sufficient rationale for describing the journey to business financing success as being both long and bumpy. After they have finally been informed by their current bank that needed business finance help is not forthcoming, because they simply do not have enough information to successfully complete their task, a small business owner might be unsuccessful in their attempt to find a new source of commercial funding in one typical scenario involving insufficient information. When a commercial banker misleads a prospective business borrower by advising the business owner that the bank will be able to help in providing an unsecured working capital loan when the banker has already been told by senior bank officials that such financing will not be provided except for specific established business clients, this is an increasingly frequent misinformation scenario. Most banks are in fact eliminating or reducing working capital financing to small businesses as indicated by one public report after another.

More successful results should be produced by realistic expectations of what lies ahead in business financing efforts. This article represents a sincere attempt to accurately portray the recent confusing and unpredictable state of commercial banking for small business owners, and this fulfills a primary purpose in describing current attempts to obtain small business loans as potentially being a long and bumpy ride.