De-Clutter Finances & Life in 2020

As I progress further into 2020, I have an overwhelming urge to de-clutter and simplify life. The sudden stop of normal life activities made me realize how fast and frantic we had all been moving through life. Something about the quarantine/pandemic has made me want to simplify and experience a kind of re-birth. The lockdown has not been easy on any of us. Obviously we owe a tremendous debt to the frontline workers who are keeping our society working and trying to heal the sick. If you have been staying home to keep the spread and R0 values low, then you are also sacrificing for the greater good of our country and economy. It feels like a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. We have still been busy trying to sloppily home school and keep our professional lives on track, all while trying to stay safe doing things like grocery shopping. It is a big job at the moment to care for each other, for our physical and mental health. I used to enjoy grocery shopping before this pandemic, but have to admit it has become a kind of chore with all the precautions. In order to deal with the anxiety of the moment and prepare for the future, I have been de-cluttering my financial, emotional and physical life. Here are some ideas that anyone can harness:

1. Too many platforms and accounts

As a personal finance and investment blogger, Jerry and I are regularly testing out new platforms for building wealth and saving more money. As a result, I realized I have too many accounts with money spread all over the place. It is time to close out some accounts and consolidate assets in fewer “places”.

2. Sell Some Stock

I believe most assets should be passively managed in index funds that capture a broad swath of the market. The reason is simple, it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to pick all the right stock market winners. Owning a Vanguard mutual fund that has exposure to large and mid sized strong companies is a great way to achieve long term gains, especially if the dividends are reinvested for compounding action. But, like many, I do reserve about 10% of assets for fun money stock picking. The problem with my Robinhood portfolio is that it now has too many stocks. It is unmanageable. Therefore, recently I sold about a dozen of them that I was no longer interested in and do not perceive as long term winners.

3. Keep it simple

Over complicated investing can be tricky to manage in a successful manner. How many stocks do you own? How many mutual funds? Some wise investors believe a simple approach actually yields the best results over time. Some successful investors swear by simple approaches with perhaps only a 3-5 index funds or EFT’s. One balanced fund I enjoy is the Vanguard Wellington fund. It offers broad exposure to high quality equity and bond markets. One could theoretically just invest in that fund and be pretty set for life. If a person has 20, 30, 40 or more stocks, that just becomes too much to manage, especially if you have other stuff going on in life. So pare down to perhaps a few core funds and perhaps 10 stocks you enjoy, that might be enough.

4. Close out some credit cards & revolving un used memberships

Now is a great time to simplify and get rid of some debt. Clearing out that underutilized credit card that you opened up to get some discount. Get it paid off and closed. Right now you may not be using as memberships like the gym, perhaps it is time to close it.

5. Pay off some lingering debt

Another way to declutter finances is to get debt levels down to a reasonable amount. What is reasonable? That is particular to each individual and their specific situation. In addition, there is such thing as good vs. bad debt. Good debt is generally used to buy things that add value or are assets. A college degree can be good debt if the level is reasonable compared to the potential earnings. Bad debt is typically for consumer junk that decreases in value quickly like clothing, jewelry or luxury cars.

6. Purge some Paper

I am going through paper files and recycling some of the needless forms and documents I have had stored away. It is very cathartic and feels liberating to reduce the paper files down to the essentials. Less wasted money People with too much unorganized stuff typically waste money re-purchasing things. For example, lost gift cards, do not lose them, Raise them! There were probably many times when you could not find something and instead went out and repurchased it. Therefore, If things are organized and you have a good sense of what you own, you could save hundreds a year. Increased flow & efficiency Not only will you not waste time trying to find something, the flow of your work and actions will be more efficient. How much time may be wasted trying to hunt something down. And we all can feel that in the modern world, quality time is a measure of “True Wealth”. More relaxation We are absolutely effected by our environments. Therefore, if there is disorganization and toxicity, we tend to feel that inside and it manifests itself in our emotional or health status. On the other hand, people that organize and manage their things report less feelings of anxiety and depression. Better for the world If we send old stuff we no longer want out into the world, then someone was able to use something at a discount and be less wasteful. Consequently, if you donate gently used quality items, others may treasure them as new and we keep them out of a landfill. Financial Decluttering I came to realize not only the awesome power of decluttering and organizing our stuff, but also applying these principals to our financial affairs. Which can also become cluttered and stuck!

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