You prepared for it all winter. You dreaded it, accepted it, then bit the bullet and tackled it. You scrubbed the floors, purged the closets, and shook out the rugs. Now—finally!—you feel you’ve finished with Spring cleaning and you can relax until next year. Sorry, but you can’t; you’re not done yet. You left a lot of personal and financial clutter lying around, and now is the time to address it. That is the theme of this week’s show.
Like clutter in upstairs closets or all that Tupperware in the very back of a cabinet, personal clutter is often forgotten because we hide it away rather than dealing with it immediately—as though ignoring it will make it go away. Maybe it’s a small overdue bill or collection. Maybe it’s a credit card that needs paid down. Or maybe it’s a poor mortgage product that’s draining your finances. It may be any number of things, but whatever it is, it needs to be resolved now.
The first step toward resolution is taking inventory of your clutter. I encourage everyone to spend a week or two considering all the clutter in their lives, and then consider ways of getting rid of it. In fact, here’s some hard truth: the most common type of personal clutter is other people. That is, people who are a negative influence in others’ lives. To illustrate this, consider an overweight dog. How did he get that way? He didn’t do this to himself; he doesn’t have thumbs to open the dog food container. Someone gave him the excess food, and since he doesn’t have sufficient willpower to control himself, the negative habits of his owner ultimately has negative effects on him.
This is true of people, too. It’s common to have people in our lives that influence us in the wrong way. Often, it’s lax personal standards that rub off on us. Or maybe they enable us to cut corners or adopt the wrong set of priorities. Sometimes, it’s their negative attitude that becomes contagious and poisons our own outlook. Whatever it is, the best thing to do is clear them out of your life! It is not worth keeping negative, burdensome people in your life.
To offer an example, one of the loan officers at my mortgage company, who is a retired veteran, had a client come in who began speaking disparagingly of the military and veterans. Eventually, the loan officer had had enough and told the client to leave the office and escorted him out of the building. Some may consider this a lost business opportunity, but the emotional and personal cost of dealing with this individual far outweighed any potential pecuniary benefit. The entire company benefited from not having to deal with the negativity that client brought into the office.
Another area that needs constant upkeep, and the occasional deep Spring cleaning, is finances. Even people with great credit profiles allow their financial houses to become a bit messy with a late payment here or an unnecessary expense there. Eventually these little messes compound to become one large, cluttered nightmare. To address this, you need to identify any areas of your finances that need help, prioritize them, and start fixing them. This might mean paying off a small bill now, then another later; or, it might mean restructuring your debt entirely.
Now, in fact, is an ideal time to take drastic action on your debt by using your home as a financial tool. This February marked the first time in 23 months that average home prices actually fell. We had nearly two solid years of increasing home prices, which means most homeowners who were originally unable to refinance their homes now have the equity to do so. Furthermore, the recent run of poor economic news—from anemic GDP growth to a bad jobs report—has kept interest rates low. It seems likely that the Fed will reevaluate, and perhaps even suspend, its policy of tapering to allow the economic to regain its footing. We’ll likely have depressed interest rates for the remainder of the summer.
These are just a few areas in which you can address personal and emotional clutter. If you have identified the things cluttering your life and want advice on how to clear it away, please give me a call. And with the show now taking on-air calls, you may even help others in the South Front Range area with similar problems.
5-4-14 Spring Cleaning