“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.”

John D. Rockefeller

One of the greatest inventions of this century, in my opinion, is GPS navigation.  I’m one of those guys who have a tough time asking for directions.  I think that’s a trait of most men I know.  We know where we want to go, but we just don’t know the shortest route to get to our destination.  I can think of many times in my life where I drove around for an hour or more looking for a certain street or house number until I finally gave in to my wife’s nagging and stopped to ask for directions.  I’ve also missed my share of exits or turns on the way to a meeting or event and had to adjust my route to get back on track.

Now, thanks to GPS technology, those challenges are a thing of the past.

Now I’ve got a trusty GPS system in my car that shows me a visual map of the shortest route to my destination and provides me with prompts to keep me on track the entire way.  If I should happen to miss a turn or take a detour, the GPS simply recalculates and tells me how to get back on track.

Unfortunately just creating your 60-Day Money Miracle Plan is not enough to assure that you’ll reach your goal of a debt-free wealthy life.  Once you have your debt plan in place, the single biggest obstacle in your path to debt freedom is YOU.  It’s a fact that there will be many unexpected events along your path to debt freedom that will tempt you to quit.  Things like a job loss, a pay cut, a medical emergency or natural disaster, or just the temptation to spend money on something you really want, but don’t really need.  I don’t know what it will be for you, but I do know there will be something.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own financial GPS to show you a map to your destination (debt freedom) and tell you how to get back on track every time you stray off course?  Would it be asking too much to also include a tool that allowed me to look ahead and see what obstacles lie ahead and determine how best to avoid them?  Well now it’s possible and I want to share it with you.  It’s called a Personal Financial Management program or PFM for short.

These powerful software programs link up with your bank and other financial institutions, like your credit card companies and your mortgage lender and aggregate all your personal finances into one simple dashboard that shows you all the moving parts in your financial life on one simple screen.

Part of staying on top of your money involves just looking at where you’re at on a regular basis.  If you have no clue what your checking account balance is or your credit card balance, you’re more likely to make a foolish decision.  Most basic money decisions come down to common sense, so just knowing where you’re at before you make a new financial commitment will typically help you make wiser choices and keep you moving towards your goal of a debt-free wealthy life.

There are a number of popular PFM programs in existence these days.  The oldest and most popular is mint.com, now owned by Quicken, the financial software giant.  I personally like the one created by a group of Utah entrepreneurs called MX (formerly called Moneydesktop) because it also creates a customized debt payoff plan that follows the same formula I taught in the previous chapter.

The 60-Day Money Miracle plan is a proven debt-elimination plan that works.  It’s very simple and anyone can do it.  The key to making it work for you is discipline.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the single best thing you can do to exponentially improve your chances of staying on course is to automate the entire debt payoff process.

When I talk to people who created a 60-Day Money Miracle Plan and stopped using it before they reached their goal of debt freedom, they usually tell me they quit for one of three reasons.

  1. They got lazy or tired of keeping financial records
  2. It was too complicated – Too much math
  3. They made a big mistake because they couldn’t see the impact of their decision before they made it

BENEFITS OF AUTOMATION

Technology has made it possible for you to create your own financial GPS system that will allow you to see exactly where you’re at on your journey to financial peace of mind.  When you know where you’re headed and the shortest route to get there, it’s easy to stay on track and you will dramatically increase your odds of success.  Let’s take a look at some of the powerful features of the PFM program.

Automate your recordkeeping – When you use a PFM you’ll never have to worry about keeping track of your personal checks or credit card transactions ever again.  Most people I know never balance their checkbook.  They may enter each check into their check register or have duplicates of every check, but they honestly don’t know the balance in their account until they see the monthly statement showing all their transactions for the month.  That’s a dangerous way to operate.  If you’ve ever bounced a check, you know what I mean.  It can be embarrassing and expensive, both things we’d like to avoid.

The PFM program connects directly to your banks and credit card companies to automatically update each time your write a check, use your credit card or make a payment.  Over 25,000 financial institutions are already set up in the system and you simply select them from the list and then enter your login information from your online banking program.  The entire setup process can be completed in less than an hour and you only have to do it once.

Once you link up to your financial institutions, all your transactions are automatically loaded into the system and you’ll know where you’re at just by looking at your personal dashboard, which is the first screen you see each time you login.   They program updates dynamically so each time you use your credit card, or write a check, the totals will automatically update on your dashboard.  In addition to the totals you see on your dashboard, you can also look at each individual transaction to see the details.

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It’s great to get all your financial information in one place so you can see how all your accounts work together.  In addition to your banking and credit information, you can also enter your brokerage accounts into the system so those totals are also included in your reports.  You can also enter other financial information like your Mortgages, Rental Properties, Retirement Accounts and any other personal assets using the manual entry feature.   Your goal should be to get everything you have into the system so you can see the entire picture of your finances in one place.

Very few people I’ve worked with over the years actually create and use a budget and the primary reason is that they are too lazy to keep track of things.  One of the most powerful features of this program is the budgeting tool.  As you write checks and use your credit cards, the system will automatically categorize every single expense to help you build and track your budget.

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One of the neat features of this tool is that it has the ability to literally learn as you spend.  Since there are literally thousands of people using this platform, the system has a huge database of Payees that it can reference to help you categorize your expenses.  It will automatically assign a category for each expense, but you’ll be able to change it or add more detail if you need to.  So the longer you use the program, the more automatic and accurate it becomes.  This feature will dramatically cut the time it takes to stay on top of your expense.  Now rather than spending hours entering and categorizing transactions in Quicken, the program will be doing all that for your, automatically.

Now if you want to know exactly how much you’re spending on gas or groceries, you can check your budget and find out.  Once all the information is entered, you can set your own limits for each category and track your spending each month to make sure you stay within your budget.  That’s budgeting that actually works!

No Complicated Math – In addition to entering all your debts and obligations, you’ll also enter all your sources of income along with how much you get paid and when.  Using your income and debt information, the program will automatically prioritize your debts and show you the recommended payments to make to follow your 60-Day Money Miracle Plan.   This information is automatically calculated using the 60-Day Money Miracle formula you learned about in Chapter 6.  The program has already analyzed your debts, prioritized them and set the proper payments for you without having to do a single calculation on your own.

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You’ll know exactly where you are at any point and know exactly what you need to do next to stay on track.

I’m a big believer in positive reinforcement when it comes to getting out of debt.  As I’ve watched individuals and families apply the 60-Day Money Miracle approach I’ve seen incredible energy and excitement each time they experience the success of paying off a debt.  Each retired debt becomes a milestone on their path to debt freedom that provides much-needed motivation and inspiration to stay on track.  To help you see the big picture, there are two key pieces of information that are always shown on this page, how much Time and Money you’ll save by following your plan.  Most people can be debt free in half the time it would take if they continue to follow their current plan and will save thousands of dollars in interest payments in the process.

Just like a real GPS navigation system, the PFM will automatically recalculate your course if you happen to make a mistake.  It knows where you’re at and where you want to go, all you have to do is follow the directions it gives you and you know you’ll be taking the shortest route to a debt-free wealthy life.

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

For most of us, pictures are much easier to interpret than a bunch of numbers in a table.  One of the great benefits of a PFM is that it paints a picture of your personal finances that is easy to understand and interpret.  Here’s an example of an innovative way to look at your budget, called “bubble budgets.”

Each circle represents a spending category in your budget.  The larger the circle, the bigger the portion of your budget is going towards that expense.  As you spend money each month, the balance in each budget category grows to reflect those expenses.

As long as you’re below your predetermined spending limit for that category, the circle will be green.  If you get within 20% of the budget limit, the circle will turn yellow (caution) and if you exceed your spending limit, the circle will turn red.

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If you want to look deeper at a category you can click on it and see a more detailed list of expenses that contributed to the total in that category

You can also see your budget in picture form to see how you’re doing and spot those expenses that are exceeding your preset limits.  When you see your money in such simple graphical terms, it’s much easier to make some of those tough money choices.

SIMPLIFY YOUR TAX RETURNS

Another benefit of using a PFM program is the ability to quickly assemble your financial information so you can fill out your tax return.  If you ask any IRS auditor, they will tell you that when they do an audit they typically see many deductions that are available to the taxpayer that they didn’t take.  Given the complexity of the tax code, I’m sure that’s no surprise to you.

Many people I talk to take their standard deduction simply because they didn’t keep good enough records to determine if they could save more money by itemizing their deductions.  When you have access to these detailed reports, you can make those types of decisions quickly and easily.  If you’re someone who hires an accountant or tax preparer to help you with your return, chances are you’ll save a bunch of money when you can provide them with these detailed reports as a starting point when they begin working on your returns.

If I had to sum up the primary reason people don’t follow through on their 60-Day Money Miracle Plan it would come down to one word…

P R O C R A S T…   I’ll just finish that later.

When everything is done for you and kept up to date automatically, it’s much harder to fall off the wagon.  If you can follow some simple directions, you can be debt free.  It won’t happen in a month, but it will happen eventually.  If you really want to get out from under the burden of your debts and eliminate money stress from your life forever, you need to have your own financial GPS.  This powerful tool will improve your chances of realizing that massive savings for literally pennies a day.