The police officer, school teacher, engineer, firefighter, attorney, doctor, professor, designer, manager and rocket scientist all have one thing in common: they’re killing it financially with YNAB.
We live in a beautiful suburban area about 15 miles north of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We have easy access to the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, the mountains, and the Baltimore/Washington commerce hub, yet we live in an area with horse farms and rolling hills. The downside? It's EXPENSIVE! The median home price in our zip code is nearing half-a-million bucks and the standard of living is over 30% higher than the national average. It's quite a challenge just to find a nice single family home in a good school district without breaking the bank.
I'm in the business of personal finance. I'm a fee-only financial planner primarily, and I also teach financial planning and write. I co-authored the book "The Financial Crossroads" with best-selling author, Jim Stovall, and in 2010, I started blogging at www.TimMaurer.com.
But I am a husband and father, first and foremost. My wife and I have been blessed with two unique and gifted boys. They amaze me at how cognizant they've already become of things financial. Recently, I took the boys with me to buy a netbook at Best Buy for my wife (so she could access YNAB without being tied to our desktop--seriously!), and my youngest song said, "Dad, are you going to put it on the credit card?" I'm convinced that, as a parent, our actions teach our children even more than our words. They pick up everything!
As a financial planner, I've always felt the duty--even sometimes the burden--to ensure my own, personal finances were handled wisely. I tried all of the major budgeting softwares and found them wanting. I designed an Excel spreadsheet that exploded into complexity that no one, outside of my wife and I, could possibly understand. I even tried sharing it with others who'd given up on the mainstay software, but it had become so customized, they couldn't understand it. It was multi-faceted enough to manage our own finances, but it pained me that I couldn't offer a consumable and effective budgeting option for friends, family and clients. So I went on a search, and found YNAB.
Prior to YNAB, since I was using a budgeting device of my own creation, my wife and I were always looking over our own shoulders, financially speaking. Were we calculating correctly? Did we incorrectly apply a formula or forget to move a transaction to the appropriate place? These details mattered. Within the last decade, I was self-employed for several of those years, most frighteningly right after our first son was born. My wife chose to put her successful career on hold indefinitely to be home with our kids, and after our son was born, I can recall sitting in our first home, with the pressure of a mortgage on our shoulders, looking at a checking/savings balance in the single digits! We were literally praying that business would move through my pipeline at work just to pay the bills. Even when my income was higher (and more consistent), prior to YNAB, we invariably were left running in the paycheck-to-paycheck hamster wheel--often stealing from one budget category to cover another each month, just to keep up with the most urgent of variable budgetary items.
Mine is a life blessed with many meaningful (and some painful) "pivot points," but the most impactful came in 1994, when, at the age of 18, after a day filled with not-so-responsible activities, I fell asleep at the wheel at 2am and rolled down an embankment. Long story less long, I ended up being flown to Shock Trauma with a broken femur and pelvis and soon-to-be collapsed lung. My chances of living fell below 10%, and friends and family were invited to pay their last respects as they induced a coma to keep me from fighting the breathing machines. For years after my recovery, I struggled to know why I--an irresponsible, punk kid--was spared. But over time, this single "pivot point" has impacted every area of my life--especially the way I look at money and personal finance. I've been given a glimpse of the ultimate end of profligate living, but I am now able to balance that with the recognition that our tomorrow's are not promised. Educating through financial planning gives me the opportunity to help others balance these truths with the commodity that impacts virtually every decision we make in life--the Dollar.
Honestly, it was a little tough starting YNAB. I so resonnated with the description of the product and the apparent meaning behind it, but it was transformational enough that it really took some getting used to. I knew I had something powerful at my disposal, but I didn't know how best to harness it. I must have read the instruction manual 3 or 4 times (and you can imagine how humbling that must have been for someone in the financial business!). Two months into using it, I felt a greater sense of peace. Even though the cash flow numbers hadn't really changed too much, we were seeing our joint financial life with new eyes. We no longer had to look over our own shoulders, wondering if our calculations or methods were correct. We followed what turned out to be a much simpler system than I'd initially feared at first glance, and the result was a greater level of peace and contentment.
Honestly, at this point, YNAB isn't just a handy tool that we use; it's been fully integrated into our lives. Of course, it's not magic--it's only as sophisticated as we are dilligent--but the YNAB process has been woven into the way our family does life... and we're the better for it.
Because of my whopper pivot point, I don't see money as an end in itself. I know how fragile life is, and I know we can't take it with us, so I see virtually every aspect of wise money management as an act of stewardship. There should be a purpose applied to the money that comes in, and that purpose may be to pay down debt, save for the future, share with someone who needs it more or, occasionally, splurge on ourselves. But ultimately, money management should be life giving.
Most budget methods and softwares can only ever achieve a mediocre end--that is, to help manage your money. What makes YNAB so exceptional to me, and to the many I've had the privilege of sending your way, is that it leads to a better LIFE. Its founding principles are grounded in truth that existed long before the American Dollar and certainly Excel and Quicken. YNAB doesn't just improve bottom lines; it improves lives.
YNAB doesn't just improve bottom lines; it improves lives