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Your Complete Year-End Financial Checklist

Finance

Can you believe 2018 is almost over?! At the end of each year, it’s a good idea to take a look back at your finances. If you set goals at the beginning of the year, have you met them? Are you in a stable place financially? Or are there areas where you could improve? Take a look through this checklist to get a complete snapshot of your finances before the calendar flips.


Debt

One of the first areas of your finances you should look at is your debt. How much progress did you make with your debt this year? Or did you add to it rather than subtract from it? If you haven’t yet, go through and record how much you owe and to where (credit cards, student loans, etc.). Keep the list somewhere safe. At this time next year, you can compare where you are. If you didn’t make as much progress as you would have liked this year, why not? Do you have a debt repayment plan? Should you make adjustments to it? Checking in on your debt can help position you for a stronger repayment approach in the new year.

Retirement Savings

Checking in on your retirement at the end of the year is also wise. Most online platforms allow you to check your plans growth. Use this to look back at where you were at the beginning of the year. How has your money grown? Are you contributing as much as you can? Are you getting the maximum match from your company? Where do you want to be by the end of next year? Because retirement savings plans use compound interest, the more you save earlier on, the better off you’ll be down the line.

Emergency Savings

Another critical area to check in on is your emergency savings. Having 3-12 months of necessary living expenses saved up is ideal. This way, should the unexpected happen, you’ll be financially prepared. If you don’t have 3-12 months worth of expenses saved up, what adjustments do you need to make to start saving more? If you aren’t prioritizing contributing to your emergency savings, you may need to make changes elsewhere in your budget. Life happens, and getting caught without emergency savings can be incredibly detrimental.

Budget

How did your budget hold up this year? Did you even keep a monthly budget? If you haven’t been keeping a budget, now’s the time to start. If you have been, review whether it’s still working for you. Many people look at keeping a budget as a daunting task, mostly because it involves math. However, the math is simple addition and subtraction – what’s coming in versus what’s going out. And you don’t need a fancy software program or smartphone app to keep a budget. All you need is a pen and paper.

Your Estate

Thinking about estate planning can be difficult. Additionally, many people believe they are too young, or that estate planning is only for the wealthy. Neither of these is true. Estate planning is important because it ensures that your assets will be distributed the way you would like and to whom you would like. If you haven’t created a will, you may want to consider it. If you do have a will, the end of the year is an excellent time to review it to ensure it is still accurate and suited to your wishes.

Future Financial Goals

The last thing you should check off your list for the year is your list of future financial goals. If you came into this year with goals, check on your progress. Did you achieve any of your goals? Have you made as much progress as you’d hoped? After gauging how you’ve done on preexisting goals, think about what new goals you may want to set. Perhaps you’re looking to pay off your student loans, buy a house or go on a nice vacation. Once you’ve established a goal (or several), plan out the steps you’ll take to achieve it. Smaller, actionable objectives – such as paying off your highest interest credit card first – will help keep you motivated and allow you to build to those bigger goals. Writing your goals down can also be helpful. Putting pen to paper helps solidify your desire to accomplish it and can help hold you accountable.

The end of the year is a time when many of us reflect on the past 12 months. You can channel that sense of reflection to look back on your finances as well. What did you accomplish financially this year? What could you improve upon in the year ahead? Examining each facet of your financial situation as the year comes to a close will give you a complete snapshot of your money. You will also be better suited to make goals for the coming year. End this year – and start the next – feeling confident in your finances.

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Lifestyle

Unconventional Parenting: Why We Let Our Children Curse

"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."


In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.

And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.

Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.

But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…

Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.

Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.

And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.

And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.

We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.

Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.

And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.

The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.

And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.

I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.

As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.

Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.

We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.