5 Ways Your Family Can Plan For The Future and Live in the Present

I’ve partnered with Fidelity & MEFA in support of the U.Fund Dreams Tour. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Is it possible to enjoy the present, but also plan for the future? Of course! It just requires balance, and following these 5 smart tips. #ad #UFundDreams

One thing I’ve struggled with a lot as a parent is financial balance.

Do you struggle with that as well? It seems like every day there is something to pay for and save for, which is normal. I always wonder if I should save or spend? Or both? It seems to be a conflict because I have a desire to save for the future, and for my children’s futures, but I also have an inherent impulse to live for the present and enjoy the NOW. Not only enjoy the NOW, but I want to enjoy my hard-earned money NOW. It’s such a delicate subject. My father passed away suddenly when he was only in his 30’s, so I’ve grown up knowing that no one is promised a tomorrow. Yet, I also am hopeful for my future and for my children’s future, and I don’t want to live out my later years with limited choices. Or worse, no choices at all.

It seems like I have two different conflicting traits – that of prioritizing the future, and that of living in/for the moment. You see, if you have a plan for a financially secure future, you’re providing yourself with peace of mind and comfort – and that actually does provide instant value and gratification. Here are 5 ways your family can act NOW, to plan for a bright future.

1 – Understand your cash flow NOW. I think this is most important for my family to proceed – we have to understand what we spend now, to understand how to save for then. Analyze your current spending/saving patterns and habits as well. Isolate it in terms of what you spend a week, much less a month. Then you can catch things you may have or may spend too much on, and see the impacts of leaner weeks too. Sometimes it’s feast or famine here, but we meet somewhere in the middle.

2 – Limit your monthly bills NOW. When we bought our new car last year, we were bummed because we had JUST paid off our minivan and were in a sweet spot for a while, until the sedan broke down for good. As a two-car family, adding a new car payment was a no-brainer, but generally we have enough bills with mortgage, electricity, etc. We limit unnecessary bills.

3 – PLAN to be spontaneous. I know that sounds contradictory, but bear with me. It’s not about planning exactly what you might feel like doing two weeks from now, but it’s about leaving that possibility open. It’s about leaving wiggle room for your wild and crazy selves. Since tracking your spending so intensely can feel overwhelming, it helps to build in money that is purely for spontaneity. That way you can still be spontaneous WHEN you want to be, but with a built in cushion!

4 – Think of your financial status the way you would your health status. As in, take it seriously. The way your health needs regular check-ins and checkups, as well as maintenance, you will see how your planning/saving needs tweaking. And with your diligence, greater financial stability brings better overall health – financially and emotionally.

5 – Don’t do it alone. The world is different from when we were kids, and is changing quickly. We need to revisit our plans constantly, and make sure we’re on track. And things will change again! When making big decisions about your financial future, seek help tailored to YOUR family’s needs. MEFA’s U.Fund College Investing Plan, the Massachusetts 529 college savings plan, offers you control and flexibility as you save for your baby’s college education. You can open it up with $50 or as little as $15 if you set up automatic monthly payments. They can be used at any accredited college, and are managed by Fidelity Investments. It’s never too soon to start. Think of your short-term and long-term family goals.

Every day of every year, I’m stunned by the passage of time and the pull between enjoying my kids’ rapid development, and also wanting them to stay young and innocent longer! Luckily, we don’t have to go it alone. The The U.Fund College Investing Plan empowers us to make decisions about our family’s future, with resources available to help us better navigate this process.

How can you find out more?

We went to KidsFest at Wachusett Mountain last month and such a blast – testing our skills, eating delicious local food, and finding out more information about our future options at the U. Fund Dreams Tour Tent.

The U. Fund Dreams Tour takes place between May and October of 2017. My family attended U. Fund Dreams Tour events in 2016. 2017 has been no exception and we’re having a blast locally. The events have a large “U. Fund Dreams Tour Tent” filled with engaging discovery activities for kids to have fun with and connect. There are discovery activities intended to help parents better understand the challenges of saving for college, and they are also there to be fun and interactive for the kids. The U. Fund Dreams Tour is a fun and interactive chance to connect. It aims to bring awareness to the importance of saving for college, to offer viable solutions, and to help you on this journey of planning for the future.

MEFA’s U.Fund College Investing Plan, the Massachusetts 529 college-investing plan, is a tax-advantaged college savings plan managed by Fidelity. MEFA is a non-profit state authority that works to make higher education more accessible & affordable.

So how do you find that balance between living in the present and planning for the future?

Is it possible to enjoy the present, but also plan for the future? Of course! It just requires balance, and following these 5 smart tips. #ad #UFundDreams

5 Reasons We Have a Dog, and Always Will

This post was sponsored by Milk-Bone® as part of a Two-Post Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

I've been a dog owner for 4 years and the rewards are amazing. Here's 5 reasons we'll always have dogs. Watch this tear-jerking video. #ad #DogsAreMore #IC

I had to step away from the computer, TWICE, before starting this post. The first time was to give my Athena a BIG hug, and the second time was to grab a box of tissues (or two) because the video in this post is SO meaningful. Don’t miss watching it!

When I was a little kid we never had a dog, despite our constant begging! Little did we know that my parents had their eyes on the prize and surprised us with a Valentine’s Day Samoyed when I was nine. Oh, how I loved that dog! She was more than a dog to us. She was everything. I mean, imagine just having a normal Friday night in February, and then your mom puts a squirming, fluffy puppy in your arms and tells you that it’s YOURS to keep. That’s the dream! It was my biggest, best dream.

My parents had other dogs after Chelsea, but they were all after I had already gone to college or moved away to start my own family. True to the stuff of childhood dreams, my husband surprised us with a puppy. Again, we had no idea it was going to happen. He had found her on a rescue site months earlier and kept the secret through the whole adoption and fostering process. Athena came from Alabama. We thought my husband was at work, but he was actually headed to Vermont to meet the rescue transport. We were sick at home and then he came to the front door with THIS little face peeking out of his coat:

Before Athena came into my life, I didn’t know how much I needed a dog. I didn’t know I needed an exercise accountability partner, a co-pilot, a therapist, a playmate for the kids, and a friend. Here are five reasons we’ll always have dogs:

1 – It’s good for our health. Not only does Athena convince me to go to the dog park.. daily.. she’s also good for my mental and emotional health. When I’m going through tough times, and I definitely have gone through tough times since she came into our lives, she’s always happy to see me. She’s always good for a cuddle and a kiss. She helped me overcome my biggest struggles in 2014-2016, with Scarlet starting kindergarten, and Des starting daycare. It was also my most challenging time to approach the age my father had been when he had passed away, and I have Athena to thank for the regular exercise.

2 – They make us feel less alone. I don’t know what I’d do without my pets! I work alone all day in my office and the long New England winters can be hard. Knowing I have two warm bodies to spend time with every day means everything.

dog

3 – Dogs put us in a better mood. They improve our senses of humor and invite us to truly “play” to release stress.

4 – They increase safety, or feelings of safety. Athena barks if a squirrel runs in the yard!

5 – Dogs make excellent co-pilots. I love taking Athena to Cape Cod or my parent’s house or just on errands!

Now, to that video I was talking about!! Milk-Bone is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with Canine Assistants – a non-profit organization that trains and provides service dogs to children and adults with physical disabilities and special needs. This is a milestone anniversary, so they have created a heartwarming video to showcase some of the dogs and pet parents they’ve helped over the years. Are you ready to have your world rocked? Dogs are never just. They always do more.

They always ARE more.

Amazing, right? Dogs don’t just sit next to us – they are there to remind us we’re not alone. Dogs don’t just lick our faces – they are there to calm us down and heal us. It’s more than just a walk together – it’s a journey. A life journey.

Milk-Bone takes its cues from dogs by making treats that always do more. We’re inspired to do more.

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What’s your top reason for having a dog?