New Year, New Goals, New Way of Doing It

January 11, 2016

For our social media posts, Center for Financial Resources is beginning a series on new beginnings.  What a great way to kick it off!  Here’s an old post….  Oh, but it’s still so true!  Goals really are an important start to any new beginning.  Read on and keep an eye out for our other New Beginnings posts.

This year…. “I will lose weight.”  “I will save money.”  “I will be healthier.”  “I will get a better job.”  “I will read more.”  “I will travel more.”  “I will work out more.”  “I will make a difference.”  “I will get more organized.”  “I will spend more time with family.”  “I will enjoy life more.”  “I will spend less money.”  “I will learn something.”  “I will eat healthier.”  “I will travel.”  “I will be less stressed.”  “I will drink less.”  “I will help someone.”  “I will find love.”  “I will be more timely.”

Did you made your New Year’s resolutions?  How’s it going with that?  woman on scaleAfter all, these will set you up for a year of great fame, fortune, and happiness beyond measure.  If you actually do them, that is.  According to, 62% of Americans will at least occasionally make a New Year’s resolution.  As many people as there are that make resolutions, only 8% of people report achieving their resolutions.  That’s less than one in ten that actually meet their goals.

Ouch.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Reality of What Credit Counseling Really Is

November 30, 2015

I’m often asked exactly what we do when people come in for credit counseling.  Unfortunately, few enough people have been to a credit counselor that it is a very legitimate question. angry businessman So here’s the answer: we dig through all of your history (business, personal, and otherwise), point out every mistake that you’ve made, belittle you for those mistakes, paint a pretty hopeless picture for your future, and then lecture your children on how they should never turn out like you because of what you have done financially.

Sound like fun?  Now that we have all of those misconceptions out of the way, let’s talk about what credit counseling is really like…..

Read the rest of this entry »

Rainy Day Raining On Your Finances

August 18, 2015

As I write this, it has finally stopped raining…. for the moment.  It’s the 18th of the month and we have officially received 2.6 inches of rain so far.  I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of that has come in the last two days.  I will admit, I like a rainy day.  It tends to cool things off, the humidity usually goes down afterwards, and everything is so refreshed.  It even smells fresh after a lot of rain.  That’s great and all, but this blog is, after all, about personal finance.  So why talk about the rain?

Well, first of all, it’s what we do in South Dakota.  It’s normal to us, but if you travel or talk to someone from somewhere else, we talk about the weather A LOT here.  It’s just what we do.

Second, and more importantly in this context, rain can have a direct affect on our finances.  It’s more than an old wives’ tail about rain on your wedding day.  Most of us in the state aren’t farmers and aren’t directly dependent on the rain for our very income.  But rain can and does directly impact our personal finances.  Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming A Trump

February 20, 2015

This week I watched the season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice (to be more correct, my wife was watching it and I happened to be around). In case you missed it, a large portion of the show was Donald Trump himself seated at the middle of a large boardroom table. On either side of The Donald were Donald Jr. and Ivanka, his kids. The Donald’s younger son Eric was in the crowd as well.

It was like watching a little Trump family reunion. You knew exactly who was a Trump. Not only do they all look alike, but they all looked like a million bucks. Probably rightfully so since each is worth well more than that. Having a professional athlete and model for a mother probably doesn’t hurt either. Read the rest of this entry »

More Romantic Than a Credit Report? I Think NOT!!!

February 10, 2015

“How you doin’?”

It’s ok. Go ahead and crack a little smile. You probably know exactly what I am referring to.

Thank you Joey Tribbiani for creating that ubiquitous introduction. ‘Tis the season, love is in the air, the store aisles are full of red and pink, and social gatherings everywhere are ringing with one “How you doin’?” after another. It is, after all, Valentine’s Day. Whether using it as an excuse to be spoiled or to pick up a quick date, people everywhere will be looking for their Valentine this week.

Ever tried it? Perhaps you don’t have that same tone that Joey does, but we all tend to ask the question of someone at some point in time. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, you might be asking why Center For Financial Resources cares about Valentine’s Day. Maybe not the day itself, but we see “How you doin’?” as a little more inclusive that Joey probably did.

Most people want to find that special someone valentinewho has everything they are looking for. Perhaps it is a sense of humor, a high level of intelligence, certain physical traits, or perhaps they are just willing to say ‘yes’. More and more, a healthy credit history is a part of that ‘need to have’ list as people become more serious in their relationships.

Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? For most, a credit history certainly isn’t as glamorous as other traits, but it can have longer lasting impact than some traits we regularly deem ‘important’. Here are some reasons why your “How you doin’?” needs mean “How you doin’ financially?”.

Beauty Fades, A Credit Report Doesn’t – They may be the most physically beautiful person in the world, but one weekend of gluttonous eating while laying in the sun for 48 hours straight and that beauty will probably be just a memory. Unfortunately, the overwhelming bills for the weekend won’t go away. Minimum credit card payments mean your weekend splurging may take the next 16-30 years to pay off. Miss a payment and that is on your record for the next seven years, 10 if you end up filing chapter 7 bankruptcy over it.

A simple financial mistake here and there can have a long lasting impact of your future endeavors. Is your Valentine someone who thinks about and plans for the future? Or are they one to strictly enjoy the ‘here and now’? One ‘off the chain’ weekend now may mean the two of you have to put off the purchase of your new dream home for the next couple of years.

Two Shall Become One – What do you and your Valentine want to do together? Careful – I’m thinking financially here. When you marry, your credit reports are often considered together. While you may have a stellar credit history, if your special someone has a less-than-special credit history, you may get turned down for a loan just the same. You may be able to apply without the other person’s credit report, but then you can’t use their income for qualifying either.

Finding that special someone with the special credit report may be a bit of a boon for you. Not only might it open up more credit opportunities for you if you have a slightly lower score, but the behavior that got them the higher score may rub off on you too. On top of using their credit, that better behavior may even increase your own credit score. How’s that for a gift that keeps on giving?

Didn’t Get That Raise? It’s Their Fault! – Who wouldn’t like to make more money? Better yet, who wouldn’t want their spouse to make more money so you could quit working and do whatever you want? Did you know that, depending on the job, potential and current employers may check your credit report and decided whether or not you get/keep the job based on your report? Did you know employers are even requiring they check your spouse’s credit report? Employers have realized that two people’s finances often become one when you become a single household and one spouse can have a great deal of influence on the other. If your spouse’s actions indicate they may be a bad influence on you, your employer may not trust you either.

With or Without Them – Unfortunately, some people will find themselves without their special someone. Whether divorce or death, you may find yourself without your true love. But you may not be done with them. Their financial habits may create debt that survives the death of your relationship or your partner. Are you willing to take on that possibility? Should things end, you may be down to just your own income (after getting turned down for the promotion because of your spouse’s credit report) and still have to pay half the debt their behaviors incurred. I don’t really like to see any relationship end, but if it does…..

I certainly don’t mean to rain on your Valentine’s Day parade. We will be celebrating it ourselves with a pizza picnic and movie in our living room. (Hey, it’s tradition and it doesn’t run up a big credit card bill.) Enjoy the day. Buy the flowers. Eat the chocolate. I hope you do find that special someone if you haven’t already. Just make sure to ask them “How you doin’?”.

If things aren’t financially stellar for either you or your ‘other’, here’s a date idea for you – schedule an appointment with one of our counselors. They can help get the two of you talking in a healthy way and headed in the same financial direction. Given the impact finances can have on life, it’s almost like relationship counseling. We have definitely had couples leave appointments in a much better place than when they came in.

Go out, have fun. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day. But remember, if you don’t bother asking them “How you doin’?”, you may quickly dating a Smelly Cat.


written by Breck Miller
image courtesy

I Made A Client Cry….. And It Was Good

January 27, 2015

I recently had another first. For the first time since I’ve been here at Center for Financial Resources, I had a client crying in my office. I suppose if you were to ask my kids on the right day, they would tell you that I like to make people cry and am a big meanie-head like that. But really, I’m not….. at least not here at work. Read the rest of this entry »

Eating An Elephant Steak

January 22, 2015

Perhaps you’ve heard the adage “How do you eat an elephant?”. There was video of an elephant in Thailand that recently went viral. If you haven’t seen any of it, he is apparently tired of cars driving through his neighborhood and so reacts by climbing on top of the cars. As you watch the video, the size and strength of the beast point to the immensity of eating an entire elephant.

And yet, according to the adage, the way to eat an elephant is so simple – “One bite at a time.”

While I think it might be kind of cool to see, elephantwe don’t have any elephants running wild here in South Dakota. Could you imagine this same elephant going head to head with the giant jack-a-lope that they have at Wall Drug? Now that is something I might pay to see.

In reality, there are elephants all over South Dakota and really anywhere humans exist. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we all actually consume elephant meat.  The elephants I’m referring to aren’t the big gray animals with long trunks and big, floppy ears. I am talking about the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. We all have something (more likely some things) that are trying to get a leg up on us and weigh us down; things we are overwhelmed by at the thought of conquering.

What’s your elephant? What do you need to overcome? What do you need to accomplish?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you email me your list of elephants, but we do need to be intentionally aware of those challenges in front of us. If we don’t truly know what they are, we cannot be intentional about overcoming them. ‘Eating the elephant’, as it were.

Even having those challenges identified, it can still be a very daunting task to get where we need to be. It can seem even more imposing than the actual elephant in the video above. So we come back to the simple answer. We simply conquer those challenges and goals ‘one bite at a time’.

Focus for a moment on a particularly large goal you may have. Picture it in your mind and walk around it. Visualize it from all angles just as if you were walking around the latest sports car sitting on the showroom floor. Just like we can break the car into its parts (body, doors, windows, mirrors, tires, wheels, seats, etc.), we can break our goals down into smaller, easier to manage parts. I certainly can’t carry away that whole car, but pull the tires off and I can roll them along at a running pace, one in each hand.

When we at the Center for Financial Resources are teaching classes, we share the fact that most ‘experts’ agree that you should have 3 months worth of expenses in your emergency savings. As I have researched the numbers, the number of Americans with NO emergency savings seems to hover right around 25%. That’s one in four Americans that have absolutely no funds available beyond what they need to survive for any given month. Given those statistics, having 3 months of expenses in savings will be a very daunting task for a large number of Americans.

Is that a big enough elephant for you? Well, let’s break it down. Three months’ worth of expenses is our goal. That’s where we want to end up, even if we can’t be there tomorrow. For a nice round number to work with, let’s say our example family (living on a bit of a budget) has monthly expenses of $2,400. So our final goal for emergency savings is $7,200. Does that look like the big, gray butt of an elephant about to sit on you? Remember, one bite at a time.

Let’s make this a three year goal. Now, this year we only need one month’s worth of savings set aside – $2,400. Still a large amount of money. Breaking it down even farther, that’s only $200 per month. Getting better? Let’s keep this going. $200 per month means only $50 per week. If my calculator did its math correct, that is right at $7.14 per day.

Compared to taking an elephant-sized bite of saving $7,200, how does setting aside $7.14 sound? It may take a while, but you now only need to focus on $7.14 at a time to reach your goal of 3 months’ worth of expenses.

fork and moneyThink back through this week. How many times have you spent $7.14 without even thinking twice about it? I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy life and have fun and all that. I am saying you need to be intentional about identifying and working towards your priorities.

Are you ready? Now I’m going somewhere that might make most of us a little uncomfortable. I want you to get rid of the word ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary. There have been more than a few motivational speakers who have encouraged the very same thing, but I want to apply it to our savings goals from above.

While most of us claim that we aren’t financially able (can’t) to set money aside in emergency savings, the reality is that we just WON’T. Most of us have more than $7.14 that we make a decision about each day. Anyone who eats out for lunch probably spends more than that, easily. Buy a loaf of bread, some deli meat, a package of carrot sticks, some brown paper bags and you have more than a week’s worth of lunches for close to what you spend on a single day of going out to eat.

When you have the money but choose to spend it elsewhere, it’s not that you can’t save, but that you won’t save. You choose to put wants ahead of something as crucial as emergency savings.

Before you get defensive and blame me for being all self-righteous, I’ll admit that I can’t be. I’ve made the same mistakes we have all made. But just the same as it is for all of us, that is in the past. Each of us has the ability to make our decisions and set our priorities for the future.

Which elephant do you want to eat next? Remember though, that you aren’t going to eat the whole elephant right now. So which part of your elephant do you want to start with first? A smaller amount of daily or weekly savings? Writing your resume as working towards a better job? Filling out the FAFSA in preparation for getting a degree? What is going to be your first bite?

If you need help breaking your elephant down or are still choking on the big pieces of your past, you aren’t alone. Our counselors can help you evaluate your elephant and plan your attack so that you can celebrate every little bite of progress that you make. And there is your first bite towards eating your elephant – just give us a call and schedule an appointment.

We are here to help you…. one bite at a time.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy

I Hate Ice (aka: 4 Reasons Health Insurance Is Actually Cheap)

January 16, 2015

It’s hard to believe it’s almost been two years already. For those of you that weren’t in Southeast South Dakota at the time, April 2013 brought us a very serious ice storm. It was two days of rain that froze as soon as it made contact with anything else. That means it was two days of listening to what sounded like gunshots in my neighborhood as trees shattered under the weight. Read the rest of this entry »

When “Juice” Doesn’t Come In A Bottle Or Box

December 3, 2014

Last week I talked about lessons from growing popcorn this summer. Same idea this week, just a little different context. One week per month I spend three afternoons at the state penitentiary here in Sioux Falls teaching credit to inmates who are about to be released. I certainly hope they are learning something from my time there. I can definitely tell you I am learning as well when I am there. To illustrate this, here is some new terms and phrases I have learned from my students at the pen: Read the rest of this entry »

Snow Blower? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Snow Blower!

October 16, 2014

I love this time of year! The leaves are changing color. There is that certain smell of fall in the air. The temperatures are crisp and refreshing in the morning and pleasant in the afternoons. Alas, this is only a door way. For many, fall is just preparation time for the winter. We finish up the summer tasks, put the patio furniture away, winterize everything, and (if your garage is like mine) we make one major occupancy change. The lawn mower gets buried in storage while the snow blower gets moved to the easy-access parking spot right by the garage door.

Read the rest of this entry »

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