Financial Backstreeting

Written by John D. Buerger, CFP®.


John Buerger

It was time for my daughter to come home. She had just finished up her first year at LMU-LA and she had to be out of her dorm room by 8pm. 

We had hoped to be down there (LA is 200 miles south of San Luis Obispo) much earlier but for various reasons we didn't even get on campus until 2:20pm. By the time we had packed the truck it was 4:30 in the afternoon ... on the Friday ... before Mother's Day.

From my years growing up in the LA area, I knew traffic was going to be a issue. Any departure time after 2pm is asking for trouble. At least we were only going the 40 miles to Valencia where we would spend the weekend visiting with family.


As we were driving off campus, our son Austin pulled up traffic on his smart phone. "It's all dark red on the 405 almost to the 101," he let me know. There are no alternate routes through Sepulveda Pass and going around through downtown LA or up Topanga Canyon would take even longer. "They're all dark red, too," Austin remarked in anticipation.


"What about back streeting it to get on the 405 further north?" That was possible so we took the "scenic route" through Santa Monica north to the western end of Sunset Boulevard then over. By the time we got on the freeway, we had missed almost all of the stop-and-go traffic. Whew!

20 miles later we ran into the same issue as the 405 intersected with Interstate 5 which was clogged up tight from three successive traffic accidents. Once again, my son gave updates and directions from the back seat while we jumped off the freeway, zig-zagged over to Balboa and back-streeted our way past all the problems.


I had a plan for the afternoon. We could have stuck with that plan and would have made it to Valencia ... eventually. The plan wasn't a failure, but it wasn't much of a success either.

It was the combination of factors that saved the day. With or without GPS, I knew where I was (they have road signs for that) but I didn't know what was going on a few blocks or several miles away. I needed Austin (my navigator), his smartphone and Google Maps with traffic for that.

If any one of those pieces was missing, the overall benefit would have been seriously comprimised.


When it comes to your money, you have a plan even if you haven't sat down with a financial planner. Your plan is to keep following the same route that you have followed in the past - just like all those commuters who were stuck in the parking lot on the freeway that Friday afternoon before Mother's Day.

A few might have decided before they left their offices to check the traffic and have a new plan mapped out. Clients of traditional financial planners do this when they pay a fee and get a written comprehensive plan. They may (or may not) follow that plan in the first few weeks, but it doesn't take long for stuff to happen and the plan to become less useful. 


The best approach is to have a way to monitor your current financial information AND the navigator who can continuously translate that data into a useful framework. That way, you can concentrate on driving your financial life and still keep both eyes on the road.

You make dozens if not hudreds of econcomic decisions every day. An active relationship with a Wealth Coach (your financial navigator) allows you to make the best, most informed decisions at each moment with real time updates (through web based tools) on what is going on in the financial world around you. Many times you'll stick to the same strategy and everything will be fine ...

... but in those special moments when stuff happens, you'll be able to make adjustments - adjustments that will more certainly get you where you want to be rather than sitting in a parking lot on the 405 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles.


We can help you prioritize your goals and scope your focus.
Learn more. Schedule a Free, no-obligation 20-minute consult today!

Call 805-476-0333 or use the "Book Appointment Now" tab on the bottom right of your screen.

Money Bullets

Written by John D. Buerger, CFP®.


John Buerger

"It's become a habit" Janice told me, "and not one I'm enjoying much, either."

She was talking about the other evening. The kids were done with baths, stories and goodnight hugs. The kitchen was pretty clean - well at least the food was put away and the sink was empty. Even though she was exhausted, Janice still had to attack the stack of bills piling up on the corner of her kitchen counter. There was always a lot going out and seemingly never enough coming in. She'd pay the minimum on the credit cards, wait until the last possible day to mail out the utility checks and probably have to raid what little she had in her emergency fund to cover it all.

It's a game of financial Russian Roulette and she plays it several times each month.


Earlier in the day, Janice read an article containing budgeting advice from personal finance gurus with names like Ramsey and Orman. In it she read about how she needed to cut another 10% from her budget ('from where?" she wondered) or trick herself into saving by budgeting more than she might have thought to groceries ("how does that work?").

There have been other web articles, videos and how-to books she has looked to for answers, but they all chastised her for living beyond her means and getting her family into debt.



Thinking about money issues can easily degrade into a vicious cycle, one that is made worse by the "tough love" offered by most well known, million seller authors of personal finance books and media. They believe that an intervention is the only way to get you to change your ways - that feeling bad about where you are is the only way to ever feel good about it. Huh?

If less-than-desirable money choices from the past are allowed to stress you out, your response will not be to make better decisions. You notice every cut and sacrifice, which only adds to the stress. That pressure leads to more, often worse decisions ... not better choices.


This is going to sound counter-intuitive, especially if you've bought into the "good decisions can only come from doing what feels bad but someone else tells you is right" mantra.

The key to breaking the vicious cycle around money issues is to begin to embrace what you are doing RIGHT in your financial life and do more of that.


To be fair, one of the money experts cited in the article above DOES start with the right approach: Ric Edelman talks about looking to the past for inspiration. "Find your bill history from the previous calendar year and add ‘em up." This will give you a decent, line by line listing of where the money has gone. 

The challenge with this approach is the conditioning we've all gone through which dictates that if the numbers don't add up and outflows are more than inflows (which they're likely to be), then this is a sign that you have made "bad" decisions with your money and/or you are ... well ... let's be nice and call it "financially challenged."

All that kind of thinking is going to do is bring back the vicious cycle: more stress in your life = more bad decisions = stay locked in the financially challenged cellar forever.


Once you have the data that tells you where the money is going, focus on the things you are doing well. Dining out less and eating at home more often? Good for you. You are spending your money more efficiently, probably eating better and quite possibly getting to spend more quality time with your family. 

When your focus is on how to stop bad things from happening, you add stress to your life and often, the bad things keep happening (or get worse). When you focus on how to make things better than they are already, you relieve stress, make better choices and will begin to realize better results.


We can help you prioritize your goals and scope your focus.
Learn more. Schedule a Free, no-obligation 20-minute consult today!

Call 805-476-0333 or use the "Book Appointment Now" tab on the bottom right of your screen.

Financial Planner Radio Middle Class

Written by John D. Buerger, CFP®.


Check out the Wealth Coach on the Radio!

Air Date 04-15-2014 - Help for the Middle Class

John D. Buerger, CFP, MSFS, Financial Planner and Wealth Coach appeared on the Dave Congalton Show on April 15, 2014 to discuss the economy, the plight of the middle class and what you can do to improve your wealth health regardless of your income.

Segment 1 - Introduction / The Economy and Middle Class Debt
Want a Copy - Right Click and "Save Target As.." Download Part A or just use our player =>


Segment 2 - Best Practices for Better Wealth Health
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Segment 3 - Calls - Listeners Offer Their Ideas on What to Do
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Segment 4 - Final Thoughts - Be More Mindful, Accepting, Intentional and Strategic
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