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Q&A: Money smarts

Amy Jo Lauber is a certified financial planner and founder of the “I hate budgeting (but I like having money)” support group. She works with people at all income and wealth levels and speaks locally on issues ranging from “You Can’t Take it with You” to “Women, Wisdom and Wealth.”

What is the biggest money mistake you observe?

Many people come to me saying they’re 'a mess' with money or they can’t understand it. The biggest mistake is believing they’re stuck in this storyline. The second mistake is not having good boundaries. If you say yes to everything, your yes becomes diluted—as well as your bank account and energy.

Do you think people are less responsible about money than they used to be?

There will always be people who are frugal and those who are spendthrifts, but there are more ways to spend money now (like technology) that didn’t exist until recent history. On the other hand, younger people aren’t buying homes like prior generations did. The American Dream is being redefined and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What’s the ideal balance between spending and saving?

There’s the question we all face every day, which is why budgeting is so challenging. I know several multi-millionaires who don’t feel financially secure but a young client earning $25,000 per year is managing just fine. It’s never about the money.

I encourage clients and members of my support group to focus on their core values and needs, and use them in their day-to-day financial decisions. If you say, for example, that health is very important to you, are you making regular investments in it?

What is the biggest money conflict for couples?

Most couples think they argue about money but what they’re really arguing about is what they each perceive as the right thing to do with it. But what is 'right?'

If each person in the couple isn’t clear about their values and needs, there’s going to be conflict and resentment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I encourage couples to go on financial dates to talk about money before anything escalates to the point of a conflict.

How much money should you have in retirement?

Each person has a different recipe for retirement; some people have a pension, some will have retiree health coverage, some live very frugally while others enjoy “spending their kids’ inheritance.” The goal of any financial plan is to determine how you’ll feel most peaceful and fulfilled, time- and money-wise—and finding the resources to support those priorities.

If nothing else, save at least 10 percent of your income!

College—always worth it?

College could make an enormous difference in your life but it’s certainly not the only path to success. Too many people are striving—desperately in some cases—to do everything the way they think it’s supposed to be done, only to find out it isn’t the way for them.

Take the vacation?

Yes, I’m a huge proponent of travel. I had a coworker who thought that a trip to Hawaii should be part of everyone’s health care plan…I love that idea!

Best money saving tip? Best wealth-building strategy?

If you really want to save more money you have to know why you’re saving and what you’re saving for: What job is the money going to do in your life? My husband likes to ask himself how much or how long he has to work to make a purchase, and if it’s worth the trade-off. Unless you answer these questions, you’ll continue to “wander and squander.” But when you know the answers, you’ll become focused and motivated.

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