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16 things every family should know and do!

Taking care of the family is a hard job. In these complicated times it's even harder to make "the best" decision when there are so many things to make decisions about. In case your list has gotten a little scrambled, here's my list of "16 Things every family should know and do!"

  1. What is your net worth
  2. This can be simple or complicated, sit down with a piece of paper and write down all of your assets and all of your debts. The difference between these 2 numbers is your Net Worth.
  3. Track your money
  4. Use to keep track of your budget categories and all spending. Mint is super easy to add cash transactions into, being certain to track all spending.
  5. Set family financial goals - dream boards
  6. Think with the family about what your goals are! College, vacation home, summer vacation, a deck, summer camp - let everyone dream and then prioritize those dreams. It's much easier to save if you know what you are saving for. Make a bulletin board with words and pictures to remind and inspire you!
  7. Have a budget - flexible
  8. Budgets are not one size fits all. One budget will not fit every family and it won't fit every month. It is important to plan for irregular spending and unexpected events. Budgets are a do your best event, make your plan, work your plan best you can then review your results each month.
  9. Live light
  10. If you live as light as possible, you can be used to spending less making saving more and requiring less much easier.
  11. Pay off your debt
  12. Debt is not necessary, not desirable and not good. Every penny you can save now, compounded will be many more pennies at retirement. Resist the advertisements to let other people have your retirement by leasing vehicles, buying items on payments and financing homes and vehicles. Payoff your credit cards and keep them paid off.
  13. Create a freedom fund
  14. A freedom fund is your irregular spending account. Sit down with a calendar and think through the last year or two. With a notepad, write down each event that cost something at the time but does not happen every month. Add up your list and divide by 12, then pay that fund via a savings account that much every month to be sure those events don't hurt your financial month.
  15. Create an emergency fund
  16. Emergency funds are crucial. Do everything you can to put at least $1000 into a savings account for those moments. 3-6 months of living expenses are the standard amount recommended but 6-12 months is often recommended in light of recent economies.
  17. Get a will
  18. Get a will. Solidify guardians of children. Get a will. Make sure folks know where it is.
  19. Invest for retirement - realistically
  20. If you are planning to live off of social security, be prepared to be homeless. Be realistic about what you need and desire in retirement and work towards that. Old age will happen - there is no mortal way around it.
  21. Invest in education - practically
  22. You do not have to fully fund 8 years at Harvard. Teach your children the value of money and the value of education. Children can apply for grants and scholarships. Children can work while in school. Children can attend junior college. YOU cannot get a scholarship or grant for retirement. Do what you can for your kids but take care of yourself first.
  23. Have life insurance
  24. Think you won't die? You will! Have life insurance if you family depends on you even 1%. Buy term life insurance and invest the rest, covering you for higher amounts needed while the children are in the house and in college.
  25. Have the right insurances
  26. Check through your policies and be sure you are covered for what you need. Call a few insurance companies or use an online site to compare insurance costs and be sure you aren't paying too much. Watch your deductibles and your coverage limits on each policy. Finally be sure to keep your beneficiaries updated.
  27. Cars: get them pre-depreciated and don’t fleece
  28. Are new cars pretty? Yes. Do you need to pay someone ginormous amounts of money just to have one? No. Always buy cars at least 3-5 years old so they have already plummeted in value. Buy in cash if you can but finance at a good rate if you must. No fleecing!
  29. Update your documents annually
  30. Everyone should have a protected binder of important documents; wills, birth certificates, titles, contracts, bonds. Be sure to review your documents annually. Make sure your insurance policies have proper beneficiaries. Be sure all accounts are represented. Be sure all family members are accounted for.
  31. Have monthly family meetings to keep everyone involved in reviewing the budget and results
  32. I love our family meetings. The first week of the month after the last day of the month has cleared the banks and, I write down our balances and budget numbers. I review our net worth with our family and the amount we were either over or under on our bottom line. We either discuss what happened in spending or decide what to do with extra money. Our investment accounts have an automatic deposit for college, freedom and retirement funds but mint has a space that lets you see how much of an impact extra money can have on your goals as well. It's amazing.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /


  1. Thanks Lisa! It's a big list when each thing is so big but having a checklist can be really empowering. Did I miss anything you can think of?


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