Are you handling your finances well? Do you have trouble managing your money? Hear advice from an expert! In this episode, join Renee Williams as she sits down with financial organizer Sabina Gartler. For over 15 years, Sabina has worked in corporate administration and financial advisory services. Part of the American Association of Daily Money Managers, she translated her organizational and accounting skills into a business to help individuals and small businesses stay financially organized. Don’t be intimidated by spreadsheets, bank statements, and bills. Learn from Sabina as she shares the importance of understanding the problem and guides us through her process.
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Untangling Daily Money Management For REALTORS® With Sabina Gartler
In this episode, we are here with Sabina Gertler. She is a financial organizer and she is the Founder and CEO of Savvy Home Office Services. Welcome, Sabina.
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
We're going to get started with you telling us a little bit about what you do and what your company does. I think it's awesome and it's going to be helpful to our audience.
I have a business called Savvy Home Office Services. The services that I provide, under this umbrella of financial organizing, are essentially keeping things on track for people financially. That's a big heading and it can include a lot of different things for individuals like bill paying, keeping track of mail, opening mail and making sure nothing gets missed. Handling all these other complicated financial situations that you might come across, as far as if you have a lot of investments.
Your investment advisor may be asking for a lot of information that you don't understand or your CPA may be asking for information and you're not exactly sure what to send them. It can also be cashflow management. People who may have irregular income or have difficulties managing bills and the money coming in, that's sometimes a difficult part of what I help my clients with.
Prior to that, I worked in the financial services industry. It was there working in that industry where I saw people having issues with the more nitty-gritty, daily money manager type of problems. To the point where sometimes it was hard for the financial advisors to create solid long-term financial plans because they couldn't get a lot of good data as far as their current financial situation. How much they were spending. Usually, people are good about knowing how much money they have coming in. It's usually on the expense side that it's harder to understand unless you've taken a look at that.
This is a potential problem for people and a financial services firm, unless they have an arm to do that, they don't have the time to sit down with somebody and say, “Let's go through all your bank transactions to see what you're spending.” They leave it up to them. If they haven't been doing it before, it's going to be hard for them to sit down and do it and do it then. That’s where I got this idea that, “There's a problem there,” and that at some point, a business can be created out of this.
Throughout the years, I've found the American Association of Daily Money Managers that essentially caters to this. I also help businesses, sometimes with similar problems but also sometimes it's basic bookkeeping, maintaining their QuickBooks or other financial software because that's extremely important for a business to have and they often don't want to do it.
All of the things that you said are all things that different people in the audience struggle with. When you're saying, “Have an irregular income,” I'm like, “Check.” When you're saying, “Needing help getting documents together or putting records together for CPA,” “That's me. Check.” There are all kinds of things that you do. Even the bookkeeping, the day-to-day bookkeeping on a personal and a business level are so helpful. Tell us about your area of expertise. Is there a specialization that you do specifically?
I wouldn't necessarily call it a specialization but the area where I tend to bring a lot more value to people is in this idea of cashflow management. To give a little bit of an idea of what that means. I understand it but it may not be a common term. Cashflow is money coming in and money going out. When the stars align, all that works fine. There's plenty of money to cover whatever money needs to go out for bills and other expenses.
People who have an irregular income or sometimes people come to me because, essentially, they are spending everything they make or spending more than they make and it often comes out as a cashflow problem. You've got all these bills and there's not enough money to pay them. How do I work this? How do I fix this? That’s where I feel I bring a lot of help to people because of the process that I go through with them. It helps them to understand that cashflow.
Cashflow analysis helps to understand the money coming in and the money going out.
For me, that is foundational to helping a lot of people that come to me for help. It’s understanding this cashflow and doing that analysis because essentially, I'm not sure how much I can help them without me and them understanding the cashflow. That’s where I bring the most value to my clients. It’s going through that process with them and helping them to understand what I do with this information once we have it, looked at it and done the analysis. Now what? What do we do with it?
What I love about what you do is that you have a specialty called a Daily Money Manager. Is that right?
Yes. That falls into the heading of a lot of the bill paying, keeping up with the mail and a lot more. Let's say individual clients find that particular service helpful. Maybe they don't want to do it, they're too busy to do it or maybe it's overwhelming to them. Looking at my client roster, the individuals that I work with on a personal basis are all individuals. A lot of times this type of service can be helpful for someone who's gone through some transition like divorce, death of a spouse or some other separation.
A change like that sometimes can lead to frustration with this kind of work especially if, prior to that transition, they were not used to handling this type of stuff or on the nitty-gritty level that they were used to. That’s where having somebody like me come in and either set up a system for them to run with themselves or somebody to come in and help them periodically to make sure that everything's still running as it should and nothing's falling through the cracks. If they don't understand something, they have somebody they can ask questions to and I can direct them, “You need to talk to your CPA about this. Let's call your CPA.” If you want to think about the daily money manager and what that looks like, that's a lot of what that looks like for individuals.
In my head, I have two parts of my life that I potentially need help with. I'm speaking as any Jane Doe in the audience. I have my personal financial issues that I'm dealing with at home and not necessarily bad but they need some organization. I have my business finances like my profit and loss. My daily bookkeeping or monthly bookkeeping that I need help with. Are those both things that a daily money manager can help me with? Is the daily money manager for personal and there's a different type of money manager or a bookkeeper for business?
Under the most strict definition of a daily money manager, it is mostly on the personal side. That's usually what they're doing. In practice, myself and other daily money managers that I know, a lot of them do both. Some may prefer working with people on their personal finances and others may prefer it for business but that there is a difference. However, a lot of professionals because the process is somewhat similar, I am not sure a lot of them specialize strictly in one or the other.
As far as the pricing, is there a price range that I would be looking at? Is it expensive to get somebody to help me as a daily money manager? Would it be more expensive to have them do both personal and business?
I can only speak for my own pricing. I don't want to comment on any other professional in this space but I charge by the hour. I do know a lot of other bookkeepers and daily money managers who charge by the hour. For me, a big part of that is because the services that I provide to an individual client can be quite varied and not every client is going to need the same service as other clients. It’s essentially how much time does it take me to do your work for you. There's a little bit of choice there as far as how much they want to spend in the sense of how much hands-on work they need from me.
If the budget is a concern, maybe my role is to come in and clean up what they have, make it work better, put some systems into place that are going to help them manage it on themselves down the road and they can take over for it, which is a bit of an upfront cost. In the end, they're going to be able to manage it themselves, if perhaps cost is a concern. If they wanted to do more of themselves and have me come in more on a consulting basis, let's say, review what's done, give things a second view, that's less cost than if they want me to come in and do everything on a regular basis.
Is there a range in general, cost-wise? When I say expensive, in my mind I'm thinking, “Attorneys charge $300 an hour sometimes or more,” am I looking at that type of expense? Am I looking at something that may be a little bit more reasonable?
This is an unscientific survey of other daily money managers or other bookkeepers that I know. The range is probably going to be closer to $75 to maybe $125 an hour.
That’s fair enough. We know that we need to do our own due diligence and our own research if we're interested in getting a money manager or bookkeeper to help us. We need to do our own research to find that out but it's helpful, in my mind, to know what am I looking at cost-wise if I'm considering getting somebody to help me with this. It is super stressful, sometimes when you're dealing with money and you want to hand it to somebody. If you cannot afford to hand it to someone, are there any tips that you may have for getting a grip on our finances without hiring a money manager?
One of the big things that I always recommend to people, probably a little too much, they probably get a little annoyed by it and I'm probably going to mention it several times on this episode, is that cashflow analysis to understand the money coming in and the money going out. I don't mean that in the sense of, “Let me do an estimate on the back of a napkin.” That's not real. You will likely underestimate some expenses doing it that way.
What I take some clients through is to download all your transactions from all of your banks, your credit cards, any account where you either receive income or pay expenses out. All that needs to be consolidated and all of those transactions for at least six months need to be reviewed and categorized. It’s categorized by, “Here's my mortgage expense or my rent expense. Here's my groceries, the gas for my car, eating out, travel and insurance.” All those various aspects of your spending need to be categorized and totaled up.
Once you have that six months total, you divide that six months total by six to get an average monthly amount for what you're spending. You can compare that let's say that total average monthly spending with your total average monthly income and see where that is. That's where people are often surprised by how much they spend especially in certain categories. Dining out is a big one for some people. Travel or other miscellaneous spending is sometimes an eye-opener for people.
It is amazing how much we spend on eating out so much so that I used to stick my head in the sand and not look at it because I knew that I was spending a lot of money on Chick-fil-A. I don't even dine expensively. I'm dining “cheap” at Chick-fil-A but at $10 a salad and Sunjoy and I can eat Chick-fil-A every day. Thank God, they're closed on Sunday because if not it could be seven days a week that I'm buying Chick-fil-A for $10 a day. That's $60 a week. I spend a lot of money on eating out and that's me.
I’ve got two kids and my husband's not much for eating out. He's always our budget saver and eat-at-home. I love him but me and the kids are bad about eating out. We can go through assuming let's say we're spending $200 a week easily between the three of us eating out. That's $800 a month on eating out. It’s crazy how much you can spend on eating out. Do have a look at it. Is there an online analysis or something you can quickly pull from Google or does Savvy have something that we can look at to do a cashflow analysis of our own?
I did write a couple of newsletter articles so those are on my website, SavvyHomeOffice.com. I will also mention that there's a lot of software and apps that you can set up to essentially do this for you and do it perhaps a bit quicker and easier than downloading spreadsheets from your bank. It is the lower-tech available to about anybody who has online banking to go through and do that process. If you want to try and streamline it a little bit, there are online apps that you can use.
Mint is a common popular app. It's fairly user-friendly. All of them are going to require a little bit of setup but once you've got the setup going, it's going to help a lot by pre-classifying a lot of transactions so you don't have to slog through everything every month. What it also allows you to do is maintain that monitoring of your spending, not from that initial analysis that you may do but also down the road periodically, ideally monthly. If you're trying to change your spending habits, it's going to give you feedback on how that's going.
Mint is an online program. They also have an app for phones and tablets. Quicken is another one that's been around forever but that is software that you download onto your computer. Let's say if you're not comfortable using an online service, you can use Quicken. If you need a budget, which is also an app, an online software that's geared toward people who are trying to stick to a budget who need frequent feedback as far as how much they're spending, maybe just not once a month but let's say throughout the month to see how they're doing toward a spending target. Those software are essentially set up to do exactly what I described with spreadsheets.
There may be a bit of a learning curve to learn the system and be able to set everything up because it'll have to have downloads from the various financial institutions. Once you get it set up, it will help you go through that process and it'll give you nice, lovely reports that essentially give you exactly what I said you need. It is a summary of your spending and a summary of your income until you can compare those.
What I heard you say was that this is something that you can have set up on your computer, your desktop or your phone. For the audience, I'm going to suggest as I always do, if you have someone you trust, maybe an adult child, a spouse or someone else eat some people even have executive assistants or an assistant that they trust enough who's been with them for 15, 20 years that they trusted to help them get all this setup.
A lot of times we as agents get lost. We're working with our teams and we're brokers. We don't have time to sit down, which is why our finances are a mess often because we don't have the time to sit down and do it. I always get on my soapbox and say, “Get help where you can and where you are comfortable.” We're talking about your personal finances so maybe your assistant at work is not the person to help with that.
Maybe it's your spouse or an adult child but you definitely need to get somebody, if not you, to get this all set up so you can see where your money is going and to get that cashflow analysis done. What if my finances are truly a mess and I need help, where would we start? It’s like me and you working together. You're going to come in and you're going to help me with my personal finances first, let's talk about that. Where would we start? How do I maintain organization?
I'm going to look at the situation and probably ask you a lot of questions but essentially, I want to try and get to what the actual problem is. Is it more of an administrative problem where bills are coming in but they get laid off, get placed somewhere and never get paid because there's no system for, “I need a system for paying bills?” Is it more a cashflow problem where they've got all these bills, these they need to pay but there never seems to be any money to pay them. The money mysteriously disappears out of the bank account but it's not that mysterious. It's being spent somewhere.
That’s where I want to try and understand what the problem is. If your finances are a mess, what's causing them to be a mess? Once I identified that that's where I can start to give you a solution of, “Is it a cashflow problem?” We need to do a cashflow analysis, first off because before I can recommend something, I need to see the situation. I need to see what's going on and for me, the best tool is cashflow analysis. I need to know what's coming in and what's going out. If some adjustments need to be made as far as how much is going out in certain areas, that's where we would need to focus now.
If your finances are a mess, identifying what’s causing them to be a mess will help you come up with a solution.
If it's more of an administrative problem where you've got a lot of things that don't get done, maybe because there's no system to get them done or a bad system to get them done usually is what's going on. The mail comes in, it gets dropped somewhere and months later, you might be cleaning something up and you’re like, “There's this bill I was supposed to pay.” There may not necessarily be a cashflow problem, the money may be there, it's a matter of why are these bills not getting paid. Why are these financial things not getting done?
It may be an issue of you not having a system built to handle this stuff. Where are the bills going to go when they come to the mail so they don't get lost? Better yet, can you automate payment of a lot of these bills so even if it does get mislaid somewhere for three weeks, it's still going to get paid on time. It's trying to understand what the problem is, taking the first step, building from there and it's usually about a system. I'm going to tell you right there.
Organization is always about a system. Part of that is creating the system but the other important part of that is maintaining the system and that's where both of those parts need to be addressed whenever somebody’s like, “I need help. I need help with my finances. They're a mess.” It's like any mess. It’s like, “Your closet is a mess.” You’ve got to decide what you have, decide what's working and create a system to take it from being a mess to not being a mess and a system to make sure it doesn't become a mess again.
I love the closet analysis. When I'm thinking about the closet, my daughter went and moved to college so we moved her in. Now that she's at the dorm, I went through her closet at home. We still got stuff from when she was in eighth grade and didn't need it and that could totally be donated. We've got a couple of things that still have tags on them. It’s not a whole lot but there are a few things with tags still on them. I'm like, “These are perfectly good clothes that can be donated.”