“I’m human,” Hayes said. “I give myself an 8 with many years of trial and error to learn from.”
Copeman likewise hopes to do better.
“There’s always room for improvement and ways to allocate better,” he said. “Honesty is the best policy. Dining out is my vice.”
With that in mind, both financial pros provide services so others will benefit from Copeman and Hayes’ hard-learned lessons.
Copeman created Financial Lituation, which helps millennials “reinvent their finances and reimagine their freedom so they can live the lives they were created to live.”
Hayes heads Hayes Financial Coaching. Her company “empowers and educates individuals, couples and families with the tools to meet their financial goals, build wealth and achieve complete money control.”
Together, they talked with Winnie Sun, one of the financial industry’s most sought-after professionals.
“Being that I’m a financial advisor, I’d say I’m probably quite above average at budgeting,” Sun said.
She also rates herself high for being financially savvy.
“It’s really good to identify that person in your circle who is good with money,” Sun said. “We learn our money habits early in life. If we know who we can turn to for questions, that helps us develop financial literacy quicker.”
Copeman said associates reinforce financial smarts.
“Surround yourself with others who are in alignment with your goals and understand them,” he said. “Peer pressure can have power, but you have the final say.”
Hayes capitalizes on her financially savvy intuition: “I can walk in a room and start adding up dollars.”
Keeping a budget is deeply engrained from earliest lessons.
“I’ve always kept a budget from even when I was in grade school,” Sun said. “My parents taught me early on the importance of putting things away, saving for the future, but still gave me opportunity to make important financial decisions. Now I translate this to my own kids.
“There is something powerful about putting a budget out on paper so you can see how much it is,” she said. “We have free budget worksheets for all things on our website that we use with our clients. They are super popular.”
Hayes also appreciates visual aids.
“I’m old school,” she said. “I love good old-fashioned pen to paper. I pen my money on paper first on purpose, but I do have spreadsheets and apps as options.”
In his written budgets, Copeman keeps his most important priority in mind.
“I make sure I pay myself first so my money can work for me,” he said. “However, I also use apps such as Personal Capital to track cash flow on a weekly basis.”
Despite such a handy assist, budgeting takes commitment.
“The hardest thing about staying on budget is continuing to stay on budget,” Sun said. “Often, I’ll have clients who committed to the process for a few months. They feel accomplished and want to celebrate by pushing their budget’s limit. That’s a dangerous habit.”
If possible, make budgeting part of your social life.
“It was tough to commit to a budget date night and have those money check-in sessions,” Hayes said. “Now I can’t wait to have a date with Bud — aka Budget — and giving every dollar an assignment.”
You and your budget must have a good mutual relationship.
“The hardest thing about budgeting can be not making it work for you,” Copeman said. “Your spending plan shouldn’t bully you. It should bring balance to your life.”
The experts had several suggestions for the ideal app to help with money.
“The perfect app would keep track of everything that I own and save daily and would tag and expense things smartly, intuitively,” Sun said. “Some come close, but there is still so much accounting work to be done every quarter.”
Peace of mind is a big consideration.
“I would create an app for financial stress,” Hayes said. “You would log in, and it would show your financial stress level. It would change color like a moon ring. It would guide you to get financial help.”
Copeman’s app would be extremely versatile.
“The app would keep track of not only my investment and liquid assets, but also intangible assets,” he said. “Every asset and expense on one platform would be awesome.”
Money talk is not a natural conversation in most households, which hinders financial literacy.
“It’s hard to talk about money because — for most of us — it’s not something we normally do,” Sun said. “We lack experience and practice.
“If we start having these open discussions early in life — in school, with our friends — it becomes a lot easier,” she said. “We need to get to a point when we don’t feel financial truth insecurities.”
Difficulties compound if you already have cash troubles.
“It’s hard to talk money when you don’t have any or you’re in a financial mess,” Hayes said. “We can begin to discuss personal finance and make it less taboo when we begin to forgive ourselves about past money mistakes. We can’t fix what we don’t confront.”
Copeman also cited financial stigma.
“It’s difficult for many to talk about money because they may not feel confident with managing their cashflow and money decisions,” he said. “It’s very important to find spaces that’ll let you feel safe to speak about money without judgment.”
Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” can tear a budget apart.
“I don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses,” Sun said. “As you’re more comfortable with yourself and put value on people over things, this becomes a whole lot easier. Love people, not things.”
Hayes resists keeping up with the Joneses by “stop following them on social media.”
“The only Joneses I keep up with is the Dow Jones Industrials average,” Copeman said. “I love keeping track of my investments and brands I’m invested in.
“However, we always should be keeping up with our goals,” he said. “Those are my Joneses.”
Wishes aside, present-day apps can make budgeting and financial planning easier.
“I’m a big fan of Intuit’s QuickBooks because they help me keep track of my business expenses,” Sun said. “I also enjoy the better credit card apps that keep track of your charges, points earned and even your credit score. Very efficient.”
Hayes prefers any app that helps simplify her personal and business life. This includes Mint for budgets and QuickBooks for business.
“I love Personal Capital to keep me informed of my spending, savings, and expenses,” Copeman said. “It’s very easy to use and understand.”
Like most people, mortgage or housing expenses chew up the biggest chunks of the financial experts’ budgets. That puts a premium on spending to create more cash flow.
“Whether you rent or own, that money goes out every month,” Sun said. “I prefer to focus my energies on making more money rather than skimping on what already is a very lean budget.”
Hayes’ mortgage also commands her focus.
“Each pay cycle I set aside half of my mortgage in my bill account,” she said. “Then I can have more cash flow to cover other expenses until next pay cycle.”
Copeman has an assortment of projects to juggle.
“My biggest expenditures are investing in myself, business and personal finance animated series $hares,” he said. “I keep bills low so I can build more.”