10 Financial Gut Check Questions


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10 Financial Gut Check Questions

On my list of favorite things to do, going to the dentist for a check up oddly doesn’t make an appearance. If it ranks on yours, I’d recommend taking a pen and stabbing it into your hand to ensure you’re not actually a cyborg. If you’re a cyborg, power down and leave us alone. If you’re not a cyborg, I’m sorry about your hand, but you deserved it.

The reason I hate the dentist actually doesn’t have anything to do with the drilling or smells or that awkward moment when you’re gagging on your own saliva because the dental assistant has the vacuum thing in the wrong place and you try to swallow with your mouth open. I mean, I don’t like those things either, but those pale in comparison to the root of my anxiety. It’s actually simple: I hate the anticipation of finding out if I have cavities.

In my misguided past, I chose to avoid that problem by avoiding the dentist — brilliant! I’m more responsible now and average a check up every 6… 10-ish months. But that doesn’t change the pit I feel in my stomach while I sit in the waiting room reading 7-year-old Highlights magazines or while I wear that sheik metal x-ray gown or while the dentist pores over the x-rays, letting out ambiguous “Hrmm”s and “Okay”s while I await the verdict. I feel my palms sweating when the dentist asks, “Are you flossing regularly?” But what does “regularly” even mean, right? So I answer yes. And thankfully, despite my not-so-honest response, I’ve had a clean bill of dental health the last two go-arounds.

After my visit, I feel euphoric. My teeth are sparkly, healthy, and I feel like I’ve just received a new lease on life. Even when there is bad news, I still feel relieved. I faced the beast straight in the eyes, weathered the news, and survived to tell about it. And you better believe I floss every day after the visit. For at least a week.

Where am I going with this? Here’s where I’m going with this. I think a lot of us feel that same anxiety as it relates to our finances. For that very reason, we avoid checking our bank accounts. Or we keep a tab open for months about how to debt snowball, because that basically counts as “doing it.” Or we choose to ignore “what ifs” and spend for today, ignoring tomorrow.

This is our wake up call. This is our chance to answer (truthfully) “do you floss” — except you’re the patient AND the dentist and you’ll know if you’re lying. So let’s face our demons and get this financial gut check over with.

Answer these questions:

  1. Do I know how much my net worth increased/decreased last month?
  2. Am I cheating my future self on retirement savings?
  3. If I lost my job tomorrow, how panicked would I feel?
  4. Are my last 10 expenses congruent with my budget?
  5. Am I more concerned with looking “well off” than being “well off”?
  6. When was the last time I saved money I didn’t have to save?
  7. What would I do if my car broke down?
  8. Am I insured against the things that would ruin me financially?
  9. If I met my soulmate tomorrow, how would I feel about turning over my Mint.com password?
  10. What are my financial habits teaching my kids?

Is sweat dripping off your mouse? Some of those were hard for me to type. It’s weird writing questions you know you don’t want to answer. But we’re all better off for addressing the good, bad, and ugly. Pat yourself on the back for the questions you feel confident about, crack your knuckles and roll up your sleeves for the ones you know could use some work, and schedule a text to auto-send to yourself every single day with the question(s) that made you feel icky. This is your intervention, peeps.

Feeling brave and transparent and open? Share with the group: how’s your gut feeling?

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8 Comments

  • Reply Suzanne July 22, 2015 at 8:06 am

    I think we’re all basically the same when it comes to the Dentist! I am anyway….especially when I can see my knuckles trying to bore holes out of my hands from clenching! Also, WHY do Dentists insist on having full blown conversations with you, and expect you to answer, when your mouth is wide open and all you can muster apart from flicking your eyes is awh-huh or hmmmm and peaking the end of that hmmmmm so as to form a question!!!!! Back to the issue at hand! My emergency fund is not fully funded yet so if I lost my job, I’d panic BIG TIME! Insurance wise, I’m set with life, house, car & medical. Retirement fund has only recently been started but is ticking along. Net worth for me is negative because my home is in negative equity since the property market (here in Ireland) bottomed out and my house is worth roughly half what I paid for it :-( The silver lining (see, I still have a sense of humor!!) however is I’m basically on track with things. Yeah, I’m not doing too bad! Nice little exercise there Johnny to get us thinking about where we’re all at! Thanks! :-)

  • Reply Amber July 22, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Ugh more than anything, this post is making me think I should actually make a dentist appointment :/

  • Reply Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz July 22, 2015 at 8:09 am

    I really like this list! I failed #1 :( Net worth calculations never seem to be at the top of my to-do list. Last one we did was after Q1 of this year.

    But I’m proud to say that 2-10 are passed (there was a couple bonus questions since I already have my soul mate and our child is only 6 months old). We generally reassess these checks every month – we call it budgeting. Not to say that its always easy or fun, but honestly asking these questions and taking the steps to ensure you pass them makes for a goodnights sleep!

  • Reply Rob July 22, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Well dude, not meaning to brag or anything but I figure that I’ve got all your points covered off a-ok (all except that one about the Mint password since we don’t use Mint, or any other financial apps, for that matter). As for the dentist issue, well let me just say that, although my wife and I both regularly see our dentists every 4 months (and have the expenses fully covered by our retirement dental plans), I still “lie through my teeth” when I say that I floss “regularly”! :-)

  • Reply Dane Hinson July 22, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    This is a great list of questions! I think it’s good for everyone to do a “gut check” on a monthly basis. Keeps me accountable and moving forward with my financial goals.

  • Reply Jen C. July 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    #2 just leaves me confused. I am 30 years old and have almost $40,000 in a 401(k). My husband, after much encouraging by me over the last year, FINALLY started contributing to his 401(k). I have no idea if this level of contribution is going to be enough for us, or if we need to invest more. I feel very uneducated about retirement…but I am currently way more concerned about the $35,000 we still need to pay off in debt, so retirement be damned?

  • Reply Jake Spraggins August 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Wow, I never really thought about #10. It should really be on our minds a lot more as parents. I’m not really the most financially stable person out there so i don’t want my kids to grow up with those bad habits.
    #3 also caught my attention. This is one of the worst case scenarios in my opinion. For someone like me, who doesn’t really save much, it would be a horrible situation to get through with my family.

  • Reply Month's End - August 2015 | Mandy Living Life September 2, 2015 at 5:02 am

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