Manulife #LifeReady Instagram Contest

Last week I wrote about what being #LifeReady means for me and my family.

This week, Manulife is hosting an Instagram challenge (and giving away cash money!). Canadians, this one is for you.

It's easy. Share a picture on Instagram of something you're saving for / dreaming of and use the hashtag #LifeReady (and make sure you're following @Manulife). That's it! There's $2,800 up for grabs! Full contest terms and conditions can be found here.

If you haven't taken the Financial Readiness Quiz yet, pop on over. It takes just a couple minutes to complete and you don't have to submit any personal information. It's a useful tool to check where you are in terms of being #LifeReady and what areas could use a little attention.

Manulife's #LifeReady Instagram ends tomorrow, November 6th, so get cracking!

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How #LifeReady is Your Family?

This post is sponsored by 360ACCESS on behalf of Manulife. The opinions are my own.

I had a pretty epic meltdown when I was pregnant with Grady. Shawn and I had some retirement savings. We had a (tiny) savings account. But we also had a large mortgage and a baby on the way. I definitely did not feel like part of the 28% of Canadians who consider themselves financially ready for life's changes.

Talking about life insurance and wills and guardianship in your late 20s is not fun or even remotely comfortable but it was necessary to bring a modicum of peace to my pregnancy hormone-addled brain. We did some research; felt like imposters playing "grownup" while discussing things like annuities and dividends and premiums with our advisor; and purchased life insurance policies that made sense for us and our growing family, hoping that we would never need to use them but knowing that their existence would provide some comfort.

Fast forward a year. I had just turned 30. I had a one-year-old. And I had cancer. I wasn't deathly ill. I wasn't camped out on death's doorstep. But I was facing multiple surgeries and treatment. Our "just in case" life insurance policies became an immense source of relief during a tumultuous time. Life felt out of control apart from one key area: my family's financial future should anything happen to me during treatment. Spoiler alert: I did not die. Shawn did not need to cash in my life insurance policy. But it was there. It was a huge wakeup call for me. Preparing for the "what ifs" and "just in cases" doesn't make me a pessimist. It makes me #LifeReady.

I'm not saying that one act of financial maturity has me feeling more financially savvy than I did four years ago. I took the Manulife Financial Readiness Quiz and scored a Readiness Level 3 which means I've definitely got room for improvement (which isn't a surprise to me). I find it somewhat reassuring to know that I'm not alone and there are plenty of resources available to me to learn how to prepare so my family thrives financially. If you're interested to find out how your financial readiness stacks up, the quiz took less than two minutes to fill out and doesn't require any personal financial information. It showed me where I'm weaker (investments) and where my strengths are (financial stress - who knew?) and a breakdown of areas where I can improve.

Shawn and I want to travel with our family. We want to celebrate birthdays and holidays without feeing pinched financially. We want to contribute to post-secondary education and weddings and down payments on first homes. All of this requires planning and preparation.

Genoa, Italy. Pre-marriage, pre-mortgage, pre-children, when I had the funds to fly to beautiful places to gawk at the stunning architecture. We want to experience this with our family but it won't just fall into our laps. Brick by brick, dollar by dollar, we need to build a stable foundation for our family's financial future. We need to get #LifeReady.

Genoa, Italy. Pre-marriage, pre-mortgage, pre-children, when I had the funds to fly to beautiful places to gawk at the stunning architecture. We want to experience this with our family but it won't just fall into our laps. Brick by brick, dollar by dollar, we need to build a stable foundation for our family's financial future. We need to get #LifeReady.

@Manulife is having a Twitter party tomorrow, October 28th at 9:00pmEST to chat about being #LifeReady. RSVP here and join us on Twitter for your chance to win over $2,500 in cash prizes.

Mo Money

Thank you all for your comments, tweets, and emails about how you budget / don't budget. I'm still trying to figure out what will work for us but it's helpful to know that we're not the only ones who find it difficult. 

I started building a spreadsheet for us to track our spending over the next few months with a general outline of what our ideal budget will look like but I am totally interested in looking at your spreadsheets if you want to share (hillary2LspleaseATgmailDOTcom)

I think part of the reason I have a tough time with budgeting is that I constantly feel like I'm in debt because of our mortgage.  BC real estate is gross and we have a giant mortgage so even though we don't have other debt, I feel like we're always behind. I need to find a way to frame it differently. How do you think of your mortgage? Is it debt to you? Or do you think of it as a monthly living expense like your utility bill? 

Money Money Money

Money is a topic that makes me squirmy. I don't like talking about money. I don't like thinking about money. Money makes me feel dumb.

I am the child of a CGA. I have some post-secondary education in accounting. I feel like I know nothing about money.

Shawn and I don't have an official budget. Saying that out loud makes me feel like a failure. We watch our bank account. When we get a bit spendy we reign it in. When our account is flush we spend money gleefully. We have some retirement savings and Grady has an education fund. But we don't have a plan.

A few times per year I resolve to budget and be strict and be a damn grownup about money but it lasts for a week or two before I'm lost or annoyed.

I'm trying to cut myself some slack because life has been hectic and unpredictable lately but I don't want to cut myself too much slack. I want to use my shame and transform it into action. I want to budget. I want to feel financially savvy.

I need your help. What budgeting tools do you use? What money tricks do you have up your sleeve? How do you manage your dollars without feeling like a dope?