Money 'watcher' keeps clients' finances on track

'overwhelmed' clients need a hand to right their ship

Sun SentinelJune 23, 2013 

  • Managing money

    Daily money manager Caitlin Hall says you can take control of your finances if you:

    ■ Write down your income and expenses. Don't ballpark them. Use credit card statements and tally other monthly expenses such as house payments and utilities. Look for ways you can cut and save.

    ■ Have savings automatically taken out of your paycheck before you receive it.

    ■ Set up an emergency fund to cover expenses such as when your car breaks down or if you get laid off.

    ■ Focus on saving for retirement before you put away for your kids' college. "You can't get a loan for your retirement, but there are loans for college," Hall said.

Caitlin Hall of Plantation, Fla., makes money minding others' dollars. These days, Hall, 39, and a growing number of professional daily money managers cater to clients who are too busy, elderly or inexperienced to handle their finances.

Hall steps in with computerized spreadsheets and budgets, ready to relieve stress for clients who need a hand in saving, paying bills, checking credit reports, maintaining financial records and controlling spending. She calls it "financial cleanup services."

The name of her company — Organize My Life — is what many clients are craving, she said.

Some elderly clients need help keeping track of their expenses and writing checks. "My oldest client is 98," Hall said.

Many other clients are dual-income workers who have children at home and complain they don't have the time to get their finances in order, Hall said.

"I know what they go through; I used to work crazy hours too," said Hall, who has an MBA and worked in Los Angeles before moving back to her hometown of Plantation with her husband. They have two sons, ages 2 and 5.

"Time deficit is one of the biggest problems," Hall said. "People are overwhelmed with their daily lives."

Of the financial workers who help, 682 belong to the American Association of Daily Money Managers. Hall, for example, passed an exam to become a certified professional daily money manager. "It's a growing field," association spokeswoman Erin Connelly said.

The nonprofit money management association formed 15 years ago, when a handful of money managers began meeting to talk about their work in helping seniors keep track of their money, Connelly said. Now daily money managers see a full range of clients, including young people wanting advice as they start out in careers and set up households.

"We're seeing a lot of newly married couples who want help in their budgeting," Connelly said. "A lot of people come out of school in debt."

Other clients come to Hall for help in sorting out their financial troubles, which they have allowed to grow by not opening bills or even legal mail. "Most of the time, they are embarrassed," Hall said. But ignoring the financial mess only adds stress, she said.

"The problem is, after ignoring your finances for months, or years, you find that you are in a hole you can't see your way out of," Hall writes on her website.

There's sweet relief from stress once people begin to confront their financial problems, she said.

In West Palm Beach, Fla., Amy McCabe, a married saleswoman with two young children, said life became easier once Hall helped.

"She has definitely organized my life," McCabe said. "She also has saved me a lot of money."

Now McCabe said she doesn't rack up late fees for forgetting to pay bills. "My credit score has gone up, too," McCabe said.

It's a misconception that high-earning couples have a lot of extra money to save for retirement and their children's college educations, Hall discovered. In reality, they are so busy with their careers and children, they don't even know how they are spending their money. Some even forget to cancel automatic withdrawals from their checking accounts once they go with another cable or phone service.

In many cases, Hall requests — and gets — refunds from companies.

"I feel like I am making a difference for people," she said. "I find it very satisfying."


Managing money

Daily money manager Caitlin Hall says you can take control of your finances if you:

■ Write down your income and expenses. Don't ballpark them. Use credit card statements and tally other monthly expenses such as house payments and utilities. Look for ways you can cut and save.

■ Have savings automatically taken out of your paycheck before you receive it.

■ Set up an emergency fund to cover expenses such as when your car breaks down or if you get laid off.

■ Focus on saving for retirement before you put away for your kids' college. "You can't get a loan for your retirement, but there are loans for college," Hall said.

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