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CeCe and the Budget Talk

By Joey Havens

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As I finish up reconciling our personal accounts to provide our tax department with our tax information, it’s evident that CeCe and I both have spent too much money on certain aspects of our budget. We were not good stewards of our blessings this year. I’ve noticed that as I near retirement, I am more sensitive to this stewardship than in my youth. If only we could have more wisdom in our youth!

It’s time to share my findings and thoughts with CeCe. As I begin, she looks at me and smiles, “I’m about to get the budget talk, right?” “Yes, I have finished our accounting and we had too much discretionary spending this year.”

Later that afternoon as I head to the bedroom, I hear CeCe talking to our neighbor Jan. “We are having our annual budget talk tonight, I knew it was coming because he has been working on our taxes. Liz (fictitious name to protect the innocent) was walking with me yesterday and she was sharing that they had a budget talk last night, too. I hate this time of the year!”

Don’t we all! Tax time is so stressful and so are budget talks. But I also realize that I’m making the same mistake over and over and expecting a different outcome. CeCe and I have not set up a formal monthly budget to monitor and respond to our discretionary spending in real-time.

We don’t have a relevant dashboard and neither do most of our medium and small business clients. Even many of our largest clients are struggling to compile and analyze their data. Our clients have lots of data and most of it is in silo systems that are not integrated into a database. Most of them live in “Spreadsheet Hell.”

One of the biggest opportunities for our profession is to integrate client data, scrub the data for relevance, completeness and accuracy, and collaborate with clients to generate real-time dashboards that reduce their reliance on spreadsheets and provide insights for action.

I mentioned my insights to CeCe and suggested we adopt a monthly discretionary dashboard. She didn’t exactly embrace the idea as I think she prefers to have the budget talk once a year rather than monthly! Ha! The good news is that our clients are eager to have this collaboration and they are hungry for relevant and timely insights. Why aren’t we having more of these dashboard talks?

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