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Regularly Check-In On Your Finances

Eric Ripert is part-owner and executive chef at Le Bernardin [3], one of four New York City restaurants to have been awarded 3 Michelin stars in the Michelin Guide NYC 2006. I first learned of Ripert after he appeared on one of my favorite shows, Bravo’s Top Chef [4], and started reading his blog, Avec Eric [5].

As always, I’m a big fan of reading and learning about “behind the scenes” type stuff and in early July, Ripert wrote a post in which he gave you a behind the scenes look at the operations of Le Bernardin [6]. The point that I found most intriguing, and most applicable to personal finance, was that they started service each day with a “family meal” where they check-in and discuss the work ahead of them:

Before we start service each day, one or two of the cooks will put together what we call “family meal”. It is usually something like home cooking but simple and not too heavy so that we don’t feel too full during dinner service. It is important to eat a little something before the really hard work starts because our dinner service lasts for several hours and we don’t take a break at all. Also, this family meal is a good time for all of us to discuss the work day but also to connect on a personal level. Just like a family meal at home, it is an important part of the day.

Why should you care about this? This underscores the importance of regularly “checking-in” with your finances.

Every month, I log into all of my financial accounts and record all the balances in an Excel spreadsheet. It’s a very manual process, which pushed me to start simplifying my financial accounts [7], but very valuable in helping me understand our financial situation. The numbers are only the beginning and are, in fact, the least important part of our check-in process.

After I record the numbers, I discuss them with my lovely wife. Sometimes it’s just to talk about what balances have gone up or down, why they may have done that, what our near-term goals are, etc. Sometimes our discussions end with the numbers, sometimes we start talking about longer term goals and plans. Regardless of where the conversation goes, the value is in ensuring we are on the same page and understand where we are going.

Many things in life are like the telephone game, where the message at the beginning of the chain gets distorted as it is passed from person to person, and finances included. If you don’t regularly discuss finances with your “team,” then you can’t be sure everyone knows what they’re doing. Regularly checking in ensures that you are.

Do you regularly check in?

(Photo: vidiot [8])