Budget Season Is Upon Us

My client base continues to grow, the markets are trending higher lately, and I secured another financial planning engagement this week. All of these are positive signs, but growth brings with it increased responsibility and a greater need for operational efficiencies. Growth also brings to the forefront the need to revisit the ol' business budget to see if actual income and expenses are tracking with your projections.

I can remember having to create a budget for a bank subsidiary for which I was responsible. The very first thing that experience taught me is expenses are much more predictable than income. With this in mind, I'd like to discuss, in general, my business expenses and ask you, the reader, if you have any sage advice you'd be willing to share.

But first, I'd like to share some background.

When I started out as an independent advisor, I had no rent as I operated out of one of the bedrooms in my house. The only monthly expenses I had were two phone lines--one for phone and one for fax--a subscription to Morningstar's "Enterprise Edition" tool, and some basic office supplies.

Around June 2008, I upgraded to Morningstar's Office Edition so I could add performance reporting and enhance my research capabilities. I signed a lease on an office in August 2008 and added E&O insurance. Finally, in January 2009, I moved next door into the newly constructed office where I now hang my hat.

Here's a breakdown, by percentage, of my current monthly business expenses.

Expense

%

Rent

43.5%

Utilities (Electric)

2.0%

Phone/DSL

9.0%

E&O Insurance

2.5%

Health & Dental Insurance

11.3%

Morningstar Office Edition

15.5%

CNBC Plus (Live CNBC-TV on my computer)

0.4%

Quotestream (Analytical Tool)

0.9%

Hostgator (Web Space)

0.4%

Office Expenses (Supplies)

1.8%

That's the majority of my business expenses. I also have some expenses which occur less frequently. For example, I pay dues to maintain my CFP, AEP, and other designations. Additionally, I may take someone to lunch.

What does your budget look like? If you have any ideas to share, I'd love to hear from you.

Just as it is with investing, one sure way to increase returns is to reduce expenses.

Thanks for reading!

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