W.O.W. counties among best budgeteers in state
Adviser says start with goals when formulating budget

By Katherine Michalets

June 19, 2019

Graphic from SmartAsset

BROOKFIELD — While many people struggle with keeping a budget, those living in Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties are some of the best at doing so in the state, according to a survey.

According to a recent survey by SmartAsset, Vilas County has the highest number on the Best Budgeters Index at 78.46. Coming in second was Waukesha County with an index number of 73.94.

To determine the index, SmartAsset looked at three factors: how much people spend as a percent of personal income; average net wealth as a percent of personal income; and bankruptcies per 1,000 people.

Ozaukee County placed number three with an index of 72.55. At number 6 is Washington County at 66.24. Number three and four on the list were Door and Calumet counties, respectively.

SmartAsset said about one-third of American households use a budget, according to Gallup.

What does it take to create a budget that you can stick to?

Katie Braun, a financial advisor and associate vice president of Dunco, Braun & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Brookfield, said it starts with determining goals.

She said she wants to help a “client and empower them to start looking forward to some goals,” which helps them to prioritize.

Creating a list of goals is one of the first steps that Braun and Gary Dunco, a private wealth advisor and certified financial planner practitioner with Dunco, Braun & Associates, take with a client. A budget is also key to financial planning, they said.

Goals can be immediate, such as a new car, or further down the road, such as early retirement.

“Working with a client, you want to focus time-wise on a budget,” Braun said.

She advised that a person should pick a couple of months of the year and look at the spending pattern during them.

Even a little spending can add up, so a comprehensive look at essential and lifestyle expenses is important, Braun said.

But ultimately, success comes with the right mindset.

“You want to look at budgeting in positive way, as an empowering thing,” Braun said. “Knowledge is power. … If you shift certain things that you are doing. You can make changes that have no effect at all.”

Dunco advises that if a person receives a pay or bonus, that money should be invested into a retirement fund.

He also said that a credit card doesn’t always need to be torn up to establish correct spending habits.

“I think the world as a whole, the way that we are paying things, is shifting so greatly that going to cash won’t be advisable,” Dunco said.

To help stay on track with a budget, Dunco and Braun advise having a financial advisor or an accountability partner, such as a spouse.

He said it’s also important to establish an emergency fund: about two to three months’ worth of money for a single person and about six months’ worth for a couple.