Back when I was a kid, maybe 13 or 14, my Dad inherited some land from a relative. My parents soon decided to build a house on the land. As part of the preparation for building the house, we had to dig a footer (also know as a footing). For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a footer is a reinforced concrete pad that sits below the foundation of a house. Digging and pouring a footer is hard, backbreaking, but necessary, work.
In order for a footer to do its job of supporting the foundation (and subsequently, the weight of the entire house) it has to be the proper size and shape for the job. If I remember correctly, the footer we poured was roughly two feet wide and a 10 inches thick, and outlined the perimeter of the house. It also ran length-wise down the center of the house, so that load-bearing walls could be built on top of it.
We had to dig down almost a foot into the hard soil, hacking and cutting our way through roots from nearby pecan tress. After digging out a trench for the footer, reinforcing bar was placed inside the trench and we filled the trench with concrete. Before the concrete could dry, we leveled it – and began our preparations to build the foundation.
I’ll have more to say about the footer in a moment, but first –
It has been several years since I worked on my parents’ house. Truth be told, my Dad did the vast majority of the work, but I do remember most of the steps he took to complete it. (Before I wrote this article, I called him, just to refresh my memory.)
At present, I’m drawn to several similarities between the building of a physical house and the building of a financial house. Throughout the next series of articles, I’ll use terms associated with a physical house – the foundation, the roof, the walls – and use them to illustrate important financial fundamentals.
Just like any house, our financial house is unique. At the same time, it shares many characteristics with any other house. I’ll be writing specifically about the steps we have taken (and are taking) to construct a structurally sound financial house – a house that suits us. At the end of the month, I hope to have completed a series which has made you think, made you ask questions, and perhaps, motivated you to think about your own financial house.
Now, it’s time to finish up with some thoughts about the footer –
It is impossible to overstate how important a footer is to the building of a house. If the footer is too shallow or out of square, the house could sink, walls could crack, and plans could be rendered useless. The truth is, that boring concrete pad, which sits hidden beneath the foundation, the walls, and the roof, is the key to a structurally-sound house. There is nothing exciting about a footer, but that doesn’t mean that the footer isn’t vitally important.
Our Financial Footer – Organization
For me, the financial footer for my house is organization. If I am to be a successful manager of household finances, I need to –
- know the location of important documents
- maintain a balanced checkbook
- be able to quickly access online account information
- regularly backup computer hard drives
Remember, the foundation, which is usually thought of as the bottom of the house, actually rests on the footer. For me, it is extremely important that I stay organized. Without organization, I cannot find insurance documents when I need them, I’m lost when it comes to finding last year’s tax return, and I’m frustrated when it’s time to pay bills.
My wife and I have created a system for staying organized. Just like a footer, there’s nothing glamorous about organization – and you really only notice either when a problem becomes visible from “above”. Without a proper footer, a house will fall. Without proper organization, a financial house will be in disarray.
Tomorrow, I’ll write a bit more about organization – and then I’ll move on to the next step in building our financial house – laying the foundation.