A new year, a new you!

Make the most of the coming year.

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As we count down the final hours of 2017 on this last day and final blog post of the year, let’s pause a moment and take stock of the past twelve months.  It may not have been a perfect year  for most of us, but when we reflect back, in most cases we’d have to agree that there were far more good times than bad.  There will always be a small percentage of people we know who had a rough year. These people constantly exclaim ‘I can’t wait for this year to be over’.   For me, the only real part that I dislike and am ready for to end is always winter. I’m not a fan of the snow  and ice. I dislike the short days of early darkness and sub-freezing temperatures.  In North America, winter spans the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new.  Seasons change, and winter exists in part to make us appreciate spring, summer and autumn all the more.   

Raindrops keep falling on my head!

We have no control over the weather, just how we prepare for it. We carry an umbrella in case it rains. We have a coat or jacket in case it gets cold. Only a foolish person curses the weather because they chose not to plan accordingly. We don’t always have to like circumstances beyond our control, but realistically we know that the situation will change in time, and with proper planning and precautions, we can weather the storm. Make it your goal to accept the things you have no control over, and make positive changes over the things that you can control.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!  My, oh my, what a wonderful day!

Every day each and every one of us gets 86,400 seconds to spend however we choose, with just two exceptions. The day we’re born and the day we die. Excluding those, our days are all the same length, yet some people never seem to get anything done, while others accomplish an incredible amount.  The difference was the result of the choices made, and the attitude behind them.  Planning your day out ‘saves time’.  Procrastinating wastes it. Being miserable makes the day drag, but time flies when you’re having fun.  Did you dwell on the past instead of planning for the future? Keep a positive attitude and try to find one good thing to be thankful for each day. Then focus on that. A positive attitude will attract like-minded people and soon you’ll be surrounded by a positive support group to help keep you encouraged. Remember, no one likes a sad sack.

Time is on my side, yes it is.  

Plan ahead, and plan early. Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today! Prior proper planning prevents poor performance .  Manage your time, manage your expenses. Make positive changes in every aspect of your life, and multi-task when you have complimentary goals.     

The great thing about New Year’s is that it’s a reminder that we can start over. If you didn’t like the way this past year went, you can look back on what went wrong, and make changes to fix the problems. You can make New Year’s Resolutions for every item under the sun. The key though, is that you must complete the goal to achieve the result. If you change nothing, nothing will change. You can do it if you stay motivated. One key way to achieve this is by seeing positive change over a period of time.  If you have a fitness goal, such as losing weight, break it down into smaller, easily achievable goals.  Instead of focusing on the sixty pounds you want to lose this year, focus on the five pounds you need to lose in each of the twelve months and be consistent. Track your progress so that you can see how far you’ve come. And if you reach the goal early, go the extra mile and get ahead of the game. This way if you hit a plateau, or a stumbling block, you’ve got breathing room to regroup and recover from the setback. The same thing applies to financial goals. Slow and steady wins the race.  Baby steps forward are still progress.

I faced it all and I stood tall And did it my way!

The Man in the Mirror is a book written by Patrick Morley in 1989. I recommend reading it, as well as exploring any self-help books pertaining to the area of your life that you wish to change.  In  The Man in the Mirror , the author attempts to  teach us to solve 24 problems every man faces in life. Although geared for men, this book applies to everyone. The title is the clue to the cause of the problems, and the solution is to live our lives in a more godly manner.  How many of the problems we face in our lives are a direct result of our stubbornness to do  it ‘our way’ instead of the right way? How many times do we repeat the same mistakes and expect different results? An honest person is forced to admit that the larger portion of our misfortunes are self-made.   Blaming the year and wishing it were over is a very childish way to deal with one’s problems. After all, if you don’t effect positive changes in your life, most likely next year will be a repeat of this year,  or maybe be even worse.  The choice is up to you!  Are you ready for more of the same, or a fantastic new beginning?  You decide.  As always I wish you happiness and success!

Secret Santa

A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. –– Proverbs 18:16 KJV

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As I’m sitting here in the wee small hours of the morning of Christmas Eve 2017 working on my last Christmas-themed financial blog post of 2017, the main thought that is going through my mind is, ” I LOVE CHRISTMAS!”  It is impossible ignore the fact that whatever your personal religious beliefs are, Christmas begins with CHRIST, Jesus is the reason for the season, and Christians like myself become ‘a little more vocal’ about what we believe. Christmas is a very good thing for both the believer and the non-believer alike.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year! So if you don’t believe in Christ, please don’t take offense at a person extending you a heartfelt ‘Merry Christmas’ at this time of year. It’s not a religious threat or insult, it’s a olive branch or a bridge to show that we are all connected. Take it in the spirit of goodwill in which it’s meant.

Talking about ‘spirits’ and giving brings to mind two secular and fictional aspects of Christmas: Ebeneezer Scrooge and Santa Claus.  

I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ — Acts 20:35 The Holy Bible, New King James Version

There are people in this world today who claim that being wealthy is a sign of greed, and that somehow the rich people of the world are responsible for causing the poverty in it. This is far from the truth. Wealthy people pay the majority of all taxes collected, and donate the largest sums to charities. They build the factories, fund the businesses, and create the jobs.   

The protagonist of A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens is a miser named Ebeneezer Scrooge. Some people get the idea that he’s the villain of the tale because all he cares about is money. Scrooge isn’t the bad guy because he has money, but because he lives a joyless existence, he mistreats his employees,  and he’s horded his wealth instead of using it to bless the needy and do acts of great good. After he’s visited by the Christmas spirits, he sees the error of his ways, and is transformed by the renewing of his heart and mind. He then does great acts of charity that would not have been possible had he been poor. There are some acts of generosity that only  a wealthy person has the ability to do. Anyone can smile, say a kind word, do good deeds, or pray for other people. These things are good, and we should always do them. Most people can even afford to donate money to the less fortunate, even if it’s only coins in the Salvation Army Kettle at Christmastime.

Only the rich can give charities million-dollar endowments or build factories to create jobs.

 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’— Matthew 25:23, New English Translation

 Santa Claus is a bit more tricky. His origins have been mixed with fable thanks to L. Frank Baum and Clement C. Moore. Elves and reindeer aside, ‘Father Christmas’ is based on a real person, Saint Nicolas of Myra was a Christian bishop who helped the needy. He was born circa 280 AD and died December 6th 345 AD. In the twentieth century, Santa Claus stated to supplant Christ as the focus of Christmas, basically because he was a fun way to make the season more ‘inclusive’. Some people who were not religious felt left out. So advertising departments of companies like Coca-cola and Macy’s ran with Santa as a jolly alternative, and a new representative of Christmas goodwill.  This is both good and bad. Bad because Santa distracts us from ‘the real reason for the season’ and can be confusing for young children. Good because Santa is FUN, and inspires giving.      

As a Christian, I KNOW that ALL things come from God, and everything I have ultimately came from The Lord of All Creation. Christians especially have a duty to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and Christmas gives us many great opportunities to help the less fortunate. I find myself a little merrier wearing a red Santa hat, it inspires me!

I’m going to wrap this up with the inspiring true story of Larry Stewart, the Secret Santa.  

 Kind words and kind actions can change lives!

Larry Stewart (April 1, 1948 – January 12, 2007) was an American philanthropist from Kansas City better known as “Kansas City’s Secret Santa.” After poor beginnings, Stewart — from 1979 through 2006 — made a practice of anonymously handing out small amounts of cash, typically in the form of hundred-dollar bills, to needy people.

Larry was a traveling salesman in 1970, and he wasn’t very good because by 1971 he was broke and sleeping in his car. After a few days of not eating, in desperation he decided to ‘rob’ a diner by ordering a big breakfast he couldn’t pay for, and then claiming he accidentally lost his wallet somehow.  Ted Horn owner of the Dixie Diner realized the true nature of the situation, and instead of getting mad, or calling the cops, decided to give Larry a $20 bill he ‘found’ on the floor, which ‘might’ have fallen out of Larry’s ‘lost’ wallet. This lesson of kindness and generosity stayed with Larry Stewart. Ashamed of his initial act of deception, and humbled by the kindness of the diner owner, he vowed to himself that he would  ‘pay it forward’ as soon as he was able.

Around Christmas of 1979 on a very cold day, he stopped at a drive-in restaurant. A carhop waitress was outside wearing a small, thin coat, and freezing as she served the diners at their cars in the hope of maybe nickel or dime tips. When she brought Larry his lunch, he handed her a $20 bill, and told her to keep the change. Her lips begin to tremble and tears begin to flow down her cheeks as she said, ‘Sir, you have no idea what this means to me.’

Stewart went on to become a multimillionaire, earning his fortune from cable television and long distance calling. Each Christmas from 1979 until his death in 2007 he continued giving cash away to the needy as Secret Santa.  He quickly progressed from giving out $20s to handing out $100s, not just in Kansas City but traveling to other areas in times of tragedy, like NYC after 9/11/01 and Mississippi in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.  Sadly, he developed cancer, but because he was concerned about the poor and needy, he trained an army of Secret Santas and assistant ‘elves’ who would pass out $100s to the needy after he was gone. By the time he passed away on January 12th 2007, Larry Stewart had given away over a million dollars, all inspired by the kindness of ONE man who gave him a $20 bill decades earlier. Today, the army of Secret Santas continue to hand $100 bills to poor, their efforts supported by other wealthy philanthropists, and inspiring others to do likewise.

So as we open our gifts on Christmas morning, and give presents to our friends and family, let us all be inspired by all the beauty and wonder of all the aspects and icons of the season. Let us not focus on ourselves, but think of our fellow man, and be grateful for all that we have. May we all find the courage to better ourselves, so that we can extend a hand-up to the fallen, and together we can with a smile, encouragement, charity and kindness, make this a better world. As always I wish you happiness and success!  Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone.             

Wrap it in a ribbon and a bow!

Budgeting 103: Decorate for Christmas without breaking the bank!

Every Christmas, there’s at least ONE house in every neighborhood decked out with so many lights and lawn ornaments that it could probably be seen from space on a clear night.  Forget the initial expense of buying all those lights and glowing plastic luminaries, imagine the electricity usage! The numbers on the electric meter are changing so fast they’re probably an unreadable blur. And if the house is that decorated on the outside, you know the interior is just as festive. Imagine also the amount of time to decorate, then after the season, to  un-decorate. Let’s not forget storing it all. If you can’t fit it all in your home, you need to rent a storage locker for a year. That adds up to thousands of dollars a year to transform your residence into a festive Christmas spot for about 4-6 weeks depending on how early you start, and when you take it all down.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with spending that kind of money IF you are doing it to make YOURSELF happy, and you can afford it. If you’re just doing it to impress people you don’t know, or you’re trying to outdo the Jones’s on the corner with their ‘impressive’ display, you really need to examine your heart. Christmas is a great time of happiness and fellowship for the majority (despite some of the Christmas headaches) and should you care more about your friends and family than how your home looks. So here’s a few things to help save you money (and sanity) decorating for Christmas.

K.I.S.S.  – Keep It Super Simple

Outside

  • Limit the number of lawn and outdoor pieces. Less is more. People will see a light up nativity scene or plastic Santa a lot easier it it’s not hidden among a 100 other luminaries on your lawn.
  • Instead of stringing lights all over your house, save time and money by projecting the lights with a laser light projector.

Inside

  • Decorate a room, or two at most. You don’t need to deck EVERY hall.
  • DIY – Don’t buy expensive Christmas decorations. A few craft supplies can be used to make homemade ornaments, spruce up pine cones with paint and glitter, or whatever your mind can imagine. Be creative, but remember crafting takes time and skill. You can only do what you can do. I wowed a couple of my guests this year with simple holly rings ( which I made myself with craft supplies ) added to the bases of cheap votive candles.

Xmas Craft

Xmas candle

    • Don’t buy ‘collectible’ ornaments! Every year Hallmark and several other chains release HUNDREDS of expensive ornaments for every fandom base there is. They are cheap plastic trinkets that will never go up in value, and cost big bucks. No one cries when they accidentally break a simple glass ball. But  Barbie’s limited edition Pink Corvette from 1997 or the Millennium Falcon? These will bring a fanboy or fangirl to tears when they break.
    • Pine cones are FREE, go for a walk in the woods and gather a couple dozen. Just be sure to clean and disinfect them if you find them in the wild, you don’t want bugs invading your home.
    • Use pine cones, a glass bowl, real greens and candles to make your own center piece.

Xmas centerpiece

  • Take advantage of after Christmas Holiday clearance sales and stock up for next year now.  I’m always able to get a collection of spare Santa hats for my guests for pennies on the dollar every year after the stores mark them down. I’ve gotten a dozen glass balls for 75¢ ! Wrapping paper is never so cheap as it is after Christmas.  Just make sure to store everything you pre-buy for next year properly. I use Red Plastic Totes, and Ziploc bags, then put these all in the walk-in closet where I can find them. I have a special ornament tote, and wrapping paper tote to keep these safe as well.

Santa Hats

The money and time you save will make you jolly each Christmas, and allow you quality time with friends and family. Xmas Friends

As always I wish you happiness and success!  And God bless us, everyone.         

The Gift of Giving

Ringle, ringle, coins when they jingle, make such a lovely sound.

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I am very fortunate to live in the USA, it’s the Land of Liberty and the American Dream, and home to more millionaires than any other country on Earth. There are many people today who seem to have a misconception that wealthy people are greedy and have somehow been responsible for the plight of the poor. Maybe it started with the depiction of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  Let’s not forget that by the end of the story, Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas and becomes a wealthy benefactor to Tiny Tim and the Cratchet  family, as well as reconnecting with his nephew Fred.

” You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”  John 12:8 NIV

The true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Christ, and the Greatest gift was Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all mankind. There are many who try to diminish or remove references to Jesus Christ at Christmastime, and that’s unfortunate. Christians are the most generous people of any religious group according to phlianthropy.com  , and philanthropyroundtable.org supports the fact that the wealthiest Americans are the most giving.   

 The wicked borrow and do not repay,  but the righteous give generously; Psalm 37:21 NIV

I did not grow up wealthy, but I worked very hard to get where I am today. I am grateful to God for all that I have, and I give a sizable amount to  charity at Christmas. There are many charitable organizations that support many great causes, and there is a lot of duplication of services. It’s very important when donating to charities to know that the majority of the donated funds are actually reaching those in need, and not being wasted on overhead, or to buy a new Mercedes for the director of the so-called charity.   I recommend using charitynavigator.org  Charity Navigator is an American independent charity watchdog organization that evaluates charitable organizations in the USA, and will help you evaluate worthy charities so that you can avoid the less reputable ones.  

    In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35 NIV

Christians have an obligation to help the needy. We received a great Gift to cover a Debt we can never repay.  The concept of tithing is mentioned in the Bible, as is the story of the good Samaritan. As Christians we are created for doing good works to further the glory of God. Faith without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart.    

Pennies from Heaven

 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  Luke 21:1-4 New International Version (NIV)

There’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t find a penny on the ground as I walk the streets doing my rounds. On average, I actually find about $2 in coins and bills per week. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to my annual salary. Every little bit helps, and that’s the basis of crowdfunding. If everyone gives something, even pennies dropped into a Salvation Army Kettle, it adds up. The current population of the United States of America is 325,467,306 as of Friday, December 8, 2017. If every person in the USA gave just ONE PENNY to charity each day, it would add up to 3.25 million dollars daily. So don’t feel that a tiny donation is meaningless. Little things mean a lot, and great things come from tiny beginnings. As always I wish you happiness and success! And God Bless us everyone.   

Deck the Halls!

It’s Christmastime- Budgeting 102!

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“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” 
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the average consumer tends to blow their budget to smithereens as they get carried away by the holiday cheer.  Each year Christmas spending has been increasing, usually prompted by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  This is good news for retailers whose profit earnings during the Christmas season can be significant, up to and even exceeding  half of their annual profits. Christmas is big business, but it can land consumers in the poor house.

Haunted by ‘The Ghosts of Christmas Past’?

According to The American Research Group Inc. the average American spends almost $1000 on Christmas gifts. If you add other seasonal expenses like decorations, food, and expenses associated with traveling to visit distant friends and family, the amount can easily skyrocket. Most of this is rung up on plastic.  Let’s not forget about charitable donations either. How much pocket change did you throw in the Salvation Army Kettle each time you passed a bell-ringer? Till it’s all said and done, the end-of the-year shopping spree spreading Christmas Cheer is followed each January by the real ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’ – the credit card bills!

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” 
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

At the end of A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t have to go overboard and be a miser to avoid the consumer trap, you just need to plan a budget and  stick to it.

Naughty or Nice?

Do you honestly have to buy something for EVERYONE you know? It may be sad to say, but there are many people we know who deserve a lump of coal for Christmas. If you have little or no money to spend, you have two choices:

  • ‘Everyone’ doesn’t get a gift.
  • ‘Everyone’ gets a share of the pot.

I’m not a fan of  cutting people out because I feel mistreated or cheated. Everyone we know is facing some inner turmoil we know nothing about.  If someone gives you a gift, you don’t have to automatically reciprocate with an equal or even more expensive gift.  Just say ‘thank you’.  A gift is a gift, not an obligation.  I have almost a thousand regular customers at my day job. I treat them all the same. A very small few give me Christmas gifts. I don’t expect anything from them, but I always thank them.   I know that in many cases, some of my elderly customers are on fixed incomes and have very little money. I worry about accepting gifts from them, and I sometimes ask ‘are you sure?’ or state that they ‘didn’t have to do that’. It’s rude to refuse a gift. Be grateful, smile and thank them. They appreciate it far more than you know, and it costs NOTHING to be kind!

Set limits!

I budget for Christmas. I have a set amount ear-marked for the season, and I stick to that limit. Everyone on my list gets something, even if it’s only a card. It’s the thought that counts. I mail out almost 50 cards, each with a printed annual newsletter. It’s an expense, but I enjoy doing it. I have not been able to see some of the people on my list in years because I am so busy, and they are busy, and our schedules don’t mesh. A Christmas greeting in the form of a card and newsletter is a nice way to let people know you still care. Only about 20% of them mail me a return card, but that’s okay. Gifts are gifts, no obligation remember?

Keep gifts appropriate

Always consider that just because you like something doesn’t mean everyone will like it. Take fruitcake for example. Some people think it makes a great gift. Others feel it’s great for propping open the door. Some people have food allergies or special diets.  Some parents don’t allow certain toys. NEVER GIVE PETS AS GIFTS! Give cash or gift cards and let the recipient purchase what they really want.

Christmas Club!

During the Great Depression, banks first started the idea of seasonal savings accounts earmarked for Christmas. These are still offered by some financial institutions. In many cases you can even arrange for automatic payroll deductions to make saving for even Christmas easier. Christmas Clubs usually send out checks or electronic bank deposits of the entire amount at the end of October, in plenty of time for Christmas.  

Grandma hates me!

Children do not understand gifts of socks and underwear. I grew up poor, and Christmas was about getting toys. Very few children have the understanding and level of maturity to understand that they may be poor, and don’t get why ‘Santa’ didn’t bring them a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, opting instead for much needed clothing. I was always disappointed by clothing. I also had too many toys.  I didn’t play with the ones I had, or need new ones. I don’t have kids, but let me tell you, if I did they wouldn’t be spoiled with showers of toys. Yet each year, I see friends and relatives spoiling their kids.  Some elderly people have a dozen or more grandchildren. They can’t afford a gift for every grandchild. If there is some special must-have toy that is quite expensive, consider pooling resources, and just labeling the one gift ‘From Santa’.   

Visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads

Instead of buying gifts, throw a small dinner party. I do this each year for a few close friends who live local.  Arrange party games and take pictures to make it memorable.    

Made with Love

 Maybe there is nothing in the store they need, but what about some token of love? Bake Christmas Cookies, or give a handmade gift like a decorated mason jar filled with coffee or cocoa mix, or a handmade ornament. Send cards to let them know you care. What about just love itself?, Share friendship, understanding, consideration, a helping hand, a smile, and a prayer. You can’t buy these things in any store , but these things are what people need the most. As always I wish you happiness and success!  And God bless us, everyone.         

Budgeting 101

Is there ‘too much month at the end of the money’?

The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get. – Proverbs 21:20 New Living Translation (NLT)

If you’ve been paying attention so far,  I’ve already touched on the importance of having an emergency fund and avoiding credit card debt in earlier blog posts. There is a reason for these two steps being essential as part of any successful plan to get out of debt.  An increasing percentage of the populace lives paycheck to paycheck, lacking an emergency fund, and using credit cards to fill in the gap. This is a recipe for disaster. You cannot spend your way into prosperity.   The first thing you need to understand is that you and you alone are in control of your finances. The responsibility belongs to you alone, and if you have chosen to shirk this responsibility your finances will be in total chaos. Now is the time to take action and learn to budget.      

What is a budget?

A budget is a saving plan. It is not ‘punishment’, but if your finances are out of control and you’re living beyond your means, you will need to budget very tightly and stick to the plan to break the cycle of debt that you have fallen into. The good news is that it is possible. The bad news is that it will take time and effort, but I promise that if you do the work, it will pay off in the end.

Extra means extra!   

 Does your job pay enough for you to live on? Your paycheck is your biggest source of wealth. Social welfare programs trap you at the poverty level by doling out a meager subsistence and they should be avoided as a main source of income, preferably avoided altogether . Likewise, extra money earned from a second job, or from working overtime should not be essential to make ends meet. If you are starting out in a position of debt, you will need to increase  your regular income stream in addition to budgeting. Trust me, I know from experience.  Due to a series of unfortunate events from December of 1999 through January of 2002, I ended up $50,000 in debt, and it took 8 years of budgeting and working all the overtime I could endure to erase that mess. Overtime was extra income, earmarked for the specific purpose of eliminating my debt. It was never considered part of my regular monthly expenses. I have too many coworkers  who have trapped themselves into working mandatory overtime just to make their monthly expenses. This is a terrible way to live.

Step one :  Analyze

Do you get paid on Friday, only to be broke on Monday,  wondering where your paycheck went? Successful people work from a list and write things down. Get into the habit of tracking your spending, because you’re spending way more than you realize. Write down everything you spend, and always ask for a receipt. If a receipt is not available, (like buying a soda from a vending machine) jot down a quick note and create your own receipt.  Organize your receipts and record them in a journal of some sort listing the date, the store, the purchase, the amount, and the method of payment.  You don’t need a fancy financial ledger for this purpose, I recommend a spiral-bound notebook. I buy these on sale at my local Wal-Mart during the back-to-school sales by the dozen, usually for the low price of just 25¢ each!  Track your spending for about at least a month or two to get an accurate account of where your money goes. After this initial period, continue tracking your spending to see how it lines up with your budget.

Step two : Categorize    

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After you’ve collected your initial spending data  break it down into categories.

Suggested categories and percentages are :

  • Living expenses 50% total– Housing 25 to 35%, Utilities 5 to 15% (heat, light, phone, maybe internet and cable but those last two are questionable necessities ), Groceries 5%-15%, Transportation 5 to 10% (Bus/train fare,  or parking fees, tolls if any, and gas.) You’ll need to adjust those four sub-categories based on your individual circumstances. The combined total cannot exceed 50% of your income.
  • Savings 10%
  • Charity 10%
  • Dining and Entertainment 15%
  • Clothing 5%
  • Medical  5%
  • Miscellaneous 5% (this can include gifts, shopping, or anything out of the ordinary)

Step three: Organize

A great way to organize your spending categories is to use the envelope system.  Divide your  cash into the various categories using the suggested percentages.  This is all the allotment for each category.  When the envelope is empty, you have no money for that expense. If at the end of the month there is unused money in any envelope, put it into an EXTRA CASH envelope, and save this for emergencies.  

Step four: Follow the rules

  • First rule of Budgeting –  50% of your income MUST be able to cover 100% of your living expenses. This is absolutely essential! If you get paid bi-weekly like most people, you average 2 paychecks a month, and one of those paychecks should be able to fully cover your rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, medicines etc.  If you can’t achieve this with your level of income, I’m sorry to say you’ll need to find a better paying job, or cheaper living accommodations.   Living in your parent’s basement forever is not a viable option either. You need to stand on your own two feet. Man up!
  • Second Rule – The remaining 50% of your income should be as 20% Financial (savings and charity) and 30% Everything Else (dining, entertainment, misc.)  
  • Third Rule – Did you notice I didn’t include contributions to a 401k Retirement Plan in the two rules? That’s because you should be contributing 10% of your salary to one automatically BEFORE you even get your paycheck, and  this should never ever be thought of as part of your budget. You don’t consider any other payroll deductions like taxes or FICA as part of your budget, and you should likewise think of a 401k contribution as just another in the list of payroll deductions to your check before you even get paid. If you don’t plan for your future, you won’t have one!

 Cash is King!

Get into the habit of paying cash for everything! Credit cards are a tool, and can even offer benefits like cash back, but it’s way too easy to overspend and blow your budget due to impulse spending. Using cash creates a visceral reaction that credit cards lack. You really weigh your spending decisions when you leave through the dwindling banknotes in your wallet.  If you elect to use credit cards for payment, you should be fully prepared to pay the balance in full each month. Paying interest is like throwing away money.  If you lack the discipline to keep your spending in check, eliminate the temptation and get rid of those cards now! You’ll be happier in the long run. As always I wish you happiness and success! 

 

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Just double $1000 ten times!

There are over 6 billion people on Earth.

John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first official billionaire in 1916 as a result of his ownership of Standard Oil.  Just over a century later, there are now 2,043 billionaires in the world as of 2017 according to  Forbes Magazine. This means the odds of the average person becoming a billionaire are quite slim, almost non-existent.

However, according to a 2016 report by global consultancy firm Capgemini there are around 16.5 million millionaires in the world! A million is one thousandth of a billion, but it’s still a large number and you’ve got a far greater chance of joining the exclusive ‘7 Figure Club’ especially if you are fortunate enough to live in the USA, the Land of Opportunity and home to 10.8 million millionaires.

The current population of the United States of America is 325,316,130 as of Tuesday, November 14, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates. With that in perspective the odds of a US citizen becoming a millionaire are roughly 1 in 325. So what’s stopping you? 

The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” — John C. Maxwell

A few blogs ago, I covered the Rule of 72 and the miracle of compound interest.

If you take $1000 and double it ten times you end up with $1,024,000!  

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Initially the compounding effect barely registers on the above graph, only to skyrocket at the sixth doubling.

Putting off retirement saving until your 30’s or 40’s practically destroys your potential retirement nest egg! 

Dave Ramsey, Tony Robbins and just about every wealth adviser worth their salt will tell you that the S&P 500 has yielded a historical average of over 10.5%. Low-cost index mutual funds allow the average investor to capture those same rates of return. (All 401k plans offer mutual funds in their investment portfolios and I’ll discuss this more in detail in a later blog.)

Coincidentally, (or not) both Dave Ramsey and Tony Robbins each have a chart in their books showing the effects of compound interest on the life savings of two friends. I’ve even seen several other versions online. The names, ages, and savings amounts are different , but the end results are the same. The person who started saving for retirement earlier always invests significantly less money, yet beats the friend who starts later and invests much more. The first time I saw this it blew my mind, but it illustrates the importance of saving for retirement early in life. According to almost every financial expert I’ve consulted, you’re going to need a minimum $1,000,000 to retire comfortably. It is possible for ANYONE to attain this goal provided they begin investing at the earliest possible age.

Dave Ramsey has his version of the aforementioned chart in his book Financial Peace on page 120. The Tony Robbins version appears on page 24 of his book Unshakeable.  I’m going to use Robbins’s version,  because it has a larger annual investment. The assumption is $3600 invested per year, with 10% interest.  Basically,  Joe and Bob are both the same age . Joe begins investing $300 in the stock market every month from age 19 to 27, saving a total of $28,000 and then he decided to quit saving altogether and let it sit and collect interest. Bob doesn’t even start saving until he’s 27 but keeps investing every year until he’s 65, for a total of $140,000. When they both retire at 65, Joe has $1,863,287 and Bob has $1,589,733. Because Joe started earlier, he invested $112,000 less, yet he earned $273,554 more than Bob! This is because of the power of compound interest.

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In 2018, the maximum annual 401k contribution allowed will be $18,500. Imagine being a 16 year-old teen living at home and being able to invest  that amount annually for 5 years. You could have over a million before you were 45! So what are you waiting for? Go and take steps to establish your retirement nest egg today, because you’re not getting any younger!  As always I wish you happiness and success!