Our lives are full of actions that we’re almost unaware of. Many of them just help us get little things done more efficiently. But some habits can have a huge impact on our lives in either a positive or negative way. Here’s a quick breakdown of how habits work and ways to “trick yourself” into better behavior patterns.
We’ve looked at why the brain likes habits in a previous article, but it’s worth reviewing again!
Your brain craves efficiency. It looks for the path of least resistance when it comes to using energy. Making decisions takes a lot of brain power. Too many choices in a day can leave you feeling mentally exhausted, so your brain looks for ways to cut corners. It starts automating little decisions that you make repeatedly. Brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, and checking your social media are choices you’ve made so often that your brain stops consciously weighing in and seems to just spontaneously make you do them.
So that’s why your brain likes forming habits. But the mechanics of how a habit forms is essential if you’re trying to upgrade your unconscious behaviors!
A habit can be broken down into three basic components. It starts with a cue. That’s any kind of trigger that makes you want to do something. Actually performing the action suggested by the cue is called a routine. Following the routine usually results in some kind of reward, either physical or psychological.
So let’s say you’ve developed a habit of eating a cookie with your morning coffee. You wake up, put on the pot, and brew a delicious cup of joe. You instantly start craving the cookie when you smell that medium roast goodness. That’s the cue. You reach into the jar, grab the biggest chocolate chip cookie you can get your hands on, and take a bite. That’s the routine. And the tingling joy and comfort you feel when that life-giving treat hits your tongue? That’s the reward that brings you back morning after morning. But the consequence might be that you’ve put on a few unwanted pounds in the last couple of months.
It’s easy to see how certain habits can lead to some undesirable outcomes. We tend to form habits around anything that rewards our brains, whether it’s junk food, caffeine, or dangerous substances. But our brains also like things such as observing progress and accomplishing goals.
How can we use this to encourage good habits? Here are a few ideas: Start really small: Break your desired habit down into pieces and try to regularly perform each one. You might be surprised by how good it feels to accomplish something, which can prompt you to make more and more progress. Reward yourself: Some activities are very rewarding in the moment. But not everything that’s good for you leaves you feeling accomplished right away. Try something like only playing video games after 30 minutes of reading! Be patient: Habits don’t form overnight. You’ll probably mess up before it sticks. Don’t sweat the little failures and keep trying until that habit becomes second nature!
You can also use this knowledge to break bad habits. Try to identify the cues associated with the habit and avoid or eliminate them. Also, consider ways that you might actually be rewarding yourself for bad behavior. It’s worth asking friends and sometimes professionals for insights into your habits!
Even though it’s not always obvious, we carry lots of assumptions and attitudes about money that might not be grounded in reality. How we perceive wealth and finances can impact how we make decisions, prioritize, and handle the money that we have. Here are a few common money mindsets that might be holding you back from reaching your full potential!
It’s simple, right? The rich are swimming in cash, so they’re able to save. They get to build businesses and live out their dreams. The rest of us have to live paycheck to paycheck, shelling out our hard earned money on rent, groceries, and other essentials.
That couldn’t be further from the truth! Sure, you might not be able to save half your income. But you might be surprised by how much you can actually stash away if you put your mind to it. And however much you can save right now, little as it might be, is much better than putting away nothing at all!
On the other side of the coin (get it?) is the notion that you have to save every last penny and dime that comes your way. There are definitely people in difficult financial situations who go to incredible lengths to make ends meet. Just ask someone who survived the Great Depression! But most of us don’t need to haggle down the price of an apple or forage around for firewood. And sometimes, the corners we cut to save a buck can come back to bite us. Set spending rules and boundaries for yourself, but make sure you’re not just eating ramen noodles and ketchup soup!
There are definitely times when you might not feel like you need to be proactive with your finances. You don’t feel like you’re spending too much, debt collectors aren’t pounding down your door, and everything seems comfortable. Budgeting is for folks with a spending problem, right?
The fact of the matter is that everyone should have a budget. It might not feel important now, but a budget is your most powerful tool for understanding where your money goes, areas where you can cut back, and how much you can put away for the future. It gives you the knowledge you need to take control of your finances!
Breaking mediocre money mindsets can be difficult. But it’s an important step on your journey towards financial independence. Once you understand money and how it works, you’re on the path to take control of your future and make your dreams a reality.
That’s because you’ve done it—you’re going to be earning a lot more money with that raise. The first thing that pops in your head? All the fancy new things you can afford.
Dates. Your apartment. Vacation. They’re all going to be better now that you’ve got that extra money coming in.
And to be fair, all of those things CAN get substantially fancier after your income increases.
Why? Because your lifestyle became more extravagant as your income increased. Instead of using the boost in cash flow to build wealth, it all went to new toys.
This phenomenon is called “lifestyle inflation”. It’s why you might know people who earn plenty of money and have nice houses, but still seem to struggle with their finances. The greater the income, the higher the stress. As Biggie put it, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”
The takeaway? The next time you get a raise, do nothing. Act like nothing has changed. Go celebrate at your favorite restaurant. Keep saving for your new treat. But you’ll thank yourself if you devote the lion’s share of your new income to either reducing debt or building wealth.
Rest assured, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of your labor in the future. But for now, keep your eyes on the most important prize—building wealth for you and your family’s future.
Well, unless you win the powerball or stumble upon buried treasure.
The simple fact is that retirement can last a long, long time and often be expensive. According to the Federal Reserve, the average American can expect a retirement of almost 20 years, requiring $1.2 million.¹
How long would it take you to save $1.2 million? Even if you could stash away your entire paycheck, it would likely take over a decade. Factor in the daily costs of living, and decades may become centuries.
Unless, of course, you leverage two simple strategies…
Strategy One: Maximize the power of compound interest.
Strategy Two: Start saving today.
These are time-proven strategies that anyone can leverage. And they can mean the difference between your savings running out of steam or lasting as long as you do.
Let’s start with strategy one: Maximize the power of compound interest…
Compound interest can supercharge your savings. Instead of taking centuries, you have the potential to reach your retirement goals just in time!
That’s because compounding unleashes a virtuous cycle. The money you save grows on its own over time.
But here’s where the magic happens—the more money you have compounding, the greater its growth potential becomes. Even a fraction of your paycheck can eventually compound into the wealth you may need for retirement.
Think of it like changing gears on a bike. Savings alone is first gear—good enough for going down hills or casual jaunts through the neighborhood.
But for reaching greater goals, you need more power. Compound interest is those extra gears—it’s an advantage that can radically improve your performance.
That leads straight into the next strategy: Start saving today.
The longer your money compounds, the greater potential it has for growth. To prove this, let’s crunch the numbers…
Let’s say you can save $500 per month. You find an account that compounds 10% annually.
After 20 years, you’ll have saved $120,000 and grown an additional $223,650 for a grand total of $343,650. Not bad!
But what if you wait another 11 years? Your money will more than triple—you’ll have $1,091,660!
The takeaway? A few years could be the difference between reaching your retirement goals and coming up short. The sooner you start, the greater potential you have to get where you want to go.
No more sporadic saving when you feel the panic. No more burying your head in the sand because you don’t know what the future holds. No more fear that your finances won’t cross the finish line.
These simple strategies can help you go the distance and retire with confidence. Contact me if you want to learn more about building wealth!
¹ “Retirement costs: Estimating what it costs to retire comfortably in every state,” Samuel Stebbins, USA Today, Feb 11, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/02/11/retirement-costs-comfortable-in-every-state-life-expectancy/115432956/
That’s because no single source of income or wealth is perfect. They’re all subject to ups and downs, highs and lows.
Think of it like going to the golf range and handing the caddie an armful of drivers. You’ll make powerful drives every time, but what happens when it’s time to putt? Even worse, how will you escape bunkers?
It’s a classic case of too much of a good thing. If you’re a serious player and plan to play for the long run, your golf bag needs a variety of clubs—a few different irons, wedges, and putters—to handle whatever challenges you’ll face during the game.
The same is true of building wealth.
It’s not a silver bullet. But diversification can offer a layer of protection against the ups and downs of the economy. It can also provide you with supplemental income during lean times.
So how can you start diversifying today? Here are two ideas…
Start a side hustle. This simple strategy can diversify your income sources. Regardless of what’s happening at your 9-to-5 job, you can count on your side hustle to help generate cash flow.
Meet with a financial professional. A licensed and qualified financial professional can help you implement diversification in your savings. This could make a huge difference in protecting your wealth from the ups and downs of a changing economy.
Contact me if you want to discover what this strategy would look like for you. We can review what you’ve saved thus far and check your opportunities for diversification.
Have you considered the role your surroundings play in your everyday life? It turns out that one of the easiest ways to bring about change in our lives is actually to change our environments. What if the layout of your bedroom or the distance from your desk to the kitchen was impacting your productivity and decision making? There’s plenty of room for each of us to improve. Here’s how and why making some changes to your environment works.
Making decisions is draining. (Heard of “decision fatigue”? It’s real!) We can only make so many choices per day before we start to run out of steam and need a rest. But we’re faced with countless choices every time we wake up! Should I go back to sleep? Should I shower or brush my teeth first? What will I wear to work? Should I try out that new shortcut to the office? It can become stressful for your brain to struggle with a choice every time one of these little prompts presents itself. That’s why we rely on decision shortcuts called habits.
A habit is just a routine that you regularly perform. Most of the time we don’t even notice that we’re engaging in a habit because it’s second nature to us. And there’s a reason for that. It’s your brain saving energy by going on autopilot to perform an action without having to make a decision. That way you can use the bulk of your mental power on unique and important problems that might pop up during the day, not on thinking about when you should brush your teeth!
What does your brain’s love of shortcuts have to do with your environment? Let’s look at an example.
Your alarm clock is right next to your bed. It goes off every morning at 7:30am. It doesn’t take you long to figure out that you can smack the snooze button and go straight back to sleep with hardly any effort. Before long you’re hitting the snooze button every time the alarm goes off without even thinking about it. You’ve trained yourself to sleep in later by making your alarm easier to turn off. But what if your alarm was on the other side of your room? What if to silence it you had to stand up, walk over, and hit a button? That simple change could give you the jolt that you need to wake up and get your day started on time!
Take a look at your surroundings and ask yourself what kind of behavior it encourages. Is it more convenient for you to grab a soda from the fridge or fill up your water bottle? When you work at home, are you in the middle of distractions like the kids playing or too close to the TV? At work, does your office layout lend itself to productivity or socializing with your co-workers?
It might take some legwork to get started, but try to arrange your life in a way that makes wise decisions easier. You might be surprised by the results!
Almost no one will tell you that you should care what others think. Instead, you hear platitudes like “marching to the beat of your own drum”, or “just do you.”
You might even hear something counterintuitive like, “People will like you more if you don’t care about their opinions.”
What? You should stop caring about what others think so they’ll like you more? It’s a bald-faced contradiction at best, deceptively manipulative at worst.
The simple fact is that, unless you’re a diagnosed psychopath, you’ll care what others think about you. And that’s a good thing. It can stop you from alienating people in your life with bizarre decisions or unnecessary antagonism.
But is there such a thing as an unhealthy obsession with the opinions of others? Yes! Analysis paralysis, social anxiety, and unmeasured decisions can all result.
But that shouldn’t lead to a fluffy kitchen countertop quote about “one’s own sweet way.”
Instead of jettisoning all your social concerns, try this—prioritize your values over all.
Let’s say that one of your values is maintaining healthy relationships. That requires care about what someone else thinks of you—without their love and respect, the relationship is doomed to fail.
But you may discover other values, like protecting the well-being of the ones you love. That might mean making hard decisions that, in the short-term, lower the opinions of others.
This isn’t just advice for your personal life—it can benefit your career as well.
For instance, if you’re an employee, you should care about your boss’s opinion of you. That doesn’t mean being a doormat or suck-up. It simply means that you would do well to pay attention to their instruction, make sure you’re on top of things, and show them you’re honest, responsible, and a hard worker. This may lead to a promotion, a raise, and being known as a reliable team member.
The same is true for entrepreneurs. It’s hard to land and keep clients if you’re oblivious to their feelings toward you.
That’s not an excuse for tolerating mistreatment by customers, which is common among new entrepreneurs. Instead, it’s a call to know your own worth, to discover what you value, and then actually serve your clients.
The takeaway? “Don’t care about what others think” is short-sighted, selfish advice.
Instead, explore your values. Discover what matters most. And build your life around those principles. They’ll bring far greater cohesion—and happiness—than ignoring other people and running head-long into the void.
Why? Because boredom is profoundly uncomfortable. You can’t ignore it. That itch for something—anything—to fill your attention, your imagination? That’s boredom.
Think about how far people will go to avoid boredom. One study found that it can be so unbearable that most people would rather endure an electric shock than sit alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes.¹
Why do people move to new cities, fly across oceans, skydive, paint masterpieces, or create businesses?
Boredom is a good thing. That’s why always trying to instantly cure it will hamstring your creativity.
Think about the thing you’re probably holding in your hand right now as you read this. It’s the ultimate boredom killer—your phone. Any craving for something new can be instantly extinguished with a viral cat video, trending makeup tutorial, the latest game release, or that life-changing self improvement prompt that will get you out of bed earlier tomorrow.
The solution? Put your phone down and make space for boredom. Block out 15 minutes a day for absolutely nothing. Stare at the wall. Twiddle your thumbs. Above all, let your mind wander. You may be amazed by the thoughts, ideas, and visions you develop to occupy your time.
What great things will you allow your boredom to drive you towards?
¹ “The Unexpected Value of Boredom for Well-Being and Creativity,” Jeffrey Davis M.A., Psychology Today, Jun 30, 2022, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tracking-wonder/202206/the-unexpected-value-boredom-well-being-and-creativity
It’s claimed that doing this can boost your mood, enhance metabolism, and increase focus. One experiment even found that ice baths and breathing exercises can reduce the impact of illnesses like E. Coli.¹
But why? And more importantly before you dive into a frozen lake, how?
The science of cold showers and ice baths is actually pretty simple.
Cold showers suck. They feel terrible. The first drops of arctic water that blast your back or face seem to turn off your brain. Your heart starts racing. Your vision may get blurry. You start thinking, “how can I make this stop?” In other words, you enter full on survival mode.
And that’s one of the best things you can do for your body.
Why? Because your body floods with chemicals to make sure you survive.
Dopamine levels soar. That’s the chemical that makes you pursue goals, like getting out of the shower alive.
Adrenaline surges through your body. That’s the chemical that makes you want to move and scream and focus and escape.
Your body starts torching calories. That’s so it can maintain a stable body temperature.
And those chemicals and processes persist once you turn off the water. That fight-or-flight response gets replaced by a profound sense of calm focus that can last for hours.³
That’s not counting the mental toughness benefit. Every time you step into that stream of cold water, you’re training yourself to endure something unpleasant. You strengthen your ability to overcome fear and to do hard, yet beneficial, things.
There are some critical factors to consider…
Eventually, you’ll get used to shock and minimize the benefits. According to Andrew Huberman, a Stanford professor, you should aim for 11 minutes in cold water per week.²
Diving into a frozen lake on your first day could lead to panic and even death. Start with an uncomfortable, but safe temperature in your own shower in your own house, and build up your tolerance.
Cold showers are perfect if you need to eliminate muscle soreness. But it also impacts muscle hypertrophy, slowing growth. So if you need to quickly recover from workouts, take cold showers. But if you’re trying to gain mass, opt with your normal shower routine instead.
Cold showers provide a host of benefits, from boosting your mood to aiding in weight loss. But it’s important to start slowly and increase the intensity gradually to avoid any negative consequences. So if you’re looking for a way to improve your mental toughness and boost your productivity, add a cold shower to your routine. Just make sure you do it safely.
¹ “MR ICE: Men’s Health Chills With Iceman Wim Hof,” Alex Harris, Men’s Health, 27 Apr 2022, https://www.menshealth.com/uk/health/a758182/big-read-mh-chills-with-iceman-wim-hof/
² “The Science & Use of Cold Exposure for Health & Performance,” Andrew Huberman, Huberman Lab, May 1, 2022, https://hubermanlab.com/the-science-and-use-of-cold-exposure-for-health-and-performance/
³ “Cold Shower for Anxiety: Does It Help?” Kristeen Cherney, Healthline, June 22, 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/cold-shower-for-anxiety
We live in a world of dollars and cents, ones and zeros, and cold, hard facts. Dreams and hopes are great, but results will always be our number one priority.
But what if your imagination mattered?
What if your mind’s eye actually held the key to success? There’s strong evidence that actually visualizing certain outcomes can reduce stress and empower you to achieve your goals and dreams. It might sound like voodoo, but it’s actually not! Here’s how it works.
Your brain is connected to your body. Your brain registers things that happen to your arms and legs and ears and lets you know if they’re good or bad. A soft blanket? Good! Stubbing your toe? Bad!
But the connection between your brain and body goes both ways. Imagining an action in your mind can actually improve your performance in real life. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence for this; legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Muhammad Ali.¹ ² But there’s also research to back it up. People who imagined exercising certain muscles gained almost as much strength as people who physically exercised!³
Visualization can also reduce stress. Studies have found that novice surgeons and police officers who receive imagery training feel less stress and have less objective stress.⁴
Imagining yourself on a generic island paradise in 15 years is just daydreaming. The key to effective visualization is specificity. Be as precise as possible. Break down how you’ll achieve your goal or throw that game-winning pass into as many tiny movements as possible, and imagine how you’ll execute each one. Incorporate your senses; what will you smell and hear when you finally achieve that goal?
Verbal affirmations can also help with this visualization process. Take a page from Muhammad Ali, and tell yourself that you’re the greatest every morning before you get breakfast! Even better, say your goal out loud before you go to bed or eat lunch. Writing up a mission statement that you read daily or making a vision board of images that inspire you are also ways to boost your visualization!
Just remember that one of the key strengths of visualization is that you can do it anywhere. Develop your goals, make them as specific as possible, and then start imagining!
¹ “The Power Of Visualization And How To Use It,” Lidija Globokar, Forbes, Mar 5, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lidijaglobokar/2020/03/05/the-power-of-visualization-and-how-to-use-it/
² “Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization,” A.J. Adams MAPP, Psychology Today, Dec 3, 2009, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization
³ “Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization,” Adams MAPP, Psychology Today
⁴ “The Power Of Visualization And How To Use It,” Globokar, Forbes,
It’s the end of nearly two decades of classrooms, tests, essays, late nights, and early mornings, but it’s the start of your full-fledged independence.
That move isn’t always easy. We face a huge number of unknowns when we leave the hallowed halls of the university and enter the dog-eat-dog “real world.” What kind of job will I end up with? Where will I live? What will my coworkers be like? How well will I adjust to a totally new routine? Those are important questions that don’t always have clear answers. However, there are some things you can do that will help navigate your post-graduation world. These aren’t magic antidotes, just helpful steps that might bring some stability and order to your experience!
Having a career vision is essential. It can provide structure and a sense of purpose. Decisions can be weighed by how much they move you towards realizing your goals, which can help give you clarity when making tough calls.
Keep your vision as specific and precise as possible. That dream of working at a prestigious law firm and wearing designer suits every day? Take it and drill down on the details. What kind of law do you want to practice? What’s your dream city? How high up on the ladder do you want to climb? Be honest with yourself about what you really want.
It’s also important to develop a time frame for your goals. Think about a 5 to 10 year time frame and see what you think is realistic!
Now it’s time to map out how you’ll make your vision a reality. What needs to happen for you to get that promotion or end up in the city you want to experience?
The first step is research. Your dream position might require a master’s degree or special licensing that you can’t afford just yet. Maybe you need some time in the field before moving up. Break down exactly what needs to happen, and when, for you to achieve your goal. Sometimes it’s best to start with the goal itself and deconstruct it into smaller and smaller pieces that are easier to manage. Start checking off those little steps until your goal looks more and more achievable!
It’s also a good idea to find a mentor to guide you. Ideally this would be someone who’s undertaken this journey themselves! They’ll have insights into roadblocks that you’ll face and little tips that can make all the difference.
No plan is perfect. We’ll always overlook a detail, not factor in a risk, or overestimate our ability to handle something. It’s easy to get discouraged when those things go wrong. It can make your dream feel unattainable, and you might start to doubt yourself. But rolling with those punches and not getting discouraged by setbacks is essential to achieving your goal. Take a step back, assess the situation, learn from your mistakes, and get back to the grind. You might have to adjust your expectations and even re-evaluate your process. That’s fine! Do what you need to do and get back to work once you’ve hammered out the details.
Remember that flexibility is key. Your passion for a certain type of work or field of study might cool off as the years go by. You might find that your goal of becoming an alpha executive conflicts with your goal of being an available parent. Don’t push those hard decisions off until tomorrow. Do some serious soul searching about what matters to you today, make some goals, figure out a process, and don’t let little failures get you down!
They’re not usually meant to consume hours of your time each week or distract you from your main source of income. Fortunately, right now we’re in a side gig golden age. There are dozens of opportunities just a tap or click away. Here are a few simple side hustle ideas that might make you a few extra bucks without sacrificing all of your free time!
Working as a freelance writer can be a simple, efficient way of turning your prose prowess into cold, hard cash. Powerful and persuasive writing is of top importance in the information age, and there are plenty of people and companies that are willing to pay writers for quality content. Look for opportunities to write about your favorite hobbies and interests. It’s an easy way to combine your personal passions with making a little extra each month.
Do you have a hidden talent? Maybe you’re a secret chef, a low profile ping pong wizard, or a late night guitar hero. You might be surprised by how much people will pay for your insights and guidance—certain video game coaches can make between $10 to $140 per hour, depending on their skill level!(1) The beauty of this gig is that it doesn’t take tons of leg work to get started. You already have the skills and your client base can be from your local community. Just plot out a curriculum, set a price for your services, and get the word out!
Rideshares have become icons of the side-hustle economy. But ferrying strangers to and from bars on the weekends isn’t the only way to make some extra cash with your car. There are plenty of startups and companies that need drivers. That might mean delivering food for a local restaurant chain or dropping off packages for a more established company. Do some sleuthing on what’s available near you and what demand looks like in your area.
The beauty of these gigs is that they’re built on skills and tools that you already have. Put in the leg work to get things started and you might just find yourself with a dependable extra income stream!
Research has shown time and again that your work environment plays a critical role in your level of focus, analytical thinking, and creativity.
So if you have the freedom to do so, here are a few ways to spice up your workspace to maximize productivity.
It turns out that standing desks aren’t just a fad—they can actually boost productivity.
According to Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, research has shown that halving your sitting time at work can…
And best of all, you don’t need a fancy contraption to make it happen. Simply stack some boxes or books to lift your computer and monitor—voila! Now you have a standing desk.
At the start of your day, increasing your light exposure can boost your focus. Why? Because your body and brain are conditioned to respond to sunlight. It’s a powerful trigger that your day has started and you need to get it in gear!
So first thing, go outside and sit in the sun for a few minutes. When you’re in the office, turn on overhead lights, lamps, and ring lights. If you can, work by an open window. You might be surprised by the impact it has on your alertness and focus.
Just be sure to tone down the intensity as the day wears on so your body knows it’s time to settle down, relax, and hit the hay. Bright light exposure when it’s too late can be detrimental to sleep, especially looking at your phone less than an hour before you want to go to bed. The light shining in your eyes tells your body that you need to stay awake.
You read that correctly. The height of your ceiling can help you toggle between analytic mode and creative mode.
High ceilings tend to promote creativity and brainstorming. Low ceilings promote analytical thinking.
It’s called the cathedral effect, and for good reason. Think about how you would feel stepping into the Chartres Cathedral vs. say, your basement. One creates awe, wonder, and an appreciation of beauty. The other forces you to zero in on only what’s in front of you, like that load of laundry you forgot about.
So as a rule, try to do your creative thinking in high, open spaces. Do your analyzing in closed, dull, non-distracting spaces.
Try one or two of these strategies over the next week and see if they impact your productivity. I’d love to hear about your results!
Maybe you used the credit card to buy something you didn’t really need, even though you’ve sworn it off time and time again.
Maybe you found yourself clicking checkout, even though you promised to stop online shopping.
Or maybe you just found yourself discouraged by the number in your bank account… again.
Either way, you’ve had a financial relapse—you did something to set back progress with your goals, even though you knew better.
It sucks. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and quit.
But here’s the truth—it’s part of the process.
Research suggests that there are six steps to changing behavior…
Pre-contemplation Contemplation Preparation Action Maintenance Relapse
Why is relapse the final step? Because it’s an opportunity. It reveals the limitations in your strategy, unnoticed behavior triggers, and above all, new areas for growth.
This is good to acknowledge, but it’s a far cry from how relapses make you feel. They feel like proof positive that you’ll never change, that you didn’t change. You fell back into your old behaviors.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that relapses merely point you to deeper truths about yourself… and what you’re capable of.
So next time you feel down about a hard-to-break financial habit, give yourself some grace. Examine what happened, and integrate what you learn into your strategy.
Consider meeting with a financial professional to chat things through. They can help you process what happened, refocus on your goals, and create a strategy to prevent future relapses.
And if you feel like you’re stuck in harmful financial habits that you can’t break, book a meeting with a licensed and qualified mental health professional. They can help you identify patterns, understand their origins, and develop steps for change.
¹ “Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model for Social Workers,” Yeshiva University, May 11, 2021, https://online.yu.edu/wurzweiler/blog/prochaska-and-diclementes-stages-of-change-model-for-social-workers
Most major banks have apps or websites that allow you to transfer funds and manage your account without ever going into a branch. But what about the new generation of online-only banks that seem to be popping up? Can you be a reliable bank without brick and mortar locations? Let’s explore the world of online banks and some pros and cons.
Online banks and physical banks have a lot in common. They’re both places that store and protect your money. They both loan out your money for a profit. So what’s the big difference?
For one thing, banks with brick and mortar locations have high overhead. They may pay rent on properties, maintain buildings, hire managers to operate locations, and pay tellers to serve customers. Online banks typically have drastically lower upkeep costs. Sure, you need to pay developers to keep the system running smoothly and securely, but it’s generally much lower compared to the costs of maintaining physical locations.
So what do those differences mean for you, the consumer? Banks with physical locations will pass on their location upkeep expenses to you, the customer. That means they’re more likely to charge you for opening an account, give you as little interest as possible, and crank up rates on loans for houses and cars.
Online banks aren’t weighed down by those physical locations. They have fewer expenses and don’t have to charge you as much to make ends meet.¹ That means you might get significantly higher interest rates on your savings accounts. They also tend to lean less on fees than traditional banks.²
But there are some drawbacks to using an online bank. You might find withdrawing cash without paying ATM fees more difficult than before.³ Depositing cash might also take some more leg work and research.⁴ Customer service can’t be handled in person so problems must be solved via phone or online chat. Plus, safety deposit boxes are harder to come by with an online bank. In short, many of the old school conveniences just aren’t provided by the new generation of online banks.
It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before pulling the trigger and opening an account with an online bank. Trying to make more with your savings account? You may want to investigate banking online. But if you’re on a strict cash diet to avoid excessive spending, a traditional bank might have some classic services that will come in handy. Talk with a licensed financial professional before you make the decision.
¹ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Amber Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet, Mar 25, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/banking/pros-cons-online-only-banking
² “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.
³ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.
⁴ “What Is Online Banking? Definition, Pros and Cons,” Murakami-Fester, Nerdwallet.
Maybe your numbers never add up or too many expenses are coming “out of the blue”. You might also feel a sense of dread every time you make a purchase. No matter what you do, this whole budgeting thing doesn’t seem to be working.
Hang in there! Here are a few budgeting potholes that might be slowing down your financial goals and how to avoid them!
Budgets are supposed to help you use your money wisely. They should be a positive part of your life—they’re not supposed to make you feel like you’re constantly failing. But sometimes our passion to save money and get our financial house in order gets the better of us, and we set up budgets that are too restrictive. While coming from good intentions, an overly thrifty budget can actually make it harder to achieve your goals. An impossible to follow plan can make you feel discouraged and resentful. You might even decide that it’s not worth the hassle! Try starting with a more reasonable strategy and then build from there!
Sometimes our budgets are just too complicated to actually be useful. Not everyone loves working with numbers, and sometimes fiddling with spreadsheets can get so overwhelming that we just want to quit. Plus, there’s plenty of room for human error! A good option is to investigate free budgeting sites or apps. All you do is punch in the correct numbers and the magic of technology will do the rest!
Life is constantly changing. Your simple, streamlined budget might be perfect for the life of a young single professional, but will it still hold up in five years? Where will the portion of your paycheck that works down your student loans go once you’re debt free? And when will you start saving for a house?
Take some time every few months to review your budget and see what’s changed. Evaluate what you’ve accomplished and areas that need improvement. Ask yourself what your next milestones should be and if those line up with your long-term goals!
Budgeting takes work. But it shouldn’t be a burden. Cut yourself some slack, prune your process, and stay consistent. You might be surprised by the difference filling in budgeting potholes can make in your financial life!
Recently, that dream became a reality for dozens of former students when the U.S. government gave $17 billion of debt relief to 725,000 borrowers.¹
Still, that hardly puts a dent in the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt collectively owed by 43 million Americans.²
So, what are the chances that your loans will be forgiven, and how do you know if you qualify?
Here are three ways to qualify for student loan forgiveness…
Work for a qualifying non-profit or public organization? Then you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
Under this program, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after you make 10 years’ worth of payments.³
And fortunately, it just got far easier to qualify—before recent reforms, the denial rate for the PSLF program was up to 99%.⁴
So if you’re a public servant, head over to the Federal Student Aid website and click Manage Loans.
Similar to the PSLF program, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is available for educators. If you’ve taught in a classroom for 5 years and meet the basic qualifications, you could be eligible for up to $17,500 of debt forgiveness.⁵
But be warned—there are some highly specific qualifications. From the Federal Aid website:
“You must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998.”⁶
Sound complicated? That’s because it is. As with most financial moves, meet with a debt professional or financial planner to see if you qualify.
If you’re totally and permanently disabled, you may be eligible for a complete discharge of your student loan debt.
You’ll need to submit proof of your disability to your loan servicer. The proof can come in many forms, such as a doctor’s letter, a Social Security Administration notice, or documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
As with everything involving bureaucracy and disability, you may quickly find yourself mired in red tape and conflicting phone numbers. That’s why it’s always wise to seek out professional help if you think you might qualify.
The sad truth is that few actually qualify for these programs. If you work in the private sector, are healthy, and face significant debt, you’ll need to find alternative strategies for moving from debt to wealth.
Still, it’s good to know that there are options out there for those who qualify. So if you think you might be eligible for one of these programs, don’t hesitate to explore your options.
¹ “Here’s who has qualified for student loan forgiveness under Biden,” Erika Giovanetti, Fox Business, Apr 26, https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/student-loan-forgiveness-programs-biden-administration
² “Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2022,” Anna Helhoski, Ryan Lane, Nerdwallet, May 19, 2022 https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/student-loan-debt
³ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness? To Qualify, Borrowers May Need To Do This First,” Adam S. Minsky, Forbes, May 16, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamminsky/2022/05/16/want-student-loan-forgiveness-to-qualify-borrowers-may-need-to-do-this-first/?sh=6aa44a617cdb
⁴ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness?” Minsky, Forbes, 2022
⁵ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher
⁶ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher
It’s linked to lung cancer and heart disease, and is associated with nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.(1) But smoking damages more than your body. It can also seriously hamper your financial health in ways that might surprise you.
Cigarettes aren’t cheap. Prices per pack vary from $$6.11 in Missouri to $11.96 in New York, but the national average comes out to around $8.(2, 3) Smoking a pack per day will run you $56 per week, $224 per month, and $2,912 per year. Over 20 years you’ll have spent $58,240 on cigarettes. That’s a lot of money to light up!
But smoking carries more subtle costs. Hospital bills, medication, and treatment all cost money, and smoking bumps up your chances of needing those at some point in your future. In total, smoking-related illness costs the United States over $300 billion per year.(4) Smokers also have to face higher insurance costs because of the health risks presented by their habit. All told, smoking one pack per day costs around $15,000 a year, or $40 per pack.(5)
What would you do with $15,000? If you’re smoking a pack per day, your answer is to spend it on a highly addictive chemical that feels great in the moment but will damage your health long-term. But what would happen if you put that $15,000 to work? Could that be the cash you need to start building a business? Maybe that could be the foundation of your child’s college fund or inheritance. That nicotine hit might be what you think you need to destress or get out of bed in the morning, but it’s costing you more than short-term cash. It’s denying you the potential to live on your terms and start building your future.
Quitting cigarettes can feel daunting. They’re an easy coping mechanism that you might depend on. Imagining a day without lighting up with your morning coffee could be downright terrifying. But smoking costs you more than just 6 bucks per pack. It costs you more than your future health. The price of a quick nicotine fix could be stopping you from reaching your full potential and stealing life-changing opportunities.
Trying to quit? Check out these resources from the CDC.
¹ “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm
² “Cigarette Prices by State 2022,” World Population Review, https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/cigarette-prices-by-state/
³ “Economic Trends in Tobacco,” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/index.htm#
⁴ “ Hidden Costs of Smoking,” American Cancer Society, https://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/benefits/events/flyers/tobacco-free/hidden-cost-of-smoking.pdf
One interior decoration blog estimated that decorating a living room from scratch could cost between $14,400 to almost $50,000!(1) The numbers for the dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen are similarly high. Furnishing an apartment averages between $3500-5800.² But is there a better way? How can you save some cash if you’re trying to furnish your home? Here are a few helpful tips to guide your decorating process!
Start by taking stock of what furniture you have that can be used in your new home. Some of it might work in your new home, some of it might not. Try to get an idea of what existing furniture will go where and make note of new items you’ll need.
Arrange your list of new items in order of importance and buy those first. Mattresses for your bedroom? Top of the list. Abstract modern art to hang in your bathroom? Maybe hold off on that until you’ve taken care of the essentials!
Concerned that your kitchen is a little drab? Worried that your table cloth doesn’t match your dining room? You might be surprised how far a new paint job will get you! It might be a more budget-friendly way to spice up your living situation than tossing all your old furniture out the door, especially if you do it yourself. Things like tables and wooden chairs are all potential candidates for a new coat of paint, as are the walls of your home.
But there’s no doubt that at some point you’ll need to get a new piece of furniture. What then? Cough up and pay a ridiculous price? You might be surprised by the resources available to acquire furniture at a bargain. Local thrift stores can be treasure troves for things like chairs, coffee tables, and bookcases. Craigslist and eBay are also worth investigating, as are estate and garage sales. And you can always scour the curbs for a free sofa if you’re feeling bold!
Furnishing your new house can be fun. It’s a chance to unleash your creativity and make your home a special place. Just make sure you follow these budget-friendly tips before you start indulging!
¹ “Budget Breakdown: How Much Does It Cost To Decorate A Room?” The Kuotes, https://www.kathykuohome.com/blog/budget-breakdown-how-much-does-it-cost-decorate-a-room/
² “The Cost of Furnishing an Apartment: A Step-By-Step Guide With Breakdown Of Furniture Costs,” Bonnie Stinson, Furnishr, Jan 7, 2022 https://furnishr.com/blog/cost-furnishing-apartment/
These words have been plastered all over the news and social media feeds for the last two years. And there’s no sign of it stopping.
As individuals and as businesses, we can’t control the economy.
But what we can control is how we respond to it.
The key is to stay focused on your long-term goals, and make sure your actions align with them.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate economic volatility…
1. Check your emotions. Fear is the natural response to economic volatility. What will happen to your job? What will happen to your business? What will happen to your retirement savings?
Know this—one of the worst mistakes you can potentially make is acting rashly on those fears. Volatility creates opportunity. Don’t lose out on potential because of headlines you read. Instead, assess your situation, what you stand to lose, and opportunities you might have.
2. Stay focused on your goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day noise of the news. But if you want to help your sanity—and make sound financial decisions—it’s important to keep things in perspective.
How far are you from retirement? What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement? What’s your strategy for protecting against long-term losses?
If your goals are in line with your current reality, take a deep breath and ride out the storm. If not, it’s time to reevaluate where things stand and make adjustments as necessary.
3. Review your budget and financial strategy. Once you’ve gotten past the initial emotional reaction, it’s time to take a clear-eyed look at your budget and finances.
There are two critical components to examine here—your emergency fund and your debt.
If you have an adequate emergency fund in place, keep it intact. Resist the temptation to tap into your savings to cover short-term losses. You’ll need your emergency fund for different expenses, like emergencies.
As for debt, make sure you’re not overextending yourself with credit cards and loans that only might make sense when the economy is booming. If you lose your job in a downturn, the last thing you want is high-interest debt hanging over you.
4. Meet with your financial professional. It’s simple—a licensed and qualified financial professional can help stop rash financial decision making in its tracks.
A financial professional can help you see the big picture, keep things in perspective, and develop a strategy that can help you stay on track—no matter what the economy throws your way.
While economic volatility can feel frightening, it’s important to stay focused on your long-term goals. Having the right mindset and guidance can help you navigate a crisis with confidence.