But it doesn’t have to be like this. The morning hours can be times of relaxation, focus, and self-improvement. Here are a few practical habits that can take your mornings from pointless to productive!
Go to bed early. Stayed up too late watching just one more episode of your favorite show? Don’t expect to wake up feeling motivated. A productive morning starts the night before. Try to stay away from screens before going to bed (at least one hour) and make sure you turn in at a reasonable time. You may also want to dial back when you wake up. Having a quiet hour or two before everyone else wakes up is a great way of freeing up time to invest in things you care about. Just remember that your new sleep schedule will take some time to adjust to!
Exercise first thing. One of the best habits to fill your new-found morning hours is exercise. It’s a great way to get your blood flowing and boost your energy. Plus, the feeling that you’ve accomplished something can help carry you through the day and boost your confidence.
Prioritize your tasks. But let’s say you’ve started getting up an hour and a half earlier and you work out for 30 minutes. How are you going to spend the next hour before you start getting ready for work? One great habit is to start planning out your day and prioritizing your tasks. Write down what specifically you want to accomplish and when. You might be amazed by how empowering it is to make a plan and to see your goals on a piece of paper. Start off with your biggest task. The morning is when you’re at your peak brain power, so commit your best efforts to the hardest work. The feeling of accomplishment from knocking out the task will carry you through the smaller things!
Mornings don’t have to be rough. Incorporating these tips and habits into your daily routine can help make the first hours of the day a time you look forward to. Start inching your alarm closer towards sunrise and use that extra time to absolutely crush your day!
You haven’t spent that much money this month. There should be plenty left over to cover this, right?
Before long, the bank has sent you the alert—your account is in the red. You’ve overdrafted. Now you’ll almost certainly face two consequences…
1. Overdraft fees. The bank’s favorite way to slap you on the wrist for overspending. These are, on average, $33.58 per overdraft as of 2021.¹
2. Interest. The only reason you can keep purchasing once you’re in the negative is because the bank loans you money. And with every loan comes interest.
It may not seem significant, but these add up. In 2020, Americans spent 12.4 billion in fees alone.²
Here are some strategies to help your bank account stay above water…
This way, purchases that push your bank account past zero will be denied. Overdrafting becomes impossible. There are, however, two serious drawbacks…
You may feel silly if you try to make a purchase and it doesn’t go through. You may need to make a legitimate emergency purchase that exceeds the amount in your account.
Fortunately, there are other strategies at your disposal.
If you have an emergency fund, you can link it directly to your spending account. That way, if you overdraft, your emergency fund will automatically make up the difference.
This works well for covering emergency expenses. But if your regular spending overdrafts your account, you may squander your emergency fund on non-emergencies.
Consistent overdrafting may mean that you have a spending problem. If that’s the case, the time has come to cut back. Set up a budget that keeps your spending above water each month. That way, you won’t come close to the dangers of overdraft.
It all comes down to why you’re overdrafting. If you overdraft on occasion because of emergencies, simply link your emergency fund to cover the difference. But if it’s the symptom of a deeper issue, it may be time to seek help.
¹ “Overdraft fees hit another record high this year—here’s how to avoid them,” Alicia Adamczyk, CNBC, Oct 20, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/20/overdraft-fees-hit-another-record-highheres-how-to-avoid-them.html
² “Banks Charged Low-Income Americans Billions In Overdraft Fees In 2020,” Kelly Anne Smith, Forbes, Apr 21, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/how-to-prevent-overdraft-fees/
Some downturns can be seen from a mile away. Others, like the Great Recession and the Coronavirus lockdowns, are black swan events—they catch even the experts off guard.
But they don’t have to find YOU unprepared.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you assess your recession readiness.
Without well-stocked emergency savings, losing your job could spell disaster for your finances—you’d be forced to rely on credit to cover even basic expenses. When you re-enter the workforce, a huge chunk of your income would go straight towards paying down debt instead of building wealth.
That’s why it’s critical to save three to six months of income asap. It may be the cushion you need to soften the blow of unemployment, should it come your way.
Recessions don’t discriminate. They affect everyone from the poorest to the wealthiest. But one group weathers downturns better than most—those with multiple streams of income.
If you have more than one source of income, you’re less likely to feel the full brunt of a recession. If one stream dries up, ideally you would have others to fall back on.
What does that look like? For many, it means a side hustle. Some create products like books, online guides, etc., or they might do something like acquire rental properties. These types of businesses typically only require a one-time effort to produce or purchase but will yield recurring income.
If you’re ambitious, you could create a business to generate income that far exceeds your personal labor. It’s not for the faint of heart. But with the right strategy and mentorship, it could lend your finances an extra layer of protection.
Just as you diversify your income streams, you should also diversify your savings. That way, if one account loses value, you have others to fall back on.
What could that look like? That depends on your situation. It’s why talking to a licensed and qualified financial professional is a must—they can help tailor your strategy to meet your specific goals.
The wealthy have long known that recessions can be opportunities. With the right strategy, you may actually come out ahead financially.
But in order to take advantage of those opportunities, you need to have cash on hand. That way, when others are forced to sell at a discount, you can scoop up assets at a fraction of their true value.
So if you want to be in a position to take advantage of a downturn, make sure you have ample cash on hand. That way, when an opportunity comes knocking, you’ll be ready to answer.
No one can predict the future. But by following these tips, you can prepare your finances for whatever the economy throws your way.
It’s not Wal-Mart or Amazon or Apple; those are companies. The answer, while it might surprise you, actually makes perfect sense. It’s the industry that manages, stores and protects money for billionaires, conglomerates, companies—and you.
That’s right, the financial industry is the largest industry in the world!
Totalling $109 trillion, it dwarfs the competition.¹ For comparison, real estate is worth $33 trillion and retail amounts to $26 trillion. But what exactly is the financial industry? Here’s a quick look.
Technically, the financial industry is composed of companies that offer financial services. But what exactly is a financial service? The International Monetary Fund defines it as “how consumers and businesses acquire financial goods such as loans and insurance.”²
The most obvious example of financial services are the services a bank offers. It offers a place for you to safely store your money. You can also get a loan from a bank if you need to make a big purchase like a home or car. Banks make money by charging interest on loans and adding fees to their services, and they can range in size from local, small-town establishments to massive nationwide banks.
But there’s more to the financial industry than just holding and lending money. Investment is a huge part of this sector. Financial advisors and brokers help everyone from the middle class to the rich and powerful make and manage their investments. They can manage staggering amounts of money for huge businesses. Financial protection services, like insurance, is another major segment of the financial industry.
Modern economies are fueled by the financial sector. They’re the gatekeepers to prosperity. Anyone trying to start a business, save for their future, or protect their family has to go through banks, advisors, and agents. Economies thrive when the financial sector is healthy and melt down when it’s not!
The financial industry might appear as conspicuous as other sectors. We don’t go to a financial advisor every week for groceries or fuel our car at the bank. But that doesn’t mean it’s not vital to every part of our lives.
¹ Federal Reserve, February 2020
² “Financial Services: Getting the Goods,” International Monetary Fund, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/basics/64-financial-services.htm
So why does it feel like you have so little control? How many people feel financially helpless? Like there is barely enough to make ends meet and never enough to prepare for the future?
78% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic hit.¹ That means most of us weren’t in control of our finances. We were just riding the coattails of a fabulous economy.
So what does it take to achieve financial control?
Here are some basic ways to grab the reins of your personal finances!
You should know how much you make. But do you know how much you spend and on what? Discovering that your bank account is empty at the end of each month is one thing. But figuring out where your money is going—that’s something else entirely. This knowledge is what will help equip you to create a strategy and take control of your life.
Start by figuring out how much you spend in total and subtracting that number from how much you make. Then, break down your spending into categories like rent, gas, eating out, entertainment, streaming services, and anything else that takes a chunk out of your normal expenses. It might feel like homework, but hang in there.
Goals are the key to creating an effective financial strategy. You have to know what you’re building towards if you want to develop the best steps and strategies. It’s okay to think simple. Maybe you’re just trying to get out of debt. Perhaps you’re trying to save enough to start a business or buy a home. Or you might be a bit more ambitious and have an eye on a dream retirement that you want to start preparing for now.
Figure out what it is you want and how much it will cost. From there you can use your budget to start cutting back in categories where you spend too much. You might discover that you need to increase your income to accomplish your goals. Map out a few steps that will move you closer to making your dream a reality.
Once you’ve built a strategy based on your goals and budget-fueled insights, the only thing left is to follow through and take action. This isn’t a grandiose, one-time maneuver. This is about little decisions day in and day out that will help make your dreams a reality. That means making small moves like meal prepping at home instead of eating out, or avoiding clothing boutiques in favor of thrift shop finds. Those little acts of discipline are the building blocks of success. You might fall off the wagon every now and again, but that’s okay! Pick yourself up and keep pushing forward.
It’s important to have each of these three components operating together at once. Knowing your financial situation and not doing anything about it may not do anything but cause anxiety. Cutting your spending without an overall vision can lead to pointless frugality and meaningless deprivation. And a goal without insight or action? That’s called a fantasy. Let’s talk about how we can implement all three of these elements into a financial strategy today!
¹ “78% Of Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck,” Zack Friedman, Forbes, Jan 11, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/live-paycheck-to-paycheck-government-shutdown/#3305f4cb4f10
And it can be helpful—if properly structured, consolidation can noticeably lower your interest rate.
But if you’re serious about getting out of debt, it shouldn’t be the only tool in your arsenal. Why? Because debt consolidation doesn’t do anything to attack your balance.
Let’s say you have three debts…
■ $3,000 personal loan at 7% interest
■ $15,000 car loan at 5% interest
■ $8,000 credit card balance at 15% interest
That comes out to a total monthly debt payment of $2,160. That’s a lot of money!
But what if you consolidate those debts into a single $26,000 loan with a 7% interest rate? Your new monthly payment would be $1,820. Not bad!
Now consider another scenario—what if instead of consolidating your debts, you could slice your total debt burden in half?
Your monthly payment would plummet from $2,160 to $1,080. And because you’re paying less each month, you’d have more money available to put towards building wealth, ASAP.
That’s important because the sooner you start building wealth, the better. The longer your money can grow via compound interest, the wealthier you can become.
So while debt consolidation can be helpful, it shouldn’t be your only strategy for getting out of debt. It’s just one tool in the arsenal.
If you’re not sure where to start with debt, meet with a debt relief specialist. They can point you towards the strategies and relief programs you need to get out of debt—for good.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before taking out a loan, enacting a funding strategy, or setting up debt consolidation, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, debt expert, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.
Veronica is a 38 year old independent woman. She lives in a cabin at the edge of a lake on property owned by her best friend, Kim.
Veronica gardens, hikes, and plays solitaire while listening to old jazz records she inherited from her late parents. She has no kids. She owns no property, assets, or even a bank account for that matter. She doesn’t even have a mobile phone. She does have an old computer though, so she can keep track of what’s going on in the world. This allows her to communicate with Kim, who visits Veronica once a year to bring her seeds for her garden and a bottle of wine.
Veronica has no family, no dependents, no spouse, no parents, and no job. It’s just her and the cabin, the lake, and her vegetable patch—and you know what, she likes it that way.
Veronica’s situation isn’t typical. She really doesn’t need life insurance.
If you’re NOT like Veronica, meaning you do have kids, a spouse, a house, assets, a bank account, etc.—you probably need life insurance. And with the speed at which life changes these days, you probably need a life insurance review ASAP.
Veronica can remain off the grid, she’ll be just fine. But for those of us who live ON the grid, make a point to check in with your financial professional this Life Insurance Awareness Month to discuss your updated financial security needs.
Benjamin is a 73 year old author. He lives in a small apartment in a mid-sized city that he leases for free from an old business connection.
Benjamin wakes up every day at 6am, stretches, makes instant coffee on his stove, and then starts typing. At this point, he’s not interested in writing the next great American novel—he wrote four of those in his early 50s. He splits the sizable royalties, which continue rolling in each month, between his spartan lifestyle and funding his top ten favorite charities.
His daughter is financially successful, so he has no dependents. He hasn’t received bills in the mail since 2010. His greatest expense is splurging on the senior special at the diner up the street, which is owned by one of his biggest fans. And all that means is that his meal is usually on the house.
His life consists of his morning stretching routine, instant coffee, feeding the pigeons on the fire escape, and writing short stories for his two grandkids. And he goes to bed every night with a big smile on his face.
Benjamin is unusual—he doesn’t need life insurance.
But if you’re in a period of life in which you carry significant financial responsibilities for the people you love, you’re not like Benjamin. You most likely DO need life insurance. And even if you already have a policy in place, there’s a good chance you don’t have enough coverage. LIMRA reported in 2021 that there are over 102 million people in America who are uninsured or underinsured—that’s almost one in three people!1
And with skyrocketing costs of living and an ever-changing economy, you likely need a review ASAP.
So if your responsibilities involve more than sharpening pencils and making sure your plants are watered, schedule a checkup with your licensed and qualified financial professional. It’s Life Insurance Awareness Month, so now is the perfect time to fine-tune your financial protection.
¹ LIMRA, Sep 2021, “Facts About Life 2021, Facts from Life Insurance Awareness Month, Help Protect Our Families”
Have you fallen into a rut of living the same day over and over again, rehashing the same information and thinking the same thoughts? Maybe you’re bored and looking for adventure or intellectual stimulation. It turns out that there are actually a few things you can do to consistently push your mental capacities and become a lifelong learner!
Good writing is magical. It can transport us to distant lands and introduce us to incredible worlds and characters. But reading can also transform our minds, especially when we encounter new and challenging ideas. We’re able to overcome the limitations of our own imaginations and experiences and see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Surveys have shown that almost all successful people, regardless of their backgrounds, read extensively.¹ And it’s no wonder; the ability to assume appreciate perspective is incredibly powerful. But what should you be reading?
Not all reading is created equal. Romance novels about vampires and werewolves might count as brain “junk food”. It also might be best to avoid a 19th-century philosophical treatise right out of the gate!
Instead, explore entry-level books about topics you don’t know a lot about. Dip your toe into new subjects and see if they spark your interest! You can always move to more advanced work on the subject from there. On the other hand, you can find new opinions and perspectives on topics that you’ve already mastered. How is your field changing or evolving?
Conversation is another great way to encounter new ideas. Chances are that you’re surrounded by vast amounts of knowledge sitting untapped inside your friends and family. You just need to know how to extract it! The keys are to listen seriously and ask real questions based on what you’ve heard. Most of us are more consumed with what we’re going to say next than with what the other person is saying. Honing in on what you’re hearing and trying to develop questions as you listen helps you understand what they’re saying and fuels your curiosity. It’s a virtuous cycle where everyone benefits!
But the key to both of these lifelong learning strategies is to focus intensely. That means when you’re reading or taking a class, turn off your phone and absorb what’s right before you. Engage in conversation intentionally, asking real questions based on what the other person is saying. You might be surprised how tricky both of those things can be at first! But stick with it. Those learning muscles will grow stronger and stronger until you’re brimming with information!
One final tip: always ask why. Don’t just ponder something to yourself. Ask someone who might possibly have an answer! And don’t be vague. Be as precise and specific as possible when you ask your question. The best thing about learning is that you can potentially keep learning forever! Learn to love the process of learning, and you might be amazed by how far your brain power can go.
¹ “A self-made millionaire who studied 1,200 wealthy people found they all have one — free — pastime in common,” Kathleen Elkins, Insider, Aug 21, 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/rich-people-like-to-read-2015-8
Having flaws in your work pointed out to you can be a stressful experience and seriously affect your mood and self-image. Even criticizing someone else’s performance may make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
But criticism is incredibly important. When done correctly, it can empower us to improve our weaknesses and maximize our strengths. But first, we have to learn how to receive criticism well and not let our egos get in the way. Here are a few ideas!
It’s easy to react poorly even to the best intentioned criticism. There’s an emotional leap we make where something simple like “I think this could be said better” gets interpreted as “you’re dumb and made a dumb decision and will always be dumb.” But that’s often our own emotions or insecurities talking and unnecessarily connecting dots. Next time you’re facing criticism, try taking a deep breath and pausing before you respond or react. You can also take that pause to reframe the situation in your mind. Is this really your boss seeking to degrade and destroy you or is this an opportunity to learn and improve?
One of the key factors in how you handle criticism is how you value yourself. Even gentle advice can deeply hurt someone who has a low estimation of their worth. To them, it may seem to confirm their suspicion that they’re really not that useful and that they should probably just give up. The same goes for people who are dependent on praise and approval. Criticism can make them feel like they have to perform like a superhuman to earn the approval of the person criticizing. Until they do that, they’ll be a nervous wreck!
The key to overcoming these barriers is to understand that you have value in and of yourself. Part of that worth comes from your accomplishments and skills, but some of it comes down to your mindset. What do you tell yourself about yourself? Have you really studied the art of self-confidence? Start developing the skills it takes to know your own worth and watch as your attitude towards feedback changes!
It’s also worth remembering that not all criticism is created equal. There’s some feedback that might not be worth taking seriously whatsoever. Your nagging grandmother, your impossible to please friend, and your nitpicking coworker are probably not the best places to turn for useful critiques and advice. But bosses, experts, and mentors? That’s where you need to put aside your pride, remember that you still have value, and actually listen.
You might be surprised how these simple steps can transform your perspective on criticism. Suddenly, the advice and critiques of others seem less like threats and more like opportunities. There’s so much wisdom walking around in your peers and mentors. Learning how to handle criticism like a pro opens up access to a whole new world of experience and ideas that just might change your life!
Some people seem to be born with an eye for the new and the unexpected and the exciting. There’s nothing wrong with conventional thinking; you probably don’t want a doctor or nurse known for an avant-garde attitude! But there are times when we’re confronted by problems without obvious solutions. We have to think outside the box to overcome and make progress. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to approach life more creatively. You might not become a Van Gogh, but these tips might come in handy the next time you encounter a roadblock.
Experts can be a touch boring, especially when they keep lording their knowledge over you at dinner parties. But they can also be a huge source of inspiration, if you know how to talk to them! Instead of zoning out or looking for a way to interject your own opinion, start listening for opportunities to ask questions. Look for things you don’t understand about what they’re saying or an idea that strikes you as interesting and ask them about it. And when they’re done explaining it, try repeating it back in your own words. You might be surprised by the connections that your brain starts to make. Plus, the person you’re talking to will feel valued and appreciated!
Boredom births creativity.¹ It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you think about it. Your brain likes to be busy. Watching paint dry or reading the phonebook is so dull that (if you actually did those activities) you’d spontaneously start exploring new ideas just to pass the time. Your brain is never less inhibited or less constrained than when you’re performing a mundane task. Clear out some time in your schedule for a boring activity. Maybe (safely!) try voice recording your ideas in the car on your commute to and from work. You might find a long shower is the perfect time to brainstorm and think through problems. Get creative and do something monotonous!
If your schedule is already full and you’re constantly on the move, picking up a hobby might seem kind of pointless. But a hobby can teach you important lessons about creativity that you can’t learn anywhere else. You might learn that performing a beautiful song is composed of dozens of little micro-movements and components that all take time to learn and master. You might learn that painting a stunning landscape starts with a single brushstroke. And you might learn that out-foxing your opponent in chess comes down to your burgeoning ability to imagine a dozen possible outcomes and responding well when things don’t go your way. Clear out some time, talk to an expert, and start creating something just for fun!
Convention is the biggest enemy of creativity. We’ve all had ideas that we’re afraid to share or voice because we think people will think we’re stupid. But being creative is all about seeing potential where no one else can. And that by default means some folks are going to shoot you looks. Overcome all of that by expressing your wildest ideas first. Come out of the gate with a barn burner. Listen to serious feedback and criticisms, but don’t be afraid to voice your ideas. You might just stumble on something brilliant!
These tips may not transform you into a generation-defining sculptor or wordsmith*. But they might just spark the creative edge you need to see problems in a new light and find opportunities where others see danger. So make some time, start some conversations, pick up some hobbies, and start dreaming!
*Please let me know if this article does happen to make you into a generation defining artist of any kind!
¹ “How boredom can make you more productive and creative,” Ivana Fisic, Clockify, Jun 22, 2022 https://clockify.me/blog/managing-time/boredom-can-make-you-more-productive-and-creative/
It makes sense. Lines are long, traffic is bad, and situations don’t always conform to our expectations. Staying calm in the face of difficulties isn’t easy. We get angry and upset and vent those feelings to anyone who will listen.
But there’s a reason patience is considered a virtue. Here’s a quick case for practicing patience in your personal and professional life!
Merriam-Webster defines patience as “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.”(1) Also: “not hasty or impetuous.” Let’s unpack those definitions!
Patience is basically a calm response when things don’t go your way or meet your expectations. Is a project taking longer than you want? A patient response would be to not get angry, maintain your composure, and keep working your best at it.
We don’t always have the luxury of making decisions in a stress-free environment. But patience comes with a variety of positives. First, it gives us a degree of clarity when we’re making tough choices. Enacting a bit of patience can prevent you from making an emotional call when you unexpectedly feel the heat!
Second, patience can help us achieve our goals. It can be easier to do things with short-term benefits. But doing something today that will help us a year down the road? That can be much harder. Patience can help us accomplish things now that will benefit us later in life. It helps us tolerate discomfort with grace and wait to reap the rewards of hard work later down the line!
Finally, patience towards others can encourage them to be patient towards us. There’s nothing more alienating than getting snapped out by someone who loses their temper when things don’t go their way. But responding graciously and calmly to a person’s disappointing behavior can make a huge difference in their lives and may help them improve. It might also make them think twice before they treat you poorly the next time!
Recognizing the benefits of patience is one thing, but actually being patient? That’s a whole different ball game! Here are some tips for the next time you feel yourself growing impatient with a person or situation:
- Breathe deeply. It’s one of the simplest ways of calming yourself down when you feel frustration starting to bubble! Take a few deep breaths and reassess the situation with a fresh perspective.
- Empathize. Try to understand the perspective of the people who are upsetting you. What’s the best possible reason that they might be doing this annoying thing? Does it make some sense from their point of view and given their experience? Are they legitimately being malicious or do they have understandable motives for their actions?
- Be grateful! You probably have much more to be thankful for than you realize. Take some time to count your blessings and remember the good things in life. You might be surprised by how much that reframes your experience and makes you more patient!
One last thing: Don’t confuse patience with weakness! We’re so used to a go get ‘em, hustle mentality that patiently working and waiting can seem counter-intuitive and downright dumb. But patience has always been a virtue, and it can make a big difference in your personal life and your business!
There seems to be an endless stream of envelopes from companies all demanding payment for their products and services. It feels like you have a choice of what you want to do with your money ONLY after all the bills have been paid – if there’s anything left over, that is.
Not to rub salt in the wound, but may I ask how much you’re saving each month? $100? $50? Nothing? You may have made a plan and come up with a rock-solid budget in the past, but let’s get real. One month’s expenditures can be very different than another’s. Birthdays, holidays, last-minute things the kids need for school, a spontaneous weekend getaway, replacing that 12-year-old dishwasher that doesn’t sound exactly right, etc., can make saving a fixed amount each month a challenge. Some months you may actually be able to save something, and some months you can’t. The result is that setting funds aside each month becomes an uncertainty.
Although this situation might appear at first benign (i.e., it’s just the way things are), the impact of this uncertainty can have far-reaching negative consequences.
Here’s why: If you don’t know how much you can save each month, then you don’t know how much you can save each year. If you don’t know how much you can save each year, then you don’t know how much you’ll have put away 2, 5, 10, or 20 years from now. Will you have enough saved for retirement?
Truth is, most of us don’t have a wealthy relative who might unexpectedly leave us an inheritance we never knew existed!
The good news is that you have the power to spend less and start building wealth. That’s great, and you might want to do that… but how do you do that?
The first “bill” you pay each month is to yourself. Shifting your focus each month to a “pay yourself first” mentality is subtle, but it can potentially be life changing. Let’s say for example you make $3,000 per month after taxes. You would put aside $300 (10%) right off the bat, leaving you $2,700 for the rest of your bills. This tactic makes saving $300 per month a certainty. The answer to how much you would be saving each month would always be: “At least $300.” If you stash this in an interest-bearing account, imagine how high this can grow over time if you continue to contribute that $300.
That’s exciting! But at this point you might be thinking, “I can’t afford to save 10% of my income every month because the leftovers aren’t enough for me to live my lifestyle”. If that’s the case, rather than reducing the amount you save, it might be worthwhile to consider if it’s the lifestyle you can’t afford.
Ultimately, paying yourself first means you’re making your future financial goals a priority, and that’s a bill worth paying.
In an era of less social contact, debit cards are convenient. Just swipe and go. Even more so for their mobile phone equivalents: Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. We like fast, we like easy, and we like a good sale.
But are we actually spending more by not using cash like we did in the good old days?
We spend more when using plastic – and that’s true of both credit card spending and debit card spending.² Money is more easily spent with cards because you don’t “feel” it immediately. An extra $2 here, another $10 there… It adds up.
The phenomenon of reduced spending when paying with cash is a psychological “pain of payment.” Opening up your wallet at the register for a $20.00 purchase but only seeing a $10 bill in there – ouch! Maybe you’ll put back a couple of those $5 DVDs you just had to have 5 minutes ago.
When using plastic, the reality of the expense doesn’t sink in until the statement arrives. And even then it may not carry the same weight. After all, you only need to make the minimum payment, right? With cash, we’re more cautious – and that’s not a bad thing.
When you pay with cash, the expense feels real – even when it might be relatively small. Hopefully, you’ll get a sense that you’re parting with something of value in exchange for something else. You might start to ask yourself things like “Do I need this new comforter set that’s on sale – a really good sale – or, do I just want this new comforter set because it’s really cute (and it’s on sale)?” You might find yourself paying more attention to how much things cost when making purchases, and weighing that against your budget.
If you find that you have money left over at the end of the week (and you probably will because who likes to see nothing when they open their wallet), put the cash aside in an envelope and give it a label. You can call it anything you want, like “Movie Night,” for example.
As the weeks go on, you’re likely to amass a respectable amount of cash in your “rewards” fund. You might even be dreaming about what to do with that money now. You can buy something special. You can save it. The choice is yours. Well done on saving your hard-earned cash.
¹ “Debit Spending Is On The Rise, But Is It Here To Stay?” Visa Navigate, Apr 2021, https://navigate.visa.com/na/spending-insights/why-debit-spending-is-on-the-rise/
² “MIT study: Paying with credit cards activates your brain to create ‘purchase cravings’ for more spending,” Cory Stieg, CNBC, Mar 13, 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/13/credit-cards-activate-brain-reward-network-create-cravings.html
Your credit history can have an impact on your eligibility for rental leases, raise (or lower) your auto insurance rates, or even affect your eligibility for certain jobs (although in many cases the authorized credit reports available to third parties don’t contain your credit score if you aren’t requesting credit). Because credit history affects so many aspects of financial life, it’s important to begin building a solid credit history as early as possible.
So, where do you start?
Store credit cards are a common starting point for teens and young adults, as it often can be easier to get approved for a store card than for a major credit card. As a caveat though, store card interest rates are often higher than for a standard credit card. Credit limits are also typically low – but that might not be a bad thing when you’re just getting started building your credit. A lower limit helps ensure you’ll be able to keep up with payments. Because you’re trying to build a positive history and because interest rates are often higher with a store card, it’s important to pay on time – or ideally, to pay the entire balance when you receive the statement.
Another common way to begin building credit is to become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card. Ultimately, the credit card account isn’t yours, so your parents would be responsible for paying the balance. (Because of this, your credit score won’t benefit as much as if you are approved for a credit card in your own name.) Another thing to keep in mind is that some credit card providers don’t report authorized users’ activity to credit bureaus.* Additionally, even if you’re only an authorized user, any missed or late payments on the card can affect your credit history negatively.
A secured credit card is another way to begin building credit. To secure the card, you make an initial deposit. The amount of that deposit is your credit line. If you miss a payment, the bank uses your collateral – the deposit – to pay the balance. Don’t let that make you too comfortable though. Your goal is to build a positive credit history, so if you miss payments – even though you have a prepaid deposit to fall back on – you’re still going to get a ding on your credit history. Instead, it’s best to use a small amount of your available credit each month and to pay in full when you get the statement. This will help you look like a credit superstar due to your consistently timely payments and low credit utilization.
As you build your credit history, you’ll be able to apply for credit in larger amounts, and you may even start receiving pre-approved offers. But beware. Having credit available is useful for certain emergencies and for demonstrating responsible use of credit – but you don’t need to apply for every offer you receive.
“Will Authorized User Status Help You Build Credit?” NerdWallet, Sep 24, 2021, https://discvr.co/2lAzSgt.
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.