Live On Your Terms

800,000 Government employees went without a paycheck for 35 days, causing many to skip mortgage payments and forcing others to turn to safety nets like food banks to feed their families.  This recent shutdown has left a bad taste in many mouths and has lowered many people’s opinion of our elected officials.  

But today is a new day and paychecks have resumed.  Whatever your thoughts and feelings on our Government’s actions and on seeing so many of our fellow Americans in horrible situations, my advice is this; endeavor to live on your terms.  

Pay yourself first.  If you’re not in the habit of doing this, you’re in the habit of paying everyone else first.  Odds are, you get to the end of the month and there’s nothing left over for you and your family.  Set your foundation.  Get your emergency fund set.  Pay off your credit card debt.  Get to three months income saved.  

Use this recent terrible situation as motivation to get moving in the right direction.  Live on your terms.  

Real Change

I’m sick of being pitched a quick fix and/or a short path to financial freedom everytime I go online.  Lose weight, get ripped, get rich, have better relationships; there’s too many people attempting to prey on our desire for a silver bullet or magic pill that will get us where we want to go.  

Instead of buying someone’s online program, focus on being 25% better in 2019.  

What if your diet and fitness level was 25% better?  What if your relationship with your family was 25% better?  Your finances and overall happiness 25% better? That’d be pretty freaking good, right?!The reality is, we get better the same way we got sick; one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, so on and so forth.  How to do it?

In your interactions with family, seek first to understand, than to be understood.  This will require patience and real listening on your part.

With exercise, if you’re currently working out 2 times a week, add another day or increase the time you’re working out by 25%.  

Audit your eating.  Can you pack a lunch 25% more than you currently are?  This will also help with the next one.

The low hanging fruit when it comes to cutting spending is eating out; I bet you can easily cut this by 25% a week.

Consider increasing your savings rate into your savings account or retirement plan.  If you’re currently contributing 5% to your 401(k), up it to 6 or 7%.

Personally, start practicing gratitude on a daily basis; you’ll easily become 25% happier.  

You can absolutely do this, you just need to get started!  Put pen to paper and figure out how you can make this happen.

Have an awesome Holiday season!

What I’ve Learned

On the anniversary of my first 40 trips around the sun, I wanted to take a moment to share with you what I’ve learned.

  • Community is everything.  Your family, friends, coworkers, the people you spend your life with, are everything in order to have a great life.  The connections, the support, the accountability, the help and wisdom they provide are everything. Everyday, if you work to better your community, you’ll find great purpose, I know I do. I find happiness, contentment and impact in working to advance others.  

 

  • I strongly believe in the power of the individual.  I believe each and every one of us is capable of doing anything, good or bad. When you look at a collective group, statistics are real.  But when you look at the individuals within that group, anything is possible. There’s a great quote by Ayn Rand that says “The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.”

 

  • Each of us has to carry our own load, we each have to run our own race.  Every one of us has fallen victim to looking for answers outside of ourselves, or from other people, when in reality most answers come from within.  Now, to connect community to the individual, I think it’s imperative to take the position that you are responsible to people, not for people. Embracing this empowers you as well as the person you’re working to elevate.  

 

  • Know your values, goals and impact.  Can you list your core values? Mine are friendship, justice and learning.  Have you written down your goals? Do you understand and embrace the impact you have in your community?  The impact you have on your family? At work? You’re having one, embrace it.

 

  • Music makes everything better, turn some on.

 

  • “You don’t have to be serious to be responsible.”  Jennifer Moss told me that on a podcast and she’s right.  I can remember being at a leadership training conference when I worked a large financial company.  At that time, I was at the top of my group experiencing a lot of success and, as I like to do, joking around quite a bit.  The guy in charge came up to me and said “not everything’s a joke” and I realized I wasn’t long for that career path. You’ve gotta have fun.

 

  • I’d rather be useful than brilliant.  I’m very fond of saying this, but the reality of today’s world is that there’s a ton of noise all the time, almost a low frequency hum that sort of washes over us and doesn’t get absorbed  Whenever I find myself participating in that hum, I know I need to change gears.

 

  • Be where you are.  Your full, undivided attention is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another person.  Put your phone down, be present with the people you’re with, or simply sit quietly by yourself for a minute.  Blaise Pascal said “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

 

  • Get and keep a sense of where you are.  Perspective is hard to get and harder still to keep.  It’s so important to consider your place in the world, your circumstances, your obligations, your responsibilities and how lucky and fortunate you are to be you.  

 

  • Get started.  Wherever you are, however old you are, timing will never be perfect, so get started.  The same goes for others, work to meet people where they are without judgement. Help others to get started.  

 

  • Discipline first, than personal responsibility.  I love the idea of personal responsibility, but I get that it’s a learned thing and it’s a muscle that needs to be strengthened.  Until you learn it and the muscle is strong, put some guardrails up. Real change happens incrementally, so take small bites, we get healthy the same way we got sick.  

 

  • How you look at something makes all the difference. You have a choice to focus on the positives or the negatives.  The same goes for the problems facing our world today. If you’re constantly focusing on international issues, you’ll lose your mind because you’re not going to be able to change them.  Instead, focus on how you can bring change to your community. We must tend to our own gardens and it’s important to focus on the parts of our garden we can reach.

 

  • Confidence isn’t everything, but it’s a lot of it.

 

  • “If you sit by the river long enough, you’ll see the bodies of your enemies float by.”  Sun Tzu. Be truthful, treat others fairly, be just and live with integrity. In so doing, the universe will reward you.  It will also balance the ledger because what goes around, comes around. So don’t seek vengeance when someone wrongs you, just know they’ll eventually get what’s coming.  There are a lot of similar quotes attributed to a lot of smart people, but essentially, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

 

  • Financial peace of mind allows us to more fully pursue our passions.  I’m working to help people lead happier and more contented lives. For a lot of my life and for too many people, money has been more of a negative than it’s been a positive.  Gaining control of it will allow you to live a better life, free to focus on the things that are of the greatest importance to you.

 

Here’s to another 80 trips!

 

Tree of Gratitude

What’s up sisters and brothers!

As we head into the 4thof July Holiday, I want to take a moment to talk about what I’m grateful for.  When I started thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for, it made me think about how, if certain things had been different, how would my life be different today?  That lead me to the visual of a decision tree (If this, then that) and so I’d like to start from the beginning:

  • I was born here in the US-what if I had been born somewhere that didn’t enjoy the same freedoms we do? How would my life be different today?
  • I was born to loving parents-what if I had been born to parents who hadn’t been ready or interested in a child? How would my life be different today?
  • Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed good health-what if I had fallen ill or been in some kind of accident? How would my life be different today?
  • I’ve had the opportunity to matriculate through an undergraduate degree-what if I hadn’t had the same quality of schooling or the same quality of teaching and support?How would my life be different today?
  • I’ve had and continue to meet amazing friends-had I not formed the relationships I’ve had over the years, how would my life be different today?
  • I’ve had the opportunity to be employed and even to start businesses-what if I lived in a country with less opportunity and more barriers to entrepreneurship? How would my life be different today?
  • I had the good fortune of meeting and marrying my wife-we have the good fortune of having a son. So many variables had to be right for these two things to become reality.   How would my life be different today had they not?
  • Both sets of our parents are still alive. While some of you may be questioning the validity of calling this a blessing, we’re fortunate to have them in our lives.  How would our lives be different today if they weren’t with us?

Perspective is so valuable and so difficult to get and maintain.  That’s why practicing gratitude is so worthwhile.  I had Dr. Gregory Sadler, a philosopher in the Stoic tradition, on the Money Savage podcast last week.  If you’re not familiar with Stoicism, it offers valuable tools for dealing with the many curveballs and setbacks that life throws at us. While not everything is going to go our way, it reminds us that we almost always have a choice in how we respond to adversity.

Please work to keep everything in perspective; the things you have influence over like family and community, as well as the things we have little influence over like national politics.  Wishing you and your family a safe and happy Independence Day!

George

You Can Do It!

What Money Can’t Buy

First, the Beatles informed us that money can’t buy love, and in yet another blow to money, Warren Buffett tells us it can’t buy happiness either.  He said, doubling your net worth won’t make you won’t make you happier.
I spend a good amount of time thinking about how I can help people to lead more contented lives.  Lives in which they wake up inspired to go to work, are fully engaged while they’re there and return home fulfilled at the end of the day.  The reality is, most of us spend more time at work than anything else.  A second reality is, many of us don’t enjoy the work we’re doing.
If getting rich is your desired endgame, Buffett still advocates for happiness along the way.  Instead of letting your happiness be defined by what you don’t have or how quickly you make money, Buffett said “you can have a lot of fun while you’re getting rich.”
Or, instead of letting happiness be defined by the amount of money we make, which sometimes leads us to work that we don’t enjoy, which takes us away from what we do enjoy, perhaps a change of perspective would be beneficial.
In my recent podcast with Louis Efron, VP of Teammate experience at DaVita Kidney Care, you’re professional happiness all comes down to meaning.  The more you’re able to connect to your purpose, the better.  Do you know and embrace the purpose of the company you work with?  Have you taken the time to explore your own purpose?  Louis encouraged people to think about what truly gets them out of bed in the morning (not the alarm clock) and to think about what they’re truly best at.  From there, have conversations about that purpose with your family, friends, coworkers and managers.  This will help you to both personally and professionally align.
Life’s to short not to feel good about what you do.
Contact me with any questions!
Click on on the links below to listen to my podcast on Finding Your Purpose with Louis Efron.

Time

“Tell me how you use your spare time, and how you spend your money, and I will tell you where and what you will be in ten years from now.” Napoleon Hill

 

Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done? Do you know how much time you spend working everyday? How about how much time you spend on your phone? Do you ever feel like you’re wasting time?

 

I’ve been guilty of wasting time and still am today, but I’ve grown to better recognize when I’m doing it and to refocus. I’ve also learned that having a one year old limits my “free” time, so I better become more efficient.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here’s how the average American spent their time in 2016.

 

8.77 hours personal care including sleeping

1.08 eating and drinking

1.07 household activities

.50 purchasing goods and services

8.28 hours working

3.13 leisure

 

Here’s an ugly number-the average American spends 2 hours and 51 minutes a day, 86 hours a month, on their phones. Safe to say, not the most productive use of one’s time.

 

To make matters worse, our minds wander 46.9% of the time. So, going back to the idea that there are never enough hours in the day may or may not be true. Perhaps we’re simply not effectively utilizing those hours.

 

The concept of Deep work tells us “To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.” I fully embrace this idea and know I’m a terrible multi-tasker. One proven method to practice deep work is the Pomodoro Technique.

 

The Pomodoro Technique is a method of time management developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a timer to break work down into 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between each interval. The technique also advocates planning your work in advance, tracking each 25 minute segment on a piece of paper and talking a longer break of 30 minutes after the fourth segment. Give it a shot, many people get great results from using it.

 

In the spirit of, “what get’s measured, get’s done,” there are many ways to track time; I personally use the Hours Pro app.

Food

“That which nourishes me destroys me.” –Christopher Marlowe

Turkey, stuffing, Christmas cookies, things made out of pumpkin-so many good things to eat this time of year. How do your spending habits on food stack up to the average American? Let’s take a look.

Food accounts for 12.5%, or just over $7,000 in the average budget according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And with so many good things to eat, and some many great places to do that eating, an incredible thing happened since that most recent survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; Americans began spending more money at restaurants and bars than they did on groceries. How you react to that information is probably telling regarding your eating behaviors.

And how does this fit into the 50 20 30 budget model? This is trickier than you might think because technically, food falls into the Needs category. But, going out to dinner at your favorite restaurant bleeds over into the Wants section. And when I say “bleeds over,” I mean it moves completely over to the Wants section. Therefore, for many Americans, the money they are spending on food has moved from the 50% Needs category, to the 30% Wants category, and without knowing the details of their personal budget, I’m going to assume it wrecks it.

Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do, as it is for so many of us. It’s also a quick and easy way to wreak havoc on our budgets. Be mindful and strong this Holiday Season!

Cars

Americans have always had a love affair with cars. But are they messing up our finances? Are you paying too much for your car (or even for multiple cars)?

Here are some stats for perspective:

  • 1 percent of total petroleum consumption is by people in the United States
  • In 1960, Americans owned more than 61 million passenger cars—about one car for every three people.  In 2008, Americans owned 137 million passenger cars—a little less than one car for every two people
  • The average new car cost in 2017 was $31,400 after incentives

Experian Automotive 2017 reports show:

  • 86% of new cars were bought with the help of financing, higher than in previous years
  • The average car loan was $30,000, the highest since Experian began tracking the data
  • The average length for a new-car loan was 68 months—or five and a half years—and some loans are for as long as seven years.
  • Auto leases are becoming more popular, accounting for more than 30% of new-car transactions in the first quarter

The annual cost to own and operate a vehicle in the United States in 2016 was $8,558 according to AAA’s 2016 Your Driving Costs  study. Here’s how that breaks down:

Fuel $1267.50
Insurance $1,222
Depreciation $3,759
Maintenance $792
License, Registration, Taxes $687
Finance Charges $683
Tires $150

In 2015, Americans spent $1,184 billion on transportation, or 9.6% of all personal consumption expenditures per household.

Bankrate provides a tool to encourage better car buying habits. Remember the 20/4/10 rule:

  • Aim to put down at least 20% of the car’s price in cash
  • Take a loan for no more than four years
  • Keep the cost of transportation to no more than 10% of after tax household income.

Care for an example or two to see this in action?

  • Assuming an annual income of $75,000 and income taxes of $11,925 (15.9%), you should spend no more than $6,307 (or 10%) per year on a car.
  • Assuming an annual income of $150,000 and income taxes of $28,200 (18.8%), you should spend no more than $12,180 (or 10%) per year on a car.

*Find a table to figure out your tax bracket here.*

Add up your auto loan, car insurance, monthly gas expense and any other auto related expenses. How are you doing? Is your auto expense 10% of your after-tax income? More? Less?