F.I.R.E. Financial Independence Retire Early

More and more I hear and read about people wanting to attain financial independence and retire early aka FIRE. Even though the acronym FIRE is pretty cheesy I love the idea of financial independence. But is it really as attainable as many make it out to be? In this episode I’m going to break down what financial independence really is, how one might go about attaining financial independence, and if it is attainable how you can do it earlier in life as opposed to later in life. Also, as a side note I’m going to abbreviate financial independence to findie. Financial independence takes too long to say and write plus findie is much more fun to say.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to leave your 9 to 5 job and still have money coming in so you could do whatever you wanted to do? I think this would be pretty amazing! This is what being findie could offer you. Findie means that your investments are bringing in more income than you have for expenses. Therefore, at the end of the month, for example, you have more money than the start of the month even after you pay for your expenses. Finance geeks might argue on specifics but that’s what financial independence is to me. The greatest thing about findie is that it gives you the freedom from not being tied down for 40 plus hours per week working at your J.O.B. Can you imagine all the things you could do if you didn’t have to punch in and out of a time clock all week! You could travel the world, start a business selling your favorite crafts, be involved in a community outreach program, you could even have time to mow your yard before the yard waste bin is picked up! Crazy! I know! It sounds too good to be true, but is it? For some people findie is an attainable goal, but for others, they will likely never attain findie – they won’t even get close.

So, how does one go about attaining findie? In short, you can get there by taking one of two paths. You either have to win Powerball or you have to work hard and be smart with your money. The latter is much more likely something that you can do, so that’s the option I would choose if I were you. However, winning Powerball sounds like it would be pretty fun.

So what does working hard and being smart with your money entail? Let’s break this down. If our goal is to attain enough monthly income from our investments to cover our expenses, then we first need to accumulate a certain amount of wealth. This is where working hard comes into play. If you’re like nearly everyone you’ve started out with almost nothing. Maybe now you have a good education and you’re working at a steady job. That’s good. That’s where a lot of people are. What you need to do know is figure out how to maximize your income. You need to ask yourself, “What can I be doing to earn more money?” Maybe you can pick up some overtime. Maybe you can get a side job. Or maybe you can go to a trade school or higher education that will allow you to move into a job that pays twice as much as your current job. The goal here is to figure out how to bring in more money so you can maximize the amount of money you can contribute to your investments. Ok, so that’s the working hard aspect. You have to work hard to earn as much as you can – got it.

The next aspect of becoming findie is being smart with your money. So, you’ve got the good job, you’ve been putting in overtime, and you’re doing everything in your power to maximize your earn potential. Perfect. A lot of people make it this far. But, where 97% of people fail at attaining findie is the next part – figuring out how to keep the money that they earned. Most people don’t have a problem working hard for their money. The problem they have is once they get their fingers on their paycheck, they just blow it on whatever they come into contact with. A trip to Wal-Mart, they blow it. A trip to the car dealership, they blow it. They see a new home they like, they blow it. Drink a little wine and jump on Amazon, they blow it. Oh look, plane tickets to Hawaii are cheep this week, I blew it. Yep, I’m guilty of that one. What I’m saying is that we humans are exceptional at spending money. We’re so good at spending money that we spend money that we haven’t even earned yet, hence credit cards, personal loans, lines of credit, and countless other ways to spend now and pay later. We are exceedingly better at spending money than we are at keeping money. This is the primary reason that most people will not attain findie. Let me repeat that, this is the primary reason that most people will not attain findie. Out-of-control spending is the biggest road block to attaining findie there is. Why? Because you have to have money to invest in order to have a passive income coming in. But you don’t have a passive income because you don’t have an investment because in stead of investing your money you blew it on a garage full of junk! Hmmmm… I think I get it now.

So, how do I build an investment? First, you create a budget that you actually use. Just creating a budget will get you absolutely nowhere unless you stick to it. A budget will help you maximize the amount of money that you can put into an investment. This way your money will not be spent on stuff for your garage accumulation campaign, but instead, can be diverted to your investments. Perfect… we’re going to take over the world! – not really…

When you’re first starting out investing I recommend investing in a few diversified mutual funds. There’s a bunch of companies out there that you can find online that will be happy to invest your money in mutual funds for you. But before you give anyone your money do your homework. Let me repeat that again… Do your homework. After investing in diversified mutual funds for a while you will eventually have enough money to potentially buy some real estate. For the right person real estate can be a good option, but real estate isn’t for everyone. As you become more of a savvy investor you might decide to take a small portion of your investment funds and build a portfolio of stocks. By the way, stay away from day trading. Occasionally I hear of someone who thinks they want to be a day trader as a hobby. Let me tell you now, that it’s not going to end well. Do not become a day trader because you will loose money. Look at the statistics and you’ll realize that even most professionals don’t consistently beat the market. What that means is that the day trader’s returns are not greater than the returns of the S&P 500. Anyways back to general investing. When you invest, you need to invest for the long-term. Investing should be a marathon not a sprint. Keep in mind that there are what seems like endless investments out there that you can put money into. Don’t feel like you have to be confined to the investments that I mentioned. The key is no matter where you invest you need to spread your money out to different things to keep your investment portfolio diversified. That way if one area of the market tanks, you don’t loose all of your eggs.

The next question you probably have is “How soon can I become findie?” This depends on the big three: how fast you can put money away towards your investments, how much income your investments can produce, and what your expenses are. These are the three biggest factors that can determine how soon a person can become findie. Therefore, the faster you can build a significant investment that produces income and the faster you can cut your monthly expenses, the faster you will become findie. For most people who actually attain findie, it takes them a majority of their adult life to get there. I would stay, that most people that I’ve met who achieve findie, first hit the findie mark when they are in their 60s. They’ve worked and worked and worked and saved for retirement and then once they get into their 60s their investments are generating enough income that these findie people can withdraw a calculated monthly amount from their investments indefinitely. Meaning regardless of the withdrawal from their investment, their investment will still continue to grow. The reason most of the findie people I’ve seen don’t hit findie until they are in their 60s or older is because it takes a long time for people to build that nest egg that will produce a high enough income. Can findie be done at a younger age? Of course. But it often isn’t for the exact reason that we already talked about – people are spendaholics. If someone was very disciplined with their money and had very low monthly expenses, I’m guessing depending on the big 3 and all that, the average person could reasonably attain findie by the time they were in their 30s if they took putting money away for investments to an extreme. But again, it all depends on the big 3. Someone could attain findie quite easily if they had almost no expenses because their investments wouldn’t need to produce much, which would mean they would need a lot in investments.

If you want to become financially independent I’m willing to bet that you can do it, as long as you’re willing to be disciplined with your money. That’s really what it comes down to, discipline. If you’re willing to make the sacrifice now, so you can reap the benefits later, you will be able to achieve findie. How soon will you achieve it? That’s totally up to you. I might take you 5 years or it might take you 50 years. I think becoming findie is a worthy goal that has almost endless benefits and of course some downsides too. If you take on the challenge of striving for findie, I sincerely applaud you. I wish you the best of luck and all the success that can be had as we strive to reach that mark together.

 

 

 

9 Financial Pitfalls to Avoid

Have you ever felt like you’re not as far financially as you should be considering how much money you make? If you have, then you’re in the same boat that the rest of us have been in. One of the forces that drives me to be disciplined with my money is this exact feeling. There have been lots of times in the past that I have felt frustrated with myself that I wasn’t doing a very good job building wealth, given the income that I had at the time. When I took a hard look at the things that I was doing, I found that I had fallen in what I’ll call financial pitfalls. In this podcast episode I’m going to share with you some financial pitfalls that I have either found myself caught in or have seen others caught in. My hope is that sharing these pitfalls with you will help you to avoid them and will help you build a strong financial future. If you want to build wealth, I think it’s just as important to avoid doing the wrong things as it is doing the right things.

The 1st pitfall that I’ve seen people fall into is believing that they don’t make enough money to build wealth. I heard a story recently of a wealthy man who has done really well financially. The man has a beautiful home on several acres in a desired part of town. This older gentleman has several rentals properties and he’s clearly winning with money. The interesting part of this guy’s story isn’t that he’s doing well financially, lots of people do well financially. The interesting part of this guy’s story is that he never made more than 20 dollars per hour. He just saved little by little over the years. When he saw an opportunity, he purchased rental properties. The moral of the story is that you don’t need to be making a lot of money to build wealth. Consistently contributing to investments when you’re young can build a substantial chunk of wealth that you can use for income later in life. The trick is to invest often and invest as high of a percentage of your monthly income as you can. It’s not uncommon for me to work with people in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s who are invested 40% to 50% of their net monthly income.

The 2nd pitfall that I see keeping people from building wealth is that they spend more than they make. Spending more than we make can cause us to rack up a lot of debt. The most common debt that I see people fall back on consistently is credit card debt. When money gets tight, it’s easy to put our purchases on credit cards, which causes money to be even tighter next month because now we have an even higher credit card bill than we did this month. When I see people who are headed for financial trouble one of biggest signs that they are in trouble is that they’re racking up a lot of debt on their credit cards. Debt can be a trap where we spend and spend and spend and all of this spending adds to our debt. Eventually the debt payments catch up with us and completely overwhelmed us. What I’ve seen happen with most people is that they eventually hit a wall and say to themselves, “I’m tired of having this debt and I’m going to do something about it.” A fire is lit under them and they start to work to get their debt paid off. The turning point from over spending and racking up debt to deciding to pay off debt and then start building wealth is an interesting change in direction. Have you experience this before? Why did you change the path that you were headed on? I’ve personally seen many people on the path towards financial destruction but manage to stop, turn around, and start working their way out of the financial mess that they got themselves into. They eventually start to build wealth.

The 3rd pitfall that I’ve experience myself when it comes to hurting wealth building is jumping into bad investments too fast. For me, this has caused many of my biggest personal financial losses. There have been times throughout my life that I put too much money in investments that I knew too little about and it came back to bit me. I’ve taken several losses on investments throughout the years and each one of them, when I look back, if I would have done a better job doing my homework on that investment, I could have seen that I shouldn’t have been involved in that investment. Like they say, hind sight is always 20/20. It’s easy to see that these investments were a mistake now. I learned several valuable lessons that I’d like to share with you: #1 Before you get into an investment, do your homework #2 If an investment deal doesn’t feel right, it’s ok to walk away from it #3 Be very careful doing investment deals with friends and family. If you can’t afford to be in the investment by yourself, that’s a sign that you should be doing the investment at all. Look at it this way, when you say “No” to one investment that allows you to say “Yes” to another investment, because you’re not tying up your resources on the first investment. So, don’t settle for an investment that you don’t feel good about because you never know, there could be an even better deal just waiting around the corner.

The 4th pitfall that keeps people from building wealth and this is probably the biggest wealth killer and the pitfall that I see the most often, is when people don’t contribute to a retirement fund. It’s interesting to me how reluctant people are to contribute to a retirement fund. A retirement fund could simply be the 401k that your work offers or it could be the ROTH IRA that you could contribute to. There are lots of different retirement investments out there to consider and they are super easy to get set up. There are no excuses for not putting away for retirement funds. I’ve seen retirement accounts that only take 5 dollars to open and you can contribute as little as 5 dollars per month. Anyone can contribute that!

So, why don’t more people contribute to a retirement fund? Here are some reasons that people talk themselves out of contributing to a retirement fund. #1 It’s too hard to set up a retirement account. This reason is completely untrue. You can literally set up a retirement account online and even through a phone app. Setting up a retirement account is easier than you think. #2 People think that they don’t make enough money. Well like I said before, there are retirement accounts out there that you can set up with just a few dollars, so this reason for not setting up a retirement account is untrue as well. #3 They tell themselves that they will do it later. In other words, they’re procrastinating. When it comes to investing, time is your best friend due to the compounding power of exponential growth. If your investment is in the right investment, your money can grow in a compounded manner, meaning that your money makes money and then that new money makes money and your returns keep getting bigger and bigger. #4 People are afraid of loosing money. Many of the retirement funds out there that I’m aware of are tied to the stock market one way or another. The stock market has gone down before, but if you look at it from a long-term investment, it goes up. With investments, you’re not going to get any return unless you’re willing to take a little risk.

The 5th pitfall I’ve seen hold people back from building wealth is that they don’t create an emergency fund. One of the most common reasons fall behind financially is they are hit with an unexpected bill. The bill that I see the most often that hurts people financially is a medical bill. In these cases, something happened to a person and they needed medical attention. They didn’t have an emergency fund at the time to cover the medical costs that they incurred and start making payments. These newly acquired payments can suck up a big chunk of the person’s monthly income which causes them to use more debt for other things like buying general groceries and gas on credit because money is so tight. However, this causes the person to fall in even more debt, which starts a horrible debt spiral towards financial destruction. To be able to avoid this pitfall, do what most personal finance experts recommend, and have 3 to 6 months of expenses in an emergency fund. This way, if you experience a large medical expense, or any other large unexpected expense, this event will be more of an inconvenience and less of a financial catastrophe.

The 6th pitfall that I’ve seen hurt people financially is not having proper insurance. I once was at a benefit that was raising money for a homeless shelter. During the benefit the organization had one of the homeless clients tell her story as a way to show how much the homeless organization had helped her. Within her story she told about how she was a normal person with a normal life. She had a nice home in the country with a decent paying job. One evening she was riding a horse near her home and something spooked the horse and caused the woman to be thrown from the horse. The woman sustained severe damage to her back due to the event which required several back surgeries. The woman didn’t have proper health or disability insurance so her and her husband had to pay for all of the medical bills out of pocket. Eventually they had to sell everything that they owned in order to pay for the medical bills. This woman and her husband eventually found themselves living on the street trying to get by. They had wondered the streets for a couple years before finding the homeless shelter. This story exemplifies the need for proper insurance in life. Had the woman in this story been covered by proper health insurance, her injury wouldn’t have destroyed her financially because a majority of her medical bills would have been covered by her insurance. Had she acquired work loss coverage to protect her from debilitating life events, she would have had income from her insurance policy to supplement her income while she was out of work.

The 7th financial pitfall that I see people get hung up in is that they wait too long before they act. I have a friend who is in his 40’s and he is always talking about how he’s going to start investing into a retirement plan but I’ve been hearing him say he is going to do this for 5 years now and he still hasn’t done it. If he would have started when he first said that he was going to he could have contributed $5,500 into a ROTH IRA each year for the last 5 years. After contributing for 5 years and at 7% compounded growth he would have $33,843.10. This might not sound like much to some people but after doing this for 30 or 40 years you’re going to have a nice chunk of money to have during your retirement years. The earlier you start investing the more you leverage the benefits of compounded interested. Waiting too long to act can not only hurt you when you’re putting money away for retirement but could be applied to the other areas of personal finance like living on a budget, buying proper insurance, starting that emergency fund, or talking to a financial coach about your financial goals. When it comes to your financial health, don’t wait! Do what you need to do now! When it comes to your finances, time really is money!

The 8th pitfall that I see people get trapped by is that they are too afraid of risk. The most common way that I see this played out in people’s lives is that they are too afraid to graduate from a savings account at a bank. They might do a great job saving and putting money away but instead of investing that money, they just leave it in their bank account, either a savings account or a checking account. Just so I’m clear, in my opinion, a savings account is not an investment. Considering the low interest rate that you’ll receive and considering the effects of inflation, you are actually losing buying power with your money by having it just sit in a bank account. Now, I’m not saying bank accounts are bad. Bank accounts are great for having your emergency savings and for saving up for smaller item things. However, if you want to see your money really grow you need to get your money in an investment that is going to outpace the rate of inflation. By having your money grow in an investment account your money is increasing in buying power versus having your money in a bank account it is decreasing in buying power, again due to the affects of inflation. Risk is a very important part of personal finances. It’s something that should be considered in many different parts of your financial life, not just in your investments but you should also consider risks that you can minimize by having the proper insurance, or risks that you can minimize by undergoing proper estate planning.

The last pitfall that I’ll share with you is one that I see many spouses go through and this pitfall comes when a couple can’t come to an agreement with their finances. This pitfall has to do with communication and wiliness to work together. I’ve seen a married couple go through most of their adult lives, get all the way to their 50s before they started investing for retirement just because they couldn’t agree on how to handle investing. Instead of communicating and doing some research, they basically did nothing. From what I can tell, every time this couple talked about contributing to retirement, they couldn’t agree on what to invest in. Eventually, they just stopped trying to talk about money and just kind of tumbled along financially going from paycheck to paycheck not really having a plan to grow wealth and not really doing anything to plan for retirement or estate planning. Don’t let this be you and your spouse. Talk about money in a patient and respectful manner. Do research and learn what you can about investing. Look for different resources that you and your spouse can learn from. If your spouse doesn’t want to listen to you, find a financial coach that you can trust to guide to you a better financial future.

I hope these pitfalls were helpful for you! Thanks for reading!

Focusing on Focus – How to Be Best at Things

I find that in life I become good at things that I focus my time and resources on and that I’m not so good at things that I don’t focus my time and resources on. This is something that sounds obvious, but for some reason I’ve had to relearn this concept several times over throughout live. There are so many things that I want to do and be good at but the fact of the matter is that I don’t have time and resources to focus on them all, let alone, be good at them all. So, how do we know what to focus on and what to not focus on? That’s what I’m going to talk about in this episode.

I really struggle with focus. My struggle mostly comes in two different ways. For one, I focus on the wrong things, which are things that really aren’t that important to me. You know those squirrel moments when you get distracted by something shiny and entertaining. “Oh look, my friend just bought a new toy and I’d sure like to have a new toy like that.” Those squirrel moments seem to get me all the time and take my focus away from the things that matter most to me. Also, when I do get focused on something, I’m really bad about finding balance in life. It seems like when it comes to focus, I’m all or nothing. I either have a lot of focus in a particular area of life or I have no focus. I’m not very good at juggling a lot of different things. When I’m focused on sometime like training for a triathlon, or competing in a diet competition, or when it’s hunting season, I’m really focused on that particular thing but then I don’t focus enough time on other important things like paying attention to relationships, my faith, and my personal finances. I know focus means focus, but it seems like sometimes I over focus and this could hurt me in other areas of life that are important to me.

What you focus on is completely up to you and therefore what you become best at is completely up to you. The great thing about the freedom that we enjoy is that we get to decide what we spend time on. We get to decide what we’re good at and what we do with our time and resources. So, why does it seem like we’re “too busy” all the time to do the things that we want to do? There are many things that I love doing that I would like to do more of. Things like hunting, fishing, cycling, hiking, making stuff, and the list goes on and on, and this is where I get into trouble. For what I will call a season of my life, I’ll be more focused on one area of my life. For example, during the fall, it’s hunting season. I spend several weekends tromping around the woods, looking like Elmer Fud, looking for a volunteer for dinner. I think it’s fun to pursue the things in life that I enjoy doing, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, for me, when I’m hunting so much, I often loose sight of the other things that are going on in my life. Like relationships that are very important to me. Recently, when I was in a competition to lose weight, I was really focused on losing weight. I was working out in the mornings and in the evenings, I was prepping food, and different thoughts about how I was doing weight wise were constantly on my mind. Many of my conversations with other people involved something about how I was working on losing weight. During this time, sure, I was successful at losing weight, but I was failing at other areas of life. I was so focused on losing weight that I lost focus on other things that are also important to me. This was one of the more recent times that I relearned how much focus affect my life.

Just as a quick exercise, let’s break down the daily time spent on various things for a typical person. You only have so much time in the day. If you live on earth, you have 24 hours in a day. And if you’re like most people you likely sleep for 7ish hours of that. Leaving you 17 hours to do with what you please. When you wake up in the morning, if it’s a typical week, you’re likely going to go to a job. It might take someone 30 minutes to get ready for work and then it might take a person 30 minutes to get to work. Then you take a lunch break in the middle of the day, and this could burn up between 30 minutes to an hour. So, when we add this all up work is going to take somewhere between 10 hours of your day between getting ready and getting home if you work a full-time job. So, this leaves you 7 hours which sounds like a lot but then we spend time to eat breakfast, dinner, do the dishes, go water the lawn, and if you have kids the list is endless of the stuff that you have to do. So, how much time do you have left after you whittle down your 7 hours? Hardly any. That means you really don’t have a lot of time to focus on things that you really want to focus on. If you don’t have a lot of time, then it becomes even more important to prioritize the things that you want to do. Often times, I catch myself wasting my time by doing things that I know aren’t really that important to me. Then why do I do them? Because I’m not paying attention to what I’m allowing to sneak into my life. We need to be intentional about what we spend our time doing if we want to best utilize our time and if we want to be good at certain things. There are things that I want to be the best I can be at, and if I want this to actually happen, then I need to be intentional about making time to do those things.

When you stop and count there are so many areas in life that require your attention. Let’s look at some of the big ones. The first area is human relationships. When it comes to relationships you have your spouse, your kids, other family members, like parents, siblings, cousins, etc. There are also friend relationships like weekend friends, church friends, work friends, and hobby friends. There are lots of relationships that you have. If you want these relationships to grow and thrive, that takes your time and your focus. Do you have time to focus on growing all of your relationships to their full potential? No, unless you don’t have anything to do and you only know one person on the face of the planet. This is obviously not you because this is obviously not anyone. We all know several people and we have busy lives.

Let’s look at another area of your life, work and career. If you’re working, then work is a huge part of your life and it’s sucking up a big chunk of your time and energy. Work is important because your work is where you gain the financial means to live the lifestyle that you want to live. Your work will allow you to help your kids get through college. Your work will help you save up for retirement so you can someday be able to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. We can see that work is important for various reasons so we should continue to do work.

Our faith is also a very important part of life. For those of us who have a faith and believe in something, it’s important for us to spend time learning and growing within our faith. Like any other area of life, this takes focus.

Another area of life is our finances. If you live in any advanced society you need money as a medium of exchange and you need money to pay for these things that all of us seem to accumulate, called bills. The better we are at our finances the more options we will have available to us in different areas of life. What I mean by this is, if we can afford to spend more, then we can go to a nicer restaurant, afford a nicer car, buy a nicer home, or retire earlier to have more free time. Finances are an important part of life just like many other areas of life that require our focus.

The list can go on and on about the different areas of life that require our focus. Just think of what just a few more of those are. Cleaning the house, weeding your yard, taking the kids to school, paying your taxes, and of course, hobbies. There are so many things that can take our focus away!

So, how do we know what areas of life we want to focus on in order to be best at? That’s a great question. I think the only reasonable answer is that, it’s totally up to you. You get to decide if you’re going to spend time with your kids and be a great parent or if you’re going to spend time at your job and have a great career. Are you going to focus time on your finances and create a rock-solid financial foundation for you and your family or are going to spend no time on your finances and find yourself living paycheck to paycheck and on the brink of financial disaster?

Is there such thing as a balanced life? I’d like to say that you should strive for balance in life. But, what does this even mean? Does it mean that we give a little attention to a lot of different things? If this is the case then we’re not really going to be best at anything, we’re just going to be ok. I don’t know about you but I don’t really want to be just ok when it comes to being a good husband to my wife. I want to be better than ok. This means that I need to spend more time being a better husband if it’s something that I want to be better at. I think aspects of having a balanced life could be a good thing, but I don’t think this is really realistic. I’m sure if I ask people to prioritize different areas of their live then they would say something like faith comes first, family comes in a close second, and work comes in a distant third, and so on. But the truth of the matter is that we spend a whole bunch more time working for money during the week than we do working on our faith. Many of us only get into church a couple times a month and yet say that faith is one of the most important parts of our lives. When we look at how much time we spend on things each week, is this really the case? Are we spending time on the things that we actually want to be best at?

So how do I stay focused on the things that I want to stay focused on? I think the best way to do this is to decide on paper on purpose what it is that I want to be focused on. This means setting goals and creating a plan to achieve those goals in different parts of my life. By writing it down and having it in a place that I can constantly review, this will help me to redirect my attention back towards the plan when I veer off the plan. This will help me to not focus too much time on squirrels and will also help me not to too deep into focus on something while missing other important areas of life. That way I can have the amount of balance that I want to have. I can prioritize different areas of life and make sure that I’m spending adequate time in those areas.

Our focus can be a difficult thing to mast sometimes. If we want to reach our goals, we must be intentional about where we focus your time and resources. If we want to be successful in many different areas in life, we must be careful not to put too much focus in one area of life and not enough in another area of life. If you’re like me and need help staying focused create a plan on paper for reaching your goals and reviewing it regularly. This will help you keep important areas of your life prioritized.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Thanks for reading it!

How to Make Your Own Luck

I love to be lucky and I consider myself a lucky person. There are countless times in my life where something has really good has happened to me that made me think, “I am so lucky”. But, what is luck? Is it something that we can make more of? Well, I believe that we can make more luck in our lives and that is what this episode is going to be about.

What if you were so lucky that you just happened to land the job of your dreams? What if you were so lucky that you acquired an impressive amount of wealth? What if you were so lucky that you married the person that was way out of your league? What if I told you that you could create your own luck? That would sound great, right?

Who doesn’t like to be lucky? No one! We all like to be lucky. I’ll take any amount of luck that I can get! I think there’s a way to bring even more luck in our lives, or, at least, build a life that makes it seem like we have more luck. What if luck was simply a word that some people use to describe other people who are intentional about reaching their goals? What if you realized that you didn’t need luck to get what you wanted but instead you simply needed a plan and to take action on that plan? Would your world be different if you knew that you could have just about anything that you want to have, not because you were lucky, but because you were intentional about getting it?

A very successful CFO once told me that if you want to be successful you have to work hard so that whenever an opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready to seize it. If you’re sitting on a couch at home doing nothing important, how are you going to achieve anything? If you’re out there busting your tail, getting things done, meeting people, and developing new skills, of course you’re going to be presented with opportunities. So, with this idea that we can make our own success, in a way we also make our own luck. If becoming successful is equal to being lucky and we know by making plans and taking action, that we can become successful, then by that same principal, we can become lucky.

There is a quote that’s been attributed to different people over the years and has different variations. The gist of the quote goes like this, “I’m a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I have.” Isn’t this true! Haven’t you found this to be true in your own life? When you’ve worked hard, were you not rewarded for your hard work?

Let’s look at a scenario that demonstrates how we can confuse success for luck.

A guy named Sam is working very hard at his job. He has been with his employer for seven years now. He’s always on time, he helps his co-workers, he has a great attitude, and he’s very knowledgeable when it comes to his job.

One day, Sam’s boss announces that he’s going to retire. Upper management needs to find a replacement for Sam’s boss and upper management decides that Sam is man for the job. Sam is great with people, he knows how to do most of the jobs in the department because he’s been there for a good amount of time and he’s always been open to learning new things. Some of Sam’s coworkers are a little miffed at Sam because they’ve been with the company longer than Sam. However, these other workers never took the time to learn other jobs within the department, they were the types that did the bare minimum to get their jobs done. They never really helped anyone else in the department, because they figured they weren’t getting paid to do someone else’s job. Sam is really happy about his promotion. This promotion came with a nice raise that Sam and his family will really enjoy. When others congratulate Sam for his big promotion, Sam just says, “Oh, I just got lucky.” But, did luck really have anything to do with it? Do you think that the upper management who chose Sam to take over his boss’s job based their decision on luck? Do you think they just flipped a coin to see who would take over the boss’s job? No, they chose Sam simply because they thought he was the best person for the job and no other reason.

So, a person might argue “Well, Sam was lucky to have gotten the job with the company in the first place.” My response to that would be, “So, did Sam’s employer just opened a phone book and randomly picked a name to hire someone for Sam’s job?” No, that’s not what happened at all. Sam went and interviewed with the company and the company hired Sam based off his prior work experience, his former education, and the responses from the references that Sam had listed on his resume. Sam put forth effort in order to get hired by that company.

We can see that Sam’s promotion was not luck, it was earned. We can also see that Sam getting hired on by the company was not luck, it was earned. So, a person might then argue “Well, the United States is a great country, it’s the land of opportunity, and Sam was just lucky to be born here.” But, we have to ask ourselves, “Is that really luck?” I don’t think it is. Sam’s great grandfather sold everything he had in Ireland in order pay for the trip over to the United States. When his great grandfather got to the US, he had less than a dollar to his name. From there he worked and worked and worked so that he could provide for a family. That family had a family, which had a family, which had a family, which Sam was a part of. Sam didn’t get to the US by luck, but by the huge price that was paid by his family members.

As we’ve dived deeper into Sam’s situation, we can see that there really was no luck involved with any aspect of how he got to where he is. Really, it was a series of smart decisions that required a lot of hard work. Why is it then that so many of us are convinced that becoming successful in life is all about being lucky, when luck has absolutely nothing to do with it? Often times, when we see someone who has been very successful, we like to say, “Oh, they just got lucky.” But really this isn’t the case. Again, it’s all about making the right decisions and working hard. In every case that I can think of where someone might be considered lucky, I can break down the scenario, and can pinpoint an action or several actions that was/were taken for that person to get to where they are. Think of my prior example of winning the lottery. Winning the lottery would require luck, right? Wrong. Actually, it doesn’t require luck, it requires buying a lottery ticket. Without buying a lottery ticket, then you’re not even going to have a chance to win the lottery. The same idea is true with the guy on the couch. If a guy never gets off the couch to go out and look for job then he’s probably not going to find a job, let alone his dream job. But, what if that same guy gets off the couch, get’s the education he needs for his dream job, applies at 10 different companies, gets hired, starts doing a job that he doesn’t want to do but knows that eventually that job can get him to the job that he does want. Then after 2 years, he gets promoted to the job that he’s really been wanting. It took him time, dedication, and a lot of hard work, but guess what? He eventually got his dream job! Did luck have anything to do with it? Absolutely not! When good things happen to us, it’s not that we were lucky. When bad things happen to us, it’s not about being unlucky. Most of the time, it’s about decisions we make, actions we take, and the outcomes that are produced due to those actions. Do good things and good results will come. Do bad things and bad results will come. It’s that simple.

My friends, you can make your own luck! You do this by taking action towards your goals, by creating a plan and working on that plan. The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you give it what it needs to grow well. I really do find that the harder I work, the more luck I get. It’s the same for you in your life. If you have a vision for what you want your life to look like, it’s not luck that is going to get you there. It’s you.

Turning Your Thoughts Into Reality

Have you realized yet that the things that you think about eventually come to pass? Your thoughts are an incredible force that shapes your life. I know this sounds almost whimsical, but it’s true. There have been several times in my life where I thought of certain things and eventually those things became real in my life. Consider this idea just on a small scale. Maybe during the day you think about what sounds good for dinner, “Hmm… getting some teriyaki chicken for dinner sounds good.” So, then while you’re out running errands you pick up some teriyaki chicken that you later eat for dinner. First, you thought about it. Then, you created an opportunity to do it. Then, you followed through on the opportunity. Then finally, you ate teriyaki chicken for dinner. Your initial thought of what to have for dinner became a reality. This is just a small, simple example, but this same concept happens in all areas of your life – where you work, who you marry, what your hobbies will be. Your thoughts dictate your life and the circumstances that you find yourself in. Your thoughts determine your health, wealth, and happiness.

This is how I believe that this whole thought to reality process works. We have a thought in our mind. It’s something that we desire to do or something that we want to have. If we want whatever it is that we’re thinking about bad enough, we’ll work to get it. That means the next step after thinking about something is taking action towards getting it. If that thing we’re thinking about is something small, like getting a glass of water, then we’ll simply do that action of getting a glass of water. If the thing that we’re thinking about is difficult to get, we’ll think of a plan to get to that thing, and then we’ll take action on that plan.

A really great book that talks about this thought to reality concept is the book As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. This book is a classic and was written back in 1902. Its principals have stood the test of time because they are true. One of the first statements that the book make’s is “As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.” What the author is saying here is that acts originate from your thoughts and this points to the importance of thinking about the future and the things that you want to do and the person that you want to become.

Back in my college days I had a dream of someday getting a specific motorcycle. I even put a picture of this of motorcycle that I wanted up on my wall in my dorm room. At the time, buying this motorcycle was way out of reality for me. I was a broke college kid with hardly any savings to speak of so there was no way of buying this motorcycle at the time. About 8 years later I found the picture of the motorcycle that I had hung on my dorm room wall and realized that the almost exact motorcycle was sitting in my garage. It took time but eventually I was able to get that motorcycle. Buying that motorcycle was a thought that I had carried around in the back of my mind for years and years and eventually I made that thought become a reality.

Here’s another example of how my thoughts created my reality. Many years ago, when I worked in construction industry, I was thinking a lot about what it would be like to work in the finance industry. I found that I really enjoyed finance, I enjoyed budgeting, and learning about how investments worked. There came a time in my life where I needed to look for better opportunities in employment and in stead of looking in the construction industry, where most of my experience was, guess where I looked? In the finance industry. My desire of working in the finance industry caused me to think about different opportunities within that line of work and eventually I found myself working in the financial industry doing something that I love doing. My thoughts eventually defined where I worked. I become someone who was working in the finance industry, which was what I was thinking about.

I realized recently that sometimes the things that others have done before us can affect our life in the present and future. As an example, think about if while you were growing up your parents were terrible with money. You grew up watching your parents make terrible money choices. They bought nice new cars that they really couldn’t afford. They went on expensive trips that were put on credit cards. They never contributed to a retirement because they were always trying to pay off bills from all of the stuff that they were always buying. OK, so you have this example of how money is done through watching your parents. You might think that your parents’ example with money is how things are supposed to be. Let’s say you’ve been living by the example that your parents set. The reason you’re living that way is because it’s what you know. It’s what you’ve seen demonstrated. The experience of watching how your parents’ handled money has shaped the way you think about money. Your thought process, when it comes to money, revolves around the idea that you just need enough money to pay your bills at the end of the month and the rest you get to blow. So, what happens? Well, that’s how you live life, being terrible with money because that’s all you know and all you’re thinking about when it comes to money. But guess what? You hear a guy on the radio one night talking about a different way to do money. He says have an emergency fund, pay off debt, save for retirement, and all of a sudden, this whole new world of how to do money enters your thoughts. You start to think of how you can save up for an emergency plan, how you can pay off your credit cards, how you can start saving for retirement. All these things start to happen in your life just because your way of thinking changed. You learned something new and the new thing changed your world by changing how you think about one single aspect of life.

Your thoughts are powerful things and I believe that they are even more powerful than we realize. In the book As A Man Thinketh, author James Allen goes on to say, “As a being of Power, Intelligence, and Love, and the lord of his own thoughts, man holds the key to every situation, and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he may make himself what he wills.” This is saying that we can make ourselves in the person that we want to be. So, ask yourself, who do you want to be? Do you want to be someone who is generous? Do you want to be someone who is kind? Do you want to be someone who is hard working? You can have any kind of characteristic that you want, but first you have to think it and your thoughts will become your reality. If my thoughts dictate the circumstances in my life and they dictate the kind of person that I’ll be, then wouldn’t I want to think about the things that I want to do them most and the person that I want to be the most? The answer to that questions is an obvious yes! This is the reason that I think it’s so important to write down your goals in a place where you will see them often. This way, you can be intentional about thinking about your goals and the type of person that you want to be. I believe that thinking about these things regularly will help you to work towards them regularly and if you’re working towards them, then eventually, you’ll make your goals a reality.

How To Save 1 Million Dollars

If I was a rich guy handing out money and I asked a person if they wanted a million dollars, do you think they would say yes or no? My guess is that they would say yes. I mean, who doesn’t want a million dollars? Just think of everything that you could do with a million dollars. Or, consider this for a second, the average annual return on the S&P 500 since its inception has been more than 10%, so a 7% return shouldn’t be that unreasonable. This would mean if you had a million dollars and you were able to get a return of 7% per year, you would essentially be making $70,000 per year. And what is it that you would be doing to make $70,000? Nothing, except letting your money set in a mutual fund. In other words, your money would be working for you so you don’t have to work for money. Well, you might say “That would be great if I had a million dollars, but I don’t. So, what use is that information to me?” Well in this post, I’m going to share with you steps to save a million dollars. I’m going to tell you the things that you need to do in order to be a long-term wealth builder. By sharing these steps with you my hope is first that you realize that even though a million dollars is a lot of money, you can save a million dollars. My second hope is that you actually start saving. Most Americans these days are living paycheck to paycheck and have very little if anything saved.

So, you might be wondering to yourself “Who are you to give advice about saving a million dollars? Have you saved a million dollars?” And the answer to that question is no. I haven’t saved a million dollars, yet. But, I am using these steps to work towards my financial goals. And guess what, they’re working for me! So, that’s how I know they work, because I’m putting them into practice right now. I not only have experience with these steps to save but I have also seen others use these steps to save as well. As someone who works in the finance industry, I’ve had the opportunity to look deep into successful people’s finances. I’ve worked with numerous folks who had a net worth over a million dollars and I’ve been able to see how they’ve grown such a large chunk of wealth. And you know what, if I had to sum up how they did it, I would say they did it slow and steady. They did it by having a plan. None of these people accidentally found a million dollars in their bank account. They were intentional about saving and they were diligent over a long period of time about putting money away. Alright, lets look at the steps to save a million dollars.

Step one: The first thing that you need to do is to create a budget also known as a spending plan. There are lots of free budgets that you can download off the internet. Find one that works the best for you. If you’re an Excel nerd like me then you can just make your own which is what I’ve done. The biggest reason to create a budget is so you know where your money is going. A ton of people live paycheck to paycheck and I think this is because they don’t manage their money well. A budget helps us to manage our money so that we can be intentional about where our money is going. See, there’s that word intentional again. Hmmmm sounds like we’re on the right track. The second biggest reason to start living on a budget is to give yourself a pay raise. That’s right, you’re going to give yourself a raise by living on a budget. When people start living on a budget, they realized they’re spending money on things that they don’t really need. They are able to avoid spending money on these things in the future and this leaves the person with more money at the end of the month to do with whatever they please. So, in essence, it’s like giving yourself a pay raise. Now, the smart thing to do with the extra money at the end of the month is to add it to your investment contributions and not spend it on something that’s just going to do down in value.

Step two: Open a savings account if you don’t have one already. Once you have a savings account open, you’re going to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account, assuming that your income is deposited into your checking account. Set up your automatic transfer to happen right after you get paid, so that you are paying yourself first. If you get paid weekly, then you will set up 4 automatic transfers per month, if you get paid on the 10th and 25th of the month, then you’ll have two automatic transfers per month. If your income changes on a regular basis then set up the auto pay for a conservative amount, an amount that you know will not cause you to be overdrawn. Then those times when you get larger paychecks, you’ll need to manually transfer money from your checking to your savings.

Once you’re living on a budget, you’re paying yourself first, and you have an auto transfer set up going to your savings account, you’ve reached a huge milestone. Be proud of yourself because most people don’t make it even this far. They don’t even make it past these two steps. Ok, on to the next step.

Step three: Once you have about $5,000 saved open up an investment account if you don’t have one already. If you’re wanting to open up an online account, you might consider investment companies such as Fidelity Investments, Vanguard, or Charles Schwab. These guys make it really easy to do you investing online. Now, if you want to be able to meet with someone face-to-face do a quick internet search for local financial advisers. Investment companies may have a minimum investment amount that you need to have before you can open up an account with them. For example, the online investment companies may require a minimum of $3000 to $4000 to open up an account, that’s why you need to save $5,000 in a savings account first. Some investment companies like Stash for example, don’t have the high minimums like other online investment companies do. However, companies like Stash can have a higher fee percentage then some of the other companies. So, do your research on the fees that investment companies charge and minimums that investment companies charge. Once you transfer your $5,000 to an investment company then choose your investment. I like balanced mutual funds that are made up of a wide range of stocks and bonds. Mutual funds that are diversified in my opinion are generally less risky than any one stock. Set up auto transfer to transfer money to your investment company. Keep your savings account as an emergency fund. In this emergency fund save up 3 to 6 months of expenses in your savings account, keep it there and only use if for emergencies.

Step four: Once you have your investment account set up, you have money in it, and your auto transfer is in place, it’s time to maximize your investment contributions. Take some time to really squeeze your budget. For example, look at what things can you do without. If you go out to dinner fairly often can you instead grab some inexpensive take out instead, like getting a teriyaki chicken bowl that you eat at home instead. Just by doing this you could save $50 bucks. If you have any debt, pay it off so that you can start making those payments to yourself instead. If you’re not making a car payment, you could be putting that money in your investments. Think about that, that could be a lot of money! In order to increase your contributions to investments you can also look at ways to increase your income. Is there a side hustle you can do to earn some extra cash? Can you help a family friend with something around their home as a handyman? Is there a part time job that you can pick up? Can you cash in your vacation time at work? What do you have laying around the house that you just don’t use anymore that you could sell? Focus on being diligent about putting money away towards your investments.

All-in-all it’s going to take some time for you to save up a million dollars but these steps will eventually get you there. By doing the right things and moving in the right direction, no matter how slow you’re going, you will eventually get there. And you know what, you will have setbacks but you have to do your best to get back on track. Make sure that you’re using auto transfer to contribute to your investments. This way you can set it and forget it. When you get little bonus here or there or come across extra money, make it a priority to stick that money in your investment accounts, or at least a majority of it. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. And if you want to reach a savings of one million dollars, going slow and steady will eventually get there.

Using Small Actions Every Day to Win Big In Life with Jose Gonzalez

In this episode I had the pleasure of talking with my friend Jose Gonzalez about the book The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson. In our conversation we discuss what the slight edge is and how you can use it to reach your goals. This is one of the most motivating books I’ve ever read. I’m so thankful that Jose shared this book with me. If you get a chance, I highly recommend reading this book. I know that it will inspire you just like it did for me.

Here are a few topics that we discuss:
1. What the slight edge is.
2. How it can reshape your life.
3. Why it’s important to make the slight edge a habit.
4. How attitude plays into the slight edge and to your overall success in life.
5. 3 steps to reach your dreams.

Things You Must Know Before Getting a Home Loan

As someone who has experience in the lending industry, I want to share some helpful tips that can set someone up for success when it comes to getting a home loan.

1. Know what your lender needs to start the preapproval process and the loan process. Your lender should provide you with a checklist of items that you need to gather and bring to the lender in order to start either of these two processes. If they don’t give you a checklist, then ask for one, even if that means the lender needs to hand write each item down for you. For a preapproval, most lenders are going to ask for a loan application, authorization for release of credit information, income verification, asset verification, and identification. After you have the preapproval the key item that your lender needs to start the loan is going to be the Purchase and Sale Agreement also known as the PSA. Your lender is also going to ask you who you want to use for your homeowner’s insurance and who you want to use for your title company, if it’s not already listed on the PSA. There will be several other questions your lender should ask you too, such as if you want escrows collected, which is the property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and PMI (if applicable).

2. Know when you get to lock in the rate. Different lenders lock in the rate at different times. Some lenders lock in the rate at the time that you get a preapproval. Some lenders lock in the rate at the time that you apply for the loan. Other lenders might lock in the rate at the time the loan is approved by the underwriter. Also, know the length of time the rate is locked in.

3. Plan to have an in-depth conversation with your lender about what you want to do and your particular situation. There could be things that your lender needs to know about you in order to avoid time consuming mistakes later. For example, are you currently going through a divorce? Is a trust going to be involved with the purchase? Where are the funds for the down payment coming from? Where are you looking for a home? What type of home are you looking for? These are examples of things that you need to discuss with your lender before making an offer on a home. You need to be open and honest with your lender so they can make sure that any issues are addressed in the beginning of the loan process and don’t cause problems later.

4. If you know that you’re going to be looking to buy a home in a few months then get prequalified. The prequalification is a little different for different lenders. Most times what prequalification means is that you talk to your potential lender about where you’re at with your gross monthly income, monthly liabilities, and funds available for down payment and closing costs. With this information, your prospective lender can determine your housing ratio and debt ratio and will then be able to tell you approximately how much you could qualify for without needing to pull your credit. This is usually more of a simple, non-formal, conversation. Once the lender knows your financial situation, they can give you a loan estimate, which will show you approximately how much closing costs are going to be, how much you will need to bring in at closing for your down payment, what your loan payment is, and what your estimated property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and if applicable, PMI is going to be.

5. Be prepared financially before you get a home loan. One aspect of being prepared is to pay off as much debt as you can prior to applying for a home loan. Payoff and close credit cards, pay off the last little bit of that car loan, and get rid of as much debt as possible. There are several reasons that I suggest doing this. The first reason why I suggest this is buying a home with a lot of other debt is going to stress you financially. And I don’t want anyone to be in this kind position. I’ve heard over and over that the number one reason for divorce is money problems. If you want to stay out of money problems don’t get yourself into more debt than you can handle. The second reason I suggest paying off as much debt as you can prior to buying a house is because I’ve seen time and time again people not be able to qualify for the loan they needed to buy the house they wanted. In most cases that I have witnessed this, the borrower had recently purchased a new vehicle and had a huge car payment. The car payment pushed their debt ratio too high to qualify for the loan. In these cases the borrower had to pass up buying the home they wanted and put home buying on hold while they paid down debt. So, let me repeat myself, don’t put yourself in a poor financial position by taking on too much debt! Another way to be prepared is make sure that you have an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses in a savings account prior to getting a home loan. This, again, is to make sure you have a financial buffer incase of unexpected expense, which, if you’re buying a home, I can guarantee you, you’re going to have plenty of these. And keep in mind that your emergency funds should be different than you down payment funds. In other words, don’t wipe out your emergency funds to use as your down payment on your home.

6. Know what PMI is, if it applies to you, and when it will go away. PMI stands for private mortgage insurance. It’s basically an insurance that is paid by the borrower, typically on a monthly basis, that protects the lender in case of default on the loan. PMI is usually required on loans where the borrower is putting less than 20% down. Most of the time PMI goes away once the LTV reaches 80%. LTV means loan-to-value, in other words, the ratio of loan amount to the original value of the home. This value could either be the appraised value or the sales price. The lender typically goes with whichever of these two values is lower. Also, an option that might be availed to you is getting a new appraisal and then basing the LTV off of the new appraisal in lieu of the old value. A borrower would do this because the new appraisal could value the home much higher than the old value. Make sure to ask a lot of questions to your lender if PMI applies to you so that you know the exact details.

7. Ask your lender what the fees are for additional payments to principal or paying off your loan. You don’t want a lender who is going to charge you a fee every time you make an additional payment to principal. I recommend paying off your home as fast as you reasonably can. Paying off your mortgage early can help you to put more money away for retirement and education costs for your children. If you want a really great system for paying off your mortgage early you should check out the Speedpay Strategy that I created to help people pay off their mortgages faster.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the author’s blog, podcast, posts, and other media belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employers, affiliated organizations, associates, clients, or any other group or individual.

7 Money Mistakes to Avoid with Bill Spring

Bill Spring and I layout 7 money mistakes to avoid AND… we even include an 8th bonus mistake at the end of the podcast, which in my opinion, is the biggest mistake a person can make financially. These mistakes are the big ones!!! If you want to be intentional about building wealth, then you need to be intentional about avoiding these mistakes. Getting caught up in these mistakes can literally destroy you financially. All of these items are big mistakes but are not listed in any particular order.

Here are the top 7 money mistakes to avoid: 

1. Taking on too much debt. Examples: Buying too much house: This means that the loan is way too much for a person to afford. Dave Ramsey recommends no more than 25% of your take home pay go towards your total housing payment which includes taxes, insurance, principal and interest. Buying too much car: In other words, buying a car you can’t afford. People too often buy new cars that they shouldn’t and have a hefty car payment every month that takes away from their ability to contribute to investments. Misuse of credit cards: Racking up debt on your credit card and then just making the minimum payment can cost you big bucks. According to Creditcards.com the average national credit card interest rate that you’ll pay is 16.15 percent. Yikes!!!

2. Unable to say no to friends and family that ask you for money. An example of this could be a mom who is kept broke because her adult son is mooching off of her. The mom feels obligated to support her son and the son is taking advantage of this. The mom needs to establish boundaries to eliminate the son’s dependence. It’s not wrong to help those in need, I encourage doing so, but don’t let giving get out of control and be aware when giving becomes enabling.

3. Taking on unnecessary risk. An example of this could be someone that does not have life insurance, health insurance, or disability insurance. The old saying “expect the unexpected” can really help you to avoid costly issues. Also, if you have a family or someone in your life that is dependent on you, you need to get life insurance. Sometimes employers provide these types of insurance. If your employer does then you need to make sure that the coverage is adequate for your family’s potential needs.

4. Not investing in a retirement. This is especially true if your employer offers a matching program. For example, if your employer matches up to 3% of your gross annual income. If you’re not making contributions to a retirement program, then you need to do so immediately.

5. Not having an emergency fund. I’m sure everyone has experienced an unanticipated expense. It could be a medical expense, a vehicle expense, or a housing expense. It could be anything! You need to have an emergency fund to protect yourself against unforeseen expenses. The biggest reason to do this is because you’re going to have to borrow the money, like put it on a credit card, in order to pay the unexpected expense. If that happens, you could be paying 16.15% interest! For your emergency fund you should have 3 to 6 months of expenses saved up.

6. Not considering opportunity cost. When you spend your money on something, you’re not able to spend it on something else. What does that translate to? It means when you blow your money on that third pair of running shoes (that you really don’t need) you’re giving up the opportunity to invest that money and earn a return.

7. Thinking that money is a mathematical problem and not a behavior problem. Let me repeat that… Thinking that money is a mathematical problem and not a behavior problem… This sounds illogical but it’s very true. Poor money habits are behavioral problems. In other words, being financially healthy means being disciplined with your money.

If you’re looking for financial help, reach out to a financial coach – like myself, take a Financial Peace University class, or look into the financial classes offered by your local Love INC organization.

Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster with The Speedpay Strategy

I’m excited to tell you guys about a helpful tool called the Speedpay Strategy. It helps you to layout a plan for making additional payments to principle on your mortgage (or really any kind of loan). Its purpose is to help you pay off your mortgage faster than if you just made the minimum payment. Let’s take a look at what this tool is, when you should use it and what you should do before you use it.

Download the Speedpay Strategy in Excel.

What exactly is the Speedpay Strategy and how does it work? It’s a payment plan that uses increasing payments to principal that are based off of customized data that you input into the Speedpay Strategy Excel Worksheet. The Speedpay Strategy creates a schedule where each year the amount of what you pay directly to principal increase by a percentage of the original principal and interest payment. This allows you to anticipate how much faster your mortgage will be paid off and how much your monthly payment will need to be in order to reach your desired payoff date.

Why use increasing payments? One of the best parts about the Speedpay Strategy is the increasing payments. The reason this is a nice feature is because a person’s income tends to rise over time. Think about it, for most people, they will likely make more money next year than they did this year. So, it only makes sense to increase your mortgage payment, if you have a little more income, in order to pay your mortgage off faster.

I created a template for the Speedpay Strategy using Microsoft Excel and this template is available for free download on my website, buildwithkeegan.com. You can find it in the “Success Tools” section. As a side note, feel free to customize the Speedpay Strategy Template to fit your specific needs. To use the template from my website you don’t need to be a wiz at Microsoft Excel. First, simply download the template from my website and open the file. Please note, you will need the program Microsoft Excel in order to use the template. Second, enter in your loan information in the yellow boxes at the top left part of the screen. In this section, you will need to enter your original loan amount, which is the amount of loan that you started with when you either bought your home or when you refinanced. The next amount you need to enter is the current principal balance of your home loan. You can find this amount by either looking online, if you have online access to your mortgage, or by simply looking at the most recent mortgage statement available. Then, enter the amount of the original term. The original term is the number of months that you had at the beginning of the loan to pay back your loan. For instance, if you had a thirty year loan then the original term would be 360 months. Next, input the interest rate on your loan and the principal and interest payment amount of your loan. As side note, if you have a mortgage that requires bimonthly or biweekly payments then feel free to modify the Speedpay Strategy Template to accommodate your situation.

Once you’ve entered in your loan information, it’s time for the fun part! Enter in the percentage amount by which you would like your principle payment to increase each year. You can adjust this percentage up or down to meet your level of financial capabilities. You can also adjust this percentage to show you how long it will take to pay your loan off in a given amount of time. For example, say you want to pay your home loan off in 10 years. You would simply input different percentages until the loan balance is paid off within the 10 years as shown on the amortization schedule within the Speedpay Strategy Template. You can tell when the loan is paid off by looking at the “Loan Balance” column. When the loan balance hits negative and it is red, you know the loan is paid off.

If you want to put a little extra money to go to just the principal in addition to the Speedpay percentage then you can add that in the Speedpay Boost box. Whatever amount you enter will be added to the monthly principal payment amount for the entire life of the loan. For example, let’s say that you get a home loan and you know, right when you get the loan, that you want to put an extra 50 bucks towards the principal each month. Well then, you would enter the $50 in the Speedpay Boost box and this will show you paying $50 per month, every month, for the life of the loan, to just the principal.

Once you get all of the numbers entered into the Speedpay Strategy Template play with the Speedpay percentage and the Speedpay Boost amounts until you achieve a payment amount and a loan payoff date that you are comfortable with.

Next, let’s look at some recommendations on when you should use and should not use the Speedpay Strategy.

First, if you do not yet have an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months, you need to establish this prior to making additional payments towards your home loan. An emergency fund is crucial to keeping you from falling into high interest consumer debt. Most people who are living paycheck to paycheck use a credit cards, personal loans, and payday loans, in case of an emergency. This is a big mistake. In lieu of using short-term debt for an emergency, build up an emergency fund so you can pay cash for an emergency if you need to.

My second recommendation is that you eliminate any other consumer debt before using the Speedpay Strategy. After you’ve eliminated your consumer debt then you can start making additional payments to the principle on your mortgage. I recommend doing this because the rate on other credit items such as: credit cards, car payments, student loans, etc. typically have a higher interest rate than home mortgages.

My third recommendation is that you make sure to contribute to your retirement plan prior to making additional payments to your home loan principal. If you can contribute to your retirement plan and afterwards you still have room in your budget then great, do the Speedpay Strategy. If you are not contributing to your retirement plan, then you need to do this before starting the Speedpay Strategy.

Lastly, if you expect to live in your home for less than two years I suggest putting the Speedpay Strategy on hold while you put away money for the down payment, closing costs and moving costs on your next home.