HWH010: Wealth: Investments 101

First, I want to start off by saying investing is something that you need to do in order to become a wealth builder. Not only that, but if you want to achieve financial independence you must have income that’s being generated from some sort of investment. So, it’s imperative to your financial goals that you find an investment that you’re comfortable with and that will generate the income you need to reach your goals. Investing can sound complicated and sometimes intimidating too. If you’re new to investing and you want a hands off approach I would suggest talking to someone in your community, such as your local financial planner, about the different investing options for you. If there isn’t a local financial professional that can help you then you can turn to the internet. There is what seems like an endless amount of information on the internet that can help you better understand your investing options. You can find different companies that offer investing accounts online and investing professionals who you can call and talk to. I highly recommend doing your research before jumping into any investment. Make sure that you understand the level of risk associated with your investment and remember that it’s ok to start small.

So, let’s take a quick look at a few investments that are out there. One of the most common types of investments that are available are mutual funds. Well, what exactly is a mutual fund? According to Investopidia.com the definition of a mutual fund is, “an investment vehicle made up of a pool of funds collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments and similar assets.” Essentially, different investors pool their money into a fund that seeks to perform a certain investment objective. There are lots of companies that offer mutual funds such as Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, and Fidelity among many, many more. Different mutual funds invest into different things. For example, a mutual fund’s goal might be to mimic the performance of the S&P 500 so it will be invested in stock of those companies that make up the S&P 500. According to statista.com there were nearly 80,000 mutual funds worldwide in 2015. The great thing about mutual funds is that they can offer diversification in a very affordable and convenient way. Some of the more diversified mutual funds could be considered “balanced”. This is where they invest in both stocks and bonds. The nice thing about having a balanced mutual fund is that it is diversified meaning it will not be highly affected if there is significant movement in one sector of the market. There are also mutual funds that only invest into stocks, other mutual funds that only invest in bonds, and some mutual funds invest in different sectors of the market. These funds tend to have less diversification than balanced funds but the good thing about these mutual funds is that they can have upside exposure to the market sector that they are concentrated in. For example, a mutual fund can be made up of sever tech stocks which would expose the mutual fund to the tech industry. Or you can have a mutual fund that can be made up of several health care stocks which would expose that mutual fund to the health care industry.

Another investment that is similar to a mutual fund is an ETF (exchange-traded fund). I kind of like to think of an ETF as being half like a mutual fund and half like a stock. The Vanguard Group defines an ETF as “A type of investment with characteristics of both mutual funds and individual stocks. ETFs are professionally managed and typically diversified, like mutual funds, but they can be bought and sold at any point during the day using straightforward or sophisticated strategies.” ETFs, like mutual funds come in all sorts of different varieties. Statista.com tells us that in 2015 there were 4,396 different ETFs worldwide and just 442 worldwide in 2005 indicating a pretty significant growth in the popularity of this investment type. The benefit of having an investment that can be bought and sold like a stock is that the transaction of buying and selling relatively fast, at least compared to buying and selling mutual funds which, from my experience, can to take a couple days for the transaction to go through. If you need the money from the proceeds of a sale in a hurry to buy another investment an ETF might be a good option for you.

Stocks and bonds are another investment vehicle. In order to trade stocks and bonds you need to open an account with a broker. This broker could be a person in your community like a broker from Edward Jones, Merrill Lynch, or a small local company. You could also use an online brokerage company like Scottrade, E*TRADE, TD Ameritrade, and many more. Buying individual bonds or stocks is nice because you can customize your investment portfolio for a certain investment strategy. Also, it’s fun to buy and sell stocks as a hobby.

If you’re a more sophisticated investor you might be someone who trades options. According to Charles Schwab & Co’s website “An option is a contract giving the owner the right, but not the obligation, to buy (in the case of calls) or sell (in the case of puts) the underlying instrument at a specified price for a specified period of time. The underlying instrument can be a stock, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) or even an index… Unlike shares of stock, an option does not represent ownership in the underlying company.” Schwab’s website also says “Options can help you protect against risk, generate income, increase profits, lower your breakeven point, reverse your strategy without selling your stock, and even potentially let you set a purchase price for a stock below its current market price.” I don’t have any experience trading with options besides the simulated option trading I’ve done on Stock Track. Even after reading and researching option trading I still find it hard to convincing myself that option trading is something that I can be successful in.

Owning real estate can also be a good investment. I’m not talking about simply owning the home that you live in I’m referring to owning real estate in order to rent or lease it out and actually make a return on your capital. Granted, your personal home can appreciate over time due to the appreciation of real estate but I would not really consider your home as the same kind of investment that I’m discussing here unless you are renting some portion of your home like if you had roommates or lived in a multi-family building. I’ve seen and worked with many people that have built much of their personal wealth through investing in residential real estate. The residential real estate, I would say, is where most people usually get their first taste of investing into real estate and I would agree that this is a good place to start. The down side with investing into real estate is that it can be extremely expensive so if you don’t have the cash reserves then you can put yourself in a very tight and financially dangerous position. The other downside with real estate is that it takes a long time to get your money back out of it if you are trying to liquidate your position, at least compared to liquidating stocks. Trying to list a house for sale, find a buyer, and finally closing on your real estate can be quite the process and take a considerable amount of time. It’s not like selling a stock where you can simply jump onto your online brokerage account hit the “sell” button and almost immediately have the funds to buy something else.

There are tons of different investments out there. The most important thing that I want you to remember is to make sure that before you buy any investment you do your homework on that investment. If you’re working with a financial planner, a broker, or a real estate agent always ask lots of questions so that you feel well educated, confident, and comfortable with the investment that you’re considering. Never just jump into an investment that you don’t know anything about and be very cautious about getting into any kind of investment with family or friends.

Well, that’s all I have for you about investments in this post. Remember that you need investments to build wealth and achieve financial independence. Happy investing and good luck!

HWH008: Trifecta: Pruning Your Life To Create Focus And Success.

Hey guys! In this post I’m going to talk about pruning your life. This means cutting back the things that you don’t need to do so that you can put more focus on the things that will help you to reach your goals. I know that you’ve experienced this too, that point you realize you’re crazy busy with life and it doesn’t seem like you’re making the kind of progress on your goals that you want. When you hit this point it’s time to do some pruning. So, what does pruning mean and how is it going to help me?  This is the question that I will be answering in this post.

I grew up out in the country near acres and acres of apple, pear, and cherry trees and every winter work crews would work their way through each tree pruning off the excess growth. Someone might ask “Why would you want to prune branches that are going to bear perfectly good fruit”. The answer to this question in one word is: quality. If a fruit tree grows unpruned it’ll likely grow a tremendous amount of fruit, which might sound like a good thing, however, it isn’t, simply because the tree actually grows too much fruit. An apple tree for example is going to grow more apples than it has nutrients to grow into quality fruit. The fruit on the unpruned tree will be very small because there are so many pieces of fruit on the tree sharing the nutrients that the tree provides. So, by pruning back some of the tree it creates fewer places that fruit can grow. By doing this, the apples that do grow will have a higher amount of nutrients and will grow to become big, plump, beautiful apples.

In life it can be easy for many of us to find ourselves over committing, trying to do too many things, and not giving our goals the appropriate amount of time and resources required. After some amount of time goes by we look at our lack of progress with these goals and then wonder why we’re not getting anywhere. If this happens to you, it’s time to start doing some pruning. If you find yourself saying yes way too often and then becoming distracted from reaching your goals it’s time to start saying no. Saying no to one thing means that you get to say yes to something else. Therefore, saying no is a form of pruning.

When it comes to health, wealth, and happiness, pruning can help you to focus more time and resources on your goals in these areas. One of the biggest reasons I tell myself that I’m not going to the gym is because “I’m too busy”. As we all know, this is totally a bogus reason for not going. I need to be better at prioritizing my time and if you find yourself slacking in health, wealth, or happiness because you “don’t have the time”, then you need to do a better job at prioritizing too. When we prioritize we simply look at the things that are most important to us and we make sure that we’re paying the right amount of attention to these areas. For the area of happiness, are you spending enough time with your family and loved ones? If you’re not, I can tell you that you’re going to regret it when your relationships start to suffer. Are you spending the proper amount of time to budget and plan for building wealth? If you’re not, your going to realize down the road that you wish you would have done a better job at this. For your health, are you spending enough time in the gym and making healthy meals? Or are you skipping the gym and eating junk because you “don’t have time”? The only way you’re going to be successful is if you make time to be successful and you make your goals priorities. Do you want to be a great husband and a great father or a great wife and a great mother? Then you need to be intentional about dedicating time to this area of your life. Do you want to be a wealth builder? Then you need to be intentional about dedicating time to this area of your life. Do you want to live a healthy lifestyle? Then you need to be intentional about dedicating time to this area of your life. You don’t become successful in something by accident. You become successful by being intentional about your goals in that area of your life. You must give those goals the necessary time and resources to accomplish them.

There are other areas of your life that you can prune besides just areas that will give you more time. Sometimes people need to be pruned from your life. Is someone in your life dragging you down instead of building you up? Does this person create negativity in your life and slow you down from reaching your goals? If so, you may have to decide that this person doesn’t need to take anymore of your time and “unfriend” them. This sounds a little harsh and it doesn’t have to be that drastic. Simply deciding to spend less time around someone that brings you down and spend more time around someone that builds you up is all you need to do. But what if this person is close to you and you can’t escape them? If the person that is bringing you down is a coworker or family member that you can’t really unfriend you need to have a talk with them. Make some time to meet with this person one on one. Tell them that they’re negativity is dragging you down. I believe that communication is key in most situations. Some people might not even realize that they’re being negative and dragging you down and maybe a good chat will help them to realize what they’re doing. You could have a really positive effect on his or her life just by taking the time to help them realize the effects of their actions.

Another area of your life that you can prune is the area of habits. Do you have some bad habits that you need to rid yourself of? A while back I realized that I was drinking way too many sodas throughout the week and so I cut back to drinking just one or two a week. I really enjoy a nice cold soda but drinking too many isn’t good for you just like too much of just about anything isn’t good for you. When it comes to pruning bad habits in your life you must take a hard look at the things that you’re doing that you know you probably shouldn’t be. Are you drinking too much alcohol? Are you smoking? Are you eating ice cream just before you go to bed? Are you drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day or early evening? What is a habit that you know you need to prune out of your life?

Pruning can be difficult. It takes discipline and it takes courage. It takes strength to walk away from someone or something that is keeping you from reaching your goals. However, the fact is that pruning will help you to reach your goals and pruning will help you to build yourself into the person that you want to be.

HWH006: Wealth: Finding Your Why

If you want to be a wealth builder you need to have a good “why” if you want to be able to sustain the path to building wealth. Your “why” is the reason that you want to build wealth. It answers the simple question: “Why do you want to build wealth?” You can have several whys or as little as just one. Your “why” is derived from your dreams so its important that you take a long look at your dreams and come up with reasons why you want to build wealth. Your dream could be anything: maybe to achieve financial independence, to save up for that new car, or to be able to travel the world someday without the worry of having income. Here are some additional examples of whys that’ll help you get an idea of what they can be. One why might be that you recently became a parent and now that you have a person to take care of you want more financial stability. Another might be that you want to save up and invest for a comfortable retirement. Or a “why” might be that a person wants to save up so they can buy his or her dream home. There are what seems like an endless amount of things that we can buy with our money and therefore there are also an endless amount of “whys” that we can have.

So why is having a “why” important and what does it do for you? Your “why” answers the question on why your willing to save and invest now rather than spend your money on something else. Your “why” gives you the justification to say “No, I’m not spending this money now, because I have a greater purpose for this money in the future”. Your “why” gives your wealth building a purpose and gives you a reason for delayed gratification. Most people do not become wealthy because they can’t embrace delayed gratification. People want things now. That’s why so many people have gotten themselves in such terrible financial situations with consumer debt. In stead of saving up for a purchase and making sure priorities like retirement funds are coming first, they just go out and buy whatever they want whenever they want it. That’s great for retailers but it’s bad for a person’s financial health. When people go out and make too many reckless purchases they eventually start to buy things that they can’t afford. That’s when credit cards come into pay. I’m not saying that buying “stuff” is always bad. I buy “stuff” too. However, if you want to be a wealth builder you need to create a budget, make sure you’re contributing funds to your goals like retirement, and then once all of your priorities are taken care of, then you can buy the “stuff”.

Your “why” is your also a source of hope. It’s incredibly important to have hope when you’re trying to achieve any goal. Weather it’s a health, wealth, or happiness goal your “why” identifies your hope that will keep you motivated to keep on the wealth builder’s path. This helps to keep you from buying those things that you don’t really need.

Your “why” will also help you to determine how much wealth you need to amass. This is because your dreams, your goals, and your “whys” are all interrelated. We know that creating an intentional life starts with determining our dreams so that we can create goals and then a plan to reach those goals. The “why” is the fuel that we use to help us attain our dreams and work towards our goals using our plan. For example, if your “why” is that you want a new car then determining the price of the car will tell you how much you need to put away.

My friends, I would like to encourage you if you haven’t done so already, take some time to reflect on your dreams. Turn these dream into your own personal “whys” and use these “whys” to keep you on track to reach your goals. Think of all the people that your “whys” could benefit: your family, your friends, your community, and your church. Involve these people in your “whys” to make your “whys” that much more powerful.

HWH005: Health: Tips For Running

A lot of us enjoy running, I know that I certainly do, and I’ve done my fair share of it. I don’t do as much as I use to but I still love to get out and burn those calories and get the heart pumping. If you’ve been running for a while now or you’ve been thinking about trying running to get fit you might take into consideration these tips for avoid injuries and get the most out of running.

The first tip is to have a good pair of shoes. If you’ve been running for a while in the shoes that you have and they’re starting to lose the cushion it’s time to get a new pair. If you’re someone who is considering getting into running I highly recommend getting a good pair of running shoes instead of using the old sneakers that you have already laying around. Having good shoes is important for several reasons. First, your shoes absorb a lot of the shock from your foot striking the ground during each stride that you take. Your joints that would normally absorb this shock are your ankles, knees, hip, and back. To save yourself from discomfort later in life with these body parts pickup a good pair of shoes that will take some of the shock out of each step. From my point of view it’s a much less expensive to buy a good pair of shoes now and then it is to pay for medical costs to address the injuries you’ve obtained later from running. If you can afford it you might even consider buying two pairs of running shoes and rotating them. I’ve heard that when you run in a pair of shoes it can temporarily squish the padding down. Think of a wet sponge that you swish down and it slowly regains its shape. Running a long distance in a pair of shoes can swish down the padding and by rotating your shoes it can allow more time for your shoes to regain the full cushion. I haven’t scientifically tested this theory but it makes sense to me. For my running shoes I have a pair of trail running shoes and a regular pair of running shoes and I try to rotate the when I work out.

The second tip is to make sure to ease into running. If you’re new to running or if you’ve been thinking about getting back into running make sure to start slow and build up the mileage and difficulty levels over time. There have been a few times in my life where I was running on a regular basis and I felt really confident in my running abilities. It was easy during these times to go out and do pretty challenging running workouts. Having this capability gave me a confidence that can be a little dangerous. This is because, on the other hand, there have also been many times that I had not been running very much and my body was not in as good of shape. Whenever I get back into running, like when I decide to start training for an upcoming event, I have to remember to start back into it slowly in order to avoid injuries like pulling a muscle. If I try to try to jump back into doing the interval workouts that I was doing when I was in excellent shape after not running for a long period of time, I will expose myself to a higher level of possible injury. Doing too much running at a high difficult level too fast will get you injured. Ease into it and build up over time.

Another tip for avoiding injuries is to cross train. If you’re someone who is training to do a 5k or 10k or something even longer and you are just getting back into running or haven’t ever really been a runner before then cross training can help you to develop the repertory system and endurance without as much pounding that running alone inflicts on your joints. A couple of things that you can do to cross training are swimming and bike riding. A “brick” workout is where you combine a run and a bike ride. Doing this type of workout can help build your endurance but introduces more low impact exercising into your workout from the bike riding portion of the exercise. In the winter time I enjoy doing more of the stationary biking indoors. This way I can avoid cold temperatures but also avoid the icy roads and sidewalks that can present slipping hazards. Obviously different exercises use different muscles so the muscles that you use for running will not be as exercised as much when you do something like ride a bike, for example, however, I believe that the rest that you give your joints from cross training can help you to avoid injuries. You can also try the machines like the Elliptical, the stair stepper or the Versaclimber if you’re looking for a great exercise that avoids excessive impact to your joints.

The fourth tip involves the things that you eat and consume. Something else that you might try if you plan on getting into running is taking supplements. There are tons of supplements like multivitamins, fish oil, probiotics, and glucosamine based products that are available that can help you in different ways. From the research that I’ve seen there isn’t always documented proof that some of these supplements do what they are sold to do however if you can find room in your budget for some of these supplements I figure it can’t hurt. I’ve always been a firm believer in making sure that my body is getting the nutrients that it needs to perform and in my opinion it will get there when I give it quality supplements. In addition to supplements, eating clean will help you to give your body good fuel. When I eat junk food I tend to feel sluggish and the energy that I get doesn’t seem to be as lasting as when I eat healthy. Eating junk food seems to give me a short-term burst of energy but then I crash. I want something that’s going to help me to have an even amount of energy throughout the day. If you want an even level of energy throughout the day you might try moving to 5 medium meals per day in lieu of 3 large meals per day. While we’re on the subject of consumption make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day as well. For me, if I don’t drink enough water, and I become start to become dehydrated, I feel sluggish and my mind just doesn’t work as well as it usually does. If I’m feeling sluggish, then I’m not going to be motivated to go running and workout.

Doing a warm up run followed with some stretching before your actual running workout can help loosen up your muscles. I’ve been in the habit of doing this ever since I started putting on the miles. My cross-country coach, Mr. Mattson had us warm up and stretch before every practice and I believe it helped the team avoid injuries. When I go running I’ll typically run about 800 meters at a nice-and-easy pace and then stretch. After I stretch I’ll start my actual running workout.

To recap: the first tip was to get a good pair of running shoes. The second tip is to ease into running, don’t jump into difficult running workout too fast. The third tip is to cross train when you can. Go for a bike ride or hit up a cardio machine at the gym. For the fourth tip take a look at the supplements available. Do you think any of these can help you? Also, try to eat clean. I know this is a tough one for me but it is really important if we want to feel good and perform at our highest level possible. And lastly, do a warm up run and some stretching before hitting your actual running workout.

HWH004: Trifecta: Discipline – Success in Health, Wealth & Happiness

Hey guys! This week I’m going to talk about a characteristic that people can have that will help them in health, wealth, and happiness. This is somewhat of a special post that I call Trifecta. What is a trifecta? One definition of trifecta from Dictionary.com says “Any achievement involving three successful outcomes”. In most of my blog posts and podcast episodes I focus on just one of the subjects, health, wealth, or happiness, but in the Trifecta posts and episodes I’m going to talk about what it takes to be successful in all three subjects.

This week’s trifecta characteristic is discipline, a.k.a. self-discipline. This is something that you need if you want to be successful at anything in your life. Yourdictionary.com defines self-discipline as “The ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track and do what is right.” The key word that I like in this definition is “control”. You must have control over your life if you want to reach your goals. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Of course I have control over myself. I’m the one who controls my own life and no one else.” And you would be right, we do have control over ourselves. But far too often we allow ourselves to get off track. For example, if I set a goal for hitting the gym at least three times a week and then after going only two times I decide that I rather go eat a cheeseburger and a milkshake in stead of working out that is a loss of self control and a lack of discipline. If you want to reach your goals you must learn to have a high level of discipline. This means that you do what you say you’re going to do even when there are other things out there tempting you.

So what does discipline look like when it’s applied to health? This would be staying true to your health and fitness goals. Like my prior example maybe you’ve set a goal for going to the gym on a regular basis or maybe you’ve set a goal to eat healthier. You need to make sure that you go to the gym as you planned or that you don’t eat a bunch of junk food so that you reach your “eating healthy” goal.

Ok, what does discipline look like when it’s applied to wealth? This could mean that you keep a budget of you monthly expenses and every other week or so you go back to that budget to review your progress and update different costs or amounts. Staying true to your wealth goals means not going out and making spontaneous purchases that are not in your budget. If you want to buy something that ok just fit it into your budget so that you can still reach your financial goals while also buying the things that you want. For example, there are always new things that I want to buy but I don’t just go out and buy them. First, when I find something that I absolutely want, I look at my budget first and see if I will have enough room in my budget to buy the item that I want. I make sure that I will have enough to cover all of my expenses, fund my retirement, and pay a tithe to my church, before I use my money to buy a “want”. Creating a budget is a must if you want to be intentional about building wealth and self-discipline is what you need to have if you want to stay on budget and reach your financial goals.

Finally, how does self-discipline relate to my happiness? At first glance you might say that self-discipline isn’t really related to happiness but when you take a closer look, you’ll realize that it is very related. I believe that if we want to be successful in any area of our life then we must be intentional about personal growth in that area. When we apply self-discipline to happiness we are intentional about creating happiness into the lives of others and our self. This means that we do not talk bad about someone unless it is to give someone constructive feedback that they can grow and learn from. It means that we’re intentional about complementing others in a genuine way. It means finding forgiveness when others have crossed us, even when they don’t deserve it. When we have self-discipline in the area of happiness we do these things and these things are going to be what brings more happiness into our life.

The thing that I want you to take away is that self-discipline is incredibly important if you want to be successful in the areas of health, wealth, and happiness. You can apply self-discipline to different areas of your life in order to be intentional about reaching your goals. In general, one of the key benefits of self-discipline is that it helps to keep us on track and doesn’t allow us to wander off the road that takes us to reaching our hopes and dreams.

Takeaway points:

  1. In what areas of your life do you need more self-discipline?
  2. In the area of health, do you need to cut back on eating that junk food so you can reach your health goals?
  3. For the area of wealth, maybe you need to create a budget or review the budget that you’ve already made in order to get on track to reach your financial goals.
  4. Maybe for happiness you need a little more self-discipline when it comes to creating more happiness in the lives of others which will create more happiness in your own life.

HWH002: Wealth: What does wealth mean to you?

Hi friends. I’d like to start this post by asking you the question: what does wealth mean to you? I think wealth can mean different things to different people. For example, a person might look at being wealthy as having a well funded retirement plan. Another person might think of wealthy as less about money and more about having a rich life filled with friends and family. In any of these cases a person could be considered wealthy depending on what his or her definition of wealth looks like. According to dictionary.com one definition listed says that wealthy is “rich in character, quality, or amount”. So, what’s your definition of wealth and how are you going to get there? I believe building wealth is about making smart choices with your money. Becoming wealthy might be a far off thought to you but I’d like you to realize that it’s closer to reality for you than you might think. My definition of wealth means being financially independent and this is what I would like to focus on in this post.

So, what is financial independence? To me, this is the point that your investments are making you more money than your expenses and can sustain your financial needs for life. Let’s dig into this a little deeper. My definition of financial independence has two components. The first component is that on some sort of time basis your income from your investments are making you more than the expenses that you accrued on that same time basis. For example, let’s say that your expenses on a monthly basis amount to $3000. This means that your investments would need to make at least $3000 per month to essentially break even. If you were getting an average of 8% annual return on an investment this would mean that you would need an investment worth at least $450,000. The second component has to do with sustainability. This means that your investment have the ability to continue to pay for your expenses indefinitely. Ok, this is where my definition of financial independence gets a little more complicated. Your investment must not only cover your expenses on a time bases in the present time but must also have the ability to cover your expenses in the future as well. This means that you are taking into consideration growing expenses due to inflation or other reasons for increase in costs. In order for your investment to compensate for inflation and these other growing costs it must be growing as well. Let’s say that you have that $3000 per month expense and as we pointed out you would need $450,000 growing at 8% to cover that. Well, what if inflation is at 2% per year? This means that you need your investments to also grow at 2% in order to be able to cover that future increase in expense. In this case you either need to seek an investment that gets 10% annual return or you need to save up more in your investment so that your investment return is not only covering your current expenses but is also causing your investment balance to grow over time so that it covers your increased future expenses as well.

This all sounds great but saving up a bunch of money sound hard. The amount that I would need invested is a huge number and how do I even get that much? I agree, building an investment portfolio that creates enough return to cover your monthly expense is a sizable feat but if you want to become financially independent you must build a large investment. So, how do we start to build an investment that will allow us to become financially independent? In short, the answer is to put away as much money each month as you can. This answer, however, does not give us an estimate on how much we need to put away or how much we’ll have considering given conditions. There’s a lot of different ways to calculate how much wealth you’ll need to amass in order to hit your financial goals so let’s take a look at the basic steps of this calculation. The first step is to estimate how much your expenses are now and how much they will be in the future. To do this create a budget. I have used Microsoft’s Excel to create my budget and to help me with my financial independence calculations. If you haven’t created a budget yet I highly recommend using Excel. The next step is to estimate how much of an investment you’ll need at a given rate of return to cover your expenses. Next, estimate how much you’ll need to cover the growing amount of expense in the future. These calculations can be done using different techniques. If you’re not comfortable doing these calculations ask your financial adviser for assistance. There are also numerous online calculators and YouTube videos that can help you with this as well. Once you have an investment amount that you will need in order to achieve financial independence you can calculate how long it will take you to save that much money by using your budget.

Call to action:

  1. I’d like to encourage you to look at what being financially independent looks like in your life. Do this by calculating how much you would need to invest in order for that investment to cover your current monthly expenses.
  2. Now create a budget that will show you how much you can put away each month to get you to reaching the investment amount to be financially independent.
  3. Work like crazy to build up that investment portfolio!
  4. Enjoy being financially independent 🙂

Life Lesson From Chopping Firewood

In the summer of 2015 I went with my good friend Sam to cut fire wood. Being someone who grew up around plenty of apple wood I never had chopped firewood before because apple wood was small enough that it didn’t need to be split. After Sam fell an old dead tree, we got out the axes, and it was time to start splitting. I remember thinking to myself before I started how easy it was going to be, I mean, all you have to do is slam the axe into the wood right? Wrong. I chopped and chopped and chopped and I couldn’t get the wood to split. After about 16 swings and no success Sam stopped me and said “You’re doing it wrong”. At this point I was a little frustrated and I thought to myself, “How do you chop wood wrong? There’s only one way to do it.” Sam took the axe from me and as I curiously watched he brought the axe up over his head and slammed it down with every ounce of energy he had and sure enough the wood split. After watching Sam, it hit me, to split the wood you had to swing as hard as you could, and if you didn’t, then the wood wouldn’t split. Sure enough, when I put every ounce of energy into my swing, the firewood split. Later, I realized the same is true in life, if you want to be successful you have to give it everything you’ve got – every time – otherwise you’re just chopping at wood that will never split. Often in life we become complacent in our level of effort and then wonder why we’re not achieving our goals. If you’ve ever feel like you’re not getting where you want to be in life, maybe it’s time to look at your level of effort and choose to start swinging like Sam.

Takeaway Questions:

  1. Are you contributing enough energy towards your goals in order to achieve them?
  2. Do you need to cut out unnecessary things from your life in order to give you more time and energy to focus on your goals?
  3. Are you goals clear? Are they SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based?
  4. Are you holding yourself accountable for reaching milestones that will help you reach your goals?
  5. Are your goals helping you to reach your dreams?

Book Review: The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received by Liz Claman

This book is a compilation of investment advice from some of the most well known finance gurus in America. As you read this book you feel as though you are sitting right in front of these people and are having a one-on-one conversation with them. Some of the authors provide very rich insight while in contrast some of them use their input to simply promote their product or company. This is an excellent book for someone who would consider themselves a “just started” investor,  an intermediate investor, or even an investor who is looking for a fun, quick, interesting read.

Some of the content was a little redundant. Diversification, being greedy when others are fearful and visa versa, and the idea that timing the market is a fool’s game were all common ideas. Nevertheless, these are very important informational components of building a strong foundation of investment knowledge.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Despite what a professional planner might advise, you can’t save and consume.” Richard Bernstein P.19

All too often in our society we are trying to out buy our neighbors in an attempt to impress everyone. This is a road to failure. One of the keys to building wealth is putting money away so that it can grow and unfortunately that means not spending that money on the usual useless things. This quote embodies the idea of short-term sacrifice now in order to be benefitted later. This is the heart of building wealth.

“The more certain the crowd is, the more certain it is to be wrong.” Doug Kass P.92

This one really got the wheels turning in my mind. I started to think about how just before the Great Depression people thought that poverty was soon to be annihilated and something of the past. I also started to think of all those people in the banking industry that come on the news just before the Great Recession and said how everything was fine. It’s important to have your own view, something that you derive, with the information that you’ve collected. It’s dangerously easy to blindly follow the crowd and this can get you hurt. One of the keys to investing is being able to see where the crowd is going and how its direction can be an opportunity. This requires you to separate yourself from the crowd and think rationally, which sounds easy, but in reality is difficult to do.

“My father taught me the importance of saving early and saving often, which translates into investing early and investing often.” Joe Lee P.106

I liked this quote for a couple reasons. The first reason is that people who are great at building wealth are those who are intentional about systematically putting money towards their investments on a regular basis. The second reason is that it differentiates savings and investing. Yes, there is a difference. Savings is what you have in your checking or savings account at your bank earning next to nothing but that you can access quickly for emergencies or buying opportunities. An investment on the other hand is something that provides a return: a crucial aspect of developing wealth.

Overall the book is worth the read and Claman saves the best for last. One of the best pieces of advice is at the very end so at least read the last few pages. Enjoy! 🙂

Goals, Plans, and The 3 Keys to Wealth Building

Most of us have dreamed of someday being financially wealthy but how do we actually become wealthy? Here’s the 101 on building wealth. If you can learn to do these things well then you’ll find yourself on the path to financial success.

The first step to wealth building is to create goals. In order to set a goal you need to figure out what it is that you really want to achieve. Maybe your goal is to have a comfortable retirement where you can afford not to worry about working and can focus on spending more time with your family. Maybe your goal is to save up for you child’s college education. Whatever you goals are you must be able to define them. For example, your goal should be something like: when I’m 65 I want to have at least $500,000.00 in my retirement fund.

Once you have determined your goals you must create a plan to achieve your goals. Your plan should consist of a step by step process that will get from where you are now to where you want to be. Incorporating a forecast into your plan is very helpful. To build on our previous example, in order to have $500,000.00 I will need to put away at least $410.00 every month for 30 years at 7% compounded interest. The steps here are simply to put $410.00 away every month in an investment.

Key # 1 to wealth building is to maximize income. The idea of this key is to figure out ways to bring in the most amount of income that you can. To do this you could look at several different opportunities in your life. Maybe you could ask for an extra shift at work, maybe you have a hobby that you could monetize, or maybe you need to find a better paying job. For a business owner, maybe it would consist of taking on a new client.

Key #2 is to minimize spending. One of the ways to do this is look at your recent checking account statements and ask yourself what expenses you can do without. Did you really need all of those expensive espressos at the drive up coffee stand or could you have brewed your own coffee? Did you need to go out to eat so often or could you cut back and save some money there? The main idea of this key is to find ways to cut out unnecessary expenses.

Key #3 is to maximize your contributions to investments. Your goal with this key should be to invest enough to eventually achieve financial independence. Financial independence means that your investments will eventually be making you more money on an annual basis than the amount of your annual expenses. In other words at the end of the year you’ll have more money than you started the year with even after all of the expenses for that year. This is an excellent retirement goal. There are many different types of investments out there like rentals, mutual funds, and many more. The investment that you invest in will depend on things like risk tolerance, investment duration, and cash flow requirements.

To wrap things up make sure to remember that to maximize building wealth you must have goals, create a plan, and follow the three wealth building keys: maximize income, minimize expenses, and maximize investing.

What is a goal?

A goal is a declared result where you must put forth some level of work in order to achieve the declared result. Goals can be anything that you desire. They can be an interpretation of your dreams. For example, maybe you’ve dreamt of having a beautiful home that you imagine you and your family living in, well, buying that home can be your goal. Goals are a crucial part of wealth building because they help give us direction and motivation.

Success is hard to reach without goals. There have been many times in my life where I’ve witnessed people who worked really hard but didn’t have any defined financial goals. Many years later these people wondered why they weren’t getting ahead financially even though they were making good money at their job. They ended up squandering their money without really even noticing it. I’m sure that we can all relate to not knowing where the money goes at times, but all that changes with goal setting and planning.

After you set your goals create a plan in order to achieve your goals. When you’re setting goals for wealth building make a forecast (see April Blog post and Financial Tools link) so that you have a way to measure your financial progress. I like to use spreadsheet software like Excel. Computer spreadsheets are easy to customize and make adding the columns and rows easy. They’re also great for long term planning because they can be easily reproduced to forecast years and years into the future.

A goal and a plan are crucial parts of building wealth because they act as our roadmap to building wealth. Goals are the most useful for building wealth building when they are: clear, measurable, attainable, intimidating, inspiring, rewarding, difficult, and motivating.

The following steps can be used to help you create the financial future you’ve been dreaming of.

The 7 steps to Financial Goal Setting:

Step 1: Figure out what your dreams are.

Step 2: From your dreams identify your goals.

Step 3: Create a plan in order to achieve your goals.

Step 4: Track your progress so you know how you’re doing.

Step 5: When you reach your goals, stop and enjoy your achievement.

Step 6: Focus on your next goal on the list.

Step 7: Remember to enjoy the journey at every step!