Best of the week – February 28, 2015

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week…

The Problem With Tithing Your Time

I have often heard people who are struggling financially suggest they are giving of their time instead because they simply don’t have enough money left over at the end of the month to give a tithe from their income. I know it is hard to give when you aren’t sure how all the bills are going to be paid. I have been there myself. I once had a pastor though who asked the question, “Do you believe you can do more with 100% of your income than you and God can do with 90%?” That statement has always stuck with me. When I was laid off from my job a few years ago, we tithed on my unemployment checks and even on my severance check. While those tithe checks weren’t always easy to write, God was always faithful in providing.

Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life

So often the choices we make when it comes to money have very little to do with math and everything to do with our attitudes. A little change in how we look at things can make a huge difference in our success.

5 questions to ask before an impulse purchase

Impulse purchases get most of us at one time or another and not all impulse purchases are bad. But I am sure you can remember many times when you bought something on impulse and a day or two later wondered just what you were thinking. I know I have. My best tip for when you are tempted by an impulse purchase is sleep on it. The item will still be there tomorrow, and if it isn’t then maybe that’s God’s way of saying you weren’t supposed to buy it anyway. I don’t know how many times I have applied this principle and woke up the next morning realizing I really didn’t need or even want that item I was so convinced I had to have.

3 Financial Principles I Wish My Parents Had Taught Me

Simple lessons, but lessons so many people fail to follow.

10 costly mistakes shoppers make at supermarkets

Food is often one of the larger items on our monthly budget. The good news though is this is also one area where there are often many ways to save.

50 Fun Things to Do When You’re Stuck Inside During Winter

Hopefully, wherever you live you’re experiencing better weather, but where I am they are predicting another 6-10 inches of snow this weekend. If you are getting tired of being cooped up by nasty weather, here are some fun ideas for making the best of it.

Underestimating the price of integrity

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. – Dwight Eisenhower

Brian Williams has been in the news much lately, though not for the reasons that he would have wished. Williams claimed that during the US invasion of Iraq many years ago, he had been on a US helicopter that was shot down by ground fire. It turns out that was not entirely accurate. While he was on a helicopter in Iraq, the one he was riding in was not hit by ground fire.

As a result, Williams has been suspended for 6 months from his job as anchor for NBC’s Nightly News. The fallout from the scandal has continued as he has had to resign from other positions he held, had speaking engagements canceled, not to mentioned suffered perhaps irreparable damage to his reputation.

Integrity matters

Williams is hardly the only famous person to suffer for a lapse of judgement. Almost 15 years ago George O’Leary Integritywas hired as head football coach at the the University of Notre Dame, one of the most prestigious jobs in all of college football. Five days later he was forced to resign after it was found he had lied on his resume about an academic degree he really didn’t have.

Pete Rose was famously banned from baseball many years ago when it was discovered he had bet on baseball games. Despite knowing this was considered a cardinal sin of the baseball world, he chose to break the rules and threw away a career, a passion and a spot in the baseball Hall of Fame.

Incredibly, Lance Armstrong won an unprecedented 7 consecutive Tour de France titles. Add to that overcoming cancer and becoming a world famous fund raiser for cancer research, and he became one of the most famous and respected athletes in the world. Yet it all crumbled when it was discovered he had cheated through doping to win those titles.

My point here isn’t to cast stones at Williams or O’Leary or Rose or Armstrong. The point is integrity matters. Seemingly small decisions can change the course of our lives, ruining a lifetime of hard work.

Living a life of integrity

The book of Proverbs has much to say about integrity.

The integrity of the upright will guide them, `But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them. Proverbs 11:3

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. Proverbs 28:10

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. Proverbs 10:9

What is the price of your integrity? How valuable is your reputation?

It might be tempting to exaggerate the truth just a little to make ourselves look a little better. To cut a few corners or bend the rules just a little to gain an advantage.

We make little choices that we don’t think have much impact. But in truth when we do that we are selling little bits of our integrity.

In his book, The Millionaire Mind, Thomas Stanley studied a group of deca-millionaires. That is those with a net worth of at least 10 million dollars or more. He studied what characteristics were most common among these people.

You might think that for some one to amass that kind of wealth that a high degree of intelligence or education would be the most common traits. What Stanley found though was the most common characteristic among these deca-millionaires was actually exceptional levels of integrity.

The cost of integrity

For Williams, O’Leary, Rose and Armstrong these mistakes may have literally cost them hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.

For you, the stakes may not be that high. You may never have the earning potential and endorsement opportunities that they had, but a lack of integrity can still do great harm to your finances.

Think about it. If you were looking to hire you and you found some “exaggerations” on your resume, would you go through with the hire? Or would you wonder what other half truths might there be that you had not yet discovered?

If it is time for promotions and you were the one making the decisions, do you promote the person who has shown themselves trust worthy or the one you have to watch closely because you are never quite sure what they are doing behind your back?

Now I know that there are exceptions. You may know someone that has tried to cheat the system and seemingly got away with it. But I think those who do that are usually found out eventually. Honesty and integrity almost always win in the long run. You can see that in the study Thomas Stanley did. There is a reason that integrity was the number one character trait of those deca-millionaires he studied.

Priceless

But more important even than financial considerations, what is the value of a good name? What is it worth to be  known as someone who can be counted on? Is there a price for your integrity?

We can spend a lifetime building a good name, but sadly we can throw it all away in a few moments with a lapse of integrity.

Best of the week – February 21, 2015

Here are some articles that caught my eye this week….

Silas and his self-imposed “budget” (AKA: Yes, your children are watching you!)

Loved this story. Our children are watching. We can tell them what to do, but our actions will often make a much greater impact than our words. Don’t lose heart though if you have made mistakes with money. You can use your mistakes as learning opportunities too.

What Does It Mean To Be a Christian Money Manager?

For those of us who are Christians, we have probably heard at some point verses that tell us that all we have belongs to the Lord. Intellectually on some level we may even say we believe that. But if we really believe that all we have belongs to the Lord and we are just managers of it, do our actions show it?

11 strategies for saving on groceries without clipping coupons

I still believe coupons can be an effective way to save, but they are hardly the only way to to save. We have often found a store brand for less than the name brand with the coupon. Some store brands are noticeably inferior, but most we have tried are indistinguishable from the name brand. The most important key is to know the going prices for the items you buy most often. As with almost every type of purchase, the person with the most information will get the best deal.

Before Your Next Purchase, Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

Here a three unique perspectives on making a purchase that you probably have not considered before.

5 Reasons to Put Your Retirement Plans Ahead of Your Children’s College

As parents we want our kids to have every opportunity in life. One of those opportunities is getting a college education. While it would be great to be able to pay for your children’s education, it is important to make sure you don’t prioritize college over your own retirement savings. The truth is your child has options for paying for their education. When you are 65 or 70 years old you may not have options for funding your retirement.

7 Ways to Save Money Through Your Employer

Many companies have the ability to get volume discounts on the items they purchase and often the suppliers may provide you with the same discounts on your purchases.

21 financial quotes from our past Presidents

In honor of President’s Day which we celebrate this week in America, here are 21 quotes from some of our former Presidents, on money, debt, work, and success.Financial Quotes from our past Presidents

All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation. -John Adams

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government. -Thomas Jefferson

In today’s knowledge-based economy, what you earn depends on what you learn. -William J. Clinton

 

“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose. ” – Jimmy Carter

Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets. -Ronald Reagan

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life. -Theodore Roosevelt

Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble. -George Washington

I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty. – Woodrow Wilson

I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form. – Calvin Coolidge

The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own. – John Adams

Honor lies in honest toil. – Grover Cleveland

I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process. – Benjamin Harrison

Work is about more than making a living, as vital as that is. It’s fundamental to human dignity, to our sense of self-worth as useful, independent, free people. – William J. Clinton

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

You must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. – Andrew Jackson

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. – Thomas Jefferson

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. – Abraham Lincoln

We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. – Ronald Reagan

With self-discipline most anything is possible. – Theodore Roosevelt

Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality. – John Tyler

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. – Woodrow Wilson

 

Learning to practice “And” compassion

compassionYou are watching the news one night and you see a tragic story about a family in town that had their home destroyed by fire. They got out safely but have lost all they own.

Or perhaps you are sitting at church one Sunday and the special guest is a missionary from an underdeveloped country talking about the orphans in their community that have literally nothing.

Perhaps you hear that the young lady with two young kids and a husband serving in the military overseas who lives just down the street is really struggling to make ends meet and her car just broke down.

We hear about situations like this from time to time. Our hearts go out to those who we hear are struggling and hurting. While we may feel compassion, the question is what do we do about it?

Too often we hear of someone who is struggling. We feel sympathy for them. We might even think about how we might be able to help. But then life gets busy. Pretty soon it is forgotten. Lost in our maze of work and family responsibilities. I don’t say this to lay a guilt trip on anyone. I am often guilty of this as well.

Practicing “And” compassion

I recently heard a message where it was noted that Jesus practiced “And” compassion.

Note the scriptures below, my emphasis added.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. – Matthew 14:14

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. – Matthew 20:34

And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. – Mark 6:34

Jesus often had compassion on the people he came in contact with but it didn’t stop there. His compassion led him to take action. He had compassion and he did something about it.

Actions matter

James tells us:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? – James 2:14-16

Compassion doesn’t do much to help the hurting. Compassion only matters when it spurs us on to action.

The real problem of debt

I believe many times the real problem for most of us is not that we don’t care or that we turn a deaf ear to those who are hurting. I believe most people would like to be able to help, but the problem is we are barely making it ourselves. It is very hard to lend a helping hand to the drowning when we are treading water neck-deep ourselves.

This is one of the real problems with debt. Debt is a thief. It steals our peace. It steals our ability to succeed. And maybe most importantly it steals our ability to be a blessing to others. I hate what debt does to us, and I want you to learn to hate debt too.

This is the real purpose of the wealth God blesses us with. Sure part of it is so we can take care our family, plan for our future, and enjoy some of what God has given us. But after those basic needs are met we can turn our eyes outward to those around us that are in need and hurting. That is only possible though when we have a surplus to give from. When we are enslaved to debt, it is hard to be generous.

Learn to practice “And” compassion

If you are buried in debt, I urge you to use your compassion as a driving force for getting out of debt knowing that if you had a little more margin in your life you would be able to help those in need.

If you are doing OK financially, then I really challenge you to open your eyes to those around you. Don’t be satisfied with simply feeling compassion for those you see in need. Do something to help!

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

Who could you show “And” Compassion to this week?

How to make the lower gas prices really count

If you are like me, you are probably loving the lower gas prices we have experienced in the last two or three months. Honestly, I did not expect I would ever see gas drop below $2 a gallon again in my lifetime. When I have been accustomed to paying $40 to $50 to fill up, struggling to get $20 worth of gas in my vehicle is a pretty cool feeling.gas prices

If you don’t drive that much then perhaps the lower gas prices haven’t affected you too much, but if you are like me and have a fairly significant commute each day, the lower gas prices are really significant.

So the question is, what are you doing with the money you are saving by having the lower gas prices? If you don’t have a plan, that extra money is probably just slipping away a little here and a little there.

Lower prices not here to stay

I don’t know when it will happen, but I can be fairly confident in saying that two dollar gas will probably not be here to stay. I will enjoy it as long as possible, but eventually gas prices are certain to rise. Hopefully, it will be a while before we see four dollars a gallon again, but no doubt it will come.

So when the inevitable happens and gas prices rise, will you be prepared? Or have you found other ways to spend that extra money so that when gas prices rise will you be hurting financially?

Continue to plan as if gas prices were higher

What if instead you were to continue to budget as if gas prices were still near four dollars a gallon?

When gas prices do rise back up to more normal levels you will be prepared because you are already budgeting that amount.

Until that happens you could take that extra savings and:

  • Pay extra on some of that debt you have
  • Start a car replacement fund so that the next time you need to buy a vehicle you can pay with cash
  • Beef up your emergency savings. If you have none today, use this money to get started. If you currently have 3 months of savings see if you can get that up to 4 to 6 months of savings.
  • Start a vacation fund so you can pay cash for your vacation this summer and not have the bills follow you home.
  • Start a Roth IRA.
  • Give a little extra to your church or a favorite charity.
  • Save for some needed home repairs
  • And lastly but just as importantly, enjoy some of the money. Buy something you have been wanting for a while.

Be intentional

The key is whatever you do, be intentional about it. If you do much driving, these lower gas prices have been a real boon for your monthly budget. Use that extra money to make a difference either for yourself or for others, or use some for your enjoyment. Just don’t allow this blessing to fritter away a few dollars at a time.

How are you using the extra money you have in the budget each month while we enjoy lower gas prices?

How Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump and what it means for your finances today

You may have never heard about Dick Fosbury, but his willingness to think outside the box revolutionized the track and field high jump competition. Prior to Fosbury the predominant method used by jumpers was something known as the “straddle method“. Jumpers would try to straddle the bar jumping face down and sideways over the bar. It was the conventional approach that almost all jumpers used.

Thinking outside the box

Fosbury determined to find a better way. He experimented with different techniques and some have said in the early days he appeared to be suffering a mid-air seizure as he attempted to cross the bar. Eventually, he settled on a technique where he would turn his back to the bar just as he got to it and then jumped backwards over the bar kicking his legs up at the last instant to clear the bar. The technique required him to jump backwards and headfirst over the bar.

Many thought the technique was dangerous. Others doubted that he could ever be successful. Even his freshman track coach at Oregon State insisted that he practice the more conventional straddle method, although he did relent and allow him to use his new methods in meets. When he shattered the school record with a jump of 6’10” during his sophomore his coach finally gave in and accepted that this new technique which became known as the “Fosbury Flop” might actually have merit.

In 1968, Fosbury won the conference title and then an NCAA championship in the high jump. He went on to attempt to qualify for the Olympic team. Many were skeptical if he could produce the same results at the high altitude of Mexico City where the 1968 games were to be held. He proved his doubters wrong though with a jump of 7 feet 4 1/4 inches which broke the US and Olympic records and gave Fosbury the gold medal. It changed the world of high jumping forever as the “Fosbury Flop” became the technique that nearly all jumpers use.

Don’t be like everyone else

You say, “Bob that’s a great, inspiring story but how does that change my finances?”

The point is Fosbury refused to just follow the crowd and do what everyone else did. He was willing to try something different even if it meant some wouldn’t understand. Even if some made fun of him and his coaches were slow to accept his ideas, he was willing to press ahead with what he knew he had to do to succeed.

I think the same is true for your financial situation today. I believe one reason why so many people struggle financially is because they just stumble along doing what every one else is doing. Normal finances for most people today is broke and up to our eyeballs in debt.

We buy a new car every 3 or 4 years because that’s what everyone else does. We believe the lie that you’ll always have a car payment.

Our kids graduate from college with thousands of dollars in debt because no one can get a degree without student loans.

We live our life on credit cards because that’s what all our friends do. After all “Life takes VISA” right?

We struggle getting by from one paycheck to the next, never saving much, never really making much progress because we are drowning in debt.

Sounds familiar? It is the story for far too many. For many years it was my story too.

Be willing to be different

But what if you decided to live a different way.

  • What if you were were willing to sacrifice in the short-term so that you could succeed in the long-term?
  • What if for a time you were willing to get a second or a third job to really go after that debt?
  • What if you were willing to drive a clunker for a few years so that later you could drive in style with cash?
  • What if you decided that you were no longer going to play around with credit cards and determined that if you didn’t have the cash that meant you couldn’t afford it and had to say no to yourself?
  • What if you were to live on a spending plan so you were prioritizing what you did with your money instead of just gliding along allowing life to happen to you?
  • What if you decided that your debts never brought blessings to your life and you were determined to do whatever it took to have a different life?
  • What if you decided that the writer of Proverbs was right when he said “The borrower is a slave to the lender”?

If you did that would everyone understand? Might some think that you went off the deep end? Sure, just like many questioned Dick Fosbury when he was willing to go against “What everyone else was doing”, there may be some people in your life who will wonder what you are doing.

But if you want a different life than the average person who is struggling with debt, you need to be willing to do something different than the average person.

I’m not suggesting living like a miser of the rest of your life. That’s not healthy either. But you may need to sacrifice deeply for a short time so that you can get yourself to a point where those sacrifices are no longer necessary and you do the things you dream about.

You can do it! We did. Is it easy to pay off debt? Of course not. It’s hard. But anytime you step out and decide to do things different than all those around you, you will face struggles. But just like those struggles led Dick Fosbury to the gold medal platform in Mexico City in 1968, I believe you will find the sacrifices worth it in your financial situation too!

If you’d like to talk further about what steps you can take to get out of debt and start living a different life, contact me. I’d be happy to talk to you.

11 ways to save when eating out

I enjoy eating out at a nice restaurant. My wife is a terrific cook, but it is still fun to go out to eat once in a while. (Not to mention she kind of likes getting a break from cooking!) However, as nice as it is to eat out, those restaurant bills can take a big bite out of your wallet.ways to save when eating

In my experience, one of the areas that many people find most surprising when they first sit down and do a budget is just how much they are actually spending each month on eating out. The good news is this is a category that is very much under your control. If you are struggling to get by or to pay off debt, your dining out budget item is a great place to start. It will almost always be cheaper to eat at home.

However, even if you are struggling, it is still nice to be able to eat out once in a while to celebrate some good news or a birthday or anniversary. Even if you are doing well, you might still want to make your dollars go as far as possible. Here are some ways to save when eating out:

1. Ask!

Ask your server or hostess if there are any special deals today. The worst that can happen is they say no. You might be surprised what is available.

2. Go for lunch

Especially at nicer restaurants, the lunch menu is often significantly cheaper than the dinner menu. Lunch portions may be smaller, but most restaurant portions are over-sized anyway.

3. Drink water

Soft drinks usually have huge mark ups, and alcohol is even worse. Drink water. Think about it. Are you coming to enjoy that nice juicy steak? Or a coke that is no different than the 12 pack you have in the fridge? Spend your money on what makes eating out special.

4. Share

Restaurant portions are often well over-sized. Consider sharing a meal with your spouse or a friend. Or if you don’t want to do that take some home in a doggy bag and you can enjoy it again for lunch the next day. That way you are essentially getting two meals for the price of one.

5. Restaurant.com

Restaurant.com is a site that allows you to buy certificates to area restaurants. I have used it to get $25 gift certificates for less than $5. Two caveats though to be aware of with Restaurant.com: First, participating restaurants vary greatly depending on where you live. Second, you need to be careful to read the fine print. Many offers have restrictions; there may be minimum purchases required. For example, I once bought a $25 certificate for $5, but found it required a $40 purchase to use it. That’s still a good deal as I was getting a $40 meal for only $20, but it wasn’t quite as good a deal as it might appear at first glance. So read the fine print to avoid surprises.

6. Daily deal sites like Groupon

Many daily deal sites like Groupon or Living Social frequently have savings coupons for local restaurants.  Like restaurant.com though, just make sure you read the fine print for any restrictions. Most of these offers have an expiration as well, so be sure you will be able to use it before the offer expires.

7. RetailMeNot.com

RetailMeNot is another great site for finding savings opportunities on a wide variety of products. Food is no exception as there is an entire section devoted to restaurant coupons.

8. Check the web site

Before you go, check the restaurant website. Some restaurants have special deals or coupons you can print directly from their web site.

9. Join loyalty programs

If you have establishments that you go to frequently, sign up for any loyalty programs they might have. Often these programs may provide you with a free appetizer after spending a certain amount of money, or perhaps a pizza shop might give a free pizza every X purchases.

10. Follow them on Facebook

If you are a user of Facebook, follow any restaurants you regularly frequent. Some restaurants post deals occasionally just for their loyal Facebook subscribers, or at the least it may be a good way to find out what deals may be available.

11. Discounted gift cards

There are many sites that specialize in buying gift cards and reselling them at a discounted rate. Sites like E-bay, GiftCardGranny, and CardPool are popular places to find discounted gift cards. If you can buy a $50 card for $45, you just saved 10% on your meal. Just be careful that you buy these from a reputable site that verifies the cards being sold are valid.

What tricks have you used to save when eating out?

Why our New Year’s Resolutions often fail and what to do about it

The end of an old year and the start of a new year just naturally leads us to be a little more reflective. That’s why so many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. We look back at the past year. Determine areas of our lives that we wish were better and resolve to change in the new year.

But we also all know how effective those New Year’s resolutions often are. A week in. Couple weeks. Maybe by Feb. 1. Most of our resolutions along with all those good intentions are forgotten.New Year's resolutions

Change is hard

We are often talking about habits. Habits are comfortable, even when they are unhealthy. Habits don’t require much thought, and typically they don’t really require much will power. Habits are the default. Habits are like auto-pilot.

Changing those habits requires effort. It may require a different way of thinking. It may require learning some new skills or behaviors. It often means moving outside our comfort zone. While intellectually we know that taking the medicine will be for our longer-term good, that doesn’t change the short-term bad taste. And so it is easier to just slip back into our comfortable routine.

Letting your dissatisfaction drive you to change

I love this quote by Douglas Horton:

Change occurs in direct proportion to dissatisfaction, but dissatisfaction never changes.

Most people only change when we reach the point of being fed up with our current situation, but too often we become comfortable in our dissatisfaction.

Dave Ramsey says that we are often like a toddler with a messy diaper. “I know it smells bad, but it’s warm and it’s mine.”

It feels easier to bemoan our circumstances. We might blame others. If only I hadn’t got laid off from that job or the marriage that ended in divorce or the business relationship that went sour. Perhaps we feel a victim. My car broke down so I had to go buy a new one even though the payments are killing me. I know I should have more saved for retirement, but now at my age it’s just too late. I didn’t want to charge up my credit card, but the water heater broke, and I needed new tires, and the kids needed new clothes for school, and, and, and….

While it may “feel” easier to just complain about the unfairness of life, living in our dissatisfaction doesn’t do anything to help clean up the messy diaper we are sitting in.

Taking steps toward a better year

So perhaps you can’t fix all your problems in one week or even one month. But what if you committed to take at least one step this year toward a better life?

You can’t change the things that have happened in the past to get you to this point. But you can change what you will do in the future.

Are you drowning in debt? Make it a goal to start paying it off. List them all smallest to largest. Start chipping away at that smallest one. When it’s gone take that payment and start chipping away at the next smallest.

No emergency savings? Commit to putting away whatever you can each month. Ideally, you should have at least 3-6 months of expenses, but even if you can start to put a few dollars from each pay away you’ll be better off than if you did nothing.

No retirement savings? Start contributing to your 401K today if you have one at work, or if you don’t, open a retirement account to start saving. If you aren’t sure how to do this, find a good financial advisor to help you get started. You say “But Bob that would be great if I was 20 but I am too old to start now.” Certainly the younger you are when you start to save the easier it is. But there is an old proverb that says the best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. If you are getting started late ask yourself if you would be better off with 10 or 20 thousand in savings or with nothing, which is what you’ll have if you take no action. Any savings is better than no savings.

Where do you want to be one year from now?

So here is the question before you. Where do you want to be on January 1, 2016? How about January 1, 2020?

Time will pass regardless of what you do. You can continue to struggle with the same issues, or you can decide to day to make the hard choice to change.

Consider this. Suppose you set a goal of saving $100 a month this year to start to build some emergency savings, but then life happens and you fail to reach your goal. You manage just half of that. That still means you have $600 sitting there to help you in the case of an emergency that you don’t have today. That’s progress!

Lastly, give yourself some grace. Perhaps you have made mistakes with money that have gotten you where you are. You can’t change the past. But your past doesn’t have to define your future. You can decide today to start making wiser decisions from this day forward. Your financial life may not change over night, but I guarantee you will be better off 12 months from now than you are today.

If you have work to do in some of these areas and would like some one to help walk you through it, feel free to contact me. I would love to help.

What change are you making this year?