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Monday, December 28, 2015

Why A 4-Year College Is No Longer the Right Path for High School Graduates

I worked with teenagers at the high school level for fourteen years as a teacher and as an assistant principal.  What I learned from them is that they are highly motivated by the fear of missing out.  Yes, they act like reckless, nearly indestructible beings with their reptilian brains.  But deep down they are like frightened tiny mammals hiding from a predator...the unknown.

The dance.  The football game.  The rally.  Why did you go to these events as a high school student?  Was it because your friends were going?  Maybe.  Was it because the cute guy or girl you had a crush on was gonna be there?  Sure.  Still, you just knew you had to be there, right?  The unwritten rule of popularity is to show up at social gatherings and make your presence felt.





The fear of missing out on the experiences that are associated with college life unsettle the average teen.  Only "losers" end-up getting a job, and not furthering their education.  Going to junior college is also deplorable to many teens.  I've yet to have a single teenager smile proudly when telling me they are off to the local community college.  Indeed, for many teenagers, not getting into a four-year college is their first real life failure.  At least they think it is.

The five reasons below provide support for delaying committing to a 4-year college right after high school:

1.  Today's teenagers are far less independent than those of previous generations.  I betcha that five out of ten teenagers couldn't get on a public bus successfully these days.  Parents are doing more for their kids than ever before.  Thus, teens should postpone their 4-year college days until their twenties when they're more mature.



2.  4-year colleges are expensive, and should now only be for adults who have a strong idea of what they want to do after college.  This includes having an employment plan of action for after college.  In other words, going to a university because your parents want you to go, or because you'll be the odd man out at school if you don't, is complete nonsense.  Similarly, hoping to find your calling during your freshman or sophomore year is complete idiocy.





3.  You won't have enough money.  Chances are there is no college fund waiting for you.  Work a few years while living at home with your parents, and save enough for a couple of years at a public university.  Gain life experiences like holding down a job, and managing the money you make.  You'll be a better consumer of a college education once you do apply and get accepted to a university.  Even with a plush FAFSA package, you will most likely still need at least one loan to cover the rest.

4.  Universities still offer the same tried and obsolete majors.  When you look at the offerings, all universities still sell freshman the same disciplines from the 20th century, namely, psychology, history, sociology, philosophy, English, biology, etc.  Only about 10% of these majors lead to a job directly after the degree is earned.  The best universities allow students to create their own majors (liberal arts programs).  Therefore, students should complete their first two years (general ed) at a low-cost junior college, and then apply to a university that offers a design your major program.




5.  High school graduates don't know enough about money.  It's true...I saw their ignorance first hand!  Universities are like shark infested waters and your teen is a guppy.  Money decision-making has become more of an important skill over the past ten years with the wealth gap continuing to grow.  This is why staying home, taking classes at the local junior college, working a job or two, and getting more hours in the real world, makes more sense now than ever before.

The "right" path to take after high school today is not committing to a four-year college/university...unless of course you have a free ride.  There is no question that the better option is to attend a two-year, community college after high school.  Even the most brilliant students can gain valuable insight about the world spending their first two years taking classes with older adults, and working part-time.  Junior college graduates will be in a completely different pool for slots at a prestigious university as transfer students...yet another reason to postpone 4-year college.

Thanks for reading this far!  Until next time.        

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

5 Financial New Year's Resolutions for 2016

Can you believe it?  2015 is practically over!  I can't believe how fast this year went by.  Can you?  December is the month to look back and look forward.  Put your introspective hat on and come up with as many financial mistakes that you can remember.  The more the better.  From this list of blunders, create financial resolutions for the new year.

I know it's hard.  We are naturally wired to forget the things that cause us pain, especially money decisions that left us broke or struggling even more.  But remember we must!  Or we are doomed to repeat the past.  These are some of the financial mistakes I made last year:

1.  Not building a sufficient cushion with my rental income.  I kept taking the money out and using it elsewhere.  Some of the money was put to use buying stock, reducing my liquidity.  I loaned $1,200 to family and have only seen $500 of it back.  Of course during the year there was a major issue with one of my properties and I didn't have the money in my rental business account to cover.

So my first financial New Year's Resolution for 2016 is: Let the income coming from rents of my three rentals mount until I have three months of mortgage payments for each property saved up.

This is akin to having an emergency fund.  My emergency fund allowed me to be able to stroke the mortgages on my properties for a month without the need to use credit cards.  Do you have an emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses?

2.  Not using my credit cards enough.  My credit scores are near 800.  But they could be way past 800 if I actually used my credit cards.  Inactivity is a thing, people.  It costs you credit score points to have a credit card and simply not use it.  I was reticent to use my two cards out of sheer laziness of having to deal with a bill or an online session.  There are so many cash back rewards perks I could've taken advantage of.  My Chase card, e.g., gives me the opportunity to earn cash back on certain purchases throughout the year.  I threw these mailings and notifications away every time.  And it's not like I was going to forget to pay the balance at the end of the month, and have an interest payment.  I'm super on top of things.  With credit and lending standards tightening much more, as a result of the Federal Reserve hiking the Fed Funds Rate, now is the time to bulk up your credit score.  So...



My second financial New Year's Resolution is:  Use my credit cards.  If you're afraid to use your credit cards frequently, maybe because you had a bad experience, etc., I advise you to visit Credit Card Insider.com.  The content on this site is trustworthy, rich in financial information, and useful to everyone, especially College Students, who could benefit and learn more about student credit cards.

3.  Not giving more.  I gave this year to several school clubs and to homeless people on the streets.  I didn't give much to non-profits with great causes.  Giving more is the single greatest motivator for making more money.  Great things come to people who understand that the purpose of becoming wealthy is to make an impact on the world.  Sure there are tax benefits to giving to charity.  But finding something you are passionate about, like feeding hungry children around the world, tugs at your mind, heart, and soul.


My third financial New Year's Resolution is: To research and find a great charity to give money to.

4.  Not contributing enough to my Roth IRA.  This was one of the worst years I've had to date to add funds to my retirement within my Roth IRA.  The Gomez's had a bunch of expenses that hit us hard this year.  We had a termite infestation, a tree that needed removing, a speeding ticket, a refrigerator that needed repair, and we put the kids in pre-school twice a week.  The result:  I've contributed less than $1000 so far.  I have until April 2016 to get closer to the $5,500 limit.

My fourth financial New Year's Resolution is: To automate my Roth IRA contributions.  You have to pay yourself first!  Don't wait until the end of the month to make a cash contribution to your Roth IRA, like I did.  Don't skip a month either.  Even a small contribution is better than none at all.

5.  Not getting a will.  I'm not ready to transfer my assets to a living trust.  Nor do I have the time to manage one.  The cost of a will is a fraction of that of a living trust.  Not having a will is irresponsible of me. So...

My fifth financial New Year's Resolution is:  To set-up a Last Will and Testament at a discount legal services site like, LegalZoom.com.  If you have children, you need to do something similar, if not the same.




These were the top five financial mistakes I made in 2015.  And as you can see, I've used them to make financial New Year's Resolutions for 2016.  You may have made many financial mistakes of your own.  Trying to attend to all of them in 2016 is foolish.  Work on those first that make the greatest impact to your financial health.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time.       

Friday, December 18, 2015

7 Sources of Retirement Income

They did it!  The Federal Reserve made good on their promise and raised the Fed funds rate by a quarter percent this week.  For all of you with adjustable rate anything, be it credit cards, car loans, a mortgage, it is now time to put the debt to sleep or lock down a fixed rate.  It's only going to get worse for anyone borrowing money, and just a tiny bit better for savers looking to get better rates on CD's and money market accounts.





Who knows what 10-year T-notes will do.  Maybe now they'll start heading the other direction and provide risk-averse investors better returns.  Rock bottom Treasury rates have punished retirees needing income for many years now.  It now takes a cool mil to get 50% of your income from safe yield.  See: You Need $1M to Retire...  Where will the other 50% of your pre-retirement income come from?  That's what this post is all about.  So let's begin.

1.  Risky paper assets.  If your portfolio is entirely in securities as you build your nest egg throughout your career, then you won't have many alternatives for income other than paid dividends or liquidating your holdings periodically.  You'll also have to pray the market doesn't tank in a major way until after you die.

2.  Safe paper assets.  All sorts of bonds are available and do provide steady, reliable income during retirement.  Of course, you'll need to do more of your homework if you shoot for higher yield and decide to purchase anything outside the realm of US Treasuries, e.g., munis, junk bonds, etc.  How about a CD?  Certificates of Depreciation...ooops, I meant, Deposit...are loved by the general public because they are super safe.  If you're going to put your money in CD's, at least buy more than one with your money, and stagger them in increments of three to twelve months.  Known as a CD ladder, by investing your money in equal amounts in more than one CD with different maturity dates, you'll reduce both interest rate and re-investment risk.  Meaning, you may just lock in a better rate in a CD you buy down the line, AND, when it comes time to re-invest, you may decide it's okay because you have other money becoming available to you in the near future from an older CD.  




3.  Annuities.  With an annuity you can have a fixed sum of money paid to you each month after retirement.  You can build your annuity tax deferred throughout your career as I am currently doing with my 403b (some people have a 457b which is similar).  Or you can purchase an annuity after retirement.  Your choices will include both a fixed rate or a variable rate (invested in securities).  Heck...you can even buy a deferred annuity and not collect any monthly dough until you're in your seventies.  Meanwhile your money grows.

4.  Cash value.  Have a whole life insurance policy?  I do.  If I were to die today, my family would get about $75K from this policy.  I do have other coverage, but what I like about this one is that as I pay my premiums, I am building a fund that has a surrender cash value each year.  Of course, the big bucks won't be available until 30 years of paying $70 (my current payment) per month.  I won't break even until year 35 or something.  Still, when I decide to stop paying, I'll have another stream of income in retirement!

5.  Rents!  Rental income is my personal favorite.  I've bought three out-of-state rental properties this decade and when I retire, I'll be mostly done paying off these mortgages.  If they don't change the tax code, I'll be able to continue to write off expenses and that is a good thing because I'll have all sorts of streams of retirement income coming in.

6.  Roth IRAs.  At 59.5, I'll be able to tap into my Roth IRA without Uncle Sam taking any of my money.  This is why I am a strong proponent of Roths as opposed to Traditional IRAs.  So if you can do it, get yourself one!  I invest within my Roth IRA and every dollar I make on top of what money I have contributed will also be tax free once I leave the rat race.  You can't beat that.




7.  401ks, Traditional IRAs, DB or DC pensions.  I think everyone is familiar with these so I'll just move along.

The name of the game in retirement is income.  How will you make money when you're not working?  That is the dilemma everyone will have unless they decide to work until they kick the bucket.  That is why there is no better day like the present to start building yourself a diverse collection of retirement funds.  With compound interest at work for you, you'll be surprised at how a little money saved each month turns into a whole lot of money twenty plus years in the future.  So start now!

Until next time.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

7 Financially Sound Things To Do With An Extra $100

A hundred dollars doesn't seem like a lot these days, but never underestimate the impact of a single dollar.  Today's post is on several sound options to put a windfall of $100 to righteous use.  The tendency for people who come into some money, especially a small sum that could've easily been gifted, is to go out and spend.  Why not?  I mean...it's not like you're using any of "your" hard-earned money.

Though it feels good to reward and indulge yourself "playing with the house's money" so to speak, it is a set-back move.  Extra money that comes your way is for moving forward, making headway, or limiting future expenses.  In a country (the U.S.) where the middle-class is no longer the majority, rare opportunities like these, are not to be squandered cementing your lower-class status.

I am about to get paid my $100 Adsense payment from Google.  And I have been thinking hard about what to do with this money soon to arrive in the mail.  This is what the spender in me wants:



This Zipp Speed full carbon fiber water bottle holder weighs only 19 grams!  At $43.75 on ebay, I can afford to equip my bike with two of these, given the $100 smackers.  There is no way to rationalize an expense like this, however, without coming into conflict with your inner thrifty nature.  I can easily find a water bottle cage for far less...albeit, a heavier one.  Boo!  Cyclists love to minimize their bike's total weight.


Couser Canyon Rd. Valley Center, CA 12/12/15


Alright, the financial guru in me knows there are better uses for this money.  I'm here to present 7 financially sound things to do with an extra $100 in your pocket.  Starting with...

1.  A much needed car repair.  I'm on year 8 with my 2007, Honda Civic EX.  It needs new struts and shocks, new tires, and a brake job.  The latter two are high safety needs.  No doubt your used car can use some love too.  After all, the last thing we need is to have to buy a new, used car, shelling out thousands of dollars all over again.  My car is only at 115K miles, so it has a long way to go before I use it as a trade-in.  $100 won't cover these vehicle expenses, but it will help reduce your overall bill if you choose one repair and postpone the others. 

2.  Pay down a credit card (other debt).  Success stories of people who came back from the brink of death with their debt almost always includes people explaining they put every cent they could spare to lower their debt.  $100 can be an extra payment, maybe even two!


Pic from my ride

3.  Add to your emergency savings.  Your emergency savings looking rather flimsy?  You're not alone.  But being in the majority isn't good in this case.  $100 can come in handy one day so at minimum, you are better off putting it in a Brokerage/Money-Market account linked to your checking account.

4.  Put the $100 in your business account and use it to invest in your biz.  That's where my $100 from Google should go.  After all, it was earned from this blog which is part of my personal business.  Business capital should be used to grow your business, a business expense, etc.  A profitable and successful business is the fastest way to build wealth!

5.  Buy stock.  Have shares of publicly traded companies already?  The past week was a buying opportunity, with stocks tanking.  The key to success in stock market investing is to buy when there are several days of selling that have given you an opportunity to buy a great company once again below your cost basis.  $100 may buy you one share, two shares, or more.  I bought Alcoa (AA) last week, a great value play right now, and with this extra $100, I'm gonna buy more!


Pic from my ride


6.  Go to a local Real Estate Investor club, join it, and pay for the yearly dues with the $100.  Aside from networking, you will benefit by learning the ins-and-outs of RE investing.  If RE isn't your thing, find another "investor" club to join.  The main point is to keep learning and expanding your business contacts.

7.  Pay for a weekend night stay at a great hotel for you and your significant other...getting away from the kids.  Ah...but leave the fun for the night.  Instead, use the afternoon time to review your financial house and get it in order.  Better yet, use it to make future financial plans.  You will never be rich if you and your partner fail to communicate on financial matters and goal setting, and this is incredibly hard to do with kids and work taking your every minute. 


pic from my ride

That about raps it up for today.  I sincerely hope you will think hard about any new "extra" money that comes your way in the future.  Until next time!

Monday, December 7, 2015

"Invest In What You Know," Misunderstood.

25 years ago, a successful mutual fund manager, perhaps the greatest of his era and hard to beat even today, coined the expression, "Invest in what you know."  It was taken to heart by all would-be stock investors, albeit, misguidedly.




Legendary Magellan Fund chief, Peter Lynch, whose book, Beating the Street, is one I recommended in 7 Books to Teach You How to Invest in Stocks, had good intentions when he provided those words of investing wisdom.  Unfortunately many people dabbling in the stock market took these words to mean that one had only to know how a business works to make a killing.  For example, say you work at a Starbucks as a barista.  Simply because you can see traffic to your one shop increase over time doesn't mean you should take a stake in SBUX.  Your perception holds tremendous sway and combined with someone's approval, a rockstar someone, it can have expensive consequences.




Simplicity also has a tendency to make us all lazy and overestimate complicated endeavors, like investing in equities!  What's more simple than: "Invest in what you know"?  Everybody knows something, right?  After 25 years, Peter Lynch has finally come out of retirement and taken the time to clarify his famous advice.

The Wall Street Journal's, Chana Schoenberger, had the privilege of getting the long delayed scoop in, Peter Lynch, 25 years later....  Lynch clarifies his investing philosophy to include using fundamental analysis, i.e, analyzing a company's metrics and comparing them to competitors to get an idea of the "intrinsic value" of a stock.  Buying Apple stock because you see a bunch of people buying iPhones at the Apple store, doesn't mean you should bid on AAPL the next day.  Instead, "Use your specialized knowledge to home in on stocks you can analyze, study them and then decide if they’re worth owning. The best way to invest is to look at companies competing in the field where you work."  

People who invest in individual stocks must know how to interpret a company's income and cash flow statement, and balance sheet.  If you can't do that, than you probably shouldn't be taking any stock tips or words of advice...from anyone!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hard Work, Confidence, and This Last Trait Guarantees Success

Can success be guaranteed?  I am of the belief that success can be guaranteed, and you can be successful in any arena.  It just takes three things to reach any individual or professional milestone: Hard work, confidence, and...a quality that is part innate, part developed.  Unfortunately for most of us, this quality is the one we lack the most, and for good reason.

Because nobody likes the feeling of failure, and especially, repeated failure, big-time success is hard to come by.  We don't cultivate the last piece of the success puzzle long enough to let it have impact in our lives.  Consequently, the opposite trait, giving-up before a major breakthrough, is what we cultivate the most.




There have been examples in the past of people whose determinism, so dogged, unshakeable, allowed them to get over the hump of their repeated failures.  There's the notable, Thomas Edison, who would not give up trying to keep a lightbulb lit-up long enough to be of practical use.  Even though the carbon filament kept burning out trial after trial, little by little diminishing the hopes Edison had for a potential product, the project was never scrapped, and the rest as they say is history.

You've probably determined by now that the character trait I am referring to, the one to go hand in hand with hard work and confidence and guarantee success, is none other than grit.  

   

I recently finished reading, The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough.  Mr. McCullough may as well have a time machine that turns on as you open the book and begin to read because his story telling takes you back to the era where flight was believed to be impossible.  One cannot begin to appreciate flight, and the role the gritty Wright bros played in creating a flying machine, without the necessary historical context, masterfully presented by McCullough.  This book is a must read for all inventors, would-be entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, and business owners.

The Wright brothers made a small fortune selling their flying machine, financing their experiments at Kitty Hawk and in Ohio with the cash-flow from a successful bicycle shop business.  They never went to college, yet their mechanical aptitude (and scientific process) was better than the best college educated scientists and engineers of their time.  Goes to show us once again that college is NOT for everyone.

But I come back to what made all of the difference in the Wright bros success, and what will make the difference in your own life when it comes to being successful.  Grit.  These brothers were extremely hard working.  Mr. McCullough is equally relentless in showcasing how busy these Wrights were throughout their lives.  The brothers were confident.  They realized without a shadow of a doubt that if anyone was going to solve the mystery of flight, it would be them.  Not someone else before them.  But it was their innate grit and developed resolve that ultimately made the biggest impact in their quest to create a machine that could easily take off, stay in the air, maneuver on command, and land safely.

Now I come to you.  Do you have true grit?  Can you keep going despite everyone calling you crazy?  That's what the Wright's endured for some time.  Constant ridicule.  How about being called, stubborn?  Are you okay with people, including your loved ones, using this adjective to describe your nature?  If not, you'll never be truly successful because you'll always cut short your trajectory.




The Wright's were not insane.  That's because they made adjustments every time they failed.  In fact, they kept a log book of all of their modifications.  I suggest that for the sake of your own sanity, you do the same thing.  Keep a journal of all the things you've tried, and write down why you think they failed each time.  That way you don't repeat your mistakes.

I've come to the end here.  So remember, it is not enough that you work hard and have confidence in your success.  The last ingredient must be added to the mix.  That's true grit.  I'd tell you, "good luck," in closing, but...you can't count on luck...only what you can control.

Until next time.  If you liked this post, then you should join my ranks as a subscriber!  Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why This Is Hard Work's Right Hand On Your Path To Success

Thanksgiving week is a time to reflect on all of the things you are thankful for.  Certainly number one on your list, just like on my own, is good health.  After all, we cannot take our good health for granted.  The same goes with our families and the bonds that keep them being an integral part of our own lives.  Where would we be without the support of our loved ones?





Now onto the less obvious, but equally important traits that keep us looking golden and feeling one-hundred.  Among these is the previously posted about quality of Hard Work.  If you're a hard worker, consider this another reason to lift your champagne cup this holiday season and take a sip.  Not everyone has this trait.  Success on your terms is almost guaranteed if you are a slave to your dreams.

After some deep reflection, I cannot come up with an alternative number two on the list that accounts for people's personal success.  Hands down the number two factor on my list after hard work is confidence.  Are you a naturally confident person?  Confidence is what feeds the fire of your continuous efforts to make something happen.  Without confidence, future success is nearly impossible to materialize.

Look, I'm a former "illegal alien" who found personal success despite unfavorable odds.  The formula has never failed me: Hard Work + Confidence = Success.   Think of a time you experienced personal success.  Did your success equation include hard work and confidence?  Most likely it did.




How does confidence impact your personal success in today's economy?  Confidence is now more important than humility.  Humility is extremely difficult to pull in the 21st Century.  In 2001, Jim Collins authored what was to be and still is a widely read treatise on leadership: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't.  It is one of my favorite business books.  Collins explained that great businesses (as opposed to good ones) are led by a Level 5 leader, "an executive in whom extreme personal humility blends paradoxically with intense professional will."  If these type of people were scarce then, they are the metaphoric needle in a haystack today.



We are living in an era where confidence is lacking in multiple institutions.  Both the public and private sectors lack trust and confidence in our political leaders.  The public lacks confidence in the private sector to lead us out of our economic stagnation.  We even see a lack of confidence in publicly traded companies.  The evidence is clear.  Many of them would rather buy back their own shares, increase their dividend, or worse, do nothing with their free cashflow, leaving investing in themselves for a more certain tomorrow.  The confidence crisis is real, and exacerbated by the growing global insecurity.

Too much confidence can turn into arrogance, and indeed, even braggadocio.  It used to be a put-off.  Donald Trump has somehow managed to make it into a turn-on, mostly in the eyes of people who lack confidence in themselves...the weak-willed who have found someone in Trump who can get away with saying what they have always wanted to say but didn't...out of fear of sounding racist, sexist, homophobic, wrong, etc.

There is no mistaking the fact that if you are to be successful, you will need to find the right mix of confidence that works for your arena.  This is not the time to have humility, not when the money is chasing the stars and luminosity is your biggest weapon.  So if you're humble...save it!  Save it for a different occasion.  Go out into the world a bundle of confidence day in and day out.  Not you?  Then fake it until you make it because the last thing you want is for someone to mistake your humility for doubt.  Just ask Marissa Mayer at Yahoo Inc. how things are going for her.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time.  Don't forget to subscribe on your way out.
        

Saturday, November 21, 2015

There Is No Substitute For This If You Desire Success

I think we've all become a bunch of pansies, complaining about how bad things are--economically speaking--in our lives constantly.  I admit, I sometimes get into a gripe session here and there.  Do you often go on a rant about your money situation? 

My wife, Jessica, stops me after she's tired of hearing my whining, and redirects me to what has always been the answer: work harder and smarter.  Do you have someone to metaphorically slap you around?  A person you trust?

This financial literacy post is on the one factor that almost always guarantees success in life.  The success I've had in my life is entirely due to a nonstop embodiment of this factor.  My father raised me to never be idle.  In fact, he hated it when I'd have nothing to do, and would assign me chores on the spot just so I could stay busy.  Are you the type of parent that assigns your kids chores when they're idle?





The lesson of having a strong work ethic is universal.  All cultures, but some better than others, ingrain in their young adults that hard work is as close to heavenly as you can get.  Yet, it takes a superbly successful person to make "it" click in your head that maybe you do have to work like a Mexican on a roof on an extremely hot day, seven days a week, to make things one day blow-up majorly (in a good way) in your life.


And you think you have it rough!

T. Boone Pickens, the legendary energy billionaire tycoon, recently shared what I consider to be the most sound and simple financial advice for young people:

Mr. Pickens said, "The work ethic is the backbone of success as far as I'm concerned."  He grew up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and as far as he could remember, "no one he knew was lazy."  

He ran a small paper route, picking up his load by 3:00 a.m. and delivering them all before school.  This man was not born rich!  He has worked his behind off all of his life and he has always had money on hand, saving much of it as people of his era did.

I am saddened to see how things have changed.  Have you noticed how incredibly lazy people have become?  Are you one of these people that expect dreams to come knocking on your door and present themselves to you?  

"First thing I'd say is if you haven't developed a good work ethic, you better do it," Pickens said.

There is no substitute for hard work if you desire to accomplish something better for yourself.  Take the case of Rich Hachigian, a resident of my city who is on the verge of opening up an Edward Jones.  It's near 80 degrees today, a beautiful November Saturday that makes grown men want to sit on the couch and watch College Football all day, go to the beach, surf, nap, anything but work.  Not Rich, he came to my door wearing a long-sleeved shirt and tie, and khakis, and introduced himself.  He shared his new goal of establishing a successful business of his own by helping people invest, save for retirement and other things.  He'd been canvasing the neighborhood all morning.  Now that's work ethic!





Because Rich inspired me to write this post, I am thanking him by mentioning his new Edward Jones franchise that is looking for new clients.  If you need "sensible investing" advice and one-on-one financial services, give him a call: 760-576-8387 or email: rich.hachigian@edwardjones.com.

The theme of this post is YOU and how hard you work.  If you want something in life, sitting around, complaining about the system, the rat race, whatever, isn't going to get you anywhere.  60-hours a week right now...that's how hard Rich is working.  Do I think he will fail?  Not a chance!

Thanks for reading this get off your ass post.  If you want some more slap around, subscribe to this blog!    
    

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10 Reasons To Go Shopping On Black Friday

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  And we all know that the shopping season officially begins with Black Friday.  There is a counter Black Friday movement being led by the likes of hundreds of Frugalist banner waving bloggers.  I've decided not to join their ranks this year.  Perhaps it's because this past week I indulged myself for the first time this calendar year, and bought a like-new pair of Shimano Ultegra 6800 shifters for my road bike.  It was time.  My 6700s were no longer working well, especially the left one.  I also bought a new chain to replace the five-year-old one.




What's my point here?  My point is simply that sometimes it's okay to indulge, especially if you've been "good" all year with your budgeting and savings.  You deserve to spoil yourself once in a while and buy whatever pleases your big heart.  Black Friday, therefore, presents the perfect opportunity to spend, with the added benefit of potentially getting good deals!  But if you're still under the Jedi mind spell of your favorite budget blogger, here are ten reasons why you should break their spell on you and shop on Black Friday:

1.  To channel your inner pirate.  Think of each store or retail center like a town about to be sacked.  To the first pirates go the best spoils.  I don't know about you but that excites the heck out of me.



2.  To help spur the economy.  We are not in Japan!  We are Americans.  So stop all the money hoarding and go out and shop.  Be a good American and help the economy out with your spending.

3.  To get your Christmas shopping done and save on gifts.  Okay, so stores do not always carry enough of the great deals for everyone outside.  But if you set-up camp early enough, you may be able to get a loved one the perfect gift at a discounted price.

4.  Cyber Monday is boring!  Black Friday is about spending anxious time with friends and family.  That nervous energy dissipated among your party has the ability to bond.  You and your compatriots will make memories on this Black Friday, especially if you all make like Caesar and "Veni, vidi, vici."  Just beware the "Ides of March" people, especially if your buddy is after the same exact thing.




5.  To avoid feeling regret.  If you don't go, someone else in your circle of connections will.  With Facebook, and other social media sites constantly helping people show off, you won't be able to get away from all of the excitement created by friends posting their Black Friday exploits.

6.  To finally get that upgrade.  You've postponed making a big purchase for a long time.  You've convinced yourself...or some frugal blogger has convinced you...that there is never a time to make a large purchase.  They're lying to you!  There is a time to make an upgrade type purchase...it's called, Black Friday!

7.  To burn off Thanksgiving dinner calories.  We all eat way too much on Thanksgiving day.  Why not get an early start on burning off that extra two pounds we all gain on Turkey Day by going out shopping?  The added perk is that you get to move through aisles at the store like an NFL running back hitting the hole.

8.  To channel your inner Tom Cruise as IMF agent Ethan Hunt.  Before Black Friday, you get to scour the ads and scout your targets, decide on the best plan of action, and execute your mission!  Fun, isn't it?

9.  To test your anger management skills.  You say you are total Zen?  Ha!  Well, let's see how you do when Handicap Grandma cuts you off in her motorized shopping cart.  You can also show your anger management coach you deserve your certificate because: "I survived Black Friday."

10.  To defy your inner money saving thoughts and everyone else telling you NOT to shop on Black Friday.  This is my favorite reason!

Telling you to go out and shop on Black Friday is easy for anyone to do.  I, however, also want to make sure you have the best planning guides and intelligence you can possibly have.  That's why I want you to go check out the best site for Black Friday deals at http://blackfriday.thepennyhoarder.com/#/.  My friends at ThePennyHoarder have a Black Friday portal that is second to none, and they will also be launching an around the clock live blog for 48 hours starting at 3 p.m. on 11/25.  Thanks for being here today, and don't forget to subscribe to this blog on your way out! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Improve Your Budgeting And Save More With Quantitative Data

Welcome amigos!  I like to use data in my life.  Perhaps it's because I'm somewhat of a nerd and like to make the unknown, known with numbers.  The other day I was thinking how I could create the best meal plan (starting with lunch and dinners) with a set amount of money, my monthly grocery budget.  My parameters include having a starch, protein, and vegetable at each meal, and if possible, to make it as delectable as possible because nobody likes to eat food that tastes like cardboard.


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All this reminds me of how hedge funds are getting a leg-up on earnings reports these days.  You see, there are companies out there that specialize in extracting data that is of particular use in measuring something useful (information) to anyone willing to pay enough for it.  For example, companies have set-up cameras outside retail parking lots and are able to quantify traffic to a store (using fancy algorithms) by counting the number of parked cars over a period of time.  If the data spits out that a retailer has experienced several positive points in favor of increased revenue, not made public, then those with this data stand to benefit over those waiting for news releases.  Quant Hedge Funds use quantitative information to analyse the prospects of companies and favor the statistical over the subjective.
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What if we quantified our lives?  I've not seen financial bloggers talking about this yet as a means to save money, though some may have.  What would this look like?  Here are some examples:

You could look at your water bill, see how many gallons of water you used and do an experiment on showering.  Decide to shower for five minutes per shower for a month without changing anything else that has to do with your water use.  What does that do to your consumption numbers?

How about finding a route to work that optimizes the number of right turns?  This will save you money on gas and possibly commuting time.  Do you know how many miles you are driving per typical month?  Would knowing this information help you be more informed about your driving (gas using) decisions?

My favorite use of quantitative life data is making the most out of my family's grocery budget.  We spend $800 a month on food.  This is for all breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, plus snacking.  $800 can buy you a ton of pasta if that's what you wanted.  How to make the $800 go longer than a month is the goal, however.  And this involves buying economical meats and starches, and so on.  Imagine if we treated our homes as if we were Chief Financial Officers or at minimum, owners of a small grocery store.  We would be responsible for taking inventory of every can, box, and bag in our pantry, the food in our refrigerators, etc.  Sort of what Matt Damon did on Mars in the The Martian.  Can you imagine having to figure out how long our food will last as if our survival was at stake?

Would you be so willing to buy that fresh, green, broccoli and leave it in a bottom drawer of your refrigerator...only to go bad because you forgot about it?  We waste so much food, not cooking it, at my house.  And I know I'm not alone in this.  Using a log, we could all better use our money so that we buy almost the exact amount of food we need each month, and not an atom more.

The next phase of personal finance is teaching people to take note and pay numerical attention to the items we consume.  If Hedge Funds are paying data mining companies hefty sums to gather useful information so they stay ahead of the average fundamental analyst, we should seriously consider adopting a similar strategy.  It is applicable to our own lives too!

Thanks for reading!  For more info on Quant Hedge Funds, go here: What is a Quantitative Hedge Fund?  By the way, this is not an investment endorsement...investing in anything comes with specific risks.  Recent news on this topic: This is the future of investing, and you probably can't afford it.       

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

7 Ways to Reduce Your Family's Money Stress

Welcome amigos!  The United States is by far one of the most hectic places to live in.  The stress in our lives comes in many forms, and from multiple directions, but I dare say that it is probably money (and the pursuit of it) that stresses us all out the most.  That's why I'm devoting this financial literacy piece to ways you can reduce your family's money stress.
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When I was working as a high school assistant principal, what stressed me out the most was not being able to be at home in the evenings on certain days of the week.  Working late kept me from spending time with my toddler children.  I also started to feel like there was a diminishing value to the money I was making (which was pretty darn good) in that the trade-off was often job related stress I brought home from work.

Do you feel like the money you currently make at work is not worth the headaches, and episodes of anger or frustration in your life?  But you're stuck, right?  Or at least you feel like there is no way out because perhaps you've talked to your partner, and the main concern is not being able to pay bills, i.e., keep up your lifestyle.

So both you and your partner are miserable.  Your kids seemingly don't get the best of you on a daily basis.  They in turn act up and add to the stress cloud above your head, and this is your life, being rained on constantly by stress.


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Enough!  My friend, put an end to this stress with the following suggestions:

1.  Tag in and out of the ring.  No, dad, you are not allowed to come home, take your pants off and watch the game on television while your wife who just got off work is in the kitchen trying to cook dinner with the kids running circles around her.  Dad is to interact with the kids while mom cooks dinner.  After dinner, dad and the kids clean-up while mom gets a break to shower or do something relaxing.  So that the routine doesn't get old, switch the roles so that dad cooks and mom interacts with the kids.  Here's the main point:  When partners work together like a wrestling tag-team to do whatever the parenting job entails, things go smoother each evening...and money solutions are discussed with more mental energy.

2.  Make a plan to downscale.  Before I left my job as an administrator, my wife and I thought about how we would bridge the difference in our combined monthly income.  The solution involved my wife working part-time (she was a stay at home mom at the time) in her previous role as a dental assistant.  We also cut expenses, e.g., having a gardener was eliminated and I took on the landscaping chores.  We also dropped to a less expensive cable television package.  Main point: If one of you has had enough of the work stress, make a financial plan to absorb the impact of less money before you make a work related change.

3.  Communicate your money stress to someone.  I worry more than my wife.  Probably because I suffer from anxiety.  Jessica is able to take my worry-loaded rants and transform them into moments of clarity for me.  Do you have someone that can do this for you?  Maybe it's your partner.  Maybe it's your parents.  Bottom line, if you keep your money stress bottled-up, it will explosively vent on someone...like your partner (when he/she buys something somewhat expensive without telling you), your child (when they ask for mall money), at work (when you are asked to pay for something), etc., and you don't want this!

4.  Teach your kids about budgeting and share your finances with them.  When your kids know where you and your partner stand financially, they are less likely to ask for an expensive game system on their birthday or to be placed in an expensive club sport with ridiculous equipment costs.  A money conscious kid cares about his/her parents worrying about money, and they will do whatever they can to help.  It sucks for them, but it could be worse...like living in a third world country with no access to water.

5.  Career advance one at a time, not in tandem!  Couples should not be competitive with each other.  The thought of both heads of a household climbing the ranks at the same time, and making more money sounds great in theory.  But it is a bad idea!  It is best if one person agrees to postpone their career (or educational) advancement goal until the other person has had a chance to do the new job and adjust to the additional demands.

6.  Be at peace with your sense of inadequacy.  Feelings of inadequacy is what makes our money stress turn into a monster.  "We're not making enough money!"  "I'm not able to buy my kids the things they deserve!" And so on.  If you harbor these emotions they will drive you nuts.  Instead, recognize what you do have in life.  Put the emphasis on all of the positive things going for you, like the fact that you have a roof under your head, food to eat, etc. and then go forward!

7.  Sleep, drink plenty of water, and get exercise.  If you and your partner take care of your physical conditions, money stress is less likely to facilitate you getting sick.  Exercising is like entertainment, i.e., capable of letting you temporarily forget your worries.  But it is better than entertainment because you develop a rhythm of the body that has tremendous health benefits...like combating stress!

There are many ways to fight money related stress.  However, the seven above are both free and effective.  Good luck!