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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When Your Son Tears Up A Washington, He May Just Be A Counterfeiter

For all of you who have children, no doubt your kids have gone through a phase where they were in awe of money.  Perhaps they take your spare change and play with it.  Maybe they go around asking other family members for money.  They may keep a piggy bank in their rooms and guard it like a mamma bear guards her cubs.  The point is that it's all perfectly healthy, and this money obsession in kids leads to excellent teachable moments.  Case in point:

Yesterday, while at the gym after work, I got a FB notification email that my wife had "tagged" me in a post.  I took a break from bench pressing 350 pounds, and got on FB to see the post.  (I was kidding about the bench pressing people!).  See her post below:

My wife is a stay-at-home mom, bless her heart and all the hearts of other stay-at-home moms out there, and each Monday she has both our kids to herself.  Long story short, my daughter's Charter elementary school doesn't hold classes on Monday.  Lately, we've been having some difficulty parenting our 4.5 year-old son.  He gets extremely defiant whenever we correct him, and exhibits these behaviors:

1) Get even-ness.  The "I'll show you" typical of a teenager, but without any time delay.

2) I'm gonna do something crazy.  He says things like: "I'm gonna get in the car and drive away."  One time he literally took my car keys, went outside the house, got in my car, stood up on the seat with his hands on the steering wheel and started to mess with my car's stick shift.  He locked the door so I couldn't get in and snatch him.  Thankfully he didn't know how to operate the parking brake.

3) Gets violent.  He'll charge us and start throwing right crosses and jabs to our legs.  

4)  He'll walk away and go isolate himself in his room or upstairs, walking away in a defeated posture.

We've had tremendous patience with him as responsible parents should.  When he calms down I talk with him and go over what was wrong about his behavior.  We do positive reinforcement with all of his helpful behavior.  We forgive and forget and make sure he hears us say that we are no longer "grumpy" with him.  Nonetheless, he has trouble with some lessons.  One in particular: Throwing away perfectly good food.  Now this is a huge trigger for my wife.  We talked to our daughter (when she was my son's age) about daddy going to work to make money so we can afford food and everything we need.  She got it fast.  My son...he marches to his own beat.

Enough context, back to yesterday...

When I got home, my wife was visibly upset.  I asked, "where are the kids?"  She says, "I sent them upstairs to take a bath."  She proceeds to show me the ripped up dollar bill, sprinkling the pieces on the island countertop, and says, "If my looks could kill, he would've been dead on the spot.  It took all of me to not grab him and spank him."  I didn't want to march upstairs and hammer my son verbally as he took his bath.  This is no way to interact with your children, upon first sight after work.  Besides, we were going to his first Christmas performance at school so I wanted him calm as he got dressed.  When my son and I were alone downstairs, I brought up the dollar incident.

Me:  Mijo, porque rompiste el dolar?  (I speak Spanish to them as often as possible)

My son: Because, because I wanted to make more money.

Well, of course!  It made perfect sense to him to cut up the dollar bill neatly into five pieces.  He wanted more of it!  LOL!!  He'd actually asked me over the weekend for more money.  I told him he already had a dollar (he carried it all of last Sunday in his shirt pocket), and this was just his way of getting what he wanted.  Jessica had made cookies for the Christmas performance.  I took one and with his undivided attention, for he was hungry, I showed him that even though I broke the cookie in half, when you put the two pieces back together it's still one cookie.  Not sure how much of this lesson he got, fixating on the cookie with a predator's stare.

The Best Parenting Tips (On Teaching Kids About Money) We Got From The FB Post:

Jessica's Friend 1:  there should maybe be an organic consequence.  Like: dang, that was your ____________money. Now we can't _________. 🤷🏻‍♀️
Not a punishment but more like..life.

My Youngest Sister:  Tell him if he keeps ripping up money like that he won't get any toys for Christmas or his birthday lol
Or you could scare him and say that if he keeps doing that he's going to live with the bum in a box on the side of the road and point the bum out to him lol

Jessica's Friend 2:  Seems to me he already knows what a dollar is worth Lol! But seriously... take him to the store and when he ask for something say "Aaaw we could've got that but you for up the money. Now we have to wait till I work some more before we can buy anything."  

Jessica's Friend 3: If he did this at 14 that might be concerning, but not 4. Ask him to help u tape it bk up together. He starts to learn the value of $$ while getting some attention.

My Co-worker:  My son did that when he was little. I took him to the Dollar Tree to pick out a toy and brought him to the register to pay with his torn up dollar. When the cashier (whom I had play along from the beginning) told him that she couldn't take his money because it was ripped up he was upset. We got to the car and he asked if he could borrow a dollar from me to go back inside to buy some tape to tape his dollar back together so that he could buy the toy he wanted. Lesson learned and pretty innovative and creative too and he was only 4. 

I liked the last suggestion the best.  The best way to learn a lesson is through actual practicum.  It's just great teaching to get your kids in a real life scenario.  So I think I'll take him to the Dollar Store today with his ripped up dollar bill and ask him to hand it to the person at the cash register.  He'll learn real quick that ripped up cash is no good!

But the main lesson here is that with your kids, you never know.  You have to always ask why they do the things they do.  Sometimes their responses will be stupid for their age level.  Teenagers have some of the best reasons for their mistakes...said no one ever!  And yet, sometimes their responses will be age appropriate, albeit requiring extra understanding.  I'm positive we'll get out of this phase with our son soon, but it will take a whole lot of patience and understanding from ourselves.  

Are you going through some parenting difficulties of your own?  How would you have approached this situation with your son?  How would you have taught your son that money is not to be purposely damaged?  Thanks for reading!  If you liked this post and want more like them in your inbox, please subscribe before you leave.  I'll throw in 3 excellent money-matters eBooks for your troubles.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Why It's Time To Start Asking For A Raise

Look no further than the November jobs report to build your case for a raise as early as next month.  228,000 net new jobs were added, mostly in three sectors: Healthcare, Business, and Manufacturing.  The unemployment rate remains at 4.1%, meaning employers are hiring plenty.  More employees means more bargaining power if you belong to a union.  But even if you don't, there's bound to be upward pressure to demand a higher wage from employers.

Image result for November Job report

Average hourly earnings rose a mere 2.5% over the past year.  Economists agree it should be closer to 3% to keep in line with the success companies have had on Wall Street.  Why hasn't your hourly wage gone up?  Here are some possible reasons.

1)  You are a low-skilled worker and lack the training to promote.
2)  You have a weak union and they're not representing you well.
3)  You traded higher wages for more benefits.
4)  You haven't asked for a raise, being content with your wages.
5)  You're afraid of your employer, and fear you'll be fired for asking for more.
6)  Robots, computers, and out-sourcing are replacing middle-skilled workers who would raise the average hourly wage by asking for a raise.

More on the job training or additional education will make you a more valuable employee, worthy of better wages.  In my industry, teaching, teachers get paid more the more units they have.  In fact, our union just negotiated an additional 14.5% increase to the stipend we were getting for having a Masters or Doctorate degree!  I have two Masters degrees (I get a stipend for each one) so I'll be benefiting nicely.  We're also getting an additional 3% increase to our salary schedule effective January 1, 2018.  I'm not sharing this to show off.  I'm sharing this to stress the importance of being part of a strong union.

Image result for why aren't wages rising in the US?

Look, having a skill is of paramount importance these days.  While you can ask for a raise as a low-skilled worker, your chances are high of being replaced by someone who can easily step in and do your job, especially if you're an at-will employee.  For everyone else out there, you're in the right to start demanding your stewards to seek better compensation terms.  Or to go into your boss's office and present your case for a raise.

If tax reform passes and corporations get that favorable tax rate 20-22%, you better demand a raise.  It's your duty to seek more booty! 

What If You Try And Get Nada?

It's not all bleak.  The situation is vastly improved.  With employers hiring, you can finally go out and look for a better paying job instead of being stuck in that dead-end job of yours.  I also suggest you get busy on starting a new side-hustle for 2018.  While having a second job is commendable, chances are you'll burn out clocking in and out twice every day.  A side-hustle, doing something you like to do when you want to do it is the best case scenario for someone looking to bring in more money.  Here is an article I recently read where some folks are making 6 figures with a side-hustle: $100K Side Hustles.

Image result for Side hustles

Final Thoughts

It sounds trite but you really have to make 2018 your best year yet.  And this obviously means in part (because I know some of you aren't motivated by money...though why would you be here reading this???) making a whole bunch more of the greenback.  Taking action, by asking for a raise, e.g., is how you start 2018 on the right track.  You better come correct though, with a solid argument for why you deserve more.  I'll leave you to read an article at Forbes where managers describe the best ways to ask for a raise.  Read up!  That's your homework.  And I'm out!!! 

Friday, December 8, 2017

California Fires: Financial, Psychological, And Spiritual Reminders

I'm not a religious man, but I'm a Jesus follower and I believe in a higher being.  I have my reasons to beef with organized religion, but I respect and tolerate those that are devout, insert your religion here.  In times like the type my fellow So Cal residents and I have had these past two weeks, it's understandable to try to seek answers from anywhere for the devastation and suffering.  My wife, for example, can't stop contemplating what just happened to her friends whose million-dollar-plus home was burned down in a matter of minutes near the start of the W. Lilac (Bonsall, CA) fire.  "Much more than the financial of losing your home, I can't fathom how I'd respond emotionally to this," she said empathetically, with her eyes watering.

Image result for lilac fires map

Our home is about 3 miles west from the mandatory evacuation zone.  We didn't get an evacuation mandate or warning message from the authorities, like many of my friends did.  Nonetheless, we packed just in case, some clothes and our important paperwork, and went to sleep with a whole lot of nervous tension.  The Santa Ana winds died down more than expected last night, and my family was able to wake up in our home this morning.  We know we're lucky, figuratively speaking.  Some 4,100 acres and more than 20 structures were burned locally.  If this weren't sad enough, the loss of multiple, and expensive race horses will surely tug at your heart strings.

The Psychology and Spirituality of Trauma

Horses are the livelihood of many S. Californians.  They're also members of the family, like your dog and cat would be.  When these beautiful animals are taken from their owners in such a horrible way, there's plenty reason to be upset at life, God, you name it.  Losing a home, no matter its monetary value, is also cause to feel wretched and cursed.  And so I was reminded this morning of the story of Job, that biblical masterpiece of a man who lost it all, but became the example of the concept of devotion.  The story of Job is also a psychological gem, filled with tips on the mindset of success after trauma.  For example,

1) You're not being punished.  You didn't do anything to deserve your trauma.  Whatever you do, don't feel guilty about what happened!

2) Be careful not to give your "friends" too much credence.  They may pollute your mind with erroneous consolations, e.g., "this is all part of God's plan."  Reject their harsh arguments for why things happened the way they did!

3)  None of us will never know why terrible things happen to good people.  Trauma simply happens, and we have to accept it without becoming its victim.

4) Measure yourself by what you do when the going gets (extremely) tough, and not by what out-of-your-control thing happens to you.  From a traumatic experience, you may gain some real wisdom and strength of character.

Image result for trauma

From The Psychological And Spiritual To The Financial

I went outside my home this morning (school is closed so I have the day off) to smell the fresh air, except it wasn't so fresh.  I saw the ash on my car, the trees, lawn, and on the walls of my home and thought: Insurance!  We're not out of the woods yet.  The fire is nowhere near contained.  The winds are going to be returning with a vengeance over the weekend.  This momentary calm within the firestorm has given me time to look over my Allstate Home policy.  I haven't looked at it in two years!  Have you reviewed your home insurance policy lately?

Chances are the value of your home has gone up.  Have you contacted your insurance agent to make necessary adjustments to replacement value and contents?  You should also check on your Additional Living Expense (ALE) limits.  With housing starts being on the rise, getting a project completed on time may be difficult in certain cities, meaning, 12-month rent coverage may not be enough.  Increasing your insurance needs will raise your premium.  But listen, would you rather be uninsured?  Southern Californians need to heed this warning to look over their home policy more than any other American!  This Do's and Don'ts When Insuring Your Home article is an excellent resource to read today!


Wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc., will happen.  They may take our possessions, loved ones, and pets, but they can never take our thoughts, unless we let them.  We have control over our thoughts; in fact, that's really the only thing we have control over.  Grieve as long as you need to, but don't live the life of a victim.  That type of life is not worth living.

Before I go I'd like to give a huge shout out to all of the first responders out there helping to put out these infernos.  Mad love and respect!  Thanks for reading and stay safe out there.              

Thursday, December 7, 2017

This Is The Largest Cost Of Owning A Car And You May Not Know It

Cars are many things to people.  To the collector, they represent a form of art with both sentimental and monetary value.  To the enthusiast, they represent a piece of the future in the flesh to be enjoyed at all times.  To the typical consumer, a way to get to point B from point A with comfort, a bit of style, speed, and/or reliability.  To the business owner, a car is a depreciating asset with a life of about 5 to 6 years.  If only the layman who depends on a car were more like a business person who understands their true costs.

While most of us know that cars depreciate in value the second we drive them off the lot, many don't analyze the nitty-gritty of car ownership costs.  Let's start with something simple, like how much depreciation you can expect the moment you drive a car out of the lot:

New car: Between 9-11% on average, depending on the model.  After the first year of ownership you can expect to have lost an additional 9% to 11% in value.  The average rate of depreciation on a new car after 1 year is 20%.

 Image result for on average how much does a car depreciate after leaving the lot

Used car: No data available, but undoubtedly less than what it is for a new car, especially if the car is between 2-5 years old.

We should all know that buying a used car makes the most economical sense.  Why?  Well, you'll avoid the first year where you take the biggest hit in depreciation (20% on average).  This is a cost to you that you may not equate mentally with the actual price you paid for the car to begin with.  But think about like this:

Say you buy a new car (an SUV, e.g.) that costs you around $31K.  And I'd love to give you some concrete figures for used cars, but the dynamics of depreciation on a used car is much more complicated.  A new car after a year will have lost 20% or $6,400 conservatively speaking, after a year.  That's $6400 you're never getting back!  Meaning, if you keep the car until it dies, so to speak, you've accumulated $38,400 in costs in year one of ownership, and this doesn't include other expenses like gas, oil changes, yearly registration, etc.

 Car Depreciation Infographic Chart    

In the infographic above, the estimated value of the sport utility vehicle after five years of ownership is $11,629.  That 63% decrease in value, representing $19,623 in additional costs to you.  You may not think of it like this, but that's money you've spent, whether you're conscious of it or not.  Again, this is not taking other car ownership costs into consideration (repairs, oil changes, gas, new tires, insurance, etc.).

More Analysis on Car Ownership

Depreciation is the single largest cost in owning a car.  Fuel purchase, unless you own a hybrid or electric vehicle, comes in at a close second.  Clearly then, many of us are not taking depreciation seriously enough within the total cost of car ownership.

The most overlooked cost of ownership is depreciation!!!

Buying a used car that maintains its value is of great importance.  But so is buying a car you actually like and want to drive around in.  A combination of low-depreciation rate and personal taste is clearly the best way to buy a used car.  Notice, I'm beyond recommending you buy a new car because that's total shitville.  There are other things to consider when buying a used car, of course.  Like mileage.  Finding a used car (1-2 years old) with the lowest possible mileage AND that is also a model consistently ranked as one with the least amount of depreciation over a 5 year period, is the equivalent of hitting a homerun to win the final game of the World Series.

How To Buy A Used Car Knowing What You Know Now?

Here are the steps to take when buying a used car.  Remember now, depreciation is a true cost and it happens to be the highest among all.

1.  Google: "Cars that depreciate the most," and make sure the model you want to buy is not on the list.  An alternative search query can be, "Cars with the highest resale value."

2.  Shop around for certified pre-owned cars (fulfilling criteria number 1 above) with the lowest mileage, not putting so much emphasis on the color of the vehicle if you can help it.

3.  Make sure the price is fair by doing price comparisons.  You will pay more for a used car with lower mileage, obviously. 

With the information I've presented here, you'll be a savvy car buyer in no time.  Including car depreciation with all other costs and expenses of car ownership will help you make the best possible decision.  Thanks for reading!  Until next time. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

7 New Business Technologies To Implement In 2018

Your business' success is largely dependent on how rapidly and effectively you can get the attention of your end customer.  What I said sounds pretty smart, huh?  Don't give me any of the credit though, I stole this nugget of wisdom from Mr. Gary Vaynerchuk.  I'd love to be all up, meaning, "up to date," on business technology, but I admit that I'm not.  If I can't personally give you the best on a topic, I'll gladly defer to another expert.  And that's exactly what I've done today with this post, showcasing the very talented, Makeda Waterman.  She's so great that I'm hoping she'll consider returning again to CCM.  (Fingers crossed).  If you own a business, are an executive, or a CEO, you're gonna love today's guest post.  Enjoy!

Image result for artificial intelligence

How was business for you this year?  In my opinion, 2017 was an ever-changing year.  The unexpected stories of data breaches and malware attacks on internationally known businesses was a standard news trend.  Millennials were a prime focus of marketing campaigns.  According to a Forbes  article, "This year it is estimated that millennials in the U.S. alone will be spending $200 billion.  By 2018, they will have the most spending power of any generation."  The stock market paid some business owners a handsome profit while unemployment decreased.

Entrepreneurs deserve to be included in the top technological advancements in the coming year.  Here are the top technologies you need to implement in your organization next year:

1.  Artificial Intelligence

The marketing department in your company can take advantage of artificial intelligence live chat to efficiently connect with customers through your website.

"AI" through conversational marketing platforms via your website messaging can save your marketing team time in strategizing ways to get prospects to your site.  Top leads are sent to your sales representatives through website visitors with an automated function that schedules meetings with your team.  The time a marketing team spends researching new ways to entice prospects to fill out online forms can be replaced by this technology.

2.  Automated Accounting Software

The cost to hire an individual accountant for a small business can cost between $22 to $180 an hour.  The annual cost of hiring an entire team can be cut by automated accounting software that includes Freshbooks.  The tedious task of submitting invoices, in addition to time spent as a business owner completing paperwork, can be eliminated.

3.  Video and Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 360-degree video

The focus on YouTube has narrowed, with shifting expectations that Virtual Reality will be a favorite trend next year.  360-degree videos are no longer specific to museums or realtors showcasing property for sale.  Virtual tours already help consumers become acquainted with new products and services without leaving their homes.

Image result for new business technology

4.  Machine Learning

Facebook won't be the only organization that will use machine learning to scan images and videos in order to understand what customers want.  A few brands will use this technology to recognize consumer behaviors with imaging recognition software that helps a business compare a variety of objects, photos, and online characteristics to improve targeted marketing.  For example, you can find out if your product is popular among students at a university, in a corporate office, or a tourist location.

5.  Tailored Security

Cybersecurity will be tailored to fit business needs to best protect customer and employee data.  Internal factors in the decision-making process of designing security software will include a business' budget, IT infrastructure, and your particular industry.  Gartner, Inc reports that in 2018 businesses will spend up to $93 billion on security products, up from $86.4 billion in the present year.

6.  Human Resources Tech Recruiting

The healthcare, hospitality, retail, and services industries are expected to improve their human resources recruiting by using strategic sourcing practices to find top talent.  Known as recruitment management systems, chatbots and other technology will automate searches to find your next employee.  To increase your HR department's productivity, video assessment sent via email to applicants will eliminate the time recruiters spend calling and meeting candidates in person.

7.  Cloud Based Technology

A well known fact in business is that it can cost a company 6 to 9 month the salary of one employee to hire a new employee.  To retain employees, cutting hiring costs, cloud technology in unified communications will help to develop a flexible workplace.  In addition, businesses will invest in the installation of a cloud infrastructure to be designed and built on-site behind the corporate firewall.  An economic benefit to this approach is the pay-as-you-go option for a company to use the software.

Final Thoughts

You're at an advantage at this time of the year to implement new technology that will increase productivity, retain top talent, improve IT initiatives, and introduce customers to products in unexpected ways.  The feedback employees and customers have communicated this year can positively impact areas of improvement that if left unanswered, can potentially hurt your business.  Think of the costs of investing in new technology as a pathway to improving the customer experience.  As time passes, you can re-connect with key players in your organization to decide to keep or upgrade software that will benefit your bottom line.

Makeda Waterman is a professional writer with clips from CNBC Make It., Yahoo Finance News, Huffington Post, Glassdoor.com, Elite Daily, Bizcatalyst360.com, and others.  She is passionate about helping people improve their personal lives and careers through her writing.            

Sunday, December 3, 2017

When Your Wife Brings Home Two Kittens, Don't Kick Her Cat!

A great man once said: "The difference in accomplishment is primarily the difference in the way the negatives of life are handled."  Who was this great man?  Zig Ziglar.  This particular Ziglar quote came from one of his greatest books: See You At The Top.  Have you read this one?  It's one of my all-time favorite success mindset books.

Chapter 14, "Is The 'Right' Attitude Important?" includes a story of trickle down frustration and negativity, starting with a boss who gets a speeding ticket trying to get to a work meeting (he set) on time.  He calls in his sales manager and gives him the riot act for not having finalized a sale.  The sales manager feeling incredibly unappreciated, takes out his anger on his secretary.  The interaction spawns another downward level of negativity, with the secretary going off on the switchboard operator.  The switchboard operator goes home and continues the cycle, ripping her television watching, 12-year-old son, a new one for not putting his clothes away.  The son stomps off feeling like all of life is unfair, sees the cat and gives it a good kick in butt.

 Are you a "cat kicker"?  No, not literally.  I mean, do you transfer your frustrations onto someone or something else when something negative happens to you?  I try very hard to not let negative things alter my overall positive and optimistic mindset.  Case in point: My wife, Jessica, and I worked out our budget for this month in late November.  We had a common goal of spending as little as possible on entertainment, and impulse buys so as to have enough money to get our kids Christmas presents.

My wife's best friend, Kaylee, found four motherless kittens somewhere out in the wilderness that is Valley Center, CA.  Apparently, the mother had been eaten by coyotes.  C'est la vie dans le Californie!  We have an adult cat (Tiska), nearing geriatric status.  Jessica thought it'd be a good idea to let her live her old age with a little pal.  After she worked up our kids on the idea, I agreed to one kitten.  Long story short, in a classic example of "it's better to seek forgiveness than to ask for permission," Jessica brought back from Kaylee's not one, but two kittens.  Meeting her at the front door, all I could see was green, as in dollar bills flying right out the window.  I wasn't happy.

What do you do when your spouse goes off script?

Having an "unexpected and impulse buy expenses" category is a must when you have joint finances.  I'm guilty myself of buying things for my bike (expensive tires, inner tubes, chain lube, gloves, etc.) without having placed these expenses in the budget at the start of the month.  So, it makes sense to just throw in a Benjamin or two into the mix to cover these unexpected/impulse buys.  Tapping into your emergency fund is also another option.  That's why you have an emergency fund!

You may also have to forego a planned purchase.  For example, I was going to buy Jessica a 3 carat diamond necklace for Christmas.  Oh well, she gets to keep three cats at our home instead.  Ha!  On a serious note, postponing a planned purchase is a logical move after an unexpected expense or an impulse buy throws off the plan.  If the unexpected expense is substantial, you may have to raise additional monies to salvage the month.  Yard or garage sales are one way to go.  Getting on Craigslist or Ebay are other ways to move your clutter into someone else's hands for quick cash.

There's always a backstory 

Be mindful that someone's frustration may be because they had their "cat kicked."  In my case, I could've kicked my wife's cat so hard, this is starting to sound sexual in nature, ;) that she may have never let me forget it.  She explained to me, once I let her talk, why she brought two kittens home.

Gus observes, while Lucerfy chows down.  Yeah, Cinderella inspired names.

Kaylee's big dogs accidentally killed two of the kittens, and these were the last two survivors.  If Jessica took only one, the last one's fate would be sealed...death by dog.  I'm not that much of a softie, but when your wife is beautiful and she tells a sad tale, there's not much a man can do.  Cat bed, tray, eating bowls, and food exceeded the $100 mark.  There's still shots, and ongoing feeding to expense in the next monthly budget.  But you know what?  I worked with it.

And that's what you need to do anytime you are faced with a negative outcome, whether it be related to your business, everyday life, or yes, even your marriage.  Especially your marriage you fools! (I'm talking to men here).  As the saying goes, "A happy wife is a happy life."


And I'm out!  Thanks for reading.  If you liked this post and want to get more like them in your inbox, please subscribe to this blog on your way out.  I'll throw in 3 eBooks for your troubles.
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Friday, December 1, 2017

11 Ways To Finish The Year Like A Boss

December is here.  Rejoice!  You've almost made it past another year.  It's time to let our foot off the accelerator and relax because it's all downhill from here.  It'll be Christmas soon, it's dark and cold, and there's really no time for anything else so why bother pursuing things like self-improvement?  Why fight the financial current?  Everyone knows December is a time to spend on decorations and gifts for the family, and this requires putting aside our money saving habit to not spoil the spirit.

Unfortunately, this is the typical mindset of many Americans once December rolls around.  It seems like the only thing forcing us to stay conscious of our declining personal skills or of our money are major recessions.  See the image below:  

Yes, I realize this is a graph on average planned spending on Christmas gifts since 1985, but there's no denying that as our personal wealth and overall achievement increases, success brought about by economic booms, so does the sense that the party will never end.  And we get sloppy.  December is a month like any other, and we should be actually turning it up another notch to finish the year strong!  You can't take a month off folks.  To this end, I've got several tips to help you finish the year like a true boss.

11 Ways to Finish the Year Like A:

Image result for Boss mustang

1.  Squeeze in one last goal.  Surely you can write down one last personal goal and get it done in a month.  "By the end of December, I will have ____________________..."  What? Gotten 20 more FB likes on your Business page?  Increased your web traffic by 3%?  Finished the first chapter of your latest book?

2.  Create a December budget to include all things Christmas AND end the month in the green so you can have some cash you can apply immediately to New Year's Eve day.

3.  Do your first Podcast of your niche topic.  Gary Vaynerchuk, the master of attention arbitrage and serial entrepreneur recommends you move your business to sound.  Listening saves consumers time (they can multitask while listening to your voice), and that's huge these days!  So get yourself a podcast set-up and do your first one this month.  Be patient and keep at it!

4.  Purge the toxic people from your life.  Have you had just about enough of all of your negative friends on Facebook?  You know, the type who post: "I'm at the emergency room," and nothing else, leaving people to have to ask what happened.  Or those that constantly complain about the opposite sex.  Or those that simply constantly complain as a means to vent on everyone else's stream.  Get rid of them!  Have an "Unfollow" party.  Your eyes don't need to be exposed to any negativity.

5.  Ramp up your cardio intensity and/or time.  Don't let hibernation mode sink in just because it's winter.  Trick your body this month and get ahead of your New Year's resolution to lose weight.

6.  Buy a course online.  Go to Udemy.com and dust off your rustiness by taking a class.  Or, learn something new.  How to invest in stocks, how to invest in real estate, how to launch a successful blog, etc.  Learn something new before the year is over!

7.  Sell some of your losers.  If you've made money in the stock market this year (and who hasn't, right?), you may want to sell some or all of your shares in your down positions to reduce your short or long-term capital gains tax for 2017.

8.  Buy that midsize SUV.  Usnews.com reported back in March that December is when midsize SUVs are discounted the most due to automaker and dealer sales incentives converging for the quarter and year.  So if you're in desperate need for an SUV, this is your month.

9.  Sell more of your product or service by adding value rather than a sales, end-of-year discount.  Focus on listening more to your customer and trying to empathize with their needs this time of the year.  Offer incentives such as gift cards, movie tickets, or other entertainment offers rather than devaluing your goods or services.

10.  Show your kindness and heart.  Donate to a charity, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or invite a friend or neighbor you know to be alone during the holidays, over for Christmas eve dinner.  There's nothing like the feeling of doing good.

11.  Propose.  Gentlemen, if you got the rock already, what are you waiting for?  Christmas eve or Christmas day are both perfect days to pop the question.  For starters, you'll never forget when you proposed because you'll be primed by it being a big holiday.  I proposed to my wife on New Years day 2010.  I'm horrible at remembering dates, but I remember this one because it was New Year's!  Also, your significant other is already in a great mood so the chances of them saying, Yes, may be better.

There are certainly many more ways to end the year like a true boss.  You got to be creative and figure out what would make you feel like a champion if you just did it.  The main point to this article is not to let the month of December go by because it's the last month of the year and it's loaded with festivities.  Ending the year on a great note sets you up for starting January on a high, so don't waste this opportunity!  And yes, have fun too, especially with your loved ones.  Until next time.  Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to Churn Your Credit Cards And Reap Benefits!

Today I have an awesome guest post about credit cards and taking advantage of their sign-up benefits.  Do you know what "credit card churning" is?  I sure didn't!  I'm glad Russ Nuata, Founder of Creditcardreviews.com pitched the article to me, and of course with it being such an interesting financial strategy, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have him share it with you.  Shall we get started?  Let's do this!

We all like receiving free things. That’s why “sample Sunday” is so popular at the local grocery store.

But if you have higher goals for receiving something for free than a sample meatball with a toothpick in it, credit card churning is worth considering. When you churn a credit card, you sign up for a new card to receive sign-up bonuses. As long as you fulfill the requirements of the credit card and you’re careful about how you use the card, you’ll receive the rewards with no cost to you.

We’ve put together some ideas that will help you understand the process of credit card churning and make the most of it:

How to Churn Your Credit Card
Source: CreditCardReviews.com

What is churning?

When churning credit cards, you'll sign up for multiple credit cards, all in an effort to receive a sign-up bonus from each credit card issuer such as the following:

  • Airline miles
  • Hotel stays
  • Car rentals
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • Cash back
Normally, you'll have to spend a certain amount of money on the card in a designated time period to receive your sign-up bonus.  After the sign-up bonus period, other perks may accumulate at a slower rate as you use the card.  But when churning, you're seeking the large influx of bonuses the issuer offers you as a new customer.

Credit card issuers use sign-up bonuses to entice new customers to open an account, hoping that customer will use the card long term. However, credit card churners will stop using the card after they've achieved the large sign-up bonus, moving onto the next card.

Tips for churning

If you're thinking about churning credit cards, we've compiled four things you need to consider.

  1. Set goals for your churning.  For example, if you have a goal to earn vouchers to take a trip, this goal will keep you on task for signing up for new cards that primarily focus on travel rewards.  You won't waste your time and effort with credit card bonuses that focus on merchandise.
  2.  Understand all of the rules you need to follow to receive your bonuses.  You don't want to sign up for a card that requires you to spend $2,000 in the first month to receive your bonus if you only can spend about $1,200 per month, for example.
  3. Don't make late payments when churning.  It defeats the purpose of receiving free gifts if you end up paying penalties for late payments.  Additionally, you'll harm your credit score with late payments.  No matter how amazing a free gift is, it isn't worth ruining your credit score.
  4. Stay organized with your credit cards.  If you're going to churn credit cards, you need to track due dates and rules for fulfilling the requirements for the bonuses to have success with this process. 

Understand that churning isn't for everyone.  You truly have to be disciplined and organized to make this process work to your advantage.  Make several mistakes and the consequences will be costly.  But if you have the skills and desire necessary to try churning credit cards, you'll love the feeling of receiving something for nothing!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Are You Financially Cheating On Your Spouse? Do This Now!

Infidelity, or extra-marital affairs, is a top ten reason for divorce in America.  However, in many cases, infidelity in a couple's marriage occurred because of other factors, e.g., boredom in the bedroom, lack of romance, a failure to communicate, and so on.  Contrary to belief, being betrayed by your lover is not always the metaphorical straw that breaks the camel's back and ends a relationship.  Divorcemag.com reports that 60-75% of couples who have experienced a betrayal stay together.  Of course "staying together" doesn't mean things are rosy once again.  People choose to stay together, according to the article at Divorcemag, because they are afraid of the alternative, i.e., separation.

Image result for financial infidelity

Separation signifies: 1) Being single once again, 2) An unknown as to the level of damage a divorce may cause on the kids, and 3) Worrying about finances as a single person with or without kids.

What effect does financial infidelity have in a marriage? Although probably not as bad as its carnal cousin, financial infidelity also strains many relationships.  Let me get into a personal story...

About five years ago while my wife Jessica and I were inside of that precarious three years of marriage period, you know, where you're just getting to know and trust each other, I discovered that she had opened up a Wells Fargo credit card without telling me.  So what, right?  I mean, no big deal it's just a credit card.  Not quite.  You see, the statement I opened (that was wrong of me to do) had a balance of over $2K!  We were at the time attempting to qualify for a mortgage for a rental property so naturally I imagined the worse: being denied for having too big of a debt-to-income ratio.

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I also felt very much betrayed.  The foundation of trust we'd built up to this point with respect to our joint finances, had been cracked.  When I confronted Jessica, she shared with me that she had gotten carried away with her direct sales/network marketing business, believing she'd have everything paid off before I found out.  Obviously her plan didn't work.  We fought about it several times with me exerting my position of power over her.  I was making the most money at the time as a high school assistant principal so I felt I had more say in how our money was to be used.  From then on I demanded she never do this again and always tell me whenever she was making a major financial decision.

In retrospect, I was a bit of an ass.  Okay...understatement.  I was a total ass.  Yes, I had right to be angry.  But a more patient husband would've reacted with more forgiveness.  Jessica had stated repeatedly to me that she would pay it all off, but I kept "seeing red," meaning, several months of not getting ahead on our collective savings because of her financial indiscretion.  It took a couple of years for me to finally let it go, and re-admit Jessica back on my financial team, so to speak.  If only I'd have moved on sooner we would've saved both time and energy by communicating from a starting position of trust once again.

So now I ask you: Are You Financially Cheating On Your Spouse?

Have you...

A) Opened a secret savings account where you stash cash?
B) Opened a secret credit card, choosing electronic statements to avoid detection?
C) Siphoned off small sums of money from a joint checking account and deposited them into a secret checking account?

Image result for financial infidelity

Marketwatch.com cited a 2016 study by the National Endowment for Financial Education that reported roughly 40% of Americans admitting to some form of financial infidelity.  If you're currently cheating on your spouse financially, I suggest you come clean.  Secrets and sly actions damage both trust and respect in a relationship.  So how do you do this?  How do you "come clean" to your significant other.  I recommend the following:

1) State the truth.  Tell your spouse what you've been doing at an opportune moment, i.e., when the two of you are alone.

2)  Tell them why you did it.  Be clear in your communication.  Admit exactly what provoked you to do this even if it's an insecurity you had about your relationship.  Holding anything back would raise further suspicion.

3)  Apologize profusely and provide solutions.  How are you going to fix things?  What sacrifices will YOU make to repair your joint financial house?

4) Agree to new behaviors with parameters.  From now on you will do X, Y, Z before making a major financial decision.

What if your partner is refusing to let your betrayal go?  If your partner constantly brings up what you did in arguments, and is choosing to treat you with contempt anytime you handle money, then you may need relationship counseling.  There's nothing wrong with this; it just means the two of you need more time to talk things through with the help of a trained expert.  You may find that reverting to the both of you handling household finances is a good initial strategy to feel like you're together once again when it comes to money.

What about separating one's finances?  Personally, I think separating your finances completely as a result of financial infidelity would be a bad move.  This is in essence a failure to compromise AND gets you one step closer to divorce.  It works for couples who started off with separate finances, and never looked back.  But for you who have "cheated," it's basically admitting that you can never trust each other financially again.  Not to mention it's the easy way out.  Working through your problems makes a marriage stronger!  So commit to reconciling your financial differences.

Alright, there it is.  I reiterate: Confess your financial infidelity to your spouse as soon as possible.  Well, that is if you truly love and respect them.  Otherwise continue to cheat and wait for the lawyers to discover your secret accounts.  Ha!  Hasta next time my peeps.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

10 Ways To Manage A Full Course Load Working 30 Or More Hours A Week

College students nationwide are at home this week, enjoying their time off from school.  For many, this also includes a short break from their on or off-campus job.  Juggling a full course load (12 units or more) and a job of over 30 plus hours is incredibly hard to do.  In fact, it's highly discouraged by college counselors who insist focusing on your studies is the best move you can make.  Unfortunately, some college students don't have a choice.  There is now an actual term used to define full-time college students who work more than 30 hours a week: working learner.

Image result for working college students

For obvious reasons, working learners are more likely to be disconnected from school and drop-out, and to be stressed.  My sister-in-law, Chelsea, a sophomore at Cal State San Marcos, is a working learner.  She earned a 3.8 g.p.a. her first year, in spite of having a full class load, and working more than 35 hours a week to pay for rent, car insurance, and other expenses.  She's in town for Thanksgiving, and spoke to me about her current struggles in Chemistry.  She's getting an "A" in Biology, and her other classes, but currently failing this one class.  She thinks she did well on her last test, and feels she can do well on the final.  Still, her working learner status won't make her "comeback" in Chemistry particularly easy.

Image result for working college

I asked her what some of her recommendations were to other college students in the same situation.  In other words, how could they have the success she's had so far?  This is what she came up with: 

1.  Have an app scheduler that reminds you ahead of time when an assignment is due. iStudiez Pro allows you to prioritize assignments, plan study sessions, and include your class schedule. 

2.  Use Quizlet to make studying easier.  Some students don't study because studying may require them to make flashcards, and then sit down and actually study them.  With the Quizlet app you can look at previous students' digital flashcards or you can type the course name and get flashcards ready made for you to study at any time with your phone in hand.

3.  Have the right mindset for being constantly busy.  Don't compare yourself to full-time students who don't have to work.  They may have every evening to party, while you may be spending every evening at work.  Remind yourself that your efforts are paying off in the form of accruing less college debt over time.  This is a huge win for you!

4.  Have a balance and do include both sleep and a social life.  Despite your machine-like efforts, you must make the time to still enjoy somewhat of a social life and have consistent sleep habits.  You don't need a mental breakdown!

5.  Make use of professor office hours.  You may need an occasional assignment extension, and that decision is made easier when your professor actually knows who you are.  Seeing them about a concept you don't understand opens the door to being comfortable asking for a few more days to finish work you haven't been able to get to because of your busy schedule.

6.  Choose on-campus jobs over off-campus ones.  Aside from being more convenient, your bosses will be more flexible with you during finals, scheduling you to come in at more suitable times.  Commutes will absolutely destroy your valuable time unless you can get audio books or notes and hear them as you travel.

7.  Have the right roommates.  You may not have a choice your first year of college, but by your sophomore year, you should be able to know who you can live with out of your circle of friends.  Pick other studious people to share housing with that will have your back, meaning, they won't entice you to party, and will cheer you on to keep going.

8.  Make time for exercise.  Exercise is proven to reduce stress and make you feel good about yourself.  Your brain will get more oxygen helping you think more clearly.  "I don't have time for exercise!"  Nonsense!  30 minutes four to five times a week is all you need.

9.  Maximize every spare minute!  The bathroom is now a mini study session room.  Your phone is with you right?  Then use going to the bathroom, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, heck...even showering, as times to be pumping information into your brain.  There are no rules!

10.  Improve your reading speed.  Keeping up with all of the assigned reading is a college student's number one challenge.  Why not learn speed reading techniques to help with this?  Here's a great article on speed reading techniques.

Being a "working learner" is perhaps the best real-life preparation a college student can have.  If you can work and go to school, you're essentially prepared to do what professional adults do all over the country.  In fact, yours truly earned a Masters in Administration while working as a full-time teacher and being married.  I failed at my first marriage, but I did earn that Masters.  Ha!

In all seriousness, life is hectic and learning to manage your time is a HUGE skill.  I applaud all working learners, and want to tell you, if you happen to be one, I'm your biggest fan!  Hang in there and never give up.  Thanks for reading.  If you liked this post and want to get more like them in your inbox, please subscribe before you leave.  I'll throw in three money matters eBooks for your troubles.

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