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Friday, January 19, 2018

The Best Way To Teach Your Kids About Future Expenses

What's up everyone?  Today I read an article about a mother, whose Facebook post on teaching her daughter about money, has gone viral.  I don't have the Facebook post to share, but I can refer you to the site here.  Main thing is that the mother (Mrs./Ms. Essence Evans) is teaching her daughter, in a very unique and clever way I may add, how the real world works when it comes to spending.  The controversy, and indeed the reason why the post became viral, is because the child, at five-years-old, is considered too young to be learning about money like so:

Image result for money lessons for kids



1)  Mother gives daughter $7 a week.

2)  Mother takes back from daughter $1 for rent, $1 for electricity, $1 for water, $1 for cable, $1 for food.  This amounts to $5 of real-life adult world charges the child has to pretend to pay back.

3)  Mother allows the daughter to save or spend the remaining $2.

4)  Mother actually saves the $5 in an account and will surprise daughter when she turns 18, giving her over $3,300 in cash to move out or use in any way.


Image result for Mother charges her 5 year old for rent
Essence Evans and her daughter



Let's discuss the merits of this technique:

For starters, the daughter learns how bills (expenses) work.  At five, she has no doubt seen her mother paying bills online or by writing out checks.  Now it becomes an experience she can relate to.  Moreover, the daughter can appreciate what "savings" is.  With an allowance, a child gets a set amount for chores or whatever agreement is shared within a family.  Children getting allowances never experience "parental" expenses.  They simple learn how to spend, how to save, or how to give.  All are great lessons, of course.  If a child, like Evan's 5-year-old experiences money taken away from her, she may value the remaining $2 a whole lot more, leading to more conscious decisions on spending or saving for toys, candy, etc.

Now let's talk the concerns with this technique:

From comments I read, the issue for some people is that Evan's daughter is a) too young to understand, b) may feel burdened by these concepts, and c) may experience financial insecurity when she should be enjoying childhood.  These are all valid concerns, but are they perhaps too damning?

Parenting Styles Differ And Not All Kids Are The Same

Let's acknowledge that little 5-year-old girls are different than little 5-year-old boys.  Also, not all 5-year-old children in America are the same.  Some children have above average maturity at age 5.  My daughter is such a child.  She preferred talking and being around adults at 5 more so than being around kids her age. All to say that let's not be too judgmental.

If it seems to harsh for you to do this to a 5-year-old, don't!  Wait until your child is a little older.  I suggest, 7.  Also what matters at any age for a child, is how you present the lesson.  If your approach is to treat the lesson more like a game, a child may be less inclined to see the "take back" as a punishment.  Moreover, make sure they understand that you're playing the role of a teacher, who happens to be a mommy or a daddy.  That way they don't associate "mommy taking my money" negatively.  In other words, the adult is also "pretending"!

How to Tweak this $$$ Lesson and Make It Even Better!!

Okay, I first have to give major props to Ms./Mrs. Evans for figuring out how to simulate the real world and teach personal finance to a 5-year-old.  Great job!

After thinking it through, I have a way you can tweak this lesson to simulate real-world expenses even better.  Since the changes are a little more convoluted, I suggest you do this with ages 6 and up to teens.

Ages 6-7:
Assign a simple to do chore or chores (no more than 3) to your child.  For example, they have to place napkins and silverware on the table for dinner each night.  Another example: They have to take out the recyclables to the bin in the backyard every day after school.  The chores will represent having a job and earning a salary (allowance) from it.  The pay will be $10/week.  The charges will be:

Rent: $3
Food: $1
Water: $1
Electricity: $1
TV/Streaming/Internet: $1
Income ($10) - Expenses ($7) = $3/week or $12/month 

Notice the rent is $3.  This is actually closer to what adults spend on housing.  Housing is 30% of a household budget for many Americans.  You decide what to do with the $28 you get back each month.  A Roth IRA for your kid is my suggestion.


Ages 8-12
Again, assign at least 2-3 chores.  You can level up how much harder you want your child to help you around the house.  Let's not forget that in the early 1900's, kids were helping around the farm, certainly working a lot harder than kids these days.  The pay will be $12/week.  The charges will be:

Rent: $3
Food: $1
Water: $1
Electricity: $1
TV/Streaming/Internet: $1
Cell Phone (If your child uses one at these ages): $1
Income ($12) - Expenses ($7-$8) = $4-$5/week or $16-$20/month

*By now your child should have learned that housing is very expensive.  They should also be wondering about whether or not using a streaming service is worth it.  They may want to strike deals with you.  Make sure you don't deviate on the price of rent, food, water, and electricity.  Last thing you want is a kid trying to bargain himself out of a shower.  Ha!  You could, however, use watching television, gaming, or use of Internet for non-educational purposes as a bargaining chip.  Maybe you don't charge them a $1 if they spend less than two hours a week watching YouTube video, Netflix, surfing the net, etc.??


Ages 13-18th Birthday

Assign the typical teen chores (cleaning their room once a week, e.g.) and add some life skills ones, e.g., doing your own laundry.  The pay will be $15/week.  The charges will be:

Rent: $3
Food: $1
Water: $1
Electricity: $1
TV/Streaming/Internet: $1
Cell Phone: $1
Transportation: $1 (Your high schooler will want rides everywhere)
Income ($15) - Expenses ($9) = $6/week or $24/month

*$24/month is not very much money for a teen these days.  Notice though that you're not charging them for clothes, money for the dance, etc.  You're still defraying the costs of these miscellaneous teen expenses.  So they may have all of their financial needs met, meaning they can save the $24 for additional things they want or even for college.

The Right Way to do This

The right way to do this is to hand your kids their "income" each week so they can feel the entire amount in their hand.  Don't just give them the difference of the income and expenses because it's more convenient.  For it to be most powerful, they have to feel the "pain" of giving money back to you, the bill collector.

Staying consistent by giving your child his/her income on the same day of the week, each week, also simulates "pay day" the best.  Let them hold onto all their income for at least 24-hours, and specify when all of the "bills" are due to you.  If they're late in paying you, tack on an additional $1 charge.  If they fail to keep their end of the deal on more than one occasion, terminate the arrangement until they're more mature to start at it again.

Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on all of this?    

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What To Do With A $40K Windfall Today

If you're coming into some serious cash within the next two months, great for you!  Much like winning the Lotto, it can be a huge rush.  If you don't have a plan of how you're going to use the windfall, you will be tempted to spend on things you wish you had before, but could never afford.  Like that awesome custom barbecue island!  Or that gorgeous Mercedes!  So prior to the money wire making it to your bank account, you must sit down and create a list of Must Do, and Can Wait.

Image result for I'm in the money


Your Must Do list needs to include (in this order) paying down debt, building your emergency reserves, and funding more of your retirement.  These are truly Must Do's.  Everything else, in theory, Can Wait.  Even if you should need a new fridge because your old one isn't cooling as well, for example, you can always keep it a little longer or wait to buy a new one at a Holiday sale.  But what if you had no debt to worry about, had plenty of cash savings, and didn't have a pressing need to buy anything new?  This is the exact scenario a teacher colleague of mine is facing.

He recently divorced and his ex-wife decided to keep the house she owned (on paper), but as a result of a settlement, needed to make my colleague an equity payment of $40K.  There are no taxes to pay in this exchange so the $40K is free and clear.  He knows I'm somewhat of a financial guru, but waited until almost meeting with a Mission Federal Credit Union rep to let me know how he intended to proceed with his windfall.  The rep had made some commission generating recommendations, obviously!  Like wanting my friend to buy a mutual fund from Jackson National.  He had no idea that this represented active management, number one.  Number two, it came with a plus 1% expense ratio.

When he shared this information with me, I had to metaphorically slap him!  After I educated him on active management versus what he could do on his own, we talked about his options.  He already has a variable rate 403(b), meaning his holdings are tied to the stock market.  He also has a Roth IRA, and he's on pace to fully fund 2017.

Image result for Target Date fund infographic


Since he was very interested in the stock market, my first suggestion to him was that he look into buying a low-expense ratio Target Date Fund, like a Vanguard.  He quickly took out his phone and went online, finding the Vanguard TD 2040 page.  I explained how Target Date funds work, decreasing your stock ownership over time in favor of more bonds as you near retirement.  I showed him where to find the expense ratio, again emphasizing how much fees impact your returns over time.  Moments later he shared with me that the Jackson National fund the Mission Federal guy had proposed had outperformed the Vanguard TD 2040 by an additional 8%.  So came the next lesson:  

You must compare apples to apples when sizing up mutual funds.  A target date fund needs to be compared with other target date funds, not with full stock funds.  I didn't have the Jackson National fund prospectus or Portfolio Composition, but I explained that if this fund is composed of higher beta and/or growth stocks, it would explain the funds performance being so high.  After all, we've been in a bull market for years!  The bull market became the next topic of discussion.

He wanted to pluck in all of his $40K at once into the market.  Bad idea!  Never buy into the market all at once.  It's a cardinal investing sin.  I suggested the following:

1)  $10K into a low-expense target date fund.
2)  $6K into a Top National 6-Month CD (Rates are between 1-1.3%)
3)  $6K into a Top National 12-Month CD (Rates are between 1.75-1.82%)
4)  $6K into a Top National 18-month CD (Rates are between 1.8-2.12%)
5)  $6K into a Top National 24-month CD (Rates are between 2.1-2.27%)
6)  $6K into a Top National Money Market Account (Rates are between 1.4-1.55%)

Why such an emphasis on savings?  Well, the CD ladder above will allow my friend to buy into the market, if he should choose to, in 6 month increments.  (He can always continue the ladder by buying another 24-month CD).  The market is at an all-time high right now.  In 6 to 12 months, there will be more clarity.  And, with the Fed raising rates, it may be time to seriously consider adding short-term (maturity) government bonds, CD's, and MMAs to your portfolio.  The only thing I caution is for you to stay alert on the rate of inflation.  Right now as reported it is 2.1%.  As you can see from above, the only CD rate above this is the 24-month one.  But what my friend needs right now is staggered liquidity because his ultimate goal is to enter the stock market.


Image result for CD ladder infographic


If rates rise and inflation stays at 2.1%, he'll have a better chance of earning better returns on the CDs.  Now, I'm not the only one guiding people back into saving vehicles that offer muted returns.  This weekend's Barron magazine also did the same in an article titled, Last Rites for the Bond Rally, touting the benefits of buying short-term government bonds at auction via the website, treasurydirect.gov.

Whatever windfall amount is coming your way, deciding what to do with it will consume a ton of mental energy.  Don't sit on the cash, of course, placing it into a regular bank savings account.  But don't also go on a buying spree.  To my friend, $40K may as well be a fortune.  And in some respects, it is!  He needs to make the best possible decision and the only way to do that is knowing all there is to know.  No doubt the knowledge I have given him will lead to more initial indecision, but in the end he'll have made more sound moves with his money.

Thanks for reading!    
    

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Is a $1,500 Mattress Worth It?

How's it going everybody?  I'm feeling pretty fresh, and rested.  Yesterday was the first day back at school and the kids were well-behaved.  So after a whole bunch of serious thought, I've decided I'm no longer going to be blogging like a mad man, every other day.  Heck, I may not even be blogging once a week.

I AM DONE!  I'm done trying to win over Google, and competing with the thousands of other sites for people's attention (i.e. clicks).  It added way too much stress into my life; stress I don't need.  So, officially...I don't give a rats behind!  I don't care if I ever get sponsored again to write a post, if people want to pay me for linking their site on an article, how much money the ads make, etc.  And it feels great not to care!  Liberating.

I'll be blogging whenever the heck I feel like it from now on.  If that's not okay by you...Bye, Felicia!  If you want to check in from time to time, great and thanks.  So let's move beyond all this now and get to the article.  Question:  When is the last time you bought yourself a mattress?

Would you believe I had my queen bed mattress since before I met my wife?  Until last week, I was sleeping on a mattress I'd bought way back in 2003!  Depending on the material and level of care, a mattress can last between 7-10 years.  My wife and I were well overdue for a new one. 


how long does mattress last



We had a standard innerspring mattress with a thin plush layer at the top.  No matter how I flipped it around, the mattress drooped in the middle.  This past December, my wife and I noticed how much pain we woke up with.  We felt worse after every night's sleep and were definitely not getting solid 8-hour rest.  A mattress was on our "to-buy" list, but being frugal, I'd pushed the problem further and further along.  Enough was enough.  Despite not having budgeted for a mattress in December, my wife and I went shopping for one, credit cards in hand.

We started at Ortho Matress.  This is a high-end mattress store.  In addition to well-known mattress brands like Posturepedic and Serta iComfort, they carry their own brand.  They also had the main types of mattresses on their display floor, e.g., latex, memory foam, innerspring, and innerspring with memory foam (hybrids).  The sales lady first helped us determine how firm (or soft) we liked our bed.  After laying on firm, medium, and soft mattresses, my wife and I luckily quickly agreed on the medium (i.e. not too soft, not too firm).  I can see how this can be a huge point of contention for couples on their first joint mattress shopping experience.

Then came time to decide on the type.  We told the sales lady about our discomforts when sleeping.  She asked if we slept more on our side, or on our backs.  Both my wife and I sleep mostly on our sides so the memory foam was recommended.  We tried all the types (innerspring, hybrid, latex) anyway, and as it turned out, the memory foam did feel the best.  The memory foam comes with a drawback.  Apparently, sleeping on a regular memory foam makes you hot.  That's why Serta's iComfort comes with special cooling fabric.  The lady was quick to point out that Ortho's version, their fabric, is much cooler.

All this coolness was costly, of course.  The cheapest Serta iComfort memory foam was around $1,100.  And they kept going up from there.  Talk about sticker shock!  The one my wife and I liked came in at $1,400+ just for the mattress.  Did we buy it?  No.  You can't comparison shop if you just go to one store.  So we left Ortho and drove less than a half mile away to Mattress Firm.  This store was smaller and had fewer selection.  Their prices for high-end mattresses were comparable to Ortho, however.  We told the sales guy we'd just come from Ortho and he went into a speech about Mattress Firm's better trial period, and return policy.

Trying out a mattress for 120 nights (Mattress Firm's trial period) did sound somewhat alluring.  The re-stocking expense, should we not like a mattress, was low enough too.  I can't recall exactly how much it was, but it was under $150.  In terms of financing, at Ortho, you have to apply for a line of credit with a creditor they work with.  I didn't like that.  At Mattress Firm, they had a much simpler financing process with a 90-day same as cash option.  Still, I didn't like the mattresses as much as the ones at Ortho.  Neither did my wife.  So we left for a third store.

While in the car, we talked costs and felt spending over $1K on a mattress would be too much for us.  Is a $1,500 mattress worth it?  Look, sleep is something you can't mess with.  You need a great night sleep to be your best everyday.  For this reason, I have to say that buying an expensive mattress, if it's high quality, is completely worth it.  You have to think about it as an investment.  You don't buy mattresses every year so the one you get can be around for a decade.  Say you spend $3K on a mattress.  That's a $300 yearly expense for 10 years.  Not bad.

Image result for M-Lily Vitality memory foam mattress



As for us, we found a wholesale mattress store in the furniture district in San Marcos, CA.  If you aren't local to California, Furniture.com can connect you with local retailers to find quality mattresses in your area.  At Discount Mattresses & More, we found the perfect memory foam queen mattress for only $799.95.  We outright bought an "M-Lily Vitality Bamboo Charcoal 11-inch Memory foam."  The way it felt while we laid on it at the store was comparable to the $1,100, Serta iComfort.  We got it delivered the same day.

I've slept on the M-Lily Vitality now for about a week.  It has been like night and day, waking up feeling so much better and my sciatica is gone!  My wife has also seen her sleep improve.  She can now sleep the whole night without waking up.  Boy what a difference a new mattress makes.  So my final thoughts are...

A $1,500 mattress is totally worth it!  You don't want to go cheap because you'll have to replace your mattress again a whole lot sooner.  I only spent over $800 after taxes on my mattress, but I would've gone as far as $1,500 if needed.

Thanks for reading!  

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

12 Entrepreneurship & Business Tips To Succeed In 2018

What will it take to be successful as an entrepreneur or in business in 2018?  Well, we don't all measure success in the same way.  We define success in so many different ways that it's quite open to interpretation as to what "it" looks like.  I think too many of us, little or small-time entrepreneurs, are extremely harsh in our judgement of how successful we've become.  We dream about becoming the next Gary Vee, Daymond John, or Lori Greiner, and if we don't do it within the year, we get down on ourselves.

Image result for Success in 2018



For 2018 I want you to be happy with your success, no matter how little headway you make in your business.  When you think about how far ahead of you people like the three I mentioned above are, you tend get discouraged AND to lose sight about why you became an entrepreneur: to be your own boss.  That's it, right?

Fundamentally, you want to simply be able to call your own shots, build something that belongs to you, and support yourself (your family, etc.) financially.  If you make enough from your hustle to save for retirement, and do some investing on the side, then you did it!  Congratulate yourself.  Keep going, of course, but if you don't reach the status of a Grant Cardone, it's not the end of the world!




I belong to a Facebook group called, Rise and Grind Ambassadors.  We're all like-minded individuals, with drive, a slew of combined expertise, and of course, fans of the great entrepreneur and Shark Tank shark, Daymond John.  The name of the FB group is that of his upcoming book, which you can pre-order here: Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life.


There are over 1,300 members of this group and we help each other daily.  That's why I'm starting the list of tips to succeed in 2018 with recommending that you,

1.  Join a Facebook group of like-minded individuals that have a knowledge of your industry or what you're trying to do.  It's essentially the modern day "mastermind" concept proposed by the great Napoleon Hill, in Think and Grow Rich!: The Original Version, Restored and Revised (tm).

2.  Don't be late to join the party.  If your competitors are onto something, quickly emulate to stay in lockstep.  There is no shame in "borrowing" ideas or innovations.

3.  Make as much of your business (or service) as possible mobile friendly.  We are all smartphoneholics!

4.  Find ways to save your core customer time or at minimum to make it more convenient for them to buy your products or service.

5.  If you can convert your LLC or S-Corp into a C-corp...do it!  You'll save the most in taxes so long as the Republican Tax plan stays law.

6.  Be mindful of interest rates (your "current ratio") and of inflation of the materials you need to make your products.  It's gonna be an interesting year for this!

The rest of the tips on this list come from my fellow Rise and Grind Ambassadors.  I asked them to give me their top tip for success this year.  I got some real good ones!  Here they go...

7.  People think branding is like a light switch that you can turn on and off.  You have to eat, sleep, and dream your brand in order for people to take you seriously--Pee Jay.

8.  Don't give up.  Success stories don't happen overnight; they take years to happen--Joyce Cutshaw-Singer.

9.  Perfection is the enemy of progress, and often too many entrepreneurs don't trust others and try to do everything themselves.  This is harmful--Cory Warfield.

10.  You are the one!  You are in charge!  Nobody is responsible for your success and failures but you.  It's an inside job--Deeds Blount.

11.  Remember your character, it's who you are--Joni Downey.

12.  It's okay to try and fail, just don't fail to try--Buddy Aces Busser.


I think we're all saying sort of the same thing here...be genuine and stay the course. You don't have to get everything right, but you do need to continuously learn.  2018 is going to be a year full of achievement for you, keeping in mind that achievements don't have to be monumental.  Alright, thanks for reading and for believing!

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Monday, January 1, 2018

8 New Year's Resolutions That Don't Deprive Or Suck!

Happy New Year!  I've been battling a wicked cold so my New Year's eve celebration was limited to me having just one mimosa and some good food.  I hope you had a great evening and are ready for an exciting day of college football.  It's a must that I publish something on new year resolutions, but no one says I have to feed you the same advice you'll be getting from every personal finance blogger or finance site today.  Tell me if you've gotten these suggestions to adopt as your new year resolutions:


Image result for tired dog


1.  Start a budget (blah, blah, blah...)
2.  Pay off your debt (Really? No, duh!)
3.  Start a side-hustle (Because you obviously don't work hard enough)
4.  Start or add to an emergency fund (My all-time favorite!)
5.  Something retirement related or kid's college fund related.

The thing is...you've most likely gotten these suggestions all year long in 2017.  So it really is overkill to give them to you once again, don't you think?  Before I give you some totally not sucky resolution suggestions of my own, let me remind you that today is the first day of our money saving challenges.  You are NOT to buy a single cup of joe from any coffee shop.  Make your own (and save huge duckets $$) all month long!

Image result for work less

Okay, so I have some interesting resolutions that will make you a better person in 2018.  They won't bore you or deprive you of any fun requiring money.  And they don't suck for sure.  Here they go:

1.  Work less.  Take your dang vacation and sick days people!  All of them.  Your headstone will not say: "Here lies the best darn worker in all of planet earth!"

2.  Spend more quality time with your kids.  Don't hover or live your life vicariously through them though.  But do pay attention to them and take them on mini trips where you can focus on talking with them.

3.  Celebrate more.  Birthdays and anniversaries aren't enough.  These are hard times and we need more reasons to praise ourselves or someone close to us so that we don't fall into a spiraling world of depression.  Buy a bottle of almond champagne once a month and toast to whatever!

4.  Read more fiction and for fun.  I have not read a short story or a novel in years!  I've been so motivated by self-improvement that I've read entirely non-fiction books.  Well you know what?...It's time I take a break and enjoy a good story.  If you read like a CEO, you should take a break too!

5.  Buy yourself a new wallet or money clip.  Is your wallet old and raggedy?  Does it have tears and slots with holes?  How are you supposed to look and feel like money in 2018 when you're carrying a ten year old wallet or money clip in your pocket?

6.  Buy your wife or significant other flowers more often.  A home should always have a fresh bouquet of flowers.  It livens up the entire home.  Plus you might get some more action, haha!

7.  Eat better.  Get a subscription to organic produce that's delivered to your house.  We have one and get fruits and vegetables brought to us like twice a month for like $50 a month.  Fresh is life, processed is death.

8.  Get yourself a new more expensive phone.  Totally opposite of what any financial blogger would advise here.  But if you're on your phone all day long, why not be on a new one?  The latest models are all the rage!  Upgrade time.


Alright there you have it.  8 resolutions that won't leave you devoid of life sustaining happiness.  You can still partake in all of your money saving things you usually do, just don't make them into resolutions.  You don't need more reasons to hate yourself when you fail to maintain your resolutions, as most of you will.  Best to keep it easy and simple.