tips

A New Way to Approach Your Finances

I’ve met a lot of people that had varying financial circumstances. One of the greatest perks of working as an International Tax Specialist was that I got to see how people around the world financed their lifestyles. With the experience I got working at IRS, I found that the biggest thing keeping people from their lifestyles is their own limiting belief systems. They honestly believe that they cannot afford the life that they desire because of cost. Remember, I saw people living abroad and doing very well, earning much less than many folks here in the US.

To be honest, MOST people can live extremely comfortable lifestyles for far less than they think. The main thing that you will need is a new mindset, or a new way to approach your finances. I will write a few posts about this, as I think that it’s important for everyone to understand my personal beliefs as it pertains to finance, and how I guide my clients’ financial plans. I’m not going to spout a bunch of feel-good theory, but I will share how I approach personal finance when speaking to clients.

First, if you want to live a more quality life, you have to really examine your wants and make them high priority. The key is:

**Redefine your Wants as Needs and You Will Increase the Likelihood of Attaining Those Things**

The problem with most people is that they place their strongest desires in the Wants category, which significantly decreases their importance. I propose that instead of classifying a non-immediate goal as a Want, try classifying it as a Need. When you change how you state your biggest goals, it will tell your subconscious mind that your goals are necessary to your survival and, as with anything needed for survival, your mind will work overtime to find a way to secure whatever survival goal you desire. Here are some examples of Wants redefined as Needs.

*I want a new career
versus
*I need a career that will use my talents to the full and keep me inspired.

*I want financial security
versus
*I need to generate enough passive and earned income so that, even during tough economic times, I may continue to live my fullest life.

*I want to travel internationally
versus
*I need to explore the world, because this feeds my soul and keeps me intellectually stimulated.

When Wants are redefined as Needs, it forces your mind to devote more resources and energy to achieving that redefined goal. I think that any long-term desire can be redefined as a Need. When you make your goals a priority, you will see opportunities that may not have been obvious before; you will also find that you’re subconsciously arranging your life to work in harmony with your Needs.

Writing down your redefined Wants is extremely important. The process of writing takes an idea and makes it something more concrete, tangible, and realistic than when the thought resided in your head. I’d also suggest that every time you take an action toward a goal, make notes of things that worked and things that didn’t. You are apt to repeat a successful experience if you can replicate it.

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Please check back in the upcoming weeks for more tips on finance, as well as some very special updates from me!

The 3 Pillars of Financial Success

As a rule, I like to keep things simple. One of the principles I share with my clients is that there are 3 things- and ONLY 3 things- that need to be implemented in order to ensure financial success. These 3 pillars are the basis for every budget, long term retirement plan, and customized Prosperity Plan that I create. Would you like to know more? (I see you nodding!) Here is what you need to be financially successful:

Reduce Debt

This isn’t a discussion about good debt vs. bad debt. As far as I’m concerned, ALL debt should be eliminated as soon as you possibly can. Debt that isn’t tied to appreciable assets (like land, businesses, or even education credentials) is especially repulsive. Always aim to pay things off, pay on time, and avoid taking on debt unless it’s for something that retains its value.

So long as you are paying money to others, you will find it hard to have money for yourself and for the things that make your heart sing. Debt reduction is critical to financial success. Less debt is always the better choice.

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Earn More

There are lots of arguments made against earning more money. But, those arguments invariably come from people that complain about not having enough money. Not only do those underfunded folks bash those that earn more, but they justify their own scarcity so that they won’t have to make any changes or possibly TAKE ACTION to alleviate their monetary discomfort.

As a general rule, more income, whether it comes from wages, self employment income, or passive income streams, is a good thing. If you have enough money coming in, you automatically have access to more options. OPTIONS are all about freedom: if you have more money, then you are free to choose the things that YOU want, without fearing that you will go lacking in other areas of your life.

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Save More

This is, oddly enough, the hardest part of financial success. Putting money aside and resisting the urge to spend it has to be one of the most challenging parts of becoming financially successful. It seems that whenever someone finally gets a nice little nest egg put away, sudden “emergencies” appear, which whittle down those savings to nothingness. It’s depressing and demotivating when those “emergencies” happen, which is why some people seem to always have no “rainy day” money. They are discouraged from saving again, lest those “emergencies” deplete that nest egg once more.

My best suggestion is to put the money in an account that requires an unusual amount of effort to do withdrawal. My federal job has the option for thrift savings accounts, and it takes quite a bit of paperwork in order to do a withdrawal. That, in my opinion, is enough of a deterrent to keep me from going in and recklessly spending my retirement savings.

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Those are my top tips for achieving financial success. These are recommendations that I’ve personally implemented successfully. What are some of your favorite financial strategies/tips?

5 Ways to Save Money TODAY!

I’ve spent the past few weeks digging through tax returns (yay for life after April 15th!) and love that I can now turn my attention to overall financial fitness. If we want to live more prosperous lives, we have to watch the habits of those that are living quality lifestyles. Many wealthy individuals use certain techniques to maintain their standard of living; mainly, they focus on keep their expenses low, while simultaneously growing their assets. No matter what you earn, you can always employ the “Reduce Expenses, Increase Assets” perspective.

These tips are in no way original, but who doesn’t occasionally need a helpful reminder?

1. Eat at home. According to the Wall Street Journal, individuals in lower income levels spend more on food than those in higher income brackets. Now, the infographics featured on WSJ are simple snapshots and doesn’t account for everyone’s circumstances, but generally speaking, these hold true. The convenience of purchasing something premade or dining at a restaurant often comes at a higher price, both monetarily and healthwise. So, instead of dining out or buying something prepackaged, eat a healthy, homecooked meal. Make sure that you cook enough so that you will have tasty leftovers for the next day’s lunch!

2. Cancel an unnecessary subscription. Most of us have at least one subscription that we can eliminate, whether it’s a magazine, newspaper, subscription box full of “surprise” items or premium cable television stations. One of my hobbies is genealogy and I had a paid subscription to a genealogical research website. I cancelled the subscription to the website in favor of going to the library. I find that going to the library helps me to focus and use my time more wisely; the monetary savings is just a perk! So, go ahead and cancel that subscription. If you find that you cannot live without it, you can always renew your subscription.

3. Avoid shopping websites and physical stores. This is so obvious, yet how many of us find ourselves mindlessly wandering over to our favorite online stores, perusing the “What’s New” pages and making a mental list of the items we want to get soon? If we don’t visit the websites, then we can’t be tempted. The same thing goes for visiting our favorite shops to see what has been stocked since our last visit: if we want to save money, avoid the places that want you to spend your money!

4. Call a service provider to reduce a bill or get additional perks. This can work for any business with whom you have an account. It works particularly well if you have cable television, credit cards, or even a bank or credit union account. When contacting the provider, mention how long you’ve been a customer and how much you’ve enjoyed doing business with them, then ask if they have any specials or if your account qualifies for any bonuses. The key to this is to be pleasant and not demanding. The customer service representative will be thrilled that you aren’t irate, and they will eagerly share what offers are available to valued customers like you.

5. Plan a free activity. I once knew a person that could not fathom doing any activity that didn’t cost money. In fact, every time his wife asked him to go out and do something fun, his excuse was that he had no money (of course, his wife knew his financial situation; he didn’t lack money, he lacked creativity and originality). Every time he did something fun, it cost him a significant amount of money. As you can imagine, his finances were in shambles because none of his entertainment was free. Do a free activity for a change. Even small towns have lots of free activities available. Try going to a local museum, enjoying a picnic in the park, visit the local library (these often have fantastic free events), joining (or creating!) a book club, or finding a local festival that has no admission costs. If you live in a medium- to large-sized city, there are a plethora of free options. Get creative!

Those are just 5 quick, easy tips to help you save money today. What are some of your favorite money-saving ideas and activities? Please comment below and share some of the ways you’ve reduced your expenses.