Strategies for Success
In a recent conversation, I was asked to address the following issue. As it was stated to me; “A study shows that nearly 75 percent of Americans don't have enough emergency savings. What would you, as a financial mentor, say about ways to save, why it matters or what is keeping people from having enough savings? This is a good question and seems to be one simply answered with common sense. However, these days common sense appears to be in short supply.
Developing the behavior of saving is not hard-wired into us, although being secure is. The simple answer is that people seek pleasure. Money has the ability to purchase pleasurable experiences. Thus, we spend more than we save. But is it really that simple? We have been conditioned to desire to purchase things we do not need, with funds we do not have, in order to achieve a certain standard of living we cannot really enjoy, in an attempt to acquire the feelings associated with possessing those things that we desire. Yes you can purchase a $40,000 automobile, on credit, to appear as one who has wealth, in the hopes that others will respect you. Doing so will give an illusion of wealth, yet will leave you with a negative net worth. The first cause that keeps people from having enough savings would be the people themselves.
Consider this, a basic bundled service package from Verizon (which includes land-line, internet, direct TV/FiOS, long distance, and a cell plan w/4 phones) costs on average $290 monthly. Are all of these services convenient? Sure, but they are not necessary to sustaining life? There are many examples of line items in a household budget that could be reduced or even eliminated for a period of time that would increase savable income. Reduce dining out, or skip a summer vacation for a couple of years, or even unsubscribe to your favorite subscriptions could build savable income. The point is to start by looking at your spending habits. One way to do this is to create a spending log. This is a book that tracks every expense and every source of income. My wife and I have maintained a spending log since we were married over twenty years ago. Your spending habits are a good place to start, but you cannot stop there. You need to develop a plan.
So let’s talk about some simple ideas to encourage behaviors that will promote savings. I want to look at a couple different types of savings. Let’s start with the emergency fund. First get rid of all of your consumer debt and debt instruments. That means stop using the credit cards, stop purchasing items that you do not have the financial capital to purchase, and stop confusing wants and desires with necessities. The first two are self-explanatory. The third one will take a bit of reprogramming. Many modern conveniences are believed to be necessities today. Do you really need a smart-phone today? Not really… it’s nice and convenient, but you do not need one. Keep this in mind, as with any technology, there is a residual effect for the consumer (a perceived or real benefit), but there is also a business reality. That reality is once you become dependent on a specific type of technology, you have in effect, invited business into life at a very personal level. They actually need you to have their product more than you need to have their product. This is why even after purchasing their product, they continue to market to you. They need you to buy more stuff from them to maintain profits. That’s what businesses do. There is nothing wrong or immoral about it, it is just business and you need to factor that into your purchases.
A car dealership isn’t concerned about whether you purchase a new car to meet your needs for transportation. That dealership is concerned about whether you buy a new car from its showroom. Why? When you purchase a car, the dealership offers to perform the maintenance on your vehicle. Since the service department is the second largest source of income for a dealership, it is not by accident that the dealership wants to sell you a car. A dealership wants you to purchase from its inventory so it can create the potential for a revenue stream through the service department. So the first part of this overall reprogramming of how we think is to understand businesses need you to have their products and services more than you need to have their products and services.
Reducing your expenditures on items that you might be able to do without for a period of time will help you build your emergency fund. The great thing about cable or Direct TV is you can always reactivate your services and, often times, at a reduced rate. The same can be said about a smart phone. For you to establish and build your emergency fund, you need to think “reactivation is always an option.” Your emergency fund should be constructed in three different layers. First, get a small buffer between you and life by setting aside $1,500 in a money market account. Before moving onto the second layer, you need to focus on eliminating any and all consumer debt (if you haven’t already done so). A mortgage is alright at this point, but no credit card debt, no student loans, no auto loans, and no other forms of debt. Once you have accomplished that, build your emergency fund to the value of three to six months of gross wages. A person making $50,000 annually should have between $12,500 and $25,000 in an emergency fund. If you were to experience a lay-off, your emergency fund would carry you for more than six months as you search for new employment.
The final layer of your emergency fund is more optional, but really creates some freedom in your life. Your emergency fund should be housed in a money market account. If possible, find a tax-free money market fund through a company such as T Rowe Price. The third layer to your emergency fund is a small fund of three months of expenses held in a tax-free bond fund. Again this can be provided by a company such as T Rowe Price. Having an auxiliary emergency fund with an investment element enhances the space you have created between you and life. As I said, this is an optional layer but, one that I think you will find appealing.
The next type of savings I would encourage is the basic investment type savings. This is savings that is designed to grow and is not money you plan on using for at least the next five years. This type of savings might include money that you are saving to purchase a car in five years or money you might use to add a deck to your house. The best way to ensure a consistent behavior of savings is to auto-draft the money directly from your paychecks to be deposited into this investment account. Then, once the money is deposited, establish an auto-investment plan to purchase solid mutual funds on a monthly investment plan. This creates a flow to your money from income earned to money saved to resources invested without manual interference. If you are without debt and you have your tri-layered emergency fund, then you should be able to commit a good percentage of your earned income to this account. In conjunction with this savings plan, you also need to think about retirement or long-term savings.
I advise taking full advantage of the technology available to encourage savings and investments. To create the discipline of savings, a person should establish an auto-draft from his or her paycheck, directly into a Roth IRA, with an automatic investment plan, purchasing solid growth stock mutual funds. Your retirement savings and your mid-range savings plan should work together to secure your future. The goal in retirement savings is to make the funds unavailable for spending. That means that you cannot take possession of the earned income before making the deposit into a retirement account. It takes a great deal of discipline to have the money in your hand and then move it to your retirement account without being tempted to spend it. Once you go on auto-pilot, your retirement savings will grow and you will find you don’t even miss the money.
Finally, I advise to start small and establish a strategic goal to increase that amount in coordination with specific employment events such as promotions, bonuses, and merit increases. In today’s economic environment, it is critical for individuals to take personal responsibility for their own futures. With the continued increase of dependency on federal programs, the strain of such resources will have to be spread out thinner for maximum coverage. This means fewer resources to a growing number of people. Thus, having your own resources will become more important. I believe that in general, people fail to save because there is an intellectual disconnect between wants and needs. Society tends to want what it wants regardless of the costs associated with the item. And a number of people are willing to use debt as a means of acquiring the item. When a person can learn to want only what he or she needs, that person, not only lives without regret, but he or she is able to save.
If you are interested in building a strategic plan for your money, then contact me and let’s get started on your personal success coaching plan now. You can reach me by email (email@example.com) or by visiting my website (http://kenrupert.com) and using the contact form. I am looking forward to working with you as you embark on the journey of a lifetime.
Are you living your life for all the wrong reasons? Are you in pursuit of things or are you in service to your dreams? These are some of the questions you have to answer if you are to determine for what your life is going to stand. My intent with this posting is to call into question why you do what you do. Even if you are doing nothing with your life, you are motivated to stay where you are because there is something that keeps you there. Your task, and my job, is to identify your anchors and to weigh anchor and begin to move forward with purpose.
Have you ever been asked a rhetorical question and had an insatiable desire to answer it? That question is a classic example of itself. If you wanted to say yes, then you know what I am saying. The other day I was asked by a leader from a life coaching organization, “How well is your current business model helping you build the life you truly want to live?” As I cogitated on the premise of the question, it hit me. The question pre-supposes that the reason The Vita-Copia Group exists, the reason for me developing my life coaching business, is to create a life that I desire to live.
In one sense the presupposition is correct. Why would you enter into a business if there was not a level of pay-off? After all, our behaviors always have a driver, something that motivates us to do what it is we do. However, the question insinuates that the life you truly want to live is one of wealth and pleasure. Based on the VMP statement of The Vita-Copia Group, I started my business to build the life I truly want to live; that being a life of giving and serving others in the achievement of their desires. Making that statement makes me a little uneasy because if you are reading this you might get the wrong impression since you do not have knowledge of the VMP statements to which I am referring. So, to set the context of my response, I want to give you access to the VMP statements I mentioned.
First, let me explain the VMP acronym. VMP stands for a person’s vision, mission, and purpose statements. It should represent the essence of who a person wants to be and for what a person stands. This is also true in the business sense. When it comes to The Vita-Copia Group, my answer to the question “How well is your current business model helping you build the life you truly want to live?” would be to a high degree, am I truly living out the core of my Vision, Mission, and Purpose? My VMP for The Vita-Copia Group is as follows.
VISION: To have been a stalwart agent of sustainable change, having built pathways of success that have positively impacted the lives of individuals, couples, and families with direction, growth, and opportunity based on the specific needs and desires of each individual.
MISSION: To build pathways of success that change the dynamics of “the game” through the purposeful and strategic manipulation of the given economic, social, and political environment so that each individual can achieve his or her own personal goals, produce his or her own desired results, and maximize his or her own full potential as designed by God.
PURPOSE: To provide the opportunity for each individual to realize his or her greatest potential so that he or she can affect his or her sphere of influence throughout his or her life.
In answering the question posed to me by the leader, I would reframe the question by putting the question into the context of the Vita-Copia Group’s VMP. For example, “How well is my current business model helping me be a stalwart agent of sustainable change? How well is my current business model helping me build pathways of success that have a positive impact on the lives of individuals, couples, and families? How well is my current business model helping me impact those individuals, couples, and families with providing direction, growth, and opportunity?”
As you can see, the original question is actually bigger than the person asking the question realizes. The original context of the question was focused on whether the business model was providing for my desired levels of wealth and pleasure from a worldly perspective. However, when you reframe the question to your VMP statements, you are really asking “Does the current business model provide the structure to assist you in being the person you desire to be? It is not about gaining what you desire in this life, it is about being what you desire to be throughout your life.
I always find it intriguing talking with people about what they do and how they feel about what they do. You would be surprised by how many successful people tell me that they are not satisfied with their life. It is strange that a person can gain so much and feel as though he or she has so little. I believe that this phenomenon exists because so little of what we do actually connects to who we are. My passion is to assist as many people as possible in developing their vision, mission, and purpose statements. I believe that this exercise will dramatically change how people look at their lives and how they begin to relate to the world around them.
Some of the questions I ask clients are designed to narrow the focus of the client so that the client can achieve the desired outcomes in a quicker amount of time. After asking a client specific questions, I can focus on the client’s responses and what he or she is telling both verbally and through his or her body language. Then together, we map a strategic pathway that is designed to move the client towards his or her personal vision, mission, and purpose (VMP) statements. If the client does not have a personal VMP statement, I help the client develop one. This is the critical starting point for every client. If the client cannot identify his or her sustainable target, he or she cannot truly gain purposeful and achievable focus.
The typical life coaching client is professionally successful yet personally unsatisfied. He or she could be facing a life transition or have too many irons in the fire. Maybe he or she is lacking peaceful direction or is looking to elevate his or her life to the next level and wants his or her life to be more fulfilling. This picture might be descriptive as typical, but there are really no typical life coaching clients. Each individual is a unique person, with different experiences and motivators, who is looking for more meaning, purpose, and accomplishments in his or her life. The closer a person moves towards his or her core essence, the more meaning and purpose is brought to his or her life. I use a series of questions to draw out a person’s passions for success.
The most important question I ask is, “If you are standing at the end of your life looking back, could you say that you have lived your life true to the essence of who you are?” On a very basic level we all want out lives to count for something. If you do not know who you are at your core, you will have a difficult time answering yes to this question. As a Board Certified Master Christian Life Coach, it is my responsibility to lead a person to define his or her core and then begin the process of moving towards that core. Other questions I would ask are, “What three things must you do every day to feel fulfilled?” “What are your five or six most important values?” “If money was not an issue and you never had to work another day in your life, how would you spend your time?” and finally, “When your life is ending, what will you regret not doing, seeing, or achieving?”These are just a few starter questions. As the coaching relationship develops, the depths of personal success and fulfillment are limitless.
Material possessions, though pleasurable, cannot improve the essence of who you are. Whether you are a business person or an individual who wants to make an impact and leave a legacy, you have to move beyond the material and find your core essence. Take the time necessary to reframe your life through the process of developing a vision, mission, and purpose for your life. If you are interested in gaining a better perspective of whom you are and what your life stands for, then contact me and let’s get started on your personal success coaching plan now. You can reach me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by visiting my website (http://kenrupert.com) and using the contact form. I am looking forward to working with you as you embark on the journey of a lifetime.
Let me just come right out and say it. Debt is a wealth killer. It robs you of your time, takes away your future and enslaves you those to whom you owe. But debt is not brought on by someone forcing you to use debt to achieve a desired level of life. Debt is really about not having a plan. It is about not proactively considering what might happen and then developing a plan to handle those potential eventualities. Before addressing what not to do after you’ve dug the pit of debt, I want to give you some pointers on staying out of debt.
First, resist the urge to want what you cannot afford. This might seem simplistically logical, but it is the number one driver that causes you to use debt as a tool to inflate your income. Trust me, there are numerous debt brokers out there that are more than willing to set the trap for you. Next, learn the difference between needs and wants and learn to want only what you need. Needs are basic life sustaining expenses: food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and utilities. Beyond that, most of the purchases that are made with debt tend to be consumables; items that once consumed add no further value to life. If you dine out on a regular basis, you will have moments of temporary pleasure. However, over time these thirty minute meals can cost you months or years of payments and interest.
It is true that life happens and in that moment when you are faced with an emergency you can be financially overwhelmed. If your emergency requires more resources than your emergency fund contains, then paying cash for what you can and developing a repayment plan might be the only way to manage your emergency. However, establishing an emergency fund with a built-in mitigation plan for cost overruns is a wise thing to do. Once you establish your emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, set the sustainable target at three to six months of gross income. After that, create an emergency fund for your emergency fund. Put some space between you and life.
Living without debt is really about planning, living below your means, and equating the value of an experience against the cost of that experience. But if you have, for whatever reason, found yourself deep in the pit of debt, you need to avoid these five critical mistakes.
First, avoid using debt as you try to get out from under your debt. You cannot dig yourself out of a pit. One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to rationalize the use of a home equity loan or a refinance to consolidate credit card debt. The argument for doing this is that you will have one payment with a lower interest rate. In reality, you have extended your debt over the life of a loan that is tied to your house. You are also adding years of interest payments and you have now put the security of your home at risk. In reality, you have just made your consumer debt a necessity by tying it to your house. Don’t fall for the temporary pleasure of using debt to pay off your debt. The math just does not add up.
Second, avoid continuing the same financially irresponsible behavior. Many people who consolidate their debt into a home equity loan or some other form of consolidation loan never address the behavior that put them in debt in the first place. Moreover, they never close the credit card accounts and destroy the credit cards. This basic mistake once again results in the temptation to begin the cycle of artificially inflating their spendable income. Usually, the first several months after the consolidation is made, people will keep their spending in check. But over the course of time, rationalization sets in and the spending is once again resumed. As you reduce your debt you must destroy the credit cards and close the accounts that are at zero balance.
Consider this Judeo-Christian principle; “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30) Simply applied, if credit cards are causing you to neglect your necessities, then you need to cut yourself off from those accounts. The principle is simple, debt is a wealth killer and it enslaves you to the entity to which you owe. Therefore, failing to sever ties with that entity will result in you being forever committed to working for someone else instead of working for yourself.
Third, avoid rationalizing that you do not have any control over the situation or circumstances. Whether you originally had an emergency fund or not, you must commit to a debt reduction plan that includes establishing or re-establishing an emergency fund. The basic concept is to put aside three to six months worth of expenses to offset a major financial event. I recommend establishing an emergency fund for the emergency fund. The primary emergency fund covers six months of expenses and the secondary fund covers up to three major repairs or replacements to the necessities of life. Those necessities would be shelter and transportation since the first emergency fund covers the expenses of food, clothing, and utilities. Failure to expect emergencies results in failure to manage and mitigate the impact of such emergencies.
Consider your home owners insurance and vehicle insurance as part of the second emergency fund. Therefore, the second fund should be able to maintain several years’ worth of insurance payments along with at least six months of mortgage payments. In addition, it should be able to cover your vehicle insurance for a couple of years. Knowing how to establish and manage your emergency funds is important. Hold the second fund in a state tax free bond fund where it can generate tax free income. Hold the primary emergency fund in a money market account where liquidity is important. Do not make the mistake of not having an emergency fund. Once you are in debt and committed to getting out, you need to set up a smaller emergency fund by setting aside about $1,500 in a savings account. Then pay off your debt, and then build up your emergency funds to the amounts discussed above.
Fourth, avoid over buying items that you absolutely need or purchasing items where the residual costs are somewhat hidden. If you are in debt and you find yourself in need of a more reliable form of transportation, do not over-purchase that form of transportation. Try to find a vehicle that you can afford on cash. Seek help from a family member who might be able to lend you a vehicle or the cash required to purchase one. Do not purchase a new vehicle when all you need is a more reliable form of transportation. Consider having extensive maintenance work done on your current vehicle if doing so would result in increasing the reliability of your current transportation. The key is to consider every alternative before assuming more debt on items you would not otherwise need. It may be a good feeling to drive off the lot in a new car, but the best vehicles to drive off a lot are the ones that do not come with an anchor attached.
Over-purchasing a necessity that requires you to increase your debt is much like purchasing a consumable item. Once the pleasure is extracted, the feelings associated with that purchase quickly pivot from comfort to stress. You need a vehicle with headlights, wipers, and door locks, but you do not need a sunroof, a spoiler or a six CD stereo.
So, first, avoid using debt to pay off debt. Second, avoid continuing in the same behavior patterns that got you into debt. Third, avoid rationalizing that you do not have any control over the situation or circumstances. Fourth, avoid over buying items that you absolutely need or purchasing items where the residual costs are somewhat hidden. Fifth and finally, avoid operating without a well developed and structured asset allocation plan. You have to know what you have coming in and where it is going. It does not necessarily have to be a line-item asset allocation plan, but it does need to document the general categories where you have allocated your income. When you know what is coming in and where it is going, you can begin to identify areas where you can live below your means.
You want to get so good at living below your means that whenever you receive a pay raise, you simply add it to your investment allocation. Set a strategic goal to live off of fifty percent of your pre-tax income. Avoiding debt to the greatest extent possible will allow you to live below your means. This behavior will have residual effects. It will create an abundant spirit that is more willing to bless others. You will have more opportunities to make the right decisions because you will be financially stable. When you become financially stable, you will be more passionate about helping others find the financial freedom that you have found. You have to take advantage of every opportunity wisely. You have to be able to identify a fraud and to avoid the pitfalls that lead to and entangle you in debt. However, if you are currently in debt, have hope. You can begin to overcome the years of bad decisions. Avoid these five critical mistakes and begin to work a plan with someone who has done this before.
If you are considering financial mentoring, then visit http://www.kenrupert.com/Services.html and learn about the different options I offer which might help you. Life is too short to owe others your future. Begin the process today to eliminate your debt, gain financial stability, and leave a legacy to your children’s children. Contact me today to get started.