Going the DistanceFull Article
Without careful planning, your money will never go the distance for your retirement.
Well, unless you win the powerball or stumble upon buried treasure.
The simple fact is that retirement can last a long, long time and often be expensive. According to the Federal Reserve, the average American can expect a retirement of almost 20 years, requiring $1.2 million.¹
How long would it take you to save $1.2 million? Even if you could stash away your entire paycheck, it would likely take over a decade. Factor in the daily costs of living, and decades may become centuries.
Unless, of course, you leverage two simple strategies…
Strategy One: Maximize the power of compound interest.
Strategy Two: Start saving today.
These are time-proven strategies that anyone can leverage. And they can mean the difference between your savings running out of steam or lasting as long as you do.
Let’s start with strategy one: Maximize the power of compound interest…
Compound interest can supercharge your savings. Instead of taking centuries, you have the potential to reach your retirement goals just in time!
That’s because compounding unleashes a virtuous cycle. The money you save grows on its own over time.
But here’s where the magic happens—the more money you have compounding, the greater its growth potential becomes. Even a fraction of your paycheck can eventually compound into the wealth you may need for retirement.
Think of it like changing gears on a bike. Savings alone is first gear—good enough for going down hills or casual jaunts through the neighborhood.
But for reaching greater goals, you need more power. Compound interest is those extra gears—it’s an advantage that can radically improve your performance.
That leads straight into the next strategy: Start saving today.
The longer your money compounds, the greater potential it has for growth. To prove this, let’s crunch the numbers…
Let’s say you can save $500 per month. You find an account that compounds 10% annually.
After 20 years, you’ll have saved $120,000 and grown an additional $223,650 for a grand total of $343,650. Not bad!
But what if you wait another 11 years? Your money will more than triple—you’ll have $1,091,660!
The takeaway? A few years could be the difference between reaching your retirement goals and coming up short. The sooner you start, the greater potential you have to get where you want to go.
No more sporadic saving when you feel the panic. No more burying your head in the sand because you don’t know what the future holds. No more fear that your finances won’t cross the finish line.
These simple strategies can help you go the distance and retire with confidence. Contact me if you want to learn more about building wealth!
¹ “Retirement costs: Estimating what it costs to retire comfortably in every state,” Samuel Stebbins, USA Today, Feb 11, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/02/11/retirement-costs-comfortable-in-every-state-life-expectancy/115432956/
Wealth, simply put, is the stockpile of resources you have at your disposal.
The rarer the resource, the “wealthier” you are.
On a surface level, that definition conforms to the common stereotypes of wealth. Can we all agree that a stacked bank account is a rare and precious resource?
But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that wealth takes many shapes and forms.
Your knack for finding the right word at the right time?
Your secret talent for creating with your hands?
Your indestructible support network that’s there for you, no matter what?
Those are all resources. Those are all rare. Those are all wealth. They just don’t have a dollar value… yet.
To be fair, you shouldn’t monetize all of your assets, especially if those assets are people. Leveraging your network for money is something that must be done with the utmost care and respect, if at all.
But the fact remains that you likely possess an abundance of resources that could be converted into increased cash flow. Your talents, your ability, and your time are all precious assets that have the potential to boost your income.
The takeaway? When you break it down, you’re wealthier than you may think. The real question is, how will you monetize the resources you’ve been given?
Self-improvement is big business.
In 2020, the self-improvement industry was estimated to be worth $10.4 billion in the United States.¹
But here’s the catch—most of the advice you get from self-improvement gurus is either really simple or generic to the point of useless.
So here are five completely free self-improvement moves you can make that can actually help you feel better, starting today.
Get some sun
Sunlight, especially in the morning, offers a host of benefits, including…²
- Stronger eyes (just don’t look straight into the sun!)
- Healthy weight loss
- Stronger immunity
- Boosted emotional well-being
- Higher quality sleep
As a rule of thumb, try to get sunlight before noon for between 5 to 30 minutes. Don’t wear sunglasses or view the sunlight through a window, and get out of the shade for maximum results.
That’s it. Spend 5 minutes each day in the sun and see if you notice results!
Optimize your sleep
Getting better sleep can transform your life. It can improve everything from mood to focus to your ability to build muscle.³
But it’s often low on the priority list. How many times have you heard your overachieving friend say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”?
Don’t be like them! Implement these simple strategies to get the rest you deserve…
- Get sunlight early in the day, preferably within 60 minutes of waking
- Dim the lights before bed
- Keep your room cool and dark
Above all, aim for 8 hours of sleep each night!
Kick your self-improvement addiction
Let’s face it—self-improvement can swiftly become counter productive. At first, you get that rush. You’re setting goals and crushing them. You’re noticing improvements in mood, your productivity, your physique. It’s like the answer you’ve been waiting for!
But reality slowly settles back in. You start noticing inefficiencies in your routine. Bad habits creep back in. The world is still on fire. You’re still human.
That’s where you have a choice. You can throw yourself deeper into the self-improvement rabbit hole, optimizing every moment in the hope that one day, you’ll finally feel okay.
Or, you learn the ultimate self-improvement technique of them all—self-acceptance. Sure, you make tweaks and deal with problems. But you acknowledge that, at the end of the day, you’re still human. You take the good with the bad. You do your best to treat other people—and yourself—right.
So wake up tomorrow and get some sun, first thing. Before bed, dim the lights well in advance and turn on the fan. Wake up and see how you feel. And if these tips don’t fix all your problems, don’t sweat it—celebrate the improvement, and remember that you’re still human. And that’s a good thing, because that means you’re, well, you!
¹ “$10.4 Billion Self-Improvement Market Pivots to Virtual Delivery During the Pandemic,” John LaRosa, MarketResearch.com, Aug 2, 2021 https://blog.marketresearch.com/10.4-billion-self-improvement-market-pivots-to-virtual-delivery-during-the-pandemic
² “Sunlight and Your Health,” Poonam Sachdev, WebMD, Feb 22, 2022 https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-sunlight-health-effects
³ “Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep,” Rachel Reiff Ellis, WebMD, Jun 12, 2021 https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/benefits-sleep-more
It can sometimes feel like there’s a life insurance language barrier.
Words and ideas seem designed to confuse and trick you. But you might be surprised by how simple the concepts and terms actually are once they’re explained.
Consider this article your personal life insurance phrasebook to help you cut through the lingo and better understand the products you’re exploring. Let’s start with the basics!
Policy and Policy Holder
A life insurance policy is a contract between you and an insurer stating that they will pay out a certain amount of money upon your passing (or another event specified in the policy). The policyholder is the person who owns and controls the policy.
The money that gets paid out from the policy when you die.
You, as the policyholder, get to decide where the death benefit will go. The people who receive the money are called beneficiaries. That could be a spouse, child, or anyone who depends on your income.
The payment you give the insurer in exchange for the life insurance policy is called the premium. You might have to pay these monthly or annually.
Term Life Insurance
Some life insurance covers you for a specific amount of time. Your beneficiaries only receive the death benefit if you pass away during that time frame. This is referred to as Term Life Insurance. It’s typically considered the most straightforward form of life insurance available.
Permanent Life Insurance
Another type of life insurance lasts for your entire life. This is called Permanent Life Insurance. There are multiple subcategories of permanent life insurance.
Some permanent life insurance options come with a savings component. This is called a Cash Value. You can usually borrow against the cash value and spend the money on whatever you please!
This isn’t an exhaustive list of life insurance words and phrases, but it should be the minimum to get you started. Consider reaching out to a financial advisor to act as your translator as you dive deeper into the language of life insurance!
Automating your finances can take the pain out of wealth-building behavior.
You know how it goes. The thought flashes through your mind—”I need to start saving money!”
And then… well, that’s it. You read a few articles on saving and try to spend less, but after a week or two your mind has moved on.
Why? Because all forms of positive change are energy intensive, at least at first. And your brain, smart as it is, likes conserving energy.
So to jump-start saving, you need to take several one time actions that are borderline thoughtless.
Enter automation. It’s a small step with massive return potential.
It’s simple… • Log in to your online banking account • Set up a deposit • Choose to make the deposit recurring instead of one time
Like that, you’ve set the stage for dozens of wealth-building actions well into the future.
And what did it take? A few taps over a few minutes.
So what are you waiting for? Automate your savings right now. I’ll wait! Even if it’s $5 per month, it’s a step in the right direction—to build wealth for your future!
Starting your own business can be a challenge.
It will test your talents, your mental toughness, and your ability to adapt. And those tests—if you pass them—can spark extraordinary growth.
Here are four ways entrepreneurship will change you.
You’ll develop self reliance.
Entrepreneurs need to learn to solve their own problems, or fail. They don’t have a team to handle the daily grind of running a business.
Instead, new entrepreneurs handle everything from product development to accounting. It’s a stressful and high stakes juggling game.
But it can teach you a critical lesson: You’re far more resourceful than you thought. You’ll learn to stop waiting for help and start looking for solutions.
You’ll discover loyal friends.
One of the downsides of entrepreneurship is that it may expose toxic people in your circle. They’re the ones who might…
▪ Mock your new career
▪ Feel threatened by your success
▪ Try to one-up you when you share struggles
As you and your business grow, you may need to limit your interactions with them. They might be too draining on your emotional resources to justify long-term relationships.
Rather, your circle should reflect values like positivity, encouragement, and inspiration. Those new friends will support you through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
You’ll learn how to manage stress.
Late nights, hard deadlines, and high stakes are the realities for entrepreneurs.
To cope, you must build a toolkit of skills that can carry you through the hardest times. Otherwise, you may crack under the pressure and lose any progress you’ve made.
It comes down to one key question: Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?
Are you driven by insecurity? Or by vision?
If you’re trying to prove a point to yourself or others with your business, you may fall apart at the first hint of failure.
If you’re driven by vision, you’ll see failure as part of the process.
Examine your motivations. Over time, you’ll grow more aware of your insecurities. Talk about them with your friends, families, and mentors. As you bring them into the light, you may find they have less and less power.
Entrepreneurship can spark an explosion of professional personal growth. You’ll grow up. You may start with an employee mindset, but you’ll mature into a leader. That’s how entrepreneurship will change you.
P.S. If this seems daunting, start with a side hustle. It can ease you into the role of entrepreneurship without throwing you into the deep end too soon!
Peak human performance.
Operating at your full potential consistently sounds too good to be true. We all want to accomplish more at our jobs and around the house. But a million little distractions always seem to throw us off course. Sure, we all have flashes of inspiration, but many of us settle for a fraction of our true capabilities.
But there’s a better way.
Researchers have discovered that high productivity doesn’t have to be limited to short bursts. There’s actually a very specific state of mind that results in stunning levels of output that’s triggered by certain psychological factors. It’s called flow, and understanding how it works may change your life.
What is flow?
Technically speaking, “Flow is a cognitive state where one is completely immersed in an activity… It involves intense focus, creative engagement, and the loss of awareness of the self.”¹ Think of it like this: what’s your favorite quarterback thinking about when he’s making a game winning play? Almost nothing else besides what he’s doing in the moment. That state of total concentration on the task at hand is what defines flow. Other sensations follow. Decisions seem to make themselves. You lose awareness of what’s going on around you. Time either seems to fly by or you see things in slow motion. And, most importantly, you feel awesome. You’re “in the zone.”
You’ve almost certainly achieved this flow state at least once in your life. But it probably doesn’t seem replicable. You were just on during that highschool football championship game or playing that local show with your buddies or giving that presentation. Fortunately, research hasn’t just described flow; it’s discovered a few factors that contribute to achieving peak performance.
The first flow key is to establish goals.
Your brain loves objectives. It loves feeling like it’s accomplishing things. Having a clear outcome in mind will help you tune out the distractions that don’t matter and hone in on what does. Identify your desired goal, outline in detail how you’ll accomplish it, and then proceed to the second flow key.
The second flow key is the balance between challenge and boredom.
Very often, facing a difficult task doesn’t naturally induce deep focus. It actually can make us feel anxious, scared, and avoidant. However, a mundane and simple activity, like washing dishes, doesn’t require the brainpower to trigger intense concentration.
Flow lives in the happy medium between those extremes of crushing anxiety and mind-melting boredom.
You have to have the confidence that you can actually crush the challenge at hand, but also not find it too easy or boring. Dial in your ideal difficulty level before you start a project. Expect more from your mundane responsibilities and get help for the daunting ones. Raise the stakes for your performance but make sure you don’t drown in the process!
The third flow key is immediate feedback.
Let’s say you’ve hired a coach to help you master a skill. Would you prefer them to write up an annual review on your progress or give you tips, critiques, and advice as often as possible?
Think about all the bad habits and practices you would develop without their regular oversight. You might discover you’ve been doing things wrong for a whole year if you’re only getting an annual checkup!
Instant feedback allows you to constantly refine your process and execution while also setting up micro goals for you to accomplish. It’s a simple way to add a dash of challenge to your daily routine that locks you in and helps you achieve peak performance.
Seek out frequent feedback. Ask your boss or co-workers or coach to give you critiques as often as possible. That constant stream of input will either make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished or give you new obstacles to overcome!
Achieving this state of peak performance isn’t always easy. There’s a cycle to entering flow that includes a difficult first phase. It’s hard work for our brain to enter into total focus and concentration. This first barrier is where most of us quit because intense concentration doesn’t feel great at first. But overcoming that initial resistance can open up a whole new world of productivity and performance. Use the three flow keys, push past the opening waves of discomfort and get into your zone! Sources
¹ “Flow,” Psychology Today, accessed Sept. 24, 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/flow
Stock images of freelancers and entrepreneurs are essentially identical.
They feature a wide range of people in neat home offices and coffee shops bent over laptops in deep focus. And that reflects how most of us think about them; freelancer and entrepreneur are two different words for people who work outside the traditional employee/employer world.
But there’s more to the picture than stock photos let on. Here’s a look at the difference between freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Freelancers trade time and skill for money
The word freelance comes from the early 19th-century when English authors attempted to describe medieval mercenaries. Most knights in the middle ages pledged their loyalty to a lord. They swore that they would use their skills and resources to support their sovereign in times of war. But there were many knights who worked as mercenaries. They would fight for whoever had the most coin. Sir Walter Scott referred to these soldiers for hire as “free lances” in his novel Ivanhoe, and the name stuck.¹ Soon it was used to describe working without long-term commitments to a single employer.
Freelancers are essentially modern day mercenaries. They have a skillset that’s in demand and they sell it off to the highest bidder, typically for a short period of time or a specific project. They trade their skills and time for money, and then move on. A freelance graphic designer, for instance, might get hired by a small business in need of a new logo. They pay the designer a set fee, the designer delivers the logo, and the two parties part ways. The freelancer doesn’t have any more responsibilities towards the small business beyond completing a specific task, and the small business pays the freelancer a fee.
The main appeal of freelancing is flexibility. You get to decide for whom you work, the hours you work, and from where you work. Yes, you’ll have deadlines, but you get to decide how you’ll get everything done. Freelancing is also a great choice if you’re currently an employee and want to start exploring your options. Striking a balance with your side-gig and your main income stream can help bring in extra money to cover debt, save for retirement, or just have nicer vacations.
But freelancing has drawbacks. You’re still completing tasks for other people, you have to manage projects by yourself, and work can sometimes dry up. If you can’t maintain a healthy time balance with your main job, that work could suffer.
Entrepreneurs trade their team for money
Defining entrepreneurship is tricky. Freelancers and entrepreneurs have many things in common. But they end up working on different levels of risk and solving problems in very different ways. Remember how we said freelancers were like mercenaries, fighting wars for other people in exchange for money? Entrepreneurs are like the lords mercenaries fight for. They make decisions, assume responsibility for outcomes, and build things that last even when they are long gone.
A more modern example would be your favorite local restaurant. The owner of the business doesn’t take your order, pour your drinks, and prepare your food. They have a team that does all of that for them. But they had the vision of owning a restaurant, may have reached out to investors, and then took on the financial uncertainty of starting the restaurant. They make the top-level decisions but rely on a team to ensure that the day-to-day operations work smoothly.
Starting a business is risky. Only 25% make it past their 15th birthday.² But the advantage of successfully starting a business is that it will eventually reach a point where it runs on its own. Apple didn’t need Steve Jobs to operate. Amazon doesn’t need Jeff Bezos. Neither does your favorite local restaurant. They’re all built on a system and have teams that empower them to grow and accomplish more than they could independently. A freelancer’s income, however, is tied directly to the time they invest. If they get sick, they can’t earn. Losing just a single client could be a significant loss of business.
Interested in freelancing or starting up your own venture? Let’s talk! There are perfect opportunities out there for you to start exploring your potential.
¹ “The Surprising History of ‘Freelance’,” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/freelance-origin-meaning
² Michael T. Deane, “Top 6 Reasons New Businesses Fail,” Investopedia, Feb 28, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1010/top-6-reasons-new-businesses-fail.aspx#:~:text=Data%20from%20the%20BLS%20shows,to%2015%20years%20or%20more.
Here’s a misleading fact: the United States has the largest economy in the world.
It makes up nearly a quarter of the global economy and has a GDP of roughly $21.44 trillion.(1) But that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story. The truth is that only a few Americans have truly mastered how money works and the rest are lagging behind. Despite having the largest economy, the U.S. ranks 13th in GDP per capita.(2)
And it all begins with the state of financial literacy.
Knowing how money works has never been more important. But it’s becoming an increasingly rare skill among Americans. Here’s a quick look at the significance of financial literacy in the modern world and how ignorance is hampering our ability to build wealth.
The importance of financial literacy is increasing.
Americans are faced with a complex world. We have access to unlimited information on everything under the sun, endless opinions on every issue, and infinite options for entertainment. Money is no exception. The two tried and true safety nets of the past—social security and pension plans—can fall short, so we need to figure out how to provide for our own futures. The options for how to save and grow our money are myriad. Now it’s on us to figure out how to build wealth, save for retirement, and leave money behind for our kids.
Understanding how money works isn’t just helpful for achieving those goals. It’s absolutely mandatory. Saving, budgeting, and the power of compound interest are just a few of the concepts that you’ll need to master before you can start building your financial future.
Financial literacy is decreasing.
Americans are less able to plan and provide for their futures than ever. Financial literacy slid from 42% to 34% between 2009 and 2018.(3) And that number is significantly lower for Millennials than for the rest of the population, with only 17% able to answer 4 out of 5 basic questions about finances.(4) That ignorance shows in our decision making and our inability to build wealth. A stunning 33% of Americans have nothing set aside for retirement.(5) 44% don’t have enough saved to cover a $1,000 emergency.(6) We’re surrounded by money and opportunity but don’t have the knowledge to convert them into personal wealth.
There are several reasons why financial literacy could be decreasing. Financial education is not widely taught in public schools, with less than half of states requiring a personal finance course for a highschool diploma.(7) Perhaps we’ve just been slow to keep up with the rapid changes in the global economy. Or maybe some people benefit from having a large chunk of the population stay in financial ignorance. The lack of financial literacy is most likely a combination of all these reasons! The real question is, do you know how money works? And if not, where will you learn?
¹ Caleb Silver, “The Top 20 Economies in the World,” Investopedia, Updated Sep 1, 2022 https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/ ² “GDP per Capita,” Worldometers, https://www.worldometers.info/gdp/gdp-per-capita/
³ Andrew Keshner, “Financial literacy skills have taken a nose dive since the Great Recession,” MarketWatch, June 27, 2019 https://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-financial-literacy-skills-have-plummeted-since-the-great-recession-2019-06-26
⁴ Andrew Keshner, “Financial literacy skills have taken a nose dive since the Great Recession,” MarketWatch, June 27, 2019 https://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-financial-literacy-skills-have-plummeted-since-the-great-recession-2019-06-26
⁵ Dani Pascarella, “4 Stats That Reveal How Badly America Is Failing At Financial Literacy,” Forbes, Apr. 3, 2018 https://www.forbes.com/sites/danipascarella/2018/04/03/4-stats-that-reveal-how-badly-america-is-failing-at-financial-literacy/#69cecb072bb7
⁶ Dani Pascarella, “4 Stats That Reveal How Badly America Is Failing At Financial Literacy,” Forbes, Apr. 3, 2018 https://www.forbes.com/sites/danipascarella/2018/04/03/4-stats-that-reveal-how-badly-america-is-failing-at-financial-literacy/#69cecb072bb7
⁷ Ann Carrns, “More States Require Students to Learn About Money Matters,” The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/your-money/states-financial-education.html
There are plenty of reasons for not buying life insurance. There just aren’t many good ones!
Every year, Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association (LIMRA) collects data on why people aren’t buying life insurance. Here are the three most popular objections to owning life insurance and a few points to consider if they’re stopping you from protecting your family.
“Life insurance isn’t that important.”
This is the #1 reason Americans don’t buy life insurance. 67% say they have other financial priorities.¹ And there’s an extent to which that’s understandable! Your mortgage, car payments, and college tuition are incredibly important for the wellbeing of your family. They’re the building blocks of your lifestyle and empower your loved ones to pursue their dreams.
But life insurance helps ensure that your family can meet those financial obligations and maintain their lifestyle, no matter what. It replaces the income they would lose if something were to happen to you unexpectedly. Life insurance is important because you have other financial priorities!
“Life insurance is not affordable.”
65% of Americans think they can’t afford life insurance.² But it’s incredibly common to overestimate the cost. LIMRA found in 2018 that 44% of Millennials thought life insurance was 5 times more expensive than it actually was.³ To put things into perspective, a healthy, smoke-free 25 year old can expect to pay about $31 per month on life insurance.⁴ That’s roughly the same as subscribing to several streaming services combined.⁵ A young person can protect their financial future for the same monthly cost as binging their favorite shows and movies.
“Do I really need life insurance?”
The third most common reason Americans don’t have life insurance is because they don’t think they need it. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you’re thinking some of these yourself. “I’m young and healthy, I don’t have a family,” and the list goes on. A 23 year old without financial dependents like a spouse, aging parent, or child might legitimately have bigger financial fish to fry. But anyone with people in their lives that depend on their income to make ends meet and to pursue their dreams should have life insurance coverage. It’s not about how healthy you feel or how much you’ve saved up. It’s about protecting your family regardless of what life throws your way. Would you skip out on car insurance because you’re a good driver? Or ignore homeowners insurance because you have a fire extinguisher?
So the question now becomes, why don’t you have life insurance? Did any of these objections ring a bell? I would love to talk sometime about your concerns around securing the right protection for your family!
¹ “Is Life Insurance Tomorrow’s Problem? Findings from the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study,” LIMRA, https://www.limra.com/en/newsroom/industry-trends/2020/is-life-insurance-tomorrows-problem-findings-from-the-2020-insurance-barometer-study/
² “Is Life Insurance Tomorrow’s Problem? Findings from the 2020 Insurance Barometer Study,” LIMRA
³ “9 common life insurance myths debunked,” Policygenius, https://www.policygenius.com/life-insurance/common-life-insurance-myths-debunked/
⁴ “Average Cost of Life Insurance (2022): Rates by Age, Term and Policy Size,” ValuePenguin, https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-life-insurance
⁵ “Americans already subscribe to three streaming services on average. Is there room for more?,” allconnect, https://www.allconnect.com/blog/average-american-spend-on-streaming#:~:text=One%20poll%20from%20The%20Hollywood,at%20just%20over%20%2414%2Fmo.
Hitting the snooze button.
Brewing coffee first thing in the morning. Working out right after you leave the office. Our lives are full of actions that we’re almost unaware of. Many of them just help us get little things done more efficiently. But some habits can have a huge impact on our lives in either a positive or negative way. Here’s a quick breakdown of how habits work and ways to “trick yourself” into better behavior patterns.
Your brain craves efficiency. It looks for the path of least resistance when it comes to using energy. Making decisions takes a lot of brain power. Too many choices in a day can leave you feeling mentally exhausted, so your brain looks for ways to cut corners. It starts automating little decisions that you make repeatedly. Brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, and checking your social media are choices you’ve made so often that your brain stops consciously weighing in and seems to just spontaneously make you do them.
So that’s why your brain likes forming habits. But the mechanics of how a habit forms is essential if you’re trying to upgrade your unconscious behaviors.
Cues, Routines, and Rewards
A habit can be broken down into three basic components. It starts with a cue. That’s any kind of trigger that makes you want to do something. Actually performing the action suggested by the cue is called a routine. Following the routine usually results in some kind of reward, either physical or psychological.
So let’s say you’ve developed a habit of eating a cookie with your morning coffee. You wake up, put on the pot, and brew a delicious cup of joe. You instantly start craving the cookie when you smell that medium roast goodness. That’s the cue. You reach into the jar, grab the biggest chocolate chip cookie you can get your hands on, and take a bite. That’s the routine. And the tingling joy and comfort you feel when that life-giving treat hits your tongue? That’s the reward that brings you back morning after morning. But the consequence might be that you’ve put on a few unwanted pounds in the last couple of months.
How to use the habit pattern
It’s easy to see how certain habits can lead to some undesirable outcomes. We tend to form habits around anything that rewards our brains, whether it’s junk food, caffeine, or dangerous substances. But our brains also like things such as observing progress and accomplishing goals.
How can we use this to encourage good habits? Here are a few ideas:
• Start really small. Break your desired habit down into pieces and try to regularly perform each one. You might be surprised by how good it feels to accomplish something, which can prompt you to make more and more progress.
• Reward yourself. Some activities are very rewarding in the moment. But not everything that’s good for you leaves you feeling accomplished right away. Try something like only playing video games after 30 minutes of reading!
• Be patient. Habits don’t form overnight. You’ll probably mess up before it sticks. Don’t sweat the little failures and keep trying until that habit becomes second nature!
You can also use this knowledge to break bad habits. Try to identify the cues associated with the habit and avoid or eliminate them. Also, consider ways that you might actually be rewarding yourself for bad behavior. It’s worth asking friends and sometimes professionals for insights into your habits!
“Money can buy you happiness.”
Well, not exactly. But money CAN help remove stressors that impact your happiness.
A new study by Penn State University revealed that happiness increases with income. On the surface, that may appear obvious.
But in fact, people who equated their self-worth with money were LESS satisfied with their lives.
So it’s not the money itself that brings happiness.
Instead, money can provide security and freedom. It helps eliminate the fear of going without, and opens up choices for how to live your life.
Think of it as a foundation for investing in the things that matter most, like…
- Your relationships
- Your career
- Your life mission
If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this…
Money itself isn’t the goal. It’s a tool to help you achieve your goals.
So keep your eyes on what matters most, like your family and mission. Then, take an inventory of ways money can help you safeguard and pursue the things you value. That’s how money can help you “buy” happiness.
Diversification is a key strategy for anyone who’s serious about building wealth.
That’s because no single source of income or wealth is perfect. They’re all subject to ups and downs, highs and lows.
Think of it like going to the golf range and handing the caddie an armful of drivers. You’ll make powerful drives every time, but what happens when it’s time to putt? Even worse, how will you escape bunkers?
It’s a classic case of too much of a good thing. If you’re a serious player and plan to play for the long run, your golf bag needs a variety of clubs—a few different irons, wedges, and putters—to handle whatever challenges you’ll face during the game.
The same is true of building wealth.
-Different accounts that each leverage the power of compound interest.
-Income streams besides your main job.
-Savings that feature at least some protection against loss.
It’s not a silver bullet. But diversification can offer a layer of protection against the ups and downs of the economy. It can also provide you with supplemental income during lean times.
So how can you start diversifying today? Here are a few ideas…
Start a side hustle.
This simple strategy can diversify your income sources. Regardless of what’s happening at your 9-to-5 job, you can count on your side hustle to help generate cash flow.
Meet with a financial professional.
A licensed and qualified financial professional can help you implement diversification in your savings. This could make a huge difference in protecting your wealth from the ups and downs of a changing economy.
Contact me if you want to discover what this strategy would look like for you. We can review what you’ve saved thus far and check your opportunities for diversification.
The purpose of this article isn’t to speculate whether or not a recession is on the horizon. It’s to make sure you’re ready if it is.
Some downturns can be seen from a mile away. Others, like the Great Recession and the Coronavirus lockdowns, are black swan events—they catch even the experts off guard.
But they don’t have to find YOU unprepared.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you assess your recession readiness.
Your emergency fund is fully stocked.
Without well-stocked emergency savings, losing your job could spell disaster for your finances—you’d be forced to rely on credit to cover even basic expenses. When you re-enter the workforce, a huge chunk of your income would go straight towards paying down debt instead of building wealth.
That’s why it’s critical to save three to six months of income asap. It may be the cushion you need to soften the blow of unemployment, should it come your way.
You’ve diversified your income.
Recessions don’t discriminate. They affect everyone from the poorest to the wealthiest. But one group weathers downturns better than most—those with multiple streams of income.
If you have more than one source of income, you’re less likely to feel the full brunt of a recession. If one stream dries up, ideally you would have others to fall back on.
What does that look like? For many, it means a side hustle. Some create products like books, online guides, etc., or they might do something like acquire rental properties. These types of businesses typically only require a one-time effort to produce or purchase but will yield recurring income.
If you’re ambitious, you could create a business to generate income that far exceeds your personal labor. It’s not for the faint of heart. But with the right strategy and mentorship, it could lend your finances an extra layer of protection.
You’ve diversified your savings.
Just as you diversify your income streams, you should also diversify your savings. That way, if one account loses value, you have others to fall back on.
What could that look like? That depends on your situation. It’s why talking to a licensed and qualified financial professional is a must—they can help tailor your strategy to meet your specific goals.
You’re positioned to make bold moves.
The wealthy have long known that recessions can be opportunities. With the right strategy, you may actually come out ahead financially.
But in order to take advantage of those opportunities, you need to have cash on hand. That way, when others are forced to sell at a discount, you can scoop up assets at a fraction of their true value.
So if you want to be in a position to take advantage of a downturn, make sure you have ample cash on hand. That way, when an opportunity comes knocking, you’ll be ready to answer.
No one can predict the future. But by following these tips, you can prepare your finances for whatever the economy throws your way.
You work too hard for your money to let it go to waste.
So why does it feel like you have so little control? How many people feel financially helpless? Like there is barely enough to make ends meet and never enough to prepare for the future?
78% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic hit.¹ That means most of us weren’t in control of our finances. We were just riding the coattails of a fabulous economy.
So what does it take to achieve financial control?
Here are some basic ways to grab the reins of your personal finances!
You should know how much you make. But do you know how much you spend and on what? Discovering that your bank account is empty at the end of each month is one thing. But figuring out where your money is going—that’s something else entirely. This knowledge is what will help equip you to create a strategy and take control of your life.
Start by figuring out how much you spend in total and subtracting that number from how much you make. Then, break down your spending into categories like rent, gas, eating out, entertainment, streaming services, and anything else that takes a chunk out of your normal expenses. It might feel like homework, but hang in there.
Goals are the key to creating an effective financial strategy. You have to know what you’re building towards if you want to develop the best steps and strategies. It’s okay to think simple. Maybe you’re just trying to get out of debt. Perhaps you’re trying to save enough to start a business or buy a home. Or you might be a bit more ambitious and have an eye on a dream retirement that you want to start preparing for now.
Figure out what it is you want and how much it will cost. From there you can use your budget to start cutting back in categories where you spend too much. You might discover that you need to increase your income to accomplish your goals. Map out a few steps that will move you closer to making your dream a reality.
Once you’ve built a strategy based on your goals and budget-fueled insights, the only thing left is to follow through and take action. This isn’t a grandiose, one-time maneuver. This is about little decisions day in and day out that will help make your dreams a reality. That means making small moves like meal prepping at home instead of eating out, or avoiding clothing boutiques in favor of thrift shop finds. Those little acts of discipline are the building blocks of success. You might fall off the wagon every now and again, but that’s okay! Pick yourself up and keep pushing forward.
It’s important to have each of these three components operating together at once. Knowing your financial situation and not doing anything about it may not do anything but cause anxiety. Cutting your spending without an overall vision can lead to pointless frugality and meaningless deprivation. And a goal without insight or action? That’s called a fantasy. Let’s talk about how we can implement all three of these elements into a financial strategy today!
¹ “78% Of Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck,” Zack Friedman, Forbes, Jan 11, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/live-paycheck-to-paycheck-government-shutdown/#3305f4cb4f10
You’ve probably heard of debt consolidation. It’s a way to help lower your interest rates and monthly payments by packaging all of your debts into one neat little bundle.
And it can be helpful—if properly structured, consolidation can noticeably lower your interest rate.
But if you’re serious about getting out of debt, it shouldn’t be the only tool in your arsenal. Why? Because debt consolidation doesn’t do anything to attack your balance.
Let’s say you have three debts…
■ $3,000 personal loan at 7% interest
■ $15,000 car loan at 5% interest
■ $8,000 credit card balance at 15% interest
That comes out to a total monthly debt payment of $2,160. That’s a lot of money!
But what if you consolidate those debts into a single $26,000 loan with a 7% interest rate? Your new monthly payment would be $1,820. Not bad!
Now consider another scenario—what if instead of consolidating your debts, you could slice your total debt burden in half?
Your monthly payment would plummet from $2,160 to $1,080. And because you’re paying less each month, you’d have more money available to put towards building wealth, ASAP.
That’s important because the sooner you start building wealth, the better. The longer your money can grow via compound interest, the wealthier you can become.
So while debt consolidation can be helpful, it shouldn’t be your only strategy for getting out of debt. It’s just one tool in the arsenal.
If you’re not sure where to start with debt, meet with a debt relief specialist. They can point you towards the strategies and relief programs you need to get out of debt—for good.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or strategies that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before taking out a loan, enacting a funding strategy, or setting up debt consolidation, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, debt expert, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.
Mastering a skill takes time, effort, and sometimes money.
Hours of dedicated learning, training, and mentorship are required to move from amateur to expert. But who has the time for that? Most of us are still figuring out our careers or how to be a better parent or partner. With our busy lives, acquiring an additional skill—no matter how beneficial or fulfilling it may be—can seem like a fantasy.
But what if there were a way to quickly become competent at a skill? It turns out that there are some simple steps you can take to jumpstart your learning process. Here are some tips for quick skill acquisition!
Skills are typically composed of smaller processes. For instance, playing a song on piano requires a few different abilities. You must be able to move each finger to the right keys at the right time, you should probably know how to read music, and possess a sense of when to play more loudly or softly. Trying to play a song without some command of those capabilities can feel overwhelming or impossible!
That’s why it’s useful to start with the end product and work backwards to discover the little skills you need to master. Once you see the micro-processes involved, you can start working forward. This might feel silly at first. Jumping between the same few notes over and over again until you’ve got them down isn’t the most glamorous endeavor! But it lays the foundation for a more complicated and satisfying skill that will pay off in the long run.
It’s easy to think making progress will be a straight line. We’re building up our little skills, getting better and better with each practice session. But pretty soon we hit a wall. There’s a problem that seems we can’t overcome. We might even start backsliding or feeling like we’re getting worse!
Don’t sweat a roadblock. It’s perfectly normal to hit a plateau when you’re trying to acquire a skill. Take a break from practice, go for a walk or take a nap, and get back to it with a fresh perspective. You might be surprised by how much learning occurs when you allow your brain to relax and process.
As nice as it sounds, multitasking simply does not work. There’s overwhelming evidence that it actually slows down your brain and wildly reduces efficiency.¹ Multitasking must be avoided at all costs when you’re trying to quickly learn a new skill. Try setting aside some undistracted time every morning or evening for a few weeks to work on your skill. That means leaving your phone in another room, turning off the TV, and telling your family that you’ll be busy for a while. Get in the zone and start practicing!
An hour every evening for a month won’t transform you into a Picasso. You’re not shooting to be a virtuoso. Instead, these tips and strategies may help you quickly acquire competence in just about anything you set your mind to. So draw up a list of some skills you want to develop and start learning!
¹ “Multitasking is dead. Monotasking is better for our health, relationships and productivity,” Wendy Rose Gould, Today, May 13, 2022, https://www.today.com/health/mind-body/multitasking-bad-productivity-monotasking-rcna26968
Are you stagnating?
Have you fallen into a rut of living the same day over and over again, rehashing the same information and thinking the same thoughts? Maybe you’re bored and looking for adventure or intellectual stimulation. It turns out that there are actually a few things you can do to consistently push your mental capacities and become a lifelong learner!
Good writing is magical. It can transport us to distant lands and introduce us to incredible worlds and characters. But reading can also transform our minds, especially when we encounter new and challenging ideas. We’re able to overcome the limitations of our own imaginations and experiences and see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Surveys have shown that almost all successful people, regardless of their backgrounds, read extensively.¹ And it’s no wonder; the ability to assume appreciate perspective is incredibly powerful. But what should you be reading?
Expand your horizons.
Not all reading is created equal. Romance novels about vampires and werewolves might count as brain “junk food”. It also might be best to avoid a 19th-century philosophical treatise right out of the gate!
Instead, explore entry-level books about topics you don’t know a lot about. Dip your toe into new subjects and see if they spark your interest! You can always move to more advanced work on the subject from there. On the other hand, you can find new opinions and perspectives on topics that you’ve already mastered. How is your field changing or evolving?
Conversation is another great way to encounter new ideas. Chances are that you’re surrounded by vast amounts of knowledge sitting untapped inside your friends and family. You just need to know how to extract it! The keys are to listen seriously and ask real questions based on what you’ve heard. Most of us are more consumed with what we’re going to say next than with what the other person is saying. Honing in on what you’re hearing and trying to develop questions as you listen helps you understand what they’re saying and fuels your curiosity. It’s a virtuous cycle where everyone benefits!
But the key to both of these lifelong learning strategies is to focus intensely. That means when you’re reading or taking a class, turn off your phone and absorb what’s right before you. Engage in conversation intentionally, asking real questions based on what the other person is saying. You might be surprised how tricky both of those things can be at first! But stick with it. Those learning muscles will grow stronger and stronger until you’re brimming with information!
One final tip: always ask why. Don’t just ponder something to yourself. Ask someone who might possibly have an answer! And don’t be vague. Be as precise and specific as possible when you ask your question. The best thing about learning is that you can potentially keep learning forever! Learn to love the process of learning, and you might be amazed by how far your brain power can go.
¹ “A self-made millionaire who studied 1,200 wealthy people found they all have one — free — pastime in common,” Kathleen Elkins, Insider, Aug 21, 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/rich-people-like-to-read-2015-8
Receiving criticism is rarely fun.
Having flaws in your work pointed out to you can be a stressful experience and seriously affect your mood and self-image. Even criticizing someone else’s performance may make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
But criticism is incredibly important. When done correctly, it can empower us to improve our weaknesses and maximize our strengths. But first, we have to learn how to receive criticism well and not let our egos get in the way. Here are a few ideas!
Pause and reframe.
It’s easy to react poorly even to the best intentioned criticism. There’s an emotional leap we make where something simple like “I think this could be said better” gets interpreted as “you’re dumb and made a dumb decision and will always be dumb.” But that’s often our own emotions or insecurities talking and unnecessarily connecting dots. Next time you’re facing criticism, try taking a deep breath and pausing before you respond or react. You can also take that pause to reframe the situation in your mind. Is this really your boss seeking to degrade and destroy you or is this an opportunity to learn and improve?
Know your value.
One of the key factors in how you handle criticism is how you value yourself. Even gentle advice can deeply hurt someone who has a low estimation of their worth. To them, it may seem to confirm their suspicion that they’re really not that useful and that they should probably just give up. The same goes for people who are dependent on praise and approval. Criticism can make them feel like they have to perform like a superhuman to earn the approval of the person criticizing. Until they do that, they’ll be a nervous wreck!
The key to overcoming these barriers is to understand that you have value in and of yourself. Part of that worth comes from your accomplishments and skills, but some of it comes down to your mindset. What do you tell yourself about yourself? Have you really studied the art of self-confidence? Start developing the skills it takes to know your own worth and watch as your attitude towards feedback changes!
Consider the source.
It’s also worth remembering that not all criticism is created equal. There’s some feedback that might not be worth taking seriously whatsoever. Your nagging grandmother, your impossible to please friend, and your nitpicking coworker are probably not the best places to turn for useful critiques and advice. But bosses, experts, and mentors? That’s where you need to put aside your pride, remember that you still have value, and actually listen.
You might be surprised how these simple steps can transform your perspective on criticism. Suddenly, the advice and critiques of others seem less like threats and more like opportunities. There’s so much wisdom walking around in your peers and mentors. Learning how to handle criticism like a pro opens up access to a whole new world of experience and ideas that just might change your life!
There are some aspects of creativity that you just can’t fake.
Some people seem to be born with an eye for the new and the unexpected and the exciting. There’s nothing wrong with conventional thinking; you probably don’t want a doctor or nurse known for an avant-garde attitude! But there are times when we’re confronted by problems without obvious solutions. We have to think outside the box to overcome and make progress. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to approach life more creatively. You might not become a Van Gogh, but these tips might come in handy the next time you encounter a roadblock.
Talk to the experts to expand your horizons.
Experts can be a touch boring, especially when they keep lording their knowledge over you at dinner parties. But they can also be a huge source of inspiration, if you know how to talk to them! Instead of zoning out or looking for a way to interject your own opinion, start listening for opportunities to ask questions. Look for things you don’t understand about what they’re saying or an idea that strikes you as interesting and ask them about it. And when they’re done explaining it, try repeating it back in your own words. You might be surprised by the connections that your brain starts to make. Plus, the person you’re talking to will feel valued and appreciated!
Boredom births creativity.¹ It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you think about it. Your brain likes to be busy. Watching paint dry or reading the phonebook is so dull that (if you actually did those activities) you’d spontaneously start exploring new ideas just to pass the time. Your brain is never less inhibited or less constrained than when you’re performing a mundane task. Clear out some time in your schedule for a boring activity. Maybe (safely!) try voice recording your ideas in the car on your commute to and from work. You might find a long shower is the perfect time to brainstorm and think through problems. Get creative and do something monotonous!
Pick up a creative hobby. If your schedule is already full and you’re constantly on the move, picking up a hobby might seem kind of pointless. But a hobby can teach you important lessons about creativity that you can’t learn anywhere else. You might learn that performing a beautiful song is composed of dozens of little micro-movements and components that all take time to learn and master. You might learn that painting a stunning landscape starts with a single brushstroke. And you might learn that out-foxing your opponent in chess comes down to your burgeoning ability to imagine a dozen possible outcomes and responding well when things don’t go your way. Clear out some time, talk to an expert, and start creating something just for fun!
Start with the craziest idea first.
Convention is the biggest enemy of creativity. We’ve all had ideas that we’re afraid to share or voice because we think people will think we’re stupid. But being creative is all about seeing potential where no one else can. And that by default means some folks are going to shoot you looks. Overcome all of that by expressing your wildest ideas first. Come out of the gate with a barn burner. Listen to serious feedback and criticisms, but don’t be afraid to voice your ideas. You might just stumble on something brilliant!
These tips may not transform you into a generation-defining sculptor or wordsmith*. But they might just spark the creative edge you need to see problems in a new light and find opportunities where others see danger. So make some time, start some conversations, pick up some hobbies, and start dreaming!
*Please let me know if this article does happen to make you into a generation defining artist of any kind!
¹ “How boredom can make you more productive and creative,” Ivana Fisic, Clockify, Jun 22, 2022 https://clockify.me/blog/managing-time/boredom-can-make-you-more-productive-and-creative/