Tax-Free Income: A Guide to Reducing Your Taxes Legally While Going Green (Part 2)

Only you have the power to reduce your taxes! This is because you have to know which actions will result in the ability to write off a cost as an expense. You have to know enough about how to apply the tax code to your situation in order to use it to your benefit.

For example, you don’t have to know all of the rules of a 1031 exchange, just that you know what one is and when you might be able to take advantage of one.

 

Tax-Free Income_ A Guide to Reducing Your Taxes Legally While Going Green (Part 2)

Similarly, you don’t have to know the exact tax form you need to write off a recent home energy efficiency purchase (e.g.insulation). You just need to know that you can lower your tax burden and reduce your utility bill by adding insulation to your home.

In fact, adding adequate insulation is one of the most cost-effective home improvements that you perform on your property.

Tax Credit Amount: 10% of the cost, up to $500.

 

You Are Your Own Bookkeeper:

 

To take advantage of this tax credit, all you have to do is keep track of the expense on a spreadsheet and give it to your tax accountant at the end of the year. You are your own bookkeeper, which can be a good or bad thing.

It’s great if you know which expenses to keep track of or terrible if you don’t know what you are doing.

If you don’t know what you are doing, the result will be that you will pay the most you can possibly pay in taxes.

 

Why You Need to Understand the Principles of the Tax Code:

 

The government uses incentives to get the free-market (entrepreneurs, homeowners, and investors like you and me) to focus on projects that it wants us to invest in, build, and/or fund.

The government wants people to “go green”, which is why they provide a 30% tax credit for installing solar panels and offer a credit of 10% of the cost, up to $500 for adding insulation to your home.

When we do want the government wants, the government rewards us with tax breaks!

Luckily, you don’t have to memorize all 2,600 pages of the tax code. You just need to understand the principles behind them.

Once you understand the tax code principles, you’ll know when you may be in a situation to write an expense off. When you get good at recognizing these kinds of situations, you will edit your actions so that you purposely take the path of putting yourself in more of these kinds of situations.

The saying, “You don’t know, what you don’t know” rings true in this situation.

If you spent time learning about the principles behind the tax code, then when you find yourself at a crossroad, you can ask your tax advisor how to navigate the situation to your advantage.

With the tax code principles in hand, you can apply this knowledge to your daily actions.

For example, you can write off meals with a business partner or a friend who consults in your industry.

You just have to write down:

  1. What you talked about
  2. Who you eat the meal with
  3. Save your receipt (take a photo and store it electronically)

 

Then you can write it off as a marketing or consulting expense.

The two areas that our government gives the most tax incentives are in the areas of owning a business and in real estate. This is because these two areas provide jobs, housing, products, and services.

 

 

Sustainable Business Practices: Upcycle, Recycle, and Downcycle

 

 

It is becoming an indisputable fact that the future of business prefers ESG companies.

The world’s economies are slowly moving from a linear to a circular economy. The main driver is due to the fact that the “old way of doing things” is just no longer a viable option.

The transition toward a circular economy has to occur because our linear economy of “make, use, and dispose” is unsustainable.

The goal of a circular economy is to use raw materials more efficiently, resulting in a reduction in waste. When a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible. By doing this, we can continue to use the same materials over and over again.

In a circular economy, we would “make, use, and return”. Here is a great video by CNBC that quickly explains how a circular economy works.

 

Upcycling:

 

Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

In other words, upcycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often times more beautiful with more value.

Downcycling: 

 

Conversely, downcycling is a recycling practice that involves breaking an item down into its component elements or materials. Once the elements or materials are recovered, they are reused if possible. Usually, the reused materials are created into a lower-value product.

The main take away is that resources are limited because our planet does not have the capacity to produce an unlimited amount of natural raw materials.

For example, not only is the amount of copper in the ground is finite. But, pulling new copper out of the ground results in deforestation and the use of transportation fuel (which is bad for the environment and our Global Warming problem). Instead, it would be better for us to reuse the copper that is already in circulation.

 

 

Why We Need to Move to a Circular Economy:

 

The human population continues to grow at an incredibly fast rate. In fact, the UN reports that “roughly 83 million people are being added to the world’s population every year”.

The latest world population projections indicate that the global population will reach 10 billion people in the year 2055 and 11 billion in the year 2088.

To see a website dedicated to the global population growth visit worldometers.info. It is pretty scary to watch how many people are born every second and know that each one of those people needs to be fed, clothed, and bathed. Now imagine that each one of those people wants to buy a house, car, and iPhone.

 

 

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Increasing Your Income?

 

Eco Economics is devoted to helping you learn about personal finance while creating a more sustainable future.

Remember, saving is the core of investing. One way you can save money is by buying reusable and sustainable products. A second way to save is by insulating your home.

Start saving money today so that you can purchase income-producing assets to secure your financial future.

Becoming a minimalist will inherently help you save more money (because you are buying less). This, in turn, will allow you to invest more. The zero-waste lifestyle has many health and budget benefits.

How to View the Tax Code: 

 

By learning the tax code you can keep more of your hard-earned money.

Think about your financial IQ, financial report card, and financial freedom like it is a game. Once you shift your perspective, you will love learning about how to win the Financial Freedom Game of Life.

Treat the tax code as if it were a treasure map. As you follow the map, your taxes will go down. In turn, you get to keep more of your money, which you will then re-invest to make more money!

The Financial Freedom Game of Life is exactly that… A Game, so use all of the tools you can to ensure that you have the best chances of winning.

Are you saving for retirement? Hopefully, the answer is yes. If it is “Great”!

Are you invested in mutual funds? Like a Target Date Fund?

If the answer to this is yes, you are likely paying too much in fees!

To quote Nerdwallet,

“A 1% Fee Could Cost $590,000 in retirement savings over 40 years.”

 

 

Be a Life-Long Learner:

 

There are many ways to learn throughout life, all of which cost money, time, or a combination of both. Typically, there are 3 ways to learn. You can pay to learn a subject, ascertain knowledge from a mentor, or you can go through the-school-of-hard-knocks.

With a mentor, you are limited to the time that you are able to physically spend with them and you need to coordinate your schedules. Your mentor has their own life, so you will likely need to conform your schedule to theirs.

The difficult part with the “learn-as-you-go” through the trial-and-error method is that you may not know what you should have done instead.

More importantly, you cannot undo mistakes (you can only learn from them because the damage is already done). Typically, there is a cost for fixing a mistake, whether it be a monetary or time cost.

Another result of the “learn-as-you-go” through the trial-and-error method is that you will constantly get blindsided by obstacles and have serious feelings of uncertainty.

Invest in yourself and take the time to learn about the tax code.

Like what you see? Stay a while!

 

 

Feedback is always welcome, so feel free to comment below!

 

Long Term Care

Financial Planning: Why You Need Long Term Care

Most people aren’t even thinking about it, but the numbers say that you should be. Ask yourself, “Am I saving enough to take care of myself so that I do not become a burden on my children or left dependent on the government?”. Long term care is one expense that can put your mind at ease.

Financial Planning_ Why You Need Long Term Care

 

While the costs to pay for long-term care can be daunting to think about, the earlier you start paying into a program the cheaper the rates will be. This article will help explain what long term care is, why it is important to think about your future needs, and tips on how you can prepare now.

 

Today, Millennials must constantly make difficult trade-off decisions. Our generation has to think about caring for our aging parents, paying for the needs of our children, and saving enough for our retirement. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), around 70% of people turning age 65 will need long term care services at some point in their lives.

 

 

Why You Should Purchase Long Term Care: The Facts

 

As parents, the last thing you want to do is become a burden on your children. 

According to a 2015 study by AARP and the National Alliance on Caregiving, around 43.5 million people in the US have provided unpaid care in the last 12 months. Typically, an unpaid caregiver is a family member.

On average, caregivers spend 20 hours a week giving care. In relative terms, that is a part-time job! Around 58%  of those caregivers perform intensive personal care activities, such as bathing and feeding.

The average American life expectancy is 78 years. Moreover, the Population Reference Bureau projects that in 2060 nearly 100 million Americans will be 65 or older.

According to the CDC, if you reach the age of 80, you’ll likely live another 8-10 years.

By purchasing long term care, you can feel better knowing that you have taken the proper steps to ensure that your health will be cared for and that you will not run out of finances to do so.

So what is long term care?

 

Long Term Care:

 

Long term care is care that you need if you can no longer perform everyday tasks due to a chronic illness, injury, disability or the inevitable aging process.

We all age, and the statistics show that with modern medicine we are likely to live well into our 80’s. Long term care includes the supervision you might need due to common cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Long term care is not intended to cure you. It is chronic care that you will need for the rest of your life. You can receive long term care in your own home, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility.

According to a Georgetown University study called, “Long-Term Care Financing Policy Options for the Future,” nearly 41% of long term care is provided to people under the age of 65.

This means that a large percentage of people who use long term care have not even reached the age of retirement!

How can this be?

Long term care assists those who need help taking care of themselves due to:

  • Accidents (from a car crash or a sports injury)
  • Diseases (such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s)
  • Disabling events (such as strokes, brain tumors, and spinal cord injuries)
  • Disabling chronic conditions
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Severe mental illnesses

These are examples of injuries and ailments that can happen to anyone, at any age.

Recently, the National Council on Aging has found that 75% of seniors have at least one chronic health condition and that most have two or more. Conditions range from mild arthritis to advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

The National Investment Center (in their 2010 Investment Guide) cited that the average length of stay in an assisted living facility was 29 months.

The point is, it’s not a question of whether you are likely to need assisted care in your life… But will you be financially prepared for when it happens?

 

How Much Will You Need?

 

Below are some of the national average costs for long-term care in the United States (from 2016).

  • $225 a day or $6,844 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home
  • $253 a day or $7,698 per month for a private room in a nursing home
  • $119 a day or $3,628 per month for care in an assisted living facility (for a one-bedroom unit)

 

You can check the average costs for specific states here.

Daily health care is expensive, so properly planning for the future is critical.

 

Ask Yourself:
  • Can my retirement nest egg afford $80,000-$90,000 for 2.5 years?
  • Can my children pay for this additional cost?

 

Why Waiting Doesn’t Pay:

 

According to the American Association for Long Term Carethe best time to apply is in your 40’s-50’s.

Note, the younger you apply the cheaper the rates. This is because insurers offer discounts to applicants who are in good health. These discounts are locked in, meaning that you won’t lose them if your health changes.

 

 

Government Assistance and Programs:

 

Relying on the government should never be your first choice. Due to strict standards, you may not end up qualifying for government assistance. You could get stuck in a position where you don’t have enough to adequately care for your health, yet make too much to qualify for government assistance.

Medicare does not pay for non-skilled assistance with Activities of Daily Living (which make up the majority of long-term care services).

Approximately 47 million seniors live in the United States, and the senior population will soon double.

What’s more, women are having fewer children. This means that there will be fewer working-age people to provide for each elderly person.

Social security, Medicaid, and Medicare are already strained as it is. With the aging population and low birth rate trends, there will be fewer dollars to go around.

The question is, do you want to leave your health care up to chance? Many people get stuck in the middle where they have too much income to qualify for benefits, but not enough income to pay for adequate assistance.

In sum, you must plan for your own future because relying on the government will leave you under cared for.

Here is a quick video that summarizes what we have talked about (provided by Life Happens).

 

 

The Take Away:

 

Different kinds of insurance help you have confidence in your future and mitigate the risk that is sure to come.

Putting money aside, automatically, through a workplace or individual insurance plan is one of the simplest ways to make sure you’re continuously adding to your nest egg. What may seem like a nagging expense now, may cost you more later.

Having the proper amounts of insurance and planning for your retirement are two key components of creating a financially secure future.

Diversification is one of the most important aspects when deciding how to allocate your investment portfolio. Spreading out your risk amongst many different asset classes will help you weather the many inevitable storms to come. Your investment portfolio should include stocks, ETFs, fixed income assets, real estate, and other investment vehicles.

 

Like what you see? Stay a while!

 

If you have learned anything new, please remember to share so that I can continue to provide you with more free content!

Feedback is always welcome! Is there a wealth building strategy that you would like to learn more about? If so, let me know in the comments section.

 

Ways to Save

8 Ways to Save for a Down Payment on a Home and a Roth IRA

Saving for retirement and a down payment for a home may seem like it is an impossible task, especially with all of the other bills you have coming in.  I am going to share 8 easy ways to save for a down payment on a home and a Roth IRA retirement account. Retirement and home ownership are possible, you just have to rework some of your daily habits.

 

8 Ways to Save for a Down payment on a home and a Roth IRA

 

To fully fund a Roth IRA account you must save $15 a day (that’s $458 per month or $5,500 per year).

To save $5,000 a year, you must save $13.50 a day. Over 4 years you will have saved $20,000 for a down payment on a house.

Thus, with $29 a day you can you can fully fund a Roth IRA (that will grow to over $1,000,000 in 40 years) and save for a down payment on a home.

If you want to know how I came up with these numbers, click here. In the article “How to Save for a Down Payment on a Home and Fund a Roth IRA” I break down the numbers and make it really simple to understand.

So now that you know that all you have to do is save $29 a day, let’s look at 8 ways to find this money.

If you already own a home, these saving principles can be used to save for an investment property. If you are in debt, then these same saving principles can help you pay off that debt.

There are a number of ways that you can use this information.

My goal is to break down the process of saving so that it does not seem like a task that is impossible to overcome.

Saving for retirement and a home can be easy. All it takes is a bit of re-working on your end to find $29 a day!

 

 

How To Save $29 a Day:

 

So how do we accomplish this $29 a day?

Visit the Sustainability Shop to find a ton of ways to save by Going Green! For many of the products, I break down how much you can save per year by making the switch!

 

1. Eat at Home:

 

I meal prep 95% of the food I eat.

You can read “Increase the Velocity at Which Your Money Grows: Ways to Save” to learn how you can save $500 to $600 every month by meal prepping.

If you want to learn how easy it is to meal prep and how much time it saves, you can read “How to Increase Efficiency: Time Management Hacks”.

Let’s do a bit of quick math:

Assume a breakfast would cost you $7, lunch costs $12, and dinner costs $16 (I am being conservative here. I am sure many of you have eaten a $20+ dinner).

Let’s add all of that up and then multiply by 30 days per month. That is $1,050 per month on eating out!

If you were to meal prep, you would end up spending around $100 per week on groceries or $400 per month.

That is less than half of what you would spend on eating out!!! Or $600 in savings!

Bang! You just found the $458 per month to fund your Roth IRA retirement account.

An added benefit is that you can portion control your meals, and eat healthier (you know exactly what is going in your food).

To help you with your meal prepping, eco-friendly glass Tupperware,  bento boxes, and reusable food wrap are the go-to necessities:

 

Sustainable Tupperware overviewSustainable bento box 2reusable food wrap

You can find other reusable containers and silicon bags at the Sustainability Shop.

 

 

2. Cut Back on the $5 Cups of Coffee:

 

You will never see me with a Starbucks coffee. In fact, a small Starbucks coffee costs more than $5 a cup!

But, we will go with $5 for easy math.

If you buy a Starbucks coffee every morning before work, that would be $5 x 5 days x 4 weeks x 12 months=1,200 each year!

The point here is that you can save $1,200 per year, per $5 increment…

 

 

3. Carry a Bottle of Water:

 

Did you know that 50 billion water bottles are used every year?!?

Let’s save the planet, its animals, the oceans, and our money by using a reusable water bottle.

Soda and flavored drinks are terrible for you anyway…  The bottles say “natural and artificial flavors”, but what does this really mean?

Most water bottle companies use regular municipal water in their products, so you are really paying for the packaging and the convenience.

It is the $2-$3 increments that we tend to overlook that add up over time.crystal water bottle

Click here to check out this cool refillable gemstone water bottle!

If you believe in the power of crystals, this is a great way to give your water an awesome energy boost!

For thousands of years, ancient civilizations have utilized the power of crystals to release mental, physical and spiritual blockages, thus facilitating the free flow of energy throughout our bodies.

Click here to read more about the healing power of crystals.

 

 

4. Bring a Flask and Pre-Game!

 

The average mixed drink is probably between $10 and $12.

What really drove home the concept of how expensive drinks are, was that I lived in the land of $20 vodka Redbull‘s for 5 years (Vegas).

So I found that I could save a ton of money by bringing a flask and pre-gaming before I went out.

Yes, I have had a few friends give me a questioning look when I bust the flask out… But halfway through the night, they are asking for a swig…

Moreover, now that I am in my 30’s I find that I don’t really go to clubs and bars anymore. Instead, I find myself at friend’s houses having a cocktail or a glass of wine.

The point is that one cocktail is about the same price as the cost of a meal!

Plus, you tend to drink more than one cocktail when you are out.

 

5. Enjoy the Great Outdoors! 

 

I love going outside to play. Outdoor activities (like hiking) are free or have a relatively small start-up equipment cost.

A really fun indoor activity is salsa dancing.

What’s really great is that many places offer free salsa lessons!

Another benefit is that salsa is an awesome cardio workout.

In fact, it is a great way to meet new people if you are single, and an even better way to work on non-verbal communication and team building skills if you have a significant other.

Not to mention, Latin dance is very sexy and can help spice up your romantic life.

I used to go to the gym quite often, but now I find that I do all of my exercises outdoors and for free. An added bonus is that you get to experience the outdoors, re-connect with nature, and breath fresh air.

I typically walk 2.5 miles a day, salsa 2x per week, and in the winter I go skiing.

When I worked in an office, I would eat at my desk and walk for my 1-hour lunch. I was able to walk 2.5 miles in that 1-hour lunch break.

 

6. Cut the Cable:

 

I haven’t owned a TV since high school. I do have Netflix, and it is so much cheaper!

Additionally, I don’t have to watch advertisements.

On the other hand, I love listening to audiobooks. I mostly read nonfiction, but for fun, I listen to high fantasy and sci-fi books.

I have found that most books take around 14 hours to listen to. That means that you can crush a book every 2 weeks by listening to an audible book for an hour a day!

7. DIY: 

 

It is super easy to make your own lotions with shea butter, olive oil, almond oil, and coconut oil.

Instead of cleaning with harsh chemicals like Clorox, use vinegar.

Imagine all of the chemicals being put out into the environment to manufacture Clorox bleach (wipes, sprays, etc.). Now imagine that you are wiping your entire home down with these harsh chemicals.

 

 

8. Eat Less Meat:

Sustainable living Reducetarian Solution

Reducetarians are committed to eating less meat, regardless of the degree or motivation.

This concept is appealing because not everyone is willing to follow an “all-or-nothing” diet.

This way you can decide when and how much meat you eat. The nice thing about being a reductarian is that it allows for a flexible intake of meat.

A fantastic book that explains how this diet works can be found on Audibles and by clicking this link. The Reducetarian Solution: How the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and the Planet“.

Reasons to reduce your meat intake:

  • Meat, and especially beef is more expensive than eating fruits, grains, and vegetables.
  • There are a number of studies about how red meat increases inflammation in your body.
  • Animals are treated with antibiotics and hormones, which we ingest.
  • Biomagnification of pesticides. The grain and corn that cows are fed have tons of pesticides, and cows eat tons of it.
  • Increase in greenhouse gasses (cows produce a lot of methane)
  • Cruelty to animals

 

Cowspiracy is an environmental documentary that explains how animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption, pollution, and is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry.

Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is far more devastating to the climate than carbon emissions. 

 

 

The 10,000 Foot Over View:

 

There are many ways to go about finding $29 a day to accomplish this goal. Homeownership and retirement are within reach and can become a reality.

In an era marked by immediate gratification, saving for the future is a task that you must consciously work on.

Make it easy for yourself and make saving automatic by having your retirement account auto-deduct the $458 per month from your checking account.

Everyone has a financial report card. Make it a priority to constantly check and work on yours.

Take time and money to re-invest in yourself. Re-investing in your financial education is critical.

How are you going to master your financial report card, if you don’t know the rules of the game?

Every dollar has an opportunity cost.

Curious, throughout high school did you learn about how to navigate your personal finances? Or about the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle?

Did they teach you about FICO scores and how much to have in revolving debt? Or what goes into calculating your credit score?

It is up to you to teach yourself about all of these important topics!

 

Articles that may interest you:

 

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Interested in a particular topic? Comment below!

How to diversify and allocate your finances (2)

How to Diversify and Allocate your Finances

How to diversify and allocate your finances

The diversification of your finances is one of the most important tasks you can work (or get started) on today. We often hear that the best time to start is now.

The good news is that Millennials and the Z Generation still have a long life ahead of them. Saving and investing for the future works best when you have longevity on your side! This is because of the compounding nature of interest.

Compounding occurs when a bank or an account pays interest on both the principal (the original amount of money) and the interest an account has already earned.

To calculate compounding interest you can visit Investor.gov.

 

Types of Accounts that Pay Compounding Interest:

 

  • Most savings accounts
  • money market accounts
  • certificates of deposit (CDs)
  • Retirement accounts (IRA’s and 401k’s)

Interest Rates: A Current and Historical View

 

Over the past several years, the federal funds rate (the interest rate at which the federal reserve lends money to other banking institutions) has been ridiculously low! The Federal Reserve has been trying to stimulate the economy by lowering the interest rate.

This means that the public is penalized for keeping their money in the bank and incentivized to invest in the stock market or take out loans to purchase larger items.

Currently, at the time of this writing, you are lucky to get even close to a 1% return on your investment for putting cash in the bank.

The world of finance is part of a natural business cycle. What goes up,  must come down. This means that although we have experienced nearly 8 years of fairly low interest rates, the federal reserve will someday have to increase it in order to prevent a runaway (overheated) economy.

Over the last 200 years we can see that interest rates have increased and decreased over time:

Finance.-Average-interest-rate-over-200-years

Photo credit average interest rate over the last 200 years

Why Cash is King

You might be saying, why would I put my money in the bank and only earn 1%? Especially since inflation is nearly 2% to 3% per year! Wouldn’t I be losing money? The short answer is yes.

This is why I recommend a diversified portfolio. In financial terms, diversification means spreading out your risk. In more simple terms, it means not putting all of your eggs in one basket. You should allocate a percentage of your income each month towards saving, investing, and retirement.

You may be wondering why I am advocating that a portion of your investment portfolio should be held in cash. This is because cash is king! Currently, we have been experiencing an 8-year bull market. While it might be tempting to invest all of your money into the skyrocketing stock market, at some point the market will take a turn.

When it does, the cash that you have been saving will give you the opportunity to purchase heavily discounted assets (foreclosed homes, stocks that took a beating, etc).

There are two kinds of buyers. Momentum buyers and contrarians.

Momentum buyers purchase when the stock market is rallying (headed in an upwards direction) and believe that the stock will continue to rise. This is also called purchasing with the crowd or crowd consensus.

On the other hand, contrarians love discount shopping! Contrarians know that the business cycle has natural ups and downs. They are the ones waiting for the inevitable “coming of winter” (Game of Thrones reference there). Contrarian investors were the ones purchasing all of the foreclosed homes in the middle of the Great Recession (in 2010) with CASH!

Roth IRA’s

In a prior blog ” Roth IRA: How to Become a Millionaire by the Time You Retire! “, I explain how over any 40 year period the average return rate of the stock market is about 7% a year. This includes all of the ups and downs (booms and busts). An awesome blog called, “Dollar after Dollar” created a Pinterest post showing how compounded interest works (he used an 8% yearly return on investment).

Finance. Roth IRA. Retirement
Photo credit Dollar X Dollar

Most of the Millennial and Z Generation realize that Social Security will probably be a thing of the past (when we come of age to collect).

This means that more than ever we need to save for our retirement, have a rainy day fund, plan for our children’s college savings(through a tax-advantaged 529 plan), and have enough money to enjoy our lives today.

The financial world can be difficult to navigate, which is why it is so important to prioritize and automate many of the functions. Automation is the best thing that can happen to your financial life! The specific steps are included in this blog.

The Current Financial Situation for the Millennial and Z Generation 

Millennial’s, people who are born from 1981 to 1996 and are now between the ages of 22 to 37. We are entering a stage where many of us are getting married, having children, and really getting into our careers.  The difficulty is that our finances are being pulled from many opposing directions.

For the Z Generation (1995 to 2010 or ages 8-22) the oldest of you are just starting college, landing your first job, learning how to build credit, possibly navigating taking on student debt, and living on your own.

You are at the perfect point where building the right habits can really make a difference in the trajectory of your life! You haven’t had time to make bad and severely impactful financial decisions yet.  What you do NOW will affect the rest of your life.

One of the biggest takeaway points that I learned from a finance professor in college was to start a Roth IRA and max it out ($5,500) every year for 40 years. If you do this, financial calculators online will show you that you can save over $1 million for your retirement.

Growing up with FOMO (fear of missing out) has led to a situation where many Millenials have not started to save for retirement or plan for the future. Generation Z, don’t let this be your story too. Prioritizing and planning through a set of predetermined percentages will help you set aside the right amount of money each month.

Steps to Get your Finances on Track:

1) Track your income and expenses

2) Go through your monthly expenses and see where you can cut back on spending

3) Set a dollar amount or percentage of income that you want to save per month

4) Look at your expenses and see what else needs to be eliminated so that you can meet that goal (step 3)

5) Set up overdraft protection on your bank accounts (and credit cards)

6) Set up an auto deduction of the dollar amount you chose to save (step 3) to be diverted to a “rainy day” fund account (your bank will be able to help you do this. Most banks allow you to set this up online as well).

7) Set up an auto deduction of $458 ($5,500/year) each month to be diverted to a Roth IRA. Read about how to dollar cost average and purchase ETFs.

8) Set your credit cards, rent/mortgage, and utilities on auto pay.

9)Perform a monthly audit of your credit card statements. I have personally caught at least one fraudulent financial transaction every 6-8 months on one of my credit cards.

10) Check your credit history and score often!

** A rainy day fund: should cover 3-6 months of expenses without any income coming in.

Taking these steps will ensure that you are automatically saving each month. It means that you have made saving a priority!

Do not save what is left over after spending, spend what is left over after saving!

Warren Buffet

If you are maxing out your credit cards, read “How to Increase your Credit Score Now”.

 

Ways to Cut Expenses (Costs):

  • Go on a hike instead of going to the movies- This doubles as exercise and a great way to chat with family or catch up with a friend!
  • Cook at home and meal prep instead of going out to eat- Read the article How to Aggregate Time to Become More Efficient
  • swap yoga and calisthenics on Youtube for a gym membership
  • Opt for Netflix and your cancel cable subscription
  • Live in a smaller apartment
  • Most outdoor activities only require that you buy the equipment once (there is no membership cost)

 

Just remember, every dollar and activity comes with an opportunity cost. There is always a cheaper alternative! On that note, let’s talk about the opportunity cost (the loss of an alternative option) of the earth’s natural resources vs exponential economic growth!

Balancing Economic Growth with Environmental Sustainability:

 

The difficulty is that we live in an economy of ever-increasing exponential economic growth. The government and financial institutions would like to see a 2% to 3% growth in GDP every year for the indefinite future. In order for this to happen, we constantly need to go through boom and bust debt cycles. According to Investopia’s article called “Is Infinite Economic Growth on a Finite Planet Possible?

Economic growth has been defended for its contributions to human well-being and increasing standards of living. Yet, it is becoming more evident that the degree to which economic growth has depended upon increasing use of the Earth’s natural resources is unsustainable. It is clear that we cannot continue to consume more water, burn more fuel and spew out more and more carbon dioxide at ever increasing rates. While theoretically possible, we are at a point in history where separating economic growth from physical growth has to become a reality or economic growth will begin to reduce human well-being.

Natural resource depletion and degradation have left us with phrases such as peak oil, global warming, and climate change.

I am sure we remember our parents telling us that relationships work best when we “give and take”. The relationship between humans and mother nature has been unequal for a long time. I urge you to read the children’s book “The Giving Tree”.

Not only is budgeting and saving money good for your bottom line, but it is also good for the planet. We need to learn to live in harmony because it is our future that is at stake. This blog is all about education and promoting intellectual conversations. What kinds of activates do you do that are low cost and have a low environmental impact? Comment below!

Pay for a Mortgage and Generate Cash Flow (

How to Pay for a Mortgage and Generate Cash Flow

Pay for a Mortgage and Generate Cash Flow (How I was able to cover my mortgage and generate cash flow: Increasing your financial IQ with Real Estate Hacks

I am sure you remember how 2012 was smack in the middle of the “Great Recession”.

During this time I was able to purchase a 3 bedroom/3 bathroom + den with a 2-car garage for $135,000. I put 20% down and had a $600 monthly mortgage payment.

Generating Cash Flow to Cover the Mortgage and Live for Free:

Since I was relatively young (23 and was used to having roommates), I decided to rent 2 of the rooms out.  Each room rented for $400 per room + their share of the utilities.

I was able to live in my own home for free, while other people paid for the mortgage. I was paying off the amount I owed to the bank, and earning extra money on the side!!

This means that I was grossing $800 from rent, and only paying $600 for the mortgage. I was cash-flowing $200 per month.

Cash flow is my favorite kind of income because it is passive (money comes in even when you are sleeping), and is taxed at capital gains rate.

Increasing the Cashflow:

In 2016 I started dating someone, who I eventually moved in with. Since I now had an empty master bedroom, I rented it out as well for $500.

The gross income increased to $1,300 per month, and the cash flow went from $200 to $700.

By the middle of 2016, the guy who rented out the master bedroom found himself a girlfriend. She decided to move in and wanted to use the den area because she sometimes worked from home.

She was over at the property so often that the other roommates agreed and she paid $400 per month plus her share of the utilities.

By 2017 there were 4 people living in this 1800 sqft house, and the total gross income was $1700. The mortgage was still $600, which means that the cash flow was $1,100 per month.

Achieving Above Market Rent:

The monthly market rent in the area for a comparable home with one lessor was $1,200-$1,300.  I was able to generate higher cash flow by renting each room out individually.

The downside is that I would have to worry about re-renting each room at the end of the tenant’s 1-year lease. That is if they decided to move out. Most of the tenants stayed for longer than 1 year. Keep in mind, it is a hassle for a tenant to move each year. I found that most tenants stayed longer than a year.

Reducing Vacancy:

Leasing out each room was beneficial because there was never a time when the entire house was vacant. Only two of the four tenants had to occupy the property to cover the mortgage.

Usually, when you rent out an entire property, you need to assume some percentage of vacancy. Typically, we would assume a 90% occupancy rate.

  • Rule of Thumb: Good property managers should be able to get the house in rent-ready condition for a new tenant and market the home within one month. There are 12 months in a year, so if the house is rented for 11 of 12 months that equals 91% occupancy rate.

 

  • A side note: The company that I had built sold at the end of 2015. I decided to move to the Reno Tahoe area in January 2016. By the summer of 2017, I was in graduate school obtaining a Master’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Renewable Technology.

This means that I was a long-distance landlord, and managing the home from so many miles away became a hassle.

Typically, a primary residence should not be considered an investment.

I was able to make my primary residence an investment because I generated cash flow by renting out several rooms.

The market had appreciated over the time that I had owned the property, and I had just hit the 5-year mark.

  • Tax Hack (the 2-of-5-year rule): There is a tax law that states that an owner who has lived in a property for 2 of 5 years can sell the property and keep up to $250,000/$500,000 (if you file as a single vs married) capital gains tax-free.

This is a huge tax saving!!!

Going with a Conventional 20% Down Payment Loan:

When I purchased the home, I used a conventional loan and put 20% down. You may ask why I would decide to put so much money down when I could have gone with an FHA 3.5% down payment loan.

The reason is because the higher the LTV (loan to value), the more you will owe on the property. This means that your monthly payments will also be higher.

By putting more money down, you open up the ability to generate passive income (cash flow). One huge bonus is that passive income is taxed at a lower rate (capital gains rate).

  • Avoiding Extra Costs: when you purchase a home with 20% down, you avoid a PMI payment (Primary Mortgage Insurance). PMI is an additional fee that banks charge to cover themselves in case you default on your loan (end up in foreclosure).

With a conventional 20% down payment loan, you can live in the house as a primary residence or purchase the property as an investment.

The reason for using the 20% conventional loan is to be able to live in the property for a minimum of 2 years and take advantage of the 2-of-5-year rule (explained above).

During these two years, you can fix up the property while you are living in it. You can decide to rent the property out after the 3rd year and purchase another home to live in.

  • Tax Hack: Once the first home reaches 5 years of ownership, you could 1031 exchange (like-kind exchange) the property out for a larger investment home or purchase 2 investment properties. The IRS allows you to tax defer any money owed on the property!!!

Tax Defer Indefinitely:

You can continue to tax defer indefinitely until you decide to sell the property. Most likely you will want to keep the properties indefinitely and set some aside for rental income while selling others.

Did you find today’s topic interesting? If so, what did you like (or didn’t like) and is there anything you want to know more about. Looking forward to reading your comments.

Photo Credit 

How to Increase Your Credit Score Right Now

How to Increase Your Credit Score Right Now

What is a FICO (Credit Score) and How Does it Impact My Life?

 

A credit or FICO score is a number between 300 and 850. It is a number that lenders use to help them decide whether an individual is likely to repay a loan.

 

A high FICO score is one of the essential elements to obtaining your “financial freedom”. Interested in finding out how to obtain your financial freedom? Click here.

 

The higher your credit score is, the more lenders will believe that you will pay them back.

 

A credit score is used in most large purchase transactions and includes the following (but are not limited to):

 

  • Obtaining a loan for a home
  • Financing a vehicle
  • Whether an individual needs a cosigner to lease a property
  • Signing up for a credit card

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Credit scores are calculated based on a grouping of data and are composed of the following 5 categories:

  • How much you owe (revolving debt)
  • New credit (hard inquiries- how many new accounts or loans have you pulled recently)
  • Length of credit history (the amount of time you have been using your credit)
  • Payment History (how long you have been positively or negatively using your credit)
  • Credit mix (the mix of your current loans i.e. mortgage, student debt, credit cards, etc.)

 

These five categories may fluctuate in importance depending on the person‘s individual history.

For example, a credit score may be calculated differently for someone who has little credit history versus someone who has a long history of using credit.

Credit Score, Financial Freedom, Financial IQ,

 

4 Things That You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Credit Score:

 

  1. Pay your bills on time-Delinquent payments and collections have a major negative impact on your credit score! Consider setting an alarm on your phone that reminds you every first of the month to review and pay your bills. If the issue is that you are spending too much, then it is time to go on a spending diet.

 

  1. Keep the monthly balance on your credit cards to under 30%– The monthly balance is called your “revolving credit or debt.” People with the best credit scores often have very low monthly balances compared to their credit limits.

 

  • Example: If you have a $1,000 credit limit, you should not exceed $300 on your credit card.

 

  • Coming soon in the Eco Economics Increase Your Financial IQ Course: If you are constantly using more than 30% of your credit limit and, then you should consider the following options depending on your situation:
    • reduce your spending
    • opening another credit card
    • increasing your credit limit
    • have a maximum of 3 credit cards

 

  1. Only apply for and open new credit accounts as needed- The act of applying for a new credit card creates a “hard inquiry”, which stays on your credit for 2 years. Too many hard inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score. If someone asks to run your credit, you should always ask whether they are running a hard or soft inquiry.

 

  • Soft inquiries do not impact your credit score, whereas hard inquiries can. Usually, hard inquiries are used when applying for a loan of some kind.

 

  1. Pay off debt– Pay your debt down, and no… don’t just moving it around.

 

Understanding the Basics of Credit Scores:

 

How Do I Get a Credit Card If I Have No Credit History:

This is the typical chicken versus the egg situation. You need credit history to apply for a credit card, but can’t build up your credit history without a credit card.

 

Solution: Apply for a joint credit card with a parent or someone who already has an established credit history. Be sure that the person you are obtaining a joint card with is fiscally responsible.

 

Tip: The best situation would be for you to be the only person who is using and paying the credit card.

 

***Remember that both parties are responsible for paying the card (should one party decide to default on the payments). This means that if a parent decides to cosign on a credit card with their child, they should set a low credit limit and request overdraft protection.

 

  • Coming soon in the Eco Economics Increase Your Financial IQ Course: Tips and tricks on how to establish your child’s credit history. Your kids will learn how to balance a checkbook and slowly transition them into using a credit card responsibly.

 

I recommend that they establish credit while they are in high school, and then can feasibly apply for their own credit card when they go off to college.

 

This program will teach them to manage their credit so that when they leave the house you will have the confidence (after having watched them use their credit over several years), that they will use their credit responsibly.

 

Take Action by Monitoring Your Credit:

 

The best advice for building or rebuilding credit is to manage it responsibly over time. You are entitled to 1 free report from each of the 3 major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) each year.

There are many websites that allow you to track your credit, and produce a monthly report so that you can monitor for fraud.

Often times they give new customers a free trial period. Credit Karma is one such company.

What to Do if you Believe Someone Has Stolen Your Identity:

 

Do you have a specific question about how to rebuild or use credit? If so comment below and sign up to receive information on how to increase your financial IQ!

 

Photo Credit Score breakdown

Photo Credit Wallet

Reverse Mortgage Is One Right for Your Parents

Reverse Mortgage: Is One Right for Your Parents?

According to Investopia, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are heading into retirement in droves. Approximately 10,000 Boomers retire per day.

Much of the data concludes that this generation is poorly prepared for their later years. As we know, relying on social security alone may not provide enough money to live the lifestyle we once hoped “The Golden Years” would afford us.

The hope is that we have saved enough money over the years in tax-sheltered retirement accounts to live “in style”.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for many retiring Boomers.

Millenials (the children of the Boomers) are now having to make difficult trade-off decisions. This generation must make the difficult choice between caring for their parents and paying for the needs of their children. Not to mention, saving for their retirement and paying for their own needs. 

This is why it is important for Millenials to be aware of the many options out there. Options are just avenues to research so that they can make the right decision for their family. 

The reverse mortgage has received a lot of negative press in the past. This is because the process and option have not been sufficiently explained. I am not here to tell you whether this option is right for you and your family. I am just here explaining what a reverse mortgage is and how it could be an option.

This post will explain the reverse mortgage in greater depth, but a want to provide a quick summary here.

When would you use a reverse mortgage? When you have lots of equity in your home, want to continue to live in the home, and need additional fixed income. Please read this entire article, because there are stipulations to reverse mortgages.

Reverse Mortgage: Searching for Other Options

Reverse mortgages have been shrouded with controversy due to some confusion about how they work.  I would like to clear up some of that confusion and present it as an option for creating additional liquidity for retiring Boomers.

A reverse mortgage is a financial product for homeowners who are 62 or older and have accumulated equity in their home.

This home equity usually represents a substantial portion of an individual’s net worth. As you reach retirement age, you may need to tap into this wealth to supplement your fixed income.

Almost all reverse mortgages today are originated as Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM).  The HECM is a program that is backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). This means that these loans are guaranteed by the federal government.

How does a Reverse Mortgage Work: The Basics

A reverse mortgage is like selling your home to a bank.  First, the bank makes monthly payments to the owner of the home. Second, the owner must continue to use the property as a primary residence for the life of the loan.

The money you get is usually tax-free. As a general rule, you do not have to pay back the money for as long as you live in the home.

When you die, sell your home, or move out, you, your spouse, or your estate will have to repay the loan. Oftentimes, this means selling the home to get money to repay the loan.

Neither you nor your family must pay more than the sales price of the home (the appraised value) upon the owner moving out or passing away. This is because the HECM reverse mortgage is insured by the FHA. In short, the FHA’s insurance will pay for any shortfall.

If the heirs want to keep the home when the owner passes away they must pay off the loan. This is also the case if the owner moves out permanently (no longer uses the home as a primary residence). 

Remember that the owners took out a loan and received monthly payments from the bank. This means that the bank was slowly purchasing the home from them over time.

If the loan balance is more than your home is worth, the heirs will only have to pay 95 percent of the current appraised value of the property. Remember, the FHA’s insurance will cover the rest.

If the loan balance is less than the value of your home, they will only have to pay the loan balance.

Interested in Knowing More About a Reverse Mortgage?

Since this product usually requires that the home gets sold at the end of the term (when the owner passes away or moves out), the government has made it mandatory that a perspective borrower meets with a HUD approved counselor before obtaining a reverse mortgage.

This meeting is set up to determine if the product is suitable for the owner’s needs. The counseling session helps them and their heirs understand how the loan works.

As with any loan, all prospective borrowers must also undergo a financial assessment to qualify.

This assessment makes sure that the borrower can pay to keep the house afloat. This means that they can cover the following expenses: 

  • Property taxes
  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Basic home maintenance
  • Home Owner’s Association (HOA) fees (if applicable).

You can apply for a reverse mortgage if:

  • The borrower must be 62 years of age or older
  • You own your home and use it as your primary residence
  • The house is a single family, multi-family (up to 4 units), an approved condominium, or manufactured home
  • You own your own home free and clear or only have a small amount left to pay on the existing mortgage
  • The home is in good condition prior to taking out the loan

 

An Example of How It Works:

Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth, its appraised value, and any debt that you owe from mortgages against the home. Unless you purchased the home outright with cash, you most likely have a first or even a second loan on the property.

When you own a home with a conventional mortgage, you gain equity over time as you pay down the loan. When you first start paying the loan, most of the monthly payment goes toward the interest. Over time you begin to pay more of the principal off and less of the monthly payment goes toward the interest.

Let’s say, for example, that you own a home worth $400,000 in today’s real estate market, and you only owe $100,000, because you have paid down the rest over the years that you have owned the property. This means that you have $300,000 in equity.

The amount you would receive from the bank each month is based off an equation that includes a few simple items. Click this link to use a free online reverse mortgage estimator.

Be careful:

There are non-FHA insured reverse mortgage loans that may have very different loan terms. So if you are considering a non FHA backed loan, make sure you understand the contract fully!!

Hopefully, I was able to dispel some of the myths about reverse mortgages, while providing a valuable option to increase your/your parent’s liquidity.

Many people ask whether a particular investment option is the “Best”, and my reply is that there isn’t one “best investment option for everyone”. Every individual has a unique financial situation and needs to decide what is the best option for them.

Have any questions? Post a comment!

 

Photo credits:

Couple on bench

 

10 Ways to Go Green

Eco Friendly Economics: Personal Finance and Sustainability

The goal of Eco Economics is to create a successful website that helps individuals change their habits to live a more sustainable life with respect to the environment and their personal finances.

In past blogs I have talked quite a bit about goal setting. You should create a five-year, one year, and monthly goals. Each milestone contributes to the overall 5-year goal. As you complete each milestone, you will notice that you may need to make slight adjustments to the direction or milestone in order to achieve your one year and five-year goals.

 

My year goal for EcoFriendlyEconomics.com is:

1) Have a fully functioning platform that offers a wide variety of earth-friendly and sustainable products.   

2) Create an online curriculum that teaches individuals:

a) Personal finances: How to navigate and use their personal finances to make wise investments and purchasing decisions.

b) Sustainability: How individuals can implement sustainable practices in their everyday lives.

I will create sets of 2 curriculums: one for adults and the other for young adults (individuals 18 under).

I will have audio and written (worksheets) supplements because I want to make the curriculum interactive and fun to learn! Research shows that when you engage yourself fully, in any topic of study (in multiple ways = audio, visual, kinesthetic), you retain the information more fully and have an increased likelihood of following through.

Here are a few of the personal finance topics that will be covered:

  • Real estate for beginners and beyond, rental income, different kinds of loans, items to pay attention to in real estate contract, REITS, and much more!
  • Stocks, ETFs, CAN SLIM, contrarian versus crowed mentality, fundamentalist versus a technician, and much more!

Here are a few of the sustainability topics that will be covered:

  • How to integrate sustainable practices into your daily life, tax credits and incentives, a series of current newsworthy renewable energy/technology updates (including companies making an impact), general and environmental laws/legislation, what you can do to help promote/increase sustainability, and much more!
  • Sustainability may seem like it is a topic that is gaining in popularity, but  President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. Based on research from Harvard Law School’s Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker and Columbia Law School’s Climate Tracker the Trump administration has sought to reverse more than 70 environmental rules!!

When I first started this blog, I originally planned on writing about personal finance. As time progressed, I realized that I also wanted to blog about sustainability. The end goal is still the same, just with a slight modification.

If you find that you need to make a modification to your five-year goal, be sure that you modify your short-term and interim goals so that you steer your ship in the right direction to arrive at the new destination. Slight modifications will have a reverberating effect, and it is important to adjust your direction ever so slightly. Small adjustments can make a huge impact over time (large adjustments may cause you to tack back and forth, which is counterproductive). An analogy I like to use is to imagine that you are driving a car, and you turn the steering wheel 5° to the right. In 50 miles, you will arrive at a completely different destination then if you had kept the steering wheel straight.

As always, I encourage feedback (comment below). I will continue to update the community as new milestones are accomplished or adjusted.

 

Photo credit

Roth IRA: How to Become a Millionaire by the Time You Retire!

Roth IRA: How to Become a Millionaire by the Time You Retire!

Instructions on How to Grow $1,000,000!!!

A Roth IRA is a type of retirement investment account. The difference between a Roth versus a regular IRA is “when” you pay the taxes on the money.

Roth IRA: Pay income taxes at the time you earn the money, and the invested funds and compounded interest grows tax free. When you pull the money out later, you will not have a tax liability on those funds.

Regular IRA: You take a tax deduction for the funds during the current tax year. When you liquidate the funds at the time of retirement, you owe taxes on the amount you withdraw per year based on your current income tax rate.

I like a sure thing, which is why I pay my taxes up front (so that when I withdraw the funds later I don’t have to pay taxes). This means that when I look at my Roth IRA account, all of the funds are mine (no calculations or guessing involved)! You can open an account with any number of brokerage companies. I use Vanguard because you can trade an unlimited number of their index funds for free.

gold piggy bank

In a prior blog post I showed you how you can save $650 per month by reducing the amount you eat at restaurants and cooking your own meals. The maximum amount that you can contribute to a Roth IRA account per year is $5,500, which is $458 per month (you can fund your future retirement by not eating out today)!

Experts say that over any 40 year period, the stock market has an average return of 7%. By using a retirement fund calculator, we can see that the overall return for a Roth IRA account that has annual contributions of $5,500 which grows at 7% per year is $1,174,853!!!  Bam! You are a millionaire!!!

Dollar Cost Average:  Buying a fixed dollar amount ($458 to max out the Roth IRA) of a particular investment on a regular schedule (say the 1st of the month).

Retirement is possible. Start young, and be consistent. The younger you are, the better off you will be. The more time the funds are invested, the more tax free compounded interest you will earn! With any retirement account, there are restrictions and penalties for withdrawing before the age of 59.5.  One of the general goals of this blog series is to explain how to win the “game of money”. We all have a financial report card, dreams of retiring (or at least want to not HAVE to work), and a desire to have enough money financially.

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Investing in your future should be part of your once per month habits. You pay your bills on the 1st of the month, add “Roth IRA contributions” to that list (so that you won’t forget)! Investing should become an automatic habit, like brushing your teeth. You get one body and one mind, what habits and routines do you have in place to  take care of yourself?

 

Do you have a topic that you would like to know more about? Post a comment below!

 

Photo credit piggy bank

Photo credit clock 

Goal Setting: Seeing into the future with Mental Modeling

Dream big, and then make them a reality (by goal setting)!! This blog post is about how to make your dreams come true by seeing into the future with a technique called Mental Modeling!

Let use a metaphor: building a road. We will call the ultimate destination location “The Dream”, and we are trying to build the straightest road to get there.

How would one go about building this road? Should we begin by thinking about what materials we are going to need to build this road? Would we send a scout(s) out to see which way is the fastest route? You know that there is a river ahead that we will need to build a bridge to get across. When will you start planning and thinking about how to cross this bridge (when you get there or beforehand)?

Thinking about all the many possibilities that the future could hold is called mental modeling.

To quote Dwight D. Eisenhower (the 34th President), “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. ”

Goals are dreams with a deadline.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals: 

Ask yourself, by what date would I like to have this dream become a reality? Is it possible in a year? You should have long-term and short-term goals. Think of long-term goals as ones that can take up to 2-5 years to see to fruition. Whereas short-term goals can be completed within a year.

Remember, if you don’t know where you want to go… Anywhere will do!

road to the futureIdeally, you should have a five-year plan, a one year plan, and milestones that you will complete within the current year.

Writing Down Your Goals:

Writing down your dreams, goals, and plans is essential to this process. Start a journal, if you don’t already have one. Writing your goals down makes us more accountable, and provides a standard to which we can compare what we said we were going to do and what we actually did.

The journal becomes the map of what the future looks like, and is a tool to reflect on our past actions, achievements, and areas to improve.

Back to the metaphor of building a road: If we know that we must cross a river, why wouldn’t we send a portion of our troops to start gathering materials and preparing the riverbank (so that when we get there, the site is already half-built)?

If we use the concept of mental modeling, we have spent time thinking about the foreseeable traps, potholes, and rivers down the road.  We may not be able to see all of the obstacles, but at least we are prepared for some of them. Knowing is half the battle. The other half is preparing yourself so that you have all the tools to deal with the situation when you arrive.

A Life Long Student:

Success is an art and a skill. As with any skill, it must be honed and practiced.

Warren Buffet reads a book every week, while Oprah Winfrey has her very own book club. Trust me, I know what you are thinking… I don’t have time to read. Well, the good news is that you can always listen to books on Audible.  You can’t possibly tell me that you are busier than Warren Buffet and Oprah… Click here if you want to learn more about how to structure a successful morning routine!

Recently, I just finished listening to a book called “Grit“, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying the secrets of success.  Angela Duckworth is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics.

She has devoted her life to finding the secret to outstanding achievement. Her conclusion is that the common factor is not talent, but a focused persistence called “grit”.

To be gritty means to find your passion, and to stick with it for the long haul. In her book, she discusses how to find/develop grit and how to parent your children to have grit.

Goal setting book GritAnyway… Back to Goal Setting:

According to Angela Duckworth (the author of Grit) the higher the goal, the more abstract it is. The lower the goal, the more concrete it is (a means to an end).

Example of a long-term goal: I want to become the CEO of a fortune 500 company!

Short term goal: I will arrive 15 minutes before my boss gets to work. This will allow me to prepare a summary of what items I accomplished the day before, and what items we need to complete today.

The completion of this short-term goal will prove to my boss that I am hardworking and organized. My boss will remember this when she completes my yearly review, and I will be promoted!

Here is a Ted Talk that Angela did about Grit. She is a super interesting character, and this video was what made me want to read her book in its entirety.

 

 

 

 

DreamsA Real Life Example:

An anecdote from my life: Two years ago I wanted to “read more books”. This goal wasn’t very specific, so I set a lofty goal of reading one book per week. This means 52 books per year (remember to dream big).

I asked myself, “How can I possibly read a 300-500 page book each week when I stare at a computer for 8 hours a day?”.

Then, I asked myself the same question, but in a different way. “Is there a way to intake the information without reading?”

My solution: Audibles!!!

Looking back at my user history, I can see that I listened to 30 books last year.

On average, it takes me about a week and a half to listen to a book. I have listened to books that I would have probably never read, like “The Grand Design” by Steven Hawking. It would have been really difficult to read about “M Theory”, but listening to it was super easy!

 

The 10,000 Foot Overview:

When I look back at my journal (my map), I didn’t accomplish reading 52 books last year. I did, however, “read more books”, and absorbed 30 books worth of information. Not too shabby! 

I love the saying, “shoot for the moon because even if you don’t land on the moon, you are still amongst the stars”.

Want to know how to get more out of your time? Read my article on efficiency “How to Aggregate time“.

What are some of your big dreams?

Is your dream to retire and just manage your own wealth (see a prior blog post to understand what your number is)?  Are you stuck and don’t know how to get there? Post a comment, and I will gladly help you design a map to get you there (create short-term goals to get to your long-term goals).  You are the creator of your future!!!

 

Photo Credit by Pexels for the Dream Photo

Photo Credit by Pexels for the Rock Collection Photo