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Your Best Money Year Ever

For years (and years), I lived under a dark cloud of worry that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive for Allianz Insurance Group reveals that I’m not the only one. In fact, most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we don’t have confidence that we know how to hang onto our money. And that makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

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We don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.

Financial confidence is a choice. It’s a matter of changing bad habits and choosing to learn simple financial principles. Then by consciously applying them over and over again those principles will become automatic responses—financial habits.

Are you ready to make 2017 your best money year ever? Here are four simple things you can do starting today to improve your financial confidence—and take control of your money.

5 Reasons to Give Kids an Allowance

At the foundation of your children’s financial intelligence should be this undeniable truth: It is not the amount of money you have, but what you do with it that matters. This is true for a child managing a five-dollar-a-week allowance or a corporate executive with a five-thousand dollar-a-week salary.

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For many years of my life I didn’t know this truth. On the contrary, I believed that more money was the answer. I was convinced that if we just made more money, won the lottery, or received some unexpected inheritance, all of our money problems would vanish. But the more we made the worse our problems became. Because I didn’t know how to manage what we had, more would have never been enough. We didn’t save, we didn’t give, we didn’t plan, and we had no idea where all the money went.

Unless your children learn simple, wise money management techniques, more money will never be enough.

The simplest way to get started building financial intelligence into your kids’ minds and hearts is by putting them on an allowance and then requiring them to suffer or enjoy the consequences of their financial decision.

An allowance teaches kids about real life

Nothing beats an allowance for a hands-on course in values. Having their own money teaches them about responsibility, consequences, saving and charity.

Make Every Day Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving so much I would say it vies for first place in my favorite holiday lineup. I love and adore a classic Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings. I love the fall weather which always accompanies the day. I love the fact that Thanksgiving ushers in the winter holidays, offering me a front row seat on the very best time of the year. I love all of those things. What I don’t love is the idea that Thanksgiving is the one day of the year that we give thanks. Gratitude is too important in our lives to be considered briefly en masse on this, the last Thursday of November.

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Giving thanks and counting our blessings is good for us. It reminds us of the positive things in life. Gratitude turns bad things into good things, and reminds us to thank others.

Just imagine what might happen if our annual single-day tradition of giving thanks were to become a daily routine? Medical professionals suggest we would be rewarded with better health, as medical research reveals more about the strong connection between gratitude and good health.

And just as strong is the belief that stress can make us sick. It’s linked to heart disease and cancer. Shockingly, stress is responsible for up to 90 percent of all doctor visits. Just think about the financial costs associated with stress-related maladies. The antidote for stress is gratitude, as it calms our minds and lowers our blood pressure. Then, we are able to see our circumstances in a fresh, new light.

Even in the face of tremendous loss or tragedy, it’s possible to feel gratitude. Adversity can actually boost feelings of gratitude, a phenomenon that many of us experienced immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, as we saw the tremendous loss in light of what we still possessed.

The Blessing of Self-Government

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the turmoil and economic agitations going on in the U.S. And the growing debt. Who ever imagined that the word “trillion” would just roll off our tongues, not causing even a flinch. Too bad we can’t do much about it. The truth is that we are powerless.

But I have to say that it’s kinda’ fun, if not momentarily empowering, to think about what we could do if anyone would let us. I’d be wickedly effective as Governor of Colorado. Oh, the things I would do.

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First, I would abolish state income tax. The state would exist rather on fee-income. Coloradans would pay fees for the services they want and use.

I’d adopt a scorched-earth policy in going after government waste and abuse. I’d place a freeze on hiring while I cleared out off the “dead wood” and identified all areas of workplace redundancy within the state government.

How I Curb the Urge to Quit

I wouldn’t tell just anyone what I’m about to tell you—and only because we’re like family. At least several times a week I want to quit. Seriously. The thought crosses my mind, and not when things are going great. It’s when I face a challenge: a tough writing assignment, a book deadline, an early morning interview or snarky message in my inbox.

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The temptation to quit is a recurring theme. And if the voices in my head don’t give me enough trouble, the voices in the culture finish the job. “Quit already! There are so many others with younger, fresher voices better able to reach the younger generation. You deserve a break! Take it easy on yourself, go and enjoy your life.”

This is nothing new. I’ve been dealing with the urge to quit for a long time. I can anticipate its arrival. And because of that, I’ve learned ways to deal with it before it drives me to the brink of resignation.

Three Secrets of Successful Budgeting

I wish I could come up with a better word than “budget” for managing money. While I’ve made peace with the word, for me it still conjures up synonyms like whip, drudgery and cruel master. Personally, I prefer the more elegant term Spending Plan, but for now, because budget is so universally understood, let’s just go with it, all preconceived notions aside.

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While there are many ways to budget, none are perfect. A budget is a tool you develop to fit your lifestyle. There is no single, guaranteed budget method, form or spreadsheet.

No budget is fail proof. Even a template or financial software that fits your temperament and lifestyle is not guaranteed to change your life in the same way a power tool sitting on the garage shelf is not going to put together that new wall unit for you, while you kick back and watch TV. You have to do the work.

Budgets are extraordinarily useful, a lot like training wheels. They can help you get going and give you confidence as you learn to balance. There may come a time that you’ll become an expert “cyclist” and outgrow your need for the training wheels. Or you may want to leave them on for confidence and security should you hit a bump in the road. 

Secrets of My Inflight Survival Plan

You may know that I travel a lot. What you probably don’t know (and how would you since I’ve only told about three people, ever) is that I have a flight routine, which I adhere to strictly. Honestly, unless you knew this ahead of time, you would not be able to detect this at all, even if you were my traveling companion.

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After watching the news with airline personnel talking about inflight safety and how to respond if there is an emergency in flight, I decided that my personal routine might not be so weird after all.

NATURAL FIBERS ONLY. I wear only clothing made from cotton, linen or wool when I fly. Statistics bear out the fact that most people who die in a plane crash don’t die from the crash itself but from the related fire and smoke. Because I assume I will be exposed to both before I get to my destination, fiber content is important. Man-made fibers like polyester, rayon and nylon don’t burn. They melt. And they melt at a fairly low temperature on the scale of melting things. I do not want my clothes melting into my skin. Cotton, linen and wool do not catch fire quickly, which will buy me time.

LONG PANTS, LONG SLEEVES. Exposed skin is going to be a problem in a fiery situation. Mere seconds could mean the difference between getting out of there or succumbing to the conditions. If my skin is burning my chances are reduced. I wear long cotton pants, long sleeved shirt, top or jacket and shoes with cotton socks. It’s my armor. Always. And if my jacket has a hood, all the better. 

How High the Catalogs

 LADIES! If you live in the Philadelphia/Baltimore areas, let’s meet up at Sandy Cove Ministries on the Chesapeake Bay, Oct 13-14 for “Girls Night Out and a Day Off!” Click HERE for  details including cost and overnight accommodation options. I would love to meet you (your daughters, mothers and friends, too) at this faith-based event, where I will be speaking at all four sessions. Check it out. I hope to see you there! 

Something is different this year. First, it seems like the holiday season is starting earlier than usual, which is just fine with me.

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I love Thanksgiving and Christmas so much, I like stretching the season a bit.  But an avalanche of mail order catalogs? Most of them arriving in late August? Not so much.

I’m kinda’ surprised that this year, more than recent years past, far more catalogs are arriving in the mail.

Here’s what I find puzzling: Given the popularity of online shopping, why are companies spending so much money on paper catalogs? These things in full-color are not cheap to produce. But I’m sure marketing geniuses have been paid plenty to figure out that we respond well to hard copy catalogs. And that scares me a little. My best intentions to not order my brains out can easily fall by the wayside once I flip open to see what’s inside.