It’s been a few years now since one of my staffers, Kim Penrose, was so excited she couldn’t wait to tell me about a book she’d just read. Kim was so moved by the experience, I asked her to write a review. I can’t think of a better day than today, Thanksgiving 2017, to post that review again. That book  has now become a classic, and for good reason. It’s just that inspirational. Thanks, Kim!

Recently, I caught a memorable episode of The View. Deborah Norville, whom I recalled from her stints on TODAY and Inside Edition, was a guest promoting her book, Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You.

I was immediately taken by Norville’s self-assurance and passion for her message.

Norville is no Pollyanna, but rather a woman who has discovered the value of thankfulness and wants everyone to experience the change that can take place when we embrace this philosophy. I was so impressed with the interview I was at the bookstore before the show had even ended to purchase this book.

In Thank You Power, Norville sets out to use her skills as an investigative reporter to determine if there is any scientific value to “seeing the glass half full.” She states her case solidly and uses the first part of the book to lay the groundwork and share reasons why being thankful is good for your health, relationships and work experience.

Read more

This is a Guest Post by Donna Freedman, adapted from her new book Your Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul—a book that could make the difference between where you are now and a totally different life. We’re giving away two copies; read on to find out how to win.

Lately, I’ve been hearing concerns about tough times coming back. I say that for plenty of people, tough times never went away.


Some struggle to stay afloat—getting ahead is a distant dream—and others wonder just where their money goes. If either of those situations sounds familiar, you’ll be (grimly) pleased to know that it isn’t just you. According to the Federal Reserve, our median net worth has decreased by about 21 percent nationally over the past 20 years. However, for the working class—those who earn between $23,300 and $40,499—median net worth dropped more than 50 percent.

Money woes aren’t always about greed or carelessness. Often they’re about the price of homeownership (especially upkeep and property taxes), child care (which can cost more per year than college tuition), groceries, medical treatment, utilities, higher education, automobiles and insurance.

Since most of us are expected to plan our own retirements, a chunk of earnings disappears right off the top—that is, if you’re actually able to do that. When you’re running as fast as you can just to stay in the same place, saving may seem impossible. Read more

From the Everyday Cheapskate Archives: This is a guest post by Abigail Perry, a freelance writer whose work has appeared on MSN Money, Wise Bread, and CitiBank’s Women & Co. blog. In her spare time she blogs at I Pick Up Pennies. Originally published in 2014, this is one of our most popular posts.

Some of the presents I’m giving this Christmas won’t cost me a cent: Amazon will deliver them and Swagbucks is buying.


This online rewards program gives users points (“Swag Bucks,” or SBs) for various tasks, from online searches to watching movie trailers. Those points can be traded in for e-gift cards.

Amazon, Target, Starbucks and Walmart are the most popular rewards, but more than 150 popular merchants are available.

Don’t want gift cards? Redeem your points for cold, hard cash via PayPal.

Incidentally, those gift cards aren’t necessarily just for giving. My husband and I cash in for Amazon cards that we use for everyday needs like toiletries, paper products and pet food.

You can win anywhere from six to as many as 59 points at a clip just by using the Swagbucks search engine instead of Google’s. Since joining the program there’s never been a day when I didn’t win at least one search. Even getting the lowest award once a day would earn you 180 SBs in a month, or 2,160 per year. That’s enough for almost $25 worth of Amazon credit. Read more

I am thrilled to introduce Nick Bautista to you, a fully licensed professional, offering financial and insurance services, which by the way my husband and I count ourselves as clients. -mh

Arguably, one of the biggest and most time-consuming decisions we face in life is the question of when to retire. After all, we want to one day reap the benefits of having done our best to live below our means.

couple walking beach sunset retirement

With that in mind, here are five questions for which you need to have solid answers before you let that boss of yours know you’re ready to retire!

1. Have I fully considered the lifestyle I wish to live in retirement?

There you are, ready to retire and all of sudden it hits you—you haven’t thought through how you will actually live in retirement. How you will do that is a big deal. We grow up imagining not having to work forever, but somehow we don’t think through the details of what that lifestyle will look like. Ask yourself:

  • What would I like to accomplish?
  • What do I look forward to doing?
  • What do I want to avoid?

Sure, traveling the world or spending time with grandkids is great, but if your spouse has other ideas you better make sure you are on the same page about what retirement will look like.

Consider: Married couples often forget that the other spouse may not want exactly what they want. It’s important to start talking through your dreams and goals.

2. Do I have a retirement Spending Plan on paper—not just a general idea in my head?

What we think we spend versus what we actually spend is often much different. Most of us think we know where the money goes, but if you don’t track your expenses you have no idea if you can retire. How will you know whether you are spending more than you should out of your retirement savings and investment portfolio?

Consider: The highest spending years are those right before you retire. Naturally, this happens as those are your prime “go-go” years. You will eventually slow down due to health reasons.

Reducing your spending is always harder than being able to ramp up spending. You should have a Spending Plan that accounts for both what you need to spend and what you will be able spend. You could forgo some fun if you need to get groceries for the month, but you can’t necessarily go out and make more money, which makes reliance on your savings vital. Using a budgeting tool like to track your spending can help you stay on top of expenses.

3. Do I understand and have a plan for when to begin drawing my Social Security benefit?

According to the Social Security Administration, about 45 percent of people take Social Security at the first opportunity, when they turn 62. Do that and your benefit will be permanently reduced by at least 25 percent.

Consider: Create your account at to get an estimate of your benefits at your full retirement age (FRA). Delaying benefits each year until age 70 can add about 8 percent per year more in benefits. Social Security is only meant to cover a part of your retirement expenses. The average benefit is just under $16,000 annually for someone claiming Social Security. Make sure you know how much you and your spouse can expect.

4. Do I understand and know my options for how and when I will turn my retirement savings into an income stream? 

In that you will no longer have a paycheck, how will you create income? How will you cover your living expenses? Before entering into retirement you should know how to rollout and manage your 401(k) or other retirement account money. Retirement is here and it’s time to sell off part of your investments to create income. How do you do that?

Consider: You may want to roll your 401(k) into an IRA and manage the investments yourself or find help. A general rule of thumb is to not take out more than 4 percent from your portfolio each year. This allows your portfolio principal to continue to grow in retirement in order to keep up with inflation.

5. Do I have a specific plan that will allow my income stream to last for my lifetime?

It’s no surprise that Americans are living longer. We smoke less and eat healthier food, which has been increasing our lifespans. A 65-year-old couple has a 74-percent chance that one of them lives until age 85 (according to Social Security Period Life Table 2011). Your money may need to last much longer than 20 years. You are ready to retire when you know your money will support your entire retirement, however long that may be, and you have looked at your budget and created a plan. You know with a high degree of certainty how much you can draw each year to enjoy a fun, lasting retirement.

Consider: Inflation and healthcare costs. Inflation eats away at how much you can purchase. Healthcare costs have been rising every year around 5 percent (according to BLS CPI). Having enough money when you are 80 is just as important as having fun in your 60s. Managing your investments to sustain your lifestyle helps you to do that.

Need help answering these five questions? A good place to start would be reading Mary’s book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement (it’s great for men, too!).

db3a8653-aecc-472f-8049-94b5f9fd1e39Or contact me directly (949-333-6394) to schedule a free consultation. I would love to set up a time that we could chat through these five questions to determine where you are and how you can know for certain when you’re ready to retire.

Do you have specific questions or just need further clarity on retirement? Nick Bautista would love to speak with you. You are invited to contact him by phone 949-333-6394 or email:

The forgoing represents hypothetical examples and are for illustrative purposes only. No specific investments were used in this example. Actual results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. This material is intended for informational/educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice, a solicitation, or a recommendation to buy or sell any security or investment product. Please contact your financial professional for more information specific to your situation.

Mark Phillips & Associates ~ 19712 MacArthur Boulevard ~ Suite 225 ~ Irvine, CA 92612
949-333-6394 office // 949-333-6392 fax

Nick Bautista (CA Insurance Lic.#0G06508) is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative with/and offers securities and Advisory Services through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC,. A Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through Mark Phillips & Associates or CES Insurance Agency.

This is a guest post by David W. Hegg, MA, D.Min, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church; professor, blogger, columnist, husband, father, grandfather and brother of your humble columnist! Visit Dave at his website and follow him on Twitter.

So … here we go again! With Thanksgiving behind us and Black Friday staring us down there are no more excuses. The Christmas season has officially arrived and we’re already tired! Worse, memories of past seasons have us secretly wishing we’d actually planned that December trip to Hawaii.


But this year can be different if we’ll just take the reins and use Christmas rather than, once again, allowing the season to use and abuse us. Here are a few thoughts on making the season work for us.

PRIZE PEOPLE OVER PRESENTS. One of the biggest challenges of the season is gift giving, especially if you have many to shop for, and do most of the family buying yourself. I can see you already. You’ve made lists for everyone, and lists of lists including stores and sizes. Or maybe you’re way behind in your list making, and that is just adding more stress.

Here’s the deal. Make this Christmas about the people more than the presents. Reach out and reconnect with some distant friends. A phone conversation may be the best gift they get. And plan some family time without media distractions so you can recover the meaning of conversation, laughter, and love.  Read more

This is a guest post by Beth Lee Lundberg, MBA, AFC, Financial Coach, mom to two, and founder of The Yankee Saver. Visit Beth at her website to learn more about her financial coaching services. You can follow Beth on TwitterThe opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own and meant only for informational purposes.

When I was about six years old, I really wanted to fly. If there had been a school for flying, I would have been the first kid on the bus. So you can imagine my delight on that bright New England Saturday morning when, thanks to an episode of Superfriends, I finally learned what to do.


I went outside on our front lawn and I began to spin around. Then, with my arms out and the wind in my face, I said these words:

Oh Zephyr winds that blow on high, lift me now so I can fly!

Since spinning around while reciting that chant made flying possible for Ms. Andrea Thomas, high school science teacher by day, goddess-empowered Freedom Force heroine by night, surely it could work for me! So I spun, spun and spun! I spent the morning spinning, falling down, and spinning again. I spun, I chanted, and in the end, I lay on the couch with the worst headache of my young life. The only time my feet left the ground was when my Dad carried me into the house because I was too dizzy to walk.

While I didn’t get to fly that day, I did learn an important lesson, which, as it turns out, is just as important in building wealth as it is in flying:

What works for one person will not necessarily work for you!

Imitating behavior is a natural part of learning. From playing peek-a-boo, to improving our back-swing, doing what “they” do can be a great way to learn. But when it comes to building wealth, imitation can get us into big trouble. Why? Financially speaking, we are all unique. We have different income levels, sources of income, lifestyles, debt levels, goals, responsibilities, legal obligations, earning potentials, work-related benefits, tax burdens, insurance coverage, health considerations, risk tolerance levels, financial behaviors, on and on and on. Every household has its own set of financial characteristics that each member’s path to success his or her own. In fact, what works for one could be downright detrimental to another! Read more

This is a Guest Post by Nick Bautista, licensed independent insurance professional, soccer player and former member of the Debt-Proof Living staff. Nick, his wife Lauren and Siberian Huskies Zeke and Zara live in California where Nick continues to brew his own beer and blog at

There are many things we all hate paying for. Insurance is one of them. Worse than paying for it is having to talk to the insurance agent who will try and sell you all kinds of things that may or may not fit into your financial plan.


Because I used to work for a company whose main focus was life insurance, I quickly caught on to the ideas and themes that life insurance agents don’t tell you. By the way, yes I still sell life insurance but now as an independent agent.


How else do you think they get paid, and why else would they try to sell you products you don’t need? Commission! As most of us understand a salesperson who gets paid a commission will tend to lean towards the product that makes them the most money. There are agents who don’t operate by this idea, but working on commission, is an eat what you kill world. Don’t be afraid to ask multiple questions when they try to sell you something, my favorite being “so when would this not be a good idea?” Read more

This is a Guest Post by Nick Bautista, licensed insurance professional, soccer player and former member of the DPL Staff. Nick, his wife Lauren and Siberian Husky “Zeke” live in Virginia where Nick also brews his own beer and blogs at

I hate paying for health insurance and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. Recently, I have been on a search for cheaper coverage.


Being that I’m young, healthy and I have my own individual health plan because my employer doesn’t offer any coverage, I was a bit optimistic about the Obamacare Healthcare Law that was going into effect in January of 2014. Although I liked the idea of helping those in need of insurance being able to get coverage I was worried about the change in insurance landscape.

My worries came to fruition once I saw the premiums and coverage my new plan would be offering. Besides the 50 percent increase in premiums, my deductible increased 40 percent, leaving me with worse coverage for more cost!

So I thought, what about the subsidy? The assistance is for those who earn 400 percent below the poverty level depending on household size. It just so happens that I make too much to qualify for a subsidy Off course, right? (Check if you qualify here)

It’s safe to say I am over this Obamacare, not that I was a fan to begin with. Read more