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Personal Finance

Psychology of Money

Money messages – your earliest memories about money, often passed down by your parents – influence your financial perspective in an extremely powerful way. For instance, one of my clients has a strong memory of his father putting change in a huge container in the living room every evening, explaining that when it was full, they’d be able to go on a vacation… and teaching the value of saving for a goal. This client uses the same tactic with his kids, tweaking it slightly so they realize that when their containers are full, they can exchange the coins for bills.

Those who were raised to believe that money equates to power, freedom and control are going to behave much differently than those who were taught that money isn’t a good thing. Among the money messages some people learned as a child are:

  • You have to work hard and suffer to earn money.
  • Having a lot of money isn’t “spiritual.”
  • Money is too hard to manage.
  • You’ll never be rich.

If you were brought up with these beliefs, you can actually sabotage yourself as an adult with respect to making financial decisions. Your upbringing will also have a lot to do with whether you’re a prosperity thinker or a poverty thinker.

Those who focus on prosperity believe money is for pleasure, and they derive joy from spending it; money gives them a sense of abundance and optimism, and they believe they’ll always make more. On the other hand, poverty thinkers have a mistrust of money and negative feelings about it; they operate out of pessimism and fear. They’re reluctant to spend money and never feel secure or as if they have “enough,” regardless of the truth about their finances -and their feelings aren’t necessarily based on reality.

Living at either extreme can be a problem; those focused on prosperity need to ensure they’re not living above their means, and those more worried about poverty can look like they are not generous, even to their own family members. As you might imagine, mixed monetary philosophies in marriages can result in significant tension over finances.

Levels to Win Financial Freedom

Level I – Handle all bad debt

Bad debt is distinguished by it being used for consumption rather than production. Bad debt typically does not have beneficial tax treatment like good debt does. By getting rid of all bad debt, you’ve established you can budget and you can produce more than you consume. These habits are critical to achieve financial success. In addition, these habits must be learned before anything else can be accomplished.

Level II – Start a Retirement Account and add 10% per year

Retirement is the first goal you should tackle after handling your bad debt because you want to add small amounts of money over a long period of time. You need your money to have a chance to compound over time. So, you need to start a retirement account as early as you can, preferably in your 20’s. I like the automatic investing approach provided by “robo-advisors” such as Wealthfront, Betterment and Personal Capital. The earlier you start, the more time your money has to compound and the easier it will be to retire with enough money.

Level III – Create a Savings Account with three months of expenses

This is an important step and many people try and skip this step. I did. Everything goes fine with your investment account (#4) until it doesn’t. Inevitably, something comes up in life. If you don’t have a cushion built up, all your investments come crashing down at the worst time possible when you have to cash out. Needing to cash out investments early, with bad timing and losses, destroys wealth. Before you can invest, you need a savings cushion of ~three months of expenses, minimum.

Level IV – Start an Investment account (taxable brokerage account)

Your first goal may be to build income for a home payment. Setting up an investment account could go several ways. You could set up a Wealthfront account and use passive index investments like retirement. Or you could open a TD Ameritrade account and invest in particular stocks or ETFs that usually generate a higher return. What determines this is how much time you’re willing to spend on active investment. It’s important to be able to generate consistent returns based on outlined risk.

Level V – Buy a house

Once you are able to generate some return from your investment account and you saved up enough money, the next goal is to buy a house. Buying a house allows anybody to fix the second highest expense, rent as well as creating a forced savings plan. The house is an asset and has the chance for capital appreciation. An additional benefit of real estate is that you can use leverage, in the form of a mortgage, to help boost your returns. Mortgage interest can also be tax-deductible, which makes it favored tax treatment and a good path to increasing annual net income by reducing taxes. A home is an important part of successful financial plans.

Level VI – Build multiple streams of income

Start building income-generating assets. These could include REITs (real estate investment trusts), LPs (limited partnerships), Equity Income Accounts and Fixed Income Accounts, such as municipal bonds and annuities. Now that you’ve finished Level 5 and you’re on Level 6, you’re onto the more advanced aspects of the game. Deferred annuities can be one method. Real estate, in the form of REITs, can be another method. The goal is to invest in income generating assets and start to pay attention to the income and cash flow they generate more than the principal value. There is an investing shift that’s going on where you are less interested in capital appreciation and more interested in cash flow. Buying partial businesses in the form of stocks for equity income, or REITs to invest in real estate, and generate yield, all represent early stage vehicles for cash flow investing. The goal is to build this up to a semi significant amount so that a portion of your expenses are now offset by your newly found cash flow income.

Level VII – Buy cashflow businesses or income-generating real estate

This is the critical level to work on until you can passively produce more income than expenses. OR, build your own growth start-up company you can sell for millions. I distinguish this final stage from the previous stage in that you’re buying “whole” businesses or real estate investments. At the previous stage, you’re buying “portions” of investments in the form of stocks, units of companies or limited partnerships. The final step in the financial game of life is to be able to buy cash flow businesses or income generating real estate in enough quantity that your income is higher than your monthly living expenses. Once you can do that you have won the financial game of life. You are financially free.

Advanced Tax Strategies

Farming has changed from when I was a kid, 60 years ago, growing up on the outskirts of rural Joliet and Kankakee Illinois. Then, many small-time farmers could support their families with a 160-320 acre farm and a part-time job during the winter. Today, farms are huge enterprises and some of the folks I met farm 3,000-10,000 acres. Machinery is costly, with combines costing $300,000 or more. So, one needs a lot of acres to amortize the high cost of machinery.

In the past 5 years, there have been record crop prices, reaching as high as $7 per bushel corn; $16 per bushel soybeans; and $10 per bushel wheat. With high crop prices and large farms operated, net profit form farming is no longer small potatoes. A number of the farmers have net profits of $250,000 to $1,500,000 in a good year. So, they now have more cashflow than ever and therefore tax problems. They also have the cash to do things for the family that were previously unheard of. Let me cover their concerns as well as advanced strategies that are solutions:

I have big profits and want to save income tax: Earlier in 2013, a big farmer came to one of my Mesa, AZ seminars, as he’s a snowbird with a house in Mesa. He’s had as much as $1 million taxable income in the past. The solution was to establish a 401(k) plan and defined benefit pension plan. We added his wife to the payroll and the combined contributions to his July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 fiscal year was just under $300,000. This will save him close to $100,000 of tax not just in year 1, but every year that he makes this tax-deductible contribution. As a side benefit, this will also provide a retirement income for the two brothers (non-family) who are his employees and are now currently in their 30’s. For the farmer, his future annual retirement income will exceed $100,000.

None of my kids or grandkids wants to work the farm and I want to provide lifetime income to them: The solution is the Multi-Generational IRA with the Roth IRA conversion strategy. Here’s how it could work for a farmer with 3 daughters and 4 grandkids. None of my client’s 3 daughters (or their husbands) wants to work the farm. In fact, they have moved out-of-state. The 4 grandkids are too young to work the farm and since they won’t grow up in the farm area, they won’t know how to work it once they become adults. Suppose the farmer has $770,000 between his and his wife’s traditional IRA. Suppose the average age of the 4 grandkids is 9. This strategy will create slightly above $8 million of tax-free income over the life of the 4 grandkids. After the farmer and his wife, currently in their late 60’s, die, here’s the projected income to each of the 4 grandkids: $7,000 at age 25; $11,000 at age 35; $17,000 at age 45; $27,000 at age 55; $43,000 at age 65; $69,000 at age 75; and $90,000 at age 80.

About Auto Bill of Sale

Seller Pitfalls

The seller usually assumes that once they receive the funds associated with the transaction, they do not need to worry anymore. This is correct as long as the bill of sale is proper and contains an odometer disclosure form. The odometer disclosure form specifics the number mileage on the vehicle the date the ownership is transferred to the seller. This is important down the line in many scenarios that include:

  • The buyer in turn sells the vehicle and alters the mileage on the car in order to obtain a higher price. The new buyer discovers that the mileage was altered and reports the fraud. Without the odometer disclosure form, it is very hard to ascertain if the fraud was committed by the original owner or the second owner. Therefore, a proper bill of sale would ensure the original owner is free from any unforeseen developments.
  • The buyer alters the odometer reading in order get repairs under warranty. As outlined above, again it is almost very difficult to determine who committed the fraud. The last thing the original owner wants is to be liable for something they did not do.

Additionally, a proper auto bill of sale may indicate that the vehicle was sold ‘as is’. This absolves the seller from any misrepresentation demands down the line.

Buyer Pitfalls

The buyer needs to ensure that what they were sold was as promised verbally. A proper auto bill of sale would indicate the particular of the car namely: make, model, vin, mileage, color, body type. Also detailed are the owner’s particulars.

As outlined in the seller section above, the odometer disclosure form would protect they buyer from any fraud committed as a result of changing the mileage on the vehicle.

Read Goal Directional Signs

NO PARKING

You have been guilty of procrastinating on the steps in your goal plan. You write to-do lists for all your unfinished tasks, but never seem to get around to carrying them out. You keep resetting the timeline on your goal end date, making excuses why you have not moved further along.

The ‘No Parking’ sign admonishes you for wasting precious time when you should be working on your objectives. Stop deceiving yourself; your laziness is only going to kill your dreams. Revive yourself from your stupor, rev up your engine, and restart your journey immediately.

INTERSECTION AHEAD

You have been travelling easily along a straight road, as the first steps in your action plan were simple and uncomplicated. However, you have reached a new point in your journey where you need to make a big decision that could determine the ultimate failure or success of your plans.

The ‘Intersection Ahead’ sign indicates that you need to take some time to make prudent choices about your next actions. You may need to seek guidance from expert sources, or carry out additional research to obtain all the information required to decide which way to turn.

REDUCE SPEED

You have been racing along your journey, revelling in the initial victories from your efforts. You are getting a little overconfident, boasting to everyone how easy it will be to attain your objectives. Your arrogance is leading you to make poor decisions that could potentially wreck your plans.

The ‘Reduce Speed’ sign warns you that haste makes waste when you are working on long-term goals, as there are no shortcuts to success. There are major pitfalls ahead, which your excessive speed and inexperience will prevent you from seeing. Proceed with caution in all your actions.

DETOUR

You have been comfortably driving a big, smooth highway, but you’re not on the most effective route to arrive at your destination. You don’t want to leave your comfort zone to traverse a road that is unknown to you, so you prefer to continue in your current direction.

The ‘Detour’ sign informs you that you need to take a different course if you eventually want to reach your objective. You have to be courageous enough to experience unfamiliar new pathways, and be willing to learn and grow from any challenges that may come your way.

LOOK OUT FOR FALLING ROCKS

Your route has taken you to a stretch of roadway that is filled with hidden dangers. Although the passage seems clear, at any point in time a major risk could appear which could severely derail your progress or even put an end to your entire journey.

The ‘Look Out for Falling Rocks’ sign alerts you to be on the lookout for probable hazards that are common to the goals that you are pursuing. You need to implement risk- mitigation strategies that will help you to avoid or recover from a negative event that comes with the territory.

About Budget-Friendly Loans

There are many areas of your finances that you can apply this to: clothes shopping, food shopping and even service shopping. One of the most expensive things that a person or family will ever spend their money on is their loans. To those on a budget the mere word “loan” makes them cringe. But there are ways to make it not so painful a feeling when you hear that word loan.

First, shop around. Remember, you are the customer even though it’s a loan that you’re shopping for. You don’t have to stop at the closet bank next to where you live and bam! sign those loan papers. You are a more enlightened consumer than that. Shop around all the banks in your area to try and find the best loans at the best rates. Pay particular attention to the amount your payment will be a month though. It’s all well and good to get a loan at a really low interest rate; but, if the payment a month is higher than you can afford, then that is a recipe for disaster.

Being budget-friendly isn’t just a cute coined phrase. It’s something that can become the newest financial movement that will not only benefit you and your family; but that you can pass on to your children. Parents can help make savvy financial adults out of their children by teaching them as early as possible how to deal with expenses in the real world. Wanting to be a superhero to your children doesn’t mean keeping them in the dark. It means preparing them to be the best adult that they can be. One of the biggest spending decisions is establishing credit, sometimes with the use of loans. Why not do it in the least painful way possible. Shop around to different banks and ask about more than the interest rate. You are the customer even when getting a loan and they want your business; so make them work for it.

Ways to Save Money Every Day

Avoid Buy One Get One Free Offers

These are a waste of money for two reasons.

First they encourage you to buy more of an item than you really need.

Second they are often not true offers because the shops will increase the price of the item and you get a false discount.

Only buy what you need.

Buy Own Brand Goods

If you buy something with a brand name, you are wasting money on the maker’s advertising. It doesn’t matter whether it is clothes, cars or food, companies spend millions trying to persuade you to buy their goods and you foot the bill.

You can save a small fortune over the course of a year by switching to own brand products which are often even made in the same factories as the big brand goods.

Why Buy New?

There are certain things that we buy that we can find used and save a ton of money on.

Cars are the obvious one, why pay sales tax on a brand new car when you can buy used and put the savings to work for you.

Clothes are another area you can save money. Nowadays even the wealthy are tightening their belts and selling their unwanted items. Thrift shops often have barely worn designer clothes available for a fraction of the price you pay in the shops. Another good place to find good, cheap clothes is the internet, eBay and Craigslist are the bargain-hunter’s friend!

Join a Library

If you read a lot of books why spend money on them that you can use to pay your debts when they are free to borrow at your local library. More and more libraries even lend out eBooks now for reading on Kindles.

If you have friends who read, arrange book-swaps and save that way too.

Don’t Waste Food

I know it sounds obvious, but don’t throw away good food. If you have leftovers why not use a crockpot to prepare a delicious meal for when you come home from work. Not only does this save you money, but time as well. I sometimes think my wife loves her crockpot more than me!

Clip Coupons

If you are not doing so already, collect coupons wherever you see them. Not only will this save you money, but they can also help pay for the occasional treat, something you would not normally buy.

Intelligently Eliminate Your Debts

You must intelligently employ a strategy to repay your debt. Pay at least 20% or more of your total income toward your existing debts. When paying off multiple debts, always pay more money to the debt with the highest interest rate first because the higher the interest rate, the greater amount of money you pay to that debt over time. Repaying debts with higher interest rates faster than those with lower interest rates saves you money and allows you to repay all of your debts in less time.

Example: You make $3,000 per month from your primary job and have a car loan and a credit card bill that must be paid off. You have $600 per month, or 20% of your income, that can go toward this goal. Your car loan has a balance of $4,000 at 6% interest per year with a monthly payment of $290. Your credit card has a balance of $7,500 at 21% interest per year and a minimum monthly payment of $206.

After paying the combined minimum payments of $496 for both the car and credit card, you have $104 remaining in your budget of $600. The extra $104 should be used to repay your credit card because it has thehighest interest rate. Paying the credit card’s minimum payment, plus an extra $104 every month, will save you over $10,000 in interest and completely pay off this debt in 32 months.

Once your credit card is paid off, apply the $310 (remember, this is the credit card’s $206 minimum payment plus the extra $104) you were paying on the credit card toward your car loan. Pay the $290 minimum monthly payment on the car loan plus the old credit card payment of $310 for a combined payment of $600.

Repeat this process until all your debts are paid.

Before you repay any debt, make sure you understand the terms under which you borrowed the money. Some debts can’t be repaid faster than what was first agreed to when you initially borrowed the money. If you have any doubts and questions about your debts, seek professional advice.

Toward Financial Freedom

  • Only I can’t grasp how to manage money. If possible I would announce through a megaphone that several individuals didn’t receive the money memorandum. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Current statistics report that relatively seventy percent of people live paycheck to paycheck. With this percentage, it is reasonable to assume these individuals do not have savings. They also have a considerable amount of indebtedness. Another report I read from Learn Vest, stated seventy-six percent of people feel that their personal finances are out of hand. Basically, three quarters of people feel their personal finances are uncontrollable and that they do not know how to make their money work for them. If you are in this group, reading this should decrease your isolated feelings. Actually, the majority of people right now don’t understand money.
  • I feel confused, guilty and humiliated because I don’t know about money. This is indeed a subdivision of number one and it causes people to feel that they are some how lacking because they don’t know how to manage money well. My perspective is how can you know how to manage money if you were not taught? Correct money management skills are not part of our school’s curriculum. It is an integral problem that most individuals do not understand how to manage their personal finances. I learned proper money management in college. School was where I realized that my parents educating me about money was not the general rule. I advise people to release the shame because they didn’t acquire the information on how to manage money. After this recognition, request help to learn how to premeditate and initiate a can-do attitude with your cash flow. Stop the guilt and confusion and proceed with kindness toward yourself and your past financial actions.
  • Managing My Personal Finances is very hard and takes a lot of time. Most of my clients’ focal point is their work, family and living well. These are great goals but they leave restricted amount of time to manage their money. They are in need of a fast centralized process that they can integrate easily in their swift moving lifestyles. The disappointing concern is adults outlook, which is that they feel they earn an acceptable salary and money management is hard. It is hard and takes lots of time. This idea has become adequate. It is time to consider how wonderful we want this aspect of our lives. Taking the initiative to know where you are financially and where you want to be is empowering. It enables you to organize a structure to joyously use the money on what they really want while saving and decreasing their debt. I guarantee money management can be easy and efficient as long as you actively do the work. It is important that you proactively create a stable financial plan then implement it.

Savings Accounts vs Investing Accounts

Investment Accounts

There are numerous types of investment accounts. There are a plethora of services offered with both discount brokers and full service brokers. Most people go to full service brokers because they like face to face transactions and customer service while others prefer internet based discount brokers because they don’t value face to face interactions. Since Millennials are tech savvy and don’t have money to be throwing away for steep fees, most young investors go the discount route.

I own an account with a discount broker because I like to micro manage my investments and I firmly believe Millennials should go in this direction as well. Most accounts are free to open, and I highly recommend using TD Ameritrade because of their vast array of pointers and customer service that goes above and beyond most other companies.

Savings Accounts

Savings accounts do have great benefits. Savings should be allocations of cash put aside for short term goals. Savings should also be used for personal expenses like loan payments, utility bills, and insurance. Savings accounts should also be used for anything in life that will require a large amount of cash in five years or less. The stock market can fluctuate and losing value of money while trying to achieve a short term goal is counter productive.