Nerdvana

Joe Russo is a living legend.  That may seem overstated, but he (along with brother Anthony) has directed the film with the biggest opening weekend in history.  It’s now a race to see how fast the movie will gross $1 billion.

The reason I find this so interesting is I had the chance to meet said legend and he was so down to earth and relate-able that it seemed like they hired a guy to play him.  His favorite bar is George’s in Iowa City, by the way, so come check it out.  For those who know George’s, he made a point of saying the only thing that has changed with the burgers in 25 years is the price.  Something along the lines of a pitcher and a burger for $1.00 back then.  Ah, the good old days.

The picture is grainy and probably not well placed, but some of us are still learning.

Like many “overnight success stories”, Mr. Russo talked about how it took him a good ten years overnight.  He related a chance meeting with Steven Soderbergh that connected them to a rising star in George Clooney that led to some network TV gigs that ultimately brought them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Most importantly, he talked about how Professor Jay Holstein shaped the way he thought about thematic storytelling and how to make that story interesting.  Professor Holstein didn’t teach film, but he taught the most popular class at the University of Iowa.  It was a religion class and Mr. Russo points to his experience with Prof. Holstein as the reason he was able to make Infinity War.  High praise.

Russo’s ability to tell a story and create three dimensional characters is what has made his films so successful.  The best part of these movies is the depth of the characters you are cheering for or against, not the CGI and million dollar special effects.  And the best part of this revelation is that we don’t need Disney budgets to create our own epic.  Many thanks to Joe and the folks at Film Scene for making some nerd dreams come true.

Save it!

“Couldn’t afford a new car in December?  Take your tax return to Bad Decisions Car Dealers and see what you can afford now!”  So goes the local car dealership ad reminding everyone that the money they get back from the government needs to be spent as soon as possible.  This commercial is one example of many.  The cell phone company I worked for in my previous life referred to February/March as “second Christmas” because the tax refunds would find a way back to the stores for a phone upgrade.

First, a caveat – I don’t know your financial situation.  We are all individuals and we all have our own take on personal finances.  It’s possible you bring in way more than you need, you save 30% of it, and you are reading this while you wait to board a plane for a weekend in Paris.  With that said, my advice to you if you encounter someone telling you to “spend your tax refund here”?  Run.  I know this seems very Scrooge-like, or just un-fun, but your best option for the return of your money from the government is to save it.

Yes, save your money.  We could go through plenty of statistics showing how little Americans are saving each month, but my bet is that you already know the truth.  We aren’t saving enough of our take-home pay.  No judgment here, just reading the numbers for what they are.  If a person wants a new car/iPhone/super-gadget, they won’t be getting the slow head-shake from me.  My hope for that person, and everyone reading this, is that at least 10% of their income is being saved in a secure spot.

The 10% savings rate is the foundation of the Perpetual Wealth Code™ (PWC).  We’ll post a more in-depth description of the PWC and how you can use it to your advantage in the future.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

So, you joined the cult?

If you live in certain parts of the Midwest, it’s likely you have heard of Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping (FXB).  The intensity of the program, the results that people see, and the commitment of the members have led some to lovingly refer to FXB as a “cult”.  Well ten weeks ago I had had enough of the growing waistline and the lack of physical activity, so I joined the cult.  Imagine Harold Ramis challenging Bill Murray to do five pushups in the movie Stripes and you have an idea where I was starting from.

Long story short, I graduated.  After ten weeks of punishing 6AM workouts, I’m officially through with the FXB boot camp and I would recommend it to others.

Now that I’m through the ten weeks, I’ve been thinking about how similar the worlds of physical fitness and personal finance really are.  Okay, I was thinking about this during the program as well, but clearly my arms were too sore to type.  Keep reading for a few of the parallels between fitness and finance.

It is SO much easier with a coach to guide you when you are starting something new. 

I was a runner in a previous life.  I was also a swimmer at one point and I have lifted a few weights, so I felt like I knew how to work out.  In the case of my journey into the FXB gym, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.  The instructors, thankfully, are trained to take it slow at first so the fewest number of students puke.  They didn’t tell us this, I’m making assumptions.  The point is not that we were all out of shape, it’s that we never would have known where to start without having a coach to guide us.  In the case of FXB, once someone gets started, they can quickly master the basic moves and start taking advantage of the more advanced coaching.

The Perpetual Wealth Code™ (PWC) is like an FXB experience for your finances.  Just as the physical results from putting in the effort at the gym are real, your financial security and flexibility will expand with this process.  There is a flood of information out there about how to manage your money, so a guide is extremely helpful both in the early stages of using the PWC and with the more advanced strategies.

When you are doing something new, especially if it is good for you, it’s easy to get thrown off track. 

The ten-week program includes six days each week at the gym, along with a relatively structured nutrition plan.  At the end of the program, there were a handful of people who were honored for perfect attendance.  They were in the distinct minority.  Most people who went through the class did not make every workout, due to vacation, work travel, sickness, and so forth.

The nutrition component of the program is even more important but cannot be tracked for everyone.  Let me just say, from personal experience, sticking to the nutrition plan is much tougher than making it to every class.  And the results showed.  Lesson learned, stick to the plan.

I wish there was a fun spin to this, but the fact is that responsible spending is like eating (a great) salad.  Both are good for you in many ways, and should absolutely be your default routine, but staying the course can be a challenge.  Why not eat this donut?  I’ve earned it.  Why not buy the new iPhone?  I have a credit card.  The list of decadent food and unconscious spending could go on and on.  Just keep in mind that saving (like a healthy lifestyle) does not mean denial of all things fun, it means living your own values and focusing on what you really want.

You are a product of your environment.

It’s well known that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  In the case of the gym, fellow participants mattered just as much as the instructors.  It’s easy to think that we all would have worked as hard as possible if those around us were taking it easy, but that’s just not the case.  Good nutrition is even harder to maintain if you are surrounded by people who tell you French fries are healthy because they are a vegetable.

We are all individuals so we all adjust our spending, or our eating, based on things specific to us.  I’m not saying that just because your friend Betty eats a Moon Pie, that means you are destined to eat one.  The same as Jimmy buying a new iPhone won’t automatically lead you to the local cell phone outlet.  The pattern, however, is that if you are surrounded by people who don’t follow your eating plan or who don’t have the same values about money, it will be more difficult to get where you want to go.  Be clear about what you want for your financial life and why it is important to you.

So, ten weeks has flown by and I’m strong enough to type out a new post.  Getting back into fighting shape is still a work in progress, but I’m always ready to talk about the Perpetual Wealth Code™.  Feel free to reach out if you have questions about how to feel more secure and flexible with your finances.

The Year Of…

The year 2018 is just over two weeks old.  How are your resolutions?  Did you make any?  If you did, have you given up on them like many of us?

I talked with a friend of mine, John, at a New Year’s Eve party and we both agreed that resolutions are not worth a ton.  Part of the reason is that we don’t really change due to one number on the calendar, but another part is that we often get swept up in the “new year, new me” wave and take on too much.  We want to lose weight, get our budget under control, be more productive at work, and be more attentive to our loved ones, all at once.  In fact, before talking with John, I had written out eight(!) different areas of improvement for the coming year.  I don’t think much of resolutions, but I was going to improve, darn it.

This is when John went all City Slickers Curly on me and revealed his secret.  Focus on one thing.  He called it “The Year Of…” and just added whatever the theme/goal may have been.  Several years ago, he met his lovely wife and that was the ‘year of marriage’.  To be clear, he decided on the theme for that year after he found his future wife.  After that he decided to complete an Iron Man triathlon, so that was the year of the Iron Man.  It’s true that most of us aren’t lining up to check that awesome feat off our list, but if a regular guy can cross the line at the Iron Man by focusing on one thing, what is stopping you from your goal?

Odds are good that weight loss/fitness, time with family, productivity, and financial health encompass at least one of your big goals.  Even if you don’t believe in the New Year’s resolution, I’m betting one of the topics on the list speaks to you.  Because this is a blog about finances, specifically the Perpetual Wealth Code™, that’s where we are going to focus our time.  The best part is that once we have our financial lives under control, the rest of the topics on the list seem to get easier.  Our wealth, and the security/confidence we feel, impacts every part of our life.

If you aren’t ready to commit to a full ‘year of’ something, break it down into weeks.  Each week you know what your not-really-a-resolution is and you stick to just that one thing.  Obviously, you need to keep going to work and fulfilling your normal obligations, but ‘The Week Of’ theme will drive the free hours of the week.  Whether it’s the week of cleaning the garage or the week of getting your financial house in order, you have the time.

Of course, if you are ready for the year of recapturing interest, more financial control, and wealth creation, you can start right now.  Step one is to open a separate checking account and divert 10% of your income on a regular basis.  This is your foundation for practicing the Perpetual Wealth Code™.  We’ll talk more about the PWC in future posts, but don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.  I look forward to talking with you.

Hope springs eternal

Fans of the Hawkeye football team woke up a couple of days ago wondering if what we had seen was real.  Some of us have spent so much time watching highlights and checking out images from that night that it’s felt like a March Madness level of productivity.  It was not a dream, and the future looks bright.

To catch everyone up, the vaunted Ohio State football team marched into Legendary Kinnick Stadium on Saturday bringing their fawning media friends and 50+ year-old men in face paint. It’s safe to say nearly everyone in the seats and watching on TV expected OSU to walk out with another victory, though some Hawk fans believed it would be close.  Thankfully, the folks wearing the uniforms and calling the plays had other plans for the evening and the result was an instant classic.  55-24, Hawkeyes.  Checked the Internet just now to confirm it was real.

The most powerful message behind this epic beating is one of hope.  This cannot simply be waved off with “that’s why they play the game.”  The Hawks have not played well against OSU for roughly ever, but this meeting was looking extra bleak.  The offense was inconsistent and inept for most of the early season, and virtually every Hawk fan was counting on “Kinnick magic” (it’s a real thing) just to keep the game from getting out of hand.  I say “virtually” because my 11-year-old will read this and remind me that he called this.  Never doubt Nolan.

We’re reminded that there is always room for optimism, and that the most important people in the story are those who are on the field.  In the case of our personal financial well being, the message is the same.  Each one of us is on the field, so to speak, playing our own financial game, and we are the most important players.  We control how much we earn, how much we spend, and how much we save.  The Perpetual Wealth Code™ allows us to retain control of the amount we save, while recapturing interest and fees we are likely giving up.

The football season is looking up, but it will eventually end.  While we continue to cheer on the Hawks, be sure to remember you are the most important player in much more important game.  And there is plenty of reason for optimism.  Looking forward to talking with you.

Go Hawks!

Scary Savings Rates

Back in the early eighties, trick-or-treating was the second holiday of the season (my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) and it was glorious.  After a night of hard work knocking on doors and lugging sacks of candy around, we would regroup at home and sort out the loot.  Now anyone who has enjoyed the trick-or-treating bonanza, and especially any parent, knows that you should not eat the entire bag of candy that night.  This is just bad form.  Once you realize you should not eat it all, it must be saved.  You can’t throw it out, after all.  The freezer, a corner of a dresser drawer, a jar on a desk, all decent options for saving the Halloween loot with their own limits on access and control over the bounty.  If you had (or still have) a good spot to save your candy at Halloween, please put it in the comments below.  This is serious business.

Like my Halloween adventures years ago, most of us have learned that we should not spend everything we make.  Following the same analogy, eating the entire bag of candy in one night is like spending the entire paycheck for the month.  You may feel good right now, but tomorrow you’ll be sick.  “Tomorrow” in the case of finances is typically years in the future, but the result is the same.  The bottom line is we need to save.  And recent studies* have shown that we need to save A LOT more than we have been.

The average savings rate is currently around 5% of disposable (after tax) income.  That’s the average rate, which means there are a good number of folks who are saving nothing.  In fact, over half of American workers currently carry $10,000 or less in their retirement savings accounts.  These savings numbers typically include all “qualified” plans recognized by the government and, as I’ve mentioned before, there is another option.  Even though I’m not a proponent of the 401(k), the savings rate is still much lower than it needs to be.

The scary thing is that we seem to already know this*.  As a group, Americans know they should be saving more, but aren’t for one reason or another.  On average, the group surveyed felt they should be saving nearly 25% of their disposable income, rather than the 5% currently being saved.

This is not a call for forced retirement savings managed by Uncle Sam, or any other sort of political suggestion.  I’m simply pointing out something that, deep down, we already know.  We know we need to put money away to fund our “passive income years”, we know Social Security cannot fund our lives in retirement, and we know the stock market can be a dangerous place to store savings.  Just ask anyone looking to retire around 2008 about safety in the stock market.

Using The Perpetual Wealth Code™ (PWC), we have helped clients increase their savings rate and reduce their risk of loss (to zero!) while helping them discover a better way to manage debt.  One of the primary reasons people give for not saving is the need to pay down debt, and the PWC tackles that issue head on.  If your debt it minimal, even better for you.

We’d love to answer any questions you have about how to get started using the PWC, and we’re also curious about your favorite Halloween candy (Krackel for me) or tradition.  Talk soon.

Happy Halloween!

* – https://mlaem.fs.ml.com/content/dam/ML/Articles/pdf/ML_Finance-Study-Report_2017.pdf

 

Like Fine Wine

On a recent episode of 60 Minutes, the interviewer talked with Bill Koch about a widespread scam in the industry of “fine wine”.  Mr. Koch is a collector of many things, including rare and valuable bottles of wine. He began the interview by talking about purchasing four bottles of wine allegedly once owned by Thomas Jefferson.  The price tag was $100,000 for each bottle.

After the purchase, Mr. Koch decided to do a little research on the bottles to get some more details, only to find that they were definitely not connected to Thomas Jefferson.  It’s possible that this research could have been done before making the purchase, but that probably would not have led to this fascinating 60 Minutes piece.  Silver lining.

The interview went on to reveal several well-known dealers in rare and valuable bottles were actually faking everything.  One guy combined different types of wines into vintage-looking bottles and sold them to high-end clients, while another created fantastical stories about where the bottles came from to inflate the price (similar to the Jefferson bottles).

Most of us don’t run the same circles as Bill Koch, so it may be tempting to write this off as a “problem” of the super-rich.  Who do you know that’s going to spend $400,000 (in one shot!) on wine, right?  Mr. Koch discovered through his investigation that there are quite a few bad apples in the wine industry.  He also realized that this has been going on for some time now, but nobody talks about it.  The sellers obviously aren’t going to say anything, the auction houses keep quiet to both save face and continue to earn their commissions, and the buyers simply try to re-sell the bottles and get their money back if they discover a fake.

This reminded me of a popular product in the life insurance industry called Universal Life (UL), along with sister products Indexed Universal Life (IUL) and Variable Universal Life (VUL).  People have been promised the benefits of whole life insurance while reaping the gains of the stock market and being protected from loss.  Sadly, some people who have heard of The Perpetual Wealth Code have been led to believe these types of policies would work even better than Participating Whole Life Insurance (PWLI).  Kind of like putting two-buck-chuck from Trader Joes in a forged Thomas Jefferson bottle.  PWLI policies are contracts where both the cash value and death benefit grow guaranteed over time.  UL policies not only do not have those guarantees, the cash value and death benefit will be reduced to zero over time.  It’s part of the design of the product.  Unfortunately, by the time the buyers realize this, it can be tough to recover the money they believed they were saving.   It also may be too late to purchase needed insurance on their lives, so it’s a double whammy.

It’s not necessary to use a life insurance policy when practicing The Perpetual Wealth Code, but Participating Whole Life Insurance is the gold standard when it comes to where you should store your cash.  Be sure to reach out with questions on how to implement this process in your life and business.

And if someone is presenting you with a Universal Life policy, ask them about the guarantees.  Then ask them how many UL policies they own themselves.  The answer will be zero.

Perfectionism, enemy of the good

Nearly two weeks ago I was in a training class talking about The Perpetual Wealth Code™ (PWC) and how we can help people to discover it for themselves.  During the class, we talked about blogging and how Access Your Capital has been out there for a little while now (thank you, McFie’s!), and many more post topics came to mind.  That was two weeks ago and it seems like yesterday.  All we need now is to say, “where does the time go?” and the journey to becoming my father will be complete.  I’m not the only one in this boat, am I?

The time has flown by, but writing has been sparse and posting has been non-existent.  Now that I’ve talked about the blog with this group it has to be great, right?!  Just reading that mock questions makes you realize that perfectionism continues to rear its ugly head, so we need to address it.  Not because of the mental block thrown up in the posting schedule, but because this issue can impact us in many areas.  Perfectionism may be driven by many things, but we’re going to focus on two – fear, and a misguided belief that we know what is going to happen in the future.

Fear is ever-present in our lives and perfectionism is just another destructive way to try to control it.  The easy answer is to say, “get over it” and move on, but we’ve gotten to this point for a reason.  One technique is to pretend you have done what you are trying to do and consider how you will feel in two weeks (or two months/years/whatever).  This allows us to reframe things a bit and can be a great tool when you’ve delayed posting to a blog, asking someone out, proposing an idea at work, and so forth.  In this case, two weeks from now there will be at least one more post so hopefully it will be spectacular (heh).  Even if your action doesn’t go as well as planned, it’s not the end of the world.

Along with fear, we have the notion that somehow we know (or have a good idea) what will happen in the future.  Do you ever catch yourself thinking this way?  “I know my boss will say no if this presentation isn’t the best thing they’ve seen, so I’m going to wait another week”, or “I’m not going to suggest this idea because I know I need to have every answer before I do so”.  Even if you haven’t had these particular thoughts, I have a feeling there have been times where action/decision has been delayed because you had already decided what was going to happen.  Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the future is not set.  When we continue to delay because everything needs to be just right, we give up control to those who know perfect can never be the enemy of the good.

While I’m happy to be back on track posting to this imperfect blog, it’s much more important for us to focus on our finances.  There will never be a “perfect time” when it comes to financial decisions, though there may always seem to be a good reason to delay.  There is also no reason to let fear limit the discussions you have, the questions you ask, or the sacred cows you need to tip.  This blog is named Access Your Capital because a major benefit of the PWC is having real control over your financial life, and access to your cash is key to that control.  While you may not consider yourself a perfectionist, conquering these feelings about finances can lead to much greater control.

Be sure to reach out or comment below if you have questions about The Perpetual Wealth Code™, or if you have thoughts on battling perfectionism.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Better than Dave

A friend of mine is a follower of Dave Ramsey and the other day she mentioned that everyone should take the Ramsey course that she had just completed.  The course centered on debt reduction, cutting up credit cards, and paying cash for everything so I was curious to hear what she got out of it.  I was especially interested to hear why she thought “everyone should take it”.

The short version of her answer is that it gives you a sense of control over your financial life, as well as helping to pay down outstanding debt.  Who wouldn’t want that?  But what happens at the end of the 36 or 48 or however many months it takes to reduce the debt?  Is there something to show for the years of penny pinching and card cutting?  Or is it just the feeling of control over the now-reduced debt?

Don’t get me wrong.  Dave Ramsey has helped many people with this type of program and some of his advice is great.  But what if there was a better way?  What if at the end of the months of disciplined payments you hadn’t just reduced your debt, but built an asset in its place?  Debt extermination vs. debt reduction, if you will.

Spoiler alert!  There is a better way.  All the benefits enjoyed by my friend, with the addition of a financial asset you continue to use once the debt has been exterminated.  We have proven this time and again with real clients, so please understand this is not merely a theory.  Ironically, the key to taking this process to the next level involves using something Mr. Ramsey has made a habit of railing against.

Participating Whole Life Insurance (PWLI) is a very powerful and flexible financial asset that can be used to enhance these popular debt reduction programs.  In addition to eliminating the debt, the interest you have been paying the creditor begins to come back to you and eventually you are the lone money manager.  This is the spot you want to be in.  Managing (controlling) your own money, free from bad debt, and with The Perpetual Wealth Code™ helping to grow your wealth.

Do you want to just reduce the debt or do you want to build something on top of the bad debt ashes?  Call me to talk about how to start building today.

Get Past the Fear and Loathing

Let’s face it, talking about personal finance can be a challenge in our world.  As children many of us were not exposed to how money really works and how to manage it because our parents either didn’t teach us or they didn’t know themselves.  This cycle continues to repeat itself as it has for many years now and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

Why is this topic so uncomfortable?  Why is it so difficult to have a real conversation about money?  The short answer is fear.  Fear of looking stupid, fear of feeling socially awkward, fear of alienating friends or family, and so on.  It’s a big hurdle to get over this level of socially engineered fear of the “money talk”.  But we need to get over it.  This is not an easy feat, but the mild discomfort early on will open up new possibilities in the money management part of your life.

In addition to this general fear, there is a very deep-rooted feeling that somehow money is bad.  Yes, this is crazy talk, but let’s get it out in the open.  I’m not going to pretend to know what’s buried deep in your psyche, but take a minute to think about what money means to you.  Think about how you see wealthy people being depicted in TV and movies.  How many of them look like the hard working, tax paying, charity supporting people we know in our real lives?  Few, if any.  The typical stereotype is one of a greedy Wall Street tycoon, and this has had an impact on the way many of us think about money.

The simple, but not easy, solution is that we need to change the way we think about money and what it represents.  It’s not overly complex or scary and, despite what some recent political followers would have you believe, money is not “the root of all evil”.  In fact, money is just a certificate of the value you have delivered to another human being.  If you did not steal the dollar in your hand, you earned it in some way.  If you happen to have more than me, then you have likely served more people and/or delivered a greater value.  Conquering our fear and re-thinking what wealth represents will lead to more open discussion and a more direct path to the wealth we desire.

The point is not to get everyone to wear a big necklace with their net worth for all to see, it’s to ensure we are all comfortable talking about money when the time is right.  With our loved ones and our advisors, in particular.

For additional thoughts on the virtue of wealth and prosperity, check out Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book Thou Shall Prosper.  Or just contact me to receive the Tom’s Notes version.