Paralyzing Perfection

Previously posted February 27, 2016

Credit where it’s due, this title was borrowed from one of my mentors, Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

The particular lesson he delivered regarding ‘paralyzing perfection’ was over an hour long and had significantly more depth than what I’ll be going into here.  It’s Saturday night, after all.

The very base level gist of what Rabbi Lapin was speaking about during that lesson was that each of us must embrace our humanity.  Our imperfections.  Embrace all of that because we can never match the power of what brought us here.  Clearly the Rabbi had a particular power in mind, but this message rings true even for those who choose not to believe.

Deep down we crave this level of excellence, this level of perfection.  It impacts us in varying ways (procrastination, obsessiveness, being a workaholic, etc.), but the key is to recognize it and master these feelings ourselves.  How can this be done?  Accept our imperfections and embrace the possibility of constant improvement.

We can get better every day.  We just need to accept that there will always be something more to strive for, that we will never reach the pinnacle.  And that we are not expected to.  It’s humbling and empowering all at the same time.  Keep up the fight.

Be like Chick-Fil-A

Previously posted February 25, 2017

Today the school district held parent/teacher conferences so students had the day off.  Because I dream about being back in school occasionally (in order to take all of the days off), I decided to take the morning off as well.  Should do this more often.  Anyway, Nolan and I made our way to the mall and found ourselves at Chick-Fil-A.

I could go on and on about how I love this restaurant chain for numerous reasons, but this is going to be short and sweet.  The people make the company.  And they do a great job finding the right people, then training them to act the right way.  What inspired this thought and this post is simple, but sadly uncommon.  The young lady who helped us delivered our food and then some ketchup (for the nine year old ketchup addict).  Both times we said ‘thank you’ and the response was ‘my pleasure’.  Why is this a big deal?  Why does ‘my pleasure’ stand out?  Because it is not ‘no problem’, which seems to be the default response when dealing with most service providers.

‘No problem’ indicates that whatever the person did to serve you was above and beyond their role, but it didn’t cause them too much trouble to accommodate you.  You demanding wretch.  ‘My pleasure’, on the other hand, says something totally different.  The message is that the person is happy to be serving and making you happy is their primary goal.  Based on other experiences with Chick-Fil-A, I have to believe the organization not only trains employees to say this, they ensure each employee realizes what it means.  After all, the best way to get what you want is to ensure others have what they want (or need).

If you have a business, or if you are just the business of YOU, consider how you respond to people you have served.  The more you appreciate those you are serving, the more you will feel ‘my pleasure’ is appropriate.  And the quicker you will find that you have what you really want.

Time to get lucky

Previously posted November 13, 2015

Today is Friday the 13th and some people out there (possibly you) will not be comfortable until a beautiful Saturday is upon us. Why is this? Where does this seemingly irrational fear come from? Before we discuss that, let’s just admit there is a full spectrum of belief about this particular day. Some, as mentioned, just don’t feel right. Others are flat out terrified. Then there is a smaller group that laughs the whole thing off. What’s important to realize is that the group who thinks nothing of this day is the vast minority. More on that shortly.

Triskaidekaphobia is the medical term for this fear, but the fear itself is rooted in ancient history. The number 13 has a bad track record in ancient history and the spirit lives on today with buildings skipping the 13th floor, airports omitting gate 13, and no room 13 in most hospitals or hotels. The following are some sources of this societal sickness. A Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla where the 13th, and uninvited, guest is the mischievous Loki. Any fan of the Avengers movies knows Loki is bad news, but this myth relates to him tricking guests into killing one another and casting the earth into darkness. A biblical reference to the number 13 relates to Jesus’ last supper, where Judas was the 13th guest. In ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12 and the 13th was thought to be the devil. As for Friday, some biblical scholars believe Abel to have been slain by Cain on Friday the 13th and Eve to have tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. Of course Christians are well aware that Friday is the day Jesus was crucified. Combine all of that together and you have some strong roots for a general unease about Friday the 13th.

Now that we have explored some of the very ancient roots of this mysterious day and the fear it inspires in some, we need to look at how these beliefs remain so strong today. Why do we, in general, have a bad feeling about Friday the 13th? The short version – “that’s the way it has always been”. The longer version could go on for pages, so let’s keep this brief. We grew up hearing that Friday the 13th was unlucky or bewitched or bad or some other uncomfortable thing. Of course you also have quite a few horror movies with this title, but the belief in this day has been passed down through generations.

When you think about how the belief in this day’s power has been passed down, and the fact that there really are no modern examples of horrible things happening on this day, it’s remarkable. Take it a step further and think about some of your other limiting beliefs. Where do they come from? Is it possible that they may be another phantom? Speaking for myself, there are definitely things that have held me back that should not have. I’m not going to speak for you, but I suspect you are in a similar boat. Find those limiting beliefs and laugh them off like the minority do with Friday the 13th.

Save early, save often

Previously posted on June 13, 2015

Two out of three Americans expect retirement to come with financial stress based on how they are currently saving, according to a new Bank of America and Merrill Edge survey.

So this survey shows that we, as Americans, know we are saving too little for our golden years and fully expect that time in our lives to be stressful due to finances.  The data also indicates that even though this cohort knows they are not saving nearly enough, they have not changed their behavior.  How can this be?

I realize that grouping large numbers of individuals into catchy terms like Gen X and Millennials oversimplifies things, but there seems to be a general trend.  We have abandoned sound financial planning and education about personal finances.  We have made it acceptable (even expected) to save a minimal amount of our earnings and allow a money manager to gamble with it in the stock market.  Even after the crashes of 2000 and 2008, the Keynesian promoters of spending say that we need to max out our credit cards to keep the economy going and get the market back where it needs to be.

This is getting a little bleak.  The good news is that financial knowledge and responsibility were not always at these levels in America.  Before the birth of Social Security, the Great Society, Dodd-Frank, and other government meddling, Americans relied on themselves and on the relationships they built over their lives to ensure retirement years were well spent.  Was that “a different time”?  Sure it was.  The point is that we can rescue our financial eduction from the Keynesian theorists who think “the masses” are too stupid to manage their own money and who encourage everyone to spend more than they can afford.  We just need to remind ourselves that there is a better way.

The Perpetual Wealth Code is based on the 10-20-70 principle, which dedicates ten cents of every dollar you earn to your savings.  Where you put your ten percent is up to you and the PWC does not require a financial product to put it into practice.  That said, there is a wide range of options for where you park your cash.  If you are interested in learning more about this process, and the gold standard for where to put your ten percent, click here.  I am also available to talk any time about how I use the Perpetual Wealth Code and the opportunities that have opened up.  Just reach out via the contact page.

Remodel your life

Previously posted June 8, 2015

Every year the Iowa City Area Home Builders Association holds a Parade of Homes and this past weekend (6/6) kicked off the annual parade.  I enjoy checking out the new homes to see what is new and different, but my favorite part of the Parade is put on by the Remodelers’ Council.  These projects may range from an updated master bathroom to an entire house remodel, and every year reveals something exciting.  We are fortunate to have both talented remodeling contractors and homeowners willing to open their homes for all to see.  When walking through each of these houses, you cannot help be both impressed by the craftsmanship and inspired by the creativity.  The homes are in well-established neighborhoods and some even look a little older, which is what makes these projects even more impressive and important.  You can see the dramatic change from older materials and inefficient layouts to updated products and people-friendly designs.  It’s exciting to think that these older neighborhoods can be revitalized one room at a time just so long as the time and care is put into them.

The Parade shows what can be done with a little imagination and the help of a professional.  Clearly this applies to housing, but you can expand this to the rest of your life with a little creativity.  Are you waiting for inspiration to run a marathon?  Drop 20 pounds?  Shake up your circle of friends?  Take control of your financial life?  All are within reach if you are willing to think like a remodeler.  After this weekend, I can see things in a new light.

Wishing you the best and hoping you receive the enlightenment you need to make the improvements you need in your life.

It’s Not About You

Previously posted on May 1, 2015

One week ago today I had the honor of kicking off and acting as emcee of an event known as the Wealth Summit for my good friends at Life Benefits.  The Summit was well attended and considered a success by both the attendees and the organizers.  This is not because of the emcee, mind you, but I mention the success for a reason.  Virtually everything that was presented and discussed focused on how to improve the lives of the attendees.  The primary driver of the event was how the organizers could add value to the lives of others, not a celebration of how successful they have been.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it makes all the difference.  I learned from one of the organizers that it was also done intentionally.  Dr. Tom McFie is an extremely successful individual who has started and sold several chiropractic practices, and is now a prominent promoter/user of the Perpetual Wealth Code.  Dr. McFie pointed out how speaking about “I” first is doomed to fail and gave a very dramatic example.  Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, informed Mitt Romney that he was going to lose the 2012 presidential election long before the votes were cast.  Mr. Allen’s reasoning did not relate to poll data, but his observation that Mr. Romney spoke too much about what he believed, what he was going to do, what he thought about something.  After talking about his views, Mr. Romney rarely made the connection to the audience about what it meant for them and how they were all part of the team.  Sadly, Mr. Allen was exactly right and we have been suffering through more Obama years, but that is another post.

When you think about it, it seems obvious that focusing your attention on the needs of your friends/family/customers/clients/co-workers would help you achieve more in life.  This is just a friendly reminder that we can easily slip back into the “me first” mentality, so it is a good idea to purposefully think of others on a regular basis.

Mind the Gap

Previously posted on March 13, 2015

A recent post on the Plansponsor website states that the Pension Rights Center believes the aggregate deficit for U.S. retirement income is $7.7 TRILLION.  There is no link to the study or any explanation of how this number is calculated, but the idea is in step with what everyone should already know.  Future retirees have not saved enough and getting back on track is a very daunting task.

The post was centered around what some members of the U.S. Senate believe needs to be done, and several things stuck out to me.  Some feel they need to raise the contribution caps on qualified plans, others believe more stringent regulation on financial services is the answer, but none of them suggest allowing the free market to operate on its own.  Nor do they offer a solution that would help educate someone on the value of saving and self-reliance.  The short version is that they are using the same level of thinking to solve a problem that was used to create the problem in the first place.

The solution, in my humble opinion, is to change how you think about money and saving and responsibility.  Specifically, who is responsible for saving for your retirement?  Is that on the government?  A person’s employer?  Someone else?  The answer is clear.  Each individual is responsible for their own saving and their own future.  While we are all here to help one another, the ultimate responsibility is on the individual.  I make this point because of the frequency that I hear and read about how a company is not contributing enough to the employee’s retirement plan, or the government isn’t policing the financial industry heavily enough, or the best/only option for savings is a qualified plan.  Each of these ideas leads one down a path of limitation and dependency, and they are rampant.  Even if someone has been able to stash money in a 401(k) and they have benefited from the recent market rebound, they are still limited by rules and fees and dependency based thinking.

If one is able to overcome these limiting thoughts, the road to wealth and financial freedom lies ahead.  The Perpetual Wealth Code is a powerful tool that has been around for a long time allowing people to manage their own financial lives.  It all starts with saving, and there are most definitely options that aren’t limited by the short-sighted Senators in Washington D.C.  Your financial future is in your hands, and it looks bright.

Millennials are saving, but not enough

Previously posted March 11, 2015

Okay, I borrowed this headline from an article I read recently.  The one edit I would make is broadening it to “everyone is saving, but not enough”.  The Principal Financial Group (PFG) published a study relating specifically to the 25-35 age cohort and the conclusion was what has already been stated.  This group is saving and understands that it is important, but they are not saving enough.  A totally unscientific study done by me, for me, about me, confirms this conclusion and expands it to the folks in the GenX cohort.

The PFG study notes several reasons for the lack of savings relating to other obligations (housing, transportation, food, student loans), as well as the mentality that one only needs to save up to the point that the employer matches.  This makes logical sense and it tracks right along with my own experience.

How much is “enough”, in the eyes of the study?  Ten percent of income is the target, and that is exactly what the Perpetual Wealth Code recommends.  The 10-20-70 rule has been around for a long time and allocates 10% to savings, 20% to pay creditors, and the remaining 70% to living expenses.  The first step is to figure out where you are in relation to the 10-20-70 rule.  If your savings are below 10%, you are not alone.  Just remember that is still the target.

My personal preference is to avoid the qualified (401k, etc.) retirement plans, but the important thing is to start saving.  If you have questions about the Perpetual Wealth Code, click here to send me an email or give me a call.  Looking forward to hearing from you.

Prepare for a disruption

Previously posted March 2, 2015

TD Ameritrade recently published a survey stating that two thirds of Americans had suffered some sort of financial disruption in their lives, which translates into $2.5 trillion in lost savings.  While the numbers seem outlandish (158 million people, trillions in lost capital) the premise of the “financial disruption” and the opportunity costs associated got my attention.  These disruptions to retirement savings include unemployment, divorce, health issues and buying a home to name a few.  Over the past several years, I have gone through two of those four and I can say that my savings have been impacted.

The two questions that come up after reading these statistics are 1) how do I plan for something like this and 2) what do I do if it happens to me?  As someone who has gone through it, the best answer is to reassess everything you are spending money on and make sure any money going out the door supports what you value most.  If you must reduce saving, do it for as short of a time as possible.

So, how to plan for a disruption?  Once again, start by looking at all expenditures and confirm everything lines up with what you value most.  Doing this will allow you to confirm that you are only spending money on things that are important to you…or it will give you a chance to reduce the outflow.  Another TD Ameritrade survey reveals how baby boomers successfully planned for their retirement years, and the top answers were saving early and consistently, in addition to living within their means.

So the three step process to prepare for a possible disruption is to save consistently, live within your means, and get your spending in line with your values.  This simple, but not easy, process is what I’ve been doing for the past several years and why this site exists.  I have used something called The Perpetual Wealth Code, which promotes saving at least 10% of your income while living on no more than 70%.  The remaining 20% (in the beginning), is allocated to paying down creditors.

Even though I have suffered through a few disruptions in my savings, I can say that this process has made my future more secure and my life less dependent on explosive market growth.  It can do the same for you.

 

Think twice about 401(k) loans

Previously posted January 19, 2017

Part of my role in the family business focuses on employee benefits so I have quite a bit of experience with 401(k) providers and the stacks of regulations associated with these plans.  One feature of the 401(k) plan is the ability to take out a loan against your balance.

It is up to the employer to include this feature in the plan, so we decided to do so as a benefit to the people putting their money in the plan.  Several employees have taken advantage of the feature, but I now question the real benefit of taking these loans to begin with.

Choices are limited when it comes to the time frame of paying back the loan, of course there are fees associate with the process, and you are putting money back into your pre-tax account AFTER you have paid taxes on the money.  Finally, I recently realized that if you take out a loan from your plan and you (voluntarily or involuntarily) change jobs, the total balance is due immediately.  Or the loan is shown as a taxable distribution, including any penalties associated.  Ouch.

Now it’s possible that different providers have different policies related to these types of loans so our plan may be more strict than others, but I don’t think the IRS provides a lot of leeway.  If you feel you need to take a loan from your 401(k) balance (and you are allowed by your plan), please take these issues into consideration before making the move.