What Do You Value?

Perplexing Questions

How do we define success?

What is the American Dream today?

What does it mean to be rich?

What are the things we value most?

I’ve been questioning a lot of things lately. Mostly it is due to some of the stuff I am hearing in school Yes, school. If you have read the About Page of this blog, you know that I went on medical disability in January 2013. Before that, I might have considered myself successful, maybe even living the American Dream – whatever that is. I had a house paid for, no debt, kids, a cat and a car for everyone in the house.

Is that really success? Or – is success more about the relationships you have, the connections to family, etc. Maybe it is all about what kind of car you have, the job, and if you are keeping up with the folks next door.

Since the end of 2008 if not sooner, the American Dream has changed completely. No longer are people as worried about owning a home. Instead, they are wondering if they will have enough money put back to retire someday. Actually, this started in probably the 1980’s when companies started to end the pension.

Today, a pension is a thing of the past. Most people graduating high school and college will never even be offered a pension.

So, how do we have enough to retire? You better start saving right now. If not in a 401k, then in an IRA or some other mechanism so that when you turn 65, you have something more than social security (which may not be there anymore by then) to live on.

What does it mean to be rich?

Some would say that if you were making $100,000.00 per year, then you are rich. Others put that number much higher. Some would say something lower than that.

Is it really all about the money? Maybe it is. What do you think?

So, what do you value?

Is it more important to have the best things, the newest phone, the next great electronic fad, the best gaming system available (this week)?

Should we be worrying more about financial security in the future? Should we focus on relationships instead and hope that someone, somewhere will take care of us later? Should we bank on our kids taking care of us in our old age since we took care of them growing up? Not an option for me. I do not expect anything in return for raising my kids.

Are we going to let society and the dysfunction in the media determine how we function? Look critically at media and see if that is what you really want for yourself and your family.

What are you doing today to prepare yourself for your financial future? Remember, if you cannot look at your savings and see how it will last decades, then you have some work to do. I know I do.

Savings Challenge Update

Another week, more savings. My wife and I are doing pretty good with our savings plan. How are you doing with yours?

Savings Challenge 4-22-2014






When Is It Time To Invest?

It Depends…

Some would say that the earlier, the better. I agree fully. If you can start saving money towards retirement beginning when you are 20 years old, that is a whole lot better than starting when you are 55.


If you have tons of debt, then does it make sense to save as much as you can? Again, it depends. I am an advocate of starting to save right away. Then again, if you owe thousands in credit card debt, does it make sense to save versus paying off your debt?

Here is an example.

If you have a credit card with a balance of $5000.00 on it and are being charged 18% interest on that debt, does it make sense to start putting money into a savings account where you are getting 1% or less interest? Maybe it would be better to get rid of the debt and stop paying the 18% interest instead.

Here is another example.

You purchase a car that cost $12,000.00 at 4.5% interest. If you can save money and make 7% interest on your investment, then maybe it makes sense to pay the regular payment on the car and put any extra into your investments. However, keep in mind that the car payment is probably sucking about $350.00 per month for the payment. An option would be to put as much extra into paying off the car so that you could start investing that $350.00 plus any extra into your investments.

Maybe the answer is doing a little of both.

Always remember that retirement is a financial state. If you can save enough to live off the interest of your investments, then you never have to work again unless you just love your job and want to do it forever.

What are your thoughts about paying off debt vs. saving for retirement? What has worked for you?

Savings Challenge Update

Another pay period is here and another payment to the savings challenge account. Here is where we stand today. Hope you are doing well with your savings challenge.

Savings Challenge 4-15-2014

Site Update

So – I finally figured out how to update the menu so that I can use this blog for other things besides just finances.

Not to worry! I will still be posting to the Practical Personal Finance blog weekly. This just allows me to add additional things that I am working on as well.

If you got here because of the finance stuff, great!

While you are here, start to check out some of the other things as well.

The header has been updated as well to reflect the change.



What Are You Waiting For?

What Are Your Excuses?

I would like to be financially secure.

I am in school full-time. I’m on medical disability. I have limited income because of it. I don’t feel good. I’m tired. I have no time. I’m not any good at that – whatever “that” is. I need more education. My family doesn’t think I should do it. My friends laugh at me when I bring up my idea. No one takes me serious. I’ll just fail if I try that. What if someone doesn’t like it? I don’t know.

Just a few self-defeating statements that we can all use when we want to come up with reasons why we are in the situation we are in. Whether it is a crappy job that we hate or a major in school we really don’t like but are doing it because someone else thought we would be good at it.

According to the website expertenough.com, it depends on what you are trying to do. I’ve heard the numbers before.

  • 10,000 hours to become an expert in a field of study
  • Read ten books on a topic and you will be an expert

I’m sure there are other criteria for it.

A simple question. If you find something that you are passionate at, does it really matter what anyone else thinks? If you are passionate about it, then wouldn’t you do whatever it took to gain the knowledge to be successful at it?

Are You A Financial Expert?

If I used one of the criteria above, then yes, I would be considered a financial expert. I have read many books on the topic at this point. Can I tell you comfortably which stocks to purchase in a given market? No, and I would not want to try – especially with someone else’s money.

Being an expert in finances takes time and study. What are some of the things you need to know about personal finance?

  • Balancing a checkbook
  • Setting savings goals
  • Building a budget
  • Living within your means
  • Etc.

Can You Get There?

You bet! No one is stopping you but you. I’ve read that it takes 30 days to establish a habit. If you made the decision to keep track of your finances for one month, every day, then you would establish that habit and probably maintain it from then on. Even if you took a break, it would not take you long to get back in the swing of things. It’s a habit but you need a passion too. What is your motivation for keeping track of your finances? To please someone else or to put yourself in a position where you are more in control of the income and expenses of your life? Makes you think doesn’t it? What are you waiting for?

Savings Challenge Update

It’s hard to believe that we are already four months into the year. Our savings plan is at $743.01 right now. How are you doing with your savings challenge? Or – are you working on the $5.00 savings plan instead?

Savings Challenge 4-08-2014

Are You An Indentured Servant? Part II

Last week I wrote about payday loans. Something new for this week.

The New Game In Town

Now there is a new game in town that is potentially even more dangerous than the payday loans. It is called the employer loan. It’s similar to a payday loan except that it is treated like a real loan with origination fees, other fees and an interest rate of 15-30% for up to two weeks. Drag that out over a year and the total interest is between 100% and 165%. Ouch again. The rates vary so don’t hold me to these exact numbers.

How Do They work?

You go to your employer and let them know that you are in need of a short-term loan. They send you to a company that offers short-term loans as described above. The catch is that you pay back the loan straight from your check. There are other ways to pay it back as well for an additional fee. Since it is coming straight out of payroll, there is no discussion about delays or paying extra fees.

What Are Others Saying?

I have included several articles for you to look into to see what the “experts” are saying about it.

The articles come from:

–          The Wall Street Journal

–          Forbes

–          Inc.

–          finfit (pdf file)

Who Is Offering Employer Loans Right Now?

From the articles listed above, you will find out that many of the companies that offer these “benefits” are places where people are already living paycheck to paycheck. I would venture to say that many of these employees have little knowledge of taking care of their personal finances.

They call them Employee Wellness Programs. Maybe, instead of offering ridiculous services like these, the employers should invest a small amount of money and teach employees and their families the basics of financial responsibility.

Basic Financial Education

What would it look like if every one of your employees knew enough about personal finance that they could balance their checkbook, save for retirement and live within their means? My guess is you would end up with a group of loyal employees who can manage their personal lives and might even be grateful to their employer by offering better productivity.

What Is The Alternative?

The alternative is that you may end up with employees who are constantly worried about their finances, feel like they deserve more pay for less work, ravage their 401k just to make ends meet, and working extra hours with very little productivity. The worst part is that if they get wrapped up in employer loans and fall behind, they could end up in a vicious cycle where they are constantly having to borrow money from their employer to get to the next payday, effectively reducing their wages because of fees and ending up as an indentured servant to their employer.

What do you think?