Those Sneaky B@$t@rds

phishing

Phishing Scam

My wife and I had a scare several days ago. She had received an email that looked like it had come from our bank asking us to click on a link to authorize a deposit into our account. It was a bit suspect from the beginning because my wife doesn’t use the account from this particular institution.

I looked at the email and noticed there was no indication of what the account number was and the return email was random letters followed by something other than the bank (ex. gr13ccea@southwestbell.net).

Sneaky B@$t@rds!

Calling The Bank

I called the bank and talked to customer service. I also checked the account to make sure nothing had been going on with it. Nothing. No weird deposits or withdrawals.

After some time with the customer service folks, they sent me over to security and asked me to forward the email to the abuse center. They checked everything with our account and made sure there was nothing suspicious going on.

Phishing - Two-Step Verification

2-Step Verify

We set up a 2-step verification process for accessing the account. It’s something I had overlooked. I have 2-step verify on so many things and this one slipped by.

2-step verification adds an additional layer of protection to your accounts. When you log in, the system will send an additional code to your phone which you need to enter back into the system before you can get access to the account. It seems like that would make it much harder for someone to get in otherwise. If someone did get access to your account information, you would get a text message when they logged in and could immediately say it wasn’t you. You can then call the bank and change passwords, check account activity and change cards if needed.

Credit Monitoring

Did you know that many banking institutions have free credit monitoring? I didn’t. Check you bank and see if they provide this service for free. If they don’t, maybe it’s time to find another bank.

Solutions

Well, now we are safe. No one has stolen anything and our accounts are secure. It could have been a lot different if my wife and I were not talking regularly. Talk to others on your accounts and make sure they recognize suspicious activity.

In this instance, the bank said the email address was wrong, there should have been a partial account number visible, and any email that comes from them would be directed to a specific person on the account, not “Dear Customer.”

With so much fraud out there, it’s easy to get your finances screwed up. Take the time to make sure you are as protected as you can be.

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If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

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Save With Purpose

Saving With Purpose

Several years ago, my wife and I were in New York City. It had only been about nine months since I had brain surgery and I was still very unstable. Sometimes I wonder why we took that trip because it took all I had to stay upright and she was holding onto me with a bear grip the whole time to keep me steady.

We were walking down 34th street and trying to hug the buildings to stay out of the way of pedestrian traffic as much as possible. It was a sloooooow walk.

Before long, a group of three teenage girls walked by and one of them glanced over her shoulder and said “Walk.With.Purpose.”

Brat!

She had no idea what I had been dealing with.

Save With Purpose

What’s Your Purpose?

I think about what those girls said that day as it relates to savings and it takes on some significance.

What is the purpose of your savings?

Actually, there can be many reasons for saving. Some good and some bad.

What?

What could be bad about saving?

Well, biblically speaking, I think about Luke 12:13-21 “The Rich Fool” who hoarded money and possessions. Greed to the point where you have more than you know what to do with but only want more isn’t a good thing. What’s the point? When you die, you aren’t taking it with you.

There are many good reasons to save though. In today’s society, it’s important to save towards retirement so that you can have the life you want when and if you decide to stop working. Ask around. It’s tough to live a decent life anywhere on social security alone.

Save with purpose Priority

Emergency Savings.

Emergency savings are important to cover those unexpected events that always seem to come our way. However, $1000 can cover just about everything that can go wrong. It doesn’t matter if the A/C in your house goes out or your car breaks down. Unless the car engine or transmission is gone, you can pretty much fix just about anything else with your car for $1000. Broken windows in your house, repairs to you air conditioning and even a water heater replacement can be covered by that money.

Specific Savings.

These types of savings are for a specific purpose. Want to take a trip to another state? Save some money. Buying new living room furniture? Save something for that. Kids college? There are accounts for that too.

What Should I Save For First?

I would think the emergency savings would come first. Having that account allows you to fix just about anything without having to go into debt using a credit card. The alternative would be to use a credit card instead, which only means paying interest that could have been planned for in advance.

Don’t have an extra $1000 laying around for an emergency fund? That’s ok. Start where you are. If you can save $100, or $50, or even $5 this week, start there. Put the money aside and next week, work on adding more to it. Even at $5 per week, at the end of a year, you’ll have $260. That’s a whole lot better than having $5 and your car needing new tires.

What do you do to save money? What is the purpose of your savings?

Save. With. Purpose!

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If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Is Paying Off Debt, Saving?

I’ve thought about this on and off for a while and it comes down to the definition of saving. Am I saving money if I purchase something on sale or is it only saving if I am putting money in the bank? What if the bank is only paying 0.05% interest on my savings but the cost of living is going up 3%? Am I still saving if I am putting money in the bank?

What a tangled web we weave!

That brings me to the point of this post. Am I saving money if I pay off debt? In my mind, the answer is a resounding – YES!

Let’s look at the credit card first. For this argument, I will assume that there is a balance on the credit card of $5000 and the interest rate is 12.9%. In that scenario, the minimum payment is $200. The overall amount you will pay if you simply pay the minimum payment is $6763.82. It will take you Nine Years and Eight Months to pay it off. That all assumes that nothing else has been added to the account.

When I think about that, and the idea that I need to be paying $200 every month for over nine years, I immediately get to a place where I think paying off that debt is saving. There are just so many other things I could do with an extra $200 every month. Then I think about how the credit card company is getting $1763.82 over that time for doing nothing! They loaned me money and now, by the time it is over, I will have given them all that in return for the “privilege” of using their service. It’s likely that most, if not all, of the items I purchased with that credit card, are no longer in my possession.

Pay Off Debt - The Little Debt-Free Book

The Frustration Mounts!

Don’t feel bad. These are the feelings I went through while I was trying to pay off debt. The Little Debt-Free Book: A Personal Journey was written because I wanted to try and help at least one person realize how much money they were working for that was no longer theirs.

I have a question for you. How many hours per month do you need to work just to pay the minimums on your debts? Include everything from the mortgage, the car payment, student loans, and credit cards.

That’s what got me. I was working so many hours per month just to pay the minimum payments! That didn’t include the things I was paying cash for. I realized how much of my “life-time” I was spending working for someone else. Why? Because I wanted whatever it was that I had purchased at the time – right away. Almost everything I currently have, I will no longer have in nine years. I’ll be lucky if I even have my car in nine years.

Pay It Off!

By paying off all my debt, I was able to work the hours I wanted to work, save what I thought I could and still spend quality time with my family doing the things that mattered – making memories! Vacations, gifts, college, cars for the kids, and just spending more time together.

What is more important to you? Getting the latest phone or getting out of debt and spending time with the ones you love?

It’s a choice we all make every day.

Is Paying Off Debt Saving

But Is It Saving?

Simply the amount you are NOT spending on interest is saving! Think about it. If you paid off all your debts and simply put the interest you had been paying on those debts into a Mutual Fund, how much would you be able to put into a mutual fund every year?

Not having debt gives you a raise in the amount that you were paying in debt. So, back to the beginning. If you no longer had $5000 on a credit card, paying $200 per month, at the end of a year, just taking that $200, you could have $2400 in a mutual fund making money for you instead of working however many hours you needed to pay that bill.

I challenge you to pay your debts and be in a place where money is no longer an issue in your life.

Read about my journey and see if it makes sense to you.

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If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Is Your Job Putting You In Danger?

Job Danger - Work

Danger! Danger!

Is having a job is dangerous to your personal finances? On the news recently, there was an announcement that a company was laying off 250 people soon. Those people have the option of moving to another area for a job if they want it, otherwise, they can start looking for another job now.

Growing up, I hadn’t really thought about having a job as a negative. Everyone was taught to do good in school so you could get a job that would take care of you. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started reading about some of the dangers.

If you have one job, with one income, what happens if something happens to that job? What if something happens and you are no longer able to physically do that job?

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is an avenue that can help with that but it is not necessarily the only answer. As an entrepreneur, you don’t have one income. You have the potential to have thousands of clients instead. If something happens to one of those clients, it doesn’t affect things quite like having one income. You can look at clients as individual income streams.

But…

There is still the potential that something could happen to you which would prevent you from continuing in your role as the entrepreneur. So what can you do?

Job Danger - Multiple Platforms

Multiple Streams of Income

Multiple streams of income is the alternative. It’s also referred to as passive income.

What is it and how do you do it?

First, it doesn’t mean that you stop doing the work you are currently doing. Keep your job, run your business. It’s all good.

It means starting to think beyond what you are doing day to day. When I worked in corporate America, I had one job and one income. Accidentally, because I had gotten bored, I created a course and began teaching at a Junior College part-time. That doesn’t technically equate to passive income. After all, I had to go to the college and teach each class for a fee. I was spending a lot of my “time” doing that work. A better way might have been to create a course on the subject and sell it online. That way, I could create the course one time, and sell the same course multiple times.

I wrote a book and published it in 2014 called The Little Debt-Free Book. It’s available on Amazon and Kindle. That is actually passive income for me. I wrote it once, published it and now I collect a royalty from each sale. Can I live on it? No way. But it does make a little money.

Building on that idea, what else can I do with that book?

  • Create a video based course based on the book
  • Create a study that others can teach based on the book
  • Offer my services as a speaker at conferences (not quite as passive)
  • Create products that go with the book or course
  • Create an audio version of the book

Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey? He teaches personal finance courses too. However, if you search, you can find the following products outside the courses:

  • Wallets
  • Deluxe Envelope System
  • Starter Envelope System
  • Books
  • Courses
  • Videos
  • Board Games
  • His & Hers Envelope Systems
  • Smart Saver Banks for Kids
  • Envelope System Replacement/Refill Sheets
  • Cash Envelope System
  • Framed motivational Quotes
  • Budget Stickers

My sister-in-law is an artist who sells prints of her paintings online. She paints the designs one time and then sells them on products for a royalty. Here is how her products are being delivered;

  • Wall Tapestry
  • Art Print
  • Framed Art Print
  • Canvas Print
  • iPhone Covers
  • Tote
  • Mug
  • Clock

Other ways her products could be provided would be:

  • Notepads
  • Pillows
  • Pillow cases
  • Sheets
  • Comforters
  • Hats
  • Bags
  • Binders
  • Sticky Notes
  • Flash Drives
  • Pens
  • Notebooks
  • Postcards
  • Greeting Cards

That doesn’t even cover everything. There are thousands of ways you can provide your products in various formats for people.

Just think about it. With my sister-in-law, she could provide these prints to companies that will do all the work for her. They will take the orders, create the products, ship the products to those who order them. She receives a royalty for each product sold. Even if she only makes 50 cents per product sold, she could make quite a bit. What’s really cool is that currently she has eight different designs. That brings up the next idea.

Multiple Products

One product is good, eight products are better. What if you had 100 products out there? Going back to Dave Ramsey. He currently has 88 product for sale on his website. The prices range from $7 – $159. With his reach, I believe he is either publishing the stuff himself or getting a substantial royalty. He also goes to conferences.

Conferences

Recently, I went to a three-day conference by a well-known speaker. Three days. The cost of the conference was discounted through my work to $149 per person from my office. I honestly don’t know what the regular cost was. For this argument, let’s just say that the cost per person was $149. There were between 600-700 people at the conference. Even if we use 600 as the number of attendees, the total income for the conference was $89,400. There were costs involved with the convention center but they only offered coffee and tea as refreshments. Everyone needed to get their own lunch and there was no breakfast or dinner provided. If you signed up for their basic coaching system during the event for $600 per month for a minimum of one year, they bought dinner. There were 135 people that signed up for the coaching. That’s an additional $972,000 for the year. YIKES!

We were there for three days and the main speaker was there for 75 minutes total. Total!

He flew in that morning, got driven over from the airport which was 30 minutes away, and spoke, and drove back to the airport for a 1pm flight. Wow!

Ok. This guy is very well known in the circles the conference focused on and not everyone gets there overnight but DAMN! No wonder he paid for dinner for those that signed up for coaching.

For $1M over a three-day event, I’d pay for dinner for 135 people. No problem.

Doesn’t that make a whole lot more sense than working one job for one income for 45 years in the hopes that you will have enough to retire?

What can you capitalize on today? What knowledge do you have that you have been doing for years that you could turn into products and services that could bring in a different form of income for you and your family?

———————

If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Making Goals Can Be Challenging

Goals are essential to growth. Whether it is a business goal or a personal goal, without them, we all wander around aimlessly. When I worked in a corporate setting, We had daily, monthly and annual goals for production. Those decisions were made by others who were higher up in the organization. There were budgets, earmarks, and sometimes even rewards in place to help meet those goals.

Personal goals are a different thing altogether. For whatever reason, it seems personal goals are a lot harder to accomplish. Maybe it’s because society is so focused on making money so we can have a life or that we always find ways of letting other things get in the way of our personal desires. Maybe we need to micromanage our personal lives better.

Making Goals - Goals

Helpful Goal Setting Ideas

Making goals has always been a challenge to me. I think it is because when I do, sometimes things get in the way. Instead of adjusting or setting new goals, I try to force the same ones even though they are no longer realistic.

Here are a few things that have helped me get better at making goals that I can achieve. They are challenging enough to keep me moving forward.

  1. Make a one-page business plan. I have one that I took from a video and made my own. If you would like a copy of the template, I can send it to you. Simply email me and it will be on its way.
  2. Make monthly, annual, 3-year, and 5-year goals. Start with the five-year mark and reverse engineer the goals. By reverse engineering the longer term goals, you can make your smaller goals granular enough to be able to accomplish them.
  3. Make sure your business plan is a living document. By living document, I am referring to the idea that your longer-term goals need to be adjustable. If you are getting ahead (or behind) in your ability to reach your goals, you need to be able to adjust your plans.
  4. Make personal goals measurable, attainable, and time restrictive. Having a “To Be Done By” date will help motivate you to complete the task. Simply saying something like “I will lose weight this year” doesn’t mean a whole lot.
  5. Don’t forget to plan your family/personal time. This should probably be done first. Try not to let anything interfere with those plans.

Making Goals - Achieve Greatness

Granular Planning

In a recent post, I talked about Implementing Micro-habits. In that post, I referenced the idea of starting slow and building. In a business setting, it isn’t always possible to take it slower. In that case, we need to be able to plan, even on a daily basis, what needs to be accomplished.

My weekly planning involves sitting down ahead of time and planning the next week. However, the first thing that gets scheduled is my family time. No scheduling is worth sacrificing your family. Work should always be secondary to your family needs. What meetings do I need to have and when? What needs to be done with social media? What advertising needs to be accomplished? What education do I need to do to stay fresh in my field? We should be learning something new every week. How many people will I be contacting? What social events will I be attending?

Make sure you leave some downtime in your schedule to allow for unexpected details that arise. You never know (especially in real estate), when you will need to make a special property showing based on your client’s schedule.

Turn It Off

Don’t forget to have the ability to turn your business off from time to time. It’s easy to get wrapped up so much in your business that it consumes you. Don’t be afraid to set a schedule for yourself and your business. Sure, things are going to get in the way sometimes.

My wife and I have very different schedules. We try to schedule Friday’s together. In real estate, I tend to work more on the weekends and as a Pastor, my wife works Sunday thru Thursday.

Things tend to get in the way. Sometimes, I end up having to show properties on Friday’s or my wife might have to service a wedding or funeral. We have the goal of having Friday’s together. When something gets in the way, we try to make arrangements to have a meal together on another day. It’s not perfect but it seems to be working for us so far.

It certainly helps us to have a work/life balance. It allows us to connect with each other and share precious time together.

What is important to you in your work/life balance?

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If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

My One-Page Business Plan

One-Page Business Plan

Any good business will have a plan describing what they want to happen. I’ve written several business plans based on templates and other things I had read about them in the past. It’s all great information with forecasting, executive summaries and the like.

One of the problems I found with those methods was that it was difficult (for me) to use as a living document because of the length and amount of detail. Even when I began my career in real estate, the business plan format I was given to start with was about nine pages long.

A New Method For Me

I’m sure that if you search the Internet, you can find many examples of a one-page business plan. I wanted a business plan that I might actually use. As a sole proprietor, do I really need a nine section business plan or would I be better off having something that could get me started?

I can always come back later and create a larger plan as things progress.

After watching videos and looking at options, I came up with my own one-page document that I can use as my business plan. Email me if you want a copy of it.

Make it one page

What’s The Purpose?

The purpose of a business plan is to give yourself goals and direction for your business. It’s to remind yourself of your plan and how to work that plan. It’s to keep you from going down rabbit holes trying to do more with the business than you are ready for.

I don’t know about you but for me, it seemed impossible to keep up with if I had a business plan that had charts and graphs about what my business should look like.

So here it is in a nutshell.

The Plan Described

Step 1: What is your primary goal? This is the overarching plan for your business. It could be a monetary goal, a specific demographic you want to target, or anything else you want to use to define your business. For example, a goal might be to (in the case of real estate) receive $100,000 in net commissions by January 2019. It seems like a valid goal to set. Another example might be to have 12 clients buying or selling houses by January 2019. That sounds reasonable too.

It gives a big enough focus so that you can measure your progress.

Step 2: Three areas of focus

In this step, pick three focus areas. If you try to focus on five or eight, you can begin to get overwhelmed or worse – lost. These are three areas that you can focus on to help grow your business.

Here are a few examples of what three areas can look like:

  1. Social Media, Direct Mail, Lead Generation
  2. Direct Mail, Lead Generation, Relationships
  3. Lead Generation, Relationships, Networking

Step 3: Activities

In step 3, list five activities for each focus section you can do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to grow your business. This could be anything as long as it helps propel your business forward.

I’ll use the example of direct mail.

  1. Send postcards to my farming area monthly on the 10th of each month
  2. Send handwritten notes to ten people each week to grow my network
  3. Send seasonal cards to my clients to keep in touch
  4. Send birthday cards to all the contacts I have that information for
  5. Send Christmas gifts to my past clients

No matter what you do, it should help you move your business in the direction of achieving your primary goal. If, after several months, you find that something you are doing isn’t making a difference, stop that task but replace it with something else to try. If an entire category isn’t working, consider making a pivot and trying something new.

Next Steps

Now that you have your plan written out, print it. Tape it to your bathroom mirror so that you see it every day. By having something visual that you can refer to each and every day, the chances of you following the plan increases dramatically.

I have my plan taped to my bathroom mirror,at my office desk, and on my computer as the wallpaper so that I can see it several places. Seeing something like this helps me to keep on track with my primary goal.

What are you doing to help your business grow? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

5 Types of Financial Roller Coasters

There are many reasons people get in trouble with their finances. If any of these describe you, reach out for help. There are solutions to each of these types that anyone can implement in their lives. Take a look.

Feast or Famine

Financial Roller Coaster

Have you ever met those people who are on an extreme rollercoaster ride with it comes to their finances? The type that seems to be doing fine one day, and the next day you hear they are barely scraping by.

Maybe it’s the people who buy a new home and they are all excited so they go out and buy a whole bunch of new furniture on credit. They are euphoric until the first bill comes in and then they are in panic mode.

Or it could be the person who pays off all their debt and the next thing you know, they are bringing stuff to the pawn shop to get to the next payday. Suddenly, the sell and buy scenario is a regular thing at the pawn shop.

The Slow Death

Financial Roller Coaster Wilted Flowers

These are the people who consistently live above their means. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans live this way. They spend $1.22 for every dollar they make. It’s a slow death because they overspend just a little but over time, that extra $0.22 adds up.

Maybe it’s the couple who is living vicariously through their children and can’t say no to them. You here them say stuff like “I’ll never let my kids go without like I did when I was a kid.” Whenever they go to the grocery store, they have to buy their child a toy – because – well, that’s just what they do. Right? Their kids are in all kinds of sports through school and other after school activities. It’s exhausting!

The Train Wreck

These are the ones you feel sorry for. This is the couple who has the breadwinner that has a heart attack. The person survives but is told they must retire right now! Of course, they planned on working for another ten years but now they have to figure out how to live on $35,000 per year instead of the planned $55,000.

The divorced couple. Neither one makes out ok from this situation. They both end up broke in the process due to lawyer fees, split accounts, etc. All their accounts are frozen during the process so they have limited funds to work with while they are going through the divorce. When everything is finally done, they both struggle for years trying to make all their finances work again on an individual basis.

Apocalypse

Here the spouse has died and there is no more income. Maybe they have been diagnosed with a disease that will take all their finances. A natural disaster takes place and they lose everything only to find out that their insurance won’t cover half of it.

Living on Prayer

This is the person who makes a decent living but never saves any money. When they turn 65 (or whatever the retirement age is for them) they talk to a financial planner only to hear that they can’t retire because the only money they have to live on is what they can sell their house for. If they sell their house, they will have a little money but that won’t last long. No planning was ever considered.

Steps to Avoid Tragedy

Financial Roller Coaster Money

Here are a few steps you can start to take now so that you don’t become one of the people described above.

  1. Live beneath your means. This means putting something from every check aside for later in life.
  2. Don’t make compulsive purchases. 50 years ago, if you didn’t have the cash, you didn’t get the item. It can still work that way today
  3. Make sure you have some type of medical insurance. Sure, the cost is out of control right now but if you don’t have it and something happens, all your plans go out the window.
  4. Have some life insurance. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone lose a loved one and not have enough to live on going forward. It’s a gift for your spouse and your family.
  5. Save. Save. In our current society, it’s all about instant gratification. Believe it or not, you can live with less stuff and still have a happy life.

If you need help with your finances, reach out to local organizations that help in this area. A good place to start is Consumer Credit Counseling. Find support groups and courses that can help turn things around.

What are some ways that you have avoided these tragic scenarios? Comment below.