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Good Ol' Fashioned Financial Common Sense

August 25th, 2011 at 08:39 pm



Occasionally, some well-intentioned soul makes the argument that having an emergency fund or planning for retirement means that you’re “a pessimist” or that you “don’t have enough faith,” and you “just need to trust God more.” Now I can appreciate people’s varying points of view. But there are times that I just want to say “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Of course I don’t actually yell at them…that would be rude…but I do think it.

With all my heart, I want you to be debt free and prepared for the future, which includes a 3-6 month emergency fund and a solid retirement plan. Would that mean you don’t have enough faith or that you’re a worry-wart? I don’t think so!

Consider this famous story from Aesop’s Fables, circa 600 B.C. You may have read it before, but its’ wisdom is worth revisiting. You may remember that Aesop also gave us the morals of such stories as The Boy Who Cried Wolf and The Tortoise and the Hare. I think he was on to something!


The Ant and The Grasshopper


In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"

"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When the winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

Then the Grasshopper knew...

It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.



Of course, this concept of preparing for the future goes back even farther. Consider the words of the wise King Solomon, circa 1,000 B.C.:

Go watch the ants, you lazy person.
Watch what they do and be wise.
Ants have no commander,
no leader or ruler,
but they store up food in the summer
and gather their supplies at harvest.
-Proverbs 6:6-8


The moral of the story:

Become debt free, stay debt free, save up a 3-6 month emergency fund and plan for future expenses and your retirement. That’s just good ol’ common sense!



Yours In Freedom,

Clint



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

11 Key Actions That Helped Us Become Debt Free

August 11th, 2011 at 07:48 pm




You may have noticed by now that I’m a little bit fanatical about living debt free! Helping people realize that dream is our passion! But that wasn’t always the case. Being on this side of the debt-chasm feels great! But getting here was anything but easy.


To start, let’s take a look back at how we got into debt in the first place.

Katy and I started our life together in sunny San Diego, CA. She was in college and I was just beginning a career in real estate. Translation – we were broke! Our brilliant solution was to live on credit cards and Katy’s student loans. One year after our wedding, I was offered a ministry position in Texas. That meant more stable income and lower cost of living. So it made perfect sense for both of us to buy (finance) newer cars and a big screen TV. Fast forward two years where we set at our kitchen table, breaking through our denial and finally coming to terms with over $50,000 of debt. We were overwhelmed, stressed and completely insecure in our financial situation.

From that day at the kitchen table, it took us 16 months to break the chains of debt and open the door to the life we desperately wanted. There were 10 key actions we took that made our debt free dream a reality. They’re the same actions you can take to finally break free of the weight of debt and financial stress.


1. Started Talking
One of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome was to simply start talking about our money situation. We’re both very independent and it was challenging to learn to talk and work together. But if we hadn’t, we never could have become debt free.
Learn how to eliminate money fights.

2. Acknowledged That Our Debt Was a Problem
Like everyone else, we had believed the lie that debt is just part of life. When we finally took a close look at our finances, we realized that debt and payments were bleeding us dry. We also recognized that it just might be possible to live without debt. So we made the decision and the declaration...NO MORE BORROWING MONEY!!

3. Began Learning
We recognized that we didn’t really know how to take control of our money and get out of debt. So we enrolled in a financial Bible study at church and started learning.

4. Got Coaching
The knowledge was invaluable, but we still needed help to apply the knowledge. We made the decision to get coaching from people who were further along this journey. Being coached and mentored helped us apply the knowledge and formulate a specific plan for freedom. There is no way we would have stuck with the process if we didn’t have people pushing us, guiding us and holding us accountable! This was the best investment we ever made!


5. Developed a Spending Plan
A solid budget is the key to anyone’s financial success and we were no exception. Learning to live on a budget was painstaking at first. It was staggering to see how much money just blew with nothing to show for it. Once we decided to tell our money where to go, we suddenly had a lot more of it. And the feeling of being in control was a huge stress relief.

6. Cash Envelopes
There were some budget categories we would tend to overspend on. Groceries, restaurants and entertainment were the toughest for us to control. We chose to implement a cash envelope system for these areas. When we made our monthly budget, we would withdraw the allotted amount of cash for these categories and put the money in an envelope. Once the cash for that month was gone, we had no more to spend in these categories. Instant accountability!

7. Increased Income
When we made up our minds to become debt free, we went into “work our butts off” mode. We quit our hobbies, worked overtime and picked up extra projects and consulting work. I was in a commission-based position and I worked to become the best salesperson I could, in order to increase my income. It’s hard work and sacrifice! But it’s only temporary and it’s worth it!

8. Sold Stuff
Oh, we sold some stuff! Books, DVD’s, video games, board games, clothes, electronics, old jewelry, exercise equipment, furniture, unused wedding gifts... I’m talking garage sales, Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon... We realized these “things” weren’t nearly as important as being financially free!

9. Emergency Fund
Our first big milestone came when we had saved $1,000 as a beginner emergency fund. This safety net kept us from turning back to credit cards when emergency expenses came up. Once we became debt free, we saved up a full 6 month emergency fund. Talk about financial security!

10. The Debt Snowball Plan
There are plenty of plans for getting out of debt. But the Debt Snowball is the best, because getting out of debt is all about changing the way you think and behave. It’s much more akin to weight loss than it is to math homework.
What is the Debt Snowball plan?

11. Specific Goals
One of the most significant things we learned from courses and coaches was to set specific goals. We set a goal to be debt free within 18 months. We wrote it down, we posted it around our house, we told other people about it and we got accountability. Goals are powerful...we hit ours in only 16 months! We never would have become debt free if we didn’t have a specific plan, specific goals and the accountability to keep pursuing them!


Yours In Freedom,

Clint



Join the conversation…what specific actions are you taking to help you become debt free?

The original post can be found here: Debt Free

How to Save $1,393 with 4 Easy Phone Calls

August 3rd, 2011 at 07:12 pm




So you’ve heard about making BIG sacrifices to win with money. You’ve been told you need to get on a budget and cut out all discretionary spending. You’ve been told to cut out lattes, personal care, and eating out. And I know you’ve heard the phrase, “you have to give something up to get what you want.” And all these things are true. But there are some small, easy changes for those of you who want a big return with little to no change in lifestyle.

One Thursday, I got out my laptop, my phone and I started making some calls and saving some money. These are the changes we made and the money we saved…and you can do it too!


1.) Change Your Internet Provider
With new internet providers popping up all the time, you should be able check out a few that offer a low introductory rate for one year. You don’t have to sign a contract and you can always switch again once the introductory rate is up. We were paying $62 a month and with 1 quick phone call to a new provider we reduced that to $14.95 a month.

Annual Savings: $565.00

Side Bonus: We had the great pleasure and satisfaction of cancelling with a crappy provider that gave us horrible customer service! That one felt good!



2.) Lower Your TV Plan
How many channels do you really watch? With services like Netflix and Hulu, there is no reason you NEED over 200 channels. We called our satellite TV provider and switched to a less expensive package. If we really need to watch something that doesn’t come on our basic channels we just stream it from the internet. We went from paying $56 per month to $20 per month. The savings really do add up!

Annual Savings: $432.00

Side Bonus: The lack of “mindless” entertainment forced us to become spontaneous and interact more. Now we create our own entertainment and have more fun!



3.) Lower Your Cell Phone Plan
We called our cell phone provider and had them do a quick audit of our phone bill for the last 5 months. The sales rep told us we were consistently under our minutes and our text messaging plan. We switched to a lower plan that saved us $26 a month.

Annual Savings: $312.00

Side bonus: The sales rep told us about a new free service they offered to all customers on the plan we switched to! Don’t be shy to ask about new promotions and services.



4.) Report Home Security Upgrades to Your Insurance Company

Have you invested in a home security system? It could even be a deadbolt or a fence. We had actually already reported our upgrades to our insurance company. But you could save around $7/month for a newly installed home security system. Instant savings for a 5 minute call.

Annual Savings: $84

Side bonus: While you are on the phone with your insurance company, you could ask about any additional discounts available to you. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.


FINAL BONUS: Once you are debt free, you can begin putting the extra $1,300 annually into a retirement account that is earning around 8% (or more). If you start at age 30, over the course of 35 years, you will have added an extra $250,000 to your nest egg. Not too shabby for 4 phone calls!


It pays off BIG to shop around, and I think you’ll agree that it’s completely worth the time and effort. If you have a busy schedule, you might consider taking a ½ day or a full day off work to make these calls. And don’t think of this as just cutting your expenses. The process of making these calls and learning about your options will create a deeper awareness of your entire financial situation. It’s a big step towards taking control of your finances and creating a more conscientious mind set.

Now get to it!


Yours In Freedom,

Katy


The original post can be found here: Debt Free

Join the conversation…what other quick and easy changes could you make in order to save big? Leave your comments below.'

The original post can be found here: Debt Free

16 Lies We Believe About Money - Part 3

July 26th, 2011 at 10:15 pm




Throughout your life you’ve heard millions of messages about money, debt, credit, savings, retirement and spending. Most of them came from the advertising industry; some may have come from teachers and mentors. But perhaps your greatest source of financial influence came by observing your parents’ financial habits. For most of us, that’s not good news. We’ve all been sold a long list of financial lies. But it’s time to wake up to the truth and start making a better choice.

In parts 1 and 2 of this blog post series, we started the journey toward financial truth. Now to wrap up the series, I present:


16 Lies We Believe About Money

(part 3 of 3)




11. Everyone Should Aim to Save 10 Percent of Their Income.
“My parents always said that 10% of my paycheck needs to go straight in the bank.”

Why It’s Bogus: It may be a good idea to put 10% of your income into savings. But that percentage will vary (sometimes drastically) depending on your life-stage and where you are in your financial journey. You may need to save much more than 10% when you’re building up your $1,000 beginner Emergency Fund. Once you’re debt free, you need to build your Emergency Fund up to cover 3-6 months of your living expenses as fast as possible. That too may require you to save much more than 10%. If you’re on the verge of needing to replace a to vehicle, planning have a baby soon, going back to college, starting a business or saving for a down payment on a house, you most definitely need to be saving much more than 10% of your income.


12. Putting Money Into a 401(k) Is Always The Best Investment
“I just need to invest in my company’s 401(k) and I’ll be set at retirement.”

Why It’s Bogus: Another “usually”…it’s usually a good idea to invest for retirement inside of your company’s 401(k) plan. It’s almost always a wise choice to invest at least up to the amount your company will match you. However, most 401(k) plans have very limited, and often under-performing, investment options. If they don’t offer a match, it would be a better idea to invest in a Roth-IRA which gives you the same type of tax benefits, but with more investment options. Do your research and get professional guidance. Don’t flippantly set up a mis-allocated 401(k) plan and think it was automatically a good decision. It’s your money and no one will care about your money as much as you!


13. Money Is The Root of All Evil
“It says in the Bible that money is the root of all evil. People lie, cheat, steal and kill for money….it’s evil.”

Why It’s Bogus: I’m not here to preach, but let’s be clear…the Bible says no such thing! The often misquoted verse actually says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). It is dangerous to love money. Greed causes people to do some horrible things. But money itself is neutral…it’s not good or evil. It’s just paper; it does what you tell it to. We sponsor a child in Africa with money, we help fund a non-profit with money. Money feeds the homeless, treats disease, cures addiction and provides shelter, clothing and education. Because of the good that money can accomplish, good people (including you) need to concern themselves with making money and accumulating wealth so we can do some good with it!


14. It’s All Their Fault
“I just can’t get ahead because of…the government…my parents’ bad example…bad luck…the crooked bank…”

Why It’s Bogus: Most people, myself included, are pre-programmed to shift blame and resist taking responsibility. But the truth is only you are responsible for your financial situation. The bank didn’t trick you when they jacked up your credit card rate. It’s not the mortgage company’s fault that you signed up for a mortgage you couldn’t really afford. Stop playing the blame game. We’ve ALL made dumb financial moves. But taking responsibility for your actions and learning from your mistakes is incredibly liberating! And when you do, you’re able to take the steps toward a solution. You can’t change the past, but you can take responsibility for creating the future you want!


15. If I just try harder, I can save more, keep a budget and pay off my debt.
“I just need to set my mind to it and exert my will-power.”

Why It’s Bogus: Let me have a Dr. Phil moment here and ask, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Will power is great for launching off, but it’s almost never sustainable! If it was, we’d all be skinny and we’d all be rich. Just saying you want to do something and “trying harder” is a great plan for failure. Financial success does require some will-power and it does require you to try harder. But more importantly, it requires you to make some tough decisions, set some specific (written) goals, to develop a systematic plan, to seek accountability and to surround yourself with people who are moving in the direction you want to go. Learning to manage your money and getting out of debt is hard work. But if you have a solid plan, accountability and support, you can absolutely do it!


16. But Clint…you just don’t understand myyyyy situation…
(note the *whiny* emphasis on the “my”)
“You just don’t understand, I can’t….I don’t….”

Why It’s Bogus: In the words of Tyler Durden, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake” (us guys will recognize this from Fight Club). I’m not trying to be insulting in anyway. But I want to acknowledge that we are ALL in the same boat….and your situation…it’s probably not that unique. And you definitely shouldn’t let it hold you back! There are a million reasons NOT to start a budget…NOT to begin paying off debt…NOT to save an emergency fund…NOT to start planning for retirement… But you work too hard and make too much money to live your life broke and in debt! You, your family and your future are too important to make excuses. So unless your family is vastly wealthy, it’s time to start taking control of your finances…today…right now…get to it!


If any of these money lies have been preventing you from living the life you want, I want you to know there’s no better time than now to change course and start achieving financial freedom and peace!


This is your money and your life…take control!


Yours In Freedom,

Clint



***Join the conversation…what will you do immediately to begin taking control of your money and life?



Debt Free

16 Lies We Believe About Money - Part 2

July 19th, 2011 at 03:52 pm


The original post can be found here: Debt Free

In part 1 of this series, we began looking at some of the myths, lies and the terrible financial advice that’s floating around out there. If you haven’t read part 1,I suggest you start here.

When you hear a lie often enough, you start to believe it. And when it comes to money and your finances, blindly following “conventional wisdom” without stopping to think for yourself can keep you from ever getting ahead. But confronting those lies and beginning to think for yourself will go a long way toward setting you on the path to winning with money.


To help you in your quest for truth, I want to expose:

16 Lies We Believe About Money

(part 2 of 3)




6. Investing In The Stock Market Is Too Risky
“I don’t want to take any risk. I’d rather just save my money in the bank where it’s safe.”

Why It’s Bogus: Investing in stocks and mutual funds does carry some risk. But so does not investing? The average inflation rate in the U.S. is around 4%. That means that every year, your “safe and secure” cash is worth 4% less than last year. By not investing and growing your money, you face the almost certain risk of losing 4% every year. Besides, investing isn’t nearly as scary as you may think and it doesn’t take a financial genius to do it. You simply need to educate yourself, understand the risks and learn to make wise investments under the guidance of a trustworthy financial advisor.


7. I’m Just Not Good With Numbers, So I Can’t Manage My Money
“My problem is that I’m just no good when it comes to math.”

Why It’s Bogus: The reason you feel inadequate with the numbers is simply that you’re unfamiliar with the process. The math required to balance your budget is nomore than adding and subtracting. The numbers are important. But learning to manage your money is much more about shifting the way you think and modifying your behavior. It’s a lot like weight loss. The math is simple (calories in/calories out). But to be successful, you must learn to control your emotions and change your behavior. And we can all learn to do that.


8. I’m Too Broke To Get Out Of Debt Or Save Money
“I don’t have enough money to pay down my debt or even save. I just can’t get ahead.”

Why It’s Bogus: There are rare and extreme circumstances in which a person really doesn’t have any extra money. But most people have the ability to at least save something. If you rationalize not saving in your current circumstances, you’re likely to rationalize it when your circumstances improve. But the excitement of seeing your debt decrease and your savings increase will help propel you even faster toward your goals. Don’t wait until you’ve got a bunch of extra money lying around to start paying down debt or saving. It’ll never happen!


9. Going to College Is Always Worth the Cost
“Everyone needs to go to college…the investment is always worth the cost.”

Why It’s Bogus: (First of all…save the hate-mail. I already know some will disagree with me here). In today’s world, the cost of a college education is much higher and the payoff is much lower than it used to be. The average college tuition is increasing at a staggering 7% per year. The high cost may be worth the investment. But do your research and consider that it may not be, depending on the profession you’re looking toward. I’ve worked with too many people with $100,000 of student loans, who are now a stay at home mom or decide they don’t want to work in their field of study. Don’t be one of them and don’t blindly follow the lie that college is always worth the cost.


10. Buying Someone Gifts Is the Best Way to Show Your Love
“Buying gifts for people lets them know how much I love them…”

Why It’s Bogus: Do you love your parents…your spouse…your kids…your bff? Is it because they buy you nice gifts? Or is it because of the bond you’ve developed, the time spent, the trust, the respect, the understanding, and the support? We’ve gone crazy with this idea that love equals stuff, and the marketing industry does everything in their power to propagate the lie! If you want to show someone you love them, spend some time with them, write them a hand-written card, give them a call, give them a hug…but don’t believe the myth that that buying a gift, especially an expensive gift, is the best or only way to show your love.


If any of these money lies and myths have been preventing you from living the life you want, I want you to know it’s never too late to change course and start achieving your goal of financial freedom and peace!

Stay tuned for part 3 of “16 Lies We Believe About Money!”


Let us know if we can help you achieve the financial freedom and peace you want!


Yours In Freedom,

Clint



***Join the conversation…which of the first 10 lies have you heard or even believed in the past? How did you come to know the truth?

16 Lies We Believe About Money

July 13th, 2011 at 10:34 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

There are well-dressed foolish ideas, just as there are well-dressed fools. ~ Chamfort, French Playwright


We live in the wealthiest society in the history of the world. But in general, our attitude about money…well…it sucks! I admit, in the past (and sometimes in the present) my attitude about money has been unhealthy and just plain wrong. We’re brainwashed by so many false beliefs and terrible financial advice that it’s hard to know what’s true. Many of the myths sound very smart…even noble…so we never question them. But following them blindly can lead to disappointment and even financial disaster. But there is hope, there is truth, and there is a better way.

To help you begin to distinguish the truth from the lies, I want to expose:

16 Lies We Believe About Money

(part 1 of 3)




1. I Don’t Need To Do A Budget
“Budgeting is for nerds…it’s a waste of time…things will just work themselves out.”

Why It’s Bogus: Refusing to do a budget is like going on a road trip and refusing to look at a map. You’ll get somewhere…but it’s probably not where you intended. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A budget isn’t a document that restricts you and constantly tells you “No!” It’s simply YOUR way of telling YOUR money where YOU want it to go.


2. An Emergency Fund is Only For People Who Live In Fear
“An Emergency Fund? That’s so negative…people worry too much.” (And my personal favorite) “If you really trusted God, you wouldn’t need an emergency fund.”

Why It’s Bogus: Do you have auto insurance? Health insurance? Life insurance? Why? Because odds are you will face some kind of emergency at some point in life. An Emergency Fund of 3-6 month’s worth of your living expenses is another form of insurance. According to Money Magazine, 78% of Americans will face a major negative financial event in any given 10-year period. Having an emergency fund turns a crisis into a mere inconvenience.


3. If Only I had More Money, Then I’d Be Happy
“If I had a bigger house, a nicer car, took big vacations and could afford the “finer things in life,” then I’d be happy.

Why It’s Bogus: The “finer things in life” have very little to do with money. Waking up next to your spouse, hugging your kids, time with friends, deep faith in God…these are the finer things and they don’t cost a dime. “But Clint, if I had more money I’d be…” Are you sure? A 2006 Princeton study suggests otherwise: “Once you go beyond a certain level of poverty and well being, having more money doesn’t contribute to increased happiness. People with above-average income are…barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities.” Don’t buy the lie that more money will magically make you happy.


4. Renting A Home is Like Throwing Money Away
“It’s a waste of money to be renting…you need to buy a home.”

Why It’s Bogus: Owning a home is usually a good investment. But when you are neck deep in debt with no savings, buying a home can keep you from ever getting ahead. Renting is almost always less expensive because you avoid things like taxes, maintenance fees and expensive repairs. So until you’re out of debt it may be a good idea to rent. With lower expenses, you’ll have more money to attack your debt and become debt free as fast as possible.


5. The Only Way To Get Rich Is To Lie, Cheat or Steal
“Look at those rich people…what a bunch of crooks.”

Why It’s Bogus: This lie is really just a judgmental excuse made by jealous people who don’t think they could ever become wealthy. But it’s just not true! In Thomas Stanley’s book, “The Millionaire Next Door”, the surveys reveal that the vast majority of America’s millionaires have extreme levels of integrity. They’re honest, ethical, generous people who work hard and make wise financial decisions. Don’t believe this lazy excuse of a lie.


If any of these money myths have been holding you back from living your best life, I want you to know it’s never too late to change course and start achieving your goal of financial freedom and peace!


Stay tuned for part 2 of “16 Lies We Believe About Money!”



Yours In Freedom,

Clint



***Join the conversation…what other lies and myths have you heard or believed about money? Share them in the comments section below.

How To Eliminate Money Fights

July 1st, 2011 at 04:31 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

If you are married or have thought about getting married or know someone who is married, it probably doesn’t surprise you that money is one of the greatest causes of arguments, disagreements and stress that a couple will face. And we’ve been there! Stressed, overwhelmed and feeling trapped, our young marriage was hanging on by a thread. After all, conflict over money is still the leading cause of divorce today, according to Psychology Today.

Debt and financial strain put an intense amount of pressure on a married couple. Disagreements are inevitable. But learning to communicate and work through your finances together is key to having a healthier financial future and a happier marriage…and who doesn’t want that?

Here are some basic steps you can take toward getting on the same page with your spouse.


1. Agree That it is OK to Talk About Money

Not only is it OK to talk about money,it's a MUST! If you and your spouse haven’t discussed your finances in months or even years (no…if you cussed or threw things, it doesn’t count), then it’s time to schedule a meeting. Your first discussion should be focused on whether or not it’s OK for you to talk about finances together (and it is). Talk about your desire to work as a team and to understand each other. And do everything in your power to give each other “space and grace.” Work to make your money talks safe, open, mature discussions (like adults). No finger-pointing or name-calling (I know from personal experience that this doesn’t work).


2. Accept Your Differences

Right off the bat, let’s acknowledge that everyone is different. Your parents each had their own way of handling money and they passed that on to you. You have unique God-given personalities and have experienced money in different ways. And that’s all perfectly normal and good. But if you don’t learn to work together, you will both be frustrated and you’ll never reach your goals.

It’s very likely that one of you is a Saver and one of you is a Spender. Neither is necessarily good or bad. And it’s OK for you to have different opinions about how much to save, how much to spend, how much to give, how much to set aside for retirement or college funds for your kids, and how much each spouse can spend without having to consult the other. Accept your differences. Learning to agree about financial decisions will require consideration, some compromise and even some sacrifice from each of you. But when you’re both pulling in the same direction toward the same goals, you become unstoppable.


3. Share Your Dreams and Goals

The biggest reason money talks are so stressful is that most couples only focus on problems. Don’t forget to talk about positive stuff too. What are your goals? What are your dreams for the future? Sit down and do a little dreaming together. Talk about your long term savings goals, your desire to travel, your desire to buy a home in the suburbs, your longing to turn your passions into a career. If you haven’t shared your vision and hopes with your spouse, there’s no better time than now. Then you can set your goals together and get about the business of pursuing them as a team.


4. There’s No “I” in Team or in Money

Disagreements about money cause many couples to avoid the subject all together. But that only makes the problem worse. No matter what state your finances are in, it’s time to start talking and working together. As Stephen Covey says, your goal should be to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This doesn’t mean avoiding the issues or not confronting extreme behaviors. It means that whatever the issues are, you are going to lovingly work together. This is a joint effort! Taking control of your finances or tackling your debt will require you to support and encourage one another.


Like every other part of marriage, it takes work, sacrifice, compromise and communication to get on the same page about money. But by taking these steps together, you are well on your way.

Now get to it!



Yours In Freedom,

Clint



Join the conversation…what do you think is the biggest obstacle that prevents couples from being on the same page about money?

Lesser of Two Evils: Credit Card or Bank Loan?

June 23rd, 2011 at 09:17 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

I recently spoke to a young couple… we’ll call them Jim and Judy. Jim and Judy were both working, they had their $1,000 beginner emergency fund, they were working their debt snowball and were well on their way to financial freedom.

All of a sudden, life smacked them over the head. They got hit with some unexpected legal fees for $3,000 AND then a tax bill for over $2,000. They definitely don’t have enough cash to cover over $5,000 of unexpected expense.

So their question was, “Should we pay these bills using a credit card or a personal loan from the bank?”

As you know, I don’t believe in borrowing money, if at all possible. So my first recommendation was to try to work out a payment plan for each of these bills, pick up extra hours or projects at work, start selling stuff and doing anything else that would keep them from having to borrow the money.

But it got me thinking…in a situation where all these possibilities have been exhausted, and there still isn’t enough money to pay the bills, which option would I recommend? Which one is the lesser of two evils?

Credit Card or Bank Loan?


Let’s take a look at the Pro’s and Con’s of each:


Credit Card Pro’s

- You don’t necessarily need great (or even good) credit to qualify. Heck, even children’s dead hamsters get credit card applications.

- Some credit cards offer very low, or even 0%, introductory rates. So you could pay little to no interest.

- It’s very easy to apply for a credit card.


Credit Card Con’s

- With credit cards, it’s very easy to get stuck in the “minimum payment trap,” keeping you in debt longer and paying more interest.

- If you still have a balance at the end of the intro period you will be subject to the card’s much higher standard rate. In fact, some cards will back-charge you for interest on the entire original balance.
Credit card interest rates are subject to change at any time with very little notice.

- You now have a credit card at your disposal, increasing your risk of getting into further debt.


Bank Loan Pro’s

- Bank loans have a fixed repayment period, forcing you to pay the loan off within a specified timeframe.
These loans usually carry a fixed interest rate and monthly payment.

- A personal loan will usually offer a lower interest rate than the standard rate on a credit card.

- You borrow a set amount of money. This means you can’t borrow more the way you could with a credit card.


Bank Loan Con’s

- These loans are risk-based, meaning you will usually need good credit and a low debt-to-income ratio in order to qualify.

- Often times, these loans aren’t advertised. You will need to call or visit a local bank or credit union to apply.


The Verdict

Let me reiterate, I do NOT believe in borrowing money, if at all possible. But in the very rare case that it can’t be avoided, I would highly recommend a Bank Loan over a Credit Card, any day of the week! The main reason is that credit cards allow you to make minimum monthly payments that are designed to keep you in debt for the rest of your life! If you must borrow, go with a Bank Loan and add the balance to your debt snowball. Then, attack your debts with such relentless force that everyone around you thinks you have literally lost your mind.

This is NOT a game. This is your life, your well-being, your future and your children’s future we are talking about here. Life happens and we can’t stop it. But you can prepare for it.

Step 1. Save up $1,000 as a beginner Emergency Fund.

Step 2. Work the Debt Snowball and become Debt Free as fast as possible.

Step 3. Save up 3-6 months of your living expenses as an Emergency Fund.

If you follow these steps, you will never find yourself in a desperate position with debt as your only option. And you will never, ever, ever have to borrow money again! THAT’S TRUE FREEDOM!!!


Yours In Freedom,

Clint



Join the conversation…which option would you have chosen in this situation? Leave your comments below!



Summer Money-Saving Tips

June 9th, 2011 at 04:01 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

The summer season is upon us. Kids are getting out of school, vacations are being planned and water parks are beckoning. But For many Americans, as temperatures begin to rise, so do their credit card balances. Family vacations, summer camp, higher food bills, updating wardrobes and high electric bills can drain a checking account faster than a kiddie pool with a hole in it. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

While summer should be a season of family fun, it doesn’t have to break the bank. If you are working to become debt free, save your emergency fund or just want to keep a rein on your spending, here are some tips to help keep you on track. They may not seem like huge changes, but these little things can add up to big savings. And just think…how much more fun and stress-free will next summer be if you are debt-free and have an emergency fund?


Enjoy Your Town For Free
There’s no need to travel abroad for your summer fun. Most cities host free concerts, festivals and other events throughout the summer. With a little research, you may find the free event that will be the highlight of your summer. Without traveling far, your family may be able to enjoy outdoor movie nights, fireworks shows, concerts, museum days, library events and a lot more.

Pack Your Lunch
It’s almost always more healthy and less expensive to make a meal yourself than to eat out. Instead of going out, bring your lunch to work, organize a potluck or have a family picnic in the park. If you’re going on a road trip or to an event, pack a cooler to take with you. If you’re staying at a hotel, make sure to book a room with a microwave and a fridge. That way you can bring your own food and avoid the restaurant rip-off.

Fire Up The Grill
Using your oven and stove creates a lot of extra heat inside your home. Take your meal plan to the grill. You can enjoy delicious food and keep your home cooler. Get your family together for an evening barbecue. it will be fun, delicious and it will save money on your electricity bill.

Have Fun At Home
Instead of forking over big bucks at the movies or water parks, be creative and have fun in your own home. Buy popcorn, snacks and rent a movie for an inexpensive movie night. Fire up the sprinklers and break out the slip n’ slide. Have a potluck and game night with your friends.

Ditch Your Car
This may not work for everyone. But with rising gas prices and nice weather, how much money could you save if you walk, bike or carpool to work? This takes some adjustment and planning. But you will save money, enjoy good conversation and get in a good work out.

Start Planning Your Spending
If you aren’t operating on a monthly cash-flow plan (budget), now is the perfect time to start. Before you can blink it will be time to buy new school clothes and supplies, Halloween costumes and then Christmas presents. Start planning for how you are going to spend your money. Write it out and agree on it with your spouse. When you do…you’ll actually have some! And having a plan actually gives you more freedom and peace.


With a little research, planning and creativity you can have a fantastic summer, avoid debt and save a pile of money.


In Freedom,

Clint Davis


16 Things To Avoid Buying Used

May 25th, 2011 at 05:32 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

Last week I wrote about finding great bargains by buying certain items “used.” You can find some fantastic deals at garage sales or on Craigslist and eBay. However, there are certain items where buying “pre-owned” can lead to great disappointment instead of great savings. I want you to save some money. But I also want you to be smart about how you make your purchases.

So to help you make wise purchases, I present:

16 Things To Avoid Buying Used



1. Laptops – When we were young and broke, we received a “refurbished” laptop as a gift. It died completely within 4 months. My sister-in-law experienced the same refurb-disappointment. Because they are so portable, laptop computers are exposed to a lot of abuse…bangs, drops, spills and overheated car trunks. And you may never know how badly one has been mistreated or when the essential parts may give out completely. Computers in general are pretty delicate and it is best to buy new.


2. Recreational Safety Gear – Most recreational safety gear is made to withstand only 1 accident. For instance, bike helmets are built to protect your noggin from crashing into the pavement 1 time. The problem is that a crash usually only crushes the foam inside the helmet. So you may never know that it’s already taken a good beating.

3. Tires – In our broke, pre-debt-free days, we had purchased used tires without realizing the risk. The problem is that you will never know if the tires have experienced a serious crash. Tires that have been involved in an auto accident are potentially unstable and very dangerous. For the sake of safety, stick with new tires that have been properly installed.

4. Software – The majority of all software programs are given a serial number that the owner is required to register with the software company. Once it’s been registered, it can’t be used again. The exception to this rule is computer games. Often times you can purchase used games with no problem.

5. HDTV’s – Whether you are in the market for LCD, Plasma or LED, plan to buy new. The cost for fixing or replacing the parts on these HDTV’s can sometimes cost more than the TV cost brand new. Defect rates are relatively low. However, problems with this technology are still quite common and the TV’s themselves do not stand up well to being moved around much.

6. DVD Players – Buying used DVD’s is a great idea. But the lasers in DVD players do wear out eventually. And with the he cost to repair a DVD player maybe more than it cost to buy one brand new.

7. Digital Cameras, Video Cameras and Camera Lenses – Much like laptops, digital cameras and video cameras can suffer a lot of abuse. Even if there appears to be no defect, there is potential for problems that can be very expensive to repair. If you do your homework, you can get some great bargains on new digital and video cameras.

The lens is the most important and most expensive piece of an SLR camera. They are very sensitive and even minor damage can affect the quality of your photos. When it comes to camera lenses, stick with new.

8. Underwear, Socks and Swimsuits – Do I really even need to mention this. Let me make it simple…DON’T BUY USED UNDERWEAR! Hopefully this one is self-explanatory.

9. Speakers – Whether you are buying speakers for your home or your car, keep in mind that these are very sensitive pieces of equipment. They do not stand up well to being blasted or mishandled and their performance can head downhill in a hurry.

10. Vacuum Cleaners – Vacuum cleaners are one of the most heavily used appliances in most households and they typically have a rough life. Many can cost more to repair than it would cost to buy one new.

11. Mattresses – This is another item that should be obvious, so let me state it plainly…DON’T BUY YSED MATTRESSES! Do you really want to sleep with somebody else’s mold, bacteria, dust mites and bodily fluids? Even the very best mattresses are supposed to be thrown out after 8-10 years. And you may never know how long a used mattress has been around.

12. Bedding/Towels – See above about mattresses and underwear. Please think this through!

13. Shoes – If someone else’s foot sweat and athlete’s foot isn’t enough to keep you from buying used shoes, keep in mind that shoes mold to the feet that wear them. Buying shoes that are molded to someone else’s feet can be very uncomfortable and can actually cause health problems. Shop for bargains and buy last year’s styles. But don’t buy pre-used footwear.

14. Hats – Most hats are never cleaned. So in buying a used hat, you never know if you are also buying old sweat, hair products, lice and even skin disease. Anything that is going to be that close to your skin, stick with new.

15. Makeup – Speaking of skin…makeup is a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and contagious diseases. Think pink eye and cold sores. Buy your makeup new and sealed.

16. Pet Supplies – Most dogs and cats aren’t known for their overwhelming cleanliness. Old odors, stains and even diseases may be present in used pet beds and other supplies. Protect little Rover or Mittens, and the smell of your house, and stick with buying new when it comes to pet supplies.


When you are in the middle of working your Debt Snowball or trying to reach a financial goal, it is always a great idea to look for big bargains and big savings. But be wise, do your homework, and make smart purchases that you won’t regret. Don’t end up wasting a bunch of money for the sake of saving a few dollars.

Keep up the good work!


Yours In Freedom,

Clint



Join in the conversation… what items have you bought “used” that ended up being a mistake?

20 Things To Avoid Buying New

May 20th, 2011 at 09:26 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

You can call them “used”, “second-hand”, “pre-loved”, or “broken-in.” But in a time where money is tight or when you are intent on paying off debt or reaching a financial goal, it will do your wallet good for you to consider buying certain items “pre-owned.” It may take a little extra time and searching, but you can find high quality items that are in excellent condition. So let someone else pay the over-inflated retail price. You get about the business of saving some money.

To help in your quest for frugality, I present:

20 Things To Avoid Buying New



1. DVDs and CDs – If taken care of, CD’s and DVD’s will play just as good as when they were brand new. Even if you sacrifice the original case, you can get your entertainment for a lot less.


2. Books – If there’s a book you want to read, you might first try to borrow it from your local library. If they don’t have it, or you need to own the book, you can get significant discounts online or at used book stores.


3. Video Games – Most kids play a video game, beat it, and then move on to the next conquest. Don’t spend $60 for a new game when you can wait a few months and get it at a huge discount. Check sites like eBay and Amazon, or even your local Blockbuster.


4. Special Occasion and Holiday Clothing – There are times that you need formal clothes for a special occasion, or special outfits for the holidays. Rather than pay retail for these one-time wears, shop thrift stores, yard sales or buy from online re-sellers. You can find some huge bargains.


5. Cars – You already know this – new cars lose up to 70% of their value in the first 4 years. Let someone else pay the premium price for the new car smell. Buy a reliable used car that has been inspected by an independent mechanic. And, you will generally pay the least when buying direct from the owner.


6. Jewelry – Jewelry suffers drastic depreciation as soon as it is worn. Diamonds in particular have an unbelievably low re-sell value. But if you are in the market for a nice jewelry purchase, you can take advantage of the markdown and get a great value. Check reputable pawn shops and jewelry resale shops. Just make sure you get an independent appraisal when buying diamonds.

7. Furniture – Furnishing a home or office can be incredibly expensive. Take advantage of the reduced price of high-quality, gently used furniture. Even if something needed to be re-upholstered or painted, you can find great bargains. Check Craigslist and yard sales. You can also negotiate a deal on the floor model at retail stores.


8. Games and Toys – How many board games and toys have you bought that ended up sitting in a closet or box? Don’t pay a premium for new games and toys thatmay only capture your kids’ attention for a few weeks. You can find used toys and games in great condition on craigslist or at yard sales. Or have a “Toy Swap” with another family.


9. Maternity Clothes – Maternity clothes don’t suffer the same wear and tear that every day clothes might. Used maternity clothes may have only been worn for a few months. And it doesn’t make sense for you to pay high retail prices for items you will only wear a few times.


10. Baby Clothes –Borrow baby clothes from friends and family, or shop at yard sales and thrift stores. Your little bundle of joy will look just as cute, and will never know the difference. The money you save can be used to start funding your child’s college fund.


11. Baby Items – Strollers, car seats, and high chairs can cost hundreds of dollars. But you can buy perfectly good used baby items at a huge discount. Just be sure that everything works properly and check that there have been no safety recalls at www.cpsc.gov and www.recalls.gov.


12. Musical Instruments – For a beginning musician, there is rarely any reason to buy new. People, especially kids, are fickle. Playing guitar may sound fun at first, but little Johnny may be bored with it after the first week. Go to a local music store or pawn shop and save a bunch.


13. Auto Parts – With a vehicle that is a little older, you can find reliable, used replacement parts online or at a salvage yard. This will save you a small fortune over buying new from a parts store or repair shop.


14. Pets – Buying a cute little puppy from a breeder or pet store can cost you several hundred or thousands of dollars. Consider adopting your new pet from a local animal shelter or rescue. Both of the dogs we have adopted two dogs and they have both been wonderful companions.


15. Home Accents – As with furniture, home accent pieces can be bought deeply discounted at thrift stores, yard sales and online.


16. Hand Tools – Hammers, wrenches, screw drivers, garden tools…well-made tools will last decades. Skip the big-box store and shop neighborhood yard sales.


17. Sports Equipment – Most people don’t use their high-priced equipment nearly as much as they anticipated. And when it’s time to be re-sold it is still in excellent condition at a fraction of the price. Check Craigslist, eBay and some sporting good stores.


18. Recreational Items – Big ticket items like campers, jet-skis, boats and ATV’s can be found very inexpensively. And often, they have barely even been used.


19. Kids’ clothes and shoes – As soon as you get home from the mall, little Susie has outgrown the new dress you just bought. Rather than buy brand new, use hand-me-downs from friends and family, and shop at consignment shops and thrift stores.

20. Exercise Equipment – We all have a friend whose New-Year’s-Resolution-Impulse-Buy-Treadmill is serving as a coat rack. Let their unfulfilled resolution become your new home gym. And free weights and other equipment can be bought at yard sales for pennies on the dollar.


With just a little extra time and effort, you can save yourself a bundle buying gently used items. You can often buy higher quality items that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Plus, any extra money you save can go toward paying off debt, building up your Emergency Fund, or saving for larger purchases. Now, go save some money!

Yours In Freedom,

Clint


Join the conversation…what great bargain purchases have you made on pre-owned goods?

Are You Eating Away Your Future?

May 5th, 2011 at 03:03 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

Several years ago when we finally decided to take control of our money, we took a close look at our spending. We were absolutely blown away when we realized how much we were spending on dining out. On average, we were spending well over $300/month…for just the 2 of us.

You may spend more or less. But let’s work with this figure for now. Let’s say that from age 25-65 we spent $300 per month on dining out. This is really a conservative figure because we are assuming that those costs would never rise and that we would never be spending money on kids’ meals out.

Spending $300 per month for 40 years equals $144,000 spent on dining out! That number blew me away, and I hope it blows you away too.

Now let’s imagine that we invested that same amount. $300 per month invested for 40 years with an average annual return of 12% would equal $3,092,912.61. Are you kidding me?? Let’s say I’m overestimating the rate of return on the investments. What if we only averaged 8% annual return, which is much lower than the stock market’s 50 year average. That would still be $1,007,211.74!

But let’s be honest here, I love dining out. Who doesn’t? So I’m not suggesting that you never dine out. I am, however, challenging you to consider how you are spending your money.

We have cut our restaurant budget down to $140/month. That’s $160 per month less than we used to spend. Let’s say that we invest just the extra $160 per month for the next 40 years. At an average 12% annual return, that will give us an extra $1,649,553.39.

Well over a 1.5 million dollars earned for retirement simply by investing our saved restaurant money!

And what did we sacrifice for it? Not much…we still go out for dinner at least once per week.

Small choices and sacrifices can add up to huge results. Instead of spending mindlessly, you must be conscious of your choices if you want to win with money. Take the time to sit down and evaluate the amount your family is spending on restaurants. You could literally be eating away your future.

Yours In Freedom,

Clint



Join The Conversation…by how much will you commit to reducing your restaurant budget?

Do You REALLY Need Life Insurance?

April 22nd, 2011 at 03:22 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free


“Preston Newby, 24, was a youth pastor who “lived to serve other people,” says his wife, Tara. So it was no surprise when he pulled off the Interstate late one night to help passengers in a car that had just collided with an elk. While calling for help, Preston was struck from behind by a driver who swerved to avoid the accident scene. He died moments later in Tara’s arms.

The tragic situation would have been much worse if it hadn’t been for the Newbys’ decision a few years earlier to buy life insurance. “We discussed how, if one of us passed away, the other would want to stay home with the children,” says Tara. Sadly, that hypothetical discussion became reality all too soon for Tara, who was 10 weeks pregnant with her second child when Preston’s life was tragically cut short.

But thanks to the life insurance, she is able to be a full-time mother to Jacob, 2, and Micah, 3 months. She also paid off her student loans and other debts. More importantly, it gave her time to grieve and to focus on her children. “With so much to stress about while raising two children, it’s a blessing not to have to worry about finances,” says Tara. “I feel like it was Preston’s last gift to us.”” (from LifeHappens.org)




What would happen to your family if you were to die suddenly? Would they be able to afford to pay for your funeral and burial? Would they be able to maintain their lifestyle? Would they be able to keep their home? Would they have to rush back to work in the middle of their grief?

If you die without life insurance your family may find themselves in a financial disaster at a time when they are already overwhelmed with grief. Most people are adamant about taking care of their families….family vacations, fancy anniversaries and elaborate birthday parties, new gadgets, and even saving for college. But get this…

-Only 44% of households carry personal life insurance policies.

-And approximately half a million adults ages 30-55 die prematurely every year.


If you have a spouse and/or children under the age of 18, and you don’t have life insurance, you need to get up from the computer and find someone to give you a good kick in the butt. Then when you recover, pick up the phone and call a good insurance agent. Many people are never taught how important life insurance is. But now that you know, you can do something about it.

There Is No Excuse. Life insurance is a non-negotiable if you love your family. In the event of your death, your term life insurance policy will make sure your loved ones are taken care of. You should carry a 15-20 year Term Life Insurance policy with a value of 8-10 times your annual income. This amount will cover your funeral expenses, most or all of your outstanding debt including your mortgage, most or all of your children’s’ college, and leave your family enough to replace your income for several years. They could also invest this money with a 10-12% return and completely replace your income.

And the cost of this type of policy? For a 35 year old man in reasonable health…about $25 a month!!

So what are you waiting for? Please do not neglect this aspect of your financial plan and debt free life. Plan for the future and make sure your loved ones are taken care of, even when you pass from this life. It’s one of the very best decisions you can make, and one of the most profound declarations of your love.


Yours In Freedom,

Clint

9 Things I Will Teach My Kids About Money (and you should too)

April 19th, 2011 at 06:36 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

Katy and I don’t have kids yet, but we hope to start a family in the near future. And it’s important to us to pass on healthy attitudes about money and possessions to our kids, and to equip them to be in control of their money and stay debt free.

A wise man once told me that you shouldn’t give parenting advice unless you have kids. However, I do know personal finance. But I want to be careful in writing this to not overstep my bounds. So, I write this post to my future self. And hopefully these will help you as you guide your own children.


9 Things I Will Teach My Kids About Money!


1. Money Doesn’t Grow On…
It’s cliché, but many kids are shocked when they graduate only to realize that money really doesn’t grow on trees. Most parents feel that kids should do certain chores simply because they are part of the family, such as doing dishes, cleaning their bedroom, etc…and I agree. But you can also assign extra projects and pay them “commission.” If they don’t do the work, they don’t get paid…just like real life. This teaches them that money has to be earned, and it gives them an income that you can now teach them to manage.



2. You Can’t Buy Happy
In our American-dream mentality, we often believe that more money and more stuff will make us more happy. But this really isn’t true. The happiest people in the world have learned to be content with what they have. Often times, having more money just makes life more complicated. Money can be used for a lot of good things, but it is not a prerequisite to a happy life. Teach your kids to value things that will allow them to be truly happy – contentment, generosity, relationships, and fulfilling their life-purpose.


3. You Have to Live on a Budget
Money is not a limitless resource. Like adults, kids have to plan how they will use their money. Otherwise they’ll just spend mindlessly and end up broke. If your child earns $30 per month, help them to plan out on paper how they will spend that money…save $5, buy dad’s birthday gift for $15, and so on…Help them develop this habit now so they can start off their life being in control of their finances.


4. Follow the 80-10-10 Rule
Along with budgeting, I want my kids to learn this simple formula…80-10-10. The first 10% of any money they receive should be given, either to our church, another ministry, or a charity they care about. The next 10% should be saved for the future. The other 80% is theirs to spend as they please, but it must be budgeted. This will help them develop these giving, saving, and spending habits for the rest of their lives.



5. Avoid The Debt-Trap
I want my kids to understand the dangers of debt. When they’re old enough, discuss credit cards, loans, and car payments with your kids. Help them understand that buying things on credit ends up costing more than if they had paid in cash. Growing up, I was taught by example that credit and debt were the way to buy things. It only follows that as an adult I racked up over $50,000 of consumer debt. I want to make sure my kids understand why and how to avoid this debt-trap.


6. Companies Want Your Money
The average American sees 1,500 ads per day. Corporations want our money and our kids’ money. Watch the commercials on your kids’ favorite shows. These companies work hard to turn our kids into consumers. That’s why it’s important to teach them not to believe everything they see on commercials and TV. As they get older, help them understand that these ads are designed to get them to spend money on stuff they don’t really need.


7. Money is Not the Goal
I remember a teacher asking what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, “I want to be rich!” I want my kids to know that accumulating a bunch of money and stuff is not a worthwhile goal. Money is not an end itself…it is only a means to an end. What good is a million dollars if just sits at the end of a balance sheet? I want my children to know that it’s not the number that counts; it’s what you do with it.



8. Make Goals For Your Money
Money itself shouldn’t be a goal, but mindless spending is no way to handle finances. It’s imperative to teach our kids how to set reasonable and achievable goals for their money. This includes short term goals, like saving for a video game, and long term goals, like saving for their first car. Setting goals helps us to stay motivated and focused, and this is a skill kids need to start learning early.


9. Dare to Not Compare
As a child, one of my friend’s parents got a brand new car, and I was jealous. In her wisdom, my mom told me, “We could have a new car. But you don’t know what they may have had to give up in order to have that car.” There will always be people who have nicer, newer, better and more. But as I said above, having more money and more stuff doesn’t make you more happy. We need to teach our children to be thankful and content with what they have, to handle their money wisely, and to not let other people determine their happiness.



If you are a parent, you know better than anyone that children learn from our example. If you don’t have control over your finances…budget, debt, savings…your kids will likely follow suit. However, if you can get control of your money now, your kids will have a much better chance of winning with money when they are on their own.

Let us know if we can help!


Yours In Freedom,

Clint




Join the conversation…What financial wisdom are you/will you pass on to your children?

You Are Not Alone

April 14th, 2011 at 07:44 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

I got a call for help a few days ago from a very emotional Joann. She said that her debt has gotten completely out of control and she is totally overwhelmed (can anyone relate?).

She was understandably emotional, but it wasn’t only sadness and stress I heard in her voice. What I heard was…fear. She told me how embarrassed she was about her debt and that she was actually afraid for me to see how much she owed. I think the truth is that she is afraid to face the amount of debt she actually has.

It was staggering when Katy and I sat down and calculated the amount of debt we had. We had done some really dumb things with our money, and we paid the price. We were over $50,000 in debt in our 20’s. Almost all of us have been irresponsible with our money. We’ve overspent, under-saved and signed up for ridiculous amounts of debt.

It’s overwhelming and it can be scary…but you are not alone.

Consider this - according to US News and USA Today:

• The total outstanding consumer debt in the U.S. was $11.7 TRILLION as of June 2010.
• The average American household with at least 1 credit card has $10,700 in credit card debt.
• 30% of Americans have credit card debt.
• 59% if baby-boomers have credit card debt.
• 56% of baby-boomers have car payments
• 40% of people who are in debt have monthly debt payments that are more than half of their monthly income.
• 60% of people over 50 years old are in debt.
• 10% of people have either filed or seriously considered filing for bankruptcy.


If you’re in debt, you’ve made some big money mistakes and are over-extended, consider yourself normal. This is the way we were taught to live. Credit cards, car payments, student loans, 2nd mortgages…the list goes on. No one ever taught us how to balance a budget, set up a savings plan or live debt free.

But my wife and I finally reached a point where we said, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” We were tired of living paycheck to paycheck, just barely scraping by, and living with constant financial stress. We reached out for the help and support we needed to make a plan, sort out our bills, build a budget and fight for our freedom from debt. And the guidance, teaching and support we received have made all the difference in our lives.

The journey to debt-freedom can be overwhelming, and the process can be daunting. But don’t let fear hold you back! You are not alone. Reach out and get the help and support you need to fight this battle and finally win with money.

If you are ready to make a change and to take back control of your money and life, we would love to help. We always offer a free 30 minute consultation, where we will help you start to make a plan to break free.


Yours In Freedom,

Clint



Join the conversation…What, if anything, is keeping you from taking the leap and working to become debt free?

The Best Way To Use Your Tax Refund

April 12th, 2011 at 09:47 pm



The original post can be found here: Debt Free

We’re about to wrap up another tax season and for most of us that means “refund.” In my pre-debt-free days, I would have “spent” our tax refund before the check was in the mail. A new TV, a vacation, furniture…it would have been used up in an instant without a second thought.

Most people seem to view their tax refund as “extra” money. But the government isn’t sending you a bonus check. This money is part of your annual income. It was withheld from your paychecks to pay your taxes. If too much was withheld, you get a refund. And just like the rest of your income, you need to make a plan for how to use it.

According to the IRS, the average tax refund in 2010 was $3,003. Don’t blow this chance to make a dramatic impact on your financial future!


There are only 4 worthwhile ways to use this large sum of money.

Save It! Pay Off Debt! Spend It (wisely)! Give It!


Save It!

USA Today reports that 55% of Americans couldn’t live for even 3 months without a paycheck. 17% couldn’t make it 1 week! The majority of people in our country have virtually no buffer between them and life. If the unexpected occurs, they are literally in a financial crisis.

If you don’t have an Emergency Fund, this is the perfect opportunity to start one. If you are in debt, you should save up $1,000 as a starter emergency fund. Once you have paid off all your debt, other than your mortgage, you need to save up enough to cover 3-6 months of your household expenses. This emergency fund gives you some cushion for the inevitable whammies that life will throw at you.


Pay off Debt!

The lending industry’s motto is “there’s a sucker born every minute.” If you are in debt, you need to accept the reality that you are getting ripped off. Beyond the financial rip-off, debt literally sucks the fun out of life. USA Today says that 63% of Americans spend 1-3 hours per day worrying about debt. That’s up to 1,095 hours per year spent in fret over debt! There is no excuse for accepting debt and money worries as a way of life.

Your refund check can be one of the best ways to pay off debt. You may be able to completely knock out several of your smallest debts in one swoop, and accelerate your debt-freedom by months or years! Stop making excuses! Unless you really love struggling financially, or giving your hard-earned money to the bank, you owe it to yourself to make a change!


Spend It (wisely)!

There are circumstances where it might make sense to spend your refund. If you are truly in need of a vehicle, your refund might allow you to make a 100% cash purchase of a reliable car. There may be some necessary home improvements you could make, such as replacing an A/C unit, mold removal, or a repairing a leaky roof.

The key to spending wisely is to be very honest with yourself about the purchase. Is it a NEED or a WANT? Think about your long-term financial goals, and make sure the purchase truly is more important than saving for an emergency fund or paying off your debt.


Give It!

Just like the rest of your income, you should plan to give at least 10% to your local church, another ministry or a charity that is close to your heart. Giving to others in need is one of the best ways to increase your ability to be content and thankful for the good things in your life.


Whatever you do…Don’t waste it!

This is your chance to get a jump-start toward true financial freedom in 2011. Use this chance to make a decision about your priorities. What is more important to you…a new TV, a vacation, some new toy? Or is it more important to literally change your family tree by finally taking control of your money and your life? Make a change for good! I know you can do it!


Yours In Freedom,

Clint



Join the conversation…How do you plan to use your tax refund? Will you pay off debt, save, spend, or give??? Leave a comment and let us know!