Take Your Dream Vacation Without Causing a Retirement Nightmare

September 28, 2022

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Katherine Zacharias

Katherine Zacharias

Financial Professional



Encinitas, CA 92024

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September 26, 2022

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

Playing the Lottery is Still a Bad Idea

A full third of Americans believe that winning the lottery is the only way they can retire.¹

What? Playing a game of chance is the only way they can retire? Do you ever wonder if winning a game – where your odds are 1 in 175,000,000 – is the only way you’ll get to make Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops your everyday uniform?

Do you feel like you might be gambling with your retirement?

If you do, that’s not a good sign. But believing you may need to win the lottery to retire is somewhat understandable when the financial struggle facing a majority of North Americans is considered: 77% of millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck, as are nearly 40% of Americans earning over $100,000.²

When you’re in a financial hole, saving for your future may feel like a gamble in the present. But believing that “it’s impossible to save for retirement” is just one of many bad money ideas floating around. Following are a few other common ones. Do any of these feel true to you?

Bad Idea #1: I shouldn’t save for retirement until I’m debt free.

False! Even as you’re working to get out from under debt, it’s important to continue saving for your retirement. Time is going to be one of the most important factors when it comes to your money and your retirement, which leads right into the next Bad Idea…

Bad Idea #2: It’s fine to wait until you’re older to save.

The truth is, the earlier you start saving, the better. Even 10 years can make a huge difference. In this hypothetical scenario, let’s see what happens with two 55-year-old friends, Baxter and Will.

  • Baxter started saving when he was 25. Over the next 10 years, Baxter put away $3,000 a year for a total of $30,000 in an account with an 8% rate of return. He stopped contributing but let it keep growing for the next 20 years.
  • Will started saving 10 years later at age 35. Will also put away $3,000 a year into an account with an 8% rate of return, but he contributed for 20 years (for a total of $60,000).

Even though Will put away twice as much as Baxter, he wasn’t able to enjoy the same account growth:

  • Baxter would achieve account growth to $218,769.
  • Will’s account growth would only be to $148,269 at the same rate of return.

Is that a little mind-bending? Do we need to check our math? (We always do.) Here’s why Baxter ended up with more in the long run: Even though he set aside less than Will did, Baxter’s money had more time to compound than Will’s, which, as you can see, really added up over the additional time. So what did Will get out of this? Unfortunately, he discovered the high cost of waiting.

Keep in mind: All figures are for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect an actual investment in any product. Additionally, they do not reflect the performance risks, taxes, expenses, or charges associated with any actual investment, which would lower performance. This illustration is not an indication or guarantee of future performance. Contributions are made at the end of the period. Total accumulation figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.

Bad Idea #3: I don’t need life insurance.

Negative! Financing a well-tailored life insurance policy is an important part of your financial strategy. Insurance benefits can cover final expenses and loss of income for your loved ones.

Bad Idea #4: I don’t need an emergency fund.
Yes, you do! An emergency fund is necessary now and after you retire. Unexpected costs have the potential to cut into retirement funds and derail savings strategies in a big way, and after you’ve given your last two-weeks-notice ever, the cost of new tires or patching a hole in the roof might become harder to cover without a little financial cushion.

Are you taking a gamble on your retirement with any of these bad ideas?

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¹ “What Are the Odds of Winning the Lottery?” Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance, Oct 24, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-the-odds-of-winning-the-lottery-3306232

² “Nearly 40 Percent of Americans with Annual Incomes over $100,000 Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck,” PR Newswire, Jun 15, 2021 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nearly-40-percent-of-americans-with-annual-incomes-over-100-000-live-paycheck-to-paycheck-301312281.html

August 24, 2022

The Power of Reading

The Power of Reading

Reading regularly is one of the most important disciplines you can have in life.

Practically, it’s almost impossible to function in the modern world without being able to read. But there’s a far deeper benefit to regular reading. Just ask Bill Gates—he reads 50 books per year! Why? Because “You don’t really start getting old until you stop learning… Reading fuels a sense of curiosity about the world, which I think helped drive me forward in my career.”¹

That’s high praise! Let’s explore the benefits of consistent, disciplined reading.

First, reading is quite literally good for your brain.

Studies have demonstrated that even reading fiction strengthens brain connections, reduces your risk for mental ailments like depression, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.² So if you want your brain to thrive, grab a book, even if it’s a light-hearted novel, and start reading!

Second, reading can improve your quality of life.

As mentioned earlier, reading can combat mental health issues like depression. But studies seem to suggest that reading fiction can also improve qualities like empathy.³ After all, novels can offer explorations of the human experience. Reading about how others feel and live, even if they’re invented, can broaden your emotional horizons and encourage you to reflect on your own feelings. It also exposes you to new information and new ideas that can enrich your perspective. It’s an introduction to a virtually limitless world of knowledge and experiences.

The takeaway?

Make a habit out of reading! There’s no shame in what you read, whether it’s a fantasy series, a Jane Austen novel, or philosophy essay! Start a book club with some friends and discuss what you read. You may be surprised by the benefits you experience.

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¹ “Bill Gates Discusses His Lifelong Love for Books and Reading,” Claire Howorth and Samuel P. Jacobs, Time, May 22, 2017, https://time.com/4786837/bill-gates-books-reading/

² “Benefits of Reading Books: How It Can Positively Affect Your Life,” Rebecca Joy Stanborough, MFA, Healthline, Oct. 15, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-reading-books

³ “How Reading Fiction Increases Empathy And Encourages Understanding,” Megan Schmidt, Discover Magazine, Aug 28, 2020, https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/how-reading-fiction-increases-empathy-and-encourages-understanding

July 21, 2022

Mental Health And Money

Mental Health And Money

There is a deep yet often unconsidered connection between mental health and money.

The data is clear as day. The Money and Mental Health Institute discovered that…

  • 46% of people__ with debt have a diagnosed mental health condition
  • 86% of people with__ mental health issues and debt say that debt exacerbates their mental health issues
  • People with depression and debt are 4x more likely to still have debt after 18 months compared to their counterparts
  • Those with debt are 3x more likely to contemplate suicide due to that debt¹

What these statistics don’t reveal, however, is what comes first. Do mental health issues spark financial woes? Or do financial woes spark mental health issues?

The answer, of course, is yes.

The connection between mental health and money can’t be reduced to simple causation. Instead, it’s a spiral where both factors can feed off of each other.

Consider the following pattern…

  • A financial crisis ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

This is an example of a financial crisis sparking mental health issues. But notice that a financial crisis isn’t the only situation that can cause the cycle. For instance…

  • An unhealthy relationship ramps up stress levels.
  • Ramped up stress levels activate negative self-talk.
  • Negative self-talk sparks unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms wreak havoc on the financial situation. And repeat.

In short, there’s a two-way relationship between mental health and money. If you’re seeking to start building wealth and changing your life, you must address both. Practically speaking, that means steps like…

  • Reducing financial stress by building an emergency fund
  • Increasing financial flexibility by reducing debt
  • Unlearning toxic self-talk habits that spark anxiety and depression
  • Developing healthy coping skills to alleviate stress

These can be daunting steps if you’re going it alone. That’s why it’s always best to seek the help of both mental health and financial professionals. They’ll have the insights and strategies you need to blaze a different path for your future.

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¹ “Data Shows Strong Link Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health,” Enrich, Mar 24, 2021, https://www.enrich.org/blog/data-shows-strong-link-between-financial-wellness-and-mental-health

July 13, 2022

Leaders: “Emotional Intelligence” Is Not Enough

Leaders: “Emotional Intelligence” Is Not Enough

Have you read an article about emotional intelligence and leadership recently? There’s a strong chance it’s misleading you.

That’s because there’s been serious confusion about how emotional intelligence works, especially among business leaders.

Often, there’s an unstated assumption that emotional intelligence measures the grasp you have on how others feel.

It’s become common to see emotional speeches, sincere apologies, and leadership styles all bathed with the label “Emotionally Intelligent” since they all employ basic human emotions to be effective.

But there’s one problem—having high emotional intelligence is a far more nuanced state of awareness than merely understanding how emotions work.

Daniel Goleman, the guy who literally wrote the book on emotional intelligence, gives emotional intelligence four dimensions:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

But, as Goleman explains here, those qualities require empathy to cohere. In fact, sans empathy, they can become toxic.

It’s easy to see why, when you think about it.

How do you categorize a leader who’s aware of how others feel, but exploits those emotions to their own ends?

At best, they’re skilled at what the ancient Greeks called Rhetoric, the art of persuasion.

At worst, they’re garden variety psychopaths…

Here are two takeaways for you:

  1. Beware headlines that peddle examples of emotional intelligence. Plenty of publications will try to get your click with articles about emotional intelligence in action. Maybe they’re worthwhile. But maybe they’re using a buzzword to grab your attention.

  2. Develop your empathy along with your charisma. Without empathy, you’ll find yourself manipulating others with little concern for their wellbeing. Not only is it wrong, but it can have disastrous outcomes over the long haul.

And here’s a bonus takeaway, just because I care (see the rhetoric at work?)…

Just because someone speaks to your emotions doesn’t mean they care about you.

In fact, those emotional appeals can be indicators that a bad actor is exploiting you.

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June 22, 2022

Are Gym Memberships Worth It?

Are Gym Memberships Worth It?

Let’s face it—we’ve all botched a New Year’s fitness resolution.

Sure, we started the year with great intentions and a few gym visits, but it didn’t take long for our resolve to waver and we never returned. However, many of us have kept that membership around. After all, we paid so much to sign up that we might as well hold on to it just in case our motivation comes back, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that gym membership might have been a bad value right from the start. But how can you tell? Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about finally moving on from your overly ambitious New Year’s resolution.

How gym memberships work

Gym memberships seem pretty simple on the surface; you pay once a month for access to gym equipment during operating hours. But annual fees and initiation fees can add up pretty quickly, meaning that you can potentially sink hundreds of dollars into a gym. National gym chains may range in price from $164 to $1,334 per year, but the national average comes out to $696 annually. Plus, some gyms make you sign a contract locking you into a year-long membership. You have to pay for the membership regardless if you work out!

The big question: Are you paying for something you won’t use?

Gym memberships are more cost effective the more you take advantage of them. Going to the gym seven times a week at an average priced gym? Let’s do the math. You’ll pay $1.90 per visit. Go four times per week? $3.36.¹

But let’s say you visit the gym about four times per month for an hour-long sweat session. You’ll wind up spending $14.50 per hour! To put that in perspective, we spend an average of $0.28 on Netflix per hour. Sitting around watching TV is far more cost effective than working out.

Alternatives to gym memberships

So what can you do if you want to get fit but don’t want the potential financial black hole of a gym membership? It’s often cheaper in the long run to build your own gym at home rather than getting a membership. You also might want to see if your apartment or office has a serviceable gym. If all else fails, you can always do body weight exercises. You might be surprised by how grueling and intense push-ups and squats can be!

The bottom line is that the keys to making your gym membership worth it are motivation and discipline. The cost of buying a membership isn’t enough incentive.² You have to find a deeper drive to get you in the gym week in and week out. Check out the costs of your local gym, weigh the alternatives, and ask yourself why you want to start working out before you sign that contract!

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¹ “Are gym memberships worth the money?” Zachary Crockett, Jan 5, 2019, https://thehustle.co/gym-membership-cost

² “Annual Gym Memberships Can Be a Trap. Do This Instead.” Whitney Akers, Healthline, Sep 24, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/gym-memberships-can-be-a-trap#2

June 13, 2022

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Soft skills are having a moment.

Employers are realizing that there are some tasks that computers actually can’t do—at least not yet! So the words soft skills have started getting a lot of traction. One survey found that 92% of employers value soft skills as much as hard skills!¹ But what exactly is a soft skill? For that matter, what’s a hard skill? Let’s take a closer look at these two different types of abilities!

Hard Skills

A hard skill is quantifiable. You can typically learn them through taking a class or reading a book. They’re almost always technically skills that can be used in very specific circumstances. For instance, knowing how to design a website or retrieve data are hard skills; they’re very narrow types of knowledge that require training and technical proficiency to master. Engineers, doctors, and accountants are just a few examples of jobs that are based around hard skills.

Soft Skills

Defining soft skills is more tricky. Have you ever met a leader whose vision inspires you to work harder? Or have a coworker who’s able to rise above a stressful situation and keep a level head? Those are all examples of soft skills. They’re essentially people skills applied to the workplace.

Which one is more important?

It’s tempting to think that hard skills dominate the economy. The digital revolution is changing the way we interact with the world and tech related hard skills are becoming essential in more and more fields. But that doesn’t mean soft skills are going anywhere; one study from LinkedIn found that 57% of employers value soft skills more than hard skills!²

It’s easy to see why. A room full of super geniuses armed with quantum computers is useless if they can’t communicate effectively and don’t have a plan! Skills like leadership, conflict resolution, and stress management are just as important as ever and employers know it.

So let’s say you’re looking for a job and you’ve started working on a resume. How do you highlight both your hard skills and your soft skills? Hard skills often shine the most on paper. Portfolios, degrees, certifications, and recommendations all demonstrate that you’re actually proficient.

Soft skills tend to come out in interviews. Make sure you show up early and dress professionally. Making eye contact, smiling when appropriate, and asking thoughtful questions can all show that you’re the type of person who works well on a team and won’t start unnecessary drama. Those little things may seem insignificant if you’ve got a Ph.D from a top university with years of experience under your belt, but you might be surprised by how much they matter to employers and your coworkers!

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¹ “Soft skills,” Livia Gershon, BBC, July 21, 2019 https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190719-soft-skills

² “Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: List of Examples for Your Resume,” Tom Gerencer, Zety, May 2, 2022, https://zety.com/blog/hard-skills-soft-skills

May 2, 2022

A Simple Trick to Turbocharge Your Productivity

A Simple Trick to Turbocharge Your Productivity

Today’s productivity lesson is brought to you by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As the commander of the Allied forces in WWII and president of the United States during the Cold War, his time was at a premium. And among his greatest challenges was discerning between the urgent and the important. When reflecting on his years of leadership, he said,

“… Whenever our affairs seem to be in crisis, we are almost compelled to give our first attention to the urgent present rather than to the important future.”¹

Lots of little fires can distract from the overarching goal. Sound familiar?

That’s where the concept of the Eisenhower Productivity Matrix comes from. It’s a simple tool to help you prioritize your focus on what really matters—your goals.

Here’s how it works…

Write four headers on a piece of paper:

Important and urgent

Unimportant and urgent

Important and not urgent

Unimportant and not urgent

Typically, this is done on a square like this…

But it also works if you leave it in list form.

Now, add tasks to each category.

Delivering that time-sensitive and critical document to your client? That’s important and urgent.

Positioning yourself to ask for a raise next year? Important, but not urgent—there’s no impending deadline for getting it done.

Restocking the office goodie bowl with treats for an unexpected client visit? Urgent, but not important—there’s a hard deadline, but there are likely more significant tasks on your to-do list.

Color coding your sticky-note drawer? Unimportant and not urgent (and you know it)!

Once you’ve got all your tasks written down, it’s time to start working.

Start with the tasks in the important and urgent category. These are your top priorities.

Then move on to the tasks in the important and not urgent category. These can be scheduled for later, but they’re still crucial to your success.

Here’s your secret sauce: The tasks that are unimportant but urgent can be delegated. This is what interns, newbies, assistants, and third-party contractors are for!

A big stress reliever can be to just delete unimportant and not urgent tasks. These are distractions from knocking out items in the other categories unless you have nothing else on your plate.

The Eisenhower Productivity Matrix is a powerful tool because it can help you see the big picture. It allows you to focus your attention on what’s truly necessary to accomplish, and it gives you permission to let go of the rest without feeling like you’re dropping the ball.

So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, try using the Eisenhower Productivity Matrix to regain a sense of clarity. It may be what you need to refocus on making your vision become a reality.

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¹ “Is Eisenhower a Productivity Myth?” Brian Dordevic, Alpha Efficiency, https://alphaefficiency.com/eisenhower-productivity-myth

April 18, 2022

The Science Backed Strategy to Feel Happier in 15 Minutes

The Science Backed Strategy to Feel Happier in 15 Minutes

Need a quick mood boost? Write a gratitude letter.

It’s easy. Think of a person who’s made a real difference in your life. Sit down at a desk with a piece of paper and a pen. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Share as much detail as you can about what this person did for you, the difference it’s made in your life, and how grateful you are for them.

Why? Because writing about what you’re grateful for has been shown to improve mental health. One study found that participants who wrote gratitude letters before their first visit with a counselor experience better outcomes than those who didn’t.1

The participants in the study didn’t even have to deliver the letters. The act of writing them was enough to experience benefits.

But if you want to supercharge your well-being, deliver the letter in person. Better yet, read it out loud to the recipient. It’s been proven to boost happiness for one to three months.² Seems strange, right? What if reading the letter out loud is… weird?

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be weird. If you can write the letter with sincerity and without any expectations, the person receiving it will likely feel touched, appreciated, and supported—all of which are great for their well-being, too.

So go ahead and give it a try! The next time you’re feeling down, write a letter of gratitude. It might just be the best 15 minutes you spend all day.

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¹ “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain,” Joshua Brown, Joel Wong, Greater Good Magazine, Jun 6, 2017 https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

² “My Life Is Awesome, so Why Can’t I Enjoy It?” Laurie R. Santos, The Aspen Institute, Jun 24, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EimJNJXcta4&t=1422s

March 28, 2022

Does Work-Life Balance Make Any Sense?

Does Work-Life Balance Make Any Sense?

It’s a well-known fact that work can be tough on your health and wellbeing.

But is it possible to have a healthy work-life balance? And if not, should everyone just resign themselves to the idea that they must choose between their careers or their families?

The term “work-life balance” is often used to describe the ideal of maintaining equal priorities between your work and personal life. But is this balance really possible? And if not, does that mean we should just accept that work will always come first?

There’s no denying that work can be demanding and time consuming. But many people feel that they can’t just leave their work at the office—it often follows them home in the form of stress, worries, or even arguments with loved ones.

On the other hand, it can be tough trying to fit in all the things you want to do with your personal time, and you may even feel like you’re sacrificing your career in order to have fulfilling experiences with your family.

So what’s the answer? Is work-life balance really possible, or is it just an unattainable fantasy?

The answer to this question is tricky, as it depends on individual circumstances. For some people, having a good work-life balance is definitely possible—they may have a job they love that doesn’t consume all their time, and they may be able to fit in personal commitments.

But for others, it’s a challenge. CEOs, lawyers, engineers, business owners, doctors, and high achievers often wake up to find they’ve spent their lives prioritizing their careers over their families, friends, and making memories. It’s one of the worst realizations a person can have.

Here’s a different take on the problem—what if the question isn’t about how to balance work and life, but about what you actually want?

Do you want a career full of travel and boardroom dealings?

Do you want a happy home surrounded by white picket fences?

Do you want peace, quiet, and a few acres with grass, trees, and streams?

Do you want limitless time to exercise your creativity?

These are tough questions with no easy answers. You may find yourself nodding to all of the above!

But here’s the truth—only one can be your top priority.

Decide what matters most for you. Then, integrate the rest into your vision of your life.

Prioritize your career above all else? Create a 5-year plan that will get you to your ideal job and then make it happen.

Value your personal relationships and family time above your career? Then build a business or take on freelance work that allows you the time and freedom to do the things you love outside of work.

The key is to find what works for you. And that means being honest with yourself about what you really want.

So ask yourself—what do you want? And how can you make it a reality?

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March 24, 2022

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

The Complete Guide to Buying Happiness

You’ve probably heard that money can’t buy happiness. But what if it could?

What if you were able to find a way of spending your money that made you happy, and the more you spent on it, the happier you became? Doesn’t sound possible, does it? But it IS entirely possible.

At least, that’s the premise of a paper written by scholars from Harvard, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Virginia. The title? “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right.”

The thesis? If you spend money right, it makes you happy. If you spend money wrong, it makes you feel… well, meh.

Here’s what they found…

Buy experiences, not things. The researchers found that people tend to be happier when they spend money on experiences rather than things. That’s because experiences provide us with opportunities to create memories, which can be recalled and enjoyed long after the experience is over. And as you get older, those memories become constant sources of joy, satisfaction, and happiness.

So if you’re looking to spend your money in a way that will make you happy, focus on things like travel, getaways, skydiving, sunsets, long walks, and conversations. Those will remain with you for the rest of your life.

Help others first. It’s a fact—social relations are critical for happiness. The better your relationships, the greater your happiness.

So it follows that one of the best ways to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to help others. This could mean donating money to charity, or simply spending time with friends and family.

Focus on little pleasures. Another way to spend your money in a way that will make you happy is to focus on little pleasures. This one seems counterintuitive—shouldn’t you save a whole bunch of money and spend it on something fancy?

However, the paper cites research that frequency is more powerful than intensity. Is eating a 12oz cookie better than eating a 6oz cookie? Absolutely. But is it two times better? Probably not. It’s a concept called diminishing marginal utility—the more you indulge in something, the less enjoyable it becomes.

What does that mean? Frequent day trips beat rare but epic vacations. Fun, quiet date nights once per week beat going all out twice a year.

Pay now, consume later. Again, this seems counterintuitive. But it makes sense when you think about it.

Consider the all-too-common alternative—buy now, pay later. First off, this model encourages rampant spending. Without facing immediate consequences, it’s just too tempting to rack up debt and buy stuff you don’t need.

But more than that, it entirely removes antici…

.. pation from the equation. And that’s half the fun!

So instead of whipping out the credit card, save up. Pay cash. Delay gratification. You’ll enjoy your purchase more, and you’ll be happier overall.

So there you have it! The complete guide to spending your money in a way that will make you happy. Just remember—experiences over things, helping others first, little pleasures, and pay now, consume later. Follow these tips, and you may find that your money’s doing its actual job—making you happy.

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January 26, 2022

Lessons You'll Learn on the Journey to Financial Freedom

Lessons You'll Learn on the Journey to Financial Freedom

Financial freedom is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Instead, think of it as a journey with things to experience and lessons to learn along the way.

If you’ve embarked on the adventure of building wealth, here are 8 lessons about yourself and the world you can learn.

1. Money isn’t everything, but it makes things easier.

The first lesson you’ll learn on your journey to financial freedom? There’s more to life than money. There are people you care about. Hobbies that inspire you. Conversations that restore and heal you. Causes that matter. Without those, life is empty.

But you’ll also learn that money can make life easier.

It allows you to enjoy those things, to take care of yourself and your family, and to do something that has a bigger impact than what you might otherwise be able to do.

2. No one ever regrets saving for retirement.

“I should have saved less for retirement and spent more on clothes.” —No one

3. You can’t spend your way to happiness.

You’ll learn that there’s no amount of spending that can solve your problems. Instead of shopping sprees and new toys, you’ll come to prize experiences and memories above all else.

4. If there’s anything you want in life, you’ll need to work for it.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you want to build wealth and live a life you can be proud of, it’s up to you. There is no magic secret, no get-rich-quick scheme. And with that comes self-satisfaction and humility. If you have something, you’ve earned it. If it was given to you, it came from someone else who earned it.

5. Debt free doesn’t mean rich—just debt free!

Debt freedom is a critical step. But it’s not the destination.

Once you’ve eliminated debt, celebrate it. But this is no time to pause. It’s time to devote your resources to building wealth.

6. A job or career should never define you.

You are not your job. At minimum, your job is a tool to support your family. At best, your career is an avenue to express your talents and passions. But either way, your job should be aligned to, and subordinate to, your ultimate values.

7. Excuses and denials will destroy your dreams and freedom.

You’re going to be tempted. Whether it’s an expensive new toy, a nicer car you can’t really afford, or just another latte at Starbucks, the siren song of “I deserve this” can be loud. So can the “safety” of not being yourself or doing things just to impress others.

But no matter what, when you hear these things in your head, it’s time to pause. Is this really what I want? What am I trying to accomplish? What are my values? Those are your guides to financial freedom and happiness.

8. You’re far more powerful than you think.

As you progress in your journey to financial freedom, the hope is that you’ll wake up one day and notice that things are better. You’re less stressed. Your house feels more in order. You’re actually getting somewhere. And you’ll realize that you did that. Your good decisions and discipline is what got you here.

You can do things you never thought possible. You’re far more powerful than you think.

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December 28, 2021

The Right Way to Spend

The Right Way to Spend

There’s endless advice about how not to spend money. And it’s often delivered with an undertone of shame.

“You’re spending WHAT on your one bedroom apartment? Why don’t you find roommates?”

“I’ll bet those lattes add up! That money could be going towards your retirement.”

“You still buy food? Dumpster diving is so much more thrifty!”

You get the picture.

But make no mistake—pruning back your budget is great IF overspending is stopping you from reaching your goals.

But what if you’re financially on target? What if your debt is gone, your family’s protected, your retirement accounts are compounding, your emergency fund is stocked, and you still have money to spare?

Good news—you don’t have to live like a broke college student. That’s not you anymore. Instead, you can spend money on the things you really care about, like…

• People you love

• Causes that inspire you

• Local businesses

• House cleaning services

• Travelling

• Building your dream house

• New skills and hobbies

This isn’t a call to wildly spend on everything that catches your momentary fancy. That might be symptomatic of underlying wounds that you’re trying to heal with money. It won’t work.

Instead, it’s a call to identify a few things that you’re truly passionate about. Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich fame calls these Money Dials.¹ They’re things like convenience, travel, and self-improvement that excite you.

Just imagine you have limitless money. What would be the first thing you spend it on? That’s your money dial.

And, so long as you’re financially stable, there’s no shame in spending money on those things. This is why you’ve worked so hard and saved so much—to provide yourself and your loved ones with a better quality of life. Give yourself permission to enjoy that!

So what are you waiting for? Start planning that backpacking adventure through Scandinavia, or drafting blueprints for your dream house, or decking out the spare room as a recording studio. You’ve earned it!

Not positioned to spend on your passions yet? That’s okay! For now, let your goals inspire you to take the first steps towards creating financial independence and the lifestyle that can follow.

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¹ “Money Dials: The Reason You Spend the Way You Do According to Ramit Sethi,” Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Oct 22, 2021 https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/money-dials/

December 16, 2021

Create Like Paul McCartney

Create Like Paul McCartney

There’s a scene in the new documentary The Beatles: Get Back that’s a masterclass in creativity.

Paul McCartney sits down in front of his massive amplifier, bass in hand. The Beatles are approaching a deadline, and they need new songs. Fast.

He starts strumming and humming. No words. Just fragments, ideas.

The other Beatles stare blankly. Just another day in the studio. George Harrison yawns.

Slowly, an opening hook emerges. “Yayayayaya gonna last.” It’s the melody of their soon-to-be smash hit “Get Back.” Before long, McCartney is yelping the chorus as the other Beatles join in.

No flashes of lightning. Not even a lightbulb. Just some good old fashioned trial and error.

He cycles through dozens of melodies that don’t work. McCartney could have easily thrown in the towel. Instead, he just sits there, testing idea after idea until he stumbles upon something that works. Something iconic.

The takeaway? When you’re creating, you’re going to come up with some not-so-great ideas. Expect them. Embrace them. Get them out of your system. But keep testing ideas until you find the one that clicks.

It’s not a comfortable process. But it gets easier. Remember, Paul McCartney had written hundreds of songs in the years before “Get Back.” He knew from experience that he needed to sit down and work through all the duds before he could uncover a smash hit.

So the next time a situation demands your creativity, do it the McCartney way. Start throwing ideas out there. Who knows—you might stumble upon greatness.

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August 18, 2021

The Non-Financial Investment That Can Dictate Your Success

The Non-Financial Investment That Can Dictate Your Success

Some factors that influence your success are out of your control.

You can’t change your height or birthday or birth order or a dozen tiny variables which can all impact your success.¹

But there’s one factor that radically impacts your financial and personal success that you can control. And it impacts everyone, regardless of their background or income…

That’s right. Relationships are critical predictors of your life success in every category.

A Harvard study followed hundreds of students and inner-city boys from the 1930s to the present. The emotional, financial, and physical well-being of the subjects were regularly examined for almost 80 years.

The results were stunning…

Loneliness was as deadly as smoking and drinking Stable relationships protect from memory loss² Men with warm relationships earned $150,000 annually on average than men without³

The takeaway is clear. The healthier your relationships, the greater your potential for achieving success.

Practically, that has implications…

1. Prioritize your family over your career. Don’t think that you’re doing your family and finances a favor by working long and stressful hours. Invest in the ones you love, and you might be surprised by the long-term career benefits.

2. Examine roadblocks to creating healthy relationships. High-quality friendships and marriages don’t fall into your lap. If you have a track record of complicated and dramatic relationships, seek to understand the cause. You may need to enlist the help of a mental health professional. It’s well worth the investment!

3. Seek mentors. They’re a source of perspective, encouragement, and can help to overcome your weaknesses. And unlike friends (who might be less objective), mentors can be completely devoted to helping you meet your goals.

Relationships aren’t always easy. Like your career, they require mindfulness, intention, and effort to succeed. But they’re well worth the time, attention, and sacrifice.

If you haven’t recently, take stock of your life satisfaction and relationship quality. Then, talk with a loved one or friend about steps you can take to make improvements going forward. It might just change your life.

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¹ “26 surprising things that can make you successful,” Shana Lebowitz and Rachel Gillett, Business Insider, Jul 20, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/surprising-things-that-affect-success-2017-1

² “Good genes are nice, but joy is better,” Liz Mineo, The Harvard Gazzette, Apr 11, 2017, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/

³ “Love and Money: The Surprising Wealth Predictor,” Partners 4 Prosperity, Nov 17, 2017, https://partners4prosperity.com/love-and-money/

August 9, 2021

Why Optimism Pays Off

Why Optimism Pays Off

Optimism is the fuel that keeps us going.

It’s what makes life worth living and pushes us to reach for our goals, no matter how difficult they may be. And it turns out optimism has a financial upside as well, according to an article from Harvard Business Review.

In fact, people who are optimistic make more money than those who are pessimistic or neutral about their future prospects, and they are more likely to get promoted. They also tend to have healthier money habits—they’re more likely to save for large purchases and have emergency funds than pessimists.¹

Why? Because optimists are better equipped to handle and adapt to challenges. They’re more likely to ask for, accept, and use help. As the article points out, it’s because they expect good things to happen. Even better, they believe in the power of their actions.

That belief is what propels them to take charge of their lives and seek out opportunities. It’s the same belief that enables a major league baseball player to want to win the game when he’s down two strikes in the bottom of the ninth, or an author to hold his book in his hands after countless rejections from publishers.

So if you’re interested in making an investment in yourself and your future, cultivate a mindset of optimism. It will help you reach your goals. And it’s especially important when it comes to your money, where optimism can help you break free of mindset barriers that prevent you from building a more secure financial future.

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¹ “The Financial Upside of Being an Optimist,” Michelle Gielan, Harvard Business Review, Mar 12, 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-financial-upside-of-being-an-optimist

October 21, 2020

Identify Your Ideal Mentor

Identify Your Ideal Mentor

Mentorship is a key to success.

The numbers confirm what we already know. Students who regularly met with a mentor were 52% less likely to skip school and 46% more likely to say no to drugs.¹ At-risk adults with mentorship expressed more interest in pursuing higher education. It makes sense; a mentor can offer a unique perspective on your circumstances and also help you talk through the situations you face. There isn’t a person on the planet who wouldn’t benefit from having a mentor at some stage in their life.

But finding the perfect mentor for you? That’s where the challenge begins.

Building a mentoring relationship with someone can be time consuming work that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are three essential indicators to help you identify the right person to be your mentor.

Do you want to be like this person? <br> There are plenty of high-achieving, high-earning individuals that you probably wouldn’t want in your life. That’s not to say you can’t learn from someone who doesn’t share your values, has totally different interests, and works in a field you find less than stimulating. But a mentor should be a person who you strive to imitate. Ask yourself these questions… Who inspires you to work harder and smarter? Who do you admire for their integrity and kindness? Who do you find yourself emulating and feeling good about it? That’s the person you want as a mentor.

Can you develop a friendship with this person? <br> Mentorship is NOT just having an older buddy around you can swap jokes with. There must be a real bond of friendship for it to actually work. It’s worth considering what you look for in a friend. Do you seek someone who respects your decisions and opinions? Are you comfortable with appropriate and constructive criticism? Or do you surround yourself just with video game partners and rec league teammates? Nothing wrong with those friends or acquaintances, but a mentor must also have the interpersonal skills and emotional maturity to achieve a deeper level of connection. It’s the only way they’ll be able to speak into your life, challenge you, and help you level up.

Will this person challenge you? <br> Ultimately, a mentor is someone who pushes you to be better. Someone who fuels your personal growth and accelerates your maturing process. That means they can’t shy away from taking you to task for your failures. But they’ll also celebrate your victories with you and won’t take credit for your accomplishments. They’re not afraid of pointing out your weaknesses, while at the same time giving you tools to overcome them and move on. The right mentor for you realizes that the truth is a powerful tool of change, that encouragement is the best motivator, and that accomplishment is the ultimate reward.

Let’s be clear; there’s nothing wrong with casual, relaxed friends. Not every hangout has to be an intense brainstorming session or motivational seminar. But don’t neglect the relationships that will push and challenge you to grow. Look for the people in your life who inspire you and start a conversation. Ask if they want to grab some coffee and talk about how they do it. Put in the legwork building a real mentorship with someone you want to be like and watch the fruits of that friendship flourish!

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July 29, 2020

Tips For Working At Home

Tips For Working At Home

You’ve most likely become a work-at-home pro over the last few months.

At this point you’re probably perfectly comfortable with your routine and feel like you’re highly productive!

But you also might need a refresher on some working at home basics. Even at the office—where you’re more likely to be held accountable—it’s easy to slide into bad habits. Here’s a quick rundown of some tips to help you get back in your groove!

Start strong <br> Sleeping in is almost always a temptation. Crawling out of bed, hitting the snooze button until it breaks, and rushing out the door just feel like a routine to many of us! Working from home can compound this. Suddenly, you have the luxury of peacefully sleeping until 8:55am, making some tasteless instant coffee, and booting up your laptop in your PJs right before your 9 o’clock video call. Sounds like the life, right?

But this ritual of jumping right from your mattress to your dining room table/temporary desk can have serious drawbacks. Staring at a computer screen while barely keeping your eyelids open is an incredibly uninspiring way to start a day. It’s much better to do things that help you wake up and get your mind focused. Make breakfast! Go for a walk! Meditate! Use that time you would normally spend looking at brake lights for something productive.

Make a workspace <br> Homes are (hopefully) relaxing. They’re where we go at the end of a long, stressful day to binge watch shows, eat delicious food, and spend time with our families and friends. Those associations can make working from home tricky. You might notice that the temptations to watch TV, talk to a roommate, or reorganize your kitchen for the 100th time are interfering with your job performance.

The solution to this problem is to create a workspace in your home that is dedicated to being productive. Remind your family that you love them, but that you’ll need some space when you’re in your home office. Move TVs and other distractions out and create a place where you can focus. And it’s probably wise to avoid setting yourself up in your bedroom unless absolutely necessary!

Always communicate <br> One of the biggest downsides of working at home is that it can strain communication with your coworkers. On one hand, that’s probably not awful. Less chatter with your office buddies about the latest reality TV show might be a welcome productivity booster! But collaborating with your team, getting approvals from bosses, and receiving feedback are essential parts of getting projects done and growing your skillset.

So don’t go off the grid. Stay in touch with your colleagues. Ask your boss for feedback. Get advice from your mentors. Staying vocal keeps work moving forward, it keeps you socialized and feeling accomplished, and it reminds the higher-ups that you still exist!

Whether you’ve finally decided to upgrade your work-at-home game or you just needed a reminder, try out these tips and let me know how it goes!

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July 27, 2020

Power Naps

Power Naps

It’s 3:00 pm on a Wednesday and you’re running out of steam.

You didn’t get much sleep last night and keeping your eyes open feels impossible. The energy drinks and coffees and caffeine pills gave you a quick boost in the morning, but your yawns are getting deeper and that stack of papers is starting to look like a comfy pillow. What can you do?

It turns out that a quick power nap might be the solution to your midday energy slump. But there’s an art and a science to productive sleep. Here’s a quick guide to power naps!

The science of sleep <br> Sleep is surprisingly complicated. Even though we all need it to function and survive, scientists haven’t been able to figure out exactly why our bodies and brains have to shut down for about 8 hours every night. Theories exist (you can read those here), but there’s no definitive answer. For the purpose of power naps, what’s important is understanding what happens while you sleep.

Your body goes through 4 different stages while it sleeps. The first three are essentially your body’s transitioning from a light sleep (stage 1) to a deep sleep (stage 3). These are followed by the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage. This is when your brain processes information and when most people experience dreams. You then start the cycle over at stage one and repeat. A full four stage cycle happens over about 90 minutes, and it occurs multiple times when you get the recommended 8 hours of sleep.

The art of power naps <br> The key to nap powerfully is to control when you wake up in the sleep cycle. The goal is to wake up during the lightest stage of sleep. That normally occurs within 20 to 30 minutes after drifting off. Anything more than that will have you waking up in the middle of a deep stage of sleep. Ever emerge from a nap feeling like you’re on a different planet? Then you know how awful waking up too far into a sleep cycle can feel!

The benefit of power naps <br> A quick nap that doesn’t go through all the sleep cycles can have big benefits. It can boost alertness and motor function for up to two to three hours.(1) And it normally doesn’t produce the stress-inducing and hyperactive side effects of caffeine. Naps that go over 30 minutes can still have benefits as well, despite the grogginess.(2)

The greatest drawback of the power nap is how inconvenient it can be in an office setting. But if you find yourself working at home, it might be worth developing a nap routine. Skip the mid-afternoon coffee, let everyone know you’ll be unavailable for around 30 minutes, get some quick shut-eye and see how it goes!

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March 25, 2020

Morning Routines Of Winners

Morning Routines Of Winners

Mornings are rough.

Waking up from sweet sleep to a blaring alarm is never fun, especially if you’re dreading the day ahead. But there’s a better way to approach those opening hours. Here are some tips for getting a step ahead in the morning and building momentum to carry you through the day.

Wake up early <br> Waking up early is easier said than done. The snooze button is all too enticing when we’ve stayed up the night before and want “just ten more minutes” of peaceful sleep. But it’s also the enemy of having productive mornings. Resetting your sleep schedule and waking up (and actually getting out of bed) earlier means that you have more time for yourself every day. You start off in total control of how you spend your time instead of scurrying around trying to get ready for work. It’s not easy, but an investment in your morning is one of the best decisions you can make!

Eat breakfast <br> Starting off your morning with a healthy breakfast gives you the energy you need to rev up. It fuels your body and brain to make the most of those early hours. Who wants to wake up at the crack of dawn and try to get stuff done only to be starving the whole time?

Plan out your day <br> Mapping out your day has a few benefits. Structure is almost always a good thing. Being able to clearly see what needs to be done and when can help you prioritize and make sure things don’t slip through the cracks. But seeing a problem on paper sometimes takes the dread out of it and makes it more mentally manageable. That’s sometimes all you need to get out there and conquer a problem.

Just remember that it takes time to reset your sleep schedule. Make sure that you avoid screens before bedtime, hit the hay early, and avoid caffeine late in the day. Start moving your alarm earlier every week and be patient! Apply some of these tips and you’ll be going on the offensive every morning in no time.

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March 16, 2020

Can You Buy Happiness?

Can You Buy Happiness?

Let’s face it: There’s a relationship between money and happiness.

Anyone who’s looked at their savings account during a market correction or has lived paycheck to paycheck knows that not having enough money can be incredibly stressful. But there’s also a fair chance that you know of someone who’s wealthy (i.e., seems to have plenty of money) but is often miserable. So what exactly is the relationship between money and happiness? Let’s start by looking a little closer at happiness.

Happiness is really complicated <br> There is no single key to happiness. Close relationships, exercise, and stress management all may play a role in increasing emotional well-being. Little things like journaling, going on a walk, and listening to upbeat music can also help lift your mood. But none of those factors alone makes you happy—most of them actually turn out to be interrelated. It’s hard to maintain strong personal relationships if you take out your work stress on your friends! Assuming that money alone will outweigh a bad relationship, high stress, and an unhealthy lifestyle is a skewed mindset.

Money contributes to happiness <br> That being said, money can certainly contribute to happiness. For one, It’s a metric we use to figure out how much we’ve accomplished in our lives. It helps to boost confidence in our achievements if we’ve been handsomely rewarded. But more importantly, the absence of money can be a huge cause of dismay. It’s easy to see why; constantly wondering if you can pay your bills, fending off debt collectors, and worrying about retirement can take a serious emotional toll. In fact, having more money essentially only supports greater emotional well-being until you reach an income of about $75,000 (1). People felt better about how much they had accomplished past that point, but their day-to-day emotional lives pretty much stayed the same.

What’s the takeaway? <br> In short, you can’t technically buy happiness. However, taking control of your financial life definitely has emotional benefits. You may increase your feeling of wellbeing if your income gets boosted to a point, but it’s not a silver bullet that will solve all of your problems. Instead, try to think of your finances as one of the many factors in your life that has to be balanced with things like friendship, adventure, and generosity.

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