Friday, February 29, 2008

When is the Best Time to Start?

I get this question all the time.

If I wanted to turn my financial future around by paying off debt, when would be a good time to start?

I'm tired of my job and it's sucking all of the passion out of me. When should I start to develop a plan to move into the work I love?

The answer is... now!

That's right, if you're stuck doing the same things over and over and not getting anywhere, what's stopping you? Make the decision to begin the transition. Search the internet and learn all you can about the improvements that you want to make. Seek others out that have made similar changes in their life.

Take in all the free information you can. Study and become a student of the change you wish to develop in your life. Nothing happens until you make that important decision.

Create a tailored eating plan

If you’ve ever had to guess how many daily servings of something you should be eating, you can stop guessing. The USDA has an excellent tool on their website where you choose the amount of calories you consume daily (anywhere from 1,000-3,200) and it creates a food guide pyramid specifically designed for you.

The tool is easy to follow because instead of telling you amounts in servings, they tell you how many cups or ounces. Most people overestimate what a serving size is, but by using this tool you can measure out exactly how much you should have.

For instance, if you are on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, it tells you that you should be consuming 2 cups of fruit each day. For something like dairy, where it’s not as clear cut, you are instructed to have 3 cups daily, but 1 ½ ounces of cheese counts for 1 cup.

The worksheet also allows you to track what you eat and set goals for yourself.

You can find this great tool here:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What's Stopping You?

I've been coaching long enough now that I'm seeing more and more people that call or visit to get more information on our services and then decide not to go through with it.

Months and even years later it seems, those same people show back up again with the same problems, only in much deeper despair this time.

I talk, write and teach all the time about the main obstacle in the way of us reaching our goals is actually... ourselves! This isn't just a problem for those seeking help from me and my staff, but I see the problem in myself as well.

I've come a long way from where I was just 5 or 10 years ago. Back then I would have done anything I could to do things on my own. Why admit defeat when I can just pour more work into reaching my goals or making an improvement in my life?

Of course there has always been a lot of frustration around putting my nose to the grindstone and it almost always costs me more than hiring professional help.

For instance, in the beginning stages of building our business from the ground-up, there were plenty of things I had to figure out on my own. I was a one-man show back then and didn't have much money to have others take some of the tasks off of my hands.

When I realized how much time energy and frustration I was pouring into my work (and neglecting my family at the same time) it was time to make a change. I was doing the same thing many of my clients do!

Recognizing that I needed professional help, I sought the advice of a business coach to help me improve the things I was doing wrong, begin programs that I hadn't started yet, and really improve how the business was run. I very easily recouped the money I spent in just a few weeks.

I am so passionate about the need to have a professional in my life that I now coach in many areas including finance, career & life direction, and I also work with many of Dave Ramsey's Financial Counselors as they seek to help more people and improve their businesses.

What is standing in the way of you reaching your goals?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The power of stress

When people think of things they can do to improve their health there are usually two things that top the list: eat better and exercise more. Of course these two things are very important as they are the basis for losing weight. But if you really want to improve your health there's another important thing missing.

Reducing the stress in your life is just as important, if not more so, than losing weight. While some stress is good for you, having too much of it affects your sleep, which reduces your productivity, increases your blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, and it can even affect your fertility. The list of things that stress impacts could go on and on.

I think you will find that by taking control of your life in other areas you will begin to feel much less stressed. Don't underestimate the power that stress has over your health outcomes. Determine ways that you can begin to reduce or eliminate it from your life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Addicted to work

If you own a blackberry, or a similar device, it’s likely that your work/life balance has been thrown off. Blackberrys, sometimes referred to as “Crackberrys”, tie a person to their work no matter time of day or location. People bring them on vacation to stay connected to the office, bring them to meetings to stay up to date on emails, and carry them around on the weekends.

One company in Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CCI) has put a ban on Blackberry use, which I think is a really great idea. Workers are prohibited from using them for work related matters at night, during weekends, and on holidays. If you think you are becoming addicted to your Blackberry to the point where you check it several times over the weekend or while you are on vacation, you may want to consider taking a break.

It’s important to disconnect yourself from work at times, especially if you are spending quality time with a friend or coworker. Your health tends to suffer when the only thing you can focus on is work. The next time you take vacation try completely disconnecting from work and notice how refreshed you are when you return to the office.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why Work for a Living?

Why do so many of us work for a living? After all, work implies drudgery, mindlessness, boring duties and dissatisfaction. I don't work for a living; rather I live for what I do. I have created the ideal life for my family and myself, and have based what I do for income around that. Did you know that there are many cultures around the world that do not even have a word for 'retirement'?

We have known for a long time that in North the United States we are a 'special' culture. There is no other country in the world with the wealth and status that we enjoy that has the money problems that we are plagued with. Along the same line, people in most other cultures do not 'work'. Rather, they simply do what they love each and every day, and get compensated enough to make a living. That is not to say they do not do well.

If you travel much around the world as my wife and I have, you will notice that people are generally very happy. You will not find many people that slave away doing something they hate just to get by. Our mentality in the U.S. is driven quite a bit by the fact that we are in over our heads with debt because we most likely bought things we could not afford. You will not find many new houses in Paris, Rome, or Mendoza Argentina. You do not need a new home if your neighbor just bought one that is 200 years old. The only Joneses in the world live right here in the United States. We want new stuff and we want it now. That mentality simply perpetuates our culture's belief system.

So in planning your career, first plan your life. Decide where you want to live and what kind of lifestyle you want to have. Do not simply jump into it, but plan to pay off a lot of your debt and put controls in place to make the transition.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Write it down

I cannot express the importance of writing down your goals. Some of you may not believe that it's as important as it actually is, but maybe this real-life study will help convince you.

A study was done with the 1953 graduating class at Yale. Researchers asked participants 3 questions:
Have you set goals?
Have you written them down?
Do you have a plan to accomplish them?

It turned out that only 3% of the Yale class had written down their goals and had a plan to achieve them. 84% had no specific goals at all, other than to "enjoy themselves."

20 years later, the same class was surveyed and it was found that the 13% who had goals that were not in writing were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84% of students who had no goals at all. But, the 3% of who had written down their goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of graduates combined.

Think of what would happen if you wrote down your goals for all areas of your life. Not only would you be earning more, but you would be healthier, you would have better relationships, and I can bet your level of happiness would be pretty high.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Have Nowhere Else to Go From Here

I met with some clients who are in there mid-40s today. The wife emphatically stated that they have no savings for retirement and if they drop the asking price of their home (in a different state) they'll be left with no equity to pay off some bills. Being "mid-life" they both felt their entire life was coming to an end and they have nothing to show for it.

I was able to open their eyes to their true possibilities as it relates to how they truly position themselves for the next 20-25 years of their lives.

I have seen some people do some amazing things during their 50s and 60s. Many times it's like they've begun fresh and really created the life they truly want to live. A career is a subset of that ideal life, as well as a tremendous income to go along with it.

Just because you "feel" old doesn't mean that you have nothing to offer. Don't expect to have the rest of your life figured out at 19 years old when you're in college. You change and so does the rest of the world. Change with it, or create something new that hasn't been done.

You will truly be amazed at the possibilities that exist! You'll find that you truly can start with nothing at 50 years old and be a millionaire at 60. I've seen it happen many times.

Jumping back in

When you find yourself out of your routine it can be hard to imagine getting back into it. This is especially true for exercise. Going for days or weeks without getting the exercise you're used to can lead to a pattern that cuts it out completely.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that the easiest way to get back into your routine is to just jump right back in. I was recently on vacation for a week and easily slipped from my normal exercise routine. Coming home, I was dreading starting back up at the gym. It's so easy to make excuses when you have so much to catch up on and so little motivation.

On a last minute decision I trekked over to the gym thinking I could at least do 30 minutes of cardio, if nothing else. By the time I got started I decided that since I had made it all the way there I might as well do a little more. By the end, I had incorporated an ab and strength training workout as well.

When you think you just can't do it, start small and see where that takes you. I promise that you will never leave the gym kicking yourself for going. It's almost always worth it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Making goals visual

Most people would get pretty overwhelmed by saying they'd like to lose 100 pounds, or even 50. It's not easy to see how you can ever reach that point when you're at the beginning.

Something that might work better for you is to set a goal to accomplish something you aren't able to do now, but that you will be able to do once you're healthier. For instance, you might set a goal to fit into the jeans you wore 5 years ago. How about a goal to run 2 miles without stopping for a break?

I just read an article about a woman who set a goal of being able to wrap a bath towel around her body. After being able to do so, she found out she had lost 107 pounds! If setting a goal of a specific weight loss number is not working for you, try another tactic along these lines.

Rebate Thoughts

While Congress is attempting to refund some of our tax money this year, the reasons behind the refund do not gel well for what most people need to do with excess money.

Just like when the rebates were offered in 2001, the government's ultimate plan is to stimulate the economy. Their hope is that we will spend the money to buy things that we 'need'. What about the horrendous news that American's have a horrible, in fact negative, savings rate. We spend more than we make! We seem to have forgotten that fact.

The mindset of most Americans that will be receiving a rebate is that the government is ‘giving us money’. The problem with this mindset is found in the fact that this money is really our money that the government decided not to use. The line of thinking is a little different when all of a sudden this is my money instead of a gift. This is not a gift!

While it is not the last problem, another big one I have with the rebates is due to the fact this it is a redistribution of wealth, plain and simple. While many upper-income tax payers will not receive a rebate, many lower-income earners will receive a rebate, even if they did not pay any taxes!

I can argue that the hardest working Americans are taxed unfairly, while those that do not work hard enough to rise above the pack are not taxed their fair share. The upcoming tax rebates simply point out even more so how unfair our current tax system really is.

What will you do with your rebate? Leave your comments below...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Who Cares About Weaknesses

They aren't important. There are a lot of things that I'm horrible at, but I'm not trying to improve most of those areas.

Instead, I'm focusing on what I'm really good at and trying to make those areas of my life even better.

Many of us get bogged down trying to make up for deficiencies in our lives, when the area of focus can be better spent elsewhere. It's great to improve all areas of our lives, but it is simply impossible to be great, or even good, at everything.

Find what you do well and make that your focus. Where does your passion lie? That's the path you should follow. If you don't like accounting, outsource it. If speaking isn't your thing, write articles.

Don't focus on the negatives in life. Instead focus on the positives and make them even better!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Match Your Job to Your Life

I believe that our jobs should be well matched to our lives. In fact, I think our jobs should be just as matched to our lives as our mates are.

It makes no sense to me to see people working somewhere for little (or much!) pay just so they can pay the bills or be responsible to their families. While taking care of a family is extremely important I think that we should develop our passions into income and be responsible to our families and ourselves at the same time.

Recently GM has offered early buyouts for 70,000 of its workers. While finances are a key aspect in most decisions, I do not think they should be the main deciding factor. Pay rates define a very small portion of our lives.

Many people have come to me wanting to know if they should take an early buyout or stay and risk being laid off in the coming months. The only question I have is "Do you like your job?" If you don't like your job, why are you there in the first place?

Of course you cannot just take the money and jump. First, make sure you have a comprehensive plan in place to be sure that you are jumping to something, rather than just away from something else. You may have to re-examine yourself before making such a life-altering decision. Do not take this process lightly.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Eat more vegetables

I've always heard that most people do not eat the daily recommended amount of vegetables and I've always found that hard to believe. For me, eating vegetables is very second nature. I never sit down for a meal that doesn't include vegetables (except breakfast, of course) and I usually end up eating more vegetables than anything else. So whenever I hear that people aren't eating enough I can't figure out why. Until now.

I've been on vacation for almost a week now, which means I have to eat out for every single meal. It amazes me what a lack of vegetables there are in restaurant food! Although I've been picking up fruit as often as possible to eat throughout the day, there aren't very many options for vegetables.

I've had sushi, Asian fusion, pizza, sandwiches, and seafood. Not one of those meals included a vegetable, unless you count the mushrooms and onions on my pizza. I have been craving vegetables but haven't had much luck coming across them.

So now I'm better able to understand that the real problem with people not eating enough vegetables is because so many Americans choose to eat out for their meals. If you're someone who eats meals out rather than staying home and cooking, be sure that you're taking every opportunity to add vegetables to your meal. Add a side salad to your meal as an appetizer or add on a side of vegetables. Pile as many vegetables as you can on your pizza or order items such as omelette's or sandwiches with vegetables.

Get our of Your Way

Many times I find the biggest obstacle that stands between success is simply me. I tend to sabotage my own success, either out of fear, a lack of understanding on what is needed to reach my goals, or because I simply do not have the right mindset to reach the goals I have set in place.

I find that seeking help from an expert is many times the best solution. I've been coached by many people throughout my life, including professional coaches, friends and family.

I'm been known to seek out someone doing what I want to do or at the same point in life that I want to get to. I talk with them and take plenty of notes.

Make each day and each person you meet an experience to learn from. Apply small changes to your life one after the other and you will reach your goals.

Get our of Your Way

Many times I find the biggest obstacle that stands between success is simply me. I tend to sabotage my own success, either out of fear, a lack of understanding on what is needed to reach my goals, or because I simply do not have the right mindset to reach the goals I have set in place.

I find that seeking help from an expert is many times the best solution. I've been coached by many people throughout my life, including professional coaches, friends and family.

I'm been known to seek out someone doing what I want to do or at the same point in life that I want to get to. I talk with them and take plenty of notes.

Make each day and each person you meet an experience to learn from. Apply small changes to your life one after the other and you will reach your goals.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Don't be Afraid of the Fear

Many times we are halted in our tacks by something that play a big role in our minds, but has no real bearing in our lives. Many of us worry and fear things that never even come close to happening about 80% of the time.

Don't let something like fear stand in the way of your dreams. Instead, tackle that fear one small step at a time.

If you lie awake at night because you fear channeling your true passion into a new business, then start small by designing a business plan. Show that it works on paper, then develop the steps further to put that new business in place. Your chances of success are much better with a plan anyways.

When the fear of public speaking keeps you awake at night, don't focus on it. Instead of making the mainstay of building your business speaking in front of others, write articles, be a guest on a radio show, or even start your own podcast.

Don't let something like fear overwhelm you and prevent you from doing something meaningful in your life. Channel that fear into something useful and use it to energize you and put you on the path to prosperity!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don't be a Cheapskate

Of course everyone wants to cut their expenses and get out of debt. Most times behavior change is not only needed, but also a necessity. That doesn't mean that you can't have fun.

Just because our family is concentrating very heavily on finishing our fully-funded emergency fund, that's no excuse for us not to enjoy life.

It's the night before Valentine's Day and my wife and 2 girls are all asleep. I just finished blowing up 30 pink and red balloons that I'm going to leave on the floor in the living room. My girls will be more than surprised and excited, but I really just want to show them that I love them. I'm sure my wife Christine will appreciate it as well.

It's my chance to show them how much I love them without going overboard and buying heavily into a materialistic holiday (have you been in the holiday section at Target?). We're big on showing our love every day of the year.

Enjoyment level = 100%
Daddy's a fun guy level = 100%

Grand Total = $2.50

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

But I Can't Find the Time

Have you ever heard that one? Have you ever told that to someone else? It's really not a good excuse when it comes down to it. I can think of plenty that are better, including: the house was on fire all weekend, we were hit by a tornado/hurricane/flood/hail storm, my mother-in-law was in town, etc.

We really are responsible for the choices we make. If you think something is more important than losing that extra 8 pounds, getting out of debt, or developing a plan to do the work you love, then you just made the decision to stay right where you are for a while. You, and only you, can change that whenever you want.

Here's a good place to start... unplug your TV. With just 4-5 hours per week you can completely change your family tree.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Look at what you eat

I bet most people would be surprised to learn how many calories they're eating throughout the day that they don't even really realize. If you are trying to lose weight but don't know how you can improve your diet, I suggest taking 2-3 days and writing down every single thing you're eating.

When you do this, it's important to write down even bites of things you consume because those little snacks can really add up. You might realize that you're eating an extra 300-400 calories a day.

Once you know where you're expending your extra calories learn to cut those things out. By avoiding the extra calories you could be losing an extra pound every 9-11 days.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tax season is here

There are plenty of scams running rampant around the internet, but especially so this time of year. Remember, if the IRS needs to get a hold of you, they will not send an email.

Use some common sense to avoid becoming the person to lose money in a scam. If no one fell for these things, they wouldn't be so common.

Your bank will never needs your social security number, your account information never needs to be updated from an email, someone didn't just buy something from you on eBay if you haven't listed anything for sale, the email from someone you've never heard of with the offer of a job you didn't apply for is not legit, and the foreign minister from Zimbabwe does not need you to help him recover his $1,000,000.

Friday, February 8, 2008

13 ways to be healthy

According to WebMD there are 13 healthy things you can do to maximize your chances of living a longer, stronger life. Try incorporating at least some of these, whenever you can.

Eat breakfast every morning
Add fish and Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet
Get enough sleep (7-10 hours)
Make social connections
Practice good dental hygiene
Take up a hobby
Protect your skin
Snack the healthy way (when you’re hungry between meals)
Drink water and eat dairy
Drink tea (decaffeinated is better)
Take a daily walk (every 20 steps burns 1 calorie!)

I hope that you can find at least one new item on this list to incorporate in your life.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The talk test

It isn’t difficult to tell whether you are working at the right intensity, even without a heart rate monitor. A generally accepted guideline, call the “Talk Test” will indicate your level of intensity and give you a good gauge of whether you need to push yourself harder, or slow down a bit.

When you’re exercising, try carrying on a conversation with someone, or if you’re alone recite something like the Pledge of Allegiance. If you can carry on a light conversation while exercising then you are in a good intensity range. As soon as your speech starts to slow, break, or you are having difficulties you know you’re working too hard.

Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine have discovered that those who can carry on light conversations are at the appropriate intensity level, even corresponding to exercise prescriptions (like the target heart rate) from doctors or trainers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Get a job

It is no secret that there are only two things you can do to change your financial situation. You can either raise your income or lower your outgo (cut your expenses). On the income side there are many things I suggest to clients to help get out of debt faster. Each of these I have either done or would do myself. When developing your plan, decide what will work best for you, but focus on doing whatever it takes to become debt free, except for you home, within 24 months or less.

Many people are looking for a flexible extra job to bump the monthly income a bit. Slightly flexible jobs include delivering pizza and newspapers. With these you should be able to work around your normal 9 - 5.

For something more flexible, how about delivering phone books? It's that time of year right now and you can work whenever you want, as long as you complete your route. To deliver the AT&T phone book, call 1-800-422-1955 and navigate to extension 4. The representative will take your information and pass it along to the local outlet in your city. They will call you with further information.

Delivering phone books is temporary work, but any extra income helps, especially if you are hurting for something beyond your normal take home pay.

When my wife and I were aggressively working to get out of debt, I remained open to any opportunity that came along. Visit and navigate to their careers section. While UPS may be similar, I only have experience with FedEx's process. You will create a free account at FedEx and identify which jobs you are interested in. When a position opens you will receive an automated email with info if you are interested in interviewing.

The lowest paid FedEx position I ever came across paid about $13 / hour and only required about 12 hours per week. These jobs may be of interest to you if you need insurance coverage and cannot obtain any on your own.

Keep in mind that anything you do for extra income should remain temporary and should be done as a short-term plan to aggressively fight your way out of debt. You never know when you may develop an interest in something else and change your career direction. Are you passionate about your work?