Saturday, March 28, 2009

Testing Live Streaming of the Radio Show; What do you think?

We're testing and might be rolling this out soon. Is this something you think would be interesting? Please respond and let me know.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don't let the Economy Dictate Your Finances

Yes, the economy is changing. Should you be alarmed? Yes and no. If you are reading this and over fifty or sixty years old, you may be seeing your portfolio taking a nose dive to somewhere south of the equator. If that does not scare you I don’t know what will.

Even if you are only thirty or forty years old, a sudden drop in your retirement funds can make the sweat pop up around your eyes. What is a seasoned or new investor to do? The answer: not much.

I for one do not want to live day-to-day with changing rules. I’d be restless all the time and stressed out. The good news is that I have never bought into the world’s economy and I never will. The only economy I invest in is God’s economy, and thankfully, it stays very consistent. 

The rules today are the same as the rules yesterday. Wouldn’t it allow you sleep better at night if you knew that no matter what news was announced in Washington yesterday, the rules of investing and handling your money never changed?

They never change for my family. No matter what happens in the world’s economy the same rules still apply. Getting out of debt and staying debt-free is always a good idea; in a good economy or bad. Investing for the long-term is always a good idea as well.

Never let a few people who did not apply common sense principles to their business practices determine your course of action.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Your Life, 2.0

The world is changing at breakneck speed. If you have not noticed, now is the time to open your eyes to the blazing changes going on all around you. Most of us are walking around with more memory in our pockets today than was used to put the first man on the moon. While you may feel stuck in the same place, it is even more likely that you have actually been going backwards.

To keep up you have to invest in continual learning. Want to find that perfect job? After finding out how God made you, you have to invest in a number of tactics to land that dream career. Gone are the days when you can answer a newspaper ad or ask a friend.

Firstly, if you do not own the number one spot on google when you search your name, you have to do something about it. Nearly every employer does a background check on you. If you sleazy MySpace page comes to the top, you must do something about it.

Purchase the domain name for your name and set up a free website. You will pay a few bucks per year but you have the final say as to what employers and other think about you.

Another free option is to set up a LinkedIn account. Last night I was able to connect with hundreds of the best minds in Raleigh, NC because of LinkedIn. Establish your profile and keep others in touch with what you are doing on a regular basis.

Facebook is a popular application for fun as well as business. Create your profile, link to your website and blog and present something that prospective employers and those wishing to do business with you see as pleasing and worth while. A buying decision, and deciding to hire you for a position is a buying decision, comes down to an emotional and personal connection. I would hire a qualified friend before someone else that is qualified and yet unknown to me.

A blog will keep you in the forefront of your customer’s minds (top-of-mind positioning) if you are in business. An updated blog will also help you stay at the top of the search engines. Did I mention this option is also free?

Twitter is an application for a new generation. Use it to stay in front of your prime audience. If you have an interesting life or do something that your crowd wants to follow, use twitter to stay up-to-date.

If all of this is overwhelming, I agree. It can be very overwhelming, but the decision is not up to you. It is up to your clients and prospective employers. Even if you do not plan to need any of these services in place for a long time, begin now. The longer you have a website in place, the higher it will show in search listings.

Here is the thing with any of these options. If you are going to use them, you must use them well. Keep your profile updated. Your blog should not have a most recent entry of December, 2007.

Do it well or not at all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Life Insurance is Killing Me!

Have you ever purchased a life insurance policy? Did you squirm as much as I did when you were filling out the paperwork? Life insurance – like estate planning – forces us to confront our own mortality.

From a sales pitch perspective, life insurance can be a veritable minefield. Imagine a smooth dude in a snappy suit ushering forth a slick line like, “what will your family do if something unexpected happens to you?” Or, “you don’t really want your wife and children to wonder how they’ll make ends meet, do you?” Talk like that can make your skin crawl! Of course we don’t want our families to wonder where their next meal is coming from after we’re gone!

The problem is that many of us make an emotional decision when we buy life insurance and we miss the financial implications. Make no mistake, caring for your family by purchasing good level term life insurance is absolutely essential. However, one of the greatest myths handed down through the insurance world is that the need for life insurance is permanent. From a financial perspective, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Insurance is a financial tool that allows us to transfer risk. We transfer the risk only while we cannot afford to assume the risk ourselves.

Many insurance salespeople encourage life insurance products that have a cash value savings account built into them. They go by names like whole life, universal life, variable life, and so on. They’re an easy sell because we like the idea of having some of our premiums saved for us to use down the road – you’ll see these policies called “investments.”

Unfortunately, these cash value life insurance policies are very expensive for the consumer. The commissions are huge on these products and the returns on the savings accounts are depressingly low. To make matters worse, because of the expense related to these policies most policy owners don’t realize they’re underinsured. And should they kick the bucket, the beneficiaries only receive the policy’s death benefit – all the saved up cash value is kept by the insurance company.

Good thing we have an alternative! Term life insurance is purchased for a specific period of time. There isn’t a savings account built into the policy and the premiums are kept level throughout the duration of the term. As a result, we get the coverage we need without any of the fees, lackluster savings, and fluff we don’t, so the premiums are super affordable. If we die during the term of that policy the beneficiaries receive exactly what we paid for.

I recommend buying ten times your annual income in good level term life insurance – typically a 20-year term will do. This way, when your beneficiaries invest the death benefit at an average return of 10%, the annual interest will be equivalent to your former annual income. You’ve been replaced…financially speaking.

I’m currently working with a couple who have about $350,000 in universal life insurance coverage. They’re paying around $250 each month in premiums. The problem is that they really need about $650,000 in coverage to be adequately insured. I ran a quote for them to discover they could get two 20-year term policies with the increased coverage for – between both of them – $50 a month. That’s a $200 difference each month! In 20 years, the cash value of their current policy would grow to around $55,000. But if they invested their $200 per month difference over 20 years, they’d have over $173,000! By now the picture is very clear.

See, in 20 years, this couple’s children will be grown and gone. Because they got serious today about developing a plan for success, they will be debt free and will have invested at least 15% of their income for retirement. In 20 years, they’ll have about $650,000 in investable assets. Now, if something happens to the primary income earner those funds can be invested and the surviving spouse can live off the interest. They’ve become self-insured and don’t need life insurance anymore.

For those that currently have cash value policies, don’t run and dump them right away. Be sure to purchase a good term policy first. If for some reason you’re uninsurable, you’ll still have some life insurance available – cash value policies are not ideal, but they’re better than nothing at all.

If all this insurance talk is making your head spin, recognize that by not understanding your policies you could be paying hundreds of dollars every year in unnecessary premiums. On March 24th, we’re holding a Past Due: Insurance eCoaching event covering seven different insurance areas – homeowner’s/renter’s, auto, health, disability, long-term care, identity theft protection, and life. We guarantee you’ll save at least $300 – $800 a year in premiums when you apply what you learn during this program to your current insurance plan. Visit to register today!

Monday, March 16, 2009

5 Resumes, 4 Job Offers

I taught a class Crosspointe church last night and covered the process for an effective job search.

If you're limiting your job search to internet and newspaper listings you must know that, out of 100 resumes sent, you'll only receive a job offer between 1 and 8 times.

You can still peruse these places for career opportunities, but an effective job search (understanding your personal tendencies, identifying 30-40 target companies, sending an introduction letter, followed by a cover letter and resume a few days later and then a phone call follow-up) will land you a job about 86 out of 100 times! I like statistics and those are pretty good odds.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Make $1,000,000 by Accident

Is it really possible? Inc. Magazine points out a few stories such as that of Richard and Betty James. In 1934 (wasn’t there a recession going on?) Richard was working in a Navy tool yard and saw a spring coil fall off a table. His wife Betty found the word slinky, Swedish for sleek and sinuous, and the couple followed the idea with two years of testing.

Two years later they placed their invention in a store for $1 each and sold out within the first hour. To this date more than 250,000,000 Slinkys have been sold worldwide.

At only 16 years old, Catherine was able to convince two others to put up over $250,000 to start With over 20,000,000 unique visitors each month it has had growth spurts that have outpaced facebook and MySpace.

The point to be made here is that neither of these ideas made their inventors millions of dollars by accident. Each of them took a great idea and brought it to the marketplace to fill a need that was missing at the time.

Ideas really are a dime a dozen. Your ability to act on the ideas flowing through your mind is the only thing that will bring compensation. I’m convinced there are many ideas out there that will never be acted upon, and I heard some tremendous ones this past weekend at the 212 Connection Round Table.

What’s holding you back from significance? I have two suggestions to get moving on your ideas.

First, don’t get hung up in fear. Don’t choose a life of comfortable misery over one of significance. It is easy to look back on a long life and wish you had done more. It’s much harder to do something great and look back with abundance and thankfulness.

Second, don’t get hung up on the “how”. Instead, take the time to develop your “what”. Too often I see people putting their ideas on hold because of a lack of time, money or other resources. If your idea is a good one, nothing will stop you from greatness.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Father-in-law is my Master

Three times in the last two weeks I’ve encountered people engaged in or preparing to engage in lending money to family. All three cases are the same: parents wanting to help their kids financially are lending money at a lower interest rate than the kids could get from a bank on their mortgage. Financially, it all looks like a good deal: the parents get some guaranteed return on their money better than most Certificates of Deposit are offering now and the kids have lower mortgage payments.

One of the cases I’ve encountered resulted in the parents, daughter, and son-in-law sitting around a table in my office, the two kids in tears. Yikes! What looked great on paper resulted in an incredibly burdened relationship when unexpected events derailed the “good deal.”

The very first debt myth I cover in our Past Due Boot Camp is “lending money to a family member or a friend is wise because I’m helping them.” The truth comes from a trustworthy source: the Bible. Proverbs 22:7 – “the rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender” – packs a lot of punch. In practice, if you have the means to help someone financially just give them the money and don’t expect it back. Let it be a gift instead of a loan because no one likes eating Thanksgiving dinner with their master.

Two weeks ago a friend in a position to pay off her daughter and son-in-law’s mortgage (and then replace it with a lower interest loan to her and her husband) asked me if I thought it was a good idea. The kids get a lower payment and the parents make a better return than they could get at the bank; seems like a win-win. After I cited the Proverb, I told her she asked the wrong financial guy if she was looking for affirmation. She is financially savvy, and so I think it important to address the financial merits of such an endeavor along with the relational.

Let’s say that the mortgage currently has an outstanding balance of $200,000 and the couple has an interest rate of 6%. If they’ve been in the house for a year already, there are 29 years left to repay. The parents propose an interest rate of 4%. On paper everything looks like a great deal. The mortgage payment goes down by $227.15 each month; the total saved on interest and principal is just over $93,000 during those 29 years. The parents’ $200,000 investment becomes $338,000 when the mortgage pays off.

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the parents. Would it really be wise to tie up $200,000 for 29 years in an investment yielding a whopping 4%? Sure, we look around at the current market conditions and a 4% return seems like 40%. But in the next five years, the likelihood is that the market will turn around. We could even make the argument that investing $200,000 today – when the stock market is deeply discounted – could make these parents at least $381,000 more than the mortgage option during the same amount of time.

So, financially, it doesn’t appear that tying up those assets for so long is an ideal option for the parents. However, if you asked them, they’d probably say they just want to help their kids out. What if the kids sell the house three years into their deal? That’s a lot of lost interest. What happens if, six years from now, the son-in-law loses his job? What if he becomes disabled and doesn’t have disability insurance? What if…? What if…? What if…? Could any of these life changes leave a sour taste in one or both parties’ mouth? Basically, have these parents considered all the relational pitfalls of this financial deal? They could wind up holding a mortgage for kids who can’t repay and relationally they would become their children’s masters.

Why disrupt a great parent-child relationship or strain a daughter’s marriage in the name of 2% lower interest? I’m sure we all can think of examples in our own lives where what looked great on paper didn’t unfold according to plan. Placing a higher value on relationships than the almighty dollar will help us all keep the big-picture perspective we need when mixing family and finances.