The Santa Raid

Have you made a list and checked it twice? Chances are, you haven’t… 


The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers’ will spend upwards of $730 billion this holiday season. Perhaps this is due to a well performing stock marketlow unemployment and wage increases. Each of which has helped put extra cash in consumer pockets.  

Though, this time of year there is one question that every consumer must answer for themselves - Are you going to allow Santa to slide down the chimney and raid your bank account?  

Amid the many distractions that occupy your attention throughout the holiday season, lays a decision that you must make. Will you try to keep up with your friends? How about your kids friends parents? Or, will you say no to Santa and spend modestly? 

Whatever you decide for yourself and your family is the choice you must live with. It might be too late for some of you to light a fire to keep Santa from sliding into your bank account, but for those of you who are not quite done shopping or still haven’t hit the malls; slow down and take a minute to think through the true meaning of Christmas, what you want to spend, and what your financial situation allows you to spend.  

Here’s a short list of things to think about and focus on financially throughout the Christmas season: 

  • Ask yourself what Christmas means to you. Don’t adopt your neighbors view. 
  • Check your bank account balances 
  • Make a list to keep you from window shopping
  • Compare prices (Add the Honey extension for online shopping) 
  • Create a budget for each person/group you buy for 
  • Save your receipts to compare to your budget 
  • Check your list twice 
  • Ask yourself if debt is worth it 
  • Wait for after Christmas sales (Usually the best day is the 26th of December) 
  • Track spending compared to the budget 
  • Remember you have to pay the credit card bill next month
  • Give group gifts to family members 

Enslaved in a Plastic Prison

Ever been sold on the payment instead of the price? Yeah, me too and so has everyone. Salespeople make it quite simple to get you in that new car, help you get the new bedroom suite, purchase a new boat, and even get you into a new wardrobe. 


It’s a Big Problem 

Millions of Americans don’t even need salesperson because they do this to themselves. They’ve bought into MASTERCARD’s tagline.    

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MASTERCARD.

 Are you the master of your Mastercard or are you enslaved to it like some Americans who are part of the 828-billion-dollar pile of credit card debt? 

 

This is the amount of credit card and other revolving plans debt that Americans had at the end of August 2019. 

828 Billion!  

The number alone stirs up many questions for me, but one question persists – how? 

After much thought, my conclusion isMinimum. Minimum. Minimum. 

Here’s what happens when you only pay the MINIMUM on your credit card: 


ExampleNancy purchases a $500 wardrobe on her Mastercard. It has a 17% APR. Her minimum payment is 4%, which equates to $20 per a month. After she pays the minimum for 42 months, Nancy’s $500 wardrobe will cost $659.75.   

Breaking Free from the Plastic Prison 

To get out of debt, intensify your payment strategy. Sacrifice right now in other spending areas to make it happen. No, it’s not easy and yes it can be painful, but it will be worth it. Be intentional and stay focused.  

Once out of debt, begin taking steps to stay out of debt. Delay your gratification until you have intentionally saved for a specific purchase. Self-impose a credit limit on your cards. Take Dave Ramsey’s approach – CUT UP your cards and progress to a cash only budget. In addition, always pay off the balance at the end of the month. We saw a horrendous example of what happens if you don’t in the video above. 

 Final thoughts:  

In the wise words of a colleague, “we don’t have an income problem, we have a spending problem.”  We must continually check ourselves and our motives regarding our purchases.  

Series: Essentially Essential – Thoughts from the Press box: The Phases

As a service to my local high school football team and town, my Friday nights are mostly spent in a press box with a headset on. I’m not a high school football coach. I have a pretty neat opportunity to color commentate during the local radio station.  

**In short, a color commentator is someone who assists the play-by-play commentator and adds details or interesting facts about the teamsindividual players, and the game as it progresses.   

With this unique opportunity, coupled with the recent and on-going lessons from co-facilitating Dave Ramsey’s 9-week Financial Peace University course, I’d like to give you my insights from the press box. No, this post is not about a recollection from a specific play or even a specific game, but a realization from a game that our society devotes countless hours to and how you can apply it to your financial life.   

Football fans know the basics of the game - offense, defense, and special teams. To be consistently good, all three must be accounted for. The same applies to a good financial life: 


Offense
 

From springtime, through summer, to scrimmages, and throughout the actual season, a progression occurs. Teams start with the basics. Laying the foundation to get the team moving in the same direction is crucial. The team sets goals, lifts weights, and practices different movements/drills. As the season nears, implementation of the playbook occurs. Then week by week, as new teams are faced, talent is discovered, and game plans change; ultimately opportunities are capitalized on. 

This is what we must do in our financial life. Realizing a good offense doesn’t just happen is a big keyIt begins with intentionality. Laying the foundation by setting individual or joint goals, then implementing a scheme/strategy, taking action to accomplish those goals, maintaining discipline throughout, and adjusting when necessary based on new challenges or discoveries that life introduces. 

In short, here are a few things to think about: 

  • Just as a head coach sets the vision/goals for the team, you set the vision/goals for your future
  • Just as teams adjust from quarter-to-quarter in a game, you have stages in life that you must adjust in to capitalize on opportunities around you 
  • Just as the offensive players practice their plays for the game to score points, you must practice discipline in paying yourself first (contributing money to a retirement plan) 
  • Just as the quarterback manages the play clock by choosing when the ball is snapped, you must manage your budget/spending plan

Defense

Defense is about protecting your side of the field, especially keeping the opponent out of your endzoneThe goal is to stop the opposing team from scoring more than your team. Defenses do this by working together as a unit. They take an inventory of their skill sets, they implement different coverages and blitzes, they tackle the ball carrier, cause turnovers, and execute the game plan.  

This is what we must do in our financial life. Just like offense, realizing a good defense doesn’t just happen, so taking steps to be intentional is keyIf we know the goal is to keep the opponents from scoring, we first must study their products, learn their sells techniques, and put a guardrail up for ourselves to stay off their turf. We then take an inventory of our assets and implement a strategy based on an evaluation on what assets should be protected. Nextresearch coverages that make sense and that are most effective (cost and protection). As time passes, reevaluate your defense to determine if it’s effective and make sure it’s helping you win the phase. 

In short, here are a few things to think about: 

  • Just as defenses take inventory of their skill sets to build depth in positions, you should build depth in an emergency fund for unexpected expenses
  • Just like the eleven guys on defense that are working to protect their endzone, protect your large assets
  • Just as a defensive lineman occupies offensive linemen to keep the linebackers free/safe to make a tackle, occupy an appropriate amount of term insurance to keep your family safe if something happens to you
  • Just as defensive secondary change their coverage, review your current coverages and see if they still provide proper protection

The adage, defense wins championships is true, but it also ensures your possessions will be protected and your family will be taken care of regardless of unforeseen events. 

Special Teams 

This phase of the game is most often overlooked or downplayed by spectators until a dynamic play occursMostly focused on the kickersmomentum or even the scoreboard can swing to the opponent in just one kick. Whether it’s a missed point after touchdown (PAT), a 55-yard field goal to end the first half, a punt stopped on the one-yard line by the coverage teamor a punt return for a touchdown, this phase is extremely important.  

Most of the time, people group actions into offense or defense, but I view special teams as financial life occurrences that can significantly multiply your chances of winninggive peace of mind, or be a detriment to accomplishing your goalsSome may only happen once in your lifeso as former University of Tennessee head coach General Neyland put it, “Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.” 


In short, here are a few things to think about: 

  • Just as the kickoff team working hard to get the returner in for a touchdownworking hard at an extra job to maximize your retirement account in the early years can rapidly increase your chances of a successful retirement  
  • Just as a field goal safe or punt safe is called (this means that the rushers do not rush the kicker, but drop back in case a fake field goal or punt is called), have a professionally drafted will to ensure your familyassets, and last wishes are safeguarded
  • Just as a team kicking a twenty-yard field goal at the end of a half producing three points forgoes the opportunity to score a touchdown (which means the ball is on the three-yard line), review your investments at year end to harvest any losses, if necessary
  • Just as a snapper snaps the ball over the punter's head into the endzone and the punter tries to pick the ball up, but fumbles it to the other team for a touchdownan individual can inherit a bunch of money and change their spending habits and fumble the inheritance away 

From Hero to Less Than Zero

Despite earning the title of “Highest-Paid (Cumulative) Running Back in the history of the NFL,” collecting just shy of $100 million throughout his 12-year NFL career, Adrian Peterson has gone from hero (money wise) to less than zero.

We’ve all heard the rags to riches stories in the athlete realm, whether it be Michael Oher, Lebron James, or Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately, we’ve also commonly heard the contrary. Poor investments, reckless spending, and even divorce (but not limited to) have each been a cause of reduced wealth. Whatever the circumstance, there are usually three commonalities between each rich to rags story – behavior, mistrust, and a result of shame.

Behavior

I know what you’re thinking… “if only.” If only I had $99 million, there would be no way I could possibly spend it to zero.

Let me propose a short scenario to show you how this happens to the average individual/household:

Your gross salary is $50,000 annually and you live a comfortable lifestyle. You are able to cover your daily living expenses, your mortgage, and your car payment. In addition, you aren’t too conscious about your spending, because you think you have no reason to be. You also spend almost every dollar after your fixed expenses are taken care of. You spend your “extra” on entertainment, eating out multiple times a week, and taking spontaneous weekend trips once or twice a month.

One day your boss walks into your office and praises you for your efforts and dedication to the company you’ve displayed over the past two years. He rewards you by increasing your annual income by 50% effective the following year - resulting in a $25,000 pay raise.

As you receive your pay raise, you begin to get excited and your “dreamer” mentality begins to take over. At the beginning of the next year, your monthly income has significantly increased. You “suddenly” begin to get tired of the car you drive and decide to purchase a new one – doubling your monthly payment. You also decided to move into a new home on the opposite side of town, which increases your monthly mortgage payment significantly. Oh, and that jet ski you’ve seen your neighbor pull into their garage… Yeah, you bought one of those too.


See how quickly your $25,000 raise can be wiped out. This is a result of poor behavior and impulse spending. Just like APs multi-million-dollar contract(s) got the best of him; your raises can get the best of you.

Solution: Create a zero-based budget. A zero-based budget is simply taking your income and subtracting your expenses to equal zero. This means give each dollar you earn a purpose.

Mistrust

“The truth behind Adrian Peterson’s current financial situation is more than is being reported at this time. Because of ongoing legal matters, I am unable to go into detail, but I will say this is yet another situation of an athlete trusting the wrong people and being taken advantage of by those he trusted. Adrian and his family look forward to sharing further details when appropriate.”

The statement above made by attorney Chase Carlson claiming fraud on AP’s behalf may be accurate, of course only time will tell. Yet, although AP may be a victim of this classless act, the problem is deeper, and it cannot be pawned off just on mistrust alone. Trust is assured reliance. Most point fingers, but from my experiences when one is pointed, there are four pointing back. In any situation whether it be with $99 million or $50k, at times trust is initially misplaced in ourselves. We believe we have the awareness and financial acumen to manage our new circumstances, even without previous experience or insight. AP had choices, whether he pawned off responsibility in a “trusted” attorney or businessman, AP is still left in a situation resulting from a form of mistrust.

Solution: Seek wise counsel and properly conduct due diligence.

Shame

$99 million to $0. That is a shame. Unfortunately, this story is too common and unfortunately (or fortunately if someone will learn from it) it is public knowledge. Whether it’s a businessman, a movie star, an athlete or even the common man – shame is the result of poor behavior and misplaced trust. AP has sacrificed his body for years – pee-wee football, middle school, high school, college with the Oklahoma Sooners and now 12 years on the grandest stage. All these years of brutal wear and tear on his body with no financial gain to show for.

Solution: Stand in the shoes of AP and observe his shame to avoid shame for future self. Start beginning with the end in mind.

Takeaways

• Implement a zero-based budget and if you don’t like the word budget, call it a spending plan. Spending plans are implemented to minimize regret and maximize your freedom while staying inside the guardrails you placed.
• We all think we know what we should and would do when facing a new circumstance, especially when it comes to a windfall of money. If/when this occurs to you, take a step back, seek wise counsel and conduct due diligence before you place your trust and financial future with them.
• The only way to avoid shame is to internalize someone else’s “mistake” and do the opposite. One way to do that is to follow Stephen Covey’s advice of beginning with the end in mind.

Series: Essentially Essential – Compounding with Time


Time. You cannot hold it. You cannot see it. You cannot stop it.
But… you do have a choice. Utilize it or don’t.
When it comes to planning and building wealth (or for anything) – time matters. And, compounding most certainly does too.

1

Time Value of Money

2

Compound Interest

These two concepts are both fundamental, foundational and most certainly essential. The sooner you learn them and the sooner you apply them – the better off financially YOU WILL BE!

Whether you realize it or not, time and compound interest are powerful. Time allows for potential. Compounding allows for growth. Both concepts are simple, so let’s analyze why time and compound interest matter.

What is Time Value of Money?

Time Value of Money. You may have never drawn the comparison that time and money have a mutualistic relationship - it does. Money not only has a monetary value; it has a time value too. Let’s look at a quick example:
You completed a service for a client, and you are owed $10,000 dollars. The client calls you to let you know that he is ready to give you a check for the bill. He gives you a choice to swing by his house to collect the $10,000 before he goes out of town for a month. You have a choice. Do you wait for a month or do you go by his house to collect what he owes you?

Some may say it doesn’t matter as long as they get paid, but time value of money says it does matter. Why? Because receiving money today is worth more than receiving that same $10,000 dollars at any given point in the future. Yes, even if you had the option to receive it tomorrow. Your money has potential earning capacity. This means that the $10,000 you received today; you have the potential to earn money on that $10,000 today. So, if you took the $10,000 a month from now instead of today, you would miss out on all the potential earning capacity of each day you did not have the funds.

Simply put:
• If you receive the money today – you can make money on your money today.
• If you receive the money tomorrow or at any given point in the future but had the option to receive the money today – you lose out on the potential earnings of today and every day in the future that you delay receiving the money.

What is Compound Interest?

Formula: FV = PV (1 + r)^n
(FV): Future Value
(PV): Present Value
(r): Interest rate earned per year (%)
(^): Exponent – the number of times a number is multiplied by itself
(n): Number of periods



Said to have been described as “the eighth wonder of the world” by Albert Einstein, compound interest can be simplified from the formula above. Yes – FV, PV, R, and N are each important in making your money grow, but where you capture the most growth is often the most overlooked piece of the formula. The “upside-down v” or exponent allows for compounding. It allows you to exponentially grow the present value (PV) to a greater future value (FV). To get from PV to FV the compound interest accrues - this means that not only will you earn interest on the principle (initial amount), but also you will earn interest on your interest.

Yes, you read that right. You can earn money on the money you’ve earned.

Let’s take the previous example above and say you decided to swing by your client’s home to receive the payment of the $10,000. Let’s also say you immediately took those funds to the bank and put it in a savings account. It also turns out that the savings account at your local bank is yielding 10% (for simple math – FYI, most savings accounts yield less than 1% unless it’s an online bank). Here’s what that would look like if you deposited the $10,000 and did not touch the funds for the following years:

Year One: $10,000 x (1+0.1) = $11,000
Year Two: $1,100 x (1+0.1) = $12,100
Year Three: $1,210 x (1+0.1) = $13,310
Year Four: $1,331 x (1+0.1) = $14,641
Year Five: $1,464.1 x (1+0.1) = $16,105.10
Year Ten: $1,610.51 x (1+0.1) ^5 = $25,937.40
Year Twenty: $2,593.74 x (1+0.1) ^10 = $67,275

After year one, you would have made $1,000, because you earned 10% on your principal ($10,000). In year two you would have earned $1,100, because you earned 10% on your principal ($10,000) and the interest you earned from year one ($1,000). This is what compounding looks like.

How does time value of money and compound interest work together?

In the compounding example above, let’s assume you put the $10,000 under your mattress for ten years, then decided to put it in that same savings account that was offering a 10% yield. Instead of turning your $10,000 into $67,275, your $10,000 would only be worth $25,937.40. This is due to the fact that you decided not to make the choice to utilize time, you would have lost out on $41,337.60. That’s why time matters and coupling it with compound interest amplifies its importance.

Key takeaways:

• Money grows, but you must have it to receive the potential of growth. If given the option, ALWAYS take the money NOW.
• Compound interest is perhaps the 8th wonder of the world. You can earn money on the money you’ve earned.

Are you Psychologically Fit?

It’s the day you’ve dreamt of. The day that has caused your imagination to run like a stallion. You’ve watched others experience it many times over only wishing it was you in their place. This day, the day you’ve been working for is here.

Retirement!


via GIPHY

So, you’re good financially? Great! But, what about psychologically? Asking the question, “Do I have enough?” is not the only question that you should be asking. Although it is important and can be liberating, having enough is just one of many steps along the path of a having a successful retirement.

Think back to the very first day you began your career. The excitement, the newness, the possibilities. Retirement is like that! Now think back to the day you began your seventh year. The normalcy, yet you're filled with questions and new roles. Retirement is also like that.

Change occurs early and often. Unfortunately, many retirees do not think practically past the first day of retirement or even the first year. The questions of worth, purpose and identity may creep in. What you must realize is that you are a creature of habit and when change occurs, you deal with it differently than someone else. Below are some questions/strategies to spur thought as you begin that transition into retirement and if you're already to that point - start where you are now.

  • Do I have enough?
  • Am I ready to retire or am I just retiring because that is the natural progression?
  • Will I miss the relevancy that my job provided? If so, what can I get involved in to fill the void I may experience?
  • What will I be leaving behind?
  • What is my purpose in life? In what ways can I go about accomplishing that?
  • Realistically, what will my lifestyle look like? Have I put off activities or interests that I want to pursue?
  • Who has transitioned into retirement that I know? Call them and talk about the transition they had.
  • What tasks will I implement to stay active, healthy and keep my mind sharp?
  • Just like your career goals, formulate retirement goals. Set short-term, intermediate and long-term goals.
  • After the bucket list items are checked off and the grandkids have been visited, what will my day-to-day look like?
  • If I am social, what organizations or clubs are available for me to join?
  • What type of legacy do I want to leave?


Final Thought: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to retirement. Everyone has different desires and different circumstances. What everyone can do is take those desires and circumstances into consideration before and during retirement and apply serious thought to them. Each decision creates complexities. Keep in mind that life happens, so remain adaptable just like you are in your career. Keep an open mind and surround yourself with people you trust and can have tough ongoing conversations with. This is where we want to end up:

 

via GIPHY

Series: Essentially Essential – The Pay Stub: Why Understand It

It was all jacked up

Yes, my pay stub was all sorts of messed up and if I didn’t understand it, then the issue would have persisted.

True story. For months I had collected a paycheck only caring about the bottom-line number (Net Pay). Of course, I didn’t have any real reason to look at the pay stub because it would have only told me what I already knew – that I got paid! Also, I assumed payroll processors could never mess up an employee’s pay…

It was Friday afternoon (I had been working for the company for a little over a year), I received my pay stub and as I began to fold the pay stub to put it in my desk drawer as I did many times before - curiosity struck,

  • How do I even know if the amount I am taking home is correct?
  • Are my deductions correct - 401k, charitable contributions, withholdings?
  • Do I need to make any adjustments?

As I was prompted by these thoughts, I noticed something was off. The deductions – this was the part that was all jacked up…

Most likely, you don’t review your pay stub for two reasons:

  1. You know you got paid.

    You got paid, cool! But what if you could have taken home more or saved an issue from getting even larger? Your payroll processor is human just like you, which makes them susceptible to the same mistakes you make. Even the most well-intentioned person messes up.

  2. Education. You do not know all the terms or how it flows.

    Our educational system does not teach people to read a pay stub in school, so how do people learn? If you don’t understand what you are looking at, ask someone to walk you through it or keep reading. Remember, there is no shame in making sure you’re being compensated for the work you’ve performed. I guarantee you that you are not alone in not understanding a pay stub.

Below, I have covered the minimum of what every pay stub should include. Keep in mind that pay stubs vary in look and the type of deductions based on your situation.

The Basics:


  • What is a Pay stub?
    • The document that outlines detail about your compensation.
    • The first piece of information to take into consideration when forming a budget. Every number in a budget flows from the information contained on a pay stub. 
  • Employee Name
    •  This is YOU!  (Just wanted to make sure you’re still reading)
  • Current and YTD
    • Current is what you were paid for in the most recent pay period.
    • YTD (Year-To-Date) is the sum of how much you have earned in the current calendar year, thus far.
*You should see Current and YTD in each category on your pay stub.

Earnings

*This section may look different depending on the way an employee earns wages. If you are paid hourly, you will see the hours worked and the rate (how much earned per hour). If you are a salaried employee, you may only see a current and YTD number. You may also see other forms of compensation within this section.

  • Gross Pay
    • The amount before any taxes or deductions have been subtracted.
  • Net Pay
    • The amount after subtracting taxes and deductions from gross pay. Net pay is commonly referred to as “take home” pay.

Deductions

  • Taxes
    • Federal Income Tax
      • Depends on the number of exemptions you claimed when filling out the W-4 Form when you were first hired (it informs your employer on how much federal tax should be withheld).
    • FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act)
      •  Social Security Tax
        • For 2019, the tax rate is 6.2% (the employee and employer both pay this tax for a total for 12.4%). Any dollar earned over $132,900 is NOT subject to this tax.
      • Medicare Tax
        • For 2019, the tax rate is 1.45% (the employee and employer both pay this tax for a total for 2.9%). Every dollar earned is subject to this tax - Any wages earned over $200,000 have an additional 0.9% tax for the employee.
    • State Tax
      • Each state has different laws regarding state tax. For more information, consult your Human Resource Department.
        • For an example, see the sample paystub above under the taxes section – there is a withholding for the state of North Carolina.
*Employers have additional taxes they must pay because they have employees. These additional taxes do not impact your earnings in any way.
  • Pre-Tax (Before)
    • Deductions taken from your gross pay before taxes are withheld. Pre-tax deductions reduce your taxable income, which will more than likely result in paying less Federal Income and FICA tax.
    • Below are examples of Pre-Tax Deductions:
      • Certain Retirement Plans
      • Life Insurance
      • Health Insurance
      • Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts
*Though you save on taxes when this deduction occurs, you may owe taxes on the withheld money in the future.
  • Post-Tax (After)
    • Deductions taken from your gross pay after taxes are withheld. Post-tax deductions do not reduce your taxable income, but could be beneficial depending on how these deductions are used.
    • Below are examples of Post-Tax Deductions:
      • Certain Retirement Plans
      • Disability Insurance
      • Life Insurance
      • Garnishments
      • Charitable Contributions

…To conclude my story, the payroll department had mistakenly deducted the 401k match (Employer contribution to my 401k) from my earnings for more than a quarter of the year. Thus, resulting in my net pay being less than it should have been. So, if you don’t want your paycheck to be jacked up, get educated on how to read your pay stub and scan over it each pay period.
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