Simple Money Is Here

A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance

Unfortunately, personal finance has been reduced to a short list of “Dos” and a long (long) list of “Don’ts” typically based on someone else’s priorities in life, not yours.

But personal finance is actually more personal than it is finance.

Learn More and Get Your Copy of Simple Money

That’s why what works great for someone else may not work as well for you. Money management is complex because we are complex. Therefore, it is in better understanding ourselves—our history with money and what we value most—that we are able to bring clarity to even the most confounding decisions in money and life. As an advisor, speaker and author, I’ve made a career out of demystifying complex financial concepts into understandable, doable actions. In this practical book, I’ll show you how to

  • find contentment by redefining “wealth”
  • establish your priorities, articulate your goals, and find your calling
  • design a personal budgeting system you can (almost) enjoy
  • create a simple, world-class investment portfolio that has beaten the pros
  • manage risk—with and without insurance
  • ditch the traditional concept of retirement and plan for financial independence
  • cheat death and build a legacy
  • and more

Learn More About The Author

The problem with so much personal finance advice is that it’s unnecessarily complicated, often with the goal of selling you things you don’t need. Tim Maurer never plays that game. His straightforward, candid and yes — simple — prescriptions are always right on target. Jean Chatzky
financial editor of NBC's 'Today Show'

Here’s what others are saying about Simple Money:

“Reading this book is like having your own personal financial advisor.”—Kimberly Palmer, senior money editor at US News & World Report; author of The Economy of You

“You can’t manage your money without thinking about your life—and the system that Tim proposes can make a radical difference in both.”—Chris Guillebeau, New York Times bestselling author of The $100 Startup and The Happiness of Pursuit

“Maurer teaches us how to literally redefine wealth in a way that will both honor your life values and priorities while simultaneously reducing your stress.”—Manisha Thakor, CFA, director of wealth strategies for women for the BAM Alliance; writer for The Wall Street Journal

“Amen! Amen! Amen! Simplicity is a gift . . . and this book offers it by the truckload!”—Carl Richards, New York Times columnist;  author of The One-Page Financial Plan

Read more praise for ‘Simple Money’

The Top 10 Places Your Next Dollar Should Go

Originally in ForbesThere is no shortage of receptacles clamoring for your money each day. No matter how much money you have or make, it could never keep up with all the seemingly urgent invitations to part with it.

Separating true financial priorities from flash impulses is an increasing challenge, even when you’re trying to do the right thing with your moola — like saving for the future, insuring against catastrophic risks and otherwise improving your financial standing. And while every individual and household is in some way unique, the following list of financial priorities for your next available dollar is a reliable guide for most.

Once you’ve spent the money necessary to cover your fixed and variable living expenses (and yes, I realize that’s no easy task for many) consider spending your additional dollars in this order: 

20 Lessons We Can Learn From 20-Year-Olds

20 YO Graphic-01It’s become enormously popular to publicly lecture 20-somethings.  I’m not a 20-something, but my regular interaction with the Millennial generation as a college instructor leads me to conclude that we may have more to learn from 20-somethings than we have to teach them.

Here are 20 lessons in LIFE, WORK and MONEY inspired by the Millennial generation:

In LIFE…

Nobody responds well to being lectured.   Despite the ineffectiveness of self-righteous bombast, it seems never to be in short supply.  Insisting that someone else sees how wrong they are may guarantee that we will feel more right—but it doesn’t necessarily make it so.  Even if you have good intentions, the best time to teach someone something is after they’ve asked for input.

Life needn’t be so strictly compartmentalized.  Work, family, leisure, service, worship and artistic expression are elements of life that remain segregated for most.  But this schizophrenia of roles leads to inauthentic living in one or more of these venues (and drives us crazy).

We should give ourselves permission to be more of who we are and less of who people want us to be.  There’s an externally successful business owner who shows up at my gym for his morning workout dressed to the nines in a suit and tie.  He didn’t come from a meeting—he just thinks it’s important to send a message everywhere he goes that he is successful (and he’s happy to announce it).  The Millennials’ refusal to engage in such posturing is often mistaken for aloofness or apathy, but it’s really more about a healthy yearning for authenticity.

Being miserably busy is not a good measure of self-worth.  Busyness is no virtue.  It leads to forgetfulness, distraction and tardiness.  And it’s exhausting.

We are human beings, not human doings.  We tend to explain who we are by listing what we do for work and what we have accomplished professionally.  Millennials are more comfortable in their own skin and more capable of enjoying time that can’t be measured in terms of productive output.

 “American” is not actually a language.  Millennials are the first generation in decades who don’t take American pre-eminence for granted.  They’re expanding their personal and professional horizons with international travel and picking up a second or third language.

Traditional education is overvalued.  While Millennials are known for having overpaid for higher education, their dissatisfaction with what they got in return—fueled by their angst over the loans that now burden them—are serving to ensure that they and their children will spearhead the biggest education overhaul in a couple centuries.

In WORK…

Being a slave to work is no badge of honor.  Being the first in and last to leave may send a message to the types of people who value an ascetic work regimen, but it will also send a message to your family and close friends that your work is more important than they are.  Which message do you want to send?

We’re not all productive in the same ways and at the same times.  Sure, there are advantages to being an early bird, but the best employees will figure out where, when and how they work most effectively, and the best bosses will encourage them to do so (to a mutually beneficial end).

Work and life aren’t something to be balanced, but instead something to be integrated.  That we must balance work and life implies that they are seemingly opposed forces incapable of being effectively blended, but the most effective leaders and satisfied employees find ways to bring work to life by inviting more life to work.

Success is overrated.  Boomers have made an art form of becoming successful, or at least appearing so.  Success certainly isn’t a bad thing, but when the visible representation of success (more impressive titles, bigger houses, nicer cars, granite everything) takes precedence over those for whom we supposedly became successful to serve, we have a problem.  This isn’t even a generational thing.  It’s never really been true that reaching the pinnacle of success is what ultimately makes our lives fulfilling—it’s really significance and meaning for which we hunger.  Millennials seem to have a better handle on that.

In MONEY…

You don’t have to “get settled down” right away.  Financial planner, Roger Whitney, told me “[Millennials] are getting married later in life [than Baby Boomers] which gives them time to mature and be more financially secure when entering marriage.”

Money shouldn’t be a taboo topic of discussion.  30-something personal finance writer, Arielle O’Shea, finds Millennials to be more open about money.  Even if it’s because they’re more cynical about financial security, having seen a couple bubbles burst and many of their parents split over financial issues, Millennials seem to be more open to discussing their personal finances (to good effect) with each other and in public.

We don’t have to own everything—sharing is ok too.  Having to own everything we touch in this lifetime may be good for auto and home improvement companies, but it’s certainly not the most efficient or inexpensive way to do things.  Airbnb allows users to swap living spaces, Lyft offers a network of drivers when you need a ride, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in the growing sharing economy.  Millennials are making and saving money with services like these, according to Forbes writer, Maggie McGrath.

The acquisition of real estate is overrated.  Creating stability, building equity and getting tax deductions are all good things—but losing money and depriving yourself of the freedom and flexibility to be mobile are not.  Millennials haven’t abandoned home ownership, but we all need reminding that it does have its drawbacks and shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion for everyone all the time.

We can and should embrace the role of technology in our financial lives.  The financial services industry is known more for hindering progress and clinging to antiquated, high-margin practices and procedures.  Millennials, however, are creating and “using websites such as Mint, You Need a Budget or Manilla, which not only help to track spending, but serve as accountability partners with e-mail alerts when spending limits are exceeded,” according to Mary Beth Storjohann, founder of Workable Wealth.

Youth isn’t a license to embrace reckless investing.  Carmen Wong Ulrich, host of Marketplace Money on APM says “[Millennials are] less likely to want to risk investing their money in the markets, but that also means they’re more likely to stay away from the financial products (and marketing) that burned their parents.”  Indeed, losing money isn’t a good strategy, regardless of your age.

Experiences are more valuable than things.  David Burstein, Millennial author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World, acknowledges that 20-somethings are spending more than any past generation on travel and eating out, but it’s because they place a higher value in deepening interpersonal relationships and creating lasting memories.

The “traditional” notion of retirement isn’t necessarily an ideal.  Millennials tell me that they expect to be working a long, long time.  They don’t expect pensions and don’t trust Social Security, leaving them with little choice, but they also don’t idolize the notion of full-time feet-in-the-sand retirement.  They plan to work longer and enjoy themselves more along the way, many of them hunting more for a calling than a job.

You can do well and do good at the same time.  Profit or charity—take your pick?  The Millennials have invited us to consider that we don’t have to choose between Robber Barron or do-gooder.  In addition to Google’s unofficial motto—“Don’t do evil”—companies like Toms and Warby Parker give one pair of shoes and eyeglasses (respectively) for every pair sold.

Every generation finds comfort in the norms it helped establish and relishes in the norms it helped deconstruct—but the outgoing generation tends to not-so-quietly mourn when the incoming generation does the same.  Pew Research calls the Millennials confident, connected and open to change.  Yes, it’s a little scary that 20-somethings are changing the way we live, work, play, invest and worship—all without even asking our permission!  But it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know on Twitter at @TimMaurer, and if you’d like to receive my weekly post via email, click HERE.

Hope In Hell On Earth: Micro-Finance In Nicaragua

This is not a sermon or a sales pitch, but a story about a place as inspiring as it is disturbing, where greed has raped a people of their material resources and dignity but where brilliantly applied generosity has created hope and enterprise of which Fortune 500 companies would be envious.

For months I had prepared myself for this moment, stepping off of the run down school bus in the middle of La Chureca, the dump of Nicaragua’s capital city, Managua.  Listed among the Seven Horrendous Wonders of the World, Chureca is not just a collection of refuse, but also a refuge for over 300 families.[i]  Men, women and children compete with mangy dogs for sustenance and sex traffickers for their minds, bodies and souls.

I knew it was coming from the moment I accepted the invitation to join a contingent of teachers, health and finance professionals orchestrated by GraceCity, a young church in downtown Baltimore enamored with serving the poorest-of-the-poor in its home town and, interestingly, the Managua city dump.  But nothing could prepare me for the sights: homes manufactured of rubbish; smoke lifting from piles of debris; a multi-colored landscape of mountainous trash dotted with laborers scrounging for something of worth under a 98 degree sun; a makeshift school[ii] lined with barbed wire; and scores of children, many without shoes or a single article of clean clothing but with stunning smiles lighting up their dirty faces.  After all, they were thrilled to see us—we were there with the ORPHANetwork, a Virginia-based NGO devoted to serving malnourished and displaced children in Nicaragua.  We were at one of their many feeding centers in the country, designed to provide at least one nutritious meal per day to over 10,000 starving children.

You hear of such things on the news and see pictures of such children on commercials filled with brown faces asking for money on late-night television, but it’s hard to believe it’s true—that I was fortunate enough to be born in a geographic location with a host of inherent benefits while these kids were born into the closest thing imaginable to hell on Earth.  When I gaze into my children’s eyes, I see in them a vast universe of unencumbered curiosity and possibility, but in La Chureca, I was forced to look into the eyes of girls as young as six who have already been sold into prostitution.

It was as if I was in one of those movies when a scene strikes a subject so hard that all he can do is marvel in slow motion, unable to process the myriad of overwhelming stimuli.  But as my worldview crumbled and my eyes welled up, I was forced to turn my gape downward.  A young boy was tugging on my shorts. Once our eyes met, he throttled his hands upward in the universal sign for “Pick me up,” and before I could confirm that I’d been vaccinated for all that he was visibly carrying, he’d swung himself around to my back, stripped my sunglasses and made them his own, smacked my side and yelled “Vamos!”  Just a kid.  Any kid.  Born in a garbage dump.

As I impersonated a horse for my newfound friend for the next 15 minutes, life began to return to normal speed.  I could hear clearly, but I couldn’t understand.  I had expected the smell of aging trash from opening my own garbage can, but the more pervasive scent in La Chureca was that of garbage burning.  My brain began to re-engage, and I couldn’t but begin to process the questions How? and Why?

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, only behind battered Haiti.  The per capita income is $3,200[iii].  Per year.  While the official unemployment rate was just 7.03% for 2011, the underemployment rate is nearly 50%.  Indeed, “minimum wage” amounts to about $90 per month.  29% of kids make it past the sixth grade, only 10% graduate from high school.

When I peppered our American guide with questions intent on discerning the “why” behind Nicaragua’s systemic extreme poverty, he gave me three reasons: 1) a history since colonial times tainted by corrupt leadership, 2) outside meddling and 3) persistent natural disasters.

Indeed, with Nicaragua’s exposure to the Pacific on its western coast and the Caribbean on its eastern, hurricanes and a particularly rainy, rainy season have wreaked havoc on everything from homes to infrastructure to crops.  Additionally, “the country of Lakes and Volcanoes,” with 19 total volcanoes and eight active, is also prone to earthquakes.  A quake in 1972 leveled much of the capital city of Managua, forever changing its face.  But the other two reasons for extreme poverty in Nicaragua point to corruption and meddling driven primarily by greed.

The chief meddler would have to be the U.S.  Of course we had that little issue of the Iran-Contra Affair, but long before it, the U.S. asserted its will in Nicaragua with boots on the ground from 1909 until 1933, when we could no longer afford to intervene mired in our own Great Depression.  Why were we there in the first place?  To stop the Nicaraguans from completing a canal to compete with our own in Panama.  But along the way, we managed to foment enough nationalist dissent to create an environment ripe for the rise of Augusto César Sandino, the first Sandinista.  Yes, we helped create the problem we were unable to correct covertly in the 80s.

And while the Sandinistas are in control again today, political power struggles of the last 100 years are still visibly evident.  Whether in the capital city, small towns or the countryside, a drive through Nicaragua becomes a blur of competing political colors, flags, slogans and faces vying for one’s attention, or better yet, one’s vote.  Not a single road marker, guard rail or bus shelter is unaffiliated.

Reflecting on the country’s endemic poverty and tradition of dysfunction, handing out bowls of nutrition-charged rice to the starving children of the dump, I wondered how exactly there was any hope to be found.  I remembered something I read about “hell on Earth.”  I’m no theologian, but apparently in the recorded instances of Jesus discussing hell in the Bible, he used the word “gehenna” to offer his followers a visual.  Gehenna was the garbage dump outside ancient Jerusalem.  A burning heap of trash.  The people of La Chureca live there.  In hell on Earth.

But there is hope, and I soon learned why.

You see, I wasn’t invited to Nicaragua as an expert in matters spiritual or nutritional.  I was there to hopefully learn enough about the country and culture to provide any insight I might muster to a fledgling micro-finance operation (Neo) embedded in a small church (El Faro) whose stated purpose is to serve the people of the dump.  Inspired by Muhammed Yunus’ Nobel Prize-winning work with the Grameen Bank in India and supported by a few U.S. churches, Neo’s goal is to nourish the bodies, minds and spirits of the Churecans by giving them vocational vision—a life purpose—and an economic infusion designed to fuel that vision.

It’s hard work to convince a father who prostitutes his 10-year old daughter to truck drivers to feed their family that there is a better way.  It’s hard work to explain that a small loan isn’t to be used for short-term emergency subsistence, but instead to buy beads then crafted into a jewelry inventory.  It’s hard work to instill an entrepreneurial vision in someone with HIV/AIDS whose self-worth is nonexistent, at best. It’s hard work to instill confidence and worth in children born in the dump, 90% of whom report suffering some form of abuse.  It’s hard work that requires at least a generational commitment on the part of a diverse team of co-laborers.

Fortunately, such a team exists.  Most of the team members are Nicaraguans applying daily effort toward the end of eliminating the abject dehumanization of their countrymen and women.  Some of us Americans are privileged to work beside them in this glorious endeavor.  We learn more than we teach, we are inspired more than we inspire, and we receive more than we give, ever mindful that many well-intended Americans sadly do more harm than good in similar initiatives.[iv]

The best-dressed member of this team is none other than Under Armour.  The Baltimore-based clothing company—famous for celebrity endorsements and making those who adorn their sportswear look much cooler than we really are—already has an international presence, but they’re also in the dump.  After Under Armour’s Senior Creative Director for Men’s Apparel, Nick Cienski, had an experience similar to mine walking off the bus in La Chureca, his wheels started turning. As of today, they’ve already donated several industrial sewing machines, fabric, patterns, some seed-money and training that is breathing vocational life into single moms from the dump, helping break the cycle of prostitution.

My head was spinning just trying to figure out how all these different players had come together.  Under Armour makes a donation to begin a sewing business that works in conjunction with the micro-finance initiative run by the church in Nicaragua in partnership with the ORPHANetwork supported by GraceCity, whose collective mission is to serve a community living in the biggest dump in the poorest country in the Americas.  Wow.  I didn’t see that coming.

But my economic adventures in Nicaragua reached even more inspiring heights, and altitudes.  Two gringos—former Erickson Retirement Communities CEO, Rick Grindrod, and I—headed into the beautiful Nicaraguan mountains with Mario Pérez, Executive Director of PAC (Pueblos en Acción Comunitaria or People in Community Action).  As his son (also Mario) drove us over winding roads through nestled mountainside towns, the former economist with the Nicaraguan government told us a story that was to culminate as we reached our destination.

Over 15 years ago, the international aid organization, World Relief (coincidentally also headquartered in Baltimore), planted one of its own, Kevin Sanderson, in Nicaragua to lead an operation designed to help rural coffee farmers rebuild their lives and businesses after having left them behind for a 10-year civil war.  With a background in both agriculture and finance, Kevin was ideally suited for the task and made Nicaragua not only his project, but also his home, marrying a Nicaraguan and starting a family there.

Often deemed an MFI (micro-finance institution), PAC is really so much more.  It’s a holistic “value-chain” operation.  Soup-to-nuts.  First, they scour for coffee farmers with entrepreneurial blood.  They give that entrepreneur the freedom and responsibility to build his own team of farmers and plantation workers.  Then, often contradicting over 100 years of tradition, they train them in environmentally sensitive, sustainable farming techniques.  They provide the financing for a cash-intensive harvest and streamlined processing, even connecting the farmers to roasters.  Every PAC coffee farmer now meets Fair Trade Certified standards, allowing their product to be sold at a premium and quite possibly end up in the bottom of your cup of specialty coffee.

After about seven years (and in keeping with their core beliefs), World Relief turned over the reins of the operation to the Nicaraguans, now led by Mario, who led Rick and me 3,000 feet in elevation to the home and business of Claudio Martinez.  Claudio, one of PAC’s anointed entrepreneurs, was waiting for us on his porch with several of his farmers.  Telling us their stories through a translator, Rick and I sat aghast as one farmer after another told us how this economic initiative had not only transformed their vocation, but redeemed their whole lives, providing their families and entire villages with the chance for a new life.

PAC’s innovation has now extended well beyond Central America’s most famous crop.  They have also trained farmers to diversify their yields with cocoa and vegetables—and not just any vegetables.  We traversed a recently developed farm that yields multiple specialized crops that aren’t indigenous to or even consumed in Nicaragua (or the U.S.), but are much loved in the world’s two most populous nations, China and India.

It may have been at that very moment—several days into the trip and 10 hours into the PAC expedition—that I finally understood paternalism and began to recognize my own.  I had been warned of the difficulty we have rendering aid in developing regions as Americans.  Almost immune to our own affluence, we tend to presume the superiority of our balance sheets and income statements equates to at least a higher work ethic if not (although we wouldn’t voice it) superior ingenuity or even intelligence.

It’s almost as if we assume our ideas for improved healthcare, education, business and waste management are better because we have a 401k and can record our television shows to watch at our convenience with a DVR from our iPhones.  But standing in the middle of that Asian vegetable field in Nicaragua, I was forced to acknowledge that everyone I interacted with that day worked harder and longer, and employed a greater level of creativity, ingenuity and productivity, than just about anything I’ve seen in the States.

I am not their helper.  I can only be their partner, and may be lucky to make the cut.

After completing our 13-hour tour of coffee plantations, vegetable fields and cocoa processing plants with the Marios, all the while hearing stories about how they’ve overcome everything from illness, weather and crop failure to social movements designed to weaken their businesses, Rick and I were about one cup of Nicaraguan Joe from applying for citizenship.  Thankfully, our journey there is just beginning.

This is not just another emotional story intended to tug at your heart strings enough to get you to open your check book and help these organizations, although to that I am not opposed.  This story is for you.  While every word is true, it also stands as a metaphor for the influence of money in our lives, regardless of our geography.  The same issues that create systemic failure and success with money on a global scale also impact us personally.

Were I to simply declare that the pursuit of money for its own sake—greed—leads to nothing short of death while money employed as the currency of relationship brings life abundant, you might accuse me of over-dramatizing.  This is because in our country and your neighborhood this is not so pervasively and visually evident.  But death visits those in La Chureca and other pockets of hell on Earth daily, even for the living, and the primary source of this pain is financially rooted.  Meanwhile, tangible assets shared in partnership by caring individuals, associations, organizations and companies are often the very vehicle of hope that transforms lives for the better, materially, physically, emotionally and spiritually.


[i] This number is actually down quite substantially thanks to an infusion of cash from the Spanish government, fueling a plan to transform the dump into a landfill and displace the residents of La Chureca.  Unfortunately, this has actually increased the desperation of the remaining residents as their source of sustenance has dwindled in size.  Additionally, most of the major cities in Nicaragua have a similar dump with a similar population.

[ii] El Colegio de la Esperanza (the School of Hope)

[iv] The book When Helping Hurts opened my eyes to this and offers many helpful suggestions to ensure your charitable trips and efforts do more good than harm.

Welth: Is It Wurth It?

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of conducting a 40-minute radio interview with one of the great business leaders of our time.  (I’ve split the interview into four ten-minute podcasts, the links for which follow this post.)  Truett Cathy is the founder of Chick-fil-A and the author of several books, most recently, Wealth: Is It Worth It?  He’s well suited to ask and answer that question, because after beginning his restaurant career over 60 years ago with a single eatery, he’s built one of the nation’s most successful and well-loved restaurant chains. But interestingly, an adjective he’s not entirely comfortable putting before his name is “rich.”  He says, “One of the worst things I can imagine someone saying about me is, ‘He’s a rich old man.’”

But it would be hard to argue either of those.  After all, Mr. Cathy is 90 years old and falls at number 375 on the Forbes 400 list, with an estimated net worth of $1.1 billion.  However, he defies his age by going to work nearly every day and carries himself with the humility and grace of a line cook, not the founder and chairman.

Wordplay

Wealth is a hot word these days; especially in the financial services business, everyone wants to be about wealth.  So now, instead of being financial advisors or financial planners, stock brokers, insurance salespeople or bankers, everyone is a wealth manager or wealth consultant.  If you work with them, their commercials suggest you’ll be one of the people golfing all day or travelling around the world on a $1 million sailboat or sitting on the beach (with your wealth manager, of course) toasting the purchase of your new 5000 square foot beach home.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with golf (except that it’s a miserable sport, chasing that little white ball around); and sailing, for those who know how to do it, is sublime; and if you have the money, right now is a great time to be buying a beautiful beach property—but dangling this utopian envy in front of everyone is what I don’t like about the financial industry’s co-opting of the word wealth.

We tend to believe today that the three words “money,” “riches” and “wealth” are generally synonymous, and I do believe that in the contemporary vernacular, they are.  But that wasn’t the initial intent.  Money and riches, if you follow them back to their original root words in ancient languages, always meant something similar to what they mean today.  Wealth, on the other hand, had a much deeper meaning.  It meant enough.  Contentment.

In Wealth: Is It Worth It? Cathy cautions us of the trappings of financial accumulation, giving us insight into how living through the Great Depression and seeing his own father left emotionally destitute by his inability to provide for his family in that incredibly difficult time informed his own belief system around money.  Far from demonizing dollars, he gives us a framework for virtuous money dealings grounded in Solomonic wisdom.  (Cathy is unabashed in sharing that his money philosophy is grounded in his Christian faith, but he also draws on wisdom from sources neither canonized nor ordained and never seems to get preachy.)

Is it worth it?

But Mr. Cathy isn’t convinced wealth is worth it even after you “earn wealth honestly,” “spend wealth wisely and save it reasonably.”  Even then, we still have the capacity to let wealth accumulation overtake us.  He concludes that the only way wealth is really worth it is “…if you give it generously.”

While this resonates as truth, I admit my skeptical self wants to conclude it’s easy for those blessed with abundance, like Cathy, to admonish the rest of us on the value of charity.  Even he acknowledges it’s unlikely that his children or grandchildren will ever suffer from want.  But having now read his personal and financial story and talked with him, I find not an ounce of inconsistency or inauthenticity.  He applied the same approach to money when living through the Great Depression and standing over the grill in his first restaurant as he does today encouraging us to deconstruct and rebuild our view of affluence.  I also cannot think of a time personally, or with hundreds of clients over the years, in which this particular proverb did not hold true: “If I give water to others, I will never be thirsty.”

One of the highlights of Wealth: Is It Worth It? is an interview Cathy conducted with a friend he has forged in pursuit of his campaign for generosity, the venerable Warren Buffett.  He asks, “Warren, how do you define wealth?”  Buffett answers, “Wealth is having enough.”  Interesting, isn’t it, how wisdom changes so little even over thousands of years.  There is plenty of money out there and a lot of riches, but whether among the rich or the poor, we could all use more enough.

There are many more life-giving tidbits you’ll find throughout my radio interview with Truett Cathy.  The show is organized into some bite-size portions below:

1)     Introduction: A blessing to some and a curse to others 
2)     Friendship w/ Warren Buffett; money and children
3)     Truett’s father; living through Depression; discomfort w/ being rich
4)     “Retirement is misery!”; Chick-fil-A’s secret; when to start giving

Check out comedian, Tim Hawkins, hysterical ode to his favorite restaurant, Chick-fil-A!

Financial Planning for Fathers

Tm1  I’ve learned more about life in the last 6 years than in the previous 28 combined.  It was 6 years ago when I became a father, and I now have two incredible boys—Kieran and Connor—who’ve likely taught me more than I them.  Parenting is a glorious challenge that tests every area of our lives—our marriage, family, and friendships, as well as our productivity, creativity and often times our mental stability!  Financially, being a father is… expensive.  And for those dads who have a tendency to evaluate financial expenditures as a “return on investment,” the return on investment in our children presents a confounding dilemma.  After all, the expense is cold hard cash and the return is nebulous and may not be realized for decades.  

In the end, we dads must relinquish our desire for tangible benefits of parenting and pour our life (and often
Tm2   times, our money) into these little ones, unconditionally.  It is through this sacrifice that we begin to realize that the real benefits of parenting have nothing to do with dollars and cents, but instead intangible blessings and unexplainable joy.  And who wouldn’t trade that—dollars for lasting joy?  Fathering, then, turns out to be an incredible investment after all!

Practically, here are four financial planning areas that every dad needs to address:

Will – Most of us dads think that we’re generally indestructible, but the truth is that the one thing we can be sure of in life is that we will eventually… die.  That inevitability requires us to have a will.  And especially for fathers of young children, the most important financial planning recommendation in your world is to acquire or update a will—most importantly, to stipulate who your children’s legal guardian will be in the case of your untimely demise. 

Life Insurance – The one thing that many dislike almost as much as the thought of their own death is the notion of talking to a life insurance agent.  But the truth remains that if we would be leaving behind a spouse and children who are at least partly reliant on our very existence for our portion of the household, we need some life insurance.  The vast majority of us will ably fulfill our life insurance needs with TERM life insurance.

Education Planning – As dads, we’re not legally or ethically bound to pay for our children’s college education, but if that is something that we’ve pledged to do, we should save for it so that it doesn’t wipe us out once our kids start graduating from high school.  Consider saving 50% of your expected college expenses in a 529 college investment savings plan.

Work/Life Balance – Dads tend to put a lot of weight into our role to “provide and protect” in our households, but if we’re to be honest, we’d acknowledge that we occasionally abdicate ourselves from other roles and duties in the household.  Simply put, our kids grow up fast, and if we make them feel like our work is the most important thing in the world, they’ll quite naturally conclude that they aren’t.  Adults understand the difference between the quality of time and the quantity—but for kids, it’s often just about the quantity!

I had an opportunity to share these same thoughts with viewers of WBAL-TV (NBC) in Baltimore yesterday – Father's Day.  If you want to view the video simply click HERE or click the image!

TM - WBAL - June 20, 2010