90 Second Finance…The Bucket Plan

The "technical" term I use most in educating about personal finance is… BUCKET.  It’s useful in so many areas of financial planning.  You put your money into checking account buckets and set-up various budget buckets.  You contribute money to a 401(k) bucket during your working years and then take money out of that bucket in retirement.

This video is 90 seconds of instruction on the primary decisions you face in creating the optimal Will…the document you should have properly written before you KICK the bucket!

Holiday Blues: A Remedy

Beat-the-holiday-blues-2It’s gone.  Just like that.  What’s left, but a large, dead plant to dispose of, lights and decorations to put away and a budget that enjoyed more merriment than it could handle?  The holiday blues are setting in…

How do we counter the holiday blues?  Well, last year, one of my neighbors kept his Christmas tree up… until March!  I suppose that’s one way to process the emotional downward spiral, but it seems that denial will only get us so far.  I offer, then, a recommendation that can 1) improve your life, 2) give you a lasting infusion of holiday spirit AND 3) potentially put some of those dollars you spent throughout the holidays back in your pocket. 

The recommendation: Purge & Give.  How?  Meander throughout your house and analyze what you haven’t used in the past year and then… give it away to someone who’d likely find it a treasure.

There certainly are exceptions to the one-year-rule.  Camping gear or tools, for instance, are things that you may not use for a year but fully intend to use in the future and should keep on hand.  The most effective place to start vetting is often your closet.  If you haven’t worn an article of clothing or pair of shoes in over a year, the chances are very good that you don’t need to hold on to it (or them).  Then inventory your basement, garage, shed, desk, wallet, purse and car.

If you’re the parent of younger children, as I am, the purge-and-give process is a great one to eliminate surplus former holiday and birthday presents AND to teach your kids the benefits of these worthy pursuits at a young age.  Don’t do it when they’re asleep, hoping they’ll never miss anything, but instead involve them in the process.

How, then, might this process deliver on the aforementioned benefits?

  • Simply put, a simpler life is a better life.  Margin—personally, spatially and financially—is our friend.
  • ‘Tis better to give than receive?  You may not feel that way about your brother-in-law, but try giving to someone really in need or an organization devoted to helping those who may not have received ANY presents this time of year.  Doctors tell us we get a wave of endorphins from giving—the more direct, the better—and an endorphin rush is just what the doctor ordered for the holiday blues.
  • Assuming you itemize when doing your taxes, you should be able to deduct your charitable contributions—even for in-kind items.  You may be surprised, but if you haven't purged for several years, your contributions to charity could add hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to your personal balance sheet.  (Talk to your CPA about your specific situation.) 

You still have time in 2010 to receive these benefits.  Take a walk around the house and head to your local Salvation Army or  Goodwill donation center or homeless shelter.  They’ll be better for it… and so will you.

And, as long as you promise not to use this only to provide solace for a lack of action on your part, this short video of “The Collector’s Collector” on the show, “Hoarders,” will help you put your situation at home in perspective:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvBGNXi1gXs&feature=fvst.

Have a blessed—and simpler—New Year!

The Cure For Greed

Interesting, isn’t it, how all that seems to be good about the holiday season recently incepted also seems to be accompanied by something… less than good?  Along with the bountiful feast on Thanksgiving comes the gluttony of eating like animals preparing for hibernation.  Along with the tradition of competitive college and professional football comes the sloth of watching three games… back-to-back… in the same spot… on the same couch.  And along with the season of giving comes the season of frenzied consumption, driven by marketing that at times seems downright manipulative.

Please don’t perceive my tone as judgmental; I only used the examples mentioned because they are those temptations to which I am most susceptible.  I am not a member of the naturally frugal minority condemning the profligate materialistic majority.  It is, after all, my tendency to prefer more over less, better over worse, cool over dorky and hip over unfashionable.

So it is with humility, then, that I posit this “Cure for Greed,” learned quite unintentionally through an experience many years ago that helps me avoid succumbing to the tug of materialism, an enticement we all face daily:

YOU NEED TO KNOW…That It’s So Much Easier To Live The Truth

6a0120a8cdef2c970b0133ed471626970b No doubt, you’ve at some point been given the admonishment that it’s easier to tell the truth because you don’t have to remember your lies.  It really is solid logic, especially for those of us with selective memories.  Doesn’t it also seem that people tend to get in more trouble for lying about something they’ve done wrong—attempting to be covering it up—than they do for actually doing the wrong thing in the first place?

 Sure, it’s particularly obvious in cases like former President Clinton’s hazy recollection regarding his interpersonal relations, but how about the emails between fund managers laughing about sales of financial products they knew were destined for failure?  It’s quite possible that examples like those of corporate falsehood and the accompanying aloofness played a substantial role in the populist uprising that led to major changes in Washington recently.

That leaves me wondering… if it’s easier to TELL the truth because we don’t have to remember our lies, and we recognize the severity of the consequences when we’re caught in a lie, what are the implications if we LIVE a lie?  How about in our occupations, the pursuits in which most of us will spend the majority of our waking hours?  Do you ever feel as though you’ve been pigeon-holed into a particular job because it works well for someone else, but not necessarily for you?  Maybe you’re even encouraged to perform your duties in such a way that are in conflict with your values—or at least your instincts.  Maybe it seems like it would just be too hard, financially or personally, to be true to yourself and do something for which you’re better suited.  

Then follow the example of Keith McCullough, author of the book Diary of a Hedge Fund Manager. He found himself educated and skilled enough to excel at the highest levels in the hedge fund world.  He was “making it big” financially and had all the opportunities to continue to ride that wave.  But he knew it wasn’t who he was or what he was meant to be doing and took a 100% pay cut to walk away. He may not be making more money than he did as a hedge fund manager, but now Keith is enjoying the harmony of both telling AND living the truth… and that is something YOU NEED TO KNOW.

Selfish Generosity

The-art-of-non-conformity-set-your-own-rules-live-the-life-you-want-and-change-the-world Chris Guillebeau is an interesting dude.  I had the chance to hang out with him recently when he was stopping in Baltimore on his book tour in support of his new book, The Art of Non-Conformity, and I interviewed Chris on the radio show, Money, Riches & Wealth.  In case you’ve never heard of Chris and require a little more buy-in to believe he’s worthy of the “interesting” label, my summary following should do the trick:

Chris quit high-school after his freshman year, got his GED, snuck into community college, finished hisundergrad degree in 2 years (your math is correct—at that point, he wouldn’t have even finished high school ordinarily), served with an aid organization in Africa for several years, came back to the states to complete grad school, began to blog, became a professional writer and then wrote a book including a chapter in which he calculates to the penny how he could’ve gotten more education for far less outside of grad school rather than in.

You might expect this rebel with a cause to be a loud, type-A, bull-in-a-china-shop sort, but I was somewhat surprised to learn he’s actually a soft-spoken introvert.  That hasn’t stopped him from communicating a truck-load of wisdom, certainly through his book, The Art of Non-Conformity, but even more so through his online presence (which you can enjoy at www.chrisguillebeau.com).

And here’s the most interesting thing about Chris and his vision that separates him from the vast majority of vocational self-help voices:

He doesn’t think it’s all about YOU (or him or me).

Way too many books—most glaringly, The Secret—have attempted to make us followers by courting us with self-centric pronouncements that WE are each the center of a universe that is waiting to dutifully serve us all the success and money we could dream of if we simply dedicate our every thought and action to that “reality.”   Mr. Guillebeau, on the other hand, sends a strikingly non-hedonistic message.  Sure, he believes that we should be enjoying nearly every minute of our education and job, but instead of attracting us with visions of living endless hours with our toes in the sand and a fruity umbrella drink in hand, he encourages us to live a life filled with purpose and work that may be enriching, but definitely fulfilling.

He believes that in order for us to be entirely fulfilled with our life’s work, we need to be serving someone other than ourselves; that we—regardless of our age—must be building a legacy, not just an estate.  He calls it “selfish generosity.”  Doing something good for others that is also good for you.  If you struggle to believe that one can find financial stability, or even affluence, by pursuing a vocational course that doesn’t seek first and always to serve oneself, take a look at, well, Chris.  Or, have some fun learning about Blake Mycoskie, the young entrepreneur who started a phenomenally successful, for-profit shoe company—TOMS Shoes—on the premise that they would give away one pair of shoes for every pair sold. One-for-one.

Aw, I don’t know…the whole greed-centered focus worked out so well in the Great Recession, though! (Sorry, I’m obviously struggling with my 2010 New Year’s Resolution to avoid the use of sarcasm…)

Listen to just a few minutes of my interview with Chris Guillebeau on this topic by clicking here:


Chris Inteview



How Do I Choose The Right Financial Planner?

Magnifying-glass-2[1] I had the opportunity recently to work with some great folks at the Journal of Medical Practice Management.  They had been exposed to The Financial Crossroads and asked if I would write an article to be published in their offering to doctors and medical practice managers.  The topic? How to choose the right financial planner.  Which, incidentally, became the title of the article.

As I reviewed the article prior to publication, I realized that although the article was initially geared towards those in the medical realm, the education is indeed quite universal.  Furthermore, there has never been a time at which so many people have been asking the questions in my lifetime: “How do I know how to choose the right financial advisor? Who can I trust?  How can I verify?”

So I was very pleased when I found out that the Journal of Medical Practice Management had licensed an online outfit to reproduce some of its articles, allowing me to share it with you and anyone you know who might be asking the question, “How do I choose the right financial planner?

Read the entire article now by clicking HERE!

You Need To Know…A Dead Pig In The Sunshine Is Quite Happy

Listen to Tim deliver this YNTK!  Click below:

You Need To Know – Dead Pig


YOU NEED TO KNOW… that a “dead pig in the sunshine” is actually quite happy.

I’m sure you’re quite convinced at this moment that I’ve finally lost whatever marbles I previously possessed, but if you’re from the south, you might know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.  I was on the phone recently with a great client who lives in another state that is decidedly below the Mason-Dixon line, and at one point, he mentioned that he was, “Happier than a dead pig in the sunshine.”  Since I’m a big fan of the use of uncommon metaphors, I asked him how that could possibly be… he didn’t know, so I looked it up on Google.  And believe it or not, even Google was not able to tell me why a pig that was dead could be happy regardless of where he lies.

Do you ever feel this way when people in the financial world start talking?  These days, everybody is throwing around a good bit of gross domestic product, core inflation, and if you’re lucky, maybe you can have some credit crunch… (is that an ice cream topping?)  At tax time, you’re sure to hear about adjusted gross income, maybe modified adjusted gross income, and the rightly scorned alternative minimum tax.  In estate planning, you have a federal estate tax exclusion which may or may not be impacted by your annual gift exclusion or your lifetime gift exclusion.  But, if you’re looking for the most common “dead pig in the sunshine” style rule that could never be explained, why is it that the two primary ages for IRA distributions are stipulated in half years (59 ½ and 70 ½)??

Do you ever think that the phrases that are thrown around in the financial realm are actually used to make you think that you don’t know enough and thereby need to buy something from the person who’s doing the phrase dropping?  Next time, just tell them that “you’re happier than a dead pig in sunshine”… they’ll understand… and that is something YOU NEED TO KNOW.