2013 Personal Finance Reading List For The Attention Deficient

When a student of mine recently asked for a reading list that could help satiate her budding interest in the intersection of money and life, I was pleasantly surprised and inspired to aggregate a list of titles that met the following criteria:

1)     Not boring

2)     Not long

3)     Not salesy

As you may have suspected, these criteria ruled out the vast majority of those books written in the subject matter, and forced me to expand my search well beyond prescriptive how-to books.  The list is bookended with two novels, but every entry utilizes a fair amount of narrative to communicate its message.  This is vitally important, because regardless of how much the financial industry lobbies to make your financial peace contingent on its proprietary products and processes, personal finance will always be more personal than it is finance:

Warm Up

The Ultimate Gift

Master storyteller, Jim Stovall, has sold over 4 million copies of this book that was turned into a movie and spawned a series of associated books and movies (one of which was co-authored by yours truly).  The original is a novel about a billionaire who dies and attempts to save his grand-nephew from destroying his own life with money.  Although it was never intended to do so, The Ultimate Gift attracted a cult-like following among financial, estate and tax advisors who bought the book en masse to give away as…gifts, pun intended.

Simplifying and Downsizing

Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money

This book is written by a good friend of mine, Carl Richards, who, in additional to being a great financial planner, also writes for The New York Times.  He uses simple drawings to distill the complexities of personal finance in a way that is practical and approachable.

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)

This book is written by Tammy Strobel, a woman who previously worked in the financial services industry and then went on a quest to radically simplify her life.  I doubt that many of us will take it to the extreme that Tammy has, but if you could take just a few of her principles into account as you craft your existence, I think you’d get more out of money and life.

Preach!

The Total Money Makeover

Need your butt kicked into financial shape?  This book, by radio/TV superstar, Dave Ramsey, is my first recommendation for people who are in trouble with debt.  Dave’s message has helped thousands (millions?) get out of debt and live true financial freedom.  And even if you’re not in debt, this book helps lay out a foundation for making sure you stay that way, save enough and keep your priorities straight.  Dave tends to oversimplify some financial disciplines to a fault—like investing—but nobody gives a better kick in the pants to those ready to receive it.

Wealth: Is it Worth It?

You don’t have to like chicken sandwiches to enjoy this book—and even have it change your financial life.  Truett Cathy is the 90-something founder of uber-successful fast food giant, Chick-fil-A, and while he does have a tendency to sermonize, he does so lovingly, and heck, he’s earned it.  (You can read my review of the book and hear an interview I conducted with Mr. Cathy by clicking HERE.)  In addition to much of his own wisdom, he shares feedback he’s received personally from other notable luminaries, like a guy named Warren Buffett, whom I’ve heard knows a few things about money as well.

Exposé

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

This book, written by Michael Lewis (bestselling author of Moneyball, The Blind Side and others) is the best explanation of how the financial crisis really played out that you’ll likely find.  And because he’s an amazing author, it’s also very entertaining.  Please be aware that this is Rated R for language—the default vernacular under the pin-striped exterior of the financial industry.  (You can read more of my thoughts on this book HERE.)

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

This book may be considered THE classic on security trading, but while it is the most technical of my selections, it’s actually a novel based on the life of famed trader, Jesse Livermore.  [Spoiler alert] The hero actually died—at his own hand—virtually penniless after making and losing at least four fortunes.  But while this book was written as a cautionary tale, many in the financial industry have strangely deified it, still handing it to new recruits as a how-to.  The morale of the story, in my opinion, is actually that beating the market is exceedingly difficult and that the voracious pursuit of money leads to, at best, a big pile of money and at worst, death.  Although it’s a great deal longer, I do recommend the annotated edition by Jon D. Markman, which embeds this fascinating story in historical context.

Life Planning—The Most Important Part of Financial Planning

Anything You Want

This is a very short book—more like a manifesto—by a guy named Derek Sivers.  Derek was a rock star who started a company, CD Baby, to help musicians sell their music online.  It became huge and he sold it for millions of bucks…but he donated all the proceeds to charity and moved on to his next project [insert screeching record sound].  You’ll love this short volume.

The Art of Non-Conformity

Chris Guillebeau is a lifestyle/travel blogger—not a personal finance guy—but this is a great book for opening your eyes to the type of career and life you want to have.

The 4-Hour Work Week

Speaking of non-conformity, meet Tim Ferriss.  This book has turned into a phenomenon and a “4 Hour” series by Tim Ferriss.  Read it and you’ll see why.

Life Changing

Same Kind of Different As Me

Let’s finish up with a break from all that wisdom and practical advice to enjoy this brilliant re-telling of a true-story in novel form.  This is really a book about greed and spiritual awakening, co-told by an adulterous big-shot art dealer and a homeless man.  This will break your heart…and then warm it.  Enjoy.

Oh, and I almost forgot…

The Ultimate Financial Plan

Yes, the one financial book that every one of my students is required to read[i] I did co-author, with the aforementioned Jim Stovall.  It’s intended to walk you through a comprehensive personal financial plan in the spirit of The Ultimate Gift’s timeless truth with timely applications you can use to the benefit of your todays and tomorrows, personally and financially.

Most of these books are pretty short and fast reads—I’ve got a touch of (depending on who you talk to) A.D.D. and it takes a really gripping book for me to make it through, but all of these passed the test!  I’d love to hear your thoughts if and when you read any of these, as well as your suggestions to be added to this list that meet the three criteria.


[i] The other required text for my class is the Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, the short classic writing/grammar book, because one thing most educational institutions forget to tell their students is that if you can’t communicate well, your degree is WORTHLESS!

Less: The New More

One of the things that frustrates me most about financial planning and financial planners is that it seems we’re simply in the business of helping people accumulate more.  More of everything—cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, houses, cars, collectibles and other belongings.  Indeed, how many financial success stories are based on depictions of households who have LESS this year than last?  If anything, the financial industry may be in the business of inspiring a spirit of greed—albeit in the guise of commercials and marketing slicks with beautiful, ageless smiles in ideal settings typically involving sailboats, golf courses and vineyards.  Come pay us to help you get…more.

And I don’t think anyone would deny that we, as a country, bought it—hook, line and sinker—over the course of the 80’s and especially the 90’s, during the birth of the now foreclosed McMansion.  Yes, it was as if an entire generation of Americans consented to hopping aboard a giant hamster wheel of accumulation, all striving toward the imaginary objective of acquiring enough stuff and a pot of money big enough to sustain a comfortable level of consumption through to the grave.  The results speak for themselves: a housing bubble that has left a quarter of the country under water, the corresponding market crash that left a slew of investors without a positive rate of return for over a decade, perpetual car payments and credit card bills, the decline of selfless charity, the demise of the single-income household and millions of workers who abandoned their dream jobs for whatever would pay the most money.

Fortunately, we’re starting to see a shift away from our self-worth being determined by the square footage in our houses, the emblem on our cars or the title on our business cards.  Led by a generational strain more impressed with subjective quality than objective quantity, folks like Tammy Strobel, author of the book You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap) and the Rowdy Kittens blog, are showing us by example how LESS really can be MORE.  Prone to material minimalism and houses as small as a parking space, they are not condescending or judgmental.  They’re just choosing to live a different way, disregarding much of the supposed accumulation gospel preached by the financial services majority, and inviting a growing community to do the same.

Tammy and her husband, Logan, are both 34 years old, and while she told me it wasn’t a particularly easy transition to go from the life they had to the simplified one they have, it has been a wholly gratifying experience they’d never trade.  A few years ago, they were spending in excess of $70,000 of household income, and they owned two cars and a big apartment filled with stuff.  Now, they live in a tiny house—128 square feet!—have no cars and rarely have monthly expenses in excess of $700.  I’m sure your response to that was similar to mine: “That’s crazy!”  But they have simply chosen to value relationships, community, independence and the most valuable commodity of all—time—over the everyday trappings that dominate most of our lives.

What is to be gained by simplifying life from a physical and fiscal perspective?   It“… allows you to create your own lifestyle, one with the freedom, money and time to do what you love…” according to Strobel.  Sounds an awful lot like the promises offered in a retirement planning pitch, doesn’t it?  But many of these folks are living this unique style of financial independence decades away from a traditional retirement age.

While these simplifiers may be light years away from qualifying for any of the big dogs’ wealth management services, they’re actually living by the foundational precepts of sound, commonsensical personal finance.  And while some may be inclined to dismiss them as a cult of upstart hippies, their behavior is more vintage and classically conservative than nouveau and socialist, most closely representing the habits of our grandparents and their parents.  Those generations actually owned houses they could afford, using mortgages sparingly.  They put in a day’s work and enjoyed the balance of their time with family and friends.  They considered a single car—much less two or three—to be a luxury, and couldn’t have imagined using leverage to buy one.  And they spent more time seeking to reduce their expenses than increase their income.  What a novel notion.

If it sounds crazy for a financial planner to be lauding deleveraging, downsizing and dispossessing, please let me remind you that the goal of the best financial plan isn’t necessarily to have more money…but to have a better life.

The 5 Hour Energy Scam And The Power Of Self-Deception

“We asked over 3,000 doctors to review 5 Hour Energy, and what they said is amazing.  Over 73% who reviewed 5 Hour Energy said they would recommend a low-calorie energy supplement to their healthy patients who use energy supplements.”

The first time I saw this commercial, I had to double check to see if it was a Saturday Night Live skit.  But alas, it wasn’t.

Yes, they asked “over 3,000 doctors.”  According to the fine print, they actually asked 5,000 in person and only half of them agreed to review the drink, and by review the drink, they clarify that they agreed to read the ingredients and their associated descriptions.  An additional 503 doctors responded to an online survey, but they don’t tell us how many they asked to respond online.

73% of the docs who actually reviewed the stuff recommended a low-calorie energy supplement—not 5 Hour Energy, specifically, just a low-calorie energy supplement.  But this “recommendation” was still further qualified; they recommended the low-calorie supplement only to their healthy patients who actually use energy supplements.

What do we really learn, then, from this not-so-highly scientific study?

For those statistical anomalies who can somehow be deemed “healthy,” even though they require a regular chemical boost merely to survive the day, 73% of the doctors who didn’t blow this study off as an absurd waste of time recommend that you use an energy supplement that won’t also make you fat, accelerating your already rapid pace to an early grave.

My first inclination was to be offended that 5 Hour Energy thinks there are enough people dull enough to be manipulated by the lady with the perma-smile sitting next to a bunch of fake documents, but then it hit me—they’re not trying to get non-users to take 5 Hour Energy.  They’re trying to help existing users perpetuate their own ruse of self-deception.

Self-deception is more powerful than coercion, because we’re more inclined to believe the stories we tell ourselves (both true and untrue) than the convictions of others.  So the most effective external manipulation is that which supports what we’d already prefer to believe.  I know my body does not naturally require the daily infusion of 5 Hour Energy if I actually get enough sleep and exercise—but I’d rather not, so I’ll buy your story about the 73% of doctors.

What stories are you buying regarding your health, marriage or other relationships, work or finances that are rooted in self-deception?  And what forces may be seeking to perpetuate that self-deception?

How A Dorky Holster Saved My iPhone In A 60 MPH Accident

So I’m headed out the door for the REALLY early hot vinyasa yoga class in an attempt to start a long day off with an extra dose of peace, but I’m really not a morning person and shouldn’t be allowed to wake—much less drive a vehicle—at 5:30am.  Nonetheless, I make it to yoga and experience my desired helping of Zen, only to return home and find my 64-gig-4S-runs-my-life-and-makes-it-complete-iPhone—missing.

It’s difficult retracing my steps through the drowsy cloud that was my first 30 minutes of the day, stumbling into the garage, trying to remember the activity’s necessities: yoga mat, 32 ounces of water to replace those I’m about to lose, yogi towel, face towel, shower towel, toiletries—WAIT—is it possible that I put my iPhone on top of the car when I was shoveling all that stuff in the back seat?  Oh [word that I’m attempting to remove from my vernacular]!

But I’m not too awfully worried yet; there were several very slow turns within my community that would likely have sent the phone off the roof gently, maybe even landing in a soft pile of leaves (that haven’t yet fallen from the trees?).  Nope, nothing there.

A-hah!  I remember flipping a toggle switch when I set up my new device that would enable me to “Find My iPhone,” and thankfully found an app on my new iPad bearing the same name.  Hallelujah—the phone appears to be alive, still able to gasp out a GPS signal, and only 1.3 miles from home!  I spread my fingers on the high-retina display to zoom in vivid high definition to see the phone is indeed ON the Jones Falls Expressway—Interstate 83—one of the busiest thoroughfares in the Baltimore metro.  And it’s 8:00am.  On a Tuesday.

As I’m now driving in my car, I’m picturing Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans yelling, “No matter what occurs, stay alive.  I will find you!”  But even if I could find it, I can’t imagine justifying a game of human Frogger to retrieve even my favorite genderless e-companion, Siri.  Then, as I approach the location, internally debating whether I should bother the Lord with requests for the safe return of this gadget on steroids, I see her (Siri definitely sounds like a girl to me)—sitting three inches from the white line, resting partially upright in the rumble strips, snug in the dorky holster I bought on Amazon for under $5 (shipping included—from Hong Kong).  I cradle her like a wounded bird into the passenger seat, afraid to remove her from the holster now obscuring what surely must be a fractured face.  I can’t look.  And then I do.  Somehow, amazingly, she survived—unscathed!  My only conclusion is that she landed on the dorkiest part of the dorky holster—the clip—and bounced into the rumble strips to await my brave retrieval.

The moral of this story?  I’m too attached to my iPhone.  Or, maybe I’m too attached to the $849.99 (per Verizon) it would cost to replace her—I mean, it.  I guess I could craft a moral that directs you to phone insurance—in which case, I’d probably tell you it’s a complete rip-off to buy it from Verizon or AT&T for $10 per month with a $169 deductible, and still a pretty penny to pay $99 plus a $50 deductible for Apple Care + or SquareTrade—but I think there’s something a bit more nuanced and meaningful here.

As one entirely capable of unworthily worshipping stuff and occasionally money, I believe we can justify attachments to iPhones and cash only to the point that they enhance our personal relationships (the ones with actual people we know and love).  They are, indeed, incredibly valuable tools in the pursuit of relationships, but it’s vital we don’t allow [insert material object here] to replace them.

The Bias Trap

by Jim Stovall

Like many people of my generation, I grew up on a steady diet of 60 Minutes broadcasts every Sunday night.  Whether you liked or didn’t like 60 Minutes, and regardless of whether you believed in their slant on a story, it was—and still is—hard not to watch.

For many years, 60 Minutes did three news magazine-type features followed by a brief commentary by Andy Rooney.  Andy Rooney could be best described as an off-beat, out-of-date curmudgeon.  This is exactly what made his commentary so poignant.  No matter what the topic of his commentary, and regardless of your own personal experience, Andy Rooney could look at any issue from a totally unique perspective.

We lost Andy Rooney not too long ago, just a short time after he retired, having worked into his 90s.  He had an amazing career that spanned from being a war correspondent during World War II through the formative stage and golden years of network TV, up to a point long past where most of his colleagues had retired.

Andy Rooney was fond of saying, “People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.”

It’s easy for me to believe that everyone else, including Andy Rooney, would come to an issue with a bias.  What is hard for me to admit and grasp is the fact that I, also, have a bias in every situation.

My late, great mentor and friend Paul Harvey told me that the most honest he could be as a reporter was to admit his personal bias up front.  We succeed in our personal and professional lives by making good decisions.  We make good decisions by honestly evaluating the situation and our various alternatives.  This honest evaluation is dependent upon our ability to set aside any bias we may have.  In order to set aside our bias, we must admit we have one and clearly define it.

If you’re looking at a choice, a decision, a debate, or controversy, the easiest way to clarify and get rid of your own bias is to argue the other side and present the other position.  This keeps your logic strong and gives you the benefit of an opposite perspective.

During the formative years of my company, the Narrative Television Network, I had the privilege of interviewing many classic film stars.  Among these were Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.  These two superstars were the best of friends who seemed to have virtually nothing in common.  For years, they starred on Broadway playing the lead characters in Neil Simon’s production of The Odd Couple.  Jack Lemmon played the persnickety, neurotic neat freak Felix Unger while Walter Matthau played the irascible slob Oscar Madison.  Both of them told me, on separate occasions, that they brought strength, originality, and freshness to their roles because, once a week, they would switch parts, allowing Lemmon to play Oscar while Matthau played Felix.

The late, great favorite son of my home state, Oklahoma, Will Rogers, who was a Native American, was fond of saying, “Never judge a man unless you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”  Mr. Rogers understood that a different perspective would change your focus and eliminate your bias.

As you go through your day today, try to gain knowledge and apply it in the form of wisdom by eliminating your own preconceived bias.

Today’s the day!

Your Personal Money Story

This is the first exercise in a series designed to walk you through an entire financial plan.  The spreadsheet is embedded in an Excel spreadsheet you can download and save for personal use.  You can get the background for this exercise in my Forbes post HERE or just jump right in with the instructions given below:

Write your own Personal Money Story.  What is the earliest memory you have about money, and how old were you?  For many, it will involve some combination of a piggy bank and an allowance or birthday gift somewhere between ages 3 and 6.  Then, rate this experience numerically between +10 for a great experience and –10 for a scarring memory.  Continue this pattern, marking all of the notable experiences you had with money—good and bad—throughout the course of your life.  As you fill in the columns in chronological order, you’ll see the graph begin to populate.

As you reflect on the completed exercise, what story does it tell?  Is it notably fortunate, happy, tragic or sad?  Is it relatively level or particularly volatile?  The answers to these questions might just explain the health of your 401k or your burdensome credit card balance.

As you develop your own realizations about your money beliefs, consider sharing your story with a select family member or friend, especially a spouse or loved one upon whom your Personal Money Story might have a meaningful impact…and suggest they do the same.

Repetition Helps and Hurts

By Jim Stovall

The tasks we repeat are the tasks we master.  The thoughts we review are the thoughts we remember.  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes consistent.  Only perfect practice will make a perfect performance.

I have spoken in many arena events with thousands of people in attendance.  It is interesting to observe when the event organizers conduct a brief experiment.  An announcer will get onstage and quote the first half of an advertising slogan that hasn’t been used in decades.  Without hesitation, thousands of people in unison will recite the second half of that obsolete and outdated slogan.

Cigarettes have not been advertised on broadcast TV or radio since the 1960s; however, when the announcer at the arena event says, “Winston tastes good…”, the entire audience recites, “…like a cigarette should.”  While I’m glad that cigarette advertising has been outlawed, and future generations won’t be exposed to that harmful habit in the same way many of us were, it is important to realize that the slogan has been deposited into our collective consciousness in a way that it can be recalled by the masses instantly.

It’s not memorable because we care about cigarettes or like the ad that ran years ago.  It’s memorable because the message was repeated countless times.

I’ve heard the same announcer simply mention the first ingredient listed in a McDonald’s commercial by saying, “Two all-beef patties….”  Without hesitation, 10,000 people recite in unison, “special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”

You may not like Big Macs and may not have had one in years.  That particular ad hasn’t run on TV or radio in several decades, but because of the repetitive nature of the advertising campaign, we all know it immediately.

While repetition in delivering your message is important, there is a type of repetition in the digital age that is counterproductive.  If I receive one email from a person or organization, I’m likely to give it some of my attention.  If I receive two or three of them, I instantly know it is part of a bulk email blast, and I don’t have to pay attention to it.  If I get an envelope in my mailbox addressed to me with some type of offer or incentive, I may review it for a moment; but if I get two or three duplicates of the same mailing in my box at the same time, I realize it’s only a mass mailing, and I don’t have to pay attention to it.

If you’re going to use the power of repetition, use it in a way that benefits your message, not in a way your message becomes marginalized.

As you go through your day today, remember:  Repetition can make you memorable or annoying in the eyes of those you want to reach.

Today’s the day!

The Articulate Incompetent

by Jim Stovall

The Internet and digital age have given rise to a new phenomenon.  There are people whoknow enough to be dangerous, not only to themselves but to you and me as well.  Beware of the articulate incompetent.  These are people who can talk a good game but have little or no experience at applying the newly-found knowledge they espouse.

With the ease of accessing a search engine and a brief period of focus, anyone can begin to convince you that they are an expert on anything.

Our grandparents would have had to travel to several libraries and universities and talk to a number of experts over several months or even years to have access to the information you and I have at our fingertips via the web.

To succeed in the 21st century, we must learn to differentiate information from knowledge, and knowledge from wisdom.  Information is nothing more than random data or facts that have no specific application until they are internalized.  Knowledge is the intake of that information.

A person who becomes knowledgeable has sought out a source of information, and by mastering that information, has gained knowledge, therefore becoming a source of information.  Wisdom is the practical, successful application of knowledge.  Wisdom is never gained solely by sitting in front of a computer screen or by occupying a seat in a classroom.  It comes through hard work, generally accompanied by trial and error.

Wisdom allows us to avoid painful, frustrating, and time-wasting situations.  Unfortunately, this wisdom is usually gained from going through painful, frustrating, and time-wasting experiences.

A person with knowledge may have a diploma, book, or computer program.  A person with wisdom often has bruises, scars, and a bit of gray hair.

As you are trying to reveal and, therefore, avoid the articulate incompetent, it is important to realize they will want to tell you what they know while you will want to inquire about what they’ve done.  An articulate incompetent may just know slightly more than you do about any subject.  You can usually derail an articulate incompetent by allowing them to spout off their knowledge and then just simply ask them, “How have you applied that in the real world, and what were the results?”

We still live in a world that, when it’s all said and done, there’s a lot said and very little done.  We don’t succeed based on what we know.  We succeed based on what we do.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing if it is obtained on the road toward wisdom that can benefit the traveler and the whole world.

As you go through your day today, separate information and knowledge from wisdom, and avoid the articulate incompetents.

Today’s the day!

For Love, Not Money

“I commit to nurturing a gratifying relationship with money.”

In the twittersphere, I saw this seemingly noble resolution dart by last week.  I subverted my urge to question it in under 140 characters, but with no such limit here, I’d like to engage this notion that I believe to be fundamentally flawed and potentially dangerous in our quest for personal and financial harmony.

I’m sure this blogger/tweeter, a self-described expert on women’s financial dealings, is well-intended, even when she invites you to “Love your money, love your life,” on her home page.  Reading through her prescriptions, I have no doubt we share many personal financial philosophies; indeed, it is not my intent to start a feud or initiate a personal attack, but instead to take issue with this philosophy I’ve often seen at work in many forums, even if I’m to be accused of merely mincing words.

Money is not something worthy of our love and affection, nor is it a suitable partner in relationship.

Relationship is—or at least should be—reserved for people and love is the currency of relationship.  Money when personified is given too much credit; it becomes an end instead of a means.  Of course, it often is the object of our love, admiration and respect.  Possibly we think that if we address it properly, it will find us worthy of financial favor and bless us with…more?  But not unlike other inappropriate relationships, a love of money often devolves into fantasy, obsession, lust and eventually infidelity.

Your primary relationships in life—your significant other or spouse, your children, your parents and siblings, your friends, your co-workers and co-laborers in service—can’t compete with money.  This is because genuine relationship requires give and take and money appears on its surface only to give, without argument, criticism or judgment. It’s no wonder, then, that with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce over half of those splits cite financial disputes as their origin.  It’s no wonder children manipulate their parents for money and parents cut children out of wills.  It’s no wonder siblings ostracize one another over inheritance, that business partnerships collapse and non-profit initiatives are scarred by financial scandal.  When given an opportunity to compete with people for relationship, money wins.

Therefore, we must never allow money to compete with or for relationship. 

This also appears to be in keeping with money’s design, even in its most primitive form.  The long-held presumption was that money came about as a wildcard in the realm of trade.  Let’s say we’re part of an economy based on the barter system; I’m a farmer who makes dairy products and you’re the village tailor.  You’d like some cheese, but my wife is also gifted with the needle, so I have no need for your services.  You’re out of luck.  Enter money.  You give me money for cheese, and I can use the money to pay the blacksmith for some much needed horseshoes.

This theory has been called into question, though.  Some economists argue that while this may sound logical, actual examples of the barter wildcard are nonexistent.  They claim that money was used more as an I.O.U.  You have something I need, but I have no way to compensate you, so money serves instead as a marker of what is owed—debt, effectively.  While the meaning or importance of money’s origin could be argued, one thing is clear in either of these cases: money was designed to enhance relationship, not stand as its replacement.

And that is no different today.  While money may serve very poorly as the object of our adoration, it is quite effective as a tool for its expression.  Certainly, in suggesting money is not worthy of our love, I by no means intend to imply that it is inherently bad or evil, just neutral.  As my friend and co-author, Jim Stovall, puts so nicely, “Nothing can take the place of money in the things that money does, but outside of the scope where money is useful, it has no value.”

Mincing words?  I think not.  Words are powerful.  Our words express and even inform our beliefs, and we act on what we believe.  What we believe about money will impact what we do for and with it.  But if I’m starting to sound a bit too gray, fuzzy, squishy or philosophical for you, consider these more pragmatic reasons to further entertain my plea:  Those who have put money in its rightful place—out of their hearts and in their bank accounts, investments, homes, educations, businesses and service initiatives—tend to acquire more of it, spending less paying attorneys and compensating ex-spouses, ex-children, ex-friends, ex-business partners, ex-everything.  And lastly, a philosophy grounded in falsehood is eventually destined to fail.  Reason enough to reconsider yours?

Dependable People

by Jim Stovall

The world could be divided very simply into two distinct groups of people.  There are people who you can trust to get things done, and there are people you can’t.

All of us have a myriad of things to do each day in our personal and professional lives.  How we prioritize these items and get them done on a regular basis will determine how successful we will become.  Even if you work or live by yourself, you are dependent upon other people for each of the tasks you want to accomplish on your daily list.  In some cases, you are waiting on other people to bring you the tools or information you need to move ahead.  In other cases, you are delegating responsibilities to others so that you can oversee a project or work on other aspects of it at the same time.

Recently, I went through several weeks of my daily list of tasks and realized that about 80 percent of the items I work on each day are dependent upon others.  If the people whom I had delegated items to or venders I had depended upon were totally reliable, my days would be much more free and clear than they are.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about a business professional he was dealing with on a project.  He had glowing recommendations for this individual.  As he told me the story, it basically boiled down to the fact that he had arranged to have this person perform a job in a certain way, with a particular budget, with a definite deadline.  The person he was praising had, indeed, done what he said he was going to do, within the allotted time, and within the prescribed budget.

It is sad to realize that in the world we live in today, if you do what you say you’re going to do, in a reliable and dependable fashion, it becomes noteworthy, and you become legendary among your customers or circle of influence.

As you move toward your goals and objectives in life, seek to surround yourself with people whom you can depend on.  This will help you avoid the redundancy of asking someone to do something and then being forced to follow up to see if it was actually completed and done properly.

As you go through your day today, strive to be a person who is dependable and reliable, and surround yourself with people who hold themselves to the same standard.

Today’s the day!