15 Financial Lessons I Have (tried to) Given my Children

pexels-photo-754769.jpegOver the last year my kids started their college years. The “first” step into adulthood.  We as parents can only try to prepare them for life on their own.  These se are some of the financial lessons I have passed along. While some may simply be cookie cutter advice, they are functional.  Many were learned the hard way, but sometimes I took notes!   

They were free. Hope they are listening.

1.  Learn to delay gratification.  Save for goals instead of borrowing from your future.   The future you will thank  you countless times.

2. Do not feel guilty for spending money on what is important to you.  

3. That happiness you feel when you purchase that (unneeded) expensive toy is just a temporary rush and will soon be gone. 

4. Automate everything. Your savings so you don’t spend any money earmarked.  The bills so they get paid on time; Many offer discounts when the payments are automated. Save that discount.

5.  Use credit cards wisely.  They are simply tools.  Use them to make your life  better.

6. Avoid the living paycheck to paycheck syndrome.  Easy to fall into, but extremely hard to get out.

7. Find someone who has accomplished what you wish to accomplish and ask them how they got there.  Most people are happy to share.


8. Compound interest is your friend.  The earlier you start saving, the earlier you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.  This is a big negative concerning credit cards. ” … He who  understands it, earns it…he who doesn’t, pays it”. – Albert Einstein.  

9. Diversify your nest egg. Join your employer sponsored retirement plan if possible and ensure you get the company match; get IRAs every year too.

10.  Stick to low-cost index funds.  Outperforming and timing the market are a fool’s errand.  Way more boring than watching paint dry, but they have the track record of a perennial winner.

11. There is good debt and there is bad debt; learn to differentiate because some debt is unfortunately necessary.

12. Generate multiple income streams.  Freelance when possible and look to generate passive income.  Not for day-to-day expenses but for things that add value to your life.  

13. Never buy as much house as the bank tells you, only buy as little house as you need. The bank looks after their bottom line, not yours. Keep affordable housing because your home should not be your biggest asset.   That should be your retirement nest egg.

14. Study up on the pillars of financial independence.  Even if you wish to work your entire life.  The ability to walk away from an unrewarding or toxic job may be life saving and reset into something more fulfilling.

15. Minimalism and frugality have merits.  Incorporate some of their ideas into your life.

What lessons have you given your children, or a younger person just starting out? Please share any lessons that were given to you.



23 Steps to Find Happiness and Change Your Life

pexels-photo-106258.jpegOnce we step into adulthood we sometimes become so consumed with life that we forget to live. The mortgage, the student loans; they all get in the way. Our dreams are put aside and what we hoped to accomplish is never to be finished. They say that when we grow old our biggest regret is not about our failures, but what we never attempted.  So do what makes you happy.

  1. Forgive your parents for mistakes they may have made during your childhood. Nobody is perfect. Hopefully you learned from them.
  1. Forgive someone for a past transgression. Let it go, if just for you.
  1. Eliminate toxic people from your life; regardless of how hard it may be.  You do not need all the negativity in your life.
  1. Take a vacation by yourself. Go where you want, when you want.  You get to see, do and eat what you want.  Every choice will be yours and yours alone.
  1. See your favorite band play live.
  1. Watch your favorite movies one more time.  Can watch some of mine on mute and recite every line.
  1. Walk on wet grass in your bare feet.
  1.  Read every day; doesn’t have to be a book.


  1. Quit that job you hate.
  1. Try something new.  A foreign dish, or a dance.  Maybe a new language.
  1. Make a fool of yourself at least once; do it without regret.
  1.  Pick up a new hobby.  Something useless…it never really is.
  1. Learn a new skill.
  1.  “Forget” your phone at home.  After the frightful first few minutes you will find freedom.
  1. Declutter your home; if only one room you will declutter your life some.
  1. Trace your roots.
  1. Try a zip-line.  Forget the panic.
  1. Explore a cave.  The Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves in Werfen or Rio Secreto in Mexico.
  1. Travel to as many countries as possible. Get away from the tourist traps, immerse in the culture and see the real people.
  1. Pursue your passion if only for a short time.
  1. Reconnect with a long-lost friend, just because.
  1. Watch the sunrise it is a gift from Mother Nature. We get one every day. Catch one as often as possible.
  1. Give yourself that expensive gift; it is okay to be selfish once in a while. Own something that makes happy.

Activities like these recharge your batteries so to speak and clean the soul some.  Try them out without regret.  

Embrace Frugality For Easy Savings

CASTILLOThe spend money whether you have it or not mentality has caught up with us all.  Excessive consumerism is the culprit. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average American saves little more than 4 percent of their income. That is much better than saving nothing at all, but that will not be enough in retirement; at least not at the current standard of living.

Where is the rest of the money going?  On average, we spend more than half our earnings on housing and transportation.  Just those two.

Buying a bigger house or a “better” car only leads to buying more of the bigger and “better” things, and so the endless cycle of buying stuff that adds no real value to our lives continues, but does it have to?

People will say the need a bigger house, but they only need one to store all the stuff (junk) they own.  They buy a new car not because they need one and make nonsensical statements to justify the expense like “to save gas”, or because it is safer.  The real reason for many is to keep up appearances. The “my car is better than your car mentality” at work.

While it may be easy to say that you want to save money, implementing a plan that actually works may not be. We must break from the mentality that our self-worth is tied to our stuff.

All things being equal, frugality may just be the easiest way to ramp-up your savings.

filmNaysayers will argue that there is just so much you can save with frugality because once you cut out an expense you are done; you can’t cut it again.  While that is true, that is rather shortsighted.  Say you used to pay $100 for cable, change providers  and now pay $50; you will now have an additional $50 in your pocket from that day forward, and not just once.

Another problem with frugality is that many have a negative opinion of what it means. Spending countless hours clipping coupons or some other mind numbing task is what comes to mind.

Frugality is all about being economical, maximizing your dollars and finding less expensive ways to have the things you want without being wasteful.

You don’t have to become a cheapskate. This is not the same as being frugal. Eating canned soup for dinner every night because you got a case on clearance and pay pennies on the dollar is just plain cheap, and unhealthy not frugal.

Many people only visualize frugality as the extreme frugality they see on tv. While these extreme examples are all real and some actually go that far.  We should not have to go that far.

I read where one individual only takes cold showers because with no hot water, shorter showers are the norm.  He saves on both heating and consumption.  OK if you like cold showers, but not so much if you hate them!

Another one I recently read, you do not need a fridge, get rid of it and use your car as an oven to bake some cookies and not as means of transportation.  I am not making these up.  Selling your car and walking everywhere sounds economical, but unless you live within walking distance from the places you frequent, like your job and the market it is not feasable.

While extreme frugality may have its place as part of an overall savings plan, there is no room for it at the expense of comfort and more importantly your health.  You cannot diminish you quality of life to save a few dollars.  Can’t take the kids to the park because you have the Sunday paper and are clipping coupons? Time to rethink your strategy.

After two or three months, those extreme ideas will destroy your will power and frugality will be gone.

I don’t clip coupons, use homemade cleaning products or cut open the tube to get to the last bit of toothpaste. There is money to be saved that way, but I prefer one-time actions that will continue to save time and time again above all else. I replaced my regular light bulbs with more cost efficient LEDs. I just lowered my utility bill. The best frugal actions don’t add extra work.

I like to think of myself as frugal, but giving up modern conveniences just to save a few dollars is out of the question.

First blog I ever wrote grew from a note to my kids about how easily we could save $25 a week. I used the morning cup of “coffee” their uncle buys as an example and suggested he make his at home. Easy math when one cup equals $5.

Thing is he looks forward to that cup, needs it to get going and is not willing to give it up. If something is that important to you, keep it. I used that cup of coffee just as an example, but a simple adjustment/cut like this can be easily accomplished elsewhere.

Eat a home cooked meal tonight instead of take-out and make enough to brown bag your lunch tomorrow. Save on dinner tonight and tomorrow’s lunch. This action alone can potentially save $25 a week.  You can do so much with just $25 a week.

Whenever I shop, I take a look at the store brands. Generic items like trash bags, detergents and foodstuff like sauces and pasta. Just spend a few minutes comparing labels, if I see no problem I will always go with the more economical option.  The only real difference, at least most of the time, is the more attractive and therefore more expensive packaging.

Small changes; all achievable and repeatable over time that will lead to a more frugal, happier life. Applying the principles of frugality to your life will help save for both that immediate goal and for the future.

Please share any frugal tips that have helped you along your path to freedom.

The views here expressed are all my own.   I am not a financial advisor and as such this is not financial advice.  Consult a professional before investing.

Life Experiences Are What Really Matter

Find Your Happy

Our consumer oriented culture has always told us that owning more will make us happy. The big house, the fancy car, a closet full of designer labels, the expensive stuff we needlessly collect.  No matter how luxurious, large or expensive do not really make us any happier. These material goods do not define us, and many times are just part of the ongoing competition with those around us.

The pursuit of happiness by acquiring stuff that will soon become junk is quite a waste. This junk will soon be replaced by newer, more expensive stuff that will be once again replaced in a never-ending cycle.

Will possessing more make us exponentially happier?  If owning five pairs of shoes makes you happy, will owning say ten pairs make you twice as happy? Does not work that way.  We cannot buy our way to happiness, that is not the way there.

Remember the Palm Pilot?  It was a hand-held device that allowed you to take notes, store data and the like while away from your computer.  In a way, a precursor to the smart phone. Anyway, I worked with a techno freak who would get the latest version as soon as it became available.  Did not care how much it cost.  He would then go on and on about how great it was, but a few months later an updated version would then be released and he would have to have it.

The one that he had purchased not too long ago and had been the greatest invention ever was now rendered a useless piece of crap in no time.  It soon ended in the junk drawer with all the previous models.

A car is a must, a necessity, but it does not have to be a Maserati. Beautiful machines that they are. Not the best option when much more practical ones are available.

We do not need to buy every single thing that we see and like.

There is a rapidly expanding belief that life experiences feed the soul more than possessions do.  The happiness found in making purchases fades away and like empty calories that will soon have you hungry and in need of more, but experiences; no matter how small will last forever.

I wanted to see if this was really true.   Last summer I went on a cruise with my sons. I purchased some t-shirts and shorts for the trip. When I asked them about these items they could not tell me brand or color. These items were purchased a few months ago and were still in their closets.

Next I asked them about an amusement park we went to more than three years ago.  Last minute thing as our original plans did not pan out. The park had never even made our list of possibilities, but we could find nothing else to do on short notice. Smiles came along with the memories.  They remembered everything.

They mentioned how good that wood-fired pizza was, the rides, everything they liked. They even remembered the smallest most insignificant details like the tan line on my collar-bone and the birds that took some french fries from our table.

I have shoes in my closet that only come out when I clean said closet.  Never wear them and don’t even remember when or why I purchased them. On the other hand I remember the first  time I went zip-lining  like it was yesterday. It was about 10 years ago; took my kids because they wanted to do it.  Me, I did not care for it at all. I remember thinking “I am going to die” when I took that initial leap.

After the shock and ridiculous fear of falling to my death passed, amazing, words cannot begin to describe the event.  I am hooked

I was speaking to a friend just recently.  She was quite upset; her car had been broken into and all her kids’ soccer gear was taken. She was upset over the $200 window, her son was upset over the new kicks and the new and still not used goalkeeper gear.

Meanwhile her daughter cried over the backpack, nothing more than swag she received at last year’s Disney tournament.  Not junk, or cheaply made, but the most inexpensive item taken.  The memories created while there, the friendships, the simple joy all taken. Not really taken,  but a piece of it gone.

Miller High Life said it best “…Good life comes from the moments you have, not the things you own.

Ask yourself what adds more to your live. I  bet you will get the same answers I did. Guess the experiences in fact add more to our lives than stuff does.  Pay for the experiences, not for junk, those last forever.

Your American Dream is Dead


The American dream of yore is no more.  The days when your steps on the road map of life were sketched out for you,  even if in pencil,  have passed. What worked for your parents, will not work for you.

Used to be you graduated from high school and moved on to college. Once you graduated, you got a job, you met that special someone and got married, eventually bought your first house and had 2.5 kids.  Somewhere along the line you bought the car of your dreams.

The rat race, pay check to pay check life is not a happy life and none of us have to live it.  Get out while you can, or better yet do not get in at all.

As planned you received several promotions, upgraded to a bigger house once or twice, the cars also got bigger and better.  The kids, college educated adults, left home. Now you are empty nesters with way too much house.

You now attempt to downsize, retire and sadly realize that you are way too tired and all the things you wanted to do have passed you by.  Don’t worry,  your kids will repeat the cycle.  You taught them well.

Forbes recently estimated that a four-year degree at a private college cost approximately $59,000 per year.  Many are looking at student loans to fund their education. That  four-year degree could potentially cost you more than $250,000.

Starting life a quarter million dollars in debt is not a good idea. You don’t have a job just yet and are already deep in debt.  You will spend the next twenty years of your life paying for your four-year degree.  Nowadays a four-year degree appears to not be enough and many go on to get a masters and beyond.  More debt still.

Higher education is a business; education stopped being the primary goal a long time ago. Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the salary of a football or basketball coach, or what a school gets for winning a bowl or a tournament.  Ever see the TV money the NCAA generates. Compare the student-athlete facilities, the dorms, cafeterias and gyms to the facilities available to other students.

You do not have to go to that fancy college and perpetuate the vicious cycle. Try your local community college. At least for your basic classes. Get your degree from a state university; they are much more affordable.  The local State U. here is recruitment heaven for engineering firms, and the sciences and pharmacology program graduates are also sought after.  Same degree at a much lower expense.

Along the way you meet that special someone to share your life with. Big, big wedding to celebrate the happiest day of your life soon follows.  You share the special moment with 300 of your closest friends and family.  The wedding planner, huge cake, the band, the DJ, fanciest reception hall possible, open bar, the works.   You guys pay for most of it, you figure you only get married once; why not go all out?

The cost of the average wedding was recently estimated at $33,306. That is more like a nice down payment for a  house.  The wedding is all about the bride; the dress, the hair, the photos… as it should be, everything else is secondary.  Where to save?

First step is to pare down the guest list and then do it some more. Some on your initial list are so close that you have not seen them since the last family wedding, or funeral.

Your mother’s cousin’s nephew does not warrant an invitation.  Uncle David does not get one either, not sure if that is his name or if he is even your uncle.  Invite fewer people, make it more intimate and memorable.

You do not have to hold the reception at the Ritz.  A reception hall will cost much less and serve the same purpose. One of the biggest causes of divorce is debt.  Can’t start married life like that!

Time to buy a house. What do people always do?  They run to the bank with the pay stubs and ask, how much can I get?  The bank will loan you as much as they feel they can safely gamble on you.  You will wind-up buying more house than you need and pay more than you should. Debt keeps piling up.

You should buy as little house as you need and not as much house as the bank tells you.  They look out after their bottom line, not yours.  You need at least a  20% down payment to avoid the PMI. have two kids? You do not need that four bedroom, four bathroom house you have your eye on.

The car, that one has to be brand new.  There is nothing better than that new car smell!  Price is no object just as long as it is better, meaning more expensive, than whatever your neighbor is driving. When he upgrades so will you.  And on and on it goes…

The sad truth is that you do not own that car until you pay it off, it owns you and your payments will dictate how many extra hours you will have to work, what you do with your free time and where you are able to do it.  Great concept.

You are better off buying used.  Many people think a car is an investment, but it is not.  Cars do not increase in value with time.

A car is simply a tool that gets you from point A to point B, nothing more.  By year four your new car will be worth about half of what you paid and you have several more years to pay.  Let someone else be the fool.  Take care of the car and it will last many years.

Forget about the Joneses, they are not going to pay for your car, your mortgage or any other bills that you may have.  You have no idea how deep a hole they are in. You should not want to join them.

Do not want to buy an older car; a two-year old model costs about 30% less. This is a much better option over buying new.  One that is a couple of years older than that cost even less.

When you go out job hunting, you will most likely look for the highest paying opportunity and disregard everything else.  When I got out of the service and was young and single that is all that mattered.  We feel indestructible at that age.  Thing was, within four years I was married with children. Priorities change.

While salary is  important, it should not be the only factor taken into account when applying for or accepting a job. Do not forget about employee benefits offered in addition to your salary.

Due to rapidly rising premiums, health insurance should be the first item on your wish list. Some type of retirement plan is also of paramount importance as social insecurity will not be enough to  get by on.  Best part of many employer sponsored retirement plans is that said employer will also contribute into your retirement fund.  Giving you free money.  How can you not take it?

Another thing to consider is the commute.  At first, many will say that it is “only” a two-hour daily commute.  The “only” will disappear after a few long delays caused by accidents, road repairs and the unavoidable long work days.   This commute will slowly erode your sanity.

Make the smart choices and life will be easier, simpler and happier.

The views here expressed are all my own.   I am not a financial advisor and as such this is not financial advice.  Consult a professional before investing.

My Financial Wake Up Call….It Is Never Too Late

One day at work, some of us were discussing our upcoming family vacation plans. A comment from one of my co-workers intrigued me; not where they were going, but how he was paying for it. His tax-refund would pay for most of their trip.  I am not a fan of the tax-refund, and would rather avoid them.  Here are my thoughts on that! They were not going around the world but airfare, a nice hotel stay a plenty of meal-money were included.   

I wondered how he managed to pull it off, and cornered him into telling me how he pulled it off.  He went on to tell me about the “new” saving for retirement tool he found at work, the 401K.  He meant new to him as he started contributing early that year.

His tax burden the previous years had always been huge.  The reason for his large refund was that he never adjusted the withholding  while his taxable income dropped.

These tax benefits were designed to incentivize and encourage us to save for retirement. You will have to pay taxes eventually, but not until you retire. The withdrawals will be considered ordinary income and be taxed as such.  The tax

I contributed only enough to get the company match and nothing more.  All that money, the potential earnings…lost.  I made the necessary adjustments.  The IRS has capped the contributions at $18,500.  If you are 50 or older, that number jumps to $24,500.  This total does not include any company match that may be given.  These are capped as well.  By the numbers, $18,500 a year is about  $1,500 a month.  

For most of us $18,500 a year is unrealistic, don’t get discouraged because small savings over time add up.  Take a look at what you can end up with by saving little more than three dollars a day by reading  Your Pennies Do Count.  

Imagine how much larger your nest egg will be if you increase your contributions with every raise or promotion you obtain.  Goes without saying increase your contributions whenever possible!

Do not forget about the company match, is free money.  Take it.

Your employer does not offer a retirement plan?  set up your retirement plan in the form of an IRA.  There are many available. Search them out yourself; they are out there.  Find the one that is right for you.  Most require an initial investment, minimum balances, and/or periodic re investments, but can be easily created.  Do not have much to start, you can open up an account

I chose to invest in a low-cost index fund and took a “buy it and forget it” approach, at least for now.  I will not be using that money in the short-term and will leave it there until my retirement.  No fear, I will leave it there to ride the ups and downs of the stock market.

Many people do not see the advantages that retirement funds present both now and in the future. Hopefully you just did. Don’t delay, get started today. Your future self will be eternally grateful.

The views here expressed are all my own and should not be considered financial advice. Consult a professional before investing.