Friday, November 10, 2017

Nothing Is Promised

Nothing is promised and everything can change in an instant.

No matter where you are right now, life can be different based on the decisions that you make. It can be a good decision or a bad decision, but a decision nonetheless. You can be riding high with all things going as planned, but allow yourself to make a series of bad decisions and that life could change for the worse. The opposite is true as well. You can be in the worst place of your life, but with a series of good decisions, things begin to turn around for you.

Even in those moments beyond our control, we get to decide how we will see the event and what action we decide to take next. That decision rests with us.

What decisions will you make today?

Share It! 

I hope that you got something of value in today's post. If you did, please take a moment and share it with someone who you think could benefit from it.

Subscribe Today! 

If you like this kind of information, make sure you don't miss a single article! Follow this link to subscribe to my newsletter and I'll deliver this content directly to you.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Attacking the Debt: My Plan for Paying Off $390,000

Attacking the Debt: My Plan for Paying Off $390,000



The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. ~ Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)

Ouch! As I read that quote from Proverbs, I know exactly how it feels to be in debt and it's not fun. While I believed that my decisions were wise at the time, now that I have to pay it all back, I'm questioning my logic. Yes, I'm surviving but my lifestyle has and will continue to be affected until I can free myself from the shackles associated with personal loans.

In today's article, I want to begin a conversation about debt and share my plan for getting out. I would also like for this post to be a living document that I can update as my situation changes or as I learn more on the subject. In the end, I hope to look back at this time and celebrate how far we've come. While I may be telling my story, this can be a journey for us all.  
  

Background Story

Over the past year, I have had a number of personal situations arise that required a considerable amount of time, energy, patience, and money. To be honest, it has been an extremely challenging period of my life, but I believe that God will work it out and I'll be stronger, wiser, and better prepared for the mission (and blessings) that lay ahead. While the aforementioned circumstances go far beyond money, our finances do play a sizable role in our everyday life. As a result, I'll start by being transparent with my financial situation, but I anticipate that at some point the other lessons will find their way out as well. 

When I think about where I am in life, I know that I have been blessed. Unfortunately, even with a great job and salary, I still find myself living paycheck to paycheck. When it's possible, I try to save as much money as I can for a rainy day; however, it is an uncomfortable feeling when rainy day circumstances eat away at the financial cushion you once had. Even more unsettling is when you realize that the monetary support you expected to refill the coffers is either not coming or was far less than what you anticipated thereby leaving you feeling exposed and seriously vulnerable. Yeah, I'm feeling it!

In response to stress and anxiety, I almost always began by looking for ways to organize myself and my life. Since today we are talking about finances, I usually start the process by reviewing my budget and asking the following questions:

  • How much money will I bring in this month? 
  • What are my expenses? 
  • How much will I have left over? 
Based on the responses to those questions, I ultimately have to rethink my monthly purchasing decisions in order to stay within budget but also to start rebuilding my safety net.

Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps to Financial Peace

Years ago, probably while going through another financial struggle, I found Dave Ramsey's book, Total Money Makeover. It was then that I was first introduced to the 7 Baby Steps to Financial Peace.

As I write that, I am once again reminded of how powerful our struggles can be.


"Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records." ~ William Arthur Ward

Don't get me wrong, I don't like feeling uncomfortable or going through tough times, but adversity, much like a cold shower, has a way of waking me up. I can either sit idly by and watch circumstances slap me around or I can pull myself together and start fighting back. The key, based on how I see the world now, is to embrace the struggle because it welds the power to improve us and help us reach our highest potential. When I get comfortable, I get lazy, fat, sluggish, and sloppy. When I struggle, I quickly drop what's unnecessary and focus on the goal. That explains why successful people and overall achievers adopt the saying, "Get comfortable being uncomfortable." It is through the intentional discomfort that we can finally realize our best selves.

Now that we know about the power of struggle, let's focus that energy on getting out of debt and then let's navigate our way toward building wealth. Here are the 7 Baby Steps to Financial Peace:
  
  • Baby Step 1: $1,000 cash in a beginner emergency fund
  • Baby Step 2: Use the debt snowball to pay off all your debt but the house
  • Baby Step 3: A fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses
  • Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into retirement
  • Baby Step 5: Start saving for college
  • Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early
  • Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give generously
In today's article, I will start by focusing on Baby Steps 1 and 2. As I make progress, I will come back and update the post to reflect the remaining steps. 

Baby Step 1: $1,000 Cash for the Emergency Fund

Once again, I find myself at Baby Step 1. While I personally like having more than $1,000 set aside for emergencies, this is a great place to start. Looking at my current budget, I should be able to reach this goal by the end of the month. If I'm unable to get there by adjusting my spending, I do have a house full of things that I can sell. Come to think of it, getting rid of all those unused items sounds like a great idea regardless of my financial situation.

Baby Step 2: Use the Debt Snowball

This is where I see a great deal of time and resources being spent. While updating my budget for the month, I decided to bite the bullet and obtain a complete snapshot of my financial health. According to my records, I currently owe over $390,000.

"Whatcha talkin' bout, Willis?" 

Yeah, I know. Crazy right? With two mortgages, a number of student loans, and a few medical bills, this monstrosity makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. On the good side, I know the target number that I need to attack and I have a plan to bring things back under control.

"So, how does the Debt Snowball work?" You ask.

That is a really great question and I'll do my best to share the steps I'm taking to execute this strategy.

Make a List of the Debt

The first place I started was by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com to get a full view of my debt. I also went to each lender's website to confirm the balance, interest rates, and monthly payments. Outside of a few medical bills, everything was already captured and calculated within Mint.com.

Prioritize the List by Amount Owed

Once I have everything recorded, I then prioritize the list by the amount owed. The smallest debt gets listed first. While creating the list based on the interest rate makes sense, this particular strategy builds momentum by knocking off the debt as quickly as possible. There is something extremely motivating about crossing off completed items. The goal is to get it paid off, so taking whatever steps to build and maintain momentum is key. 

Pay All the Minimum Payments

Outside of the student loans and medical bills, I am already making monthly payments on all my bills. The goal this week is to get the student loan payments back down to a reasonable amount, as $1,300 a month is just not feasible right now. Additionally, I'll need to reach back out to the medical billing company to establish a monthly installment.

Put Extra Cash Toward the Smallest Debt

Once I have all my minimum payments being made, I will take any extra cash that I have left and apply it to the smallest debt. Let's say that I have $300 left over each month. Instead of stashing it under savings, that $300 goes directly toward the smallest debt. 

As a working example, let's say my lowest monthly installment is $25. When I combine $25 with the $300, it now becomes $325 towards knocking off the medical bill. 

Let's say that after two months, the first debt is paid in full. Now, I get to apply that freed up $325 towards the next debt on the list, which is $100 a month. 

As you can see, I now have $425 towards attacking the next debt. As I pay off each loan, the monthly installment gets rolled into a growing snowball of freed money. It just keeps growing and building until eventually I no longer have any more debt. It is important to remember that in Baby Step 2, we are attacking all the debt outside of my mortgages. We'll address mortgages later when I reach Baby Step 6.

Additional Thoughts

While I have put off attacking the debt for a long time, I can no longer afford to blindly over look these issues. I have come to learn that problems, and not just financial problems, do not magically disappear because we ignore them. No, issues go away when we face them head on and take the appropriate action to usher in a resolution.

Will it be Uncomfortable?

Absolutely, this type of change will require a sacrifice. To create more space, it may mean putting on hold any extra activities outside of what's necessary. Furthermore, it won't get fixed overnight. It took time to get into this hole and it will take time to get out. The best advice I can give as it relates to the discomfort associated with debt reduction is to simply "Grin and bare it." Remember, trouble won't last always. It may be difficult now, but doing what's hard will make life easier later on.

What About Emergencies?

The purpose of the Emergency Fund is to help cover any unexpected issues that may arise during the process. I personally feel uneasy about ONLY having an extra $1,000, but remember as we pay off the debt, we are freeing up more money. Should the time come that the Emergency Fund is not enough, we can put our debt reduction effort on hold long enough to address the issue. Additionally, if we ever go below the $1,000, make sure to replenish that fund before going back to Baby Step 2.

Well, that's about it for now. Thank you for taking the time to read and hopefully you'll join me on this journey. 

Until next time...

Share It! 

I hope that you got something of value in today's post. If you did, please take a moment and share it with someone who you think could benefit from it.

Subscribe Today! 

If you like this kind of information, make sure you don't miss a single article! Follow this link to subscribe to my newsletter and I'll deliver this content directly to you.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Building Deep Within Your Passion Is Better Than Building Wide




I was listening to a talk from Gary Vaynerchuk this morning and something he said really resonated with me. While he was talking primarily about social media platforms, video, marketing, blogging, podcasts, and entrepreneurship, he advised this young man to stop worrying about the numbers (going wide) and start going deeper (focus on the value add content). What are you passionate about doing? He asked. Whatever the response, he advised that we should go do that.

My interpretation of his message meant something to me because I was already thinking along these lines. In fact, I had a similar conversation with a co-worker last week about this very thing.

In this article, I want to take a few minutes to further explain the lesson that I'm chewing on in hopes that it brings you an awareness in your own lives.

Over the past few days, I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand the expansion of readers for my blog articles. In other words, how can I continue to grow my audience? I've tried a few things these past weeks, but none of it gave me the satisfaction that I was looking for. While the numbers of readers has exploded, I was missing the engagement and depth associated with real people who are genuinely interested in the message. The lesson for me is that I value depth over width.

Yes, it's fun to say I have X, Y, and Z number of followers and readers, but in the grand scheme of things, it means very little when the relationships are not there to support the numbers. It feels empty and shallow. Meaningful relationships take time to develop.

While I initially found the lesson in my blogging effort, the same lesson rings true in other areas of our life. We may have X, Y, and Z number of "friends" on social media, but how many of them are real, managed, maintained, strengthened, mutually beneficial, or satisfying?

Again, it's fun to say that an individual has amassed some number of success, but if it lacks the depth of genuine relationships, is it really success? Who really wants to reach the pinnacle of success alone? Sure, there is probably a momentary high associated with "winning," but when the lights turn off and the crowd stops cheering, who is still there waiting for you?

In the book "Networking For Mutual Benefit", by Teddy Burriss, I walked away realizing that relationships should be mutually beneficial. While I would love to have the capacity to engage with everyone, I don't. As a result, I have to be selective about where I spend my time and with whom I invest my energy.

One easy way to determine that answer is by identifying those things that are of interest to me. What are my passions and desires? What drives me? What feeds me? What encourages me? Who is pushing me forward to become the best version of myself? At the same time, are they getting something in return?

As I write this, I can imagine that some of you already have this figured out, but you just need a friendly reminder. Maybe, you were like me and just needed permission to do what you already know is the right thing to do. Go forth and be great at what you were created to do. You have permission. In fact, it goes beyond permission. You have been given a directive and are held responsible for doing what you were placed on this Earth to do.


Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. ~ 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV)

Each one of us has been given a certain amount of time on this planet and we cannot afford to waste it doing those things that are not of interest to us or inline with our calling. What value is it to do something that brings forth no fruit? It is by going deep, not wide, that we allow the roots of our tree to find strength and support. It is by those roots having the opportunity to dig deep, that the tree can produce healthy and life giving fruit. It is by focusing on being the best that we can be that we first, bring glory to God, but then bring real value to others. Even if those others are few.

To bring this lesson to life, it means having deeper engagement and relationships with the right people who are aligned with where we are supposed to be. It means focusing on creating life-giving fruit and sharing it freely with those who genuinely want it. It means writing more, engaging more, building deeper friendships, and investing our time and energy into those things that are congruent with the mission.

Take a moment to just marinate on that and then answer some questions. What is your purpose? What mission are you on? What were you created to do with the time given and are you doing it?

If you find that maybe you have been distracted and focused on the wrong things, let's take this opportunity to adjust and get back to where we are supposed to be. Take whatever lesson you can acquire from your time away and embrace it as a gift toward a better you. If you are still here on God's green Earth, then you still have some work to do.

Let's not focus on what we don't have, but focus on what we do. Understand that where you are is where you are supposed to be. Be a good steward of what's been given and seek to maximize on it to the best of your ability. Only God knows how and who will be affected by your work. Be happy in the journey and never grow weary in doing the right thing for He will sustain you.

It is a powerful, overwhelming, and humbling place to be when you get back to doing what you were destined and designed to do.

Make today a very great day!

Until next time...

Share It! 

I hope that you got something of value in today's post. If you did, please take a moment and share it with someone who you think could benefit from it.

Subscribe Today! 

If you like this kind of information, make sure you don't miss a single article! Follow this link to subscribe to my newsletter and I'll deliver this content directly to you.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Living A Life of Excellence

Cutting the Grass



It's Thursday night and, according to my calendar, I am supposed cut the grass when I get home from work. In my mind, I'm thinking of all the reasons why I don't have to cut it today. "It's not long enough," "I just cut it a few days ago," and "I have better things to do with my time." While each of these statements are true, it wasn't convincing enough to stop me from pulling out the lawnmower and getting it done.

As I walked back and forth across my lawn, the blades on the mower easily slice through the grass like a hot knife on butter. With each row that I complete, I turn around and examine my handiwork. There is a sense of accomplishment and pride that washes over me as I compare the beautiful freshly cut row contrasted against the 4 day old growth. The difference is clear.

It is in that moment that I feel good about pushing through my initial hesitation and cutting the grass anyway. Yes, I could have allowed the grass to grow a few more days, but then it would have been more challenging and it would have required a second pass. All of which would have taken an hour to complete against a shorter 30 minute touch-up.

In life, I find that my natural tendency to procrastinate and push things back until the last possible minute bleeds into many different areas. I could easily go weeks without cutting my hair, cleaning my room, washing my car, organizing the growing pile of mail on my kitchen counter, deleting old emails, and calling good friends or family. In my mind, I tell myself that it's good enough for now or that it can wait a few more days, but if I'm following my plan, it can't wait.

Addressing the issue while it's still nice and controllable is better than waiting until it's overrun and an eyesore. 

While the difference between cutting the grass today and cutting the grass a few days from now can seem like a trivial thing, let me assure you that it's not. Cutting it today means a relatively easy stroll over a still well maintained carpet of lush green grass, but in a few days it no longer looks groomed and it's on the border of screaming for attention. While a slight exaggeration, understand the point. Addressing the issue while it's still nice and controllable is better than waiting until it's overrun and an eyesore. The difference between the two is but a few days.

Think about your life and all of the things you're managing right now. Are you addressing it often and with little effort or are you waiting too long and now required to spend countless hours just to catch up? Regardless of how you answer, let me ask you this question, "How does it feel?"

If you said that you address it often and with little effort, I would imagine that you feel good, accomplished, and ordered. However, if you said that you're waiting too long and required to spend countless hours just to catch up, I would imagine that you feel exhausted, stressed, and disappointed.

You can choose to live an ordered life or a life filled with stress, anxiety, and confusion.

Right now, you get to decide how you want to live your life. You can choose to live an ordered life or a life filled with stress, anxiety, and confusion. You can choose to create a buffer between you and pure catastrophe or you can live life on the edge with inches between you and homelessness. You can be well put together or you can be a total mess. It's up to you how you choose to live your life, but it all starts with a decision to live a life of excellence. That is, if you choose to.

No matter where you are right now, life can be different based on the decisions that you make. It can be a good decision or a bad decision, but a decision nonetheless. You can be riding high with all things going as planned, but allow yourself to make a series of bad decisions and that life could change for the worse. The opposite is true as well. You can be in the worst place of your life, but with a series of good decisions, things begin to turn around for you.


Nothing is promised and everything can change in an instant.

Nothing is promised and everything can change in an instant. That is true regardless of who you are and what you have or haven't done. However, even in those moments beyond our control, we get to decide how we will see the event and what action we decide to take next. That decision rests with us.

So, what will you do today? What decisions will you make? Will you decide to build on your successful momentum or throw cold water on your raging fire? Will you trust that today will be better than yesterday or will you believe that it will be more of the same?

Remember this, you are more powerful than you know and blessed beyond your wildest dreams. So, let's choose today to live a life of excellence with overflowing abundance.

Until next time... 

Share It! 

I hope that you got something of value in today's post. If you did, please take a moment and share it with someone who you think could benefit from it.

Subscribe Today! 

If you like this kind of information, make sure you don't miss a single article! Follow this link to subscribe to my newsletter and I'll deliver this content directly to you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Your Time Is Valuable - Protect it!




During a recent webinar on productivity, Darren Hardy, a speaker, author, and former publisher of Success Magazine, began his presentation suggesting that we only put on the calendar those things that will help us reach our goals. This tip resonated with me because I recently found myself suggesting the same thing.

If you have been following my articles on time management, you may be aware that I try to schedule every minute of the day. For some, this may be too much. I've heard comments from co-workers who say it's too difficult to find time to meet as my calendar stays full. While this may be true for people trying to meet today, but if you go out another 5 days, I do have openings.

For me, scheduling tasks, meetings, and even time to watch television is how I stay organized. It works and now I have the supportive nod from highly productive people who agree with me.

Be More Selective

It was during my evaluation of the calendar that I found an opportunity to improve upon my effectiveness. Instead of scheduling everything, I need to be more selective about what I am focusing on. With 24 hours in a day, I know that I cannot give my time to just anything and everything. Instead, I have to determine the highest valued items and spend my time focused on that.

Sure, it would be nice to sit down and read every article in a magazine, have deep conversations with everyone I meet, watch every television show that peaks my interest, and attend every local event made available. Unfortunately, I am limited on time, energy, and money. Starting with those limitations, I have to use my calendar and my budget to determine where I should be investing my time to get the greatest return.

What Is Your Time Worth?

To achieve this goal, I can start by delegating tasks to someone else. Yes, there are things that need to be done, but it doesn't always mean that you are required to do it. The easy example to explain this concept is with mowing the lawn. While it may appear to be a cost saver doing this job personally, consider what else you could be doing with your 1-2 hours a week. If you're in business or work in a professional setting, how much is an hour of your time worth? Compare that to the price you would pay to have someone else cut your grass.

Let's say you can make $75 to $150 an hour. When you compare the price of paying someone to cut your grass versus YOU doing it, which I've seen fall in the $35-$45 range for a yard my size, I'd say that you're losing money. Why spend an hour doing something that could save you $35 when you could spend that same time doing something with a higher return on your investment?

As I look at my calendar for the week, I see a number of items that can and should be replaced with higher valued items. Many of these things are time wasters, provide little interest to me, or can easily be done by someone else.

The more my calendar fills up, the more valuable my time seems to get. Knowing that I don't have the time or energy to do everything means that I have to determine what must be done and find time to do it. Often, this means rearranging my schedule and replacing the less valuable items for something more important.

Let me quickly write that money isn't always the measuring stick of value. Spending time with a loved one (spouse, child, or friend) may not bring dollars, but it does build and maintain a priceless relationship.

Yes, Schedule Your Time With Friends

As a result of this strategy, I have found myself having to schedule telephone conversations with family and friends. It seems cold at first glance, but what I found is that it allows me the time to focus entirely on them. For that moment in which we've agreed to spend together, I am not worried about my cell phone, emails, work deadlines, or any other task because this time is devoted solely to them. In this moment, this is the most important thing.

To make this work, I do have to protect my time. This means that I have to continuously fight against people who want to encroach upon my already scheduled day. This isn't always easy, but it is something I'm working on. At the job, we get unexpected telephone calls, emails, and office visits. Unless your place of employment requires you to be available at a moments notice, I say let the voicemail catch the callers, address email at the predetermined time, and schedule a focused conversation with visitors. You have to control your time. If not, someone else will control it for you.

Share It! 

I hope that you got something of value in today's post. If you did, please take a moment and share it with someone who you think could benefit from it.

Subscribe Today! 

If you like this kind of information, make sure you don't miss a single article! Follow this link to subscribe to my newsletter and I'll deliver this content directly to you.

 Until next time...

Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

Toll-free: (919) 912-9121
E-mail: Contact Me

Newsletter

Powered by Blogger.