Category Archives: Financial Independence

The Best Financial Advice Is Not Sophisticated

Advice and pro tips on just about every topic imaginable are available in just a few clicks or swipes on a pocket-sized device today. The best financial advice is no exception. Based upon the wealth of information available to everyone with a mobile device, there are increasingly fewer and fewer reasons for the lack of wisdom and overall financial mismanagement which are common today.

Ironically, we just may be living in a period of the worst personal financial mismanagement of all-time, despite access to information having reached an all-time high.

Recently, I read a Yahoo Finance article about Derek Sall, the owner of Life and My Finances, who impressively paid off over $116,000 of debt before turning 30. In the article, Sall shared his best financial advice.

“The best tip I can give is just live your own life,” he said. “The best way to just live simply and be content is just to turn it all of and hardly pay attention to it at all. Because that’s what gets people in the most trouble.”

As I read this, I nodded my head in agreement with Sall. It’s very good advice from someone who has earned the right to talk the talk by walking the walk, so to speak.

Then I scrolled down and started reading the comments section – the place where mis-informed and overconfident readers typically congregate to spread poor ideas on large sites like Yahoo.

Apparently, Sall’s advice struck a nerve with the internet trolls. Here is a selection of some of the comments:

  • “Fake news”
  • “Thanks for the useless ad for [Derek’s] blog.”
  • “How much did you get paid for this useless tip?”
  • “So the tip is to just ‘live your life’?”
  • But folks . . . Not to rain on anyone’s parade here, BUT . . . If everyone did that, only buying what they need, just think how many people would be out of manufacturing jobs, retail jobs, mortgage jobs, etc. Also how much sales tax would the government be missing out on?”
  • “nothing new here”
  • “Bet this guy makes $100,000,000 on suckers who buy his book. There is no get-rich-quick scheme that is legal. BEWARE.”
  • “That’s awesome that this guy is out of debt. But it seems like he missed out on doing a bunch of stuff while in the prime of his life. I go to work to make money. The point of having some money is so I can do things that I want to do, as well as save some of it.”
  • “Let me guess, he cancelled his cable and quit getting a morning latte at Starbucks, it works every time.”
  • “The tip is don’t spend money, okay got it.”

After reading through all of the comments, the exact reason why so many people manage their money poorly occurred to me:

The best financial advice is not sophisticated.

Some things in life are just better when they are simple and uncomplicated. Despite countless common lies, the best financial advice is not sophisticated.

Complicating the Uncomplicated

More and more, it seems that people want to reject any kind of advice which is simple at its core. We are prone to rejecting basic ideas in favor of the more complex, as if complicated advice is somehow better by default.

Based upon the comments above, many readers assumed that there was no way Derek achieved debt freedom simply by living his own life on his own terms. In their minds, the secret to financial success had to be more complicated.

This attitude is all wrong.

The truth is that achieving financial success isn’t complicated and the best financial advice out there is not sophisticated.

The Best Financial Advice is Simple

The main reason I’ve always been interested in money and personal finance is because money is simple. It doesn’t have a mind or life of its own, and it does exactly what I tell it to do. It’s like every dollar I possess becomes a tiny employee who exists to answer to my every bidding.

And at the end of the day the total value of my money is largely dependent upon the actions of one person: me. My choices determine whether my financial net worth grows or dwindles.

If I use my basic arithmetic skills and reconcile my earnings and expenses properly, I can be sure that I stay in command of my  choices and my money. And if I plan ahead a bit, I may even save money!

Many people can’t bring themselves to accept that money management is really this easy and simple. They insist that such a basic approach – keeping a budget, spending less than what is earned, and saving the rest – is only for unsophisticated simpletons.

The truth is that there is a tremendous degree of sophistication in simplicity. And realizing and embracing this truth is not only one of the keys to overall financial well-being; it’s one of the keys to happiness in general.

The problem is that we live in a society which has completely rejected simplicity. Take a walk through your local grocery store with open eyes and you’ll see what I mean – dozens of varieties of toothpaste, entire rows devoted to snack foods, and more flavors of ice cream than Dairy Queen.

Variety makes life interesting, to be certain, but there is a breaking point in which complexity leads to analysis paralysis. This is true of grocery shopping, and it is true of personal finance.

Some things in life, including money, are just better when they are simple and uncomplicated. It’s time for all of us, the internet trolls included, to accept this truth, embrace it, and live happily.


What is the best financial advice you’ve ever been given? Is it complicated?

Some things in life are just better when they are simple and uncomplicated. Despite countless common lies, the best financial advice is not sophisticated.

7 Unmistakable Habits of the Rich

Our culture is intensely interested in wealth. We have a billionaire president, shows like “The Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” are huge hits, and sometimes it can be tough to tell if you’re watching the Nightly News or Entertainment Tonight. These superficial glimpses into the lives and habits of the rich have become a surprisingly vital part of the low information American diet.

Some watch the lives of the wealthy purely for entertainment purposes. Others are interested in smearing rich people for everything they do, almost as if possessing wealth is inherently immoral. “Oh, they have money?” they say. “They must be evil!”

Want to become wealthy? The best way to get rich is to study and implement the habits of the rich yourself. This article will give you everything you need to get started, whether it's time management tips, health tips, improving productivity, how to save money, how to build multiple income streams, and much more!A shockingly low number of people are interested in following the lives and habits of the rich for the most practical and beneficial reasons: studying the habits of the rich is a wise way to reverse engineer wealth and success.

The honest truth is that many people are more interested in observing and living vicariously through the wealth of others than they are learning about how to get there themselves. (Perhaps that is why an alarmingly high number of Americans have less than $50,000 saved for retirement.)

So what’s the root cause of culture’s misplaced priorities?

Seven Habits of the Rich to Incorporate to Build Wealth

The truth is that our culture has adopted and embraced all of the wrong symbols of wealth. A high credit score is really an “I love debt” score. A new leased vehicle in the driveway every two or three years is really a sign that its driver prefers operating a vehicle in the most expensive manner possible. And large suburban mini-mansions with several extra rooms are still just as empty and hollow as the hearts of their owners.

If you’re tired of simply watching of the lives of the rich on TV and want to build wealth yourself, studying the habits of the rich is a great place to start. Read the following seven habits of the rich, slowly incorporate them into your lifestyle, and start building wealth.

Prioritize Saving Money

In The Millionaire Next Door, the late Thomas Stanley surveyed a panel of average everyday millionaires to find common characteristics among what turned out to be a widely varied cohort. Among many habits of the rich that Stanley discovered, a focus on saving money above all else was key.

Across the board, first generation wealthy people developed their wealth thanks to long-term saving discipline and dedication to living a frugal lifestyle.

When it comes to choosing between saving and discretionary spending on things like new cars, larger homes, lavish vacations, or expensive clothing, a majority of wealthy people choose the former. At the same time, wealthy people value quality over quantity, i.e. they prefer to own fewer possessions of high quality rather than many possessions of lesser quality.

Avoid Debt as Much as Possible

While it may be true that debt can help you get what you want even if you can’t afford to buy it with cash, it is equally true that excessive debt is one of the top barriers to building wealth. Buying anything using debt is inefficient, more costly, and it limits your ability to build your retirement portfolio, own real estate, or start a business.

Some wealthy people enjoy trying to beat the system and leverage others’ money to their advantage, but it’s worth noting that a majority of wealthy people prefer to avoid this kind of unnecessary risk. In other words, there are far more people who actually develop wealth by following The Millionaire Next Door model than people who follow the model of leveraging others’ money touted by Robert Kiyosaki in Rich Dad Poor Dad.

Maintaining low levels of debt, if any, is one of the hallmark habits of the rich. It puts them in position to take advantage of new and unexpected opportunities to grow their wealth. Perhaps this is way a majority of first generation wealthy people are business owners.

Interestingly, the presence of debt often serves as an unexpected litmus test for whether a person is truly wealthy or just living a wealthy lifestyle. Like Dave Ramsey likes to say, “You can find out who is skinny dipping when the tide goes out.”

Drive Used Cars

One of the most surprising habits of the rich is the overwhelming tendency to drive used vehicles. The average millionaire rarely, if ever, purchases a brand new car, allowing others with far less wealth to absorb the harsh hits of depreciation during the first 2-4 years. Then they buy well-maintained used luxury vehicles with cash.

Maintain Good Physical and Mental Health

It may appear that many wealthy people are workaholics, but the truth is that hard work and good physical and mental health are not mutually exclusive. In fact, maintaining good physical health through diet, exercise, and self-care remains one of the most common habits of the rich.

Want to become wealthy? The best way to get rich is to study and implement the habits of the rich yourself. This article will give you everything you need to get started, whether it's time management tips, health tips, improving productivity, how to save money, how to build multiple income streams, and much more!
In particular, starting the day off with a focus on health is one of the hallmark habits of the rich. A recent article in Business Insider outlined the habits of several wealthy people. John Paul DeJoria, the man behind Paul Mitchell hair products, begins each day with quiet meditation. Birch Box executive Brad Lande begins his morning with hot tea and yoga. Kevin O’Leary, the investor made famous in Shark Tank, starts his day with a 45 minute workout.

The reason behind such health-consciousness is simple: it is foolish to gain wealth if you do not maintain adequate health in order to live a long and enjoyable life.

Read two non-fiction books each month

Among the main habits of the rich, ongoing learning and growth is a consistent priority across the board. It’s not uncommon for people who have accumulated wealth to read two or more non-fiction books each month in an effort to learn new things.

For many people, the habit of reading and implementing new ideas served as the impetus for growing their brand or starting a business in the first place.

Build multiple streams of income

Of the most common habits of the rich, the development of multiple income streams separates the financially independent from typical high-earners. These forms of income vary greatly, from active to passive, and include the following:

  • Investment income via dividends
  • Owning real estate bought with cash
  • Developing a product
  • Owning a business (or multiple businesses)

The time and effort required to build these income streams is usually a heavy sacrifice initially. But there is no question that it pays off.

Give generously

Despite a report in The Atlantic which claimed the wealthy only give 1.3 percent of their annual income to charity, it is important to remember that large variances and anomalies tend to skew these types of statistics.

Ultimately, the main reason behind why so many wealthy people do give generously is that they have developed a healthy, well-adjusted attitude toward money. Psychologically-speaking, they understand that helping others who are in need is rewarding and self-satisfying. Simply put, it makes them happy.

One thought I heard on giving has always stuck with me. I don’t recall who said it, and I’m paraphrasing, but here is the basic idea: It is difficult to receive anything in life with a tightly closed fist.

How can you apply the habits of the rich in your life?

Studying the habits of the the wealthy has a very limited payoff without application. As in most endeavors, you can get started by chasing after the lowest hanging fruits.

If you’re not in the habit of saving and investing money, you need to take definitive steps toward gaining control of your cash flow. If you’ve never made a budget or analyzed your current financial situation, that is an easy place to start.

One of the simplest ways to gain a birds-eye view of your financial big picture is by signing-up for my favorite FREE financial tool, Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can monitor your spending by category, track all of your debt and assets, and even receive a personalized review of your finances. Get it here!

If you’re looking for a quick win, you can join thousands of others who have trimmed their budget of unwanted and unused recurring subscription services by using the FREE Trim Financial Manager. When you sign-up, Trim will review your regularly-recurring transactions, negotiate for better rates on your behalf, and even help you cancel unwanted subscriptions for you. You can learn more about Trim here.

Developing better habits may seem unlikely or even hopeless if you find yourself struggling with the burdens of debt. Refinancing is not the silver bullet to debt problems; in fact, it just serves to lessen the symptoms of the underlying problem. But if you’re paying sky-high interest rates, reducing them is an incredibly smart way to jump start a rapid repayment plan.

If you have high-interest student loan debt, I recommend giving LendEDU the opportunity to review your situation and provide options. If you have 90 seconds, you can fill out a quick form now and receive quotes from up to 12 different lenders without affecting your credit score one bit. If you still owe a sizable amount on your Associates, Bachelors, or Masters degree loans, this is literally one of the easiest ways you can free up money in your budget.

Finally, with mortgage rates likely to continue their recent slow rise, now is the time to consider refinancing and locking in a better rate, especially if this has been on your radar for a while. The two companies I recommend most to gather your options are LendingTree and GuideToLenders. Both can match you up with the most competitive rates for which you qualify and help you save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your mortgage.

From there, start adding new habits to your daily routines. Go for an evening walk, grab a new non-fiction book at the library, and start practicing silence and solitude.

Remember, the common thread in all of the habits of the rich shared above is intentionality. Act consciously and deliberately and you can achieve great success!


How many of the habits shared above do you currently practice in one form or another? What other habits do you think wealthy people have in common?

Want to become wealthy? The best way to get rich is to study and implement the habits of the rich yourself. This article will give you everything you need to get started, whether it's time management tips, health tips, improving productivity, how to save money, how to build multiple income streams, and much more!

Helium Investments – Professional Advice, Low Investment Fees

Basic economics show that when you and I buy anything, we are paying for more than just the product or service. This is true of cars, groceries, landscaping services, and of course, investment services. While many of these fees are one-time hits on your wallet, the painful impact of investment fees continues for years and wears away at the size of your retirement portfolio.

Consider the chart below, as produced by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which illustrates the incredibly disastrous impact of investment fees over a 20 year time period.

impact of investment fees over time | fees hurt your investment portfolio
Source: SEC.gov

A quick glance reveals that even a difference of 0.25% in annual investment fees can reduce portfolio value by $10,000 over 20 years (see the gap between the blue and red lines). The $30,000 difference is even more disastrous when comparing the 1.00% annual fee portfolio to the 0.25% portfolio (blue line and green lines, respectively).

Investment fees are far from the only factors worth considering when selecting investments and choosing an adviser or service, but the graph above is proof that failure to consider investment fees is a serious and costly mistake.

Many professional advisers and services tout their reputation and experience in an attempt to justify their high investment fees, but as an investor in today’s market, it is possible to design an investment portfolio to achieve your goals AND receive personalized professional advice without sacrificing thousands upon thousands of dollars of long-term portfolio growth to investment fees.

Enter Helium Investments.

High investment fees can make or break your retirement and your family's future. In fact, did you know that high fees could rob you of thousands upon thousands of dollars over many years, even if you don't have a million dollar portfolio? Helium Investments is on a mission to change that by minimizing fees and maximizing investors' returns. You can start an account with them today and pay 0% fees on accounts under $10,000. Click to read more of our review!

What is Helium Investments?

Helium Investments logoHelium Investments has made it their mission to give average investors access to leading financial industry investment techniques at a fraction of the cost of large investment advisor firms.

Simply put, Helium offers low fee, low tax investment options to help investors maximize returns now and over the long haul.

How is Helium different?

Thanks to the internet, investors have more options than ever before. Stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs are available and accessible through a number of avenues.

However, many of these companies willingly set-up your retirement or taxable brokerage account, take your money, and then the air waves go silent. Your money is still invested, but when it comes to paying attention to your investments, you’re on your own. And if you want to make changes to your portfolio, perform periodic rebalancing, or make trades, you’re charged a fee.

Helium offers a different model built upon low fees and professional advice. When you deposit or withdraw money from your account, there are no fees. As your portfolio grows over time, Helium performs rebalancing for you based upon your goals at no cost to you. There are no fees for buying or selling securities within your portfolio, and if you want to connect with your advisor online or via phone, that is also free.

How does Helium earn a profit?

With extremely competitive low fees, Helium generates its profits based on a simple fee model.

  • Accounts valued under $10,000 are free
  • Accounts valued over $10,000 and under $250,000 are charged a 0.50% fee each year
  • Accounts valued over $250,000 are charged a 0.40% fee each year

As our opening example from the SEC above showed, investment fees can eat away at your retirement and other investment accounts in dangerous ways over time. Maximizing your returns and access to professional advice while carefully minimizing fees is one of the best ways to protect your future.

What can Helium do for you?

Helium’s mission is to help you save money while also investing your money in a manner that aligns with your goals and dreams. They achieve this by offering a rare combination of individually tailored client services, tax loss harvesting, automatic investing and rebalancing, carefully crafted portfolios, and low fees.

Helium investments portfolio offerings
An overview of a few of Helium’s tailored portfolio offerings

Whether you’re looking to build for your retirement, save money for a home or boat, or even build an emergency fund, Helium offers a variety of accounts to help you meet your goals:

Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is a great investment account to help you save for retirement. Yearly contributions are deducted against your gross income, which you’ve most likely already paid income tax on. The IRS will typically issue you a refund for the excess income tax paid.

Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals)
Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above
Maximum Age to Contribute: 70½
Withdrawal Must Start: April 1st after you turn 70½

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is an excellent investment vehicle to save for retirement, but it has income limits. If you earned more than $132,000 in 2016 – you’re unable to contribute to a Roth IRA. Unlike a Traditional IRA the gains and withdrawals from a Roth IRA are generally tax-free even before age 59½

Taxable: Yes (Deposits), Typically no (Withdrawals)
Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above

Rollover IRA

You can move your employer based 401(k) into a Rollover IRA account and have the funds managed by Helium. You can roll up to one account per year. The contributions from a 401(k) are not taxed but still need to be reported. Most 401(k)s have management fees – the average American will pay over $138,336 in 401(k) fees.

Unregistered Accounts

Unregistered accounts are still a valuable investing tool as short term savings and when you reach your yearly IRA contribution limits. With an unregistered account the deposits are not taxed, however the gains are taxed at your capital gains tax rate. This rate varies based on your marginal rate – typically between 0% for those making $37,650 and under to 20% for those making $451,051 and over.

Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals)

The Helium Advantage

A major value at Helium is helping investors start early and receive good advice from the start. They believe in a continuous cycle of getting advice, setting your goals, reaching them, and setting new goals.

Prospective investors can use their intuitive calculator to evaluate just how much money they can save with Helium compared to remaining in a portfolio of higher-fee mutual funds.

For example, I used the calculator to evaluate how much I could save in Helium’s aggressive portfolio based upon an initial $2,000 investment and $750 monthly contributions over 10 years. Based upon a reasonable estimated return of 6.5%, the calculator showed that I could save nearly $10,000.

How to get started with Helium

Registering with Helium is fast, simple, and even fun. It only took me a few minutes to work my way through the process on my laptop when testing it out.

If you prefer, you can also download the mobile app to your device and register that way. It is available on both iOs and Android devices. Users can even begin registration on one device, pause midway, and resume on another platform.

You’ll start by choosing a username and password, then proceed to entering typical identifying information, such as your name, address, and contact information.

Next you’ll be asked a series of interesting questions designed to help the Helium team get to know you better, such as:

  • If you were on a TV game show and could choose from one of the following, which would you choose?
  • If you needed $2,000 tomorrow, what would you do?

After answering approximate questions regarding income, net worth, savings goals, current debt levels, and preferred account types, all that remains is adding a beneficiary, social security numbers, and linking your preferred banking account.

The Helium Investment Dashboard

In order to help me provide maximum insight in this review, the team at Helium built a test account for me. After logging in, I was shown a centralized dashboard which highlighted my overall portfolio composition.

By navigating to the Portfolio tab, I was able to take a quicker look at the composition of each account by date by using the drop down menu. Here is a look at the test Roth IRA account as of February 5, 2017.

The Performance tab provides helpful linear graphs to help investors see performance trends over time. Here is a snapshot of the performance of the Traditional IRA within the test account.

I was pleased to see a tab for users to create and update goals within the dashboard; this is a great example of how Helium strives to live up to its mission of helping their clients achieve their goals. Establishing a goal within the test account was simple. I named the goal, established a monetary figure and target date, selected a corresponding account, and saved the goal.

Why Should I Sign-Up With Helium?

As an investor, you have several viable options when it comes to building for your retirement or other financial goals. It is important to keep in mind that your unique situation, goals, and desired level of involvement will play a big role in determining the best way to manage your investments.

For an investor who is looking for regular access to professional advice without paying high fees, Helium Investments can provide very high value. They offer a rarely seen combination of tailored advice, low fees (or no fees for accounts under $10,000), automated rebalancing, and sophisticated tax loss harvesting. And by all indications, they’ve cracked the code on leveraging technology and low-cost ETFs to maximize portfolio gains and minimize fees.

For investors who embrace the notion that what you keep is more important than how much you make, this is a perfect approach. If you’re interested in actively trading on a daily basis (which I do not recommend), Helium isn’t for you.

I recommend connecting with Helium Investments and giving their team the opportunity to review your portfolio. By simply uploading a statement, Helium can review your portfolio and analyze it for potential savings. They may be able to save you several thousand dollars.

What’s Not to Love?

To be perfectly transparent, I tried very hard to uncover “the catch” with Helium. I thought I might discover hidden fees, high set-up costs, or other red flags.

But I didn’t.

After an in-depth review, it appears that the Helium Investments team has built a client-friendly model that is also profitable for their company. As their website shows, they have a small core team and, therefore, likely have low overhead.  Some may see this is a disadvantage, but I don’t.

Perhaps the biggest question mark is the future direction of Helium Investments. They are a newer company competing in a saturated market. However, no market is too saturated for a new company which provides incredible value when compared to its competitors.

So far, Helium is doing exactly that.

For more information about Helium Investments, click here to visit their website.

Related Reading:

Helium Investments™ and the Helium Investments Balloon are trademarks of Helium Investments Inc, all rights reserved. Helium Investments Inc is a registered Investment Advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the jurisdictions of
CA, TX, FL, NY, IL, PA, OH, GA, NC, MI. Investment accounts are free up to $10,000 USD after fees apply. Any historical returns are not indicative of future performance. Investment values will fluctuate over time. SIPC Member, Not FDIC Insured. No Bank Guarantee.

This review is sponsored by Helium Investments; however, all analysis, review, and opinions are the the product and intellectual property of FinanceSuperhero.com.


How often do you pay attention to investment fees? Are you paying high fees and getting little in return?

High investment fees can make or break your retirement and your family's future. In fact, did you know that high fees could rob you of thousands upon thousands of dollars over many years, even if you don't have a million dollar portfolio? Helium Investments is on a mission to change that by minimizing fees and maximizing investors' returns. You can start an account with them today and pay 0% fees on accounts under $10,000. Click to read more of our review!

How to Make the Most of Your Tax Refund

Tax refund: Next to the words “pay day” and “debt free,” these are my two favorite finance-related words. Whether my annual tax refund is a modest sum or a mid-size windfall, I am always happy to see my refund directly-deposited into my checking account. Admittedly, knowing how to make the most of your tax refund can be a daunting task.

Still haven’t submitted your 2016 tax returns? If you have a simple return, such as a 1040-EZ, I recommend completing your simple return with E-File.com today. You can complete your Federal return for FREE and receive free support along the way. And FinanceSuperhero readers can receive a discount on state returns by using this link – $6 Off State Filings With Coupon Code “6OFFSTATE”.

If you’re planning to complete a 1040A or require additional schedules, the team at Liberty Tax has local offices in your area to help you every step of the way. Other tax preparation services come and go, but LibertyTax has been helping people file their taxes the easy way since 1997.

Receiving a tax refund is a great opportunity to improve your financial outlook. Follow these 9 pro tips to make the most of your tax refund!

The FinanceSuperhero Guide to Making the Most of Your Tax Refund

Assuming you have a tax refund coming your way, you could be on the verge of changing your financial picture.  With great opportunity comes great responsibility! The following advice will help you to make the most of your tax refund and make significant progress on your financial journey. I recommend following the steps in numerical order.

1. Give a Portion of Your Tax Refund to a Charitable Organization

Longtime readers will not be surprised that I am suggesting giving as the first step to make the most of your tax refund. As previously mentioned, Mrs. Superhero and I have placed Giving at the top of our monthly budget. Giving aligns with our values, and helping others provides us with much more satisfaction and enjoyment than buying more stuff or eating delicious food.

I strongly believe that giving 10% is the best way that we can make a charitable contribution prior to reaching financial independence (at which time we will significantly increase our giving). We have always done this, dating back to the time when we faced a mountain of debt, and we continue to do so today, even though we are only a few months away from carrying no debt other than our mortgage.

Why? As I mentioned, we believe helping others is both a calling and the most satisfying use of our money. Giving is also a strong reminder that money is not something to be hoarded out of greed. We want to value money and practice good stewardship, but we also want to remain far removed from the love of money.

Many people reject giving in favor of keeping their money strictly to themselves. Ironically, it is usually these same people who senselessly give their money to big banks and other financiers in the form of outlandish interest payments on cars, boats, and other stuff.

Personally, I would rather give in a meaningful way. Even if you give 1% of your tax refund, you will help others and begin to change the way you view money.

2. Increase Your Savings and/or Emergency Fund

When looking to make the most of your tax return, simply saving money can be a wise choice.
When looking to make the most of your tax return, simply saving money can be a wise choice.

After supporting societal progress by giving, use your tax refund proceeds to improve your liquid savings. Unless you are an extremely high income earner or have a stable passive income stream, you absolutely must have an Emergency Fund. If you do not have one, consider this a full-blown, alarm-sounding crisis that must be addressed immediately! Statistically-speaking, there is close to a 100% chance that you will experience some form of an emergency within the next decade, so be ready!

While I recommend maintaining an Emergency Fund of at least 3-6 months of minimum living expenses, you may also wish to establish an additional Opportunity Fund. I do not specifically recommend amounts or figures for this fund, and you may wish to skip it entirely in favor of moving onto Step 3. However, an Opportunity Fund could allow you to make a fun, somewhat impulsive decision without any accompanying feelings of guilt or regret.

3. Get out of Debt – Once and For All!

After you have given and increased your security via your Emergency Fund, you are fully-prepared to take on the primary barrier standing in the way of Financial Independence: Debt.

The sooner you eliminate your non-mortgage debts, the sooner you free a significant portion of your monthly income and simultaneously gain the freedom to invest in tax-advantaged retirement accounts. Both the Snowball and Avalanche methods are valid means to achieve debt freedom. For the purposes of this post, I am less-concerned with the method you implement to eliminate your debt; just get it done. You may get the push you need if you make the most of your tax refund in this way!

 

4. Invest in Tax-Advantaged Investments

The real fun begins when you no longer have non-mortgage debt. If you are free from the shackles of debt, the next optimal use for your tax refund is to maximize your retirement contributions. For the purposes of this limited space, ensure you are maximizing employer-offered plans, specifically if they offer a match, and then move onto your Roth IRA.

Want to make the most of your tax refund? Opening an IRA or taxable brokerage account with Betterment is a smart way to maximize the impact of your refund.
Betterment returns vs. US Market and Typical Investor Returns (Credit: Betterment)

If you’re looking for an easy to use platform for investing, Betterment could be the solution for you. Their Tax-Coordinated Portfolio works to maximize your earnings and minimize tax burdens across all types of accounts, including taxable accounts, Roth IRAs, and traditional IRAs. It is simple to sign-up or rollover an account, select a portfolio of ETFs, and be on your way toward earning better returns right away.

Compared to other platforms, the Betterment portfolio is designed to achieve optimal returns at every level of risk. Through diversification, automated rebalancing, better behavior, and lower fees, the Betterment approach to investing can help you generate 2.9% higher returns than a typical DIY investor.

Make the most of your tax refund and start investing with Betterment by signing up today!

5. Contribute to Your Children’s College Funds

If you do not have children, skip ahead to Step 6. If you have children, you need to learn the nuances of the Coverdell ESA (Education Savings Account, also nicknamed the Education IRA) and 429 plan. The ESA has income and contribution limits (currently $2,000 per year), but I recommend you start with the ESA in most circumstances, if eligible.

The important thing to understand is that minimal contributions to these vehicles will place you in a position to send your children to college without the burden of student loans if you begin early.

Related PostEscape From Student Loans: How Two Educators Paid Off $17,831.65 in 54 Days

6. Destroy Your Mortgage Debt

Pause with me for a moment and imagine a life without a mortgage payment. If you can’t imagine it, check out the FREE E-book, How to Hack Your Mortgage and Save Thousands, written by my friend Andrew at FamilyMoneyPlan. This is the plan he and his wife used to wipe out their $320,000 mortgage in 6 years.

What could you do with an extra $1,000 per month? $2,500? $5,000? I just felt an overwhelming sense of excitement  and peace typing these words. The next time I visit my doctor and have my blood-pressure checked, I am going to visualize the wonders of a mortgage-free life to improve my numbers.

For the average family, mortgage interest represents the second-largest expense that they will pay in their entire lifetime. In some cases, total mortgage interest paid on a 30 year mortgage can be approximately 75-80% of total principal, even at today’s advantageous interest rates! Make the most of your tax refund to accomplish progress on an annual basis and you could shave several years off your mortgage, especially if you are already paying extra on principal on a monthly basis.

7. Invest in Non-Retirement Funds and/or Real Estate

If you have made it to Step 7, please allow me to offer my congratulations. With no debt whatsoever, healthy savings, and kids’ college covered, you are poised to generate significant wealth. At this stage, you may have achieved Financial Independence, depending upon your lifestyle.

I recommend using tax refund money to invest in simple index funds at this stage. A modest tax refund sum is enough to get you started with many index funds. Adopt a long-term approach, relax, and watch your money grow.

Similarly, this is the time to invest in real estate, if interested. Becoming a landlord isn’t for everyone, and paying a property manager could eat into your net profit from owning a rental property. However, a rental property can yield some of the highest annual investment returns if managed well and purchased at prices below market value.

Want to make the most of your tax refund? Investing in real estate with Fundrise is an exciting option for investors in 2017.Fortunately, today’s investors can invest in real estate without the hassle of becoming a landlord or hiring a property manager. Fundrise offers real estate investment options with low entry costs.. As of February 2017, they offer three eREITs for new investors: the West Cost eREIT, the Heartland eREIT, and the East Cost eREIT. It is amazing that technology has brought common investors like you and me the opportunity to invest in multi-million dollar buildings half way around the country!

Even if you’re on the fence about real estate investing or just not quite ready to dip your toe in the water, I recommend signing-up with Fundrise today – it is 100% FREE, with no obligation, and in doing so, you’ll position yourself to learn more and possibly avoid wait lists.

8. Improve the Value of Your Primary Home

At this stage, true fun begins. When you are financially well-poised for the future, a tax refund represents an opportunity to both invest and add joy to your life simultaneously. This is the time to make improvements around your home which increase your happiness and feature a high return on investment.

Good Investments: new front door, landscaping, deck or patio, kitchen or bath remodel, walkway lighting

Bad Investments: swimming pools, utility sheds

9. Build Sinking Funds for Bucket List Items

Last, but not least, comes additional saving for specific purchases. If you make it down to Step 9 when determining how to implement your tax refund, you are an authentic Superhero. I recommend establishing separate sinking funds for a variety of priorities, such as vacations, new car purchases, secondary homes, or major home additions.

The purpose of a sinking fund is to plan for future purchases which are far off in the future. At this stage, you do not want to be fooled into getting back into debt or be caught off guard by large, necessary expenses. With a sinking fund, you won’t be financially caught off guard when your house needs a new roof, your furnace fails, or your vehicle sputters and dies.

Are You Ready to Make the Most of Your Tax Refund?

A tax refund is a great opportunity to get ahead in your finances. I am confident that you will not fail to cover all of your bases by following these steps. Depending upon where you are in your journey toward Restoring Order to Your World of Finances, you may wish to skip steps or modify the order. For example, renters may wish to place saving for a home down payment in the Steps.

If you haven’t yet filed your 2016 tax returns, be sure to check out E-File.com or LibertyTax today. Either way, careful consideration of your circumstances will put you on the path to make the most of your tax refund this year!

 

Note: This post was last updated on February 14, 2017.


Readers, did you receive a tax refund this year? Are you currently awaiting a refund? How do you plan to make the most of your tax refund?

Retire With Dignity – Reject the Normal Financial Outlook

Everything is relative when it comes to money and determining what is “normal.” At least that is what we have been conditioned to believe over time. The normal financial outlook is very different for blue collar workers and executives, plumbers and CEOs, and teachers and doctors. Unfortunately, a statistical average generated among such a wide variety of professions and incomes does little good in helping us learn what normal looks like today.

Income, of course, is only half the battle. On the flip side, expenses complicate the search for normal even further. Even two doctors with identical incomes and living in $450,000 homes in San Francisco, California and Arlington, Texas, respectively, may have wildly differing expense to income ratios due to property taxes and cost of living discrepancies.

So where does this leave the search? Is a “normal financial outlook” definable?

Is a "normal financial outlook" definable? Everything is relative when it comes to money, yet the desire to be normal could be sabotaging your efforts.

A Normal Financial Outlook is a Fallacy

The other day, I spoke with a friend about the manner in which “normal” people manage their finances. After citing problem after problem, we came to a realization: We won’t want to be normal. Normal is broke, greedy, overconfident, and unfulfilled. 

Following our conversation, I pondered the idea a bit more and came to a conclusion which I believe is tight enough to hold water: the average person’s desire to be normal is to be blame for his pessimistic financial outlook. Furthermore, normal is simply a self-defeating social construct which ultimately holds us back.

Consider the following connections:

*The desire to be normal drives us to take on a 72 month auto loan so we can drive the same car as our colleague; never mind the fact that the vehicle will be worth a fraction of its sticker value when the loan is paid off.

*The desire to be normal motivates us to take on the maximum pre-approved mortgage when looking for a home. It also causes us to spend at an unreasonable clip to furnish the home at high interest rates and rationalize it because “everyone else is doing it.” Many normal people will end up paying nearly twice the value of their home due to 30 years of interest accumulation (or more if they refinance to another 30 year mortgage after several years of paying on an initial 30 year mortgage).

*Because most normal people do not have any idea how much money they will need to live on in retirement, we adopt a normal mindset and rationalize that “it will all work out.”

*The desire to be normal leads us to go out with colleagues each day rather than brown bagging it for lunch. This kind of “normal” comes at a cost of over $100,000 over a working career.

These are only a few examples, but they drive home the truth that normal is bad.

Normal is the Worst

Statistically speaking, normal people are house poor, broke, in debt, and destined to slave away for 40-50 years only to retire in old age and poor health. And this is what most of us strive to become?

I have a different vision for my future. I don’t want it to be anything close to “normal.” As a result, I’m doing the sensible things now to ensure that my family’s future isn’t depressingly bleak.

First and foremost, I am consistently striving to challenge my everyday perception of “normal.” I know that if I surround myself with people and experiences which are “normal,” I will fight the desire to live abnormally. On the other hand, if I surround myself with people who share my view of what is “normal,” I am cultivating a healthier perception of the idea itself. This is vital.

Mrs. Superhero and I have intentionally taken steps to become good friends with others who share this mindset. For example, one couple we frequently spend time with also maintains an entertainment/dining budget. We have no qualms with being transparent about that among our families, which often leads to double dates at our home in lieu of expensive meals out. We look at as iron sharpening iron.

Secondly, Mrs. Superhero and I have worked at minimizing the frequency with which we experience luxury in our lives. We know that once we become accustomed to luxuries it can be very hard to give them up. Once luxuries become the norm, it can become very difficult to grow wealth and develop a favorable financial outlook; raising the bar in this manner is “normal,” but it minimizes satisfaction and happiness while permanently raising one’s bottom line required spending. We aim to make luxurious experiences the exception, not the norm.

Third, we are diligent in taking excellent care of the nice possessions which we have prioritized over the years. We have found that we appreciate these items for their true value, utility, and contribution to our overall happiness simply because we exhibit pride in maintaining what we have worked and sacrificed to gain. For example, I marvel at the fine condition of my 2008 Honda Accord while driving to work each day. Instead of dwelling on the fact that it is nearly nine years old now,  I choose to take pride in its fine condition.

I often think that if we were resigned to a normal financial outlook, we would be far less mindful about these sort of things. In rejecting this kind of thinking, we choose to believe that there is a better way to live. It is a path lined with hard work, sacrifice, and self-control, but we firmly believe it is the best path toward happiness both in the present and in the future.


How do you define “normal” when it comes to money? Do you have a normal financial outlook? In what ways do you reject being “normal” on your path toward happiness both in the present and in retirement?

The Herd Mentality and Retirement – How to Free Yourself and Others

In my last piece, I wrote about my apparent decision that perhaps early retirement just isn’t for me. I outlined several pros and cons of early retirement, all of which I had previously read about or otherwise heard expressed.

Confession time: I was subtly and intentionally trying to stir the pot.

The result? It worked. My faux-criticism of early retirement worked just well enough to spark some lively discussion.

For reference sake, here are the pros and cons I listed.

Pros:

*Opportunity to spend increased time with family and friends
*Freedom to travel
*Reduced stress and improved health
*More time to pursue other interests or even a new career

Cons:

*Possible negative impact upon health (possible loss of health benefits, decreased physical activity)
*Possible boredom and/or depression
*Increased stress (more time to worry; constant fear that your nest egg may be insufficient)
*Limitations due to fixed income

For the record, I don’t necessarily buy into the above cons. They are possible, but as Physician On Fire stated, “if you’re more stressed and less active when retired, resulting in poorer physical and mental health, you’re doing it wrong.”

So why was I intentionally-deceptive?

The herd mentality plays a large role in the formation of the average retirement plan. We may wish to deny it, yet our actions are telling. Learn how to break free and help others do the same.

Testing the Herd

While I don’t mind readers agreeing with me based upon the merits of my arguments, I do have a problem with those who mindlessly agree with others. To the credit of those who left responses in the comments, you all got pretty critical with my shallow analysis. Some of you were kind, even though I could sense that you really wanted to sock it to me. Some of you downright took me to the cleaners, which I fully deserved!

I’ve noticed more and more that this kind of honest dialogue is rare. Heck, if the two top candidates to become the next leader of the free world cannot even participate in a simple debate without displaying an egregious lack of manners and an overall inability to communicate, how can we expect people to be candid yet respectful in a blog or other forum? And how can we expect people to disagree with one another in person and still continue the conversation?

These are tough questions to navigate, so many just don’t bother to try. We pat each other on the back despite the presence of disagreement, stand pat as others share misinformed or half-baked ideas, and keep our mouths shut.

We might not possess a herd mentality ourselves, but we often do very little to discourage its advancement among our friends and loved ones. Think about it. How many of us have said nothing when a friend or family member spoke of his latest voluntary investment in “can’t miss” company stock, the “stable return” of her annuity, or the “deal” he received on a whole life insurance policy?

I know I am often far too nice, and you are, too, in all likelihood.

Understanding the Herd Mentality

The act of discouraging the herd mentality on retirement begins with understanding. If we can grasp the reasons for the perpetuation of this mentality, we may be better equipped to combat against it.

At its heart, the herd mentality may be traced to man’s desire for conformity. Put another way, being different is very often undesirable. Even a majority of the weirdo middle school kids with dreadlocks and trench coats don’t like being different, if they’re being honest. So we often find ourselves following along with others in group-think as a means of gaining a sense of belonging and becoming part of a group.

Similarly, the heard mentality is rooted in the fear of being wrong. Even if we feel we are more likely to be correct in taking a specific course of action, nagging fear may drive us to choose the opposite course out of fear that we could end up isolated by our own wrong doing. After all, it is better to be wrong and with others than to be correct and alone, no?

Intellectually, many of us may wish to shed these notions, yet our behaviors and actions say otherwise.

Discouraging the Herd Mentality

So how exactly can we help others overcome the tendency to conform, fear mistakes, and perpetuate a herd mentality? No two people are alike, but the following guidelines will prove to be helpful in most situations and with most people.

1. Listen more than you speak

When helping another person by seeking to change their opinion or behavior, it is most important to fully understand their position. This understanding can only be achieved through careful listening.

Billionaire Richard Branson articulated the importance of listening very well in sharing a lesson learned from his father:

When I grew up our house was always a hive of activity, with Mum dreaming up new entrepreneurial schemes left, right and centre, and me and my sisters running wild. You were as likely to find me helping Mum with a new project as outside climbing a tree. Amidst all the fun and chaos, Dad was always a supportive, calming influence on us all. He wasn’t quiet, but he was not often as talkative as the rest of us. It made for a wonderful balance, and we always knew we could rely on him no matter what.

Within this discreet support lay one of his best and most simple pieces of advice for me: listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak. Wherever I go, I try to spend as much time as possible listening to the people I meet. I am fortunate to travel widely and come across fascinating characters from all walks of life. While I am always happy to share my own experiences with them, it would be foolish if I didn’t listen back.

2. Ask questions with care and humility

Aside from listening, it is equally important to engage with others by asking thoughtful questions and remaining humble. These steps go hand-in-hand, and they are the keys to earning others’ trust.

Remember, most people do not care what you know until they know that you care.

3. Acknowledge your own mistakes and imperfections

In order to continue building a foundation of trust and credibility, seek to admit your own mistakes and imperfections. It is very difficult to shatter the herd mentality if you skip this step.

Yesterday, I was listening to the Dave Ramsey show podcast when Dave took a call from a confused caller. The wife and mother of four shared that she and her husband were considering following the advice of friends and family by moving in with her parents and selling their house to save money. Dave took this caller to task in a manner that made me wince a bit. He was critical of the caller’s lack of planning, overblown spending, and knee-jerk reactions. Dave also pointed out the this woman was attempting to implement a plan which treated only the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself.

Naturally, this caller became a bit distressed and defensive. In a moment of swift timing, Dave pointed out that he himself had made “far dumber” mistakes with money than even the mistake that this woman and her husband were about to make. As he outlined several of them in crystal clear detail, he displayed empathy and earned credibility with the caller. Little by little, the caller warmed up to Dave and become more and more interested in what he had to say. By admitting his own mistakes, Dave broke down the herd mentality barrier which had driven this caller.

Final Word

I apologize for any genuine concern I may have caused over my views on early retirement. Despite my deception, my true vision for early retirement is simple:

I desire to reach financial independence and gain the option to work, if I so choose, for purposes other than monetary rewards.

Despite experiencing some guilt over my slight deception in my previous piece, I am glad that the outcome was as I had expected. Collectively, the tight-nit community listened to my ideas, posed relevant questions and counter-examples, shared personal anecdotes, and tapped into long-established trust and credibility in an attempt to show me the error of my ways.

I am proud to be running with the right herd.


Have you had experience breaking others free from the herd mentality surrounding retirement? 

 

 

 

Early Retirement Musings – Is It Worth It?

I have been thinking about early retirement a lot lately. Upon first glance, you might read that sentence as an indication that I am looking for an escape from my current day-to-day grind. On the contrary, I feel that Mrs. Superhero and I are in a good place at the moment. We enjoy our full-time careers in the classroom, and we feel invigorated by our side businesses in real estate and the music studio, respectively.

My thoughts on early retirement are admittedly impacted by a variety of influences. First and foremost, everyone in our family trees has opted for traditional retirements. On the other hand, nearly everything I read on a regular basis, from books and magazines to blog articles, touts the benefits of early retirement and financial independence.

What are my current thoughts about early retirement? I’m seriously pondering whether I am even interested at this point.

Retirement Basics

Any discussion of the pros and cons of early retirement should begin with a look at the purposes behind retirement at a basic level. Quite obviously, the cultural phenomenon of retirement exists because humans are not physically and mentally equipped to work forever. As a result, we work and save for four to five decades, on average, in order to survive when we are no longer able to support our basic needs through earned income.

To recap, the most basic life plan is as follows:

WORK 40-50 YEARS + SAVE MONEY = BASIC SURVIVAL AT AGE 65-70 

The above plan is a reality for an alarming cluster of the population. Yes, you can and probably should aim higher with your retirement goals. For example, you could save and invest more than is required to meet your basic retirement needs, allowing yourself to live a little in retirement. However, tomorrow is promised to nobody. Or you could save more and retire a bit earlier, say in your late 50s or early 60s.

So, we might describe the intermediate plan as follows:

WORK 30-40 YEARS + SAVE MORE MONEY = COMFORTABLE RETIREMENT AT 55-60

For a small number of renegades with their hearts and minds set on early retirement, even this sensible plan is insufficient. Thanks to mathematical breakdowns by Mr. Money Mustache and countless other bloggers, waves of people are targeting a much earlier retirement. How? They are aiming to increase their savings rate, as a percentage of net income, to figures which exceed 40 percent and approach 85 or even 90 percent!

Early retirement
The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement (Credit: Mr. Money Mustache)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to reduce this table to a formula, we might proceed as follows:

WORK 3-20 YEARS + SAVE LIKE THE DICKENS = RETIRE EARLIER THAN EVERYONE ELSE

The most beautiful thing about the chart above is that it is not income sensitive in any way, shape or form. It applies to you whether you earn $40,000 per year or $4 million per year. Of course, it should be much easier to save when you have an inflated income. Yet, that pesky thing called “lifestyle” tends to get in the way.

In essence, we might say that early retirement is a largely a choice.

Early Retirement Pros and Cons

Now that it is apparent that early retirement is mathematically accessible for virtually everyone, let us examine the merits of such a plan.

Among many pros of early retirement, the following stand out:

*Opportunity to spend increased time with family and friends
*Freedom to travel
*Reduced stress and improved health
*More time to pursue other interests or even a new career

Obviously, early retirement is not without its cons, which include:

*Possible negative impact upon health (possible loss of health benefits, decreased physical activity)
*Possible boredom and/or depression
*Increased stress (more time to worry; constant fear that your nest egg may be insufficient)
*Limitations due to fixed income

As with virtually all matters of personal finance, the pros and cons are largely situation-dependent. For example, my Grandpa retired only a few years early and came out ahead in nearly every manner possible: he increased his earnings and kept busy by working side jobs, gained the freedom to spend time with his children and grandchildren, and took several vacations each year with my Grandma.

On the other hand, I know a person (who shall remain nameless) who would quite likely suffer an early death if he were to retire early. He would spend his days and nights wasting away in a recliner watching television, despite being of able mind and body. Quite likely, early retirement would be an early death sentence for this person.

Our Current Plan

Back in June, I established 30 goals as I approached my 30th birthday. Goal 5 stated, “Set a target date for early retirement and formulate a plan to get there.” I have been dragging my feet on this one ever since; as I said, I’m just not sure what I want to do at this point.

Strictly based upon Money Mustache’s chart above, Mrs. Superhero and I could likely retire somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-17 years, or 2031, given our current assets and savings rate. Since I am a proponent of stealth wealth, that’s about as specific as I’d like to get at this point in time. However, we could make some changes in current spending and investing plans and possibly retire in approximately 10 years. This would not be achievable without significant sacrifice and postponement of other significant goals.

All of which has led me to an important conclusion: I simply desire to achieve other goals more than I desire early retirement at this point in time. Among other goals that I feel will bring me and Mrs. Superhero greater joy than early retirement, starting a family ranks at the top of the list. Additional goals include:

*Fund college for our future children
*Travel with moderate frequency
*Give and support missionary work beyond our current ability to do so
*Finish our basement (which is currently unfinished)
*Possibly own a second home

If our pursuit of these goals brings us increased happiness and slightly slows our pursuit of early retirement by 5-10 years, I feel I am OK with that. I would rather retire slightly later than mathematically possible and achieve more in life rather than retire with unfinished business.

In closing, let us consider one of the oldest retirement clichés, which says, it is better to retire to something than to retire from something.


What are your current retirement plans? Do you aspire to retire early? If so, how do you hope to achieve early retirement?

 

From Zero to Hero: Skills to Advance Your Life

Happy Friday, readers! The fact that you are reading this post means I have survived the first few days of school. The first few weeks are always a whirlwind of excitement and chaos for students and teachers, but they are fun, as well.

While I ease back into the school year and keep a pretty full slate with my side hustles, I am happy to host yet another excellent guest post.  Today’s piece comes from the one and only Mr. AE at Apathy Ends. If you haven’t checked out his site, I recommend you do so today. You can also follow Apathy Ends on Twitter and Pinterest.

The ApathyEnds logo
The Apathy Ends logo

Take it away, Mr. AE!


As you wade through life you move from the bottom of the ladder to the top. The kicker is, you are only on top long enough to enjoy the move for a brief spell before tumbling back to earth and starting from the bottom again.

The typical cycle looks something like this:

Freshman -> Senior ->Freshman -> Senior -> Entry Level Job -> Senior -> New Title -> Senior New Title

Rinse. Repeat.

The last two iterations can go on for 40-45 years; that sounds exhausting.

We have decided to break the above cycle and are pushing our way to the top of ladder, but plan on staying there for the majority of our adult life. Putting job titles, income, awards and acknowledgments in a bin labeled “crap I don’t care about” is the dream.

I don’t plan on looking back and saying “I was the Senior Master VP of Made Up Job at POS Corporation for 15 years.” I want to say “From this day forward, we will make our own decisions.”

To do this effectively, we need to be Financially Independent. Those words may mean different things to every one, but to me, they mean – Money does not dictate our decisions, we are not dependent on work to fund our lifestyle.

The irony is to accomplish this feat you need to be on your A game in many different areas, and unfortunately a traditional job is the vehicle of choice for most of us. Even though I do not enjoy my job, making more money is the fastest way for us to accomplish our goals. I am going to outline some skills that have increased our salary, cut our spending and paved the way for happiness.

Some Skills to Help you on Your Path

Solve problems

Be a problem solver, not a problem avoider, or worse a problem creator.

Remember that the easiest solution/method might be the right one. Organizations tend to overthink simple procedures and processes and make them way more difficult than they need to be. Install simplicity whenever possible.

Bring a solution to every problem you identify. I can’t emphasize enough how huge this is for your career and personal relationships. Employers don’t promote people that point out issues and don’t think about potential solutions. Effort will not got unnoticed and it is OK to be dead wrong occasionally.

Think Critically

The majority of my peers are Millennials, and critical thinking is not a widely used skill in our generation. Its not that we don’t posses the intelligence, it’s that we want to be told the answer now. This is a downside of the information age, we don’t take time to set out our options and weigh them against each other or potential outcomes.

Use fact or probability based evidence to support your outcomes whenever possible.

Learn To Live With Less

I know first hand how much “stuff” can start to clutter up a home. We went through a Decluttering Challenge and got rid of over 231 items that we simply did not need.

  • Hobby Equipment – Is there a pile of sports equipment in the garage going unused?
  • Square Footage – Have 3 of your 5 bedrooms turned into a glorified storage container?

An interesting thing happens when you rid your house of a bunch of stuff that cost money at one time. Whenever you go to buy something, your brain visualizes everything you got rid of and you second guess your purchases.

Seek Happiness – Destroy Stress

Money is a contributor to stress, the longer it goes unmanaged the deeper the hole you have to eventually dig out of.

One of the most ironic things I have observed is people will spend money on things that don’t make them happy and compound money stress by having less of it.

Try flipping the equation to only spending money on things that TRULY make you happy. It can be anything, I like craft beer, good food and a day on the lake. That means I cut out fast food lunches at work to eat 2-3 good meals at a new restaurant and a 12 pack of craft beer in the fridge at all times.

Don’t Care What Other People Think

Excluding your significant other and family/friends (I go back and forth on them some days) don’t waste time caring what other people think of your decisions. It is not a productive use of your time, energy or brain power.

Do what makes sense for your family and your goals. Don’t feel pressure to spend time or money on anything you are not interested in.

Take Away

There are a lot of things working against you and you may be working against yourself just as hard. You need to manage your money, time and resources effectively to get on top of the ladder for the long haul.

Take some time to separate what brings you joy and strategically cut out the rest. I don’t like Big Bang events, avoid cutting everything in one day. Spread it out over a few months and make sure your changes take hold.

Thanks for hosting today Mr. Superhero!

Thanks again to Mr. AE for his willingness to share a guest post, and be sure to check out Apathy Ends!

My Motivation to Achieve Financial Success – Legacy

Before today’s post, I wanted to share that I recently took part in the Behind the Screen Interview Series at FamilyMoneyPlan. You can check out my interview with Andrew here.


My Motivation to Achieve Financial Success – Legacy

A brand-new home with every amenity.

Freedom from stress and the day-to-day rat race.

Full control over your life and your finances.

When it comes to money, we all are motivated by different factors. Those motivating factors can also change over time based upon our formative life experiences.

However, for as long as I can remember, my motivation to achieve financial success has always been about one primary factor:

Legacy.

My motivation to achieve financial success has always been about one thing: legacy.

My Model of Motivation

I have written extensively in the past about the impact my Grandpa had on my life and my outlook on work ethic, success, and money. Since he passed away just over three years ago, a day has not passed in which I fail to think about him and the incredible legacy he left behind.

While many people do not aspire to leave a legacy or make a profound impact upon their loved ones, my Grandpa knew exactly what he and my Grandma were doing. I learned this at a very early age.

As a young child, I vividly recall the long walk to the lake one warm July 4th evening. As was customary, the entire extended family – Grandpa and Grandma, several aunts and uncles, and far too many cousins to count – had set out well before dusk to stake out our seats for the evening firework show.

To be clear, I cannot recall if my memories of what happened next are firsthand or simply recollections of the story; strangely, time has a way of clouding memories. Regardless, I will always remember the words my Grandpa spoke to my Grandma and as they walked side-by-side and lead the way to our usual seats.

“Look what we did, Mother,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at our entire family.

We were Grandpa’s proudest accomplishment. We were his legacy.

With my Grandpa in 2012
With my Grandpa in 2012

I think back on that story often. In many ways, it ranks as one of the most formative experiences of my childhood. In that moment, I learned a valuable lesson on what is truly important in life.

In my eyes, my Grandpa had it all: a long, relatively-healthy life; a beautiful home; considerable, though undeclared, wealth; and the freedom to do as he pleased. Yet, his family meant far more to him than all earthly possessions.

Yes, my Grandpa loved money. In fact, when I spoke at his funeral, I shared the true story of the time he opened his wallet and a moth flew out. Like a typical, hard-working Dutch man, he was not in any hurry to spend his hard-earned money. But he had his priorities in order. He was generous and kind when it mattered most, especially to family and friends.

I often wonder if my priorities, too, will stand the test of time.


On the surface, I have no doubt that many of my friends and loved ones completely misunderstand my money motivations. To many of them, I am sure I appear to be greedy, miserly, or a workaholic. Some may even think I must be self-obsessed and vain.

However, I believe short-term sacrifice is worth the long-term gains waiting to be realized. Over my lifetime, I have learned that it is the motivation behind one’s actions, not the actions alone, which deserves scrutiny.

My wife and I aren’t working hard to inflate our current lifestyle, live it up in the present, and run the risk of burn-out. No, we are sacrificing in the short-term in order to build our ability to focus on what is truly important to us five, ten, and twenty years from now. In a culture which places the highest value on instant gratification, we are embracing the opposite.

Once in a while,  when it feels like I’m burning the wick at both ends, I like to hit the streets for an evening run and clear my head. Invariably, my thoughts drift and I begin to form visions of the future: our future kids playing in the yard, sending them off to college without any debt, walking my daughters down the aisle on their wedding days, and taking the entire family, grandchildren included, on a two-week getaway to Disney World. Those thoughts are the magical panacea for my weariness.

In the present, those visions represent a future worthy of current sacrifice and hard work.

Those thoughts – my future family and the experiences I hope to provide for them – will be a significant part of my legacy.


What motivates you to achieve financial success?

 

The Two Most Important Numbers to Achieving Financial Success

My family is soft-spoken. Though members of my extended family tend to be people of very few words, when someone speaks it is a certain sign that those words are important and have been carefully crafted. My uncle, a wise man of few words, unexpectedly told me a surprising story during one of our trips to Michigan this summer.

One of his very elderly friends at church had passed away a few months ago, and shortly after this gentleman’s passing, his wife died. As described, they were a very sweet old couple. They had been married for more than 50 years and still lived in the tiny home which they had purchased shortly after getting married. The man’s wife never held a job, as they felt it would be more valuable for her to remain home and raise their children. The man worked a blue-collar job as a machinist in town and remained with that company throughout his entire working career until he retired in his sixties.

My uncle’s friend and his wife were a model of frugality. They owned only one vehicle at a given time and chose to drive well-maintained used vehicles. According to my uncle, he couldn’t recall a time in which the couple owned a vehicle fewer than five years old.

You probably know a similar couple. Though I did not know this pair myself, I know many other older couples who fit this billing. My grandfather was similarly frugal, though a bit less extreme.

A true story-teller, my uncle saved the best for last in the tale of his friend, and what he told me was most-unexpected.

Head over to ApathyEnds and read the remainder of this article, as it is the featured guest post for today. Be sure to check back here on Friday for an offbeat piece on lessons learned from an unusual football star.