Best Financial Tip I Ever Learned Lesson Seven of Seven

What is the best financial tip I ever received

This is the last lesson in this series on money. I consider it the best financial tip I every learned – developing a side income.

Many people have issues with their current job/career; they don’t like it, they don’t make enough money, they don’t see an opportunity for a promotion, they are not really good at their job, or they don’t like the people around them.

A lesson I learned was to get myself a part-time job. Not just because of the extra income (although certainly nice) but to do something I love, to get good at it, have a separate source of income, in case I lose my job, and most importantly, to have something to do when I retire and that can earn me some money that means I don’t have to pull as much out of my savings. As a result, I can either retire earlier, or more comfortably.

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Dream Big Lesson Six of Seven

Make your dream big and your annual goal small

I remember being a kid and making up games all the time. Back in the late sixties, early seventies we didn’t have cool toys, video games, computers, smartphones and cable TV. We had boxes and dirt, actually a box was a luxury. You only had one if someone’s family bought a new washing machine. When we didn’t have a box, we would crawl inside the bushes and there was enough room under there for a nice fort. You would come out of there with scratches and your skin itching from the plant oils or bugs but it was worth it. We would spend hours making up games, on the fly, no instructions, just a couple of kids and a situation.

As we get older, we lose the ability to use our imagination.

How does this relate to lessons learned in finance?

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How to Allocate a Paycheck – Lesson Five of Seven

Spending how to allocate a paycheck

Spending is the topic that seems to be the focus of most accountants and personal finance people. Working on and developing budgets is their primary task.

While it is important, it can get in the way, be a time-killer, and discourage most people from focusing on their finances. A lot of people would disagree but they tend to be the kind that love working on budgets and spending time mired in the details, ones who love to research where they spent that last $1.97 and place it in its proper category so that everything is in balance.

We need accountants, heck I am one. But most people can’t and won’t do what accountants do.

What is a better solution?

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Keep an Eye on Your Money – Lesson Four of Seven

Keep an eye on money

There is a business maxim that says to measure what you manage.

The reason being that you don’t know if you are successful in your management unless you have something to measure against. You need to set the bar as to what is acceptable and what is not.

Money is the same way. If you spend, save, and invest without a plan you review, and hope that it turns out ok, you will fail.

But you want to weigh that against “analysis by paralysis”. You don’t want so many metrics to review that you lack focus – you will spread yourself so thin that none of the items will get your full attention and all will suffer. The “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” syndrome.

So you list out all the things you can manage and prioritize the top three and focus on those three. It’s works at work and it will work in your home.

A great starting point is to focus on spending, saving and debt. Once you get one of these under control move on to the next one, such as investing.

It works best if you have a system in place that is simple, repeatable and eliminates mistakes.

Note: If you missed the first three lessons, they are here

Lesson One
Lesson Two
Lesson Three


The main goal in this category is to spend less than you make. Think of yourself like a business. If you spend more than you make and keep doing that, eventually your business will go bankrupt and have to shut down.

Run your finances the same way.

The problem here is that people make this too complicated. That is probably the fault of us accountants. We love details and tracking things down to the penny and making sure all the dollars are in balance and reconciled.

This is too much for most people. They work out a budget, follow it for a month or two and something comes up that requires they juggle the budget and everything is out of whack, or they run out of time to manage it and they get into a hole where they can never catch up, or the budget is too complicated and they don’t understand it, don’t like it and they don’t get good results from it.

The solution is to keep it simple. Divide every pay check up into a handful of large broad categories like living expenses, savings and paying down debt. With just a few big categories to manage it becomes much easier to review if you or on track or not.

For example, if your paycheck arrives and it is for $2,000 (net), have 10% go into savings ($200) and another $200 go to an account to pay down your debt. That will leave you with $1,600 to pay for living expenses until your next check.

If you find that $1,600 doesn’t provide you with enough money to live off of, you need to look at your spending. What went wrong? Don’t analyze every cent. Look at the big ticket items. Are you spending too much on those items; house, cars, food? You only have two choices; cut back on those big items or make more money.


Here you will only look at your main assets like house, cars, cash, bank accounts, retirement accounts. Ignore things like furniture, lawn equipment, unless it is very valuable like jewelry, art, collectible music equipment etc.

Look up the values once a month, or for things like your cars, look up the values once a quarter or once per year.

Keep track of the totals on a spreadsheet and compare to last month and last year (Ex May 2014 to May 2013). Are the totals going up? Are some totals going up and others decreasing? Did that new car you wanted so badly drop in value after you bought it? How about the value of your wife’s three year old Honda Accord, did it maintain its value? Food for thought, right?


At least once per month look at your savings. Are you funding your emergency fund, retirement account and large future expense accounts according to your goals? Why not? Do you have automatic deposits setup to fund your savings so you don’t have to even think about it? If not, do it this week – put it on your to do list.

How many months of expenses do you have saved in your emergency fund? Three, six, twelve? If you have reached twelve then stop and save that money elsewhere?

Review your large future expenses. When are they due? If you were supposed to save $500 per month for your real estate taxes and they are due in four months, do you have eight months saved (8 x $500 = $4000)? If not, how are you going to get caught up in the next four months? Work out a plan today.

Are there any large expenses that you’re no longer excited about? Are you no longer that interested in going to Africa after hearing reports of violence on tourists? Thinking of going to Costa Rica instead and the price is $7,000 less? Consider moving that extra money to another account to save for something else, or leave it there and take two or three vacations instead. What other items did you want to save for originally but didn’t make the cut? Can you afford one or two of them now that the Africa trip is off?


Take a look at your total debts owed for the month and compare to last year and last month. Did the total go down? How much? Doesn’t it feel great to see that number go down? Does it motivate you to cut expenses somewhere else to pay down debt faster?

Did you pay off the lowest debt during the month? If so, move on to the next lowest one and increase the minimum or required payment by the amount you were paying on the debt that was just paid off.

Could you reduce debt further by downsizing your house, selling one of the cars and taking the train to work or buying a cheaper car?

Can you stop going out to dinner for a month and use that money to pay down your student loan?

Have you looked at mortgage rates and would it make sense to refinance for a cheaper rate or shorter time frame? If so, start looking for a bank to refinance with or call your current lender and ask about refinancing.


Now look at your net worth by subtracting your debts from your assets. How does it look? Did it go up this month? How much?

Can you see the double-bubble effect you get when you pay down debt and save money? You’re increasing your assets and decreasing your debts, which really makes your net worth grow. The smaller your debt, the more money you can put into savings.

In conclusion, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. The good news is this doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Do your detailed financial review for an hour once a month to track how you’re doing and where you need to improve. Add it to your to do list to focus on the areas for improvement. Steady, consistent improvements over time will make a huge difference in your financial picture getting you closer to your freedom.

Next lesson I will suggest how to allocate your paycheck.


Debt is Scary – Lesson Three of Seven

Scary Dreams

By Mattijn Franssen

Be Ruthless with Debt

The third principle I learned was to rid myself of debt. There are benefits to this principle beyond just the financial savings.

If you missed lessons one and two click here

LINK Lesson 1
LINK Lesson 2

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What I’ve Learned About Money – Lesson Two of Seven

retirement saving

Lesson Two – Saving for Retirement

How are you doing with your saving for retirement? How many more years do you have before you would like to retire? Not sure, well one fact for sure is you have one less year than you did last year.

A large percentage of the population does not save enough for retirement. Gone are the days when you have a pension and social security guaranteed to be waiting for you when you retire. You have to take control yourself.

But how? Even though your income may go up every year, you can’t seem to scrape enough “extra” to put aside for savings.

There is a way to do it though that is not as painful as you might guess.

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Life Changing Method to Start Saving Money

saving habit

Lesson One of Seven – Saving Money

One of the best pieces of information I have learned is to replace bad habits with good ones.

We all have bad habits, especially in the area of money. We overspend, we save too little, we owe too much, we don’t make enough income. All of these problems are seemingly impossible to tackle. But all big problems can be addressed by working on them a little at a time. If bad habits got you into the mess, then good habits will get you out of them.

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