Hope for your financial life and beyond

The Winning Hope and Joy Campaign of Stephen Curry

In a year when Presidential politics is a fixture in the daily news cycle, another campaign is brewing on the west coast. The Golden State Warriors are a stone’s throw away from having the best regular season record in the history of the NBA. We’ll have to wait a few more games to see if they reach this lofty achievement but this one thing I know – I’ll be glued to the television every time my local cable stations carry their broadcast.

stephen curryThat is because of one player on their team – Stephen Curry. Don’t get me wrong – they have a great team. Having been a high school player and coach myself I love team basketball. But I also love individual greatness. And right now Stephen Curry is doing things that we have never seen before on a basketball court.

I don’t think that’s overstating it. In my youth I grew up watching Bird and Magic. Those who marveled at their no-look passes and competitive spirit know how they revolutionized (and saved) the NBA in the 1980s.

By the time I hit high school and college, Michael Jordan had taken up their banner and again was doing things unseen before. His incredible athleticism and dynamic offensive skills – not to mention being a ferocious defender and competitor – took the NBA to new heights. In my life, he’s the best I’ve ever seen.

Those three did some unique and special things with a ball in their hands. Now almost a decade and half after Jordan, it’s Stephen Curry’s turn. I mean really, have we ever seen someone with such ball handling and jump shooting skills that you have to guard him the moment he crosses half court?

My two oldest kids and I literally jumped out of our chairs screaming Saturday night when he hit the game winner from just inside half court to beat Oklahoma City in overtime. Oh, by the way, that was his 12th three pointer of the game, tying an NBA record. In that game he also broke the record for most three pointers in a season – with 24 games to go. He did this while playing on a weak ankle he had injured in the 3rd quarter. What did I read he had…something like 31 of his 46 total points in the final 18 minutes of play? Unreal.

I’m not here to debate who’s the greatest player ever. To me it doesn’t matter. But what has me diverging today from my normal blog topics is what I see in Stephen Curry. Ironically, it’s the same two things that drew me as a youth to Magic, Michael and Larry.

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Is a Liberal or Conservative President Better for Your Money?

It’s President’s Day, 2016 and it’s also an election year. America will again be choosing a liberal or conservative candidate to be the next President. We won’t know our choices until the primaries are finished but it will once again be a knock-down, drag-out fight all the way to the November elections. And well it should be – a lot is at stake.

liberal or conservativeThere are many issues on either side of the political spectrum that attract people to the liberal or conservative cause. I’m sure you have a worldview or pet issue that draws you in one direction or the other. Our differences are both a strength and a weakness, propelling us forward at times and hindering us at others.

One area though where the American electorate can find common ground is this: we need money to manage our lives. I don’t see how you can argue with that statement given the nature of our society. Money functions as a tool for living. The more of it we have, the better off we are when it comes to running our day to day lives.

So during an election year is a good time to ask, “Which philosophical viewpoint – liberal or conservative – gives me the best chance to succeed with money?” Whoever becomes the next President will surely promote his or her agenda to the American people. Their views about money, economics, businesses, taxes and foreign affairs will have a dramatic impact on our pocketbooks. Not that you should only vote based on your wallet but it is a major factor to consider.

To answer the question, I’ll start the only place I know – with the actual viewpoints.

Liberal or Conservative Worldview on Money?

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The Best Home Renovation Projects That Hold Their Value

home renovation projectsIt’s the depths of winter but spring will be here before you know it. With that your thoughts might be turning to that home renovation project you’ve been waiting for. Now’s the time to get the final plans and cost in place so when the weather turns nice you can hit the ground running.

A home renovation isn’t simply painting a room or putting down new carpet. Those things are nice to do and are needed from time to time. When I say home renovation I’m referring to big projects…ones for which you might want to call in a contractor. For the most part these are projects that are going to cost thousands of dollars, maybe even reach into 6 figures.

With that much money at stake it’s important to do your research ahead of time. One of the big issues is how much return you can expect to receive on your home renovation investment. You don’t want to dump $20,000 into a project only to see it’s value dwindle to nothing.

We’ve been thinking recently about finishing our basement. We could add several additional rooms of living space there along with perhaps a bathroom. We know it would add value to our home life (giving us more personal space) and add value to the home itself. But how much money to put into it is the real question. What could we expect to get back in value if we ever sell our home?

With that in mind, check out this infographic from Contractor Quotes. It shows the typical cost of each major home renovation and what you can expect to recoup in cost when you sell your home.

Home Renovation Projects That Increase a Home’s Value

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Fighting the Battle of the Bulge, the Bustle and the Bling in 2016

I’ve come to realize there are three big battles I fight like the plague. They are tenacious, hounding me like the Bumpuses’ dogs after a Christmas turkey. There’s no way around them. Inevitably I’ll continue to fight the battle of the bulge, the battle of the bustle and the battle of the bling again this year.

battle of the bulgeI don’t think I’m alone either. I do enough surfing around the net to know better. So I draw a little comfort in knowing I’m not alone when I see other people lamenting about what has become my ongoing battles with:

  1. A healthy lifestyle,
  2. A hectic lifestyle, and
  3. A materialistic lifestyle.

I doubt I’ll ever gain total victory over these three relentless monsters. But I have to keep fighting. Otherwise they will overtake me and I’ll be completely undone.

The Battle of the Bulge

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10 Last Minute Gift Ideas For Him This Christmas

Do you have trouble shopping for that special guy in your life? Let’s face it, men are tough to shop for. It’s not easy to crack our code and find out what we’d really like to receive as a gift.

last minute gift ideas for himWaiting until the last minute to shop of course adds even more pressure. You’ll probably panic and end up buying him some socks. Not that we wouldn’t appreciate it – we’ll love any gift we get (or at least pretend to love it). In the interests of helping my men-fellows though, here are some last minute gift ideas for him that we’d appreciate even more.

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Him

Of course you know your man best. Some of these last minute gift ideas for him may not work. Additionally, you may have financial limitations that prevent these purchases. But I’m pretty sure, if you can afford it, he’ll absolutely love these items:

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Cheap Christmas Activities for Kids to Cure the Boredom

Several weeks ago my kids had several days off for Thanksgiving break. Within two hours of being home from school they were showing signs of boredom. I guess being out of their natural school routine was a shock to their system and they didn’t know what to do. Sound familiar?

christmas activities for kidsIt occurred to me that a more serious situation would be coming up soon – two weeks for Christmas break. Yikes! What Christmas activities for kids could I find to keep them from being bored out of their mind for that length of time?

Really it’s only the first week of break that is a concern – the week leading up to Christmas. So that’s five days or so that I have to keep them busy. After the 25th – with all the presents they receive – they usually have enough to occupy their interest and keep them busy until they return to school.

Of course I will grant them a small portion of their time to watch some TV and play video games. They’ve earned it with all the hard work they’ve put in at school. But I don’t want those two activities to take up the majority of the day.

And I certainly don’t want to be spending a lot of money on activities seeing how we are already spending a lot for gifts.

So here are some Christmas activities for kids I’ve come up with and will do my best to implement over that first week of Christmas break. I don’t know how original these are but by golly my kids are doing them. I don’t want to hear them whining about being bored.

Christmas Activities for Kids

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How to Avoid the Frustrating Weight Gain on a Cruise

The calendar has turned from summer to fall and with that cooler temperatures have arrived. You may already be thinking about escaping the cold for warmer climates sometime this coming winter. One to the most affordable ways I’ve found to do that is to spend some time in the Caribbean (or any warm climate) on a cruise.

Cruise dinner plateI’ve cruised a lot through the years and absolutely love it. The sun, the sights and the spectacular fun all make a cruise worth the money. But the icing on the cake to a really good cruise is the food. And oh…is there a lot of it!

I love to eat. So for that, a cruise is right up my alley. You can literally find food and drinks somewhere on (and off) the ship all day long. And it’s also great tasting food, which makes it all the more worth it.

The downside is that the more you eat the more weight you gain. On my first cruise (a 4-day, 3-nighter) I gained eight pounds. A week-long cruise once pushed my weight gain closer to twelve.

When I was younger, those numbers didn’t scare me. With my metabolism, I could burn those off in a heartbeat once I got home. Now that I’m older, well, let’s just say the pounds don’t shed like they used to.

So here are some things I’ve tried and are easy to implement to not gain as much weight on a cruise without diminishing the fun and enjoyment received from the cruise itself.

How to Not Gain Weight On a Cruise

Of all the things I’ve tried, these first two stand out as the best ways I’ve found to not gain weight on a cruise:

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Personal Update: A Stay At Home Dad Goes Back to Work

Some things you simply don’t see coming.

That passing car in your blind spot.

The identity thief who messes with your life.

A certain reality star/business man being a leading candidate for President.

binocularsEighteen months ago I decided to quit my job in education. The reason was so that I could stay at home and manage our household. In addition to my home duties I’d continue to grow this blog and venture into freelance writing, both of which have happened to varying degrees in 2015.

With my freed up time, I was able to accept a part-time youth pastor position at our church in September of 2014. Having been around teens all through my years in education, this seemed a good fit for a way in which I could give my time and energy to the church.

Now, after a year of interaction with the group, my team of leaders and I are seeing great enthusiasm from the young people for the program we’ve put in place. It’s exciting to see them engaged with each other and growing in their faith.

This past summer when we took our high school youth to summer camp, I developed a distinct feeling inside that I could (and should) be more involved and engaged with our church. What happened when I returned and talked with our pastor was nothing short of extraordinary…and completely unexpected.

I Didn’t See This Coming…Ever

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How to Eat, Drink and Be Merry the Right Way (Luke 12:13-21)

Hidden Nuggets Series #98 – “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.” – Luke 12:19

eat drink and be merry“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” is a popular refrain you may have felt or expressed at some point in your life. If you are like me maybe you said it as a joke when you were downing a pint of ice cream swirled with chocolate sauce. As some in recent years have expressed, “You only live once, right?”

Truth is there is great seriousness in the statement and the consequences of adopting this attitude are serious.

There are two basic elements to the “eat, drink and be merry” philosophy towards life:

1) we are all going to die, sooner rather than later and…

2) since #1 is true, then we should live for the moment, enjoying whatever pleasures we can.

But the issue goes even deeper than those two concepts. When we opt for the eat, drink and be merry philosophy we are choosing laziness, neglect of our responsibilities and a forfeiture of the future. We are resting on what we have accomplished and counting on that to sustain us indefinitely.

You may not know the phrase has its origins in the Bible, taken from a story Jesus told of a rich fool.

The Parable of the Rich Fool

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Customer Service Training Ideas: No Comments on How Much Food I Buy

I love good customer service. When you find a store that consistently provides it for you it’s a thing of beauty. It’s obvious their employees have been through customer service training because they consistently focus on it day in and day out. I find it really makes shopping at their establishment enjoyable.

grocery cart with healthy foodOn the other hand bad customer service turns me off. What’s frustrating is when it happens at stores I frequent because of a) their location, b) their superior products or c) their prices. I intentionally go to these stores for one of those reasons and to shop elsewhere would be inconvenient. So I’m forced to endure the annoying service at times because those other reasons win out.

I took over the majority of the shopping last fall when I quit my job to be a stay at home dad. In the past year I’ve noticed some of the worst people at customer service are the ones I have the most contact with: the checkout clerks. The ones who have me riled up right now are those I find at the grocery store.

“Yes, I Know My Cart Is Full”

It’s a constant chore to manage the food budget, especially for large families. We have four kids so with six mouths to feed each week I’m buying a lot of food. It doesn’t matter how much I plan or try to cut back, my grocery cart is always full – or overflowing – by the time I roll into the checkout line.

And oh, you should see the looks I get.

But the worst part is the comments.

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With God All Things Are Possible – Even Saving Rich People

Hidden Nuggets Series #96 – “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

On one occasion in the Bible a rich young ruler approached Jesus with a very serious question. The man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. After a brief back and forth exchange Jesus had this final answer for him:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

with god all things are possibleIt’s easy to misinterpret what Jesus was saying to the young man. He was not saying that owning possessions in and of itself is bad. Nor was he saying that a person can buy their way into heaven.

He also wasn’t saying that we all have to give up our wealth to enter heaven. And he certainly was not saying that God favors the poor over the rich. God looks upon all people with equal value regardless of their financial status.

Jesus knew something about this particular man though…something that was keeping him from inheriting eternal life. The man’s reaction to Jesus’ final instruction reveals exactly what it was.

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