Hope for your financial life and beyond

3 Steps We Took to Develop Financial Success in Our Marriage

financial success in marriageMy wife and I have had success in marriage despite the fact we exhibit many different personality traits. I am more reserved, take my time with decisions and love to spend money. She on the other hand, is an outgoing, get things done driver, who coincidentally loves to save.

Despite our different personality types, we seldom disagree on financial related things. We learned early on that disagreements over financial issues were detrimental to our personal marriage, not to mention one of the leading causes of divorce in America. So we established some guidelines and parameters for our finances that helped us develop oneness in our marriage.

Steps to Develop Financial Success in Marriage

Our financial decisions have not always been the best. In fact, many of our money guidelines have evolved and been enhanced over the years. Within the last five years especially, we’ve realized more and more what it means to be on the same page with one another. It’s in this most recent period of our lives that I’ve noticed success in marriage growing. In regards to our finances, it all boils down to three big issues.

Listening to each other

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The Basics of How to Pay for College

how to pay for collegeIn my years as an educator, I’ve always enjoyed the months of February and March. Basketball tournaments are in full swing, winter mercifully comes to an end and spring (break) is right around the corner. These are also the months when high school seniors begin to solidify their plans and make THE DECISION on where to attend college.

It’s quite a relief to finally answer with certainty the two big questions everyone has been asking – “Where are you going to school?” and “What are you going to major in?”  I was never so glad to put those questions to bed and that uncertainty behind me.

However, the question nobody asks is probably the biggest of them all – “How are you going to pay for that?”

Unfortunately, many high school students and their families haven’t adequately thought about how to pay for college. They’ve spent so much time on the other two questions they’ve left out the most fundamental aspect of going to school – the fact that it costs money. If they haven’t thought about it until the last minute it can be a very daunting challenge to figure out.

Heck, it’s daunting even if you’ve been planning for years. Have you seen the cost of a four-year degree recently? It’s enough to make even the most financially sound shudder. We started setting aside money for college when my oldest turned five and I still don’t know if there will be enough to cover the costs of four years for four children.

The Basic of How to Pay for College

Whatever your situation – whether you’ve been saving for years or have just begun to think about it – you have to develop a plan. With that in mind, here is Part I of two on how to pay for college and reduce the costs of a higher education. These are the six top things you can do:

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Global Shares Plunge! OMG…The World’s Coming to An End!

ID-100178554It’s another typical early morning. With a busy day ahead, I’m getting a bit of writing done before the kids drag themselves out of bed and downstairs for breakfast. I’m clicking around the Internet and wiping the sleep from my eyes when I’m greeted with this headline from Yahoo Finance:

“Global Shares Plunge as U.S. Slowdown Adds to Emerging Markets Woes”

I quickly pulled up a stock chart and noticed the financial markets have been in a free fall since the start of January. As of this writing (the morning of 2/4/14), the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen over 1,200 points (about 7%) since Jan. 1st. Many are calling for another 3-5% drop from here. Yikes!

Well, faced with that news what could I do? I grabbed my shotgun, some bottled water and my case of Ritz Crackers ‘n Cheese and headed for the bunker I’ve built in the basement. It’s fully stocked for Armageddon. The wife and kids will have to fend for themselves.

Clearly the world is coming to an end.

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When a Snowfall Brings Panic, Excitement and Pressure

Atlanta traffic in snow II

Downtown Atlanta Tuesday Afternoon

You may have heard a fairly substantial snowfall swept through the southeast Tuesday dropping anywhere from 1-3 inches of snow in greater Atlanta where I live. For those of you living in a mountain region in the west or north of the Mason-Dixon line in the east it’s OK to scoff. I grew up in Ohio so I know a major snowstorm when I see one.

This wasn’t it.

Except for Southerners it is. We simply don’t have the equipment to deal with the road conditions as they deteriorate.

Few salt trucks.

Fewer snowplows.

Still fewer drivers with experience in snowy road conditions.

This storm left many motorists stranded and children stuck at school throughout the night. Many roadways are still a parking lot this morning, as ice developed overnight in the below 20 degree weather.

There is a wide range of emotions produced on a days like this. I’ve noticed that which one people express depends on their situation and who they are. Furthermore, and more importantly, how people deal with the situation and handle their emotions may influence how they view the outcome of the entire day.

Emotion 1: Panic

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My 8 Step Method for Writing a Blog Post

How do you put together a blog post? I had no clue how to answer that question when I first started blogging. I just started writing without much thought to methodology. After several frustrating months, I realized the need to come up with a procedure for writing a blog post.

I needed to be able to see an idea through from inception to publish date. So today I’m going to outline the process I developed for writing a blog post that has helped me avoid some frustration along the way.

8 Steps to Writing a Blog Post

From start to finish this is what I do:

Step 1: The Listing of Ideas

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4 Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working

budgets that workSo, the budget doesn’t seem to be happening for you each month? Can’t figure out how to do budgets that work?  Well, take heart. At least you are trying. That’s more than can be said for a good portion of the human race who just make excuses for why they don’t want to attempt one.

If you are having trouble, that’s OK. Budget success doesn’t happen overnight. It took my wife and I six months of making adjustments and having emergency budget meetings before ours began to settle down and become consistently stable from month to month.

Budgets That Work

This I know with complete surety, developing a quality budget changed our life. But it wasn’t without some missteps along the way. In those early days, I found these four things wrecked our budget every month.

1. We left items out of our budget

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Are You Ready to Live to 100?

100This coming February, 2014, our family will be gathering in central Indiana to celebrate a centenarian life. My grandfather will be turning 100 and I’m sure there will be a festive party at the retirement community where he lives. What makes this even more remarkable is that he will be the second member of his family to reach this age. His sister is still alive and kicking at 102.

Both are generally healthy for their age and maintain an active lifestyle (as much as possible for a 100-yr. old). My grandfather, a preacher all his life, still helps lead church services for the other retirees and is an active writer in his journals. His sister still enjoys playing pool in the rec-hall basement. They both tune in every day to watch the Chicago Cubs play and then rehash the game with one another.

While living to 100 is still not the norm, their longevity represents a growing trend in the U.S. and the rest of the world. People are staying healthier and living longer. In fact, the Population Division of the United Nations estimated in 2012 there were 316,000 centenarians worldwide, with the U.S., Japan and China leading the way with the most.

This becomes even more pronounced when it is compared to statistics from the 1930s, the decade Social Security Act was passed into law. [Read more…]

Investing Made Easy (Part III) – Where Should I Put My Money?

where should i put my moneyIt is easy to get confused when you ask the question, “Where should I put my money?” I felt overwhelmed when I began to research my first investments. Over time however, I’ve learned this doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, the best principle is to keep it simple. Always invest in things you understand and could explain to someone else. The simplest strategies are often times the most rewarding and the most calming on the investing nerves.

In this third installment of my Investing Made Easy series, I’ll tackle the “Where should I put my money” question. Before that however, I need to ask you a question. How much risk are you willing to take? The answer to that question will determine the direction your investing dollars go.

Managing Risk When Investing

It’s risk and the thought of losing money that keeps people up at night. Tossing and turning. Sweating. Eyes wide open, mind processing what might happen the next day in the market. I’ve been there as an investor and it’s no fun.

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Investing Made Easy (Part II): When Should I Start?

Between the ages of 16-22, I was employed at three different summer jobs. First, I worked in the concession stand in our community swimming pool for several years. I then moved up in ranks and became a lifeguard for two summers. During the second season of being a lifeguard, I only worked in the evenings because during the day I had taken a second job as a construction worker. That summer’s dual-employment schedule was brutal, but I made more money than I had ever seen to that point.

Mom and Dad blocksOnce I graduated from college, I worked full-time in construction while I waited for my bride-to-be to finish her degree. As I recall those years, I really don’t remember having any focus on where my money was going. I was saving some, spending some and giving some, but I never took the time to understand how money, placed in the right type of instrument, could grow and enhance my lifestyle.

My wife brought into our marriage a small mutual fund, compliments of her grandmother’s generosity. Over the years since it’s inception, the fund had grown and paid for some college expenses and for her car in total. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Money invested in stock market funds grows over time and pays for things we want or need. Cool idea. Wonder how this works?” That’s when I started my investing journey.

You may be asking, “How do I know if I’m ready to start investing? When should I start?” They are great questions that I would like to shed light on today in Part II of this Investing Made Easy series. And I’m sure to hear it for this comment, but deciding whether or not to invest is sort of like deciding to become a parent – we are never quite sure we are ready.

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Is It Worth It to Be Inconvenienced?

Off Air

“Oh no! My favorite TV program isn’t on!”

What is the one modern convenience that you couldn’t do without? I see on many discussion boards people detailing the possessions they have sold or the services they have surrendered with the intent on using the freed up money to pay off personal debt. Ken Ilgunas even went so far as to live in a van to save money while attending grad school at Duke University. You can read his incredible story here.

Frankly I think we don’t truly appreciate our modern conveniences. I guess that is only human – our natural desire to take things for granted. We don’t give a second thought to getting a glass of cold water, pulling up a webpage or driving across town. In many parts of the world those things don’t ever happen.

Nobody likes to be inconvenienced. But I’m going to make the radical suggestion today that, on occasion, it might be good for us.

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Ways to Save Time and Do More

Reading Time ClockI’ve read a lot recently about people struggling to find time in their daily schedule to do the things they have to do and do the things they want to do. I felt this way not too long ago about finding time to blog. Seemed like I was always writing at the last minute and that was putting undo pressure on myself.  I implemented several of the helpful tips that were mentioned in the comments of that post and am happy to say they have really proven to be helpful. Thanks readers!

I don’t like the feeling of being under pressure to get things done. I’m big into scheduling because I like my activities and responsibilities to seamlessly move from one thing to the next. I think having a schedule helps maximize time even if it does not always flow exactly like I hope. Sometimes life just gets in the way and you have to adjust.

Still, I’m always looking for opportunities to pack more into a day without overloading myself. I’ve come up with some ways to do that around the house and in my life. I’ll admit, some of these may just be psychologically saving me time. (In other words, they don’t save a great deal of time overall but because of how I implement them in the daily schedule, I think they do.)

So here are my tips to save time with tasks and do more with your life:

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