Friday, June 20, 2014

My Single-Serving Friend

The other day I took a one-day trip to Oakland for work and had the best conversation with a stranger that I've ever had!

We were sitting next to each other on the airplane and were quickly absorbed in conversation.  He had a energetic and fascinating life, we had a lot in common, and we enjoyed talking about the same current events.

I met a single-serving friend!

A Single-Serving Friend.

If you've seen Fight Club, then you'll recognize the term.  For those that haven't seen (or don't remember) the film, a 'single-serving friend' is one that you meet only once in a public setting (an airplane) and quickly become friends.  You know that you'll probably never see the person again, but you enjoyed the company.

In today's society, it's extremely hard to find single-serving friends!

Everyone is engrossed in their electronics and they don't come up for air.

I-phones, I-pads, headphones, books, Facebook, movies...

No one looks around and makes eye contact anymore. No one wants to start a conversation

I'm serious.

When you walk down the street, watch how many people have their ear-buds in. How can you start a conversation with someone if they can't hear you. It's the same with the bus/bus-stop, the airplane, and the line at Chipotle.

On my way to the office every morning, I nearly bump into others who are trying to finish the last chapter of their electronic book or trying to write one more Facebook post about the rainy Portland weather.

We Need More Single-Serving Friends!

Why do we need more single-serving friends? Because our conversation skills are going downhill quickly!

The younger generations (and even many older generations) speak in acronyms, text faster then they speak, and cannot write complete sentences. 

Finding single-serving friends is a great way to practice conversation, test our impromptu communication skills, and flex our social muscles.

This helps us grow both as individuals and as societies. We meet others, expand our knowledge and thoughts, and pass this information to the next 'friend'.

Single-serving friends serve a purpose and we need to embrace it!

Find Your Next Single-Serving Friend.

Next time you're in the grocery store line, on an airplane, or riding the bus, take a look around you. Is there someone not in their electronic, noise-making bubble? Say hello. Ask them how their doing. Start a conversation. Find your next single-serving friend.

When was the last time you made a single-serving friend?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Unexploited Finances: Step Four, Exploit Your Life

Below is part four of a four step series on how to go about Exploiting Your Finances, Exploiting Your Life! (See Step One, Priorities, Step Two, Current Finances, Step Three, Exploit Your Finances.)

And the fun continues with Step Four!

Short and sweet = IF you exploit your finances, THEN you'll reach your priorities AND you'll already be exploiting your life!

If you're able to follow this process...if you're able to get a real understanding of how your finances impact your life, and you can take control of your'll be exploiting your life before you know it!

Exploit Your Life

You'll feel like you have life figured out!

You'll wonder why you didn't do this earlier!

You'll be:
  • Taking weekend trips...every weekend!
  • Finding financial freedom!
  • Finding time! Yes, time! That unstoppable moving ecstasy!
  • Retiring early!
  • Taking a gap year! Or a few!
  • Not stressing about life! Rather, you'll be living life!

By confronting your finances head-on, with your priorities and a plan leading the way, you can take back your life! Make your own path on your own journey!

Priorities Change

Will your path change along the way? Yes, they will! But this isn't bad, life happens. When you change your path, revisit your priorities, revisit your finances, exploit your finances, and continue on!

With this plan, you'll no longer have to stress about money. You'll no longer have to worry about what the future might bring. You'll be financially prepared for anything!

Priorities also change after you've met your prior ones.  Don't stop! Revisit what is important to you (Step One), decide how you can achieve it, and prioritize!

Best Time to Act...NOW!

If you've just been reading and not acting...start now! Go find a quiet place and determine your priorities!

Start exploiting your finances, exploiting your life!

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spanish Classes - Be Embarrassed, Have Fun!

My wife and I recently completed ten weeks of Spanish courses!

Learning Spanish has been a goal of ours for a number of years. It was even listed as one of my 2014 New Year's Resolutions!

For all my wanting to learn a second language, somehow not taking any action didn't help!  Go figure! Years later, I still didn't know how to say even the most basic phrases!

We purchased Rosetta Stone awhile ago, but I couldn't seriously commit any time to it.  (Plus, when practicing, it seemed like the same word kept the time I had no idea about conjugating verbs!!)

Well, after ten weeks...I still don't know much. (Ha!)

But I know a lot more than I did!

Having a native speaker teaching the course, a textbook, and homework really helped!

The course was through Portland Community College (PCC). We found a meeting location near our apartment and a time that fit our schedule.

We can now have some basic conversations and I at least understand why the words keep changing (but mean the same thing - dang the verbs are hard!)

I do think I was behind everyone else in class, but I didn't care!  I was learning and having fun! A little embarrassment here and there comes with learning new things.

This was definitely just the beginning.  We plan to study by ourselves over the summer (maybe we can find others in Portland that want to practice) and take another course in the Fall.  There's so much to learn!

Maybe by the time we take our first Latin American trip, we'll be able to have a fuller experience by understanding more of the culture through communication.

Have you studied a second (or third) language? What worked best?

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Unexploited Finances: Step Three, Exploit Your Finances

Below is part three of a four step series on how to go about Exploiting Your Finances, Exploiting Your Life! (See Step One, Priorities and Step Two, Current Finances.) (UPDATE: Find Part 4 here.)

Now the fun starts!

Now you get to BLAME your priorities and exploit your finances!

Exploit Your Income

Cutting your expenses is still the default solution for finding money for your goals, but it doesn't have to be the only solution.  How about your income?!

This may be the time for you to ask about that raise at work. Go in with your accomplishments, what you bring, and why you deserve a raise!

No opportunity for a raise...have you looked at the job market lately? You should always keep your eyes open! If you're not watching for it, your ideal job may pass you by. You may have also boosted your current skills since your last job search. (Don't forget to update your LinkedIn profile.) Go ahead, take a look. Blame it on your priorities!

If time is on your side, just not the income, there is also the possibility of a part-time job or a side business. There are lots of opportunities to make more money, it's just a matter of having a reason! Priorities = Reason.

Adding income is a great tool for exploiting your finances because this money hasn't already been allocated. Fresh money! You can just shovel it into your goals!

Exploit Your Expenses

Okay, now it's time to look at those bills.

After your cash flow statement work in Step Two, Current Finances, you have a starting point for your current budget. So how does it look?

Does it look pretty slim?

Do you already cook your meals at home and cut out the cable bill years ago?

Write down your priorities. With this list next to you, go through your expenses - one by one. What's more important?

Is the daily lunch more important then getting your time back?

Is the cable bill more important then your gap year? (You watch all of your shows on Netflix and Hulu anyways.)

What's left?

You may not be able to cut expenses out if they're all reoccurring debt payments or rent payments (student loan, car loan, credit card debt, rent, etc). If this is the case, look at whether you really need these items. Take a BIG step back. We're making drastic changes here, we're exploiting!

Do you really need two cars? Can you move to a lower rent apartment?

These are painful decisions. But that's where we exploit our finances! Blame your priorities! Is your priority to be debt free? Well...selling the car can not only reduce your current debt, but also remove a monthly payment! You don't have to go car free, get a used car. One that fits your new goals!

(After my last car and paying off all of my debt, I promised myself that I'll never take another loan out on a car!)

If friends start giving you a hard time about your 'used' car, say "I could have a new car if I wanted, but I have this goal to be debt free"...(priority blamed!).

The 'extra' monthly money can go towards the student debt, paying it off early! And so on, and so on. Amazing!

Make sure you don't cut everything out though. Exploiting life means that you enjoy every single day. If having that morning latte is about the best thing that's ever happened to you on a Monday morning, then keep it!

Keep items that make you happy, remove items that are just filler!

Blame Game

Have fun with the 'blame'. Make it a game!

What can I change and blame on my priorities?

Your family and friends will understand and soon everyone will be trying to help you meet your goals!

Using your priorities as scapegoats can have positive side effects - one of which is a conversation starter.

When you decline the next lunch out and blame your priority, coworkers and friends will ask you about it. You can share why being debt free, gaining your time back, and/or traveling the world is important to you. They may even be inspired and start working on their own priorities!

Daily Life

As mentioned in Step One, Priorities, talk about your priorities regularly! Don't be shy. This will help set it in your daily routine! This will help keep you focused! This will help you apply your priorities to all of your financial decisions!

You may still feel uncomfortable talking about finances with strangers. Money is still a taboo discussion in society today, but do it anyways! Showing that you're comfortable with your money is an example of you managing your finances! Those individuals who are uncomfortable talking about money are usually managed by their finances. (I'm not saying discuss your huge salary, no one will want to talk to you...ever. I am saying discuss your financial goals and how you plan to meet them!)

Blame, blame, blame! Use your priorities to exploit your finances!

Yours in exploiting life!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Unexploited Finances: What?! Hillary & Bill Clinton Were Broke When They Left The White House?

Hillary Clinton recently stated the Clinton's were broke when they left the White this the financial example we want in our leaders?

Politics aside, there are two ways to look at this:

Bad Example For Americans

The Clinton's were terrible with their money!

They received a salary of $200,000+ a year and ended up broke with massive debts!

Where did their money go? Did they have a budget? Are they encouraging Americans to spend beyond their means?

This is a blatant example of the financial mess that Americans find themselves in.  Overspending on luxuries.  Not focusing on their current and future goals or retirement.  The mentality that if we have the money lets spend it. Or possibly, let's put it on the credit card, because we'll earn enough to pay it off. But hey, we deserve it!

The public looks up to our leaders and celebrities.  We try to mirror them.  We care about what they wear (there are always articles on what the First Lady is wearing), how they travel (we cannot all travel on the Air Force One), and how they rub shoulders with big-wigs (not all of us can afford black-tie events).

When our President and Senators overspend, they're setting terrible examples!

Good Example For Americans

A story of triumph!

Starting in the hole - with massive debt and broke - the Clinton's were able to amass a fortune, estimated to be $80 million, since leaving the White House!

We've all made terrible financial decisions.  Who are we to judge others when they make these decisions?  Let's instead cheer them on their subsequently wise decisions! Find ways to get out of debt! Find ways to make a larger income!

These are the examples that we should show our children.  Look Timmy, the Clinton's were broke and now they're worth $80 million, and this is how they did it.

You can overcome bad financial habits!

(I would ask if the Clinton's have a budget, research their major purchases, and are really financially independent.)

You Decide

Which way do you look at this?  Are they bad examples of financial decisions and consumer excess?  Or are they good examples for overcoming financial obstacles to become wealthy?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Unexploited Finances: Step Two, Current Finances

Below is part two of a four step series on how to go about Exploiting Your Finances, Exploiting Your Life! (See Step One, Priorities.) (UPDATE: Find Part 3 here, Part 4 here.)

Have you ever taken a good hard look at your current finances?

Some of you may do this regularly, but I’m sure a lot of you are still tracking your finances in your head!

You know you have the mortgage to pay, you know you have to eat every day, you know you have the car loan and the insurance payments. But do you really know where you stand at this minute, this day, this month! You probably are not financially aware!

Just being aware of your finances can have a significant impact on you!

Let’s say that you have never looked at your personal balance sheet – Do you know that you have more debt than you do assets? What does this mean to you? Do you care?

Maybe you’ve never made a personal cash flow statement – Do you know that you spend more money than you bring in? What does this mean to you? Do you care?

Well…if you want to exploit your finances to exploit your life, then you DO care!
You should care a lot if you want to meet your life priorities!!

The most difficult part of this exercise is being okay with the outcome. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the red or spending more then you’re making. It’s OKAY! We just want to know what’s going on. Simply bringing self (financial) awareness!

(There are several useful web based tools for this process.  We currently use

Balance Sheet


The balance sheet is merely your net worth.

A basic list of all your assets and all your liabilities – with your net worth being the difference.

Assets may include your home value, car values, savings and checking accounts, and retirement accounts.

Liabilities may include your home loan, car loan, student loan, credit card balances, appliance loans, and loans from your retirement accounts.

It’s okay if your net worth is negative! We’re simply trying to capture the data and come to terms with it. We have to be aware and reflect, before we can conquer!

If you have a negative net worth, you are not alone! My wife and I had a negative net worth of over $50,000 when we finally recognized our financial issues. We had over $70,000 of debt!! We had a car loan, we each had student loans, we had credit card debt , and we had a personal loan from family. We even put our new washer and dryer on a credit card!

This debt was way more than the value of our simple list of assets (a small IRA and our car). But we knew our priorities were worth the realization – we came, we saw, we paid it off!

Cash Flow Statement


The cash flow statement is a reflection of how much money you spend compared to what you earn.

A cash flow statement is similar to a budget, but it’s not the same! This is a snapshot of where you stand on any given month, we’re strictly tracking your spending. A budget is setting spending goals and is where you want to be in the near future!!

List your income from your job (or possibly multiple jobs) and list all of your expenses.

Food, rent or mortgage, utilities, clothes, drinks, gifts, entertainment…the list of expenses is unending!

Again, we’re not focusing on whether you’re spending more than you’re making. It’s OKAY! We’re focused on becoming aware of our money.

I’ve been in the red. I’ve spent more than I made. I was living the American life – playing credit card games. I became aware!

We’ll work on ‘fixes’ in the next step.

Do you have your cash flow statement? How does it look? As good as you expected?



If you’re doing well financially, then you’ve probably cruised right through this step. You’re feeling good and ready to start exploiting your life!

If you’ve never taken a good, hard look at your finances before, then you’re nauseous right now! You’re in shock!

Maybe you knew it was bad, but not this bad!

Welcome to awareness! Doesn’t it feel great?!

I know.  My wife and I came to the same realization once we started this process.  Using, we uploaded all of our accounts and began tracking our monthly expenses. Then...we went completely numb inside – that tingly, out-of-body experience when you know something is wrong..

We couldn’t believe that two grown, responsible adults, with great jobs, could be having so many financial problems. We weren’t doing anything different from everyone else! Why did our net worth look like this?!

Answer: Everyone we knew had the same financial problems, but when everyone is doing the same thing, it’s not called a “problem”, it’s called “normal”. Normal!

After the initial awareness paralysis wore off, we slowly built up our resolve – this was never, EVER going to happen again. We reviewed our priorities – that’s how we wanted to live! So we reversed course, and went down our new path!

If you get discouraged in anyway during this process, revisit Step One, Priorities. Continue to review your priorities until they’re meaningful enough to outweigh any discouragement!

Are you aware?

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Row, Row, Row Your Boat...

Row, row, row your boat. Gently down...the lake?!

Last Saturday we took off on a three hour car ride to Clear Lake, Oregon.

The fallen tree is visible through the crystal clear water.
Fun Fact #1: There are 11 Clear Lakes in Oregon!

After a bit of a wait - I guess everyone had the same idea! - we rented a rowboat at the Clear Lake Resort.

The beautiful drive through Willamette National Forest and tons of sunshine, gave us the energy to row ourselves around the lake for hours!

My wife did a great job capturing the water clarity and the sun's rays, but nothing beats the actual experience!

The water would turn from green to blue.
We also stopped at nearby Fish Lake for a few hours of extra Vitamin D.

Fun Fact #2: Fish Lake disappears in the Fall and reappears in the Spring!

Driving through an amazing sunset and arriving home late that night, we smiled at each other...we love the summer!

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Unexploited Finances: Step One, Priorities

Below is part one of a four step series on how to go about Exploiting Your Finances, Exploiting Your Life! (UPDATE: Find Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here.)

The key to exploiting your finances, and subsequently exploiting your life, is setting your LIFE PRIORITIES.

Your life priorities will drive everything!

You’ll use them to motivate you through the difficult times. You’ll use them to shape your future. You’ll use them as your excuse for changing your financial habits – yes, excuses…you’ll have something to blame!

Life Priorities

There’s no set list of life priorities that you have to choice from. You get to choose ANYTHING!

You can use priorities such as buying a new car, buying a new house, or taking a vacation.

Or you can choose priorities that may seem unrealistic – such as taking six vacations a year, saving for a gap year, paying off all of your debt!

(The more outlandish the priority, the more you may be motivated!)

My wife and I had a goal to pay off ALL of our debt (over $70,000) in two years. Without setting our priorities, there is no way (no way!) that we could have paid of our debt so fast. This was a crazy idea for us - we didn't know anyone else that was debt free!

Priorities motivate you to act.

Your priorities may motivate you to act, but this has to be something you really, really want!

A weak priority will fail you when you need it most. A weak priority will allow you to bend the rules, allow you to make an excuse, allow you to cheat!

Pick something that you’re passionate about! Something that you’ll want to tell the world you did! You’ll be so proud of accomplishing this goal that everything else will seem insignificant!

(Don’t worry, once complete, you’ll find even greater priorities…because you’ll know you can do it!)

How to set your priorities?

Picking your priority should take some soul searching.

Spend some time picturing your ideal life. This is where you want your finances to take you.

Where do you live? Who and what are you surrounded by? What type of profession do you have?

Again, nothing is unrealistic at this point!

Trust me, I had no idea that I could be debt free – honestly, who doesn't have a car payment or student loans anymore – but here I am! I had no idea that I could take six vacations this year, and have all of them paid off before I returned home!

If you're married, or have a significant other, you'll definitely want to work with them on shared priorities.  You may each have some individual goals, but shared priorities will help you both support one another and see amazing results!

Now, pick your top one or two priorities.

Do they have the strength to overrule any objections that you come up with?

Can they withstand your internal temptations?

How badly do you want this?

Wow! If you made it through those questions, sounds like one amazing priority at this point!

What does this have to do with finances?

After selecting your life priorities, think about how your finances can help make this a reality.

Being debt free has an obvious correlation to your finances, but how about gaining more 'time'.

Why do you not have the time now? Answer: I work too many hours. Why do you work so many hours? Answer: I need to pay my bills. What bills do you have to pay? Answer: Home, utilities, debt, and food.

Might removing your debt (or lowering your other bills), remove your need for the current job, thereby giving you an opportunity to find a job where you can work less hours, and give you time to be with your family? Answer: Yes!!!!

If you go through this exercise, you’ll find that money is the major obstacle for us to reach our priorities – which is obviously why we’re talking about exploiting your finances!

Include others.

The more family and friends that you tell your priorities to, the more they will become real.

Yes, your family and friends may not believe it at first, but don’t worry, this is normal! We’re being different here, going down our own path!

Don't just tell them about your plans, tell them your successes and failures!

Not enough people talk about their priorities and their finances – keeping this hidden does nothing to help accomplish your goals!! Tell the world!

Write the priorities down somewhere in your home. Put reminders up – you’ll need the motivation!

I have a sticky note on my work computer with a countdown to our gap year. Every time I need a boost, I update the number of days left – this works wonders!

It’s hard, but doable!

Priorities are determined.

Have your priorities? Good!

This is the most important step in the process!

These priorities will drive you through the rest of the process.  Get ready to Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!

Now, let’s move on to the next step…

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, June 2, 2014

What is Unexploited Finances?


Unexploited Finances is written for those individuals looking for another path...

Another path for your finances!

One where YOU are in control of your FUTURE...NOT your FINANCES!

One where YOU are in control of your LIFE...NOT your FINANCES!

Can you spend the rest of your life at a desk, living pay check to pay check, putting some money in retirement, buying a new car every few years, paying a 30-year mortgage, AND still be happy? Yes!

But there's also another path...

This new path is not without some extra effort on your part.

You'll have to work hard! You'll have to understand your money! You'll have to know your priorities!


If you commit, then you'll be able to do amazing things with your life!

Be financially independent!
Be debt free!
Go on multiple vacations a year!
Take a Gap Year!
Work for yourself!
Pick and choose whether you'll let your next job hire you!
Save for an unconventional retirement!

All of this, using traditional tools but with a non-traditional mindset!


My wife and I are currently in the middle of our 'another path'.

We've paid off approximately $70,000 of debt in the past 3 years (student loans, car loan, personal loan, and credit card debt), while still exploiting life!

At the same time as paying off our debt, we took a two week trip to Thailand, took a week backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon, took a two week trip to Morocco, and weekend trips around the U.S.

All while still...

Working conventional jobs, saving for retirement, funding educational funds for family, and planning for our next adventures!

We weren't always following our own financial path, we were once stuck on the 'normal' route.

We purchased trivial items on credit, we planned traditional career paths, and we took our annual vacation.

As a financial designer, I know this makes sense for a lot of people. It works! It's easy!

But it wasn't working for us. We were unhappy, we needed a change.

So we made a change!

We TOOK CONTROL of our finances! And therefore, TOOK CONTROL of our lives!

We designed the life that we wanted, we made our finances work for us, and we're living the plan!

Yours in exploiting life!

UPDATE: The basics of Unexploited Finance...Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, and Step 4.