Friday, July 31, 2015

Learning to Fail

I've failed often at small things - physical or personal challenges, exams, crossword puzzles (lots of these).

But I haven't failed to a point where I've let myself down...until now.

A business that I put my heart into, but in retrospect not enough time or passion to overcome my personal shortfalls, is closing. And I feel like I've failed myself.

I feel like I've let myself down, my wife down, my family and friends and clients down. It's absurd, I know! Everyone just wants the best for me, for me to be happy, and they all understand that the business must close for that to happen.

But I can't stop feeling this way.

So how do I overcome the emotions and look at the positives?

I know failing is good - you learn, you move on, you create better - but damn, it's hard!

As I look around, read articles, and see (even though I know it inside, I need reminded) that most successful individuals have failed numerous times, I do have faith that I'll overcome my emotions.

That reality will set in. That I'll move to bigger and better opportunities.

So until that happens, what's next for me?

I guess this is a time for exploration. Some self-reflection and relaxing. Being in the present and dreaming of the future.

It's a good place to be - only said as I'm coming to accept (and learn) that I'm in a good place and the future will be bright.

The options are wide-open again. I can find another passion (or re-envision the first).

But for now...I'll just be.

Yours in exploiting life!

Have you failed? How did you move on?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Whole30 Lifestyle

Challenge complete.

We successfully completed our second round of Whole30!

Thirty days without consuming sugar, dairy, legumes, grains, or alcohol and tobacco.

No cheat days. No exceptions. We made it 30 days! (We had a couple of cheat days in our first round starting about day 24.)

Intimidating to hear but it really wasn’t that bad.

Additional grocery and meal planning is required, as well as extra preparation time in the kitchen, but being able to eat meat (and eggs), vegetables, and fruit can be oddly filling.

I’m not saying all of our cravings were suppressed, though this is a goal we’d like to reach, and temptation was everywhere.  Our first week of Whole30 also included National Donut Day; it was not easy to walk around the office filled with glazed Krispy Kreme donuts!

We found great recipes, which we’ll continue to eat in the future regardless of the restrictions of Whole30. We mostly used Paleo websites and cookbooks, and found substitutes for the ingredients we’re avoiding.

Our go-to recipe is Salmon with Avocado Salsa (delicious!), which we bake instead of grill.

Another added plus to this round was reading the book “It Starts with Food” (see resources below) by the creators of the program. The wait list at the library was ridiculous – I put it on hold last time we did Whole30 – but it was a great reminder about why we wanted to participate. (Yes, I'm a library fanatic. Sometimes I have to wait for a hot book but I read a lot - and spend little to no money doing it.)

We feel great. We’ve been more active during the program than we have been in quite awhile – camping, hiking, lake swimming, city walks – and (other than prepping and packing meals) we haven’t been slowed down by our food.

This was a great challenge for us, and one of our longest (outside of 100 days of burpees).

At this point, we’ve decided to continue on past the 30 days and start living a more Whole30 life. We’ll slowly reintroduce a few foods, to see how our bodies react, but overall we'll keep ourselves pretty limited.

Here’s to a healthy body, so nothing holds you back from exploiting life. Cheers!

Resources for Whole30 -

Whole30 Program Website - Details about the program, shopping lists, meal lists, and tips.

It Starts with Food - Book written by the creators of Whole30. Looks of great details about why they recommend removing certain foods from your diet. Also includes meal plans and recipes.

Whole30 Cookbook - Lots of delicious recipes!

NomNom Paleo - Paleo recipes. Easy to modify for Whole30 compliance.

Are you focusing on health? Has your physical ability ever held you back from reaching your goals?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Money Does Matter

Regardless of what you’ve heard, money does matter.

Our daily life (and our future life) requires a degree of financial commitment.

Bills, food, car payments, and retirement - the list goes on and on.

But! You do have direct control over your money, your financial decisions, and your actions.

There is a way, a sometimes difficult way, to use your finances to your advantage.

You can exploit your finances! Not only exploit your finances, but use them to exploit your life!

The key…your relationship with money.

Are you in a healthy partnership with your money?

Or have you let your finances dominate your every decision?

Take control! Take back your life!

Use your finances to take advantage of your dreams.

Making your dreams a reality…

Exploit your finances, exploit your life!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To Be Financially Fit - Purchase Modestly

The second trait of the financially fit is to purchase modestly.

Modest spending allows you to allocate more of your income toward goals and priorities, the areas making the most impact on your life.

Let’s look at why and how…

Why are you buying?

You’re shopping. You’re hitting the stores, Zillow, and Saturday markets. You’ve got money and you know what you’re looking for.

Or do you?

Have you really thought about the reason for your purchase?

Are you buying as a fashion statement (to impress your family and friends…or strangers)?

Or fulfilling a need (you need transportation to work, a means to call employers, or to meet a priority)?

Focusing on the reason and whether you’re meeting a need can help to ground you on your purchase.

Instead of just spending money - cost, brand name, and reason will be on your mind as you shop. This allows you to weigh your purchase price to what you could have instead – a weekend away or a down-payment.

Purchase equipment and toys as they’re needed.

Don’t go all out and purchase top-end equipment for a new tennis hobby – or any other hobby.

You may find you hate chasing the balls (which often go over the court fence) or you can never find a court open to practice. You’ve just wasted a lot of money on this lesson.

Instead, purchase as you go.

Buy a racket from Target (better yet, find someone to borrow a racket from or rent one), give the sport a chance. If you enjoy the activity, then slowly add pieces to your arsenal.

Shop around.

The exact frozen meals at WholeFoods can be purchased at other grocery chains for 25% less. Make (mental, paper, or electronic) notes the next time you’re shopping.

Can you find the same (or higher quality products) cheaper? Remember where and split your grocery list next time.

When talking to others, this one always surprises me. Many shoppers go to their favorite store and purchase everything.

Instead, my wife and I hit two or three stores (all near each other, so it’s not much more time) to complete our weekly shopping – finding organic produce, the same brands, and deals to save on food and home essentials.

Purchase a reasonably priced home.

Reasonably priced depends on your cash flow and priorities.

If your priority is to have your perfect house, where you plan to live for years and have your children grow up, then this may dictate spending a little more.

But if your priorities are financial independence, travel, charity, or retirement, then a high monthly mortgage payment decreases your resources available.

Challenge the standard “bigger is better” and “more expensive is superior” trends.

Why do you need those extra bedrooms and larger yard?

Do you have a large family at home or in-laws that visit frequently? Or is this space that will be unused most of the year, and be a chore to clean regularly?

Do you love gardening and a space to host outside parties every weekend? Or will you be spending your weekends weeding and mowing, instead of camping, traveling, and socializing?

The lifestyle creep.

Lifestyle inflation also falls into the purchase modestly category.

As our income increases, we feel like we need to own more expensive goods.

This is faulty logic!

When your income increases, you have more money for your priorities. This is where life is exploited!

Don’t live without.

Living and purchasing modestly does not mean living a deprived life.

You can enjoy a full life – even a more balanced life, in my opinion – without compromise.

If you focus on your needs, your reasons, and your priorities, then your life will feel be complete.

Remember, no matter how you decide to spend your money, you’ve made a choice. The (financial) power is in your control.

Do you purchase modestly? How so? What do you consider modest?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be Different

Question the standard, the status quo, and the normal.

Live on half your income.

Fight the wave of consumers who are living on over their income and live on 50% of your income. It’s possible, blame your priorities and make adjustments.

Purchase assets to earn cash flow.

Don’t buy toys to keep up with your neighbors or a single-family house because…well, that’s just what families do. Purchase investments which appreciate over time and/or pay dividends. Purchase equities, bonds, or a duplex.

Increase your skills (or build new ones).

Move beyond average and become an expert in your field – take additional courses, study, apply your trade. Curious about something new, make sure you find the time to discover an unknown subject. (As a bonus, this may create new ideas for your current profession.)

Always look for opportunities.

Instead of being comfortable, recognize new opportunities for change, new opportunities to be challenged, new opportunities to invest in, and new opportunities to gain knowledge.

Don’t settle.

Don’t be content. Don’t be ordinary. Don’t settle for the path you’ve been on or a path meant for someone else. Always be searching, reaching for new dreams.

Explore your world.

Learn from your surroundings, and make sure those surroundings vary. Societies, environments, and nature teach us about ourselves and the sphere we live on. Travel, visit, and sight-see.

YOU should be different…be very, very different.

Do you live life differently? How so?

Monday, May 18, 2015

5 (Financial) Tips for a Silent Auction

This past weekend, my wife and I had the privilege to attend a fundraising gala for Sparks of Hope.

Sparks of Hope is an amazing charity (empowering abused children to thrive), and they put on a remarkable fundraiser (with hundreds of generous donors).

The event had guest speakers, festivities, dinner, a live auction, and…a silent auction.

Silent Auctions

Silent auctions are great for having fun and raising money, but they are not the best for our family’s budget.

Our personalities are ones where we hate to lose.

Whether it’s a game of ping-pong ball with best friends, playing Scrabble just the two of us, or an office team event, we both are
a bitcompetitive and like to win.

And winning isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as no one is hurt.

But in a silent auction you “win” by paying for your prizes, so winning a prize may hurt you financially.

We didn't end up being hurt this time but it was a good reminder about how quickly money can be spent. Before our next silent auction, we'll review the 5 (financial) tips for a silent auction below - and have no surprises.

5 (Financial) Tips for a Silent Auction:

  1. Go with a maximum budget/donation in mind. (You don’t have to spend the maximum, but if you decide you want to, you can always donate the remainder to the charity.)

  2. Take a full viewing (research) pass of the silent auction, before beginning your bids. (There may be something you like more down the line.)

  3. Only place bids (in total, all items your name/number is on) up to your maximum. (Not always fun, and requires you to keep track, but your wallet will thank you later in the evening. Remember, there's a chance no one will bid after you, and you may be stuck with everything you bid on.)

  4. As others outbid you, only bid again (in total) to your maximum. (This requires to you to start paring down your selections - as one item’s price goes up, you have less for any other items.)

  5. Take one last walk around the table before the event closes, but don’t hover or make any last-minute bids. (In the last second haste, you may be forgetting about another outstanding bid and go over your budget.)

Enjoy fundraisers.

Give gifts and donations to those in need.

Just make sure your budget, cash flow, and priorities do not suffer in the process.

Do you enjoy silent auctions? What rules do you hold yourself to?

Friday, May 15, 2015

No Good Reason to Wait - Financial Fitness Starts Now

Let's get started this week, there's absolutely no reason to wait!

Get Financially Fit!

Exploit Your Finances and Exploit Your Life!

Let's get started on identifying our goals and priorities.

What matters most to you? Where do you want to spend your life? How do you want to spend your life? What keeps you up at night? What would you do if you didn't have to worry about money? Are you happy? What would make you happy?

Let's get started on understanding our current situation.

How does your spending compare to your income? Do you have a budget? Do you have your finances under control? Do you have an emergency fund? Do you have credit card debt? What other debt do you have? Have you started saving for retirement? Do you rent or do you own? What stopped you from making financial gains in the past? Do you want to challenge the status quo?

Let's get started challenging ourselves to make improvements.

Can you make changes to your spending habits? Do you have priorities that you can blame to make lifestyle changes? Have you explored the path to your goals, and considered whether financial changes can help you succeed? Are you willing to be committed?

Let's get started living the life we've always dreamed of.

Have you taken advantage of your hard-work? Have you taken the leap you've always been afraid of? Have you identified, confronted, and conquered your fears? Did you take that family trip you promised? Did you take on the fun but challenging project? Did you seek adventure yet?

No Excuses

You have no excuses. You have no one to blame but yourself for where you're starting. So stop beating yourself up, move on, and begin your path to financial fitness.

Did you take financial action this week? Where is your path leading?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

To Be Financially Fit - Live Well Below Your Means

One of the keys to being financially fit is to “live well below your means.”

So, what does that mean?

  • You have fewer expenses than income.

  • You have less stress (financial and emotional).

  • You have excess money to apply to your priorities.

And, what does that look like?

The expenses of someone who’s on track to be financially fit should be broken-down as follows:

10% - Pay your future. Immediately (automatically) put ten percent of your income into retirement. And not only move this money to your retirement account, but invest the money! (More to come on the retirement and investing topics.) [One note – If you have high interest credit card debt or no emergency fund, use this ten percent for those priorities first.]

20% - Fund your priorities. Have the financial means to reach your dreams. Allocate twenty percent of your income for your priorities. This may include paying off your debt, building a down-payment for a home, donations and charities, traveling the world, or reaching early financial independence!

70% - Live your life. Use the final seventy percent of your income to fund your immediate expenses and daily life. This includes any expenses that do not fall into the retirement or priority categories above.

You may not be at this breakdown yet, and that's okay! It will take time, work, and commitment. (Use the Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life process to get started.)

Impossible! I can’t live on only 70% of my income!

I hear you yelling at me. I’m ridiculous and I’m sure your commenting now…but listen, IT'S POSSIBLE.

Yes, this may not be your current reality, but you can make this a goal. Just start the process and see where you end up – even some forward progress is positive, and momentum will build.

Many people live on much less than 70% of their income – while still enjoying their daily life. Both FrugalPortland and Mr. Money Mustache share their savings rates – 50% or more!

My wife and I also strive to only live on only 50% of our income, while funding our priorities of travel and financial freedom. (Most months we allocate more than 50% for our goals!)

So it can be done – it’s just a matter of the effort you’re willing to contribute.

Less Stress

Besides the obvious - more money for priorities - living below your means has other benefits, including lowering your stress level.

If you’re spending less money than you make, then you don’t need to stress out about a little financial bump in the road. For example, did you remember to budget for the twice-a-year car insurance bill (surprise!)? You can sail right over this immediate-cash-need and make up for it next month – because you have extra money!

You have a 20% cushion for those emergencies. No stress here! (Remember, forget about the 10% toward retirement, this is a must!)

You can lower other stress too - work, relationships, time.  With financial control, you can sleep better at night and focus more energy on the other stress triggers.

You’ll Be…

Following the sage advice of “living well below your means” will bring you financial success that some dream impossible.

You’ll be different from those people…

You’ll be setting a foundation for retirement (with your 10%), you’ll be enjoying life and reaching your priorities (with your 20%), and you won’t stress about your daily expenses (with your 70%).

You’ll be comfortable, financially and emotionally.

You’ll ignore the small financial hurdles and setbacks.

You’ll feel positive about your financial future.

And, you’ll have started on your path to being financially fit!

Do you currently live below your means? By how much?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ramen Noodle Days

Do you ever look back at your "ramen noodles days" and say "I'm glad I don't have to eat that way anymore. I finally have some money!"

You've come a long way from that dorm room and you should enjoy your successes and gains. But unless want "ramen noodles retirement days", don't go overboard.

Success brings money, money brings...things!

You can afford the nice dinners, the nice vehicles, the nice clothes, and the convenient dry cleaning.  You love being able to go wine tasting every weekend in the summer and skiing every weekend in the winter.  You should celebrate!

But as with anything, including food and beer, it's all about moderation.

Breaking the habit of spending all of you money is hard - so try not to start in the first place!

For those of us who already have a bad spending habit, here are steps to get back on track.

1) Determine your priorities.

2) Review your cash flow.

3) Make a budget.

4) Follow your plan.

Easy! Plus, none of the steps require you to make a drastic change to your lifestyle.

Though I'm guessing you'll be sick for days when you see how much money you're throwing out the door. You'll think back to the ramen days and wonder how the heck you lived on $25K a year! Now you couldn't make it three months with that.

Or could you?

There are numerous stories of individuals saving 25%, 50%, and even 75% of their earnings, and still enjoying life. You could probably do this too...if you wanted to.

But you don't have to start this big, this can be a goal. Just like being debt free could be a goal.

You don't have to starve to make this happen. Little wins - $25 here, $50 there, bringing lunch to work twice a week - all add up. Just get started.

Soon you'll see results and have the itch for more.

You'll start dreaming even bigger.

Debt free, financially free, financial independence, world traveler, more time with your children, location independent job, and early retirement. All possible!

So enjoy your success, but be realistic. Build a healthy relationship with your money which will last a lifetime.

Do you ever look back at how far you've come? Do you ever pine for the good old days?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Overcoming Our Fears

The negative thoughts crept into my head.

Could I really start my own business while still working full-time? Could I make enough money? Was I comfortable charging people for a service?

I started to get anxious and couldn't sleep.

What was I doing? I want to travel. I want independence. If I have on-going clients, can I still do everything I want?

"Yes you can," said my astute wife. "You're just making excuses. Look what you've already done. It's time to step-up or move on. We're always going to need income, even when traveling, just decide where you want it to come from."

She was right...again! (Seems like she's right a lot all of the time.)

I was letting my negative thoughts get the best of me.

Negative Thoughts

I was letting my internal fears dictate how my life would be - and let me tell you, if my fear had its way, then I wouldn't do anything.

I'd never leave my job for another (or self-employment), never try new food, never swim in that river pool, and never travel.

I'd try to blend in, rather than take a stand. I'd be afraid to do things differently, to be unique, or to seek adventure.

Reflecting, I realized I was in a funk - cause life ain't so bad!

My wife and I have made a commitment to exploit life.

We've found a way to take advantage of our (corporate) jobs to travel the world.

We've taken control of our finances and worked our way to being debt free.

We have a plan for the near future and we are taking huge strides on reaching the goal.

I've started a business to help others financially.

Internal Fears - Ignore Them

We all face our internal fears daily. They never go away.

Sometimes our voices are good and are protecting us from danger - wanting to pet a baby Grizzly in the forest...probably not a good idea. But other times they're detrimental to our potential, they hold us back - not making financial priorities because we don't know anyone else who's done it.

And by default most of us listen to them.


Learn to ignore them, or listen to them less often in certain situations.

Doing something unique, going against the grain, trying to exploit our finances and exploit our life, is not dangerous (most of the time). Rather it's exhilarating! It's fun and makes us individuals.

Ignore the voices when...

  • You want to start a new project, but have never done it before. Instead go learn and start.

  • You want to be financially independent when you're 45, but you've never seen it happen. Instead make a plan and start.

  • You want to travel the world, but your Aunt Betty tells you about all of the dangers. Instead travel the world, because it's probably just as dangerous in Aunt Betty's hometown.

Easy to Talk

It's easy to tell someone to ignore the voices, but hard to actually do so.

I'll continue to struggle with my own fears, I know that. But I do have my realist wife by my side, who can slap me across the face (metaphorically speaking, most of the time) and tell me to get my shit together. I'm supported.

Having the right support structure can help you on your journey. If you don't already have it, seek it out. Surround yourself with others who support your crazy (or not so crazy) endeavors and who are looking for their own quests.

Don't let your fears hold you back from life.

Be motivated. Take action. Ignore the negative voices.

Are you held back by fear? What would you be doing if you could ignore your negative thoughts?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review Your Pay Statement, Regularly

*This is an item to mark on your calendar.

Review your pay statement regularly - two or three times a year - and especially after any major changes (moved to another city or state, new position, raise, started contributing to retirement, new benefits).

Most of us glance at our bank account each pay period and say "well, looks accurate." But it might not be! And you may be negatively impacted.

We're all human, including the individuals in your Human Resources and Payroll Departments, and mistakes happen. Fat fingers happen. Employee Self Service has bugs. Errors, updates, missing data, and typos.

Regardless of the reason, you may not have the correct taxes withheld, the correct benefits being applied, or correct pay being received.


If your taxes aren't set up correctly, then you may be under or over-withheld. Or, you may be having the wrong state taxes being taken out!

This can cause severe headaches if not caught during the year. If you don't notice it until you receive your Form W-2, then you may have to wait to file your tax return until the system is corrected and a corrected Form W-2 is processed. Delaying your tax filings (obviously) causes unnecessary stress.

Make sure to check your tax withholding elections as well (Update Your Form W-4).


Some benefits are taxable, some are not. Some benefit plans have pre-tax deductions, some have post-tax deductions.

Make sure you review your pay statement and confirm you're enrolled in the plans you selected. Are the deductions correct? Does anything seem to be missing?

Is your 401(k) balance what you expected? Did you recently get married but your employer still shows your spouse as a domestic partner?

Employer benefits impact both your taxes and your take-home pay.


If you are an exempt employee (not hourly), then this is pretty straight-forward. Depending on the number of pay checks you receive a year, divide your salary. (Example - $52,000 salary divided by 26 pay periods is $2,000 a pay period.) Is this what's on your pay statement (less taxes and deductions, plus any taxable benefits)?

If you are non-exempt (hourly), then make sure you're being paid for the correct number of hours in the pay period. Did you have any overtime? Were the hours recorded properly? Was your pay rate adjusted correctly?

You may be missing money that is technically owed to you. (Hey, mistakes happen...)

Review and Reach Out

If you see any errors, or you have any questions, reach out to your Human Resources or Payroll Department - today.

Some errors may have been occurring for years - to your detriment - so don't assume that because you don't see a change in your take-home pay that everything is okay.

A quick confirmation can help a lot when it comes to taxes, benefits, and pay.

Have you ever found errors when reviewing your pay statements? Were they easy to fix?

Monday, May 4, 2015

How to Refocus After Ignoring Your Budget

Life can easily get in the way of our financial priorities.

A busy month can turn into two busy months. Soon we’ve ignored our budget for too long to continue to keep track of all of our purchases in our head. We stress about it. We talk about getting back on track. We have only good intentions, but it’s not enough.

Don't worry! We all mess up. We all have times (days and months) where we stray from our financial path. But this doesn’t have to stop us from achieving our goals.

When you find yourself in a similar situation, one where you’ve reverted to (or created) a bad money habit, don’t beat yourself up or freak out and ignore the problem. Instead, take a deep breath, revisit priorities, revise your cash flow, and start again.

Deep Breath

Relax! You’re not alone. You’re not an anomaly because you can’t follow a budget or can’t find time for your money – everybody does this!

The worst thing you can do is start to shut down. Begin to not care about your finances or your goals. Start to ignore, instead of fix, your habits.

Take a deep breath. Realize that you have control of your finances, they don’t control you. Now start taking the steps necessary to show your dominance over your money.

Revisit Priorities

You wouldn’t be working toward your goals, if you hadn’t prioritized what was important in your life and in your finances. (If you really don’t have financial priorities, visit the first step of Exploit Your Finances.)

Revisit these priorities.

Do you still feel passionately about your original goals? Make sure you care enough about them that you can blame them, get back on track, and change your behavior. Remind yourself why you’re working so hard.

Maybe your priorities look different. Well, change them. Find ones that are more important. You may have slacked on your budget, because you weren’t craving the end result.

Revise Cash Flow

Depending on the outcome from revisiting your priorities, you may need to make some changes.

If your goals are the same, but your budget just doesn’t allow for flexibility in your daily life, make sure to consider this. A healthy financial life is about balancing fun now and balancing fun later. Without current happiness and enjoyment, you will not be able to achieve results in the long-run.

If your goals have changed, redo your cash flow to account for your new desires.

You may not need to make any changes to your monthly finances. You may have just needed the reminder of why you review your finances monthly. The “oh yeah” will be enough to jump-start your motivation.

Start Again

Look at this as a fresh start.

Don’t look back and have regrets. There’s nothing you can do about your prior mistakes. Rather, take accountability of your next decisions.

You can do this! You can exploit your finances and exploit your life.

And, whenever you have a future indiscretion…deep breath, revisit priorities, revise cash flow, and start again.

How do you refocus and continue down your path toward exploiting life?

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Simple Truth

The simple truth is that your life (including your financial life) is in your direct control.

You get to decide.

You get to decide the next step.

You get to decide what your goals are.

You get to decide how to reach your goals.

You get to decide of you'll be committed to your plan.

You get to decide to stay committed to your plan.

You get to decide to get back on the path after a detour.

You get to decide the life you want to live.

You get to decide who will (or will not) influence your life decisions.

You get to decide if you've lived life to the fullest.

Everything starts with you.

You get to decide.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Start With Any Amount Possible - A Baby Step is Forward Motion

Any journey toward financial fitness can be daunting, overwhelming, and intimidating.

The internet is full of recommendations about how to get started, where to put your money, and how much money you need (this blog included!).

Our friends and family have their own recommendations based on their own experiences. Hell, just about everyone we know has an opinion on where our money should go.

My two-cents…just take a baby step towards your financial priorities.

Make a small move in the direction of your goals.

Pick one, single priority. – Maybe you’ve been dreaming of a home, maybe you want to start investing for your financial independence, or maybe you want to pay off that annoying loan from five years ago.

Set any amount of money aside for this goal. – Five dollars a week, or $100 a month, or any amount you can spare. You don’t need a large amount of money to start, just anything.

Don’t worry about the interest rate you’re getting on your savings account. Don’t worry about how the stock market dropped yesterday. Don’t get lost in the details, just set the money aside.

Don’t fret about brokerage accounts or credit card points, all of these decisions will come later. We’re just building habits and seeing results.

Repeat. – Continue to put money into the savings account, anything you can add will be enough. If you miss a week or month, don’t get frustrated, don’t stop! Start again the next month.

Don’t worry about what others are (or aren’t) doing, this is personal. This is about YOU and your particular, nobody-else-matters goals!

Soon you’ll see the consequences of your work - progress toward your priorities; forward motion toward your financial goals. You may be motivated to contribute more money, take larger steps – you’ll be encouraged about the possibilities!

After more time, you’ll consider whether you need to invest your money or (for short-term goals) continue to keep in your savings account. But remember, for now…

All you need to do is start with a baby step.

How are you doing on your journey to being financially fit? Are you making progress, or being bogged down by the details?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Oh My Darling, Money.

Dear Money,

I know we haven't always agreed about how to live life.

I like to buy new toys. You like to invest and diversify yourself.

I have a tendency to live in the moment. You like to look towards the future.

But I've been thinking a lot about it. I really think that we can come to an agreement.

One that works for both of us. Something that we can both be happy about.

We could find ways to enjoy life, while still being prepared for the unknown.

We could splurge on some expenses but save in other areas of our lives.

I know that working together we can can solve anything. Get through any difficult situation.  We just need to be together.

Let's talk. Let's figure this out.

Let's balance living life now, with living well in old age.

Please come back to me.

Yours truly.

Instant Gratification.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Building a Healthy Financial Relationship is Possible.

If you don't treat your money well, then it will disappear.

Easily given away to perfect strangers, in return for rent, food, consumables, and debt payments.

Spending every penny you make - plus some you don't have (credit cards) - is unsustainable. You may be fine for long as you hold down that paying job. But what about an unexpected emergency or job loss? How do you cover your living expenses when your monthly income is gone?

This is even more exasperated if you're using debt to fuel your lifestyle. You are digging yourself into a hole, fueling a life dependent on you making more money than required to pay back to creditors. Doesn't sound fun to me.

The solution?

Building a healthy relationship with your money.

One where you save for emergencies and retirement. One where you pay off your credit card balances monthly. One where you are not tied to the ebbs and flows of merit increases and bonuses.

Sounds much less stressful!

So how do you build this healthy relationship? Nothing new, just sage wisdom...

1. Prioritize.

2. Budget.

3. Small emergency fund (increasing over time).

4. Monthly contributions to a company 401(k) or IRA (or Roth IRA).

Trying to ignore the problems - or ignore your finances completely - will only make things worse.

Results come from action.

Is money something that doesn't matter to you? You spend it and that's how it should be?

Or, is money a means to an end? Where you use money to reach your goals and priorities in life? Letting money work for you through savings, investing, and compounding.

Actually acting on these steps. Actually putting in the time to care about your money. That's the only way things will change.

Are you working on your relationship with money?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Understand. Own. Tweak. The Benefits of Financial Awareness.

In a recent presentation we were discussing personality traits. The conversation focused on how awareness can bring about change (even if only small changes) and the presenter shared a great formula to remember the process – understand, own, tweak.

An individual must understand their habits/traits, take ownership of the pros and cons of the traits, and finally tweak (make small changes) for progress.

My first thought was, “Hey! The Understand, Own/Tweak formula has the same application to personal finances!”


There are numerous facets of our finances where just having awareness, an understanding, can be the tipping point to bring about action.

Understanding our cash flow, brings awareness of how much we’re spending, where we’re spending it, and if we’re spending more than we’re making.

Understanding our financial priorities and goals, brings awareness of where we want to be, what we want to be doing, and whether we’re making progress. (Are we actually on the path to financial independence, owning our dream home, or retirement? Or are we still fantasizing about it?)

Without understanding, there isn’t consciousness to determine if you need to make financial improvements.


Just having understanding, awareness, and consciousness by itself doesn’t change your financial picture. You need to own the fact that this is you. That where you are now is the outcome of actions you’ve taken and decisions you’ve made. And that you have the means to make the necessary changes.

Ownership means responsibility. Ownership means accepting our faults. Ownership means the choice to make modifications.

If your finances are a mess, or you’re not on track for your goals, this is your doing.

But you can also make the changes. You can own your next decisions, decisive actions to make progress towards being financially fit.


The actions stemming from understanding and owning your financial decisions do not have to be major changes. You don’t have to be extreme. You don’t have to go from abundance to poverty.

But, you should be trying to make forward progress.

Small changes, small tweaks, which will have large outcomes - especially as they become your new habits.


The Understanding, Own, Tweak process isn’t a one-time deal.

This is a formula which should be applied to your finances constantly (or at least regularly).

Repeat the process. Continue to make financial improvements. You’ll soon find that you’ve built strong financial habits and you’re reaching your desired outcomes.

Are you already using this formula? What are tweaks that you’ve made to improve your finances?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spend Less Money Than You Earn!

This is not about frugality or minimalism...this is just common sense.

Even if you think everything is under control, one set back (one surprise) can derail your financial life.

Don't give in to the temptation of rolling over that credit card balance.

Don't give in to your urge for that new iPhone watch you saw on the television commercial.

Spend less money than you earn!

This is a problem. A major problem.

Admit it or not, you will need to make some changes.

You can either wait until it's so bad that you file for bankruptcy, sell all of your toys, and move back in with your parent...

Or you can act now!

Make immediate changes!

Start with baby steps. Set your financial and life priorities. Come up with a plan. Then act!

How are your financial goals coming?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Your First Action After Tax Season – Update Your Form W-4

Tax season has come and gone.

Some of you were probably surprised by the size of their tax refunds and others...were shocked by the size of your tax bills.

In either case, you need to take action (now!) to make sure you're maximizing or correcting your tax liabilities (as well as your cash flow).

If you work for an employer, the culprit was probably your tax elections (your Form W-4).

You were either withholding too little, or too much, from your pay checks – therefore not correctly accounting for your taxes in your monthly cash flow.

Why Update Your Form W-4 For a Tax Refund?

You are giving the government an interest free loan!

Unless you treat your tax refund as “free” money and apply it towards your financial goals (and not spend it on new clothes), you are missing out on regular, monthly income to help with your cash flow.

By updating your Form W-4, you can take home more money on your paychecks and use it to cover your immediate financial needs.  This is key if you're struggling to pay your monthly bills but receive a huge refund every tax season.

Why Update Your Form W-4 For a Tax Bill?

If you have great cash flow, and save up a portion of your monthly income to pay your tax bill every year, then ignore this. But if not, take action now!

If you didn’t have the money set aside and you had to pull from your financial priorities (or use a credit card), then update your Form W-4.

This will lower your monthly income, but you still need to do this to account for all of your bills – you were previously missing a major liability, your taxes!

Factoring in your taxes when analyzing monthly cash flow will give a realistic picture of your finances.

Tax Time

Don’t be surprised at tax time! Be proactive and be in control of your finances (which includes taxes).

The IRS has a great Form W-4 withholding calculator to help guide your elections – use it. Then reach out to your HR Department to get your tax withholding changed.


What did you do with your tax refund? If you had a tax liability, how did you pay for it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Six Traits of the Financially Fit

Everyone is unique and everyone has their own financial habits - plus most people do not like being told how to spend their hard earned income.

That being said, there are several traits that the financially fit (wealthy) share – and you could possibly imitate to achieve your own high-level of financial fitness.

To be clear, income doesn't equal wealth, as many people have large incomes but no assets, investments, net worth or real wealth.

Six Traits

  1. The first trait is to “live well below your means.”

Living below your means has the obvious benefit of a cash surplus – fewer expenses than income – but it also means that you need less in retirement.

Spending less money than you bring in removes financial stress. You’re not worried about having enough money to pay your bills, the mortgage, or purchase groceries. This is a huge relief!

In addition, you have excess money (the difference between your monthly income and your monthly expenses) to apply towards your financial priorities (retirement/financial independence, a home purchase, paying off debt).

This will also help you to retire (possibly early), as you will need less income than others (those spendy folks) to fund your lifestyle.

  1. The second trait is to “purchase modestly.”

Modest homes (and owning for years). Modest vehicles (and owning for years). Purchasing toys with cash, not credit.

Being comfortable with living and owning reasonably, allows you the freedom to focus money into other priorities. Let’s say home-ownership is important to you, but so is financial independence. If you purchase a modest priced home, and have a reasonable monthly mortgage payment, then you’ll be in position to still focus on financial independence. The reverse occurs if you have a lofty mortgage payment, which requires you to use all of your excess dollars to make the payment – little else on your financial priority list can be accomplished if this is the route you choose.

  1. The third trait of the financially fit is to “invest a significant portion of your income.”

Note that owning more is not the same as investing. You should be investing in appreciating assets (stocks, bonds, businesses), not in depreciating assets (cars, electronics, items with a limited life).

You’re looking for appreciating assets here - investments that will gain in value (a true investment), not depreciate over time. (There is no guarantee of investments increasing over time, but historically, some investments have performed better than others.)

Investing in stocks and bonds, as well as private (maybe self-owned) businesses or real estate, can be wise investments for your money. Investing in education and training to develop your professional skills can be good investments.

Owning toys or assets that have a short lifespan (but using the excuse that they’re investments) will not pay off in the long-run.

  1. The fourth trait is to “allocate time and money to building wealth.”

Without focus, you will not be able to have a plan and work towards completing your plan. But even having a plan doesn't guarantee results. This requires action! And action requires significant resources – and in this case, it’s time and money.

Make sure you set aside time regularly to review your finances and your priorities. Review whether you’re still on track or if you need to make adjustments. Awareness is key to improvement.

  1. The fifth trait is to “believe financial independence is more important than keeping up with the Jones.”

The latest trends, social pressure, what the cool kids are wearing/owning/using, are all ways for you to part with your dollars. You have to buck the trend to reach your financial goals, no one said this was easy – and obviously not everyone is doing this.

If you’re more concerned about what others think about you (or what you own/look like), then you’re going to spend money on trying to meet their expectations. Here’s a secret, they’ll probably still find something lacking. You’ll spend your life trying to measure up, only to find that you haven’t been focused on the right financial path.

  1. The sixth (and last) trait of the financially fit is to “view your adult children as economically self-reliant.”

Children can be expensive, but completely worth every penny. They are your responsibility and you take that accountability seriously…but what about when they’re adults? At what point should your work have developed them into mature, self-reliant citizens?

Provide financial education to your adult children, help them emotionally, but be weary of the financial support. Are you hurting them or helping them when you provide economic support to grown, capable children? What you are doing, is taking funds away from your own financial independence (a.k.a. retirement).

The financially fit know that there has to be a balance between supporting themselves (being a little selfish) and supporting others.

Mimic Others

Similar to being physically fit and mentally fit, being financially fit can be a lot of work and daunting (and possibly involve some sweat). You have to work hard, have an end goal, and take action.

You might find that you already have several of the habits, but are lacking in a few. Continue to flex your financial muscles by tip-toeing into the other traits.

You don’t have to start from scratch. You have the tools and habits of others to mimic. By modeling others who already have the traits of the financially fit, you have a edge to reach your goals.

Do you portray any of the financially fit traits? Which ones?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!, Step Four – Exploit YourFuture

Below is part four of a four step series on how to go about Exploiting Your Finances, Exploiting Your Life! Start here - Unexploited 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!

Get ready to Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!

Join us in the Personal Finance Revolution!

Are you exploiting your future? How are you exploiting your life?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!, Step Three – Exploit YourCash Flow

Below is part three of a four step series on how to go about Exploiting Your Finances, Exploiting Your Life! Start here - Unexploited Finances.

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 to find 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 from Step One, 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 anyway.)

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 anyway! 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!

Get ready to Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!

Join us in the Personal Finance Revolution!

Are you using your priorities as a tool to review your cash flow? How are you exploiting your cash flow?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Emergency Fund - What's reasonable?

Many financial planners say to have 2-6 months worth of expenses saved as an emergency fund.

While I agree with the thought, this is a little restrictive for those just entering the workforce or trying to dig themselves out of a financial issue.

With an eventual goal of 2-6 months worth of expenses in an emergency fund, start smaller.

Start with a goal of $500 (or maybe a $1,000).

This will cover most of your basic emergencies (car breaks down, unexpected bill) and basic medical costs - though, obviously, not the high value medical emergencies.

Once you reach this threshold, determine what financial goals are next.

For example, if you have credit card debt rolling over (and you're paying outrageous interest rates), focus on these next.  Throw all your money towards these.  (Really, everything...this should be priority #1 after a positive cash flow and an emergency fund.)

On the other hand, if you don't have any credit card debt, but your employer matches contributions to your retirement account, start adding money to your retirement - at least meet the matching amount.  (Free money!)

If your next financial goals do not involve high debt issues (credit cards), then allocate your money towards your goals PLUS your emergency fund.

Add monthly increments to the emergency fund until you reach the 2-3 months of expenses point.

This may be a reasonable amount for you - if you have a stable job, live well below your income, and you have support (financial, family, etc.) in the case of a terrible emergency.

If you are self-employed or the sole-income earner, then you should probably strive for the 6 months (possibly more) of expenses in your emergency fund. This will help protect you from losing a large client or the impact of a family (or medical) emergency where you cannot work.

As your income increases, as you get raises, tax refunds - put additional monies toward your goals.

Yes, you should be striving for a large emergency fund. One that will cover 2-6 months worth of your living costs. This will allow you piece of mind in those financial emergencies.

But! You do not need to wait on your dreams or wait to make financial progress in your goals.

Small steps forward is still forward motion.

The key is starting forward. You can always change your speed as you go.

Do you have an emergency fund? How much do you keep in it?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!, Step Two - Current Finances

Below is part two of a four step series on how to Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life! Start here - Unexploited Finances.

Have you ever taken a 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 than you’re making. It’s OKAY! We just want to know what’s going on. Simply bringing self (financial) awareness!

(There are several useful - free - 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!

The 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 tingle, 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 any way during this process, revisit Step One, Priorities. Continue to review your priorities until they’re meaningful enough to outweigh any discouragement!

Are you aware of your current financial state?

Get ready to Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!

Join us in the Personal Finance Revolution!

Have you reviewed your current finances? What is the toughest part of becoming financially aware?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Take Control of Your Future

Take your future into your own hands.

Don’t rely on policies or politicians.

Don’t rely on other people.

Rely on your own actions!

My wife and I have been there. We lost a job during the recession and we were immediately impacted financially.

There were no jobs.

Did this stop us? No!

Did we rely on others to get through the tough times? No!

We actually moved during this time, to an area with a lower cost of living, while we tried to work for ourselves. Eventually we failed and went back to working for someone else.

We found jobs. We worked hard to find these jobs. It took years to get to our current life.

We took control of our future. We took ownership of our finances.

Similarly, you must take control of your own future – your own financial future.

You may be working two jobs – you may be working two mediocre jobs – but figure out where you want to be and keep chasing.

Reach out to others in your network – ask for advice, ask for references, ask for support – but don’t rely on them providing you with money.

Take the wheel for yourself.  Don’t wait for someone else to guide you.

Take control of your future.

Do you control your future?


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!, Step One - Priorities

Below is part one of a four step series on how to Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life! Start here for a little background - Unexploited Finances.

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!

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 fewer hours, and give you time to be with your family? Answer: Yes!!!!

If you go through this exercise with your priorities, 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 education 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 motivate you through the rest of the hard work.

Get ready to Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!

Join us in the Personal Finance Revolution!

Have you set your priorities? What are they? Have you mapped them back to your finances?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Money Talk

The sounds of a pin dropping.

Go into any group of people, family reunion included, and ask for everyone's budget for the month. I bet what follows is silence, as well as dirty looks, the crowd moving away from you, and someone flipping you off.

The same thing would happen if you asked what everyone's salary was.

Why don't we talk about money?

Because our relationships with money are not strong.

Someone that is financially comfortable and comfortable with their money will answer those questions. Because they'll feel good and want feedback.

Those with a bad relationship don't want feedback, heck they don't want anyone to know about their bad habits, and they know they're bad habits!

I will admit, sharing your salary may be too far and it may even make others feel bad (or worse) to know you make more money.

But let's start small. Let's share.

Let's share how we budget each month - everyone does it differently.

Let's share how we take advantage of company 401(k)s or IRAs, and why we're saving for retirement.

Let's share good financial habits.

Let's share the evils of the credit card balance (I didn't say using credit cards, but rolling over balances).

Let's share tips and tricks for bringing our lunch to work and cooking at home.

Let's share the costs of raising children, the costs of travel, and how to prioritize our money.

Let's talk about money. Let's make some noise! Be heard! Take action!

People are dealing with the same problems. They'll be able to relate.

We can help each other!

Are you comfortable with your money relationship?  Are you willing to talk to others about your good (and bad) habits?

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Vicious Life Cycle

Life can be a vicious cycle.

Working long hours at a stressful job, so you spend lots of money in your free time - to have lots of fun.

Enormous house, fancy car, high-priced travel and entertainment, bar tabs. Sounds about right!

Unfortunately those items add up and have a very tangible long-term impact.

High monthly bills for the home and car. No money leftover from the entertainment and possibly even high interest credit card payments.

You then work harder in that stressful job to pay for the monthly bills, so you don't fall behind. But you still want to have fun in your free time, because you're working so hard!  You deserve it, right?!

And the cycle continues, an entire career of stress and money issues.

The stress causes health problems, which costs even more money...which you don't have, so you put the medical bill on credit. You now have another monthly payment, that you need to cover by earning the stressful job.

Too many bills. You need a higher paying job, which is more stress!

You'll need those performance bonuses (because you've already spent the money), which is more stress.

Stop the cycle!

Work towards financial independence.  Work towards a life where you control how your money impacts your life (not the other way around).

You'll benefit from more fun and enjoyment in life than you did from the high-priced entertainment, because you'll be free - financially, from stress, from the desk.

I'm not saying to not care about your job. Do care. Care because it's the means to the end. Use it as a tool to reach your goals and priorities/dreams. Just don't be used by it.

I'm not saying to not have toys and have fun. Do have fun. But balance it with your current finances. Live within your current financial means.

You'll be stress free. You'll be happy. You'll have time to find yourself and your life.

Play the game, but win. Game the system.

Win not with the highest salary, but instead with the most fulfilled life.

Are you living in the vicious life cycle? How are you planning to break free?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Exploit Your Finances, Exploit Your Life!, A Four Step Process

Are you exploiting your life yet?


Did you know that you can exploit your finances to help?

It's true!

Your finances are the nourishment for exploiting life!

This is not easy - exploiting your life will take a lot of work - but this is doable!

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing the "Four Steps to Exploiting Your Finances, Exploiting Your Life!"

Looks simple, right?

Well, it's not!!

This will get personal. You will want to quit. You will need to have some serious conversations with your partner. You may even cry yourself to sleep at times.

But, you won't be alone!

Please, follow along and, when you can, share your stories of exploiting your finances and exploiting your life!

Monday, March 23, 2015

There Are Only Two Ways to Improve Your Cash Flow

You want more money.

You want to increase your monthly income.

You want to be cash flow positive.

Maybe it’s to pay off your debt (or stop going into debt). Maybe it’s to make a substantial donation to a charity. Or maybe it’s to travel South America for a year.

So, you read books on making money. You read blogs for the secret access to money. You look for the tip that will make you the most money. You study, study, study. You become an expert on finances. You start spouting all of the potential ways to get rich. But you still haven’t added any dollars to your pocket.

I’ll save you some time...and hopefully get your cash flow to a positive state.

If you really want to improve your cash flow, there are only two ways to do it.

  • Earn more money.

  • Spend less money.

Two ways – that’s it.

I know. Probably not what you were looking for, but it’s true. And, until you can accept that there are only these two ways – and you start acting upon one (or both) of these methods – you’ll always be looking for the secret sauce.

Earn more money.

The first way to increase your cash flow is to earn more money.

Don’t read about it. Go do it. (The secret sauce you've been looking for – action.)

Determine if you’re maximizing your potential at your day job. Is there another role or a promotion that you can strive for? What steps are needed to get the raise?

Maxed out on the day job, how about a night job? Is there part-time work where you can make some additional money?

Interested in starting your own business – an option if you already have a strong interest or skill in a subject, otherwise you’re back to reading and not acting.

How about weekend work?

Yes, it sucks. Working two jobs is exhausting. It’s boring and hard. You're going to miss your favorite TV shows. But you can’t magically conjure up money. You need to work for it.

If you’re not willing to earn more, then…

Spend less money.

The second option for increasing your cash flow is to spend less money.

Nobody chooses this by default right? Well, maybe…

If you like (only) working 40 hours a week and you’d rather have your evenings and weekends to yourself, then your best option is to minimize your outflows.

Cutting your expenses also requires action, so make the first move.

Have you reviewed your current expenses lately? Are you spending on frivolous purchases? Are you buying to be trendy?

If yes, stop wasting your money.

Have you selected the best company/product for the best prices available? Do you have a budget and stick to your budget? Do you review your budget monthly?

If no, build better habits.

You’ll be amazed at how much money you can save by just being aware of your expenses. You’ll question every purchase – “Really, this is where I want to spend my $20? What a waste of money!”

The secret is out - there are only two ways to improve your cash flow.

Earn more or spend less.

Now go. Act! (And spread the word…)

How have you tried to improve your cash flow? Are you taking action? Or are you hesitating and making excuses?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Unexploited Finances: A Personal Finance Revolution

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

Another path for your finances and your life.

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 sabbatical.

  • 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 paid off approximately $70,000 of debt (student loans, car loan, personal loan, and credit card debt) and have been living debt-free for over a year - 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.

In the past year, we've driven the Ring Road in Iceland and spent a week exploring Cuba.

All while still...

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

We did not always follow 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.

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.

Join us in the Personal Finance Revolution!

Read the Four Steps to Unexploited Finances.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Emotional Attachment to "Things"

Let's take a moment to think about our emotional attachment to "things." And their impact on your wallet...

Have you ever considered downsizing your home? How about downsizing your wardrobe, cars, and toys?

It's hard. Hard to think about. Hard to do.

We're emotionally attached to each and every item. The emotions are usually historical - children grew up in the house, you always dreamed of owning a BMW. But they may also be your perceptions of society - everyone has the new iPhone, I don't want to appear too poor to own a television.

Your emotions not only impact your investing, your daily stresses, and your relationships, they also impact your current "stuff."

And how often do you use everything stored in your garage? Keeping it in the packing box, just in case you run into that one specific, special situation, where you may need it...for ten minutes.

This is not to say that you should sell everything you own and live like a hermit. But rather consider the possibilities of owning less, making fewer purchases, and de-cluttering your current life.

Challenge the status quo, challenge group-think, challenge the advertisers, and the media.

Have you considered your emotional attachment to "things?"

Would you make changes?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Excuse of Not Enough Time

Do you tell yourself that you don't have enough time to worry about your finances?

You make enough money to pay your bills, you don't have debt collectors calling you up, and the future is a long ways off.


Your finances may not be your current priority, or possibly you don't want to deal with money/math/budgets, but these are excuses.

You need to "know" your money. You need to take control of your money. You need to make a plan.


The benefit will be impactful and will pay dividends for years to come.

You'll be able to plan ahead. Put your money to work for you.

So find the time.

You don't need to miss your favorite t.v. show, but maybe add your accounts to during the commercials.

You don't have to give up Facebook, but take a few minutes to see if your prior month's spending went where you thought it did.

And you don't have to give up meeting your friends for drinks, but make sure your 401(k) contribution was matched by your employer.

You don't have to stress over your finances...just care about them.

Do you use the excuse of not enough time to avoid your finances?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Those Times it Feels Amazing to be Debt Free

Being debt-free makes me smile, every single time I think about it.

But I'm particularly happy about being debt-free when I surprise someone.

My wife and I are dipping our toes into the real estate market (this would mean debt and we're careful to use "planned debt" rather than "frivolous debt"), interviewing a few mortgage brokers and determining our next steps.

The hard work we put in paying off our debts will definitely help us on this journey, but the most satisfying part was when we were asked about our current debt during the interviews.

"And what debt do you currently have?"


"You don't have any debt?"

"Nope. We use our credit cards, but pay them off at the end of every month. That's it though."

"Really? How about education loans? Or auto loans?"

"Nope. No debt. We paid it all off almost two years ago."

"Wow! Congratulations. How much did you pay off?"

"About $70,000."

"That's impressive and will definitely help with your debt-to-income ratio."

Me smiling...

Yours in exploiting life!

The Disease of Credit Card Debt

Spreading like wildfire. Weaving its way through our society. Infecting the young, the old, the healthy, and the sick. No one is safe.

Credit card debt is viral, it's taking over.

Signs of the sickness include frivolous spending and large, impulse purchases. Regret. A lifetime of interest payments and depression.

Some of those infected don’t even know they have a disease. They fail to recognize the signs. To admit they’re in trouble and seek out the nearest doctor.

Proponents and spreaders of the vicious malady include credit card companies, banks, retailers, marketers, television, and the government. Making purchases as easy as possible, the Devil's spawn have now made buying on credit as easy as holding your phone.

Caught between missing the next big thing and being trendy, consumers are choosing to live with the ever-growing symptoms to feel cool. To look cool.

A few survive unscathed among the growing apocalypse. Rather than succumbing to the inevitable, they stand alone but strong. Using only money already earned, earmarked, and saved to fund their lifestyle – they've managed to live healthy and stress free.

Offering help and education to those with the sickness, but overshadowed by the latest tech gadget, these few outliers can only wait, watch, and enjoy life - while the sick are ravaged by the credit card pandemic.

Don’t believe credit card debt is an issue? Check out the 2104 Credit Card Debt survey from CardHub.

Several articles have already been written about this survey and sound upbeat.

“The economy must be good, consumers are purchasing more. See look at the credit card usage.”

But this is a problem!

The issue - consumers are spending more, but they don’t have the money!

So credit cards are used, they’re not being paid off, and ridiculous interest rates are being applied.

Help stop the spread of the disease!

Understand how money, cash flow, and debt work. Understand how they can work for you and provide a healthy lifestyle. Or they can work against you, providing a life of worry and financial issues.

Educate yourself!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our Individual Reaction to Personal Finances

I'm fascinated by others' reactions to personal finance.

An individual's behaviors, emotions, and actions are so unique, so personally them.

Many of us have these preconceived notions about money or how we should be treating money, and we lack real financial education - the basics - without the scare or sales.

We all get excited by the thrill of potentially winning the lottery, quick riches. We all get nervous about discussing the results of a family death (or even our own end).

But we don't talk about it.  We don't share, we don't learn.

We want the problems to go away or solve themselves - but alas, that won't happen. And this ignorance of the issue, results in terrible tragedy.

I believe we're all working our way to financial independence - whether it's a traditional retirement at 65 or a non-traditional "early-retirement"  - and each of our journeys are just as unique as we are.

We're given similar (if not the same) tools to help guide us on our quest. Our use of those tools (plus behaviors, emotions, lack of action) dictate how far (or how quickly) our journey will go.

Our relationship with our money is key.

Focus on this relationship. Learn about it, learn tools to help mold it, and then act.

Nothing gets done without action!

A life-long student of behavioral economics/finance, I'm constantly viewing the world through a lens of curiosity.

Why did she act this way? What impact will that news have on others? Why did he decide to purchase that?

Please, feed my hunger of understanding!

Feel free to share your own stories, experiences, and quests - I'm very interested in hearing!