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8 Personal Finance Moves I Wish I Knew Before Turning 30

8 Personal Finance Moves I Wish I Knew Before Turning 30

I am now 32 and I am sadly just starting to mature with my personal finance moves. I guess better late than never but I still get a knot in my stomach every time I think about the time I wasted.

Today I want to talk about 8 personal finance moves I think every twenty-something should do right now. I am going to talk about what I wish I knew when I got out of college. That being said, this article will be extremely personal as I will share examples of the mistakes I made along with a couple right moves.

If you feel like you are following my twenty-year-old self, it is time to make some changes in your life.

My goal is that anyone, young or old, learns something about personal finance that they might be missing. It is your turn not to do what I did in the past!

1. Plan for your future major expenses

Boy did I fail hard on this! I was too caught up with living in the moment. I think a lot of us can be like this when we are in our twenties and it is something we should keep an eye out.

Where did this hurt me? Purchasing a home. I should have been more aggressive in saving up for that downpayment when my wife and I moved out to Colorado. Instead, I focused on materialistic items and experiences during our first four years out here.

Why did this hurt me? Prices shot up like none other in Denver. We could have bought our dream home three or four years ago. Now don’t get me wrong, we live in a very nice home in a pretty decent area but it is not the area we would LOVE to be in. If I focused harder on getting that down payment when we first moved out here, then we would be in that dream home.

Plus, we probably would have made about $100k off of that dream home by now. Our current home has gone up $30k in value since last year.

Yep, the Denver market is just that crazy.

As lame as it sounds, I would create a roadmap for yourself and those major expenses you have coming up. Those purchases could be anything you know is coming for you such as home, car, masters degree, trips overseas, and so on.

With the roadmap, you should lay out how many years out you want to make the purchase and how much you need for each purchase. These measures will allow you to make a priority list as well as how much you need to put away each month for these.

2. Have an emergency fund

The emergency fund is there for when life throws you a curveball. This curveball could include something horrible going wrong with your health, major car expense, something going wrong with your house, or even losing your job.

Many experts believe that you should calculate three to six months worth of essential expenses in your emergency fund in case you lose your job.

These expenses include (according to Vanguard):

  • Housing (Rent or mortgage)
  • Food
  • Healthcare (Medication, insurance, and so on)
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses
  • Debt payments

But Suze Orman (another financial expert) argues against the three to six month number. She thinks you should save past the normal recommended number. In her interview with CNBC, she stats, “You need to know that you are going to be secure.” This is why she recommends having eight to twelve months worth of expenses saved up.

I agree with Suze. Just out of college during the Great Recession, I struggled to find work. It took me nearly eight months to find a job that would somewhat support myself. Luckily, I was able to lean on my parents during this time. I couldn’t imagine going through that without an emergency fund or without anyone to help me.

Sadly, I did not learn from this experience. I continued on in my twenties without an emergency fund.

Luckily, during my twenties, I did not have any curveballs thrown my way because I did not have an emergency fund. This was a very silly mistake by me because I had a high-deductible health plan that had a $5,000 deductible. If I had been in a skiing, car accident or needed my appendix taken out, I would have been in some financial trouble.

If one of these expenses comes up and starts to drain your emergency fund, it is time to start filling it back up to that comfortable stage. Below is how Andrew pictures this to go. Almost like a waterfall effect.

 

You also might enjoy reading about Andrew’s thoughts on emergency funds, My Emergency Find, Why I Keep $2,000 for Emergencies.

3. Budget

Your personal finance cannot be successful without a strong budget. Budgeting has become so easy with amazing apps such as Mint (see Andrew’s review here) or Personal Capital. There really is no excuse for you not to be keeping a budget.

Setting up a proper budget will require way more time than what we have but we can take a 30,000-foot overview of it today. Basically, the goal is not to spend more money than what you make each month. You will want to lay out your net income along with your monthly expenses, and savings goals. Those savings goals along with any concrete monthly expenses that you cannot skip out on such as mortgage or utilities are the highest priority. From there you need to adjust those other expenses so your total does not go above your net income.

The difficult part, at least for me, is to stick to that budget (we will talk about this next). I am a foodie that lives in a foodie city so it is very easy to lose focus and go over budget on the ‘Eating Out’ budget line. I need to follow Andrew’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Theory when I am feeling the need to eat out.

4. Live within your means

It is so easy to spend on frivolous things nowadays. Man, there are some awesome materialistic things to purchase out there! You should see my shoe collection from when I worked in retail after deciding to leave landscape architecture. What a waste of money those purchases were!

This is where the budget comes handy. You know how much you will make, save, and spend each month. Live within this budget, stay focused on this budget, and you will live within your means.

If you are feeling the urge to spend on frivolous things ask yourself this question. “Do I want or need this item?” Most of the time the answer will come back that you want the item, not need it.

5. Start your retirement fund now!

In the first couple of years outside of college, I was the victim of the immature thinking, “I’m young! Retirement is so far out! I do not need to save for that yet!”

Please do not be that person! Start saving now if you have not already!

Fidelity says that by the time you turn 30 you should have saved up what half of your annual salary is (Investopedia). So if you are making $50,000 a year, you should have $25,000 saved up for retirement.

My wife and I did get back on track once we moved to Colorado when I got my first ‘big boy’ job and my wife got her teaching position.

Image Credit: http://time.com/money/4258451/retirement-savings-survey/

6. Start paying off those student loans

I put off paying my student loans as long as I could. Almost 10 years later I still have that original debt plus interest. How silly was that? I keep seeing friends on Facebook posting about how they just paid off the last bit of their student loans. Boy, do I envy them.

Get those student loans paid off as soon as possible to free up all of that interest money you are sinking into them. That interest money you save could go towards your retirement, your financial freedom.

7. Build up that credit score

Now, this is an area that I excelled at. I was able to start building up credit back in college with student loans as well as an emergency credit card. Then when my wife and I moved out to Colorado, I was able to continue to build on top of this foundation. Over the last 12 years since starting my credit building I have only missed a handful of payments and now carry no credit card debt or car debt. All of this has led me to have an exceptional score!

There are some people who argue that a credit score is pointless if you shoot to be debt free. This is a statement I can agree with if you either plan to never own a home or you have enough cash to buy a home outright. For most of us though, our credit score will be very important for us to buy that home.

Image Credit: https://www.creditsesame.com/blog/credit/credit-score-range-for-experian-transunion-equifax/

8. Keep learning everyday

You should never stop trying to learn about personal finance. There is always something new to learn. This is why you should try to read a couple books each year about personal finance or just finance in general.

Either way, life is boring when you are not learning new things every day. Might as well make those new things something that will get you to financial freedom sooner.

Don’t like to read? I hate it as well!

Want to know my secret? I bought myself an Amazon Kindle. I read every night now because of that bad boy. You can even connect it with your local library (if they provide the service) to check out free ebooks.

Time to Make Your Personal Finance Moves!

All of my friends call me the old man, mainly because I am the oldest of us all. Well, it is your turn to learn from this old man and the financial mistakes he has made.

If you feel like you are making any of these mistakes, like I did, it is time for you to make a change with your personal finances. Do not waste away the time like I did as you will not get that time back. Time will just keep moving forward, leaving you behind.

If you are looking to earn some extra money and need some ideas on how to do that, then check out our Ways to Make Money page. Here Andrew and I provide 70, yes 70, ways you can make money outside of your 9 to 5 job. We even test these out for you so you can easily figure out what side hustle is best for you.

The PBJ Theory, Please Quit Complaining About Food Budgets

Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

I’m about to save you thousands of dollars.

All the money you spend in your life, or even an average month. Chances are one of your largest expenses is food. It happens, literally to everyone.

Eating Out Is The Worst For Your Wallet

So when people start to track their budgets, they always come to the same conclusion. “I need to quit eating out more”. Get this, the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average according to a 2016 survey conducted by Zagat.

“the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average”

That means the average person spends $54.63 eating out a week or $218.52 a month on just eating out. Unless you earn lots of money, is the obvious answer to eat in?

What About Eating In?

Most people think they can quit going out to start having nice and relaxing meals in. Here’s the thing with eating in, the movies get it wrong.

It’s not always a romantic and soothing experience.

Often times it’s a “Crap, I need to eat. What should I cook?” experience that you pray to the food gods you have the right ingredients in your fridge and dishes are clean.

Let’s face it, we are busy in our lives and don’t have the time to visit the store every day buying new ingredients for a new recipe we found on the internet.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, researcher Eddie Yoon over two decades collected data as consultants for consumer packaged goods companies. He found that:

  • 15% of people say they LOVE to cook
  • 50% of people say they HATE to cook
  • 35% of people say they are ambivalent about cooking (mixed feelings)

If you’re one of the people that hate cooking, you should create a meal plan to make it as easy as possible. Plan a week in advance what you’re going to eat for each meal and know how to cook it. This way you’ll have the ingredients and can plan accordingly for time.

However, not all plans work out.

Introduce The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

When meal plans fail, let me introduce Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, otherwise known as a PBJ.

Let me first admit that I have an addiction to commenting on Finance forums, Facebook Groups, and Blogs. The mechanics of building wealth are simple and I’m always happy to remind people that things are often more simple than they appear. Like how I responded this comment and created “The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory”.

I get it, you want to start saving money on food and you’re looking for suggestions from the personal finance community to help.

Answers ranged from getting a crockpot to make meals simple, cooking large meals on Sunday and eating leftovers throughout the week, to buying frozen meals that may not be great for you, but easy to prepare.

All of the responses skirted around the idea that a solid weekly meal plan is the best option to help you save money on food. However, sometimes these meals don’t work out for a number of reasons and one fall off the wagon can end up at the local McDonalds.

So I introduced the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory. The cost-effective, quickest meal ever to keep your budget on track.

This is easily the most actionable thing you can do to start immediately saving on your food budget. In many cases when people eat out, it’s due to convenience because they don’t have anything at home that sounds appealing. That’s when the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory comes in handy.

Stash emergency PB&J supplies in your kitchen. When hungry but have nothing else, eat a PB&J. If you’re not hungry for a PB&J, wait 2 hours until you’re hungry enough to eat a PB&J.

Sometimes a PBJ isn’t exactly what you’re craving and your favorite restaurant sounds better, or your “husband would not be happy about that” (see comment). Well suck it up, you’ll soon be out of debt and you can buy your husband a jet ski. Everyone loves a jet ski.

Try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

If you want to save THOUSANDS on food budgets, you should try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory! Meals cost less than $1 to make, you’ll save time and money. Most importantly, you’ll have a secret stash of PBJs to make when you get those cravings to go out and spend money.

You’re welcome.

Disclaimer: Wallet Squirrel did not invent the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, just an advocate of saving money. Wallet Squirrel was not sponsored by big PBJ corporations to promote their superior and delicious product.

Unroll Me Review

Unroll.Me Review – The Best 5 Minutes for Your Email’s Inbox

Unroll Me Review

Unroll.Me Review – The Best 5 Minutes for Your Email’s Inbox

This Unroll.Me Review is going to show you why you should spend 5 minutes every month using this tool to clean up your email’s inbox. At the end of each month, your inbox will be writing you a thank you letter.

I wonder if it will send the thank you via email or snail mail?

In last weeks post, How to Pay Off Your Car Loan Faster – How I paid off $7K in 3 Months, I mentioned that I used Unroll.Me to remove advertisement distractions from my email.

Well, today we will talk about Unroll.Me and really just how easy it is to use!

What is Unroll.Me

To start off this Unroll.Me review, let’s answer a couple questions as to what the tool does and who the company behind the tool is.

Unroll.Me is a free service that allows you to easily (an understatement) unsubscribe from all of those pesky email subscriptions.

After signing in, the algorithm scans throughout your inbox looking for e-commerce emails. Once found, the application lists them out allowing you to decide what to do with the subscription.

Who Is Unroll.Me

Slice Technologies is the parent company that owns Unroll.Me. They are able to make Unroll.Me a free service because they collect data on the e-commerce emails you get. They use this data to, “build an anonymized market research products that analyze and track consumer trends.”

Slice says they strip all of the personal information (name, email, address, or anything else that could identify you) from the data collected. The technology behind Unroll.Me is designed to determine if the email is personal or e-commerce. The algorithm completely ignores the personal emails as it searches your inbox.

You can read their blog for more information to see what the data is used for. Some of the research they post is actually pretty fascinating but I am a nerd when it comes to data.

How to Use Unroll.Me

It literally took me five steps and less than five minutes of my life to unsubscribe from 74 subscriptions. I really could not believe that I was done already!

I will walk you through the steps…

  1. Go to Unroll.Me and click on ‘Get started now’.
  2. Choose your email provider and click through the prompts.
  3. The algorithm will run. It searches through your inbox for subscriptions then spits out a list of them.
  4. Click either ‘Keep in Inbox’, ‘Unsubscribe’, or ‘Add to Rollup’ (I’ll explain that later) for each subscription on the list.
  5. Success!

Was that not super easy? I know! Right?!?!

Oh! I mentioned I would talk about what  ‘Add to Rollup’ is. The Rollup is a single email that Unroll.Me will send to you at the end of the day. This email will consist all the content from every email that is apart of the Rollup from that day. I have not personally tried this yet but they say the Rollup email is very digestible and easy to read.

One final tip. You can have Unroll.Me notify you on a particular schedule to check for more subscriptions that were not in your inbox at the time. I decided to do the monthly reminder.

Why Unsubscribe?

We now live in a world where we are completely submerged by advertisements. The design of these advertisements is to tempt us to spend our hard earned money on materialistic items.

These ads do not stop with commercials, billboards, or temporarily tattooed to the back of that guy’s head on the bus. Subscription emails also drown us every day with more temptation.

Using the ease of Unroll.Me to unsubscribe from these emails trying derail us from our financial goals allows us to stay focused. This is why you should unsubscribe to these emails.

Also, they are just annoying. Unsubscribing will also help keep your blood pressure down.

Final Take

To wrap up this Unroll.Me review I must say that I really enjoyed my experience with this tool to free me from those spammy email subscriptions.

Look, I understand if you are skeptical because of the data collection. You are entitled to have those feelings! Especially after the latest Equifax data breach.

The algorithm design to strip out my personal information is what sold me to try out Unroll.Me. I understand if you are still skeptical after hearing that. But hey! As a data guy myself, I do know this technology exists and it is pretty amazing.

Overall, this is a great free service. If you can get over the data collection thing, then I think you will enjoy it just like I did.

Top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has a net worth of over $78.2 billion and is known as one of the greatest investors of all time. So when he speaks, people take notes. Here are some of the top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the internet can’t get enough of.

Warren Buffett Quotes Infographic

Top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of

Here are some of the top Warren Buffet quotes found on every list of Warren Buffet quotes around the internet. These quotes range in wisdom on investing to regular life. I try to live by these quotes on my own investment portfolio.

Warren Buffett Quotes

1. Rule #1: Never lose money. Rule #2: Never forget rule #1

One of my favorite Warren Buffet Quotes. The fastest way to grow your money is to never lose it in the first place. This applies from saving on your groceries to focusing on less risky stocks of well established companies.

2. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently

Think about the Wells Fargo or Equifax scandals. It takes years to build enough trust for someone to have brand loyalty. Warren Buffet quotes it takes 20 years, but it takes 5 minutes or less to destroy all that goodwill you’ve built. People are quick to revolt if you’ve done anything to betray their trust.

It is infinitely harder to build trust than destroy it.

3. Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.

Multiple studies show that diversification in the stock market will help protect you against market falls. Or it could be summarized in the old proverb “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Unless you have insider information that a stock is going do really well, maintain a diversified portfolio to protect you. No one knows what they’re doing all the time.

4. If you aren’t willing to own a stock for ten years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes. Put together a portfolio of companies whose aggregate earnings march upward over the years, and so also will the portfolio’s market value.

Unless you’re a day trader (I will never be), you should only be investing in the stock market with the intention to hold those stocks for a long time. You can do really well as a beginner if you’re buying stocks and not planning on selling till you retire. Those are where you get the best returns. Warren Buffett is infamously known for rarely selling stocks.

5. It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

When you buy a stock, you should think of it as owning a piece of that company. You should be looking at wonderful companies that have a competitive advantage in the industry. Those are the companies that will do well over the long run. You may find a wonderful price on a mediocre company, but really what are you getting? A mediocre company that will likely be edged out of the market by a better company.

Many of the famous Warren Buffett quotes are about investing in strong companies with a competitive advantage and strong brand loyalty rather than cheap companies where you think you can make a quick buck. Warren Buffett is never into buying a company for a quick buck.

6. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.

During the 2008 financial crisis when investors were all exiting the market, Warren Buffett invested in a few large companies even though their stock prices were falling. Those deals made Warren Buffett over $10 billion dollars when the market stabilized and it’s continuing to show dividends. When the market goes upside down during world events, politics, market forecasts, those are the times when everyone else is fearful, that Warren Buffet sees an advantage when the markets crash.

Think about it this way, the New York Stock Exchange has been around since 1817, it has always recovered. Chances are, minus a world apocalypse, that the market will always bounce back. Those who capitalize on those downturns are usually rewarded.

7. The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

One of my favorite Warren Buffett quotes because it has so many applications. You will see many opportunities in your life and you may want to jump on everyone, but it’s ok to be selective and say no. You’ll burn yourself out if you say “yes” to everything. This also applies to going out on a Saturday night with friends drinking. It’s ok to say “no” to save a few dollars or have a night to yourself to finish your article on Warren Buffett quotes. =)

This also applies to going out on a Saturday night with friends drinking. It’s ok to say “no” to save a few dollars or have a night to yourself to finish your article on Warren Buffett quotes. =)

8. Develop and build the habits you admire in others.

Remember all those times that your parents wanted you to hang out with those “good kids”. The habits of the people you surround yourself with rub off you on, consciously or unconsciously. When you find people like Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who is one of the greatest investors of all time. You should find out what makes him so successful and learn those traits to improve yourself.

9. Passive investing will make you more money than active trading

Oh my goodness, fees are the WORST! Active trading requires more work and more fees, so more of your money will be paid to your broker. Yet studies have shown over and over that passive investing where you set your money and forget it are far more successful for growing wealth. I don’t plan to ever touch my stocks currently making dividends.

10. There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.

Great quote, people always imagine things are more difficult than they really are. When I first considered starting investing, I thought there were so many hurdles and financial experts I would have to pay. Yet, when I finally decided I wanted to start investing in the stock market, I just downloaded the Robinhood App and started investing. It took 10 minutes to sign up and buy my first stock when I worried about investing in the stock market for over 5 years. Things are often more simple than you think they are.

11. Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you who you’ll turn out to be.

This is similar to the Warren Buffett quote “Develop and build the habits you admire in others”. If you want to be an entrepreneur, start joining local meetups of entrepreneurs. You learn SO MUCH MORE when you surround yourself with the people you want to be like. You can learn A LOT in a book, but you’ll learn even more by surrounding yourself with people you admire.

12. We have long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune-tellers look good.

No one can predict the stock market, no one. Not even Warren Buffett. Anyone who says they know exactly how the market works is trying to sell you something. You can lump stock forecasters being as accurate as the carnival fortune-tellers. You know the ones with 3 teeth, crystal ball and you’re going to die in 2083.

13. When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.

If you invest in an outstanding company, even if the stock price goes up, why would you ever sell it? No matter when you sell it, outstanding companies will continually do better and better. Don’t sell until you absolutely have to, otherwise, you’ll just be losing money in the long run. Many of Warren Buffett Quotes are like this, they are all very Anti-Day Trader.

14. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ.

If you follow the basic principals of Warren Buffett and buy outstanding companies with strong competitive advantages like Apple (AAPL). You don’t have to be a genius. Just buy and hold forever, you literally don’t have to do anything until you sell.

Many Warren Buffett quotes are similar to this because he stresses that anyone can invest in the stock market. The simplest way is just to invest in index funds that follow the market. Set it and forget it. The market sees an average increase of 7% per year and that’s WAY better than a savings account.

15. I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because sooner or later, one will.

Look for companies to invest in that are so strong that they can weather any storm because soon enough they will have to. Think about Apple (AAPL), as long as they keep pushing out iPhones it doesn’t matter who runs the company, they’ll continue to do well. People were worried when Steve Jobs passed because they didn’t know the future of the company, but Tim Cook stepped in and maintained the same Apple legacy. As long as Tim Cook sticks to the secret Apple recipe, they’ll be in good shape.

16. Buy into a company because you want to own it, not because you want the stock to go up.

If you see a company that you think is going to do well or heard will do well, don’t buy it unless you’re willing to hold it for awhile. If something goes wrong and the stock dives, you’re stuck with a company you don’t believe in and will likely sell at a lower price to get rid of it, ruining the reason you bought it in the first place.

17. Wall Street is the only place that people ride to work in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.

This is just a funny Warren Buffet quote.

18. Charlie and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them.

I’m sure Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have learned how to solve difficult business problems, but the best way to navigate murky waters is to avoid them all together. The more problems your business can avoid, the better shape you’ll be. You can avoid a lot of problems from being proactive instead of reactive.

19. Long ago, Ben Graham taught me that “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

Ben Graham, Warren Buffett’s mentor had this popular quote. I always think about it simply. Price is what you buy a stock for and Value is what you sell that same stock for.

20. It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.

If you can’t tell, Warren Buffett believes in surrounding yourself with the right people. He credits much of his success from surrounding himself with smart, good people.

21. If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.

When you analyze a stock based on its historical performance, it’s called technical analysis. Yet past performance does not necessarily mean future performance. Just because you know what the stock has done in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to follow that same trend.

22. You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.

It’s ok to mess up, focus on learning from those mistakes for the next time. It just sounds cooler when Warren Buffett quotes it. Or you can take this as no matter how many mistakes you’ve made in the past, you always have a chance to do more good. It’s one of those life quotes that can go many ways.

Getting Rid of Distractions for Self Improvement Part 2/4 – Failure is Okay.

So I am a couple weeks behind on this post. It is all with good reason though. Firstly, I wanted to start our new series that fit better into our blogging schedule earlier in the month. The new series highlights other financial bloggers and their income reports, Income Report Roundup (new title is in the works). This is a great opportunity for you and I to see what others are doing to accomplish financial freedom.

Secondly, I failed pretty hard with a lot of my goals in this first month. So I needed to take a step back, be honest with myself, and reset. We will go over more about this next. Since resetting two weeks ago, I have been able to accomplish every goal in the shorter time frame. Pretty awesome!

There is Nothing Wrong With Failure

Failure is not what I am scared of. There is nothing wrong with not figuring something out the first time around, or the second, or the third, or…well you get the picture. What I am really scared of is not learning anything from those failures, getting stuck in a loop trying the same thing over and over.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   – Thomas Edison

See we can read every self improvement article on the internet but never know what really works for us as individuals. Those articles, like this one give, can give us a starting point. From there it is how we handle the failure because there likely will be. Either we can get frustrated, giving up on the first try saying, “Working out to get healthy just is not for me.” Or we can keep pushing, analyze what went wrong, and make adjustments for the next time around.

For me, there have been many things in my life I have kept trying to fit into my life as a habit. This includes working out. I have tried everything in the book but nothing ever stuck. Over the years I have tried different routines, exercises, times of day, and so on to keep that motivation going. Finally, I have found the routine and motivation to get up every morning (continue reading for the answer).

What habit have you been trying to make stick? Have you found the solution or are you still searching for what works for you?

Last Month’s Goals

So let’s go over the goals I had for last month. These goals were meant to help me get rid of materialistic distractions, technological distractions such as Facebook, and getting in better habits such as working out in the morning. I am not going to explain each goal in detail again. If you are curious about the details of every goal you can read about them in Part One of this series.

Sell extra items that can be a distractions – This one is going A LOT slower than I thought it would go. I have put everything on the market but I have only sold one item. I will continue to post these items, probably cutting the prices a bit to make the items more enticing.

Finish our backyard renovation – Major Success! By the middle of May we had the backyard completed. For more details check out my article about How to Save Big Money on a Home Remodel. I wouldn’t have been able to complete this task without friends and family. Especially my wife who watched our little one every night so I could work on the yard.

Start waking up earlier, 5:00 AM, to work out – This was a major fail in the first four weeks. I partially blame it on how intense the backyard project was. With how much material I had to move around, remove, and move in I was just wiped for the day. But excuses are excuses. I still did not work out for two weeks after that until I did my reset a couple weeks ago. So what changed? Well…

As mentioned already, in the last two weeks, I have woke up every morning at 4:45 AM to work out for 30 to 45 minutes. What really worked for me to wake up so early was prepping everything I need in the morning, the night before. This was the last goal of mine for this month. Turns out it had a cascading affect on other goals.

Stay focused on achieving my goals one percent at a time – I am not sure if I know how to quantify this one but I believe this was a success. I was able to work on Wallet Squirrel and other goals for at least an hour every day after my little one went to sleep for the night.

Set up my next day the day before. Each night before bed – Pass! I spend about 15 to 20 min a night getting ready for the next day. This really sets me up nicely for getting up at 4:45 in the morning to workout. I found a time during the evening that is consistent for me to get everything ready. The trick is remembering to stick with this which enforces the habit. To help you remember, set an alarm or a reminder on your to-do list.

Next Month’s Goals

This coming month I want to continue to build on top of what I started. This makes for an easy first goal…

Continue to build on with what I started last month – Though most of what I set out to accomplish last month was a success, they are still new habits that can be lost very easily. These first month’s goals were supposed to be a foundation for the next goals. To lose them might make it harder to continue in the coming months.

Improve the marketing for Wallet Squirrel – Now that I have completed my initial goals for Wallet Squirrel (SEO, web performance, and content) it is time to reach a wider audience. Even though we have tripled our views in the last three months we still need to increase our viewership. Andrew and I met this past weekend, dividing out our tasks so I know what needs to be done.

Less social media – I talked about this a lot in the first article but I really did not do anything about. This month, I want to get rid of all distracting social media that is not beneficial for my goals. This means that the only reason I should be on Facebook, Twitter, and so on should be to promote Wallet Squirrel. Other than that, who cares.

Close lose ends – There are a couple of tasks that I need to wrap up. They are 95% done but there is only one more item to cross off before the overall task is at 100% complete. One example of an almost complete task is with our web performance. We have done everything to boost it even including the move to Bluehost.  The last piece of the puzzle will be to setup a new caching plugin. Should be an easy one, hopefully.

Review

Remember, failure is okay, as long as you learn from that failure. Do not let that failure get you down and quit. Use it to prop yourself up to get back at it with a new strategy.

Like last month. I challenge you make your own goals for this upcoming month. Let’s check in next month at the third week of July to see how we all did.

If you are looking for ideas on what you could do, check out our Ways to Earn More Money page. Here you might find something that catches your eye.

Are You Considering an MBA? Answer these 2 Questions First!

At the end of last year, I was in a career funk. So I considered going back to school to get my Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). With an MBA, you can advance in your current field or make a switch to a new field, everyone values an MBA.

I was stoked! I considered the possibility of getting an MBA in the past and it was a great time in my life to do night classes. So I began picturing myself adding the letters “MBA” behind my name on business cards and looking up schools.

However, I quickly hit the brakes!

Ask These 2 Questions before You pursue an MBA

Many of my friends are going back to school or currently in school, and I ALWAYS ask them these 2 simple questions that BLOW THEIR MIND. So I decided to test myself to see if I passed my own “Should You Get An MBA” test.

1. What is the EXACT dream Company and Job Title you want after graduation?

You should know this. Most people will get an MBA because they want to do something in business. They think they need MBA to for future promotions and career growth.

However, you should FIRST figure out what your dream job is. You can’t just say “something in business”. If you are going to spend $80,000+ on an MBA and years of your life. You should identify the exact company and job title you want before you even start school. Come on, it’s your DREAM job.

This is a role you will potentially be doing for the rest of your life. You should have a clear idea of what it should be. This will guide every future decision you make while in your MBA program, affect the electives you take and the networking events you attend.

What’s the point of getting an MBA if you don’t know what you’ll do with it? Seriously? So write down your dream job title and company.

2. Have you reached out to your dream company yet?

Once you can identify the exact company and job title you want, you should reach out to that company and ask what they look for. This should be less intimidating than looking at a future $80,000+ student debt bill.

Usually a company’s Human Resources department would be willing to meet with you if you share with them that you’re considering going back to school to gain the skills necessary to work at their company.

When you meet with your dream company’s Human Resources Department, you should ask them some of these questions.

My dream job at your company is a Marketing Manager (or whatever it is), what is the salary range they get paid?

You should ABSOLUTELY know how much your future job pays because that’ll tell you how long it’ll take you to pay off your newly acquired student debt. Plus it’ll give you an idea of what lifestyle you can expect once you graduate with an MBA.

It’s not all about money, but you should be aware if all your hard work in school will result in nightly ramen noodles once you graduate. Are you OK with that?

What degrees or education do your current Marketing Managers have? (or whatever your dream job is)

This will give you an idea of the education level of their current employees. Some of their employees may have MBAs and some may not. You should probe deeper to what the HR team looks for in your dream position. Perhaps you don’t need an MBA and you have the necessary experience to apply today.

If you need to get an MBA for that position, ask if they have a preferred school or partner with any specific schools. If your dream job regularly partners with a local university and hires pretty exclusively from there, that university may need to be on your radar for potential schools.

Does your dream company offer internships?

Yes, you’re getting an MBA but knowing if your dream company has an internship program is huge. Many companies will hire interns who are working towards their degree and help them grow into the position. There is no reason to wait till after you get your MBA to apply to your dream company. You should use every opportunity you can to start making connections.

What does career growth look like at that company?

If your dream job is to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), they won’t just hire you out of school. What entry level roles will you need to start off with and how does one become a CEO? How did the current CEO get his role and what did they do before that? Some jobs aren’t attainable right out of school, even with an MBA. You need to understand what your career path would look like moving up to your dream position. You should understand what this looks like.

When I considered an MBA, I failed this checklist

Last year when I considered getting my MBA, I went full-throttle and visited 3 different universities. I dropped in classes and met with professors. I received all the brochures, met with all their “advisors” and compared costs ($39,000 – $80,000). I did soft applications and confirmed I would be accepted to each of them. So I was freaking close to full out applying.

I knew I wanted do something in finance because I LOVED writing about finance. So I figured I’d get an MBA with a focus in finance (hence why I write for Wallet Squirrel). This is how most people start the MBA journey. They love the idea of a degree, get an education THEN figure out where they want to work.

I did that when I choose my college degree. I went into Landscape Architecture without actually knowing if it was my dream job. I just thought it would be fun to draw and select plants. I didn’t learn till after internships and after graduation that they spend most of their time looking at a computer, drawing parking lots. UGH, so NEVER again.

So I asked myself these two questions and I failed.

There were some finance positions like Financial Planner, Mutual Fund Manager, Financial Analyst that sounded interesting but I wasn’t drawn to them with such vigor that I could stomach another $80,000 in student loan debt.

One position DID sound fun, but they earned even less than I was making now. So I had to ask myself if I would be willing to gain more debt for lower paying, nicer job? I didn’t like it that much.

Do the Math on your Future Tuition

According to Investatopia, the average MBA program costs $140,000, with higher ranking school costing more. They’re factoring in tuition, living arrangements, books (use ebates to save) and peripheral expenditures. That’s more than the evening only MBA programs I was looking at.

Now factor that $140,000 student debt at 6.8% interest which is the average Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan according to Federal Student Aid. Having that kind of student loan debt is similar to buying a house.

However the common response to seeing these numbers is that you’ll be paid more after your MBA. That is likely true. The average salary of MBA graduates in a full-time program was $126,919. This was taken from US News when they interviewed companies mainly on the east/west coasts which usually provide a higher salary than the Mountain States and Midwest.

Conclusion

Most people like me had to make an insane decision in High school to pick a college major before entering college. So at the same time I was focused on rehearsing for the school musical and wondering if the homecoming queen, Val liked me (she didn’t). I had to choose a degree that would affect the rest of my life. I was not ready.

Going back to school for your MBA doesn’t have to be like that. There isn’t any timetable, no matter what the college recruiters tell you about the deadline for an upcoming semester. You have all the time in the world to choose if an MBA is right for you.

So if you’re considering going back to school for an MBA to improve your future, you should have an idea of what your future will look like by identifying your dream job at your dream company. This is your opportunity to do WHATEVER you want in the world, have a plan that extends after graduation.

Self Improvement – Get Rid of Your Distractions Right Now – Part 1/4

Self Improvement – Get Rid of Your Distractions Right Now – Part 1/4

I am going to try something new for a self improvement article that has not been done here on Wallet Squirrel yet. Starting this week I am going to do a little mini series about getting rid of distractions within my own personal life. This series will go for the next 3 months with an article being released at the beginning of each month. It will be during the same week when Andrew releases one of his awesome income reports.

This will not be one of your typical self improvement articles where I list off a bunch of things for you to try. No, this is a list of items for me to go out to personally experience it for you! Over the years I have been reading article over article about self improvement, and do not get me wrong, there are some good tips out there. The issue is most of the writers have never tried these “self improvement” tips themselves so how do we know if they work?

Getting rid of distractions is key to self improvement. Without those distractions you can work on what you truly love.

Getting rid of distractions is key to self improvement. Without those distractions you can work on what you truly love.

One of my favorite writers about self improvement is Z from Zero to Skill. He often writes about his own personal experiences on becoming a better and more productive person. One article I loved was his Ultimate Guide For Waking Up Early. He walks through what helps him and what did not work out to help him get up in the morning after years of trial and error.

This personal touch is what I want to bring to this mini-series. My goal is to give you several ideas throughout the series on decluttering your life to for self improvement and increase your productivity.

The Beginning – Part 1 of 4

Today we will talk about the foundation as to why and what I plan on doing over the next three months. Today we will talk why we should all get rid of distractions in our lives. Then I will lay out some goals that I want to accomplish. Then I will set out for a month using several techniques I have researched about over the years. Part 2 of the mini-series will talk more about those techniques and what did or did not work out.

Let us begin!

Why Getting Rid of Distractions is Beneficial to Self Improvement?

Just this past weekend my pastor at church talked about work during his sermon. One thing he mentioned really resonated with me. He talked about what if everyone would cut back on all extra clutter in life (ie. Playing on the Xbox, watching Netflix, looking at Facebook, etc)? Then he asked, what if everyone took that time/energy and put it into their passions instead? Think about how much more productive and successful those individuals would be.

Now this is not the first time I have heard these questions about people spending more energy on their passion rather than only being consumers of unhealthy distractions. Sadly, I cannot remember those other examples but this is my most recent encounter with the thought.

The Fear

The thought of removing all of this extra clutter in my life seems really scary at first. I think, “What if a better video game such as COD: WWII comes out?” Or, “What if I miss some big important message or video of a cat saving a dog’s life on my Facebook feed?” This fear is FOMO, the fear of missing out. Just recently, I have only begun to understand that this stuff does not really matter in life. What I should be worrying about is my family, my friends, hiking in the Colorado mountains, along with other passions such as working on websites.

After coming to this realization I was able to clearly see that there are so many materialistic items in my house that I really did not use anymore. The only reason I am holding on to them is because of that “What if” moment. For the first time, I was free to let go of those items.

Question: Go ahead, take a look around your house. Do you have any of these items in your house? What is your goal by getting rid of distractions for self improvement?

For me, it is all about getting rid or minimizing these distractions so I can become more financially free from debt. This will be accomplished by replacing Facebook, the Xbox, as well as reducing Netflix to spend more time on Wallet Squirrel, Adam Olson Photography, and other side hustles. This will all lend me to enjoy my family and friends more.

Ugh! Facebook…..

My Story

Getting distracted is very easy for me. Especially when I have something in front of me such as an Xbox, Netflix, or Facebook to distract me.

There is something that Marc from Surviving Prepper said that really caught my attention.

“If you eliminate items in your life that are not needed, you have room for items that are needed”

For me, I see this as I need to remove the distractions in my life so I can really focus on what is important to me (God, family, friends, fitness, and yes…Wallet Squirrel).

I tend to be a very materialistic person. These fun but worthless items keep me distracted on what really matters, my family, life goals, health, and so on. It is time to make the sacrifice by selling a bunch of items in our house that seem to add more value to my life but really do not. Some of these items include an extra 42 inch TV, an Xbox, a couple old laptops, an old camera, and whatever else I find.

I also like to watch a lot of Netflix on my own while working on tasks. It really slows down my productivity. Netflix will not get canceled because I also enjoy sitting down with my wife to watch a show or movie. Instead, I will set a rule that Netflix watching is only when I am with her.

Social media and Netflix are major distractions for me.

Social media and Netflix are major distractions for me.

The biggest step self improvement will be dropping social media sites such as Facebook. I have tried many ways to avoid this evil distraction but I cannot get away from it. Because I use Facebook messenger to communicate with my best friends and some are too stubborn to switch services **Cough**Cough** Andrew **Cough**Cough** I cannot get rid of Facebook altogether. So I will use Cold Turkey to block the site on my personal and Home computers as well as my phone.

Side Note: If you do not know what Cold Turkey is, I highly recommend you check it out. It allows you to block any distracting website on your computer or application on your phone. You can set up custom schedules to when and when you cannot access these websites or applications. It is really helpful!

Self Improvement Goals in the Next Four Weeks

I have a lot to accomplish in the next four weeks till the June follow up article comes out. Below is a set of goals I plan on accomplishing before the next follow up.

  1. Sell extra items that can be a distraction. I will sell the items just like Andrew did in his article How to Sell Something on Craigslist and Make Money. This extra money will go towards paying off our car loan quicker.
  2. Finish our backyard renovation. This project has been a HUGE distraction the past couple of weeks. We completely tore up the backyard and are starting all over with a blank slate. In a future article, I will write about this experience and save over $4,000 in costs! Stay tuned!
  3. Start waking up earlier, 5:00 AM, to work out. Using Z’s method, mentioned above, I will try to wake up earlier to work out on a consistent basis. It is well known that people who work out in the morning tend to be more productive during the day. My wants are there but the will is not so this is going to be a challenge.
  4. Stay focused on achieving my goals one percent at a time. There is nothing wrong with having big goals but trying to accomplish them all in one big chunk is setting yourself for failure. Instead, it is better to divide those large goals into smaller goals and accomplish those. I will focus on to only complete smaller tasks each day that get me one percent closer to completing my overall goals.
  5. Set up my next day the day before. Each night before bed I want to layout my plan of attack for the next day. This will not require much time, maybe 10 to 15 min. Here I will plan out the smaller tasks that I want to conquer.

 

Wakey! Wakey! Time for eggs and bakey!

What to Expect in the Follow Up

I will go over if I accomplish these goals or not and the techniques/tips used for each goal. There will be a detailed review of what I did to accomplish each one and what you can do for yourself. If I fail, I will go over what did not work and adjustments to be made.

Stay tuned for the remainder of this raw adventure giving yourself real life tips and tricks to getting rid of distractions for self improvement.

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What Happens to Debt When You Die?

Three weeks ago, over a cold glass of some Colorado craft beer. A buddy asked me “What happens to debt when you die”. Now this wasn’t a morbid question, I’ve simply just become the personal finance guy in my little group of friends, and he wanted to know what happens. Awkwardly though, my response was, I have no freaking idea. You’ll be dead, why do care?

However, this nagged at me and I’ve spent the last three weeks researching and creating a sick infographic to help him out. Reviewing articles by Nerd Wallet, US News Money and many more. I have a pretty good idea how this process of distributing wealth and collecting debt works, called “Probate”.

what-happens-to-debt-when-you-die-infographic

What’s in my Estate?

Your estate is essentially your net worth. This is made up of your home value, bank accounts, car, boat, RV and all your smaller assets as well such as paintings, flat screen tvs, etc. Essentially everything you have to your name, including your name. (source)

Your estate is everything you have, to pay off your debts first then distribute to your heirs as dictated in your Will. However some people don’t have enough money to pay off all their debt first, so I’m going to focus on what happens to your debt when you die that you can’t pay off.

Credit Card Debt – What If I Can’t Pay This When I Die?

Millions of Americans have credit card debt, so I was curious about this first. If you’re the only name on the card, the debt stops with you. So if you don’t have enough assets (money) to pay off your credit card debt. Then the Credit Card company simply has to take the loss and move on and your heirs aren’t responsible for paying it off. (source)

They can though, go after a “co-signer” on your credit card. So always be careful of co-signing anything. However, if you’re just authorized to use the credit card, you’re not liable to pay off the debt because you’re not the actual owner of the credit card and don’t carry the financial liability.

Student Loan Debt – What If I Can’t Pay This When I Die?

If your estate can’t cover your student loan debt, then that’s where the buck stops. Unless you had a co-signer on the account, no one else including your heirs, are responsible for that debt.

It was interesting to hear though that according to Nerd Wallet, collection agencies may still legally contact your family members to “discuss” student loan debt, but they can’t mislead your heirs into thinking that they’re responsible for your student loan debt (source). Not sure why they would do this unless they were trying to guilt your poor grandma into paying off your student loans for moral reasons. Those bastards. Be sure to send them a letter asking them to stop and request a read receipt.

Car Loan Debt – What If I Can’t Pay This When I Die?

This was interesting. If your estate can’t pay off your car loan debt then they can repossess your car. This makes sense, it’s a tangible asset that can be taken back if not fully paid off. How I paid off my car.) However whoever inherits the vehicle can just continue making payments on their inherited Ford Fiesta and the bank is unlikely to take any action as long as they continue to receive money. Remember it’s all just business. (source)

Home Loan Debt – What If I Can’t Pay This When I Die?

This is really the least of my concerns since I rent a studio loft downtown, but for some friends who recently bought a house, let’s chat. Due to the 1982 federal law, the surviving spouse may continue to make payments to the mortgage without having an issue (source). They can simply continue to make payments similar to how the recently deceased did or sell and keep the difference in monetary value.

Things get a little murky with mortgages with a “home equity line of credit”. These are usually paid off during the probate process but may involve selling the house if your assets don’t cover the debt. If you’re worried about this, I highly recommend you consult a local attorney.

Is anything safe from debt collectors?

In my research, I’ve found a few things that appear to be safe from debt collectors. These are IRAs, 401(k)s, brokerage accounts, life insurance and pension plans that don’t go to probate, so they won’t be considered a part of your estate to pay off debt collectors. So your heirs may be left with something. (source)

Sometimes people get life insurance to help their loved ones (often co-signers) with the debt they leave behind. Since life insurance is exempt from some estates, it can be used by your heirs and loved ones with the burden of any debt you accumulated together.

Conclusion

In short, your debt belongs only to you, it is not passed on to your family when you pass. (source). As long as you didn’t have any co-signers for your Student Loans/Credit Card Loans and your estate can’t pay them, those debts die with you. Home Loans and Car Loans are tangible assets that can be taken back if not paid off or have someone take over the payments in order to keep them.

If this research taught me anything, it’s to be very aware of what I co-sign. Debt dies with the deceased, unless there’s a co-signer.