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Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Fixing bad credit, building new credit, and how to be the tail that wags the dog

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Well, the floodgates are officially open.  Since I wrote the article on fixing your credit, if my email were normally a like sprinkle like a seattle afternoon, it has now reach Atlantic hurricane status.  It seems that a lot of people are struggling with bad credit from past bad decisions, bad luck, and bad ex’s.  Lets start with the great news; you are reading The Penny Saved so your decision making is obviously taking a turn for the better and soon your credit will be following right along.  The part about bad ex’s I can’t help you with, though I have some excellent whiskeys I can recommend.

So you fixed any mistakes on your credit score but now you need to deal with the mistakes that aren’t by credit bureaus or banks but rather by that good looking person in the mirror.  Here is our goal, you are going stop being slaves to credit, the tail on the dog getting whipped everywhere with no control.  Some people, such as David Ramsey espouse that you should snowball payments, pay off debt and cut up credit cards for the rest of eternity.  WRONG ANSWER.  You are going to be methodical.  You are going to fix the bad credit, build new great credit, you are going to become the tail that wags the credit dog.

What does this mean?  It means improving credit score, using it to your advantage and actually profiting off it.  Here are the steps to take;

Part One: Credit Damage Control

Do not hire a thief credit counselor
You do not need a credit counselor.  I am your credit counselor, this site is your credit counselor and you are your own credit counselor.  I promise you that free trifecta right there is better than any $100/hr pipsqueak you will find in the yellow pages (oooh here comes the hate mail from credit counselors).  If you see any credit counseling ads in my sidebar, don’t click them.  Or click them to satisfy your itchy finger, and then close them and come back.  I have had many different emails from people on the verge of hiring a credit counselor.  Don’t, don’t don’t.

Get everything current and pay off liens/judgments/collections
This is sort of the self explanatory step but you cannot start to rebuild until you have taken care of the worst of the worst.  I had several people ask about waiting and letting things get written off and then fall off the credit report.  There are several problems with this.  The first is that just because a credit card company writes off your debt does not mean that is the end of the ordeal.  There is a lot of misinformation going around about this,  the main thing to remember is, that unless it is not possible that you will be able to make any progress at all on your debt, pay it off.  One thing to remember is that once you are this far in trouble, the debtors are expecting less and less that they are going to be able to recoup money.  Use that to your advantage, tell them that you plan to pay it off, and would like help reporting the positives to the credit bureaus or removing all reporting about the collections.  If it increases the odds they will be able to collect, they will be happy to oblige.  Use this as much to your advantage as possible and you will be able to avoid the “reset the clock” problem you may have heard about.  The best bet is to get things in writing, so just be careful when dealing with collections.

Part Two: Steady as she goes aka the repair

The Paydown
If you have credit cards with balances get them on auto-payment, pay as much as you can per month but keep in mind the important thing is that you need to make consistent payments on-time.  That’s the key, consistently paying, and improving your credit to debt ratio.

Keep all payments on time
This means everything, including mortgage, car payments, utilities, and of course revolving (aka credit) debt.

Redistribute debt load
I know this one sounds a bit weird but here is the skinny;

First off, make sure any creditors report your credit limits to bureaus. When no limit is reported, credit scoring software scores the account as though your current balance is “maxed out”. For example, if you know that you have a $10,000 limit on your credit card, make sure that the limit appears on the credit report. Otherwise, your score will be damaged as severely as if you were carrying a balance of the entire available credit. Credit scoring software likes to see you carry credit card balances as close to zero as possible. If it is difficult for you to pay down your balances, read the following guidelines to maximize your score as much as possible under the circumstances:

  1. There are different degrees that scoring software can impact your score when carrying credit card balances.
  2. Balances over 70% of your total credit limit on any card damages your score the most. The next level is 50% of your balance, then 30% of your balance.
  3. In order to maximize your score without having to pay down your balances, evenly distribute your credit card balances among all of your credit cards, rather than carry a large balance on one credit card. For example, if you are carrying a $9000 balance on a credit card with a $10000 limit, and you have two other credit cards with a $3000 and $5000 limit, transfer your balances so that you have a $1500 balance on the $3000 limit card, a $2500 balance on the $5000 limit card and a $5000 balance on the $10000 limit card. Evenly distributing your balances will maximize your score.

If you do not have a credit card, get one, charge something on it, and pay it off
If you have no cards at all, find a low balance card and get it. Having a card that is paid on time will help your credit in the long run.  No card means you are not building credit.

Part Three: Wag the dog aka make money

Use a cash back credit card
By getting a card that gives a good cash back, you can actually make money on regular spending.  The steps are
1) Pay with card
2) Pay card off immediately
3) Repeat
4) Receive cash back

Use a points card
The usage is the same as above, however sometimes you can get better return when you use a points card.  The trick is get one that gives you extra points on things that you actually want and use.  An example would be the frontier visa if you fly frontier often (as I do).

Set up auto-pay
You get all the rewards without having to do anything at all after initial setup.  Pretty awesome!
1) Find a card that will let you use it to automatically pay bills.  American express is one such example.
2) Setup auto-pay for all of your bills
3) Setup your bank account to auto-pay that one credit card
Plus you get to save on ATM fees, Stamps, Letters etc.

Interest Free Loans
This is where we get even trickier.  If you have a credit card with a billing cycle that ends the first of each month, your payment may not be due until the fifteenth. Finance charges (interest) are typically assessed only on the previous balance on your card, meaning that if you pay it off in full each month, you pay no interest. This means that all the charges you make between August 1st and September 15th are interest-free, which is like getting a 0% loan from your bank.  Even banks pay interest on overnight loans from the Federal Reserve (albeit not much right now), so you’re really getting a great deal.

Protection from Theft
As anyone who has ever lost a lot of cash knows, carrying around cash is risky.  When I had my wallet stolen, the person immediately started racking up bills.  Imagine if I had had cash in there.  I was able to cancel my credit cards quickly.  Cash however would have been gone forever.

If you haven’t read part one, Fixing your credit score – Fight for your score go read it now!  Also featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance

Negotiation strategies and negotiation tactics; you will need them

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Most people are not comfortable negotiating for things.   Negotiating is one of those awkward things that makes most people want to just throw in the towel and try to be ‘fair.’  Well, life is not fair and that is great new for you.  If you have the cahones to tip the balance in your favor.

As a culture we are taught that negotiating is uncomfortable and awkward, and it can definitely feel that way but just like anything else, practice makes perfect.  There is a graphic I like:

Now, the goal is the push the negotiation so that you are to or near the “other’s” minimum.  I am not going to go into specific tactics, there are entire websites dedicated to negotiating but I have a few points for you.

-The average person who negotiates their salary upon higher ends up with at least 10% more than the person who does not

-Contrary to popular belief, negotiating will not cost you the job

-You can negotiate more things than you probably think you can.  For example, we actually negotiated with Best Buy when we bought our TV and got them to knock $100 off the price.  Thats right, best buy.

-Don’t be afraid.

Step one I want everyone to try.  Call your credit card company, and ask them to lower your rate.  If they refuse or make up and excuse, tell them you would like a 10% lower rate.  If you are already at 15% or under, tell them you want 5% lower rate.  You hold the chips here, you can mention you will balance transfer elsewhere, you can mention you are going to consolidate with a loan at another bank.  The credit card company has everything to lose (your monthly fees) and nothing to gain.  Some may not budge at all, but I think you will surprised if you try…

Merry Christmas from TPS

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and came out of it financially unscathed!  Here are my random Christmas wishes for you, my readers:

1) Get out of debt this year
I know this isnt within reach for some of you, but for some of you, it is.  For those that can; do.  For those that can’t; make progress.

2) Save
I know that trying to get on top of #1 might make #2 seem like less of a priority, but its a good idea to still try and put some away for an emergency fund.

3) Spend on something worthwhile
Take a vacation with your wife/husband/Significant other.  Buy something you need.  This also conflicts with #1 and #2 but it is also important.   Life should be enjoyed, even if it is in moderation.

4) Take up/rediscover a hobby
My wife has gotten back into photography and it has been a lot of fun seeing her enjoy it.  I want to get back into writing, despite my ridiculously busy schedule.  I also want to get back into lifting, and find time to play some sports.  We all have things we love but have forgotten.  Do your best to find time to get back into whatever you love.

5) Read TPS more
If I promise more articles, hopefully you read more.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The formula for financial success (or any sort of success) made easy

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words:

There are literally thousands of books out there dedicated to this subject.  Just look in the self help section of any bookstore and you will see rows and rows of books about how to be successful.  It is not nearly that complicated.

Good planning + Action + Perseverance = Success

Of course there are a lot of details in each but when it comes down to it nearly every thing in life really is a matter of deciding to do it, doing it well, and sticking to it.

External influences are merely an environment and some sort of success can be achieved no matter what the environment.  Thats right, I believe that no matter your situation you can be successful.

Action and Persistence are things that are easily understood but I think planning often gets left out.  Lets look at some ways to improve planning:

1) Define what you want to be successful at.  There has to be a goal or there is no way to measure your success.  I would take it a step further and say forget any outside influences.  What are the things most important to you?  What are your goals?  How will you measure your progress toward those goals?  It has to be somehow quantifiable or you will end up chasing ghosts.  For example here is a goal of mine: I want to lose 15 lbs and go from 230 to 215.  Here is another goal of mine: I want to pay for our honeymoon and my share of wedding expenses without adding any debt.  Which of these two is the better goal?  The first one.  The better way to quantify the second goal is to say: I want to set aside 2000 for a honeymoon, and 1000 for a wedding ring.  Notice the difference?  Quantifiable goals can be achieved.  Vague goals leave you wanting more, and do not allow for action and persistence.

2) Study the success of others who have has similar goals.  How have they achieved their goals?  What can you use to aid yourself?

3) Be Flexible.  If a goal is not realistic or environmentally impossible, change your goal.  There is no rule that goals cannot change, just make sure not to short change yourself in the process.

4) Take risks.  Don’t be afraid, anything that is easy to attain is not success, so ‘aim high’.  Man that cliche makes me shudder but its too true to leave out.

I want you to all to be successful, so get planning!

Its a bird, its a plane, no it’s a gigantic tower of excuses!

Monday, January 5th, 2009

excusesSince I pointed out the new years resolutions that people like to make, I am going to go ahead and empower you to follow through on them instead of building yourself a gigantic tower of excuses.  Ready for your help? Alright, here it is!

1) Getting in shape
Its January 5th, have you fallen off the bandwagon yet?  Or have you even jumped on yet?  I am actually switching gym memberships from a local club to a 24 hour fitness.  I found a free 30 day trial membership.  That’s 4X longer than their standard free trial.  You may have to fight them a bit to get the 30 days instead of the 7, but it is worth it!  Also, check out my fitness blog: I don’t update it often and the others even less frequently, but there is some great information related to fitness on there, and one of my new years resolutions is to keep it more updated.  So check it out HERE.   Now, for those of you who want to get into it and get some whey protein etc I suggest buying online because you will save a ton of money.  My favorite place traditionally has been Netrition, however AllStarHealth has lower prices and good reviews (but the site is a bit harder to navigate).

2) Get rid of debt
I get a lot email about various things and I usually do short answers but this time around for the next two weeks I am going to open up for helping everyone on a case by case basis with making personalized plans.  I will take as many as I can handle.  Also, I am offering a budget calculator for download.  I plugged in some example numbers to get you started.  Now, take some time and sign up for Mint.com.  I use it to keep an eye on my spending, and it does a pretty good job of breaking things down.  Start using coupons to grocery shop.  In a survey of my friends, almost none bother to cut out and use coupons.  I also am terrible about it and I know could easily save myself more money doing it.  Check out shortcuts.com and you can load coupons onto your King Soopers card.  I have yet to try this, but I know two people who swear by it and I am going to try it out today.

How to stick to New Years resolutions

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Its that time of year again where we all make resolutions we intend to keep but never do.  Here is my graphic depiction of my health club on December 31 vs January 1.

In all seriousness I’ve always been a little bit skeptical of the whole idea of new years resolutions.  It seems like an artificial motivation, and artificial motivations lead to disappointing ends. How many of us (myself included) have said “This year I am going to lose weight” or “This year I am going to get organized” and then not done it?  Im going to go ahead and guess probably everyone reading this.

The secret is that cold turkey changes simply do not work for most people.  The only true way to stick to new years resolutions is to make small changes.  Here are a few common examples to get you started.

1) Get in shape
Instead of saying “I am going to the gym every day and eating only healthy foods” start easy and work your way up.  Sure, get in those first few good workouts but then try some gradual changes.  First, do ten pushups every day when you get up.  Go to the gym once a week.  Eat very healthy for at least one meal per day.  Once you have worked that into your life such that it is routine, move it up a notch.  Work out three times a week, eat healthy for two meals a day.  It is all about building routine.

2) Get rid of debt
Once again, its time to start small.  Instead of making a minimum payment, add $20 onto each credit card payment, or start to follow the Penny Saved Plan for reducing debt.

3) Reconnect with people
This is another one that can seem overwhelming but is actually fairly easy.  The key here is to start small: decide whom you most want to reconnect with and make a phone call.   After the initial contact, make yourself follow up in 2 weeks if you don’t otherwise.  Chances are, if they are happy to hear from you, they will make an effort as well.

 Why do we abandon resolutions?
The main reason is that its easy to get discouraged when results don’t come quickly enough or when we figure out they don’t immediately make us happier.  This is once again where routine comes in.  Behavior change is not an overnight occurance…and it generally requires discomfort. 

Happy New years, and remember, changes don’t happen overnight! Now excuse me while I go renew that gym membership 😉

Long Layoff but Im back: The key to fighting stress: exercise. Trust me.

Monday, June 16th, 2008

To say that work is stressful for most people is sort of like talking about the weather. Its way overdone. Well, in my case unfortunately when my day job gets stressful and resumes its ridiculous hours The Penny Saved suffers, my health suffers, and Im moodier than Don Rickles delivering a monologue. Luckily I have a cure for all three. For #s 2 and 3, I have to exercise, its the only thing that can really effectively improve both. As for the first thing, my temporary solution for today is to write about 2 and 3.

The biggest problem with exercising during stressful times is staying motivated. So here are 10 tips that I came up with to stay motivated that I use religiously

1) Buy a bunch of protein
The first thing I do when I decide to start lifting and running again is to buy a bunch of protein powder. Not only is it great for building muscle but protein shakes WILL help you lose fat.

2) Get a portable MP3 player (if you dont have one)
How often do you see people running along the road without one? Not very often huh? Yeah, thats cause music is a motivator. It works.

3) Do a fat pinch
On your midsection, pinch between your belly button and your waistline. Thats all fat. That is enough to keep me running.

4) Join an organized sport
It gets you doing exercise without thinking of it as exercise.

5) Join a message board
There are a few that I liked. The ones I like are more geared toward weight lifting but there are message boards out there for just about every flavor of exercise. Seeing other people talk about fitness, and participating in those discussions can really motivate you. And hey, if you are reading this, you can read a message board, right?

6) Take pictures of yourself
I have historically yo-yoed a lot in my life. I have some terrible before pictures, and every time I have taken before pictures and then every month taken a new one I have stayed on course until I had great after pictures.

7) If you are dreading some workout, do another one
Why kill your motivation to do anything at all? If its not working, do something else. Running boring? Play some basketball or go swimming. You get the picture.

8) Plan out workout times in advance
Obviously if work is stressing you out and you are super busy, you need to schedule time. The problem is, if you are already crunched, the exercising will slip if you don’t explicitly schedule it in.

Fight your enemy – Consumerism

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Consumerism. Its an odd word. According to wikipedia “Consumerism is the equating of personal happiness with the purchasing of material possessions and consumption.
The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not fan of Karl Marx, quite the opposite. At best he was a fierce idealist set in flawed theory, at worst…well I won’t go there. But he did have one thing right, but for the wrong reasons. Consumption. The problem with consumption is not consumption in and of itself, it is the effects of consumption.

If you live in the United States of America, one reason you may feel challenged to pull ahead financially is that America’s culture is heavily focused on the consumption of goods and services by individuals and families. While consumption may help grow America’s mammoth $13.1 trillion economy, it can also hurt the long-term wealth of the average American family. Why doesn’t America’s culture focus on more fiscally responsible behavior like saving and investing? Because America’s powerful media and entertainment industry keeps American culture centered on the consumption of products and services by offering and providing advertising and other marketing solutions to America’s best and brightest marketers. It is the combined power of the industry and the marketers that keeps you and your family focused on spending your money on goods and services in the here and now instead of doing what is best for you and your family in the long run – building wealth by saving and investing.

Every day of your life in the United States, companies attempt to attract and hold your attention for just a few seconds so that they can tell you about their product or service, or simply make your mind aware of their brands. Such attempts are known as marketing, the process of moving you closer – mentally and physically – to the purchase of a company’s products and services. Hundreds of thousands of companies throughout the country and from around the world spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on marketing. Each of these companies is desperate to tell you about the products and services it has ready to sell to you. Unfortunately for them, you are yet another busy American whose attention span is scattered and unfocused as you go about your day dealing with all kinds of personal issues related to living your life. Even worse for them, hundreds of thousands of other companies are also marketing to you, further distracting and dividing your attention. No doubt, a fierce corporate battle rages every single day for a piece of your mind.

To whom do all these companies pay their billions of dollars to get your attention? America’s media and entertainment industry. Companies pay media and entertainment stalwarts such as ABC, AMC, CNN, CBS, Clear Channel, Conde Nast, Discovery, DoubleClick, Dow Jones, ESPN, Forbes, Fox, Gannett, Google, HARPO, Liberty Media, Live Nation, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Miramax, MTV, NASCAR, NBC Universal, The New York Times, Playboy, Six Flags, Time Warner, US News and World Report, Walt Disney, and Yahoo! for access to your attention. The media and entertainment companies control the access to your attention because you demonstrate an interest in what they have to say or show you by reading their magazine, watching their cable channel, seeing their movie, listening to their radio station, watching their TV show, reading their newspaper, or attending their concert or other live event.

Free content: no such thing

In the jargon of the industry, media and entertainment companies design, develop, and distribute “content” that they hope you will value or enjoy. Content can be almost anything: a sitcom like Friends, a local news segment, a medical drama like E.R., a game show like Wheel of Fortune, an article on a current event in Time magazine, an editorial piece in the Wall Street Journal, a pictorial of the Grand Canyon in National Geographic magazine, or whatever. The media and entertainment companies know you value or enjoy their content when you continue to watch it, read it, listen to it, and/or pay for it. The content attracts and holds your attention as long as you continue to value or enjoy it.

While media and entertainment companies produce their content for your interest or entertainment, they do not view you as their customer. Instead, media and entertainment companies view the marketer – the company that seeks to send a commercial message to your brain – as its customer. After all, it is the marketer, not you, who pays the big bucks to the media and entertainment companies. You generally get the benefit of the content for free. Alas, the content is free to you only because the content is a means to an end – access to your scarce time and attention. Such access is what a marketer is paying for when it buys advertising or other marketing solutions that integrate into the media and entertainment company’s content.

Ultimately, the business of the media and entertainment industry is to attract and capture marketing dollars from companies seeking to deliver a marketing message to you, the viewer, reader, or listener of the industry’s content. As you watch, read, or hear the industry’s content, you receive messages making you aware that the marketer’s product or service exists. These messages further encourage you to dig into your pocket, pull out your cash or credit card, and then exchange your money (or, in the case of a credit card, the bank’s money) for the marketer’s product or service. It is in this way that America’s media-drenched culture helps to separate you from your money, hurting you and your family’s ability to build wealth and financial freedom over the long term.

“Better, faster, more attractive, stronger, more manly, more feminine…”

The media and entertainment industry is not evil. The industry is a business just like any other. Chances are you know someone who works in the media and entertainment industry. Employees working in the industry are not evil either. They are just doing their jobs. What makes getting ahead in America so difficult is that, on the whole, the media and entertainment industry’s employees are damn good at their jobs. They know how to attract your attention, hold it, and then deliver a marketing message to your brain that compels you to believe that you need a certain product or service to make you feel more attractive, more confident, more smart, more happy, more safe, more successful, more popular, more relaxed, more productive, or more fulfilled.

Once you believe the product or service will do for you what the marketer says it will do, you are likely to go out and exchange your hard-earned money (or, the money you borrowed from a bank by means of a credit card or installment loan) for the marketer’s product or service. Clearly, the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves are very powerful and persuasive forces in America’s culture. Both know how to manipulate us by appealing to our weaknesses and insecurities as human beings. We are all at risk of falling susceptible to their skills and tactics. Nearly every day, many Americans fall for them hook, line, and sinker.

Life Is Always Great in the imaginary world of consumption…

A real problem with living in America is that the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves are able to use their collective power of communication and persuasion to set the standard of what is “normal” in the minds of most Americans. Unfortunately, the normal they portray does not represent reality – that day-to-day life experience of most Americans. Instead, the “normal” foisted upon Americans by way of mass media channels such TV, radio, and magazines is only normal in the land of make believe, that faraway imaginary place known as La-La Land.

For example, do you really believe that…

* …the characters on the sitcom Friends can really afford the huge apartments they share in New York City working at the jobs that they do?

* …buying and owning a new Ford truck – “Built Ford Tough.” – will make you more manly and more respected by your friends and family?

* …drinking Bud Light beer will make sexy, young women give you come-hither looks while they strut around you in teeny-weeny bikinis? (damnit!)

If you can honestly answer “Yes!” to any of these questions, check yourself – there is a harsh reality out there for you. Back here in reality, buying and owning a new Ford truck will not make you more manly or more respected by others. Most people will not even notice a) that you drive a truck, b) what brand it is, or c) whatever beguiling effect it may have on you. If they do notice, they probably do not really care. After all, your new Ford truck is just another truck out of millions on American roads today.

…But, Reality Is Where You Build or Destroy Your Wealth

In reality, buying and owning a new Ford truck will simply get you a truck to drive. Unfortunately, it also gives you many negatives:

* a large decline in resale value after you drive the truck off the dealer’s lot

* interest charges and other fees you must pay on the financing you used to buy the truck

* insurance premiums you must pay to cover liabilities and other risks you might incur while you drive the truck

* gasoline or diesel prices you must pay to power the truck’s engine

* maintenance and repair costs you must pay the Ford dealer or a service garage to keep the truck going down the road

So, according to your external influences you get more manly and more respect from others by buying and owning a new Ford truck. In reality, you get a new truck worth less than the price you paid, plus the opportunity to spend thousands of dollars more on interest, insurance, fuel, and maintenance services.

The media pumps you up and makes you feel good emotionally. Reality delivers you the “real deal” and transfers your hard-earned cash (or, the cash you borrowed from banks) into the bank accounts of those who sold you their products or services. Had you not bought and owned the truck in the first place, all the cash you spent on the truck would instead be increasing your wealth as your savings and investments grow over time. When it comes to building wealth for you and your family, you are much better off keeping your head focused on reality than allowing the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves to whisk you away to La-La Land where you – and your wallet – are far more vulnerable.

Fight consumption, get ahead in the world

Clearly, the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves are powerful, pervasive, and persuasive forces in America’s culture that can have a negative impact on your wealth. The question for you becomes, “How do I protect my wealth from these powerful forces?” The answer is clear: take the voluntary actions needed to prevent these forces from wielding their persuasive powers over you in the first place. After all, the industry and the marketers do not have power over you unless you give them that power. Believe it or not, you are 100% in control. The real challenge is your willingness and ability to control yourself.

Just because the media and entertainment industry exists does not mean that you must heed its siren call of “buy! buy! buy!”. Life in America provides innumerable opportunities to avoid the industry’s strident efforts to numb your critical thinking skills and influence your spending behaviors to the detriment of your long-term wealth. To uncover – or rediscover – these opportunities in America, you can freely choose to opt out of the “normal” American life built, portrayed, and sustained by the media and entertainment industry.

There are many simple ways to exert your control over the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves. For example:

* Go for a walk or a hike with your dog

* Spend time sharing personal aspirations and goals with your family

* Share a picnic lunch with your spouse or partner in a beautiful park in your city

* Take a cooking or painting class at a local community college

* Invite several friends over to your home for dinner and lively conversation about matters important to our world
(NOTE: the private – yet so desperately public – lives of Hollywood celebrities do not count as matters important to our world)

* Write and share your personal views on a special interest blog or forum online

* Read a book on how to wisely invest your savings

* Teach yourself a software program to improve your personal productivity

* Exchange long emails with a friend or family member living overseas

In other words, go out into America and do things that do not rely on the media and entertainment industry. Do things that tend to enhance your practical knowledge, your marketable skills, and your personal relationships and experiences. These concerted actions on your part can improve the quality of your life and, as you will soon discover, the lives of others. Where you can improve the lives of others is where you will establish and grow your wealth over time, right here in reality. After all, it is in America, not La-La Land, that you should be looking to get ahead in America.

Victimology in America

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Bad things happen.  Its one of those things in life that we don’t like to think about but nonetheless is there.  Throughout history, many of us have been adversely affected when somebody or something oppressed, injured, tricked, mistreated, or otherwise afflicted us with emotional hurt, physical pain, or psychological damage. Due to no fault of our own – whether by cruel fate, happenstance, or divine intervention – we involuntarily suffered something unexpected and unfavorable that, by definition, reclassified our human condition to that of “victim”.

How about in your life?

Perhaps you have suffered abuse, theft, violence, or accidental injury at some point in your life. Maybe you were born with a genetic disease or developed an unfortunate illness over time. Perhaps other people treated you poorly because of your gender, race, or ethnicity. Maybe you were born to irresponsible parents who were not there for you as a child or who never quite got their own lives together enough to be a truly positive force in your life. Or, perhaps you were born to really good parents who just never seemed to make enough money to make your growing up as comfortable as it was for many of your friends and fellow classmates.

Certainly, these were bad things that happened to you. Moreover, what happened to you was outside of your own control. You lacked the power to prevent or change these bad things when they happened to you, and you lack the power today to travel back in time and alter your personal history so as to completely avoid these bad things in the first place. Whatever these bad things were that happened to you in your life, they really happened to you, it was not your fault, and there is no changing that.

    So ask yourself was I a victim or am I still a victim?

Your answer to this question is crucial to getting ahead in America because it says a great deal about your approach to life. If you answer, “I am a victim,” you acknowledge that something bad happened to you in your past and you remain a victim of that badness to this very day. If you answer, “I was a victim,” you acknowledge something bad happened to you in your past, but you no longer remain a victim of that badness today.

Note that these two different perspectives offer you two different states of personal freedom. In one perspective, you are not really free – you are still shackled in the chains of victimhood. In the other perspective, you are entirely free – you have transcended victimhood to arrive at a human condition not defined by suffering or other forms of badness. Note that the only difference between these two different states of personal freedom is the verb tense you choose to use – present (“I am”) or past (“I was”).

Which state of personal freedom would you prefer to be in?

Hopefully, you do not revel in victimhood. It would be unhealthy if you have discovered, in some way, benefits to continuing your status as a victim. While you may somehow feel those benefits exist, remember that, in victimhood, you are not truly free. By definition, personal freedom trounces any benefits to victimhood that you may feel.

If you truly want to get ahead in America, in the past is where your victim status needs to be. Victimhood needs to be a human condition that will always be familiar to you because you have been there; at the same time, victimhood needs to be foreign to you today because you consciously realize that personal freedom is what you truly desire in the life you are seeking to create for yourself in America. To be clear: your personal freedom begins the moment you refuse to be a victim.

Settling for middle class is cowardly

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

lazyThere have been a couple articles lately on “middle class” that have caught my attention. First there was the discussion thread on the simple dollar, and then Mrs Micah wrote “Whats Wrong with being in the middle class.” So am I just a gigantic jerk?

Maybe but let me explain. My beef is not with being middle class: I am middle class, my friends are middle class, and my family is middle class. My beef is with “settling.” For anything. My beef is with the idea that “middle class is good enough so I am going to settle for it.” I am not including people who choose to live to live in middle class or live their lives in middle class. To many people money is not a priority and thus they do not apply here. I am talking about people who settle because they do not want to try. That is cowardly.

Success in life can only come from truly apply yourself to all things that matter to you. Everyone says they want to succeed in life but very few are willing to push themselves and do what it takes to achieve their goals…this is why two twins can be separated at birth and be raised by very similar families but one will succeed and one will fail.

I would hate to think on my death bed “boy I settled with my life.” I want you all to think of more than just financially, though I don’t think you should settle financially either. What are the things that are important to you right now? Are you settling on any of them? I’m not talking about situations that are outside of your control, I am talking about things within the sphere of your control. Are you spending $50/day when you could be spending $10/day? Could you be going to the gym regularly but haven’t? (my current point of action that I need to take – get back into a regular workout routine).

We live in America, which means you have unlimited opportunity. Take advantage of it.