My Favorite Quotes on Money & Life

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I have had a couple of very busy weeks at work as I picked up some new responsibilities. As a result, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed out trying to get things done.

Do you ever feel like that in dealing with your finances? Things can get hectic and you can get to the point where you need some encouragement to keep you going.

Life has peaks and valleys and we all need encouragement and inspiration in our journey at some point. I wanted to close out the month of July with some of my favorite quotes on money and life.

These wise words have helped me time and again. I hope they are a blessing to you as well!

Managing Our Money

 “He who spends more than he earns is sowing the winds of needless self-indulgence from which he is sure to reap the whirlwinds of trouble and humiliation.”
George S. Clason

 “To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.”
George Washington

 “Act your wage. Simple, yet profound that when you live on less than you make you can give, save, and avoid debt.”
Dave Ramsey

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
Jim Rohn

Sharing Our Money

 “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
John Wesley

“God is a God of grace. His grace provides strength to earn, generosity to give, and humility to receive.”
Dr. David Jeremiah

 “Every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty”
John D. Rockefeller

Marriage

 “What higher motive could there be for the husband to love his wife? By loving her as Christ loved the church, he honors Christ in the most direct and graphic way.
He becomes the embodiment of Christ’s love to his own wife, a living example to the rest of his family, a channel of blessing to his entire household, and a powerful testimony to a watching world.”

John MacArthur

 “Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.”
Zig Ziglar

What are some of your favorite quotes?

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5 Money Tips For My 18 Year Old Self

Jose at 18 years old

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If you could, would you like to talk to the younger version of you? What would you say? What pearls of wisdom would you like to pass on?

Last week I had trouble finding something to watch on TV (big surprise, right?) so I decided to instead choose a movie from our collection. I picked the 2009 “Star Trek” movie which rebooted the beloved franchise.

In the movie, time travel and altering the timeline are a major part of the story (those are usually my favorite story lines). If you have seen the movie, you know you end up with 2 Spock’s and they eventually meet. The older Spock has some words of wisdom for his younger self. You can watch the clip here.

So that gave me an idea. If could travel back in time, what sort of financial advice would I give to the younger me? After thinking for a while, here are the 5 Money Tips for my 18 year old self:

1. Don’t Work so Hard to Build Your Credit History with Credit Cards. 

Midway through your third year in college (around 21 years of age), you will receive a wonderful opportunity to have a paid internship with a large technology company. This will be something that you will treasure for years to come and that will prepare you for your professional career later on.

While you are gaining all that experience and making some money, you will receive some conventional advice. Well intentioned people will tell you need to get a couple of credit cards before you finish your internship so you “can build your credit history”. They will tell you, that you can’t live without credit cards and without a credit history.

Don’t fall for the trap of credit cards! You will end up with 2 of them and no income because you will still be in college!

Instead what you should do is to work to build up your savings. If you take that advice, you will get used to credit cards and those first 2 will eventually turn into 7 or 8 and debt. And by the way, those first 2 won’t really help your credit history (see the next piece of advice below).

But you can live without credit cards. They are simply a crutch that will not allow you to walk on the strength of your income. Stay away from them!

2. Don’t buy a brand new car right out of college with a high interest loan.

You will work hard for your college degree and you will get a very good job to start your professional career. The temptation will be to reward yourself with that nice car that you earned with your degree.

If you pursue this course, you will end up with a 5 year loan and a nice interest rate of 11%. The finance manager will tell you he is doing you a favor. Don’t believe him.

Instead take your time and save some money from your nice pay check for a few months to save for a nice, reliable used vehicle.

You could save $400 for 10-12 months (the average monthly car payment) and then move up in car with cash later. And remember: new cars lose 70% of their retail value in the first 4 years.

3. Don’t Mistake Your Credit Lines for an Emergency Fund. 

While you are carrying those 7 or 8 credit cards, you will also have a couple of credit lines open. You will feel pretty good that everyone is trusting you with so much credit. You will feel that if something were to happen you would have access to money and you could deal with it.

What I would tell you is that a credit card/credit line always represents risk and not security. The “convenient access” to money is really a mirage. You will get into trouble and start carrying balances on those cards.

For real security, what you should instead is to build an emergency fund to cover 6 months of expenses.

4. Don’t Borrow Money from your 401K Plan

As a result of having too many credit cards, and a car payment you will eventually want to reset everything and start over. More conventional wisdom will tell you that consolidating your debts into one easy payment it’s the way to go.

You will do some smart things and you will begin to save money in your company’s 401K plan early so you will have a nice balance. Guess what? One debt consolidation option available to you will be to borrow from the money in your 401K plan.

People will say, “You are borrowing from yourself and the interest you pay goes back into your account”. Great idea right? Not quite.

Why is this a mistake? First, you will unplug that amount of money from your investment vehicle missing on the growth opportunity for the length of the loan.

Second, if you lose your job, the money is due back within 60 days of leaving your job. If you don’t pay it back, it is considered an early withdrawal with the associated penalties and tax implications.

You will make this mistake 3 times but be blessed enough that you will keep your job during those times. But don’t take that first chance ever. Instead, get on a plan to pay your debts without borrowing money.

5. Don’t buy a house without a nice down payment and don’t take a 30 year mortgage. 

You will eventually get tired of paying rent and you will set a nice goal of buying a home by the time you are 30 years old. Nothing wrong with and it’s good to set goals for yourself in all areas of life.

However, more conventional wisdom will say to look for creative financing and programs that help first time home buyers. You will barely have enough money to cover your closing costs and nothing more (and you will borrow that money from your 401K plan). And you will also take the conventional 30-year mortgage because no one will challenge that convention.

However, this is what you should do to get ready to buy a house. First, run the numbers and target a house that leaves you with a monthly mortgage payment (taxes and insurance included) that is not more than 25% of your monthly take home pay.

Second, wait and save at least 20% of the home cost as a down payment (so you can avoid paying for the Private Mortgage Insurance -PMI-).

Finally, take only a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. There is no law in the land that says you have to take a 30-year mortgage.

What money tips would you give to your 18 year old self?

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Generosity as a Lifestyle

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 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
Luke 10:33-35 (ESV) 

You might recognize the verses above as part of the parable of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus in Luke 10:30-37. Jesus told this story in response to the question “and who is my neighbor?” He used this story to illustrate the principle of love for one another.

As I write, teach, or coach on winning with your money, I want to emphasize that generosity does not have to be limited by the size of our bank accounts. Each day, we can cultivate and develop a heart that is generous to others around us.

I would like to unpack these verses to show you how we can be generous regardless of how much money we have. Generosity is a distinguishing trademark of people who prosper with money.

Let’s see how the Good Samaritan showed he had generosity as a lifestyle:

Time

You will notice that first of all, the Samaritan saw the need, felt compassion, and stopped on his tracks. Two previous travelers saw the same problem and ignored it and moved on with their lives.

You can choose to be generous with your time. Yes, we all have responsibilities to family and work. But if we were to be honest, it is quite possible that we waste a lot of time that could be used to help others.

Look around you and you will find that there is a need you can fill. Choose to give some of your time to help someone else.

Talent

The Good Samaritan applied some skill, some talent to the situation. He bound up the man’s woods and he took care of him in the inn.

We all have the ability to do something and someone out there needs you to come in and share what you can do. What skills do you possess?

Could you cook or bake and deliver a meal to someone? Can you sing or play an instrument and bring joy to an orphanage or an assisted living facility? Can you coach sports and help kids?

Do you know how to sew? What about using your organizational and administrative skills to help a non-profit organization with event planning? How can you invest yourself in others?

As you find the time to help others, make wise use of your time by doing something you can do.

Treasure

Yes, the Good Samaritan had wealth. He owned an animal he could put to use to carry the wounded man. He also had money to cover his costs at the inn.

So yes, we can put our money to good use by helping others. The main motivation for achieving control of our money and building wealth is so that we can help others.

But don’t wait until you have all of your money problems solved before you decide to help someone. You can be generous today and you can be more generous tomorrow!

“Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice.
Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.”
Tim Keller

 Take the challenge this weekend and see how you can be generous. Let me know how it goes!

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Redeem the Time: Make 2013 Your Best Financial Year Ever

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Can you believe half of 2013 is gone already? Last week at work I had my midyear assessment, and it was a good time to review how my team and I had performed against our objectives for this year. In summary, we are doing well but we can do better.

In addition to my work objectives, I had set personal goals, and goals for Figueroa Financial for 2013.

This past weekend I had the blessing of a long break thanks to the 4th of July Holiday, so I took the opportunity to evaluate how I am doing against those goals. In some cases, I met or exceeded my goals, and in some cases I came up short.

But the important thing is that I took time to stop, do the review, and see how things are going. I know where I am and I know what I need to do for the rest of this year.

You can follow the same process with your money. Did you set some goals back in January for your finances? How are you doing?

I don’t want you to get discouraged if you are not doing as well as you wanted. You still have half of 2013 in front of you. You can still redeem the time and make 2013 the best year for your finances. It’s time to review, reflect, and reset the plan for your money.

Review

What goals have you achieved this year? How are you doing with your monthly budget? Have you completed your beginner’s emergency fund? Did you finish paying some of the debts on your debt snowball?

As you review your results, take a moment to celebrate. Every step you take in the direction of financial wellness is a step in the right direction.

Every victory counts in your battle to get control of your money, so don’t forget to celebrate when you win!

Reflect

As you review your results, there is the danger that you might get discouraged if you are not careful. To avoid that, I want you to do 2 things.

First, I want you to first think about how far you have come since you began. If you have made changes to the way you handle money, you are making progress.  Don’t forget that you are not where you used to be.

Second, try to focus on why you are working hard to get control of your money. Maybe you were tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe you got sick and tired of carrying the debt burden. Perhaps you wanted to change the legacy for your family and leave a great inheritance to your children and their children.

Remembering the “why” will empower you and keep you going even when things get difficult.

Reset

As you look at your results, you might need to reset your strategy. Think about what worked well for you and think about what could have gone better.

Be honest and remember that this is a process, and that implies that it takes time to get it under control

Are there any categories where you can reduce your spending? For example:

  • If you had trouble with certain categories like groceries or restaurants, you might want to start using a cash envelope.
  • Could you get a better cell phone or internet service deal?
  • How about exploring options for reducing your insurance expenses?
  • Or could you reduce your recreation/entertainment expenses by choosing cheaper alternatives?

And what could you do to increase your income? For instance:

  • Is it time to pick up more hours at work?
  • Could you pick up a part time job or do some freelance work?

Your goal is to improve your cash flow by reducing your expenses and increasing your income. Every little improvement can help you to balance your budget and give you great traction.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
J. R. R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

Please leave me a comment and let me know about your financial plans for the last 6 months of 2013.

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Why do we stay in Debt?

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Have you seen those funny AT&T commercials with the kids? There is one adult sitting around with a group of kids and he asks a simple question comparing two options.

For example: “which is better, slow or fast?” or “which is better doing one thing at once or 2 things at once?” Here the video of one of my favorite ones:

The point is to hammer down that choosing AT&T over any other mobility provider is not complicated. As I watch that commercial it reminds of our general attitudes about debt.

Which is better, having tons of debt or being completely debt free? It’s not complicated right? Debt free is the best way to go. Which begs the question, why do we stay in debt?

As of January 2013, the average household consumer debt stood around $23,000. Why do we continue to carry debt on our credit cards? Why do we continue to sign-up for car loans or car leases? Why do we assume that the only way to get a college degree is to sign-up for thousands of dollars in student loans?

I have written before about why we go into debt. Today I want to give you the 3 main reasons we stay in debt:  

1. We buy into the Culture of Debt

In this day and age we are focused so much more on what we think we need and what we want. We live in a day and age where waiting for something good to happen is almost completely foreign to us. We want it and we want it now.

So the culture says that it is perfectly ok to stay in debt as long as you can manage it. Don’t carry 9 or 10 credit cards, but 1 or 2 is ok (you know, because you can get those rewards). You can’t afford to pay for cash for a car? No problem, just “rent” (i.e. lease) one. It’s like getting a brand new car every 2 years. After all, old cars breakdown all the time and you “need to be safe on the road”.

Wan to buy a home but don’t have enough saved for a down payment? No problem, borrow from your 401K plan. Need an emergency fund? Sure, get a home equity line of credit (HELOC) so you can access it in case of an emergency (which sometimes is defined as doing that home renovation we desperately “need”).

Do you want a college degree? The culture has defined that a student loan can be classified as financial aid. They never put too much emphasis on the fact that they expect you to pay for the loan. In some corners of the financial world, they call student loans “good debt” because it’s an investment in your future. Don’t get me wrong, I think education is a great investment. But there has to be a better way to obtain a great education than going deeply in debt.

You see? Our culture today says is ok to be in debt and stay in debt as long as you get what you want now.

2. We are not Willing to Sacrifice

If I asked 10 people on the street or did a Facebook poll, 9 out of 10 would most likely tell me that they would like to be completely debt free. Again, it’s not complicated. Debt free is the best way to live.

But you will never get out of debt until you are willing to do something differently. There is no victory without sacrifice.

But a lot of people that are in debt will not get on a budget, will not get a second job, will not cut back on expenses, and will not sell stuff to generate more income.

When you are not willing to sacrifice, you will find every possible objection of why it does not apply to you.

3. We have lost all Hope

This is probably the most dangerous reason of them all for staying in debt. You may think that this is the way it will be for you between now and the end of your days. You have lost your hope that it can be better.

You may think that it is impossible in your current situation to live a debt free life. You may have convinced yourself that you will always have a car payment, that you will always need a credit card for emergencies, and that it will be impossible for your child to go to college without student loans.

You may have convinced yourself that you will never make enough money to deal with everything that you have to do. So you stay in debt, because “that’s the only way” and “everyone else is in the same boat.

Do you want to know a secret? It does not have to be that way. You don’t have to buy into the debt culture, you can sacrifice, and yes you can hope for a better tomorrow. I know this the case because I used to be in debt and deep financial distress.

But I am no longer there. I know it can be better and I know you don’t have to stay in debt. I can help you, just say the word!

What are some of your reasons for staying in debt? 

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