A New Crystal Clear Vision Of The American Dream

There are many interpretations of the American Dream.  Historically, for most immigrants it has represented the freedom to seek employment to provide a better life for their own family.  People have come to America from all over the world and from all sorts of political and economic systems.  They chose America because our particular form of government and economic system is the best in the world for the individual who has the drive to succeed.

Interpretations of the American Dream

It is probably safe to say that every person defines the American dream differently.  There are a few aspects of the dream that segments of the population tend to have in common.  Family life, Home ownership, and employee vs business owner are at the center of attention for the dream of many. Read More →

Finding A Practical Solution To Unlock Your Competitive Income

How much income does it take to achieve the American Dream?  Always more than you are making now, it seems.

Do you remember the interview question – Where do you see yourself in five years?  Having chosen the career path that you are now on, every now and then it does you good thing to look forward and ask yourself that great interview question again.

Here are a few more questions to ask yourself: How many successful people are in your field that have been there for five years longer than you?  Are they at the point where you anticipated when you began?  Can you outpace them?  Are you on the track that you imagined?  Are you where you thought you would be at this point?

Achieving the Dream

Five years into my Navy career, I was on the verge of living my dream.  At that point I was finishing my first sea tour and had orders to a Special Boat Unit in Panama.  From that point on, my career got better and better.  Success in all areas from personal growth, contribution and increasing income contributed to a rewarding career.  During the entire 26 year career, I always sought more and found ways to achieve more.  Achieving the dream is my hope for you in your career.

Achieve Your Dream

Achieve Your Dream

Take Inventory

I hope to spur you to examine your situation and take inventory of your progress toward the goals you set for yourself when you started working.  Are you on track to surpass your initial expectations?  Have you achieved the income level you envisioned?  If you keep doing what you have been doing, where will you be in one, five and ten years from now?  While it is not a good idea to keep looking back, you do want to take an occasional inventory of your progress.  If you are meeting your goals, fantastic!  It might be time for you to treat yourself to a reward.  Maybe go out for a special dinner or buy a new trinket.

If you are not on track to reach the goals you set for yourself, it is time to adjust and set new goals that are in tune with your true values.  Make an assessment of what prevented you from reaching the goals. Read More →

Breakthrough As A Student Loan Debt Free College Graduate

Student loan debt is a common cause of financial distress for many college graduates.  There are some ways to lessen the weight of student loans both before getting into debt and after.

College graduates walk away from college with a diploma and a weight around their neck called student loan debt.  Students that leave school before graduation, only walk away with the debt.  Popular wisdom is that it will take years and years, maybe decades to finally pay off student loans.

One of the worst things about student loan debt is that students who are accruing them rarely have prior experience in dealing with debt. Students are almost victims of the system in that they are sort of put on automatic to getting into the debt.  The FAFSA data gets forwarded to lenders and all the student has to do to accept the loan is to sign for it.  The government encourages and enables the process.  There is not a step in the process where students are ingrained with the values of limiting the amount of debt they take on or any sort of urgency to break free from the bonds of debt.  “Debt is bondage” – Suze Orman

Debt is bondage! -Suze Orman Click To Tweet

Student Loan Debt Seems to Linger for a Lifetime

How Long Will it Take to Pay Your Student Loan Debt

Student Loan Debt Seem to Linger Forever

College graduates take for granite and accept that debt will be a part of their life for the next decade or more after graduation.  This does not have to be the case.  Someone needs to stand in the gap for the student and help them understand the down side that having this debt will bring to their life.  So many students are looking to others to make the debt go away after they acquired it.  The natural process that drew them in does not provide a roadmap to get them out.  Unfortunately, only the student is liable to meet the obligation.

Whatever phase of the student debt experience you find yourself, whether that is prior to getting into student debt, in school and increasing debt each semester, or a graduate looking for a way to get free from the weight of debt, I want to give you some hope and direction.

Sooner is better

Hopefully you are reading this before finding the noose of debt around your neck.  If that is the case, take heed and let this be words to the wise.

It might not be possible to get through your college education without any debt, but at least make an effort to keep it to a manageable level.  Only take out what you need to get through.  It is not wise to live lavishly on borrowed money.  You and only you will be paying back that debt.  Well, I take that back.  Possibly you and your future spouse will be paying that back.  Oh and add your kids to that list of who will be affected by the debt you take on during school if you let it get out of hand.  So, maybe you aren’t concerned about how it will affect you, but at least pay attention out of love for your future family.

Phases

Pre-loan phase

If you are at this stage, it is the perfect time to gain an operational understanding of the principles of debt.  There are a number of financial pitfalls waiting for you at college.  Hopefully your parents can give you guidance, but increasingly across the country people of all ages are struggling with debt and finances in general.

Read More →

9 Fundamentals of Sustainable Out-go and Reliable Income

If Your Out-go Exceeds Your Income, Your Upkeep Will Be Your Downfall!  This is a mantra that I have written about before.  In this post, I will go deeper into some fundamentals and practices that will help you maintain that critical balance.

As long as you continue to spend more than you earn, you will continually fall further and further behind. Eventually leading to a financial crash and burn.  This practice will lead you deeper and deeper in debt.  At some point you will eventually not be able to pay the interest on the debt you owe causing you to fall into bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is a major personal setback and brings with it consequences that have a long lasting effect.  Credit becomes harder to acquire.  Its impact is felt by more than the individual who filed for bankruptcy.  Those debtors that did not get paid in the settlement now have to deal with the loss to their business as well.  The increase in bankruptcies and foreclosures took a toll on our nation’s economy over the past decade.  The trend had snowball effect that hurt us all.

How much have you spent on interest charges this year?  What does that add up to over your lifetime till now?  How much do you hate budgeting and how much would you be willing to pay to avoid making and living on a budget?

We’ll group the fundamentals into two groups; things to avoid and things to move toward.

  1. Avoid:
    1. Easy credit offers
    2. The trap of indebtedness
    3. Immediate Gratification
  2. Move toward:
    1. Improve financial literacy
    2. Desire to grow wealth rather than overspend
    3. Commit to a New Pattern of Saving before Spending
    4. Prioritize Spending – control your out-go
    5. Reduce Amount of Out-go to Finance Charges
    6. Improve Income Potential

Three Pitfalls to Avoid

Falling prey to offers from credit card companies, continued indebtedness and the desire for instant gratification are traps that threaten to sabotage our efforts toward achieving our desired outcome.  By identifying them and setting guards against them, you will have a safer road to achieving financial independence.

If Your Out-go Exceeds Your Income, Your Upkeep Will Be Your Downfall!

If Your Out-go Exceeds Your Income, Your Upkeep Will Be Your Downfall!

Read More →

Which is Better: Improving the Boss’ Bottom Line or Yours?

Of course, our personal bottom line is the reason we all go to work.  We try to bring value to our boss‘ bottom line in order to get rewarded, compensated and promoted.  Rather than putting forth all our energy providing for the boss’ bottom line, we have an option in America of  creating our own wealth independent of a boss.

Since America is built on the Free Enterprise system, we are free to choose whether to work for ourselves or be an employee of someone else.  There are advantages and disadvantages of each.  You may be better suited for one over the other.

Employee or Employer

Some people value the certainty that accompanies being an employee.  They have no desire to be the business owner, assuming the risk of the business’ bottom line making money and staying afloat. The employee is only responsible for his own performance.

Only a few value the challenge of making their own business succeed.  The perceived rewards of success include the opportunity to make a higher income, the freedom of self-direction, the feeling of significance of having his name on the business and owning the successful enterprise.

Who ever feels like they are being paid enough?  Could you make more money by working for yourself or as someone else’s employee?  Given a profitable idea and the resources and means to market it, you might be able to develop an income greater by having your own enterprise.  However without proper execution, the cost of doing business could wind up exceeding what you make.  When your outgo exceeds your income, this is known as a deficit.

Being A Business Owner is Not for Everyone

Not everyone is capable of running a business.  One benefit of being an employee of another is a much more predictable income and a much lower risk of not making money or worse, losing money.  Owning your own business requires that you have an internal drive.  It is analogous to moving off to college.  At college, no one wakes you up and ensures you go to class.  In high school, a truant officer will be dispatched to round you up in some cases.  When your own your own business, you are completely responsible for getting it done.  Self-motivation and self-direction are two required attributes to successfully run a business.  In a recent blog post, 5 Better Solutions Than A More Competitive Minimum Wage, I listed six ways to increase your bottom line.  Some of those are as an employee and some are in a business of your own.

Improve Your Bottom Line and Fulfillment Through Self-Employment

Which is better for you: working for someone else or working for yourself?  Which is better for you: working for someone else or working for yourself? Click To Tweet

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Who is Responsible to Provide Basic Needs of Americans?

There are some people who believe that the government is responsible to provide basic needs of Americans.  Others believe that each individual is responsible for providing basic needs for themselves and their own family.  Which are you?

Who Provides Basic Needs

Don’t know about you, but I am responsible to provide for myself and my family

To Provide Light not Heat

Let me say up front that the intent of all my posts are to bring light, not heat.  By that I mean I want to share information not inflame emotion.  I know that many people are emotionally charged by the topic of government assistance.  It is a hotly debated political topic that divides our government along party lines.

The topic of government handouts is a sensitive one because no one wants to see suffering, and various political groups see solutions differently.  I am not taking any side about whether we should or should not provide for the less fortunate.  My hope is for you to find a better solution for yourself than being dependent on anyone else.  Your freedom is what I am writing about here.  I believe that you will have greater freedom if you shoulder the responsibility for providing for yourself and your own family.

If you feel like you are dependent on someone else or the government to help you make ends meet, I know how you feel.  I felt the same way.  There was a period of my life where I was dependent on government assistance to feed my kids.

How I Ended up on Government Assistance

Having been on the receiving end of government assistance in the form of WIC, I can assure you that being free from that lifestyle is a blessing.  I much prefer being able to provide for my own family.  There is no satisfaction in receiving handouts.  WIC is state assistance to help cover the cost of foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.  For more facts on WIC, see the USDA site The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

So, how did I end up getting government assistance and how did I get off it? Read More →

5 Better Solutions Than A More Competitive Minimum Wage

An increased minimum wage supported by the White House is the subject of an ongoing national debate.  The minimum wage should be going up in most states over the next few years whether a new national minimum is established or not.  Earning competitive pay is part of the American Dream.  Wouldn’t it be great if the national minimum wage was higher?  Not necessarily; there are better solutions.  I will discuss a few of them in this post.

Why Would an Increased Minimum Wage Not Be the best Solution?

Unless you plan to exist on minimum wage for many years, an increase in the minimum wage would be a negative factor for you.  If the minimum wage increased as your experience increased, then you will continue to earn the minimum for a longer period of time.  You should only work for minimum wage for a short period of time at the entry level.  Furthermore, minimum wage earners will continue to be the lowest paid employees even after a minimum wage increase.  Although they are making more money, the buying power of minimum wage earners will remain what it was due to price increases to cover the additional cost of these wages.  Wear as, if you get an individual raise and minimum wage stays constant, you will have more buying power.

1. Get a Pay Raise

If after three to six months of working at minimum wage, a higher wage has not been offered for the work you are doing, then consider changing something in your situation.  It is not normal to be at a fixed income at the entry level.  This would be a good time to evaluate what you could be doing differently to receive a higher wage.

You should only work for minimum wage for a few initial months until you prove your worth and start getting better wages for the position or identify a higher paying position to move into.  The employer has at that point, invested in you as a new employee.  There might be uniform expenses he has paid as well as training and on-boarding expenses.  Once he has recouped these expenses, you are now more valuable as compared to replacing you.  If he does not compensate you better than minimum, you could take your new experience and training to a different employer that would be willing to pay more.  The three to six-month time frame is the time to start investigating which track to take.  Either approach the employer and seek a raise or start the hunt for your next position.

2. Move Into a Higher Paying Position

Being promoted to a better paying position has the added benefit of more responsibility and more job satisfaction.  Moving up the rungs of the corporate ladder instills a feeling of dignity.  It is surprising how many people resist the opportunity for more responsibility.  They assess the benefits of having responsibility are outweighed by its liabilities.  That is shocking to me as I have always pursued the opportunity to take on more responsibility.  From my experience, I can tell you that the rewards by far outweigh the liabilities!

From the day you start a new position, you will want to continually seek the next higher job.  Work toward mastering the current position as well as skills of the next higher rank.  Set measurable goals that will get you into that higher paying position.  There should be a period of time that you perform at the next higher position before you reap the rewards of it.  You will want to prove your worth before expecting the employer to promote you for a short period of time. Read More →

Is The College Education Route Best For You?

Are you a high school student who has been thinking that perhaps you were not meant to go to college?  Maybe you are right and College is not the best choice for you.  College was certainly not the route I took right out of high school.   Maybe you are feeling pressure from teachers, parents, relatives and fellow students to go to College.  Let’s explore the pros and cons of going to college vs not going, and look at some options that might be a better match for you in your particular situation.

The Big Decision – College or Wait

This post is not intended to talk you out of going to college, nor is it intended to talk you into going.  The intent is to help you as you make one of the most significant decisions you will have made up to this point.

In my case, I did eventually get a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and ultimately a Masters’ of Science (MS) degree.  But that is a long way from where I started out.  Early in my senior year in high school, I enlisted in the US Navy; October 28 to be precise.  My GPA in high school was not very high.  In fact, I often joke that I was a high school push-out.  My French teacher made me promise not to take another level of French before she gave me the passing grade I needed to graduate.  She said that if I didn’t promise, she would not give me the passing grade.The Big Decision - Go to College or Wait Click To Tweet

The decision as to what to do after high school graduation can be daunting!  What will happen if you don’t make the right decision?  Like, what if you go to college, but it is not right for you? What will be the worst case scenario?  Failing out and returning home? Disappointing parents and grandparents? No one wants to let our parents down.  What if you don’t go to school?  What will you be labeled by your family and friends?

Before you make the decision to go to college or take another route, let’s examine the options and make sure you are equipped with knowledge to make the best choice for you.

What are the Options besides College

Read More →

How to Replace Consumerism with Proven Wealth Building Strategies

Devoid of wealth building strategies, almost one-half of all Americans do not have $400 to their name.  This statistic includes people from all income brackets.  No matter how much money people make, it seems they just can’t manage to hold on to it.  Here’s the test – if you had an unexpected expense of $400 pop up right now, how would it impact you?  Could you pay it with cash or check?  Would it impact your ability to pay other current obligations? Or would you have to borrow the money, use a credit card or sell something?

American’s have been consumed with consumerism for the past few decades.  As credit became easier and easier to obtain, Americans began to rely on credit as a safety net rather than build up their savings as a safety net.  They also use credit to obtain more material possessions.  So credit has replaced savings as a means to purchase and protect possessions.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the government encouraged Americans to continue spending as before to prove that our economy would not be affected by the attacks.  That encouragement would have been good advice if the status quo before the attacks was to earn and save money before spending it.  Since using credit to purchase everything was becoming the status quo, this advice was feeding the vice of consumerism.

The impact of continuing the rise of consumerism will result in an unhealthy financial state.  It is time to reverse the trend.  Americans need to learn to replace Consumerism with wealth building practices.  That begins with becoming financially literate.

Financial Literacy

A majority of Americans have become financially illiterate.  Despite the fact that we now have access to more information about how money works, we do not partake of that knowledge.  This financial ignorance has led to financial distress in many households.  There is a tendency to spend a little more than we make, no matter how much we make.  Earning more enables you to borrow more and so many people do just that.  Rather than learn and leverage financial principles, people have begun to live for today and wind up dealing with the consequences when it catches up with them.  Some do things like use credit cards for daily purchases, losing track of their spending and then when the bill comes, they don’t pay the balance in full.  An understanding of the principles of compounding interest and avoiding that expense would save many people thousands of dollars every year. Read More →

How to Develop Habits to Improve Your Professional Growth

Leverage the power of habit to your advantage!  Take decisive control of your actions and put those actions that move you in the direction of your goals on automatic.  I’ll show you five steps to develop habits that you want to master.

“Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters” -Nathaniel Emmons Click To Tweet

Power of Habit

One good habit that I recently mastered in my own life which has had a fantastic impact on my health is walking 10,000 steps per day.  Now I did not start off one day walking 10,000 steps; I worked up to that distance over a period of time.  When I went in for my annual check-up, the Doctor said “Looks like someone is doing something right”!  My vital signs were right on the mark.

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