What’s the Best Financial Decision You’ve Made?

Posted by 27 October, 2008 (5) Comment

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Many people are financially hurting in America. I wanted to put a positive spin on the current financial situation in the US and in many other countries. We hear about many negative events that people have done or not done so I wanted to know what good financial decisions have made. I’ll start it off.

I would say that the best financial situation that I’ve made is to spend much less than I’ve brought in. I think a lot of other good financial decisions can spawn from this, but you have to actually have money in order to take advantages of investment opportunities. For instance, my wife and I have saved a good amount of money and are now looking to purchase some investment properties. This would not be possible if we did not make prudent financial decisions.

Marla Anne

My best decision (financial and otherwise) was to get financial coaching. The decision has paid for itself several times over.
Even though I was making small changes (paying down my debts, etc.), I took a long, hard look at my habits over the past several years. No matter how well I applied myself in the short term, I kept finding myself in the same awkward financial state again and again. I compare it to someone always trying to lose the same 10 lbs. over and over again.
I realized I had to change my thinking, and not just my habits, in order to succeed… or else, I wouldn’t be able to retire at all, let alone comfortably. In this economy, financial security is paramount because our income can shift drastically from one day to the next.
I was coached (and still am) by a great company, Money Mastery. It has changed my life. I am such a fan of how they helped me (and continue to do so) that I now represent Money Mastery for Life. I am an advocate for financial literacy and personal financial success … my goal is to help as many as I can to get a better handle on their finances in order to find financial security, comfort or freedom, whichever they choose.

Links:

http://www.money-mastery-for-life.com

Julie Ross

Over the course of life, we have many opportunities and rarely take the fullest advantage of most of them. In my case, business opportunities are frequently presented. I’ve overlooked some which I should not have and should have taken a closer look at some which I moved on, however to follow are the three best financial decisions I made this year:
1. Placed resources at Prosper.com
2. Focused all associated business efforts to social marketing
3. Learned about The 80/20 Fund

Links:

http://www.prosper.com

http://www.8020fund.com

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=julie+ross+social+marketing&aq=f&oq=

Jim Burgess

I wanted to put this question out to the general audience. A friend of mine asked me recently, how do you start over once your position has been eliminated, and you are no longer a Spring Chicken. After a lot of thought, I told him my story.
I had been a banker most of my life. Working for large and small banks throughout the country. It was a good living, but I was not being personally satisfied. Then, the “motivator” came. At the are of 54 , my bank went through huge layoffs, do to the impending credit crunch. I went home, very depressed, sat with my wife, who by the way was a mortgage broker, and had no business, and just about died! What can I do? Who will hire me at this age?
Well, after a couple of weeks of pity parties, and down right bottom of the barrel thoughts, I woke up one morning and hit on my future – Experience! With 30 years of experience, I know more than most of the people at the banks ever would know in their lives. Secondly – Opportunity! All of my friends at the bank, and at all the banks, were more concerned about getting out or keeping their jobs, that they lost focus on what they were there to do, lend money.
Let’s think, nobody wants to lend money, I have all this experience, in there lies the opportunity, but how to apply it? So, it’s off to networking and researching. I spent several months on line, speaking with co-workers, identifying areas that could be exploited by someone with my background. Then I found an interesting area, that I had virtually overlooked, Equipment Leasing.
When times are tough, as they are now, people don’t like to part with their cash, even when they know they need equipment. Banks, if you can even get them on the phone, want 20- 30% down on any transaction, plus your first born! Equipment Leasing on the other hand, requires a minimum down payment , and flexible repayment terms. I had it! I found my future! So, I went and got some more training that I felt I was lacking. Set up my home based office and started calling everyone I knew in the area and started getting my leases. Word spread, and before I knew it I was to the point where I needed my wife to help me in the business because I should no longer handle the volume alone!
I would enjoy hearing your story, how did you change at a “golden age” and what are you doing today?

Links:

http://www.canyonleasing.com

Guy E. Gimenez ABR, CRS, GRI

The best financial decision I ever made was to become debt free. Life is fuller and much more enjoyable because the worry that is associated with debt is no longer an issue in my family’s life. I only hope this economic adjustment we’re experiencing now will be a wake-up call for others to learn the value of debt-free living and the freedom that is part of that decision.

Ed Garrison

My best decision was NEVER to use consumer credit of any kind. When you carry a credit card balance, the interest charges create an insidious but devastating drain on your standard of living. They represent money that is siphoned away for which you get absolutely nothing in return, not even a tax write off.
I don’t have a personal blog to promote, but would welcome if you would help the non-profit organization for which I work part time, AAFR (the American Association of Future Retirees). Its blog, to which I contribute, is located at the address given below:

Links:

http://www.aafr.org/future-retiree

M. Joyce McMenamin

Got out of the stock market in 1997, paid off debt and invested in Northern California Real Estate. Sold Northern California Real Estate prior to 2005.
Thanks for not asking about my “worst” financial decision.

Johan Vermij

The best Financial Decision, that’s a hard one. I think we all remember our financial mishaps, like shouldn’t have bought that, loaned that or invested in that.
When thinking of the current market situation I’m glad I played safe on my mortgage and the other one is that I’ve learned not to spend money I don’t have. It’s better to save and then buy, then buy and loaned and have to pay off.

Bill Nigh

…. well, in retrospect, I guess it was putting so much of my retirement into CD’s. I’m not saying I won’t move out of them, but they have provided a comforting amount of ballast, given present circumstances.

Stephen Penrose

The best financial decision I made was to pay the credit cards in full each and every month.

Cher Lon Malik

Leveraged 10K to build a log cabin in Branson,, MO in 2007
Location, Location, Location.
Right in the middle of the strip, overlooking a mountain with a creek view
The mortgage is 978.00 month, and the rental per night has gone from 190.00 per night to over 500.00 night and remained booked solid from month to month. There is a current hotel deficit in Branson of 17%, so homes of my size rent quite well and often. My monthly checks are in excess of 4K month.
Over 44million visitors per year through Branson.

Clarification:

Leveraged the 10K down, the home was built at 400K.

Daniel Gutschenritter

To get out of debt. Also, to sell my Fannie Mae stock at $62 right before it dropped to bailout status.

Links:

http://www.DaveRamsey.com

Peggy Ireland

Bought, and paid off a house. Nothing like being mortgage free.

Ryan Puckett, CLTC

I made a desicions to become apart of the Columbus Financial Group, Inc. My time with the Columbus Financial Group has allowed me to understand how money really works and to now pass it to my clients and the new people that come to join CFG.

Susan Shwartz PhD
Sold Citigroup at 42.

Alisa Templeton

Bought a house I could actually afford for a low, fixed interest rate. Unlike so many. soooo… many…
Also, worked my way through college, generally live within my means, got rid of my credit card, and decided never to buy a brand-new car. I may break that last promise some day, but for now I see no reason to even consider it. My Beetle’s mpg kicks most hybrid’s butts. Gas being what it is, I guess I could even consider that a sound financial decision. Not having kids so far – most parents I know wouldn’t complain about them much, but I hear they’re more expensive than pets…
Alisa

Josh Chernin

I agree with a lot of what the other folks here have said…the answers trend to playing it relatively conservative, making good, long-term investments, and minimizing debt.
But I think the best decisions I’ve made were in how I’ve spent money. Not that I spend a ton of it, but some really good ways to spend money usually involve (for me) experiences, often traveling, and often involving my kids.
Just saying that smart spending can be as good a financial decision as smart investing.

Carl Wright

Bought a huge Victorian house at 32 with a 15 year mortgage at 10% interest. Mortgage is paid I am a happy guy. Recently paid off Visa/MC.
Final brillant financial decision – became self-employed. Work is interesting, my employee (the dog) is great, make all my own decisions, and less stress (less hospitial bills from stress related illnesses). Salary is okay but dependent on amount of marketing done.
Carl
www.wsggallery.com

Bob Quinn

I went long on the major Banks in 1992.

Ravi Kikan

Bringing a school bag for my brother from my first salary….
Nothing more and nothing less !

Liz Crystal

My best financial decision has been to take responsibility for my and my family’s financial well-being.

Richard Tabor Greene

My wife and I decided to become professors at the same university, the world’s highest paying university.

Terry Harder

Thats easy, my wife and I have worked very hard to pay for the college tuition of our four children, when we get them all paid off then I will be satisfied and happy with this investment choice.
Regards,
Terry

Simon Hamer

Buying an engagement ring for my fantastic amazing wife

Randy Brunson, CFP

To only take financial advice from those whose net worth and cash flow is larger than mine.
Randy

Marius Ciuzelis

It’s very difficult to name the one, ‘best of’ financial decision. I believe most of us can name several of them. Making long story short I am happy getting out of AIG on 9/11 for almost $25 with my clients just before the big crash, I can even mention some option trades with 100 per cent gain in one single day, but that is the details only and not answers your question.
As for my best financial decision I am mostly proud of I’d like to stick to the one I decided to start my professional carrier in finance and investments and investing a lot in my professional development and knowledge building be it initial trading losses or investment in high level education.

Chris Miles

The best decision I made was to stop relying on investing in things I have no control over and begin investing in my Soul Purpose where it has a greater potential for returns anyway.

Links:

http://www.freedomfasttrack.com

Brian Neale, MBA, CIMA

Investing in myself via education. I am pretty sure that over the course of my life, the $100K I spent getting my BA and MBA will result in essentially leveraging that $100K by a factor of at least 50 (i.e. I am confident that over the course of my life, I am adding at least another $5 M to my earning potential on a cumulative basis). And the quality of life and opportunnities beyond the money spent are even more rewarding, albeit more difficult to quantify.
BTW, I owe no debt from either of these endeavors, and due to salary increase post MBA, I basically reduced the MBA payback period to slightly over 1 year.

Jonathan Griffith

Buying a townhome in Scottsdale in 2003 was the best financial decision I have ever made. Granted, I have made financial choices that have proven to return a higher percentage, but they weren’t exactly calculated, and they were high risk.
Buying a home, in my opinion, is the absolute best decision most people can make.

Aaron Zielinski

Started investing young, built a retirement investment strategy, and continued with the plan while many others are letting fear cause irrational financial decisions.

Take care.
Liz

Catherine Reynolds

Started saving for retirement in my early 20s. I sent in $166.66/month to my IRA– remarkable in that my husband was in grad school full-time and I only made 21K. Needless to say, we didn’t go out much.

Links:
What’s the best financial decision you’ve made?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

I also noticed that Sqauwk Fox posted a similar post. She always has great content that you should definitely check out (link)!

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photo by Jasonedward

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10 Reasons Why I Want You to Be Financially Independent

Posted by 13 October, 2008 (5) Comment

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I’ve wanted to be financially independent starting about 2-3 years ago.

I’ve been out of school and in the work force for 6 years. The first few years out of school, I think I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help the world. I started out at a fuel cell company because I thought fuel cells would be beneficial in helping wane the US off of oil. Now I work in a lab playing with carbon nanotubes which have their own set of “green” possibilities not limited to being the best material for electrical conductivity. Working on the cutting edge of technology is very cool, but both scenarios have me working until I’m 65 or longer and that doesn’t sit well with me.

My idea of financial independence is a situation where one is in a financial position to work or not and still enjoy the necessities of life plus a few luxuries without relying on government assistance.

I want you to be financially independent. Heck, I want to be financially independent as well, but we’re focusing on you, not me.

Can you imagine what the US would be like if more people were financially independent?

Some questions I’d like you to ponder:

1. Would the US be happier?

2. Would there be a shift towards people studying the arts?

3. What would the stock market be like?

4. Would professional sports be as popular as they are today? Do people need this distraction if they are no longer going to jobs that they may not enjoy?

5. What about movie stars/celebrities? Would they be as popular as they are today?

6. Would we see a huge spike or slow-down in innovation?

7. What about professions such as psychology? How would it affect them?

8. If more Americans were financially independent, would we produce as much waste as we do? If we have more time, there is potentially less hustle and bustle and perhaps people would be able to fix household items that break instead of tossing it and going to Walmart to buy another.

I want you to be financially independent, and here’s why:

1. Stay in your relationship

Relationships are important. Life and business is all about relationships. One of the most important relationships you can have is with your wife, husband, or significant other. It is disputed whether financial issues are the major cause of divorce (see artcle by Liz @ MSN Money), but not worrying about money, I’m certain, would have a positive impact on your relationships. I’m not sure about you, but in my opinion, during a divorce, the only person that really wins is the attorney. In addition to not having disputes over finances, if you are financially independent, you don’t need to work. If you don’t need to work, you have a lot more time to spend on developing and nurturing those relationships. I know I would love to spend more time with my wife, family, and friends because time is our most precious commodity. You can never get it back unless you are Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. It’s these strong bonds that I believe to be one of the most important ingredients to a “good” life and being happy.

2. Volunteer

If you are financially independent and not working, you need to be doing something productive. Why not volunteer for a local organization or habitat for humanity. Here is a list of possible reasons you may want to volunteer per Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc (find the original post here)

  • to feel needed
  • to share a skill
  • to get to know a community
  • to demonstrate commitment to a cause/belief
  • to gain leadership skills
  • to act out a fantasy
  • to do your civic duty
  • because of pressure from a friend or relative
  • satisfaction from accomplishment
  • to keep busy
  • for recognition
  • to repay a debt
  • to donate your professional skills
  • because there is no one else to do it
  • to have an impact
  • to learn something new
  • for freedom of schedule
  • to help a friend or relative
  • for escape
  • to become an “insider”
  • guilt
  • to be challenged
  • to be a watchdog
  • to feel proud
  • to make new friends
  • to explore a career
  • to help someone
  • as therapy
  • to do something different from your job
  • for fun!
  • for religious reasons
  • to earn academic credit
  • to keep skills alive
  • because an agency is geographically close
  • to have an excuse to do what you love
  • to be able to criticize
  • to assure progress
  • to feel good
  • to be part of a team
  • to gain status
  • because you were asked
  • to test yourself
  • to build your resume
  • to be an agent of change
  • because of personal experience with the problem, illness, or cause
  • to stand up and be counted

3. Increased Mental Health

If you aren’t worrying about money, you probably aren’t as stressed out. Stress kills. Have you ever snapped at your kids or significant other after a long day at work? Gone. Traffic to work and the mental strain that is puts you through. Gone. All of that sounds pretty sweet to me. I try VERY hard to make sure I don’t bring work or traffic stress home, but sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. I’m not trying to say that if you are financially independent stress will permanently go away, but I’m sure your stress level will decrease significantly.

4. Increased Physical Health

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You aren’t in the office 40 plus hours per week. You aren’t in the car for upto 8 hours per week (16 hours if you live in Los Angeles). That’s a lot of time that is now available to you to take care of you and your body. There are a ton of benefits that you would see in your physical health without worrying about money. Without a job, you would be able to dedicate more of your time to working out.

5. Time with Friends and Family

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I often feel badly that I don’t spend time with my little brother or that I don’t make it down to Austin to hang out with old friends. There is no good excuse, but unfortunately there are only some many hours in a day.

I hope this is never a scenario that anyone has to go through, but if you are financially independent and a family member falls ill, you would be more able to help out. I know quite a few people who tend to their friends or family at the detriment of their own financial well being. Financial independence would put you in a position to help if needed.

6. Foreclosures

I feel greed fueled a lot of the foreclosures we are seeing today. If you were financially independent, you more than likely wouldn’t have a mortgage much less have the need to borrow 106% to purchase a house.

7. Happiness

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I truly hope that you enjoy what you do 8+ hours per day and 40+ hours per week. The unfortunate situation is that most people do not like their jobs. Financial independence could put an end to your ball and chain routine and enable you to find something that will make you happy. Life is way too short so you should focus on being happy during the time you are here.

8. Pass the Knowledge of Financial Independence to Family and Friends

Pay it Forward. You could help your friends and family achieve financial independence. This would not only help them financially, mentally, etc, but you’d be able to spend more time with them since they are no longer working the long hours required by their jobs.

Teaching your kids to be financially independent will give them the flexibility to choose the major they desire as opposed to choosing the major that pays well in order to pay back student loans (I’m not speaking from experience 🙂 ).

9. Hobbies

It’s tough to keep up with any hobbies. My wife and I have a tough time keeping up with hobbies and we don’t have any kids so I can only imagine how hectic it gets with a full house. Well, if you just added 40+ hours to your week, you’ll have time for some hobbies. You could finally learn how to paint, write the great American novel, or take up yoga. I’ve always wanted to take up some sort of martial arts. I think that the discipline would be good for me, but it would also help me stay flexible, meet other people with similar interests, and I’m sure I would become stronger.

10. Education

You should go back to school. Because you would have 40+ hours of extra time every week, you could go get that art history degree! I know I would like to learn a foreign language or take a carpentry class.

Do you want to be financially independent? If so, let me know how I can help. If we are able to gather a lot of support for this goal, perhaps we can all help each other achieve it. Are you already financially independent? If so, send me an e-mail and I’d love to interview you about your adventure.

happinessisbetter [at] gmail.com (sorry, spam likes me 🙂 )

Photos by Tigr, Joe Shlabotnik, kiskisbreeze, Hamed Masoumi

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Categories : Financially Independent Tags : , , , ,

529 or an IRA for College Savings

Posted by 1 September, 2008 (2) Comment

Photo by bdjsb7
529’s are a new area for me. I’m looking into starting a 529 for my neice to get her jump started. When looking at various 529 plans, I thought to myself, why not just use a Roth IRA? I thought it was a clever idea because I knew that within a Roth IRA, one could withdraw money for education expenses. I thought that if the child did not go to college, investing in a Roth IRA instead of a 529 plan, the child would be able to use the money in a Roth IRA account towards retirement savings. Before jumping at this, I wanted to do a little homework to investigate whether my idea or the idea I had heard was legal and whether it was the best plan of action.
I found an article by Joseph Hurley at Bank Rate who is known as the “College Savings Guru”.

1. He states that the contributor of an IRA must make the amount of money equal to the contribution amount. In other words, the person has to have an income and unfortunately my 4 month old neice does not have any income (although she is very cute and would look good in an ad).

2. The Roth IRA account distribution is considered as income for the student for that year. That could be a real problem when being considered for financial aid.

3. The 529 plan really pulls ahead in regards to the earnings that have accumulated from the contributions. In a 529, these earnings are tax free if they are used for educational expenses. In the case of a Roth IRA, the earnings are not tax free when you receive the distribution. However, if the earnings are used for educational expenses, you avoid paying a 10% penalty.

4. One positive aspect of using a Roth IRA is that you can use your contributions on anything including education, tax free as long as you have had the money in the IRA for more than 5 years.
It looks like the resounding answer to my question of whether a Roth IRA a better tool for college savings than a 529 plan, is NO. Looks like I need to now look into various 529 plans and see which plan might be best.

Before looking at various 529 plans, I need to set up criteria for my search. In my opinion, besides the plan being open to out of state residents, the number one factor to look at is costs. If the plan is going to eat at my returns with fees for management and mutual fund fees, it defeats the purpose of using a tax-free vehicle.
Here is the website I’m going to use to compare various 529 plans:
Here are some additional articles about 529 plans from across the web:
529 Plans: Helping To Ease The Burden of College Expenses
529 Plans: Fees More Important Than Deductions
The 5 Best College-savings Plans
Alternative to 529 plans (or how to save for college without tying up your money for 18 years)
Are These Myths Preventing You from Saving for Children’s Higher Education?
I will let you know what I decide in a future post.
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Getting Closer to Being Debt Free

Posted by 25 August, 2008 (4) Comment
My wife and I just sold a house. Now, what to do with the funds? We could go out and buy a new car. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound very appealing, especially since we are trying to SAVE money. Maybe we should invest it? That sounds very tempting. With the stock market down, now seems like the time to buy, in my humble opinion. Currently, we have student loans and one car payment. Paying these off sound like the practical, good thing to do, but that certainly is not the “cool” or exciting thing to do. So, investing and paying down debt are the more sensible actions to take. Let’s investigate which one seems to yield a “better bang for the buck”.
Assumptions: Money: $12,000
Rate of Return: 12% (optimistic)
Debt: $10,600
Total Monthly Payment on Debt: $657.15
Monthly Payments Broken Down:
Student Loan #1: $154.00
Student Loan #2: $63.15
Extra Payments going toward Student Loan #1: $150.00
Car Note: $290.00
Investing Scenario: This scenario assumes that we would invest a lump sum of $12,000 and no other monthly or annual investment would be performed.
Investment Balance by Year


Year
Annual
investment


Taxes


Net Return


Total
0
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
$12,000.00
1
$0.00
$0.00
$1,440.00
$13,440.00
2
$0.00
$0.00
$1,612.80
$15,052.80
3
$0.00
$0.00
$1,806.34
$16,859.14
4
$0.00
$0.00
$2,023.10
$18,882.23
5
$0.00
$0.00
$2,265.87
$21,148.10
The following scenario is assuming we pay off our debts and invest that monthly expenditure that was used for student loans and our car payment. I should note that as we continued paying off our student loan and car payments that it would not take exactly five years, but it is interesting to see how quickly $657.15 per month caught up to a lump sum of $12,000 with no additional money placed into investing.
Investment Balance by Year


Year
Annual
investment


Taxes


Net Return


Total
0
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
1
$7,886.00
$0.00
$946.32
$8,832.32
2
$7,886.00
$0.00
$2,006.20
$18,724.52
3
$7,886.00
$0.00
$3,193.26
$29,803.78
4
$7,886.00
$0.00
$4,522.77
$42,212.55
5
$7,886.00
$0.00
$6,011.83
$56,110.38
In the end, my wife and I chose to pay off our student loans. We not only liked seeing that it probably made the most sense financially, but the other huge factor is that we have a peace of mind knowing we are that much closer to being debt free. Woohoo!
Categories : Financially Independent,Personal Finance Tags :

How One Man Turned It All Around

Posted by 10 August, 2008 (3) Comment
I had the priviledge of exchanging messages with a gentleman who was kind enough to share his story about how he turned his financial situation around. I think it’s one that people should hear especially since he has come so far in such a small amount of time. It’s amazing what the human mind can accomplish! Here is a short excerpt about his past financial situation and how it’s changed in the past 5 months:

I am neither debt free, nor am I independently wealthy… but here is what has changed in the past 5 months:

I was borrowing upwards of $500 per paycheck from the bank (paycheck advance, costing $50 per incident), had my automobile repossessed and had to fight to get it back last October, and had cell phones, electricity and gas shut off on me several times over the past few years. Then I screwed up one month, and lost almost $2000 in banking errors. Not to mention nearly $30k in debt.

Since then… I’ve listened to and read Dave Ramsey’s materials, and used his advice. I have a $1000 emergency fund, have paid off close to $7000 in debt (in 5 months!), and just spent about $2000 on a Florida vacation, with CASH.

I’ll have the car paid off (I hope) by the end of the year (an additional $6k or so), and plan to be completely debt-free by the end of 2010. Not bad, considering where I’ve come from.

Dave Ramsey doesn’t have anything magical… no quick schemes, and even self-acknowledges that he won’t give you any advice that your grandmother wouldn’t have given. But he offers simple steps, designed to be easy concepts, and explains them so that you can do them and feel good about them… not feel like you are wrapped in a straightjacket. And, he advises on both debt-management, investments, and wealth-building.

Lee was like so many others out there, barely scraping by day to day – and sometimes not at all. But he managed to turn his financial woes into successes by implementing a well thought out plan. I think everyone can learn something from his story and strategies, and I hope to hear about and share how he progresses in the future. Thanks for sharing, Lee!
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