Financial Freedom

This month in our conversations about health, one of the areas we have to make time for is finances.  There are tons of great resources, programs, apps and people who can help you with your finances, and honesty, shame on you if you’re not taking advantage of it.  So today I’ve got just a couple of thoughts on finances, especially as they relate to living a healthier life.

1-know where you stand: I know it can be tempting to stick your head in the proverbial sand when you don’t want to think about how bad they are or that they’re not as you want them to be.  But avoiding them completely is not the way to a healthy bank account.

2-talk about it.  Especially if you’re in a relationship or you have kids it’s important to talk it over with your partner or a family member so that not only are you not bearing the whole responsibility of finances on your own, the important people in your life know where your accounts are and what needs to be paid each month in case of emergency.

3-save.  I know it can be hard to do this when you’re worried about bills, but if you don’t put even a small percentage of your money aside each month now you will struggle when it comes to emergencies and retirement, rather than having the peace of mind that you’re taken care of.  As little as 5-10% a month can make a big difference.

4-pay your bills.  This sounds obvious, but so many people put it off or avoid it that they get into trouble.  Pay your bills not only a few days early but when it comes to loans and credit cards always try to pay a little more than what’s required so you pay less in fees and get rid of the balance sooner.

5-spend wisely.  This is one of the hardest parts for many people.  It’s not about skipping the fun and treats, it’s about allocating a portion of your finances each month to that stuff and either spending it or saving all of it or a portion of it for something bigger like a trip.  The big key with spending wisely is planning and knowing how much you have to spend each month for all aspects of your life: food, home, transportation, kids, health, fun and emergencies.

6-ask for help.  I don’t know it all about money and there’s no way I would qualify as a financial planner so I know that one of the best things I can do for my finances is ask for help from those who are qualified.

7-invest.  We’ve talked about saving for the future, and part of saving is wisely investing some of your savings so that you’re prepared for retirement and end-of-life expenses.  While most people aren’t big gamblers and don’t go for high risks, some of those high risks can pay big dividends, so it’s usually a good idea to have some high, mid and low-risk investments depending on your risk threshold and life situations.  Again, talking with a financial adviser about the different investment options there are today is always a good idea.

8-take action. Don’t wait until you’re in deep debt or collections to try to make more money or fix your financial situation, start investing and paying down your credit cards and other loans and expenses now.  Contact that financial planner, invest in a course on finances, and ask for the help you need to make your financial future a strong one.

What are you going to do for your finances this weekend?

Ignorance and the Internet

One of the greatest challenges in parenting today is choosing how much to tell your kids.  The internet is a funny thing because it passes on all these words, videos and lessons that you really wish you didn’t have to discuss with your kids until they were older.  In this super-connected world that we live in it’s harder to know when something will come up and even harder to keep something quiet.  We can’t hide everything from our kids because we can’t control what other people expose their kids to, so what’s a parent to do?

I’m all for stories like Santa, the boogie man and the stork.  I think they play an interesting role in our lives and culture, and aren’t something we should stop for the sake of being real all the time.  Simply because there’s a lot in the world that can’t be explained.  But beyond that, sometimes the unvarnished whole truth is just too much for them.

It’s also our job to protect and nurture the next generation.  I don’t want future generations thinking their only options are to lie, cheat, steal and kill, I want them to be empowered to be themselves and know the power of love and knowledge and to know that it’s more than OK to live in a peaceful world.  I will always believe that love and kindness opens more doors than hate or violence.

So back to our question: what’s a parent to do in this super open and connected world?  I don’t think the answer is complete and utter seclusion, that’s bad for us and our kids.  I also don’t think denying things is the right answer.  If your kid has a question about things it’s my hope they would feel comfortable and secure enough in your relationship with them to come to you with questions, or that they have an adult you trust in their life to answer those questions, and not to laugh them off as silly or irrelevant or impossible.  The world isn’t planning on going backwards in communication and connectivity, so it’s time we learn how to work with what we do have.

“To keep a person ignorant is to place them in a cage.” Julian Assange

What Technology Teaches

I’m a big fan of technology. I love how it enables us to connect anywhere in the world with just a few clicks, no long plane or boat trips, no waiting for letters to be returned, no not being able to talk to people just because they weren’t within walking or driving distance. No, now we’re able to connect with anyone anywhere. It’s also made some really big strides for helping to educate the world. All you need is to have an internet connection and you can order a book or learn online.

It’s also great for distracting kids, making dinner and sick days. But kids don’t need any more of that not-involved parenting than they already get. Over the years we’ve gotten busier, some of us because we have to work multiple jobs to care for our kids or make ends meet, so we leave parenting to Dora, the schools and babysitters and hope for the best. As much as technology can do amazing things to teach kids the important things in life, there’s nothing that can replace a person’s involvement in that education.

Teachers can bring something to the table that is really important and something that I see missing in many businesses and families: human interaction. The fact is that no matter what you’re selling you’re selling to a person and no matter what you’re teaching you’re teaching to a person. It’s the way it is since we’re a world of people not faceless, emotionless machines. No, we’re real and need that human interaction to really be human. A book can’t celebrate your success in learning a concept, a computer program can’t teach you how to truly problem solve in the real world, a robot can’t give you the hug you need after skinning your knee. No, only people working with people can do these things.

Are you making time for people or just technology? Take time to get a real perspective on your passions, time and activities this week and think about if it’s taking you where you truly want to go.

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”
Bill Gates

Daily Steps to Success

Kids have so much to learn all throughout school. We are having them learn things earlier and trying to cram even more things into their brains than ever these days. I’m glad we’re trying to prepare them, but they’re put under a lot of pressure. I often wonder if they have time to just be kids, and what that really means anymore anyway. They have to get up and go to school whether they feel like it or not, just like we do with work. But the truth is that you have a choice: what you will do with today?  Will you do your best to make it better than yesterday or will you let the fates roll the dice for you?

As I was thinking about our attitudes this week, I ran across this quote from Brian Tracy:

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

We are really all very blessed in 2014. There’s more running and clean water around the world, health care has made such amazing strides, and that doesn’t even touch on the technology that has made it possible for us to connect with others around the world instantly. But there’s still lots of improvement to be had, just look at CNN or the nightly news and you’ll see lots of people still intent on screwing up the good that we have.

I think a big problem that we’re facing around the world is people who aren’t able to be grateful for what they have. I think this is where a lot of unhappiness and craziness starts: with not being able to be grateful for what you have. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to become more or have more, but I think an important step people are missing in this journey is accepting and even more being actually thankful for where they are and the progress they’ve made.

Each week I send out a newsletter called Personal Victories. I titled it this because I recognize how important it is to celebrate those amazing moments that in little daily steps bring us closer to our goals. Our big victories are ultimately made up of little ones that are like stepping stones from the place where we are to the place we want to go. We can’t climb the mountain in one step, we have to work our way up it. And the only way we get there is with little victories along the way.

Celebrating and being thankful for those victories is an important part of this because it means that we recognize how far we’ve come, but it also is about accepting that you’ve done good and can do good again. It’s not just about the destination, but about the climb as well as what it teaches you for you to use in your life going forward.  What will you choose to celebrate and be thankful for today?

Ready to Read

Parents and educators alike have the challenge of trying to convince young minds that books are way cooler than video games or endless sports activities. It can be really challenging to find something to fit for them. The good news for everyone is that with the internet and sites like Amazon it’s much easier to find books on any subjects and get them to you, you don’t have to depend on the local library or school books. As a child I loved reading, but hated with a passion 99% of the books we were required to read for school. A big part of the reason for me was the ridiculous over-analysis of each book and the pressure to find something that may or may not have stood out to you while reading. I like to read because it shows insights into people and takes me on adventures that I may never go on, not to mention the exposure of my mind to new ideas and concepts and perspectives that can help in my relationships and work.

My goal in life is to help you see things from a different perspective. It’s that simple. My hope with each document, each conversation, each written word, each social media exposure is that something might catch you off guard and give you that little nudge to considering your situation a different way, to opening your mind to the absolute fact that there is more to the world than what you see.

We each have our own goals in life, some are 100% focused on being parents, or making money or having a partner/relationship. We each need goals and dreams for our lives to be full and fulfilling. We each have different goals and go about reaching our goals in different ways, it’s part of what makes each of us unique.

A universal goal for all of us should be to give our kids the best possible chance at life, and that means encouraging them to make friends, be active and read. The world opens up for us in so many ways with the internet, one of the greatest is being able to read and explore and learn about topics that interest you, even if they’re not topics that interest others. From the world of Harry Potter to Twilight to 50 Shades of Grey you are talking about some of the same people and some very different people. These books aren’t for everyone, and not everyone likes the subject matter. But there is something out there for each of us, as long as we’re willing and encouraged to explore our own path.

“If my books can help children become readers, then I feel I have accomplished something important.” Roald Dahl

Thank You Teachers

September usually marks the return to school for kids around the US. Returning to school after summer break is challenging not just for kids, but for parents and teachers too. Kids may be the ones going to school each day but the teachers and parents play very important roles in their education, roles that aren’t always appreciated or recognized.  Today I want to focus on the teachers.

I’ve had some really good ones, some ones I’ve forgotten (that means they were average or unremarkable), and some that were bad. I don’t know if it is because of their age, the other kids in the class, the subject material, the environment or what, but some teachers just seem miserable. Much of this unfortunately has to do with all of the rules, regulations and things they need to remember and try to cram into the students before the end of the school year. It’s a lot of pressure but there isn’t necessarily a better way to do it and get all the information to the students before they’re 18 and thinking about families, jobs and the future.

But the good ones, they’re people that forever change you. They make you think happy thoughts even if most of your school memories were not happy. For me, there was my second grade teacher, and two in high school (a math and a history) that always stood out to me.  That there are only 3 that I really learned from and am happy to remember out of all the teachers I had says something about our teachers.

I think we need to start by giving our teachers some slack for all they have to deal with and the pressure we put on them. It isn’t easy to manage all the kids, teach them something and follow the rules of the school or education system all at the same time and in such a time constraint, not to mention all the outside factors like personal life, kid’s parents and the world.

Second, we need to do a better job supporting and encouraging them. It’s important to tell them how much they matter and how much we appreciate what they do. We also need to make sure that they’re given the money to do their jobs well. Every kid doesn’t need a computer, but essentials like books and paper shouldn’t be scrimped on.

But just like the rest of us, teachers don’t have any right to be grumpy and miserable just because things aren’t easy or perfect. Our world doesn’t usually work that way, usually we all need to stand up for the important things. Let’s stand up this week for our teachers.

“I’m embarrassed every time I look a teacher in the eye, because we ask them to do so much for so little.” Phil McGraw

Thank You Team

Today around America people are recognizing the people who make their lives easier: the administrative professionals, or secretaries.  So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk a bit about these amazing people and how we all work together.  In many cases they don’t get the recognition they deserve for all the overtime they put in and tough stuff they deal with.  Many of these people are truly responsible for our success.  Unfortunately there are some who don’t really do the job well and it’s tough to work with them.  So where does that bring us, especially since they are a valuable part of our lives?

1-they need to know we value them.  The people who make up your team need to know from day 1 how and why they’re important to you and your business.  By communicating their value to them on a regular basis, not just when they first start, you’re showing them you recognize the important role that they play in your life. Actions are important to, so make sure they know that they’re really valued and that you’re not just giving them lip service.

2-we need to support and listen to them.  They have important roles to play for us at work and as such communication between everyone has to be regular and clear.  Don’t give partial instructions, don’t micro manage, and don’t ignore them.  They can’t do the job as well as we need them to if we’re not all on the same page, if the standards required aren’t clear, and unless we all listen as much as we talk.

3-everyone needs to grow and improve.  We all have room to improve, each of us from the biggest CEO to lowest box packer.  Each of us has important roles to play, but within those roles there is always room for improvement.  Do yourself and your business a favor and read books, take classes, attend seminars and stay up to date on things.  This will help your business grow and will encourage your employees to do the same.  Including training or education as part of the employee’s job is one way to help everyone feel their best about who they are and what they do.

Together we are stronger than we are apart.  Do something nice for your team this week to show them how much you appreciate them.

Let’s Build Strong Children

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass

I love this quote because it’s so true and so important for all of us to realize.  Life begins when we are children.  The lessons we learn then are lessons that will stick with us throughout the rest of our lives and shape each and every decision we make thereafter.  Not to mention any influence our genes have in our lives.  But as you may have learned it’s easier to do things right the first time than fix them again and again and again.

The unfortunate thing is that we’re not doing the best job we could be in preparing our children to face the world and conquer it.  We’re dis-empowering them and letting them harbor pie-in-the-sky dreams that will never come true, not because the dreams are too big but because we’re not encouraging them and teaching them how to make their dreams a reality.   And as a result we’re seeing problems in our society, problems that weren’t there many years ago.

Sure you could blame technology or our modern times, but it’s not that simple.  Inanimate things can’t create the types of problems and failures that have occurred in the past few decades, only people can do that.  While we won’t get into the guns debate, it’s a common saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Computers don’t hack, people write the programs to hack.  Food doesn’t create rapid weight gain, lazy overeating people do.

So each day we have to ask ourselves: is this something that will help me and my family or hurt us?  Are the choices we’re making choices that help us or hurt us?  What can we do to better raise up this generation of children to not have the fears and challenges that face many of us today?  I’d say it starts with education on many levels.  What are your thoughts?

Business Strengths

This month one of the topics we’re considering is strength.  When you chose to go into business for yourself you didn’t say “I have the hardest time with math, I think I’ll be an accountant.”  We don’t usually choose to do things that we’re not good at.  That’s not to say that you didn’t start your business based on something that was a weakness or a challenge in the past that you grew through and can now help others with.  Most of us start businesses on our strengths.  It’s certainly much easier to help someone with something you’re good at rather than something that frustrates you as much as it does them.  It’s also much easier to convince someone to buy if you’re confident that you can deliver what you’re selling. With that in mind, here are two tips on growing your business from your strengths:

Have a good team.  Even if you’re a solopreneur you should have people and systems around you that help you manage the business successfully.  Your team will make you far more successful than you could be if you tried to do everything by yourself.  Even a program like Hootsuite or a site like Facebook can dramatically free up your time from sharing a post when you want it published or doing endless networking events.  Having a VA or accountant helps you do the stuff that is most important and can only be done by you and let them take care of the stuff that isn’t part of your “genius zone”.  But your team shouldn’t be handling the same stuff you’re doing, that would be counterproductive.  Instead they should be doing the things that, while not maybe weaknesses, definitely aren’t strengths for you.

Learn what you need to.  You have to have a grasp of the financial aspect of your business, as well as how to work with customers.  If you can’t do these two things you won’t be as successful in business.  The good news is there are lots of people and courses that can teach you about these two things.  Knowledge is power, and while it’s not necessary to know everything, knowledge of people and money will definitely improve your ability to manage and grow your business.

I encourage you today to take a look at your business and make sure you are operating from your strengths and letting others operate from theirs.  It’s OK to give some guidelines for how clean you want the office or how often you want to review your accounting, but it’s not OK to tell them how to do their job down to the last I dotted and T crossed.  What can you do to be a better leader?

Best of Back to School

Today I’ve got some fun and food for you to enjoy for your back to school moments.

Crafts:

Zipper monster wrist wallet

Velvet journal

Pencil buddies

It’s a stretch notebook

Magnetic lunch chart

Felt pencil case

Chore center

Back to school scrapbooking ideas

Food:

Snacktivities

Lemon roasted chicken salad wrap

Ham and cheese empanadas

Carrot muffins

Chocolate granola bars

Brown rice crispy treats

Strawberry oatmeal bars

Fruit leather roll ups

What are your ideas for school themed crafts and healthy and delicious lunches and snacks?