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Did you stop learning when school stopped?

open books on wooden table

In university or any school, the term “hit the books” is used synonymously with learning.  That said, there is a major difference in the amount of learning and the amount of reading people do if they are not in school.  If you are trying to improve, get better, become more effective at your job, or contribute more to society, relationships, family and friends, then learning is key.

The biggest single barrier I hear to reading is “I don’t have the time”.  So often we spend the time we could be learning on our social media feed, watching TV, or just overall time-wasting.  If you have ever had to accomplish something significant over a few months and actually focus on it, you would be shocked to learn how much time we actually have: lots; if we don’t waste it!  I also hear that the cost of books is just so high these days so here are a few ideas that could help you overcome those barriers:

  • Use Audiobooks – imagine you could read books on your commute or when you are working out?  30 minutes to and from work in a car = 1 hour/day, 5/week, 20/month, 240/year with an average audiobook being 8 hours that if listened to at 1.5X speed = 45 books you could read per year!  Some services that are available include Audible, but there is a cost to that – read on about how to eliminate the cost.
  • Listen to Podcasts – there are experts in your field that pump out many different podcasts that may include other experts that you can listen too – all on your commute.  They also come with show notes where the producers put links to all kinds of content as well and most of this content is free.
  • Use predictive services to suggest your next read.  I like the Ap called Goodreads to do that for me.   It analyzes all of the books I have read and then suggests books that I may be interested in.  You can also go to a section in a bookstore or library that you like and see what else is adjacent to your favourite books.
  • Use an RSS Feed reader like Feedly. You can get the links to any blogs that you are interested in, organize them and get collated content from experts in that area.  I subscribe to lots of blogs where I am provided the headlines and I can double click to get the content if I think it could be useful.
  • Use your local library! Did you know you can get and read any book you want for free and that your library has an app where you can put books on hold and renew them from your phone? This can save lots of money and even a $0.60 late fine is far more economical than buying that book for $25.
  • Your library has audiobooks that you may have had to pay for through apps or subscriptions like audible but I have found I seldom go back and listen to a book I have already “read”. You can use the ap Overdrive or Libby to connect to your library and do the same thing as audible for free.
  • Your library can offer academic research or if you are alumni of a university, your alumni card can get you certain levels of access to the university library.
  • Lynda.com is a learning service with online courses from experts on almost any topic you can access this through your local library website!  If not in your local city, or town, just go to another city or town and sign up for a library card there.
  • Percipio is also an online learning service that may be offered by your employer with all kinds of content relevant to your job.
  • Get abstract is a service you may have access to where you can access the “Coles notes” book summary version if any of those business or leadership books that you may just want to explore at a top-line level.

In summary, you will never lose when you invest in yourself and your learning; also note that your wealth will only grow to the extent that you grow yourself!

Happy learning!

Track your net worth like it is your business, wait…it is!

networth

Many people work in companies and devote 60+ hours / week to those companies.  We are often responsible for growing sales and profit, driving volume and coming up with ideas that will meet targets for the year.  An important element in every public company is the forecast relative to the target or commitment that management has made to the street.  This can have implications on profitability, inventory and total shareholder return which managers take very seriously and implement many processes to ensure their success:

Innovation:  Companies will perform consumer research to understand unmet consumer needs, match those opportunities up with the production capabilities to develop an innovation pipeline that can be 3-5 years out.  These projects are tested with consumers and shoppers in relative environments so companies can gather information to narrow the error range of the estimated volume associated with the innovation.

Trade investments: Companies will invest significantly to entice retailers to support their products with listings in more stores, feature frequency, display space outside of the shelf, pricing strategies to drive incrementality and shelf space to reduce out of stocks and stimulate triggers to purchase in store.  Companies will also determine the specific target of each innovation or product segment and develop shopper marketing plans to drive trial, penetration.   All of these investments drive estimated volumes with expected investment payouts that justify the spend; these estimates often roll up and translate to financial guidance that gets to the street.  Post game analysis is usually required to understand the impact these investments have had on the business and relative to what was projected all with the hope of optimizing investments.

Marketers do similar planning and analysis using techniques like Market Mix Modeling which is a statistical analysis on sales and marketing data to estimate the impact of various tactics (marketing mix) on sales and then forecast the impact of future sets of tactics.

Before a year even starts, these companies compile a list of “Building blocks” which include last years base volume, planned innovation, trade and marketing investments with the volumes associated.  The team then tracks each of those building blocks in a phased approach throughout the year.

This seems like a very rigorous logical and data based approach with elements that could be reapplied to our personal finances to drive a better return.  Some steps that could be taken on the personal finance front include:

  1. Tracking historical Assets and the return they have delivered.
  2. Tracking the growth trajectory of various asset groups
  3. Tracking the management of expenses.
  4. Tracking various financial ratios like savings rate, Monthly investment income / expenses
  5. Targets for the years net worth broken out by quarter
  6. Building blocks to help drive the net worth target with regular tracking.
  7. % of net worth in tax deferred accounts
  8. % of tax deferred investment room being used.
  9. Budget required while in the work force vs. in retirement.
  10. Portfolio mix vs. desired allocation over time.

Tracking our personal finances is just as important as our company business because after all, it is our business!

Girl Guide cookies are not for raising money

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Have you ever seen a lunch room at work with a stack of Girl Guide cookies saying $5 please put the money in the envelope?  Parents who do this think they are contributing to their kids childhood or are they actually robbing them of critical skills that will stick with them for life? skills they can make a living from?

What if we looked at this a little bit differently?  What if we used this as a learning opportunity for our children and taught them how to sell?  Most people find it a bit awkward to ask people for money or to support them but that is exactly what many people have to do during the workday to be successful.  They have that feeling of anxiety and try to put off asking for the sale so it won’t get “uncomfortable” or to protect from “rejection”.  In reality, the more often you ask or get a rejection, the more equipped and practiced our children get at dealing with it.

How about a reframe?  Hey kids, lets go and see how many rejections we can get!  Expect them because they are going to come, but sometimes they might buy.  What about role playing with them to help them open the shade to purchase with a stranger, determine, understand, verify and handle objections?  Hey, I am with the Girl Guides and I am selling cookies to support my group.  Are you interested in purchasing some cookies today?

If you get a buying signal, could you ask “how many boxes would you like?  It is $20 for 4 boxes or $5 for one box” to provide them an option to purchase 4 right away.  “I don’t like cookies”  Is there anyone in your life who likes cookies?,  “I don’t have the cash” I can come back and get it at a better time or you can email money transfer my dad.

What if you took it a step further and paid your kids a 50% commision on every box so they could get excited about it.  They can easily sell $60/hr which would amount to $30/hr at a 50% commision – that hourly rate is 3X babysitting showing them they could actually make a great living per hour selling!  Don’t forget about teaching the importance of savings rate and investing their earnings as well!

Girl Guide cookies are not for raising money, they are for raising strong, confident girls.  So next time a parent asks you to buy something tell them “Get your kid to sell them to me, let me give them a bit of a hard time so they earn it and I would gladly buy the goods and build up your kid in the process”.

Can I retire yet?

Retirement needs to be reframed.  It is not about your income and how much of it you can replace but rather how much you spend and how much your investments bring in.

Your education, work ethic and passion in your career can help you earn more money but once you get into the work world for a while, your income becomes a bit more stable and starts to plateau.  As this happens and your career lengthens, large income bumps become less and less in your control or they could require dramatically more of your time.  Your expenses however are controlled by you for every cent you spend.

There is another concept that is very important in building wealth or value.  In business a company’s worth is based on its owners equity on the balance sheet.  If shares are issued of that company, the share price is the owners equity / number of shares.  That value is what shareholders expect to increase and why they invested in the company.  My point is that your balance sheet matters not your income statement; if you make $1M and spend $1M you have nothing to add to your net worth or “owners equity” at year end.   It is also worth mentioning if you spend more than you make in a year, you will reduce your net worth.

Income statement rich shows up bigger in the world!  These people make money and spend it on lavish things: cars, homes, vacations, clothing etc.  they appear rich but at the end of the year, they don’t increase their net worth.  People focused on expenses and make the same money have lots left over at the end of the year to add to their net worth that they can put to work via investments for them.

4 Step plan to get started:

  1. In a spreadsheet track your net worth; list your assets down a column, your liabilities, and the difference will be your net worth; record the months across the top and do this each month.
  2. Track your expenses via an app called “Mint” then at the end of each month, drop that amount into a spreadsheet with months across the top.  I also like to reduce this number by work related expenses.  Examples could be work clothing, toll roads and gas on the way to work, eating lunch at work vs. at home, dry cleaning, camps for kids during the summer etc.
  3. In a line below your expenses calculate the cash flow that would be generated by your invested net worth; using the 4% safe withdrawal method this calculation would be =networth*0.04/12 to get a monthly number; you can also include other sources of income like rent from a rental property etc.  If you are in a home you want to sell soon, you could include that in your calculations but if you don’t plan on moving and pulling equity out of your home, I would not include it.
  4. Track your savings rate by taking any investments you made or principal paid on your mortgage and divide it by your after tax income.  Your goal will be to increase this rate as much as possible.  One analysis showed that if you can have a 50% savings rate, you can retire after 17 years!  That would require living off of 50% of your income.

Once you have tracked this over time, and your income line has consistently been above your expenses line with some cushion, you should be able to pull the trigger. This becomes a math exercise where you need 25x your annual expenses to be able to withdraw 4% each year.

To summarize this equation, ((Net worth (Assets-liabilities)) – home equity) * 0.04 / 12 – Monthly expenses.  If positive your investments cover your expenses and you don’t need to work anymore.  Further posts will focus on how to increase your assets, reduce liabilities and expenses but have fun doing it!

 

Are you all talk and no action?

My mom (rest her soul, and an old soul at that) always used to say, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk.” So many meanings are coming to me in this moment about that saying.

My first thought takes me back many years to when I was in high school and university. I have always been a huge fan of comedy and from a young age I religiously watched Saturday Night Live and I always talked about doing stand-up comedy. It wasn’t until my university boyfriend (now husband) turned to me and innocently said with a hint of annoyance, “You’ve been talking about doing stand-up for a while now, are you ever going to do it?” At that moment it hit me like a ton of dwarfs, it became so clear that I either had to book an amateur gig or stop talking about it already. Shit or get off the pot, another one of my mom’s good ones. So I put together a routine, told all my friends and family to come out, I put on sparkle underwear on outside of my pants (tied into one of my jokes – I’m not completely insane), and I got my ass on the stage at Yuk Yuks. There were many wins that night:

1) I controlled my nerves enough that I didn’t shat my drawers and need a clean-up in aisle three!

2) I was proud of myself, I gave it my best despite a big internal voice telling me how much I had riding on this and playing the what if game, like what if you aren’t funny, what if everyone thinks less of you, etc. Often the worst case scenario we as human beings with our big brains tend to think of is nowhere near the reality of the situation. People actually laughed and I had a blast.

3) I got to keep talking about that night and others where I got up on stage. Getting outside of my comfort zone and experimenting with my passion for comedy on multiple stages and being vulnerable in front of audiences is still to this day the stories and memories that I call upon when I need courage.

This saying has a lot of meaning for me in the here and now. I have embarked on a coaching journey and I truly love the work that I do. I am amazed at how much my clients inspire and motivate me. No doubt it’s easier to encourage others to leverage their strengths and internal resources to put one foot in front of the other to get where they want to go than to do it myself! So I have a choice:

  • I can live in my comfort zone and tell others to get outside of theirs

Or

  • I can walk the walk

I choose to not walk but dance outside my comfort zone because that’s where the magic happens. What are you choosing? What you have chosen in the past doesn’t have to be what you decide today or tomorrow.

What are your typical patterns? Is there a book you want to write that never gets written? If you have some dream or some project that you care about that seems to be getting no traction – I ask you, what are you waiting for? I’m by no means asking you to stop dreaming; in fact, I encourage everyone to dream as big as possible. What is one thing you can do to move yourself forward and towards a goal? Take one step.

I have been talking about writing a blog now for months and I held back because I was overthinking it and wanting it to be perfect. I was motivated to get off the pot by a client of mine struggling with the same thing who committed to simply putting the content out there.

Let’s celebrate your step(s) forward, share your comfort zone triumphs.

Get out there kick some ass and most importantly have fun!