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How Money Works Educator - Ron Harris

Ron Harris

HowMoneyWorks Educator

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June 16, 2021

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Closing The Gap

Closing The Gap

Women earn 82¢ for every $1 earned by men.(1)

The median annual salary for men is around $50,000. At 82¢ for every $1 earned by a man, the median annual salary for women is around $40,000.(2) For someone taking care of a family, how significant do you think that extra $10,000 would be?

By the time a woman reaches age 65, she will have earned $1 million less than a man who stayed continuously in the work force.(3) Consequently, retired women receive only 80% of what retired men receive in Social Security benefits.(4)

Women tend to be the primary caregivers for their children, parents and partners.(1) So women end up taking time away from their careers to care for loved ones. These career interruptions can significantly impact women’s chances to climb the corporate ladder – promotions, raises, bonuses and full retirement benefits.(3)

Since women earn less, we have less money to set aside for our financial goals. Of the Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, is it a surprise that 85% are women?(5) As a result, women own just 32¢ for every $1 owned by men. We accumulate only a third of the wealth accumulated by men.(6)

We may not see the gender pay gap or the gender wealth gap close in our generation. But women can change the financial trajectory of their lives by learning how money works and applying the 7 Money Milestones. By understanding and paying attention to all of the things that make up our financial picture – Financial Education, Proper Protection, Emergency Fund, Debt Management, Cash Flow, Build Wealth, and Protect Wealth, we have the power to take control over our financial future and create equal wealth for ourselves.

And, women need to think about their career decisions. We should consider choosing a career that pays more to women and men equally. With a company that doesn’t penalize women for time spent taking care of loved ones. A place where women can create equal pay for ourselves.

Women have made a lot of progress in pursuing higher education and professional careers, but we’ve only made incremental progress in our finances. If we want to bring about profound change, we have to make it happen for ourselves. We have the power to close the gap in our lives for ourselves and our families.

— Kim Scouller

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Sources:

  1. “The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay,” Pew Research Center, April 2018
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan 2019
  3. “Women & Financial Wellness: Beyond The Bottom Line,” Merrill Lynch and Agewave, March 2018
  4. “Fast Facts and Figures about Social Security,” SSA, 2019
  5. “Women Live Paycheck to Paycheck Roughly 5 Times as Often as Men – Here’s Why,” CNBC Make It, Oct 2019.
  6. “America doesn’t just have a gender pay gap. It has a gender wealth gap.,” The Washington Post, April 2019

Is Your Cash Flowing?

February 12, 2021

Is Your Cash Flowing?

How much cash do you have left at the end of the month after you’ve covered the essentials AND treated yourself? (I’m guessing not much.)

Wish your paycheck went a little further? You’re not alone—not by a long shot. Most Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and saving little to nothing. So how do you increase your cash flow so you can stop living in the Sucker Cycle and start saving and investing more?

In the book, HowMoneyWorks, Stop Being a Sucker, we attack this challenge head on in Milestone 5 of the 7 Money Milestones.

Here are a few tips to get your cash flowing towards your future…

Redirect your cash flow <br> There are a million little things that siphon away your paycheck. Credit card debt, monthly subscriptions, and your fast food habit all chip away at your income. This “death by a thousand cuts” is a foolish spending cycle that prevents you—and countless other suckers—from creating an emergency fund, protecting your income, and building wealth for the future.

That’s why it’s so important to make and maintain a budget. It’s like a map of where your cash is going. Once you have that knowledge, you can figure out where you need to dial down your spending and start redirecting your cash. Don’t get too detailed. You don’t need to get overwhelmed by spreadsheets. Try creating a one-page list of expenses, freeing up as much cash as possible. Take your budget to your financial professional and discuss how best to use this available cash.

Open up new income streams <br> Budgeting and cutting back on spending might not be enough. Life throws plenty of unexpected (and expensive) problems at us that might not have a budgeting solution. You may need to look for new income streams to maintain the lifestyle you want while also saving for the future.

You’d be surprised by how many possibilities there are to create additional income streams—many of which offer the chance to make money from home. Maybe now is the time to discover that your favorite hobby or area of interest is actually a way to earn some cash. That could look like a side hustle or weekend gig, but you might find that your skills and ideas are full-time business opportunities just waiting to happen! Research which of your ideas and skills are in demand, figure out how much time and effort it will take to get started, and decide how much time you’re willing to commit. (It could be easier than you think!)

Increasing your cash flow can open up a whole new world of opportunities. That extra money you have from cutting back on takeout and streaming services could be how you fuel the power of compound interest and finally start saving for retirement. That several hundred dollars you bring in from teaching guitar lessons each month could be how you pay off your credit cards and free up even more cash. There’s no doubt your options can really open up once your cash starts flowing!

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4 Simple Steps to Streamline Your Housing Budget

February 1, 2021

4 Simple Steps to Streamline Your Housing Budget

Decreasing your housing budget may mean more money in your pocket.

That’s because housing is the single largest expense for most Americans.¹ Reducing mortgage payments or rent by even a fraction can free up substantial cash flow.

The best part? You don’t have to move into a shack to make it happen. Here are a few strategies to increase cash flow by decreasing your housing costs.

Choose the suburbs over the city. On average, suburbanites save $9,000 per year on housing and child care when compared to city-dwellers.² By and large, the money you may save on the cost of living in the suburbs can outweigh the added transportation expenses. It’s not a shift for everyone, but relocating further from the city might make sense financially, at least for the short-term.

Rent until you’re ready. It’s worth considering leasing a house or apartment until you’re financially positioned to buy a house. Even if a mortgage payment seems cheaper on paper than renting, ownership can come loaded with unforeseen expenses. Flooded basement? That’s on you. Broken furnace? Also on you. Renting isn’t necessarily a permanent long-term strategy, but it beats potentially going into debt covering surprise repairs that are beyond your budget.

Find a reliable roommate. Sharing the cost of housing can free up a significant portion of your cash flow, especially in expensive cities. In New York City, for instance, having a roommate can save you up to $15,500 every year.³ Just be sure you take on a roommate that doesn’t flake out when rent is due.

Rent out a room. If you’re a homeowner with room to spare, consider leasing space to a trusted friend. The extra income can offset the cost of mortgage payments and result in more cash flow going toward saving, investing, or even paying off the house faster.

Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about how budgeting fits into an overarching financial strategy. We can review your income and expenses and make a game plan for how you can stop spending like a sucker and start saving like the wealthy.

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¹ “American Spending Habits in 2020,” Lexington Law, Jan 6, 2020, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/american-spending-habits.html

² “City vs. Suburbs: Where is Better to Live?,” The Perspective, 2020, https://www.theperspective.com/debates/city-vs-suburbs/

³ “What a Roommate Saves You in 50 U.S. Cities – 2020 Edition,” Nadia Ahmad, SmartAsset, May 11, 2020, https://smartasset.com/checking-account/what-a-roommate-saves-you-in-50-us-cities-2020

A Bold Strategy to Free Up Cash Flow

January 28, 2021

A Bold Strategy to Free Up Cash Flow

Need cash flow? Consider reducing your largest expenses.

Housing, transportation, and food consume more than 60% of the average American’s income.¹ If you’re willing to cut costs in those categories by just a fraction, you could save far more than eliminating smaller budget items. Think of it like this—cancelling a few unused online subscriptions is a good start, but it might not save you nearly as much as downsizing your apartment!

Here’s how it works…

You’re ready to get your financial house in order, attack your debt, and start building wealth. Let’s say you earn about $70,000 per year. $40,000 goes towards housing, transportation, and food, you spend $5,000 on non-necessities, and the rest goes towards insurance, healthcare, and education.

Looks good, right? But when you crunch the numbers, you realize you can’t put away enough each month to reach your savings goals. What a momentum-killer! How are you going to free up cash flow?

By totally eliminating non-necessities like coffee from the shop and streaming services, you could get back $5,000 dollars a year.² Not bad, but not great either.

Or—to save twice as much—you could scale back your housing, transportation, and food expenses by 25%. It might seem radical, but it’s worth considering if it can help get you to your goals.

The takeaway? Before you hack away at your lifestyle, consider your non-discretionary spending. It’s an aggressive strategy, but ask yourself if there are ways you could slash your rent, mortgage payments, car payments, and grocery bill. If so, take advantage of them—they could free up far more cash flow than by just cutting non-necessities.

Not sure how to cut back on your top expenses? Stay tuned for creative strategies for reducing your spending on housing, transportation, and food. Articles that outline how you can save money on the largest items in your budget are on the way!

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¹ “American Spending Habits in 2020,” Lexington Law, Jan 6, 2020, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/american-spending-habits.html

² “New Survey Finds Americans’ Spending Habits Are Ruining Their Retirement,” Cameron Huddleston, Yahoo! Finance, Jan 1, 2019, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/survey-finds-americans-spending-habits-100000015.html#:~:text=New%20Survey%20Finds%20Americans’%20Spending%20Habits%20Are%20Ruining%20Their%20Retirement,-Cameron%20Huddleston&text=GOBankingRates’%202018%20Retirement%20Savings%20survey,worth%20of%20expenses%20in%20retirement.

Why You Should Study the Wealthy

January 22, 2021

Why You Should Study the Wealthy

Want to be financially independent? Study the wealthy.

Why? Because observing the wealthy is one of the most effective guides for creating— you guessed it—wealth. By using the wealthy as your guide, you can reduce debt, increase cash flow, and protect what you earn.

To study the wealthy, pattern their behavior.

Start by observing your social circles. Ask yourself who in your contact list is building real wealth…maybe a friend, family member, or mentor. Got someone in mind? Talk to that person. Spend time with them, hang out with them, and ask them questions. You’ll begin to absorb their insights, habits, strategies, and ways of thinking just by being around them!

If no one in your circles fits that description, it’s not hard to study the wealthy from a distance. Read the biography of a successful businessperson, watch a CEO’s TED Talk, or follow respected financial experts on social media. Be consistent. It takes time to unlearn unhealthy habits and replace them with new, beneficial behaviors.

Also, consider reading the HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker book. It’s the quickest path on the market today to learning how wealth is built. You’ll come away with a fresh understanding of what’s possible with your paycheck and the milestones you need to hit.

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3 Painful Consequences of Minimum Payments

January 19, 2021

3 Painful Consequences of Minimum Payments

Do you send in more than the minimum payments on your credit cards each month? (The correct answer is ‘yes.’)

If you are making more than the minimum payments now—you’re thinking like the wealthy!

A minimum payment is the lowest amount you can pay on your credit card bill without suffering a late payment penalty. We all know making minimum payments may be necessary for a short period if you’re freeing up cash flow to pay down a bigger, more urgent bill. However, paying just the minimum for the long haul can lead to long-term negative consequences.

Just like any time you have to deal with challenges in life, considering long-term consequences is vital to success. It can wake you up from thinking and acting like a sucker with your money. It can give you the laser focus needed to pay off debts so you can start building wealth. What’s at stake? You know, just your future.

So what are those looming, long-term consequences of making only the minimum payments on your credit cards?

Consequence #1: You end up paying mostly interest forever. OK, maybe not forever, but it will feel like it. By making only the minimum payments over a long period of time, you’re basically giving the credit card company free money—your money. You’re not even paying down the principal for the item you originally purchased with your credit card. You’re basically paying a subscription to the credit card company for holding your debt—a monthly service for which you get nothing.

Here’s an all-too-common example:

Let’s say that an unexpected expense tightens your budget. As it stands, you owe $10,000 in credit card debt at a 20% interest rate with a minimum payment of 2%. In order to cover the basics like housing, food, and medicine, you drop your credit card payments to the minimum amount of $200 monthly.

In this scenario, it will likely take more than 30 years and interest payments of over $35,000 to fully eliminate your credit card debt. The credit card company becomes richer, and your financial future is squandered.
 Consequence #2: You can hurt your credit score. When you hold high debt on a credit card for a long period, even if you’re making minimum payments on time, your credit utilization ratio (or the percentage of available credit you’re using) can rise. If it remains above 30% of your credit card limit for long, your credit can take a substantial hit¹—hurting your ability to borrow for a car, education, or home mortgage—and hinder qualifying for lower interest rates on those loans. This all equals financial limitations for your future—less cash flow, higher interest payments, less money to save for the future.

Consequence #3: You never start saving. Today, the responsibility to save and build wealth falls on the consumer—that’s you! Your 401(k) and Social Security check may fall dramatically short of providing the income you need for the lifestyle you want during retirement. The earlier you start saving, the better chance you have of closing the gap on the money you need for the future. Paying minimum payments on your credit cards is a dangerous habit that can prevent you from saving enough.

You don’t have to fall victim to these consequences. You can create a strategy to knock out your credit card debt by paying more than the minimums. How much more? As much as possible—until your credit card debt is gone. That big sigh of relief and your new ability to save will be well worth it!

An important caveat: Paying the minimum on a credit card while you build an emergency fund or pay down another debt can be advantageous, as long as you’re working with a licensed and qualified financial professional to reduce debt methodically.

Learn more about reducing debt in the book, HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker. Email, text, or call me to discover how you can get a copy ASAP!

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¹ “What is a Credit Utilization Rate?,” Experian, https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/score-basics/credit-utilization-rate/#:~:text=Credit%20scoring%20models%20often%20consider,the%20scoring%20model%20being%20used.

You Are Richer Than You Think

You Are Richer Than You Think

The sucker believes that becoming a millionaire is next to impossible without a 6-figure annual income.

The wealthy know that nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s time to start thinking like the wealthy by recognizing that YOU are richer than you think.

Discovering your hidden wealth begins by following these three simple steps:

  1. Reduce Your Debt
  2. Increase Your Cash Flow
  3. Save More Money

Zoom in to unpack each of these steps…

Reduce Your Debt <br> Regardless of your salary or income, the first step to becoming a millionaire is to take control of your debt, rather than cursing the bills when they arrive in the mail each month and mindlessly paying the minimums. Taking control requires rethinking, organizing, evaluating, and reducing debt efficiently.

Rethinking means removing the emotion attached to your debt, whatever it may be—anger, embarrassment, shame, frustration, hopelessness. It’s like washing the dishes. A stack of plates and a period of time. It’s just another task to complete.

Write down all of your debts, total balances, monthly minimum payments, and interest rates for each. There they are. You can see them all. Now it’s time for war.

The next step is to evaluate which one to pay off first. Choose the debt with the highest balance or lowest balance—OR choose the one with the highest interest rate. With the first victim selected, start putting all the cash you can muster toward paying off this debt. Instead of buying lattes, burgers, lottery tickets, and that cool new graphic t-shirt—dump your cash into debt payments. You’ll have the rest of your life to fill your closet with new tees. Make sure you continue paying the minimum payments for all your other debts too—on time.

When you make the last payment for the first debt do a little happy dance (really important). Then select the next highest debt or lowest debt, whichever strategy you choose—and put as much monthly cash toward paying it off as you can. Include the money from the minimum monthly payment from the debt you just finished paying off. This gives you a compounding effect to your debt reduction strategy. The more debts you pay off, the bigger your debt paying power becomes and the faster you’ll start reducing those debts. The process will actually become fun as you feel the power that comes from knocking each debt out. Trust me.

Along with paying off your credit card balances, student loan debts, and car loans, you should also take a look at your mortgage if you’re a homeowner. If you can refinance your home for a 1% lower interest rate or even lower, it may make sense as a way to lower your monthly payments and lower your mortgage debt. Make sure you work with your financial professional to see if this is a fit for you.

Increase Your Cash Flow <br> Now that your debt is moving down, you should have more cash freed up. But when it comes to cash flow, more is always the merrier. Here are some tactics for freeing up even more cash flow so you can make the jump from sucker taking a licking to millionaire in the making.

First, look at your monthly spending. Take the last two or three months and categorize everything that isn’t a necessity. How much did you spend on eating out, clothes, entertainment, impulse buys, home improvement, travel, and gifts? With the total in hand, cut the amount in half. You should also take a close look at your monthly subscription payments—how many streaming services do you really need? Cancel services that you’re not using.

So now you have your new non-essentials budget. Congratulations, you just increased your wealth-building power and simultaneously stopped living above your means!

Second, if you’re employed, request a meeting with your boss and ask for an increase in salary or wage or ask for more hours. All they can say is ‘no.’ If they agree, even if it’s just by a small amount, you just increased your cash flow once again. You’re on a roll.

Third, consider starting your own business. You may have thought about starting one in the past but it wasn’t the right time or you were too busy. Now is exactly the time to seriously examine the possibilities. What have you always wanted to do? What are your talents and abilities? What new business opportunities do these times present?

Fourth, you may not want to start a full-fledged business, but you could have a side gig or hustle to earn a little extra in the mornings, evenings, or weekends. Do you like making things, organizing, cleaning, serving, driving, crafting, zooming, or talking on the phone? What can you do with your time, enjoyments, and skills to make a little extra dough? There are endless opportunities out there for entrepreneurs. Find your fit and boost your monthly income—even if it’s only by a few hundred a month.

You have reduced your debt and increased your cash flow. Now you can use that extra monthly cash to start building wealth. The next step is to save like a millionaire.

Save Money <br> Saving money on a consistent basis, regardless of the amount, is the true secret to financial victory. The strategy is simple. You take all the monthly cash flow you can spare and start saving it into an account with the best interest rate, growth potential, tax advantages, and principal protection you can find. This is where a financial professional is key. Don’t go it alone.

These habits have created more millionaires than any other story, company buyout, or stock market windfall in the history of the world. The 8th wonder of the world—the power of compound interest—is the magic dust that will always work in your favor if you’ll put it to work.

Saving money is more about the decision than anything else. Just like breaking the cycle of foolish spending, you must DECIDE to save money on a consistent basis. When you do, over the years and decades, you will win because you’re employing the Time Value of Money and the Power of Compound Interest. This is the one-two combo that millionaires use to reach their status.

With a little less debt and a little more cash flow, you can start saving a little bit over a long period of time to become richer than you think—perhaps even a millionaire!

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Two Strategies To Destroy Debt

October 26, 2020

Two Strategies To Destroy Debt

Lugging around, on average, $38,000 of personal debt is exhausting.¹

It can deplete the power of your personal income until you barely have enough left to cover the monthly bills. You know it’s not a matter of IF you should eliminate debt. It’s a matter of HOW.

You have two basic debt destroying strategies at your disposal, each with different strengths and weaknesses. They’re called the Debt Avalanche and the Debt Snowball.

The Debt Avalanche <br> The Debt Avalanche starts with a bang. Identify the debt with the highest interest rate and immediately begin to pay it down. Make the minimum payments on all your other loans, but direct everything you can at eliminating the largest financial threat you’re facing. Once it’s paid off, take that extra money you’ve freed up and move on to the next highest interest rate debt. You’ll kickstart an unstoppable force of tumbling debt that will carry you all the way down to your smallest payment—and then zero debt.

Technically speaking, the debt avalanche is the most effective way to become debt-free. The math speaks for itself; paying off that high interest loan should free up a significant chunk of cash that can then be used to even more rapidly wipe out the next debt. The smaller rates won’t stand a chance against your newly freed up cash flow and will be swept away in your debt-removal path.

The Debt Snowball <br> But following the math isn’t always the best strategy. High interest debts can appear overwhelming and it’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t quickly see a dent. All the number-crunching in the world won’t help if you abandon your debt management strategy before you make any significant progress! That’s why the debt snowball leverages the power of psychology. Find your smallest debt on the list (regardless of the interest rate) and pay it down as quickly as possible. You’ll feel good about your accomplishment, as you get the ball rolling. Use whatever cash you freed up from eliminating the smallest debt to go towards the next smallest. Start working your way up until you’re ready to confront your largest loan. By that time you can use the free cash at your disposal to dispatch the final debt boss as quickly as possible!

The debt snowball uses your brain’s wiring to respond to rapid rewards. Crushing a goal feels good! Knocking out that first loan, as little as it may be, motivates you to move on. Is the Debt Snowball a slower process than the Debt Avalanche? Maybe. But it might be a more successful, manageable strategy if you’re intimidated by the largest debt that towers over your personal finances.

It’s always wise to seek guidance from a licensed and qualified financial professional when drawing out your debt reduction battle plans. They’ll help you prepare an emergency fund, identify the best strategy for you, and refine your budget to free up as much cash as possible!

Then suit up with your mittens, coat, and beanie—it’s time to trigger an avalanche or get the snowball rolling!

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¹ “Planning And Progress Study 2018,” Northwestern Mutual, https://news.northwesternmutual.com/planning-and-progress-2018

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