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How Money Works Educator - Ron Harris

Ron Harris

HowMoneyWorks Educator

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January 11, 2021

How Inflation Eats Up Your Savings

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Are You Keeping Your Checking Account In Check?

January 8, 2021

Are You Keeping Your Checking Account In Check?

There are many culprits that can hamper your ability to build wealth.

Believe it or not, your checking account might be one of them.

A checking account is designed to give you quick, flexible access to your money—not grow it efficiently. That’s why the interest rate for an average checking account is negligible—less than .06%.¹ It might as well be zero if you’re considering it as a savings tool for the future.

But you may already be thinking, “no one would consider their checking account a savings vehicle.” Then why do Americans have so much of their money stashed in them—$2.2 trillion in 600 million checking accounts, to be precise. ²

The answer can only be that they don’t know how money works. Otherwise, they would have moved their cash to an account that leverages the power of compound interest with a higher interest rate long ago.

The sucker likes seeing a big balance in their checking account. The wealthy like seeing big deposits moved into their wealth building vehicles.

Do you have too much money sitting in your checking account?

As a rule of thumb, only keep enough cash in your checking account to cover everyday expenses like utility bills and groceries. Move what’s leftover into accounts and vehicles where it can accrue interest at a faster rate. And consider scheduling a conversation with a licensed and qualified financial professional to discuss which saving vehicles are best for you!

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¹ “Average Bank Interest Rates in 2019: Checking, Savings, Money Market, and CD Rates,” Chris Moon, ValuePenguin, Dec 9, 2020, https://www.valuepenguin.com/banking/average-bank-interest-rates#:~:text=and%20CD%20Rates-,Average%20Bank%20Interest%20Rates%20in%202019%3A%20Checking%2C%20Savings%2C,Money%20Market%2C%20and%20CD

² “Checking Accounts Shrink by Nearly 100 Million Accounts Since 2011,” Tina Orem, Credit Union Times, May 8, 2018, https://www.cutimes.com/2018/05/08/checking-accounts-shrink-by-nearly-100-million-acc/#:~:text=Using%20bank%2C%20thrift%20and%20credit,or%20about%202.2%25%20per%20year.

Face it. You’re a Sucker

December 7, 2020

Face it. You’re a Sucker

Most people don’t know how money works.

In 2018, a global survey asked over 100,000 people in 15 different countries 3 simple questions about interest, inflation, and risk diversification. 70% failed to answer all three basic questions correctly.1

The cumulative effect of that lack of knowledge can result in some sketchy decision making. So are you wondering how you’d do? See if you know the answers to the following questions…

• How much interest will you pay over the life of your car loan? • What about over the life of your mortgage? • How much life insurance do you need to protect your family financially? • How much do you need to save for retirement? • Are you on track with that? • If you’re not on track, at what age will your money run out? • How much will Social Security pay you each month? • How much monthly income will your 401(k) provide? • How old will you be when it runs out?

If you can’t answer questions like these, ask yourself if you’re like so many others who assume there will always be enough and hope everything will turn out OK.

How is that possible?

A lifetime of wild guesses and blissful ignorance explains why so many people facing retirement panic when they see how little they’ll be forced to live on for the rest of their days. Is this true for you? If so, you could find yourself saying “Wow! I thought it’d be a whole lot more.”

It’s time to face it. You’re a sucker.

Does that offend you? Good, it should. Let it be a wake-up call. When you don’t know how money works, you can be taken advantage of time and time again.

You’re a sucker. Own it and you’ve taken the first step toward not being one.

Being financially illiterate sucks. But knowing how money works will help you transition from sucker to student and from student to master. The whole point is never to be fooled again.

Not by banks.

Not by credit card companies.

Not by online offers.

Not by employers.

Not by family or friends.

Not even by the number one person in your life responsible for making money—YOU!

But how do you transition from sucker to student? Well, every student needs a teacher. YouTube videos and online tutorials are great if you need a quick fix around the home. But unless you’re REALLY handy, would you try to tackle a major plumbing job in your house based on a video you watched online? Of course not. It’s too involved and too important. You need someone with experience who does that sort of thing for a living—in other words, you need a plumber. In the long run, your personal finances are even more important than a busted pipe in your home. That’s why it’s critical to work with a licensed and qualified financial professional, who can help you repair your finances and keep them flowing smoothly.

Also, consider shadowing a money mentor. Who do you know that’s financially successful? Become their friend so you can discover what they did (and do) right. Observe their daily habits and how they make decisions. What time do they wake up? How do they use credit cards, if at all? Where do they put their money? Do they make financial decisions with their partner or separately? What you could learn from a financially-savvy friend could pay dividends down the road.

And if you need a beginner’s guide, consider the HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker book. It’s a super-readable crash course on the basics of financial literacy that you can read in an hour but think about for a week. Just ask me how you can get a copy!

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¹ “The New Social Contract: a Blueprint For Retirement in the 21st Century —The Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2018,” Aegon—Center for Longevity and Retirement, May 2018, https://www.aegon.com/contentassets/6724d008b6e14fa1a4cedb41811f748a/retirement-readiness-survey-2018.pdf

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
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
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
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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Why You Must Know How Money Works

November 16, 2020

Why You Must Know How Money Works

There’s an old saying: “What we think about, we bring about.”

The expression holds true over the course of our lives in determining both our struggles and our successes. What you think about becomes your reality.

What will your reality be?

It will largely depend on how you think about money.

If you’re like many, you think primarily in emotional terms. You get excited to buy something new. You grow frustrated when paying bills. Because you find the mechanics of money uninteresting and confusing, you end up like so many others—never learning how money really works.

No big deal, right? But here’s the thing about money. It’s not like cooking, golfing, or any other skill you can get by without. If you don’t know how to properly grill salmon, who cares? If you can’t drain a 20-foot putt, so what? But if you don’t know how money works, you might wake up every day wondering why life SUCKS.

That’s a strong word, but yes, not knowing how money works… sucks. It sucks up your time. It sucks up your freedom. And, most importantly, it sucks up your income. So where does it all go? It goes to your mortgage lender, your credit card company, your bank, Apple, Amazon, Netflix. You know—the guys who know exactly how money works. W.C. Fields said, “It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.”

This is what you’re up against. You become a sucker. They become wealthy.

The world is full of people who are happy to tell you what to do with your money.

Fortunately, you have tools at your disposal to transform your sucker mindset into a money mindset. Here’s how to start:

Test your literacy with the HowMoneyWorks challenge. In five quick questions, you can discover if you have the knowledge you need to help make measured financial decisions and alter your future for the better. Ask me for the link and we’ll review your results together!

Read the HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker book. It’s designed to help you learn how money really works so you can stop being a sucker, start being a student, and be the one to call the shots throughout your life with confidence.

Meet with a financial professional. When your car is broken, you go to a mechanic. So why not do the same for your finances? A licensed and qualified financial professional can give you the knowledge you need to answer questions like “How do I get the best rate on my mortgage?” and “How can I pay off my credit card debt?” and “Am I financially prepared for an emergency?” Plus, they’ll help you leverage that knowledge by working with you to prepare a financial roadmap for your future.

Grand failure or grand finale?

You choose. It all starts with your thinking. It all starts with knowing how money works.

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What Does it Mean to Be Financially Literate?

November 9, 2020

What Does it Mean to Be Financially Literate?

People with a high level of financial literacy are able to make informed decisions by putting their financial education to work.

Understanding how money works is practical by nature and can be a make-it or break-it knowledge base and skill set for one’s life. Financially literate people are able to organize their money to meet their future goals—regardless of what those goals may be—by simply being smart with money. This is usually best accomplished with the assistance of a financial professional.

Financial literacy is becoming increasingly essential in today’s evolving world. A lack of financial literacy could lead to a wide number of financial difficulties for people, contributing to important social issues in our nation including poverty, job scarcity, and wealth inequality.¹ It can also create stress that can have a negative impact on mental and emotional health.² Financial skills can help provide benefits that go beyond mere financial awareness. They can also lead to an improvement of personal well-being because those who are financially literate usually have greater success and peace throughout their lives.

To understand what financial literacy means it’s important to know and follow the correct steps—like the 7 Money Milestones—which can be found in the book HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker. Having financial literacy adds to the values, skills, and self-confidence necessary to make insightful, strategic money decisions. Yes, becoming financially literate takes a little work, but the outcome can greatly improve quality of life.

Financial literacy helps people understand relevant money concepts. Knowing about the Time Value of Money is a great example. This concept informs us that the money available now is worth more than the same amount in the future because of its ability to earn interest. Concepts like this create urgency, inspiring people to increase their financial education, and then use that knowledge to take action and create healthy money habits.

Financially literate people:
- Ask the right questions of their financial professional

- Are aware of the reasons behind their decisions

- Set aside part of their income on a regular basis

- Make plans for the future

- Protect their family in the event of sickness or premature death

- Set financial goals and make plans to achieve those goals

- Set aside savings for emergencies

- Keep their financial obligations under control

- Monitor their spending patterns

- Understand concepts such as loans, credit, and debt

- Are aware of the services banks provide

- Are knowledgeable about investment options

- Do not spend more than they earn

- Have an understanding of tax-related issues

One of the best resources that teaches the basic knowledge, skills, and behaviors of a financially literate person is the HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker book. If you develop the skills outlined within, you can consider yourself well on your way to becoming financially literate.

— Tom Mathews

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¹ “COVID showed why we need to make financial literacy a national priority,” Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Fortune, Sept 24, 2020, https://fortune.com/2020/09/24/personal-financial-literacy-health-schwab/

² “The Link Between Physical and Financial Health,” Marcus by Goldman Sachs, Feb 27, 2020, https://www.marcus.com/content/marcus/us/en/resources/personal-finance/physical-and-financial-health

“FL 101” - Financial Literacy For College Freshmen

“FL 101” - Financial Literacy For College Freshmen

College can be a lot of things. Fun. Scary. Exciting. Confusing.

But one thing is for certain—it’s that time of life when students finally break away from their parents and start making their own decisions—like how to spend their money.

And it turns out they have no clue what they’re doing in that department—statistically speaking.

Only 35% of students entering university have received any previous financial education.¹ Is not knowing how money works the major reason why freshmen blindly contribute to the $1.5 trillion of total student loan debt that exists?² Of course it is. But taking on giant loans without understanding the full magnitude of their decision isn’t the only financial mine lying in wait for undergrads. According to Sallie Mae, in 2019 the average college student had $1,183 in credit card debt—a 31% increase from 2016!³

Massive student loans and thousands in credit card debt don’t position students well for post college success, prompting many of them to take a job they don’t care about, in a field they don’t want, for a boss they don’t like. The obligation to make debt payments, which the student once thought was far in the future, now robs them of their freedom to explore, grow, and develop.

If only they had been given a true financial education in high school—or even before, they would have learned the following financial literacy basics for college freshmen…

1. Manage your debt Student loans help millions of students fund an education that, on average, is worth about $2.8 million over the course of their lives.⁴ But it’s important to highlight that debt is nothing to take on lightly. Many students are unaware of the heavy burden they’re acquiring in the form of student loans and credit card balances.

The company Student Loan Planner reports that roughly 90% of borrowers experience significant anxiety due to their loan burden.⁵ Couple that with a 2015 survey by Equifax that revealed 55.7% of students listed ‘student loan debt’ as their top reason for not being able to afford their first home.⁶

Along with student loan debt, the average college student holds a credit card balance of $1,183. Credit cards for students are often justified as a necessary lifeline to cover living expenses. In reality, they’re often used for frivolous, impulse purchases that contribute to 49% of students being saddled with permanent credit card debt in addition to their student loans.¹

If you can’t avoid using student loans and credit cards to afford your education and living expenses, follow these guidelines to help remove debt swiftly after graduation. With your psychological and financial future at stake, the key is to reduce your debt before an onslaught of new expenses (i.e., your mortgage, children, car payments) make it even harder to pay off.

First, get a part-time job or side-hustle if you haven’t already. Second, identify your credit card with the lowest balance. Third, put as much of your income towards eliminating that debt as you can. Once that’s done, move on to the next lowest card. Repeat until your credit card debt is a hazy memory.

2. Identify a money mentor There are two ways to gain wisdom. You can either make mistakes or learn from someone else’s. Finances are no different. Never again will you have such a perfect opportunity to find a money mentor than when you’re attending university. It’s like a learning shortcut where you get access to a whole lifetime of experience without a lifetime of making mistakes. You just have to keep an open mind and be willing to establish a real relationship with someone with financial know-how.

Your money mentor could be a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, the parent of a friend, a professor, or even a responsible upperclassman. Once you’ve identified your mentor, ask hard questions about how to spend and manage money. Pick your mentor’s brain for how they built their wealth, mistakes they made along the way, and advice for specific challenges you face. Show them your budget and have them hold you accountable for your spending decisions. Be willing to put in the work of being open, scheduling and spending time with your mentor, and implementing their advice. The connections and networks you build today will serve you long after you graduate!

3. Start building wealth NOW Look at your bank account. Then look at your income. They might not seem like much, but they’re the humble beginnings of your future wealth—if you play your cards right! Your money has more growth potential right now than it ever will again. Allow me to demonstrate.

Let’s assume you’re 20 and want to retire at 67 with a million dollars. You find an account with a 9% annual interest rate, compounded monthly. It would only take saving $113 per month to crush that goal. What’s more, you wouldn’t have to increase your saving as you get older to retire as a millionaire. Want to retire with more? Increase it. If you start saving $226 each month now—without ever increasing the amount—you’d have $2 million. If you’ve got the flow, and you want $4 million at retirement—make it $452 each month. Starting young is the most affordable way to build wealth with compound interest.

What if you didn’t start young? What if you decided to wait until you’re 35 to start saving? Those 15 years of procrastination means you’ll have to stash away $451 monthly just to reach your million dollar retirement goal. $452 monthly now for $4 million or $451 monthly starting at 35 for $1 million. You don’t need the wealth of a king or queen to enjoy the freedoms of royalty in retirement—if you start building wealth NOW. It’s your decision whether time robs you or robes you. Even if you start saving with less than these amounts, start the habit now to set aside a regular sum of money for your future.

4. Use a budgeting app Budgeting is important. It can also be a huge pain if you don’t know what you’re doing. Punching in numbers, setting up spreadsheet formulas, and stressing if that pizza delivery tip counts towards groceries can make tracking your expenses such an aggravating process that you don’t even bother. Fortunately, there are some excellent apps and websites out there that can take the hassle out of money management. Mint and Pocketguard, for example, are free budgeting apps that sync to your bank account and credit cards to allow for real time updates to your spending and saving goals. And it’s all conveniently located on your phone, just a few taps away. Scrap the spreadsheet, do a little research, and download a headache-reducing app ASAP.

A financial education isn’t like a sociology or history class. Those last for a few months, you learn tons of facts, you pass a test, and you move on with your life. Learning how money works is a lifelong process that will impact almost all of your daily decisions and future experiences. Few other skills will open your eyes to the exciting possibilities that life can offer. So hit the books (the How Money Works, Stop Being a Sucker book, to be precise) and start being a student of personal finance TODAY.

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¹ “2019 Money Matters On Campus,” Daniel Zapp, EVERFI, https://everfi.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/MoneyMatters-2019.pdf

² “Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2019: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis,” Zack Friedman, Forbes, Feb 25, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/02/25/student-loan-debt-statistics-2019/#50430199133f

³ “Majoring in Money 2019,” Sallie Mae and Ipsos, https://www.salliemae.com/about/leading-research/majoring-in-money/

⁴ “The College Payoff: Education, Occupation, And Lifetime Earnings,” Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

⁵ “Mental Health Survey: 1 in 15 High Student Debt Borrowers Considered Suicide,” Melanie Lockert, Student Loan Planner, Sept 4, 2019, https://www.studentloanplanner.com/mental-health-awareness-survey/

⁶ “Millennials, Mortgages and Student Debt,” Rosie Biundo, Equifax, July 14, 2015, https://insight.equifax.com/millennials-mortgages-and-student-debt/

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
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
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

The Credit Score Playbook

October 19, 2020

The Credit Score Playbook

If you read the last blog article, you now know how to find your credit report and credit score.

But what’s your game plan if you don’t like what you see? A low credit score can make getting and/or paying for a mortgage or car loan much more difficult since lenders are more likely to charge you higher interest rates.¹ Insurers, employers, and even landlords sometimes factor your score into their decision-making process.¹ There are few parts of your life that will be unaffected!

Boosting your score is a key step in helping to achieve financial independence and pursuing your dreams. You basically have two plays at your disposal to start putting credit score points on the board. Read on to see what they are!

Defend your score
Let’s say you get your credit report back and notice something’s wrong. Maybe your credit card company incorrectly reported a late payment or there’s negative information that’s now expired and can come off the report. Errors on your report can sabotage your credit score, so it’s important that you rally to defend your creditworthiness!

First step is you’ll need to write a letter to the credit reporting agency that’s in error. State your name and address and exactly what you’re disputing. Hunt down documents that will support your case and include those as well. The Federal Trade Commission has a sample dispute letter you can access on their website.²

If the credit agency agrees with your dispute, they’ll adjust your credit report accordingly and send you a new copy. You can also request that they send the revised report to companies that viewed the flawed version. If the credit agency denies your claim, you can take the dispute to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.³

Attack your score
You might see your score and realize that it’s on the low end. You’ve been late on payments, you always max your credit cards, and it shows. So what can you do? How do you go on the offensive and start lifting your number?

Your first volley is to start paying your bills on time. See if there are ways of automating your payments to make them as hassle free as possible. Second, make sure that you don’t max out your credit cards. Borrowing as much as possible at every opportunity can wreak havoc on your score. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily close all of your credit cards (that can negatively impact your score as well). But come up with a plan to limit your temptation to use plastic and start paying with cash as much as possible. Finally, avoid opening up new lines of credit, especially all at one time. Credit reporting agencies will look at how many creditors have inquired about your records to get an idea of how much debt you might accumulate.

Taking your credit score from a landslide win for lenders to a win for your bank account takes time and work. Remember that you have resources. The Federal Trade Commission has pages of consumer information on credit reporting and scoring that are 100% free and just a click away.⁴ And having a financial advisor in your corner can help boost your chances of turning around your credit score!

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¹ “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby, The Balance, Apr 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/side-effects-of-bad-credit-960383

² “Sample Letter for Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report,” Federal Trade Commision, Aug 2013, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0384-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report

³ “What can I do if I disagree with the results of a credit report dispute?,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Feb 2020, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-can-i-do-if-i-disagree-with-the-results-of-a-credit-report-dispute-en-1327/

⁴ The Federal Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/

Finding Your Creditworthiness Is Easier Than You Think

October 14, 2020

Finding Your Creditworthiness Is Easier Than You Think

Lenders know all about your credit score.

A good score means they should give you a competitive rate or you might go elsewhere. A bad score means they can crank up your interest rate and make your money work for them.(1)

Do you know what your credit score is and where it comes from? It shouldn’t be a mystery. So how do you find out what your score is before getting gouged for the foreseeable future?

Reports and scores
Let’s start by fleshing out the concept of credit scores. Certain companies collect information on you—like payment history, the number and type of accounts you have, whether you pay your bills on time, collection actions, outstanding debt, and the age of your accounts.(2) This debt rap sheet is called your credit report. Its goal? To determine how reliably you’ll repay lenders if they lend you money.

Data from the credit report gets run through an equation. Each algorithm is slightly different at each credit reporting company, but they all spit out a number that’s supposed to estimate how likely you are to pay off a loan. High scores mean you’re “credit worthy”, low scores mean you aren’t. Pretty simple, right?

How do I find my personal credit information?
Despite what you might think, credit reports are actually easy to find if you know where to look. The government mandated that the three major nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) offer you a free credit report every 12 months. All you have to do is head over to annualcreditreport.com and request your report.

Credit scores are a bit less straightforward. The government doesn’t mandate free credit score disclosures, but there are still ways to find them for free. Some credit card providers, banks, and lenders participate in FICO Score Open Access Program, making it a breeze for regular people to check their credit scores.(3)

Keeping up with your credit report and credit score might feel like one of those necessary evils, however nurturing and maintaining them can pay off. What should you do once you get your report and score and you don’t like what you see? That’s what we’ll cover next time

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1) “The Side Effects of Bad Credit: How Bad Credit Affects Your Life,” Latoya Irby, The Balance, Apr 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/side-effects-of-bad-credit-960383
 2) The Federal Trade Commission, Sept 2013, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0152-credit-scores
 3) “Where To Get Your Fico® Scores,” Fico Score, https://ficoscore.com/where-to-get-fico-scores/

The Rule of 72 Explained

October 5, 2020

The Rule of 72 Explained

In our book HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker, we introduce the Rule of 72, a mental math shortcut for estimating the effect of any growth rate—from quick financial calculations to population estimates.

This formula is especially useful for financial estimates and understanding the nature of compound interest. Rates of return may not be the easiest subject for consumers since it isn’t taught in schools, but this simple rule can help show the significance of a percentage point here or time horizon there.

Here’s the formula: 72 ÷ Interest Rate = Years to Double. If you know the interest rate (or rate of appreciation) or the time in years, dividing 72 by that number will give you a good approximation of the unknown number.

When will your money double?* 72 ÷ 1% = 72 years to double 72 ÷ 3% = 24 years to double 72 ÷ 6% = 12 years to double 72 ÷ 9% = 8 years to double 72 ÷ 12% = 6 years to double

Here’s an example: If you’re receiving a 9% rate of return, just divide 72 by 9. The result is 8. That means your money will double in approximately 8 years. Maybe that’s not fast enough for you and you prefer your money to double every 5 years. Then simply divide 72 by 5. The result is 14.4. Now you know you need a 14.4% return to achieve your goal.

This rule, long known to accountants and bankers, provides a close idea of the time needed for capital to double.

If you think that a difference of 1% or 2% is insignificant—think again! You seriously underestimate the power of compound interest. If one account appreciates at 9% and another at 12%, the Rule of 72 tells you that the first will take 8 years to double while the second will need only six years. This formula is also useful for understanding the nature of compound interest.

Examples:*

  • At 6% interest, your money takes 72 ÷ 6 = 12 years to double.
  • To double your money in 10 years, you need an interest rate of 72 ÷ 10, or 7.2%.
  • If inflation grows at 3% a year, the prices of things will double in 72 ÷ 3, or 24, years. If inflation slips to 2%, it will double in 36 years. If inflation increases to 4%, prices double in 18 years.
  • If college tuition increases at 5% per year (which is faster than inflation), tuition costs will double in 72 ÷ 5, or about 14.4, years.
  • If you pay 17% interest on your credit cards, the amount you owe will double in only 72 ÷ 17, or 4.2, years!

The Rule of 72 shows that a “small” 1% change can make a big difference over time. That small difference could mean buying the house you want, sending your kids to the college they choose, retiring when you wish, leaving your children the legacy they deserve, or settling for… something less. Doing the math with the Rule of 72 can give you critical insight to hit your goals down the road by shifting your strategy accordingly.

By the way, the Rule of 72 applies to any type of percentage, including something like population. Can you see why a population growth rate of 2% vs. 3% could be a huge problem for planning? Instead of needing to double your capacity in 36 years, you only have 24. Twelve years were shaved off your schedule with one percentage point faster growth.

The Rule of 72 was originally discovered by Italian mathematician Bartolomeo de Pacioli (1446-1517). Referring to compound interest, Professor Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is quoted as saying: “It’s the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.” He called it the 8th Wonder of the World—it works for you or against you. Make sure you put this shortcut to work the next time you consider an interest rate. When you save, it works for you. When you borrow, it works against you!

— Tom Mathews

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  • The Rule of 72 is a mathematical concept that approximates the number of years it will take to double the principal at a constant rate of return compounded over time. All figures are for illustrative purposes only, and do not reflect the performance risks, fees, expenses or taxes associated with an actual investment. If these costs were reflected, the amounts shown would be lower and the time to double would be longer. The rate of return of investments fluctuates over time and, as a result, the actual time it will take an investment to double in value cannot be predicted with any certainty. Investing entails risk, including possible loss of principal. Results are rounded for illustrative purposes. Actual results in each case are slightly higher or lower.

The Wealthy Love Suckers—And It Should Make You Very, Very Angry

September 28, 2020

The Wealthy Love Suckers—And It Should Make You Very, Very Angry

Do the wealthy know ways to make money that are unknown to everyone else? You better believe it!

John D. Rockefeller, one of early America’s richest tycoons, once said, “I have ways of making money that you know nothing of.” How does that make you feel? Shouldn’t everyone know the best ways to make money and create a prosperous future?

But the fact remains. There are wealth-building principles that are common knowledge to the wealthy but are largely unknown by the majority of the population.

So why is the average citizen in the dark?

How money works is simply not taught in schools. Only 21 states in the U.S. teach at least one high school class in financial education. ¹ Interestingly, all 50 states teach a class on sex ed. So the one thing you can learn on your own, they teach. And the one thing you’ll never learn on your own, they don’t. Go figure.

Actually, it does figure.

Think about it. If the financial industry were to educate consumers about money savviness, people might stop socking away so much of it in low-interest savings accounts that earn less than a 1% rate of return. And before you leave the branch do they offer you a brochure on financial concepts to help you get out of debt, avoid money missteps, and start saving like the wealthy?

Pfff—yeah right!

No. It’s like, if you’re dumb enough to open a low-interest savings account and take the free lollipop (it’s like their sucker litmus test), then they’ll try to sell you a car loan at 6% interest. ²

What a deal. You earn less than 1%—they earn 6%. It’s like a lose-lose for you, but you still thank them on the way out.

But they don’t stop there.

With your new car loan monthly payment, you might run low on cash from time-to-time. But thanks to partnerships with credit card companies, the bank can also offer you a shiny new charge card—but “just for emergencies.”

Do they make it clear how much they charge for late fees before they sell you on the benefits and points you can earn? No, that’s what the back of the brochure is for—as far away from the exciting offer as legally allowed. And you can bet it’s the same customer who opened the savings account and took the car loan who never flips the brochure over. They can always count on a customer with a sucker in their mouth to help drive their profits from late fees.

Hard to fathom there are that many suckers? It’s true…

With an overall outstanding balance of $6,354, the average American has 3.1 credit cards. Americans—a population of 328 million people—have over 1.5 billion credit cards and a credit card debt of $815 billion. 67% of all Americans have a credit card. ³

The financial industry thrives on customers who are stuck in the “Sucker Cycle” of foolish spending. While consumers are binging on Netflix, shipping on Amazon, and ordering from DoorDash, institutions are quietly leveraging the power of compound interest to make their customers’ money work for themselves. While consumers live paycheck-to-paycheck, financial institutions and shrewd businesses build profits sucker-to-sucker.

For most people, earning (and spending) a paycheck is the extent of their experience. But the wealthy know the real deal. To become financially independent, you must know the concepts and strategies to save, protect, and grow your money.

Did this article make you mad? Hopefully, it did.

So what do you do about it? You stop taking the sucker and you stop being the sucker. You learn how to take control of spending, protecting, saving, and investing your money. How? You do it by reading the book, “HowMoneyWorks, Stop Being a Sucker.” It will only take about an hour.

Don’t have a copy? Contact me and I’ll help you get one.

Use that anger to fuel action. Read the book. Then reach out to me and say, “Now that I know the ways of making money Rockefeller spoke of, I’m ready to chart my own course to financial independence.” We have a clear action plan for you to follow called “The 7 Money Milestones.” I’ll help you check off each one.

Let’s do it together.

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¹ National Financial Educators Council, “Financial Literacy Statistics,” [https://financialeducatorscouncil.org/financial-literacy-statistics/]

² Claudia Assis, “New-car loans hit highest interest rates in a decade,” MarketWatch, April 2, 2019, [https://marketwatch.com/story/new-car-loans-hit-highest-interest-rates-in-a-decade-2019-04-02]

³ Joe Resendiz, “Credit Card Usage and Ownership Statistics (2019 Report),” ValuePenguin, [https://www.valuepenguin.com/credit-cards/statistics/usage-and-ownership]

Your Emergency Fund: What you need to know.

September 23, 2020

Your Emergency Fund: What you need to know.

It really isn’t a question on whether or not you need an emergency fund.

(You do.) It’s the first line of defense when unexpected expenses show up (and they will—have kids?). Unforeseen emergencies threaten to undo your hard work and careful financial planning.

But what exactly is an emergency fund? What should it look like? And how do you start building one if you don’t have a sack of cash lying around?

What’s an emergency fund… and why do you need one?
An emergency fund is a dedicated amount of money to cover unplanned, unavoidable expenses. Establishing one is an important milestone on your journey to achieving financial independence! But why is it such a big deal?

Emergencies are a part of life. Nobody schedules a busted transmission or a broken arm, but you’ll need a way to pay for them when they happen. Who would have guessed that a global pandemic would force most of us to stay at home and cost millions of Americans their jobs? So it’s not a question of if you’ll need to cover something unexpected but how you’ll cover it. Without an emergency fund, you’ll be forced to either dip into your long-term savings (assuming you have them) or go into debt. For most people, either option can seriously throw off long-term financial plans. An emergency fund gives you the power to overcome sudden obstacles without sacrificing your retirement or piling up credit card bills.

Emergency fund ins and outs
One critical thing to grasp is that an emergency fund isn’t the same as your savings. Establishing a solid emergency fund is not a long-term goal that’s built over years or decades. Once the emergency fund is full, then you move on to other money milestones like conquering debt and saving for the future.

So how do you know you have enough in your fund? That depends on how much you make. A good rule of thumb is that an emergency fund should cover 3 to 6 months of income. That provides a buffer if you have an unexpected car repair, medical emergency, or if you’re temporarily unemployed due to an unprecedented global pandemic!

But what if you don’t have that much cash just lying around?
3 to 6 months of income might seem like a lot of money to set aside, especially if you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck. Building an emergency fund will take time and budgeting. Start with a goal of saving 2 weeks of pay. Then shoot for 1 month, then 2 months, etc., until you reach your goal.

The 2 Rules of Emergency Funds

Rule 1: An emergency fund is only, ONLY to be used in case of actual emergencies. It’s not for last minute getaways, much needed spa days, or killer video game sales. If those kinds of things come along, you can use a “fun fund”, which of course is part of your regular budget!

Rule 2: The emergency fund needs to be easily accessible. Make sure it’s in an account where you won’t incur fees for withdrawals when your car breaks down or you suddenly need a new AC unit. That’s why it’s there. Just remember to refill it as soon as the emergency has passed.

Once you’ve built your emergency fund and you know the rules, you’re ready to move on to the next stages of building wealth. Congratulations!You’re officially not broke and in the perfect position to chase your financial future!

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3 Practical Ways to Put the Rule of 72 to Work

3 Practical Ways to Put the Rule of 72 to Work

The Rule of 72 is useful for all kinds of financial estimates and understanding the nature of compound interest.

Here are a few examples of how the Rule of 72 can be utilized in the real world to get an estimate about how money will compound in various situations.

Example 1 - Estimating the Growth of an Inheritance.
You inherit $100,000 at the age of 29. What interest rate must you earn for it to become $1 million by the time you turn 65? You’ve got 36 years for your money to grow to $1 million, so it will take 3.25 doubles to grow $100,000 to $1 million dollars. Dividing 36 years by 3.25 doubles equals 11. Your money must double every 11 years. Knowing that, now you can run the formula to find your interest rate: 72 ÷ 11 = 6.54.

There you go. You need a financial vehicle that can offer no less than a 6.5% rate of return to hit your goal.

Example 2 - Estimating the Growth of an Economy.
Let’s say you want to approximate the growth rate of your country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If your GDP is growing at 3% a year you can use the Rule of 72 formula: 72 ÷ 3 = 24. Therefore, in approximately 24 years, your nation’s GDP will double. Unless of course it changes. Were it to slip to 2% growth, how many years would the economy take to double? 72 ÷ 2 = 36 years. Should growth increase to 4%, GDP doubles in only 18 years (72 ÷ 4 = 18).

Example 3 - Estimating Inflation, Tuition, & Interest.
If the inflation rate moves from 2% to 3%, the time it will take for your money to lose half its value decreases from 36 to 24 years. If college tuition increase at 5% per year, costs will double in 14.4 years (72 ÷ 5 = 14.4). If you pay 15% interest on your credit cards, the amount you owe will double in only 4.8 years (72 ÷ 15 = 4.8)!


– Tom Mathews & Andy Horner


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Is Your Cash Flowing?

July 21, 2020

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
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
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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