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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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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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Can You Teach Your Kids How Money Works? (Yes!)

November 4, 2020

Can You Teach Your Kids How Money Works? (Yes!)

Who will teach your kids how money really works? Don’t count on school!

Only 21 states in the U.S. require a financial literacy course to graduate from high school, and 4 of those states have some of the worst financial literacy levels in the country!¹,² It’s no wonder that only 28% of college students were able to answer 3 basic money questions about inflation, compound interest, and risk diversification.³ Think about it; many kids who don’t understand the fundamentals of money are also pulling out huge student loans that they have no clue how to handle. They’re getting taken advantage of before they even graduate!

Think that’s scary? Here’s where things get even scarier. The simple fact is that many people don’t start learning about money until they’re already in deep debt and sense a looming crisis. By that time, even if it’s not too late to avoid a catastrophe, many of those people can face a lifelong struggle to achieve robust financial health. What’s the solution? People should start learning how money works in their twenties? Nope. As teenagers? No way. People need to start learning how money works as kids—long before they’re in charge of their own personal finances.

Researchers from Cambridge discovered that our money habits are basically formed by age seven.4 The deeply indebted college freshmen of today spending 50 bucks a month on lattes and energy drinks are the result of financial under-development. It’s like tossing the keys of a $200,000 sports car to a teenager with zero driving experience and saying, “enjoy.” The most likely result down the road—disaster. ($200,000 also happens to be the cost of a 4 year private college in America: tuition plus room and board.5)

So what are your kids learning about money?

First, ask yourself what they are learning from YOU. If you’re like many Americans, your kids may think that money is supposed to be spent on what makes them feel good—right now. They might be completely unaware of the full power their money possesses to grow and build wealth and help them achieve their dreams.

Many parents do talk to their kids about working hard and earning money. They can, however, fail to bring them into the process of creating personal finance goals and showing them how to protect and grow their money to hit those goals.

Roll up your sleeves and consider showing your kids how money really works while their minds are little sponges and they haven’t made any money mistakes yet.

Here are nine tips to get you started:

  1. Read the book, HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker, together.
  2. Discuss the concepts and 7 Money Milestones in the book.
  3. Let your kids in on some of your financial decisions and share a bit about your home budget with them so they understand the decisions you make for the family.
  4. Help them figure out ways to make money, save it, protect it, and watch it grow.
  5. Show them that putting all their money into a savings account is an opportunity for the bank to make money—not them.
  6. Explore smart tactics to avoid the impact of procrastination, inflation, losses, and taxes with their money.
  7. Use imaginary money and investment scenarios to teach them financial principles.
  8. Open an account for them with real money and take them through the entire process. Watch the money together each month as the balance changes.
  9. Have them accompany you to your next meeting with your financial professional, so they can ask a few questions of their own.

Perhaps your kids are older or maybe even have kids of their own. Know this—it’s never too late to start learning about how money works and teaching your kids about it too—no matter how old they are.

Let me know if you don’t have a copy of the book, How Money Works: Stop Being A Sucker. I’ll get you one ASAP! It’s packed with all the information you need to jumpstart your family’s financial literacy journey.

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¹ “How many states require students to take a personal finance course before graduating from high school? Is it 6 or is it 21?,” Tim Ranzetta, Next Gen Personal Finance, Feb 12, 2020, https://www.ngpf.org/blog/advocacy/how-many-states-require-students-to-take-a-personal-finance-course-before-graduating-from-high-school-is-it-6-or-is-it-21/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzdDgiKnL6wIV0_HjBx0h7ALCEAAYASAAEgItWvD_BwE

² “How Financially Lit(erate) Is Your State?,” The Ascent, July 20, 2019, https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/financial-literacy-by-state/

³ “Financial and student loan (il)literacy among US college students,” Johnathan G. Conzelmann and T. Austin Lacy, Brookings, Oct. 15, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/10/15/financial-and-student-loan-illiteracy-among-us-college-students/#:~:text=Overall%2C%20undergraduate%20students%20in%20the,percent%20got%20all%20three%20correct.

⁴ “The 5 Most Important Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids,” Laura Shin, Forbes, Oct 15, 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2013/10/15/the-5-most-important-money-lessons-to-teach-your-kids/#4a5f97006826

⁵ “How Much Does College Cost?,” CollegeData, 2020, https://www.collegedata.com/en/pay-your-way/college-sticker-shock/how-much-does-college-cost/whats-the-price-tag-for-a-college-education/

“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

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