I wrote a previous blog on money management where I shared some tips on how to identify where you are wasting money and then gave my own personal formula (via an downloadable excel spreadsheet found here) the gauge all of your spending. If you are coming from that blog, then you are in the right place. If you are just looking at this blog for the first time, it may be prudent to go back and check out the previous one I wrote or at least download the excel spreadsheet because you will need it for the next step.
Step 2 – Formulating a simple budget that you will actually follow.
It was told to me early on in life by a very wealthy mentor of mine who I respect dearly that if I couldn’t manage $1, then I couldn’t manage $1 Million dollars. This is so true, I meet people all the time who’s personal finances are garbage even when they are making great money in their career.
It all comes down to money management and budgeting. Again, this is another common thread among all wealthy people I have ever met; they all have a budget based on a formula that uses money as a tool never spending it emotionally. Here is what to do.
Take that excel spreadsheet you just downloaded. (or get it here)
The idea here is very simple. Manage any and all money that you get. EVERY SINGLE CENT! If you know what your monthly income is, it becomes very easy to budget, if you are like me and get paid in lump sums sporadically then disciplining yourself to a system like this is crucial!
Ok so here is how it works: For every dollar I take in, it gets split up and put in to different bank accounts. Each bank account represents a different aspect that I am saving for. In my case I have 8 Bank accounts. I explain what I use them for and the benefits.
For daily spending and bill payment, I like Wells Fargo. The important thing to remember here is to bank with a bank that is convenient to for you with lots of locations and low fees across the board. As of right now, I pay NO FEES with Wells. I think B of A is the worst, and Chase Bank is in the middle when it comes to big banks.
I use Discover bank because they give you the highest rate of return for a savings account. 0.95% to be exact and…
I use Capital One 360 because they pay a pretty good rate of return on money in savings and my account doubles over as my top pick for a travel debit card that has
Now take some time to look it over the excel spreadsheet. If you need to open a couple accounts, don’t worry, this can literally be accomplished in an hour, follow the links above to use my recommendations, or feel free to open up accounts where your want to.
Keep in mind that I am a 1099 independent contractor that means I pay my own income taxes each year. If you are a W-2 employee, then you can zero out the taxes line because your taxes are collected before you get paid. Personally I set aside 18%-20% a year for myself, you may pay less or more depending on how much you make and what your tax liabilities look like.
Ok by now you probably have a good idea of what I am driving at here, but I will explain anyway. This formula is partitioning all of your income into different savings columns to give you a well rounded and financially savvy money management system.
The breakdown as seen in my excel sheet looks like this.
This whole idea was adopted after first reading the age old book The Richest Man in Babylon. When done correctly you will learn to pay yourself first and then save and invest the rest of it leaving a little hear and there for having a good quality of life.
My parents generation saved about 20%-30% of there income on average. My generation saves a measly 5%-10% and knowing that we are going to need a least a cool million to retire on (4 times as much as my parents will need) we need to get on this today. There is literally no time to waste.
Again, if you are in debt, or not making a lot of money, apply this formula anyway. Rework the numbers to make them fit your situation. If you are in some serious debt, check out my blog on &^%&^%&*^%&* if you are just not making that much or spend money stupidly, then I challenge you to try this for 90 days. If after 90 days you don’t feel like you have a better handle on your finances and that you are heading in the right direction, comment here and I will jump out of an airplane to promote what ever you want me to.
Money is a tool. It is only emotional when you don’t have enough of it. It controls you, or you control it, simple as that.
****And as a bonus, if you are still not convinced, Acorns is a nifty little app that allows you to invest pocket change from rounded up expenditure in to the market as a long term investment. Follow this link to check it out and get $5 for opening an account.
Being in debt sucks, you should get out of it. America is HIGH on credit cards, loans and just living way beyond our means in general. It’s got to stop because it’s simply a vicious cycle of madness, and will only end if you make the personal choice to do it in your own life.
“When you get in debt you become a slave.” -Andrew Jackson
It has been a long time coming for writing a blog on this topic. I write a lot about life-style and ways to accumulate wealth, but there is another side to the wealth coin and that side is DEBT. We all know what it is because at one time or another we have all been in it. For most people I meet, being in debt is a part of everyday American life that 99% of Americans live in day in day out. The other 1% owns all the wealth, and we can’t get to where they are because they are the ones lending the money 🙂 Imagine if we lived in a world where you couldn’t get a credit card or a loan. Think of how different the world would be, how much stress would be lifted off of you or your loved ones. What if you woke up tomorrow and you were magically at $0. How would that change your life? Here in America, we start getting credit card offers weeks before we turn 18 years old, with banks enticing you with instant gratification telling you to buy now and worry later. Sadly it has become a way of life here in the U.S. and I believe it will ultimately lead to our downfall. The powers that be do an incredible job keeping us in a constant state of denial, and for good reason too, because it’s hard to sell you on the idea of being ok with getting in to debt if they actually told you what you were really getting yourself in to.
Let me throw a couple of stats at you real quick on the US debt situation, then we will get in to your shit! * As of April 1, 2014, the official debt of the United States government is $17.6 trillion ($17,578,141,920,036). This amounts to:
U.S. household consumer debt profile:
James Quin from financialscense.com writes: “The average hard-working, taxpaying American has been enslaved in debt of such proportions that they will never be able pay it off. Your share of the $17.6 trillion National Debt is now $55,372, and growing by $4,500 per year. Your share of the future unfunded liabilities, created by the people you elected, is approximately $350,000. This crushing burden is in addition to the $13.8 trillion of mortgage, credit card, student loan, and auto loan debt Americans have accumulated in the last three decades of delusion. Forty percent of all credit card users do not pay-off their credit card every month and carry an average balance of $16,000 at an average interest rate of 15%. Good to see the Wall Street banks passing along some of their 0% borrowing windfall to their “customers”. ” So what does this all mean? Well it’s simple, as a country we’re F*&%ed. As an individual, you may have a chance for redemption if you choose to take the hard road and opt out of the vicious cycle, but it won’t be easy. In this blog, I am going to share with you some of the key ideological changes I underwent as well as the actions that I took to get my debt managed, and eventually paid the f%^& off. If you do exactly what I tell you to do in this blog, you will be well on your way to getting out of debt for GOOD! I will explain how to cut your interest rates in 1/2 if not more. Here are the steps.
1. Stop the bleeding – Ok, if you are serious about doing this, it’s time to make some hard decisions. I don’t mean like you need to tighten your belt a bit and cut back a little, I’ll equate this to a obesely overweight person that needs their stomach stapled, and triple by-pass heart surgery to stay alive. This means fire sale time. You go through your house and collect everything of any value that you don’t use. My indicator is: unless it’s a seasonal item like a snowboard, if it hasn’t been used for 6 months, sell it, thrown it out or give it to goodwill for a tax credit. Anything you own two of needs to be reduced to only one, after all, why do you need 2 anyway? This includes big ticket items like cars, motorcycles etc. Next you need to look through your bank statement and find any subscriptions or monthly reoccurring charges that you don’t use on a regular basis. For example, expensive gym memberships, magazine subscriptions etc. Be vigilant, we are talking about things you don’t absolutely need, if you need your gym membership, I”l tell you how to save on that later on, but for now, just follow the directions. If your a person like my mom who needs to hold on to everything, than you need a close friend to help you through the process like a drug addict needs a sponsor to keep them in check, you can’t be trusted.
2. Reality Check – Time to get out of denial and face the truth. Gather all the statements of debts you have. College loans, car loans, credit cards, mortgages etc. Then start an excel spreadsheet to lay it all out. I’ve included the one I used that gave me a clear picture of what I owed and the percentage rates I was paying. (StevenEwolf.com Debt Worksheet). Once we have it all laid out on paper we have “THE NUMBER” meaning the price you will have to pay for freedom. For me that number was $160,000 in 2010, and I got it under control without a bankruptcy or credit help bullshit company. It can be done, if I can do it, you can too.
3.Budget time – Here is where you sit down with your loved one, or by yourself if your single and simply find out how much you are making and how much you are spending. To get an idea of this, I strongly suggest you use a budget program like Mint.com. I used mint.com and still use today to mange my income, expenses and investments, it does all that for you in one simple program by collecting all your financial data and putting it in one easy place for you to see and manage. It will give you a snap shop of your current cash vs. debt as well as up to date information about every asset and liability you have. It will also allow you to create a budget based on your income so you can track and see exactly how much you are spending and what you are spending it (or wasting it) on. This can only be done once you figure out what your income is. If you are like me, and never had a constant pay check, this will give you data collected over a period of time to help you balance out your income as you receive it.
4. Savings Strategy – What is savings you ask, well that’s money that you don’t spend, something that is not a familiar practice to my generation. Here is what it needs to look like, I’ll give you an example for an income of $5,000 per month. (I adopted this practice from the book The Richest Man in Babylon & Secrets of the Millionaire Mind and customized it to fit my needs to get out of debt and build wealth)
*****Note, a tax savings account is necessary if you are a 1099 guy like me, if not don’t worry about, the government steals it from you already every pay period at your W-2 job. So for the sake of this example Red will indicate W-2 Person, and Green will indicate 1099 person.
Total Income $5,000
-20% ($1000) in to separate bank account specifically set aside for taxes. Capital1 – 360 gives you free Savings and Checking account with no minimums or ATM fees, that pays you a .75% yearly APR yield (5 times national average). If you follow this link to the right and you will get a $50 referral credit just for signing up through my link! (You see, pays to read my blog!) So do it NOW!
50% of whats left after taxes ($2,000) ($2500) Goes in to you spending budget. This is to be used to pay the mortgage/rent, gas utilities, car payment, food etc.
20% Goes in to savings. ($800) ($1,000) // This is money that you will invest in to something later, but don’t worry about that just yet because you don’t have any money yet, so just save it and if you are in serious debt, all of this money will go to pay off debt starting with high interest credit cards and loans 🙂
10% Goes in to the “emergency/big ticket item fund” ($400) ($500) // This is money for a new car or a trip, something you may want but don’t necessarily need so if shit hits the fan you can use the cash to get you out of a pickle, but the hawaii trip is not gonna happen this year as a result of it.
10% Goes in to the “Play” fund ($400) ($500) // This is your money to blow on what ever you want.
10% Goes in to the “Charity/Education Fund” ($400) ($500)
4. Budget Review – By following the example above you easily get a hold on your own personal spending, not lets cut some more monthly costs. Time to sit down, look at everything you decided to keep: memberships, subscriptions etc. If they don’t fit in to your budget, you need to cut back even more. It is however worth calling all of the entities and seeing if you can reduce the membership costs. I called my gym, they cut my membership rate in half, then I called some magazine I subscribed to, they gave me a year free, then the cable company, then my cell phone provider and so on. By the time I was done calling every single entity that I had a subscription with, I managed to hang on to one or two things I would have had to get rid of by just calling them and asking for a discount. Once you have accomplished getting this all together and knowing that you are at least not going negative every month, we can go to the next step.
5. The Credit Card Shuffle – Ok let do some plastic surgery. First pull out that debt sheet that you have downloaded from above. Remember the one where you wrote down the total amounts you owe. Ok, now pull out all of your credit cards and start calling each one, here is what you need to find out, and do this exactly like I tell you to here!
1. Call the CC company and find out what you actual rate is on the card.
2. If you have balanced transferred money or have a promotional rate of some kind, find out the rate and when the promotional rate ends and then indicate it on the sheet just like the example I have set out.
3. Ask the customer service agent if they can lower your rate. If they say no, ask them if they can waive this months interest charges as a courtesy. Most companies will do this at least once per year.
4. Ask them if they have any promotions on Balance transfers, don’t do it yet just find out if they do. (It’s usually 0% for 6-12 months or 4.99% for 18 months. They will charge you between 2%-5% to move the money)
5. Repeat this step until you have called every single one of your credit cards and recorded the information on the sheet provided. Now that you have an idea of how badly you are being raped by finance charges, we can start the shuffle. Looking at all of your existing credit left on cards, figure out if it would make sense to transfer balances to cards that have room. Take in to consideration that it will cost you money to move the money, so if the benefits of savings don’t outweigh the costs to move the money or you simply don’t have enough credit left, you will have to choose another option. The main idea is to try to get any credit card balance to 0% or as close to 0% as possible. Some of you may still have good credit if that’s the case, use the following method, if not, read on, there is options for you. If you can swing, pay your highest APR% cards off immediately, meaning any card that only a couple hundred bucks or something on it, just pay it and check that one-off the list.
If you have a good credit score or are a home owner:
1. Ask each CC company to raise your line of credit, explain that you need the credit for business travel.
2. Try to move all of the balances ton ONE card so it’s easily manageable and at the lowest rate. If you have to spread this out over 2 cards, do it, but make sure it makes sense.
3. If you weren’t able to get the CC companies to extend you more credit, try to get a personal consolidation loan. I used one of their and it drastically helped me get out of debt faster. The best company with the lowest rates is Lending Club. Lending club will beat any other personal loan service or big bank on unsecured debt consolidation loans. If you do this, you can get a secured loan for 3 years that can be paid off early with no pre-payment penalty. Otherwise, try a HELOC on your home or a refinance to wrap the debt in the equity if you can do it. If your debt is only a couple thousand it may be a good idea of doing a “used-car refinance loan” and wrapping some of the debt in to that if you have some equity in a vehicle.
If you have bad credit or have no home.
1. See what you can do to move balances around to 0%. If the CC companies won’t extend you credit then try the personal loan from Lending Club like I mentioned above. They still have some great rates with people who have below Prime credit scores.
2. Get a copy of your credit report and find out exactly what you have going against you that is affecting your score.
3. If you can’t get more credit to move balances, and you can’t get a personal loan that makes sense it’s time to start playing dirty with your creditors. The following advice is the last option that you will before you have to start looking at bankruptcy as a viable option. (I will not be covering bankruptcy in this blog because if your situation is that bad, you need to get in touch with an attorney and discuss your options.)
4. Credit card consolidation companies are bullshit. There is nothing that they can do for you that you cannot call your credit card company do yourself. They basically charge you money to “go to bat for you” but what they are really doing is serving as a middle man between you and the CC company and make a little money off of your hard ship. I’ll share my story explaining below at the end of the blog.
6. Sticking to the plan no matter what – The hardest thing that you will encounter when trying to follow these steps is the feeling that there is no end in sight. That you feel so far away from $0 that you want to give up or just say F%^&* it. Understand that it was that exact attitude and lack of discipline and knowledge that got you in to this situation to begin with. In fact, you have probably spent years getting your self in to this situation, so don’t think that this is going to get fixed over night.
What I am proposing here is a long-term and effective strategy to recognize and asses the problem, reconcile the damage done, and then install a system of ideological principles to live by. Taking all of the actions I have laid out here is a start but the ultimate idea here is that you change your mindset, and that you do it long-term because if you use what I gave you here to get out of debt just to do it all over again that we have failed. So, be brave, be sturdy, and most of all, find some gratitude and accomplishment in the fact that you are doing something about it. Just that is a huge step that you should be proud of.
Summary and a Personal Story.
As I indicated before, this guide isn’t something I thought up last night, this knowledge comes from years of experience going through this myself. I have been through some very scary times, and if I could, I would love to help you avoid some of those pit falls in life. When the market turned in 2008 I went from owning a house, with a brand new BMW paid with cash to $160,000 in debt ducking creditors and conducting a fire sale with any assets I had left to try and cover the losses. I didn’t do it all correctly and I wish I had seen a blog like this one to help me out of that horrible situation. As my good friend Rob Guth says “ask me how I know?” I love the saying because it comes from experience, and it the experience of the good and bad that has allowed me to learn from my mistakes and come back from some dark times with hope and re-energized spirit to not only continue on when things go south, but to always have hope that tomorrow is a new chance an opportunity to turns things around if they not going well, or continue to rise if they are.
I hope that you take what I wrote here to heart because these nuggets of information have cost me years of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain. Learn from it, apply it, and execute it in your own life and enjoy years of time and lots of money saved because you were wiser that I was to look. If this blog speaks to you, share it the information with your friends, family and people you care about. If you have questions, comments, concerns, feel free to post in the comments section or contact me via the contact page.
I wish you the best of luck!
See you at the top.
Solutions Links as indicated above.
4. Lending Club
3 Weeks ago, I took a sales job to help keep me going while I continue to bootstrap my start-up company. Sure I still make a little money from my Multi-Level-Marketing company, but not nearly enough to live off of and definitely not enough to take any kind of Mini-Retirement Vacations. I have never been an advocate of full-time multi-level-marketing anyway, that is NOT the model! A good MLM company gives the person who has a day job the ability to add income and then after about 18-36 months produces enough income to replace what ever that person was making at their job. This idea of being a full-time networker with no experience in that space is a bad idea, you will most likely run out of money and burn through your savings before you get profitable forcing you to go back to your job with your hat in hand. Trust me, I know, I’ve made that mistake before.
All to many times I see people jump from company to company trying to “Find the right one” and that is just a bad way to go about. Do I believe in MLM? Yes, from the bottom of my heart, but I don’t believe that putting all of your eggs in to one basket in life is ever the correct path.
I think the correct path should look something like this, and keep in mind, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, this still applies.
Now, if at any point, you get knocked on your ass which you will, you simply start the steps over. It is what I am doing in my life right now, what I’ve done in the past and what I will do in the future. Why, because none of my financial decisions are based on emotion, if they are, you’re losing at the money game. Even when I’m down, I still strive to make logical decisions when it comes to money. That kind of delayed gratification is what allows wealthy-minded people to stay rich, and poor-minded people to continue to stay poor or loose you wealth. If you are anything like me, you will find that you become much more resilient to the ass kickings life throws at you once you have been through a couple of them. For me, it’s never about how hard I fall or what I lose, it’s all about how quickly I can get back up. This time around, I didn’t lose much as I was 10 times more subsidized and protected than I was when I went through some similar circumstances at the age of 23. I predict it will take me less than 6 months to clear all debts, and be in a cash flow positive situation traveling around the world by the end of 2014.
How am I so sure? Great question. Let me ask you this, if you were 23 years old and woke up one day and found out you were all of sudden $160,000 in debt, what would you do? If you make 50k a year, you would be shitting bricks. What if I gave you the same scenario, but you made $190,000 a year before. Probably not so bad right? Ok set that aside for a second and let’s assume that you have been in debt most of your young adult like I was and like most Americas are. We’re conditioned from a young age that it is ok to live like this. This is why you get credit card applications in the mail @ 18 years old and high schools, colleges and employers never even teach the most basic of finance. “The Man” i.e. your boss, the government (IRS especially), super rich people and the owners of banks and lending institutions etc. don’t want you to figure this out. They want you broke, tired, hungry and pre-occupied with shit that doesn’t matter like video games, American Idol, and spectator sports so that you are not paying attention to the fact that they are ROBBING you blind. If you don’t believe me, enjoy this video.
Debt, should be used as a tool, not as a way to get instant gratification to buy yourself things that you cannot afford, or even need in most cases for that matter. With the exception of college loans (Which I think is another racket anyway) you shouldn’t have any debt unless you own a business that produces income, or own a home. The fact that no one ever told you that you shouldn’t be in debt isn’t really an excuse and if it is, I’m telling you now. Don’t worry, it’s not like our country leads by example, they’re 16 trillion in debt, so don’t worry about them, because policy isn’t going to fix our problems here on the ground right now today as it pertains to you and your family or future family.
The point is that all those institutions make money off of our continued ignorance. Why does everyone hate them? Simple, because they’re smarter than us and no matter what recession we go through, the good people at Goldman Sachs or in Congress don’t seem to mind all that much our struggles doesn’t affect them. While were slaving away everyday trying to collect their scraps going to work every day to run on the mouse wheel they are taking million dollar bonuses from our bail out money and buying yachts. Do I not believe in Capitalism? Of course I do, and in order to achieve the types of results that they have been able to achieve you simply must understand their game.
Solution: Stop borrowing money. If a bank sells money, and we’re not buying it, the bank can’t make money. If we bought houses cash, we wouldn’t need a mortgage. If we cut up our credit cards, we could only spend what we had incurring no negative interest. If we took a job we didn’t like as a means to buy us some time to find something better, then we would all be doing things we liked and wouldn’t get stuck in the rat race. If we were always educating ourselves with the same materials the richest people in the world did, wouldn’t that level the playing field a bit? If we could all wrap our heads around this idea of delayed gratification, wouldn’t we become less impressionable to consumerism thus driving all prices of consumer goods down substantially because fewer people are “willing” to buy.
Ask yourself, do you really need a new car every year? Do you feel so left out because you don’t know who won the game on Sunday? Would it kill you to watch a little less TV and maybe read a book? Don’t you think you were put on this earth for more of a purpose than running on the hamster wheel, getting your food pellet, drinking water, playing a video game and getting back to running on the wheel again?
So lets start moving in the right direction, let’s stop trying to look good and actually do good. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my friends, and people I love find themselves in life and achieve great success. So much to the point that I have dedicated a large part of my own life to help people do just that. The help is there for those who seek. I sought it out when I was young and it got me to where I am today. As it turns out, all the successful people I met growing up were happy to help guide because they saw my willingness to learn and the way I sought out enlightenment. Let’s stop lying to ourselves and get honest with each other about where we a really at now, and get very clear on finding just what our real purpose is here in this life.
So if you have a Job, work your ass off at it, find something you actually love doing and then get out of there before you forget your dreams. There are no shortcuts in life that lead to the top of the mountain, you’re going to have to climb it, and the first time is always the hardest and scariest. I know because I have tried a couple of shortcuts while climbing the mountain and they always led back to the hamster wheel. The irony is that once you master that mountain and you can afford to buy a helicopter to fly to the top, it doesn’t seem all that hard to climb anymore anyway 😉
I wish you the best of luck out there, and take it because you’ll need it.