I've spent a lot of time here discussing ways to improve your lives. From integrity, to debt, to relationships… I've tried to be pretty inclusive. Today I'm doing something a little different. Today, I'm going to express my opinions on the Occupy Wall Street movement (or OWS, as it's being referred to). This is a long post, so strap in.
I'll start by saying that I believe I understand why the Occupy Wall Street movement is under way. We as Americans have had enough of the mega-banks and their grips on our economy. We've had enough of corruption, lobbying, big oil, wars, and inequalities. No, OWS wasn't started with all of that in mind, but I believe they've all culminated in the OWS movement. We're sick and tired of the status quo, and really want to affect some form of positive change.
I've posted a few pics of businesses with help wanted signs, and they've offended some. While I know that this movement isn't specifically about jobs and employment, I believe that many of the problems in our country begin there. There's a perception that in order to "get ahead" or to be successful, you have to have a good job. You need an education to get a better paying job so you can afford the lifestyle you've always dreamed of.
My perspective is likely different from most. I believe that the core of our problems, especially with those struggling the hardest, isn't the big banks or the death of the auto/manufacturing industries in America – mind you, there's definitely room for improvement. It's not the job market at all, as a matter of fact - there are as many opportunities out there as can be filled by those diligently looking. They're simply not "the ideal" job, or even in the pay grade we're accustomed to. Underemployment anyone?
The problem, I believe, is the Cycle of Poverty. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it describes the cycle wherein it's harder to extricate one's self from the grips of poverty, from generation to generation, while in poverty. Fewer opportunities, a grim outlook on the future (due to an unpleasant "now"), apathy toward the situation, they're all a part of the cycle. And it worsens with each generation.
That certainly applies to the poorest people in our country, but in a way, the exact same outlook is prevalent across many income levels. It's not called the same thing mind you, it's simply called "life." Symptoms: every day is a challenge financially, there are no "good" jobs available, and we simply can't seem to "get ahead." Sound familiar? If you watch the news (any news) you'd think the world is coming to an end tomorrow.
Here's my proposition: Instead of protesting the mega-banks and the evil doers on Wall Street, let's instead focus on doing things we have direct control over. If we start there, truly make changes in our lives, the rest will follow. I know it goes against the OWS movement - it feels way better to be a part of something. It's what we as humans strive for, we like to be associated with like minded people. But that's the problem.
To completely change who you are, and your situation, you really need to examine your influences. I wrote about this in another post, and it applies here. It applies directly, actually. If you're surrounded by apathy, dissent, and disgust, guess what properties you'll inherit? Look at your peers, your boss, the people you spend the most time with. Are they positive influences at least 85% of the time? If not, seriously consider giving them the boot. Your life, and outlook will thank you.
I'm putting an outline together that will address the Cycle. It'll be a process, proven over time, that will help people from all walks of life (even the poorest of poor) that want to do better actually achieve the goal. It all begins with a plan to provide high quality, free child care for working single parents. If you're interested in this project, please let me know. It's going to be a challenge, but the rewards will be many.
Back to the matter at hand. If you have credit cards, loans, or mortgages, it's really important to understand that banks make their money on them. They're called products and have profit, lots of it built-in. They're the things, especially the sub-prime ones, that made the big banks what they are. YOU are a big part of the problem, too.
The solution to the "big banks problem" is not picket signs. It's paying off your debts, and refusing to give them another dime in interest payments and fees. They'll die on their own - they're too big to bail out now as the headlines say.
There are plenty of things to fix at the executive compensation level, yes. But to support "innocently" picketing banks and Wall Street when you've got debt and uncontrolled spending of your own seems a bit hypocritical.
Leave a comment below. I'll answer every one.
We've covered several things that have changed my life, and I hope will positively affect yours. Today, I want to talk about your perspective on of the world as it relates to money. Money is one of those subjects that people don't like to talk about – because most people haven't quite figured it out yet. They just muddle along without a plan, or make decisions based on what everyone else does (or worse, typically, what their parents have done).
The basics of money management are pretty simple: in order to have a sustainable household, you need to bring in more money than you spend. And to be really well off, you want to bring in way, way more than you spend. Doesn't that about sum it up?
That's certainly a good start, but managing money goes far beyond that. Managing money (to me) means having cash for emergencies. It means knowing that every month I'm setting aside a bit for the future, when/whatever that is, and that I've got adequate insurance for both life, and health.
If you can do that with as little risk as possible, you're creating an unshakable foundation. You're investing for the future (like 20 years), not tomorrow, so who cares if the stock market goes nuts? If the housing market gets a little wonky, it doesn't really matter because you've purchased a house where the payment is 1/4 of your monthly income (or less). And, if the worst happens and you're out of a job, you've got some cash tucked away to make a payment (or 6 if you really need to).
How do you do all of this? It starts with changing your mindset on what it means to be in debt. Relax, this isn't personal, it's an observation. Remember the first paragraph? Most people don't know how to handle money, so they've done it however it happens, with no plan. Is that you? It's OK, there's never been a better time to start.
I've come to the conclusion that any kind of debt is just a hair better than pay-day loans. The major reason people use credit cards is to buy things they don't readily have the cash for. There are exceptions, as there are to every rule, but those in trouble with credit are those that leverage it.
If you're using the credit card as a living account and pay it off every month, use the debit card instead. If you're extra paranoid about your card being stolen, use a debit card on an account with $2500 in it. That way you're only out a max of $2500 while Visa works it all out and pays you back.
Sure, you can be paranoid and use credit cards for the protection, and you can extend your warranties, and you can get miles, and a million other things, but none - NONE of those are going to increase your bottom line. Simply put, they're not going to make you wealthy. They don't even help. Those are all things thought up by marketing people designed to get you to use their credit cards. Has it worked?
Saving your money, not spending it (like on, say interest), and investing your money will make you wealthy. Doing it with diligence will make it happen faster. A second income will make it happen even faster.
You're not poor, you're already wealthy, you just need to tweak a few things for it to surface. Start with viewing debt as a tool of the poor. Because the longer you're in it, the longer it's going to take you to become wealthy.
Ready to get started with your path to wealth? Wipe out your debts. All of them. Smallest to largest. :)
I hope you've enjoyed reading the "How to change your life" series as much as I've enjoyed writing it. If you can think of anyone that might benefit from it, use the ShareThis widget at the bottom of each post. If we can touch one person, or help them through a tough spot, it'll be amazing.
Birthdays are something nearly everyone celebrates. Sure, another year of life is important. As cool as it is though, I think we should be celebrating another year of learning, experience, and understanding of how the world works.
If our guardians succeeded across those many birthdays, we have a pretty good idea of how things work, how to manage money, and how to get along with others. We should have a good base of nutritional knowledge, and a fantastic understanding of right from wrong.
This is where todays discussion begins. We all know what needs to be done (budgeting, health and nutrition, etc.), and of course we know right from wrong. So why do many choose for one reason or another to set these things aside? Maybe it's philosophical, maybe it's money, heck it could be anything. But is the excuse good enough?
Navigating life is complicated at times, but it's important that we make decisions that promote a lifestyle of integrity, health, and prosperity. Think about it. Every decision you make affects your life either directly today, or will affect it in the future.
An example might be that your go-to meal at the burger joint is a double cheeseburger with fries and a coke. The better decision, and the one we all know is the better one at a burger joint, is to make it a single with a side salad and a non-soda drink. Why don't more people do that?
Another example is that you're sitting down to find something to watch. You stroll through Netflix and Hulu, but come up "empty." So instead of hopping on Bittorrent to grab a copy of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, why not pick a movie from the DVD case? Or hop on over to Amazon, VUDU, or iTunes to rent one? There's even Red Box. That's the right decision, but why don't people do it?
I believe that a high quality life is built on a foundation of good decisions, integrity, and leadership. From now on, make every decision as if your life depends on it. Because in the long run, its quality does.
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This is a great question sent from a friend on Facebook. I thought it was important enough to share here.
"I am curious as to how you think a community can be encouraged to live frugally without forfeiting a sense of grace and abundance. Your thoughts are appreciated."
The answer is a matter of perspective, in my opinion. The law of attraction and the abundance theory are really beliefs. Attraction is to bring the things you want into your life by providing them persistent, positive focus ("Think and Grow Rich," "The Secret," etc.). Abundance, at its core is simply the opposite of scarcity, both of which are perceptions.
Look at it this way: everyone should want to "attract" a strong sense of calm and abundance with your finances. Budgeting and frugality are not contradictory with that desire. Instead of approaching them from the perspective of scarcity, approach them from the perspective of abundance.
Don't focus on squeezing every penny out of the "little money" you have. Instead, focus on telling the wealth you're building specifically where you want it to go. The problem with most people's finances is that they have no idea how or where their money is being spent. Be a good shepherd.
Other people's perceptions of our actions cause us to do, or not do silly things in life. We buy new cars because it makes us look wealthy. We buy new houses with payments far beyond reasonable so we look wealthy and affluent. I'm here to tell you that your perception of your actions is what matters most. Grace is in your heart. If you know deep within that you're doing the right thing for you (and your family) then that will become apparent to those around you.
I hope that helps. :)
If you found value here, please share it with others. Together we can make a difference.
In How to change your life: Your friends and How to change your life: Back to the basics we looked at tailoring your social circle and pruning your lifestyle to acheive a minimum base. In this post we'll look at the correlation between your perspective of, and the reality of your life.
We've all heard these sayings before: "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." "Life is what you make of it." "If you want to be 'rich,' do what rich people do."
These sayings are really simple reminders that we're in total control of our lives. Sure there are external influences, but ultimately we wake up every day and we choose to do what ever it is we do. We choose the work we do, when to go to bed, and when and what to eat. But most importantly, we choose our perspective on life.
Have you ever encountered someone that has an unrealisticlly postive view of everything? They see good in tragedy, and in being cut off in traffic: "Hey, he's probably having a bad day. At least he didn't hit me!" Likewise, there are people that will always find something to complain about, or some injustice lobbed in their diretion. The world isn't fair to these people - they have to fight for everything, and nobody enjoys being around them.
We all have a default lens through which we view life. It's the gut reaction we have when we face a challenge, obstacle, or even meet someone new. What's your default?
Pay attention to your lens today. Do you complain about things, if even to yourself? Your meal, your office mate, your yard, your computer? If so, you should really determine how useful that perspective is to you. Does it provide value in some way to those listening? Do your words and actions make you somone that others are drawn to and want to be around?
It takes work, but after making the switch to a positive perspective on life, you'll be amazed at how much better everything is. Choose not to dwell on negatives and things over which you have no control. Remove the words "worry," "jealous," "hate," and similar from your vocabulary. They're all negatives.
The takeaway: your perspective on life will guide you directly to more of that perspective. Be positive, encouraging, and focus your heart and soul on being an amazing human being. The rest will follow, I gurantee it.
If you liked this or found a modicum of value in it, please share it with your friends. Thanks! :)
In How to change your life: Your friends we learned that picking the right people for your inner-circle is incredibly important. They provide the foundation for who you are, and what you'll become. The next step to changing your life is to determine how you'll let strangers, things, and beliefs direct you.
Let's talk about beliefs first. I met with a person today that laid out an elaborate tree of excuses as to why they couldn't pare down their lifestyle and live on less (lots less!). I couldn't help but think about how they believe that these "things" are required in their life. They've become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and there was no flexibility.
Tip: when you're in a tough spot and/or need to make major changes in your life, you need to think unlike you ever have before. No, it's not comfortable. No, it's not easy. But thinking like you always have brought right here.
Back to beliefs - how many of these things do you believe? You'll always have a car payment. You'll always have a mortgage, or pay rent. Credit cards are great for the miles and they help build credit. A good credit score is really really important. Financing "stuff" makes it more affordable (cars, TVs, etc.). Financing *anything* is a good idea. There are certain things and hobbies you just can't do without because it's "who you are."
If you've read me before, I hope you know where I stand on all of these items. They're all beliefs though, ingrained into our brains from childhood by often well-meaning people. Coincidentally, they're all beliefs that are holding you back - back from being able to breathe, from being able to achieve your dream of a better, easier life.
Here's the reality of the matter, and I hope you'll internalize this as deeply as possible. What we need and what we want are two completely different things. Here are the basic "things" you need: food, water, electricity, shelter from the elements, basic transportation, and work. Everything else is a want/luxury and serves to increases your "quality of life."
In order to make real changes, start with the basics and re-evaluate literally everything you believe about "you." Your home, the city you live in, the work you do, the stuff you own, and most importantly where you're headed. I can tell you with certainty that if you're willing to blow it up and cut back to the bare essentials, you're well on your way to better life.
The problem with most Americans is that they've become complacent and they're unwilling to sacrifice "things" that make them feel good. New cars, a home they can no longer afford, eating out, buying new furniture, etc. These things smothering our ability to flourish.
Are you having a difficult time making ends meet, or you're simply not accomplishing everything you had hoped? It's time to look around at your "stuff" and see what's happened. Here's a place to start: sell your stuff, possibly look at a second job, and pay off your debts. You'll be able to breathe again. Get back to the basics.
If you liked this or found a modicum value in it, please share it with your friends. Thanks! :)
How many times have you heard this? "You are who your friends are." Since you've heard this over and over for years, you've carefully considered it through life. You've chosen a life full of positivity and have hand picked your inner-circle, right?
Go ahead, take a look around - you spend a lot of time with people that set and achieve their goals. Your friends come up with great ideas, and actually go about the business of executing them. They seem to be able to do so much with their time, way more than you perceive you have available. They have healthy financial lives, and don't buy a bunch of crap they can't afford to impress people they don't know. Best of all, their personal relationships are stellar, and they have a truly great marriage and kids.
It's a perfect description of your friends, right? If not, maybe it's time to reconsider a few things. Make a list of the people you consider to be good friends and family - the people you spend most of your time with. For each friend, determine what positive impacts they have on your life, and likewise the negative impacts. Start with your closest friends, then move to casual acquaintances. Be sure to note how much time they spend talking about their lives. Do they complain a lot? Do they talk about other people? Where are they going in life? Are they doing something meaningful to you?
This isn't a hit list of course, it's just a simple way to determine where your influences are. If you're spending time with people that aren't providing positive guidance and personal inspiration, you'll be exactly where you are now (or possibly worse off) in 5 years. Personal growth requires challenge, learning, and positive influences.
It's easy to make changes - just pick people out of your current network that are doing the things you want to do. Seek out those that are successful in the ways you want to be. Make a coffee date. Get to know them. Understand what makes them tick, and do that stuff.
Leaving negative influences behind can be difficult. After all, they're your friends, right? They're your people. The fact of the matter is that who you associate with is way more important than that. Your friends are who you are, and who you're going to be. Make every friend, and influence, count.
If you liked this or found a modicum value in it, please share it with your friends. Thanks! :)