Know the Rules about Your Privacy… Or Lack Thereof

Money Mastery Principle 5 teaches: Know the Rules. In this post, I will illustrate the importance of knowing the rules when it comes to your financial privacy.

Following is a redacted privacy policy that you will notice is pretty much the same as every other privacy statement you have ever come across.  At the top the publisher will reference federal law that gives consumers the right to limit sharing of their personal information, “but not all sharing.”  

What this means is that federal law allows marketing to you at every level unless you know the entity’s particular rules of privacy and take action against them.  Examine this privacy notice and you will see you can only limit three things:

  1. “Our affiliates’ everyday business purposes;
  2. “Our affiliates to market to you; and
  3. “Non-affiliates to market to you.” 

Neither you nor I can maintain the actual privacy of our personal information!  Pretty much anyone can use your Social Security number and income, account balances and payment history, and transaction or loss history and credit scores.   This is horrible!

Okay, but you may say, “but look, they provide a phone number to call and ask to limit your information towards the bottom of the notice.”  My response to that is, “so what?”  Look at all the ways they can still share and sell your information off to so many other marketing organizations!!

Research shows that the vendor can sell your information off for some small fee.  Let’s use 17 cents for each purchase of your private information.  I use 17 cents because if you go to buy qualified information this is a standard rate that’s often used. Run the calculations:  This vendor sells your private information once a day for the entire year.  This means your personal information just paid the vendor $62 that year.  In other words, your personal Social Security number, income and payment history, and credit scores just made them a profit of $62.  Now can you see why you get so much junk mail?  Can you see why you get spammed and marketed all day long?

Can you do anything about junk mail offers?  You cannot stop them.  If you send the offer back as “return mail” and tell them to stop then they know this is a good address and will keep sending marketing materials.

Can you do anything about marketing offers through your email? You can block the sender and even report spam, but surely they are smarter than all that reporting.  All they have to do is move your personal information over to a new URL and start again.

What is the worth of federal law limiting your privacy?  I think it is not worth the paper it is printed on.  Nevertheless, I still make the phone calls and limit what I can and feel you should, too.  There needs to be more discussion and further legislation to prohibit this travesty. While not much can be done at this point, at least knowing the rules will put you in a position to take action and try to fix problems when the opportunity arises. Not knowing the problems prevents you from doing anything about them should the chance ver arise. 

Now Is the Time to Make the Most of What You Already Have…

Art Berg’s story is remarkable.  He rolled his Volkswagen on his way to Utah to marry his fiance, Dallas.  The accident left him a quadriplegic.  He faced terrible depression, questioning himself on how he could be fit to marry his sweetheart.  Dallas knew what she wanted, and waited one full year for Art to rehab physically, mentally and emotionally.  I watched this couple as they built a happy life and family together.

Among Art’s many accomplishments is being a world-class wheelchair athlete where he set a world record in the marathon.  A short time later someone else broke his record, so Art went back to training.  With tremendous courage and overcoming huge odds he once again set another world record.

At one point I asked him if he could go back to that eventful day when the wind caused his Beetle to roll and change the outcome. Art said,

“I have been so blessed to have this tragedy.  I have learned so much!  My life truly has been enriched by being forced to fight for everything.  I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

Art passed away a few years ago at the age of 39.  He taught me that trials come to each one of us.  We all have experienced situations that have been challenging, but what have we learned from them? Are we like Art or are we like the discontented who begin in grade school to wish for junior high, then in high school wishing to be on our way to college, and then when working wishing for something else until we have wished our lives away rather than making the most of what we have right now? 

Since we are in a new year, it’s a good time to resolve to do things better, a grand time to stop and count how many things we take for granted, to consider our strengths rather than our weaknesses, and to be grateful for all that we have so we can make the most of those things and have the strength to create even more.

Why We Should Be Grateful…

Thanksgiving is a miracle.  It transforms our normal day into blessings that abound.  When we practice being grateful we will have more hope, forgive more quickly and not hold as many grudges.  People who are uncommonly grateful keep a record of their blessings, counting up how many they have that make their life look and feel so wonderful. 

My mother has always taught me to be thankful for each day I have on earth.  This example has helped me be happier, more industrious, and energetic.  Her example of identifying good in other people has also kept her healthier, I believe.  

I’d like to challenge you for the next three days to ponder and meditate at the end of each day and write down good things that have happened in your life. Keep these good things in a stock-2journal. Be specific — try not to be too general.  Then on Thanksgiving Day find a quiet moment and read what you have recorded.  You will find that just a few of your written sentences will remind you of hundreds of thoughts you had when you wrote the words.  You will have a brighter outlook and the glass will always be half full instead of half empty.  Having such an outlook can change things for you going forward in every area of your life.

Here’s How to Plan a Great Retirement

Hopefully you have a nest egg for retirement.  It should be growing as you save 10 percent of your income for life.  With the assets you have set aside for retirement, make sure you lock down some of that income… this is the first and most important way to plan for a great retirement. Second, pay attention to inflation, liquidity and the possible need for long-term care.  These are important, but as noted, they are second to creating a guaranteed income for life by locking down some of your income.

Take a look at the following illustration:

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If you experience inflation over several years, you have options to reduce this, but without income, you have nothing to work with.  You face the same problem with liquidity.  We all have emergencies and need some cash for an unforeseen event, so it’s good to have some cash in reserve that is not a part of monthly expenses.  But still, needing money quickly is not as important as having a good income you cannot outlive. And what about long-term care? If you have already created an income stream that you cannot outlive, then you can pay for long-term care and it doesn’t have to be a worry, so again, locked down income that will never run out is the most important focus.  If you don’t have a guaranteed income and need long-term care in your later years, all your money could be wiped out in a matter of months or a few years.

Because none of us will get out of this life alive, we should also plan what to do with the guaranteed income stream we will leave behind for a our loved ones.  There are some simple steps to take to make sure family members will get the most out of what we leave behind.  Contact me for no-obligation help:  peter@moneymastery.com  

Money Seems to be Everything!

Since I started doing financial planning for clients 45 years ago, I have had a marvelous run of events.  I have seen stock markets melt down, and run up.  I have seen hundreds of savings and loan companies go out of business.  I have seen several Bernie Madoff scandals, and I have seen newly formed companies that started in a home garage and explode into dynamic financial giants like Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Facebook.  What I have mentioned here doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I have seen and learned about money over the years. Money intertwines in all our lives to such an extent that most of the time it controls us.  Money seems to drive the world we live in.  It defines who we are by where we live, what level of education we obtain, the kind of clothes we wear and how much we can travel the world .

Therefore, I say money is everything.  And yet is it really?

Money should not cause us to dump personal relationships, or become arrogant and aloof.  If money issues cause us to lose sight of our true values then it can become a curse.

How can we balance our lives so that money becomes a wonderful tool, rather than a heavy metal albatross around our neck?  I submit to you that you need to see clearly what you want out of life, then allocate your money resources to go in that direction.  To help you see your values more clearly, review these quotes about money and see how you feel about each one of them.  Choose one or two of these quotes that inspire you and implement them.  You will be glad you did:

  1. Too many people spend money they earn to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.  — Will Rogers
  2. A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart. –- Jonathan Swift
  3. Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. –- Epictetus
  4. Money often costs too much. –- Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. Everyday is a bank account, and time is our currency. No one is rich, no one is poor, we’ve got 24 hours each. –- Christopher Rice
  6. It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success. –- David Feherty
  7. Frugality includes all the other virtues. –- Cicero
  8. I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too. –- Steve Martin
  9. An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. –- Benjamin Franklin
  10. I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy. –- Warren Buffett
  11. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 96, result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 206, result misery. –- Charles Dickens
  12. Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. –- Thomas Edison
  13. What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us. –- Julia Cameron
  14. I never attempt to make money on the stock market. I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for ten years. –- Warren Buffett
  15. A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore. –- Yogi Berra
  16. Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. –- Benjamin Franklin
  17. Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time. –- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  18. Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune. –- Jim Rohn
  19. Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. –- Ayn Rand
  20. Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff. It’s learning to live on less than you make so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can’t win until you do this. –- Dave Ramsey
  21. It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. –- Seneca
  22. It’s not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages. –- Henry Ford
  23. He who loses money, loses much; he who loses a friend, loses much more; he who loses faith, loses all. –- Eleanor Roosevelt
  24. Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. –- Franklin D. Roosevelt
  25. Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that. –- Norman Vincent Peale
Time and Money

Are You Better off Than You Were 8 Years Ago?

Are you better off than you were 8 years ago?

This question has been asked over and over this past election year.  But really, are you better off?  And how much of the results, whether good or bad, are you responsible for?  Don’t lean on government and politics for the answer,  just straight up answer whether you’re better off financially than you were eight years ago due to your own spending, saving, and borrowing habits?

Regardless of what’s going on in the country around us, each of us must take charge of our own lives financially, on a deep, personal level. Who cares what a politician may promise about healthcare, Social Security, retirement, 401(k)s, and finances. As much as politicians might like to think they control our lives, there is only a limited amount they can get their hands on. The rest is up to us. Someone once said, there are only two things you need to worry about, that which you control, and that
which you don’t. I think it’s time to stop worrying so Consider Real Estatemuch about the things we don’t control and focus on the work of saving our own homes and families. Let’s starting looking within for more answers because that’s where they really lie.  

While poor decision-making in Washington does affect how much money we can earn and keep, nobody else cares as much about you as you do, so you are ultimately the one responsible for what happens to your financial life. Even in terrible economic and political times, such as the Great Depression, there were those who quietly applied the never-changing principles of solid financial management — spending control, debt elimination, and saving for the future — and managed to swim out of the mess into opportunities to create enormous wealth later. One of my colleague’s neighbors, at 98, is a good example of this. A humble postal worker for 40 years, who never made more than $30,000 annually, is a millionaire now because of the way he spent, saved, and borrowed during dreadful economic times.

Reflecting back on your last eight years, ask yourself, “what did I take control of to make my life better?

  • Did you study a new subject?
  • Have you become more capable in your work endeavors?
  • Have you finally got your spending under control?
  • Are you in more debt or less debt?

The next eight years are going to come and go with or without us taking decisive action.  We might as well make the time count by choosing to do more than we ever have before.

Here is a time-tested system for accomplishing your dreams. I’d like to apply this system to financial goals…

  1. Write down you goals.  When do you want to retire an with how much money? How much debt do you have and when do you plan to be out of all of it? How much money do you want tomy-goals save for emergencies each month? Those kinds of things…
  2. Devise plans that are attainable for making these goals a reality. Set up a Spending Plan. Set up a Debt Plan. Set up a Retirement Plan.
  3. Keep track of results and evaluate plans. Learn how to track your spending so you can get your finances under control. Actually track your debt pay down so you will know where you are falling short each month.
  4. Adjust plans as needed and start again. Tracking results is the only way you know how you are doing compared to your original plan.  Sometimes through tracking our actions we find the plan isn’t working or that it didn’t really fit with our values and priorities. Adjust things as needed but know that at least with a plan, even if it’s flawed in places, you are going forward. My friend always comments to people who make fun of her for setting such rigid New Years’ resolutions each January: “I have tracked my goal-setting over a 20-year period and I have found something interesting. Consistently, across the board, I find that I accomplish about 50 percent of my goals. I think 50 percent over a 20-year-period aint bad. Fifty percent is better than no percent, don’t you think?” She’s darn right!

In my experience, if you will devise a game plan that is achievable, then track results so as to adjust along the way, you will achieve most anything you set your mind to.

I want to leave this short goal setting discussion with a famous quote by Zig Ziglar, a dynamic motivational speaker.  Whenever he finishes teaching, he always closes with, “See you at the top!”   

Money Is Emotional, at Every Level

I have discussed how emotional money can be many times now.  Emotional issues circling around money have been going on for thousands of years.  Well, here is a huge emotional event that I wrote about a year ago, how in the near future cities, counties and state governments will not be able to afford the pensions they are obligated to pay:  Pensions Are Creating a Huge Financial Risk.  It is easy to agree to pay something in the future to get elected today, but when time passes, the future elected officials are in a hard spot.  They have a mess to clean up they did not create.  This is a very emotional issue that will bring a lot of trouble and heartache to a lot of people.

I ask, how do you think the people living in Stockton, California liked their garbage sitting on the curb and not being picked up for weeks due to government woes over pensions and inability to pay government employees to provide basic services. Some of Stockton’s citizens were so mad they  talked about burningScreen shot 2016-08-31 at 4.13.36 PM down the mayor’s house. The mayor had no choice… he filed bankruptcy and pushed off the debts of the city, plus all the pension payments for previous employees and was able to pay to get the garbage cleaned up and restore other services.

My second question is, how do you think the retired Stockton city employees felt after they worked a lifetime and then their pension got pushed off with a bankruptcy?  Emotionally charged?   YES!  Do you think they will vote for that mayor or county commissioner again?  NO!

Who is to blame?  Who can be held responsible?  Do you hold employees responsible for pushing elected officials to give them raises, give them strong pension plans, to give them 401(k) contributions beyond anything you see in the private sector? Of course these past employees are really the responsible party to their own loss of income!  They pushed and prodded and threatened not to support, or not to vote for this official or that official until they got what they wanted.  Do you think these past employees realize they were the cause of bankrupting the city of Stockton?  Of course not. The current mayor cannot go back in time and see how much pressure was brought to bear to give them strong pensions and pay raises.  This is a perfect illustration of why money is so emotionally charged.

It has always been said throughout my lifetime that if you can get a government job, you are set for life.  This may no longer be the case.  Be aware of what is happening right now in IIlinois, and California and watch how Detroit and other cities filing bankruptcy handle the mess created by former employees. It is sure to get worse.

As elections draw near and healthcare costs soar, watch how everything plays out financially for the nation.  All the big health insurers have pulled out of the Obama exchanges.  One of these providers lost $2 billion this year! 

How will all this affect you… personally? The only way to weather what’s coming is to get in control systematically  using time-proven financial principles. Answer a few questions and test yourself for self-reliance:

  1. Do you save money on a regular basis?  
  2. Do you argue about money with your spouse?  
  3. Do you have a simple will or trust?  
  4. Do you have a pension plan and is it fully funded, or just numbers printed on a paper?  
  5. How much consumer debt do you have?
  6. Do you have any emergency savings?

Your answers to these questions will give you an idea of how healthy you are financially.  For more help go to www.moneymastery.com and learn how to improve your personal situation… before it’s too late.

5 Ways to Make Sure You Know the Rules of the Financial Games You Are Playing

Knowing the rules of the game is one of the 10 Money Mastery Principles I teach my clients.  As simple as it sounds, you wouldn’t believe how many people do not understand this concept or who think it’s not that important. What you don’t know CAN hurt you, and I can personally attest to that. It is vital that you understand the contracts you have entered into when it comes to your mortgage, credit card usage, and insurance policies. If you don’t understand the rules, those who do (namely insurance companies, banks, and mortgage lenders) will run right over the top of you in an effort to get more money out of you.

Here are 5 things you should do to make sure you always “know the rules:”

  1. Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of information you need to know. Remember, you don’t have to know everything, you just need to begin by knowing something.
  2. Take the time to learn the rules. It usually only takes 30 minutes to learn what you absolutely need to know in order to make informed decisions.
  3. Don’t trust others to know the rules for you. Take responsibility for your own financial well being and do what is necessary to ensure success: hire a professional if needed to help you understand the rules. This can usually be done for as little as $300.
  4. Do first things first. Avoid the temptation to dabble in risky behavior before you are secure enough financially to afford that behavior. Pay off high-rate credit card debts first and know the rules of the credit card game before you play it.
  5. Give yourself 24 hours to consider a financial decision. Never feel pressured to make an important financial decision on the spot. Take 24 hours or overnight to consider all the issues to which you will be obligated by signing a contract, and re-read anything related to the rules of that contract before signing.

How Big Is Your Debt Problem?

Too afraid to find out? Well, knowledge is power and it’s always better to know how bad things are so you can make a plan to deal with them. Plus, the Power Down approach to eliminating debt gives hope and makes it possible in under 10 years to get out of ALL debt, including a mortgage.

So, ask yourself the following questions, then consider learning the Power Down method of debt elimination. It will give you hope and totally change your life, in just a few short years.

  1. Do I argue with my partner over bills?
  2. Is an increasing percentage of my income being used to pay off debt?
  3. Am I near or at the limit of my lines of credit?
  4. Am I extending repayment schedules, i.e. paying bills in 60 or 90 days that I once paid in 30?
  5. Am I chronically late paying bills?
  6. Am I borrowing to pay for items I used to buy with cash?
  7. Do I put off medical or dental visits because I can’t afford them?
  8. Do I know my total debt, or am I afraid to add it up?

If you are struggling with any of these concerns, now is the time to get your debt load under control. It’s your choice. You can continue spending like crazy while trying to pay down debt for another 30 or 40 years, or you can be empowered to get out of debt now! Go to www.moneymastery.com to find out more.

A Quick Overview of Financial Basics and How to Apply them in the Right Order

Many people get caught in the trap of wanting to do things out of order when it comes to finances. They are tempted to invest their way out of debt, for example, rather than getting out of debt first, then investing the interest money they save by being out of debt to make more.  Knowing the rules of the financial games you are playing suggest that you must do “first things first.”

Here’s an idea of how to apply financial principles, step-by-step, and in the right order:

The Basics

  • Consider getting an education or learning a skilled trade.
  • Secure vocational income.
  • Avoid getting into debt; if you are in debt, get out of it.

Cover Risks

  • Buy basic life and disability insurance (don’t wait to buy life insurance until you are older, do it now while it is still affordable and can be used to fund retirement later in life).
  • Build emergency and emotional savings.
  • Purchase a house.
  • Minimize taxes

Invest Surplus Money

  • Consider investing in guaranteed investments such as CDs or Money Market accounts.
  • Consider investing in low-risk options such as mutual funds.
  • Consider investing in real estate.
  • Consider investing in individual stocks.

As you play each of these financial games in the order that is best for you, you will naturally be led to an understanding of the rules governing the next game. Each step you take will build confidence until you understand how to play even the most risky financial games and have the economic wherewithal to afford to play them.

Because every financial game we play comes with a certain amount of risk, knowing the rules means understanding what thos risks are. Some financial decisions are less risky than others; nevertheless, each one can be a gample. Don’t put vital money in jeopardy due to high-risk investments you cannot afford to lose (and this includes bailing out adult children with sacred retirement money you will not have the time or energy to recoup should those children never pay you back).

Be wise and always do “first things first” when it comes to finances.