How Dana Lost Three Winning Lottery Tickets

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Millions of people play the lottery.  Some people sink hundreds of dollars a year or more into hoping to catch lightening in a bottle.  I am quite sure that the lottery racks up its biggest ticket sales when the jackpot is some astronomical number.  The thought of winning hundreds of millions of dollars, no matter how unlikely, induces millions to take a chance on putting their hat in the ring. People reason that if they win even one of the smallest amounts the ticket(s) would more than pay for itself.

Everybody knows that people who win those astronomical sums are more likely to end up worse off than they were before, as unimaginable as that may be. Hindsight has made us all familiar with the term ‘financial literacy,’ that what matters is not how much money you have but how much of the money you have that you keep.  Financial literacy has come into focus in recent years more than it ever has before, thanks especially to the work of Robert Kiyosaki, Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey.  We are smarter now when it comes to money.  Aren’t we?

What I have learned in recent years is that while most people dream about a miracle windfall they fail to recognize the “lottery ticket” they already have in their grasp.  It’s called assets –  the more important aspect of ‘how much of the money that you have that you keep.’  Assets have to be recognized for what they are. So many of us are so focused on the liability side of our finances and the work it takes to service it that we neglect to recognize things of true value and even how a liability can actually become an asset.  An asset is a commodity that has appreciable value.  Real estate is the classic example.  Scarcity is the foundation of its value.  Nobody can create more land but everybody needs it; it is fundamental to life.  The value of an asset is often (not always) reflected in its price, but the hidden value of an asset – hidden to those without understanding of these things – is how it can be leveraged.  For example, an asset such as real estate can be utilized as collateral to access greater sums of money than the value of the collateralized asset.  Real estate can serve as collateral for a loan or a business investment.  But back to the analogy of the lottery ticket.

We piss away enormous opportunities all the time.

 

Meet Dana.

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Dana is a fictional character. This is a model.

Dana is a senior citizen who has worked hard all her life.  She is a very conservative spender.  For the last twenty years of her working life Dana averaged $100,000 a year. She lived in a modest house in the “inner city” and did not splurge on much of anything.  Dana was an avid saver.  Her checking account averaged a couple thousand dollars a month and she built up her savings account to about $40,000, earning no more than 1% interest most of her saving years. Her credit score was enviable.  So far Dana is technically doing everything right.  Her history and financial standing together are an asset on which a foundation could be built to reach greater financial heights – her self-made lottery ticket.

Dana never understood the stock market.  Like most employees she invested money automatically into the company 401K.   Also like most employees she had no idea on what basis to select a mutual fund or what she was invested into.  She did not take advice to invest some of her income into more aggressive funds to take advantage of potential above-average gains.  She did not take advice to hire an advisor to help her develop a rational plan. People don’t usually see the value in paying for such things. They believe that is the purview of the wealthy but don’t consider that is a step a person of average income can take to grow wealth over time.  Dana preferred to take her guidance from other employees – men – who had no training or real knowledge in investing.  Later, when time was no longer on her side, she expressed regret at not doing more when she had the chance.

The First Bad Decision

Dana bought the house she owned for twenty years in 1992 in a working class area of the city.  The price was $35,000.  She lived in the 3-bedroom house with a sunken living room and nice sized backyard for fifteen years until 2007 when she bought another house in the suburbs.  She had no problem covering the first mortgage, which was only a couple hundred dollars.  Dana paid off the first house in 2010.  She owned the property free and clear then, after years of struggle and financial discipline.  Dana decided to find a renter for the property, primarily to ensure it did not become a target for squatters and vandals.  She did not list with a realtor, but relied on a shaky referral from a friend at her church.  The renter was her friend’s friend, who was barely scraping by and Dana decided to do this stranger a “favor” while accomplishing her goal of keeping the property occupied.  Needless to say, her cash poor tenants – the woman, her boyfriend, her daughter and her unborn child – almost never paid their rent and when they did pay it was either not on time or not in entirety.  Whenever Dana would go to inspect the house or deal with an issue they brought up she would find new damage to the property.  One time, she saw that for some inconceivable reason the medicine cabinet was ripped from the bathroom wall.  And the house often had a foul odor as though nobody bathed and they smoked indoors.  This went on for nearly three years.

The time came when Dana decided to evict.  They hadn’t paid rent in full for at least three months.  When she entered the property after they vacated there were additional damages, some even more significant, and at least one seeming simply vindictive. The house remained vacant for a time until Dana decided to put it up for sale.  This time she did seek the services of a realtor.

Dana And Her Three Discarded Winning Lottery Tickets

In economics there is a concept called ‘opportunity cost.’  According to Investopedia, it is “the benefits an individual, investor or business misses out on when choosing one alternative over another.”  It can be used to “make educated decisions when they have multiple options before them.  Because by definition they are unseen, opportunity costs can be easily overlooked…Understanding the potential missed opportunities foregone by choosing one investment over another allows for better decision-making.”  Unseen is the operative word regarding opportunity cost.  It is the lack of awareness.  And the point of this article is the reason behind this lack, and that is mindset.

One of the biggest challenges in life is weighing the pros and cons of the options before us.  Many variables are involved in an individual’s choices but I have come to believe it is all driven by self-image, which is a function of childhood experiences, emotion, and pride.

The Mentality of Lack

Unfortunately many of us learn in childhood to identify with working hard, struggling and denial of self.  We are taught that there isn’t enough, or that we are not enough, and to be anxious about having what we need.  We are quick to identify needs and desires but slow to recognize the abundance of opportunity around us.  We see success as something unattainable without luck and some special talent that we don’t have and cannot understand.  More tragically, when we learn to deny ourselves we even block our blessings. We think anything worth having must come the hard way and when a plum opportunity falls into our lap we approach it with cynicism and doubt.

Dana is the classic example.

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Ticket #1

The first way Dana pissed away a perfect opportunity was in her choice to sell her first property, which she owned free and clear.  She did this right as the market in her area was heating up. New Yorkers were moving to her city in droves to escape skyrocketing rents and property values.  Real estate investors were heavily gentrifying her general area in particular, but despite advice to hold on, she proceeded with the sale. She thought property values wouldn’t rise “this far” into that part of the city.  Dana would only have to pay taxes on the property and minimal maintenance. She saw this as a burden.  She did not perceive her paid-off property as an achievement in life and something of great value.  She related to the obligation of having to pay a bank for a place to live.  It is the mentality of a person who sees themselves as unworthy.

When you never teach yourself to embrace abundance and courage you do not learn the concept of value.  The value in a home is known as ‘equity.’  Equity in real estate, again according to Investopedia, “represents how much of the home he or she owns outright. Equity on a property or home stems from payments made against a mortgage, including a down payment, and from increases in property value.  Home equity is often an individual’s greatest source of collateral, and the owner can use it to get a home-equity loan, which some call a second mortgage or a home-equity line of credit. Taking money out of a property or borrowing money against it is an equity takeout.”  Dana poor decisions cost her several important opportunities that would have been on par with winning the lottery.  The first is the opportunity costs associated with selling the property.  They include:

  • The use of the equity in her house as a “bank.”

Real estate investors know.  A homeowner can get a line of credit (Home Equity Line of Credit) against their equity to fund other investments.  You can use the equity in your home to become a private investor, and there is no shortage of ambitious entrepreneurs looking for creative financing such as this.  The borrower can make periodic payments to cover the interest on the HELOC that the homeowner must pay, plus any interest agreed to in the contract.

  • The opportunity to rent the home to visitors to her city through a platform like AirBNB.

Finding renters this way comes with the built-in security of a large company that vets the renters utilizing their platform and recourse if something goes wrong. The added benefit is that it is temporary so not requiring a long-term commitment.  AirBNB hosts can make a steady, significant income.

  • The real estate boom happening in her area.

Given that the home was paid off the rise in property values would have been pure profit and would have given her the opportunity to easily acquire additional properties.

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Ticket #2

The second loss came from blocking an enormous blessing.  A few blocks away from Dana’s second home in the suburbs, a property owner who had lived in the neighborhood for decades was trying to sell his house on his own.  It is a large, 5-bedroom corner lot with plenty of yard space next to public transportation.  Somehow the gentleman struck up a conversation as Dana was stopped at the light on the street beside his house.  He asked her if she would be interested in buying his property.  She respectfully declined.  She told him she already had a house around the corner.  By some miracle the two had a second encounter in which he literally asked her to buy his house.  He was ready to move on.  In real estate this is called a “motivated seller.”

Remember, Dana was flush with cash – not only the tens of thousands in a savings account making less than 1% interest but also her 401K which allows a loan to buy property as a first-time buyer.  A buyer is a “first-time” buyer three years after buying a property.  You can be a “first-time” buyer many times over. And with her perfect credit score, and job and residence stability, any bank would have been happy to lend her the money.  Moreover, since she would have been purchasing directly from the owner she would have avoided agency fees and could even have worked out just paying the owner directly without a bank.  Dana could have gotten this information from her very daughter if she had simply asked, given that she knew her daughter was a passionate student of real estate investing. Needless to say, Dana declined for the second time.  Dana could not recognize this enormous, rare blessing.  Her mentality of lack, scarcity and not being good enough blinded her to the platinum opportunity that TWICE fell into her lap – an opportunity that every real estate investor salivates over.

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Ticket #3

The third opportunity cost is also related to real estate.  We are back to the first property, the row house in the inner city in an area that was on the cusp of a spike in property values when she decided to sell to a buyer for $90,000, whom I’m sure felt that he had just won the lottery.

Most people’s dream is to finally pay off their home and pass it on to their children or other family members. 

I mentioned that Dana had a daughter.  Dana’s daughter had been searching for her first property.  After Dana’s house had been on the market for about a year it occurred to her daughter that shecould buy the property.  She made the proposal to Dana, who agreed that if she could get a loan her daughter could buy the property that had been sitting vacant for a year for $50,000.  Her daughter called Quicken Loans and got an approval, contingent upon her having a down payment of $1,500, which is a number she gave them.  To be approved for the loan some of the equity in the home would be used to pay off all of her debt, which is considered a literal gift by the mortgage company, allowed because the property was being transferred between a mother and daughter.  This was Dana’s daughter’s lottery ticket.  All she needed to do was come up with the down payment, which was a bit of a struggle for her because of the circumstance her life was in.  In the meantime, Dana continued to lament not having a buyer for her property even though she did.  Her daughter wondered why the property was still listed with the agent when they had agreed that she would buy it.  The daughter asked her about it but Dana did not give a real answer.

Even though Dana agreed to sell it to her she was yet opposed to the idea of her daughter moving into that neighborhood.  Her daughter explained all of the massive benefits of her owning the home, including the fact that she would be debt-free and only had to make it her primary residence, she didn’t have to literally live in it.  One day her daughter told her that she would have the money for the down payment in two weeks and would be able to move forward with the purchase.  That week she, Dana and Dana’s grandson visited the house.  He asked, “How come nobody wants to buy grandma’s house?” The daughter replied, “Because it was meant for me!”  She went from room to room imagining all of the changes she was going to make to make it her own.

About a week later that Dana’s daughter, who lived with her, heard her mother let out a sound of excitement.  She went downstairs and asked what happened.  Dana told her she got an offer on the house.  Her daughter went into immediate panic.  It was profoundly unimaginable to have her winning ticket snatched out of her hands, to have her goals and dreams crushed by her own mother.  Long story short, Dana’s decision led to her daughter’s complete emotional and psychological devastation.  She did not speak for three days, after going into a profanity-ridden tirade, shaking from agony at the inconceivable loss, an opportunity she would never have again, and desperation at the thought of how much harder things were going to be for her given the plans she had made based on the expectation that her mother would honor her word.  But Dana didn’t value the investment she had already made nor the investment she could have made into her own child’s future.  Sometimes when our own self-image is damaged we need the people closest to us to reflect it back to us, even if by force.

It Gets Worse

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The second house Dana had bought was not even an upgrade financially.  It was much smaller than the first one and was overvalued.  Very soon after purchasing it she was underwater: the house is worth far less than the price she paid, which was more than three times the first one.  And it will never recover.

An additional way that Dana lost out on a great opportunity was her attempt to buy a $30,000 house for her daughter which was earmarked for a first-time buyer.  She did not consider buying it in the daughter’s name, or realize that she herself was in fact a first-time home buyer.

 

The ability to evaluate the potential costs of missing an opportunity requires both knowledge and vision to discern its unseen future manifestation.  One must have the ability to perceive the likely outcome of a decision given the facts at hand then make a determination as to whether the resources necessary to go through with a choice will have an even greater return.

 

 

Sources:

Investopedia: Equity, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/equity.asp

 

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Linked In To Leverage

bigstock-black-african-american-ethnici-83481563No matter who you are or what your experience, starting a business is a nerve-wracking process.  The true beginning of a new entity – a start-up – is the germ of an idea that keeps you up at night (like right now!); distracts you at work; monopolizes conversations with friends and family; gives energy, inspiration and hope.  It builds from an idea to a research project; it is only natural, and absolutely necessary, to immerse oneself in the topic – reading everything, talking to other professionals.  A budding entrepreneur has to seek a place in the market that is meant for him or her to fill.

That is me.

There are three main hurdles that the average person will typically face when starting a business.  Some people may not be hindered by all three but at least one will be an issue to some degree.

  1. Technical knowledge

One of the most common pieces of advice that entrepreneurs are given is to gain two years of work experience in their intended industry before going into business for ourselves.  There’s nothing wrong with that, per se.  “Experience is a good teacher.”  But I would argue that having a “job” in the field doesn’t in and of itself mean that a person has gained the skills, knowledge base or fortitude needed to start and run their own business.  What if a person has no desire to be an employee and wants to go directly into entrepreneurship?  There is another way, and that is by leveraging the experience of others.

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2.  Support

Entrepreneurs are also often advised to build a team, or “board of advisors,” no matter how much experience.  The ability to connect with the right people who have the skills, knowledge, experience and willingness to help achieve the person’s vision is fundamental.  I learned this back in 2005 when I entered the annual business plan competition at the Brooklyn Library for the same business I am building now.  Many years later (for reasons beyond the scope of this blog) I attended graduate school to gain the “book knowledge” on the industry that I was lacking.

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Me at a training.

I have a very curious, expressive, detail-oriented, and – I’d like believe – humble character.   So seeking the counsel of many others is my thing.  Over the years I have gone out of my way to be around people in my industry.  If I wasn’t seeking advice I was taking it.  I leave no stone unturned (I don’t think…)  I’ve traveled hundreds of miles to expensive conferences, attended local events, taken trains two or more states away many times for parties, seminars and speeches hosted by industry groups and organizations.  A couple of years ago I had two advisors through the SCORE program with the Small Business Administration (that’s a whole other blog post.)  In October 2017 I am going to a conference in Barbados.

 

The goal had always been to make connections that will become fruitful when the right opportunity presented itself.  But now my goal is very specific: to build my team.  I’ve been having some success lately via LinkedIn.  Recently I met someone who seems to have all four of the traits I’m looking for in an advisor/partner: a) have the experience I am in need of for what I want to accomplish; b) have the desire to be a mentor, providing consistent, long-term guidance; c) take me seriously; and d) isn’t needlessly condescending, presumptuous or biased.  I find that the key is finding people who are hungry for change.  People who are looking for an opportunity for freedom to control their destiny in a way that capitalizes on their interests and expertise.  Everything seems to go back to my network marketing training!  Retired professionals are a great resource.  I spoke with one gentleman I met through a family connection, but he failed the test when he stated, “You don’t know what you want,”  as though enquiring about his background and his perspective on market opportunities means that I’m clueless, aimlessly fishing for something to grab on to.  Through LinkedIn I’ve been able to identify and contact experts in industry and academia that I probably would have had no knowledge of otherwise.  It’s amazing how many highly desirable people I’ve been able to introduce myself to and how fast conversations have developed, just from this one platform.  It’s really powerful and I highly recommend it.

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5 Clever Ways to Raise Money For Your Startup Without Making an Investor Pitch

    3.  MONEY!

Donald Trump has praised the power of debt.  He was able to build a real estate empire by leveraging Other Peoples’ Money to a high degree.  The power of OPM has become very real for me in my real estate investing business.  Real estate investors depend on private and hard money lenders for property purchase and rehabilitation.  It is how someone with little money of their own can begin a lucrative career in the field.  But it is a skill to be cultivated.

6 Tips for Borrowing Startup Funds from Friends or Family

That isn’t what I was taught.  As far as I knew, if you wanted to start a business you needed to save your own money and possibly take out a bank loan.  It seemed like venture capitalists and private investors were for the very sophisticated.  You had to be “linked in” to a different world, or something.  I had no idea that I could have access to this kind of capital and how to go about it.

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Raising capital for a business doesn’t have to be torturous.  It requires self-confidence, a plan with a great elevator pitch, a clear and specific ask, persistence and creativity.  Below are some ideas.

  • Self-confidence: The best place to start your search for investors is your immediate community: parents, family, friends, colleagues, alumni network – the people you know and the people they know.  This takes courage because we all know that the people closest to us are often the ones to doubt us the most.  It takes courage to face rejection, doubt and possibly thinly-veiled ridicule from the people who have the power to hurt us the most.  But still, it’s better to fail than to never try.
  • Plan:  The best way to win people over is to have a clear plan.  Clear doesn’t mean having all the details. It’s clarity of vision and idea of how you intend to bring it to reality.  Be honest about what you’re not sure about but give ideas about how you plan to go about figuring it out.  The point of the plan is not to have all the answers but to provide a framework for your actions and goals.  Be able to articulate your idea and not allow questions or negative responses to be discouraging.
  • Specify the ask: In articulating a clear plan with confidence, you have to be specific about what you are asking for.  So if your desire is to raise $20,000 speak it into existence! Don’t be vague. “My team is seeking to raise $20,000 for operating costs for the next six months…” – whatever it is. “This is our first (second…third…) round of funding to support our expansion into…”  Offer incentives for different levels of investment.
  • Persistence: I expect to have many conversations, even speaking to the same people several times.  And remember a ‘no’ can some day become a ‘yes.’  Consider no’s temporary.  Keep your prospect list updated on the progress of your campaign whether they have contributed or not.
  • Creativity: A battle is fought over several fronts.  There’s fighting on the ground, there’s intelligence, there’s diplomacy…  In your funding campaign you will also need to utilize many skills, devices and people, as well as altering the message depending on the audience.  Think outside the box.  You make the rules. It’s your show.  Just always respect peoples’ time, be honest, be gracious and communicate well.

 Raising money is another reason it is important to have a team.  You have the   opportunity to reach more people.  If and when you do solicit an investor or venture capitalist, having a team with extensive recent knowledge and experience will bump up your credi(t)bility.  *Credit being the operative word!

Today I am entering the fourth iteration of business goals, bringing with me all the lessons of past efforts.  I’ve learned from my mistakes and feel much better equipped in confidence, skills, knowledge and creativity than I was before.  Getting my business from idea to income-generating entity has been challenging, but I believe that God’s timing is perfect.  I’ve just been preparing for my season.

 

Sign Seeing

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Over the past couple of weeks three themes have kept popping up everywhere I look!  I’ve had lots of time to sit and reflect on where I am in my life, how I got here and what I need to do to move forward .  The universe seems to be in agreement with me as the same ideas have popped out at me in scripture, social media posts and even Sunday service.  On social media I have commented that the collective unconscious is working overtime right now.  I’m not the only one to notice.  Having a break from “busy”ness has allowed my mind to rest and me to get more centered and focused.    Below are the three ideas that have resonating around me.  The first two I touched on in last week’s blog post.

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  1. Missed Opportunities.  There’s nothing worse than a missed opportunity.  Hindsight is 20/20 As I look back (which I do very carefully!) I can see many of the opportunities I missed either by not grabbing them when I had the chance or not putting myself in the position to create them.  I acknowledge the self-doubt this was rooted in.  Looking back is only useful if you gain lesson to apply to future decisions.  It is an opportunity to fine-tune one’s intuition, ability to reason, and make better life choices.  journeytolaunch_1561592622500438037
  2. Preparation.  Last week I wrote that in business an elevator pitch is valuable tool that will allow the business person to be prepared for a chance encounter with someone who could in some way be instrumental in achieving their business goals.  The meme above was posted on Instagram by a financial coach; it was a post about being prepared financially for life’s emergencies.  This of course ties in to missing opportunities.  Some opportunities come with a cost.  I saw in my past opportunities I missed out on because I was not ready financially – and I could have been.
  3. FOMO.  When I read about the concept of FOMO, a light bulb went off.  When I read it a few days later in the intro to the verses assigned for one day’s bible study, it was like my mind was blown after being struck by lightening!  It perfectly pinpoints something I have sensed about myself while taking an honest look at the past three years.  FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out.  Patrick McGinnis, who coined the term, describes FOMO in the Disrupt Yourself Podcast, Episode 21.

“an inward struggle and it impedes you from disrupting yourself because I think you lack focus. There is a positive side to FOMO in that it can tell you what your hidden dreams and desires are. If you feel FOMO when you see somebody start playing the piano maybe you should go out and take piano lessons….But I find that it is a great way to distract yourself from doing the hard things in your life you need to do. Rather than sitting down…and dealing with that big challenge that you need to deal with, you spend a bunch of time running around doing other things to stay busy.”  

I’ve been reading the book The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Mansen and Les Hewitt.  In one of the first chapters they write about not being distracted by the next shiny new thing.  But the question is ‘why’ do we do that?  The answer is FOMO.  FOMO will eat up lots of opportunity, ironically, because when you’re chasing all you will catch none.  It is futile.

So once the signs are acknowledged the next step is to apply what they teach.  These signs have reiterated a nagging feeling that I need to be doing less, not more.  Being busy isn’t the same as being productive.  I’ve been noticing that the more busy I have become the less satisfied I have been feeling with the results of my efforts.  So now, mid-2017, is a good time to assess my priorities, strategies and activities, make sure they are in line with my goals.

Have you noticed any signs instructive this summer?

How To Graduate with Less or No Debt

Keys_29082It’s quite the conundrum. We are told that a college education is the key to achieving our full potential and the American dream.  The story tells us it is the way out of poverty.  Access to higher education was a major priority for the last White House administration and affordability was central to that message.  President Obama even introduced the America’s College Promise Act 2015 to make the two years of community college free.

Over the past decade or so the number of Americans earning college degrees has skyrocketed.  And so has the tuition, and the debt that follows.  For many, what was supposed to be a roadmap to the American Dream turned out to be a money pit into a uniquely American nightmare.  Graduates now face enormously burdensome debt that many will never be able to pay off in their lifetime.  We’ve all heard reports about the student loan default crisis, where the struggle to keep up with unaffordable loan payments becomes so discouraging that people stop paying altogether.

Women are particularly vulnerable.  I recently read that women own two-thirds of student loan debt.  Yet a female graduate will earn only 79 cents for every dollar that a male graduate will, on average, in a similar position.  Hmm…wouldn’t it be nice if that was reflected in the tuition we pay?!  Blacks and Latinas tend to take on more debt, and the fact that they tend to make even less than their White counterparts makes it especially harder for them to repay.

But alas, there’s hope!  There are several ways to graduate with less or no debt.  At the root of decreasing the need to take on debt to advance one’s education are planning, time and diligence.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Take your required courses at a community college.  It is not necessary to spend tens of thousands of dollars on coursework that isn’t directly relevant to your major; better yet, if you don’t even know what you want to study or career path you want to take right now, community college is a great place to sort that out.  Aside from the money, it can help you to grow in maturity and be more focused at a four-year college. Advantages:
    1. Cheaper
    2. Potentially pay tuition as you go
    3. The 4-year college transcript is what will be seen on your resume and what you will talk about at parties!  If you started at Community but ended up at Harvard no one really has to know.stundet-loan4
  2. Prepare!  There are literally thousands of grants and scholarships.  Take the time to do the research necessary to meet all of the deadlines and gather all of the information required to complete each application.
    1. Attend events at schools and community organizations of all sorts; read books and articles on free money for college. Get to know people who do this every day and keep in touch.
    2. It would be wise to start researching 18 months out from when you will begin school.  This way you can target your time and energy towards the most lucrative scholarships and grants that you qualify for and are interested in.
    3. Give yourself and your recommenders enough time to craft thoughtful, well-written essays and recommendations.
  3. Consider the potential salary expectations for your desired career.  Will your potential future income allow you to afford your student loan debt along with your realistic cost of living?  Your grades, location, network and caliber of your school are all factors in the salary level that may be available to you.
    1. This is the business of your life.  Do a cost/benefit analysis on your educational goals.  Does the pay scale for the career you intend to go into justify the cost of the degree required for the field?  For example, if you want to be a social worker, would it be worth it to go $60,000 into debt, considering what your salary is likely to be over the long run?
    2. Following the example in number 1, there are student loan forgiveness programs for certain careers.
      1. Usually when you go into one of these careers and apply for loan forgiveness there are requirements such as length of time to work in the field.
      2. Careers in public service (ex., The Peace Corps), medicine, the law and military service are all examples.
      3. For more information go here, here, here and here.splash
    3. An often overlooked yet critical advantage of going to college is the alumni network.
      1. I wrote in a previous blog, No Man Is An Island.  No one gets to where they want to be in life solely on their own effort.  Everyone needs a team to achieve their goals and dreams.
      2. As I asserted in my post about opportunity, connections are key.  That is the value of going to a top-tier school.  College isn’t just about academics; it’s the people with whom you will build lifetime personal relationships and professional connections. Further, the higher up on that U.S. News & World Report list, the higher your earning potential will be as soon as your graduate.
      3. Going to a top school matters most in the beginning of your career.  Afterward your professional record is what will really matter.  Of course top school alums will always have bragging rights, whatever it’s worth. 🙂
    4. Get a job at a company that offers tuition reimbursement.  Consider that there is more than one way to obtain an “education.”  Working in your field of interest while saving and investing as much as you can, kills two birds with one stone.  Being reimbursed for the tuition you pay is icing on the cake!
      1.  I benefited enormously by this incentive when I worked at Ernst & Young.  I was able to grow my professional competence through continuing education classes.  But they would also have paid for graduate school.
      2. Usually companies will require that you study courses either related to your specific position or the company’s industry. Length of time employed is another typical requirement. Either way if it’s your field of choice, it’s a win.
      3. The bigger the company the more likely that this opportunity will be available and the more generous.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started.  There are other personal finance possibilities that I will cover in another blog.  Have you been working on getting the money together to pay for college?  What has or has not worked for you so far?  Do you have any ideas you could add to this list?  Comment below!

 

Read more on the advantages of community college here.

Tennessee Makes Community College Free For All Adults

Detroit Is Making First Two Years of College Free

Two Tuition-Free Years in Rhode Island

Should Students Get Grades ’13 and 14′ Free of Charge?

Paying off debt with 401K

8 Reasons To Never Borrow From Your 401K

First 2 Years of College Free

The Paper Chase

ChasingMoneyMotivational posts are a big thing on social media.  Type in hashtags like “motivation,” “inspiration,” “hustle,” “grind,” “quoteoftheday,” and so on, and a plethora of slick memes will show up with quotes from business leaders and motivational speakers through the ages.  You will find many quotes from Jim Rohn, Robert Kiosaki and Tony Robbins, to name a few, extolling the virtues of persistence, focus, planning, how to build wealth, and the like.  Entrepreneurship has exploded as the internet has made education more accessible than it has ever been.  Technology has lowered barriers to entry for many industries in terms of knowledge as well as start-up capital.  In theory the playing field of capitalism is far more level than it has ever been before.  My inbox and social media accounts are flooded with offers to take a look at some idea to build wealth using the wonders of modern technology, usually with a rags-to-riches testimony.

Now we can “monetize” just about anything.  Industries are growing for motivational speakers, business coaches and trainers, for which clever entrepreneurs will provide instruction on how to tap into the market, for fees small and large.  Usually potential clients are lured into listening to the sales pitch with a free webinar or ebook download.  Somewhere within the material, usually at the end, there is a sales pitch – an up-sell – to turn the free information into a revenue stream through memberships, subscriptions or further coaching.  That sales pitch usually includes at least one quote from a “guru”, such as those mentioned above, to imply that the person shares that winning mentality; they have the thing that you don’t think you have.  It is a very effective tactic as it taps into the deep-seeded self-doubt many of us live with; our desire to be perceived as and feel successful; and guilt over not achieving our full potential.  When I was in network marketing we were taught to always search for the NEED and posit the product as the solution.  The need that motivates many people to pour hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars into these trainings is freedom from the imprisonment of financial struggle.

But even with the abundance of opportunity at our fingertips there is still a pervasive sense of lack in our society.  Increasing abundance of opportunity has not resulted in increasing satisfaction or happiness.  Why is that?

Ecclesiastes 5:11       

As goods increase, so do those who consume them.  And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?

gold-dollar-sign-on-groundI decided to call this blog The Financial Fashionista in part because I recognized that I myself had a conflict between my desire to acquire things and my desire to establish a solid financial foundation.  I have an economics degree and experience in high and low finance. (That’s a joke.)  In my head I have a very clear understanding of how money works: the concept of compound interest, investing in the financial markets, financial products and services, saving, interest expense, depreciation, the difference between cost and value.  In college my focus was mortgage-backed securities, the same product that brought down the world financial markets. But when it comes to personal finance emotion is almost inextricably linked.  This is why most people pull their money out of the market during a correction, as happened in 2008, marriages fail, and even cause business owners to make poor management decisions.

I am now looking very closely at the ‘why’ in my spending habits and attitude toward money in general.  What lessons from my past must I un-learn?  How do I bridge the gap between my rational understanding and my emotions?  I have rooms full of “stuff” that I never have to look at or touch for the rest of my life.  The older I get the more I realize that it is all meaningless.  Whatever satisfaction I receive from purchasing a new dress or some other thing is absolutely fleeting.  And as such the process must perpetuate to reach the same high.

What motivates us to do this?  I know I’m not alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

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Chasing after the wind.

Another thing that social media brings to the forefront is the deep desire to be simultaneously approved and envied by others.  We lament the unrealistic standards of beauty and lifestyle promoted on the medium but those who do it best gain the most followers, by which they are able to creative highly lucrative businesses.  Posts and hashtags about grinding and hustling extol the value of pushing to reach goals and measurable achievements; we respect most the people who seem to be accomplishing big goals and dreams and the wealth that comes with it.  But that value system is based on outward signs of a success that can disappear even faster than it came; not character or the virtues of community, humility, patience, temperance and generosity.  It is inherently inauthentic.  No wonder it  cannot bring forth lasting satisfaction and happiness.

Motivation in this day and age is temporary because it tends to be based on comparing ourselves to others and wanting what they have.  Inspiration is more authentic and long-lasting because it is based on the vision and purpose that is uniquely suited to the individual.  As the saying goes, “chase your passion and the money will follow.”

 

The 4 Hooks of Motivational Training

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation.I have attended many educational events – conferences, workshops, online courses and webinars – for several industries over the past few years.  I was for a short time an agent for a network marketing company in financial services: I hold a Series 6 license and am life insurance licensed in ten states.  Although I have gained eye-opening insight and understanding, attending these events has also been a very valuable lesson in the strengths and weaknesses of the mindset conditioning that the network marketing and real estate industries in particular use to “hook” reps and students, respectively.  I have become very familiar with what I will call “motivational training.”

I believe that this style of training sprouted from the self-help movement of the eighties and early nineties.  Susan Powter of ‘Stop the Insanity’ fame comes to mind.  Her brand of tough love in encouraging people to change their eating habits to gain control of their lives and health earned millions from books, tickets to speaking engagements and exercise videos. During this time Tony Robbins’ star was also on the rise. He too had lengthy infomercials on how to take control of your life, but his approach was far more “gentle,” for lack of a better word, and holistic.  Even though their approaches were very different, in my mind they built the framework for the motivational style of training so popular today.  Ms. Powter and Mr. Robbins showed how profitable “motivation” can be.

Today, “gurus” are all over the place.  They have learned to combine the tough-love and gentle approaches.  They are usually people who have achieved demonstrable success at something and have built a following based on their story of how they accomplished their goals.  The point and purpose of motivational training is the up-sell.  These events follow very familiar layout that will conclude with an “ask” – buy a book, a course or series of courses or mentorship/coaching.  Whether the story of the road to success is entirely true or not, clearly the story in and of itself can prove just as profitable, if not more so, than the work itself.

Success on hook

The following are four common “hooks” you may hear when attending educational industry events.

Hook #1: The Warning

The idea is that they will help you avoid the costly and painful mistakes that they made.  This idea is reinforced by the altruistic desire help as many people succeed as possible.  I am not doubting anyone’s sincerity.  I just believe that we have to be our own teachers.  When you have your own experience, including failures, then you are in the best position to know what works best for you, given your unique set of skills, talents and interests.  And that is what a person will be able to make the most out of an investment in coaching.

The Warning:

  • You can’t do it by yourself
  • Mistakes can ruin you

Hook #2: Cost Versus Value

“If you paid $30,000 for coaching that leads you to 3 deals that earn $10,000 each or even 1 deal earning $30,000 and you can build a fortune going forward on the lessons you learned, what did it really cost you?”  That would make the service in effect free.  However, there is a huge caveat – “if.”  If you’re given an action plan; if the coaching is personal; if the coach follows through with what has been promised; if you follow the action plan; if you are able to devote the time and effort necessary.  The truth is, only about 5% of the people who attend such workshops will take action and of those few achieve the results they were expecting.  For most it will be nothing more than a very large donation to that guru’s bank account.

Cost v. Value

  • Hand-hold coaching from an industry expert
  • It pays for itself

Hook #3: Impatience

We want to see results fast.  Diet companies make a fortune every year on our desire to see results fast, with little effort.  Patience requires discipline.  Discipline involves consistent long-term implementation of a plan toward a goal.  The gurus know how to tap into this tendency in our culture to want to jump ahead and enjoy the evidence of hard work, without actually doing the hard work.  And that very well should be expensive.

Impatience

  • Huge profits in 30 or less days
  • Be the envy of suckers slaving away for “the man”

Hook #4: Insecurity

Many of us don’t believe we can do great things.  Guilt in knowing that we are not living up to our full potential is an extension of that self-perception.  Flashes of motivational quotes and inspirational videos are meant to dig into the sore spot and bring home the point that the program, product or service offers a way out.  The gurus know this feeling is fleeting.  We are very good at settling back into a comfortable, familiar routine.  So it is imperative for the speaker to pull on the string of insecurity to compel as many in attendance as possible to pull out the credit card or take out the HELOC or pull cash out of a retirement account to pay handsomely for the promise of finally attaining the success and feeling of accomplishment that so many lack.  They also know that there is at least $3trillion sitting in liquid and a little less than liquid accounts in this country.

Insecurity

  • Yes, this is great training, but you still won’t make it on your own
  • Winners recognize opportunity and take decisive action

Konferenz Saal

Now, there is nothing wrong with seeking help and inspiration.  I am not at all against doing the weekend-long workshops on real estate investing or conferences by networking marketing and other companies.  But I have also become hyper aware of the emotional and psychological hooks that can be very manipulative and often lead to disappointment down the road.

Remember:

  • Everyone starts at the beginning and there is no substitute for work.
  • If the gurus could do the work to get where they are, so can you.
  • Don’t let fear of making a mistake cost you.  You can only grow from mistakes.
  • Don’t worry about “advice” from people who cannot relate to what it’s like to take a chance.
  • Take advice and get ideas from people who relate to fighting for a vision.
  • Take advice from people who don’t give up.
  • Take advice from people who have failed a million times but have the courage to get up and keep going; their failures have provided a treasure trove of wisdom and great ideas!
  • Don’t take advice from people who talk nonsense.
  • And please do not believe people who are boastful because they are likely embellishing to create envy and false authority.

The truth is that motivation comes from within.  Nobody can give it to you.  It requires constant self-evaluation to grow in the confidence that you are doing what truly interests you and for which you have the talent.  Just because someone else has done tremendously well at something doesn’t mean that you will too, even when you give it 100%.  No one thing is for everybody.  We were each created for a specific purpose.  If we are pursuing something that is not in line with our purpose it could remain an uphill battle.  If we are pursuing things that do not engage our best skills and talents it will likely remain a very difficult journey, no matter whose advice we follow.

How to Turn Your Home Into A Personal ATM

One of the goal posts for what we have accomplished in this life is the ability to enjoy a long, happy retirement.  But as the years go by and the horizon gets closer we look at what we have in cash and assets, and discover that we may not be able to retire comfortably and independently, if at all.  If you add up your annual living expenses – including personal care, mortgage, groceries, car notes and insurance, all of your fixed and variable costs – you will likely find that if you retire at 67 years old and live another 20 to 30 years beyond that, you will need over $1million in today’s money to maintain your current lifestyle throughout your retirement.

Most Americans are looking for ways to supplement their income to try to make up for the shortfall.  We max out our contributions to retirement plans at work.  We hold 401K’s, IRA’s, money markets and other investments, hoping that the market will keep going up (which it won’t) and we don’t lose significant value in our accounts; the closer you are to retirement the less time you will have to make up for any losses.  You may even try to adjust your lifestyle downward to conserve cash to save and invest but would you be able to make enough of an adjustment to make a real difference?  Many approaching retirement age have to be concerned about which direction the market is headed in the next few years.  In the stock market the investor has no control.

Mutual funds have for decades been heralded as the best way to benefit from the financial markets without a lot of knowledge about investing and without taking on too much risk.  This investment vehicle is touted as the best way to earn double-digit returns on your money, but OVER THE LONG TERM.  If you look at CD rates at bankrate.com you will see that the highest-yielding CD will return 2.3% compounded over a 5-year period.  As for money markets, for a deposit of $5,000 one bank will pay a grand total of 1.11% interest for the first year only; then the rate drops to 0.61%.  Meanwhile, what are banks doing with your money?  They’re lending it back to you and your neighbors at higher interest rates; they’re investing it in multiple ways, including lending to other banks overnight, to earn a higher rate of interest than they’re paying you, and profiting massively from the difference.

3466307-House-sitting-on-money-with-puzzle-Understanding-mortgages-Stock-Photo

Did you know that you have the power to do the same thing?  It’s called Private Lending, and you can use the equity in your property to do it.  Private lending a vital lifeline for real estate investors. And as a private lender you can participate in real estate investing without “getting your hands dirty” while earning a much higher rate of return than you ever will with banks or likely will in the stock market.

Since the market crash of 2008 real estate has picked up speed, and certain markets, like Philadelphia,  are moving at a feverish pace.  If you are in that region I am sure you have noticed and even been inconvenienced by the deluge of construction going on in and around the city.  Somebody is getting very rich!  Do you ever wonder how they do it?  Do you ever wonder how YOU could get in on the action, without having “important’ friends and millions in the bank?

As a homeowner you are potentially sitting in a bank of your very own.  If you have significant equity built up from years of paying down your mortgage you can access it through a home equity line of credit (HELOC).  You use the proceeds to help real estate investors like fix-and-flippers, for example, fund deals while you earn returns in your sleep, often well into the double digits!  It is perfectly legal and perfectly legitimate.  Moreover, you will be paid back your investment plus interest in four to six months. It is as simple as agreeing on a contract that explicitly lays out the terms on each side.  You hold either the first or second mortgage, and if for any reason the deal goes south the house is your collateral – just like a bank.  Private investing can provide virtually limitless financial growth, as you are able to compound your returns by continually lending.  Did you ever dream you’d grow up to own your own bank??

Sextant Financial Solutions, LLC (www.sextantfinancials.com) is a company positioned to take advantage of investment opportunities in some of the hottest areas of Greater Philadelphia, including Delaware County and Philadelphia County West and Southwest.  If you would like to learn more about ways to earn significant returns using your home’s equity or cash sitting in low interest-earning instruments such as a 401K, IRA and CD’s call 484-461-0114 or send an e-mail to sextantfinancials@yahoo.com.