Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson - King of Pop is now the King of Debt

Michael Jackson, cropped from :Image:Michael J...Image via Wikipedia

Michael Jackson is now the poster child for what not to do with your money.

The whole world was shocked to hear of the sudden, unexpected death of pop singer Michael Jackson this past Thursday, June 25, 2009, at the age of 50.

In the majority of the TV news segments that have run about Michael this past weekend, the comments from the talking heads have included the complexity of his estate and the almost $500 million of debt he has accumulated in recent years. This seems to be a common problem with celebrities that grow accustom to a certain lifestyle when times are good, but as soon as their celebrity begins to fade as well as their income, they make no adjustments to their financial plan. Perhaps, they didn't have much of a plan to begin with.

In spite of his many financial failings, Michael was a giver, and he donated as well as raised millions of dollars for beneficial causes through his foundations and 39 other charities.

So what can we learn from the finances of Michael Jackson?
  1. Don't do debt.
  2. Don't over complicate your estate planning.
  3. Have a plan for your money. Be sure to set short as well as long term goals with your money.
  4. Budget your money and spend it wisely.
  5. Be sure your lifestyle does not exceed your income.
  6. Have an emergency fund for the difficult times.
  7. Invest your money wisely for the future.
  8. Be a giver like Michael.
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Give me a lever long enough...the power of leverage

Diagram showing a First Class LeverImage via Wikipedia

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. - Archimedes

Wiktionary defines leverage as
any influence which is compounded or used to gain an advantage; or to use, to gain advantage, to take full advantage of an existing thing.

When we think of leverage, we often think of it in terms of finances, such as purchasing real estate with debt and its relation to home value appreciation, but anything can be leveraged: money, people, assets, time, and so on.

You can leverage time and people to increase your personal productivity in the following ways:
  1. Demand short deadlines of yourself for your most important daily activities. Parkinson's Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, if you are given eight hours to complete a project, the deadline will force you to focus solely on completing the task before you and working on only the bare essentials.
  2. Batch similar activities together such as listening to voicemail messages and returning phone calls at one specific time during the day. Check email and respond to email at one specific time during the day, and so on.
  3. Establish systems that save you time, money, and energy.
  4. Delegate less important tasks to administrative assistants or other coworkers who can do an even better job than you in a shorter time frame.
  5. Consider virtual assistants as well as personal services in order to leverage your time so that you can focus on the truly important things in life.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

9 ways to increase your personal productivity

In my last two posts, I've been discussing the Tim Ferriss' approach to personal productivity as outlined in his ground-breaking book The 4-Hour Workweek.

Here are some real-life solutions to gain you the time and focus you need to concentrate on the 2-3 critical activities that generate income and success:
  1. Write down on a small piece of paper the 2-3 most critical activities you need to engage in at work the night before you go to the office.
  2. When you arrive at the office, focus on accomplishing those 2-3 critical activities to the exclusion of all others.
  3. Structure your contact with people (office times and accessibility of people via phone and e-mail). You can accomplish this via email autoresponders and outgoing voicemail messages.
  4. Limit voicemail checking and outgoing phone calls to key points in your day (such as 11:00 am and 4:00 pm)
  5. Limit all email reading and responding to key points in your day (such as 11:30 am and 4:30pm).
  6. Schedule brief meetings with a definite agenda and end time.
  7. Offer solutions to problems instead of asking for opinions.
  8. Do not multitask. It doesn't work. Focus on one important activity at a time.
  9. Batch regular, routine activities at on specific days at specific times (email, phone, bills, laundry, grocery shopping, etc).
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Are you being productive today or just active?

Tim Ferriss IIImage by jaygoldman via Flickr

In The 4-Hour Workweek, author Tim Ferriss mentions a quote to ask yourself at various times during the day to assess the activity you are currently engaged in:

"Am I being productive or just active?"

It is so easy to remain active to avoid the important aspects of our job or business. We check e-mail incessantly. We answer the phone the second it rings. We organize and reorganize our space. We create endless to-do lists.

We need to identify the most important tasks that lead to income generation and overall impact. Then, we need to shorten work time to give ourselves a very tight deadline in which to accomplish these few, important tasks.

If we focus on productivity and effectiveness instead of filling time from 9-5, our value in our workplace or business will increase dramatically.

So, how productive are you being right now?
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Friday, June 19, 2009

18 time wasters that drain our productivity

The 4-Hour WorkweekImage via Wikipedia

Many books and articles have been written on personal productivity in the workplace and business. One book that offers a unique perspective on time wasters and productivity is The 4 Hour Workweek by author Tim Ferriss. Although this is not a Christian book, I believe many of the principles that Tim embraces are valid and useful ones to increase productivity.

If left unchecked and unscheduled, these time wasters can drain valuable productive time:
  1. Phone calls
  2. E-mail
  3. Web surfing
  4. Personal business
  5. Texting; instant messaging.
  6. Web 2.0 - social networking
  7. Unscheduled meetings
  8. Unfocused meetings
  9. Unproductive, unnecessary reading
  10. Multi-tasking
  11. Endless to-do lists
  12. TV and other media
  13. Constant organizing and reorganizing
Other personal issues can get in the way as well such as:
  1. Lack of energy
  2. Lack of focus
  3. Sickness
  4. Lack of sleep
  5. Stress
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Moderation in personal finances

Target ShopperImage by I-1326 via Flickr

Moderation is better than muscle, self-control better than political power. (Proverbs 16:32, The Message)

The heart is great which shows moderation in the midst of prosperity. - Seneca

Out of moderation a pure happiness springs.
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

People live real life in extremes - during good financial times, they spend a lot of money and go heavily debt. During lean times, people spend money only on what is absolutely necessary, pay off debt, and save.

I have a better, Scriptural alternative - moderation.

Webster's dictionary defines moderation as "to lessen the intensity or extremeness of."

Moderation isn't hip and cool. Moderation prevents us from keeping up with the Jones's. Moderation cramps our lifestyle.

We as Christians should have self control in all areas of our lives, which, of course, includes our family's finances. Educate yourself to be a wise manager of all that God has blessed you with.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Emergency Funds - lack of faith?

Money bags and barsImage by The Library of Virginia via Flickr

Is creating an emergency fund for your family finances a lack of faith in Almighty God? My general answer to this question would be that it depends on the overall attitude of those building up such a fund.

If the attitude is one of hording, fear, and greed, then yes, there is a lack of faith.

If the attitude is more of building an emergency fund as an insurance policy, then I believe that is an appropriate one. We all have insurance policies for catastrophic circumstances: identity theft, homeowners/renters policies, health, life, auto, and so on. These policies help protect the family finances against unforeseen events.

In the same way, an emergency fund can protect your bottom line against medical emergencies, deductible payments, appliance breakdowns, major home and car repairs, as well as unemployment.

Modern day personal finances are much more complicated than ever before in history. You must self-insure yourself against the unexpected.

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. (Proverbs 21:20)

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Do not be conformed to the world

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
(Romans 12:1-3, The Message)

The world wants Christians to conform to its system of money management, but what exactly are the characteristics of the world's system?
  1. selfishness
  2. greed
  3. lack of integrity
  4. materialism
  5. debt
  6. attitude of lack and the need for more (discontent)
  7. get rich quick mindset
  8. impatience
  9. consumerism
  10. laziness
  11. living paycheck to paycheck

According to Roman's 12:1-3, what should the transformed, Biblical financial mindset look like:
  1. Placed before God as an offering (v. 1)
  2. Not fitting into the world's culture without thinking (v. 1)
  3. Focused on God (v. 2)
  4. Seeking His will (v. 2)
  5. Mature. Don't allow the culture to drag you down to its level of financial immaturity (v. 2)
  6. Grateful for what God has given to you (v. 3)
  7. Responsible (v. 3)
  8. Reliant on God - He brings all goodness to us (v. 3)
Renewing the mind is a little like refinishing furniture. It is a two-stage process. It involves taking off the old and replacing it with the new. The old is the lies you have learned to tell or were taught by those around you; it is the attitudes and ideas that have become a part of your thinking but do not reflect reality. The new is the truth. To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. To the degree that you do this, your behavior will be transformed. - Charles Stanley

Monday, June 8, 2009

Financial planning like a millionaire

When Dave Ramsey talks about personal money management, whether it's through his radio show, FPU, Live Events, or books, one HUGE emphasis he makes time and time again is that people need to think like rich people and do rich people stuff when it comes to their money.

Doing rich people stuff includes things like:
  1. Zero debt
  2. Live on less than you make
  3. Give generously
  4. Always ask "how much," not "how much a month"
  5. Drive used, paid for vehicles
  6. Have a plan; monthly budget
  7. Set goals - think short and long term
  8. Save, save, save

So are you thinking like a rich person or a poor/middle class person? Start thinking like the rich, and soon you'll get there over time!

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Friday, June 5, 2009

God's Big Idea for your life

You may be familiar with the CNBC cable network show The Big Idea hosted by Donny Deutsch. I enjoy watching this show from time to time to see people come on and pitch their big business idea to Donny and other guests on the program.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been given special talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts that God wants us to use to build His Kingdom. He has given some Christians a special anointing by giving them a strong business sense, writing skills, speaking ability, and the capacity for great wealth creation. These believers know how to take one great idea and from that idea create products that can help millions of people worldwide.

A great example of such a Christian is Dave Ramsey. As a young man, Dave had leveraged himself to the hilt in real estate, and then lost everything through bankruptcy. Dave took this devastating experience, learned from his massive money mistakes, and then wrote the book Financial Peace and started a financial talk radio program. He now helps millions of people handle their finances according to the principles found in God's Word. Dave's big idea of Debt Freedom is not a new one, but Dave took his life experience and also his unique personality and skill set, and then created products and a platform to help people get a handle on their family's finances.

Do you have a unique life learning experience that could help other people through telling your story? Do you have special God-given talents and abilities such as writing and speaking in which you could teach others? If so, ask for God's wisdom in developing your Big Idea so that you can fulfill God's purpose for your life.

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference. - Nolan Bushnell

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Give Up to Go Up

Bruce Gyngell introducing television to the re...Image via Wikipedia

What do you need to give up in order to go higher in your God-given purpose for your life? There are many good things that can clutter up our lives, especially if we let them get out of control such as:
  1. Sleep
  2. Business opportunities
  3. Phone calls
  4. Texting
  5. Email
  6. TV
  7. Hobbies
  8. Draining/wrong relationships
  9. Sports
  10. Ministry opportunities (that are not a good fit for your gifts and abilities)
  11. Web surfing
  12. Too much social Web (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
A good way to determine your time wasters is to keep a time/activity log for a few weeks to see what items you could eliminate or rearrange in your schedule in order to make more productive use of your time. Being a good steward doesn't just involve managing money and possessions, but also includes how we handle the time God has given us here on earth.

What do you need to give up today in order to go up tomorrow?

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Real life examples of focused thinking

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

People who have accomplished great things in business, athletics, ministry, and life in general are always focused on one great, big idea. Here's a quick list of examples:
  1. Bill Gates - operating system and software applications for PC
  2. Michael Jordan - basketball
  3. Steve Jobs - incredible computers (Mac) and electronic accessories (iPod, iPhone, etc.)
  4. Rick Warren - purpose-driven life
  5. Tiger Woods - golf
  6. Warren Buffet - business investing
  7. Joel Osteen - best life now
  8. Robert Allen - nothing down real estate
  9. Lance Armstrong - cycling/Tour de France
  10. Phil Town - Rule #1 investing (don't lose money!)
  11. Dave Ramsey - debt free
The power of focus on one great idea can:
  1. help people who are hurting
  2. change lives
  3. turn the business world upside down
  4. impact history
  5. revolutionize churches
  6. drive the future of technology and innovation
  7. create incredible wealth
So let me ask you this: do you have one great, big idea inside of you that can change lives and revolutionize today's world? If so, it's your time to unleash it!

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