Tony Robbins: Money – Master the Game Part 7

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 Step 7 – Just do it, enjoy it, and share it!

Tony’s message is simple here: The secret to living is giving.

Look at how far we have come as a species and realize that we’re extremely lucky. We have incredible technology that allows us to video chat with people from across the world, we have advanced medicine which will allow life expectancy to continue to rise, and we have all the opportunity in the world. Most of us have access to the internet where we have a world of information at our fingertips. Unfortunately, most people use it to look up funny cat photos and argue with strangers on the internet (keyboard warriors).

 

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In this section, Tony discusses 3D printing, living longer, medical improvements, solar energy, NASA and their emergency shelter initiative, robots, tissue regeneration, nanotechnology, etc. The possibilities are endless. The future is much brighter than you think and every day we are making breakthroughs like never before! The quality of life is slowly improving for the entire world.  It’s not as grim as some doomsdayers think it is.

Again, let’s go back to the question – what will give your life lasting meaning? You may think you want a million dollars because that money would fulfill certain needs and give you power, freedom, happiness, etc. But remember, you can have these feelings now, without the money. Give these to yourself now. Having money won’t actually change anything that is internal to your-self. So, find out what it is that you really want. Don’t just master the game of money, master the game of fulfillment, health, and relationships. As Tony says, “You don’t want to be the wealthiest guy in the graveyard.”

 “Happiness isn’t something ready-made. It comes from your own actions” Dali Lama

“If you have a billion dollars and are ungrateful, you’re a poor man.. but if you have very little and are grateful for what you have, then you are truly rich.”

How can you improve your life right now, without money? Ask yourself this… How do you cultivate gratitude? Start by looking at the force that controls your mind, thoughts and emotions.  Our decisions control the quality of our lives. Tony lays out 3 key decisions that we make throughout the day that determine the quality of our lives ad determine if we feel rich or poor.

1 – What are you going to focus on?

Where focus goes, you go.  Focus on what you have and be grateful for what you have. Focus on improving your quality of life and those around you.

You have no reason to be ungrateful. Half of the world lives off of less than the cost of a coffee! According to GlobalIssues.org, 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, and 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day. There is so much to be grateful for which doesn’t have anything to do with money. All the things you use in life were put there by the people who came before you, so you at least have them to thank for laying the ground work for the internet you browse, the books you read, the knowledge they acquired from experiences and passed on to you, the roads you drive on, the utility infrastructure you use. Someone had to lay all that ground work before you, so you have a lot to be thankful for. Again, focusing on what you have can be a very powerful practice.

Do you focus on what you can control or what you can’t control? You can’t control some things, so don’t focus on that. Instead, focus on your circle of influence. I will dive into this a little more when I finish reading the 7 habits of highly effective people. So far it is a great book and he talks a lot about working in your circle of influence.  Don’t worry about what you can’t control.

You are not a “victim”, and if you think you are, you’re deceiving yourself. Take responsibility for your circumstances and your life. There is no one else to blame. Change your way of thinking, and things change.

2 – What does it mean?

How we feel about our lives has nothing to do with the events in our lives or financial condition. It’s controlled by the meaning we give these things. Your life becomes whatever meaning you give it. When you get into an accident what meaning do you give it? Do you tend to think it’s the end or the beginning? When something of significance happens to me, I look at it and question why. Is there a reason this is happening, and if so, why? I like to peel back the layers of an event and look at the root cause. All things happen in a way to guide us and to teach us something, so pay attention to those clues and if you can’t get to the bottom of it, at least you are starting by just becoming aware of it.

So, the next time something odd, or strange, or significant happens, become aware of it and say, hmmmm, that was interesting, I wonder why that happened.. And then ask what it means. I believe all events happen in order to help us grow, so look for that.  You will get better and better at noticing these events and in-turn, you will start becoming more aware.  Most people have a belief that things happen for a reason. It’s true in my book.  When terrible things happen, they can seem like the end of the world at that moment, but think about an event from your past that you thought was terrible at the time. Did it help you grow? What did you learn from it?  Can you look back on it and laugh? Some events I freaked out about are pretty comical now when I look back on it.

3 – What am I going to do?

The actions we take are heavily influenced by our emotions and thoughts. Emotions, thoughts, and actions can all be primed. You must train yourself to focus and feel good.  Priming for self-esteem influences the monitoring of one’s own performance

The best way to get started is to develop a 5-10 minute practice to cultivate gratitude each day. Do it in the morning to jump start your day. Don’t make it into a chore because that will defeat the whole purpose of it. Don’t just think of the things you are grateful for, feel those feelings as well. You can’t be grateful and fearful at the same time. Tony’s routine goes something like this: Reflect on what you are grateful for, send love and blessings to all people, focus on three things for you to continue to thrive (three things you want to accomplish), and then visualize yourself achieving that and feel those feelings as if you have already achieved it.

 

A lot of us have this mindset of always wanting more. We want to earn more, we want to have more things, we want to have a bigger house, a better car, and more, more, more. Your mind is still a 2 million year old structure and its main goal is survival. We still have that reptilian part of the brain and you have to control it.

“Stand guard at the doors of your mind”  Jim Rohn

The key to life is growth and contribution. Find something you would give your life for. What are you most passionate about? What would you like to create or give, and to whom?

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill

So, as Tony states in his book, “here comes the counter intuitive part.” This book has been about how to earn and save more, which can be like a disease. Always trying to earn more and more, but you have to ask…. for what? We all know those people that just work and work with the only purpose being for more money. Working just to make money isn’t going to fulfill you. As thousands have said before, find your passion and do that, and naturally the money will come.

Now, the counter intuitive part of this book. Find ways to give. The more you give, the more you get. I can say that this is true for myself. When I wasn’t giving, I didn’t get a lot in return. The more I started giving, the more I get in return. It feels very good to give. Don’t give just to get something back. Give because you want to. Find something that inspires you to give. Tony advocates for Swipe Out, which goes toward world hunger, child slavery, and disease. Every time you make a purchase at the store with your debit card, it gets rounded to the next dollar, and that change goes to Swipe Out. So for example, if you buy a bagel for $2.55, you get charged $3, and the $.45 goes towards Swipe Out. Check it out here.

For me, I also give to Kiva. Kiva makes micro loans to entrepreneurs across the globe in developing countries (I think about 80 countries). I like this because 100% of the money goes to the person trying to improve their business, whether it is a farm or small shop. I really love it because I’m helping people who are empowering themselves. They are trying to do something to improve their situation. Also, once they pay back their loan, I can reinvest that money to help more people. That money will keep helping people over and over again. Please check it out!

It doesn’t have to just be money. You can give your time, your love, your knowledge, your presence, etc. The more you give, the happier you are. There have been many studies done on this.  Here is a great article – Huffington Post, and another article Wall Street Journal.

 

That’s it… Those are the 7 steps to financial freedom!  Read, review, and implement them today!!

 

Here are some other resources I found throughout the book:

Want to analyze your portfolio? Go to stronghold financial.com for a free analysis

If you have a 401K, consider Americas Best 401K. According to Tony, this is the best low fee 401K in America. If you want to see how many fees your current 401K is racking up, check out their 401K fee checker.

Use living trusts to protect your family and to avoid things like probate. Go to getyourshittogether.org

 

A Bonus:

Three quick steps to fulfill your goals (Tony has many books on this topic, so check those out too).

List your short term, midterm, and long term goals and why they are important to you.

Step 1 – Unleash the desire. Make a decision to never go back. Unleash your hunger for it and have a laser like focus.

Step 2 – Take massive and effective action. Do whatever it takes to make your dream a reality. Effective execution is necessary.

Step 3 – Grace and guidance. This is when you go for what you truly want and God or the universe steps in and we have these so called “coincidences”. Acknowledge them and be grateful.

Find your gift and give it to as many people as possible. Don’t complain about outside circumstances. Start from the inside out. Declare what you intend to do. What you get won’t make you happy, but what you become will make you happy or sad. Just make small steps every day and savor and celebrate the victories. Invest in yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. Become better and become more valuable. Again, focus on what you can control.

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Tony Robbins: Money – Master the Game Part 6

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Step  6 – Billionaires playbook – It’s time to meet the masters

Ray Dalio’s tips:

1 – Don’t lose – protect downside
2 – Risk a little to make a lot, look for home runs (asymmetric returns – risk/reward)
3 – Anticipate and diversify
4 – You’re never done learning, earning, growing, giving

I found this great video by Ray Dalio – How The Economic Machine Works by Ray Dalio

Tony Interviewed a bunch of billionaires to create this book.  Instead of dragging it out, I just summarized some of their tips and thoughts from this chapter below.

1 – America needs to improve its management practices.
2 – Companies need to care about the rights of investors – put investors interests first.
3 – There are 3 levers we can control – asset allocation (which is #1), market timing, security selection.  Have a long term buy and hold strategy.
4 – Investors as a group can’t beat the market because they are the market.
5 – Nobody knows nothin about the stock market.
6 – Corporate America will keep growing and earning and since the market is a derivative of this, it will continue to grow.
7 – Play defense – risk control is #1.
8 – Run a diversified portfolio.
9 – Never set yourself up for the knockout punch.
10 – The best time to buy is when there is blood in the streets.
11 – Put your real money in an index fund.
12 – Earn your own money, put some money aside, get an education, get a well-paying job, put money into 401K and make small sacrifices. Give up the small things to save more.

That’s it for this step.  The last step is all about giving.

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Tony Robbins: Money – Master the Game Part 5

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Step 5 – Upside without the downside (protect income plan)

Don’t out live your money!  Ray Dalio’s (he’s an investment guru worth about $15 billion and is the CEO of Bridgewater Associates) first insight: The balanced portfolio theory (50% in stocks and 50% in bonds) doesn’t work.  Generally it is thought that the two are correlated, but this is not always the case and both can fail at the same time.  When you have this so-called “balanced portfolio”, your risk is very high, like 95% risk.  It is lacking in security because stocks are 3 time more risky.  Again, Ray also stresses here, don’t try and beat the market.

Ray’s second insight: There is a season for everything. As he sees it, there are 4 seasons: higher inflation with rising prices, lower inflation, higher economic growth, and lower economic growth. You want 25% of risk in each season because we don’t know which season will come next.  We don’t know the future.  Here is a portfolio Tony calls the all-weather portfolio.

Stocks – 30% (use a low cost index fund)
Long term treasury bonds – 55% (put 15% in intermediate 7-10 year bonds and 40% in long term 20-25 year bonds (The longer the higher the rate of return).
7.5% in commodities
7.5% in gold

These last two (commodities and gold) have a high volatility which will help keep your portfolio in check with inflation. Make sure to re-balance this portfolio annually. This portfolio can increase tax efficiency and it spreads the risk while still getting returns. It is also possible to implement this plan within your 401K.

 

The goal of investing and saving money is to have an income for life, right? Imagine having no financial stress (or at least a lot less) and being able to do what you wanted to do. As Tony says, income is the outcome. You want to have the freedom and stress free lifestyle that comes with that. It used to be thought that you only needed to save 4% over your career to have a retirement that would support you. The 4% rule is dead by Kelly Greene.

Let’s talk about sequence of returns. This is the period of time when you are in the first few years of retirement. If your investments are still allocated a certain way, a bad year can hurt your early in your retirement.  The earliest years will define your later years and if you take a big hit during the first several years, you may find yourself back at work. So, the solution…. get income insurance!  Couple this with an all-weather portfolio and you are looking good!

According to the Government Accountability Office, in their report to the Chairman, Special Committee on Aging, U.S. Senate, Americans should “convert at least half of their retirement savings into an annuity.” Doing this will secure your financial future. People are living longer than ever before, so we need to make sure we have a paycheck for life. Let’s talk about annuities again. As I said before, avoid variable annuities. But let’s look at two other types of annuities.

Immediate annuities – These are used at retirement age and are guaranteed lifetime incomes.  You may leave your money on the table, but who cares, you’re dead. Or, get the trade off and your money goes to your heirs (but you will get a smaller pay check each month). There is a great solution here – leave your money on the table and get a life insurance policy. Win-win.

Deferred annuities – You pay into this annuity and you can turn on the “paycheck for life” whenever you want. The longer you pour money into it, the higher your paycheck will be. Use an annuity that uses a S&P low cost index or similar. There are three types of deferred annuities.

Fixed (independent of any stock market activity)

Index (tied to stock market – no possibility of loss) and you get some of the returns) and

Hybrid (benefits of index plus income lifetime rider (turn on paycheck for life).

Note: pick a highly rated insurance company and pick one that is in tax deferred environment.

Fixed index annuity (FIA) – These sound amazing. You have control, it comes back with higher annual returns, it is tax deferred, it has an optional lifetime income rider (when you turn it on), and you will not lose your original deposit/principal each year you are locked in.  The catch, you need to be in your mid 50s or older. It only lasts for 20 years and you need a big deposit. This obviously won’t work for the mass public, so, Advisors Excel is pushing insurance companies to begin offering this kind of product to younger people.  Go to lifetimeincome.com to educate yourself on it and set up plan.

Now let’s look at what Tony calls, “secrets of the ultra-wealthy”.

Some billionaires use life insurance to reduce taxes. This is also referred to as the rich man’s Roth.  You can still withdraw money, and you don’t have to pay taxes when growing or withdrawing. It’s kind of like a Roth IRA in a sense. Being able to reduce taxes this drastically will allow you to reach your critical mass will quicker. Your critical mass is the amount of money you have to have to be able to live off of the interest it creates. Your critical mass usually has to be 20 times your income, but if you have a tax deferment like this, it will only be 10 times your annual income.

Ultra wealthy also use PPLI – private placement life insurance. You must invest $250K per year and be an accredited advisor, so obviously most people can’t use this, but we have another option. Some of us can use something called TIAA CREF.  There is no commission, so it is not widely advertised, and you must set it up, or get help from your fiduciary.

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Tony Robbins: Money – Master the Game Part 4

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Step 3 – What’s the price of your dreams?

It’s time to make the game winnable.  This goes back to the beginning of the article. What are your goals? What are your dreams? And how much will they cost?  Like most of us, you probably don’t have a clue how much you really need to meet your needs.  Here are the 5 levels of financial prosperity.

Financially secure – How much you need to cover the basics (food, shelter, basic transportation)

– Basic costs for average American – $39,000

Financial vitality – Above + How much you need for some of the perks (memberships, hobbies, entertainment)
Financially independent – Above + How much you need for vacations, etc.
Financial freedom – Above + 2 or 3 big wish list items
Absolute financial freedom – The money to do whatever you desire

Pick three of the financial milestones above and write down what you would need (in dollars) to meet these goals.  You need to have an idea in mind of how much you actually need in order to attain these levels of financial prosperity.  Just having some arbitrary number floating around in your head isn’t going to do you any good.  Most people have no idea how much money they need to reach these levels. Putting it to paper gets it from some fantasy in your mind to something more concrete. After doing this exercise you will know how much you need to be financially secure, independent, etc.

As a side note, you want to set up an emergency fund first. This is a huge stress reliever. Consider having about 3-6 months of pay in a savings account somewhere that is easily accessible.

Quick recap – How can we best invest? First find ways to save more and earn more. Then, invest that money so it is growing (compounding). Next, we need to focus on reducing taxes and fees. It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep. Look for tax efficient strategies and accounts. Consider tax deferred accounts, compound tax free, and future tax free. Also consider a Roth IRA. Make sure to hold it for a year for lower long term capital gains rate.
Step 4 – Asset allocation

This is the most important investment decision of your life. This step is all about determining where to put you money and how much. There are many ways to allocate. There are two categories, secure buckets and risky buckets.

First, let’s cover the safe options

1 – Cash/cash equivalents – bank, etc.
2 – Bonds – buy a bond and they return money with interest over a certain time (many are rated). It’s best to buy low cost low fee bond index funds since they spread out the risk.
3 – CD – This is a loan to a bank and they give the money back with interest (very low return).
4 – A house – this is an investment, but houses do not go up unless there is a bubble (and we all know what happens to bubbles).
5 – Pension – if you’re lucky enough to have one.
6 – Annuities – these are insurance products that can give income for life. It can be like a pension if set up correctly (more on annuities later).
7 – Life insurance
8 – Structured notes (not covered by FDIC) – these can be risky or secure, but it’s best to discuss these with a fiduciary.

Now, lets’ cover the risky options. Just remember, you could lose it all with these investments.

1 – Equities – aka stocks, mutual funds, ETFs (like a mutual fund but you can trade them – short term trading).
2 – High yield bonds – junk bonds, bonds with low safety ratings.
3 – Real estate (rent, flip, commercial, apartment, REIT (real estate trusts))
4 – Commodities (gold, silver, coffee, cotton, etc.)
5 – Currency trading (Yen, etc.)
6 – Collectibles – art, wine, etc
7 – Structured notes (different types – some have 100% principle protection, some have less)

How much risk are you willing to take? It depends on your age a lot of the time. Younger investors can usually take more risk. Taking these kinds of risks close to retirement is, well, risky! It’s a personal call really, but consider your stage in life, the risk you can stomach, and liquidity.

One example of asset allocation is as follows:

David Swenson (Chief Investment Officer at Yale University and manages $23.9 billion in assets) has 30% in bonds (15% long term US treasuries and 15% in TIPS (treasury insured protected securities)) and 70% in risks (20% real estate investment trusts, 10% developing nations/emerging markets, 20% broad domestic 500 index, and 20% international stocks).

Don’t be afraid to have some fun investing, but pick stocks and play around with only 5% or less of your portfolio.

In order to help you stay on track, set up a dream bucket.  These are strategic splurges.  This is the equivalent of a cheat day when you are on a diet.  You’re sticking to the plan 90% of the time and having a little fun to keep your sanity once in a while.  You want to enjoy the money you are making. You don’t want to be someone who just tracks numbers on a computer screen until you croak, right? So, have some short, mid, and long term dream buckets. Make a list and decide why it is important to you.

A couple side notes: winter is the time to buy. When things look grim, this is when many people make their fortunes. When the stocks are falling, don’t sell out and lock in your losses (like what happened to many in 2008).  Ride it out! Historically the stock market will always go up over the long run.
With your portfolio, it is important to diversify over classes, markets, and time.

Consider dollar cost averaging. This essentially spreads your money evenly over your assets periodically (to whatever percentage you have it set to).  The good thing about this is that it takes your emotions out of investing. Re-balance once per year.  Also consider using tax loss harvesting to lower taxes when you sell.

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Tony Robbins: Money – Master the Game Part 3

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Step 2 – Become an insider

Tony’s second step is: You need to know the rules of the game before you start playing, right? So in this section he covers the top marketing and investment lies.

The myth: Invest with us — we’ll beat the market. When it comes to investing, ask yourself – what don’t I know? What you don’t know can hurt you, so don’t be arrogant about knowing – this is how people lose tons of money. Admit what you don’t know. As with everything in life, the more you learn the more you realize that you don’t know anything! As an average Joe, you don’t want to play against the market. The best investors do this for a living and guess what? 96% of fund managers do no better than the market anyways, so you won’t fare any better (most likely). Don’t pick individual stocks or invest with a fund manager just because they say they can beat the market. It’s simple, be passive and play the market. Go for a low-cost S&P index fund.

The myth: Mutual fund fees are a small price to pay. Mutual funds cost an arm and a leg, so stay away from these! These mutual fund companies make the fees look negligible, but they are killing you! Even Senator Peter Fitzgerald stated,

“The mutual fund industry is now the world’s largest skimming operation, a $7 trillion trough from which fund managers, brokers, and other insiders are steadily siphoning off an excessive slice of the nation’s household, college and retirement savings.”

Below is the impact of fees on fictitious ending account balance:

Jason: $100,000 growing at 7% minus 3% in annual fees = $324,340
Matthew: $100,000 growing at 7% minus 2% in annual fees = $432,194
Taylor: $100,000 growing at 7% minus 1% in annual fees = $574,349

That’s just ridiculous! Jason and Matthew got ripped off.  Bottom line.  You want to go after low cost index funds. These have low fees, and you should aim for 1.25% or lower on fees.

Still don’t believe me? Read this article by Ty A Bernicke – The real cost of owning a mutual fund 

The myth: Brokers don’t have your best interest at heart. You are basically financing their retirement, not yours. Sometimes they are not even investing in the mutual funds they are managing… That’s saying a lot. Consider a fiduciary instead. They are independent financial advisers.

The myth: Target date funds, set it and forget it. In general, stay away from target date funds (aka life cycle funds). It goes like this – you pick a date and some company will allocate your portfolio. They basically pick a glide path based on your age. They decrease stock and increase bonds as retirement nears.  Sometimes these are ok but if based on stocks and bonds they can both go down at the same time, like in 2008. As Warren Buffet says, bonds should come with a warning label. See this article for more info on this “warning label”.

Look for a low cost target date fund like those offered by Vanguard. Vanguard is a company that Tony highly recommends, but I’m not sure how I feel about him recommending a company that he is trying to become partners with, just due to the perceived conflict of interest there. But it’s worth checking them out.

The myth: Variable annuities are great. Be careful with annuities, especially variable annuities. These should be avoided because they are basically mutual funds wrapped in annuity wrapper to avoid taxes during growth. This type of annuity comes with lots of fees as well.

The myth: You have to take huge risks to make money. You don’t have to take big risks to make money. In fact, you want to protect the down side. This is the number one rule of most investors – don’t lose money! It seems pretty obvious, but when people think investing, they think they need to take big risks to get ahead. This is not the case. Look for low risk, high reward.

The myth: The lies we tell ourselves. Don’t limit yourself. Often times it’s not someone else’s limitations that stop us, it’s our own limitations. It’s our limiting perceptions and beliefs. This goes back to the negative perceptions about money. All of us have limiting beliefs and perceptions that we have to identify and change.  Tony Robbins goes into a lot of this stuff in his previous works, so if you want more info/advice, I suggest you look at some of his other books.

Have a proven strategy for investing (coming up in later posts) and just do it. If you have a limiting story, change it! More money is beneficial to you and all of those around you. Have a positive state. Look for the good and look for strategies. Strategies are all around you, but they are invisible if you’re not in the right state. Evaluate yourself in all areas and call bullshit on yourself if needed.

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Tony Robbins: Money – Master the Game Part 2

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Money-Master-The-Game-7-Simple-Steps-to-Financial-Freedom-624x748

Step 1 – Commit a percentage to save. Most financial experts recommend 10% -20%, but this decision is entirely up to you. Make the decision to put away a certain percentage and then automate it so you don’t even see it. This is the most important step! You can’t play if you’re not in the game.

“The secret of getting ahead is to get started” Mark Twain

Tony lays out three simple steps. Save more, earn more, and invest more.

Find ways to save money. Start a budget and analyze where your money is going. You will likely be surprised at what you find. If you spend 5 bucks on coffee every morning, that’s $1,825 a year that you could have saved and invested instead. Now I’m not saying to cut out the things you enjoy in life, like going to the movies, or buying a nice gift for someone, or going out to a nice meal, but see the big picture.  What’s more important to you?  A $5 coffee each morning or that $1,825 in savings?  If you really want to save, there is always a way. Find a cheaper way and ask if this thing you are spending your money on is really serving you in a positive way. I am guilty of buying a $5 dollar coffee each morning, but I have (since reading this book) vowed to stop buying those and buy a cheaper alternative ($1) and save the rest. I basically asked myself, would I rather have this $5 coffee every day or have an extra $1.5K in my savings. The answer was pretty clear to me. These little habits don’t seem expensive but they add up very, very quickly.

I was also guilty of buying takeout every day for lunch and dinner, and sometimes even breakfast. First of all, this was costing me a fortune; secondly, the meal choices I could get on the go were not very healthy. Let’s look at breakfast for example. I would buy breakfast for about $8, but I could make that same breakfast at home for just $3 and it was much healthier. The same was true for lunch and dinner. I was spending a fortune on takeout every day. I still make room for takeout, but I do it in moderation.  Do it for both financial and health reasons.

Food is just one area where people can usually save a lot. I understand we all like having nice things, but really ask yourself if you need that item before purchasing it. Do not impulse buy. Give yourself a week to think about it if it is a big purchase. And if you’re buying those designer shirts or jeans, I have nothing to say to you…  You are basically paying for a name on a product, nothing else. Getting a quality product is something to strive for, but paying 10 times more just because it has a logo on it is a huge waste of your money. You’re financing their retirement, not yours. You are being brain washed by the world of marketing and advertisement. Having that $100 t-shirt doesn’t make you “cool”.  Again, I must stress that I’m not saying to stop buying the things you love completely.  Just practice moderation and be aware of where your money is going.  It’s nice to have decent clothes and I’m not saying we have to go around wearing burlap sacks or anything like that.  It’s simple, just make smarter purchases.

Next, find ways to earn more money. You’re not tied to your current job and you can always look for side work. Whatever you save and any additional money you earn should be sent straight to your savings/investments.  Find something you are passionate about and focus on that part time.  Find a way that allows that hobby to make you income.

If there is absolutely no room in your budget to save money now (but I’m sure there is), then consider the Save More Tomorrow Plan. In a nutshell, as you get raises, those raises go into your retirement savings and investments. There is no excuse to save here.

So, why is investing so important? I think we all know why. Obviously we want to secure an income for life. We want less financial stress. People are growing older so it is important to be able to stretch your retirement further out. The only way you will make enough money to support yourself will be to become an investor. You can’t just trade time for money anymore. Earned income won’t be enough to bridge the gap to financial freedom, so you need to invest. Consider the miracle power of compounding. Einstein once said “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” Become an owner and investor in the market, not just a consumer. The bottom line here is, don’t work for money…. let money work for you!

If you can find a way to save 1000 dollars a month over 40 years at 8%, that’s 3 million dollars. In principal it’s only $480,000. That’s the power of compounding.

What are you investing for?  We all want a permanent income, right? There is no point in investing just to have wads of cash sitting in your house when you die. We can’t bring the money to the grave, but I guess you could get a really cool looking headstone. Be clear on why you are investing and it will be that easier to stick to your commitments.  If you aren’t saving for something, you won’t have any willpower to avoid wasteful purchases.  More to come on what you are saving for in step 3, what’s the price of your dreams?

russ237Tony Robbins: Money – Master the Game Part 2

Tony Robbins – Money: Master the Game – Part 1

russ237 Books

show-me-the-money1

Money, while just a fabricated illusory thing (it’s literally just numbers on a computer screen these days), is an important part of our lives. It’s clear in this day and age that we think money makes us happy. We think we have to go out and make all this money, and once we do, we will be happy! Yay! And all our troubles will be over… You may think you want a million, or a billion dollars, but in reality, you are only trying to get that money because of what you believe it will give you.  Some think money will give us power, freedom, happiness, etc. This isn’t true though.  Sit down and really ask yourself… what does money mean to me? Do I want it to impress people, or do I want it because I believe it will make me happy?

Money is a vehicle that we believe will give us certain feelings. Example – If I have that money, then I can buy that nice new IPhone or TV or car, and that will make me happy! But, you can have these feelings of happiness and freedom and power now. We all know rich people that aren’t happy, so it’s clear that the source of happiness isn’t simply a financial one. With that said, the purpose of this article, is to discuss how we can make more money in a way that fulfills us. And it isn’t just about making money for ourselves. Our goal is to be able to make more so we can give more and contribute more to those around us.

Would you rather follow your passion and do that every day or would you rather try and accumulate money for the next 30-40 years doing something you don’t enjoy in order to have a bunch of money that you think will give you those feelings you crave? Surprisingly, most people choose the latter. They work their butt off for 40 years and then they realize what a huge mistake they have made. Sure, we all have obligations, but you can find a way to follow your passion and get out of a job you don’t like. If you’re doing something you don’t truly enjoy, and you’re just doing it for the money, then get out and find another way. Where there is a will, there is a way. Have faith in yourself and just go for it!

Ok, that’s my two cents, now let’s get into the book. Tony Robbins is famous for his over the top motivational works, and he is a lot of fun to listen to. This book is all about money, but ironically, it’s not all about the Benjamin’s baby!

leonardo-dicaprio-wolf-wall-street

Tony Robbins felt the need to tackle this enormous topic because the world of money is complex and we need help from the experts to navigate it successfully. Hear it from him yourself.

There is a lot of social conditioning when it comes to money, so it can be a hard topic for some and even sometimes taboo, but understanding how it works is essential to setting yourself up for success. Money can bring up lots of emotions. How does money make you feel? How do you feel when you have no money? Money is not a reflection of self-worth, but when you have none of it, it can feel that way. I have been in this boat in the past and I understand the feeling of having no money and being in debt. It sucks and makes you feel like less. Now that I’m not in debt, I realize that this simply wasn’t true. I labeled myself that way because I owed money to a financial institution. Looking back on it, it’s comical that I let that affect me in the ways that it did. I won’t get into it now.. I’ll save all that for another article. Anyways, look at money as a game. Money is just a tool, so become the master of money… do not let it master you!

People like to attach emotions to money. If you have negative connotations with money, make sure you analyze those. Explore why you feel this way and find a way to see money in a different light. Having lots of money doesn’t make you a bad person, as some tend to believe. Your mindset towards money is a powerful thing. If you see money as a bad thing, then you will have a difficult time making more. Money is simply a tool. Like any tool, you can do good things with it, or you can do bad things with it. Money is an amplifier of your character. The more money you have, the more you can give, the more you can help, and so on. As Tony says.. and I’m paraphrasing here… If you won’t give a dime out of a dollar, you won’t give 1 million out of 10. Remember, there is no lack, there is only abundance, so don’t be afraid to give and help.

When you first start considering money you have to ask some personal questions because money is tied to all aspects of life. The following questions are relevant and important because we need to know where we are going and why. We have to understand our purpose and align our goals, attitudes, actions, and habits in that direction.  These questions from Tony go back to repeat what I said at the beginning of this article, and i’m inlcuding them again because they are just that important.

So, what do we all really want? As many very wealthy people will tell you, it’s not just the money. What you really want, what all of us really want, is happiness and success.  What good is money is you have no health, no happiness, or no friends and family to share it with? Ask yourself, if you had all the money you wanted, would you still do what you do now? What would you do? Most of us would follow our passion. What’s your passion? Think about what life would be like if you didn’t have to worry about money. You would still work, but it wouldn’t be about earning a paycheck, it would be about doing what you love. People learn the real price of money when they go after it for the wrong reasons. As many people have said before, money is a by-product… Don’t chase the money. Chase your passion and add value to the world in your own way and the money will come to you. It shouldn’t be about the money at all. If you chase something for the money alone, you won’t have the inner drive to see it through anyways.

What exactly do you want out of life? Having loads of money doesn’t mean you are successful. There is a stigma that success means having lots of money, but this is simply a societal construct. Success, or what I will call a fulfilling life, isn’t about having loads of money at all. Do more for others and become valuable. This is what Albert Einstein meant when he said

“Try not to become a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”    Albert Einstein

You must define what a fulfilling life is to you in your own terms. Sit down and really think about what a fulfilling life means to you. Do you really want that nice car or those fancy clothes or do you want those things so other people will think more highly of you? Those extrinsic goals are empty. Think back throughout your life to all of your favorite moments. It’s always about how you helped someone or gave them something. Those are the moments that make us smile the most. It’s not the moments when you got that new flat screen TV or that car. Those are simply extrinsic in nature and won’t fulfill you.

“We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.”   Will Smith

So instead, focus on what you think a fulfilling life means to you.  Again, you really need to have an understanding of where you are going and why. Having purpose and drive behind why you are saving will make it that much easier. So, now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of Tony’s book.

You don’t have to make a ton of money to be financially independent. This book basically covers how to save, and how to multiply and grow that money while you sleep. Less than 40% of Americans have a financial plan of some kind. The average credit card debt is just over $15,000 dollars. 75% of people have serious concerns about money, which is not good. If money is causing this much stress, we need to first understand how to save and invest money and then apply those principals so we can focus our energy on more important things in life.

Tony lays out 7 simple steps to financial freedom:

1 – Commit to a percentage

2 – Become an insider – know the investment myths

3 – Make the game winnable

4 – Asset allocation

5 – Upside without the downside

6 – Billionaires playbook

7 – The secret to living is giving

I have summarized each section and will post them in the coming days.

 

I’ll leave you with this

funny-Arnold-Schwarzenegger-quote-millionaire-happiness1

I’m certain he was joking and making a point about money not being the reason for his happiness.  I hope!

russ237Tony Robbins – Money: Master the Game – Part 1
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

russ237 Books, Philosophy

It is only 418 pages (the version I read – 25th anniversary edition), but it took me ages to read! It is an interesting philosophical fiction with many interesting life questions, but it just couldn’t hold my attention very well.  So be warned, it may feel a little slow at times, but hang in there.  Anyways, I finally forced myself to read past the first few chapters and was happy that I made it through the entire book, but I will not be reading it again anytime soon!  This book was a huge success when it was released in 1974 and interestingly, this book was rejected 121 times by publishers.  Robert is persistent (it did take him 4 years to write after all).  Seeing as this book was published in 1974, I do believe it was ahead of it’s time, but it’s not telling us anything new.  The ideas in his book are pretty wide spread these days, but Robert has a great way of putting some tough philosophical questions into a story anyone can read and enjoy.

So, what’s it all about?  The plot line is simple –  It is about a father and 11 year old son traveling across the United States on a 17 day motorcycle trip.  They start in Minneapolis with the Sutherlands, a couple who he is friends with.  They part ways when they reach Montana, which is a significant place for the narrator (past college teaching career), and the father and son continue on until they reach California.  But it’s not the motorcycle trip that is the interesting part of the book, it’s the segments in-between his descriptive motorcycle scenes and activities that keep you reading.  Some parts of the book are heavy, so the motorcycle riding scenes are a nice break.

During his Chautauqua, or traveling tale, he examines ideas about life and how best to live it. He ponders technological questions and sees a conflict in the Sutherlands because they feel oppressed by technology but at the same time are dependent on it. He asks and ponders how we can live in a world where we can pursue technology in an enriching way rather than a degrading one.  He asks why technology has alienated us from our world (which is more true today than in 1974).

The narrator also discusses the two types of personalities; the romantic approach versus the classical approach.  The romantic approach is more subjective and geared towards art, beauty, zen, and being in the moment.  The classical approach is more objective and focuses on rational analysis, and knowing the details and inner workings.  The narrator starts off with a classical approach but changes throughout the book and is ultimately aiming for a middle ground.

He makes a good argument in the book stating that the Greeks did not distinguish between truth and quality because they were one and the same.  They were split, and now this is the cause of many people’s unhappiness and dissatisfaction.  He also delves deeply into values and what is considered good and bad.

The narrator had a dramatic past during his college teaching days, and he often brings it up throughout the book.  He refers to this mysterious shadow called Phaedrus, which we later learn is his previous self when he was a college professor. When he was Phaedrus, he would obsess over what is defined as good writing, or what he called “quality”.  This drove him to madness and he had a nervous breakdown.  He then underwent a psychiatric procedure called electroconvulsive therapy which altered his mind.  His personality changed, and he was no longer the person he was before the procedure.   Towards the end of the book, pieces of his past personality (Phaedrus) emerge and become part of him again, leading to an reconciliation of his former self and new self.

Robert tries to send us the message that anything we do can be enjoyable, even if it seems dull and boring.  It all depends on the attitude we adopt toward the activity.  We must become one with the activity, appreciate all the details, and engage in it fully.  We need to embrace both sides – the romantic and rational approach.  We need to embrace intuition, which seems to come from nowhere, as well as technology, science, and reason.  Through the combination of these two approaches and being in the moment, we can attain a higher quality of life.

russ237Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
Power-of-Less

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

russ237 Books

Who couldn’t use a little more time in their day?  Most of us are trying to do too much in too little time.  We are trying to do everything, when in reality, only a few essential tasks really need to be done in order to meet our needs and goals… The rest is just filler and busy work.

“Do less and get more done” is the premise of this book.

Leo Babauta, the man behind Zenhabits, has compiled many of his teachings from his website and crammed them into this helpful book.  I do appreciate his style of writing because it is concise and straight forward with real life examples and practical application.

Part I is all about the principles.  He discusses why less is powerful, setting limits, choosing essential items, simplifying, focusing, creating new habits, and starting small.

Some of the big takeaways for me include:

Identify Most Important Tasks (MITs) – Identifying the most important tasks you need to accomplish on a daily basis.  This is not a new concept, but it is a great practice that we need to be reminded of.  Make a short list of the top three things you must accomplish to reach your goals, whatever they are.  Do them first thing in the morning (or set aside some time later in the day – time blocking).  If you say you can’t complete your goals because of x, y, or z, then you need to start analyzing where you are committing your time to on a daily basis.

Essential vs Non-essential – How do you determine the essential tasks versus non-essential?  Determine what your needs and commitments are.  Make a list of your wants versus needs and goals and of course, what you love doing.  If you account for all the things you do in a day, a lot of it is non-essential when considering your real needs and goals in life.  Look at their value versus your goals.  You must identify the non-essential tasks or time wasters (TV, surfing the web, games) and eliminate them.  Then organize and prioritize your MITs.  The purpose of simplifying is to give you more space in your life, it is not meant to leave your life empty.  We want to allow more time for the things we love doing.  Respect your time, and others will too.

Setting Limits – When considering your MITs and essential versus non-essential, it’s important to make sure you are setting limits.  Set limits in areas that are overloaded.  Don’t take on too much at one time because if you do, you won’t get any of them done, or at least not very well.

Focus – Only focus on one task at a time.  Leo calls this single focusing.  Multitasking is completely overrated because it doesn’t work.  Eliminate distractions when doing your MITs.  Shut off your phone, shut off the internet, etc.  Notice when you are becoming distracted and eliminate the distraction. Try ad become aware of when you’re becoming distracted (don’t beat yourself up about it), and then bring yourself back to your task list.  Additionally, focusing on just one task at a time is more productive, increases effectiveness, and is more relaxing than multitasking.  You knock it out quicker, which allows you to get more stuff done in the long run.  And as we all know, focusing on the present reduces stress and anxiety.

Creating New Habits – Commit to it 100% and declare it.  Post your goal publicly because this will keep you accountable.  This will give you encouragement and inspiration to complete the task.  Do not try and start everything at once.  Start small and on one thing at a time because forming multiple habits at the same time usually fails.  Additionally, make it super easy, like starting with just 5-10 minutes of exercise per day.  Just getting started is the hard part, but once you get that momentum going, nothing can stop you.  Try and do the habit at the same time everyday, set up a reminder, and have a daily routine to keep you on track.  Of course, expect setbacks but keep a positive attitude.  If you miss one day, DO NOT miss two days.  Make it your number one priority the following day.

In part II, Leo goes into the application of these principals.  Again, big takeaways include:

Email Management – First, don’t let email rule your life!  Set a limit to how often you check your e mail and only reply to what’s necessary.  Once done, archive it or delete it.  This is common sense, but most people don’t do it.  Shut it down and check it twice a day if your job and schedule allow you to.  You don’t want to check it more than you need to, otherwise you’re just wasting time.. a resource which is ultimately limited.  As many others say, the worst time to check email is first thing in the morning.  You should be doing your MITs before checking emails because they will only sidetrack you from your goals.  Additionally with emails, keep replies short (set a limit of 5 sentences or less, if you can).  Don’t leave things hanging around in your inbox… Get it to zero.

Internet Usage Management – How much time do you waste on the internet?  Probably more than you want to admit to.  Everyone does it and it’s great to unwind watching a funny video or something on Hulu, but most of the surfing on the internet we do is not serving us.  It’s not helping us meet our goals… it’s just wasting our time. Want to track your internet time and really see what you’re up to?  Try Toggl.  Again, when focusing on your most important tasks, unplug from the internet.  Feel that need to plug in?  Just try and ride it out.  Urges come and go and the more you discipline yourself, the easier it gets to stop yourself.

Batch Processing – Do like tasks together (emails, phone calls, errands, paying bills, paper work, etc.).  Again, common sense, but we need a reminder.

De-clutter – This one is one that I’ve followed for years.  I like a neat desk and a neat home because it keeps me focused.  It eliminates distractions and visual stress.  You don’t have to be a complete neat freak, but remove unnecessary items from your desk and it will improve your productivity, and give you a more calm demeanor.   Start small and just do one drawer or one room per day.  Don’t buy crap you don’t need.  For 30 days, track everything you buy.

Filing – Have a good filing system, both a physical one and an electronic one.  If you are fumbling through stacks of papers, you aren’t going to be very efficient.  Most people shouldn’t have stacks of papers now that we are in the digital era anyways, but if you do, or it’s necessary at work, then create an efficient filing system.  First reduce the number of files you have.  If you don’t need it, toss it.  Next, create a simple filing system.  File things right away and don’t let them stack up.

Learn to Say No – If you are a people pleaser, this one is a tough one.  Be honest and upfront with people.  Let them know you can’t take on another project until you are finished with the ones you are currently focusing on.  If it’s your boss it can be a little tricky, but Leo has some good tips in his book that I won’t go into here.  Bottom line, work with your boss and let him/her know your process.

Slow Down and Enjoy – Give yourself buffer time and make time to smell the roses.  When you are in a calm state and not rushing, you work more productively.  If you are super stressed, you aren’t going to get much done.  Leo talks about driving slower and eating slower as well.  These are great practices to reduce stress and create a peaceful, inner calm.  Allow time for yourself to unwind ad schedule fun activities too.  It’s not terrible to watch some YouTube videos or a good TV show, but don’t let it consume you.  Don’t waste 5 hours at a time binging on TV or games.

Exercise and Diet – Why is this in a time management book?  Well, being fit will give you more energy and make you much more productive.  We have to get moving.. That’s what our bodies were designed to do!  So, start light.  As with all other your other goals, start small and build yourself up.  This will help get the momentum going.  Be consistent, stick to a plan, tell a friend, socialize it, have a work out partner.  Same thing with diet.  We all know what’s good for us and what’s not.  It’s not rocket science.  Commit to it and instead of starting a whole new diet regimen, eliminate one thing at a time.  Set mini goals, log your progress, find your reasons and motivation to do it, and of course, do exercises you enjoy.

Motivation – Last one!  How to stay motivated?  The goals you set should be things you really want.  If you don’t want it, it’s not going to happen.  Maybe you will last a week, but you won’t have the sustained will power to see it through.  Again, start small.  Get the momentum going.  Start with 15 minutes of exercise per day if fitness is one of your main goals.  Get excited about your goal, socialize it, visualize it, and set a start date to build that anticipation.  I find it helpful to print out my goals or write them down and look at them daily.  Also, read about success stories revolving around your goal.  For example, if you’re into fitness, read about people meeting their goals, or join a fitness forum, or read a fitness magazine.  Do whatever it takes to keep you in that mind set.  Keep doing it and build that momentum!

I highly recommend reading this book if you are struggling with time management.  The Power of Less.

 

russ237The Power of Less by Leo Babauta