Those of us of the Gen X generation and older often pass judgment on the teens of today with statements like these:
They have it so easy.
They don’t know what hard work is.
Where’s the work ethic?
I’ve been guilty of the same sort of prejudices.
Recently, my teenage daughter turned that all around for me. Less than one week after her 17th birthday, she reported to work for her first job: at 5 a.m. – on a school day! She’s lifeguarding at the neighborhood Y. The pool is outdoors. It’s January. We live in Phoenix. But still, it’s chilly in the morning, and on this morning it happens to be raining.
“Lifeguarding is not work,” some would say. “All they do is stand around and twirl a whistle.”
Having seen the effort she has put into it, I can now contest the previous statement. Lifeguarding is skilled labor at a minimum. Prior to even being granted an interview, she was required to give up two full weekends and two weeknights for the prerequisite training. She now knows every aspect of keeping others safe at the pool: first aid, CPR, dealing with panic, hypothermia and more. She paid a handsome sum out of her own pocket for the training with no hint of being reimbursed. She passed a series of in-class quizzes, plus two water tests, and a grilling of an interview with both her manager and the manager’s manager.
Today was her first day on the job. I was awakened at 4:15 a.m. by the sound of her getting ready. Although she’s pretty self sufficient, I got up to see if she needed any last minute help so she could scoot out the door on time. She was good. She had prepared everything she needed the night before: Clothes for work, clothes for school, her lunch, and gear for swim practice after school.
To say I am proud of her would be an understatement. But, the purpose of this post is not to brag about my daughter, although I could do so all day long. My hope is that you will join me in looking a little deeper into the plight of today’s youth. In many ways, they face far more challenges and obstacles than many of us did when we were growing up. Let’s show them our respect with words of encouragement and gratitude. Thank you!
Does a guarantee really mean anything in this day and age? Think about it: When something goes wrong with an item you buy at a retail store, who bears the burden of proof? The consumer.
What do you hear when something goes wrong with something you purchase? Prove to me you bought it here when you say you did. Prove to me you didn’t break it through misuse.
With services, it can be even more tricky, unless you have it all in writing. And then you have the burden of keeping the paperwork filed someplace where you can retrieve it.
Recently I found someone who has put an end to all that nonsense. We’re in the market to have our exterior block wall covered with a stucco. I’m a bit of a bargain shopper so I called Dwight after seeing his handwritten sign on a neighborhood street corner.
As I worked my way through a litany questions in the backyard, I got around to asking if his work comes with a warranty.
“Yes!” was his response. “As long as I’m alive my work is warrantied. So for about another 25 to 30 years or so. After that, you’re on your own.”
In December 2012 I called my credit union to ask about consolidating a loan we have elsewhere with a loan I already have at the credit union. The solution they offered surprised me: A cash out auto loan, whereby I send them the title for the truck I recently paid off and they loan me up to the blue book value at a very low interest rate.
Making a move like this is counter to the general advice offered by Dave Ramsey, whose wisdom my wife and I have been relying on in our pursuit of financial peace by eliminating all our debt. What I would tell Dave is that I’m not taking on more debt; I’m just changing the interest rate and to whom I’m repaying the loan. Besides, by having the loan with my credit union I can be “gazelle intense” in paying it off since I’m reminded of the debt every time I sign in to online banking and I can make extra payments with a couple mouse clicks. Truthfully, this is my real intent.
At first I was uncomfortable with giving my truck title back to the credit union since I had never heard of a loan like this. I wondered how it’s any different than an auto pawn business. In retrospect, it’s probably no different; however, the interest rate is much better than I could get with a pawn broker and I do have a lot more trust in my credit union.
Why is it that we always think the worst? “If I miss a payment, they can repossess my truck,” that voice in my head told me.
“You haven’t missed a payment on any loan for over ten years dummy; your truck won’t be repossessed,” the glass half-full voice responded.
I followed the voice of reason. As a result, I was able to borrow the same amount of money I owed on my other loan but at a much lower interest rate. The other loan was 18% interest and would have taken me another four years to pay off. The rate on my new loan is only 2.5%. The monthly payment is about five dollars more per month and if I make only the minimum payments each month, the loan will be paid off a year earlier. However, my wife and I are committed is to making double payments and paying the loan off completely by the end of 2013.
Provided we continue to be blessed with steady income and no big unforeseen expenses, I’ll have the title for my truck back in a year and we’ll be that much closer to our goal of being debt-free. Works for me!
If you have you been thinking about trying to post something for sale on craiglist.com but have been hesitant because you don’t know how to go about it, read on.
In 2012 I sold no less than two dozen items using Craigslist. To date, I have a 100% success rate. I also have a bachelors degree in advertising, but my advice here comes more from my actual experience using Craigslist.
1) Write to an audience of one Knowing and writing to your audience is key to success for any ad. Since you likely only have one item for each ad, you don’t need the type of door buster ad that we see around Thanksgiving. In most cases your target audience is just one person out of a hundred or so that will see your ad. What does that one person need to know about the item you’re selling?
2) Keep it simple Use simple language. Keep your sentences short; a bullet pointed list is more effective than sentences. Tell as much as you can in the title: brand, color, model, year, etc. This helps people find your ad when they perform a search.
3) List the price In the world of Craigslist, price is a big motivator. Unless you’re selling something so unique that it can’t be found elsewhere, your ad will likely flop if you don’t offer the item(s) at a bargain price. If you don’t tell them your price, potential buyers are more likely to skip on to the next seller’s ad. Based on my experience, Craigslist buyers aren’t as likely to haggle as garage sale or old-school classified ad shoppers. So you don’t need to price it higher than you really want to sell it for in order to give yourself wiggle room.
Tip: my 100% success rate with Craigslist ads is due in part to my willingness to drop my price (if necessary) over a number of weeks until the item was attractive enough to a buyer.
4) Post pictures Many Craigslist shoppers won’t even open your ad if they don’t see the image icon next to your title. Craigslist now allows you to upload as many as six pictures per post. Use that to your advantage by showing the item(s) from many different angles. Since the first image you upload is the one that shoppers will see first, make sure it’s the most representative picture. Don’t hide the flaws though. Showing imperfections up front will make the transaction go much smoother when the buyer shows up at your house with the cash.
5) Give your phone number This is critical. Craigslist buyers tend to be spontaneous. They feel like they need to strike quickly in order to get a good deal and won’t take the time to send and manage a number of emails. Be prepared to delete your ad as soon as it sells so you can eliminate unnecessary calls or text messages.
Tip: It’s best if you give a cell phone number and mention that they can call or text you. This works better for you too, because you can answer or respond to calls if you’re away from home.
Follow the five tips above and you’ll be selling your stuff on Craigslist with the best of ’em in no time. It’s a great way to turn unwanted items around your house into cash.
For examples of what not to do when you write a Craigslist ad, see these OMG Craiglist ads (intended to be humorous).
After seventeen years of marriage and countless arguments over money, my wife and I recently got serious about getting out of debt. We’ve been following the Dave RamseyTotal Money Makeover program where you take a series of steps with the ultimate goal of becoming completely debt free. First you cut out all frivolous spending and set aside $1,000 in savings. Then you start attacking all your debt from smallest loan to largest. After all your unsecured (no collateral) debt is paid off, you get aggressive with investing.
One of the keys to cutting out frivolous spending is to hold a monthly budget meeting, presumably with your spouse. It’s a good idea for domestic partners and single people too. We’re prepping for our third monthly budget meeting and are really starting to see some results – mainly in the way of fewer arguments over money.
Below are some tips that we have found help us have successful budget meetings and outcomes. If you have questions, post them in the comments and I’ll respond the best I can.
Set some ground rules
Create some simple ground rules to review at the beginning of each meeting. You should read them out loud before getting into the money discussion. We have found it’s also good to pray before starting the money talk to get our heads and hearts in the right place.
Here are the ground rules we abide by:
We’re a team and we’re doing this activity for a mutually beneficial outcome.
It’s not about judging or finding fault; it’s about being responsible stewards with the gifts God blesses us with.
Each will listen and respect the other’s feelings and opinions.
We are not perfect and we won’t do it perfectly but we must get better over time.
Have an agenda
Make the best use of your time by sitting down with specific talking points and outcomes in mind. We use the same agenda from month to month. Below I have outlined the key things we talk about.
Track progress with net worth
Having been a registered financial consultant for over a decade, I learned that the best way to measure financial progress is net worth. Net worth is a pretty simple calculation; although gathering up the numbers can be a chore.
To calculate net worth, add up all your assets (what you own) and subtract your debt (what you owe). Include everything – home, cars, timeshares, retirement accounts, etc. On the credit side include all your debt, even credit cards and no short term furniture loans, etc.
Here is what we include in our net worth calculation:
Net Worth = Assets – Liabilties Assets
Overdraft line of credit
Pulling together the net worth data takes some time, but talking about it takes only about a minute. What I do is gather up the data and have it all set to go in a one page report prior to the monthly meeting with my wife. Websites like mint.com simplify this monthly task by aggregating multiple financial accounts into one application. Many banks and credit unions now offer these online aggregation services too.
The idea is to look at your net worth on a regular basis to see if it’s increasing or decreasing. It’s sort of like using a scale to keep track of weight loss.
Wins and losses
Next, talk about what you did well last month from a budget standpoint. This can be a great opportunity to score brownie points with your partner if you approach it right. Focus on things each other did well, rather than spotlight ways where the other blew it. This doesn’t mean you should ignore obvious “withdrawals” of fiscal trust; just be careful in how you approach shortcomings on the part of each other.
Talk about things that pulled you off course. If talking about who spent how much on coffee, nails, hair, etc. is likely to start an argument, consider making the decision that each of you get a set amount of cash each month to spend as you wish. Then take that cash out at the ATM and don’t hold each other accountable to it.
What’s coming up
Once you have made it through what will likely be the most emotionally charged part of the meeting, talk about what the next month looks like in terms of money coming in and money you need to pay out. I have found it helpful to use spreadsheet and plot out every day of the coming month and what money we expect to receive or to pay out. It’s time consuming and sometimes painful, but it’s what you will do if you want to break out of a financial rut.
Finally, close the meeting by reminding yourselves of the financial goals you have in common and discuss how you’re tracking to meet them. If you haven’t established any goals, consider starting with the baby steps that millions of debt-free Dave Ramsey followers have based their success on.
How often to meet
My suggestion is to have the budget meeting once a month for starters. Sit down in a distraction free environment at least an hour and talk it out. We get together on the back patio. Stay in constant communication with each other about the budget, especially when one of you is about to spend money that wasn’t part of the last budget discussion.
Don’t put it off
The only way to fail is to not try it. Feel free to use some of the ideas that have worked for us or create your own approach. I have also found some great resources on Dave Ramsey’s website.