Check Your Heart

We often discuss the habits and principles for becoming wealthy here at TotalThriver.  But if we pursue financial gain with the wrong heart, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.  Today we’ll examine the Master’s teachings on wealth, and learn from him the proper attitudes and perspective.

In Luke 12, we read:

13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The Man’s Heart

I love how Jesus always sees us for what we are.  The man in this story asks what might seem to us to be a legitimate question.  He wants Jesus to instruct his brother to give him half of his father’s estate.  Notice how Jesus goes straight to the heart of this issue:  “be on your guard against covetousness.”

The man’s request had little to do estate planning or arbitration and everything to do with his jealousy toward the possessions of his brother.  Not only is this a violation of the tenth commandment, but the man has the audacity to imply wrongdoing on the part of his brother.  No doubt this did not foster a good relationship between the man and his brother.

Looking out for Number One

Jesus explains the foolishness of pursing wealth with the wrong heart in His usual way: through a parable.  The man in the parable had an abundance of wealth, but instead of being thankful to God and praising Him, using the resources to glorify God and help others, the man is solely concerned with his personal comfort.  He plans how he will use his resources to bless himself, and unlike wealthy and righteous Job, does not use his riches for the glory and worship of God.

Too late, the man in the parable realizes how temporal worldly riches are.  He had the opportunity to use his money to expand the kingdom of God, thereby storing up treasure in heaven.  But instead, he sought wealth only for himself and his own security and comfort.

What About You?

Are you like either of these men?  Does your heart hold jealousy toward others who have greater riches than you?  Do you desire that some of their money be taken from them and given to you?  Or, are you like the man in the parable, focused on what you can get for yourself, and indifferent about the kingdom of God and the ways that your money can be used for His glory?

Father God, help us to resist the lies that the world teaches on the value and use of money.  Let us seek financial gain honestly, and use it for your purposes and your purposes alone.  By your grace, may it be so in my heart and each one who reads these words.

Have You Any Excuses?

One of my major missions is to spend time around people who are living well.  I want to be around people who inspire me, who are succeeding in areas of life I’ve yet to master, and who thrive in all aspects of their lives.  When I meet and talk to people like this, I always notice that they’re all lacking one thing:  excuses.

Obstacles yes, excuses no

What’s even more significant than their lack of excuses is the fact that in many cases, they had huge obstacles in their way when they began, and often at many points along the way.  Sometimes, they’re facing a trial currently, but somehow still succeed despite it.

What I’ve realized is that these men and women are not exempt from the difficulties that you and I face from day to day; rather, they have adopted the attitude of an overcomer.  Instead of trying to accomplish things, and then giving up when it gets hard, these people just keep working.  They’ll try one idea to improve their life (health, marriage, career, etc.), and if that idea didn’t work, they’ll seek another solution.  Whatever roadblocks come up are seen by them as temporary—just problems to be solved.

Don’t Be Normal

During the time when normal people, who have given up after the first few tries didn’t work, are loudly broadcasting all their excuses for why they couldn’t win, overcomers are still working.  They know what they want, they’re willing to reach out to mentors for advice, and above all they keep trying until they attain the result they set out for.

What area of your life do you desire new success in?  Will you be willing to take on the attitude of an overcomer and pursue a thriving life?  The resources to reach your potential are all at your fingertips, and the only question that remains is what you will do!

You Need a Smaller Vocabulary

Do you know why you only achieve small victories in your life?  Why you may hope or wish for a grand success, but make only meager progress?  Why you’ve always dreamed of making a big impact on the world but can’t seem to turn those dreams into reality?  The answer is in your vocabulary.  You see, you’re letting the word, “impossible” spoil your mind.

But Don’t Jump Off a Building

Don’t misunderstand—there are certain rules of the world we live in which are not to be toyed with; gravity for instance.  I’m not saying that you can fly if you just start with a great mental attitude.  But I am saying that we are all apt to grossly underestimate our capabilities.  When we make up our mind that our dream cannot be done, we have ensured that it will not.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Your mind is an incredible and powerful machine, and in many ways it is programmed by what you pour into it.  When you repeat to yourself that a certain goal or dream is impossible, your mind goes to work to find all the ways that the thing is impossible.  If you surround yourself with negative programming (most TV shows) and negative people, you’re programming your mind to bring you failure.  On the other hand, if you toss the word, “impossible” out of your vocabulary, you do the opposite—you begin programming your mind to find the ways to achieve the goal you’ve set before it.

A Lesson from the Master

When your goals are in line with God’s plan and you’re programming your mind to seek ways to fulfill your vision, you are in a wonderful place indeed.  I believe that this is the concept which Jesus was teaching in this passage in Matthew 17:

14When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16“I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” 17And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.

19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

Trying Hard Isn’t Enough

Jesus tells the disciples that their lack of faith was the root cause of their inability.  Although it appears that the disciples were trying hard to drive out the demon, nevertheless they failed because they did not believe.  In order to succeed in that which is difficult, we must first choose to believe that that which we seek is possible.  Once we can see the goal clearly and accept that we will be able to reach it, our minds can go to work figuring out how to make it happen.  Oftentimes, God will give us ideas along the way that lead us in the right direction.  And finally, we must use our minds, passion, and resources to take action toward reaching the goal.

Ok, I Get It

A simple concept, huh?  As with most things, this idea is not difficult to understand.  Yet, how hard it is to practice!  It is a great challenge to believe a thing possible when circumstances seem to indicate otherwise, and all one’s loser friends surround the idea with negativity and discouragement.  But of how sweet the reward is for those who will believe their dreams and take action to achieve them.

How about you?  What do you dream of becoming or achieving?  Are you handicapping yourself by repeating, “it’s impossible,” whenever the dream pops back into your mind?  Release yourself from the self-imposed bondage and take action today toward the goal set before you.  You have nothing to lose but mediocrity!

The Secret to Riches

Ever wish you could get a hefty raise?  Want to enjoy some of the finer things in life as you climb to the top?  Read on to find the secret to advancement and wealth that many don’t know and even fewer practice.

Work harder than everyone around you.

Too Simple?

After reading such simple advice, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “yeah right!  I work hard and I never get promoted!  The way I see it, I’m stuck being paid basically what my salary is now, so I may as well coast through the day as best I can to at least enjoy myself a little.”  Don’t let this lie get you—instead, follow the sage advice of Scripture:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  (Colossians 3:23-24)

Good Work, Not More Work

Note that the verse says “with all your heart.”  We should not misconstrue hard work with excessive time spent at the office, rather, there should be a focus on productivity and enthusiasm, behaving as if you were doing work personally for a king, not just a client or a boss.

This kind of excellence in your work will get you rewarded.  It may take time, and it may not be from within your current company or industry, but as God promises, He will see to your reward.  Not only this, but there is a very practical benefit that comes with pouring yourself into the work at hand and doing your very best:  you learn things.  As you accomplish work in one week that your neighbor would streach out to two, you’ve effectively gained one week of experience over him.  You are more seasoned and capable, and as this pattern continues over time, you’ll become the “go-to guy” in many areas of your business.  Your neighbor thought he was getting a better deal by taking the same salary as you while doing less work, but long-term, he’s actually been cheating himself.

Don’t Believe It?

As usual, I challenge you to test these claims in your everyday life.  While this is a simple and easily-understood principle, a person who’ll put it in practice is quite a rarity in today’s workplace.  Besides, you’ve got nothing to lose but inexperience and a low salary!  😉


It Won’t Happen to Me

Nobody likes getting sick, having their house burn down, or dying in a car crash.  Unfortunately, these things happen every day to a single group of people:  people who didn’t think it would happen to them today!  Today’s post deals with the important and too-often neglected topic of insurance.  What kinds do I need?  Which types of insurance are superfluous?  What should my philosophy on insurance be?  We’ll answer those and more as we unpack how insurance in its various forms can be a great blessing to our lives.


We’re all in this together

At its most basic level, insurance is the banding together of a large group of people to create a fund which pays the expenses of a few of the people when disastrous circumstances hit.  You’re not very likely to need open-heart surgery next week, but someone near you will.  We just don’t know who!

In this context, insurance is a wonderful blessing because it offers protection for unusual events beyond our control.  While you likely couldn’t afford the $300,000 medical bill for diagnosis, surgery, and treatment for heart disease, you can afford a few hundred dollars a month in insurance premiums.  All these premiums from a large number of people go into a big pot of money to be used to pay the expenses of the few members who contract a serious medical condition.

When to buy, when to pass

Given that understanding of what insurance is and how it works, what should be our insurance philosophy?  Should we buy every kind of insurance that is offered?  Or if we shouldn’t, how should we differentiate between the vital and the superfluous?

Generally, I believe it is the wisest course to insure yourself against any event that is reasonably likely to occur and would have disastrous financial consequences.  In this statement, you’ll notice two inexact terms:  “reasonably likely” and “disastrous consequences.”  You’ll have to apply these for yourself in your specific situation, but let’s take a look at a few examples to illustrate the idea.

An expensive lapse of judgment

When you buy a car and head out on the road, there are multiple potential disasters that can occur.  You could neglect to stop at a red light and demolish a $45,000 truck, along with your own vehicle.  Or worse yet, perhaps you injure the drivers or passengers, creating a stream of medical bills.  So, is this insurance worth having?  First, is it reasonably likely to occur?  Certainly!  Driving is one of the most dangerous things most of us do in our daily lives.  Second, could it have disastrous financial consequences?  Yes again.  This one is a no-brainer: car insurance is vital.

I never get sick

Some people think they can get by without health insurance.  They feel healthy and think that it’ll be cheaper to just pay for minor medical expenses out of pocket.  While this plan can temporarily provide relief to the budget, ultimately it is playing with fire.  You set yourself up to erase years of hard work, saving, and investing in a moment.  A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer, having no insurance, and he now has medical bills approaching half a million dollars.  Another man I know recently broke his thumb in two places, and is facing the possibility of needing surgery—which will cost more money than he has.  In both cases, these men thought they were healthy and could go without health insurance.  Unfortunately, none of us will stay well forever.

As with car insurance, it is strikingly evident that a health issue can be financially disastrous and has a reasonable likelihood of occurring.  Even if you can’t or don’t want to pay the premiums for an expensive plan, you must at least get a basic policy that will limit your exposure in the case of a major health problem.  High-deductible insurance plans are a good fit in this case—you generally pay for minor services yourself, but your maximum out-of-pocket might fall somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000.  Obviously, this would still cause financial difficulty to most families, but it would at least be survivable.

Avoid death by a thousand cuts

Finally, let’s look at an example that doesn’t pass the test.  Many electronics stores offer insurance for computers, TVs, or other big-ticket items.  These tend to be quite profitable for the electronics store, and consequently a bad deal for you.  These types of insurance fail the “financially disastrous” test.  If your TV were to break after the manufacturer’s standard warranty has expired, you’d be without a TV.  Guess what?  Plenty of people survive without a TV!  If you’re managing and saving your money well (as taught by the ThriveWealthy system), you’ll be able to save and pay cash for a new set quickly anyway.  And by avoiding paying extra for unnecessary insurance policies in other areas (pet insurance, laundry machine insurance, insurance providing you with a rental car when yours is involved in an accident), you’ll have more money available to save for that new TV quicker!

So, when it comes to insurance, it’s important to recognize events that are reasonably likely to occur and would have disastrous financial consequences.  For these events, it is absolutely vital that you carry insurance with appropriate limits.  Insurance policies that fail this test are superfluous and you’ll be better off to save or invest that money instead.  And enjoy the comfort and security that goes with knowing that you are protected from financial disaster and are being a good steward of your resources.


Who Shapes Your Mood?

Someone is controlling the experiences you have, the feelings you experience, and the ways you react to your circumstances.  Where can I find this person, you ask?  You need only look in your bathroom mirror.

No Slave to Circumstances

The importance of a positive attitude in shaping one’s experience is often underestimated, but truly successful people everywhere understand and adopt the philosophy of looking positively on life.  We tend to think that our moods are largely driven by our circumstances—and it is true that some events can have a drastic impact on us in the moment—but most of the things life throws at us can be taken in stride.  These everyday ups and down that we so often allow to control us can be overcome by taking the following two actions.

Tend Your Garden Well

First, plant good things in your brain.  This is the long-term strategy to getting you in the place where a “negative” experience can’t dampen your day.  Recognize that your mind is in many ways similar to a garden.  The people you choose to associate with, the books you read, the TV shows you watch, the music you listen to, and the church you attend are all seeds that you plant in the garden of your mind.  As these messages are positive, helpful, and uplifting, you plant seeads in your mind that help you react positively to experiences you later face.  As these messages are angry, sarcastic, or demeaning, you plant seeds in your mind which will cause you to react negatively.  The latter seeds manifest in statements like, “that will never work,” we can’t ever get ahead,” and “it’s just not worth the effort.”

Start Off Right

Secondly, have a great morning.  Don’t try to have a great morning; have one!  Every day.  What is your current habit first thing when you wake up?  If it’s anything other than, “praise God for creating another great day!” change it.  If you don’t believe me that this makes a difference, you need only give it a try tomorrow.  Make a decision tonight to wake up tomorrow happy and thankful.  Then, when your alarm rings, follow through on the decision you’ve already made.  Have a good breakfast, spend 10 minutes reading Psalms, and see if the rest of your day is better than normal.  Don’t fight the smiles that come your way tomorrow, and notice how those around you react to the positive person they meet in your office.

But It’s Too Easy!

Too simple, you say?  Maybe so, but it is the practice of people who have the kind I lives that I want.  And if you want to live an abundant life, all you need do is follow their lead.  Enjoy the happy disposition on your way to the top!  🙂

Controlling the Little Kid Inside

Any time you turn on the TV, open a magazine, or walk down the street, you’ll find a plethora of advertisements for incredible products that you can’t live without.  While many of these products may well be amazing, if you lose control of yourself and let the little kid inside take over, you can end up with a home filled with some cool stuff and retirement and savings accounts filled only with IOUs.  Perhaps worse than that, you’ll find that your resources were unintentionally spent on things you value little, and those priorities that you want to value highly go wanting.  Today we’ll dive into the topic of prudent spending and offer a few suggestions on how to enjoy some of the nicer things in life now, while preserving your future and tempering buying with wisdom.

I Need a New One!

One of the starkest examples I’m aware of that illustrates this danger dramatically is the following story.  A man owns an older car that he had purchased years ago and maintained well.  One day, as he’s tuning through presets on his car’s radio, one of the buttons pops off.  “Well, I can get by with only four presets,” he thinks.  No big deal. A few days later, while setting his coffee cup in its usual place, he hears a loud “Crunch!” as the well-worn plastic cup holder finally gives way.  A week after that, he notices that his brakes start squeaking, and then grinding.

“That’s it, he exclaims, “I’m getting a new car!”  And off he goes to trade his $2,000 car in for a $15,000 brand new one, for which he’ll take out a loan.  Normally our man would know better than to do such a thing, since he’d read the TotalThriver post on the value of saving for large purchases.  But, he let that information drift far from his mind in this moment of weakness since, even though he didn’t have the money saved up yet, he HAD to do this because it was an “emergency.”

Upselling Yourself

Before we’re too hard on our reckless friend, we should recognize how easy it is to let yourself begin down this road, and then justify a higher and higher purchase price, ignoring the fact that you don’t have the money for any of this.  Our man did have a real problem.  His car radio, cup holder, and brakes all needed to be repaired.  Let’s even imagine that in this case, the total repair bill would have been high enough that putting such a large sum into an old car wouldn’t have been wise.  In this case, what our friend should have done was sold the car as-is.  Perhaps it would only bring $1500 because of the defects that he left unrepaired.  But here’s where our man went awry:  He thought to himself, (as we have all done one time or another), “well, since I’m getting another car anyway, I might as well get a nicer one while I’m at it…”  Though this isn’t necessarily a terrible sentiment, problems come when things go too far out of proportion.

A more prudent decision for our friend to would have been to spend $800 or so from his savings account to put with the $1500 that he received from the sale of the old car in order to purchase a $2300 vehicle.  Notice that this is an upgrade from the car he had before, and should definitely include functioning cup holders, a radio, and brakes.  Though a $2300 car isn’t as fun to drive as a $15,000 one, our man would have solved his problem while staying out of debt, thereby preserving his options.  By avoiding entering into a loan agreement, he will have more of his income available to replenish his emergency fund, and then begin his car savings fund.

I’ll Bet You Like Options

This brings us to the more pleasant side of the coin—enjoying the good things in life in a prudent way.  According to the revised plan outlined above, our friend is on the path toward a better car, without the risk and bondage of the debt that came with the “new car today option.” As he saves the money month by month, he can evaluate how important a premium car is to him.  He lives, as most of us do, with some limit on his available cash.  Because we have these limits, we must decide which things are most important to us, and conversely, which areas we will tolerate a lower-quality product.  What we often don’t realize is that when we sign up for a $15,000 loan on a new car, we’ve just locked ourselves into a high-quality vehicle and low-quality everything else—potentially even very important things like a future home, retirement savings, kids college, and many other aspects of our lifestyle.

The point is that by having the cash saved up, you have multiple options.  You can think about what areas you desire a quality product, and what areas you’ll tolerate something lesser.  Perhaps you want a really nice car and don’t care about eating at restaurants or buying expensive gifts for others.  Or perhaps you don’t mind driving an old car but you’ve got to have a new iPad and an unlimited data package.  For you ThirveFit members, perhaps your priority is high-quality weight equipment, supplements, and nutritional products, and you’ll put up with a five-year-old computer and TV without complaint.  Whatever your combination is, the important thing is that you find out who you are—what’s important to you—and then make sure to limit your big purchases in lower-priority areas.  Though this sounds obvious when put this way, it is so easy to find ourselves “ponying-up” for a great ______, (car, tv, washing machine, computer) when we can’t really afford it, and then later regretting having so much money tied up in that item.  The point isn’t that you can’t have nice things; it’s that we all must be vigilant to resist the “kid in the candy store” mentality ruling our every purchase.  We are wise to remember that money saved on a purchase today is money we’ll have available for those things we truly value.*

*Incidentally, this could be another purchase, or something even more valuable like giving to others or supporting spreading the Gospel.  But we’ll save that topic for another day!  🙂

What’s Important to You?

What would you think if I told you that you have two sets of priorities?  Or that you have two sets of values?  Perhaps you will deny it—“of course not!  I know what’s important to me, and my values are clearly sorted in my mind.”  Maybe so, if you’re like many people, your bank statement will demonstrate quite a disparity between the list of priorities in your head and the true priorities according to which you spend your money.

Your Treasure and Your Heart

Jesus taught this principle quite clearly in Matthew 6:21 when he said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  For example, if I look at my bank statements and notice that I spend 5% of my household income on golf in an average month, this demonstrates that golf is important to me. Conversely, if I say, “international missions are very important to me,” yet none of my money is given to support international missions, I’ve demonstrated that my imagined priorities are quite different than my actual priorities.  Your treasure will go to that which your heart values.

An Eye-Opening Experience

Now, if you’re anything like me, the first time you sit down to look at where your treasure went, you will be very disappointed with yourself.  I remember the day, years ago, when I sat down to start getting my finances in order.  I first developed an imaginary budget, allocating something like 2% of my salary to entertainment.  This made my budget work out very well, apportioning a solid sum of money towards saving and paying off debt, which I thought were high priorities to me (my imagined priorities).  Then, I looked at the previous month’s bank statement.  To my chagrin, I found that my actions demonstrated a high priority of enjoying activities with friends and buying drinks at the bar.  Instead of working toward a place of financial strength, I placed high value on having fun with money now.

If you find yourself in a place like I did—with “real” priorities rather far from the ideal you imagine, take heart, for change is quite within your reach.  Start by creating your budget for next month, using your bank statement as a template.  Then, adjust down slightly the categories that you think are too high (entertainment, in my case) and increase other more desirable categories by the same amount.  The trick is to not go “scorched earth” in your first month.  If you try to reduce entertainment from 5% of your budget to 1% on the first try, you’ll be tempted to “forget the whole thing” a few weeks from now.  Instead, focus on incremental progress, one month at a time.

Some Practical Steps

Herein lies the beauty of a zero-based budget.  Before the month begins, spend all the income you expect to receive on all the categories of expenses that you will have.  Allocate every dollar to the appropriate category, then get several blank envelopes.  Write the category name on each envelope, and withdraw the appropriate amount from the bank after each paycheck is deposited.  Now, if you will restrain yourself to only spend from your envelopes, you have no choice but to follow your budgetted plan. 

Staying Flexible

When something unexpected comes, as it always seems to, you may have to go back to your budget mid-month and reallocate.  This is perfectly acceptable, so long as you reduce one category by the amount that’s needed in another category.  Just make sure to do this with all your numbers in front of you, so as not to start the month with 2% allocated to clothing and find at the end of the month that you gradually ratcheted up to 7% by not paying attention.

All in all, this practice of advance cashflow planning is a great tool for spending your money on things that are truly important.  The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with switching expenses which bring you little value for those that you truly care about is magnificent, and will serve you well on your path toward the thriving life.

Invest or Save

In today’s post, we’ll explore the important distinction between saving and investing — two terms that, though often erroneously used interchangeably, must be treated in distinctly different ways on your path toward a thriving life.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Saving ought to be done first — and for a specific purpose.  As we’ve discussed previously, one of the first milestones you need to hit as you pursue the thriving life is to save a full emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses.  The emergency fund is not an investment; rather, it exists to protect you from the unexpected expenses that will most certainly come your way.

Damage car

Great places to keep an emergency fund include savings accounts and money market accounts ( is a great place to get started).  Though the interest you’ll typically earn on such accounts is quite low, they provide a few important benefits that you need for emergency savings.  First, your principle is protected.  This means that your value won’t go down in times of economic recession.  This is important because oftentimes unexpected drains on your cash will come during times of economic hardship nationwide.  With your savings in an account at a bank or in a money market account, you can rest assured that the $10k that you put in will be there when you need it.

Make Your Money Make Money

On the other hand, an investment ought to involve significant growth.  While a savings account is earning less than one percent, a good investment should earn in the neighborhood of ten percent.  But here’s the catch: that 10% rarely comes linearly.  Unlike a savings account which will return 0.5% per year, every year, an investment may earn 5% one year, 30% the next, and -15% the year after that.  The returns are a function of the market you’re invested in (e.g., the stock market or the housing market), so you never know how the investment will do in a given year.  But, you can look at history to draw reasonable conclusions at what the investment should do long term.

Exhibit A

Take for example a mutual fund we’re quite fond of here at  Fidelity Contrafund.  This fund is primarily comprised of stocks of large U.S. companies such as Google, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola.  The following chart shows the return for each of the last four years:

2008 2009 2010 2011
19.78 -37.16 29.23 16.93

As you can see, 2010 was a great year for this investment, and 2009 was a lousy one.  Of course if you knew that ahead of time you could make a killing!  But since none of us have such knowledge of the future, we must simply follow the averages.  This fund in particular has averaged 15% per year over the past 3 years, and 8% per year over the past 15 years.

Time Horizon is Important

Because even good investments like this one can fluctuate violently, most financial experts only recommend investing when you plan to leave the money alone for five years or more.  Generally, this is a long enough period to ride out the turbulent ups and downs of the market, and give yourself a high probability of making money with your investment.  For short-term savings (e.g. for a newer car or living room set), you’re usually better off to take the guaranteed 0.5% of your money market than risk losing 20% of your money should the market take a bad turn one year.

Make It Happen

In closing, it’s very important to recognize the difference between saving and investing.  As you make progress toward your financial goals, you’ll need to be very intentional with which of the two you’re doing.  Will you be using the money in the next two years?  Open a money market.  Will you be leaving the money alone for the next five years?  An account with or a visit to your local financial advisor (see the “investing ELP” section at are great places to start.  And as always, be sure to check back at TotalThriver for help along the way!


Seeds of Success

When you decide to pursue success in an area of your life that needs improvement, you’ll face many large obstacles standing in your way. Perhaps the greatest challenge of any new journey on the path toward thriving is keeping your resolve when the results you want aren’t coming.

Typically, the first few weeks of a new fitness regimen will be filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and passion. But by week 3, all you are is tired, frustrated, and wondering if it’s all worth the trouble. You have the testimony of those who’ve gone before you that this program will make you look better, feel better, and help you thrive in all areas of life, but that’s not what you’re experiencing right now and there’s a strong temptation to give up.

In these times, I find it helpful to take a moment and consider my position. First, have I done the things that my mentors have recommended? In the case of a fitness regimen, am I doing the workouts as prescribed? Or, do I skip the parts I don’t like, or not give my full effort?

If I am doing what I’m supposed to, yet still not experiencing the success I expected, I’ll do well to step back and reconsider whether my expectations were reasonable. Oftentimes, the instant success I imagine on day one is simply incongruent with reality. Growth takes time, and as long as you are moving in the direction of success each day, you’ll get there in time.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I find it helpful to remember a poignant example from nature—the simple vegetable garden. I keep a small garden in my back yard, planting seeds around mid-April. To date, I have spent many hours tilling the soil, measuring and planting rows of seeds, watering, fertilizing, and weeding. For all this time and effort, done skillfully and with the help of experienced experts, I have harvested nothing but one bowl of salad. A green pepper grows on one plant, and tiny tomato flowers have sprouted, but I have tasted nothing but a few leaves of lettuce.

As in my garden, many great things in life require hours and hours of effort, guidance from good mentors, and time. If I will take this view on new ventures I pursue, I will be able to resist the discouragement that comes in the early days of hard work and few results. The effort I put into my venture today may not produce results today, but as I grow and God grants me His blessings, they may just turn into delicious fruit tomorrow.

On this point, here’s a curious fact from my garden story: the lettuce I’ve harvested this year did not come from my efforts this year—I didn’t plant any lettuce this year! Rather, this plant sprung up of its own accord near the spot that I had planted last year! When I tilled the soil and planted those seeds in April 2011, little did I know that I’d be satisfied by that produce in May 2012! Perhaps the seeds you’re planting today will surprise you in the future at just how great a harvest they’ll bring!