Why Give Ribbon?

With Christmas just around the corner, most of us are desperately trying to keep up with all the hustle and bustle of the season.  Among the many other things on your list, you probably have some Christmas gift shopping left to do—some of which is for that relative who’s always hard to shop for.  How in the world can you give him (or her) a gift that he’ll like without spending hours searching every shop in the mall?  Easy—just give him 30 gifts to choose from!

The Gift of Choice

One of the amazing products available through our ThriveMart store is called the Ribbon Gift Collection.  It’s a little bit like a gift card, but far superior in many ways.  When you order a gift collection, a beautiful package will be shipped to you for free.  You’ll give this package to your family member or friend on the big day and they’ll open it to find a catalog and an access code.  At his convenience, your friend will browse through up to 40 incredible products on MyRibbonGift.com and choose his favorite. It will ship to him a few days later, also for free!  And unlike a gift card, a price is never shown, so no one will know how much you spent.

There are many gift collections to choose from, ranging from $30 to $1000, and including items like: a home theater system, outdoor fireplace, 12 MP digital video recorder, miter saw, cookware, wine cooler, and many many more.  Ribbon Gift cards never expire, and both you and your friend enjoy a full 6-month satisfaction guarantee!

Make Great Memories

So which is the better choice this Christmas:  braving the mall for a gift that might satisfy or giving Ribbon, the gift of choice?  Choosing a restrictive gift card that loses value over time or a Ribbon gift collection that never diminishes a dime and comes with a 180-day guarantee?

To learn more about Ribbon or to place an order, just send us a message or contact us through our ThriveMart page, which you can reach by clicking the link at the top right of this page.  And thanks for letting us help make your Christmas shopping simple and fun, and a memorable experience for your friends and family!

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.

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!  😉

 

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!  🙂

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 (fnbodirect.com 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 totalthriver.com:  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 scottrade.com or a visit to your local financial advisor (see the “investing ELP” section at DaveRamsey.com) 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!

Mortals Only — Part II

Several weeks ago, we shared the shocking news that yes, even TotalThriver members will one day face their mortality.  Since death is one day closer today than it was yesterday, we highlighted the importance of getting good life insurance in place.

Today, we’ll explore another aspect of financial planning related to caring for your loved ones after you are gone:  estate planning.

I’ll get to it tomorrow…..

Though not always the most glamorous or delightful topic, getting a will in place is a vital part of any good financial plan.  Even though we all know that death will catch us some day, we seem to be in denial that that day is actually coming.  According to a recent survey conducted by findlaw.com, nearly 60% of American adults do not have a will (http://commonlaw.findlaw.com/2008/06/findlaw-survey.html)

Obviously, getting your will in order doesn’t benefit you–you’ve got to be dead to use it!  But it does provide great benefit to your family and other loved ones.  Some people think that drafting a will for themself is unnecessary, because, “of course, everyone knows that I’d want to leave everything to _______.”  The problem is that the one person who makes the call–the judge–doesn’t know you!  So, the only way to make sure that your antique rifle collection goes to your son and not your crazy old hunting buddy is to write down your wishes.  Otherwise, your son may have to spend thousands of dollars in court fighting for what’s rightfully his.

Get it done right

The best option for getting a will done properly is to consult with a local attorney who specializes in estate planning.  If you live in the Omaha area, I can personally recommend Lynne Timmerman Fees, an experienced professional with great qualifications.  Find out more about her practice here.

Although hiring a professional is the only way to be assured that your will is done properly, sometimes using generic forms can be a cheaper alternative.  Places like uslegalforms.com can be a good stepping-stone for recent grads or families struggling financially who need to get a will in place but can’t afford an attorney right now.  Of course, if this is you, just keep following us at TotalThriver and we’ll have you in a strong financial position in no time!

Demonstrate your love

In closing, although estate planning is not particularly glamorous, it is an essential part of your financial life.  To ignore the fact that you need a will is to do a disservice to your loved ones, and create legal battles for your money and property in the months and years following your death.  Won’t you take these steps today to love your family well?  The small investment of time and money you’ll make today will pay large dividends when they’re needed most.

Wandering into Trouble

I’ve enjoyed many hiking and camping trips since I was a young child.  Walking through the forest, listening to the sounds of wildlife and seeing the sun gleaming through the trees, I’ve had a chance to appreciate the beauty and creativity of our Father’s world.  Occasionally, my hikes have become extended for a bit longer than I was planning on, due to an underestimation of how long a climb might take or a casual disregard for things like maps and compasses…. 

Oblivious to the Peril

The funny thing about getting lost is that you don’t realize you’re about to get yourself in trouble until you suddenly realize that you are in trouble!  On a certain camping trip with a buddy of mine in Arizona, we hiked out into the desert loaded with many gallons of water.  We found a good site, set our provisions down, and trotted off in search of a good “sitting log” to place beside the firepit.  We found a good one a short while later, and began carrying it back to our campsite.  At first, we thought it was pretty funny that our campsite was taking so long to get to.  “Strange how it only took us 10 minutes to find this log, but we’re taking 20 minutes to carry it back,”  we laughed.  Slowly we realized that we were actually lost, and we’d been walking for so long because we didn’t know where we’d left our jackets and water!

A few hours later, tired and thirsty, we found our campsite as the sun finally set.  This set us up for a cold night (the coldest night of my life, in fact), since we’d wasted our afternoon and now had only a half-built shelter.  But we were thankful at least for the jackets and water that we had nearly lost.

This story is an example of how we can be walking along unaware, and suddenly find ourselves in an overwhelming situation.  We were too confident that we wouldn’t get lost, and by the time we recognized our precarious position, it was too late.

Common Financial Dangers

In a similar way, we can tend to be very blasé with debt in America today.  We look around at our friends and neighbors, and many of them have student loans.  Everyone’s got a mortgage, and some debt on their cars.  And of course we’ve all got to have our credit cards!  But even though we all know that people get trapped and pulled under by debt, we mistakenly think that this can never happen to us.

Confident of our ability to keep our debt in control, we walk right along the edge of a financial cliff.  We buy a nice big house, great new cars, and a brand new living room set—all on payments.  At the end of the month, we’ve got $25 leftover after all the credit payments are made, and we think, “All right! Everything’s going great!”  But then comes something unexpected, and all of a sudden we’re $175 under instead.  No big deal, we think, “I’ll just pay the minimum credit card payment this month, then get everything cleaned up next month.”  But again, something unexpected comes, and now the balance we carried last month is compounding on us.  On and on it goes, and the debt pulls us down deeper and deeper.

Recognize the Trap

This story has sadly happened to too many people who are able to escape only through a long and painful bankruptcy.  If you’re fighting this now, know this:  many have overcome this situation through wise money management, hard work, and tenacity.  If you’re still dabbling with debt and don’t think this could ever happen to you, think again.  Banks are not evil, but they are concerned with making money, not ensuring that you keep your head above water.  Knowing what you can afford and what you cannot is your responsibility, and you owe it to your family and to God to manage the money He’s given you wisely.

The most reliable way to make sure that you can afford something is to simply buy only with cash (or debit cards/checks).  The one exception might be a mortgage on a 15-year fixed rate with the monthly payment of 25% of your take-home pay, which can be a reasonable debt, provided that you have a substantial down payment.  And some financial experts would contend that there are a few other “reasonably safe” debts as well, but use these very carefully.  It is much easier to lose your way than you think.  Decide instead to take control of your financial life by eliminating debt and paying with cash.  The confidence and freedom that come with becoming debt-free will serve you well on your path to a thriving life.

Planning for Unusual Expenses

Last week, we discussed the importance of including unusual but predictable expenses in your budget.  Items on this list include things like car repairs, home improvements, large gifts, or vacations.  By allocating a fixed amount each month, these big expenses don’t have to catch us off guard.  For example, my wife and I set aside $60 each month for car repairs, which has been plenty for the minor repairs and maintenance that our vehicles have required.

This brings up a small wrinkle in your budget, though, since you’ve allocated money to be spent on a certain day, but since you likely won’t have a $60 car repair this month, your account will be out of balance if you don’t correct for this.

Thankfully, this feature is built right into the ThriveWealthy advance cashflow planning program.  If you’ve not downloaded a copy yet, be sure to head over to the ThriveWealthy page and download the latest version.  Start budgeting next month’s income in the colored boxes, along with the dates your paychecks come.

Once you’ve entered your income and expenses in the appropriate categories, notice the orange box in the upper left part of the screen.  This section is called, “pending expenses” in the example tab, and is used to balance your budget with your current bank balance.  This section is also where you’ll keep track of your car repair fund, and any other “funds” for big items that you’re saving for.

Keeping with our example of $60 per month for car repairs, let’s say that we’ve reached the 15th of the month, which is the date we entered the car repair fund to be spent.  But, since we’ve not needed any repairs or maintenance this month, that $60 is still sitting in our account.  To ensure that the budget matches the actual bank balance (ascertained by logging into your bank’s website), we need to enter the $60 as a pending expense.  Next to the value of $60 that we enter in the orange box, we need to title the expense as, “car repair fund.”  The spreadsheet will automatically adjust the budgeted balance, and the “difference” value in cell C25 should drop to 0.

Next month, we’ll have the same thing happen, and assuming no car repairs are needed by the 15th of that month, we’ll follow the same procedure.  On the 15th, we’ll replace the $60 value in the orange box with a value of $120, and so on and so on, month after month.  Anytime money is spent at the auto repair shop, simply reduce the pending amount by the total amount spent.  So, if on the 18th of that second month, you spent $20 on wiper blades, simply reduce the pending amount from $120 to $100.

Following this plan will bring you such a sense of peace–bring ahead of these unusual expenses instead of getting knocked down by them.  Please enter any questions or clarifications you have in the comments section, and as always, remember that we’re here to help you thrive!