Money

So after a few blogs on politics, let’s change gears. Let’s talk about money. Something everybody knows something about. Everyone has an opinion. Many people don’t want to deal with it or understand it. But just like knowing how to change a flat tire, or change your oil, if you have some basic knowledge you can be ready to deal with pop-up emergencies and keep your money working for you like a well-maintained engine. Ok. Enough car analogies.

So the basics:

I like money. I want/need more of it. How do I get it? How do I manage it to be successful? Here are 5 simple tips that are easy to say, and hard to implement.

  1. Live on less than you make.
  2. Don’t borrow money.
  3. Save Money.
  4. Prioritize your spending. (Budget)
  5. Give money.

1. Live on less than you make.
You’ve probably heard this before. But it makes sense. If you live on less than you make, it allows you to follow principles 2 and 3. This is easier said than done. But principle 4 is required to succeed at this step. You’ll have to adjust your lifestyle to match your income. This can be a hard pill for some people to swallow. The “I deserve” mentality that people have, and that creditors market so heavily can be deeply ingrained in people. Like it’s a foundational doctrine in their life. If you have ever spent time oversees in other countries, you can often realize that you don’t necessarily need all that stuff to survive and be happy. You can adapt to your income environment. If you don’t like the level of lifestyle that permits, then go out and change it! You can go work harder and earn more money.  My first tech job started at $14 / hour in 2008. That’s just over 29k annually. That wasn’t good enough for me and my growing family. So I worked harder, earned promotions and moved to better paying jobs. I don’t want to brag, but I make good money now because I continue to work hard and improve myself. Thus companies value me more and pay me more. No need to blame the economy for your income. Your work ethic can overcome a crappy economy. I am proof of that.

2. Don’t borrow money.
Do everything you can to avoid debt! I wish I had learned about this sooner. Often times the largest part of you monthly outgo is to debt payments. Student loans, cars, mattresses, etc.  When I started earning more money, I realized I wanted to be done with debt. Me and my wife had about 30k each in student loans! I was tired of so much of my monthly income going to Sallie Mae or Visa. I’d rather spend that money on my family or save it for something cool like a vacation or motorcycle. It took over 7 years, but we paid it all off. We paid off the last 45k in two years alone.  Not having stupid payments has really allowed me to do principles 3,4, and 5 much more efficiently. I’ve learned, I’d much rather save up for something and pay cash, then finance it and deal with the stress of payments, and interest. You really can do it!

3. Save Money.
This is another common sense thing people “know”, but don’t do. When you save money, it makes dealing with “emergencies” way less stressful. I know my property tax is due each year in December. So instead of waiting till December and going, “ah, crap!” I put $30-$50 a month in an envelope for that throughout the year. Then when the bill comes due, I’m ready for it. This year, I over budgeted and had $50 left over after paying that bill. I haven’t decided if I wan’t to leave it as a head start on next year’s property tax, or use it for something fun. But it’s my choice and I have that flexibility because I saved for it. Novel concept I know. But it works and it’s awesome! Same thing with car tires, car registrations, vacations, kids baseball season, etc. You can plan ahead and save money for these things. Saving money in 2016 has allowed me to cash flow a roof replacement, and cash flow a vacation to DC and NY. I was also able to plan ahead for Christmas presents so no credit card was needed for that either. I’ve got some active duty time coming up in 2017 and I know my income will be much lower compared to my civilian job. Guess what I’m going to do? Complain? Well probably a little bit, but I’m already planning for that and starting to save money so it won’t be a huge strain to deal with the change in income. I haven’t talked about 401k’s and Roth IRA’s yet. Those are both excellent tools to save for retirement. I’d highly recommend learning about them and using them to save money long-term. I’ve really enjoyed learning about investing over the last few years.

4. Prioritize your spending. (Budget)
Uh oh. I used the B word. But it shouldn’t have such a bad rap. It shouldn’t be feared. This is the single most important tool to be successful with all these principles. Having a budget is not difficult. Yes it does take time. Yes you will make mistakes. Yes you do spend that much money at QuikTrip. But it gives you so much visibility into where your money goes and your spending trends. It really allows you to analyze past performance and use that data to plan for future months. I’ve been using budgeting software for almost 4 years now. I switched about 18 months ago to YNAB (You need a budget) software. I love it. It has allowed me to be successful in paying off debt and saving money as well as realistically planning for the month ahead. I recommend using a zero based budget. I plan for each month individually. I adjust throughout the month (subtracting extra money from gas to add to groceries envelopes for example) and then reconcile all the envelopes at the end of each month to correct any over-spending. This is fixed by taking the money from another envelope vs a credit card. I also use envelopes to save for bigger expenses. I have a house maintenance envelope, and a car tires envelope that I put money into. Not every month, but when I can I contribute money into it. Especially if I know I will need new car tires in 8 months, I make that a priority to contribute to that envelope so that when it comes time I already have the $500 or so that I will need for new tires. No emergency! Just a normal errand to run that I have the money to do. This also equals less stress. Rinse and repeat, scale up and down as necessary for your money goals. It really does work. You just have to do it. Over and over and over again.

5. Give Money
This is another part of money I’m starting to really enjoy. Managing my money better has allowed me the opportunity to give more. I am able to support causes and organizations that I want to. I was able to double my Christmas budget from last year and give people more gifts. Being able to help people out by giving money is very rewarding. It’s often more rewarding that accumulating more stuff. Give it a try.

So there you have it. My 5 money principles for success. Have I mastered them all? Nope. Do I still make mistakes? Yep. Has being intentional with my money allowed me to be successful? Absolutely. I’m a huge budgeting nerd, so if you have questions feel free to ask me. I’d love to talk money ideas with you and help you be successful with money as well.

Reference material and helpful links:

ynab.com

everydollar.com

mint.com

https://www.daveramsey.com/baby-steps

Intentional Living

 

Later,
Derek

Writing More Better (Often)

I keep mentioning the idea of wanting to write more. I definitely feel that I have things I can contribute to the world. Some of that is through writing. I’m a creative person naturally and love to create ideas, videos, music, etc. I tend to hesitate to create because it involves putting your ideas out there and waiting to see if people like/understand/approve of it. This fear and hesitation has held me back quite often from putting my creative things out into the world. So I’m working to overcome this and start creating more. I’m moving towards the attitude of not caring about your opinion of my work. If you like it, great! Share it, comment on it, etc. If you don’t like it, that’s ok too. When you create passionately, you are going to get people who don’t care for your work, don’t like it, don’t agree with it, etc. But at least you are being authentic to the creative process.

In short, I’m going to try and write a lot more. I’ve got thoughts, ideas, and opinions to share and I’m going to attempt to make them coherent, articulate and interesting. I’m going to try to avoid just name calling and mud-slinging with ideas or people I disagree with.

I have many ideas and projects in the development phase. I’ve actually decided to challenge myself to writing a book. I have two ideas. One for fiction and one for non-fiction. I’m already 4 chapters into writing the non-fiction book. It’s way harder than I ever thought it would be. But it’s exciting.

Stay tuned for more future content.

Later,
Derek

More Updates

Im going to try and start using my website and social media platforms more. I’m getting tired of reading stupid people on facebook and twitter. I’ll write and rant my opinions here and if people choose to come read it they may.

I haven’t really used my youtube channel in many years. I need to upload some videos, I just don’t have any ideas.

Periscope is cool when I use it. Mostly to watch kids soccer games back and forth between my wife and me.

Snapchat just seems to be for silliness. It’s ok I guess. But what is the point if your story goes away after 24 hours and there are no analytics, or your audience was busy/gone for the day.

Twitter is by far the best platform. My favorite of any.

Facebook has the most people showing their butts. Stupid opinions fly in the face of logic everyday. It’s just the easist platform to stay in contact with everyone, because odds are most people have it. Although I’m about to be done with it.

WordPress is still great and my blogging platform of choice. When i write something good, i’ve gotten over a thousand hits in over a weekend vs my normal 4 hits a month.

Instagram is just a less busy twitter.

IF is great for cross posting to all your accounts.

Google+ can anyone say myspace 2.0?

I’m thinking of starting an email list. I dunno. We will see. That’s all for now.

Later,
Derek

2016 Fitness so far

So it’s April 9th. I just finished week 13 of p90x3. This is my blog about all the fun and pain.
I started Dec 28th to get almost a five day head start on the new year resolution. That worked well.

It took me 15 weeks to do the 13 week program. I did week 5 twice due to missing 4 days that week and I did week 9 over due to missing most of that week. Both of those were due to business travel and Army weekends. It just made it logistically too hard to hit all seven days. Overall I am very proud of myself for completing the program. I could have done some parts better, but as they say, “Do your best, and forget the rest.”

Pros:
Only thirty minute tapes every day.
15 tapes provided plenty of variety. You never do the same pattern of tapes for more than 3 weeks in a row.
Many of the tapes focused on full body exercises and core regardless of it is was leg day, cardio day, arms, etc.
Emphasis on stretching and flexibility.
Modifiers for every move showed how you could adapt if needed.

Cons:
Some of the yoga moves were to advanced for beginners.
When I was following the diet strictly it was difficult to hit all my macro nutrients every day.
A lot of the stretching and exercises hurt my very weak lower back. I ate a ton of tylenol throughout the program. (I probably should have went to the chiropractor, I just never got around to it.)
I was tremendously sore the first 3 weeks. Painfully sore, but I pushed through it even though I probably should have rested some.

Diet:
The program calculator told me I should be eating 2100 calories a day and 160 of that should be protein. The diet made alot of sense, but requires alot of planning if you want to be successful with it. MyfitnessPal is a great tool for tracking your exercise calories, food eaten, and macro nutrients. I did good with this for probably the first 5 weeks and then off and on the rest of the time.

Results:
Starting weight: 176
Ending weight: 174

Day 1:

day1front day1pose day1back

Day 60:

day60front day60pose day60back

day 90:

day90front  day90back

While I didn’t get insanely ripped like the info-mercials, most of those people are after 2 or 3 rounds of 90 days. I did tone up quite a lot and I can tell some noticeable differences to include:
My biceps improved the most and are much more visibly toned even though not that much larger by measurement. (lighting in my photos don’t do them justice. 🙂 )
My triceps look about the same but are stronger.
My lats are every so barely starting to show.
My chest has firmed up and now actually looks like pecs and not flabby man boobs like they did before starting.
My stomach is flatter and more tone. I still have a small pooch, but have a flat stomach when I engage my core. You can even see the top 2 abs occasionally. Had I followed the diet more strictly I’m sure my results would have been better as I can tell that my core and abs are a lot, lot stronger.
I can actually do some pullups now without using a chair. Not a ton, but some.
I am much stronger in my chest and shoulders and can work harder with pushups and planks.
My legs are definitely stronger. Quads are tone and I am not getting shin splints as often when running.
I am extremely more flexible due to the yoga. I still have a long way to go, but the stretching and flexibility and core focus has helped me tremendously.
My energy levels are great.
I have developed a healthy habit of wanting to work out at least 5 times a week. I miss it when I miss a day due to busy life. I enjoy that I feel healthier and have a lot more energy. I also feel lest guilty when pigging out on junk food occasionally.
I have actively exercised more days than not exercising in 2016 and I’m proud of that.

Motivation: My motivation was best in month 1 and then month 2 during weeks 6-9. I missed the most days in month 3. I started rationalizing that as long as I was getting in 5 days or more I was doing pretty good. I also went running 7 times for an average of 2.67 miles each time. That was about once every 7-15 days. Sometimes this was in addition to a workout, and other times it was to replace a workout I didn’t want to do.
The last few months have been an extremely stressful and difficult year due to life circumstances and job(s) uncertainty. The stress level has been intense. I’m sure I would have had a much harder time if I wasn’t working out 5-7 days a week. I am grateful I got into this program when I did as life has hit hard lately. I haven’t hit all my fitness goals, but many of those will take longer than 3 months. This has been a great starting point and I’m going to keep going.

I would highly recommend this program to someone who doesn’t have a lot of time but wants to be active and work on fitness. It is a very well rounded program. I am thinking I will probably do p90x2 next as I think my goals align pretty well with that program. I know the hour workouts will be harder to fit into the schedule, but I think I will still enjoy it and continue to make progress in my fitness journey.

Good luck with your fitness goals and may you find a way to be healthy.

Later,
Derek

Intentional Living

It’s January 1st. Time for silly new years resolutions posts. Ha. I’m not gonna do that. But I will talk about a concept I feel I’ve started to understand in 2015.

Intentional living.

I define it as follows: Living life with a purpose and goals. Making things happen in your life, instead of waiting for or reacting to things happening to you.

You can sit back and be reactionary in your life and complain about the circumstances and situations that come your way, or you can work hard, be intentional and do your best to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals. Basically not having a victim or entitlement mentality. Life is hard, the economy sucks, etc. I get it. I really do. But really you only have two choices. Roll over and die (slowly) or take it head on. No one owes you anything. Not the government, not your family, not your job, and not your friends. Anything you get from any of those is just a blessing. You’re not guaranteed anything and you shouldn’t expect anything. Man that sounds depressing right?

However, in 2015, I feel that I’ve started to learn a little bit about this. Some of the intentional things I’ve been able to achieve this last year are as follows.

I’ve really gotten a handle on budgeting and being intentional with my money. We’ve paid off over 32k of debt and are almost debt free.
I completed my Masters degree.
I obtained my CCNA certification.
I obtained a VMware certification.
I traveled internationally for my company and had many successful business trips.
I dropped 23 lbs and kept if off for six months.

Am I perfect? No. Do I have it all together? Not quite yet. But I plan to take this mindset and keep going further in 2016. I wrote a list of over 15 specific goals a few weeks ago for 2016. They are specific and measurable. I’ve created a spreadsheet to track them. Will I achieve all of them? I don’t know. But I’m going to give it a shot. They are at least a road map of goals to shoot for during the year. Better than not having a plan.

Some of the things on my list include:

Continuing to improve my diet and adding exercise into my regular routine. (7 days straight so far!)
Reading at least 5 self-improvement books.
Obtaining one or two certifications this year.
Getting a raise at work.

Those are just a few of my goals for 2016. I also have goals that are 2 -5 years out as well as family and career goals to hit by age 40. I’d rather have a plan and shoot for my goals than just see what happens. Will things happen that are out of my control? Sure. Will my plans and goals change and adapt to the circumstances that life brings my way? Absolutely.

So think about how you can be intentional with your life this year instead of just reacting to things. Write down your goals and go after them hardcore! The only thing stopping you is the person in the mirror.

Hit me up if you have any questions regarding this idea of intentional living. I’d be glad to talk more about it with you.

I hope you have a great year in 2016 and may your year be intentional!

Later,
Derek