Tuesday, August 5, 2008

When Visualizing Your Dreams Use String!

by Janine Bolon

This rather imposing wall was an effort on my part to show my children how animals, plants and minerals fit into the world by using taxonomy. (The science of classifying all living things by arranging them in groups according the relationship of each to the others.)

Since I am an ultra-geek and a highly visual learner, my kids get the treat of having the couches moved, pictures taken off walls, and string unraveled as we clear space to put up, "a big mess" as my 5-year-old says with hands-on-hips gawking at the creation.

What does this have to do with money? Many of my clients tell me of having difficulty getting a handle on their financial situations. Here is a simple, yet powerful three-fold solution:

  • Figure out to the penny how much debt you have to everyone. This may include, but is not limited to: mortgages, car loans, student loans, boat loans, credit card debt, loans from family (love loans), and medical bills.
  • Starting today, track your expenses. Yep, as you go about your normal day, start writing down in an itty, bitty notebook all the money that leaves your hands. It will stun you into dropping your consumeristic (is that a word?) tendencies when you see just how much you pay a month for those vending machine runs! (That was my habit when I worked in corporate life, I loved those M&Ms in the machine down the hall.)
  • Determine your Vision. Why are you here on this planet? What is it that you want out of life? I mean, there is absolutely zero reason for saving money and working to get out of debt if you don't know where you are going, right? Otherwise you're saving money for money's sake. Ugh! That's not enough motivation for me, so I'm sure you may want a bit more out of life as well!
As you work on these three exercises, you may want to clear a wall and start using various colored papers (sticky notes are GREAT for this!) to visualize your debt load, your income opportunities and your goals for the next 20, 10, 5 and 2 years. Right? I highly recommend this practice of working on your dreams using paper, wall and string. It is a system that I have used for over 18 years. I learned this visual process from the late Walt Disney. (Not directly, but from an employee of his named Mike Vance. He gave a workshop while I worked at Glaxo Pharmaceuticals.) Disney used this system to determine connections of what may seem like unrelated objects at first blush.

It is sort of weird to see your financial life up on a wall, but one of the results of this work is the response of your brain. It creatively comes up with novel ways to fix many of problems that pop up and hope suddenly springs from your heart as you stare your situation in the face and realize, "Hey, I can do this!"

If you don't have a wall large enough, then use colored washable markers on a bay window. The kids love it when mom starts scrawling stuff on the windows. (You can tell I was a chemist...we see a piece of glass and we think, "Just as good as paper! Scribble, scribble, scribble.) Not only do they get to join in, but we tape string all over the place too!!! Fun, fun, fun.

Give this process a try and then email me on how it works out for you. Wishing you abundance.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Financial Survival Skills in Today's Economy

by Mark Kohler & Janine Bolon

Today's post was an inspiration of Mark Kohler who is not only a dear friend of mine, fellow author (Lawyers are Liars, the Truth about Protecting Our Assets!), and business owner, he also happens to be my attorney! He has a radio show based in Chicago and I was thrilled that he asked me to be on it as a guest. Not only do we have a criminal amount of fun chatting about money, business ventures and goal setting, but we enjoy being able to take phone calls and help folks become financially stable in these crazy economic times.

The title of today's post: Financial Survival Skills in Today's Economy, is the brainchild of Mark. He gives 10 action items that one can implement to guide you through the market turns and changing business climate. I was lucky enough to get the list last night before the show and I've added my own 2 Cents to the list as well. Thanks for letting me work with your stuff, Mark!

  • Reassess Your Goals: When times become uncertain and you don't know what you should do from moment to moment, that is the time to break out your goals and look them over. Are you still on track with your 1, 5, and 10 years goals? Have you allowed the excitement of the current economy to drive you away from your primary vision? Who do you need in your life to help you? What do you want out of life that isn't happening now?

  • Make the Tough Decisions: Time to look at your pet projects, business plans, properties, or assets and see if they are more of a drain on your time and money then they should be. This is the point where if an asset or idea is not pulling it's financial weight, it is time to drop it, sell it and purge it from your life. This includes people in your life. Are there partners, consultants, employees, or so-called-friends who are not helping you get where you need to go? This may sound overly harsh, but when you look with a critical eye at your current financial situation, you may want to evaluate the contributions these people are making. They may be dead weights that keep the rest of the team from rising to their full potential.

  • Get Financially Fit: Make the necessary changes in habits and lifestyle to model the new "you." Now is the perfect time to become the person you wish you could be. You know the steps you need to take, so take them. Such as, figuring out your exact debt load, starting that savings account for a new car and getting that IRA donation up to the full, allowable amount!

  • Back to the Basics with Your Personal Budget: Mark calls this budgeting, I call this "Tracking your expenses." We're both saying the same thing here and that is, know where your money is going. Impose spending limits if you have to and keep good records of money entering and exiting your life. Don't get discouraged by this. Knowledge is power and when you give yourself this kind of data, you can then make informed decisions on the way your money is being managed.

  • Start a Small Business or Venture on the Side: Whatever you do, don't quit your day job, just yet! What you are looking to do here is have a revenue stream that you can fall back on. It is also very advantageous tax wise to have your own business. This is where Mark's expertise really shines. Oh, did I tell you, not only is he an attorney, he is also a CPA!

  • Re-evaluate Your Business Model: If the market changes, so should your business. This is true whether you are self-employed or work for someone else. Add valued to your position, product or service. This is when you take a cold, hard look at the quality of your service and product that you are selling and then make the necessary changes to upgrade.

  • Re-evaluate your portfolio: Where are your assets invested? Are they in the best structure? How are ALL of your assets performing? No more hands off approach.

  • Consolidate and Eliminate Debt and Improve Your Credit: If you can't do this yourself any longer, then now is the time for you to call a credit counseling center in your city and get some professional help consolidating your bad credit cards. Take responsibility for the financial situation you find yourself in and go out and get help. It is there. You just have to ask.

  • Get Additional Education: Obtaining new ideas and learning new ways of doing things always benefits you. It doesn't matter if some folks have learned these ideas 20 years ago, the fact that you now have it in your brain means that you own it. And that, my friends, is true power.

  • Pay It Forward: If you are stressed because you lost your job, this is the time to volunteer. If you are freaking out because you don't have any money, now is the time to give $5 away to someone you don't know. By putting your faith in others through the use of philanthropy and service, what you need will come back to you in marvelous ways. It is an ancient principle and it still works even in these so-called modern times!
I hope this little list has helped you realign your focus and guides you on the next step of your financial journey.

Mark is hosting a free-one hour webinar on August 13th and will gladly answer any questions you have on these 10 points. So, email comments and questions you want Mark to expand on during the broadcast.

You can sign up for the Webinar on Mark Kohler's web site (KKOlawyers.com) and email him questions.
Or you can email me questions for the show by going to my website (SmartCents, Inc.).

Have a great day, folks! We wish you much abundance.