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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Creating True Financial Freedom

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What does financial freedom mean to you? Is it having a big house? A luxury car? All of the money in the world? Or is it something else? I remember hearing a story about a young man and his wealthy father that put the topic of financial freedom into perspective for me.

One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the intent of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” “It was great, father.” “Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son. “So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve each other. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us. They have friends to protect them.” The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thank you father, for showing me how poor WE ARE.”

From this story, you can see two different perspectives on what is valuable in life and the true meaning of financial freedom. On one hand, you have a father who believes in the material things that money can buy. Alternatively, you have a smart young boy who appreciates the things that money can’t buy. Regardless of where you sit, financial freedom is whatever you say it is. If material items are your aim, then there is a process to follow in order to make that your reality. However if your desire is to live a simpler life, there are steps you should take to assure that you are not struggling to meet your basic necessities. I call this process The L.I.V.E. F.R.E.E. Life, which consist of the following:

“The L.I.V.E. F.R.E.E. Life”:

  1. List your financial goals
  2. Incorporate an emergency fund
  3. Visualize your budget
  4. Establish savings
  5. Fund your future
  6. Raise your credit
  7. Eliminate unnecessary debt
  8. Envision abundant living

Following these steps will set you on the right track towards financial freedom, no matter what magnitude you decide to choose. (I also did a cool podcast breaking each step down specifically so check it out here.) So back to my original question: What does financial freedom mean to you? I want to hear your thoughts. Using the comments below, share your meaning of financial freedom.

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is a speaker, bestselling author, personal finance expert, and business consultant. Ash has established himself as a thought leader and trusted voice with Corporate America, Colleges, Churches, and Community based organizations. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money.

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Should You Have an Emergency Fund?

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You may have heard that you should save at least six months of your income saved in your savings account to cover any future financial setbacks. But it’s easy to wonder why you can’t just use credit or help from family when extra cash is needed for an emergency – especially when saving for an emergency fund seems overwhelming. But what does that really mean, and can’t you just use credit or family when you need the extra cash for an emergency?

Here are some common excuses that people tell themselves about why they don’t need to save an emergency fund:

  • I can barely pay my bills, how on earth could I save on top of that?
  • I can ask my family for money if I really need it.
  • There are options to help me in a bind, like a credit card or payday loan.
  • I’m too young to need to save that much money right now, and can do it when I’m older and making more money.

Let’s say you decide to go one of these three routes instead of saving your own money…

  • If you can barely pay bills now, you will have a hard time catching up with your debt after the emergency is over.
  • If you borrow money from your family or friends, you will put a strain on that relationship, and they may become resentful of you if you don’t pay them back quickly.
  • If you use credit or loans irresponsibly, you may ruin your credit or fall into a debt spiral.
  • If you don’t start saving when you’re young, you’ll miss out on the benefits of compounding your cash and won’t have the luxury of having planned ahead.

So what is an emergency fund anyways?

The Simple Dollar breaks down what an emergency fund should be with their definition:

“An emergency fund is cash that you’ve saved up for the sole purpose of helping you maintain your normal life through the emergencies that life hands you.”

What are some emergencies people prepare themselves for by making an emergency fund? Check all that could apply to you.

  • You get a new job and can now afford to pay your bills and debt while you await your new paycheck cycle to start by transferring some of your emergency savings into your checking account.
  • Your car dies and you must get a new one, but you have money to put down a large down payment, getting you a new car and keeping your monthly payment at an affordable rate.
  • Your new car’s check engine light goes on, and now needs extensive work. You need your car to get to work, and have saved enough to fix it quickly, while using your insurance to get a rental car during the downtime.
  • You twist your ankle from playing basketball and can afford to cover the bills while you’re out of work for weeks.
  • You buy your first home, and during the winter your furnace breaks, costing you over $6,000, which you’re able to afford to keep the heat on for you and your family.
  • You finally get a meeting with the board to pitch your big idea and can afford to go out and buy yourself a nice suit.

How many did you check? Can you see yourself in any of those situations in the future, or did you come up with your own? And I know your next question… Where do I put my money to receive the biggest bang for my buck?

Bankrate.com recently published a comprehensive comparison guide by surveying 4,800 banks and credit unions across the country to give you the ability to make the best decision on where to put your money. This comparison will help you maximize the yield from your deposits. Here’s a link to that guide: https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/rates/

 

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Disconnecting the Money Dots: How to Keep Your Money Honest

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During the 2009 American Music Awards, Jay Z won Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist for his song “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys. During the end of his now infamous acceptance speech, he uttered six simple but powerful words. “Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t.” When it comes to properly managing your finances, you should ALWAYS keep these six words in mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with someone who starts painting a picture with their words that the numbers can’t confirm. And guess who I will believe? You guessed it…the numbers! With that said, I want to give you a few tips on how to keep yourself and your money honest, provide you with some tools to stay financially empowered and become the best you yet!

1. Create a Budget You Can Stick To

A budget is the best tool you can use to guarantee your financial success. It serves as your roadmap to navigate you towards your desired goal in a timely manner. But if you don’t follow it, what’s the point? Contrary to popular belief, a budget doesn’t limit the amount of money you can spend but provides direction based on what you tell it to do. Instead of creating a budget that looks good on paper (or your mobile device), focus on one that you will realistically follow. If you know you will spend a certain amount on dining out, let your budget reflect that. It’s better to be self-aware than to lie to yourself because eventually, you will begin to believe the lie.

2. Create Affirmations

Affirmations are a great way to achieve any goal. They keep your mind’s eye focused on what is most important and transport those ideas to your subconscious. Put them in your smartphone as an alarm in the morning so that as you begin your day, you are reminded what your goals are. For example, if you have a financial goal of saving $5,000 this year to invest, your affirmation could be, “I am so happy that I have saved $5,000. I will use and spend this money wisely to grow my net worth.” This will help remove any temptation to drift your spending in a different direction.

3. Limit Your Access

Many people falter on their budgets because they have too much access to their money. Separate your money into a billing account, a savings account, and a spending account. Set up your expenses to be paid through your bill account. Automatically deposit any funds into your savings account. Any money you have left over should go into your spending account. Using this method removes any temptation you may have to use the money for other purposes. This will keep your budget intact and allow your money to be honest!

4. Track Your Spending

People who are not honest with their money never know the cause of the “money leak” sinking their financial boat. Usually, small, unplanned expenses do the most damage. When you consistently track your spending, you are creating a mechanism that holds you and every dollar accountable. As you spend and subsequently track your spending, it’s easier to pinpoint and stop unnecessary spending.

5. Find an Accountability Partner

Lastly, you can’t lie if there is someone there to call you on it. Sometimes, holding yourself accountable requires some reinforcement. An accountability partner is a powerful tool to effectively manage your money. Creating a system that allows you to have periodic check-ins on your budget can go a long way. Whether it’s a friend, a significant other, a financial coach, or co-worker, align yourself with someone who can help you reach your goal.

 

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Does Money Buy You Happiness or Does Happiness Get You Money?

You don’t need a financial expert to start you on the road to wealth. All you need is a pen, paper, and a vision. The following are three ways to get the money whether it’s before happiness or after:

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According to Ben Feder, Author and President of International Partnerships at Tencent Games, it turns out that happiness is a learnable skill, and it’s something you can practice. He recently stated, “By being mindful of our thoughts and deliberately turning them around to be more positive and optimistic, we can, over time, create new neural pathways so that our overall disposition is happier.” This is something that I’ve always believed; as the saying goes, Life is what you make it. But if happiness is a learnable skill, can you learn to be happy without money? Is it even possible to be happy if you don’t have money? Or can your happiness lead you to getting money? All great questions but my belief and experience tells me that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Most millionaires don’t become wealthy by accident, and billionaires get this status on purpose. While millions of people play some form of the lottery every single day more lose than they win. And those who win tend to end up in the same position they started from (if not worse) due to the lack of financial planning. You don’t need a financial expert to start you on the road to wealth. All you need is a pen, paper, and a vision. The following are three ways to get the money whether it’s before happiness or after:

Survey Your Current Situation. Take stock of your current financial status. What is your current salary and income? List your expenses and financial responsibilities. Jot down all of your bank accounts and the balance for each. Also, include your spending habits and what you do for entertainment.

Consider Your Aim. Where do you want to be in six months, one year, three years and then five more. A key is envisioning the lifestyle you’d like to have and then match it with how much it would cost. If you see yourself going to Paris next summer, how much will your flight and lodging expenses be? Check out the price of food and shopping.

Discover the Steps to Get There. Based on your current situation and desired goals figure out the steps needed to get you there. If you want to have 10,000 dollars in savings, how much do you need to save on a monthly basis to get you there? Leave room for unexpected money to flow into your life too. The important thing is you are committing to experience your ideal life.

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