The 5 Step Stewardship Process for Handling His Money

By Bob Brooks

January 29, 2015

 

Being a Prudent Steward of what God has given us is an awesome responsibility.  We want to steward or manage well.  I have examined my own financial life over the past few months and have come to one conclusion.  I don’t think that I have been a very good steward.  So, I have spent time going back to the basics.  I went through a detailed examination of everything that we as a family have been doing when it comes to money. 

It has been a rewarding/painful process in that I feel like I am more on top of things and being a better manager of what God has given my family.  It is easy to get into a rut and not practice what you know. 

So, in the spirit of making 2015 the year of prudent stewardship, I wanted to share with you what I think is fundamental when it comes to how you approach money.  This 5 step process can apply to everything from budgeting to managing your investment goals and objectives.  

(1)   Determine your objectives, values, and goals for everything you are doing with money

Why are you making the decisions that you are when it comes to money? So few understand the reasoning behind their financial decision making.  The objectives, values, and goals define the why behind every decision.  So take retirement for example. Why are you really saving and investing money?  Retirement means nothing until you make it alive with the details.  Success with obtaining your financial goals necessitates that you get into the details.  What are the details of retirement?  What is it that you value about that future period of your life?  Understanding your values gives you the power and motivation to stay on track.  All of it is very important. 

On a smaller scale, this same step can even apply to budgeting.  Where do you need to be with your spending and saving objectives?  Are you on track or are you digging yourself a hole?  What about debt?  What is your debt free day? 

(2)   Identify and fix any risks, problems, or weaknesses

With this step, you simply ask 2 questions.  What could go wrong?  What could I do better?  Take budgeting for instance.  If you are not tracking your spending, how do you know that you will have enough to cover everything in the month?  That is a risk.  What are you going to do if you run out of money before the end of the month? 

What if there is a premature death?  How will my family survive financially?  What if I get laid off? What is my game plan?  What if the hot water heater goes out?  How will I pay for it?  The point is not to dwell on the negative or fear it.  The point is to make sure you have contingency plans (Plan B when Plan A doesn’t work) for everything.  Once you do, the worry ceases to exist.

What about your investments?  The stock market doesn’t just go up. It goes up AND down.  Yet most invest as if it only goes up.  Do you have a game plan for both in place?  

What could I do better?  Could I be managing my spending better?  Could I be more intentional about getting out of debt?  I am sure you can come up with a few items. I know that I did.

(3)   Manage your progress and make sure you are on track

One of the most important steps that a very small percentage of people actually take.  Further, this is the reason why only a very small percentage of people are successful.   When it comes to your retirement objectives, getting out of debt, saving goals, etc.  always be able to answer the one question.  Am I on track?  Am I ahead on my progress or behind?  If I am behind, what steps do I take to get back on track?  This is where an overall game plan is so very important.

(4)   Commitment to Education about how money works

Invest some time into getting a better education on how money works.  We go through 12 years of formal education and some go further through college.  Yet, very little time if any is invested into our knowledge of how money works. As a result, we are learning painful lessons as we learn through success/failure and the school of hard knocks.  What’s worst we are learning on the fly.  Picking up bits and pieces and trusting that information without really knowing why we are trusting it in the first place.  Seek to understand and benefit from the learning of others mistakes.  That is the great thing about educational material.  To create educational material, you either have had to make a lot of mistakes and learn from them or learn by observing others.  We all can benefit from that.

(5)   Commit to a Matthew 6:24 Life

You could successfully go through step 1 through 4 and it mean nothing without the step 5.  This lifestyle keeps everything in perspective.  It keeps God has the value, goal, and objective driver.  Those decisions that we make with money have God’s peace behind it.  It creates perspective.

Most importantly, we learn that it is God that provides and not money.  It is real living versus chasing a life of illusions.  It takes work, discipline, and daily surrender.  However, it is the life worth living.

You might be thinking that is one overwhelming process.  Sometimes you just need a guide.   I am always available to take you one on one through that process.  If you want more information, let’s start a conversation.  Email me at bob@prudentmoney.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 972-386-0384.

The Easiest Way to Get Your Identity Stolen – Avoid This

By Bob Brooks

January 28, 2015

Police are looking for a man who has been breaking into cars at local gyms and stealing personal belongings.  The man is apparently targeting women.  He waits until they leave their car and then he strikes. 

It has always amazed me how people will leave purses, computers, valuables, etc. out in plain daylight for anyone to steal.  Just the other day at Starbucks, I parked next to a lady who got out of her car leaving her cell phone and computer bag right in plain sight for anyone to grab.  In fact, it didn’t even look like the car was locked. 

I did Google search on the different ways a thief could break into a car.  Beyond just smashing the window and grabbing valuables (which they can do fast and with minimal effort), I was surprised to the number of ways a thief can take your personal belongings.

A former assistant who is typically very good about not leaving anything valuable in her car, found out the hard way that this could happen even in the least expected places.  She pulled up to pick up her child from daycare.  She left her purse and her computer bag sitting in the front seat. She figured 5 o clock in the afternoon, parked four feet from the door, what could go wrong?  Even with people in the parking lot, busted out her window, stole the purse and computer bag, and was on his way within 10 seconds.  Witnesses marveled how quickly it happened.

These stories should serve as a wake-up call to stop leaving valuables sitting in your car. 

What about in the trunk?  Even the trunk is not a good place to leave items.  You would be surprised how easy it is to get into a locked trunk.

So here are a few tips –

1)      Make it a rule to never leave anything in your car that you wouldn’t want stolen.  Teach this to your kids as well. Kids are always leaving electronics sitting in plain view.  Plus it is a good habit to help them develop

2)      Be aware of your surroundings when you park.  Always be aware of the people around you in a parking lot

3)      Limit the amount of documents and personal information that you keep in computer bags, purses, and wallets. If it does happen, you will at least minimize the damage.

4)      Finally, never carry social security cards with you at any time for any reason.  You are creating the potential for the worst case scenario.  

  We can’t take chances anymore.  Crime is getting to aggressive.  Fortunately, it is easy to prevent this from happening.  You just don’t use your car as a locker!

The Greatest Retirement Myth Ever Told

By Bob Brooks

January 22, 2015

We go through 12 years of school and for some an additional 4 years of college to be taught everything from history to science to reading and writing.   In all of that time of education, not once do we get an education on how money works.  As a result, we get out into the real world without a clue as to handle maybe one of the more important aspects of living. 

So, we look to the money magazines of the world to educate us.  The subject of money is not black and white as the financial media would have you believe.  It is very gray.  If you do x, you will get y.  This works well with most readers because at the basic fundamental level we all want the world of money/investing/retiring etc. to be black and white.  If things are black and white, then you just follow directions and everything works out. 

The articles about black and white finances are dangerous because they reinforce the myth that dealing with money is easy.  Retirement articles offer up the best example.  Saving is the focus of most of these articles. 

“If you save for retirement, you will be able to retire. You just have to save enough.”

Then examples are given of how this works.  John wants to retire at age 65.  All John has to do is save x dollars a month for 30 years and he can retire with an income of Y.

Yet many investors save and save only to find out that wasn’t entirely true.  It is a myth and the wrong point of focus when thinking of retirement.   

In reality, there Is much more to it.  Think of retirement planning from the standpoint of a 3 legged stool.  Saving, although important, is only one aspect of the process.  A one legged stool doesn’t really work.  You need all three legs to make the stool work.

Leg 1 – Saving – No Question you have to save money.  That is at the very basic level of planning for retirement. 

Leg 2 – Managing – If you had 1000 people saving money for retirement, only maybe 30% actually have a process in place to manage the investments.  There is a time to be invested and there is a time to be safe.  Most people have a plan for up markets.  However, the reality is that markets go up and down.  A process to manage for the ups and down of the stock market is critical.  Yet, few have that in place.

Leg 3- Tracking – If only 30% have a process in place to manage their investments, probably only 5% are actually actively tracking their progress in relation to their goals.  Let’s say you have mastered 2 of the 3 legs.  However, your stool still doesn’t function.  How do you know if you are being effective?  Effectiveness is measured by your ability to stay on track with accomplishing your goals. 

If you are going through the trouble of saving and working with a wobbly stool, maybe it is time we talked.  If you are saving or have saved, I can offer you the management process through my prudent investment management strategy where I put as much emphasis on managing for risk as I do trying to grow your investments.  Then with the application of my benchmarking system, we can determine and track your progress towards your goals. 

Most advisors considered themselves wealth managers.  I would rather just consider myself as the advisor who helps you achieve your goals.  Let’s start a conversation by either emailing me at bob@prudentmoney.com or calling me at 972-386-0384. 

Bob 

5 Year Old Billed for Missing a Birthday Party

By Bob Brooks

January 20, 2014

From the “you can’t make this stuff up department”……

A 5 year old, Alex, decided that he had better things to do and was a no show at his schoolmate’s birthday party.  The birthday boy’s parents didn’t take too kindly to that no RSVP no show.  They took action. 

The no show parents were going through 5 year old Alex’s backpack only to find an invoice in the amount of $24.00 for a “no show” fee.  The parents of the rejected birthday boy even went further threatening to take the “no show” parents to small claims court if they didn’t pay the invoice.

Are these parents insane or in their right mind?  Did they just do something that every parent has thought about after inviting and paying an up-front fee for 20 of your child’s closest friends only to find 12 of them bother to attend?

After all, these birthday parties are expensive and have been prepaid for each child that committed in advance to attend.  When a no show occurs, that fee gets wasted.  A 24 hour heads up that they couldn’t make it might allow for the host to reduce their birthday party cost.

OK, the small claims court threat is definitely over the top. However, is the invoice really over the top?  

Fortunately both my boys are out of birthday party mode.  Although the thought might run through my mind, I would probably never do something like that.  After all you have to see these people at school functions.  Besides, “no shows” are just part of the whole birthday party racquet.  It is just a cost that goes along with raising kids.

There is one other way to look at it.  Typically, the parent spends the money on the birthday party and in return the invitee child gives the birthday child a present probably worth about what the birthday parent spent per child.  It is like an even exchange.

It makes me wonder.  Would the birthday parents have forgiven and forgotten had the 5 year no show sent the birthday boy a present after the fact?  After all, if the parents were that insistent on getting the invoice paid they could have always returned the gift for cash.  Then again, what parent would do that?  Well, maybe the same parent who would invoice a 5 year old.  

Read the full news story here.

“God Told Me to Make You a Lot of Money”

By Bob Brooks
January 16, 2014

I had someone call me and tell me a very disturbing story.  A financial advisor held a seminar at a church.  It was a product marketing seminar disguised as an educational seminar.  The advisor was pitching Life Partners.  This is a company in Waco, Texas that invests into life insurance policies of people who are expected to die.  If they die, you make money. I could go into more detail.  However, as disturbing as the story of how these products work, that is not the most disturbing to me.

The advisor in so many words said that God sent him to this church “to bless them and make them a lot of money.”

If God called him to bring them information, did God tell him to high pressure sell these people?  As I was told there was a lot of that happening.

Did God tell him to boost his credibility by showing them proof he was a Christian and honorable man?

Apparently this advisor was a host of a local radio show that aired sporadically on Christian Radio.  He presented them with a letter from the radio station that says he never had a complaint filed against him.  According to the person involved with this situation, he presented this to show his credibility and as proof “he was a Christian.”

The people who invested their money with this advisor ended up realizing that they were not going to make life changing money.  In fact, their life savings is tied up and they are wondering if they will even get it back.  The investment did not even remotely perform like they are almost promised and he won’t return any of their calls. 

 

 

It is not my place to judge this man’s intentions.  I don’t write this as an indictment.  I write this to point out that there are people who use God as a marketing tool to make money.  Christians can be fooled by those who hide behind God in order to foster credibility to make money.  It is important to be able to discern between those who are operating with a pure heart versus those who are marketing with God.  

You don’t need to tell a person you are a Christian when doing business.   Demonstrating that through actions is sufficient.  

Credit Karma – Is Free Worth It?

By Bob Brooks
January 5, 2015

Every time I come across a company advertising a great deal, I always want to read the fine print. The devil, so to speak, is always in the details.

Creditkarma.com advertises that you can receive a 100% free credit report, credit score, and credit monitoring. The big selling point is that you don’t have to enter in a credit card number and it always remains free.

The commercial starts with a skeptical girl checking out the web-site and looking for the catch – where they ask for your credit card. Her friend walks in the room and assures her no credit card is needed and it is really free. Once she realizes there are no catches, she acts as if she has found credit utopia. What the commercial doesn’t show is her reading the fine print.

Yes it is true. You do get all of the advertised free services. However, you give a lot up for those free services – privacy.

Here is what their terms and conditions say:

we will never provide third parties with your credit report or credit score, but we may use your credit report, credit score and other relevant information that you provide to us while using the Services to match you with offers for financial products and services from our marketing partners.

Basically, you give them the permission to give your information to their marketing partners. Once they do, get ready for the flood of offers in your email and all of the solicitations that you are bound to receive. There really is no need for them to share your scores. Credit Karma will just match your information up for their marketing partners. Is free worth that?

Then there are the security issues. Their fine print states the following:

By registering for an account or using the Services, you accept all responsibility for maintaining the confidentiality of your password, controlling and limiting access to your account, and for all activities that occur under your account or password.

If they are going to store your data, shouldn’t they accept some responsibility for keeping your data safe? Where is the incentive? After all, they already have your information which for them is the valuable commodity. If there is a data breach, it is ok because you are responsible. Although they talk about security on their site, I question if they are willing to spend whatever money it takes to protect you from a security breech? This is important because they will be holding your social security number.

Always remember, that when you sign up free you are probably giving up something. Make sure you are comfortable with what free really means.

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