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Personal Development


As one year comes to a close, many people like to take a few moments and think about the year ahead. The setting of New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored tradition and a recurring theme at the end of each year. The new year has always been a chance, although somewhat arbitrary, to give yourself a fresh start. It’s a second chance. It’s an opportunity to recommit yourself to the things that are important to you.

Discussions of New Year’s resolutions are almost always followed by statistics showing how people generally fail at keeping the promises they make. News reporters and authors cite the spike in new gym memberships after the new year and the quick fall-off of gym participation as one example of how people with good intentions don’t stick to their plans. Studies show how financial New Year’s resolutions fail.

The backlash against the process of setting New Year’s resolutions is taken over by management experts who say the problem is that resolutions do not take the form of goals. If people stated their resolutions in a format enjoyed by corporate project management gurus, the SMART goal system for instance, people would have a better chance of sticking to their resolutions.

SMART is an acronym that most Consumerism Commentary readers are familiar with. These SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. It’s not a bad system for evaluating employee performance, and the SMART concept can be extended into other areas of your life, like planning the activities you want to undertake in the new year.

Guess what? Whether you define your plans for the new year as broad resolutions or specific SMART goals, you’re just as likely to fail. People don’t want to stick to specific goals in the personal lives when they already have pressure from work-related goals, assigned by their employers, their clients, or themselves as business owners. The probability of people making charts to track progress on personal goals and sticking with it for more than a month is the same as the probability of sticking with a resolution.

SMART goals might make you feel better about your plans if you like treating your life as a business, but in the end it’s no more effective than setting resolutions. You can’t take someone who wasn’t going to keep his resolution, teach him about SMART goals, and expect that he will turn into a productive individual in his personal life. Now, treating your life as a business can be a good idea — after all, you are not only the Chief Financial Officer of your own life, you’re also the CEO. And if you are in the habit of looking at your life from that approach, you’re all ready more likely to keep your promises to yourself, whether they be resolutions or SMART goals.

Because of this backlash against New Year’s resolutions, people have yet another reason for not keeping their promises. When it’s a widely accepted fact that people do not, in general, maintain their resolutions more than a month or so into the new year, people don’t feel much pressure to continue. Well, the internal monologue goes, people don’t really keep these resolutions, so it’s no big deal if I don’t keep them either. The culture of mediocrity makes it easier for people to give up.

Setting New Year’s resolutions are beneficial, even if you don’t keep them. That’s because reflection and self-analysis are important pieces of living your life. If you take the time to make resolutions beyond “losing weight” and “saving money,” you’re asking yourself questions that get to the core of your identity. Having a good understanding of where you are and where you’d like to be provides more direction for your life.

The New Year is a time for renewal. It’s arbitrary, but so what? January 1 is as good a date as any to examine yourself and rededicate yourself not just to your goals, but to who you want to be as a person. This starts with a mission statement.

1. Define your personal mission statement.

Non-profit organizations have mission statements that define the purpose for which they exist. For example, this is the mission statement for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America:

… [t]o enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Some organizations have mission statements that fit within one sentence, like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Some are several paragraphs long and go into great detail. I created a mission statement for Consumerism Commentary, even though it’s not a non-profit organization, because I feel every organization should have a mission. The mission of Consumerism Commentary is to develop financially literate, capable, and successful human beings by sharing educational, entertaining, and engaging writing. (I also developed a separate vision statement and purposes, including a hidden purpose for the website and business, which you can find out about here.)

A mission statement gets to the core of your identity and your values. Your mission statement could cover an area of interest you’re passionate about, it could pertain mainly to your role within your family, or it can even be based on values from your religion. I’ll write more about my personal mission statement in an upcoming article.

Once you have a mission statement, you can evaluate your goals and activities based on how closely they relate to your mission. When a non-profit I worked for received a project proposal, if it didn’t fit into the organization’s mission, management would not consider the proposal. At the same time, a mission statement is a living document, which means it can be reevaluated, updated, and changed over time, to fit changing demands of the world, the organization, or life.

2. Evaluate the last twelve months.

There have most likely been a few moments of pride in the course of the last year. You probably also had some disappointments in your life. The key is determining which aspects of your life in the past year were within your control and which were outside of your control. When you begin to look closely, you may see that more things are within your control than you might first believe.

How much time and effort you spend evaluating the past and present is up to you. You can’t dwell on mistakes you made in the past, but you can try to learn from them, and help your past determine the best strategies for improving your future. The bottom line is to determine whether you are closer to your mission today than you were a year ago. Your mission is an ideal, a wish that can never be completely fulfilled. It’s a non-SMART goal. It provides the path so you are always moving in the right direction — a journey, not a destination.

3. Where do you want to be twelve months from now?

With your present in mind, you can set your targets for the next year. This is where your mission and resolutions come into existence. Your mission helps you determine your resolutions — any resolution you pick must be somehow related to your mission. Whether you want to set SMART goals or operate at a higher level is up to you; the process of consciously contemplating these issues and making informed decisions is what will set you apart from people who blindly decide to “lose weight” and “save money” in the new year.

You may not end up exactly where you want to be twelve months from now, but if you live your life with a purpose and you strive to make informed decisions and best choices, you’ll move in the right direction.

4. Quantify yourself.

We’ve become obsessed with quantification in a number of areas of our lives, and it may have started in personal finance. We have software like Quicken to thank for that. Now it’s even easier, with mobile applications that provide us a way of tracking personal data on a minute by minute basis. Thanks to mobile apps, we know at any time how much money we’ve saved. We know how our investments are performing with real-time stock quotes. We know how many steps we’ve taken each day. We check our heart rate after each time we exercise. We know how many miles we’ve run over the past month. We know how much weight we’ve lifted and track when we beat our own personal records.

It’s easy to get lost in all these numbers, and there are privacy concerns about sharing these numbers with applications who may use the information to profit. But if there’s something numerical that can be tracked, there’s a good chance there’s an application that will allow us to do just that. And where there was a time that we’d have to track results manually and build our own charts, now that this is mostly automated, we can get the benefit of data visualization much easier.

Data visualization, in turn, provides great feedback when it comes to progressing towards measurable goals. That’s one of the primary purposes of Naked With Cash here at Consumerism Commentary. If you are interested in the typical New Year’s resolutions of saving money and losing weight, don’t just wish broadly, don’t just make SMART goals, but use these tools to motivate you.

5. Get an accountability partner.

Self-motivation is difficult, and there’s no reason to torture yourself for not sticking to your goals. The solution to waning intrinsic motivation is to team up. For years, I was looking for someone to be my accountability partner in terms of my health and fitness. I kept hoping my girlfriend would be interested in taking this journey with me, but despite my efforts, we did not share this interest. I joined a gym, and for some time, the monthly payments motivated me to seriously begin moving forward. That lasted about six months before I lost my motivation.

It wasn’t until I hired a personal trainer that things started to move in the right direction. My trainer is an accountability partner. I have regularly scheduled appointments that I know I can’t miss. I know I’m moving in a much better direction now.

Your spouse can be your accountability partner if they are just as passionate about your mission as you are. But if not, or if you don’t have a spouse, you may need to look to someone else. With a friend, mutual motivation is a strong bonding agent; but if you don’t have someone to support and motivate you, hiring a professional is not a bad idea if you can afford it.

It doesn’t matter whether you choose to make high-level resolutions or SMART goals when the new year comes around. The process of self-examination is what’s important. The reminder of your mission and your motivation to stay on a positive path is what brings you success year after year. Most people forget their resolutions and SMART goals after a month or two, but if you get in the habit of evaluating your choices and your progress, it doesn’t matter whether you reach your goal of losing 50 pounds or paying off $50,000 in debt by June. Continuous analysis guarantees you’ll be moving in the right direction, aligned with your values and your mission.

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Consumerism Commentary and the articles I write here have changed since I started writing about personal finance in 2003. I’ve personally gone through four financial phases over the thirteen years or so, and because I draw much of my writing from personal experiences, any readers who have been around over the past decade might have noticed the changes and how they’ve affected my perspective.

Phase 1. Financial ignorance. It was easier for me to close my eyes to the financial trouble I was getting myself into. I’m still pleased that I pursued a living I was passionate about through and after college without regard to possibility of an insecure financial future, but there came a point where I needed to change my declining situation.

Phase 2. Personal and financial stability and growth. I began learning about managing my money, spending less than I was earning, and growing my wealth. In this phase, I began a personal blog, Consumerism Commentary, to document my progress, keep myself accountable, and expand my knowledge. In a new job and a new living situation, I was able to save money from every pay check. Before long, I was on my way to getting out of debt and building a solid emergency fund. I started saving for retirement for the first time.

Phase 3. Approaching financial independence. In Phase 2, I was concerned about my ability to negotiate a decent raise every year. There’s nothing more annoying than having to put up with the corporate environment where you constantly need to fight for getting the bonus you deserve.

I was starting to build my own business in Phase 3, and when I had more control over my own destiny, the pettiness of corporate life stopped mattering as much. By the time I quit my day job, I had financial independence in my sights.

Phase 4. Achieving financial independence. The point at which finances are no longer a constraint brings its own problems. The need for financial stability can instill a drive for success, and financial independence eliminates that type of desperation. My financial needs have never been great in the first place, but now I struggle with taking some of my other passion projects to the next step.

Framing one’s life phases by changes in one’s relationship with money is only one way to look at life. It’s worthwhile to look at something more core to humanity’s existence than something as material as money. I’ve always said that net worth is not a real goal, that money is only valuable in terms of what it can do for you ability to live how you want. If your only goal is to retire at age 60 with $3 million — or to retire at age 35 with $10 million — you’re missing the point of financial independence. Until you can answer the question, “Why?” you have to give your life more thought.

This is a publication where the focus is on money. It makes sense for me to write articles that frame life in financial terms. But it’s good to go occasionally beyond the confines of money and look at life in a broader context. One philosophical theory I hear often is that life is not about the pursuit of money, it’s about the pursuit of happiness. Humans want to increase their wealth because financial independence removes barriers to living life in a way that evokes happiness.

Scientists have studied money and happiness to look for correlation and to determine if one has any effect on the other. This article from Forbes gives a summary of many of the major studies pertaining to money and happiness; there doesn’t seem to be much agreement. Not mentioned in the article is the famous study — at least among financial experts — that happiness is correlated to your financial standing among peers when measured by income. That is, you’re happier if you earn $50,000 while your cohorts earn $30,000 than you would be if you earned $100,000 while your friends and colleagues earn $150,000.

I have no reason to doubt the study. For most people, external factors influence happiness. Those external factors can be one’s standing among peers financial and otherwise, one’s freedom to make decisions in a job, and one’s family life that fits a personal definition of a family. Happiness can take form as just a lack of frustration or disappointment.

In those cases, happiness is an internal satisfaction influenced by external factors. But what most people who where included in this study may not know is that happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy, choose how you react to any situation, but if you don’t choose to be happy, you’re choosing to be something other than happy. And you can choose to be happy regardless of external factors.

Choosing to be happy is not the same as choosing to be satisfied with your life to the point of not looking for improvement or change. If you look at happiness as an ultimate goal, you might think that you can’t be happy until your life is exactly how you want it to be, or you might think that if you’re happy, you would have no need to allow your life to change or no need to direct your life towards improvement. But because happiness is simply a choice you make on an ongoing basis, it cannot be an ultimate goal.

Unfortunately, this idea of choosing happiness has been co-opted by pop psychologists, self-help gurus, empowerment philosophers, and feel-good motivational speakers. It results in silly tips like “Be the best YOU you can be” (here) and “Count your blessings” (here). Read this stuff if it helps, but underneath this kind of brainwashing is the simple truth that you don’t need to wait for happiness to arrive some time in the future when your life lives up to your expectations.

Choosing happiness isn’t always easy. If you’re living in a difficult situation — even worse, an abusive situation — I am not saying that you should automatically be able to be happy. There are certainly some limits to how happy you can feel in your life at any one moment, and I think the pop psychology approach to choosing happiness often forgets this reality. And choosing happiness doesn’t mean remaining ignorant of trouble ahead; during my first financial phase, financial ignorance, I chose happy by ignoring my problems. But deep down I knew I was in trouble, so I wasn’t very happy, anyway.

The point is to choose the best goals. Money isn’t a goal because it’s just a tool to let you achieve real goals that pertain to your life and the world around you at a deeper level. Happiness isn’t a goal because you control your level of happiness simply by choosing to change it.

If your long-term goal is to find happiness in your life, take a look around you and ask yourself why you aren’t happy now. Take happiness out of the goal equation and determine the specific things you’d like to do or experience and make them your goals. Then, as you progress towards those goals, you can be happy because you know you’re on the right path — or at least on a path.

Read the obituary for the psychiatrist who introduced “choice theory” to a greater audience, William Glasser.

Photo: Flickr/rkramer62

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The latest economic news from the Department of Labor paints a mediocre picture at best of the employment situation in the United States. It’s still difficult for young people to find full-time jobs. There may be some concern that this lower level of employment is going to be the new norm, and whether American society will need to adjust to a different type of employment environment.

Full-time jobs are being replaced by part-time jobs and contractor positions. This allows companies to save money on human resources expenses, including health insurance and other types of benefits. In a personal budget, if your family cuts back on food spending by buying lower quality ingredients, you can put more of your money in the bank, at least in the short-term.

Teenagers working

The long-term consequences of eating a less healthy diet, like refusing to invest in human resources, can be ultimately damaging – but perhaps that’s a concern for when the economy is in a better position. Don’t expect the economy to improve, however, until the middle class feels they have sufficient capital – a result of income from full-time jobs – to stimulate the economy. The situation can be a perpetuating cycle requiring an outside stimulus to improve.

For now, this problem remains. Young people are not finding full-time employment, even with a college degree. (College graduates are still doing better than those with only high school diplomas, though.) Here are a few tips for those in college to get the few jobs that may be available.

1. Reset your expectations. For now, you may need to forget about finding the perfect job in your field. This can be tough concept to digest. Out of college I didn’t want to consider any job that wasn’t precisely what I wanted to be doing for the following thirty years of my life. Eventually I had to settle.

Today, settling might mean taking an entry-level position at a local business or even signing up with a temp service. It might mean waiting tables. Consider taking a job “beneath” you so you can get out of your parents’ house, even if it means finding some roommates rather than buying a condominium right out of college.

While you’re working in one job, part-time or full-time, dedicate more of your personal time towards finding something better; at least you’ll be earning money while you look for a better fit.

2. Work like you’ve never worked before. Today’s environment is competitive. There are a lot of people looking for jobs and not enough openings for everyone. I’ve always held fast to the belief that working for someone else requires companies to provide strong motivation in return for demanding excellence, but demanding excellence from yourself regardless of where you’re working is great practice, and it shows your eventual dream employer that you have a great attitude with leadership skills.

Self-motivated excellence also builds valuable experience for when you are running your own company and need to dedicate a large portion of your life to its success and you need to demand excellence from others.

3. Meet everyone. If you aren’t getting to know the people you work with and the people you’d like to work with, you’ll always be trying catching others from behind. Make yourself known to decision makers. Have lunch with someone new each week, even if you’re bringing in a bag lunch to save money.

Choose someone further along in their career and ask them to be your mentor. I have had great successes from mentor/protégé relationships from both sides of the table. The education and development that comes out of a relationship like this is a different type than one might learn from either a classroom or from on-the-job training.

4. Market yourself. Any time I meet someone new I turn to Google, and if Google is my number one destination, the next may be Facebook and LinkedIn. When someone searches for your name on Google, what do the top website results say about you? The top result should be your own website that, in a subtle way, advertises who you are, what you do, and why you’re good at it. It doesn’t have to be a resume. Perhaps it’s a blog that focuses on the topic you studied in college or the industry you’re pursuing.

It should be professional and mature. You will stand out right away in a sea of young people whose only online presence consists of photos of meals and alcohol on Instagram.

Start a blog. Blogs, written and produced professionally, can help solidify you in the minds of potential employers as an expert or an expert-in-training, as long as you’re honest and authentic. Privatize your social media, but don’t rely on your privacy settings. A “friend” can easily publicly repost the latest photograph of you in your drunken stupor.

5. Get lucky. Sometimes finding the right full-time job is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Luck isn’t always luck. It can be strategic. Richard Wiseman is the author of the book The Luck Factor: The Four Essential Principles. The author suggests readers maximize chance opportunities by networking and being open to new experiences, listening to intuition and keeping a positive attitude.

If you’re waiting for older generations to retire, creating a large need for young people to fill open roles in companies throughout the economy, you could be waiting a long time. The recession delayed retirement for an entire age group, and this might have long-lasting effects. For any young person to thrive in a super-competitive work environment, he or she will need to take some measures that may seem extraordinary compared to the lifestyle that Generation X has both enjoyed and set the tone for in corporate America.

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Let’s forget that most motivational stories are designed to get readers to purchase something or otherwise spend money. Gurus who consider themselves motivational speakers know this well. In a room full or listeners or an internet full of readers, a story with a positive message followed by a “call for action” is an effective sales technique.

This is why, for almost ten years writing on Consumerism Commentary, I’ve stayed far away from a style of writing that focuses on hollow motivational encouragement. I had no desire or intention to build a cult, as I find the groupthink mentality to be a threat to intelligence. What I love about the regular readers is that there are many opposing viewpoints, all welcome here. Readers disagree with me frequently, and I have no problem engaging thoughtful discussions about whatever the topic of the day happens to be. I would be in trouble if the only people reading were those who agreed with me with such passion they would shut down any expression of an opposing perspective.

I tread the field of personal motivation carefully. Motivation is very important in the quest towards building financial independence, reaching the long-term goals you’ve set, and designing your life in such a way finances are not a primary concern or an obstacle.

I’m not here to be an agent of motivation, though. If it works out that way, then I’m fine with it, but that’s not why I’ve tracked my finances publicly since 2003.

You can see someone’s success in the way they live their life, or you can relate to a story, whether written or told aloud. There are a number of emotional responses when confronted with evidence of someone else’s success, but only two ways to use those emotional responses. One is detrimental to your own situation while the other can help you achieve better results.

In a dramatic experiment, picture yourself at your high school reunion. Like the world at large, the chances are good that your class produced some successful people, either moving up the ranks in corporations or building their own businesses. Your class also generated some who are less successful from a financial perspective. Perhaps they chose career paths with less of an outward appearance of success or maybe they’re truly struggling beneath the surface. The more happy someone is about their own success, whether real or imagined, the more likely she is to talk about it.

What is your reaction to the kid whose family was already wealthy inherited his parents’ company?

How do you feel when the kid who was anti-social and disliked built himself a fortune?

In the first situation, the outcome was expected. Wealthy families generally stay wealthy. This could invite feelings of jealousy, but more significantly, it might make the observer frustrated. There is inequity in the world when someone works hard to build a future for his family while there are others who are handed their success on a silver platter. The challenge is turning a situation like, where one might think, “Why bother working so hard when financial success is just a dream for someone not lucky to be born into a privileged family?” into motivation.

The second situation could also produce jealously, particularly if you think your successful classmate was not particularly intelligent or skilled. You might attribute his success to luck rather his own hard work, and walk away from the encounter thinking that financial success is only achievable by chance. Perhaps he happened to be discovered by an influential mentor, he invested in a company or real estate at the right time, or he made the right friends.

If you are serious about your path that includes financial independence, you’ll need to let go of these negative feelings. Realize that the consequences that you see are the results of series of decisions made every day.

Get past privilege

Success may seem like a foregone conclusion for someone who has several generations of wealth behind him. You may think there’s no question that your friend, Thurston Howell IV, will be next in line to receive his family’s fortune (if they ever get off that island). Passing generational wealth to children isn’t a guarantee, though it’s no surprise when it happens. There are many things that can stand in the way, and even after receiving an inheritance of some kind, there’s no guarantee that the heir will have any idea of how to handle it.

Although it’s always advertised to be more flexible than it is, citizens of the United States have economic mobility. This is the case in other developed countries as well, though it wasn’t always true in Europe of previous centuries where many of our ancestors lived. You couldn’t cross social strata in certain societies, and persecution was common if you didn’t happen to follow the prevailing religion of the times. There’s no argument that modern society is better from a personal opportunity perspective, yet this vestige of generational wealth sours the promise of equal opportunity.

It may seem like success is only possible for “the one percent,” but even if that were true, it’s not an exclusive club.

Turn the negativity into positive motivation. Today, you can set out to begin your own multi-generational system of wealth. Success today can result in a better positioning for your family for generations to come. If children are not in your future, and generational wealth is not a goal, you’d be in an even better situation. Children are expensive.

Get past luck

Luck doesn’t exist, yet I often attribute my own success with luck. I happened to start a website about personal finance with a certain perspective before there were any other similar sites. I got in on the ground floor of what turned into an industry with a relatively free flow of cash from advertisers. It’s much more comfortable in public situations to downplay the role of hard work, long hours, years of engaging in an experience that gave no indication that it would ever be profitable considering the time spent, and ability to make connections with others who are interested in success. It’s good to be humble and attribute success to something external.

Learn how to predict the future. When you are successful at understanding what products people are going to want to use, it looks like predicting the future. Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan invented a tool called Blogger, eventually purchased by Google, and it set in motion a new way for people to communicate online. It may seem from the outside that they were able to develop something both unique and uniquely suited to the future, but they were building on the work of others in web publishing and were able to see the value in creating a tool that was even easier than what already existed. Evan went on to be the co-founder of Twitter. He’s not prescient, just incredibly aware of his environment.

Be in the right place at the right time. The only way to be in the right place at the right time — a primary signal of “luck” — is to be everywhere at all times. This is physically impossible, but to create your own luck, you need to get as close to this as possible. When you know what you want to do, you can narrow “everywhere” and “all times” to just the most significant places at the most significant times. I don’t go to every industry conference, but I go where I am needed, I’d be most effective, I have something valuable to gain, or I’ll have the most fun. I don’t incessantly network with other people, but I make a lot of connections and I look for all to be meaningful.

Open yourself to others. Say yes to everything. it’s true this eventually gets you in trouble. Saying yes to everything means you accept more opportunities than you can handle in one lifetime. Sometimes it means you’ll let someone down because you can’t live up to a commitment you made. You’ll never make the most out of the possibilities presented to you if you get in the habit of turning people down.

The appearance of privilege and luck can prevent you from being motivated to succeed. If success is due to these external forces, there would be no point in trying to build a future for yourself or your family or in setting and striving to reach long-term goals for your life. Use whatever feelings of negativity you might have for those who appear to have succeeded through no hard work of their own as motivation to work even harder. Turn jealousy into inspiration. Turn envy into confidence.

And be aware of the other toxic financial attitudes: Relying on someone else to take care of you, using the fact that life is short as an excuse, believing there’s enough time to work later, and not taking responsibility for your circumstances.

Photo: Flickr

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Nothing Bad Is My Fault: Toxic Financial Attitudes

by Luke Landes
Danger

The difference between financial independence and a life of financial frustration comes down to attitude. The way you approach all aspects of your life, not just money, has a significant effect on your long-term financial growth. Personal philosophies dictate how you act and how you react to any situation you face. It’s worth the time ... Continue reading this article…

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Rescheduling My Life: Using Google Calendar for Better Time Management

by Luke Landes
Luke's Daily Calendar

Time management has never been my strength. Part of my approach to time management is rooted in my disdain for over-organization. I don’t want to treat my time as if I were on an assembly line. For most of my life, however, I was somewhat bound by daily schedules, just like most people. In school, ... Continue reading this article…

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You Can’t Take It With You

by Luke Landes
Beach

According to a recent study by the National Bureau for Economic Research, 46.1 percent of retirees die with a net worth of less than $10,000. There are two ways to achieve this outcome. The first is for those with a comfortable level of wealth in retirement. Wealth does an individual no good after he or ... Continue reading this article…

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Motivation for Multiple Streams of Income

by Evan
Television remote control

This is a guest article by Evan, creator of My Journey to Millions. In the article, Evan discusses what motivated him to move forward with earning multiple streams of income along this journey, and takes a motivational approach to inspire readers to improve their personal finances. Take a moment and just think about what you ... Continue reading this article…

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Participate in Self-Control Research

by Luke Landes

I’ve written extensively about taking control of your finances. One aspect of the ability to succeed with your financial goals is making active, thoughtful decisions pertaining to your use of money. Uptal Dholakia is a professor of management at Rice University in Houston, and he is currently conducting research pertaining to self-control and decision making ... Continue reading this article…

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You Are In Control

by Luke Landes
Controller

Many people begin a new year with goals, resolutions and targets that define what they’d like to change within the next 365 days (or 366 days in a leap year). While most people fail to achieve these goals and resolutions, just the process of making resolutions and the self-reflection required can be helpful towards improving ... Continue reading this article…

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New Year’s Resolutions Help Even If You Don’t Keep Them

by Luke Landes

As the year draws to a close, I plan to take some time to evaluate the progression of my life, including my finances, against my goals and resolutions for 2011. I reached some goals while missing others. There are many reasons people don’t keep new year’s resolutions, and I’m not any different. In one recent ... Continue reading this article…

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How to Spend Money on Fun

by Luke Landes
Fun Snowboarding

The point of accumulating and saving money is not to die with the most money in the bank. Yes, it can be helpful to your heirs to leave a fortune for the next generation, but not at the expense of living a fulfilled life yourself. There are many opinions about what it means to live ... Continue reading this article…

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Boost Your Human Capital: Start Early

by Luke Landes
Baby

Your human capital is just as important as your financial capital. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider your human capital, your potential to become financially independent over time, more important than your net worth at any one particular time. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing in depth about ways to ... Continue reading this article…

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Making Life Decisions

by Luke Landes

This is a bit of an introspective article, which, while it does have relevance to personal finance, is a little heavier on the personal side and lighter on the finance side. One of the hardest issues for me is making big life-related decisions. This has always been a problem for me. I tend to picture ... Continue reading this article…

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How the Sausage Gets Made

by Luke Landes

No one wants to know how the sausage gets made. I admit that most people would find the last few years of my life somewhat strange. I started on a path to improve my finances about ten years ago. I saw my lack of savings and my increasing debt, and I started trying to determine ... Continue reading this article…

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The Pareto Principle: When to Apply, When to Ignore

by Luke Landes

In the late nineteenth century, an economist named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. About a half century later, a management consultant named Joseph Juran discovered Paerto’s observation and developed the concept of “the vital few and the trivial many,” and used what came ... Continue reading this article…

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Financial Success Requires Active Decisions

by Luke Landes

The bulk of what contributes to financial success, given sufficient opportunity, consists of personal choices. We make choices every day at varying levels of consciousness. I subconsciously choose to wake up every morning, but I consciously choose to get out of bed and drive to work. Each day that I leave work without walking into ... Continue reading this article…

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Alumni Association Perks

by Jeff

As you’re reading this, I’ll probably be standing in a line somewhere or sitting listening to a speaker at my graduation ceremony. Yes, my long journey to a bachelor’s degree is finally at an end. Since I’m graduating at the end of summer, instead of in the spring, it kind of feels like I’m sneaking ... Continue reading this article…

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9 Tips for Choosing and Achieving a Purpose in Life

by Luke Landes

Recently, I mentioned that setting goals is an important part of taking control of your personal finances, focusing on the idea that the best approach is to determine your major, non-financial life goals first. This is a difficult process for many people, and many people go through life without determining a direction. There’s nothing wrong ... Continue reading this article…

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