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No, I’m not attempting to start a class warfare riot. As the title of this article states, recent studies have shown beyond any doubt how wealth or a feeling of wealth leads people to behave in a more self-interested manner.

Paul K. Piff, a social psychologist post-doctoral scholar in the Psychology Department at the University of California, Berkeley, led this research and shared his findings in a recent TED Talk, which you can view below. If you’re not reading this article on Consumerism Commentary, you can watch the video here or at the TED website.

In one of the experiments, the researchers created a rigged two-player game of Monopoly for one hundred pairs of subjects. By virtue of a coin toss, one subject in each pair was chosen to play by an advantaged set of rules, while the other would play by the standard set of rules. These are the privileges afforded the advantaged player by design:

  • The advantaged player begins the game with twice as much money.
  • The advantaged player collects twice as much bonus money for passing “go.”
  • The advantaged player rolls two dice rather than one, as the disadvantaged player rolls.

With hidden cameras, researchers were able to observe the attitudes of the players. The rich players smacked their playing pieces around the board aggressively, consumed more snacks, and celebrated their successes. The aggressive behavior wasn’t limited to their relationship to inanimate objects; the advantaged players acted ruder towards their competitors. One of my favorite quotes from the recorded gamin sessions came from a rich player: “I’m pretty much untouchable at this point.”

The games were limited to only fifteen minutes. Unlike non-rigged Monopoly sessions, these games wouldn’t have lasted much longer than fifteen minutes anyway. When the games were over, the researchers asked the rich players to reflect on their success. The winners attributed success to their skill, completely ignoring the fact that the game was obviously rigged. Their success was, in their opinion, due to the choices they made in buying properties.

Had the coin flip at the outset of the game produced the opposite result, this game-playing skill would have gotten these winners nowhere. Had they started out with half the wealth of their opponents as measured in Monopoly money and were forced to move around the board slowly, they would be in the losing position — most likely blaming the situation on their environment, not their supposed lack of skill.

The video includes additional demonstrations that show how an increase in wealth correlated to decreases in compassion, empathy, and even willingness to obey the law. At the same time, the increase in wealth is correlated to increases in selfishness and narcissism.

From Scientific American’s report on the study:

But why would wealth and status decrease our feelings of compassion for others? After all, it seems more likely that having few resources would lead to selfishness. Piff and his colleagues suspect that the answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused.

Will taking on those personality traits and attitudes associated with wealth help to bring about financial success? If you start acting greedy, will you be more likely to grow your wealth? Many authors have suggested thinking like one is wealthy in order to become financially successful. When wealth is revered as a goal, those who have achieved it are revered as well. And they’re more than happy to share their insights with the rest of the “average” world listening. You’ll rarely hear any expert advice from the wealthy that touches on luck, circumstance, or privilege; the key to wealth lies in hard work, perseverance, and making smart decisions.

Those great attributes for attaining success don’t work for people who are living in poverty, but they sell a lot of books.

There is virtue in taking responsibility and blame for your circumstances, whether those circumstances are positive or negative. It helps you identify aspects in your life than you can change to improve your situation. There’s a tradition of blaming bad situations on external forces — the economy, your employer, your parents’ skills — while taking responsibility for good situations, just like the research subjects did in the Monopoly experiment. It takes objective analysis to separate yourself from the situation and truly evaluate the forces that played a role in any particular situation.

Taking responsibility for the good and assigning blame for the bad is a variation of a defense mechanism. If good situations are a result of our choices, they can be repeated, and success will continue despite of the world around us. If bad situations are someone else’s fault, there is nothing inherently wrong with us; given the right opportunity, we will succeed, too.

Not every financially independent person displays these negative personality traits, and not every wealthy person cares little about the world around him or her. You can see that in highly-publicized examples of wealthy individuals making selfless choices.

  • Bill Gates, the privileged founder of Microsoft, formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle many societal problems around the world.
  • Warren Buffett, along with the aforementioned Gates, launched the Giving Pledge in 2010, encouraging some of the world’s richest individuals to give away their wealth to charity.
  • Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook donated $1 billion last year, 5% of his total net worth.

Lest the reader believe that this research and other studies by this author pertaining to social class are too critical of the wealthy, Piff does point out when the attitudes of the rich have positive outcomes for them, and for those who adopt the same principles. The wealthy believe, due to their control over their situations, that the quality of their health is in their control. They go to more appointments with doctors and take advantage of preventative medicine, while others who believe they have little control over their health end up in emergency rooms for problems that could have been prevented.

This is a stratification based on wealth, but also based on access to medical professionals and trust of the health industry. The realization that we can control many aspects of our lives results in better health, but also increased wealth — relatively.

The word entitlement is usually used in American society when talking about welfare benefits or other governmental assistance for the poor. It’s often used in a pejorative sense, implying that those who receive these benefits don’t deserve them because they lack the motivation to improve their situation. There is also the implication that wealth redistribution (in that particular direction) is bad for society because it encourages complacency. What the studies about attitudes of the wealthy and the average show is that those with power and money consider themselves entitled.

With a high level of self-efficacy, the wealthy believe they earned their success through hard work. They perceive the poor through that lens, as if that difficult situation is a matter of level of effort, while the poor look through their own lens of opportunity, seeing the wealthy as have been provided advantages by society.

It’s difficult to take a large step back and look at the progression of my life as if I were an outside observer trying to understand an individual. I maintained a low sense of self-efficacy for a while, and a former boss of mine continued to chastise me for it. I wasn’t disadvantaged — in fact, I had a relatively advantaged background, able to explore my passions without completely devastating my finances — but I was not very well-positioned to handle the small amount of money I was earning with great decisions. I was making the most of a bad situation, which could have been much better if I had made a few better choices. I thought I’d be able to pursue a degree in education and a job in non-profit, but I didn’t have the financial grounding to make that possible.

After a few difficult life lessons from experience, I opened my eyes a little bit more and started taking control of my situation. Again, I wasn’t living in poverty. I was smart and marketable to employers. Things were going to get better for me once I put the effort in, but these advantages aren’t available to everyone. The question is whether my approach towards other people has changed in the years following as I drew closer to financial independence. I’d like to think that it hasn’t, but I’m sure I’m not immune to the subconscious changes.

Watch the video above to see how the feeling of wealth can affect an individual’s attitude towards another person. Have you seen evidence of wealth being correlated to meanness? Is selfishness an essential personality trait for attaining wealth?

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In Naked With Cash, seven anonymous Consumerism Commentary readers publicly track and analyze their finances on a monthly basis. For almost a decade, I tracked my own finances on Consumerism Commentary; now I’m sharing the benefits of public accountability with the participants. I’ve partnered with financial planners who will offer some guidance along the way. Read this introduction to learn more about the series.

Kathleen is thirty-one years old, single, and living in Portland, Oregon. She loves her job, even if it isn’t very lucrative. Since her income was $33,000 last year, she’s looking to make more money from “side hustles” (like her blog, Frugal Portland) this year. To learn more about Kathleen, read her bio. Kathleen is on Team Sara, with Certified Financial Planner Sara Stanich.

Kathleen’s final report, below, includes Kathleen’s progress during December 2013. You can read her November report here. Following Kathleen’s own self-analysis, Sara Stanich will offer thoughts from her perspective.

Sara Stanich, CFP appears courtesy of Stanich Group and Cultivating Wealth.

Read the full article →

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It’s time to get naked! (Again!)

Last year, we started Naked With Cash, a series and feature at Consumerism Commentary. Last year’s introduction can provide you with the in-depth look at the purpose of the series. This year, I’m joined by Miranda Marquit to help organize the series. She, I, and the financial experts you’ll meet below, have selected four Consumerism Commentary readers who will work with those experts as they publicly track their finances throughout the year.

This year, we have four participants who will share their financial reports, exposing the results of their financial choices. Each participant is paired with one of our Certified Financial Planners (CFPs). The experts will provide insight and guidance that will, hopefully, help our participants take their finances to the next level by the end of 2014.

We’re also adding a video component this year, which should be a lot of fun. We will keep our participants anonymous, but the CFPs will share their thoughts in video format.

Meet the experts

Naked With Cash features four experts, offering commentary and advice on the participants’ financial situations.

Neal Frankle

Neal Frankle is an independent Certified Financial Planner™ based in Southern California. He founded Wealth Resources Group in 1994 to provide comprehensive fee-based financial planning exclusively.

His firm specializes in helping clients make smart decisions about their money so they can stop worrying and start enjoying the things that matter most to them.

I know what it’s like to have financial trouble. Both my parents passed away while I was still in high school. I took a tiny insurance settlement to a financial advisor. Rather than help me grow it safely to help me get through college, he churned and burned the account. It was horrible. But this experience made a deep impact on me and helped me really understand what it’s like to be in a tough situation with limited resources and almost no financial understanding. This motivated me to help others by developing a top-rate financial planning firm offering clients a comprehensive range of investment and financial planning services that are customized to clients’ needs.

Neal writes for Wealth Pilgrim and MCMHA.org.

Connect with Neal: @nealfrankle on Twitter · LinkedIn · Facebook

Sara Stanich

Sara Stanich is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) practitioner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™) based in New York City. She provides financial planning and investment advice to her clients who include dual-income couples, entrepreneurs and couples going through divorce.

Mom to an energetic preschooler, Sara Stanich has first-hand knowledge of the costs and challenges involved in raising a family. She finds that the responsibilities of parenthood motivate many growing families to deal with issues previously put on the back-burner such as investing, insurance, college savings and estate planning.

Sara Stanich lives in NYC with her husband and son. When not working, she enjoys gardening, being outdoors and spending time with her family.

Sara blogs about financial planning topics at Cultivating Wealth. You can also find out more about working with Sara at Stanich Group.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.

Connect with Sara: @sarastanich on Twitter · LinkedIn

Roger Wohlner

Roger Wohlner, CFP®, is a fee-only financial adviser based in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He provides comprehensive financial advice to individual clients and investment consulting services to retirement plans, foundations, and endowments. Roger’s blog is The Chicago Financial Planner where he provides information about financial planning, investments, and retirement plans.

Roger has been quoted extensively in the financial press including The Wall Street Journal, Investment News, and Reuters. Roger is also a regular contributor to the US News Smarter Investor Blog.

Connect with Roger: @rwohlner on Twitter · LinkedIn

Jeff Rose

Jeff is a Certified Financial Planner™ and CEO of Alliance Wealth Management, LLC a registered investment adviser. He is the founder of Good Financial Cents (a top 25 finance blog according to Wisebread) and author of the best selling book Soldier of Finance. He also runs Life Insurance By Jeff

He currently writes for US News and Equifax and has been featured in major sites such as Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Kiplinger’s, and Fox Business.

In his free time, he loves hanging with his family, tortures himself with Crossit workouts, and daydreams frequently when he can chow down on an In-N-Out Burger again.

Connect with Jeff: LinkdedIn · Twitter · Facebook · Google+

Meet the participants

Laura and Leon

Laura and Leon met in 9th grade and started dating in 12th grade. They lived apart during college, and when they finished their undergraduate work, the married. They recently celebrated their five-year anniversary.

The two are 28 years old, and plan to start a family at some point. Here is what Laura shares about their financial history:

Our financial history is one where we never did anything particularly wrong, but we never did anything right either. We are natural homebodies, so we never spent a lot of money and our cash balance was able to keep growing, but our money just sat there in a checking account for a long time. No credit card debt, no retirement accounts, not even an interest-bearing savings account.

If it weren’t for the fact that our parents paid for our respective undergrads and provided each of us with a car, I think we would have been in trouble early in our early adult lives. That level of apathy is simply not something we can afford going forward.

Laura has a B.S. in Engineering, and a state Professional Engineering licensure. She earns $63,200 per year. Leon has a law degree and has passed the bar in three different states. He earns $60,000 a year. They have $44,000 in student debt. They max out contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts and hope to begin aggressively paying down debt. Laura and Leon hope that they can get a plan together to better use their financial resources, eliminate student loan debt, and save up to buy a house.

Laura and Leon’s updates: January | December

Jake and Allie

Jake and Allie are 47 and 42, respectively. They have no children, but they do have pets. Jake and Allie are employed by the same company, and they make a combined $140,000 a year. Jake has a Master’s degree in Computer Science and is an IT Director. Allie has a BBA and works as a Creative Manager.

They contribute to their company’s retirement plan, taking advantage of the employer match. They love to travel, and arrange matters so that they can take two week-long vacations each year and smaller getaways in between. Here is what Jake has to say about their financial goals:

In the short term, I plan to remain at my company to take advantage of a buyout plan when (and if) the company sells. Allie would like to start a photography business and eventually do that full time if we find that it can be financially reasonable to do so. We also would like to move to another state that we would enjoy more (to some mountains and a little snow). The time and location is still to be determined, mostly dependent on the buyout.

In the long term, we want to retire early (by the time I’m 55 and Allie is 50) and do some more traveling. After retirement, I’ll probably do some consulting here and there (or possibly open a luxury dog boarding business) and Allie plans to continue with her photography business.

They hope to move from the Southeast U.S. to a state with mountains and snow when they have a little more financial freedom.

Jake and Allie’s updates: January | December

Brian

Brian is a 30-year-old engineer. He has a wife and two young children. He works as a software engineer, and his wife stays at home. One of their biggest recent adjustments was dropping to a single-income family after being a dual-income family for so long. Brian’s parents paid for his college education, but his wife has student debt from her time at college. They have student loans and a mortgage, but they have never had credit card debt. They had two car loans in the past, but have paid those off.

Here is what Brian has to say about his goals and current situation:

My number one priority is being a good steward of the money God has given me. I have much to improve but is a strong priority for our family. Second is providing for my family and making sure all the needs are met with a little fun money. Making sure we will have enough to retire on and help the kids get through college are priorities.

My goals for the next year are to keep paying down the remaining consumer debt and really start to save. Overall, I think we are in a good place for now, but not dealing with this change in our earning level could change that fast.

Brian’s updates: January | December

Betsey S.

Betsey is a 27-year-old government analyst. She recently moved 500 miles to start a new job with the government. She is single, and lives with two roommates, with whom she can split rent and utilities. They occasionally split grocery costs. Betsey has a net worth $10,268, and her assets include a bank account, IRA, security deposit, and I-bonds. She has $3,418 in credit card debt.

Here is what Betsey says about her hopes for her finances and participation in this series:

My biggest goal for 2014 is to save a significant portion of my income for a house down payment. In addition, I am a 20-something living in a high cost of living area (Washington, DC), so a related goal is to make sacrifices and keep my discretionary expenses down while I save up for a house.

I’m hoping for more insight on my finances from a broader audience that is interested in personal finance. I’m also looking forward to input from the certified financial planners – especially on taxes and retirement planning, as I am relatively new to having a real paycheck and handling extra income. Finally, I’m looking for some accountability and hoping that the public angle will help hold me to my goals.

Betsey has a passion for craft beer, and thinks that, perhaps, when she is ready to “retire,” she would like to open a brewery.

Betsey’s updates: January | December

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New Year’s resolutions have become so cliché that the process of making them has become a joke. People settle for mundane goals for the year like “losing weight,” “quitting smoking,” and “getting out of debt.” These are great goals, of course, but most who think about these only when the calendar changes soon forget their plans, continue their lives as before, and lament their failure when they reflect as next year approaches.

Part of the problem is that these goals are not specific enough for anyone to take seriously. Gurus and bloggers are pushing forward the idea that goals need to be “SMART” — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based — as if it’s a new concept. This is a helpful way to look at your resolutions if you want to approach your life as a project manager. A better approach is to realize that time moves very fast, and with busy lives it’s better to make modest goals and focus on each small step that moves you in the right direction.

New year hatThe most popular New Year’s resolutions are tiresome. It’s no wonder people don’t keep them. Few people can be passionate about losing weight or getting out of debt, and even if they are, it will take a lot of work to change the behaviors (or medical conditions) that caused the circumstances needing improvement. These can be multi-year goals, and if your entire success relies on completion within 365 days (366 in a leap year) you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Here are some different ways at looking at financial resolutions that are not only achievable within the year but are more interesting than what many may typically resolve to do. While there are twelve listed here, you’re more likely suited for success if you focus on just one. The year will be over before you know it, but your resolutions should always be aligned with long-term goals for yourself or your personal mission statement.

1. Spend money on things that are important.

Your spending habits reveal what is important to you. If you spend more money buying video games for yourself than you spend on activities with your significant other, you have decided on some level that you favor your time with a computer game more than the one you love. The higher value each dollar has to you, with the importance of one dollar related to your level of disposable income, the bigger the importance of whatever you choose to spend that dollar on.

Look where your money goes. You may need to track your spending if you’re not sure. You’ve defined what’s important to you by your expenses. Your shelter (rent or mortgage) and food are obviously important and form the basis of your expenses, but beyond that, you can rate how important any activity is to you by comparing your level of spending. If you don’t like what you see, resolve to spend your extra money — after you cover necessary expenses and saving — on the things you want to be important to you.

2. Create something every month.

FoodThe culture in this country is one of consumption. We consume food, media, and resources. In order to consume, we spend money. This year, change your role in society. Become a creator rather than just a consumer. You can create something that other people consume or something that you consume yourself.

  • Cook more often than you prepare frozen meals and dine out.
  • Create your own adventures instead of watching movies and television.
  • Write in a journal rather than reading a best-selling novel.
  • Engage your mind creatively, taking photographs, making art, or performing music.

3. Learn a new skill.

This could be the year you focus on trying new things. The best new skills to learn would be those that are related to your interests and passions. Here are a few examples, but think about the things that make you happy and decide on a skill that enhances your attitude.

  • If you’ve had a favorite vacation destination in mind in a foreign country, start learning the language and culture.
  • If you like running but haven’t taken this type of exercise seriously yet, train yourself for a 5K race.
  • Learn how to play the piano.

Many new skills can take more than a year to learn. Don’t consider your year a failure if you don’t complete your mission to learn something new. Keep taking small steps that move your life in the right direction, and whether you complete your goal within one year is less important.

4. Earn money from your hobby.

Coin CollectionConsumerism Commentary started as a hobby, but after a while, it became apparent that writing could also be a business that generated income. In some cases, though, turning a hobby into a business can turn an enjoyable activity into a chore. Turning your hobby into a business is not the best option for everyone, so this has to be a personal decision. If you like collecting coins, do you want to be a coin dealer? If you’re particularly skilled at photography, do you want to market yourself and compete with professional photographers?

Not everyone wants to start a business, but keeping your activities small can keep the business aspect of your hobby to a minimum. Strike the right balance between hobby and business so you still gain a maximum amount of pleasure and satisfaction from the activities you enjoy.

5. Start a blog to track your finances.

I have first-hand experience about how helpful it has been to publicly track my own finances. This is a great way to maintain focus on any goal. By making your progress public, you are holding yourself accountable for your success. And if your goals are interesting to others, even strangers, they can join you in your quest and offer support — and more often, criticism — when you need it. Draw some inspiration from Naked With Cash as well as how I tracked my finances from 2003 through 2011.

Rather than using a blog to track your success, allow the blog to be your success. Start a website using WordPress or Tumblr and write anonymously about the financial issues in your life. You don’t need to be a great writer, but if you continue, your writing will improve. Don’t be concerned about building an audience or earning money. Writing for its own sake helps clarify financial issues, particularly when you read what you’ve written over a period of time.

Tracking your finances in software like Mint.com or Quicken isn’t always enough. When you look at your finances with the intent of writing about them, your brain performs at least a minimum amount of analysis, and this is a step further than most people take with their finances.

6. Support local businesses.

The 3/50 Project is an initiative that encourages consumers to spend $50 among three local businesses each month. Keeping your money local helps improve the economy in the community where you live, and it helps you build relationships with your neighbors near you and across your town. Similarly, as much as I don’t like the real motivation behind American Express’s Small Business Saturday, many mom-and-pop business do in fact see benefits to encouraging AmEx customers to enter their stores.

Following an initiative can provide extra motivation for achieving a goal, but you can do this without an initiative as well. Supporting local businesses is a possible resolution that most people don’t consider. Usually, people resolve to save money, and that could mean shopping online or visiting big-box or warehouse stores. Spending money in these locations does not help a community thrive — at least, not directly.

The same is true about local community banks and credit unions. By moving your money away from big banks, you are taking a financial action that is more beneficial in the area where you live. This is a simple, achievable resolution for the new year.

7. Sell or give away your stuff.

ClothingThis could be the year you focus on decluttering your life. When I moved into my current apartment a few years ago, I seemed to have so much space available. I fell into the typical habit of expanding the way I live to fit into my new environment. If you look around your living space, you can probably find a number of things you don’t need. Here are just a few suggestions of where to start:

  • Look through your closet and give away the clothes you no longer wear.
  • Sell your old games, electronics, movies, and books on eBay or Amazon.com.
  • Organize your papers and shred old documents you no longer need to keep.

This sounds like a good weekend project rather than a New Year’s resolution, so to make this worthwhile, consider running through this process on the first Sunday of each month. Each time, you’ll find more to eliminate. If unchecked, “stuff” can take over your life. If you have so much it’s burdensome, your possessions can own you rather than the other way around. Reduce and eliminate your dependency on things that take up space.

8. Spend more time with activities that make you happy.

I mentioned above that you can determine what’s most important to you by following the money. The same thing is true about time. If you were to analyze every waking minute of my day, you’d see that I spend most of my time working on my business and most of the rest of that time with my girlfriend. Or that’s what I’d like to believe. I, for one, spend a good portion of time entertaining myself with movies and television. Productivity nerds would fairly criticize me, but I do find value in resting my brain by allowing a local grumpy doctor solve medical mysteries so I don’t need to or by watching a clever con game unfold.

But buy spending my time this way, I’ve traded my enjoyment in creativity, like photography and music, for sitting in front of a television. Decide what’s important to you and schedule time to dedicate to those activities. I’m not a fan of keeping a schedule, but when you can schedule activities you enjoy rather than scheduling corporate meetings, you will end the year happier and more fulfilled.

And the reason we make resolutions at all is because we are unhappy with something in our lives. If we can spend more time on enjoyable activities, we won’t be nearly as unhappy.

9. Volunteer with an organization that matches your values.

Until the government decides to offer a tax deduction for volunteer work, this potential resolution won’t have a direct effect on your finances, but it could inspire you in ways that do affect your money. The first step is creating a mission statement for your life. In fact, defining your mission can be a complete resolution itself for the year, as defining a meaningful mission requires thoughtful self-reflection that goes beyond the confines of a lunch break at work.

Once you have an accounting of your values and life goals, it’s easier to determine what organizations share your view of the world. Spending time with these organizations and the people who share your philosophies can be rewarding. Often, the reward is through personal satisfaction and pride but there can be a financial aspect, as well. You may decide that you want to use your wealth to improve life for a community, or you may decide that you would like to motivate yourself harder to build your own wealth to help you complete your life’s mission.

10. Be happy with what you have.

The drive to want more for ourselves creates motivation to move forward, to earn more money, and to improve our financial habits. When there’s a mission behind this drive, a purpose in life, it makes that motivation more meaningful. Your should also stop wanting for a moment to consider that if you are reading this article, you were most likely lucky to be born in a situation or community where wealth-building, education, and even sanitation are possible. The “pursuit of happiness,” along with life and liberty, concerned the founders of the United States, but happiness is easily within reach.

Resolve to consider all the positive things in your life: your family, your wealth (no matter how bad your financial situation is, it could be worse), your friends. Consider the opportunities you’ve been given that helped you achieve what you have so far as well as the work you’ve put into shaping your life.

11. Don’t settle for low-quality relationships.

Unfortunately, there are often people in your life who bring you down. You don’t want to surround yourself with yes men, but if you look at your extended circle of friends, chances are you have a few with whom spending time makes you feel good and a few who often dampen your mood. While you don’t want to eliminate relationships with people from whom you can receive kind criticism, it is beneficial to reduce time with people who consistently have a negative attitude.

I’ve discovered this over a long period of time. I’ve always held onto friendships, regardless of the quality, because I believed that every close connection was as important as another. Perhaps I grew up, or perhaps I just had less time to spend with people. Perhaps there have been a few events where I had placed faith in a friend and had been disappointed, and another friend advised me I shouldn’t have such “high” expectations for my relationships. There are enough great people in the world not to have to settle for mediocre people in your life. If you feel you are consistently lowering your expectations, it may be time to spend time with others — as long as you are doing as much as possible to be a good person, yourself, in your inter-personal relationships.

This is the age of Facebook. People brag about how many “friends” they have, and it’s more of a thrill of collection than an enjoyment of real connections. Resolve to enhance the quality of your relationships rather than quantity. Although this goes against most “networking” advice for professionals who want to advance their career, it’s an approach for people who want to advance their life.

12. Let go of your grudges.

Just like it will benefit you to reduce your exposure to people with negative attitudes, consider expelling the negative feelings you’re harboring towards others. I don’t believe that positivity in itself brings about wealth — you can’t increase your bank account by just thinking about how nice it would be to have a bigger bank account, regardless of what New Age aficionados tell you — but letting go of thoughts that prevent you from accepting opportunities and greeting the world optimistically will help put you in a better position to take advantage of good things that come your way.

The above resolutions are not specific. You can use them — or better, just one or two — to guide your thoughts and attitude for the coming year, or you can use them to create a basis for measurable targets that come December 31 you can say you reached. Some tie directly into your finances, and others are related laterally. All of them can help you go beyond the typical neglected resolutions like “losing weight” and “saving money.”

Do something worthwhile and meaningful with your self this coming year..

Photos: L. Marie, Ancient Art, LizMarie_AK

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Boycott Wal-Mart on Black Friday and Thanksgiving?

by Luke Landes
Black Friday

Someone I know is boycotting Wal-Mart. I would not be able to boycott Walmart myself, as I never shop there in the first place. My absence from Wal-Mart does not have any effect. I believe I’ve stepped inside the store twice in the past decade or longer, and I don’t remember why. The basis for ... Continue reading this article…

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Black Friday Deals: Don’t Fall for These Dirty Tricks

by Luke Landes
Black Friday Dirty Tricks

For some reason, this year I’ve been bombarded more than any other year by advertisements for Black Friday deals. The marketing is coming from helpful people who just want to share the good news with their friends, people who are clearly paid to spread the messages, and retailers who simply want people to buy as ... Continue reading this article…

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MONEY’s Best Banks in America 2013

by Luke Landes
MONEY's Best Banks in America 2013

The MONEY magazine published its annual analysis of the best banks in America, and I count at least one surprise among the list of 15 categories. Just last month, personal finance bloggers voted on their favorite banks in the Fourth Annual Plutus Awards, and came up with a list with some notable differences, although the ... Continue reading this article…

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How to Save Money Without Worrying About Coupons

by Luke Landes
Coupons

The retail industry has everyone fooled. While millions of people spend their time scouring for deals, clipping coupons from the newspaper if they’re old-fashioned, plugging into the latest mobile deal applications if they are somewhat more technologically inclined, sharing their finds on Facebook to recruit friends for group deals, the companies on the other side ... Continue reading this article…

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