Thursday, January 9, 2014

Financial Well-Being: Assets

From an early age people start collecting and accumulating baubles and trinkets. Some have more sentimental value than financial, but nonetheless hold meaning beyond what the eye can see. We attribute ownership to these things, even if there's not an actual contract or document that can verify such. If these things went missing or were destroyed in a disaster, it may create a financial hardship and a deep sense of loss.

An asset is defined as "a useful or valuable thing, person or quality; an advantage or resource". The financial value of assets can be quite subjective and hence the need for appraisals. The actual value tends to be what other people are willing to pay at a particular point in time. Just take a look at eBay recent sales of a specific item and you'll find quite a range of prices paid for similar items.

As you begin to purchase and accumulate assets, there are some very important considerations to make. First, is it necessary? Do you really need this particular thing at this point in time. Can you borrow or rent the item, instead? Does it fit with the rest of your financial plan? What purpose does it serve?
Second, if it is necessary, is it the right time to purchase the item? There may be other priorities that need to be taken care of, beforehand. Could market conditions change and make it worth putting off the purchase for a time?
Finally, is it the right price? With so many tools at our fingertips, we can compare and research before making a final purchase. Take time to learn all you can, before making a purchase. Will it hold it's value over time or depreciate rather quickly?

Another important aspect to consider is the care and keeping of assets. For everything you choose to own, there is a level of management needed to document and protect it. At the most basic level is keeping records of purchase agreements, receipts and warranties, including serial numbers. These records should be kept in a safe or digital file for as long as you own the item. If you suffer a disaster or theft, insurance adjusters will need to have some sort of proof for the things you claim to have lost. Depending on the value and use of the item, you may need to have a specific insurance policy for it. The more valuable the item, the more complex things can become. Keep an accurate inventory of your assets with current estimates of their value.

Storage may be worth contemplating. If you travel a lot or rent your residence, it might be prudent to use a safe deposit box at the local bank. Fire proof safes can be handy, but not quite as secure. Again, it depends on how valuable or irreplaceable the item may be. Consider the expense of storage as you are thinking about making the purchase. Will the cost to protect and maintain the item outweigh the benefit of owning it?

Finally, consider final disposition of the item. If you sell or bequeath the item, there may be tax considerations, depending what kind of asset you have and how long you've owned it. Although you could write a list of what you have and how you wish for things to be settled upon your death, it's safer to have an attorney involved. There are short term and long term gains, tax shelters and charitable donations that could affect the final settlement. If you wish for the asset to be handed down to the next generation, there are many financial implications to consider and you would be well advised to seek out an accountant, along with an attorney to develop a plan that will meet your specific goals in the long run.

The more you have, the more there is to manage and protect. Carefully consider the life you wish to have and how assets might fit into that life. Don't let things dictate the way you live. Learn to live with what you need and manage your assets well. Know the purpose they serve and communicate your wishes clearly. Share the stories that go with them, so they can live on.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Financial Well-Being - You are Your Greatest Asset

What is my passion? It's empowering others with tools and resources to help them accomplish what they deem most important in life. I am also incredibly curious; always looking for the how, why and what else for everything under the sun. So over the past 17+ years, I've been accumulating skills and knowledge about Financial Well-Being and that's what I'd like to share with anyone interested in reading my posts.

How do I define Financial Well-Being? A holistic approach to actively managing one's assets, income and expenses - tracking and controlling one's personal finances to accomplish what you want. Holistic means that this approach includes daily money management, borrowing, insurance, investments and building a legacy. Historically, each of these topics have been taught and managed in silos, but with today's technology and laws, it's more efficient for them to be integrated and managed in sync. The benefits include peace of mind, increased flexibility to seize opportunities and safety guards to preserve what you have.

First things first:

You are your most important asset, end of discussion. You were born and raised in a unique set of circumstances that contribute to your knowledge, skill-set, thought process and interests. Just as you would evaluate any other asset, it's important to know yourself, first and foremost. What are your strengths? What would you like to improve upon? What are you unwilling to compromise? What is most important to your way of life? There are no wrong answers here, the more specific you can be will help you tremendously in the long run. Take time to find your answers, which will then guide everything else you do.

There are some great resources available online and in print, to identify your strengths, personality and emotional intelligence. All of these are very helpful, as well as writing out your own story. I broke my story down as follows: Early Years, Significant Events, Training, Work and Volunteering. For each topic, you can even add how that impacted your values and direction of your life. Once you have finished, identify four or five key elements that define you. These key elements should help guide your financial decisions, so you are living true to yourself. It's best to review and revise these at least once a year, to make sure you're still living authentically. By writing out your story this way, it will help you in interviews and introductions to clearly state who you are and what you're about.

You are the author and director of your life. Although you can't control and influence everything that happens, you do have a say in how to react and prepare for emergencies and life's uncertainties. Life is full of setbacks and disappointments, so plan how you want to manage the risks you can't control. First consider how you will care and invest in yourself. Your body is an amazing organism that improves or deteriorates based on what you do to it. At a minimum get a good's night rest, eat for fuel & nutrients, exercise regularly and keep your brain active. This will help you think clearly and critically when things come up, without getting overwhelmed. Just like they always say before plane takeoff's, if cabin pressure drops, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then help others. Invest in your well-being, so you can be useful to others.

Set aside time each week to spend on improving yourself. Maybe you need to learn a skill or trade to pursue your passion. Maybe you want to start your own business. Maybe you want to get more involved in your community. Wherever you are falling short of accomplishing what you want, there are opportunities to grow, learn and improve. Choose one area to focus on at a time. Set some specific targets and define what steps you'll take to reach those targets. Give yourself a deadline. Write it down and track your progress. Seek out resources online and in your community for support, assistance and networks to connect with. Be willing to share your knowledge and skills, as well as glean from others. Don't let the doubters and naysayers get you sidetracked or discouraged, because they sure will try.

Be sure to celebrate along the way. Sometimes the journey can seem incredibly challenging, so take time to acknowledge small achievements, new friendships, goals reached and life itself. Give yourself room to fail and room to express your frustration. Make sure your home is always a safe place where you can exhale and get refreshed for the next round. Have the courage to say no when you've had enough. It's okay to stay in by yourself when you need a little silence, without owing an explanation. Find a trusted friend to talk to when things get too heavy. And they certainly will. Caring for your own well-being and development, will give you greater satisfaction and allow you to make a greater contribution to others' well-being.

As you develop a better sense of who you are, what you want to accomplish and how you can contribute, your direction will become clearer. Over time you will have a stronger grasp on where to focus your time, energy and finances. It's a lifelong process, facing new obstacles and opportunities, but very rewarding. It makes it easier to let go of things that aren't important and change habits to accomplish those things that are.

Next time, I'll write about financial assets.

Thank you for your feedback.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts from GK Chesterton

"Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them. I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We KNOW that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing. It was impossible that the thought should not cross my mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity and utility that has been lost. And with that thought came a larger one, and the colossal figure of her Master had also crossed the theatre of my thoughts." GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Blue Sweater - My Story

About The Book

In the spring of 2009, I decided to order some books for the management team where I was working at the time. We had already been engaged in discussion about creating a philanthropic/community project as part of the business and I wanted to broaden the team's vision with inspiration from other leaders. As I was looking at different titles, there was one in particular that caught my attention, "The Blue Sweater: Bridging The Gap between Rich and Poor In An Interconnected World", by Jacqueline Novogratz.

There were three reasons this title stood out:
1) It embraced the reality of humanity's interwoven relationships - People;
2) It offered sustainable solutions in reducing poverty - The Bridge;
3) It involved microfinance - The Method

All three of those reasons are things I care about deeply; so deeply in fact, that I struggled to read the book. Within just a few short pages, I was in tears and my throat tightened up. It became clear that this story reminded me of all the things I wanted to do as a young person. My life took a different course, with its own twists and turns. So, I wrestled through the book, reading a little at a time and pondering her ideas.

Jacqueline has a great writing style. She not only tells her story through vivid descriptions of her surroundings, but also the story of the people she encounters. It begins with the story of a blue sweater, a gift from her uncle when she was little. After donating it to Goodwill, the sweater re-appears over ten years later in Rwanda, worn by a young boy. She writes that this reminds her of how we are all connected, "Our actions - and inactions - touch people we may never know and never meet across the globe."

Early in her career, Jacqueline saw firsthand how banks were not accessible to the poorest citizens and the working class around the world. She began to formulate ideas about changing that reality. The determination to provide access to loans for the poor, lead her on a journey from Credit Auditor at Chase Manhattan, into the heart of Africa. By partnering with existing community-based organizations, she began to understand the shortcomings of traditional charities, and the disconnect between them and the people they sought to help. Her solutions focused on creating self-sustaining businesses that were owned and managed by local residents.

The most challenging, as well as the most rewarding part of this solution, would be putting it into practice. Jacqueline constantly balances these two parts of the equation and writes, "Government should provide incentives and infrastructure to enable self-sustaining initiatives to take root. Private enterprises then deliver the credit and other services needed." Instead of handouts, a self-sustaining initiative would focus on providing and equipping people with the tools, training and credit to build a solid business. Jacqueline took her idea to the next level and started Acumen Fund.

This book has become an inspiration for me. I realize that although I had not been able to follow my dreams as a young person, there's no time like the present to pursue those dreams now.

About The Project

This past summer, the Acumen Fund invited readers to suggest how they would share this book with others. My suggestion was chosen as a finalist and I received a box of 20 books in early October. My idea is to host Book Clubs in partnership with the Women's Shelter and other local community organizations, where people may not be able to buy one. The Book Club would meet for about 6 weeks and then the books would be returned to share with the next group. I believe there are so many life lessons that can be gleaned from the stories in the book - stories of hope, community and trust. Along with discussing the book, I want to incorporate relevant workshops that can be put into practice and invite local speakers to share their knowledge and their stories.

Currently I have one local organization that is wanting to start two Book Clubs in February. I am in the process of creating the curriculum and putting together a Journal for each participant. You can follow our progress on our Blue Sweater Project page.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Mother's Day Wish

Deep in my soul is a dream. Waiting patiently for me to give it a chance, take a step, give it wings to fly. What once was a soft whisper that was heard only on the quietest of nights, has now grown into an ever-present flow of ideas and plans. There is a greater sense of urgency than I noticed before.

My dream was conceived on the urban streets of Brazil, where I was raised. My inspiration was the tenacity of the youth. It became apparent to me that young people could instigate monumental change when provided with resources, such as access to knowledge, emerging technology, information, and a place where they are valued and their ideas are considered.

Over the past twenty years I have witnessed masses of young people being ignored, avoided and undervalued. I have watched as young people get involved in every possible activity to earn praise and attention, with mediocre results. My heart has ached for those who felt they had no voice and were holding their breath until they finally graduated or turned 18 and could fly away. In disbelief I try to understand a society that basically disengages from young people as they approach age 12 or 13 and ignores them until they turn 21.

My dream is to invest in the lives of young people who find themselves ignored, disengaged or unwanted. I would like to offer leadership training, mentoring, assistance with online academics and life management skills in a community setting. Planting seeds for the next generation of global leaders and entrepreneurs.

The key word of course is "community". Humans need relationships and we grow best when living in an environment where collaboration is fostered along with individual accountability.

For now, it seems that a year-around boarding school would be the closest fit, although I am still exploring other alternatives. Homes with no more than 8-10 youth living with house parents and on the same campus as a learning center, with a small farming operation to supplement food needs. It should be near a large college community and business park, to network and partner with additional learning opportunities, internships and guest speakers.

I believe the time is now and I must start taking steps, though small, moving in this direction. The school may start out with one house and add other buildings as interest grows. It's a little scary to put my dream into words. Now it has been given life.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Give It Away

May this be a year of cleaning out closets, attics and basements. Let's Give It Away.
  • I have a bread making machine sitting in my's been at least a year since I've used it. Sounds like a good candidate for giving away. Maybe I could buy a few bread mixes to give with it.
  • I wonder what will happen to all the analog TV sets that will be disposed of this year. Will they fill up landfills or is there a way to reuse their parts. Maybe someone could find a way to get them to countries where TV's are not readily available.
  • Here's an idea for getting rid of unused cell phones - - they offer information on many cell phone donation programs, as well as purchasing refurbished ones.
As you go through your personal belongings, keep in mind the thousands of neighbors that are using electronics with frayed wiring, broken pieces - cooking without decent pots, pans or utensils. Let's make this a year of small changes that will have great impact.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

a drop in the ocean...

This blog is a space dedicated to connecting and empowering folks around the world. I realize that many people want to offer their resources to others, but don't know how to get started or who to trust. So, I'd like to start sharing some sites that I like and want to invite other to add other sites they know about. Feedback and stories are welcome.

it may feel like a small drop in the ocean, but every tiny drop causes ripples that extend a long way off...