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Meekonomics – Second Edition, (excerpt 2)


This weeks excerpt comes from the end of Chapter One in which I lay out God’s original design for human society and socio-economic ideal we never really got to experience before at all went to hell…  Say tuned for more weekly updates and excerpts in the run up to the release of “Meekonomics – A Journal of Economic Recovery” coming soon.

Naked and Unashamed

At the end of Genesis Chapter Two we are left with an image if idyllic utopia that has never since been matched. At the zenith of God’s Perfect Economy we read this;

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. [Genesis 2:25]

That one sentence sums up the nature of God’s Perfect Economy completely. But not necessary in the way church history has taught us to think.

Brian D. McLaren in his book “A New Kind of Christianity” [1] argues that ever since the Romans sanctioned Christianity in the third century the meaning of the stories in the bible have been distorted and hijacked by a Greco-Roman philosophy that is incompatible with the Hebrew philosophy that gave them birth. Contrary to the way it has been interpreted by everyone from Saint Augustine to Calvin, Luther, Wesley and even present day theologians like John Piper and R.C. Sprole, the bible is not a Greco-Roman story. It is a Judeo-Hebrew story. Unless and until we understand the difference we will never understand the overarching narrative story of scripture.

The Idea of being “Naked and Unashmed” then, must not be read with a Greco-Roman understanding of perfection and utopia. To return to what I said at the start of this chapter; both the ruler mentality and the caretaker mentality are incomplete. They are in fact artifacts of Greco-Roman philosophy that have no place in a Judeo-Hebrew story.

Greco-Roman philosophy can be traced to the classic argument between Plato and Aristotle over the existence of ultimate, non-material and unchanging reality, as Plato taught or Aristotle’s idea that the only constant is change. Those who held with Plato could only conclude that ultimate reality was perfect and unchanging and anything else was by definition broken and inferior. When this idea is superimposed upon the biblical narrative Plato’s view of unchanging reality can be made to fit neatly within the story of creation as how life was supposed to unfold in the Garden of Eden. After the fall we now live in a broken and inferior world waiting for the day in which God will return to restore creation and condemn all those who do not fit within His definition of perfection to eternal damnation.

But Judeo-Hebrew philosophy tells a very different story. First of all, nowhere in the first two chapters of Genesis is creation called “perfect” as Plato would have it. Creation is declared “good” and “very good” but never perfect. Good leaves room for improvement while perfection does not. Good allows for change, not just change from the point of view of mankind but also allows God room to maneuver through love and grace.   Perfect, does not. There is simply no room for grace if the goal is perfection.

The full implications of this Judeo-Hebrew understanding of goodness versus the Greco-Roman heresy (yes I called it heresy!) of perfection and how it plays out from a socio-economic point of view, is the subject of the rest of this book. For now; regardless of where we ultimately land on the continuum between ruler and caretaker, what is clear from both Genesis One and Two is that serving God is the primary purpose of mankind. When we recognize that God is owner and master of all of creation then the two seemingly conflicting reasons for the creation of mankind, whether we are meant to rule over or take care of creation, boil down to the fact that we were created to serve God without fear or shame.

And how do we do that? When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, in essence, how do we best serve God, his answer spoke volumes about God’s Perfect Economy.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:35-40]

Money is not the primary mover of God’s Perfect Economy, Love is. And Love, among other things, is the absence of shame.

Loving and serving God is inseparable from loving and serving your neighbor. From the point of view of economic theory mankind’s ruler and caretaker mentalities are only useful when taken in context with a love mentality.

Mankind’s love mentality is meant to supersede both the ruler and caretaker mentality. But sadly, nothing is regarded with more suspicion or contempt than a man who, out of nothing more than love will do things that make no sense in the context of ruler or caretaker.

For example, I am constantly amazed at the reaction many so called Christians have to well meaning economic charities. Even though there are over 2000 direct commands in scripture in regard to caring for the poor and disenfranchised, giving to the poor is too often seen by the so called Christian Right as socialist income redistribution and somehow actually a disincentive for the poor to work. The Protestant Work Ethic which so deeply permeates western society and gives some credence to the notion of charity as a disincentive is actually an artifact of the aforementioned Greco-Roman philosophy and is predicated on a subtext of shame. The Protestant Work Ethic says in essence, “If you do not work as hard as your neighbor, if you do not contribute to society you are somehow less deserving”. This notion of works based ethics (not to be confused with works based salvation) would have been completely foreign in the Judeo-Hebrew context of the Garden of Eden.

Call it what you will, Social Gospel, Income Redistribution or out-right Communism, mankind’s love mentality leads to some very counter intuitive, counter cultural action. To be naked and unashamed then means to accept our vulnerability, accept our limitations, and accept our need for God and each other in community.

God’s Perfect Economy is an economy based not on power, (ruler), or works (caretaker) but on love.   It is love that holds everything in balance and since God is love, when we reject Him, love is also removed from the equation. Without love our ruler and caretaker mentalities are set in conflict with one another causing the whole thing to fall to pieces.

Before we get ahead of ourselves we need to spend a bit more time understanding how God’s Perfect Economy fell apart. How did we go from life in the garden, where God was there in physical form walking with us and guiding us to become the balanced creatures he intended, capable of holding both the ruler and caretaker mentalities in each hand and acting out of love and grace, to where we find ourselves today?

Read on…

 

 

[1] McLaren, Brian D., “A New Kind Of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith” HarperCollins 2010

 

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Engineer Education


Six Steps to Financial Freedom, Step Four

Smiling Graduate Holding up Diploma

I have to confess, I personally did not follow my own advice when it comes to paying for my own education. There are a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which being that when I was young the government programs were different and my parents did not have any extra to set aside anyway. So I did what just about everyone else does, I worked my way through college and got a loan backed by the government that I repaid when I got my first job. Fortunately I went to an inexpensive school and was able to find work right away after graduation so I was able to repay my loan within the first year.

In this day and age there are a number of ways that parents can start saving for their children’s education at an early age and eliminate the need for student loans. The key in all of it is to start early and invest wisely. But I put it down as step four because you should never prioritize children’s education over debt freedom or your own retirement plan. If you can’t afford it you are better off teaching your kids the value of hard work, setting them up to work their way through college or university and yes, in this one circumstance a small student loan is not the end of the world. But I stress small loan. A student loan is not a substitute for work, even if your program is so intense that you can only work in the summer, that’s something at least and it helps set you up for the real world.

So that being said, how do we start saving for our children’s education now?

In Canada there are essentially three vehicles that people can use to save for a child’s education: Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP), Life Insurance and Non-Registered Savings.

The RESP is the most common method and in most cases the best option. People place money into a mutual fund or other type of investment plan tax differed, the government matches your investment with a small grant and when you start school you can withdraw the money at the student’s marginal tax rate, which should be close to zero. If you put the money in a decent growth mutual fund it’s reasonable to expect a return of 8-10%. Add to that the government matching grants and it’s not unreasonable for a well designed RESP to return close to 30% on the money you put in. There isn’t another (legal) investment in the world that gives you that type of return.

Consider this, if you were to start investing $100 per month in an RESP returning 10% with the government grant adding an additional $25 per month to your contribution, the investment will have grown to $70,000 by the time your child is 17. Compare that to a non-registered plan without the government grant you would need to contribute $260 per month, more than 2.5 times a much to amass the same amount of money.

Of course if your child doesn’t go to an accredited school the government takes back their grant money but you would still have the $100 per month that was invested at 10% for 16 years that you could use for anything you chose. That’s still $50,000.

So that’s two ways you can invest for education, RESPs and Non-Registered investments but what about using Life Insurance for education?

Now to be clear, I am not proposing that you purchase Life Insurance as an investment. The purpose of Life Insurance is to cover expenses associated with early death or to replace the income of a wage earner. In the case of a juvenile, if there is a history of illness in the family it’s a good idea to start an insurance program in ensure their life-long insurability before they develop something that would make them difficult to insure in later life, like diabetes or a brain tumor (like happened to my niece at the age of 17). But of none of that happens we can’t ignore the cash value in certain types of life insurance.

Take that same $100 per month. If we were to use it to fund a life insurance policy on a one year old boy we could purchase a Life Insurance policy with a starting death benefit of $110,000. In 17 years that policy would be worth $240,000 with the option to purchase up to another $150,000 of insurance with no medical exam. In terms of funding education, that policy could be used as collateral for a loan at better terms than a traditional student loan or could simply be cashed out for about a third of its official face value. As a pure investment play, Life Insurance is not your best option but if you’ve already maxed out the RESP option and there is any concern about the future insurability of your child you should consider purchasing Life Insurance as a long term strategy.

Life insurance is never any less expensive that it is today. No matter what you do it will always cost your children more to buy insurance for them self than you can purchase it for them today, assuming they are even insurable when the time comes.

For more information on these strategies for Engineering Education, or anything else discussed on this page please write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Day Job, Insurance, Investing

 

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Meekonomics – Second Edition


So last spring I completed my first draft of Meekonomics and put it out through Amazon, CreateSpace and Kindle.  I sold a grand total of 5 copies.

The point of that first draft was not to make a wide release but to test the market and see if I could actually complete a book.  Mission accomplished.  Now I am working on my second book and continuing to tweak Meekonomics for a broader release.

I hope to do an official release of Meekonomics and get into promoting it sometime in the next few months.  My hope is to release the second edition before the summer but if it’s not ready I will push it back to the fall.  There is no point in trying to promote a book in July and August.

In an attempt to build interest and prepare for the release of the second edition I plan to post excepts from the book every Wednesday for the next several weeks.  I may miss a week or two, and I may not get the updates posted until Thursday some weeks but my intentions are good, and if you are meek and humble like me, you’ll cut me some slack if I’m late.

Here’s this weeks excerpt from the Introduction to “Meekonomics; A Journal of Economic Recovery”

Why I Wrote This

I realize that it is an act of sheer hubris to attempt to write a book called Meekonomics. The meek don’t write books do they? Especially Mennonite kids from Southern Ontario with no formal education in either economics or theology.

I grew up in a small town surrounded by family farms and working class individuals. When I graduated from High School I wanted to be a record producer and spent 19 years in the music business. In my mid 30s I read two books that unlocked my love of economics and theology; The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein and Simply Christian by NT Wright.

There followed nearly 8 years of prayer, research and reflection on two things that have driven me for almost as long as I can remember; God and Money.

Although I have always held a strong faith my relationship with money has been an extreme roller-coaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I’m an entrepreneur. I started my first business at the ripe old age of the age of 10; I had an opportunity to become a millionaire before my 26th birthday only to fall victim to an unscrupulous fraudster and ended up bankrupt at 33.

My drive to understand money and reconcile economics with my faith started to take root in the fall of 2005 not long after I first filed my bankruptcy proposal. What I soon realized is that reconciliation of the God and Money issue is not just a personal question, although personal finance is a big part of it, it’s really required on both a micro and macro-economic scale if our society is to survive.

Call it what you will; estate or retirement planning, investments, pension plans etc. It all comes down to the storing up of treasures on earth just as Jesus warned us not to do.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:19-24][1]

What you will find in the pages that follow is a journal of sorts. After my bankruptcy I set out to learn all I could about how this whole God and Money things works. Anyone who has ever gone through something like that knows how devastating it can be. I was wounded, I needed healing and so I used the study of God and Money as a start of my healing process.

As I studied I took notes, those notes became a blog and that blog became this book. Most authors will tell you that they write for a specific audience, my friend Tim Day, author of “God Enters Stage Left”[2] told me he first started writing for his kids as a way to help explain his faith in case he passed away before he had a chance to teach them in person. If I’m being honest I write just for myself, it’s a way to frame my thinking so that I can move forward in life secure and grounded in what I know to be true.

I first published the blog as a way to share what I was learning with my closest friends and family around the world, I never dreamed anyone else would be interested in what I had to say but I soon had over 100 readers on-line encouraging me to go deeper and publish more. The idea for the book came out of that interaction with the on-line community.

 

[1] All scripture references from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Day, Tim “God Enters Stage Left” (2013) The Meeting House, Oakville

 

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Rule Retirement


Six Steps to Financial Freedom, Step Three

I apologize for not posting this on the weekend. I know many of you have come to expect my Saturday morning posting but circumstances got in the way this week and things go pushed back. Besides, I never intended to posts only on Saturdays, that’s just a rhythm I have fallen into from time to time, it’s good to mix it up once in a while.

Anyway, here goes step three in the six steps to financial freedom. – Rule Retirement.

sailboat

Many people think that this should be the first step, or at least the second step but I have placed it as the third step for a couple of simple reasons.

First, if you are deeply in debt, especially high interest debt like credit cards it’s pretty much impossible to make any headway on your retirement dreams anyway. At the end of the day it’s all about your net worth, if you have a negative net worth, meaning if you sold everything you owned you’d still be in debt, or you are paying a higher interest rate on debts than you can earn in savings than it doesn’t make much sense to save. You’re still falling behind in the race, pay off your debts first then save.

Secondly, if you are at risk of losing it all due to dumb luck or crazy circumstances, i.e. death, injury or a prolonged illness, either yours, your spouses, your kids or someone else close to you need to protect your assets as you build them and that infrastructure needs to be in place before you go too far or it might already be too late.

So now, once you have Dominated Debt and Regulated Risk you are ready to start Ruling Retirement.

Step three necessarily begs two questions; how much do I save and where do I put it?

The simple answer is of course, as much as you can and at the highest possible interest rate. But the simple answer is not always easy.

In terms of how much it is difficult to put a number on it. My personal rule of thumb is 15% but it really depends on too many factors, age, risk tolerance, how much money you need to live on in retirement etc, for me to recommend that to everyone. In order to answer the how much question for you we would need to sit down and have a very frank discussion about where you are on the first two steps, where you want to be and when you want to get there. So for now the only answer I can give you that makes any kind of sense is “as much as you can.”

The where do I put it question is a bit easier to answer, but not much easier. In Canada we have two retirement savings vehicles, four if you are lucky. These are not investments, they are tax treatment options, the actual investments they hold can vary but before we get into a discussion of where to invest we first need to decide what vehicle to use. First off we have the TFSA or Tax Free Savings Account that holds after-tax dollars and grows the interest tax free. Second we have RRSPs, or Registered Retirement Savings Plans, which hold pre-tax dollars but are taxable as regular income when you remove the money. Third, if you are lucky enough to work for a government agency or another large employer you might have a pension plan which is taxed in the same way as an RRSP, pre-tax going in, taxed coming out. And fourth, if you are really lucky you have enough money not to need to worry about taxes and you simply invest after tax dollars and pay taxes on the growth you earn along the way, this is what we call a non-registered investment.

If you make less than $40,000 per year the tax advantages of saving in an RRSP don’t make much difference so you’re better off in a TFSA. You can’t put more than 18% of your income in an RRSP or a pension and if you make more than about $125,000 per year the tax deferral amount is capped so you have to put anything over and above that in a non-registered vehicle.

Once we’ve decided how much, and which vehicle to use, the last question is where. This is now a question of risk. The simple answer as I mentioned before is, at the highest interest rate possible. The highest interest rate is usually the most risky however, so you need to balance your risk tolerance with your time horizon and your stomach for potentially losing money in the short term. For most people with a time horizon of ten or more years I recommend a Balanced Growth Mutual Fund. We can usually get about 6-8% return on something like that with minimal volatility. But some people take exception to my recommendation of mutual funds, saying their either too risky or too conservative. A lot of people got burned back in 2008, 2009 because they didn’t understand risk or market cycles and that’s on their investment advisors, I personally take as much time explaining risk as I do anything else, if not more.  There is a great saying in the investment business that goes like this, “the only people who get hurt on a roller coaster are the people who jump off”.  If you don’t want to take the ride, then don’t get on in the first place.

Mutual funds are the simplest way for most people to get into the stock and bond markets without having to know a lot about how they work. In that regard Mutual Funds are really good, low maintenance, buy and hold investments that offer the most bang for your buck. If you bought in 2008 you lost a lot of money in 2009 but you were back where you started by 2011 and the markets have been steadily rising ever since. The key to all of this is to be able to buy and hold long enough to ride out the market cycles.

If you are risk averse or have a shorter time horizon then there are a number of more conservative options that may return 4 or 5%. But when we start looking at even lower returns, say 3% or less or if you are completely unprepared to accept any short term loses at all you might be better with just a traditional savings account or even using Life Insurance as an investment vehicle, more on that in Step Five and Six “Take Control of Taxation” and “Leave a Legacy”. Conversely if you enjoy a good roller coaster and have a longer timeline we can have some real fun getting aggressive and going for 10 or 12% return, just be prepared from some big swings in the value of your portfolio.

At the end of the day, Ruling Retirement isn’t rocket science. You just need to understand two things, number one, the greater the risk, the greater the potential return and two, the longer you can stay in the more you will take out.

For more information on Meekonomist approved retirement planning vehicles and investments contact themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

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Regulate Risk


Six Steps to Financial Freedom, Step Two

Quick, what’s your biggest asset?

Did you say your house, your car, or if you’re lucky your investment portfolio?

Wrong, wrong and wrong again!

The fact is your biggest asset is you.

Step Two in my Six Steps to Financial Freedom is to Regulate Risk. Since your biggest asset is actually yourself and your ability to earn and income that means your biggest risk is the risk of losing that ability. Once you have taken control of your debts and before you start investing you need to make sure you protect yourself and your family from some the unthinkable (and inevitable) events.

Here are some sobering statistics.

-          The average working individual has a 1 in 3 chance of being off work due to illness or injury for more than 90 days at least once between the ages of 25 and 65.

-          The average length of disability is 2.9 years.

-          1 in 2 and 1 in 3 women will develop heart disease resulting in a prolonged absence from work.

-          1 in 2.3 men and 1 in 2.7 women will develop cancer, resulting in a prolonged absence from work.

-          80% of heart attack patients make a full recovery.

-          100% of deaths are permanent.

Regardless of what the personal opinion and compassionate position of your banker might be, the bills will keep coming. Nothing can derail your retirement plan or increase your debt faster than an unexpected illness or the premature death of a wage earner.

As a result before you start investing I strongly recommend you carry 4 types of insurance. Depending on your employment situation not all of these products are necessary for everyone and budget is always a consideration but these are the basics.

1 – Health Insurance.

healthplan

The good news is that most employers offer some form of group health plan to their employees to cover prescription drugs, dental and other incidental health care related costs. Many health insurance plans also include a small amount of Life and Disability Insurance. In most cases however the Life and Disability portion is very small and severely restricted, read the fine print and ask a licensed insurance specialist to help you interpret what it all means. There is nothing worse than surprises when it comes time to make a claim. And of course, once you leave your employer you no longer have coverage. If you work for an employer who does not offer a group plan, or you are self-employed look into getting some personal coverage, it may seem expensive at first but believe me, no one who makes a big claim for cancer treatment or restorative dental work ever says they paid too much for their insurance.

2 – Life Insurance.

coffin

Despite what you might think dying is not a get out of debt free card. Especially for the people you leave behind. The number 2 cause of bankruptcy in North America is the early death of a wage earner. If you carry debt – get life insurance! Even if you don’t carry debt or your spouse thinks they can handle it without your income you should still get at least enough insurance to cover the cost of a funeral. The average cost of a funeral in Canada is $12,000 add to that final expenses related to a prolonged illness and possible legal fees incurred in settling your affairs and the cost could easily exceed $15,000 or $20,000. It just makes good sense to make sure the last thing your loved ones remember about you it’s how much your funeral cost.

3 – Disability Insurance.

injured

Back to point one, most employers offer some form of Disability Insurance within their group health plans but read the fine print. Most group disability coverage only starts paying after you’ve already been off work for several months and stops paying after about two years. From the stats above we know that the average length of disability is closer to three years and that’s if you’re lucky enough to even qualify under the definition of disability in your plan. Many policies define disability so narrowly that even though you can’t do your job, if you can do any job at all for any amount of pay, you don’t qualify. Think about that for a minute.

A personal disability insurance plan tailored to your income and special skills, even in conjunction with a group plan, might be the difference between making your mortgage payment or being forced to sell your house and move to a cheap apartment.

Any guesses as to what’s the number one cause of bankruptcy?

4 – Critical Illness Insurance.

sick

Many critical illnesses, cancer, heart attacks etc, have a fairly quick recovery time and as you can see by the stats above, medical science has given us a pretty good chance of surviving. You could have a heart attack and be back to work, at least part-time in less than a month. You could be taking cancer treatments in the morning and going to work in the afternoon. If that’s the case you might not be off work long enough or have your hours reduced enough to qualify for disability insurance. But the economic cost could still be significant.

Disability Insurance only replaces your income it does not cover the cost of one-time expenses like home renovations to accommodate a wheel chair or expenses associated with a long hospital stay. Things like extra commute costs or the loss of income from a spouse who takes time off to be with you for example are not generally considered in a disability insurance claim. That’s where a critical illness policy becomes valuable it provides a one-time lump sum payment at the time of diagnosis to help cover initial expenses associated with the condition.

As you can see there are quite a few areas of risk associated with your ability to earn an income that need to be addressed early in your financial plan.  When bad things happen, it doesn’t take long to wipe out a retirement nest egg if you aren’t prepared with a proper amount of insurance. The exact structure of an insurance plan is different for everyone based on your budget and how exposed you are but the bottom line is this; if you have any debt, a job or are currently breathing, you are exposed to risk that a good health, disability and life insurance plan can mitigate and you should do that before you invest a dime.

Next week we’ll look at step three, Rule Retirement.

If you have any questions or would like more information on how to Regulate Risk in your life write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

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Dominate Debt


Six Steps to Financial Freedom, Step One

Debt-Crush

“The fastest way to build wealth is to eliminate debt.” Dave Ramsay

Before I started in this business I was a financial basket case.  In 2005 I was over $150,000 in debt.  My house was underwater, I had 5 credit cards, all maxed out, two car loans, and had started to frequent a payday lender in order to put food on the table.  I hit rock bottom in September of that year when I received a registered letter from my mortgage company informing me I had 72 hours to make two mortgage payments and pay a bunch of legal fees, a total of about $3000, or they were going to foreclose on my house.

Thankfully I found a family member who was willing to step up and buy me out of that particular bind but I was still forced into a Proposal in Bankruptcy by November of that year.  For those of you who don’t know, a Proposal as it is sometimes called is the provision within Ontario Bankruptcy Law that allows consumers to surrender all unsecured debt for pennies on the dollar while sacrificing their ability to arrange any further debt for a period of seven years.  Under a Proposal secured debt is not affected so I was able to keep my house and my cars but for all intents and purposes until very recently I lived completely on cash.

It was in going through that process that I started to get interested in how money and in particular debt actually works.  In a weird way I credit almost losing my house with putting me on my current the career path.  The more I looked at it and the more I experienced it I realized a few things.

1 – This isn’t all that hard.

2 – Not enough people are doing it.

3 – I can make a business helping people understand money and get out of debt.

That’s where the six steps come from and step one is the simplest, most obvious and paradoxically the hardest one for people to achieve.

Debt is quite simply, BAD!  There is no such thing as good debt and the sooner you get out of debt, or at least get control of your payments the better off you will be.

credit trap

It all comes down to the magic (or curse) of compounded interest.  Take your typical credit card as an example.  I have a Mastercard now that I use very sparingly and do my best to pay off at the end of every month.  But if I don’t pay it off the interest charged on that account is 14.9%.  On a balance of $1000 that would be $149 per year or $12.42 per month.  That doesn’t seem like much but consider that the minimum payment on that $1000 or rather $1012.42 is just $22 and would leave me with a balance of $990.52.  Interest would of course be added to that bringing my balance back up to $1002.82.  So now you can see I would be into the third month of paying only the minimum payment before I make any progress on the principle at all.  My credit card company very helpfully posts a Minimum Payment Notice at the top of my bill which tells me that if I make only the minimum payment it will take me an estimated 35 years to pay off my entire account.

Now a lot financial advisors will tell you the fastest way to build wealth is to pay yourself first, meaning put money into savings where it will earn interest.  Frankly I disagree.  Or at least I agree only to the extent that you are already out of debt or paying so little in interest as to be insignificant.

There are very few investments that will earn you more interest than you pay on your debts.  Traditionally your primary residence is the only thing you will purchase that will increase in value faster than the interest paid on the mortgage, but that’s a discussion for later in the six steps.  For now you need to take control of your debt.  The interest rate game is rigged so that other than on a residential mortgage you will always pay more on the money you borrow than you will receive on the money you save.

Back to my credit card example; if I had $1000 cash and were to follow the traditional “pay yourself first” advice I should put that money in an investment.  The average balanced investment portfolio in Canada today is returning 6%.  So at the end of the year I would have $1060.  If I then took that money out of the investment and decided to pay my credit card off with it I would still owe $89.  And a month later I would receive a credit card bill for $90.11.

When you have debt, especially debt that is charging interest at a higher rate than you can earn saving money, pay yourself first is bad advice.  Pay your high interest debt first, or better yet, don’t go into debt in the first place.  In that way you will have more money to invest later.

For more information on the Meekonomist approved plan for getting out of debt click on The Meekonomist Manifesto above or write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Day Job, Debt, Investing, Meekonomics

 

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Six Steps to Financial Freedom


Earlier this week I had a bit of brain storm.  With RRSP season over and spring just around the corner (yes I know this winter has been BRUTAL but the bone chilling cold and mountains of snow can’t last forever), I started looking for a new product line to hone in on.  Most people in the financial planning business choose to focus on either insurance or investments and treat the other side of things as an add-on.  But after a few days toying with different ideas what I ended up settling on was not just a new product focus but a whole new way, for me at least, of looking at financial planning writ large.  This is approach isn’t about a specific product, or type of product like RRSPs or Life Insurance, it’s a whole new way of building wealth from the ground up which can be customized to apply to anyone, in any circumstance regardless of whether you are deeply in debt, just starting out or an established business owner with substantial net-worth and positive cash flow.

I call it The Six Steps to Financial Freedom and yesterday I sketched it on a yellow pad, it looks like this;

Six Steps

You can click on the image and make it bigger but most of you won’t, that’s okay…

Over the next several weeks I will focus on each aspect of this plan in order and write about them.  Starting at the bottom and moving up through the steps.  Whenever I come across an interesting article on the subject I’ll re-tweet it with the corresponding hashtag as well.  Here are the steps again with their hastags.

Step 1 – Dominate Debt (#dominatedebt)

Step 2 – Regulate Risk (#regulaterisk)

Step 3 – Rule Retirement (#ruleretirement)

Step 4 – Engineer Education (#engineereducation)

Step 4b – Steer Succession – for business owners only (#steersuccession)

Step 5 – Take Control of Taxation (#controltaxation)

Step 6 – Leave a Legacy (#leavealegacy)

It is my hope that through this process you will start to see Financial Planning in a different light and perhaps get excited about the process.  I’m here to help – for more information and to get started on your customized plan write to; themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

 

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