Are You Leading Your Finances?

This last weekend, I attended a young professionals conference.  As you can imagine, a large part of the conference was spent talking about leadership.  One of the speakers was legendary basketball coach Dale Brown.  One of the breakouts was entitled “Visionary Leadership”.  I’ve also just started reading the book “Entreleadership” by Dave Ramsey.  In all of those places, there are lots of buzzwords that describe leadership, and what a leader is.

Of course, this being a personal finance site, my mind couldn’t help but apply as much of it as possible to personal finance.  When we think of our personal lives, we rarely apply the word leader to any aspect of it.  We apply it to ourselves and others in our work and volunteer lives, but not our personal lives.  Why not?

When it really comes down to it, we are the leader of our lives.  We are the ones who apply the same principles that leaders apply to business and volunteer organizations to our lives.  Or don’t.  We try and become better leaders at work.  We expect better leaders to lead us.  But rarely do we try and become better leaders in our personal life.

Leading your Finances

Leading Your FinancesPersonal finance aren’t all that much different from a business and a business’ finances.  We still have income coming in, expenses going out, and the profit left over.  Unfortunately, for many, that’s where the parallels end.  Let’s change that.  Let’s apply some of those leadership principles to our lives.  Specifically, let’s apply them to leading your finances.

Financial Efficiency

Business leaders are always looking for ways to make their business and employees more efficient.  Over the years, businesses have foregone the paper and pen and replaced them with computers.  They’ve replaced old marketing tactics with websites and social media.  Leading your finances means finding, and embracing, new ways to make your finances more efficient.  Forego the old check and envelope method of paying your bills and sign up for bill-pay.  Or automate your bill paying by setting them up for auto-pay.  Find ways to save that also create income.  Look into better rates at better banks.  Learn about dividend investing.  Learn about peer-to-peer lending.

Financial Opportunity Seeking

Many of today’s biggest and brightest businesses wouldn’t even exist today if their leaders hadn’t been continually opportunity seeking.  If all Apple still made was computers, it wouldn’t be the multi-billion dollar company that it is today.  If Steve Jobs hadn’t seen the opportunity in the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, they’d be just another company making computers.  Apply the same to your finances.  Peer-to-peer lending hasn’t always been what it is today.  There was a time where it was still a fledgling opportunity.  A small percentage, relatively, of the population saw the benefit of it as an investing avenue, and, for most, their finances are the better for it.  Be open to services and products that can help you make your finances better.

Continual Financial Improvement

Good enough is never good enough for a business leader.  The only thing that stays the same is their desire for improvement.  Beyond always seeking opportunity, we must also always be finding ways to improve our finances.  We must always be assessing the risk involved with those new opportunities, and making decisions on what will best improve our finances.

Financial Failure

Businesses fail.  If they have good leaders, they only fail momentarily and spring back stronger than ever.  They’ll have set the company up to be diversified so that any one failure shouldn’t be enough to ruin the company.  Investors talk all the time about the importance of diversifying an investment portfolio.  But, it can be applied elsewhere in our finances.  Having all of your money in one online bank is great.  Until your internet goes down and you can’t get to it to bill pay.  Diversifying to have a set amount of cash available in an emergency can help you out there.  Not depending on just stock investments is another great way to diversify for failure.  Prepare your finances so that an opportunity that fails only sets you back, doesn’t bankrupt you.

How can you improve your finances today?  What opportunities can you learn more about and assess for use in your finances?  What efficiencies can you create to make your finances better? What other leadership qualities can you apply in leading your finances?

Compare Those Credit Card Offers

Like many mailboxes around the country, mine seems to overflow on occasion with credit card offers.  I’m not sure what it is, if their marketing departments all work on the same cyclical calendar, or if there are certain market indicators that trigger a flood of offers, but whatever it is, they all seem to come all at once.  Normally, they all find their way to the shredder, to then find their way to the trash can.

One of the things that we still do, because we haven’t paid off all of our credit card debt, is to occasionally transfer the balances to take advantage of those same credit card offers.  One of those offers recently expired, and so I had been keeping my eye out for a new offer to make the move.  That offer came in the form of those little convenience checks that the credit card companies are so fond of sharing.  In this particular case, from a card that we’d already paid off, but had left open.  It had two checks in it.  One that offered 0% interest for about 13 months, and the other that offered 1.99% for about 18 months.

Which Credit Card Offer Will Reign Supreme?

Credit Card Offers

There was plenty of balance on the paid off card to take care of the entire balance of the other card.  It was just a matter of writing the check to transfer the balance, and mail it.  But, which one?  Most people, including myself, if making the decision in a quick manner would likely choose the 0% offer and mail it off.  However, it bears a little more analysis than that.  Especially if, like in our case, you don’t think you’ll have the balance paid off at the end of the 13 months.  When the transfer special expires, the rate bumps back up to the normal 12.24%.

I put a little thought into it, and thought that there might be some advantage to using the 1.99% rate with the longer term.  But, I had to be sure.  I’m no math wiz, especially when it comes to interest rates, so I went looking for a calculator that might help me figure out for sure if there was an advantage to one rate or the other.  I found two that gave me the numbers I was looking for.

Credit Card Offer Calculators

The first was a calculator from my friend Todd Tresidder over at FinancialMentor.  It’s a simple Credit Card Comparison calculator.  I think it’s meant to compare different credit cards, but I just punched in the numbers for the different offers on the same card and hit the button.  What did it tell me?

In both this calculation, and the second one, I used a few assumptions.  These aren’t really true assumptions, but I had to use some baseline to determine the difference.  I assumed that it would take us longer than 18 months to pay off the entire balance.  I used an approximate payment.  I also assumed (since the calculators didn’t allow for different payments) that we’d pay the same payment for the entire life of the credit card.  Here’s what I found.

In Todd’s calculator, the difference between the two offers was about 5 payments to payoff, and about $300 in savings.  Which one won?  The 1.99% offer. My initial thoughts were confirmed.  An interesting note; I played with the payment amount, and the more we pay as a payment, the less difference there is.  In fact, there’s a tipping point, where the 0% offer is better.  As I suspected, the more you pay, the sooner you’ll pay off the balance, and the more advantage you get from using the 0% rate.  But, remember that I made the assumption that we wouldn’t be paying it off in less than 18 months, so that isn’t an issue in our case.

The second calculator that I used is this credit card balance transfer calculator.  This calculator seemed to be set up a little more for this specific calculation.  It adds in calculations for the balance transfer fee which is something that you certainly need to take into account if you are thinking of transferring a balance.  With all the numbers punched in, and the calculator spinning up, my initial thought was once again confirmed.  In fact, this calculator seemed to show even more advantage to going with the 1.99% rate.  Here, I got an answer of about $405 in costs.  Again, massaging the payment gave the same results in that the more you pay, the more advantage there might be in taking the 0% rate.

We Have A Credit Card Offer Winner!

So, all that calculated, we filled out the check for the 1.99% transfer and sent it off.  But, it brought an interesting revelation to me.  You’ve got to compare the offers.  A difference of a few months, or a few interest rate points can make a much larger difference than you think.  Compare them thoroughly, and try and make accurate assumptions about your payoff behavior so that calculators like the ones I used can give you accurate information.

Have you ever found that an offer that, at first glance didn’t seem the best, really was?


The Paleo Diet: A Good Alternative For Those With Celiac and Gluten Intolerance?

I’m a carb and sugar lover, and I’m guessing I’m not alone among Americans.  Pizza, bread sticks, pasta, bread. . . we are a nation that loves carbs.  For many of us, though, digesting carbs is a challenge.  Dr. Joseph Murray of the Mayo Clinic analyzed blood samples from the 1950s to those now and “confirms estimates that about 1 percent of U.S. adults have [Celiac] today, making it four times more common now than it was 50 years ago”  (  Nearly that same amount has Celiac disease but have not yet been diagnosed

Even if you don’t have Celiac, you may have trouble with carbs.  I’m intolerant to gluten, wheat and many other grains.  When I eat them, I feel like I can’t breathe and get dizzy.  Thanks to my many intolerances, I turned to the Paleo Diet.

What Is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo DietThe Paleo Diet is based on the idea that you’re health will be optimal if you eat like our Paleolithic ancestors did.  That means eating grass fed meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs and nuts.

What’s off limits?  Grains, rice, sugar, beans, processed foods, dairy, and certain types of oil.  If you’re like most Americans, the off limit items probably make up a large portion of your diet, so if you’re thinking of moving to a Paleo diet, I recommend transitioning slowly.  Maybe first give up sugar, then dairy, then grains, etc.  Give yourself at least a month to transition off each so you don’t feel deprived giving everything up at once.

Why Grass Fed Meat?

Traditional meat on the market today comes from animals that are fed a diet heavy on corn and are fattened up on feed lots.  Their diet causes them to produce less omega-3.  When we consume the meat, we develop high levels of omega-6, which is bad for the human body and can cause inflammation.

Cows and lambs especially that are fed an entirely grass fed diet are rich in omega-3, which is good for your body.  According to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, “Eating moderate amounts of grass-fed meat for only 4 weeks will give you healthier levels of essential fats.  The British research showed that healthy volunteers who ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and decreased their level of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.  These changes are linked with a lower risk of a host of disorders, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and inflammatory disease” (Eat Wild).

If you’re going to be eating a large quantity of meat on the Paleo diet, you want it to be the best meat available.

Other Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet

You may have seen the project where a photographer captured what families around the world consume in a week.  What is most startling is how much processed foods and how few fruits and vegetables Americans eat.

If you follow the Paleo diet, yes, you’re eating a diet heavy in meat (but if it’s grass-fed, it’s healthier meat), BUT you’re also eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  Before I began the Paleo diet, I’m ashamed to admit that I only ate 2 to 3 fruits and vegetables a day.  Now I easily get 7 to 10 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.

What Comes Next

Sure, maybe now you’re convinced that there are benefits to following the Paleo diet, especially if you have a gluten or even dairy intolerance.  However, I’m guessing you’re probably ready to argue that the Paleo diet is too expensive to follow.  While it IS more expensive than a traditional American diet, there are ways to cut corners and make the Paleo diet more affordable, which I’ll explain in my next post.

Have you tried the Paleo diet?  What are your thoughts?

Original Image Credit: Banksy’s Caveman by Lord Jim, on Flickr