10 Ways You and Your Spouse Can Work Together To Make Better Financial Decisions

Our team is a huge fan of Stronger Marriages and it’s an honor to be featured as a guest on their blog today!

Make sure you check it out HERE – 10 Ways You and Your Spouse Can Work Together To Make Better Financial Decisions

Is This Costing You?

Do you understand insurance? Life insurance? Auto Insurance? Health Insurance? I know that it is certainly not the most interesting subject in the world, but if you do not take the time to truly understand these products, it will cost you big time.

Rules I follow when purchasing insurance:

  • Do not just “take an insurance agent’s word for it!” Truly seek understanding of the product! If you understand it, you will be able to make a good purchase that you will KNOW is a good purchase.
  • Understand what’s being offered  If you are speaking with an insurance agent, and you start feeling like you are being “sold” on a product – LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!!! Use Donald Trump’s words – “You’re fired!” Complete with the New England accent if you wish. You do not need to be sold on an insurance product, you need to understand the insurance products. Once you understand the products, you will be able to make a sound decision.
  • Obtain at least three quotes from three different companies. Ensure that at least one is an independent company that is able to surf your insurance needs among many different companies. Competition makes prices go down. When prices go down, you will get to keep more of your money. I use US Insurance Online to obtain dozens of quotes without calling anyone – they call and email me quotes from multiple insurance companies! Click HERE for a list of all the companies that I recommend.
  • Do not cancel an existing insurance product until you have obtained a replacement. Do not cancel your auto insurance before you have obtained auto insurance from another company. Do not cancel your life insurance before you have obtained alternative life insurance from elsewhere. A gap in coverage is ripe territory for Mr. Murphy to show up.
  • Do not allow your insurance to be combined with another financial product. For example, cash value life insurance is both life insurance and an investment in one product. The problem with these types of products is that the fees are tremendous. Purchase your investments and insurance separately.
  • Send out your insurance every two years for new quotes. You want to ensure that your rates are remaining competitive with the open market.
  • Ask for a better deal. Insurance is a service product. Prices of service products are negotiable.
  • Be extremely careful when purchasing insurance from a family member or a good friend. You may have your judgment impaired because you really want to please and help them.

Again, insurance may be a boring subject but you can save a lot of money on insurance by employing these tips!

Interested in learning more about Insurance? Check out my latest book, I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. 

Budgeting Tip #4: Be REALISTIC

Welcome to the “Budgeting Tips” series! These tips have proven extremely helpful in getting my own budget in order, and I’m confident they can help you too.

Budgeting Tip #4: Be REALISTIC

Perhaps nothing will destroy a budget from working effectively like being untruthful with oneself. If you have three children involved in three different sports, and yet you include nothing for restaurants (including drive-thru fast food) – you are lying to yourself! If you do not include enough money for groceries, hunger will drive you to the grocery store – even if it requires the use of a credit card.

If you want your budget to truly work for you, then you must be realistic. Employ the other budgeting tips of this series by giving every dollar a name, before the month begins, and force your Income minus Outgo to equal Exactly Zero all with reality in mind. This is, after all, your money to manage! Don’t do yourself a disservice by lying to yourself. Ensure there is some “fun” in the budget – restaurants, entertainment, and spending money. This is what will make your budget work for you – month after month – year after year. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”

Here are a few ways I have been realistic in my budget:

  1. I include “Spending Money” for both myself and my bride – we get to use this money for whatever we want. Mine is usually spent on hunting, fishing, running, gardening, or food/snacks.
  2. We include “Dining Out” in our budget each month. We have agreed that this money is to be used ONLY when the family is dining out together. If I want to grab lunch by myself during a work day, I must fund that with my “spending money” because it is not with family.
  3. We save each month for Known, Upcoming Non-Monthly Expenses (KUEs) – these are expenses we know are coming, but they aren’t monthly. Since they are not regular bills, people can tend to forget about them. We’ve fixed this issue by saving for these expenses every single month. That way, when vacation time rolls around, the money is ready and available for use.

ClickFreeToolsAre you ready to get your budget working for you? Click the above link to download a free budget tool and get started toward living a fully funded life!

NOTE: This post is part of the “Budgeting Tips” series. Click HERE to read other posts in the series.

Budgeting Tip #3: Plan BEFORE The Month Begins

Welcome to the “Budgeting Tips” series! These tips have proven extremely helpful in getting my own budget in order, and I’m confident they can help you too.

Budgeting Tip #3: Plan BEFORE The Month Begins

If you want to gain control of your money and your financial future, nothing is as powerful as planning your spending BEFORE the month begins. Most of us have had occasions where we did not plan before an important event, and everything went poorly. This was a routine feeling I experienced before nearly every test I took while studying mechanical engineering at Purdue University! Instead of studying (planning) for the test, I usually raced off to the Co-Rec where I could play basketball for hours on end. Then I would watch hours of ESPN followed by wasting hours away on other non-study-related items. Then the moment would arrive: test time. The dreadful, but familiar, feeling of being unprepared would take over. You know how it turned out, don’t you? My 2.64 GPA was a direct result of my lack of planning!

Those same poor test preparation habits also affected my personal finances. I did graduate from college with a degree in mechanical engineering, and I embarked upon a career in engineering. This came with a very exciting development – INCOME! However, without a budget, I managed to spend all of it plus some more, which I financed with debt.

The day that I started planning my money BEFORE the month began was the very same month that I began to prosper. By planning my spending BEFORE the month began, it allowed me to be INTENTIONAL with every dollar I expected to receive. In turn, I was able to anticipate financial challenges and make better choices. Instead of encountering the financial challenge in the middle of the month when my choices would be greatly limited, I was able to see them an entire month ahead of time. This gave me a lot of choices like working overtime, reducing an expense, or completely eliminating a planned event. This gave me CONTROL. Control equals AWARENESS. Awareness equals ADJUSTMENTS. Adjustments led to financial success.

ClickFreeToolsUse one of our free budget tools to plan your spending before next month. You will gain control of your money and ensure that your plans, hopes, and dreams are being funded! That’s what we call a fully funded life. You can do this!

NOTE: This post is part of the “Budgeting Tips” series. Click HERE to read other posts in the series.

Budgeting Tip #2: Income – Outgo = Exactly Zero

Welcome to the “Budgeting Tips” series! These tips have proven extremely helpful in getting my own budget in order, and I’m confident they can help you too.

Budgeting Tip #2: Income – Outgo = Exactly Zero

There is one fundamental rule of money we all must live by: “To have OUTGO, you must have INCOME.” This rule is understood very quickly when one begins to prepare a budget! In fact, there are few things that will make a person value a dollar as much as preparing a monthly budget. When you realize that money is limited, it causes one to focus on becoming a better financial manager. While preparing my first budget, I quickly realized I was documenting insanity! It became abundantly clear that I was spending far more than my income. “No wonder I’m feeling so much stress!” I thought to myself.

In order to get a budget to work, we must recognize this simple formula: “Income – Outgo = Exactly Zero” You can’t continually spend more you make and expect to prosper. This is where Budgeting Tip #1 comes into play – we must give every dollar a name. In fact, “outgo” should also include giving, saving, and investing. Preparing a budget where you give every dollar a name allows you prioritize the items which are most important to your financial success: Giving, Saving, and Investing! By ensuring the monthly budget balances to Exactly Zero, you are positioning yourself to prosper. It allows you to know that your financial obligations will be met. It gives you control of your financial future.

ClickFreeToolsI encourage you to download one of our free budget tools and begin the challenge of balancing your Income and Outgo so that it equals Exactly Zero. It might not be easy at first, but living without a budget is much more difficult!

NOTE: This post is part of the “Budgeting Tips” series. Click HERE to read other posts in the series.

Budgeting Tip #1: Give Every Dollar A NAME

Welcome to the “Budgeting Tips” series! These tips have proven extremely helpful in getting my own budget in order, and I’m confident they can help you too.

Budgeting Tip #1: Give Every Dollar a NAME

Have you ever started out the day with some money in your pocket (without any intention of spending it) only to return home with only a couple of crumpled dollar bills and a few coins remaining? It has happened to me more times that I would like to admit!

This situation occurs because of a combination of two things: (1) Impulsiveness and (2) Unplanned money

Impulsiveness just may be the biggest threat to your financial well-being and ability to build wealth.


When impulse meets unplanned money, it is scientifically proven to cause your money to sprout wings and fly away. Marketers know this very well. It’s why grocery and convenience stores put candy at the checkout line. It’s why an item you have searched for on Google suddenly appears on your Facebook feed.

It is virtually impossible to prevent the impulse to buy from happening. The big challenge is to prevent the impulse from destroying your financial future. How does a person do that? Creating and following a budget each and every month – before the month begins. It allows you give every dollar a name before it actually arrives.

A budget allows you to move from managing money IMPULSIVELY to directing it INTENTIONALLY. Intentional money management always trumps impulsiveness.

Because I have made it my habit to prepare a budget each month, I have been able to prevent impulses from destroying my finances. I believe it will do the same for you!

ClickFreeToolsNOTE: This post is part of the “Budgeting Tips” series. Click HERE to read other posts in the series.

How to Locate Incredible Mutual Funds

Locating a Mutual Fund can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to look. In this post, I’m showing you the three-part approach I use.

Once I have determined the category of mutual funds that meets my criteria, it is time for me to review actual mutual funds. Here’s the three-part approach:

  1. Mutual Fund Screens – I really like CNN’s Mutual Fund Screener and Morningstar’s Mutual Fund Screener.  For example, I used the CNN screener to select Small Growth Diversified Funds that have delivered an average of 10% annual return OR LARGER for the past 10 years.  It delivered 36 mutual funds that met that criteria!  This really helps me narrow down the search!
  2. Review Retirement Plan Mutual Funds – If your employer has a retirement plan such as a 401(k), 403(b), Simple IRA, or TSP then be sure to review the options available.  My employer has a Simple IRA with American Fund investment options.  Usually an employer helps absorb some of the fees or the fees are reduced by the plan administrator.  This can really help preserve financial gains!
  3. Seek Professional Guidance – I meet with a financial advisor about once a year.  This professional advice helps me look at my investments with more clarity.

Once I have found funds to look at, I look at the following characteristics of each fund:

  • Age of the Mutual Fund  I like mutual funds that are older than me!
  • Investment Growth  I look at the 1, 5, 10, and Lifetime track records.
  • $ Needed To Start  This is really important for beginning investors.
  • The Fund’s Objective  This helps me understand the direction of the fund.

I use the CNN Money Snapshot feature to analyze funds. I also like to compare mutual funds to each other using the “Advanced Charts” feature on CNN money.

So that’s just a glimpse into how I choose mutual funds. Many times I end up with a dead end, and I go back to the starting point again to get more mutual funds to compare!


Different Types of Mutual Funds

There are literally THOUSANDS of mutual funds available in the marketplace today.  Each mutual fund is usually assigned to a particular family of mutual funds.

Here are some common categories of mutual funds…

  • International Stock Fund
  • Aggressive Growth Stock Fund
  • Growth Stock Fund
  • Growth & Income Stock Fund
  • Equity-Income Fund
  • Balanced Fund
  • Bond Fund
  • Value Fund
  • Industry-Specific Funds (like Healthcare Fund or Pharmaceutical Fund)
  • Index Funds (S&P 500, Russell 2000, etc.)

If you purchase ownership in an International Stock Mutual Fund, you can bet that it is primarily investing in international companies.  If it is an Aggressive Growth Stock Mutual Fund, you would expect to see the mutual fund purchasing shares of companies that are growing like crazy.

Each family of funds has a general “feel” to it.  The International and Aggressive Growth Stock Mutual Funds tend to have wild swings in performance.  One year it could grow 40% and the next it could lose 25%.  It feels like you are on a great roller coaster ride at Six Flags!

Growth & Income, Equity-Income, and Balanced Funds are more stable and predictable.

Index Funds track specific market indexes like the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000.

Interested in learning more about investing? Check out my book on investing: “Oxen: The Key to An Abundant Harvest” HERE.

Establish Investment Goals

Goals! I love GOALS!! My goals spur me to save and invest. Today, I’m sharing about how my personal investment goals guide my mutual fund choices.  First you should know a couple of things about me.

  1. I view my investments as money that I will not touch for at least five years.
  2. I prefer mutual funds over individual company stocks.  I do own several individual company stocks, but I will not allow an individual company stock to exceed 10% of my overall portfolio. (See my current investment portfolio HERE)

My investment goals are GROWTH, GROWTH, and more GROWTH.  I do not need my investments to produce income for me as I am in my early 40s.  I want my money to GROW.  This means that I invest in mutual funds that are purchasing stock of companies that are experiencing major growth (like Google).

Now, if I were retired, I would want my investments to produce income so I would be searching for mutual funds that invest in companies that are paying dividends to its shareholders (like Wal-Mart, Microsoft).

If I were approaching retirement, I would be moving the money that I would need in the next five years to much more stable and secure investments.

What are your investment goals?

What is a Mutual Fund

One of the questions that I get asked the most at an event is: “What is a Mutual Fund?” Mutual funds can certainly sound confusing – especially when there are so many options available.  So for those who do not know what a mutual fund is, let me explain it the best I know how.

If something has been FUNDED, it means that money has been given to it.

If you and I come to a MUTUAL agreement, it means that we both were involved in making the agreement.

So if you and I have MUTUALLY FUNDED a project, then it means that we both provided money for the project.

A MUTUAL FUND means that you and I have both put our money in the same place.  It is not unusual for a mutual fund to have over 5,000,000 people MUTUALLY FUNDING the same investment.

So we have mutually funded an investment along with three or four million of our closest friends.  The amount you have invested is different from how much I have invested, but it is all in the same place.

So, we now all understand that we have mutually funded this investment and that it is called a mutual fund.  The next question to answer is: “Where does the money go once it is in the mutual fund?”

Well, each mutual fund has a specific objective.  Some mutual funds have an objective to produce income.  Others have an objective to maximize the long-term growth of the invested money.  Still others may have an objective to invest only in international companies.  The bottom line is that each mutual fund has a specific objective or charter.

Based upon a mutual fund’s charter, the mutual fund managers will purchase part-ownership in a lot of companies.

The Mutual Fund managers use the money provided by you, me, and three million of our closest friends to purchase ownership in anywhere from 50 to over 1,000 companies.  As these companies earn profits and grow, the value of the investment grows.  This means that each individual who owns a portion of the mutual fund can enjoy that growth as well.

I hope this post has helped understand exactly what a mutual fund is. Let me know below if you have any additional questions about mutual funds.


Put Your Oxen to Work – Part 4

Proverbs 14:4 – Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.

PART FOUR – Put your oxen to work!

This is the fun part!  As you put your oxen to work and provide adequate nourishment and attention, they will begin to work for you in ways you never thought possible.  Your 401(k) will grow without the need for any energy expenditure from you.  The rental house will produce income and increase in value even when you are on vacation.  The book that you’ve been wanting to write will be purchased by people from across the globe – even while you sleep.  The website will sell products without your direct involvement.  The team of people at your business will work to serve customers whether you are there or not.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your oxen will work perfectly with zero involvement from you.  The last I checked, oxen will still wander off if you don’t provide them some direction and leadership.  Be sure to establish a system that allows you to always know the numbers and enables you to measure the health of your herd.

As your oxen work for you, they will truly provide an abundant harvest which will allow you to bless your family and those in need in ways you never thought possible.

TRUTH: Oxen acquisition can allow you to enjoy an abundant harvest.

ACTION:  Will you share with me one way you’re putting your oxen to work?

Put Your Oxen to Work – Part 3

Proverbs 14:4 – Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.

PART THREE – Acquire oxen.

The manger is empty when there are no oxen.  The manger is designed to hold food.  When faced with the decision of “empty manger/no food” versus “abundant harvest”, I am going to choose the abundant harvest every single time.  It is my belief that this would be your choice also.

Obviously, the critical step toward an abundant harvest is to have oxen.  These oxen, however, can be expensive.  Acquiring a McDonald’s franchise can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Starting a business can also cost an enormous amount of money.  So where does one start out?  We must start out just like everyone else – start where you are with what you have.

I challenge you to write down your plans, hopes, and dreams on paper.  Seriously, take five minutes to ponder your goals and write them down.  Now, next to each goal, write down how much each goal will cost.  This process will help you understand the necessity of acquiring an ox or two.

My oxen acquisition started by fully funding my 401(k).  I contributed the maximum amount allowed by law.  Notice that I did not contribute just enough to gain the company match.  This is a great start, but to truly get the 401(k) ox to work for me, I needed to maximize my contributions.  If you simply can’t contribute the maximum, start with a little and increase it on a consistent basis so that you will be maximizing it in just a few years.  These investments seemed so little at the start that it seemed pointless.  Just 15 years later, however, the 401(k) ox is healthy and doing a LOT of heavy lifting for me!  It will do the same for you.

I use to live paycheck-to-paycheck but by applying myself little by little every single day, God has continued to bless me.  I am convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that He can do the same for you.

TRUTH:  Oxen acquisition can allow you to enjoy an abundant harvest.

Put Your Oxen to Work – Part 2

Proverbs 14:4 – Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.

PART TWO Identify your oxen.

In Part 1, we investigated the meaning of this verse and discovered the truth that “To accomplish more financially, you’ll need oxen to help you.”  Now that this is known, it is important to identify the potential “oxen” that could work for you – in place of you – and produce additional income (abundant harvests).

A retirement investment account (such as a 401(k), 403(b), 457, TSP, or Roth or Traditional IRA) are oxen.  Think about it.  When your retirement investments go up in value over time, does it require much effort from you?  Absolutely not.  Like an ox, you will need to occasionally provide direction and guidance to the investment account, but it will do the heavy lifting for you and take your finances places you can not get to on your own.

Another form of oxen is business ownership.  An owner of a McDonald’s franchise makes money even when they are at home asleep because the system is producing profits without their active and direct involvement every minute of the day.

All of my books are oxen.  People purchase the book during all hours of the day and night.  It helps them prosper with their finances, and it provides income so that our team can stay focused on developing new resources to help people and live out our call and passion.

Real estate such as rental houses, commercial properties, and land can increase in value regardless of your attention or effort.

It is time for you to acquire some oxen and put them to work for you!

TRUTH: Significant wealth is achieved when one identifies ways to produce income regardless of effort or time invested.

Put Your OXEN to Work – Part 1

Proverbs 14:4 – Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.

Perhaps no verse has had more of an impact on my financial management than this verse.  I believe that if you apply these principles, your finances will be forever changed.

PART ONE  Understand the verse.

I was reading this verse several years ago, and it literally changed my entire mindset about financial management.  Perhaps it is because I grew up on a farm and connected with the talk about farm animals and equipment.  Maybe it is because I am continually learning more about finances.  Whatever the reason I like this verse, I promise you that it can completely change your finances!

Think about your ability to work.  No matter how strong you are, how much energy you have, or how determined you may be, there is only so much work you can do.  There is only one you.  You can work more hours.  You can work 20 hours per day, but you will reach a limit.

As a farmer, there is only so much you can do.  Help is required to accomplish more.  With oxen, so much more can be accomplished.  They are STRONGER than you are.  They have MORE ENDURANCE than you do.  They even have SKILLS you don’t have (ever attempted to pull a barn by yourself?)

TRUTH: To accomplish more financially, you will need oxen to help you.

We’ll discuss how to identify your oxen in Part 2.

The Definition of Investing

I recently conducted a survey and received hundreds and hundreds of responses. One of the questions I asked was:

Which financial topic do you struggle with most? 

One of the top responses was Investing.

With phrases like mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, bonds, brokers, margin accounts, rate of return, yield rate, P/E, market capitalization, and current ratio, it can literally feel as if investing is another language!

I know the feeling as I’ve been there! Because of the results of this survey, I am tasking the I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. team to aggressively address this issue. We are hard at work developing resources that are going to help take people from clueless to financially confident and competent investor! We are also focusing on the topic of investing for the whole month of October!

First, let’s start by presenting a working definition of “investing.”

Investing  Using your money and possessions to create more money and possessions.

The goal for any investment is to gain more in return. There are countless ways to do this and we’ll dive more into this over the month.

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