Book Review – 30 Days to Financial Excellence by Inge Natalie Hol

30 days to financial excellence30 Days to Financial Excellence by Inge Natalie Hol subtitled, learn to master your money like a personal finance pro, is a book you need to read if you want to take care of your personal finances. This short book of just about 120 pages goes straight to the point and outlines steps we can all take in 30 days to clean up our finances.

The book is split into eight key parts with each part dealing with an important aspect of finance. These eights parts cover 30 day actions. Following are the eight parts with the daily actions

PART ONE – YOUR MONEY MINDSET

  • Day 1: What’s your money mindset?
  • Day 2: Create new money beliefs

PART TWO: YOUR EXPENSES

  • Day 3: Track your expenses
  • Day 4: Cut down your expenses
  • Day 5: Create a spending plan
  • Day 6: Set a spending goal

PART THREE: YOUR SAVINGS

  • Day 7: Set your savings goals
  • Day 8: Your savings rate
  • Day 9: Automate your savings
  • Day 10: Your net worth

PART FOUR: YOUR DEBTS

  • Day 11: Gain clarity on your debts
  • Day 12: Pay off your debts
  • Day 13: Plan to become debt free
  • Day 14: Build an emergency fund

PART FIVE: YOUR INCOME

  • Day 15: Determine your income
  • Day 16: Start a side hustle
  • Day 17: Set your income goal
  • Day 18: Your personal capital

PART SIX: YOUR RETIREMENT

  • Day 19: Take stock of your retirement
  • Day 20: Set retirement goals
  • Day 21: Increase your contributions and close your retirement gap
  • Day 22: Invest in your own portfolio

PART SEVEN: RISK MANAGEMENT

  • Day 23: Audit your insurance
  • Day 24: Set up a will
  • Day 25: Don’t take your situation for granted
  • Day 26: Pass it on

PART EIGHT: YOUR FINANCIAL FUTURE

  • Day 27: Visualize, track and celebrate your victories
  • Day 28: Sort your paperwork
  • Day 29: Make a long-term plan
  • Day 30: Money mistakes to avoid

The last section in the book is titled, ‘What’s Next‘. This section reviews what you should have done in the last 30-days if you followed the plan and also we are encouraged to not give up. Even if things don’t look exactly how we want them to be, at least we have made a start and are now moving in the right direction.

The book also has an appendix that outlines actions for us to take in a tabular format. They are really the 30-day actions discussed in the book summarised into actionable items.

Below I have summarised one personal lesson from each of the eight sessions, so eight lessons in all.

  1. What’s your money mindset? This is the day 1 action and it’s not only a great action to start with but it is something we should all think about. I believe the challenge we mostly have with money has to do with how we think about it. There is a questionnaire provided in this session to help you gauge your money mindset. Examples of statements that you have got to respond to with either, ‘agree’, ‘neutral’ or ‘disagree’ are:
    1. I’ve never been good with money.
    2. Wanting more money is a sign of greed
    3. I never have enough money for my personal goals.
  2. Track your expenses: Probably next to your money mindset in importance is knowing how you actually spend the money you currently have. Inge put’s it this way, ‘To get started, you’ll need to find out more about your current expense patterns: Where does your money go each month? What percentage of your expenses is dedicated to groceries, dining, savings or car expenses?’ Here are some suggested steps for us to track our expenses:
    1. Get something to register your expenses. It can be a spreadsheet, notebook or app.
    2. Register your expenses at a set time: every evening as soon as you purchase something or right at the start of your lunch break.
    3. Check daily for expenses that come out of your bank account.
    4. Create logical categories in your expenses register once you have enough information from the records you have been collating. The categories can include, housing costs, car expenses, fun money and so on.
    5. Get at least one month’s worth of data if you can.
    6. Try and make this a habit you do forever.
  3. Saving goals: It is important to have your own saving goals so write down all your saving  goals and dreams. Then divide your goals into short-term (less than 2-years), mid-term (2 – 5 years) and long-term (more than 5 years) goals. Then prioritize them by how important to you. Also, estimate how much money you need for the goals and how much you will need to set aside for each goal monthly. If you can also set up a separate account for each goal where you can save the money.
  4. Gain clarity on your debts: debt can come in different forms and a key aspect of gaining control of our finances is to gain clarity of our debts. Whether it’s a student loan, mortgage, car loan, credit card or personal loan, being clear about how much we owe is very important. Steps you can take to do this are,
    1. Collect statements for all the loans you have, whether paper or through accounts you need to log into.
    2. List all your debts and note down their outstanding balances, interest rates, remaining life spans and minimum monthly payments.
    3. Have a look at the list and allow how you feel about your level of debt to surface.
    4. Now you have a good idea of how much you owe.
  5. The seven income streams: Most of us want to have more than one income stream. We don’t want all our income eggs to be in just one basket. Here are seven income streams for you to examine and think of which ones you already have and which ones you can add to your income streams:
    1. Income from a job
    2. Profit from selling products and services
    3. Royalties from products you’ve made or other investments such as franchises.
    4. Interest income from lending out your money. For instance on things such as bonds.
    5. Dividend income from share investments.
    6. Capital gains: Any money you receive as a result of selling something you acquired at a cheaper price.
    7. Rental income: Income from renting out assets such as rental property.
  6. Set retirement goals: We all need to plan for our retirement so here are some key questions for us to answer:
    1. How much do you need on a monthly basis to support your retirement dreams?
    2. How far away are you from retirement target income goals?
    3. How much will you need to set aside each month now to meet those retirement income goals?
  7. What about risk management insurance? Don’t overlook risk management and insurance. They may not be the most exciting thing to look into but they are important. An insurance policy  is financial protection you set up against the risks of possible loss. Check for what type of insurance you need and shop around for the best deals. There are different types of insurance policies which can include:
    1. life insurance
    2. health insurance
    3. disability insurance
    4. homeowner or renter’s insurance
    5. car insurance.
  8. Money mistakes to avoid: If you want to be in charge of your finances then there are some money mistakes to avoid. Some of them are:
    1. Not living below your means: spending more than you earn will put you in trouble. Don’t try to be what you are not.
    2. Giving into lifestyle inflation: Don’t get to the point where you stop appreciating what you currently have and you start increasing your expectations hence you spend more on things. For example, if your car, mobile phone or laptop is still perfectly safe and doing what it should be doing, then hold off replacing it until it is really needed.
    3. Being unaware of the impact of fees: Don’t ignore the impact of fees such as interest rates over the long term. These are not just fees you pay on things such as loans, mortgages and credit cards but also interest you earn on investments. Search around for the lowest fees on borrowing and the best interest on investments. In the present it may not seem like much but it adds up over the longer term.
    4. Not scheduling time regularly to maintain your financial life: You must schedule time regularly to keep up with your finances. Without regular check-in moments when you dedicate some focused time, it is hard to stay on top of this area.

So, those are eight summary lessons but in the book there are much more. I believe this book can help almost anyone get a good handle on their finances. Therefore, I definitely recommend it.

BOOK REVIEW – HOW TO WRITE YOUR BRAND STORY BY SUSAN PAYTON

Brand story

How to write your brand story by Susan Payton is a short book that expresses the importance of using stories to build a business brand. Even if you are running a small side hustle you can still use stories to strengthen your own personal business brand. In this book Susan uses the stories of five businesses to illustrate how effective stories can be to building brands. She uses the stories of:

Innocent the drinks company founded by three university friends. They started with very little and built a strong brand that became well known. This is used to illustrate the idea of having a business idea, overcoming challenges and finally succeeding.

Gandys which was founded by two brothers who lost their parents family to a Tsunami in Sri Lanka. They started their business to give back to the Sri Lankans who helped them get back home to the UK after the loss of their parents. Their story shows how they overcame a personal tragedy to create a successful business that now gives back to the community.

Leaner Stronger You, a business started by Jenny Nim, a health and fitness coach. Based on her experience, she wants to make health and fitness easy to understand and save people from all the misinformation that the industry feeds to people. She wants to help as many people as possible by making things simple. Continue reading

25 life lessons from What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman

712C-vuWojL._AC_UY218_I’ve just finished reading What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman. Stephen is one of the co-founders of Blackstone which is one of the biggest investment companies in the world. I got a lot of lessons from the book but I would like to share with you his 25 lessons for life. I am sharing the lessons exactly how they were written in the book and I do hope you gain one or two things from them.

Here they are:

 

  1. It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.
  2. The best executives are made, not born. They never stop learning. Study the people and organizations in your life that have had enormous success. They offer a free course from the real world to help you improve.
  3. Write or call the people you admire, and ask for advice or a meeting. You never know who will be willing to meet with you. You may end up learning something important or form a connection you can leverage for the rest of your life. Meeting people early in life creates an unusual bond.
  4. There is nothing more interesting to people than their own problems. Think about what others are dealing with, and try to come up with ideas to help them. Almost anyone, however senior or important, is receptive to new ideas provided they are thoughtful.
  5. Every business is a closed, integrated system with a set of distinct but interrelated parts. Great managers understand how each part works on its own and in relation to all the others.
  6. Information is the most important asset in business. The more you know, the more perspectives you have, and the more likely you are to spot patterns and anomalies before your competition. So always be open to new inputs, whether they are people, experiences, or knowledge.
  7.  When you’re young, only take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and strong training. First jobs are foundational. Don’t take a job just because it seems prestigious.
  8. When presenting yourself, remember that impressions matter. The whole picture has to be right. Others will be watching for all sorts of clues and cues that tell who you are. Be on time. Be authentic. Be prepared.
  9. No one person, however smart, can solve every problem. But an army of smart people talking openly with one another will.
  10. People in a tough spot often focus on their own problems, when the answer usually lies in fixing someone else’s.
  11. Believe in something greater than yourself and your personal needs. It can be your company, your country, or a duty for service. Any challenge you tackle that is inspired by your beliefs and core values will be worth it, regardless of whether you succeed or fail.
  12. Never deviate from your sense of right and wrong. Your integrity must be unquestionable. It is easy to do what’s right when you don’t have to write a check or suffer any consequences. It’s harder when you have to give something up. Always do what you say you will, and never mislead anyone for your own advantage.
  13. Be bold. Successful entrepreneurs, managers, and individuals have the confidence and courage to act when the moment seems right. They accept risk when others are cautious and take action when everyone else is frozen, but they do so smartly. This trait is the mark of a leader.
  14. Never get complacent. Nothing is forever. Whether it is an individual or a business, your competition will defeat you if you are not constantly seeking ways to reinvent and improve yourself. Organizations, especially, are more fragile than you think.
  15. Sales rarely get made on the first pitch. Just because you believe in something doesn’t mean everyone else will. You need to be able to sell your vision with conviction over and over again. Most people don’t like change, so you need to be able to convince them why they should accept it. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
  16. If you see a huge, transformative opportunity, don’t worry that no one else is pursuing it. You might be seeing something others don’t. The harder the problem is, the more limited the competition, and the greater the reward for whomever can solve it.
  17. Success comes down to rare moments of opportunity. Be open, alert, and ready to seize them. Gather the right people and resources; then commit. If you’re not prepared to apply that kind of effort, either the opportunity isn’t as compelling as you think or you are not the right person to pursue it.
  18. Time wounds all deals, sometimes even fatally. Often the longer you wait, the more surprises await you. In tough negotiations especially, keep everyone at the table long enough to reach an agreement.
  19. Don’t lose money!!! Objectively assess the risks of every opportunity.
  20. Make decisions when you are ready, not under pressure. Others will always push you to make a decision for their own purposes, internal politics, or some other external need. But you can almost always say, “I need a little more time to think about this. I’ll get back to you.” This tactic is very effective at defusing even the most difficult and uncomfortable situations.
  21. Worrying is an active, liberating activity. If channeled appropriately, it allows you to articulate the downside in any situation and drives you to take action to avoid it. 
  22. Failure is the best teacher in an organization. Talk about failures openly and objectively. Analyze what went wrong. You will learn new rules for decision making and organizational behavior. If evaluated well, failures have the potential to change the course of any organization and make it more successful in the future.
  23. Hire 10s whenever you can. They are proactive about sensing problems, designing solutions, and taking a business in new directions. They also attract and hire other 10s. You can always build something around a 10.
  24. Be there for the people you know to be good, even when everyone else is walking away. Anyone can end up in a tough situation. A random act of kindness in someone’s time of need can change the course of a life and create an unexpected friendship or loyalty.
  25. Everyone has dreams. Do what you can to help others achieve theirs.