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One Brick at a Time

I am having difficulty remembering where the phrase first had an impact on my life, but somewhere along the way it stuck.

Sometimes looking at all the problems or tasks we need to complete can seem overwhelming and even impossible.

The best example I have is our debt free journey.  We began our journey with everything that the current average family has for debt including credit cards, student loans, home loans, vehicle loans, equity loan, etc…  Becoming debt free was a new concept for us at the time.

Thinking of all the debt and looking at our monthly budget, it was almost overwhelming at the time.  Our first goal was to be able to have Kellie stay home with Camden, so we began there.

We created our budget and then did exactly what Dave Ramsey says to do, tackle the lowest bill first and begin to snowball your budget.  We also downsized our vehicles to very inexpensive cars that worked.

Each step of our journey was a single step at a time and we saw progress.  Debt is a lot like losing weight, there is no quick win.  It is hard work and dedication that will win in the end.

It was over 7 years before we got to the point where selling our home became an option for us to finally be 100% debt free.

Good things take time, discipline and patience.  Anyone who tries to tell you something is easy (making money, getting out of debt, losing weight, etc…) is just trying to make money.  All these things take time and effort.

Just focus on one brick at a time.



Pay Disparity CEO vs. Workers

The political season always gets me thinking about various issues.  Since I am not a “party” loyalist, I try and find data on the big issues.

Equal pay is a very big issue, but not how the politicians are talking about it.

I looked up various articles on pay disparity by race, gender and found one big issue.  The largest pay disparity is actually between CEO and workers.

The image below is from this site, which has a great article on the issue if you want to go into detail.

CEO Pay Difference

Credit: Economic Policy Institute

We will talk about this later, but for now let’s focus on how to combat the smaller issue of pay disparity.  Not the illegal, should be held accountable pay difference issues, but the ones occurring due to our own inexperience.

Negotiating Pay

One of the biggest learning experiences of my own career was about negotiating pay.  I was always a good soldier and took the first offer that came at me or only slightly asked for more.

Later when you learn from colleagues they are making 10, 20, or 30% more than you are for the same work it hits you!  We all need to be negotiating pay and we need to teach our daughters what they are worth also.

Do you think Marissa Mayer took what was offered to her when she joined Yahoo?  She fought for the right pay for the job she was being offered.

If you fight for what you are worth, you do need to be okay with walking away.  The hardest part of negotiations is knowing your limits.  You look up what the median salary is for a position and find it should be $55,000 per year. Your experience is more than average for that position (let’s say 8 years).

We may have an expectation that $55,000 would be the absolute lowest pay you would accept if all the other benefits and job skills align.  If they offer you $53,000, you will need to be okay with walking away (if the pay is important to you).

We all need work and we need enough money to live on, so this is not something  you may have the luxury of doing all the time.  When we have the greatest leverage is when we are already employed.  I will not leave my current job for anything less than $X in your head.

See where being debt free helps you in this?  The less debt and financial requirements around you, the more negotiating power you have.  Weird right?  The less money I need the more power I have to negotiate higher pay (yes!).  You are not trapped into taking a job for less than you are worth to cover your expenses.

The Bigger Issue

The difference in CEO pay to employer pay is now over 300 to 1.  This essentially means I could have hired 300 employees or 1 CEO.

This issue crosses party lines on both sides and speaks to the value put on a CEO.  Logically, it does not make sense that one person would be somehow able to produce more money for a company than 300.

When could this be true?  If the CEO is the person who founded the company, made all the initial investments, put in 20 hour days for the past 10 years building their dream.  The list of CEOs this would include is extremely small from Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Micheal Dell, etc….

The rest of the CEOs are put in the position to help steer a company already functioning.

How can we address this?

Beyond fighting politically and with corporate PR pressure, we have limited options individually.  I do suggest everyone work to find a solution to this so we can get back down to the 30-40 to 1, which is much more reasonable.

Outside of PR and politics, we can work on our own pay by doing a couple things.  First is to ensure you are negotiating your pay when hired with a company.  Do your research through various sites on median pay for a profession and push the salary negotiation.  If they say yes right off, you probably left money on the table.

Think about when you negotiate the deal on a car.  If the sales person says yes to your offer right off, then you messed up.  They should have to visit their manager 3-4 times before accepting (same with jewelry or anything that is negotiable).

The next option is to start your own business.  Starting your own business is the hardest option, but can pay out very well.  Now you can set your own prices and your own pay based on earnings.  This option also means 100% accountability by you for what you make.  If your salary is low, work harder or smarter, whichever is needed.

Both of these options are easier if you are debt free.  My wife and I did not both start running our own businesses until we had zero debt and we had our emergency funds fully funded.  The reason is my fear of risk.

Everyone’s situation is different.  Starting and running a business is very difficult and means not many real days off.  Starting a business comes with a lot of risk as well.  Working for someone else many times has a ceiling of what we can make or how high up in the organization we can go.  Everyone’s decision is personal and needs to be well thought out by you and your family.

Remember we have control of our own futures.  We make the decisions, which ultimately effect our lives for better or worse.

Have a great day!



American Politics – Different Beliefs Are Good

If you listen to people and watch the news, you would think the end of the world is near.  America is the greatest country in the world with amazing opportunities for all of our citizens.

Are there differences in the opportunities?  Yes, some folks are born into very wealthy homes and they do get a leg up on the rest of us, but that is okay.  We can all decide to put our heads down and work like crazy to be a success.  Public school is readily available to everyone, we have clean drinking water and more.

We are very lucky

If you have ever been overseas or read my post about average incomes across the world, then you know this is not something we should take lightly.

Did you know the “Global median salary is $1,225, says leading economist” and to be in the top 1% of income earners globally you only need to be making ~$34,000/year after taxes.

Complaining about the top 1% when you speak globally includes a lot more of us than if we are just looking at the United States.

What about the importance of who becomes president?

Yes, voting is a big deal and we need to exercise our right to vote.  Men and women have fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice to allow us our freedoms.  Never take this for granted and always be grateful.

The great thing about America is we are made up of different beliefs.  Politicians resorting to mud slinging and crooked politics we should not let that effect how we treat each other.

A lighthearted video about two polar opposites getting along even with differing beliefs.  (Warning: It is Kid Rock and Sean Penn, so there are some colorful words being used in the video)

Fight for your beliefs and vote.  Also remember we are lucky to live in a country where we have opportunity, no matter where we come from.  No matter our race, religion or family income growing up, we can become as successful as we want with hard work and determination.

If Hillary, Trump, Jill or Gary get elected, this will still be true.  Different ideas and beliefs make us better.  Different ideas make us think about other possibilities.  If we all agreed all the time, we would be a very boring bunch.  🙂

Have a great day!


Tracfone vs. Other Carriers

Everyone I speak with says they want to be debt free.  Not many of us enjoy having payments each month.

The issue is not many of us are willing to put in the effort to become debt free.  Debt free means financial freedom, which allows us to live the way we want on our terms.

One of the largest discretionary spending items we have as families is the cell phone.  Families have cell phones for everyone including the kids these days and they have the data plans.

I went in and started to create accounts for two different phones.  One was on AT&T and the other was a Tracfone.  Below are the differences.

What is the difference between the two phones below?

This is the iPhone 6s, which you can get from AT&T.  I went through the online process to select my phone.  I made choices like a consumer would.  The plan that offered me plenty of data, text and voice, along with being able to swap my phone out for a new one whenever the latest technology comes along.

My total bill for a single phone was going to be over $150/month.  I had the option to add additional lines for $35 each as well.  We would need to add the additional phones also and those ranged from about $25/month extra unless you just paid for a phone.  I won’t use the additional phone costs in my calculations since you could buy some used ones on eBay or Amazon if you wanted to.

For 3 people, the cost of the phone with data plan would be ~$220/month.  To have a nice phone, data plan so we are always connected and plans (not the phones) for each family member per year the cost is $2,2640.

iPhone 6s

The next phone I looked at was the Tracfone.

tracfone plan

I did not select the top of the line phone, so the phone was free.  Remember we are now thinking like someone who wants to be debt free.  This means we do not care if our phone has Nikon and Cannon camera resolutions or that we can play Call of Duty on our phones if we want.

Knowing we want our phone for things such as emergencies, getting directions, letting family know we are on our way, etc… I selected the annual minutes plan with quite a bit of talk time.

tracfone checkout

Our bill for the entire year is $125 and the phone we selected gets triple minutes for life when we purchase more at the end of the year.  Tracfone minutes usually roll over if you use the same phone also (nice bonus).

If you buy 2 of these phones so family members who are leaving the home have one with them, the cost is only $250/year.  This is 10% of the regular phone carrier bill.

Both phones can do the following:

  • If we break down, we can call a tow truck.
  • Send a text if we need to letting someone know we are on our way.
  • Call for directions if we are lost.
  • Let our loved ones know we may be late home from work.
  • Letting our friends know we have arrived or on our way.
  • Check email if we have important work emails coming through.

Because we do not have an unlimited data plan with the Tracfone some unexpected side effects may occur however.  I do need to warn you about these as well.

  • You will have more money in your pocket at the end of the month.
  • Your head is not buried in social media, thus you enjoy the company of those around you.
  • You will not feel the need to text someone ever 2 minutes with what you are currently doing, wearing, eating, seeing etc… You can email or call them later.
  • Your family will enjoy your undivided attention and company more.

You get the point.  I see people on walks in beautiful areas and their heads are pointed directly down on their phones.  Enjoy the world around you and save money.  Does not get much better than that.

Oh and the hours worked saved with the Tracfone vs. the AT&T phone, drum roll please…   If you make $25 per hour and we factor in taxes taken from our pay, it comes out to over 129 hours of work for family phones per year.

Get a Tracfone and give yourself 3.2 more weeks of vacation a year!