Month: March 2014

Money Management By A Billionaire

I was reading a financial magazine last week about the world’s known billionaires. It discussed what their latest financial net worth and some of the things they did to reach their apex and what they did to help out people.

It also discussed how one of them gave away most of his wealth retaining only 250 million for his own expenses. Whoa! That’s still a lot of money in my opinion! I could live a financially independent life on half of 1% of that for the rest of my life!

Well, the other day I got to watch a few minutes of Warren Buffett’s speech to a Financial Education Forum in Omaha. Warren Buffett is considered as the best investor of the 20th century. Yes, he is a billionaire many times over!

He is probably the most respected and admired billionaire in the elite group of known billionaires. When he speaks, a whole bunch of people listen because almost all of his investments got profitable, he maintains a simple life, lives in the same neighborhood and drives an 8-year-old car.

Here’s some of the sage financial advice he told the young students:

 

He said two things can hold you back:

  1. Lack of education (in my opinion, not necessarily a college education)

  2. Habits that you develop

He said it’s very important to start creating good habits that will lead to success while you are still young. When you’re 50 to 60 years old, it will be hard to develop them because your habits are set. I disagree with him on this point – I think it’s not too late to develop good habits at any age.

Pick out the person that you admire most. Write down the character traits that make you admire him or her. Then work on acquiring those habits for yourself.

Think about the person that is repulsive to you. What bad attributes does that person have? Do not develop those habits.

Choose to have integrity. He mentioned that when his company hires new employees, he looks for three attributes: integrity, intelligence and energy. He said that all of the students have intelligence and energy, but they still have to choose whether to have integrity or not.

One very significant piece of advice he mentioned is to avoid credit cards.  If you start a revolving debt on a credit card, you will pay 18 -20% interest.  You can’t make a lot out of your life if you are constantly paying 18 to 20 percent interest. You can make a lot of money by lending at 18-20% but you won’t want to be on the other side: the one paying the interest.

If you can’t pay for it, DON’T buy it. Put yourself in a position where you pay CASH for it.

I think the above advice about credit cards is something that needs to be learned by a lot of young and old people (who haven’t figured out yet how to manage money properly). It needs to be taken to heart and practiced daily.

The video was about an hour. But the first 16 minutes are the most interesting. You can watch it in youtube:  the title is “How to Stay Out of Debt – Warren Buffet” (I am giving you the title because I tried linking it but it won’t work properly).

Have fun watching! I hope his advice will help you develop good habits for your future success!

This is a part of the Building Wealth Series

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This Journey Called Life

I was taking a break the other day soaking in some rays (I read that getting exposed to the sun for about 20 minutes a day improves your sleep quality, not to mention receiving Vitamin D and getting a tan) – when I thought of my past life. 

When I was on an aircraft carrier many many moons ago, I always take a break on the fantail. That’s an open space on the hangar deck to the rear of the carrier (below the flight deck) which could hold a few dozen people taking breaks from the daily grind of aircraft operations.

My thoughts normally when I was taking a break is usually longing for the day when the ship goes back to its home port so I could go back to my family ashore. Wishful thinking on a longer term was about my transfer from sea duty to a more relaxed shore duty where I will spend 36 to 42 months away from the ocean.

Despite these thoughts during my break, I often marvel at the churning wake of the carrier. This was created by the huge propellers underneath and it looks awesome watching it churn and create massive turbulence on the water at the rear of the ship. These days, I miss watching it.

Fast forward to near the end of my career. I was onboard an amphibious ship. This ship carries Marines and their armaments to anywhere around the world. Compared to a carrier, this ship is a lot quieter. On a dark night on the flight deck when hardly any lights, you can see thousands of stars and a slight luminescent image of the wake of the ship. It was both a surreal and an incredible scene.

During this time, my thought was: I better enjoy this because I will never experience this event ever again.

Another experience I had which was so captivating was when I woke up one morning and walked outside to the bow of the ship. To my surprise the sea was like glass. Not a single ripple except for the small wake from the ship. I looked around and it was like the ship was put in a huge glass table because there’s hardly any water movement around us.

I went to the flight deck to the rear of the ship just to double-check if I was not just dreaming it. This calm water scene was from horizon to horizon 360 degrees around us.

It’s too bad I wasn’t into photography back then. But even if I take a picture of it, it would only show a little portion of how smooth the water surface was. It was unbelievable. I reminded myself to remember that moment because I may never experience it again.

All through my naval career, every time I was deployed or during training exercises for weeks, all I can think of was when it will end or when will I go back to shore duty. The ultimate dream back then is the retirement date. I couldn’t wait to get to it.

Life in the navy was not easy. The pay was low, the food was not great, and you get to work many long hours while onboard a ship. Then you go on two to eleven months deployments. We go out for days or weeks of training exercises too.

The hardest part of being in the service was the family separation. It was very heart breaking. We have no email, cell phones, skype or any social media. All we have to communicate are letters and post cards. Long distance calls from foreign ports can be very expensive for our low pay.

Now I’m retired and surprisingly, all the bad memories of being deployed are gone. I still remember the happy serene moments staring at the waves during my work breaks and the excitement of going to a foreign port.

But looking back, I should have just enjoyed every moment the same way I do now. The time is now. The future is not here yet, so I might as well savor the experience.

Life is a continuing journey. We always wish for a brighter future, and that is good. We always think that the grass is greener on the other side. It may be but then it may be not for us. Everyday presents both excitement and challenge, sadness and glee. We savor the journey because in the end, it’s all about how we went through the journey.

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You Are Not Alone

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Don’t you love people who always think of others first?

Let me tell you a story about an eight year old boy who was asked where he wanted to spend the night with: with his two very nice grandparents or a five-year old friend. He answered “my friend”. Two days before the sleepover, he had a change of mind. He wanted to spend the night with his very nice grandparents instead.

But then, he said something totally unexpected.

He said to his very nice grandparents: “I would like to change my mind and spend the night with you, but my friend is already expecting me. I might break his heart if I don’t show up for the night. So I’ll just stay with him.”

Now, isn’t that the ultimate example of being considerate?

Did you wonder who were the people in this story? As you might have guessed, the very nice grandparents are my wife and moi. The grandchild was James – the person which this blog is all about.

What an adorable kid, right?

Selfishness is rampant in our world. From the person who cuts a long line in a supermarket to get to the front of the line so he can save time at the expense of others  to the executives who lost billions for their company (and investors) yet arranged to receive six to seven-figure bonuses the next year for their “superb performance”.

But we all have a choice. Next time we see a long line for the cashier in the supermarket, don’t cut in the line. If we wanted to reprimand someone who cut the line, do it in a soothing way, without being offensive and without using bad language.

Sometimes we see people driving ultra luxury cars cutting everyone off in the freeway, including me. My perception is that since they drive very expensive cars, they feel entitled to using the freeway all to themselves. Never mind that they have eight year mortgages to pay for their cars, or that they are three months behind in payments. It really gets on my nerves, especially when I was younger and impatient.

But slowly I learned that the way to change the world is not by enforcing the law or rules to other people. That means we don’t chase after the luxury car mentioned above and cut them off to give them a lesson in being considerate. That would only infuriate them.

The best thing to do is to let it go and don’t get into a confrontation. Maybe the guy is sick and rushing to a hospital. Maybe the wife is inside the car and about to give birth. Maybe he is being a jerk – and there’s hundreds of them in the freeways – but I’ve learned that it’s best to let go.

The point of this post is that change must start with us (with my two thumbs pointed at me). One offensive action shouldn’t lead into another. If a person decided to be offensive, then we either try to avoid them or act with kindness.

Easier said than done! (two thumbs now pointed at my chest).

With practice, this can be done. It all starts right now. Be kind to others. James is only eight years old, and he knows how to do it. Why can’t we?

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Listen Up!

What do you think is one thing we can do that can improve relationships immediately?

A gift of a luxury car during Christmas? An all out birthday party? An around-the-world cruise in the biggest, baddest cruise ship?

That would probably help…. but that would be expensive.

How about an inexpensive solution?

I personally think (or know?) that one thing we have to improve on is the art of listening. Here’s a quick illustration about (mis) communication and listening.

Mother: Did you get deaf on the plane ride?

Child: No, I got deaf from that plane ride.

Mother. Oh, I thought you got deaf from the plane ride.

So I exaggerated a bit. But sometimes real life is worse than the above illustration. I’ve seen people ask a loved one a question. When the other party replied, what was said was immediately ignored. Sometimes, we ask just for the sake of asking without concern for what is actually being said in return.

Listening is critical especially when dealing with children, or even the elderly. They both sometimes don’t have the ability to communicate their thoughts clearly so listening intently is a must. Observing basic body language helps too.

Did you have the experience of hearing people argue? I’ve heard people blabbing loudly about two different things and no one is pausing to listen. If one of them did, the miscommunication would be immediately stopped.

What happens if you’re hard of hearing? Don’t turn a deaf ear! Just kidding. Yeah... Sure

I happen to be hard of hearing especially on one ear and sometimes it gets frustrating for me and for the person talking to me when I couldn’t understand what they’re saying.

I used to spend months at a time on an aircraft carrier. My bed was less than 7 feet from the deck where jet aircrafts lands. It wasn’t just a landing. The jet’s forward momentum gets arrested by a cable which gives a very loud noise too when pulled taut at 120 mph in a few seconds and when released from the jet’s hook after it stopped.

That’s why it is important to wear ear protection and we did, sometimes double hearing protection. But sometimes when you are sleeping, the ear foams get pulled out and all of a sudden – WHAM -BANG! WHEEEEZE – another jet lands – and it could be a very long troubled sleep.

But wait, even with all the noise, we always communicated properly with each other. When an order is given, the person receiving the order normally repeats the order so there is no misunderstanding. Followed by the word “Aye aye” which means an order has been received and will be carried out immediately with all possible effort.

In our interpersonal relationship, we really have to intently pay attention to the person talking. It is harder these days especially with all the smart phones, tablets and even smart watches now all vying for our attention (I missed those days when there are telephones and pay phones – there’s a lot more time for each other).

In some corporations, they instituted rules wherein when you go inside a conference room, your cell phone stays outside. I think that’s a good rule, because everyone seems to think that all incoming calls are equally important.

Relationships are developed when people look each other in the eye and really understand what the other person is saying. That is the only way to respond properly and with care. That’s a fundamental necessity but in our ever advancing technological environment, it seems to have taken a back seat.

Are you listening?

 

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Self-Imposed Limits

Let’s begin with a short anecdote about a person who reached his goal with much determination, courage and effort. This is from the book A World of Wonders by Doug Batchelor (available at  afbookstore.com.)

Felix Carvajal was a mailman in Cuba back in 1904. At 5-foot-1-inch, he decided to compete in the Olympics which was held back then in St. Louis, Missouri. Without much cash and no formal running experience or sponsor, he decided to pay his own way to the Games.

He would go to Havana’s Central Plaza after work, run around in circles and draw a crowd. He would then announce his intention to claim a prize for Cuba. His countrymen were so appreciative that he received enough money to be able to enter the race.

The boat passage was expensive, and what little money Felix had left was stolen in New Orleans. He decided to walk, run and hitchhike the 700 miles from New Orleans to St. Louis. He arrived moments before the marathon started.

It was a 100-degree day (38 degree celsius) on the day of the race. He cut his woolen trousers to fashion a pair of running shorts. He also had heavy shoes and a felt beret. Then, 31 runners were off for the race.

He was able to keep pace with the elite runners, even though it was hot, dusty and there was only one water station in the 26.2 miles of the course. He also hadn’t eaten for two days, so he picked a few apples from an orchard. As expected, the green apples caused him to have stomach cramps which forced him to have a pit stop and lost minutes.

Amazingly, he still placed fourth among a field of the world’s best runners. He returned to Cuba a hero because of his unbending determination and amiable manner. Don’t you think he could have won the race if he had a little more support?

I brought up the above story to point out that sometimes (or is it most of the time) we are limited by our self-imposed limits.

For example, we tend to follow what society and the media dictates to us:

Buying a luxury car because everyone else is doing it (as opposed to paying cash for a used reliable car).

Have you heard of a three-person household with five cars? I have.

Going to College for the party atmosphere and not learning anything.

Buying things because there was a “Sale” even though it wasn’t needed and there are a few dozens of it in his closet/garage/cabinet/house.

Spending ridiculous amount of money on “signature” bags – when you can buy a simple looking bag and sign it yourself Feeling Good

Blaming the government for lack of financial help while spending excessively.

So if I may say so, I think our problem is that we live our lives according to society’s expectations. To have a happy, contented and fulfilling life, we should live our lives according to the expectations we set, based of course on logical thinking.

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Whine or Win?

In the navy, whining is almost a sport. We did it (I’m talking about my contemporaries in the 80’s and 90’s and early 00’s) partly because we feel there was lack of common sense and bad decision-making with our leaders, but mainly because whining is such a fun thing.

The process of whining in itself brings about a sense of relief because we were able to voice out what we perceive to be wrong decisions. It was a cathartic feeling knowing that our seniors (not superiors, as most Chief Petty Officers point out) were able to hear our concerns and complaints.

But whining in its pure form is actually bad for relationships in general as well as in production. Don’t you love a co-worker who grinds out work daily without any complaint and produces work which makes everyone’s life easier?

Now contrast that with a co-worker who complains about a long of things: “I wasn’t trained for this. College doesn’t teach you these things. I believe you guys overwhelmed me with a lot of work – you should have trained me one task at a time!” Doubt it!

It doesn’t have to be a co-worker either. It can be a friend, a sibling, an employee, a business owner. It’s across the board.

In the navy, 70% of the people who worked for me were above average to outstanding workers. Was I fortunate? You bet ya! It’s like having an all-star starting line-up in any sport at any given time. I can give them any task and they finish the job with hardly any supervision.

No whining either.

If I happened to get a whiner every now and then, the hard workers always straightened them out before I even tell them.

The non-whiners were the guys who wins over challenges.

So it goes to show that winners don’t whine, and whiners don’t win, right?

Observe a whiner sometime (if you know of one). The amount of time they spend whining could have been spent doing something, right? Actually, the whiner is also wasting the time of the whinee (is there such a word?) and creating bad morale for the workplace or the family or the community.

Observe the hardworker. He or she are probably bent over the office desk working with intense concentration. He could be a mechanic fastidiously checking all the mechanical details under the car. A chef checking for the 10th time the taste of the culinary masterpiece for dinner.

Notice the difference?

One is positively impacting another person or a group of persons having the same goal. While the other is sucking the productive life and morale of everyone, including his or her own self.

So the choice is clear.

Be a winner! Ha Ha

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Doing Less

How have you been doing?

These past few weeks I was doing some thinking about my priorities in life. I’m not talking about the most important things but rather the activities and processes that I elected to tackle since last year.

That involves this blog, two more websites, watercolor painting, photography, freehand drawing, learning bicycle repair, and recently, painting in acrylic.

On the finance front, I did research on stock investing, looking for small fixer-upper homes as possible investments, and website derived incomes.

Add to that carpet replacement for our home, preparing tax documents for filing our tax returns, attending a wedding in Nevada and making preparations for my daughter’s wedding.

Pretty busy, huh?

On the work front, we have been very busy due to end of the year closings in the accounting department. But now we get busy again due to tax filing almost every month until December 15 of this year.

Getting busier?

Yes, so I thought I would start cutting off some of the activities. I’m thinking I’m biting more than I can chew.  Reminds me of the passage from Jeremiah “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses”. I always think of this passage when I get the temptation to try to increase my income some more.

I figured by doing less, I would increase my free time, which would increase my contentment, which would make me more joyful.

So here’s what I did:

I scrapped the second and third website plan. A second website will be revisited around the end of this year.

I switched to acrylic and shelved watercolor painting for now. I like the vividness of the acrylic medium and the fact that when it dries, it cannot fade if you accidentally spill water or on it.

I still do photography but only occasionally. I’m thinking more of tabletop photography where I use small flowering plants and take beautiful pictures of the in sunlight on top of a small table. Isn’t that convenient? And less time-consuming.

On the finance front, I think I will stick with index funds as they invest mostly in blue chip and stable stocks which lead to more earning annually without the volatility of more aggressive stocks.

The investment in a rental home is on passive mode now. If an opportunity presents itself, we’ll take it.

For workout – I’m paring down to one bicycle from two. Walking and very short runs (less than half a mile)will be the aerobic part of it and kettle bells for the muscle toning part. No more trips to the gym which takes more time.

That should be good enough to give me some free time, don’t ya think? Well, my secret weapon is that I have a wife who gives me input on how to save time. Ask your spouse too. If you’re single, ask your parents, siblings or best friend.

Time is irreplaceable. It’s the only resource that we cannot take back. Take a look at your life and see how you can have more free time.

 

 

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