Sunday, December 09, 2012

Knowledge & Networks: Path to Financial Security

I recently came across a post on a LinkedIn group, asking the question "What would make you feel financially secure?" The first thoughts that came to mind were the lessons learned in Risk Management, from over ten years of advising families on how to mitigate risk and manage their resources, subject to their specific circumstances and goals.But then my personal experiences and reality cut through the noise.

Knowledge and access to information is our first defense in becoming financially secure. Being a lifelong learner, willing to adapt and adjust to your environment, is critical. One of the speeches I share with anyone who listens is, "Do whatever you can to put yourself in an ownership position, avoid becoming a borrower." What I mean by this, is to put sweat equity into your life. Learn how to repair the broken washer, a leaky faucet, grow a garden, bake your own bread. Take time to learn important matters, such as tax codes, insurance contracts and legal contracts. Have you read your insurance policy? Have you read your Checking Account Agreement? What exclusions are in your health insurance plan? Don't take someone else's word as the holy grail - read up on the topic. Do some research before you copy & paste another person's nonsense.

How does that lead to financial security? Instead of running to the store every time something isn't working, you may discover that a $50 part and a little elbow grease could save you from buying a brand new $700 washer and then you'll need the $500 new dryer to go with it. And most likely you aren't buying the appliances with cash, but using credit that will cost you more in the long run.

See, the secret to compound interest is having it work for you, not against you. When you buy things on credit, the amount increases over time as interest accrues. Your are in a borrowing position. Other people have control over what you do with your money every payday. On the other hand, money that is earning interest, works for you, as it earns interest and then interest on interest, the longer you leave it alone. Your money is available for you to decide how to make it work harder, on your own terms. So, the next time you are tempted to run to the store, stop and consider if this may be an opportunity to learn.

The second part of this journey to financial security is Networks. Building a network of people that you trust is vital. A healthy community will share their knowledge and work together to help each other live healthier lives. It doesn't mean you agree with everything they believe or do. It means you respect each other's value and strengths. Networks can help share tools, instead of running out and buying a new thing you may need once. Networks can barter, take turns babysitting, put a roof on or build a shed. Each person contributes their own knowledge and interests to the greater good of the whole. As you continue to learn new skills, you become an important part of you Network.

As another year comes to a close, take time to consider what you've learned and what you would like to explore in the new year. Every day presents us with opportunities to meet new people, expand our networks and share our resources with others.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Drafting Your Own Declaration of Independence

Although I usually reserve year-end for reflecting on life, today seems to be just as appropriate. Since I was given the day off from work, today has evolved into a day of contemplation and reflection of where I've been and where I'm headed. Self-evaluations can be very useful when done with sincere thought and intent. What got me started was a book I recently received, Total Leadership, by Stewart D. Friedman. One of the first things he challenges the reader to do is to define what matters most and what you aim to accomplish in life. I've been through similar activities over the years, always finding it refreshing to put my hopes and dreams down on paper. By defining priorities and values clearly during times of reflection, it allows me to better react and take action during a crisis or stressful situation.
As I've been intently writing down my priorities and values over the past few years, my path has become better defined. One of my long term priorities is to declare independence from employment. I look forward to the day when I can earn a living doing the things I am most passionate about, investing in others. Freedom from having to please and impress my employer motivates me to take action. I continue to do my best at my job, while building skills and tools needed for the future. Over the past six years I have paid off significant debt that was preventing me from pursuing my interests. I have also increased my savings and investments. Of course making these choices also means letting go of other things.
Another priority for me is Freedom of time. Such a precious commodity and too much is spent on things I'd rather not be doing. This fits in with my first priority and I've been slowly making changes in this area to bring it more in line with my values. Over the past few years my time has been invested more in developing networks, connecting people and providing workshops and one-on-one coaching for entrepreneurs. I've also  invested more time with close family and exploring beautiful sites across the U.S.
In retrospect, I guess most of my focus is really learning to become more genuine and transparent about my priorities and values. It's about putting things in their proper order of importance on a daily basis and not being swayed this way and that by every passing whim. This is part of a life long process to pursue the path that matters most to me, with the hope that I am able to accomplish what I've set out to do and make a worthy contribution in some small way. May you be successful in Drafting Your Own Declaration of Independence.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Madeline Island

On Madeline Island, I drove to the Big Bay State Park, filled out the self-registration forms and located a good spot to set up camp. After a well needed shower and band aids on my toes, I headed back into LaPointe to find some food. Tom's Burned Down Cafe was closed, I actually chatted with the owner for a few minutes and he gave me a few other suggestions. Evidently after Labor Day, many of the businesses close early during the week - so I was able to have a wonderful burger at the Beach Club, before heading back to camp.

Day 3. September 21, 2009 - The Hike Back

There's nothing quite like waking up to the sound of water splashing on the shore, knowing that this moment is mine to savor. Amazingly, I didn't feel sore or stiff. I sat on the rocks and washed my face with the cold water from the lake. I made myself eat a few more bites of my Clif bar, even though I had no appetite. I had not brought my pan with me, so I sipped a little bit of water, knowing that I needed to ration it for the hike out. It didn't take long to take down the tent and pack up my bag. Leaving the site just as I had found it, I started following the Lake Superior Trail east. According to the map, the trail would follow the Lake and connect back with 107, which then led to the parking area where I had started the day before. I knew that I didn't want to follow the same trail, since it would be all uphill. Fortunately I didn't know what the Lake Superior Trail would be like or I might have started to cry.
I crossed back over Big Carp River, past the cabins and up the bluff. This area seemed to be more prone to being swampy and muddy in the spring. The trail worked it's way around a few rises and then followed the shore for about 2.5 miles. The trail was literally on the rocky shore in several places, so I took advantage and splashed my face to cool off. The trail was pretty rough with many rocks and tree roots. At two different places the trail becomes a boardwalk, two boards across, so only one person can cross at a time. The trees tended to be smaller than the ones I saw yesterday, many birch and tall grasses. I heard a loon call out and then heard the flapping of wings as a pair flew from a nest way up in a tree.
About half way there is a large camping site, good for several tents. I believe this is called Lone Rock and it's the last place to access the lake on this trail. For the next mile, the trail moves away from the lake and starts to climb from the 600-700 ft level up to 1,220 over the next 2.5 miles. The trail was covered with loose rocks and at one point you have to maneuver up sheer rock, maybe 12 feet high or so. The sun was getting high up in the sky and my water was almost all gone. By the time I made it to the crest of the mountain, there was a wooden bench and an amazing view of the Lake and The Apostle Islands, but I dared not stop and kept moving along. The last half mile was back in old growth forest of pine, which was quite refreshing. Finally I made it to the pavement. I dropped my pack and left it on a bench, while I walked on to the parking area - about 1 mile ahead. The last half mile was pretty steep, as the road rises to 1,400 ft. This trail took me about 5.5 hours.
Once I picked up my pack, I felt rejuvenated and headed back to HWY 28, then followed HWY2 west to Ashland, MN then north to Bayfield. From Bayfield I took the ferry across to Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands. The area reminded me of many small towns that dot the Connecticut shore along Long Island Sound - fishing towns with a rich heritage and lots of charm.