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Archive | May, 2007

Investing Made Easy – A Simple Guide + Free Download

Investing Made Easy – A Simple Guide

As I stated in an earlier post, the 5 Big Secrets of Investing, many in the investment industry want to make you believe that investing is complex and difficult. If you want it to be that way, you can have a whale of a time making things complicated and difficult. However, I know from my experience as a former investment professional, that investing can also be as simple. And in fact, the simpler the better. The more simple your approach, the better are your chances for maximum return and minimum risk.

This guide will teach you some basic investing principles and it will instruct you how to invest your money in the simplest way way possible.

The Simple Investing Process

First Things First: Asset Allocation

What is Asset Allocation ? Asset Allocation is finding the right mix of foreign and domestic assets classes: stocks, bonds and cash for your portfolio. By investing in many asset classes and many securities within each asset class, using mutual funds, you are spreading out the risk that any one poor performing security or asset class will badly damage your portfolio. Simply put, your overall risk is drastically reduced.

Why Asset Allocation? Gary Brinson, a money manager and a finance author conducted a study in 1986 and also in 1991 which analyzed a group of pension fund managers to determine what caused differences in their results. What he found is that over 90% of their differences could be explained by the asset allocation they chose. This meant that both security selection and market timing accounted for less than 10% of their differences.

Here’s a notable tidbit that will should instill some confidence: If over the past 10 to 20 years you had held a portfolio of 25% of the following indices: large US stocks, small US stocks, foreign stocks and high quality US bonds, you would have outperformed over 90% of all professional money managers and with significantly less risk.  What could be easier than picking four index funds, investing equal amounts in each, and letting them sit for 10 years?

Another Reason to Use Mutual Funds: Diversification

Diversification is having a broad mix of securities in each of the asset classes in which you invest. It also means having a broad coverage of all the different sectors of our economy. How broad is broad enough? Generally speaking, the broader the better for spreading out risk, but a good guideline is to have a minimum of 25 securities per asset class. The easiest way to achieve this is through mutual funds.

Why use diversification? Simply put, if you have a small number of securities in your portfolio and if one of those securities performs poorly its impact on your portfolio is felt more strongly than if you had a greater number of holdings. The same is true with sectors of the economy.  The less securities you have the more one of them could heavily impact your overall results.

Finding the “Right Mix” for You

You will need to examine your personal Investment Profile. This includes the following:

  • Your risk tolerance – how you feel about potential fluctuations in your portfolio and how much you can financially withstand.
  • Your time horizon – how much time you have before you will need the money that you are investing.
  • Your goals – what do you want your money to do for you? (retirement, home, large purchase, education, etc)
  • Your income, job status and tax bracket – how much savings you should have as opposed to investments, and what type of fixed income securities should you invest in.

This is the easiest way to determine your optimal asset allocation based on your personal investment profile is to use this asset allocation calculator.

Go to this calculator, fill in your information, and print out the one page “report.”Â

Using Index Funds

For the core of your holdings you should consider using index funds. Why? Because your risk will be lowered by the high level of diversification, you are likely to perform better than 80%+ of managed funds in any given year, and your fees will be significantly lower making it easier for you to profit from your investment. If you are a new investor, the best book you can read is John Bogle’s “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.” John Bogle is the founder of Vanguard, and his facts and clear writing give you everything you need to know about keeping investing simple and maximizing your returns while doing so.

Investing 100% of your holdings in index funds is simplest and best, but if you want to try to pick some managed funds, you can do that too. The more you can put into index funds the better.

Using Asset Allocation and Balanced Funds

If you have less than $5000, you may want to consider an asset allocation fund or balanced fund that uses indexing strategies. Balanced funds hold set percentages of several assets classes whereas asset allocation funds hold several asset classes but the percentages are managed according to market predictions. Usually both types come in flavors such as “Aggressive,” “Moderately Aggressive,” “Moderate,” and so on. Which is best? Balanced funds have outperformed asset allocation funds so far over time.

Using Managed Funds

If you want to add a little more excitement to your portfolio you can include managed mutual funds. This will increase complexity for you, increase risk, and also give you the potential to either over or under perform the market. With index funds your return will always be in line with the underlying markets which your index funds follow.

If using managed funds, determine what percentage you want to put into index funds and how much into managed mutual funds. Be sure to pick no-load, low expense fee funds, with no transaction fees. Here is an article by Motley Fool on choosing a mutual fund. Try not to pick the “hottest” fund because often those funds tend to get flooded with cash and find it difficult to keep up super high returns. Instead look for long term steady performers, say in the 5 and 10 year performance categories.

Picking Your Mutual Funds

Here is a list of mutual fund marketplaces from which to choose. This is not an exhaustive list, but it has the major players. If I’ve missed one, please let me know.  I suggest choosing just one for all your needs. Most offer free mutual fund research. Once you open an account you can use their screening tools to choose your funds. If you want to screen for funds before opening an account try Morningstar’s Fund Selector which is free.

Vanguard – Great for index funds. Ultra low fees.
Schwab – Good for index and managed funds. Good service. Portfolio tools. Account minimum: $2500. Excellent research.
Fidelity – Good for managed funds. $2500 account minimum.
TD Ameritrade – $2000 account minimum. Large mutual fund selection, low interest on cash,  lower service relative to peers.
E-Trade – $2500 account minimum.
Scottrade – $500 account minimum. Basic services only.
FirstTrade – No account minimum. Only basic account features. Smartmoney ranking: #3 out of 8.

Source: Click here for a free report comparing 12 online brokers by Broker Advisor.

Choose a brokerage firm and open an account. These days many offer online account opening, and you can always fund it with either a wire or ACH to speed up the process.

Allocating Your Money to Your Mutual Fund Picks
FREE DOWNLOAD:
MutualFundAllocation Tool – Excel Worksheet Template

 

Steps to using the spreadsheet:

  1. Fill in Amount to Invest – upper right hand corner.
  2. Fill in Allocation Percentages for the asset classes (Large Cap, Mid/Small Cap, Int’l, Bonds, Cash, Other.) You’ll get these from using the asset allocation calculator. Check that the total at the bottom equals 100%.
  3. Fill in your mutual fund choices: Name, Symbol, Fund Category. Each asset class has room for up to 5 mutual fund choices. I don’t recommend choosing more than that. 1-3 choices per asset class should be sufficient. If you need to increase this then you’ll need to modify the spreadsheet, which could throw off the calculations so I don’t recommend doing that unless you are proficient at Excel.
  4. For each asset class divide up the percentage across your fund choices for that asset class. Example: Say 30% is going to Large Cap and you choose 1 index fund and 1 managed fund, divide up that 30% between the two, such as 15%/15% or 20%/10% etc. This is filled in under column heading “Percent of each asset class.” Note that the 2 totals should equal each other. They are color coded to make it easy to check. Final Check that all totals add up to 100% at the bottom
  5. Dollar Amounts should calculate automatically. Check to see that the total equals your original Amount to Invest that you filled in at the top of the sheet.
  6. Optional- Rounding or changing dollar amounts. If you prefer rounder numbers, feel free to adjust your dollar amounts in the “Rounded Optional” column. The percentages will automatically fill in.
  7. Double check all totals.
  8. Use this sheet to refer to when placing your mutual fund orders with your fund marketplace provider, (brokerage firm).
  9. Check the Example Chart sheet to see what it looks like when filled in.


Automate Your Investing

Once your portfolio is set up, if you can afford it, set up an automatic investing plan with your brokerage firm. You can usually do this all on one application or you can probably sign up for this online now. Even a small amount invested regularly will make a huge difference in the growth of your portfolio. You’ll be dollar cost averaging which is investing a set amount at set intervals of time. This will likely result in a lower overall cost basis of your investment. And with automatic saving you won’t miss the money. This is well worth the small amount of time it takes to set this up.

Maintenance of Your Portfolio

Review your portfolio quarterly, especially if you have chosen managed funds or other types of investments such as specialty funds or stocks. Do a major review of your portfolio once a year which will include using the asset allocation calculator again. Many things can change in one year and, often, so should your allocation. At the year mark, you’ll want to switch out any under performing managed funds for either index or other managed funds.

Keep in mind that with index funds you should continue to hold them according to your asset allocation. Don’t be tempted to sell the index funds that are doing more poorly to put into the top performing asset class. If you do this you will be taking a loss and probably the hot asset class you choose instead will quickly cool because that’s what everyone else will be doing. As long as your hold your index fund, you won’t realize a loss unless you sell it. So hold on and stick with your asset allocation. The only caveat is if market fluctuations keep you from sleeping. If that’s the case then you probably need to redo your overall asset allocation because your risk tolerance is actually lower than you originally estimated.

If you have major changes in your life such as marriage, children, inheritance, new financial goals or other changes, this is another time when you should reassess your asset allocation and your overall portfolio. The nice thing is that if you are using index funds exclusively, this process shouldn’t take more than 1 hour to complete. Not bad, huh?

Keeping It Simple

In order to keep your investing simple, I recommend steering clear of investment news. Yes, you heard that right. By watching the investment news this will tempt you into the world of “sexy complex investing” which is ultimately a fool’s game for most. It will make you feel like you are “missing out” on something big. As I stated in my post on investment secrets, choosing individual securities, such as stocks, is very difficult to get right. 80% of mutual fund managers are not able to meet their benchmark index! So how can anyone hope to beat that in their spare time? Maybe you can, but in that case you’ll have your work cut out for you along with the odds stacked against you.

Simple investing is best. The only thing difficult is avoiding the temptation for adding complexity. If you absolutely can’t resist, I recommend doing it on a very small scale, such as just one stock. Or better yet, try some online investment games before using your own hard earned money.

Assumptions

I have assumed that you have your “safety net” in place. Your “Safety Net” is cash or insurance that you could use to support yourself and your family if you lost your job. If you don’t have this you should consider building up this emergency cash reserve first before investing. To determine how much, think about how much you would need if you were out of work for 6 months. Consider all sources of income. To find a good rate on cash check out The Massive Personal Finance Resource List.

The second assumption I’ve made is that you are familiar with all the terms in this article. If you would like to see a post with the definitions and explanations of basic investing terms, let me know and I will put that together.

A Final Recommendation

Again I want to reference John Bogle’s book, “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” as a must-read, especially for new investors, but also importantly for old hat investors. I think you will find the arguments for simplicity in investing to be a huge relief! Investing not only CAN be simple, but it SHOULD be simple for optimizing your returns! This is one area of your life where it actually pays to take the easy way! 3 Cheers for that!

Your Investing To-Do List

  1. Make sure you have your 6 month emergency fund set.
  2. Choose your asset allocation using this calculator.
  3. Choose a mutual fund marketplace provider, (brokerage firm).
  4. Choose your mutual funds.
  5. Download the Mutual Fund Allocation Tool – Excel Template
  6. Enter your asset allocation into the spreadsheet.
  7. Enter your mutual fund choices into the spreadsheet
  8. Place your mutual fund orders.
  9. Set up Automatic Investing Plan.
  10. Review your portfolio quarterly (quick) and yearly (1 hour).
  11. Read John Bogle’s book, “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” Check with your local library. They should have it if you don’t want to buy it.
  12. Tune out investing news for the most part. A little here and there is ok, but remember to stick with your plan! Don’t be tempted by the investment sirens! :-)

Please share your comments, experiences, and tips. All comments big and small are very welcomed!

 

If you found this post valuable, please SHARE THIS below on your favorite social media. Thank You!

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22

10+ Powerful Sales Concepts for Blogging Success

I have written a guest post at Lifehack.org today.

If you are searching for success with your blog, I think you will find real value in this article.

This is a supercharged Mash-Up of “Top Dog” sales habits and how they can be applied for YOUR blogging success!

Please check it out: 

Lifehack.org: 10+ Powerful Sales Concepts for Blogging Success

Sales Concepts for Blogging

Please let me know if you find the ideas helpful for acheiving success with your blog!

7

The Original Self Improvement Gurus

The Original Self Improvement Gurus
Dale Carnegie  and Norman Vincent Peale were two of the original self improvement leaders and their lessons are still valid and useful today. I present to you here today a summary of their guidance from 2 of Carnegie’s many best selling books and one of Peale’s. I highly recommend taking the Dale Carnegie course. It is not just a public speaking course. It is a course in how to live your best life possible. And it applicable for all people.   

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale 

Summary

  1. Believe in Yourself – Make a list of the factors that are “For You” not “against you.”
  2. A Peaceful Mind Generates Power – Immerse your mind with peaceful thoughts, memories, words and ideas.
  3. How to Have Constant Energy – Be in tune with The Infinite, with God. Get enthralled with something, pour yourself into it and your energy will never lag.
  4. Try Prayer Power - “Prayerize, Picturize, Actualize.”
  5. How to Create Your Own Happiness – Every morning you have two choices, to be happy or not be happy. Choose to be happy.
  6. Expect the Best and Get It -Affirm daily: “I expect the best and with God’s help, I will get it.” Repeat 10 times daily.
  7. I Don’t Believe in Defeat - Persevere until you have success. Problems? Go over, around, under or if you must “plow right through them.”
  8. How to Break the Worry Habit – Worry is a learned habit. Replace it with better ones such as being with positive people, putting your faith in God to carry you through, and helping others with their worry habits.
  9. Power to Solve Personal Problems -Take God as your partner in all that you do.
  10. When Vitality Sags, Try This Health Formula – Release any grudges you are holding for an increase in health.
  11. How to Get People to Like You -Find ways to genuinely like others, demonstrate your appreciation of them, and they will like you.
  12. Prescription for Heartache – Be physically active. Live Life. Don’t avoid “sad places” if grieving. Find solace in the belief that there is no real death and that you will see your loved one again.
  13. How to Draw Upon That Higher Power – Believe that God gives us power and yield to that power, let it flow into you. Approach life with confidence in a relaxed and easy manner.

Click on these links for purchasing: the condensed version of this book or here for the full length book.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
Summary

Fundamental Principles for Overcoming Worry

  • Live in Day-Tight Compartments: Just live in the moment. Only allow your mind to focus on your immediate task/situation.
  • Face Troubles: Ask What’s the worst that can happen, be prepared for it and see how you can improve on that scenario.
  • Remember the high health price of worrying, so “just say no” to worry.

Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry

  • Gather the Facts.
  • Define the problem and solutions.
  • Make a Decision and take Action!

Break the Worry Habit Before it Breaks You

  • Keep Busy.
  • Don’t worry about small stuff.
  • Accept the inevitable.
  • Don’t worry about the past.

Cultivate a Mental Attitude that Will Bring You Peace and Happiness

  • Fill your mind with thoughts of peace, courage, health and hope.
  • Never try to get even with your enemies.
  • Expect ungratefulness.
  • Count your blessings, not your problems.
  • Don’t imitate others.
  • Try to profit from your losses.
  • Bring Happiness to others.

The Perfect Way to Conquer Worry

  • Prayer.

Don’t Worry About Criticism

  • Unjust criticism is simply a disguised compliment.
  • Do your best.
  • Review your mistakes and critique yourself.

Prevent Fatique and Worry and Keep Your Energy and Spirits High

  • Rest before getting tired.
  • Learn to relax at work and at home.
  • Good working habits: clear desk, organization, no procrastination of decisions, delegation, supervision.
  • Be enthusiastic about your work.
  • Don’t be concerned with insomnia.

Click here for a link to purchasing this book.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Summary

Become a Friendlier Person

  • No criticizing, condemning or complaining
  • Smile
  • Give honest sincere appreciation
  • Be genuinely interested in other people
  • Remember a person’s name – the sweetest sound to their ears.
  • Listen well. Encourage others to tell you about themselves
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Make the other person feel important – with sincerity

Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  • Avoid arguments.
  • Respect others’ opinions.
  • Admit when you’re wrong – quickly.
  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Get the other person saying yes.
  • Let the other person do a lot of the talking.
  • Let the other person feel that the idea is theirs.
  • Try to sincerely see the other person’s point of view.
  • Appeal to their more noble motives.
  • Make your ideas come to life.
  • Suggest a challenge.

Be a Leader

  • Praise and honest appreciation.
  • Only refer to others’ mistakes indirectly.
  • Talk about your own mistakes first.
  • Ask questions instead of direct orders.
  • Let the other person save face.
  • Praise even the smallest improvements and be hearty in your praise.
  • Give the other person a great reputation to live up to.
  • Make faults seem easy to correct.
  • Make the other person happy about doing things you ask.

Click here for a link to purchasing this book.

Please share your comments, experiences, and tips on Dale Carnegie or Norman Vincent Peale. All comments big and small are very welcomed!

If you found this post valuable, please SHARE THIS below with a Digg, Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always noticed and always appreciated!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or visit Amazon through my “Books� page at the top of this page. Thank you!

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6

One Fish, Two Fish, Good Fish, Bad Fish

One Fish, Two Fish, Good Fish, Bad Fish

Which fish are OK to eat? Which ones have too much mercury and other contaminants? It is especially important for children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers to avoid the “bad fish.” Which fish have those great Omega-3 fatty acids that are so good for your heart?

Here’s list you can print out and keep in your wallet or purse for the next time you are at a restaurant or the fish market. This list is courtesy of Oceans Alive:

Best & Worst Seafood Choices
 
Our guide can help you choose fish that are healthy for the oceans and safe to eat. (Learn about seafood and your health and fish to avoid.)

Green text indicates fish that are both high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in environmental contaminants.
Red text indicates fish that are high in mercury or PCBs (see individual fish pages for more information).

 
  Seafood Selector FAQ: Get answers to your common questions.
  Pocket Seafood Selector: Print a wallet-sized copy of this list.
 
 
 
 
 
  Abalone (U.S. farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Anchovies
     
 
 
 
  Arctic char (farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Catfish (U.S. farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Caviar (U.S. farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Clams (farmed)
     
 
 
 
  CrabDungeness, snow (Canada), stone
     
 
 
 
  Crawfish (U.S.)
     
 
 
 
  HalibutPacific (Alaska)
     
 
 
 
  Herring – Atlantic (U.S., Canada)
     
 
 
 
  Mackerel – Atlantic
     
 
 
 
  Mahimahi (U.S. Atlantic)
     
 
 
 
  Mussels (farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Oysters (farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Sablefish/black cod (Alaska)
     
 
 
 
  Salmon – wild (Alaska), canned pink/sockeye
     
 
 
 
  Sardines
     
 
 
 
  Scallopsbay (farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Shrimp – northern (Canada), Oregon pink, U.S. farmed
     
 
 
 
  Spot prawns
     
 
 
 
  Striped bass (farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Sturgeon (U.S. farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Tilapia (U.S.)
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Caviar (wild)
     
 
 
 
  Chilean seabass/toothfish
     
 
 
 
  CodAtlantic
     
 
 
 
  Grouper
     
 
 
 
  HalibutAtlantic
     
 
 
 
  Marlin
     
 
 
 
  Monkfish/goosefish
     
 
 
 
  Orange roughy
     
 
 
 
  Rockfish/rock cod (Pacific)
     
 
 
 
  Salmon – Atlantic (farmed)
     
 
 
 
  Shark
     
 
 
 
  Shrimp/prawns (imported)
     
 
 
 
  Skate
     
 
 
 
  Snapper
     
 
 
 
  Sturgeon (wild)
     
 
 
 
  Swordfish (imported)
     
 
 
 
  Tilefish
     
 
 
 
  Tuna – bluefin
     
 
 
 
   
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
      How we rate fish on Eat Smart

Pocket Seafood Selector: Print a wallet-sized copy of this list.

Please visit Oceans Alive for more information.

Please Share!

Do you have a favorite fish recipe? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

If you found this post valuable, perhaps you’ll be kind enough to vote for this with a Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always appreciated!

You can Support Life Learning Today by visiting one of my sponsors, making a donation, or making a purchase at Amazon through one of my links. Thank you!

 

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4

Maximum Energy in 10 Simple Steps

Maximum Energy in 10 Simple Steps

Everyone wants more energy. We chase it down with drugs and we rob ourselves of it with not enough rest. The answers to experiencing our ultimate energy levels come down to simple habits. Some of these may not sound new, but print this out and let it serve as a lifestyle to aspire to. Oftentimes it is helpful to be reminded of the things we know so that we will actually take action on doing them.

Energy Producing Habits:

1. Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing. Do this exercise first thing in the morning and then at least 2 more times during the day. Anytime you find yourself waiting, use this to pass the time. Or if you feel sluggish, that is another good time to do this. It will also supercharge your Lymph system which is your body’s immune system powerhouse.

  • Blow all the air out of your lungs.
  • Take a slow breath into the bottom of your lungs by letting your stomach relax out. Continue==>>
  • Next keep breathing into the middle rib cage. Continue==>>
  • Finally finish the in breath by filling the upper lungs.
  • Use this timing formula. In for 1, Hold for 3, Out for 2. Example if you breath in for 10 seconds, then you would hold for 30 and then Release for 20.
  • Repeat this 5-10 times per session.

2. Get Enough Rest. Figure out how much sleep YOU need. I need 7 -8 hours of sleep per night to feel good in the morning. Less (or even more) than that and I feel sleepy all day. It’s been said before, but if you want more energy, now is the time to make it a habit. How much do you need? Be kind to yourself and ensure you get it!

3. Reduce and then Avoid Caffiene. I know, I know. I can hear the shouts already, “But I need my caffiene!” I know how you feel. I felt that way too. I’m here to tell you that You Can Do It and that it will make you feel better in the long run. Caffeine robs Peter to pay Paul. It is a nice little high, but it comes at a price. After the high wears off, there is that irritability which stems from robbing future energy. You have to pay for it sometime. Does this sound familiar: After drinking coffee there is that high feeling of “I can do anything!” followed by a furious amount of action or thinking or talking. Then there is a leveling off of energy and finally a feeling of being impatient and easily aggravated. If this is not your pattern, maybe you can stick with coffee without suffering energy consequences. But if you do recognize yourself in this pattern, then at least begin to explore the idea of reducing and maybe even eliminating coffee. I have it now only as a special treat and I’m always reminded why I’m better off without it when I do. :-)

4. Meditation “Naps.” This is something I learned from rocking a baby to sleep. By accident I found that when I was rocking the baby to sleep or giving a bottle feeding, I would also close my eyes for the 10-15 minutes it took. I found that I was incredibly rejuvenated afterwards. I used the time to let my mind rest, by either focusing on the breath or by trying to focus on a mantra word. It didn’t matter what the word was. I recommend doing this when energy is lagging. for those times when you would ordinarily go for a cup of coffee, do this instead.

HOW TO DO THIS: Sitting in a chair, close your eyes, lean your head back and focus on your breathing. Take slow diaphragmatic breaths. Relax your eyes, jaw, and face. Maybe do some neck streches and some arm stretches, all with your eyes closed. After stretching just relax your whole body. Let go of what you’ve been working on. It will be there when you return and you’ll be better able to handle it then. Continue to focus on the breath and perhaps also focus on a word or sound that helps keep your mind from trying to work on problems. The word might be “calm” or “peace” or “om,” whatever works for you. As thoughts come into your mind, notice them and just come back to the breath or your focus word, your mantra. After 15 minutes or so, slowly open your eyes, stretch a little, take a couple deep breaths and enjoy the rejuvenated feeling! (Try to use your internal clock for timing. You’ll be surprised how accurate you are.)

5. Avoid Sugar. This one is easy and hard. Easy to say, hard to do. Start slow by starting to read labels. Keep sugar in your diet to a minimum. Try Stevia in your decaf green tea instead. If you are going to have something sweet, try to combine it with fiber to lessen the blood sugar spike. Good choices are low glycemic fruits such as apple, plum, or oranges. If you want something a little more “decadent” and good for you, try some Kashi Cookies.

6. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco. Smoking makes you tired in the long run. It robs your body in so many ways. Quitting is hard, but here is an inspiring story of how someone quit smoking. It’s not easy, but You Can Do It! Alcohol is like caffeine in that you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. You’re robbing future energy for some “high” energy now. Yes, alcohol can be fun in moderation. If you want more energy, and you use alcohol daily or frequently, consider cutting back. See how your energy changes. If you like what you feel, then keep going. For some, alcohol is not an easy relationship, but remember what ever you want to accomplish, You Can Do It!

7. What to Drink Instead of Coffee. “Long Life Cocktail” is something I learned from Louise Gittleman’s book, “Fat Flush,” which is an excellent book on learning to eat more healthy. Here’s the recipe: 8-10 ounces of water, 1 ounce PURE cranberry juice, and 1 level tablespoon of ground flax seed. (The PURE Cranberry juice you use should have no other ingredients. You can find it in the health section of the grocery store. Look for Sun Mountain brand, for example.) This drink cleans your liver and the fiber is great for your digestive health. Flax seed is a “super food” and has many benefits including lowering cholesterol, lowering tryglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing cancer rates, in particular breast cancer, and more. The drink is a little strange at first, but I’ve grown to love it. I have it one to two times a day.

The other drink I use once a day is a “Green Drink” called Green Vibrance which is a nutritional supplement drink that has many immune, energy and digestive benefits. It’s a little pricey, but I like all the benefits. Try it in a healthy smoothie and you’ll have real energy that lasts all day long!

8. Yoga and Stretching. Deep breathing massages the lymph system and the net cleansing benefits are increased energy. Yoga gives you this in large doses. The other thing it gives you is actual physical release of stored stress. When you stretch your muscles they release into a more relaxed state. When they do this stress chemicals are released. Through deep breathing, your lymph systems is stimulated to carry these toxic chemicals to the blood stream where they are eliminated from your body via expiration (breathing) and through the liver and kidneys. The net result is more energy. If you’ve done yoga you know what I’m talking about. If not, get yourself a yoga video or to a yoga class soon. You will love it. And then make sure to schedule it into your life on a weekly basis. And try to do at least 10 minutes of stretching everyday, especially after any workout.

9. 30 Minutes of Aerobic Exercise Per Day. Keep it simple. Brisk walking or jogging are low cost and highly beneficial. Rotate your activities to keep yourself interested. Play some tennis or soccer or running races with your kids. You get the same benefits even if you break it into shorter chunks, say three 10 minute sessions per day. Try walking to work if possible. Leave work clothes and shoes there to change into. Park in the farthest away spot. Take a walk after dinner to enjoy the early evening. Make it a priority, get it done, and you will be excited by the extra energy you have when you do this. The other added bonus is you will sleep better too.

10. Laughter and Smiling. This activates deep breathing again. And it also releases endorphins, your body’s “natural high” chemical. Find opportunities to laugh, especially when the going gets rough, tough, and ugly. Rent funny videos. Seek out your funny friends and family. Work on your own sense of humor. Laughter is the best medicine. Laugh at life and life laughs with you. Let smiling and laughter be your favorite exercise.

Please Share!

What are your favorite way to get energized? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

If you found this post valuable, perhaps you’ll be kind enough to vote for this with a Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always appreciated!

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The Four Most Powerful Words

The Four Most Powerful Words:


You Can Do It!



My Personal Story

When I was in high school I joined the track team. We were 125 girls strong. I was the slowest runner so I was put in the 2 mile race. That first year, I came in last every race. But I felt good about it. Why? Because we had the best coach on the planet. He focused each of us on beating our personal best everyday. And I did that. You see, I wasn’t focused on coming in last every race. I was psyched every time I finished because of the major success of beating my personal best every race! I was over the moon!

At the end of the season, I asked my coach if he thought I could be a good runner. Coach liked anyone who worked hard and he said to me “Sully if you keep plugging away over the summer you can make it into the A-Team next fall.” This was the group of girls on the team who had the most demanding workouts, the ones who scored in meets. I don’t know why he said that to me considering I was his worst runner, but I think it’s because he is such a big believer in the power of, well, “If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It.”

So I ran everyday that summer in the heat with my dad. My dad is a fast runner so it was torture every morning. I remember at the end of each run, I’d be falling behind, pulling on his shirt to slow down just a little. But I never gave up. I ran my guts out almost every morning for about 3-4 miles. And you know what happened in the fall? Yep, you guessed it! I was running with the A-Team! It was amazing. And it wasn’t just me. I saw him transfer his unwavering belief onto many others who were also poor runners, only to see them blossom into their own personal best and even some of the team’s top scorers.

That power has remained a powerful force in my life. It is behind many of the great things I have accomplished such as landing great jobs, winning tough sales, getting promotions, coaching employees to their personal best, buying a home, and now making my blog the most useful place so people will love coming here.

How To Use this Power

1. Pick Your Goal and Don’t Be Afraid to Dream BIG!

2. Believe You Can! If you have to pretend to believe in the beginning, that’s fine. Your belief will grow with your successes.

3. Find a Mentor Who Has Done What You Want to Do. I’ve sought out “coaches” in each major goal I’ve tried to accomplish. Sometimes this meant contacting someone who I didn’t know who was much “higher” than me. Whenever I’ve done this, I was always a little nervous, but when you approach someone saying “I want to learn from your success” you’ll be amazed at the reception you’ll get. “Ask and Ye Shall Receive,” it’s true. And what do you have to lose anyway? If they don’t have time for you, find someone else. Simple! :-) I currently have a few mentors with blogging. I think they know who they are. And I say thank you!

4. Always Strive For Your Personal Best Each Day.

5. Be Persistent. Shake Off Doubts. Be unwavering in your belief no matter how small the gains seem on any given day. 1% improvement a day means 365% improvement over a year and that’s not even calculating in compounding effects.

6. Celebrate Your Smallest Successes Everyday with Friends and Family. Find anyone who will listen and tell them. Heck, start a blog and tell the world!

7. Pass It On. Pass on this belief to others. When you find people who are working toward a goal, tell them unequivocally “You Can Do It!” Your words can have a positive impact on someone’s life that is bigger than anything you could ever imagine. The words of my coach back in high school have been ringing in my head ever since he said them. And they still carry me.


Please share your comments, experiences, and tips on “YOU CAN DO IT!” All comments big and small are very welcomed!

If you found this post valuable, please SHARE THIS below with a Digg, Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always noticed and always appreciated!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or visit Amazon through my “Books� page at the top of this page. Thank you!

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16

5 Big Secrets “They” Don’t Want You to Know About Investing

5 Big Secrets “They” Don’t Want You to Know About Investing

“They” are the institutions of the investing industry. There are a lot of great people in this industry providing excellent value to their clients, but there are pitfalls to avoid in any area, and investing is definitely one of them. I used to work in this industry, so I know how to separate the good information from the bad. Here I share with you institutional secrets “They” don’t want you to know because they make more money keeping you in the dark.

Investing

1) Successful Investing is Not Complicated

Many in the investing industry want to make investing seem more complicated and difficult than it is. That is simply not true. Smart simple investing uses basic asset allocation, and no-load, low expense mututal funds. For your core holdings it is best to consider using index funds since over 80% of mutual funds do not meet their benchmark. By using index funds you’ll be ahead of 80% of mutual funds out there. Then with the rest of your investments you can seek to find “the tops dogs” mutual funds.

I will be covering “How to Invest – A Simple Guide” in detail in an upcoming post. Subscribe here to ensure you don’t miss it!

2) Mutual Funds Are Better Than Hedge Funds

Hedge funds are overrated. There is no secret club whereby when a hedge fund manager enters it, they will have access to higher returns than any other investor. But they will make things sound that way using complex terms to confuse you. The emperor has no clothes. The truth is hedge fund managers still have to accomplish the same thing that any successful investor must do. They must do their homework and pick an investment that will have a return that meets its benchmark. Speaking of benchmarks, they often are not clearly defined.

Search for “Why Hedge Funds Fail” on Google and you will find many stories about hedge funds that “blow up” and about “hedge fund fraud.” Dig a little deeper and you will find some sobering statistics. According to Hedge Fund Street, “Industry estimates show that there are around 9,000 hedge funds controlling up to $1.7 trillion of assets. These funds typically charge 1 to 2 percent management fees and up to 20 percent performance fees. This is much more than that charged by traditional mutual funds.”

Hedge Fund Street also reports, “These hedge funds get paid outrageous amounts of money to produce mediocre returns. Most hedge fund managers don’t even clearly articulate a strategy to clients. They just expect clients to lap up whatever they offer.” This is no secret. And they get away with this because their industry is unregulated. Where’s the protection for the investor? There isn’t any. When they blow up, the investor is stuck with a loss, or in hedge-fund-speak, “a tax write off.” Profits are the goal of investing, not losses. If you want a tax write-off give your money to charity instead.

Usually hedge funds are marketed to rich people who are eager to join a select club about which they can brag to their country club friends. Unfortunately it is a high price to pay for that “special feeling.” And when the fund loses money, rest assured the hedge fund manager will spin a complex answer, aka “tax write-off,” that will have you actually repeating it with pride to your golf buddies. Smart investors, stay clear of these. Losing money is never a good investment strategy.

3) Mutual Funds Are Better Than Financial Advisors

As I stated earlier, there are many great professionals, such as Registered Investment Advisors, who provide great value to their clients. They can save you time, hold your hand during down markets, and encourage you to take action on estate planning. But for most people you can do this yourself and save the fee. With mutual funds you get the best investment managers. You can easily measure progress and compare them against their category peers. This is harder to do with a financial advisor. Not all advisors report returns in a standardized manner.

With mutual funds you can switch between funds with no hard feelings and no hard-sell to keep you as a client. If you have developed a good relationship, it can be hard to “break-up” with your Financial Adviser whose returns are lagging. In fact most people, remain loyal in spite of poor returns, simply because “breaking up is hard to do.”

Instead of hiring an advisor, I will show you how to invest using mutual funds in my upcoming post: “How to Invest – A Simple Guide.” Subscribe here to ensure you don’t miss it!

Should you ever consider hiring an advisor? Yes, if you are not getting the job done yourself because of lack of time, motivation, or knowledge. My suggestion would be to hire an advisor who invests in mutual funds. This way your advisor is purely in the role of helping you with asset allocation, mutual fund selection and maintenance of your portfolio. They usually charge less than Financial Advisors who perform stock and bond selection in-house. This is because you are already being charged an investment fee by the funds. With a mutual fund Financial Advisor you can ask to switch funds if you don’t like the performance without having to sever your relationship with the advisor. Again look for low fees.

4) Stock Picking Is Hard

Brokerage firms are gambling enablers. They want you to believe that you can be a rock-star day trader. You know why? Because even with the discounts they will offer you, they make oodles of money on day traders. I hate to burst your dreams of leaving your day job to trade your 401k rollover, but I am here to help you keep from losing that money. I’ve seen it happen, many times, and it’s not pretty.

Here is what you need to consider. Over 80% of mutual fund managers do not meet benchmark indices. These funds are managed full time by professionals with years of education and training, the most sophisticated tools available, the most up to date research, and 80% of them still don’t beat the index average! With all due respect, do you really think you will be able to beat the indices? Maybe you can, but the odds are against you.

The smart investor strategy: invest your core holdings in mutual funds. If you simply can’t resist the urge to invest in stocks, then follow this guidance:

  1. Start small, just one stock.
  2. Use some type of tool to help you whittle down the universe of stocks from which you will select, such as Yahoo!Finance (free).
  3. Only invest 1-5% of your savings in a stocks to start.
  4. Research it every way possible, the fundamentals and the technicals. If you don’t know what these are, learn them before beginning.
  5. Invest with an eye to a long term holding. Don’t invest for quick profits. Ever heard of Warren Buffett? Long term. It’s the way to go.
  6. Keep a close eye on it. Sell it if it if there are major signs of trouble, such as Enron-style trouble, at which point it will probably be too late.
  7. Wait a whole year before you invest in another stock.
  8. In the meantime, read and learn and perhaps participate in fantasy investing site such as Virtual Stock Exchange.
  9. Books to check out: any from Amazon’s Classic Investment Books selection, especially the top 3.

5) On Cash: Interest Rate Size Does Matter

Why? The power of compounding. Here’s an example to open your eyes.

Example: Right now interest rates on cash vary significantly. Some bank accounts are paying well below 3% and other money market funds are paying over 6% on cash. Many people earn 1% or nothing on their cash. Here’s an example that shows you how much more you could make over 20 years simply by searching for a higher interest rate: (it doesn’t take that much time online!)

In this example, the difference between 1% and 6% is $27,389.08 over a 20 year period! All just for switching to a higher rate!

The lesson here is to make sure you shop for the highest return on your cash possible! What are you earning on YOUR cash?

Here is a link to a Motley Fool article which nicely describes all your cash account options and what different interest rate terms mean.
Here’s a link to find a great interest rate for your cash from Get Rich Slowly.

Conclusion

You work hard for your money. Invest it wisely and avoid these pitfalls. Please Subscribe here to ensure you don’t my upcoming post on “How to Invest – A Simple Guide.”

Please Share!

Please share your comments, experiences, and tips on Investing! All comments big and small are very welcomed!

If you found this post valuable, perhaps you’ll be kind enough to vote for this with a Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always appreciated!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or make a purchase at Amazon through one of my links. Thank you!

 

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31

Branding Your Blog for Success

 

branding your blog

My premier guest post at Lifehack.org debuts today.

For my readers who have a blog, I think you will find real value in this article.

The topic of Branding is not covered often so I think you will find some shiny new ideas to further hone your blog into a “subscriber-magnet.” Please check it out:Â

Lifehack.org: Branding Your Blog For Success

 

Please let me know if you find it helpful with your blog!


Â

7

Do You Know How to Really Forgive Someone?

The Problem with Not Forgiving

Most people have at least one person in their life that they harbor anger against for some reason or another. For some the anger is due to a serious hurt, whether physical or emotional, such as assault or abuse. For others the anger stems from less important issues, but the anger is just as real and just as debilitating. For instance the resentment that can build up in a relationship over many years over many small and large differences. For some, maybe it is a co-worker that angers you, they ask too much of you, they sabotage you, or they just annoy you.

Why do we hold onto anger? At it’s root, it’s because we want to hurt that person back. The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t hurt the intended. It only hurts us. Think about it. Can you be happy when you are angry? Have you ever noticed that you have more accidents the more angry you are? So how do you get rid of this anger? By forgiving.

The Problem with Forgiving

If forgiving is the answer to releasing your anger, why don’t we do it? Well, because forgiving someone is hard! Another reason is that we don’t know how to do it properly. And then there is the fear that by forgiving someone we are inviting them to hurt us again or that we are saying what they did was ok.

How to Really Forgive Someone

1)Examine Your Anger - Take some time to understand your anger. It’s easy to say, “Well I just hate that person” or “That person drives me crazy.” For some the reason for the anger is very clear as in the case of assault, for instance. But other times, the root of our anger is not so clear. Why does this person “bug you?” Why do you get angry at your boss? Why do you flip out when your spouse parks the car “the wrong way.” The reason it is important to understand your anger is that if you identify clearly what the root is, then you can go about finding a possible solution. This doesn’t work in all cases. But try this first anyway. Then ask yourself what can YOU do to make the situation better? If it’s about trying to change a person, the only way to really impact a person is to love them, praise them and continually discover and focus on the good in that person. This takes time, but try it!! It really works. If it’s an intolerable situation and you can’t ignore it, find a way to not be around this person.

2) “Thank You for This Experience.”
Have you ever noticed how good can spring up from bad experiences? Just like after a forest fire the first thing you see is lots of little green plants starting to grow. What did you learn about your inner strength from your negative experience? What did you learn about yourself that has made you a stronger person? This doesn’t make wrongs against you right. But it puts you back in the position of power, not victimhood. Remember, you have survived. Build on that! And little by little explore where you see small bits of green sprouting up in your life. Focus on that, have gratitude for that good, and you will be in the process of forgiving.

3) Relationship Resentment -Let it Go: Advice from the book “Follow Your Heart” by Andrew Matthews (one of my favorite books) is brilliant. In his book he talks about how we make up rules for how others should behave. If they don’t behave that way, we make them “guilty” and we hold a grudge. But does it change the situation? No. All it does it “ruin our lives!” He uses humor to make a good point, “When a seagull craps on your head, do you resent the seagull?” Do you resent the weather when it rains? So why resent people?

Whatever the “guilty party” got wrong, it is history. The question is, “Do you want your life to work or don’t you.” And he also takes on the hard situations too. For instance, he a friend who found forgiveness after having his 3 teenage daughters murdered. It wasn’t easy, but in the end he realized that only he had control over how he moved forward with his life. He didn’t want his life to be miserable so he “let go of anger” for his “own sake and his own survival.”

4) Meditate on Compassion: Imagine your antagonist as a baby. What has been their life? Why do they act in ways that hurt you or others? If you can find a small place of compassion, of understanding, then perhaps in seeing them as a victim of their circumstances, you may find a place of peace about what happened. Buddhism says: “for the victimizer is, truly, the most unfortunate of all.”  Buddhism urges us to focus on loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity as “a means for avoiding resentment in the first place.”

The Dalia Lama lives a life of forgiveness in action. The book, “The Wisdom of Forgiveness” gives an account his life in this regard. Again this doesn’t make crimes committed right. This doesn’t mean that you should necessarily befriend a person who hurt you or that you should take your guard down in protecting yourself from a dangerous person. But if you can find a place where you can wish for their healing, you will find your own healing. If this doesn’t work, move onto #5.

5) Turn it over to God: Put your trust in God that God will take care of this situation in the long run. God will provide you strength. God will bring justice in the end. And hopefully God will heal the offender too. Take comfort in God’s love for you. If you have trouble understanding “why God let’s bad things happen” take a look at my post on Christianity and scroll down to the heading “Why Do We Have to Suffer.”

6) If you don’t believe in God, then at least know that in science all things eventually come to equilibrium. And so, turn it over to the universe. Turn it over to your friends’ and family’s love for you. Allow yourself to be comforted and strengthened by their love.

7) Write it Down. Take all these suggestions and journal about your feelings and then write down the answers to the questions: How will I forgive? What will I gain by forgiving? What is the good in all this? What have I learned? How will my life be better by forgiving?

What Have You Got to Lose? – Only Peace

Who are you holding resentment against? Who are you angry at? Who do you hate? Do you want release from this heavy yoke around your heart? Do you want peace and happiness? Try forgiveness… for your sake. Take it slow. It is a process. Over time you can watch your anger melt. The Dalai Lama is said to have the heart health of a 20 year old according to his doctors. Why is that? Perhaps it just might be that he holds no anger. Imagine what it could do for you!

Please share your comments, experiences, and tips on Forgiveness! All comments big and small are very welcomed!

If you found this post valuable, please SHARE THIS below with a Digg, Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always noticed and always appreciated!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or visit Amazon thru my “Books� page at the top of this page. Thank you!

 

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