Why I Don’t Live a Life of Great Faith

As my economics professor spoke to our class, she taught us a very simple principle: opportunity cost. 

That is, for every opportunity that an individual takes, there is something for which they’re missing out. If a man purchased a sports car, the cost may be that he lost the opportunity to put a downpayment on a house for his wife. Sorry, but that white Corvette with accents of black looked so good.

It’s the same with time. If a student chooses to watch a college football game on a Saturday afternoon, the cost is that he (ok, it was me) loses the opportunity to prepare for a test on Monday. This raised an important question recently.

What is the opportunity cost of not following God and living a life of great faith?

Bailey and I have been reading a section of the Bible almost every day for the past year and a half. The other day, we read through Hebrews 11 which was a bit of a coincidence because the book I was reading at the time was Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby.

I’ve told many people that this has been the deepest book I’ve ever read (aside from the Bible). It discusses quite a bit about faith and how our faith grows as we experience God firsthand.

Check out Hebrews 11:32-34,

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

It documents the acts of many men and women of faith. These people accomplished absolutely unbelievable things because of the work God did in their lives.

It made me realize that I don’t think I am living a life of great faith. 

I have a good wife with a good job and a good apartment. I don’t have issues at work. I don’t have many stresses personally. We don’t have financial difficulties. But almost nothing in my life requires great faith.

I know for a fact that I’ve become comfortable. That’s what scares me because in Sunday morning Bible study this week, we talked about the danger of comfort and where that can lead us in our personal and spiritual lives.

I think of myself as being an introvert. So staying comfortable in what I know is important to me. But regret takes so many people at the end of life and the last thing I want is to see the opportunity cost of my decisions to not live a life of great faith.

One thing that God spoke to me as I was reading Experiencing God was this: potentially the reason I do not feel like I live a life of great faith is because I am missing opportunities He gives and missing His voice on a regular basis. 

I am trying to combat this by God’s grace and with His strength. One way I am doing this is by getting up early with Bailey to read our Bible in the morning (when we’re more alert) and invest a bit of time in prayer. My prayer is that we open our hearts to God’s work and that He brings opportunities that require of us great faith. And if this is a training period for something bigger, so be it.

How do you listen to God? What are you doing right now that requires a great amount of faith? Just comment below and I will engage with you!


Brand Yourself: Four Questions to Ask Before Your Next Social Media Post

This is the third post in a series about personal brand. Check out the first post titled Brand Yourself: How Your Actions Affect Your Impact and the second post titled How Your Words Affect Your Personal Brand (and Your Influence on Others) here.

In the last two blog posts about personal brand, we’ve looked at how actions and words both can affect our impact on others. If we want to be influencial, we have to be aware that literally everything can increase or decrease our influence on others. If we aren’t aware of this, we might not realize what’s damaging our ability to impact others positively.

So today, we’re going to look at how the way we participate in social media brands us. If you aren’t into the news, it seems that about once a week, there is a high-profile individual that messes up on Twitter and says something that they regret after they’re put through the internet shredder. Or, in other cases, when someone begins running for office, people start sifting through all social media posts to see what dirt can be dug up on the candidate. If anything questionable or controversial is turned up, it can ruin careers.

How do we protect against this? Think twice before you post.

Ask yourself this: “How will I be perceived by this post and am I ok with that?”

Financial expert Dave Ramsey talks about the issue of digital courage quite a bit on his show. Digital courage is what some people have when they are given a keyboard and a screen to hide behind.

They have the guts they don’t normally have to say things they wouldn’t normally say.

If you want people to look to you as an expert when you Become the Expert, personal brand matters and social media holds some weight. So I compiled a short list of what you need to consider when posting on social media.

Here are four things to consider when participating on social media:

Consideration 1: What’s in the content of your post?

Do you swear on your social media posts? Many people I know are clean in their language (at least at church!). On social media, however, they use profanity (I’ll bet Grandma’s not on Twitter or Facebook). If you can’t craft a post without the use of profanity, sign up for the Dictionary.com Word of the Day here.

Keep in mind that not only will the things that you say brand you, but so will the things that you share. That share button is so easy to hit but what does the article actually say? Is it just a clever title or did you actually read it first?

Consideration 2: What’s in the content of your picture?

Frequently, when I post on facebook or instagram, someone will like my post and I immediately think, “Oh hey! I forgot you followed me!”

How are you perceived by the photos you or others post? And who is watching?

I used to be a 4-H camp counselor and several campers from over the years follow me on social media. How do they view what I post?

Do you post pictures of parties and alcohol? I don’t have a problem with either when they aren’t misused. But are you ok with how it looks to others?

Consideration 3: Are employers watching?

Apparently! According to a CareerBuilder survey, about 70% of employers use social media to screen potential hires before offering a job. This means that your refined resume and your carefully selected personal references may not make the cut for what you need to get the job. If you are like most people, social media can uncover the genuine character of you and give a potential employer a good (or bad) feeling of what it might mean to work with you.

Consideration 4: Will you regret looking back at your inordinate number of food photos?

It’s a legitimate question.

Conclusion: Think before you post

We all know someone who doesn’t. How have they branded themselves?

How do you filter yourself on social media and do you find your perception of others change based on what they post? I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

Oh, and incidentally, you can check me out on facebook, instagram, or twitter.

Four Ways a Budget Will Make Your Life More Fulfilling

“Do you have a budget?” I asked. My friend smiled slightly and answered, “Kinda…I mean, I pay my bills every month so I use that as a way for me to see where my money is going at least.”

I suspect this is the way many people answer this question. But this isn’t budgeting. Budgeting is by far the most important piece of your finances. It is the tool that will control your impulsiveness (did someone say Black Friday?) and give you freedom in the end! Trust me, I know this from experience.

A “benchmark” by Dictionary.com’s definition is

any standard or reference by which others can be measured or judged

An example of this is a benchmark software that is used to compare the computing power of two completely different laptops. Since the software sets a standard, both computers can be equally compared.

A budget is essentially the benchmark for your finances.

It is where your finances can be measured month after month so you can compare normal behavior with where you want to be.

Well known leadership guru, John C. Maxwell, says this about budgets:

A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.

That’s what we want – a way of telling our money where it goes. A plan. And it doesn’t who you are or how much money you make, you need a plan for your money. 

So what exactly are the four ways a budget will help your life feel more fulfilling?

1. A budget will show you exactly where your money is going

When you make a budget, you will get to see exactly where your money is going. Start by going through your bank or credit card statements. List them out in categories like giving, housing, transportation, food, entertainment, insurance and debt. What categories are the largest? What are you most surprised about when you look at your spending?

A coworker of mine recently told me that his bank app broke down his spending so he could see it. You know what he found? He was spending upwards of $300 alone on restaurants per month! What! 

Fulfilling Way #1: Awareness

2. A budget will help you design a plan to pay off student loans (or other loans)

Since you now have a benchmark for your finances, you can use it to determine a plan to pay off your loans more quickly. If you were my friend in the previous section, I suspect you could drastically reduce spending in the restaurant category. Think about it. You could knock down the amount on your student loans (or maybe a mortgage) by over $3000 extra per year if you dedicated yourself to a plan. That adds up quick. Especially in interest saved.

Fulfilling Way #2: Freedom

3. A budget will help you set up a plan for saving 

You know how you’ve been telling yourself you can start saving when you receive the next paycheck? Well, this will make you do it! Savings fall into a few categories. One is saving an emergency fund, another is saving for general expenses (college, a car, a home) and the last is saving for retirement. If you don’t have a plan for saving already, make it happen. Get an emergency fund. Start saving for a house. Get involved in the 401(k) program at work.

In his book Profit First, Mike Michalowicz outlines his business plan where he says you must pay yourself first from revenue. That ensures you get paid and then you must figure out the rest of the expenses accordingly to fit with the rest of the revenue. I think this is how your budget must be. Savings is important. If you have trouble saving, have it automatically withdrawn from your paycheck or account into another account (like your 401(k)). Then you make the rest of your personal revenue work for the rest of your expenses. Don’t have enough? Cut something. Like restaurants 😀

On another note, I’m a Christian so my first thing I do is withdraw for giving. But savings is second and it’s taken straight out of my paycheck and put in another account.

Fulfilling Way #3: Security

4. A budget gives you a plan for giving

What do you value around you that needs financial support? Church? A nonprofit you believe in? A budget allows you to put your money where your mouth is!

As a Christian, I greatly value the work of my local church. So Bailey and I give regularly as a way to help them with the finances they need and as an act of faith on our part. Having a budget lets us know how much we can sacrifice. It’s not about giving what’s left over at the end of the month (that you didn’t use on restaurants). It’s about giving first and knowing how much we can put into other categories.

Fulfilling Way #4: Sacrifice

Side note: A budget will give you the freedom you didn’t think you had

I like to spend money but I also like to focus my saving. I can honestly say I would feel bad eating out at Chipotle if we didn’t already have a set amount of money we agreed at the beginning of the month would be for eating out. (Why all the restaurant examples? I love food. It’s as simple as that.)

People think that having a budget will take away the freedom they had before they had a budget. I am here to tell you that isn’t true! You didn’t have freedom before. It just appeared like freedom because you weren’t focused with your finances or were going into consumer debt.

Budgeting isn’t hard! It just takes some time. Don’t get frustrated with it. Just set up a general budget, track your purchases and income, then refine it the next month. It will work the kinks out if you are focused. Stay disciplined and it will work. I guarantee it!

What should I use to budget?

I personally like budgeting apps. I think they’re convenient. A few that are great possibilities are Everydollar, YNAB, and Mint. They all are available as apps for your phone but they also provide the convenience of being able to be used on your computer browser as well. Personally, I use Everydollar and have loved it.

You wanna Become the Expert? Master the Simple and a budget definitely qualifies as part of the Simple. And the essential.

How do you keep track of your money? Do you budget and does it work for you? I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

I wrote a lot more about finances in my book Graduated and Clueless. Check it out here!

Inspiration Starts With Why

After graduation, the second book I chose to read to continue learning (The Servant was first) was Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Sinek proves to be a deep thinker and a great analyst when it comes to dissecting the reasons we as consumers feel the way we do about products. Read this book if you want to understand with many vivid stories why you like certain companies and why some companies grow exponentially under certain leadership.

Sinek starts the book by talking about manipulation vs. inspiration, two ways companies can convince consumers to purchase their products. Within manipulation, companies use price, promotions, fear, peer pressure, and novelty to convince consumers to buy. But as he says in the following section, “manipulations lead to transactions, not loyalty.” Which is how Sinek leads into his argument to Start With Why.

Sinek says it is the inspiration that causes customers to develop loyalty to a brand. 

He starts his discussion on inspiration with the illustration below.

why

He breaks up companies into three sections. Most fall into the outside circle of “what.” These are the companies that simply know what they sell. Some fall into the “how” circle which are the companies that understand what they sell and how it is different. However, very few organizations understand why they do something.

Those that do understand how they can inspire customers with their story. 

Throughout the book, Sinek uses real company examples to give vivid pictures of how this principle of starting with why inspires people. He argues that Apple sets itself far apart from all other computer companies because of its focus on the customers who see themselves differently from everyone else. They don’t focus on the product specs (as other companies do) but on the way that their products can change the world through entertainment and education. This inspires creative customers to believe that their success and impact will be linked with one of Apple’s products.

Another example he uses is the way in which Southwest Airlines was born. Its founders Rollin King and Herb Kelleher didn’t start the company because the industry needed another airline. It didn’t. But what the industry did need was an airline built off of unbelievable customer service. And they succeeded in that. Southwest continues to be an airline loved by its customers. Some customers even sent them money after the horrors of 9/11. And Southwest is the only airline to bring in a profit every year, even the years where the industry sees economic difficulty. All because they didn’t focus on just moving people. They focused on moving people with purpose and with a smile.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In my opinion, it is difficult to clearly convey an idea about something that is intangible. Starting with why is an intangible idea, however Sinek uses real-life examples that helped me understand how I can put the principle into practice.

For those starting something new, whether a business or a blog or whatever, I highly recommend this book.

Keep reading!

-Caleb

Why I Haven’t Written About Faith in a Long Time

Two and a half years ago, I was entering my fifth and final year of college at The Ohio State University. It was a tough run and one way I chose to mentally process all my experiences was through writing. I found it a slow, effective process to put my thoughts into coherent sentences (whether or not they were actually coherent).

So, as every rational, busy college student would do, I started a blog. The Buckeye Beacon as I called it. It was going to be the next thing that OSU students would read every week. I even imagined people recognizing me on campus!

A friend of mine, Ethan, would take turns with me writing a blog post every week. It gave our blog a consistent stream of posts while providing us a fun way of sharing thoughts and improving our writing.

We even reached a rather consistent three views a day. Not bad for a couple whippersnapper engineering students.

In May of 2017, I obtained that infamous bachelor degree, then subsequently exited the bachelor scene as I tied the knot with my girlfriend of two years. And I dropped off with my blogging. My Facebook friends actually got a break from Caleb’s stream of consciousness every week.

“He’s like everyone else on Facebook except he has way to much to say in one status update” I could imagine them saying. 

But I had a wife to spend time with every evening after farming my desk for eight hours at my new engineering job. I gave it a break. It didn’t, however, change the fact that writing continued to be an effective way for me to communicate. So, I wrote a book about graduating and entering the real world called Graduated and Clueless.

And I started this blog.

I have had this intense desire ever since I graduated to reach the greatest potential God has for me.

I wanted to grow in my leadership. I wanted to improve my communication both in writing and in speech. I wanted grow in my character and influence. And I wanted to have a consistent avenue through which I could communicate what I am learning and how I’m growing. The only problem is, I had branded The Buckeye Beacon as a spiritual-growth blog. Nothing’s wrong with that until you write about something personal-growth related and no one reads it. What a motivator.

Why not brand a new blog directed only towards personal growth for students and young professionals? Keep them separate. It’s like Church and State in blog form.

Now I had two blogs to write: one for my spiritual growth whenever I had time and one for personal growth every week.

This was when I realized: personal growth involves improving every major part of me. 

For me, Jesus Christ is the one person that affects everything I do. I believe in eternity (both Heaven and Hell) and the power of His blood to save me from my sins. Because of this deep belief, it influences my thoughts and my actions, my pursuits and my motives.

My faith directly affects my growth into who God wants me to be. 

I haven’t written on faith in a long time because I’ve been trying to focus my writing on branding a new blog. I will no longer be blogging at the The Buckeye Beacon but I will be sharing how faith influences me here at Master the Simple. I don’t want to feel like the two subjects I’m writing about are separate. They’re not because the one directly influences the other. Spiritual growth is even more important than personal growth and I will not be afraid to let the two connect.

If you don’t consider yourself spiritual, that’s ok. This blog still focuses on growth personally and professionally. However, my belief is that we are deeply spiritual beings and what I write will be impacted by that belief.

Thread Quest:

Do you allow your beliefs to impact the other areas of your life?

I certainly struggle with it. But I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

No Time to Drift (and 4 Questions to Help Prioritize Time)

A new condition has surfaced recently called FOMO (probably not that recent but hey, I’m frequently behind the times).

FOMO stands for “Fear Of Missing Out” and conveys in four words the reason so many of us experience priority issues. 

Take me as an example of the struggle. I have a hard time going to bed early. If I have the opportunity to meet up with a friend after work, I want to take it. We meet on the opposite side of town and we don’t meet that often so we’re generally out late. And that makes me tired.

Or given an opportunity that I may not have in the future, I’ll take it for fear of missing out.

I read a book in the past year by Michael Hyatt, a time management and productivity expert, called Living Forward. He says that no one gets to where they want to go by drifting.

If you have FOMO like me, you’re likely to drift.

That is unless you’re intentional about your priorities. This is where I’m at right now. Here are a few of my priorities that I’m working to pursue so I don’t drift.

CLEAN DISHES

Ok, so this is kind of a joke. But I seriously would’t finish this blog post until I finished cleaning dishes. I hate a full sink. Ok, onto the serious ones.

WRITING

I’m working on writing a lot more. For one, I wrote a book. Two, I’m writing on this blog once a week in order to help develop my writing voice more fully and improve my communication.

Priority: Practicing my writing voice regularly in order to gain more experience and understanding of effective communication. 

SPIRITUAL LEARNING

I’m trying to grow spiritually through the reading of my Bible and learning through fellow Christians’ writing and teaching. This is a particularly difficult one for me if I am being honest. I find it difficult to really spend the time that I would like on spiritual learning, particularly in reading my Bible. I read a portion of scripture every night with Bailey, though sometimes our comprehension is low due to heavy eyes.

I listen to 5 sermons per week outside of the sermon I hear on Sunday morning. I’m actively involved in a biweekly Bible study. As a part of my new year’s reading goal, I am working on reading 1000 pages of spiritual learning books. Currently I’m reading Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Everybody, Always by Bob Goff.

This all will by God’s grace push me to a deeper relationship with Him. Of course, nothing I do will change His love for me but pursuing that relationship will make a difference on how I view His Word and how He works in my life.

Priority: Growing closer in my relationship to God so that I can more effectively share Him with others.

PHYSICAL FITNESS

I’m working to develop healthier habits when it comes to staying active. Given my new year’s goal, Bailey and I have been going to the gym regularly about 10 times per month. Recently this has been particularly difficult because of both of our schedules which is why we have been considering an earlier morning workout to start the day.

Priority: Developing habits of physical activity to remain healthy in the coming years.

FINANCIAL HEALTH

Bailey and I both have dreams for the future. We want to own a home in less than 15 years. We want to continue to cashflow the remainder of her education without taking out any loans. We want to continue increasing the percentage we give to church and other organizations every year. We want to consistently save for retirement by delaying gratification.

Priority: Budgeting monthly, tracking expenses, saving and talking regularly about financial goals. 

RELATIONSHIP WITH BAILEY

Bailey’s my wife and I value our relationship greatly. From our relationship will stem the growth we experience together (both personally and spiritually) as well as the environment in which our future children will be raised (Lord willing). Because of this, we aim to spend at least one night per week doing something together. Maybe it’s taking a walk and watching a show. Or grilling out. Or hitting a local rodeo (that’s a recent one). The key is we are attempting to strengthen our relationship so that our kids have a strong home in which they can grow up. And that will bleed into innumerable other areas of life.

Priority: Cultivating a loving and growing relationship with my wife and raising godly children.

Here’s the list I like quite a bit less.

THINGS I NEED TO WORK ON PRIORITIZING

  1. Sleep (I hate to admit it but the amount of sleep I get is abysmal)
  2. Biblical reading (I only read my Bible before work if I conveniently have time)
  3. Organization (I am utterly horrible at putting papers away, keeping my office clean and knowing where things are when I’m looking for them. Setting things down after work is something Bailey would say is one of her husband’s many flaws.
  4. Healthy eating (Yeah so I like mac n’ cheese a lot. What about it?)

 

So how do we overcome these areas in which we need to learn prioritization?

Here are 4 questions I ask that can help you determine your priorities as well:

1. What do you want?

Do you want financial freedom? How about a healthy lifestyle? Do you want it enough?

2. Why do you want it?

Are you tired of debt? Sick of living paycheck to paycheck? Do you not want to be winded when you get to your office after taking the steps? On a more personal level, you have to Start with Why as leadership expert, Simon Sinek, would say.

3. What steps do you need to take to prioritize [blank] starting today?

How about skip the Starbucks and put that $4 to paying off the student loans? If this is what it takes, open a bank account and put money into it every day that would have been coffee money. Or take a walk over lunch break if health is your priority. I try to do this daily and it is remarkably refreshing! Break these down into small, manageable goals. But make it something you can do today.

4. Who can help you with your priorities?

Does one of your friends have their financial life together? They’d be a great person to help keep you accountable. Do you know someone who’s fit and hits the gym? Ask them to help you. Chances are they will be more than happy to help.

Conclusion (YAY)

I want to be clear, I certainly don’t have all my priorities straight. I struggle with them, just like you. However, I know life is too short to drift or have regrets at the end so I better have a plan for my time now.

Also, I’m sorry if you got this whole thing in email. It’s super long.

-Caleb

Two Things I Want in Life (and How I’m Getting Past the Fear of Them)

alphabet-business-close-up-326642Where do you want to go in life and do you want it enough? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself over the past year. There are certain things I want to do in life. One is be a speaker. I want to become a master communicator and I believe that part of that involves becoming a master at verbal communication specifically. But the whole goal of this blog and my pursuit of growth is Mastering the Simple to Become an Expert.

And that means I have to start small and build up.

Take a conversation I had recently with my sister, Atalie, about pursuing a possible speaking opportunity to a small group. This was a friend’s young men’s group who showed interest in me presenting to them based on the topics in my book. The leader showed interest while I was writing the book and we agreed to talk after I finished.

“I really do want to be a speaker. I want to contact the leader about giving the presentation but I’m having trouble actually doing it.”

“What’s holding you back?” Atalie responded.

I embarrassingly said, “Ok, I’m afraid I won’t have much to say and that they’ll ask me questions I have no idea how to answer.”

“So share about how God has grown you this last year and tell them that you are growing just like them and may not know the answers” she said with almost no hesitation.

That calmed my fear and made me think this was actually doable.

It simplified the fear and made it easier to move forward.

Subsequently, I contacted the leader that evening and asked if they would still be interested in me presenting. I am on their schedule for the end of October.

Here’s another thing I have wanted to do in my life: write a book to aid others in their transition to life after college. 

I wanted it enough that I worked almost every weekend and many, many weeknights for four months in order to get it done. But writing something and actually putting it out there for others to read are completely different things. I wanted to reach as many students as possible and part of that involved contacting local bookstores to see if they would be interested in selling my books on consignment.

This made me nervous because of the possibility of rejection.

I had to take the first step. So I contacted a local, college hangout bookstore to see if they would sell it. Sure enough, today they contacted me back and said they would be happy to sell it at least for a period of time. Score! And an exciting score at that.

Here’s my point. I’m not perfect by any means. I’m learning right alongside you. I don’t have the guts I would like to have when it comes to speaking and putting my work out there. I haven’t contacted anyone else about the potential of speaking. I haven’t physically walked into any bookstores and asked to speak to a manager about holding my book yet. But do I want it? Yes. Moving forward in that despite the fear is difficult. But I want it enough to take the first step which gives just a bit more motivation to make the next step that follows.

What do you want to pursue? Do you want it enough to get past your desire of comfort to get out there and do it? Do you have strategies to get past your fears?

I want to hear from you in the comments!

Until next time, onward!

-Caleb

 

Brand Yourself: How Your Words Affect Your Influence on Others

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This is the second post in a series about personal brand. Check out the first post titled Brand Yourself: How Your Actions Affect Your Impact.

I can directly recall two instances from my years growing up where the words of others impacted me. One bad. One good. Both impactful.

The first was when I was about ten years old. I was at a good friend’s house and we had an intense game of Capture the Flag going. Another kid (we’ll call him Jason) about my age was on the opposite team. During a time-out (of which I was apparently uninformed), I tagged Jason while he was on our team’s turf. He informed me of the invalidity of my tag.

Subsequently, he said under his breath, “Idiot.” 

That hurt to my ten-year-old ears. I’ve never forgotten the sting that word had even though it was a result of a simple mistake.

The second instance was actually more recent. About a year ago, I met with a good friend at Panera to catch up and after bidding farewell, he slipped me a note. This isn’t an everyday occurrence so naturally, I opened it when I got in the car. A letter filled with encouraging words stared at me after I unfolded the piece of paper.

Some of the most impactful words were, “I truly respect you as the man of God you are.”

I open it and read it every so often because of the encouragement it is to me.

Both of these words or phrases branded these individuals in ways they don’t understand.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I have this rather deep insecurity creep in whenever I see and talk to Jason (since then, he’s become a great guy). But a simple word he spoke in the heat of a situation made more impact than he could have guessed. Contrarily, the guy who wrote me the letter remains one of my best and strongest friends to this day. And I guarantee he put a lot of thought into what he said to me. Here’s the point I want to make:

Every single word you speak will affect your influence on others. 

You can tear people down or build them up. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

What words do you use? Are they good for building up or for tearing down? Consider gossip. If someone is gossiping to me about someone else, I no longer trust them. If they talk about others behind their backs, I’m likely next.

Do you use profanity regularly? I recently had an encounter with a young salesman at a furniture store. He was familiar with a nice list of four-letter-words, lost my trust based on lies he used, and subsequently gave me a bad taste of the store because of his lack of professionalism. I’ve told at least a half-dozen people that I’ll never go there again.

If you want to have influence on your peers and leave a legacy, the words you choose will directly affect who will listen to you. I know that is the case for me.

What kinds of words do you use and how do you see them affecting your impact? 

I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

Read the next post in this series titled Brand Yourself: Four Questions to Ask Before Your Next Social Media Post

Money Growth: How Much Should I Invest for Retirement?

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I had a low-key babysitting job when I was twelve but that income was entirely active income. Not a cent of it grew without me doing anything. I had to actually provide a service to someone in order to add to my piggy bank (ok, it was actually a doggy bank).

Retirement, however, is a passive form of income. When money is invested in something like a 401(k), it grows passively. Meaning, you don’t have to do anything. (For more information about a 401(k) and its tax benefits, check out my blog post.) You don’t have to do anything to make it grow aside from investing it in the right places. If you invest in a 401(k), you literally make money while you’re asleep. How ’bout that!

But how much do I need to invest in order to have a successful retirement?

First of all, the fourth “baby step” of the Dave Ramsey plan (if you have read my book, you’d know I’m a fan) is to put 15% of your gross income into retirement. That means 15% of your overall income, including your spouse’s, goes into your 401(k) after paying off all your debt (so that you pay off debt with more intensity).

Fifteen percent is generally agreed upon in the investing world to be the amount that will provide a reasonable retirement nest egg. However, depending on whose advice you’re taking, this amount does not include the money that is contributed as an employer match. If your employer matches 5%, don’t put yours at 10% and call it good. Do the full 15% of your income. That way, the employer match will just be icing on the cake when you hit retirement. Now, 15% feels like a lot (it is, especially for young people). You will likely have to work your way up to it. Currently, Bailey and I aren’t contributing 15% because we are also cash-flowing her school and are saving for a house. But 15% is the goal.

 

Let’s look at a pretend real-life example of how much to invest.

Let’s assume that you, at age 22, just graduated debt-free and your overall income is $50,000 per year. By the 15% rule, you would be putting $7500 into retirement per year ($625 per month). If you invested that at an 8% return and never got a raise (not likely), you would have $2,669,622 by the time you turned 65. The best part is that $2,347,122 was growth from interest! And that’s not even including employer matches. That’s remarkable!

That amount of contributions may be unrealistic for you. I know it is for us currently. If you could only afford $100 per month to put into your 401(k) at an 8% return and never increased the amount you contributed, you would still have $427,139 by the time you turned 65.

There is a very high likelihood that you will get a raise and that you’ll be able to contribute more than $100 per month (plus, in today’s money, $427k won’t get you very far in retirement). To put you just over $1,000,000 (making you a millionaire if you are debt free), you would only have to contribute $250 per month. Again, your contributions would equal only a fraction of the full nest egg when you reached retirement. Then, in retirement, you would (hopefully) be able to live off of the yearly dividends that your retirement account produces in interest.

On a $1,000,000 account, assuming 8% interest, that would provide an $80,000 income. Plus, it’s quite possible to get higher than 8% in interest!

 

Chris Hogan, a retirement expert, says this in his book Retire Inspired: “Retirement is not an age. It’s a financial number.” I like that quote quite a bit because we’ve been seasoned to believe that we have to put 40+ years into a job we don’t like (jobs and passion is for another blog post) in order to live comfortably for the last 20 years or so of our lives. But according to Chris, if we know what financial number we are shooting for, we can retire earlier.

On Chris’s website, he has an excellent tool to calculate your R:IQ (Retire Inspired Quotient). In it, all you have to do is answer some simple questions about your goals and desired living arrangements and it’ll give you an amount of savings you should shoot for and the amount you would need to invest monthly to hit it. Check it out here!

What are you doing to save for retirement? What are your concerns about the subject? I want to hear from you in the comments!

-Caleb

How to Avoid Being Old and Broke (And How a 401k Can Help)

cash-cent-child-1246954I wasn’t very good at saving as a kid. Money burned a proverbial hole in my pocket. I liked to get gum when we went to the grocery store because it felt good to spend a dollar. To this day, I tend to be a spender. In fact, in our budget, Bailey (my wife) and I call the money allocated to spending as our “blow funds” because it is for us to literally blow on anything we want. What makes me different from when I was as a kid is that I actually have a budget now to control that spending urge. I’m more future-focused! And part of being focused on the future is saving for retirement. That’s where the 401(k) comes in.

What is a 401(k) anyway? It is a saving system that allows you to invest money you earn so that it can exponentially grow for the future. This is how it works.

A 401(k) is offered by most employers. If one signs up for a 401(k), it gives the individual the opportunity to put a percentage of each paycheck into a retirement account. For me, I have my employer put 10% from each paycheck into my 401(k). This is called an investment because it will grow within the account. Generally speaking, one can expect a 7-10% rate of return on their 401(k) if the money is invested into good growth-stock mutual funds.

This is where the big bonuses of a 401(k) come into the conversation. They have major tax benefits! There are two kinds of 401(k)s: traditional 401(k) and Roth 401(k).

The traditional 401(k) is tax-deferred. This means that one defers paying tax to a later date and thus, the money put into the account is pre-tax. So when an employer directs 10% from an employee’s paycheck into the traditional 401(k), no tax is paid. In retirement, however, taxes must be paid when withdrawals are made.

The Roth 401(k) is similar but the employee pays tax before the employer directs the hypothetical 10% of the paycheck into the account. This means the money used is post-tax.

But when money is withdrawn in retirement, it is not taxed.

Let’s make this easy. Say you are able to save enough for retirement that your 401(k) is able to grow to $1,000,000 (which really doesn’t take much saving). Generally speaking, over a 40-year period with a 10% rate of return, you would have contributed 8% of your savings and the rest of it would be growth. So..

Contributions: $80,000

Growth: $920,000

Total: $1,000,000

With a traditional 401(k), your contributions would be pre-tax. Thus, you wouldn’t be taxed on your contributions, but when you retired, you would be required to pay taxes on the entire $1,000,000. This means that if you were in a 10% tax bracket, you would lose $100,000 to taxes and would have only $900,000 left.

With a Roth 401(k), your contributions would be post-tax, meaning you would pay taxes on only the contributions. If we assumed once again that you were in a 10% tax bracket, you would pay $8000 in taxes on your contributions but wouldn’t have to pay anything on the growth.

Here’s a summary on taxes paid:

Roth 401(k): $8,000

Traditional 401(k): $100,000

Now tell me, which would you rather pay? And which 401(k) do you think is better?

In some coming blog posts, I’ll cover the amount we want to save for retirement and what we can expect in growth.

I want to know in the comments, are you saving for retirement? What are your dreams for your “golden years”? Bailey and I want to travel. Let me know what you think!