Monthly Archives: February 2014

BBM Interviews Audrey Ostoyic

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Today’s interviewee is a wonderful lady I met through a Google+ group, Christians In Business. Mrs. Audrey Ostoyic is an upbeat, positive, social media strategist, mother, wife and Christian business owner. Through following Audrey’s posts, blog and YouTube videos, I’ve come to greatly respect and admire her. Due to this respect and admiration I asked to interview her concerning her perspective on personal finance.

I hope you find her answers as inspiring and encouraging as I did.

BBM: Is the Bible one of your financial education sources? Why or why not?

Audrey: The Bible is my ONLY financial education source. I have listened to Dave Ramsey before and he gives amazing tips on the ins and outs of debt and debt collection agencies that are relevant for today and that you don’t find in the Bible, however the Bible is it for me. If you think about it, if you read your Bible and follow it then you don’t need to worry about your credit score, debt or debt collection agencies calling you. I’ve never owned a credit card in my life and never will. My husband on the other hand has 2 but pays them off every month. The only debt my husband and I have together is our home and we are working on getting that debt erased. My motto has always been, “If I don’t have the cash to buy it then I don’t need it and if I need it then God will supply it according to His Word.”

BBM: Do you believe that small businesses contribute positively to the economy? If yes, how so?

Audrey: Absolutely! I believe that Small Businesses, for the most part, really care about, not only their customers, but also their employees. Every Small Business that I have had the pleasure of training in Social Media is more like a family than the larger corporations I’ve worked with. I’ve also noticed that small businesses take care of their employees by paying them more and giving more/better benefits. In this way small businesses are keeping employees longer, they (employees) are more loyal and they become invested in the business as much as the owners.

BBM: How do you manage your finances? (Examples: Financial adviser, spreadsheets, envelope system, checkbook register, a combination of tools, or something else)

Audrey: Well, I’m very blessed (or some might say not very smart) to have my husband take care of the finances. I am not a spender at all and have always thought about each purchase as to whether it is a need or a want. If there is something I do want I simply ask my husband if there is enough money and if he says yes, I go buy it, if he says no then I just don’t get it. 😉

BBM: At what age did you begin to form a “financial freedom mindset”?

Audrey: About two years ago when I turned 39 yrs. old (I guess I just gave my age away lol) Took a long time but it’s not only the “financial freedom mindset” as much as it is the “God’s got this” mindset. No matter what financially may be going on if I abide in Him and He abides in me then there is nothing that can touch my finances.

BBM: Why do you believe financial wisdom is important?

Audrey: I believe Financial Wisdom is so important because it allows us to be in a position for The Lord to use us whenever he needs to. For me every single penny that comes into my home is The Lord’s. When the Holy Spirit speaks to me to give, no matter how much it is I will do it in obedience. My husband and I have gone through some of the worst financial storms since we got married in 2001 and through it all we HAD to rely 100% on the Lord and he never failed us.

Amen Audrey! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed and I really appreciate your openess and honesty.

I highly encourage BBM readers to follow Audrey Ostoyic on Google+ as well as her blog page, http://www.livinlyfemarketing.com

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Teen Business Owners-Part Three: Contributing To Society

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There are many reasons why I love to support and highlight small businesses. One of those reasons is the business owner’s contribution to the surrounding community. Bright Balance Ministries believes it is of the utmost importance to expose our teens to the truth of this contribution and, more importantly, show them how they can become a part of it.

The Bible’s account of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 reminds us that everyone we come into contact with is our neighbor and we are all responsible for each other. Also in Matthew 25: 34-40 God speaks of feeding the hungry and clothing those who need it.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. ’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you? ’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

So what does Teen Entrepreneurship have to do with taking care of the needy?

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As a small business owner I know the money I earn from doing business with my neighbors stays in my neighborhood. I spend money at the local grocery stores, pawn shops, mechanic, etc. This allows my surrounding community to profit from my earnings. Also, since locally owned small businesses usually charge less I am able to save money for the specific purpose of helping those less fortunate than my wife and I.

Imagine instilling this type of discipline in your teen and adolescent children. Once they learn how to conduct business, they’ll appreciate the effort needed to turn fifteen cents into a dollar. This will help create compassion in their hearts for those who are trapped in the deep pit of poverty. This is one way teenaged Good Samarians are created.

Imagine your child owning a lemonade stand, lawn care business or babysitting service. If they work hard they will gain enough business that they find themselves in need of employees. This is the second way they can contribute to society- creating jobs.

Have you ever noticed that politicians often campaign using the “I will create more jobs” promise? Corporate business owners like Donald Trump desiring to move into a new location often publicize the many jobs they’ll bring to the community. The reason for this is they fully understand how important job creation’s impact is on a community. When you create jobs you create opportunity for financial stability.

Let’s say there is a town with a population of 10,000 people. Imagine that 4,000 of them are unemployed. In this situation 6,000 people work and provide for all 10,000. This is not a perfect analogy but you get the point. This causes strain on those who are employed. There are not enough shoulders to help bear the economic load. But let’s say several members of this population open businesses of varying types and sizes creating three thousand jobs. Now there are only one thousand people unemployed and three thousand additional shoulders have stepped in to help lift the economy. This is economic growth brought on by business owners, not legislature, not law-makers or hand outs but entrepreneurs creating opportunity!!

Did you know the Bible talks about farmers creating opportunity for the poor?

“During the seventh year, let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.” Exodus 23:11

“Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:10

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In both these verses the excess is left for those who cannot provide for themselves. The hard working homeless in our society are willing to do what it takes to get out of their financial slump, we just need to give them the chance to do so.

I can imagine a homeless man who sees the fallen grapes of a vineyard and the untouched potatoes left behind on purpose by a potato farmer. The homeless man gathers these goods, eats a few grapes to satisfy his stomach and then barters with several other fruit and vegetable farmers in exchange for several other ingredients which he then uses to make a large pot of soup. Also imagine that he takes a bowl of soup to the local seamstress and barters for her services. His ripped clothes are now mended. This brings a high level of satisfaction, accomplishment and comfort to someone who lives outside in the harsh weather. Slowly but surely this man moves from the financial desert to financial stability all because the entrepreneurs around him created opportunity for him to pull himself up.

This is a system of generosity in which we should teach our children to participate. We need to imagine a world much better than the one we live in now. Then beg God’s guidance and wisdom in addressing the issues we face. The entrepreneurial attitude needs to be infused into the following generations in order for us to repeat the many successes of our past so that we may more positively affect our futures.

Rethinking Higher Education, Part Two: Internship vs University

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In part one of this series I spoke of the high price tag of higher education and proposed the idea that traditional college degrees were not neccessary for financial success. With that belief in mind I will spend the next few blogs explaining the proven alternatives to traditional colleges and universities.

The first alternative is an old idea, the internship.

Many years ago if a young man wanted to learn to work with metal he would approach the local blacksmith and ask to learn from the more experienced man. If the instructor agreed the young man would work for free in exchange for real life, hands on experience and education. The young student would learn how to run the blacksmith business including what to charge customers, how to accept payment, how to deal with inevitable customer conflict, working the forge, and personal responsibility, among other things.

An obvious advantage of internships is there is zero cost to the student and the student’s family. Picture a small village in colonial America with familes of meager means. Keeping food on the table is already a challenge. Asking these families to find money for the educatiin of their children would be like expecting to slap a rock with a stick and get water from it. It’s just not going to happen. But these families were not without hope. If their young son was determined, hard-working and future minded, he’d receive a valuable, FREE internship, aka apprenticeship, which would eventually help him become an entrepruener!

Nobody spends a dime, no debt is created, a skill is learned and the Blacksmith/teacher has help in his shop for a certain amount of time. That’s a win, win, win situation.

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“But Taz, aren’t internships a thing of the past?” Great question.

I searched online for “Internships in Houston, TX” and found there are a lot of both paid and unpaid internships out there of varying types. One company is in search of a “Marketing Intern to work 10-15 hours a week” offering “reimbursment for gas used at a per mile basis, free lunch during any events, experience meeting professionals at networking events…” along with several other perks. Another company offered full-time employment with great benefits after only three months as an unpaid intern. These internships offer something traditional colleges lack- practical, usable experience in the field.

Internships are alive and well and they can help you gain valuable knowledge without taking on the burden of debt. I love the concept of internships because they offer an alternative to spending a large amount of money in exchange for an education. This concept gives hope to those who are less fortunate in the area of finances. Recently I learned of a doctor who is still paying off his student loans THIRTY YEARS after earning his degree.

When I look at both the American and global economy I see there is a need to question the status quo. The American dream is harder to acheive, upper middle class citizens have lost their houses due to the dishonest practices of the banking industry, the middle class is shrinking, etc. etc.

Higher education is no different. We have to question the status quo. What do we want for our futures, financial freedom or a life of servitude to creditors like the doctor I mentioned? Obviously we want financial freedom. Then, it’s time for us to question tradition, look for alternatives like internships, place them on a scale and make an honest evaluation of what is best for our financial futures.

So, what’s your opinion on including an internship in your Higher Education plan?

Rethinking Higher Education-Part 1: Is A College Degree Really Worth $100,000?

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I’d like to start this series by first setting the record straight concerning two particular points.

First, I honestly believe that education is very important. From infancy we start soaking in our environment, processing information, filtering out what we don’t need and using what is valuable. This allows babies to learn to walk and mimic to vocal patterns they hear which leads to their ability to communicate. We should never deny that learning is very important.

Second, I have zero animosity towards higher education institutions and those employed by them. These institutions serve an important role, passing along knowledge to the younger generation who will then add to and improve upon said knowledge.

That being said, I find it very difficult to recommend traditional colleges and universities to teens beginning their post high school education. Why? The main reason is the extreme cost which leads to years and years of bondage in the form of debt. Proverbs 27:7 says, “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender”. Years of servitude to creditors is not what I want for my children nor any other youth. I’m sure you feel the same way!

But over and over again we see freshly graduated teens signing on the dotted line, agreeing to years of bondage.

Debt is like a vampire, it feeds on your finances, drains your bank account and cripples your economic well being. As alluded to in the verse above, a life burdened with debt yields a future without financial freedom. This is simple fact.

So, why do we choose to tell our youth to begin their financial journeys tied down by the millstone of educational debt? Why do we advise them in such a way that sets them up for monetary failure and financial misery? Because we don’t know any better.

The fact is, very few folks are speaking out concerning the ineffectiveness of a college degree. Despite the hundreds who tell their personal horror stories of worthless degrees, many haven’t heard and most who have heard consider them isolated incidents. To be honest, I can’t really fault them. After all, we’ve been raised to believe college degrees are neccessities that lead to a higher earnings. From elementary on we are molded into eager college attendies. We hear the success stories of degree earners who make massive amounts of money and live the American dream all because they earned a coveted piece of paper.

What we hear much less of are the stories that tell how having a degree made no difference at all. I read a blog earlier today in which a woman explained that her neice was very disappointed in her Bachelor’s Degree because she could not find a job in her choosen career field, instead, she now works as a waitress. I’m not knocking the food service industry. I speak from personal experience when I say it’s noble, honest, hard work. But her degree hangs in a frame in her home doing her absolutely no good!

Here’s a question for you: Would you ever purchase a vehicle for $50,000- half the cost of this young waitress’s education- if you knew it would never run, never take you anywhere and never be of any use except sitting in your driveway looking good? Of course not! When we spend such a large amount of money we expect the purchased product to not only perform its function but to do so very well. Yet, this is exactly what’s happenning daily in America. We are purchasing a much larger ticket item and agreeing to pay it off slowly over multiple years, based on the idea that it’s “worth the investment”. The truth is, it’s not. Just like the useless vehicle taking up space in the driveway, there are many degrees hanging on walls, also of zero use.

Investors are familiar with the term Return On Investment or ROI. It refers to the ratio between the amount of money invested verses the amount earned. If I invest $100 dollars in stocks and then later sell them for $120 that’s a good return on my investment. I’ve made a profit of $20. Obviously, investing the same $100 in stocks and finding their value decreases to $25 is not favorable. Thats a negative Return On my Investment to the tune of $75. The same can be said for investing in a start-up company, a new invention or mutual funds. We always aim for the highest ROI possible.

Just as we would avoid a business deal or stock purchase which is not likely to produce a positive ROI, so should we do the same when deciding on an educational path. You may say, “But Taz, a college education is vital enough that it’s worth it at any price! How are we to get ahead without a degree?” Or maybe you’re wondering, “If not college, then how are we to attain the education that will help us earn a good living?” Both are legitimate questions and there are many others like them. Bright Balance Ministries will be addressing them in the “Rethinking Higher Education” series. It is our hope that this series of blogs will help steer youth towards financially successful lives free from the bondage of debt.

Stay tuned, leave comments, tell your friends about this site, and feel free to leave questions for us. We look forward to great discussions with you in the near future.