Tag Archives: education

BBM Interviews Mrs. Autumn Lee: A Busy Wife/Mother’s Financial Perspective!

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When I think of busy, organized, energetic folks who never stop moving and shaking and who also accomplish A LOT, I honestly think of this long-time friend, Christian, dancer, mother, photographer and all around sweet heart, Autumn Lee!

She’s the owner of Dash Photography, currently serving the Colorado and Texas areas.

With such a productive life and successful business, I thought it would be essential to dig into her mind concerning financial matters. This is truly someone we can all learn from. Here are her words of wisdom.

Autumn's photography talents :)

Autumn’s photography talents 🙂

BBM: Is the Bible one of your Financial Education sources? Why or why not?

Autumn: The Bible has not been one of my financial resources, other than when it talks about greed. I am trying to change that though because I know there is some good advice and some truth in there that will guide our family in the right direction.

BBM: Do you believe that small business contributes positively to the economy?

Autumn: I am a HUGE believer in small business, we need to quit putting money into big CEO pockets and support our local community. I think you feel better when you can see where your money is going and who it’s impacting and you can also see where your products etc are coming from.

BBM: How do you manage your finances? (Example: Financial Adviser, checkbook register, a combination of tools or a favorite tool you’d like to mention)

Autumn: We sit down once a month and plan our budget for the month and then every 2 weeks before payday we go over it again and make any changes. We try to use cash as much as possible and stick to the budget we have made. This has not only worked great for us getting out of debt, but it’s brought us closer in our marriage as well because we are communicating and we are finally on the same page.

BBM:At what age did you begin to form a “Financial Freedom” mindset?

Autumn: At some point in my 20s I started trying to be more wise with my money but it wasn’t until my 30s that I actually buckled down to do it.

BBM: Why do you believe Financial Wisdom is important?

Autumn: Being tied down to debt makes it hard to truly live the life God planned for you. There is always stress and unhappiness and depression. When you are debt free or working towards it, you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you feel okay splurging from time to time and you actually have the means to do things in life like travel or donate etc. It’s a good feeling.

Autumn is 100% correct. Being tied down by debt seriously cripples one’s ability to contrbute financially to great things God may have planned for your life. How many times have we heard others say (or have said ourselves) “I wish I could help…” or “One day I’ll be able to contribute…” or maybe “If I had a million dollars I’d donate it to…” My friend Mrs. Autumn Lee has an amazing future ahead of her because she has chosed to follow GOd’s prescribed path of financial stewardship.

Thanks a million for allowing us into your mind Autumn!!

If you’re searching for a great photographer you really should check ojt Autum’s web page:
dash-photography.net

You’ll be impressed, I assure you!

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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.

Teen Business Owners- Part One: While Growing Up

When I was younger I remember teachers asking me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It was a legitimate question. They were trying to get me to think ahead, get into the practice of thinking about my #Financial Future. This is an important aspect of growing into a well-rounded, contributing adult.

What bothered me is they never phrased the question in a way that impressed upon me that I didn’t have to “grow up” in order to be something. They could have asked, “What do you want to be right now?”, and used my answer to show me how I can create a career for myself right away.
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Many of us are familiar with Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. Obviously we see this verse as telling us we need to train our child in the Way of the Bible, and that is 100% accurate. Reading the five verses before it shows that this passage is mainly concerned with being sure the child is trained in the ways of strong #spiritual character.

But, why didn’t my teachers and other adults in my life think to themselves to use lessons in business ownership as a way to mold me in both future career concerns as well as spiritual matters? If they had asked me, “What business would you start right now if you could?” I would have told them “a dance squad” or “running errands for people in the neighborhood”. This would have been their opportunity to explain to me:
1. How I’d go about finding other teens to join my business
2. How to attain clients
3. The importance of being honest in my business dealings
4. How to manage an income, etc.

Let’s say a young lady of ten years old wants to start a lemonade stand. Her parents can sit with her to decide a work schedule, price, location of the stand and also what to do with the money earned.
The average American ten year old is well-practiced at asking, “Mom can you buy me that toy?” In this parent’s mind, children of this age should also know intimately how long it takes to earn the money for said toy. If she owned a lemonade stand she’d look back at her many hours sitting on the sideaalk waiting for customers, the energy it took to make pitcher after pitcher of lemonade after mom and dad’s friends bought it all. She’d remember the thankful mailman who bought two cups, the draining effect of the weather on her energy and of course the thrill of counting her money at the end of the day. And, of course, she would appreciate her earnings more because she sacrificed her Saturday cartoons in order to work her business. Of course, let’s not forget, this young lady would learn how much of her profits should be put back into the business in order to cover the expenses for the next two weeks, next month, etc.

Our children should be educated in these things when they’re young so that “when they are old they will not depart from” them. Imagine how much better off the American #economy would be today if our citizens were better trained in #entrepreneurship (and all it entails) during their elementary, junior high and high school years.

If a fifth grader started a business and continued his entrepreneurship through his high school graduation he would have seven years of business experience which his peers lack. He would already have a resume whereas his college-bound peers would only be starting their real-life education at the local burger joint.

Imagine where you would be right now if you’d had seven years of business ownership experience right out the gate after your high school graduation! That is a BIG step up ahead of the competition.

Do you not want that for your children?

Adults, I think it is time to stop asking our precious young ones what they want to be WHEN they grow up.

Let’s ask them, “What do you want to be WHILE growing up?”

I’m STILL Not Using #Algebra

I graduated from high school in 1992 @ age 17.

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During my school years I remember thinking, as many students before and after me, “When am I ever going to use Algebra?” Math wasn’t the only subject of which I asked this question. History and Astronomy were scrutinized as well.

I’ll be 39 on January 24th, 2014 and have I used Algebra, …at all….ever?! Absolutely not!

I have no animosity towards my former teachers and I do realize some of my fellow students have entered professions where my least enjoyed subjects have benefited them greatly. Some have reason to use Algebra every day.

(I’ll weep and pray for them later)

However, I’ve noticed that most of us don’t have the slightest need to use so much of the knowledge we’ve accumulated from Jr. High forward, yet vital education we now need in our adult lives was overlooked.

Ask the average teenager if they know how to balance a checkbook and they’ll propably ask, “What’s a checkbook?” If the average adult was asked, “Are you happy with your last month’s Balance Sheet?” they’d probably respond by telling you they don’t own a business. They don’t understand how important a balance sheet is for the financial success of the average person, couple and family.

In our great America we have been taught-falsely- that school is where all of life’s important skills and knowledge are attained.

Really?

If this is true why are so many families buried under debt, close to losing their houses and still living paycheck to paycheck? The answer is: They were not properly educated in Money Management.

I learned recently that Jewish parents start teaching thier children about money when the child starts asking, “Daddy could you buy me a…..?” Jewish children as young as eight years old learn to use their allowance wisely. They give the first ten percent to Church, save the next ten percent and even learn to invest another ten percent. Yes, at such a young age they undersand and practice investing. Have you ever notices how financially secure Jewish folks are in America?

It was interesting to learn that jewish grade-schoolers who are asked by non-Jewish children to let them borrow a few dollars respond with, “I’ll let you borrow two dollars for the weekend but you have to give me three dollars on monday.” To the American-bred child this makes sense because he’s seen his parents borrow money all the time. It’s a way of life, totally normal.

Proverbs 22:6 & 7 comes to mind:
Train up a child in the way he should go;even when he is old he will not depart from it. The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

The proof of these verses is all around us. Remember the American kid who borrowed two dollars and repaid three? He grew up to be the average American worker; in debt and struggling to get by. The Jewish kid who loaned two and collected three grew up to be the average Jew with no debt owning three businesses and passing on that legacy to his children.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Proverbs 213:22
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.

The time has come for us to educate our children about how money works, what money really is and how to use it to attain real Financial Freedom!

Is Algerba useful? Yes, IF your profession requires its use. Is Money Management useful? Yes, BECAUSE your Financial Success demands it!

How To Shop Frugally

Proverbs 22:3 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.In today’s world it seems that danger is always close. Financial woes are only one accident away. It makes sense to put aside money for those unexpected and inevitable events. Let’s dive into ways that will allow you to put aside as much as God’s money as possible.If you are determined to live a frugal lifestyle it is essential that you learn the art of purchasing items at the lowest possible prices. Doing so allows you to keep a higher percentage of your paycheck; therefore, allowing more for paying off debt, saving, and investing.

How do you accomplish frugal spending?

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First, pawn shops.  These stores are very underrated.  My wife and I frequently shop at a pawn shop next to our apartment. Since we both love buying movies we were thrilled that this shop sells DVDs & Blue-rays for less than $5. We can buy three movies for the price of one brand new movie at popular store chains. The movies haven’t been shortened, altered, or otherwise made any less great just because they are priced lower than their brand-new counterparts. Also, we love knowing we are getting the most bang for our hard-earned bucks.
Second, thrift stores. Along with pawn shops, these stores are a great resource for clothing, furniture, electronics, and power tools. There is a thrift store in my neighborhood where I can buy a jacket, tie, slacks, and dress shirt for less than $5. Yes, all those items for less than $5! You may be thinking these items are off brand, unimpressive rags that I would not wear in public. You would be wrong. I’m talking about brands like Perry Ellis, Liz Claiborne, and many others. Of course, off brands are also available. However, if you are dedicated to living frugally, the brand’s name should not matter at all.Thrift: noun \’thrift\ prudent use of money and goods: the sensible and cautious management of money and good in order to waste as little as possible and obtain maximum value.

Imagine that you have $50 set aside for clothes. You can go to a famous chain store and purchase one, maybe two outfits. Conversely, you can go to a thrift store and spend $10 for similar items. That is the art of Frugal Shopping! And of course you cannot get any more frugal than free. I like to browse the free section of Craigslist every now and then. Over the years I have acquired things like glass shelves, vases, a mattress, indoor plants, clothes, shoes, couches, a TV, and many more. It would be difficult to add up the monetary savings I have achieved over the years. Also, the barter section of Craigslist is very helpful. Why not exchange something you are willing to get rid of for something you want or need? Bartering allows you to acquire items without taking away from your bank account.

If you want to keep more of your paycheck and become a frugal shopper, the first step is to search for thrift stores and pawn shops in your area; and pay them a visit.  Happy, frugal shopping!

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Living Frugally Through The Struggle- Part Two

After selling a lot of my possessions and reducing my expenses, I suddenly felt stuck. What else could I do in order to keep increasing my meager savings and get ahead financially? Then it hit me; I could use my talents. I had always been told I should be a teacher, so I decided to teach what I knew – martial arts and hip hop dance. I put a low-cost ad in the paper and before long, my phone was ringing, with future students on the other end on the line. While this didn’t bring home a ton of money, it was enough that I started paying off some of the debt caused by the identity thief. I got a secured Visa in order to start rebuilding my credit and I started a savings account with around $300…and at that point, $300 was a lot of money in my world! I finally felt like things were looking up.

One very important event helped me tremendously.  A friend told me about a monthly plan that would allow me access to attorneys who could advise me on my situation.  Only five minutes into the DVD presentation I hit pause, got online, and signed up.  As mentioned in part one of this blog, I was arrested multiple times for crimes I never committed, each time paying bail to be released.  The law firm was able to refund my bail on four of the six occasions.  I then repaid family and friends from whom the bail money had come. The attorneys also spoke to the IRS on my behalf and proved that I didn’t owe the taxes they were seeking. I was very impressed with everything the attorneys did for me. That fact led to my next frugal decision…network marketing. I asked my friend how to make money with the company. She explained, I signed up, and within three months I earned three promotions and three raises. Enter massive sigh of relief and a sense of accomplishment.

I continued shopping at thrift stores and clearance racks while marketing the legal plan. I still bought the lowest-priced fuel and went to free – or almost free – events with my son.  I only used my secured Visa after sending a payment in the amount I planned to spend and I saved as much as possible.  I still ran into setbacks but I pushed forward.  Eventually I reached an income level that allowed me to get an apartment and purchase a used vehicle, 100% cash. I’d like to say that was the end of the story but it was not. However, I had reached a point where I could relax and felt zero financial anxiety. There would be many more years of suffering the consequences of the thief’s actions. But through it all, Living Frugally played an important role in helping me bounce back and rise above!

Thinking back to this traumatic event, throughout which I spent less than I made, reminds me of Proverbs 21: 20— The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

PS: When I started this ministry I intended to never mention where a person could get the legal plan I mentioned in this blog. I made this decision because it seemed very self-serving because I am now an associate of the company, selling the legal plan products. However, i know it helped me out of a serious financial bind. And, isn’t what this blog site and my ministry are a ll about? So, here is a link to my site. Look around, check out the videos and write to me if you have questions. let God- not me- be your guide when it comes to deciding if the membership is right for you and your loved ones.

http://www.ebright.legalshield.com

Biblical Money Smarts- Part Five: Ignore The Hype

So, you’ve reduced your spending, created assets and learned to manage debt while educating yourself about money….wonderful! What’s next on the road to financial freedom? The answer is more of a mindset than an actual action to take, however, it is ultimately integral to your financial goals.

IGNORE THE HYPE

What do I mean by that?

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Easy, ignore commercials, the next “must have” item, the easy payments and the advice of using “other people’s money”. It’s ALL hype. It’s designed to make you feel that you MUST buy into their sales pitch. But, guess what…..you don’t need the item, the sale, the update or the newest version. You need food, clothing, shelter and most importantly, God. Everything else is not neccessary.

This is the mindset associated with Matthew 6:20 & 21 which says, “Store your treasures in Heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and theives do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

You know the cable package you’re paying for with tons of channels you dont watch? You know why you don’t watch them? Because you DON’T NEED THEM. Human civilization thrived without cable, internet, smart phones and smart cars.

And, yes, I know….many of you will have a heartattack at the idea of cancelling your cable or downgrading to a cell phone plan without internet access. But, consider this: In the not-too-distant past there were some very well-off upper middle class folks living in California. They were making over 200, 000 dollars a year. They had the fancy cars in the best neighborhoods, their kids had the expensive cell phones with a ton of bells and whistles. They had country club memberships and prestigue. Then, one day, it was all gone. Cars were repossessed, the houses was forclosed on and families were living in “tent villages”. Lavish lifestyles became a thing of the past in a short period of time.

I’m sure you’re wondering why this happenned to such affluent families.

Well, they bought into the hype. They believed they were “supposed” to have the bigger house once dad got his raise. And when mom’s business started bringing in significantly more money they strongly believed that they were entitled to a higher credit card limit which then, of course, meant they could spend more on those great sales at the mall and the Home Shopping Network.
What they didn’t know was that behind the hype was a sinister plot to get as much of their money as possible, not caring if they ended up in financial hell. The plot went like this…

First the banker down the street sold a house to the Jones family knowing they couldn’t afford it. This didn’t matter to the banker because her plan was to sell the loan to Big Time investments. This way the bank receives the entire amount of the loan right away instead of over the next 30 years. The Jones family continues paying their mortgage as usual, not to the bank but to Big Time. Again Big Time is not concerned about the Jones Family’s financial future because they have collected hundreds of loans just like the Jones’. They sell these large clumps of loans to an even larger investor, Prime Time.

Second, the Jones family runs into a problem, their transmission on the Audi goes out. This is not a massive problem in itself for such an affluent family because they put the entire charge on a credit card with a newly increased limit. After all, they’ll pay it off easily- they’re affluent! The problem is that their daughter broke an ankle playing softball a few weeks later, mom’s business is in a seasonal lull and the roof of their house starts leaking due to a recent storm.

In this situation the sellers of those must have items don’t run to the rescue. Prime Time wasn’t sympathetic, they didn’t arrive at Mr. Jones’ doorstep with a new contract reducing his monthly mortage payments. Nor, did the credit card company voluntarily deffer payments till after they are back on their feet.

No, the Jones family found themselves in a tent with many others from their upper-middle-class neighborhood. They were all in the same situation because they all believed the hype associated with collecting stuff, stuff and more stuff.

The words of the verse I mentioned earlier would have served them well and saved them a lot of heartache and loss. With this verse in mind they would have taken the extra money from dad’s raise and invested a portion, saved some for emergencies or donated some to charity. With savings and investments they would have been prepared to deal with a leaking roof, a broken ankle and a business going through a seasonal lull.

Another verse that helps keep us in the right mindset is Proverbs 31: 10-18. This passage speaks about the wife of Noble Character. It talks about how she wakes up early, makes breakfast, buys a field and plants a vineyard. Why is that important? Because of what it goes on to say in verse 18, ” She makes sure her dealings are profitable, her lamp burns late into the night”. This is the picture of a smart woman who is not captivated by materialism. She thinks far into the future and works hard to not only maintain but thrive in any economy.

So, now that you’re on the path to financial freedom you must develope a long-term, anti-hype mindset. Heed the words of the Bible and concentrate on Heavenly treasures more than the material stuff that can be lost in a moment. Don’t assist in stuffing the pockets of businessess that don’t give one iota about your financial future. Be like the shrewd woman of Proverbs, work hard, save and be sure that every financial decision helps get you and your family closer to financial independence!!