Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stewardship and mental toughness

What does mental toughness have to do with stewardship? A lot!

Have you ever been distracted when taking on a project? Listen as I draw an analogy here. Without fail, every time I get on the computer to work, my children come out in full force. I declare that when I get on the computer it's like telling them:

"OK guys, yell at the top of your voice, boys beat up your sister, please tear up my house, remember to write on the walls and the windows, feel free to get whatever you want out of the fridge and leave the door wide open, while you're at it please slam every door in the house, and make sure you run from room to room, this will make mommy very happy!" Maybe it's just my kids.

So, I have to stop, deal with the issue and kid at hand, bring order and pray for nap time to come quickly. Only then can I resume working.

This can happen when you decide to make positive changes towards stewardship. Let's say you started a new regimen of saving money. What happens? Everything. In the same week the car breaks down, the dishwasher goes out (I would be lost without mine), you have to pay $60 co-pays for sick children (happens to me), and your car tags have expired. Your savings go right out of the window. What do you do?  You stop, take some deep breaths and REGROUP. Here's an acronym for you.

R egain composure and remain calm

E xpect to find an answer

G ratitude for the right now blessings

R elease to God what you can't change

O pen you heart, mind, eyes and ears to solutions

U nderstand that it will all work out

P ray until something happens

This is a crash course in mental toughness. Stewardship is not for the faint of heart. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. Empowerment comes through stewardship and through challenges we gain knowledge, confidence, power and wisdom.

Always know that there is a solution for every problem and every problem has a solution. We just have to look and listen for it.

In the ideal world, we should always have cash reserve for emergencies or incidentals. However, if we don't, we have to handle the issue at hand, get back up and start again.

If an emergency depletes your savings, so be it. Start saving again and thank God you had it when it was needed. If you saved once you can do it again. If a repair causes you to charge your card to the limit, it's ok. This means you have to start paying it down again, as soon as possible. It can be done.

If you just started saving $50 a pay period but your children got sick instead of $50 save $5. Saving $5 is better than saving nothing at all.

The bottom line: work with what you have, right where you are. God is faithful but make sure you do your part.

When distractions or emergencies come up, REGROUP.

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship"

New feature and coming seminar

Hello everyone. I am so excited about a new feature coming your way! At least once a month I will have a post called "Stewardship Spotlight".

This post will spotlight a:

* financial service
* financial product
* stewardship scripture
* great book
* helpful website

**More exciting is the fact that I will spotlight a PERSON. This person will be someone who has a story to tell about their own stewardship journey. It could be a change in perception, a revelation, a paid off debt. No matter how big or how small this is a chance to share your victory.

This blog is about helping people and helping people to help others. So send in your story to be featured in the "Stewardship Spotlight" you never know who you might help.

Email your story to: 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Next exciting news. I will conduct a stewardship seminar.

Location: Dahlgren United Methodist Church
                17080 14th Street
                King George, VA 22448
               (540) 663-2230

Date:      Saturday, July 14, 2012

Time:      10:00-2:30

Hope to see you there! Tell a friend.

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Are you clear on your home owner's insurance?

Hi again! I hope you find this information helpful and clear. I am not an insurance specialist but I am sharing this because it involves practicing stewardship. As a steward, we are responsible for understanding any policies we have in place. If for some reason, you are not clear please take the time to sit down with your insurance agent and have them go through your policy thoroughly. It is worth your time and attention.

In the meantime, here are a few points to consider.

* All insurance policies (or copies) should be kept in a fire proof and water proof safe. This can prevent damage.

* Are you clear on all deductible amounts?

* Are you clear on how and when to make claims?

* Is your insurance company accessible during non-business hours? Can you speak with a person and not a recording?

* In terms of your home owners insurance, you should have documentation for all antiques, original paintings and rare collectibles such as coins, stamps, etc. They should also be kept in a fire/water proof safe if not in a safe deposit box.

* Take pictures of everything in your house and pictures of your house itself with your camera or cell phone. If you can also video tape all rooms in your home to include the floors and ceilings. This can help go a long way in documenting what you have and helping you remember what you have. Please note: keep your camera, video recorder or cell phone in a safe deposit box in the event of fire or theft. This way your documentation and records will be safe.

* Remember that the value of a thing will decrease over time. For example, if you purchased a stainless steel side by side refrigerator for $1,500.00 five years ago, the value for it today will be lower. This means your insurance company most likely will only pay what it's worth today. This is something to ask your agent about.

* Does your insurance cover natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods or hurricanes? Last year in the DMV area we experienced an earthquake in August, followed by a hurricane in September. (DMV= D.C., Maryland and Virginia) If you do have coverage, check your deductible.

* Does your home owner's insurance cover you if you are visiting or vacationing in another state or in another country in case of theft or natural disaster? 

* In the event that you ever need to make a claim due to fire or any damage to your home, most likely a claim adjuster will be on the scene. A public adjuster can be beneficial for the policy holder when negotiating a settlement with insurance company. Please note: a claim adjuster investigates the insurance claim by looking at the property, speaking with witnesses and police, looking at hospital records, along with other duties they determine the amount of money to cover damages and repairs. Keep in mind that some adjusters work on behalf of the insurance company.

These are just a few points for consideration. Again speak with your agent to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck! Know what you have in terms of coverage. Make sure to take your pictures or video and keep them safe in a deposit box and keep copies of all insurance policies in a fire/water proof safe.

Remember: "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, May 18, 2012

Financial literacy for children

Should we teach our children about money? Absolutely! The real question is: What should we be teaching our children about money? One post can't possibly cover this subject, however, it can get the ball rolling. 

Like anything else the younger we start the better off we are. I wish I had learned about money/finances as a kid. Most likely, I would have avoided many mistakes as an adult. So with such a broad topic, where do we begin?

After teaching your child how to count money. One very simple action to start with, is to teach children how to divide their money. Anytime money is given for birthdays, holidays, allowances etc. children should designate money to save, spend, and give. These three things are easy to remember and are great habits to start at a young age.

* Save money- Take a percentage and deposit in a piggy bank or bank account. Allow your child to put the money in the piggy bank, this is good hands on and very exciting. Make sure your child goes with you to make the deposit and see you fill out the deposit slip. Make a big deal about it! Let your child know that it's fun to save money.

* Spend money- This is called "paying yourself first" in the adult world. Children should know that it's OK to spend a designated amount of money on yourself. This can lead to great teaching time about sells, percentages, addition and subtraction. They should know that money is made to be enjoyed, after they save some of it.

* Give money- Giving has to be taught, just like sharing. Children are to be taught how to give and help others. Giving is a form of gratitude. There are many people less fortunate and by giving we are helping them and helping our children learn how to think of others.

As children begin to read, we can teach them financial vocabulary. While this list is a partial one, again it can get things started in the right direction.

Here are a few vocabulary words we can teach our children about: currency, asset, liability, capital gain, tax rate, net income/profit, gross income, passive income, revenue, equity, appreciation, depreciation, globalization, intellectual property, real estate, real property, stocks, interest, vesting, entrepreneurship, dividends, percentage, savings, money market, income bracket, bonds, bank, budget, debit, credit.

Again, this list is only a start. There are many good books to invest in for our children. Good habits start now while children are young enough to practice and learn. They will thank you later when they become responsible adults with their money.

Being a good steward involves investing in our children or other children if you don't have any of your own. Teach this to your nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers etc. Of course this should be done with the permission of the parent or guardian.

Children are fast learners and learning about money can be and should be fun!

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship!"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Student loans???

I recently had a gentleman ask my opinion about student loans. He had read my book and was curious about what I thought.

I explained to him that while I'm not totally opposed to students loans, I truly believe there are better alternatives. Many would agree that investing in education is one of the best investments one can make. I agree with this notion but there are ways to avoid debt so early in life, of course this might be a controversial subject. Here we go!

On May 5th of this year, I spent a total of 10 hours on the road going back and forth to Penn State. My eldest son graduated and boy was it a great feeling!  Lots of excitement and cheer! As I sat there watching during the ceremony, I looked at all of the young people seated. I wondered how many of them were starting out in life with accumulated student loan debt and credit card debt. When my daughter graduated from Temple University five years ago, I wondered the same thing. She has student debt that she is now paying...I wonder if she's reading this blog?

So what is my take on student loans? Well, here is what I suggest. Get as many grants and scholarships as possible. Between academic and sports scholarships students can get a free ride, if they focus early on in high school. With the economy being the way it is, it's not so easy for parents to save for college as it was in previous times. Now a student has to enter high school with a determination to get scholarship money to attend college on any level.

When you graduate the only college that matters is where you get your diploma from. With that being said, a student can attend a community college for the first two years or so and then transfer to a University or college of choice. Of course you must take classes that are transferable to your targeted University, there is help for this at the community college level, however, you must exercise due diligence. Community colleges are a fraction of the cost of Universities, I know because I attended one. I feel it served me well and I worked while I attended.

Speaking of work, another alternative is to work full or part time while attending college. This will allow a student to pay as he/she goes and graduate debt free, minus the loss of sleep and a social life.

Student loans are not the end of the world, however, they can be avoided with proper planning. I know of students who graduated with $40k plus in student loan debt and got caught up in credit card debt in order to subsidize their student loans. For some paying back student loans will take a lifetime.

Pursue your dreams of college, just make sure to count the cost and explore all options while making your dream come true. 

I welcome any comments.

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship" 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to track your spending

Tracking your spending can be fun and enlightening. You would be surprised to see how you spend your money on a monthly or daily basis. 

The point to tracking your spending is to see how to adjust your budget or to plan a budget if you have not already. How much money are you spending on the following?

* food                                             * auto maintenance
* entertainment                              * gasoline
* misc                                             * cell phone minutes
* eating out                                    * hobbies
* movie rental                                * gifts
* doctor co-pays                            * books/magazines
* pampers                                       * alcohol
* clothing/shoes                             * tobacco

Now you can find out. For tracking monthly spending just get a box. It can be an old tissue box, or shoe box any type of box will do. Mark your box with the month and year. Place the box somewhere convenient where you will always see it.

As you come and go, drop all receipts in the box. No matter how small the purchase, save the receipt. When the month is over, sort your receipts, add them up. Viola! Now you can see where your money went that month, and make adjustments to your budget if need be.

You can also keep a spending journal for a day. I have posted an example of my spending journal for this past Sunday below. As you can see, I didn't spend much. Usually, Sundays are spent at home for the most part.

You can pick any day to do this exercise and it can be done a couple of ways. The first way you can keep your journal is by writing down everything you spend as soon as you spend it. Purchase a small writing pad and keep it on hand, jot down what you spend as well as the amount spent. This should include purchases made with cash, checks and debit/credit cards.

The next way you can keep your spending journal is by keeping all of your receipts from a designated day. At the end of the day add up all of your purchases and the amount spent.

It is very is important that you count every single purchase, no matter how small, these add up. By seeing your purchases in writing, you will be able to determine how and where you are investing your finances.

This is a great exercise to try. Is anyone willing to give it a shot and share what you found? Hope to hear from you.

Remember. "True empowerment  comes through stewardship"

Thursday, May 3, 2012


What is perception? Simply put, perception is how you view something or someone. Is perception different from fact? What does all of this have to do with stewardship anyway? And maybe you are wondering why there is a picture of a chandelier on a blog about stewardship? Well, I love analogies, metaphors and good stories that bring home a point. So today I'm going to use my dining room chandelier to bring home a point about perception. Over 2 years ago I purchased my chandelier. I had been eye balling this chandelier for almost a year waiting for the right time and extra money. Finally, right before December, the price dropped 50%, of course this was my Christmas gift to myself from myself.

I loved this chandelier and it was as beautiful in person as it was online. My husband installed it and after about a year he mentioned to me that it needed to be cleaned. I looked at it as I did everyday and did not notice anything. In fact, to me, the chandelier looked just as good and shiny as it did the day he put it up. I did not think about it again, after all who has time to clean a chandelier, especially if it was not dirty. 
One day I was just curious, so I took a clean, wet, cloth and put a little soap on it and cleaned one crystal. To my surprise, the crystal was dusty! Not only was it dusty but it was dull and had grime. I could not believe my did my beautiful chandelier look like this? 

So what is my point? My husband told me the chandelier needed to be cleaned, however, I looked at it and my perception was that it still looked new and as shiny as it did a year ago. It was not until I actually investigated myself and found the facts. The facts were that the chandelier was dusty and dull and in need of serious cleaning. Of course I had to clean each crystal one at a time, and as you can see, it was a lot of crystals. It was then that I saw the big difference between the clean ones and the dusty ones. Finally, my chandelier looked shiny and beautiful again.

I used my chandelier because often times we don't really see things the way they are, but rather see them the way we think they should be or used to be. When was the last time you took a good look at your stewardship? How are you handling your bills, creditors? Are you using your money wisely? A good way to match perception with facts is to look at your checkbook or account balance. Look at your bill statements. Look at your receipts. What do all of these say? Instead of assuming, sit down and take a good look at how you're spending your finances and what you have to show for it. Are you ruling your money or is it ruling you?

Stewardship requires you to look at your finances and see the facts. Once you see the facts, you can move forward in the right direction and if need be, start cleaning things up. Just like the crystals, take it one at a time. Take a good, hard look, you never know what you'll find!

Next: How to track your spending. (Accountability)

Remember. "True empowerment comes through stewardship"