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Income Levels Fall for the Third Straight Year

Income Levels Fall Again

A new study and article has found that Income has fallen to 1996 levels for Americans when you factor in the effects of inflation.
This is depressing no matter how you slice it, but you can take a proactive approach to this with your own job and future. If you’re in a slow-growth sector, it might be time to rethink your career and industry. If you’re doing fantastic work and haven’t had a decent raise (or one at all), go ask for one.
Set aside cash if you’ve got a positive cash flow. Don’t spend money on stupid stuff and things you don’t need.

Having a positive cash flow feed your emergency fund in the good times can prepare you for the unforeseen events in the future.

Stand tall and figure out your plan and do whatever you can to not let your income level slide.

[Image courtesy of Purple Matt Fish]

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Top Money Posts – Skinny Girl’s Revenge, What College Grads Need to Know about Money, Lessons Learned from the Recession

I’ve been on a book reading tear of late.  I’ll post more about that in the coming weeks, but as you can see by my post frequency, I’ve been reading more than I’ve been writing.  Hope you’re enjoying your summer.

Yes, I know.  This is a random picture, but it made me laugh.
Breaking Through Stereotypes – Bethenny Frankel has 120 million reasons to feel vindicated.  I love the whole Skinny Girl Margarita story and Frankel’s rise from living paycheck-to-paycheck to making it big.
“I worked hard, I did it on my own, and I busted my ass the whole way. It’s been a long time coming.”

Ask the Readers: How can I earn an extra $1000 per month? – Enough said.  Worth the read.
4 Reasons Why Your Boss Should Take A Vacation – If your boss doesn’t take vacation, read through this post and get them to take one.
1. Taking time off work recharges your productivity and ability to perceive new directions
2. Serve as an example of the importance and value of taking time off work
3. Show your team you trust their ability to manage without you
4. Reminds employees that vacation time is part of their remuneration; it’s not a job perk
20 personal money practices that got me to a place of grooving prosperity – A wonderful post that bring a nice feeling of approachability to handling money and the mentality you need to gain control of your finances. 

Ten Things College Graduates Need to Know About Finances and Careers – Simple advice worth memorizing for yourself or sharing with college age kids.

1. That thing you really want? You don’t need it.
2. Increasing your debt level is an extremely bad idea.
3. Believing that “your future self will take care of it” ensures a miserable life.
4. Start retirement savings the first day you possibly can.
5. If you don’t have any specific long term goals, use your money to eliminate debt.
6. If you don’t have any specific long term goals and no debt, keep your extra money in a savings account.
7. It is unlikely that you’ll stay in your first post-college job – or even your first post-college career path – forever, so plan accordingly
8. Don’t be ashamed to live with your parents for a while, but don’t view it as a long-term solution.
9. Your specific investment choices matter less than the simple fact you’re investing.
10. You have an incredibly long life ahead of you. Use that knowledge to your advantage.

6 Lessons Learned From The Recession – J Money over at Budgets are Sexy comments on an MSN article about lessons we should have learned from the current recession. 

- Use cash and borrow less
- Make sure you build an emergency fund
- Setting priorities is critical
- Budget is not a dirty word
- Being a penny-pincher makes you smart, not cheap
- Stay in charge of your investments

What’s It Take to Be “Rich”? – How much do you think it takes?  Here’s the number a recent survey of millionaires came up with…

Why Smart People Make Bad Spending Decisions – Another smart post from J Money at Budgets are Sexy.  Why do you think smart people make dumb spending decisions?  If you’re struggling with spending and debt (and you’re obviously smart because you’re reading this blog), then check out this post.  It just might help you eliminate a few spending issues and leave you with extra cash at the end of the month. 

From Billionaire To Broke: One Wealthy Heiress And Her Slide Into Bankruptcy – Not exactly MC Hammer type of “interesting” expenses to read about, but this is a cautionary tale to learn from with good lessons learned at the end of the post.

A Home Is a Lousy Investment: Today’s young people would be foolish to imitate their parents and view ownership as the cornerstone of personal finance.  Blasphemy?  Maybe not.

Picture via Alberto.Gar

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Your Financial Heart Attack: Forced Change in a Heart Beat

In his book, The 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss asks an interesting question: If you had a heart attack and had to work 2 hours per day, what would you do?

That’s a tough question to answer, especially if you just got done with your 8 or 10 hour day.  You, like me, probably couldn’t envision a world where you could make enough money to cover your expenses in just 2 hours of work a week.

Ferriss doesn’t stop there.  He then asks: If you had a heart attack and had to work 2 hours per WEEK, what would you do?

Not possible, right?  Well, not exactly IMPOSSIBLE as there are a number of people who have come out of the woodwork and shared their own “lifestyle design” and 4-Hour Workweek personal experiences.

Regardless of whether you think it’s possible or not, here’s a question along the lines of the “heart attack” question:

If you had to cut your spending by 25 percent in the next month, what would you do?

Sounds impossible, right?  It’s a big number, but here’s the thing…it’s not impossible.  There’s example after example after example of regular people like you and me who have radically transformed their lives and dramatically cut down on their expenses.

These folks still have a great quality of life and in fact, I’m sure they’d argue that their quality of life has increased exponentially since they started down the path of living below their means.

So over to you.  What would you do to cut your spending by 25 percent in the next month?

You could renegotiate your debts, refinance your mortgage, sell some extra stuff to pay down your debts or simply cut out some small reoccuring expenses that are adding up to big money every month.

What else can you add to this list?  Have fun with it and take action on this idea.

Game on.

Photo courtesy of Inside Heart

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Money Saving Tip: Reducing Small Expenses at Planned Events

I played my first round of golf of the season today. I hit the ball pretty good despite the long layoff. But it was something I didn’t do before the round that cost me a few extra bucks.

Normally I go out and buy a bunch of 20oz Gatorade bottles to use for a couple of rounds. My local grocery store usually has a sale of 10/$10 going at some point during the month and I load up.

Of course I forgot to pick up the Gatorade for today and bought two bottles for $2.50 each at the snack shop. That’s $3 extra for the day above what I normally pay. That’s the “convenience” charge I have to pay for not planning ahead.

I know, I know. A lousy $3 is not a lot of money, but it is money that could have easily been saved and deposited into one of my investment accounts.

I know $3 sounds like little money, but over the course of 20 or so rounds, that’s $60 that could be working hard for me. That’s low-balling my “not being prepared for the round” penalty. Add in the cost of food, the occasional sleeve of overpriced balls at the course and the money starts to add up over the summer.

You should always plan ahead for activities you know you’re going to do or events you’re going to attend. Eat something before a concert or ball game and you save a lot of money that can go toward paying down your debt or toward an investing or a savings account.

Me? I’m going to make sure pick up my Gatorade this week before next weekend’s round. What about you? What expenses for planned events can you eliminate or dramatically reduce?

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Hey Big Saver

We tend to glorify the big spenders in our lives and through the media it’s no wonder that Shirley Bassey was singing about Big Spenders and not Big Savers. That’s unfortunate because without saving, you’ll never get out of the get race.

Regardless of how hard you work or how much money you make, it’s not going to matter if you spend everything you make.

Every dollar you save is $1.40 you don’t have to earn to pay for that expense. When you cut back on silly expenses you’ll quickly find yourself with a surplus. This extra money can go toward paying down bad debt or investing in income-generating assets. Over tune, this extra money will grow and the passive income from your investments will be more than your expenses. Congrats. You’re now financially free.

All this because you were a little frugal and cut back on things that didn’t add value to your life. Why not earn less at a job you love, live below your means, invest the surplus and just have a blast instead of worrying about your debts, what will happen if you get laid off and so on?

Commit to saving more and follow through. Do these two things and you’re on the path toward financial freedom and a hell of a fun, stress-free life.

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