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Money Tips if You Do Not Have a Steady Income

life on your own termsBigg success is life on your own terms. We talked all about that last week in a series of five posts where we painted the bigg picture.

Now we want to get into the nitty-gritty. What keeps us from living our lives on our own terms?

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The challenge of irregular inflows

One of those things is not having enough money – one of the five elements of bigg success – when we need it. It’s one thing if you have a regular salary. However, a lot of people don’t have a steady income. It fluctuates from month-to-month.

What if you’re a salesperson working on straight commission?

What if you own your own business and don’t draw a regular paycheck? You may be a freelancer or a solo entrepreneur. You may be in business and have employees. You not only feel responsible for putting food on your table, you also have a group of people to whom you feel responsible.

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georgeI certainly can relate to this subject, having been a business owner for pretty much all of my adult life. Come to think of it, before I went into business for myself, I worked on commission as a sales person so I’ve seen both sides of it.

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marylynn
Of course, with George, I now am a business owner too.

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george
Welcome to the club, Mary-Lynn!

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marylynnWe have a couple of businesses in their early stages. I left a job in the corporate world with a regular paycheck, but I sure understand now what it’s like not to have that. I know I’m not alone. A number of people in our community have mentioned this as a major challenge to living their lives on their own terms.

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So what can you do if your income fluctuates from month-to-month?

Understand your cycles

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georgeOne thing that I found is that I had to understand my cycles. I’ve struggled with this one. When I wasn’t busy, I’d spend time and money promoting and prospecting. Then I would get too busy – I don’t have time to promote and prospect. So I stopped doing it. The thing I knew, I wasn’t busy again and the cycle would start over!

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If you can be consistent with your most important activities – those things that generate the most income for you – you may be able to smooth out your inflows.

You might even find that you can hire an assistant to perform some of these activities for you. You spend a little money now to save you time and make you money a little later.

What if you can’t afford to hire someone to help you? Then you’ll have to invest the time yourself. When you find yourself in your next “up” cycle – you’re too busy to spend time on crucial prospecting and promotional activities – take a look at it again to see if it makes sense.

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marylynnAnother thing I’ve found is that I can be more consistent if I carve up my activities into smaller chunks. For example, I may send out five e-mails every day of the week instead of thinking that I need to send out 25 e-mails. If you don’t have the time to do that, start with three e-mails a day.

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Stabilize your outflows

Risk is often measured by volatility. So by definition, if we have irregular inflows, we are taking more risk. Because of that, we should strive for less risk in our outflows.

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marylynnWe do this by keeping our standard of living relatively low. Our businesses are in their early stages. So we watch what we spend and live very frugally. For example, we watch how much we shop and go out to eat less than we did when our incomes were more regular.

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One of our newsletter subscribers, Randy, says “rowing his own boat” by working for himself are his terms for his life. He’s been on his own for about 25 years now. He’s put his two sons through college while remaining debt free. He says he did it by having a plan when his boys were just babies. That plan paid off. He just turned 50 and plans on living the way he wants from here on out.

Congratulations Randy and thanks for sharing your story with us!

Randy’s story also helps us understand a second part of stabilizing our inflows:

Be very, very careful with debt.

We have to resist the urge to pile onto our outflows by adding principal and interest payments. It puts even more pressure on our inflows and more stress on us because we have to earn even more.

What do you suggest?

Share that with us by leaving a comment below, calling us at 888.455.BIGG or sending us an e-mail at bigginfo@biggsuccess.com.

Thanks so much for checking in on us today.

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Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

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One of our listeners just accepted a new management job. Join us next time when we help him with bigg challenge.

Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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My Employer is Eliminating 401(k) Matches

retirement Companies are responding aggressively to the bad economic news. Layoffs, hiring freezes, and salary freezes have been some of the most common actions so far.

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Now, more and more employers are looking at eliminating the matching of 401(k) contributions. According to a survey by Watson Wyatt, the global human resources and financial services firm, things are changing quickly. In October, 2% of firms said they had already cut back on these matches and 4% said they planned to. Two months later, in December, 3% had already made the cut and 7% said they intended to.

And these are large companies. Established brands that we all know. Motorola, FedEx, Kodak, and Starbucks just to name a few.

They’re usually using the word “suspend” rather than “eliminate” when they announce these cuts. But it raises a question:

If my employer stops matching my contribution to my
401(k), should I still keep making contributions myself?

It forces us to save

This is perhaps the biggest reason to keep making contributions. Financial planners have said for years that we should pay ourselves first. Investing it before we get it, as we do with our 401(k), is the best way to make sure that happens.

Most people report that they don’t really miss the money. It’s like the taxes that are deducted from our paychecks – the government knows most of us won’t miss the money if we don’t see it.

Of course, there are ways to set up an automatic deduction from our checking or savings account for investments outside of a 401(k). That’s really close to having it deducted from our paycheck, but it’s not quite the same. That little variation can make a bigg difference for some people. You have to judge that for yourself.

Higher limits

The next best option to a 401(k) for most people would be an IRA because contributions may also be deductible. You should check with your financial advisor about the specifics of your situation.

Because you invest before paying taxes, it’s as if the government is making part of the contribution for you. For example, if you made a $1,000 contribution to one of these retirement plans and you’re in the 25% tax bracket, you would pay $250 less in taxes. So, in essence, you’re only out of pocket $750.

With either plan, you don’t pay taxes on the money you earn on your investments until you pull it out. Deductible and deferred – that’s a pretty powerful combination.

Where the 401(k) gains favor is that it has higher maximum limits – your contributions to your 401(k) can total up to $16,500 in 2009 ($22,000 if you’re over 50). You can’t contribute more than $5,000 to an IRA in most cases.

If my employer cuts or eliminates my 401(k) match, are there
reasons to fund my retirement through another vehicle?

A lot of 401(k) plans offer fairly limited investment options and you may pay lower fees in a plan that’s not a 401(k). 

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The bigger issue

It’s not like we don’t already have a sense of it. But recent months have reinforced this paradigm. We can’t count on anyone or anything for any part of our financial future. We must take full control of our own finances. We have to build our own safety nets to make sure we are financially secure.

How much will you have at retirement?

It really boils down to three factors:

  • how much we invest
  • how much we earn on our investment (after all fees and taxes)
  • how long it is invested

From these three factors, we see that we have three options if we don’t want to retire on less money:

1st – We can try to earn more on the money we invest.
That involves taking more risk and we don’t have much appetite for that right now. So this probably isn’t going to fly with most of us.

2nd – We can postpone our retirement.
This buys us more time. People who are really close to retirement right now may not have much of a choice. They may have to do this. But if you still have some time on your side, there may be a better way.

3rd – We can increase our contributions.
Look at your budget and see if there is any way you can make up for the investment your company was making.

If your employer reinstates matching contributions, you can stop contributing at the increased rate and enjoy the extra money in your budget … or …

… you can keep making your higher contributions to give your retirement a kick!

To all our readers in Australia, happy Australia Day! And we hope our friends in India enjoy Republic Day!

And thank you so much for spending time with us today. Join us next time when we discuss extreme multi-tasking. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
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How Long Do You Have To Work to Pay for What You Buy?

leftovers In physics class, we learned about the law of inertia – an object in motion stays in motion. So it is with our money. We start spending and we keep spending!

Now we’re trying to slow down our spending and find ways to save money. Today, we want to discuss a new way to think about your purchasing decisions.

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Getting to the numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks many things, including consumer finances. From their most recent study, we calculated how much the average wage earner makes a year.

We then did some more research to determine how much vacation we take and how many hours a week we work, on average. From all this data, we determined that the average earner made $19.38 per hour before taxes.

Next we looked at spending by category, according to the BLS study. We divided that amount by the $19.38 an hour to determine how long we have to work to pay for what we buy.

The numbers

The average American wage earner works for almost a month to pay for entertainment and dining out.

We work about a week and two days to pay for our vacation. Think about that – we spend more time working for our vacations then we spend on them!

And since we’re nearing that time of year where we’re all feeling extra generous, we also found that we spend a full week working to pay for Christmas presents.

There’s power in this tool for you

It may be useful to think about past spending decisions, but the power of this tool comes in helping you make decisions now.

For example, say you’re the average wage earner thinking about purchasing a LCD HDTV. It would cost you around $600. You would have to work two-and-a-half days to pay for that TV.

Is it worth it to you?

A bigger house

We recently saw that the median price for a house is $200,500. You would have to work two months and a week every year to make your mortgage payment on that house.

You may not be thinking about a bigger house now. But let’s say the day comes when you decide you’d like to stretch a little. The median priced house was requiring 19% of your income; you think you could handle 25%. Now you’ll have to work three months out of every year to pay the mortgage on this bigger house.

Is it worth it to you to work three extra weeks every year just to pay your mortgage? Is there anything else you would rather buy with your hard work?

The formula

So far we’ve talked about averages, but they don’t really matter. What matters is how much you make per hour. Here’s how to calculate it:

Amount earned per week ÷ Hours worked per week = Hourly earnings

Your pay cycle may not be a week, but you can adjust accordingly. The BLS statistics look at before-tax income. Ideally, you’ll look at disposable income – after all taxes have been paid – since that’s the only money you have available to spend.

As salaried employees, we often don’t fully track how much time we work. You may have to track it for a week or two. If you really want the full picture, include your commuting time and any other job-related time.

Invisible expenses

Don’t just think about your major purchases. Consider your invisible expenses – those frequent small purchases that can really add up over the course of the year.

For example, say you spend $5 every day on lunch. Over the course of the year, that would add to $1,275 (assuming one week’s vacation). The average earner would have to work 66 hours to pay for this.

Is it worth it?

You might look at that and decide that it’s not. You start packing a lunch which only costs you $1. Now you would only have to work thirteen hours a year to pay for your lunches.

That’s 53 hours of work that could be spent on something else!

How about a nicer vacation, starting that emergency fund, or paying off the debt that’s keeping you up at night?

So frame your expenditures by the number of hours you have to work to pay for them. Then ask yourself if it’s worth it. It’s a great way to prioritize your spending.

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Thanks for visiting us today. Come back next time when we discuss why you can’t have it all, but you can have all you really want. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
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Is Your Status Costing You Money?

balance We all experience trade-offs. One of the most significant ones is time and money. If we have money, we can use it to buy services that give us more time. Another trade-off is status and money.

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Status at work

We may ask our boss for more money, but he or she tells us that it’s not in the budget. So instead, we’re offered a title – it gives us more credibility but it doesn’t line our coffers.

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marylynn When I was starting out in my radio career, I helped out quite a bit in the production department putting together commercials. I eventually became the go-to person when the production director wasn’t available. When I asked for more money, I was told it wasn’t in the budget but they gave me the title of Assistant Production Director. This helped me negotiate for a higher salary when I left for a different market.

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So sometimes the title can lead to more money. If that’s the case, great! But we need to go into it with eyes wide open because status without money usually doesn’t do us much good in the short- or long-run. We may have to work more hours because of our new title. We may be held more responsible. So we have to weigh the benefits.

Bringing it home

We also often fall into the status trap personally. We buy things, such as cars or houses that we don’t really need or want. We do it to keep up with our friends and neighbors.

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georgeTwo of my friends are best friends. They don’t do this anymore but, when they were first starting out, it was almost comical to watch them compete with each other. One bought a new car; within a month or so the other got a new car. One of them bought a new house; the next thing you knew the other one had his house on the market and was buying a new one. One got married; soon the other was engaged. One had a kid; soon the other one was an expectant father!

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The point is to recognize when you’re about to do something solely to increase your status. It may hurt you financially! Which means, in the long run, you’ll have less status than you would like.

It’s funny … what often keeps us from getting rich is acting like we’re rich before we are rich!

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Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

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Next time, we’ll discuss one more thing to add to your schedule to keep you on schedule. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

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I Need Money! Should I Cut Back on My Retirement Plan Contributions?

graph_barThe phrase “perfect storm” has been used more recently than when the movie was out! Here in the United States, we’re being hit with rising costs, falling home prices, volatile stock prices, the subcrime (oops, make that subprime) mortgage crisis, and talk of a possible recession.

Recently, we discussed why cashing out a 401(k) is one of the worst things to do in response to these tough times.

Today, we want to discuss cutting back on contributions to a retirement plan. Two to three months ago, the word was that people weren’t reducing the investments they make for their golden years.

Even now, the overwhelming majority of people aren’t making any changes. However, there is evidence that more people are considering (or are) cutting back.

It’s certainly understandable – insurance, groceries, gas, taxes all keep going up. Investing less in a 401(k) is a way to put more dollars into a paycheck now.

3 reasons not to cut back on your 401(k)

#1 – Contributions are made with pre-tax dollars – Assume you’ve been contributing $1,000 a year to your 401(k). You stop making contributions so one would think that would mean $1,000 more in your paychecks over the course of the year. But you have to account for taxes – if you’re in the 30% tax bracket, you’ll owe $300 in taxes on this $1,000. So you’ll only net $700 by stopping your contributions.

#2 – Money accumulates tax-deferred
– With your retirement plan, money is compounding on money on top of more money. And since you don’t pay any taxes on it until you take it out, all of your money keeps working for you, rather than paying a part of it every year in taxes (and therefore having less money to accumulate on top of).

#3 – Employer match – Employers match as much as 100%, up to some limit. So say, for example, you contribute 3% of your salary and your employer matches that. It’s like found money … your employer is guaranteeing you a 100% return on your initial investment.

Now granted, this is part of your overall compensation. However, we often look at our tax refunds as found money, when it is just a return of an overpayment. This is truly found money – the employer is giving you money as long as you invest up to the maximum. It’s your choice.

Cutting back could cost you $53,551

Consider a fictional 30-year old woman who has been investing 3% of her $50,000 salary, with her employer matching it 100%. Money is tight, so she decides that she will stop investing for three years. This $125 invested for just three years, and then left alone until she retired (at age 62) would have grown to $53,551, if she earned just 6% on her money.

So if she invested just 3% of her salary for the next 3 years, it would grow to 108% of her salary when she retires.

A small amount of money now makes a huge difference in the long term. So at least try to keep investing as much as your employer matches because you get a huge boost in your portfolio by hitting that target.

Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

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