Saturday, 19 April 2014

By The Rivers Of Babylon

It's always worth looking back to the wise men and women of old for a bit of inspiration. Today, I'm going to simply reflect on The Richest Man In Babylon, a book published in 1926. It's all about teaching simple lessons in finance through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. It's a classic book on financial advice.

Well, we're not in ancient Babylon any more. So I managed to track down a revised version of the book (or The Richest Man In Babylon For Today). It may lack some of the mystique and aura of its predecessor, but it applies some basic principles relevant for the current day. Worth remembering:
  1. Pay yourself first
  2. Develop a budget
  3. Pay off debts
  4. Start looking for ways to put your money to work
  5. Accept risk, but be careful
  6. Don’t procrastinate
  7. Invest in your home
  8. Invest in your retirement savings
  9. Invest in yourself
  10. Prepare your “Walls of Babylon” – i.e. have a will, life and health insurance etc.
Apply these principles and you'll be on your way.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Getting To Know You

Many financial problems faced later in life can be avoided if individuals are provided with proper personal finance solutions from their earlier years. Unfortunately, a lot of these solutions are learned “on the job” at home, or via your peers at school or in your community. And, let's face it, for many parents money is another taboo subject - many simply avoid the conversations as they don't really have their own houses in order. 

“Knowing yourself” in relation to personal finance is partly about getting to know your ideal outcomes in life – the “why” behind the need to have and manage your money. Decide what you want money for. Financial needs do change as life ticks along, but we have to at least have a think about it.

If your goal is to live by yourself in a shack without any trappings of modern life, surviving on mung beans, then so be it. As long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else, it’s no one else’s business as to how you choose to live. Some know where they're going, the rest of us should just focus on the process of getting to know. Whatever you do decide, just learn to fund that lifestyle accordingly.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Personal Finance - Where To Start

There’s such a lot of information on personal finance out there; some good, some less so. But don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. You’ve got to start somewhere. And starting with yourself is as good a place as any.

Having a sense of where you are at this point in time and what you want in the future can play a big part in achieving success in yourpersonal finances.

Spend enough time to know yourself that you find a formula that works for you - i.e. that allows you to not obsess over money, fear its loss, or take risks you cannot tolerate.  Look at how your own mind works, and let money flow to those aspects that make your life more dynamic and creative.

So look at today as your start line. 

It doesn't matter what you have done so far in your life, it doesn't matter whether you have a professional qualification or how you look. It also doesn't matter what the markets are doing, nor what everyone else is doing. It’s about you taking control of your actions, applying the right structure, attitude and behavior to take your financial story forward. As long as you are prepared to put the time and energy into improving your condition, whether you do that by yourself or via financial coaching, you can do ok.

Friday, 4 April 2014

How To Become A Millionaire

Ok, so I’ve got your attention….

It still fascinates me as to how the concept of being a “millionaire” is still so ingrained in our lexicon, regardless of where we are in the world and despite it not being “what it used to be”. Thanks to the cost of living, a million of anything just won’t go so far these days. Gone is the cachet and security that used to come with it. It’s still referenced in all parts of popular culture, whether we’re talking TV programmes, books or films, but the reality is that number has had better days.
And it doesn’t matter whether you are thinking in terms of 1 million US dollars or 1 million Zimbabwean dollars (about US$2,750 if you were wondering), it should all really come back to the same basic question: “Why?”.

A lot of us (and I include myself in this) get elements of our personal finance and life the wrong way round. We think up a number, a target and assume that if that amount was sitting in our bank account, everything would be sorted. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking US$1m or US$10m, it just doesn’t work that way. Yes, having a large stash of cash sitting waiting for you can give you more choice, but we all know that doesn’t guarantee happiness. Lottery winners going bankrupt is more than just ironic. It’s sad. At the end of the day, living the life you want to live is the important thing here.

There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to having nice stuff, but just for a second shift your focus from wanting the millionaire or multi-millionaire lifestyle (whatever that entails) and just get clearer on your“why?”. Are your deepest desires being met with the trappings? Is your inner voice speaking in tune with the choices being made? Your “why?” could well be to do with security or the ability to do what you want, when you want. There’s no judgement here. Only you will know. But once you decide what exactly is important to you and what you need to meet that need, you may look at that figure slightly differently.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Line In The Sand

I've thought long and hard about this blog in recent weeks.

It started out a few years ago now, partly with the hope of spreading a bit of cheer but often with the aim of simply allowing me to express myself in written form. There have been some good, bad, indifferent and amazing blogs along the way. Some have been heart-felt, some have been self-indulgent. Some days I've been so inspired it almost hurt, other times I've had to try my hardest just to squeeze out a collection of words to form sentences simply to keep the thing ticking over. Hopefully, once in a while it turned a frown "upside down", or provided the occasional bit of insight to the casual reader.

But from today I'm going to change things slightly. There's been a bit of downtime since parting ways with my employer last year, and I've had a lot of time to think about "stuff". I've struggled to be consistently inspired and haven't really offered up (in my view) everything I have to offer. I'm still all about personal development, championing those wanting to following their dreams, finding those insights in life that take you down those less travelled roads. But I wanted to bring something new to the table. Personal finance.

"Yawn", I hear you cry. "Aren't there already dozens upon dozens of finance blogs teaching you tips on saving money with Groupon, how to retire early and what stocks to buy in a deflationary environment?" I guess there are. But I just want to throw my two cents into the mix. Or maybe that should be 'two pence', because I'm actually British - and that's part of the point. I may have lived in the US in the past but I have no idea about Roth IRAs or the intricacies of IRS jurisdictions, something which I'm happy to leave to US bloggers.

I'm just a guy that has worked in finance for a number of years, lived in a few different countries, was brought up in poverty (both materially and of thought), and have always had an interest in what makes people tick (both materially and in thought). I like to think in real world generalities that (hopefully) anyone can relate to - whether you're in Anchorage or Zanzibar. Personal finance is simply an extension of what went before only, again hopefully, with a bit more substance for readers to work with.

So, over time, this blog will change a fair bit but I'd like to think there will still be one constant to it all. Me.