Operation Learn Personal Finance

learn personal finance

Let operation learn personal finance begin!

Sometimes, I find myself assuming that the average person knows the basics of personal finance.  More and more, this  assumption  is proving to be wrong.  Oftentimes, people just need to start learning the basics before they can make more important decisions.  So, I’m going to turn back the wheel and go through what I did in the beginning years of my quest to soak up as much personal finance information as possible.

Looking back, my interest in personal finance was next to none.  I was in high school and knew next to nothing about personal finance.  Only once I hit college did personal finance play a role in my life.  I found myself in charge of my own  finances  for the first time in my life and had the great responsibility of paying my way through college.

With the topic of personal finance literally  thrown  in front of my face, it was an immediate call to action.  I’m going to share with you four simple, common sense steps I took to educate myself in the area of personal finance.


1- Start reading some finance books

My advice would be to head down to your local half-price bookstore and pick up some popular personal finance books.  There’s literally thousands available to you.  You should find some books that cover what I call, the “core” to your personal finance education.  The core fundamentals include consumer credit, budgeting, insurance, investing, saving money, and retirement.  Learn these core fundamentals and you will be set for life.  The saying that says get back to basics rings true in personal finance.  Get the basics down, and the rest of it will take care of itself.  The key here is to learn the basic areas of personal finance.  Now go get reading!


2- Subscribe to a couple personal finance blogs

This is probably the best decision I made in terms of educating myself in the area of personal finance.  Find a couple personal finance blogs and subscribe to them.  I first started out reading ChristianPF, PTMoney and MyMoneyBlog.  I attribute much of my personal finance success to these blogs.  Not only is it great information but it will inspire you to put your newly acquired information to good use.


3- Read the business/finance section of the newspaper

If you are not receiving a hard copy of your local newspaper, you need to do that pronto.  Reading the financial section will help you understand what is going on around the world and will guide your investment decisions.  It’s not enough to learn personal finance principles.  You need to understand world finance and know what’s going on around the world.  You won’t regret reading the newspaper.  Not only is it relaxing, but the more you read, the smarter you can invest 🙂


4- Talk to people older and wiser than you

Find a mentor or a family member who has been around the block a few times.  I learned SO MUCH from my Dad.  He taught me how to manage my money and how to be responsible with it.  He instilled in me the simple rule of not spending more than you earn.  These types of people will educate you more than any college education.  Go get coffee with these people or start emailing them.  The sooner you do this, the sooner your personal finance life will be in order.


There you have it folks.  Four simple steps any beginner can take to get their personal finances in order and start a personal finance education.  See, it’s not that hard after all!

Get the Most Energy Out of Your Food

When shopping at the grocery store, there are a couple of things you instinctively do. You are prone to purchase certain items because of their location in the store and lighting surrounding them. You are advertised to by the use of clever design and packaging corporations use on their products. You even buy things you might eventually throw away such as produce, bread, and meat because you are wired to purchase them like a dog is wired to chase its tail. These behaviors can lead us to taking out  title loans in order to pay for our food bills.

One of the things we almost never consider when purchasing food is the energy content and nutrients we get out of it. Things like oatmeal are replaced by Frosted Flakes, real chicken replaced by frozen strips, and real fresh produce for the canned versions. Not only does this practice impact our health, it also takes money right out of our wallets.

In order to know which foods contain the most energy, it is vital to inspect the food label before purchasing. Just because all-natural granola products contain more calories than junk-food cereals, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t purchase them. By carefully analyzing the serving size, fat content, and protein information, you can get more bang out of your food buck.

Taking a look at the cost per-ounce❠on the retailers sales tag is also a good way to find out how much food you are getting. Instead of using the box or original packaging to gauge how much you are getting, this is an objective way to compare prices and pick out the most affordable product.

The Institute of Medicine is lobbying the government to introduce a food labeling system which is similar to the Energy Star program. Clear packaging on the front of products will tell shoppers which foods contain the most energy, nutrients, and health benefits. While purchasing food shouldn’t be as sterile as buying a washer and dryer, it shouldn’t be a completely whimsical experience based on fantasy and cartoon marketing characters.

By shopping smarter, doing research, and purchasing more wholesome food you can save money at the grocery store. Not only will your wallet be fuller, your stomach and energy reserves will appreciate it more throughout the day.

Business Energy, the Facts

This guest post provided by uSwitch for Business.  Enjoy!

Running a successful and profitable business requires entrepreneurial flair, a degree of creativity and an eye for detail. Keeping a check on your company’s energy bills is just one way to take control of the finances, look for ways to cut costs and maintain a lower level of energy consumption. Go online and reduce your business energy  consumption by comparing cheaper tariffs for both business electricity and gas.

Before embarking on a major cost cutting initiative, try to engage staff and get them on board to make the biggest savings. Encourage discussions of ways to save energy, they may be more inclined to help out. Having helpful reminders around the workplace will help focus and remind employees how they can contribute.

There are of course regulations in place regarding the minimum and maximum temperatures in the workplace, but most businesses are well within the limits if they reduce the heating or increase the cut off point of the air conditioning system. Significant savings can be made in business electricity rates by turning down the heating by just one degree in the winter. In the summer months, when the temperature outside increases, increasing the ambient temperature in the workplace will also provide a drop in business energy costs. Everyone can help to retain warmth in the office by keeping windows and doors shut and similarly by ensuring they stay closed will allow the air conditioning to run more efficiently.

Lighting represents a huge expense to business electricity bills. Luckily you can make huge potential savings if you invest in these few simple ideas. The most obvious way to reduce costs in this area is to maximise the amount of natural light available and then use this natural light in the best ways possible. Modern buildings are now equipped with a functionality to operate zoned lighting and therefore have the option of switching off the lights in areas not being used. Smart technology also uses sensors which automatically activate lighting when someone enters the relevant zone and will switch off on their own after a set period of inactivity. Business energy bills can also be cut, especially for business electricity, by advising staff to power down or even switch off computers, printers and monitors during breaks and at the end of the working day.

For new buildings, energy efficient features can be incorporated into the designs, but it is also possible to upgrade older buildings. One of the ways to do this, is to ensure that buildings are well insulated. It is also important to maintain equipment such as lights, ventilation systems and air conditioning units to allow them all to run efficiently and also to prevent unexpected breakdowns. As a business, you can help yourself by searching the market online where you can compare and switch suppliers to gain the most competitive rates

Save a Bundle When Buying a Car

buying car

In your lifetime it is more then likely that you will be purchasing a car. Generally speaking most people want to save the most money possible. In order to do so it is imperative that you follow these simple steps.

Step 1- Research your car

Researching vehicles is important because it ensures that you will get a fair price. One can go about finding information about the car by reading reviews, and checking the KBB value. While discovering information about your car take note of the engine size, because it effects the cars MPG. Additionally while browsing reviews make sure you view the crash test ratings, to verify that the car is safe.

Step 2- Finding the dealership that’s right for you

The next step is to find the car dealership that is most fitting for you. To decide if the dealership is right for you, ask yourself a few questions. For one, how will you be paying for your car, and also will you be needing financing. If you will be needing financing, you need to assure the dealership you go to offers it. The next question to pose is whether or not you want a new car, if so you should got to a new car dealership. Also are you looking to trade your car or use a cash for car service?

Step 3- Negotiation a deal

The last step is actually receiving the best price possible for the purchase of the car. These last steps are immensely, and should be followed precisely. In order to get the price lowered you need to call an array of dealerships. Let them compete with each other and see who offers you the best price overall.
Receiving the best deal on a car simply requires a little bit of knowledge. With this information you should be able to obtain a fair price.

(John is a blogger who writes about the car industry.  He also blogs about how to get  cash for a used car.)

The United States Debt Gone Wild Round 2

united states debt

One might ask, Why is it a problem that the Fed keeps interest rates low to devalue our debt interest payments?❠Having a simple understanding of economics assists you in answering this question.
To simplify things, imagine three dominoes. The first domino we will call The Fedâ, the second domino we will call Inflation❠and the third domino will be named Interest Ratesâ.

These dominoes are lined up one after the other, with the Fed❠as the first domino and “interest rates” as the last. As with regular dominoes, when you knock over the first, a force is exerted on the second, causing it to fall and exert a force on the third. This is the order of operations by which the Fed controls interest, and thereby controls our debt payments.

The Fed’s main policy tool is called open market operations. This is the buying and selling of debt, in the form of US government securities such as Treasury bills, notes, bonds and TIPS. When the Fed, through open market operations buys bonds, the Fed receives the bond and debt-holders (such as the US public and foreign nations) receive cash for their bonds. Therefore, when the Fed buys bonds, it injects liquidity into the economy by increasing the amount of dollars available to the public. The reverse is true of the Fed selling bonds; in this instance the Fed gets cash and US corporations, citizens and foreign counties get US government debt.

Over the past ten years on net, with the exception of the last three years (which we’ll get to), the Fed has been keeping liquidity in the economy to a minimum by selling US government securities. This regulation of cash in the economy has created a situation where inflation cannot rise rapidly. This is a simple example of supply and demand, whereby the fewer dollars that are in the â˜system’ creates a situation of scarcity causing each dollar to be more valuable. Conversely, if there are more dollars in the economy, price levels tend to rise because each dollar is worth less and there are more nominal dollars.

The definition of inflation is â˜a general rise in the level of prices, causing purchasing power per dollar to decline’. Because dollars have been predominantly scarce (comparatively), price levels did not have the opportunity to rise and inflation was kept to a nominal 1-3%.

Interest rates, our third domino, are usually based on inflation. Why do I say â˜usually’? Well, as inflation rises, even marginally, it only makes sense that interest rates would have to rise higher to provide a positive return on investments for those lending money. Over the past ten years, our real interest rates have been a negative percentage (or zero) because inflation, as low as it has been, has actually outpaced lending rates. This has allowed the US government to pay off its debt in â˜cheapened’ dollars, as inflation has slowly eroded away the value of the dollars that we are paying back, while the interest rate has been stuck below the value of inflation.

All fine and dandy right? We are paying back our debt in cheaper dollarsâ¦sounds great! ⦠Wrong! In the background, while the Fed and government are utilizing monetary and fiscal policy in attempting to save themselves from going broke with interest payments they cannot afford, our debt continues to increase beyond what we are paying back.

The real amount that we owe is ever climbing, and the moral hazard presented by allowing interest payments to be negative means the government will continue to borrow and ride the Fed’s good graces❠until we have spent ourselves into oblivion. Eventually, the real interest rate will have to be constantly zero so the government doesn’t become insolvent, leading to would-be creditors not wanting to lend money and receive negative return on investment, leading to zero economic growth, leading to layoffs, depression, government dissolution, etceteraâ¦but we’ll save that for the Future❠article. Aren’t you excited to learn about your future?

Top 5 Financial Bible Verses for Christians

financial bible verses

Before we go over these verses, let me tell you something.  I didn’t pick these out of the blue.  These are verses that have molded my personal finance life to what it is today.  While there are many other verses that deal with the topic of money, these five are paramount for any Christian striving to glorify God with their finances.  As you digest these verses, take some time to really mull these topics over in your head.  Take this next week and ask yourself how you can glorify God with your finances in practical ways.

On giving back what is rightfully His: Malachi 3:10

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,❠says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.â

This is one of the few places where God asks his followers to test Him.  This verse strikes me in two ways.  One, it’s always good to remember that nothing is rightfully ours.  We didn’t earn anything.  At the root, it’s all His because he gave us the strength and opportunity to make money in the first place.  Also, tithing is no longer required of us for salvation.  Although this is true, think about all the churches that wouldn’t exist today if people didn’t tithe…


On the love of money: Ecclesiastes 5:10

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.

I used to struggle hardcore with this subject and I still do to some extents today.  If it wasn’t for loving parents an amazing friends, I would worry about this a lot more today.  There is something peaceful and harmonious to be content with the money that God has given you.  I’m not saying you should be lazy, you should actually work your butt off.  Just don’t make it the focus of your life to make it big.  Because guess what, it’s all going to burn in the end.

On paying our debts: Psalm 37:21

The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.

This is a sensitive subject for people.  Are you falling behind on paying off your debts?  Don’t fall into the trap of not being able to pay off your debts.  Look at this this way.  The moment you are debt free, God can use you even more for the glory of His kingdom.  Debt really limits what one can do with their finances.  Pay off your debts as soon as possible and avoid it at all costs once you’re debt free.


On God meeting our needs: Matthew 6:31-32

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat ‘ or ‘What will we drink ‘ or ‘What will we wear for clothing ‘ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

Don’t worry about making ends meet.  God has everything in control and will take care of your needs.  The Bible has never preached a wealth gospel.  The Bible is clear on this.  You are one of God’s children, He has nothing but the best for you. Trust  in Him and you will be amazed by the miracles when others discourage.


On what really makes you rich:  Proverbs 10:22

The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.

Riches, gold, your big house, or your Ferrari don’t make you rich.  Those are temporary satisfactions and will disappear someday.  What makes a person rich is a relationship with Christ.  Once you realize this, watch as the blessings flow in your  spiritual  life!

What is Stewardship and What Does it Look Like?


What is stewardship and how does it relate to you?  When is the last time you’ve heard stewardship been preached on at your church? It’s probably been a while hasn’t it?  Do you even know what Biblical stewardship looks like?  There’s good reason for that.  It’s a topic that makes a congregation uncomfortable and many pastors simply avoid the issue.

I’m here to talk a little about why this is the wrong approach and that stewardship actually is freedom as a Christian.  When I say freedom, I don’t mean retiring early and moving to the tropics and sipping mojitos as your live the rest of your last days playing bingo.  I’m talking about a mentality.  This mentality has everything to do with who you believe your money belongs to.

Reality check people, you money does not belong to you!  It belongs to God.  Let’s check out a conversation God has with his Jewish people:

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.  But you ask, How are we robbing you?In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curseâ”your whole nationâ”because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” -Milachi 3:8-10

These are serious allegations.  God takes tithing very seriously and we need to too. Everything we own is His.  The sooner we realize this, the sooner we will realize that the more we give the greater miracles and lives will be transformed.

Once in a while, I sit back and ask God about my giving and when I do this, I usually get challenged to give more.  God does not promise to make you rich by giving more of your money, but He does promise to transform and save lives through your financial resources.  And that’s the beginning of answering the question: what is stewardship.  is it really what we were taught it should be?

I first started this blog to help people reach what I’m trying to reach, financial freedom.  What does this mean for a Christian? My goal is to retire as early as possible (sights set on 60).  No, not, not to go on vacations and sail around the world…  Rather, to give more of my time and resources.  As of now, I work 50+ hours a week.  This takes away from time I could be serving and/or sharing the Gospel.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could take those 50 hours and use them specifically for His kingdom? Now, I’m not saying those hours aren’t glorifying to God.  They are, I’ve had great conversations with co-workers and friends.  But it would be amazing to dedicate my time to full time ministry.

In closing, ask yourself if you are spending time on what’s important? Can you answer the question, what is stewardship?  Are you seeking a balance between fun/work and things that really matter?  Are you impacting the future generation? Do you spend time with family?  Do you give your money away joyfully?  These are questions I have to ask myself on a daily basis.

So what practical steps are you going to take to live out Biblical stewardship?! Comment below.

Don’t tithe because you feel you have to.  Tithe joyfully in faith knowing God is going to do great things with that money.  Do it as an expression of your love for Him.  Are you still asking, “what is stewardship?”


The United States Debt Gone Wild


The United States debt… In the style of a seeming financial manifest destinyâ, America, led by the Federal Reserve and the government has crusaded to an unprecedented level of growth in the past 30 years⦠But at what cost? Unfortunately, Americans possess the trait of we want it, and we want it nowâ. This has had deadly implications for the American economy.

Americans have been drastically increasing their financial leverage over the past 30 years to finance growth and operations beyond our natural means. All the while, in the background, China, Japan, Europe and others see their cash registers starting to “cha-ching” with IOU’s from the U.S government. And this is okay, right? I mean, isn’t that what financial leverage is forâ¦to fund real growth and make people better off by increasing GDP and per capita purchasing power?

Unfortunately, this freedom to borrow has led to moral hazard. America stopped borrowing to invest in real capital assets or infrastructure. We started to speculate. We formed financial innovations with fancy names like collateralized debt obligations and mortgage backed securities; anything to try to make a buck. The flow of borrowed money began to be used for things that had small, if any return-on-investment such as wars and pork-barrel spending by politicians to gain another term.

Of course, just like with any loan, we began to accrue interest that had to be paid back to our creditors. This amount has grown over the past thirty year, increasing drastically with the more recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars, QE spending, increased transfer payment payouts to the retiring baby-boomer population, conflicts in Libya, natural disasters, etcetera, etcetera.

Since 2008, we have doubled our total national debt. Take a second to think about that. In 3 short years we have spent as much as we have in the past 30 years. If that doesn’t scare you, it should. Our total debt today (according to the Treasury), is $14,210,071,848,853.10. Seem like a lot? It is. And what’s really scary? This is about 1/5th of the actual amount of debt we owe when you consider transfer payments owed, such as social security, Medicare, Medicaid etc.

This number is a problem because of the interest we must pay on it. Now, to the inexperienced wanderer who ventures a look at the nominal interest payment numbers may see that interest payments on debt are actually declining! What gives? Well, what they don’t tell you on CNN is that the Fed, over the past 10 years, has actually kept real interest rates NEGATIVE more than 60% of the time!

This means the government is actually making money on the debt we owe because we are paying it off in less valuable dollars⦠Suffice it to say, our real debt levels are spiraling out of control, and the Fed is toying with monetary policy to attempt to prevent itself (and YOU!) from going broke on the spot by changing interest rates so that we aren’t truly paying down our debtâ¦.

(This is a guest post by a friend  Steve Furst, a smart guy who specializes in economics.  He is a graduate of Central Washington University.)

Stay Warm With a Debt Snuggie Today!

If you’ve been a regular reader at Free Money Wisdom, you’ll know that I usually post every other day.  I thought I’d change it up this Saturday and post up a special little treat!

I’m sure you’ve heard of the famous Snuggie, well say hello to the DEBT SNUGGIE!

When you’re drowning in debt, the Debt Snuggie is there to stand by your side 🙂 Enjoy-


Budget Better By Turning Expenses Into A Routine

For most of us, the vast majority of our cash outlays come from those things that happen repeatedly and at frequent intervals. We pay our mortgage and our bills at the same time every month. Our membership to the health club needs to be renewed once a year. Car insurance payments? Perhaps every six months.

Even those expenses that don’t have due dates still tend to follow routines. We might go out to a nice restaurant a couple times a month, go grocery shopping after work every Monday, and take a vacation for a weekend in the summer and a week in the winter. Let’s face it: humans are creatures of nature, and our affinity for routine and predictability comes through all the time â“ even when it comes to our expenses.

Of course, there are always those expenses in life that cannot be predicted and don’t fit into a routine. Most of these are costs we would rather not have in the first place, and thus can’t prepare for: there are the hospital bills, the bail bonds, and the new laptop when the old one unceremoniously dies. Certainly, few crystal balls can see these costs coming.

Still, we generally follow a routine with our bills and expenditures. Since we’re already inclined to act this way, we might as well take advantage of it. Start by conducting a trial: for a few months, keep detailed track of your expenses on a calendar. Every time you pay a bill or buy yourself a bagel for lunch, be sure to write it down. Analyze your data carefully after the trial is over. What was your monthly entertainment spending? When during the month did most of this spending occur? After asking those questions of all facets of your expenditures, you can then work backwards to create a budget. This budget should allocate your spending per month, by category, and it should note the particular days when spending should occur, thus giving you the ability to see those costs as they approach.

In this manner, we can make our budget in a more natural way. Instead of determining arbitrary numbers (say, $300 per month on food), we can instead build our budget off of our natural routine. Of course, if your spending exceeds your means you’re going to want to force yourself to adapt new routines. But most of are probably pretty responsible on a routine basis. By locking into that routine, then, we can eliminate some outliers without cutting our quality of life, thus allowing us to save some money while also anticipating those expenses on the horizon.