Sunday, January 31, 2016

Is 2016 Your Year to Invest in Energy Efficiency?

A New Year and the end of blizzard-cold month: Two topics of no joy: 1) High Utility Bills and 2) Taxes. 

Want to take it on? Check out At the site, you enter your zip code and see an extensive list of incentives, grant opportunities, tax credits and policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency for your area. Some of the Federal Residential Tax Credits require you to make the purchases in 2016. It may be a good time to consider this the year to make that investment, reducing both your tax liability and your energy costs in the long run. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Perfect Salary

I often hear people tell me when they talk about personal finance that “I don’t need to be rich, I just want to make enough money where I can buy what I want without worrying.”  So….how much money it that?

To be honest, I don’t have a good answer.  A few years back the Wall Street Journal posted an article that it takes an annual salary of $75,000 before you have diminishing returns on the dollars you spend.  In other words, $75,000 salary is the minimum you can make to maximize your happiness.  But is that the answer for you.

I think that wealth people always worry about money and are constantly asking themselves is the value received for the dollars spent worth it.  They do not want to waste money on bad investments or buying things not of value to them.

I don’t define wealth as a dollar figure, or a net worth figure.  I define personal wealth as being happy with yourself, knowing your personal values, and living out those values….being happy where your feet are.  You are wealthy when you don’t have to worry about buying things, because you have saved for the items and they fit your personal values.

How do you get to this personal wealth?

1) Know what you value and where you spend your money.  If you want to see what you value, look at where you spend your time and money.  I encourage you to write down where you spend every penny for one month, evaluate it weekly, and reflect on if this spending is in accordance with what you value.

2) Look for little leaks where you spend money and receive little or no value.  Can you substitute spending money on this item for something else?  The little leak that is common for many is eating out, especially lunch.  You can easily spend $10 a day on lunch; $50 a week; $2,600.00 a year.  It is worth it or can you pack your lunch and save money.  

3) Set a budget.  Look at where you have spent money the past month, and categorize your spending, i.e., groceries, dining, fuel, electricity, Internet, TV, housing, etc.  Do you have enough money for all of your expenses?  If not, you either need to cut back or make more money.  Look for the little leaks in your spending where you can cut back without drastically changing your life style.  Ben Franklin said it best when he said “Little leaks can sink a mighty ship.”  You should stop as many leaks in your personal finances as possible.

4) Set goals. Setting goals keep you motivated.  Do you want to pay off your credit cards in the next 6 months?  Do you want to buy a new car?  Do you want to go on vacation?  Figure the cost and establish weekly or monthly steps to achieve your goals.  

5) Celebrate. When you achieve your goals, you now have enough money to do the things you want without worry because you have have the resources for them.  You are now wealthy.  You don’t have to make a lot of money to be wealthy.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Opportunity Wherever You Live

I'm often ask what it take to be an entrepreneur.  My answer is always the same:  looking for the opportunity and then having the persistence and follow-through to make it happen.  Know yourself and follow your passions.

When looking for the opportunity, you want to solve a "pain point." Can you create a solution to a problem that other people don't want to do or can't do ...can you eliminate their pain. What are some things that are causing you pain and that you would be willing to pay other to solve?  The more of a pain, the more valuable your solution. Can you be innovative and creatively solve the problem.  The answer may be just around the corner.

The find pain points, you need to become aware of others and what others are experiencing.  Observe, interact and interview others as to what things they don’t like and what they would like to be easier or simpler.  You don’t have to solve the pain point at this time; just make a list of your observations and interactions.

By writing these ideas down you are allowing your conscience and subconscious to percolate on these problems, looking for solutions.  You can later evaluate you list to see which are most viable for you to solve, given your strengths, passions and networks. Keep that notebook next to your bed so in the middle of the night, you can write down your solutions.

Keep up on social and technological trends.  Read newspapers, magazines, listen to public radio, podcast, and what the news looking for trends and inventions.  Imagine the future and how this new technology will be used in the future to solve problems.  Can you combine two or more existing technologies or product to help ease the pain of others?

Think outside the box and say yes to all possibilities.  Suspend your current reality and create a reality where anything is possible.  Do not limit yourself by self-imposed constraints. This will help you spur on your creativity to come up with solutions.  Write down your solutions so you can research the possibilities and evaluate the probable success at a later time

Entrepreneurship requires dedication, persistence, long hours and an uncertain future.  You have to know your strengths and weaknesses to be successful.  Hire or partner with people who complement your strength, not people with the same strengths.  Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great source to help you uncover your strengths.

Know your passions and what drives you.  Your passions will help you overcome obstacles and keep you going when others say no and think you are crazy. You passions will keep you working 60+ hours a week. To discover your passions, what would you do if money was not an option? What do you currently do where time flies by? Pay attention to your daily life to find your passions and strengths.

Entrepreneurship is turning your passions into profits by solving other’s pain points and creating a product or service of value.  When you turn your passions into profit, you never have to work another day in your life.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Say Cheese

When taking on the topic of personal finance, I love hearing the stories where that voice speaks to you from the heart and leads you on the path of happy and home. 

We made a visit today to Belle Chèvre in Elkmont, Alabama and met the charismatic and delightful owner, Ms. Tasia Malakasis(Chief Cheese Officer).  I first learned about this impressive lady in perusing old publications of Organic Gardening. She left a very successful and financially rewarding career in Internet technologies to venture back to her roots and become a queen in the world of award-winning cheese making. Since that article, she has appeared in countless magazines, news shows, and newspapers and now author of two culinary books.

Her list of accomplishments are impressive but upon meeting with her in person, I found that gold nugget I love most that I see in those who pursue their passion -that positive and happy energy that radiates from inside them and just makes them glow. 

She discovered her culinary passions by taking non-credit courses at the Culinary Institute of America while on a sabbatical from her corporate career. This led her to her discovery of Belle Chèvre cheese. She eventually left New York City, a big pay check, and the stress of corporate life to volunteer at Bell Chèvre and learned the art of cheese making. After 6 months, she purchased Belle Chèvre, has grown the company considerably, increasing the product portfolio, sales and distribution to many national retail stores. 

If ever on I-65 through Alabama, take a 5 mile detour to Elkmont and visit Belle Chèvre. Pay to take the guided tour and perhaps you will have the good fortune to meet Tasia. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Run Away Tax Fraud

Wherever we turn - national or local news, neighbor or co-worker - we hear about those who have been the target of state and federal tax fraud.  

The number of fraudulent tax returns is on the rise as criminals use stolen names and Social Security Numbers to forge W-2 information on electronically filed tax returns.  Most people do not realize that they have been a victim of identity theft until they try to file their tax return and discover that a criminal beat them to their refund.

The federal tax return fraud rate ranges between of 1% to 2%. States report an increase in fraudulent tax returns this year of 50% to 3,700%.

1.      File a report with your local police and with the FTC.
2.      Report fraud to IRS, Identity Protection Specialized Unit: 1-800-908-4490
3.      File a theft claim with the FTC: Send a copy of your police report or an IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form, along with proof of your identity, to the IRS: 
4.      Put a fraud alert on your credit reports: 
5.      Order and monitor your credit report

Check out the FTC article on a comprehensive identity theft action document with step-by-step instructions on recovering from this crime. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sign Up for Health Care Coverage or Pay Penalty

The Affordable Care Act(ACA) – also known as Obamacare – is a law enacted to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance. It supports discounts (known as tax credits) on government-sponsored health insurance plans, and expanded the Medicaid assistance program to include more people. The law requires most Americans to have insurance by Feb 15 or pay a fine at tax time. The Obama administration extended the deadline to April 30, which is the end of the tax season, so to allow people who discover they would owe a fine, to still sign up for coverage. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that many uninsured are choosing the penalty over the opportunity to enroll in a healthcare insurance plan. Choosing to go without health insurance puts your assets at risk. If you consider yourself healthy, you can select a plan with low premiums. You will have higher out-of-pocket costs at the time of care than with more expensive plans, but you will still have protection against an acute episode of costly care, which if unprotected, can drive you to bankruptcy.

If you do not have health care insurance through your employer, and you are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid, then you can buy a healthcare plan on if your state participates in the federal program or else from your state’s health care website. For access to an up-to-date information on each state’s health insurance marketplace profile, check out

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Personal Finance and Passion

Personal Finance and Passion – we love it when the two come together. We meet people in all walks of life who exemplify the philosophy:  If you are doing what you love, you never have to work a day in your life. As we approach Valentine’s weekend, we are reminded how joyful that endeavor can be-- for the entrepreneur following their passion as well as those benefiting from their labor of love.

Through our Walker Homestead CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), we have the great privilege of hosting a Farmer’s Table dinner this Valentines weekend. Chef Chris Grebner is an extremely talented culinary artist. His passion is to bring together the food producer with the food consumer, over a four to seven course meal on the property where the food is produced. These evenings are exquisite with an eclectic group of people coming together to enjoy meeting new people, fine foods and conversation, and having their own beverage of choice in the beauty of a country setting.

Pursuit of his passion benefits his livelihood, that of the food producer and those who have the privilege to participate in his highly sought-after dinning events.  

Bon appetite.