Monday, October 25, 2010

The Harvest of the Incredible Front Yard Edibles

Call it editable estates, urban agriculture, reducing your carbon footprint, or a throwback to the American ‘Victory Garden’ of World War II -- Last year, we decided to plant at least one surprise edible in every garden plot in our back and front yard. Among the many fruits and vegetables, we had peppers beside are day lilies, strawberry plants as ground cover lining are front walk under the yews, and sweet potatoes climbing the fence as a back drop to the zinnias.

Not only have we been rewarded with the playful fun of edibles interwoven across the landscape, we have relished (no pun intended) in the harvest. We have feasted on fresh vegetables and fruits all summer and have been canning and freezing to carry us well past Thanksgiving with home goodies. Who knew that three cucumber plants would give us enough to can dozens of quarts of dill pickle spears and bread and butter pickles? This fall, our pepper jelly has been a huge hit at gatherings. We found a very simple, step-by-step recipe at With very little effort, we have been able to reap the bounty of the harvest.

As we pulled in the last of our harvest this past weekend, we are already thinking about growing our production next year. We challenge all of you to tempt the fun of it next spring, even if it is just a few small strawberry plants as ground cover or a blue berry bush next to your garage doors. Before you know it, you also will be indulging in the joy of fresh picked berries with your morning coffee and swapping zucchini muffin recipes with co-workers.
Nothing warms up a cold, grey, winter  day like browsing through a seed catalog such as that from and imagining your own little garden, full of ripe tomatoes and chilies and cucumbers and zucchini and carrots and ... :). -Happy planning.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Flywheel of Finance

You have probably heard it said before, “the first million dollars is the hardest to save.” As I continued teaching from Jim Collin’s book 'Good to Great', he speaks to how disciplined thought and disciplined action brings about disciplined results. It is like a  flywheel -- like starting a lawn mower, where it is hard to get started and then through continual little pushes (disciplined action) the flywheel begins spinning faster and faster until you reach breakthrough (the engine's running).

As I am reading this, I keep thinking about how hard it is to make your first million dollars (I’m a long way from my first million) and how the flywheel provides a great analogy to saving your first million. It takes disciplined thought and disciplined action to start saving on a regular basis. If you start out saving $25 a month, you are starting your million dollar flywheel moving. Every time you get a raise, receive a bonus or a cash gift, you can add more to your monthly savings and you are pushing the flywheel faster. The more money you have in savings, the faster the flywheel turns because of compound interest. If you have $100,000 saved and you get a 5% annual return, you have just added $5,000 a year ($416.67 a month) to your savings. If you have a million dollars in savings with a 5% return, you are adding $50,000 a year to your savings or $4,166.67 a month.

When you look at your retirement flywheel, what ever your magic number for retirement, it is a big, heavy flywheel. It takes disciplined thought and disciplined action to get disciplined results. The best way to get your retirement flywheel moving is through monthly automatic transfers to your retirement savings; 401k, Roth IRA, traditional IRA or other retirement investments. Whether you start off with $5, $25 or $250 a month, you are starting your flywheel moving. The more you contribute the faster your flywheel moves and the quicker you will reach your goal.

The goal should be to have your flywheel move on its own without you adding money to it with enough to cover your expenses. At that point, you are independently wealthy and reach your point of financial independence. Your passive income is making enough to cover all of your expenses. Jim Collins would refer to this as “breakthrough.” What is your breakthrough number --$1,000,000 in savings returning 5% so you get $50,000 a year? $2 million in savings returning 5% so you get $100,000 a year? What ever your number, you can’t get there unless you start making contributions to your retirement savings.

Start Pushing Your Flywheel…..TODAY!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Leadership and Personal Finance

In my Senior Seminar class at Mount Mercy University we are reading "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. Chapter 2 is on Level 5 Leadership. As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but to think how each one of us can be a leader in personal finance and how we can take some of the principles from Jim Collins and apply them to our daily lives. Collins describes a Level 5 Leader as someone who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” We all want our families to be successful and I want my kids to be more successful than me (building enduring greatness).

A central theme of this chapter is setting up the company for future success and not worrying about individual success. Our last blog entry was on how much money it will take to retire so I naturally put the two together. I want my kids to be able to retire and live successful lives, so I want to set them up for future success. The questions are how do I do that and am I doing the right things.

What we decided to do is a Roth IRA "parent match"; matching up to a certain dollar amount each year, dollar for dollar, that the kids put into a Roth. For the kids, they are doubling their money. For us (the parents) we are giving them their inheritance early and hopefully instilling in them the importance to save for retirement. At age 17, Clay has a Roth IRA which will be tax free income when he retires. Fifty years of compounding will really cause his Roth IRA to grow.

We have also helped the parents of our grandchildren to set up 529 college savings. I know it doesn’t sound exciting, but at Christmas and birthdays, we contribute to their 529 accounts. We like to look at it as long-term love. Over 15-18 years, 3-year-old Jordan’s and 5-month-old Emmy's money will grow and ease some of the cost of a college education.

So I guess what I’m trying to say and do is that it is not so much about us anymore as it is about the future of our family. We all try to do the right things, share our love, and now share our knowledge and finances. We make a comfortable living and it would be nice to have more, but I would rather cut back a little so we can help the kids and grandkids with their future expenses and saving goals; in personal finance and leadership, taking our family from "Good to Great".