Decision Points are part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Your reality is what you make it, and how you make it is based on your mindset.
Decision Points are part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Medium: The song “Stressed Out” performed by Twenty One Pilots
Line: My name’s blurry face and I care what you think
Life is more enjoyable when you are not so concerned about what other people think.
Stirred not Shaken
When it comes to my martinis, I prefer them to be shaken. When it comes to my emotions, I’ll take stirred over shaken anytime.
As I get older and continue to have experiences and learn about life, I find that certain things bother me more than they used to when I was younger. There are also plenty of things that bother me a lot less than they used to. The biggest influence on whether something bothers me less than it did before seems to be my own perspective.
It is probably the same for you. While your perspective is likely to be different from mine, you have still developed over time and shaped it based on your own perceptions and experiences.
It stands to reason that if you gain experience on your job, what seemed like a big problem when you first started may now not even register on your list of worries. If you deal with a situation effectively, that same situation is not going to present the same level of concern to you the next time around.
Conversely, you may not have given much thought to your health as a kid or a young adult, but as you age it is natural to pay more attention to it and to even develop concerns that didn’t previously exist regarding an injury or an illness and your ability to recover from it.
I have also noticed that some of the things that bother me more have a cumulative effect. I have been shaken on enough occasions to know that I much prefer to be stirred.
I fully recognize that not all is right in the world and that there are things that I can personally do to try to improve myself and how I perceive and handle those things. I also take steps to ensure that whatever negatives I perceive and whatever issues there are that may upset me are kept in their proper place. In other words, I recognize the negatives, but I focus on the positives, which brings me back to the stirring of emotions.
It is also true that, the older I get, the more I find to be thought provoking, action motivating, and emotion stirring. These are the things that I try to focus on, so here is a partial list of the many things that move me.
Exceptional effort. No matter the vocation or the task at hand, if I witness someone putting forth an exceptional effort to clear a hurdle, defeat the bad guy, achieve an objective, or otherwise make a positive contribution, it stirs my emotions.
Genuine commitment. When I am aware of someone who has demonstrated that they have committed their personal resource and energy to a cause greater than themselves, it grabs my attention.
Invested parents. Parents who take their job seriously and devote themselves to creating and raising children who will grow up to be people who are great friends, neighbors, and citizens inspire me and instantly earn my respect.
Courtesy. A simple thank you for a kind gesture. Holding the door for someone. Being polite. Respecting others, especially those that are older than you. These are all great examples of courtesy and, unfortunately, examples of things that I see less and less of.
Fiscal responsibility. I very much appreciate those that have taken the time to get their financial house in order and then manage it effectively, whether it is an individual, a business, or other organization. Everything from your household to our world society runs better and more efficiently when people make good financial decisions and take that responsibility seriously.
Achievement. If you set goals and then set out to achieve them, you will be a better person. I, too, will be a better person because I will be able to simply focus on my tasks at hand without worrying about carrying your weight as well. When you do your part and I do mine, we’re both stronger.
There are many other things on my list, but I think you get the idea. I try to remember these things, especially when I am shaken by something that causes me concern or worry. When you are on the lookout for inspiration and your heart and mind are open to being stirred, you will always be better suited to absorb and effectively handle the moments that shake you.
What types of things stir you and when was the last time you thought about something meaningful or took action toward something important? If it has been awhile, you may want to consider drawing up a new list or paying a little more attention to what is going on around you.
In the meantime, I’ve got emotions to stir and a martini to shake!
his article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Medium: The movie “Bridesmaids”
Line: Megan: I’m life Annie and I am biting you in the butt!
The scene on the plane with Melissa McCarthy (Megan) and the Air Marshall is a classic.
Create Your Own Financial Plan
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your finances!
Whether you consider yourself a savvy investor with money to burn or you feel as though you are struggling to make ends meet, the act of creating a plan to understand and manage your own personal finances is a necessity if you hope to gain and maintain control of your own financial situation.
Next to your health and your family, your finances are the next largest contributor or detractor to the quality of your life, but not for the reason you might think. You may associate having more money with having less stress. The fact is, stress comes from the unknown and you feel better when you manage your own life in a way that minimizes what you don’t know. Creating and following your own personal financial plan will reduce stress and it works regardless of how much money you have. If you believe that you are better off not knowing the status of your finances, you are kidding yourself. If you do not have a good handle on your finances, the bottom line is you are paying more for your money and achieving less with your money. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your finances!
No matter what shape your finances are in, you will benefit from the peace of mind to be gained from understanding your own financial situation and developing a plan that works for you.
So, let’s get started. The following ten steps form an outline for your personal plan and the details that follow will give you a basis for determining where you are and what you are capable of achieving.
1. Start by sitting down with your spouse or anyone else who is either influenced by your financial decisions or who will impact your financial situation. Inform them of your plans to take more control of your finances and start a conversation with them about their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. It is important to begin this process by setting proper expectations and ensuring that everyone involved understands the importance of these steps.
2. Once you have put your thoughts and expectations together, choose a financial mentor. When you start a new job, someone who is already experienced in that role typically trains you. It is always to your benefit to learn from someone who will provide you with the benefits of what they have learned and experienced. The same holds true when you set out to learn and follow new financial habits.
Financial mentors are often family members or friends who have demonstrated sound financial decision-making. Your local credit union is also an excellent source for financial mentors. Credit unions are service oriented not-for-profit organizations and they are often staffed with people who pride themselves in providing personalized attention at little or no cost. To what extent you choose to utilize this person will depend on you and your own individual needs.
3. After you have selected your financial mentor, gather all of your statements reflecting what you owe as well as what you own and what you have saved. From these statements, draw up a list of your liabilities (debts owed) and your assets (the value of what you own and what you have saved). Common liabilities include your mortgage, home equity loans, credit card balances, car loans, and student or tuition related loans. Common assets include the value of your home, savings account balances, savings bonds, insurance and other investments.
Once you have completed the list and added-up your assets and your liabilities, subtract your liability total from your asset total in order to determine your net worth. This number represents a starting point and a basis for setting your personal financial goals.
4. The next step is to contact the three major credit bureaus and obtain a copy of your credit report from each of them. Their contact information is as follows:
If you have been denied credit for any reason within the last 60 days, you may obtain a free copy of your credit report from one of the above. Otherwise, charges for a copy of your credit report and score range from $8 - $15. Taking this step is important for a number of reasons. It will provide you with a comparison between what your creditors are reporting about you and your payment history and your own records and statements. If information is inaccurate, you can establish an avenue for correcting it. It also provides you with another valuable starting point in determining your financial standing and understanding the importance of good credit. If you have not previously read your credit report, ask your financial mentor to explain the terminology used, the scoring methods, and the importance of each.
Recently, there has been a proliferation of sites and services that offer free access to your credit report information. If you elect to use one of these services, be sure to take a few moments and read up on the company and the site that is offering the service. You deserve to know if there are any strings attached and what, if anything, you are agreeing to by utilizing the service.
5. Now that you have started looking at your overall financial picture, break it down further by detailing your monthly income and your monthly expenses. Start by adding up your take home pay and any other sources of income, i.e. side jobs, rental income, etc. Next, add up your monthly expenses. It is sometimes easier to start with your largest expenses and work your way down the list. Your list should include everything that you regularly spend money on each month such as your mortgage or rent payment, other loan payments, credit card payments, utilities (gas, electric, water, cable, telephone), typical grocery bills, and spending money for entertainment and dining out. When you are finished, you should know exactly how much income you bring home each month and have an excellent estimate as to the expenses you incur in a typical month. Are there any surprises? Take a close look at these numbers and determine if you need to make any adjustments.
6. Review and balance your checking account. If it has been awhile since you have done this, or you have never done this, retrieve your last checking account statement and sit down with your financial mentor. Doing so will remove the grief, intimidation, and aggravation you would likely experience in trying to complete this step on your own. Ask questions and commit to learning this process so that you will be able to complete this task on your own going forward. Once you have completed this task, repeat this process at least weekly to ensure that you keep your account in balance.
7. Review all associated interest rates and fees that you pay and earn on your liabilities and assets. Determine whether or not the interest that you pay on your loans is at a fixed rate or a variable rate. If you pay variable rates on your loans, understand what factors cause the rate to vary so you are prepared if and when your rate increases. Review your statements for any monthly maintenance fees, annual fees, and other fees that you may not have been fully aware of and be sure to understand fully why these fees are assessed. If you have been charged NSF fees, you may now be in a position to avoid those going forward after having balanced your checking account. Once you have gained a better understanding of these rates and fees, you will be in a better position to minimize and potentially eliminate them where applicable.
8. You have now completed the initial review and consultation. The next step is to set financial goals for yourself, such as a savings target you would like to reach or debts that you would like to payoff. Setting financial goals for yourself is possible now that you have gained an understanding of your personal financial situation. Ask your financial mentor to help you set realistic targets or to confirm the validity of the goals you set. At this point, you will begin to realize the many benefits associated with creating your own financial plan.
9. The personal financial industry, sometimes referred to as the retail finance industry, is very competitive. Recent changes in regulatory laws have made it possible for credit unions, banks, insurance companies, and credit card issuers to provide virtually all of the same types of products and services to consumers. Use the competitive nature of the industry to your advantage. Research service and rates and shop for the financial institution(s) that will be right for you and help you to achieve your financial goals.
10. Finally, make a commitment to repeat these steps as often as is necessary for you to maintain control of your own personal finances.
Someone once said that knowledge is power. By following these steps, you will gain and maintain the knowledge that you will need to create financial choices for yourself, reduce stress, and take control of the financial side of your life. Knowledge is power.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
Remember when you were kid and you were asked that question? I do. Today, it is just as exciting to hear someone ask one of my kids that same question. There is just something about that question that lays the whole world at your feet and makes anything sound possible.
The problem seems to be that it is thought of solely as a childhood consideration. Sure, the concept comes up again as you get a little older, but the context is not quite the same. You may ask a recent graduate what the next step will be or a person who is entering the job market what their focus will be, but those questions never quite invoke the limitless possibilities than does the question of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I wonder why. Is it the time element of the question? When you are older, the “grow up” portion of the question tends to drop off so that may be it. It may also be that when you ponder the question as a child, you think of it in its’ truest sense without putting any limitations on your thought process. My last guess is that the word “be” is heard literally as an adult and translated as the word “do” when you are a child. As an adult, you know that what you do is not necessarily what you are.
Either way, I think the question has a place in your head regardless of your age or the quantity and type of limitations you may perceive.
If you are reading this and you are fortunate enough to be doing what you wanted to do when you grew up, congratulations! I congratulate you further if you are also the person that you wanted to become!
Please take a moment and give some thought as to how you would describe the path that you took and then go share it with people who will benefit from that knowledge. You can be a first-hand witness to the fact that you actually went out and made it happen, it did not just happen to you.
If you are one of those people who are not doing what they want to do and are not the person you would like to be, please consider the possibility that you have the power to change what you do and the ability to become who you would like to be.
From a personal standpoint, I can tell you that I am doing what I wanted to do from a pretty young age. My exact answer may have changed slightly from when I was really little, but I knew early on that I wanted to be in the financial business. I also figured out that I wanted to be part of a team, that I enjoyed working with numbers, and that I appreciate the opportunity to express myself through work whether it be through presentations, writing, or generally interacting with others. I love to strategize and we have already clearly established that I enjoy making decisions.
I am going into some detail here because I want to make the point that these aspects are present in many more jobs and vocations than just the one I currently have, which speaks to perhaps a greater availability of chances and a better opportunity to find the right fit than what would have been the case had I focused too narrowly on a specific industry or
If you feel as though you are struggling to figure out what you want to do, make a list of things that you enjoy doing without trying to categorize them or label them. Make that list as inclusive as you can and then study it to see if any common threads develop that will help you to more clearly identify a role that may better suit you.
It might also be helpful to set your worries or concerns on the side for a minute. It is nearly impossible to derive the full benefit from your thought process if your mind is cluttered with your worries about money, or status, or time. It is also very easy to kill creativity with your real world problems. The value of the exercise is found in allowing yourself to dream a little bit, to consider the possibilities in a way that brings you back to the clarity of your thought when you were a child and not yet influenced by the complexities of life.
You may consider having a conversation or a series of them with someone who you admire. Just about everyone has an interesting story to tell and you will almost always learn something when you ask them to tell it. Often times, you can apply some of what you learn to your own life and decision making going forward.
The goal is not to figure it all out right away. The goal is simply to put yourself in a position to better understand where you are and how you might get to where you really want to be. If you can do that, then you are on your way. You are becoming more open to the possibilities that lie ahead and determining how you might best capitalize on those opportunities.
Being who you want to be is a little tougher than doing what you want to do. While I am absolutely doing what I enjoy doing and want to be doing, being who I want to be is a continued work in progress. I always feel that there is room for improvement and I try to make it a point to learn from my past experiences in order to continue my development as a person.
In the meantime, I derive comfort from the fact that I am enjoying the journey and following my own path. Whether you are focused on the “do” or the “be” and no matter what age you are, if you are trying to figure it all out, you’re on the right path.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Published articles, original content, opinions and commentary by Scott Arney, CEO, Chicago Patrolmen's Federal Credit Union.