Making it Personal

It took a personal financial disaster for me to realize that I had to get my finances in order. Forty-two years ago I had a family friend who took on the chore of giving me the swift kick in the ass I needed. There were five truths pounded into me in that session that provided me with the motivation I needed to get on the right financial path.

The financial position I was in at the time was exactly where I had planned to be. The reality was that by not having a plan (budget and a financial goal), I had taken on life’s default plan of financial failure. Only by changing the way I handled (spent) money could I get on the right path.

My spending was the source of my financial troubles .. not that I didn’t earn more money. It was pointed out to me that there were others who had a lower income than I did who were not living paycheck to paycheck and buried in debt. In fact, many of these people had managed to accumulate a decent amount of savings.

I was going to earn a fortune in my lifetime and I would have nothing to show for it if I didn’t change my actions. Clearly, I couldn’t be saving and investing for my future when I was spending more than I earned. Living within my means and saving money would require conscience, determined actions.

My mentor brought me to the realization that if I saved the next 5 years like I had for the previous 5 years, then I would be in the same place and I would have financially wasted 5 years of my life. Then he asked me how many 5-year periods I was planning on wasting.

I had to pay myself first out of every paycheck. I had to put money in my savings before I paid my other bills. If I paid myself after I paid all bills and living expenses, I would never have any money to put in my savings. My past experience provided all the proof needed of this truth.

Every person’s situation is different. What motivated me, will probably not motivate you. That’s fine. But … please find what will motivate you to become a financial success story!

You deserve the benefits of being financially secure!

“When money realizes that it is in good hands, it wants to stay and multiply in those hands.”
― Idowu Koyenikan

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Perspectives on Life

Life Under Change
Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.

April 2020 Budget Reconciliation (Retired)

March was another unusual month due to the Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Payments and an income tax refund from the United States for 2019. I an an American expat living in Ecuador, South America. Let’s take a look at the numbers:


Standard: $4,038
U.S. Stimulus and Tax Refund: $2,712
Total Income for April: $6,750


Budgeted: $60
Actual: $66

LP Gas
Budgeted: $25
Actual: $7

Water / Sewer / Trash
Budgeted: $58
Actual: $24

Phones (Landline and Cell)
Budgeted: $40
Actual: $34

Cable TV
Budgeted: $91
Actual: $91

Internet (Fiber Optic)
Budgeted: $27
Actual: $27

Lawn Care
Budgeted: $116
Actual: $30

Home Maintenance
Budgeted: $50
Actual: $130 (Ruptured water pipe)

Auto Insurance
Budgeted: $83
Actual: $83

Budgeted: $60
Actual: $15 (Pandemic lockdown)

Auto Repairs
Budgeted: $50
Actual: $0

Auto Registration and License
Budgeted: $50
Actual: $50

Budgeted: $6
Actual: $0

Health Insurance (Includes spouse)
Budgeted: $454
Actual: $454

Budgeted: $500
Actual: $425

Budgeted: $0
Actual: $1,200 (Half of U.S. Stimulus Payments)

Apps / Subscriptions
Budgeted: $125
Actual: $81

Grocery / Household
Budgeted: $700
Actual: $739 (Includes PPE for pandemic)

Budgeted: $50
Actual: $0

Cleaning (House)
Budgeted: $80
Actual: $0

Federal Taxes (U.S.)
Budgeted: $326
Actual: $326

Real Estate Taxes (Property Value: $360,000)
Budgeted: $12
Actual: $12

Total Expenses: $3,826

Month’s Profit / Excess Income: $2,924 or $43.3% of Income


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Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.

Perspectives on Life

Reasons You Constantly Miss Your Financial Goals

Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

May 3, 2020

Let’s assume you are trying to reduce your spending and save money. However, month after month you continue to spend more than you save. In fact, your financial position this month is worse than it was last month.

Why are you unable to manage your spending and start saving so you aren’t always behind every month?

Most of the time, there are three reasons for constantly missing your goal. Typically, you are:

  1. Lacking the right type of motivation
  2. Aren’t consistent
  3. Setting yourself up for failure


You don’t have a specific goal. Lets look at an example comparing a fuzzy goal against a specific goal:

Fuzzy Goal
You want to spend less and start saving some money.

Specific Goal
You want to spend $250 less each month and put that $250 into a savings account to establish your Emergency Fund.

As you can see, this specific goal is clear and can be easily tracked. It is measurable so you always know if your actions will allow you to meet your goal.


The underlying problem is that you haven’t replaced your habit of spending with the habit of saving. That’s all it is … replacing an undesirable habit for a beneficial habit that will reduce the stress in your life.

Setting Yourself Up for Failure

Let’s say that can’t seem to bridle the money you spend on new clothes. You break that habit by not going to the mall or your favorite boutique every week. You might want to limit your clothes shopping to once a month. You may also want to consider shopping at consignment shops or upscale thrift stores. You’ll save money and the money you save can be deposited to your Emergency Fund bank account. Hence, you will be spending less and saving money for a future need.

The simple truth is that only you can determine the ways you can spend less and save more and those must be based on your lifestyle and goals.


In addition to what is stated above, you also need to track your expenses and develop a monthly budget. If you aren’t currently using a budget, the following articles will give you some ideas on what and how to do it:

WordPress bloggers offer a ton of valuable information on budgeting and managing your money by following the tags below:

  • Budget
  • Saving Money
  • Personal Finance
  • Frugal
  • Thrift


“Many people lack discipline when it comes to saving money. What good is having a bunch of stuff if you’re struggling, in debt, or broke most of the time? So many people put up a front like they’ve got it going on, but they know the truth. They spend all of their money trying to look important, and/or keep up an image. Knowledge is everything! Educate yourself about money, investing, and saving. I encourage you to start investing in yourself instead of things! Set yourself up for a better future and start making better choices. Building wealth takes time! Have discipline. Save. Stay consistent. Be brave enough to change your spending habits. Be wise! Don’t allow money to control you. Strive to have a healthy relationship with money!”
Stephanie Lahart

Life Under Change
Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.

When Can You Retire?

Image by silviarita from Pixabay

“How do I know when I can retire?”

That was the #1 question my clients older than 50 asked me when they were getting serious about retiring. What they were really asking though was “Do I have enough money saved and invested?”

There are numerous financial advisors (professionals and celebrities) who have sophisticated methods of determining how much you need based on your current income and your future plans. However, I had a mentor that encouraged me to set all that aside and give my clients one very simple answer that they can relate to and is simple enough to act as daily motivation. It is as simple as this….

When the monthly income from your savings, investments and pension(s) exceed your monthly income from working, you can financially retire.

However, this assumes you have no debts … including a mortgage. It also assumes that you will save or reinvest at least 5% or your retirement income to offset inflation and other increased expenses related to ageing.

This is the principle I used in planning my retirement. I was able to retire at age 55 and I am saving far more than 5% of my monthly income. (See most recent monthly budget.) As a note, I’m not eligible (due to age) to start receiving Social Security Retirement Benefits until 2024.

With all this being said, having enough money to retire doesn’t mean you should retire. You may want to keep working, you may have a particular special something you are saving for or you just aren’t mentally ready to retire yet. The point, however, is that you know you are in a financial position to retire if you want or need to.


Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.
J. Lubbock

Life Under Change
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Small Business After COVID-19

Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

April 19, 2020

People and businesses are anxiously awaiting for the “stay at home” and “social distancing” lockdown restrictions to come to an end. People are wanting to get back to work so they can pay their bills. Businesses are wanting to open so they can pay their bills and serve the needs of their customers.

When businesses are open again, will they be able to pick up right where they left off when they were forced to close?

This question has every small business owner and their employees staying awake at night worrying about future of the business and their personal finances. As a former small business owner for 32 years, I have these questions for current small business owners:

  • How did the pandemic lockdown effect your customer base? This is especially critical if the business targets a particular demographic.
  • If your customer base was particularly vulnerable during the pandemic lockdown, do you need to adjust your marketing strategies, products or services?
  • Do your payment options serve the needs of your customer base under the new realities?
  • What is the debt load of your business? Can your business meet your debt obligations until your business gets back on its feet?
  • What about your employees? Will you need the same number of employees or will you need to reduce your number of employees until your business gets back on its feet? How many of your old employees will not be returning?
  • Can your business stay afloat due to the lag time between the time the product or service is provided until the time you are actually paid? This is especially critical when your service is provided over time. (Example: a contractor)
  • How did the pandemic lockdown affect your competitors? Will you have fewer competitors? If yes, how can you attract the customers of those businesses that didn’t survive? Do you have a marketing and contact plan for those potential customers?
  • Are you, the owner, in the right physical and mental condition to rebuild your business? Don’t fool yourself — you will be facing a new, different marketplace. People and businesses went without income for a month or longer. Money will be tight. Every sale will take more effort than it did before the pandemic lockdown. If you need help, get it sooner than later.

For some small businesses, receipts for the first 90 days may only be 50% of what it was the 90-day period before the pandemic lockdown. It will take a while for business and personal incomes to start flowing through the marketplace.

My sincerest hope is that you are or will be one of the survivors! If you have been in business for a few years, you already have the knowledge and skills to get you through this time of uncertainty. All you need to do is put it to use.


“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
Steve Jobs

Life Under Change
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Economic Impact Payments and State Unemployment Benefits

Post Overview

  • Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)
  • How and Where to Check on Your Check (Payment)
  • Taxation of the Economic Impact Payments
  • Federal Taxation of State Unemployment Benefits

Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks)

Good news! The payments/checks are being processed and sent. The payment for my wife and I was deposited into my checking account on 15 April 2020. The deposit for my wife and I was $2,400.

How and Where to Check on Your Check (Payment)

If you want to check the status of your Economic Impact Payment, complete the form on the IRS website. The form is simple and easy to use.

Taxation of the Economic Impact Payments

Your Economic Impact Payment is not taxable.


Federal Taxation of State Unemployment Benefits

Fortunately, most people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic are eligible to receive state unemployment benefits.

Any unemployment compensation received must be included in your income. You may also be required to make quarterly estimated tax payments.

Here’s how and when to pay estimated taxes. For state unemployment benefits, you make Federal estimated tax payments for income tax onlynot FICA taxes. (Social Security and Medicare)

Unemployment taxes are taxed in some states and not taxed in other states. Check with your state’s Department of Revenue. All states have a website that outlines what is considered taxable income. Making estimated tax payments to the state closely resembles that of the Federal government and both are easy to do.


“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Life Under Change
Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.

The Coronavirus Economic Stimulus for Individuals and Families and Actual Monthly Rents (U.S.)

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Overview of this blog post

  • Summary of the coronavirus economic stimulus for individuals and families.
  • Some key financial statistics of the average American family before the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Comparing the economic stimulus for individuals and families to the average cost of monthly rents across the United States.

Summary of the Coronavirus Economic Stimulus for Individuals and Families

The United States government is going to be sending you a check (via a deposit to your bank account on record with the IRS or an actual check if there is no record on file with the IRS) soon to counter the coronavirus-induced economic meltdown, the Trump administration and Congressional leaders worked out a massive economic stimulus plan that will flood the U.S. economy with cash and provide relief for Americans who are taking a financial hit. Part of the plan is to send almost everyone direct payments from the government’s coffers.

You will receive just one payment from the U.S. government.

You may have heard that stimulus checks will be for $1,200. That’s just the base amount. An additional amount of $500 will be paid foe each qualifying child. Since your actual check could actually be much higher or lower, use this stimulus check calculator to determine the amount of your check.

Some Key Financial Statistics of the Average American Family Before the Coronavirus Pandemic

Comparing the Economic Stimulus for Individuals and Families to the Average Cost of Monthly Rents Across the United States

Format: State (15 largest) / Average Monthly Rent for 1 Bedroom / Average Monthly Rent for 2 Bedrooms

  • National Average / $965 / $1,197
  1. California / $1,457 / $1,858
  2. Texas / $861 / $1,070
  3. Florida / $986 / $1,229
  4. New York / 1,296 / Pennsylvania / $830 / $1,027
  5. Illinois / $914 / $1,097
  6. Ohio / $667 / $857
  7. Georgia / $883 / $1,042
  8. North Carolina / $774 / $930
  9. Michigan / $725 / $927
  10. New Jersey / $1,263 / $1,550
  11. Virginia / $1,071 / $1,264
  12. Washington / $1,182 / $1,481
  13. Arizona / $874 / $1,105
  14. Massachusetts / $965 / $1,197


The amount of money Americans will receive due to the COVID-16 coronavirus pandemic will cover the rent, in most cases, for a one bedroom apartment for one month for a single person. If you are married, the base stimulus benefit of $2,400 (combined for both adults) will pay for a 2-bedroom apartment for two months based on national averages.

While housing is the largest expense for most families, all the other household expenses typically exceed the cost of housing. Fortunately, those who have been laid off, furloughed, or lost there job entirely, will be eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits from the state.

But the real issue of the moment is when will you actually receive your stimulus check and how soon will you start receiving your unemployment benefits so you can start paying your bills and put food on the table?

The electronic deposits to bank accounts have already started for the economic stimulus. If you are waiting for an actual check, you may have to wait for up to 5 months.

Regarding your enhanced unemployment benefits, you should start receiving your benefits once you have filed, your unemployment is confirmed and your application is approved. The states are under extreme pressure to process your unemployment claim and make payments quickly.

Final Thought

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has shown us, emergencies come without notice or time to prepare. This is why everyone needs to have an Emergency Fund of at least 3 month’s of bring-home income. There’s no time like the present to get started. You’ll never get started if you wait until it’s convenient. Start as soon as you can and remember that “a little bit often adds up to a lot” over time.


“Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.”
Norman Vincent Peale

Life Under Change
Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.

Prioritizing Your Bills When You Lose Your Job

The information provided in this blog post is not specific to jobs lost due to the COVID-19 coronavirus mitigation efforts by government agencies. During this period, your country, state or province, and city have special programs available to assist those who have lost their job due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. The specific information for your locale is widely available on the Internet. Please refer to and utilize those resources. Helping you during this time of insecurity is their top priority.


There are numerous causes for losing your job and many are beyond your control. Regardless of the cause, losing your job nearly always results in the reduction or total loss of your income. Following that, you will most likely have a hard time paying your bills.

What do you do when your expenses exceed your income?

Quite simply, you need to prioritize your bills. Which bills must be paid. Which bills can you put off until you are on better financial footing. In prioritizing, you need to keep in mind some necessities of life:

  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Water
  • Heat

Bills You Need To Prioritize

Although you can make some adjustments to the order you pay bills based on your circumstances, it’s usually best to focus on paying your housing bills first, then paying what you can with the money you have remaining. So, let’s take a look at a sample prioritized list:

List At a Glance

  • Mortgage or Rent
  • Utilities
  • Food and Household Necessities
  • Insurance Premiums
  • Car Loan
  • Unsecured Loans
  • Student Loans

List Details

Mortgage or rent. If you fall behind on mortgage payments, you risk having the lender foreclose on your home. If you fall behind on rent, your landlord can evict you. Even though the foreclosure or eviction process can take months, it’s not something you want to risk happening.

Utilities. This typically includes gas, water and sewage, and electricity. The Internet may be included if it is needed for job search. Contact the utility company if you are having trouble making the payment.

Food and household necessities. Food, soap, and paper products are up there with shelter, heat, and hot water on the list of essentials. Here are some helpful tips in controlling this expense:

  • Make fewer trips to the grocery store
  • Buy store-brand products
  • Limit your purchase of packaged food products
  • Stop buying bottled water
  • Buy in-season fruits and vegetables

Insurance premiums. Having insurance is always smart because it provides financial protection against the worst things life can throw your way, such as illness, fire, or accidents. Paying your insurance premiums even when money is tight is a smart move.

Car loan. Your car gets you to and from work and lets you get to other important places, such as your kids’ school, the grocery store, and the doctor. If you have a car loan, it’s crucial to find a way to pay it each month. If you are unable to make your payments, contact the lender to let them know and ask for help.

Unsecured debt. Although you should make every effort to repay your debts, when money is tight, unsecured debt, such as credit cards and personal loans, should move to the back burner. While these debts typically have the highest interest rates, they also have the lowest impact on your daily life. You need to at least make the minimum payment. If you can’t, contact the lender.

Student loans. While you should make every effort to pay your student loans when money’s tight, the loans often have the most flexibility when it comes to repayment, particularly federal loans. Contact the lender if you cannot make your payments.

It needs repeating. If you are unable to pay a bill or loan payment, contact the company and let them know your circumstances and your desire to pay what you owe them. Most companies will work with you … as long as you contact them. The worst thing you can do is to not contact the company and just ignore the bill.


You eat every day to nourish your body,
you also need to nourish your mind and soul

with positive inspiration and motivation.

March 2020 Budget Reconciliation (Retired)

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

My wife and I have been under total lockdown here in Ecuador since March 17th. We are only permitted to go the grocery, pharmacy and medical appointments on Tuesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 8:00AM and 2:00PM (with most only open until 12:30PM) and is based on the last number of our automobile license plate. This curfew is strictly enforced by the local and national police along with the military. There are heavy fines and automatic incarceration (2nd and subsequent occurrences) for breaking the curfew.

Additionally, masks and gloves are required to be worn when out in public. Most stores, pharmacies and medical facilities take your temperature and sanitize your gloved hands before you are allowed entry. If your temperature is elevated, you will not be allowed entry and you will be escorted from the premises by armed security.

All non-essential business are required to be closed.

These restrictions designed to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has a major effect on everyone’s lives. It has also brought the national economy to its knees.

Let’s take a look at the results of my income and expenses for March 2020 under the lockdown.


Budgeted: $4,038
Actual: $4,237


Budgeted: $60
Actual: $59

LP Gas
Budgeted: $25
Actual: $24

Water / Sewer / Trash
Budgeted: $58
Actual: $27

Phones (Land & Cell)
Budgeted: $40
Actual: $4

Cable TV
Budget: $91
Actual: $91

Internet (Fiber Optic)
Budget: $27
Actual: $27

Lawn / Garden
Budget: $116
Actual: $30

Home Maintenance
Budget: $50
Actual: $0

Auto Insurance
Budget: $83
Actual: $83

Budget: $60
Actual: $30

Auto Repair
Budget: $50
Actual: $0

Auto Registration & License (Monthly Escrow)
Budget: $50
Actual: $50

Budget: $6
Actual: $0

Health Insurance (Public and Private / Includes Spouse)
Budget: $453
Actual: $453

Doctor / Dentist
Budget: $50
Actual: $200

Budget: $500
Actual: $521

Apps / Subscriptions
Budget: $125
Actual: $125

Groceries / Household
Budget: $700
Actual: $639

Budget: $50
Actual: $6

House Cleaning
Budget: $80
Actual: $20

Income Tax (Monthly Escrow)
Budget: $326
Actual: $326

Real Estate Tax (Monthly Escrow
Budget: $12
Actual: $12

Total Expenses

Surplus / Deficit for the Month

$1,495 Surplus (35.3% of Income, Moved to Savings)


“Don’t tell me what you value,
show me your budget,
and I’ll tell you what you value.”
Joe Biden

Coping With Unemployment Due to Covid-19

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

“COVID-19 represents the single greatest inflection point that global society has experienced. How we manage through this pandemic and its aftermath will impact the course of humanity for decades to come.”
Tom Golway

Millions and millions of workers across the world are losing their jobs due to mitigation efforts of governments to slow the transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Not since the Great Depression have so many people been out of a job and unable to support themselves and their families.

If you are one of those unemployed right now, my heart goes out to you. I have shed more than one tear contemplating the physical, mental and spiritual pain you are going through during this very uncertain time.

As uncertain and brutal as the situation is, all of us must learn how to cope and make it through this unearned personal tragedy. In hopes of offering a few ideas on how to survive until you can see light again, consider the following as you are able:

Save Your Money

  • Put together a budget. Start with your basic necessities like rent (mortgage), groceries, insurance, and utilities. Next, list expenses that are important but non-essential. These might include cable TV, eating out, alcohol, and entertainment. Add up the amount you spend on necessities and add it to the amount you spend on non-essentials. This number represents your current monthly expenses.
  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Look for ways to reduce or eliminate non-essential expenses like eating out, manicures, memberships, subscriptions, and cable TV.
  • Reduce your expenses on essentials. Use coupons, look for sales and ask for discounts. Check with your cell phone, internet and cable TV carriers to make sure you are getting the best deal possible based your use.
  • Ask about loan deferment programs. If you have credit card bills, car payments or student loans, call the loan companies and ask if you can reduce your monthly payments, or delay them entirely until you can get back to work once the COVID-19 mitigation restrictions are withdrawn. 
  • Apply for unemployment. If you lost your job due to COVID-19 mitigation programs, you are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Manage the Emotional Impact to Your Life

  • Have a routine. Get up early and have a to-do list of what you want to accomplish for the day. Staying in bed until noon and watching TV all day is unhealthy for your physical and mental well-being. Get outdoors for some exercise and sunlight for a natural lift-me-up.
  • Stay in contact with your family and friends. They are your support system for encouragement and empathy during this difficult time.
  • Ask for help. If you are unable to control melancholy and depression, seek help from your friends, family or your local mental health center.
  • Reduce or eliminate your use of alcohol and other drugs. Though they may provide temporary relief from stress, they tend to increase stress in the long-term. Alcohol is also a depressant, so you should avoid drinking too much during a time that you are feeling low already.

You will get through this.
We care about you and your well-being.
Know that you are loved!