Where did my money go?

“ I have no idea where my money went this month.”  “I  use credit cards to avoid bouncing checks between pay periods. ”   “I have a budget…in my head.”   Sound familiar?    If so, let 2013 be the year you gain control of your finances and super charge your wealth building efforts.

As a first step, let’s see if we can find your money leaks.    Answer the questions below regarding the next 30 days.   Category definitions and formulas are below the questions.  Notice that the “formulas” are really all the same subtraction problem:   Cash-expenses=cash available for the next expense category.



  1. Does my available cash cover my basic necessities  ?
  2. After paying for necessities, can I cover all my debt payments?
  3. After making debt payments, can I cover my ‘can’t-live-without- them’ conveniences?
  4. After paying  for conveniences,  do I have money left over for savings and investments?
  5. After savings and investments, do I have money left over for a few luxuries?




Cash on hand.  This is the total amount of spendable cash you will have in the next 30 days.  It includes cash in bank accounts, CDs, and around your house.  It also includes any payments you  are sure you will receive within the next 30 days (e.g., paychecks, government payments).

It does not include:  money locked in long term investments (e.g., retirement funds, home equity),  credit card or other loans, or money your friends owe you (they may not repay in time).



Necessities— These are basic expenses necessary for staying alive and earning a living.  Examples include: rent/mortgage, food, medicine, public transportation (or inexpensive car), utilities, basic communication (one cell or landline less than $90 monthly),  and childcare.   Your necessities list should be short. 

Debt payments –  Credit card payments and other installment payments you can’t skip or immediately cancel without  financial penalties and or credit damage(e.g., furniture, car, or education loans) .


Conveniences–  Things you can,   but don’t want to,  live without.  Examples include extracurricular activities for your children, donations,  holiday gifts, extra cell phones, new clothes,  a single vacation,  and cable.


Savings and investments –This includes money saved for emergencies and investments in income producing assets (e.g., rental real estate, stocks, bonds).  For serious wealth builders, this category should come before conveniences.


Luxuries – This is stuff you can easily do without,  usually multiples or luxury brands of the items listed  among your favorite conveniences like  designer clothing  and shoe or video game collections.



  1. Cash on hand – necessities =  Cash available for  debt payments
  2.  Cash available for debt repayment – debt payments  =  Cash available for conveniences
  3.  Cash available for conveniences – conveniences = Cash available for  saving and investing
  4. Cash available for saving and investing- saving and investing = Cash available for luxuries


 If the answer to any of the questions  is ‘no’,  you have found your leak.  Review the underfunded category and the ones prior to it.  What can you do about the shortfall?  Reduce costs?  Eliminate an expense?  Shift the expense to someone else?   Increase your income  (e.g. moonlighting, yard sales)?

I wish you a pleasant and productive week.


Can’t find your passion? Ask different questions.

Can’t figure out what you want? Try asking yourself questions other than “what do I want to do with my life?” or “what is my passion?” to help uncover your dreams.

At Sole Strivers, we developed the D.R.E.A.M. system of goal attainment which stands for Dream, Research, Evaluate, Act, and Measure. The first step is to imagine your ideal life. Below are a few prompts to get you started.

What would you like to achieve in the next three years?
Think big. Even “impossible” dreams contain parts that can be achieved.

What do you dislike about your life?
What bothers you most about the items on your list? What is the opposite of those things you listed?

When was the last time you had a great day?
What made it great? Describe the day including details like your location, companions, length of day, and time of year.

Do you have goals you’re afraid to pursue because pursuing or attaining them might have negative impacts on your loved ones?
Is there a way to lessen the potential damage (e.g., continuing to work in current career while preparing for a new one) ?

What do you do during your free time?
Be honest. Avoid being critical of the activities you enjoy as they may provide valuable clues. For example, if you love watching reality shows, it could point to an interest in psychology, coaching, writing fiction books, and or blogging about reality shows. Or it could just mean that you like laughing at silly behavior and that’s ok, too.

What do you love about your life today (e.g., relationships, health, activities, career) ?
How will you maintain the enjoyable parts of your life while you work toward an “improved” future?

I hope answering these questions brings you closer to discovering your true interests. Here’s wishing you a joyful week.

Big Dreams Possible? Don’t Guess. Research.

Last week, I shared a few ideas to help you identify your passion and or potential goals. Were you able to D.R.E.A.M. big without limiting yourself? If not, you might have been distracted by premature and or false assumptions about what it takes to achieve your dreams.

Research, the second step in the D.R.E.A.M. system, helps you make informed decisions about the goals you choose to pursue. Below are some tips to make your research more efficient.

Identify and answer four questions for each potential goal.
Consider questions like:

  • How have others achieved this goal?
  • Who or what organizations can help me reach it ?
  • What is the cost of pursuing this goal?
  • How can I reduce the cost?

  • Avoid distractions and research paralysis
    Use online, book, and expert sources to answer your questions then move on to the next item you need to research. Avoid becoming distracted by irrelevant information or activities. You can return to them after you finish your research. Also avoid spending too much time seeking information (i.e., research paralysis). Find basic information then begin the dating phase. See next tip.

    Date your dreams before committing to them
    Create opportunities to test your dream before committing to it. For example, arrange internships, socialize with people who are accomplishing your goal, and or attend goal-related conferences. If you dream of building a business, create and sell prototypes of the product or service your business will offer. If you dream of adhering to an exercise program, spend a few weeks testing different exercise equipment and or activities until you find a combination that motivates you. Dating your dreams helps reduce the risk, cost, and fear connected to pursuing longer term and or expensive goals.

    Organize your research
    Create a simple chart to organize and keep the information you find (e.g., telephone numbers, instructions). This will help you avoid searching multiple times for the same data.

    Enjoy your research and remember to seek information from positive, experts. That is, positive people who have successfully accomplished the goals you are considering pursuing. I repeat this message often because we, at Sole Strivers, see many smart, capable clients who have postponed attempting exciting goals because they sought and internalized advice from negative, non-experts. My goal is to help you avoid similar delays.

    I wish you a pleasant and productive week.

    Don’t Find Time, Make Time.

    Can’t  find  time to work on your goals?

    Maybe trying to “find time” is the problem.  The phrase “finding time” suggests there is extra time hiding somewhere. There isn’t. You are already spending twenty four hours a day in activities that benefit you and or someone else (e.g., working, sleeping, childcare, socializing).  If you want D.R.E.A.M. time, you’ll have to reduce the time you spend on  current activities and find substitutes for the benefits being received.  Below are some tips for making time.

    At home

    • Substitute sleep  for late night television.  Then wake up a few hours early  to work on your goal.
    • Attend group outings with your friends- Organizing a group of friends to see a movie or have dinner allows you to see multiple friends at once.   This helps to preserve relationships while you’re away focusing on your goal. The strategy works for phone calls, too. Set up conference calls with your friends using services like http://www.freeconferencecall.com.
    • Substitute private time with your significant other(s) for Internet surfing time. I won’t detail the obvious benefits.  However, a main one is that your partner gets the necessary attention he or she needs, reducing complaints about your lack of availability during D.R.E.A.M.  time.
    • Arrange play dates or enrichment activities for your children a few times weekly.  Play dates give you a few hours to yourself.  However, be fair.  Host play dates, too.  Enrichment activities can be inexpensive.  For example, for the price of a babysitter,  you can hire a language major from your local college to teach your children a foreign language while you work peacefully in the next room.
    • When attending a day long celebration, join the party late or leave early.  If it’s a reunion, attend two hours in the beginning, making sure to circulate widely and greet everyone.  Then quietly step away to D.R.E.A.M. for a few hours and return for the last two or three hours of the event. At a large event, nobody will miss you.  Everyone will assume you’re in another part of the venue or out doing a store run.

    At work

    • Identify work related tasks you can delegate or skills you can acquire to help you achieve work related tasks more quickly and accurately.  This should reduce the amount of work you have to bring home.
    • Have a D.R.E.A.M.  lunch at least one day per week.  Instead of going to lunch with your work buddies 5 days per week, choose one day to work on your goal while munching on a bag lunch.  However, don’t work at your desk, even if you have a private office. You don’t want to spend half your lunch period explaining your activities.
    • Work  from home at least one day per week, if possible.   Use the commuting time you save to D.R.E.A.M.
    • Participate in quiet carpools or use public transportation to get to work.  Read or write something goal-related during the commute.
    • D.R.E.A.M. instead of checking emails or texts when meetings start late or end early.  Or network with someone in the meeting room to help you achieve a work-related task more quickly, availing more time for D.R.E.A.M.ing.

    How to Say ‘No’ to Stubborn People

    Just as I was completing a series on time management, I received a call from a client, complaining that she didn’t have enough time to work on an assignment crucial to her financial goals.

    She was having trouble refusing  her pastor’s requests to do increasing amounts of volunteer work.  I support community and religious service, but sometimes, when it consistently interferes with your ability to complete activities related to your goals, you have to say, “no.”

    Upon hearing this, my client responded, “I just can’t. I don’t know how to say ‘no’ to him…  It’s like he doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”  If you’re having similar problems, I offer you the following tutorial.

    Ready?   Place your upper and lower teeth together, push your tongue against your teeth and bear down like you’re constipated “nnnnnnnnnnnn”.   Then open your mouth,  round your lips, and squeeze in your abdomen as you make an “o” sound.  Here we go: “nnnnnnnn-oh”.  That’s it.  Additional  words  are unnecessary.  “No.” is a full sentence.

    More time management tips are coming soon.   Enjoy your D.R.E.A.M. time !

    Layoffs: Be prepared, not scared

    You’ve seen the signs:  company messages about cost cutting, fewer customers, worried looks around the office– layoffs are lurking.

    Waiting to see if you will lose your job can be frustrating and stressful.  However, you can avoid feeling powerless by doing your best at work while building contingency plans from home.

     These 8 steps will help you prepare.

    1. Create a disaster plan.

    Imagine the worst that can happen and create a plan to make the situation better.   Answer questions like:

    • How much money do you have today?
    • What’s the least amount of money you can spend monthly?
    • What resources are available to you (e.g., friends, family, government programs) ?
    • What could each resource provide?
    • What legal services/jobs could you perform for emergency cash (e.g., sweeping/cleaning for small businesses, typing, and fast food jobs)?

    If your worst fears include serious poverty, include contact information for social services in your city (e.g., food banks, housing authority, churches, and hospitals).

    2.  Create a best case scenario plan.

    What’s the best thing that can happen?  Think big. Draw a detailed picture. Your vision may include a new job with higher pay, new skills/degrees/certifications, and/or an entirely new career.

    • How will you get there?
    • Who can help you at each step?
    • How much time will you need?
    • What sources of funding are available?  Be positive; use the internet as a research tool; and know that help is available for anything you want to achieve.

    3. Identify and cut unnecessary expenses.
    Identify expenses you can cut temporarily (e.g., cable, cell phone, new clothes, eating out, internet).  Find  free or low cost replacements. Examples include: carrying a prepaid cell phone for emergencies; borrowing DVDs, books, and free internet access from your local library, or co-hosting pot luck dinners at the home of a friend who has cable service or a fresh deck of cards.

    4.  Do a skills inventory to generate ideas for a small business.
    Create a chart with categories including:

    • skills and abilities;
    • people who might need them;
    • ways to reach potential customers; and
    • income potential for each skill.

    Be sure to consider your basic abilities such as walking and reading.  For example, being able to walk means you can deliver food, do errands for others, walk dogs, or help with yard work. Once you’ve completed you inventory, decide what services you would like to offer. You can advertise your services free on the Internet on websites like GURU.com and Craigslist.com

    5. Update your resume

    Your resume should be ready to e-mail at a moment’s notice.  Because most resumes are reviewed electronically, be sure it includes key words related to your profession and use a font like Arial that is easy for a computer to read.  For more resume tips Google “resume tips” and/or borrow a resume book from library.

    6.  Register with temporary employment agencies

    Inquire about jobs and pay available for people with your skills. If you have vacation time or available evening hours, ask for a few assignments.  If  layoffs do occur, you will have a head start on others being laid off.  If they don’t occur, you’ll have made extra money to pay bills or make investments.

    7.  Network with friends, family, and professional organizations.

    Look for and attend local networking events. Ask everyone in your network about job openings in your field.

    For best results, prepare:

    • a 2 minute verbal description of your current job and career interests,
    • an updated resume and
    • information about job opportunities at your company.  Although your company may be reducing staff in one area, it may be hiring in another.  Be sure to research potential opportunities at your company to ensure you have information to share with other networkers. 

    8.  Consider attending school to update your skills or begin a new career.
    Layoffs provide a great opportunity to increase your market value by gaining new skills.  You can also use the time to explore a new career.

    5 Thoughts Holding You Back

    1. Life Should Be Fair.

    Life is not always fair. Find places where it is unfair in your favor.  You woke up to live another day today. Another good person did not. Is that fair?   No. This is an example of a way life is unfair in your favor.

    Avoid spending too much energy worrying that others have more advantages than you or feeling guilty that you have more than others. Instead try to create opportunities in which you have an advantage.

    • Go out and meet people who can help you reach your goals.
    • Read books and magazines others ignore.
    • Talk to people others are afraid to approach.
    • Register for every class, seminar, contest or government program that will give you an edge over your competition.

    Then when you have spare time and/or money and you want to fight injustice, join a national or global organization devoted to the eradication of the injustice of your choice. The voices and efforts of many are often more powerful than a single voice.

    2. If God wanted you to be financially secure, you would have been born into a wealthy family.

    This is untrue. Period. It may be more difficult for some people to become financially secure than others. However, once you learn the thoughts and actions necessary to build wealth, the process gets easier. That is, if you act upon the things you learn.  A good wealth building plan is like a diet, it won’t work unless you follow it.

    3. You deserve luxuries TODAY, even if you must pay by credit card.

    Luxuries like high end cell phones, great furniture, and fine clothes are fun to have. However, if you buy them with borrowed money, you are just renting a lifestyle you will never be able to afford. And worse, the lifestyle is making you less financially stable. It’s better to wait until you can afford to pay for luxuries from your “fun cash account”.

    To build wealth you need to:

    1. Save money
    2. Improve yourself or your products and services so you can make more money
    3. Spend money on things that will help you make money
    4. Postpone purchases that don’t add to your net worth until after you’ve had success with 1 – 3. Then you should be able to afford those things in cash, not credit.

    3. Embarrassment should be avoided at all costs–you don’t want people talking about you.

    Successful people and businesses fail sometimes. It is part of the way we learn. Many times those failures are public. If , in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, you avoid taking risks,  your chances of succeeding are very low. The more successful you become, the more people will talk about your successes and delight in your failures. It’s part of your journey. Try often. Fail privately and publicly. Learn your lessons. And move on. No one has ever died of embarrassment.

    5. Wealthy people are greedy and/or evil.

    If you believe that wealthy people are bad in some way, you will sabotage your own efforts to build wealth. You’ll find yourself doing harmful things like: buying expensive things you don’t need, making bad loans, spending time with people who can cause you harm, and wasting valuable time trying to convince everybody that you are a ‘good’ person who hasn’t changed a bit since you became wealthy (i.e. “remaining down to earth”). Here’s a secret: you will change as your net worth increases. However, you don’t have to change for the worst. You can become more generous and your generosity will have more power.