Father Sez

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Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

My M.A.G. for 2008 – Part 1

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

This is not about my magazine subscriptions for 2008 but about my Most Audacious Goal for 2008. 

And it is:- 

Bringing this blog to a readership of 15,000 page views a day.  

Why 15,000? Well, FMF has said he can guide me to 100,000 a day, but when I saw that JD of Grow Rich Slowly had 9,000 unique visitors a day (not sure exactly when, but I think some time after he started his blog), I thought, well, let me try for 15,000. 

(Actually, as at time of writing, I am not quite sure if FMF’s 100,000 and JD’s 9,000 refer to the same metric…but 15,000 sounds good.) 

So how do I intend to go about doing this?  I made 7 sub headings, and listed everything and anything that I felt would help me along, under these headings. Especially links that I thought would be useful. 

a)  Knowledge Gathering  

These would be my resources for understanding about blogging and learning tips about building a successful blog. The blogosphere is incredibly generous when it comes to sharing knowledge, so this list grew quickly. The main ones, not in any particular order are: 

i)                  Simple Dollar’s “Building a better blog for 2007”,  

ii)                Steve Pavlina’s “How to build a high traffic blog”,  

iii)             FMF’s “How to get your blog to 100,000 visitors”, 

iv)              Dumb Little Man’s “Blogging for Beginners”, 

v)                Blueprint for Financial Prosperity’s “25 steps to a wildly successful PF Blog”,   

vi)              Problogger’s “31 days to a better blog”, 

vii)           Clever Dude’s “50 tips for new personal finance bloggers”,  

viii)         Yaro Starak’s “Blog Profit Blueprint”. I managed to download this great E Book from his site, but can’t seem to find a link to it now.    

Some of these were in the form of a series, so I copied and pasted them into a form of one long article each.  I shall read all these carefully, make notes of the steps they suggest and follow the steps.  After all, the steps have worked for them. And hopefully should also work for me.   

b)  Content 

To quote, Yaro Starak, content is what makes people read our blog. So content is king! And everyone agrees. Write compelling content!  

(To be honest, I have always thought that I was writing compelling content…..don’t we all think our contents are compelling?)

Anyway, exactly what is compelling content? This was a little more difficult to figure out. But this question was answered in the form of a post from Skelliewag’s “How to avoid fool’s gold and create value packed content.” 

Her blog is just overflowing with guidance and tips on this. 

How do we keep churning out the ideas? How do we keep writing  compelling posts daily?

Problogger gave a helping hand in the form of using mind maps in this and also this way. 

Yaro Starak, too, gives his advice. In his E-Book, Blog Profit Blueprint, he makes the very logical suggestion that Content + Marketing = Traffic.  He suggests that we should have pillar contents. By pillar articles he has listed :-  

-         How to articles on what we have learnt, 

-         Definitions, 

-         Theory or an argument – a fresh view, 

-         A resource, like an E-Book, 

-         List article, eg 7 ways to skin a cat….(the example is mine, by the way), 

-         Technical Blueprints 

And can you feel JHS’s thoughts and feelings as she reads the most powerful, thought provoking and moving post she has read in a long, long time?  

What do we do when we have to go off on an extended vacation, or are unable to post for an extended period? 

The Simple Dollar suggests that we should have posts on standby all the time. Preprogrammed to go online like clockwork, so as never to leave the readers hanging.   

Another great suggestion that I bookmarked just recently was JD’s guest post on Problogger on how his blog grew whilst he was on a 3 week vacation  

c)   Traffic 

How to increase traffic is included in most of the posts listed as my foundation resources under knowledge gathering.  Not to mention the tons of advise and suggestions available at Problogger. 

As Yaro says, traffic is content + marketing. In his Blog Profit Blueprint, he says that it is through marketing, people find our good content. On marketing he gives a comprehensive list of communication channels (which are, as he says pathways and lures to bring people to our site).  

Again, I have to come up with a list of tasks based on all the guides and shall set about doing them in a methodical fashion.  

d) Technical Stuff 

Shudder! Shudder! 

I am technologically challenged, so this will be an area where I’ll have some fear. I thought I had it all figured out with “pings”, and now it looks like I have to get used to link aggregators, tags, social bookmarks etc. 

I have bought the book, WordPress for Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson and shall have to somehow wade my way through it. (The title is very reassuring.) 

And I just have to grit my teeth and step into the world of “slashes and backslashes”. I believe some people call it “html”. 

This post has gotten a little longer than I expected. Though we are advised not to worry about the length of our posts, I think we shall stop here for the day. 

And tomorrow we shall look at the concluding part of my MAG for 2008. 

My 8 year old daughter’s 2008 SMART financial goal

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Ain’s Financial GoalsAin’s “ME” Diagram

Pls click to enlarge 

Since 2005, my 3 younger children and I have sat together and written some “things to do” as their goals for the year. This has been a simple exercise. About 3 times a year, during their school holidays, we would review the goals and the children will, as usual, promise to try harder to achieve their goals.  

In 2007, we started a project to improve the children’s English. This was done by the kids writing up a page or so from a book and then reading it to me. Words that they did not understand were looked up in a dictionary. (I used newspaper articles at first, but later decided to switch to self improvement books, so that the little ones would end up actually having to read a SI book……a lot like killing 2 birds with one stone.

The youngest, Ain, uses an Enid Blyton story book.) 

Nana, 12, used “Your 1 Week Way to Personal Success”, by John O’Keeffe. In one chapter, O’Keeffe suggests doing what he calls a “ME” diagram, to arrive at one’s life picture. This seemed to be something that was quite easy to understand. Nana explained the concept to Ain and they did their 2008 goals based on this concept.  

Their mother and I are very happy with the results and this are my thoughts expressed as a letter to my youngest girl, Ain, 8.  

Dear Ain, 

Papa has seen your goals for 2008 and am very happy that you have chosen goals which are very important. Mama is also very happy. 

You have done your “ME” drawing very well. Papa is sure that as you grow older you will make changes in this drawing. This is a very good start.

Your elder sisters, Along and Azah do not show Papa their goals, because they say they want to keep their goals private. They say they write them down, but I am not sure. Please remind them to write their goals down.

This is very important.  It is good to share your goals with someone you like and trust. They can help you to meet your goals. 

I am going to present one of your goals at a Carnival that is being put up by Ms. Lynnae at Being Frugal. The Carnival will have people from all over the world showing the financial goals they have made for 2008. A Carnival is like an exhibition, so we if we visit the Carnival, we can see a lot of other people’s goals and learn from them.  

This Carnival is on the 2 January 2008. Papa knows you start school on the 2nd, but we can see the Carnival on the Internet. Papa will show you. 

The goal that I want to present is your financial goal.  

Don’t worry about your use of Bahasa Malaysia. Everyone knows that “Kewangan” means Finance, “tabung” means piggy bank and that “tambah” means add. 

There are some rules to be followed if we want to show our goals in the Carnival. Let us check if your goal meets Ms. Lynnae’s rules. She calls the rules “SMART”. 

Rule 1   Your goal is very specific. So you have met the “S” of SMART. 

Rule 2  Your goal can be measured, which means you must be able to count and check if your goals are met. Yes, you must save RM30. You have met the “M” of SMART. 

Rule 3 Your goal must be achievable, which means that it must not be so very difficult to do. Yes, you can do it. You can save this money from the money that Mama gives you for school and from the money your Uncles and Aunties give you for Hari Raya. You have met the “A” of SMART. 

Rule 4 Your goal must be realistic. So your goal cannot be something that you just bluff. Yes, you also have met the “R” rule. 

And the last rule is that your goal must have a time limit. You cannot  say, that you want to save RM30, but don’t say by when. Since you have already said you will save the money by 31 December 2008, you have also met the “T” of SMART. 

Well, Ain, I think you have met all of Ms. Lynnae’s rules.

Now let us send your goal in and ask her to check. 

Your Mama and Papa are very happy and proud that you have done your goals for 2008. We know that you will try your best to achieve them.  

Love,  

Papa

We have found our “How to Guide” to shaving our monthly budget

Monday, December 10th, 2007

For the first time in our married lives, we have done our family budget. And after only 23 years of marriage and 5 children. Whilst this may not be exactly Speedy Gonzales’ style, at least it will give us a chance to find out if the old adage “Better late than never” is indeed true. 

I must admit, I was pushed into this by some great posts that I read in the blogs on preparing for self employment.

Posts from blogs such as:- Get Rich Slowly Redomestication and  The Digerati Life. 

Then we sort of stress tested our budget. I thought we had it pretty much pared to the bone, when along came Clever Dude’s three parter on “What could you give up if you were in financial trouble”. 

The Dude classified the expenses as luxuries, semi luxuries and essentials. We can guess which would go, if push came to shove. The surgical, practical and unemotional cuts suggested by Clever Dude made me wonder if I could cut more. 

I also like Moolanomy’s useful idea to apply the Pareto Principle to rank our expenses and direct our focus on the bigger hitters. 

So it is back to the drawing board.  

Another 2008 financial goal is going to be cutting down our monthly budget. How, by how much and by when will have to be agreed upon after discussions with my better half. 

After all, we now have some great “how to” guides.  

Ribuan terima kasih, guys. (This is how we offer a thousand thanks in my country).

Inaugral Carnival of Financial Goals

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

It’s that time when many of us reflect on the year that is now coming to an end and start planning for the year that is awaiting us. 

Thus, it is most timely that Patrick at Cash Money Life, has today, hosted the inaugural Carnival of Financial Goals. 

The rich pickings of 55 goals, which have been filtered for Patrick’s SMART Goal qualifications, have been listed under headings that should guide those of us with specific financial interests for 2008.  

Alternative / Passive Income, Budgeting, Career, Debt Reduction, Education, Income, Investing, Multiple Financial Goals, Net Worth, Real Estate, Retirement, Savings and even Tips on Goal Setting. 

Goals are issues that people draw up after much thought and internal deliberation. The listing of so many such thought out and deliberated upon goals in one place for us to read and learn from is an opportunity that cannot be taken lightly.  

Thanks, Patrick for this idea, trouble and effort you have taken upon yourself to host this Carnival.  

One of my goals for 2008 is to impart to my children the two most important PF lessons that I have learnt.

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

My wife and I have 5 children. The girls are, Along, 21, Azah, 20, Nana, 12 and Ain, 9 and our only boy, Abang, 13. 

We are just as concerned as any other parent that our children should grow up stable, well rounded, respected and respectful members of the community we stay in. And personal finance is one area we want to make sure our children, if not excel, should at least do well.

Imparting these lessons has been one of my wife’s and my goals for some time now, or rather a wish. A strong wish, no doubt, but still just a wish. 

I call it a wish, as it had no specifics, had no measurable metrics and no time limits.  

Not any more. Thanks to the knowledge learnt from the pf blogs I follow and some serious thought, this wish has now crystallized into SMART goals for my wife and me.  

This is my story. 

The two most important PF lessons that I have learned, are:- 

a)    Paying myself first or living below my means and 

b)    Having a peer group with PF as an “agenda item”. 

I believe that if a person masters or is comfortable with (a) and has a good peer group that avidly discusses personal finance, then he or she is well on his/ her way to financial independence. In fact having (b) should also lead to (a). 

My wife and I have set ourselves the following goals as part of our goals for 2008. 

i)      To ensure that the 2 senior girls, form or join a peer group with PF as a core subject, and  

ii) To ensure that the 2 younger children learn to pay themselves first. 

And our plan to achieve these goals:- 

i)      Goal (i)  

-         We have tried asking them to form a peer group themselves, it has not worked. They are in college now, and though they have made some solid friendships, none of their friends seem interested in this idea now.  

-         I have enjoyed great positive effects from reading pf blogs. Since my daughters belong to the generation that is very comfortable with the Net, I have given them a list 5 pf blogs that I think they may find interesting. It is possible that my girls may well decide that some other pf blog is more their type. This will be fine with us. 

-         We have offered them monetary rewards for every comment they make on these blogs. These comments must be accepted and published by the blogger.   

-         My children have to email me the URLs so that I can keep abreast of their comments. 

-         To comment, the girls have to read the posts. I am sure that some interest will be generated, from posts which should be close to their hearts now, for example those on career guidance, tips on facing the interview, etc.  

-         Over time, we expect (and hope) our children to start having an interest in the lessons these bloggers post, and for this interest to grow. These blogs will then become their peer group.    

ii)     Goal (ii) 

-         Give the younger children (except the youngest), a weekly allowance.  

-         Sign an agreement with them on this allowance. They have to keep accurate and neat accounts and save at least 10% of the amount, (they can save easily by taking packed lunches to school).  

-         Thanks to another pf blog, I have a great model to follow for this agreement. Used by none other than John D. Rockefeller himself, and edited to suit our purpose. I forget the name of the blog that pointed this out. I am sorry. 

-         Fixed targets have been set for their savings for the year. At the end of 2008, we shall go to the bank and deposit their savings in a bank account. I have agreed to contribute 300% of their savings as a top up gift. (So as you can probably guess, the targets are modest….baby steps, baby steps first) 

Do our goals meet the benchmarks for well set goals? Let’s run through the checklist.

Do we have a strong desire for the goals? But, of course! Our children’s education is very high in our list of priorities. 

Are the goals specific? Yes, they are. 

Are they measurable? Yes, the elder girls have to post comments, which can be counted. We have not set any numbers on the comments they should post. We believe we should leave it to the girls to decide for themselves.  

The younger children have a target amount to save and a date by which to achieve it. 

Are the goals achievable? Yes, they are. All our children now accept that goals are something that they want to do, as opposed to being forced to do. (Or are they just saying it???) 

Are the goals realistic? I think they are. 

Do the goals have time limits? Yes, the target dates are 31 December 2008, and we shall have periodic reviews.  

Will we achieve the goals?  We feel well prepared and are looking forward to marking off these goals as done. 

Nevertheless, my wife and I have to delicately balance our wishes and plans against the comfort levels of our children. It is likely that many,  if not, most of our children’s friends’ parents would not be doing anything similar, so there might be some negative peer pressure from their friends at school or college.  

Time will tell. My wife and I just have to find their “switch”.  

We’ll appreciate any ideas, comments or advise from like minded parents out there, who have walked this path before.     

Levels of Financial Security ……… knowing where we are is the first step to getting where we want to go.

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Harrison Loke of Journey to Financial Freedom, has written on Levels of Financial Security. 

He classifies these levels as :- 

a)    Debts,

b)    Break Even

c)     Financial Security

d)    Financially comfortable

e)    Financial Freedom and

f)      Rich 

Harrison puts forward his arguments to define each of these levels, and also explains the steps we should focus to resolve as we work to get to the next level. 

It is paramount for us to know where we currently are, before we can realistically plan to go where we want to be. 

I am totally in agreement with Harrison on the need to know our present position. However, personally, I like the 4 levels as defined by Adam Khoo,  in his book  “Secrets of Self -Made Millionaires”.

He lists them as :- 

a)  Being financially stable 

a.    Having sufficient liquid assets to sustain us, should we lose our income for 6 months and 

b.    Having sufficient life and hospital insurance    

b)  Being financially secure  

a.    Having sufficient passive income from investment assets to meet basic expenses like mortgage, transportation, food, interest payments on all debt and insurance premiums. 

c)   Being financially free  

a.    Having sufficient passive income from investment assets to sustain our current lifestyle. 

d)  Being financially abundant 

a.    This need not be explained. For the record, Adam Khoo’s definition is having sufficient passive income from investment assets to sustain our desired lifestyle.  

Ultimately, it is not the definitions of levels that really matter. What is important is :- 

-                     We must clearly know where we are currently,  

        Facts such as our monthly expenses, our assets and liabilities,interest rates applicable on our liabilities, etc

-                     Know where we want to go, 

        Our financial goals must have been clearly defined and written down.

-                     Come out with an action plan to get to where we want to go. 

-                     And work on our plan diligently!!! 

What turns you on – Expansion of income vs Reduction of expenses

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Many PF blogs explain various methods of saving money and reducing expenses. Some of these posts are really good, showing ways to reduce expenses without affecting quality of life in any way.

See The Simple Dollar’s series on “One Hour Projects.” 

Others need a lot more commitment, things like baking our own bread, cooking for a week and storing them, sewing our own clothes, etc. 

We all can agree that the Number 1 cause for a terrible financial position is “living beyond our means.” So managing expenses and controlling them is a must. 

The debate on “whether we should pay down loans (hence reducing interest expense or invest to increase income” is a hot one. I don’t think there is any one single “right” answer.

We have mathematical arguments, talking about comparing the amounts and % that we expect to save and make, and then making our call.  Others who appear to be more risk adverse take the position that interest savings are clearly determined, while investment income is risky and unknown. This, I call, the “bird in hand vs the bird in the bush theory.” 

The Simple Dollar argues that the answer depends on one’s own goals and lists some of the benefits a debt free life can offer. He also calls the debt payment a psychological investment.  

Yahoo Finance drives home the point that :-

First, no one ever spent a sleepless night because she had millions in the bank and stocks but didn’t have her home paid off. On the other hand, if you pay off your mortgage and deprive yourself of liquidity, you could be in for some miserable times. As I see it, if money is even the slightest bit tight, hold onto it and pay off the mortgage month by month. There’s nothing magically good about having a paid-off mortgage, but there’s something seriously bad about not having ready liquid assets even if your home is paid for. 

Others comment that women and men have different approaches to this. They take the view that women are more risk averse, so they would more likely than not, chose to get rid of debt as soon as possible.  

Yet another interesting version to this “save or invest” is that presented by KC Lau. He presents the view that we can only save “that much”, whilst investment income is theoretically unlimited. 

So exactly what should we do? Whilst there is no simple answer,

I agree with KC Lau and the Simple Dollar. There has to be alignment to one’s own goals and feelings, i.e. basically doing what we feel most comfortable with.

However, the basic principles would more or less be similar. 

a)    get our basics anchored down first,

       a.    spend less than we earn,

       b.    build up our emergency fund,

       c.     pay off all our high interest rate debt, 

and, after having made our financial foundation solid,   

b)    invest as wisely as we can.  

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