Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Thought About Happiness

"Wise men through the ages have stated that we are only really happy when we are true to our deepest convictions. The joy and peace experienced when you refuse to bend before any master, witch doctor, trickster, or bully can only be understood by those brave enough to have done so."
-Robin J. Elliott

Do you think this is true? Is happiness all about living in congruence with our deepest convictions?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Biggest Understatement

I saw this on Naked Pastor and it made me smile . . . things will be different indeed!


We found out the good news today: the financing condition has been met and so we have officially sold our rental property! The cool thing is that we were able to actually sell it at our asking price. Although possession isn't until mid-January, it's time to celebrate!

My journey til this point has been rich with memories and new learning experiences. First, I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which gave me a vision for buying real estate (and not blaming things like "I'm a student" from stopping me). Then there was a year and a half of looking at properties, learning how to evaluate them, and trying to convince my dubious wife that this was, in fact, a good idea for us. Still though I hadn't yet mastered my fear and actually bid on a house. I remember how I had started trying to convince my friends about what a good idea buying real estate was and how I planned to do it - and then one of my friends Keith actually went and bought a property - before me! I was so mad at myself I called my realtor and said "You have one month to find us something, I HAVE to get a property ASAP!" Keith's upstaging me helped me to do finally do the hardest part: take action. Soon we had our first property, and we decided to manage it ourselves. I bought two books on landlording and away we went! After many ups and downs (and some interesting experiences with renters), we decided that our property wasn't a great long term investment (it had some issues that would eventually need tending) and now we've sold it. Ah the memories! We feel very thankful. If you want some more of the details about our experience, check them out in these old posts from 2007.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pay Yourself First*

If you read The Richest Man in Babylon, The Wealthy Barber, The Automatic Millionaire, or any other decent book on financial wisdom you will invariably find this advice:

"Pay yourself first."

In other words, put aside a percentage of your money for saving and investing before you pay for life's expenses and luxuries. This money becomes the seed for your future wealth. Combine it with that other great principle:

"Live within your means (spend less then you make)."

and you are setting yourself up for financial prosperity. As long as you save and invest that money wisely (most places say to pay yourself first at least 10%) you will be able to escape the trap of living paycheck to paycheck and grow your money substantially. Also, no matter how poor you are, almost anyone can afford to save 10% of their income. Trimming 10% is usually no problem - try it and I doubt you will not see your life impacted in any significant way.

When Jobina and I first got married we were lucky enough to hear the advice to save 10% of our income every month. Basically we were told to use it as an emergency fund - something to pay for extra surprise expenses. This worked well for us but the problem was that we never invested that money - instead it either saved us when we got into financial trouble (usually through overspending) or we got undisciplined and just spent it on something "nice for ourselves." Instead I wish we would have not only put money away for emergencies/luxuries but also had the knowledge and discipline to save and invest 10% of our income, paying ourselves first. This would have been a great strategy.

As the new year is coming up it will be time to reevaluate our finances and goals for the future . . . and it could be a great opportunity for you to do the same gentle reader! Pick up a copy of one of the previously mentioned books and let it both educate and inspire you to being wiser with your money. Don't use the excuse of your debts, life situation, or low income to not take action. Try this simple exercise:

1. How much money would you save if you saved 10% of your household income for the next 1, 2, or 5 years? Grab your calculator!
2. Ask yourself: "What would it take for me to to be able to save 10% of my current income?" You might need to cut back on some expenses, go without a few things, or consolidate some debt. Realize the truth: after some initial sacrifice it wouldn't be as hard as you thought.
3. Challenge yourself to a 6 month experiment - save 10% of your monthly income by paying yourself first and moving that money into a separate account from your main one.

If you aren't currently paying yourself first and would like to try this experiment (and your mate if applicable enthusiastically agrees), feel free to let me know. Also, pick up one of the books mentioned at the start of my post for inspiration and wisdom. If you try the experiment and it significantly impacts your life in a bad way, let me know and I'll take you out for dinner to try to make it up to you! But I'm not too worried - paying yourself first is one of the wisest ways to manage the financial resources that God has given you. Good luck!

*A few people have commented to me that my post could be interpreted as saying that paying yourself first is more important then even giving back to God - definitely not what I want to say! Giving generously should be your first financial priority, but out of your remaining money paying yourself first is just smart use of your money.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Power of Free Classifieds

When I was in my first year of seminary, my friend Dylan told me about a great deal he got on something. "Wow, where did you find that at such a good price?" I asked. "Used Winnipeg, " he replied, "That place is like crack and I check it out every day." That was my introduction to the wonder of free online classifieds.

Jobina and I have used free online classifieds to do the following:

1. find clients for my practicum (and even now for my counselling practice)
2. find garbage haulers, painters, handymen, and other skilled trades people for my rental property
3. buy a collection of Transformer comics
4. purchase several movies and DVD series
5. bought outdoor equipment like my new mountain bike, a GPS, and (yesterday) a brand new water filtration unit (retail MEC $89 - my price $40)
6. buy and sell furniture
7. drive traffic to our recent online house listing
8. find 3 sets of renters for our rental property
9. buy and sell a vending machine business
10. sell a house we flipped

There's probably more but that's all that comes to mind. We can't remember if we bought our van off of free online classifieds but probably. Jobina and I have literally saved thousands and made thousands of dollars by using these free sites.

There are three main online classifieds that I use: (my favorite and very popular with lots of things for sale)

Once you get used to navigating, searching, and posting these sites become indispensable. There are deals everywhere! And once you learn how to figure out people's level of motivation to sell (desperate=good) you can find some exceptional deals. I often will offer less then half on things - you never know what people will go for unless you ask! We needed to move some junk from our property so we just called people - found someone willing to pick it all up and take it all to the dump for $40. They were there in half an hour, I payed them in cash, and they were gone. Same thing when we needed an electrician for our property the day before our open house. Called him Friday afternoon - he came in Saturday morning. I wanted a painter to paint our rental property and after looking through several ads emailed one and asked for a ballpark quote. He just happened to be between jobs and a little desperate so he offered to paint my 1404 square foot rental for $1500. That was pretty good but I didn't get back to him as I was busy. He emailed me again and dropped the price down to $1000!

Most people are honest and as long as you use some discernment you are pretty safe. I thought I would just share the good news for anyone who wasn't aware that these sites existed. Use them to promote yourself/your services, find good deals, or advertise the things you want to sell. Just be careful - you can easily get addicted!

ASBO Jesus Friday: Troika

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Move On

One of my clients shared this with me today:

"Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die."

I loved it. It is so true. I believe the original quote is attributed to Debbie Ford:

"Unforgiveness is the poison you drink every day hoping that the other person will die."

Either way the quotes illustrate how unforgiveness is toxic. To one's soul, one's physical body, and all of one's relationships. Eventually the poison works its way into every part of your life, infecting as it goes. Studies have shown that unforgiveness and bitterness literally make you sick, damaging your immune system and lowering your life expectancy. For the sake of Christ, ourselves, and our loved one, may we all let go of the wrongs done against us. It's the only Christian way to live.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Deep Thoughts On Dirty Jobs

I guarantee that you will learn something you never knew before from the above video of Mike Rowe. Rowe is the host of the Discovery show "Dirty Jobs" and is a surprisingly thoughtful speaker. In this TED talk from last December, he talks about people with dirty jobs, questioning one’s assumptions, the nature of hard work, and the "war on work." He also talks about sheep genitals. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


For the past couple of weeks Jobina and I have been working on fixing up, cleaning, and finally showing our revenue property. We bought it 4 years ago when I started seminary and it seemed like it might be a good investment. It was both easier and much more difficult to do then I thought and there were many times where we were frustrated and said things like "Let's just get rid of that thing!" But we hung in there and I am proud of us. Tomorrow we hear if our counter offer (to someone's out of town offer) will be accepted. Here's hoping! These are pretty exciting times. I have to admit that I enjoy all of what's involved in buying and selling properties. It's like a sport that pays you money! Of course I say that now when all we're doing is waiting for someone to buy our property and payday to come.

Seriously though - I recommend everyone who owns a property use some of their equity to get at least one more. It's more stable and less risky then stocks and mutual funds (at least around here) and if you get someone to manage your property there are few headaches involved. If you'd like to know how we did it (and how you can do it too) feel free to contact me. After all, if we can do it anyone can! And I'll let you know what ends up happening tomorrow . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

Colour Blind

As a counselor, I help people identify the unhelpful/irrational/untrue/illogical beliefs that cause them to experience negative emotional and behavioral reactions. Often we use faulty thinking to come to bad conclusions about ourselves, others, and the world that then severely impact our relationships. Depression, anxiety, and a myriad of relationship problems are all directly connected to our human ability to misperceive things.

Anyway, we learn these things from somewhere and one source of irrational beliefs is from our parents. I was reflecting yesterday on my parents and the things I learned from them about people of color. I was kind of amazed to realize that I do not have a single memory of even one derogatory comment they made about someones skin color or race. Not even one! As far as I can remember I don't think they ever mentioned anything about anyone's skin color ever. Of course they may have made some comments and probably they have some biased beliefs that I don't know about, but even if they do - the fact that I can't remember any seems to be unusual. For them it just wasn't an issue and without trying or being intentional at all they passed onto me a fairly helpful belief; people's skin color is a non-issue.

I have spoken to many friends who did not have a similar experience. They grew up hearing comments about people of different races that were subtly or outwardly antagonistic. Racial jokes and stereotypes right up to racial slurring - or worse. As a child listening to such comments you are affected by them - your first beliefs about those different from you are formed. My parents weren't perfect (as all parents aren't) but I'm very thankful and proud of them for not passing on any racial biases to me. It makes me wonder what my kids will learn from me . . . hopefully they will get a similar message.

I realize that not all people may agree that being color blind in terms of race is a good idea. In one of my cross-cultural classes our professor argued that my lack of racial "awareness" was a liability (as I couldn't feel empathy for those who's racial background makes them subjects of discrimination and powerlessness). What do you think? Not sure I fully agree with that. Yet, I still like the idea of basically treating people the same, no matter what their racial background is. By the way, the painting at the top is called "Color Blind" by artist Habib Ayat.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lunchtime First

Today Jobina and I did something we have never done before in the history of our relationship: She stopped by my work and we went out for lunch. I know, I know, it doesn't sound astounding or anything, but this is something that seemed out of our realm of possibility until recently. It was an impromptu date (gasp) in the middle of a workday! Later I went back to my sessions and she went home to do housework . . . but for a brief half hour we were together as a couple. Eating subs, sharing a drink, talking about our day, laughing about the children. It was sweet and simple. I share our little experience (and my surprise at how meaningful and special it was) simply to inspire or encourage any other married people out there to seize such small opportunities when they present themselves. Look out for them, take advantage of them, and savor them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009