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Einstein on a Happy Life

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” — Albert Einstein

I love quotes.  Great quotes pack a lot of power and wisdom in a small package, and when this one came across my email last week It really got me thinking.  This is pretty interesting advice on life coming from one of history’s greatest thinkers.

Some of our happiness is tied to people and that’s a good thing.   If we’re accomplishing our goals but have neglected our relationships to the point that we have nobody to celebrate them with, then we’ve missed the mark.   But we can’t tie our happiness solely to others, as we can’t control their feelings and responses, as much as we might like to.   We can control our actions and our aims, and a focus on inspiring goals can help us live happier, more fulfilled lives.

So how can we be more like Einstein and focus on goals?

Set long-term goals that can excite you. If you can read a printed statement of your goal and not feel energized or inspired, then you’re not on the right track.  You’ve got to feel something.  You might feel scared or intimidated because it’s a big goal you’ve set, but feeling nothing is a sign that the goal isn’t connected with your heart’s core and it won’t spark the excitement or fear that is necessary to get you moving each and every day toward that goal.

Set short-term goals along the way. If you only see the horizon, even if you’re making progress, it is easy to feel stuck.   You’ve got to find a way to make the process feel like progress, and the best way I know to do that is to set out some short-term goals.  Becoming completely debt-free may be inspiring, but it may take years.  How can you recognize and celebrate each time you pay off an account or make a payment milestone?

Remind yourself of this goal daily.   Daily reminders of your goals help train your mind to look for opportunities to make progress, and are an immunization against the struggles you will inevitably come across.  How can you put this goal somewhere you will see it each and every day?  Tape it to your bathroom mirror?  Your front door?  Find a way to focus your mind on your goal for a few seconds each day.

Celebrate the wins. How will you celebrate each milestone?  How can you recognize and reward yousrelf for the effort and sacrifices that you’ve made to reach the final goal?  Celebrating the steps along the way will provide more fuel to the fire and help you reach the ultimate goal more quickly.

What are your thoughts as you read Einstein’s Quote?  What has helped you live a happy life?

Making the Most of your Holiday Travel Budget

If you’re like many Americans, you’ll be traveling to visit family and friends during the upcoming holiday season.  Holiday Travel seems to have become more stressful as I’ve gotten older, and certainly now that we have a toddler eager to walk and explore the world.

Growing up in South Louisiana, holiday travel was about driving to visit my mother’s parents, but now it’s about flying to Chicago to visit my wife’s family.  Here are a few tips on how you can make the most of your family time, and save some money in the process.

  • Skip the Hotel and stay with Family or Friends. – One travel expense we never incurr during the holidays is that of a hotel room.  It’s an easy expense to avoid when the point of our trip is to spend time with family and have our daughter get to know her cousins.  While it would be nice to have our own space from time to time, we get so much more family time in by staying with family members than we would otherwise.
  • If Flying – avoid flying on the prime travel days. We often fly up for Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving morning.  This works out quite well with my wife’s family events, and we arrive at her aunt’s home with time to spare, and having saved some money and had a far less stressful flying experience by avoiding the day before’s crowds and struggles.  This same logic applies for return flights, where returning on Monday instead of Sunday saves us both money and headaches at the airport.
  • If Driving – check your tires and tire pressure.  According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics 91% of long-distance travel during the holiday season is by car.  It’s easy to overlook, but the two easiest safety checks you can perform on your car are to check the tire tread and tire pressure.  If your tires are worn or have cracks or other damage, it’s far better to replace them before a trip than deal with your tire jack on the side of the interstate.  Checking your tire pressure at the same time can help you get better gas mileage, as well as potentially avoid a major blowout which can be quite dangerous at highway speeds.

Just a few simple thoughts can help you have a safer and more enjoyable holiday season. How do you plan to spend your holidays?

Top Posts for October 2011

October was an incredible month for me and Upperline.  I was honored to be included as part of the inaugural New Orleans CityBusiness Class of Top Financial Professionals.

Below are the 10 most viewed posts on the Upperline Financial Planning blog in October.

 

 

Wordle.net – word cloud of top posts in October

  1. Earn More by Making the Most of your Benefits at Work
  2. My 6 Favorite Business iPad Apps
  3. Baby Steps Aren’t Just for Babies
  4. Refinancing – the Silver Lining of the Uncertain Markets
  5. New Orleans – #1 City for Young Entrepreneurs
  6. 6 Tips for Refinancing Your Home – Financial Rules of Thumb Series
  7. Is Your Identity Safe? National Protect Your Identity Week
  8. 7 Financial Tips for Newlyweds
  9. Financial Rules of Thumb – A Planner’s Perspective
  10. A Difference Between an Employee and an Entrepreneur

Baby Steps Aren’t Just for Babies

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, or following my personal account on Twitter (@HJudeBoudreaux), you know how much I’ve loved watching my 13 month old daughter grow.  It has been an incredible experience.   Now, she’s starting to walk and explore her world in a new way.  I often find myself reflecting on the lessons I seem to be learning from her every day.

  • Big progress comes from small lessons.  She’s a pretty good walker for being 13 months old, and I saw that progress happen organically.  It might feel like it happened in a flash but it was a series of steps from rolling over, to kneeling, crawling, standing, and then walking holding on to things.
  • Clap for yourself.  Every new task learned is met with incredible enthusiasm from my wife and I.  It’s wonderful to see her smile and take pride in the new things she’s learning.  She’s learned to clap and is quick to give herself some applause when she finally conquers a new task.
  • You’re going to fall down. A lot.  Just because she’s done something once doesn’t mean that she can sit down and do it again.  Sometimes she gets frustrated with that (sorry honey, you get that from me), but most of the time she simply picks herself up and tries again.
  • It’s ok to ask for help.  She’s finally reaching the age where she understands she can ask for help with things, and I’m glad to help her.  She watches intently and while she’s got the attention span of a 13 month old I can see her trying to do the things that I’ve shown her.

I see her doing the above things over and over, and it’s wonderful to watch as a parent.  My wife and I are patient and supportive of her as she plays and explores.

Yet, I have no patience for myself with my own growth and exploration.  

I’m naturally a long-term thinker, which is a wonderful thing to have in your financial planner.  It does drive me crazy that the future that I envision doesn’t quickly happen.  It frustrates me to no end when I can’t pick up a new piece of software and instantly be an expert at it.

So, starting today I’m going to be mindful of these 3 lessons I’ve learned from my daughter and try to apply them to my business and my life.

  1. Take a small step.  It’s really easy to lose sight of this in our financial lives.  It’s natural to want to search for large changes, but those large changes often come from small steps.  Where can you take a small, meaningful step in your financial life towards something worthwhile?
  2. Who can help?  Is there a mentor, friend, or family member that can help you learn that new behavior?  Can you and your partner help each other learn and grow together?
  3. Celebrate the wins.  When I was involved with the Entrepreneur’s Organization Accelerator program, Scott Fritz would remind us at the end of every meeting (and regularly within our companies) to celebrate the wins.  How are you celebrating the milestones that you’re reaching?  Give yourself some applause!
What baby steps can you take today to continue your growth as a person?  

 

Financial Rules of Thumb Series – How Much Should My Car Payment Be?

[This post is part of the Financial Rules of Thumb series.  Check out the rest here!]

I’ve heard the financial rule of thumb:  “All Vehicle Payments should be Less than 15% of your take home pay.”

The Upperline: I don’t think it really matters whether you buy a new or used car, or what percentage of your take home pay it costs.

I think it’s far more important that you know
-How much you’re spending
-What your goals are
and
-If this spending supports your goals.

This feels like a rather unnecessary rule of thumb to me, and it reminds me of the reason I think people don’t often visit financial planners.

Jude’s theory – People don’t visit financial planners because they think they’re going to be told they can’t spend money on something important to them.

Yet here’s the thing.  It’s YOUR money.  You work hard to earn it, and I think you should spend it on whatever you like, as long as you’re conscious of the choices you’re making and you understand the tradeoffs.

From a pure dollars and cents standpoint, there’s probably some value to the two rules above.  Problem is, I rarely meet people that make purely numbers-driven financial decisions.  If you’ve got your finances well under control, and are saving the amounts you want for your goals, and the car of your dreams is going to cost you 20% of your take home pay, then who is to say you shouldn’t spend that money?

If your car is important to you because you -

a) have a long commute

b) always wanted a nice car

c) any other reason you can think of -

then I think that’s exactly what you should spend your money on, as long as you can afford it within your overall household spending.

Some other things to think about:

  • Once you’re done making the payments on a car (or any other loan), continue paying that money to yourself.  You’ve got the payments built into your budget, so start directing that money towards a new goal.
  • Leasing a car isn’t an inherently bad decision. I can hear some financial planners cringing as I type this.  If you want to try out a new car before you buy it, don’t drive a ton of miles, and like new cars, then leasing has a lot of pluses (including some nice tax features if you own your own business).  I’m particularly fond of lease takeovers, where you can assume a lease from somebody that wants to exit a lease.  Swapalease.com is a personal favorite.

What financial tips would you give somebody thinking about buying a car?

Is Your Identity Safe? National Protect Your Identity Week

This week is National Protect Your Identity Week, and while I’m sure every week is a national week of one kind or another, this is a good reminder to take steps to protect your identity.

They’ve got a great quiz on their website that can help you more easily understand the warning signs and risk factors for identity theft.  I enjoyed the quiz and took away a few important points as a new parent.

  • Children are at risk for Identity Theft.  They’ve got a new Social Security Number, a clean slate from a credit standpoint, and are good targets for identity theft.
  • Identity Theft could happen, even before birth.  The Social Security Administration simply issues new Social Security Numbers, they don’t check to find out if they’ve been used fraudulently by someone.  (There’s a great free tool to run a quick scan for your child - https://www.allclearid.com/child).
  • Keep your usernames and passwords secure, and use different passwords as much as possible.  I know this is a huge hassle, but if a website gets breached and it’s the same username and password that you use for multiple sites, you’ll need to change your password for multiple sites.  It helps if you use a tool like 1Password or LastPass to generate complex passwords, and store them on your computer with an encrypted keychain.  That all sounds a lot more complex than it is, I promise.
  • Check your credit reports regularly.  You can get free credit reports every year from each of the major credit reporting bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.  Put a reminder in your calendar to pull one every 4 months and it will help you stay aware of what’s happening with your credit life.
Take a few simple steps today, and protect your identity!

New Orleans – #1 City for Young Entrepreneurs

In case you haven’t seen it, New Orleans is the #1 City for Young Entrepreneurs according to this recent survey.  I agree with everything in the article (except for the Bourbon Street sign in the picture).

I’ve watched entrepreneurship in New Orleans explode since Katrina, and I think it’s because of the 4 C’s I’ve listed below

  • Culture – If you’re a young professional, there’s just a lot going on here.  You can live in a vibrant urban environment with lots of history, and frequent cultural events including one of the most vibrant music scenes in the United States.
  • Cost of Living – Compared to many of the other cities on the list, the cost of living downtown in New Orleans is a fraction of what it would be in New York or Chicago.  If you prefer a more suburban lifestyle, close-in suburbs like Metairie provide easy access and short commutes.  You can even split the difference in a neighborhood like Lakeview, or the more bohemian Mid-City and be minutes from downtown.
  • Community – There’s an amazing entrepreneurial community here.  All you have to do is visit a place like LaunchPad and see the list of companies that are using the co-working space to launch and you get an immediate sense of what’s going on here.  Others are here to share your struggle, share experiences, and connect you with other entrepreneurs so we can all grow together.
  • (tax) Credits – Ok, so I had to work that one a bit to make it fit.  However, there’s no underestimating the impact that the targeted tax credits have had here.  Digital Media & Software, Film, and other programs have creative, cutting edge companies setting up shop in Louisiana and bringing 21st century jobs with them.  That’s to say nothing of the Historic Preservation tax credits that help us maintain so much of what makes us unique as a city, and the Solar Power Tax Credits that makes us one of the leading solar cities in the nation.
I’m proud to be part of the entrepreneurial community in New Orleans, and to support other local businesses.  If you want to meet more of the entrepreneurs that are fueling this movement and celebrate 10 years of the Urban Conservancy’s Stay Local project, check out their fundraiser that is happening on Saturday the 22nd (More details are on the StayLocal website).  It’s a worthwhile cause, and I hope to see you there!

Refinancing – the Silver Lining of the Uncertain Markets

If you haven’t already, you might want to explore refinancing your home.  With all of the uncertainty in the markets, people and institutions are stocking up on US Treasury Bonds, which has the side-effect of lowering mortgage rates.  Mortgage rates have hit a new record low, and that could mean a huge benefit for your pocketbook in the form of a shorter mortgage or a lower monthly payment.

I can already hear you saying, “but it’s such a huge hassle to deal with all of the paperwork and the closing process!”

Today, it’s worth the hassle to explore your options.  Here’s a quck example to illustrate what a great deal this can be for you:

 

 

 

That’s $148.51 per month and $53,465.69 over the life of the loan in this example.

Now read my article on 6 tips for refinancing your home and contact your banker to get the process started today.  Then, use the money you save on something worthwhile like building your emergency fund, saving for you retirement, or something that might help with all of those areas like hiring a financial planner.

Earn More by Making the Most of your Benefits at Work

It’s that time of year again, when your Human Resources managers distribute large booklets of information and ask you to make choices about your benefits for next year.  It’s never a fun task to read through all of that material, but it can have a real impact on your personal bottom line when you make good choices.

Benefits are a huge part of your total compensation.

How much?

Would you believe 30%?  That’s the amount, according to this recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That’s a huge amount, and you can’t afford to not pay attention to those.  Most of the companies we have worked with here in New Orleans offer great benefits, and they want their employees to make the most of these for their and their family’s benefit.  Here are 6 things to think about while you make your choices.

  1. Make the right choice for you and your family for your health insurance.  Most employers offer several options for their health insurance plans.  Look at the different options, and learn about some of the newer choices like Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSAs).  Once you understand the moving parts, they can be a great deal and they can save you thousands.
  2. Get a raise by contributing to your retirement plan up to the match (at least).  If your employer offers a match, it’s free money there for the taking.  Make sure you take it. Here’s a previous article I wrote on 401k Matches that provides more specifics.
  3. Don’t assume the life insurance offered is the cheapest option for you.  Most employers offer a basic amount of life insurance that is fully paid by your company.  The supplemental life insurance isn’t always a great deal, however.  If you think you need more life insurance (and are in great health), check the rate offered by your company and search online for quotes.  You might be able to save some money.
  4. If you’re not in great health, the life insurance offered by your company is probably a great deal.  If you’re not sure you’d be able to qualify for life insurance through the traditional underwriting process, grab whatever coverage you can get from your employer.
  5. Check your beneficiaries.  Open Enrollment is a great time to make sure you’ve got your beneficiaries listed properly.  Did you get married?  Divorced?  Have a child?  Make sure your elections are up-to-date and accurate.
  6. Ask an expert.  We offer free employee benefits reviews for anyone, so if you want a second opinion on the options offered by your employer, contact us and let us do some of the heavy lifting.
These 7 simple steps can help you make the most of your benefits.  Do you have any questions about the benefits you’re offered at your workplace?  Contact us and we’re glad to help you find the answers.

Upperline Featured as a StayLocal Success Story

I’m proud to announce that my company Upperline Financial Planning was featured in a great story by Rebecca Mashburn on the Stay Local New Orleans website (click here to read the article).

Stay Local! is a city-wide initiative for creating strong economies based on locally owned and operated businesses. We encourage consumers to shop locally and help independent businesses compete more effectively.  I’m proud to be a supporter.  I’ve written about the importance of buying locally previously here, and I’m glad to see the Stay Local project have so much success in New Orleans.

Let’s all keep supporting our wonderful local businesses here!

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