5 Tips for Getting SMART about Retirement

When you envision retirement, you probably don’t see yourself depending entirely on Social Security as your main source of income. Unfortunately, many people do, and are alarmed at how little money they have to live on in their golden years. Consequently, many seniors are heading back to work for some “financial supplements,” which is also affecting job opportunities for younger people.


It’s time to get SMART about retirement—and here’s a catchy acronym to get you started. The five tips in this acronym will help you develop an investment program now that will give you the financial freedom for later on in life: Start early and Make room in your budget, knowing the growth of your wealth is a function of the Amount you invest, the Rate of return you earn, and the Time period over which you invest.


S—Start early

It is never too early to begin strategically planning for your financial future! If you only take away one thing from this blog, may it be this: beginning your investment program as soon as you start your career should be a top priority. By investing early in a long-term program, you’ll have the best chances of building substantial wealth for your retirement. You might be thinking, “Why now…I’m not retiring for 30 years!” The answer is simple—the power of compounding your returns over many years is enormous. Here’s an example:


If Brad invests $2,000 per year at a 7% return from age 18 to 27 and lets it grow at that rate until he’s 65, he’ll have a much larger nest egg than Madison, who waits until age 31 to start investing $2,000 each year until age 65. That’s right! Brad’s $20,000 produced greater wealth than Madison’s $70,000! So, start investing ASAP!


M—Make room

With money, come choices and tradeoffs. Each time we buy now, we lose the opportunity to buy something of even greater value in the future. It takes self discipline to resist the now for the sake of the future. There’s no getting around that making room in your monthly budget to invest is the only way to build assets for your future.


A-the AMOUNT you invest (more is merrier)

The more you invest, the greater (and sooner) your wealth will grow. Strive to invest at least 15% of your income for your retirement, and take this amount into account for your monthly budgets (while considering your employer’s plan). By doing so, you’ll significantly supplement your Social Security income. If you want a retirement lifestyle similar to your career years, you simply have no choice.


R-the RATE of your return (higher is happier)

It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. The higher the percentage rate of return after expenses, the greater the wealth you’ll build. Develop a well-diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds that fits your risk profile and beats inflation. The earlier you start, the greater risk you can afford to take and the more wealth you’ll accumulate.


T-the TIME period over which you invest (longer is better)

Remember, it’s a snowball effect. The longer the time period that you invest, the more wealth you will accrue. A $10,000 investment with a 7% return grows to over $76,000 in 30 years. That same investment is worth only about $20,000 in 10 years. Make sure time is on your side!



Being SMART about your retirement takes discipline, but the impact is astounding!


In what ways have you begun planning for your retirement? Have you followed these SMART steps? What challenges or obstacles have your run into? We welcome all of your questions, comments, and suggestions!


3 Ground Rules for Playing the Dating Game

Why does “The Bachelor” have such a rabid following? It’s beyond me, but it sure appeals to lots of people! Maybe it’s because people know the drama of trying to find that “special someone,” and watching someone else go through it has a kind of vicarious romantic appeal (without the heartache, of course!). Whatever the reason, it’s a big hit.



Dating can be the best of worlds and the worst of worlds, particularly for young adults. There are so many new, fun, and interesting people to meet as one’s circles expand, but it’s also a mystery because you never know what will become of the people you meet. I recall feeling like I was on an emotional roller coaster at Six Flags at that stage of life wondering if she was Mrs. Right. Yes, I, Mr. Analytic, even lost his objectivity from time to time. It never worked.



Do you (or does the teen/young adult in your life) have a random or a strategic mindset when it comes to dating?




Although true love can happen opportunistically (e.g., when my college sweetheart and I were successfully matched at a computer dance!), it pays to lay down some personal ground rules in your dating life.  One way is to become a “3D dater!” Seriously! Here’s what I mean by “3D”:



Be Discriminating


Be highly selective with your choices of dates. Sadly, so many people define their self worth by whether they’re dating someone that they “date for dating sake” and often compromise their values along the way. It always pays to be choosy by focusing on people who share similar interests, values, and goals.




 Be Discerning


Be wise when you date. Many approach dating so impulsively and emotionally that they simply don’t think clearly. Understand what you want in a relationship, like your goals and expectations, and have the courage to move on if it’s not a great fit. Also, avoid placing yourself in “high risk” situations with people you don’t completely trust.




Be Deliberate


Be patient. This is often the hardest thing to do when the infatuation is intense (or when a computer matches you!). However, if the relationship is truly meant to be, it needn’t be rushed. If you’re feeling pressured, have the strength and self respect to put on the brakes. If they’re not willing to, they’re probably not the best choice for the long term and you’re only delaying the inevitable.



By being a 3D dater, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success rather than settling for short-term, superficial gratification that’s so common today. You’re much more likely to find Mr. or Mrs. Right with fewer peaks and valleys (and heartaches) along the way!




As you reflect on any dating you’ve done in the past, how would you rate yourself along the 3D dimensions? If you are a parent or youth mentor, how can you communicate what you’ve learned with the young people in your life?


8 Ways to Find Your Purpose

“Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.”

Washington Irving

           What in the world are you doing here?  Ever asked yourself that question?

            Your life purpose is an incredibly powerful force that will direct your life and determine the legacy you will leave behind you. Find a successful person who is content and fulfilled, and you’ll likely find a life guided by an inspired purpose or mission, and a person who has applied his or her unique talents to a worthy cause.

            Knowing your life purpose—what makes you tick, what motivates you, what you are alive on earth to do—is what ignites passion.

            What makes YOU tick … and if you don’t know, how can you find out?

            Passion inspires initiative and creativity. It’s what builds momentum and creates enthusiasm. It also sustains hope and perseverance in difficult times, and provides a reason (and enthusiasm!) for getting out of bed every morning. However, it’s not always easy to identify what your particular passion is.

            Life purposes can be cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers).

            How can you discover your life purpose(s)? Here are eight questions to ask yourself that can help you figure it out:

1.     What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?

2.     What problems would I most like to solve?

3.      What needs or people tug at my heart?

4.     What inspires me the most?

5.     What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?

6.     Whose lives would I most like to emulate and why?

7.     What are my special gifts and talents?

8.     Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?

            Once you ponder these questions, see if a picture emerges about what inspires and motivates you. Then, as that picture solidifies into an identifiable sense of purpose, calling, and passion, start thinking about how you can live it out. Keep in mind that there may be more than one, and that it may evolve or change over your lifetime.

            Whatever you do, don’t set your life purpose on a shelf and forget about it. You are a unique individual with gifts, talents, and perspective only YOU can give to the world.  No amount of money, fame, or accomplishment can ever compete with that!

Someday, you’ll want to be able to look back on your life and say, “Mission accomplished!” What’s your mission? Are you living it out with purpose and passion? Please visit us on our website and share your comments;  we’d love to hear from you!