By Joshua Weinstein
I recently turned 40, my eldest daughter moved out, and I stared at the next chapter of my life like a deer blinded by oncoming headlights. I was caught off guard. Instead of remaining paralyzed with fear about how to prepare for the future, I darted to the internet for answers. I found ChooseFI, an amazing website, podcast, and blossoming community focusing on financial independence (FI) and the life-altering effects of making a few incremental changes in your daily routine. Financial independence, defined simply by ChooseFI, is having 25 times my annual expenses saved, such that I’d have enough to cover my ongoing expenses in the event I no longer had an income – whether or not by choice.
How to save that much, though, became puzzling. ChooseFI is where I learned more about savings and safe withdrawal rates, lowering and managing living expenses, tax strategies, easy investment approaches, travel hacks, debt repayment, and more. What began as a complete mystery in my early 40s has since evolved into a passion project and hobby. In the Why of FI, I learned my journey to FI isn’t about deprivation and “missing out” on the way to save. For me, FI became much more. I realized I spent so much time and money on material things, paid services, and events that weren’t adding value and joy to my life. Rather, they were keeping me from increasing joy. There have been many twisted ironies on my journey, such as realizing just how captive I’ve been to mass marketing, rampant consumerism, and the appeal of “buy now” and “pay later” offers that came my way.
In the initial year since my discovery of the FI movement, the payoff has been surprising. Sure, my savings rate is higher and my investments are focused on low-cost, broad-based index funds, but the side effects have been invaluable and somewhat unexpected. To name a few, I have more time for family and friends, I eat at home more often, and I feel more optimistic about the years to come.
I invite you to see what anyone can do, regardless of background, income, or location to achieve Financial Independence. My biggest takeaway – FI isn’t about how much I earn, but how I spend and save.
By Tiffany Stock
Based on a typical full-time work week, the average person spends 47 hours per week with their co-workers. With 168 hours in a full week, that is 28% of your time, compared to an estimated 39% with your family. That is a big chunk of your waking hours, so why not make sure that time is spent with the best “work family” as possible?
Last year, I was introduced to a book called The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni, written as a leadership fable. It teaches you to recognize and cultivate the three essential virtues individuals need to achieve high-functioning, productive teams. This book was an eye opener for me and shed a lot of light on things that I observed over the years in my work-life. While no individual fits the bill 100%, most people find they are stronger in two areas with the other virtue needing a little more work, and certain elements will make some individuals better team players than others.
The premise of the book is that to be an ideal team player, you must possess the following three traits:
Humble – Lacking excessive ego or concern about status. Humble people are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention on their own. They share credit, emphasize the team over self, and define success.
Hungry – Always looking for more: more things to do, more things to learn, more responsibility to take on. Hungry people almost never have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent. They are constantly thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.
Smart – They have common sense about people. Smart people tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. They have good judgement and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impacts of their words and actions. Think of this along the same lines of emotional intelligence.
The book comes with tools for working with people who have strengths and weaknesses in these areas, as well as ways to improve yourself in those virtues. You get access to a self-assessment tool to help score yourself in these areas – what better way to start making sure you’re on a great team than to take a moment to self-reflect? Be honest with yourself, don’t you want to be the best team player you can be? Who doesn’t want their co-workers to speak highly of them and say, *Your Name* is great to work with!?
Needless to say, this book has changed the way I look at myself and the people I work with. It’s come in to play when I am looking for new members to join our team and it’s even filtered over in to my home life and raising my children. I hope this information intrigues you to learn more and become the best team player you can be!
By Teena Applegate
Have a high deductible health plan (HSA qualified) but employees don’t see any value in the plan? Employees aren’t taking advantage of the valuable bank account feature available to them? I thought I would share my personal go-to guides and references that I’m liking and using today!
MyWave Connect® – as our client, you have access to MyWave Connect®. This resource portal is your one-stop source for not just insurance, but all your compliance, HR, wellness and other business needs. Email or call us if you need assistance accessing.
The Complete HSA Guidebook – A shareable guide from HealhEquity, Inc that answers many of your employees’ common questions. Download your free copy here – https://hsaguidebook.com.
With so many resources available to all of us, it’s great to share where we go time and time again. What are your favorite go-to resources you gravitate to daily?
By Nicholas Wiandt
Did you leave the lights on when you left the house this morning? What about the bathroom sink, is the water still running? In our lives, we can inadvertently create or forget issues that can cause a financial drain of some sort. Some drains can be relatively minor in nature, and therefore not worth the time to hunt out and address. Other drains though can have life-crippling effects.
The same is true of business. We can spend a great deal of time chasing down nickels and dimes, squeezing suppliers, examining P&L, watching overtime, and keeping a keen eye on tangible expenses. The tangible expenses are the obvious ones though. They are easy to focus on because it is easy to quantify the actual cost and put it on a spreadsheet. As a result, it is also very easy to be completely oblivious to the hidden costs, let alone to quantify them.
The cost of employee turnover can be just one of those costs. Why? When an employee leaves a company, good or bad, a void is created. As Albert Einstein has taught us, E=mc2, or more directly, it takes energy to create matter. In the case of our business, we will need to fill the resulting void with something (i.e. matter, or another employee). To do so will take energy, and with energy comes a cost. What kind of cost are we talking about?
The consensus amongst studies on this question is that multiple realities come to fruition as we deal with the aftermath of our void. With the loss of an employee, we need to funnel the remaining workload to other workers. This will likely result in a loss of productivity, increased payroll expenses, or both. That is, of course, if we are fortunate enough to not lose business as a result. Then there is the cost of seeking out a suitable replacement, training that replacement, and the time it takes them to get fully up to speed. Not all voids are created equal. With employee turnover, the effect of the issues only increases with the skills or profession of the departing employee the
So, in real terms, what does all of this mean for cost? The rule of thumb is that this hidden cost can be quantified as a percentage of annual salary. The percentage for a lower skilled employee hovers around 30%, a moderately skilled one would be around 60%, while a very high skilled professional would 150% or more! This expense, or unrealized profit, can quickly add up into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
Not all businesses are plagued with this issue though. Some have examined where they stand in relation to best practices, and have decided to purposely move the needle in a more profitable and growth friendly direction. If, upon examination, you feel that there is a crippling issue preventing you from reaching your goals in a timely manner, then perhaps it is time to think about a change. Eliminating all employee turnover is never a realistic or business-healthy goal; however, huge profits are possible just by getting in line with industry standards. I encourage you: buy out the time and see exactly where your business stands.
By Natasha Kwachka
The last time you called a customer service line, what was your experience? Were you greeted by an eager representative ready to help solve your problems? Or did you yell “CUSTOMER SERVICE” into your phone repeatedly until you heard “I’m having a hard time understanding you, let me get you to a representative” and were forwarded to a queue? Is this, the elevator music and the robotic voice reassuring you every three minutes that you’re next in the queue, the customer experience of the future?
While some believe Artificial Intelligence will replace everyone, others question if customer service can ever be replaced. I came across this article that explains the perils of trying to replace customer service with automation. Take a look, and let us know what you think!
By Aimee Johnson
Projects = that vague, looming, hanging over your head, stressful, time consuming thing we all dread, but are faced with in our personal and professional lives on a regular basis.
I have a tendency to allow myself to spiral or think of the next project I need to complete before I even have a chance to finish the current project at hand! This causes unnecessary stress and can negatively affect the quality and desired outcome. I refer to this as “The Raven Effect” as raven’s are attracted to shiny objects and can become easily distracted. Yes, that’s me – a raven. See what happened there? Ok, back on topic.
Here are five things to get you off on the right foot:
- END IN MIND – Start with what you want to accomplish, defining your desired outcome or goal. Many of us have heard of the phrase “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” Well, in this case, it should be about the destination.
A well-established objective will help you and others stay on track, hold each other accountable, and reach your desired outcome on time and efficiently.
- SET MILESTONES – Once you’ve established your “End in Mind,” the next step would be the plan. What needs to happen prior to the completion of the project? Who needs to complete what? What steps need to be prioritized? Are additional resources needed? Setting a sequence or determining what can be completed simultaneously can move the project along and reduce delays. It is also a good idea to establish due dates and/or expected timelines to complete starting with the goal of when you would like or need the project to be completed.
- WRITE IT DOWN – Accountability can be one of the most difficult and uncomfortable components that can make or break your project. A great plan is a great start, but if you are not willing to hold yourself and/or others involved accountable, you may never reach completion. Worse, in my opinion, you might produce a poor product.
By writing down the project and associated plan, you are making it real. This is your contract and commitment to the project. Don’t be afraid of accountability. It shouldn’t be negative. If used properly, accountability can be a very useful tool to develop skillsets, increase productivity, and improve outcomes.
- MEASURE & REEVALUATE – Don’t be afraid to say an idea or plan didn’t work or needs to change – make necessary adjustments for the benefit of the desired outcome. It is better to address this early on, make the change, and move forward with the next steps.
- ATTITUDE – A positive attitude goes a long way when tackling a project. The project should be worth the process so enjoy yourself and have fun! Be realistic and kind to yourself and others working on the project. We all have strength’s and opportunities that should be embraced and cultivated. Don’t stress yourself out if things don’t go as planned or adjustments need to be made. Be flexible and stay positive! This will make it more enjoyable!
If you feel yourself straying from your plan or becoming “The Raven”, refer to these five items to help get and keep you on track!
By Blanche Sheppard
Working in a collaborative office results in one of the most valuable aspects of a team – sharing knowledge and resources. As a team, you not only lean in when you need help, but also contribute to one another’s personal growth by sharing articles and books you find interesting or helpful.
In our office, Natasha mentioned a book called Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni, recommended to her by someone who called it “life-changing.” Our internal book club is reading another book by Lencioni called The Ideal Team Player. I enjoyed both books, but I focused on one particular theme from both: the necessity of being willing to learn from everyone on your team. Understanding how your employees view the company’s biggest opportunities can be eye opening.
Further personal development research led me to this article from the Harvard Business Review. “Fix the Process, Not the Problem” reviews how a paper company turned around from certain disaster to success by drawing upon the ideas and problem solving of all of their employees, not just the top brass. Sirkin and Stalk describe the company’s evolution from putting out fires to preventing the sparks.
by: Jessica Carlson
Something that I struggled with in the past is having multiple tasks and prioritizing to make sure that I am able to meet my deadlines. One way that I have found to help me keep organized and on task is “Time Blocking.” It sounds simple enough, right? Setting aside a certain amount of time each day is a good start. Nevertheless, with everything else going on around you it can be difficult to stay focused. Here are a few strategies I discovered help me keep on track:
- Set your own deadlines. Even if you are working on something that does not necessarily have a specific end, you can set a goal to get X amount done by Y time. You would be surprised how watching the clock can keep you focused.
- Limit how much time you are spending on tasks. Staring at the same spreadsheet for 8 hours can really fry your brain. Set aside 90 minutes at a time to work on one project. If that means you have to come back to it later in the day and work on it again, that’s ok. You will get twice as much done in the same amount of time over a longer period than if you tried to do it all at once.
- Minimize interruptions. Close out your email, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and/or close your office door. Set aside specific times each day to check and respond to voicemails/emails. Even brief interruptions can throw you off; studies show that it takes around 25 minutes to get back to the original task you were focused on after an interruption.
- Take breaks. I know, it sounds counterproductive. However, working without breaks can lead to a decrease in productivity. Non-stop focus on one thing for hours can leave you drained. You should take at least 15-20 minutes for each 90-minute time period spent working to feel re-energized.
If you are trying to increase your productivity, think about ways you can work smarter, not harder. Your calendar is probably full, so step back and resist the temptation to put in longer hours and pack more into your already busy day.