How to Live a Balanced Life

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Tom Corley’s sixth habit from his book, Rich Habits Poor Habits is:

I will live every day in a state of moderation

The dictionary defines being moderate, as ‘keeping within reasonable or proper limits; not extreme, excessive or intense.’

So, let’s compare successful people and unsuccessful people, at least according to Tom Corley, in terms of their moderate habits:

Successful people moderate their work hours, eating habits, exercise, alcohol intake, television viewing, reading, internet use, phone conversations, emails, text messages, etc. They are even-tempered – slow to anger or excitement. Their moderate mindset puts family, friends, colleagues at ease, which helps improve relationships. Successful people eat, drink, entertain and live moderate lifestyles. They are not extravagant.

Do you spend too much time doing this?

Some of you may be saying, ‘This all sounds rather boring’, but if you want to achieve financial independence then behaving like an unsuccessful person is not going to get you there. According to Tom Corley, unsuccessful people have a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mindset. Their spending patterns are continuously influenced by others. They have no savings or financial safety net. They eat too much, drink too much, overreact to events. They have wild swings in their moods. They live pay day to pay day.

One area in which proponents of FI/RE may diverge from the thinking of Tom Corley is in saving habits. Here, one may choose to be extreme. Maybe not as extreme as Jacob Lund Fisker who I believe takes cold showers and sees food as fuel rather than something to be enjoyed for the taste of it. Extreme though, in the percentage of their savings, which most advocates suggest as 70% or higher. Where Tom Corley’s advice comes in is that in order to achieve such a high savings rate your lifestyle cannot be extravagant, otherwise you will be living beyond your means and your savings won’t be 10%, let alone 70%.

I would like to go back to eating more of this

Starting to consider where your habits might be extreme is an enormous task. I don’t think that anyone who wants to achieve financial independence can be extravagant, but you can choose the areas in your life where you are happy to spend money and those which you are content to forgo. I have a tendency to take things to extremes and have slashed our spending in many areas. If you do have the ability to do this I think that it is a good starting point to work out what is important to you. Currently we are surviving on a mainly vegetarian diet, whereas previous we were eating fish at least once if not twice a week. I have realised that I do miss fish. Not only the taste, but also I feel now that we are eating too much cheese for my liking. I love cheese, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that it doesn’t always love me and if I eat too much I get terrible sinus problems. At the moment I pepper the week with vegan meals, our main staple being curry, which hold the problem at bay. I would love to return to our former pescatarian diet, but I will have to decide where I can make savings from other parts of our budget in order to do so.

Another area where we are now more moderate than before is our choice of holidays. Over the past few years we have been on some lovely holidays where we paid a premium for others to take the strain. One in particular that I remember with fondness was a week cycling in Tuscany. We were met at the airport and taken to our first hotel. Bikes and the cycles routes for each day were provided. All we had to do was leave each morning when we were ready and when we arrived at our destination our bags were there waiting for us. This year we have holidayed in the UK and had two staycations. I admit I am going abroad with my mother next month, but you’re only 50 once and so we’re marking the occasion with a special holiday.

The nub of the issue is to be able to have control over your thoughts and emotions; being able to make rational and calm decisions about how you live your life. Just by reading this blog you are hopefully looking to make changes. I was listening to an episode of Dr Chatterjee’s podcast today and he was saying how choosing just one aspect of your lifestyle to work on can have a knock-on positive effect on other areas of your life. To take one of Tom Corley’s examples, you might worry about how much you drink and want to work on that. If you stop drinking as much you might find it easier to get up in the morning and be more inclined to exercise or to eat a healthy breakfast, as opposed to that fry-up to soak up the alcohol from the night before. You’ll also save money as well. Therefore, if there seem too many things to work on, or you’re not ready to address some of them just yet, make it easier for yourself and choose just one.

So, where do you start if you want to develop more moderate habits? This is an enormous subject, enough for a whole book. In fact, I have recently finished Atomic Habits by James Clear. A really useful guide to developing more positive habits.

If it’s your diet that you struggle with, as many of us do, then have a look at the advice of Dr Chatterjee. Gaining control of your emotions maybe more difficult. A popular solution is meditation and mindfulness. Dr Chatterjee can help here as well as he has a few podcasts on these subjects.

I hope that this has given you some good ideas if you’re struggling to get your spending under control in some areas or if there are areas of your health and wellbeing that you’d like to improve.

That’s all for now. Good luck in bringing a bit of moderation into your life. Hopefully you’ll improve your health and save a bit of money along the way as well.

Building Rich Relationships

Developing good relationships can help you on your path to a rich life

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Do you remember Tom Corley’s ‘Rich Habits’? I introduced you to him back in March. He did a study looking at the differences between rich and poor people and has summarised his findings in this book.

So far we have looked at the following habits:

Number Ten – being master of your emotions. I advised that in order to do this you may want to try meditation, which I have found to be helpful in enabling me to remain calm and take the problems that life throws at me in my stride.

Number Four– exercising and eating healthily – if you are a regular reader of ‘A Simple Life’ you will know that this is one of the things that I try to promote. Tom Corley found that this is also a priority for the rich people in his study.

Number One – how to assess your habits and turn poor habits into rich habits. I should really have started with this one. I listened to Tom Corley being interviewed on the Afford Anything podcast again today, just to remind myself of some of the things that he is saying. He talked about the importance of becoming aware of your habits. He said that many of us have bad habits, but we don’t realise it. Before we make any changes we need to spend time assessing our habits and then think how we can change our bad habits into good habits.

Number Two – defining dreams and creating goals around those dreams – this is basic goal setting. Taking a long term goal and breaking it down into daily habits in order to achieve that goal.

Number Three – investing in yourself- increasing your skills and knowledge – this is what you are doing now by reading this blog, as well as other activities such as reading and listening to podcasts.

In a bid to try to bring some order to these posts, today we are going to look at habit number five – ‘I will seek to build strong relationships with other success-minded people’.

We tend to seek out those who share our habits

Tom Corley believes that rich relationships help lift you up in life, whereas toxic relationships drag you down. Unfortunately, we seek out others who share our habits. Therefore a quick way to try to change our habits is to spend time with those who already have the good habits which we’d like to adopt. By spending time with that group of people they will influence and support you to adopt better habits through the process of peer pressure.

Networking can help you on the road to success, but you have to put in the time and work. You have to be prepared to do things for others even when there is nothing in it for you. You have to make the effort to remember people’s names, learn what is important to them and nurture your relationships. Tom Corley suggests doing this in a very structured and planned way by keeping notes on each of your contacts and reviewing them before you meet up. In some ways this feels quite calculated, but he says that unless you have a very good memory you are not going to remember all of the important things about someone.  

Reading this I was reminded of the advice of Stephen Covey in his ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. He talks about the emotional bank account. Like a financial bank account we make deposits into a relationship and build up a reserve from which we can make withdrawals when we need to. How do you make deposits in your emotional bank account? By being courteous, kind, honest and keeping commitments that you make to people.

This all sounds like good ideas to me, but I am not sure where to find all of these like-minded individuals. The only place that I am truly successful with this is in the blogging world, which is not quite the same as having friends who you can meet up with for lunch. I would therefore welcome any suggestions that you have. Are there people in your circle of friends whose habits you aspire to adopt? How would you go about building your relationship with them? I would love to hear your ideas. And don’t forget, if you want to learn more from Tom Corley then check out his book.

Financial Lessons from David Bach

You may remember that back in May I told you about an interview on Afford Anything with David Bach, when he introduced us to his new financial book, ‘The Latte Factor’. At the time I was hesitant about buying it, but after having some money left over at the end of that month I splashed out. So especially for Dr FIRE, who commented that he would be interested to read my thoughts, here they are….

If you can afford one of these every day, you can afford to save for your future

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The Story

Through the fictional narrative in ‘The Latte Factor’ David Bach explains his simple formula for accumulating wealth slowly. The main character of the book is twenty-something Zoey, who begins to ask her herself what she is doing with her life. Although she works for a large publishing company she has never been outside of the United States. One day she sees a photograph of a boat on a beach, hanging on the wall of a coffee shop. Although she would love to buy the picture she tells her boss, Barbara, that she can’t afford it, as she isn’t good with money. Barbara advises her to speak to Henry, at the coffee shop, who ‘sees things differently’.

Over a period of a few days Zoey makes several trips to the coffee and chats with Henry, who provides her with the financial advice of David Bach. His comments include:

If can afford the latte you can afford this photograph’ i.e. the ‘Latte Factor’.

Slowly David Bach discloses information about Henry and Barbara, who have followed his lessons. By the end of the book Zoey is on a sabbatical on a Greek island, writing travel articles for her magazine and paying regularly into her pension.

Learn David Bach’s three financial lessons

The Lessons

Henry teaches Zoey the three steps to financial freedom:

  1. Pay yourself first – save the first hour of each day’s income into a pension. He shows her how much she would save, with compound interest, over forty years. He tells her to go and enrol in her workplace pension. According to workplacepensions.gov.uk in the UK you are now automatically enrolled on to a pension scheme by your employer if you are over 22 and earn more than £10,000. You pay 5% and your employer pays 3% as a minimum. Therefore to a certain extent the government has already put this in place for you, although it may not be as much as he would recommend.
  2. Don’t budget – make it automatic. He recommends having the money paid into your pension before your wages hit your current account. He doesn’t agree with budgets, which he believes people have trouble sticking to. He says deduct your savings automatically and spend the rest however you wish.
  3. Live Rich Now – I don’t think that I am completely clear what he means by this. I think for Zoey, being young, she has plenty of years for her money to compound, so she can set up her regular payments and still have enough money to live a nice life as long as she gives up those unnecessary items such as the latte and muffin each morning. For those of us who have come to FI/RE late in life it might not be as easy to ‘Live Rich Now’. It also appears to be linked to having accounts where you save for your dreams. Once again this is automatic, saving money into an account for short term goals e.g. buying a house or a special holiday.

Barbara tells Zoey the three ‘Myths of Money’

  1. Make more money and you’ll be rich – most people think they have an income problem. They don’t. They have a spending problem.
  2. It takes money to make money – you don’t need a huge chunk of money to build wealth.
  3. Someone else will take care of you. They won’t, so you need to take care of yourself.

Some more wise words from Barbara are that the wealthy spend their money on things that truly matter to them. The ‘unwealthy’ spend money on frivolous things.

David Bach’s books are USA-focused

Who is this book for?

Almost immediately after finishing this book I bought ‘The Automatic Millionaire‘, also by David Bach, which is in effect a non-fiction version of ‘The Latte Factor’. I thought that it would give me more detail of how to put his recommendations into practice and that would have been the case  had I been an American citizen. It gives a great deal of practical advice, referencing websites and government institutions, but if you don’t live in the United States its usefulness is limited. The same is true of ‘Start Late, Finish Rich’. As someone who has ‘started late’ I thought that this might be the David Bach book for me. In some ways it was, as it gives guidance about supercharging your savings and increasing your income in order to ‘catch up’, if you are middle-aged. Unfortunately, again much of the practical advice is only relevant to an American readership.

On reflection, I therefore think that even though it is a short novel, ‘The Latte Factor’ was enough for me to understand David Bach’s financial advice and consider how I could put it into practice in my own life. For those of you who are reading this article because you are already an avid follower of the FI/RE movement, ‘The Latte Factor’ probably isn’t going to tell you anything new, but if you have a friend or young relative who is struggling with their money, it might be just the thing to make them start thinking how things could be different. For something that you can read in a couple of hours the book isn’t cheap – currently £14 for a paper copy and £8.99 for the Kindle Edition. It also isn’t really a novel about FI/RE, as he talks about retiring in your fifties or sixties. That is slightly early, but this is not a formula for saving hard for five or ten years and ‘retiring’ in your thirties.

If you are reading this and you’re American David Bach’s books will be a lot more relevant to your situation. I would recommend reading ‘The Automatic Millionaire’ if you want and plan to implement his practical advice, particularly if you are in your twenties. If, like me, you’re further on if your ‘life journey’ then try ‘Start Late, Finish Rich’.

Let me know how you get on and what you think.

Investing in Yourself

Tom Corley’s Rich Habit Number Three:

‘I will devote at least thirty minutes each day to increasing my knowledge and improving my skills.’

I am certainly better at the first part of this than the second. If you read one of my early posts you will know that I listen to podcasts several times a week in the car when I am driving to work. These are a mix of financial and life coaching episodes. My favourite financial one at the moment is Meaningful Money which was recommended by A Life Changing Blog. For life coaching I follow Do It Scared and Natalie Bacon.

As well as listening to podcasts I have also started the habit of reading non-fiction books. I have always loved reading, mainly fiction, and used to spend lots of money on books that I read once. Now, as you know, I am a fan of the library, but they don’t always have all of the non-fiction books that I am interested in, so I do treat myself occasionally and buy a few. I keep a list of books that look interesting and try not to impulse buy, but wait a few weeks or months before parting with my hard-earned cash. I then read these in the morning, with my first cup of tea of the day and leave my novels to bedtime.

Mr Simple has excellent DIY skills

When it comes to improving my skills, I can’t say that I am good at that at all. Mr Simple has, over the few years we have had this house, taught himself, mainly via YouTube, several DIY skills. I need to learn from his good example.

A great example of where I can improve is in looking after my car.  When I lived on my own I knew how to do simple tasks on my car, but since I have lived with Mr Simple, and bought a new car, I have become the helpless female. It’s so easy just to let him do things and embarrassingly until recently I didn’t even know how to open the car bonnet.

I have had problems with the oil level over the past few weeks and when I was out and about for work I thought that the oil light stayed on for longer than usual. Instead of ignoring it and then waiting until I got home to ask Mr Simple I got out the owner’s manual, looked up how to test the oil level and impressed myself by actually doing it. The level was fine and I was reassured that I was safe to drive home. It was a very small thing, but it is an amazing feeling when you successfully achieve something new.

A steep learning curve – navigating WordPress

It is like setting up this blog. Working my way through the intricacies of WordPress was challenging at times but fabulous when the blog started to look the way I wanted it to and people actually started reading it and subscribing.

What do you do to invest in yourself every day? Are you continually learning and improving your skills?

There are so many interesting podcasts out there. I would really encourage you to check them out, particularly if you have a long commute or drive for work. It would be great to know about any ones that you follow.

A Mad Dream or an Exciting Goal?

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

This post started out as a look at Rich Habit Number Two in Tom Corley’s book Rich Habits, Poor Habits and has ended up with me coming up with a mad idea for my future.

So, let’s start with what Tom Corley says. The second ‘rich habit’ is:

‘I will Define My Dreams and then create goals around each dream. I will focus on my dream goals every day.’

According to Tom Corley dreams are broad objectives, whereas goals are physical actions. He recommends completing a daily to do list, which you should populate with daily action steps that will help move you towards achieving each one of the goals that, when achieved, will move you closer to realising each one of your dreams.

You should set a specific time in which you will tackle each goal-related action item. He believes that early morning is a good time, as you are least distracted.

Create a vision board to keep you focused

A useful technique to assist you in keeping your dreams in sight is the use of a vision board – a picture of each one of your dreams. Review your progress towards your goals/dreams and adjust your activity accordingly if you are not making progress.

In summary he states that:

Successful people build goals around their dreams.

Unsuccessful people have either not defined their dreams or they give up on their dreams when success does not happen overnight.

All of this is fairly standard stuff when thinking about long term goals, but how many of us actually do it. I have tried to get Mr Simple on board, but I think he believes that it is a bit too ‘pop psychology’ for him. To be fair, he is working towards our goal of having a lovely home, which he works on every day. I do think though that having those dreams really helps with motivation; knowing what you are aiming for. The ability to go that extra mile, to make the decision to walk instead of take the car or put on another jumper instead of turning the heating up, is easier to make if you feel that it is getting you closer to your dream life.

I then moved on to think about popular bloggers and podcasters who have articles/episodes on goal-setting. One of those is the first episode of Ruth Soukup’s ‘Do It Scared’ podcast which recommends setting what she calls ‘stretch goals’. Her method is:

  1. Visualise – dream big
  2. Focus – narrow options to one thing you want to make a reality
  3. Commit – write it down, say it out loud and make it real.
  4. Execute – rearrange your schedule and put your big goals first every single day. You might have to get up half an hour earlier, do a class or go back to school.

You can get her worksheet and listen to the podcast .

Now that’s what I did. Listened again to her podcast. I had already heard it a while ago, but I wanted to revisit it in order to consider in this post. The first time that I thought about my life in five years’ time it was really just the completion of the tasks on which we are already focusing e.g. the house and the garden. I bored myself just writing it.

France – a country full of beautiful villages

Then my mind took a different turn and remembered an old dream that I have had for a long time. When I was 26 I spent five months doing a volunteer project in France and have always loved the country. Since Mr Simple and I have been together we have been going on holiday to France every year. Over that time I have dreamed of having a house in France. I have waivered between just having a holiday home or selling up and moving there. I used to subscribe to three different magazines about life in France and buying properties there, but I found that I spent so much of my time focusing on what could be and this led me to feeling dissatisfied about my current life. I felt that I was dreaming about something that was never going to happen. In my bid to save money I decided to cancel my subscriptions and focus on enjoying where I am rather than wishing I was elsewhere.

Ruth’s advice to dream big led me to think about this again and then when she talked about focusing she suggested choosing the goal that both scares you and excites you the most. I can’t say that any of my initial goals did that. Most of them were very safe, but when I think about living in France it brings me such joy, but the practicalities of doing it scares me. I dream of living somewhere warm. A place where the sun shines for a lot of the year and where I can have breakfast outside. Where you can plan to spend a day hiking and be sure that you won’t have to cancel it because there’s torrential rain in July.

Mr Simple is spending a lot of his time doing this

All of this thinking made me slightly anxious as our focus at the moment is on renovating and decorating our current house. Mr Simple is spending most of his time doing this and we are spending a lot of money on it. If at this point I suggested to him that we sell it I think that he might leave me! Up until now I have thought of this as our forever home and it is a lovely place to live. My question to myself is whether if we don’t ever try living in France will I regret it. On the other hand, if we sell up, move to France then hate it, will we regret selling our current home.

There are no easy answers and it is something with which I think I will have to battle over the next few years. Part of the attraction is that most of our net worth is tied up in our house, whereas if we sold this and invested the money, along with other savings that we have, we could easily live off of the interest.

So what would you do? Sell up and take the risk or play safe and stay put? Do you have any mad dreams for the future? I would love to hear them.