New Upcoming Thrive Course

They say “when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.” For many, they’ve needed a teacher for quite some time. I created the Thrive, Don’t Just Survive series to help people get unstuck in their lives. Like a good ninja, sometimes a LITTLE training goes a LONG way!

We sometimes think that if we ignore something long enough, the problem will disappear… Or if we keep doing things that aren’t working eventually they’ll just work themselves out. Many times, we also surrender when we get stuck. Instead of seeking help, we go it alone, and much of the time it isn’t pretty!

Thrive Don’t Just Survive 4-Week Intensive Training

So along comes the Thrive, Don’t Just Survive course that begins on Tuesday, May 4th. This is a four week course followed by 12 months of coaching. This is my answer to helping people make financial progress.

Here is a link for more information.

The first course taught in March was nothing short of amazing.  I helped others begin to thrive in their marriages, their spirtual lives, their businesses, and their finances.  I saw, firsthand, God perform quite a few miracles during  my time with students. Here are a few of the comments from the first class:

“I love the fact that this is a Bible-Based program and that Jay is a reader, teacher and doer of the Word of God. He is a motivator, encourager and has a personal interest in the success of each person that wants to Thrive and not just Survive. The relationship with Jay has gone beyond great webcast teaching, documents and exercises. I count it a blessing to know Jay! God has orchestrated this opportunity with Jay as one of the means to fulfilling God’s purpose for success in my financial life.” – B.F.

“This program has given me and my husband an opportunity to discuss financial issues in a new way. We have had many useful discussions based on the exercises, clearing up some misunderstanding and confusion we were not aware of. It’s so helpful getting financial advice that doesn’t conflict with our basic principles. We look forward to sharing the blessings that we hope will sprout from the seeds we are planting in this process. Thank you for all the thoughtful planning and time you have put in to this. It’s nice to see someone put their heart into their work.” – L.W.

“These 4 weeks have opened our minds to Kingdom finances; tithing, saving, debt, investing, insurance, etc.” – R. H.

“This is an excellent program. Jay’s presentation is very clear and precise.”- L.H.

“Throughout his presentations, I can see that Jay is truly putting God in the center of his financial planning and management. This is what I want for myself also. I feel very comfortable in communicating with Jay and learning from him.” – S.S.

For more information

Do You have “Too Many Irons in the Fire”?

There is an old saying, “Too many irons in the fire” which originally described the blacksmith trade. When working with iron and fire, if the iron was “too cold”, the blacksmith would have to pound twice as hard to get half the work done.  Yet, if the iron was “too hot”, the metal would either melt or disintegrate, making it worthless to the blacksmith.  The problem for the blacksmith was if he had “too many irons in the fire”, he had difficulty keeping up with each piece of iron to know whether or not it was at the optimal temperature.

“Irons” in the life of a Christ-follower can look many different ways: 

*Your work or business

*Your marriage

*Your family and friends

*Your church

*Your community

*On and on… 

How do you balance the many demands of your life?  If you take on “too much”, you often become ineffective.  Too many balls in the air and the juggler sees them all come crashing down.  However, if we instead, choose to not get involved in anything, we become sheltered and isolated.  So how do you set priorities in your overall life?  In each part of your life?

Take for example your finances:  you may have several goals: getting out debt, saving more, investing for financial freedom, saving for the kids’ education, on and on… How do you prioritize and create an action plan?  With any portion of your life try using these six steps to get from where you are today to where you want to be:

  1. PROJECT YOUR GOALS: Where do you want to be? If you don’t have an end goal in mind, how will you ever know when you get there?  Sit down, write it out and figure out it exactly where you want to be in one year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc.
  2. APPRAISE WHERE YOU ARE: What do you have currently?  What stage are you at? How close are you to your goals? Without getting a gauge of your current situation, it’s difficult to make progress.

3.   PERFORM A GAP ANALYSIS: What shortages/ problems do you face? What is keeping you from reaching your goals?  Where do you need help?  Often God brings people into our lives at the exact time we need help.  Are you willing to admit you need help and find someone who can help?  In community, we can truly help one another!

4.   CONSIDER OPTIONS: How will you get there? Who can help you?  What resources are available to you?  Often we lack progress because we feel to fully understand all of our options.  Continuing to do the same old things that aren’t working over and over again will not produce different results.

5.   IMPLEMENT STRATEGIES: How will you activate your plan?  A plan is worthless unless you take action.  The best idea in the world is useless until you put it in motion.

6.   TRACK PROGRESS: How will you track your goals to see if you are on track? How will you make the necessary adjustments as obstacles come and go?  Often people take the first step and plan. Yet, many typically have an inefficient process when trials and tribulations approach.  It becomes easy for them to give up easily or when they get off course they can’t find their way back.

Have the courage and persistence to change a little at a time. God is using circumstances in your life today to prepare you for what He has in store.  If you can sit down and prioritize each part of your life and then as a whole, you can become so much more effective at everything that comes your way.  Take time to get good at a few things rather than everything.  Simplify your life.  Say “no” to things you can’t do well or are not adding value in your life.  Develop good habits and focus on building your character.  Most of all find joy in everything you do and do it for God’s glory! We need to be mindful that when we have “too many irons in the fire”, they will all melt and opportunity will slip away!

How many irons do you have in the fire? 

How can you become more effective? 

What can you give up and say “no” to that will free up more time?

Sometimes We Need a Clean Slate

I  was in the car this afternoon and heading to a meeting.  I was in the mood for a little Matthew West and on came “Only Grace”.  I love that song!  The words are so powerful:

“There is no guilt here
There is no shame
No pointing fingers
There is no blame
What happened yesterday…has disappeared
The dirt has washed away
And now it’s clear

There’s only grace
There’s only love
There’s only mercy and believe me it’s enough
Your sins are gone
Without a trace
And there’s nothing left now
There’s only grace”

I met Diane a few years ago. She had been taken advantage of in a business deal by a man who claimed to be a Christian. Because of her painful experience she was stuck in neutral. She was so gunshy she couldn’t move on. Every time she tried to step forward, she’d get in her own way. She’d overthink the scanario and talk herself out of making progress even when it was in her best interest… She allowed herself to continue to play the victim.

Sometimes we keep reliving the past. We focus on all the junk.  Think about all the mistakes you have made in your life. Think long and hard about each and every one of them. Now pause and  forget them all!  Today is a brand new day, a clean slate…

Whether you were burned by the past, are broken and bruised inside,  wounded, burdened, imprisoned, ashamed:  Lay it all down at the foot of the cross. He is calling for you. He wants you to make progress!

You may feel helpless in your marriage, or going through financial  struggles, or deep down depressed, it may feel like the sun will never shine again. Don’t be discouraged, don’t lose hope! There are brighter  days ahead… And just think: it can’t rain every day…becuase we serve a God of love, mercy, and don’t forget grace!

Character Still Counts…

How often do you reflect on your character? I mean really seriously critically evaluate who you are? Not the person others think you are, but the “real” person that God knows you are. A friend of mine once said she often pictures Jesus being in the room and lives her life with that thought. Wow! That can be convicting, but think about it? Shouldn’t we live that way? I mean, if we are true followers of Christ shouldn’t we be living out His character?

Shouldn’t we strive to be more like Him?
• To love the things He loves…
• To have joy helping the poor…
• To lovingly desire to reach lost souls…
• To be more generous with our money & possessions…

I sit here reflecting on my character and how I live out each day. Do I have any regrets today, things I wished I had done differently? Or do I believe I exemplified Christ to the best of my ability today?  

* In the way I interacted with my wife and children
* In how I displayed my character to others
* In the ways I conducted myself in business transactions
* In  how I handled my finances
* In the ways I responded to the blessings God is providing

Does my character exhibit His traits?

Do I reflect His love, mercy, and grace? I get to the end of myself and thank Him that we have such a strong example of character –someone to truly emulate! We can try to be more like Hollywood, more like sports stars, even more like spiritual leaders, but unless our measuring stick centers around Christ, our character will lack His completeness! Man always falls short of His glory. In a broken world filled with sin and destruction, today when the end of the world as we know seems closer than ever before, we can still have confidence that character counts!

What are your thoughts?

Read This Before You Purchase an Annuity

From my article at MoneySmartRadio.com

Matthew Sapaula  is a great radio host in the Chicago area.  He’s one of those positive, uplifting, wise, and helpful kind of guys we should all surround ourselves with.  He recently featured a conversation we had about annuities at his site.  Check it out!  

What mistakes do investors often make when they look at annuities?

Most of the money gurus attack annuities.  For the most part the criticisms are justified. After all, when you look at the fee structure, commission incentives for agents, the often lengthy surrender charges, inflexibility, and the many stories about seniors getting taken advantage of because of improper annuity sales, it’s easy to see why they get such a bad rap.

 There are two main types of annuities: fixed and variable. In a fixed annuity, your money grows at a fixed rate usually determined by current interest rates. Another variation of the fixed annuity is an indexed annuity which ties your interest to an index like the S&P500 or Dow Jones.  You usually have a cap (maximum you can earn) and a floor (lowest return you could achieve). A variable annuity, on the other hand, allows investors to participate in mutual fund-like subaccounts. The assets in a subaccount may be allocated across a mix of stocks, bonds and money market funds. 

Let’s look at six of the biggest mistakes investors make when they choose an annuity.

Mistake 1: Underestimating variable annuity fees

In addition to high commissions, variable annuities have high costs compared to many other investments. These expenses essentially guarantee you won‘t achieve a reasonable long-term rate of return. It‘s like you have a ball and chain!

Here’s a typical expense structure:  

Mortality and Expense Charge 1.50% 

Sub Account Management Fees 1.00% 

Unreported trading costs 0.78% 

Annual Administrative Expenses 0.15% 

TOTAL EXPENSES 3.43%  

  

Mistake #2: Tying money up for years 

Many annuities (fixed and variable) have surrender periods ranging from 3 years to 15 years or longer.  The typical surrender period is seven years! This means your money is tied up! If you want to sell your annuity, you will pay dearly. For example look at a typical surrender schedule on a 7 year annuity: 

Surrender Schedule 

  

Year 1: 8%  

Year 2: 7%  

Year 3: 6%  

Year 4: 5%  

Year 5: 4%  

Year 6: 3%  

Year 7: 2% 

  

This means on a $100,000 investment you may have to pay $2,000 to $8,000 or more to sell your annuity. Talk about inflexible! Yes, most annuities do allow you to withdraw up to 10% per year without penalties, however, you can never completely cash out until the surrender period expires. In the investment world seven years is a long time and things change rapidly. Being stuck in an expensive annuity is not a place you want to remain in limbo. 

  

Mistake # 3: Not reading the fine print 

For most investors, annuities are quite complex investments. Between knowing what a subaccount is, how living and/or death benefits work, surrender schedules and fees, withdrawal options, living benefits, how cap rates work, on and on. Fixed and variable annuities are often so complex that even the advisors who sell them truly don‘t fully understand what they‘re selling. The prospectus that comes with an annuity is often filled with legal jargon galore! 

Mistake # 4: Underestimating inflation.  

Many investors choose fixed annuities instead of the variable option. In a fixed annuity, your money grows at a fixed rate. At first that kind of financial predictability sounds wonderful, but there are two problems that come with it. One, your rate of return might be meager compared to what you could earn in the stock market. Two, inflation is going to make that fixed return worth less and less with the passing years, unless you pay (possibly through the teeth) to have the rate of return adjusted. 

Mistake # 5: Relying on a variable income guarantee 

Many variable annuities let you benefit from stock market gains while shielding you against stock market losses. In the past, many have offered the annuity holder at least a minimum rate of return (a GMIB, or Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit). Many have also offered guarantees that the annuity value will not dip below the value of the initial principal (a GMAB, or Guaranteed Minimum Accumulation Benefit). Be very careful that you understand how these benefits work and what strings are attached.  These benefits often come with a high price tag and require that you follow a ton of rules to take advantage of the benefits. 

Mistake # 6:  Thinking an index annuity will perform better than the market 

Equity Indexed annuities are not necessarily all they’re cracked up to be. They are a class of fixed annuity that is linked to the performance of a stock market index, commonly the S&P 500. An EIA has a guaranteed minimum rate of return (guaranteed by the insurance company, not the FDIC), and it gives you a chance to capture some of the stock market gains. That’s the upside. (On the whole, EIAs are not designed to beat the stock market; they are basically designed to perform a little bit better than the fixed markets.) Many investors assume they get all of the good side of the markets with none of the bad.  Often I have found that the average return and investor gets with an indexed annuity is more in line with the bond market than the stock market because of the annual caps set by the insurance company issuing the annuity.  For example, the cap may be set at 8 percent and that is the maximum you can earn that year.  The market may be up 20, but you will only earn a maximum of 8.  This cap limits your long-term rate of return.As you can see, annuities are quite complex and often confusing.  They offer many benefits but you need to fully understand what you’re getting and know the benefits along with the limitations.  Before investing in annuity always get a second opinion and read the fine print carefully.  As with any investment, buyers beware!

Pretending to be Perfect

The Secret Side of Me

Was listening to Monster by Skillet this morning and it got me thinking as I heard:

“The secret side of me, I never let you see
I keep it caged but I can’t control it
So stay away from me, the beast is ugly
I feel the rage and I just can’t hold it”

How often do we pretend to be something we’re not?  Often as Christians, we don’t want to open ourselves up and show the world who we really are.   We fear isolation, judgment, criticism, disappointment, etc…  Yet, we are all imperfect!  But we can’t let everyone else know.  So we keep it bottled inside and hide the truth because no one else will understand.

We pretend our finances are perfect…

We pretend our marriage is perfect…

We pretend our spiritual lives are perfect…

We pretend our business or career is perfect…

Yet we are dying inside! 

It takes a lot out of us to pretend and live a lie.  Why do we try to hide all of our imperfections? Why do we insist on wearing a mask to disguise who we really are?  What, if instead, we were brutally honest with one another?  We opened up and exposed who we truly were… What if you built solid relationships based on the “real you” and the not the person you want everyone to see.  How different would our world look?  How different would your friendships look?  How different would your life look?  You might just find that you’re not alone.  In fact, you’d see a ton of masks scattered all over exposing the fact that we are much of the same mold – sinners yet saved by grace and mercy.  

God accepts us for who we are and takes each and every one of us who come to Him!   He will cast aside our imperfections and allows us to follow Him.  He knows who we truly are, shouldn’t others? 

What are your thoughts?

How Will You Edit the Story of Your Life?

I was reading a post at chrisbrogan.com about the importance of  stories in our life.  Chris recently finished a book from Donald  Miller (Blue Like Jazz) called a Million Miles in a Thousand Years   that really moved him. See his video review here.

Eternity is forever but our lives here on earth are like the blink of  an eye. There is a story being told within your life. There are  characters, storylines, plot twists, heroes, and villians. Though you  often cannot change all the variables, you can make changes that  change your future such as:

- start exercising to change your health and longevity
- start a business to change your finances
- start a non-profit to change your community or the world
- start a small group to change your relationship with God and others

You see where I’m going with this. Though you often cannot change every detail of your story you are in control of your destiny…

Donald Miller used to be fat and out of shape. He not only desired to change, he took action. He became interested in the Tour De France. He  didn’t become a spectator. He got into riding himself. He dove in  deep. He got dirty. He lived out his story. He lost weight, got in shape, and forever altered his story.

Last year I packed up my entire life and also changed my story.  I moved out of my comfort zone. By moving from New Hampsire to South Carolina, I left behind everything I ever  knew:  my friends and family, my six figure income, much of my client base, my church, my community, on and on…

I did all this to help start my dream company Faith-Based Investor
With one decision to take action I altered my story. Through the highs 
and lows of change, I have grown spiritually, learned a ton about 
business, made new friends, and taken major steps toward creating my 
ideal life.  This wasn’t the “my ideal life some day” or waiting until what 
the world calls “retirement”. I envisioned what I wanted my story to 
read and I began telling it today.

How about you? What are you waiting for? What can you do to improve 
your story? What steps can you take now? I’d love to hear…