MAKING MINI MONEY MANAGER$

This is a piece I did for The Center for Parenting Education. There are useful tips for parents with young children.

It is well documented that children’s early environment and relationships are essential in setting the stage for their development later in life. This core developmental stage occurs between birth and age seven. It is the beginning of everything. These are the years in which the foundation of a child’s personality and habits develop. It is for these reasons that we need to start early and train our children on money management.

Money management is not just about the numbers. It is a mindset. A basic understanding of what is required, when it’s required, and why it is required are essential in learning how to manage money. Early exposure to these ideas will foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of money, which builds children’s confidence in handling financial matters later on.

Like any other parent, my priority is my children. I am heavily invested in their well-being and future success. As an economist and a financial professional, I hold the view that life planning is financial planning. Let’s face it, there is very little we can do without having money today. Yes, we could go into the wild and grow our own food and live off the land. For most of us, however, this is not a pleasant thought, much less a viable option. It is quite natural, then, that I combine my roles as a parent and an economist. The result is economic and financial education for young children. Teaching children these concepts does not take away from the innocence of childhood. Learning fiscal responsibility is often not discussed in families, pushed aside because it seems too daunting and complex.

If we start embedding in our children practical skills that will serve them in all aspects of their lives, not just in the area of money management, it will not deprive them of their childhood but rather, enrich it. Children under the age of seven are prime candidates for becoming “mini-money managers” in the making. By arming our children with basic decision-making skills, we will be able to establish in them a behavioral pattern that is conducive to thinking twice and making more informed decisions when it comes to handling money.

How do we do this? How do we teach young children who are literally just out of diapers basic economic and financial skills? We can start with the fundamentals. The skills needed to manage their financial life are the same ones they need in every other aspect of their lives. To be effective money managers, there are some essential concepts that children need to know.

Money Management for Children Skill: Understanding Needs vs. Wants

The first concept that children have to learn very early on (and some adults too) is the difference between a want and a need. A need is something you must have; something you cannot live without. A want is something you would like to have, but if you don’t get it, you will be okay. When we expose our children to this concept early on, we are laying the building blocks necessary for financial astuteness and acumen later on. Parents can encourage and build this understanding of wants versus needs in the following ways:

  • When you go shopping, let your child categorize the items you pick up at the supermarket into needs and wants.
  • At the dinner table, talk about the main course as being something you can’t live without and dessert being a “want,” which if you don’t get it, you would still be okay.
  • When you watch TV together and the advertisements come on, bring up the topic for some of the items being advertised. Do you need laundry detergent? Yes. Do you need one that works well? Yes! Do you need one with a pretty box? Not necessarily. The most intense discussion might occur after you ask your child if he needs that toy featured in the commercial. Most children would say yes, they NEED it. If, however, you have been practicing with them the differences between the concepts,you may find more understanding and less insisting. With children,you have to get literal and ask the obvious question to get your point across. You have to show them that even if they don’t get that toy, their life will still be okay. They will survive. There is no grey area at this stage of the game.

 

Money Management for Children Skill: Practicing Decision Making

The second concept that we need to train our children in is how to make a choice. What is the basis of making a decision? If we have a yardstick to work with, then it makes our task of making a decision easier. How do we decide what to get when faced with several options? This can sometimes be a mammoth task even for us grownups. The general yardstick is satisfaction. We want to get the maximum enjoyment or satisfaction from the things we choose. So for children to understand this concept, we say to them “choose the one that you think you will enjoy the most.” To develop the child’s decision making muscle we can start by:

  • Initially give the children two options to choose from. Encourage them to choose the one that they would most enjoy. You have to be careful with the little ones and not overwhelm them with too many alternatives at the outset. Parents can start with everyday items. For instance, let your children choose between an apple or banana, juice or water, cheese or yogurt. When they have had enough practice selecting between two alternatives, you can slowly introduce more options.
  • When children make their choice be sure to praise them on how well they chose. You can never praise them enough for making good choices.
  • Emphasize that people choose the things that would make them the happiest. This is the easiest way to tell children to pick the item that would meet more of their needs and wants. For instance, when they do make a selection, encourage them to talk about why they chose the item they did. This way you can further reinforce the reason(s) they made the decision.

 

Money Management for Children Skill: Delaying Gratification

So far, we have built one concept on another. Once children know the difference between needs and wants and can make a decision based on maximizing their satisfaction, they will then be ready to understand the third concept of delayed gratification.

It is common for parents to give their child a piggy bank and ask them to save. Children who save for a specific purpose are more committed and determined to reach the goal. Kids who don’t have a goal and are just told to save are not as committed to the action. When teaching children the concept of delayed gratification, we have to make it practical and relevant to them. This builds the neural circuits in their brain that allow them to understand that to reach a goal usually something has to be given up now for something better in the future.

The concept of delayed gratification applies more to children ages four years and up. If you start early with the previous concepts, then when you get to this stage of teaching delayed gratification, it will be easier to facilitate. Children learn best by having to go through the process of making these difficult decisions. Some suggestions are:

  • If your child is old enough (usually 5-7 years), you can start giving them a small allowance.
  • Have them do chores to earn money. For instance, they can help you fold towels to earn a few coins. This activity also develops their gross motor skills and you’re getting help. It’s a win-win situation!
  • Let them choose their piggy bank – doing so gives them practice making decisions and develops confidence.
  • Set a goal. Let them start saving to purchase a new toy, a new game, or a movie.
  • As situations arise, they can get experience in giving up something now so that they can have something even better later.

For instance if you go shopping with them and they want some candy or a small toy, let’s say it costs a dollar. Show them what a dollar is and let them know that this item costs that much. If they want to get the item now, they can. But it will mean that they will have one dollar less to buy the item they really want and are saving to purchase. So now they have to make a choice: “Should I get this now? Or wait for something better later?” All their brain circuits are firing! At this stage, it’s an indication of how much they have absorbed of the previous concepts. If they are able to logically think about it and wait, then we are safe to assume that the concepts are taking root. If they fuss only slightly but wait, again progress has been made. If, however, they break down and get the item, then we may have to do some more work.

Money Management for Children Skill: Making Wise Purchases

The fourth concept can be introduced when the third concept has been really understood. When children have understood the idea of delaying gratification, they will be in a better position to budget and spend wisely. After they have done the work of saving, they now need to know how to spend wisely and get the maximum benefit from their hard-earned savings. It is one thing to save; it’s another to use it wisely. Here the concept of ordering preferences comes into play. Again we are building on the previous concepts. The children at this point should be able to rank the items they want to get in order of importance. Also at this stage, the basic concept of price is introduced. Basic math skills of addition and subtraction can be practiced. For instance, if they have saved $50 and want to buy four items which vary in price from $15 to $20, they will need to decide which item is most important and get that first. With your help, they can go down the list until they have spent the $50.

These concepts are the building blocks for raising financially astute children. To ensure that we build strong neural connections, we have to repeat this process early and often. With repetition and integration into daily living, the lessons will be learned, remembered, and internalized. As I mentioned before, managing money goes beyond the physical dollars and cents. It is a mindset. The training for being an effective money manager starts way before they ever touch a dime! It is our job as parents to set the groundwork and to set the wheels in motion so that our children grow up with the necessary skills that will ultimately lead to success in dealing with money and life.

 

Reference: http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/indulgence-values/making-mini-money-manager/

Dr.M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

 

 

For Better or Worse It Is Here to Stay

Technology has one function and that is to do every day normal things faster and easier. It did not invent communication it only facilitates it faster. It did not invent entertainment it just allow…

Source: For Better or Worse It Is Here to Stay

For Better or Worse It Is Here to Stay

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Technology has one function and that is to do every day normal things faster and easier. It did not invent communication it only facilitates it faster. It did not invent entertainment it just allows us greater variety and more access.  Technology is growing leaps and bounds. It’s serving both to simultaneously connect us as well as to strip us of our everyday social skills.

I am part of what I call the transition generation. This is the generation that knows what it was like before the internet. I first used the internet in 1996. I knew the world prior to the proliferation of cell phones, social media and Google. I witness the popularization of the internet and today I live in a world that is fully inundated by a staggering pace of technological progress. I have come to embrace it all. Each new technology enables us to function more effectively, saving both time and money.

Like most things in this world, we can’t escape the dual impact that technology has on society. On the bright side, it has improved the way we live and work.  Working from home, having flexible hours and having the ability to reach a mass audience is something we could not have imagined thirty years ago.  It is changing the business landscape.  Netflix and Uber are excellent examples of creative destruction. It makes life for the consumer a lot easier and more efficient.

 

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While life has indeed been made much easier with all this technological advancement, it also has a dark side. It has left many unemployed and alone.  A lot of jobs have been automated and technological unemployment is growing.  It is expected that in the future, many jobs will be automated and will need only minimal human effort. I believe that there will always be the need for the human factor, but more and more the need for this will be less and less. There is a much debated topic in the economic world. The delegates attending Davos in 2015 cited technology as the main cause of job displacement. A 2013 study from the University of Oxford, by Frey and Osborne, estimated that 47 percent of current U.S. jobs could be automated. Other research and surveys show a more optimistic view where more employment will be created due to technology. The truth of the matter is that no one knows what will really be the outcome. One thing we do know, however, it is that our world will continue to change. There is no slowing down or turning back. The momentum is in place and we have to keep up or be left behind.

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The other downside of technology is that it isolates us while simultaneously connecting us to the world. In her book “Alone Together” Sherry Turkle notes that “We are sacrificing conversation for mere connection” “…So from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship”. On the surface we seem to be more connected but the reality is that people are more alone that ever. Technology is making us socially inept.

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I have consciously limited my children’s exposure to technology. It’s not that I wanted to be mean or clung to some antiquated idea about technology. It was just the opposite.  I wanted to give my girls a chance to really connect with people, places and things. I wanted them to be social and learn to interact in person with people and play games that required them to use their imagination.  I wanted them to have this for a long as possible, to be disconnected and free. I knew once they got plugged in there will be no turning back. I did my best for the last ten years. But, in the last week I realized that I can no longer keep them away from social media and smart phones. Not when all their friends are connecting online and this is the new norm. So as much as I am aware of all the pros and cons of technology I can’t hold it off any longer. I have to concede.  I may have lost this battle, but I am not giving up. I will continue to encourage and strongly suggests offline activities and interactions. I want them to learn to use technology to enrich their lives. I don’t want technology to rule their lives. Wish me luck.

 

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Dr.M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you heard of robo-advisors?

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Technology is changing every industry. It continues to redefine how we live our daily lives. It has changed the way we consume entertainment, how we shop, how we travel and now how we manage our money.  Robo-advisors are the most recent addition to the changing landscape of the world we once knew. They are poised to replace financial advisors, for some at least. A Robo-advisor is an online automated wealth management service. This means you can go to one of the online providers and fill out a series of questionnaires. These questionnaires will assess your risk, your timeline, your investment goals and the like. Based on this information the robo-advisor will create a personalized portfolio just for you. The different providers will all have different features and options, but at the core this is essentially how they function.

There are some essential points to note here. The first is that this is not a fad. It is here to stay. It is a natural progression of the nature of technological development. For the client, the benefits of using this type of service are lower costs and accessibility. It is ideal for people who are just starting out on their financial journey and don’t have large amounts to invest but still want to enter the market. Robo-advisors are accessible to small investors who usually don’t meet the investment threshold to be taken on as a client by traditional financial advisors.

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For the financial providers, robo-advisors allow for greater access to a larger segment of the market. The big firms usually don’t handle small clients because it is not cost effective to do so, but now they can. Robo -advisors allow these providers to service not just the larger lucrative clients, but also the less profitable (at least for now) smaller clients. The expectation is that as these smaller client’s investment threshold expands they will eventually need real financial advisors.

Perhaps it is not a well-known fact, but financial advisors have been using this type of technology for some time now.  When I was an advisor we had software which was essentially a robo-advisor. We would input all of the client’s personal and financial data and we would get a report with recommendations for the client. Then there was software that designed a personalized portfolio based on these recommendations.

Not all financial advisors have a finance background as such this technology is extremely crucial for use in house in financial companies.  It is efficient, time saving, and mostly importantly, it ensures that the client is being given appropriate recommendations. This technology not only bridges the gaps in the advisors’ knowledge, it also allows financial advisors more time to interact with the client.  Building a strong client relationship is essential for a successful financial consulting practice. More often than not, financial advisors are there for psychological support. Just knowing there is someone to whom you can turn for advice or consolation is a big comfort to clients.

Personally speaking, I never trusted this in house software completely. They are extremely powerful and accurate, but it is only as good as the information that it has been fed. For me, I used them just to get a base and then I created  a portfolio based on my client’s personality and financial goals as I knew them to be. Inevitably, I would use only one or two of the funds that the software recommended. This was a longer process, but it severed me well.

When a trusted friend became a client, I knew of her negative experience with her previous advisor. She was very hesitant to enter the market again. The software, at least then, could not take these factors into consideration. The recommended portfolio was not one that I could use for her. It did not reflect her biases because the questionnaire could not pick up on these points. Also, knowing her overall life situation, her relationship with her family helped me to design a portfolio that suited her. It also it allowed me to advise her on how to structure her overall financial life. I always used her as an example of where the human factor is important for making portfolio decisions. In the worst of times when the market was down the portfolio I manually created for her fell by less than 1%. This is compared with my colleagues who used the software to create their client’s portfolio, which fell by 30% or more.

Perhaps the software has improved over the years and maybe it’s better designed now to pick up on client’s biases. The recommendations are made based only on how you answer the questionnaire. What I have found is that people answer what they think they should, rather than what they really think. So, the result of the questionnaire may not match who they are. For instance, people like to believe that they are risk takers, especially men. However, when we dig a little deeper we realize that this may not be the case. People are adept at filling out questionnaires. They understand how they are designed so it is not uncommon to find people answer the questions to try and meet prior ideas of themselves, which may or may not be true any longer.  When a financial advisor interacts with a client it is easier to match their personality and financial goals to their portfolio.

As one’s finances and life circumstances grow, there will be the need to have a real financial advisor. The personal touch is imperative when there are complicated family financial relationships. When there are spouses, exes, step children, in-laws, residential and non-residential property, probate, life insurance. Things can get complicated and sitting down and having an in-depth discussion with a qualified financial advisor will most likely result in  an appropriately suited  plan. Financial advisors don’t only advise on where and what to invest in. They usually work closely with client’s lawyers and accountants to ensure that taxes are minimized and  wills are structured so that loved ones can get their  inheritance with minimum costs.

I totally believe in DIY, but when it comes to your money however, you may want to spend the time to get proper advice. It may be that the advisor asks a question you never thought about. Or they say something that reminds you of a potential inheritance, for instance, this will affect your future marital finances.  There are subtle nuances that a human advisor can factor in and a machine just can’t.

It is important that you can ask questions to your advisor about concepts that you don’t understand. Sure, one can Google it, but even then many read the words, but sometimes don’t really understand what it means. Here is where it is essential to have a knowledgeable advisor, one who can explain complex concepts in a very simple manner.

After all is said and done, would I recommend a robo-advisor?  Yes, if you are have just started on your financial journey and want to get the experience of entering the market, then a robo-advisor is just what you need.  When should you consider getting a real advisor? As your income and life grow, with spouses and houses and babies, you may want to talk to a financial advisor in person. In other words, seek out a real advisor before you make major life changes that will affect your money now and in the future.

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As technology evolves, so too will the algorithms, I suspect, in years to come Robo-advisors would be even more sophisticated. In the meantime time, I encourage those who are just getting into the game to try it out. Those who have more to lose, it is best to find someone good and have a chat because as it stands today, your financial life is too important to put on autopilot.

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Dr.M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

 

The Mascot of the Day

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Donald Trump is the mascot for xenophobes who feel threatened by immigration and social change and who have been economically marginalized. This white working class blame immigration, social change and a black president for all their economic woes.  Growing inequality, higher unemployment and financial insecurity has led this group of Americans to support this boisterous tyrant.

Just to be clear Donald Trump didn’t cause this problem. He is just exploiting it to his own benefit. Many have called him a buffoon. But alas, he is far from that. He has managed to usurp the rage and frustration of a whole segment in society and become their voice. He says what they are thinking and they love it!  Past administration and their economic and social policies have made it possible for Donald Trump to be where he is today. If anyone is responsible for this fiasco, it is them!

This anger and hatred didn’t just pop up overnight.  This group feel betrayed by the political systems that seems to keep benefiting the rich and keeps making  the poor even poorer. It was years in the making and Trump like any good businessman knows how to manipulate a situation to his advantage. Those who supported him always felt this way they just never had an avenue to voice this publicly, until now.  In a poll done last October by NBC News, it was found that 71 per cent think the “American dream” — work hard, get ahead — used to exist but has vanished.

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A house divided cannot stand. What is happening in America is systemic. It is beyond just a group of disgruntled people looking for change. It is a deep rooted frustration of people who feel that they have become irrelevant. They feel abused and betrayed by past administrations, the feel unseen and unheard. Last fall the American Values Survey, found that: 74% of Trump supporters nationally, believe discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. Trump is listening to them and he is speaking for them. He is making them feel like they matter again.

It is only human nature to react the way they are. It is natural to expect them to lash out at everything and everyone.  The most important question now is how do we reach them  and bring them back from the abyss. It doesn’t matter who promises more jobs, more access to education, and more social programs. The problem is that regardless of what the other candidates say and promise to do, they are simply not listening.  They don’t trust the system as it stands and Trump offers something different.  Trump is to them, what Bin Laden was to al-Qaeda, their leader, their voice.

It is really sad to see all this unfold. So much social progress has been made in the last hundred years.  If we are to believe that Trump actually means what he says, it seems he is poised to take America back several decades into the past should he become president.  It is really hard for me to believe that in 2016 that he has the audacity to say the things he says. Sometimes I think it’s all just a ploy, he can’t seriously mean three quarters of the things he says. Can he?

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There are a lot of egos at play here and the biggest and loudest is Trump’s.  It is interesting that his name is Trump. The word trump means, “any playing card of a suit that for the time outranks the other suits, such a card being able to take any card of another suit.” Another meaning is, “a key resource to be used at an opportune moment.”

At the moment Trump is literally living up to his name and is at least for now, outranking the other candidates when it comes to support.  Like in the game of Bourré, Trump can take the whole pot if he wins the most tricks, which he seems to be doing.

Perhaps  Trump is just the thing the political landscape in America needs at this time.  It is time for a change. Both parties need to get their head in the game and really work towards reform and ensuring that they can be trusted to do what they say they will.  Today is another decision day in U.S politics. It’s time for  Americans to pull a “trump” of their own, and give their support to someone who is not a power hungry bully.

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Dr. M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

 

Things to Ponder

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We have all heard the phrase “money is the root of all evil” some of us believe it. In a previous post I highlighted it as one of the limiting beliefs people have about money. How can we expect to have more of something we think is bad? It is this conscious and sometimes subconscious belief that prevents many of us from realizing our financial dreams because our reticular activating system highlights those instances where this is in fact true.

If we really examine that statement closer, however, we realize that money is an innate object with no intrinsic value. Its value comes from the confidence we have in it. That’s it. I guess what I am trying to say is that money, whether it is notes and coins or ones and zeros on a computer screen, is in and of itself valueless. It only has power because we have all collectively agreed to give it power. Our society is now structured in such a way that if this power falters or fails, so do we. This begs the question who or what is the root of all evil.  The short answer is, us, because we have allowed money to run our lives.

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What do we mean by evil?  As an adjective it is immoral. As a noun it is wickedness. Either way it’s not good!  The truth is that money has neither of these qualities. It is a medium of exchange and a store of value.  Money is not the root of evil, it is neutral. It is us who have turned this instrument into our master and then label it evil when we can’t recognize ourselves because we have become slaves to it.

Evil manifests itself in competition, greed and winning at all cost. It takes the form of dumping excess food when millions go hungry all because it is more profitable to do so.  Evil is present when manufactures knowingly use substandard material that is harmful to people’s health, but do so anyway because it is profitable. Evil is when people are treated unfairly because of their income bracket and the car they drive. Evil is when we forget we all belong to the human race and use money to divide us.

Must we always live in a world of haves and have nots?  In the same way we got blinded from the truth, can we in the same fashion reverse the process and raise the veil to reveal the true reality? In the words of my favorite TV series, “Evil isn’t born, it’s made…and so is good.” We can all change. We just have to want it.

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Dr. M

www.radhamaharaj.com

www.thekidonomicsseries.com

 

 

 

To be or Not to be… in the Now

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What if being in the moment or in the now is the worst thing we can do. Not to contradict Eckhart Tolle, but can being in the now do more harm than good? Let’s examine what most people think living in the now means. Generally speaking, many of us take living in the moment to mean forgetting the past, not worrying about the future and getting the most out of today. All of which are true. However, if we want to function the in the world we have to temper that with a touch of practicality. When Tolle and other teachers talk about being in the now, it is from a point of acceptance. What it means to be in the now is to accept where you are, what you are doing and be present with it, don’t resist that moment. It doesn’t mean throw caution to the wind and do whatever you want in that moment. Many bad decisions have been made by people who only live in the now, with no thought about tomorrow. Drinking too much, eating too much, spending too much, saying too much and doing other things too much. The impulse to act spontaneously without constraint is a marvelous feeling, but it can have severe consequences.

When we live in the moment, we still have to be practical because we live in a world that has constraints. Most of us have yet to evolve to that state where we can go beyond our physical constraints and truly manifest a life that we want. Our conditioning is so entrench that even when we are aware of it; it takes work to undo a lifetime of concepts and beliefs that no longer serve us. For the most part we can affect the outcomes, but within certain parameters. There is great freedom, when we can just live completely in the now. It is important that we understand what that statement really means.

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Physicists tell us that everything is energy. Matter is energy at a very low vibration hence its density. Let’s now add to this the law of attraction. The law of attraction basically says like attracts like. Therefore, if we believe the physicists,  then we are all just vibrating energy and if the law of attraction is true, then it means we are constantly sending out vibrations and thus attracting that type of vibrations to us. This brings us to an important point. When we crave for things we don’t have, we energetically send the message of lack and  thus get more of the same because energy is neutral, it just links up like with like. If you take a moment you to think about this, I am sure you can find  numerous examples in your own life. For instance, you may find that you get into the  same circumstances over and over again, especially ones that you are desperately trying to get out off. The reason for this is that you are resonating at that frequency and so you keep getting more of the same. If we want to change anything, we first have to accept it. When we live in the moment, when we accept where we are and things start to change. Being in the now takes us to the neutral zone, and from there we can start to turn things around.

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What this boils down to is that when you keep complaining and wanting things to change it doesn’t because energetically your vibration is one limitation or resistance and that is what you attract. It applies to all aspects of your life, to relationships, to health, to circumstances, to parking spots, everything. Acceptance changes the frequency to one that is closer to where you want to be. Things start to move in the right direction. Every day we see numerous motivational quotes on social media, many of them are more than motivational they are instructional. Fake it until you make it for instance, this may sound cool, even cliché but couched in this phrase is the key to success.  It is not just about faking it with words, but with the feeling because it is the feeling that has the energetic property to resonate and attract what you desire.

By now you might be wondering what this has to do with finance. In one word, everything! When you go shopping and the impulse is to buy something that is not on your list or on the budget, being in the now means accepting that fact. It doesn’t mean, forgetting everything else and satisfying your desire in the moment. It means letting it go without resentment and moving on. When this is done again and again, your savings start growing and you arrive at a place where you COULD afford the get something that is not on your list or that wasn’t on your budget previously.  At that point, you would have realized that you could live without it and actually you don’t need it. Then you will really be in control of your financial destiny because at that point you have the power and freedom to choose.

I encourage you to take a moment and figure out what signal you are sending out today. Pay attention to your state of mind, and see what is energetically emanating from you. There is no time like the present to start making a change!

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Dr. M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

Resisting Temptation

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When I saw the clip of the opening of Saks Fifth Avenue (SFA) in Toronto, my immediate reaction was “I wonder how long they would last?” I guess this is a normal question given the recent experience of Target and the commonly known fact that Canadian consumers are not like their counterparts south of the border. But is it really a natural question or was my conditioning leading me to a less than optimistic outlook for SFA. Our life circumstances colors all our reactions and sometimes it does so in very predictable ways. Given my line of work it is natural for me to take such a stance. So today I try to look at both sides of the story and  try to arrive at a logical and objective conclusion (as best as I can).

The first thing I have to do is recognize that, if I had grown up with copious amounts of disposal income, then luxury items would be a norm rather than an exception. Remember when Paris Hilton first heard of Wal-Mart. She thought they sold wall stuff. She had no idea what it was and why should she. There was no reason for her to know about, much less shop, at Wal-Mart. Similarly, most  people don’t know of all the high end shops or restaurants. Nor it is common knowledge about the website for billionaires. On this site  you could buy a French castles, yachts, motorcycles, helicopters and watches. The luxury market is not inherently good or bad. If one has the means and find value in these items, then there is no reason why one has to look for alternatives. One is entitled to pay obscene amounts of money for shoes, clothes, watches and whatnots.

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The trouble arises with those who really don’t have copious amounts of disposal income. I am not talking about people who go into debt to buy a house or to fund their education, I am referring to those who make a good living and spend way beyond what they can afford. It is those who are living comfortably, but start to go beyond their means because they feel they have something to prove. I personally know many young people in their thirties who live  lifestyles at least three times what they can really afford comfortably. This causes immeasurable amounts of stress on them, but they have convinced themselves that if they want to get anywhere in life they have to live like this. Fake it, until to you make it, by all means, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot in the process.

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The demand for luxury items have been on the increase in recent years. The general reasons have been attributed to the internet and TV. Society’s fascination with celebrities and companies such as Apple, which focuses on the look and feel of their device more than the machine themselves, have led many to gravitate towards making choices that are way beyond their means. It’s all about the look, everyone wants a to be driving a bimmer or a benzes, or have a Chanel or a Birkin bag and have the latest i-gadget. The question is how many can actually afford it without going into debt.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has found over 50 research papers which show that men and women with high amount of debt have higher levels of stress and depression. It causes a strain on relationships, especially between husband and wives and is one of the top predictors of divorce. Even for single people, resentment can also build up against one’s boss, other family members for either not paying enough or not fully preparing one to deal with debt. Interestingly, a study from San Francisco State University, says that with higher levels of debt reduces one’s ability to enough the pleasure of spending. That  splurge no longer gives the same level of satisfaction as it did prior to high levels of debt because we are too stressed about our debt.

It seems to me that when we are concerned about having the right look and what others think of us, we end up really hurting ourselves financially and psychologically. Perhaps if we had a better sense of self, a more robust sense of who we really are, then the need to live beyond our means will not matter. It all boils down to affordability both financially and psychologically. If you can afford it, buy it. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. It is that simple. Let me rephrase that, it is that simple, if you are your own person and make your own choices and you are not persuaded by what others deem is right for you.In the end it seems that I am right back to the sentiments of my initial reaction. You weigh the evidence yourself and see what makes sense for you.

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Dr. M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

 

The resilience of a lie

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There are everyday lies we as a society live with. We are lied to by our friends, family and society at least once a day! A lie is defined as a statement that is false, misleading or inaccurate. Each of us wears many hats. We are parents, friends, business owners, accountants, chefs’ etc. In each of our roles we lie and are lied to. There are some lies that we have collectively agreed that are permissible. There are others that we know it is a lie, but we pretend it is not or choose to ignore it.

As parents, we lie to our children constantly. The obvious lies are the classic Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny. These are not just whimsical characters in stories. No, they come out and interact with us. The Tooth Fairy leaves money for us in exchange for our baby teeth. Santa gives us presents at Christmas and the Easter bunny hides chocolates for us to find. We lovingly lie to our kids because we think we are feeding their imagination. What we are really doing is feeding them a belief. We are telling them what to believe and they believe us, until they get older and figure things out. At this point we justify it by saying that everyone does it, it’s just a tradition. This type of lying is not condemned by the majority of society because most of us participate in and have collectively agreed that it just a white lie. Let’s not kid ourselves. Black or white, a lie is a lie.

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As a business owner or business executive we lie on a continuous basis. When we sell our product or service we omit all the downside and focus on only the positive aspects of what we are selling. The consumer gets a distorted view of the product or service. When you put out an advertisement that highlights only the positive aspects of your product and downplay any negative features it is simply misleading.  The classic example in this case is Coke. All sodas are advertised with a bias to their particular appeal, but Coke has taken it to another level. They have now managed to link their product to happiness! Yes, happiness can be had with excess amounts of sugar, which just as addictive as cocaine, and of course if you prefer no sugar, you can have aspartame instead. Never mind the troublesome detail that research has shown that it is carcinogenic and can cause cancer. We as consumers know that it is bad for us, but it seems we choose to be lied to.

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It is bad enough that we lie to others. It is even worst when we lie to ourselves and we try to rationalize why we do things we know we shouldn’t be doing. We all can relate to either having that one extra drink, that dessert or that purchase we made that we couldn’t afford but bought it anyway. Then we find reasons to justify our behavior. For instance, I was celebrating, I don’t do it all the time, and it was on sale. This self-justification arises because our behavior is not consistent with our beliefs (cognitive dissonance). So to make ourselves feel better about our choices we downplay the negative and fabricate reasons that support what we did.

On the surface, we may think this is harmless. So what if we try to make ourselves feel better sometimes. Unfortunately, things get dangerous when sometimes turns into most of the time. It is not easy and most of us are not willing to step up and stop lying to ourselves. Nothing can change if we continue on this path even for little things. This behavior can be very damaging over time. Research has shown that this type of self-justification can lead to “degradation of self-image”. If we practice self-justification for too long, that is if on a regular basis, we go against what we know is right for us and we regularly  have to justify our behavior to ourselves, it can have undesirable repercussions. We become frustrated and develop self-doubt and self-esteem issues. We feel out of control and debilitated. It may have started out innocently, but like little drops of water that can erode a mountain over time, so too lying to ourselves will destroy us overtime. It shows up in our health, in our relationships and in our financial statements.

There are many untruths out there, before we can expose the untruth that is in the world we first have to start with ourselves. We have to expose the untruth we tell ourselves and eradicate it. If you know that your behavior or actions are not helping you achieve the life you want, stop justifying those behaviors and actions. Get real with yourself. The first step is always the hardest and most painful  but in the end, its worth it.

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Dr. M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

Why are we so busy?

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In the pursuit of happiness, it’s mostly work and little play. Many of us wish it could be different. We know fully well that we don’t spend enough time with our families or doing the things we really want to do. The truth is that if we want to function in this world we need to work. We need to work because we need to earn money. Money is essential for our existence in modern society because it allows us to meet our basic requirements of life for ourselves and our family. We can’t be starving and happy.

There are some who are fortunate and can unplug from work because they have the financial means to do so. Others have found ways to live a simple life where they grow their own food and build their own shelter. Most of us, however, are caught in the net of the modern structure of existence where money is essential for our survival and we spend most of our time is spent in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

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We have been conditioned to think we can only be happy when we have particular types of possession. Many of us work hard and make sacrifices not because we need to meet our family’s basic needs. Many have done that many times over. No, we work because we are conditioned to believe that without certain items and possessions we are not worthy and thus cannot be happy. It is not enough to have a home, it must be a lavish home. It is not enough to have a safe and reliable vehicle, it must also be a symbol to others of how phenomenal we are.

At the end of the day it is really a trade-off and it is up to us to determine whether our happiness is achieved from a real source or if it is one that others have conditioned us into believing. If you have a good job and earning a reasonable income and still you find it hard to make ends meet. You may want to examine what it is that you really need, and more importantly, why you think you need it.  This is not the first time I have said this and it is not the first time you have heard it either. But if nothing has changed since you last heard it, well you need to check again and dig deeper to find the real reason why it is, you’re pursuing the things you are. Who told you it would make you happy? Why do you believe them?

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It is important for all of us to re-examine what we have been told, how we structure and live our daily lives. If we want change it has to come from below, it will not come from the top.  The next time you whip out your wallet to make a purchase make sure you are fully aware of why and what is behind that purchase. When we ask why, we can assess it if is a need or a want. When we ask what is behind the purchase, we are really asking where does the idea that I need or want this item come from. For instance, you stop to buy a drink. You ask why, the response is because I am thirsty, it is a necessity. You get to drink aisle. There are numerous choices.  You pick up brand x. Here is where it gets tricky. Why did you choose brand x? Have you ever questioned your daily choices or do you do them out of habit. Are you on autopilot?  It may seem like a lot of work, but it isn’t and once you become cognizant of the answers you might just be surprised to see how your consumption and spending pattern might change.

Humor me, the next time you buy something regardless of what it is, ask yourself these two little questions: Why am I buying this? What is causing me to buy this?  Feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you discover.

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Dr. M

http://www.thekidonomicsseries.com/

http://www.radhamaharaj.com/

 

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