Retirement Savings: Focus on Starting Today

If you’re just beginning to put money away for retirement, start saving and investing as much as you can now and let compound interest have an opportunity to work in your favor. The more you can invest when you’re young, the better off you’ll be. If a 25 year old starts investing $75 per month, they will have more money by age 65 than someone that starts at 35 years old investing $100 per month due to interest.

  • Rather than thinking, “I will start my retirement for a New Year’s resolution,” START NOW!
  • Make sure to at least match your employers’ 401k contribution percentage.
  • Check with your HR department to see if you employer offers Roth and Traditional 401k plans and see which better suits your retirement plans by asking more questions.

Another way to start saving for retirement is to rein in your spending. Examine your budget and see where you are spending too much money and what you could start saving for the future. This will also help you to set up a realistic spending plan for when you are retired.

Motivation Isn’t Real

People often operate in waves of action that are inspired by something. An event, situation or external cue that drives them to FEEL a certain way.  Take New Years for example.  We get excited and start setting these wonderful goals to achieve.  By February, we’ve lost the spark that ignited those goals and the actions you took for a few weeks.

The emotion we feel about obtaining a goal is what drives our action toward it. Emotion determines action. What most people rely on is the outside event or external cue to influence that emotion. Ultimately, motivation is a misconception. Motivation is merely your ability to CREATE your own spark that will make you take action.  That spark is created through decision making.

Not everyone wants to wake up and exercise each morning.  The decision is yours.  There is no external cue that can make you decide to put on those sneakers and run out the door.  The only person who can control that, is you.  Sure, there are days you want to hit snooze. Progress equals happiness. If you decide to take action, even if it’s only 2 millimeters more than what you did the day before, you are more likely to achieve your goals.  Most of the actions we want to take each day are very easy to do and yet, very easy not to do.

The only difference between you and someone who is disciplined is decision.  So what will you decide to do for yourself today?

Tips to Survive Holiday Parties

Holiday parties mean that it’s time to make small talk and catch up with people that you don’t see very often. If you are like most people, these conversations can sometimes be awkward or uncomfortable. Having a few topics that you enjoy talking about in your holiday party communication toolbox can be really helpful. Here are a few tips to remember as you step outside your comfort zone.

When adding topics to the list, it is always best to avoid topics that can get heated and lead to debate such as politics, religion, gossip, or anything depressing in nature.

Show genuine interest.

Show the other person that you are paying attention by nodding your head, responding appropriately, and asking related questions. It is important not to let them see that you are scanning the room for people you know, watching the food line, or planning your escape to move to the next mingling group.

Be aware of your body language.

To show someone that you are right there with them in the conversation you should face them, make eye contact, and/or lean forward a bit. Pay attention to your facial expressions and the position of your body. Having a blank expression and having your hips and toes pointed away from the person send the message that you are not interested and plan on moving away at the soonest opportunity.

Do your homework.

Plan on talking about a great movie you saw, a good book, plans for the holidays or your favorite vacation spots. These are topics that will make talking with people that you do not usually talk to on a daily basis much easier.

Listen.

Many of us are way too busy talking about ourselves or thinking about what we will say next. How many times have you been in a conversation and realized you just asked a question that someone else asked only a few minutes earlier? A good rule is to listen 60 percent of the time and ask questions the other 40 percent of the time.

Ask Questions.

Asking questions shows the other person that you are interested. Although many people can go on and on with good stories or witty statements to amuse an audience, this does not help the discovery phase of conversation. Bonds are formed during this stage of conversation. If you know that the person has children, ask “how old are your children?”, “Do they play any sports?”, ”What do they want for Christmas this year?”

Team up with your guest.

If you take a date or friend with you, stay with them. While you should not stick to your guest like glue, you do not want to let them wonder around aimlessly not knowing anyone and feeling very uncomfortable. If your guest is a sports fan and you are not, they can help break the ice with a fellow sports fan. Remember to always introduce your guest and include them into the conversation.

Practice the art of excusing yourself.

Some people get caught up on a certain topic and are blissfully unaware of others’ discomfort. If you have been trapped in a conversation for too long you can gracefully exit by making a brief summarizing statement followed by your exit statement, for example, “sounds like you really struggled through that stomach illness, glad you are feeling better. If you’ll excuse me I think I need to freshen up my drink”.

Do talk about the holidays.

This can lead to many different discussions from holiday travel, gift buying, decorating, holiday activities, and holiday traditions. It is an appropriate conversation for the season.

Don’t talk about work.

Although work is the one thing you have in common at events such as office holiday parties, it is not the time to schedule a meeting or finalize project plans. It is okay to briefly mention work news and developments, but not okay to complain unpleasant things about work.

Say Thank you.

Before leaving the party be sure to thank your host. Remember to thank you guest for attending. It is a lot of planning and work to throw a holiday party, let everyone know that you appreciate their efforts.

Being able to communicate at holiday parties will give you the people skills that you need to successfully survive the event. The communication skills developed at these events are skills that you can use all year long in your career, social circles, and family events.

Veterans Day Thoughts

By Dan Frank
CEO,  Three Wire Systems, LLC

America spoke, Trump is our next president. Where does he go from here on one of his key campaign issues of veteran support? Let me guide the way.

A recent Small Business Administration (SBA) study found that military service exhibits one of the largest marginal effects on self-employment, and veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Historically, 50 percent of World War II vets went on to own or operate a business and that 40 percent of Korean War vets did the same thing creating millions of jobs for of their fellow citizens.

In stark contrast to these statistics, consider that since 9/11, only 162,000 veteran businesses have been creating 324,000 jobs. Hypothetically, using Korean War rate discussed above, our most recent veteran generation should have started 1.4 million companies employing in excess of 2.5 million jobs. Veteran entrepreneurship is on the decline. Why?

It’s complicated, but here is an anecdotal account: Last week I attended the Department of Veterans Affairs National Veterans Small Business Engagement conference in Minneapolis. As an old, bald guy, I noticed lots of other old people in attendance. Essentially zero millennials or Gen X in attendance.

Are the young vet guys/gals developing the next ride haling app and chasing venture dollars in Silicon Valley? Most certainly are not doing this. It simply appears that more vets now “get a job and settle” according to Joseph Kopser an Army veteran and co-founder the Ride-Scout app. He blames a lack of in-service mentorship opportunities for current military members. But is it DoD’s job to prepare transitioning service members for entrepreneurship?

So here is the Big Idea for a scalable veteran entrepreneurship program for President-elect Trump.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the Cadillac of all GI Bills and already encompasses rich benefits. Entrepreneurship training is covered, but only thru Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) run by the SBA.

First, let’s eliminate this rule and expand the options from government run facilities and programs. There are plenty of co-work spaces, non-profits, contractors and volunteers to create an eco-system of options for the budding vet entrepreneur. One option run by the government is ridiculous. Entrepreneurship is not a government core competency.

Secondly, for veterans not interested in a college education track, let them take the equivalent tuition and stipend funding they would have received for their college education and let them use it either fund their business or offset living expenses during their business start-up phase. This will require oversight to ensure that the vet is legitimately involved in their business, but program oversight is a government core competency.

Finally, let’s move upstream with entrepreneurship education within DoD as suggested by Army vet Kopser. There is a huge opportunity within the DoD/VA Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Every transitioning service member must attend TAP classes as they transition from the military to civilian life. For those soon to be vets interested in self-employment, a breakout class could be offered and designed to incorporate the details of my first two suggestions above.

With the right training and funding, I believe we can increase interest and change the downward trajectory of veteran owned businesses. President-elect Trump, Three Wire stands ready to serve.

Healthy for the Holidays

The holidays tend to be the most chaotic time of year for most families. Not only do we have to balance our normal daily grind, but we add holiday parties, shopping, decorating, family time and entertainment on top of it. The most common issue with the holiday season is time management. When we are limited on time, we tend to make poor food choices, skip workouts and even miss out on some much needed sleep.

This year, take a stand for your own sanity and implement the following “Healthy for the Holidays” tips:

1.      Stock up on healthy meals. In October, prepare a few crock pot meals and freeze. This will help you stay on track and skip the fast food. It’s also a good idea to have a few easy snacks on hand for the kids. Regular or dried fruit, nuts and granola bars are perfect snacks that can be easily packed.

2.      Make physical activity non-negotiable. It’s easy to skip a workout when you’re short on time. Schedule in physical activity no matter what to avoid the holiday weight gain. Go sled riding with the kids, walk around your building over lunch, hit the gym or do a home workout program that’s under 30 minutes. The more calories you burn, the less weight you will pack on, even with a few holiday treats.

3.      Indulge on specific days. The entire month of December has somehow turned into a four week binge on cookies, cakes, gravy and pie. Pick specific days to indulge so you don’t feel guilty and don’t fall into the “holiday slump”.  If Grandma’s home-made cookies are your favorite treat, wait for Christmas dinner to enjoy them and skip the store bought cookies at your work party.

4.      Take it easy on the alcohol.  Beer, wine & spirits are a staple for most holiday events. To avoid extra calories or a hangover, stick within the 1-3 drink range. Drink water between each beverage. Dry wine and lite beer have less sugar and tend to be less calories.

5.      Get Some Sleep. The holidays are stressful enough without the added factor of staying up past your bedtime. Shut down the electronics 1 hours before bed. Logging extra quality Zzzz’s will not only keep your mental health in check and help your immune system as well.