You Are Here


Every so often my wife sends me to the mall with a list and instructions to visit specific stores and pick up specific items.

Being a man my mission when I go to any retail establishment, especially the mall, is the get in and get out as quickly as possible.  I’m a hunter, not a nomad, I bag my prey and go home.  I don’t have the time or the patience to wander around looking for something.  If it’s not exactly where she said it would be or I can’t find it in about 30 seconds they don’t have it.

Because I am always in a hurry, the first thing I do when I go to the mall or any large unfamiliar place is look for the map or seek out an associate who can point me in the right direction.  Most people when they look at a map will spend most of their time looking at their destination.  Of course, that’s important but knowing where you are going is only half the battle.  You also need to know where you are right now so you can plan a route.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the most direct route, or the most picturesque, or the one that takes you past the Dairy Queen so you can get that banana split you’ve been craving.  It just matters that it gets you from where you are, to where you want to go.

That’s why every mall map has a bright red dot marked “You Are Here.”

Personal financial planning is kind of like a mall map.  It’s all well and good to have clearly defined goals but without a clear understanding of your current situation, and how you got there, all the planning in the world is really just staring at your destination and wandering around without any clear idea of how to get there.  You might make it you might not but more often than not you’ll end up spending your whole life in the food court eating banana splits and wondering why your dreams never seem to come true.

There are key moments that occur in every financial planning relationship.  Usually sometime after, but sometimes before we determine some goals, we need to have the “you are here” discussion.  This is where we gather the data, look at what you’ve done up to this point and map out the route from where you are to where you want to go.  It doesn’t have to be the most directly route, there may be a few detours along the way.  Just like going to the mall, family members have a way of pulling you off course.  Goals and circumstances can change and sometimes that banana split, new car or dream vacation just calls out to you.  That’s okay.  But a financial plan, just like a mall map, only works when you have a clear understanding of where you are at any given time.

Now, here’s where the analogy breaks down a bit, so stay with me.

Once the plan has been established it’s the job of the financial planner to be your constant “you are here” dot.  Continually reminding you of where you are and providing route options to get you to your destination.  If you take a detour or break for a banana split, the planner is there to help you get back on track or reassess your goals.  The last time I checked the dot on the mall map doesn’t move around with you, a good planner does.

So, how does your planner keep you on track?  Let me know in the comments.

I’m off to Dairy Queen, I suddenly have a craving for a banana split.

A Tale of Two Financial Advisors


Once upon a time there were a lot of people who bought Life Insurance and opened Small Investment Accounts from an independent financial advisor.  Unfortunately, this advisor never stayed in touch once the policy was delivered and the premium cheques were cashed.

Every day, these people wondered what had happened to the friendly advisor who seemed to genuinely care about their needs one minute and had disappeared from their lives the next.  As their life circumstances changed and their needs evolved, they wondered if they had done the right thing, if they were adequately protected, and if they would ever be able to retire.

One day they decided to take matters into their own hands, but they didn’t know where to turn, who to trust, or what questions to ask.

Because of that, they felt confused, let down, worried and distrustful of independent experts.

Because of that, they gravitated toward simple and easy solutions offered by banks and store-front brokers that gave limited advice and parked their money in simple, low risk and low return investments.

Until finally their greatest fears came true, they realized they hadn’t saved enough for retirement or someone died prematurely without adequate life insurance and it was too late to change anything.

As a result, these people had to make radical decisions just to survive.  They delayed retirement until they could no longer physically do their jobs, remortgaged or sold their homes and used the money to live on.  They lived out their golden years in a general state of stress and eventually died leaving behind little to no legacy for their loved ones.

But…

On the other side of town their lived another financial advisor who valued customer service above everything else.

Every day, he called a subset of his clients to ask if anything in their lives had changed since the last time they’d talked.  Everyone got a call at least twice a year, once on their birthday and once again throughout the year.  As their life circumstanced changed and their needs evolved, these clients knew that their advisor would make sure that they were adequately protected and were putting enough money away to eventually retire.

One day these clients decided to see if they were getting close to being able to retire and they knew exactly who to call because they trusted their advisor to always take their best interests to heart while he answered their questions and made recommendations.

Because of that, they took his advice and felt confident, calm and cared for.

Because of that, they invested their money wisely, made strong returns over a long time and carried just a little bit more Life Insurance in-case something bad and unexpected happened.

Until finally their dreams came true, they were able to retire with confidence and not worry about what might happen if someone died too soon.

As a result, these clients retired on their own terms and had the energy and time to live out their golden years in stress free comfort.  They too eventually died but they left behind a significant monetary legacy for their loved ones and many sweet memories of a life well lived.

Which advisor’s client would you like to be?  Reach out in the comments below for a no obligation consultation…

Top 4 Reasons Why CashFlow Management is The New Gold Standard in Financial Planning


When was the last time your Financial Planner or Banker asked you anything about your cash flow plan or personal budget?

Nearly 80% of Canadians surveyed have said that managing day to day cash flow is their top financial concern yet less than 5% of financial service professionals are equipped to help in any way.   Independent Financial Planners make most of their money advising semi-wealthy and wealthy individuals on long term investment strategies and tax effective income planning for retirement.  And Banks?  They are primarily in the business of lending money, not helping you save it.

The sad fact is that middle class individuals and average Joes just don’t have a large enough asset base to get the attention of most commission based Financial Planners, while the banks make more profit lending money than they do advising you on how to save.

For most people the fastest way to build wealth is to get control of your debt.  Independent Financial Planners tend not be interested in your debt because they have access to very few products that can help you.  Banks tend to be too quick to lend even more money in order to keep you beholden to them longer.  Both have a built-in conflict of interest which keeps them looking at just one side of your balance sheet and prevents average people from making any significant progress.  A true Financial Plan needs to take into consideration both sides of the balance sheet to really help.

Here are the top 4 Reasons Why CashFlow Management is the new gold standard in Financial Planning.

1 – Get More Life From Your Money – When banks lend you money they calculate a number called your Total Debt Service Ratio, (TDSR).  If your income verses the amount of money you spend just to service your debt is less than 35% most banks won’t hesitate to lend you more.  What they are essentially saying is that you don’t need up to 35% of your income to live on.  What if you had that extra 35% in your pocket?  How much more “life” could you afford?

2 – Find Money to Fund Your Dreams – How many times have you stifled your dreams because you thought you didn’t have the cash?  Getting control of your cashflow is step one in finding that needed money and starting to save for your future dreams.  Maybe you want to buy that dream home, start a business or take a trip around the world.  What’s stopping you is likely nothing more than a poorly managed cashflow plan.

3 – Stop “Money Leaks” on Stuff That Doesn’t Matter – When you take a close look at your cashflow you will almost always find places to trim without even noticing a change in your lifestyle.  How many of those premium cable channels do you really watch?  Is your car insured for more than it’s worth?  And be honest, when was the last time you went to the gym?  Plugging these money leaks could account for as much as a 10-15% gain on your bottom line.

4 – Finally Telling Your Money What To Do, Not Just Wondering What it’s Done – Once you’ve stopped the money leaks, reorganized your debt and started to save for the future, life can get really fun!  Now you have money left over and you get to decide what to do with it.

 

I am a Financial Security Advisor and CashFlow Specialist.  I will work with you to help you reorganize your debt and increase your savings.  I work both sides of the balance sheet and raise the bottom line.  Most of my clients are on track to be debt free seven years sooner while saving tens of thousands of dollars in inefficient interest payments and leaked money.

Get in touch today for a free CashFlow Analysis and Personal Financial Plan.

Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me???


Kicking the Fear of Missing Out in the Face!

Ever since mankind formed social groups we have always experienced a level of anxiety associated with being left out.  What’s the big deal about owning a wheel anyway?  Life would be so much cozier if I had a new stone fire-pit like that tribe over there.  Why didn’t Suzy invite me to the party?  But in recent years, with the advent of the internet and social media, this ancient anxiety has been ramped up to new and unprecedented levels.

In 2004 while finishing his MBA the soon to be world renowned venture capitalist Patrick J. McGinnis wrote an article for The Harbus (the student newspaper of Harvard Business School) entitled “Social Theory at HBS: McGinnis’s Two FOs”  in which he coined the phrase “The Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO.

FOMO is characterized by an almost manic drive to see and do everything.  But while you are rushing from one commitment to the next there is something else bubbling just below the surface.  You see it when people who should be engaged with their surroundings sit in the middle of a highly stimulating activity face down in their phones.  These are the people who abruptly change plans, never give a firm commitment and always seem to have one foot out the door.  They have graduated from mere FOMO, to the second FO – FOBO or the Fear of a Better Option.

FOMO is not really new.  Social Media and other forms of technology like text messaging have made it more prevalent and easier to get caught up in than ever before but the Fear of Missing Out has always been with us.  So has the Fear of a Better Option.  When I was a kid – before cell phones and social media, when phones had cords and hung on walls and computers weighed forty pounds, we called it something else.  We called it staying in touch, being popular or keeping up with the Joneses.  But whatever you call it – it’s FOMO.

As your Financial Coach it often feels like I’m fighting losing battle against FOMO and FOBO every day.  These two FOs are the main enemy of sound financial planning.  Keeping up with the Joneses when our every move is documented and published on social media is a losing game.  Especially when we think about the fact that people only post their best moments on Facebook and seem to go silent as soon as the credit card bill arrives, the bill collector comes knocking or the hydro gets turned off.  (That last one more out of necessity than choice).

We need a third FO that can over power and replace the first two.  And think I found it.  I call it FOOM, the Fear of Outliving your Money.  When FOOM takes over your every thought, FOMO and FOBO don’t stand a chance.

The Fear of Outliving your Money forces you to budget for today and save for tomorrow.  It used to be that the average person needed savings of about $1 million in order to retire comfortably.  But that’s not true anymore.  With longer life expectancy and lower interest rates that number is more like $1.5 million.

I looked at a projection for a 35 year old yesterday who earns $100,000 per year (slightly higher than the nation average) and his number was a whopping $1.9 million.  But FOMO and pressures placed on him by watching all his friends on social media has him overspending to the point that he has exactly $0.00 saved and only 30 years to go before his planned retirement date.  That means he needs to put away over $600 per month for the rest of his life starting immediately.  When I told him so he nearly fell out of his chair, not because he doesn’t have the money – he does, but because it would mean intentionally missing out on some of the life experiences he has become accustomed to.

FOOM kicked FOMO in the face!   After a little bit of bargaining because he wanted to have his cake and eat it too, (that’s FOBO) he got it.

So here’s my advice for all you people out there with a bad case of FOMO.  Go on a social media holiday – try it even for a day and see if you don’t start to feel a bit better about yourself.  At the very least stop looking at your friend’s latest vacation pictures and start a savings plan, even a small one will help.  And whenever FOMO starts to creep in look at the balance of your savings accounts and tell yourself that no what happens from now on you will always have at least that much.  As you discipline yourself and watch that money grow, FOOM will dissipate and FOMO will become irrelevant.

In many ways that’s what Financial Planning is all about.  I’m here to help you realign your priorities and help you eliminate all forms for financial fear , whether it’s FOMO, FOBO or FOOM fear has no place in financial planning.  In fact it’s the planning part the really kicks all forms of fear in the face.

 

 

VLOG: Episode 6, The Heart of An Entrepreneur


Driving in to the office the other day I started thinking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how much mad respect I have for entrepreneurs and what they do.  Here’s the video I recorded about it.

Once again sorry about the audio, I need to both speak up and get a better microphone  I think.  And for some reason I thought sitting in front of a window on a sunny day would be a good idea, won’t make that mistake again, I promise.

I’ll get these technical issues figured about eventually, bear with me okay…  For now enjoy the video.

Why I Write This Stuff


The following is a excerpt from the introduction to my first book – Meekonomics, How To Inherit The Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy. 

I’m not sure why, I think it might have something to do with the current political climate around the world, but there has been a recent up tick in interest in my writing.  So I’m going to start republishing portions of my work on a semi-regular basis here.  Questions and Comments are always welcome, and feel free to click the link above to purchase a copy of the book…

I realize that it is an act of sheer hubris to attempt to write a book called Meekonomics. The meek don’t write books do they? Especially Mennonite kids from Southern Ontario with no formal education in either economics or theology.

I grew up in a small town surrounded by family farms and working class individuals. When I graduated from High School I wanted to be a record producer so I spent 19 years in the music business. In my mid 30s I read two books that unlocked my love of economics and theology; The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and Simply Christian by NT Wright.  

There followed nearly 8 years of prayer, research and reflection on two things that have driven me for almost as long as I can remember; God and Money.

Although I have always held a strong faith my relationship with money has been an extreme roller-coaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I’m an entrepreneur. I started my first business at the ripe old age of the age of 10, I had an opportunity to become a millionaire before my 26th birthday only to fall victim to an unscrupulous fraudster and ended up bankrupt at 33.

My drive to understand money and reconcile economics with my faith started to take root in the fall of 2005 not long after I first filed my bankruptcy proposal. What I soon realized is that reconciliation of the God and Money issue is not just a personal question, although personal finance is a big part of it, it’s really required on both a micro and macro-economic scale if our society is to survive.

Call it what you will; estate or retirement planning, investments, pension plans etc. It all comes down to the storing up of treasures on earth just as Jesus warned us not to do.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:19-24]

What you will find in the pages that follow is a journal of sorts. After my bankruptcy I set out to learn all I could about how this whole God and Money thing works. Anyone who has ever gone through something like that knows how devastating it can be. I was wounded, I needed healing and so I used the study of God and Money as the start of my healing process.

As I studied I took notes, those notes became a blog and that blog became this book. Most authors will tell you that they write for a specific audience, my friend Tim Day, author of “God Enters Stage Left” told me he first started writing for his kids as a way to help explain his faith in case he passed away before he had a chance to teach them in person. If I’m being honest I write just for myself, it’s a way to frame my thinking so that I can move forward in life secure and grounded in what I know to be true.

I first published the blog as a way to share what I was learning with my closest friends and family around the world, I never dreamed anyone else would be interested in what I had to say but I soon had over 100 readers on-line encouraging me to go deeper and publish more. The idea for the book came out of that interaction with the on-line community.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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You’re doing it wrong!


Living Life and Growing Your Business on Your Terms

Have you ever received unsolicited advice?

You know the kind I’m talking about. One of your “friends” takes it upon themselves to tell you how you’re screwing up your life. And if you would just make one or two “minor” changes you would be so much better off.

This advice is usually sincere. Your friends are probably genuinely worried about you. When they look at your life they likely see the struggles you go through, how hard you work for seemingly little return, the heartache, the sleepless nights, you name it. Your friends see all the stress and they are genuinely worried about you.

If you’d just give up on your dream and take a job with a steady paycheque. Or maybe just slow it down a bit and relegate your business aspirations to weekends and evenings, maybe you’d be better off. You’d have more money, less stress and live longer.

Or so they think.

But make no mistake it’s never really about you.

It’s about how they feel when they are around you. Maybe they feel sorry for you – but that’s not about you, it’s about them. Maybe they feel guilty for their own success in the face of your seeming failure – but that’s not about you either, it’s still all about them. And maybe they feel envy and jealousy because they see the huge potential for your success and wish they had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. But you guessed it, that’s not about you either.

The fact is, no one can give you advice on what you need to do to be successful. Sure there are some general principles but they are ultimately the same whether you work for a boss or not. At the end of the day nobody knows better than you what it will take for you to be successful. Nobody knows your business better than you. Nobody works harder than you. Nobody cares more than you.

So stop listening to everyone else. That’s what you’re doing wrong.

Entrepreneurship is lonely. And for the most part the pay sucks. Work your ass off for 5, maybe 10 years or even more and maybe, just maybe you’ll become so successful you’ll forget about the years of struggle that led up it.

Maybe not.

You have to be prepared to live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.

That’s my best unsolicited advice.  Take it or leave it.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Cast Your Burdens


Life is heavier than the weight of all things – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve recently become aware of the sheer weight of life.

I’m not just talking about the mental “weightiness” of our lives or the existential weight of the decisions we make on a daily basis. I’m talking also about the basic physical weights and measures of the things we possess and the life that we carry with us wherever we go.

Some statistics:

  • The average North American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years while the number of people living in those homes, the average family size, has gotten smaller.

  • 1 in 4 of those homes doesn’t have enough room in their garage to park a car while 1 in 10 rents extra off-site storage.

  • Over the course of our lifetime we will spend a total of 153 days (or 3,672 hours) looking for misplaced items.

All of this “stuff” is quite literally weighing us down but that’s not all – Psychologists have identified a relatively new pathology known as decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of the decisions we make the more we make them. It is now understood to be one of the main causes of irrational decision making. Judges and other professional decision makers have been shown to make less favorable decisions later in the day than they do early in the day. If you want to win in court, try to make sure your case is on the docket in the morning.

Decision fatigue also leads to poor choices in our personal lives, such as how we spend our money and our time. There is also a paradox inherent in decision fatigue in that people who lack choice seem to want it more while at the same time find that making too many choices can be psychologically draining.

Lastly, research is beginning to show that the single biggest factor causing decision fatigue is not the importance or consequences of the decisions being made but their sheer volume. Deciding what to wear in the morning or what to eat for breakfast contributes just as much to our daily decision fatigue as determining the case of a plaintiff in a multimillion dollar civil complaint. A decision is a decision and fatigue is fatigue.

Ask anyone what they truly want out of life and the answer will more often than not boil down to some form of peace and happiness. Still more research is beginning to show that people who report being the most peaceful and happy with their lives also seem to be the ones who are forced to make the fewest decisions throughout the day. And the decisions they do make whether in their personal or professional lives tend to be of higher quality.

I was recently challenged by a friend and spiritual mentor to embrace some of the tenants of minimalism. At the same time I’ve been reading David Allen’s definitive work on time management and productivity “Getting Things Done”. Both seek to reduce stress and increase enjoyment and productivity by reducing the weight of things in our lives and streamlining decision making.

It seems counter intuitive but by reducing the number of choices we are faced with we actually open up our minds to new possibilities and new ideas and lighten the burden of some of the bigger and more consequential decisions we are faced with. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of modern history was known to have 7 copies of the exact same set of clothing, one for each day of the week, and ate the exact same meal for breakfast and lunch every single day. That’s three fewer decisions he had to make than most other people which helped to open his mind for weightier things.

In my work as a financial advisor I see the other side of the coin every day. Lives built on a house of cards of debt, and stress. People are running faster and faster just to remain in one place. We have been sold a lie that the key to happiness is the acquisition of more. And that the truly happy and “together” people are also able to do more with their time. Carrying last year’s model smart-phone is considered a sign of poverty in some circles and simply stopping to relax with your family, without a program or agenda to follow, is somehow seen as sloth or a waste of precious time.

The truth is we need down time in order to maintain our sanity.  There is nothing wrong with staying in and doing nothing, just like there is nothing wrong with carrying and using a still functional smart-phone.

Minimalism and the type of streamlining decision making advocated by authors and consultants like Allen, are not a panacea for all that ails us. But they can be a first step in determining what truly matters, making better decisions and living a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

It’s time to lighten our lives, worry less and live more.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion for people and a desire to teach everyone to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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New Media Channel – I’m on YouTube!


Thanks to the camera in my iPhone and a free editing program I downloaded, I am know able to record my thoughts on video!

Here is the first of what I hope will become a new way to communicate my message to the world.  Check out my first Vlog – “What I do and Why I do It.”

Let me kow what you think!  Feedback is always appreciated.