We paid off our mortgage today

Thursday, on my 39th birthday, I gathered my 4 kids and my wife around the computer and with a couple of clicks, we paid off our mortgage.  We are 100% debt free.  At first, I didn’t feel anything and told my kids that this felt sort of anticlimactic.  But then I started looking around the house.  And I thought to myself:  All this is ours.  Not the bank.  And as time goes on, the benefits will only increase.  We have a house.  We paid it off.  We have no debt.

I almost got a little teary eyed as I gave my wife a big kiss.  What an amazing day.  Its a day I hope my kids will remember as a time when we as a family accomplished a goal together.

We started this goal about 4 years ago.  We had about $270,000 to pay off.  That number seems like a lot, and it is a lot!  Its hard to believe we actually did it!  Wow.  But for 4 years we’ve been telling our kids that we’re not doing certain things because we want to pay off the house.  Every month, I’ve watched and dreamed how it would happen.  Every three months or so, I’d send my wife an estimate.  We thought it would take 5 years and we are amazed that we were able to do it sooner.

Here are some of the things that helped us get this done:

1.  Constant Focus

We always kept the big picture in mind.  We always knew what we wanted to accomplish together.  We let our kids know and we made them active participants.  That focus helped us keep on track and when different things would come up, we would remind ourselves what we wanted to accomplish.  We had a realistic goal of when we wanted it to happen and we tracked it constantly… almost obsessively.  This may not be for you, but it worked for us.

2.  Enjoying the Ride

We didn’t stop taking vacations.  Since we started this we have visited the Redwood Forest twice, California multiple times, Salt Lake, and other things.  We just made sure we didn’t break the bank.  We would go out to eat occasionally.  We just didn’t do all those extra things I see a lot of people at my work doing:  Our cars are a Honda Civic 2002 and a Toyota Sienna 2006.  Not super old, but not super new.  You think about all the cars we could have bought and paid debt on during these last 4 years if we were interested in looking like we were living the high life.  We didn’t buy super expensive clothes, but we would splurge every now and then.  The point is, we didn’t ever feel like we were sacrificing.

That’s pretty much it.  Love the feeling!

When you see the light

Last week I was on vacation relaxing in a pool in southern California really enjoying my kids.  After eating way too much food and then finally getting them all to bed I thought I’d look at the finances and see where we are.   After looking at income and different financial assets and obligationsI realized solidly for the first time that we could actually pay off the mortgage by the end of the year and still have plenty of money left over for emergencies.   To be more precise: we could pay it off before I turn 39.

The goal has always been a 5 year plan that ended when I turned 40.  So while I can say I did it when I was 38 the reality is its only 13 months before my 40th birthday.  Still, its a solid record and one that I am so proud of that my wife and I will have been able to achieve before our 15th wedding anniversary.

But almost done is nowhere near when you benefit the results of being mortgage free.  (To say completely debt free I hope is obvious to you, the mortgage is the last debt you pay down.)  You don’t get any of the good things unless its completely gone:  You don’t get extra income and you can’t set aside money for other things that would normally go the mortgage unless its completely gone.  I think that’s why people say its pointless to pay off a mortgage early:  Unless you can commit to getting it done by a certain time you will get little benefit of stocking away money.  It has to have an end goal, and if that end goal is far away, then its hard to know if you will realize the benefits.  In our case, we knew that if nothing changed we could get it done in 4-5 years.  Since my job prospects have never been better, then we knew this was something we could do and see the benefits of quickly, and while we’re still relatively young.

To pay it off now, I realized we would need to cash in some restricted stock units that my company gave me and possibly some normal stocks that I’ve been looking to dump anyway.  As you get older like me, its best to balance out the portfolio and put money in other assets that aren’t as risky or prone to volatility.

I think when my dad got some tears in his eyes when I told him.  He’s a big proponent of Dave Ramsey and has this goal himself.  He’s not been as fortunate as my wife and has had some serious financial setbacks along the way.  I’ve known other friends who have had this too.  Its amazing what a blessing uninterrupted prosperity is.  When you can work for 14 years straight like we have it really starts to add up.  Its boring, its sluggish, but its effective and it works.  And I can’t say that I’ve been bored at all.  If nothing else its been wonderful.

Now we see the light at the end of this long 4 years.  I let the internet know and I let my family know that this has been the plan.  In fact, I’ve probably talked about it to more people than I should.  I even brought it up to an old friend at my high school reunion for some reason.  Not to brag, but mostly to let him know what we’re working on.  What my passion is right now.

Last night my wife and I had a long car ride home.  Briefly we started talking about what to do when the mortgage is paid off.  The truth is, we don’t really know.  I know I’d like to eventually buy a place in southern California and my wife has all sorts of other ideas.  But the best thing is, there are tons of options!  That’s what we like best.  Now we can start looking around and figure it out together.  So instead of thinking:  “Now what do we do when the mortgage is paid off”.  We think:  “Our options are bigger than ever now.  Let’s be patient and evaluate!”

Financial update

A few thoughts on finance:


1.  Mortgage

We’ve hit some great milestones in paying off our mortgage and we are predicting to pay it off by the end of the year.  However, we are looking at a different approach.  As much as I have loved seeing the balance fall every month by leaps and bounds, for the rest of the year we are doing this stockpile mode.  This way we’ll make one big huge payment at the end of the year to make it all clean.

This was my wife’s recommendation.  There are some tradeoffs in doing it this way.  Shelling out lots of money every month is like biting off more than you can chew.  Our savings starts getting pretty low and that makes us uncomfortable.   The other thing is that we no longer feel that we are coming at it in a position of strength.

The good thing about the way we’ve been doing it is that when you see your savings low, you look at things and you think: “hmm I shouldn’t buy that cause I don’t have money for it”.   The other thing is the satisfaction of seeing the balance fall.

We are disciplined enough to still make it happen and if it slips a few months, I’m not concerned.  After all, the original goal was to pay off the mortgage before I turn 40 and at this current rate I’ll have it before I turn 39.  #winning

2.  Bitcoin

Bitcoin took a dive for the last few months all the way down to the low $400.  At that amount had I cashed out I would have lost some money.  Instead, what I should have done is buy some more, but alas, I just sat on it because all my money was going towards the mortgage!  Well, in the last week Bitcoin is back with its new hotness sitting about $563 right now.  This is close to how much it was when the now dead Mt. Gox made me wait until I could buy it.  Lucky for me, I switched over to coinbase and never lost any money on Mt. Gox.  I have since moved over half of it to my own bitcoin wallet.

3.  Stocks

It’s been a great year still.  I’m pretty much flat and had an extra $100 in my account from dividends so for fun I piled them into NQ based off some discussion boards.  This is a dumb move and most likely I’ll lose the entire $100 if the audit at NQ comes back looking shady.  Still, kind of fun to watch.

I’m super happy I never sold MSFT.  I’m pretty long on that stock and think they are well poised for cloud computing as well as taking over a lot of data center business away from VMware.

4.  Summary

Nothing has really changed all that much and I think that’s how we like finance.  Its unsexy and you just stick to the plan.  Its looking back over the long term that really makes you appreciate how you’ve been doing.  This year its going to look slow but I think by January 2015 we’ll look back and be super happy what we’ve accomplished.  I’m extremely lucky to be married to a great, talented, smart woman who sees it like I do and has fantastic ideas on how to navigate our way to financial independence.


No Mortgage App update

I finally updated the “Mortgage Payoff” app for iOS7.  Thanks for your patience.  I was hoping to get the iCloud stuff in, but figured just to focus on updates for iOS7 and to fix some bugs.  Its the best version of this app to date.  We don’t track any info, we don’t sell your data, we just give you good solid software.  If you want it, you pay $.99.  $0.69 of that money goes to pay off my mortgage, so if I get 115,000 downloads, my mortgage will be paid off.  So thanks for your support on this!

The Joy of The Final Stretch

We have about a year and maybe a few months before we are calculated to pay off our mortgage.  It is pure joy.  Or maybe an obsession?  When you get closer to the end and you don’t have as much interest to pay then you start to see how every payment makes a huge dent in getting it closer to $0.  We are in that home stretch now.  We’re too the point where the balance approaches that of an expensive car.  We are pumped.  I probably look at my mortgage statement more closer now than ever before.  I love it when it comes.  Its a constant sign of progress towards completing a huge goal we have set.  Its measurable and its obtainable.

I won’t be too disappointed if we don’t make it by the end of 2014 since I’m pretty sure we’ll hit it easily by mid 2015 at the latest.  But it sure feels good.

People who tell you that paying off the mortgage is a bad idea are people that have mortgages.

2013 year in review

It was a rough year for a lot of people.  I guess most years are.  This year was particularly trying for several family members and neighbors.  But I hope most people feel as I do that the good outweighed the bad.  For every death there was a birth to celebrate.  For every divorce there was a new marriage.  For every dollar lost, there was a dollar gained.  (but maybe not in the proportionate manner we would have liked).

My wife and I talked about one of my favorite old testament verses in Ecclesiastics 11:1:  “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”  Its the paradox of life that the more we give away the more we get in return.  This seems to be true of time spent on helping others as well as money given to others who may need our help.  We thought about things we gave away or donations we’ve made and realized that we really didn’t miss any of it.  We live on far less than what we bring in from a paycheck and we haven’t ever lived month to month since before we were married.  We have been very fortunate.  So if we’re doing so great, then why not give more of it away?  Well, I guess its because I’m a jerk and I have to live up to my name.  So yeah, we gave a lot away (over 11% of our gross income) but I’m still pretty cautious and not about to turn into a saint any time soon.

This year we also looked at death in the face and spent $2,500 with an attorney to get a will and a trust set up for our children.  That always feels good.  He’s a great guy and I really like him, so if you need one and live in the Portland, Oregon area, let me know.  (He doesn’t accept bitcoin but I threw him a millabitcoin tip for his efforts anyway).  The sad note was he said that 80% of his clients have more wealth than we do.  That didn’t make me feel like a big man at all, but I rationalized (probably incorrectly) that all his clients were old people ready to die.  Well, its not about how much you have right?

Here’s how the portfolio that I manage did.  Its under 50k in stocks, so not huge, but not trivial.  We’re up 25% this year but the S&P 500 is up 29% so we didn’t beat the market.  Guess that shows you that index funds for the common man is still a good way to go.  But we are long term here and don’t use artificial man made dates for performance to be evaluated… Yeah, I’ll keep telling myself that.  We put money in Apple and Intuitive Surgical Devices this year.  We also sold VMware and Fusion IO.

From job income perspective we were up pretty good this year.  I’m not sure what happened differently, but it was a good year.  I didn’t get a raise this year, but the one I got in November last year kicked in.  Also I think the business just performed better and I was a lucky swimmer along with the tide.

From mortgage perspective, we totally crushed it.  We plunked down so much extra money on paying this thing down we are ahead of the game.  I had originally anticipated finishing by December 2015.  That is still the deadline, but I’m hoping in 2014 we can repeat what we did in 2013.  If that is the case, we will probably pay it all off.  The key to that is focus.  Its so cool to have a long term goal and get close to hitting it.  It unifies the family and we’re all rallying behind it.  We were originally planning on going to Hawaii to celebrate, but with young kids, we think a super sweet vacation to Disneyland will be more appropriate.  We’re hoping to take that trip in 2015 at some point (maybe summer?)

From a spiritual perspective I had pockets here and there where I did ok, but I’d like to be more consistent and really focus.  I went to church nearly every Sunday, but going to church does not make one spiritual.  I had lots of experiences listening to talks which I liked very much, but I’d like to connect with a greater power on my own.  Part of that has been a resolve to read, meditate, and pray.  The meditation part is hard to do, but I’ve read all sorts of studies this year on how good it is to meditate.  (reference needed here, but just trust me or google it yourself).  The reason I want to do this is because there is a power that you get from trying to connect to a higher cause.  For me that power comes in the sense of more focus, more drive, more appreciation, more self control, greater resolve, and more fulfillment.  Who doesn’t want that?  So that’s why a spiritual focus will be high on my list this year.  Something I didn’t really think was important in years past.

From a health perspective I had a benign skin cancer removed and I really hated it.  I don’t want that again.  So I’ll be working on improving my diet and getting more exercise.  This seems to be my goal every year, but I’m tired of beating myself up about it.  I’ll limit sugar and when I go to restaurants only order water for drink.  I’d like to make sure I track and get at least 64 oz of water every day.  That usually gets me pretty full so it limits my calorie intake as well.

What are your goals?  How was 2013 for you?  I love hearing about people reaching their goals.  I love hearing about people who had a great year.  My friend had a goal to run 10,000 miles in one year.  He made that goal.  Another wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  My sister lost a ton of weight as did a friend of mine.  When people we know reach their goals it inspires us to reach our goals. May your life be one giant crescendo.

On Bitcoin

I’m extremely bullish on Bitcoin.  I love the idea of a non regulated free money vehicle that governments can’t mess up.  I love the idea of 0 transaction fees to exchange money over the Internet and free us from Wall Street getting their hands in every piece of commerce that we do.  I love the idea of anonymous transactions so nobody tracks what you’re buying.  Bitcoin is such a great disruptive technology I can’t wait to see what it does.  But its going to take a while.

If you think about real estate agents and the value they provide, there are some that are really good and do market homes well.  But I view most of the industry as obsolete and as hoarders of information.  Take MLS for example, the online multiple listing service that agents use to see what the inventory is.  That should just be free for everyone instead of having to go through real estate agents.  I’m glad to see that in some cases transaction fees have decreased, but for the most part, I think the industry is still the same.  (I’ve been out of it for a good 10 years now).  The internet will take them down eventually.

Same thing for large banks and credit cards that get transaction fees for every piece of e-commerce made.  I’d love to see these guys get less.  They have provided a great service in the past as there was no other way to verify that people were sending money or were trustworthy.  What bitcoin essentially brings is cash to the internet.  Credit cards aren’t going to go away (just like checkbooks are still here) its just that bitcoin will now provide us another way to do it without charging transaction fees.  Its pretty instant.

If you have only heard of bitcoin without really getting into the details what you probably know is that its associated with drug deals, hiring assassins, and laundering money.  All of which is true, but its also true of cold hard cash.   You have also probably heard bitcoin compared to the tulip bubble from the 1600s.   It was only $200 in November, then got as high as $1200 and after two weeks is now sitting around $630 at the time of this writing.  So its not for the faint at heart and its still lacks maturity.  But what it offers in terms of promise is astounding and I don’t think we’ve even gotten our arms around it yet to understand its potential.

I may be a little more jazzed about it than I should be.  There are issues about bitcoin that we still may not know about.  For example, that algorithm that ensures nobody can double spend or that nobody can just create a bitcoin out of thin air may not be perfect.  Since bitcoin is open source smart people can probably figure something out that would screw the rest of us.  But its looking pretty good right now, and the principles it uses: peer to peer computing as well as cryptography to make it difficult to crack are extremely sound.  Cryptography is the whole basis for online shopping and allows us to trust other websites.

What I really dislike is people making money for nothing.  In this economy we don’t need a ton of tollbooths over a bridge that was created and paid for a long time ago.  We don’t need these tollbooths just collecting the money and not putting it back into the maintenance of the system, and that’s what investment banks are doing.  They create these financial instruments that mostly just benefit themselves and take a piece of every workers retirement plan whether or not the retirement plan gains any value.  Bitcoin offers a way that they are no longer needed for many transactions.  It reduces their power.  But just like the real estate industry has still been able to control MLS in the day of the Internet,  I am hoping their power diminishes.

So let’s say you want to get started.  What do you do?  The way I did it was that I first opened an account with Mt. Gox.  I found their website horribly slow, broken, and unclear, so I went to http://coinbase.com.  They had a real easy site.  I tied it in with my bank and then placed an order for one bitcoin.  That was back when one bitcoin was worth $544.  In the following 2 weeks it went up to $1200.  I sent my buddies millabitcoins so they could learn about it.

After that, I downloaded my own wallet, a piece of software called multi bit.  I then transferred some of the bits from coin base to my own hard drive (password encrypted, backed up by dropbox and others).  Now its just like having money under a mattress.  It was amazingly simple, and easy to do once I figured it out.  So as you see, you don’t need any 3rd party institutions, but you have to transfer real money to bitcoin somehow.  That is done via one of these online exchanges or in person.

What’s next for Bitcoin?  Well, what it really needs is a big player to start accepting bitcoin.  Think if Amazon accepted bitcoin, it would light a fire under it and bring it back more into the mainstream.  I can tell you I’m really hoping something like that happens.  But for now, I’m hoping it goes lower so that I can buy some more.  I’m not spending money I need for this, nor retirement money.  I just buy a little here and there so that I’m well diversified.

Bitcoin is real.  It has huge potential.  I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

The system is rigged against you

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

“Life isn’t fair” – Your mom  probably told you this a lot when you were growing up.  And to this day it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to most of us.  Why is it some people get it all?  A stellar hand, great health, good looks, money, etc.  While other people, those that are really nice get a bad hand and bad cards after the original deal.

Whatever the reason, the sooner you realize that life isn’t fair, the sooner you start to realize that you may need to work a little harder for something that the other guy just got handed to him.  You just accept it for what it is and move on.  Sitting around complaining and whining isn’t going to help.

I won the lottery the day I emerged from the womb by being in the United States — Warren Buffett

Pretty soon you start to realize that the other common saying: “It’s not what you know, its who you know” is just as true, and has a lot to do with why life isn’t fair.  This can be extended to include what Mr. Warren Buffett calls the “Ovarian Lottery”.  Being born in the right womb can play a huge factor in your chances for success.  Being born in the right womb gives you access to different people and different opportunities.  It doesn’t guarantee success, but it certainly can give you a big boost as long as you don’t blow it.  Look at President Kennedy.

But most of us in the United States were probably born to an average working family, in an average neighborhood, and had a pretty good childhood.  For those of you who didn’t, that’s just another card in the deck that was stacked against you.  But what matters more is where you go from where you came.  There are countless examples of people who overcame incredible circumstances to be where they are today.

A guy I know in my community was 13 years old when his father came home in a drunken rage and shot his mother and then killed himself.  This man grew up, got an education, married a great lady, got a great job and raised several children.  He provides all kinds of service to his community and is a tremendous person.  Someone we would all consider an astounding success, regardless of his background.

And that’s just it:  The sooner you accept that the cards are stacked against you, the sooner you can start to make some serious cash.

“October: This is one of the particularly dangerous months to invest in stocks. Other dangerous months are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February.” — Mark Twain

Let’s start with investing in the stock market.  Its totally rigged against you.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t make money

The recent Twitter IPO is a great place to look.  The IPO was set for $26, but by the time the average person could start buying shares last Thursday, it had already hit $42.  So if you were able to get ahold of $26 shares, you’d have almost doubled your money by the end of the day.  No doubt somebody, who knew somebody, who wasn’t fair, was able to get that deal.  You probably weren’t that guy.  I wasn’t either and didn’t buy any of it.

I also know many people who have bought money in the stock market and then lost it.  They would buy a “hot stock tip” and then the value would drop 30-40% and they’d sell.  This happened to a friend of mine.  We both bought Facebook the day of the IPO.  $48.  He sold when the stock got down to around $16 losing almost all of the initial investment.  I held on.    Today we’re around the same price it was when it IPOd so I could sell and still make money.

So how can you make money on stocks if it is rigged against you?  Really, just education.  You have to realize that you may make mistakes and really screw up.  Consider that tuition.  My biggest mistake came in 2007 when Blackstone filed for an IPO.  I put nearly $2,000 into the company, only to walk away a year later with only $400.  Granted the company was acting illegally and recently settled out of court (netting me only $250 more in compensation, but still half of what I initially invested).  The thing was, I didn’t know the company like I thought I did.  I really didn’t know anything about what it did, but I thought I did.  But I consider that $1,500 cost as tuition for a class on trading stocks, complete with hands-on experience.

Today, I like to think I’m wiser. I invest in companies when its cheap to buy.  I would probably not buy any of the companies I own right now unless the stock price decreased tremendously.  Everything is so overpriced right now.

Try to have the mentality of a quarterback who just threw an interception.  You just go back out there throwing for the end zone.  Visa IPOd not long after I lost big on Blackstone and I bought a ton of that company.  And I knew it was going to be a success.  A great brand, a great business.  Its been my best horse to date.  But alas now, its extremely expensive.

“Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful” — Warren Buffett

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

The other way to make money is to not buy at high prices.  The Dow and S&P 500 are near all time highs, you probably shouldn’t buy, unless you know something about a particular company.   Just last week I transferred a huge chunk of my stocks in my 401k to bonds, fearful of the irrational highs. People are still struggling, I don’t see too much in the economy to make me think all is roses.  My own company is still cutting back on labor and clamping down on expenses.  So why should the stocks continue to go higher?


Let’s talk about getting a job.  Companies exist to make money.  If you can’t help them make money, they don’t need you.  If they hire you, then that’s less money they can give to everybody else.  It’s like the difference if I take one kid with me to the movies or all four.  If I just take one, then my $5 for snacks goes farther.  If all 4 of them go, then it doesn’t make too many of them happy.

You need to provide someway to show them how you can help them make money.  Otherwise, they aren’t going to hire you. To do that, education is what you need, or rare skills.  Skills that are rare, usually take the same amount to get as does education.  So get good at something so the system needs you, then you can blow the system off and start your own thing.

Educational Institutions

Many of these places exist to get money from you.  The irony is that by promising you a future, most of these schools end up taking your future, in the form of debt from student loans.  Don’t be a victim.  Have a really good game plan before you sign up for a loan.  Understand that the employment rates after graduation are not what they were back in the 80s or 90s.  You can really get taken advantage of.

These are just a few quick thoughts about the subject.  The point is, distrust most of the institutions that have been around before you were born.  They want to continue living and your interests are not in their interest.  The system is rigged against you.  Understand that, and fight back.  Think and get educated.

Making Time

My Doctor told me a few weeks ago that I need to make more time for exercise.  Just like I make time for eating (to which I devote a significant part of my day) I need to treat exercise just as important as that.  Treat it like your life depends upon it, because it actually does.

I’m fortunate, because I work at home, so I don’t have to shower at any particular time and can exercise whenever there is a quick 45 min break or something.  But this got me thinking about something else: My start up.  I want to start a company and get some income happening here on the side.  So its about making time.

Everyday, I try to do something to move the ball forward.  As long as I’m doing something, no matter how small, I’m doing something.

This week Bryce wrote a great post called “Most People Won’t“.  I loved it.  And to be one of the few who actually do, you just have to do.   Something. As long as you’re doing something, just one thing, every day that moves the ball forward, then you will find lots of fulfillment.

With my start up, it is taking longer than I would like to have ready, but I feel good that I am actually doing something.  And my start up isn’t about the end goal necessarily.  Its about the road, or about the adventure to actually do it.  And I have to say I am enjoying that part very much.  I love working on it.  Its work, but its a good kind of work.  The kind of work where I’m creating something that’s mine.  Probably like an artist feels about his work.

I used to make lots of songs and arrange lyrics, music, instrument arrangements, etc.  I don’t do that as much anymore, but the feeling I got after I’d record a song is similar to what I feel as I develop my product.  Like an artist.  A creation.

So I’m making more time for that.  Just like I do lunch, breakfast, and dinner.

Mortgage update: Getting closer to $100k balance

We were fortunate enough to get another bonus at work.  Our mortgage is now down to around $113,100 with two months left to go this year.  Hurray!  It was a huge milestone when we got the mortgage below $200k a while back and this is feeling pretty good.  $100,000 is the next huge benchmark.  I’m not sure we’re going to be able to get below $100k before the end of the year.  I could certainly take some out of my savings account and do it, but that makes me a little uncomfortable.  What do you think?  Should I pull some savings to get below $100k before 2014?  If we do, we’ll still have enough for several months of living expenses, still maxing out retirement accounts, and no other debt.  Work just did their big round of layoffs and things seem to be good there, so I’m thinking I’m at least good another year at work.  Tempting.

Last June made it 8 years that we lived in this house.  For sure by 10 years in this house we’ll be able to pay it off.  That will be a little before my 40th birthday and before any of our kids are teenagers.  I’d like to pay it off in late 2014 though.  That would be before I’m 39, then save for a year and buy a rental or some other property before I turn 40.  I’m pretty convinced that having another property with free cash flow will be essential to fund retirement.   I’m not opposed to financing property if I treat it like a business.

With all the bad that is happening in the economy and to people we know struggling with money issues, underemployment, lack of job prospects, health problems, relationship issues, divorce, etc we feel very very fortunate.  As such, we continue to give back and be as generous as we can with the allotment of money and time we’ve been given.  We give at least 10% of our income to our church, we tip generously, and help our family members in need as well.  Where much is given much is expected.  We volunteer many hours of time to causes we feel strongly about and to our children’s activities (coaching soccer, etc).

While not everything is in our control, there are small choices every day to be made that tip the balance in your favor.  Above all is hard work and having a goal.  If you really want to be economically sound or accomplish something (like pay off a house) it has to be something you focus on.  Focus will get you everywhere.