In my job as a talent agent, I get to cheat- I can ask advice from people who get paid oodles of dollars for a 60 minute speech, and they actually give me the answers.
Before Krista and I had kids, I asked a financial guru, Terry Savage, the best way to say for my child’s college. I assumed it would be expensive and complicated, but with vast amounts of time and money and mental acumen needed to start.
“It’s really simple, and will take you about 10 minutes and $25,” she replied. I followed her advice and then forgot about it. A couple of years later, we had our first daughter. I remembered the college fund, and when I went to check on it, we had $1,000 saved up already! College is incredibly expensive, and having a $1,000 head start is huge! Here’s how you can do it:
STEP 1: Go to UPromise.com and set up an account. Once you sign up, you’ll start noticing the UPromise logo everywhere. Any time you buy from grocery stores, several restaurants, or even online at places like Target, Groupon, Best Buy and others, you get 1% to 8% into your child’s college savings account.
You can get a UPromise credit card if you want, but you don’t need to. Just register your other credit or check cards. You can also have your parents, aunts, uncles, etc, register their cards, and money will go into your account as well. If you have other family with college savings accounts, those relatives can divide their amounts between several kids if they want.
STEP 2: Set up your 529. Each state has one. If there’s no tax benefit to joining your own state’s 529 program, CollegeSavingsIowa.com is a great one to join. You can start with as little as $25, and invest as little as $25 each time. The money goes into a Vanguard account (a financial institution with incredibly low fees), and grows from there.
That’s it. You’ll be earning money for your children’s college education practically every day without thinking about.
So what’s keeping you from starting today?
NOTE: I am not a financial advisor, this is just my personal advice.
PS: Terry has a lot of great stuff on her website, newsletter, social media, etc
Right before most people get their paychecks (at noon on the last day of the month and 14th, since most people get paid on the 1st and 15th of the month), I’ll be posting on twitter @premierebrian on how you can give a little and save a little from each paycheck.
For giving, I’ll share some of the organizations I think are doing a great job of helping others in this world, especially widows and orphans.
For saving, I’ll be sharing quotes, blogs and insights from experts like Michelle Singletary, Ron Blue, Dave Ramsey, Sami Cone and many more.
You can help your friends and family by retweeting these, too. If you’re giving and saving, they’re more likely to do the same.
If we are start giving and saving, just think of the difference we can make!
This is from an actual conversation that could only take place at a speakers bureau.
Me- “So, do you have everything you need to move forward with this speaker for your event? Is there anything else I can provide for you?”
Event planner- “Well, we have a new sheriff in town, and we need to check with him first.”
Me- “Yeah, I know new executives like to look things over for their first event.”
Event planner- “What?”
Me- “You know, when new executives first come in, they want to make sure they have a hand in approving speakers.”
Event planner- “No, we actually have a new sheriff in town. Apparently he’s implemented some innovative processes down there at the Sheriff’s Department, and we might want to have him speak instead.”
Me- “Oh. OK.”
Why did pirates wear eye patches? The answer is actually pretty simple and kinda smart. Let’s say you’re swinging across from your ship to a British merchant ship, shouting “Avast, ye bilge rats!”, and you see someone with one of those funny powdered wigs disappear below deck, laden with valuables. Can you follow him? Since flashlights were hard to come by in the 1600s, you’d have to go below decks, wait several minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, then continue the pursuit- if you hadn’t already been skewered by someone down there whose eyes were already adjusted. The solution was simple. Have one eye covered with a patch, and when you go into darkness, flip it up. It’s already adjusted, and you can go on pillaging and looting without missing a beat.
As a new dad, you’ll need to do the same thing. Not so much the part about boarding ships on the Spanish Main, but more about being able to go in and out of light and dark spaces with ease. Let’s say you’re in the baby’s room where it’s nice and dark, but then you have to go get something from the kitchen or bathroom. Even opening the refrigerator can throw off your night vision. The good news is that you don’t even need an eye patch (unless your wife thinks that’s cool). Just remember that whenever you leave a dark room and have intentions of going back in, close one eye till you return. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but it’s a whole lot better than having to wade helplessly through a dark room, hoping not to step on Boudreaux’s Butt Paste or used diapers, or turning on the light, ensuring the little one doesn’t have a chance at getting back to sleep. When you go back into the dark room, just open the ‘dark’ eye, and you’re ready to go.
You are still allowed to talk to you baby like a pirate, referring to formula as “Grog”, and referring to your wife as “me beauty”.
As a kid, being on non-winning teams was a past time of mine. It didn’t matter the sport- baseball, football, basketball (heck, our chess club team was pretty cruddy, too). It didn’t matter if I was on a school team or a city park league team, it was the same result- losing. In fact, if it weren’t for a magical run for by baseball team when I was ten (being the low seed and winning three straight in our tournament to finish one game above .500) I would have never been on single a team with a winning record in my life.
So when it got to my senior year and I was finally on a football team that was good- really good- I was thrilled. We were winning games, not but luck, but by actually being better than other teams. But something my teammate Bobby said to me after a game stuck out to me, and has stayed with me ever since. Bobby was a big dude- 6’1, 225 or so (sorry, Bobby, I don’t have any old programs), who could run through a brick wall. I remember in film study one time where the coach paused the film. Bobby was playing linebacker, and had two offensive linemen in front of him, a full back coming in, and then the running back with the ball. The coach hit play on the projector. Bobby pushed his way through the two big linemen, got by the full back (it was unclear if the fullback just missed the block or dove out of Bobby’s way in fear), and ran down the running back for the tackle. Just a beast of player, and a big reason we were so good.
As I mentioned, that year we were winning, but then one Friday night under the lights we played a really good team, and it was just their night. I was playing defensive back and standing on the near side of the field by Bobby. The final seconds were ticking away, and it was clear we were going to lose. In my head, I remember thinking, “Well, at least we still have a winning record.” Just then, Bobby took off his helmet, and with the most pained look on his face I’d seen on him, said “Man, I don’t want to just beat bad teams!”
I’d been happy just to be good, hopefully a little better than average. Bobby wanted to be the best. It didn’t matter how good other teams were, he wanted us to be better. He didn’t want to be satisfied being average. That thought has always stuck with me. It’s not that I hadn’t worked hard to even get to that point of being someone who was playing for a really good team. It’s more about the mindset than just physically working hard. But I realized there was another level to strive for, and that’s carried through to today. When I started at my current company, we were probably the 150th biggest in the industry. We often compete with other companies for the same business, and whenever I’d find out I was company with one of the top two or three companies in our industry for business, I wouldn’t shirk back. I’d go after that business even harder. I really wanted to beat the best, and luckily that quite often happened. Now we’re probably top five in the country.
Thanks, Bobby, for the great advice all those years ago!
(This is the first in a series of great things I’ve learned from friends in my lifetime that have helped me be a better person.)
Last fall I decided to see what would happen if I spent as much time learning a language as I did playing fantasy football, and I’ve somehow had the best fantasy sports run of my life!
First, I cut back from four fantasy football teams to two. Then for the language, I started with Russian- mainly because I’d been watching Jason Bourne movies and it just sounds like a language for cool, tough guys (of which I am neither). I ended up making a couple new Russian friends, was accused of being a KGB agent by a Ukrainian truck driver, and was able to get even more out of watching The Hunt for Red October.
After finishing the 16 introductory Russian lessons on Pimsleur CDs I’d checked out from the local library, I went to try Mandarin Chinese, which I had to cut short (just six lessons) due to the need to practice my French before a mission trip to Haiti. By that time, football season had ended and I was well into basketball season. (How did I do in my fantasy leagues? Check out the stats below.)
I decided to keep the experiment going, and picked up Arabic for basketball season, with Hebrew to finish it off. I’m thinking German and Italian for baseball season. The goal isn’t to become fluent, but to learn ‘tourist’ language- greetings, directions, ordering, etc. I’ll have a basis for the language if I ever visit the country or become a participant on The Amazing Race.
I’ve met some really cool people along the way, and built some relationships that would not have taken place if not for the bridge opened by learning the language. I’ll share some of those stories, along with some tips I’ve learned about the best ways to learn another language (you can get some Vine posts on twitter @premierebrian). I’m also a history buff, so I’ll recommend some books for each culture these languages represent in case you’d like to dig a little deeper.
Thanks for following along!
2012 Fantasy Football Season
Russian : Full 16 lessons in Pimsleur’s Introductory Russian
Mandarin/Chinese – 6 lessons (didn’t quite finish) Pimsleur’s Introductory Mandarin
2012 Fantasy Football: 1st place – Yahoo! League
2012 Fantasy Football: 2nd place- ESPN League
2012-2013 Fantasy Basketball Season
Arabic (Eastern/Syrian) – Full 10 lessons Pimsleur’s Introductory
Hebrew – Currently on lesson 6 of 8 lessons Pimsleur’s Introductory Hebrew
2012-2013 Fantasy Basketball: 1st place regular season, currently in championship game- Yahoo! league 1
2012-2013 Fantasy Basketball: 1st place regular season, currently in championship game- Yahoo! league 2
2013 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Currently in 1st place (going into the Final Four) Yahoo! leagues 1 & 2
2013 NCAA Tournament Bracket: 96th percentile in ESPN general pool
Other languages (pre-fantasy football):
French- 90 lessons (Pimsleur French Levels 1-3)
Spanish- 27 lessons (Pimsleur Spanish Level 1)
PS- I’m not sponsored by Pimsleur, but I should be!
Have you ever raced a cycling time trial? Last year, some cyclists-turned-triathletes put the word out that the Tennessee State Time Trial Championships would right outside of Nashville, and that it was only $25 to enter. No swimming, no running- just 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) of pure cycling on a straight out and back course.
I’d never done a bike-only event, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I borrowed a friend’s aero helmet (are those weird or what?), and headed out. When I arrived, I asked one of our resident uber-cyclists, Lisa Starmer, for any tips she might have for a first timer. The main thing, she said, was to get rid of everything that was unnecessary. Now as a triathlete, you’re used to having a loaded bike, because you have to be prepared for a lot, and you need to be able to fuel (eat and drink) to be able to run a 10K or a half marathon afterward. Not so here. Lisa proceeded to point out everything I needed to remove. “You need to get rid of every ounce of extra weight you have. No Bento (food) box, no second water bottle, and no tire repair kit. If you get a flat, you’re done. They’ll just come and pick you up.” Thanks to Lisa’s advice, I did a lot better than I thought I would.
This got me to start thinking about what else in life we might be able to streamline. What can we remove to make our lives lighter, so that we can endure our own trials, and be able to focus on doing what we need to do best? One of my favorite verses helps in summing this up:
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
What’s one unnecessary thing can you remove from your life that is holding you back? What is one thing you’ve removed in the past that helped make you better?
Have you ever been on the front end of a mission? I’ve been on trips and known of others where you partner with an existing program and you build a house or feed kids or provide medical care. But have you ever been part of the group that decides which person’s house is rebuilt (and by virtue of that decision, whose house isn’t), which kids will be fed and treated (and which won’t)? Such was the trip I just went on with Servants Heart.
-Marc, whose church decided that instead of rebuilding their church after the earthquake, their church would meet under a tarp and rebuild the school instead (video).
-Michael S., with a degree in counseling and a love of math, who despite all the odds against them, was able to allow 10% more students to come to school- many of them child slaves.
-Claudel, the old man of God, who still dreams of building a library for the school aged kids of his church.
-Crosley, who is so dedicated to his students that he, his pregnant wife, and two kids lives in a 10×10 tarped off area in the corner of a classroom.
-Micheal Jean, the man with a great smile, who lives with his wife and five kids (including a two week old son) who live in a classroom of the school as well.
-Jean, an award winning administrator who has been able to make great improvements in a few years, but still often runs out of food for the kids.
So who do you think?
These are all good Christian men who love their students and church families and sacrifice so much for them daily. After meeting with them, our little team went to visit each at their church and school (in Haiti, they’re very often the same place), and began to ask questions- how many kids do you have in your school and church? What is your vision for the future? Have you ever done a feeding program? Do you keep good records? And many more. The goal is to pick one place, hope that Americans back home will donate money, pray and visit, work out the kinks on site at the Haitian feeding program, and then have something the other teachers and pastors can successfully replicate if funds allows.
The tough part is that all these kids deserve to eat, they deserve the chance to learn with something in their tummies. Often by 10AM, the kids can’t pay attention anymore because they haven’t eaten. How many of you deal with cranky, hungry kids sometimes? Now just imagine that it’s 100 or 300 kids, every day. They need that fighting chance to be healthy and help their families grow and be proud of them, and help lead their community and country out of the rubble. I guess the answer is to focus on those you can help, even if you’re always reminded there are more.
To learn about what Servants Heart has done for years in the Dominican Republic and is beginning to do in Haiti, and how you can help be a hero in a kid’s life, go to ServantsHeartMinistry.com.
On my first trip, we helped rebuild a house for a widow and her family. The video that got the most feedback from friends say “HOLY COW THAT LOOKS DIFFICULT” was ‘The Long Walk’. We hauled several hundred cinder blocks down 75 stairs down the side of a mountain in Haiti in July. You can check out the video here:
This time we’re going to help start a ministry, with Servants Heart working with myLIFEspeaks to start a feeding program in Haiti. You might remember Servants Heart from my trip last year when Krista and I took our girls on their first mission trip, to the Dominican Republic.
This time I’m leaving the family at home, where they’ll be in the safe keeping of my wife’s family, which is sort of the Italian version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. The joke is that there are more people at my house when I’m out of town than when I’m in town!
Please keep me, Rob, the rest of our team and our families in your prayers, and the people of Haiti and Neply even more so.
You can follow me on twitter @premierebrian, and http://instagram.com/brianlord.
What do you want to learn about Neply? What would you like to know about the people there?