Author: Online Trading Academy

10 Life-Changing Financial Resolutions

Traditionally, every holiday season we remind ourselves to be thankful for what we have, as well as sit ourselves down to decide what actions (e.g. resolutions) we will plan to take in the new year. The problem is… most resolutions never seem to materialize and we simply continue to live within our perceived comfort zones. But what if, you could change your life for the better and all you had to do was commit to changing the way you perceive and manage your finances? Imagine what your life could look like if you had simply sat down and mapped out a personal finance blueprint for 2018! Tweet: Imagine what your life could look like if you had simply sat down and mapped out a personal finance blueprint for 2018! https://ctt.ec/tQ1Uc+

10 New Year’s Resolutions to Help You Achieve Financial Freedom:

Create habits instead of making resolutions
  1. Create a Monthly Budget – Let’s face it, no one likes to sit down and count their pennies, but the ones that do have the highest probability of reaching their financial goals. All you need to do is sit down and track your monthly expenses and once you see just how your hard-earned money is being spent, you can create a household budget and re-direct your additional income to your savings or retirement account(s). A great tool to help you track your expenses and budgets is Intuit’s Mint.com website and app.
  2. Take Inventory of your Bad Debt: – You need to review all your loans and interest-bearing credit accounts by prioritizing them from highest to lowest interest. Each month not only are you paying minimum balances against your bad debt, but you are also paying compounding interest on those outstanding balances as well. Make a resolution this year to pay off more than the minimum due each month on your loans or credit balances, paying those with the highest interest rates first so you can re-direct those interest fees toward paying off other bills, or even better, increasing your savings or retirement account(s).
  3. Create a 2017 Financial Calendar – There is nothing worse than being charged late fees on top of interest. Make a point of identifying the dates that all your expenses are due and make sure to pay them in plenty of time to avoid any unnecessary fees. You should also use your financial calendar to help you determine how and when you will be paying off your highest interest-bearing balances: A month, a quarter, or a year?
  4. Create a Financial Route – We all live very busy and hectic lives, but it is extremely important that you put aside at least one hour a week to review all your finances. Ideally, you should do this with your spouse, partner or significant other. The more you work as a team and hold each other accountable, the faster you will reach your overall financial goals.
  5. Budget 10% of Your Monthly Income Toward Savings – Imagine when you were very young and a wise parent or grandparent told you that if you saved $.20 out of every dollar you earned for the rest of your life, you could retire at an earlier age, and you could enjoy your financial freedom. Sadly, if you never received this sage advice you must take it upon yourself now to set aside at least 10% of your monthly income toward your emergency fund, savings or retirement account(s) so you too can one day reap your own financial freedom.
  6. Turn Your Dream Board Into an Action Board – To help you plan and reach your financial goals sooner, you need to take action NOW! A simple way to accomplish your dreams is by attaching dates underneath your dream board photos. This simple change will create the urgency you need to get off your butt and take action toward achieving your financial goals. Remember, dreams are for bedtime, goals are for success.
  7. Access Free Financial EducationManage Your Net Worth – To help you calculate your net worth, you must first take an inventory of all your assets (cash, investments, real estate, collectibles, patents/licenses) and your liabilities (your outstanding balances: mortgage, car loan, credit card debt, etc.). You current net worth (positive or negative) is determined by subtracting your liabilities from your assets. If the value of all your assets is greater than the total of your liabilities (e.g. debt), you have a positive net worth. Your long-term financial goal should be to have a large enough positive net worth that you can live off your assets. Make a resolution this year that you will do what is necessary to achieve a positive net worth.
  8. Become a Strategic, Not Emotional Spender – Before you begin doling out your hard-earned cash on the next must have product or service, ask yourself the following strategic question: ‘How will this product or service contribute to my personal finance goals?’ You should never emotionally spend money without first researching and asking yourself ‘why do I need this product or service in the first place?’ Emotional spending to alleviate some emotional void in your life is never a wise idea. Make a point this year to cut out any unnecessary spending and re-direct that same money to your savings or retirement account(s).
  9. Earning More Money is Not an Excuse to Spend More Money – Just because you get some extra zeros at the end of your paycheck, does not mean that you should add extra zeros to your debt. So many people talk themselves into believing that if they just earned or got more money in their life that would solve all their financial problems. But the reality is… unless you have a plan to create good financial savings and spending habits, you will just continue to spend more and more, getting yourself into even great financial debt.
  10. Change Your Limiting Beliefs About Money – Most importantly, you need to stop listening to your own limiting beliefs about money. The only reason you are broke is because your life is broken. You have to start telling yourself, ‘I can save money!’ ‘I can be wealthy and have financial freedom!’ The only one holding you back from achieving your financial goals is YOU!

Make 2019, the year you finally make your New Personal Finance Resolutions come true!

Happy New Year!!

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Winterizing you Rental Property

Today as I’m writing this article its 75 degrees outside, so winterizing my home in SoCal isn’t top of mind. I do own property in other parts of the country where winterizing needs to be taken seriously, however.  In fact, there are many parts of the US that have already had a freeze and or snow, like New York shown in the photo below from earlier this month. The consequences of not properly winterizing your home and/or rental property can be costly.

Snow in New York

We will focus on how to properly winterize your home to prevent these types of disasters: water damage, fire, and physical liability.

How to Properly Winterize Your Home

Winterizing to Prevent Water Damage

Nature brings water in the forms of rain, snow and ice and, in extreme circumstances it can cause quite a bit of damage. But water disasters can also be manmade, such as busted pipes. When you have flooding, there’s practically nowhere water can’t penetrate so it can not only damage personal property (why it’s a good idea to require tenants have renters insurance) but also sheet rock, wood trim, flooring and walls. What’s worse is, it often leads to mold if the areas are not quickly dried.  Natural causes are difficult to predict and prepare for, however, items like burst pipes can be avoided with proper planning.

Things the property owner can do to winterize against water damage:

  • Free Real Estate Investing WorkshopInsulate pipes
  • Insulate waterlines
  • If you have separate water sources for the garage or laundry, make sure they are also insulated
  • Make sure your HVAC is working correctly and heating key areas where pipes are located

Things the tenants can do to winterize against water damage:

  • Keep cabinets doors open so heat can get to the pipes
  • Keep a slow drip going in the faucets to keep them from freezing
  • Keep the heat above 55 degrees (you can install regulators)

Winterizing to Prevent Fires

Fire can happen any time, of course. However, there are two ways that winter increases the chance of fires in rental properties: heating and cooking. Here are some suggestions of things that can be done to help reduce the possibility of these kinds of fires.

Heating:

  • Some forms of heat are safer than others, so ensure your heating systems are safe and in good working order. Don’t leave it up to the tenant to find a heating source.
  • Regular maintenance of HVAC systems – which includes changing furnace filters monthly
  • Strict rules on the use of ovens and space heaters
  • If units have fireplaces:
    1. provide screens
    2. have a 3-foot perimeter
    3. maintain chimneys

Cooking:

  • Maintain working smoke and CO2 alarms. In many states it is required to have a third party annual inspection.
  • Provide a fire extinguisher which can often be provided by a third party company that will also do an annual inspection.
  • Provide a cooking safety checklist to your tenant.
  • Install StoveTop Fire Stop, an inexpensive fire suppression product.

Winterizing to Prevent Liability

Of course, liability can always be an issue but in the winter there are added hazards and often increased traffic because of the holidays. Attention to the following maintenance issues can prevent a costly liability claim.

  • Walkways, stairs and drive ways should be kept in good repair – eliminate uneven surfaces, secure handrails, clear driveways
  • Have guidelines in your leases about who’s responsible for clearing walkways and driveways in inclement weather.
  • Create easy and secure ways tenants can inform you of hazards such as:
    1. Electrical issues
    2. Concern of mold
    3. Broken windows, floor boards, stairs, or exposed wires, nails or pipes
    4. Leaky pipes

Ben Franklin said, ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’, and he lived in cold weather…

Good Fortune,

Diana D. Hill – Diana@OTARealEstate.com

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What is Keeping You from Consistency?

I was recently reading an article about a University study on the behavior traits of Professional and Amateur traders which highlighted some interesting findings. The researchers split the group into two, one was made up of half the traders who were given a proven trade plan to follow and the other half who developed their own. After a set number of weeks trading the markets, the group who followed the plan had been profitable and the other half had not. However, what was more interesting was the behavior of the groups. The profitable group had stuck to their plans throughout, yet the unprofitable group consistently changed their trading plan after three losses, irrespective of whether the three losses came in a row or not. What was their motivation to keep changing? To win more, or to avoid losing? Let’s explore this question further.

visual depicting human wiring

Let’s face it, we are all human and wired to do things a certain way. From the day we are born, we are essentially programmed to do two things: seek out pleasure and avoid pain. Our existence as creatures of habit means that because of this basic function, trading can quite easily become a hugely challenging task before we have even really begun, inherently due to the fact that our DNA is wired against us! Think about what I stated beforehand: We seek out pleasure and try to avoid pain. What does this mean in the context of trading? Initially, it means we all have a huge task ahead of us in FX, or any other form or trading, if we hope to eventually be successful and consistent at it. This is not because we are stupid or incapable of being good at trading, it is because of the mental challenge we face from the outset.

If you have read my articles before this one, you will know that I constantly recommend the use of a detailed trading plan and a simple rule based strategy. The reason I place emphasis on the simple part of this is because we need to be able to take action in the market when the time is right and not hang around and ponder over our choices for too long. Too much pondering puts us in danger of overcomplicating the opportunities right in front of us and then never making a decision, or making too many decisions! The easier it is for us to spot a trading opportunity in the market, the easier it is to be able to place that trade and take action. Applying more and more details to a trading opportunity creates, in turn, a greater number of questions for us to answer before we can actually pull the trigger.

By using a simple trading plan, we are helping ourselves to take action when action is required. However, there is more to this than just being able to pull the trigger with ease. For many traders, pulling the trigger for an entry is not the problem at all. In fact, it is probably the opposite – they find themselves trigger-happy! Therefore, to cure this ailment, the simple trading strategy again plays its vital role in that the simpler it is, the less there is to modify and change. On the flipside of this, we will always see that the more detailed or complicated the trading strategy is, the more there is to potentially change about it. Have you ever heard of the phase, there are too many moving parts?

As you get further along your path of education with the FX markets, you will soon begin to realize just how important the simple trading strategy is and why we also need to understand our own mental pitfalls before we begin to trade.

Free Trading WorkshopLet’s assume that we now have a simple strategy in our trading toolkit which involves buying at Demand and selling at Supply. We are going to focus on applying this strategy without question, meaning that every time a trade setup appears to us, we aim to take it. The first trade comes up and we take it and it works. The result is we make money and we feel good. Trade number two comes up and we take it in alignment with our trading plan and again it works out and we make money. How are we now feeling? Probably even better! No doubt that we are finding pleasure in our action thus far.

A day later we come across another setup. Again, we take the trade and this time we are stopped out. Expecting this to happen from time to time we move on and await the next trade. It comes up, we take it and again we get a small loss. In fact, the next trade we take again results in a loss. We now have a total of three losing trades in a row. How do you think you would be feeling if you were fairly new to this game? Probably and little unhinged? This would be perfectly normal, considering how we are wired. Remember we are built to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The first two winners gave us that pleasure but the last three trades resulted in pain, yet we can’t expect to win every time, can we? This is a perfectly normal turn of events in trading, whether we like it or not.

The reality of the markets actually dictates that we could get even more losses than this in a row. The different permutations and outcomes are virtually endless. However, if a trading strategy has been proven to work over the long run, with a quality risk to reward profile, it needs to be adhered to no matter the way trades play out. Ask yourself a question: is it the trading strategy producing the results or the trader producing the results? The biggest danger in the quest for ongoing trading success is the challenge of moving the goal posts when things don’t work out the way we hoped. A trading plan or strategy could be perfectly sound, but if a trader hits a losing streak then there is a danger of them attempting to avoid the pain by changing the plan – avoiding the pain allows pleasure after all! We need to ignore these needy aspects or our raw human psyche and focus on the job at hand: consistency in execution and lack of emotion.

Until next time,

Sam Evans – sevans@tradingacademy.com

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Real Estate Bubble…or No Bubble?

During a recent grad event in Atlanta, I was once again confronted with questions surrounding the prospects of yet another real estate bubble. Could it really be 2008 all over again?

Fueled by the mainstream media who likes to paint such sophisticated topics as real estate with a roller rather than a fine tipped brush, I feel compelled to share details from the inner circles of the real estate investment community.

Image depicting a pin poised to pop a bubble with a house in it.

Are We Headed for Another Real Estate Bubble?

First, we must acknowledge that housing is and will always be a core human necessity, along with food and water. This is true whether we are sheltering people, businesses or stuff.

We must also acknowledge that all markets are not the same. One must follow the jobs. One must follow the population.

Where markets like Cleveland and Detroit have experienced a significant reduction in population, Atlanta is experiencing unrivaled growth at the hands of 63 corporations that have committed to moving their headquarters to the new Capital of the south within the next 5 years. Recent companies that now call Atlanta home include Mercedes, State Farm, Porsche and, the nation’s largest homebuilder, Pulte. The resulting effect is a population explosion from less than 2 million residents following the 1996 Olympics, to eclipsing 7 million in 2018 with projections of surpassing 10 million within the next decade. Markets like Charlotte, Nashville, Austin and Denver, just to name a few, are experiencing proportional levels of unprecedented growth and offer tremendous opportunity for the properly positioned investor.

What Is Fueling the Growth in Real Estate?

Today’s buyer frenzy, witnessed in many of America’s top markets, is NOT being fueled by the major contributing cause of the 2008 real estate collapse.

The Subprime Mortgage environment of 2008 was caused by millions of people flooding the market wishing to participate in the American Dream of home ownership before their finances were in order. They were able to do so at the hands of these creative mortgage products, causing prices nationwide to rise to historic levels at the hands of unprecedented demand.

In contrast, the growth in real estate we are experiencing now can be attributed to population migration (where we used to live and where we are moving to) and the impact of institutional buyers like Blackstone who have amassed more than $100 Billion in assets following the collapse.

Free Real Estate Investing WorkshopCase in point: following the collapse and the decade that has ensued, more than 13 million homes were lost to foreclosure, short sale, and bankruptcy. This influx of inventory at significant reductions in pricing served as catalyst for the institutional buyers to enter the market.

As for a Real Estate Bubble as we experienced in 2008, we don’t see the same contributing causes in the market in the near future. Of course, there will be shifts in the market which will be caused by the normal flux of household formation and, perhaps, interest rates.

Look for our next article where we will look at where and how the real estate market is making a paradigm shift.

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Beliefs: An Important Key to Getting the Trading Results You Want

For the most part, it goes without saying that having a strong belief in your abilities, such as they are, is a very important cog in accomplishing anything of value; not the least of which is trading. Of course, in the service of accuracy it must be said here that having belief without skill, knowledge or relevant resources is like believing that you can, slip on some sneakers and run a marathon without ever exercising.  Now granted, even without the skill it is likely that you would go a heck of a lot farther and faster if you completely believed in your ability, but you would eventually succumb to your body’s limitations and may do some damage in the process.  All said, the bottom line is that belief is powerful enough to beat cancer, heal wounds, put more energy in your tank than you thought possible and propel you into the consistently successful trader of your deepest desires.

Free Trading WorkshopI’ve often talked about the results formula; that is, T + E + B = R (thoughts, emotions, behaviors render results). This formula represents how results, outcomes and consequences are generated each and every time.  In other words, those three variables are always present.  That’s not to say that there may not be, from time-to-time, other intervening factors, but thoughts, emotions and behaviors are forever present.  Think about it for a moment. When you get the urge to move a stop, chase a trade or exit a trade prematurely it is driven by an emotion, like fear, anxiety or greed to name a few.  These emotions do not come from a vacuum – they are triggered, generated, initiated and determined by thoughts.

Thoughts have many iterations: verbalizations, mind movies, values, internal processes, biases and beliefs, many of which are out-of-awareness.  These thought expressions are internal representations of what you perceive environmental experiences to be.  On a fundamental level they express what you interpret these experiences to mean as you juxtapose them with a current belief about something similar that has already happened. This is true especially if your interpretation is danger and threat…like an impending loss from a stop-loss that is about to be hit. As the price action moves closer to the stop, the novice would perceive the chart movement in the occipital lobe (where vision is processed) which would be picked up by the amygdala in the limbic system and interpreted as danger and threat based upon past experience.  Danger and threat are then transformed into fear and anxiety…this is a thought process.

Now, simultaneously the prefrontal cortex (where executive functions occur) processes this information and the fear and anxiety are verbalized into something like, this price action is going to take me out and that means that I am an incompetent trader.  The verbalized thought then produces another emotion, such as panic, which in turn conjures images of the trader losing all of their money and subsequently becoming homeless.  This is taking it to the extreme to illustrate the point of how quickly you can become hijacked by the limbic system and prefrontal cortex.

At this instance there is an elevated perception of negative emotional arousal (extreme discomfort bordering on pain) which prompts an ego driven defense mechanism seeking to reduce the discomfort by introducing a pain-relief action in the form of an urge to move the stop. Now, at the root of all of this is a fundamental limiting and irrational core belief that could be verbalized as I must never losebecause I would be judged as less-than, proving that I am a loser, which would generate considerably more pain.  With this underlying out-of-awareness belief in play, the trader would be lost in a seemingly never ending loop of perceived danger then panic then urge to get relief by violating a rule. Of course, the aftermath of yielding to the violation is more discomfort in the form of self-anger, self-loathing and confusion as to why you are caught in this loop and can’t seem to figure out how to stop it.

Here is an intervention that is designed to help get you off the merry-go-round.  Ask yourself, what must I be telling myself or believing to feel this fear or other emotion. This action will incite a conscious and unconscious search; thereby pulling back the layers of the onion and drilling down into the real reason why you continue to do the same thing and expect a different result.  The answers may not be available immediately, but in due time will produce the pathway to uncovering the core belief that is contributing to the frustration, frazzlement and fragmentation causing you to blow off the rules and entertain detours away from your A-Game.

How to remap your brain for positive thinking.

Once you uncover that limiting core belief, change it to reflect its opposite.  For example, I must never lose can be modified to read, small losses are a part of doing business and every small loss gets me closer to a big win.  Then embrace the change and incorporate the new belief by attaching it to a mind-movie that shows you making a trade where the price action is moving towards your stop but rather than reacting with intense negative emotional arousal, you see yourself taking a deep breath, closing your eyes while scanning the body to find any tension and, where you experience that tension, breathing into it while alternately tightening and relaxing that part. This works because you can’t be relaxed in muscle body and at the same time experience negative emotional arousal.  Repeat the process several times along with the affirmation(s) and it will create new brain pathways that will begin to fire together and subsequently hard wire together, meaning that you are training your brain in another more appropriate approach to the same issue.

Over a short time this practiced reaction becomes the default mechanism. Do this for every rule violation while keeping in mind that the rule violation is not about the loss, which is what your logic is telling you, the rule violation is about reducing the discomfort and potential pain generated by the perception of danger and threat.

This is what we teach in the on-location and online Mastering the Mental Game courses.  Ask your Online Trading Academy representative for more information.  Also, get my book, From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader. 

Joyous Trading

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The Secret to Reducing Your Tax Liability

Holiday season is officially here! This means that taxpayers should recognize that we’re just a few weeks away from the end of the 2018 calendar year. In other words, you are running out of time to reduce your tax liability come April.

Tax planning could save you a substantial amount of money.

What Is the Secret to Reducing Your Tax Liability?

In two words, Tax Planning.

The purpose of tax planning is to ensure tax efficiency. Or, in laymen’s terms, to make sure you pay less taxes.

Tax planning covers several considerations. These considerations include the timing of income, size and timing of purchases or other expenditures, the selection of investments and types of retirement plans that need to complement the tax filing status and deductions to create the best possible outcome.

Who Should Do Tax Planning?

If you pay taxes, you should do tax planning. Many think that tax planning is reserved only for affluent taxpayers, but this couldn’t be further than the truth.  In my experience, all taxpayers can benefit from building a tax plan and monitoring it periodically. This is arguably the best way to reduce your tax liability in a consistent manner.

What does a good Tax Planner do?

  • A good Tax Planner asks the taxpayer many questions, analyzing the taxpayer’s situation in order to evaluate the taxpayer’s financial goals.
  • A good Tax Planner then offers effective tax solutions.
  • A good Tax Planner will closely monitor the status of the taxpayer and the changes in the tax code over time to make sure the plan set forth is still the most effective plan to reduce the taxpayer’s tax liability.

I would like to share with you a recent consult I had with one of our students, we’ll call him David.

David started the conversation by letting me know he is currently unemployed and considers himself to be semi-retired as he is 69 years old and not expecting to get any job offers soon. I, naturally, asked David about his source of income. Each question; are you collecting social security?, what about a pension?, rental income?, consulting income?, came back with the same reply, “No”. David informed me that he had no taxable income for the last 2 years and that he has been living off his savings since his wife passed away after dealing with a terrible illness.

At first glance it seemed as if there was nothing I could do to help David. I mean, the guy has had no taxable income and no tax liability for the last two years. However, I kept asking questions, kept looking for tax planning opportunities, and that paid off.

It turns out that David received many stock options over the years from his previous employer and that currently he has over $1,000,000 in long term capital gains. He also shared that he has about $350,000 in IRA funds and that he is eligible to receive a $3500 monthly benefit from social security.

Schedule a Free Tax ConsultationArmed with this information, I immediately suggested that David should liquidate some of his long-term capital gain position (at least $50,000), so he could take advantage of the 0% long-term capital gain he is eligible for in 2018. This is important for him going into 2019, because next year he will have more than $40,000 in social security income, he may need to take the Required Minimum Distribution from his IRA as he turns 70 ½ and that next year he will no longer qualify for the 0% long-term capital gain rate.

This tax planning strategy will save David more than $10,000 in tax liability! Needless to say, David was quite happy. How many of you would like to make $10,000 or more in one phone call? How many of you would like to make $10,000 or more in one hour just by talking to a tax professional?

We also talked about future tax planning opportunities in years to come, such as what amounts David should withdraw from his IRA, how David should structure his trading business and other ideas. David could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in the upcoming few years by implementing a few tax saving strategies.

I hope the story I shared with you shows you that really ANYONE can benefit from tax planning. So, what are you waiting for? Schedule a tax planning session and see if you can save some money as well. At this time of year, we could all use a few extra dollars to help pay for all the upcoming holiday expenditures. Happy holiday season to all and may it be a blessed time of year.

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