One Thing

What one thing can you do right now to get over the barrier that is standing between you and achieving your goal?

One of our Be, Do and Have More (of what you want) Goals Challenge participants told me yesterday how she is nailing her fitness goal. She is running and lifting weights. She is doing it consistently and justifiably feeling great about it.

I’m impressed. Even though I stated that my “l0se 12 lbs” goals would be easy-peasy, I have done very little of what I said I needed to do to achieve this goal. I’ve walked a bit, but not nearly enough and certainly not consistently enough.

Her advice to me: do it first thing in the morning. Lay out your workout clothes and don’t do anything (other than pee) before you run or walk. No coffee, no checking email no morning news, just get it done.

Wow, I know this but I have not been doing it. This morning, I was out the door, not quite as soon as I got up, but before I did any work. I don’t need to concentrate on how far or how fast and it certainly hasn’t worked trying to schedule in my exercise. What does work is focusing on getting my shoes on and getting out the door before I start work. That’s it – If I’m outside in my shoes before work, I win. Now maybe my 12 lb goal will be easy-peasy.

What about you?

If you are trying to get out of debt, maybe your little hurdle is packing that lunch the night before. When you walk out the door with that brown bag, you’ve started your day with a win.


Small steps work

Consistent Effort Works

Group Support Works

What one thing can you do, that I bet you already know you should do, to gain some traction?

Thinking of a Short Sale?

There was an article in today’s Tampa Bay Times that really ticked me off. For Debtors, Sell Now or Pay Later, described the probable tax consequences of a short sale of a primary residence  after December 31, 2012 when The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 will expire. The problem with the article was it could easily mislead the exact people that it was written to help. Specifically, not all primary residence forgiven debt can be excluded under The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 and failing to know how your case will be treated can easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

We live in an area particularly hard hit by the collapsing real estate bubble. Many, many homes are underwater (their owners owe more than the home is worth). Many homes have been foreclosed (the bank has repossessed the home) and many more have been sold as a short sale (sold for less than the mortgage balance).

Getting out of one of these underwater houses is not easy nor is it uncomplicated. If you are considering your options, you need a great realtor, a very knowledgeable CPA and maybe an experienced attorney. Missteps can cost you a fortune and keep you trapped for years.

HURDLE 1 Need to sell but mortgage greatly exceeds value

Many homeowners just can’t make their payments due to circumstances beyond their control. Frequently this circumstance is a job loss, a serious medical issue, a divorce or a death.

Some homeowners can make their payments right now but they need to reduce their expense very soon because of a pay cut or an upcoming retirement.

Others can make their payments but they need to move.

All of them need out from under the mortgage but don’t have the money to come up with the difference between what is owed and what the home will sell for in the current market. So, a short sale seems in order.

HURDLE 2 Avoiding the Deficiency Judgment

Many, but not all banks will negotiate the deficiency judgment in a short sale. Sometimes a really good realtor or attorney can get them to waive the right to pursue the deficiency all together. This is in contrast to a foreclosure where there will be a deficiency judgment.

In Florida, lenders have up to five years to file a deficiency action, so just because  you’ve already completed your foreclosure and haven’t seen one yet; doesn’t mean you won’t. Once a court grants the deficiency judgment, creditors have up to 20 years to collect the debt.

HURDLE 3 Tax on the Forgiven debt

So you find yourself a really experienced, aggressive short sale realtor, you resolve your family to leaving the home you love, you find a qualified buyer and you jump through the banks 1 million hoops to close on your short sale without a deficiency judgment. Yea, you! This probably took you a year of blood, sweat and tears but now you are free and ready to start over, right?

Not so fast – let’s make sure The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 is going to work for you.

When debt is forgiven (like when you got the bank to waive the deficiency judgment) the amount that is forgiven is generally taxed as ordinary income. I know it doesn’t make sense so here is an example:

Bill has a house that was once worth $200,000, Bill owed $170,000. Bill’s company left the state of Florida and to stay employed, Bill had to move to SC. He sold the house as a short sale for $90,000. The bank waived the $80K shortage.  Now the question is, does Bill have any tax consequence from that short sale?

If the property was not his primary residence (there a lots of IRS rules that define this, see Pub 4681), he is going to owe tax on the shortage just as if he had earned an additional $80K. If he is at a 25% tax rate he is going to owe $20K. It’s not the end of the world if Bill planned for this, but it makes for a very unpleasant surprise.

If the property was his primary residence, he may able to exclude that cancelled debt from his income.

First, he must pass the qualified principal residence test.  Generally, a qualified principal residence is the home you live in most of the time and you must have lived there 2 out of the past 5 years.

Next, he must ensure that the proceeds of the mortgage were used to buy, build or sustainably improve his main house.

This is one point the Times article left off and the issue that trigger an unexpected tax expense for many.

Sure, the people that bought at the top of market may be underwater due to a mortgage that was used to buy, build or improve their home, but many others refinanced at the top of the market and used that money to pay for education or medical expenses or to purchase other properties. These people may very well find they owe huge taxes on the canceled debt.

Even if you did use the mortgage money for other than the purchase or remodel of your primary residence, there is still hope. There is an insolvency test (although unlike other insolvency tests it includes most retirement accounts) that will get you out of owing the tax if in fact you are broke (again IRS has a complicated definition of “Broke“; so carefully read the publications AND contact a competent CPA).

The most important point here is that the whole short sale process  it’s very complicated and you need a good realtor and a good CPA to help you through it.

Don’t start the short sale process until you carefully plan how you will get over all three hurdles.

Week 1 UPDATE Be, Do and Have More (of what you want) Goals Challenge

This was our first week of working towards our three goals. If you wrote in your workbook like you were supposed to, you should have filled up several pages describing the steps you took each day towards each of your goals or you should have written did nothing when in fact you failed to do anything.

I have several did nothings in my workbook. I did not make progress on all my goals every day. However,  I am encouraged that every day I had something written. One day I only took steps toward one goal, a few days I made progress toward two goals and one very productive day I recorded steps toward all four goals.

Highlights from the week:

I feel like I made some headway on my I want to grow my reach goal because I came up with the beginnings of a plan. I took a big leap forward on my grow my faith goal when I set up an automated system (and actually used it) for tithing.

What got it the way / What didn’t work:

I made no progress on my lose 12 lbs goal although I did manage to walk most days. With company in the house and a celebration, there was way too much eating, drinking and laughing to even think about losing any weight.

What I learned from what didn’t work:

Exercise must be something I put on my calendar and treat just like a client appointment. Eating right is something I can do even when going out. I need to be more assertive about asking the restaurant to accommodate me.

I feel OK about my progress but I can certainly do better. I’m ready for Week 2.

How did you do?


This was our last preparation week for the “Be, Do and Have More (of what you want) Goals Challenge”. Thank goodness! I for one have had my fill of all this introspection and am ready to Quit Pissing Around with It and get started doing it. I hope you are too.

First, we listed 50 dream goals. Some were eliminated because they were ridiculous, and some were legitimate but were crossed off the list because they were not possible within the constraints of our life today. That left us with a group of possible goals that were worth exploring further.

Next we asked of each these remaining candidates: Why? What is in it for me or the people I care about if I were to achieve this goal? Reasonable, achievable, worthy goals were crossed off the list because we didn’t care enough.

Just because everyone else thinks you should change jobs, lose 50 lbs or go back to school does not mean that you do. We know that we often fail to reach our goals because, upon closer examination, we find they are not OUR goals – they are what others want for us. Maybe you should lose 50 lbs but until YOU decide you want to it cannot be your goal.

Finally, this past week our task was to select our four and expand on the “Why” for each by answering these five questions.

So here they are for my goals:

Benefits from reaching this goal

1. I want to lose 12lbs because it will allow me to be healthier and happier. And my knees won’t hurt as much.

2. I want to be free from my long-standing legal relationship because freedom changes us. This relationship exists only in the eyes of the law and yet it trips me up over and over again. With this resolved I can plan my future with much more certainty.

3. I want to continue to grow my faith because I love my new faithful friends and I envy the peace, trust and assurance they have.

4. I want to grow my reach because I know I can help others and helping more people is the way I will earn a living.

Skills or knowledge required to reach this goal

1. I have the knowledge required to reach the goal of losing 12 lbs

2. I will need great negotiation skills and knowledge of current divorce and property law to reach the goal of ending my legal relationship.

3. I will need to continue working to build my knowledge if I am to succeed in my goal of growing my faith.

4. I will need to keep expanding my knowledge of all things financial while improving my motivating and teaching skills in order to grow my reach.

Major obstacles and Mountains to climb to reach this goal

Wow, this answer is easy. For goals one through four, the major obstacle is me.

I might get distracted, bored, or tired. I might work at it for 2 weeks, hit a wall or a plateau and then get frustrated and quit. Or, something much more interesting might come along. Or nothing interesting comes along and I might just get lazy and decide 1) I’m really not at an unhealthy weight 2) it’s not worth the fight 3) things are pretty good right where I am or 4) I need a nap.

There is no mountain or obstacle that can’t be overcome for these goals with consistent effort for 12 weeks instead of 12 days.

Individuals and Organizations needed to help me reach this goal

You, my friends, to help keep me motivated and accountable.

For #1 I’m depending on Jim to keep buying and cooking only healthy stuff and for #2 a good lawyer for #3, my amazing faith friends and my church and pastor, #4  my clients

Plan for reaching this goal (write it out, tell it like a story)

1. I will continue on my vegan diet, cutting back on snacks and beer while adding more fruit. I will need to exercise much more consistently. I will walk everyday and cycle or skate or run 3 times a week.

2. I will keep my cool and an open mind while relentlessly pursuing an agreement. Then I will hire a lawyer to file.

3. I will hang around my amazing faith friends whenever I get a chance and watch and learn. I will read my bible (or listen) daily. I will attend church. I will tithe consistently.

4. I will spend at least two hours a day working to grow my reach, I will track what works and what doesn’t and re-evaluate weekly.

OK, that’s mine. I hope you did yours. Early tomorrow morning I will quit thinking about these goals and actually start trying to achieve them. I will track my progress every day (as should you) and report to you once a week on my progress.

I’d love to hear about your four goals.

This series starts at Busted

It’s Always Something

Looking back at our spending for 2011 proves the old saying, “it’s always something” or as my sister and I like to say, “If it ain’t one thing it’s your mother.”

Most of us fail to pay enough attention to our irregular spending when trying to live on a plan. While reviewing our spending for 2011, using Spending by Category Report, I was surprised to find it truly was “always something” for us last year.

January 2011 our first mortgage-free month and everything looked pretty much as expected, this new totally debt free life was going to be easy.

But, in Feb that Auto & Transportation category jumps from $333 to $1465 when I paid the auto insurance.

And in March, that “paid for” house accounted for more than 50% of our spending for the month when we paid our homeowners policy.

April brought a need to write a check to the IRS and in May we needed a new set of tires. In June, the grocery bill doubles with guests in the house and the dog has to have a tooth extracted. July means more guests and lots more food, tons of gas for the boat and a big electric bill. By August, everybody’s back in school so food and gas are back under control and we are starting to look forward to returning to our “normal” spending. Good thinking, except for that vacation and oh yeah, that stupid auto insurance is due again. Oh well certainly October will be good; we can turn off the a/c, not go anywhere, eat ramen. That plan works flawlessly right up until that root canal. November rolls around and again that “paid for” house accounts for well over 50% of our spending for the month as we pay the property taxes and install much needed new gutters. Of course, December requires that gifts be purchased and dinners prepared; this no time for belt tightening (figuratively or literally).

We never once got back to our January spending or even close. Fortunately, for quite some time we have been using Sinking Funds to plan for and pay these irregular expenses. Here is an in depth look at how we Budget for Irregular Expenses .

In addition to Sinking Funds, our other big weapon against irregular expenses is data. I love Mint. It is free, it’s safe and it’s easy.

Mint sucks the data out of all our accounts and displays it in a way that is easy to read and manipulate. I can compare last month’s spending to this month’s or same month last year. Or, I can see where we are on our budget as of today; which categories are over, which are under. The more real spending data you have, the more realistic your budget can be.

You are not just copying the same budget every month – right?

If we are going to win with our finances, it’s important to be honest with ourselves. A great place to start is the difference between an unexpected expense and a unplanned for expense. If you close your eyes to the irregular but  certain expenses of car repair, medical & dental bills, home maintenance, etc., every occurrence will feel like another punch.

Planning for these happenings sets you free from that victim’s mindset.

Do you currently plan or react to the irregular expenses in you life ?

Did you write your Dream List?

Our assignment last week in the Be, Do and Have More (of what you want) Goals Challenge was to list, in our PICK FOUR  workbook or on paper,  anything we think we might want to be, do or have. We were shooting for a list of 50 of these Dream Goals.

Here are mine:

  1. Hike the Appalachian Trail
  2. Ride my bike cross country
  3. Go to law school
  4. Be a guardian ad litem
  5. Own my own insurance agency
  6. Create passive income streams
  7. Lose 12 lbs
  8. Be really fit
  9. Ride a century
  10. Run a half marathon
  11. Help the church adopt a plan to buy their building
  12. Help bunches of people get out of debt
  13. Help businesses run by good and innovative people be successful while treating their employees well
  14. Grow my postage stamp sized faith to the size of a soccer field
  15. Be more self sufficient
  16. Plant a garden
  17. Be solar powered
  18. Connect more to the boys
  19. Inspire others to be, have and do more
  20. Build a community of like-minded people and businesses
  21. Get my CPCU
  22. Take Jim to more basketball games
  23. Tithe
  24. Get my life uncomplicated
  25. Redo the Pool deck
  26. Buy a new Patio set
  27. Buy a table for my office
  28. Replace the Pool equipment
  29. Replace the Ac
  30. Have Metal Roof installed
  31. Buy another Kayak
  32. Make more money
  33. Help my buddy know how smart he is
  34. Hike the Pacific Crest Trail
  35. Help people understand they can get through college without student loans
  36. Teach more kids to ski
  37. Be more available to the people I care about
  38. Be more generous
  39. Be less judgmental
  40. Have less stuff
  41. Through-Hike Yosemite

My other 9 were about helping specific people I care about get what they want and I think they might just appreciate a little privacy.

How did you do? Did you find it difficult?

Our next assignment is to go back through these 50 and try and answer “Why” about each one. What would you get out of achieving this goal?

I listed several fitness type goals, lose 12 lbs, ride a century, run a half marathon etc. I know that eating healthy and exercising vigorously are two things that keep me strong and active. I don’t want to be sick, I don’t want to watch others play; I want to be participate fully and I know I must really work at being fit to achieve that, so these are good goals for me. The lose 12 lbs is something I need to do and something I know I can do, it’s going on the list.

I also listed a bunch of adventure kind of goals, hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest, riding my bike cross country; these are really cool immersion type of activities. They require a minimum of three weeks to six months to complete. I would physically benefit greatly from this kind of adventure. You basically have no choice but to walk or ride yourself into phenomenal shape. Also, I think I would benefit from the challenge. To be able to set out to accomplish something so big and actually finish it would be awesome. I love learning and these adventures offer lots of learning opportunities. On the other hand, I’m not sure these have much benefit to those I care about; so on that front they are very selfish goals. I will re-visit these in late spring, if I can get one or more of my daredevil nephews to go with me, I might be up for a month long adventure this summer.

One of the goals I had a hard time writing down was my Get my life uncomplicated goal. This is kind of code for a messy long (I mean really long) standing legal relationship issue that I haven’t resolved. And I need to.  It would definitely benefit me to get this done, for many years it has just nagged at my life. It has often stood between who I am and who I want to be. This one goes on my list of four but I’m telling you right now I am going need a lot of help and encouragement to actually get it done.

My dream goals:  Tithe, Grow my postage stamp sized faith to the size of a soccer field (I stole this from Jon Acuff, watch  his great video here) and Be more generous involves continuing to grow my faith which I would describe like Josh Thompson sings “I’m still more lost than I am found, but I’m coming around”. I do want to keep working on this and it makes my short list.

When I started this coaching thing a year ago I knew I could do this business and the marketing side of it. What I worried about was if I could care enough. I worried I might be too judgmental of people in a bad spot. I wondered if I could really empathize. Turns out I really do have a heart after all. I LOVE helping my clients make progress. I LOVE spending time with them even when they are not making progress.   I understand their bad decisions and why they made them. I have patience (way more than I’ve ever had before) and can see that it takes time for people to change. The flip side of this is that the part I knew I could do well – I haven’t. I’m not independently  wealthy and in this coming year I need to find the formula that allows me to help people get what they want while allowing me to earn a reasonable living.

So that’s my four. Four things that are important to me and good for my relationships. Four things I care enough about to work on every day for the next 12 weeks.

In this coming week I’ll work on answering the following questions in our PICK FOUR workbook for each goal:

  • Benefits from reaching this goal
  • Skills or knowledge required to reach this goal
  • Major obstacles and Mountains to climb to reach this goal
  • Individuals and Organizations needed to help me reach this goal
  • Plan for reaching this goal (write it out, tell it like a story)

Your turn! Ask the “Why” of each of your 50. Give it some real thought and see if you can pick four things to care about for the next 3 months.

Remember, we’ve already agreed setting goals works. The only thing stopping you is your fear, sit with it, push through it and you really can Be, Do and Have More (of what you want).

This series starts at Busted.

Welcome to the Starting Line

Today marks the kick-off of our Be, Do and Have More (of what you want) Goals Challenge.

So let’s get started.

Most of us fail to achieve our goals right here at the start line; so do not cheat. You need to actually do this exercise with a pen and a piece of paper.

We can all agree that effort and focus over time will work to move towards our goals, but what can we do short of pure willpower (that is sure to run out long before we hit the finish line) to help us sustain the effort?


 Choose the right goal.


We need to choose a goal that is important to us. Not a goal that is important to mom and dad, or your spouse or bf; not what your boss wants you to do or even what your doctor tells you what you should do. A goal that is important to YOU.  The really tough (and scary) part of this is – Chances are you have no clue what that is.

We spend so much of our lives doing what others expect or want from us that when we are given an opportunity to say what we want, sometimes the best we can do is parrot what we’ve been told we should want.

Step one in this discovery process is generating a Dream List.

Our Pick Four Workbook says:

 “Without censoring yourself in any way (in terms of practicality, time, approval, etc.). make a list of anything you think you’d like to be, do or have. Anything! The list should have dozens of entries – more than fifty if you can. If you’ve ever dreamed of running a corporation, running a marathon or running for mayor, put it on the list. Wait a day and then go back and add even more to the list. Hold nothing back. You don’t ever need to show this list to anyone. It’s important that you totally exhaust your dream list and go all the way to your list of notions or hunches.”

That is our assignment for the week. The whole week! Think about it, dream on it, discuss it with your friends if you like, but in the end, YOU MUST WRITE THEM DOWN.

We all will have some simple straight forward goals, for example I want to lose 12lbs. Simple goals are good, write them down. But reach as well. You know that thing you have always wanted to be, do or have that you’ve never told anyone because they would laugh or tell you that it’s impossible – be brave and write it down.

This is the challenge: To overcome the fear long enough to actually list 50 of your dream goals on paper.

I’ve started this exercise and it is not as easy as I would have thought.

The first dozen things I’d like to do came pretty fast and easy, but really what percentage of your dreams should be hiking, biking, skiing and kayaking adventures? Then came a long list of things I want to help other people do, help them get a good job, help them in or out of a situation etc. etc.  When the ideas slowed, I switched to things I’d like to have, and that got me a handful more.

All of this is for me is circling, writing down the easy goals, trying to ramp up the courage to name some things I want to be.

If you have trouble coming with 50, skip ahead to the balance pie chart in your workbook for some inspiration.
Career, Family, Financial, Mental, Physical, Social and Spiritual aspects of your life should all be considered when building your goals list.

Very few of us do enough to protect and improve our health. Unless you are one of that small minority that eats right and exercises regularly, perhaps you’ll want to list some health goals. Money affects every other aspect of our life so we should consider what money or career goals might make our other goals possible. 

You have already taken a big step towards achieving your goals. You’re here, you showed up at the starting line. This week you’ll make the first critical decision in our challenge. You will either choose to commit a little time and effort to some self discovery or you’ll blow it off. Again!