How To Change Your Budget Mindset From Scarcity Mode to Abundance Mode
I have realized that for an analytical thinker, I have been writing a lot about conceptual topics. Very interesting. And here comes another blog where I talk about more conceptual ideas; but hang with me, because if you get this right and adopt an abundant mindset and purge a scarce mindset, your probability of never having to worry about your finances will increase exponentially.
In this industry and all other industries, I cannot tell you how important it is to think with abundance versus scarcity. I have no tolerance for “can’t”, especially when I ask collaborators, financial firms, or vendors how to solve a problem and they tell me it’s impossible. Odds are it isn’t impossible, they just think it is because they are perceiving the problem through a scarcity mindset. When you approach problems with abundance, solutions will follow.
And Now, A Word From Disney
A few nights ago I watched the Disney animated movie, “Meet the Robinsons” with my kids. If you haven’t seen it, please watch it — it’s fun. And I don’t think this is a spoiler, but there are some scenes and a theme to the movie that emphasizes an abundant mindset. One of Walt Disney’s famous quotes was, “Keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Look at the empire Walt Disney created with this type of mindset. He didn’t have a scarce mindset of how it could not be done as the banks kept informing him. Working with his brother and others on his team he found a way to keep moving forward and to get it done.
Quick tangent, he got the funding for Disneyland from his Bankosaurus® because the banks would not give him the money. I mention it all the time on my podcasts and I’m sure in these blogs: banking is necessary, banks are not.
Thank you, Walt Disney! I cannot tell you how many great memories I have going to Disney World and Disneyland with my friends and family.
Stop talking about why you can’t, Start exploring how you can.
Always remember, your number one investment is you and your earned income. Typically, your residual and passive income streams are secondary for quite some time. So always focus on abundance. Don’t think about how you can’t get something done, think about how you can. Who can help you? Who do you need on your team? What can you do to become the best employee or entrepreneur possible? What are all the different ways you can solve this problem?
Look at the abundance of information on Google. Amazing! There is so much around us with all the information out there, with all the specialists in each industry, that can help you create and do amazing things.
Contribute to the Growth of Others
Focus on how you can help and educate your employees, peers, and your boss. When I was an engineering intern I was so grateful for the managers and engineers that would share their knowledge and educate me on management and design. I didn’t understand why some in the telecommunications and civil engineering industry would keep it to themselves. Now I understand, they had a scarce mindset — they were afraid the new employees and interns would replace them or outperform them in time.
Once I was able to transition from less of a trainee to more of a trainer, I was eager to help new interns. I wanted to pass that knowledge on that I learned. And as I stepped into the role of mentor, we both improved at our craft. It became abundantly clear to me that as everyone gets better and better, I was pushed to keep improving and imagined what we could accomplish as a top team.
Scarcity breeds complacency, and there’s no room for complacency in finance or anywhere really. Kill the scarce mindset if it ever creeps in and focus on abundance.
Ready For A Jedi Mind Trick?
Budget sounds like scarcity. Investments sounds like abundant mindset. The truth is, budgets create abundance.
When I talk about investments with people who are eager to grow their wealth the right way, the immediate response is excitement. They want to learn more about how they can make more money with their money so they can do more things, have more time, and as a result, more choices. The abundance mindset immediately kicks in with most people.
When I bring up budget, I typically don’t get the same response. A couple years ago I was buying a new cell phone and the young salesman noticed I was a financial advisor and started asking me a lot of questions about money and investments. He wanted a sports car. He wanted more toys. And some of his friends made a killing (at that time) in cryptocurrency and directional trades in the stock market. He asked me what’s the number one thing he should focus on to become rich. I told him it all starts with savings and a budget. I went from a hero to zero in his eyes within a second. Needless to say, he did not become a client. Which is okay, I was just there to buy a smartphone.
Consistently when I first meet prospective clients and I bring up the evil word “budget”, I can see the scarcity mindset kick in. So I created a new term: Cash Flow Optimizer (CFO). Full disclosure, I realize it’s corny. But the point isn’t to win the award for most creative new financial term, the point is to find a new way to think about growing your wealth through savings. (Also, it’s infinitely better than budget).
The word budget has baggage. When I ask prospective clients who are sick of living paycheck to paycheck what they think of a budget, I hear this:
I don’t want to be told what I can’t do
that means I can’t spend as much
I don’t get to do everything I want to do
that sounds like a lot of work to track
I know I should save money, but I struggle with it
what if I want to remodel my home and it’s not in the budget?
When I ask the same question to prospective clients who already have a budget and strong savings plan ahd who want to maximize their economic potential (my forte) below are their answers:
Find lost money and put it to good use
Find errors from the banks (I’ve yet to see one that is not in the banks favor)
More opportunities: the ability to invest and make more money on their money, which becomes this perpetual “money making machine.” I stole this name from a new client. She’s a very sharp and motivated registered nurse and loving mom. I was showing her how to create a savings/checking account that is specifically allocated for savings and investments. She nicknamed it the “money making machine” account. Awesome! That’s an abundant mindset.
This is my last blog (for a while) where I try to cleverly tackle the word: budget. I want to emphasize to those reading this blog that are struggling with this word, embrace the word: CFO. Switch the thought process from scarcity to abundance. If you’d like a nudge or a little help, don’t hesitate to talk with me. I will make it easy and — gasp — fun! Games are fun when you’re winning. I am sure I will have plenty of future blogs talking about abundance. We all deserve a life filled with abundance, start with rewiring how you think, feel and talk about saving.
The Problem With Financial Advisors (Or Why I Love My Job So Much)
December of last year, I shared the pilot episode of The Engineer of Finance podcast. I was eager (and a little nervous) to see how listeners and clients would respond to an engineer enthusiastically talking about finances with an unconventional perspective. It was (and still is!) an absolute joy to create, and I was hoping it would be useful for listeners too.
Fortunately, it’s not just fun and games for me. The podcast has been a huge success, and I am humbled by how this free content has helped so many people from coast to coast in this country. I am so grateful for all my listeners and clients.
In the pilot episode, I discussed how I transitioned from a full-time professional engineer to “The Engineer of Finance.”
I first broke into this industry in December 2008, and for a long time, I would hesitate when people asked what I did for a living. I would usually mumble that I’m a financial advisor as if it were an embarrassing confession. Then I would reinforce my answer by adding I’m also a Professional Engineer.
Why was I doing this?
It’s because 99% of the financial advisors make the other 1% look bad!
In other words, the majority of financial advisors in the industry are great salespeople, not great financial designers and mentors. It sounds like a very strong statement but it’s true. Look around you. Look at all the big beautiful skyscrapers in the big cities with financial firms’ and banks’ names on the buildings. Watch how they advise their clients to do one thing with their savings and investments, yet they do the exact opposite.
I didn’t want to be associated with this industry that has failed so many people. Thankfully I invested in a marketing company (I was horrible at succinctly sharing my message) and was provided an ingenious solution to my “What do you do?” problem. I have the mind of an engineer and a career in finance advisement, I do not just advise — I troubleshoot, I design, and I look at finance from an engineering perspective. So my marketing company suggested I called myself the “Engineer of Finance.” Boom, done. Makes sense. Best marketing dollars I ever spent.
Moving Right Along …
99% of the US population that enters retirement doesn’t have enough money for retirement. Look at how much money these great money managers take and brokerages and banks fees and assets under management fees. They tell their clients how buy-and-hold is such a wonderful strategy in a 401(k), IRA or some other qualified plan. You give them all your money today, you own it, but the government and the financial industry essentially control it, forever.
When I show prospective clients the financial calculations, they are always shocked at how good it is for the IRS and the financial industry, but not so good for them. For example, the financial industry talks about how great compound interest is for your retirement plan. Unfortunately, as the money compounds so does all the tax liabilities waiting for you at retirement. The transference of wealth from your hard-earned income over all that time to the government and the financial industry is unbelievable.
I believe most of these typical advisors genuinely believe they’re doing the right thing for their clients. But if it’s so good, why is 99% of US in this nation going to outlive their money in retirement? Look at these fun (not so fun) facts below. The irony in these articles is their solution: qualified plans!
$1 million might sound like a lot of money at 65 — it’s way better than $172,000 — but when the financial industry is advising a paydown of 3-4% so you don’t outlive your money, $30,000-$40,000 per year is not so great.
I Love This Industry, I Swear!
I could go on forever picking apart the financial industry, and many of my key arguments have already been said on my podcast. You also get a whole bunch of me making fun of the typical advisors, and myself a little bit too — no one is safe!
My point is that as much as I have struggled with this industry, I am so grateful for being a part of it. When I was an engineer full-time, I was shy and reserved (I’m an introvert, after all) and I liked to work in the corner and avoid dealing with too many personalities. Working with clients in the financial industry has forced me to grow so much as a person. It’s improved my communication skills and confidence in reaching out to help others. Most importantly it has forced me to listen, listen, and listen some more. My job is a blessing and I will be forever grateful.
Being an engineer working in the financial world has made me a great troubleshooter. I have found that my engineering background is very good for this industry and in turn very good for my clients. It has allowed me to help clients head towards becoming the top 1% with their finances over time.
Fun fact: the financial industry hates dealing with me, hates engineers and other analytical thinkers because we ask way too many questions. I represent a lot of engineers and I love all the questions because predominantly they are all the same questions I asked all the financial institutions that drove them nuts when I entered this industry ten years ago. They didn’t like me wanting all the details, in fact, most financial advisors could not answer many of my questions so I sought out the top of advisors to learn from. They have taught me, in my humble opinion, the right way to play the financial game for my family, friends, and clients (which most have become friends over time).
The Right Way To Play The Game Is NOT The Standard Way.
In almost every meeting a potential future client has asked:
Why hasn’t anyone shown this to me before?
Why aren’t we taught this?
Why don’t the majority of the advisors in this industry teach this?
Looking at financial concepts with an engineering mindset has enabled me and my clients to play the financial game an entirely different way. I have studied why the financial industry (banks and brokerages) are so successful and teach my clients how to do what they do, not what they teach.
If you’re looking for a new way to approach personal finance using a custom-designed personal finance plan for you and your family, schedule an introductory call with me and we’ll see if I’m the right mentor for the job.
How To Prepare For A Meeting With Financial Advisor (i.e. Engineer of Finance) Ken Greene
I’m consistently asked by prospective clients, “how can we meet and what should I bring with me?” Great questions, and the answer is it depends on what type of meeting we’re having. I basically have three types of meetings: a quick intro meeting, a full intro meeting, and a strategy and design meeting. The type of meeting determines your homework assignment (what to bring).
Prepping for the Quick Intro Meeting (15 minutes)
If you were referred to me by a friend, you’re a listener of my podcast, “The Engineer of Finance Podcast,” and/or you’re a reader of my blogs, you might have a few questions. You might wonder how to prepare for a quick intro meeting with me. There’s not much to do, other than write down a few of the questions you have for me and then pick up the phone and give my office a call to schedule a time for us to talk for 15 minutes. Or go to the ‘Contact Us’ page on my website and schedule a quick intro meeting with my online scheduling page to set a time that’s convenient for you for an online meeting or phone call. Whatever is easiest for you. The online calendar system is simple and convenient. If you prefer to call, I assure you, you will never get a call tree. You’ll always get a friendly voice that is happy to help you.
Prepping for the Intro Meeting (60 minutes)
In this meeting, you probably have a bunch of questions (especially, if you’re an engineer – in which case, awesome. I love lots of questions and answering all of them). I would recommend the same steps as what I mentioned previously to set up an appointment, but this time schedule 60 minutes. Write down all of your questions, don’t be hesitant to ask anything and everything. You worked hard to earn your money and you should ask me a lot of questions to determine if I am the right person to help you take the next step. I am confident that after our meeting, you will have gotten a lot of value out of our time together. Even if we determine I’m not the right person to help you, I’ll be able to point you to the right person that can.
Prepping for the Strategy & Design Meeting (90 minutes)
This is the next step after an introductory meeting if you have determined that I am the right person to serve you. You like and trust me. I like and trust you. And you have determined that I’m extremely competent at what I do as a financial advisor. This is where you start learning a different way to play the financial game! This is a focused 90-minute session. In this meeting, working together, we will create a custom strategy and design, based on your wish list (priorities & dreams).
As an engineer, I am very good at identifying something in a design or project that could be improved. I love troubleshooting. This background and skill set has really helped me as a financial advisor. I take an efficient and unique approach to finances for my clients. Now if you need my help on clothing choices, interior decorating, architecture, (anything related to looks & style) I don’t recommend you ask my opinion.
In order to create the right strategy and design, I need to understand where you’re at. What’s your current financial environment? Therefore, I ask for all the documents that show your income, debts, liabilities, assets, and how it’s all protected (e.g. trusts, insurance, state law). This is your homework.
Below is a sample of some of the questions that we will address:
How much liability protection do you have for your home, cars/trucks, toys, etc.?
What are the deductibles?
Did you file a homestead on your home?
Do you have disability insurance?
Do you have life insurance?
Do you have debt?
What liabilities do you have?
What are the interest rates on those liabilities?
What are you invested in? The stock market? Real Estate? Cryptocurrency? Rare Metals?
Are you using qualified plans such as 529s, IRAs, 401Ks?
What tax liabilities do you have (e.g. income taxes, property taxes)?
What tax mortgages are waiting for you at retirement?
What assets are creditor protected?
The above questions are a snippet of what we will address together. The more thorough you are with your homework, the better I can identify areas where we can change how money flows and recapture hundreds of thousands of dollars if not, millions of dollars for you and your family. My goal is to create a lot more cash flow and wealth (financial independence) for you and your families as opposed to the norm: banks and brokerages getting wealthier and wealthier by teaching their clients to do the exact opposite of what they’re doing.
To learn more, and to get a copy of my homework assignment: call my office, send me an email, or use the online scheduler to set up a quick intro meeting with me. If you read through this entire blog there is a good chance you will enjoy meeting me and I’ll enjoy meeting you.
The Cons of 529 Plans: rules, rules, and more rules!
All my clients that are parents or grandparents want the best education for their kids and grandkids. They understand the number one investment they can make for their child’s financial future is a great education that can create higher earned income. Typical financial advisors and the government constantly promote and encourage parents and grandparents to invest in a 529 plan for higher education. So this must be the best plan. Or is it?
Hear me out.
Typically financial advisors preach for parents to set up a 529 plan to save for their child’s education because it reduces taxes all while creating a future for their children. I invite you to go to the super fun and exciting government website to read all the rules for a 529 plan, I’ll wait.
Don’t get me wrong, a 529 plan is great in theory, but in reality it’s a great seduction plan created by the government and the financial industry. There are a few reasons to like it, but there are even more reasons to not like it.
Government savings incentives like the 529 plan are a marriage in hell between the financial industry and the government. The main reason you are enticed to use a 529 plan versus a regular investment is to save on taxes. Taxes become the main focus. Unfortunately, the tax tail is wagging the investment dog. Typical financial advisors encourage you to put your hard earned money in a 529 plan so they can enjoy it now and for the next 18 years (depending on when you started funding the 529 plan). While you own it, the IRS controls it via rules, rules, and more rules. If you break the rules you get to enjoy the tax penalties. Are these rules to protect your child’s or grandchild’s education? Are these rules to protect you? Or do these rules benefit Wall Street, the government, and its affiliates?
A 529 could be perfect for you if:
You know for certain your family won’t need to access this money for 18 years or so.
You are perfectly happy having money locked up on your end while the financial industry enjoys your money today via the commissions, money management fees, and 12b-1 charges.
You have no doubt in your mind that your child will be attending a college approved by the IRS.
You are not worried about the stock market volatility. You feel very, very comfortable it will never crash again. Or it will completely recover just in time for college tuition.
You understand that this 529 plan could have a huge negative impact on available financial aid for your child or grandchild.
Typically, setting up a 529 plan assumes that your child or grandchild will want to attend a university, earn a degree, and get a job. But what if they don’t want to go to the university you had in mind? What if you need that money in the interim due to an emergency (lost job, health scare, big move)? What if your child or grandchild wants to pursue a higher education outside of college? If you need the money for an emergency or it’s used for something other than what the IRS deems as “higher education,” you broke their rules and there could be painful tax penalties from the government.
Let me hop on the soap box real quick: there’s a myth perpetuated by universities that the only way to get a higher education is to go to college. As a college graduate, I am not saying I regret my formal education. I’m very grateful to have earned my B.S. degrees in electrical and civil engineering. However, I also earned an incredible education in engineering by working with people that had a higher education from the military, major telecom companies in the U.S., fabricators, machinists, and construction workers.
OK, hopping off now.
If you’re still with me, I want you to know there’s a different way to play the game!
My Game: The Alternative To a 529 Plan
How would you like to design a savings & investment plan with very few rules?
Less rules = more options.
Income tax-free growth.
Potential for greater than 4% net internal rate of return (IRR).
Money can be used for all forms of higher education for your child or grandchild.
Doesn’t impact available financial aid.
Can be accessed anytime while in growth phase (e.g. emergency, other investment opportunity).
Can be used for more than just education: wedding, travel, loans, ….
No negative impact on financial aid.
If you’re interested in learning more on how to design your own ”way better than a 529 plan” for your child’s or grandchild’s education, let’s schedule a time to talk.
Investing | in-vest-ing (v), from the root word invest, which means:
to keep oneself up at night with worry
the topic of fancy, black-tie dinner parties where we impress each other with words no ones understands like disintermediation
the vehicle that allows Wall Street bankers to thrive and stuff their pockets while people like us continue to … [see #1]
When I meet new people and tell them what I do, they usually take one of three sides when it comes to their own investing:
The I’ll start investing one day when I have money side
The I’ve tried investing and I can’t stomach the rollercoaster ride when it comes to my hard earned money side.
The I want something more, something different, something OFF Wall Street side
The first side folks are likely to never get off the sidelines and get in the game. They’d rather wait to invest their money “once they have it,” as if they already know they are going to lose money through investing and they want to make sure they have that money to lose. They don’t see investing as a way to make money. Fair enough.
The second side is so burned by Wall Street that their own jadedness won’t allow them to again try anything that resembles investing … maybe forever. If you’ve lost an obscene amount of money through stocks and bonds, I bet you can relate (I related hard when I was waking up from a nice fist-over-fist pummeling by the clenched hands of a brutal 2008. I’d pumped almost everything I had into investments and saved nothing. The real estate I owned became worthless. My retirement accounts crumbled).
The third side is ready for a different way to play the game.
The Norm (ahem, sucks, ahem)
Most of us take a path of going to school, getting a job, moving from hourly positions to salary positions and then spending all of our efforts advancing in our selected fields (but always thinking in terms of being an employee). This is the path most of us were taught from the time we mowed our first lawn and earned our first 50 cents. “Do good in school, kid. Get a good job, kid. You want to make a lot of money so you can vacation on beaches and wear nice watches don’t you?”
Well, kid, that’s not how it really works. It can–don’t get me wrong–but that’s a long, tiring, steep, avalanche-prone mountain to climb.
Enough Reading. Where Are All the Pictures in This Article?
Time for a picture. This is a great chart from one of the godfathers of personal finance, Robert Kiyosaki, and it’s called the “Cashflow Quadrant.”
When you boil it down, we all make money in 4 categories:
Employee (E). This could be you, with your high-paying job as the ultimate goal.
Self-Employed (S). Maybe this is you, if you are particularly brave and daring.
Business Owner (B). This may or may not be you (yet), but you’ve been dreaming.
Investor (I). This (along with #3) is the ultimate goal when it comes to becoming a money-making badass (in other words, when it comes to reaching Financial Freedom.)
The goal: Get to the bottom of the quadrant (the “I”), and get there fast. Don’t forever hang out in the same quadrant with the guys slinging sandwiches at SUBWAY (no judgement, that’s where I started). Moving on from “Employee” takes more courage than it does ice cream and dreams, I get it; I left a cushy government job four months before my first child was on the way–it took all I had to not throw up my guts from anxiety and panic (Stella Artois has a way of calming my nerves).
To get to the “I” you have to take the first step, which is breaking out of the traditional-savings-strategy jail cell and considering a new approach–an approach I’m thrilled to share with you in Part 2 of this article, found here.
The Bankosaurus® is our approach to smart financing for individuals and families–an approach that allows them to make wise decisions with their finances and be in a good place nowand in the future. This is a game-changer.
OK, but what IS the Bankosaurus®?
“Banking is necessary, banks are not.” – Bill Gates.
In nerd-speak, the Bankosaurus® is a strategy using dividend-paying whole-life insurance as your own personal bank. But, no one ever bangs on my door shouting “I want to buy a dividend-paying whole-life insurance policy for my personal finances!” So I’ll leave that language to the nerds.
And now, bullets:
The Bankosaurus® means …
… no more waiting until you retire to access and leverage your own money; you can access the money any time you want (*fists pumps*).
… opportunity for great growth rates from a savings vehicle (we’re talking around 4% IRR over your lifetime).
… that growth is income tax FREE (the best thing since tax-free sliced bread).
… a jumpstart on legacy planning, as you can leave behind money for your loved ones sans income tax (say it louder for the people in the back).
… your money will be protected from creditors, so it won’t get lost in a crazy loophole or grabbed by some ambulance chaser (on this one, rules do vary according to the state you’re in. I hope the state you live in is cool).
Bullets are Nice, but, Again, What IS the Bankosaurus®?
On paper, the Bankosaurus® is an approach (it’s not a piece of software, it’s not a physical piggybank, it’s not a pill that you take and hope for the best. It’s an approach that so perfectly differs us from typical financial advisors.
In this approach, our goal is to create your own bank, your Bankosaurus®. Why? Because banks make money off of you, and if you had your own bank, you’d be making money off you.
Stick with me.
Banks make money off of what’s called “the spread.” To understand the spread, you should see it in action.
Let’s say you have $100,000 in a savings account at your local bank. This savings account offers you 0.10% annual return on your money (at the end of the year, the bank will have paid you $100). What does the bank do with your money. It lends your money out a higher interest rate of 4.1%, let’s say, interest-only payments for 60 months (the time doesn’t matter, this is just an example). After 12 months, your neighbor has paid the bank $4,100. The bank used your money, paid you $100 and netted $4,000. That’s the spread.
I’m telling you that you can be your own bank and take advantage of the spread. Instead of making $100, what if you cut out your bank and lent the money directly to your neighbor? Wouldn’t your rather get $4,000 instead of $100? It’s your money. Or, let’s say it was you that wanted that Tesla. Instead of borrowing money from the bank, borrow it from yourself. If your neighbor was willing to pay the bank 4.1% interest, wouldn’t you be willing to do the same for yourself? If you did, you’d benefit from the spread. Nice.
Yes, this is a general example and there are some details to cover, but this is the gist (I know it’s unlikely most people have $100,000 in cash to sock away in a savings account … and Tesla purchases soon won’t come with the same tax advantages they used to). But, I hope you understand the example. With this Bankosaurus® approach, we help you make money like the banks do. With some changes in how you approach your own money, you can live off your own savings, and stop giving it all to the banks or (even worse) a Me-Smart-Me-Want-Your-Money-Type financial advisor. What we teach is transparent, which is probably why it’s not taught by 99% of financial advisors … and it works.
I Preach AND I Practice: My Family Personally Uses the Bankosaurus® Approach
Back in 2009, I lost almost everything. When I went from a stellar credit score to practically zero, I decided to take action and created (and executed) the plan I now call “Bankosaurus®.” I didn’t have to go all Oscar’s drama and beg the bank for a loan. When I needed money for my LASIK surgery, I accessed my own money, made interest, and even saved 20% in the process. I used it to fund and launch my company, Greene; my wife and I used it to buy our house.
For over six years now, I have taught my clients how to use it to eliminate huge amounts of debt and make “bank” (by being their own bank).
Let’s talk, because if you’re a human and if you use money, the Bankosaurus™ could be perfect for you.