Teaching you to embrace today while making yourself a millionaire!

I wish I would have understood how easy it is to become a millionaire by starting to save small amounts of money when I was younger...

I feel compelled to share the simple concepts you can apply today....


30 August 2009

Understand Your Credit Score

To get the best deal on a loan, you need some new strategies to bump up your score - and keep it there.

Borrowing money today requires impressing an increasingly hard-to-please crowd. With creditors of all kinds more cautious than ever, you need an A+ application to land the best terms -- and that means an A+ credit score, the number lenders use to judge your risk of default.

The most commonly used credit scoring system, called FICO, rates people from a very risky 300 to a pristine 850. And right now we're in the middle of a credit score crunch: "You need a 750 or better today to have the same treatment you got with a 700 two years ago," says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at

John D'Onofrio, CEO of Autoloandaily seconds that: "Two years ago a 680 was enough to get a great car loan rate. Today it's often the minimum to qualify at all."

Think you're still in the clear? Don't be so sure. Lenders have been making changes that could cause your score to slip from excellent to average. Improve and protect your number with these strategies:

Learn Your Score. You have three FICO scores, based on your credit reports at the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The numbers tend to be in the same ballpark, so pony up $16 to get one representative score at You can get an estimate free at But the FICO score gives you a better sense of what lenders see.

Scout for Mistakes. Your scores are only as good as the information they're based on. And a third of people who've pulled their reports have found errors, according to a Zogby poll. That's good reason to read your report.

When you buy your FICO score, you'll get a copy of the report it was based on. Get gratis histories from the other bureaus via (you're entitled to one free from each bureau every 12 months).
Spot an error? Request a correction, following the instructions on the bureau's website. Let's say the size of a credit line was misstated or an account was mistakenly marked delinquent. Getting the error fixed could raise your score as much as 200 points, says Ulzheimer, who has also worked for Equifax and FICO.

Never, Ever Be Late. As you'll see in the pie chart on the right, the biggest chunk of your credit score comes from your payment history. Just one late payment can shave 100 points off a 750-plus credit score, says Ulzheimer. Lenders can't tattle on you to the bureaus until you're 30 days past due, adds credit expert Gerri Detweiler. But don't risk it. For all your bills, enter recurring due-date reminders on your computer calendar.

Missed a payment? Get back on track within the next 30 days, and you should "get back the lion's share" of points lost, Ulzheimer says. More than 90 days late? The damage can stick for years. If it was a one-off lapse, call your issuer and plea for a good-will adjustment to your credit report. (It's a long shot.)

Remember the Magic 20%. The second-biggest factor in your score is how much you owe vs. how much credit has been extended to you. The part of this that's easiest to finesse is your credit card utilization rate, or your total card balances compared with your total credit limits, as well as each card's balance relative to its limit.

Example: If you've charged $5,000 on cards and have $50,000 in credit, your rate is 10%. For the best score today, 10% is ideal, but you can probably creep up to 20% and keep a high rating.

Unfortunately, with banks lowering credit limits and canceling unused cards, it's harder to maintain such a low percentage. In the previous example, if your available credit is cut to $20,000, your rate shoots to 25%. That could sink your score by as much as 50 points, says Ulzheimer. The lesson: Know your limits, watch for changes, and stay under 20% on each card and in total (0% if you'll be applying for a loan soon).

Already above 20%? Paying down debt is the obvious way to lower your utilization rate, but another strategy is to apply for an additional credit card to increase your overall credit limit. That may cause you to lose a few points in the short term -- so don't do it if you're about to apply for a mortgage -- but it should pay off in the long run.

Keep Oldest Cards in Play. As noted, credit issuers these days are eagerly canceling cards that are not in use. Besides reducing your limit and increasing your utilization ratio, having an account closed can hurt you in another way, especially if it's among your older ones.
See, 15% of your score rides on the length of your credit history. The longer you ably manage revolving debt, the better you look. So don't cancel your oldest cards. And don't let them get canceled on you: Move a recurring charge to each so they stay active.

Already ditched or been ditched? A new card (see previous) can help with your utilization rate, but there's little you can do to help the "history" component of your score, except to keep other old accounts in use.

Accept Fate on the Rest. There are other factors involved in your score, but they're not so easy to manipulate. For example, 10% is based on how well you manage a mix of credit types, such as mortgages, car loans, and credit cards. But you don't want to go out and, say, finance a car just for a score boost; besides, you can easily get 750-plus with just a few well-tended credit cards.
Along the same lines, 10% is based on "new credit," but the effects of a new application can be positive or negative, depending on your history.

In other words, if you want to be among the crème de la credit crème, accept what you can't change, and focus on what you can.

Copyrighted, CNNMoney. All Rights Reserved.

29 August 2009

27 August 2009

$ Matters with Mary

Milwaukee – So Many M’s! Museum, more fun, more food, & more baseball!

Going from Chicago to Milwaukee was a quick 90 minute drive. We were eager to catch the morning tour of Miller Park
- the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. But it was not meant to be. An earlier rainstorm caused an unprecedented flood at the stadium. The grounds crew were madly working on getting the place ready for the game that night and wanted no part of fans milling about.

Our next thought was food. (Is anyone surprised?) We had picked out a German restaurant near our hotel and headed there. Again – it was not meant to be. They were closed for lunch that day! Undaunted our search began for a local place to eat when we saw a letter carrier walking his route. Who would know the area better? One of his suggestions was Zim’s. Fabulous choice. It is a real Milwaukee sports bar. Fun wait and bar staff and the owner made us feel like locals. The best news was they had FREE shuttle rides to and from the game that night.
Travel Tip – Don’t be shy! Talk to trusted locals – the mailman, restaurant owner, and hotel staff to learn about the city you are visiting. By chatting with the people around us, we found a fantastic lunch place, a free ride for the 4 of us to our destination, and learned about a fun local brewery tour that we did the next day. (Details on that next week.)

From Zim’s we walked to the Milwaukee Art Museum. You cannot say you have been to Milwaukee without a trip to this museum. Whether you like art or not is totally irrelevant. You HAVE to see the buildings designed by world famous architects Eero Saarinen, David Kahler, and Santiago Calatrava. Highlights of the Quadracci Pavilion are the vaulted a 90-foot-high glass ceiling; the Reiman Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that connects the Museum to the city; and the Coolest part – the Burke Brise Soleil -
a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan that unfolds and folds twice daily. The building literally has wings that open and close. Plus the museum is located right on the shore of Lake Michigan. What a gorgeous way to spend your day – for little or no money.

Next week – More Milwaukee
Until then – I’m looking for fun and food in your city………………………….

25 August 2009

Tuesday's Tips

Good afternoon everybody! Today's tips are inspired by a conversation between my neighbor and I that took place yesterday evening.

1) Throw an awesome end of summer party. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to invite tons of people, but celebrate all the great weather we've had before it starts to turn cold. If you've got a pool, swim as often as possible because it'll be time to drain them in the coming weeks. And just because you're throwing a party doesn't mean it has to be expensive. Ask guests to bring their favorite side dish or dessert. Go shopping at a bulk food store where you can buy 20lbs. of potato salad for $5 (an exaggeration, but not too far off...). Things like buns, burgers, hot dogs, and chips are bound to be on sale soon because Labor Day is coming up and each store wants as many party shoppers as possible. So check around and find the best deals, invite over some friends, and enjoy the weather and fun with one last summer hoorah!

2) Take the kids on a back to school outing. This is a clever way of celebrating the end of summer, but to call it something different. Instead of partying the end of something, why not party the beginning of something else? Younger kids can be grumpy about having to start school again, especially when they just spent the last 3 months playing in the sun. So lighten the mood by going out to an amusement park, hitting up the beach one last time, or even going out to eat and to the movies all in the name of a new school year. By celebrating this occasion you might not only have fun with the family, but you might even get the kids excited about starting school again. That's a win-win in my book!

Please post any comments about some great end of summer/beginning of school year ideas or traditions. It's all about spreading the knowledge and fun.

I'm on a 168 hour break, so until then Stay Tuned...

22 August 2009

First You Need To Be Aware....

Virus Protection For The Mind

Open yourself to happiness.
Steven Aitchison of
Change Your Thoughts. Off of Zen Habits.

We all know how destructive viruses on our computer can be and how important it is to have virus protection installed. However we’re not so careful when it comes to protecting our own minds with the, often devastating, effects our own thoughts can have on it.

The more serious of these thought viruses can lead to mental health problems such as loss of confidence, mild depression, self esteem issues, and a distorted perception of ourselves.

Science has shown that there is a link between physical and mental well being and positive attitudes in life. When you are happy and content with life and your thought processes are working correctly your brain releases endorphins which is your brains way of dealing with pain and making your feel happier. Your brain also releases something called Gamma Globulin to strengthen your immune system and another chemical called Interferon which combats viruses, infections and even cancer.

How then do we combat these thought viruses and protect our minds in order to stay healthy mentally and physically?

The answer could be ‘thought awareness’. This is when we recognize the thoughts that could lead to a downward spiral of negative emotion resulting in mental and physical problems, in effect viruses in our minds.

4 Ways to to control the viruses in your mind

1. Negative self talk.
When you recognize that you are talking to yourself in a negative way, recognize it for what it is; Your mind has tried to protect you from being hurt emotionally so starts talking to you in a negative way in order to protect your feelings.

For example; you want to start your own business and have a desire to work for yourself. At first you are really excited by the prospect, but immediately your mind start telling you it will be too hard, you will have to work very long hours, you will have to network, which you hate doing, you will have to do this and that and it will be way too hard.

As soon as you recognize these thoughts creeping in, it’s time to stop them dead in their tracks and carry on with your plans. Everything you don’t know yet is difficult simply because you don’t know it, but when you take steps towards knowing, it becomes less difficult and therefore easier.

When you recognize and stop the negative self talk your thoughts will then start naturally flowing to a positive mind state. Kind of like when you were a child and you believed you could do anything, only this time you have the tools to actually do anything you want.

2. Get rid of the past.
We tend to dwell on negative events from our past in an effort to understand why they happened. This can often occur with traumatic events from our past.

I had a client who had been trying to understand why a certain series of events had happened to her and she had been trying for 25 years and still getting herself upset every time she spoke about it. When I asked her why she was still trying to understand it when she had not been able to figure it out for the last 25 years, she looked at me with a blank stare. I then went on to advise her to acknowledge what had happened to her, not dismiss it, and put it on the shelf at the back of her mind. I advised her, at the moment, she was taking the item from the shelf of her mind every day and trying to analyze it when it would be better just to know it’s on the back shelf and get on with doing other things in her life. This was a turning point for her.

3. Use affirmations to train your mind.
The use of affirmations is well documented ever since the classic book: ‘Creative Visualization’ by Shakti Gawain back in 1978.
Affirmations are short phrases or sentences you repeat to yourself mentally in order to induce a certain state of mind. the classic one being:
‘Everyday in every way, I am getting better and better’ (Emile Coue).
By stating affirmations to yourself in a mantra like way and repeatedly over weeks, months and years your mind becomes trained to think in a different way. If you don’t think this works think about your fears for a second or two. people who are afraid of going into elevators have literally used affirmations and visualization to train their mind to produce a state of panic whenever they have to enter an elevator. So it is true in reverse. People who are confident have affirmed, at every opportunity, to tell their mind they are confident in every situation and confident enough to try new situations. We all use affirmations in our lives without ever knowing that we do so why not put affirmations to good use and consciously train your brain to a better way of thinking.

4. Open yourself to new experiences.
You are only on this earth for around 80 years, on average, if you are lucky, so why not try and experience as much as you can before you die. We all live in comfort zones and that’s great because comfort zones protect us to a degree. However comfort zones also stop us from learning about ourselves and growing as individuals.

We also we pass on our comfort zones to our children and we all want what’s best for our children so why not try to experience something totally new and step outside your comfort zone. Imagine what the world would have been like if the likes of Emily Panckhurst, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Alexander Graeme Bell had not stepped outside their comfort zone.

Apathy is found within the comfort zone, greatness lives outside of it.
Realize that every thought cannot be controlled. It would be naive to say that we can literally control all of our thoughts. It would be impossible to do this. Our aim is not to control our thoughts it is to steer them in the right direction. Right now your thoughts can be likened to 10,000 young children all running about, screaming and shouting in a very large playground somewhere, it would be impossible to control them, however imagine having a big purple dinosaur show up in the playground what do you think would happen. The kids would quieten down and start watching the show the big purple dinosaur was putting on.

So our aim here is not to control our thoughts but to control the big purple dinosaur and that can be done using a handful of techniques like the 4 techniques above.

Stay tuned...

20 August 2009

$ Matters with Mary

Chicago Architecture!

You can't help but notice the stunning skyline of Chicago. For an exciting time you can take a 60 or 90 minute architectural cruise down the Chicago River. Our entertaining (and experienced) guide recounted Chicago's rise from the Great Fire of 1871 to becoming the cradle of modern architecture. It is a fast paced tour and I promise - you'll be impressed at what you learn while having fun. There are several lines you can choose from. We used Shoreline Sightseeing. Travel Tip - Check to see if your cruise line offers additional specials. We were able to purchase the sunset lake tour for an additional $6.

After being surrounded by spectacular buildings we were eager to go to the top of one. So our favorite architect - Harry - picked the 100 story Hancock Building. However, you just can't go inside and roam around. You need a reason to be there like going to the Observatory. Very cool if you have the time and money. Bargain Deal - If you just want to see what the world looks like from the almost top of a skyscraper you can take the elevator for free to the bar on the 96th floor. For the price of a drink ($7 and up) you can have one of the best views of your life.

Free Souvenir Tip- In our drinks, the swizzle stick was a replica of the Hancock Tower! I asked our server if we could have several more as souvenirs. Now when Harry has a party he has the Hancock Building as a skewer in the snack tray. Makes for great conversation.

Next week - On to Milwaukee
Until then - I'm looking for fun and food in your city......................

18 August 2009

Tuesday's Tips

Good afternoon everyone! As promised I am going to talk about weddings this week. I’ve finally hit that time in my life when everyone around me is getting married, and I’ve noticed a lot about the way people spend their money when it comes to this grand event. Also take note that I am not currently married, so my observations are those of a person who has not planned a wedding.

1) Picking a venue doesn’t have to be expensive. I recently attended a wedding that was at a very large church in a booming suburb of Columbus, and the reception was held at a local private high school. These venues were both very beautiful, and in speaking with the groom (a close friend of mine) I learned that the reception hall was quite pricey (the bride’s parents are members of the church which saved on that cost). A wedding I will be attending in October will be held on the beach in Hilton Head, SC and I also know the general budget for the entire wedding is only slightly more than what it cost to rent the private high school for just a reception. The point here is that you can hold the ceremony just about anywhere and find affordable places.

2) Don’t go overboard on little details. Flowers smell wonderful and brighten up the room. Chocolate fountains for dipping fruit are really neat. Party favors are a great way for people to take home a small item to remember the day. All of these things sound important, and may very well be important, too many people. However, these types of extras are things that are rarely remembered by most people a week or month after the wedding. I just went to the wedding at the large church on the 1st of August and I have no idea what color the flowers were. I remember there were a ton of them at the reception, but that’s about it. So don’t feel the need to go overboard on the little things you think people will remember, because often times they don’t, and neither will you.

3) Make sure you don’t skimp on the truly important things. I have heard from a number of people that the one thing they wished they hadn’t scrimped on was pictures. Pictures are one of the only things that you can see time and again to relive the special day, but many people find them too expensive and can’t work them into their budget. However, by spending a little less on flowers, the dress, venue, or a number of other things they thought were important they could have worked it into the budget. And make sure the people attending are the people you want there. Many friends of mine had 300+ people because their parents thought they needed to invite the entire family. They would have been more comfortable with only 100-150 people, and because they invited so many they were uncomfortable and ultimately not as happy on their wedding day.

So that’s what I’ve learned thus far, and after the next 3 weddings this year I’ll probably have learned some more. Feel free to share comments about your own wedding experiences (I’m looking at you Look Photography

I’m on a 168 hour break, so until then Stay Tuned…

17 August 2009

Extra Edition of $ Matters with Mary

Check out Mary = Back left - at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte NC. Next adventure she is on her way to Washington to hike for a week, sleeping bag and all. Nothing slows her down!

Stay tuned for Tuesday's Tips.....

13 August 2009

$ Matters with Mary

Chicago – So Much to Do!
One of the great things about
Chicago is that there is an endless supply of things to do and see for little or no money.

Millennium Park is an absolute treasure. It is home to Free concerts at the spectacular Jay Pritzker Pavilion - a revolutionary outdoor concert venue designed by architect Frank Gehry. The Pavilion stands 120 feet high, with the first of its kind state-of-the-art sound system, 4,000 fixed seats and the Great Lawn accommodates an additional 7,000 people.
You could spend a day with the sculptures and fountains in the park. They are beautiful, whimsical, and even squirt water! Two of our favorites were the Cloud Gate, affectionately known as the Bean and the Crown Fountain.

As we were walking around the park, we stumbled into a travel promotion for Greece. Complete with authentically clad dancers, music and FREE food and drinks. We are talking appetizers, meats, stuffed grape leaves, and desserts. It was incredible.

What are the affordable activities in your city? Every park has free events. Go out and walk around! You will be amazed what is out there. We were in one of the most expensive cities in America and spent $0 for art, entertainment, and food. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Next week – More Bargain Fun in Chicago
Until then – I’m looking for fun and food in your city………………………….

11 August 2009

Tuesday's Tips

Good afternoon everyone! Stefan here with another installment of Tuesday's Tips, and this week it's all about shopping. In past posts I have discussed grocery and school/book shopping, but this week I'd like to talk about clothing and accessories.

1) Check multiple locations before buying. This is a guideline my girlfriend and I use in most instances, but there are always exceptions. What this rule generally applies to are accessories such as shoes, purses, hats, etc. My girlfriend wants new boots so she was checking many online shoe sites. She found a pair she loved, but thought they were too expensive. So she searched for that specific boot on other websites and found them for $50 cheaper and didn't have to pay shipping. In this case she saved a lot of money because she spent a little more time checking other locations. Now if there is a certain store you like where the clothing fits you well, you don't always need to check other locations, but sometimes you'll find those items on sale or clearance if you take a bit of time to check.

2) When ordering online, make sure you know your size. This can be tricky because different stores have their own sizes, and online purchases aren't always returnable. If you find something online that you love, but you can spend a bit of time going to a store to check your size, please do. There is no worse shopping feeling than opening a box and finding out your $140 shoes are the wrong size or that your 3 pairs of jeans are too tight. For your own good make sure you know what size you are for the specific store at which you are shopping. Either that, or make sure the item can be returned at no cost to you.

Well that's all for this week. Tune in next week where I'll discuss weddings! I'm on a 168 hour break, but until then Stay Tuned...

08 August 2009

Credit Basics

Today we are going to talk about credit. A great resource is Credit Abuse Resistance Education Program (Care) We all have a credit score. The range will be between 300 and 850. People with high scores are more likely to pay money borrowed back and are a better risk. Your credit score will determine how much you pay for things the rest of your life! You will get a lower interest rate if your credit score is high. The magic number is 700. Items on credit report: General personal information, history of on time and late payments for almost all areas of life, bankruptcy and employment. Stop right now and request a free credit report! You are entitled to a free report every year. Mark your calender and make this a habit. Do not use any other site.

Go to Print off the report and review. If your score is lower than 700 there are ways to improve it! Ways to increase credit score:
1. Check for mistakes and if you find one - request correction.

2. Pay your bills on TIME

3. Pay off credit card debt

4. Have 1 credit card and use it responsibly. By purchasing on card and paying off every month - it will show you are responsible. Do not use it for everything pick one or two small items and then use a cash system for the rest of your purchases.

5. Stop applying for credit cards. Do not get sucked into a free t-shirt, or saving 10%. Every time you apply for a new card they check your report and this affects your score.

The opposite problem is having no credit history. If you have no history you will not be eligible for a mortgage or car loan. While you build your credit the trick is to do it responsibly.

Tip #4 - 1 credit card, use it each month for small purchase and pay it off. Use cash for everything else! Your job this month is to continue to track your expenses and stop the leaks on little purchases take the money and put it into savings! Work on understanding your credit score. Get your credit report and review it, understand it and make sure it is accurate. Continue to work on paying off debt. Any questions or concerns send me a comment or shoot me an email.

Stay tuned.....

05 August 2009

$ Matters with Mary

Destination: Windy City/Chicago Take me out to the Ball Game! The fun never ends. We are going to Wrigley Field for Father’s Day! Gary’s beloved Cleveland Indians are playing the Chicago Cubs. Since we insist on cramming in as much as possible - planning and budgeting become important. The first thing we had to do was secure 4 tickets to the game. There was no cheap way to do this. So this was one item that we were willing to spend top $ on.

Secondly we are very efficient with our time. Time = Fun. Public transportation is the cheapest and often easiest way around a big city. Chicago is no exception. By design our lodging was walking distance to an “L” station. Chicago's transportation system. We found the 3 day pass was perfect for us. We had unlimited use of the trains and buses. And it was cheap - $14 for 3 days and no wasted time in traffic or trying to park. Travel Tip – to save more time order your passes online. Allow 10 days for them to arrive in the mail.
Of course we had our food plans. Not wanting to spend $ on food at the game we had a feast for a late breakfast at Ann Sather’s. The portions were huge; the food was fantastic, and the cost reasonable. Every meal came with these incredible cinnamon buns. I’m dreaming of one now. $ Saving Tip – Share a meal!
Walking from the restaurant to Wrigley Field was a blast. You get caught up in the excitement of the crowd, vendors, sights and sounds. This is a place we have seen on TV hundreds of times but there is NOTHING like being there. It is old, historic and American. Our seats were great, the fans awesome, and the weather beautiful. It was a perfect Father’s Day. And worth every cent.
Next week – Millennium Park and The Bean

Until then – I’m looking for fun and food in your city………………………….

04 August 2009

Tuesday's Tips

Hey everyone, today's tips are going to be, once again, a reflection of my life. I've been reading a lot lately, and with today's economy nothing makes reading easier than...the library!

1) Go to the library for books and movies. Why buy every book or movie that you want to read or watch? It just doesn't make sense to spend money on items that spend most of their time collecting dust on shelves. Not that you shouldn't buy your favorite books or movies, but it certainly doesn't make sense to buy hundreds of books and dvd's when you could go to the library and get them for free. I do this very often, as does my girlfriend, and we get to read at our leasure and at no cost to us. We also get movies that we want to watch, when they're available, and it doesn't cost us a dime. However, talking about the library brings me to my 2nd tip.

2) Donate to a worthy cause. It can be any type of donation: monetary, time, etc. Places like the library don't often have a large budget, and with the economy down they need all the help they can get. Find a cause that you want to support and get to it. I, personally, am a person that likes to see how my donation is helping others, which is why I loved volunteering to clean the local Ronald McDonald House. It made the staff and guests very happy to have the lodging cleaned, and that in turn made me want to help even more.

I know my tips for the week are loosely related, but by doing both you'll be improving your life fiscally, mentally, and spiritually. I'm on a 168 hour break, so until then Stay Tuned...

03 August 2009

Acacia ALA Leadership Conference

I want to thank the men of Acacia Fraternity and the Foundation for having me speak at their National ALA Conference in Bloomington Indiana.

It was great presenting to them because they were so involved throughout the talk. They asked excellent questions and their comments were thought provoking and insightful.

There were a few questions that were asked that I am researching - so I will do a post on credit later this week to address those.

Stay tuned.....

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