The Daniel Plan: Part 1

Last week, I started a “diet” with 10 people from my church. The Daniel Plan is a small group video curriculum through Saddleback Church. Rick Warren speaks to the importance of being good stewards of our bodies. The first 6 weeks are the toughest as it’s essentially a cleanse diet. Today I’m starting week two of the plan. I have learned so much already. I thought that I had a good gauge on nutrition, yet, with the Daniel Plan, I’ve realized that I have been blind in some areas.  In this video, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Amen’s wife Tana walk through a grocery store and point out the “bad stuff”. Take a look!   The Bad Stuff You Eat

Tips for paying off your mortgage faster

The following are 5 tips that can help you to pay down your mortgage sooner:

1. Believe that being mortgage free is a possibility for you. Many can’t picture being mortgage free as their reality and as a result, they don’t seek opportunities to be pro-active with their mortgage.

2. Sign up for weekly mortgage payments instead of monthly.  If you currently pay $1,000 once a month for your mortgage you’d pay $250 once a week instead. The advantage to this approach is that you are knocking off more interest when you make weekly payments instead of monthly.  Many who understand this concept sign up for bi-weekly payments, yet, weekly payments are even more advantageous. On a $200,000 dollar home at 5% interest, a person will knock their mortgage from 30 years to 25 years simply by doing bi-weekly instead of monthly payments. They’d also end up saving over $30,000 in interest. This example was of a bi-weekly payment plan, you’d save even more with weekly payments!

3. Don’t purchase mortgage coverage through your bank, go with life insurance instead.   Banks love to sell new home owners on the idea of paying a little extra each month to have mortgage protection. Theoretically, if one of the home owners were to die then the bank would pay off the remaining amount on the mortgage. The catch here is that the mortgage owners are paying for mortgage protection on the original mortgage price.  This means that the owners may be paying a monthly fee for $200,000 worth of coverage (original mortgage price) and when an emergency strikes, the bank would pay off the remaining mortgage which now may only be $120,000. For this reason, it’s better to purchase a life insurance policy for at least $200,000 (to cover the mortgage). Overall, life insurance gives you the best bang for your buck compared to going through a bank for mortgage protection.

4. If you have extra money at the end of a month apply it to your mortgage! And/or take your tax return each year and make a lump sum payment to your mortgage. Another idea is to change your payment plan so that more than just your minimum mortgage payment is drawn each month. This could be an additional $10, $25, $50, $100, etc. Your seemingly small efforts now will help you to be mortgage free sooner.

5. At least once every 6 months stop and picture what being mortgage free will be like. How would it feel to be mortgage free? What would you do with your extra cash? Knocking off a mortgage sooner than normal takes dedication and patience. Keeping the vision fresh in your mind is essential to persevering.

Do you have any tips or experience with paying off a mortgage faster? Are you attempting to be mortgage free sooner than what your loan expects from you?  Please share your thoughts in a comment below.

What we can learn from Canadian Geese

Around golf courses, Canadian Geese are often seen as pests. Posh places will pay to keep them away. With that said, there is so much more to Canadian Geese than their poop. Words such as inspiring and motivational can be used to describe the Canada Goose.

Imagephoto source

Here are 5 facts about the Canada Goose that may leave you impressed:

1) They are extremely devoted to their life partner. Canadian Geese raise their young together and they also remain together until death do them part. Sadly, if one of them dies the other one stays near the deceased body and mourns. My sister-in-law witnessed a Canadian Goose standing beside a road kill goose for several days. She said that it was heart breaking to watch the goose nudge and honk at the deceased. After the death of their loved one, whether or not they take another partner is individual for each goose. Some do, some don’t.

2)  If a baby goose is separated from their parents, a pair of Canadian Geese who are raising goslings will accept the orphan. They are fully aware that the gosling is not theirs, yet, choose to raise the orphan as their own.

3) They see the value in team work and encouragement. By flying in a V formation they are at significantly more effective in flight than if they flew on their own. The geese communicate during flight with various honking. Often the ones at the back (with the easiest flight) honk to encourage the ones at the front (carrying the heaviest part of the load).

4) Canadian Geese follow a leader and take turns leading. The goose in the front of the V formation has the hardest job; they are breaking the flow of air and everyone else is benefiting. The leader is also guiding the direction of the flock. When the one at the front needs a break, he/she goes to the back of the line and another moves to the front and leads the way.

5) They stick together and never leave one behind. If a goose becomes sick or injured in flight, two Canadian Geese will leave the flock to stay with the one that needs a break. They do this to help protect the one goose and also to keep him or her company.

We humans can learn from and be inspired by Canadian Geese. With all of their positive characteristics, the Canada Goose (instead of the Beaver) could be Canada’s national symbol.

How we tackled debt

Many don’t like to talk about money. Finances are seen as a private matter. I believe it’s important to talk about finances and learn from one another. Here in this post, I will share how we worked together to become debt free. Now, I must give a disclaimer – we still have a mortgage! This is the story of how we were able to pay off all card debt, student loans, and own both of our vehicles before our 4th wedding anniversary.  If we could do this on a very small to modest salary, so can you!  The following is what helped us:

1) a mutual desire to eliminate debt. it was essential that we were both on the same page!

2) sacrificing for the sake of the goal. as my mother often says, “short term pain for long term gain”. while engaged, I decided to forgo purchasing a vehicle and walk to work instead. as a result, I had extra cash at the end of each month that I applied to my student loan debt.

3) we desired to learn from others.  while engaged, we sat down with a business professor and early in marriage a financial adviser. they both helped us to prioritize what to tackle first. crown financial money map was helpful too: http://www.crown.org/

4) becoming debt free took priority over acquiring nice new things. we took the money given to us at our wedding and paid off one credit card. since finances are often seen as the #1 reason for marriage break-down, their monetary presents were helping us on our road to financial freedom.

5) we didn’t put our goal of being debt free on-hold until we had decent earnings. we were slowly chipping away at our debt even when money was tight and one of us was in school.

6) when purchasing our first home, we heeded the advice of my parents. they recommended that we take out a mortgage based on one of our salary – not both. we decided we did not want to be house rich and life poor. this was one of the best financial decisions we have made to date. purchasing a house under our means was the key ingredient to finally becoming student loan debt free.

7) we are working towards putting safety nets in place so that we don’t need to go back into debt again. emergency savings as well as a life insurance policy were added after eliminating our last student loan.

8) we don’t view giving to others as something to start doing when a person has “arrived” financially speaking. it’s a habit that we chose to practice while deep in debt and living paycheck to paycheck.

The last thing that I’d like to add is that I believe the key ingredient to financial freedom is contentment. Being satisfied with less, with old things (from clothes to cars), with a smaller house, and waiting to do house projects or travel until its all paid for in cash are not easy things! We live in a “me” and “right now” society. I believe that contentment is the killer of consumerism. With contentment crawling out of debt is given fuel.

I don’t want this post to come across as if we have arrived financially. Did I mention that my husband is a pastor and I’m a social worker? haha. We are not rich by North America’s standard. Yet, we are grateful for what we have as only 8% of people in the world even own one car. I hope that you too will see yourself as rich and as capable of financial freedom. If you have any tips/experiences or any thoughts about this post, please leave a comment below!

Having an eye for Wildlife

On our vacation to eastern Canada in 2010, we kept our eyes open for Moose. Every Moose Crossing sign got us excited that we may see our first Moose. We were so disappointed that we never saw one.

In Australia, we were on the look-out for wildlife. We were determined to not go to any zoo’s or sanctuary’s to see animals. We were passionate about finding them in their natural habitats. Our determination paid off – we saw Sea Turtles, Monitor Lizard, Kangaroo’s, Koala’s, Echidna’s, Australian Sea-Lions, New Zealand Fur Seals, Fairy Penguins, a Dingo, Cassowary (father with baby chick),  and even Platypus in the wild.

Since returning from Australia last fall, I find myself on high alert for wildlife, especially while driving.  Yesterday, we were driving 81 North (between Watertown and the 1,000 Islands) when I saw something land in the grassy median. The way that this bird fell from the sky reminded me of the water eagle we had watched on the BBC dvd “Great Barrier Reef” the night prior. I frantically told my husband to pull over to which he replied that he would not. I told him to look as I thought I had seen a Bald Eagle. We both looked and watched this bird with a white head and ginormous wing span fly away.  While on the ground, I remember seeing little birds all around the Bald Eagle that seemed to be frantic. I think I witnessed a live version of discovery channel and the reality that I dislike watching – the circle of life. Since I never got the chance to take a photo, here’s a photo and short description of the Bald Eagle: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/bald-eagle/

I believe that “having an eye for wildlife” is an acquired skill. I watched so many vehicles zip by this Bald Eagle, I wonder how many never even noticed. Seeing wildlife also requires sheer luck – being at the right place at the right time. If our schedule had have been earlier or delayed by a minute or two we likely would have missed seeing our very first Bald Eagle. We’ll never forget seeing a Bald Eagle on Memorial Day 2013. It was a sight that left me giddy afterwards.

Credit: http://powerage76.deviantart.com/art/Bald-Eagle-Stock-Photo-163247515
Credit: http://powerage76.deviantart.com/art/Bald-Eagle-Stock-Photo-163247515

Hypothyroid

In April of 2012, the secretary at my doctor’s office called and told me that my thyroid was low. I was caught off guard as I expected my blood work to come back as “normal” like every other time. I had just turned 28 years old, how could I have hypothyroid? I did some research on hypothyroidism and was SHOCKED as I had the majority of symptoms. I’ll name a few:

– constant fatigue
– unexplained weight gain
– dry skin problems
– below normal body temperature and low blood-pressure

Prior to being diagnosed, I used to be exhausted after work each day.  I felt as if I had been on my feet all day long when I had a desk job. I would come home at night and really push myself to make dinner and get a chore or two done before bed. I felt beat and needed to be in bed by 9pm. I REALLY paid for it the next day if I ever stayed up until 11pm. I thought I was just a low-energy person and not being able to ever stay up until 11pm was part of growing older. I’ve since been told that this is not normal for someone in their mid to late 20’s.

In the last 2 years, I was eating less calories than the years before, yet, I was gaining weight instead of loosing it. Now, I must address a major misconception in regards to a person taking medication for hypothyroidism – one will not experience rapid weight loss once started on medication. Being treated for hypothyroidism helps weight loss in the following ways: it assists in returning a person’s metabolism to a “normal” state and therefore,  allows the opportunity to loose weight like the average person by eating well and exercising. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me to loose the weight that I gained while hypo.

Since a year ago, I have shared with some  family, friends and co-workers what I’ve learned about hypothyroidism. After sharing my symptoms, many have said, “maybe I have it too!” I even had a co-worker decide to get tested because she was feeling a little sluggish and had put on some weight (5 pounds). She doesn’t have a hypothyroid and seemed disappointed not to. Having hypothyroidism isn’t something to be excited about. I will need to take a pill daily, on an empty stomach, for the rest of my life. It’s not fun to have to stop eating by a certain hour so that I can take my medication on an empty stomach. And if I eat something past dinner time, I have to take my medication first thing in the morning and wait at least an hour before having breakfast. It’s a pain in the butt.

When was the last time that you had your thyroid tested? A TSH of anything above 3 is hypo in the United States, and a TSH of 4.5 and up is considered hypo in Canada. I was a 5.3 when my doctor decided to tell me that something was up.  If you haven’t been tested for a while ask to be. This is especially important for women who are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant.  Hypothyroidism can cause infertility. Also, a mother’s low thyroid during early pregnancy has been linked to learning disabilities in the child. Pregnancy also can be a trigger for a mother’s thyroid to suddenly change. I just so happened to get blood work done for a different reason and learned that I was hypo. It’s scary to think that I could have gone many more years untreated. Thyroid conditions are rarely proactively addressed by family doctors. If you are experiencing symptoms associated with hypothyroid, ask for blood work to be done (TSH + Free 3 and Free 4 as well) and be sure to ask what your numbers are afterwards!

For more information, please visit: http://www.drnorthrup.com/womenshealth/healthcenter/topic_details.php?topic_id=59