Category Archives: BOUGIE: Wealth Building for the Post-Bling Generation

Finacial advice for the post-bling generation

Pt. II: Value Your People (Or Put Them Down)

Cover of "Prepping for Prosperity" book
Toni V. Martin’s newest book, “Prepping for Prosperity,” is available now for e-readers!

(Financial expert Toni V. Martin’s 3-part series on Values breaks down how to ensure you give sufficient energy to what you value most.)

In the first part of this series, I explained that we spend our time on what we value most. When it comes to people, it’s not just the measurement of time that demonstrates their value to us. Communication, appreciation and dedication are the markers by which we can evaluate who we value the most in our lives.

Communication
In all relationships, there are inevitable times when another person simply gets on your nerves. In romantic situations, enough of these can add up and cause you to call it quits. With family, you might stop going around certain relatives. In a friendship, you might stop returning their calls.

For whatever reason, you’ve determined that the person doesn’t add enough value to your life for you to maintain contact with them. When you value people, you communicate on a regular basis. Not only do you enjoy the contact, but you genuinely care about how they’re doing and want to know if there’s any way you can assist them.

Appreciation
This leads to how we show appreciation. You’d be surprised at how far the smallest gestures of recognition go, no matter how cheesy. Something about a certificate of recognition makes everyone feel good.

I love stationery, so I take advantage of my stash to send affirming messages to my friends. They’re always so touched that I took the time to hand-write, address, stamp and mail warm words and thoughts to them. Whether I get cards back or not, it’s a simple way to let them know that their presence in my life is noted and appreciated.

Dedication
Have you ever noticed how we feel free to let the people closest to us bear the brunt of our foul moods, quirks and idiosyncracies while we’re polite to a fault to people we don’t even care for? Are you quick to “cut people off” and let relationships fall by the wayside?

Once, in a fight with a friend, I told them to “replace me if you can.” I didn’t say that to rub in how wonderful I am, but to say good luck trying to replicate my level of loyalty, nurturing, and understanding in a johnny-come-lately acquaintance.

The true qualities of friendship are developed over time and trial, and shouldn’t be callously tossed at the first sign of discord.

Another time, I let a misunderstanding with a good friend fester, telling myself it was no big deal. But when it was pointed out to me, I realized that I have chased and called lesser people to maintain ties. This friend had been too good for me to be satisfied with seeing our connection wither. I sucked it up and extended the olive branch to right whatever wrongs I’d done.

Do your words and actions validate the people you value?

Bougie Financial Columnist Toni V. Martin’s work has appeared in national magazines and media outlets. Her newest book, “Prepping for Prosperity: How to Be Rich Before You Get Rich,” is available at tonivmartin dot com.

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Do You Give Your Passion the Time of Day?

The theme that I’ve been ruminating on lately and want to devote a series to is Value.

I’ve been thinking about the ways we value our time, our relationships and our money, and I’m seeing our values as a source of discontent that bears examination. Shifting our priorities would lead to happier and more satisfied lives. Thankfully, this series of value checks are easy to implement. Ready for a more purposeful life? Let’s get it.

Defining Values

You can value things, people, concepts, emotions. A lot of times what we actually value doesn’t align with what we purport to value. We make time for what we value, and we demonstrate our values with the amount of time we spend on them.

I’m generalizing, but men value their cars, their timepieces, guy time activities such as watching sports. Women value their shoes, outward accoutrements like hairstyles and makeup and spending girl time chatting and shopping with friends.

The man who values the above things will be found getting his car washed, carefully placing his watch in a special case so it doesn’t get scratched up, and at the sports bar watching the game and at home watching the recaps, highlights and analysis. That woman will spend time shopping for shoes in person and online and buying shoe racks so they don’t get messed up; she spends untold hours at the beauty shop getting her hair done and wrapping it at night; she spends time on the phone and at ladies night with her friends. 

The Values Check

This is all well and good, nothing unusual here! The problem enters when how we spend our time conflicts with what we say we value—our priorities.  We say we value our health, but we don’t make time to go to the gym, prepare healthy meals, set and keep doctor’s appointments. We say we value our family, but we don’t spend time calling relatives, having the difficult conversations to mend past hurts, attending the events that are special to them.

The best way to check what you TRULY value is to look at how you spend your time. I say I value friendship, family, my health and prosperity. My TIME says I value solitude, overindulging in food and wine, and compulsively absorbing information without acting on it.  It also says I value being a listening ear and encouraging others, supporting people in their business endeavors and spending time learning about and worshipping God.

Is the payoff on your priorities worth it? Are you spending too much time on things that you didn’t even KNOW you valued? Until we meet again, I’m going to be examining which things I want to continue to value through the use of my time and which things need to be shifted lower on the totem pole.

In the next post of the series, I’ll discuss valuing people….

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Bougie: Keep Friends Close and Critics Closer

“Do you really have the expertise to charge that?”

“What makes you think people will pay those prices?”

“I wouldn’t pay that amount for what you do.”

“I’ve priced the same service, from someone with more name recognition, and it was less than half of what you’re asking.”

Ouch. These pronouncements were delivered by my good friend and colleague after I announced my increased rates for my fledgling business. Because my friend is in a related industry and in the position to recommend my services to clients (and actually got me my first gig!), her words carried more weight than casual observances.

In fact, her comments were exact replicas of ones I had said to my very own self, at the outset of my journey to uplevel my business and earn what I’m worth. Now, coming back to me from an industry professional, they sounded all the more plausible.

It was something of a shock to have my plans shot down in such a way. But I resolved to turn the situation into a learning experience and use it for my gain.

As you move forward in your pursuit of the finer things and discuss your plans and goals, you’ll come across what I call “The Credible Critic.” These are people whose opinions you value, who are knowledgeable in your industry, whose words have the ring of truth.

Usually, this is where you’d get the advice to simply ignore them, or to cut them out of your life, or to stop talking about your plans. Let me explain why you should do the opposite of all three:

Don’t Ignore, Analyze
Think of the Credible Critic’s words as a sneak preview of future objections. If you don’t yet have solid responses to their concerns, sincerely thank them for providing you with a blueprint of questions you’ll need to develop the best answers to.

Other people who learn about your ideas will have these same questions, and you’ll come out ahead to already be prepared for them. Think of it as market research.

Also, when you have a narrowly defined market, your Credible Critic may not be a part of your demographic. When you go to position yourself in the marketplace, your messaging will be much more targeted and your conversations with people who are actually slated to need your services or product.

Don’t Remove, Observe

If you admire or look up to your Credible Critic, don’t cut them out of your life. Keep them around to study how they’ve become successful. Ask yourself, what is it about this person that makes me respect them and take their words as truth? Is it their confidence? The way they position their
accomplishments? Examine the source of their credibility. Mine those factors to add to your own personal presentation, so that your pronouncements have just as much weight.

Don’t Stop Sharing, Stop Caring

We’ve all heard “don’t talk about it, be about it.” We might hold our plans and goals close to our vests so we don’t have to hear anyone’s mouth. The embarrassment of making grandiose announcements that amount to nothing is enough to keep our lips zipped when it comes to our dreams of betterment.

But I’ve seen personally how talking about your dreams brings them to life. Scripture says the power of life and death is in the tongue. When I moved to Atlanta from Detroit, it started with a decision that I began to tell everyone. I was so in the practice of saying “I’m moving to Atlanta,” that I announced it to an acquaintance at my class reunion who already lived there. She was integral in helping me secure somewhere to live and a job when I arrived.

Ironically, because I talked about the process of writing my book so knowledgably (before it was even done), I was tapped to collaborate on another book-writing project—before my book was even finished. When you keep mum about your plans and their progress, true, critics can’t shoot down your dreams. But angels also can’t find ways to help you! Heed
the saying “a closed mouth don’t get fed.”

But make sure when you tell people about your plans, you detach from the outcome. Maybe they’re someone who can assist you. Maybe they’re a detractor. Either way, you’re going to be moving forward with your plans—no matter what.

Maybe you have what it takes. Maybe you don’t. My motto is “let’s find out!”

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Bougie: 3 Ways to Think Yourself Rich

Plan, prepare, act
A man with a plan.

In the last two posts, I posed the question of “Why don’t we do better when we know better?”

I discussed peer pressure and social conformity, arguing that we conform to the standards of our circles, which results in a herd mentality.

In this last post of the series, let’s move from “Why” to “What you gonna do about it?”

Lately, I’ve been pondering the thought of “The Shift.” Not to be confused with “The Shaft,” it’s the subtle but radical change in a thought process that allows you to be, do and have more.

Albert Einstein is attributed to saying “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

That’s one you might have to read two or three times before you get it! In short, you’re going to have to BE someone else to GET better things in your life. Here are 3 ways to make The Shift.

1. Surround Yourself With Others Who See the New You

In my circle of entrepreneurial friends, we’re constantly revealing the details of deals and proposals we’re going for. Whenever I say I’m going to present a low bid or take on a time-sucking project, my friends immediately go off on me.

They automatically inform me to up my quote, analyze the time commitment and keep an eye on the bigger picture—not just the short term. By having people around who see a vision of a bigger me, I’m constantly held accountable to the larger goals and accomplishments I’ve claimed for my future.

2. Read About Those Who Are On The Other Side

If peer pressure is one reason why we remain mediocre, how do we change our circle? Run up on the nearest millionaire and pester them to be friends? That can yield mixed results, such as restraining orders.

I don’t personally know many millionaires, but I hang around them in other ways. Reading books by high-flyers is an easy way to spend time with the type of people you want to become! And your new “friends” add value. Books by Bob Johnson and Sir Richard Branson or about companies like Google and Facebook can teach you how to structure deals, come back from setbacks and learn how it feels to have big bucks.

3. Visualize and Journal Into the New You

I know this one sounds New Age-y. I’ll try to figure out less woo-woo words to describe the process. But there is no better way to experience “The Shift” than to begin the IN-sperience you want to EX-perience.

Thoughts are free. A poor person can think the same thoughts as a millionaire. Ask yourself on paper what you would be like if you had all the money you wanted, if your finances were organized, if you were successful.

Would you spend more on frivolities or would you carefully examine expenditures to make sure they met your overall goal? Would you be more generous to causes you believe in or pinch pennies because you wanted to make sure you were straight first? Would you be organized when it came to the hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ve earned or would you ignore it?

Thinking like the you you want to become helps you create the mental framework you’ll step into once things are going the way you’ve always dreamed of.

Bougie Financial Columnist Toni V. Martin’s work has appeared in national magazines and media outlets. Pre-order her newest book, Tight $queeze: Escape from Life’s 25 Worst Financial Fiascoes, at tonivmartin dot com.

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Bougie Asks: Is Peer Pressure Keeping You Poor?

Woman window-shopping.
"I wanna be ballerific like it's all terrific, got a couple past due bills, I won't get specific..."

In my last post, I posited the question: Why don’t we do better about our finances when we know we should?

Asking around yielded one theory: peer pressure. I tend to associate the phrase with teenagers and trying to fit in, something we do before we’ve stepped into our identities as mature adults. But in his book I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Ramit Sethi states that social influence (what peer pressure becomes after 17) is a huge reason why people don’t do better with their finances.

He calls it the “Sex and the City Effect,” pointing out that any random group of friends is likely to be dressed the same—even though their incomes probably greatly differ. Sethi goes on to cite a New England Journal of Medicine study that found when a person becomes obese, it increased their friend’s likelihood of being obese by 57 percent.

To be honest, I’ll admit that when my friends are flush, we do more going out and socializing and spending money. When most of us are low on funds, we’re more creative, socializing at home and potlucking as opposed to spending money in the streets. Who wants to be the lone “I can’t afford it” voice while everyone else is kicking up their heels?

With that said, we need a game plan to avoid getting sidetracked from our financial wellbeing by unenlightened friends.

1. Clarity of purpose: You’ve got to be crystal clear on why you’re trying to adhere to a spending plan and laser-focused on your financial goals. If saving for my upcoming Vegas trip is in the forefront of my mind, a $25 round of drinks this Saturday looks less appealing than a nice hour at the slots in a few months.

2. Alternatives: Just because you’re not running the streets doesn’t mean you have to be a home-bound hermit. Try going out one night a week with a budget and then entertaining one night a week at a different friend’s home.

Make sure when you go out, you check the menu and drink prices in advance. I budget $20 for a night out—and I like to get the most bang for the buck, so I’m going where the mixed drinks are $5 & under, not $8 & above! When hosting at home, make a big dish like lasagna or a pot of chilli and let your friends bring wine and dessert. It’s cheaper and less headache than traditional potlucks.

3. Good Excuses: Have your lines at the ready, and don’t deviate. Having a standard response to the lunch/drinks/movies invite allows you to repeat yourself often enough until your friends are trained. “Can’t, I spent my $20 fun budget for the week. Let me know the next time, though!”

Deliver your responses in an upbeat manner—no one wants Eeyore for a friend. But conscious spending is not about deprivation, so sound enthused about the money you’re saving, the bills you’re paying and the payoff at the end of your goals.

Once your finances are thriving, your friends will wonder how you did it and ask YOU for tips!

Bougie Financial Columnist Toni V. Martin’s work has appeared in national magazines and media outlets. Pre-order her newest book, Tight $queeze: Escape from Life’s 25 Worst Financial Fiascoes, at tonivmartin dot com.

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Bougie Asks the Million Dollar Question

empty pockets
So I dig deeper, but still coming up with lint... (photo courtesy artolympics.info)
As I gear up to launch my forthcoming personal finance book, Tight $queeze: Escape Life’s 25 Worst Financial Fiascos, I am plagued by an unanswerable question:

Why don’t we do better with our money?

My market research groups me, my friends, family and friends of friends and family into a boat filled with financial fuck-ups. Late fees. Shutoffs. Evictions. We spend our money on weed. Strippers. Patron. The lottery or back-alley craps games.

We don’t own homes, or if we do our houses are in foreclosure. If we have a 401k, we don’t know WHAT the hell all of those choices are or which funds we elected or why, we just know if our balance goes up or down. We can’t go back to school because our student loans are in default. We get garnished, levied, repoed. We think bankruptcy is okay, and it will give us a fresh start, just as soon as we get the money together to file.

If everything I’ve just described sounds horrific and doesn’t apply to you or anyone you know—congrats! We need to talk for my next book. If one or two things apply, but you don’t know ANYONE who experiences any of the others—congrats!

However, I can’t hide my head in the sand anymore and see the brilliant, giving, spiritual, beautiful people I know continue to live lives filled with financial turmoil like this AND BE OKAY WITH IT. Because after so long, we come to view the pre-shutoff notice as our actual bill. Or plan to put money to the side to pay off the speeding tickets we get damn near every month. Or be okay with having a fully stocked bar, in a rented house.

This life may be normal, but it’s not ok. For my next few posts, I’m going to try to answer the unanswerable. Try to figure out why first and foremost myself, then my compadres are so alright with doing so bad. If this ain’t you, I’ll see you in a few posts. But if it is, let’s get it in!

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BOUGIE:Love In the Time of Recession

Love In the Time of Recession

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a chauvinist. But I believe that a gentleman ALWAYS pays on the first date. A recent experience left me wondering if I’m the only one left who feels that way, when I was asked to pick up the second half of a first date with a new guy.

There had been hints. “I don’t date,” he’d told me. But when I asked him if he went out, got something to eat, got drinks in order to get to know people; he’d said he did. He griped about the distance he’d driven to pick me up and go to the pizza parlor, and mentioned something to the effect of “I know I didn’t come all this way just to get something to eat and turn right back around.” We had danced around the topic of finance, more specifically his lack thereof. But when I suggesting after-pizza drinks and he was all for it. So when the check came, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find him looking at me and asking me to pick it up.

broke blackSince my first date at age 17, I have NEVER been asked to pick up any part of a first date. Although one of my friends assured me I was a rarity, it was still a breathtaking experience to have. I felt flustered, and nervous, and angry and de-feminized. To be fair, I’ve heard brothas gripe about always being expected to pay for everything. I agree that the cost of dinner, drinks, entertainment and transportation for 2 multiple times a week can get astronomical.

I’m not so stuck up that I can’t date a guy without major bank. I don’t expect guys to be balling out of control, and that’s not my criteria to select a man. Granted, my own financial woes are already depressing enough without having a man who is struggling too, but how can I demand someone who’s financially well-off when I can’t match it?

Still, I won’t apologize for feeling that when a man wants to see a woman for the first time in a romantic setting, it’s part of the tradition for him to pay. Me paying for the drinks killed the entire romance that had been blooming up to that point. Because my No-Dough Romeo and I had been establishing an open and honest friendship, we discussed some elements of the situation.

But I feel that some candor was called for in this situation BEFORE we went out, BEFORE we decided on after-pizza drinks and BEFORE he ordered an Irish car bomb and two Ketel Ones with a splash of tonic. I wouldn’t have thought any less if he had said “I really want to see you and get to know you better, but I’m light on funds this week. Can we go Dutch and I’ll get you next time,” or something to the effect BEFORE we even met up. Homeboy doesn’t feel that people require that much explanation in the early dating stages.

But if we can’t be honest about the basic things that make us who we are, if men are that hostile and feel it’s okay to pull a bait and switch from the expected order of things to prove a point, if you don’t like me enough to treat me—then what’s the point? I say retire from meeting people on romantic terms, and spend your limited resources on a ho on the stroll. At least you’ll get your money’s worth—guaranteed.

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BOUGIE: I do that..and that…and that…and that too..

How to Spot a Schizophrenic Entrepreneur

On the train the other day, a chick complimented me on my hair.
Since I admired hers as well, we struck up a conversation, and it naturally came out that she did hair herself. As a sales/prospecting approach it was perfect—I actually was in the market for someone to do my hair.
The conversation was natural, the needs analysis was organic. If she had a card or flyer with a rate sheet that was in my neighborhood and price range, she’d have just won a new customer. And don’t have a website—I would’ve probably told two friends about her too.
Alas, she didn’t have any of that. In fact, after she asked if I had a need for hair services, she went on to say that she also

· Kept kids

· Designed clothes

· Gave cooking lessons and was a personal chef

Yeah, that’s a lot to lay on someone. I am one of the main proponents of having multiple streams of income, and one way to do that is by having multiple hustles. But laying it out all at once just makes you look schizophrenic. We’ve all gotten business cards from a DJ/Plumber/Actor or some other outlandish and unrelated set of occupations.

How Not to Be A Multiple Personality Disorder Entrepreneur

multitask

Separate your branding: If some of your businesses fit under one umbrella, it’s okay to group them. For instance, I do PR and writing as a consultant/freelancer, so I group these endeavors under one website. But my lifestyle brand will need its own, standalone site. Of course, you can include links to your other identities, but don’t let them distract from the main goal of your site. Likewise, don’t be afraid to create multiple business cards for your multiple businesses.

Watch Your Mouth: “I do that. I do that too. Did I tell you I can do that as well?” It doesn’t look ambitious when you’re talking to someone, and this is your response to everything they say. Introduce into conversation the project that is hot right now or that best answers the other person’s needs, and wait to let people know about your other capabilities. Many of my friends have no idea I write for national magazines, because it’s really not relevant unless it comes up in discussion. Once people know and trust you, they’ll be delighted, not suspicious to hear about your other skills and talents.

Jack of All Trades, Master of None: Make sure that your multiple ventures don’t take you in too many different directions. For the train hairdresser/chef/babysitter/designer, I would recommend she rebrand herself as a Concierge—someone who offers multiple services in-home. She’d be perfect for a celebrity seeking an assistant under that title. Without it, to the everyday Jane, she just sounded schizo.

It’s hard to be a doctor AND an Indian Chief. Those paths might require such different skills that you could spread yourself too thin and be no good at either. Try to keep your efforts in the same vein.
I think of myself as an author, coach, consultant, and entrepreneur. They are all related to the sharing and synthesis of information related to being an urban lifestyle expert—which gives me a big enough umbrella to cover all of my ventures.

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BOUGIE – Bespoke Budget

Bespoke Budget

“Make a list of your income. Make a list of your expenditures. Track your spending. Save a portion of everything you bring in. Spend less than you make. Take your lunch to work. Stop eating out as often.”

I’m sorry, but if I read any more of this dry, white-bread financial advice, I’m going to slit my wrists AND my neck. Pretty gruesome, but you get the idea. If advice like this really resonated with people, there would be an army of brown-bagging cubicle warriors taking public transportation to work every morning—and they’d look just like you and me.

But you and I are still out at the clubs. Still at the liquor store buying top-shelf. Still using our online bank statement as our spending record. Still thinking that the money in the account IS equivalent to our budget. Hey, once it’s gone, it’s gone!

I like my budgets like I like my Pumas and Nikes customized just for me. I can’t be the only person who’s looked at one of those budget worksheets and felt my head start swimming with all the line items I need to account for: Professional dues. Property taxes. Car registration. Replacement tile grout.
I know that we have to take into account those things that don’t occur on a regular basis so we won’t be blindsided. But when you’re trying to make ends meet, association dues can seem so irrelevant and far away that the mere thought can get you to hyperventilating.

From Basic to Magnums

So, to help with your breathing, I’ve created 5 types of budgets that you can use depending on where you are in life. These budgets reflect what’s REALLY good in your life and allow you to focus on where you are. They also help define the next level in your financial life. So one day, you’ll have a line item for Cayman Island tax shelter, and it’ll be all good!

barebones
The Bare Bones Budget:
Food. Lights. Gas. Pretty much this is the budget for when you’re in survival mode. I don’t advocate riding dirty, but car insurance and registration don’t make the cut on this
budget. This is the on-your-knuckles version of maintaining. Think ramen noodles and dollar store. Your bills might not be current, but your services are working and not cut off.


The Breathing Room Budget:
You can upgrade from bologna to turkey ham. This budget includes the necessities of life, plus one of two little extras, like a bottle of wine to split if friends drop by with a bucket of chicken. Your bills are caught up, nothing’s past due.

The Cruising Altitude Budget:cruising1
This budget is when you can kick off your shoes, if not kick your feet up. You might be able to afford a mini-vacation, someplace domestic. You can do little extras, dinner at a nice restaurant, getting the hair done more often, gifts for more than the kids in your family. This budget is probably where most people without financial problems find themselves.


The Life is Good Budget:
Affluence. This budget is when you truly begin to invest and start adopting a tax strategy. The wine is nicer, the vacations more exotic, the toys are shinier. Let’s call it hood-rich, but this budget is where you’re not hurting for anything.


wildout2The Wildin’ Out Budget:
This is the Oprah/Puffy budget. This is where you start having libraries named after you and establishing rec centers in your neighborhood. This is where you have the Gulf Stream and work really IS a four letter word in your vocabulary. Your money duplicates while you dream and your kid’s kids will be trust fund babies.

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BOUGIE: 5 Minutes to Fix Your Finances

Who, outside of MBA and CPA types, likes the word budget?

It sounds like being bogged down with a lot of papers and doing all sorts of math and trying to remember if you’re supposed to pay $5 on the 10th or $10 on the 5th.

Many of us say we’ve got it “all in our head.” According to productivity expert David Allen, storing un-acted on information in your head is the cause of our daily stress and strain. Wouldn’t you like to know how much money you’ve got and should have on any given day? If you don’t already have a budget, you’ll love my 5 Minute Budget. All it requires is a calendar, a pencil and five minutes! Continue reading BOUGIE: 5 Minutes to Fix Your Finances

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