Thinking and Growing Rich

The second ‘financial’ related book I’ve read this year has been described as “one of the most important financial books ever written“.  I can’t really comment on this, since I haven’t read many financial books but I can see why it would have made such a powerful impact when it was first published.
Think and Grow Rich‘ by Napoleon Hill was written especially for those who lost pretty much everything in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
There is an updated version which covers the likes of more modern successful businessmen such as Bill Gates but the version I read was the 1937 version, so the successful people described in the books were the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.  Hill apparently researched more than forty millionaires to find out what made them successful.
The book is basically a self help/personal development book that – if you understand all the principles and its messages and follow them – can help you become successful and (if you want to be) rich.
As it was written in 1937, the book was obviously very dated, referring constantly to the Wall Street Crash and the US Depression in the 1930s, and of course, references to technology and information available was limited to what was around at the time, ie no computers or internet! Also, as expected, it was occasionally somewhat politically incorrect.

 

One particular observation made me laugh: “If a woman permits her husband to lose interest in her, and become more interested in other women, it is usually because of her ignorance, or indifference toward the subjects of sex, love, and romance“.  Hmmm…yes, well haha!

However, there was still quite a lot of relevant stuff – how you sell yourself back in the 1930s is not very different from how you sell yourself today!

Struggle
I’m not a great non-fiction reader (being a fiction-lover) so I found this book pretty hard-going.
Some chapters were very interesting but even these had a lot of ‘waffle’. A few chapters I ended up skipping, in particular where Hill vouches for clairvoyance and extra-sensory perception (ESP) or when the American history detail just got a bit too much for me!
 
Stuff that stuck in my Mind
I’m glad I read the book as there is stuff I can take away, I found some of it pretty motivational and there are tips and suggestions that I intend to  put into practice. Certainly there are some chapters that I will return to again.
For example, the book determines that there are various steps to success/riches – I won’t list them all but they include Desire, Organised Planning, Decision and Persistence. These I readily identified with as they are steps towards FI and retiring early!
I’ll finish off with some quotes/verses which stuck in my mind:

 

“Our only limitations are those we set up in our own minds”
If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.
(by Walter D Wintle)
“A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”
Procrastination is one of the most common causes of failure.”

Stop worrying and conquer the fears which can stop you from being successful in what you do.

Stop using alibis/excuses that are used by people who are not successful, eg

…if only I had money…
…if only I had a good education…
…if only I had time….
…if I now had a chance…
…if only I could save some money…
…if I only knew how…
(there are lots more in the book)

Hill states that you will only be successful if you follow all the principles laid out in his book.
I only intend to follow some of them, but if it means I achieve my goals, that’s all the success I need – I’m not aiming to be a millionaire/billionaire!
Incidentally, I’ve highlighted the procrastination tip as this was mentioned recently by Huw in his YouTube video, and it’s something that I suffer from (at times) quite badly, but more so at home, rather than at work.
After reading the book (and then being prompted by Huw), I set about doing a task that I’ve been putting off (and putting off) for the best part of a year – that of transferring my stakeholder pension into one of my SIPPs.
I’ll do a post on this at some point to let you know how I get on but the deed is done!
Weenie 1 Procrastination 0!

 

Of course, there’s other stuff that I’ve been putting off that needs doing, but one step at a time, eh!

Online Learning

A couple of months ago, I received an interesting email at work from the IT department, highlighting a free, government-backed online course offered by The Open University on ‘Cyber Security‘ (run via FutureLearn).  
The course was 8 weeks long and commitment was just 3 hours a week.  As I’d never done an online course before (apart from compulsory training at work), I thought I’d give this a go, so I started the course on 26th Jan 2015 and have now completed it.


Reading and learning like this was quite novel and something I found quite enjoyable. I was even able to do some of it at work during my lunch hour. Most of the course was in the form of reading articles, watching short video clips and discussion points – you have opportunities to ‘discuss’ the various topics and post comments as you go along on the website and read what other people on the course have posted. Occasionally, you’re asked to do some extra reading should you wish.

At the end of each week, there was a simple multiple choice assessment to test your knowledge of what you have learnt and a summary of the topic(s) covered that week. There is also an end-of-course assessment (I scored 32/36, ie 89%).

All in all, a pleasant learning experience in a topic which I have found very useful, interesting and relevant, in particular stuff about passwords and encryption, albeit at quite a high level. I did find some of the stuff a little too technical but not too bad overall. The good thing was that you could learn and read at your own pace – at one point, I was a week behind but I caught up over a weekend.

If you wanted a certificate of completion of the course, you do have to pay for it but it’s not necessary to buy one.

There are some other courses that I’m interested in checking out in the future – in fact, I’ve just signed up for another free course which starts on 11th May 2015 – this one is called ‘Managing My Investments‘ – anyone else fancy it? 🙂

Will be interesting to see what gets covered and I’m sure there will be new stuff that I will pick up about investing as I know there is so much more I can learn!

Check here to see what other online courses are up and coming, which you might be interested in.

2015 Goals and New Year Resolutions

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I hope not there aren’t too many sore heads this morning?

Anyway, most years, I make a few New Year resolutions, with varying degrees of success.

[Image by Bill Watterson – check out Calvin and Hobbes on Facebook!]
They’ve included in the past:
  • No buying new books, only reading the ones I have at home – this worked for several years and was useful when I was paying down my debt and helped with de-cluttering.
  • Exercising at weekends – I tend to be quite inactive at the weekends!
  • Drink less alcohol – this started off as a resolution to improve my health and bank balance and then became habit as I now only drink at weekends (except when on holiday).
  • Pay off debt – this resolution was often broken in the past!
  • Save money – ditto!
This year, I’m going to have both financial goals and a few non-financial goals.

Here goes:

2015 Financial Goals

  • Save on average 50% of net salary – I didn’t hit this average in 2014 so aiming for it again in 2015!
  • Value of Future Fund to reach £60,000 £50,000 (corrected here) – this will equal 24 20% of my Future Fund Goal and will be a real stretch, because it’s dependant on both the value of my investments and me being able to really up my saving and cut spending to achieve it. 
  • Increase Net Worth by 20% –  this is one of the goals I’ve set for Moneystepper’s 2015 Savings Challenge so may as well include it here also.
  • Total Dividends from shares to reach £145 – I should be able to beat the £9.59 I received in 2014! Why £145? I like the idea of my TV licence being paid for by dividends haha! (only in theory of course, since I’ll be reinvesting the actual dividends).
  • Make at least £500 from online endeavours – this will include getting cashback, selling stuff on ebay, doing online questionnaires and reviewing music.
  • Maintain food/grocery budget of £25 per week (ie £100 over 4 weeks) – I started doing this in October and it wasn’t so bad, so I want to try it long(er) term.

2015 Non-Financial Goals

  • Learn at least 12 new cooking recipes – despite my parents both being experts in the kitchen, I obviously didn’t inherit that particular gene! Whilst I cook a lot at home, I’m not very adventurous, usually end up rotating the same list of recipes which I’m ok at. I want to add new recipes to that list! Time to finally look through those unread cook books I have on the shelf (plus a couple of new ones I got as Christmas presents!)
  • Attend at least two yoga/pilates classes a month – the classes aren’t at very convenient times, otherwise I would commit to doing a class at least once a week. If I can’t attend two in a month, then I will do the sessions at home (minimum 40 mins). This will be in addition to my aerobics/weight training sessions at the gym.
  • Borrow and read at least 20 library books – I read around 40 books (fiction) a year, which I keep track of via GoodReads. If half of those books are borrowed from the library, that’s 20 less books that I will end up buying, plus I want to support the local library by using its facilities. All other books I will read on my Kindle where I have lots of unread ebooks. Last year, I think I borrowed around 10-12 books.
  • Read at least two Personal Finance/Investing/Money related books – Some of you will think this one easy but I really struggle to read any kind of non-fiction, no matter how interesting the topic. Last year, I managed just one financial book, but it was a good one, from which I’ve devised most of my investment plan.
  • Learn to complete the Rubik’s Cube without looking at instructions – yes a strange one, a puzzle/toy from my childhood, one that I was never able to crack! I can do two sides easily and am close but not quite there. I bought one last year as it’s supposed to give your brain a good workout and I’m starting to feel that my brain needs training these days!
And that’s it really – there will be other stuff that I intend to do this year but not ones that I wish to track here.
I was thinking of doing a ‘no buying shoes or clothes’ resolution but the fact is, the only single item of clothing I have purchased in the last 7 months is a Christmas jumper! I’ve never owned one before (as an adult) and I’ve already had two wears out of it!  I think I may be in need of some new work clothes but I’ll still be keeping my spending really low in this area.

Huw from Financially Free by Forty has some really interesting and inspiring goals, including ‘Relationship Goals’.  I considered very briefly that I could make such a goal my own (ie to get into a meaningful relationship by the end of 2015) but the thing is, I’ve seen women who set themselves such goals and frankly, it’s not pretty, especially as it gets towards the end of the year and they’re still single!

That’s not to say looking for a relationship isn’t on my agenda – I just don’t want to put undue pressure on myself, haha!

Anyway, good luck to all with your 2015 goals and resolutions!

Scary Presentation

I hate doing presentations.
I believe the more presentations you do, the better you become at doing them but the fact is, I very rarely have the need to do them in my line of work so no, I’m not good at them. Occasionally, I do training presentations, which aren’t as bad because talking about my day to day job is easier.
The last time I did a major presentation to senior management was over 7 years ago…I don’t have great memories of that.
If I have to speak out in public to a formal audience, I suffer from all the classic symptoms – dry mouth, blank mind, short breaths, trembling, sweating and extreme nervousness. Apparently I hide all these symptoms well because people think I’m alright at presentations but the fact is, I’m pretty TERRIFIED of them.
So when I was on that 3 day course in London back in June, I thought nothing about what would happen at the end of the project that my team would work on for 5 months. I don’t think it was made very clear, or perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention.
All projects were to end in November with a formal presentation to the senior leadership team, including our CEO, CFO, COO, etc.
HQ in London – yes, it looks like a boat!
I’ve been in a state of dread all month, knowing the days were ticking down. I’d done all my work for the project, pretty much knew all my stuff but the thought of travelling down to London and doing the presentation was making me feel rather ill. 
There was no way out for me.
D-Day
Well it happened on Thursday.
Our team had had no formal practice of our presentation as none of us were based at the same office (one guy was based in Germany). Other teams had spent days practising to perfect their deliveries. I had a horrible feeling.
We were third up and my pitch was in the middle of our presentation. The senior leadership team were sat very close to the front of the auditorium – I could clearly see the whites of their eyes. My legs were shaking as I stood there and I hoped no one noticed.
It was the longest 2 and half minutes of my life.  
I actually don’t really remember what I said.  I didn’t have a script (for fear of not remembering my lines) or notes (for fear of fumbling them), deep breathing beforehand had helped a little with my short-breathlessness so I didn’t lose my voice. I do recall that I didn’t think I sounded natural, that it wasn’t my voice, that I sounded like I was talking as if my life depended on it! 
But I do remember people were nodding as I was speaking (so I was making sense!) and that gave me the confidence to finish without things going all pear-shaped.  I felt like collapsing in a heap after I’d finished speaking!
And then it was all over, questions were asked and answered and I sat back down with relief and my heart finally slowed down.
Afterwards, people told me that I did really well, that I’d pitched my voice just right and sounded confident.  Really? Yet all I was feeling was that I wanted the ground to swallow me up!
I know this is something I need to work on – rather than shy away from presentations or public speaking, I need to do more. I’m not looking forward to it…wish me luck!

Useful Slogans
Anyway, after all the presentations had taken place, we had a final formal session where we learned about stuff that would help us to develop our careers and to help the business grow.  I couldn’t help but think that some of the ‘slogans’ could be used for this blog:
“Empower And Inspire Each Other”
The whole PF/FI blogging community does this – not only a wealth of knowledge but full of friendly support, help and motivation. Certainly, it’s from reading blogs that has motivated me to start my own and set off on my own FI journey. Reading about other people’s experiences has given me confidence to do things myself to try to emulate what they have achieved.
“Learn And Adapt To Win”
I’ve learned a lot about saving and investing but there is still so much more to learn. I’d never heard of savings rates before but am now rigorously tracking my own savings to achieve my goals.  Flexibility I think is key here – if mistakes are made, learn from them, adapt and move on.
“Deliver Results in an Uncertain World”
This one is almost written with the stock market in mind. I recently learned more about diversification so am changing the asset allocations of my portfolio, which should hopefully achieve desired growth and income whilst minimising losses during volatile stock market fluctuations. This slogan could also apply to the world in general, with things like health, taxes, inflation, pensions all being in the ‘uncertain’ bracket.
Relief
I’m so relieved that the project and presentation is in the past. I’ve been mentally drained these past few weeks. I’ll be out celebrating with a few drinks this weekend anyway.
I do have one more project to complete but no presentation required for this one – YAY!
Have a great weekend all!