I am countercultural. I say “No, thank you” to the credit card offer at the checkout. I often wish I had a
hidden camera to record the disbelief on the clerk’s face, and that of the person behind me, when I turn
down discounts, free stuff, and points on my purchase. At the end of the transaction, I hand them my
business card with my standing invitation: “Let me teach you how to be countercultural.”
Americans firmly believe in “buy now and pay later.” It allows us to indulge our every whim and pay it
off later. In fact, we like debt so much in the U.S. that 78% of us live paycheck to paycheck. According to
the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American household carries nearly $60,000 in consumer debt. As a
nation we have racked up $12.73 trillion in credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and student loans.
So what does financial wellness look like in an instant gratification culture? Well, it’s weird. Financial
wellness basically means saying “No, thank you” to a lot to things others tell us we can’t live without and
we must buy now! It starts at the checkout counter and ends with our retirement plan.
It means living within our means: making a budget for monthly expenses, and intentionally contributing
to savings for goals we may not realize for months, years or even decades. It’s voluntarily avoiding debt.
One of my most successful clients drove a beater for two years while he diligently saved to buy a newer
$8,000 car with cash. That behavior helped him save $10,000 for a down payment on the house he
bought two years later.
The best financial tip I can give anyone any time is this: Don’t buy a sales pitch. Get a strategy. Build a
monthly budget and stick to it. Save to make planned purchases, including holidays gifts, vacations, and
more. Be as diligent about funding your retirement as you are your daily latte. It all pays off in the end.
Dawn Dean is the financial coach for The Financial Opportunity Center of Goodwill Industries of
Central Michigan Heartland. All services are free and confidential. You can reach her at 269-788-6500,
Tricky traps of sneaky snacks
We all know that nutrition is a big part of our overall health. While nutrition labels were invented to inform consumers, marketing manager managers have managed to sneak a few things under the radar. Reading the nutrition label with an informed eye is the best step to beating them, so here are a few tricks to watch for.
The top of the label describes a standard serving size and how many servings a package contains. However, there are certain items that we look at and make serving size assumptions, so we fail to check the serving size. Sometimes it can be surprising: A bottle of pop may only have 75 calories per serving. But if that bottle contains two and a half servings and you drink the whole thing, you're consuming 225 calories.
The footnote of the nutrition label gives suggestions on important nutrients such as fat, cholesterol and fiber, but these suggestions are based on a 2,000-2,500-calorie diet, and only a percentage of people have those recommended calorie amounts. For moderate active women especially, this may be too high. For very active men, this may be too low. Be sure to check your own BMR at the Nutrition section.
We are in a sugar era, with people eating far more than any time in history, and this high sugar has been linked to the current obesity crisis. But added sugar comes in many forms, which so hard to find on the ingredients label. One study suggests manufacturers add sugar to 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets. The FDA requires food producers to list all ingredients in their foods. Here are just a few names of sugar to watch for in the ingredient list: Agave, barley malt, beet sugar, cane juice, caramel, confectioner's sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, demerara, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, glucose, HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), honey, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, panocha, rice syrup, sucrose.
Biking to lose weight
By Team Active's Alex Miller
Biking to lose weight is a long-term commitment like many other exercise routines. Biking doesn’t really benefit you by burning calories fast over a short workout (which it can depending on how you ride), but instead by raising your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. This is the factor that decides how many calories your body burns at all times, doing anything from lounging around on the sofa to sprinting uphill, full tilt. Biking, and many other forms of exercise, benefit you by raising your BMR for long after you’ve finished your workout, and gradually raising its minimum level over a long period of time by building leaner, more efficient muscle tissue. In fact, just 45 minutes of biking in the early to mid-morning (such as a commute to work) is likely to keep you at an elevated BMR all day, which will slowly trim fat over weeks and months, but also help you to keep it off as your metabolism changes.
To change your metabolism in this way by biking, especially over weeks, months, or even years, it’s important to ride in such a way that you can get your workout without putting too much strain on any part of your body. Biking is touted as a non-impact activity, meaning your joints don’t bear the weight of your body, the bike does. This is a huge benefit, since it means you can schedule biking exercise whenever possible, without having to worry about also scheduling down time or switching between different activities to give your body time to recuperate. That’s not to say that biking won’t make you sore or tired and your muscles won’t ache in new and interesting ways for the first few weeks, they most certainly will, but at the very least there shouldn’t be any obvious long-term health problems a few decades down the line.
Drink it Up!
This month’s challenge is to match ounce for ounce the amount of water you drink with any other liquids. This is an attempt to have everyone drink more water!
The need for water is well documented and well publicized. We have all heard that we are made up of 98% water, and we are constantly losing water. Therefore the need to rehydrate is ongoing. There are many different approaches to making sure we drink enough water. People are carrying around water bottles, setting timers on their watches, using apps, and counting ounces. Whatever works, I cannot tell you one method is better than the other.
I can tell you what has worked for me.
I drink more water now than ever before because I don’t drink the other things. Years ago I stopped drinking pop and replaced it with more water. I didn’t intend to cut down on the others, Ice Tea, Lemonade and Gatorade, it just happened. As I got in the “habit” of ordering water it seemed I just did it more and more. It is to the point now that I order “coffee and a water,” “beer and a water,” and of course “just water, please.” My advice is to just grab a water every opportunity you have, and you should always be well hydrated.
Long Term (This post and all posts below it were written by HelpNet staff)
The magnitude of each moment is miraculous, indeed. It is not so much what plays out for us that can be designed to a great degree (which can be grand and glorious), but I'm speaking of how it plays out; its long term impact.
Thirty years ago (and more), I taught Junior Highers part-time in addition to what I was already doing. Wow and Whoa! I found out fast that JH's show you nothing, tell you nothing, they don't miss a thing, and they don't forget anything. There wasn't a day that I didn't humorously say on my way to the car (in Groucho Marks fashion) as a means to resolve and release to keep on keeping on, "Yep... that made a lot of difference!" Then, I would sit in my car and start working through what I did know as compared to what I didn't know, because I wasn't seeing it, hearing it, or feeling it. Yet, deep down inside, I knew I was having an influence.
Just in case you didn't just catch it right there, right there is the key to sanity and success: You need to operate from what you know rather than how you feel. Emotions are fickle at face value. The truth is trustworthy.
So, I kept at it with everything I had, and lo and behold... 29ish years later, I started hearing from the JH's via email. They found me on the internet; didn't see that one coming! Most of the emails had the same format: started with 'hope you remember me', followed by an extensive update on their life, and then, closed with a final statement of their assessment of me and what I did for them.
The first young man who contacted me ended his email with the following assessment: "Outside of the Principle, who was my Dad, you were the most influential teacher to get me to where I am today." Whoa! Not a clue. I knew that I was having an influence, but no clue to the degree of impact and influence that I was having in that young man's life.
I got this last one from a young lady in that class. She ended her email with this personal statement: "You were the only man growing up that I didn’t fear." Can you get a sense and a feel of her historical experience way back there in her environment?! I knew nothing about it. So glad I stayed the course.
Principle Five: Things you do are larger than you can really see... and more long lasting!
People will come into our lives and for the most part, we will not know much of all that is going on in their life. We need to understand that they are there right on time and for a real purpose, and make sure that we fulfill our role in their lives regardless of what we see, hear, and feel. We know that we are having a long-term impact in their lives... either positively or negatively. And in all of that, don't ever forget the Ripple Effect; your work keeps on going in them and in others as they touch others with how you touched them.
Believe the truth and don't become weary in well-doing; it will come to fruition. Stay on course!