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   Dawn Wilson

 

Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (446)

Thursday
Jan312019

Financial First Aid for the New Year

Ellie Kay is one of the people I trust to always give wise financial counsel, and in this Financial UPGRADE, her "financial first aid" kit is a good place for everyone to begin if they want to prepare for a financially healthy future.

"If you want to set your family up for success in 2019, then you may want to create a financial first aid kit," Ellie says. "It’s a lot easier than you may think."

I (Dawn) know what Ellie says is true. My own financial advisor has wisely helped set up this "kit" for us, and it really eases my mind.

Ellie continues . . .

When our youngest son, Joshua, was born, we started saying, "If he had been our first, he would have been our last." That boy had more energy and could get into more scrapes than all our other children combined.

When he was 18 months old, he stripped down to his diaper, took a plastic sword, and chased his four older siblings around the house—thus earning the nickname, "Conan, the Baby Barbarian." By that age, he had also jumped off the top bunkbed (three stitches) and "flown" off our travel trailer (four stitches).

Joshua was the reason we purchased a serious first aid kit.

Just as every family needs a good first aid kit for those unexpected accidents, they also need a financial first aid kit, or practical ways to help safeguard their financial future.

1. An Emergency Savings Account

This account is not an investment account—it doesn’t include IRAs, retirement accounts or CDs. Its purpose is not growth, but safety.

These are funds that are accessed in the event of spouse unemployment, emergency home repairs, or unexpected auto repair bills.

The best way to build this account is to establish a family budget using an app such as mint, pocketguard or YNAB (meaning, You Need A Budget). I recommend automatically transferring funds from a paycheck or checking account into a savings account every week.

A good guideline is to save three months of living expenses for dual income households or six months for a single income family.

2. Life Insurance

This is an easy ingredient in your financial kit. You will need enough money so that your dependents could invest the money and live modestly on the proceeds.

Use a QUOTE COMPARISON site—it will not sell your info, it is confidential—instead of a LEAD GENERATION site (they will sell your info). You can try insurify, Policy Genius, or Nerdwallet.

3. A Will

Here’s another easy one—as easy as making an appointment with the JAG  (Judge Advocate) if you are military or your HR department to see if your company offers free legal service for wills.

The main section of this critical document will assign a guardian for your children.

In many states, the surviving spouse may only get one-third to one-half of the assets that were in your sole name. Your children get the rest and if they are minors, a court administrator could handle their money until they become adults.

Make sure the beneficiary designations on any 401(k) plans, IRAs, life insurance and bank accounts are also up to date. 

To find a free service for a will, just type “pro bono will” followed by your state’s name into an online search engine to see about programs that you might tap.

4. A Retirement Account

If your company offers a 401k, then you could be leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the matching part of that vital retirement tool.

Set up an automatic withdrawal to fund this account or start a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA so that you can get started on tomorrow’s retirement today. As little as $50 a month will get you started and the earlier you begin this account the more you can take advantage of the miracle of compound interest.

A good place to being with as little as $500 in an investment account is with Emperor, who specializes in helping beginner investors. Be prepared to give your social security number and bank information on the secure site and enjoy the adventure of investing!

5. A Good Credit Rating

The best way to rebuild good FICO, or credit score, is found in three steps: 

  • Pay more than your minimum payment (even if it’s only $5/month more).
  • Pay a day early rather than a day late (set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your credit card company for minimum payments.)
  • Pay attention to utilization and never let your available credit fall to less than 30% of the total credit available (for example, $2,000 on a $6,000 credit line.) 

Each year, get a free copy of your credit report by going to Annual Credit Report, or go into the base’s Family Support Center where they can also run a free copy of your report and check your score.

Do you have all these tools in a financial first aid kit? If not, get started soon to build the kit. Guard your financial health!

Ellie Kay is a best selling author of 15 books and a popular co-host of the Plutus Award finalist podcast that she hosts with her millennial daughter called The Money Millhouse. She is the mother of seven and a veteran speaker of 2,000 events. She’s the founder of Heroes at Home, a non-profit providing free financial education to military members. 

Graphic adapted, original courtesy of Gigabeto at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan292019

S-E-T Your Marriage Up for Success!

Deb DeArmond loves to help people build sound, godly relationships. In this Marriage UPGRADE she challenges married people to boost their relationship with three important steps.

"Marriage may be easy one day, tough the next," Deb says, "But you can set yourself up to live happily ever after!"

I (Dawn) have experienced this in my nearly 45 years of marriage. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but we don't have to leave our relationships to chance. We can make choices for growth and stability.

Deb continues . . .

I’ve jokingly said I could never divorce my hubby, even on really rough days. But I could explain his sudden disappearance.

Face it, we all have our moments when it’s an uphill journey. So, let’s look at some tips to smooth out the path.

February is 2019 National Marriage Month—a good time to be sure you are S-E-T up to create, enhance or restore the health your marriage deserves.

After 43 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart—he’s still my favorite human—we continue to discover ways to be better together.

Take some time this month to S-E-T yourselves up with a few tools, tips, and tactics to make that easier each day.

S – Speak Up!

I’m grateful for the 400+ married couples who shared their stories with me during my research on the marriage books I’ve written. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews revealed info that stuns me.

The hardest to understand is the hurt, anger, or disappointment spouses experienced, but never shared with one another. Some major, some less so, but consistently damaging. They disclosed info to me they’ve never shared with one another!

When I ask, “Why didn’t you speak up?” the answers are universal:

  • It won’t make any difference.
  • He (she) should have already noticed.
  • I don’t want to hurt or anger my spouse.

Our spouses know us well, but they aren’t mind-readers.

One friend shared he was stunned when his wife filed for divorce. She handed him an exhaustive list of offenses with dates and times going back 18 years. The problem was, it was the first time he’d known about any of it.

So, find your voice and speak up. 

E – Engage Your Spouse

One way to keep communication healthy is to engage your spouse often in conversation. Draw out any issues that he/she may not have disclosed and share your own, too. The reasons are varied, but the bullets under "S" are the top three.

Ask open-ended questions designed to create understanding:

  • “The new job has been overwhelming. I need your help. How would you feel about temporarily taking on more responsibility at home?”
  • “How are you doing with the demand of the new promotion? How can I help?”
  • “You seemed upset I cancelled our plans and we’ve not discussed it. How do you feel about it?”

T – Truth Must Partner with Love

Ephesians 4:15 exhorts us:But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ” (CSB).

Truth spoken without love doesn’t land well and seldom creates the intended outcome.

Truth expressed in anger, frustration, or hurt is still truth—but comes across as an attack and rarely changes hearts or minds. It often creates or escalates isolation.

Truth is most effective when we’ve managed our negative feelings and communicated with love.

Connect to create shared understanding is the goal.

It may require we delay the conversation, but we don’t defer it indefinitely. Once communicated, we can find our way to a Godly solution together.

Don’t delay! S-E-T yourself up for success today!

Which of the "S-E-T yourself up" tips could help your marriage most right now? Why? What would be different if you implemented these steps? How might your choices contribute to positive change in your marriage?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first bookRelated by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's newest book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic 1 adapted, courtesy of D. Williams at Pixabay. Graphic 2 adapted, courtesty of Yolanda Sun at Unsplash.

Thursday
Jan242019

Busy, Busy

Insightful and practical, Susan K. Stewart challenges women to consider what they're doing in light of God's Word. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she asks us to consider the busyness in our lives, and if there might be a better approach to goals.

"By the end of 2016, I was tired," Susan says. "I accomplished many of my goals. I had a stack of check-offed to-do list. I had been busy. Why did I feel as those I hadn’t accomplished anything?"

Oh, I (Dawn) know a lot about checked off lists. I've lived by them since I was a child. But Susan makes me think—is there a better way?

Susan continues . . .

I had accomplished a lot that year:

  • published an award-winning book,
  • spoke at national conferences,
  • taught classes online,
  • and many other achievements, which say "success".

I met my goals for the year.

That’s was the problem. I had met my goals.

Each year we are bombarded with resolutions, goals, and focus words. We are encouraged to plan out our year for success.

Midway through the year, just as we begin to think we’ve failed, more articles and podcasts land in our email boxes telling us how to pick up the goals we haven’t finished and move forward.

Even Christian material tells us how to make plans and we can accomplish them. It might be a three-step list or a twelve-step program. The point is, “make a plan and work the plan.”

This can seem like a circle of life—no, more like a race track of life with no finish line.

I needed not just a pit stop; I needed off the track.

Here are some of the ways I’ve conquered the busyness.

1. Don’t buy a planner.

If you already have one, put it at the bottom of the bottom drawer.

We can become slaves to the lists and boxes. It can steal our joy in what we do.

I choose to have a plain calendar. Once a box is full, I don’t schedule anything thing else for that day.

2. Nix the goals and resolutions.

Instead, determine your priorities for the year. And it’s fine if you have the same priorities each year.

Some people tell me priorities are the same as goals. I don’t think so.

The month of July, my priority is my granddaughter’s visit. It’s not a goal; she comes every year. Those tasks take second chair to my priority.

3. Limit the number of items on a to-do list.

I have sticky pad to-do lists. It has space for four items. That’s truly manageable, there’s no space to keep adding on.

I don’t take the top sheet off until I’ve completed the tasks on it. I do add items to the next pages, but I don’t see them until I get there.

Long term projects get their own four-item to-do lists, which I pull out only when I’m working on that project.

Without a long to-do list I don’t feel overwhelmed, and I have a sense of accomplishment with each sticky note I pull off.

These are some tangible ideas how to not be bogged down in the endless cycle of resolutions, goals, and failure. They help me keep perspective on my day and my life. I feel more in control.

But this list in not the real answer.

Henry David Thoreau said, "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"

I answer this question each time I get bogged down in accomplishments, when I think I should be doing more, when I’m tired of being busy. Yes, it happens even with the above steps.

Jesus was busy about doing good and His Father’s will.

  • Yes, He got tired.
  • Yes, He needed to draw away from the daily tasks to rest.
  • Yes, He needed to spend time with God the Father.

We are told by Jeremiah God has a plan for us, a plan for good.

God's plan doesn’t require to-do lists and goals, and it doesn’t leave us exhausted.

God’s plan also has hope and future. What more do we need? (Jeremiah 29:11)

The reason 2016 was so exhausting and lacked fulfillment is I was working from MY goals and plans. I was busy about busy work, instead of doing good and God’s will.

For those of us who need a final step, it is this:

4. Seek His kingdom first (Matthew. 6:33), and make it your priority.

God will add what you need to your to-do list.

Which of these action steps could help you get off the busy-busy treadmill right now? What can you do to seek the Lord and do more of His will?

Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. She is known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Susan is senior nonfiction editor with Elk Lake Publishing, blog content manager for Mount Hermon Writers Conference blog, and has published five books. Susan lives in Central Texas with her husband, Bob, three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and two donkeys. Discover more about Susan's ministry at www.practicalinspirations.com.

 

Tuesday
Jan222019

Keeping the OTHER Commandments

Life coach Letitia (Tish) Suk encourages women to live intentionally, focused on the practical truth in the Word of God. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she expands our thinking about God's commandments with some scriptures we perhaps never thought about as "commands."

"I find keeping the Ten Commandments not that hard," Letitia says. "Lying, stealing, adultery don’t tempt me. I would have a hard time taking the Lord’s name in vain. I can honor my mother and the memory of my father most of the time. I like keeping the Sabbath."

I (Dawn) think we all struggle at some time with some of the commandments, but I wondered where Letitia was going with this.

Letitia continues . . .

It is the OTHER Commandments that keep me coming back for another round of help.

Tucked mostly into the Epistles, a whole other set of Ten Commandments is given to help us follow in the way of Jesus. Have you noticed them?

The commandment I have the hardest time keeping wasn't even mentioned on Mt. Sinai.

Jesus gave the instruction and later Paul picked up the theme.

"Don't be anxious about anything."

Sometimes it's worded "don't worry," but the main idea is the same.

I break that one every day. I think you do too. I would like an exclusion clause—stuff it is OK to be anxious about, like global conflict or warming, the world economy as well as my own. I feel justified being anxious about health and the safety of those I love. And whether or not it is going to rain on the day of my son's outdoor wedding.

In fact, being anxious feels like I am doing something, making my contribution.

But no, not allowed.

The Word says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Is it possible to never be anxious?

Probably not, but a few practices have helped me manage it better along the way.

  • Hand over the issue in prayer as soon as the anxious thoughts show up rather than way into it— you can often throw the worry into reverse gear.
  • Remember God’s faithfulness in all the past circumstances which seemed scary. There are a lot of examples you can come up with. Ask him to bring some to mind if you are stuck.
  • Recognize most “worst case scenarios” never happen.
  • Text a few friends to pray for you to get through the rough spot. Ask them to do the same towards you in their anxious moments.
  • Hold your hands out or up and ask for the promised peace.

By the way, if anxiety has a deep hold on you, get help from a professional.

I still agree with that one being the hardest commandment, but I have noticed a few more nominees for the award.

Here are nine more commandments for your consideration:

  1. Do everything without grumbling or arguing (Philippians 2:14.) I definitely fail on the “everything” part. 
  2. Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16). I think I can say “often,” but for sure not always.
  3. Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I think I have this one covered some of the time.
  4. Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How about just the ones I like?
  5. Be patient in affliction (Romans 12:12). Nope, not yet. Working on it.
  6. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Two disclaimers on this one. Whew! What if the whole world followed this one?
  7. Do not judge (says Jesus.) Ever? No exceptions here.
  8. Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:3). Really? Usually not my first response.
  9. Do not be afraid (all over the Bible.) I think we must need a reminder of this one the most as it is mentioned so often, don't you?

The good news is:  

If God asks us to pay attention to these commandments, He will help us work them into our day-to-day lives.

Picture how following any one of these OTHER Commands might change your perspective. It could be so amazing!

Which one would you like to start with? "Stop grumbling about the weather" is a good place for me to begin!

Letitia (Tish) Suk, www.letitiasuk.com, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger and the author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat, Rhythms of Renewal and the upcoming 100 Need-to-Know Tips for Moms of Tweens and Teens. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area. Find out more about Tish at www.letitiasuk.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of free Clipart.

Thursday
Jan172019

What Makes Bite-sized Upgrades Work?

I have written about UPGRADING our lives since 2013, and in that process, the Lord has shown me how to cooperate with Him to upgrade my own life.

In that process I've also learned an important lesson:  

Personal upgrades can be overwhelming.

It's true no matter what we're tackling:

  • weight loss,
  • toning our bodies,
  • creating a more joyful or contented spirit,
  • moving forward without fear toward a personal goal or dream,
  • learning to be a better parent or grandparent,
  • becoming a prayer warrior,
  • making decisions that lead toward financial freedom,
  • and a host of other upgrade choices!

In a very practical way, personal UPGRADES begin with a choice toward a goal, and then we break down that goal into small (bite-sized) action steps.

Case in point: I wrote on Facebook recently that helping some loved ones pack and move motivated me to clean out my home of my own overflow of "stuff."

I decided:

  1. I no longer use or want many things that still are cluttering my shelves, cabinets and garage—why am I keeping them?
  2. I want to move forward into new adventures and new ministries, and don't want to be "encumbered" by unnecessary and distracting clutter.
  3. I do not want to leave so much "stuff" to my children to dispose of—so this became a "legacy issue" for me.

But considering this UPGRADE goal, I soon became overwhelmed with the thought of the "how" of making that change.

But then that old adage—"How do you eat an elephant?"—came to mind.

We "eat an elephant" one bite at a time!

One bite.

So what was my "one bite" for clearing out the clutter? I decided I could manage one box per week to Amvets or some other charity. That would equal 52 boxes of "clutter" and unused-but-useful items gone from my home in one year!

I am tackling weight loss the same way. Losing all the weight I need to lose is overwhelming, but I can choose bite-sized goals for each day.

I want to write a book this year. It feels daunting. But the Lord is giving me some bite-sized goals, and my "elephant" doesn't seem so huge.

Now this is not a new insight. The "eat an elephant" example has been around for a long time.

But what makes it powerful is when we take action.

Author Pam Farrel recently wrote about the many action steps the Proverbs 31 woman took that changed her life, enabled her to bless others, and earned her well-deserved praise.

Pam even wrote an action planner to encourage wise action steps.

We have to take that one bite... and another... and another.

The key to bite-sized actions making a difference is PERSEVERANCE!

We need to stick to it—or as Pam Farrel says—"Get It Done, Girl!"

  • We can't make a resolution and forget it the next week.
  • We can't make a decision and then back away.
  • We can't set a goal and then suddenly think it doesn't matter.

Perseverance is a steady pursuit of a goal or a repeated action despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

It includes tenacity, determination, resolve, purposefulness, courage, endurance and staying power.

With that in mind, I will persevere in cleaning out my home, losing weight, and writing a book in 2019.

The Bible encourages in this regard. It speaks much about practical perseverance in the Christian life.

One of the scriptures currently motivating my life is to be a "doer" of the Word and not a "hearers"  only (James 1:22-24).

A successful life doesn't grow out of hearing and nodding in agreement or even expressing good intentions.

To be a success, we must take action and persevere.

Even when it's hard.

Even when it takes courage.

The more we persevere in our walk with God, the more God teaches and blesses us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue to persevere! Christians should desire to persevere and cooperate with the Spirit as He works to change our hearts and make us more like Jesus!

Ask yourself this question:

"What is God trying to accomplish in my life, and how can I cooperate with Him in complete surrender and obedience?

Then ask,

"How can I make little decisions every day—bite-sized upgrades—to persevere in that cooperation?"

It is perseverance in the right direction and with effective actions that make our intended upgrades work!

What upgrades do you want to make this year? What bite-sized choice can you make today ... and tomorrow ... and all year long?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts  and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.