How To Lead The Ideal Life Without Becoming As Broke As The Joneses!

Your Values Should Be A Driving Force Behind Money Decisions, Financial Planner Says.

It’s human to feel envious when a neighbor drives up in an expensive new car or posts photos online of a two-week European vacation.

But when you let that envy drive your decisions about spending money, you could be headed for financial trouble – the same kind of trouble the seemingly affluent neighbor already may be facing.

“Too many people get caught up in accumulating things and projecting an image of success,” says Brad Berger, author of the book “Stop Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses – They’re Broke Anyway” (

“Often they make decisions based on how other people lead their lives and the image those people project. But in many cases, the people you think have money because of the cars they drive, the homes they live in or the vacations they take, may be barely scraping by.”

Such people create an illusion of wealth because they live extravagantly today, but lack any coherent plan for tomorrow, says Berger, who also is a managing partner and owner of Cornerstone Financial Strategies in Tacoma, Wash.

They let someone else’s values, rather than theirs, determine their financial choices.

“The secret to success is determining what you – not someone else – want to achieve and then figuring out what it’s going to take to achieve that,” Berger says. “Living in alignment with your values doesn’t automatically bring on the good life, but it becomes the foundation that guides future decisions about what you want to pursue.”

Berger says people’s needs and concerns are too individual for one-size-fits-all financial advice. Instead, he says, you should strive to live your ideal life through a financial planning process that:

• Aligns your financial choices with your goals and values. “It is important to understand what drives your decisions,” Berger says. “I regularly double check to make sure any action I am about to take is in alignment with what is important to me. In other words, I ask whether my action is in keeping with my values or takes me further away from them.”

• Gets your entire financial house in order. Not only do you want that financial house in order, you want to keep it that way forever. That’s easy to say, but more difficult to do. Part of this means focusing on your values and setting goals based on them. But it also involves planning and figuring out what the best investment strategies would be. And then it’s important to regularly monitor what you’ve done to see if adjustments need to be made.

• Gives you confidence. You want to feel that, no matter what happens in the markets, the economy or the world, you will be on track toward your goals. Financial planning isn’t just about investing in the stock market, Berger says. You also need to manage risks, plan for retirement, develop a comprehensive tax plan and put in place a plan to take care of your family after you are gone.

• Frees up mental and physical space and time. Ideally, your plan will give you the peace of mind to stop focusing so much on money and what it can buy, and instead home in on the things in your life that are more important. “I have learned that the accumulation of shiny objects does not lead to happiness,” Berger says.

Even when you finish setting up your financial plan, you aren’t finished.

“Financial planning is not a destination; it’s a journey,” Berger says. “I’m constantly monitoring and tweaking my own plan. As I accomplish goals, I regularly add new ones. I adjust to changes in the market and to estate laws and taxes.

“The plan evolves as my family needs change. There is always some way to improve it.”

About Brad Berger: Brad Berger, a managing partner and owner of Cornerstone Financial Strategies LLC ( in Tacoma, Wash., is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional with more than two decades of experience. He also is the author of the book “Stop Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses – They’re Broke Anyway: A Financial Planner’s Guide to Living Your Ideal Life.” He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served as a Scout Platoon Leader in Berlin, Germany, during the fall of the Berlin Wall.

How To Maximize The Risk-Reward Relationship In Corporate Settings - A Safe Environment For Expressing Ideas Plays A Key Role In Innovation.

There’s no shortage of fanfare for the hottest corporate buzzword of the past several years – innovation. As Forbes noted in a 2012 article, the word has become the “awesome” of corporate speak.

Innovation is the quality desired by business leaders, who tend to believe that if you’re not innovating, you’re dying a slow death. While volumes have been written about the path to reliable innovation, corporate coach Maxine Attong has found none with the key ingredient that she has found so compelling in her work, safety.

“In order to take risks, which is the foundation of innovation and subsequent rewards, a team member has to feel safe,” says Attong, a certified facilitator and author of “Lead Your Team to Win: Achieve Optimal Performance By Providing A Safe Space For Employees” (

“Anyone who has ever been in a classroom or company meeting knows the potential risk of making an out-of-the-box statement, which could be seen as silly, frivolous or ignorant – or as a groundbreaking insight. Without a sense of safety, most employees will decide to silence an unconventional statement that could risk their standing.”

Unusual and unconventional ideas are a sign of strength in a company, Attong says. It shows that team leaders really are open to innovative ideas. She further explains the importance of the idea and how to create safety to voice risk-taking ideas.

• A safe space is the “office Vegas:” what happens in the room stays in the room. While business plans may be neatly fitted into a blueprint, the reality of any strategy involving humanity needs to account for our unpredictability. We’ve all had those days in which we were stressed out by personal matters. Meanwhile, deadlines and expectations loom as the workload continues to pile up. The more you try to ignore your personal problems the more they come to mind.

“What would it be like if you could go into a room where you have total support and have a good cry for the dead dog, vent how angry you are at your loved one, or rant about how stressed you are over your coworker’s behavior,” Attong says. “When you are done, you leave the room knowing that your behavior was not judged, and your statements were confidential. That’s the kind of safe space that can facilitate innovation.”

• Human beings have an amazing capacity for brilliance. However, the list of negative distractions is formidable: sick children, marriage or divorce, financial issues and other problems can take a focused mind off track. A safe space can get a mind back on track and people working creatively on new solutions; enable leaders to develop an outstanding team and instill stability. Creating a safe space can create a work environment in which team members actually look forward to work, a place where they can drop off their problems at the door and deal with them later. A safe place enables members to keep their egos in check and feel open to explore ideas. Innovation is often fun; it doesn’t have to be scary.

• Safe spaces work on the inertia of several human traits. Safe spaces have been shown to work in other human affairs, including religion, addiction recovery programs, therapeutic counseling or coaching. People need to be heard, but they won’t reveal themselves unless they feel free from judgment. And, we need sensible guidance. After the safe space has been explained to team members, they’ll feel free to pursue productivity. The space assumes that the adults in the room want to be in charge of their lives and want to have relevant work experiences that contribute to their overall goals.

About Maxine Attong: Maxine Attong has been leading small and large teams for the past two decades – both in organizational settings and in her private coaching and facilitation practice. She has helped organizations come to consensus, overcome the perils of ineffective leadership, redesign processes to suit changing environments, and manage the internal chaos inherent in strategy implementation. She has been trained as a Gestalt Organizational Development practitioner, a Certified Evidence-Based Coach, a Certified Professional Facilitator, a Certified Management Accountant and is a former Quality Manager. Attong is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, and divides her time between the Caribbean and the United States. Her latest book is “Lead Your Team to Win: Achieve Optimal Performance By Providing A Safe Space For Employees.”

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