Get promoted – Get a Raise!

Expense management is very important, but some life expenses can’t be avoided – try something different – Earn more money!  I have put together some advice that has served me well in my career – these tips probably line up best for office workers but I still think they apply to most jobs.  I am convinced that employers will recognize ($) valuable employees over time.  Cream rises to the top!  Don’t forget to watch the video at the end (click on the link in the last bullet)


  • Be independent – a valuable employee takes initiative and runs with something but knows when to ask for help/guidance. If you identify a problem, try to take ownership of fixing it and think of solutions, don’t just identify the problem.


  • Be positive – a valuable employee is cautiously optimistic even when presented with something new or difficult.


  • Ask questions – don’t be afraid to ask questions/get guidance about activities that you perform or things that you don’t understand.


  • Ask if a task can be done more accurately, efficiently.   .   . Question the status quo from time to time – just because we have always done it that way doesn’t necessarily make it the best way.


  • Learn something new – volunteer to try something that you are interested in or haven’t been involved with in the past. It will broaden your scope and give you a different perspective. Most employers value well rounded employees.


  • Look forward – find out what it takes to be at the next level. In other words, if you are a junior accountant, review the job description and ensure that you are doing your tasks well, once you have achieved that, look at the job description for an accountant and strive to learn those tasks too.


  • Be a team player – if you are caught up and see somebody who is overwhelmed, offer to help.


  • Be customer centric – think about your internal customers and try to get better. Think about their perspective and seek to improve and/or seek feedback. Some specific examples that I think are useful – answer emails and phone calls within 24 hours, try to sync ( to a certain extent) your schedule with theirs (your internal customers/team members).


  • Expect excellence and be flexible in order to meet customer needs/deadlines.



Millionaires think differently

Lessons learned from actual millionaires 

1) Most millionaires do not live in fancy houses or drive luxury automobiles – they typically live in middle class neighborhoods and drive non-descript automobiles (not foreign luxury cars).  They live well below their means and are generally frugal.

2) They intentionally set out to become financially independent – they have a budget and track how well they do against that budget.  They have goals – monthly, annual, and longer.  They spend a disproportionate amount of time planning their financial future.

3) They strategize to minimize their taxes.

4) They are disproportionately entrepreneurs and self-employed.  They believe that being an employee is risky – only one source of income.  This thinking is consistent with their lifestyle, which is definitely counter to conventional wisdom and consumption habits.

5) They do take risks and are aware of opportunities when they see them.  They enjoy what they do and chose wisely in regards to their occupation. 

6) In short, some are good at offense (generating income) and some are good at defense (expense management) but many are good at both.

7) Married only once.

8) Compulsive saver and investor.

9) 80% of millionaires are first generation rich (didn’t inherit their wealth).

10) Becoming a millionaire takes discipline, sacrifice, and hard work.  Are the trade-offs worth the cost?


I learned this from reading an excellent book, “the millionaire next door” by Thomas J. Stanley.  I highly recommend this book – it will challenge your way of thinking – I am actually not endorsing everything millionaires do – some appear to be cheap and stingy.   .       .  Nonetheless I believe you can learn a great deal from this book.

Music Streaming II



Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Warren Buffet

Streaming music update: I used spotify premium for about 4 months and then decided to try Apple music too. I have been using Apple music for about 2 months now. Full disclosure – I am an Apple fan boy – its madness actually – we have 2 iphones, 2 apple tvs, 2 ipads, an iMac, and some beats headphones. I wanted to give an update on my personal experience – mostly as a comparison of Spotify vs. Apple Music (I realize there are other streaming services out there but believe these 2 are the biggest (based on number of subscribers) and believe both have a ridiculous number of songs – in excess of 30 million (don’t believe other services have libraries this large).

My first reaction to Apple Music, after having used Spotify premium for 4 months, was that there are a number of differences in how these 2 services deliver their content. I guess I would have supposed that they would be fairly similar, as they are both popular music streaming services and both cost $9.99 per month.   However, my experience is that they each have a distinct style and quite different interfaces as well as options and features.

I was quite comfortable navigating the various tabs and screens within Apple music (user interface) and it seemed quite intuitive but I am also already familiar with iOS. I primarily used the app on my iPhone 6S but also used it on my Apple TV as well as via iTunes on my iMac. One of the features that drew me to Apple music is their “curated playlists”. I am not an expert but know there are differences in how Spotify and Apple music compile their playlists. I believe Spotify relies on algorithms while Apple music playlists are curated by people. Both Spotify and Apple music have extensive libraries that make on-demand searches quite easy. I noted that the playlists however, were very different. For example the daily playlists from Spotify premium employ a tactic that appeared to be about 50/50; 50% songs I already knew (and liked) and 50% “new” songs that I was unfamiliar with – that a Spotify algorithm thought I might like based on the other 50% that I already had in my library or via heavy rotation. I found these playlists to be pretty accurate and I admit they did a pretty good job of providing me with additional songs that I might like based on what I already had been listening to.

Apple music uses a different approach. Upon initially signing up for Apple music, I was asked a series of questions about my musical preferences – favorite genres, artists, etc. This was used to develop the “for you” tab in Apple music. Each day Apple music includes 4 or 5 playlists for that day – these playlists are based on my preferences. For example, one of today’s playlists for me is “alternative hits: 2001”. This is a typical playlist – curated songs from a certain year in a particular genre. Most playlists are fairly short – 20 to 30 songs, with a few being a little shorter and a few having as many as 100 songs. Most of the playlists were to my liking but they didn’t seem as accurate to my individual tastes as the Spotify premium daily playlists were. Depending on the playlist, I find myself skipping numerous tracks that don’t particularly suite my taste. It seems to me that Apple music isn’t really learning based on which tracks I am skipping. Spotify premium seemed to “learn” my preferences over time and the daily playlists “honed in on” my preferences. I have noticed that my daily Apple playlists have a fair amount of redundancy with the same playlists popping up frequently. I find myself somewhat bored with some of the playlists after a few days. On the “for you” tab it also has “my new music” playlist and “my favorites mix” playlist. The new music playlist wasn’t very accurate – at least not for me – I thought spotify’s weekly discover playlists were better and more in line with my preferences. The Apple favorites playlist did seem to be accurate and presumably is based on which songs/playlists I listen to most frequently.

I don’t think Apple music is as advanced as Spotify at social networking (for example, Spotify has Facebook integration). It is easy to follow your friends on Spotify and see which playlists they have added. Apple music doesn’t appear to be that strong in social networking (believe iOS 11 will address some of this shortfall); however, you can send a friend a personal playlist (e.g., via text) and they can then add it to their favorites. I also noted that any changes I subsequently made were also reflected in my friend’s list as well. I did appreciate the top charts feature in apple music (under the browse feature). I also appreciate how Apple music incorporated my existing playlists alongside new ones. I did something similar with spotify but had to import my existing playlists.

world music



I think both services are well polished and easy to use. Both are priced at $9.99 per month (although there are some differences in their family plan pricing – Apple seems to be a better value if you have a large family). Both have extremely large libraries of songs – more than you could possibly ever listen to.     .       .

Being an Apple fan boy I prefer the navigation within Apple music but believe an objective analysis would give the edge to spotify. I think spotify is better for music discovery (better playlists in my opinion) as well as social networking. Also, spotify has both a free and premium service (unlimited skips). Apple music does not offer a free version. Apple does have some exclusive content (e.g., Taylor Swift – you know you like to listen to 1989 – admit it!) as well as beats 1 radio as distinguishing features. IMHO spotify is the clear winner.

I also recommend the CNET review of these services in a side-by-side comparison on Youtube – Apple music vs. spotify (cnet prize fight).

Drop me some comments below and let me know which streaming service you prefer.

Music streaming, good idea?

apple music


Q: Is streaming music better than downloading? A: It depends.   .     .

It mostly depends on preferences (and your budget). I will explore some reasons that some folks might prefer streaming over downloads below. I also encourage everyone, who has not already done so, to try a streaming service; Spotify is my recommendation because you can try out their premium service for 3 months for $.99 – you can also do a 3 month free trial of Apple music.

Some of the important preference considerations are:


  1. What is your desire for new music? (i.e., discovery) – for some this is an addiction. How much is enough? Silly question old man, you can never have enough new music.


  1. What is your budget? Some premium streaming services cost $10 to $20 per month and playlists and availability stop after you drop your subscription. How many songs do you normally purchase per year? Do the math and compare.


  1. Do you enjoy social interaction with friends? In other words, do you want to listen to what your network of friends is listening to? Do you want to share some of your favorite new songs?


  1. Do you already have a substantial collection of CDs, vinyl, or downloads? The main reason to ask this question is that you may already own the vast majority of songs that you prefer (probably not if you are under 30)?


  1. How well do you tolerate listening to algorithm based playlists, based on your detected preferences? Streaming services utilize computer or curator based methods to develop playlists of songs you might like based on your previous song selections.


  1. How well do you tolerate listening to new and/or different songs that you haven’t heard before? With 97 million songs (and counting) already recorded, there is a good chance that you will not like many (probably most) of those 97 million. How much time to do you want to spend listening to songs that you ultimately don’t like? Life isn’t short but you are dead for a really long time.   .       .


  1. Do you strongly prefer one genre? Most of the provided public playlists focus on a specific genre (e.g., pop, country, rock, etc.). It should be relatively easy to program a playlist that includes the latest pop hits (i.e., top 40).


  1. Do you value convenience? Some prefer streaming services because it does not require any setup – select your desired public playlist and hit shuffle – this person does not have the time nor the inclination to setup their own playlist – much easier to listen to one already setup.


  1. Age – are you under 32 years of age and enjoy experiencing new technology? If yes then a streaming service might be your best bet because research indicates that people over 32 have likely already developed their musical preferences and are unlikely to develop new preferences. For example, if you hated reggae in your 20s, it is highly unlikely that your preferences would change and in your 40s you now enjoy listening to reggae music.


  1. Does it bother you to hear the same song frequently? Daily, weekly, monthly? Some prefer songs they like and have heard before – for some it is comfortable to hear a song they already know and like and many like to sing along (my favorite is Meghan Trainor’s “NO” – that’s a joke for those of you that know my musical preferences).


  1. Are you an audiophile? Most streaming services are lower fidelity than downloads but Tidal HiFi claims to be on par with CDs but believe that is $20 per month.


Now that I have listed some important things to consider, let me share my perspective on my recent Spotify trial. Spotify has a large catalog of available songs and public playlists to choose from. I have listened to a number of these public playlists that suited my tastes (e.g., acoustic rock). I find that it is very handy to have the premium service in order to be able to skip tracks that do not suit your taste. I found that most of the playlists included numerous tracks that I did not care for, therefore I skipped quite frequently. This also depends on who is listening – I am frequently with my family and can’t listen to heavy metal in their presence. I found myself asking why am I spending so much time listening to songs that I don’t really like? – “life is ours, we live it our way” (Metallica).


I estimate that 80% of the time I prefer to listen to songs I already know and like. The remaining 20% of the time I like to “discover” songs that I have not heard before that I might like.

Using some of my 20% time I listened to some of my friends playlists. I found myself frequently skipping tracks that “weren’t my cup of tea” but did “discover” several tracks that I really liked that I was previously unfamiliar with.


I found it easy to import my existing playlists from iTunes into Spotify but did notice a number of tracks were greyed out and unavailable – believe there is a manual fix to this issue but didn’t have adequate motivation to explore a possible remedy.


Spotify does offer a free version of it’s service but this requires listening to ads and severely limits the number of skips you can use per hour.

My conclusion is that Spotify premium is a nice service but is a luxury, not a necessity. It was personally much more useful as a discovery tool as well as a nice way to interact socially with other friends on Spotify. I found myself skipping too frequently and gravitating back to my library of songs that I already knew and enjoyed (I have 45 playlists in iTunes that I normally listen to).


I also listen to the radio frequently – primarily 91.9 (Christian), 106.5 (alternative), 102.9 (classic rock/pop), and 107.9 (current pop). Having said that, I am sure that many folks will have vastly different preferences to mine and will conclude that streaming services are a good value. To over-simply, I estimate that younger folks (especially under 30) will gravitate to streaming for convenience, music discovery, and to socially interact with their network.


Footnote: Youtube streams 60% more music than all the other streaming services combined. Youtube pays artists a share of ad revenue vs. a per song fee like Spotify and Apple. Many artists do not feel the Youtube model is fair.




Think smarter

Financial decisions are all around us – they happen almost every day.  I created this blog to share my experiences in hope that you might learn from my success as well as my failure.     .       .   Life is hard – do your research and learn from your mistakes – better yet – learn from others’ mistakes and avoid those money pitfalls.  Helping others, through personal finance education, is a passion for me.  I am intrigued by how people approach financial decisions – some of these decisions turn out well and some, well, not so much.   .    .   I’m convinced that most financial mistakes can be avoided.  Having said that – we are all human and prone to making poor financial decisions.  Let’s take a journey together and find ways to think smarter about our daily decisions and how they impact our personal finances.  I don’t claim to have all the answers but hope this blog will help educate folks about some money strategies and insights as we try to think smarter together.