Archives For January 2010

Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 5

Corey —  January 29, 2010 — 8 Comments

       Last month, I posted an update about how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. This is a summary of our activity and costs for month 5. First, let’s check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at four months old:

Bambi - 4 Months Old

       And here he is today at 5 months old (plus a week):

Paul & Bambi - 5 Months Old

       It’s clear he’s growing quickly now. He’s much bigger than he was a month ago. I’ve had to switch him from a collar to a halter so I can handle him better. (The collar was getting too small as well.)

Costs & Time

       Again, there haven’t been any huge changes in the amount of time it takes to care for him. It’s pretty easy right now.

       We spent quite a bit more than last month because I stocked up on feed, hay, and straw before we left for Haiti. Here’s what we spent this month:

  • Miscellaneous – $6.97 (for his halter)
  •        

  • Calf Feed – $77.85
  •        

  • Hay – $21.00
  •        

  • Straw – $6.00
  •        

  • Total Spent this Month – $111.82
  •        

  • Time – 7 hours

       And here are our total costs over the past five months:

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!
  •        

  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00
  •        

  • Milk Replacer – $45.54
  •        

  • Miscellaneous – $46.87
  •        

  • Calf Feed – $160.35
  •        

  • Hay – $52.00
  •        

  • Straw – $15.00
  •        

  • Total Spent – $335.76
  •        

  • Time – 49 hours

       So after five months we’ve spent a total of $335.76 and 49 hours raising a cow for beef. We won’t need to buy much feed for the next month, and his feed will cost a little less from now on because he’s old enough to go on steer feed (as opposed to calf feed).

       A major hindrance of raising animals (whether as a pet or for food) is the need for someone to be home to feed them. We were in Haiti for a week and a half, but luckily my wife’s mom volunteered to feed Bambi while we were gone. (Or we volunteered her…I’m not sure how that went.) I included her time in my calculations, but you’d have to pay someone if you can’t find anyone to do it for free while you’re gone.

       That’s it for this month. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in knowing what it takes to raise a cow for beef!

I’m Back from Haiti

Corey —  January 28, 2010 — 2 Comments

       Bonjou! I’m back from Haiti now. I had planned to share some of my reflections on my short-term mission trip, but I don’t feel like I’ve had quite enough time to process it all yet. I will say I definitely agree with the pros and cons brought up in GotQuestions.org’s article on short-term missions.

       I have a much better understanding of what’s going on at the YWAM base in St. Marc, Haiti (even though they were in earthquake disaster mode while we were there). I also understand the needs a little better and feel even more motivated to give – especially after having developed relationships with some of the Haitians. I also saw God’s power working in Haiti and in our team, and I feel the trip drew me closer to Him. Our plans changed completely but they still glorified God. And that’s only because His hand was upon it all.

       But it was an expensive trip, and I still don’t fully comprehend what’s required of long-term missionaries. I saw a bit of it, but you can’t really know what it’s like in just a week and a half. And while we were able to renovate a rundown building into a hospital for refugees from Port-au-Prince, we probably didn’t have a huge long-term spiritual impact. We couldn’t speak the language (though I did learn some), and we didn’t have enough time to develop meaningful relationships with the local people. I’m sure God will work through what we did while we were there, but the mission field needs long-term people more than short-term.

       That’s all I’m going to share for now. I want to take some time to think about what I experienced and saw in Haiti. I also want to wait to get some pictures from other team members so I can share them with you. I’ll be getting back to regular posting now, but I’m sure I’ll be updating you on what’s going on in Haiti at the YWAM base in St. Marc. One of our team members kept a blog updated about our activities while we were there, so you can check that out if you want to read specifics about what we did. Also, you can find several videos about the earthquake relief efforts in the video gallery of YWAM Haiti’s website. Finally, Emily Troutman of AOL News wrote up an article about the relief efforts in St. Marc and mentioned the YWAM base and our work. I even made it into a picture at the end of the article.

       Stay tuned for more info, some pictures, and my reflections on the experience. And as always – thanks for reading!

       You won’t see any updates on Provident Planning for the next week and a half because my wife and I will be leaving early Sunday morning for a short-term mission trip in Saint Marc, Haiti. We’re going with a small group from another church to build a duplex in Saint Marc’s 5th Section – the poorest part of that area. The people who live there mostly live in mud houses, which don’t last very long when the hurricanes come through. We’ll be building a concrete block home that will last through the rain.

       This trip was planned well before the earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, but we’ll still be able to make it work with a small change in plans. Instead of flying into Port-au-Prince, we’ll be flying into Santo Domingo (in the Dominican Republic) and driving to Saint Marc. While the people in Port-au-Prince desperately need help right now, the outlying areas may be neglected as the focus goes on to the capital city. Our small team is not experienced enough to deal with the work that needs to be done in Port-au-Prince. But we are ready and able to help with the project planned in Saint Marc, so that’s what we’re doing.

       We’ll be working through the Youth with a Mission base in Saint-Marc and staying there as well. You can check out a tour of the base in this Youtube video:

       Please pray that we’ll be a blessing to the people in Haiti, that they will be a blessing to us, that God will open our hearts to their needs and enable us to share His love, and for the protection of our team. Continue to pray for the people in and around Port-au-Prince as well – the recovery process will be long and difficult.

What Do You Think of Short-term Missions?

       As I was considering this trip, I began to wonder about the effectiveness and efficiency of short-term missions. I found a helpful article at GotQuestions.org that laid out some pros and cons of short-term mission trips. But what do you think? Are such trips a good use of the money God has given us? Are they beneficial for those who go and for those in the areas served? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Make a Will for Free

Corey —  January 14, 2010 — 1 Comment

       I’ve talked about essential estate documents before, and I made the point that everyone needs a will (assuming you’re over 18). A will simply ensures that your assets are given to the people you want in the way you want. But I’ve found that we neglect getting a will for two reasons:

  1. We don’t want to deal with thoughts of our own death. Writing a will makes some people feel like they’re planning to die. But this shouldn’t keep you from doing something that’s good for you and your loved ones. You’re going to die someday. Get over it and get a will.
  2.  

  3. We think we can’t afford it. Everyone knows attorneys don’t come cheap. It’s not uncommon to find attorneys who charge $250/hour or more for their work. A complete estate plan can run anywhere from $500 to $5000 or more depending on who you use. But there are alternatives – and that’s what this article is about.

Do Your Own Will

       The cheapest way to get a will is to do it yourself. But the problem is you can easily make mistakes that will invalidate your will – making it completely useless. Or worse, you could end up writing a will that goes against your wishes without realizing it. And if you’re in Louisiana, you shouldn’t even consider doing estate planning without an attorney (they have some strange laws there).

       But if you’re willing to do some research, carefully consider your decisions, and follow instructions exactly, then making your own will can be a viable alternative to using an attorney. Obviously, the preferred method is to use an experienced estate planning attorney, but if the cost is keeping you from making a will at all then going the do-it-yourself route can cover you until you can afford to pay an attorney.

       Luckily, there are some good resources out there to help you make your own will. One website I found, DoYourOwnWill, has a helpful questionnaire with guidance and detailed instructions on how to properly execute (sign and put into effect) your will. If you’re married, you should do this with your spouse and discuss all the questions together.

       Please note I’m not endorsing this as the best solution and I’m not giving you legal advice. I’m not an attorney and using DoYourOwnWill is not a substitute for an attorney. But if you don’t have a will and you’re not going to get a will because of the cost, this is better than nothing.

       You’ll also find several other free estate planning documents like living wills and powers of attorney. Again, they’re still not a substitute for an attorney and you can make some major mistakes by doing it yourself – but if cost is a problem these are free solutions. Additionally, there are inexpensive estate documents you can purchase online through legalzoom.com or nolo.com. You could also look into software like Quicken WillMaker.

Hire an Experienced Attorney As Soon As Possible

       If you decide to make your own will or use other free estate planning documents, please hire an attorney as soon as you can afford it. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you avoid costly mistakes and carefully consider all the decisions you must make. Make sure you shop around. Don’t settle for the first quote you get. Talk to several attorneys, stick with the ones who specialize in estate planning, and ask for referrals from your family and friends. You may also be able to get a good referral from your accountant, financial planner, real estate agent, or banker. The most expensive attorney is not necessarily the best, but do your research before you go with the cheapest option.

       Do you already have your estate documents? If so, how did you get them? If not, what are you going to do? Let me know in the comments!

       If you want to get out of debt, you need a plan. This post is the first in a series that will show you the quickest way to get out of debt and get on with your life. You’re already off to a good start by taking the initiative to find this article.

Step 1 – Declare War on Your Debt

       If you really want to get out of debt, you have to be committed all the way. It won’t be easy. It won’t be quick. And it probably won’t be much fun (until you pay it all off). To reach your goal of becoming debt free, you must promise yourself that you’re not going to give up until you’re finished.

       Give your debt an ultimatum. Declare war! Proclaim doom and destruction on your debt. Write it down if you need to. This might sound silly, but my point is that you can’t accomplish your goal if you go at it halfheartedly. You need to be enthusiastic about your choice to get out of debt if you want to last until the end.

       So that’s your first step. That’s all you need to do right now. Commit to getting out of debt. Declare war on your debt!

Stay Tuned!

       If you want to keep getting tips on how you can get out of debt and manage your personal finances well, make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning! I’ll be continuing this series throughout the year while I also explore other aspects of dealing with your money.

       Let me know if you’re committed to getting out of debt by leaving a comment below!

How Compound Interest Works

Corey —  January 12, 2010 — Leave a comment

       To get a small fortune, you have two options:

  1. Start with a large fortune.
  2.  
    OR
     

  3. Use the power of compound interest (or returns).

       I don’t have any good tips on how to start life with a large fortune, but I can tell you about compounding and how it works.

Simple Interest

       First, you need to understand simple interest. Simple interest is just a flat interest rate paid only on your initial deposit year after year. Let’s say you’ve got a bond that pays you 8% simple interest. If you buy $100 worth of that bond, you’ll get $8 in interest for the first year. Then, because this is simple interest, you’re going to get $8 in interest every year after that until the bond is repaid (and you get your original $100 back). Here’s what it looks like on a chart:



       With simple interest, you’re only earning interest on your principal (or your deposit). You’ll get $8 every single year. You never earn interest on interest. At the end of 20 years, you’ll have your initial $100 plus $160 you earned from interest.

Compound Interest

       Compound interest lets you earn interest on your principal (what you start out with), but you also earn interest on interest you’ve already been paid. We’ll keep the same assumptions as before – you earn 8% interest and you start out with $100 – but this time we’ll be using compound interest.

       At the end of the first year, you’ll still only earn $8 in interest ($100 * 0.08). But at the end of the second year, you’ll earn a total of $8.64 in interest ($100 * 0.08 + $8 * 0.08). In the third year, you’ll earn $9.33 in interest ($100 * 0.08 + $8 * 0.08 + $8.64 * 0.08). This process keeps continuing and you keep earning more and more interest every year. Here’s what it looks like on a chart:



       Compound interest is all about earning interest on interest (and principal). You’re generating earnings from previous earnings. In the example above, you’d have your initial $100 plus $366.10 in interest at the end of 20 years. That’s $206.10 more than what you’d get from simple interest. The only difference between the two is the ability to earn interest on interest.

       Compounding is why it pays to start saving as early as possible. In the first year, you may only get an extra $0.64. But in the twentieth year, compound interest gives you an extra $26.43. The amount of interest you earn on previous interest just keeps growing and growing the longer you go.

       Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say we have three people who are all going to invest for retirement. They’re all 25 years old, and they’re all looking to retire at age 65. They’re all going to invest $25,000 at one time, but they start at different times. Sue invests her $25,000 today, Bob invests his $25,000 ten years later, and Frank invests his $25,000 ten years after Bob. To keep it simple, we’ll assume they earn 8% every year. Here’s what happens:



       Sue only started ten years before Bob, but she ended up with over $290,000 more than he did. Likewise, Bob started only ten years before Frank, but he ended up with over $135,000 more. The only difference between these three people was how many years they let their money compound. Sue had 40 years, Bob had 30 years, and Frank only had 20 years. Compounding has the most power when you have the most time. That’s why it’s important to start saving early (not just for retirement, but for any goal).

Your Thoughts

       Did these examples help you better understand compound interest? If not, what questions do you still have? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you and give a clearer answer.

       “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Exodus 20:17 (WEB)

       The Tenth Commandment – you shall not covet. God warns the Israelites here against desiring things that belong to others. The interesting thing is that this is the only commandment that primarily focuses on internal sins specifically. All sin begins from within us, but coveting is something that can be very difficult for others to see. God’s teaching the Israelites they should guard their hearts against greed and envy.

       Coveting is still a major pitfall for Christians today. Whenever we desire something that’s not ours – something beyond what we have – we make ourselves susceptible to greed, envy, and discontentment. These are all things that God’s Word warns against throughout the entire Bible – not just in the Ten Commandments.

       This verse gives us at least one way we can try to avoid coveting in our lives. You’ll notice that the focus is on coveting what your neighbor has. “Your neighbor” doesn’t just mean the people you live near. It can be anyone you interact with or see. And in the case of coveting it’s anyone who has something that you want.

       So what can we do? Focus on ourselves instead of looking at what everyone else has. Count your blessings. Keep your eyes on your own situation and God’s plan for you. Don’t worry about what everyone else has – stop comparing yourself with them. Keep your heart focused on serving God and pleasing Him. By doing these things, we can guard against the envy, greed, and discontentment that always follow coveting.

       What about you? Have you struggled with coveting in the past? How did it affect you? How did you overcome it? Share your story in the comments!