Living in H.I.Diff

A few weeks ago I joined Toastmasters. For your own entertainment I’m sharing with you my first speech, my icebreaker speech. It’s meant as a get to know me type speech. I hope you enjoy.

icebergTo break into this little iceberg, known as Remy, let’s start foundational. Every good house has a solid foundation, and I’m no exception. The three things that build my foundation are happiness, indepedency, and being different. In our world of creating acronyms (or acronymization, it’s a word I didn’t make up this time), we we call it H.I.Diff. You see your TV in HiDef, you can see Remy in H.I.Diff.


Happiness – I’m an annoyingly optimistic person, but not irrationally so. Strange balance here. Being happy is what you personally make of it. It’s not what your family, your spouse, or stuff you have (crammed in your garage). It’s your personal perception of the world. Your family, friends, and maybe some of that stuff Crammed in your garage help enhance your happiness. But ultimately you are in control of your happiness. For over 20 years my daddy has lived in Asheboro and my momma has lived in Asheville. Every week my dad drives 2.5-3hours to see my mom for the weekend and drives back to teach English at RCC. My dad is in Asheville every school break to spend with my mom. This has kept my parents happy for over 20 years. They aren’t divorced or separated, this is just how they keep their marriage happy. Growing up their were few fights that I can remember. Seeing this as the norm, my own happiness magnifier is in Toronto. I don’t get to see him every weekend, but he’s my happiness. I get to focus on growing my business, he gets to focus on expanding his culinary wisdom. We don’t have to talk about the mundane daily tasks, we get to talk about planning the next trip or the occasional big frustration or the big wins. It’s our untraditional happiness. We’ve been together 6 years, doing this for 2 years.

RosieTheRiveterWeCanDoItA good reason I can keep up the long haul distance is due to my independence. Previously it could be considered extreme independence. This was independence that started as a hormonal teen, this independence started in the womb. I was due on Halloween. That schedule did not work for me, I needed to be fashionably late. I decided my big entrance would be December 2nd. Yep, a month. I do what I want. Between ages of 1 & 2 in those crawling not yet fully walking stages I easily figure out how to help my daddy cook while he was out of the kitchen. I would push the chair to the gas stove and start turning knobs like daddy did. Silly parents just didn’t understand I could do it my self and wanted to hold me back. They hung up the chairs above my head and beyond the reach of my little arm. No worries, I knew they were hiding the stairs in the walls on the sides of the stove. I will just pull out the stairs, adults like to call them drawers, and work on the sides of the gas stove. No more knobs for the stairs. Luckily for my parents’ sanity I was a age to go to the daycare and that quickly came a big option. By age 5 I realize the road to real independence is a car. Every few months until age 12 I asked when I could learn to drive. Age 15/16 CLEARLY is just a recommended age. I’m Remy, that is clearly not written for me. They caved at age 12 because my mom was doing the reverse drive and was extremely sick. If I knew how to drive I would have at least driven the rest of the way home. I was responsible and tall enough to pass for 16.

Though many of these stories can already illustrate the ways I’m different. For me it’s all about perspective. The norm for me can be seen as really strange for someone else. Maybe you are the someone else. To have something that is different you have to have a historical or agreed upon “normal” that is the base line. Something can only be different when you compare it to something else. Different can be good, different can be bad. But remember the first thing I said, your happiness is ultimately up to you. Every situation is different but the average for me different is good. I don’t want to be Center of attention, but I also don’t want to be lost in the herd. Some people might say I’m off beat and I tell them they’re listening to the wrong song.

Apple - think different

I consciously do things a little differently than many people you may know. It helps me stand out from the herd. Let’s me keep my independence so that I can live my happiness.
I hope you can find your drum beat that beats a little bit differently so that you can find your ultimate happiness.
You’re welcome to come live H.I.Diff with me.
Thank You. :)

Top 5 – Fun Reasons to Chat w/ a Financial Landscaper

1) A Financial Landscaper isn’t the dull banker across the street in a strict suit & tie. A Financial Landscaper keeps it professional, but casual so it’s easier to talk to like a real person and not a banker robot.

2) Keeps it real AND keeps it simple. Though a plan can seem complicated and have lots of intricate details, it’s the goal of a good Landscaper to explain any complex issue in easy understandable details while keeping true to all the facts present

3) Fun to talk with over coffee/smoothie/lunch. Forget about sitting in a sterile office. Take a break from the day to day grudge and chat about life. Share life experiences and goals for down the road to help understand what is important for your financial future.

4) It’s not just about the numbers on a statement, but habits you form for long term financial growth. Sometime the smallest habit can snowball into an avalanche of problems down the road.

5) Failing to plan is a plan to fail and we all know you don’t want that. Have a plan on paper to refer to helps keep your mind in the right place. The other way to keep on track is someone to hold you accountable for your goals and habits, where a Financial Landscaper comes to play.

Cash is CrAzY and Stocks are solid… Say WHAT?!?

I read an interesting article the other day that is great food for thought. Warren Buffett writes a letter every year for Fortune magazine that is like a little chat. He explains “complex” investing terms or scenarios into a language anyone should be able to understand. The article from is just a preview, but I found it so enlightening.

A basic breakdown is that though many people find cash the least riskiest investment, it’s one of the worst. I find it to be a comfort blanket for people. Something they’re use to and comfortable with and just really don’t want to part with. The reason Buffett says it’s one of the worst investments is because of INFLATION. I know, it’s a horrible, horrible word so we’ll just call it the “I” word from now on. He points out that the value of a $1 from 1900 has the equivalent spending power in 2012 as 3.8 CENTS. That’s pretty depressing. So for all those grandparent and great grandparents that stuffed mattresses and other poor furniture with cash, it’s not worth too much (not assuming it’s a collectible now).

Stocks, on the other hand, people are scared of because of the big crashes and the huge losses we see on TV. However, from just comparing the stock market in 1965 to now, the stock market is up 13X. That can really put the past few crashes into a bit of perspective. If you’re using the stock market for a long term solution, just keep trucking.

Now he goes on to say that cash has it’s place and he keeps a lot on hand knowing that the value will be depleted due to the “I” word, but it’s just a piece of his diverse portfolio puzzle. Whether it’s to maximize the stock market when it’s down (buying low) or cashing out the stock market (selling high) so that he can flip another stock, every type of investment has its place and you just have to understand what that means for your personal investments.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think Warren is off his rocker, or do you see some value in what he writes?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

Until next time loyal readers,

Solutions Engineer

The New Reality: Student Debt Ball & Chain

For the times I just want to mindlessly read silly things, such as best dressed at some awards show I don’t watch or why a NFL superfan has quit his team, I go to Yahoo! News. While turning the pages of the stories, I came across a story about student loans. After turning my brain back on I read a few of the many horror stories about student loans. You can check out the story here.


I was VERY lucky that my parents/grandparents helped me go through college without any student loans. For many now it’s just a way of life that they will never pay down. Every month they write a check to Sallie Mae or private bank that holds the loan. Since many are set up like a mortgage, the payments are all interest first so even those payments aren’t paying off the debt itself, just the interest for the debt. Sounds pretty depressing to me. For those parents and students shopping around now let’s take these horror stories and learn from them so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. There are a few areas to look at when gauging your finances to pay for college.

First of course is the college or university you want to attend. How much is that going to cost? The sticker price isn’t the final price in many cases and is negotiable. Also as a cautionary tale from the last horror story, make sure the school you want to go to has substance. Do some research on the college as well as the field you are interested in. Make sure the expectations the college is giving you is reasonable. If it seems too good to be true ask for referrals or see if you can chat with some recent graduates. They will be the best gauge if it’s worth spending the money they are asking to attend the college.




Next make sure to apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Here are a few resources:

A quick note on scholarships & grants: make sure to read the fine print. A full ride may require a minimum GPA or other requirements such as working the first 2 years out of college at a certain job. Make sure those requirements are doable in the near future, if you have doubts now, they will probably only get worse later.




Now that you have a solid number (Cost of College MINUS all grants/scholarships MINUS any help from family/friends/savings) now you can shop around for a student loan. Of course interest rate is very important, so the lower the better, but also think about how long the payments are and what exactly will that look like right out of college? That is where the Vertex24’s handy dandy Amortization Loan spreadsheetcan come in handy. This will help you figure out your monthly cost based of the total amount, interest rate, start date and term.



To get a real gauge on if this payment is ACTUALLY reasonable let’s make a little Post-Graduation budget. For a fun example, let’s say you graduate as an mechanical engineer. We’ll assume you get a mechanical engineering job right out of college that starts at $50,000/year. The Monthly budget might look something like this:

Monthly Income(+) $4166


Rent $600 (1 bedroom apartment or with a roommate)
Electric, Water, Trash $100
Internet $50 (You know you have to have fast internet)
Car Insurance $75 (This is cheap if you haven’t hit 25 yet)
Car Maintenance $50 (even if you don’t use it every month, save it)
Food – Groceries $400 ($100/week)
Food – Dining Out (Fast Food, Bars, coffee, etc) $300 ($10/day)
Going Out $500 ($125/weekend)
Savings – Emergency $416 (Save 10% for emergencies)
TAXES $1041.50 (25% Tax Bracket)
Student Loan Payment ???? ($217.50 based on this budget)
401K savings $416 (10% of salary)

Based on this lifestyle, $217.50/mo is the only thing that’s left to pay back student loans. This budget is very rough and doesn’t account for some expenses that a new grad may have such as car payment, gym membership, new professional wardrobe, etc. Though 401k & savings numbers may seem like easy targets to pull money from I would not advise seeing those parts of the budgets as easy targets. Those are your nest eggs and emergency plans when life throws you a curve ball. If you don’t automatically save each month, you’re asking for trouble down the road when life throws you a tree full of lemons.


Now let’s take a look at what it might look like if you don’t get that mechanical engineering job right out of college and you can land a job at $13.50/hr full time until the right job comes along.

Monthly Income(+) $2340


Rent $400 (Roommates)
Electric, Water, Trash $75 (split with roommates)
Internet $25 (You know you have to have fast internet)
Car Insurance $75 (This is cheap if you haven’t hit 25 yet)
Car Maintenance $50 (even if you don’t use it every month, save it)
Food – Groceries $200 ($50/week)
Food – Dining Out (Fast Food, Bars, coffee, etc) $150 ($37.50/week)
Going Out $250 ($62.5/weekend)
Savings – Emergency $234 (Save 10% for emergencies)
TAXES $351 (15% Tax Bracket)
Student Loan Payment ???? ($296 based on this budget)
401K savings $234 (10% of salary)

Yep, you’ve cut back a lot, and can even afford a higher monthly payment. Is that what your student loan agreement(s) look like though? Under $300/month? The average student debt is now $27,000 and if the interest is 7%, that’s $179.63/month, so maybe. Clearly for those going to a school with a much larger tuition bill it may not be as easy to see a payment less than $300/mo.


Do you have a student loan story you would like to share? Horror stories or happy endings are both welcome. I always love hearing feedback.

The Economics of Plants VS Zombies

Even if you don’t have a smartphone, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of the popular game “Plants VS Zombies.” The plot of the game is that your neighborhood is under attack by a bunch of different Zombies. The only way to protect you and your family is by planting various plants that shoot, blow up, stall, or stomp on them to (re)kill them. It’s a strategy game that puts your Plants VS the Zombies…

You don’t get an endless supply of plants of course, because that makes the game WAY too easy and what’s the fun in that? You have to pay for plants with sunlight. Sunlight comes from either the sun (obviously) randomly or sunflowers (or a mushroom at night). Either way you start off with 50 in your bucket to spend on a plant.

Example of prices are as followed:

Sunflower 50

Shooting Plant 100

Potato bomb 25 (one time use)

The sun will randomly shine down to increase your pot (25 at a time), but do you choose to wait to gain more or do you plant a sunflower to hopefully make it increase?

There are different strategies to play the game, but the one that I have found the most useful is plant as many sunflowers as soon as possible so that you can get sunlight quickly. Then plant the attacking plants as needed when zombies start to attack. Don’t randomly start planting them until you see the zombies coming so that you can grow your sunlight bank faster.

Now what does all this have to do with economics?

It’s a great way to have kids relate something they enjoy doing to saving. Instead of sunlight, they save their allowance/earnings for a rainy day or maybe the Zombie apocalypse, you never know. Kids typically have the urge to buy everything they “want” without really thinking about what that means to their money, but if you use this as an example they may see it in a different light. Help them realize that what they buy effects what they do later in the week/month/year. Show them that when they put their money in a bank it grows faster (like planting more sunflowers). When they stop putting money into the bank account or use that money to buy something it slows down how much money they’re making.

Here’s a way to help Translate:

Sunflower (allowance) $50 (just and example)

Shooting Plant (Bike) $100

Potato Bomb (Candy/Fast Food) $25

If you want to be creative and goofy like myself you can create a money chart with pictures from Plants VS Zombies to help track your kids’ progress. They get allowance = sunflower. When they buy something it represents one of the plants. When something unexpected happens, such as they break a window with their baseball and they have to pay for it, that would be a Zombie.

Now this is economics on a micro level of course, but it’s a great way to talk to your kids about money in a language they can understand and is fun.

So what are your thoughts?

Financial Advisors are like Mechanical Engineers….. Say WHAT?!?

For those of you who don’t know, I started my college days as a Mechanical Engineer (ME). First year went fantastic (that’s what happens with no job and too much time on your hands) then second year I got a full time job working over 40 hours a week and things got rough pretty quickly. I chose to go to business admin instead because work/homework/sleep balance was in a range I could deal with. I also REALLY like/need my sleep. For those of you that went through college with a full time job AND studying to be an engineer, I applaud you!

So how are mechanical engineers ANYTHING like financial advisors? Math is about the only thing I can easily see. Well, I’m glad you asked! Every field has a foundation of knowledge you have to build from, ESPECIALLY engineers. You need to know physics, calculus, statistics, etc. But once you get your basics down, you really start to deep dive into specifics of your field (the mechanical part of ME). Most of the beginning classes were meant to weed out people. Statics & dynamics are the first 2 that come to mind. They try to make it WAY more complicated then needed when in reality all static equations were = 0 and dynamics is taking the objects that were in statics and making them move (so now 0 is another equation of fun). In finances when we’re working with a client we have to see what is the impact of no change (equation = 0) and the impact when we change or create “moving” parts (new equation).

As you go through the program you get to take Solids, it helps young engineers calculate what a certain material can handle given certain situations. For example, how much can a steel bar hold if it’s a foot long and an inch think? What happens if you increase the thickness or the length, etc? In finances we try to figure out the risk tolerance of each person. If this happens in the stock market, how do you feel about your portfolio, or where you are in life? What happens when your portfolio is changed? There is always a stress point for people and their finances. Solids is to engineering as risk tolerance is to finances. I’m sure you missed those statements from school!

Last point I’ll touch on is Thermodynamics. This obviously builds on the previous dynamics class. Thermodynamics deals with moving liquids given stresses and pressures, etc. I’m a little rusty, so please forgive me if I miss some details now. With the slightest change in pressure, your whole situation can go completely awry very quickly. In finances, I would say this is the planning part. You’ve got a lot of moving parts that directly or indirectly effect each other. If you save $X per month where should you put it given that you want to save for your kids’ college, save for retirement, save for a new house, and save for emergencies. If you don’t put too much in your kids’ college fund, what about retirement? Thermodynamics looks at moving liquid, while finances looks at moving money.

Now that you may be crossed-eyed, especially if you’re not in a rich engineering background, I hope to hear your questions or comments (good and bad). If you have an engineering background, what are your thoughts?

Stay productive out there!


Your wonderful Financial Landscaper

Real Winners Fail First

I read an interesting article the other day about a school in England that’s making their girls take extra risk for a week to learn from it. I absolutely LOVE this idea!

In a time where EVERYONE gets a trophy just for showing up this allows REAL world experience. Take more risk and you either get a greater reward or you fail. This lets them understand input and output of life. It also mentally prepares them that things aren’t as predictable in life as it is in school. Failure happens in life and it seems a lot of people aren’t really prepared mentally for when that happens. This is a great way to teach girls the value of learning from failure as well as showing that failure is a way of life.

There are TONS of examples of this, but the one that is constantly on headlines and has “tips & tricks” is employment. So many people going from high school to college with THOUSANDS of dollars in student debt on the assumption that there is going to be a good high paying job on the other end. Unfortunately, reality is lately that jobs aren’t dime a dozen like previously thought. Even with people with years of experience and the right degree are having a tough time finding a job. Those fresh out of college have a much tougher atmosphere to compete and many times they fail. For those that have only dealt with getting trophies for just showing up and playing without putting in much effort, they’re having a tough time coping. This experience that the Wimbledon School is teaching their girls will last a lifetime. Bringing in famous & successful people through youtube to show that failure isn’t a brick wall to stop you. It’s there to help you learn and get stronger to get to where you want to go.

What was your most notable failure and what did you learn from it? Though I understand this is typically an interview question, it’s a good question for you to reflect on personally, whether you have a job now or are looking. If it’s hard for you to think of one, think about a time you might have regretted. Reflect on why you regret it and what could you have done differently. What was in and out of your control and what you could have done to make a different outcome. Realizing what was in/out of your control can help you deal with “regret” and move on.

Don’t dwell on your failures, learn from them! The bigger the failure, the bigger the learning experience. How much have you learned?

Until next time wonderful readers!


Financial Landscaper