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My Lunch With Warren Buffett

My Lunch With Warren Buffett

  • Zack Friedman is the founder and CEO of Make Lemonade, a personal finance company.
  • The following is an excerpt from his book, “The Lemonade Life: How to Fuel Success, Create Happiness, and Conquer Anything.”
  • In this excerpt, he describes having lunch with Warren Buffett in Omaha, and what he learned from him.
  • Buffett expressed immense gratitude for everything he’d accomplished in his lifetime, and said he maximizes his happiness through his work, his charitable giving, his love of bridge, and his legendary junk-food diet.

It’s 12:35 p.m. in Omaha, Nebraska, and I’m having lunch with Warren Buffett.

We are eating at Piccolo’s, which is one of Buffett’s favorite restaurants and where he and Bill Gates also have dined together. Somehow, Buffett’s root beer float is significantly taller, but it goes with the territory. After all, we’re on his home turf, and he’s Warren Buffett.

In 2016, a bidder on eBay paid $3,456,789 to have lunch with the Oracle of Omaha. Today, Buffett is picking up the tab. Earlier that morning at Berkshire Hathaway’s headquarters, Buffett graciously hosted me and my classmates from Wharton Business School. For several hours, he openly and directly answered any question we asked, occasionally injecting his sharp sense of humor.

Pointing to the Coca-Cola products in the back of the room, Buffett quipped, “Berkshire owns a little over 8 percent of Coke, so we get the profit on one out of twelve cans. I don’t care whether you drink it, but just open the cans, if you will.”

We all sought to absorb Buffett’s infinite wisdom, which we expected would be his take on the economy, investing, and business. The more I listened, however, I realized that the real “wisdom” was less about business and more about living your life with purpose, on your terms, with the things you enjoy, like a root beer float.

Buffett expressed immense gratitude for everything he’d accomplished in his lifetime. He is grateful to be alive. He’s not trying to impress anyone or be like everyone else. He maximizes his happiness through his work, his charitable giving, his love of bridge, and his legendary junk-food diet, which he has compared to that of a 6-year-old. Warren Buffett knows who he is, and he’s comfortable being himself.

Lunch with Warren Buffett

After lunch, Buffett posed for countless photos. I’m not referring to the standard group shot where everyone lines up in rows, and he steps in the middle at the last second. For what must have taken nearly two hours, he posed for individual pictures with everyone. There were no bodyguards or assistants. He didn’t owe us anything. But he couldn’t have been kinder or more generous with his time.

At the end of our lunch, Buffett walked to his Cadillac and drove off into the Omaha afternoon.

While a person is unlikely to forget any part of a day spent with Warren Buffett, a few specifics about the man and the way he approaches life will always stand out to me.

1. He has a sunny outlook

Simply put, Buffett is happy. His long-term outlook on life and business is positive. He’s a believer.

An open mind means access to more opportunities.

2. He takes calculated risks

As a value investor, Buffett adheres to certain principles that have guided his investment decisions and approach to risk. He especially loves the insurance business, which has taught him how to pay out less than he collects.

When you have a set of principles, you already know how to assess risk.

3. He does his own thing

Warren Buffett is not trying to be anyone other than Warren Buffett. He chose Omaha, not New York, and has lived in the same house since 1958, which he purchased for $31,500. He prefers cheeseburgers and root beer floats. The stock market’s day-to-day movements don’t worry him; he’s playing a long game.

There is a certain freedom that comes with independence.

4. He knows what he’s good at

Buffett is genuinely good at being an investor, so that’s where he has focused his time and energy. Likewise, he doesn’t invest in things he doesn’t understand.

Life is more efficient when you know who you really are.

5. He is a workhorse

Make no mistake: Warren Buffett is a workhorse, not a figurehead who shakes hands and gives speeches. He understands the details, does the analysis, and knows his business inside and out. He reached the pinnacle because he did, and continues to do, the work.

There are no shortcuts to greatness, and there is no escaping hard work.

I asked myself why Warren Buffett is so successful. Some may say he got lucky or that times were easier when he was starting out. But financial fortune aside, Warren Buffett is no different from you or me. He is the result of his choices.

The Lemonade Life

Like Warren Buffett’s, your life today is the result of choices. Some choices you made, while others were made for you.

What about your life tomorrow?

From the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, you have an opportunity to define the next day of your life. Every day. That means each day is a new opportunity to choose the life you want. In the next several chapters, we’ll discuss in detail how to make better choices that will broaden your perspective, how to take calculated risks, how to break free from the herd mentality, and most importantly, how to inspire action.

Zack Friedman is the founder and chief executive officer of Make Lemonade – a leading personal finance company that empowers you to live a better financial life – and an in-demand speaker. Previously, he was chief financial officer of an international energy company, a hedge fund investor, and worked at Blackstone, Morgan Stanley, and the White House. Zack holds degrees from Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins. He lives in New York with his wife and children.

How To Be Happy: 20 Ways To Be Happier Today

How To Be Happy: 20 Ways To Be Happier Today

“How can I get happy?”

It’s one of the most popular questions on Google with more than 6 billion search results. If you want to know how to be happy, you’re not alone.

Here are 20 tips for how to be happy and lead a happier life that I call “The Lemonade Life”:

1. Gratitude

As I explain in my new book, The Lemonade Life, the practice of gratitude is one of the most important strategies for how to be happy. Gratitude is focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t. Gratitude is about celebrating your life and being thankful for the joy you experience. Gratitude is associated with positivity, increased well-being and improved health.

2. Gratitude journal

The practice of gratitude can be expressed in many ways. The secret of how to be happy can start with a gratitude journal. With a gratitude journal, you can spend 10-15 minutes each day writing the things for which you are thankful. It can be your family and friends, the experience you enjoyed earlier that day, or anything else that makes you feel grounded. When we express thankfulness for the joys in life, we increase happiness. Make sure to take time to reflect on your writings to experience the full joy and experience of gratitude.

3. Celebrate you

You are worth celebrating. You don’t have to wait for birthdays or holidays to celebrate. Build your self-confidence by recognizing and embracing your greatness. Congratulate yourself for your achievements – even the small ones. Use small wins to generate momentum. You will find it’s one of the smartest ways to be happy.

4. Focus on your strengths

It’s human nature to focus on your weaknesses, but as I explain in The Lemonade Life, focus your time and energy on your strengths. No one is perfect. Spending time trying to build up every weakness will only lead to frustration. It’s an impossible task to be good at everything. Instead, focus on your core strengths and direct them toward seizing opportunities. This is one of the most effective ways for how to be happy. You will feel more accomplished, more balanced and less frustrated.

5. Look for the good in things

It’s easy to see the bad and the downside. Instead, focus on the positive. Look for the silver linings, which are the good things in life. The best books on happiness recommend cultivating positive thoughts: the more you look for the good things, the less stress and negative thinking you can experience.

6. Do it with kindness

Work can be demanding. Life can be demanding. In the race to “get it done,” it can be easier to rush. However, there’s always time to do it with kindness. Treat people respectfully. Empathy at home, at work and in life is essential to understand others and understand the human condition.

7. Meditation

If you want to know how to be happy, meditation is a good place to start. Spend 10-30 minutes each morning meditating and you’ll notice an improvement in well-being and a healthier life perspective. Meditation relaxes you and helps you connect with the mind, body and spirit. You can incorporate gratitude in your meditation, listen to soft music or think positive thoughts. Meditation is also associated with lower stress.

8. Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, which can help create a state of euphoria. Research shows that a 15-minute jog can help reduce depression. Spending time exercising –particularly in nature – can not only improve heart health, but also mental health, happiness and well-being.

9. Eliminate roadblocks

Roadblocks are obstacles that stand between where you are today and where you want to be. A negative environment and negative people are two examples of roadblocks that limit your potential. The first step to more happiness is to identify the roadblocks in your life. The second step is to find paths around, over and through the roadblocks in your life. You may not be able to eliminate every roadblock, but you can work to minimize the threat.

10. Choose your friends wisely

Find friends who lift you up, not who tear you down. Their positive or negative energy will directly impact the person you become.

11. Have a core set of values

We also know what it means to have good values. To find happiness, list your values on a piece of paper. Visualizing is a good start, but it will help solidify your set of values when you record them. A core set of values is a great way for how to be happy because it reminds you of the principles and ideals to which you subscribe.

12. Find your life purpose

Why are you here? How do you create impact? When you know your life purpose, you will know how to be happy because you have a life worth living because you understand why you do what you do. You have direction. You have grounding. You have something you are working toward or someone you are working to inspire.

13. Build social connections

Many people want to know how to be happy alone. While being happy alone is important, you will increase happiness through valuable social connections. The more we interact with people, understand people and help others, the more well-being we experience in our lives. We are all connected, and life is about helping others and giving to others. You will not only boost their happiness but also your own.

14. Be accountable

Everyone knows the blame game. It’s them, not you. Right? Wrong. Accountability starts with you. Want to know how to be happy? Take responsibility. When you own your successes and mistakes, you will lift a burden in your life and enjoy more happiness and freedom.

15. Understand your feelings

Spend time understanding why you’re experiencing a certain feeling. When you can properly assess what makes you happy or sad, and understand the why behind that particular feeling, you will have more clarity for how to be happy. You will be more in control of your feelings and emotions and be on a clearer path toward self-understanding.

16. Embrace empathy

Emotional intelligence is such an important component of being happy. Understanding others is essential to thrive in life and at work. Embrace empathy in everything you do. Understand others. Embrace your imperfect self. Showing more self-understanding and understanding others helps you connect with humanity. Understand their background, perspective and circumstances and you will feel more connected to yourself and to others. It’s a smart way how to live a happy life.

17. Believe that you have the power to change your life

This is more than positive thinking. This is embracing a fundamental truth that happiness is a possibility in your life. Once you accept that principle, you have opened your mind to the possibility of change. You have started on a path to accept more happiness in your life.

18. Practice happiness

You can practice happiness daily. Find things that make you happy and repeat them daily. Develop positive habits. Identify the things that make you unhappy, and work toward eliminating them from your life. It’s a project of separation, and when you master it, it’s a helpful strategy for how to be happy.

19. Declutter

A happy mind and a happy home go together. Declutter your personal space and free your mind. Eliminate things you don’t need. Clutter means disorganization and it can be an impediment to accomplishment and well-being. When we declutter, we bring order to our lives. In place of clutter, decorate your personal space with things that make you happy. Surround yourself with happiness and it will bring more organization, order and happiness to your life.

20. Have an open mind

An open mind is a pathway to possibility. Be open to new people, places and experiences. When you are flexible and open to change, your happiness can increase. You can increase social connections, find more joy and feel more a part of a greater community.

Conclusion

Want to know how to be happy? Follow these 20 principles for a happier life. It’s closer than you think.

Google Says The Best Managers Have These 10 Qualities

Google Says The Best Managers Have These 10 Qualities

It’s called Project Oxygen.

Beginning in 2008, Google researchers wanted to understand what makes a manager great at Google.

Here’s what they found.

Project Oxygen

Google sought to identify the common threads among Google’s highest performing managers. Based on internal research, Google then applied its findings to its manager development programs.

Over time, Google found that by publicizing and training managers on these central principles, Google experienced improved team outcomes such as turnover, satisfaction and performance.

As Google has grown and evolved, the company also has incorporated employee feedback and refined the central behaviors that make a great manager.

The 10 Behaviors Of A Great Manager

So, here are the 10 behaviors that make a great manager at Google:

1. Is a good coach

Great managers are not simply great performers. They invest the time and energy to coach others.

Great managers share best practices so that their teams can grow.

2. Empowers team and does not micromanage

It’s all about empowerment.

What are you doing to empower others on your team and across the organization?

Micromanagement is one of the great blunders of poor managers. Give your team space. Be flexible. Sometimes, you just need to get out of their way. No one likes a micromanager.

3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being

Be inclusive. Embrace your team and make them part of the mission. Create an environment where anyone can ask a question, experiment and propose a new idea.

4. Is productive and results-oriented

Results matter, but you need to create a culture in which everyone can thrive to produce the desired results.

Show your team how to produce the results that you want. Don’t just set goals and then expect outcomes.

5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information

Too many managers fail because they can’t communicate.

Communication is not top-down or unidirectional. It’s essential to be a good listener. Invest the time to get in the arena and listen to your team.

6. Supports career development and discusses performance

Don’t focus on what your team can do for you. Focus on what you can do for them – and how you can work with them to advance the goals and mission of the organization.

Career development is essential – give your team the tools they need to thrive.

Feedback (positive and constructive) is so important – make sure to get it right.

7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team

If the manager doesn’t have a clear vision and strategy, how can the team thrive?

It starts with the manager to set the tone and lay the foundation and direction for the team.

8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team

Substance matters.

Managers don’t “check out” when they become managers. Rather, they get in the weeds.

Not only can you help achieve better outcomes, but also you can gain credibility with your team when you demonstrate your technical expertise.

9. Collaborates across Google

Your team is not an island.

You must collaborate across the organization. You have expertise that someone in another group can use. They too have skills that can benefit you.

The more everyone shares, the more the organization rises.

Collaboration leads to wonderful synergies.

10. Is a strong decision maker

Analysis is helpful. Strategy is important. Scenario testing provides focus.

However, there is no replacement for being a strong decision maker.

You can spend unlimited time analyzing, strategizing and scenario-testing.

It’s the action that matters.

These 10 behaviors make a great manager at Google. What makes a great manager in your organization?

Here Are The Secrets To Happiness At Work

Here Are The Secrets To Happiness At Work

Where is the happiness?

Our happiness at work matters – it matters for our success, our sense of purpose, our well-being and our physical, mental and emotional health. It matters because we spend up to 70,000 hours of our lives working. 70,000 hours. Yet still, we all know people – our friends, family, significant others – who spend year after year stuck in a job that they despise.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t do something I don’t like for more than 15 minutes. Let alone 70,000 hours.

So what do we do about it? How do we get happier at work?

I want to share with you 3 secrets to happiness at work. These are three unconventional secrets that I’ve learned during my career and while writing my new book, The Lemonade Life. I think these three secrets will truly enhance your well-being, make you happier and help you thrive and lead a better, aspirational life – a life that I call The Lemonade Life. Are they the only secrets to happiness at work? No, but they will help you reprogram your mind and rewire your brain toward positive emotions and a positive mindset.

1. The first secret to happiness at work is “Have a really bad job”.

I firmly believe that having a bad job can truly change the trajectory of your life.

Your worst job can be your best job. It can be your greatest moment of professional clarity. If you’ve had a bad job, you have experienced with precision everything that’s wrong with the organization. You see how a bad boss functions, and you see all the bad decisions: the missed revenue opportunities, the foregone business development, the wasted costs and the poor leadership skills.

I bet if I asked you, you could tell me all the ways to create more revenue streams, how to improve the bottom line, how the best leaders should operate and how you would improve the organization’s culture. You probably have an action plan to make the right changes at the organization. This is not to say that having only good jobs won’t make you happy or successful because it can too. But when you only have good jobs, it’s possible you lose some hunger, you’re not on your toes, and you may coast through.

So, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having a bad job, it will give you more insight into management, leadership, efficiency, culture, empathy, creativity and a host of other important skills. Extract the inherent learnings and use it to apply toward your next job so you can ultimately thrive. I strongly believe that you will be better off for it.

2. The second secret to happiness at work is to “Have a ‘can’t do’ attitude.”

We all know what it means to have a can-do attitude. Typically, we think of a someone who is dedicated, loyal and who says: “Of course I can do that.” However, the problem with a “can-do” attitude is that there is a natural information asymmetry. Expectations may be mismatched—that is, the person making the request mistakenly equates a can-do attitude with a guarantee that the person will finish the job accurately and on time. So, having a “can do” attitude can lead to unrealistic commitments and can result in over-promising and under-delivering.

A “can’t-do attitude” is knowing when you can shine and when you can’t, when you’re the expert and when you’re the novice. A “can’t do attitude” is the antidote to information asymmetry. It’s about honesty. It’s about transparency. It’s a proactive approach that demonstrates leadership because it shows your ability for self-awareness and good judgment to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

When you have a can’t do attitude, you’re transparent and you’re upfront about your capabilities, strengths and shortcomings. You own mistakes. You hold yourself accountable. People are more willing to cooperate with those who have a “can’t do” attitude and work with them toward a common purpose. When you speak your truth, your voice is genuine, and your message has greater impact. When you say what you mean, it’s better for problem-solving, accomplishing goals, building stronger human connections, increasing productivity and fostering honest relationships.

3. The third secret to happiness at work is to “Give away your happiness.”

We’re not operating only as individuals each finding happiness. In our organizations, we operate as a team working to fulfill a mission and joint purpose. So, you’re not only responsible for your own happiness, but you’re also responsible to spread happiness to others. That’s what make organizations and teams thrive. We need to lift up each other. Research shows that when we share happiness, when we give to others, when we show gratitude, we not only boost the happiness of others, but also we boost our own happiness.

I implore you to give away your happiness. Share your energy and be a positive force for good. Show empathy, loyalty and respect to create camaraderie and purpose for those on your team.

Final Thoughts

When you have a bad job, have a can’t do attitude and give away your happiness, you’re on the path to learning the secrets to happiness at work.

For more on “The Secrets To Happiness At Work,” you can check out my TEDx Talk.

I’ve spent nearly 15 years working in finance, and here are the 7 best pieces of advice I can give you about money

I’ve spent nearly 15 years working in finance, and here are the 7 best pieces of advice I can give you about money

After nearly 15 years working in finance at companies such as Blackstone and Morgan Stanley, I witnessed firsthand how companies can make (and lose) money.

The good news is that the financial lessons I learned are not just for the Wall Street elite, which is why I want to share them with you.

I founded Make Lemonade to simplify personal finance and to help people make smarter financial decisions.

Here is my advice on how to make the most of your money.

1. The unexpected does — and will — happen

Financial surprises unexpectedly can impact your financial well-being. They happen to everyone, so prepare for the worst.

Your big deal may fall apart at the 11th hour. Your sure-bet investment may miss earnings. You may get outbid on your dream house.

How you react to financial surprise can be one of your most profitable financial moves.

Buy insurance. Hedge your investments. Plan for Plan B. When you have a back-up plan, the unexpected seems less devastating because you have an alternative, viable path.

2. There are no dumb questions

When it comes to your money, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.

It’s a cliché phrase, but relatively few people take advantage of asking all their questions.

If you don’t fully understand the merits of a financial product or service, don’t be embarrassed. Get informed before parting with your money. You are the best protector of your financial house, and asking all your questions is the smartest way to guard against misinformed financial choices.

If you can’t afford to pay off your credit card bill every month, consider another method of payment for your daily costs.OrelPhoto / Shutterstock.com

3. Be careful with credit cards

Credit cards offer compelling travel and cash back rewards, not to mention convenience. But, they can be a financial disaster if you end up with credit card debt.

If you decide to get a credit card, pay off your full balance each month. If you can’t, then credit cards are not for you.

Think of it this way: The interest rate on your credit card is likely higher than the average investment return in the stock market. If you have credit card debt, that lost opportunity cost can significantly hurt your bottom line.

4. Pay yourself first

The best person to look out for your financial best interest is you.

Pay yourself first means that you maximize your retirement contributions through your 401(k) or IRA. If you are self-employed, then open a SEP-IRA. These tax-advantaged accounts will pay off many times over by the time that you retire.

You also don’t have to choose between saving for retirement and paying off debt. Do both. Always make your required monthly debt payment, and contribute at least enough to your 401(k) to receive an employer match. Apply any remaining funds to whichever is higher – your interest rate (pay down debt) or expected investment return (fund retirement).

5. Never stop learning

Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate school. The best investors hone their skills daily. Never consider yourself a true expert because there’s always something you don’t know.

When it comes to financial advice, reading is one of the easiest ways to learn. It can also be one of your best investments.

Also, you can learn from people you work for and people that work for you. Listen intently to others. The less you speak, the better.

A mortgage on an investment property that generates positive cash flow could be considered “good debt.”Shutterstock

6. Debt is not always a bad thing

The general stigma is that debt is bad and should be avoided. Well, not necessarily.

Think of debt in two categories: good debt and bad debt. Bad debt is unnecessary debt that is accumulated through poor financial decisions. Good debt, however, can make you more money, if borrowed and repaid responsibly. A mortgage on an investment property that generates positive cash flow, for example, can be a wise decision, whereas unpaid credit card debt is not.

When confronted with a debt choice, ask yourself whether the debt you are borrowing will make or cost you money. Will the after-tax financial return be greater than the interest cost? The answer should help dictate whether it’s worth the financial risk.

7. It doesn’t matter how much money you start with

Your starting point means much less than your ending point.

When it comes to financial success, it doesn’t really matter where you come from, where you went to school, or who you know. Yes, those things can help – but they don’t prohibit you from attaining financial freedom.

If you work hard, make sound investments, spend responsibly, and save for retirement, you’ll be in good financial shape for the long haul.

Also, getting a late start won’t prevent you from achieving financial success. Ray Kroc didn’t buy McDonald’s until he was age 52. Vera Wang didn’t become a designer until age 40. Samuel L. Jackson didn’t score his first major hit until he was age 43.

So, focus on where you’re going, not where you started. Your future is what counts, not your past.

Zack Friedman is the founder and CEO of Make Lemonade, a personal finance website with free tips, tools and reviews for student loans, personal loans, investing, credit cards, mortgages and more. Follow him on Twitter.

Think Like A Startup: 4 New Employee Benefits To Attract And Retain Talent

Think Like A Startup: 4 New Employee Benefits To Attract And Retain Talent

If you want to attract and retain top talent at your company, you need to think like a startup.

However, you don’t have to be Google, Facebook or a Silicon Valley tech startup to offer attractive and creative benefits to your employees.

Any company can transform into an employee-centric company by following these simple steps.

Here’s what you need to know to reshape your employee benefits program, embrace the future of work and win the war on talent.

The Old Guard: Traditional Employee Benefits

While employee benefits vary by company, many employers may offer some form of the following annual benefits:

  • health insurance
  • 401k / pension plan
  • two to four weeks vacation
  • transportation benefits
  • employee discounts

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these types of benefits.

However, in today’s competitive career marketplace, the quality of your benefits package matter to both prospective and current employees.

It may be time to revisit your employee benefits program.

Here’s how to make the transformation.

Step #1: What kind of company do you want to be?

Start with some self-reflection.

Ask yourself: what kind of company do you want to be? How do you treat employees? How do your employees feel about working at your company?

How would your employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders describe your brand? Do your employee benefits reflect the strength of your brand?

These are important foundational questions to assess the current status of your employee benefits plan.

Then, reflect on your current employee benefit offering, and determine whether those benefits reflect the brand and image you want to present.

Step #2: Ask your employees what kind of company you should be

Your employees are the lifeblood of your company.

Embrace feedback and incorporate their thinking into your game plan.

They are on the field fighting the good fight every day, and they have unique insights that management may not have.

Ask your employees how they feel about your current employee benefits package, and gather feedback about the types of benefits your employees would like to be included.

Step #3: Find the benefits that help both employees and the company

Adding new employee benefits is not only a win for employees.

Employers win when their employees win.

The war for talent is fierce. Not only do you need to attract top talent, but also you need to retain and motivate your organization for the long term.

From the employer’s perspective, if you can’t retain talent for the long-term, that means high employee turnover.

High employee turnover hurts morale.

It also will cost the company time and money to hire and train new employees.

However, having the right employee benefits can create loyalty among your employees, which can lead to increased satisfaction, productivity and results.

Employees are happy. Management is happy. Shareholders are happy.

The New Employee Benefits

The new crop of employee benefits range by industry and company, but here are some employee benefits that are offered at companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies:

1. Unlimited Vacation

Wait, what?

For the curious, no, you can’t take off 364 days each year.

The notion of unlimited vacation removes the notion of vacation constriction, and empowers employees to decide how much vacation they take.

By placing the decision with the employee, the company has provided the employee with important decision-making authority.

That relationship creates an important bond.

The reality is that if you hire the right employees, they should be responsible and judicious. Therefore, you can expect that most, if not all, employees won’t abuse the vacation policy.

2. Free food

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit Google’s Mountain View, California campus, you’ll bear witness to a mecca of cafeterias with every type of food imaginable.

And it’s all free.

It’s not rocket science: people like free food.

If employees don’t have to pay for lunch, employees appreciate it.

Free food breeds employee appreciation and loyalty.

Plus, they will spread the good word, and tell their friends and family.

However, not every company has the resources or space for multiple free food options. So, start more simply.

Offer free breakfast once a week.

Or, institute a weekly “lunch and learn” in which you offer free lunch and invite a guest speaker to teach your employees something new.

3. Student loan repayment assistance

Student loan repayment assistance is the hottest employee benefit of 2017 – and one of the best ways to attract Millennials and recent graduates to join your company.

According to Make Lemonade, there are over 44 million borrowers who collectively owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.

In the 2015 American Student Assistance survey, 76% of respondents said that if a prospective employer offered a student loan repayment benefit, it would be a deciding or contributing factor to accept the job.

While less than 5% of companies currently offer such a benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, and employees are typically responsible for income taxes on the assistance received, expect this percentage to increase in coming years.

Companies such as Fidelity, PricewatershouseCoopers (PwC), Aetna and Penguin Random House are some of the trailblazing companies that offer student loan repayment benefits for their employees.

4. Flex time

Everyone needs flex time.

Whether for a medical appointment or to take a child to school, employees want flexibility.

Employers who recognize and embrace flex time win in the end.

There are many ways to offer flex time at your company.

One option is allow employees to telecommute, or work from home, at least on occasion.

Yes, it is important for teams to meet face-to-face, and working together in the office helps achieve this goal.

However, when employees have the flexibility to work from home, they feel valued and trusted.

When employees feel value and trusted, they are more loyal to the organization.

And that’s good business.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Richard Branson Shares His Best Business Advice In 4 Letters

Richard Branson Shares His Best Business Advice In 4 Letters

Richard Branson loves a good challenge.

That’s why in celebration of his 65th birthday in 2015, the Virgin founder and visionary entrepreneur announced that he would complete 65 challenges – as part of the #ChallengeRichard campaign – during the coming year.

Four of the 65 challenges involved Branson writing a letter to the 10, 25, 50 and 65-year-old versions of himself.

This was the result.

Richard Branson’s Letter To His 10-Year-Old Self

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In My Letter To 10 Year-Old Me, Branson encouraged young Ricky to embrace the spirit of adventure and to never stop dreaming.

He told his younger self that he will face challenges – everyone does – and to not let that get in the way of achieving his dreams.

Here is some of his best advice:

  1. The spirit of adventure will keep you curious; open your mind to great opportunities; and steer you on a lifelong quest to prove that impossible is just a word.”
  2. “Never stop dreaming and creating.”
  3. Don’t ever let anyone prevent you from going after your dreams.
  4. You will face many challenges, and often feel like you don’t fit in and that you can’t always keep up. Don’t let this hold you back. Use your imagination to find inventive ways around it.”
  5. “You will make a lot of mistakes and fail time and time again. But don’t let this discourage you. Failure teaches us life’s greatest lessons, and often shows us a better way of doing things.”
  6. Above all, always remember to have fun.”
  7. As you grow older you will realise just how important it is to do what you love and love what you do. Don’t waste your time doing things that don’t excite you.”

Richard Branson’s Letter To His 25-Year-Old Self

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In My Letter To 25 Year-Old Me, Branson encouraged his younger self to stick with his new company, Virgin. He warned himself about the bumps ahead, but to focus on his goals – even in the face of adversity.

Branson also wrote about the importance of learning from mistakes, and transforming challenges into opportunities.

Here is some of his best advice:

  1. “The road ahead is pock-marked with many bumps, chasms and forks. There will be times where you want to give up and throw everything in. Don’t. By turning challenges into opportunities, you will find success you never realised you were capable of achieving.”
  2. But you won’t always succeed. In fact, you will fail time and time again. That’s ok though, because failure is an inevitable part of every personal and entrepreneurial journey.”
  3. It’s important to pick yourself up, retrace your steps, look at what went wrong, and learn from your mistakes.
  4. “Continue to take chances. In the future how ‘lucky’ you are in business will be determined by how willing you are to take calculated risks.”
  5. “Don’t let the naysayers deter you.
  6. Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibility.
  7. Your ability to take calculated risks and your incurable optimism will lead to great heights – both in business and in life.

Richard Branson’s Letter To His 50-Year-Old Self

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

In My Letter To 50 Year-Old Me, Branson – who is known among some Virgin staffers as Dr. Yes (due to his proclivity to say “yes” almost automatically to good ideas) advised his younger self to make a greater social impact and a positive difference in people’s lives.

Here is some of his best advice:

    1. You’ve never gone into business to make money, but instead always wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
    1. It’s up to all of us to create the world we want to live in, and we can if governments, businesses and individuals work together.
    2. If you need more incentive to act, think about your children.
    3. Passionate people are happy people. The future needs passionate, happy and confident young leaders, willing to challenge the status quo and stand up for their convictions.
    4. Plus life is more fun when you work with your family and friends.
  1. “…the sky is no longer the limit and the future will be so bright, if you continue to look for opportunities where others see challenges.
  2. Just remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, make sure you place purpose at the heart of your words and actions.

Richard Branson’s Letter To His 65-Year-Old Self

AP Photo/Abraham Caro Marin

In My Letter To 65-Year-Old Me, Branson tells his present-day self that it’s a great time to be alive.

The self-described “Tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist & troublemaker” believes strongly that business can be a force for good.

Branson writes specifically about the world he wants to live in, but recognizes that there is much more to do.

Here is some of his best advice:

  1. Yes, the human race is currently facing so many challenges, but the spirit of entrepreneurship is flourishing, and doing great things to work towards creating a world where all people and the planet thrive.
  2. “Keep having fun, taking risks and looking for the best in people.
  3. “Keep dreaming big and saying yes to your heart’s desires.”
  4. “Keep looking at the world with wide-eyed enthusiasm, and believing that together we are more powerful than the problems that confront us.”
  5. “Keep your zest for life, passion and the fire in your belly – always remembering Steve Jobs’ words: ‘The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.’”
  6. Most importantly, keep immersing yourself in the world – it will always be the best way to learn and look forward.
  7. Now is no time to slow down; your best years are still yet to come – so keep your body and mind active, and love in your heart.

Zack Friedman is a keynote speaker and Founder & CEO of Make Lemonade, a personal finance comparison site that helps you save money and live a better financial life.

7 Best pieces of advice I can give you about money

7 Best pieces of advice I can give you about money

After nearly 15 years working in finance at companies such as Blackstone and Morgan Stanley, I witnessed firsthand how companies can make (and lose) money.

The good news is that the financial lessons I learned are not just for the Wall Street elite, which is why I want to share them with you.

I founded Make Lemonade to simplify personal finance and to help people make smarter financial decisions.

Here is my advice on how to make the most of your money.

1. The unexpected does — and will — happen

Financial surprises unexpectedly can impact your financial well-being. They happen to everyone, so prepare for the worst.

Your big deal may fall apart at the 11th hour. Your sure-bet investment may miss earnings. You may get outbid on your dream house.

How you react to financial surprise can be one of your most profitable financial moves.

Buy insurance. Hedge your investments. Plan for Plan B. When you have a back-up plan, the unexpected seems less devastating because you have an alternative, viable path.

2. There are no dumb questions

When it comes to your money, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.

It’s a cliché phrase, but relatively few people take advantage of asking all their questions.

If you don’t fully understand the merits of a financial product or service, don’t be embarrassed. Get informed before parting with your money. You are the best protector of your financial house, and asking all your questions is the smartest way to guard against misinformed financial choices.

3. Be careful with credit cards

Credit cards offer compelling travel and cash back rewards, not to mention convenience. But, they can be a financial disaster if you end up with credit card debt.

If you decide to get a credit card, pay off your full balance each month. If you can’t, then credit cards are not for you.

Think of it this way: The interest rate on your credit card is likely higher than the average investment return in the stock market. If you have credit card debt, that lost opportunity cost can significantly hurt your bottom line.

4. Pay yourself first

The best person to look out for your financial best interest is you.

Pay yourself first means that you maximize your retirement contributions through your 401(k) or IRA. If you are self-employed, then open a SEP-IRA. These tax-advantaged accounts will pay off many times over by the time that you retire.

You also don’t have to choose between saving for retirement and paying off debt. Do both. Always make your required monthly debt payment, and contribute at least enough to your 401(k) to receive an employer match. Apply any remaining funds to whichever is higher – your interest rate (pay down debt) or expected investment return (fund retirement).

5. Never stop learning

Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate school. The best investors hone their skills daily. Never consider yourself a true expert because there’s always something you don’t know.

When it comes to financial advice, reading is one of the easiest ways to learn. It can also be one of your best investments.

Also, you can learn from people you work for and people that work for you. Listen intently to others. The less you speak, the better.

6. Debt is not always a bad thing

The general stigma is that debt is bad and should be avoided. Well, not necessarily.

Think of debt in two categories: good debt and bad debt. Bad debt is unnecessary debt that is accumulated through poor financial decisions. Good debt, however, can make you more money, if borrowed and repaid responsibly. A mortgage on an investment property that generates positive cash flow, for example, can be a wise decision, whereas unpaid credit card debt is not.

When confronted with a debt choice, ask yourself whether the debt you are borrowing will make or cost you money. Will the after-tax financial return be greater than the interest cost? The answer should help dictate whether it’s worth the financial risk.

7. It doesn’t matter how much money you start with

Your starting point means much less than your ending point.

When it comes to financial success, it doesn’t really matter where you come from, where you went to school, or who you know. Yes, those things can help – but they don’t prohibit you from attaining financial freedom.

If you work hard, make sound investments, spend responsibly, and save for retirement, you’ll be in good financial shape for the long haul.

Also, getting a late start won’t prevent you from achieving financial success. Ray Kroc didn’t buy McDonald’s until he was age 52. Vera Wang didn’t become a designer until age 40. Samuel L. Jackson didn’t score his first major hit until he was age 43.

So, focus on where you’re going, not where you started. Your future is what counts, not your past.

13 Secret Questions That Google Uses To Collect Employee Feedback

13 Secret Questions That Google Uses To Collect Employee Feedback

Google is one of the best organizations that thinks critically about leadership development.

Here are 13 questions that Google asks its employees to collect feedback on managers. The first 11 are yes/no questions, and the remaining two questions are open-ended.

Manager Feedback Survey: 13 Questions

1. My manager gives me actionable feedback that helps me improve my performance.

Advice: Leadership development requires leaders to provide employees with concrete feedback that employees can use to bolster performance. Leaders are not only measured by how they lead, but also how they inspire others to become better. How can anyone improve if they don’t receive actionable recommendations that lead to better outcomes?

2. My manager does not “micromanage” (i.e., get involved in details that should be handled at other levels).

Advice: A boss that micromanages is an ineffective boss. Micromanagement shows a lack of trust in the team. When bosses micromanage, it alienates employees by creating unnecessary meddling, an added layer of stress and overall friction. An alternative is for the leader to set the standards, communicate the mission, provide the goals and create the environment for the team to thrive. When managers delegate, the team is empowered to thrive.

3. My manager shows consideration for me as a person.

Advice: In the quest for revenue growth and profit maximization, too many managers lose a grip on the more important human element. The people behind the products and services drive organizations. When your team is not treated with decency and respect, performance will fall and tension will increase. Put people first. When you do, your team will feel valued, they will connected to a larger mission and their performance will improve.

4. The actions of my manager show that he/she values the perspective I bring to the team, even if it is different from his/her own.

Advice: I want people on my team who offer fresh perspectives, even if they are different than mine or challenge my way of thinking. First, welcoming fresh opinions creates a culture of appreciation and recognition. Second, new opinions lead to new ideas, and can create fresh approaches. It doesn’t mean that the leader always needs to implement these new ideas, but it’s healthy to challenge a singular way of thinking because it creates a check and balance against different hypotheses.

5. My manager keeps the team focused on our priority results/deliverables.

Advice: Both the team and team leader are responsible to produce. Too often, employees are solely blamed for not staying focused on results. Leaders should establish a set of values and create the structure for their teams to thrive. That means setting the standards of excellence. Show your team what prioritizing results looks like.

6. My manager regularly shares relevant information from his/her manager and senior leaders.

Advice: Teach your team. Share insights. Information sharing should be encouraged. Don’t hold on to valuable lessons. Educate your colleagues so that they too can thrive.

7. My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about career development in the past six months.

Advice: There’s too much focus on the immediate. “Get this done now.” “Just focus on the assignment due Thursday.” Employees want to execute, but they also want to build their own careers. Help them develop into the leaders that they want to become. It helps you, inspires them and creates benefits for everyone.

8. My manager communicates clear goals for our team.

Advice: Don’t let your team wander down an endless path. Write down the team’s goals and share them every team member. Post them on a wall so everyone can see them. Otherwise, what are they working toward? Help them see the end, and show them how to get there.

9. My manager has the technical expertise (e.g., coding in Tech, selling in Global Business, accounting in Finance) required to effectively manage me.

Advice: Raise your hand if your boss can’t actually do your job. Leaders who ask of others also should be able to ask of themselves too.

10. I would recommend my manager to other Googlers.

Advice: This is not just a thumbs up or thumbs down. This question is also about trust and community. Do you believe that your manager can be trusted to lead other Googlers? Can this leader help lift up other colleagues and are they right the person to lead others in the organization?

11. I am satisfied with my manager’s overall performance as a manager.

Advice: This question empowers employees to evaluate their managers. It places the onus on employees to assess the leadership and management skills of their boss.

12. What would you recommend your manager keep doing?

Advice: Open-ended questions are essential because they remove the confinement of binary ones. This is an employee’s opportunity to encourage their manager to continue the good leadership skills that reinforce optimal performance and inspire excellence.

13. What would you have your manager change?

Advice: This question is the employee’s opportunity to encourage their manager to cease the bad habits and demotivating practices that inhibit progress and thwart results.

Final Thoughts

What does feedback look like in your organization? Do you incorporate these leadership principles? If not, why, and what would you do differently?

What Millennials Need To Know About The Equifax Credit Breach

What Millennials Need To Know About The Equifax Credit Breach

If you are a Millennial with a credit report, there’s a good chance that you are one of the 143 million Americans whose personal data has been compromised from Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit bureaus.

Here is what you need to know and the steps that you can take following this material data breach:

1. What happened?

According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July 2017.

Hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers.

Equifax said hackers also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.

2. How can you check if your information was compromised?

You can learn more on Equifax’s website.

To determine whether your personal information was exposed, click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

For your reference, you can contact Equifax by telephone available daily from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. eastern time at 1-866-447-7559 (for dedicated data breach call center). You can also contact Equifax customer care at 1-866-640-2273.

3. Can you obtain free credit monitoring services?

Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services through www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

This Equifax website will provide you a date when you can enroll. Return to the website on that date and click “Enroll.”

Make sure to enroll by November 21, 2017.

4. Do you waive any rights by accepting a year of free credit monitoring services?

First, it is important to note that the breach can impact your credit profile for longer than one year.

Therefore, one year of credit monitoring services may help for the short-term, but may not be a long-term solution.

For example, a Social Security Number does not expire. Therefore, you need to protect yourself on an ongoing basis.

You may want to purchase ongoing credit monitoring services so that you can receive automatic updates regarding any changes to your credit report.

Second, whenever you sign up for a service (particularly following a data breach), make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the offering.

Initially, consumers who sought to accept the free one year of credit monitoring services from Equifax were reportedly not signing up for a “free” service.

How can this be?

Equifax’s credit monitoring agreement stated that in exchange for accepting the credit monitoring services, a consumer would waive his or her right to sue Equifax subsequently in any class action lawsuit.

After meeting with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, however, Equifax clarified that consumers can receive the free credit monitoring service and not give up their right to sue Equifax in the future as a result of the data breach.

5. Check your credit report

Under federal law, you are entitled to obtain a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company, including Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

You can check your credit report for free at Annualcreditreport.com to ensure that your credit report is in good order.

If you find any errors on your credit report, contact each credit bureau directly to remedy the issues.

6. Monitor your credit cards and bank accounts

In addition to monitoring your credit reports, make sure to check your credit card and bank account statements to ensure the transactions are legitimate.

Report any suspicious activities such as unauthorized bank withdrawals or transfers.

7. What should you do if your identity has been stolen?

You can visit www.identytheft.gov for more information.

8. Why is credit important? What if you have bad credit?

Your credit score and credit reports are essential to your financial life.

That is why it is critical to start building credit as early as possible in your financial life.

Your credit score may determine whether you qualify for a student loan, mortgage, auto loan or credit card.

Your credit score also may be used when you apply for insurance, rent an apartment or purchase a cell phone.

Even if you have bad credit, it is important to take proactive steps to protect yourself against this data breach because your personal information can still be misappropriated.

9. File your taxes early

Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to obtain a tax refund or get a job.

Therefore, file your taxes as early as possible – before someone else uses your identity to do so.

10. Is a blanket credit freeze a good idea?

It may seem logical that you would want to freeze all your accounts immediately so that any unauthorized individuals cannot access them.

However, in addition to the cost, there are several issues to consider before proceeding with a credit freeze.

First, while a credit freeze can make it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name, a credit freeze does not prohibit an unauthorized individual from making charges to your existing accounts.

Second, you need to be thoughtful whether a blanket credit freeze makes sense for your personal financial situation.

A credit freeze would immediately freeze access to all your credit information.

If you have or plan to borrow student loans or a mortgage, or plan to refinance student loans or refinance your mortgage in the near-term, then a blanket credit freeze may not be your best move.

The same applies if you are buying a car or applying for a new job, both of which may require a credit check.

Therefore, you may want to consider carefully whether a blanket credit freeze makes financial and practical sense based on your personal circumstances.

11. Read the fine print

In times of crisis, it may seem logical to sign up for every possible credit protection service and program.

However, read the fine print.

Not all services are created equally.

Be wary of email phishing and phone call scams that ask you to click on website links or request personal information.

Even if the email or caller claims to be from Equifax.

12. Where can you go for more information?

Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulate credit bureaus, including Experian.

You can check both their websites for the latest information and next proactive steps.

Zack Friedman is a keynote speaker and Founder & CEO of Make Lemonade, a personal finance comparison site that helps you save money and live a better financial life.

 

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