While most people focus on their New Year’s resolutions this time of year, a different and arguably better approach is to ask, “What are the aha moments from 2023 that can help guide you to a better 2024?” Here’s my list and I would encourage you to ask yourself the same question. 

The importance of getting your technology right

ChatGPT and other new AI companies are transforming almost every aspect of our lives and businesses and will continue to do so in 2024. As I learned the hard way a few weeks ago, you can never afford to ignore the tech basics. 

A catastrophic computer fail

On my way back from a speaking gig in Atlantic City, a non-leak bottle in my carry-on bag leaked all over my laptop. That event was extremely costly, both in terms of time and money. 

When I took my laptop to Apple, they were unable to resurrect it. I had 1.1 terabytes of data on that device. They referred me to a company that might be able to salvage my hard drive, but that could cost up to $2,000 and there was no guarantee.  

My Macbook Air had most of my articles and PowerPoints from the last three years, but not all the files going back to 2000 and none of my podcasts or videos. 

Those old hard drives buried in the back of a drawer were a lifesaver

For years, my VA hounded me about backing up my computer on external drives. Fortunately, I did do three full backups when I upgraded computers, so much of my data dating back to 2000 was on those three drives. In 2020, when I subscribed to a cloud-based backup system, I stopped backing up to external drives. 

Aha moment: As Apple told me, you can never have too many backup drives. 

Backblaze to the rescue

I’ve been subscribed to Backblaze as my cloud backup system for several years. I was beyond thrilled when I accessed the Backblaze Restore site and it had all 1.1 terabytes of my data on its server. As a stopgap, I could access the files I needed online one at a time, but it took time to download each file individually. 

Given the amount of data I had stored, they offered an external backup drive with my data for $189.00. If wanted, once I downloaded the data onto my devices, I could return the external drive for a refund. 

Aha moment: Always create your backups in the cloud and on an external drive. 

My new Macbook Pro — the unexpected silver lining 

My 2020 Macbook Pro would normally take about one to three minutes to compile and upload a 30-50-minute video. Dropbox can take up to 10 minutes or more to upload a single video file of that length into its system.

In October 2023, Apple came out with its series M3 Pro and M3 Max chips. Since I’m not a gamer and I’m not producing cinema-quality, feature-length movies, I ordered a new Macbook Pro with the M3 Pro rather than the M3 Max. 

The speed at which this MAC OS operates is amazing.  

  • Startup takes only 10 seconds and it only takes 30 minutes to recharge the computer up to 70 percent. 
  • In terms of surfing the web, I have been using the Brave browser for ad and tracking blocking for about four years. Over the last two years, Brave had blocked 2.2 million ads and trackers, saving me massive amounts of time required to download all those annoying ads, popups, and trackers. (To see how Brave compares to Chrome, Duck-Duck-Go, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Safari, visit Brave.com.)

Consequently, I was surprised to discover that even the most ad and video-packed sites loaded in only one second. 

  • In terms of large files, it took one minute to download 15 videos of 30-55 minutes in length from Backblaze backup drive onto my new laptop (6 gigs of data). Approximately 300 audio podcasts of 20-50 minutes in length (54 gigs of data) only took four minutes to download. 

Contrast this to the 1.5 days it took to load all my original data online to Backblaze back in 2020, and that was with a minimal amount of video. 

Aha moment: Sometimes what you think is a catastrophe is merely a detour to something better that’s waiting for you. 

Health is everything

2023 was the year that my brother, my husband, and I had seven surgeries among the three of us, not to mention multiple CAT scans, MRIs, x-rays, and a PET scan. I also took a nasty fall in Tokyo disembarking from our cruise ship and am facing another surgery to repair the damage in early February. 

2 daily mantras

When you’re faced with serious medical dilemmas, it can be difficult to keep a positive outlook. I’ve been using the two following affirmations daily and they work:

  • “Everything works, nothing hurts, it’s a good day!”
  • “My body is in perfect harmony and balance at all times and under all conditions.” 

Also, in terms of gratitude:

  • “Be thankful for the ordinary day.” 

When it comes to medical challenges, most people fall into one of two camps. For the first group, their medical problems become the entire focus of their lives. The second camp views whatever problems they’re facing as something to get through but doesn’t allow those challenges to keep them from enjoying their lives as fully as possible.  

While we all have problems, do you really want to spend your time around people who are constantly grumbling about everything that’s wrong with them or would you rather spend time with people who have an optimistic, positive outlook on life? 

Aha moment: Surround yourself with positive, optimistic people. It makes it much easier to face life’s challenges. 

Make budgeting for healthcare emergencies a priority

I had a major concussion at the end of 2018 that cost me half my hearing and still impacts my balance today. Unfortunately, my internist and the other doctors in his group were so booked up due to the holidays that I could only be seen by a P.A.

Fortunately, my chiropractor, acupuncturist and audiologist helped me get through those first difficult months when I couldn’t hear, drive or even bend over to unload the dishwasher. 

A year ago, my internist decided to go into concierge medicine. His caseload went from over 1,200 to 450. The cost? $500 per quarter over our current insurance costs. It has been a godsend in terms of dealing with the issues we have faced this year. 

Aha moment: Concierge medicine is worth every penny.

Galleri

Currently, there are only five recommended screening tests for cancer today: breast, colorectal, lung (for those at risk), cervical and prostate. 

When the carrier of my husband’s whole life insurance company invited him to take the Galleri test at no charge, he decided to do so. Galleri is a first-of-its-kind, multi-cancer early detection that looks for a signal shared by 50+ types of cancer with a single blood test. 

When the results from the Galleri test came back, there were two potential issues. Our doctor ordered a repeat of the first test. One of the two issues was still present, the other was not.

This is where my concierge physician jumped into action coordinating all the scans and required tests to identify what’s going on. It was a relief to know that he had his full attention on these issues.

The great news is that we have an early warning of what could be wrong and where to look. 

Aha moment: Early detection matters. While the Galleri test can miss certain cancers and sometimes has false positives, this cutting-edge technology is well worth the $800 they charge for the test. If you have a history of cancer in your family, you’re a smoker or you have any other lifestyle factors that put you at risk for cancer, speak to your physician about arranging for this test. 

The year I learned how money really works 

I’ve spent the last 18 months working on my investment site designed to help both women and men be smarter and understand how they can use real estate investing to build intergenerational wealth. That journey led to the following aha moments about how money really works. 

The power of compound interest

The term, “compound interest” refers to adding any interest you earn back to your original principal. This leads to exponential growth over time. As someone once observed (and frequently misattributed to Albert Einstein), “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it. He who doesn’t pays it.”

“The Law of 72” shows you how long it will take your money to double using compound interest based on the time and the rate of return (ROR). This is an exponential curve. For example: 

  • ROR is 5 percent (72/5 = @14.4 years)
  • ROR is 7 percent (72/7 = @10 years)
  • ROR is 12 percent (72/12 = @ 6 years).

For example, if you have $100,000 that pays 12 percent interest (standard for many real estate debt funds), you’re earning $1,000 per month. To take advantage of compounding, invest the $3,000 that you earned quarterly back into your original investment. Here are the returns:

  • Five years: $101,222 earned in interest and your investment will be valued at $261,222, a 101 percent return.
  • 10 years: $332,407 earned in interest and your investment will be valued at $552,407, a 332 percent return. 
  • 20 years: $1,688,178 earned in interest and your investment will be worth $2,028,178, a whopping 1,688 percent return.

Aha moment: Look for debt funds, crowdfunding, or other investments that allow you to grow your investment using compound interest. 

What refinance lenders don’t want borrowers to know 

Did you know that when you obtain an amortized mortgage on your home, you will pay 50 percent of the interest during the first 10 years of the loan? 

This is why lenders love to have you refinance your mortgage, because they not only collect points and fees upfront again, but you will also pay 50 percent of the interest on your new amortized mortgage during the next 10 years.

In many cases, refinancing will result in paying almost the same amount in interest as your original principal amount at the time of purchase. 

Aha moment: Whenever possible, avoid refinancing. Instead, apply for a home equity line of credit (HELOC) where you only pay interest on the amount that you borrow against your credit line. 

A shocking ‘secret’ almost no one knows

If you have any credit card debt, take steps to get rid of it as soon as possible. Do this by taking the following steps:

  • Pay cash, use a debit card, and/or pay off your entire credit card balance monthly. 
  • The fastest way to pay off your debt is to use the “avalanche method” where you pay off the highest interest rate debts first. 
  • An alternative strategy is the debt snowball method where you pay off the smallest balances first. 
  • Regardless of which approach you use, when you pay off the first credit card, add the amount to the payment on your second card, and then repeat the process with the third card. 

Aha moment: I just learned about this a few weeks ago. The credit card companies are not only charging you 28 to 31 percent interest on your credit cards, but they are also compounding the interest on your debt daily. This means that your balance at 28 percent doubles every 2.5 years. Credit card debt is the most costly type of debt that any consumer has. 

As you begin 2024, take some time to reflect on your personal and business aha moments from 2023. Next, ask yourself what action steps are you willing to take to improve your business, personal life, and well-being. 

Happy New Year!

Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,500 published articles. Learn about her new and experienced agent sales training programs at BrokerageUP.com plus her latest initiative to help women build wealth and secure their financial independence at RealEstateWealthForWomen.com 

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