Mt. Whitney Hike – A Rarefied Experience

July 6th, 2011

A Rarefied Experience:
My Mom passed away Jan. 10 of this year and that ended the Cancer Warrior Moms time period that spanned three years. If you remember my Mother-in-law also fought her brain cancer and passed away a year and a half ago and with universal timing working perfectly one month later my Mom moved in when she could no longer care for herself having been fighting the war for the last three years. So in Feb. with an upcoming big birthday in April I decided to do something BIG. So I asked my three hiking buddies (my husband and two other husbands of camping/hiking friends) if they wanted to hike Mt. Whitney this year. They all said yes and I put in for the lottery.

The Mt. Whitney hike can be done in one day and is probably one of the most amazing one day hikes around as it goes up to the top of the highest peak in the continental US. Mt. Whitney stands a little over 14,500 feet. I won the lottery!!

June 29th was the day given to us to hike. One of our A-team members dropped out due to a medical issue. We started our five month long training hiking mostly every weekend and doing P90X workouts 3-4 days a week during the strength building push.

During the training we all had to upgrade our hiking boots to waterproof ones and we also added sweetfeet inserts as the down part of all the hikes were grueling on the feet. And to our great surprise, this doable one day hike, turned into a full mountaineering trek due to the more than normal snow accumulation this year. At one sports shop I was asking about the little attachments to our boots for not slipping on ice. The technically savvy guide asked where we were going and then showed us these “crampons” with 10 points measuring over 2.5 inches long each and said we’d need them. He also handed me an ice axe and said I’d need that too. I ask why? He said “to arrest your fall.” I did a double take, turned to my husband and informed him that I didn’t sign up for any fall I needed to arrest!!

Well keeping an eye on the Whitney blogs, reading and researching as much as we could we eventually did procure crampons and ice axe and scheduled hikes in the snow so we could “practice” with crampons and hiking poles, crampons and ice axe, hiking poles alone and then the looks-like-fun-but-dangerous glissading. Glissading is sliding on your butt over the softer snow on very steep slopes with an ice axe, anchored to your wrist, used as rudder and definitely learned the flip over to stomach, self arrest and not go flying off any cliffs!

In the last weeks up to the trip we hiked Mt. San Gregornio, Mt. Baldy, Rock Creek, went to Mammoth to acclimate, and all the ascents we could around the Pasadena, Malibu, Topanga, and the drivable local mountains.

Going up a few days early to acclimate and do a few other high altitude hikes we felt very prepared. I was drinking coco leaf tea of the kind that was given to us in Cusco, Peru as a remedy for altitude sickness nonstop. Also, Maca is a Peruvian root used for hormonal health that is also used to treat altitude sickness. I was determined not to get sick! We hyper hydrated, ate a lot to build up our stores and then at 1 am on the morning of June 29th, we set out with our 20 pound packs.

We heard that 6,000 calories are burned during this one day trek and after experiencing it I’m sure that’s an understatement. Reports from other folks and from our informal question asking at the ranger station about 20% of those granted permits made it up to the top that week.

I can no longer call it a hike because it was so much more than that. A hike doesn’t usually got up, over, through, many mountain sides, multiple meadows, cliffs, ice fields, snow chutes longer and steeper than any double black diamond ski run I’ve ever been on. Now I say journey (ordeal sort of matched but had more of a negative connotation) and I’m sure I didn’t get up my self. Not only were my hiking companions helpful but with that much time to think and work and experience mountain highs (literally) I know beyond a shadow of doubt that we had help from God/Universe/Mother Nature to get us safely up and down. The experience changed each of us, we are no longer the same person who started up that mountain range.

So we accomplished a great goal and have been feeling the rush of it as well as being exceptionally tired since we returned. I’m also experiencing a sort of lull as I’m thinking “now what?”

I did put together a video and put it on youtube (you can find it if you search for “Ragan Whitney”) but the link is posted above. That was fun and therapeutic.

Oh, I have a new word, mantra:
Rarefied – this means
the air of high altitude, less oxygen
belonging to a select group
a grand purpose, lofty goals
of high moral or intellectual value
esoterically different from the concerns of ordinary people

Tax Liens Earning 16% WOW!

March 9th, 2011

I have been interested in tax liens for years now and have been on and off learning about them as well. The real estate gurus claim that there are so many liens that go unbidden for and can be picked up easily and earning are so much higher than any bank is playing and much safer because they have real estate backing them up. That is not entirely true in my opinion.

I am an occassional dabbler in tax liens and last year I attended “virtually” a tax lien auction held by Maricopa AZ county. I was able to purchase a couple tax liens and locked in earnings from 12% up to 16%. I was hoping for property but over 90% of all liens in Maricopa as most other counties pay off the liens for property especially since the value of the liens is typically a very low percentage of the value of the property. Even in these times of real estate as the lowest values in years! At the tax sale most of the liens went for 0% which is something I would understand if the purchaser is thinking they have a higher chance of getting the property. Otherwise, why would anyone want to tie up their money for 0%??

Well it’s been a year and all the liens have paid off. So for a year my money earned from 12 to 16 percent interest. Pretty good I think. I also am planning on continue to dabble in the tax lien process and think this will be a nice way for us to spend some time during our retirement. Picture this – us in our diesel RV traveling around the US visiting friends and family and beautiful sights. Everyonce in a while we hit a county near it’s auction time and do a bit of online research and filtering then visit some important properties and bid at the auction. Then we can keep rolling a portion of our invested money into higher interest bearing investment devices. Plus we will be visiting a place with a purpose and the trip will then be tax deductable! Whippee!!

I have a great guide on “Tax Lien Reality Not Fluff” that is available to you. Please contact us on the Contact page and we’ll get you the info.

How many people do you know that have actually purchased a tax lien? Do you see it as a good investment vehicle?

Ask LA Times for a Discount

March 7th, 2011

Our house gets the LA times daily and we are automatically billed our renewal each 8 weeks. The last billing, I noticed, was more than it typically is. We’ve been LA times subscribers since 1988 and for the last year our bill was running $48 but this last amount was $57.60. I went online to find out why and looked into other billing options. I found the following:

Los Angeles Times subscriptions:
everyday for 52 weeks was $155.48
Sunday only for 52 weeks was $52
Four days (Th-Sun) for 52 weeks was $78

When I called to ask why our amount was increased I was told that their costs were going up for publication services so all the costs were increasing. The told me I was getting the special discounted rate for long time subscribers of $7.20 a week for everyday service. I then asked why I saw different costs on the website and was put on hold for a moment then the agent said that he could offer me a special $2.99 a week. Now for you math-challenged that amount is $4.21 less each week which adds up to $218.92 a year!! I asked why I wasn’t offered this amount before since I was a “good long term customer” and is this lesser amount only for new customers? No I could qualify especially since I’m a good customer. I poked for other things not yet said like it is really seven days a week that I get the paper delivered? Is the special for only one week? etc… I couldn’t find anything. The only thing is this is a promotional rate good for six months although the 52 week price is listed as well. So if you want to lock in the lower price for 52 weeks (one year) then you have to pay it up front. Still the best deal around that I can find.

But I then went just a bit further down the “going green” path and asked about the four day a week price. They offered me at first $3.75 a week for 4 day (Thur-Sun) then when I spoke to the 4-Day a week specialist I was quoted $2.50 a week a discount off the regular $3.50. Funny how the prices are a bouncing ball huh?! I then brought up the web price of $1.50 a week and was then offered that. What?! This from a company I’ve been in business with since 1988!! I would have immediately hung up on another company believing they were a bunch of crooks with their changing prices!!

Bottom line, I switched to the 4 day a week delivery service and prepaid for a year in advance (I hope the company doesn’t go out of business) for the grand total of $78 for the entire year!! We will be reading the other three days newspapers online.


Financial Freedom = Financial Sucess?

October 11th, 2010

Most people think that financial success is a very visual thing with a high paying job, house in an expensive area, driving expensive cars and spending lavishly on vacations, parties and anything and everything else. But really, does SPENDING money like that mean financial sucess?

Most often not. We have seen this over the last few years. Those people who were on the “top” of the neighborhood silently disappear after the economic downturn and they somehow were not able to hold on to some of their assets. Some lost their homes in foreclosure and short sales and some had to move to lesser digs so that they could then unload their heavy chains of debt loading them down. These folks didn’t do what almost all financial advice says to do as one of the first or second steps. Build up several months of emergency funds to pay for all expenses in case the money stops coming in. Well when times are tough you must have savings to lean on.

Also with real estate I found it very troubling that all the real estate seminars promising that if you follow their directions (and buy into their courses, programs or plans) then you can’t help but get rich. But real estate must be treated differently than any other more liquid investment. If you can’t find a renter and the market values tumble then you have to have that holding emergency source of cash to stay with the long term plan for the long term. It’s also no time to then listen to those gurus telling you that you should have listened to them and gotten out. I believe real estate is a long term investment. I never really bought into the short term get rich real estate methods. That was just too risky because you have to have the staying power if you can’t get out when you wanted to. So since you have to plan for the long term why not work the plan into your nest building?! So take this lesson deeply into heart – real estate is a major investment and you must have a lot of emergency money set aside just for each property.

I love the book the Millionaire Next Door.

In this book you find out and based on research that the average millionaire is someone you don’t think is a millionaire. They don’t waste money on those visual things that most people associate with being wealthy. They buy used cars and drive them ten years, they don’t waste money on super fancy clothing with star studded name brands, and they make it their first priority to pay them selves first! This means that for every dollar they earn they put aside a percentage (at least 10%) into their investments. They learn to live on much less than they earn and this is the real difference. The more you save and invest the faster you will get to financial freedom.

As for Financial Freedom, what does that mean to you? To me it means that you have been investing and have passive income coming in that is equal to or more than your expenses. See this as math problem PassiveIncome minus Expense equals Success
So when Passive income equals Expenses you no longer have to work although you probably still want to do the work that you love. But you get to choose. The second term expenses you want to keep at a minimum, expecially fixed expenses since those can’t be changed as easily. In the Millionaire book you find that Millionaires are somewhat “cheap” (an outdated term if there ever was one) meaning they don’t want to part with even a dollar unless it makes sense. Looking at the math term above if you can keep expenses low then the passive income needed for your financial freedom is that much lower and more easily attainable! Isn’t that reason for doing that?

Bottom line, our country needs to change their perception of financial success, learn about passive income and make saving and investing in our future the number ONE priority!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Please comment and share. Thank you.

Millionaire Mind Intensive Graduate

May 22nd, 2009

I’ve got a millionaire mind!!  You have a millionaire mind!!

I say yes, I say yes to SUCCESS.

Having withdrawals from the MMI?  Click here and listen to this…

Did you get your jars yet?  Try World Market, they have a large selection.

World Market Jar selection

World Market Jar selection

To your success

MMA Users Log – Monthly Maintenance

April 14th, 2009

If, over time, your MMA action plan all of a sudden loses all the action plan entries please notice when this occurs.  I believe it may occur every so often.  There seems to be a small problem when the Heloc payment date becomes several months delayed.  In the Accounts section you edit the Heloc you will notice a payment due date.  That date was many months past when my action plan “lost entries.” 

I used the great, new feature, CHAT, and within seconds a nice gentleman names Jason was asking how he could help me.  He found the problem and updated the next due date to the months end and voila’ everything was fine and dandy after logging off and then back in again.  I asked if this will happen again and he said maybe depending on how quickly that can be fixed.  Meanwhile, if this happens to you then just update the heloc due date and it will correct itself.

Remember, you never have to make a payment on your heloc since your income is getting deposited there.

Have fun getting out of debt super fast!!

Attention AAA Members – Must Do This Now!!

March 30th, 2009

To all AAA members a new benefit is available.  Please sign up immediately.  This service would normally cost anywhere from $15 to $30 a month.

Note: excerpt from recent letter from AAA…

Keeping an eye on your credit—and your identity—has never been more important. As a AAA member, you now have the tools to do both with free CreditCheck® Select* identity theft monitoring included with your membership.

Although free of charge, you must enroll online to take advantage of this membership benefit. There are no hidden charges or fees.
Enroll now and receive Identity Theft Monitoring:

* One Free online Experian® Credit Report
* Free daily monitoring of your Experian Credit Report
* Free email alerts of key changes to your Experian Credit Report
* Free Fraud Resolution Support
* AAA Premier® members receive the additional benefit of $10,000 in identity theft insurance** provided by Virginia Surety Company, Inc.

If you’re worried about identity theft, go to to enroll.

Extra Money? What’s better – save more for retirement or pay off your mortgage?

March 18th, 2009

Is your Mortgage longer than your Career?

So you think you are doing fine, you have extra money each month, you are saving pre-tax 401K money for retirement and you are making your mortgage payments and every once in a while putting more into the principle.  The question comes up – what to do with the extra money,  should you put more into your mortgage or should you put more away for retirement.  I would say that most people think they should be putting more into savings but oftentimes that is incorrect.  The fear is more real because remember no one is going to give you a loan for your retirement and with what we keep hearing about social security going bankrupt at some point in the future the fear that we will have to live with the kids and eat top ramen each day surfaces.

One of my clients had that same question and we ran an E-Trades Retirement Quickplanner and came up with this interesting scenario.  Carol (name changed) earned about 90K in salary, has about $220K in retirement and savings.  She has 26 years left on her mortgage but is 13 years away from retiring.  She has about $500 each month to decide what to do with.  She is already putting about $500 a month into her 401K.

In this first picture if she spends the $500 and doesn’t save any of it then she will have a shortage of retirement funds in the amount of $193K



Scary, I know.  Let’s say she decides to plow $500 more dollars into her retirement accounts each month.  What will that do to that shortage?  Well the shortage drops to $99K.  Better but not good enough.


Okay, let’s back up a bit and put that extra $500 into paying the mortgage off.  With United First Financial’s MMA system that 25.6 year mortgage will be paid off in less than 13 years so Carol will go into retirement without her $1500 mortgage payment (expenses lowered to $3250).  Look at that!!  Carol no longer has a shortage but now she has a surplus of $110K

 This was so clear for Carol’s situation (I’m not saying this is what everyone should do).  Using the UFirst MMA her mortgage will be paid off before she enters retirement and so her largest expense will be eliminated and her retirement savings will be able to stretch and cover that much more.  Carol is a firm believer now that she is on the MMA.








The Credit Card Stupor

March 2nd, 2009

Why do folks use their credit card and then not pay the bill off when the statement comes in?  They look at that minimum payment and maybe make a bit more than that amount.  Then when they finally hit the wall and cut up the credit card because they are so in debt they start using debit cards.  These are the cards that immediately remove the money from your checking account.  Most folks don’t know what’s wrong with this.  Why do folks think that is the only way out of their predicament?

Debit cards seem to work for some people.  I think that’s because they get immediate feedback on what they have.  I think we need to change the way credit cards work.

1.  We can no longer allow credit card companies to list a minimum payment amount unless they also state how long it will take to pay off the existing debt at that payment amount.  That should help people know that if they make such a low payment they are going negative and they will be paying for a very long time.

2.  There should be an easy way for consumers to find out the negative balance on their credit cards.  A text to the company should give them the amount owed for the last cycle and the current balance charged.  Then customers will know what they have already charged.  Come on, the Credit Card companies already know what the balance is as soon as that charge card box calls for the approval.  Then consumers would know their balance owed but will have the ability to keep their money in their accounts until the balance is due.  That is good money management.  Debit cards do not carry the charge card protections and so are more dangerous for illegal activity.

Credit cards when used properly are a smart use of credit and are valuable in emergency situations.  Read more about the 4 steps to Financial Freedom.

Success From Home has featured United First Financial and the Money Merge Account System

January 29th, 2009


Success From Home, from the publisher of Success Magazine, has featured United First Financial™, and it’s Money Merge Account® program as its cover story in the February issue, available now.

This highlights the unquestioned credibility of UFirst™. Folks will see, on national newsstands, the outstanding opportunity.

Just think, pay off your debt quickly, and help others to do the same.  Everyone benefits.

“I think people have to learn how to earn, save, invest and then be philanthropic.  What the Money Merge Account® does is it gives people insight into what their habits are.  As a society, we’ve become used to consumerism and spending — maybe even overspending.  The Money Merge Account helps you realized when you’re spending too much.  For most of us – myself included – it’s a wake-up call.”  – Mark Victor Hansen.

“What we’re trying to do is conquer the world of debt – because debt is causing the paralysis of the world.  United First Financial’s Money Merge Account software is going to change the world because if we could have done it, we would have done it.  But we haven’t yet – until now.  Even with as much cash flow as I have, and I have much more than most, I still have debt.  The software helps me see that, instead of [paying] 30 years on this piece of property, I’m on schedule to pay this off in 12.2 year and potentially save $639,000.  I did not realize that until I used the Money Merge Account program.”  – Mark Victor Hansen

If you’re interested in joining the mission to help others get debt free and build wealth, visit our website: And the rest is up to you.