My Radio Islam Interview + Special Offer

I was recently interviewed on Radio Islam regarding the books I’ve written:

  • Open the Door to a Wealthier Life: discusses personal finances, money management, how to invest, what halal investment options are available, etc.
  • Ultimate Beast, Ultimate Battle: a book about tigers and wildlife conservation.
  • Bilal and the Big Bully: an entertaining children’s story that discusses dealing with bullies.

This was my first time doing something like this, but it was a lot of fun and a good learning experience. I hope this interview inspires others to also pursue their passions and make their goals a reality, whether it’s writing a book or something else.

Additionally, in celebration of this, I’m offering my money management & halal investing course on Udemy for free. However, this offer will expire on December 31st, 2017. You can enroll in the course at no cost using the link below:

A Muslim’s Guide to Mastering Money

Enjoy!

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Online Course Launched – A Muslim’s Guide to Mastering Money

I’m excited to announce that today I launched my first online course. This is the perfect solution for those who prefer an audio-visual learning experience over reading a book.

My goal with this course is to help students invest and build wealth the halal way, have control over their finances, buy real estate with as little as 5% down and without paying interest, and have a solid retirement plan.

There are plenty of books and resources out there that teach how to invest, how to manage money, how to plan for retirement, etc. But how many of these are specifically designed for Muslims living in Western countries? This course addresses that issue and is presented in an easy-to-understand manner.

Check out the course at:

https://www.udemy.com/a-muslims-guide-to-mastering-money/

Meet Wahed – Your Halal Robo-Advisor

Investing can involve a lot of work, with the investor having to research stocks, review financial statements, and check out various financial ratios to ensure that the investment is a wise choice. For a Muslim investor, it can involve even more work to make certain that the investment is halal, or Islamically permissible. For example, before buying shares of stock in a company, a Muslim investor has to check if the company’s core business clashes with Islamic principles (i.e. an alcoholic beverage company), and confirm that the company doesn’t have too much leverage (i.e. debt).

There are some of us who want to invest and grow our wealth by putting our money to work, but don’t exactly have the time or desire to do the research required. One option is to hire a financial advisor and pay them a commission to do the work. Yet another option, and one that is growing in popularity, is the use of robo-advisors.

In short, the investor provides the robo-advisor with some information — such as time horizon and aversion to risk — and the automated advisor will then apply algorithms to determine what mix of investments would be suitable for this investor. It will then apply the investor’s funds to that investment mix. The investor won’t have to worry about buying individual stocks or paying a brokerage fee for each trade. The robo-advisor essentially does all the legwork.

Pretty cool concept, huh? Even cooler is that there is now a Muslim robo-advisor called Wahed. As with other robo-advisors, the investor provides information and Wahed will come up with an optimal portfolio of investments. The beauty is that Wahed will automatically filter out certain industries like gambling and alcohol, as well as interest-based investments like conventional bonds.

Depending on your risk assessment, Wahed will allocate your funds accordingly. For example, if you want to take a more conservative and safe approach, the majority of your money will be invested in fixed income investments. This is referring to sukuk, or the Islamic equivalent of a bond. The return on investment won’t be very high for fixed income investments, but they are far less likely to lose value and at least protect against inflation.

On the other hand, if you are young and want to take a more aggressive approach to investing, more of your money will be invested in equities. This will include stocks for medium and large corporations, plus dividend-paying stocks. A good portion of money may also be allocated to commodities, which refers to metals, agricultural products (i.e. rice, grains), or raw materials. These types of investments are more volatile and will see more price fluctuation, but provide the potential for higher gains.

wahed

Of course, using a service like Wahed is not free, but will likely cost an investor less than a human financial advisor. The nice thing is that Wahed “wraps” all fees related to investing (i.e. investment advising, transaction fees for buying/selling) into one fee. If you have less than $50,000 US invested with Wahed, it will charge a management fee of .99% annually, which is in line with the management fees of many mutual funds. There are cheaper robo-advisors, but they are not designed to filter halal investments.

If you have more than $50,000 invested with Wahed, the management fee will decrease, as low as .29% annually. To give you an example, if you invest $1,000 with Wahed and the total value reaches $1,100 by the end of year one, Wahed will take the total asset value of $1,100 and deduct .99% to cover its fees for managing the account. In this case, that would be 1100 * .0099 = $10.89.

If this sounds like a good investment service for you, check out Wahed’s website to register and fill out the assessment form to get started. If you are new to investing and want to learn the basics, check out my Kindle book, The Stock Market Made Simple.

Dangers of the Rear-View Mirror

When driving, the rear-view mirror serves an essential purpose. It gives you visibility to what’s coming up behind you so you can be aware, be prepared, and take appropriate safety measures.

In life, though, sometimes we use the proverbial rear-view mirror a little too often. Some of us may look back at times in our lives when things weren’t quite so good. Maybe we grew up poor or faced some other difficulties. Maybe we felt held back, that circumstances prevented us from reaching our full potential. Things may have been unfair or unjust. Perhaps we wish things turned out differently.

While some of those feelings may be perfectly reasonable, the problem with looking back too often is that we can get stuck in a mindset of the past. Either consciously or subconsciously, our mind can become too focused on negative aspects of our lives, unable to look and move forward.

My suggestion is to review those past circumstances to see what can be learned from them, but then decide to let them go. The fact is that we can’t change anything that happened. We can’t time travel in order to alter past events and make our present day lives something else. We have to work with what life has given us and deal with the present situation as-is.

Instead of becoming stuck in the past, I recommend forming a clear picture in your mind of the life you want now. Focus on this picture and have a determination to achieve this life, and you will naturally take steps towards that goal. Have faith that you will be able to achieve the life you want. But if you spend too much timing looking in the rear-view mirror, you may inadvertently drift back to the life you once had.

10 Easy Tips to Improve Your Charisma and Get Ahead in Life

Let’s face it. People with charisma — that special personality trait that attracts others to them and makes them likable — seem to get ahead in life. Whether one is interviewing for a job, making a sales pitch, giving a talk, or networking at a social gathering, charisma increases the chance of success.

I’ve long believed that charisma is a trait that one is either born with, or not. However, after doing some research, I’m a little more open to the possibility that the average person can build charismatic qualities. Following are 10 tips to increase your own charisma:

  1. One of the most important aspects of charisma is to be genuine. People will eventually see through insincerity, so strive to be true to yourself. There’s no substitute for honesty and integrity.
  2. Improve eye contact when speaking with others. This can be challenging for introverts like myself, but a little practice can really help you make a connection with other people.
  3. Smile. There’s nothing quite like a warm, natural smile to connect with someone on a deeper level.
  4. Have a firm handshake, but not an aggressive one. Your hand should be vertical, and you should maintain eye contact and smile. Don’t use the handshake as a power play or an act of machismo.
  5. Improve your posture. If your shoulders are slumped forward and your face is looking downwards, you won’t exude power or confidence. Stand up straight and tall, shoulders naturally back, with a somewhat wide stance.
  6. Whoever you are speaking with at the moment, make them feel like the most important person in the room. Show interest in what they are saying and ask open-ended questions. Aim to improve your listening skills rather than formulate your response while they speak.
  7. Compliment people. Compliments should be specific if possible (i.e. “That shirt looks really sharp on you.” vs. “You look nice today.”). More importantly, compliments should be authentic. If you toss out compliments like candy, you may come across as desperate or like you want something from the other person.
  8. How something is said is just as important, if not more so, than what is said. Have the correct tone of voice and body language for that specific occasion.
  9. Enhance your voice. We are largely stuck with the voice we have, but you can bring out the best of what is available by breathing deep into your belly via your nose and breathing out slowly through your mouth. Reduce the intonation at the end of your sentences so people don’t falsely assume that you are unsure of yourself. Project your voice as best as you can, depending on your environment. Your tempo should be slow and measured, with pauses for important points.
  10. Pause. Don’t underestimate the power of the pause. It can make you appear more thoughtful, and it gives your listener a chance to absorb what you just said. It can also add drama or power to what you say next. If someone asks you a question, pause for a second or two before replying.

There are also a couple of interesting points I’d like to make. One is that a person’s level of charisma can fluctuate on any given day, so it’s not fixed. The other point is that one can be both introverted and charismatic, so introverts shouldn’t feel that they will never have the charm of an outgoing person.

I still think there is a natural level of charm that some people have that cannot be learned, but the tips above will enhance your charisma and hopefully help you move up in life.

Investroo: Invest Without Compromising Your Values

If you’d like to invest in the stock market but feel overwhelmed by the task of sifting through myriad stocks to find one that’s ethically- or Islamically-acceptable, fear not. A new tool is on its way — Investroo.

What is it? Investroo is not another online brokerage like TD Ameritrade or E*Trade. Rather, it’s a mobile application that provides investors with an interface through which to browse ethically-sound stocks on U.S.-based exchanges.

Investroo does the legwork of screening out companies in certain industries (i.e. alcohol, casinos, weapons) and based on financial data (i.e. highly-leveraged firms). The launch version of the app will only display compliant stocks, although a future version will allow users to subscribe to a non-compliant stock and be alerted if/when that stock becomes compliant.

The app will categorize stocks by sector and by social theme, making it easy to find a stock you’d like to invest in. And because it’s app-based, you can invest anytime, anyplace. Trades are expected to be just 99 cents each.

What’s more, the app will enable investors to purchase fractional shares. So if you want to buy stock in, say, a tech company whose stock price is over $100 per share, no worries. Investroo will allow you to purchase a fraction of a share for as little as $5.

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If you’re not quite ready to throw cold, hard cash into the stock market, the app will even feature a simulated trading environment in which you can practice and build a virtual portfolio. Look for Investroo to launch this fall. Sign up for updates at investroo.com.

To learn more about investing in the stock market, check out my e-book The Stock Market Made Simple on Amazon.

Got Goals?

Goal-setting might seem like a dreaded chore, but not having goals is like driving with no destination in mind. Goals provide direction in life.

When it comes to setting goals, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Vague goals, such as “I want to get in shape,” are not likely to materialize. On the other hand, if you have a very specific goal, like losing 10 lbs., then it’s much easier to identify the individual actions needed to reach that goal.

Furthermore, writing down your goals creates commitment. Having a document you can refer back to regularly will remind you of what you’re working towards. Otherwise, goals will be out of sight, out of mind.

Goal-setting should be taken a step further with deadlines. If you wish to simply accomplish a goal “some day,” that day may never come. By setting a deadline, you will feel a sense of importance and (healthy) pressure and begin taking the actions that lead to the realization of that goal.

Here’s another way to think about it… If you work a normal office job and spend 8-9 hours at the office, don’t you (consciously or subconsciously) spread out your work during that duration? Now, what if you had to get your work done in 4 hours? It would force you to prioritize your tasks and work more efficiently and productively…and it would leave you with more free time to do the things you actually want to do. In essence, create a sense of urgency.

All the best in achieving your goals!

What’s Health Got To Do With Wealth?

It’s a fair question. To me, it boils down to two things:

  1. Staying healthy can help one be more productive in his/her work, with the energy to keep going and the mental sharpness to come up with ideas/solutions.
  2. Having good health allows one to enjoy his/her wealth and all of life’s activities.

If you happen to spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer for work, whether at home or at an office, below are some tips you can apply right away.

  • Stand up at least once an hour. Stretch your arms and legs, and take a deep breath.
  • Move your eyes away from the computer screen every now and then. Look at something at a further distance than your monitor to let your eye muscles work.
  • Set up your computer/desk/chair ergonomically. Maintain good posture by sitting up straight, keeping your feet flat, and looking straight ahead at the monitor instead of tilting your neck up or down.
  • Try to eat a healthy lunch to avoid the afternoon slump. Keep healthy snacks as well, such as nuts and berries.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Limit your caffeine intake; green tea will provide a less harsh dose of caffeine than coffee.
  • Take a walk after lunch, preferably outside if weather permits, as you get fresh air and sunlight for Vitamin D production.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator for a good leg workout.
  • Park further away to increase your walk to/from the office.
  • If you need to speak with a coworker, walk over to his/her desk instead of e-mailing/calling.
  • While not necessarily related to physical health, avoid negativity and gossip. Positive energy.
  • Maintain good hygiene to avoid the cold/flu. Wash your hands and occasionally clean clean desk.

Give it a shot. Hopefully these tips will help increase your productivity, energy, and quality of life.

Muslim Investor – eBook Series Launched

I’m excited to announce that I just launched a series of bite-sized eBooks. Currently there are three books available:

  • The Stock Market Made Simple: This is the perfect primer for anyone who wants to learn the basics of the stock market and how to get started, not to mention how to analyze stocks and identify halal investments.
  • Let’s Make Some Money: This has ideas for making money on the side and launching a business, such as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
  • Planning for Retirement: This is a guide to retirement planning. It has info on 401(k)s, IRAs, Traditional vs. Roth, etc.

The best part is that each one is only 99 cents and available for immediate download in Kindle format. If you don’t have a Kindle, no problem. Amazon has a free Kindle reading app for many devices.

Check out the series on Amazon.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) as a Business Opportunity

I recently began looking into Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) as a business opportunity. It sounds like a good way for someone to start a home-based online business while utilizing Amazon’s large customer base and distribution network.

How does it work? One would first choose a product to sell. It should be something you have familiarity or expertise with. If you’re unsure of what to sell, you can look at Amazon bestsellers in a category of your choice. From what I’ve heard, products costing $10 to $50 tend to be ideal choices. Think about what you’d buy online versus what you’d buy at a local store. Lightweight, simple products seem to be a better choice. If you try to sell something high-tech or expensive, it could prove to be more difficult in terms of customer service & satisfaction.

After deciding what you want to sell, you have to find a supplier that can make the product on your behalf with your own branding. One option for finding suppliers is to use a site like alibaba.com and look for Verified/Gold suppliers.

Suppose you want to sell gourmet coffee. You can do a Google search for “private label coffee supplier” or something similar. After interviewing suppliers and choosing one, you’d have to acquire their label template file and design your brand label (or hire someone to design it using a website like fiverr.com). The supplier would then produce the product with your label and ship it directly to Amazon.

Then you need to set up a seller account on Amazon, which does have a monthly fee. Plus, there’s a fee for storing the items in inventory. Amazon would store the product in its warehouse, and ship to customers after they purchase online. Amazon takes care of the grunt work, essentially. For their work, Amazon takes a commission, or cut of the profits. Thus, the product must be priced to account for your cost of manufacturing + Amazon’s profits + your costs for having a seller account.

To market your brand and product, you can use social media and offer free samples to people. You can’t explicitly ask for product reviews in exchange for free samples, but product reviews will help with visibility and ranking on Amazon’s site, and it helps build credibility for your product. Also, be sure to have high-quality photos of your product on Amazon’s selling page, and verbiage that specifies what benefits the customer will receive by purchasing your product.

I have not personally tried Amazon FBA. However, it sounds interesting and I’d like to look into it further. This is just a primer of what it is and what it entails. You can learn more at this link. If you have experience with it, please share your thoughts.

If you’d like to learn about other money-making opportunities and how to invest and build wealth in a halal way, check out my book: Open the Door to a Wealthier Life. It’s available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.