Good Things and Shitty Things

I could’ve said, “the good with the bad”. Whatever. “Good Things and Shitty Things” is more funny and the good with the bad is played out.

I have many good things happening in my life, but I also have a healthy smattering of shitty things dotted throughout too. Without the shitty things, I wouldn’t appreciate the good things, right?

Let’s look at what is happening with the recent college admissions scandal. Talk about having an overabundance of good things, and it all blows up in your face and turns shitty. Can you even imagine thinking you were admitted into *insert prestigious university here* and feeling good about your personal achievement and then discovering it was all a sham? And your reality simply crumbles to dust? And who you think you are is not who you are?

All because someone thought, above all else, how things “look” is more important. The word, “look” being defined here as “social status”. There are more someones in our world that think how things “look” is more important than how things “are”.

As a result of this perception, people fall into the unconscionable zone and offer wads of money to other people to forward the “how things look is more important” group think.

This bad behavior has been accepted and occurred for generations. Cycling over and over…unbroken…until last week..at least for a little while..until it begins again in a deep, underhanded and malicious manner.

Oppositely, can you imagine having all the requirements for admission into *prestigious university* and you aren’t admitted? The takeaway here is “you aren’t good enough”. An admittance system you thought you could trust and depended on isn’t real. Shattered by privilege. And the cycle remains unbroken..until now..and things will change and policies will change.

Everyone that has been to college or is going to college or is in college is affected in some way by this. Everyone.

And the someones that think “how things look” is more important will think twice about cheating the system.

And so we revisit the importance of the delicate balance between the good things and the shitty things. The shitty thing has now possibly become a good thing. Funny how things work.

“There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.” – Thich Naht Hanh

What, no rainbows?

What, no rainbows?
I was hoping to wake up on this first day of 2019 with a smile, rainbows shooting through the window and sprays of confetti, (hooray, it’s a new year. whoo-hoo, 365 days to do it right) but instead I woke up screaming and crying from a nightmare saddled with a crick in my neck and a headache.

I reflected on my New Year’s Eve and began to process last night’s clearing ceremony where I burned (literally – see featured photo) away all the things I don’t wish to carry with me into 2019. Apparently, my subconscious started processing all the stuff while I was asleep.

The Dog Remedy Approach
Anyway, forging ahead and being the positive person that I am, I made a pot of coffee and thought, “All I need is a long walk outside with my dog. It’s warm and sunny. Let’s get rid of this physical manifestation.”

I walked the dog for 40 minutes. It was hot and the sun hurt my eyes and the jarring of the walk made my head hurt even more and I cried.

The Holistic Approach
I considered taking a few ibuprofen, but instead, I decided to go holistic and I pulled out my yoga mat, incense and singing bowl. I flipped to the yoga station on Pandora and round and round the Pandora logo went. No wi-fi. I took a deep breath, flicked the wifi slider off and back on. Waited. No wi-fi. I restarted my phone and wondered what I would do for music with no wi-fi. I decided to do yoga without music and my patience was running thin. I turned my phone back on and after I “forgot” the network and “remembered” it again, my wi-fi sprang to life.

Meanwhile, my dog sprawled on my yoga mat cleaning his paws. I said, “Eli, get off the mat” and he looked at me like, “yoga mats are for dogs too” Lick.

The yoga session went well. “Nowhere to go. Nowhere to be” was today’s mantra. The next thing I knew an hour had passed and I was lying in savasana. I gave myself 5 minutes for meditation. I was successful for approximately 30 seconds until I decided to be finished and turned over on my side to push myself up. I hesitated, closed my eyes and watched the swirling colors behind my eyelids. God, I hope everyone has swirling colors. If not, then I’m certifiably mad. My main swirly was a deep magenta. I concentrated on my magenta and managed to go deep (with no intrusions) for at least two minutes. Success! Hip openers and twists are the perfect medicine for muscle tightness and I felt relaxed, but my headache was worse.

The Modern Medicine Approach
My holistic approach worked to a lesser degree than I anticipated, so I sucked it up and downed 3 ibuprofen. And 20 minutes later the pain edged off.

The Assessment
In an effort to put the good things in my pocket and throw out the bad things from 2018;  I decided to take a stress inventory to assess where I sit on the “stress” spectrum. The following is taken from the Holmes Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale. You get points for certain stressors. The scale assumes a time period of 12 months. In this instance, racking up points isn’t the goal.

Here we go! 

  • Divorce or ending long-term relationship (12+ yrs.) ~ 73 pts.
  • Death of close family member other than parent (step-brother) ~ 63 pts.
  • Death of close family member other than parent (pet) ~ 63 pts.
  • Change in financial state ~38 pts.
  • Change in living condition ~ 24 pts.
  • Change in working hours/condition ~ 20 pts.
  • Change in residence ~ 20 pts.

My Score: 301
300 & up: Major Life Crisis; 80% chance of stress-related illness

The Growth Approach
About 1/3 of stressors on my list were self-imposed. Although the points still dropped for the things I made happen, I was also hyper mentally prepared for them, ergo not as stressful. I had to disrupt my life in order to orchestrate great change and growth. The focus now is how I choose to react to my stressors. I choose to tend to my new garden of friends, relationships and goals and balance them (as well as I can) with smiles, love, wit, careful thought before I speak, exercise, meditation, money management, simple living and clean eating (not all the time because that’s boring).

And biggest of all, forgiving myself.

SO, PAIGE

It’s OK to have a less than stellar day even if it is New Years especially after the shit show that was my 2018.

All the things ~

Paige

 

“Joy”eux Noël

Think of moments of past, present and anticipatory joy. The barely containable joy. The kind of joy that finds you grinning from ear to ear. Bubbling inside. The cusp of orgasm happy. The kind of joy that occasionally shows up and in my case is synonymous with experiences like the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World or stepping off the plane in Paris or being side-swiped and swirled by a manta ray while scuba diving. You know the feeling. The kind of joy that steals your breath and leaves you perceptibly trembling.

Is joy fleeting and occasional? Is it required that we feel joy only when something out of the ordinary is happening or because of something?

Like simply waking up feeling safe, secure, worry free, stress free with nowhere to go (for the moment). It happened to me this morning. My dog was watching as I opened my eyes – patiently waiting for me to wake up and play with him. I felt unabashed joy that lasted throughout the day and into the night. Damn, I’ll take it. What a great feeling (and no mood altering substances were involved).

Or it could be that I love all the pretty holiday lights.

Or I’m excited for what 2019 has to bring.

Or it could be that I’m excited for the winter solstice (longest night of the year) and the days will begin to get longer. AND this year’s winter solstice coincides with a full moon AND the Ursid meteor shower. On the eves of December 21-22, go outside and look up and experience joy and delight at the amazing celestial event (that will not occur again until 2094).

Is it possible to experience joy in simple day-to-day things? I believe, “Yes, it is possible, but it takes inner work”. Lately, I’ve been meditating more often and it helps me be more present. When I am present, I am happy.

Do you want to have a go at meditating?

Try my favorite meditation app: Insight Timer

Enjoy,

Paige

Smashing the Glass Ceiling

Last week, I dropped by my SIL’s office for birthday hugs. During the mini-celebration, SIL mentioned she had something in the car for me, so we walked outside together and she handed me two articles from wealth management.com. This event is good for two reasons.
1. A financial adviser likes my blog. Win. 
2. I got a second hug.

While I was driving home, I scanned the articles (who reads and drives? raise your hand.) and smiled to learn that Edward Jones is joining the ranks in female upward leadership mobility.

On January 1, 2019, Ms. Penny Pennington will become the first woman to lead Edward Jones. We (women in finance. women in general. my SIL and I.) are excited to see her step into the managing partner position at Edward Jones. Not only is she taking the leadership position at one of the most prestigious brokerage firms in the US; at 55 years old, she is defying the ageism ink-blot. Read the article from the Ten to Watch section of wealthmanagement.com here.

It’s a hopeful time for women, especially for gender-parity in workplace leadership. I am witnessing huge punch-throughs in the glass ceiling. Women are doing smash-n-grabs all over the place and I’m jumping with joy. I don’t believe for a nanosecond that the ability, talent, passion, will and intelligence to effectively lead was ever absent from the female collective. What I know is that the establishment didn’t believe or want to believe that a woman could lead and lead well.

One of my first experiences with adulting and misogyny shook me to my core. I watched this exceptionally talented woman get passed over for a VP position at an insurance conglomerate. It was terrifyingly clear she was perfect for the job, but of course, it went to a cross-eyed dolt with a bad haircut. She walked out as a result and I admired her courage, but how it happened stayed with me. I watched this type of thing occur over and over through the years.

On a positive note, throughout my career, I’ve noted small incremental changes for the better. One wee victory comes to mind. A few years ago, a co-worker of mine did the unmentionable. She was a graduate of a top notch university and her male predecessor (who had the exact same position) was also. They both had commensurate experience, so I’d say equals in every way.  She discovered his beginning salary was more than hers. This brave, young woman jumped the invisible boundary of salary silence and convention and approached the CEO with the data in hand. Yee ha! 

These small little wins have a created a wave and a resulting fluidity. Women are empowering women and thank goodness, men are empowering men to empower women. Of course, small steps, but it’s darn good to see value and inclusion for women not only in the home, but in the workplace.

Paige

 

Learning to say, “No”

Over Thanksgiving, my daughter was home from uni and she asked me to go somewhere and do/buy something. I don’t exactly recall where she wanted to go or what it was she wanted to do, but I remember my reply.

My reply was a big, loud (slightly hesitant) “No.”

Most of the time, she gets a “maybe”. And the maybe inevitably turns to “yes”.
“No” has not been my typical response in regards to my daughter. To my surprise, in the last 7 months or so, “No” has been popping up more frequently. It feels good to say, “No”.

What an empowering word, “No”. Women are socialized to be gracious and compliant and accommodating and quiet and accepting and all the other words that connote suffocation and suppression. Even to their children. 

Last month, I talked to a friend (who reached financial independence in her late 40’s) and she gave me stern advice to “close my wallet”. To paraphrase, she said, “it’s time for you to stop being nice and be the parent. You will never get ahead if you continue to put your kid in front of you. Yeah, your kid wins, but you will be the loser in the long run.” Gulp, those were tough words to hear. She is right and I needed to hear it.

And so it goes. Yet another thing I’m learning on this weird journey is the power of “No”. I’m not advising to go around saying, “No, No, No” like a 2 yr old, but if something isn’t serving you or won’t serve you in the future, then consider a “No”. You will be plenty surprised how easily your “No” will be accepted ( By most. It will make some people angry).

Actually, it sucks saying “No” to my daughter. It pains me a little, but she (we) are adjusting to our new normal. When I said, “No” to my daughter that night, I was pleased to hear this response…”living the life of former rich girls”.

Yes, we are. Yes, we are and I am stupid happy about it.

Paige

Be the Exception ~Know your Net Worth!

What is net worth and why is it important?

The official definition of individual net worth: Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

If your assets are more than your liabilities, then you have a positive net worth. If your liabilities are more than your assets, then you have a negative net worth. 

Negative Net Worth Horror Story
There was a time (most of my adult life) when I had a negative net worth. At 21, I got my first fancy job, financed my first (new) car and acquired my first credit card. All this courtesy of producing my undergrad diploma for the credit card company and car dealership, respectively. In hindsight, I think this was some predatory shit for a kid just out of college. I financed the car and I maxed out the credit card. 

Girl with zero financial literacy starts her life here…

Car loan: $15,000
Maxed out credit card: $3,000
Let’s look at the numbers:  $0 – $18,000 =  -$18,000.00.
Voila, at 21 yrs old, I had a negative net worth. Not a fantastic way to get started is it? I know this is nothing compared to the amount of debt people are entering adulthood with today, but it was alot for the time.
(As soon as I drove that car off the lot, the value of the car was immediately less than how much I owed; therefore upside down. Bitches.)

Which brings us to the importance of knowing your net worth and smashing your debt OR never acquiring the debt in the first place. Now is the time to start talking to your kids about finances. Unfortunately, financial literacy is taught at home and most American’s are not literate (I’m not an exception) and the cycle of overwhelming debt continues. The negative net worth horror cycled on for years, but I had a lot of stuff that I didn’t need and the Joneses were impressed. I tried to keep it dialed down, but oddly, the people around me wanted me to have more things.

Positive Net Worth Success Story
In the ensuing years, I’ve never purchased a new car again and I never will. Cars to me are instruments to propel me from point A to B. Nothing more, nothing less.  I do wonder what it would be like to be able to plug my smart phone into the car stereo? Is it nice? 

What are assets? I don’t think that’s a dumb question.
Cars (paid off)
Savings accounts
Checking accounts
Investment accounts
Life insurance
Gold or Platinum
Artwork
Good Health (quantifiable? maybe not, but still)

I’ve worked my way into positive net worth because I own my car, have property (for now), artwork, investment accounts and no credit card debt. (There is some question if property should be considered in the net worth formula. I’m on the fence there.)

And guess what? My positive net worth led to a positive self-worth. Win Win. Everyone gets a snickers bar.

What’s my point? As long as you have debt overshadowing your assets, you will never tip the scale in your favor to wealth acquisition, financial freedom and the thrill of it all, compound interest. 

The 3 M’s recommended financial planning tool – Personal Capital
Among the many tools I use to steadily trod the path to financial independence, knowing my net worth is, by far, the most useful.

To help you discover your net worth and thread it into your daily life, below is a free financial tracking tool/app called Personal Capital. I like watching the app update on my phone in real time with pretty colors and fascinating bar graphs. I’m such a nerd.

Easily link all your financial accounts to the app and like magic you will see everything in one place.  The Personal Capital features include:

  • Net Worth
  • Transactions
  • Cash Flow
  • Budgeting
  • Portfolios
  • Holdings & Allocations
  • Investment Checkups
  • and more…

Sign up for a free Personal Capital Account here!

Have fun! 

Paige

The 3 M’s is using a referral link to Personal Capital.

Step Away from Black Friday

Hey, You! This Friday. Before you step out to your car or bus or train…Stop for a second. 

Ask Yourself… Do I need it? Do they need it?

  • Is what I think I need worth fighting the traffic?
  • Is it worth driving all over parking lots or up and down streets searching for a parking spot?
  • Is it worth standing in an infinite check-out line, or possibly even camping out on Thursday night at Best Buy?
  • Is it worth dealing with the utter bullshit?

Maybe, if you like that kind of stuff. Personally, I’m OK with standing in lines. I peer into people’s grocery carts and wonder about their meal plans ~ trying to get ideas or when I’m standing in line at the airport, I study people’ attire and their carry-on’s and try to figure out if they are going north or south, east or west.

Oppositely, I’ve seen people go OFF when they have to stand in line and it’s not a pretty or enjoyable experience. How a person behaves while waiting is a choice and I choose to be entertained or entertain myself.

“Wait!” you may ask yourself.

You just said, “Don’t go out on Black Friday because of the lines,” and then you said, “You are OK with lines. Stop being confusing.”

My line acceptance philosophy is simple. I am in line for a necessity 90% of the time. (The other 10% is under consideration for a different post. 😐)

I’m not subconsciously mad because I’m spending money that I don’t have or don’t want to spend because it’s a cultural norm and expected of me.

One year, I happened to be in Manhattan on Black Friday with the kids and I shudder when I think back to that day. Firstly, the entire population of the world was in mid-town and we had to hold hands like a chain gang to avoid being swept away by the crowds. We walked by the Plaza Hotel. I think the Plaza is beautiful and I wanted the kids to see it. Unfortunately, PETA was there too. The kids didn’t see the Plaza because their eyes were melted by gigantic, terrifying posters of animal cruelty. Everybody has an agenda including PETA ~to ruin kid’s positive holiday memories.

We escaped to Central Park and spent the rest of our afternoon climbing rocks and enjoying the peace and quiet.

All that to say, think again. Do you really need whatever it is? Do they really need whatever it is? Is it a good deal or are you getting sucked into the hype?

Lastly, consider going for a walk or playing a board game or making turkey soup. Whatever it may be, but step away from Black Friday and enjoy what Thanksgiving was originally meant to be..and that’s time spent with the people you love. 

Paige

Bye, Bye Secret Elitist Club for Boys!

I surprised myself and downloaded the Bloomberg news app a few months ago. In the past decade, I only paid real attention to money when I wanted to travel. I saved my mileage reimbursement checks from my job and I hacked credit cards as a means to an end. (Travel hacking tips and techniques coming soon. It’s no secret and not hard if you follow a few easy steps). I get caught up in the now and didn’t think I would live this long anyway.

I’ll admit it. Money conversations made me trail off until about two years ago. I don’t recall any financial literacy classes being held around the dinner table when I was growing up. Money was this elusive thing that men mostly had and controlled. 

How things have changed for the better. Saturday, this pops up on my phone from Bloomberg, “The Most Powerful Woman in Investing Gives a Rare Interview”. Click. Consumed like a freshly cooked marshmallow on a campfire.  The most powerful woman in investing. Let me type that again. The most powerful woman in investing. God, that felt good. Her name is Abigail Johnson and she is the CEO of Fidelity Investments. 

She and Kathleen Murphy gave the above-mentioned interview to Bloomberg Markets and discussed a few hot topics in investing right now, but what caught my attention was this absolute zinger. 

“We’re in the midst of a $22 trillion shift in assets to women, because of longevity, because they’ll outlive their spouse, because of divorce, whatever. Second, and related, 9 out of 10 women will be the sole decision-maker in their household on their finances at some point in their life, either due to the death of the spouse, divorce, or because they stayed single over the course of their career.
If 90 percent of women have to have some understanding of finances and feel confident about it, how can we help women investors get the confidence? We know women are absolutely just as good as men at investing when they actually take the step. We’ve proven that, and they’re actually slightly better.” – Kathleen Murphy, Bloomberg.com

You know what they did? This summer, they changed the game and offered the first two zero-fee index funds and became the first in the industry to eliminate all [investment] minimums and account fees; then the third thing, which is probably the most influential on the market, is the reduction [in the number of share classes] of all of their index funds.(paraphrased)

BOOM! They took away the barrier to investing and most importantly the mystery. There is a confidence gap in investing for women and robo-advisors are allowing women to do their research and plan their long term goals without having to sit across from some financial advisor in a room full of TV’s with tickers running full force at the bottom of the screens.

Ladies, investing isn’t for the privileged male anymore. It’s for all of us!  

Check out Fidelity and Vanguard’s personal investing robo-offerings. The digital experience is pushing the entire industry to make the whole investment experience easier. 

How exciting, huh?

Paige

Brush with the Dalai Lama

My younger self read a book called, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”.  At the time, I was interested in reincarnation and death, (Whatever. Isn’t everyone curious about how we are going to exit?) so I hunted the book down and sat in my room and read it. It was a grueling slog of a read and I don’t think I understood most of it. What I did I get out of the book was an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and the mystery of the Lamas. Seed planted. 

Many years later, my friend and I scored free tickets to see the Dalai Lama at Florida International University. We jumped at the chance.  As I watched him walk onto the stage, I was so excited I think I lost my breath for a second. His presence was “light”. He was not distracted. He was singularly focused on the moment. He was delightfully happy and giggled a lot. I was inspired and in disbelief to have been in his presence for a hour (while he made fun of the American educational system in front of all the fancy, Hogwart’s robed professors who sponsored his talk at the University. Damn, the balls there.) He was like the honey badger. He did not give a “shit”. 

So, here is the crux. My friend and I were walking back to the car, chattering animately about our experience of a lifetime. We were at a crosswalk and then a limo turns left not five feet in front of us. We look and there he is…waving like mad and smiling at us. We waved back and said, ” Hi, Dalai Lama!” My friend and I were the only ones at the corner. It’s not like we were a huge crowd waiting to see a glimpse of him as he left. We were two people and he gave us more love in that moment than I’ve ever received from a stranger. He shared his love as if we were family. 

That moment has been my place setting for who I want to be in my life ever since. Happy, present, authentic and smiling. As a result of this encounter the first thing I did was to begin detaching myself from the desire for material things.

That was 21 years ago. Now, I’m the opposite of a hoarder. 

Want to take a baby step into minimalism? Go into your closet. Pull out all the things you haven’t worn in the last year. Take them to the Goodwill or a domestic violence shelter. And level up the donation by not telling anyone.

Paige

Yeah, Ally! Thanks

I woke up to a notification that my online savings bank, Ally, increased their APY (Annual Percentage Yield) from 1.8% to 2.0%. Ya’ll, that’s good for a savings account. 

One key action to achieving financial independence is an emergency fund. If you are anything like me, you have a back up credit card sitting in a drawer somewhere that’s dedicated solely to emergencies. This is an OK idea, but only on one condition.

What’s the condition? You plan to use the emergency credit card as a placeholder only for one billing cycle. If you don’t plan to pay off the balance, then you can be subject to a double cascade of issues. The first being interest payments on the money and a credit utilization change to your credit report. Double whammy!

What’s the solution? Open up an online savings account and build your emergency fund. The general formula for a fat emergency fund is six months of expenses.

For example, say you are a party of “2” and your combined monthly expenses are $2,500.00.  A reliable emergency fund amount (in case your car blows up or you lose your job) is $15,000.00.

“What?,” you might declare, “$15,000.00 is a shit load of money.” Yes, it is.  Agreed, (but doesn’t having $15,000.00 in savings sounds deliciously comfortable?)  Start. Ally Bank has auto-transfer, so you can set that up and the cash magically moves into your savings account without you having to touch it. 

Ally Bank has a good track record of APY increases and this year has increased their rates 10 times. 

So, THANKS, ALLY for helping my money make money. (isn’t that why we are here?)

Paige

VAN LIFE BY DESIGN

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Retired in 2013 at age 33. Life is Good.

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