March Challenge – Learn!!

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

-Earl Nightingale
Photo by Andrian Valeanu on Unsplash

It can be easy to fall into a rut when you are working hard every day just to get all of the required chores done. In fact, you can get so buried in the day-to-day tasks, that you forget there is MUCH more to life and to being alive than just getting through the day. One of the most amazing things that our human brains are capable of is learning and synthesizing new information, When we stop learning, we can find our lives become boring and uninspired. Growth and development does not stop when our bodies finish those awkward teenage years, but it continues in our minds for every day that we are alive.

The challenge for March is to find something new to learn. Cold winter months seem to drag on forever, and the darkness and poor weather can really take a toll on your perspective. The spark of a new interest is always a great way to counteract these moments in the doldrums. Is there something you have always said you wanted to learn? Make it as simple or as complicated as you like, but try to choose something on which you can make good progress within the month of March. Perhaps you know someone who already is an expert at your chosen conquest. If so… Wonderful! As an added bonus to this challenge, you can reach out and grow your personal relationship by asking them for help in your new learning adventure!

If you do not know anyone with the required skills, there are other ways to learn. Of course, you can take a formal class (at a college, local community program, library, or even the local craft store often has many courses), though formal education is not often at the top of the list for those running a busy household. (See Education is THE WAY). Luckily, we all have access to the internet in some way (even at your local library) so YouTube is at our fingertips! The internet is so expansive, you can find a wealth of instructions (both good and bad, so beware) on almost any topic you may be thinking of learning. If nothing immediately jumps out at you as something you always wanted to learn, here is a list of ideas:

  • Baking bread
  • A new language (try https://www.duolingo.com/)
  • Coding (try https://www.freecodecamp.org/)
  • Piano, guitar, or other instrument
  • Photography/Photoshop (you probably have a camera already!)
  • Crochet/Knitting
  • Using a sewing machine
  • Cake Decorating
  • Budget making (sneaking that one in….)
  • De-cluttering/listing items for sale online
  • Dancing
  • First Aid/CPR (check your local Red Cross)
  • Investing (prudently)
  • Minimizing your carbon footprint (try myplasticfreelife.com)
  • Yoga/Tia Chi
  • Swimming (try your local YMCA)
  • Scrap-booking
  • Healthy eating/Portion control
  • Weight training/Exercising
  • Art – Pottery, Drawing, Painting (Bob Ross: The Art of Painting is on Netflix!)
  • Score keeping for your favorite sport (like baseball Franklin Sports MLB Baseball/Softball Scorebook)
  • Morse Code or American Sign Language
  • Effective writing skills
  • Canning/Jam or Jelly making

There are so many possibilities, this list only hopes to serve as an inspiration. Feel free to comment if you have suggestions that you think could inspire others!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


From the Ashes

“I no longer feared the darkness once I knew the phoenix in me would rise from the ashes.”

-William C. Hannan

Things fall apart.  It is almost inevitable that when something begins, it will eventually end.  It may seem to be pessimistic to think in that way when you are just beginning something new. Your budding venture will likely be absolutely fabulous and well worth all of the effort you put in, despite the fact that it may eventually end.  If, instead, you are on the tail-end of your adventure, simply remembering that all things ultimately come to a close is a very pacifying and calming thought.

The worst endings, it would seem, are the abrupt, unexpected endings; the ones you never see coming and that hit you hard like a right-hook.  Even though long and drawn out endings can be excruciatingly painful in their own right, at least, when there is writing on the walls and some foreshadowing of what is about to come, you can prepare yourself, get your feet set, and then wait for impact.  Abrupt endings don’t allow you time to prepare. Because of this lack of preparation, it can seem that you fall even farther down when the unexpected endings occur. If you find yourself already in this unfortunate position, you can read about some tips to start working your way through in this associated post, aimed at helping you start to rebuild.

Women in our society are often told to be reliant on their surroundings instead of on themselves. This can lead to serious problems when their surroundings start to crumble, with seemingly nowhere to turn for help.  There are a few basic things that everyone should be doing, even when things are going well, simply because it is always good to have the basics covered. Having a bank account in your name only with a bit of funds, reliable transportation that you own, necessary documents organized in a way that they are safe and easily accessed,  hands on knowledge of your debts and payments, and a support group not affiliated directly with your relationship are all things you can do to ensure that, no matter what happens next in your life, you will be starting above “ground zero”.

Bank Account:  Whether it is a divorce or separation from a significant other, a death, or needing to disconnect from other loved ones that are causing you harm, money can be a huge barrier.  It is not suggested that you have “hidden funds” necessarily, but there is no reason that a significant other should be offended by you having your own bank account.  In the event of death or separation, these funds are not tied up in the chaos and are accessible for you to maintain your life.  If a loved one does not want you to have this type of security account, it would suggest that there is an underlying flaw in the relationship and should cause a red-flag in your mind.

Transportation:  An inability to leave a situation because of a lack of transportation is a terrible feeling. You don’t need to own your own car if you live in a city where public transportation is reliable and readily available, but, if you live in a more rural area, having a car in your own name would be preferred.  A car registered to you and of which you hold the title is ideal. This will limit anyone’s ability to claim that the vehicle is “their property” and therefore allowing law enforcement to be involved should you wish to leave. 

Organized Documentation:  Having a vehicle in your name is absolutely useless if you don’t know where you put the Title of Ownership.  It is very important to have a single place where all of your important documents are kept.  Your best bet is at a bank in a safe-deposit box, but sometimes this solution is not a practical one.  Alternatively, you could invest in a small, portable “fire safe” as a great way to keep everything together and safe.  Having two small individual safes (instead of one large and cumbersome safe) can be a good reason to keep your items separate from your partners.  Keep your vehicle titles, birth certificates, social security cards, and passports for you and your children, any savings bonds, travelers checks, or emergency cash, and other things you might find necessary, in your safe. (A quick search on Amazon will give you a lot of options, like one of these… SentrySafe 0500 Fireproof Box with Key Lock 0.15 Cubic Feet or First Alert 3031F Deluxe Locking Steel Security Box.)

Knowledge of Debts:  It may seem easier to have one person in the household handle all of the bills, but it is also a setup for potential disaster.  If your loved one is handling all of the bills and something should happen to him, you will have no way of knowing how to pick up where he left off.  In a more confrontational situation, you may find that a family member or significant other has run up debt that you are not aware of, but since you let them handle the bills, they have been able to hide the deception until they disappear, leaving you holding the bag.  It is best to always know about all the bills and debts in your household, and working on these things together can add a lot of clarity and bonding to an already strong relationship.  Again, if your partner does not want to share these items with you, it should be a huge red flag that there may be more going on than what you see on the surface.  Find out what they don’t want you to know, and find out quickly.

Support:  Having friends or family that are not directly affiliated with your relationship is beneficial in many ways.  Having these outside connections will add interest to your daily life and, as a bonus, you will have more things to talk about with your partner and friends. This will add to the richness of your conversations and relationship.  In the event that something tragic does occur, you will have friends that you will know to be “in your corner” right from the start.  Not knowing who you can trust can be a real issue at the end of a relationship, and having these reliable friends and family who will not have loyalty issues to contest with will be real life saver.

It is always the hope that what makes you happy today continues to be what makes you happy into your old age.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Instead of putting yourself in a situation where you have no way out of bad circumstances, or no way to handle things on your own if something changes, take the time NOW to make your life a bit more secure.  This way, if something goes wrong, you will be ready to rise from the ashes like a phoenix instead of sitting among the rubble of a crumbled life.

TAX TIME!!!

“A penny saved is worth two pennies earned . . . after taxes. ”

-Randy Thurman

Another year has passed and it is time to get your paperwork in order so you can file your tax return. It can be an exciting event for those of you who expect to get a refund, or an incredibly stressful one if you are worried about how much you might owe. This year, with the new tax laws in place, a lot of people seem to be feeling more hesitant than anything else, since it can be a bit hard to sort out if the new laws fall in your favor or not.

Talking with your trusted tax consultant will be the best way to sort out those concerns… And, while you are there, make sure that you ask her about the W-4 form you currently have on file with your Human Resources department at work. While many of the new tax laws took effect in the last year (2018), they were not all in full force until now, and some of those changes could have a bigger effect than you might expect. The IRS (anticipating the confusion that these changes would bring) has created an online calculator to help sort out what your new withholding number should be. The webpage where you can find a link to this calculator is https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator . Be sure to read through the page instead of skipping right to the calculator, and then be prepared to set aside about 20-30 minutes for this task.

It seems that, if you do not have dependents, things may not have changed much… but if you do still hear the pitter-patter of little feet running through your home, the new numbers will now look sort of bizarre…. as in, “15 allowances for a single mother of three who files as Head of Household” kind of bizarre….! Because you want to have the right allowance number, having a helping hand from your tax professional will certainly be important. If you think about it, when you send too much money to the IRS every paycheck (by having the wrong number of the allowances selected on that W-4 form you have filed with H/R), you are giving the government an interest-free loan for up to, or more than, an entire year… Just imagine how many people do this year after year, and how many earned American dollars are “loaned” to the government in this way! Would the government be willing to give you a loan with the same 0% interest terms? I doubt it.

It seems irrational, then, to be excited about a large tax return. In some (rare) situations*, it may be beneficial for you to let the government take your money and hold it until you ask for it back in your tax refund. In every other case, it is better to NOT give the government your money…. but instead, to get every penny of your hard-earned cash in your paycheck and, at your own discretion, work it into your budget or save it in a bank account. Most banks have savings accounts specifically for Holiday Funds, Vacation Funds, and the like. Then, you can control when and for what it is used. At the very least, put it into a CD or a Series I Bond (where the government pays you interest to borrow your money from you) for a year instead… Or, an even better idea could be to invest it in a mutual Bond Fund or (if you’re more daring) a Total Stock Market mutual fund and let it grow.

It may be less exciting next tax-season when you only get a small tax return or owe a tiny bit of money at the end of the year, but it is important to get this part right. You are perfectly capable of managing your household, and having access to ALL of your money is paramount when you sort out your budget. It is a good lesson in controlling your own destiny, and it will be empowering to know that you are saving on your own terms, and earning interest, for the rest of your life.

*This rare situation may be that you will use the extra earned money each month to ruin your life…. Perhaps by digging yourself further into debt because of a gambling problem or by using the funds to purchase illegal substances… Ask yourself “If I have some spare money, will it get me into a lot of trouble?” If the answer is YES, then, by all means, let the government keep your money! Really, though, short of these unlikely circumstances (readers of this blog are very dependable people!) there is no reason to let the government hold your money for free!

The IRS notes the following:

IMPORTANT NOTE: This Withholding Calculator works for most taxpayers. People with more complex tax situations should use the instructions in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. This includes taxpayers who owe self-employment tax, alternative minimum tax, the tax on unearned income of dependents or certain other taxes, people with long-term capital gains or qualified dividends, and taxpayers who have taxable social security benefits.  (The calculator won’t determine the taxable portion of your social security benefits, but if you estimate the taxable amount (e.g., using the worksheet in the Form 1040 instructions), you can enter that into the calculator as other nonwage income so that the calculator can take it into account.).

!!GUEST POST!! – The Best-Laid Plans…

Sometimes, in writing a blog, you find connections with people you would have never had the pleasure to meet otherwise… people that have read your posts and find a common sentiment, and when you read their posts, you are inspired to do better in your own life. ENTER BaggyPop !!!

I was fortunate enough to meet BaggyPop in this exact way! Blogging about a minimalist lifestyle, BP captured my interest, and I reached out to find out what got her started on this life of wandering and keeping only limited belongings. My own constant battle against all the “stuff” needs a good injection of inspiration now and then, and I hope BP inspires you as well. Her story was so in-line with my normal topics, it seemed an obvious fit for my very first Guest Post! Please read, and then visit for more content from BP… don’t forget to like and follow BaggyPop at https://www.baggypop.com/ .

The Best-Laid Plans: A Story of Life Planning That Went Off the Rails And Some Thoughts On Handling It

Wasn’t it John Lennon who said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? I think that by the time you’re in your 50s you’ve experienced this “life gets in the way” first hand at least once (and most probably more than that). And you find yourself in a place you didn’t set out for, with people you didn’t know you would be with, doing things that you couldn’t have imagined…I think you know what I mean here.

You might look in the mirror and ask yourself what a nice girl like you is doing in a life like this. I know I have.

Here’s my story of where I am now, vs where I used to be. Have you been in a similar situation?

I used to be a family of three living in a farm house on 100 acres of land. It was the usual happy chaos of kid’s craft projects, big meals with friends, dog hair everywhere, tools and gadgets, winter coats and boots in the messy mudroom, stacks of library books and mail in every room, computers and assorted hardware, laundry and unmade beds, a crowded refrigerator…you get the picture. Lots of people and things and energy. A joyful brimming cup.

Then in 2005 our child graduated from high school and moved on to start her adult life. In 2006, shortly after moving to a smaller and less cluttered home I lost my husband to a lengthy debilitating illness. And in 2008 the dog died. Within the span of only a few short years I became a single empty-nester.  And did I mention that I also had to close down the family business around that time as well?

Yeah, good times. My late husband and I had spent years building a purposeful life for which we were so grateful, and now I was standing alone trying to connect dots that weren’t there anymore.

So what to do? Well, the brilliant thing is that we humans have a tremendous resilience if we choose to tap into it. Which I did, both during those difficult years and afterwards. And I’ll bet you can too. And it doesn’t hurt that I have a sense of humor and lots of great people in my life who love me (and you probably do too!).

These “life breaking” situations are very very hard. But there is always light at the end of those tunnels, trust me! Think of a difficult time like this as a transitional phase and not a stuck place.  I’m in my mid-50’s and finding myself moving away from the big things I’ve built* in those previous chapters and on to new adventures with new schemes and new people to love. I’m taking the best of the past along with me and folding it all into a rich unknown future.  

And you can too!

*(Quick note from NYX at AStar… this is a constant thought of mine… that all of this hard work will be behind me someday, and it will no longer be the important part of my life… I know it is a matter of stages of life, and peaceful existence is in my future… Oddly enough, the thought of how I will handle the peace is a little bit terrifying!)

Thank you, BaggyPop , for your story and your inspiration!  Let me know what you all think of her post!

Cost vs. Benefit

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

Lao Tzu

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

There are times that we find ourselves backed into a corner, where we are FORCED to act (or react) to stop something from acting upon us against our will.  In these times, we NEED to react, and we need to do so quickly and with clear intentions.  But, sometimes we feel like we are backed into a corner, and it seems like imminent danger is looming, but really, the threat is undefined and not actionable.  These are the times when we need to take a step back and sort out the truth of what is going on. 

It is possible that you are working in a very “good” job, with acceptable pay, good co-workers, and decent enough benefits, but something just doesn’t feel quite right. Your fight or flight responses are being activated on a daily basis.  You can’t really tell why you are not at ease. The monster has no shape or size, but you can tell it is looming just out of sight.  This is when practicing patience is paramount. 

If you are raising kids on your own, maybe the monster isn’t really even at your workplace.  It may be that you don’t quite like how your supervisor spoke to you about the presentation you handed in, but it is actually the feeling of dread that NOT having this job has created at that moment when you feel inadequate.  Maybe raising your kids alone makes you feel trapped at this job, and you feel like you have lost the ability to be your own advocate for fear of losing this “good” job.  Work is not the monster, and the supervisor is not the monster, but it is in your own mind, maybe as your ego or your fears of not being good enough.

It is in these cases, when you cannot clearly define the monster that is plaguing you, but it still keeps plaguing you day after day, that it is best to pause.  Use a sick day or vacation day (or maybe even two) and remove yourself from that work environment.  See if the monster is still just out of view even when you are not at work.  The source of the stress needs to unfold itself and you need to face it so the fear of the unknown doesn’t keep growing. 

If the issue does not dissipate when you are taking your days off, you need to start examining the life you have built to see if it is being stunted from growing.  Nature has a beautiful way of unfolding and opening up, and nature flexes its force on everything, even you!  Just before a flower bud starts to unfurl, there is a lot of tension holding it all together.  But the flower does not have conscious thought and is not scared of what is about to happen or whether it will be beautiful. It just…. Opens… and then IS a flower.  We build our lives in a way that we are never allowed to really open up and become what we could be… to fulfill our potential… because often times we find something that is “good enough” and we are too afraid to relax into the next obvious steps.

Have you been working your way to the top of your department? Have you learned how to navigate the waters at your work place and can bob and weave when obstacles pop up? Do they need you more than you need them? Maybe your creeping monster is your subconscious telling you that it is time to move on to something bigger and better. Maybe it is telling you that you are standing on a launch pad and all you have to do is hit the red button and really take off.  If you have outgrown your location, it is time to start looking around for what else you are ready to try. Bigger and better things surely await, and even being transferred to a more challenging department may be all you need to feel comfortable again. 

Maybe your work environment has become so stressful that you need an escape plan or an exit strategy.  If this is the case, run the numbers and see where you need to be to satisfy your expense obligations.  Certainly, you should not take a step backwards in your earning career, but it is possible that you are outweighing things in your cost/benefit analysis.  For example, if you are paying $300 for child care each month, perhaps there is a job that pays you $300 less per month, but doesn’t require the long hours demanded by your current employer.  If you could avoid the childcare bill, then this change would be a wash, with the added benefit of more quality time with your child.

There are so many different things that fall onto this cost/benefit scale, it would be beneficial to really take a step back and look at each one.  Quality time vs. daycare time; long commute vs. saving time/money working remotely; socking away extra savings vs. missing your son’s baseball games; hiring a tutor or private instructor vs. having time to teach your own children….  These are just some ideas, though others may apply to you and your circumstance better. Maybe earning less money with a part time gig actually turns out to be a wash overall! Taking the time to do this analysis may just allow you to unfurl into the blossoming family life that you always imagined for yourself and your children.

Are there any other cost/benefit items that we all deal with but maybe don’t often think of?

Photo by Lakeisha Bennett on Unsplash

Setting Priorities for the Future-You

The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.

-Isaac Asimov

There are a ton of things you are juggling all at once right now, and an amazing amount of pressure is on you to make sure you don’t drop even one. If you were to drop something, it feels like it might just be the catastrophic end of the world. One of the worst feelings in the world is that of letting someone else down, especially one of your children. With all of this pressure, it is difficult to even consider adding another thing to your plate. It may be fine to continue to do what you are doing, maintaining the “status quo” of juggling all of these things that have now become your whole life. But, keep in mind that there will come a time that the things you are juggling will no longer be the priorities anymore. When that day comes, do you want to be left (likely in middle-age) just STARTING to sort out who YOU are?

At some point, your family will have grown to the point where they don’t need the same things from you any longer. When you get to that point, it would be a shame to find out that, after all the time you have invested in those around you, you don’t even recognize yourself any longer. What were those hopes and dreams you had before? What was it you enjoyed doing again? What kind of hobbies brought joy into your life before? Do you still have the abilities you had back then to do those things well now? Most of the time, we find that we have LOST our connection to what makes us happy by giving all of our time and effort to others.

As we age, our likes and dislikes change very naturally. Usually, though, there are a few activities that really help bring you back to your center. Writing, reading, learning, teaching, painting, bowling, martial arts, playing a musical instrument, pottery, or even knitting are all the kinds of things that often we learn how to do in our youth, but quit doing while we are giving all of ourselves to others. When we come to the point where no one is asking for our every second, we find that we have lost our prowess at these skills. We find that our bodies and our minds are no longer properly trained to do these things that make us happy. When we are not physically or mentally ready, these things that used to bring us so much happiness now cause incredible frustration. Muscle memory has disappeared for your favorite dance moves or you can’t recall how to do your favorite stitch… If, instead, you were able to at least “dabble” in the activity over all of that time, you would be much better prepared to dive in and hit the ground running once you are able to come up for air after raising your family.

It is a form of self-care to maintain your abilities to do these things. And, in this world full of a take-take-take attitude, it is also teaching your family how to navigate life in a healthy way… that it is important to stay true to themselves and to make time to do things that they love. It will also create a life full of meaningful time, less likely to slip past unnoticed. Similar to that odd feeling you get when you are driving home from work and realize you have no idea how you got this far without being conscious of your driving efforts, you don’t want to “wake up” in life already at your destination. It is absolutely worth noticing every moment that passes in your life. When it gets to the point where it has become monotonous and personally uninspiring, you may find that the time is disappearing from your consciousness… That is when you know for sure that you have lost your center. Life has too many amazing things to offer for this to ever happen to you.

If you never really found anything in your younger years that brought you to this center, you should take some time to start searching for what you enjoy now! It adds interest and depth to a life that can be very stressful and repetitive. You do not need to dedicate a lot of time, maybe one hour per week, to this goal.* You wanted to finish your college degree? Take one class, and then when that class is done, take another one. You will be thrilled when the juggling stops and you find that you are so near, or possibly even finished, with that goal. Want to play your instrument again? Get it out and practice one scale each day. You will shake off the cobwebs, start getting your groove back, and possibly even spike some interest in your little ones.

This post is a challenge to its readers. Find one anchor that can help you keep in touch with your center… what makes you “who you are”. What is something that you can do to retain your “self” even during all of the chaos?

*Of course, more is usually better! If you can set aside 15 minutes per day (that adds up to under two hours per week) you can really stay in touch with your center! It’s time well spent. Don’t feel like you have to “finish” anything during this time…. Instead of it just being a quick-fix and then going right back to the grind of life, let your “project” breath and have space in your life!

Design your Life – You have the Power to Choose

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

-John F. Kennedy

One of the most wonderful elements of being human is that we have the power of conscious choice. By not using that power, we limit our potential in countless ways. It seems that many people do not realize that they are choosing to live life in a way that is more stressful than it should be. It seems that most people function at a constant level of baseline stress caused by financial issues. For all of the stress that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, a huge improvement to our lives can be achieved by shifting this baseline stress level down to the lowest point possible. Here are a few quick tricks that you can use to improve your baseline stress levels today.

Categorize your spending and set up your banking system to work for you.

Most people dump their earnings into a checking account at the bank, then proceed to spend that money on their bills and daily wants and needs. Then, at the end of the month, they look at their account to see what they have left to “save” and usually there is nothing left. This becomes a backwards form of “proof” that they are not making enough money to save anything. This “system” of spending money is NOT designed to get you to a better position in life. This is the treadmill of living paycheck to paycheck, and it is incredibly stressful. Instead, take some time to design a spending system that WILL bring you to a better place in life.

Start by deciding how much you would like to save each pay period. For this example, we will consider 10% of your income should be saved (maybe towards a down-payment on a house, purchasing a better car, building your emergency fund, or whatever next step will bring joy into your life). Treat this money like a BILL instead of as an afterthought. When your paycheck goes into your checking account, you must pay THAT BILL FIRST!

Now that you have paid the most important bill first, you should separate the remaining funds into two categories, money for bills and money for living. The easiest way to differentiate these funds is by having TWO checking accounts… one that has an ATM card attached to it and one that does NOT have an ATM card attached. (While bank cards are not ideal, they will limit your spending to what you have earned as long as you tell your bank to refuse over-drafting the account. This is better, by far, than spending on a credit card before you have complete control of your finances.) The account that has NO ATM card is your major bills account. Deposit into that account the exact amount of funds that you spend on your monthly bills. (Not having the ATM card will mean that you cannot accidentally spend the money set aside for bills for any reason.) For example, if your rent is $1000 per month and you are paid twice per month, each payday you would transfer $500 to your bills checking account in order to satisfy the rent for the month. Do this calculation with each major bill (auto insurance, car payment, telephone bill, child care costs, etc, etc.) and do one transfer to the bills checking account for that amount each pay day. Since these expenses stay consistent in most cases, you can set up an automatic transfer of these amounts on payday. The amount that is left after the bill funds are sent is the amount that you can spend. (Remember, you saved for yourself FIRST, so there is no stress with spending what remains.) If there isn’t a lot left, start looking at where you can make adjustments in those major bills (like maybe you can cut the cable bill, find a better phone deal, trade your car for something that doesn’t need a payment or full coverage insurance) and that will free up more cash for groceries, gas, and other things you would like to buy

Spend only what you can afford (the money you have already earned.)

Once you have the system working in your favor, you will find that your needs have been prioritized over the needs of the rest of the world. You are choosing to take care of yourself. In order to get ahead in life, it is necessary to put your financial life first. Now you are saving for your future goals. Make sure you are not spending money on credit cards and running up a balance! If you do not make enough money to live on right now, your options are either to earn more money or to cut your spending. There is no option of putting your wants and needs on a credit card when you cannot afford them. You will have to practice delayed gratification instead, saving money to get what you want. It is usually possible to get creative when you really want something specific (maybe a night out at a restaurant) but you don’t have the money for it. You can sell something you don’t need anymore, work some overtime, find a temporary part-time gig, or wait until the next pay period when you will have enough funds. If you give in to your wants without funding them first, you will always be digging a deeper financial hole that causes stress. You can choose to avoid this hole completely by only spending what you have already earned

Choose an internal dialog that supports your future goals.

You are making a choice to improve your future. This is a life goal and you should be very proud of your choice! Sometimes it can be hard when you see how the rest of the world lives by getting everything they want instantly. Remember, almost all of those people are living with a terrible baseline level of stress because of the financial hole they are digging. You are making a better choice. You will live in a more relaxed state of mind when you have control over where your funds are. You are saving for yourself because you are a priority. You may come across some moments that try to derail this plan… Maybe all of your friends are talking about the new tech gadget they just bought and you are feeling sorry for yourself because you don’t have the cash leftover to get it right now. Remember, when these moments come up, you can rephrase the issue… You deserve to have less financial stress in your life. You deserve to have your own future in mind. You deserve to feel the accomplishment of reaching your life’s bigger goals. You don’t deserve stress and anxiety about how you are going to pay your bills. You don’t deserve the physical manifestations and ailments that come with stress (like hypertension and illness). You don’t deserve to be worried about small emergencies. Making choices like not having the latest gadgets gives you what you deserve, and avoids the pitfalls of what you do not deserve. It gives you control.

All of this is already within your power. You don’t need to buy anything or wait for anything. Set up your accounts to work for you now. Set up your life to get you where you are going. Set your mind to rephrase any negativity that harnessing this new power might create. You will be proud of your choices. When your friends are stressed out about small emergencies, like having their car breakdown suddenly, you will know that if the same thing happened to you, you would have it covered! And you won’t be digging yourself any deeper or adding any stress to your life by going into debt.

Emergency Fund – What should you do with it????

Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.

-Will Rogers
Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

You know that the world often throws you curve balls, so you have worked hard to sock some money away for those inevitable “emergencies.”   Maybe you diligently save a bit out of each paycheck, or maybe you sold some of your extra “stuff” to fund the account.  No matter how you got here, you have created a wonderful cushion to soften any landings you might have in the future. GOOD WORK!!  

Depending on the amount you have, and on your plans for what will happen next, you have some options on how to hold on to that money.

  • Cash:  While it may seem like cash is not risky, there are risks to holding money.  If you physically keep the money on your property, there is the risk of fire or burglary.  If you keep the money in a checking account at a local bank, you are mostly safe from theft and fire, but you are still at risk of bank fees corroding your funds, and, over a longer term, losing the value of your money due to inflation. (If inflation rises 3%, and your funds have only earned a measly 0.25% in a bank savings account, you have suffered a loss in value of your money because you do not have the buying power you had when you deposited the funds.)
  • High-yield savings account:  If you are pleased with your accumulation and know that you can keep your account full to this level, but you are not prepared to continue saving for any other mid- or long-term goals at this point, you will probably get the most security, and a tiny bit of monthly interest, by parking your funds in an online High-Yield savings account. (try SallieMae Bank and do some research to see who has the best current rates.)  Right now, interest rates are on the rise, so it is worth doing a bit of research to see where you can get the best rates. You are probably going to keep inflation losses at bay for the most part with this type of account.
  • Invest:  If you are fortunate enough to now have the “saving bug” in your ear, encouraging you to keep building that savings account up with every spare penny you can find, then you may want to take some of the funds you are accumulating and try to get a bit of more substantial growth out of it.  Let’s say you initially set out to accumulate $1,000 in an emergency fund. After three months or so, you realize that it wasn’t all that difficult to build up the funds and you decided to add another $1,000 in the next few months.   As you keep growing this fund, you may decide that letting it earn 3% interest in the High-Yield account just doesn’t seem like enough. Surely, you don’t want to lose your emergency fund in the stock market, but at some point, as you keep growing these funds, you may exceed what you think is a reasonable amount of emergency money for your lifestyle.

 This is the tipping point where you could choose to invest in the stock market in a conservative way, like by investing in a good mutual fund that tracks a large part of the market (try Vanguard VTSAX or Schwab SWPPX*).  You want to make sure that you are protecting yourself from taxes on your earnings, so make sure you put your money in a tax-sheltered Roth IRA account if you qualify to open one.  This type of account allows you to invest some of that “extra” emergency money and will not penalize you for taking the money back out if you need to use it for something that comes up. With the tax shelter of a Roth IRA, any earnings that you make in the stock market on these funds have to remain in the account until retirement age or other qualifying factor, so that you don’t get penalized for using them early.  It is a great way to dip your toe into investing.  Stay away from stock picking.  If you have so much “extra money” lying around that you want to try risky trading or stock picking, you will have to look elsewhere for advice… this author has never experienced “extra money” and has never been willing to lose even a penny on a risky bet…

*There is a lot to learn about investing! But these two companies have low/no fees and are a low risk way of getting started… Vanguard has a higher minimum ($3,000 for most funds at the time of this article) while Schwab allows you to open an account with just $1. Read as much as you can about investing as you start this journey! Some excellent sources are MMM and Bogleheads sites.

Where to begin…

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

-Lao Tzu
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

We have been immersed in conditioned reactions, responses, and ways of thinking for a lifetime. There is a very powerful momentum within all of us to remain on our current trajectory, to maintain the status quo. Can this change simply because we decide one day that it is a good idea to do something different?  How can we reprogram ourselves when we find that what we were taught about money is not leading us down the path towards our goals? Most of us learned all we know about money from our parents.  At some point, usually in our teens, we all realized that our parents weren’t all-knowing beings, but just humans who tried to do their best with what they had.  The lessons they taught us about money management could be fundamentally flawed, and it is worth taking a fresh look at the subject.  In order to keep from stagnation, we have to be willing to constantly learn and grow, and reviewing topics like money can be a great project with instant rewards.

Think of your current state of household finances.  If you are like many households, it’s a mess. You can only “shut the door” and ignore the issue for so long.  It can feel overwhelming at first, but it is absolutely pivotal in putting you in a direct path with your ultimate goals in life.  There are so many tricky ways that companies wiggle in on your income like leaches, slowly siphoning off your lifeblood little by little.  Looking at where your income is bleeding away and patching things up will be like earning an instant raise or a bonus at work!  Credit card fees, bank fees, cell phone plans, cable bills, even drafty windows in the winter, can all drain your income without you ever noticing. 

Opening up your heart to learning about personal finance is a lot like visiting the carnival as a kid for the first time… with all of the chaos, rides, lights, smells, and vendors calling you to their games of chance.  It’s an overwhelming feeling and it seems as if you could never be able to understand how it all works! But, as you grow up, it all begins to seem smaller and you come to realize how it all comes together.  It is time to grow up about your financial health and see money for what it really is… a tool for you to use to get where you want to be in your life.  Hopefully, the information in this site will give you clarity and perspective for your finances.  There may not be a “right” way to manage your money, necessarily, but there is likely a better way than what you are doing now.  A look at the fundamentals may offer you a new attitude about money and how to use it as a tool for improving your life, instead of as a source of stress and frustration.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Where are you in your ideas of money?  Are you a saver or a spender? Would you rather HAVE a million dollars, or SPEND a million dollars? Are you a credit card junkie? Regardless of how you FEEL about money, the structure still remains the same, but certain parts of the structure may make you a little uncomfortable. Knowing more about what makes you uncomfortable will improve your perspective.

At the core of being financially stable is always a budget.  Don’t run away screaming already!  This is a simple practice that you should try to make a habit of doing, and re-doing, a lot.   Maybe, once you have a handle on things, you can strive to work on your budget every month.  Some people need to look it over every week, every pay check, or less often.  It is a very simple math problem: Income – Expenses = Net Gain/Net Loss.  When you have a budget, written out and physically in front of you, you can see where your money goes and what you prioritize in your life. 

A quick Google search will find hundreds of different budget sheets.  Find one that you like and start filling it out right away.  Some are very detailed and some are simple. You need to see how much income you have, where your money is getting spent, and what you have left at the end of the month (or how far negative you are).   Start simple and see how it works for you.  (Excel spreadsheets will do the math for you in most cases.  This simplifies things so that you can try different numbers quickly to see how it effects your bottom line.) You can try this Microsoft template if it works for you.

List all of your normal expenses, but also make sure you list the ones that tend to hide themselves… Some habitual items that are often forgotten in your expense calculations could be:

  • Bank Overdraft fees
  • ATM Fees
  • Savings
  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Entertainment
  • Tolls
  • Gifts
  • Convenience store purchases
  • Dinning out
  • Ice cream shop visits
  • Season ticket expenses
  • Car-wash costs
  • Normal auto repair/maintenance costs
  • Credit card late fees and interest (list cards individually)
  • Student loans
  • Books for classes
  • Participation fees (like craft shows or seminars)
  • Gym memberships
  • Magazine memberships

On the income side, remember to add any extras that come in to your household besides just your standard work income, for example:

  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Monthly dividends
  • Side job income
  • Creative endeavors (like selling artwork or crafted items)

Once you have pulled together the bits of information and have them all in one place, you can begin to critique the way you are using your limited funds. Some say that your true focus in life can be seen by seeing where the money flows. If you see your funds are getting used for things that don’t better your life (like to credit card interest) and you can begin to work on funneling it towards things that are actually important to you.

Define Yourself

“Our past may shape us, but it doesn’t define us.”

– Alyson Noel, Night Star
Photo by Garidy Sanders on Unsplash

It is the nature of people as a whole to try to sort our world into simple, logical boxes.  This process allows all of the crazy aspects of the world to be simplified and quickly processed and understood, and it is the reason for our tendency to make snap-judgments. These judgments are used to sift through what has already been painstakingly learned through an individual’s collective experiences to help ease the way into the future.  It means that each new person met or experience encountered is automatically categorized to be “like” the most similar person or experience dealt with previously, creating morphed little caricatures of the actuality.  This is incredibly unfair to those who you meet and judge while knowing nearly nothing about them, but it is also unfair to YOU, since even YOU are being shoved into little category boxes by every person you encounter.  How you are superficially perceived by the world has almost nothing to do with your own actions. The concept is very odd and unsettling.

Not until there is a great deal of time invested on learning about a specific person are you able to lift the veil of these snap judgements and misinterpretations to meet the actual person on their own accord. Even after you know someone very well and have devoted endless hours on this learning quest, you may not be able to grasp the reason for decisions they make. It is a wonder that professional therapists and counselors can gain workable insights, and assign life-changing labels, in an hours’ time spent in sporadic sessions once per month or less. Certainly, these professionals are able to follow guidelines and make practical suggestions that may fit an appropriate criterion, but to really get to the heart of an issue, one must KNOW the participants intimately, not superficially. This is where the disconnect begins, because who can possibly know you intimately enough to truly define you?

It seems to be that the only people who can define you are those that you allow close enough.  Even then, they will still have a disconnect. Having not grown up AS you, they cannot possibly have every bit of seemingly unimportant facts needed to understand you.  That leaves only ONE person who is capable of defining you, and that, of course, is YOU yourself.  Having passed through this short thought experiment, it seems like you should probably take the job of defining yourself very seriously.  Your opinion of yourself is truly the only one that matters.  Others will come and go in your life, bringing and taking away with them their judgments. Leaving out all of those other people’s verdicts, you can grasp the task of self-definition with your full attention! What a better place to start than with this amount of self-proclaimed power!

Photo by Lopez Robin on Unsplash

Decide who you want to be and make it happen. With each decision, you are making that meaning of your life clearer.  Many people make bad decisions without realizing that life is a result of stringing together decisions. If you string together too many bad ones, you create a bad life.  If you string together all good choices, you have naturally created a good life.  Even if the world throws the inevitable curve-ball at your creation, a well-practiced decision-making muscle can guide you past the obstacles while keeping your identity as a good person intact.

This concept begs another question.  If you are the only person who can truly define your life, and life is a combination of the choices that you have decided to make, then perhaps there are no “good” or “bad” people in this world, but instead only people who have made good or bad decisions.  Bad decisions are made when someone does not realize that they have the power to define themselves. Knowledge is truly power when this realization is internalized. Move forward through life and, when a decision must be made, consider that it is a chance for you to flex the power you have; a chance to define and solidify who you truly are to the only person who actually matters.

Winning in the New Year

I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.

– Venus Williams
Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

While New Year’s Resolutions are famous for being almost immediately broken, there are some simple things that you CAN stick with to get your financial world prepared and in order for the coming year.  Here is a quick checklist of three easy steps!  Set them up today so that you can get yourself on the path to your desired future!

  • Set up an automatic deposit to a High Yield savings account (try CapitalOne or SallieMae if you are looking for an online option, both offer decent interest rates and no minimum balances).  You can set it to automatically draw funds from your checking account on each payday so that your funds get transferred without any action required by you! (If you don’t have a checking account, please read here…. a checking account is a very basic need in the start of this process…). This is the easiest way to keep a resolution… remove your need to remember to do it!  Start small, with an amount you are comfortable trying, and set a reminder for yourself to review the amount and try to increase it each month.  This is your budding emergency fund, so HANDS OFF!
  • Work up a budget…. (I know, stop cringing… it is just a word!) You need a budget to really understand where your money is going. Many people are oblivious when it comes to how their paycheck is being spent. Maybe you are spending more on dining out than you expected? How can you know if you don’t have a baseline in the form of a budget.  There are so many good tools available to make this step so easy now!  (You can try Mint, which is free, or YNAB, which has a small monthly fee after a trial period.)  It is easier to start looking at your spending trends right at the beginning of the year. 
  • Set a few goals for yourself for the year.   Maybe it is finally killing that credit card balance so you can use those interest payments for your own needs. Maybe it is going back to school to invest in yourself, or paying off your student loans. (Try this debt payoff calculator to see how quickly you can get there.) Maybe it is to build some savings to use as a down payment on a house.  (Try this savings goal calculator.) Maybe it is to start investing in your future life goals (like owning a business) or saving for retirement.  There can be so many different goals, but if you do not set your mind to something specific, you will not be able to achieve it. 
Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

Even though they seem like very simple basic steps, they can really set your mind clear on how you want to proceed into the New Year, what you are expecting out of it, and where you want to be when the year finally ends! Give yourself this chance to set a goal and feel proud of your achievement when you fulfill it!

Note: I have no affiliation or relationship with the service providers listed in this post, other than as a user or friend of a user of some of their services. These recommendations are for your research purposes only. 

Searching for Honest Answers

“Don’t lose faith in humanity. There are good people out there. You have the power to make a difference.”

– Akiroq Brost
Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

When you find yourself to be the one left in charge after some traumatic experience, it can be easy to be like a turtle… pulling all of your important “things” into your shell with you and doing your best to keep everyone safe and sound.  You automatically start to think only of what is best for you and those who are important to you.  Damn the world for making you withdraw like this and forcing you to become “selfish” for your family.  As a reaction to pain created by a terrible situation, this is very acceptable.  But, be very careful that you do not limit your view for very long.  It can be easy to get into the habit of making quick decisions, and while those decisions may be good in the moment and may get you through to the next obstacle, make sure you pause and consider where you are in the grand scheme of things.

The world is not the enemy, the person that hurt you is not “just like everyone else” out there.  You don’t need to hide from the whole world. You need to maintain connections, build trust with others, and stay in the present moment. Without connections, trust, and current knowledge, you are setting yourself up for a more challenging road.   You don’t need to trust just ANYONE, but you need to trust SOMEONE.   You don’t need them to know everything about you, but you need to have someone to talk with on an adult level. People who you can trust will give you an honest opinion if you ask it of them will offer more than just an opinion, they give you a basis on which you can build.  It is so very hard to trust after being hurt. Having someone you can believe is a beautiful way to start.  It will widen your perspective, especially if you know they are being honest and you find that their opinion differs from yours.  You can dig in and find out why they feel that way and give yourself a chance to reflect on your own opinion and whether it still holds true. Being the only adult at home does not allow for opinions outside of ourselves. We all learn the most when our perspective is challenged, even slightly, which cannot happen if you seclude yourself out of fear.

Having a healthy amount of perspective will serve you and your family well.  It is easy to become overwhelmed and think “I can’t worry about other people and their problems right now, I have too much on my own plate!”  Certainly, your issues may be far worse than what anyone you know is dealing with at the moment, but do not withdraw completely.  It may be difficult to listen without judgment to someone else’s woes when you are going through your own issues. Still, listen very clearly to them and try to sort out a parallel that you can build on with them.  Maybe their issue is vaguely similar to yours in some way, or similar to something you dealt with in the distant path, or even something you hope to never deal with in the future.  Any parallel will help you build trust in that relationship.  Certainly, some people will not be “keepers” because even as friends they cannot offer honest opinions.  You may need to sort through some different people and decide who you can trust.  Having and being a sounding board is a priceless thing. Building trust is the beginning of building your new life to be stronger than your old one.

Photo by Alci Alliata on Unsplash

All of this becomes even more applicable when you are making choices for your kids. How can you make a good decision for your child, lets say perhaps joining a local sports team, without having a larger perspective about what is going on in your neighborhood?  If you want your son or daughter involved with a “team” so they can have friends and be socially healthy, please ask around about the coaches and the dynamic that other parents have experienced before you sign them up.  Some very reputable organizations are ruined by an overzealous coach or a group of parents with unquenchable expectations (think Cobra Kai from the Karate Kid movie!)

You think you are doing something good for your child, only to find out after a few months you have thrown them to the wolves, lowering confidence levels and self-worth… the EXACT OPPOSITE of what your intentions were!  Ask around and you will find out about bad coaches, and save your child some heartache and help them grow or retain the love of the game overall.  Find a neighbor that you can trust to give you honest answers.  Ask a teacher at school that you know loves your child to see what they can “find out” about the coaches with whom your child may be crossing paths.  Whatever you do, please don’t go in blindly and see what comes of it. Even though they may not yet be able to appreciate what you are doing for them at the moment (see more on this here), you still have to be sure you are making the absolute best decisions you can for them. Make sure that you do not cut yourself off from the world, because a limited perspective cannot make informed decisions. You need to make sure that you are exposing your family to healthy circumstances where growth and joy are possible, and the only way you can be sure to do this is by allowing yourself to have a broad perspective.

All that Holiday Commotion

“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”

– W. Somerset Maugham
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and thankful feelings. Joy and laughter, decorations, bright packages with bows and ribbons… You know, the whole festive picture. So what is to be done when your world is not right, things are not settled, and you just don’t feel any holiday cheer? Trying to fit into the old norms can be disastrous for your mental well being.

It can be very difficult to sort through this inner turmoil. Making matters worse, you may feel like the whole world has its eye on you…. trying to see if you are “alright,” which may seem supportive, but in reality it is a LOT of extra pressure. This may be, for example, your first holiday as a single parent… or your first holiday out on your own… or your first holiday after a divorce… whatever your situation, it is different and it is stressful. If you try to make it just like every other, it will feel very much like a fraud to you and those you love. It is time for a change. Just like you reinvented your environment for a fresh start, you can reinvent this holiday. You can take this moment in time to refresh and refocus your holiday norms, making them more bearable after a change, and also showing that ever-watchful outside world that you are taking the reins in your new situation and molding your new world to your expectations.

Choose one or to “traditions” from your “old holidays” to keep up, as that will be very grounding as you move forward in your life. Try to make these the very oldest ones that you can remember, like from your own childhood or from stories you remember being told of your parents childhood. Those are good for you to remember and continue. (Maybe, holiday baking with the family, or getting a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, like you always did when you were a kid.) Take every other thing that you have done more recently around the holidays and just forget about it. You are going to make some changes this year.. You are going to re-establish the traditions. I know, I know… you are saying “but isn’t a tradition supposed to be TRADITIONAL???” If you have kids and they ask you “why aren’t we doing blahblahblah tradition this year?”, you will simply say, “that is what we used to do, but now we do THIS instead!”

Here are some ideas that might trigger something inside you for a new holiday tradition… They lean towards the free stuff, but there are plenty of things things to spend money on too.

  • Take I night out to drive around a nicely decorated neighborhood and oh- and ah- at the light shows.
  • Make a night of inviting friends over to have some mint-flavored hot chocolate made the “old fashioned way” on the stove with coco and milk
  • Find a group of friends to carol (or if your have instrumentally talented friends, have them play their instruments!) near a religious establishment that is collecting people for the holiday. (Some churches have live nativities with hot chocolate that already draw an appreciative crowd.)
  • Take holiday-themed books out from the library and read them aloud with your family a few nights in a row
  • Search the local papers (also available at most libraries) to see when there will be festive things going on in your area
  • Ask the local high school when their Winter Concert will be (almost always free) and take your young family along to see the “big kids” playing holiday songs.
  • In some areas, the county or local “symphony orchestra” will play a free or low cost concert aimed towards encouraging young children to pick up an instrument.
  • Look for local reenactments that are done in your area each year around the holidays.
  • Start a “cookie day” or “cookie exchange” with your new neighbors, or old neighbors that you have never really met.
  • Find a local plant nursery and see what seasonal selections they offer, many have ornaments or supplies for building your own wreaths and whatnot
  • Create a chain out of construction paper to hang around the house
  • Please list other ideas in the comments!!

The idea here is to do something DIFFERENT this holiday, and make it a new tradition for your family. Your world is a different place now, and holding on to wanting everything to be “just like it was” is a recipe for disaster. It won’t be the same, even if you want it to be. That can cause some serious depression if you are not on the front lines trying to sort out a way to overcome. Put the decorations in new areas, or if you can afford it, but some new ones. Reach out to people and share joy with them. Make some crafts or food together, which can generate good feelings and bonding, which can help heal your heart. It is difficult to do these things when you are sad, but twice as important.

If you are having money troubles, which happens when thing fall apart…. most schools have a charity system set up for families that fall on hard times… don’t reject this help! This is the community you live in coming together knowing that hard times happen to all of us, and likely have happened to them in the past, and they want to make sure that families can enjoy the holidays despite what they may be going through… Take the charity, and once you get yourself better positioned, give back to that same charity for others.

Accepting your Harshest Critiques

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

-Elbert Hubbard
Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

      Everyone that you encounter in everyday life has their own story that you don’t know.  Some are on a downward slope; some are trekking up a difficult mountain.  Some may be in the midst of a life disaster; others are proud of themselves for having just dug out of a deep hole.  In your daily interactions, this is really important to keep in mind.  Even those on the “lows” will try their best to present themselves well to strangers, but they can be very fragile.  So, when dealing with the cashier at the store who made a mistake, or with the girl at the office that seems to be forgetting everything today, you don’t know the full story.  They may not have slept at all last night due to a newborn with a cold, or because of a teenager who is going through some difficulties at school.  Maybe they just visited their mother with dementia, or their best friend after a difficult cancer surgery.  Just like you have faced difficulties and have wanted and hoped for empathy, you should be ready to offer it at every interaction. 

      Many of us are still working on rebuilding our worlds after disaster, others are trying to become the best they can be; but, ALL of us are a work in progress. It takes time and a tremendous amount of effort to get where you are going in life.  Regardless of how hard you try and how far you have grown, those that are watching your progress from the outside will always have some opinion of your choices and evolution.  Sometimes they are supportive; many times, they are not.  You may find that they are harsh and critical.  Finding others on the same journey as you will provide some sounding boards for feedback, but be careful to be conscious of the opinions from those that may not actually be moving forward. They can drag you down. 

      Unfortunately, a lot of the time you will find your harshest critics will be the elder members of your own family, which can be frustrating and difficult to tune out.  Even worse, though, is when it is your own children… Little kids that don’t understand why you are spending time building yourself up, instead of time with them; older teens or young adult children, who resent you for changing their surroundings, even when it was not your choice to do so.  They know you well enough to know which jabs and digs will hurt the most, but they are young enough to not realize how painful these jabs can be when the world is already beating you down.  When the very people you are trying to make abetter life FOR are the ones who seem the least appreciative, the worst feeling of wanting to give up can start to take hold in your very soul.

      You want to be attentive to your kids in every way, but you can’t be if you are not first attentive to your own needs.  Like the airplane pre-flight safety demonstration tells us, we must first put on our own mask before helping others secure theirs.  What use will you be to your kids if you are not working on being the best you possible?  How will you lead by example if you are a crippled mess yourself?  It is your job to drag your family through this rough patch, even if they are kicking and screaming, into the best life you can offer them. 

      Your older children are starting to see how the world works outside of your household, and sometimes they feel enlightened beyond their years when they see what seems to be a “better way” happening at someone else’s house.  Remember thinking how great some other family was compared to your own as a teen?  You know, that one family whose kids were allowed to do whatever they wanted?  They didn’t have to do homework or even go to school… maybe even drank and smoked without reprimand. Were you incredibly jealous of that lifestyle as a teen?  Looking at it now, as an adult, it is absolutely horrific how little those children were cared for and looked after, and many of those children had a difficult time entering adulthood. 

     Your kids may critique your choices, but hold in the front of your mind that you are making these choices for yourself and your family with THEIR best interest at heart, and that YOU have more perspective than they have. They are not aware of the nuances of the full situation… there may be things they have been completely shielded from for their own well being (like when lawyers start getting involved…).  Their opinions have worth and weight, so listen to them and hear their concerns.  If they are valid, be sure to let them know you have considered them in your choices.  Try your best to explain to them your reason for your choices, though they still won’t likely understand, and then do what you have judged to be best and accept your choice. 

     It hurts, very deeply, to have this criticism, especially from those you want to give the best life too.  Hold on to hope that in the future, when these children have grown and seen first-hand some of the difficulties this world can throw at them, they will have some more perspective and appreciate those hard choices you made “back in the day”.  For today, just hold your chin up and take a few deep breaths.  Protect them from danger, provide them a good life, teach by example, and give them tools they need to enter adulthood with the necessary skills.  Check off that box and consider it a job well done. 

Weaving your Legacy

I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.

J.K. Rowling

          You are the artist of your own beautiful tapestry.  Each day is a thread in the weave.   You are able to choose the colors and textures used, but ultimately, outside influences cause the piece to bend and weave its way over obstacles.  As with any art, the true beauty of the finished piece cannot be seen until its completion.  Only at the end of our lives can we see the full picture we have created.  The intent of the artist is sometimes realized, but often, the subtleties and mistakes, the twists and turns, the dropped stitches left unfixed in the piece create its true character, personality, and beauty. 

          The mistakes that youth ensures we all make are bound into your piece. Looking over your partially completed (hopefully nowhere near finished!) tapestry, you can see the tears, joy, fear, hardship, disappointment, and the triumph that each thread represents.  As time passes and age sets it, reflecting on our past decisions is customary.  Looking at how you have gotten to this exact place at this time in your life, you are forced to look back at the choices and definition in the work you have done in your life already. 

          Regardless of who you choose to share your life and time with, your personal tapestry will be independent of all of them in the end. You will not be able to point at the beautiful colors in your parents works, your partners work, or your children’s work… You will only have YOUR work left as your representation.  Do not make the mistake of putting all of your time and energy toward creating beauty for others at the cost of your own! Instead, show them how to live by showing them the beauty you are creating, thread by bold thread, choice by clear choice!  Show them how beautiful life can be when you take charge and create it; defiantly working around the twists and turns, ups and downs, through moments demanding patience and tolerance juxtaposed with those instances requiring sharpness and focus.

           As the artist, what colors are you choosing? This piece of art is who you have been, who YOU ARE, and who you will become; how your family is perceiving you now, and how future generations will remember you.  Are your color choices forlorn, full of greys and subtlety, indecisive changes, or are they the bold and commanding colors with clear intent?  In a world full of subtlety, do you feel comfortable enough in who you are to find and highlight the parts of you that make you different from everyone else?  Live a life of love and boldness! Ensure the world will know that you did it!

Embracing the Transformation

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.

-Charles Darwin

Sometimes you may feel tempted try to re-establish what you have lost, wanting to find some semblance of normalcy after a huge life change.  This is a mistake!  When you find your life has been cracked and broken beyond repair… when it has been shaken to its very foundation… it is primed for a new beginning.

What you lost is gone now, but that doesn’t mean that you need to desire the same thing.  What you lost had its flaws.  What you lost had inefficiencies, frustrations, and deficits. What you lost was NOT perfect.  Now that it is gone, you have a chance to CORRECT the things that were lacking.  Do not settle for something similar to what you already had.  You may have been forced to make a change you didn’t want to make, like it or not.  Don’t overlook the fact that you were given this perfect and golden opportunity to make your life BETTER than it was before. 

First things first.  It can be horribly depressing to walk into the front door of your home and see everything exactly how it had always been, except for that ONE piece that is now missing… it emphasizes and magnifies the missing piece.  There it is, looming right in your face day after day.  Don’t let this be!  Most people don’t find themselves financially able to relocate, but if you can, MOVE to a new home.  

Start fresh. If you can’t up and move, at least change every aspect that you possibly can.  If you have a house, now is your chance to CHANGE it for the better.  Move every piece of furniture. Take every picture off of every wall and swap it for pictures from other rooms. Change window dressings, add throw rugs, move the television, drive in a different direction on your way to work and other daily habits…. Change EVERYTHING! If you have kids who have their own rooms, swap them around completely.  It will be good for them too, since they can see that you are accepting and embracing the concept of change, and that IT’S OK. It may seem like change just for the sake of change on the surface, but really, it’s a chance to reset your perspective.  It is a transformation, and, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, you and your family will be coming out of this more beautiful, stronger, ready to spread your wings into the wind and take off!

Now that everything in your visual field is different, you are off to a great start!  Sit down and write a list of everything you always wanted to do.  This is different than a bucket list, like traveling to Italy or going skydiving. Instead, list all of the things that you personally expect from yourself in this lifetime.  Consider that you have all of the power over the choices in your new situation.  Did you always think you would have a specific career? Did you always want to own your own home? Did you always want to have a college degree? Did you always want to own and operate your own business?  Your list will be specific to you and you only. Do NOT list things that other people wanted you to do, what they though you would be good at, or what others expected of you… This is 100% about you. You are going to make some plans for your future in your new surroundings without any old objections holding you back, because EVERYTHING has CHANGED and YOU are going to CHANGE RIGHT ALONG WITH IT! 

Don’t bog yourself down with details.  You don’t need to plan out how you are going to accomplish everything right now.  You are just going to bring your personal goals for a better future into clear focus in your mind.  Imagine what it will feel like when it is accomplished!  Having goals in mind will help you sort out how you’re going to take your life and rebuild it in the direction of those goals.  From the foundation up, brick by brick, you now have a chance to build your life as you have always imagined it should be!

Habits to Learn – Part 2

“The biggest mistake is not learning the habit of saving properly… Do not save what is left after spending; instead spend what is left after saving.”

-Warren Buffet

This is the next step towards your independence.  The first steps were in Habits to Learn –Part 1.   In that step, you made sure you had a few dollars in your pocket at all times so you can avoid bank fees and you established a checking and savings account so you can start making progress towards your emergency fund. 

It is time to fill up that emergency fund to help you get through standard “emergencies” that arise.  There are a lot of different ways to start adding funds, but first it is important to determine a goal so that you can measure your progress towards it.  How much you need to set aside depends on your situation.  If you are married with a dual income household with a spare room that you rent out for extra income, you will need a different type of emergency fund than if you are a single parent with one income and young kids relying on you.  In the first case, if there is a loss of income from one party, it is likely that you can cut costs and rely on the other income until a new job can be found.  There isn’t a great need for hearty emergency fund, but a small one for car troubles and the like is still necessary.  In the second case, it would be better to have a bigger fund.  With little ones relying on you for healthy meals and a feeling of normalcy, and with only one income to rely on, it is important to really buckle down and put your mind to having a significant fund.   These are two extremes, and your situation will likely fall between them somewhere.  

One rule of thumb is to stock your e-fund with 6 months of expenses.  This may be a daunting task that could make you feel like you will never reach the goal.  I suggest, instead, start small.  Get $500 into that e-fund as quickly as possible.   It isn’t as hard to do as you might expect. 

  • Decide on a set amount that you can take from each pay check and send directly to your savings account.  Set up a direct transfer from your paycheck through your HR department at work if possible.  If not, then set up an automatic withdraw from your checking account. Start with at least $10 per pay period and get the funds into that savings. Don’t touch them for any reason! This isn’t for food or for a night out at a restaurant.  It is an emergency only fund. Discipline yourself to use it in that way only. 
  • Now, take a look around your house and see if you have any items that are not being put to good use.  There are a number of internet sites that allow you to list your items for sale. There are many websites that will buy books straight off of your bookshelf. Using these is usually quite easy, with the sites providing you a shipping label and instructions on how to package the books so they arrive in good condition. (try BookScouter  or SellBackYourBooks.com) If you have text books,these can possibly bring a decent chunk to add straight towards that $500 goal. 
  • Take some time to meal-plan for the week, buying healthy low-cost ingredients to make your family healthy meals at home instead of paying a premium for meals out at restaurants or fast food meals (which seem cheap, but really are NOT!).  This is a fast way to save money if you normally eat out a lot.  
  • Now, take a look at your bills.  The reoccurring bills can almost ALWAYS be cut down.  Call you electric/gas company and ask them to put you on a budget plan.  Ask them if they have any advise or packages available that will help you reduce your energy usage. Some have discounted high efficiency light bulbs for a great discount. Some will send you out a free package of insulating strips to put in doorways and around light fixtures that reduce draft and energy losses.  After the electric company, contact your cable company (if you still have cable…. Everyone is cutting the cord no-a-days!)and have it CANCELLED! Even if that is difficult at this time, savings can be over a hundred dollars per month in many cases. You can find free/very cheap television entertainment with just internet access (Hulu, Netflix and the like.) Call your auto insurance company and ask them to reduce your rate.  Even if they can only find $5 in savings,take it!  Look at your other bills with this same fine-tooth-comb mindset and you may be amazed just how much you can take off of your monthly costs.  There are cell phone services like Republic Wireless, T-mobile, Cricket Wireless and others that offer acceptable services at a fraction of the cost of some of the bigger names. Even if there is a fee for cancelling your contract early, if you do the math, most of the time it is still scientifically cheaper to change to a low cost cell service company.  Do not cancel legally required coverage (like auto insurance), but cut back as much as you can.  You may find that you can add another $50-$150 per month to the e-fund just from these savings alone! 
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  • At work, if reviews for raises are coming up soon, start making a list of all of the responsibilities you have currently.  Think of and write down any instances where you have saved the company money (ie. Finding correctable errors,finding better rates, arranging things in the office/warehouse that add efficiency or speed to some processes…). When you sit down to discuss your performance review and raise amount,bring this list with you and be prepared to discuss why you think you are worth more.  If your company isn’t in a position to offer a decent wage raise, they may be able to offer some other type of perk that saves you money. For example, if you find that you are using your personal cell phone for work purposes constantly, ask for the company to provide a company cell for you to use.  Then cut your personal cell phone back to the bare minimum.  Everyone goes to work to make money.  Your employer knows that just as well as you do, and if you can show them your worth, most good managers will be willing to improve your raise, even if only slightly, which builds on itself with your next percentage raise or percentage bonus you receive.

All of these things will not only accelerate your path to a full emergency fund, it will set your life up to be cheaper on the baseline.  This new “normal” cost of living will change your perspective on how much things should cost.  You may find that you would feel better with $1,000 or more in your e-fund.  Shift your goals to be what feels right for you. 

Any other suggestions, please comment!

Note: I have no affiliation or relationship with the service providers listed in this post, other than as a user or friend of a user of some of their services. These recommendations are for your research purposes only.  I do have a link to get you a discount on service from Republic Wireless if you are interested…. Join using my link and get $20 off your first bill: https://republicwireless.com/invite/988JZ1ZH

Habits to Learn – Part 1

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Make a habit of carrying a small amount of cash with you.  It seems that with the introduction of the ATM card, and the advertising teams that banks hired to market the idea that using an ATM card is the “same as using cash”, most of American has succumb to this idea.  It is NOT the same.  There are usually convenience fees involved to withdraw your money, fees from vendors, fees for processing the exchange,and possible overdraft fees… it is certainly not the same as cash.  Carrying a bit of cash will minimize the need for all of these fees.  Have you ever noticed that those machines usually only dispense $20 bills?  What if you only wanted $10 to have on hand if you or your children needed something small, like a drink or some kind of treat?  If you don’t have cash, you would stop at the ATM machine, giving you twice as much money and likely charging you a convenience fee to get it.  Now, are you more likely to spend more money since you have a $20 on you instead of a $10?  A rule of thumb that may be useful is to always have two $5.00 bills in your pocket or wallet at all times.  Stop at the bank and take out $50.00, asks for it all in $5.00 bills and I keep it in an envelope at home.  You will never feel broke or deprived when you have cash to spend, but limiting the amount and the convenience fees involved with getting to it is the key factor that will saving you money.

Always understand the rules of your bank account. For example, many banks charges a fee of $15.00 or more per month if your account drops below $100.00.  Don’t give your money away!  You earned it and deserve to spend every penny of it.

There are some people who can use credit cards without having any issues.  Credit cards are very different than bank ATM cards.  AFTER you get a good grip on your budget and have established a good emergency fund and good money habits, then you may want to look into the perks offered by credit card companies.  The biggest problem with credit cards is when people use them to compensate for their terrible budgeting skills.  If you cannot pay your credit card balance off in full at the end of each month, then you should not use credit cards.  (The only time this is not true is if you make a large purchase on a card that has a “NO INTEREST for x-number of months” offer…. And you pay equal amounts of the total bill each month so that it is paid the month before that NO INTEREST deal expires… there are no other exceptions!)

If you already find that you have credit card debt that you are not able to pay off (in full) when the bill is due, you are already in an emergency state! It is OK, because you are going to fix it, but it must be your absolute priority to get rid of that credit card debt.  Nothing gets on my nerves worse than when people get taken advantage of when they are vulnerable, and being nickle and dimed by credit card fees is a prime example of this.  If you are paying interest to credit card companies, you are losing your hard-earned money into a black hole and you are getting absolutely nothing for it. 

Keep going with Habits to Learn – Part 2!

Tax Deferred Accounts 101

“‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1817:

It seems like an easy enough task… Put your money into investments and let it grow until you are ready to retire.   So why is there so much confusion?  Well, there are some concepts that must be understood in order to do it properly.  Many people find the whole idea of investing to be “out of their league” and so they never get started.  You will NOT be one of those people, because you are willing to start with the basics and really understand what needs to be done!

First, we must specify that there are places where you put money (Accounts) and then there are WAYS that that money is considered for taxes by the government (Tax Status). The tax status of the money you save is important (to you and to the government!)

You can, for example, choose to put money into a brokerage account that allows you to invest in the stock market.  When that money grows with the market, the newly “earned” money is called GAINS, and those gains can be taxed as income if you take them out of the account, unless they are in an account that is set up to be DEFERRED from paying taxes because you plan to use it at retirement age.

That isn’t too confusing! Honestly, they probably make it confusing so people are afraid to use tax sheltered accounts… But you know they are worth it, and you are ready!Great! OK, just one more little thing to add… There are two types of Tax Deferment….

Pre-Tax – Pre-tax means that you do not pay taxes on the money NOW, but you pay them when you withdraw amounts in retirement, you will pay taxes THEN.

Post-Tax – Post-tax means that you pay taxes on the money you invest NOW, but you will not pay taxes when you withdraw amounts in retirement, even on the amounts that it grows in interest/earnings until then.

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A little bit of math done at this time will probably have you asking more questions, so let’s see what we find out… Let’s say you pay the government 15% in taxes on your income. If you earn, $7,000 at work, the government will take $1,050 of that money, leaving you with $5,950 to do with what you will. You can choose to invest that $5,950 and you will earn money from those investments.  When older-you takes out those investments and uses the money you earned, you will have to pay your tax rate at that time(maybe 15% or maybe more, depending on your income level) of what you earn to the government.  That is an example of a Taxable Account.

OR… You can use a tax-deferred account.  *

If you use a Post-Tax deferred account, you will invest your$5,950 and you want to invest it and you will earn money from those investments.  When you take out those investments and use the money you earned, you will NOT HAVE TO PAY any taxes on those gains.

If you use a Pre-Tax deferred account, you will invest your whole $7,000 (the government doesn’t take any yet) and you will earn money from those investments.  When you take out any of the funds, whether they were part of the initial investment or part of the gains, you will pay taxes on the money at your current income tax rate (maybe15% or maybe more).

So, the two tax deferred options are significantly better than the first option where you pay more taxes! Your tax rate will determine how much you are taxed when you take the funds out in retirement, and that is sort of a guessing game, but you know how much you are taxed right now, so you can run some numbers and judge what is better for you. BOTH OPTIONS ARE USEFUL! Depending on your situation, one may be better than the other, but you should do you best to take advantage of both as much as you can! Grow your nest egg as much as you can, and Old You will thank you later!

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If you work, your company may offer a company sponsored 401k,SIMPLE IRA, or some type of similar plan, which is a Pre-Tax option.  Try to contribute as much as you can to that!  Many companies also offer a“company match” earning you free money just for saving for your own future.There are different maximum amounts for the different types of accounts, and each year the amount may increase, depending on the government’s calculations.

Some other tax deferred accounts are Traditional IRA and ROTH IRA accounts.

                Traditional is Pre-Tax while the ROTH is Post-Tax. 

You can contribute as follows:

                $6,000 per year in 2019, plus

                $1,000 per year in 2019 if you are over 50.

NOTE: You can only contribute to EITHER a Roth or a Traditional, or a combination of both, up to the $6,000limit (or $7000 if over 50)… so, for example, you can put in $3,000 to a Traditional and $3,000 to a Roth…  but you cannot put in $6,000 to a Roth and $6,000 to a traditional in the same year.

IF you take advantage of all of these maximum limits in all of these accounts, you could have a tax “shelter” of over $19,000-$32,000per year!!  And any dollar saved from taxes is truly a dollar earned!

OH! And just one more thing…. There is also a MAX limit to contribute to an HSA (Health Savings Account) that may be available to you, depending on your health insurance setup.  If you do have an HSA available to you, that can even be BETTER than the other tax deferred accounts, since you NEVER pay taxes on the money you used out of an HSA to pay your medical costs!

*Keep in mind, some people will not qualify for tax deferred accounts because of their income levels and other factors, so you should ask a tax advisor if you think you might be one of those people.

Education is THE WAY

“I do not know how I may seem to others, but to myself I am only a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to be contented with.” 

Plato
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Do not be fooled by the title of this post! In no way am I suggesting that formal education is the only way to happiness.  There are many paths that can lead to a happy destination in your life.  Certainly, in some cases, a formal education is a wonderful way to reach your goals! Informal education is what I am suggesting.

Let’s think about it.  There are a countless number of things YOU DON’T KNOW yet.  There are an equally countless number of things that I DON’T KNOW yet, and that every person you walk by DOESN’T KNOW yet.   Those things are different for every single individual born into this world.  Until we have the luxury of Matrix-style plug-n-play learning modules, we are in charge of searching for and learning the things we don’t know.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a country that mandates education, guaranteeing availability to education through high school, then you have been exposed to a lot of topics and concepts by the time you are a young adult. While we are in school, our arranged “school system” tells us what we need to learn.  This is formal education, and it is a wonderful system that will lay the ground-level knowledge to start considering what really strikes your fancy.  If you have been in a position where you were able to continue on to college classes, you have probably limited your path of learning towards one or two subjects that truly interest you.  All of this is exposure to the things you don’t know yet, and if you train yourself to strengthen your curiosity muscles and attack when you find something new to you, this will lead to an amazingly fulfilling life. 

Curiosity is the spark that points you in the direction of what you should learn next.  It is the essence of what makes us all human.  In everyday life, you will often find yourself reading a magazine to pass the time waiting for an appointment, searching the internet to find a solution for an issue you are having at work, or reading a boring text book.  If, in those mundane moments, even one sentence in that text makes you raise an eyebrow and think “Huh! I didn’t know that! That is interesting…”, your curiosity is alive and well!  THAT is the spark.  THAT is the spring board for a topic you should search online.  Dive down that rabbit hole and don’t look back! Put books on hold at the local library to broaden your perspective on the topic.  Bring it up around a group of people to see if anyone else has already picked up a bit of knowledge on the topic. See if there is a movie about the subject.  Even when you are “finished” with your formal education, you need to continue to build connections in your mind about new topics.  You get better and become more intelligent, and more interesting, by reacting to those sparks! 

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

It is amazing to hear someone speak about a topic that is completely new.  Curiosity is the spark that allows you to learn how to lay tile and flooring in your home, fix plumbing issues, invest money, effectively raise your children, write a book, tinker with websites and electronics, bake beautiful cakes or basic necessities like bread, etc… What do you want to know, try, or do? Act on a spark!  Growing your intelligence by researching, asking, watching, taking lessons, and allowing yourself time to truly consider new topics, digging in… THIS is the true sense of becoming an educated person.  This is how you grow and become more productive to society.  Truly productive! Besides just being more knowledgeable, you will find you are more personable. Being more personable will open you up to more opportunities, making you more employable and probably increase your earning potential. 

No one is too old, too young, or too “dumb” to learn new things.  We are built for it and, if we allow ourselves the space and the time, there is nothing we cannot learn.  Your mind is truly limitless!  Use those sparks as guides so that you can become the best version of yourself!

Get Going and Get Prepared!

The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own.  No apologies or excuses.  No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.  The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.  This is the day your life really begins. 

~BobMoawad
Photo by Tomas Jasovsky on Unsplash

There are moments in life when you can truly feel the weight of the world on your shoulders… Moments when it feels so unfair that you and your loved ones wake up to find a new mountain plopped down right in front of you.  The moments when you realize that everyone who is important in your life has to turn to you now.  Is it scary or intriguing? Are you nervous or excited?  New situations allow for open-ended possibilities! You realize you are responsible for everything that happens from here on out, at least for now, and the pressure is on!

OK. Just breathe. We don’t have time for anxiety attacks…. Instead,we have to make a plan to squelch that anxiety.  You WILL lead your family through.

Priority one!  A wide-eyed and honest assessment of your situation must be done.  Since everyone’s starting point will be different, this section wil be a work in generalities. Nevertheless, there are a few certainties everyone will need to check off the list:

  • Do you have a safe place to live? If not, priority number one must be to find that place.  There are places that will help you find safety for you and your family. (Try the Red Cross near you to start… https://www.redcross.org/… I will try to post more options on the Links page of this site. )  A friend who can spare a room… family that will let you stay until you can get your feet under you.  If you already have a safe place to stay, think about how incredibly fortunate you are to have this basic need already fulfilled!
  • Do you know where your next meal is coming from?  There are countless websites that will list low budget meal plan ideas.  It always amazes me how far a bag of rice and a few canned goods can really get you when you are hungry.  Getting a good set of basic recipes under your wing will ensure that you can make due.
  • Do you have a steady and reliable income? If not, there are plenty of helpful community resources, also meant to get you back on your feet when you are down on your luck. If you already have a steady job, you can now consider yourself THREE steps better off than many others!

If you have the three basics above already checked off, count your blessings! Let’s not stop there. One more thing….

  • Do you have a bank account?  You need a checking account and a savings account.  Both are necessary and non-negotiable.  People who lack a checking account can easily be prayed upon by dubious schemers (think, check-cashing fees, payday loans, etc.) that want to nickel and dime you as much as possible. Nothing irks me more than knowing that there are companies that wait to pray on those who are down on their luck.  A savings account is also required.  The best way to prepare yourself for the unknowns that are guaranteed to come up in life is by setting a bit aside EVERY time you get money (on pay day or otherwise) so that you never have to panic about money.  Think about the peace of mind you will give yourself if you know that you are OK if there is car trouble, layoffs, accidental fire, health emergency, unplanned emergency travel, etc…  Buy yourself this peace of mind one deposit at a time into your emergency fund.

These are the practicalities… There are also emotional needs that you need to tend to so you can do what needs to be done.  Often times, in cases where you find yourself with new responsibilities quickly, there is a period of a form of mourning involved.  Mourning the death of your previous life where you knew what to expect next.  Don’t short change this feeling or dismiss it. You are allowed to feel this way.  Take some time each day, maybe a half an hour or so, where you can sit alone and really think about how the changes are effecting you and about your loss.  You are alone, so, by all means, cry if you need to!  You may need a brave and strong front for your family so they feel secure, but you need to give yourself time to vent your feelings so they don’t come out when you don’t want them to.

Check off each of these points and reflect on how much you already have. Then start to build up from there! One brick at a time, your life will come together.


And So It Begins…

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. —

– Izaak Walton

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Sometimes there are things that happen to us in this world that seem absolutely insurmountable.   Abandonment, for example.  You think you have found someone that will stand beside you through thick and thin, only to find yourself wondering where they are when times get tough.  There are far too many unexpected and unfair circumstances we can come to find ourselves in.

This isn’t about considering those things and dwelling on them.  Some people get stuck right there, dwelling on what they lost.  There is another option!  The old saying “every cloud has a silver lining” may not be true exactly… but you can certainly turn any situation around with a good change of perspective and a little bit of motivation.  It is about flexing those “overcoming” muscles as often as you can, and getting better and stronger each time!  Sometimes, it’s “fake it ‘til you make it” when you don’t feel strong enough to flex, but that is OK, too!  This is about becoming the type of person that can do exactly that!

It is up to you.  You CAN put your family in a better financial position. All by yourself.  You CAN give your children and yourself the life you deserve.  Everyone has a different starting point and ultimate goal, but we are all traveling on the same path.  This is my attempt to reach out and help others that find themselves in a new and unexpected situation. There are countless ways to begin!

Pick whichever starting point suits you best from the Categories over to the right!  If you have any content suggestions, please feel free to reach out! Please like, comment, and share!