P.S.S. it’s not as scary as you think

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve hunkered down to write a post, but legitimate reasons and life happenings have kept me graciously on my toes.

You see, within the last 6 months my husband and I have experienced rapid life changes and happenings quite consecutively.

In July we had our incredible wedding.

In October we purchased our first home. 

Also, in October – we found out our first baby (Baby Powell!) was on the way. 

The following 3 life happenings are fairly drastic changes that typically are spaced over spans of time. But, as we have all experienced at some point before – life happens! It also happens in the most beautiful and magical of ways (yes, I always have to sprinkle my pixie dust here & there when I get the opportunity).

Within the last few years of getting serious about personal finances, it was incredible how often I stumbled upon opinions and posts on home buying, weddings and kids that made me beyond nervous. I mean sweating bullets, palms sweaty (like Eminem in Lose Yourself) nervous. How financially these events take a toll, how expensive they all can be, the negative implications they have on your life, and how they have the potential to strip away your financial independence. Since I read so many pieces reflecting such opinions, I questioned all of the following and whether they were worth it over and over again.

But I had to take a step back and re-evaluate. I took a hiatus from this space. I went back to my true aspirations, roots, and shared conversations with my husband, family and friends.

Regardless of what our generation is spoon fed on the daily (‘Travel everywhere so you can finally discover yourself! and ‘Don’t follow the American Dream!’ or how about ‘Millennials will never have enough money for retirement!’) – I couldn’t help but wonder what if I actually want all the things they’re telling me not to do all along? What if I feel I can discover myself right where I live, in my community, in the comforts of my home? What if I feel financially responsible enough to spend while simultaneously saving for retirement? It’s as if most of these thought pieces and articles make you choose one or the other. You simply cannot have both. They are mutually exclusive.

I knew I wanted to have a wedding with the man of my dreams. I knew I wanted to purchase a home that could be filled with love and memories. I knew I wanted to have a kid (or kids).

Why do people keep saying these things are so wrong?!

That’s when doubt came in and I had to take a break. It was challenging to keep reading work that spoke so highly against what I have always dreamed while growing up. I understand the concepts of living your life by your own design, but sometimes that still includes some of the traditions of the past.

Maybe the idea of reaching financial independence at a young age isn’t exactly what I desire – but it surely doesn’t mean that I am being reckless with my finances either.

So I am here to share with you P.S.S. and that all of these wonderful life happenings: a wedding, a home, and a baby aren’t as a scary as you think. 

Do recognize this is my personal take on personal finances. I am thrilled if you prefer to make different decisions in life to reach your goals and aspirations, even if they aren’t parallel to mine. That’s the beauty of this all – what you choose is yours and yours alone. Don’t let anyone make you feel that what you want is wrong. 

I’ve learned an amazing amount about personal finances in the last 3 years, and there are certain foundations I have taken away to create a healthy financial balance with. One of the biggest foundations is P.S.S.:


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Even if your personality is not type A, planning is pivotal when it comes to personal finances. Plan to beef up that emergency fund, plan to take on a new venture or life happening with preparedness. Whether it’s jotting down goals, creating spreadsheets, tracking via an app, make sure to do something. If you do not have a plan getting from one point to the next will be an absolute cluster with no direction. The biggest aspect of planning is COMMUNICATION – with your partners, friends, significant others, and family. I cannot stress that one enough! Be open, transparent, and honest – or else you may end up in a completely different direction than intended. 

S.ave

We all know saving is of utmost importance, especially when most life events can be financially stretching. Now that you have a plan set in place, increasing your tool set (money, investments, etc.) will allow you to execute your plan as successfully as possible. Saving can be done in a variety of ways, and there is not one way that will work best for each and every person. Whether it’s setting up automatic transfers to your savings account, withdrawing cash to spend to allow you to save the rest, or monitoring your savings goal on an app tracker, establish great savings habits. 

S.pend

After the hard work is over, you’re now ready to spend. This becomes the most challenging part of P.S.S. at times. With hours of planning, and weeks, months, or even years of saving – it’s just plain hard to finally spend. This is the most important aspect of P.S.S. to get comfortable with. It took me awhile to be OK with spending. But once you get in the habitual cycle of P.S.S., your realize that it becomes a comfortable and natural flow of life. You find that you are never financially in a position that is uncomfortable. You plan accordingly, you save what you can, and you spend. Three things – that’s all I find it takes before stressing yourself out beyond measure. The biggest part of spending? If you have completed planning & saving – do not feel guilty about spending! That’s right, I’m giving you permission to not feel guilt about spending your money.


 

We planned and saved for our wedding by setting a budget and tracking on a spreadsheet and an app. We stuck to it and held ourselves accountable. We researched ways that we could decrease costs – whether it was DIY’ing decor, asking for help, searching Craigslist endlessly, or purchasing bulk roses from Costco. The ultimate goal was to have a day filled with love and family, and we accomplished that without going into debt.

We planned for our first home by saving up a significant down payment. We knew we would be ready and looking to buy when interest rates were incredibly low. We purchased a home that was less than HALF of what we were pre-approved for. We held steadfast to our goals and made sure to not even look at places that were out of reach. With shows on HGTV, Pinterest, and websites with beautiful homes – it’s a challenge to not get distracted. A plan helps you stick to what you can financially afford and realistically take on.

We planned and saved for our first baby by communicating (as heavily mentioned above). Both my husband and I had similar feelings on when we would be financially sound and ready to grow our family. We gathered information from friends, family, and from our workplaces on insurance, maternity / paternity leave policies, and overall advice. We also were prepared that timing isn’t always perfect – but being open to life with widespread arms allowed us to both feel confident and reassured.

Now that I have established the cycle of P.S.S., I revisit it often and confidently. Financially, I have never felt better – even with taking on some of the biggest decisions in life. I finally was able to overcome my fears of having a wedding, purchasing a home, and having a baby – and quite honestly, it just took establishing this 3 step process (yeah, I know – that sounds like one of those cheesy new year things). Now when it comes to money, there’s no worries or stress – it’s just P.S.S.

P.S.S. it’s not as scary as you think.

Reflections of a Break Well Spent

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I am bombarded each & every day with things that compete for my interest. When I embark on this list below, I could imagine you will have a mental checking system of which ones are also incorporated into your life:

text messages – email – Slack – social media – advertisements – traffic – tweets – likes – swirling thoughts – task pings – notifications – calendar reminders – hunger – thirst – sleepiness – body temperature change – red lights – podcasts – breaking news – green lights – sneezing – breathing – work out routines – talking – shouting – music – hand waves – high fives – cash registers – and on…and on…and on.

Yes, this may be a random list. But I look at this list and I feel…off balance. I started to recognize that I expend a lot of my energy in multiple facets of life, and some days I forget to reflect on just….myself. That’s craziness.

This blog was a way to capture that reflection of self. I could look back on the entries and recount the journey of where I started, the progress I made, and where I was headed in my future. Attempting to detract all of the thoughts from my head (trust me, it’s a confusing place at times) and placing them in a coherent post was an advanced exercise that challenged me. The mere idea that I could connect with someone that I had never met in life on the other side of the globe captivated me. The people I could connect with on a different level of conversation after they read my posts was incredible.

When there was a void of these writing exercises during my hiatus, I tended to find myself lost down the paths of everything else that competed for my interest. I left barely any room, time, or space in my schedule to myself.

Don’t get me wrong – I would still find ways to increase my personal, professional & physical self. But check this out: when I work out, I still need music or a podcast running in the background. When I read, it’s usually in an environment where all sound is not drowned out. When I listen to music, I’m typically having to focus on another task at hand whether it’s driving, or digging into a project.

The one place I found where I could reflect the most on myself was after reaching a summit of a hike (thank you, Spencers and Skinners Butte). At the summit, all is quiet. Still. Calm. The blanket of nature enveloping you, while a slight breeze tantalizes just the surface of your skin.

Yet even at a summit, it is difficult to find a time to hike within my schedule where I will be sharing these moments with several other people who have the same idea to hike. Once you reach the top there is still music, chatter, dogs barking, and the lot.

Writing continues to be my place when I exercise a reflection of self.

Then comes in another obstacle – the creation of pressure to write as much content as I can possibly manage to maintain a schedule. Since writing is such a sacred endeavor (yes, it’s that powerful to me at times) – I felt this force placing much more weight on my shoulders. Another line item of a task to define myself as being worthy and qualified.

I also thought a lot about this on my hiatus. While I was maintaining GenerationYRA, one minute I would say: “Oh, I left my phone at home – I don’t need that!” Then the next, I was going down the worm hole of pressing link, after link. Post, after post. Comment, after comment. Drawn into that virtual reality world on either a phone, or a computer. I had this push pull of how much time I should actually spend on my site.

Now that I am going down this path, I get lost in the tumultuous terrain of feeling worthy. I am not ashamed to admit this vulnerability.

Somehow there happened to be this creation of a picturesque life where likes, view counts, filters, resume qualifications, followers, internships, volunteerism efforts, re-tweets, career titles and accomplishments define who we are.

These are just things. Things that somehow place people into a trophy case where life creates a facade of a rose colored lens all of the dang time.

Sure, the positive things in life and external reinforcements can be good things.

But who really are you?

Because YOU are you for the rest of your life.

You are not compared to all of those around you as much as you think. Most of that is just a mental battle.

If you were to shed away all of the social media reinforcements and gold stars…who would you be? How would you describe yourself? What drives you internally without external reinforcements?

And what about our failures?

People fail all. of. the. time.

And I am not just speaking of the high profile figures in the lime light, the actors, or reality TV stars, and the professional athletes that we read about in the news.

Regular people fail, but they are ashamed. Ashamed of the guilt, the fear, the conversations that are to follow. But I want to know about these people. I want to learn about the ‘average joes‘ because I can relate to them on an immense amount of levels.

Every experience creates a foundation for your next happening in life.

That happening can be positive, or negative.

Let’s not just rely on the halo that was created by everything else around us.

Okay Alyssa, it’s been awhile (over 3 months!) and you got me here reading this – what does this even have to do with personal finance?

I’m going to be real with you here. Absolutely, I was so incredibly busy I could not even fathom generating content for GenerationYRA.com. I started a new job, was planning a wedding with my fiance (it’s in July!), worked with a steering committee to put on the first ever Eugene Young Professionals Summit, continued to volunteer locally, and kept up with my family & friends. When I had any breathing minutes, or seconds I was committing to my site – and not so much to myself.

But here is one of the more vulnerable and challenging points to admit, especially when I attempt to maintain a positive space.

I was consumed.

Consumed by all things personal finance. It was on my mind literally…all of the time. I needed books, podcasts, blog posts, content, everything I could grip my hands on or listen to with my ears. I couldn’t get enough. It was almost maddening. I poked & prodded and forced conversations because I felt like people needed to talk about personal finance more. Instead of an organic learning process, I created forceful amounts of efforts so that I could ensure I would not fail with money.

I applauded myself for squandering away savings. I would sweat bullets any time I had to make a purchase at the cash register, or made my way to a check out page online. I gave myself literal headaches from stressing about every aspect of a future purchase. I frowned upon choices that were made because they were viewed as ‘reckless’ in terms of finances. I would toss and turn at night attempting to mentally calculate my accounts because I wasn’t checking them online, or through an app. I cried tears because after I would finally make a decision with money, I experienced regret because I felt I did the wrong thing. I spent countless minutes (maybe hours) checking my portfolios, personal finance apps, and mobile banking platform. I would purchase items in the most prudent manner, only to find that I ended up having to make repeat purchases because the quality was not there. I was incredibly focused on the future of my retirement, that I forgot what living in the present was truly supposed to feel like.

This is the ugly side of personal finance. The intense highs and lows of everything related to my money actions and thoughts were taking a toll on me.

Money can consume your thoughts even when you think you are making all the right decisions. Sometimes it can be a shock to the system when you focus on a particular thing for a positive change, that it inevitably ends up being a hinderance.

Of course, this is not the case or story for everyone. But I needed a break. I chose to focus on other areas of life, and slowly the stress began melting away.

And you know what happened during my hiatus?

All of my money decisions and habits remained the same. Except, instead of stressing about it all of the time – I let the positive habits take their course.

My automatic savings for investments continued to pull from my account bi-weekly. I still contributed to my future retirement accounts. I would still research purchases, but made decisions at a faster pace. I allowed myself to participate in more activities and events with my friends and family to celebrate the present – even if that meant higher dollar amounts than what I would normally intend to spend. If I actively made purchases in one area a bit higher, I automatically chose to decrease spending in another category.

My savings continued, my stressful thoughts decreased, and the positive personal finance habits I worked diligently to implement continued on auto-pilot.

I’d say that was one of the major highlights of my hiatus.

Because just like external reinforcements that sometimes prove our worthiness (likes, re-tweets, followers, etc.), money is also just that.

It’s an external reinforcement. It’s a tool. It is an extension to allow us to accomplish purchases, savings, basic human needs – but it is not a true extension of ourselves. (P.S. Jason Vitug does a wonderful job of explaining this in his book, You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life – I had to give him a plug, because the work he is doing is amazing).

Contrary to the previous depiction of the ‘American Dream’…people are becoming more intelligent to learn that tangible items, goods, and things do not make themselves as a person. Wealth & status will not always fulfill the void, create true happiness, or really define who you are. More and more people realize that even the most wealthy people will choose to drive a used car, live in a modest sized-house (or van!), and choose experiences over fancy items.

Money is a tool, and if someone were to strip it away from your possession – who are you as a person?

Who you were 10 years ago with either less, or more money does not change the true individual that you are today. Yeah, money may be able to allow you to take some trips, make some new purchases, increase your savings account – and I am not saying these are negative things…but if life was void of that, what could you say about yourself, the people, the experiences you have had if they were not influenced by money?

Be grateful. Stay humble. Smile with everything you’ve got. Invest in relationships.

These are things I love, and none of them have to do with money. The fact that I can exercise these four things with vivacious energy, and no cash/credit necessary truly makes me feel full of contentment.

I may have had to go to an extreme of taking a break from GenerationYRA to really discover these truths, but I think it was certainly for the best. At 26, I’ve got a lot of life to live, and a lot of wonderful people to share it with. I’ve got a lot of personal and professional development to experience, and growth that oftentimes comes from moments that do not require any form of monetization.

From now on, I will be using this space as a reflection of self on moments and life. I will still include elements of personal finance and money and how it intertwines with those experiences, but it will not be the sole focus of GenerationYRA. To start back up, I also will not have a regular posting schedule – this well help alleviate adding another item on the to-do list. It’s amazing how being on a break for 3 months makes me feel as if it’s going to take time to get back into this groove.

I understand this change may lose a certain portion of my readers & viewers – and that’s okay. You only have so many given minutes in the day and I encourage you to use them wisely. Invest in the places, the people & the content that you want to spend time on.

I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to every incredible individual that has been on this crazy journey with me (especially if you have been reading since the beginning!). To those I have had the gracious opportunity to meet in person, your conversations mean more than you know. Time, and time again I am blown away by the spatial areas of connections that the internet closes the gap on in the most positive of ways.

I’m still going to be around, don’t you worry! It just may look and sound a bit different around here. 🙂

Oh, and P.S. personal finance is still one of my jams. I will take you up on any conversation you would like to have either in the comments, via email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, or any in-person conversation on any given day. I am still learning all the time, and that includes hearing from you!

It feels great to be back – thanks for reading, all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Confusion of Money, Feelings and Language

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What do you notice when you scroll through the following images…

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I could imagine it did not take you long to realize that color is a prominent theme throughout the following images. 

You see colors are dominant in life, but the incredible thing about them is – if someone had never seen a color before (or, you are trying to explain the color to someone who may be color blind), how do you explain what a color really is?

It’s like this Vsauce video by Michael Stevens (love these Vsauce videos): Is Your Red The Same as My Red?

Now, I know you must be wondering what does color have to do with money? – and just as Michael states in the video above:

“…color is created inside our heads.”

This is the correlation in terms of personal finance:

Like color, money can also be an illusion that’s created inside our heads. 

We share our stories, tips, strategies, pitfalls…and walk away thinking we have a mutual understanding. Oftentimes we do, but in reality – the way that I view money in my mind is probably starkly varying from how you view it in your mind (even if we have similar experiences). 

In Michael/Vsauce’s video, he also explains how failure of language can lead to misunderstandings. This is strongly prevalent through society:

  • When we have more money we’re supposed to feel happy.
  • When we are in debt we are supposed to feel down.
  • When we receive a windfall it’s supposed to be a pleasant surprise. 
  • When we incur an unexpected life cost we’re supposed to say “insert select choice word here” and turn to our emergency funds. 

…but does this language always have to ring true in terms of personal finance? Or, is it just that we have been exposed to the following way too many times that we are expected to feel this way for each situation?

Because on the contrary:

I have seen that more money can also lend itself to stress, because expectations of lifestyle inflation are always there.

I have learned that debt does not have to consume people, and that they can begin to feel more empowered to take control of their finances regardless of past situations.

I have experienced that an additional windfall can cause confusion because my mind battles between whether I should pay my future self, or live in the moment now.

I have read that people have turned their unexpected costs into joyous life lessons that have set them up for a stronger future. 

Now, how’s all that for confusion of money, feelings and language?


 

So let’s tie this all in here, because this may seem all over the board…

How we all view colors may be different in terms of perspective, feelings, and what our mind generates for ourselves. What can be incredibly vivid in color to one person, may be a few shades lighter to others. If neon color causes stress to one person, it could cause attractiveness and feelings of like to another.

Recognize that perceptions of colors are similar to the theme of what type of feelings and language are created around money to each person.

What you value spending and saving money for, may mean varying emotions to another. If indulging in the now brings happiness, someone saving for the later may feel the opposite. If winning the lottery would make your life, just know that someone feels investing & saving slowly will give them gratification. When learning of someone’s experience of debt, just know that even if you have not experienced it does not mean that your perception should be of hopelessness & powerlessness – they may be in a much stronger place than they have ever been. 

The important part is that we discuss with transparency what our feelings and language are in terms of money because we have been exposed to so much grey area.

That way we can all come to a mutual understanding without discrimination, disdain, confusion, or anger. Each one of us has our stories, and that is why personal finances become unique. When we can recognize the feelings and language around money void of confusion, we can then support each other on our journeys and pathways of life. 

When we eliminate confusion and find common ground, then we can bring colors to our conversations of feelings and language around money for a bright future.


Have you ever experienced confusion of explaining what money means to you in terms of feelings and language to others? How can we bring to light more color in our conversations to combat the grey areas we’ve been exposed to? There’s a lot to take in with this post – but I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

The $5 Million Dollar Ponder

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Oh yes, Super Bowl 50 is now over & done (at the point you are reading this)…and at this given point in time (Saturday evening, February 6th) I have not the slightest idea whether the Broncos, or the Panthers have taken the win. Quite frankly, I am more of a college sports gal – but it’s fun to watch the Super Bowl with the other 114.4 million viewers out there in the U.S. (based of the statistics from last year here)….


The year is 2016 – and guess how much the price was for a 30 second Super Bowl ad?

$5 MILLION DOLLARS.

Let’s just let that sink in for a bit (and check out this article here if you were wondering where this fact came from). I mean c’mon, that’s 5 times the amount that Dr. Evil said with dramatic effect in Austin Powers (but if we’re getting technical, significantly less than his “$100 billion dollars” shout out…).

Some of us may not even see/acquire that much money in a lifetime. Yet, here we’ve got companies able to just drop $5 mill. for 30 seconds of America’s time. Thank goodness most people have enough of an attention span to last that given amount of time?

For most of us, Super Bowl commercials come & go. We may review them in our Marketing lectures in college. It used to be I was straight up entertained by any & all Super Bowl commercials. When I think back on it, one of the only commercials that really sticks out in my mind is when a young boy dressed like Darth Vader using ‘the force’ turns on a new Volkswagen Jetta that’s sitting in the driveway (when secretly, his Dad is turning on the car from inside the house – if you don’t remember this commercial, check it out here). It’s incredible to me that this commercial aired in 2011, that was 5 years ago! Did it make me want to buy a Jetta? Nope, not one bit. Yet the cleverness, the targeted audience of Star Wars lovers, and the emotional appeal behind the commercial was very captivating.

Now, ads are just…interesting.

By the way, thanks Mountain Dew…for spending $5 million (?) to get “Puppy Monkey Baby” stuck in my head for all of eternity (insert straight faced emoji here because I’ve already laughed enough at the initial shock of watching the creepiness of the ad).

Instead of gluing my eyes to the TV during commercial breaks, I’m typically getting up to refill my plate of delicious snacks, grabbing a new refreshment, or any other random act that makes me turn/walk away. But then it struck me…the $5 million dollar ponder:

If I had a 30 second ad that I paid $5 million dollars for, what would I show to the 114.4 million viewers out there?

  • Would it be for a fancy new gadget, or a brand new blender that can miraculously chop up anything you put into it?
  • Would it be for a brand new delicious craft beer I took a liking to, or a piece of technology that enhanced my quality of life?
  • Would it show me grabbing the keys to a new house, or a vacation of a lifetime?
  • Would it be for a brand new exercise that’s changed my life, or a new lotion that has all the anti-aging ingredients that you could possibly put into one bottle?

No. None of those things at all. But I could imagine that you could rattle off thousands of commercials that feature the following.

You know what I would show in those 30 seconds?

An elapsed timeline of all the hugs & smiles I’ve ever shared with people in my lifetime.

Now before you hit the “X” in the top right corner because you’re thinking “Man this girl is crazy...” hear me out. All of the hugs & smiles I’ve shared in my lifetime are worth every bit of those $5 million dollars. In fact, they would be worth even more than $1 billion dollars.

Now, I know I am only one viewer/consumer – but when it comes to advertisements the one’s that capture me are the ones that have emotional appeal. You show me a story completely unrelated to your product but that pulls at my heart strings, you’ve captured my attention. Also, think about how many of these emotional appeal advertisements are captivating to a universal audience?

That’s where smiles & hugs come in. 

A vast majority of people can relate to the following two categories. Think about all the bear hugs, embraces, radiating smiles, sheepish grins, etc. that you’ve experienced in your lifetime. They are absolutely priceless (Ok, so maybe this seems more like a Mastercard ad…), but I am not trying to sell a credit card here. I’m just trying to evoke a feeling. The feeling that comes bursting at the seams, or should I say the experience of “all the feels” when we give/receive a hug, or smile. Recall all of the special connections and people in your life that you’ve shared these particular moments in life with. In the future, it would be amazing to see that type of highlight reel.

That to me, is beyond worth $5 million dollars…even if it is just for 30 seconds.


If you paid $5 million for a 30 second Super Bowl ad, what would you share? I can’t wait to hear in the comments below!

Money & Essentialism

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This past Friday, I finished a book entitled Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (selected by my new company’s book club)! It was a fast & incredibly relevant read. (P.S. If you’ve been to my corner of the internet a few times, you’ll start to recognize that books serve as a major source of inspiration for my posts). Today I’m bringing a breakdown of Essentialism, overall life, and how this all correlates to money & personal finance.

money & essentialism


More and more the rapidity of life, technology and pursuit of success seems to overwhelm individuals. I can attest to this…from shaping my resume & refining my GPA in high school and college, to graduating and feeling like I am constantly huffing and puffing to keep in stride with life. After leaving several years of life at the educational institute level, it suddenly seems like you are back to square one. Regardless of how equipped you may be with the knowledge you acquired in school/university, nothing can quite prepare you for the spontaneity of the real world. Not to mention, the years fly by rapidly in an exponential fashion. The days are not prepackaged in tidy quarters/semesters where you can look forward to the consistent refresh & recharge experienced during winter, spring and summer break.

But we press on, and we learn what works best for us. The Essentialism book allows you to evaluate what truly matters to you independently, versus the needs & wants of others. One of the main themes of the book is: how can you contribute your best efforts and passions if you are spreading yourself in a million different ways? Despite the underlying tones of needing and wanting to have it all, how can you create an intentional life that allows you to flourish?

Here is a great line from the book that encompasses its message:

“Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter” (McKeown pg 4).

Then I got to thinking of Essentialism in terms of personal finance…

  • How many times have we said “yes” to an event, or an activity despite what parameters we set for our budget?

  • How often have we stressed about our next student loan payment because we were too busy spending all of our money in fear that we would miss out?

  • How consistently have we spread ourselves too thin attempting to accomplish every financial goal as fast as we possibly could that we neglected a particular expense that caught us off guard?

  • How many occurrences have we given into the temptation of “another round,” a splurge purchase, a treat yo’ self moment, that we suddenly turned a blind eye to long term savings goals?

When we are not essential with our money, we have competing interests forcing us in every which way. This could quite honestly relate to positive, or negative habits in relation to your finances. When we refer back to the Inverted U-Curve of Personal Finance we discover that thinking too little about personal finance can develop habits that drain your wallet. While thinking too much about personal finance can lead you to missing what life is wanting you to experience right now. Finding your optimal point of how much to think about personal finance allows you to practice Essentialism with your money.

If you say yes to every brunch-concert-weekend getaway-bar night-impulse buy-latest technology gadget-fancy clothes…where is the room in your budget to contribute to those student loan payments, future retirement savings, or goals to travel to where you want to go (and not just the passing fancies of someone else)? When you say “yes” to every request you may lose sight of what you value, what you would like to do, where you want to go, who you truly want to spend time with. Your contributions to your savings goals become less and less.

Then there is the other angle, where we may have too many savings-tax-expense-budgeting-investing goals in which we are expending a vast amount of effort & energy just trying to do it all. A small lump sum there, a deposit here, a couple dollars there, and they all should amount to something right? Yet when we are exhausting our mental capacity, and seem to be reaching the verge of argument over money matters with friends, family, significant others – our contributions to each competing goal can become trivial. Slip ups and mistakes may emerge due to your mental capacity stretching thin. Oversights to unforeseen expenses may emerge and knock your pristine budget that you felt was absolutely gridlocked.

To combat these negative aspects of financial matters, I recognized that we can practice the fine tuning of money & Essentialism. When we hone in on what we value, what matters to us, who we want to spend our time with – we can start saying no to things that take away from our financial goals. We can then enhance our motivation to contribute to our savings without conflicting and competing interests. Our energy is not displaced, but flourishing. We find the perfect balance between optimizing our personal finances, and discovering the ability to make our best contributions to what we value in terms of saving, donations, investing, etc. When you determine what is essential to you in life, you will discover ways to align your personal finances with a new found ease. 


How can we practice Essentialism with our personal finances? Can you relate to money & Essentialism? Let’s discuss below!

The Eugene Elf

This past weekend, my hometown received a little holiday magic visit from The Eugene Elf!

Inspired by Maggie at Northern Expenditure’s “The Experience Based Christmas,” taking on Tawcan’s “A Reader’s Challenge – Christmas Giving” and perpetuating the use of a Flexible Philanthropy Fund I explained in a past post – my fiance & I set out on an adventure to give back this holiday season in a spontaneous way. I think we may have created a new tradition!


While spending a glorious Saturday morning watching Christmas movies & wrapping our Secret Santa gifts for our family exchange, we were brainstorming different ways to give back more during this holiday season.

Both of us agreed while Savoring Your Bonus is Not Erroneous, we wanted to put half towards our savings goals (specifically, the home down payment fund) and give the other portion to others. Then my mind kicked into full on idea generating mode (thank you, coffee).

I pulled out my stationary storage box (okay, I’m not even kidding about the saved part – I have leftover graduation announcement envelopes back from 2012 I still use). There were 10 leftover holiday cards equipped with red envelopes I specifically remember snatching up from the Target Dollar Spot last year (incredibly festive, and they are holiday neutral – the red envelope was my favorite part as shown in the header image above)! We decided to take $20 to fill each envelope, and include this little handwritten note (there was also a generic message the card featured as well):

“Holiday magic is all around you! Please take, save, share, give, spend.

Happy Holidays!

-The Eugene Elf”

eugene elf

eugene elf 2


The question was: how could we hide these envelopes around town to surprise people with this holiday magic? 

We thought of sliding underneath apartment doors, leaving on car windshields. Handing off to passerby pedestrians downtown,or leaving in city flower pots. We contemplated placing in newspaper, or randomly picked residential mailboxes.

The trickiness was that we wanted to be left anonymous & hope the location of the envelopes would allow them to not get rained on (its been raining like crazy as of late)! Not to mention, a bright red envelop in a random location has this sort of ominous vibe (but it is the holidays?).

Then we circled back to one of our most favorite places in the city…

The Public Library.

YES!!!

It’s inside, allows for anyone in the city to visit, and the envelopes would either be discovered soon – or in the future for when that certain book gets checked out. My fiance & I both couldn’t count the number of times we’ve been reading a library book and all of the sudden a previous persons’ bookmark, receipt, postcard, sticky note, etc. slipped out of the book and onto our laps. Why not have a holiday cheer card from The Eugene Elf to slip out while you are reading? 🙂

We entered the library & divvied up the cards. We went our separate ways & strategically selected books to place the red holiday cheer envelopes in. After we both finished, we checked out more books that were on our lists to read (can’t get enough!) and reported back on which books we selected & why. We giggled, smiled & couldn’t believe how “stealth” we felt entering the rows of books to slip in these red envelope surprises. (You know, kind of like the E.L.F. squad in The Santa Clause – but not really your worst nightmare, or with attitude ha).

Now, I can’t quite say which books we hid them in (it keeps the holiday magic a surprise!) – but I can give you hints –

My List of Books Chosen:

  1. A book that changed my perception on personal finance.

  2. A book written by a powerful writer that allowed me to challenge the status quo norms.

  3. A book that relates to my Dad’s heritage.

My Fiance’s List of Books Chosen:

  1. A book that relates to his passion and line of work.

  2. A book in a series that is a very popular, hit TV show.

  3. A book that is written by one of the most gripping suspense writers of all time.

  4. A book that incorporates a percentage in the title.

*If you’re taking note that there are only 7 cards listed here – you’re absolutely right! 2 cards we did place on cars located in the parking garage on the driver’s window. The 3rd card (and first one I gave out) I attempted to pass on to a barista to choose a customer at random to give at a local coffee shop…but he was very skeptical (I don’t blame him – hey, random girl that’s passing off a sealed red envelope that could be filled with something other than holiday cheer & cash). I felt a bit awkward (I should have thought my presentation through better), and decided to open the card in front of him, showed him the message, and just asked that he put the $20 in the tip jar to be allotted to each employee. This is nothing against this employee & coffee shop, I understand that safety is of top priority!


My fiance & I plan to check back on the books we selected in a year to see if the red envelopes filled with holiday magic have been discovered, or not. Thank you again to Maggie at Northern ExpenditureTawcan (& several other personal finance bloggers!) for sharing your holiday magic and inspiring others to do so.

I want to wish all of you an incredibly wonderful holiday season!

May it be filled with spontaneity, magic & all those you love. 

Can It Be True: 10 Things I Hate About You

The following post was created for Sarah’s #pfmessages (personal finance messages) series presented over at The Yachtless! Sarah posed the question:

“What types of messages about wealth and personal finance do you see hidden in literature and popular culture?”

I was thrilled to take on this question. It reminded me of the topics/challenges that I had to expand upon in college. So come take this journey as I respond to this prompt below!

P.S. If you’re interested in also generating content for #pfmessages, Sarah has invited anyone & everyone to contribute by December 27th. Head on over to her post “Widening The Circle” to find out more details!


For Sarah’s #pfmessages exercise I am going to evaluate a movie – one that was pretty prevalent in terms of popular culture through my youth. I was completely enthralled with this movie because it was a modern day interpretation of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.

That’s right! If you haven’t quite guessed it yet, the movie I’m going to  break down is:

10 Things I Hate About You

Oh all the glory, the angst, high school parties, beautiful Seattle/Pacific NW scenery, and excellent Walter Stratford lines such as :“I’m down, I’ve got the 411, and you are not going out and getting jiggy with some guy I don’t care how dope his ride is.” (I think I could probably recite a ridiculous amount of lines from this movie)…

I’m going to provide an analysis on the main characters in terms of wealth and personal finance. My analysis of each character is not what is actually true to real life, but just so happens to be depicted through characters fairly consistently in popular culture. While reading each analysis of the characters, also think about other films/pieces of literature where you can insert the same depiction and qualities.

To me, a lot of what movies, television shows, and books provide are opportunities to relate to characters on a personal level as they develop throughout the duration of the story. Whether you feel in tune with their traits/personalities, or absolute disgust with their actions, we can critically evaluate and dissect whether we are similar to, different from each character. Not to mention, it also allows us to categorize other people’s personalities/characteristics we may have met, interact with, or have encountered in life.

Let’s begin the breakdown & analysis!

(Please note: for length purposes, each breakdown & analysis is quite condensed and only limited to 4 characters from the film. I know there is much deeper analysis beyond what I depict & much more to be said)!


Kat/Katarina Stratford 

Breakdown – The ‘meanest’ girl in school and against conformity due to people and their “meaningless consumer driven lives.” (now that’s deep)! Sister of Bianca and daughter to the infamous Walter Stratford. Is lured unknowingly into dating Patrick Verona after there is a scheme set into place so that her sister Bianca can date (which involves exchange of money set up between Joey Donner, Cameron James & his friend Michael).

Analysis – Against consumerism, Kat’s non-conformity is heightened to an extreme level where she is recognized as cold, scathing and even a “mutant” (as her sister exclaims). Her sister, Bianca and classmates view her behavior as ridiculous & rude (wait, people are seen as weird when they go against typical norms?). Kat is completely floored when she discovers she was used while dating Patrick Verona, simply to allow her sister to date. In the end, admits to loving Patrick (through an exceptional poem presentation in English class) and accepts his gracious gift of a new guitar to pursue music.

Bianca Stratford

Breakdown – The most popular, pretty girl in school. At the beginning, is swept away by Joey Donner’s looks, fancy car and affluence. Eventually learns his ridiculousness, and once Kat begins dating, decides she wants to date Cameron James the new guy in school instead (which abides by the rules of her dad where the daughters can only date if both choose to do so: not either or). Bianca learns to separate their differences and is able to mend her relationship with her sister Kat. Ends up with Cameron in the end, and not the wealthy Joey.

Analysis – The classic plot line of pretty girl in school pairs with popular good-looking rich guy, because that just makes the most sense…right? After learning true qualities & characteristics of Joey (who she is expected to date), ends up falling for the good new guy Cameron because nice guys don’t have to finish last. Ironically, her relationship with her sister is  fixed after she learns that Kat used to be like her (in the popular crowd dating Joey Donner) – wait, what?

Patrick Verona

Breakdown – The wild rebel in school who allegedly ate a live duck once. Is presented with an opportunity by Joey Donner to get paid to take non-conformist Kat out on a date, that way Joey can date his sister Bianca (to follow their dad’s rules). Initially, refuses his offer (go, Patrick)! Once he is posed with a higher dollar offer, ends up giving in and accepting the money to take Kat out. Ends up actually falling for Kat. Messes up & upsets Kat when she learns she was a bet. He says his iconic line: “I didn’t care about the money! I cared about you!” In the end, takes all the money that Joey had given him to buy a brand new, shiny guitar to gift to Kat so she can pursue her music passions.

Analysis – Sometimes against better judgment, people will go against character for extreme offers (i.e. once Patrick accepted the money Joey offered him to date Kat it was bound to be a doomed situation). Although completely generous that Patrick did not use the money received from Joey, he poured it into a gift for Kat that was one heavy spend endeavor (a guitar). Ironically, she accepts it (despite her anti-consumerism messages provided in the beginning of the movie). Patrick’s feelings for Kat when he professes his care for her shows that relationships truly should trump money.

Joey Donner

Breakdown – Rich, stuck-up, ‘handsome,’ suit wearing, model, fancy car driving Joey. Donner. Believes he deserves everything he wants – including the prettiest girl in school, Bianca (even though his personality is awful). Has enough money to bribe Patrick Verona into dating Kat Stratford. Feels the urge to use foul & vulgar language whenever someone acts out of line (like when Kat damages his sports car while trying to leave the music store because he so rudely parks in her way).

Analysis – Wealth = attractiveness, power & popularity. You can only be the following as long as you have wealth. Wealth also allows you all the control to get what you want & with force if need be. Also if you’re wealthy & popular, you have to be paired with someone else who is wealthy & popular. At some point or another, everyone will begin to see through your awful character and wealth will not be the only thing that saves you.


As you can see, a lot of the character breakdowns & analysis mentioned above can actually be quite true to real life. Can you think of anyone you know/have had encounters with that may be like Kat, Bianca, Patrick, or Joey (maybe not just entirely, but certain traits)? These roles are depicted time and time again through literature and popular culture. The question is, has popular culture caused people to develop into such roles whether intentionally, or unintentionally?

Characters in movies provide us an opportunity to relate, empathize, or even stray away from what is depicted. The challenge is that in our youth, we are developing. Learning. Finding our way in the world. Unfortunately, we may be completely impressionable and begin to believe the trends of particular characters utilized often in movies are absolute truths, even in real life.

When we approach adulthood, we are more equipped with real life experiences, lessons and formal education that allow us to challenge even entertainment and popular culture “norms.” We have the opportunity to separate fiction from reality. 

So can it be true…

…that people may begin to emulate character traits like those shown in 10 Things I Hate About You, or can we break away from the personal finance cultural messages we are continuously bombarded with in popular culture?


What other messages related to wealth and personal finance do you think are a part of 10 Things I Hate About You? Do you hear Barenaked Ladies’ song “One Week” also play in your head when you think about this movie? How do you break away from cultural messages that are prevalent in popular culture? Let’s begin the discussion!

The Inverted U-Curve of Personal Finance

Okay…so before you ditch out on me because I mentioned “inverted U-curve” in my title – hang on just a quick second! This is going to be much more straight forward than what you may be expecting. You see, I picked up a haul of books from the library this fine fall evening (seriously, I scored on some great reads) and happened to get my hands on a copy of David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Now, I know inverted U-curves did not just stem from Gladwell’s book – but his chapter depicting the inverted U-curve (to classroom size & family wealth) got me thinking…what is the optimal point for thinking about personal finance on the inverted U-curve?


For those of you who may not have read David & Goliath, or cannot even remember the last time you discussed an inverted U-curve (possibly even Kuznets Curve) – no worries! Here’s a short breakdown:

An inverted U-curve can depict any concept – where on the left hand, vertical axis are benefits ranging from none to most. On the right hand, horizontal axis is a theme/concept/idea ranging from none, to some, to too much.

After looking & following along the graph, this is what you will discover: too little of something can be considered a bad thing. Too much of something can be considered a bad thing. But when you discover that middle ground, or the right balance – you’ve found your optimal point.

The inverted U-curve can be used for a wide variety of things in life. For example: too little of exercise can be detrimental to your health – too much exercise can actually lead you to injuries – but discovering the right amount of exercise and fitness for you leads to the most optimal health for your body.


Alright, so let’s actually talk about the inverted U-curve & what this means in terms of personal finance….

You know, what this post is actually supposed to be about?

Right!

I digressed a bit, but thanks for sticking out with me in that quick intro/lesson. Check this out…

You see, the inverted U-curve of time spent thinking about personal finance is something that each one of us can relate to at one time, or another.

With the horizontal axis relating to the amount of time we think about personal finance (on the spectrum of none, to some and ultimately too much), we experience the benefits of little – to some – to the most.


 

When the amount of time we think about personal finance is NONE:

  • We don’t track what we make & spend
  • We have no clear depiction or plan of what our money goals are
  • We do not have  any ambitions to even save money
  • We cannot provide encouragement to others for their financial goals
  • We potentially believe the falsehood that money grows on trees
  • Etc.

When the amount of time we think about personal finance is TOO MUCH:

  • We obsess on whether we are keeping up with all of our financial goals
  • We do not feel the amount we are saving and our plans are “enough”
  • We consistently question any and every purchasing decision
  • When practicing money extremes (from frugality to hyper-consumerism) we lose sight of what we value
  • We forgo opportunities to invest in ourselves because we are afraid there will be no pay off in the future
  • Etc. 

When the amount of time we think about money matters is SOME and at its OPTIMAL POINT:

  • We free up time to spend on things we value with the people we love
  • We have an ease of mind because we know we have an emergency fund in place & the right amount of insurance coverage
  • We are confident in all of our purchasing & saving habits
  • We smile & share encouraging words with others that reached a financial milestone
  • We have more headspace to strengthen any and all areas of life other than just our personal finances
  • Etc.

I cannot say that I am always perfect and consistently spend the optimal level of time in regards to personal finance. I am far from that. What’s important to me is the recognition of this inverted U-curve. If I am thinking too little to none, my goals & finances definitely derail. If I tip over to the too much thinking on personal finance, I fall to the insecurities and scrutiny of my own goals (not even ones that someone made up for me)! C’mon..what’s up with that?

Determining when the scales are tipped allows me to get right back to that balance of the ‘perfect’ amount of time to think about my finances. I recognize, that sometimes my optimal point can also be in flux. It takes time to recognize what is too scarce, and what is too extreme. Yet when I discover which trend makes me feel most comfortable and on track to spend in save in accordance with my values – I know I’ve hit my optimal point.

So whether your optimal point of personal finance thoughts means having a consistent “money-minute” check-up every day, only a monthly budget overview, sharing an in-depth conversation with a partner for a few hours on financial goals, chatting with friends in passing about a 401(k), or even doing the “20 minute end of the year money tune up” – so be it! Each and every one of us will have a different optimal point of time spent on personal finance in terms of the inverted U-curve. The question is: what is your optimal time spent thinking about your personal finances that works best for you?


What is your optimal amount of time spent thinking about personal finance? How can we discover we are thinking too little, or too much in terms of personal finance? Let me know in the comments below!

Look Up From Your Phone

Hi all! I don’t normally post on Wednesdays, but I wanted to get my post out so that it wouldn’t go live on Thanksgiving Day (thankful for all of you, family, friends, health –  and that’s what matters)!

I’m going to dive into a different topic here today, one that isn’t necessarily directly correlated to personal finance. Yet, I felt a bit inspired. I believe this is an incredibly pertinent topic, especially during the holidays when we are surrounded by the ones we care about, the people we value.

I think every once in awhile we can all use this nudge, this reminder. I feel an ache when I fall guilty to this considering technology is so prevalent in life today. I would like to inspire at least a few of you to take the time and…look up from your phone.


Look up from your phone.

The beautiful world, your life, encompasses you.

Look up from your phone.

Your friend is across that sturdy mahogany table hoping that you will look into their eyes and give them a sense of hope to support them.

Look up from your phone.

Your beautiful baby boy is finally beginning to take his first steps.

Look up from your phone.

There are real people from all walks of life passing you by that aren’t trying to sell you something.

Look up from your phone.

Because in approximately 2.6 seconds you’re about to trip over that ridiculous curb causing you to stumble on the concrete.

Look up from your phone. 

There is much to learn from nature, scenery, passing clouds in the sky.

Look up from your phone. 

This key note speaker could be the one impetus that allows you to take charge in your career.

Look up from your phone.

Because people value your time, your love, your consideration.

Look up from your phone.

Verbal words provide more fulfillment than social media likes.

Look up from your phone.

The gaze your lover is giving you is one in which if connected your souls will align.

Look up from your phone.

Your parents are providing words of encouragement that will be more everlasting than what someone is tweeting.

Look up from your phone.

When you visit a foreign place take it in, because those memories will fulfill you where instagram pictures lack.

Look up from your phone.

Or you won’t notice the silent tear that’s rolling down your daughter’s cheek.

Look up from your phone.

This may be one of the memories you have left to hold on to as a legacy of a loved one.

Look up from your phone.

There are incredible individuals making subtle or overt choices to make the world a better place.

Look up from your phone.

Because you’ll see the reflection of your amazing self as a whole, and not in comparison to anyone else.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Take some time to look up from your phone & feel gratitude for everything around you.