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.

Limitless.

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It’s not a surprise that throughout life we are taught in particular ways that could be deemed limiting. Categories, perceived roles and definitions allow us to separate confusion and chaos. Our upbringing, communities, relationships, and more can shape how we think, learn and grow.

Throughout my upbringing, limitations were present in a multitude of facets. For education, subject matter was contingent upon the schools and school districts I attended within the cities I lived. My friendships stemmed from family ties, neighborhoods and residences, the sports and clubs I participated in, and in the classroom. I trained in the art of dance, and choreography was taught in counts of 8 to memorize and practice our pieces for performances. For accomplishments (or everyday lifestyle happenings, like obtaining a drivers license or applying for a job), I filled in the blank accordingly for age, race, gender, GPA, and extra curricular activities. Media and entertainment observations depicted reoccurring themes: the jocks & preps were attractive and mainly played football, those who participated in theatre & arts were moody & misfits, and those who received straight A’s were valedictorians and received scholarships to prestigious universities & Ivy Leagues. As I am recounting these particular limitations of learnings in upbringing, I just happened to turn to the TV where the U.S. Olympic Games MINI USA #DefyLabels commercial played and concluded in front of my eyes. Even after 26 years of life there are still messages of how we are attempting to break the confines of labels and stereotypes. 

My upbringing was shaped by perpetual messages of what should be perceived as ‘right.’ Whether intentional, or not – it is important to address that these messages occurred. I do not necessarily perceive this in a negative manner, but sometimes it can be daunting to recognize how the following shaped pivotal years of growth.

Youth are impressionable. Those years prior to adulthood can shape your future incredibly. I was (and am) fortunate to have many family, mentors, teachers, and friends that allowed to me to challenge the status quo. Although, I wish that each day people could be surrounded by the optimism of Kid President – it’s not everyday that such rosiness surrounds you. In my youth, there were days that felt just outright, dang defeating. It felt that any time I attempted to change the mold beyond what people expected from me, I would feel almost an obligation to switch back to what was perceived as correct, proper, or successful to fit in.

I admit that I have felt limited to labels, roles and perceptions that others have seen of me. Even to this day I am challenged by what “success” actually truly means. 

In high school & college, I wanted desperately to reach independence and feel as if ‘I made it.’ I mean, that’s what it felt like I should do because I was exposed to that concept so often through multiple channels of communication in life. You make it, and you’re set for life.

I carried out the roles that were expected of me, because that’s just how life continued to flow without too much disruption. If I moved forward without upsetting the status quo then ‘the sky was the limit.’

There we go again. That word. Limit. Why has there been so much exposure to this concept of limitation? Why does even the sky have to be limit?

What if I want to bust through those clouds with mighty fists, shout from the galaxies, and STILL be able to fly high above while leaping through the cosmos? 

If the sky is the limit, then I cannot swirl and twirl in the beauty above.

So I am working on taking the concepts of limited and converting it to limitless. I am sidling up to breaking beyond the barriers of being limited to my labels.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am proud and feel empowered by (in no particular order) being a female, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, millennial, wife, writer, young professional, dancer, tech employee, etc. But what I am trying to convey is that if I am at the core and these identifications are stemming from me – these roles & labels are not limited to stopping at just that. I can take on a multitude of identifications beyond the standard perceptions. I can be a blog writer, and a craft beer lover. I can be an extrovert, who prefers to be introverted at particular moments. I can be on a career trajectory in one role that could make a 180 degree turn at any time. I can be a millennial that sometimes shares particular passions and hobbies as those from an older generation. I can be graceful and the biggest klutz you have ever known. All of my identifications can continue to radiate in varying degrees without being limited.  

A huge part of exercising the nature of limitless is turning within. I have come to understand the reflections of how people perceive me through my upbringing, but when I reflect upon myself – what do I see? How do I feel? Of course how people see me isn’t wrong, but I feel as if there are undiscovered jewels & truths within me that I need to uncover on my own. What’s glorious is that I can start now, and continue to do so for the rest of my years.

There is passion, creativity and qualities that are germinating within my heart and mind ready to be unearthed.

With each day I feel more capable than ever. It’s an empowering feeling to stay curious about what I have left to discover within. Knowing that life can be limitless allows for infinite room to continuously learn and grow.

I challenge you to take what you have felt limited by, and discover ways that those limitations can become limitless.

Have you ever felt limited by who you are, what your role is, or where you are at in life? How do you find ways to turn your identifications into becoming limitless? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Hi to a Hiatus

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Hey everyone, thanks for coming on by this week (despite the title you read and may be questioning).

I’m feeling a bit maxed out right now. Between a new job, planning a wedding, digging in with a steering committee to put on the first Young Professional Summit in Eugene before June, keeping up with family & friends, focusing on my health, and everything in between – there just comes a time you need to take a pause & breathe. 

Unfortunately, my energy needs to be put into particular aspects of my life that are happening soon with 100% focus and mental clarity. I have decided to say hi to a hiatus here at GenerationYRA.com.

I’ll be around on social media, so I’ll still be interacting! I just need to take some time from the blog before I run myself too thin. This is a balance I’ve been working to maintain since graduating from college. When I say “yes” to too many different things, I tend to lose balance within. 

I’ll be back soon – but ’till then, I’m going on a brief pause with content for the time being! 

Thank you all for your continued following & support – you all seriously rock. 

P.S. If you’re a young professional (ages 20-40) in the Eugene area, definitely consider coming to the first ever Young Professional Summit! A full day event set to inform, inspire, and get you involved. Check out www.eugeneypsummit.com, or find us on facebook, twitter, and instagram. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you there! 


 

10 Innovative Personal Finance Tips

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We see articles often about the most innovative companies, the most innovative technology, the most innovative fitness routines…why not the most innovative money tips?


One thing I really dig about personal finance is consistency. There are many teachings & rules that were true in the past that are still applicable today. You really can’t doubt him when Warren Buffet states:

“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”

Buffet is now 85 years old and is worth $61.8 billion dollars. Whoa. 

I had to take a minute to let that sink in again…

When you start to read & learn more about personal finance, you start to recognize patterns. Lot’s of them. This is great though! Repetition really allows you to learn about a subject that may seem like completely unfamiliar terrain. Unfortunately, if we are not exposed to personal finance teachings in our youth we have to play an immense amount of catch-up in our adulthood.

Since personal finance is personal, someone’s exact way of earning, saving, spending, etc. will vary from what is applicable to my lifestyle & situation. What I enjoy doing is pulling methods, tips & tricks from several sources – then from there applying them to my personal finances to discover what works best for me (I’ll take this tip from Buffet, this method from the So Money podcast, this power tool from this career maven, this quote from this literary novel). I like this approach, because it allows me to tweak & experiment. It also allows me to re-evaluate different options and determine whether they will work best for me now, or in the future.

As you could imagine, pulling from various sources creates some pretty unconventional ways to approach personal finance. I like to lend this to the idea that people are becoming seriously creative when approaching their money matters (thank you, internet for the information sharing age). Sometimes we seek different, unique, fresh tips that aren’t quite the usual that we can pull from books that have been published in 1949 (i.e. The Intelligent Investor). Don’t get me wrong, I love the tried & true – but let’s peep some 10 innovative personal finance tips:

1. Trade in all your school index cards for index funds

Still have some leftover index cards you made in school either to study for that one midterm, or practice for that speech you needed to do for intro to public speaking? Trade them on in for investing in index funds! For long term investment strategy, this is the way to go. Now there’s actually an excuse to be passive with your money, rather than when you had to be aggressive with your studying. 😉

2. If you invest online through a platform, don’t even download the app to your phone 

It’s no surprise that mobile usage has surpassed that of desktop internet use. With the market going haywire, you’re going to be severely tempted to check how your portfolios are doing. Why not make it that much harder to check them by not even resorting to checking them through an app on your phone. You probably spend less time with your desktop/laptop at home than you do with your phone. Save yourself the sanity & stick to your long term investment strategy by spending less time panicking.

2. Create a vision board of what your life in retirement will look like

People find it challenging to save for something that is so far in the future, why not just give in to instant gratification? Try to put the future into reality. Whether you want to go to pencil & paper, or create a virtual Pinterest board – use your creativity to develop what you would like your retirement to hold. Some questions to consider to develop this board: What will you look like? Who will you be spending your time with? What will you be doing? Where will you be traveling to? This exercise will allow you to turn the illusion of retirement to reality, and encourage you to save now for the later. 

3. Be so busy, you unintentionally have no-spend days/weeks

Okay, this one’s awesome. Usually when it comes to exercising no-spend days/weeks you have to focus very hard. I mean, so hard, that your concentration breaks and you just end up binge spending (then you feel guilty, and start the cycle again on your 2nd/3rd/4th attempt). This is where you get involved, be active, stay busy, get outside, just be – that you don’t have time to give in to that email that states “HEY SITE-WIDE SALE,” or are alone and feel susceptible to the whims of making expensive impulse purchases. Connect with yourself & connect with other people, and spending money just slips on the priority list.

4. Treat bear markets like they’re the biggest sale event ever

Forget black friday! When it’s a bear market, think of it like it’s one of the greatest sale events ever. You now have access to purchasing high quality stocks at affordable prices. No more wasting money on unnecessary items that you will more than likely lose interest in a few months down the road. Now, I’m certainly not one to chase hot stocks & gains – but if you haven’t gotten into the market, this would be a great time to do so.

5. High five your friend, partner, family member, neighbor when you hear something awesome about personal finance

Whether they told you they just saved enough money for a goal they’ve been working on, increased their credit score, chose not to give in to a crazy purchase, or learned about a new thing in terms of personal finance – give them a high five!! The more positive we can be about personal finance, the more encouraged people will become to make smart money decisions. It’s not often that someone wants to turn down a high five…(and if they do, well that’s just a bummer).

6. A Netflix binge isn’t the worst thing in the world

I can’t help it. Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve seen that screen “Are you still watching ____(insert show title here)____?” more than a few times on a Friday night. But you know what, staying in with some friends or a significant other isn’t really all that bad when it prevents you from exceeding your dining out budget for the month, spending way too much on a tab at the bar, or blowing cash on surged Uber prices. Every now & again, a night in really hits the spot. Not to mention, you can purchase a 6-pack of craft beer, make an incredible dinner at home, and even have some dessert all for less than half than the activities out mentioned above.

7. Pick a dance move. Now, do it (physically, or in your head) every time you did something awesome with your money

This tip is definitely inspired by all the *virtual dance parties* I’ve shared with Our Next Life, Goodnight Debt, Maggie at Northern Expenditure, and so many others. By picking a dance move, you can reinforce positive money habits that you create for yourself. Some examples of when I dance: when I up my savings rate, when I see my credit score increase, when I rack up more points for using my credit card responsibly, when I find a killer deal by doing research on a purchase before I buy. Now…LET’S DANCE!

8. I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t, do you know what means?

I am blown away, because there are so many ways to determine independence now in life – and finances are no exception. We’ve got independent finances, shared finances,  co-mingled but also separate finances, you name it. Yet when it comes to all of these forms, they can all mean independence to different people. Determine what independence means to you – and find a way to make yourself financially free. That way, you aren’t just relying on one income source to pull you through. (P.s. points for whoever just go that song reference). 

9. Hack your way to a better deal

There are so many ways to research & determine how you can get a better deal on all the future purchases you need to make. Get to the point where it becomes second nature to hack your way to a better deal. Craigslist, buying slightly-used, garage sales, coupon/promo websites, recognizing the cycles of when particular items are deeply discounted – once you have all these down, getting the deal you want when you make a purchase will be as simple as a *snap, snap.*

10. Listen up. 

You may not think this tip is innovative – but hear me out (ha, get it? – OK moving on..). The art of listening is becoming tricky nowadays. More often than not we are distracted by advertisements, updates, text messages, apps, overflowing email inboxes, alerts, etc. When you take some time away from the following and really tune into your environments, you will learn several golden nuggets. When it comes to personal finance, a lot of it is applicable to the place you live, the people you surround yourself with, and the environments you choose to spend time in. Listen up – because everyone around you has something to teach and you may miss those golden opportunities to learn.


What innovative tips do you have for personal finance? Have you tried any of the above? Only stick to the tried & true rules?

Hello, From The Investing Side

hello from the investing side

Today I’m writing  a rendition of Adele’s “Hello” to highlight the craziness of the stock market at the start of 2016, and how sticking to a long-term investment strategy will pay off in the long run. 

tune out, invest on (1)

P.S. If you’re looking for additional content posts on investing, check out these great ones from the archives at the links below:

Overcoming The Fear of Investing

Rockin’ With Robinhood

I Triple Dog Dare You To Not Touch Your Tax Refund

So We Did It…We Met With An Investment Advisor

Thank You Very Much, Mr. Robo-Advisor


Hello stock market, it’s me

I was wondering if after these years of investing you’d like to keep

Going over every fee

They say that time in the market’s supposed to heal ya

But I ain’t seeing much in the green

Hello, stock market can you hear me?

I’m lying on the couch dreaming about my retirement, you see

When I’m older and living free

I’ve forgotten how it felt to invest before my dollars began to leak

There’s such a difference between last year

And thousands of dollars…

Hello from the investing side

I must have deposited a thousand times

To tell you I’m ready to gain an average return

But when I look at my portfolio it doesn’t seem to have grown

Hello from the investing side

At least I’m going to keep on trying

To tell you I’m not stopping from investing in you

What matters is I continue even if you aren’t making returns, like before

Hello, how’s oil?

It’s so typical to hear this all over the news, I’m sorry

I hope that you start to do swell

Will you ever make it out of the red where no-one feels like retirement can happen?

And it’s no secret that the both of us

Know that time is on our side

So hello from the investing side

I must have deposited a thousand times

To tell you I’m ready to gain an average return

But when I look at my portfolio it doesn’t seem to have grown

Hello from the investing side

At least I’m going to keep on trying

To tell you I’m not stopping from investing in you

What matters is I continue even if you aren’t making returns, like before

Like before…


Alright, everyone – you’ve got this! We’re in it for the long term. Even though the start of 2016 has been pretty rough for the stock market, try to turn away & tune out the madness. An average return of 8% over the long term is much better than allowing your cash to sit idle underneath the mattress (where inflation takes away the value of your hard earned dollars). Diversify your portfolios, hold to your strategy, and remember that time is your biggest asset. 

What are you doing to keep calm, and invest on? Does it involve rewriting silly lyrics to well-known songs? Let me know your strategies 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. 

Flexible Philanthropy Fund

Philanthropy.

Long word. Kind of funny sounding. Incredibly profound effects.

So what exactly is philanthropy? 

According to dictionary.com:

“altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.”

In other words: the dollars you donated to the local animal shelter, those moments you volunteered in your child’s classroom, that 5K you ran down Greek row to raise awareness for CARDV, or the times you spent serving hot meals at The Salvation Army…those are all acts of philanthropy.

I condone philanthropy on a regular basis & maintain practicing acts of philanthropy as often as I can – but it is especially prevalent around the holidays. During the winter when the weather gets colder, warm thoughts & kind actions towards others from all walks of life are especially important.

I know that you often hear a designated percentage of your budget should be allocated towards philanthropy & charity – whether it be 10%, 15%, you name it. Yet, I could never fully comprehend why you would want to limit yourself from giving (whether monetary value, or volunteer hours) and hit a point where you say: Oh, I donated my $100/2 hours of volunteer time this month to this charity and now I’ve met my quota.

Now I completely understand…sometimes there are just too many foundations, funds, shelters, people, social causes, and the like out there to give to all. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking care of your family, your friends & yourself first because life happens before you can give to others. It’s all about balance. I could understand that is why people like the consistency of allocating a certain percentage to charitable & philanthropic causes in a month.

But then I got to finishing the book All The Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam. Here is one of the biggest themes/paragraphs that just sang straight to my heart:

Give yourself some philanthropy fun money. Concentrate the bulk of your giving on a few organizations, but leave about 20 percent of your total charitable budget unrestricted, so you can dole it out to things that strike your fancy. In the context of buying happiness, I can think of little more fun than going through life with the mind-set of always looking for ways to make the world better for $5-$20. And not just via nonprofits. Spending money on other people qualifies as pro-social spending whether there’s a tax deduction involved or not” (181).

 Vanderkam then lists out several ways that you can exercise utilizing your philanthropy fun money. Bingo. Enter in a Flexible Philanthropy Fund. You may not be able to write out $100,000 checks at this point in time to your charity of choice (although, I hope on my financial journey at one point in my life I can pass such an amount on). But having a portion of money that you can use at your discretion to make positive changes can have a large scale effect on others. Even better? The flexibility aspect of giving when you can and not stressing about what the dollar value has to be.

To get started with this fund take $5, $10, or $20 this month (could be cash, or a designated amount in your checking account). Use this amount in any way, or fashion that would promote some form of philanthropy in your hometown. Want to kick start using the amount of money you set aside? The next person you encounter in your hometown who is raising money/bell-ringing/giving awareness to a cause – give that total amount that you have set aside for your fund, no questions asked!

Want a couple more ideas for a Flexible Philanthropy Fund? Inspired by Vanderkam, I put together a list of 10 ways you can put this fund to use:

  1. Give money to the kids at the car wash fundraising for their sports team (even if your car doesn’t need a washing)
  2. Cover the cab/Uber fare for all your friends on your outing
  3. Head over to CharityWatch.org, click the “Top Rated Charities” link, donate to a charity that’s listed under the starting letter of your first name
  4. Write random notes with positive messages and leave them on campus/around town to put a smile on someone’s face
  5. Overfill the parking meter (even if you only need about 10 minutes in that parking space) that way the next person does not have to pay
  6. Help friends reach their entrepreneurial goals by providing tools or time to their business
  7. Take a moment to pick up a lost item to give back to it’s rightful owner
  8. Spend just a little longer talking to that stranger who has a lot to say at the grocery store
  9. Find a local non-profit or charity you are most passionate about and volunteer your time to their efforts
  10. Purchase a coffee, snack, or meal in advanced for the customer in line behind you

Of course this is a limited list, and there are an incredible amount of ways you can utilize a Flexible Philanthropy Fund. Whether large, or small a Flexible Philanthropy Fund when put to use with no boundaries can create an immense amount of joy to others. Jot down ways you would use such a fund, and encourage friends & family during this holiday season to participate in all the ideas you wrote down. You never know – one random act of kindness can ignite the passion in another to pass it on. 


What would you add to the list above with a Flexible Philanthropy Fund? Are there any special things you’ve done for philanthropy? Let me know, I would love to hear your experiences!

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!