Monday, July 25, 2022

Marie Kondo Your Life

We live our lives at a break-neck pace, zipping here and there, inhaling our food so that we barely taste it.  We've crammed our existence into a series of obligations that neither uplift nor fulfill.  We barely sleep, and even when we do, it's rarely restfully so.  Then altogether too soon, we wake up and start all over again.  We barely stop to breathe let alone to question the things in our lives and whether or not they ought to be there.

It's like that moment, you look around your home only to realize you've filled every nook and cranny with some object that you may or may not care for, and you suddenly come to understand that what you want, what you truly crave is to see some empty space for once!  There's a certain beauty in creating empty space in our lives: an empty spot on the wall or floor, a free afternoon, a dollar not already committed to something?  Do you know why that empty space is so valuable?  It represents an opportunity.  Each empty space represents a new choice to be made with our time, our space, our money, our lives...    

Every so often, I go on a bit of a decluttering mission...  Quite frankly, I think I might be a minimalist stuck in the body of a recovering packrat.  Where possessions are concerned, I no longer bring much into my life, but I am also admittedly slow in letting go of things.  I tend to be afraid I will regret the choice.  Unfortunately, this tendency extends far beyond my possessions.  But when we hold on too tight to things that are no longer serving us, we don't allow ourselves the opportunity presented in the blank space we fail to create.  As a culture, I think we suffer a bit from that as a whole, and while many have come around to the idea that we might need to Marie Kondo our homes, we may not have yet considered that we should also Marie Kondo our lives.

Marie Kondo has become a bit of a household name.  This queen of systematically tidying spaces has inspired people worldwide to really stop and consider what among their possessions truly "sparks joy."  The rest, according to the expert, should be discarded.  Now, what if we applied this across the various areas of our lives?  Could it work just as well, and could it really be that simple?  

As a teacher, I find myself reorganizing many aspects of life during the summer.  So, perhaps this year it will take a new twist.  This might just be the year to Marie Kondo my life.  Does anyone care to join me?  So, how exactly might one Marie Kondo their life?  I might suggest starting with a list of the various areas of life: work, possessions, relationships, finances, past time activities, living or housing situation, and location (neighborhood or city).  Any area of life is fair game!  Once each area of life is listed, it makes sense to identify some subcategories.  For example, under work, I might list each separate job.  Under finances, I might identify debt load, investments, retirement, savings, current salary, current budget, rent or mortgage as subcategories.  Within each subcategory, we must then hold up various components and ask ourselves "Does this spark joy?"

Interestingly, in asking ourselves "what sparks joy?" we are also able to identify contrast, that which is unpleasant and does not work in our lives.  Perhaps your boss and co-workers do not spark joy but various job functions really do.  Then you might recognize that you are doing the right thing in the wrong place and decide you should look for a similar job elsewhere.  

Now, what might this look like in our financial lives?  Most people are probably thinking "It's pretty obvious that my debt does not spark joy!"  But what I would challenge you to consider is whether or not you feel great about the amount you are paying it down each month?"  If the answer is yes, then your  debt repayment plan is working for you!  If not, you might have just had a bout of honesty with yourself and recognized that you really desire to kick it in high gear with debt repayment.  

I know, for a money blogger, I sure do spent a ton of time talking about things that don't appear to be about money, don't I?  What we must realize is that the entire purpose in accumulating wealth, eliminating debt, and building savings is so that we can live our best lives, not just so that we can have wheelbarrows full of money!  So, along the way, we must curate the lives we actually want to be living.  Otherwise, we have buckets of money with no real purpose, and nothing to show for it.

So, what do you want your life to be like?  How can you declutter your time, money, relationships, and possessions to make more room for that which you love?  If you feel as though your life could use an overhaul, perhaps you should join me this summer and Marie Kondo your life!  

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Productivity Vs. Alignment

Productivity.  I have mixed feelings about that word.  As a Capricorn through and through, I really love checklists and planners.  Seriously, I could write an entire post about the freakin' brilliant planner system I use.  Yes.  It's a planner system.  No joke.  I love organizing and spreading out my "to-do list."  I love the feeling of accomplishment when I get all of those items checked off my list...  But I also recognize that there's an ugly side to productivity.  Like a thief in the night, productivity robs us of our impulsivity, our joyful adventure, and very simply, our free time. We risk running on empty, and we all know what happens when the gas tank hits empty, don't we?  That's right.  We burn out and find ourselves incapable of the very productivity we so valued in the first place.

So, perhaps we need to reconsider the value we place on productivity, and how we define it in the first place.  I mean, does everything have to be a level 10 in terms of importance and urgency?  When looking at the list of things to do on any given day, how important are they?  Is it possible that one or more of them don't actually have to be done that day?  I know you really "should" do it, but what if it couldn't happen until tomorrow?  Would anything even happen?  For many of the items on your list, the answer is "No."  Literally, nothing would happen.

How much of your typical day has been filled with things you felt you "should" do versus that which you feel inspired to do? If you stop and take stock, how many of your tasks or activities felt inspired?  We spend our lives wishing time away, begging Friday to come because if we're lucky, we might, just might find a tiny sliver of time on the weekend to do something we truly want to do.  And then the weekend comes, and we realize all of the things we "should do" in order to make our week flow more easily.  Now, I'm not suggesting that we stop doing laundry or grocery shopping, but I am suggesting we reconsider valuing productivity over alignment.

Being in alignment with our higher selves is what puts us on not only the path to abundance but also to the lives we truly want to live.  What is the point in attracting financial abundance into our lives if not to aid us in living them to the fullest?  I recognize that I "should" be offering you an idea about what to do with your money, but rather, I suspect the idea that needs to be offered has more to do with your alignment.  Perhaps it's a critical step on the path to a more abundant life (both financially and in terms of fulfillment) that we really place more value on doing that which fills us up and makes us feel both aligned and inspired.  From this aligned and inspired place, we become magnetic, attracting the energy to be productive, the ideas to be successful, and the words to build relationships and communicate effectively.

So, this past weekend, I had a list of "shoulds" on my plate, as I always do.  Then I realized there was a festival in the park near a friend's place.  That friend is also moving soon for a job opportunity. I am so happy for her success, but admittedly feeling a sense of loss over the shifting of the logistical functioning of our relationship.  I really found myself wanting to enjoy the festival, and some time with her.  So, I abandoned my "shoulds" and did exactly that.  Now, this is the part where I tell you that as a result, my week was a complete disaster, right?  Actually, not at all.  I had to figure out when in the week laundry could get done, and ate sandwiches for lunch rather than something more thoughtfully prepared, but that was pretty much the size of it.  My life didn't fall apart, and I got something that I really needed in order to proceed in life with a greater sense of alignment.

I realize that this is an area I, personally, need to work on.  I need to gently release my grip on the reins of productivity and trust that all of the things that need to be done, will, in fact, be done.  I am making it a goal to give myself permission to pursue that which feels aligned rather than that which I feel obligated to do.  I would encourage you to try the same.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Periodic Payments and the Flow of Abundance

As many of you are aware, I just exited a rather busy season in life.  I prepare taxes and have a few other things that tend to present themselves during that portion of the year.  I always make it through that busy time, but as I emerge, it always seems like there are a number of miscellaneous tasks that have piled up on me.  

Honestly, I think this happens to most of us.  We realize that we've neglected a series of one-off tasks, items that only need to be addressed periodically.  There are a couple of one-time items I need to pay, and a passport that needs renewal.  I want to open a Roth IRA at the brokerage firm I am using and move funds from one I have elsewhere.  I need to do a few budget revisions.  Honestly, the list of one-time tasks I'd like to complete can go on a bit further, but you get the picture.  None of the neglected items place me into a category of "irresponsible" by any means, but leaving them scattered about as they are is a serious abundance blocker!  What do I mean by that?

Let's consider the way we teach responsibility to children.  When my niece wanted to get a puppy, her parents were supportive but wanted to take the opportunity to teach her some responsibility first.  They explained to her that sometimes you have to display a certain level of responsibility before you can be entrusted to take on larger (and seemingly more exciting) ones.  She had to start doing small tasks around the house in order to show her parents that she could handle certain responsibilities, and her progress was tracked on her "puppy chart."  Once she had achieved a certain level of responsibility, the puppy was hers.

Abundance very much works the same way.  Just like the puppy was always going to be hers, our abundance is sitting right there in the wings waiting for us.  My niece had to show her parents that she was ready to receive her puppy by showing responsibility.  Similarly, we must show that we are ready for the responsibility of handling more wealth by handling what we have with care.  In doing so, we open ourselves to receiving more abundance into our lives.  

Now, many of us are very systematic in handling the regular financial tasks in our lives such as paying bills and automatically saving, but we struggle with items that only come up periodically.  Some of this is a matter of time and organization; at other times, it's just a matter of good, old-fashioned avoidance.  Some practical suggestions include making a list of all of the miscellaneous, one-time items (or periodic) items you need to accomplish.  If they pertain to a particular month on the calendar, set a reminder for that time frame electronically or in your planner.  Spread the tasks out so that you are in the habit of accomplishing periodic/one-time tasks on a monthly basis despite the fact that it's always a different task.  You will become accustomed to doing irregular things regularly, and things will be less likely to fall through the cracks.  If the item is something that comes up periodically, once you have accomplished it, set a date on your calendar for the next time you need to revisit it.  It's like making that dentist appointment  It's always better to set it before you leave their office!

It's entirely too easy to let periodic or one-time tasks fall through the cracks.  This can be stressful because these to-do items are still taking up valuable space in the back of our minds, and energetically, they are blocking the flow of abundance into our lives.  So, in tidying up these tasks and making a plan going forward we can alleviate ourselves of unnecessary stress and also allow abundance to flow in our favor.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Worthy of Taking the Leap

Our heart's desires are a funny thing. Sometimes they take us in directions we never would have imagined.  You're on a safari, riding along, in your nice, well-equipt Jeep.  Suddenly you realize what you really want is something off in the distance located in a place the road won't go.  So there you are, left with a choice.  Do you remain in the Jeep or do you get out?

Remaining in the Jeep was always your intention. You planned and plotted the adventure, made sure all of the equipment was perfect, and happily plodded along.  You could easily remain in that Jeep and finish the exact journey you set out on at the very beginning.  You would probably be pretty happy with it too.  But would you always wonder what you would have found off in the distance?  

What is it that keeps us from jumping out of the Jeep if that's our true heart's desire?  Why do we second-guess ourselves?  Fear of regret perhaps?  Regret in either direction?  We always seem to fear making a grave mistake.  What if we jump out of the Jeep, wander down that other path, and promptly get eaten by a lion?  On the other hand, if we remain in the Jeep, nice and safe, we may never experience something better.  Maybe riding in the Jeep is a 7.  Don't we deserve a 9 or a 10?  All of this fear is a form of resistance, and that which we resist, we will draw onto ourselves over and over again until we deal with it in one form or another.  When we're experiencing resistance that relates to the fear of regret and the evaluation of things we do and do not believe we deserve, it becomes imperative that we consider the Universal Law of Self Worth which states that you can only attract that which you feel worthy of.  That's a tall order, isn't it?  And one that sort of smacks you in the face if you're honest with yourself because it forces us all to stand back and look at ourselves and ask "Why am I not worthy of that which I truly desire? Why do I believe that these things are only for someone else's?"  We must stare this question directly in the face and deal with it because, quite frankly, it isn't going anywhere otherwise.  I speak to clients all the time about visualizing a happy ending because let's be honest, we have a huge tendency to cast ourselves in mental tragedies.  We really need to start visualizing ourselves actually getting that thing we want, going on that adventure, or making that transition and it all working out well (don't visualize being eaten by the lion)!  After enough practice, eventually, we begin to believe in our vision. Next comes the inspired action.

The inspired action is likely to be the steps that we must take to get there and might include financial considerations.  Oftentimes we restrict ourselves when making major life decisions because we are afraid of the financial ramifications of those decisions.  In all honesty, it's a fair thing to think about because most major life decisions impact our financial wellbeing.  Some of these are things we can prepare for ahead of time.  

We need to ask ourselves "If I am to take this leap, how can I best set myself up to financially do so?" Then be open to the possibilities. You may need to beef up your savings for added security.  Consider how many month's worth of your bills you have saved?  Do you need it to be more for your peace of mind or for the particular situation?  Maybe you need to revisit your budget and trim some of the fat so that you don't require as much income in order to meet your expenses.  Do you need multiple sources of income so that you aren't relying only one?  Maybe you need to pick up a side gig?  If your heart has a desire, most likely there is a pathway to realizing it. You really just need to be open to the actions that will take you there and allow your money to support you in the processes.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Contrast and How is Leads to a Budget Revision

Things have been super busy over the last few months.  It's been tax season, and as a preparer with their own business, I've had my hands full.  It's been a wonderful kind of busy though.  I'm incredibly grateful for the business that has flowed to me, and even more grateful for the continual growth it will experience in the future.  Aside from business being quite busy, I've done a fair amount of travel recently.  The pandemic and some recent losses have really shown me some things I want in life by way of providing contrast.

Contrast is what it's called when you have an experience that is less than fabulous, and it serves the purpose of setting you up to a greater understanding of that which you do want in your life.  Maybe you have a horrible experience with a boss, or relationship, or a past-due bill; it makes you feel terrible, but simultaneously makes you realize the way you want your life to be.  That's contrast.  

Well, I've been experiencing a lot of contrast recently, some of which has made me really miss connecting with people I love in person.  I want more of that in my life.  Also, being so still throughout the pandemic has made me realize how much I love to get up and go!  I love hopping an airplane and appearing somewhere that a friend or loved one lives; seeing interesting things, and above all, connecting.  So, I've taken advantage of a couple of teacher breaks so as to get a little more of that in my life.  I visited some family in the Pacific Northwest, saw one of my very best friends, and made the last-minute decision to catch my cousin's wedding in Arizona.  These were honestly some of the very best dollars I could have spent, as these experiences will remain with me long after possessions are gone.

But let's talk dollars and cents here...  I am done with the days of spending money I don't have on vacations and other experiences.  While they make me feel good in the moment, there's a certain "financial hangover" that we tend to experience when we spend money via credit that we don't have the cash to pay off.  I no longer do that.  I don't put it on a credit card if I don't have the cash to immediately pay it off.  So, that's a good thing.  However, I didn't exactly budget this.  I literally took cash from a place I had it and decided to pay for my travel, and honestly, it's fine because the cash was there.  But, when I check in with my emotions, I find another example of contrast.  You see, I had the money sitting there, and was thinking I'd use it for a particular savings goal.  Instead, I used a portion of it for my travel expenses.  While I didn't do anything particularly wrong, I also didn't feel great about it because once I decide how I want to attack a certain savings goal, I really like to stick with it!  I started experiencing some slightly lower feelings about rearranging my cash in this way, and started to ask myself "Could this negative experience be contrast?  What does this make me realize I want in life?"  The truth is that it really was contrast and it was highlighting the fact that I need to add a line item to the budget for travel.  During the worst of the pandemic, it was largely unnecessary, but things have shifted, and my soul's desire is more time with people I care about.  This involves travel.  Travel involves money.  I actually don't feel bad spending money on travel at all!  I only feel bad when I take money from another savings bucket. So, let's alleviate that!

I use the 50/30/20 budget popularized by Elizabeth Warren.  I've written about it before, and enjoy its simplicity.  The quick recap is that you figure out your overall income (take-home pay plus things you intentionally have coming out of your check like retirement and HSA).  Then you allot no more than 50% of that to Fixed Expenses (rent, mortgage, water bill).  Fixed Expenses usually don't change and can't really be gotten rid of.  They're usually needs.  Then, 30% of your income goes to Lifestyle or Flexible Spending.  This includes everything from cell phone plans and groceries to haircuts, travel, and movies.  While you might be thinking "Hey! I need food and my cell phone!"  I place these items there because we often spend more than we need in those categories based on lifestyle choices.  This is absolutely fine, but I find it important to recognize that we do this.  The last category is for Goals, which makes up 20% of your income.  This includes savings, investing, and debt reduction goals.  On a month-to-month basis, I generally only really do much with the Flexible or Lifestyle category.  My fixed expenses get paid but rarely change.  My goals are largely scheduled on autopilot.  Obviously, if something gets paid off or a savings goal is met, I pause to reconfigure that category.  But most of the monthly work takes place within Flexible/Lifestyle.  So, this is where I will be revisiting.  I will decide how to rearrange things to build my travel budget back in. 

The contrast in my life has highlighted that which I want more of in my experience, and now I am going to be sure that I am using my money in order to support those desires.  It was a bit of momentary financial discomfort, but it has allowed me to recognize the need to revisit my budget and use it in order to facilitate activities that bring me joy.  I would encourage you to take a look at some of the contrast in your experience and use it to your advantage as well.  

Monday, May 9, 2022

Reevaluating Security

Sometimes the winds of change shift on us, blowing us in one direction or another.  Perhaps our paths change altogether, or maybe they just become slightly bumpier in certain sections providing us the valuable experience of contrast. The experience of contrast is precisely that.  Contrast is an experience that allows us the opportunity to see the difference between our current experience and the one we want.  

Contrast may come in many different forms. It could very well be through experiencing a toxic work environment that allows you to realize that you'd be happier elsewhere.  You may no longer be happy with where you live, and dream of experiencing something else.  Regardless of the source of your contrast, the fact remains that experiencing it at all has given birth to your desires, and that is an incredible gift that you deserve to realize.

When the contrast highlights for us that which we truly want, our finances do not need to be the obstacle keeping us from realizing those desires.  Another gift the contrast has given us is the gift of affording us the opportunity to step back and reevaluate our security.  Perhaps you have been receiving your sense of security from the paycheck that's tied to the toxic job you no longer want or a second job from which you're longing to be free..  Maybe your security has been tied to a double income, hefty savings account, or something else that has situationally gone away.  If we don't carefully guard ourselves against it these things can lead to scarcity mindset, an ailment that very quickly becomes a roadblock on your path to the life you desire.

So, what can you do?  One of the greatest answers comes from ourselves when we simply step back and allow ourselves to imagine our lives in their most aligned state.  What does it look like?  What are we doing?  Who are we with?  From this aligned state, with a clear image in our minds we can pan back and ask ourselves to reevaluate our security in a number of categories by simply asking ourselves: What makes me feel powerful and secure?  What move feels aligned and as though it will lead me onto the path toward that which I desire?  What action can I take that feels truly inspired?

Liquid Savings

Quite frankly this is one of the categories that make me feel the most secure and is one of the first stops along my mental checklist of things that create a feeling of financial security.  "How much money do I need in order to feel truly secure?"  As I ask this question of myself, I find an awareness of the so-called experts' opinions, some of which state 3-6 months' worth of expenses is ideal.  Others tout a larger 6-8 months or more.  I've even heard suggested as much as a year; and even 3 years for retirees (the idea with that one is that you'd have enough to survive a market downturn without having to take losses on your portfolio).  While this knowledge is power in its own way, there's nothing more powerful than tuning into my own inner guidance and asking it what makes me feel truly secure.  How much money do I need to have in a fully liquid format in order to make my next move or simply step forward in creating for myself the life that I truly want to be living?   

Monthly Expenses

There's something to be said for owing very little to others.  When I say this, I am not only referring to debt, but also to monthly bills in general. We oftentimes find ourselves signed up for a ton of seemingly small reoccurring bills under the guise of their minuscule size.  However, these things all add up and if there are cuts that can be made that will create savings each and every month, that's huge.  It also creates security in that you are required to earn less money to support your life each month.  When you trade time for money, having to trade less of it is also huge.  If you're anything like me, the future I dream about is one that is rich in the currency of time.

Retirement Savings

When you look at your desired future, and what needs to happen to move in that direction, does it make sense to dial your retirement savings either up or down?  Maybe you want to start your own business in a few years, but in the meantime still plan to be at your full-time job.  Perhaps you'd feel really secure if you really loaded up your retirement accounts while you were still there, in case of a temporary income drop at the time of your transition.  Alternately, maybe you've been maxing out a retirement account, and have run the numbers, learning that you are absolutely on track and would feel more secure to see a bit more of your paycheck to allot to a different purpose.  Perhaps in that case, you'd dial it down a bit.

Bridge Investing

Perhaps you feel really great about your budget, liquid savings, and retirement savings, but the one thing that would really make you feel powerful to be able to reach out and grab the life you want would be to build up more nonretirement-oriented investments.  Bridge investing is when you make investments that can be utilized at any time; meaning you don't have to wait for retirement.  The reason it's called "bridge investing" is because this is income that can serve as a bridge to retirement, meaning you are able to draw on these investments as sources of income prior to traditional retirement age.  This allows you to leave your retirement accounts alone while providing you with some flexibility in terms of supplemental income.  If your soul's desire involves you leaving behind the traditional workforce by way of retirement, semi-retirement, or for another reason, bridge investing might empower you to go for it!

Mortgage Payoff Plan

Maybe the life you long to live is one of maximum flexibility and freedom of time, and you would feel the most powerful if you could slash your expense drastically by eliminating your mortgage.  Perhaps you've been sitting in a 30-year fixed, with 25 years to go, but don't really want to be on the hook that long.  It's really very easy to automate the process of paying extra each month.  You simply have to decide to do so.  Using an online calculator, play around with early repayment options and decide how much to commit to on a monthly basis.  Having the roof over your head free and clear could propel you very quickly into the future of your dreams.

Life is full of oddities, twists, and turns.  If we can recognize these moments as the contrast that sheds light on the lives we long for, we give ourselves the opportunity to prepare the path forward as we march ourselves confidently toward it.  After all, our money's purpose is to facilitate our ability to live our best lives in the safest and most secure way possible.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Your Dreams Are NOT Too Expensive!

When I was a little girl I desperately wanted a She-Ra doll.  My best friend across the street had one and I remember absolutely longing for one of my very own.  She always seemed to have the new toy that came out, and I was always just a step or two behind her.  Whenever the shiny new thing came out, and she would appear with it, I was always greeted with mixed feelings: one of excitement because she was a generous little girl and always willing to share.  The other feeling was a bit of a longing.  I was afraid to ask for what I wanted because I knew something about myself.  I was poor.  There would always be things that were meant for other people, but too expensive for me.

Many of us grew up being told to put things back because they were "too expensive," and when we weren't being told to put those things back it was because something entirely worse was happening.  We weren't even allowing ourselves to admit that we wanted something because there was something inside of us that "just knew" we couldn't have it anyway.

How many of us have carried this into our adult lives? We cling to the scarcity mindset that was instilled in us as children and hide behind it, shielding ourselves from success and failure alike.  We place seemingly arbitrary limitations on our lives and our dreams because "clearly they're meant for other people," and yet we fail to recognize that we ARE those other people, or at the very least those other people are essentially just like us with one very key exception.  They refuse to tell themselves that their dreams are too expensive; that they should leave them firmly placed upon a shelf for someone else to come and collect.  

I'm fairly certain I never asked my mother to buy me that She-Ra doll, and yet I was determined that she would be mine.  My path to having what I wanted would clearly be different from my friend's...  It often was.  She was by no means from a rich family, but they were certainly comfortable, and I don't think she ever considered whether or not money would stand between herself and something she wanted.  Me on the other hand?  I constantly questioned, and I constantly made the decision that I too could have that which I desired... but again, my path was always different.  I can't recall what exactly I did at such a young age to earn money, but I do recall doing so.  I seem to remember that I needed to save eight whole dollars to make that She-Ra doll my own.  I think it took me the better part of a summer to it, but I did.

So, what ultimately lead to the acquisition of my dream doll and my overall success? First, it was the belief that it could be mine.  The Universal Law of Belief states that "you can have whatsoever you desire so long as you can give up the belief that you cannot have it."  It seems so simple, doesn't it?  But, let's pan back and consider it.  If we give up the notion that something is out of reach, that changes the question entirely, doesn't it?  The question suddenly becomes a matter of how?  If we can simply commit to the idea that we truly can have the things we want, we open ourselves to a myriad of possibilities, which truly is the breeding ground for inspired action.  

So, what dreams do you currently have that you are dismissing?  Do you want to stay at home with your children?  Start a business?  Live abroad?  What is it?  What if you gave up on "No," and decided to say "Yes" to yourself for once?  Once you've said test, the question becomes, "What needs to be true in order for this to become my reality?"  Begin to document the answer to this question, remembering carefully that literally none of your responses is to become an excuse for "No" to creep in.  Just like saving $8 for a She-Ra doll wasn't a no for me, the items on your list are not "No's" either.  They're simply to become new goals.  Does your dream require a larger savings?  passive income?  less debt?  Imagine holding your dream in the palm of your hand and get inspired!  The path is there, you simply have to be willing to step out onto it and begin to walk.  Remember, it's a matter of one foot in front of the other.  The journey will be amazing and the destination worth it.