Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Limiting Beliefs, Purpose, and the Inner Child


As I sit in my living room listening to meditation music and sipping a cup of tea, I keep glancing up only to have my eyes meet with those of my younger self.  I see a picture of me, a toddler with puffy sleeves, stark white stockings, and a floofy pink skirt.  I have the tremendous urge to pick her up and hug her.  She's amazing really.  She's certain that she lives in a world without limitations, where her father is a superhero and her mother's kiss is an elixir capable of healing the world.

That little girl trusted her own instincts beyond anything else and approached the world knowing that it would always bend to her will.  She believed with all of her being that the world was hers; all she had to do was extend her tiny hand and grab it.  

Somewhere along the line, someone must have told her.  They must have told her or otherwise shown her that there were limits on that which she could have, do, or become.  Perhaps it was because she was too poor, or a girl.  Or maybe it was because she was from a small town.  Kids surrounded by farms can't do the same things as the city kids...  Thankfully, she didn't believe them, those people that told her she couldn't...but eventually those messages sneak in when we're not looking and we notice shadows popping into our thoughts.  Somehow the seeds of doubt, scarcity, and limitation were scattered about and have begun to spring up like tiny little weeds.  They don't look like much but there's a funny thing about weeds.  They absorb all of the water and zap the soil of nutrients.  So, what to do?  We pluck up the weeds, each and every one of them. 

This is very much the essence of the Universal Law of Resistance.  Fear, doubt, scarcity, limiting beliefs...  They are all resistance, and like weeds, they will come back over and over again until we're forced to deal with them and they have been plucked up by the very root.  

I was on social media the other day and couldn't help but notice something that someone had reposted.  It was talking about being okay with having no purpose in life and being satisfied just to roam.  The mind in me wanted no real part in the dissection of this meme thankfully.  Minds usually like to dive into such things.  Despite my mind's lack of interest in the idea, my emotions kept percolating on it.  You see, it's a funny thing about weeds.  Some of them look like flowers.  Have you ever thought about that? Being satisfied with the act of traveling through life and experiencing whatever it has to offer us...  That looks an awful lot like a flower to me.  It appears on the surface to be an act of surrender which has a significant element of beauty in it.  Then I remember.  Many weeds are disguised as flowers, when in fact, their roots are invasive.  While the latter part of the statement looked to be a flower,  the former may be the invader: having no purpose.  Why would we be here if we had no purpose?

It's a funny thing about purpose.  I believe we all have a purpose, but our societies have perpetuated a false narrative that our purpose should somehow be a derivative of our employment.  Perhaps for some that is the case, but that may not be true of others.  It saddens me to think that someone out there has held fast to such a belief that zaps the life energy out of their experience.  To the person that posted this idea: Do you believe that you are lacking in purpose?  I'd love to understand.  Is it because your work doesn't feel like your purpose and you believe it should?  Rather, could this person simply have listened to far too many of those messages that we received as children?  Did those messages take over the fertile soil, making you believe that you can't?  I really want to ask this person: What would you do if you followed your bliss?  Is there something you long to do that you've been avoiding or otherwise forgot that you wanted?  Can you reconcile these feelings with your own inner child?  Can you look them in the eyes and truly tell them "No"? I can't.

I leave the picture of this little girl right where I can see her.  When my own weeds pop up and I feel like I shouldn't do something that I really want to do, I look at her.  The truth is that I can't look her in the eyes and tell her that we're not going to live the life we've always wanted.  I'm just not willing to treat her that way.  You see, a few years ago, I made her a promise.  I promised her that I would let her take me somewhere.  She'll take the path without limitation because, for her, there are none.  So, for now, I simply take her hand and let her lead.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Flow of Abundance: Spending on Yourself

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about clearing the way for abundance in terms of making space in our physical homes, our schedules, and our lives so that the abundance we desire can flow into our experience.  What I haven't entirely addressed is how this directly relates to our budgets and treating ourselves with care.  It's funny that we often focus so intently on abundance flowing toward us that we don't give much of our energy to the idea that abundance is cyclical.  Sometimes, we need to give some attention to allowing abundance to flow from us so as to reinforce that cycle.

Under the 50/30/20 Budget that I so enjoy, 30% of our take-home pay is recommended as being allotted to "Lifestyle" spending which is also referred to as "Flexible Expense."  This category of our monthly budget is very much focused on the present moment, which is easy to turn your back to if you're fixated on your own shame about the past or fear of the future.  It's the portion of our budget that arguably may be easiest to take a chainsaw to when you want to clear a debt or beef up your savings.  I've certainly done it, but recognize that those measures are only for a season.  If we spend too long holding too tight to our money it warrants the question, "Is this a form of resistance?"  If resistance is essentially a form of fear, is fear taking over when we refuse to loosen our grip? Is it scarcity mindset whispering in our ear "you'll never get it back," making us cling to every cent?  It's really common to have limiting beliefs around the idea of money being difficult to come by, but we must remember that it's only the mind speaking from a place of fear, desiring to keep us safe.  That's a bit of a survival-mode mindset, which certainly has its place.  But don't we all deserve more than to simply survive?

When we resist the flow of money going out from us, not only are we putting scarcity mindset into action, but we're also restricting the flow of money, period.  We essentially create a financial blockage with our own resistance.  Until we clear that blockage there can be no flow in or out.  The Universal Law of Resistance tells us that the very thing which we resist, we draw unto ourselves repeatedly until we are forced to deal with it.  So, if we resist the flow of money, we're going to keep experiencing that blockage until we deal with it?  Yikes!  Money has to flow outward just as much as it has to flow back to us. So, if we can assist the flow of money by spending in a conscientious way that feels really good and supports our overall wellbeing, that's even better!  Two of the participants in my group coaching program, LoA Finance Fundamentals, had experiences with spending money on themselves with some rather interesting results.

The first woman has been working to prioritize her own health and wellbeing in various aspects of life, but often feels resistant to spending money on herself when her mind tells her that it's not necessary.  She had been having trouble sleeping, experiencing extra stiffness, and the like.  She has known for some time that she was well overdue for a new mattress but just hadn't done anything about that yet.  In her social circle, there was some conversation happening around a new mattress that a friend had researched and purchased.  It had wonderful reviews and her friend spoke about how wonderful the experience was turning out.  She was inspired to take action, and within days, she was online ordering her new mattress.  She had resolved to take this step to spend money taking care of herself and was feeling really positively on the emotional scale (which lead to a high point of attraction where abundance is concerned).  She ended up seeing that she would be able to take advantage of a 12.5% cashback offer on this purchase, which provided her enough extra funds to support the setup and take away service, new pillows, and a new cover.  She couldn't have been more pleased.

The second participant is a busy mother and young professional.  She prioritizes a secure life for her family, and as a result, she tends to want to hold tight to money.  For the past few weeks, she kept thinking about how nice it would be just to have a day of relaxation where she treated herself to a manicure and a massage.  Whenever she thought about doing so she felt so good that she became inspired to take action.  She booked her day of relaxation.  At the end of it, she felt so cared for and relaxed, and expressed that she was in a really high place on the emotional scale as well.  What's really interesting about this experience is the other thing that came about for her that week. She had already decided to get her manicure and massage when an opportunity to make almost an extra thousand dollars over the course of a few days basically fell in her lap.

Both of these women took inspired action to do something that felt like taking care of themselves.  In the process, they supported other people's businesses and perpetuated the flow of money.  They allowed money to flow out, and in the process of doing so, abundance has flowed back in.  This showed up in the forms of health and wellness, a rather large discount (allowing some other services more or less for free), a highly lucrative temporary gig suddenly appearing...  Gee, it almost seems like the universe wants us to take care of ourselves!  Isn't it great to know that it is not only okay to do so but it also helps perpetuate the flow of money?

Spending money on ourselves can be really difficult, but it's important to recognize that there's a huge difference between indiscriminately throwing money around and deliberately choosing to use money in a way that makes you genuinely happy.  Perhaps some of the knowing comes as a result of looking for truly inspired actions to take.  That takes practice, but once you become accustomed to the feeling of inspiration, you will 100% know whether you are really being inspired to take an action or if it's something else.  In fact, the winds of inspiration have been blowing my direction with regards to spending money on myself.  I too have been feeling inspired in the direction of bedroom furniture, so I imagine that I will be working my way in that direction once a few bits of dust settle.  I've also really been wanting to treat myself to sushi.  So, that'll probably happen pretty soon. Why not?  Let the money flow, right?

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Clearing the Way for Abundance

As the seasons go, Winter seems to be a time of endings.  The trees have lost their leaves and fall into dormancy; flowers are gone, the sun is a bit less prevalent.  Still, there's something beautiful about the natural stillness that occurs in the midst of winter.  The world slows down and takes stock of that which remains.   For those with a reflective spirit, the consciousness becomes entirely aware of that which we're nestled in with, and in quiet contemplation prepares for spring.

Perhaps it's a bit of nature's course to make us aware of that which has run its natural course in our lives through the meditative nature of winter.  As we sit in recognition of that which is lost or run stagnant, there's an impulse the percolates, becoming ready just as spring emerges.  The universe seems to know just when to give us the impulse to lift open the windows and let the fresh spring air come racing into our spaces.  In that moment, the juxtaposition of old versus new comes into full view.

The ritual of spring cleaning is critical to the flow of abundance and arguably has been practiced as such on some level throughout history.  Some suggest that the practice can be traced to the Iranian Nowruz, the Persian new year which takes place on the first day of spring.  Yet others attribute it to the Jewish tradition of cleaning in preparation for the springtime festival of Passover.  In either instance, there seems to be an element of clearing the old in preparation for the new.

Several Law of Attraction texts address this idea of clearing in various ways, and it seems that after such a year of loss, dormancy, and destruction, we could use a little clearing.  Some of the universal laws seem so simple and yet the wisdom can be difficult to put into practice. One such law is the Universal Law of Release, which I've mentioned before.  It suggests that we ought to let go of anything that we no longer need.  It seems reasonable, for arms that are filled with things that aren't of value are unable to receive.  They're simply too full, and as a result, abundance cannot flow into them.  So, we must practice releasing that which is no longer of use to us in order to make space for that which we would like to flow into our experience.  Now, on a spiritual or philosophical level, this may be resonating with you, but what might this look like on a practical day-to-day level?

 Our Home and Possessions:

The Hindu Goddess, Lakshmi, known for bringing wealth and good fortune, is believed only to enter into clean and well-decorated homes.  So, every year before the festival of Diwali a significant amount of cleaning and decluttering takes place.  The belief is that in cleaning your home and clearing away that which is no longer needed, you are making space for Lakshmi to bring abundance into your experience.  This cleaning represents ridding ourselves of any negative or stagnant energy and inviting positivity.  This works not only philosophically, but in practicality as well.  There are many objects in our homes that we hold attachments to as a method of preserving the past.  Now, I am a bit of a historian that adores my family and cultural background, along with objects of significance in that arena, but there are so many objects that hold negative value in our emotional and psychological experience.  We hold items gifted by former friends with whom we've parted ways. We keep items that we don't use or care for simply because a family member gifted them, and the list keeps going.  I've recently felt the impulse to begin sorting through my bookshelf, an area of weakness for me.  I've recently brought a couple of physical books into my home that I truly love, and yet I don't have a place to honorably store them because that space is being filled by others that I've completed my journey with.  At one point many of these books added value to my life, and some of them still do.  Others would be better suited elsewhere because, with me, they've run their course.  These objects deserve to have a better life than the one I'm giving them.  So, perhaps they're better suited for a donation.  Now, I like to dispose of things in a manner that I find responsible but I also don't feel responsible for knowing each individual item's final resting place.  I will simply donate to what I find to be an appropriate outlet.  In doing so, I open up space to house an item I love, or simply allow the space to remain open.  Remember, open space is space where you've left room for abundance.  If every space is full, you haven't left room for that which you truly want.  

There's also something remarkable about walking into a space that is clean and only containing things that you love.  When is the last time you had that experience?  What space provided you with that experience?  Was it your own space?  If it wasn't, why not?  How would it feel if every time you entered your own space you felt positive emotions?  The higher on the emotional scale you are vibrating, the higher your level of attraction to that which you want.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if your physical space brought about feelings of gratitude and abundance?

Moreover, the act of holding onto things you don't want is a marker of scarcity mindset.  Scarcity mindset is essentially a limiting belief that suggests to you that you must hold tight because the things you want/need are in limited supply.  The very act of holding on is abundance repellant.  The best antidote may by to simply let go.  If you love it, keep it.  If it adds value, keep it.  Otherwise, let it go.

Our Time:

American culture is steeped in the glorification of busy.  We hustle ourselves to the edge of exhaustion, but to what end?  A two-week vacation on which we're finally able to live our best lives.  But what if we could live a life right now that we didn't need a vacation from?  If you want to know about someone's priorities, look at their schedule.  When you read that did you immediately think about your own schedule?  Did you immediately feel the need to make excuses for why you added that "extra thing" into your week?  Honestly, you're not alone.

Several years ago, I had been working a lot of extra programs at my school.  I did so for a few years in a row and was really among a core group of teachers that were always participating in such things.  These extra programs added a lot of value to my life and the lives of my students.  I benefitted monetarily and felt good that students were able to get the extra support they needed.  Eventually, I became exhausted.  Once exhaustion sets in, it's really difficult to do something as joyfully as you otherwise could.  Regardless of my exhaustion, I put my best effort forward and continued to the end of a particular school year.  At this point, my partner brought my exhaustion to my attention and suggested that I not take on these extra items the next school year.  I really struggled with the idea because I had gotten really used to being that person at work.  When a task starts to muscle it's way into little pieces of your identity, it's really difficult to let go.  But ultimately, I agreed with my partner.  At the beginning of the school year, most people assumed that I would continue to participate in these things as I had always done.  So, I had to explicitly say that I could no longer commit to doing so.  Again, it was very difficult.  Finally, a few days before these programs were to begin, there was a meeting for all staff members that planned to participate.  I knew that would be the final "No."  My heart was racing as I deliberately made my way down the stairs to exit the building instead of down the hall to the meeting.  I made it.  I stepped onto my bus and started the journey home.  About half an hour later, I was playing on my cell phone and noticed an email.  It was a notification that the column I had been working to have created had been approved, and I was the columnist!  When I looked at the time stamp on the email, I realized that it had been sent ten minutes after I deliberately elected not to join that meeting.  You see, it was in that moment with that decision that I created space for this opportunity to come into my experience.  I had been asking and asking and asking the universe to bring something to me, and yet I was filling my time to the gills, leaving no room for it.  The second I opened up a space for it, it flowed in.

Now, I bring this back to our attention.  Look at your schedule?  Is there anything that needs to be cleared out of it?  It could be something that served you well, but that you need to move on from.  Be grateful for the positive space it's had in your life, thank it, and release it.  Maybe it's something you said yes to without really thinking it through.  Apologize for not being more careful in your response, explain that you really can't commit, and move on.  You're making space for something valuable.

Our Habits:

While it's out with the old and in with the new, perhaps springtime is a good time to review our habits.  Is there anything that you do out of habit that isn't serving you well?  Is there anything that you aren't doing, but would love to make a habit of doing?  Though it may not be obvious, our habits are deeply interconnected with our openness to abundance and also extend their reach into other areas on this list.  Some habits absorb our thoughts and time, and if they aren't serving us by allowing the flow of abundance in and out; they may need to be cleared.  Moreover, it must be recognized that abundance, not only implies monetary success, but also wellness in all other aspects of life.  These things are terribly interconnected.  Clearing even a small portion of unwanted habits in the area of health can have tremendous implications where the abundance of energy both physically and spiritually is concerned.  While that should be enough in and of itself, it is also worth mentioning that when we are abundant in health, as well as physical and spiritual energy, we've also cleared space for abundance to show up in other ways such as inspiration, creativity, and relationships.  As for myself, I have a number of habits that keep me feeling in alignment, and circumstances have caused a few of them to be thrown off this winter.  My sleep has been a bit off, and it is impacting my morning exercise routine.  These are both critical to my sense of peace throughout the day. Now that spring is in the air, I am committed to regaining my balance with these items.  

Incomplete or Dormant Tasks:

Are there any items that seem to keep moving from one "to do" list to the next?  Is there anything you've started that you haven't finished?  Having things sitting there incomplete or dormant take up energetic space, much like possessions do.  These things are often more difficult to recognize because they're not always tangible.  But if we want space for abundance to flow into our experience, we can't afford for dust collectors to take up all of our bandwidth.  There are a few of these in my own life that need to be cleared out.  There are a couple of forms that I need to submit for various things.  If I'm honest with myself, I must admit that I have reminded myself to submit these forms many times.  The amount of mental energy I have spent not doing them could have first off gotten the task accomplished, and secondly be used for other things.  Another such example from my own world has to do with my desire to see things to completion.  This is one of my best qualities in many ways, but I could certainly use to practice evaluating whether or not the task is one I really want to complete or whether I might just let it go.  So, I'm currently in the middle of several books; I either need to finish them or commit to the idea that I'm simply not going to.  Sitting in no man's land with it isn't serving me well.  They're taking up bandwidth in my mind by being there in a state of incompletion.  If I just said to myself "I'm not feeling it.  I'm done with this," I could reclaim that space in my mind, or I could accomplish this through their completion  The forms to be mailed in are much the same way. They aren't really the kinds of things that make sense to opt-out of, but by allowing them to remain in a place of "incomplete," they are taking up my valuable space.  What if that mental space could be used for something more meaningful?

Old Financial Accounts and Debts:

This one feels pretty similar to "incomplete tasks," but I categorize them on their own because they seem to take up space in additional ways.  Are there any financial tasks, old accounts, or debts that are just sitting there taking up space in your wallet and mind?  Can they be cleared out?  There's one particular bill in my life that appears once a year, and its deadline isn't very strict.  So, sometimes it just sits there.  I have the money and I know when (roughly) it'll come, so what gives?  Sometimes these one-off financial tasks are ones that we drag our feet on simply because they aren't being streamlined like the rest.  Most monthly bills are on autopilot; the same goes with investments.  Others like bills that come annually, filing taxes, completing student loan payment forms, and many others require conscious effort to complete.  Well, let me give you a tip: they're taking up space in your mind even if you aren't completing them.  By not prioritizing these things, we're giving them valuable storage space in our lives that could be used for other things.  Did you tell yourself five times to pay that annual bill or organize your tax papers?  If you just prioritized the act of doing it, you could save yourself the repetitive energy of continuously reminding yourself of it.  Do you need to consolidate accounts because you have too many different ones (whether it be checking/savings or IRAs)?  Sometimes we collect these things and we'd be better served to streamline them.  Besides, some of them might function better for us than others.  Old debts are another one.  They really do take some time and energy to deal with, but have you ever stopped to think about the time and energy that gets spent on them anyway?  If we take positive, inspired action toward their elimination, we can clear away the mental space and reclaim the money they were once absorbing.

Spring is certainly in the air and it inspires a sense of renewal in me, as it does so many.  I find myself ready to throw open the windows and allow abundance to flow into my home.  Perhaps that was always the essence of Spring Cleaning, a ritual that I believe correlates to the art of allowing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Budgets: Paying for Our Past and Financing the Future

Money has a certain energy and flow and it often feels like it responds to our energy and emotional responses as individuals.  While I truly love the flow of money in and out of my experience and the manner in which I can help facilitate that flow, there's one thing I don't really love.  That's budgeting.  While, I can really get into bean-counting, and love strategy (I mean, come on, I also prepare taxes), I don't really want to spend my time assigning what feels like arbitrary dollar amounts to a zillion little categories.  I'm not sure why.  It just doesn't spark joy.  I've written about budgets before and how I tend to utilize the 50/30/20 Budget popularized by Elizbeth Warren.  It's called a budget, but to me, it feels a little bit more like a guideline with three subcategories: Fixed Spending (Needs), Flexible (Lifestyle) Spending, and Goals.  Warren recommends that no more than 50% of our take-home pay go to the Fixed category.  Frankly, mine is way under that.  She goes on to suggest up to 30% for Lifestyle and leaves 20% for Goals.  Her recommendations feel really balanced to me.  It strikes me that if I allotted 30% of our household income to lifestyle, we'd be living the Slow FI dream.  Perhaps after we achieve our "new apartment" dream, that'll be something to strive for.  As it stands, we're only spending about 16% of our income in that category.  That's only for a season though because we have a very important short-medium term goal in mind: purchase a primary residence this year.

By Law of Attraction standards, the now is the most important time to give our energy to, and on the surface, the budget seems to be fully in the now.... or is it?  Arguably, those fixed and lifestyle expenses are all directly related to the now, but you may find some resistance when you look into your goals category.  The 20% Warren recommends using to fund your goals is split between paying for our past and financing our future.  Oftentimes, the budget will tell a story of disconnection with the now.  Where there is credit card debt, student loans, auto loans, or collection notices, there is evidence of a past self that was living in discord with the now.  At one point, we weren't operating in the now with our money.  We were borrowing from our future selves (the selves we are right now), and spending money we didn't actually have.  Every moment and every dollar we spend paying for our past is taking valuable energy away from our experience of right now.  As each moment becomes our new "now," we desire more and more to have full custody of our current time and energy in all of it varying forms.  As we make these payments month after month, we must realize that our debts are cyclically trapping us in our connection to the past.  

So, what can we do in the now?  Surely we must fulfill our obligation.  Avoiding it would only lower our vibration on the emotional scale.  We must remember that every dollar we pay to the principal balance of a debt obligation is a dollar energetically that we no longer have tying us to the past and keeping us from the now.  Can we find a way to take pleasure in each dollar of principal we decrease?  and if that is the case, can larger payments to the principal increase the level of satisfaction.  Besides, each payment now is a moment devoted to the now in that it is a full recognition of our need to divorce attention to a past which we cannot do anything about.  A desire to live fully in the present moment can inspire us to fully devote ourselves to the elimination of debt and a resolve to never go back.  

The other end of this Goals category involves saving for our future.  The obvious question that surfaces is why we would save for a future time if the present moment is the most important one and the one that deserves our attention.  The answer to this has to do with another interesting aspect of our egoic human nature.  When we're not busy focusing on past events, we spend a great deal of our energy worrying about a future that hasn't happened yet.  An over "obsession" with the future isn't a particularly great thing, as it draws us further out of the present moment. So, doesn't it make the most sense to focus our attention on what we can actually do in the now?  We can derive pleasure from knowing that our abundance is greater than our need.  From the overflow of our abundance, we can set money to the side in ways that allow it to grow as well.  By wisely setting the overflow aside in retirement accounts and other investments, we can allow it to multiply, freeing us to create the lives we're meant to live.  Lives that are full of passion and joy.  This is all that which we can create from putting the very best of our energy into the now and pouring ourselves into doing that which we are able to do rather than focusing our attention on worry about future outcomes or shame about past missteps.  

When I look at my budget, I feel joy because it represents that we are doing all that we can do right now.  We are one by one eliminating the residue of a past we cannot change, and taking joy in the knowing that each of those dollars is one that we'll never have to pay on those obligations again.  We have such great abundance in our lives that we have an overflow.  From that we can both set money aside, and also give.  While at this moment, our percentages are pretty far removed from the 50/30/20 framework that I so much enjoy, we're certainly under those critical 50% Fixed Expense and 30% Lifestyle designations, which is a beautiful place to be.  

Have you done a comparison of your budget categories to the 50/30/20 Budget suggested by Elizabeth Warren?  Are you under the critical 50/30 marks?  How much of your money is paying for the past?  How much is financing the future? And finally, are you happy with where it stands?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Acts of Love: Where is your Money?

We've just come to the one-year mark since Covid began, or at least since our communities were forced to shut down many aspects of normalcy for the sake of public health. The feeling of loss has been intense and widespread.  It seems as though everyone has been touched in some way or another.  If there's anything that this pandemic has done, it's caused us to take a look at our lives, holding them up to a magnifying glass for further examination.  This is a good thing.  A life unexamined is a life without deliberate creation.  

I've had a number of realizations that aren't entirely new for me, but rather I've felt in a new and intense way.  As I look around my environment, I recognize that there is virtually no physical possession that holds more value to me than a lived experience.  We're living in these bodies for a short duration of time, and at the end of it, the most important things are ultimately the people we loved and the experiences we shared.  Personal finance is a bit of a game in some ways.  Oftentimes, we have some sort of goal in mind and set to learning as many rules as possible so as to achieve them in the best way possible.  I of all people enjoy the game of money, and that's a beautiful thing.  But let's not forget, our money is here to support our life experiences, and those life experiences are meant to support our relationships.  Doesn't that sound simple?

To be perfectly candid, some of this has been drawn into focus for me during this time for a couple of reasons.  I've experienced the passing of three very important family members in the past 15 months (all non-Covid related), and this slower version of life leaves ample time for reflection.  Though I recognize their spiritual selves are eternal, I grieve the loss of the physicalized versions of those I love so much.  Experiencing life after loss, alongside my family members, compels me to share something with you.

Our experience as a physical being is limited, and when it's complete, we will leave some people behind.  If we've touched the lives of others, there will be people that will grieve for us, and we would like to make things as simple for them as possible. We cannot dwell in the past, nor can we live in a future that hasn't happened yet, but we can do a few simple things right now as an act of love for those closest to us.

Down the road, we'll discuss wills, living revocable trusts, among other documents.  For now, I would like to start extremely simply.  Sit down and make a list of everywhere you are holding assets.  This list should include banks and credit unions where you hold accounts.  Document places where you have life insurance policies.  List any retirement accounts (401k, 457, 403b, IRA, pension, annuities) that you have.  Ideally, document addresses, telephone numbers, and account numbers associated with these assets.  You might also include information about the title of your car, your house on this list.

The purpose of this list is twofold.  The first is that you want your beneficiaries to know where your assets are, which brings me to the second.  You need to verify and update the beneficiaries associated with each and every asset you listed.  If you haven't updated the beneficiary on an account for ten years, you may still have your brother listed as the beneficiary.  Your life may be very different than it was when you opened the account, and you may need to make some updates.  Make sure you remember to check on houses and vehicles as well.  You want to be sure these things can easily pass to the appropriate family members.

Once you've generated a list and updated your beneficiaries, you have one more task.  You need to have some conversations.  They don't have to be long, but you need to make sure you tell your family members where this list could be found if needed, and inform them of your decisions regarding beneficiaries of your accounts, and any special instructions that may be necessary.  

As I look around me and witness so many life transitions happening within families, I recognize that we can't overly focus on future events that haven't happened yet, but there are a few simple acts of love that we can take in the now.  I hope that this year of reflection has been good for you all and that perhaps you too will find some small, simple inspired actions to take for your family. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Dealing with Workplace Discord

Sunday night rolls around and the feeling of dread begins to present itself.  You know that come Monday morning you'll be walking into the lion's den.  There has been a lot of changes lately with new hierarchies, new structures, new protocols, and several of them impact what you do on a daily basis making you feel less like a valuable co-creator in the facilitation of the company vision, one you've always stood behind, and more like a cog in a machine of meaningless manufacturing.  There's something shifting within your workplace setting, but also within you and your experience of it.  You've been unsatisfied for some time, but now it's taking a turn into a bit of a negative spiral.  Where you used to go home and leave your work behind, you now find that you cannot shake the negative feelings that come up as a result of what feels like job toxicity.  Whether or not the environment itself is toxic doesn't seem to matter as much as the fact that it is no longer in harmony with your intended purpose.  You ask yourself, "Where to go from here?"

Workplace dramas impact us in a number of ways.  One of the most surface ways relates to the amount of time we spend at work.  A person that works a very literal 40-hour workweek, is spending nearly a quarter of their time at work.  This time commitment is rivaled only by sleep, and with most adults, not even that!  No wonder workplace discord has such an impact on our psyches!  

Furthermore, we can thank the egoic mind for contributing to the weight of work on inner peace.  The egoic mind loves to attach itself to work, making your identity dependent on it.  Thus when issues arise at work, it's as if a volcanic eruption has gone off in your world.  Divorcing your identity from work is a tall order, but there are a few small things that begin to make a large impact.  One such example may be a matter of semantics, but it has worked in my life.  "I am" isn't just a phrase.  It's a complete sentence.  "I am."  I don't really need any words after it.  Let me be clear.  I do a few things for income; one such thing is that I teach in a high school.  I am incredibly proud of my work in education.  That being said, I resist the urge to say "I am a teacher" because it makes me feel like my identity is somehow tied to my employment.  I prefer to say things like "I teach for a living.  I work in a high school with these fabulous kids."  The truth is that I do several things for a living and I genuinely enjoy all of them.  It's entirely too much of my time to be bothered doing things I don't enjoy.  That being said, "I am" is still a complete sentence.  

There's also something about introductions that feeds into the issue of personal identity being related to work.  Oftentimes, one of the first things that we do when we introduce ourselves to people is identifying ourselves by telling them what we do to earn income.  It's a rather strange thing to do, isn't it?  It also seems that social protocol dictates that you're supposed to pick just one thing that you do for a living and state that during an introduction as a part of your identity.  The truth is that I earn an income doing at least five completely different things, a few of which overlap.  If I introduced myself to people by stating that "I am" those five different things, it would be a little strange wouldn't it?  Why is it any less strange to introduce ourselves to people and lead with your name and the source of your income?  Theoretically, we judge people within the first minute of meeting them.  That was always what I was taught in my actor training, and it seems about right.  So, we're all putting ourselves in the position to have people judge the kind of person we are by our appearance, name, and occupation.  It seems like we ought to shake that up a bit.  Personally, I've started challenging that norm.  I like to try breaking that habit by leading with my name and something I'm passionate about.  It seems like changing that introduction and working to break the "I am" cycle could be a valuable first step in the journey toward breaking away from the identification with work.  Our identities also get entangled in our jobs when we're dependent on them, by the way, which leads us to another point.

Another fundamental reason that workplace toxicity impacts us so deeply lies on our dependence upon work for our security.  If I am dependent on someone or something in order to get my basic needs met, I am certainly not going to want to rock the boat where that thing is concerned.  My need for survival kicks in and takes over.  That's a relatively natural instinct I'm sure, but it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with work in that it becomes altogether too easy to submit to a feeling of helplessness which is about as low on the emotional scale as you can get.  Abundance does not flow from a feeling of helplessness.  In fact, this low emotional state will create flow in your life, but the wrong kind of flow.  It will create negative flow, as the momentum swirls in the direction of that which you don't want.  Now, how to move the current the other way?  Rather than wallowing in the sense of dependence on our current, primary employer, we need to create for ourselves a sense of independence.  This key mindset shift is on that is also a huge leap up the emotional scale from that of hopelessness and dependence. But how do we get there?  The mind likes to constantly remind us of this very practical life circumstance and use it to "keep us safe" but what if we could feed the mind something equally as valid and empowering in order to trigger a feeling of abundance and independence.  Wouldn't that feel great?

What if you had a secondary job, side gig, or personal business that also earned you an income?  Even if this income was lesser than the primary source, it would seriously decrease the pressure applied to your primary job.  If the financial weight of your lifestyle is distributed among more than one income source, it clearly alleviates a certain amount of dependence on any given one of them.  This is one strategy that is in play in my life.  My primary job is the largest single source of income that I have, but I have a number of others, some of which are in the entrepreneurial and side-gig arenas.

What if you had a rather large freedom fund?  In the financial independence community, this is often known as "FU Money," and while that term is empowering to some, it doesn't resonate with me. So, I call it my "Freedom Fund."  The concept is that you have a pile of money that is somewhat liquid that is build up large enough to allow you to walk away from a toxic situation if you need or want to do so.  I did this a number of years ago, and at this point, if neither of us was working, we could last 6-8 months on it alone without a single drop of income coming from another source or without raiding any other pots of money, which brings me to another point.

Living on one income.  As a couple, we are both employed with a primary, full-time job.  We also both have multiple other income streams.  We have budgeted our lives to one primary, full-time income.  In a practical sense, we could lose a lot of income sources entirely before ever needing to touch any Freedom Fund money because we only need one full-time income to meet our needs.  

The last one is actually two things that are fairly related:  financial independence (FI) and passive income.  In the simplest of terms, full FI is achieved when you have enough income from investments to allow you to live from the income they generate without having to work.  This can come from retirement accounts, royalties, rental real estate, or other types of investments.  In one way or another, I utilize each of these things, with a heavier leaning on rental real estate.  Not only will it eventually provide for me in my retirement, it also producing income that my partner and I can choose to utilize right now.  

The impact of workplace drama is a very real issue that impacts so many people in a negative way.  The truth is that it doesn't have to.  We just need to recognize that dependence on our employer and attaching work to identity is part of what is creating our suffering.  Dig deep and find the inspiration to wean yourself off of being financially dependent on your employer and remember that you are more than just your job.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Knowledge is Key: Rules for Rental Real Estate

Recently, we've highlighted the value of thinking outside of our original plan which flowed into a discussion about real estate and using a 1031 exchange to trade one rental property in for another one without incurring a tax bill in the process.  This really got me thinking about how important knowledge is in the flow of our money-lives.  I believe in the flow of money.  I also believe in using inspired actions in order to keep things flowing to our maximum benefit.  Those of us practicing the Law of Attraction utilize our inner guidance systems to aid in the decision-making process,  knowing that knowledge is still one of the critical pieces of the puzzle because knowledge is the fuel for inspiration that eventually flows into action.

A couple of recent examples that even fit within the real estate arena come to mind.  

Friend A and her husband sold a rental property they owned.  After the fact, she approached me.  She didn't know what to do with the proceeds and wanted to make a wise decision.  She was also nervous about the tax bill that would result in the sale of this property.  Unfortunately, she had never learned anything about a 1031 exchange and had already sold the property.  So, that tax bill would certainly be coming.  I didn't know that she was selling a property either.  She was certainly under no obligation to tell me about it ahead of time, but since I didn't know, I did not bring her attention to this strategy.   Interestingly, she and her husband were leaning toward trying to buy another rental property that had better cash flow for them.  This is a wonderful move to make no doubt, and had she known previously about the benefits of a 1031 exchange, they might have saved thousands in taxes.  Consequently, they'll end up with the tax bill and have less money to put toward a new purchase.

Friend B learned about a 1031 exchange when she spoke with a real estate professional in her life (and me) prior to the sale of a rental property show owned.  Since she had a little time with the information to absorb it and what it might mean for her situation, she was able to meditate on it and gain a vision for how using this strategy would allow things to flow in her financial life.  She started looking around at new property opportunities as a result and became inspired to pursue the 1031 exchange.  She's still in process with it, so we don't know how this story wraps up quite yet, but the point remains that a little knowledge has inspired her to take an action that will save her from a hefty tax bill and help her to increase her passive income pushing her across the threshold into financial independence.    

Now, both of these friends have a little bit of experience in rental real estate, but only a little.  What they don't know much about is what data to look at when purchasing a new rental property.  This little bit of knowledge can not only increase confidence in the purchaser's ability to assess an investment for themselves but also create an environment that will allow them to become inspired about a particular property or subsequently allow them to avoid buying a lemon.

When you are working with a realtor to purchase a property, they should be able to send you a certain amount of data with regards to any listings you may be interested in pursuing.  One number to look at is the Cap Rate, which helps you assess the profitability of a property, which I've written about previously.  There are a couple more pieces of data that your realtor can provide you that you can use to assess a rental property and they aren't terribly difficult.

Gross Rent Multiplier (GRM)

The Gross Rent Multiplier tells you how many years it will take the property to pay for itself based on the gross rents.  In order to calculate this number, you will take the purchase price and divide it by the amount of gross rent collected annually.   

So, if you paid $800,000 for a building that has gross annual rents totaling $60,000, the Gross Rent Multiplier is 13.33.  So, it would take roughly 13 years for the property to pay for itself.  

What is a good GRM?  This is the tough part.  This can vary from place to place.  You may want to ask your realtor if they have this information on your city or county.  The GRM on my property is 5.69, though recently I've seen others in the same area with GRM ranging from 10-17.

I like the GRM because it's a pretty straightforward number.  The Cap Rate is also useful, though it is more complex.  It's good to look at both of them because the Cap Rate accounts for expenses, where the Gross Rent Multiplier does not.

The 1% Rule

This is a super simple rule of thumb used by many real estate investors.  This rule suggests that the monthly rent should be equal to (or greater than) 1% of the total purchase price of the property.  This can also help people to understand how much they'd need to be able to rent a property for in order for it to cash flow the way they'd like.

If a property is purchased for $100,000 the 1% rule indicates that it should rent for $1000 or more.  If it rents for $900, it comes in just under 1% because 900/100,000 = .9%. However, if that same property rents for $1200 (1200/100,000 = 1.2%), it comes in just above that benchmark.  My rental property comes in at 1.75%.

Now, this isn't a rule that should make or break your real estate purchase, and you should absolutely ask your realtor how this applies to your local area.  However, this is a really nice way to evaluate possible investments and compare them to each other.

You know, I absolutely love learning these little guidelines and rules because for me they're fuel for inspiration.  When we first bought our house, we didn't buy it as a rental, we lived in it.  When we changed directions, we realized our home would make a good rental.  We didn't know all of these little data points before, and things turned out really well.  When we look at our Cap Rate, Gross Rent Multiplier, and the 1% rule, we realize just how wonderfully we did.  Now, should we become inspired to make another real estate move, we will be able to duplicate our success with confidence.

Are you currently looking at any real estate?  Would it (or your current home) make a good rental using the 1% rule or GRM?