Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Strategy: 1031 Exchange for Real Estate

Recently, in a chat with a friend that also owns rental property, she came to the realization that she might expand her thinking outside of her original plan. She realized that if she sold her current rental property and purchased a multiunit dwelling, she would be in an even better position than she is currently.  I briefly mentioned that a transaction of this sort could be performed without paying taxes on the sale of the original rental property by way of a 1031 exchange.

Let's dive into a bit about how that works.  First, it's important to know that there are multiple types of 1031 exchanges.  A Delayed 1031 Exchange is the most common, and the one we'll explore.  There are four basic steps to the process of this transaction.

Sell the Original Property

This step is pretty straightforward.  The one tricky part is that you have to decide that you're doing a 1031 exchange before the closing of the sale and identify a qualified intermediary.   The timing of a 1031 exchange is delicate and once the sale of the original property is complete, the timer has started!

Find a Qualified Intermediary

Once your property is under contract, you should be sure you identify a qualified intermediary.  You can't do a 1031 exchange otherwise.  A qualified intermediary is a company that holds the funds from the sale of the original property and is responsible for assisting you with the related paperwork.  They will also hold you to a timeline.  

Identify a New Property Within 45 Days

You will have 45 days from the sale of your original property to identify up to three replacement properties.  As long as you stick to the allotted three, you may identify properties of any value above the original sales price that you like, but if you identify a fourth property, some other special rules kick in.  So, shopper beware!  

Close Within 180 Days

There is a second timeline the qualified intermediary will hold you to, and that's the purchase date.  You must close on the sale of the new property (or properties) within 180 days of the sale of the original property.   If any of the applicable timelines are not observed, your 1031 exchange fails.  The worst-case scenario is that you end up paying taxes on the sale of the original property.  

Inspired action is at the very center of a successful law of attraction practice.  Knowledge and imagination often provide the best fuel for inspired action.  Without a little knowledge, how do we know what experiences to try on through imagining?  Continuing to learn and grow our knowledge base gives us something to get inspired about.  Now, whether or not my friend will pursue a 1031 exchange remains to be seen.  If she had never been educated about a 1031 exchange in the first place, she certainly wouldn't be inspired to pursue one.  Now that she knows, she can try it on through research, meditation, imagining, and eventually discover for herself whether or not it might be right for her.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Thinking Outside of the Plan

A wise person recently drew my attention to the notion that there is a certain "hustle mindset" that has become predominant among those in pursuit of personal finance.  It's certainly no surprise, as this messaging is consistently embedded into our culture.  "Where are you going?" is often asked of us, but "How are you getting there?" is not.  There is an emphasis on the speed by which we arrive at a particular destination, but little attention is paid to the manner in which we transport ourselves.  Perhaps it is also worth considering the idea that if more attention was paid to the journey, it might actually alter the destination.

The journey toward financial independence is often prescriptive, and for good reason.  There are tried and true methods that have produced results over and over again.  Now, I can't help but wonder: What if there's actually a better destination than the one you had prescribed for yourself?  I was in the periphery of a conversation recently where an individual was expressing concern about the state of their finances, and whether or not they were on track to meet a certain goal.  As this person listed all of the various things they had invested into, and the sums they had accumulated, and the payoff dates of the various things in their lives a myriad of questions began to gnaw at me.  I wanted to know: What did this person absolutely love to do?  What brings them joy?  When was the last time they felt truly inspired, and what made them feel that way?  Did they even know?  Any adjustment that anyone could offer to this person with regards to their financial plan would be minuscule at best.  This person genuinely has everything on lockdown, and yet I felt a nagging sense that perhaps they might need to look at things a bit differently.  I'm not sure they need much of a financial checkup, but perhaps a lifestyle check-up.  I'm not referring to spending.  I'm referring to inspiration.  Sometimes, we get so locked into our plans that we fail to make room for inspiration.  Inspiration needs room to breathe.  When life becomes destination-oriented we run the risk of missing out on gains that are even better than we could imagine because we've only left room to do exactly as the plan dictates.  

I know a person that has a nearly paid-off rental property.  She has long since perceived this property as part of her long-term financial plan.  She loves the idea of having passive income and real estate that's paid in full.  She uses a management company, a move which simplifies her life and is well worth the expense. Truly, this plan is flowing for her.  If she stays the course, she will do quite well.  Because she knows this and it's all flowing for her, she has literally never even entertained the idea of selling it despite the fact that if she did, she could easily fetch 4x her purchase price for the property.  Besides, then she would have to pay taxes on it, and her passive income would be gone.

What if this person were to allow their minds to wander; to frolic among the possibilities?  She's been so married to her plan, that in all honesty, she hasn't really entertained a variety of options where her rental is concerned.  One day, I was chatting with her and we decided to take a hike into the hypothetical.  What if she sold that property?  She could defer the taxes by doing a 1031 exchange (this allows you to avoid paying taxes on it if you sell one property and purchase another within a specified period of time; there are a lot of rules involved, so don't try this until you've done your homework on it).  As it turns out, this would allow her to put 50% down on a 4-plex in her area.  The remaining mortgage on the 4-plex would be covered (including taxes) consistently by having two units rented.  The income on the other two units would be hers.  Interestingly, the income from the remaining two units would be almost double the amount she will receive from her current rental property even after it's paid off.  To be truthful, this woman was flabbergasted by the entire idea and how doable it actually seemed.  She's not a huge fan of debt if she can help it, and may stick with her original plan.  That's absolutely fine.  But by being so intent on her original plan, she wasn't even allowing herself to engage in an experiment of the mind.

A mental experiment can be tremendously valuable because it lowers the stakes and subsequently invalidates the mind's automatic fear of failure and making room for natural curiosity to plant the seeds of inspiration.  Fear is often what keeps us from deviating from a plan.  We don't speak up at work because we fear losing our jobs.  We don't learn about investing in the market because we fear losing everything in a crash.  We don't quit a job to start our own business because we fear losing the perception of security.  The mind utilizes fear as a tool in order to keep us safe from harm, but when misused, it can prevent us from exploring the possibilities around us.  This woman may actually stay the course and keep her current property.  She may decide at some point to sell it, do the 1031 exchange, and invest in a multi-unit dwelling.  Either choice is a very smart money move.  She's winning either way.  That's one of the key takeaways here.  This isn't necessarily a win-lose scenario where if she chooses "X" she'd clearly be making a mistake.  She is likely to win either way! How fabulous is that?!  By opening her mind to possibilities outside of her original plan, she has discovered that there may be something out there for her that turns out even better than she imagined it.

So, please don't be in such a hurry that you miss out on the opportunity to flow into something better.  No doubt your plan is amazing, but there might just be something even more amazing just around the corner.  Don't be so blinded by racing against an invisible clock that you miss it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Preconceptions of Wealth

Interestingly, there is a topic that keeps being brought to my attention lately.  I've heard it mentioned in a podcast, two different books that I'm currently reading, and in multiple conversations with people.  I haven't been the one to bring it up on any of these occasions, which is interesting because I'm frequently the culprit of such things. I can't help but wonder if there's something in the collective psyche that's making this topic burble to the surface.  The topic: preconceptions of wealth.

In the course of an otherwise casual conversation, I was surprised to encounter a preconception of wealth held by someone in my life.  This person believed that certain types of assets were designed only for the rich.  My initial reaction was that of surprise because I feel very differently.  I don't necessarily feel that there are asset classes that are inaccessible to me or designed for someone else.  While I prefer some asset classes over others, I believe that I have the freedom to use whatever inspires me provided I do my homework sufficiently to understand it.  A lot of my work is at the intersection of personal finance and the law of attraction which subsequently has to do with the relationship between mindset, emotions, and behaviors.  So, naturally, I was curious about the history of this idea and the narrative being built around it.

We all have some preconceived notions when it comes to the subject of money, and they often influence our behaviors in the form of limiting beliefs.  In the book Invested, Danielle Town was most certainly smacked in the face by hers when she realized that they were impacting her investing practice.  According to Town, the first step to reducing the power our preconceptions about money have over us is to face them.  I couldn't agree more.  In the course of the discussion I was having earlier this week, the person articulated that they hadn't ever experienced anyone in their life having assets in the particular class we were discussing.  For them, it seemed inaccessible.  Now, I couldn't help but wonder about this and found myself with a reoccurring thought.  Is it possible that this wasn't even true, that people in their life did in fact have investments of this nature and never spoke about it?  There are many segments of American culture that hold to the belief that we shouldn't discuss money, an idea that in my opinion does more damage than it does good.  When we are young we learn about finances experientially and through things we hear people say. As we go through life, we often look for things that support the narrative we build around those early experiences.  But is it possible that we create evidence that supports that narrative?  

In The Illusion of Money, Kyle Cease draws the reader's attention to several commonly held beliefs about money.  One is that "money is the root of all evil."  He goes on to suggest that one of the dangers of holding on to this belief is that it can create resistance to abundance.  It's quite the realization.  Presumably, most people don't want to be evil.  So, if there is a belief that the possession of money somehow creates evil, there's certainly room for resistance to creep in: resistance to holding it, saving it, utilizing it as a tool, or allowing it to flow into your experience.  Once a limiting belief is discovered, is there a way to challenge it or feed it as a new idea?  The opposite idea might be that "money is the source of so much good!"  Is that true?  Can you find evidence of the new idea?  I can think of a lot of good that can and is done with money all the time.  Money can fund a plethora of things ranging from schools to charities to valuable experiences, all things that are good.  

One commonly held belief that I remember hearing growing up is that "money doesn't grow on trees."  Cease mentions this one as well.  Unlike the previous example, this one resonates with me a bit more.  Cease goes on to suggest that people with this limiting belief might "overlook opportunities where money seems easy."  Ouch!  If you've been reading my work for any amount of time, you know that I've had to deal with that one.  I wrote a piece about it, actually.  While it takes practice overcoming our limiting beliefs, I feel that I've made tremendous progress.  Gratitude, which is central to my law of attraction practice, has been instrumental in helping me overcome self-imposed limitations.  Again, I look for evidence of the opposite being true.  If my limiting belief suggests somehow that things related to money are supposed to be "hard work," can I find evidence where the opposite is true?  Has money flowed to me easily?  Actually, it really has!  I am nearing the end of the planning phase of my new business, and clients are flowing to me relatively easily.  I'm so engaged in the work I am doing that it feels joyful, not hard.  The service I am providing is very much adding value to people's lives, and the people that are ready to benefit from it are flowing to me.  I'm so appreciative of that, and it supplies me with ample evidence that suggests that my preconceived notion about money isn't really true.  I love that.  Not only is it wonderful that this abundance is flowing to me, but it's also amazing that it is allowing me to shed a belief that doesn't add value to my life. 

I would like to invite you all to challenge yourselves in the days to come.  What preconceived notions do you have in the areas of finance, wealth, or overall abundance?  Is it possible that the opposite is really true?  Can you find evidence that refutes that idea?  Is your behavior suggesting to you that you may have built a narrative around an idea that isn't serving you well?

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Planning to Defy Societal Norms

What do you do when you want to make a change?  A big change, like the kind that turns your whole life upside down...  What do you do?  Do you even let yourself go there or do you slog on day after day, doing exactly what you've always done?  Society's script often pressures us into leading lives that may or may not be our best.  But who made those rules, and why are we blindly following them?

I'm the kind of person that has lived their life outside of the box more often than within it.  I find myself happier marching to the beat of my own drum.  When I started college, I spent the first year going part-time, while working a professional job I could change my residency status to in-state.  I moved to New York to study musical theatre, spent the better part of two years living bi-coastally in my late twenties, and the examples go on.  Right now, there are parts of my life that seem to be following society's script, and if I'm honest with myself, I'm not sure it's entirely me.  Despite being almost a decade older than the last time I made a ginormous leap into the unknown, I believe it can be done at any age.  It might just look a little different than it did before.  So, here are the basic steps to creating a plan to defy societal norms at any age.

Step 1:  Dare to Dream

If you had literally zero limitations, what would you do with your life?  Where would you work?  Where would you live?  What would you be doing with your days?  What would your hobbies be?  How much stuff would you have?  Who would be with you?

As you know, over the course of my life this has happened multiple times for me, and it's in the process of happening again.  We're living beings that are constantly changing.  Our visions for our lives must also change.  About ten years ago, I was living on the west coast when I had the realization that I wanted something a little different than my life at the time.  My life was pretty good really.  I had bought a house, had a lovely partner (whom I am with to this day), and wonderful friends.  I produced art and had a steady job.  But a piece of my heart was still in New York.  I felt like I was selling myself short by staying where I was; it was a lovely life, but I wanted to give myself a chance to succeed at some things that would be incredibly difficult where I was living.

I feel the winds of change coming again as my desire for a higher level of freedom sets in.  As I design my own life, I let myself dream without limits.  I picture my home base in New York always, but lots of slow travel to places where my loved ones reside, and plenty of places I've never experienced.  I see myself writing, teaching in some fashion, and producing art again. When we were kids, we allowed ourselves to dream without limits.  Why did that change?   Who decided that once you passed a certain age, all of your dreams had to fit some unknown entity's definition of practical?  While some of the finer details of the individual dreams will fall away, others will inspire action.  I am not 100% sure of where this will take me, but I know there are certain elements present in all of them and that it involves me producing more art, and moving toward greater location and time independence.  

Step 2:  Find Support

There are so many people in life feeding you a script about the way your life should be.  If you are going to defy the way life's being prescribed to you, do so unapologetically! If you plan to go against the grain, you'll need to surround yourself with people that are either going against the grain themselves or respect and support the fact that you want to live your life a little differently.   

When I decided to move back to New York, my partner very nearly had a heart attack "We just bought this house three months ago!"  But I laid out my reasons and ideas, and within about three days she was fully on board. My family and friends were also fully supportive.  They all know that I march to the beat of my own drum and have no desire to make me be the perfect model of societal expectations.  Thank goodness, because I'd be miserable.  I also had some support in the destination I was headed toward.  I lived in New York City many years before that and had a few friends that lent support.  A couple of them let me stay at their places for a night or two while I was in town for interviews.  A couple even let me move in with them for a bit while my partner and I transitioned from one place to another.  Sometimes, your friends, family, and partner provide the majority of the support you need.  Other times, you need to seek support in other ways.   

Currently, I am participating in a group coaching program that falls under the category of "lifestyle design," which is conducted by my friends, the Fioneers.   The magic of participating in this kind of program is multifaceted.  It challenges people to dream big and without limitations as I described in Step 1.  While this hasn't been an issue for me, the group process requires me to prioritize this in my life.  It's entirely too easy to decide you should be doing the dishes rather than daydreaming, right?  Group coaching also provides a structure and time frame for those dreams to be transformed into inspired action.  While individuals are always in control of their own timelines, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to spend the time and money to participate in a life design program if you didn't intend on taking any action?  Additionally, the group support and coach are a huge asset emotionally, but also in terms of brainstorming options when you feel stuck.

Step 3:  Make a Plan

The best plans start with the question and end with inspired actions.  Ask yourself,  "What needs to be true that isn't right now?"  Honestly, this is where the subject of money often pops up.  We've been cultured to believe that money is the reason we are supposed to be shackled to society's script.  But what if money could actually be the key that releases us from all of that?  Does that idea feel better? 

Right now, one of the things I'm thinking is that I want to go gallivanting whenever I want in an old school VW van.  Sounds a little wild, right?  The good news is that I have my partner's full support on this.  How much of the year would we go?  I'm not sure.  Maybe just summers at first.  What has to be true that isn't true right now?  Well, we don't have a cool VW van.  So, we need to research that and prepare our finances to add a vehicle into our lives.  Currently, we don't have a vehicle at all. We would buy one outright; I'm not interested in any loans.  But, we'd still need to prepare for fuel, insurance, and parking fees.  So, there's probably a savings goal that needs to be considered, and a budget review to understand where this monthly financial commitment would fit into it.  Would this replace our monthly metro passes?  Be in addition to that?

What if we wanted to (hypothetically) start doing this for more of the year?  We would need our income sources to be such that allowed for location independence. Thus far only a small portion of our income meets that standard in a long-term sense.  What would help us to achieve this?  We could pay off the mortgage on our rental (Hmmm...  that seems to keep coming up), ramp up our side business...

Now, what takes this from the realm of idea to a plan?  Time.  I've identified four things to do: create a savings goal, mortgage payoff goal, business ramp-up goal, and finally, revising our budget to determine how quickly we can achieve these items and with which funds.  This will help facilitate your desire to live outside the box in the near future, but what about planning for the distant future?

Step 4: Consider the Future

I realize this dreaming and planning is about your life in the near future, but it's important to also consider the more distant future.  I'm a Slow FI kind of gal, and I'm all about improving my lifestyle along the way to financial independence, but that does not change the fact that financial independence is actually a goal too!  I am about two years from my Coast FI number.  So, in about two years, I will have secured a traditional retirement for myself and my partner.  This means that we won't really have to worry about putting more funds into retirement accounts (though we likely still will), and our retirements will be secure.  This provides the freedom to focus primarily on generating enough income to meet our regular monthly expenses.  If you haven't met your Coast FI goal yet, retirement savings should still be a part of your planning.  If your dream life doesn't involve a regular 9-5, consider what retirement vehicle you will want to use to continue to save toward that portion of your future.  This might include SEPs, solo 401ks, IRAs, or simply some bridge investing.

And the final step:  Let Go! 

Trust that you've been deliberate in the creation of your life and reality because you have.  You've dreamed, found support developed a plan, considered your future.  At some point, you just have to spread your wings and fly.  Just think of the places you'll see.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Scary Things for the Sake of Progress

I remember when I was a little girl, my mother enrolled me in swimming lessons at the local pool.  Within approximately the first 2-3 minutes, I got splashed in the face and had water up to my nose.  Immediately, I started screaming; got out of the pool, and refused to go back in.  Well, so much for that!  I hope they gave my mom a refund! I continued to be absolutely terrified of the swimming pool for a number of years after that.  The funny thing is that it just kept coming up.  Somehow, the situation was destined to repeat itself until I was forced to deal with it.  You see, the mind was doing everything in its power to protect me.  It was certain that putting my head underwater meant drowning and drowning meant dying.  The mind was sure it was protecting me from dying.  It was also preventing me from making progress so long as I avoided everything that involved the swimming pool.  The funny thing is that when I was just a few years older, I really wanted to jump off the diving board.  I was so excited by the idea of it.  By then I could at least tread water and swim a little, so I knew that I wouldn't drown.  So, I climbed up the ladder.  I slowly made my way down to the end and peered down at the water below. I want to tell you that I was super brave and jumped, but the truth is that crippling fear took over me.  I turned right back around and went down that ladder at double speed.  I swear I played this out a hundred times.  Finally one day, I was standing at the end of that diving board, looking down... again, I want to tell you how brave I was, but I wasn't.  I was just tired of allowing the fear to win.  So, I jumped.

We often want things in life that we're truly excited about; things that will take our lives in a new direction or somehow enhance our life experience.  We spend a lot of our emotional and mental energy thinking about it, but when we find ourselves at the end of the diving board, we suddenly freeze up.  Why do we do that? Are our limiting beliefs rearing their ugly little heads?  Are our minds more concerned about a future moment that hasn't even occurred rather than a present moment in which we are perfectly fine?  All of the above?

This topic has been on my mind for several reasons; one being that I noticed it happening to me.  I am going into business for myself doing a couple of different things.  One of which is tax preparation, as I have training in that area.  This is something I've thought about for almost a decade, but life circumstances made it feel like it was never quite the right time.  Over the course of the past year, that started to change.  I had taken a part-time job preparing taxes for a corporation, which lead me to feel as though I would really prefer to do this on my own where I could be in control of my own hours, environment, etc.  Everything was just flowing for me to do this on my own.  There was a certain ease about it.  Looking for ease is the key to knowing you are flowing and on track with something you are trying to bring into your experience.  

I really hadn't told many people about this because we weren't really at tax season yet.  Suddenly it was January and it hit me "I have to tell people that I'm actually in business!" That's a funny thing about starting a business: You have to tell people you're starting it.  Funny, right?  That's where I suddenly clammed up!  I was scared to actually tell people! There was that fear thing again...

Now, I had two options: abort the mission or work through the fear.  If I want to venture into the realm of the self-employed, I'll have to work through the fear.  Otherwise, it's destined to come back up again.  If I were to abort the mission, my tax business wouldn't really open.  In theory that would be fine, but I really am an entrepreneurial type.  I'm going to want to start something of my own, and that'll still include telling people about it.  So, that fear would come up again.  This is one of the primary lessons in the Law of Resistance, as resistance, in essence, is fear.  If you ignore a fear that arises, you will encounter one of a similar nature over and over until you are forced to deal with it.  So, when these moments arise, how can we best deal with the fear that presents itself?

Questioning:

The first step involves courage and honesty.  We must ask ourselves "Why am I afraid?"  Then comes the difficult part.  We must sit in stillness and wait for the response.  When I did this, I was flooded with responses.  "What if I'm not received well?  What if no one wants what I have to offer?  What if I don't know an answer to something?" What commonalities are there among the responses?  I noticed that these things all boiled down to insecurity in two arenas: acceptance and perfectionism.  

It seems reasonable to question myself further in both areas.  Are these things really likely to happen?  In the area of acceptance, what are the odds that I announce this business and people treat me poorly or tell me that it's a terrible thing to do?  How likely is it that literally no one wants or needs what I have to offer?  Honestly, they're both extremely unlikely.  As far as my perfectionism goes, is it possible for me to not know the answer to something?  Sure.  Do I have to literally know the answer to everything off the top of my head?  Absolutely not!  I don't know anyone in my industry that literally has every answer memorized.  It just doesn't happen.  There are too many things to know, and constant changes.  What they are all good at is being able to find the answers to things, and you know what?  I'm really good at that too!  I am great at researching things that pop up.  In questioning myself, it seems that I've debunked my own insecurities.  What could use further investigation is whether or not these insecurities are based on limiting beliefs?

Evaluating Limiting Beliefs:

Sometimes evaluating liming beliefs involves a little time and thoughtful meditation for me.  When I consider the areas of acceptance and perfectionism, I've noticed some things come up. First, I have an awareness that many parts of my life aren't exactly mainstream.  I am often either doing something a little different from the norm or doing something normal in a way that's a little different.  This often leads me to think that "I'm a bit too alternative."  I think this relates to acceptance quite a bit, as people sometimes shy away from things that are different.   Is being different a problem?  Some of the most brilliant people in the history of the world were certainly a little different, and because of many of them, we enjoy the most mesmerizing art and innovative technologies that wouldn't exist if people were too afraid to do their own thing.  The truth is that I like the fact that I am a little different and that  I sometimes go about things a little differently.  

Do I have beliefs surrounding perfectionism?  I have a real tendency to want to know everything or feel perfectly prepared before I embark on something new.  I'm sure this is why I like to study so much.  I want to know all there is to know about something.  Now, the funny thing about this is that I'm also a teacher.  As a teacher, I'm firmly aware that sometimes you just have to try something and let experience teach you that you still need to learn.  We'll never have all the answers, and occasionally we might not know what to do about something.  That's when we're honest and do further research or seek help.  This is also where my perfectionism is a huge asset in my life; I am a really accurate person, and that shows in my work.  So, while it seems that I have a limiting belief that suggests that I have to know everything or be prepared for everything before I can take action, I understand that this simply isn't true.  Sometimes, you just have to start and trust yourself. 

Knowing Your Why: 

Sometimes we all have to do scary things for the sake of progress, and it's also important that we evaluate our why.  Why do we want to make progress?  What is the goal?  Is it important enough to see through?  Sometimes, the answer might actually be "No" and that's okay.  That only indicates that there isn't much of a why behind the action.

When I evaluate my why, I ask myself why I want to work for myself.  I value being able to control my schedule, location, growth, income all to a certain degree.  Why in this particular area?  I have a knack for understanding how things in this area work. I like helping people.  The work feels a little like solving a puzzle or riddle, which I enjoy.  What's the bigger why?  I want to control my destiny where it involves my time, location, and compensation. I want to achieve greater balance in my life where the various areas of work, play, relationships, growth, and health are concerned and know that working for myself will allow me to do so.  I want to work in a manner that allows me to grow relationships with people over time, and that I can help them to achieve their best lives.  These reasons why are so much greater than the fear that presented itself.  

The second reason this topic has been on my mind involves several different people in my life.  Oddly enough there are a number of people that I've spoken to recently that are working through some very difficult things under a variety of financial topics: property sales, retirement planning needs, tax issues.  It would be so easy for each of these individuals to bury their heads in the sand, claim "it's too hard," and continue on as before.  But literally, none of them are making that choice.  They are all courageously forging forward, machete in hand, and hacking their way through scary things.  And you know what?  They're all going to come out on the other side of this in much better situations than they were before.  I'm so proud of them.

So, what is the scary thing you're currently facing?  Are you afraid to open the bills that seem to endlessly keep coming in the mail?  Are you afraid to open the online banking app to find out how much is really in your checking account?  Are you afraid to deal with retirement accounts or investing in general?  Have you always wanted to start your own business, but fear is holding you back?  Fear is one of the primary things that hold us back in the realm of personal finance.  We're terrified of making a wrong move or sounding unintelligent.  We're afraid of being judged or even facing our own self-judgment as we face a mountain of uncertainty.  Things are destined to change in our lives whether we take action or not.  I personally would prefer to face the scary things for the sake of progress rather than allow indecision to drive my destiny.  

What did I do?  I decided it was time to make my plans to start my own business known.  I kept it simple.  Rome wasn't built in a day.  I opened up one of my social media platforms and wrote a post telling the world that I was in business. The nerves were still there as I pressed the button to make the posts go live.  Know what happened?  About forty people congratulated me and half a dozen reached out because they might need my services.  None of the things my mind was yelling at me about even came remotely close to happening, just like I didn't actually drown when I jumped off the diving board.  Now that's what I call progress.


    

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Purpose of Money: Part 2

I received a package in the mail the other day.  I love receiving packages.  They're always filled with love from the person that created the assortment inside, and there's a distinctive sense of wonder and curiosity that gets fulfilled when you finally get it open and feast your eyes on the content inside.  This recent package was from my step-mother.  There were several gifts inside, all of which was extremely thoughtful.  She's a very thoughtful woman.  One item, in particular, captured my attention.  It was a board game called "Ticket to Ride."  Apparently, my sister had picked it out knowing I'd love it.  Immediately, I knew why.

Our father passed away many years ago.  She was just a child at the time, and I was fully an adult.  I was in my late twenties actually.  Despite living several states away, I was determined to be a part of my siblings' lives (I also have two brothers from my step-mother). This is easy to say, but significantly harder to do.  I was working in the banking industry earning less than $30k/year.  While I realize that most familial relationships aren't about money, having some could certainly make the logistical parts of maintaining them much easier.  This portion of my family is in the Midwest, and at the time, I lived on the West Coast.  Vising a small town in the Midwest can be expensive due to a limited number of airlines flying into the smaller airports.  On an already tight budget, this can feel like a huge limitation.  Well, I don't deal kindly with limitations.  Don't get me wrong; I have limiting beliefs like anyone else does, but I have a tremendous will and belief in my ability to do anything I put my mind to doing.  This is how the Universal Law of Belief works.  You can have whatsoever you with so long as you can give up the belief that you can't have it.

It all started with an idea.  A couple of years after our father passed, I had an inspiration.  I wanted to take my siblings on a trip.  Now, pretty much anyone in the world of personal finance would have told me to do something else with my money: pay my debt off, save my emergency fund, increase my retirement contributions.  To a certain degree, those things would have been the "right thing" to do, but in my heart, the "right thing" looked very different.  It looked like me being with my family.  I spoke to my step-mother first.  She was willing to allow my partner and me to travel with the two older children.  My youngest sibling was still too little to be without his mother, which I had also thought.  So, I started to save.  I believe I was saving $150 per paycheck, and at the time that felt like a huge dollar amount.  I mean, honestly, it was a very hefty percentage of my take-home pay.  But I just did it.  It was the very first transaction I did every, single payday.  Subsequently, that habit of paying myself first has remained with me over the years and lead to huge amounts of financial success in a vast number of subcategories.  But, I digress.  I was able to save enough money to purchase train passes for the four of us on Amtrak, complete with travel journals for the kids. The passes would allow us to hop on and off the train for a certain amount of segments within a certain duration of time.  So, my partner and I took the train to their town, picked them up, and headed toward Seattle. On the Empire Builder, which was the name of the route we were on, we would find places on the observation car, where you could take in the most beautiful views.  We had a cooler packed and some games.  We'd look out the windows, play games, and document what we experienced.  We stayed in Seattle for a few days, visited family, and a few touristy destinations. Then we hopped on the train again.  This time we traveled to where my full sister lives with my mother.  When my step-mother found out that we were going to see my other sister, she hopped on the train with the little one and took it to that location.  My mother and sister picked the whole lot of us up from the train station, and it's quite a lot to imagine. It takes two very remarkable women to make the sort of choice that would bring us all together like that.  I like to think my father would have liked that... The most remarkable moment was a simple one.  We were all at my mother's house, barbecuing in the back yard when my step-brother came over.  I realized in an instant that it was the only time I had ever been with all of my siblings at the same time.  Most people take for granted that they can do that, but it's something that I had never experienced.  It's a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I suppose that I should say that this is a financial post about the power of paying yourself first or a Law of Attraction post that highlights the Universal Law of Belief...But the truth is that I think this is really a post about the purpose of money.  I didn't do what the financial experts would have directed me to do, not at all.  I voted for my priorities with my dollar and it literally lead me to one of the greatest experiences of my life.  


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

On the Positive Side

We just closed out 2020, which many have semi-jokingly compared to a dumpster fire, and who can blame them?  We turn on the news and hear stories about increasing death tolls, positivity rates, people that can't hug their grandparents, election turmoil, looming eviction crisis, and the list goes on. It's hard not to be impacted by the flurry of negative information being pumped into our minds through our televisions, smartphones, computers, and even conversations with other people.  How can this not grate on the collective psyche?  Moreover, how does this not filter down to the individual on a micro-level?  These large doses of macro-level negative information could easily program our minds to look for more negative information.  The easiest place to turn is within our own life situations.

Where our attention goes, our energy flows.

I watch a bit of news in the morning because I like to know what's happening in the world; it helps me to be better informed in a variety of aspects of my life.  I want to be an informed consumer, voter, educator, writer, friend, and overall human being.  Now, the truth is that I only need to watch a little bit of the news in order to be satisfied that I've achieved this state.  Very quickly the news starts to loop, and the same stories get recycled.  At this point, I have a choice:  I can either remain on this train or get off.  I choose to exit.  I might change the channel to something that feels uplifting or inspirational, or maybe I'll indulge myself in an episode of Murder She Wrote or the Golden Girls (Hey, you have your pleasure, I'll have mine, right?).  I might exit the train to go meditate, walk, or read.  It all depends on my mood and need in the moment.  Regardless of which choice I make in that given moment, I recognize and honor the existence of the status quo, and then I reach for something that feels better.

This key mindset shift could serve to benefit us in many aspects of our lives, particularly where our finances are concerned.  As I scroll through social media, I see countless tales of individuals that are having some really negative experiences in their work-life.  I remember reading an Eckhart Tolle passage, where he describes the idea that at times, we don't need to change what we're doing, but rather how we are doing it.  This really resonates with me because it speaks to the power of positivity.  I understand that there are many work experiences that range in negative feelings anywhere from unsatisfied to toxic, and that might not change overnight. But what I ask is this:  Is it necessary to give it that much of our mental and emotional energy?  Clearly, we pride ourselves on performing our job functions to the best of our ability because we are people with integrity and pride.  But do we need to get tangled up in a mental and emotional, negative downward spiral?  Mentally and emotionally, can we turn toward something that feels really good to start a transition toward something more empowering?

Not so long ago, I started an experimental side-gig.  I knew that I had knowledge and expertise in this area, and was really excited to use it (making a little extra money was a bonus).  I very quickly started to emotionally spiral downwards, as I felt underpaid, and under-supported by a manager that was rarely there.  I was also irritated by what felt to me like a lack of organization within the company.  I almost immediately noticed the negative feelings coming into my experience. I had committed to this side-gig for a set duration of time.  So, it was important to me that I see it through.  I could have let myself stew in my own misery, but misery breeds more misery.  Why would I want to sit there for the duration feeling miserable?  So, I spent the next few months, focusing my energy on the couple of coworkers that I really enjoyed, how much fun it was to learn more about the subject matter, and the delicious fresh-baked bagels on the corner.  These were my wins; these were the things that made me feel good within that situation.  I tried to avoid focusing on the less-than-desirable parts and engaging in negative conversations.  That last one is difficult, isn't it?  I know it's a matter of semantics, but our words are powerful, and those negative conversations can really make their way into our mental and emotional lives.  Now, I want to cycle back to the idea that sometimes we don't need to change what we're doing, but rather how we're doing it.  I knew that I had a lot of promise in this particular area and that I was going to see my original commitment through; however, this company wasn't a great match for me.  Focusing my thoughts a bit more on more enjoyable avenues of utilizing my skillset felt really good.  Suddenly, my world felt like it was open to a myriad of possibilities.  That feels so much better than sinking in the quicksand of misery.  What ultimately came out of it was me starting my own business.  I'm absolutely excited about my new business.  I never felt that excited about working for the other organization.  That's a mental and emotional win!  Financially speaking, the long term growth potential is astronomically higher, though that may or may not be realized in the first year.  With the company, annual increases are limited; with my business, they're limitless.

Several years ago now, had a private student loan.  It was a manageable payment but at a variable interest rate.  Dangerous, right?  When the interest rate is variable, there's no way to guarantee it won't eventually make your payment skyrocket.  I've never been a fan of that kind of uncertainty.  So, after all of my credit cards were paid off, I turned to it next.  It was by far the largest, single debt I had tackled at that point in my life, and it was easy to allow my emotions to get entangled in the magnitude of the task at hand.  Many people that favor the "debt snowball" strategy (where you pay the smallest balance first, then the next smallest, and so on) cite the psychological momentum as the primary reason for the practice.  This strategy isn't the one that has the largest impact mathematically, but the "quick win" associated with satisfying one of the accounts in full makes people see immediate progress and feel really good.  That keeps momentum going in the right direction.  Now the truth is that I'm not necessarily on "team debt snowball" because I've personally combined strategies and had success.  What I do want to reinforce is the mindset shift.  When we shift our thinking away from the magnitude of debt and all of the negative emotions that go with it, we will absolutely start to build our own momentum.  When I was tackling this private student loan, I prided myself in the fact that I always did a really good job keeping up with my payments and making them on time.  I would also round my payments up to the nearest $5 or $10 mark.  I was really proud that I consistently did that.  I celebrated the small wins and positive habits.  Those small wins are what help build positive momentum in reaching goals.    When I started throwing larger sums of money at the loan to pay it off quickly, instead of lamenting about the balance that remained, I reframed it.  "I have paid this $1000 for the last time.  I am done with this $1000 forever.  How amazing is that?!"  And you know what?  It's true!  Every $1000 that is paid down on the principal of a loan is a thousand dollars that is gone forever!  Doesn't that feel amazing?!  We can reach goals and feel good in the process.

When you ask people what they really want in life, you get a lot of really fascinating responses. The funny thing is that they pretty much always boil down to "I want to be happy."  You see, I'm not sure that happiness is a destination.  Happiness is the journey.  So, perhaps one of our biggest goals going forward should involved training our minds to look at the glass and see it half full of something worth celebrating.  As I work on this in my own life, I notice that it keeps coming more easily all the time, and I'm happy. So, what is it in your life that has you constantly circling back to the negative place? Consider whether or not you can change the how if you either can't or don't care to change the what. Look for small wins or little moments that make you feel good.  Choose your words carefully.  Is there a way you might feed your mind hope?  Is there something that feels good that deserves more of your attention than the thing that doesn't feel so good?  Remember, it's okay to reach our goals and feel good in the process.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

4 Steps to Analyze and Release Resistance



Over the course of the past year, there have been some things coming together for me.  I am working on expanding my business, and really pleased about the direction it's going.  Just as teenagers have growing pains, we too experience discomfort as a result of our expansion.  This discomfort often comes in the form of resistance.  

Resistance:  Any thoughts, feelings, or beliefs that are inconsistent with or contrary to that which is desired. The state of resisting something that has a relationship to an overall goal or desired outcome. (In all practically, if you consider what it means to resist something, you get the picture.)

Resistance is a topic that is familiar in the Law of Attraction space but receives limited attention in the realm of personal finance.  This is unfortunate because resistance is a mental and emotional barrier that provides valuable insight as to what we really want.  The more people I work with, and the more work I do on myself, the more I realize that resistance is simply a part of my own expansion so long as I take care to analyze and release it.  

First, isolate the area of life in which you're experiencing resistance. There may be multiple areas but start with just one.  In my case, I'll begin with my work.  Since we spend so much of our time at work, and it is oftentimes the primary source of our financial lives, we'd like our work experience to be as wonderful as possible.  So if resistance pops up there, it's worth addressing.

1.  What is it you resist doing/thinking about/facing?

This is where you simply list the things you seem to resist doing.  Don't judge them, just get them down.  

Recently, a colleague recommended that I consider the implementation of a particular technological tool.  This particular piece of technology could streamline a few things for me, and make certain aspects of doing my workflow more easily.  I went to the website suggested by my colleague and immediately felt anxious.  My mind became flooded and I was completely overwhelmed.

As it turns out, I tend to resist executing certain kinds of technological tasks.  If someone else is able to implement the technological tool, I'm all for it.  But, I tend to resists being the one that needs to execute it.

2.  Why do you resist doing this?

Again, we're not judging ourselves, but we are taking the opportunity to have a little conversation with our inner self about its reasoning.  

With regards to my technology resistance, I've noticed that over the years I've always felt a little behind where such things are concerned.  It seems that people just a few years younger than me had access to technology in their schoolyears constantly.  That wasn't my situation.  We used very little technology when I was in high school, but just a few years after I graduated that seemed to change, and high school students' education became very technology-centered.  I literally didn't learn how to use the internet until college.  Now, I've learned a lot over the years, and I would say I'm pretty well competent at the most important things.  My relationship with technology doesn't in any way prevent me from being able to do my job. That being said, I completely shy away from things that appear to be "too advanced."

3.  What is this highlighting?

Often times when we're experiencing resistance, it's highlighting perceived barriers that shed light on that which we do want by way of that which we don't want.  

In my life, this is highlighting that I really want things to feel simple.  I want things to flow.  

3b.  Is there a Limiting Belief in play?

Sometimes, when we begin to consider what is being highlighted by the resistance, it will bring us to a limiting belief.  While that's not always the case, it certainly was with me and my technology "issue."  In fact, I have been literally saying (and reinforcing) my own limiting belief for YEARS.  Here it is:  "I'm not a very technological person."

There's a lot of work that I do around limiting beliefs and have written about it before.  I know there's plenty I can do to dispel this one because, in all actuality, I'm not entirely sure it's even true!  There are countless technological things I've done thus far in life, and I'm sure there will be countless more!  I have written down this limiting belief and am doing to do some work around it.  But for this moment, I want to stick with the items that's caused me the resistance in this situation.  So, that leads me to my last resistance analysis question.

4.  What can I do about it?

In an ideal world, this step leads you to some inspired action.  This is where you brainstorm some options that make sense for your particular scenario.

I could choose to ignore everything that appears to be above my technological skill level.  Quite frankly, if I didn't even touch this technological tool recommended by my colleague, my life would be fine.  It's really not essential at all.  But that option doesn't totally feel right.  

I could choose to approach it with curiosity.  I've actually been doing that.  I've gone back to this website several times and done some reading about this technological tool, and the truth is that it's not really making me feel anxious and overwhelmed anymore.  I'm not quite ready to go full-on in using it yet, but I'm choosing to be curious about it: What is it?  How does it work?  Could it actually be fun in some way?

I could also lean on my other two team members as I learn how to use it.  They are both more comfortable with certain types of technology than I am.  Maybe they could help me investigate it.  Quite frankly, maybe one of them will think it's simple and want to take it on entirely.  That would be fine too.

In my situation, what feels right is to continue some gentle poking around and investigating with this little technological item that's causing me resistance.  But in other cases, resistance might literally be highlighting something you absolutely don't want in life, and that's okay too!  The point is to stop and take stock by analyzing your resistance.  No matter what I choose to do, I am ready to simply let it go.