Monday, May 16, 2022

Contrast and How is Leads to a Budget Revision

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 9, 2022

Reevaluating Security

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

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

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

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

Liquid Savings

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

Monthly Expenses

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

Retirement Savings

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

Bridge Investing

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

Mortgage Payoff Plan

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

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

Monday, May 2, 2022

Your Dreams Are NOT Too Expensive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Choosing Love Over Fear

It's amazing how sometimes, the messages we need in life simply show up, and in unexpected places at that.  This morning, I was reading Invested by Danielle Town (and Phil Town) when something she said reached its fingers into my soul, offering me something between a good shake and a gentle reminder of that which I needed to hear.  In this section of the text, the author is reflecting on the year she spent with her father learning how to properly invest her money, and the unexpected journey she found herself on in the process.  As she reflected, she especially noted the fear that had been holding her back for so long.  She was afraid of investing, afraid of not investing, afraid of staying in a job that was robbing her of her life joy and health, afraid of leaving it...  Her fear left her paralyzed, a topic we've discussed here in the past.  She described her relationship with fear saying that it was "a fear that I massaged and kneaded when it did not serve me."  Again, fear is a topic that comes up here often, as it is a continuous obstacle in our finances and our lives. However, there was something in her metaphor that resonated with me.  In comparing her relationship with fear to that of a person lovingly making bread, she highlights the manner in which we tenderly care for and caress our fears.  By kneading and massaging our fear, we lovingly help it expand and grow... and if we care to follow the metaphor through a bit further, we consume the finished product, ingesting and taking more fear into our experience.  

Law of Attraction author, Gabrielle Bernstein classifies the nature of fear as the ultimate separation from love, going on to clarify that love is the very nature of who we are as people.  Each and every one of us is pure positive energy, and fear essentially cuts us off from the very essence of who we are.  In fact, most negative emotions can be distilled down to fear at their very core, most of which do not serve our higher purpose.  Moreover, when we take care to nurture our fear, we are choosing apart from ourselves and driving a wedge between ourselves and our higher purpose.

In a practical sense, when we experience fear it frequently bears a relationship to the unknown. Our egoic minds are in a constant battle with the sole mission to protect us from danger, and the unknown represents the ultimate danger.  So, we avoid it.  In avoiding the unknown, we also avoid aligning to our highest purpose and greatest joy.

When I think back to the most fearless time of my life, I realize that it also brought me the greatest joy.  I was fully aligned with the whole of who I am, more so than any other point in my life.  I was in my late twenties and living in Brooklyn, NY, working three part-time jobs, and pursuing acting.  Three of my friends were getting married and I would be in their weddings.  This would require me to travel quite a bit for the duration of an entire summer.  This adventure would also take me away from most traditional summer acting opportunities.  So, what did I decide to do?  Produce some theatre of my own...and while I was at it, maybe I should just file for a nonprofit with the IRS?  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I fearlessly forged forward.  I was, fortunately, able to "push pause" on all three of my jobs rather than actually quit any of them, but the fact remained that I was about to take a wild leap.  I had some west-coast friends scout us a venue to produce some theatre (I was going to be in Portland, OR), and we booked it. I bought a one-way airline ticket, sublet my room in Brooklyn, and prepared to leave.  A dear friend of mine called me a week before my departure to check in on me.  She asked, "So, where are you going to stay?"  I told her that I didn't really know yet, and the truth is that I wasn't trying very hard to figure that out either (but I didn't say that part, it would have really stressed her out).  She followed up by asking me if I had secured any temporary employment there. Again, the answer was a resounding "No."  Again, if I'm really honest, I hadn't really been trying all that hard to do so.  I had put a few feelers out there among people I knew, but no real looking.  Quite frankly, my friend was terrified for me, but you want to know what's interesting?  I wasn't.  I had no fear whatsoever.  Subsequently, I also had no resistance.  I have to say, I think that was the key.  Since I had no resistance, I wasn't doing anything to block the flow of abundance into my experience.  I was completely open-minded about where I would stay, how I would earn money, and I had absolute faith that everything would align for me...and it did.  Several friends generously gave me keys to their homes and access to their spare rooms.  A couple other friends provided me with employment opportunities.  One friend was managing a retail gift shop and needed an additional key staff member.  Knowing I was trustworthy, she asked me to step in part-time.  Another friend, a brilliant computer programmer, and musician had so much contract work that he barely had time to tend to his personal needs.  He had plenty of money but was lacking in time to get simple household and personal things taken care of. So, he asked me to spend a certain amount of time each week helping him with things like grocery shopping, cooking, filing, bill pay, dog walking, etc.  Now clearly, these two employment opportunities weren't lifelong career moves, nor were the housing opportunities long-term; however, the point is that these things all aligned perfectly because I was completely open to them and chose not to allow fear to be a part of the picture.  In fact, I spent the better part of two years floating between Brooklyn and Portland; some of the best years of my life thus far.  In the process, I gained everything from the experience of being radically open and having faith over fear.

As I pan back, I glance around me and ask myself "How fear is creeping in and robbing us of the experience of becoming truly aligned to our highest selves?"  In a larger sense, fear is what keeps us from pursuing our greatest joy and highest calling.  We hesitate; we simply do not trust ourselves enough to dive in and go for it.  We see this play out in our lives in a broader sense but the telltale signs are also represented in our finances.  We're too afraid to quit our day job when we know it isn't right for us.  We bobble between fear and shame, so we don't bother opening that credit card statement, collections bill, or past due notice.  We desperately want financial freedom but are terrified of what we don't know. We don't understand the market; we fear that it will crash.  So, we keep all of our money in a mayonnaise jar buried in the backyard rather than educating ourselves on how to properly invest our money.  We've always wanted to get into real estate, but are so scared of every "what if" imaginable that we never make it past the Zillow listing.  But what if we could just choose love instead?  What if we decided to love ourselves so much that we refused to entertain fear; that we told the egoic mind to let go because we've got this?!  What if we loved ourselves so much that we couldn't bear to live a life that wasn't authentically aligned with who we really are?  I suppose my question to you is this: How could you choose to love yourself so much that all of your life decisions originated from that place of love and not actually succeed?  When operating from a place of that much self-love, fear doesn't have enough oxygen to grow, to sprout, to take root.  Succeeding is the only option, and where succeeding is the only option, fear becomes arbitrary.  Surely from this place, the actions that come to us will be inspired actions, and inspired actions will serve to march us along to the path of our highest calling.

As I sit here and remember back to my courageous, happy, aligned, 20-something-year-old self, I can see her leaning gently forward, and with wisdom not earned by her years, she whispers "So, what are you going to do?" Now I ask the same of you.  What are you going to do?

Join the Newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.
    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thursday, February 3, 2022

    Running on Empty

    Taking a trip down memory lane, my mind landed on a rather inconvenient, but memorable occasion.  I was in a vehicle that was in the middle of a bridge not moving because it had run out of gas.  There really is nothing quite like having people passing you in the middle of a bridge while you sit there feeling a combination of embarrassed and angry at yourself, the universe, and potentially every gas station in America for good measure.  I remember at the time, I had this strange little insurance benefit attached to my cell phone plan...  for something ridiculous like $3 a month, I was protected against things like locking the keys in the car or running out of gas.  Honestly, it came in handy because admittedly both of those services got used more than once.  I remember sitting there, doing my best to audibly state every four-letter word in my vocabulary while waiting for whomever it was Verizon was sending to bail me out of my situation...  I swear every motorist that went by took the opportunity to stare, nearly causing accidents from rubber-necking, and with each passing car, I became increasingly more embarrassed.  Looking back, I can't help but laugh.  Why was I so concerned about the judgment of strangers?  I mean, I didn't have any clue who those people were, nor did they know me!  Regardless, I was completely caught up in my own misery at the time and absolutely failed to pan back and allow myself a true perspective on the situation. 

    Let's consider why I was so upset.  Was it inconvenient that I was sitting there in the middle of a bridge waiting for someone to bring me some precious gasoline?  Absolutely!  But was I really angry because I was inconvenienced or was it something else?    Perhaps I was angry because I had absolutely failed to read the critical signs that I was quickly running out of the fuel necessary to continue forward. Perhaps I was angry because I had failed to take care of my own needs or prioritize running on a full tank.  Perhaps I had allowed myself to become too accustomed to running on empty for too many years.  Perhaps I had learned to take comfort in my own discomfort, and perhaps I was finally fed up with it.  

    How many of us are running through life at break-neck speed ignoring the signs of impending shut-down, just trying to make it a little further down the road?  How many of us have allowed ourselves simply look past the fact that our physical, mental, spiritual, and energetic tanks are on empty?  It's funny, at the beginning of each year, we set ourselves goals for our money, our bodies, and our businesses.  Some set goals that relate to academics or our careers.  Occasionally we even sneak one in for fun like how many books to read this year.  All of this goal setting is really another way of prioritizing certain areas of our lives and setting a time frame through which to do so while producing certain outcomes.  If I'm really honest with you, I'm kind of into it.  I mean, I'm a Capricorn.  I almost can't help myself.  But what about prioritizing ourselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically?  Why aren't we prioritizing ourselves in that way?  Is it that we simply haven't thought about it or does it go deeper?  Do we feel guilty prioritizing ourselves because we don't think we deserve to allot the precious currencies of time or money to our own wellbeing?

    It is only from our overflow that we can truly give to others...  If our tank runs out of gas, we cannot reach our destination whether that destination is one of our goals, being there for our kids, partners, family, friends, or colleagues.  First off, we owe it to ourselves to feel good in all areas of our being.  Moreover, we owe it to the people we love most to take care of all aspects of ourselves.  Otherwise, we are no good to them.  What does this mean in practical application?  You know that lifestyle section of your 50/30/20 Budget?  This is the perfect space to build yourself into your priority list!  The flexible spending (or lifestyle) section of your budget represents 30% of your overall budget.  Surely, you can find the space to address your own needs within this category!

    I recently have chosen to do this.  I recognize that I am working so hard and racing toward goals, but that I need to take care of certain areas of my own being in the process.  Some of the ways in which I am doing so is to budget for some reiki sessions, a therapist, and some me-time on an upcoming break.  What does it look like for you?  Do you need to get that massage? Go on that retreat? I would really like to challenge you to look at your budget and ask yourself a hard question:  Where am I in this budget?  Have I left any room for me?  If the answer is yes, is it enough?  If the answer is no, where can you build it in and what does that look like?  I promise you, you won't regret it.

    Join the Newsletter

    Subscribe to get our latest content by email.
      We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.