Monthly Archives: August 2012

Longevity and Loyalty: A Thing of the Past

Close your eyes, believe in yourself, and jump!

How many of you have grandparents or even parents who started and finished their careers at the same place? That was how it worked back then: you graduated from high school, attended college (of course this step was optional,) and found a job, made it a career, and retired from that same factory, office, or school 50 or more years later.

This is exactly how my grandpa’s career took shape. He didn’t even graduate from high school (not that I’m saying this is recommended,) and he worked for The Herald Journal (our city’s newspaper) as a copywriter and then editor for 51 years. He retired with full health benefits and an extremely generous pension.

A few decades later, my dad’s career took off a bit differently, but with the same result. He graduated from high school, then college, got a job right away and is still there today, climbing the ranks the corporation defined way back when. He has been with the same company for 31 years– incredible.

Now, both scenarios I’ve described above are almost unheard of. For those of us who have just entered the job market or have only been in it for a few years, we know nothing is forever. We start our job search knowing that we will most likely only spend a few years in that position and then begin looking for something else. It’s just… the “way” these days.

So many people shake their heads at the paradigm shift I describe above. Those who join my parents in their generation wonder why no one looks for careers anymore, they only search for jobs. I think there are two reasons for this:

1) The job market itself has changed. Professionals of my era don’t trust large corporations, or any company for that matter, to take care of them for life. With so many lay offs, downsizes, and outsources, everyone is constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering with each closed door and mandatory meeting if bad news is going to come their way.

2) Just a warning: I may offend some people with this, but here it goes… whether you’ve been working in your position for 1 year or 25 years, I think the work force has found this unwarranted sense of entitlement. People expect things more than they ever did. It’s a mentality of “What have you done for me lately,” and frankly, it makes me incredibly irritated. Whether it’s companies providing lunches, outings, or bonuses, many believe they should receive all kinds of perks for just showing up 40 hours a week. When people don’t feel as though they are “getting enough” out of the company they work for, they start to look elsewhere. And in my opinion, more power to them.

So how are people supposed to overcome this sense of uneasiness and vulnerability? Well, according to 48 Days to the Work You Love, maybe it’s time to “be your own boss.” Now more than ever, there are so many opportunities for individuals to start their own business, and often without much of an investment. For many, they can’t find their true “dream job” within an already existing company’s four walls. They also can’t reach their highest income potential. As Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad says, “The problem with having a job is that it gets int he way of getting rich.”

Is starting your own business scary? Sure it is. But it’s also super exciting. Just think about it: doing what you love, being your own boss, and most appealing of all, being in control! I’m not saying you should quit your job today and give up everything (how little or much that may be,) but this is something you can totally do alongside your current position. Yes, it’s a TON of work and effort at the beginning, but the long-range benefits are sure worth it.

I will clarify all of this by saying I don’t have first-hand experience owning my own business, but I know many people who do, and not one of them ever has complaints about his/her job. And they all look at what they do everyday as a career– not just a short-term position they’re hoping to move up from someday.

In 48 Days to the Work You Love, Dan Miller lists 18 attributes that are key to owning your own business. Here are a few that will really give you an idea of if you have what it takes. If you do, the answer to all of these questions will be a resounding “yes!” And of course, you have to be honest with yourself. Here we go:

1) Are you a self starter? Waiting for opportunity to knock on your door typically leads to settlement. Start bothering the crap out of opportunity to be truly fulfilled.

2) Do you have a high level of confidence and belief in what you are doing? If you don’t, that will shine through. Even if you have the most useful and cost-effective product and/or service to sell, it won’t matter. Perception is everything, and consumers can see right through you.

3) Can you stick with it? Most small businesses fail because the starters don’t know how to hear “no.” That elementary, one-syllable word slows them down or makes them break down all together. It’s difficult not to take it personally, but it running and owning your own business, you must realize for every 1 “yes” you get, you’re going to get 100 “nos” first.

After reading these few qualities you may say, “Well, I answered yes to everything, but I could never start my own business, because there are a million other people out there who probably have the same idea as I do.” Yes, you’re probably right. But out of those 1 million people, you may be the only one who takes a chance, believes in yourself, and actually takes a leap of faith. That’s the difference.


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A Twinkle in Your Eye

To see it, your eyes have to be open wide.

Inspiration. It’s watching a courageous and determined athlete compete in the Special Olympics. It’s holding the hand of a hopeful and confident chemotherapy patient. It’s listening to music composed to tell a story, to share feelings that could not otherwise be expressed. Inspiration sparkled tonight.

100 or so people packed into a local church’s sanctuary on a Friday night, waiting patiently for the music to begin. Everyone had come together to celebrate a beloved high school teacher who had passed away earlier in the year. The concert served as a fundraiser for a scholarship fund, started in this special teacher’s honor.

The program’s first song, “Hello, Goodbye,” by The Beatles, happened to be my sister’s solo. As the first measure of music was sung, my eyes immediately welled up with tears. Not because of my sister’s singing, or because she’d be going away to college in a few short days, but because of the feeling that overwhelmed me as I sat there. I was so extremely enamored by everything going on around me; this concert made such an impression on me. Why?

Well, 1) the concert was held on a Friday night in the summer. Typically people are busy with family and neighborhood get togethers, weekends away, or even just sitting by the pool. But tonight was different. Tonight the members of our community came together to support the incredible efforts of these kids and the man for whom they were all making music for. 2) The detail that was put into the event were impeccable. From the posters and raffles to the refreshments and announcements, each aspect had been taken into deep consideration. 3) This one is the most impressive of all: the entire fundraising event’s conception, execution, and success was because of an 18-year-old boy, who clearly has a true passion for life, music, and giving back to his community.

During the good will offering, the boy explained how much the teacher meant to him and how close they were. This teacher was one of those men who had a twinkle in his eye. He captivated everyone who came in contact with him, whether it be students, fellow teachers, parents, or friends. He was full of encouragement and acceptance, and he always valued those around him for who they are and what they stand for. Because of his nurturing ways and constant positive reinforcement, his twinkle became contagious– and this particular student definitely caught it. As he stood in front of the congregation, you could see in his eyes and sense in his voice that he didn’t do this for the attention or for the praise, but because he truly wanted to honor this teacher the way he deserved to be honored.

As the strings began playing and the chorus began singing the song the student had composed, I sat in the pew and  felt the church’s walls and stained glass windows begin to close in on me. I suddenly became anxious. I started to think about all the things I could have done throughout the past decade of my life. Sure, I’m involved in the community and work with a couple nonprofits throughout each year, but at that moment, all of that didn’t seem like enough. I should have organized more events; I should have reached out more to friends, family, and neighbors who I knew were in need;  I should have volunteered more at the local homeless shelter or senior home. How could this 18-year-old have accomplished so much? He’s so young, yet so incredibly motivated to be the best he can be and be as compassionate as his heart will allow.

As the song drew to a close, I quickly brought myself back to reality and reminded myself it’s not about what I did or didn’t do yesterday, or the day before, or even last year– it’s about what I do tomorrow. It’s remembering that there’s an entire world out there, beyond the small suburb I live in. People are ALWAYS in need; they ALWAYS need others to help, even if they don’t recognize it.

It was evident by the end of the concert that the twinkle could be found in each person’s eye who sat in the audience. As we all filed out of the sanctuary, pew by pew, many were quiet, I think because they were in awe just as I was. I kept thinking about how the concert changed me and wondered how many others it had done the same for.

Be sure to look for those people around you with a twinkle in their eyes– it may reflect into yours and spark greatness. Inspiration is everywhere, and it’s waiting for you.


You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

Yummy yummy in your tummy… and your bank account!

Under the bed, in the closet, behind a tree, in the laundry room. Those were some of my favorite hiding places when I used to play hide and seek with my sisters. Since I always picked the same spots, they of course ALWAYS knew where to find me. But that was the thrill of it, right? Knowing eventually (and in my house eventually meant about 15 seconds,) that you would be found? I would always let out a shrill shriek as one of my sisters would “tag” me.

Unfortunately, hiding from your finances isn’t so fun. They always seem to “get you” one way or another, and you find your sacred hiding place isn’t so sacred after all. With this being said, it’s been brought to my attention that my posts about organizing your money in envelopes, budgeting, and all that good stuff are great but at the same time pretty overwhelming. Many have asked, “Well once I read that, where do I begin?” I’ve been turning this over and over in my head for a few days now, trying to think of the best first step: one that is effective and habit forming, yet not so much at one time that there’s no hope for anyone to stick with it.

Before I get into all of this, I will preface it by saying in order to change your financial world, you have to WANT to change it. As we all know, change is terrifying, yet if you think about it, it’s the only constant. Somehow though, that doesn’t make BIG change any easier. And for most people this is a BIG change. It’s kind of like wanting to lose weight. For those who want to, it’s easy for them to say, “I want to lose 15 or 20 pounds.” But to actually set the plan into motion (working out, eating healthy, etc.) is a whole different ball game. So before you continue reading, make sure you’re honest with yourself and say, “I want my financial picture to change, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.” I’m warning you: there will be sacrifices, there will be times where you have to prioritize your expenditures. But I promise, you’ll be so incredibly thankful in the end.

Now, this may seem like a simple concept– because it is! But it’s not easy to do. There’s a difference… so, here we go! Remember several posts ago when I talked about the envelope system and how it has totally changed the way my family not only spends but values money? Well, we’re going to take a teeny, tiny step towards creating your own envelope system. I know, <GROAN.> Just stick with me here…

Those that use the envelope system have several different envelopes, and for each person/family there’s different envelopes that are needed (i.e. pet care, home improvement, vacation, etc.) But there seems to be two envelopes that remain fairly consistent: food and gas. You can already see where I’m going with this, huh? To me, the food and gas envelopes are the easiest to manage, because 1) we generally eat the same amount each week and can estimate how much we spend on food pretty well. Whether it’s groceries, a Saturday morning at the farmer’s market, or going out to eat, these ALL fall under the “food” envelope.

So, let’s say you get paid every two weeks. And you know each week you spend $100 on groceries and $50 on restaurants. You would budget $300 for your food envelope, and on the day you get paid, you would go to the bank and withdraw that $300. And once again, just to drill it in deep, once the $300 is gone, it’s gone. No more pizzas, no more dining out, no more food. Yes, this means leftovers. Yes, this means working with what you have in the back of your pantry. And yes, you will survive. I promise!

This same principle will be used for your gas envelope. Let’s say you use a tank of gas a week. And it takes $40 to fill your car to that coveted “F” on the dashboard. Being on a bi-weekly pay schedule, you’ll take $80 out of the bank, and put it right in the gas envelope. Wham bam, thank you ma’am. You are on your way!

Now, like I said before, this is a simple concept, but it’s definitely not easy. Especially for those of us who have been spending willy nilly for the past several years, or maybe even longer. And remember, the money in the food envelope is only to be used for FOOD. This means random weekend shopping sprees (without money in the clothing or mall envelope,) are off limits. Trust me, when the day before pay day rolls around and you’re living off peanut butter and jelly because your food envelope is sadly empty due to that sweater you just HAD to have, you’re going to be kicking yourself. At that point even liver and onions will make your mouth water.

So there you have it. The first teeny weeny baby step towards an envelope system of your own. Good luck! Let me know how you do!


FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real


Bring on the spiders!

In looking at my blog stats, I can’t help but notice when I mention the word “budget” or “finances” my readership sinks WAYYY down to a depressing low. In my opinion, I think this is because of two things: 1) It’s snoozerifically boring and/or 2) it totally freaks people out. Even though I understand both of those reasons, I have one harsh yet real phrase for those of you who fall into either or both of those categories: get over it.

Believe it or not, I’m more sympathetic towards those who think the topic is boring. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m part of an extremely small percentage of people on this earth who think budgeting is fun and exciting. And I get that. I also get that many would rather be closed in a casket with a million spiders than talk about money and bugeting. It’s uncomfortable. It’s at times embarrassing. It’s SCARY. Well, let me enlighten you: so is being broke (thank you, Dave Ramsey.)

I’m not saying  you should broadcast a screenshot of your bank account on the evening news, or that you should display the amount of debt you have in skywriting. What I am saying is you should face your financial woes head on (and yes, EVERYONE has them.) Ignoring them and secretly praying that you’ll win the lottery is NOT a good financial plan. In fact, it’s not a plan at all.

I grew up with my mom telling me FEAR was an acronym for “false evidence appearing real.” And trust me, there are times when I have to repeat that to myself hourly. It’s not easy to face your fears, whether they be needles and blood or ghosts and extra terrestrial life. Fears allow your mind to wander and your imagination to become completely overworked. Of course there are things that deserve to be feared, like losing a loved one or growing old and being alone. But I think what my mom was always trying to tell me was most of the things you fear will never come to fruition. Sure if you’re claustrophobic there are times when you’re going to be faced with a teeny tiny space (like going down a tube slide at the playground or being stuffed into an elevator.) But being buried alive? Or having to crawl from New York to California through a tunnel with a 3-foot circumference? Probably never going to happen.

So whatever scares you, whether it be birds, clowns, bugs or your checking account balance, know that your fear is bigger than life, and it could most likely be scaled down significantly. I understand facing your fears takes baby steps, so I’m not suggesting you sit in the front row at the circus if Bozo is your worst nightmare. But start thinking about how you can settle your fears in small doses. That way when your child wants to have a clown at his/her birthday party to ride a unicycle and make balloon animals, you won’t start having heart palpitations. And more importantly, when it’s time to sit down and do retirement or estate planning, you don’t wear headphones and a blind fold to the meeting, or worse, keep rescheduling the meeting with your financial planner until it’s too late.


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