finance · gratitude · retirement

The Ant and The Grasshopper: Retirement Edition

12.4.18.jpgYesterday morning, I ran into a coworker in the faculty lounge (basically, where we drop our lunch in the fridge and leave).  She’s youngish, new this year, and somehow we got to talking about financial planning (I think we were talking about her having moved out on her own recently).

She said she didn’t really understand the whole financial world, and I offered that, whatever she did, she should take advantage of the matching retirement plan at work.  She replied that she’d wavered on that for a few months, but has finally taken advantage of it, somewhat reluctantly.

I said, Yes, it’s an act of faith in the future.

She continued that, Yes, because who knows if that system will even be in place in the future.

And I added, Well, yeah, but I meant that it’s faith that we’ll even be alive to take advantage of it.

Thaaat… kinda brought her up short.  I guess people aren’t used to talking about mortality before their morning coffee.

I said I had some health history that makes me think about things like that, then another coworker walked into the room and it didn’t make sense to continue the frankness of the talk.  I told her to check out the book I’d read earlier this year, Money: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins — because although, yes, it was about the basics of personal finance, it also came with a values-based bent because it was him.  (Not to say that I subscribe to all that he says or does, but the basics are there.)

What I’ve been reflecting on lately is that, with my slight increases in income and sharing the costs of living with J., I have some money that I can decide what to do with right now.

This month, I decided to put a third of my pay into my school’s retirement plan.

And this both brings me be agita and glee!

Because what my coworker says is true (we’re putting faith in the financial systems of the future that we cannot predict), and what I say is also true (we’re putting faith in the body systems of the future that we cannot predict).

So, I’m left with a bit of a Ant and Grasshopper moment: do I put even more into my retirement, which right now I can afford?  How much is too much to put there?  What about saving it as cash so I can use those funds to support other, non-retirement visions and goals?

And also, what about just being the Grasshopper?

My Ant freaks out: SAVE YOUR DIXIE CUPS!

My Grasshopper replies, Okay, but for what?  For my 35-year from now self, or for my 10-years from now self, or for my 1-year for now self?

How much saving is too much?  How much should go into the deep future now while I can afford it, as I don’t have children or other large financial obligations?

As I ponder these questions, which I did in my journal this morning, I also wrote about the following moment of financial distress 12 years ago, when I was between jobs (again), literally didn’t have $5 in the bank or in my wallet, and didn’t know where my next rent payment would come from:

“Remember driving in my car to another interview & knowing that all I needed then, I had: coffee, gas, heat on, clothing — just at that moment.

At just this moment, I have much the same things: coffee, heat on, clothing.  Plus, here’s a cat, a glass of Airborne, a knitted blanket and a hat.  A pen, a page.

How abundant, and too, how little my wants & needs have truly changed over time.  In 50 years, it will be the same!  Coffee, gas, heat, clothing.  Perhaps a cat.  Or dog.

Thank you.”

It’s important, as I contemplate where to put my money to best support my visions and goals, that I remember to come back to the moment of where I am, to be present, and to be grateful.

Yes, save for later; yes, save for now.  But as I finagle with those minutiae, I must pull back the frame of focus to encompass all that I already have.

I don’t know that either the Ant or the Grasshopper had that present-moment awareness.

 

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finance · learning · parenting

The Road More Travelled.

12.3.18.jpgOn Friday, I went to the San Anselmo library to find this book I’ve been itching for: The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money.  I’d taken a photo of the cover over 2 years ago when I was working in a school and they hosted a book fair.  (In fact, I took many photos of the parenting section, as there’s little difference sometimes between parenting and teaching.)  And, as I begin to gel my ideas and intention around a blog uniting parenting, finance, and spiritual principles, I wanted to get some inspiration.

I knew that I didn’t have to start from scratch, that there are resources out there—and I’ve fallen down a mini-rabbit hole with a blog site about living frugally, below your means, and retiring early, as part of the “FIRE” (financially independent, retired early) movement!  But, it took me a little while to re-discover the title, as when you’re looking up “money and kids,” you get a lot of results!

This is encouraging.  It seems that part of the backlash of the financial collapse is: How do we help this not happen to our children?  I’m grateful people are asking this question, and are also offering some answers.

As I was cooking dinner yesterday (producing amazing ratatouille from the kitchn website), I was listening to the podcast, “Make me Smart.”  The other day, it was “Conversations from the Corner Office” (you can tell I have a thing for Kai Ryssdal from “Marketplace” on NPR!!).

I’ve been listening to Marketplace for several years, eons before I knew what the numbers meant, before I owned a stock, before I understood why at all I was listening.

I suppose the answer is, because I wanted financial literacy!

I still do.

And one of my intentions in wanting to absorb information on finance, parenting, and values, is that I want to learn to live better in that realm.  And once I learn it, I want to share it.

There are roads that are paved before us; let’s not bushwhack just to say we did.

 

finance · goals · parenting

Next steps.

10317679_10152832166414389_6382293249240214987_o
Yes, that’s me, during a 2015 modeling shoot.  Guess I was prescient! 😉

As J and I were driving into SF on Saturday, up and over the hills from the Marina to the Mission, I had a brainwave.

We were continuing the discussion (begun many moons ago) about kids, their time and financial impact on our lives, and the well-worn difference between what I anticipate it will be like and what he will.

When I tell him that I’ve done the research and kids cost x amount a year, he laughs and says, “Where? In Des Moines?!”  So I said that I would do some research on it, see what financially savvy mommy blogs there might be.

And that’s when it struck me: I’ve been aiming to transfer my blog to some kind of regular magazine column, and to preferably make some kind of money off this writing I’ve been doing for over the 10,000 hours they say it takes for a person to become an expert.  But, aside from the general tenor of the writing I do here, what would be my hook?

I paused in my speech, and said, I think I just had a lightbulb moment.

What if I started a blog about learning and becoming and refining what it takes to be a financially sound parent?

If we learn best by doing, wouldn’t it be great if I researched what information was out there, and coalesced my learning into my own writing?

So, I began to search the web.  When I type in “financially savvy mommy,” I get a lot of results.  I also found an article that listed the 25 “best” finance & parenting blogs and began diving into those.

What I saw was what I’d kinda hoped: Most of them suck.

Or rather: many were 404 not found anymore, or were about how to clip coupons and crochet a hairshirt, or were just clippings from other websites.

Very few (in my limited research so far) had what it was I’m looking for… which is great, because it means a vacuum and niche exists.

Combine the vision-, goals-, and values-based living I have and want to strengthen with the financial acumen I’m learning and also want to strengthen, and then aim that in the direction of planning for, raising, and thriving as a family — with a little irreverence and humor thrown in?

Well, that’s a blog I want to read.  So I better get to writing. ❤

 

deprivation · finance · progress

Two Nickels.

8.27.18.pngWhen, 7 years ago August, I sat across from two folks who volunteered to help me look at my finances, I went as a ball of anxiety, misery, and defensiveness.  (I’m sure that was great for them!)

But, in truth, every one of us pairs that sits with another person to help organize and plan their spending knows that we’re stepping into a very sensitive place for that person.  If they’ve ended up on the other side of this table, they’re not flying in on the wings of victory, and it’s natural that they may feel all sorts of uncomfortable.

As time has gone on, I have met again with several different pairs of folks to look at my spending and saving, to parse out my goals, to find where there is pressure and help make a plan to relieve that pressure (the groups are called “Pressure Relief Groups,” PRGs, anyway!). And even with all the years of doing this work, I can still feel anxious and defensive, particularly in places I don’t understand that well or feel particularly hopeless about.

As I stall on uploading my numbers spreadsheet to my new financial planner, I notice similar feelings bubbling up.  Thankfully, not the hopeless bit, but the anxiety and defensiveness are up.  It reminds me of those hoarders tv shows where people may have collected a whole bunch of stuff, but the particulars make no difference: it’s the feelings, and fears, that matter.

I feel fear that she won’t understand the spreadsheet I keep for my numbers, so I’ve been stalling uploading it.  I fear that she’ll judge me because it may look like chaos to her, when it looks like order to me (hard-won order, at that).  I also fear she’ll tell me I have to spend less money, to live smaller, which was my overarching fear at that meeting 7 summers ago.

But, frankly, I’m not the worst ever seen, and even if I was, it’s her job to help me sort it out!  My way is not the only way.  And I don’t have to live smaller, ever.

The ultimate message I received at that first PRG was that I was “underspending” in all sorts of categories.  That “underspending” was even a concept was foreign to me!  I’d imagined that because I could not make ends meet on my meager income, it meant these two folks would tell me to spend less, to somehow—even though I was living so close to the bone I was perpetually leaking blood—they would say: less, smaller, tiny, infinitesimal you.

Of course, you may have guessed, they did not say anything of the sort.  In fact, they said I needed to double what I was spending in categories like food, entertainment, clothing.  (Apparently $40 a week on food was cruel, not prudent!)

Deprivation is a place I’ve been uncovering for several years.  Being smaller, hiding who I am, fearing judgment, reprisal, and shame.  Naturally, the path to the origin of these beliefs is clear as hell, but that hasn’t erased their existence and it also doesn’t particularly help me in forging a new path.

My PRG said I needed to spend more.  And I replied, “yeah great, how [a**holes].”  At the time, they didn’t say anything.  That wasn’t the point right then (though ultimately it was to earn more, which I have).  They just said, continue keeping track of your numbers and we’ll meet next month.

And so we did.  Again and again, with different pairs until present day when one of my PRG folks said, Hey, here’s a financial advisor’s number.

The road to today is paved with stepping stones that were impossible and invisible until each one was laid down.  The path 5 years hence will look the same to future me — and as impossible and invisible to today me.

As I dicker around on sending my spreadsheet to my advisor, I have to hold myself with compassion, not judgment, for “not knowing how.”  And I also have to consider myself with buckets of pride over how far I’ve come.  Every step, no matter how sporadic, has led me here, and I have to trust that this woman has seen far worse and can help me to far better.

Here goes nothing.

 

finance · goals · writing

Eyes on the Prize.

4.18.18Yesterday afternoon, I had the first call of my new Goals Group.  Like the last one I participated in, we’ll have a group phone call wherein we’ll walk through a series of weekly assigned questions—about our vision for our lives, our goals, a specific goal, what blocks us from this goal, how we can accept help to overcome these blocks, and how we will maintain these (generally spiritual) connections to ensure we continue actions toward fulfilling our vision.

PHEW!  That’s a mouthful, but does generally give you the scope of this work.  At the rate of a call a week (a question or two each week), we’ll end in about 6 months, as did my group that ended in February.

Additionally, we make commitments to actions for the upcoming week that may be in the vein of our goals or seemingly unrelated—e.g. grade papers, take a walk… no, those weren’t mine! … *shifty eyes*

A few things came out of the call for me last night: 1) I need to increase my income to support the philanthropic life I want to lead; 2) I’m going to have to write that book that’s been on my mind (damnit); 3) I need to adjust how I employ my time if I will achieve #s 1 and 2.

Therefore, I committed to my group the following non-committal action: “I commit to experimenting with blogging Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and use Tuesday/Thursday to do my other writing (book, goals pages).”

I commit to experimenting!  Ha!

Well, that’s the truth of it.  I love blogging regularly.  I love that a theme or title will come to me during the day that I’ll file away for tomorrow.  I love the calm and the energy that I receive when I write here—the connection, the humor, the reflection.  BUT, there are no blog police demanding I write daily (right??), and in fact I’d whittled down the frequency from 7 days a week to 5 not long ago.

Realistically, though, I’ve been dropping 1 of those 5 days lately and the hour I devote each morning drafting, editing, photo searching, and posting is an hour that can be spent in service of goals 1 & 2.

Blogging is a part of this vision, and I may indeed begin modifying the format and purpose of my blog to support the book (AKA I want your stories!), but for now my goal is to use all of my time efficiently and effectively, and in the service of my visions.

So, Dear Reader, firstly, THANK YOU.  I know a dozen (sometimes 2 or 3 dozen!) of you read my blog, and it’s a boon to my spirit when I receive a text or comment or facebook message that says my writing affected you—brought you to question circumstances in your own life, gave you a new tool, or allowed you to feel connected to me.  For this, I am so insanely grateful.  I am so glad you are here.

Secondly… I’ll see you on Friday, peeps!;)  Much love,  M.

 

balance · finance · money

Libre/Libra.

libra 8 17 17At the start of the year, I participated in a weekend-long “intention setting” meditation retreat with a few friends.  One of the major themes of the work was about sussing out our own optimal balance between our masculine and feminine aspects (according the “traditional” meanings of such, as in yin/yang, active/receptive, etc.).  Through some of this work, I got to see that my “masculine” or active-in-the-world self was much less developed than it needed to be if I were going to step into fuller power in my life.

In fact, both aspects of myself were going to have to grow precipitously to reflect who I really intend to be in the world, but as you might imagine from knowing me, my “feminine” side—my soft, emotional, reflective side—tends to take the reigns, so my masculine, active, forging side would have to be just a bit larger to keep things in the proper balance for me.  At least, at this time.

When I was talking with my mentor on Friday, regaling her with my pure and epic delight over all my new financial discoveries and activities, she said that the first “hit” she got on this change was that I was engaging my masculine side.  The “finance” side of things has historically, traditionally, stereotypically been the man’s world, and, indeed, there’s a voice within me (faint though it is) that says all this writing about finance is not what people (my readers) want to read.

That’s Class-A bullshit, but it’s there.

Whatever it is that “my readers” (all 12 of them!) want to read, they’ll vote with their clicks—toward or away from my blog, but it’s my job here, as always, to relate the truth of what’s happening in my spiritual and physical realm.

And presently, that’s the burgeoning, riveting, catalyzing world of personal finance.

J. joked that my bookshelf walls will be one self-help and the other personal finance.  Because, yes, much of the non-fiction I’ve read in the last few years is women-authored “get bigger” books.  Well, isn’t part of that bigger world one that includes shares and percentages?  It is.  And it feels perfectly aligned with the trajectory of my books, thoughts, progress to be stepping into this new realm of money.

No, it doesn’t feel “feminine” — but maybe part of my growth is to show that a lady can play, too.

excitement · finance · learning

“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

4.13.18

On Wednesday, I read an article online about investing and the author suggested a book title.  I went to Amazon, found the book, but poked around the “Other Suggested Titles” section and saw one by Tony Robbins — yes, motivational speaker Tony Robbins wrote a finance book, two in fact!

There was something about this intersection of financial and personal growth that appeals/appealed to me much more than a dry, or avid, or Greek-speak, or “for dummies” book on money.  This is ALL NEW TO ME, and along the way, it would be nice to have someone who’s enthusiastic about the information, but also espouses values that align with mine: personal development, gratitude, giving.

So on Wednesday, I used my Audible “credit” (as in, you paid $15/mo for this) to buy the audio book of Money: Mastering the Game, and started listening.

On Thursday, I bought the hard copy, now at my bedside!

I am LOVING this.  I am loving all the new information, trying to understand how these things are working, feeling excited to open the door to a world that not only felt closed off to me, but that I didn’t even know was there.

I’m brushing the mean and meager concepts at this point, reading a bit, asking J the difference between a mutual fund and an index fund, reading more.  I love Robbins’ way of writing/speaking in his book: he curses(!), yet he also doesn’t presume that I, the reader, know anything about personal finance and doesn’t write his explanations in a righteous, pedantic manner.

This. Feels. Accessible.

And what he stresses again and again is that the “game” has been somewhat written to be overcomplex so that you rely on people to do it for you who take a huge chunk of your earnings.  He’s not anti-Wall Street, and explicitly says so in the book, but I’m in the “debunking the financial myths” section, so he’s certainly focused right now on not giving away your power because it’s all too much to follow.

He’s psyched by what he’s saying.  He’s psyched by the possibilities for the reader.  Which is to say, he’s psyched for me.

And, damnit, so am I.

(NOTE: when googling Tony Robbins just now, up come articles that say he’s embroiled in MeToo controversy.  I just want to acknowledge I’ve seen that.)