Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Yesterday was the first day I had done any weight training for 3 weeks. Ouch! As I was warming up I could feel I had lost muscle mass and I wasn't amused, but that is the challenge of traveling, isn't it? The family and I had been on-the-road as my husband and I attended conferences and did some guest lecturing at various universities. We had fun, but my physical fitness had suffered.
After the warm up I was busy "trying" to do my push ups. To be honest I just hadn't made time to do my routine while I was gone and I was now paying the price. Before going on the lecture circuit I was doing 15-18 military style push ups. Now, I was down to FOUR!!! "FOUR!!!" I yelled in indignation. My 7-year-old son asked me what was wrong and I told him that I was having to start over. Almost from the beginning, but not quite as bad as ground zero. "What does that mean, Mama." was his reply. "It means, dear, that you Mom has to lose some weight FAST!" I started pulling off weight from the barbell. 20 pounds ... Ugh! All that work to get trim, lean and mean and I was having to lose the weight because I would hurt myself if I tried the 50 pounds now!!!! Grrrr.
While I was adjusting all the weights to MUCH lower amounts it occurred to me how far I have come on my physical as well as financial journey. A few years ago (okay, ahem, decades!) when I was weight training if I had this sort of set back I would have seen myself as a failure. However, yesterday, I saw it only as a minor irritation and a bump-in-the-road. No abusive self-talk necessary. Thank you very much.
It is the same with our financial walks. We will have times were we have to pull from the savings account and almost zero out the account. For those of you who are living on the 60/40 plan you know the challenge of getting your savings account started and increasing as you pay down your debt. Then, BAM! Something happens, a child gets sick and has to go to the Urgent Care Center, or your car decides to stop charging the battery because the alternator needs replaced, or you have an electrical problem in the house that has suddenly cropped up. (By the way...all that happened to us last week! No kidding.)
When you are struggling and need a boost of confidence while saving money or losing weight or kicking some other habit here are some things that have helped me be successful:
- Don't even think about giving yourself a bad time. Don't be nasty to yourself and don't tell yourself you were stupid, lazy, ugly, or inadequate. You're trying to change here...you are going to be falling down. The point is, don't stay down. Stand back up and start over making adjustments. (In my case, pulling 20 pounds off the bar and only doing one set of weights for the next week.)
- Understand that falling down is not failure. Just because you made a mistake, ate that extra piece of cake or had that cigarette, that doesn't constitute "failure." See it as a blimp on the radar and move on. You have not failed. You have to readjust your systems. Haven't you ever had a new computer? Did you LIKE all the new toolbars? I don't. I usually have to spend at least 2 hours customizing the software.
- Learn to Laugh at Yourself. Really Laugh. Come on, folks...we take ourselves WAY TOO seriously most days. Usually the mistakes we make are not life threatening. There are usually options, people or resources that can help us out. Stop treating each bump-in-the-road as a mountain and laugh at yourself. People always bring up how much I laugh and how happy I am. Well, that took practice. It too effort on my part to learn to laugh at myself. Let me tell you....I keep the heavens in constant laughter with all the silly things I have done. I assure you.
While we are all walking this road back to financial stability and, eventually, independence. Know that there are going to be areas that need adjustment and consideration. There will be times you have to slow down and watch the road a bit more carefully. Those are the points where you stop, rethink your situation and then move on. I know you can do it. I've seen hundreds of people change their lives and I know you are one of them. Now, if you will excuse me. I've got to go down to that weight bench and do a bit more lifting!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I was attending a wedding of a student of mine when a group of her family walked over to the table where I was enjoying the bride’s company. As they approached, she commented, “Oh, I know what this is about, Janine. You’re to settle a bet!” You can imagine the nerves I had then.
As the man in the lead (I believe he was the bride’s brother) stopped by my chair and the other seven folks clustered around, he asked me point blank, “Janine Bolon? Hi, we need you to settle a bet.” Uh oh, I thought. “How may I be of service?” was what actually came out of my mouth. He then began to state the problem.
It seems that there was a bit of conflict in the group about the best way to save money (a.k.a. invest it). Should you keep it in a CD, should you keep it in Bonds, should you save enough to buy rental properties, or should you keep it in a money market fund, etc. Basically, all these questions were excellent, but each individual of the group had their own reasons for supporting each choice. After a six-minute introduction to the problem, who was in favor of which choice and what each person thought my answer would be, the bride’s brother turned to me and says, “So, what do you think? Who is right?”
After I put down my fork (the chocolate cake was to die for, and while they were talking I was eating!), I calmly asked, “Why are you saving money?” For a moment I was met with dead silence and then three of the folks around the brother said (almost in unison)”We’re saving money because you said so!”
My dear frugal friend, when it comes to saving your money and how it should be handled never take someone’s advice just because they “say so.” I felt like I had really failed these people at the wedding party. They were following the 60/40 principle without thinking about what they were doing. They now have several thousands of dollars saved up and they were arguing about how they were to invest it with family members rather than INVESTIGATING the options available to them. Each person’s needs are different. Each person has a different financial situation as well as risk tolerance. Arguing about the “one” right answer is absurd! There is no “one” correct answer. Each situation calls for a different tactic. Each person will require a slightly different strategy.
The point is simply this. No one cares more about your money than you do. Because no one cares as much about your money, you will have to be the one who does the research, collects the data and evaluates the risk. Then, you will have to make a choice. That decision is what most folks dread. Why? They fear failure. Well, guess what? I haven’t met a millionaire yet that received a positive return on every single investment they ever made. You will make mistakes with your money. Accept that fact and you will be much less stressed. Accept the fact that some investments do well while others don’t. The key is to make sure that the money you invest won’t cause you to skip the house payment for three months because the investment return didn’t pan out like you expected.
Here are some pointers when it comes to saving money:
- First and foremost, why are you saving money? Do you want to be so wealthy you can buy an island when you’re 55? Do you want to have your own recording studio? Or do you wish to travel the world? By answering this question first, you’ll be guided on what options you will want to investigate when it comes to making your money work for you.
- What are the goals you have for the money you are saving? Many of you have short-term and long-term savings accounts. Well, your goals for each account will determine what you do with that cash. It wouldn’t hurt to have a dollar figure allocated to each goal, either. This will give you a benchmark at which to aim.
- Education, education, education. You must teach yourself what is a viable return on the money you wish to invest. Don’t take anyone’s word for something. Check out multiple sources on different funds and avenues. Ask around, but then, after all the data has been collected, make a choice and don’t agonize over it. You’ve done the best that you could at educating yourself.
Saving money requires a certain frame of mind that allows you to visualize what you want in the future. You also have to learn to face the fear you have of investing and do it anyway. Educate yourself as much as you can, make a choice and move on. Sometimes you’ll win big and sometimes you won’t, but the point is you’ll be moving forward and you won’t be standing around arguing about what is “right” with your relatives at the next wedding.