Americans’ Borrowing Hits Another Record. Time To Worry?


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Going through a mini depression


I have been pushed too far in my current job, and am going through a mini depression. I am off work today, and will also be out tomorrow. The unfortunate thing is that I don’t get paid for either day. Oh well. I am supposed to work next Monday, but I may not go in. Also, I will be out next week for vacation, so I’m relieved about that.

About a month ago I took on a teaching position at the institute where I currently work, and the additional workload pushed me over the edge. I had gone off my anti-psychotic medication about three months ago under the care of my psychiatrist, and I was probably experiencing some difficulty as a result of that. But this week, both of our receptionists were out again, and I was called upon to do 3 jobs at the same time, with students and faculty coming up to me with demands throughout the day. I finally broke on Tuesday and went to my office to cry. Then I pulled myself together and got back to work.

I have worked in abusive work situations like this before, and I am not going to tolerate it. Also, one of the faculty member’s husband made a sexual remark to me at the Christmas party which I didn’t appreciate. I haven’t told anyone, but I don’t like working at my current job anymore. It reminds me of what’s currently going on in Washington, DC, with Trump and all his cronies. Very few women are actually in charge.

So tomorrow my plan is to call several disability attorneys, and to speak with my fiancee about resigning from my current position. The thing that stinks is that I was offered a part-time position in my field last week at a university in the same complex where I currently work! And I turned it down because it would have meant a $10,000 per year pay cut. Lesson learned. It’s important to prioritize mental health over money, especially for those of us who suffer from mental illness.

 

Guest post: Saving Money is the SURE Way to Get Ahead by Jacob Merkley


Saving Money is the SURE Way to Get Ahead

Have you ever considered what Benjamin Franklin accomplished in his lifetime? To be brief… he invested swim fins, bifocals, the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and the first map of the Gulf Stream.  He also improved the odometer and the catheter, and even had the correct theory that lightning was electricity (Biography.com).

If his inventions weren’t enough, he was a musician, a writer, a mathematician, and one of the Founding Fathers. After considering his many accomplishments, it’s ironic that one of his most famous quotes is seven words long:

“A penny saved is a penny earned”

Above his discoveries, massive knowledge, and understanding of complex science, he understood one simple, yet vitally important financial truth…that the number one key to building wealth and getting ahead with your money is…to save it!

Here is an interesting statistic for you: In 1975, the personal saving rate was nearly 17.0%. In 2005 it was below 3.0% and in 2015 it bordered around 5.0% all year long (Fred Economic Research).

This statistic suggests that we just aren’t saving money anymore, which is surprising to me.  Collectively, we have more wealth and prosperity in this nation today than we ever have before, yet many of us are in worse financial situations than our parents or grandparents.  Many of us have massive amounts of debt, yet not much saved for a rainy day.

Why is that? Because we have all forgotten this simple truth…that saving money is the sure way to get ahead.  Yes, making more money can help; however, I know some millionaires who are broke, and a few that are broke that will have millions when they retire.  Regardless of income, the concept is the same:

Those who sacrifice to save will always have enough for today and the future.

So with the New Year upon us, consider your current financial situation.  How much are you saving?  Can you give up something today, so that you can have more of it later?  Can you go from being a saver to being a supersaver?

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During the season of resolutions, I would encourage you to take a few minutes and make some financial goals. At the very least, make a goal to stop spending SO MUCH MONEY on frivolous things and instead save your hard-earned money and put it away for the future.

Consider your budget, make some goals, take a hard look at your expenses (and an even harder look at what you consider a need and a want), and then avoid spending.

Building wealth starts with this vitally important financial truth… save your money, and you’ll be better off, I promise!

Bio:

Jacob Merkley is a full-time blogger who started in the accounting, financial, and retirement realms before switching to working online.  Now he focuses on teaching others about Life Skills that put YOU in control, including the important principles of money management.  He blogs over at PowerOverLife.

Learning to spend & to save


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I am a natural spender, and I have fought this instinct since I first became financially independent (for the most part) at age 23, with my first full-time job. I love shiny new electronic gadgets, new clothes, and Starbucks. But I also need to balance that with bulking up my retirement and emergency savings, as well as continuing to invest through the app Acorns. And honestly, I’m not going to buy any clothes this year as I really don’t need any. The only way I will change my mind on that is if I lose some weight.

This past year I experienced job loss, became unemployed, then worked for $11.50 an hour briefly, along with a contract job, then started working part-time in a library along with the contract job, then I lost the contract job for a month and a half, then I had the contract job reinstated in the middle of December. This year (next week), I will begin full-time hours in the library (37 hours per week), along with my contract job. I will be able to support myself much better now. Assuming nothing changes. And it could. So this past year I was only able to save about $500, half of which went into my Roth IRA, half of which went into my Acorns account. I am looking to change that drastically this coming year.

My goal, at this point, is to save $500 per month in regular savings (starting in February, due to a surprise vet bill), as well as $250 monthly in my Roth IRA. I am finding that saving can be fun. I recently earned dividends at the end of December with both my Roth IRA and Acorns account. It’s incredibly fun to earn passive income in which I don’t have to do anything! I really like this, actually.

So even though I still make a modest salary with both jobs, if I can save $750 monthly, that will be the most I’ve ever been able to save in my adult life. And that’s pretty awesome. By the end of December, my goal is to have saved $3,000 in my Roth IRA and $5,500 in my regular savings account. AND TO NOT TOUCH THAT MONEY. My fiancee and I would like to buy a house/townhouse this year/early next year, and we are both looking to reduce debt, bulk up savings, and live modestly. Wish us luck! Here’s to spending and living lightly in 2017!

 

On moms & meltdowns


My mom ended up leaving early due to a meltdown she had. We had fought several weeks before her visit as she was being intrusive and asking if my fiancee and I were planning on having children. My sister has one child and my mom has also been badgering her to have another one. However, whether she realizes it or not, she is not in control over my sister and my childbearing. So tough shit.

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Image source: ouragingparents.net

My mom ended up getting variously upset with me over the small space my boyfriend and I live in, how fast I eat my food, the lack of a proper coffee maker (we have a cappuccino machine), how affectionate my boyfriend and I were with one another, and feeling ignored on our car trip. So I didn’t fight with her, but she texted my sister (and me, by mistake), her frustration with my eating too fast at the Olive Garden. Then she got up and waited for me outside. I went into a clothing store and spent money I didn’t have due to being upset (clothing that I returned today – lesson learned). She took a walk and then we met up again. We had spoken about seeing a movie after lunch but I’d had it. Her lack of communication with me over why she was upset was too much. I said I planned to go home and take a nap. After we got out of the car at my apartment she got on the phone with her friend, who she’d planned to stay with in a few days, packed up, and waited for her outside. We didn’t say goodbye to one another.

My mom has helped me a lot financially over the years, and I have been very financially co-dependent on her as a result. I made the decision on Monday, when she left, that I need to end this behavior. My fiancee and I both have good jobs and we can support ourselves. Yes, we’d like to buy a house in the next few years, but it will happen at the right time. My mom had promised to give us money for the down payment, but now I doubt she will. And that’s okay. Even if she writes me out of the will and I never receive another dime from her or my dad, I’ll be okay. I’m an adult. I have an education. I am learning new skills. I will be okay. I want to, and I must stand on my own two feet. And I will.

My mom is blowing through my dad’s savings, in a futile attempt to make herself happy. My dad says packages arrive at their house almost daily. She’s bought another house and plans to move out next month, in an attempt to “get away” from my dad, whom she claims she’s never loved and can’t stand. She’s already planning to build on a sun room and another room for her art projects. She’s unbalanced. She should be in therapy, and under the care of a psychiatrist. But truly crazy people never believe they are crazy. And she is one of them. If I told her a continued relationship with her would be contingent on her getting help, we probably wouldn’t have a relationship. But I feel I am close to this point. My fiancee and I have already discussed it, and she’s not welcome to stay with us any longer. If she visits, she’ll have to stay in an Air B&B or a hotel.

Boundaries are good, and financial co-dependence is bad. The more financially responsible I am in 2017, the more I can feel relief and confidence in my supporting myself. And that’s a good thing.

 

Extreme Gratitude


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Image credit: versiondaily.com

This has been a year of lots of ups and downs. I lost my full-time job in January, 2016. It was a shock to my system, but it was also something I saw coming. Since then lots of good things have happened for me during the past year. Some of these amazing things are listed below:

  1. I traveled to California last March to see my sister, mom and niece. My mom and I went to Yosemite National Park and it was AMAZING. I see now why Ansel Adams and John Muir fell in love. I’m itching to go back!
  2. I moved in with my boyfriend in April, and things are good. We are growing together every day, and I am truly grateful to have found my life’s partner.
  3. I celebrated my 40th birthday with my fiancée in April. We went to the Bahamas for 2 nights on my first cruise. It was fun!
  4. I got a part-time library contract job in May, and though it was temporarily suspended for a month and half, I got an email from my old boss last night. She wants me to start back next week!
  5. In May I flew home to upstate New York for a visit with friends and family.
  6. I got engaged in June. My boyfriend bought me a new bike as an engagement present. We are recycling my grandmother’s engagement ring.
  7. In July I took a part-time library position at a private nursing school. I recently received a raise and will be moving to full-time hours next year!
  8. I took a writing class from UC Berkeley Extension online this fall, and I just found out my final grade is an A. I’m scheduled to take more classes next spring!
  9. I toyed with the idea of monetizing this blog, but I’m going to return it back to its roots – a fun place to write.
  10. I paid for a brand new writer’s website, which is live at lisamwrites.com. So far I have one assignment that I successfully pitched for xoJane. To say I’m super excited is an understatement!
  11. With the addition of my contract position I will be bumping up my Roth IRA contributions again next year. Yay!
  12. My mom visits for Christmas next week and we’re planning a trip to Miami to visit with my fiancée’s family.

I am truly blessed. Merry Christmas everyone! Happy 2017!

 

Interview with Heather from SimplySave


I have known Heather virtually for approximately the last 3 1/2 years. I admire her personal finance journey, and the progress that she shares on her site. She’s also a big reader, as am I. I reached out to Heather to ask her a few questions about personal finance, her journey, and minimalism. I am delighted to share this information here. Her website is: SimplySave.

Question:

What was the defining moment or event that set you on your personal finance journey. Can you tell us about it?

I worked for the military in 2011 when there were talks of a possible government shutdown. If that happened, I wouldn’t get paid during the shutdown, until it was all resolved afterwards. Things got serious; they even gave us half of our pay check early, just in case. Fortunately the government didn’t shut down, but it was a big reality check. While I didn’t have any debt, I also had absolutely no emergency savings. I was living pay check to pay check and enjoying things like fancy purses, massages, a gym membership, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but my priorities were backwards. I didn’t have a financial plan and wouldn’t have made it more than 2 weeks if the government shut down. I also had no family remotely nearby that I could fall back on, so I was truly on my own to support myself.

I wish I could say that this was a huge life changing moment that really helped me get my priorities in order…but unfortunately I didn’t learn right away. I did start putting a little into retirement and building some emergency savings, but I bought another brand new car, more purses, and a house in practically the same month.

Shortly after all of this, I started my blog, not because I was finally going to get my finances in order, but because I liked finding deals and getting free stuff and wanted to share my finds. Eventually, slowly, this evolved into truly working on my finances. That was the real turning point, but it was slow.

 Question:

What is the biggest accomplishment that you’ve had in your personal finance journey since you started your blog?

Since starting this personal finance journey, I’ve become really goal oriented. I have progress bars to track my goals on the sidebar of my blog. Putting them out there publicly holds me accountable and I get really excited every time I get to update one of them. My first goal was to save 6 months of expenses in emergency savings. My next goal was to pay off my car. Now I’m working on my mortgage and that’s definitely a bigger goal that will take a lot longer to accomplish. It helps me to set benchmarks or mini goals, so this year’s goal was to get my mortgage down to 5 figures by the end of the year, which I just recently accomplished. It’s hard to pick my biggest accomplishment, but I guess in terms of dollars, the progress on my mortgage is technically the most.

Question:

What was your biggest personal finance mistake and why?

Probably owning 3 new cars in less than 10 years. I paid off all the loans early, but there was really no need for that many brand new cars in such a short period. I could have put that money to much better use. I had no emergency savings and wasn’t putting any money into retirement. Also, it really fed the mentality that I “deserved” fancy things and should have all these things to “keep up” with the world. And that mindset can lead to a bunch of small financial mistakes that compound into a big mess.

Question:

Any advice for our readers, particularly milennials, who may be carrying lots of credit card/student loan debt?

The military paid for my college and I have never really experienced credit card debt, but I do have a few ideas.

  1. Build some emergency savings so that your credit card isn’t your emergency plan.
  2. Pay more than the minimum each month. Even if you just round up to the next solid dollar amount…for example if your bill is for $343, maybe pay $350, or more. It all helps. If you’re still in school and using unsubsidized loans, at least pay off the interest each semester.
  3. If you receive financial aid or tuition reimbursement, put it towards your debt! I’ve seen so many people receive their aid payment or military education benefits and use it to buy fun stuff!
  4. Stop using that credit card. Don’t worry about having the latest and great and “keeping up.” It’s really not worth it and probably doesn’t bring you as much joy as you might think.

Question:

Any advice for die-hard spenders or the non-frugal, who find it hard giving up Starbucks and the mall?

Really pay attention to what makes you happy. What are you doing or buying because you want to and what things are you doing to keep up or because everyone else is doing it? It’s unlikely that there is a big overlap between those two things. Focus on what makes you happy and forget everyone else.

I understand it’s hard to go cold turkey on things like Starbucks, but find less expensive substitutes like making coffee at home. With some milk and flavored syrup you can recreate a lot of your favorite coffee shop drinks. Or if you must have Starbucks, use something like Bing Rewards to earn gift cards. Many things we “have to have” can often be done or had in a less expensive way.

It can also help to put a picture of your goal in your wallet near your credit or debit card. For the longest time I had a picture of my car on my fridge, my laptop, and my wallet, with the text, “How much do you own?” You can also make your passwords goal related to keep them at the front of your mind. For example, your password could be $ave4Car!

A side note: when I got into freebies and deals, coupons would burn a hole in my pocket. If I had a coupon, I had to use it. If there was a deal, I had to get it. I didn’t start really saving until I stopped holding onto coupons, stopped looking at weekly ads, and stopped going to the mall or Target. You’re not saving money if you’re spending money.

Question:

Can you tell us a little about minimalism, and how it ties into your personal finance journey?

I never would have anticipated it, but minimalism has probably had the biggest impact on my personal finance journey than anything else. As I started working on my finances, my priorities and values became more and more apparent. Once I broke the twitch of always spending money and accumulating things I started to notice what really made me happy. And it wasn’t material things.

I started noticing all the excess and being bothered by it. I remember wondering why I had 15 pairs of flip flops when I could on wear one pair at a time. Once I purged all the excess, I was then surrounded by the things that bring me the most joy. Without all the clutter in the way, I am much more satisfied with what I already have versus what I want. (I also sold a lot of the things I got rid of which helped with my financial goals.)

Ever feel like you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? So you go buy more clothes? I got rid of everything that was ill fitting, uncomfortable, hiding in the back with tags still on it, or didn’t make me feel good, and was left with much fewer clothes. But now my mornings are SO much easier. I know that I look good and feel good in whatever I wear. And I don’t buy anywhere near as much clothes as I used to!

Basically, minimalism helped me realize that material things aren’t what really make me happy, so I stopped buying so many things.

Thanks so much to Heather for taking the time to interview with me today.