Who is “Dow Jones”, and what the heck is he doing with my money?

I have been in “aggressive debt repayment” mode for just over one year. And during this time, I have read a fair amount of posts about personal finance. However, every time I see one about investing, I skip it. I feel like my spending and debt need to be better controlled before I can consider staring down the barrel of investing strategies. Some may argue that is foolish, since it’s information I’ll need eventually. But I respectfully disagree. My brain can’t work on effectively creating good spending habits while also trying to understand the minutia that is the stock market. Or so I thought.

I just happened upon this post over at Narrow Bridge Finance. It was like a light going on! My problem isn’t with learning about investing. It’s about investment writing. NBF just explained to me the Dow Jones Industrial Average. And I understood it. I didn’t fall asleep. I didn’t get distracted. I was focused the whole time because Derek is a really good writer! 

Dear Derek,

Please write an investment book for people like me who glaze over at the mere mention of the work “dividend”.

Sincerely,

WillKnitForBooks

Another LearnVest Gem

LearnVest has done it again! They have written another article that makes me feel motivated and like my financial situation is not as bleak as I think it is. They also managed to do so while pointing out that much of my money problems stem from toxic money thoughts.

I am pretty certain I have heard myself utter all of these at some point. Even the one about paying for school.

Time to reframe some thinking!

Hives! Hives! I have burned your bridges!

Fun Fact! (Actually, Fun Rant!) I have an autoimmune disorder. My body attacked my thyroid, and now it under functions. It’s slowly on it’s way to not functioning at all. The great part of this process is all the symptoms that pop up out of nowhere that doctor’s keep telling me A.) I’m imagining or B.) are part of said autoimmune disorder and are fundamentally things I have to learn to live with. It’s super fun…..

Today, the new symptom of the week is hives. I had a bad bout of them last spring, which lead to my initial diagnosis as hypothyroidic. They resolved 3 months later, after trying almost every drug in the book. My doctor and I attributed it to the thyroid medication I started. It was a welcomed relief to shave my legs again.

Welp. They came back. With a vengeance.  I have never been this itchy in my life. EVER.

Having hives makes me feel pretty desperate. Desperate for a quick fix. Desperate for resolution. Desperate for a way of understanding what my body is trying to tell me so that I can understand what it needs to heal. This typically leads me through a few phases.

  1. The phase where I give modern medicine a shot in hell.
  2. The phase where, becoming disillusioned with modern medicine’s inability to fix me, I turn to integrative medicine.
  3. The phase where the sheer cost of integrative medicine becomes so overwhelming, I have panic attacks (and my hives get worse).
  4. The phase where I decide I can do it myself, and start researching DIY integrative fixes to my problem on the internet, including dietary changes.
  5. The phase where I take on some monumental very strict dietary change. And it lasts about 3 days.
  6. The phase where I give up and accept that I’ll be itchy for ever. Then, I eat a donut.

These phases are pretty cyclic, though the speed of the cycle varies. I’ve cycled through all of them in one day (like today!). I’ve also taken a month to get there. The lesson I learn every time is that my health problems are expensive, financially and emotionally. The traditional doctors aren’t free. The integrative doctor’s aren’t covered by insurance. The searching and living in the unknown is stressful, which makes the symptoms worse! Everything has an upfront cost that I can’t pay because every last dime I have has been funneled to debt repayment. My debt is now the thing standing between me and fighting chance of not itching. Those gourmet donuts every weekend aren’t sounding quite so appealing anymore….

So it’s time to tell the cycle to go suck an egg. It’s time for life style changes. Big ones. But not to be implemented immediately. Nor all at once. But rather change to be taken one step at a time in an effort to find balance. Physical balance. Hormonal balance. Emotional balance. Financial balance. There has to be a way. So I’ve just got to find it!

This may all sound defeatist and sad and pathetic. But as I sit here trying to distract myself from the incessant pulse of itchy flesh right between my shoulder blades and I try to figure out how I might be able to pull off $3,000 worth of blood work and $1,000 worth of supplements from the latest snake-oil purveyor, I realize that my situation will never change. This is my life now. It’s not what I intended. It’s what I was dealt. And it’s not changing. So I have to face facts and learn to deal. It’s tough love, at it’s finest.

Ok. Rant over. Back to work!

Debt Repayment, I love you. But you’re bringing me down.

Listen to this while reading:

I was gifted some money for Christmas (thank you, family!). Being a tried and true and dedicated debt repay-er, I earmarked every dollar to my top priority CC. And yesterday, the checks cleared, and money was sent to the CC company. This morning, I checked my balance, and it was lower (as expected). But instead of feeling joy and exuberance and motivation to continue to kick debt’s ass, I felt bummed. Because the balance is still super high.

This is the part of debt repayment that sucks the most. You make a big stride. But it’s still not even close to what it needs to be. And you’ve given up manicures and new shoes and book binges for so long that you begin to not even recognize yourself. And you think, “will this ever end????”

That’s where I’m at today.

Drug Induced Blogging

Fair warning: I am sick and miserable. This could get weird.

A friend posted this to Facebook: http://altering-perspectives.com/2014/01/live-like-king-little.html

Her intent was to draw attention to the whole “don’t have kids” thing. Yeah. Yeah. You don’t want babies, and you like that this blog post has provided you with justification for that choice. Cool beans, kiddo. I support you either way!

But the post itself seems far more personal-finance-y than I expected. Especially with that photo leading the pack. I think it has some decent gems in there. Like don’t get into debt in the first place. And wear a bike helmet. All these preventative types are sage like wisdom.

The one criticism that I have found is the “learn a trade” call to arms. Ok, I get the point. Learning to repair a car is valuable no matter what. But so is reading. And organization. And research. And understand the basic architecture of information systems. Because without those fundamentals, you can learn a trade all you want–you’ll never successfully implement it. I don’t disparage this movement away from academia and the return to the respectable tradesman. I completely agree that college is not (and should not be) for everyone. But I do think there are skills beyond basic trades that everyone should learn. And the reason that college has become so necessary is (in part) because K-12 is not delivering those skills to it’s graduates.

All I’m saying is that it’s a complicated issue. So maybe learn to repair Vespas while you’re studying economics, okay?

All in all, I really loved this piece. It made me take pause. What do you think? Is this return to the simple life what we really need to “live like a king”?

Super Proud Gloaty Pants, Reporting for Duty.

It’s January. Which means resolutions (that most of us won’t keep) and freezing temperatures and health kicks and debt depression. January is basically the month reflecting on one’s past choices and behaviors, believing them to be unwise/unhealthy/irresponsible, and dedicating oneself’s to improving upon them with vigor. In 12 short months. It helps that January is preceded by December, the month of all decadence–emotional eating, emotional drinking, emotional shopping. Nothing sets you up for contemplating poor choices like being hungover and bloated on your couch on January 1 and then checking your credit card balance.

This January is the first January that I can ever recall in which I came out financially ahead. Now don’t get too jazzed. I didn’t magically pay off my debt with a wave of my fairy wand. (In truth, I think my fairy wand is broken…sad….) What I mean is that I planned for the holiday cost bumps. I used my credit cards, yes. And then I immediately paid them off.  I made “unplanned” purchases, yes. And I paid for them from the plush fund I had set up for holiday spending. So my credit card balance as of January 1 (and now January 11) is less than it was on December 1. I truly don’t think this has ever happened before in all the years that I have been a credit card holder.

So I am freaking PROUD. I am proud and pleased and grateful that this January I will not be falling down into the debt depression rabbit hole that I typically fall into when my credit card has escalated. No ma’am! I’m a woman on mission. And this small victory is all the positive motivation that I need to keep moving forward, aggressively and wisely, towards freedom from my debt.

Watch out! I’m on fire!!

A very long post about money

I have struggled with money since college. But I never realized that I struggled with money until I moved away from home and had my first big girl job with benefits and retirement plans and dental (oh my!). For me, the light bulb moment happened when I had to go to the emergency room. The visit, the meds, and the many many follow-ups that resulted had to go on my credit card. They had to because I had maxed out what little savings I had by moving for my job. That was the big great oof of my financial life. This was December 2011.

 

Since that moment, I have been searching for ways to be better with money. In retrospect, I failed. I know this because in January 2012 I decided to get smart and write down what I spent. I tracked it all in spreadsheets. And then never looked at it again. However, as I have been tweaking my financial plans, I have looked back at those old documents. And boy did I notice an epic surprise. In January 2012 my credit card debt levels were around $5000. Not great. But not abominable. Especially since, as I just said, 2012 was going to be all about the big financial fix! So how did I do? Well, let’s look at January 2013, shall we? My credit card debt was just under $9000. WHAT!

 

Despite this blunder, I have managed to make significant progress on debt reduction this past year, getting my credit card balances back down to where they began two years ago. But having wasted 2 years of my life, I have been thinking alot lately about why, when I thought I was in “get my shit together” mode, I managed to overspend so much.

 

The answer: my psychological relationship with money.

 

I have a terrible relationship with money. I am not sure how or where it started, but’s it’s real and it’s deep and it’s incredibly unhealthy. It’s the boyfriend who pinches your hip and says, “Time to lay off the donuts!”. It’s the well-meaning but harsh mother who constantly bemoans your lack of relationship and comments on the barrenness of your womb in public. Not good.

 

So I am trying to repair the damage and build a healthy cozy relationship with my money. One where we respect one another’s opinions and vantage points. Where we support each other’s career moves and personal choices without judgement. Where we bring each other cups of hot cocoa on cold winter days “just because”.

 

Step one: change my language around money. For me, the words “budget” and “debt reduction” are associated with negative feelings and deprivation. To be on a “budget” means living without. It means restriction. It means passing on all the things that I think provide a full and rich life. The idea of “debt reduction” echoes through my brain like a mean old school marm scolding me for my impractical choices. It’s the doctor telling me to lose those extra 10 lbs. It too means restriction and denial of my instinctive wants (a.k.a., donuts).

 

Most people can handle these negative words just fine. But I can’t. I hear them, and like a stubborn three year old who refuses to adhere to bedtime, I shout back at my subconscious “I DON’T WANNA!”. I devolve into the “treat yourself” mentality, where a bad day at work or the grief of difficult break up yields additional interest collecting on a credit card. It’s more destructive than soothing. (And just in case you were wondering, I have the same type of psychological relationship with the word “diet”).

 

So taking a nod from the Positive Psychology movement, I have decided to reframe the language I use to talk about my personal finances. I choose to use words and phrases that put an empowered spin on my financial situation. My “budget” has been renamed my “financial plan”. And my “debt reduction strategy” is now my “road map to financial freedom”. These phrases sound fluffy and have a lot of syllables between them. It’s been difficult to implement and stick to it. But there is something profound in saying no to lattes out with my co-workers because “it’s just not in my financial plan right now”. The other nice thing is that these phrases are not just limitted to describing my primary financial goal (debt elimination) but they expand to fit the next steps in my journey–building up an emergency fund, funding my retirement, saving for law school, saving for a house, and saving so that I can someday achieve financial independence.

What about you? How do you feel about the language of money? Are you renaming your “budget” too?