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Freedom Isn’t Free….

As we celebrate Memorial Day this week, I am thinking of all those who have sacrificed so much for me to have the freedom to pursue the American dream. I am so thankful to all of our military families, past and present, for being willing to live a life that seems impossibly hard, filled with discomfort, fear, and danger. They live in unfamiliar parts of the world, in conditions that can be primitive, facing profound danger, doing work that calls on every skill that they have – whose lives depend on using those skills successfully. I know that I could not do what they do. I could not face those weeks, months, and years away from family enduring hardship after hardship. I could not make the split-second decisions, under pressure, that they must make dozens of times a day. Thank you to everyone who bravely goes where most will not; who bravely go where I do not want to go.

It seems ridiculous to make a comparison between the sacrifices our military families face to the sacrifices that we must make to achieve financial freedom. They sacrifice their lives and we have to give up a daily mocha-chino-latte? They live in a tent in the freezing cold/blistering heat for years on end and we cut back our cable package to 100 channels? We. Have. It. So. Easy! They make gigantic sacrifices to secure our individual freedoms and we make teeny tiny sacrifices (can they even be called sacrifices?) to create our financial freedom.

It is easy in comparison. It is easy to go without a shiny object, to wait on the latest and greatest gadget, to drive our amazing driving machine for another year or two. It is easy to pass on eating out in favor of cooking our plentiful supply of food in our fabulous, safe, well-equipped, bomb-free, air-conditioned kitchens. What hardships do we face in the pursuit of our financial freedom?

The next time we are faced with a “sacrifice” to meet our savings goal, let’s let the word sacrifice pierce our hearts and think about those who truly sacrifice. I know it will not feel hard in the least in comparison.

To your financial success (and freedom),

Tana

 

It Just Wasn’t What You Thought …

Have you ever wished for something so badly and then when you  finally  got it,  it wasn’t at all what you thought it would be ?

The reality of this happens to many of us during  different  stages in our life.  The trade-off from entrepreneurship to employee is one of the hardest decisions that a business owner can make. Graduating from college and  discovering that the degree you received has not helped you  excel in your career can make you feel like you are going in reverse .  You can feel more frustrated when the  area of work you are in has nothing to do with your major.  Want to get married and or raise a family? You see other couples together and they make it look so appealing. But when it finally happens to  you, you’re are stunned that  being a wife, mother ( and career woman) is a lot more than you ever could imagine even in your wildest of dreams!

When we were  teenagers we couldn’t  wait to become adults. When we finally did, we realized  our  responsibilities far exceeded the freedom and fun that we longed for when we finally became independent. As an adult, we look back on the mistakes we made when we were younger and  wish we knew then what we know now.  These thoughts have us convinced that  our lives would be so much easier, richer and less complicated if we had a chance to do it all over again(or so it seems).

Taking a look at other people’s lives or situations often times makes us take a look at ourselves and  make comparisons. Some may even wish they were in a different place or in a  different time.  But the truth is, no one really knows what it took for that person to get to where she or he is.  For some, if they knew the journey and the struggles that others had to endure to achieve success, many  would not want to make the same sacrifices.

The funny thing is, all of us have an opportunity to be where we want to be in our lifetime. Yes, it’s easier for some and more difficult for others. Staying focused, having  faith, doing the  work and believing in yourself is only half the battle.  The other half  is being committed to the goal,  making the necessary sacrifices, not worrying about what others say or think about you and having a realistic set of expectations  of your end-goal.  You can get there, but you have to be ready.  And when you finally do get there, ask yourself: Will you be grateful? Or will you  still be unsatisfied because what you finally  accomplished still isn’t  what you thought it would be?

What Success Will You Bring to 2017?

The holidays are fast approaching and then immediately we launch into a new year. New goals! New plans! New resolutions! This year, before the hustle, bustle of the holidays gets into full swing, I am stepping back and thinking about what is important to me for 2017. I have a couple of things: 1) January is bringing a clean eating, no sugar in any form, challenge, and 2) a year-long focus on getting rid of college debt (since I will have 3 in college come August of 2017!). 2016 seemed to be the year of the house so I am sending out the cosmic message that the house stuff is done, thank you very much, and it will please remain in full working order next year so that I may shift focus.

Cosmic messages aside, I am turning my own thoughts and energies toward setting up for the successes of 2017. On the eating front, I am reading books, looking at interesting “clean” recipes and preparing myself for the biggest obstacles – no half and half in my coffee (dairy is not allowed) and no wine. I must mentally prepare to change what have been deeply engrained habits – coffee in the morning, wine on the weekend. I am trying to come up with substitutes so that I don’t lose the coffee, I just put in something else (hemp cream is a no so I will continue to experiment with other nut milks.) I need to think of what concoction will evoke the “ah, the week is done and now I relax” state that a glass of wine currently creates. Luckily, I have a few weeks to ruminate on such topics before the big launch on January 1.

Similarly, on the “pay off student loans” front, I have started to take a hard look at where the cash went in 2016. Yes, the money pit took a larger than normal bite last year (but that’s done, I say) but groceries and “stuff” could be trimmed a bit. Here was my financial review process. See if this might be helpful for you:

  1. Download the credit card transactions for the year (I use one for nearly everything so that is easy).
  2. Once in excel, sort by the payee. That way the Kroger and Target and other common payees get put together.
  3. I created some columns that were important to me. This is the most critical part – don’t get granular here – that’s what makes it so tedious. Instead, think of what categories you sense are a problem AND that you have some control over in the future. Here are my categories:
Life Groceries Unusual Dining Kids College Stuff Reimbursable Biz charity

 

I put “life” as the head of the main column because most items weren’t going to move out of that column. Cars, medical, utilities, haircuts, etc. are what they are. I just left all of that in the main column. Then it was easy to cut and paste the expenses into the right columns. I especially wanted to look at groceries, dining and stuff (clothing, books, electronics) because I do have some ability to plan around those. I pulled out the other categories just so I could see what the bottom line on “life” was. (expensive is the answer there!)

 

If you don’t use a credit card significantly, it may be more meaningful for you to analyze the activity from your checking account. If you use Quicken or mint.com or something similar, you can get to the data just be sure you are not in so much detail that it isn’t helpful for setting your goals and plans for next year. You can export the data to excel to move it around to meet your needs.

 

The main point is to see where your money is going and then decide how you feel about that. I feel that we spend way too much on groceries. Yes, I have 2 teenage boys at home but I know that I can cut that back. Dining out wasn’t that bad. I don’t love eating out so that was reasonable, but if that is a problem area for you, consider setting a limit and then only spending cash for eating out. When your monthly allowance is gone, it’s gone. I have other indulgences that I plan to pare back to make more available to throw at those loans.

 

The bottom line is that what we focus on expands in our lives. I want to focus on eating delicious, healthy “clean” food and on channeling every penny possible toward that debt. What will you be focusing on for 2017? What can you do now, mentally, physically, energetically to set yourself up for success?

 

To your (2017) financial success!

I’ve Been Irresponsible

I have heard that type of comment from clients or participants at speaking engagements but most recently it came from a friend telling me about divorce and the financial fallout in the aftermath. Yes, we’ve all been irresponsible at one time or another. We live in a culture that thrives on spending, living in the now, and has a focus on the material world. Yes, my friend, we have been irresponsible, our government has been irresponsible, our world has been irresponsible. And so it is.

So what have you been? What words do you use to describe yourself and your management of your own financial life? If it is more condemning than uplifting, then maybe it is time for a change in approach. When we berate ourselves (or others), we chip away at our confidence and our abilities. We undermine ourselves in the very area where we most need to be confident and self-assured. So the next time you beat yourself up, stop for a moment, and reframe your thoughts.

“I felt irresponsible/out of control/ashamed when I ________________________________. Next time, I can turn that around and feel responsible/in control/proud if I _____________________________.”

Focusing on what you can do, the way you want to act, or how you intend to face a situation that empowers you and sets you up to succeed. From today forward, drop the recriminations and focus on everything you want to be today and let go of what happened yesterday. We all can do better, be “more responsible” with our money, and turn our financial lives into something that we are proud of. Today is the day!

To your financial success!

Hate to fail? Then you will never succeed

Did you watch the NBA play-offs? Even if you are not a basketball fan, like me, you know that the Cleveland Cavaliers won. If you didn’t know – and are reading this post–you know now. LeBron James and his teammates proved that it’s not how you start out, but it’s where you finish. The result? The biggest comeback in NBA Finals history to knock off the Golden State Warriors and deliver Cleveland its first professional sports title in 52 years.

Fifty-two years? Wow! It took over a half of a century to earn an NBA title. What in the world was going on with the team for the past 51 years? The answer: Failure. I read the story. There were a lot of great times and a lot of failures. They were some great coaches and not so great coaches. But in the end, all of those years of losing the NBA title and tasting the bitter taste of failure finally led them to the sweet taste of success.

In many ways, many of our stories are like the Cleveland Cavaliers. We work really hard to do the things that society tells us we should do. We think we have the right team in place and we are confident in our ow abilities and our decisions. That combination alone makes us sometimes feel like failure is not option. We have our own playbook for our professional lives. And just like NBA coaches, when things don’t work, we reevaluate. We draft new members, expand our team, hire and fire new personnel, trade-in our old tactics for new ones and sometimes we still never get our happy ending.

Let me be clear. I am not a sports fan. So this is not an endorsement for LeBron James. But, I do admire his playbook and I think we can all take a page from it. No matter what people think of LeBron, he thinks more of himself. No matter how many cynics there are out there that tell him he can’t, he believes that he can. The difference between a winner and loser is that no matter how many times a person loses; he never gives up until he wins. A loser will always be a winner as long as they never take on a defeatist attitude. A winner will eventually lose when they forget that winning does not come easy and they become passé about the work that it took to become a winner in the first place.

If we pause and think about all of the basketball greats, every last one of them has experienced failure. One quote in particular is one that I really admire by Michael Jordan: I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

So, the next time you deem yourself a failure, remember that no one becomes successful without it. So fail away! Your success is probably closer than you think! Let’s just hope it doesn’t take 52 years!