Become a Millionaire: The Value of Investing

Money

I’m sure you can follow many different paths to become a millionaire, but if you don’t win the lottery or inherit a sizeable trust fund then you’ll probably need to earn money and learn how to invest it.

That’s how I plan to reach millionaire status. I applied for my first job before I was old enough to drive a car or even attain a learner’s permit. Luckily there were a few local businesses within walking distance of my parent’s house. I put on the nicest interview clothes I could find, (a peasant skirt and lace blouse), and knocked on the door of the first business I reached. I was hired on the spot.

I earned minimum wage, which I think was just over $4.00 at the time, and worked eight hours during the summer and three hours every day after school. My parents stressed the importance of good grades, but I also enjoyed the job and loved receiving a paycheck every two weeks.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in counting and saving my money. My brother bought something new every time he cashed his paycheck, but I did just the opposite. I deposited every check and carefully watched the numbers grow in my bank book.

I am a born saver with the innate ability to defer gratification for incredibly long periods of time. Want to fix up the bathroom? No, I’ll wait twelve years. The kitchen? Let’s make it fifteen. The bigger the expense the longer I seem to defer it.

In retrospect this isn’t always the best decision, but for most of my life it is the decision I have made. Rather than spending my money I set it aside and around the age of nineteen I began investing it in a random assortment of individual stocks.

After graduation I continued investing heavily, this time in my 401(k). For twelve years I diligently contributed as much as I could to that account and eventually reached the point where I could set aside the yearly maximum amount. Over that span of time I saved $155,000.

I think this is one of the reasons automatic savings is so valuable. You start out small and increase the percentage ever so slightly with every raise and wham twelve years later you wind up with a large chunk of change!

Thanks to favorable markets and an aggressive investment portfolio that account is currently worth $500,000, so I’m half way to millionaire status!

How do you save and invest? How close are you to reaching one million?

July 24, 2016 at 10:18 PM Leave a comment

Before Hitting the Road

Before Hitting the Road

There is nothing like a road trip. It doesn’t matter if it is just you, just you and the girls, just you, the girls, and the dog… You get the idea. There is something about the open road that makes a person feel free.

It’s not just freedom. There is also the spirit of adventure. A road trip is the easiest way to inject a little adventure into an unadventurous person. The possibilities are invigorating. You can go straight ahead until you arrive at your predetermined destination. Or you can veer off onto an interesting looking side street and find the best greasy-spoon patty melt the world has never heard of.

But as great as road trips are, they can also go south really fast. (Why do we associate bad things with the South?) Anyway… Regardless of what direction you are traveling in, you are on a highway to hell if you do not make certain preparations before backing out of the driveway. Here are a few of the things you need to do before putting your Chevy into gear:

Update Your Insurance

Is this one of those trips where you are doing all the driving? Or will fellow travelers be sharing the load? Even if you are not slated to do any of the driving, you should update your insurance and make sure it is okay for you to drive if you are needed to take a shift.

If you have been in an accident that was your fault without insurance, you are going to need SR22 insurance before you hit the road. There are a handful of other situations where it might be required.

Cheap SR22 insurance is easy to find if you know where to look. This type of insurance is less a punishment, and more a guarantee of responsibility. On a road trip, the primary driver may have some type of emergency that requires you to take over driving duties. If there is even a chance you might be called upon to take the big chair, update your insurance before hitting the road.

Get a Tuneup

No one needs to get a tuneup every time they go to the grocery store, unless, that is, their grocery store is 500 miles away. The whole idea of a road trip is that you will be doing a lot of sustained driving in your vehicle. All those miles can be hard on the engine. Even if you don’t need a tuneup, it is less about the tuneup, and more about getting your vehicle checked before putting it through the wear and tear of a long road trip.

Before taking off:

  • Check your oil
  • Check your lights and signals
  • Check your windshield wipers

You are obviously going to take care of the big things. But it is often the little things that can leave you stranded, or earn you a ticket. A busted turn signal can cause an accident. So can ineffective windshield wipers. Fail to change your oil in just the wrong circumstances, and you will be spending the better part of your road trip waiting on a tow truck.

Map It Out

The GPS built into your smartphone is pretty good, regardless of what company made it. But technology can let you down if you forget its limitations.

That magical GPS still needs a signal. Lose that signal, and you are lost in the middle of nowhere. That GPS is also associated with a device with a battery that has no qualms about dying on you in the middle of the day. Don’t forget the car charger.

Even then, the safe thing is to always keep a Thomas guide in the trunk, just in case. If you have a printer, print out your route before leaving. And put the printout in the glove box: (a compartment that almost never contains gloves).

Don’t count on road signs to show you all the interesting places along the way. When mapping out your trip, be sure to highlight a few points of interest. With your eyes on the road, you can’t afford to be fiddling with the software on your phone.

Insure it. Tune it. And map it. Do this before you leave and you will find that the journey is the destination.

 

July 14, 2016 at 11:07 PM Leave a comment

When an emergency occurs where will you turn for money?

  • All views are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Discover Products Inc. and its affiliates

Spilled Medicine

A wave of anxiety washed over me as I walked into the examination room. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I knew something just didn’t feel right. For days I had an overwhelming desire to just stay in bed. I lost the energy to leave the house or even move around inside of it. I felt the utter lethargy of the flu without any other flu-like symptoms. I wasn’t feverish. I had no cough and my nose wasn’t runny.

I sat in front of the doctor and calmly listed out my symptoms. I told her my back, arm and shoulder were aching and most importantly that I was physically worn out. I was exhausted by a simple day of work, which involved little to no activity. I was unable to draw in a deep breath and it felt like a heavy weight was pressed against my chest. The doctor sent me for a chest x-ray, but the tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary. I was told a clear x-ray meant I had “absolutely nothing to worry about.”

No further tests were ordered. No follow-up appointments were scheduled. Despite the doctor’s reassurance my health quickly took a turn for the worse. I returned to that same office two days later and begged that same doctor to help me. As she began to dismiss my symptoms I pulled off my shirt and revealed the bright blue veins that traversed my chest. “This is not normal,” I said in a shaky voice. She looked me in the eye and said, “You are only twenty-seven, I’m sure this is nothing.” Again she sent me off with a wave of her hand and a referral to see a specialist. The specialist didn’t have an appointment available for over three weeks, but it turns out I couldn’t wait that long for an answer.

Early the next morning I walked to the basement to wash clothes and found myself unable to climb back upstairs. I sat down unable to catch my breath and sobbed. Something was most definitely wrong. My husband drove me to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with a life threatening condition that required immediate medical attention. I learned three lessons from that experience:

  1. Always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
  2. Illness and medical conditions can strike anyone at any time. Unfortunately age will not make you immune to them.
  3. If a doctor dismisses the urgency of your symptoms find another doctor or go to the emergency room (that trip to the ER saved my life!).

Within a week of my ER visit the first medical bill arrived in the mail. Luckily I had amazing health insurance, but even with insurance I owed over $8,000 for doctors visits and medical treatment that spanned a six-month period.

Calculator

It’s easy to see how one unexpected injury or illness can wipe out your savings and land you in a sea of unpaid medical bills. You’ll spend whatever it takes to get better, but without solid financial planning debts can easily mount around you.

What if you fall unexpectedly ill? Do you have an emergency fund large enough to cover a medical crisis? If not, where would you turn for money if an emergency occurs?

Many people use credit cards, home equity loans and even get help from friends and family, but what if none of these are available when you find yourself in need? What do you do when you don’t have the money to pay your bills? Where do you go in emergencies? Discover Personal Loans may be the answer. Discover Personal Loans can be an ideal solution for individuals with good credit and a strong financial history. With no origination fees you’ll receive 100% of your approved  loan amount. You get competitive, fixed rates, (starting as low as 6.99% up to 24.99%), with flexible payment options to help you reach your goals. Check out this video to learn more. Interested in applying but not sure where to begin? Use the online calculator to estimate your monthly payments and see which loan terms will best fit your needs. If you need additional guidance Discover Personal Loans 100% U.S. based loan specialists can help you decide which loan term works best and how quickly you want to pay it off.

You can find out more about Discover Personal Loans on FacebookTwitter and see educational videos on YouTube!

So what do you think? Are you financially prepared for an unexpected medical crisis or other emergency?

Be sure to visit the Discover brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

July 11, 2016 at 10:45 AM Leave a comment

Feeling Sentimental About Toys: It’s Hard to Let Go

rocking horse

This weekend I removed a large, wooden rocking horse from our house and then I cried. My oldest didn’t play on that horse very often, but I still felt very sentimental about it. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t figure out why, but as I sat in the space where it used to reside a sadness washed over me.

The horse was quite large and when my son was small it sat in between the dormers of my bedroom. From the time my son was an infant we read books, (without fail), every morning. I kept two boxes of books on a dresser in my bedroom and when he got old enough he would go to the boxes, pick out three books (always three), and then crawl into bed with me. Sometimes he would climb down and request three more and other times he would head off to rock on that horse, but every morning as I waited for him to choose books I would watch him and see that horse out of the corner of my eye.

At some point my son’s pattern changed, as all children’s patterns do. One morning he didn’t request three books or climb into bed, but the rocking horse remained in my room.

That rocking horse marked my son’s growth in a strange way. In the beginning my son could barely reach the top of the horse’s head. Then he could reach the head but barely reach his leg up over the seat. Then he could get his leg over the seat, but barely touch the base of the horse with his feet. Then he could touch the base and just like that he could easily climb aboard and rock back and forth as quickly as he wanted to.

After my second child was born the horse moved into a different part of the house and has moved around a few times since then. My youngest will sometimes reach up and touch the horse’s mane or tail, but otherwise doesn’t show much interest in him. A few days ago he looked as if he wanted to ride, so I picked him up and placed him on the seat, but as soon as he was up he wanted to go back down.

The horse took up a lot of space in our house. When we sat on the floor to play with cars or trains or board games it always seemed slightly in the way. I moved it to the corners of the room or next to the wall but it was so big it always seemed to find its way back into our play spaces.

A few weeks ago my husband, (who believes we should get rid of 90% of the toys in our home), said it was time for that horse to go. He hauled it out of the basement and up the steps and I cried as he did so.

I cried with the realization that children grow quickly. I cried because that horse was strangely tied to a happy time of cuddling and reading books with my oldest. I cried because I felt I was denying my youngest the privilege of owning and using that toy.

And yet, in my heart, I knew that the toy was taking up space and that it simply wasn’t being used often enough to warrant its stay. So with that realization we took it out of the house and I said goodbye.

My oldest still loves to read books. If I take him to the library he’ll ask me to read the same books we brought home fifty times in a row. He asks me to read during breakfast and lunch and often sits on the couch with me to snuggle and read, but none of those occasions feels quite the same as the memory of that little boy, dressed in a sleeper, crawling into bed to read with me.

The horse had absolutely nothing to do with those books or that time in our lives, other than the fact that it sat in between the dormers of my bedroom. Yet, somehow my brain connected the two.

My youngest, who just turned sixteen months, didn’t start out a reader, but he is suddenly climbing into my lap and handing books to me. There is no place I’d rather be than resting my cheek against my son’s soft hair as I feel the weight of his tiny body against my legs and chest.

It is a reminder that this phase of plopping in my lap will also come to an end one day. A reminder that my children grow and become better, more competent humans every day, but a piece of me still yearns for those snuggling babies.

July 10, 2016 at 11:21 PM Leave a comment

Travel Channel Opportunity

Travel_Channel_2002

A producer from the Travel Channel reached out to me with an interesting opportunity:

Hello! My name is Jennifer Wolfe and I am a producer on a popular hotel makeover show on the Travel Channel. I am looking to speak with possible investors interested in purchasing a property in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This would be a real-life investment opportunity filmed on camera. If interested please contact me for more information at JWolfe@atlasmediacorp.com. Thank you!

July 10, 2016 at 6:01 PM Leave a comment

The Daily Cycle of Stuff: Lessons for My 4 Year Old

trains

I spend a lot of my day moving things from Point A to Point B. I move the dishes from the cabinet, to the table, to the dishwasher and back to the cabinet every evening, only to start all over again tomorrow. I move the clothes from the drawers, to the kitchen table, to my children’s bodies, to the washing machine, to hangers in the basement and back to their drawers within a day or so.

This is life; perpetually moving things from one place to another. The same can be said of so many things. The towels that we use to dry our bodies, the books we read, the toys my children play with.

We take them out, do something with them, move them, move them again and finally start back wherever it was we began.

As a stay-at-home parent I spend a good portion of my day putting things back where they belong. Much of this is to blame on my fifteen month old who likes to dump the contents of each and every toy box onto the floor, spend two seconds looking at the items on the floor and then moving on to the next unsuspecting box.

After spending a few hours alone with our kids my husband asked me to downsize their toy collection. With the little guy dumping everything onto the floor my husband could barely see the carpet below his feet.

This time I recruited the help of my four year old and it went surprisingly well! I explained that his dad and I wanted him to look carefully through his belongings. I said, “some toys you play with a lot, some a little and some you almost never touch. Our goal is to figure out which toys you really love.”

I also told him that he often receives toys from friends and family. I explained that people think long and hard about what to buy him, but sometimes he doesn’t find the toy very fun to play with and when that happens its okay to pass it on to another child who might enjoy it more than he does.

We also talked about how its important to get rid of toys we don’t play with so we have plenty of room to enjoy the toys we love. After all we can’t build a Lego city if we don’t have room on the floor. We need to get rid of unwanted toys to make space for fun.

Then I explained the process we would follow. I would pull each toy off of the shelf and he would analyze just how much he loved, liked or honestly didn’t care much for it.

I thought he might say he loved everything, but he contemplated each item for just a second or two and then placed it in the appropriate pile.

He genuinely wanted to pass his toys on to someone else who might like them more. He also realized that it was more important to pick through the toys himself. This made sure Mommy and Daddy didn’t accidentally donate a favorite item.

Sometimes he got distracted by a newfound toy. He’d take it to the floor and start to play, but I was adamant that we finish our analysis before any playing could begin. Once he realized I was serious he moved more quickly through the toys so he could get back to playing. An hour later we had a box and a half of unwanted toys ready to leave the house.

Best of all he was proud that he helped weed out the toys. When my parents arrived a few days later he proudly told them “We got rid of a bunch of toys. From now on we’re only keeping the ones I really love to play with!”

June 17, 2016 at 11:33 PM Leave a comment

Finding Myself Again

Hangers

As part of my fanatical decluttering I gave away the majority of my wardrobe. To be honest I grew tired of looking at drawers full of clothes that didn’t seem to fit properly anymore. Some items didn’t really suit my taste and others were from a time long gone by.

There were those button down shirts that I bought back in 1999, (the year after I graduated from college,) and beautiful dresses that I never had an occasion special enough to wear, but there were also many articles of clothing that simply didn’t feel right when I put them on. I blame that on pregnancy, nursing and let’s be honest just not exercising as often as I should.

After two pregnancies and many months nursing the clothes I did wear were stretched out and threadbare. I liked the comfort of my pull-down nursing tops. They made it so easy to feed my sons without having to lift my shirt or remove any clothing. For years I allowed that convenience and comfort to outweigh that frumpy feeling.

But recently I started going to the gym late at night long after the boys are in bed. It’s a way to get out of the house for an hour or so, alone and uninterrupted. Some people go to the gym to get fit or to lose weight. I’m simply not sure where else to go late at night; free from the constant neediness of my children.

Of course, exercise has helped me shed a few pounds and while I’ve only lost five or ten it seems I’ve lost all of it right around my middle. My pants are suddenly slipping off my hips and my shirts are hanging strangely from my body.

The weight loss is great, but the best thing about my new found late night independence is that I am beginning to feel like myself again. After leaving my job to stay home with the boys my persona became “all about mom”, but after four long and happy years, it’s now time to turn the focus back to myself.

Of course the result of losing weight is the need for a new wardrobe. I don’t need a ton of clothes, but I do need items in just about every category; new pants, shirts, shirts and dresses. I started my search online, looking for sales and adding coupon and promotion codes from places like PromoPro.com. I also ventured to outlet stores and even the local mall in search of new items.

Of course, I worry about making the same fashion mistakes all over again. Will I end up with drawers and hangers full of clothes that I’ll never wear? To be safe I’m keeping all of my receipts and noting the deadline for returns. I’m also consulting my husband and mom for advice. I plan to try on things and get a thumbs up before removing any tags.

I’ve never really been the kind of girl who gives fashion much thought, so it feels strange to stand in front of a full length mirror assessing how clothes fit three of the last four days. Despite the odd feeling I know I must press on.

When all is said and done I hope to get rid of the last few stretched out, baggy pants and shirts that are now much too big for me. It’s time to focus on feeling better, looking better and getting back to me. The “me” that has an identity outside of “mom.”

June 2, 2016 at 3:43 PM 1 comment

Cash Back Credit Cards, A Better Option

Credit cards are a great way to improve your credit. If you use them properly, they also offer a way to handle unexpected repairs or expenses. Before you apply for just any credit card, it’s best to research several different types to figure out which one benefits you the most.

Some credit cards offer a low introductory interest rate or no interest for the first six months. If you have another card with a high balance that you want to transfer over, then having this type of card makes sense. Other cards give you credits in air miles, which is great for someone who travels. Yet, if you’re not going to rack up the miles, the benefit of the points may take years to show results.

Cash back credit cards can work on any income. You can use the card for your groceries, gas and essentials each month and then pay the bill in full and start again. The advantage to using this type of card is that you’re using it for things you are already purchasing. Many pay an average of 1.5 percent cash back on purchases with some offering a higher earning on select categories that change every few months. It’s important to note that the companies that offer the best cash back credit cards do require you to spend around $500.00 per month to receive the cash back. If you use the card regularly, you can earn anywhere from $300.00 to $600.00 a year. You can use this money for a big ticket item or tuck it away in your savings account.

A credit card can have lasting benefits if you use it the way you should. You can use it to establish and improve your credit score and as a way to earn rewards. Since this is an unsecured line of credit there are disadvantages to misuse. If you decide that you want something, place it on your credit card, and then take months to pay it off you’re going to pay dearly for it. Sometimes you can end up paying two to three times the cost. You should never use a credit card because you have money available. Once you start this practice it’s hard to get out of unharmed. Not only will you gain interest each month, but once you go beyond the halfway point on your credit limit your credit score begins to take a hit. Also, if you fill one card then you’ll need another to pay for the things you’re accustomed to and now you’ve got several cards maxed out.

Credit cards are a great tool to use while on vacation and for purchases if you have the money to cover them. Some people like to use their cards to get the rewards. When the bill comes they have the funds to pay it. This is the only way you will win with a credit card. Instead of misusing your credit cards to pay for a big ticket item, save up the money for it. Just think of the rewarding feeling you’ll have when there’s no bill attached to it. You own it outright.

May 23, 2016 at 8:54 PM Leave a comment

Out With the Old, In With the New.

Towels

“Stop talking to me about money,” my husband said. “I don’t care if that costs $45 or if you saved 30 bucks. Just spend the money on things that matter and don’t feel guilty about doing it.”

But how could I stop? I’ve thought about money for as long as I could remember. “How could I spend it so easily?,” I wondered, and then I did.

Two days ago a large box arrived at my doorstep. It contained ten sets of brightly colored new towels. Our old ones were mismatched and threadbare. Most of them were over fifteen years old.

I didn’t just buy new towels. I bought luxuriously soft, name brand, new towels. I had a hard time clicking the purchase button and even hesitated before cutting off the tags, but wouldn’t you know I feel pure joy now.

Those beautiful, fluffy towels feel so soft against my skin. I wrap my boys in them after baths and my hair after a long hot shower. When I step into the bathroom all the towels are the same color and they all match the bathroom decor. I feel a sense of peace in there now that I didn’t before.

The bathroom isn’t the only place I spent money. I also bought a new set of dishes for our kitchen. A few of the old ones broke, (at some point or another), and I constantly found myself running out of the salad plates we use primarily for snacks and dishing out meals to my oldest son.

If I didn’t run the dishwasher every evening I found myself a few plates short by the end of the second day. I didn’t want to use a big plate when a small one would serve the purpose equally well.

I hemmed and hawed at the idea of replacing our old dishes, but I’m so happy to have a full set waiting for me in the cabinet now.

As I remove clutter from our house and downsize our possessions I find a strong desire to make our house feel more homey. Why should I look at ragged, mismatched towels or feel frustrated by a lack of dishes? If our finances were not in order these purchases might be a big deal, but we no longer live in a place and time where I have to worry about money.

It’s hard to stop weighing every financial decision, but I am a long way from where I started in 2005 (when this blog was created). Perhaps I no longer need to be One Frugal Girl? How much money does one need to have in the bank to stop worrying about having enough of it?

May 22, 2016 at 11:28 PM 2 comments

Climbing

7102672357_98b2b6d436_z

Although I was born in August I consider April 15th a birthday of sorts. Eleven years ago on that very day I sat in on a bed in the emergency room, unable to catch my breath and deathly afraid to find out what was wrong with me.

Every April I reflect on my medical history and all that happened on that extraordinary day. Every year I thank God that I survived that medical ordeal. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of that trip to the ER. Here is what I wrote to commemorate that occasion.

The truth is ten years ago today I sat in a hospital bed with a pulmonary embolism unaware of what that meant or what was wrong with me. As months passed and doctors failed to diagnose my condition I felt broken. I cursed my body instead of praising it. I went on long walks and cried at the realization that I could die and that if I lived I surely would never be well enough to give birth to any children. Years later, when I finally felt well enough to get pregnant, I spent months failing to conceive. And in the midst of trying was unexpectedly diagnosed with blood curdling neuropathy. Once again I felt let down by my own body.

When my husband and I drove away from the hospital on the day my second child was born I bawled uncontrollably. I still cannot believe how my body has healed over the last ten years. It is certainly not free of aches and pains, it couldn’t run a marathon or even run a few miles, but the fact is I survived two medical crises and infertility.

My body is stronger than I ever could have imagined and I have two beautiful boys to prove it.

This past weekend my son and I went rock climbing at one of those places that has walls designed to look like Mount Rushmore and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Before we left the house I turned to my husband and said “I want to climb too.”

He gave me a look that said, “are you sure?”,  but I knew I wanted to climb those walls from the minute we talked about driving there. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to feel the strength in my legs and arms. I wanted to move up and not stop until I reached the very top.

As we drove I questioned myself a couple of times. Am I really strong enough to make it to the top? With all of my medical history is this just a really bad idea?

My son and I stepped into our harnesses and stood before a young kid nearly half my age who tightened them for us and explained how to snap ourselves to each belay.

I followed my four year old over to a large wall, assessed the possibility of making it to the top and snapped my harness onto the rope.

I took note of the weight of my body. I paid extra attention to where I placed my feet and looked for solid footing before reaching up. My arms felt strong as I reached up and gripped the holds above me.

I’ve been rock climbing a number of times before. A few of my college friends would often go on the weekends and I trailed along beside them on more than one occasion.

I remember my good friend, Chris, telling me you want to rely on your feet when climbing. You want to find solid footing before looking for the next place to put your hands.

As I maneuvered up the wall I took note of my strength, of the way my body felt, every inch from my fingertips to my toes. The fear of heights struck me for a bit as I climbed to the top. My hands began to sweat, but I continued until I could go no further.

I reached the top, climbed down and then climbed up different walls over and over again.

I am reminded of the need to thank my body for all that it has done for me. For not giving up despite my medical issues, for pressing on through the birth of two children. For allowing this nearly forty year old woman to get to the top and to be just as excited to get there as the children climbing the walls around me.

May 2, 2016 at 11:55 PM Leave a comment

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