Posts filed under ‘thoughts’

Make Your Journey To Financial Independence Your Own

Although you will find common themes among those who have reached financial independence you will also find many differences. Millionaires come from all walks of life. You will find men and women both single and married. Some will focus on advancing their education to the highest level while others will drop out of college or never attempt it in the first place. Career choices vary greatly as well. Doctors, lawyers, bankers and software engineers may be common but so are entrepreneurs and those who take the less traveled paths in life.

Some millionaires were guided by their wealthy parents, while others are the first in their family to make more than minimum wage. Some are born savers who can delay instant gratification in favor of long term goals. Others earn enough to live for today while still putting a whole lot of money away for tomorrow. There are those who focus on spending as little as possible and those who believe in the power of earning more.

The truth is: Every journey to financial independence is unique.

When you begin your quest for financial enlightenment you may search for mentors and gurus to guide you. The first time you read about the power of compounding interest or how to save half of your income you may become giddy with excitement. You may dream of saving with no goal in mind or immediately envision leaving a job you hate. Perhaps neither of these are your focus. Maybe you simply want to enrich your life and soul in a way that seems incompatible with a 9-to-5 job. Thanks to the power of the Internet you will search for voices and words that echo your excitement and encourage you to reach your goals.

When I started this blog I was twenty-eight years old and already well on my way to becoming a millionaire; I just didn’t know it. At the time I didn’t calculate the value of my primary home in my net worth calculations. I wanted to be a millionaire in bank figures only. Although in theory I knew the value of saving money and watching it grow I suppose I wasn’t convinced it would really happen for me. I may have run the calculations but a large part of me didn’t believe the numbers would grow so large or so quickly.

When I was scrounging to save money and build my career I hung on to the words of other personal finance bloggers. I would read a post and think “that’s brilliant”, “that’s amazing”, “that’s such a good idea”, but in reality I didn’t often change my course. At the end of the day I stuck to my own beliefs about money.

This strict adherence to my beliefs has often been a source of contention for my husband and I. He believes primarily in earning power. Coming from less wealthy parents and watching my mom spend very little on herself or our home I stuck to my beliefs about frugality. While my career grew and my salary quadrupled I still focused on clipping coupons and saving small amounts of money. Through some very hard life lessons I have landed in the middle of these two ideas.

At forty years old I now realize the weight of our decisions are less about money and more about time. Do I want to waste time in a job I don’t enjoy or waste it standing in line to save $1? The truth is: I don’t want to do either. I hope that the money in my bank account ultimately ensures I can make better life decisions. Better decisions about my time and my money.

A recurring theme keeps popping up in my head as I read personal finance blogs. Rather than seeing the similarities in stories I am beginning to discover just how personal every story is. Your fortune will be earned in a completely different way than my own. While I can provide guidance on how I achieved wealth it is not very likely that you will reach it through the same means.

Maybe you receive a nice “early-retirement” package from work. Perhaps you invest in real estate, own a small business or sell your blog for a hefty chunk of change. The odds that we will reach FI in the same way are very unlikely to be one and the same.

So what does all of this mean. It means that you should follow your instincts to the best of your ability. You should focus on earning money and trying to save. But the nitty-gritty details of how to accomplish those tasks should be all your own.

Do you want to create fifteen bank accounts each with a separate financial goal or can you plow all of your money into one account and divvy it out when needed? Do you want to use the cash envelope system or do you trust yourself with a credit card that earns rewards? Do you need to save 50% of your income and work a miserable job or can you find enjoyment in working fewer hours at your day job while simultaneously starting a successful side-gig? Do you need to clip coupons and watch over every penny or can you spend wisely and thoughtfully? Only you can answer those questions.

From today’s vantage point I can view many things that I could not see clearly in my youth. Not everyone will become a millionaire, but with focus, determination and a fair amount of earning power you can build yourself a solid nest egg. Take the advice you read with a grain a salt. Pick and choose the pieces that make sense to you and leave the rest behind.

Your story is unique. Your journey is your own. Figure out what works for you and your family. If you love to watch sports then don’t cut your cable. If you love to travel then cut spending elsewhere so you can afford your airfare free and clear. If you are tempted to shop then stay out of stores and unsubscribe from emails. What works for you may not work for someone else. That’s fine. Take hold of your destiny. Do what makes the most sense to you.

Start your journey, choose your path and heck change it half-way down the road. Very few things in life are set in stone and it’s okay to let the winds sway you into different directions from time to time, but stay true to your beliefs and values and look for those who are walking down similar paths to your own.

When I began saving I knew little to nothing about financial independence.” I saved for the future, for the unknown, for the possibilities that money might afford me. Perhaps you need a different approach. If it helps to narrow your focus to a more specific goal then do so.

As you travel along in your quest keep in mind that money is important but it isn’t all that matters. The greatest gift of financial independence is the recognition that time, energy and enjoyment are just as important as dollars and cents. Of course, that clarity is easier to see once you reach FI. If you haven’t reached that point yet you’ll have to trust me.

December 10, 2018 at 9:00 AM 2 comments

To Retire Early You Must Work Hard Now

Do you feel like you live in a get rich quick kind of world where people want to earn the most money for the least amount of effort? Do you listen to friends who dream of winning the lottery? Do your coworkers inundate you with multi-level marketing scams? Do you know someone who wants to start a blog, cram it full of affiliate links and wait for buckets of coins to fill her bank account?

If you are reading this blog you probably aren’t trying to do any of those things, but just in case you have wandered here from the other side of the Internet I have a secret for you: If you want to earn a million dollars you’ll need to work hard.

Most of us will achieve financial independence the old fashioned way with a 9-to-5 job. Yup, sorry to break the news to you, but it’s true. Give up a decade or two of your time in exchange for a paycheck. Save as much of that money as you can and wah-lah you too can become a millionaire.

Here’s the truth. The majority of us will reach FI through steady paychecks. It may sound awful and boring. You may think, holy heck I have to slave away five days a week for ten to twenty years before my pockets are overflowing with cash? The answer is yes, yes you will.

So if you have to work every day stop dragging your feet about it. Make the most of your career and figure out how to be good at what you do. You don’t need to be better than everyone else, but you need to convince the people around you that you put in your best effort every chance you get.

When you are young, (without a spouse and kids), you can throw yourself into your work. Remember you have a goal to save money, so now is the time to put in the gas to get you there. You have energy and passion that’s hard to muster after you start a family. Especially when your beautiful newborn baby wakes you up at one, three and five o’clock in the morning.

Whether you are just starting out or have been working for a decade your job is to look around your workspace and ask your coworkers how can we make this better? If you want to get noticed start asking “What can I do for you?” Stop complaining about work and start listening to the people around you.

You may find out that your coworkers need better training, your business partner thinks no one cares about deadlines, your project manager is running on fumes and your boss is inundated by a workforce that lacks needed skills. You may think you are too young or inexperienced to help, but try your best to think outside the box. Figure out ways to increase the communication between team members. Get the right people in the room to make decisions and help your boss see the problems without complaining about them. With a fair amount of effort you can create a satisfying work environment. When you put in the time to make the situation better it will get better and if it doesn’t start looking for a new job.

You may not want to work that hard. If you just graduated from college you may want to hit every happy hour and go out with your friends every other night of the week. Guess what, I don’t think you should do that.

If you want to reach financial independence early you need to adjust your expectations. You need to search for friends who want to spend a quiet evening with a home cooked meal and a glass of wine. You want to walk, jog and rock climb. You can meet up at the gym for kick-boxing, but make sure it’s the least expensive facility you can find in your area.

Does that sound like a bummer? Does that sound like something old thirty and forty somethings do? Probably, but if you want to reach a large savings goal you have to adjust your lifestyle. If you want to rest on your laurels you’ll have to wait a decade or two to do so.

At the end of the day we trade our life energy for cash and if you must go to work then learn to be good at what you do. Learn to be successful. If you aren’t sure how to accomplish that task search for mentors that can guide you.

For years I worked beside a coworker who came to work, put his feet up on the desk and read the newspaper. Can you be happy with yourself if you put in the minimal amount of effort each day? How can you feed your soul when you are unproductive and unhelpful to those who work alongside you?

Find a way to be competent. Search high and low for ways to be helpful. When your teammates are happy you will inevitably be happier too. Remember that your job might not feel like work if you find the work that’s right for you.

If you want to succeed at FI you can’t expect to take it easy. Hard work will lead to raises and promotions and ultimately to a more satisfying existence. Do you want to put your feet up and read the newspaper or do you want to put in your best effort to achieve a greater goal? If you want to watch your bank account grow you’ll need to do the latter.

Put in the effort to achieve financial independence while searching for satisfaction in the work you do.

November 15, 2018 at 3:19 PM 2 comments

Avoiding Misery By Balancing the Desire to Spend and Save

When making financial decisions you probably weigh the impact to your wallet, but do you ever question the impact on your emotional wellbeing?

My house was built in 1950. The bones of the house are solid, but from the moment we moved in there was a lot of ground in dirt that could not be removed. It sat in between the teeny-tiny tiles on the bathroom floor and discolored the black and white foyer that was really more beige than it should have been. The fixtures were old and outdated and the furniture that filled the rooms were all hand-me-downs.

When we moved in we brought two cats with us. One was a sprayer who mercilessly covered our house in urine. Despite numerous trips to the veterinarian we could never figure out how to make him break this habit and so every day I came home and cleaned the walls, the floors and a couple of times the TV. Our other cat loved to jump on the banisters, dig his claws in deeply, and scratch all the way down to the floor.

At some point rainwater leaked into our basement. As new homeowners we didn’t know about grading the dirt and so the basement flooded. The second time we forgot to clear an outdoor drain that filled with leaves. The rainwater loosened the glue on our basement tiles and every week or so another tile would become detached from the ground.

Around 2001 we installed ethernet cable all over the house and electricians cut giant holes into the ceiling to give them better access between the joists. We didn’t patch these holes once the work was complete. We just avoided spending any time in the basement and stuck to other parts of the house as often as we could.

We could have tried to fix the house, but in those post-graduation years we spent the majority of our time at work. We spent very little time at home so I felt like I could turn a blind eye to the aspects of my house I didn’t love. In fact, sometimes I was simultaneously embarrassed and proud of my frugality.

Keeping outdated furniture, scratched railings and dirty tiles kept money in our bank account. With the money we saved we put down 20% on a second home. We used our income to propel our passions and enjoy other aspects of our lives, but over time the house began to make me miserable. I didn’t realize exactly how despondent I felt until more than a decade later.

In my youth I didn’t care as much about the aesthetics of our house. Although my husband and I bought our house in our early twenties I treated it more like a shelter than a home. Our cats made it impossible to keep a well maintained residence. The best I could hope for was a place to keep me dry from the rain and warm when the weather turned cold. What was the point of hanging beautiful artwork or covering the floors in brightly colored rugs when my pets were destroying everything in and around my feet? I don’t regret having pets, (I loved them immensely), but looking back I realize that as with everything in life one decision had great impacts on others.

I’ve made many great financial decisions in my lifetime and some that certainly could have used better judgement. By keeping our expenses low at home we were able to save an extraordinary amount of our income and with that healthy cushion I felt financially confident to leave the workforce and become a stay-at-home parent.

But sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have searched for a greater sense of balance between saving for the future and enjoying today. Can you feel happy when you can’t open the windows to let in fresh air? Can you feel happy when you have to walk across broken tiles in your basement to reach the laundry room? Can you feel happy when you stare at cracked walls?

When our goals had been met and our fifteen year old cat passed away we dumped a bunch of money into fixing up our house and my mood instantly lifted. I no longer live in a cramped kitchen. I can open my windows easily and no longer bother with single pane glass or broken screens. I feel a sense of serenity now that I haven’t felt since buying the property over seventeen years ago.

Now I often wonder why I waited so long to spend money on our home. While my bank account is well over seven digits I lived in an unhappy situation for much too long.

As a twenty year old I was willing to let my house go in favor of other pursuits. As a forty year old I feel much differently. I’m not materialistic. I could live in a big house or a teeny tiny one, but I want it to feel clean, hospitable and beautiful. On the flip side I might have lived in a beautiful home, but spent my days slaving away at work trying to pay for it. I suppose I could have made worse decisions.

These days I’m aiming for somewhere in the middle; a sense of balance between saving and spending. I don’t need to live as though I’ll never live another day, but I don’t need to keep it all locked up in the bank either.

November 13, 2018 at 5:10 PM 4 comments

My Thoughts on Blogging – Blogging Over A Decade

I bought my first house at age twenty-two. When I bought my second house at the ripe old age of twenty-seven I didn’t tell a soul other than my parents and my in-laws. I didn’t tell my brother, my friends or my co-workers. I didn’t want to sound like I was bragging and most importantly I had plenty of friends who were struggling to pay their rent and grocery bills. I wrote about my purchases on this blog, starting in 2006, but in the real world I remained quiet about my financial victories.

I was twenty-eight when I began to write here, which is a long cry from the year 2018 where I now sit and type this in my early forties. These days the Internet is full of boastful stories and social media is ripe with so called “friends” sharing their success stories.

In 2006 most bloggers didn’t start a blog to make money. Blogs were simply online journals that allowed us to connect with others who had similar ideas. Get Rich Slowly was the first personal finance blog I started to read and like most readers I connected to J.D. Roth because his stories were so “personal.” When J.D. sold Get Rich Slowly I stopped reading it.

Many of the new writers lacked soul in their posts. They wrote about the dollars and cents of saving, investing and earning, but they failed to highlight the human insight and psychology of money. The Internet is such a powerful bridge for bringing people together, but as we all know it can also disconnect us from the real world.

When I was a kid we only had one phone in the house. So when I wanted to talk to a friend I picked up the phone, waited for it to stop ringing, listened for the “hello” on the other end, asked my friend’s mom if my friend was at home and then finally started talking. If that is, they were actually home. When I graduated from college I would call my friends and chat with them on their cell phones. Now we send quiet text messages that can be ignored and misinterpreted.

When I was a kid I never would have dreamed about earning a living while sitting in my pajamas staring at a computer screen, yet I spent many days of my twelve year career doing just that. Waking up and writing software from the time I woke until the time I went to sleep nearly a full day later.

In this day and age we can earn money in ways that simply didn’t exist a few short decades ago. The invention of online advertising makes everyone believe they can type words into a computer and earn a healthy living and as a result there is a lot of dribble on the Internet. There was dribble before advertising but I suppose it’s authors had purer intentions.

I recently signed up for a newsletter on a personal finance blog that promised I would earn gobs of money from blogging. Every day I received an email with a link inside. That link sent me on a wild goose chase of pages that ultimately landed on an affiliate link for some product I could buy that might actually teach me how to earn money. I thought the first day or two might be a fluke, but nearly two weeks later I was still receiving emails with links that led to nothing more than affiliate links. Ugh.

Sure there was a lot of dribble before the invention of advertising, but back then it was just an every day Jane and Joe sharing his or her thoughts with the world. I felt like I knew the writers of many of those early PF blogs. Like I could meet them at one of J. Money’s happy hours, (which by the way I never made it to), and start chatting immediately about their kids, their lives, their careers and their savings.

A few years ago I stopped blogging. I began to accept sponsored posts and wrote book reviews but otherwise I stayed silent. To be honest I was out of ideas to write about. Readers stopped leaving comments and many of my favorite bloggers left the blogging landscape for similar reasons.

I attribute part of my financial success to writing this blog. I didn’t earn much money from it, but thinking and writing about the dollars and cents kept me focused on the prize of earning and saving. I started this blog as One Frugal Girl and ended it as One Millionaire.

The landscape of blogging has changed a lot in the last decade. These days I have to search a whole lot harder for quality content, but there are a lot of new faces coming on to the personal finance scene and a couple of older personalities are returning.

This blog felt like a book without a final chapter. When I started this blog I was searching for financial freedom. Just over a decade later I can say according to most people’s definitions, (not my own), I’ve already reached it.

November 8, 2018 at 9:35 PM 6 comments

It’s Not Just About Keeping Up With The Joneses

When you earn a lot of money you can save a lot of money. No one is going to argue with that fact outright, but I think that a high income can force you into more spending traps than you might have expected. To be clear I am not talking about people who are trying to keep up with the joneses. I am talking about people who find themselves at a crossroads where they would not have spent money if they earned less.

Case in point… When I moved into my house more than a decade ago the local elementary school scored an 8 out of 10 rating. Now the same school is ranked a 6. Because we’ve lived in this neighborhood for a very long time we have met many different families of varying professions and incomes. Over the course of two years we met four families whose male children came home crying from school every day because they hated the academic environment. We heard nearly identical stories four times in a row, from four families who did not know one another. Three of those families moved in search of better schools. One family won the school lottery and moved their child to a different learning environment.

If we earned less money we may have sent our son to the local school. We may not have questioned that choice or maybe we would have questioned it, but realized we had no alternative other than a lottery selection, which my son may or may not have been won. (Those schools are not perfect either.) However, because we earn more we reviewed more options including A) Place him in the local school and wait to see what happens. B) Move to a better school district, C) Place my son in a private school that costs roughly $20,000 per year or D) move to a new state with a lower cost of living and amazing schools.

For the time being our families live too close to make option D a viable one. Job wise my husband and I are not tied to a particular location, but family-wise, well that’s a whole other story. So yes, technically, there is a solution that doesn’t involve spending money, but this wasn’t one we were willing to take while our parents are alive.

To be honest I wanted to choose option A. I want my son to grow up in a neighborhood with kids who attend the local school. I want him to ride his bike to and from their houses when he gets older and I want him to feel a part of the local community. I went to public school. My husband went to public school. Shouldn’t that be the end of the story?

In many places in the US public school is just as good if not better than private school. In the area I live in around Washington, DC this is not the case. I visited the local school multiple times and talked to administrators and teachers. I also spoke to parents who were relatively happy with that school, but after each conversation I walked away disappointed. I found myself asking, if I can afford a quality education for my children would I feel satisfied purposefully sending them to a subpar school?

So I was left with option B or C. To move to a better school district we would easily pay $200,000 or more for a new mortgage. To send my child to private school costs $20,000 with prices rising annually. After much debate we chose to send our son to private school. I know many other individuals and couples with high incomes who choose to do the same in my neighborhood.

I think it’s easy for someone who doesn’t earn a lot to say if I earned more I wouldn’t blow it, but I think the equation is not as simple as that. Yes it’s easy not to go on extravagant vacations or buy a new car every year, but when you earn more you will be faced with questions of how to spend the money you earn.

If you value education and you believe your child will not benefit from your local school system then you might be faced with moving to a more expensive district or paying a hefty private school tuition bill. This has nothing to do with “blowing” your money.

ESI recently referenced an email where a reader said “Those who have income levels that are better than most, but still act like suburban robots because of the yearly income are not interesting….No brainer. Hell I do better than that.

Honestly, I think it’s easy to say what you would or would not do given a specific income, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I think that the more money you earn the more likely you are to review your options and make decisions based on a higher income.

This doesn’t mean buying a fancy car or moving to a giant house because you want to fill it full of crap you don’t need. This is about carefully listing and weighing options that those on a lower income might not have.

In a recent podcast Paula Pant said a parent might choose an ivy league college for its networking advantages. I don’t necessarily agree with the advice provided in that particular show, but if you have a high income it can certainly be a consideration. An ivy league university can cost hundreds of thousands more than a public college closer to home and while I would certainly urge my children to attend a state-run school I can see how those with higher incomes would consider more expensive alternatives.

The more money you earn the more opportunities you will find before you. While I’m sure some of those with high incomes “blow” their dough not all those who spend their money are pissing it away. I would bet that there many high wage earners who are simply choosing different routes because they have weighed the importance of those decisions on their future or their child’s future wellbeing. When you earn more you simply have more options to choose from and some of those options cost a pretty penny. That doesn’t mean the money is being frivolously thrown away.

November 5, 2018 at 11:22 PM Leave a comment

Don’t Let Your Job Feel Like Drudgery

In my youth I never considered super early retirement. My dad retired in his early fifties and as a twenty-two year old joining the workforce that seemed young enough to me. I would put a solid twenty-five to thirty years into my career and then I’d quit just like he did.

I started my career in the summer after graduation. My offer letter lists my salary at $32,000.

The personal finance community has changed a lot in the thirteen years since I began blogging. In the beginning people wrote about increasing their income and savings, but very few wrote about the quest for early retirement. And as a forty-one year old I find the shift in idea and sentiment absolutely fascinating.

In my parents generation people often worked at miserable jobs day in and day out until social security took over. They may have complained about their jobs but they all woke up each day and went to work. Even if they saved their money I’m not sure how many folks in my parent’s generation considered leaving the workforce. (Now that’s a survey I would love to see!)

So why the sudden desire to exit the workforce at an early age? I hear a lot of folks bellyaching about their work. They want to find more interesting work. They want to have a greater impact on the world. They want to stick it to the man. Those are all great reasons to exist the workforce, but in between now and retirement you still have to go to work each day. Do you spend your days complaining and ticking off the days on your calendar or do you search for ways to make work life better?

Many people are unsatisfied with their jobs and their roles within the organizations they work in. Now I know a lot of employees can’t change the companies they work for, but how many people actually try to change their work environment?

After graduation a large financial institution hired me to work in their IT department. I was originally tasked to work in Quality Assurance. I was assigned to a team that wrote code and I would write test cases and try to break whatever they wrote.

A month or two into the process I was unsatisfied with my work. I went to the manager of the software development team and asked him if I could write code too. I was trained to write software, but I had never written a lick of it in the real world.

I was young and eager and my manager must have seen the spark behind my request. I wanted to accomplish more complex tasks then QA would allow me. I wanted to put my training to use. My manager assigned me to a mentor and provided me with a relatively menial task. I put everything I had into those first few bits of code. I was proud of my accomplishment and shared it with my mentor. A man who proceeded to rip my ideas and my code to shreds.

I cried.

I didn’t sob or throw a fit, but I walked away, stepped into the bathroom and let tears stream down my face. My mentor was a jerk, but I quickly found that software developers are a cocky bunch, and if I wanted to write more code I’d have to follow his lead. I did and I never went back to QA.

I was hired at the same time as ten other recent graduates and I quickly linked up with another ten who had graduated the year before. I cannot tell you how many of those folks were miserable in their jobs.

I didn’t love all of the aspects of my job, but I found ways to enjoy it more than everyone else I knew. My friends were bored at work and took three hour lunches. They didn’t seek out extra assignments or go above and beyond the call of duty.

I did just the opposite. I offered to onboard all of the contractors that were assigned to our team, I forged relationships with those in production support and QA. I wrote documents to help others understand the code we wrote and made certain to keep in constant communication with our business partners so they knew I cared about their projects.

When we had down time between software releases I would discuss new features with our business partner, track down old bugs or revamp technology no one else realized was outdated.

During one particularly long draught I created an entire project for myself. I taught myself how to write batch scripts and converted text files to XML that could be manipulated through a UI.

I went above and beyond and as a result I received the maximum raises consistently for many years. I was promoted faster than any of my counterparts, but most importantly I found satisfaction in my job.

I certainly didn’t love everything I had to do, but the majority of my friends did absolutely nothing to further their careers, which only made them more disgruntled when they didn’t receive raises or promotions.

A lot of FIRE proponents say they want to retire early. Some want to leave their jobs in search of more meaningful or enjoyable work, but I wonder how many of them have tried to make their current work better.

Over the years I found that my job satisfaction was highest when I performed work outside of my work duties. While my coworker sat at his desk reading the newspaper and taking three hour lunches I would dig into the code and look for ways to enhance our software.

I know that many folks are miserable, but I wonder how many try to make their situation better. How many people want to leave the workforce because they come in, do the minimum amount of work required and go home?

I reached financial independence by exceeding expectations year after year. I might not have been in love with the company I worked for or the managers I reported to, but I quickly found ways to craft my job around tasks that I did enjoy.

Even if you plan to retire early you’ll still need to spend many years earning money in your current career. Rather than counting down the days until you can walk out the door forever why not figure out ways to make each day a little bit better?

Try not to look at work with such drudgery. Try to alter your work experiences into something enjoyable and if your current position is truly awful look for a new one. Who knows maybe your next job will be one you don’t want to leave.

October 27, 2018 at 4:47 PM 11 comments

Stealing

I walked up to the register and stood behind the man buying orange soda. That was it. One two-liter bottle of store brand orange soda and nothing more. I go to the grocery store near my home and the lines in the self-checkout line are always at least two or three people long. A couple of people stepped in line behind me. I waited patiently. For once in my life I wasn’t in any particular hurry.

I watched the shopper fumble to take a dollar from his pocket with one hand. He tried to unravel the crumpled up bill from his pocket, but never used his other hand to assist in the process. That’s when I noticed that his other hand was down by his side. He was holding a white box and had two or three plastic produce bags wrapped haphazardly around it.

At first I couldn’t tell what it was. I could only see the bottom of the rectangular white box, which showed nothing other than the UPC. I noticed he didn’t scan the box so I thought it might be cigarettes he purchased from someplace else in the store. He held it so closely to the side of the wall just below the scanner. In fact, the box itself was pressing up against the low wall.

The orange soda bottle rolled down to the conveyor belt and stopped with a thud at the end. The man looked up but never moved that box away from it’s place against the wall.

After depositing his dollar into the machine and receiving a penny of change he started to walk away. He wrapped a produce bag tightly around that bright white box and when he turned I could clearly see the label which read “Dove.” A simple box of Dove soap he clearly did not intend to pay for.

It took me a minute to process what I witnessed and by the time I wrapped my head around it the man was already gone. I certainly didn’t want to run after a man who had just stolen a box of soap, but I wish I could have helped him in some way. I wish I could have offered to pay for it or even to pay for a few other things he might have needed from the store.

This is the second time this month that I have witnessed someone stealing from one of the stores near my home. Just a few days ago two boys stole bottles of Tide from the CVS store. The boys looked anxious as they walked along the aisles in front of me, but I never would have guessed they were in the store to steal detergent. When I reached the check out line the cashier informed me that they grabbed the bottles, threw them into their backpacks and ran out out the front door.

Strangely enough on my trip to CVS I was taking advantage of a free deal that made detergent free after a sale, rebate and coupon. When the cashier rang up my order she said “Wow you got this for free. It’s too bad you couldn’t teach those boys to use coupons so they wouldn’t have to steal them.”

I am thankful that I have never been in a situation where I felt the need to steal to keep myself or my clothes clean, but in both instances I would have gladly paid for the items for those who needed them.

October 26, 2018 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Is Suze Orman Right About FIRE?

Three mornings a week I drop my children off at school and head directly to the gym. My neck and back are forever tight and achy, but I find that a quick jaunt on the elliptical machine loosens my muscles and my mind. In the beginning I listened to music and pounded out the minutes with Linkin Park. Then I discovered a few podcasts that introduced me to so many amazing ideas. Those three days of the week, when my children aren’t underfoot, I can focus on the voices and ideas being fed directly into my ears.

I have a few favorites that I listen to without fail, but every once in awhile I search for something new. This week I ventured into the Afford Anything podcasts and listened intently to the “Why I Hate the Fire Movement” podcast.

Although I didn’t agree with everything Suze Orman had to say in that podcast I did agree with a lot of it. My grandmother lived to the ripe old age of ninety-four. She lived on her own, in an apartment with little more than an aide to cook her lunch and dinner two to three times a week. I can only hope that I am lucky enough to live that long in such great health with such an active and strong mind. My luck hasn’t been that great so far.

My grandmother loved to watch the news and she loved to debate. Sometimes we agreed, but often we did not. No matter how much we challenged each other’s thoughts we always walked away with love in our hearts. I loved to hear the conviction with which we shared her opposing thoughts. Until the very end her arguments were well constructed and sound.

In the last few years of her life my grandmother went back and forth between her house, the hospital and a rehabilitation center. Over and over again she rebounded from her bouts of illness and made her way back home and while she enjoyed living on her own she was often quite lonely.

My grandmother and I shared a deep connection. Many times when I thought about her the phone would ring and there she was on the other end. Telling me she “wasn’t dead yet” and that “she hadn’t talked to me in awhile.” Even if I had called her earlier in the week to chat. I would give anything to give her a call right now and tell her how much I miss hearing her voice or the cackle she made whenever my kids did anything to amuse her.

I learned so many lessons from my grandmother. She was my money mentor and although I’m not sure she ever listened to Suze Orman she certainly echoed her sentiments. She taught me to use my money wisely. She taught me to save. Above all else my grandmother didn’t understand why people used credit cards if they couldn’t afford to pay off their bill each month. She lived in a time before credit cards. In a time when layaway meant you had to earn and save enough to buy the item you coveted.

While my grandmother never wanted to admit she was aging I sometimes wonder if she would have lived longer in a place that assists the elderly. On her own she failed to feed herself as often as should and lacked social interactions, but the truth is she couldn’t afford to move into a nice retirement community.

When she turned ninety my dad met with a financial planner who said she could only live five years in the retirement home where she wanted to go. It was a nice place, but not extravagant by any means. My grandmother had spent her life living frugally and saving money, yet when the end was near she was told her half million would barely cover half a decade.

It was unclear what would happen if she outlived her money, but one thing is certain. She wouldn’t have been able to stay at the place after they sucked up her $500,000.

Luck was on my grandmother’s side. She lived a long and healthy life, but what if she had been sick sooner? What if she hadn’t been able to live alone in those last few years? Perhaps long term care insurance would have been the answer. But like all insurance you are hedging your bets and paying a hefty price while praying you don’t get sick enough to need care. When do you purchase insurance and what do you do if you have illnesses that prevent you from attaining coverage?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think Suze Orman made pertinent points in saying that in old age we often need much more money than we might expect when we are young and healthy. You might not think a ninety year old woman would need more than half a million dollars, but as you wind down your life do you really want to spend it in a subpar facility?

I particularly liked Suze Orman’s comments about searching for a job you enjoy. I love how she talked about Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Elon Musk continuing to work even though money was no longer a worry. I know many in the fire community thought this sounded elitist but I disagree. Some of these people are shining examples of those who could have walked away decades ago.

I do think that Suze Orman misunderstood some aspects of the FIRE movement, and her delivery was far from ideal, but in her defense the RE portion of FIRE stands for “retire early”. Perhaps we need a new term for FIRE. Something that indicates the desire to continue to work and contribute to society, not just step away from it all, which is what many people think about when they think about retiring.

While I know Suze Orman makes a ridiculous amount of money selling her books and television shows I still think her message in this podcast is relevant and important. None of us can project how healthy we will be or how long we may live. While it is certainly important to live for today we wouldn’t want to make the mistake of believing we may never need more money than we initially projected.

October 24, 2018 at 4:55 PM 6 comments

Telling a Story

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write. In the first grade my teacher recognized my keen ability to read and spell and placed me in a class better suited to my talents. Every day I would walk through a door that connected my classroom to another. Every day, for many days in a row, I cried as I left the comforts of my classmates even though I knew I would return within the hour.

As the door opened I remember unfamiliar faces staring back at me. A bunch of students who knew each other well and viewed me as an outsider among them. When my reading and writing lessons were over the teacher opened the door and led me back to my desk on the other side.

While I was away I had trouble focusing on the teacher and the lessons I was sent there to learn. I felt like I was missing something back in my own classroom. One day I returned and discovered that my classmates had been writing books in my absence. While I read books and spelled words just one room away they were drawing pictures and telling stories with fifth graders. The student who sat next to me leaned over and showed me the colorful pages of her staple bound book. Inside was a story about her cat or dog or some pet that I can’t quite remember. I stared at that book and could not look away. I felt jealous of all that I had missed and envious of all of the stories that had been told.

At six years old I felt spotlighted by my intelligence. My abilities were highlighted, but the limelight set me up for a fear of failure. What if I wasn’t as smart as everyone thought I was. After all if I was so smart that I couldn’t remain among my peers, then by golly I didn’t want to mess up a word in the teacher’s weekly spelling bee. I was the “smart” girl: a label that thirty-five years later still sticks to me.

My oldest child received the same stamp this year in kindergarten. His classmates wrote valentine’s cards proclaiming him “so smart” and the “smartest kid in the class” and at six year’s old he already senses the desire to prove everyone right and ensure he never gets anything wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully recognize that being “smart” is not the worst label a child can be assigned, but nonetheless at that time in my life I didn’t want the light to shine on me. My shyness begged me to stay seated in the back of the classroom, but the teachers recognized my abilities and encouraged me to move out of my comfort zone even if that meant watching tears fall from my eyes day after day as I walked between that door to a seat on the other side of the wall.

My six year old asks many questions from the back seat of the car. The other day he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him I wanted to write a book and I told him that I learned to read and spell at a very young age.  Ultimately I told him the story of that first grade classroom. That room in which everyone wrote a book; well everyone other than me.

It was the first time in forty years that I understood where my desire came from. Perhaps it is as much about writing a story as it is feeling that my story was never told.

July 11, 2018 at 5:56 PM Leave a comment

Becoming a Millionaire

I am obsessed with ESI’s Millionaire Interviews. Nineteen years ago I was a recent graduate who could barely afford to pay for food and rent. Now I could answer all of those ESI questions myself. What does it take to become a millionaire? How do thoughts and actions result in piles of money for some people and nothing but debt for others? I’ve been absent from this blog for a very long time, but I suddenly feel the need to tell my story.

May 8, 2018 at 2:07 PM 1 comment

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