While researching a magazine article on “raising money-smart kids,” I felt sorry for parents and terribly worried about their children. (Also greatly relieved that I am not raising kids today.)
The article, for Consumers Digest, ran to a few thousand words. Short form: Our children face serious money temptations and pressures, and generally receive very little useful info either from parents or schools.
They also face consequences more serious than their parents ever did. We're not talking about a few bounced checks or some other financial oopsie that you remember from your own early adulthood. An 18-year-old without sufficient financial savvy could within five years find himself:
I'm back, and I sound just like your mom: Save that damned emergency fund, already.
This week (Feb. 24-March 1) is America Saves Week. And not a moment too soon: As a nation, we're losing ground. An ASW survey shows that just 51 percent of us have a savings plan with specific goals; four years ago that number was 55 percent. (Still too low, IMHO.) Just 40 percent of us have budgets that allow for savings at all, compared with 46 percent in 2010.
The ASW report notes several reasons (stop me if these sound familiar): relatively high unemployment and underemployment rates, stagnant wages and the struggle to pay off homes. (Hint: In the past four years, the number of homeowners who expected to pay off mortgages before retirement dropped 10 percent.)
How's your life going? Do dark nights of the soul outweigh the good days? Have you spent more time than you care to acknowledge wishing for something — anything — other than what you have?
Get over it.
It's not that simple, obviously. But in order to move in the direction you desire, you need to stop being stuck in the place where you are right now. Specifically, you need to stop being the person you think you are.
In the past nine months I've found $12.89 in singles and specie. The cash has shown up in a number of places, but most of it is from coins I picked up.
As usual, I'll squirrel away the found funds until Thanksgiving, at which time I'll write a check to a food bank. I've been doing this for a couple of decades, including a span of several years during which I had neither a vessel into which to urinate nor a casement through which to dispose of it.
This was a painless way to help others at a time when I worried nonstop about my own ability to stay afloat. Giving to others got me out of my own head, reminding me that plenty of people lived with considerably fewer resources (financial, emotional, practical) than I had.
Last Wednesday evening I lost it, really lost it. Miserable heat and humidity, smog, too much walking on too little sleep, an asthma attack, dueling deadlines, and maybe just a smidge of menopausal mood swings had me alternately raging and sniveling in a borrowed studio apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
A magazine editor with whom I'd met earlier that day wanted more information so she could pitch my ideas more effectively. Due to a scheduling issue the MSN Money editor requested two posts instead of one. My usual Get Rich Slowly deadline is Sunday but J.D. had asked for the piece by Friday if possible. And I had an unbreakable, business-related appointment at noon the next day, which meant leaving by 11:15 a.m.
“I can't do this,” I wheeze-whimpered. “I'm so tired. And I'm in New York, dammit! I quit! I quit!”
Looking for work? Somebody out there wants you to design websites, board dogs, run errands, write blot posts, do laundry, deliver packages, be a virtual assistant.
Sites like eLance, TaskRabbit, Fiverr, 99designs and 3to30.com are virtual employment offices offering gigs you can pick up and put down as needed. Sometimes you bid on jobs and sometimes you post your own ad, whether serious or offbeat. (“I will create a lacrosse trick and name it after you.”)
Whether you call this consulting, freelance or “microjobs,” more of us are headed that way, according to Kristin Cardinale. The author of The 9-to-5 Cure, Cardinale cites U.S. Department of Labor projections that “millions of short-term workers” are needed.
A friend invites you for an evening out or a weekend away that you just can't afford. Which of the following responses sounds the most like yours?
- “I'd love to, but…” (Too many late nights already that week/feel guilty leaving Junior with a sitter after being away from him all day/mandatory check-in with your probation officer.)
- “That sounds like fun, but it's not in my budget right now.”
- “Um…” (Waffles, hates to seem like a killjoy.) “Yes, let's.” (Whips out plastic, mentally scribbles “self-recrimination, 30 minutes” on to-do list.)
All three strategies are problematical:
- Excuses start to sound like, well, excuses. Friends think you just don't want to hang out with them.
- Using the B-word puts some people on the defensive, as though your financial goals are some kind of judgment on their choices.
- Caving in and charging your fun creates debt/adds to existing arrears.
That's why I'd like to suggest a fourth strategy: Compromise. Specifically, to propose less-spendy (but still fun) ways to socialize.
You shouldn't ha
Recently I read a blog post so glum I wondered how I might do a well-being check on its anonymous author. “The vacation high wears off” at The Quest for $85,000 describes the aftermath of a trip to visit aging family members. Now the writer's own life feels “shorter” and the three years until her husband's retirement seem unbearably long.
It's three more years of watching our precious time on this planet circle the drain. This is what one gets when one spends every single f*cking cent with no regard for the future…I am regretful beyond belief.
On my way to the 2011 Financial Blogger Conference last year I encountered three young men who'd made a non-traditional career choice: mugging tired-looking, middle-aged women pulling suitcases.
They got me as I headed for the train to the airport, taking a little over $80 and other wallet contents. (Also my peace of mind.)
Afterward I did a mental inventory of what I'd lost. It wasn't easy, given that I hyperventilating on adrenaline and rage. For days I had “Oh, crap” moments as I realized what else had been taken: debit and credit cards, bank deposit slip, loyalty cards, library card, Mensa card and a check from my brand-new business account. (I'd planned to reimburse my roommate, who'd already paid for the hotel.)
Recently I outed myself as an occasional lottery player and as a person who thinks that lotteries in and of themselves aren't so bad.
I don't think they're good. Rather, I think they're not-too-terrible in the way that potato chips are not-too-terrible. Enjoy a few every so often and you'll likely be okay. Eat nothing but chips? Problem.
A number of readers admitted they sometimes buy in, too. But one responded in this way: “I wish the people who spend more than a dollar or two a year would put their money to a better use, such as donating to a soup kitchen or to the Salvation Army.