My destiny, myself

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My life has always been a great adventure—I’ve lived and worked in New York City, Morocco and the Virgin Islands, had a horse, a sailboat, a race car, taught scuba, sailed off into the sunset, screamed around world class racetracks. I put myself through college and graduate school. I have earned big bucks, walked home because I didn’t have enough money for the bus, and most of the time been fortunate to live somewhere between those two extremes. Whether it’s true or not, I believe that I control my destiny.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression. They were the first college graduates in their families. My mom put herself through college after her father told her that a college education was wasted on a girl. My folks left their home towns on the eastern seaboard in 1950 to head west because the pay for school teachers was twice as much in California as it was in New Jersey. Work hard, learn a lot, you’ll be rewarded—I absorbed this mantra during my childhood and have lived by these words all of my life.

In John Bogle’s excellent book Enough, he tells his story about founding Vanguard. He espoused hard work, doing the right thing, living according to your values. Bogle suggested that others will find rewards in doing so as well. Then I listened to an inspiring interview with a woman who described starting out in her company’s call center and progressing to the C-suite, through a combination of working hard, earning college degrees and volunteering for projects to gain experience in a variety of areas. This is the way our careers should be!

The universe doesn’t always cooperate

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But it isn’t necessarily what happens. The value of the skills and professional growth that we attain through taking on new challenges is ours to keep, but for every worker whose efforts have been rewarded, there’s at least one whose efforts have only led to…more work! You know these folks—they’re chosen first for every project. Heck, you may be one of them. To achieve our goals, we have to learn from all of our experience. That means objectively reflecting on all of the outcomes of our actions, including how they are valued by others. This was a hard lesson for me to learn.

Over the years, I’ve worked in many different environments, from my own small businesses to large organizations. For most of my career, I didn’t even realize, on a conscious level, that I operate on the belief that hard work and dedication will eventually be recognized and rewarded. I love a challenge and thrive on problem solving. It’s my nature to look for things to improve and to try new things. This is such an obvious, out-front, part of me, I attract challenges organically.  (This, by the way, makes me a perfect fit for financial planning--bring me your troubles, we’ll craft some solutions!) But it didn’t turn me into a star in organizations that I served for years. And it took me years to look at the evidence—my achievements are much greater working for myself than as part of a larger organization. Working for others I’ve done work I’m proud of, made close ties with colleagues within and outside my organization. But only in my own businesses have I been able to do work that changes lives and delights people. With our sailing vacation business, Ron and I made lifelong friends, people who are still saying 20 years later that their week on our sailboat was a highlight of their lives.

The light bulb comes on

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It took a thwarted dream, a major professional disappointment, to force me to look at the evidence. My team hatched a plan to very inexpensively address a couple of our organization’s primary challenges. We were so passionate about this project, we were shocked to be turned down—the executives said they just didn’t want to make any quick changes. It was easy for me to see the writing on the wall for my subordinate. I encouraged her to look elsewhere for better opportunities and, within a few months, she had a new job. I’m thrilled to report that she has since been able to implement many of our ideas in her new organization! It took longer for me to realize how stubbornly I had been persisting in a belief that my hard work and good ideas would eventually be rewarded. An objective review clearly showed that my ideas were not valued in the arena I had chosen. To have the freedom to implement my own ideas and do work that is meaningful to me, I had to redirect my attention to changing the only thing in my control—me!

When I finally lifted my head from the “hard work will be rewarded” grindstone, I was able to channel my energy more productively. I came up with a plan to transition to my own financial planning practice and got to work on my financial planning certification. My days didn’t suddenly have more hours…but I conserved some of the energy that would otherwise have gone in to my existing job to prepare for my next phase. It wasn’t easy! When you’re curious, like to learn about new things and help other people, narrowing your focus and saying no is a major behavior change. But my new path was clear and these concessions had to be made. It was hard to learn to say no to all kinds of things, even those that interested me. People were baffled, some were even angered, by my changed behavior. I’m not a fan of conflict—it wasn’t pleasant. I stayed the course because I knew it had to be done.

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I’ve been vocal in sharing what I’ve learned with others, mainly younger women just starting their professional careers. In my perfect world, everyone who worked hard, lived by their values and had good ideas would find the success that John Bogle did. In real life, it’s good to learn early to pay close attention to the signals you receive from your employer (or the market, if you’re running a business as I do today). Persistence is a wonderful thing, until it gets to be foolish. Take the time to look at the evidence. Only you can judge when you’ve tried enough and need to set your sights elsewhere. What’s that much repeated definition of insanity—repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome?

While my examples are about career and realizing professional goals, these truths have applications in all aspects of our lives—personal, spiritual, financial. We really are in control of our destinies…it’s just that the path is sometimes longer and more circuitous than we expect! Keep your optimism, be true to yourself, and be willing to take a detour if your chosen route is blocked. The best use of persistence is to keep you taking steps towards achieving your dreams, forks in the road and all.

Do you believe you’re in control of your destiny? Have an experience to share? Please let me know at beth@fairwindsadvice.com. And feel free to call me if you would like a partner in planning to reach your dreams (336-701-2612).

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Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted.

The precious gift of knowledge

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Over Memorial Day weekend I had another adventure in health care with my 97 year young father. Sunday morning he mentioned that his left thumb was sore, but it looked ok to me. By Monday morning, the thumb was swollen and very painful. We took a Memorial Day trip to the urgent care clinic. The experience reminded me how lucky I am that, over the course of our shared lives, I’ve come to know my dad well enough to make good decisions on his behalf. My definition of a good decision, in this context, is a decision that he would have made for himself, prior to his cognitive impairment (dementia). A good decision is not necessarily what I would want, for him or for myself, or a decision that is easy or comfortable. To know a person well enough to confidently make the choices he would wish, when he is no longer able to do so, is a tremendous gift.

Speak Up!

People never want to talk about this stuff, but it is too critical to leave unsaid. If receiving the type of healthcare that you want isn’t enough to motivate you, how about giving your loved one(s) peace of mind when they have to make tough decisions on your behalf? Over the decade or so that I’ve cared for my aging parents, this one gift has had an outsized impact on my ability to sleep at night and my quality of life. As a result, my partner and closest friends hear frequently about my own wishes for care. I understand how important it is that they know me and my wishes, so they won’t be stressed out trying to imagine the choices I would have made but can’t when the time comes.

This is a two part process: have the correct documentation in place and then have conversations about your wishes with the people who will have to make decisions when you can’t. If you think you’ll be one of the charmed few who lives independently right up until the night you die peacefully in your sleep, recognize that you’re in denial and take these steps anyway. Who knows, maybe being prepared for a less desirable outcome will keep it from happening, like carrying an umbrella holds off the rain.

Advance Directives—the legal documentation

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Letting the world know your wishes for medical treatment is accomplished with advance directives. On its CaringInfo.com website, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization defines advance directives as “legal documents that allow you to plan and make your own end-of-life wishes known in the event that you are unable to communicate. Advance directives consist of (1) a living will and (2) a medical (healthcare) power of attorney. A living will describes your wishes regarding medical care. With a medical power of attorney you can appoint a person to make healthcare decisions for you in case you are unable to speak for yourself.”

You may not feel any time pressure to act on these—you’re not feeling old and near your end-of-life. However, things can change in an instant. If you are knocked unconscious during a league soccer game, wouldn’t you like someone who knows and loves you to decide whether you are put in an ambulance and which hospital you’re taken to? Hope you’ve got your health care power of attorney in place!

Unless you’ve been intimately involved with a somewhat lingering death, you probably don’t understand all of the choices that you face at that time. Respirator or not? What about a feeding tube? IV fluids? Our local hospice held sessions during which they helped people fill out living wills and explained what some of those end-of-life questions mean. During my mom’s last few months, her hospice caregivers did a good job of helping Mom and me understand the implications of these decisions. It felt a lot different in the moment than it had going through the living will like a checklist when I created mine. An estate attorney can help you prepare these documents. Consulting with those who are actively involved in end-of-life care so you can make informed choices is worthwhile!

Find the words

Creating a living will and healthcare power of attorney is the first step. Admittedly, even though it is the easier of the two steps, I have a hard time convincing my friends and financial planning clients to take this step. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll be persuaded to take action! The second step is more difficult—you must let your nominee know what your wishes are in detail. Yes, you need to think and talk about subjects you would prefer to leave unexamined. Because we’ve been involved in caring for elderly parents for many years, Ron and I have conversations about our own wishes frequently. Stuff comes up in taking care of my dad and it’s an opportunity for us to think about what we would want in a similar circumstance…and then share that information. You’ll need to look for or create catalysts in your own life to start these conversations.

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Directly expressing your wishes to your loved ones is the best way to put them at ease and receive the care you want. I was on the receiving end of this gift with my mother. My mom was a real communicator and we were quite close. She also remained sharp and lucid up until very close to the end of her life. As a result, we were able to discuss her wishes as each new decision unfolded. Because she knew her condition was terminal, we also discussed what was to come and I made sure I understood what she wanted. She wanted to die at home, not in a hospital, and she didn’t want anyone but immediate family to see her in her final days. She wanted people to remember her as she had been, prior to her final illness. This seems like a small thing, but it ended up being an important one. People wanted to come see Mom one last time, even after she was no longer able to speak. Just hearing voices in the other room made her anxious because she didn’t want to be seen. I had to put my foot down with my father and brother who felt we should honor friends’ wishes to see Mom one last time…and even insisted that they not invite friends into the living room, where Mom could hear their voices and would feel frightened. I knew what my mom wanted because she had told me. In a difficult time, it was a comfort to know that I was giving my mom her final wishes, even if I made loved ones unhappy in doing so. This is the gift I’m asking you to give your loved ones—tell them now what you would want!

Alternatively, life unscripted

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Understanding isn’t always so easy to come by. I’ve learned much more about my dad through observing his choices over the years than I have from his words. He’s a warm, friendly, gregarious guy…but he likes to focus on making others happy. That doesn’t leave much room for talking about his personal needs or preferences. Dad is a man of action, happiest when he’s out and about, fixing what’s broken and taking care of others. While obvious and not particularly insightful, this perspective on my father is one of the keys to my making good decisions for him—to keep him active and involved. In addition, in his later years, I noticed Dad’s aversion to nursing homes (skilled nursing or long-term care facilities). After having both hips replaced at 79, he was sent to a skilled nursing unit for rehab. He took one look at the seriously impaired residents of the facility and checked himself out to do his rehab at home. Years later, my mom suffered a serious stroke and was transferred to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. My brothers and I took turns spending the days with Mom at rehab. Dad couldn’t bring himself, after one visit, to spend any more time with his beloved wife of 60+ years in that facility. This is the second principle that guides my decision making on Dad’s behalf—avoid nursing homes at all costs.

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Knowing what makes life worth living for Dad means making decisions that go against mainstream medical recommendations, repeatedly. Dad has occasional falls and his assisted living’s protocol is to call an ambulance and send the resident to the local emergency room to be checked out. Nope, not my dad. When a 97 year old with congestive heart failure, diabetes and occasional atrial fibrillation shows up in the ER, he may be admitted for observation, especially if he might have a concussion. When you have low mobility and are a fall risk, observation means being confined to a hospital bed. For my dad, one day without getting up and walking decreases the odds that the next day he’ll even have the strength or remember how to get up and walk. Without the ability to get up and move, he can no longer engage in the activities that give him quality of life—going to baseball games, the theater, concerts, shopping, dinner at our house or restaurants. The risk of the loss of quality of life actually outweighs the risk of a concussion or his other chronic health conditions…none of which the medical professionals can fix, by the way. I understand and appreciate that the folks in the assisted living and the doctors at the hospital are all trying to act in my father’s best interest, to keep him safe and cared for. But they don’t know, as I do, what is really most important for Dad’s quality of life. So his assisted living knows that they need to call me, not an ambulance, unless there’s uncontrolled bleeding or a broken bone (and even then, they need to call me at the same time as the ambulance).

I share my own stories to illustrate the importance of knowing deeply the person for whom we’ll make decisions…and of giving this gift of knowledge of ourselves to those who will have to make decisions for us. It isn’t simple, comfortable or easy but that makes this gift even more priceless to the recipient. Isn’t this a treasure that you want your loved ones to have? Don’t leave your loved ones to try to decipher your wishes from your actions, as I’ve done with my father. Make it easier for them--talk to them today!

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By the way, Dad’s Memorial Day visit to urgent care was relatively straightforward. He wasn’t happy having an abscess lanced, but he sure felt better afterwards! Antibiotics are battling the infection and he’s back to normal.

Want help crafting your own plan for care as you age? Give me a call at (336) 701-2612.

Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted

Life in Abundance

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Even before Stephen Covey wrote about the scarcity and abundance mindsets in 1989, life was giving me a crash course. I moved to Morocco in 1984. Being a young naïve Californian, I was blissfully unaware of the reality of life for those less privileged, whether in other parts of the world or the U.S.  Understanding poverty in theory wasn’t much preparation for seeing it up close and personal. It was shocking to see vast numbers of people living below subsistence level and many more just at the line. The scarcity mindset was visibly at work in Morocco, superimposed on a culture that is otherwise the epitome of generosity and graciousness. Particularly when it came to opportunities to get ahead, people behaved as if there wasn’t enough to go around. There were no win-wins, only win-losses. Case in point—I tried to help a friend get a visa to send his brother to the U.S. to study. We were repeatedly stymied by low-level bureaucrats, first in the Moroccan passport office, then in the U.S. Embassy…who evidently believed that this man’s ticket out would otherwise be their own. It didn’t matter that all of the requirements were satisfied, we were never able to get the visa. The jealousy and envy surprised me…but the people involved believed there weren’t enough opportunities to go around.

Scarcity mindset is marked by feelings of fear and envy. Conversely, abundance mindset is synonymous with feelings of personal worth and security. An abundance mindset stems from a paradigm that there is enough for everyone, therefore enough to share.

Experiencing abundance

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My most memorable experience with abundance came at a time in my life when I had very little money. We left New York City and sailed off into the sunset on our small sailboat, leaving behind my financially secure job. We had no more than one month’s salary in the bank, though we had no bills (this was before cell phones became ubiquitous). And we had so much else—sunshine, clear water filled with tropical fish and coral, gentle breezes, new friends, time to enjoy reading a book, exploring a new anchorage or watching a sunset. These were the best weeks and months of my life, and they were achieved living on a shoestring. It was easy to compare favorably the simple joys of my new life with the more expensive but less satisfying habits of my past.

Fake it ‘til you make it

Moments of abundance are one thing. Choosing to leave a scarcity mindset behind and live in abundance is a process. The first step to changing our mindset is realizing that we have one! If you discover, like I did, the roots of scarcity in your outlook, change is possible.

Living in scarcity sucks—we’re victims, fearful of life, jealous of others. If our lives look like that, there’s little risk in choosing an alternative! Let’s pretend all we want and need is abundant—that we can choose our actions and affect our outcomes. Then take the following actions:

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  • Keep a gratitude journal—you’ve heard this advice repeatedly. The data shows that people who are grateful are happier. Jot down at least three things for which you are grateful each day…and strive to name new things each day. This helps move our focus from what we don’t have in our lives to what we do have--abundance.

  • Give to others—when we feel we don’t have enough, giving time, attention, money or possessions to others is difficult, but freeing. Supporting others results in almost immediate good feelings about ourselves. It also shows us that we do have enough—we can give something away yet still have enough for ourselves. This feeling is a key to living abundantly.

  • Celebrate your uniqueness—get to know yourself better. Embrace the ways you’re different, the characteristics that make you You. Pay attention to the factors in life that bring you joy and learn to ignore the noise—what others do, want and have. Knowing what truly moves the happiness needle in your life allows you to make better decisions and feel the abundance around you.

  • Edit the inputs—media and social media encourage us to compare ourselves to others, often in superficial ways. It can be hard to screen out (pun intended) what marketers want us to buy and friends already have to make our own choices, true to our unique selves. Cut back and be selective with these inputs.  Give yourself space to consider what you want and need, regardless of the pack.

 

Practicing the steps to abundance will change your mindset. Recognizing the abundance we have is the key to designing the lives we want. Getting our financial houses in order becomes an organic part of the design.  If you would like to talk over your unique life design with a financial professional, give me a call at (336) 701-2612.

 

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Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted.

The Things We Do For Love

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When it comes to taking care of loved ones, we’re accustomed to putting their needs first. Parents would do anything for their kids. Children of aging parents feel the same way about their folks. This feels right. However, when we’re making decisions in the moment to prioritize our loved one’s care, we may be unknowingly jeopardizing another loved one’s future. Today we’ll focus on elder care. A future blog will consider the other piece of the caregiving sandwich—children. Be forewarned: some of the following stories and the images they evoke are unpleasant.

Planning for Mom and Dad

Picture this: Lakeisha is in her 60s. She cares for her aging parents, both of whom have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As her folks became more impaired, they needed increasingly expensive daily care in more and more specialized facilities. We don’t get a script for how life will play out, so it is impossible to predict whether Lakeisha’s parents’ remaining nest egg will be sufficient to cover the escalating cost of care. I asked about her strategy for her parents running out of money. She didn’t want to consider any type of government assistance and pledged that she would pay for their care out of her own savings, delaying her own retirement if necessary. Love inspires us to make decisions like these! The sad news is that Lakeisha’s parents did not outlive their nest egg. The silver lining is that she was saved from making good on her willingness to provide for her parents financially, even to her own financial detriment.

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Another client, we’ll call her Charlotte, made a similar decision. But her parents did exhaust their nest egg. In order to pay for their care, she used her emergency savings, then cut back on her retirement contributions and finally borrowed from her 401(k). All along, though she’s in her 60s, she’s telling herself that she’ll just continue working and will have time to get back on track. Then her company is sold and she’s downsized, unexpectedly finding herself out of work. This is a frightening picture! Having used her resources to take care of her parents, she doesn’t have enough to secure her own situation. Not only does Charlotte have to find a new solution for the folks, without money or time on her side, she has to do it under the added financial pressure of being unemployed. Charlotte has adult children with their own young families. They face a new burden--not only is Mom in financial distress now, she may be for the rest of her life.

Jerry has made the same decisions for his father’s care that Lakeisha and Charlotte made. A high-earning attorney, he planned to extend his working life however long was necessary to cover his dad’s care and then get back on track so that he and his wife would be able to retire. He is the primary breadwinner in his home. Jerry didn’t plan on his disabling stroke. Now his wife is trying to care for him and his father and make ends meet, without Jerry’s income. Jerry’s adult children, who have children of their own, are scrambling to figure out how they’ll take care of their parents and grandfather. This isn’t something any parent would wish on a child…but it happens when we make loving decisions in the moment without considering the longer term ramifications.

I don’t have children who will suffer the consequences if I impoverish myself taking care of my dad. Still, someone who loves me—a sibling, friend, niece or nephew, will likely try to help me if I get in to financial trouble. My love for these individuals motivates me to think through the far-reaching implications of my caregiving decisions.

Caregiving and your relationships

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Caregiving has ramifications beyond today’s cost. The time and emotional energy we devote to looking after a loved one in decline leaves us with less to devote to the rest of our lives. Like parents with small children, caregivers have less bandwidth for careers and other relationships. Many marriages would not have survived the past decade during which I’ve cared for my father, which followed a couple of years of taking care of both of my parents before my mom’s death. I acknowledge my bias, but my father is an outstanding, kind, caring, funny, lovable person. Shout out to Ron for being willing to have both of our lives revolve around my dad for many years so far and no end in sight. It’s easy to imagine a less lovable parent or a spouse less able to deal with being neglected by a caregiver who is busy elsewhere. Caregiving will stress your other close relationships.

How does your career fit in?

You’ve heard of the mommy track? Women who try to have it all but need career flexibility to raise children face fewer opportunities for career advancement. This impacts both earning power and job satisfaction for years to come. The caregiver track is similar. Caregivers may not have the energy or life flexibility to pursue career opportunities. I delayed a career change during the time I cared for my ailing mother. My work was no longer fulfilling, but I didn’t have the energy to pursue a change. My life was consumed with organizing Mom’s care from a distance and flying to California for a week each month to be with her.

My friend Sue cared for her mom through more than a decade of decline. As the years passed and her mom’s needs increased, Sue cut back on her work commitments. In the final year of her mom’s life, Sue was so depressed and overwhelmed with her mom’s situation, her own physical and mental health were being jeopardized. Thankfully, she was able to see her mom through to the end. She is rebuilding her business and regaining her strength, and is grateful that she was able to care for her mom…but what a cost!

Planning makes it possible!

OK, so now you’re depressed—sorry for the wake-up call. Caring for declining loved ones is demanding, but can be rewarding, too. I’ve had more one-on-one time with each of my parents in their later years than I ever had before. These days and years of feeling my father’s love and having the opportunity to demonstrate my love for him will warm and hearten me when he is gone.

You can reap the rewards of caring for a loved one and take care of yourself, too! Take the time, as you start the journey, to plan thoughtfully, get the help you need, and weigh the financial and life consequences of your care decisions. My local hospice sponsors caregiver training and group support sessions. The senior services branch of the hospital offers respite care and caregiver counseling, in addition to education about resources for caregivers. My parents’ health insurance covered the cost of a social worker who early on taught me to navigate the maze of care services. Are similar resources available to you? It is worth the time to seek these out and take advantage of them. Getting help is a necessary step in preparing for the long-term.

Discuss the financial implications of your caregiving choices with a trusted advisor. Get your thoughts outside of your head and see how they hold up in the light of day! Considering the options and their ramifications on the front end with an objective third party will help you make the best decisions for you and your family. Need to talk over your situation with an advisor who is on the same path? Give me a call at 336-701-2612.

Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted.

Debt--the good, the bad, the ugly, the useful

I’m practiced in the art of using debt. Like most things, debt in moderation can be good—it opens doors to opportunity. Overuse ruins lives. The consequences of having borrowed money can slam those same doors shut. How do you walk this line? You’ve heard about good debt and bad debt. Rules of thumb like these are useful to make the world understandable and complex decisions easier. Let’s start with the rules of thumb, then personalize them to apply to your circumstances.

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Bad debt

Good debt

Credit cards
Auto loans
Personal loans
RV, boat and airplane loans
Second mortgages/home equity lines of credit
Mortgage (other than primary residence)
Payday and pawn shop loans

Mortgage (primary home)
Student loans (federal and private)

 

More bad than good

You noticed, right? Most types of borrowing show up, at least initially, on the right side of the chart. Point well taken—if we generalize, debt is not a good thing. What, then, might move a debt to the good side for you?

Let’s define some ground rules for good debt:

  1. The interest rate is low and fixed.

  2. Interest paid is tax deductible.

  3. After taking all expenses in to consideration, you are better off (financially and/or life experience-wise) for having taken on the debt.

If you have overspending issues, you should apply these ground rules strictly to improve your financial situation. When it comes to rule #3, a debt has to meet both tests—it will both improve your life and put you in better financial position. That’s a high bar!

What does bad debt look like?

  1. The interest rates are high and variable, making it difficult to whittle down balances.

  2. It is used to make discretionary purchases you can’t afford.

Some debt won’t fall neatly into either category. For these shades of gray, you’ll need to make a judgement call based on your own situation.

Making it personal

To categorize debt as good, bad, or somewhere in-between, carefully consider both the opportunity and the consequences. Let’s walk through the categories together:

Mortgage debt: Mortgages are the epitome of good debt—they meet all three criteria:

  1. Fixed mortgage interest rates are still close to historic lows. Just say no to an adjustable rate mortgage loan, even if the initial rate is lower than a fixed rate loan. Interest rates are more likely to rise than fall. When your adjustable rate goes up, you won’t be able to refinance at a fixed rate comparable to those offered today. Take the fixed rate mortgage and sleep easy knowing that your mortgage payment amount isn’t going to change!

  2. Though there are now some limits, mortgage interest is generally deductible on your income tax return. If it is, your effective interest expense, after factoring in what you’ve saved on income taxes, is even lower than the stated mortgage interest rate. However, you have to be able to itemize deductions to take advantage of this tax benefit. After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) came in to effect in 2018, only about 10% of Americans can still itemize deductions, down from 30% prior to TCJA. If you’re in that 10%, enjoy the benefit of tax deductibility!

  3. If home ownership is your goal, using a mortgage to finance the purchase can make it possible. Your desire to own your own home speaks to the life experience improvement. Two factors make home ownership, and the accompanying mortgage, attractive financially:

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  • Homes generally appreciate over time, and

  • Home ownership may cost less than renting.

You may want to pay your mortgage off before retirement to reduce your monthly expenses, but otherwise there isn’t a rush to get rid of mortgage debt. For most people, this is the kind of good debt we can live with.

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Student loan debt: We borrow for education because we expect it to lead to better opportunities. Interest rates are usually reasonable. Most taxpayers can deduct student loan interest without having to itemize deductions. Our three criteria for good debt are satisfied! But be careful here! As a nation, we borrow more for education than we can easily repay…which sounds like bad debt. As a community college administrator, I saw students borrow thousands of dollars for degrees that led to very low paying jobs. (Don’t even get me started on the logic of offering college degrees that lead to non-living wage jobs…). Others borrowed but never completed a degree at all.  From a financial perspective, these weren’t good investments. However, if your education allows you to do something you truly love and consider your life’s work, then the life experience boost may trump the financial cost. Your prospects, in additional to the amount of debt and its interest rate, all need to considered for you to decide if student loan debt is good for you.

Credit card debt: Credit cards have so many different options today, they do everything but the dishes. But they still carry stiff interest rates if balances aren’t paid off each month.

  • If you aren’t prone to overspending, you can use credit cards for purchases to get cash back and earn rewards. Then pay the balances in full every month. This isn’t debt and there is no interest.

  • If you are carrying a balance from month to month, it’s debt, and it’s likely the bad kind, even ugly. If you’re using a no fee, zero percent interest offer on a credit card and it’ll be paid off without problem, that’s debt, but not bad debt. If you used that offer to pay down other higher interest rate debt, it’s even useful debt.

  • Running a balance and paying interest because you bought things that you can’t afford right now is bad debt.

There’s some wiggle room between the two extremes. Be honest with yourself about where you are.

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Auto loans: In a perfect world, we would save and buy cars with cash. In the US, more than 80% of new cars are financed. We borrow to buy new cars even while knowing that they won’t be worth what we owe when we drive off of the lot (this is the definition of being upside down on a loan). If a car is a necessity—to get to work, for example—and you don’t have cash, you can minimize how bad your auto loan is:

  • Keep your purchase modest and inexpensive to maintain—you don’t need a Corvette to get to work. Scour the reviews to make sure that the car you’re buying is going to be reliable. I don’t care how reliable the Ferrari is, if you need to finance the purchase you can’t afford the maintenance.

  • Get the lowest interest rate possible—shop for the best financing offer. Consider tapping your credit union for an affordable interest rate.

  • Buy used—a lot of the depreciation has already occurred and the prices are lower.

  • Maintain it and drive it until the wheels fall off. During your current car’s life, set up automatic monthly savings deposits to build up your next car purchase fund.

Personal loans: Credit unions and banks offer personal loans to borrowers with good credit. Unlike a mortgage or auto loan, these loans are not secured by a physical asset. The lender is relying on your ability and willingness to make payments. Because this is a risk for the lender, you’ll pay a higher interest rate than you would for a mortgage or secured loan. However, the interest rates are typically substantially lower than those on credit cards. The lowest interest rates go to borrowers with the highest credit (FICO) scores.

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RV/boat/airplane debt: If you’re living in it, you could call it a necessity, and maybe it’s good debt. Even so, you don’t get the other benefits of home mortgage debt—attractive interest rates and potential income tax deductions. And if these are really toys, this isn’t good debt.

Even though traditional financial planning wisdom says that you should save and wait to make a luxury purchase instead of borrowing, that’s not what we did to buy our boat. We bought Phoebe Alice with a loan several years before we left NYC. Though she was only 31 feet, we had never sailed a boat her size. We chose to pay more (purchase price plus interest over a couple of years instead of purchase price alone) so that we could have the boat during those couple of years to learn to sail her. It also gave us time to get her equipped for long distance sailing and to become our floating home. She was paid for and equipped before we took off and we had experience sailing her. Was this good debt? No, but it wasn’t bad debt either—it was useful. We paid more to have the boat sooner and never regretted it. What are your personal decision factors?

Home equity debt: A second mortgage or home equity line of credit (HELOC) can be used to make improvements to the home, in which case the interest expense is deductible within limits, just like a primary mortgage. Since TCJA, however, interest on a second mortgage or HELOC that isn’t used to make improvements isn’t deductible, even with the other limitations imposed (that you have to be able to itemize and the limit). A HELOC can be used to supplement your curveball fund when unexpected expenses crop up. This should be kept in tight bounds—you don’t want to lose your home because you’ve borrowed on your HELOC to cover living expenses after losing your job. Good or bad—depends on you and the specific circumstances.

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Second home/vacation home mortgage debt: Now we’re veering into the luxury territory. While mortgage interest rates may be attractive, interest deductibility isn’t guaranteed. TCJA introduced new limits on the total amount of mortgage debt interest you can deduct, if you are in the 10% of taxpayers who still itemize deductions anyway. Few people can make the case that a second home is a necessity. Debt for a luxury shouldn’t go in the good debt column, even if it satisfies the first two good debt criteria.

We ventured into second home ownership a few years ago. Mortgage rates were low and real estate prices continued to be depressed in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where we hoped to relocate. We decided to go ahead and buy a second home in the area where we would move “in a couple of years”. Then life took a turn and we moved my dad to North Carolina so we could take care of him. The move to the second home had to be pushed off.  Much as I love the place, our lives would be much easier today without a second home. What started off as useful debt is now edging in to the bad column.

Payday and pawn shop loans: Use of either of these is the red flag of financial distress. The Federal Trade Commission can guide you in Choosing a Credit Counselor. Get started today!

Understanding the role debt plays in your life can help you make better decisions. Need a second opinion? Give me a call at (336) 701-2612. 

Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted.

Cruising into retirement—time for a mind shift!

You’ve spent years in the workforce and have bulked up your retirement and savings accounts—good work! Your financial planner confirms that you have enough to fund your post career lifestyle so you pick your date. This is a momentous transition in many, many ways. Today we’re going to talk about just one area that likely wouldn’t occur to you—your attitude to money.

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Time is on my side

Our attitudes to money evolve as we move through life. Often life events, whether a brush with serious illness or career-induced stress, teach us that money isn’t the key to happiness. But we spend decades in the money earning mode. There is plenty of time for an asset growth mindset to develop and be constantly reinforced.

During our earning years, we focus on both growing our income and, hopefully, saving for later. We have lots of lead time to reach our financial goals, if we maintain good money habits (saving early and often, living within our means). During this growth phase, we can handle a fair amount of risk (varies by individual, of course) because we have the time to earn our way out of downturns. An expensive car repair, an unexpected medical bill, student loans, the birth of a child, the loss of investment value in a down stock market…these are all things that we can weather over time. The market will come back, we’ll continue to earn money, probably even more money than we make right now, and the bills will be paid. I don’t recommend it, but I spent my younger years living as if my income were going to double the next year…and I got away with it! Our attitude towards risk is heavily influenced by our focus on growth.

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New era, new attitude

Your transition from working for money to living on your accumulated assets can happen overnight...but the money scripts you’ve followed for years won’t simply adjust! In fact, without conscious effort, your attitudes may not change at all. But they need to, if the level of risk you’ve been taking no longer fits your life circumstances. During our earning years, we focus on growing our asset base over time. However, a typical retirement goal is to have a reliable fixed income that will keep up with inflation over time. Our objective is no longer growth but protecting our income source. This is a completely different game and requires a money mind shift.

When you have spent a lifetime accepting, maybe even seeking risk, in order to grow your net worth, it feels normal. Ratcheting down the risk in order to protect what you’ve earned can feel scary after years of earning good returns by taking risk. If you’ve stayed invested in stocks for decades, your investments have likely multiplied many times. We like seeing that! We don't want to miss out! How will you react when your financial planner suggests that, now that you’re ready to retire and draw down your assets, you need to move more of your money out of stocks and in to more conservative bonds…earning lower returns? It can be a hard change to embrace!

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This is an instance where I know from personal experience that knowledge isn’t enough. As a financial planner, I help clients match their investment mix with their goals, taking in to account the amount of risk they are willing and able to take. I have a thorough understanding of the underlying principles—as the time you’ll be drawing on your investments gets closer, you gradually shift into less risky investments. But for years, I just didn’t do it with my own investments. Knowing does not equal doing! Only as I prepared to have my own financial planner review my situation did I strong-arm myself into lowering the risk (as if she wouldn’t notice that I had just made the investment change!) to better match my stage of life. Being aware of the need to change is good, having an accountability partner is better!

Whether you’re on the brink of retirement or another exciting life transition, we can help you navigate the change! Give me a call at (336) 701-2612.

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Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted.

Climbing out of the overspending hole—first steps

Many of us have a vague concern that we may be living beyond our means. It is tempting to believe that next month will be different. It’ll be the month when there are no unplanned expenses and our income more than covers our expenses. There’s something to be said for remaining ignorant. If we don’t examine the details, we can keep thinking next month will be different without really having to face up to our true situation. After enough sleepless nights, though, we may be willing to make a change.

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As Peter Drucker famously wrote, “What gets measured gets managed.” The opposite is at work in our unexamined lives—what we don’t measure, we can’t manage. The key to turning around our spending habits is looking at the details. Though it is hard work, we can measure our income and expenses and use what we learn to get on a better track financially. Which, by the way, leads to less stress and fewer sleepless nights on the way to our achieving our dreams!

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Taking a closer look

To change your spending habits, first you must commit to at least 30 days of tracking every penny of income and expense. I was first introduced to the idea of tracking in the 90’s by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin’s classic Your Money or Your Life. It literally changed my life. Tracking the details gave me the foundation to live a more deliberate and meaningful life, leaving the corporate world to sail to the Caribbean and discover subsequent careers that closely reflect my values.

For at least 30 days (more is better, but you know best what you can live with), track every penny that moves through your life, whether cash, credit or any type of electronic transfer. You can use an app, there are plenty, or an old-fashioned spreadsheet that you update frequently. If you use a spreadsheet, you’re going to need a method of capturing transactions in real time, with a paper or electronic receipt, for example. Pick the system that you’re most likely to use, recognizing that detail tracking is not a favorite task for most of us.

Real-time money tracking gives us a detailed picture of our cash inflows and outflows. The details are useful come review and decision making time! For example, I want to know whether I was out for drinks with a girlfriend or coffee with a client. Did the trip to Costco include a standing rib roast for a birthday celebration or just the usual groceries? By capturing detail, I can more realistically target areas to reduce.

I admit that I’m a financial geek—I think the numbers tell a story. Stay with me here, because your next step, after collecting a lot of data, is to see the story your money is telling you. Group expenses in to categories that make sense to you, then look at your monthly totals. If expenses exceeded income, you know you have some digging to do. Reflect on how you feel about your income and spending and how it aligns with your values.

  • Individual expenses: Some purchases that felt good at the time may not hold up well in review. We’ve all convinced ourselves that we couldn’t live without an item only to find it still in an unopened box in a closet weeks or months later.

  • Categories: Any surprises here? Often our detailed review confirms our nagging suspicions—yes, you have been eating out/ordering in five nights a week.

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Decision Time

Like losing weight, overspending has two variables—inflows and outflows. In a perfect world, earning more cures overspending. In the real world, until we learn to spend less than we make, earning more means overspending at a new, higher level. Focus on your outflows. Which expense categories stand out as being out of sync—not providing satisfaction that equals or exceeds the expenditures? What areas of spending need to be reduced because they aren’t in-line with your priorities? If your overall spending is keeping you from achieving your goals, pick the areas that you want to cut. We’ll share tips for implementing your cost-cutting decisions in a future blog post.

Mindful Spending

Living within our means and loving it takes practice. However, pausing before purchasing gets us on our way. Before you make any purchase, from paying the electric bill to buying a coffee to charging a Caribbean cruise, stop briefly to reflect. Merely pausing will eliminate some of those unconscious purchases—not a bad outcome! Checking in to see how the impending purchase makes you feel and asking yourself how it fits in with your priorities will allow you to make a better decision for you. With the awareness you’ve gained from tracking and critically reviewing your money story, you’ll be more discerning when you pause to consider a new purchase.

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Celebrate the progress you’re making as you start to see daylight and climb out of the overspending hole! That progress will build your confidence and motivate you to take another small step. Changing our habits is hard work. Find an accountability partner. It’s a process to turn around our tendency to overspend. The best time to start was when you were five, but the second best time is today!

Need coaching to change your own financial picture and start moving towards your dreams? Give me a call at (336) 701-2612.

Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted.

The benefit of delayed gratification—or what I learned from a funnel cake

Implementing your most excellent financial plan can be a big challenge. Getting our financial lives in order often calls for delaying gratification…something human beings weren’t designed to do! Through most of our species’ history, the now was the priority. Leaving that mammoth haunch for later instead of consuming it now just meant it was wasted.

Welcome to the 21st century where we struggle mightily to prioritize later—think of dieting, saving, making healthy lifestyle choices. All involve delayed gratification and that delay is hard!

Why is it so hard?

We are hard-wired for instant gratification because it has helped us survive and thrive for most of humanity’s existence. The benefits of delayed gratification are so recent, measured in hundreds vs. thousands of year, that our wiring hasn’t caught up. Our thinking leads us to choose now for several reasons:

  • Uncertainty about the future—It feels risky to trade an uncertain future outcome for an immediate sure thing. Will foregoing that Grande Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappuccino today really mean I can enjoy a financially comfortable retirement in 30 years?

  • Delay discounting--We discount future rewards when we compare them with immediate rewards. The future just doesn’t feel as valuable as the present. It would be wonderful to take a nice vacation in two years (save the money) but I can see myself in this pair of shoes today.

  • Trust—Past experiences that haven’t panned out make you less likely to risk the delay. When trying to choose the future over the present, don’t be surprised when your brain trots out examples of how that hasn’t worked out in your past. Which makes me think of funnel cake…

What does this have to do with a funnel cake?

I’m motivated to be healthy, so I exercise and watch what I eat. Spending lots of time at baseball games with my dad makes this difficult. I see and smell a constant parade of food that I really shouldn’t eat. If I weren’t at the ballpark, I wouldn’t smell that warm, sweet funnel cake that the guy next to me is clearly enjoying! Instead of just giving in and having a funnel cake, I made a deal with myself last baseball season—I would forego funnel cake the first 69 home games in order to celebrate the last game of the season, which was also my birthday, with said funnel cake.

I’m pleased to tell you that I was able to keep my bargain, though I did drink some beer and eat a few pizzas, corn dogs and bowls of ice cream…but no funnel cake. My partner Ron was even more excited about my birthday funnel cake than I was. He could hardly wait to get to our seats at that final game before he started asking if he should go get my treat. Picture this—when I was ready for the long awaited sweet, he headed off to the concession stand only to be told that they had removed the funnel cake fryer earlier in the week. Ron had a heated (pun intended) conversation with the poor concession guy, first trying to convince him that they couldn’t have removed the fryer. After conceding that the fryer was gone, Ron terrorized the concession guy, saying that he was afraid to return to our seats and telling this unfortunate food service worker to go inform me that I wasn’t going to get my long anticipated birthday funnel cake. He struck out on both counts (it’s baseball season, forgive the baseball analogies).

I was sad not to get my treat, but part of me was telling myself, “I told you to have the funnel cake the first day of the season—if you had, you wouldn’t have missed out. Delaying gratification just leads to disappointment.” I was going to get a lot of mileage out of using that evidence to prioritize now over later. This is that trust, or lack thereof, I mentioned above at work.

Fast forward to the start of this year’s baseball season.  I learned my lesson—this year, I’m getting my funnel cake early, before they start thinking about removing the funnel cake fryer. On opening day, we’ve barely taken our seats when Ron asks if I’m ready for my funnel cake. I make him wait an inning or two, then off he goes to the concession stand. The guy at the stand sees him coming and clearly remembers him, “uh oh, here comes the guy whose wife didn’t get her birthday funnel cake”. He has that fryer cranked up in no time and gives Ron two funnel cakes free of charge. Yes, it tasted great, thanks for asking. But there goes my evidence against delayed gratification—twice the quantity at no cost is a pretty strong case for waiting!

Making the delay easier

Even if you believe funnel cake today is better than funnel cake in a few months, you’ll probably concede that, when it comes to our money, saving some for the future is a good thing. How do we make it easier?

  • Imagine your desired future in detail. Flesh out the details of this future you’re prioritizing to make it seem more real and relevant. I didn’t love the experience of scrimping and saving for years to buy and outfit a sailboat, but I loved my vision of the life I would have sailing around the Caribbean. That detailed image of the sights, sounds, smell and feel of the future kept me motivated at a difficult task for years. 

  • Set realistic deadlines and goals. If, like many of us, you spend what you earn each month, a goal of saving 20% this month is unrealistic. Make the commitment more palatable by starting small, even if it’s $25 this month. Give yourself a chance to succeed, then build on the success by committing to increase your goal for next month. (This is a time when delay discounting works in your favor—because $100 next month feels like less than $100 today, you’re more likely to be willing to commit to save it next month.)

  • Make it automatic. By having money directed automatically to savings as soon as it comes to you, you only have to decide and act once. It’s much easier to make one thoughtful good decision to promote your financial well-being than to rely on making a continuous stream of smaller good decisions as they come up. Pay yourself first!

  • Identify a current benefit for the delayed gratification. Is there anything positive about the delay? When I don’t buy shoes and save the money instead, I like to remind myself that I’m making progress right now in my efforts to minimize. One (two, actually) less items to store, take care of, and then downsize.

  • Make it specific. When it comes to building better financial habits, the cause and effect are not as clearly linked as they are with that other familiar form of delayed gratification—eating better. I’m reminded of my desire to eat better every time I consider taking a bite. I can quickly reflect on whether this is moving me closer to or farther from my goal. When it comes to money, the link between my action now and my financial goal may not be as clear. When you stop for take-out or supersize your cable TV package, you probably aren’t thinking “I’m spending this now instead of saving it to reach my goals”. It’s worth taking the time to review how you do spend your money now so that you can set realistic, specific, goals. Maybe you’ll see that you’re eating out seven times a week. Would you be just as happy cutting that back to three times? Now you have a specific goal—eat out no more than three times each week and move what you would have spent on the other four meals to savings for the longer term.

Even when we see the need and have the information, change is hard! If you want a thought partner to help you craft an action plan that is tailored just for you, give me a call at (336) 701-2612.

 

Investment advisor representative of and investment advisory services offered through Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC, a fee-only SEC registered investment advisor. Tel: (910) FEE-ONLY. Fair Winds Financial Advice may offer investment advisory services in the State of North Carolina and in other jurisdictions where exempted.

Countdown to Opening Day

Tomorrow is the most eagerly anticipated day of my dad’s year—Opening Day for the Winston-Salem Dash. When you’re approaching the century mark (2-1/2 years away), widowed, and have difficulty seeing, hearing, and getting around, most of the best things in life are in the past. Minor league baseball, however, in our beautiful local ballpark, still holds Dad’s interest and gets him charged up.

Making a Commitment

Almost two years ago, on a whim, I told my dad I would take him to all 70 Winston-Salem Dash home baseball games in 2018. I had a theoretical idea of the challenges involved—the physical demands on Dad and the scheduling demands on me. Keeping up with both work and baseball for five months was every bit the stretch I had expected. The rewards, though, were far greater than I had imagined:

  • I spent a lot more time with Dad than during the off-season. Baseball games last longer than the typical dinner together at home!

  • Dad and I spent most of our time engaged and talking cause we had current action on the field to discuss. This connection is precious to me!

  • I actually came to appreciate baseball by learning enough about the game to commentate for Dad (his low vision keeps him from following what is happening on the field).

Full disclosure—Dad only made it to 69 of the 70 games. He chose to miss one game because it conflicted with a Glenn Miller Orchestra concert. I missed a few of the 69 games due to work conflicts. Fortunately my partner Ron made sure Dad got to those games in good company.

Check out the story about us on WXII12 News.

Check out the story about us on WXII12 News.

This year, an informed commitment

On the eve of Opening Day 2019, I have a much better feel for the magnitude of this commitment. I understand what it will take to free up enough time to take Dad to the ball park. And with Dad a year older and visibly frailer, the logistics will be a more complex puzzle to put together. Maybe he won’t be able to make it through more than a couple of innings each game this season—who knows? Maybe he won’t be able to hear or understand my commentary this year…and we won’t have plays and players to talk over. We’ll see soon. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity to spend another 70 Winston-Salem Dash games with my dad for anything, come what may.

The Winston-Salem Dash playing at beautiful BB&T Ballpark

The Winston-Salem Dash playing at beautiful BB&T Ballpark

Father-Daughter Pact

Dad and I are both committed to a 70 game baseball streak this year. I know I can count on him to do his part and Ron will back me up to help me do mine. For us, watching baseball together is a powerful way to demonstrate love.

Need help solving your financial quandary? Give me a call at (336) 701-2612.

Inching towards Minimalism

When I’m free to live where I want, I’ll move to my happy place—a little house on a mountainside at the end of a paved road in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In a fit of optimism a few years back, we went ahead and bought our “someday” house. I don’t need my crystal ball to see that, in my future, I’ll be downsizing from the current two homes crammed full of stuff to the smaller of those two, a reduction of more than 65%. It’s time to minimalize!

Photo by  Egor Kamelev  from  Pexels  

Photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels 

Much has been written on the downsizing process. Whether you go for Marie Kondo or my current favorite, Joshua Becker’s The Minimalist Home, there’s a guide that will match your personal style. But living with less is a lot like dieting—it’s hard work to get the weight off, but even harder to keep it off. How do we maintain our minimalist goal?

Lessons from living aboard

I spent eight years living on sail boats in the Caribbean, so I have experience with living without stuff. When you live on a 31 foot sailboat, pointy at both ends and only nine feet across at its widest, you become very discriminating about what you bring into your floating home. It should be useful, preferably on a daily basis, and you should love it. Items that meet one criteria but not the other will quickly be replaced. Our oft repeated rule for stuff was “one thing in, one thing out”. Small space imposes discipline.

My personal key to living happily with less was being shielded from the vast array of potential wants and needs. (A lovely setting and laid back lifestyle didn’t hurt, either!) We stumbled on to this truth with our live aboard lifestyle. It was the mid-90s. There was no such thing as the internet or social media and, living in an anchorage in the Virgin Islands, we were cut off from most traditional media, most importantly, TV. When I no longer watched footage of other people’s lives crammed full of things I didn’t have, my material desires waned. This was a life changing lesson!

Photo by  Artem Pochepetsky  on  Unsplash

Photo by Artem Pochepetsky on Unsplash

Fast forward to 2019. Living joyfully without stuff is best done on a sailboat in the tropics or, alternatively, by living under a rock. Short of living under a rock, or maybe out in the Alaskan bush, it’s hard to envision life without media exposure, both the social and traditional forms. Living under a rock and living joyfully feel like a contradiction in terms, so practically speaking, what can an aspiring minimalist do?

Mind over Media

Being mindful of the media influences in our lives is the practical antidote to our culture of consumption.

  • Consider the sources: Take the time to think through the pros and cons of the different media you consume. Our household has been TV free for more than a decade. I was so entranced by the images on the TV screen, it felt like an addiction. We both love to read and decided we would be happier with more time to read and less time for the passive entertainment that I had difficulty corralling. I realize this may not be a popular choice, but consider it an example of weighing the trade-offs.

  • It doesn’t have to be all or nothing: I’m a social media lightweight by design. I use it a bit for business as it’s important to keep my brand out there. Personally, I’ve been delighted to be able to reconnect with old friends in distant locations on social media. Also, it’s a way for me to keep my father’s far flung friends up-to-date on his life. I’m sticking with personal social media, but limit my activity. I don’t post often and I only occasionally look at my feed.

Photo by  Sarah Dorweiler  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

I’ve noticed since I’ve been paying attention that some of my favorite media sources are losing their appeal. I used to love magazines, but when I started really noticing how much of the content, not just the overt advertising, was intended to convince me that I needed to buy more stuff—makeup, shoes, clothes, kitchen gadgets, I started to push back. Naah, I’m fine the way I am, thank you. I’m doing okay without Oprah’s favorite things!

While I’m getting rid of stuff, I’m already practicing not bringing in more to replace it. It’s like physical training—the more you do, the stronger you get. It may be two steps forward, one step back, but I’m determined to keep life more peaceful and simple by not letting the junk back it.

Need help right-sizing and simplifying your financial life? Give me a call at 336-701-2612.

Photo by  frank mckenna  on  Unsplash

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash