Archive for the ‘Money’ Tag

The Yoga of Money

The blogosphere is buzzing this morning about the New York Times article on John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga. At least, the yoga-related blogosphere is. So, I feel compelled to put in my two cents. Although this is not a yoga blog. per-se, most of my readers know that I am a committed student of Anusara yoga, and a devotee of John Friend’s teachings. And the most controversial part of the article is related to money, so I think it’s appropriate.

I must admit, on first reading the article, I was hesitant to send it to all my friends and family, and say, “This is my gig!” First because the article makes Anusara seem a bit evangelical. And I can’t say that it’s not. I have, on more than one occasion, explained my feelings about Anusara as, “probably similar to how a born-again Christian feels upon finding Jesus.”  But, Yoga is not a religion, Anusara is not a cult, and John Friend is not a guru. While most yoga practitioners are spiritual seekers, to one degree or another, the bond that holds the Anusara kula (Sanskrit for community) together is a desire for life to be healthy and joyful. Call it what you will, but that is a philosophy I can happily follow!

Another contentious subject in the article is the modernization and corporatization of yoga. The fact that John Friend is making money doing what he loves and helping others seems to be a negative to some. Huh? Wouldn’t we all like to be making money doing something we love? The “poverty is noble” idea is not exclusive to yogis, but it is pervasive and if I may be frank, it is just plain dumb. It is what keeps so many from true prosperity. How many people do we know that talk negatively about money, and then wonder why they don’t have any? Money gives us security, comfort, and the ability to enjoy life and pursue our dreams. Think about it this way….if John Friend had little or no money, he would not be able to travel the world and teach. Nobody would practice Anusara yoga, because no one would have heard of it.

Being a spiritual seeker and a financial success are not mutually exclusive. Money gives us the means to make our dreams reality.  John Friend is making money, enjoying life and doing good. Let us all aspire to that.

If you haven’t already, please click on the link to read the full New York Times article.

Life is Good!

I’m afraid that my blog is having an un-anticipated consequence…People are feeling sorry for me. In the past week, my mother has sent me money, my brother-in-law has offered me a job, and two friends have told me how horrible they felt when reading my post on taxes.

Please, don’t feel sorry for me. My life is great! I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, I have a loving husband and daughter; and we are all healthy.

I love my job. I sell wine for a small distributor, made up of great people and wonderful wines.  I am making less than half of what I made at my old job, but I’m happy and that is worth a lot! I am also confident that I will soon be making much more.  I love my second job, which is teaching yoga. Two jobs that I love – how lucky am I?

I am blessed with an amazing community of friends and a fantastic extended family.

I love to cook and write, and I get to do a lot of both.

I have a cool dog.

So, you see, I am wealthy. I may not currently have much money, but I am rich in so many ways. It is hard to remember to count your blessings when there’s not enough money. Remember, gratitude and abundance go hand in hand. Practice one, and be ready to receive the other!

Let’s Make a Deal

I have shared the fact that I am behind on my payments to my Home Depot card. As anyone who has ever been behind on a credit card payment knows, they call every day. And every day, I answer the phone, tell the representative that I am having financial difficulties and ask to work something out. For weeks, my efforts have been in vain. One representative offered me a special payment plan, that would bring my monthly bill to $139 a month. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t think that was a good deal, considering that my monthly payment is generally under $100 a month! He said that it was the best offer he could give me since I was a month behind. So, I asked what kind of payment plan he could give me if I brought my account current. His response… “Well, if you’re current, you won’t be eligible for a payment plan.” AARRGH!

This went on for a few weeks. Every day I’d have a conversation with a different collections rep, and every day, I would have no luck. All that changed on Thursday. I spoke with a very nice man, who told me that if I paid $389, and brought my account current, that they would match my payment and give me a credit for $389. Seriously? Yes, he told me, these offers come around periodically, nobody knows when or how long they’ll last. So, I pondered for a few minutes; $389 is a lot for me to shell out in one lump sum. But that, along with a matching credit, will literally cut my Home Depot bill by a third. So, I went for it. He gave me a confirmation number, but I haven’t seen the credit in writing yet. It seems legitimate; I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

The point I am trying to make with this post is, if you have issues with creditors, don’t ignore the phone. Answer it every time they call, tell them your situation, tell them you want to pay, and at some point, they will make a deal. Why won’t they do it in the first place? Who knows? Just remember, persistence pays, honesty is the best policy and facing a bad situation is always better than sticking your head in the sand!

The Sisterhood

Almost simultaneously with my decision to stop being a victim of my financial situation, I stumbled upon a podcast called Own it, Sister! It has turned out to be one of my greatest inspirations in my financial journey. Started last October, by three women in Boulder, CO, the podcast’s mission is to help women,  “Embrace your worth, embody your wisdom and claim your wealth.” Isn’t that great? Does it speak to you, the way it speaks to me? They created their show to help women get strong and smart about money, as well as all aspects of their lives. Every week, they feature fascinating new guests, spiritually and financially strong people, like Barbara Stanny, Kristen Morelli and Douglas Brooks. (If you don’t know who these people are, you can listen to the podcast archives in i-Tunes).

They have a great website, too. They offer a free download, called the Prosperity Purse, filled with tips on getting your finances in order. You can also get a free phone consultation. I had one with Whitney Wogan, and it was great. Let me also stress, this is not just a show for people who’s financial lives are a mess. It is an enjoyable and inspiring show for anyone, female or male. And, like all podcast subscriptions, it is absolutely free. The link to the website is also on my blogroll. I am passing along Own it, Sister! to all of my friends. I hope you will, too.

Wisdom of Retirement

Is it crazy for me to consider opening an IRA when I can’t pay my bills? Initially, it would seem so, but I am not so sure. And, it appears, neither are the experts. One school of thought says to pay off all debt before thinking about saving. Another says, pay yourself first. Conventional wisdom says to get rid of debt and stop paying interest, or saving makes no sense. But I am learning that financial wisdom is anything but conventional. So, I’m asking myself some questions, considering the differing opinions and trying to come up with answers….

  • Is developing the habit of saving as important as the amount being saved?
  • Am I more stressed about my debt, or the fact that I have no retirement savings?
  • Which will benefit me more in the lang haul – paying off debt or starting the IRA?

I really don’t have that much unsecured debt, well below the national average, but I am struggling to make the monthly payments. I am trying to negotiate with my creditors, but am finding it surprisingly difficult. I guess you have to get a few months behind on payments before they will negotiate with you. Seems counter-intuitive, but I may have to go that route.

I once had a very nice 401k. After losing my job, I cashed it out. Of course that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but I don’t regret doing it. It allowed us to pay off the majority of our debt and pay our monthly bills for a while. I also justify my actions with the knowledge of how the market tanked shortly afterward…maybe the money would be gone anyway? I know that is major rationalization, but I’m good with it.

Maybe it came with turning 45. I am more concerned with the fact that I have no retirement savings than I am with my struggle to pay my debt. The debt will eventually get paid. My credit score will eventually recover. But, if I don’t start saving now, I may never be able to retire.

I think I’ve just worked my way to a decision. I am going to open an IRA as soon as I can. There are some discount brokerages, such as E*Trade and Zecco that do not have minimum required deposits. I need to consider fees and commissions as well. It does seem that I can start an IRA with as little as $25 or $50 and put in $5 or $10  a month until I can afford more.

I admit to having no expertise in this area and would love to hear your thoughts. Have I made the right decision, or a totally stupid one? Tell me what you think.

Affirmations – Fact or Fantasy?

I’ve been reading Chellie Campbell’s The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction. The book gives you a specific, positive affirmation regarding wealth, for you to say to yourself daily, in order to bring more abundance into your life. These affirmations have guidelines; they must be spoken in the present. For example, “I have plenty of money,” or “I am a smart money-manager,” not, “I will have plenty of money.” The idea being that, if you speak the affirmations in the future tense, they will always remain in the future. They must be spoken as if they were already true. Sort of the same idea as if you force yourself to smile, you will become happy. Ms. Campbell didn’t invent the idea of affirmations. They have been around for ages, and were made famous by the movie The Secret. There is a distinct difference between the theory purported in The Secret and Campbell’s theory. I didn’t buy the idea in The Secret. To me, the movie said, doing the affirmations is all you need. Sit on the couch eating bon-bons and keep telling yourself that you are a millionaire, and BAM – you’re a millionaire. Campbell stresses that along with the affirmations, you actually have to do something to make them come true; sending out ships, she calls it. That seems a little more feasible to me.

So, still a bit skeptical, I decided to give affirmations a try. I did some from the book, and made up some of my own. I also continued with my other new financial practices, looking at my bank balance regularly, balancing my checkbook, working on a budget, etc. Two weeks into it, I found an account with over $2000 in it, that I had no idea I had. Pretty cool! A week later, I learned that I was taking a large pay cut. Not so cool. Now, what, Chellie? Bag the affirmations as a failed experiment, or continue and see what happens? I am going to continue. Why not? They can’t hurt. I am going to believe that the pay cut is temporary, and will lead to greater abundance in the long (hopefully, not so long) run!

Please check out Chellie Campbell. She’s an author, and a financial coach who teaches workshops and telecourses around the country. I haven’t taken any of her courses, but I hope to….when I can afford it!

The Economy is the New Weather

Remember the good old days, when small-talk consisted mainly of the satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the temperature and what was coming down from the sky?

“Beautiful day, huh?”

“We sure could use more snow.”

“I am so over this heat!”

“Boy, I’m ready for Spring!”

Today’s small-talk is all about the economy.

“How are things?”

“Oh, you know, getting by.”

“How’s business?

“Slow, but at least I’m still in business.”

“Things are sure to turn around soon.”

“Yeah, I hope so, or I don’t know what I’ll do.”

I don’t think this shift in small-talk is all bad. Money is no longer a taboo subject among friends. It’s no longer embarrassing to say, “Sorry, I can’t afford it.” People who drive older cars are looked upon as smart money-managers. Everyone has someone to commiserate with.The downside, however, is that there is an underlying negativity to this kind of talk. Whether its outright complaining, or simple resignation, most of the talk of the economy is not positive. It is not the kind of discussion that fosters abundance. So, what to do? Use this time to be grateful for the abundance we do have – health, family, friends, a home. Take joy in the simple. And foster an entrepreneurial spirit. My situation has really made me think – a lot- about how to make more money. Use this time to nurture your own creativity, and you will come out ahead.

Backstory

In this first post, I’ll offer a short history of how I came to write this blog. In 2007, I lost my high-five-figure income job. For the four years leading up to that event, my husband had been stay-at-home-dad to our daughter. So, we suddenly found ourselves with essentially no income. Unemployment paid me approximately one-fifth of my prior income, and Brian had a very small side-business making furniture, mostly for friends. We had a little bit of savings, that got us through a couple of months. Brian took a cooking job and worked hard to make his furniture business into a viable full-time job.

I ended up being unemployed for eight months, during which time we drained our savings, cashed out my 401k to pay off debt, refinanced both of our mortgages, got on special repayment plans with our credit cards, and watched our once stellar credit rating plummet.

I found a job with a start-up company in January of 2009. The pay was substantially less than what I made at my old job, but it was more than unemployment. And, I love this job. I’m not sure how to put a monetary value on job-enjoyment, but I was willing to work for less, and confident that the business would grow. Brian’s business began to grow as well. I won’t say we could see a light at the end of the tunnel, but we were beginning to believe it was there.

As 2009 came to a close, we confidently said to each other, “2010 is going to be our year! Things are going to be so much better!” Then came the first few weeks of 2010, and the bank account continued to overdraw, we were still running out of money between paychecks and the stress remained high. Then, one day, I came to the end of my rope. I stood up, stomped my feet, and said, “That’s it! I am not going to live like this any more! I will no longer be a victim of my financial situation! Things change today!” It was a great speech, but I really had no idea what I was going to do to make changes. So, I gave it some thought and realized that I had to stop burying my head in the sand. My husband and I had lived with the idea that since we knew we didn’t have enough money, why even look at it? I had automated all my bills, so I wouldn’t have to think about it. The result was, the bills got paid, but often with huge overdraft charges, and leaving us with no money for food or gas.

I resolved to at least look at my bank statement a few times a week. If I didn’t have money to pay a bill and buy groceries, groceries would win, and the bill would just have to wait until the next paycheck. If buying something or paying a bill would mean overdrawing, it would have to wait. I cannot express enough, just how empowering taking this one step has been. I may not have any more money than I did a few weeks ago, but I know how much I have and I know where it’s going. I am no longer spinning out of control. And that is a good thing.