Friday, June 30, 2017

Why We Rent (vs. buying a home)

A home is an investment! You're just throwing your money away on a rental! Buying is always the better option to renting!


People who make these blanket statements that supposedly apply to everyone are just ignorant.


Argument 1: a mortgage builds equity!

A mortgage consists of principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

How much of the mortgage is taken up by non-principal expenses?

Most of it. Especially during the first half of your mortgage.

So unless you are willing to stick it out in your home more than half of your mortgage, you are not going to have a lot to show for all those payment.

Argument 2: a home is an investment!

There are a few issues with this argument. The first is that a home can often be a money pit. Anytime something needs to be replaced (the roof, hot water heater, a deck in the back, etc.), a homeowner shells out thousands of dollars to basically keep his house exactly the same as it was before. Just one repair could wipe out any "savings on rent" or "equity" you got that year.

Homes also eat up your time. Mowing the lawn, fertilizing once or twice a year, power washing the driveway, repainting the walls every 10 years, changing out the AC vents, repairing a broken faucet. Simply maintaining a home is a huge time suck. What other investment (other than perhaps a business) takes up this amount of time and sweat?

Finally, homes historically keep up with the cost of inflation. So you can tie up thousands of dollars in a down payment and in mortgage payments just to keep up with inflation. Every once in a while there is a bubble, so if you sell at the height of the bubble you might make some extra dough above inflation. But historically, you're keeping up with inflation.

The number one reason to rent: freedom.

Laying all these arguments aside about the nickels and dimes of renting versus buying, the number one reason to rent is the freedom.

Freedom from being tied down to one place. If you decide you want to move, the most you will have to pay is a fee to break your lease early.

Freedom from home maintenance. You don't have to spend nearly as much time worrying about the maintenance of your home if you are renting. Something is broken in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend? Call the landlord or property management company.

Freedom from tying your money down. You can take the thousands you would have spent on a down payment and on maintenance costs and invest that money elsewhere that makes a return greater than just inflation costs.

Freedom from worrying so much about your job. If you have tens of thousands of dollars tied up in your home, it is your biggest "asset" *cough liability cough*. You have basically tied yourself to your job and geographic location. Can you sell the house? Sure. But if you lose your job or want to change jobs when the market isn't in your favor, all of that "investment" in your home could turn into a loss. Plus, if an incredible job presents itself but you have to move cross-country, it's a lot easier to leave your rental than your mortgage.

The bottom line: there is an opportunity cost to buying and there is an opportunity cost to renting. Either you are tying up your money in a low-performing asset or you are "throwing your money away" to the landlord each month.

In either scenario, both the buyer and the renter should invest. The buyer is not going to make huge returns on his home, especially selling before the halfway point of his mortgage. But the renter won't make any tangible returns on the money he spent on rent.

It's silly to say that everyone should buy or everyone should rent.

Everyone should weigh their options. Crunch the numbers. Look at the opportunity costs of both (and that doesn't just mean the money!).

My husband and I continue to rent despite many people telling us we are "throwing money away". We don't know where we will be working and living long-term. The market we are in is a seller's market right now meaning it's hard to find a deal. We have other things we are paying for so we don't want to tie up what savings we have in a down payment. And even if we did put a down payment on a home, we wouldn't have any savings left for repairs and maintenance meaning that even one minor repair could put us into debt (which we want to avoid). We're simply not ready. And that's okay! If the right time and the right home in the right location comes along, we will eventually buy. It's not an either/or. We will not necessarily be forever renting. There are homes everywhere so when the renter wants to become the buyer, there will be homes out there to buy.


What do you think?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

No Easy Answers for Working Moms

My post from yesterday describing the struggles of working mothers and returning to the workforce after giving birth, received a lot more views and comments than I am used to. I was glad that my post was read and responded to by several mothers. One mom even pointed out that she quit her job because she had to use some of her 12 weeks of FMLA for bed rest before her baby came so she could not take off enough time after the baby was actually born. She tried to come back to work, but after a few weeks ended up quitting her job. Luckily, she was in a position to quit. For many moms, this is not an option.

Unfortunately, no incredible ideas have popped up yet in the comments section to help solve this dilemma of maternity leave. There are no easy answers to solve this.

This just goes back to what I have said in recent posts about having a job. When you are relying on employment for your entire livelihood, you are 100% at the mercy of the employer. The amount of time they will allow off after a major life event (such as having a child) is completely up to the employer (if the mother plans on keeping her job). If a mother insists on more time off, even taking it unpaid, she risks losing her job.

Since I have not yet become self-employed, I find it hard to preach how important this concept is. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. But I have a hope that I will get there. It often takes 10+ years to have "overnight success". The nights spent grinding after work hours and on the weekend takes time to pay off. But if you never try, you'll always be chained to that 8-5, at the mercy of your boss.

Being your own boss is not an easy answer either. But it is the only one I can think of so far to best ensure that you are not relying on your bosses permission to be there for your baby.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Do we value puppies over babies?

"Fur-babies" is a thing. Some people, either childless or who have children grown and out of the home, prefer the company of pets to people. The number is a little old, but Americans spent 54 billion dollars in 2012 on pets. That's more than Facebook made in advertising that year.


In many states, it is illegal to separate a puppy from his or her mother before 8 weeks old. For other states, the law says 7 weeks. And still for other states, the law is not to separate until the puppy is fully weaned (which can take longer than 8 weeks for some breeds). The penalty for not obeying the law is usually a fine or short amount of jail time.

Why do states have these laws?



There are several reasons:
  • The most important is proper nourishment. A puppy needs its mom's milk for at least 7 weeks
  • Another reason is socialization and development. It often takes up to 12 weeks for a puppy to learn proper socialization from his mother and litter mates
  • Leaving the mom too early can also result in poor coordination and social skills


Taking a puppy away from his or her mom before six weeks is detrimental to that animal's health. They are more susceptible to disease and have higher rates of mortality.


We look at the reasoning for these laws and most people will think "That makes sense. It's just a puppy and it needs its mom until it weans".


Yet if we look at the laws as they pertain to human mothers and babies and mothers in the workforce who must be separated from their child, these arguments are thrown out the window.



Who do we value more?

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, mothers are guaranteed up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work. But that is only if the mother has worked at that company for at least 12 months prior to needing the time off and the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. Depending on the size of the employer, allowing even 12 weeks off work is not a guarantee. Paid time off from work is not always a benefit. And when it is, that benefit rarely stretches beyond six weeks.

Many mothers are forced to return to work within weeks of having their child because they must have the income for their family. They cannot go without the paycheck and cannot risk losing their job. What does this do to the mother and child?

A mother is more in-tune to her baby and (excluding unusual circumstances) will care much more about her child than any other human being. It has been estimated that for each additional week of maternity leave, one in 2,000 infants are saved from death simply because the mother is there to attend to her child's needs. That may not sound like a lot, but it is pretty incredible to me that simply being in the care of the mother can prevent a death.

Mothers who are at home and can breastfeed on-demand are also more likely to breastfeed longer. It is recommended that an infant stay on breastmilk alone for at least four months (six months is even better). And breastmilk should be the primary source of nutrition for at least the first year of life. Yet when a mother returns to work after a few weeks and they have to pump to provide milk, the number of mothers able to keep up this routine drops. There is also evidence that pumped milk is not ever going to be as healthy as milk straight from the source. Human milk is meant to be consumed directly from the mother.

Mothers who return quickly to the workforce also have higher rates of postpartum depression. This depression can affect mothers in a variety of ways including negatively impacting her relationship with her child, her performance at work, and her breastmilk supply.


Even though it is illegal to separate a puppy from its mother before weaning, human mothers are expected to return to the workforce at least one month prior to the minimum recommended time that a human child have a diet of 100% breastmilk. The same reasons it is illegal to separate a puppy too early are the same reasons it is harmful for a mother to leave her child too soon for the workforce.

Why do we not give mothers and human babies the same treatment as dogs and puppies?


The main reason is the cost. Employers face many costs when a mother is on leave. First, the employer continues to supply medical coverage to the mother and now her child. Some employers also pay the mother some of her salary even though the mother is not at work. Finally, the employer often has to temporarily hire another person or have other employees cover for the mother who is out on leave. Either of those two options lowers productivity and raises costs.

What is the solution?


If mothers were to actually stay home until their child was at least partially weaned, then mothers would need 4-6 months at home with their child. 12 months would be optimal for the child's physical and social health. But who would pay for it?

The only options are the employers or the government.

If the employers start to pay for it, then surely mothers will find it even more difficult than it currently is to find employment.

If the government pays, well, we all know how that turns out. That means that the people are actually paying. So either taxes increase, the debt increases, and/or inflation increases as more money is printed. Either way, these options ultimately hurts lower and middle class people's pocket books.


None of these "solutions" are ideal and will result in hurting the people they were meant to help.

I propose that with advancements in technology that employers work to accommodate new mothers as much as possible. If her job allows, have the mother work from home for a few months or work from home at least part of the time (2-3 days/week).

If the mother's job does not allow for tele-commuting, then employers can make it as easy as possible for mothers to transition back to the workplace. Having a comfortable and available place to express breastmilk with ample time to do so is a good start. Giving mothers some extra time at lunch to go to their child's daycare to nurse them would also make this transition much easier for many mothers. Being able to see their child in the middle of the day and have one less time they have to pump breastmilk is huge for the mother and baby's emotional and physical health.

Of course the final solution would be for the mother to not work. Although it would be ideal for the mother to be free from work responsibilities for 6-12 months postpartum, this is not a viable option for all moms. Many women need their income. And many women can bring value to their workplace and love their career. But they also love their family. I do not think women can "have it all" (ie. the perfect family and career with zero challenges). But again, we can make this transition as painless and healthy as possible. Remember, this season won't last forever but the effects can have a lasting impact for both mother and baby.


The solution is ultimately up to our society. Do we value human mothers and babies as much as we value puppies?



I'm not asking for the government to get involved. I'm asking for people to think about it. Know that there are serious consequences to separating a mom from her baby too early. This is the next generation. Will we value and take care of them?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Value Proposition: the key to getting your dream job?

One of the most valuable things I have learned from being involved in the Praxis community is that the old way of applying for jobs is no longer effective. On a one page resume and a quick cover letter, everyone starts to look the same. The employer can tell that very little thought or work went into each application as the applicants are blasting out the same thing to dozens of employers. The employee just wants a paycheck but the employer desperately needs a capable person to perform the job.


Is there a better way?


Yes!

Create a power point presentation relating to why you want that position, why you want to work for their company, and the value you will bring to them.


Make a video outlining your past projects and the value you have brought to other companies.


If you are applying for a design position, design something that would relate to their company. Give it to them for free.


If you are applying for a marketing position, run an ad campaign on Facebook. Show them your results.


If you are applying for a coding position, create an app prototype for their business.


Get creative. Show them what you are worth. Prove to them that you are worth way more than they will ever pay you in a salary.


I have never used this method myself but have heard many success stories. I plan to put it to use within these next couple of weeks. We will see if it pays off.


Throw away the resume. Your future employer doesn't have time to waste and neither do you. If you're the right person, prove it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Stopping Abuse

It's unclear exactly how many children a victims of sexual abuse as many instances of abuse go unreported. It is estimated that at least 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys in America will be victims of sexual abuse by the age of 17.


My husband and I just finished watching The Keepers on Netflix. Similar to the Netflix series Making a Murderer, this docuseries explores a case with a lot of questions. Although a large part of the drama has to do with the sexual abuse going on in the late 60's and early 70's at a Baltimore Catholic high school, the docuseries always paints this abuse and the abusers in the ugliest of lights, trying to bring them to justice.




The most shocking part of the series is that the abuser likely could have been stopped long before things spiraled so out of control. People in authority knew there were complaints against the abuser. Yet instead of reporting to the police or terminating the person, they transferred him to a place where he would have even more access to young people. Dozens and dozens of victims could have been spared had those in authority acted. The abuse ruined many people's lives -- they became reclusive, drug or alcohol addicted, or suicidal. Many of them had/have challenges in their relationships with significant others and family.


Child sexual abuse is probably a lot more common than we would like to admit. Abusers often build up relationships with their victims and keep them quiet by threats of violence or murder. It is crucial for parents to protect their kids and let their children know that if anyone makes these threats, they are empty and they will be protected.


If you were abused, seek help. If you know about abuse, speak up. I cannot imagine how hard that might be, but it could prevent many others from getting hurt.


For the rest of us, we need to know this is an issue in our country that needs to be fought and always demonized.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Blogging from a cell phone

I am still not sure how long I want to make blogging a daily habit. It has been a fun experiment so far. Today I got busy with lots of family time and it has been a fairly relaxing day. But as I lay down for bed, I realized I never blogged. So here I am, typing this from my cell phone for the first time.

Today we went walking in a park in the middle of the city but we felt like we were in a jungle. It was quiet. We saw a doe, buck, and two fawn. We walked a mile. Why don't we do this more often? Family time in nature is often my favorite.

How do you like to spend time with family?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Scalability

"Sounds cool... but can you scale it?"

If you are in the entrepreneurship scene, it seems like everyone is concerned about scalability. Brick and mortar businesses are a thing of the 20th Century. Now, in the Age of the Internet, online-based businesses are all the rage.

Will brick and mortar stores start to disappear?

The United States has way more retail square footage per person than any other country. We have over 23 retail square feet per person compared to 16.4 square feet per person in Canada (the next in line).

Have we overdone the retail space? Stores are shutting down locations or at least being careful about building new ones. Will they soon be a thing of the past?

I don't think retail stores are over and done with, but they are on the decline.

That means that today's entrepreneurs need to be strategic. What services must have a brick and mortar location? Which industries can forgo that overhead expense?

The businesses that do not require the brick and mortar location, the businesses that can be 100% online based, definitely have the advantage of easier and quicker scalability. And that's what will ultimately make a bootstrapping entrepreneur the biggest dollars. The more people they can reach, the more customers they can have and the more money they will make.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Defending vs Educating


Yesterday I wrote a post about pop tarts. It's not that the topic of empty calories and processed food isn't important, but it did feel like a silly topic. But I only devote about 10-15 minutes a day to writing a blog post. That's not a very long time to expand upon a deeper topic or one that requires more evidence or explanation. So if I do not write about topics that are lighter or easier to explain, I get nervous to write a post at all.


I hold a lot of unconventional views. I believe things about food, medicine, child birthing, government/politics, and business/jobs that a lot of people do not agree with. More than a few people probably think I am ignorant, naïve, and/or a conspiracy theorists. That does not change my view on the topic, but it does make me wary to speak about it. I do not want to risk turning someone off of my view just because I cannot express my argument as well as I have read or heard others express it.


If I have plenty of time to explain myself, look up my sources, and provide some evidence, I feel much more confident defending myself. But the goal for me is not really to defend myself (I already know what I believe) but to try to open other people's eyes to these ideas that I hold. It's less about defending myself and more about trying to educate others on what I believe.


What are some of your unconventional views?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

There is Nothing That Can Redeem a Pop Tart

I purchased some strawberry pop tarts last week. And I am really trying to figure out why.

I toasted the first set of two pop tarts and began eating.

They were absolutely disgusting. Dry, not much flavor, and made my mouth feel chalky. I couldn't finish them.

When I purchased them, I thought they would remind me of my childhood. I did not eat them often as a kid but they were always a treat and a huge deal.

As an adult, I find them gross. And when I began looking at the ingredients and nutrition content, I realized there was nothing to redeem them.

The first ingredient is enriched flour. This means that they stripped the original ingredients of any and all nutrition so they had to add nutrients back into it to give it any vitamins or minerals. Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose soon follow back-to-back in the ingredient list.

At least there is only 200 calories per pastry (so, 400 to a pack of two). But what are those calories made of? Flour and sugar. And with 38g of carbs per pastry and less than 1g of fiber and less than 2g of protein, this pastry's calories are pretty empty -- just a bunch of simple sugars and simple carbs which provide a quick hit of energy that doesn't last long or provide any significant source of nutrition.

Why do pop tarts still have such a large market share? Why do people keep buying and eating these things?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What 30 Days of Blogging Taught Me

Yesterday was my 30th daily blogpost. I did not write ahead but wrote each post the morning I posted it. I was not sure I was ready for this "challenge", but I wanted to see if it was as magical as some of the other Praxis advisors and participants claimed.


It has been a great experience. I have been forced to get creative every single day. There was only one day where I really did not know what I wanted to talk about, so that was a bit of a challenge. And then there were other days I wrote a paragraph or two and decided to scrap it and change topics because I was not getting into the vibe. Then there were other days where I put together some thoughts, published, and then felt like it was a sloppy piece later that could use some clarification. But since I enjoy writing anyway, actually writing the posts was not the biggest part of this challenge. It was the daily discipline -- the commitment to myself -- that made this interesting.


I can completely understand now how it would be quite the commitment to do this daily for a year or longer. Even just completing the 30 days gives me a boost of confidence in my ability to have some discipline in my life and stick to my goals. Not sure I'm ready for a yearly challenge, but this experience has been a wonderful way for me to reset my creative side and practice discipline and goal setting.

My three most popular posts from the past 30 days (in order of popularity):


1. How I am Continuing College Debt Free



In other words, it seems like people enjoyed reading about my experiences. My posts about ideas were not nearly as popular as my posts about things I have done. So that means, in order to crank out content that people really resonate with and enjoy, I have to do cool stuff.


What was your favorite post from the past 30 days?



I tried to decide on my favorite but failed. I wrote about tidying and decluttering the home, about personal finance and budgets, about entrepreneurship, podcasting, earning college credit at a discount, and other experiences and thoughts I have had recently. I have blogged about some of my favorite topics in the past 30 days and the ones that mean the most to me right now. It has been a fun month of blogging and I hope I have brought value to my readers.



 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Do We Always Need Disclaimers?

I cannot express how difficult it was to publish my post from yesterday without adding a dozen disclaimers. I wanted desperately to remind people that you can have a happy and successful career working for someone else. I wanted to tell people that you can make it big while working for a corporation. I wanted to make it clear that I have a job and I know jobs are necessary for a lot of people. I wanted to write that you can climb the ladder and become the CEO of a company.

But I didn't add disclaimers. If anyone took my post to mean that everyone should quit their job and bash those who don't, then they misunderstood the point of my post.

I should not have to add a dozen disclaimers to avoid being misunderstood or hurting someone's feelings. Obviously not every word of my post applies to everyone at all seasons in their life. Obviously there are people who are happy and successful having a job.

The point of my post is to shed light on the situation most people are in: only being able to survive 3 days to 3 weeks without their job. That is what I mean by just over broke. If you lost your job, you would soon lose a lot more. And if that's the kind of life you would like to live, so be it. But it's not my ideal.

Again (another disclaimer), I'm not there yet. I still have a long journey ahead of me. But I know where I want to go and what I need to do.

Do you?

Monday, June 19, 2017

J.O.B. = Just Over Broke

I love to talk about personal finances. I've blogged recently about budgeting and about having an emergency fund, even if it's just a small one. I don't pretend to have it all together financially, but I do know where I want to go and I do know what will not make me rich: having a job.

If you have a job and you are not concerning yourself with any other projects and investments that will bring you income, you are 100% reliant on your employer for your present and your future. You are completely at your employer's mercy when it comes to your annual salary, how much money you make, and therefore your earning potential. That is not to say that you cannot make a decent salary working for someone else. But the likelihood that you will ever "make it big" is a lot slimmer than someone who steps out on their own.

We get dressed up, we get to work on time, and we grind. But for what? You make the same or extremely similar salary as the guy who's there but doesn't give a shit. If you stick it out long enough, you can climb the ladder one 10-15% raise at a time. But again, you're limited to what the employer says you can make.

Having a job is a false sense of security. You know that pay check comes every two weeks no matter what. But you're replaceable. The company doesn't need you - they need what you produce. They don't hire you for charity; they hire you to get something out of the deal.


But what if your employer goes under? There are innovations all the time and companies do go out of business. Pensions are underfunded. There are lay offs. There are no guarantees of success.


We make these feeble attempts to "get ahead" and that's the extent of our financial success.


You are your own business. You are your own brand. There will likely come a time in your life where you will have to stand on your own merits. And if you are not bringing value to people, you will fall.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Experience with Blue Apron

Meal subscriptions have become more and more popular in recent years. I have looked into trying them out before, but always chickened out. I do not consider myself much of a chef. My regular cooking mostly includes one dish meals (so, something I can stir fry, put in a pan and bake, or put in a crock pot).

I finally ordered a meal kit from Blue Apron and it arrived almost two weeks ago. In my order, I received all of the ingredients (minus oil) for three meals that each made two servings. Two of the meals included a protein while one was vegetarian. I am fairly certain they always do it that way. The items came in a sort of box/ice chest thing with some massive ice packs to keep everything cold. My first impression of the ingredients is that they are high quality and organic.



I made the steak meal first and let me say: this meal made me question why I ever eat fast food or just any meal that is not 1,000% amazing. I have never even cooked steak before so it was definitely not due to my cooking that this meal turned out so darn amazing. My husband and I loved it and we even fed some of the steak, asparagus, and potato to our 17 month old and she loved it as well. The meal also included parsnip which I do not ever remember eating so it was good to try something different.

The second meal I made was a Persian chicken with crunchy rice. Again, absolutely incredible and exotic. Just like the steaks, this was a restaurant quality meal. The ingredients are high quality and they already have everything pre-measured so the chef's only job is to follow the instructions. All three of us enjoyed this meal as well!

The final meal was supposed to be creamy lumaca rigata pasta with spinach and asparagus. Unfortunately, I waited so long to make it (about 12 days after receiving the box) that my vegetables had gone bad. I could have gone to the store for replacements, but decided just to make the pasta by itself. Even without the veggies, it was still amazing!

These recipes are not one-dish meals like I am used to cooking. I dirtied several dishes plus one or two cutting boards with each meal. They also called for me to do things I would never dream of doing in my normal cooking. For example, the pasta meal wanted me to blanch my asparagus (boil it and then put it in ice water). For the Persian chicken, I cooked the rice and then took half of that rice and baked it in the oven to make it crunchy. This provided extra texture to the meal but I would probably not go the extra mile in my normal cooking. Maybe these are things you are used to doing in your day to day cooking, but the meals I cook are always much simpler. Each meal also had a little topping to make. For example, the topping for the steaks was made of oil, garlic, and some other spices. These toppings were another little touch that I would not normally do in my cooking but really added to the flavor of the meal.

Overall, I had a great experience. The meals are high quality and delicious. The ingredients are amazing. As far as the cost of the meals (about $10/serving), you will spend less than eating out at a nicer restaurant. Heck, we spend more than $10/person when going out to something as simple as Panera Bread. Of course you have to do the work yourself, but that's part of the experience. I seriously cannot emphasize just how delicious these meals came out. And none of it is due to my cooking skills. Blue Apron pre-measures everything and provides the instructions and amazing ingredients.

But with a little child running around at my feet, these meals required a lot more from me than I am used to doing day to day. I cannot imagine doing three of these meals every single week as I just don't have the time and energy in this season of my life. I do not expect to order from Blue Apron too often, but I imagine I might order from them on occasion if I feel I have the time that week to devote to the meals. The goal is to get through all three meals in one week. It took me almost two weeks to get through my box which is why my veggies went bad before I cooked the pasta.

If you want some delicious meals delivered to your door and/or you want to stretch yourself as far as your cooking skills go, definitely try a box. And don't pay full price -- search around for some first timer discounts and you should be able to get as much as 50% off your first order.

Have you tried a subscription meal service? What was the outcome?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Could You Come Up with $2,000 in 30 Days?

Nearly 40% of Americans say no.



A lot of people think of wealth as how much money you make or how many assets you own.

I think of wealth in terms of "How long could I keep living like I am living if I lost my job?"

The answer for most Middle Class Americans is somewhere between 3 days and 3 weeks.

47% of Americans say they do not have enough money for a $400 emergency. I am not sure what emergency you could even come across that only costs $400. Maybe having to buy a plane ticket to go to a parent's funeral or accidently double-paying a bill so you have to wait on a refund could cost under $400. Otherwise, most emergencies I can think of are going to cost a minimum of $2,000. The transmission goes out, the hot water heater needs to be replaced, or an unexpected medical problem means accumulating some bills. If nearly half of Americans cannot cover an inconvenience, much less an emergency, it certainly says a few things about our country.

First, I do believe that the economy still sucks. Inflation is much worse than the government claims. An annual salary increase of 2-4% does not even cover inflation, much less actually raise your standard of living. In my opinion, there are no denying these challenges.

However, these statistics also show us how poorly Americans handle their money. Instead of saving, having an emergency fund of at least $1,000 (my goal is $3-4,000 but I'm not there yet), and investing their money, Americans tend to spend every dollar they can. This is why, without an income, they would only last 3 days to 3 weeks.

Don't be that person. Have a cushion. Even a small cushion of $500-$1,000 will take a load off of your shoulders. If you are in that same boat but want to have a way out, set a goal to have that emergency fund in the next 30 days. Cut down on some of your frivolous spending, have a garage sale, and offer to do some odd jobs for friends. Do what you have to do to get that emergency fund quickly. And start budgeting. Keep track of every penny for a couple of months and you will quickly see where your shortfalls are. If you find that you truly do not have enough income to make ends meet, it is time to develop some skills and look for additional and/or better employment. Making some short-term sacrifices now can pay off in your future.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Podcasts Make the World Better: Use Them

I love podcasts. And no, I don't love them just because I started one or because I have been a guest on one. I love podcasts because they provide a bit more in-depth information about a topic than a simple article but are not nearly as lengthy as a book. They are convenient to listen to while doing simple tasks such as commuting to work, folding laundry, or taking a walk. I listen to a podcast (sometimes two) every morning on my commute. I learn about a variety of topics each day which stimulate my mind and feed my creativity. There are podcasts about nearly every topic: business, economics, entrepreneurship, science, history, current events, et al.



Some people do not listen to podcasts because they could read much faster than they could listen. That's true. But if you are performing a task where reading at the same time would be dangerous, difficult, or impossible, listening to a podcast is a great solution to feed your brain while also getting things done. You can usually speed up a podcast to 1.25 or 1.5 speed as well if you want to get through more content.

Some of my favorite podcasts:

The Tom Woods Show
Libertarian views on politics, current events, economics, history, and business

The Jason Stapleton Program
Similar to the Tom Woods Show but more emphasis on current events


Hosted by a couple who travel the world and talk about their travels and projects as well as interview other travelers

A podcast about education, entrepreneurship, and freedom


Cross Examined Life
The host cross-examines people who hold an unconventional view


Successful Dropout
Interviews of people who dropped out of college and went on to do amazing things


Go Fire Yourself
No new episodes of this one coming out but there are 60+ available for those interested in catching up. This podcast is full of interviews of people who quit their job to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.






I have many more podcasts on my list that I have yet to really dive into. My two that I try to listen to daily are Tom Woods and Jason Stapleton. The other podcasts listen do not post daily and so I get to them when I can.


What are some of your favorite podcasts?

Honestly there are so many to choose from! If you are not taking advantage of this free and incredible resource, you are probably missing out on some valuable infotainment.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Should College be Free?

K-12 education is "free" (in the sense that you do not directly have to pay for it to attend but rather taxpayers have to give money to the government which in turn redistributes the funds to school districts all over the US).

The question has become, if K-12 is provided as a public service, why is college not also provided to students at no cost? Surely this would provide more young people with the opportunity to attend university and earn their Bachelors degree. It would even improve our economy because we have more skilled workers!

The people who make these arguments tend to forget why college education has becomes so unaffordable in the first place. It is the government providing student loans to nearly anyone who applies that has driven up the cost of higher education. Because funding is simple to get and it does not have to be paid back until the student is out of school, more and more students began to take out loans. Universities realized that even if they increased tuition, students and parents would continue to take out loans to pay for this commodity. This has driven up tuition rates over time. And even though it is the government that has screwed things up, people are looking to the government to fix the problem.

Well if the government paid for it, the prices would go down.

This is one response to my reasoning above. However, it's simply not what will happen if the past reflects the future. We spend more money per K-12 student than ever before (about $11,000/kid per year). New York spends as much as $20,000 per student per year! And yet, we still can't seem to educate the nation's children.

If the government also took over paying for college tuition, the price would likely continue to rise and taxpayers would be left fitting the bill. And because students and parents now have zero monetary investment (just time), student motivation would likely decline. The value that we place on the college degree would decline and so a new signaling method would be necessary anyway.

Thankfully, the market is biting back. As I wrote in yesterday's post, there are still ways to graduate debt free. More and more students are seeing less value in paying tens of thousands for a degree that does not guarantee them a job or even the skills they need in the real world.

Before the government has a chance to take over college tuition costs, I have a feeling that the bubble will burst and the system will collapse anyway. More people are waking up to the reality: college is a huge expense with no promises. Having the government cover the cost will just make this issue worse.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How I am Continuing College Debt Free

It's possible to earn junior and senior level college credit for as little as $100 per 3 hour course.

Meet study.com.

On this website, you can choose between one of three plans. The first two plans are just study aids for students taking the class. But the third option allows you to use the website to actually test out of entire college classes (everything from freshman to senior level classes).

So far, I have tested out of Principles of Management, Principles of Marketing, and Principles of Finance (all considered junior level courses). For $200/month, you can take up to two exams per month. That means, if you tested out of two classes per month, you would be earning college credit at a rate of $100 per course. You takes these tests online from the comfort of your home (they are proctored online so you do need a working mic and webcam as well as an ID). It's a pretty sweet and simple deal.

Earn college credit here in 16 weeks and spend thousands...

or here in two weeks and spend a hundred bucks...
you choose.

The main word of caution is to check with your college before subscribing to study.com. If your college does not accept study.com tests as credit, taking these courses will be mostly a waste of time.  (You'll still learn a lot from them, but you will have to take the class again at your university to earn credit.) A lot of colleges won't accept these credits because it takes money out of their pocket and gets you off their campus sooner. So if your college does not accept these credits but you want to test out of enough courses, you may need to consider changing colleges.

If you are in college for the social experience, study.com is not for you. If you have test anxiety, study.com probably is not for you. If you like to spend 16 weeks sitting in lecture halls learning about things you already know something about, study.com is not for you. If you love taking out student loans and/or paying 3-15x what you need to pay to take a class, study.com is definitely not for you.

But if you are working full time, hate to waste time on subjects you already know about, love to save money, and/or you want to get your college degree knocked out as quickly as possible, study.com is definitely for you. This is the quickest and cheapest way I have found to earn upper level college credit in particular.

Let me know if you have any questions because I may be study.com's biggest fan. If you want to sign up, use the link above for a discount and I will get a little discount too.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Too Little Space or Too Much Stuff?

525 square feet.


My husband and I have been living in a 525 square foot apartment since we got married. Now, 21 months later (646 days to be exact), we are starting to outgrow the space. When we moved in, we did not even have a shower curtain the first night. We did not have silverware but simply borrowed a few spoons, forks, and knives from my parents. We did not have a table and chairs. We didn't even have a bed our first night in the apartment (it was a holiday weekend and the shipping got delayed) so we slept on an air mattress.


Now, we have all of that and more. We have baby stuff out the wazoo (including her smaller bed and her current bed). Thanks to generous friends and family we also have plenty of furniture to fill up the place. We even have a massive juicer sitting on our limited kitchen counter space.


In 21 short months, we have accumulated plenty of stuff.

I have recently begun the process of decluttering our home.


Declutter (n)
1. to remove mess or clutter from (a place).
2. to organize and prioritize (one’s commitments, material possessions, etc.)

As you may have read in previous posts, I have taken five trash bags full of clothes to either Goodwill or the dumpster (depending on if they had any life left in them or not). I have also given away some books and taken out one trash bag full of papers. But the apartment barely feels any different. I still have quite a few categories to declutter in my journey (I am following the KonMari method) but the question becomes: do I have too much stuff, not enough space, or a little of both?

There are families all over the world living in less space than we have and fitting more people into that space. But they all sleep on the floor in the same room at night and that's not exactly how I picture myself living. However, American homes have been getting bigger and bigger over time. How much is "enough" space for myself, my family, and all of our stuff?

I guess there is no right answer to that question. As I continue to declutter, I will see what changes to my answer or what that answer is for me. But I do look forward to moving to a larger space soon. My goal is to make sure that a larger space does not mean more stuff accumulated. Just because we have more space to fill does not mean that we need more stuff. If after 21 months in our new space we feel just as crowded as we do in our current space we may as well have stayed in the little bitty apartment.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Blogging Through a Missing Muse

"I don't know what I'm going to blog about today," I told my mom this morning when I dropped off my daughter.


"You have been a blogging machine!" she replies. My mom is one of the few people I can count on the read my blog posts. Thanks, Mom!


I wrote a blog post recently about daily blogging and forcing yourself to create every day. It is an exercise not just of the mind but of discipline. I have blogged daily for the past 21 days (this will be day 22). It has been an interesting experiment so far. I am enjoying the challenge. I actually find it fairly easy Monday-Friday when I am in my normal routine. Squeezing in a blog post on the weekend is a bit more challenging simply because I am off my normal schedule.


Anyway. Today, I was not sure what to write about and I'm still not sure this post will bring much value to anyone. But I'm blogging through the "missing muse" anyway and that brings value to me. I am sticking to my commitment to myself and I am forcing myself to publish something daily at least for a certain period of time.


What are you doing to challenge yourself today?



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thoughts on "Betting on Zero" (and MLMs in general)

Betting on a company's collapse. Crazy or genius?

A few days ago, my husband and I sat down to watch Betting on Zero. I had been wanting to watch the film and it is currently available on Netflix as an instant streaming option.

The documentary follows hedge fund manager Bill Ackman as he bets one billion dollars that the multi-level marketing company Herbalife will soon collapse. Ackman puts together a case against the company and drums up some press coverage and controversy. It is enough for a temporary decline in the Herbalife stock but a few other twists and turns have yet to keep Herbalife from completely collapsing.

My mom participated in three MLMs over my childhood years. She worked extremely hard and was actually successful at them (and that was the age before all these Facebook parties). Watching her work hard and be her own boss was inspiring to me in a lot of ways. I loved working alongside her and helping her with the business. It felt like I was really contributing to the cause and helping her advance in her goals. We traveled a bit as well as a result of her MLM efforts. We even orchestrated a whole trip to Disney World around a convention where she was hosting a booth.

The biggest difference between Herbalife and other MLMs, however, was that (at least at the time Ackman placed his bet against them) there was no way to make money on your Herbalife sales unless you recruited people in your downline. Selling the products alone would not render a paycheck. Herbalife also encouraged their representatives to open up "health clubs". To do this, they would have to find a commercial space and sign a lease. Very few Herbalife representatives make money in the long-run and most representatives actually lose money. The odds are definitely against new reps.

Because of Ackman's work and trying to bring light to the issue, Herbalife was told by the FTC to make some dramatic changes to their business model.

I already feel like multi-level marketing companies have the cards stacked against people at the bottom of the pyramid. The later a person enters the "business opportunity", the more difficult (perhaps impossible) it will be for them to climb to the top. Therefore, the new recruits just feed the top 100 reps in the industry who each make half a million to a million dollars per year. Pretty great gig if you're one of the top 100 reps in any of these companies.

However, at least in most MLMs you can make some money. Maybe not a lot and maybe not even enough to replace your full time income but you can make something. And you don't have to recruit people in your downline to make money -- you can make money just on your own sales and never recruit a soul if you would like.

With Herbalife, you had to recruit people in your downline to start earning a commission. This single fact makes them a pyramid.

It will be interesting to see if Ackman wins his bet. He's done it once before with another company (not an MLM) that he bet against and it took seven years. It has been about 4.5 years since he placed his initial bet against Herbalife. Time will tell.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Before You Donate

Even though in my post yesterday I am hopefully encouraging more people to donate to charitable causes, I also think it is important to do some research before donating.

Does the organization have a track record of responsibly using their funds?

What percentage of donations go to administrative work versus the actual cause?

If donating to an individual, do you know them or at least know someone who knows them (so that you can back up their story)?

If donating on a crowdsourcing site, how much of that money goes to funding the website versus the campaign?

Rather than giving blindly, it is important to do our research.

There was recently a woman featured on a local news channel as being duped in a Craigslist scam. She allegedly put down a deposit on a rental with people who did not own the home. Now, she claimed she had no deposit money and nowhere to turn when her current lease is up.

When you begin to read the comment section on Facebook, however, you find a few people claiming that this woman has laundered money, cheated with a boyfriend, and lied to many other people. It is actually quite shocking to read through.

Thanks to the internet, it is easier than ever to scam people. But also thanks to the internet, people can stand up to scammers and warn other people.

If you want your money to actually go toward a worthy cause, do a little bit of research before you donate.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Keeps People from Giving to Charity?

Even though I can be extremely tight with my money and often think about my personal budget quite a bit, I do have several charities that I contribute to on a monthly basis. Most of them are charities or missionaries that I have chosen to give to. Some of my contributions also come right out of my paycheck to go toward the food bank and a couple of other local charities that I have designated.


Recently a co-worker was saying that he gave "too much" out of his check to charity. I asked him how much was too much.


$1 a week.


I asked him why he thought that was too much. That's only $52 a year.


He said that he needed the money more because he was broke and had student loans. He then asked how much I was giving and asked me why I would give at all because I have a kid.


The reason I give to charity is because I know there are a lot of worthy charities and mission work being done that I simply don't have the time or resources to do. There is a need out there and the best thing I can do in this season of my life is give money to contribute toward these efforts. I told him that I have food in my fridge, clean diapers for my kid, and I can pay rent. A lot of people can't say that. Therefore, I can give up the equivalent of dinner out every week to a charity.


As we talked a bit more about it, we concluded that because he is single he does volunteer more than I do. If you do not feel you have the money to give, at least you can give of your time.


But still, I wondered why this guy who is the same age as me felt like he did not have enough money to give to charity. It's not that he couldn't make changes to his lifestyle. He goes out to lunch almost daily. He goes out to drink on the weekend. He could sacrifice one lunch out a week or one beer a weekend and up his giving by a couple bucks a week.


I don't want to blame it on "millennials" not being generous.  But I do think maybe it has something to do with age. When you're young, you feel unstable. You likely don't keep a budget and so you overspend in some areas making you feel broke by the end of the month. You don't have much in savings, you don't have a house, etc. so you do not feel secure enough to give. I also think the mounting student loan debt also hurts the ability of the people in my generation to feel like they can give and still have plenty left over.


Hopefully this post doesn't come across as "virtue signaling". I do not think I give just to feel better about myself (although it is satisfying to think I am making a drop of a difference in a large bucket). Ever since I was in just second or third grade, my parents taught me that giving away at least a small portion of my money was just another part of my personal finances. I do not think I've ever given more than 5-7% of my monthly income at any given time, but I have always felt funny if I am not giving anything at all. My parents taught me to be thankful and content. They taught me how much other people do not have and that I have the ability to contribute. There will always be people in need. So as long as I have an income, I can spare a few dollars for the sake of others.


This article from Entrepreneur talks about how millennials only make up 11% of giving to traditional forms of charity but make up 33% of giving on crowd-sourcing sites such as YouCaring. Perhaps young people just want a more interactive and transparent approach to giving -- they want to know that each dollar is going to a person in need and not administrative work. Or perhaps because they feel like they are broke and have  too much debt, they prefer to give to charity in the form of volunteer hours, like my friend.


What do you think keeps people from giving?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Internet on My Phone


I was 17 years old when I first got internet on my phone. You can see from the screenshot that it was actually five years ago today that I gained access to the world wide web in the palm of my hand. I was so excited that I had to update my Facebook status and even tried (and failed) to tag my mom in the post.

It is an incredible advancement to our society. 100 years ago (heck, even 10 years ago!), even the richest people in the word did not have access to essentially all of the world's information in their pocket. Now, even some of the poorest people in America have a smart phone with internet access. I rarely get onto the computer to check Facebook anymore -- it is easier to do it from my phone. I have internet access almost anywhere I go. And the cost to access this amazing technology is ridiculously inexpensive when you consider all that it can give you.

These devices can be used to:
  • start blogs to spread ideas
  • create ecommerce sites to generate income
  • learn about nearly any and every topic in the world
  • read or listen to lectures and books
  • document events through photo and video
  • connect with people we will never meet but have similar interests
  • invest money in stocks
  • invest money in microloans that benefit farmers, artisans, and small business owners all over the world
  • donate to worthy causes

And what do we use these phones to do?

Facebook. Cat memes. Sending nude photos to potential dates.

It almost feels like this advancement is lost on us, sometimes. Like we do not deserve it. But it does not have to be that way.

Anyone who complains about how ugly and terrible the world is merely needs to pull out their smart phone. This little tool can be used to waste time. Numb the brain. Or it can be used to change the world, or even just change your world.

How will you use your smart phone today?





Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Feeding the Brain

Every day we are bombarded with mind-numbing information. From the morning radio show DJ's to the click bait articles our friends share on Facebook to the sitcoms we watch and re-watch on Netflix, it is easy to kill our brain cells (or at least not create any new ones).


For me, if I am not feeding my brain some sort of interesting information or stimulating it in some way every single day, I feel different. It's hard to describe, but I just don't feel as productive or as human that day.


That's why I listen to podcasts on my morning commute. That's why I've been trying to blog every day. That's why I try to read an intelligent article or a chapter out of an interesting book as often as I can. Sometimes it's as simple as watching a documentary instead of a rom-com. Or sometimes my husband and I will play a game of Scrabble instead of watching TV at all. I engage in interesting, challenging conversation when I can.


I know there are a lot of other fun and interesting ways to keep the brain stimulated. Doing a normal activity like brushing teeth with your non-dominant hand, doing a puzzle, and trying new types of physical activity can all assist in growing our brains. Socialization is also extremely important especially as we age.


Of course I still spend plenty of time consuming the mind-numbing information, but the little things I do to feed my brain add up.


What are your favorite brain feeding activities?



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Federal Budget: PBS isn't the problem

Many people would agree that government spending is out of control. Trump has made promises to balance the budget and cut spending. Yet he also promises to build a military "so strong... nobody is gonna mess with us".

Trump has looked at cutting funds to social programs, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Environmental Protection Agency. But these cuts are mere nickels and dimes compared to what he promises to increase to the military piece of the pie. If Trump has his way, 68% of the federal budget will go strictly toward veteran's affairs, homeland security, nuclear weapons, and other military spending. And that's before we engage in additional war efforts.

And who benefits from all of this spending? Surely Trump would have you believe that it is you: the American citizen who is being protected from all of those nasty terrorists out there.

As it turns out, the biggest beneficiaries are all of the contractors who make the weapons, planes, and tanks (all of the toys that our president believes we must have). According to William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, the biggest beneficiary are contractors like "Lockheed Martin, which received more than $36 billion in defense-related contracts in fiscal 2015 (the most recent year for which full statistics are available). To put that figure in perspective, Lockheed Martin’s federal contracts are now larger than the budgets of 22 of the 50 states. The top 100 defense contractors received $175 billion from the Pentagon in fiscal year 2015, nearly one-third of the Department of Defense’s entire budget." (source)

In a time where the way war looks is changing and the focus is quickly turning to technology and information, why are we continuing to spend billions of dollars on new military toys? What does our government have to show for 16 years at war in the Middle East?


If we really want to balance the budget, we will start by taking a chunk out of the military piece of the pie.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Stop Bashing the "Google Degree"

Whenever a few people start discussing a controversial topic on social media, it is never long before someone bashes another person's "Google degree". This seems to happen quite a bit especially when dealing with medical or scientific topics. "Okay, Dr. Google," they will sometimes reply to a comment.


But why do we hate on people who have done research via the internet?


The last man to be described as "knowing everything" was Thomas Young. Young was extremely well versed in science, medicine, music, language, mechanics, and a myriad of other topics. He even helped decipher the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone. He passed away in 1829.


Since Young's time, there have been too many resources and discoveries for any one person to have at least a basic understanding of every possible discipline of study. There is simply too much information available to us now. And most of that information is available at our fingertips on the internet via Google.


Of course there are many bogus sources on the internet. There is plenty of fake information and propaganda spread across the web. There are websites that intentionally spread falsehoods to advance their own agenda.


But there are also plenty of reliable resources on the web which allow us to learn the equivalent of many college degrees without paying a dime. There are websites that help us determine the validity of a resource. There are websites that allow us to know if there are lies being spread.


The internet can give us the most up-to-the-minute information (versus a book which can become outdated before even making it from the printing press to our hands).


Don't bash the Google degree just because you disagree with someone's belief. Assume they have done some research. Verify what they are saying with your own search. Ask them to share links to some of their readings. Then come to your own conclusions based on logic, reasoning, and research. We live in an amazing time where we can learn about pretty much any topic and get to know all sides of the arguments. Take advantage of that.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Breaking Routines We Hate

Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. But why do we stay in routines that we find boring? Unstimulating? Exhausting?

On Friday, a coworker of mine who I do not know very well, retired. He left that building at noon on Friday after 10+ years and never has to come back (unless he just really wants to, I guess). According to the coworker who sits on the other side of my pod, this man who retired sold his house and most of his things and is taking two bags down to Mexico City. His plan is to stay in AirBNBs and travel. He speaks Spanish already and will have a bit of retirement funds coming to him each month to help his bank account. He's not married and has no children so no one that he is leaving behind or having to take with him. My podmate was just amazed and kept seeming to pine after the adventure that the retiring coworker was heading toward.

I told him that he could do that, too. Why wait on retirement? If you think it sounds like a grand adventure and you want in on it, why not just do it?

He laughed and said no way. He has a wife and two teenagers. He is the guardian of his ill parent. He isn't eligible for retirement yet. He can't possibly do something like that.

The truth is, though, we do what we ultimately want to do. We get stuck in the same routine and start to feel like it is a part of who we are -- there are no other options. We do what we think we have to do.
"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right" --Henry Ford
Part of our dinner from last night.
We tried lamb, duck, and pork
And maybe switching up our routine can be on a much smaller scale. Maybe it doesn't mean we have to sell our home and possessions, leave our job, and move out of the country. Maybe it just means seeking a bit of adventure within our normal routine.

For example, my husband and I enjoy going out to eat on the weekend. It is part of our entertainment. Recently, however, I have not found it as entertaining. Rather, eating out has become much more mundane for us. We keep frequenting the same places and fail to spice it up with variety. So last night, we tried a new restaurant in a part of town we have not been to in a year. Not only was the area we visited quite different and much improved since last year but trying new food and sitting in a new atmosphere was a breath of fresh air. We not only tried the restaurant but also hung around the area for almost three hours. Our daughter enjoyed the change in scenery as well.

If you're bored with your normal restaurants, eat somewhere else.  If your job is not challenging or has become mundane, ask your boss for a new assignment or find a new place to work. If your city has no longer become exciting, explore. Or move.

This world is too bold, too diverse, and too exciting to for us to be stuck in routines we hate. It is simply too easy to get around and too easy to try new things. There are no excuses. The only chains are the ones that exist in your mind -- the ones that you have created for yourself. So believe that you can and then do it.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Decluttering Papers

My next category to tackle in the KonMari method is papers. Not anything sentimental. Just receipts, tax documents, pay stubs, business cards, handouts, manuals, etc.

Turns out, I have a ton of these papers. I knew I was somewhat of a paper hoarder, but I have about 3 square feet of paper to sort through and declutter.

One three ring binder I went through this morning has papers and documents I have been holding onto since I was a senior in high school and freshmen in college. Some of those documents are five years old this month. And as I went through each page protector, I threw away all but two of the documents. Why had I held onto them for so long?

My 16 month old daughter was even helping me out. She was so eager to throw things in the trash can that she tried to grab things and throw them out before I had a chance to inspect it. I had to encourage her to slow down but she also forced me to speed up my decision making process. I would look at a paper as quickly as I could so that I could hand her something to throw away.

Best part of the process so far? Other than getting rid of the excess, I was also thrilled to find $190 in cash! I'm usually super responsible with my money so I was surprised to find such an amount stashed away. I believe this was cash we received when we got married and I put it together in an envelope with the wedding cards. Moral of the story? Go declutter your junk and maybe you'll even pay yourself for doing so.

I am only about halfway through decluttering my papers but it is a great start. And once I declutter them, then I can figure out how I want to organize. The three categories of papers to keep (according to Marie Kondo) are:

  1. Papers that require attention (need to be dealt with within the next 1-2 weeks, such as bills)
  2. Papers to keep for the shorter-term (such as recent blood work, monthly budget, etc.)
  3. Papers to keep long-term/forever (such as tax returns, birth certificates, etc)

Do you have papers that need to be decluttered?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Surviving a Disaster

I would argue that most Americans would not survive one jobless week without having to dig into all of their savings, take on debt, and/or sell something of value. And those methods of income are simply not long-term solutions.

What about facing an even greater catastrophe? Would we be prepared? We probably all remember the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. People had to wait in line for two hours just to purchase a gallon of gas to power their generators. It was a scary and uncertain time for many people who had to make due with what they had for several days until help could arrive.


How many of us are prepared to lose our jobs? Lose power for a few days? Or face a state-wide disaster?


I know I'm not.


But that doesn't mean we need to start digging holes in the backyard and creating bomb shelters. According to Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast, you should prepare in the order of likelihood that the disaster would occur. That would be an individual disaster (losing your job or someone in the family becoming ill/passing away), neighborhood disaster (such as a power outage), a regional disaster (such as severe flooding), a national disaster (such as a depression), and finally a global disaster (such as a nuclear war or worldwide famine).


On the individual level, having extra food and cash on hand are always helpful. If you lose your job, not having to spend as much on groceries and having enough money to pay for gas and rent/mortgage for a few months will relieve a lot of stress as you search for a new source of income. If someone becomes ill, also having to spend less on basic living and having more money for medical bills or other necessities during that time also relieves some of the stress.


If there is a power outage in your neighborhood, having the food and cash mentioned above plus some water and a small power source would help get you through a few days or a week without power. Having a simple blackout kit and 72 hour pack (enough shelf-ready food to survive for 72 hours) would also help.


The preparation for larger disasters does not change significantly from the two scenarios listed above. Having more food and water, more cash, and extra gasoline are always helpful in times of disaster. If you want to go above and beyond, have a homestead where you are growing some of your own food and have some animals that could be eaten if times ever got that slim.


The bottom line, though, is to have something. It is not a matter of when a disaster will strike your family but when. The more prepared you are to survive it, the easier it will be to bounce back when things get better.