Thursday, November 15, 2012

I want to be a millionaire...

so friggin bad!  I know the song says billionaire but I'd be ecstatic with a cool million provided I still have all my senses, faculties and family. It may not be the root of ALL evil but money certainly at root of a great deal of problems for both rich and poor.
There is an oft repeated statistic that almost half the world's population lives on less than $2.00 a day, many less than a dollar. This past Spring, it was reported that number includes more than 1.5 million families here in the US. This is not some challenge to live more frugally instead it's meant to point out that many, far too many, have no choice but to subsist on these meager sums. 

While I am no way near those dire straits,  I think about money a lot. Everyday. Too many times a day. This is often the case when you perceive yourself to be in lack.  Anyway, I can say that how I think about money now is very, very different from 6 years or even 17 months ago. I've tried to track nearly every penny spent over the last couple months (whether incoming or outgoing) so I can get an accurate picture of my financial health but i keep falling off after a couple weeks. And I need this now more than ever since I suffered a serious major financial setback 17 months ago when I lost the job I hated but got paid well to do for 9 years and subsequently became underemployed. I think once this challenge is done, I'll take it on again and make it a hundred day challenge.

On a fairly typical day when I truly intended to spend little to no money, it went like this:

  • Panera bread -  $6.07 for 6 pack of bagels   (why: awoke with a horrible bout of gastro intestinal distress so I opted for bread for breakfast which I didn't have in house plus Wunderkind could have some for breakfast the next few days)
  • Roots Organic Market - $5.54  for all natural Ginger Ale (for the still delicate tummy of course) and .25 lb wedge of Beemer's Goat Gouda  - heavenly stuff
  • Costco - $13.23  for 112 hot dogs rolls. Yes really. As a member of the my daughter's HS Athletic Booster Club I agreed to donate buns for the hot dogs they were serving during the student physicals.
  • Trader Joes - $2.83 for  6 bananas (for the still delicate tummy) and a bag of 6 limes - these are staples in our kitchen
  • Noodles & Company - $5.94  - (9:34PM) the time is important because after work I was exhausted so upon arriving to pick up wunderkind after a few days stay at Grandma's, I promptly took a nearly 2 hour nap....there and home was a 55 minute drive yet.  It was already late, there was no way I was cooking anything once I got there. Wunderkind purchased her favorite Qdoba meal with her own $$ and I had Japanese Pan Noodles - a dish of udon noodles, some veggies and sauce, no drink or sides for me. 
  •  Rutters - $20.01 for 5.32 gallons of gas                                                                                       total for the day - $53.59 
I can say in complete honesty that days when our primary two meals (I almost never buy breakfast out except for the very occasional visit to IHOP) are purchased away from home are extremely rare because we can and do cook - often!  With better planning, I could have saved $18 though! To assuage that wound, the previous day I spent not one penny since I fixed my breakfast  (bagel & tea) at home and was treated to an awesome lunch of crab cake & ribs (care of a visiting vendor at work) which was enough for dinner as well. 

Even though I can account for what I spent, I still wish I'd have spent just the 13 for the booster club and saved the rest. Saving was never my forte, not sure why - oh yeah, I like expensive stuff.  However paying my bills on time always was and still is a source of pride and concern for me.  With my singular income, despite bouts of missing child support payments and the most recent job/income instabilities I've managed to maintain our home (and its related expenses) in good standing...on my own. Nobody  pays the mortgage/car note/expenses etc but yours truly - so of that I can be and am proud - no creditors have ever dialed this number, well in truth they have but they were not looking for me! At 46, I have no intention of working till I'm 76 (unless I get a traveling gig:) but saving finally has garnered a place front and center in my money contemplations. Being debt free is a major way of saving that I never considered as such.  But as I've become more financially literate, I know that "if" I'd socked away just the interest that accumulated from not paying bills in full each month then I'd have amassed a very nice chunk of change - definitely enough to fund the South American jaunt I've been salivating about for the last 6 years. Too often though we (especially African Americans) just are not taught to think in those terms, we buy now, pay later without truly understanding the ramifications of compound interest. As we've seen with many a broke athlete or entertainer, being wealthy is not just having a plethora of zeros in your account balance but managing whatever you have well. That's what I intend for myself and as an example for my the wunderkind who already shows signs of money burning a hole in her pocket.

Something I have always done to a degree (read - monthly) but has taken on a new urgency are donations to charity. I believe that giving a even small amount -say 2% of my net paycheck is my way of signaling to God (the Universe call it what you like) that I trust him as my source and I am grateful for what we do have. I don't subscribe to any particular religious tradition so every other Friday, I send a check to either Nobel prize winning Doctors without Borders, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, or my neighborhood volunteer fire dept - those 4 are my favorites. This is also one of those things that any holistic approach to financial management stresses. Besides we all know of horrible stingy rich people and their counterparts those who are destitute but willingly share what little they have. I'm subscribing to the latter though I hope being destitute is not in my future.
I bought the audiobook, Peace & Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach, from ebayover a year ago and recently listened to it again. She was the Simple Abundance author and maven who made millions and lost it all.  She recounts her tale and offers sagacious advice and anecdotes not only from her own life but a myriad of women who found themselves in the same predicament: famous and broke. Here are the points she offers at the end. I think they are small gifts for every woman

1. Always protect yourself – save 10% of each paycheck.  We've been hearing this since we were 20 but how many of us really and consistently do.I don't at least not yet
2. Have a bank account in your name only, for those of your who are married (secretly if necessary) as security.
3. Always count your money, so your money can count on you

4. Know exactly how much you have and how much you owe. It never ceases to amaze me how many wives have no idea what bills their husbands pay or why - after he's gone is NOT the time to find out.
5. When given the opportunity to spend or save – you know which one to do forgo the new purse or shoes...

6. Keep a “pin money” stash, it will grow quickly (I now put aside any $5 I get as my pin money)

7. Remember, solvency (having more assets than debts) feels better than anything you can buy

8. The envelope system, vacation and Christmas clubs do work - if you let them

9. *this little piece of advice is mine completely but it needed to come before SBB's final pearl* I've reconsidered my role in the economy a bit - rather than consuming (buying the latest gadget) I've been thinking about investing and how I can own a piece of the company that makes said gadget.  So in a very minute way I've begun to let my actions reflect my shift in thinking.  Yes, I actually purchased shares of Apple, Exxon, Pfizer (they make Viagra 'nuf said)  & McDonalds for both my daughter and I. It's much easier than you think, probably as scary as you imagine but as the interest rates on bonds, notes and bank accounts is almost nothing and I'm in it for a few years. I'm not worrying that markets have gone down every day since last Tuesday because I do believe they will go up again when the fiscal cliff issue is resolved and some members of Congress get those stark reminders that they're up for re-election in 2014. So keep buying iPads and iPhones and men over 40 have lots of 3 hour erection recreation, the wunderkind and I thank you.

10.  ASK (whomever your higher being is) for your daily portion of peace & plenty and miracles. I ask not just for me but for the Wunderkind, my Mom and anyone else I know is having a hard time. While we may not get any of them, I do believe we have a better chance at receiving them if I ask - which is after all the key to the kingdom, remember?

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