Monthly Archives: June 2008

Carnival of Careers #5

Welcome to the Carnival of Careers #5, back at brip blap for the week!  There were a lot of great submissions below, and I highlighted a few as my picks.     Enjoy!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Daquella manera

Editor’s Picks:

Kristie presents Bored with your job? Work overseas for the summer! posted at Norway – An American In Oslo.  It’s a cool idea from someone living in a cool place…

mbhunter presents The most important thing you can do for your job posted at mbhunter.   A good reminder for anyone who grumbles about their job regularly.

Mark Butler presents Why Everyone Should Experience a Sales Job posted at The Butler Project.  I have done a tiny bit of selling but it’s always been business-to-business selling rather than trying to sell to individuals; Mark has a good idea why everyone should at least attempt sales.

work-life balance
Will presents Sample of How To Write A Condensed Work Week Proposal posted at Your Finish Rich Plan.  This is a great starting point for trying to convince your boss to give you a condensed work week – flex time, telecommuting, job sharing, etc.

MoneyNing presents A Dollar Saved is Two Dollars Earned but Two Dollars Earned is Twenty Dollars Saved posted at Money Ning. A new look at savings and income!

career management
Silicon Valley Blogger presents Traditional Jobs For Men And Women And The Gender Divide » Money and Personal Finance Blog In Silicon Valley posted at The Digerati Life.  It’s surprising to think that there are careers in which 99% of the workers are one gender, but there are quite a few.

Andrew Heath presents People Forgive Mistakes, Not Personalities posted at Rants of a Gay Lunatic.  Spending time focusing on others’ mistakes makes you look petty, and nobody likes petty.

Phil for Humanity presents Everyone has a Boss posted at Phil for Humanity. Most of us even have more than a single boss. This is a fact of life that no one can escape.

The Baglady presents The Importance and Benefits Non-Profit and Public Service Jobs posted at The Baglady.  This was an interesting article for me, personally, since my brother just made the leap from a corporate behemoth to a governmental job, exchanging a big salary for benefits out the wazoo.   That’s not ALL the article is about, because it focuses on the positive rewards non-profit and public service jobs can give to the individual.

career advice
Carrie presents The lucky 7: Lessons in entrepreneurship, courtesy of my father posted at Our Common Cents.  Entrepreneurial mindsets do teach people not to rely on the supposedly-safe paycheck, and I think that does help in their financial lives, as well.

Raymond presents My List Of The Top 5 Most Overrated Careers and Jobs posted at Money Blue Book.  I can’t say I disagree with the list, but it’s missing corporate consultants!

Dereck presents How to become what you want to become, in about two days posted at I Will Not Die.  The biggest obstacle to achieving your goal is usually (unfortunately) you.

Rich Leverage presents How to Work Less and Make More Money With Multiple Streams of Income posted at Rich Credit Debt Loan. About diversification of income. Diversity reduces risk. Eventually the goal is passive income covering living expenses, then working for anything other than fun is no longer necessary.

Akemi presents Successful Entrepreneurs Are Great Problem-Solvers: Laura Bennett posted at Yes to Me.   I’d say that the skills successful entrepreneurs have would also make them successful employees, too!

Ted presents The Ultimate Graduation Resource List posted at CampusGrotto.  A good list of career resources for new grads.

Ian Lurie presents HVAC Training: Starting a new career posted at HVAC Training.  If you want to learn about an HVAC career, this is your chance to start.  Right now.

job stories
Michael presents Law Student Leaves Gang Life For School Life posted at International Law News.  Just once, though, I’d like to see a “lawyer leaves corporate office to lead a life of crime.”  Oh wait, they don’t have to leave the corporate office for that, do they…

TheLifeLessTraveled presents How to Start Your Dream Company, Founders of Fred Flare Share Their Story posted at The Life Less Traveled.   That’s a good point; don’t just think about starting a company, think about starting your DREAM company.

The Financial Blogger presents When It Doesn’t Make Sense; Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Out posted at The Financial Blogger.  This is a story about a classroom situation that would apply equally in a work situation.

That’s it for this edition of the carnival! Thanks to everyone who participated and I hope you found a few interesting articles here. Remember to submit an article for the next edition which will be July 14 at Money Smart Life. I’m skipping next Monday simply since it’s going to be a busy weekend (both for me and everyone else) .  If you’re interested in hosting, there are spots available in August!

how to be a location independent family, part 2

A while ago I was reading Location Independent Living, and I came up with three questions that I had about actually implementing it with a family. Most of these questions probably would arise reading the now-famous Four Hour Work Week, too, but I have yet to read it.  In my last post, I asked the question “what does that really mean”?  Now I’m going to answer my second question:  could you live a location-independent life with children?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Sukanto Debnath keeping busy 🙁

I have a toddler son and a newborn baby girl. My son is already speaking in both English and Russian.  He’s not toilet trained – mainly since we haven’t encouraged it too much – but he’s largely able to eat adult foods, sleep reasonable hours and so forth.  Traveling with him is primarily a question of keeping him entertained.  Going on a plane is tough because he gets bored, but we’ve already made four round-trip flights with him and one one-way – all before he was two!  So I know he could handle travel.

An infant is another question entirely. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be possible, but I would be significantly more nervous about moving from location to location with an infant.  You’d have to find pediatricians, carry a fairly comprehensive bunch of medicines/foods/etc. if you were going to a more remote location, and frankly be able to put up with a fairly nervous infant.  The biggest upside to traveling with an infant is that they seem to sleep on plane flights!

So travel would be possible, although maybe difficult. That’s just the travel aspect.  What about on arrival at your location?  I think the age of your children then becomes fairly significant.

Until recently Little Buddy attended day care for a couple of hours per day, mainly for socializing. Formal education is still a long way away.  I’ve talked about education and I have a growing sense that at least for some portion of their lives my children will be homeschooled, for a variety of reasons.  I am not a fan of the ridiculous test-based/homework-based education system we have in America.  I think the emphasis on facilities and sports and equipment (think: computers) over personnel such as teachers make American schools weaker every year.  American education has become largely geared towards producing minimally educated graduates suited for cubicle attendance.  Finance, classical languages, and the arts are neglected subjects while rote reading, non-practical mathematics and sciences are encouraged (I will have more to say on these subjects in the future).  Suffice it to say that as the children got older, I would not mind at all doing a year or two of home-schooling.  Resources are available and I am willing to do it.

Probably the larger question would be socialization. Would a child home-schooled in St. Petersburg or Singapore or Dubai have a social life?  Would a child home-schooled in New York have a social life?  I think where you live matters less than Where you live, if that makes sense.  What does that mean?  I mean that even in New York if you live in an apartment building and never go out, you won’t have any meaningful socialization for yourself or your child.  If you throw yourself into the local community there will always be activities and opportunities for your child to learn and grow.  People are people.  It may be harder to form connections in deeply different cultures, but because of that it can be all the more rewarding.

I think being a location-independent professional with children would be exciting. I am sure there are risks – my young (slightly older than Little Buddy) niece recently suffered through a very dangerous and frightening illness while in Southeast Asia.  Yet illnesses occur at home, and if you allow fear of “maybes” to keep you from chasing your goals, you won’t be happy and that unhappiness will be passed down to another generation.    So what would be the main tips for living as a location-independent family with children?

  • Be prepared to homeschool.
  • Always make sure you are stocked with basic infant medicines.
  • Make identifying health care facilities and practitioners one of the very first thing you do on arrival in a new location.
  • Keep your children’s emotional and developmental needs in mind.  Moving once every four months might not be too traumatic, but children need some sense of stability.
  • Make sure you’re happy traveling with your family.  If you feel tense or unhappy or nervous, no-one is going to enjoy the travels.

I think it could be done. I’m not sure you could do it easily, but I have known at least one guy whose parents raised him that way, traveling around the world – and he seemed to end up more or less OK.  The biggest question you have to ask is whether your whole family is on board with the idea – because if anyone’s not happy, the whole experiment will be shot.

how to be a location independent family, part 1

A while ago I was reading Location Independent Living, and I came up with three questions that I had about actually implementing it with a family. Most of these questions probably would arise reading the now-famous Four Hour Work Week, too, but I have yet to read it. First, a lot of people say they want to travel but what does that really mean? Second, is it really possible with children? And finally, what kind of financial situation do you need to be in if you do it? I’ll address each of these questions in a separate post.

What Does Travel Really Mean?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Joshua Davis (

Take a look at this list of “travels” that I’ve done and think about which of them would appeal to you. This is not an abstract question, but an attempt to try to make you think about what kind of traveling you would prefer to do if money and time and commitments and so on were no object.

– A cruise to a generic Caribbean island.
– Camping in the hills, living in tents and eating food cooked over the fire.
– A hotel in a shabby part of Paris, but near a subway that gives you quick access to the heart of the city.
– Staying in simple accommodations in a small town in central Europe.
– Primitive hotel accommodations in distant Siberia; no shower, minimal heat, no TV.
– Visiting relatives in a town about 7 hours away by car.

Travel usually means one of two things to most people: a desire for new experiences OR relief from day-to-day routines. I don’t think there are many other reasons to travel, because almost any motivation can be put in one of those two categories, or both. If you want to become a location-independent person, though, you should be motivated by the desire for new experiences. If your motivation is relief from day-to-day routines – nonstop – then you may be disappointed eventually. Even if you travel constantly, routines will develop. As I’ll discuss in part two, routines may even be necessary. If your idea of perfect travel is staying on a cruise ship or in a luxury hotel where maid services take care of making the bed and the minibar magically refills, you will eventually grow tired of this new routine.

On the other hand, if you are looking for new experiences, traveling as a location-independent family would be liberating. You can stay in a location until it gets boring for you, then move to the next location. Your routine may be the same in each place (doing your remote work, schooling the kids, going grocery shopping), but the experience will always be new. You can do this by learning your timeframe for change, and planning ahead. Obviously if you have a routine built into your daily life, but your location changes once every six months, you will have new experiences. Grocery shopping in Irkutsk will be different than grocery shopping in Surabaya. However, you will have to do it. You will not have concierge service everywhere you go that will allow you to sleep until noon and party all day long.

Traveling in general, though, is liberating. As I said, I have made all of the trips I listed above and each has its own appeal. However, going to a new place for the first time is always tremendously exciting for me. I would rather go to Croatia than France, simply because I’ve BEEN to France. Similarly I would rather go to a small village in France, though, than go to the same city in Croatia twice. Some people enjoy one place; they have a timeshare there, or friends, or simply love it too much never to visit again. If you are like this, maybe you don’t really want to be location independent: maybe you just want to MOVE. It’s a critical difference, because they are two very different lifestyles. If you love France, for example, just move there and live there for a few years. Don’t move there planning to move on in 3 or 4 months; you’ll regret it.

I think the biggest part of this lifestyle would be making sure that you are doing it for the right reasons: for experience, not for escape. You can find escape without traveling – by getting a different job, exploring a new hobby or even learning something new. Experiences, though, have to be sought after, and being a location independent family would be a great way to continually invite those experiences into your life.

In the next part I’ll talk about traveling with children.

Also see:

9 ways to save without breaking a sweat

This post first appeared on My Two Dollars as a guest post.  I owe a big debt to David since he was the first guy to give me a shot at guest posting, and this article hasn’t lost a beat since it first appeared!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Derek Farr ( DetroitDerek )

As anyone who has started to learn about personal finance knows, one of the cornerstone ideas is “pay yourself first.” Paying yourself first is a simple concept, but many people find it hard at first to make putting money into savings a priority. Saving money sounds like a good idea, but there is always a chair that needs to be replaced, new shoes for junior or just one more DVD to add to the collection. So how can you make saving a habit? It’s a trick question – you don’t have to make it a habit, you have to make it automatic. If you make your savings automatic, you never have to work on developing the habit. The habit will grow naturally once you see how easy it is.

So how do you make savings automatic? Here are 9 painless ways to do it.

  1. 401(k): If you work for a company, chances are they offer a 401(k); if you work for an educational institution, a hospital, a church, or a non-profit they probably offer a 403(b), and state and local government workers can invest in 457 plans. All of these plans generally offer the worker a chance to invest their wages, pre-tax, into their choice of a selection of investment options – usually mutual funds. Most plans ask the employee to set an amount or a percentage to be withdrawn every month. A 401(k) or similar plan is the single best way to make savings automatic. The contribution is not taxed and taxes are never paid on any amounts in the account. In fact, until you retire you will never pay taxes. The money is taken out before you ever even see it – so there is no temptation to cheat ‘just this once.’ Best of all, many employers match some of your contribution with a contribution of their own into your account!
  2. Automatically withdraw money to a savings fund: After you have contributed enough to your 401(k) plan to meet your employer’s matching limit (and more, if you can afford it) you should set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account to a savings account. Popular options for savings accounts are high-yield accounts at ING and HSBC, currently offering rates around 5%. Both will allow you to set up automatic withdrawals from your checking account directly into your savings account, where it can earn interest. You can set up the withdrawal date to be the day after your paycheck arrives, so you will not be tempted to spend that money on something else. Once the money is in the savings account, it’s out of sight, out of mind and growing rapidly thanks to the miracle of compound interest! Best of all, you can use this as an emergency fund – but only for true emergencies.
  3. Direct deposit your paycheck to separate accounts: If your employer allows you to have direct deposit for your paycheck, take advantage of it. Most banks will waive monthly fees if you set up direct deposit, and if you can directly deposit to multiple accounts automatic savings become even easier. Set up two checking accounts – one for monthly expenses and one for irregular expenses. Those irregular expenses can be for any of those expenses that come up on a monthly basis that were unexpected but not really a true emergency. Maybe the tires on the car were worn, or junior broke a window playing ball. If you estimate your regular monthly expenses and have just enough money going in your ‘main’ checking account, you can take money out of the irregular expenses account without having to worry about paying the electric bill.
  4. Drop a penny (or a quarter) in your change jar: Keep a change jar right by the front door. Every day when you come home, throw any loose change in here. Once it fills up, take it to your local bank and deposit it in your savings. If that is too much trouble, take it to a CoinStar machine (usually at your local supermarket) and get an gift certificate and use it to buy something useful – amazon sells many household items like CFLs and dishwashing detergent.
  5. Always use a credit card with rewards: This is a little more controversial, but if you have a good cash back rewards card, use exactly one credit card for every purchase you make, but pay it off in full each month! If you are the type of person who lets their credit card slip out of their wallet and into the department store’s credit card swiper by accident, I suggest you skip this step! However, if you charge $500 a month on a 1% cash back card, you can earn another $60 a year – for nothing!
  6. Pre-pay your mortgage: If you own a house, even adding a tiny extra principal payment can shave months or years off the length of the mortgage and save you thousands of dollars in interest. Do not let small amounts discourage you – even an extra $25 per month can save thousands in interest over the life of your mortgage.
  7. Reinvest dividends: If you own mutual funds or stocks you can request that dividends be reinvested. That means that whenever a dividend is issued, it is immediately used to buy more shares of that fund/stock. You never touch the money so the temptation to spend your “windfall” dividend is taken away!
  8. Adjust your withholding: You may enjoy getting a big tax refund every year, but if you do you have lent Uncle Sam that money for the year, interest-free. Adjust your withholding to ensure that you have as small a refund as possible. If you get a refund, the IRS gives you the option to have it direct deposited – send it to your high-yield savings account, not your checking account!
  9. Take advantage of FSAs: Some companies offer flexible spending accounts. A Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, is a tax-advantaged account that allows individuals to set aside portions of their earned income for public transportation, parking, dependent care and the most common type, health care expenses. Simply put, you set aside an amount you choose, pre-tax, each month in a pre-funded account and then withdraw it when you need it. You save money by taking the amount out pre-tax and putting it in an account where it can only be used for a set purpose like health care expenses. Once it is in the account, there is no way to get it back out and use it for an iPhone!

Remember: make your savings automatic and paying yourself first will become second nature!

mindhack: gratitude rock

Another nice little mindhack from The Secret:

I took a small rock I found in a box of childhood junk and I carry it in my pocket. Whenever I stick my hand in my pocket and touch it, I think of something I’m grateful for. That’s it. Yet at the same time, the result is surprising, because I feel much happier and more confident about my actions throughout the day.  I have no idea if it’s related but more money has been flowing in from more sources since I started doing it late last week, too.  I’m willing to assume that it’s being attracted in – why not?

I know some of these ideas may sound a little corny, but they work. Give it a shot, and let me know if it works!

how America grew rich, fat and unhappy

During the weekend I spoke to a friend of mine from a Middle Eastern country. We spoke over a huge pile of Legos and the Bert-n-Ernie Garage and a full set of Thomas the Tank Engine trains (although, in all fairness, most were gifts).  He was reminiscing about how he grew up with practically no toys:  he and his brothers made toys out of wire and twine and cans and sticks.  I spoke about my childhood – less simple, but still free for the most part of electronic gadgets.  We watched a Euro 2008 match on satellite TV while we spoke, drank German beer and checked other sports score on my high-speed Internet laptop.  Then my friend lamented the fact that while his mother had managed to support his whole family and grandparents on one salary, it just wasn’t possible anymore.

It is. Take out the imported beer, the satellite TV, the piles of children’s toys, the second car, the computers, the high-speed internet, and so on and it is.  It’s amazing how within the span of one generation we’ve added so many “extras” yet Americans are now working harder than any other industrialized nation – even more than the infamously hard-working Japanese.  I may exempt the Internet from this equation, simply because what I pay for access – a $600 Toshiba laptop and a high-speed cable connection – are worth it in terms of information and learning and entertainment.  Other than that, though, we have added so much to our lives that we’ve lost sight of the fact that we don’t need most of it.

Yet at the same time America is unbearably wealthy by global standards. We have calories (not good ones, but calories nonetheless) available in almost unlimited supply.  You can buy enough Cinnamon Toast Crunch to feed a family of four for a day for $10.  Even the poorest people in America can afford television; and despite the recent increase in gas prices, we still have some of the cheapest gas in the world and almost no-one is too poor to afford a car.

I don’t automatically assume that “having things” makes anyone unhappy, any more than I assume having things DOES make someone happy. Americans are uniquely blessed with a regulatory environment that is still wide-open by global standards, and the remnants of an entrepreneurial spirit that lives on despite 50 years of creep in governmental control.  Yet at the same time a gap has opened up that shows that the materialistic society has limits.  I have made no statistical studies, but I have so many acquaintances who are loaded down with material goods who are desperately unhappy and apprehensive about the future that it seems to be a trend.  I’m not exaggerating, either – these people have possessions that would have convinced me, in my youth, that they were multimillionaires.  So progress has been made in the material world, but something – somewhere – was lost.

I don’t know what the answer is, because the Internet and cable/satellite TV and clever toys and gadgets like MP3 players have not seemed (and that’s the key word) to be EVIL. I enjoy my MP3 player.  Could I live without it?  Of course.  Does it enrich my life?  It sure did today, when I listened to a fascinating interview on it.  But is it part of a slow trickle of gadgets-for-money-for-time that have robbed me of the deliberate life?  That’s something each of us, in the wee hours, have to decide for ourselves.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

does innovation require desperation?

One thing I learned over the period of time that I was “problogging” was that working at home is a train wreck for me. Part of it is simply that I have no backbone. I don’t have the steel core that allows me to shout at the rest of clan Blap “I’m going downstairs, locking the door and working!” I think if you were going to work at home you’d have to have either a full-time babysitter/nanny or a will of steel to brush off a child who wants to play, play, play.  Or ship them off to daycare full-time.

I also think that if I knew blogging – or freelance writing, or taking photos for cookbooks, or whatever – was going to be my primary source of income, I’d pull it together and get it done. As long as any activity like blogging is more of a hobby than a primary source of income it’s hard to get motivated to pursue it to the exclusion of other activities. And that leads me to this question:

Can I ever make a go of ANY alternative way of making a living without quitting my contracting work?

In my line of work, contracting is lucrative. I do not feel any burning need to make side income. I’d like to make PASSIVE income, of course, but blogging is far from passive – for every hour I spend writing posts I probably spend three answering emails, taking care of links, comments, etc. It’s still a labor of love but it is labor.

Yet I wonder… if I had no income coming in, would I become a successful problogger? Would I figure out other ways to make income if I had to in order to keep income coming to keep our home? I bet I would. I think the challenge is lacking for me, because I know the base income needs – and then some – are taken care of by contracting.

It’s not a bad thing at all. I know that some other bloggers blogged on the side for a while before leaping into problogging. I’m picking on blogging since as a reader of blogs you understand what that entails, but it just as easily could be income from investing or knitting sweaters or being a notary public on the side.

Is it just that some people need desperation to become successful in an area? Can anyone ever make their “hobby” their cash cow? Can you actually make significant career shifts without at least a bit of desperation?

Creative Commons License photo credit: ReefRaff

death by a thousand cuts

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

– Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chovee

I’ve started work at a new client and the contrast between this client and a ‘normal’ company is severe. This company is reeling from multiple frauds, bad investments in the subprime mess, poor leadership and (in a local sense) purely bad decision making. All of that could be forgiven back in the golden days when they were making money hand over fist, but now that times are tight, heads are rolling.

Recent restructurings have been fierce. They’ve seen fewer layoffs than some of my other clients (many of whom you’d recognize in the news – 15,000 laid off here, 8,000 there) but in an effort to show “change” they’ve been brutal with the org charts. Imagine this: you’re a long-term director, with 11 people reporting to you – and the next day you’ve been demoted to a manager, with NOBODY reporting to you. Compound the injury by making your new boss your former staff.

It’s an almost unbearable humiliation made intolerable by the fact that this guy is close enough to retirement that he has no financial incentive to quit in disgust; his pension is just around the corner.
Yet this is what it’s come to in Corporate America, Inc. Maybe he was an idiot. Maybe he was a jerk. I don’t think so, but maybe he was. Yet at the same time how can any organization continue to employ someone who has been treated like this? Even if he deserved it, surely his motivation is now going to drop to “hang on until I qualify for retirement by the skin of my teeth” level, isn’t it?

This is what it’s come to, of course. A company that gets so large can coast on momentum from time to time. The management can be horrendous but the sheer size of the company – the fact that it dominates its industry – can carry it a long way. But I notice more and more that the dehumanization of the management cripples the company’s chances for long-term improvement. It’s specifically management, too. Executives and staff are often rendered inert by a lack of motivation (in the former) and a lack of motivation (in the latter). I don’t think this is a bad thing, but many execs and staff are content to coast. Management is where the angst is. But management is where movement comes from. And management is where corporate America is dying, because execs won’t cut themselves and staff have such insignificant salaries to be irrelevant during layoffs.

I tried to be sympathetic with the director who lost his staff. He’s on the downhill slope, in any case. But here’s the kicker: don’t get into this position. I’m sorry, I’m sure this guy may have had a full life and wonderful experiences and a happy family but Heilige Nifleheim – to be slapped in the face at the end of a 30-year career with a corporation with a brutal demotion, warranted or not, is awful. Keep yourself from becoming that guy – because if you stick with your corporation long enough, you WILL be that guy.

Odds and Ends:

I’ve been watching Donny Deutsch’s The Big Idea at 10:00 PM eastern on CNBC for the last couple of weeks. If there is a single TV show that I’ve EVER watched that embodies – in my opinion – the wealthbuilding mindset, this is it. He’s not talking to people getting out debt, he’s talking to people who are doing OK who want to do something amazing. If you have the time, give it a watch. I have been amazed that something like this – so relentlessly positive and at the same time intelligent – stays on TV. Watch. Now.

associating with the ‘appear-to-be-rich’ folks

Should you make a cold-hearted effort to hang out only with rich people? In several of my favorite inspirational/self-help sources (Rich Dad, Poor Dad; Think and Grow Rich; The Secret – and before you get all snooty they are inspirational, not technical advice on money management) the idea is promoted again and again that you need to associate with people who encourage you in your pursuit of wealth. You should associate with people who have similar mindsets toward action and living below their means and focusing on wealthbuilding. Recently I’ve taken stock of some of our neighbors and friends and found them wanting in their behavior, but not in their example. Huh?

If you want to be around people who inspire you to wealth, who is better? Someone who is just starting out in life, with few assets – a horrible apartment, moldy furniture, a bank account in the teens – but a great attitude towards wealth? Or someone who has a wonderful, pleasant home, a nice car, a happy family – and a mountain of debt and a devil-may-care attitude about the future? It seems like an easy question for a second, but then I start to wonder: maybe it’s a good idea to hang around some people who outwardly have the life you want, even if you know they’ve built their castle from sand.

I have known people who had an amazing discipline about wealth-building. A married couple I knew always drank water when out and drank alcohol at home; they studied investing and researched the cost of living in different places, and even studied for second careers at night to advance themselves. But they lived in a dump. They ate the cheapest crud they could find. And this lifestyle became a habit, and as they grew wealthier (and they did, but not remarkably so) they did not alter their habit. Selfishly speaking, they did nothing to encourage ME in wealthbuilding. Their ideas of wealthbuilding were spartan and seemed without purpose – other than to accumulate wealth.

On the other hand, another couple I know live like millionaires. They are not, I know for a fact. They are deeply in debt and may even lose their home. Yet at the same time they have an enviable home (now). They are living a grand lifestyle (European vacations, nice cars, etc.). I find that being around them makes me want what they have. I know I could have it tomorrow if I went into debt, of course, and I don’t plan on doing it. I’m going to get my bling the old-fashioned way, by earning it. But at the same time, their “how can we make more” attitude is interesting, their lifestyle is inspiring and their contribution to MY wealthbuilding seems somehow greater than Couple #1. I’m not a grubbing materialist, either – by ‘enviable home’ I also just mean the location, the character of the home, the closeness to schools, and so on… not just their plasma TV.

I think while it would be ideal to be surrounded by people like me (no debt and firmly focused on wealthbuilding, living in the twilight world of consulting between corporatist and entrepreneur, making six figures with a stay-at-home parent), that population is pretty small. I sometimes suspect that the New York area is comprised solely of multimillionaires (in debt), the middle class (in debt) and the working poor and immigrants who don’t use credit and consequently probably have no debt (but scrape hard for cash). That means I’m left with some unusual choices for my master mind group in relation to friends and acquaintances. It also means that I have to consider that sometimes I may be better off hanging around people who appear to be wealthy, simply so the appearance (and hopefully not the core) rubs off on me.

I watched The Secret again this weekend. It’s an entertaining movie. I know a lot of people criticize it for being a “lazy” or “greedy” way to approach wealthbuilding (“think about money and you will attract it”) but the more I watch it, the more I realize it’s right. If you sit around being negative and critical about anything – life, relationships, money, even your own health – you certainly won’t succeed at much. Negative thinking simply isn’t a productive activity. Just thinking more positively won’t guarantee much, either, but it does open you up to the possibility of success much more than a negative mindset does. Buy a copy or get it on Netflix or even watch the first 20 minutes on I think it’s worth it.

letting your emotions control your finances

The following post originally appeared as a guest post on Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life. In addition to a great blog of her own, she’s been a frequent and appreciated commentator here for a long time! She won a contest that I ran, and one of the prizes I offered was a guest post – and this was the post I gave her. Enjoy, and check out Mrs. Micah’s blog, too!

How can emotions help (or hurt) your finances?

Take a simple example: let’s assume there are two kinds of moods, good and bad, and two kinds of financial situations, good and bad. Remember: simplistic.

If you are in a good mood but a bad financial situation, you are probably doing OK. You can see the problems with your finances and a way out of them.

If you are in a bad mood but your finances are good, you can afford to just back off and wait for a while.

But if your mood is bad and your finances are bad, you will likely have trouble improving things; and if your mood is good and your finances are good you are set, although you do have to watch for overconfidence.

Do not discount emotional health and stability when considering finances.

Making decisions out of despair or ridiculous enthusiasm can be just as bad as making ill-informed decisions.

If you don’t think that’s true, you haven’t followed the real estate market recently; many otherwise intelligent people were caught up in a euphoric belief that the real estate bubble would expand forever, despite signs that it was simply a repeat of the real estate boom of the 80s.

For years, I allowed emotions to control my finances.

I let good moods and good money relax me. When I had money, and felt good, I would spend it. I might invest in a crazy dot com, or buy a new TV.

When times were bad I would sulk and sit on cash instead of promptly paying off bills or moving my money to high-yield savings accounts. I let my mood determine how I spent my money.

In my case, I let my mood make my money decisions, and engaged in a terrible form of emotional market timing; I tried to be frugal when frugality wasn’t called for and I spent when I should have saved.

If you find yourself allowing yourself pity purchases or hoarding money in fear, there are a few steps you need to take to get out of that rut.

  1. If you need help, get help. I have always been at the mild end of mood swings. I never took medication or counseling, but if I needed it, I would. If you don’t feel in control of your moods, or you can’t recognize them as temporary moods, seek help.
  2. Take some of the ‘free will’ out of your money. I am sure you’ve heard ‘pay yourself first,’ but it’s critically important if you have moody financial tendencies. Make your savings automatic, or your debt repayment plan automatic.Don’t count on yourself to show the same peppy enthusiasm for paying off your debt next month that you do this month. Make sure that money is gone to repay debt or straight into your retirement account, before you even touch it.
  3. Don’t spend on highs or lows. If you are feeling down, stay away from the store or the online shopping or whatever tempts you.If you are feeling too high, do the same.Make sure that you don’t put yourself in positions where you feel that buying that CD is going to lift your spirits, or that you need to buy those shoes because everything’s going so well.Impulse spending will almost always cause regret.
  4. Talk about it. I have made the mistake repeatedly in my life of assuming that my moods were some inner battle that I had to suppress.They aren’t.They are a normal part of life, and it’s easier if you tell people that you aren’t in a good mood when you aren’t.Friends, family and coworkers understand; none of them are Vulcans, and they can all understand that some days you don’t need to be pestered to go out to dinner, for example.
  5. Learn ways to reward yourself without spending money. If you need to spend to reward yourself – to lift yourself out of a trough or ride a great mood – you will always be in trouble.Learn to lift lows with exercise, or enjoy highs by cooking or spending time with loved ones.
  6. Change your mood. There is only one thing in this universe that you control.You don’t control your own body (it can get ill without your permission) or other people or time or your future.You can only control one thing:your own mind.The next time you feel down, tell yourself you are going to acknowledge the mood but you’re not going to let it make you irrational about money.Your mood and your actions are two separate things.So take it from someone who goes by the nickname brip blap ; you can keep your moods from controlling your personal finance situation!

Odds and ends:

Don’t forget to check out the first Finance Fiesta – sorry I didn’t do so earlier but I should’ve since it was tagged as the “life of the party”. I’m always glad to see new carnivals, so keep up with this one!

Carnival of Careers #2

Welcome to the June 9, 2008 edition of carnival of careers! There were a LOT of submissions to the carnival – unfortunately I had to reject a fairly significant portion of them for being off-topic. Remember, if you’re submitting to the carnival, it has to be a career-related article. The next edition’s not going to be posted here – scroll down to the end and you’ll find out where it’ll be!

Here’s my “bonus read” before the carnival gets underway: do you love your job, or your paycheck?

Editor’s picks:

Here are my picks for “the best of the best” for this edition of the carnival!

Akemi Gaines presents If I have to work for an idiot, I may as well work for myself: Tony Lawrence posted at Yes to Me. Part of Akemi’s Interview With Successful Entrepreneurs, this is a good look at the entrepreneurial route as a career path.

freefrombroke presents By What Cover Is Your Book Judged? posted at Free From Broke. How are you perceived in the workplace? Make sure you are giving out the right impression. Oddly enough, you can be judged by the impression you give rather than the work you do.

job stories

Jose DeJesus MD presents Motivating Employees by Paying Them to Quit posted at Physician Entrepreneur. This is an interesting concept, and one I think more companies will make use of in the future.

Cash Money Life presents How to Resign Gracefully posted at Cash Money Life. These are some good tips on how to write a good resignation letter and resign gracefully.

career management

Andrew Heath presents Earning Trust from the Bottom Up posted at Andy. Earning trust starts with yourself.

Michael. presents Beauty and the Beast: How Attractiveness Affects Your Life posted at International Law News. Could corporations – gasp – hire based on appearance?

David Stefan presents Interview Etiquette posted at Career Confidant: Job Insight from Dave. This post is about more than answering the right questions and wearing a suit; these are some of the smaller habits that can cost candidates the job.

RC presents 10 Great Ways For College Graduates to Start Off on the Right Track with Their Finances posted at Think Your Way to Wealth. Before you even get your career underway, get those finances under control.

work-life balance

Presh Talwalkar presents Whats More Important than Your Career? The Answer is Right Under Your Nose posted at Mind Your Decisions. Presh makes a convincing case that your health is the ultimate source of your career success.


Anna Goldsmith presents Five Tips for a Successful Freelance Writing Career posted at Copyblogger. If you’ve every thought about freelance writing as a career, these would be some good starting points!

Adrian Savage presents How to Cope with More of Those Pesky Distractions – Stepcase Lifehack posted at


That concludes this edition. The next edition of the carnival will be hosted by Cash Money Life! Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of careers using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Technorati tags: carnival of careers, blog carnival.

Creative Commons License photo credit: The Marmot
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