Hope for your financial life and beyond

Pushing Through An Identity Crisis: 31 Straight Days of Writing

Have you ever dealt with an identity crisis, not sure of who you really are?

identity crisisDo you wear multiple hats and thus stumble for the right words when people ask, “So, what do you do?”

Did this ever lead to an impasse where you weren’t quite sure how to present yourself?

I’ve been there in every form and fashion since I started writing on this blog over two years ago. At the beginning I still was teaching high school and always felt the blog writing was an add-on to any conversation. When people would ask me “What do you do?” I’d respond by saying I was a teacher and then somewhat sheepishly add how I was writing a personal finance blog on the side.

The first part about teaching people could relate to and was met with the typical follow up questions one might expect when inquiring about someone’s career. The add-on about blogging produced nothing. The statement crash landed.

The experience continued earlier this summer when I began to lead with “I’m now a stay at home dad.” Same results.

It’s hard to convince yourself you are something when nobody sees you that way. All people could see in me was teacher or stay at home dad. They didn’t see personal finance writer.

I’ve come to realize that wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. You are who you say you are. People will follow your lead and respond accordingly.

Identity Crisis: Turn Pro In Your Mind

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Happy Anniversary! Luke1428 Enters the Terrible Twos

Two year old boy cryingIt’s a happy anniversary announcement today at Luke1428. As of July 3rd, I have now completed two years of writing on this blog. In parenting terms, it’s now time to enter the most challenging of all toddler development stages – the “Terrible Twos.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, the terrible twos are characterized by mood changes, temper tantrums and a child’s frequent use of the word “No.” During this time, the 2-year old undergoes some major emotional and intellectual changes that pushes them to become more independent. This obviously creates tension between child and parent as the misbehavior from the child and the frustration of the parent mount.

I have to tell you, the terrible twos don’t have to be a reality. They weren’t for us with any of our four children. So I’m rejecting the notion I’ll be dealing with a recalcitrant toddler as Luke1428 develops this year. Like I did for my biological children this parent has a plan to deal with his two year old blog.

Stay Disciplined to Combat the Mood Changes

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The Fear of Spending Again Once the Debt Is Gone

fear of spending“Can We Ever Step Off the Gas With Our Finances?”  That’s a question I asked just over a year ago on this blog. That post looked at when it might be appropriate to loosen the reins on the budget and relax the tightfisted control we have over our spending as we pursue certain financial goals.

My answer left open a great deal of room for debate. I concluded that “it depends” on many factors, such as:

…the depth of the person’s dreams.

…the levels of debt still to pay off.

…if a person is facing an expensive medical issue.

…if there is some form of crisis on the horizon.

…how large the bank account/investments have become.

…how old a person may be.

To reach any financial goal requires intense focus and discipline. The debt payoff journey may be the hardest of them all. When you are waist deep in it, the finish line may as well be half a world away.

With perseverance the day will eventually come when all the debt is gone. When that happens so many choices open up. One of the biggest is how to spend all the freed up money that was going towards debt.

Having recently paid off our mortgage early, I can attest that the “no debt world” is a great place to be. However, something else is at work that was totally unexpected.

I’m finding it difficult to relax my spending.

The Fear of Spending Again

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How Shopping for Shoes Changed My Financial Life

shopping for shoesIt’s Financial Literacy Month and I’m pleased to be part of an awesome blog carnival today hosted by Shannon from The Heavy Purse. In case you are unaware, Shannon’s passion is all about helping parents raise financially confident and responsible children. Her perspectives on that issue are some of the best I’ve read. I highly encourage you to check out her site, especially today and see what all the other carnival participants are writing about.

The topic for her financial literacy blog carnival is our biggest money “A-ha” – that moment when you realized things had to change. Well, I’m in no competition with my fellow bloggers today, as I’m sure they will share great moments in time and lessons that spurred them to change. I’m pretty sure though none of them will be talking about this…

Shopping for shoes.

That’s right…my financial life really did change one while shopping for shoes.

My Life Altering Moment While Shopping for Shoes

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My Fight Against Bandwagon Consumer Syndrome

medical injectionDo you suffer from constant cravings or restlessness? Easily excitable…prone to follow the crowd…worried about being left out? Can you become quickly dissatisfied with your possessions?

Do you have an uncontrollable desire to buy what everyone else is buying? Is your time being spent in the activities of the masses just to feel connected and valued?

If any of the above descriptions sound familiar, you may have contracted BCS – Bandwagon Consumer Syndrome. Seek help immediately.

BCS is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide (note: statistic estimated, not actually calculated). It’s the tendency to spend excessive amounts of money or overly engage in activities that have become fashionable within culture. If not treated, it can sabotage budgets, wreck financial futures, waste time and ruin relationships.

Total immunity to this syndrome is rare, as anyone can develop a moment of weakness. However, with the proper medication you can ward off occurrences and resist the onset of BCS 90% of the time (non-calculated statistic #2).

My Personal Fight Against BCS

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6 Awesome Lessons for Managing Through a Financial Crisis

Hidden Nuggets #32 – “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.” – Genesis 41:39

financial crisis

Will you be prepared for the next crisis?

At some point in our lives we will face a financial challenge. Perhaps it will reach the level of severity that we would deem it a crisis. Where the financial crisis will come from or how long it will last, we will never know. However, this is for certain – one will be coming and we will have to deal with it.

That fact alone should give us an incredible incentive to plan.

The life story of the Biblical character Joseph would make Hollywood giddy with the prospects of a full-length motion picture. The plot has everything you’d want: from family conflict and deception to seduction, slavery and redemption. Joseph faced it all. And it’s in his redemption phase where we learn a great deal of what it’s like to plan for and through a financial crisis.

The Bible describes a time where the Pharaoh of Egypt had a series of dreams as he slept one night. Pharaoh knows the dreams hold significant importance but he, nor his magicians can interpret the imagery. Enter Joseph, a man whom God had already blessed with the ability to decipher a dream’s meaning.

Joseph listens as Pharaoh shares the dream sequence. Then, with Godly assistance, Joseph explains to Pharaoh the good news and bad news:

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Price Limits, Blow Money and the 24 Hour Rule

24 hour ruleDo you have a 24 hour rule on big purchases? This strategy, plus two other strategies helped my family spend less and produce massive amounts of savings each month.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m a recovering spend-a-holic. In another life, I spent to my heart’s content, undeterred by any financial damage it would cause. I wrecked our ability to save and follow any semblance of a budget.

My wife and I would have frequent “discussions” about our my spending patterns. The discussions were mostly one sided, with me downplaying the extent of our my struggles. I got so good at deflecting any negativity about our my poor spending habits that I usually ended up getting what I wanted at the end of those conversations. Kudos to my wife for putting up with me…I was a mess.

Clearly I had convinced myself there was no problem.

It’s very easy for spending to spiral out of control. Much of the time, we do damage simply by not developing a system of checks and balances to monitor what’s going on. We end up waking up one day with a mess on our hands, wondering how we got there.

The biggest step that had to take place for my spending habits to change was a shift in my attitude. Thankfully for me, that did take place through a series of well-timed events that occurred at a point when my mind was open to improvement. Only after I willfully chose to get my act together and develop some discipline could my wife and I move forward with some strategic practices to curb spending.

Two such practices we implemented proved valuable for us. Those were setting price limits on spending and following the 24 hour rule.

Price Limits

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I Need Patience Now!

Hidden Nuggets Series #13 – “…let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”   Hebrews 12:1

ID-10061781The words found in the above verse are fitting considering the incredible task I face. At 8:00 AM tomorrow, amidst the coolness of the morning and the likelihood of rain, I will attempt to complete the Baltimore Marathon in 4 hours or less. I set this crazy goal back during the first weeks of January and the moment has finally arrived.

It’s about time because I hate waiting.

And when the gun sounds and the early stages of the race begin, I will again fight my ongoing battle with patience.

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What’s More Valuable: Short or Long Term Goals?

long term goalsWe usher in October tomorrow which means that 2013 is rapidly coming to an end. Remember all those New Year’s resolutions you swore would be accomplished this year? How did those short and long term goals pan out?

Most likely you accomplished some and dropped some. That’s the norm for most of us. I’ve been able to finish two short term goals and two long term goals so far this year. I postponed one to be completed in 2014. The only long term goals I have left for this year concerns my running.

Goals give us targets to shoot for and assist us in moving forward in life areas that we feel need improvement. When they are written properly, they serve to keep us focused and motivated. When accomplished, they give us an incredible boost of confidence and spur us on to create greater ones. I love the feeling of winning with my goals.

Bringing my goals into the public eye this year via this blog has been an interesting experience. It’s helped me develop a clearer understanding of goals and their importance in my life. Most notably, I’ve realized the need to establish a balance between goals that can be accomplished quick and those that will take some more time. Both types have value, bringing unique things into my life.

The Value of Short Term Goals

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Health, Wealth and Moments of Clarity

moments of clarityThe personal finance blogosphere takes the accumulation of wealth seriously. One can literally read hundreds of posts each day espousing the virtues of saving more and spending less in the hopes of one day reaching financial independence. That’s the pinnacle of wealth accumulation we strive for – the day when our money makes more for us in a year than we could make for ourselves in a year. That’s a sweet place to be.

So we spend much time and focus in this area of our lives. Researching. Writing posts. Sharing with others. Developing our blogs. It’s all part and parcel of the gig.

I can tell you, having been at this for almost a year now, blogging can eat you up if you allow it. So can working too hard at your day job. So can spending too much time watching television. So can updating Facebook all day long. So can any activity or hobby taken to excess.

By definition, when we overindulge in one area we naturally neglect other areas of our life that need attention. It’s impossible to give maximum total attention to every facet of our lives at the same time. Something inevitably has to give.

In addition to our personal finances, another area we sorely neglect is our health. There was a time in the not so distant past when this was true of me. I was consumed with my work. I was not getting enough sleep and I rarely exercised. I was sluggish, not eating well and sat around for most of the day. And the numbers on the scale kept getting higher and higher.

Then, to quote Zangief from Wreck It Ralph and Street Fighter II fame – “I have moment of clarity.” That clarity came in two separate events.

Two Personal Moments of Clarity

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A Momentary Lapse of Discipline Almost Ruined My Dream

Basketball on floorI hate dilemmas. Four weeks before the most important half-marathon of my two year, mid-life running career, I’m being asked to play in a pick up basketball game to help our high school boys get ready for their state championship playoffs. It’s a great opportunity for a bunch of the staff to “man up” and help the boys knock off some rust before playoff time.

Plus, I love basketball and in another life (high school) I was fairly good at it. Also having been a coach for about 13 years before retiring my clipboard in 2010, I had helped develop many of these players in their middle and early high school years. How much fun this would be to engage them on the hardwood and assist in their mental and physical preparation for the upcoming tournament. I really wanted to help them out.

There is one problem however. I’ve got a race coming up. I’ve been diligently training for three months pushing toward my goal of running an under two-hour half-marathon. What if I’m unfortunate enough to get hurt in this game?

A strained muscle. Maybe a twisted ankle. Or the dreaded tweaked groin. These things happen in basketball all the time and could derail my opportunity to train and potentially reach my goal. Is this fun and rewarding endeavor worth putting my body and my dream at risk? What in the world should I do?

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