Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The green elephant in the room.

So I've felt pretty boring lately- haven't had a lot to talk about in terms of politics, life experiences, realizations, epiphanies, etc. Which is not to say that there haven't been things to talk about; nationally, this has been a pretty brutal summer. I could talk about lessons learned in Thailand (the real question would be whether I could stop once I started). I don't know- none of it is giving me that buzz- the itch to just spill my guts via Arial font and smear them across my private corner of the internet neighborhood.

But I want to write today, so I figured I'd talk a little bit about money.

If you asked me to give you a run-down analysis of my experiences with money, it would probably go something like this: "I'm shit with money, I never have enough, I'm poor, I'm bad with money, I'm scared of money, I can never seem to get ahead" blah blah blah insanity. For the majority of my life (save a brief, rosy time when I was living at home and had no debt, before the car and the student loans and the credit cards), I have struggled with money. It has been a source of stress and fear and frustration in my life as long as I have been signing my name along the dotted lines of adulthood. I'd say my approach to dealing with this stress/fear/hate has been out and out avoidance. Classic denial, ostrich head in the sand, etc. Sure! Go right ahead and buy that! Why not! I have no money for it, but I'm NEVER GOING TO HAVE MONEY, so let's just keep on digging!

What this approach has essentially meant is that I will go for long periods of time with this vague, stressful feeling in the back of my head, and then one morning wake up in a cold sweat, spend hours of my day pouring over accounts, making plans, etc., until the panic settles down a bit wherein I return to my denial until the stress builds up again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

However, this past year has really been an amazing year. I have been happier, more productive, more focused, more in line with myself than I've ever been. Getting older sucks for the face, but it sure feels amazing to finally get to a place where you feel comfortable in your own skin. Anyway, so feeling good is sort of addicting, and once you start feeling so great in other areas of life, the temptation is to want that feeling in all areas. Crazy, I know. So slowly, I've begun to turn my focus toward the green elephant in the room.

I'm not feeling altogether secure on the wagon, but I figured I'd share some things I'm learning along the way. Here are some useful tools I've found:

  • Bryon Katie. If you appreciate her rather Buddhist approach to reality and existence, you may find her work with money can help with cognitive hangups. I think in the past, many of my issues with money have stemmed from beliefs I have had about where I am supposed to be financially, fear stories that I have inherited from my parents (whose fears about money have always been a factor), and stories I have told in conjunction with the events of my life (like the classic one- "I have a degree, so therefore, I should make more money" hahahahahaha....aaaahhahahahahah.... soooo funny!). So much of our lives are spent story-telling. Living in reality is so much kinder. It's really helped with my underlying fears.
  • I have a new goal (as of a few weeks ago) to spend a little bit of time learning about money every day. Whether that's reading through a few money blogs, reading the financial section in the NYT, getting books from the library on money, or what- I am committed to becoming more proficient in the vocabulary and terminology of money, finding tips that might help me out, finding people who give good advice, and following it. Doing it daily helps me to keep focus and it also helps me to remain motivated to stay on track with my own monetary goals.
  • J.D. Roth, author of the blog Get Rich Slowly. I like this guy. He's practical and non-gimmicky and his information is, for the most part, helpful.
  • online banking. The best return rates for savings accounts, checking accounts, etc. I signed up because I was looking for a savings account that I can forget about. It was easy to sign up and, when I had a question, their customer service person was REALLY nice and helpful. I'm sold.
  • The Simple Dollar- I like this guy too. Informative and not preachy.
  • I'm pretty sure everyone already knows about this already. It takes a little time to set up, but once you're done, you have a complete, up to date, financial picture of just how screwed you really are. For me, while it's sort of depressing, looking at it helps me with my avoidance- I know exactly where I'm at. And, at the end of the day, it's not something that a little extra effort can't turn into a good situation.
What have I learned? The biggest thing I've learned is that, while I'm not perfect with money, I'm really not as bad with it as I'd thought. Hopefully, it just gets better from here on out.


Trisha Reynolds said...

thanks for the tips. we can all work on money-related goals. check out NPR's planet money podcast. they do it twice a week and they are only about 20 minutes long. i listen to them when i'm getting ready. they put current financial situations in layman's terms. LOVE planet money!

Rebecca said...

Cool idea Trish! Muchas grassyass. :)