Posts Tagged ‘ finances ’

To Be The Victor, Not The Victim

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

3 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

Since I graduated college about a decade ago, I’ve been having this reoccurring dream where I’m at the end of my final semester and suddenly realize there was a Tuesday morning math class I had forgotten about the whole time, which means I won’t be able to graduate college.

It’s my subconscious’s way of saying, “Hey buddy, you’re not done learning yet. School never stops. You know that, right?”

That dream has especially been creeping up for the past year and a half and I’m pretty sure I know why…

I’ve been mentioning the PHR (Professional Human Resources) certification exam I’ve dedicated all my free time to. That has been my hobby now for the past year and a half.

(And keeping up with Breaking Bad, of course.)

The PHR certification exam is basically the equivalent to the BAR exam for aspiring lawyers.

Passing that test is the next major milestone for me building my career above and beyond my current pay grade. 

SO, I didn’t pass it when I took it a few weeks ago. This is the 2nd time now. (I have to score at least 87% of the questions right- my best score was 84%.)

It wasn’t for a lack of studying and memorizing the material. But instead of blaming the organization for “making the test too hard” or tricky, I am taking full responsibility for myself.

The question is, “What can I do differently to become a victor, not a victim?”

From what I can tell, it’s a matter of “re-learning” how to learn and study; as weird as that may sound.

So I just bought two new exam study guides for the test; which are specifically designed for people like me, who study hard and learn easily, but don’t take standardized tests very well.

In other words, I’m trying a new approach to reach my difficult goal.

I’m not backing down. It’s on me to close the deal, myself. Passing this test is a lesson to teach you. 

This is about you as much as it is me. I certainly have something to prove to the both of us.

While asking for help and depending on others is important, to really get somewhere in life, you have to do what it takes on your end to be the victor, not allowing yourself to be a victim of your circumstances or society.

I see life as an ongoing power struggle. Society is like a giant pyramid scheme where someone is always going to find a way to make money off of less fortunate, less creative, and/or less motivated people than themselves.

(Can you tell I’m a fan of Shark Tank?)

I want to help you climb that pyramid, but while reminding you to help others up along the way. That is the mindset I will be sharing with you… to be the victor, not victim.

 

Love,

Daddy

 

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Why This Dad Dreams About Losing Teeth

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

13 months.

Last night, in a completely believable dream, I lost a tooth for no good reason. I thought, “With this being the weekend, how am I going to get this fixed?” Then I lost another tooth, and then another; it was like a falling house of cards but with most of my teeth instead.

This has been a reoccurring dream I’ve been having since I graduated college; but now, as a dad and husband, it’s so much more vivid.

Dreams are interesting in that they reveal something that our subconscious is trying to sort out while we are asleep. When I Googled “dream about losing teeth,” the most consistent interpretation was not that this dream tells of a preoccupation with one’s vanity, but instead an ongoing worry about money.

Do I worry about money? I’ve said it before, “I hate money.” I’m the kind of guy who could never buy a brand-new car. I refuse to pay for cable TV; surviving on the 8 dollar a month Netflix package through my Wii. At least half of the clothes I wear are over a decade old. My iPod was bought refurbished off of Amazon.com 4 years ago and its screen is completely covered in a spider web-like crack.

But while I don’t care about money, it’s pretty obvious that my subconscious knows something that the rest of me is not so aware of: Like a lot of people, I’m sort of terrified on a daily basis of not being able to provide for my family; of being without a job, again.

Yeah, I know it- that’s nothing knew. Most people throughout the history of the world have felt that way. It’s what drives the free market.

I’m not assuming I have a unique story, but I do feel scarred from my not-so-distant 4 month stint of unemployment. I call it my “Vietnam.”

Perhaps another reason I keep dreaming about losing teeth is the fact that my personality and skill set have led me to a life where quotas and statistics matter.

I’m horrible at math, science, or anything technical. But when it comes to carrying on interesting conversations, influencing people’s opinions, and translating engaging thoughts into blog form, I’m your man. That’s one thing I can do with confidence.

Or is it?

Both my “real job” in sales where I’m on the phone all day in an office and my “side job” writing for The Dadabase on Parents.com have something very serious in common: My performance and livelihood are measured in numbers.

At my sales job I am highly pressured to “meet quota” every month in order to remain employed. As for daddy blogging, the pressure is applied by myself, not my editors, as I check my “views” at the end of every day, hoping to see that more readers are tuning in to The Dadabase than the week before.

In fact, it’s my personal goal each day to write a Dadabase post that beats August’s, “The Half Abortion: Only Keeping One Twin.” Nearly everyday, it remains the #1 viewed post.

Despite not being a numbers guy, numbers measure my income as well as my sense of career accomplishment. So yeah, it’s a wonder I don’t dream about losing my teeth every night.

If only in the dream I could remember to read this exact blog post so I could remind myself that I didn’t really lose my teeth and that it’s just me subconsciously worrying about money again.

Then the only dreams I would have to worry about then would be the ones where I wake up completely bald or where I’m only a few weeks away from graduating college but forgot to attend that final math class all semester.

I was an English major. You do the math.

Image: Man in Santa hat, via Shutterstock.

Unexpected Bonus!

Speaking of not worrying and just being happy, it’s time for a book giveaway. Hurry Less Worry Less at Christmas, by Judy Christie, is a book to help us get out of that frenzied, out-of-control frame of mind that we can find ourselves in during the holidays. This book helps us begin to have a deeper understanding of the joy of the Christmas season and how that can be a starting point for a more abundant life in the New Year.

Want a free copy of this book? Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to nickshell1983@hotmail.com.

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Nothing to Lose; Everything to Gain Back

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Seven months.

Last Tuesday on July 5th, my wife and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary… at Panera Bread in the neighboring town of Rome, Georgia.  While we typically take a weekend trip to a bed-and-breakfast for our anniversary, this year had to be different.  And not just because we have an infant now, but because we’re in the midset of restarting our lives again as we prepare to move back to Nashville.

Needless to say, if we’re moving because we just couldn’t come close to making it financially here in Alabama, which is precisely why we are moving back,then we didn’t have the money or mental capacity to enjoy a relaxing weekend getaway trip this time.

The flowers I gave my wife this year were picked from our backyard.  While they may seem like the cheapest flowers I’ve ever given her, they were actually the most expensive.  I could have only obtained these flowers by us moving away from our financially secure life in Nashville and exhausting almost all of the savings we moved down here with. So yeah, they weren’t cheap flowers.

But at this point it’s about proactively moving forward; not getting stuck in the damning mind game of “if only we would have known…”. My motivational life slogan right now is, “I’ve got nothing to lose; everything to gain back… and more.”  We’ve never had a better advantage in life than we do right now, based on what we’ve learned by moving away from Nashville.

You can imagine that if our anniversary dinner was a sandwich and salad combo at Panera Bread, that we know now more than ever, how to appreciate living on little.  So as we re-enter a lifestyle where our combined income will be well over double what it has been for the past several months, we will maintain our current 1930’s Depression Era mindset from now on.

Yes, this has been our version of The Depression that our grandparents experienced.  We are forever changed by it.  More income for us will simply mean more money wisely managed.  It’s been a baptism by fire; no doubt.

So as for next year for our fourth wedding anniversary, I plan on the two of us being able to go away to a bed-and-breakfast again, in a quirky town where we can enjoy a few nice meals.  I will buy her really nice flowers, too.  But still, this will all take place as frugally as possible, without compromising the enjoyment of it.

We’ve got nothing to lose; everything to gain back… and more.

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The New Version of Our Old Selves

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Seven months.

After all the plotlines my wife and I have lived through in accordance to our move from Nashville to my hometown in Alabama, and now back to Nashville again, it’s only natural for us to wonder: Why?

Q) Why did we spend seven months and [x amount] of dollars to live here in my hometown, only to have to go back to where we came from?

A) It took moving away from Nashville to cause us to become positively changed people so that we could go back to Nashville as the necessarily improved versions of ourselves.  But we didn’t know any of this when we left Nashville.

I can confidently say that living in the small town of Fort Payne, Alabama has caused us to fully adopt the millionaire mindset (living as frugally as possible.)  Because we became Dave Ramsey followers shortly after we got married and have since been living on a budget, we thought we were doing pretty well when it came to financially planning our lives.

But we had much more to learn.  And I know for a fact I would have never learned to be this much of a penny-pincher if it weren’t for my unemployment and my wife’s inability to get a job, despite having a Master’s degree.

The move to Alabama has been the most humiliating process I have endured in my life:  Note that when I used the word “humiliating” just now, I meant it in the sense of being humbled and disciplined, not embarrassed or shamed.  (Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission.”)

Looking back, I can see how our former budget allotted my wife and I too much “blow money” (Dave Ramsey’s term for extra cash for personal enjoyment), too much “gift money” (money spent on gifts for birthday and Christmas gifts for our friends and family), and too much “food money” (money spent on eating out at restaurants and going out for coffee on the weekend).  Not only that, but now we have learned to ask the question, “What will cause us to earn/save the most money?” when making any decision, big or small.

The version of me from a year ago just didn’t care about money.  I only cared about happiness.  And that was an epic flaw in my thinking.  Now I realize that without conservative financial planning, I will not have sanity.  And without sanity, I can not be happy anyway.

The truth is this: Without moving to my hometown and being psychologically broken down, I would have never been a responsible enough decision maker when it came to finances.  Moving to Fort Payne was the only cure for my disease.

It’s more than just refusing to use a credit card or to buy name brand products.  It’s a matter of taking my finances nearly as seriously as I take my love for my wife and son, health, and my religious beliefs.  So now as we rebuild our lives again, we will be able to be better stewards of our income.  Our money will be better saved, better spent, and better given away.

Photos courtesy of Moments in Time Photography in Fort Payne, Alabama:

www.mitbyamie.com

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The Millionaire Mindset of Generation X/Y Parents

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Seven months.

My wife and I have a catch phrase in our house: “millionaire mindset.” Whether we are discussing an unnecessary purchase or are patting ourselves on the back for money we cleverly saved somehow, we speak our code word to each other.

It’s our way of reminding ourselves that in order to be successful with what we have been given and blessed with, we have to think with the mindset of a frugal millionaire who worked hard for his fortune.  It’s not that we are trying to become millionaires, but it sure won’t hurt if we are wise in our spending; and more importantly in our savings.

So we are not ashamed to use store brand products, to buy used stuff for our son off of Amazon.com or Ebay, and to make our own baby food for him.  We keep in mind that while name brand products tend to impress people, they are counter-productive when it comes to financially prospering in the long run. Having a child makes you reconsider your spending habits as well as your saving habits. After all, our son starts college in less than 18 years from now!

There was a time when bigger and flashier was better, when it seemed most people refused to buy store brand products; right down to their hand soap and kitchen table condiments (like it matters that your bottle of mustard says “Kroger” instead of “Hunt’s”.)

I think it’s safe to say that the modern cultural movement is now towards simplicity.  We, as a nation, are learning the meaning of “living within our means” and not consuming more than we actually need; that credit cards are the devil and that frequenting all-you-can-eat buffets are an invitation to onset Diabetes.

We get it now that money isn’t everything- and more importantly, that it in theory it’s a waste of time to spend our entire lives chasing more money, only to find that by the time we retire there may be nothing left for our own social security.  Money is simply a necessary evil, as far as I’m concerned.

My wife has said several times since we’ve been married, “I could never be a millionaire because I wouldn’t know what to do with the money- I would end up giving it all away.” Exactly. Because no one person can legitimately spend anywhere near a million dollars within a reasonable amount of time, without giving a good portion of it away.  Sure, it can be invested, but ultimately, it’s a matter of asking what the end goal is in investing that money.  I personally just don’t see much of a point in investing in a bigger lifestyle only to encounter more overhead.

Who knows, though?  Maybe all it would take is a million dollars to prove me wrong.  I doubt it though.  I prefer a laid-back, low maintenance lifestyle.  I don’t like extra noise even if I’m wearing the most expensive ear plugs.

I’m sure part of the reason my wife and I have this generational mindset is because we were both born in 1981; the crossroads between Generation X and Generation Y.  We were told our whole lives that money isn’t everything, but being happy is.  So we believed it.  And I guess we always will.

Free buzz cut courtesy of my wife… priceless.

buzz cut

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