Posts Tagged ‘ financial stress ’

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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New Book: Three Cups (Give, Save, Spend)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

One year.

I’ve read that my generation (people who are currently around age 30) will be much like our great-grandparents, who lived through The Great Depression.

As history repeats itself, we shall become society’s new shrewd penny pinchers to our kids that our great-grandparents were to our grandparents.

We will remember back in the 2010′s when the only way you could sell your house was to basically pay someone to buy it from you. Back when we were anxiety-ridden anytime we had to pick up a sick child from daycare for fearing of jeopardizing our jobs.

Thankfully, there are talented financial gurus like Dave Ramsey to help us to simply and legitimately figure out how to manage our money. In my personal life, which has been dramatically featured here on The Dadabase, I have had to learn some tough lessons about money:

Buy an espresso maker and save Starbucks only for special occasions. Avoid eating out at restaurants as much as possible. Don’t move back to your hometown to be close to family when your first child is born because you nor your wife will be able to get a job there. You will end up blowing through your savings just to survive until you ultimately have to move back to Nashville. Just keep your good job in the big city and suffer putting your child in daycare.

You know; little lessons like that.

When it comes to life lessons about money, I have been shamed, I have been humbled, and I have been made a wiser person because of my uneducated decisions.

I have survived my own Great Depression of 2010 and now every single cent I earn has a place. I say “no” a lot more to people. I don’t worry about hurting feelings by doing so. I know if I don’t tell my money where to go, it will tell me where to go.

Just in time, Tommy Nelson Publishing has released the perfect book for us to help kids learn how to manage their money; from a very young age.

This is a book I definitely feel should be mandatory reading for all young children, but more importantly, it should be mandatory for all parents to read and discuss this book with their children… regularly.

The book is simply called Three Cups. I don’t want to totally give the story line away, but basically, on a boy’s 5th birthday his parents give him three cups. As he begins earning an allowance, he becomes responsible for deciding how much money he wants to give away, save for the future, and spend. Accordingly, the three cups serve as appropriate piggy banks for the three categories: give, save, and spend.

In the likeness of 25% of all of Brad Paisley’s songs, the book ends with the now grown-up boy reliving the story through his own 5 year-old son. It’s perfect.

Three Cups even comes with a Parent’s Guide to help us individually talk to our kids about the book’s lessons.

Needless to say, I strongly personally endorse this book. It couldn’t be more appropriate in every way. Even the illustrations are right on. I love the disappointed look on the boy’s face when he first sees that his parents got him three cups for his birthday.

Buy it. Read it to your kids. Give them three cups.

Here’s the website for Three Cups:

www.3cupsbook.com

Of course, this wouldn’t be The Dadabase if I wasn’t giving a copy of this book away to one lucky reader… so you know what to do!

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.

*Congrats to Brandy W. of Austin, TX for winning this book!

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Surviving a God-Nudged Leap of Faith

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Nine months.

In case you weren’t yet reading my blog back in December of 2010, my wife and I moved to Alabama to be close to family just a few weeks after our son Jack was born. Somewhere between being brave and outrageous, we made the move with no jobs lined up.  It took four months for me to find a job, only to have to move back to Nashville four months later because we couldn’t financially make things work.

I  especially remember those first couple of months while we were living off savings and no new income, praying to God, “I trust in You to provide for my family and when You do, I’ll make it obvious to everyone that it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with You.” After all, this was what we called our “God-nudged leap of faith,” trading in financial security in Nashville to be closer to family back in my hometown.

So surely God would make it possible for us to remain there. We had uprooted our lives and started over- for a very good cause with pure intentions and for the “right reasons.”

I admit it seemed at least a little bit ironic when after labeling our move as a “God-nudged leap of faith,” that we would just ultimately end up back in Nashville, having to start back over yet again.

But this week I started reading a book that helped me grasp a much clearer understanding of what really happened; why the move was so necessary for us and despite much confusion on our end, why it was what was supposed to happen.

In Peter Buffet’s book Life is What You Make It, he tells about a guy who changed his major nearly every semester in college: from engineering, to physics, to math, to art, to architecture, then finally, he realized his calling was to be an urban planner. Finally, he had found where he needed to be- but it took several “wrong turns” to get there.  It was a graduated learning process; a concept that sounds way too familiar to me.

I love the way Buffett sums it up:

“So– was this fellow “lost” during the years of his academic wanderings? Or was he following a path that was not yet visible but that was nonetheless leading him where he was meant to go?”

It would have been nice if we could have just already known what we know now; without sacrificing our savings, our jobs, and all the effort it took to move away from and then back to, so that we could learn A) how to manage our money much better, B) be much more thankful for the jobs we had to begin with, and C) that the city of Nashville needs our gifts and abilities more than any other city in the world right now.

Taking it a step further, Parents.com picked up my blog right in the middle of all this.  I take that to mean that another reason I was destined to experience all this was to use my gift of communication in order to share the story with others who need to hear it, from the perspective of a random, yet focused, guy like me.

So did my God-nudged leap of faith pan out in the end? Or did He leave me hanging? After all, he provided a job only long enough to survive for a few more months but not long enough to logically justify us moving there.

It’s clear to me now: The only way we could have learned what we needed to know was by following a path that was not yet visible but that was nonetheless leading us where we were meant to go.

Unexpected Bonus!

I am a huge fan of Peter Buffet’s New York Times best-seller, Life is What You Make It.  In fact, it’s the kind of book that I’m almost jealous of for not having written myself.  He thinks along the same patterns as I do.  That being said, today I am proudly giving away the book to one lucky reader.

Since there is only one copy for the book giveaway this time, I’m making it a bit more challenging than usual: Be the first person to leave a comment correctly telling me which Internet fad landed my son on the desk of late night talk show host of Conan O’Brien.  You have to also give me your mailing address either in the comment or send it to me via email: nickshell1983@hotmail.com.

(Every time I do a book giveaway there is at least one person who loses their gift to the next person because they don’t actually give me their mailing address.)

As for the rest of you who don’t actually win a free copy of Life is What You Make It, it is totally worth getting your hands on.  To further entice you, I want to share the names of the chapters of the book.  Again, I’m jealous- many of them would have made really good titles for Dadabase posts had I thought of them first!

1. Normal is what you’re used to

2. No one deserves anything

3. The myth of the level playing field

4. The (mixed) blessing of choice

5. The mystery of vocation

6. Buying time

7. Don’t just find your bliss- do your bliss

8. Portals of discovery

9. Be careful what you wish for…

10. What we mean when we say “success”

11. The perils of prosperity

12. The gentle art of giving back

“Peter Buffett has given us a wise and inspiring book that should be required reading for every young person seeking to find his or her place in the world, and for every family hoping to give its daughters and sons the best possible start in life.” –President Bill Clinton

“Knowing and admiring Peter as we do, this book captures his spirit, passion and values beautifully. As parents, it’s the kind of dialogue about our life’s purpose and opportunity we’re having with our children. We will have everyone in our family read and discuss the book.” —Bill & Melinda Gates

“With home-spun, heart-felt wisdom, Peter Buffett ponders how to make a meaningful life, while making a living. Life Is What You Make It is thought-provoking, worthwhile reading.” —Ted Turner

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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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