Category Archives: Reboot your life

Twists and Turns – My Journey

Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs

I read a wonderful article today by Kate Northrop.  It’s all about how life might not turn out the way you expect.  I could identify with life throwing some twists and turns my way.  Read the article and see if it rings true for you, too: http://www.katenorthrup.com/its-not-going-to-turn-out-the-way-you-thought/

I especially love the hopeful ending to the article, suggesting that anything is possible if you keep putting one foot in front of the other toward your dreams.  Even though it may seem scary, go ahead and follow life’s twists and turns.  This new direction may not have been in your 29 point life plan, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.  It could be a completely awesome thing!

Dare to dream, my friends, and enjoy the ride! =)

In the spirit of this article, I thought it might be interesting to share with you how I began writing these posts.  See if you can spot the twists and turns.

I studied at Colgate University and earned my BA in Astrogeophysics with a minor in Geology.  While I was in school, I thought I wanted to be a planetary volcanologist.  But once I graduated, I thought – holy cow, what do I do now?!  I didn’t want to be a professor, I didn’t want to work out in the field, and I didn’t want to work in the lab.  Where did that leave me?  I knew I would need further education, but since I wasn’t clear on my life’s direction, I elected to take some time off to decide what to do.

I stayed at Colgate for six months after I graduated to work full time as the gallery assistant in the art gallery on campus.  I enjoyed that so much that I considered museum studies, but decided that wasn’t quite right, so I kept searching.  A friend from college told me she needed a roommate and asked me if I’d consider moving.  So I picked up and took off for a city six hours from where I grew up where I knew no one and, after interviewing for all sorts of jobs (including one as a ballroom dance instructor), I got a summer internship at the American Association of Museums and a part time job as a bookkeeper.

After that summer, I went full time at my bookkeeping job and I realized I really liked it.  It may seem like a stretch from my degree, but if you think about it, math was a big part of my undergraduate studies and math is a big part of the finance world, too.

I eventually changed companies and met an amazing boss.  She recognized my talent, but told me that if I wanted to get anywhere in the field, I would need to get a degree, and probably even earn my CPA.  Since I did very much enjoy working with numbers, I took her advice to heart and enrolled in evening classes at University of Virginia.  After four years, I earned my Accounting degree.  Now I’m studying for my CPA.

Along the way, I interviewed at a company where I really wanted to work.  I had done a bunch of research before the interview and found they had a financial literacy program.  I had never heard of financial literacy, but it sounded interesting.  I mentioned it in my interview, only to find out that they were phasing out the program.

I didn’t get that job and it broke my heart at the time.  However, that one idea lit a fire inside me – a passion for financial literacy.  I dream of one day teaching kids of all ages about financial literacy.  I want to help the next generation start off on the right foot, financially speaking.

This blog is my first step toward achieving that dream!  I’d like to take this moment and thank each of you for reading my blog and for all your support.  It means so much to me and helps keep me going.

I hope you enjoy Kate’s article and my own personal journey of how the twists and turns in my own life brought this blog post to your computer, tablet, phone…or maybe even your watch?!

Remember, dare to dream and enjoy the twists and turns that make the ride better than you imagined!

I’d love to hear about some of your life twists and turns in the comments below!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: All 50 states are listed above the Lincoln Memorial on the back of a $5 bill (Source: http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_498_23-mind-blowing-true-facts-about-money_p3/)

Author’s note: This post is dedicated in loving memory of my Grandpa, Stan (January 26, 1927 – October 18, 2014).  He was one of my biggest supporters.  He was kind, funny, smart, and a great listener.  He had an incredible interest in life and would talk to me for hours about my experiences and adventures and share his own.  He gave amazing advice and even better hugs.  On a particularly beautiful day, he would remark at the wonderful show Mother Nature was putting on for us.  He encouraged me to always seek learning opportunities, maintain an awe and wonder in the world around me, talk to people everywhere I go, and have fun!  He was graceful, distinguished, and thoughtful.  He was proud of his wife, my Nanny, for her financial skills which she passed along to her children and me.  He was my dance partner at many family weddings, thankfully also including my own.  He was all the things that make up a perfect Grandpa and more.  I am so grateful to have had this much time with him on this Earth.  I love you bunches, Grandpa! xoxo

Dancing with Grandpa at my wedding Photo credit: Axente Productions Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs
Dancing with Grandpa at my wedding
Photo credit: Axente Productions
Copyright 2015 – Sweet Doll Designs
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Practicing what I preach – don’t panic about job loss!

Copyright 2015 Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2015 Sweet Doll Designs

On St. Patrick’s Day this year, I went in to work as I did every day.  I’d been working in the finance department of this company for almost 10 years and the routine was comfortable.  The CFO from the California office was unexpectedly in the Maryland office for the day and asked to meet with our department around 11am.  Dreading the meeting, I went to it and found my fears were true – our department was to be relocated to California.  In two months, we in Maryland would no longer receive a paycheck.

I remember my emotions that day: shock, disbelief…and panic.  How could this be happening?  How would I support myself?  I’d been casually looking for a job and hadn’t found anything – would I actually find something?  When? Would I like the job I found?  I didn’t want to be desperate about it, but I didn’t have much time to spare – my paycheck is pretty important to our family.

Then I remembered the blog post I wrote last year: Regrouping after a job loss – Don’t Panic!  I decided to practice what I preached.

After a few days, the shock started to wear off and I was able to sit down and assess my situation.  This is what I found:

  1. I did have two months to find a new job, though I still had to go in to work every day during that period.
  2. Thankfully, I’ve always been a good saver, so I had enough money in savings to tide us over for several months, if necessary.
  3. My husband was still working and bringing home a paycheck.

Knowing that I would be fine financially for several months and reminding myself that there was no need to panic, I set to work on creating a clear set of goals for my next position. Not only did I define the responsibilities that I wanted, I also determined where I wanted to work, narrowed down the titles I was searching for, and made a goal for my salary range.

These are the steps I decided to take with my finances:

  1. We had saved up for a new bed and were preparing to buy it when I got this news. We put that large purchase on hold because, even though I hoped it wouldn’t take that long to find a new job, I knew the landlord wouldn’t take a piece of the new mattress as rent payment!
  2. I had been considering buying a new car, but since mine was still in great shape, I was able to put that purchase on hold as well.
  3. I was contributing 12% of my paycheck to my 401k account. I decided to drop that percentage back down to 5% in order to still take advantage of the full company match, and put the extra money in my paycheck in a savings account earmarked as money to contribute to my IRA (to learn more about a 401k company match, visit this post).  This action increased my readily available funds, and if I didn’t have to use them, I would then move the money I’d saved to my IRA account as planned.
  4. I paid very close attention to how I was spending my money and made sure that I didn’t spend more than was absolutely necessary. No luxury items, no impulse purchases – ultimately, no money going out of my wallet for anything that wasn’t absolutely essential.
  5. I realized this was my chance to find a job that really made me happy! Truth be told, I wasn’t happy in my position anymore and was in need of a change.  But you know how that goes– it can sometimes seem easier to stay with the devil you know than take a chance on the devil you don’t know.

I spent hours on the phone and in person, speaking with recruiters and discussing with each of them what I was looking for in my next position.  The potential opportunities were exciting, but the process was exhausting at times.  On top of that, not everyone was enthusiastic about the goals I had set for myself – some said I would never be able to get the titles I aspired to, others said I’d never be able to find a job in the area I wanted, and still others said I’d never earn the salary I wanted.  When that happened, I thanked them and moved on, because I realized that I needed to work with people who believed in me!

It took me a month, but I’m happy to say that I found a job that’s perfect for me – I now have more responsibility, I’m closer to home, and I got the salary that I asked for!  An added bonus: the environment of my new company is wonderful and my coworkers are fantastic!

Now that I’ve been in my new position for four months, I can look back and sincerely say that I’m glad I was forced to look for a new job.  I am so much happier now and I’m learning a lot!  Events perhaps didn’t start the way I’d expected, but they ended up better than I’d hoped.

We also purchased our new bed and we’re getting a better night’s sleep – thank goodness!  And I’m restarting my search for the perfect new car for me.

The moral of the story is – don’t panic when you lose your job!  Take stock of where you are and know that right here and now, in this moment, you are fine.  Organize your thoughts, have a clear set of goals in mind, and then go for it!  Things often work out better than you can imagine!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today: The Department of Treasury first issued paper currency in 1862 to make up for the shortage of coins after the Civil War.  The first denominations of paper currency printed were 1 cent, 5 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cents.  Source: http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0774850.html

Reboot your life – take care of yourself

Last week, we talked about regrouping after a job loss (click here to go back to that post).  It occurred to me during the week that this advice doesn’t necessarily have to apply to a job loss situation – it can apply to any situation in which you feel the need to reboot your life, either voluntarily (you feel you need a career shift) or involuntarily (you’re laid off from your job).

So let’s continue with the advice, keeping in mind that it can apply to any situation that you may be facing.

1) Your health is your most important asset

We ended last week with this advice (click here to go to last week’s post), talking about buying quality food for your family that’s on sale.  What I didn’t address is physical activity.

When you were cutting out unnecessary expenses, you may have had to cut out your gym membership.  However, that doesn’t mean the end of your physical activity.  If the weather is nice outside, go for a walk around your neighborhood, go for a hike with your family, or just walk up and down the stairs in your house.  Also, many exercise videos can be found on You Tube!

Exercising releases endorphins in your brain which help with cognitive thinking and will make you feel happier.  You don’t need much activity in order to experience a mood shift – just 15 minutes at a time will do!

One day this week, I was having a rough day and was in a really bad mood.  After a while I decided that enough was enough, so I took a break from my desk and went for a 15 minute walk up and down the road where I work.  I was amazed at how much better I felt when I got back to my desk – my mood was drastically improved for the rest of the day!

2) Get your zzzzzz’s!

Getting plenty of rest during a stressful time in your life is so important.  Your body needs sleep to refuel itself with enough energy for the next day.  If you skimp on sleep, you’ll find that you’re more irritable and not able to make good decisions.  When you sleep without an alarm, how long do you sleep – 6, 8, 9 hours?  Determine the optimal amount of sleep your body needs and make sure you get that amount each night.

3) The power of “Ohm”

http://izquotes.com/quote/297814
http://izquotes.com/quote/297814

I have been reading lately about meditation and I’m amazed to hear of its positive benefits: stress reduction, immune system enhancement, and it helps you keep things in perspective, to name a just few.  There are many articles, books, and You Tube videos on how to meditate that will help you start your practice.  You can also use yoga or walking as a meditation.  Quiet your mind, let your thoughts come in and go out, especially the negative thoughts of doubt and fear.  Don’t linger on any one thought.  Just be.  This will take practice, but it’s worth it.

4) Think creatively!

If you’re in need of more income, start to think creatively.  Do you have a hobby or craft that you love doing that you can sell?  If you knit, perhaps you can knit cute baby hats and sell them online.  If you love woodworking, consider designing a hallway table that you can make and sell.  You imagination is the limit!

5) Spending diary

Do you keep a spending diary?  Simply write down EVERY TRANSACTION that you make each day.  Tracking this information is a great way to really see how much you’re spending in every category (like food, clothing, and entertainment).  It will also help you determine if there are any areas where you can cut out unnecessary expenses.  Perhaps you didn’t realize you really spend that much on coffee out each week!  It can be an eye-opening exercise.

If you’re interested in more information on keeping a spending diary, please visit this post.

What do food, exercise, sleep, and meditation have to do with your finances?  When you’re rebooting your life, strength and energy are essential, and it’s important to have reserves of both to last you over the long haul.  The only way to do that is if you’re well rested, properly nourished, clear-headed, and calm.

Stay tuned for more tips on rebooting your life.  In the meantime, take care of yourself!

Happy Decoding!

Fun fact for today – The security thread and micro printing found on currency today was first used in 1990 on $50 and $100 bills (Source: http://blog.lendingclub.com/the-us-dollar-bill-50-fascinating-facts/).

Regrouping after a job loss – Don’t Panic!

Copyright 2014 - Sweet Doll Designs
Copyright 2014 – Sweet Doll Designs

A good friend of mine asked for my advice on a financial issue her family is facing.

She, her husband, and their baby girl had been living in a town that they loved, surrounded by lots of family and friends.  They built a beautiful house, and thought they would stay in this area forever.

Until her husband got an offer to move to a different state to pursue an exciting career opportunity.

Even though they hated to leave their family, friends, and beloved town, they made the leap.  That was 6 months ago.

Then he was laid off.

Naturally, they are upset that this opportunity didn’t pan out, and that they are now far away from the support of their family and friends.

They’re scared, which is very understandable!  They need to take care of their family while he’s looking for a new job.

In order to help my friend, I came up with a number of suggestions for her and her family.

Here are my first 5 tips for regrouping after a job loss:

1) DON’T PANIC!

When my husband and I were vacationing along the East Coast this summer, we saw many warning signs about rip currents.  The signs taught us that in order to escape a rip current, the first step is: DON’T PANIC!  The next step is to swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of this fairly narrow current.

Losing your job is shocking, scary, and may seem like the end of the world.  It’s like you’ve suddenly realized you’re in a rip current – your 5 year plan for your career seems to be quickly getting further away.

DON’T PANIC!

Take a deep breath and realize others have been here before you and have come out the other side just fine – sometimes even better for the experience because they’ve had to get creative.

Now, start swimming parallel to the shore.  Start re-visioning ways you can get paid to do what you had been doing.  Can you become a consultant in your field instead of working in the same office each day?  Or can you think about your field upside down or backwards and come up with a new service you can offer?

This also might be a great opportunity to start that business you’ve been dreaming about! 

2) Fiscal Fitness

Examine your monthly expenses to see what you can cut.  You’re looking for “luxury items” that you pay for each month that might seem like necessities but aren’t.  You may consider cutting out cable, large cell phone plans, magazine subscriptions, gym membership, daily coffee runs, eating out, music subscriptions, clothes shopping, and dry cleaning (most items can be dry cleaned at home using special kits available for sale in Walmart), to name a few.  Just stick to essential expenses for right now, and try to avoid large expenses, if possible.

An important point to note is that this cutting back is just temporary!

Don’t get discouraged thinking that you’ll never be able to watch your favorite cooking shows on the Food Network ever again!  Once you’re back on your feet, you can add back in expenses that you missed.

Don’t be surprised, though, if you find that while you may miss cable when you first cut it, after a while you may find a peace in your life without it.  You may have extra time in your day to read, pick up a favorite craft, or spend time with your family.  When you get a new job, you may make the decision not to get cable again – and that’s ok!

3) Don’t seclude yourself in your house!

Don’t completely cut out your entertainment budget.  This may seem like a complete contradiction of the tip directly above, but hear me out.  This time is probably scary and frustrating, and you can’t job search 24/7 – you need to keep your sanity!

Maybe you don’t buy the expensive concert tickets, go out to fancy dinners, or go to the movies every week.  Your entertainment budget will be much smaller right now, but that just means that you have the opportunity to get creative so that your money goes further!

Here are some ideas to use with your new entertainment budget: enjoy a picnic dinner with your family at a local park, find discount movie tickets, rent a $1 movie from Redbox, eat dinner at home and go out to ice cream, find discount meal coupons to a favorite restaurant, look for free activities in your area (like outdoor movies during the summer, festivals, etc.) and frequent those, and suggest a pot luck game night with your friends.

4) Your local public library

When you’re cutting expenses, if you find that you have to cut out the internet, remember that there are lots of places that offer free Wi-Fi these days.

Even though Starbucks, Panera, and Barnes & Noble offer free Wi-Fi, I recommend checking out your local library.  They will not only provide you with free Wi-Fi for your job searching needs, but tell them about your situation, and a librarian will be able to direct you to other resources to help with your search.

5) Your health is your most important asset

Maintaining your family’s health is so important!  I know it may be tempting to buy only noodles and beans & rice for your family, but you don’t want to run the risk of lowering your resistance to colds and other ailments.  You need to bring your A game – staying healthy will help you do that.

Buy good quality food on sale!  Look at the sale flyers that the grocery store sends around each week and find the healthy and nutritious items on sale.  Build a menu for the week around those sale items, and write down your shopping list.  When you go to the store only buy the items on your shopping list!

Stay tuned for more tips on regrouping after a job loss.  In the meantime, try to keep a positive attitude – everything is working out.  You may not see how right now, but one day soon you’ll look back on this experience and see that the path worked perfectly.

Have you or someone you know ever been in a job loss situation?  If so, what did you do that helped you recover?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Happy decoding!

Fun fact for today – The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has two facilities – one in Washington, DC and the other in Fort Worth, TX.  Together, they use 9.7 tons of ink each day! (Source: http://www.federalreserveeducation.org/about-the-fed/structure-and-functions/financial-services/fun_facts.cfm)

PS My friend just told me that her husband accepted a new job today!  How exciting!