Weight and Finances, Keeping Both on Track

As I head towards what will likely be my actual marriage year (2017), I’m fully aware that both poofy white dresses and slim, sleek white dresses accentuate one’s curves – for better or worse. I’m on a mission to actually lose weight and keep it off this time. Yes, I know I’ve said that virtually every year since 1983. Ok, maybe not 1983 because when I was a baby I did not say that. But you get the point.

The last time I was at a healthy weight I was extremely depressed and quite frankly not eating enough calories paired with riding a bike 5 miles a day in hilly terrain to commute to and from work. I didn’t notice the pounds just melting away over a three month period, but melt they did. Somehow my then-typically 155b body slimmed down to 120lbs. I wasn’t toned or anything so I still felt heavy, and to put this into context for those of you who understand women’s clothing my 120lbs was an adult size 8, not like a 2. I’m rather petite, so 120lbs – next time with some muscle and a little less fat – is my ultimate goal for W-day.

Unfortunately, since 2006 and my massive weight loss, I put all the weight back on and then some in the form of further depression and my binge eating habit. It was easy to not eat a lot when I was feeling anti-social and had no car, and no place to really hide my food, living with roommates and not wanting to leave the house other than to go to work and come home. Then I got a car and started to drive to and from work, a work with a vending machine and a crappy cafeteria which I ate at for lunch, often eating unhealthy food. I’d drive to taco bell for a treat and have two tacos and a pepsi. Needless to say, my body is very sensitive to caloric intake and I blew up like a blimp just as fast as I lost the weight.

When I stepped on the scale at a recent doctor’s visit and weighed 180lbs, I knew something I had to change. I only saw that number once before and that was two years ago, when I started to get my act together, and got down to 155lbs, only to drop back into a depression and eat myself back up to 180. It’s really frustrating, because it takes so long to lose weight and it seems it’s so easy to just pack it all back on and then some. And every year one gets older metabolism can slow so that makes weight loss even harder.

I also want to lose weight because I know if/when I have kids, I want to be able to have the energy to run around with them. I definitely can feel myself – my body – getting older. I’m not treating it right. I have to hyper focus on my health as I have on my finances throughout these last 10 years. Perhaps my 20s were really my financial fitness years, my 30s will be my personal fitness ones.

What’s most challenging for me is that I’ve never been the athletic type, but I love to move. I have so much energy in me and sitting at my desk all day just numbs me. I’d love to go to an adult dance class but my social anxiety typically keeps me from it. Or I’m just too busy traveling and it’s a waste of money. I know, excuses, excuses. Mostly I just am too caught up in my depression to get myself to do much of anything. At least I’ve been walking some to and from work – I try to get in 1 to 4 miles of walking a day during the week, and now that it’s spring a longer hike on the weekends with the beau. I also have a gym membership through work which is awesome and I really need to use it more. I just spend so much time commuting that my energy is shot by the time I even think about going to the gym.

I know more than anything being healthy takes long-term dedication. Being healthy is different from being in top shape, and before one can even consider becoming fitness-model worthy, she must spend a heck of a lot of time just getting to basic health. So that’s my first goal. I want to lose 1lb a week and not get off track this time. According to my scale, which I think is too low, I’m at 173lbs now. I’ll be tracking there as by the end of May I want to be at 167lbs. I still can’t believe how I got myself to 155 two years ago and completely messed up the downward trend, but it is what it is. At least my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet. I think he will on our nine year anniversary, which is next month. So that gives me some time to get myself presentable for a wedding. One he officially proposes to me, and once I’m down about 20lbs back to 155, I may splurge on the personal trainer to help with the last 30.

Middle Class? Not So Fast. A Tale of a Downwardly Mobile Society

With election season starting to heat up, so is reporting on the so-called “middle class.” Apparently, 9 in 10 Americans consider themselves “middle class” (I’m no math genius but something tells me medians and averages don’t work that way.) Given most Americans are middle class in their minds, and middle class today isn’t what it used to be, in short, everyone is freaking out.

Ok middle-class math, why does America hate you so much?

“The middle-class label is as much about aspirations among Americans as it is about economics. But a perspective that was once characterized by comfort and optimism has increasingly been overlaid with stress and anxiety.” — Telegram

I see. So most Americans aspire to be middle class, as everyone has been sold this dream of working hard to get the basics in American life — a decent house, backyard, education, healthcare, maybe vacation once a year. No one is expecting to afford regular Gucci on a middle class income. We were just all told work hard and you too can be middle class, and quite frankly upwardly mobile from your parents lifestyles. Yet, even if you’re doing exactly the same thing your parents did, you’re actually worse off today. No wonder we’re all anxious.

“A recent report from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis concluded that “families that are neither rich nor poor may be under more downward economic and financial pressure than common but simplistic rank-based measures of income or wealth would suggest. The study, conducted by William R. Emmons and Bryan J. Noeth, found that one reason many Americans viewed themselves as struggling was that their real incomes had not advanced significantly beyond their parents’ even when they reached higher educational levels, while those who matched their parents’ achievements were actually worse off.”

The New York Times published an article this week titled “Middle Class, But Feeling Economically Insecure.” That headline, brilliant, sums the middle class anxiety up to a T.

Continue reading →

Check Out My “Expert Interview” on Mint.com

As many of you know, one of my favorite budgeting tools is Mint.com – so I was a little giddy when their PR team reached out to me to include me in their “Expert Interview” series. I went to town answering questions on my networth goals, progress, ups and downs.

I’ll post the introduction to the article below, and then if you’re interested you can read the rest of the Q&A here. I am actually very proud of this Q&A because the answers really reflect the personal finance advice I would give to anyone at this point in my life!

Imagine retiring with $2 million in the bank. Now stop imagining that goal and make it a reality.

With Her Every Cent Counts, readers get all kinds of tips and encourage to start building a net worth they can be proud of. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of hard work involved. In fact, the woman who started the site (who prefers to be anonymous) had a net worth of $250,000 by the time she was 30. She plans to grow that number to $2 million by the time she retires.

Her net worth tracker can be found on her website where readers can track her progress. This serves as an inspiration and real-life glimpse into what is possible when saving money.

To learn more about reaching your own financial goals, take a look at the helpful information in the interview [here.]

What Enneagram Type are You? I’m 4w7

My therapist would be upset at me because I’m not supposed to be thinking about any sort of career shifts until I achieve my two priority goals (stay in job for at least one year and study for/score high on the GRE.) — But I was in the mood to take a test that would help yet again confirm my suspicions that I’m in the wrong career. I’ve taken the Myers Briggs multiple times and have come out an INFP, so I moved on to the 145 question Enneagram. Apparently I’m at least consistent with my persona (INFPs reported to be enneagram 4′s most frequently.)

I’m a 4 with a “7″ wing, and a bit of a mix of 5, 3 and 2. What on earth does that mean?

4′s are either called the “individualists” or the “romantics.”

Well, the other terms used to describe this type are more negative but perhaps more honest — “over-analyzer” and “melodramatic elitist.” Hmm.

“You need be seen as artistic, gifted and accomplished. You focus on your individuality and on carving your own distinct image. You need to express your deep feelings and want others to validate your emotions. Whether you are organizing your living space to reflect your refined tastes or engaging in an artistic pursuit, it is essential for your sense of well being that you express your creativity.”

Ok, ok. So this test really gets me, deep down, in all the ugliness that is my self-absorbed, artistic, intuitive, over-dramatic self.

The career portion of the test notes that ideal careers for 4′s = psychotherapist, dance instructor, artist, writer, life coach, relationship counselor, missionary, web designer or actor/musician. Again, the therapist suggestion pops up. Maybe I should stop ignoring that option.

7s, which is my second highest score, recommends fun careers such as comedian, photographer, entertainer, tour guide, artist/musician.

Clearly I either should be an artist or a therapist.

The whole 4w7 is apparently a strange mix, which is why I probably am eternally conflicted…

“This mixed type has an enormous potential for creativity. The lightness of Type 7 mitigates the heaviness of Type 4, and the profundity of Type 4 makes the superficiality of Type 7 tolerable. But at the same time it is hard for this mixed type to stabilize himself emotionally; he is strangely faltering and ungrounded.”

“Type 4 and Type 7 are very different. Nevertheless, they meet in their creativity. . . .”

“The lightness of the seventh Enneagram type is completely foreign to Type 4, who goes through life in a melancholy way. Suffering, from which Type 7 flees like the plague, is a constant companion of Type 4, who accepts it and does not try to repress it.

“The superficial optimism of Type 7 is a mystery to Type 4, just as the suffering of Type 4 is incomprehensible to Type 7.”

“This type is relatively rare, and like most of the mixed types that have some Type 4 in them, it can be found in artistic circles.”

Getting back to 4s, because that’s what I scored highest on…

Generally, Fours are intuitive, sensitive, impressionable, quiet, introspective, passionate, romantic, elegant, witty, imaginative, and self-expressive.

Fours get into conflicts by being moody, emotionally demanding, self-absorbed, withholding, temperamental, dramatic, pretentious, and self-indulgent.

At their best, Fours are creative, inspired, honest with themselves, emotionally strong, humane, self-aware, discrete, and self-renewing.

Recognizing Fours

Type Four exemplifies the desire to be ourselves, to be known for who we are, and to know the depths of our hearts. Of all the types, Fours are the most aware of their own emotional states. They notice when they feel upset, anxious, attracted to another person, or some other, more subtle combination of feelings. They pay attention to their different changing emotions and try to determine what their feelings are telling them about themselves, others, and their world. When Fours are more in balance, their exquisite attunement to their inner states enables them to discover deep truths about human nature, to bear compassionate witness to the suffering of others, or to be profoundly honest with themselves about their own motives. When they are less balanced, they can become lost in their feelings, preoccupied with emotional reactions, memories, and fantasies, both negative and positive.

Their Hidden Side
On the surface, Fours can seem to suffer from chronic self-doubt and extreme sensitivity to others’ reactions to them. But part of the reason for this is that Fours often hold a secret, inner image of who they feel they could be. They have an idea of the sort of person they would like to become, the kind of person who would be fantastically talented, socially adept, and intensely desired. In short, Fours come to believe that if they were somehow different from who they are, they would be seen and loved. Unfortunately, they constantly compare themselves negatively to this idealized secret self—their ‘fantasy self.” This makes it very difficult for Fours to appreciate many of their genuine positive qualities because they are never as wonderful as the fantasy. Much of the growth for type Four involves letting go of this idealized secret self so that they can see and appreciate who they actually are.

Wow.

So this made me tear up a bit because it’s so true. I’m constantly hoping that somewhere deep down there is a person who is so innately talented and special and she just needs to figure out how to make her grande appearance to be appreciated and loved. But I also acknowledge this is complete and utter bullshit and I just need to accept who I am and move on with life.

The Passion: Envy
At some level, Fours believe that they are missing something that other people seem to have. They feel that something is wrong with them or with their relationships, and they start to be acutely aware of what is not working in their lives. Naturally, given this frame of mind, it is difficult for Fours to feel good about themselves or to appreciate the good things in their world.

Fours rightly perceive that there is something inadequate or incomplete about the ego self, but they incorrectly assume that they alone suffer from this problem. Fours then get in the habit of comparing themselves to others, concluding that they have somehow gotten “the short end of the stick.” Fours feel that they have been singled out by fate for bad treatment, bad luck, unsatisfying relationships, bad parenting, and broken dreams. It comes as something of a shock to many Fours to discover that other people have suffered as much or even more than they have. This doesn’t mean that Fours haven’t suffered or that their painful pasts are inconsequential. But Fours need to see how they perpetuate their own suffering by continually focusing on old wounds rather than truly processing those hurts and letting go of them in a way that would allow them to heal.

How to Give Financial Advice to People Who Ask But Won’t Listen

Recently a friend of mine from childhood, who now lives in a different part of the state, was in town on a road trip and stopped to have dinner with me. While we grew up in the same middle class neighborhood, her family was definitely more “middle class” versus mine which was “upper middle class.” So when she asked me for some financial advice due to a potential windfall from a recent family death, I paused before sharing my typical spiel.

Said friend currently owns property with a mortgage (her parents helped her with the downpayment), but otherwise lives paycheck to paycheck. She makes $60k a year and to her that’s a lot (I did not mention that my income is north of $150k right now, but that’s neither here nor there because that’s a short-lived situation anyway.) She mentioned that she was considering investing in Primerica Financial Services, which I hadn’t heard of before, but sounded a bit like a god-awful pyramid scheme. She acknowledged that it sort of a pyramid scheme, but she was interested in it anyway. If you tell me that and ask for financial advice, I’m going to give it to you.

My advice was fairly simple. I asked her if she had any retirement savings and she said yes, she had invested in 401ks at other jobs before, up to the match (great) but then went on to tell me that she had no idea where any of these accounts were. “Is there one 401k account somewhere that I can just call up?” She asked. I tried to explain to her that she should call her old employers, locate where her accounts are, and ideally roll these over into a Vanguard IRA. In the meantime, if she were to get the small windfall, to invest this in a Roth IRA in order to continue saving for retirement. She wanted access to the money sooner than that, so I recommended a taxable Vanguard STAR fund, but to consider putting it into a Roth anyway and forgetting it ever happened.

When she was asking me about stocks, it became apparent that she understood practically nothing about personal finance. It also became apparent to me that I’ve learned quite a bit in the last 10 years of my life since starting this blog – not enough to be a CFP but enough to hold my own in advising on basic money moves. I enjoyed providing advice and helping her, but I have a feeling she isn’t going to take a bit of my advice. Oh well. At least I tried.