Graduating from college is one of life’s most thrilling events. Finishing my degree, walking the aisle and receiving a fancy document in a leather-bound case remains one of the high points of my life.

A diverse group of young adult graduates

Leaving college life behind, I was ready to live life to the fullest, whatever that meant. I was so over living under campus rules, grueling classwork, never-ending papers, mid-terms, and finals. I was ready to begin life in the real world.

Unfortunately, I still had a lot to learn about managing finances. I knew nothing and worse, wasn’t aware that I knew nothing. What was there to know, anyway?

Sadly, I am not alone. Today’s graduates are smart but generally financially ignorant.

For college graduates gearing up to enter the real world, I offer the following for starting off on the right financial foot.

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Last week, as a grateful family and community welcomed home 8-year-old Leia Carrico, and her 5-year-old sister Caroline, who’d been missing for two days in the Northern California wilderness, I was moved to tears by the bravery of these adorable girls and their stunning ability to move quickly into survival mode.

Two cute kids hiking in the forest depicting the need to be able to survive a crisis

Stock photo 123rf.com

Could you live through such crises? How about an income disaster? If you get the infamous pink slip tomorrow, will you know what to do? 

Don’t panic

It is essential that you keep your head and your cool, as demonstrated so aptly by young Leia who told reporters, “We needed to find shelter fast!”

The first few minutes of any crisis are critical. If you lose it now, you will waste precious energy. At the moment of impact, take a huge deep breath and stay calm. While a job loss can be a devasting shock, it is not life-threatening. There is a way out and you will find it.

Rally the troops

Your attitude will make or break your ability to lead in a crisis. Equate survival with adventure and exciting new opportunities, resiliency, and creativity.

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Living below your means requires a good bit of creativity from time to time. You have to get pretty clever to stretch a buck. But just how far can you go in matters of etiquette before you cross the line?

Closeup portrait of the worst kind of cheapskate who is generous with himself, cheap with others

Ask yourself this: Is my choice to be cheap going to harm or insult another person?
A good rule of thumb is to be cheap with yourself, generous with others.

Here are a few common cheapskate etiquette guidelines to follow:

When splitting the cost of something, always round up. Never freeload in the name of frugality. If you cannot afford to pay your way, don’t go. When in doubt, always err on the side of generosity.

When eating out in a group, how can I ask to pay my portion of the bill and not have it “split evenly” without seeming cheap? Ask the server for a separate check before you order or position yourself to accept the bill from the server. Fully calculate what you owe including tax and a fair tip, rounding up. Place your money on the check and pass it along.

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Even the mention of words like frugality and thrift send some people over the edge because, for them, those words conjure up thoughts of poverty and deprivation. They assume that cutting costs is tantamount to diving into dumpsters to find one’s next meal. No wonder so many people prefer a life of debilitating debt to one of frugality.

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Let me set the record straight. Please.

There is nothing undignified about spending less than you earn. That’s called living below your means, and it’s a fabulous way to live!

When you spend less than you earn, you have money to save—imagine that! And to give some away, too.

When you spend less than you earn, you are not dependent on credit to get by. It is a very good thing.

So, you may be wondering, how can you move from overspending to spending less, without giving up your quality of life? It starts with prioritizing everything according to how important it is to your life. Then only spend on things at the top of the list, ruthlessly cutting your spending on the things that don’t matter.

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Want a simple, pain-free plan to increase your savings this year? CPA, author, and blogger Mike Piper says to save 1 percent more. “Increase your savings contributions by 1 percent of your gross income,” suggests Piper.

It might be difficult to imagine how such a small change could make any difference at all, but according to Piper, this strategy can work wonders, especially if you are young. I could not agree more.

Yellow piggy bank and calculator with 2019 year on window

Anything you can do to become a consistent saver is going to come back to bless you in many ways in the future. A personal program of consistent savings does more than increasing your bank account. It changes your attitude. It quiets your insatiable desires and moves you away from the edge where it is easy to worry and panic.

Money in the bank changes everything. Read more

Forest-glade-covered with snow-sunny-Christmas-morning

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He did not go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While he was dying his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone and today he remains the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s’ progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together, have not affected the life of man on this planet so much as that one solitary life.

— James Allan Francis, 1864-1928

I could never be a medical transcriptionist. It’s not the typing or the doctors’ handwriting that would deter me. My problem would be reading the symptoms and medical conditions. I’d have all of them.

Business-woman-in-a-state-of-shock-sitting-near-the-computer

To say that I am easily influenced is like saying the Titanic sprung a leak.

Knowing this about myself, I wasn’t all that surprised to end up with yet another condition after watching an episode of Oprah devoted to the Disease to Please.

I passed Oprah’s “Do You Have the Disease to Please?” self-diagnosis quiz with flying colors.

Do you ever say yes when what you really want to say is no?

Of course, I do. Doesn’t everyone?

Or how about this one:

Is it important to you to be liked by nearly everyone in your life?

I whipped through that quiz in about ten seconds flat answering every question yes, yes, yes, yes and … yes!

That’s when I had to admit that this is not likely something imagined. I test positive for the Disease to Please.

I am learning that this “disease” is insidious as it wends its way through mind and body.

It starts with wanting to be a good person. You want to be liked. You want to be chosen first, never last. You respond to everyone’s requests and just keep doing more and more with promptness and perfection.

In a way, this might seem like more of a conflict than a revelation. After all, aren’t we called to act with generosity, out of hearts of gratitude and service? Isn’t it selfish always to say no?

There is a huge difference between authentic service and using it as an opportunity to manipulate.

Some doctors say the Disease to Please can actually kill us. The emotional build-up of not being able to say no increases our stress hormones, such as adrenaline. That makes our hearts beat faster than normal, our blood pressure rise and blood vessels narrow. That can lead to a heart attack, stroke or even cancer.

So, what’s the treatment?

Analyze your motivation

Before you say yes to anything, do a quick self-analysis. Why am I doing this? Why am I buying this? What am I expecting in return? If you can answer “nothing, in return,” then your motivation is pure. If there’s another answer it’s probably some form of manipulation.

Realize you are in control

Becoming assertive is the way to arrest this disease. It takes courage to say no, to be honest, and to set limits. Decide how much you will spend or how much time you can devote to the event or project. Then stick to it.

Buy time

Experts say that time is the best antidote for the Disease to Please, whether that’s five minutes or five months. Never answer on the spot. Nothing is so urgent you cannot take time to think about it.

Acting to please can be noble and gratifying as long as the decision to do so is for the joy it brings, not for what you expect to get in return.


PREVIOUSLY: Memories are Made of Teddy Bear Bread

Check the calendar and take a deep breath. We are entering a critical phase of holiday preparation. As shopping winds down and preparations come together, be prepared for something weird to happen.

You may begin to doubt yourself.

Woman-with-gifts-season-of-doubt-and-stess

I only know this because I know myself. It happens every year, so I’ve learned to plan for it.

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