Check Your Credit Report


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Unless you’ve had reoccurring issues with your credit file, it better serves you to avoid credit monitoring services, which can cost $180 a year. Even though many of  these services are owned by the credit bureaus themselves, they’ll do the same thing you do (for free) —discover the error on your record after it’s there. For free, you can get the same info monitoring services get. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com. You are entitled one free report from each of the three bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you’re applying for credit, a loan, or competing for a job soon, get all three reports now so you can look them over to ensure the information is correct. Otherwise, spread out the three yearly reports, requesting one report every three months: Maybe in January you request one from TransUnion. In May you request one from Equifax and in September, Experian.

Review the on-time payments listed on accounts you know you have. Check for addresses listed as yours, and spelling of your name as well as variations of your name. Most importantly, check for records of debt that aren’t yours, and for inquires for loans you haven’t applied for. This could be a sign of identity theft, or a legitimate mistake, perhaps a mix-up with similar Social Security numbers. Either way, according to Money magazine and SmartCredit.com, this issue is the most difficult to get fixed.

If it’s your issue, call the bureau with the incorrect information immediately. Ask them to put fraud alert on your file. Also, go to Consumer.ftc.gov.

If you find an error on your credit report, let the appropriate bureau know. You can do this online, or by mail. If you have documentation, mail may be best. Make copies, highlight the relevant, correct information, and briefly and clearly explain (type if your writing isn’t really easy to read) what the error and correction are. Make sure you have copies of what you’re sending before you send it certified mail, requesting a return receipt.

Again, check your three credit reports regularly. AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site and is free. If you want your credit score, go to MyFico.com. There is a fee for the score. It’s good once in a while to check in on your score. It’s about $20.

Ground Rules for Vacationing with Friends


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Taking a vacation with friends can be fun—or not. Time together is all fun and games until squabbles over costs come into the vacation and memories. It’t hard for some people to talk about money, but it’s often harder to repair friendship over money issues that arise while traveling.

Before you go:

Discuss where you’ll go, who is going, and when. If you want to go to Italy in the Summer, and they want to go to  Ireland in the Fall, make sure no one feels “You always get your way.” If there’s a since of that from the start, suggest another trip, another time, but let it be known you’re going to Italy in the Summer—and you’re going to have a wonderful time!

If everyone decides to move forward from there, begin to put your plans in writing. Everyone going on the trip can get together and share ideas of what their ideal vacation looks like. Are you a four-star hotel type? Or do you like hosteling? If you earn points from hotel stays, and your friend earns them with a different hotel, what do you do? What if you have different frequent flyer airlines? These are the things that need to come up early in the planning stage. Maybe you’re both okay with not earning miles, and grabbing the least expensive flight, but if one of the two of you has enough miles for a trip on an expensive airline, you may not be traveling together.

What’s your vacation budget? Know it before you leave home and stick to it. Talk this stuff through with your friend. If you’re with someone who wants to experience high end restaurants but you plan to buy food from the local grocery shop, eat from food stands, or patronize the local mom and pop restaurant— You’ll want to have that discussion before the trip. Maybe you agree to one expensive night on the town. Get an idea of that means. I had an experience in Lapland, Sweden. A puny scoop of ice cream, a tiny piece of brie cheese, and a small vodka came to $75.00. Are you both on the same budget? Even if you are, it may not impact you the same. Maybe you say to your friend, “If you want to go to that restaurant, are you willing to without me, even if that means going alone?” Or have some days and evenings where you each do your own thing.

Once you have an idea of what the trip looks like, put it in writing. Include (researched) estimates of costs, timelines and budgets. If you can, either each pay for your airfare separately, and each send in half of the accommodations on your own—or try to have only a few bills and split all of them in half. (I don’t like to do this at restaurants, because my bill is usually much lower than others’.) If you’re eating meals at the beach house rental, equally pitch in for food, or totally do it separately. If they drink wine and you don’t, that’s not on your bill. If you insist on drinking soy milk and they can get by with less expensive cow’s milk, it sounds like a menu review may be needed before you get too far.

It’s really important to know your travel partner is saving for the vacation. If you save money and book your trip, and they don’t save, and decide they have to back out, you may find yourself in hot water (and I don’t mean at a spa in Hawaii.) I’ve had this happen to me twice. Once, there was a double occupancy requirement. My friend who hadn’t saved and backed out did pay the difference for me to go alone. Nothing was going to stop me from my trip.

Traveling together is a lesson in budgeting, communication, compromise and friendship. Go! Have fun!

People Who Feel Poor Take More Risks


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Meir Statman is a finance professor at Santa clara University. According to Money magazine, he’s one of the most influential experts in behavioral finance (how your emotions and beliefs affect your decisions about money.) Statman thinks America needs to move from the polite nudge of encouraging people to save for retirement, to perhaps a push, and maybe even a shove.

Statman states, “People who save end up supporting non-savers.”

I’ve seen it. The parent who saved all their life, and their kids who are in constant need of support. Finally, the kid moves in with the parent. The agreement is for the adult child to put aside money, to build a nest egg while the parent helps them out. That’s not always how it goes. The adult child gets new clothes, travels, and spends time with their buddies doing activities that cost money. The parent has lost the deal, and most likely, the adult child has little money saved, even with their bills being paid.

People who are savers will save with a push. Just a nudge will do. They get the concept of needing money to function in this money-barter system we as humanity have agreed upon. More than half of the population, however, seems to be in crisis mode. They have no plan. They go for instant gratification rather than saving for something, especially retirement, which seems so far off, and so vague. What does “retirement” mean? For some it’s only about big vacations, or living a long time. And people will justify their lack of saving with, “I don’t travel.” “I won’t live forever.” “I’ll re-marry rich.” Oh, really? And then they meet the person they want to spend the rest of their live with. That person has saved money (for one), likes to travel, plans to live into old age, and isn’t rich (by the non-saver’s standard.)

Here’s what Statman proposes: Set a low minimum (8%) for a mandatory savings plan off one’s income. Other countries such as Israel and Australia set 15%. This would be on top of social security. People scream foul. They say it’s paternalistic. But, if they’re not saving, they’re relaying on others to carry them. By having a mandatory savings program, people are prevented from temptation now, to have it later.

Let’s say someone is honestly, super tight on money. Don’t start at 8%, but start somewhere! So many people say they can’t. It’s not the guy who socks away $10,0000 every couple years who comes out ahead. It’s the guy who consistently socks away $50. or $200. a week.

Statman says, “When people are feeling poor, they are willing to take more risks. You can have two people each earning $100,000 a year: One of them says, “This is plenty.” The other feels behind. That one is more willing to risk losses in the hopes of reaching his or her aspirations.”

Meir Statman’s 2011 book is: What Investors Really Want

For the Next Thirty Days


When I tell people I don’t have a television, I’ll get comments like, “You must get a lot done.” Or I’ll get looks like, What rock do you live under? I’ve been offered at least one television a year for eight years.

I’m not advocating everyone giving up their television. (Having one per house, and not in the bedroom, maybe.) I am encouraging people to look at what they do with their time, and think of what they’d do if they had more time. What have you thought of giving up? (Gossip, swearing, smoking, sugar, fat, negative thinking. . .) What do you want to do? (Yoga, sing, read, water color paint, cook. . .) Don’t have time to cook a healthy, tasty dinner? Get the family involved in the activity. Husbands can shop. Teens can chop onions. Families can talk during dinner (oh, aren’t we glad we gave the television away!)

Here’s a six minute video about trying something new for 30 days. By the way, it takes 27 days for something to become a habit. Once a habit is formed, you’ll miss it if you break the pattern.

Separation has a “rat” in it


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We are one with our Creator and there’s no way we can be separate. We are magnificence in manifestation. Think of your eyes blinking. heart beating, blood circulating, and the breaths you breathe —all while you sleep. And then you dare to think your Creator is separate from you! The Universe only says, “Yes!” If we have a belief that we’re separate from God, we’ll experience the appearance of separation; however, we can never be separate. It’s like closing your our eyes in a lighted room. We have the experience of darkness, but when we open our eyes, we experience the Light.

We can experience separation because we experience what we perceive to be true, but our perception is fact—and facts change. Truth never changes. We live our lives as though there were separation. “I and the father are of one accord.” (John 10:30).

Everything takes place within. It’s not from our outer world. All form follows thought. God is always giving us feedback via our body, our environment and our mind. I’m the thinker thinking thoughts. While the created is not the Creator, it is part of it. God works in, around, through and for us. If you want to know your thoughts of yesterday, look at your life today. In a nutshell, New Thought teaches “Change your thinking, change your life.” There is One Power of Good, and we can use It. (It can also use us.) When we say, “I’m going to do ______” we’re really saying, God is doing _______ through me.

Love someone when they’re at 2 + 2 = 5 in their life while knowing them as 2 + 2 = 4 (aligned with the Truth, whole perfect and complete). And if you’re feeling separate from God, take notice the the word “separation” has a rat in it! It’s not your Truth.

Dinner on a Budget


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Dinner on a budget, fighting inflation, making money go further at the grocery store. Call it whatever you want. Here are some tips for healthy eating and saving money.

We only need three ounces of protein a meal, and it doesn’t need to come completely from meat. By cutting down on meat intake, you’ll save money, and depending on how much meat you’ve been piling on your plate, you may be doing your body a world of good. Have a small portion of meat and a high-protein side dish, such as beans, lentils or grains.

Check your cupboards and refrigerator. I have a fit if I have to toss food. Often, I’ll turn one meal into another meal to use up what I have. I may have roasted vegetables one night with leftovers. The next night, I may have soup with the leftover roasted vegetables in it, Or add cheese and pasta sauce to the vegetables. Use ingredients before they expire. Get creative without going to the store. Maybe you’ll find a can of diced tomatoes, a can or bag of frozen corn, and a can or bag of frozen green beans. By adding rice or pasta, spices and some meat, you’ve got a meal you can make in one pan. Or, add chicken broth and you’ve got soup. For great soup, you could use the bones from a rotisserie chicken and use up “tired” vegetables from the refrigerator. (Celery tops, onion chunks, carrots, parsley—whatever you have.) Add enough water to cover the bones and cook for an hour or so. Take out the bones and vegetables and add new/good vegetables to the broth.

I used to buy black and Northern beans in cans. I didn’t know how to use the ones from the bag, and didn’t want to have to plan ahead so far to soak them for hours before cooking. I have a 94 year old neighbor who was upset with me when I told her I never “made” beans before. She brought me a bowl of Northern beans and spaghetti (no sauce) and told me the beans were from a bag, and she cooked them for one and a half hours (no soaking.) I thought they’d be hard and tough. They were delicious. The beans were far better than the caned ones, and I’ve learned they last longer in the refrigerator than canned ones. Stored the un-used cooked beans in a jar with some of the water they cooked in covering them. You’ll be happy how easy and inexpensive beans form a bag are to prepare.

Take advantage of the grocery store sales. If you’re low on something, but not out of it, consider buying it before you run out, when you may have to pay full price. You may need to cook up the sale meat that day, or freeze it, but if it’s something you’ll eat anyway, it’s savings.

Buy oatmeal in the drum rather than the packages. Or, if you’re okay buying from bulk bins, scoop up savings that way.

Buy smaller amounts to keep things fresh. I love what Nabisco has done with the Original Saltine crackers. Fresh Stacks are packed in smaller portions, so they don’t go stale. Rather than having four long packs of crackers, this box has six packs. I think you get two ounces less of crackers and pay about fifty cents more. It’s a bit more expensive—or is it? None of my saltines go stale anymore.

The Average Cost of the Prom


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A new Visa survey says this year’s prom will on average cost $1,139.

WHAT?!

The survey didn’t break the spending down, but it includes dresses, tuxes, shoes, prom tickets, limousines, hotel or after dance events, corsages, jewelry, hair, makeup and extras.

In the last two years, prom cost has gone up 40 percent. As usual with this type of event it’s the lower income households that are being hit the hardest, and unfortunately, they are spending more money on the prom than those who can more easily afford to. According to the Visa survey, families with income less than $50,000 are planning to spend $100 more than the national average on prom. Single parents are spending double the amount of married parents ($1,563 versus $770.)

Of everything I’ve read and heard on this subject, Nat Sillin, Visa’s head of financial literacy, put it best. “It’s [the prom] become a social arms race. It’s an opportunity for parents to engage their teens and have a conversation about budgeting.”

I applaud Sillin’s comment, and am amazed to read and hear parents saying, “I never thought I’d have to spend so much” and “How am I going to afford all of this?” You do not have to spend so much. A choice is being made. You’re supporting your child in their financial illiteracy by spending their college money, or whatever else spending $1,100 could help ease your mind. Some say the prom is the new wedding, since people are getting married later. Okay. . . the average wedding is now $20,000 and many couples either start, or go further into debt. So, maybe in that since, the prom is the new wedding.

Full disclosure. I didn’t go to my prom. I wasn’t dating anyone, and saw the prom as something for those in serious relationships. Yet, I thought those in serious relationships were nuts to spend tons of money playing let’s dress up and pretend, and be part of the stories flying around school the following week.

Instead of prom, four of us—two guys and two girls —all friends, went bowling. None of us were bowlers, but we wanted to go out and have fun. We had a blast.

If you’re a parent of a teen who will be prom age next year. Start talking now. Start talking about values, money, and choices. To put a $500 dress on layaway while some of it goes on credit card, some paid off by check, and some by family pitching in, is mind boggling to me. Is a $500 dress worth it? That’s just the dress. Do you really need a limo? $800 shoes? (I heard a guy bought them.)

$1,139 could be a month or two of rent; a semester of books; an Alaskan cruise or a flight overseas; a down payment for a car — or, yes, one high school event called the prom.

Metaphysical Terms and Meanings


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Most people, even if they’re  not steeped in traditional religion know traditional definitions of  terms like devil, sin and evil. Metaphysical, New Thought meanings of these words differ from how traditional religious institutions use them.

In New Thought, or metaphysics, the terms devil, sin, evil and hell may be used, but, as you’d guess, in a different sense. New Thought teaches that we all have free will, and are Divinely guided.

Christ-Consciousness: Jesus did not have the last name of Christ. He was given the title, Jesus the Christ because of his crystal clear consciousness. The “anointed” one. In Hebrew, “Messiah.” In Greek, “Khristos.” New Thought teachings talk about Christ-consciousness when they are talking about crystal clear knowingness, our solid connection with the Divine. (Not to be confused with the Divine’s connection with us, because that never changes. It is us who move, or cloud over, not the Divine.) Meditation is one of the many ways to help us in our clear, or Christ-consciousness.

The devil made me do it: The devil did not make you do anything. He does not exist, and gets a bad rap from people not willing to take responsibility for their own actions.

Ever gone to heaven and found hell? Heaven and hell are states of consciousness, not destinations. You can be in a beautiful place with someone you love and be in hell. You can also be in ugly surroundings with no one you know and find heaven. If you think about heaven and hell being in your mind, rather than when you die, you may free yourself from living out of obligation and guilt, and just might truly begin to live, and finding you do more from love because the self-imposed pressure is off you.

To sin is to miss the mark: Sin is an ancient archery term with the origin of Hebrew and Greek. It literally means “to miss the mark.” “Mark” is the “bull’s eye” at which the marksman takes aim. When we’re off balance, or off-center, we have “missed the mark.” When we’ve “missed the mark” we’re not consciously aligned with our Christ-consciousness, and some would say we’re “sinning.” “Go and sin no more.” Rough translation: Get your act together. Take better aim of the bull’s eye in life. Pay attention and do your part to live as high-minded and consciously as you can.

Negative thinking and talking is “missing the mark.” When we’re off center, we’re not hitting the bull’s eye. Fasting is to “turn the other cheek” (to look the other way) from negative thoughts and practices. Prayer is the affirmation of good.  Negative thoughts, words and actions can be considered sin, and to take it a step further, some would say this is blasphemy because to think and talk in less than glorifying ways is to denigrate God, the Creator of all, the image and energy which we are made from.

Evil is a mistaken idea: Evil is a belief in separation that will remain as long as we believe in it. “No matter how powerful the dark seems it has no power to stop the light that comes from either a searchlight or tiny candle” (Starcke, It’s All Good). New Thought teachings don’t deny the appearance of darkness, but deny it has power over Light.

A Metaphysical Look at Death


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When someone has made their transition, they’ve left this plane of existence. Some call this experience death. While we may fully embrace the idea of ongoing life, we may still feel the “rope burn” of having someone/something we desired, pulled from our grasp. We can bless and know the person making their transition moves on the wings of love, and also grieve for the fact that we miss our physical companionship with the person who has made their transition.

We agree we live in a three-dimensional world, when in fact, science has discovered twelve dimensions of which they’re aware. This validates many experiences people have had that do not fit neatly into out three-dimensional world thinking. Religious Science (not Christian Science, not Scientology) does not take a stand on reincarnation, but does teach that just as in nature, life is ongoing and there are different levels of experience. While we may return to this exact place, there is no waste, and no finality to spirit.

When our soul arrived to this life experience there was a celebration. Who are we to think we’re the only ones waiting to celebrate the arrival of souls? It’s much like a boat sailing into the horizon. we stand on shore, feeling loss as we lose view of the boat. Yet, there are others on the distant shore waiting in excitement for its arrival.

 It is because you believe you are born that you fear death. Who is it that was born? Who is it that dies? Look within. what was your face before you were born? Who you are, in reality, was never born and never dies. let go of who you think you are and become who you have always been (Levine, Who Dies? an investigation of Conscious living and Dying).

Yes, we experience that “rope burn” when someone we love pulled out of our physical experience. And yes, I believe there is celebration for their arrival on the next plane. They move on—and into the wings of love. Peace.

How to Turn it Around


Having some tough days? You CAN turn it around. That’s not to say issues will completely disappear, but the way in which we see them, and the way in which they affect us will shift. It’s true. It’s all perspective. See your situation as “falling together” not “falling apart.” Step away from the TV and the news, and the people who bring you “facts.” (Funny how they’re never uplifting, are they?) Keep in mind that facts change, but Truth remains constant. You will experience Truth when you stop giving facts power.

Yes, you need to pay attention to facts: People get sick, lose their job, some marriages crumble. But none of that is Truth. We’re whole, perfect and complete. We’re souls of Light having a human experience. We have free will, and as we learn and grow, we’ll have less of the high and low swings, and a more consistent, higher than neutral level of life. You CAN turn it around.

It takes commitment. It takes standing your ground with your own monkey-mind chatter that begs to distract you from meditation, or positive self-talk. It takes getting off the couch or iPhone and going for a walk for the purpose of finding good, beauty, and ways the Universe supports you. Your ARE provided for! Open your eyes. Accept it. Focus on your Truth, and the Truth of those around you.

No matter what it looks like right now, there’s a situation somewhere about to change. You Can Turn It Around! Enjoy the process. There are no mistakes. Keep moving forward.