How to wake up early and cheerful.


singingsparrow Image Credit: Good Search

Are you excited about life when you wake up in the morning? Does hearing birds chirp outside your window while you’re still in bed, make you smile? It does me! Even if I sometimes wish the birds would hold off a bit longer, I always end up smiling, and sometimes laughing. The birds are so excited about the new day!

The birds sound like a bunch of kids waiting for a field trip to start, or friends getting together for a good chat over breakfast. “Oh I saw the most beautiful sunrise this morning!” “I had the best worm and bug for breakfast! —And did you see the new basil on that woman’s patio? I love basil!”

In the Spring, if you pay close attention, you’ll hear conversations between parent birds and their young. The young will mimic the sounds made by their parent—be corrected, and try again. A few days later, you won’t hear them. They’ve had their “it’s time to leave the nest” conversation, and are off.

Next time you get bent out of shape when your Saturday begins a bit earlier than you’d planed, shift your focus and listen to the birds. It just may make you smile.

How an Eye Exam Turns into an I Exam


eye-exam image credit: Good Search

I went in for an eye exam and had the test where the two circles start out on the left, and on the right – then move toward each other, and the object of the game is when they’re in alignment.

Then I thought having an “I Exam” — what am I in alignment with?

The whole idea about life is for use to be in alignment with God. If we’re not in alignment with God, Who moved? God never moves. God is constant. God is always there/here. God is one of those circles in the eye exam that the other circle aligns with. When they’re in alignment, yell, “STOP!” before that other circle (now represented by you) moves past the other circle (now representing God.)

It’s not about “Getting” from God. It’s about aligning with God. When we’re in alignment, we’re open and receptive—and we do receive. It’s easy when we’re in the flow. When it’s hard, we’re not in alignment.

Being in alignment with God doesn’t mean life doesn’t give us “stuff” — It does mean we go through our stuff with more ease and grace. We are here to learn and grow. We are not here to decide why the person next to us, or the person sitting at home has the problems they do. Nor are we to take on their exam and tell them when the circles are in alignment. If they are open to your input, fine—bring them to church, a class, hand them a book, share non-judgmental conversation, but you can’t drag someone to enlightenment. That only proves there are two people un-enlightened.

 

 

 

 

Check Your Credit Report


check credit report Image Credit: Good Search

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


splitting cost on vacation image credit: Good Search

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


Save-Money-300x290 Image Credit: Good Search

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.