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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Money and happiness ... illusory correlation?

love and money
Some might argue that the correlations between love and happiness are illusory. Ask a poor loved person what they could use more of and chances are they will say money. Ask a rich single person what they lack and chances are they will say love. How do we rank our human necessities and our mental necessities? In doing this, one would also be taking into consideration that our own struggles have fixated our minds on the needs of life, as we see them. If survival is our basic human instinct, does that make love our basic human necessity? I can't say for sure money can't buy me happiness, but I'm positive love has never written a check for my bills.

I was a teen mother and the only true description I can give you on our lives at that time is that we were broke, I mean broke to the brokest of broken! Yes, I said brokest. That’s how broke we were. I had to expand my vocabulary in order to describe it because Webster couldn’t even help me with that. I was eight months pregnant sleeping on the floor, and every morning when I woke up although my body felt like I got hit by a 40,000 lb truck moving at 75 mph. I was young and in love. There were times when comfort was by no means within a three hundred mile radius of my life, but I can’t recall ever being really and truly unhappy.

My impecunious status not just throughout the times of my pregnancy with my first born, but through life in general was the fuel my mind needed to climb out of the struggle. By the time I was 21, I was a licensed real estate agent. Three children and a career later, I thought for certain my life was coming together. I mingled amongst the rich, and it was smashing! I sipped wine that made my lips cringe and ate cheese that made my nose curl. My swallows were shallow and my breaths were deep when I found out that caviar was processed salted roe, and not just a “seasoning”. I had to talk my body into keeping it down. The thought of puking all over the marble floor was mortifying. I explored my vocabulary to the very depths of my being to validate the house on the corners price tag and its empty lot next door. My first commission check was like winning the lottery, only better. I had done this, I was making money! Things were definitely at their high point because with money came happiness. Right? Wasn’t happiness moneys right hand man?

“Money makes the world go ‘round” was what I had heard so many times. Real estate meant money, and in my life lacked money so it didn't take a college education for my mind to convolute the two. Three years into my real estate career, I was divorcing. I by no means blame myself because I know there were so many other issues that came between us, but it's one of those things that isn't supposed to happen when you have life figured out. Through hours of soul searching and chicken souping my hit-by-a-train soul I came to the realization that I had lost all the passion I once knew. Life became strictly business, the laughs and good times were scarce. What I did had to benefit me in one way or another. If it didn’t make me money, I wouldn’t do it. I knew this wasn’t what my HEART wanted to do, but my WALLET loved it. If I didn't have to spend another day sleeping on the floor or worrying about groceries for the next week, I was ok. Wasn’t I? I wasn't ok, this wasn't ok. I lost my grip.

I can honestly say only up until recently have I realized what I want to be when I grow up. I revisited my heart and took into account my feelings and my ambitions for life and not the balance in my checking account. Although you can’t let money drive you, it’s important to remain aware that love alone cannot sustain you. Take all your life’s lessons, unique ideas and yes, even some of those so regretted mistakes and mush them together. Then sift through them patiently until you find that yummy goodness. Find that middle ground in life, and ride life until the wheels fall off! I have yet to meet someone who can honestly tell me they want to struggle for money, but I’ve met all too many who have said the money wasn’t worth the life they lost. I've seen the money, now where is the love?

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Monday, November 17, 2008

How Money Really Works

So you think you understand how money works? OK, maybe you're a finance or economics professor and you know exactly how money works in the USA. If not, then I highly recommend the following long but extremely enlightening video series I found on YouTube.com. I've added each segment of the five part Money As Debt series in order below for easy viewing. The series was created by Canadian artist Paul Grignon. Comments welcome. Enjoy!

Money As Debt: Part 1 of 5





Money As Debt: Part 2 of 5





Money As Debt: Part 3 of 5






Money As Debt: Part 4 of 5





Money As Debt: Part 5 of 5


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Stupid Things I Have Done with Money

The currThe Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Stupid Things I Have Done with Moneyent financial situation of my family -- me, my wife and our two young boys -- is so tight that stupid decisions we make about money really cost us. It wasn't always the case. Back when we could still use our credit cards and my wife was working for a nice paying corporation that would eventually lay her off about a month before our second son was born, we had enough financial wriggle room to be boneheads. Which we were. Repeatedly. I have kept a mental list of some of the most egregious of our mistakes.

-- My family kept one of those grocery store carpet machines out for a about a week and half. We used the machine for maybe two hours and then didn't return it due to sheer laziness. That Hall of Shame moment cost us $325 dollars.

-- We've racked up $50 in Blockbuster late fees. Maybe more. I joke to my wife that one day they're going to put us in Blockbuster jail. We're a funny family, but we're also idiots.

-- Sorry, this one is directly on my wife. It's late at night, the kids are finally in bed and she picks out a movie that she'd like to watch on Pay Per View. I order it, see how much we're going to pay, the credits roll and the next sound I hear is her snoring.

-- We've paid for swimming lessons we've given up on. Gym memberships that went moldering. Fat and broke, that's how we roll.

-- I've agreed to those extended car warranties even when I knew I they were a rip off.

-- We bought a sandbox for our two boys. Two bags of play sand costs about $8 at Home Depot. In the world of expenses for kids, that is nothing. But when you keep leaving the top of the sand box off and it rains and ruins the sand and then you GO BACK to Home Depot again and again to fill up the sandbox, well, you're entering some higher plain of stupidity.

-- Back then, every once in a while, we'd make these grand shows of getting serious about our finances. We'd go to great lengths combing through the paper and cutting out grocery store coupons -- which, of course, we would leave at home each and every time.

I'd like to say that making this list makes me feel better. But really the only thing that would do that is if we start saving money. And we aren't there yet, but our circumstances are forcing us to try harder and hopefully one day be smarter.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The End of an Affair

Most people love money. So many people today choose to buy expensive material things and validate themselves by these purchases. Money helps people feel important, to take control, to make a statement about who they are. Money becomes a best friend, a family member, and a lover. Obtaining money is all some people can think about and all that they believe in. It doesn’t matter how they get it or who they hurt in the process, as long as in the end they get the money they need to feed their addiction.

Some people don't have the means to gain the money they desire but this doesn't stop them from having irresponsible flings with it. Even though these people may be late on their bills, they will go out and buy something they can't afford just to make themselves feel better. And it will usually work. During the heat of the moment people who make an impulsive purchase will feel like they are at the peak of their happiness. And when the feeling disappears they'll likely feel guilty, ashamed and regretful. Not much different than a one night stand.

Like all love affairs, my own love affair with money was short, sweet and tumultuous. It was both satisfying and completely unsatisfying at the same time. And similar to many love affairs, mine began at work. My job as a sales representative on Wall Street in New York City started up a love for money that would only go away after it ran its course. It became a love-hate relationship in which I began to spiral out of control.

Making a ton of money as a person who wasn’t even good at her job seemed like everything I ever wanted. I was renting an apartment in a top building and I was able to buy anything I wanted. I shopped in boutiques, purchased the newest cell phones the day they hit the market and treated people to dinners and drinks. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was building my life around money and money was the thing that was in control.

After I lost my job the love affair became quite rocky. I no longer had the sparkle of admiration I once felt towards money since it was now seeing less and less of me. I moved out of my elevator building apartment into someone’s rental in their house. I went from having a washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave and air conditioner to having none of these. The quiet of the building I had lived in was replaced by screaming landlords who constantly argued with each other. Instead of shopping at boutiques I started shopping at Old Navy and other discount clothing stores. Eating out and partying all the time was replaced with staying home and cooking dinner.

Some people in my situation would have never given in to the evil tricks that money played on them. These types of people would have picked themselves up, got a new high paying job and started up their love affair again. They would believe that they were back in control, but of course this would just be another trick money would play on them. The second time around would likely be more passionate than the first, and it would become a lifelong addiction that created life for those who chose it. People that would never dream of a real life affair find themselves embroiled in controversy and secret desires.

But love affairs rarely end up so happy in the end. If they do, it takes a lot of pain and struggle to get to the end goal and a lot of people get hurt in the process. I chose to end my love affair with money by replacing it with something real, a true love that was not based on sneaky escapades and under-the-cover operations. As you look back on the choices you’ve made thus far in your life, ask yourself, are you in the midst of an affair?

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