The Unpleasant Truth About Your Finances

Finally, I came across an article that tells the hard truth about saving money.

 For years we've heard, "put 10 percent of your paycheck away, and this will ensure a comfortable retirement." We've read scores of books, everything from Suzy Orman to "Rich Man Poor Man."  We had set our course for financial success, and looked forward to a comfy retirement.

While browsing one of my favorite sites at  Why Everything You Know About Saving Money Is Wrong.  I read this realistic piece about what one can really expect when living from paycheck- to- paycheck.  Moreover, it addressed the fact that when people live from paycheck- to- paycheck how can they reasonably save anything?

For years I have always felt like I am less a person because I could not put money away.  I knew all the reasons why it is a challenge; starting with the economy, health care and living expenses in general.  I beat myself up mercilessly because of this.  I swore up and down that there had to be another reason (apart from self-control and conservatism) as to why I couldn't save.

Okay, truth is, I suppose I could give up going out once a week for a meal, or to a movie.
 Really?  Do I want to stop living completely? If this is what I have to do to save, then forget it.

As it is, I have given up Nordstrom for Target and starting doing my nails myself.  I am still unable to put any money away.

I even thought about the socialist governments around the world.  For example, I have a good friend with 5 children who went back to live in her native Amsterdam, because "the government would provide a home for  me and the children."  My friend does not have to pay for this comfortable home, it is all part of what she is entitled to as a single mother.  Sounds good on one level.  However, after much thought, I decided our government provides choice giving us the opportunity to succeed.

I wouldn't trade freedom for a socialist government, no matter how seemingly attractive.   I quickly abandoned the socialist route.

So what other options do I have?  Look for a better paying job?

Easier said than done, with scores of graduates out pounding the pavement, looking for the very same job for which I applying.

Shame on me, I have turned down good jobs recently, because jumping ship and starting a new job would upset the balance in my life.

Then there is the take a second job idea.  No, I am not up for a second job at this point of my life.

Investing, oh yes, I have my favorite little vignette about that.  I had invested a little bit of money in the stock market in the 80's.  This was the famous era of the stock market crash.  I lost every bit of my investment.  Following all the sages' advise not to touch my investment, and wait it out.  I waited it out to the bitter end.  There was absolutely nothing left.  There are risks to investing, didn't anyone tell me that?

The point is, not everyone can save, and not every baby-boomer can look forward to a comfy retirement.

There are more than a few of us that have to prepare for working into our seventies and perhaps beyond.

I have a sour taste in my mouth.  However, it is the truth, even though it doesn't exactly 'set me free.'

The up side is this:  I have a good reason for not saving.

Is This The Place I'm Supposed to Be?

Imagine you have a dream.  It is the goal you've sought for years,  and it finally comes true.  Then, in an instant, you realize it is not what you want.

This has been the course I have been on for the past 6 months.  I feel I am stuck, but shouldn't move forward.  I have not been able to complete my endeavors, for one reason or another.

The biggest issue:  personal time.  I am finding out, as a baby boomer, I need to pick and chose very carefully.  One poor decision could alter my life dramatically.

I have a hard time sitting still, and am very impulsive.  Maybe I need to learn to really have a come to God talk with myself and find out what I think I want is really what I want.  I am at a loss for the moment.

I have had amazing opportunities come my way in the past few months.'  I have turned all of them down.

I think I want more, and when I get it, I am compelled to turn these opportunities down.

Finances certainly play a part.  However, when I had a chance to earn more, I struggled with the lack of balance I would have in my life.   I passed.  How dare I pass up a career opportunity in this market?  Am I nuts?

Then on the housing front, consider the next scenario:  I found two dream houses that I wanted.  One of which would have been perfect, but I was uncomfortable with the financial commitment and did not accept the counter offer.

How am I feeling?  Frustrated.  I am beating myself up.  What the heck am I doing? Or not doing?

Have you ever been stuck?  I found it easier to take risks in the past, but now the thought paralyzes me.  I am not so quick to follow through on life altering decisions as I have been in the past.

So, I sit, and wait, and wonder; is this the place I am supposed to be?  Is there more out there for me?  Should I just pack it in and give up?

I just can't decide.  You know what?  I hate this indecision, it is weak, and mentally compromising.

I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings about being stuck.  On the the flip side, maybe it is a time of renewal, and this do nothing feeling is helping me evaluate my life's path.

I just know I want to get out of neutral soon.

Queen of Blues Would Have Been 70 Today

Elliott Landy—Magnum Janis Joplin backstage at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, 1968.

It is hard to imagine the queen of blues would have been 70 today.  It is even harder to believe that her life ended at only 27.  This picture captures her pain, and a side of her we never saw.  She was said to have loved books, and for all her on-stage crass and flash, she was a humble, and creative soul, evident in her music.

When I look at this picture I can feel her pain.  I'm certain that you can too.

 I saw a documentary on her, tracing her career from her home in Port Arthur, Texas to the streets of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.  She was not popular in school, had acne, and was always chided being the brunt of her classmates jokes.

In the documentary, she gleefully remarked that, she was going as "Pearl" to her high school reunion.  She was elated about finishing her most successful album, and had adopted "Pearl' as her nickname.

Janis made a grand entrance - with feathered hat and satin dress.  She was proud she was now "someone."

However, when "Pearl" arrived at the reunion, no one made a fuss.  I am sure this was a big let-down for Janis.  She looked forward to coming back to school, as the blues star who made it.  To her surprise, no one seemed to care.  The film captures her just partying with her own entourage, having a good time despite her disappointment.

Janis wasn't at all attractive, but audiences loved her.  She was real, gritty and sung from the depths of her troubled heart.  We all felt her pain when she belted out the blues songs she grew to love while frequenting back street bars growing up.  This is where she adapted her unique style and gutsy presence.

I never saw her in concert, but I grew up with the generation that adored her.  Even if you weren't a fan of Janis Joplin, you just had to watch her croon.  It was spectacular to say the least.  I often wondered where that hurricane of a voice came from.

So, on her 70th birthday, I am singing happy birthday in my heart to the forever-young Janis.  The girl whose tears you saw behind her smile.

 It is sad that she never lived to enjoy her retirement.  But blues singers never really die, they don't even fade away.

It seems fitting that she sang the Dale Evans classic to John Lennon on his 30th birthday; "Happy Trails, Until We Meet Again..."

What do you bring to the table?

I had a wonderful weekend.  Something very nice happened to me this weekend, I was invited to a lovely dinner at a neighbor's house.  Because I had made plans, prior to accepting this invitation with a friend, I was going to bow out of attending this fun, Tex-Mex dinner.

My neighbor encouraged me to invite my friend, and so, I extended the invitation to him on behalf of my neighbor.

The dinner was a feast, there were casseroles, guacamole, taco shells, soft taco's ground beef - hot salsas of every color and variety.  I was drowning myself in queso and loving all the hot, spicy flavors at this festive dinner.

It was to be a combined birthday dinner party for another neighbor, who apparently was ill and could not attend.  Never mind, the red-velvet cupcakes were made - and enjoyed,- I had a ball downing three of them!

I brought a big pitcher of sangria which was graciously accepted by the hostess.  My friend arrived and explained he had just come from work.  I was a bit miffed that he arrived empty handed.

Okay folks, how many times has this happened to you?  You prepare a lovely dinner, and guests arrive without so much as a "can I bring something along" for you.

Sorry, but being from the old school, I think it is cheap and distasteful- not to mention thoughtless at the lowest level.

 I always said, I wouldn't date a man that was so self-absorbed that he would have the nerve to show up empty handed at a dinner party.

They are out there, for sure!  The fact that the women in their lives have always done this duty is not an excuse.

I have an  real estate client who attached himself to my family.  just like clock work, he attends every holiday dinner.

In eight years, he is just now asking if he can bring something;  I got so disgusted that I finally assigned him something to bring.  And, even when asked,, he makes it a point to get the cheapest, least expensive wine on the market.

Perhaps I am out of line, you think.

Guests shouldn't have to bring anything.  I agree, they don't have to bring a thing to the table.

 But shame on them when they don't.

How much trouble is it to stop at a grocery store, and bring just one rose? or some wild flowers that you picked in your own garden?

A thought and gesture of appreciation.

If you think this thoughtless behavior is limited to the uneducated, think again.  Although, I must admit, I see it happening mostly with men.  It seems women have always taken care of this for them.  I don't think it is a good excuse, regardless.

What do you think?  Am I out of line? Do you share my attitude that these folks are free-loading cads?

I  bet you won't show at your next dinner party empty-handed.  I know you at the very least query your hostess, about what you can bring.

And when she says, not a thing,

 do her one better and bring her a little something to show your appreciation for going to the trouble and expense of sharing a lovely meal with you.

The Road Less Travel

The holidays went by with a blink of an eye.  I didn't particularly enjoy this holiday season, as I was ensconced with a job offer I had received and accepted- but did not start.  The job was a wonderful opportunity for me.  Or at least so I thought at the moment.

So, why is it I didn't take this job?  It was a step forward on the career ladder.  It promised a better salary, and potential to earn much more.  I was lost in the excitement of accepting the offer, but I didn't do enough research on the job itself.

It involved a considerable commute, and out of town training.  Hmmmm.  travel, you know that old expression "to thine own self be true." 

 I have a hard time being honest with myself.  If I were, I would have realized that I don't travel well.

 I have issues with this.  I don't handle change exceptionally well either.  I could blame it on age, but the truth is I have always been this way.

I am highly creative, sensitive, productive .  Unfortunately, the flip side of me is not so appealing.  I have always had to attend corporate conventions throughout my career.  However,  I \ had a spouse or travel companion to take along, so home was always with me on an unconventional level.

 At this juncture of my life, I live alone and have responsibilities I did not have before.

 I have an older dog, that I adore.  He is not doing very well, and it would mean leaving him for time without me that he has earned as my loyal companion.  I also have a loud, obnoxious parrot, that does not cotton to strangers caring for him in my absence.

I wish I could just shrug this off, but I can't these guys are 'family' to me.  

So back to the job offer; it would mean my working occasional evenings, getting home at no earlier than 7 pm, and little time to balance my home life.

  Shame on me for not evaluating all these issues initially.

Remember, I was was caught up in finally finding professional work, and said 'yes' before I looked at the fine print.

So, doing the unthinkable, I said no before I was to leave for corporate training.  This does not get you on the corporate hit list, for sure.

I don't have an answer, but I suppose I need to own up to the fact that at this point of my life, I want to work close to home.  Because, despite all the glitz and glamour of the corporate world, I realize what is really important to me.  Instead of criticizing what I can't do, I prefer to focus on what I can do.

And so, as I turn another page of my life, I am continually discovering and uncovering the 'real' me.  

Sometimes distasteful, but always the truth.  I don't know how many other wonderful career opportunities I will have.

I always entertain the idea that I can make them happen myself.