Banks Are Not Your Friends

If the astronomical profits banks declare each year and the by no means small fees they charge to make money with your money were not enough to show that banks are not your friends, the latest scandal with banks in Canada will surely convince you that indeed, banks are not your friends.  And if you are living elsewhere, remember, banks are banks everywhere in the world.  This article about the fraudulent activities of Wells Fargo says it all.

banks, banking, fraud with banks

 

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) aired a program this month which featured bank employees speaking under the cover of anonymity.  The subject of the program was how a certain bank pressures employees to get customers to get more products than they need, can afford or want, and even sign them up without their knowledge.

A few days later, present and former employees of all 5 major Canadian banks contacted the CBC to tell how all banks push their employees to upsell the clients. Those upsells can be offering to increase the line of credit, the credit card limit, to re-mortgage and add other debts to the process, thus increasing the amount loaned, etc.

I personally remember two major issues with banks in the past.  The first one was about my mortgage.  When came time to renew with my bank, I first took some time to compare rates from other institutions to discover I could get a mortgage at a rate 3% lower than what my bank had offered me.

It was only when I talked about the rate at the other institution that my bank offered to match that rate.  Unfortunately for them, I decided to move my business to the other bank.

The other issue was bank fees.  My account gave me a preferential bank fee of $2. a month which was very good (I held my Investments with the bank).  I had the bad habit of not checking my  monthly statement.  Six months down the road I discovered a $14. monthly charge on the previous 5 statements.  When confronted, the bank told me it was an error.   I switched banks right there and then.

Since banks are not your friends, what do you need to do to make sure you protect yourself?

.  Verify your monthly statements

.  Negotiate the interest rate for your mortgage.  Better yet, deal with a mortgage broker who will get you the best

.  Comparison shop for bank fees.

.  Do not accept “extra” services or products from your bank unless you need them and have looked at what they involve.

.  When you shop for a mortgage, look at what you can afford, not what they will loan you.  Remember they do not really care whether you are mortgage poor.  As long as you can make the payments, they are happy to lend.  So make your maximum mortgage amount one that will let you save some money,  pay for your needs and leave some money for life and fun.

.  Investigate the online banks to save on fees, get free cheques and often better savings rates.  Some online banks are Schwartz,  Tangerine, Capital One 360, and PC Financial (as well as many others).   Before signing with any of them, comparison shop according to your needs.

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7 Ways To Be Healthier (and Happier) 10, And Even 30 years From Now

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I distinctly remember a day in my early 30’s running for the bus and getting out of breath after a mere half-block run.

healthier, healthy aging, staying young

I was a smoker.  I was a heavy smoker.  Even though I walked everywhere, probably an hour a day, and I was not overweight, I was out of shape.  My lungs were clogged and my heart was in need of some work.  I decided to get healthier.

Fast forward 30 years and I am in better shape than on that fateful day.  I can hike for miles (with some stops on hilly terrain), walk for hours in town, I swim up to an hour non stop at the lake in the summer, dance and I don’t feel tired during the day.

What has happened to create that change?

For one, I stopped smoking cigarettes shortly after the fateful day.  That was the best thing, the most loving thing I ever did for myself in my whole life.   I also read voraciously and started following the advice of experts on healthier living.

Here is what I did besides stopping smoking

healthier, healthy aging, happy aging

More ways to be healthier

 

.  I added cardio exercise to my walking routine.  I joined the Y and started taking cardio classes.  I hated every minute of it but I did it long enough to strengthen my heart and get my lungs in better breathing condition.

.  I also increased the speed at which I walked everywhere, adding even more cardio exercise

.  I got some cross country skis and started skiing in winter.  Cross-country skiing is a great workout and the scenery was beautiful.  What a way to increase my energy.

.  I also eventually added ballroom dancing classes and weekly dance practices of a few hours to my regimen.

.  I continued to eat healthy and get enough sleep.  I love good, simple food and use the web to find new recipes.  $5 meal plan can help you plan your meals, which will save you both time and money.  Epicurious and SOS Cuisine are also sites I visit regularly

.  I left unhealthy, unhappy relationships.

.  I invested in my own education to start a career in a field I was passionate about and still am, thirty years later,

Extra perks from those changes

.  I am still at a healthy weight and I have a ton of energy and I still do ballroom dancing and lots of walking.

.  My skin is perfect.  Very few wrinkles (smoking is a complextion killer).

.  I look younger than my biological age and I feel a lot younger too.

.  Being healthy is a great happiness booster.  It’s a lot easier to face life’s ups and downs when you feel healthy and have energy.

To summarize: if you want to be healthier in the future, start making changes now: stop smoking, drink moderately, exercise, eat healthy, sleep enough, nurture healthy relationships, find work you love.  It’s totally possible to tip the scales of health in your favour.

Your future self will thank you.  If you want to learn more about increasing your health and happiness score, you may want to listen to this TED talk on the secrets to a long happy and healthy life.  It’s the longest longitudinal study ever done on the subject.

Please let me know if you enjoyed this post and do share it with your network and on social media.

 

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Essential Tips to Outsmart Marketers and Keep More $$$

 

This  post may contain affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through those links, I will be paid a small commission, at no cost to you.

saving money, frugal living, healthy finances,

I could have easily spent $10,000 this weekend.  In fact I (and you) can easily spend that much money every week.  This led me to think of ways to outsmart marketers and keep more $$$ in my pockets (and yours).

It happened as I visited my local coffee shop to pick up some coffee.  After paying I noticed the weekend papers on a table and decided to take a reading break. Well, that could have cost me dearly.

The first thing to catch my eyes was a colorful flyer of a local department store. Beautiful furniture, well displayed in perfect rooms.  And the savings were spectacular. Just $1,900 for a couch that normally sells for $4,300.   I felt like a kid in a candy store.  After all, my couch is showing signs of age.  And that was just the beginning.

The kitchen stuff was even better, and the prices matched. Imagine, you could save $900 on a set of pots and pans (regularly $1,200).  I had no idea pots and pans could cost so much.  I have to admit the prices floored me.  The last time I bought pots and pans, the regular price was $600 – and no, I did not buy at full price.

I then went home and checking my Facebook page, I saw the Dyson vacuum I had google searched the day before.  The cookies, I guess, made sure I could keep on thinking about that little expensive marvel that I don’t need since my good old vacuum still works perfectly fine.

Watching TV later in the evening, I was again tempted: first to travel South to get away from the brutal cold, and then, to buy all kind of new stuff for the house, plus enough junk food to last a lifetime.

These days I consider myself a pretty tough cookie when it comes to spending money but I must admit all that tempting stuff is not completely out of mind.  I know I will not buy any of it,  but I found myself wishing I had more money and could easily re-decorate my living room.  Being frugal and minding one’s money has a lot of benefits and yet, it’s not necessarily easy.

What’s the best protection against all that publicity and commercialism so that you keep more $$$ in your pockets?

.  The most obvious one is avoidance.  Avoid window shopping, whether in person or through magazines and flyers.  Of course we can’t avoid everything like commercials on TV or those ads that spring up on your FB page, but you can throw the flyers in the recycling bin as soon as they arrive and find more fun ways to spend your time than window shopping.

.  Being clear on your priorities and values.  I could, without going into debt, buy that new couch and the matching chairs.  But.  I have become clear with myself that buying stuff I don’t need is not an option, unless it’s a treat I have carefully chosen and included in the budget.

.  That includes small stuff, because historically, for me, I have spent lots of money on small stuff – anything under $20. It’s easy to justify spending “just $20” and do it repeatedly, week after week.  Small stuff can include subscriptions to magazines, coffee and pastry, clothes, and books, and lots of other stuff I don’t remember.

.  Having a written budget for the month.  Every month.

.  Having a written list of your spending priorities for the coming year as well as the next 3 and 5 years.  If you really need a dining room table, don’t blow your savings on a new couch, even it’s much nicer than the one you own.  Are you saving to buy a house, or for that month long trek through Europe?  Is early or part retirement one of your goals? Or returning to school to change career?

.  A tough love approach with yourself.  You can call it discipline or reality-way of living.  The more you find it difficult to stay on budget, the more you must ask yourself what’s missing that you try to fill with stuff.  One tip: look at what you have bought in the past and ask yourself whether it’s actually making you happy?  Things can be nice, even beautiful and add to your enjoyment of life and your home, but they won’t make you happy.

.  A bit- or a lot of reflecting.  As in “what’s more important” in my life?  What are my long term goals, my dreams?  Am I just bored?  Maybe time to find activities to add depth to your life: volunteering, a new hobby, a second job, a side hustle, like starting a money-making blog or another online business.

Reality check.   It’s so easy to fall prey to publicity and commercials.  Everything looks so much better on glossy magazines, whether it’s furniture, food or make up.  The beauty industry uses 18 year olds to sell “anti-aging” products and we look at the picture and wish we could have that flawless abs or complextion. Pure crazyiness.  And older models are photo-shopped to some unreal definition of beauty and perfection.

.  Don’t compare yourself and what you have to someone else’s, whether your friends, neighbours or the jet set.  Hollywood glamour used to be just that.  For some obscure reason, it now seems that everyone wants to live like the rich and famous.  The distinction between dream and reality has faded.  I have worked in financial services and met with high income earners who were deep in debt because of their continuous spending.

.  Remember that specials will come again.  That’s a well known trick of publicity: to make it look like it’s the deal of a lifetime.  That it’s only available for a short period.  I admit I have fallen for that trick many times.  Not for big items, but small ones, like at the grocery store.  By all means, do stock up but don’t overstock and risk wasting the food.  Specials come back regularly.  Whether it’s a couch or food.

I have become particularly allergic to so-called “on-line” deals.  For me they are usually courses and classes that offer a special of $97 or $500. just for the day, because tomorrow the price will triple.!!!  Again, having clear priorities for my business helps avoid those traps.

.  Remember to have a line for “fun” in your budget.  It does not have to be huge but it’s important that you set some funds aside for what you enjoy.

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10 Tips to Eat Enough Fruits and Vegetables Without Breaking the Bank

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vegetables, budget, nutrition

Fruits, vegetables.  It’s not easy to eat the daily recommended portions of fruits and vegetables but it’s important to find ways to eat enough.  As you move into your mid-forties, the need for even better nutrition is obvious as we struggle to keep our weight in check.  Vegetables become our best friend as they help us keep a full belly with the highest nutritional value and the lowest caloric intake.

With winter in full swing, higher prices and less choices,  I still want to make sure I keep on eating the daily recommended 6 to 10 portions of vegetables (4-8) and fruits( 2 or 3).  But with asparagus often at $5. a pound, I have come up with alternatives so I can keep on having my daily portions without breaking the bank.

Reminder: A portion is a half-cup of most veggies or fruits.  However, when it comes to lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, it takes a full cup to count as one portion.

 

healthy eating, fruits vegetables, saving money

Here are the 10 ways you can eat your green, red, orange and purple fruits and vegetables without going broke.

  1. Stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables when they are on special.  Frozen vegetables retain most of their nutrients and there are no additives.  I always keep frozen raspberries to eat with yogourt or make incredible pies.
  2. Buy in-season vegetables.  Root vegetables, like carrots and rutabaga are usually very affordable, even more when on special.
  3. Check the flyers. I sometimes pays to drive 10 minutes if you are going to save on many items.  I actually bought asparagus yesterday at $2.49 a pound at a different grocery store (they are $4.99 at my corner grocery store) , as well as carrots at $2. for 3 pounds.  Cabbage is part of the cruciferous family (with brocoli and cauliflower) and is a very inexpensive way to eat more veggies.  You can make salad with it, add it to soup or sauté it with other veggies.
  4. Try vegetables you are not so familiar with.  Eggplants and zucchini add to sauces without any loss since you don’t have to peel them.
  5. Do ask for a Rain Check if your grocery is out of the items on special.  This is something I often forget.  Make it a point to ask for it especially for the items you love and use regularly.
  6. Don’t buy prepared vegetables or pre-washed lettuce.
  7.  When the price is per unit. take the biggest one – brocoli – cauliflower, romaine lettuce.
  8. If you have a big freezer, buy vegetables from the farmer’s market in the Fall, blanch and freeze berries, corn, etc. for the winter.
  9. Apples, bananas and oranges are the cheapest fruits in winter.  As for berries, frozen ones are a good deal when they are on special.  Again, check the flyers on Thursday and stock up.  Apples last a good while in the fridge and can be made into a pie if they start getting a big soft.
  10. Don’t forget potatoes.  They are cheap – even more so on special – and the food ranking system qualified potatoes as a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid. Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity.  They are also easy to prepare – 3 minutes or so in the microwave oven, and mashed potatoes are perfect with just about anything on a winter day.

The web is a great place to find recipes if you are buying different vegetables you have never cooked in the past.

For recipes, check this well known recipe site or subscribe to this one for planning ideas. You can also choose to check Udemy for cooking classes

 

 

Budgeting: A Place For Home Insurance, Whatever Your Age

 

This post could have been titled “How would you feel if you had to come up with $20,000 or even just $10,000 overnight?”

Every once in a while as I watch the news, I hear people of all ages who have been displaced when fire destroyed their apartment.  What breaks my heart every time is when I hear many of them say they have lost everything except the clothes on their back because, horror,  they did not have home insurance

home insurance

 

Yes, No home Insurance!  While you may not need life insurance if you don’t have dependents, you always need home insurance.  This kind of insurance is usually part and parcel of getting a mortgage, but many renters either have never heard of the need for home insurance or have managed to convince themselves they did not need it or could not afford it.

What they could not afford is what happens when tragedy strikes and they are left out on the curb without clothes, furniture, books, mirrors, paintings, laptop,stereo and everything else we need in a house, from dishes to bedding, towels, drapes, etc.

Even in a small one bedroom, this can easily amount to $10,000. and if you have expensive clothes or furniture, $20,000 is not a far fetched amount.

If you don’t have home insurance, I invite you to take a piece of paper and a pen and start listing everything you own and would like to replace should your place burn down.

For most items, you need to put the replacement price in today’s dollars.  That leather jacket you paid $150. five years ago could easily cost $225 today.  Same goes for most everything.  Go through your apartment and list and price everything.  Add the total.  This is the minimum amount you need in home insurance.  Not sure what replacement costs are.  Do some online window shopping to check prices.

How much is that going to cost you?  Not that much really.  My home insurance costs me $20 a month for $30,000 content – Home insurance will also usually cover accommodation if you find yourself homeless after a fire as well as cover you if someone hurts themselves or destroys your furniture while visiting.

If you live where there are tornadoes or risk of flooding, ask about that kind of coverage too.

Unless you think you would be fine without the necessities of furniture and clothes or ok to get those from second hand stores, I encourage you to get home insurance.  Now, like in today.  Make the call,  Go through an insurance broker. They will get the best deal for you.


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Fast and Healthy Meals Every Day

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fast healthy meals, meal planning, healthy dinners

 

 

It is absolutely doable to eat healthy meals without spending hours in the kitchen.  While I don’t mind spending time preparing a very special dinner, of boeuf bourguignon or osso bucco once in a long while, or doing a big batch of spaghetti sauce to freeze,  I hate having to spend more than 15-20 minutes getting dinner ready after a long day, whether at work or at the beach, or as happened last week when I was hit with the flu and spent almost a week in bed.  So I always think of fast healthy meals ideas.

Because I also want to eat healthy,  I have come up with a number of strategies and a dozen or so ideas that get dinner on the table well under 30 minutes.

If you follow this plan, you will spend a maximum of 20 minutes to get dinner on the table every day, plus an hour or so on Sunday, and the same or less on Tuesday evening.

If you have children over the age of 8, enlist their help to peel, cut and prepare vegetables for the week.  Older kids can take over the warming-up and serving of some weeknight meals and everybody can pitch in cleaning up.  Remember, it’s a way to prepare them for life, so that they know how to cook and save time and money too.  If you have a sweetheart, ditto.

Fast healthy meals for me always include a few portions of vegetables and maybe a green salad too.  I have taken that into consideration in the ideas I share below.  I avoid eating processed meats, hot dogs, or chicken or fish “fingers” that contain more batter than protein.

Even though I did not include soup in the list, learning to make soup can be a timesaver and a great way to eat healthy.  Vegetables and lentil make for great soup.  So does butternut squash.  Using the bone from the ham is a great way to add flavor to your soup and you can add rice, barley or pasta to make it more filling.  Epicurious.com has great recipes and so does SOS Cuisine

If you want more help in the planning phase this service can save you time and money.

quick easy meals, healthy meals fast,

Tips for fast healthy meals

. Make a list of 10 or so different meals that are successful around your house plus a few you’ve been thinking of adding

. Write down a meal plan for each dinner for the week, keeping in mind the activities of your family -preparing in advance for “meal on the go” on those nights where everybody has a game or a class will save you from a $$stop at McDonald.

. Verify your pantry, fridge and freezer to make sure you have everything you will need for the week’s meals

. Staples I keep on hand: canned tomatoes, canned (wild) salmon, canned tuna (light is better, healthier and cheaper than white tuna), rice, pasta, quinoa, barley, chicken broth (cubes are ok for everyday use), garlic, honey, olive oil, frozen fruits and vegetables, italian herbs, spices, hot pepper flakes, canned artichokes, olives, cheese (my favorite is mozzarella), soya sauce, sweet thai chili sauce,  (as well as plum sauce and garlic (rib) sauce, spaghetti sauce, home made (frozen) or store bought, chickpeas (great to make hummous or to add to store bought pasta sauce for added protein), balsamic vinegar, eggs, as well as greek yogourt and ice cream, mayo, pesto (from Costco, the best), frozen salmon filet (cut in portions), frozen shrimps

. If not sure, learn how to cook.  Some vegetables need to start in cold water, while others (green beans, brocoli, cauliflower, peas) do best thrown in boiling water. Use the web to find the answers to your questions

. On Sunday, cook enough pasta, rice, quinoa, and,or potatoes to last until Tuesday dinner.   Carrots and rutabaga take a long time cooking.  If your family likes them, also cook a batch beforehand too (some to be mashed with the potatoes)

. Also on Sunday put a chicken, or pork or beef roast in the oven while you cook dinner.  This will also take you to Tusday and may be used for lunches too

. If you love salads like I do, take a few minutes to wash your lettuce, spin it dry and store it in the fridge in a plastic bag.  I always wash the lettuce.  It takes 5 minutes and reduces the risk of salmonella.

. Make sure to have on hand the other vegetables you want to add to the lettuce – sweet pepper, onions, cucumbers, as well as everything you will need to follow your dinner plan

. Want to eat more veggies: prepare celery sticks, carrots, sweet peppers , snow peas, etc. – great for lunch with hummous or as a before snack while waiting for dinner

. Frozen vegetables can be a time saver and they have retained a lot of their nutrients.  Fresh vegetables take a few more minutes to prepare but some are easy and fast to cook:  I cut up brocoli and pour boiling water over it, and after 5 minutes, I drain it and it’s just perfect.  Cauliflower takes about 5-7 minutes to cook.

. Keep oranges, apples and bananas in good supply, as well as other fruits when in season.

. Stock up on everything when it’s on special.  Bread, milk, butter, meat, fish freezes well.  Some veggies also last well in the fridge, carrots, rutabaga

. On Tuesday evening, thaw or cook a few items to get you through Wednesday and Thursday dinners, with some leftovers for Friday too.

. I use olive oil for my salad dressing and I love it with garlic.  I crush some garlic in a few table spoons of oil, let it macerate and then add that oil to the bottle of oil I keep in the fridge for salads.  I have the taste of garlic without having to add it every time I make a salad.  You can also use that garlicky oil to cook chicken, lamb, pork or beef

Ideas for Fast Healthy Meals

. Reheat cooked quinoa, blanch some brocoli.  During that time, cook fresh salmon filet in a bit of olive oil, about 3 minutes per side.   Drain brocoli, add to quinoa and salmon.   Enjoy within 20 minutes

. Reheat cooked mashed potatoes and carrots.  During that time cook ground chicken (or beef) hamburgh.  While meat cooks (6-8 minutes), mix lettuce with some prepared vegetables or onion and cucumber).  Full, well balanced meal ready to eat within 15 minutes

. Start cooking some onion, sweet pepper cut finely, add some of the cooked rice, add soya sauce.  Add some already cooked chicken or pork or make an omelet, cut into small pieces and add to your fried rice.  Blanch brocoli.  Enjoy another balanced meal within 20 minutes

. For a meal on the go on a busy evening, make wraps with some leftover chicken or roast, add vegetable sticks, add mayo or mustard, pickles.  Ready to go in 10 minutes, accompanied by a fruit.

. Canned (wild) salmon or good canned tuna.  This is my favorite emergency meal.  Salmon with rice – and a side of brocoli or cauliflower.  Or tuna sandwich (with some mayo), with a salad or leftover vegetables on the side. Dinner ready in 10 minutes

. Salad with lettuce, all kinds of vegetables, cooked or raw, with some leftover rice or quinoa, and a dressing made with olive oil and a dash of lime, or lemon, juice and drained chickpeas, cheese cubes or nuts.  Ready in 10 minutes.

I hope I have proven that eating healthy can be done easily and fast.

Let me know if you found these ideas useful and please share on social media.  Thank you

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency fund: what you need, whether you are 20 or 80

Why You Need An Emergency Fund

 

emergency fund, savings, borrowing, student debt,

An emergency fund is freedom.  Money is freedom.   Money on hand gives you choices.  Having a job that pays well is great but financial freedom is more about the money you keep than the money you earn.  Some people become financially independent on a modest salary while some are always broke on a much bigger income.

Financial freedom means to never have to borrow money for emergencies, like the roof leaking, or the fridge breaking down or to go on holidays or for birthday or Christmas gifts.  Financial freedom means to know you have a financial cushion should life throw you a curve.

As a woman, I feel very strongly that all women should have some money to their name, and yes, savings and an emergency fund, even if you are married to a millionaire.

I was well past 20, even 30 when I first heard the term “emergency fund”. Luckily I had never needed one before, so there was no damage.  In my 20’s I was totally oblivious to saving money.   Later, although I always made sure I  had a few hundred dollars in my  checking account, I don’t remember being a systematic saver.  I really started thinking about savings and emergency fund and retirement savings when I found myself alone with two young children.  And I am so glad I did.  Only wish I had started earlier.

I have met, worked with and known many 20, 30, 40 and even 50 year olds who either had not heard about such a fund or had simply not bothered to put one in place, at great cost to them.  People who often make good money but lived paycheck to paycheck, often carrying large a large balance on their credit cards.

The saddest case was a woman 63 years old , married.  Both her and her husband worked, with an annual income of close to $90,000.  When I met her, they  were 3 years post bankruptcy.  Her husband had recently become ill and could only bring in less than $20,000 a year, so she had to work full time, combining two fairly demanding jobs and being stressed knowing she could not work less or retire like she wanted.

The bottom line for her was  that there was no way she could retire until at least 65 because there was no money put aside.  She continued to work but fell ill and died of cancer two months short of her 65th birthday.  I cannot but think that the stress at the end of her life was a factor in her illness.

In my days working as a Financial Planner, I also encountered high income families,  saddled with over $100,000 consumer debt, and as you guess, no savings.

Emergency Fund at 20

If you are 20, you don’t need an emergency fund as big as the 35 year old who just bought a house or the mom who is recently separated and responsible for little ones.  But as you will see from the example below, you will need more than a few hundred dollars and the best time to build an emergency fund is when you don’t need to.  Just like buying insurance when all is good, not when the house is on fire.

So how much of an emergency fund should you have and how soon should you build one?

I say as soon as you get your first time job.  In fact, if you have a pretty good part-time job while in school or University, I suggest you start then.  You have nothing to lose by having more money in your bank account.  If you are one of those lucky ones, imagine the freedom from having money in the bank even before finishing school.

Let’s imagine you are fresh out of college or University, you have student loans,  you live at home and are looking for the first job.  Student “A” has managed to stash $2,000 away.  Student “B” has no money whatsoever.  I am certain student “A” will be less stressed, will be able to afford some work clothes if need be, as well as cover the expenses related to job search, like transportation, without having to ask mom and dad to pitch in.

Having the security of a fund wil allow Student “A” to be able to make larger student debt payments, getting rid of the debt sooner – and saving on interests.

If you have not been able to build an emergency fund before the first job after college (hopefully a full-time one with full time salary), the next best time to start is the day you receive your first paycheck.

How much should you save?  That depends what your income is and what your goals are.  If you have the benefit of living at home either rent-free or with a small rent, I would suggest you put half your net salary in savings, until you have enough money for first and last month’s rent on a place of your own, plus 3 month’s rent and living expenses once you are on your own, as well as 3 month’s student loan payments.

If you look at a rent of $800 a month, that comes to $4,000 for rent plus 3 months of enough money to cover food, insurance, transportation, and some money to go out once in a while.  A very conservative estimate is about $1,000 plus the student loan payments for 3 months, however much that is.

The above example comes to at least $5,000 fund – the 3 month’s extra is in case you lose your job and it takes you even 2 months to find another one (and you don’t get paid for at least 2, sometimes 3 or 4 weeks when you start a new job).

As you can see, even at 20 or so, you need some serious money in your piggy bank.

Emergency Fund at 30 (or as soon as you have more responsibilities)

Now let’s imagine you are 35.  You were married but now find yourself divorced, without financial support.  You have 2 children for whom you are totally responsible.  You make a good salary, around $75,000, your rent will be $1,200. You don’t have student debt (hopefully) but you bought a car and have payments of $350 a month.   What should your emergency fund look like?

Rent X 7 months $7, 200.  Food and other expenses for 5 months, including the car payment: $6,000 – Total: $13,000 +  Why 5 months of extra expenses?  Because as a single 20 year old, you probably could move back with mom and dad or rent a room off a friend should need be – but as a parent with 2 dependents, you just can’t up and move in with a friend.  So 5 months of living expenses is a minimum.  6 months would be even better, because the fridge could break down or the stove, or you could need new tires.

A $12,000 to $15,000 emergency fund looks huge but if you do the math with your numbers – salary, rent or mortgage, insurance, car loans, etc, you will most likely come without a few hundred dollars of this estimate.

Emergency Fund at 40, 50, 60

Let’s say now, you are 40, 50, or 60 and you own your home.  It’s a $350,000 home.  Just off the bat you should put away at least 1% of the value of the home every year, until you have a fund of at least $10,000, or even better, aim for $15,000  A roof alone can take you back $8,000.  It does not mean you will spend $3,500 every year but over a 10 year span, home maintenance will average $3,500 a year.  I know from experience that work on the foundation of a small house can easily cost over $10,000.

Windows, doors, also need upgrading at some point.  Even without renovating, the deck may need replacing,  The furnace can break down.  Owning a home costs money.  Trust me, you will be glad if you don’t have to borrow money to maintain your home.

Of course this emergency fund is on top of the one you built in the previous stage, to cover your other living expenses should you lose your job.

Many homeowners skip the emergency fund and re-mortgage their house every 5 years or so, increasing their mortgage by $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 or more every time.  It’s easy to fool ourselves because those “small” additions don’t increase the payments by much but the bottom line is that the mortage never goes down

Saving money is not always fun but everything being equal, it’s a lot more fun than having to borrow money and add interests to the mix.  It’s a lot better than worrying about finding the money, or qualifying for a loan and then tightening your belt because you have more monthly expenses.

Emergency Fund at 70, 80 and beyond

What about if you are older?  Do you still need an emergency fund?  Yessss you do.  Unexpected expenses happen at all ages.  Even if you are retired, you can still have big unexpected expenses.  Car breakdown, medical emergency requiring home care, unplanned  travel expenses to attend weddings or funerals in the family, appliances breakdown, and yes, your funeral expenses which you don’t want to saddle your children with.

Don’t get discouraged when you see those big numbers.  The sooner and the most you stash away every week, the smaller it will become.  Yes it will take discipline to do so and you will most likely have to adjust your lifestyle.  Think abou the prize at the end.

I hope I have convinced you that it’s better to save now and sleep soundly knowing you have a nice nest egg should you need it.  Taking care of our money is a way to practice self-care.  Money worries are bad for your health and your relationship.

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Your Journal Can Help You Make Difficult Decisions

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decisions, decision making, difficult decisions

Are you struggling with making some decisions right now?  One week you think you should stay, the next you just want out – of the job, the friendship, the relationship, or even a move to another house or across the country.   Or you are thinking of switching career, or going to University?  And it’s been going on for a while now?  Believe it or not, your journal can help you decide.

I have found a fairly quick, simple method to help you make a better decision. Start a diary about this particular situation.  Yes start journaling or maybe continue journaling but add a new twist to it.

For a whole month, or longer if you need to,  take a few minutes every day to document what has happened and how you feel, really feel deep down about the situation.  If you are unhappy, sad, fed up, disgusted write it down, and give examples of why you feel so.  The same way, if you are happy, hopeful, write down why, with examples.

The most important thing is to write down every time you have a strong feeling about the challenge you want to resolve.  The longer your dilemna has been going on, the stronger the indication it’s time to look at it more closely.

After a month, get yourself to a quiet place where you can review your entries of the month without being interrupted.  Read everything you have written. Highlight in green everything that you saw as good and positive.  Highlight in red or another color everything that you saw as bad, negative or downright ugly about that situation.

Putting reality on paper prevents selective memory – that is usually just remembering one side of the coin: either the good and excusing either bad behaviour or forgetting how your needs are not met, or focusing on the negative part, however small to the exclusion of all the good.  If you are really honest during your daily writings, this should give you a pretty good idea of the reality and help you make your decision.

Here are some examples of situations where you can use your journal.  Some are from my own experience, others from what I have witnessed in my environment.

.  Loving the neighbourhood but having difficult neighbours or a cheap landlord

.  Loving your job but hating the toxic work environment

.  Not hating your spouse but being chronically unhappy because of lack of connection, even after marriage counseling

.  Liking a friend but realizing that everytime you speak said friend never takes time to enquire how you are doing and ends up dumping about their life

.  Wanting to go in business for yourself but thinking about the financial sacrifices you will need to make without a regular salary

.  Wanting to go into business for yourself while not having a financial cushion before leaving your job

You may go one step further, share your writing with a trusted friend for support and accountability.  Choose wisely if you decide to share.  Choose someone who can remain neutral, yet capable of asking the right questions.

Very often when we are faced with difficult decisions, we let fear decide and end up doing nothing, or at the other end of the spectrum, we don’t take time to prepare adequately and jump without a plan or a backup.  Writing things down is like being your own coach, to help you reflect to make the best.decision after you have reviewed all the sides of the issue.

If you are ready to make difficult decisions in your life and want more support, use the contact form to ask for a discovery session (free) to help you decide if you are ready to invest in a coaching relationship to change your life.

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Tips for moms – Sleep, Exercise and Food

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mom’s health

 

I decided to walk to the corner grocery store at the end of the afternoon yesterday – the weather was mild, for a Winter day in the North East,  and the 10 minutes walk felt really good after an afternoon spent working on my computer and the title of this post came to me: tips for moms: sleep, exercise and food.

I found myself thinking that while I have been diligent with my 2 or 3 times a week swims, I have not exercised at home or gone or walks in weeks.  Not good. And I have no excuses.  Time wise, I only have myself to care for.  As soon as the sidewalks are free of ice, I’ll add a regular 30 minutes walk 2 or 3 times a week.

It got me thinking of all you mommies out there building a business working from home, working outside the home or stay at home moms with young ones around.  As the year is still new I have come up with some ideas to get me, and hopefully many of you will find a way to add some of my suggestions in your workday.

And I remembered the times when I had young children and I was working, studying at University, taking care of my mom who at some point was in a nursing home and Oh!, was I tired, even though I tried to sleep as much as I needed, doing some exercise, mostly walking (I did not have a car) but not eating the best, especially while in University.

Let’s look at what you absolutely need to do if you want to be in the game long term, and have energy for life, love and fun too.

 

Sleep

Moms, you need your sleep.  You have probably heard that most people are sleep deprived.  That people who drive sleep deprived as as dangerous as those who drive under the influence.  That many disasters in the world have happened when people in charge were overly tired.  That there is a false bravado among many to boast about how little sleep they need.

Sleep is needed for health and to help you make the best decisions, as well as save time.  Our health is dependent on sleep because our body and brain repair while we sleep.  We are also nicer to be around when well rested.  We can better deal with stress, making our relationships both at home and at work a lot more pleasant.  And we are more productive when we are well rested.  Any work that requires brain power is best done after a good night sleep.

Sleep is also important for our beauty as well as our ability to keep a healthy weight.   Lack of sleep contributes to making us crave food, usually of the unhealthy kind, not only because we feel tired but because lack of sleep lowers leptin, which is an appetite suppressant hormone and increases ghrelin, an appetite stimulant hormone.

How I do it:  I need a good 8 hours sleep and I cannot function if I don’t get it.  It’s not just that I feel tired.  I absolutely need it.  Because I tend to wake up once or twice during the night, I need to factor this in when I plan my sleep.  Fortunately I do not have to wake up early, so it’s not much of a problem.  On the other hand I don’t like to sleep later than 8 a.m., so most nights see me with the lights out before 11 p.m., usually around 10:40.  That way I am certain that I will have the sleep I need even if it is interrupted.

One more tip: most of us have a 90 minutes sleep cycle.  Calculate how many you need to figure out what’s the best time to go to bed so your alarm clock does not wake you up when you are in deep sleep.

Exercise

We also need to move our body – whether we call it exercise or not.  I believe I was a lot slimmer a few years ago was partially due to the fact I did not have a car.  In fact, I remember gaining 10 pounds in the first year I bought my first car.  I was not going to the gym but I was walking everywhere – probably around 3 or 4 miles a day (5-6 kms) most weekdays.

I know most of you may not have the time to walk for an hour a day.  But if you do, please do.  Walking has been studied and found to be one of the cheapest and most health positive exercises you can do.  Aim to walk briskly, about 3 miles per hour (5kms) which is very doable, especially on flat terrain.

If you don’t have that much time, here are some ways to add minutes of exercise to your work day.

.  Walk to work, or park as far as you can

.  If you take the bus, get off a couple stops before your destination

.  Get up and walk for a few minutes every hour or so during your workday

.  Take the stairs at work, either in the morning or at the end of the day.

.  Go out for a 15 minutes walk at lunch – you can do almost a mile just then, more if you are young and in good shape

.  Aim for another 15 minutes walk before or after dinner.  There are 96 fifteen minutes slots in a day.  Surely you can fit in one or two

How I do it:

.  I continue my tai chi classes  It’s a one hour class a week and while it’s not cardio work, it is one hour of standing, moving, kicking, turning on one leg and other moves  It’s enough exercise that I  drink a half liter of water at every class

.  I have registered for ballroom dancing again.  Depending on the dances involved, it can be a mild cardio exercise and leg work.  Even the arms get a workout if I keep the form (instead of falling into my partner).  Here again I need to drink water during the 60 minutes class.

.  I just started Argentine tango classes.  It’s a 90 minute workout without stop.  It’s fun, with a steep learning curve and I definitely need to drink water.  Because it’s a long class I definitely feel my muscles when I get home.

.  I swim laps at least twice a week, for between 30 and forty minutes each time.  I always feel 20 years younger when I come out of the pool.

Other ideas to exercise at home when you can’t get out

.  Dance – salsa, chacha, triple swing for 15-20 minutes.  Youtube has great dance music videos.  Do a 15-20 minutes cardio workout – again you can find one that fits your level of fitness on youtube

.  If you have stairs in your home, you can do like me and pretend you are at work and do the stairs.  Imagine you work on the 4th floor, and do your one set of stairs up and down 4 times.  If you are in top shape, do more

.  Do strength training a couple of times a week – you can use free weights if you have them or do it using your body weight.  Again, you can find everything you need on youtube.  Strength training is important to keep healthy bones as well as to keep your metabolism running on high.

Meal time

Moms in general tend to forget to sit down to enjoy their meals and work at home moms often find it even harder to take the time to eat a nutritious meal at lunch time, even more so if there are young ones to be fed and cared for.

I know when I am working on my blog or reading a course, etc., I find it hard to get away from what I totally enjoy and can never find enough hours to do.  But taking time away from the desk is crucial so you can feed your body healthy food to keep your health and your energy up all day.

Here are some tips to help you have a healthy meal in the middle of the day.  Eating healthy is a high priority for me – so the tips I give here are those I use every day.

.  Cook a few meals’ worth of rice or pasta on Sunday evening,

.  Again, on Sunday evening, make a big vegetable stir fry, or make a big batch of mashed carrots.  My stir fry favorite veggies: onions, sweet pepper and celery.

.  While you are at it, put a chicken in the oven, or a small roast – that way there will be protein for the first few meals of the week.  I love turkey and even though I am alone, I recently  cooked a small turkey, kept some to eat, and froze the rest in 3 different containers, to thaw as needed.

.  If you don’t eat much meat, canned tuna or wild salmon is a time saver, and I use that for lunch about twice a week.

.  If you are vegetarian, chick peas, white kidney beans or other legumes are a low cost and healthy source of protein added to a salad and a bowl of rice, or pasta or a nuked potatoe.  And a big batch of vegetable soup.

.  I love pasta and once a month I make and freeze a large batch of spaghetti sauce.

.  I love salad – I always keep some lettuce or flat cabbage on hand to add a salad to my lunch.  I make a half bottle of olive oil in which I have added garlic (I keep it in the fridge) and only need to add some lime or lemon juice for a great salad dressing

Here you have it.  A list of easy to implement changes to keep you healthy and energized for a long time.

If you need help to keep on the right track with your goals, I am a trained life coach and I work with a couple of clients, by phone.  If you are interested, use the contact form to let me know and we can set up a session to discuss your needs.

Related reading on sleep:

Related reading on exercise (walking)

Help with meal planning

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The 2 biggest reasons we make mistakes when choosing marriage partners

marriage mistakes, bad relatioship choices

The proof that most of us make mistakes in choosing marriage partners

When we date in our 20, 30, and even much later in life too, most of us don’t kow what we are doing.  If you don’t believe me, remember that close to 50% of first marriages end in divorce, over 67% of second marriages end in divorce, almost 75% of those in third marriages also end in divorce and of those who remain married, only about 30% are happily paired up. This means of  25 or so couples  about 4 have a healthy, happy marriage.  If you don’t believe me, make a list of all the couples you know who have been married – or living together for at least 4 years and do the math.

People do not marry to get divorced.  Most people endure years of unhappiness before they divorce and many want to be married but keep on making the same unhappy choices.  Not through lack of character, but lack of basic knowledge.

There are many articles written on the mistakes to avoid when choosing a life partner, but unless we look at the underlying reasons we do make mistakes, it’s impossible to not do so.

Reason No. 1 – Not knowing ourselves enough and not appreciating our own value

Of the  20 + books on relationships I have read  over the past 3 years, 90% mention a healthy self-esteem, self-respect, or self-love as an essential to form healthy relationships.  Inner knowledge,  also  called self-intimacy is essential to develop a healthy self-esteem, to get to really know our values and what is most important to us, as well as to counteract negative messages we may have heard growing up.

To have healthy self-esteem, self-respect and self-love. we need to have done some personal growth work.  That kind of work happens when we can look at our behaviour, our upbringing objectively, realistically and without judgment, and assess and acknowledge what went well, what did not and what we need to do to make up for what was missing.  It requires that we be able to face unpleasant truths about our family or ourselves without blame, but with an intention to change what we can about ourselves.  And it involves giving ourselves what we missed as children: compassion, understanding, love, respect.

I know I went through the first decades of my life totally clueless about how my upbringing had influenced my relationship choices.  Fortunately I decided to become a psychotherapist and it opened the way to greater self-knowledge.

If your parents were not self-respectful, there’s a good chance they tolerated non respect and maybe you were not respected either.  You then grow up and it becomes the norm, or the normal way to be in relationships.  You don’t know any better.  Oh, maybe you would not tolerate physical abuse, but you don’t see verbal put-downs as bad, and you choose someone who treats you like your least loving parent.  That’s why people with an alcoholic dad or mom often marry an alcoholic, or two.   And those with self-absorbed parents end up marrying self-absorbed people.

Or you do self-care in externals.  Your mom never took care of herself, so you go to the spa regularly, but you drink too much, or you smoke, or you tolerate bad treatment from people.  And when I say bad treatment, it does not have to be physical abuse.  If your partner dismisses you, is not present emotionally, does not meet your top emotional needs, or is more critical than loving, and you stay around for more of it, then, you have a deficiency in self-love and self-respect.

If on the other hand you grew up in a loving, emotionally stable home, there’s a good chance your parents demonstrated respect for each other and for themselves.  When you grow up you can immediately recognize someone or something that is off with what you know.  If you have developed self-awareness, this translates with an off-feeling in your body.  You are better equipped to take care of yourself by speaking up or removing yourself from what you see as not good for you.

The bottom line is when you truly love yourself, you will not tolerate what is not in your best interest.  You can establish healthy boundaries to protect yourself instead of being your worst enemy.  This is the foundation to be better equipped to avoid mistake no 2

Reason No. 2  -We do not know what qualities are essential for a healthy, happy long term relationship.

While you and I learned geometry, algebra, history and even calculus and stats in school, I don’t believe there is even one school in the whole world that teaches “How to have a healthy, happy marriage”.  So we enter the dating world with what we learned at home, and on TV.  And if we don’t know and value ourselves, we cannot know what we truly need and want and choose what’s good for us.

Unless our parents’ marriage was a good one, it’s easy to assume that Hollywood movies are the way to go.  For guys, this usually translate, be tall, dark and handsome (and rich) and for girls, it’s be demure, slim and pretty (and know how to cook).  Whether the ploy was money, cars, sexiness or looks, it emphasized using a “bait”.  Books like “The Rules” (published about 20 years ago) encouraged playing games.

Nowhere did we see to be real, show your true self, risk being vulnerable,  to avoid playing games, to develop a solid friendship, to looking at values like kindness, a generous heart, being able to be real  or emotional maturity.

The result is that many of us did – and still – fall in love with the “shine” factor. Looks, income, status, etc, or we let the hormonal surges lead the way, putting commitment long before, or instead of compatibility, not just compatible tastes in food and activities, but shared values, emotional intimacy, mutual respect, a generous heart and an interest and capacity to invest emotionally in the relationship.

While I have met people who were really lucky to make good choices with loving partners even though they had not done personal growth work, I suspect they were the ones who had developed a lot of self-awareness in their youth and this paved the way for healthy choices.

If you find you consistently make poor choices in relationships, like it’s your 3rd partner who has an alcohol problem, or is self-absorbed and incapable of any empathy, give yourself the gift of doing the work so you learn to make choices from a place of greater self-awareness and self-love.


If you enjoyed this post, please let me know and share it with your friends and on social media to help me reach more people.  Thank you

Want to work with a coach to improve your self-knowledge and make better life choices, use the form to contact me