Thursday, March 27, 2008

Daffodils- Part Two

I went to the grocery store and bought two bunches of daffodils, which are now gracing our apartment... they always remind me of this Wordsworth poem,

"I wandered lonely as a cloud"

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twindle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed-- and gazed-- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant, or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Daffodils

It's the first day of Spring. And on my lunch break I saw the first flower of spring. Daffodils. One yellow daffodil smiling brightly up at me, flanked by two full buds of his later friends. Daffodils are definitely one of my favorite flowers, they grew in a thick hedge around the bunkhouse back home in McDermitt. I remember loving the flower and it's representation that Spring had finally come that I named one of my bummer calves Daffodil. Daffy for short. The little heifer was all black, her coat always warmed by the sun, with the longest eyelashes I've ever seen on a bovine face. I don't know what happened to her, I think we were able to draft her onto another cow how had lost her baby. I hope she had a wonderful first year, and I hope that we kept her in the herd when she grew up. Maybe she had calves for us every year, like my other bummer calf, Prissy (who my dad and grandpa just called Bucket). Maybe now Daffodil and Prissy are good friends, chewing their cud, happily watching brand new babies frolic across the meadows. Yea! It's spring.

Worries in the Spring

What a crazy world we live in. I am constantly reminded of Matthew 6 and the flowers that don't worry but God still cares for them.

25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Bible, Matthew 6:25-34).

I still worry, even when I know its pointless because God is always in control.
Lets see, this is what's on my mind. The Chef is going to France in May for Culinary School. Without me. I was asked to chaperone a bunch of teens to Manila, Philippines, all expenses paid. After graduation in June, The Chef was asked to go back to France for six months (to set up and establish his career). Without me. I applied to the English PhD program, and I didn't get in. Well, I got a definite, hesitant maybe. What's that mean? I can't get time off work to go to Manila. I am the breadwinner of our family for the time being. I'm not pregnant. I want to move to France with The Chef. Then follow him to Yountsville, CA and the French Laundry, then on to New York City. I want to support my husband in his new career.

Even as I write this, I get even more worked up. "Don't worry."

I got the first proof of my nonfiction essay, "The Cowboy Way" in my email this morning. Just looking at the format, at the layout, I feel so happy, so fulfilled. Someone is selling the words I've written. I am NOW published in the literary world. This should spur me on. I f I can't be a professional student (and trust me, I've been trying!) why don't I chase my actual dream, of writing? Crazy thought, huh?

So in the midst of not worrying, studying to retake the GRE to increase the strength of that "maybe"-- I'm writing again. It feels good-- and is so much more productive than worrying.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Smart Women Finish...

Another book I just read (and love!) is Smart Women Finish Rich. In fact I thought this book was so good and so helpful, I'm going to read the other version, Smart Couples Finish Rich next. Here's my notes from this text. The great thing about the book is that it had you determine your values, determine your goals, and then determine your dreams. What a great idea!

Bach, David. Smart Women Finish Rich. 2nd ed. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.

Values Exercise
This is my list of values I discovered after completing the following exercise. I asked myself the question, what's important about money to me, and my answer was freedom. Then I asked, what's important about freedom to me, and kept going until I couldn't think of anything more important. So this is a ranking of values, with my most important value last.
What’s important about money to you?
FREEDOM- I don’t have to worry about bills and not having enough to make ends meet.
FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE- I don’t have to work at what I don’t like, but can focus on my family, church, hobbies, writing, things that I am passionate about.
PASSIONATE LIFE- By doing what I am passionate about, I can have a more fulfilled, happier life. Live life to the fullest, have more to give. Live the life that God created me for.
FULFILLED LIFE- Strong and healthy spiritually, physically, emotionally so that I can help others even more.
SACRIFICIAL LIFE- Give all I have to my family and to God. Make a difference in the world. Be the Proverbs 31 woman in my marriage.

Get organized, figure out where you stand financially, and make goals.
Goal # 1 Until it’s written down, it’s not a goal, it’s just a slogan.
Goal # 2 Goals must be specific, measurable, and provable.
Goal # 3 Take some immediate action within the next 48 hours to start moving toward your goal.
Goal # 4 Put written goals somewhere you can see them everyday.
Goal # 5 Share your goals with someone I love and trust
Goal # 6 Develop goals that fit in with your values
Goal # 7 Review your goals at least once every 12 months.

Exercise:
Write down 10 goals you want to accomplish in the next 3 years.
Pay off credit card debt.
Pay off CSR school loans.
Pay off car/auto loan debt.
Buy a house.
Buy a rental unit.
Get English Lit. PhD
Publish a Book
Start web design business
Save/Tithe/Invest 30% of gross income
Go to Ireland/Europe

Use the Power of the Latte Factor
#1 Know what you earn
I currently earn $ ____ a month before taxes and $ ____ a month
after taxes.
#2 Estimate what you spend each month
I currently spend $ ____ a month. Figure your earnings after taxes $ ____ a month, spending approximately $ ____ a month, equals your cash flow $ ____ a month. (Is it negative?!)
#3 Track what you really spend.
#4 Start paying cash.
#5 Cut up credit cards
#6 Never spend more than $100 on anything without taking 48 hours to think about it.

Three Basket Approach to Financial Security
The Security Basket, the Retirement Basket, and the Dream Basket
The Security Basket:
Safeguard No. 1: You must have at least 3-24 months’ worth of living expenses saved in case of emergency. *Look for a mutual-fund firm that offers money-market checking accounts with 4.5 interest a year. Don’t waste your money’s potential by sitting it in a bank! check out: www.bankrate.com; www.fidelity.com
Safeguard No. 2: You absolutely, positively, no matter what, must have an up-to-date will or living trust.
Safeguard No. 3: Get the best health insurance you can afford.
Safeguard No. 4: If you have dependents, you should have life insurance.
Safeguard No. 5: You need to protect your income with disability insurance.
Safeguard No. 6: If you are in your sixties, it’s time to consider long-term care coverage.

The Retirement Basket:
*Ideally, you need to have 12% of your income automatically funneled into your retirement account.
*Max out your company’s retirement plan; or you should open an Individual Retirement Account
Rule No. 1: With retirement funds, invest for growth
“Take your age and subtract it from 110. The number you get is the percentage of your assets that you should put in stocks or stock-based mutual funds. The rest of your assets should go into something less volatile, such as bonds or fixed-rate securities” (Bach 160).
Rule No. 2: Take advantage of the free money your employer may give you!

The Dream Basket:
Fund this basket with a fixed percentage of your after tax income (at least 5 percent of your after-tax income).
Mutual Funds: this is a great way to save for long term dreams (3-10 years).
Exercise: Write down as many dreams as possible you want to accomplish in your lifetime. Then specify your five most important dreams. Make Specific, Measurable, and Provable (ie. how much will the dream cost?). Write down immediate action you will take in the next 48 hours to go forward with the dream. Decide who you are going to share your dream with. Determine which of the values that the dream will help you accomplish? What challenges will you face? What strategies will you do to overcome Anticipated Challenges?

Financial Springboard

So I've been reading a lot of financial self-help books. I always get inspired about learning about how to become financially independent, so I decided to share some of my notes here on this blog with you... to shed the light, as well as to hold myself accountable.

Of the several books that I've read about getting control of finances, there is one common idea, the first thing to do is to realize why one wants to be in control of their finances or to be financially free. These are some brief thoughts about that.

What is my true reason for wanting to be financially independent?
I want to be a stay at home mom. I want to raise my kids, be the soccer mom, the homework police, bake cookies for every bake sale, teach them how to ride horses, have time to sew Halloween costumes for them… all of that. I don’t want to miss out on any of that by working in an office full time. I want to be at home, writing four hours a day and otherwise taking care of my family.

I want to be financially independent so I can spend time with The Chef and his crazy schedule. I want my schedule to be flexible so I can spend time with him. If he has to work a day shift, I want to be able to see him off to work and be home when he gets home. If he works nights, I want to be able to spend the mornings and early afternoon with him.

Kiyosaki, Kim. Rich Woman: A Book on Investing for Women. Rich Publishing, 2006.

How wealthy am I?
1. List of Monthly Expenses
2. Savings, cash flow, income not from salary
3. Assets (step 2) divided by monthly expenses (step 1)= your wealth.

“You have to learn how to have your money work hard for you so you don’t have to work hard for money.” (page 54).

Financial independence equals freedom.

Statistics
 47% of women over the age of 50 are single.
 Women’s retirement income on average is ¼ of that of men.
 Women work 14.7 years at home, not in the workforce because of children, reducing their retirement savings.
 Women are expected to live an average of 7-10 years longer than men
 Of elderly living in poverty, 3 out of 4 are women. 80% of women were not poor when their husbands were alive.
 Approximately 7 out of 10 women will at some time live in poverty.

Spend some time thinking about and answering the following questions:
If I never had to work again, what would I do?
If I had all the time in the world to spend exactly as I wanted, what would I do?
How would my life be different if money were not a worry?
Ask myself again, what is my deep down, innermost, heartfelt reason for wanting to be financially independent?
Ask it again. Go deeper.

Cash Flow- investment real estate
Rental income
- expenses
- mortgage payment (loan)
= Cash Flow
“Once my monthly cash flow from my assets is equal to or greater than my monthly living expenses, then I am financially independent.”

Return on Investment
The Annual Cash Flow / Amount of Cash invested = Cash on Cash Return on investment. Example: I buy a rental property, costs $100K. I make a down payment of 20% or 20K. Each month I have a positive cash flow of $200= $2400 annually. That $2400 (annual cash flow) divided by 20K (initial cash invested) = 12% cash-on-cash ROI.

Rich Women… Pay Yourself First
10% Investing 10% Charity 10% Savings

Exercise:
1. What is the amount (total) of income that came into your household for the past 12 months? ______
2. What is your total monthly household income today? ______ Multiply your total monthly household income by 12 for your future annual household income?______ What other additional money can you expect to receive? ______ Total household income? ______
3. If, for the next 12 months, you put aside 30% of all monies that enter your home, then how much will you have accumulated to pay yourself first? ______

Ask yourself when creating your investment plan:
How wealthy am I?
Do I want to invest for capital gains or for cash flow?
What’s your goal? How do I get there?
1. What will my primary investment vehicle be?
2. Within that investment category, what type of product will I focus on?
3. What is my time frame for accomplishing my goal?

Keys to becoming a successful investor:
1. Arm yourself with some education
2. Start Small
3. Put a Little Money Down
4. Stay Close to Home
5. Set Yourself up to Win
6. Choose your Circle Wisely
7. Investing is a Process
8. Always Keep Learning
9. Have Fun

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