Thursday, December 5, 2013

The end of an era

" It's not the way I hoped how I planned bust somehow it's enough." -from the song Save the Best for Last by Vanessa L. Williams
So this is it. Today is my last day as a twenty-something. In the last 10 years had a child, survived cancer, graduated college, learned to drive, bought a car and a ton of other bits of "life stuff". I didn't want my last post to be too heavy so I thought it be fun to do a quick questionnaire about me. Here's the famous Pivot questionnaire from The Actor's Studio.
What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

What turns you off?

What is your favorite curse word?
"got" dammit

What sound or noise do you love?

What sound or noise do you hate?

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

What profession would you not like to do?
Middle School teacher

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
What do you want to do first?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

10 Simple rules for getting a resolution from Customer Service

Greetings Monetary Minions!

We are deep in the thick of November; right at the doorstep of the frivolous spending frenzy that is the holiday shopping season. Chances are you are going to be giving or receiving some 74th edition of gadget when the 75th edition came out only a week later. Or a 100 piece play set that somehow seems to only have 99 pieces…the missing part essential to holding the whole thing together. Or an appliance that you just know is broken even though you didn’t even begin to read the instruction manual on how to turn it on. One way or another you’re going to need help. In some shape or form you’re going to end up playing the customer service game.

Now I know…you HATE dealing with customer service, right? They don’t care….they don’t know anything…they’re just out to take my money…blah-zay blah-zay blah! I will readily admit that there are tons of cases where this holds true. However, as a frustrated customer service rep, I have to tell you that we are not (always) the problem. Much of the consumer heartache and pain comes from the consumers themselves by trying to buck the system and make mountains out of mole hills. It’s always believed that the customer is always right. I hold a different standard: THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT…EXCEPT WHEN THEY’RE WRONG. But fear not friends, consider this post to be the machete you need to get through the customer service jungle.

1.       Don’t be an ass.

You win more flies with honey. We understand you’re upset. We understand something ain’t right. But calling in to curse people out doesn’t make us motivated to help you more. If anything you could be flagged as an abusive customer and no one will deal with you. We put these things in your account notes, you know.


2.       DON’T BE AN ASS.

It bears repeating. After our mandatory greeting we will ask you what the problem is. What you say next is going to set the tone for the entire call. If you go into the conversation with a condescending or snippy rude attitude we will go into defense mode automatically. It doesn’t mean we won’t help you…but the apprehension will be unnecessarily high, which is something you especially don’t want if you want to have some exceptions made for you.


3.       Don’t just push zero to get to a “live person”.

The phone tree is there to make sure that you get the correct person to assist you with your problem. I can’t tell you how many times a customer explains to me that they have an Internet problem and get mad at me for being a cable rep and have to get put back on hold to talk to Internet. I didn’t push that button…you did.


4.       If I tell you I can’t do something for you it’s not because I don’t want to…it’s because I CAN’T!

You can’t blame McDonald’s for poor customer service if you ask them for a taco and they don’t give you one. I once had a customer who wanted to escalate to my supervisor because I couldn’t reset her user name and password and she just couldn’t believe that I refused!! I fix cable…that’s it! Not only that, she didn’t even have Internet service.


5.       You don’t always need a supervisor.

In my experience the actual need for supervisor intervention is quite rare. People think asking for a rep’s supervisor is like tattling to their parents…but when you come on the line and demand to speak to one it can delay your resolution. I don’t know about other call centers, but if their supervisors are anything like mine they are going to go through hell or high water to avoid taking that call anyway. And when they DO take a call most of the time they only end up rehashing the same information the rep gave them.


6.       Don’t bog us down with unnecessary information.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not heartless bastards. It’s just that we have metrics to meet. If it’s a slow day we don’t mind making small talk. But on a day when we have calls coming in every 2 seconds we would much rather help you with your issue than to hear about your cat named Capt. Fuzz Cheeks.


7.       Make sure you have everything you need before you dial.

Again time is of the essence. Many agencies have it in their policy to tell the customer to call back if they don’t have all their stuff together or if the customer places the agent on hold for a certain length of time. I know that this seems unfair, especially if you were on hold for a long time. But look at it this way: You’re probably on hold because the person before you had to go get their info. Also…and this is crucial for any subscription service…make sure your bill is current.


8.       Have a heart.

Many call centers are open 24X7X365. We want to be able to spend time with our families on weekends or holidays but our jobs dictate that it can’t always happen. Getting yelled at because you can’t admit that you got in over your head by buying Little Timmy’s bike unassembled should not be the highlight of someone’s Christmas.


9.       If I’m asking you to do something…just do it.

I understand that there are some people who are complete technophobes and would rather have other people just deal with the problem. But there are people who shy away from doing the most simple tasks. The conversation usually goes like this.

 Me: Push the power button please.

You: Which one it the power button?

Me: The one that says power.

You: This is too hard! Can’t you just send a technician?

Me: It doesn’t require a tech. The box is just off. Turn it on.

You: HOW?

Me: Push the red button.

You: I don’t know how to do that. When’s the soonest you can have someone out?


I feel like Chris Tucker in Rush Hour; “PUSH THE GODDAMN BUTTON!!” It’s even worse if you’re the person that lies about doing something. I love those conversations because I often end up fixing their problem against their will and you can just hear the pride swallowing on the other end.

10.   Be reasonable.

It really grinds my gears when people have a false sense of entitlement. It’s understandable to want to be reimbursed for things you pay for that you aren’t able to use for their intended (keyword: intended) purposes. It’s also understandable to want to pay a fair price or lower for your goods and services. But when you get greedy you get rejected. An agent who is actually doing their job will not give you a refund just because you yell and scream. An agent that does makes it 10 times harder for everyone…including you! You worry about your rates getting raised when in actuality the company is sharing its business costs with you because no one wants to pay retail rates. And the ones that demand a month’s worth of credit on a 15 minute service outage are almost always the ones that demand a Dom Perrigon level of service on a Pabst Blue Ribbon payment plan.
Feel free to add anything you think I may have left out.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Home Stretch

Whad'up my Numismatics!

Today is November 6th, 2013...30 days until my 30th birthday. As I reach the end of my twenties I have to admit I've been kind of down lately. I do have a few things to be proud of. Since starting this blog many of the goals I set publicly for myself have been reached. In the past 60 days I have:
  • Opened a 529 account
  • Started an investment portfolio focused on dividends
  • Spent less money than I made in 1 month
  • Skipped work once a month to do something fun.
With all that I have done though I can't help but feel out of sorts with where I am. I'm still light-years away from where I want to be and it is frustrating at times. Everyday I live in fear of being fired from a job I hate. I've gone on several interviews but so far none have come through. There was even one where I've been playing phone tag with the recruiter for days. She left me a message wanting to discuss the position which pays TWICE what I make now...and she won't return any of my calls. I also got an email from my current job telling me I'm being considered for a position and to reapply...but I've gotten written up (again) since then and I'm ineligible to transfer for 90 days (again). I'm still in the same room I grew up in....not sharing it with my son who's almost as big as me. I thought I was going to do so much more and be so much more at this point in my life. Since hindsight is 20/20 I look back and see all the wrong turns and fearful indecisions I've made. I want to reach back, grab my twenty-something self by her shoulders and shake her to get her to wake up and stop being scared of everything. It's maddening!

I started this blog because I don't want to be that person who internalizes all of their misgivings rather than learns from them. I am coming to terms with the fact hat what's done is done. Just like an airplane you have to move forward and pick up speed before you can move upward. I have to keep building upon good fundamental foundations. Something is going to come through for me soon. No one will hold me back but me so I'd best be getting out of my own way. :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Been Away

Hello my Fiduciary Falcons,

My sincerest apologies for leaving you in the throes of my absence. It has been a very busy few weeks for me. If you've read my past posts you know how I feel about my current place of enslav--er--employment, so I have been actively searching to change jobs. I hesitated to do this at first because I didn't want to have to start over playing the benefits game (i.e. the 90 day waiting period). Recent events that will be explaned in a later post have changed my mind. I had 3 interviews in the past week. Unfortunately none of them panned out but I remain optimistic.

I've taken 2 major steps in my journey to financial independence:1) I have opened my portfolio of dividend paying stocks. 2)I have, for the first time ever, ended the month cash flow POSITIVE. For the end of September I was able to spend less money than I took in. I never realized how hard this was to do untill I actually accomplished it. I was able to do this by going on a semi-cash diet. Every Sunday I've been going to the ATM and pulling a small amount of "walking around" cash out of a Christmas/Summer Camp account. I don't know about you guys, but something in my psycology tends to change when I actually have some bills in my pocket...especially $20 bills. I feel less inclined to break them and I begin to think twice about swiping my card to pay for small items.

I'm gonna have a slew of new posts coming your way the days to follow. For now , rock out to this song I heard this morning. I decided it's gonna be my theme song for the rest of the year.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Update: October's book

Hey kiddos,

Just a quick post to let you know about the book I'm reading this month:

Soldier of Finance by Jeff Rose.

Click here to purchase the book from Amazon while showing me a little love in the process. Review will come at month's end.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Getting Our House in Order

Hey guys,

Today marks 60 days until my 30th birthday. It's been a somber week for me. I've been thinking a lot about one of my peers who passed away and was laid to rest yesterday. He was in the band with me in high school and later we ended up working at the same place. He was 27.

As much as I'm thinking of him and his family, I'm also thinking of myself a lot. Not in some vain self-centered way but rather introspective. We all know in the back of our minds that things like this happen everyday to people of every age. Somehow though we're always blind-sided when it hits close to home.

It's been a very long time since I've had to deal with death directly. My maternal grandfather passed away when I was very young so I wasn't really cognizant of the swirl of activity that went into taking care of his final arrangements. 20+ years later I'm finding out that a lot of the assets that my grandfather left behind ended up being squandered due to ignorance. I don't mean ignorance to say stupid or foolish, but rather literally not knowing how to handle it. For my friend it's a much different matter. I can't say that I knew his financial situation but I can't imagine him being flush with cash. He's young, worked two part time jobs and had no dependents. At the company we both work for all employees are allowed benefits including basic life insurance with the option for supplemental coverage. His second job was a delivery driver for a major pizza chain. Due to the nature of that job I would assume he had coverage there as well. I haven't heard anything about the family needing to take donations so I'm hoping the proceeds were enough to cover his funeral costs. If that changes I'll post a link here.

I don't handle funerals well (I'd skip my own if I could)  so I chose not to attend but I heard that his mother spoke of her older son with great poise and dignity. I wouldn't want to put myself in her shoes but I must. In the worst case scenario, being a parent is a double-edged sword. You're faced with the possibility that either you could outlive your children and not be in a position to give them dignified arrangements or something untimely could happen to you and you have nothing to leave behind to help care for them. Even worse you could end up leaving behind debt they have to pay, which is what I'm afraid will happen when my maternal grandmother passes. I'm learning that, as much as I hate to  think about things like this, it's best to be as prepared as possible.

Here's a quick list of some of the key goals I want to take care of between now and the end of the year in case the inevitable happens ahead of schedule:
  • Draft a will/living will. If you have any children and/or assets a will is crucial. It seeks to make sure that all of your wishes are met and that your family is taken care of should something happen to you. Without this the courts can intervene. Your possessions and your kids can end up with people you didn't wish to leave them to. A living will takes the pressure off your loved ones if you're in a prolonged incapacitated situation with no hope of recovery. I would never want my son to have to make a decision like that. This should be reviewed and updated as major life events occur.
  • Compile a list of all assets. This will include all of my banking and brokerage account numbers, my vehicle identification number, Internet passwords and appraised value of any collectibles I have (namely my baseball cards). I tend to tuck money away in lots of different places so when the time comes I want to make it all easy to locate. This should be reviewed and updated every six months to a year.
  • Open a 529 account. Even when people have the best intentions things often go awry when a large sum of cash is involved. I wouldn't want to trust my son's care giver a large sum of money in the hope they the would earmark it for his education. Opening a 529 college savings account will take the guesswork out of that. There will be a later post on my process for choosing one.
  • Get a fireproof/waterproof box. All of the documents mentioned above and more will be placed in the box for safe keeping. That way, should something happen to the place that I live, all information is still obtainable.

Today's video is in memory of Brandon Hill, my band brother and co-worker. I'm in there somewhere. I'm not 100% sure if he is (this would put him in 8th grade) but we've played the hell out of this song on the field many times. It was always one of our favorites. I also understand that he had another side hustle helping to advertise for the discount blog Live Life Half Price. Click through the link to check it out.
Rest in Power, lil' bro.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Review: "The Broke Diaries" by Angela Nissel

" The Check-Cashing joint is kinda like a homeless shelter for money. Well, a homeless shelter with a door charge. They know the only reason you're there is because you have nowhere else to go, but they take advantage of the situation by charging you fees for everything. First-time check-casing fee. Payroll-check fee. Welfare-check fee. Breathing too hard while in line? Extra-breath fee. You can't just be sucking in all the check-cashing air for free! Pay up!" -Angela Nissel from The Broke Diaries 

Hello there Friends, Mothers, Lovers and Other Strangers,

Upon my goal to read 1 book a month the first one I chose was The Broke Diary by Angela Nissel. The book consists of diary entries she kept while she was a lowly underpaid college student. We follow Angela, or Ang as she ends all of her entries, through her struggles with being short on rent, being rejected by a bank, using her cat's water bowl to make a potluck dish and dating a guy who breeds, slaughters and cooks his own prizewinning chickens(she says it's true and I'm inclined to believe her).

Having been in her shoes I could totally relate to the tales listed within and likely you have too. Being broke is not simply a college thing. We've all been in situations where we've found ourselves literally just 3 cents shy of a pack of Ramen (C'mon man! You know I'm good for it).

It's quite a short book (by an avid reader's standards) so I don't want to risk giving too much away but there is an entry about attending a free poetry reading that still has me in tears with laughter. Revolution!

My only criticisms on the book, aside from it's length, is that we don't get to see much of the journey out of the "broke status". Angela went on to do great things like establishing the hip-hop culture website OkayPlayer along with ?uestlove from The Roots and becoming a writer and producer for the tv show "Scrubs". I'm sure that simply getting job after college wasn't the only thing she needed to get a handle on her financial situation. Also some of the entries are getting to be a little dated as time passes (i.e. having overdrafts due to collect calling from a payphone) but this really can't be helped.

I feel that this should be required reading for all high school seniors and college freshmen. While she allow us to laugh at her pain, Angela Nissel also shows us the often harsh realities of entering into young adulthood. Click here to purchase the book from Amazon while showing my humble blog a little love in the process.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Soldiers of Finance: The 5 things every income earner should have

Good Morn or evening Friends!

Allow me to begin with a quick update. Some days ago I told you about an idea that roused me out of my sleep. I am happy to report that all of those assets have been liquidated and I am moving the cash in position to invest hopefully in the beginning of October. As promised I fully intend to keep you all posted on the methods and tools I'm using.

Speaking of tools, what you are reading now is the first post in a series  called "Soldiers of Finance". In these posts I will be putting a spotlight on several products tools and ideas that I am currently implementing and will offer you opportunities to get involved in some of he same things I'm doing.

I want to talk about a few things every wage worker should have. Consider these the top 5 weapons in your financial arsenal.

  1. A checking account- When you make money you need a safe place to keep it. Sure, you could cash your check every month but you run the risk of getting mugged out of your hard earned pay. Also if you cash your check anywhere other than the bank that you do business with. Having to pay someone to have access to your own money is just plain stupid. The ideal checking account should have no minimum amount to open, no fees to maintain and the option to turn off overdraft protection so that you can't overspend. Almost all checking accounts tie into a debit card, with all the same protections as a credit card...just without the whole going into debt thing. If you really do your legwork you could even find one that pays a small interest. I personally have 3 checking accounts. I'll go into detail about them at a later post.
  2. A savings account- Right off the bat, before you spend a dime, a portion of your pay should go into a savings account for later purchases. You can earmark it for a specific expenditure like a car, a house, vacation or as a cushion to your checking account in the event that you happen to overspend. You can have this at the same bank as your checking account to make it easy to transfer funds back and forth. Nearly all savings accounts are interest-bearing and the ideal savings account should pay a decent rate.
  3. An EMERGENCY savings account- Job loss. Car breaks down. Medical emergency. Crap happens. It better to be prepared and don't need it than to have the worst case scenario happen and you've got nothing to turn to. You should always keep $500-1000 on hand at any time. This should cover many different emergencies and this would be an easy amount to replenish once the crisis is averted. The ideal emergency account should cover 4-6 months of your most basic living expenses, but its not always practical to keep that much cash on ice if you find yourself dipping into your backup savings often. All the more better if you're able to earn a little interest on this.
  4. A retirement account-If you working for an employer technically you're paying into retirement in the form of Social Security taxes. This ain't enough. If you have a job with benefits likely that includes some form of retirement savings, usually a 401(k), IRA or 401(3b). Many companies will even match what you put into it dollar for dollar up to  certain percentage. If for no other reason getting free money should compel you to sign up TODAY. The ideal choice for this depends on a lot of factors such as your income, tax bracket and family situation. We'll talk in depth about this later too.
  5. A budget/spending plan- What's the point of making money and saving money if you're not going to spend it, or even worse, blow the wad on useless crap?? Keeping track of your expenses and managing your cash flow through a budget will allow you to maximize the best use of your money. I'll be honest with you though. I hate budgets. I feel restricted when I'm on a budget. I work more along the lines of a conscious spending plan. All of my bills and savings are deducted automatically from my account and I make the choice to allocate the rest of the money as I see fit. Again a more detailed explanation will come.
It's getting late so I'll end here for now. If you're lacking any one of the things listed quit slippin' on your pimpin' and get to gettin'!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Work is stupid...throw rocks at it.

"Don't make me live for my Friday nights, drinking 8 pints and getting in fights."
                                                             -Jamie Cullum from the song Twentysomething

Good Morrow Mi Familia,

It's 11:37 pm Friday as I set out to write this. For the next 48 hours I don't gave to report my place of employment. For the next 24 hours this is going to feel amazing! Come Sunday night the depression sets in. I find in a few hours I'll have to report to work again...waiting...for the next weekend to come. This wouldn't be so bad if I actually enjoyed my job. Sometimes I do but to get to the good moments I have to endure all the garbage. 5 days of garbage for 2 days of freedom. It's wearing me down.

On my road to financial freedom I've been reading a lot of blogs and listening to a ton of podcasts.
One blog that had captured my attention is Dividend Mantra. The author, Jason, is already 3 years into a journey similar to the one I'm on. With his friend Kraig of Young Cheap Living they created The Chasing Financial Freedom Podcast. In episode 3 they talk about and article written by Steve Pavilina outlining 10 Reasons Why You Should Never Get A Job.

At the onset, the title alone feels very counter intuitive. Yes, we have to work to get the money to buy the things we need and want. For the majority of us work=job. Some of us are fortunate to have jobs we love and are fulfilled by. Me? Not so much. I'm working now to put myself in a position where I don't HAVE to work...and soon! I want to touch on three key points in the article that really drive home what I'm trying to accomplish.

  • Jobs put a cap on your finances. Most people can only work one job at a time, limiting your income. You don't earn money when your not working. And no, paid vacation days don't count. When you do actually get paid you have to pour those resources right back into job relates expenses (i.e. transportation, lunches, supplies etc.).

  • Jobs are time leeches. I get out of bed and get ready for work at around 9am. I get home at about 9pm. That means five days a week 50% of my day is spent getting ready for work, driving to work, working or coming home from work. For the remaining 12 hours I either don't get enough sleep because I have limited time to do non-work related activities, or I get nothing done because I'm running on empty and pass out sleeping.

  • Jobs keep YOU from being YOU. Have you ever had a co-worker who was really passionate and outspoken about work when they talk to you but suddenly turn as quiet as a church mouse when you all are in a meeting? I recently had a one-on-one with my supervisor where she noted that she doesn't feel like she's ever gotten to see "the real me". She couldn't be more right. I feel defeated every day that I walk into those double doors. I try to soldier on but it's wearing on me bit by bit.
So how do we fix this?? Keep following this blog so you can see what I do, when I do it and how I'm doing it!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anger. Management. Part 2

I hate Thursdays.

Prior to taking this job Thursday used to be pretty awesome. It's the day before Friday. The best tv shows come on. The first football game of the week is on. My paystub is available online. It used to be pretty sweet. Over the past few weeks, if only for 5 minutes, I have come to hate Thursdays with an unbridled passion. Why? Two words:

Recognition Thursdays.

The Regime has decided to boost morale by taking a moment every Thursday to recognize people who have exceeded certain metrics such as good customer surveys, sales or first-call resolution. This wouldn't normally be a bad thing. It's how they do it that grinds my gears.

Someone from management goes out to buy green balloons and candy. Herein lies problem #1. My work computer still has a floppy disk drive and just got updated to Windows 7 A WEEK AGO...but ya'll got money to buy green balloons and candy??

Next comes the cart. On that cart is a stereo. That stereo plays one song and one song only. "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk. What's worse is they never let the song play in it's entirety. They go from group to group, starting the first 2 minutes of the song over and over and over and over. The first 30 seconds sound like a cheaply made kids toy and they repeat it over and over and over....the worst is yet to come.

As I've mentioned in the previous post I am a customer service rep in a call center. Out of every 100 calls about 99.999 and nine tenths of those calls are escalations: people who are pissed. My shift starts just before the lunch hour so I'm either dealing with people who called on said lunch hour to handle business only to be put on hold for 25 minutes, people who had morning service visits that no one showed up for or people who missed the 12pm payment extension deadline and their cable is cut off.

So imagine the sheer delight I feel when I've finally gotten the customer calmed down to have them hear in the background some one screaming "IT'S RECOGNITION THURSDAY WOOOO!! DON'T LET IT (the candy) GO TO YOUR HIPS!!!" over a rave soundtrack. If I'm lucky the customer will say "It sure is noisy where you are!". What I'm most often met with is some variation of "I BEEN ON HOLD FOR 45 F***ING MINUTES AND YOU GUYS ARE HAVING A F***ING PARTY??" All the while management is continuing to yell and scream inches away from the live mic on my headset. You send an email about the most asinine things but THIS can't be done in an email??? You can scream in an email!! It's called CAPS LOCK!!!

Guess. What. Day. It. Is.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Killswitch Engaged: The Experiment Begins

Shit just got real.

A few nights ago something moved in my spirit. I couldn't sleep a bit. My mind raced. I had been reading about investing for income and the geek future early retiree in me had to get started A.S.A.P!!

I have a small investment portfolio that is almost fully concentrated with shares of Facebook and a few ETFs. The entire portfolio is a valued at a little over $1000. I am in the process of selling off all my positions and using the funds to create a new portfolio. This is the beginning of a portfolio that I hope to gain income from for the rest of my life. So's kind of a big deal.

I have everything listed in a limit order for the next 60 days so hopefully the market will rise enough to compensate me for my commissions.

I'm going to go into specifics through the course of the end of the year and as I learn and plan more. I just wanted to give you all a heads up: Shit just got real. Like for real, for real.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My 9/11 Story

Hello family,

It's been 12 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Back in 2009 I wrote a Facebook note (remember those?) about my experience that day and I'd like to repost it here. On my drive home today I realized that my son will learn about this day in much the same way I learned about the Holocaust; from a page in a history book. When he asks this is likely the story I will tell him.

My 9/11 Story

September 11, 2009 at 11:27am
In the passing years I had always felt it was kind of cliché for people to have their "Where I was on 9/11" story. It had occurred to me that I never really told my own account. This is it.

I was a senior in High school. While all of my friends were in class I was having the time of my life out in San Francisco over the weekend. My dad's union had a convention there. My mom was working for Delta at the time so we flew out for free. The Falcons coincidentally played against the 49ers that Sunday so I got to go to my first west coast game. I ate the freshest sea food, saw a lot of sights and was just having an all around awesome time. Mom and I were supposed to be flying back home Monday the 10th but she let us stay an extra day since I was doing well in school and it was early in the semester.

The next morning we were at the airport to check our bags. Like any other teenager I had my head buried in headphones, oblivious to all of the adult conversations going on around me. I slowly became consciously aware that the line was not moving and was wrapping around the concourse behind me. I figured it was just the business rush of people flying in and out. I took my headphones off to see if I could make out what the holdup was. Just ahead of us there was a group of deaf travelers. One was signing in a calm but urgent sort of way. She then made the gesture of a closed fist slamming into an open palm. The group began to converse amongst themselves for a minute. I knew very little sign language but I watched them, trying to piece together any bit I could recognize. One of them shook their hands in a kind of trembling manner and actually said the word "scary", in that muddled way that deaf people speak.

Many people including my parents began to crowd around a television in a nearby eatery. Assuming this was more "adult business" I pulled over to the side and sat near a support post guarding the luggage. I could see more faces of shock and concern piling into the restaurant. I tried to pick out pieces of the conversations going on from the personnel quickly passing by: Towers. Planes. Building. New York. World Trade. Crash. I switched on my radio. Most stations were silent. I heard a voice that sounded like Howard Stern saying "Jesus Christ it just fell". At the same time a simultaneous gasp fell over the concourse. A man went over to the line where a few people were still holding places. "Oh my God" he said, "the World Trade Center just collapsed."

The only word I can use to describe my feelings at that point was null. It wasn't because I didn't care, but because when you become aware that you're in a hopeless situation like that, you become complacent in the fact that there is nothing you can do. I looked over to see about 25-30 canine units head for the terminals. Slowly people began to leave, knowing that they would not be boarding a plane anytime soon. I'm not sure why we stayed so long. We were one of the last to leave the airport. Luckily we still had our hotel room since dad was staying for the rest of the convention. Everything in the city just seemed to stand still. It was so much quieter than in days past. Everything was closed. We were beginning to run low on money so some of the executive members of dad's union pooled together to put us in another hotel, one of the older historic places you see on T.V., with wood floors and antique beds and warped wooden doors that jammed. We were down stairs from one of my dad's executive friends who was there with her husband( former Falcon Joel Williams) and both their mothers. He suggested that my mom and I go with him on a drive, since there wasn't much else to do. Being seventeen years old at the time, I wasn't exactly thrilled with taking a road trip in the middle seat between two old ladies.

We headed out for Berkley, making several stops along the way to see things and meet people. The place that stuck out in my mind the most was a fruit stand by a farm, that a lot of people seemed to frequent. It was some of the sweetest fruit I ever had. My mom struck up a conversation with the cashier, telling him we were stuck out here. He told me that some of the most important lessons he learned were outside of the classroom, just doing the things he loved to do, being out working with his folks, etc. It wasn't anything I hadn't heard before but this time it made more of an impact on me.

After being unable to catch a flight for another 7 days, we try our hand at Greyhound and head for Los Angeles. I wondered why LA seemed to have a lot of satellite stops. I found out that Hispanic immigrants used it like a city bus almost. They'd pay a little something to the driver (if he was Hispanic) and get taken a ways down the street. We rode the bus overnight. I didn't sleep well since, through a long string of stops, I shared seats with a dirty man, a young girl, an old man and a chain smoker who all felt they needed to rest their heads on my shoulder.

Not feeling the whole cross country bus experience, we got off at the nearest major city with an airport. I think it was Phoenix. By now I was eager to get back to school, back to some kind of normalcy. My reception was more warm and loving than I could have anticipated. I got hugs from all my friends and teachers. People who I thought never even noticed me came and said "I'm glad you're home". That whole situation was kind of a twisted blessing in a way because it gave me a renewed faith in people. Thousands didn't make it. To be one of the ones that did is a bittersweet victory. They could just have easily decided to fly a plane into the Golden Gate Bridge, then where would I be? I don't know that I am a different person because of what happened that day. But it gave me some new values in life : Pay attention, you're always being taught something. People aren't as bad as they make themselves out to be. Don't ever think that you aren't worth anything because we all have worth, one no more than the other.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Epiphany or How to be a Time pimp

The light bulb going off. The a-ha moment. The "come-to-Jesus" meeting. Eureka! No matter how you express it everyone has that defining moment in their lives when something just clicks in your brain. Either you get fed up or you feel so at ease and suddenly it all makes sense. I touch on it a little bit in my first post (click here to read it) but I've come to this realization through several small moments in the last few months.

This past June I took a vacation with my family to Myrtle Beach. It's tough for me to get vacation time at my current job so until a few weeks before I didn't even know if I could go. Luckily part of the vacation was scheduled around my current off days and I put in for the remaining time with plans to see a Boyz II Men show (the best group EVER. Fact not opinion).

This turned out to be one of the best trips of my life. I'm neither an early riser nor an exerciser but for every morning on this 5 day trip. I got up at the crack of dawn without an alarm to go out for a jog on the beach. One morning my son got up with me and we flew a kite. I ate at least 4 plates of crab legs. I bought a new jacket on the cheap at the Ralph Lauren outlet (I LOVE Polo.) I played mini-golf with my son and my parents. I rode the tallest Ferris Wheel on the east coast. It was something I really needed.

On the last night the moon was full and high in the sky. My son was off with his granddad with flashlights searching for hermit crabs. My aunts were wandering the shore near by. I sat on a beach towel with my mom watching people shoot off fireworks. There were murmurs about wishing we could stay an extra day. I didn't know when I would be able to do something like this again.

That's when I had that moment; a resounding pivotal moment about time. I looked at time as a commodity. As an employee I put my time out on the free market. I sell my time to my employer in exchange for money. I have to then lobby my employer to get back the time I sell to them for my own personal use. Does no one else find this idea the least bit problematic?? Does no one else see major parallels to prostitution here?? You have to get clearance from your boss to get back your own time!!! Meaning your agreement to work for them in turn gives them the right to deny you the use of your own time. Ain't that a bitch??? But there is a way around this.

Rather than spending my whole adult life trading my time for money I am taking steps to make my money work for me. Money is the best employee there is; it works 24x7x365 and never calls in sick. Saving is great but that alone won't get you a return worth not having to lease out your time. Early retirement is a pretty lofty goal for me, especially since I'm halfway toward mid-life status, but it is what it is. I'd like to at least be semi-retired by 40, allowing my money tree to grow and bear enough fruit to live off of and to regenerate itself time and time again.

Money betta have my money!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pay's Anatomy or "Who the f**k is FICA?"

Happy Satur-dee!! Reachin' out!!

If today is Saturday that means yesterday was Friday. Also it's the first week of the month. What I'm getting at is that, in one way or another, many of us got a paycheck this week. For wage workers like myself it's the accumulation of our hourly toils manifested in monetary form. For you salaried folk it's a 1/24 size slice of your annual currency cake.

I want you all to take a little trip in your mind back to when you had your first real paying job. Mine was at Six Flags back in 10th grade. I remember being so excited to get my first paycheck. I remember ripping up the perforated envelope like it was a Christmas present. What I saw was a large dollar amount at the top (at least it seemed large since I'd never really had money before), a bunch of abbreviations, acronyms and minuses in the middle. At the end of this page long algebra equation was a significantly smaller dollar amount at the bottom. Of course the smaller amount is the one I got to take home. Soc Sec. FICA. Withholding. Medicare. OSADI. Who are these people and what gives them the audacity to take my money before I even get my check?

As the years have gone by and the jobs changed that equation had only gotten longer and more complex. More and more people seem to have their hands in my wallet. I recall another memory, this time in 9th grade citizenship/economics where we learned how to properly fill out a check. Ten years after graduating I am realizing that we were to taught how to pay but were never taught how we're paid.

Let's take a moment to dissect this little parchment of purchasing power. This is the anatomy of a paycheck.

EARNINGS- Working wages accumulated before any deductions are taken.

This is also listed as gross pay. This is the amount you earn for doing your job. If you're an hourly employee your hourly rate of pay should be listed. Subsequent pay rates will also be listed here for commission, holiday pay, vacation/sick leave pay, bonuses and overtime. For salaried workers this is a predetermined amount equally divided up over a year and paid in regular disbursements.

DEDUCTIONS- Amounts automatically subtracted from your pay

There are three classes of payroll deductions:

Pre-tax: This will include insurance benefits ( medical, dental, vision) and tax-deferred qualified retirement contributions (traditional IRA/401k). These are taken out of your gross pay.

Taxes: This is where all those "fun people" are. Depending on the type of work you do there may be a lot of different versions of Uncle Sam taking his cut of your hard earned labor. I'll highlight a few of the most common:

  • Social Security, sometimes abbreviated as "Soc Sec". It could also be listed by its formal name; Old-age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OSADI). What is essentially happening here is that both you and your employer are paying onto a trust fund. As the name implies you will receive this as a payout once you reach old age (67) or if a disability renders you unable to work. Your beneficiaries (survivors) will get this money should you die before retirement. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is the federal mandate that allows this contribution as well as contributions into unemployment, Medicare and soon Obamacare. I plan to post more in-depth about Social Security at a later date.

  • Federal and State Income Tax Simplest explanation is that we pay taxes on our income to make the government run. Not all states have income tax. We'll talk about this later as well. 
All of these deductions add up to give you your total withholding, the amount you give up to the government this pay period. We often end up overpaying resulting in getting a refund when we file our returns.

After Tax: These are further deductions that don't qualify for pre-tax withholding. Here you will have your voluntary benefits provided through your employer (i.e. car insurance) and tax-advantaged qualified retirement contributions (Roth IRA/401k).

NET PAY-Otherwise known as your take home pay after all deductions have been taken.

I know this is long but I have barely scratched the surface of all of the subtopics here. If there's anything you want me to touch on specifically please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Anger. Management. Part 1

Hey Family,

For the next few paragraphs I'm gonna vent. This isn't directly related to personal finance but it's about the place I make a living at the moment.

P.S. 90 days until I'm a former twentysomething. :)

I am a customer service representative at a major telecommunications company.

I am the one who gets yelled at because some technician I don't know didn't show up for an appointment I didn't set and now you aren't able to watch the Love and Hip Hop reunion until next week when we have the next available appointment. I am the one who gets cursed out because I can't "just send a signal to your cable box" to turn it back on and have you chew me out for 5 minutes until you realize you never plugged the damn thing in. I am the one who has to explain to you why all the movies on HBO Latino are in Spanish. I'm fully aware that you don't speak Spanish. No I can't take that one channel out of your package to lower your bill.

Speaking of which, I am the one who's the bad guy because I won't give you an extension on a bill that was past due three months ago. I also won't give you a credit because your 13 year old son ordered $300 worth of porn "on accident" for three months in a row. I know Johnny would never do anything like that. Especially not when you're not home.

But that's not the worst part of my job.

I have co-workers who are fantastic. They are wonderful people who I am cool with even outside of work. But then there are those the suck up so hard they would put a Dyson to shame. They gossip to you and then about you in the same sentence. Then they turn back around and ride the supervisor's jock.

Still, that's not the worst part of my job.

The WORST part of my job is the management regime. I use the word regime purposefully. I often feel like a child laborer in post-feudal England. I'm expected to calm down an irate customer, listen to the problem, restate the problem, sell them on something, apologize about the problem, solve the problem, sell them on something else, summarize the problem and field any remaining questions all within a span of seven minutes or less...emphasis on the less.

The problem is shit gets real. Take a few weeks ago.

I had a couple call in whose account was mangled by a representative in a retail location who tried to do his best to stay within the 7 minute mark. They went to trade in their malfunctioning DVR. Captain Save-A-Sale talked them into upgrading their package. By the time they got home not only did the new DVR not work their whole account had been cancelled. The cable and internet were both out and they were on the verge of losing their home phone number. Luckily for them the order was easily fixable. Unluckily for me I had to ask management to do it since I don't have clearance.

 I open a group chat in the instant messenger including every supervisor and manager in the building, about 17 people. Instantly the list dwindles down to 12 for the ones that were off work already. This is where the insults start. People start to take the time to respond to you only to tell you how busy they are at the moment, which would be ok in some instances, but to do a 3 minute act so I can continue on to make YOUR metrics wouldn't be that big of a deal I would think. But then it gets REALLY insulting. People begin to remove themselves from the group chat. They don't even have the decency to attempt to help, they just close the chat window. I know because I can see it when they do on my screen. The work finally gets done. I started the call 40 minutes before the end of my shift. I ended it 30 minutes after my shift was over. Then a sup has the gall to tell me to hurry up because there's a storm due to come from Alabama. Never had to swallow so many cuss words in my life. She REALLY just told me to hurry up!

This instance is only the least of my gripes. I bring it up now because a similar thing happened today on my first call. That call was well over 90 minutes long! The next time you're on hold with customer service...please...remember me. Remember the struggle.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Them there goals and such....

Happy Tuesday people!

I've been talking a great deal the last couple of days about goals. It is the 4th quarter of 2013 and I think it's high time I revealed my first set of goals. These should keep me on pace until the end of the year. You'll find that I'll be doing a lot of lists here. They keep me organized and they're easy to there.

  1. Start saving so that I can live on last month's income.
I'm tired of the stress of not having enough month at the end of the money(let it marinate). Many people think the answer to this problem is to make more money or find a second stream of income. I can't seem to stay out of trouble at my current job (we'll discuss that at a later date) so asking for a raise is out and while I would like for this blog to be making passive income, I don't see that happening anytime soon.  What I CAN do is to set aside a small portion of my income every month and then subsidize it with a portion of my tax refund (we'll talk). That way in a particular month (I figure April or May 2014) I can tap into those savings and not have to touch any part of my working wages for that week. Doing this should lead me into a surplus so that I can start working on the next goal:

     2. Start adding to my emergency fund.

By years end I should have the ubiquitous Dave Ramsey "baby step" amount fully funded. My overall goal is to have 3 months worth of income stockpiled. I can use it for emergencies like my car, a health issue, etc. however my biggest fear is a sudden job loss and I'll try to cover as many "rainy days" as I can in cash so I can keep it funded for this reason.

     3. Automate all regular financial transactions.

I'm about 90% complete on this one. Nearly all of my bills, saving and investments are on autopilot and that saves me time and in some cases even money.

    4. Start and finish 1 new book every month.

This month I'm going to be reading The Broke Diaries  by Angela Nissel. At months end I'll post my takeaways and like to places where you can buy the book.

    5. Write a new blog post 2-3 times a week.

Ideally I'd like to post 4-5 times a week but let's face it...I'm too busy to write that much and you're too busy to read that much...unless you subscribe *wink, wink*

And now for the most important goal of all:

   6. Play hooky from work one day a month until the end of the year.

Hard to try new things if I'm stuck in a cubicle all the time. Ferris Bueller, you're my hero.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What it is, what it ain't, what it gon' be...

Welcome to post #2 ya'll,

First off I want to say gracias, danke schoen and a great big ol' THANK YOU to all who have read and/or shown support after my first post. This is a very personal endeavor that I'm putting out for the world to see and it's always nice to get a "You go girl!" I'll try my best to keep my topics both entertaining and informative.

Now on to the topic at hand. As the title says, the intent of this post is to outline some goals and ground rules. You can decide from my bullet points here whether or not you want to follow in my humble corner of web real estate.


  • This is me getting real with myself; my "come-to-Jesus moment" as some would say. I'm not where I want to be and I have to take responsibility to put myself it a better standing. Keyword: accountability.
  •  This will put stakes on my learning process. If I'm not learning anything, trying something new or working through problems then I won't have anything to share with you beautiful people.
  • This is me being an open book. Without getting too dangerous, I'm going to be as candid as possible about my finances, certain aspects of my life, my hobbies etc.

  • This will not be an advice column. I am not within a million foot radius of being qualified to dispense advice of any sort.. This blog is for informational purposes only. If you like any ideas I post about finance or investing, do the research for yourself or seek professional financial consultation. If you like my ideas about social matters, see a shrink. The food thing? Talk to a chef. I'll be happy to answer any and all questions. Just take my answers for what they are: opinions.
  • This will not be any kind of socio-political manifesto. I have beliefs. I may even briefly talk about my beliefs on occasion. But I will NEVER EVER force my beliefs on you. Simple as that.
  • This will not always be grammatically perfect. I tend to use a lot of run-ons and comma splices. Spell check doesn't catch everything. I do the best I can at editing but don't be a troll if you see a "your" when it should be a "you're".


  • I want to become an expert in personal finance. I think the reason we get into so much economic trouble is the don't really understand the fundamentals of how finance works. We're touched by Adam Smith's Invisible Hand briefly in the 8th grade, but for a lot of us that is where our financial education ends. There's been a recent push to bring financial literacy to the forefront and I want to be a part of that movement.
  • I hope to use this blog as a weapon in my arsenal for a comprehensive passive income portfolio. I'll outline more details in an upcoming post about my specific goals.
  • I want to be an example to people who are in similar situations. I'm a single mom. I'm burdened by debt. I'm a cancer survivor. I'm caught in a career loop. I'm still trying to leave the nest and set out on my own. I'm tackling all my problems and will be completely transparent with how I do it. I hate when people say they made it through an ordeal, or they got rich or got the career of their dreams and when you ask how they get all secretive. When I come up I bring people with me.
  • I want this to be fun. Plain and simple.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

And down went Alice after it...

" After years of expensive education, a car full of books and anticipation, I'm an expert on Shakespeare and that's a hell of a lot. But the world don't need scholars as much as I thought."
                                                         -Jamie Cullum from the song "Twentysomething"

It's Sunday, September 1st, 2013. My birthday Is December 6th. In exactly 95 days from now I will be thirty years of age. THIRTY! As in 3 in the tens place. Age never really used to mean that much to me. Just the odometer rolling over to another year. Turning 30, however, feels markedly different. It's as if your twenties are simply a decade long "Adulthood Orientation" and once you hit this magic number a myriad of proverbial clocks start ticking: Marriage. Career Advancements. Home buying. Having kids. Sending those kids to college. Retirement.

The thing about me though? I pretty much slept through orientation. I became a mother at 20. I stumbled through college. I graduated with an almost totally useless major. I've amassed major student loan debt. I couldn't find substantial work for years after graduating. I went through a series of bad relationships. I even had cancer for crying out loud!! I mean...What the F&8K man?? Where was I when all the good life stuff was being handed out??? I've been known to not be a complete idiot. I've been called cute by people outside of my immediate family. I'm usually nice to everyone. Never been in trouble with the law (so far). And yet here comes time telling me I have to start writing the next chapter when I've only just begun writing the last one. I never planned for this to happen.

But now I'm coming into a sobering realization. I never planned for these things to happen because...well...I never PLANNED. I've hardly ever had any clear goals...any driven purpose. I have never really been motivated to do or be anything. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I could always give answers that sounded good: lawyer, stock broker, composer. And sure these were things I had SOME interest in. But once I started hearing about all that was entailed with learning the trades I got scared. Fear of failure begets fear of trying. I always took the simplest way out and it came back to bite me in the ass with razor sharp teeth.

With that being said my battleship, though it has taken on a lot a water, isn't completely sunk. I am learning to take responsibility for what got me here. And that is the purpose of me creating this blog. I'm using this to make myself accountable for the steps I'm taking to make things better and to keep a living record of my journey. I'm doing this to put stakes on my goals which in turn puts stakes on my learning process. Now if I fail to plan, I fail publicly. At least publicly to the extent of which others are actually reading this blog. Now don't be alarmed, I don't intend to be all business here. In between sharing the things I'm learning there's plenty of room for my usual randomness.

 I have discovered that I have 3 major passions in my life: music, food and personal finance. Although I know a lot of things about them I'm not an expert in any one subject but I'd like to be, as these are to tools I intend to use to get to where I want to be in life. Here I'll post about the books I'm reading, the software and websites I use, the new things I'm trying, and some of the ideas I'm tossing around. Anyone is welcome to join in on the conversation.

For all that changes in a person there are elements, usually good ones, that will always remain the same. My 30th birthday is fast approaching. But for the next 3 months and 5 days "I'm a twentysomething and I'll keep being me."