Tag Archives: Planning

Stop Freaking Out About Your Future Finances

It’s almost the end of February so if you’re a responsible adult, you’ve filed your taxes. Now you’re waiting for that highly anticipated tax refund check. It’s probably one of the few times a year all of the 20-somethings in the world feel financially stable and like they rule the world.

Why limit that feeling to only one time a year? Your personal finances should not freak you out. If you have a good job with a respectable income, then money should not cause you anxiety. I’ll admit for a while money, credit cards, investing and budgeting were all things that stressed me out. I was paranoid that the money I saved would magically disappear. Guess what, there is not a money stealing fairy that takes all of your money in the middle of the night. You just have to be smart about saving for the future.

A budget spreadsheet should be your best friend. It’s a really simple way to track your spending. There are different apps out there that can do the same. Knowing where you money goes is the only way to reduce expenses and save more. Now how do you take your finances to the next level?

Investing. Yes, that big scary word that doesn’t really make scene to a lot of people. I am of the Carrie Bradshaw mindset: “I like my money where I can see it…hanging in my closet.” Fair point because at least Carrie (and others) know where their money is going. With investing, it’s a bit more ambiguous. You know what you’re investing in but aren’t sure how your money will fare in the market.

There are lots of resources that can help you figure out how to invest your money. One example Quandl, a centralized website that pulls financial and economic data together as a tool for people to use when investing. Their futures page show over 100 options for investing and provides data on each over a period of time. So before you put your money anywhere, you’d want to check out trends and historical data to make an educated decision.

Managing your money boils down to needs versus wants. As long as you maintain a balance between the two while planning for the future, you’ll be set. Add in some smart investments and you’re in a good place. I know it might not be as easy as it sound in this post. But if you remove some of the fear you might have about finances, it does make the process less painful.

Year of Intention

I wrote this post on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean with OneRepublic’s “I Lived” playing. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? It’s pretty much is and allowed me to pause and reflect.

My writing spot for the day

My writing spot for the day

It’s been a long summer, one where I repeated the phrase: “It could be worse,” nearly 100 times. Everyone moved, work was crazy busy and I found myself moving along without any clear direction. That’s not normal for me – I’ve always had a plan, a goal, a schedule so this way of life didn’t feel right.

If you’re not moving forward, then you’re going backwards right? I’m not sure. But what I learned this year is that over orchestrating my life puts too much pressure on me and probably those around me. Every day should be its own adventure.

I paused over the weekend and reflected on what I want the next year to look like. Normally, I would create a list of things I want to accomplish in the next year and highlight the best moments of the past one. But that’s easy for me. 25 feels like a milestone so it should be more challenging. This year is going to be the year of intention: setting intentions, putting more positive ones out to the universe and being more intentional with my words and my time. To start, my intention for this new year is to believe in the change. My journey in the last year has been shaped by changes that life handed to me not ones I consciously put into motion. I know I can do better when faced with new challenges and unexpected changes. Whatever is meant to happen will shape my path for the better…or at least make for an interesting story!

Will I totally give up my planning nature? Definitely not. Who I am at its core isn’t going to change nor do I want it to. But in the spirit of continuous improvement, I want to fageocus on getting better from here!

I’m looking forward to celebrating my birthday over the next few days and making 25 the best year yet! I invite you to join me in my year of intention and to share your thoughts below!

My R&R: Routines and Rituals

In last week’s post, I talked about how stuck I’ve been recently. One way I’ve be able to start taking baby steps forward is using the routines I previously had in place. They’re familiar, comfortable and have made each day easier. But why are routines and rituals so important?

Most of us have routines in place unintentionally. If you catch same train every day or brush your teeth before bed, you have an established routine. Those are unconscious decisions we’ve made for a while. The routines that are more important are the ones we intentionally decide to implement in our lives.

My friend and creator of more happy hours, Jullien Gordon was the person who got me thinking about intentional routines and rituals over two years ago. At the beginning of each year, Jullien creates his New Year Guide, which allows people to focus on goals in each area of their lives. He helps people dive deeper in how they’ll achieve the goal, what obstacles they’ll face and how to implement more consistent routines in their lives.

RoutinesI just finished filling out my guide last night and was completely energized by it. There’s something about writing down aspirations for the future and your plan for achieving them that excites me. During this process, I was reminded of how chosen routines will help me along. For example, I’m running (hopefully not trotting) Mudderella this summer with my super talented runner friend. I’m totally intimidated and know training more regularly is a must. So I thought about what I could intentionally do to ensure I stick to a training plan. Some of my thoughts included:

  • Telling as many people as possible about the race. These people then will help to hold me accountable and will hopefully check in to see how I’m progressing
  • Starting smart and pacing myself. I’m not going to be able to run five miles immediately. It’s more about setting realistic goals, like running for 30 minutes twice a week and gradually increasing from there
  • Thinking about the big picture. So it’s not just about running since there are obstacles included in this race. Eating better and meal prepping will help; so will strength training. One routine I wanted to start that’s been a struggle is doing a bit of strength training in the morning before I get ready for work. No matter what I tell myself or how early I set my alarm, I haven’t been able to jump start this one. Any ideas you have to help are appreciated.

You can apply my tips listed above to implementing any new routine. You also shouldn’t try to create a bunch of new routines at once. You’re going to be so focused on getting each one perfected that they won’t stick. Like with most everything else, it’s a balancing act. Give yourself permission to mess up a routine once in a while. Getting frustrated isn’t going to help.

Ultimately, routines and rituals energize you and help create consistently across all aspects of your life. Believing in and harnessing their power will absolutely help you achieve your goals. Share some of your favorite routines or rituals on the comments section!

Upside Down

I started January 2015 with a brand new planner, a series of written-out resolutions and a game plan to make this year the best one yet. Full of good intentions, I resurrected my workout routine and meal prepping, determined to be healthier and happier in 2015.

Then, two weeks into this glorious new year, my world was turned upside down. A loved one passed away. Unfortunately, I know I’m not the first one to experience this and certainly won’t be the last. No matter how much you prepare, even the most type-A person doesn’t know what to do. Plans go out the window. You forgot what the word routine even means. You’re frozen, paralyzed  with a variety of emotions, unsure of how to get yourself unstuck. It’s a very weird place to be.

GreifSo you go through the motions, you say goodbye, then you’re left at home with more food and flowers than Whole Foods. Now what? Yeah, I can’t answer that question for you. I barely can answer it for myself. The few things I do know include:

  • You have to grieve. That’s going to look different for each person. But cry if you need to, yell if you must. Go through pictures and talk about your loved one. Do whatever you need to so you can accept this loss.
  • Listen to your body. True, there is some level of forcing yourself out of the rut you’re in, but your body will tell you what it needs. After a week of Italian cold cuts, my body told me to find a salad!
  • It’s going to look different for each person. When a loved ones dies, those who remain will react in a variety of ways. No two reactions are going to be the same. Just like you have to grieve, so does everyone else.
  • It’s ok to be upside down. Literally, that’s how I’ve felt the last couple of weeks. My mind would wander, I’d experience a wave of emotions all at once. For me, this is not how I operate. I have a schedule, a plan, for each day. Going rouge is not my thing. But, this is a traumatic experience, so I gave myself the permission to go off the grid. This is not an everyday occurrence, so your everyday gameplay won’t work.

I think I’m back to normal. I feel better than I did a week ago and assume I’ll feel even better in a month. This is the new normal and accepting that is the only way to move forward. Having concrete routines in place before all of this did help get me back on track. More about the importance of routines and how to develop them in my next post!

Financially Fearless: A Levo League Event Recap

This past week, I finally attended a Levo League event. Levo is a community of passion women working to help one another. They sponsor all types of events across the country to better professional women. Tuesday night I attended one such event called Financially Fearless, which was led by Alexa Von Tobel, the CEO of Learnvest, a company centered around affordable financial planning. What a great night discussing an important topic!

First, it was great to network with the Levo ladies. All poised and energetic, they were so welcoming and happy to hear my story. After some chatting, Alexa began her talk, centered around the her, Financially Fearless that ties to her company. In short, Learnvest is a budgeting tool with help from a certified financial planner. The book (and the Learnvest plan) provides simple but effective tools to help you manage your money. Alexis broke down each step, with charismatic humor and true passion.

Alexa sharing great tips at the event hosted by Levo League

Alexa sharing great tips at the event hosted by Levo League

Step 1: Focus – You need to sit down and figure out where your money is going. Track all of your spending (the Learnvest app can help). You should look at your credit cards and how often you use them as well as your 401K plan and credit score. My personal favorite points from Alexa on this topic included setting up a separate email account for all your bills and for having calendar alerts for all payments.

Step 2: Focus – Know your after taxes income and your expenses. Remember there should be money left after paying your bills. Another great point: Just because you make more money doesn’t mean you’ll save more. If your pay and spending both continue to increase, that won’t solve any financial problems.

Step 3: Plan – Make sure you have an emergency savings account that you do not touch. This should be for true emergencies, not needing a new dress for an upcoming event. The goal should be to constant financial stability.

Step 4: Build – Alexa described this as the dream phase. Set financial goals for the future and plan out all of those crazy things you want to go and do later on in life.

Step 5: Protect – Alexa emphasized that this probably the most important phase. Look at all of your insurance policies (home, health, car, etc) and make sure you are getting all benefits of the policy. Once you have a full-time job, health insurance is a must and so is renter’s insurance if you rent. Favorite quote here? “Unused credit cards are a hacker’s dream.” Amen!

Step 6: Maximize – This part was all about investing, which honestly gives me some anxiety as I don’t fully understand every piece of it. The most important concept here is to invest money in a variety of assets but only do it if you can afford to leave it in the market for a five-year minimum. This way, you’ll have a shot of investments turning a profit.

Alexa's best selling book!

Alexa’s best selling book!

Step 7: Achieve – The final phase is about being prepared even if life changes. Alexa gave a great analogy: The way you manage your health meaning going to the doctor, taking vitamins, etc., should be the same way you approach being financially responsible. You need to pay attention to it!

Alexa’s 45 minute chat was jammed packed with information, realistic examples and helpful tips. Her passion for making financial planning affordable is clearly apparent. I can’t wait to read her book and start using the LearnVest app. Expect an update once I do!

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Regardless of your profession, planning is mandatory for success. From surgeons to PR professionals, failing to plan will promise to give you a wealth of headaches.

I experienced one of these such headaches last week when it was 4 p.m. on a Friday and we didn’t have space for an event that was less than two weeks away. Backup plans and analyzing risk should be part of your routine when planning out schedules, events and pretty much anything else. Here are my tips when preparing for a presentation, meeting or whatever your need might be.

  • Write down any and all things that could go wrong. When I was an account executive at PRowl Public Relations, anytime we had an event, we listed out everything that could go wrong and what we would do if it did. This ensured that each member of the team was prepared to handle any unexpected challenges.
  • Have communications ready in case all of things that could go wrong actually do. Sometimes things happen in an instance and you need to fire off communications to target audiences immediately. Having these already drafted and patiently waiting in a Word document will save you the time.
  • Do your homework. If you’re presenting at a meeting, know the target audience and what questions they might ask. Also, do not read off a piece of paper, it’s not professional.  If you’re planning an event, know all the venue and hotel options in case your preferred venue cancels.
  • Hold a debrief after the meeting or event concludes. If you presented at a meeting, ask the audience for feedback and evaluate yourself too. Post event debriefs are pretty much essential so the team can evaluate its success and see what they could improve upon in the future.

Regardless of your profession, planning needs to be ingrained into your brain to guarantee success. As part of this, you should be organized, keep a calendar and communicate clearly. My friend and mentor, Jason Mollica, provides more planning tips here on his video blog.

What tips do you have when it comes to planning? How has it impacted your profession? Please share your ideas!

 

ROC Race Sprints Past Shutdown

A couple of months ago, my friend and I decided we were going to run the ROC race in Brooklyn. The ROC (Ridiculous Obstacle Course) is a 5K race held all over the nation that has different obstacles. From wrecking balls to water slides, this race has it all! We were super excited to run the race this upcoming weekend until the government decided to shut down.

The ROC race was being held at the Aviator Sports & Events Center, which is part of a national park. Since the government shutdown, all national parks have been temporarily closed, thus postponing this race. Obviously, race participants were not happy, myself included. Not only was I training for the race, but I also paid a decent amount of money to run. The ROC race understood all of this and responded in the best ways possible. Here are the couple of actions the race took to ensure all NYC race participants were happy:

roc-race1) Constant communication: The race has sent me at least six emails since the shutdown began. They provide detailed updates about the race, our registration and any other developments. Just this morning I received a reminder to not pick up our race packets since the race is postponed. Some may think it’s overkill, but I like being informed and updated.

2) Updates on all outlets: Not only have we gotten email communications, but the ROC race has done a great job of updating their website FAQs and posting on Facebook to keep everyone informed. Their Facebook updates are particularly helpful as it’s easier to read that on my iPHONE.

3) Contingency plans: The ROC race has been very intentional with their planning. They could not have possibly known the government was going to shut down and postpone their race. They have set deadlines and already secured the space for next weekend, in the hopes that the shutdown will be over by this coming Monday. They are also taking race set-up and participant notification into consideration: If the shutdown isn’t over by Monday (October 14), they will not run the race that upcoming weekend. They are not trying to rush and just get the race done. They care enough about their participants to make sure the experience and execution are flawless.

4) Listening skills: When the race was first postponed, runners had two options: Run the race on the new date or transfer registration to another ROC race in a different location or on a different date. Once that news got out, people reacted strongly and were upset that they couldn’t choose a refund instead of a registration transfer. Race leadership responded quickly and created two additional options: a complete refund or a registration transfer to a friend. This absolutely showed how the race is primarily concerned with their runners’ experience and are willing to change plans in order to accommodate more participants.

Overall, I think the ROC race handled a difficult situation really well. Of course, there are still unhappy participants and everyone still wishes the race would run this weekend. But, given the circumstances, race leadership dealt with this mini crisis in a positive and professional way.

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