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Top 20 Thoughts I Had The First Time My Student Loan Payment Came Out of My Account

So, I was blessed the first time around in undergrad with scholarships. But when I made the decision to go to graduate school, I said hey, I can do this. I can take out these loans. I work. I’m a good American. It will be well worth it to add a few fancy letters behind my name.

It’s soooo easy to take a loan.

However, paying them back, oh, that’s when you feel the pain.

Disposable income? What’s that? So long. Farewell.

I wanted to share with y’all my immediate thoughts when I noticed that my first major student loan payment came out of my account. Lord, it hurt. I started rocking back and forth like Miss Sophia from The Color Purple. All of the jokes and memes came to mind, and all of a sudden, they felt so real. So personal.

1. I’ve been robbed, let me call the bank.
2. Frantically looking for old emails warning me this was going to happen.
3. Profanity. Lots of profanity.
4. Panic. I will never do anything fun again until 2026.
5. Can I reduce the payment? I’m going to the site to FAQs to reduce the payment.
6. So, about that Uber thing… That’s not a bad side hustle right?
7. Short of getting married and having a two-income house, I’m never going to own a home anytime soon.
8. Profanity against my educational institution.
9. What can I cancel or stop buying?
10. The clothes I currently own will need to look good for the next 10 years.
11. Googling all of the meals I can make with beans.
12. Welp, I only have about 2.5 years left on my car payment, which seems like a blink in time, in comparison. I’ll get a few dollars back, then!
13. So, do I want to get back into school to finish, or just defer payments?
14. Current me needs a time machine to talk to old me who signed the loan papers. We didn’t exactly end up where we thought we would by now.
15. I REGRET NOTHING. I stand by my choice. I choose my choice, I choose my choice. (screaming in Charlotte York,)
16. Slow and steady wins the race.
17. Stay employed. Forever.
18. My boyfriend isn’t cheap because he occasionally vetoes splurges. He is used to paying student loans and is a responsible individual. I must absorb his ways.
19. Rethinking my stance on co-habitation. See 18.
20. Three things in life are certain, death, taxes and student loans.

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Family Financial First Aid: When You Know Better, Do Better and Pass it on!

Nothing can make you feel more empowered and in control as understanding your finances, making solid decisions and watching your money grow.

Nothing can make you feel as out of control, inferior and in panic and chaos as NOT understanding your finances, making poor decisions and feeling like you’ll never get out of the hole.

I’m not wealthy, I’m not rich. I really don’t have a whole lot in my retirement, but I’m proud of the time I made up in my 20s in the last couple of years.

I realized that upping the contributions to my 401k at my last job was a smart thing to do. I’ve changed two jobs in about two years, and when I left each job, I rolled my 401k investments into an IRA.

When things got funky with my financial aid this past semester (don’t even get me started my blood pressure has finally returned to a normal state), even though it was part of my “last resort,” borrowing money from my IRA was an option that saw me through a tough time.

I grew up in a middle class family, but my parents– neither of them college grads, but who did better than their parents, did not have a financial education. They winged it.

While my dad is a very intelligent person, he fears credit cards and hates debt of any kind.

My mother, also a very intelligent person, had addictions to store credit cards, as evidenced by our bi-weekly trips to the local department store to pay her bill, and the harassing calls after she lost her job.

So once I got a job and was given an application in high school, I got a credit card and quickly built my credit line to the point where as a college junior I had a $5,000 limit. Being young, dumb and at Howard, where the most fashion-forward folks go to get educated, I surprisingly didn’t squander my good credit on clothes. It was actually footing the bill for spring break to book planes and hotels for me and my friends and paying for my boyfriend’s car repairs (because how else will he get to work?).

In my early 20s, the joy of getting a full-time job after college and seeing larger checks in a low cost-of-living state had me living beyond my means and depending on overdraft protection, acting like it really was my money.  I assumed the overdraft fees as just the cost of doing business and kept it moving without a care .

It took a very, very long time and a five-year financial education program to help me improve my credit and pay down my debt. It was a proud moment to be eligible for a good credit card again, and in comparison to the last time I purchased a car, to go from having an 18% interest rate for a used car about 5 years old to an 8% interest rate the next time I purchased a same year model, brand new.

That’s where the feeling of being in control and accomplishment kicks in. But that feeling had to come from making some big mistakes, and then doing what it took to correct them.

I didn’t necessarily fear credit, but I needed to learn that it was a tool. Unfortunately, my father’s mindset that all debt is bad didn’t help, and neither did my mother’s habit of paying a card off, so you can just get more stuff, in a constant never-ending cycle didn’t shape the best habits in me either.

I am, however thankful for having friends who discuss stocks and watch stock tickers on the news and discuss them with their parents casually as if they were discussing sports scores. And I’m slightly jealous of the edge those financially-conscious parental gave my friends, that I just didn’t have.

Like my parents, who surpassed their parent’s earning potential, here I was with a college degree, but financially, I was winging it too. Having to figure it out on my own.

One of my best friends has been buying and selling stocks for years and her parents taught her to do so. At 33, I finally asked her for help today, mentioning how I admired that in her household discussing finances is as normal and healthy as saying good morning. And she’s excited to do it and already looking up some educational classes around the next time I visit home.

It never hurts to ask for help. We are often shrouded in silence when it comes to matters of money, because we don’t want others to know how much we have, or don’t have. I was particularly interested in investing more aggressively, because I want to replenish the funds I had to take from my IRA, and while I put aside money from my paycheck to pay it back, as a single, childless person, who isn’t in her 20s anymore, my window is closing to be as aggressive as I could have been if I started thinking about money more seriously in my 20s.

While some of my friends still live at home with their parents because it is so expensive, I realized I was pouring my money into high rents in the DC area for the last decade (and paying off my college-incurred debts for half a decade), and they were learning how to be aggressive with their investments, taking advantage of the financial power staying at home with the ‘rents can provide, so they can eventually leave the nest and afford to maintain.

Having a household that talks about money openly is healthy. We have to remove stigmas around modest living or what the reality of your financial situation is. It takes hard work and discipline, but building good financial habits is something that’s crucial to your future and that of your family.

I appreciate everything my family has done for me, so I’m not knocking them at all, but I can’t help but wonder what other kinds of goals and dreams my parents could have accomplished if they had the tools.

From time-to-time, my father asks me about how much I make. I now artfully avoid it after the one year I told him, and his eyes widened and said, “You’re almost catching me.” Yes, I do think my dad is trying to be in my business, but I also think it’s a matter of him feeling like some financial progress is being made and his baby girl is secure and successful and that hopefully, by some chance I’m making better decisions than he did. Sometimes he says it outright, relieved that I’m an adult to be able to really understand his point.

While my parents have never asked me for money, I do care about their lives as they enter their golden years. A part of me wonders that because I am still single and without a family of my own, and geographically closer than my sister, who does have a family, will I have to really step up for them and how will I be prepared to do so in a way that is respectful and commensurate with how wonderfully they provided for me, knowing some of their financial sacrifices and missteps will contribute to how comfortable their retirement years will be?

I don’t know the answer to all of those questions. And as a family, we’ll have to work together to figure them out.

What I do know is unlike my parents, I have way more access to information than they ever did.

The Internet is a great equalizer. Just this morning, I’ve read several Forbes articles on how to get started with the stock market and I’m energized and excited. There’s so much to learn and I’m mature enough to get help and figure out how to make my financial future and that of my family’s a whole lot brighter.

 

 

 

Downsizing

Today was the final straw.

Every year, you all know I complain about my rent increasing and how I get really upset about it. Every. Year.

Well, my lease isn’t up until late April, however a recent email from the new management had me livid. Parking is a serious issue in my complex, but now they’ve made matters even worse by offering “premium parking” for an additional $35 per month that gives you an assigned space in front of your building.

One more way to squeeze more money out of us and force me to think of other living situations. Pay for a space? It’s not covered for the winter. Like are you really kidding? I’m over it.

And maybe I’ve jumped to conclusions, but now I really want out. It’s not just the parking space, but it’s the rising rent in a place where I haven’t seen any new and improved amenities and with ever-changing parking rules that really discourage my friends from wanting to visit or hang out all night for being towed.

So in my anger, I started looking for new apartments, all of which are ridiculous and it hurts my soul to pay more than what I’m paying to move. I can afford to pay a bit more, but I honestly don’t want to. It’s wrong.

A good friend of mine owns her townhouse and has had a steady stream of tenants over the years. We’ve made jokes about me moving in with her before and this time, I’m actually serious about it.

The other times I could have moved in with her, I was proud and I felt like it was a reflection of my independence and where I was in life to have my own place. I’ve realized that common sense trumps pride. I make enough to still live on my own and even pay more money for rent and not go hungry. But I simply don’t want to.

At this point, I don’t care anymore. I’m not dating, I don’t have a man who will come over, and my life is filled with school. I hardly cook, so I don’t use my kitchen very often, I actually need to go through everything in my house that I’ve accumulated and do a super cleanse, so this may be a very good idea.

My furniture and art and books would go into storage. I’d give away a lot of shoes and clothes.

The idea would be to live with the friend for six months to possibly a year. Besides, after school, I have no clue where my life will lead and I’m actually open to completely leaving the DC area if that’s what it takes. If I’m saving money on rent, I could travel more or just save period and not scramble for deposits when I am ready to move back into my own place.

The other positive that makes this decision work out better this time is with my new job the commute from her house wouldn’t be as bad as my old commute.

I’m open to it. I complain that I’m often lonely and having another person in the house does help with that.

At this point I’m almost ready to move immediately, thinking about the money I’d save and decluttering my life and forcing myself to make it work with one room.

It may be the most liberating thing I’ve done yet. It’s not a move backwards as I used to think having a roommate at this stage of my life was. It may be jumpstart to the new phase in my life I’ve needed.

Professional Poor Shaming

When we think of the phrase “poor shaming” you may think of someone posting an angry Facebook post about being a hardworking person standing in the checkout line behind a person buying, shrimp and lobster and ceremoniously whipping out a public assistance card.

They are disgusted this person is flaunting what is apparent mooching off the system, because they didn’t dare fill their carts with, oh I don’t know Spam or government cheese or whatever good respectable folks on assistance are supposed to eat, because they don’t deserve hummus or omega 3 fatty acids. Or soy milk. Nope.

But there’s another kind that isn’t so easy to see, that you probably won’t read about or hear about, because the victims of what I call “professional poor shaming” would never want to be outed. It would destroy the persona they’ve built at work or in their social circles. But as sneaky as professional poor shaming is, it’s managed to work its way into workplace culture and it has a lot of people who are financially in the margins, living in fear during every business trip, or business lunch.

One of the best illustrations of this is reflected in a scene from a movie called “The Pursuit of Happiness” you know the feel good, keep dreaming working story starring Will Smith and his son Jaden (when he was little and super cute).

Will Smith has killed himself to earn an internship with a major company, he hides the fact that he is homeless and sleeping in public bathrooms at night and fighting for beds at shelters and emerges as one of the rising stars. He is in a cab with one of his very wealthy bosses. The cab ride is but a mere $10, and his boss says, “Hey, I don’t have any cash, can you take it?” Will’s character is mortified because basically that is the only $10 he had which would be a meal for he and his son, but the shame and the desire for this man to see him as an equal steps in, and you can feel the pain as Will has to hand over that money to the cabbie.

This scene plays out at lunches, where if you are a young professional, single and paying most of your bills and paying back large student loans or repairing your credit, surrounded by people who make more money than you and live in dual income homes you are overwhelmed with the feeling of being able to keep up, pay your share, or even take the tab for the entire group, because the last person who opted to pay for everyone reminded the whole table it’s your turn.

This scene plays out in an institutional way if your company sends you on a business trip, but turns around and says you have to use your credit card to pay for the trip and once you file expenses you’ll get the money back later. But what if you don’t have the money or the credit now?

The panic sets in. You may ask your boss a whole lot of details about the cost of things, and they will wonder why you are so uncomfortable. “Just charge it, you’ll get reimbursed. It’s no big deal.” Will be the response.

They don’t realize, nor the people who put together these reimbursement protocols that everyone doesn’t take home the same check they do, or face certain financial difficulties. Just like the boss in the movie, they think about money, but they don’t really think about money. And if you are in the world of the powerful or wealthy, everyone in the circle kind of assumes everyone else’s financial status and no one is going to be crazy enough to admit, I just can’t do it.

Especially in business, it would seem you are weak or irresponsible if you just can’t quickly muster up $300. In some people’s mind it may pull into question your judgement. But for people trying to make it everyday, you best believe that $300 they had to use on a trip or the additional $30 to make up for Frank’s tab at the restaurant since he treated last time, can put people in a financial tail spin. It will cause people to hold their breath when the card swipes, it will cause people to go without other necessary things at home, to keep up a good face at work.

I feel like professional institutionalized poor shaming is like an invisible electric fence to people who come from lower incomes who are making strides to enter another professional and economic level. You want to feel your talents are what get you in the door, and it is. But a “little” thing like paying for your own hotel room at the conference so you can show your talents and show people why you belong there are an added and in my opinion unnecessary pressure that management can easily resolve. But those in management at a number of companies that don’t send socioeconomically diverse people anywhere do not see or understand, because they are not quite in touch with being an educated, professional person still living in the margins.

Educational professionals don’t want to admit to it because they are ashamed, and it is taboo to discuss salary, when most folks know a lot of people, especially women and minorities are statistically underpaid. It seems that if you are able to boldly pick up the tab or have no questions when the company says you have to come out of pocket for a company sponsored event, you are implicitly saying, “Yes, I belong here. I am better than, those people.”

If you raise a question, in order to brace yourself for the costs and how it will affect you and your money and your life, which you are responsible for, you may get clarification, but now people are questioning you. And your professional currency is losing value.

It’s a form of poor shaming, and these practices are exclusionary to really bright people who can contribute something valuable, but because they may not have enough credit, or any credit or they are repairing their credit, they are being discriminated against or missing out on other opportunities that can really boost their career and in turn their earning potential. It further frightens me that this is a very real barrier to some people getting ahead. It is something to think about and if you are in a position of power within your organization, you should take a look at company-sponsored events, group lunches and proactively think of ways to even the playing field for your lower paid workers so they can participate without fear and not just lower paid workers, but employees who are struggling regardless of income.

Do Our Money Fears Hold Us Back From Our Happiness?

Last week, I asked the question if professional women could make great wives. And of course I said they can. I got a glance at the other side in the most unlikely of places.

Some folks from my job were holding a send off for a young woman who is about my age who quit to be not only a stay at home mom, but also watch other children she knew needed child care. Being an artist and one who loves to cook, she happily makes meals for the kids and gives them plenty of fun projects to do throughout the day.

She has the support of her loving husband, and she basically as a three-year old and a five month old to keep her busy.

It made me think of feminism and choices and women and work and family.

I don’t consider myself a kid person, so just the thought of having five or six small children running around and needing my attention all day gives me the heebie jeebies. But there are some women who really love kids and are great with them. And the world needs more of these people for sure.

Anytime someone walks away from a full-time gig for whatever reason, I count them as brave.

I guess I think about my family and how they think of money and work.

The attitude was/is you have to work and work very hard to survive. Not working isn’t an option.

Even the concept of me going back to school, leaving my job was not an option. I had so much fear surrounding the level of comfort I’ve built up with my steady paycheck, I couldn’t dream of being a full-time student. And why?

I know other people who have done it. They’ve had to scale back and with the scaling back they actually had a lot of freedom. But for some reason, doing that frightens me. I worry I don’t have the kind of financial support to do that.

I do think our parents do plant seeds of how we react to money and I realize that I do treat money the same way my parents do. My folks weren’t necessarily the worst with money, but they weren’t the best. My dad often tells me to be wise and smart and save. And it’s like I hear him, but there are times I feel like I’m waiting for someone else to help me or make me do it, when I should be doing it myself. That is the ultimate sign of independence.

When you know better, you do better. This actually makes me want to talk to my sister about how she sees money and if how we were raised impacts her decisions. We always had everything we needed and even a lot of things we wanted and we were good. And it seems like that’s the way I live my life now.

But I do have friends who I admire who are great savers and when they do run into major financial emergencies, they aren’t happy, but they sigh and dig into their savings and they get the job done.

I tend to sweat it out a bit and get horribly stressed. Things manage to get done, but I struggle.

Over the years, I’ve read books about financial literacy and in my last relationship the one thing I could appreciate was seeing how being accountable to our joint savings account made me feel good when I saw our balance grow and that we always had what we needed.

A wise person asked me, “How on earth could you do that for someone else, but you can’t do the same for yourself? Why do you feel like you can’t do it alone?” And the answer to that is I don’t know, or I’m scared. Money scares me.

Not having it. Not having enough. When I was a kid I didn’t see the sacrifices my parents often made to give us everything. But once I got to college and as an adult, sometimes I felt like my father let me in on too much. Which led to me feeling guilty when I do spend money. But there are also times, when I say screw it, I deserve a treat a break and I splurge. So where’s the happy medium?

I won’t lie, I have always associated the freedom to choose to stay home or work with wealthy women or upper middle class white women. It’s something my mind can’t fathom. But as I think about it, I do actually know other black women who have businesses out of their home and are great moms. Or working black women who walked away from paying gigs, sometimes with no real back up plan to save their sanity. And those choices were always the right choice. It was just about having the courage to ignore the voice saying you’ll fail or you’ll end up on the street.

The point is we all have choices. We shouldn’t let fear tether us to jobs we don’t like, but if we can make our lives work for us in a way that makes sense, we shouldn’t be afraid to change things up.

All of the people I’ve known who’ve taken these kinds of leaps have actually been alright and happier and will say, they may not have a whole lot of money but they enjoy not punching in everyday, but they do have their own set of challenges and problems that do come with their choices.

I know people who have gotten divorced and are trying to rebuild their lives alone as a single woman for the very first time in their lives. How scary is that? But we have to keep moving. We have to push beyond our fears and live.

Do your money fears hold you back from the things you really want?

Creatives and the Cost of Living

People often think that being a writer, a journalist, a creative and artist is sexy. 

And the people themselves, we are sexy. How we create, that’s very sexy too. However, the life of writers and people who chronicle humanity through whatever medium, has a lot of pain and struggle that goes along with it.

Folks joke about the pained, struggling artist, but there’s truth to that. The grind keeps creatives humble, and even if they do reach massive success, being a creative knowing there is no cap or no limit on creativity, if they are true to their art or craft, they will keep stretching and reaching and changing things up to try to be the best at what they are doing.

I was able to do a lot of leisure reading and I came across two very interesting, yet different stories on two types of creatives living and working in New York City.

The first article I came across was about how folks from all over the world come to New York City in hopes of becoming writers, working in the publishing industry or fashion or whatever, working a second job they didn’t love to pay rent in a small apartment with about five other people.

But these days, with the average apartment costing $3,000 a month, folks wanting to move to NYC to follow their dreams often find the dream is harder to reach when you want to actually eat and have a half way decent roof over your head in a safe-ish, crime-adjacent, neighborhood.

There are a bunch of articles that have been floating around about this very problem.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/new-york-1percent-stifles-creative-talent

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/12/expensive-cities-are-killing-creativity-2013121065856922461.html

And in these articles, the authors suggests to young creatives to look outside of New York.

I actually agree.

I cut my journalistic teeth in cities like Washington, D.C., Detroit, and all over the state of Mississippi. And in those places, especially in Mississippi, I worked on my craft and was able to live very well due to the low cost of living. (Two bedrooms two baths for $525 and yes, this was in 2005, thank you very much)

No. Those places did not have the hustle and bustle of NYC, but in their own rights, they had very real individual, identity which makes all of those places near and dear to my heart. So don’t count them out.

Creatives are now flocking to Detroit and to the south in places like New Orleans, creating thriving creative communities, building their reputations and portfolios and enjoying less expensive housing, food and living expenses, and from there, if they want, they can make the big jump to other places.

Speaking of preparation and planning and starting small. I was struck by this story. http://fashionista.com/2013/12/keija-minor-brides/

Keija Minor, Editor-in-Chief of Brides Magazine, well, she wasn’t a poor upstart when she left a six-figure law firm salary to become an intern for a small travel magazine, but she employed planning and starting small to get her dream job in the publishing/creative world. Her humility was the most refreshing part of this.

I also felt this way about NBA basketball player Rajon Rondo, who took his internship with GQ very seriously. I tip my hat to people who have more than one passion or interest and have the guts to take the time to nurture that, even if they are really good at what they are already doing.

Minor was already well-established and by normal, regular working people standards, well off and highly successful. But it took a lot of effort and dedication to decide to squirrel away enough money to pay her mortgage for one year, while she looked for and secured an internship with a publication. Most of us can’t take such a leap strictly for financial reason and you know, needing food and shelter. 

I had a good laugh to myself because Minor expressed some of the sacrifices she had to make. Splurge purchases were a no-go during this time. 

“The same week I left the firm, I saw the new Marc Jacobs handbag, the Stella bag, in Barneys. I called my best friend and said, ‘Remind me why I’m doing this?’ ‘Because you want to be happy,’ she said. I did not buy the bag — I later did — but I never had another moment.”

I laughed because folks who are not as well of as her would be lamenting to their homegirl, “Yeah, no Starbucks for me this week… or EVER.”

Or, “Oh no, I’m not hungry. I got this ramen. It tastes DOES better with hot sauce.”

And while I’m poking a bit of fun at Ms. Minor, it made me think of micro ways us regular folks can take risks to with proper dedication, planning and determination.

In the movie “The Great Debaters” one of the young debaters quotes his dad who always reminds him, “We do what we have to do, so we can do what we want to do.”

Ms. Minor, and the gazillions of people who work jobs they dislike, but with purpose do just that. They see the bigger picture, and most importantly in that picture, they don’t see themselves where they currently are forever. There is an expiration date.

And for Ms. Minor, I presume that date was when she secured enough for her mortgage for a year as well as her living expenses. Go girl. Suze Orman would probably give you dap for that.

2014 is going to be a year of the grind for me, and strategic planning. I need to get serious about a number of things I took for granted and get back to the days of old where I had a worn planner that I wrote every little thing down in.

A good friend of mine had reminded me of that planner that held together one of the most hectic years of my entire life. I’d actually forgotten that I was, “that chick.”

Well that chick is about to resurface.

A wonderful friend of mine is about to set out on a journey and live a life-long dream of living in New York. She’s also a creative. I read the first couple of articles, and I was sincerely worried for her. I even thought of sending her the articles, not to crush her dreams, but just out of concern.

Then I stopped myself.

My friend did step out on faith and I believe in having faith and knowing sometimes that’s really all you need. And if I believe in faith, I believe my friend has the faith that it takes to pull off such an effort.

There was no point in making a friend who was already a bit nervous about such a drastic change more concerned. And I certainly didn’t want her to think I wasn’t supportive. She was preparing for this, doing her research and she secured an apartment. So that makes me even more confident she’ll be just fine. That was the hard part, in my opinion.

I didn’t want to write about New Year’s Resolutions, or promises. I don’t want to be the first person in the gym today. I may just work out at home. I don’t want to bum rush the grocery store to buy nothing but veggies. But I do want to make incremental changes that will last.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Let’s just do our thing this year. Let’s feel good about who we are. Remind ourselves of how far we’ve come, and allow ourselves to dream. And once we dream, we can plan, and once we plan we can do.

So let’s do, shall we?

Fear Makes Us Ridiculous and Unreasonable: The Real Estate Edition

I don’t want to pay anymore in rent to live in my place.

I just don’t.

There is a part of me that feels like I’m going to suck it up and take it, for “one more year.”

But unlike last year, and the year before when I was just super angry and just took it, I’m doing research. I’m even looking into renting a town home or condo. I’ve looked online and sent out a few inquiries. Maybe I will be inspired.

Oh, I hate moving.

Oh, and as I look around, I’m finding what I’m about to pay in rent this next lease agreement, still isn’t horrible in comparison, but it’s bad enough to me.

The only thing that bothers and scares me if I move is, I’m used to a certain amount of noise, or pseudo ghetto behavior that takes place in my complex.

I’d be livid to move and be someplace worse and be paying more money. It’s just so hard. The places that would be better neighborhoods, would be out of my price range.

This real estate situation pisses me off to no end. It’s just not fair.

I’ve also decided if I’m going to spend more, I’m going to get more bedrooms and square footage. It’s only right. Besides, when people visit, I would like them to have their own space and then I’d have a real office space when I work from home.

I’m scared as crap to buy a townhouse or condo. I’m scared of paying the taxes, I’m scared of stuff breaking down and having to pay loads of money to have it fixed. I haven’t saved enough for a down payment. I’m just scared of it all.

I’m more scared of taking on a house alone, than paying more rent. I just am. That’s real.

Don’t know if this feeds into my general problem with commitment, but that’s probably part of the issue. 30 years??? I. Can’t. Breathe.

There’s a part of me who wants to be with a stable man and get married within a year or two so I can move in with him and get a break on my rent and when stuff breaks down, I’ve got some damn help.

There’s a part of me that feels like that stable man can’t be too far away and if I up and buy a condo, I got to figure out how to sell or rent it, and then I’ll be like these crazy folks who I hate right now, trying to make people pay $2000 a month for a two bedroom.

I’m not lying.

Some of you are saying, why go through all of that? Get a roommate.

I don’t want one.

I am 31 years old, and I’m just not going to do it unless I’m helping a friend in transition who wants to move to this area. And even they have a year to get it together and get the hell out.

I want to get married someday, I almost got married, and yet, I’m realizing I have a tough time sharing my space for long periods of time. I clean when I want to, I cook when I want to. If an occupant of my living space has a problem with how I do things, I don’t want to hear it.

My father says you have to “pay the cost to be the boss.”

Being the boss of my damn life and home is expensive as hell.

I need a break.

When stuff runs out, that’s on me. It wasn’t because someone else ate, drank or used the last of it. Stuff doesn’t run out as fast. I like that.

When I have one roll of toilet paper left, I know how long it’s going to take for me to use it and I can delay going to the store.

That’s out the window when you have another occupant. You think you have one more day of tp, you sit down, relax and NOTHING! Now you either have to air dry or hope you’ve got some napkins or paper towel somewhere.

My cousin recently told me I think waaay too much.

She’s probably right.

She joked about going on a Christian dating site, to which I gave her a list of why I think it’s a bad idea, and how I don’t feel like having someone judge me for how much Jesus I have or don’t have at the moment or compare lifestyles. It’s happened with men I’ve met in general who have been Christian. Someone may look cross-eyed if you have a glass of wine, or slip a curse word. I’m judging too. So it won’t work. No gracias. But see, I had already given a dissertation on why I’d hate being on such a site without even trying it.

I pick apart dating.

I pick apart about the men I’ve dated and lost, or threw away, I keep playing over and over again why I should leave my apartment, and why I should stay.

This time, unlike the Christian dating site, I will go out and see some of these properties that are within the price ranges I’m comfortable to pay and then I’ll go on from there.

Take that fear. I’m doing something.

I will not be ridiculous. I will not be unreasonable. I will not marry some man to catch a financial break on my rent in the next three months. That will make me no better than the women of Love and Hip Hop. Someone stop me. Paying a little bit more in rent yet again is not worth my self-respect. Whoo hoo. Pep talk.

 

Women, Negotiation and the $10,000 Rule

koratmember/freedigitalphotos.net

koratmember/freedigitalphotos.net

It’s a monster out here in terms of the job market and finding the right gig.

I read a disappointing, and yet truthful article this morning about how the way folks work and do business has shifted and that we basically will never see the days of staying with companies for 20 years, pensions, retirement and such.

As the world gets smaller, thanks to technology, only the hustlers and entrepreneurs will survive. Period. You’ve got to get your own hustle and work it to death and stack your money on your own terms.

It’s interesting that after reading this article with my breakfast, later I found myself  talking to a young woman at work, who I just love and want to see her do well. She has the same apprehensions I had as a young woman around 25, 26.

Her jaw dropped when I told her with a serious and straight face that I always ask for $10,000 more than my current salary for any new job.

A male I was dating, years ago gave me that successful gem, and I’ve never backed down from it. These days, I have dropped to as low as $8,000, but I simply cannot afford to go lower.

That’s bad business for my brand.

I am a single woman living in the DC area. It ain’t cheap. I gotta eat, pay rent alone and just live. Period.

And with my years of experience and what I’m bringing to the table, any move I make, I’m not doing it for less than $8-10,000 above my current salary. Period.

The young lady was shocked. She said in these times no one can afford to be so commanding.

I told her in these times, I can’t afford to work for less than what I am worth. I am a woman, I am automatically paid less than men. I am a woman of color, I’m often already paid less than my white, female counterparts.

The young lady I was talking to is a latina. I told her, asking for that amount is simply trying to break even. It’s basic math.

With time, you do build confidence. I explained to her, if I hadn’t asked for more money during various periods, the company would have never given it to me.

The second year with my company, I presented the evidence and I got an 8 percent increase to go along with the incremental increases we got annually. But at rates of 1 or 2 percent for those annual increases– if there aren’t any freezes that year– you still aren’t gaining much ground.

Closed mouths don’t get fed.

If I didn’t get the bump I got in the spring, If I never asked for the increase I got a few years ago, the pay cut we had to take in the fall would have been catastrophic.

Women, if you are putting in the work, and you have proven your worth you have to ask for the compensation.

You just have to.

You can’t be afraid. They can tell you no, but at least they know where your head is at and that if you do leave, they can’t be surprised because you did ask them for more money.

I’m not saying march up to your bosses’ office and demand a raise during crazy times, after a bunch of layoffs. No.

You have to read the climate of the economy and where the company is financially, before you have that serious talk with your boss.

Even in low times, it doesn’t hurt to remind folks that you have weathered the storm, contributed greatly and you want to be remembered for your dedication and service when times are good and the company has rebounded a bit.

Companies are always about their bottom line.

Women, we need to be about ours too. We cannot be martyrs.

Men have a tendency to not have a problem with feeling like they deserve more money than what they are getting. They’ll tell everyone so. Including their bosses.

There was a young man on my job, who had only been around for six months and was actually insulted by the 2 percent bump folks automatically got around review time.

Don’t be delusional, but don’t be a fool by not at least asking for what you deserve and what is an appropriate salary for your position and the region in which you live. Folks need to come correct at least in those areas, if nothing else.

And in my opinion, my male friend was right. $10,000 is the magic number.

By the time you are excited about a $5,000 raise, unless you are working at your dream job and most of your daily stresses have been completely removed, taxes have sucked out a good $2,000 and you’ll hardly feel it.

So tell me, am I nuts for thinking folks should tell a potential new job to shove it if they aren’t offering an increase of at least $8-10,000?

Isn’t the point of a new job/promotion to advance?

Are women getting better at the art of negotiation? Or are we still trying to keep the peace?

And I hate that. How is asking for what you deserve rocking the boat? I hate when women say, they don’t want to rock the boat or cause trouble because they had the nerve to ask for more money. Trust me, companies are counting on you not to speak up.  Once again, folks need to know where you stand and that you are aware of what you bring to the table, and that you know that they know you may not be getting properly compensated.

I’m just saying…

As Beyonce says, “Eff you, pay me.”

*Sidenote. Please have proof that you are killing it in the work place. Write down your accomplishments, save emails from superiors who praise successful tasks, bring back info from conferences… etc. If you are a lazy, unproductive bum, do not march your raggedy self anywhere asking for more money. Please have a seat.

Lucky Girls

Great wall of Lucky covers! Ultimate Lucky Girls.

Great wall of Lucky covers! Ultimate Lucky Girls. (Screencapture Google Image Search)

When I was a bright-eyed college student, one of my roommates always bought Lucky magazine.

I’d read hers, and eventually I was hooked myself.

In the beginning, during the college years, I would marvel at all of the great clothes, shoes and handbags I couldn’t afford.

But what seemed to get me the most were the women they featured. Not the celebrities, but the “regular” women they called “Lucky girls.”  They really inspired me. Especially the ones who were editors and writers and gadget queens.

*Sidebar, I don’t know what the hell happened over at Lucky, but they have really stepped it up in terms of diversity. There are way more women of color in there now and I’m loving that they are doing features with plus sized and regular sized women with curves. They have made me fall in love with them all over in a very real way.

They weren’t much older than me, but they wore the awesome clothes, shoes and handbags and they had great jobs…IN NEW YORK and other ridiculously expensive places.

I wanted nothing more than to one day be able to attain enough professional success, and effortless, classic style so I could land in Lucky’s pages.

I’m 30, and I look at those pages in a different way. I’ve managed to work my way up from grinding as an editorial intern, a metro desk reporter, to a web editor, and I guess you could say, hey throw on an outfit and Lucky, where’s my close up?

But, I look in the pages and now I see these uber fabulous women who are younger than me. I’m jealous again. But knowing fabulous women personally, and being one myself, it’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s frustrating and difficult. The expectations fabulous women place on themselves are enough to cause permanent scoliosis. There is pressure, there is wanting to stay ahead of the curve and the fear of falling behind and never being able to catch up. There is keeping up the appearances. Making others happy, staying sane, proving you deserve everything you’ve got and everything else you’re trying to get. They are duty bound to their loved ones, they are leaders in what they do.

I take nothing from the gals who grace those pages. I’m certain they had to work very hard, but as I reflect on my career, and my closet (which doesn’t have that many luxury brands, but is still friggin fab) , I’m wondering, am I a Lucky girl?

Did I do enough? There are some over 30’s in the magazine, don’t get me wrong. But seeing 27-year-old powerhouses who still have early 20’s bodies and dream jobs, luxury apartments, etc. it makes me feel some kind of way.

When you feel like you’ve hit a rut, even the most supportive people in the world like me tend to lose it when they see people who are too fabulous to be true. A friend emailed me an amazing article in Apartment Therapy about this stunning woman who had an insanely awesome apartment in a chic area of Northern Virginia. Something about it kind of sent me in a funk.

Then, one of my best friends, who was in a funk, just whisked herself away to a resort out of the country for the last 7 days.

I am jealous of these people. I just am. Keep in mind, in comparison to other people I know, I’m blessed beyond ridiculous belief. I can afford to live on my own, and even though I had to suffer a pay cut last year, I’m still able to pay my bills comfortably– something I could not do two years ago, for sure. I’ve rebuilt my credit. I actually have a credit card again and I know how to use it properly now.

I don’t have to take care of any children or anything like that.

I know with more money or with more anything, one has even more stresses and responsibilities, but there are days where being the Lucky girl seems so far away.

On the flip side, the current economic climate isn’t a joke. I’m well aware, which makes my bellyaching sound so self-indulgent and insensitive to the millions of people who are unemployed and working very hard to really get their lives going. There are so many young people coming out of colleges and universities to a very bleak situation. I have friends with multiple degrees, struggling.

Ask any of them, and I’m sure they’d slap me for this woe-filled post of rambling.

Bi*&^, you are a Lucky Girl. Shut up.

I am a Lucky girl. I don’t need a fancy title or to be a 20-something with a multimillion dollar startup and $500 pumps.

I am where I am right now. And that needs to be ok. It’s fine to keep dreaming and to keep striving, but to keep beating myself up, because I drive a 13-year-old car, I rent an apartment in an area that is increasingly annoying me (the smell of weed wafted into my place last night), or going nuts over and over about my current job. It’s exhausting.

And the college girl who looked at those magazines and dreamed would probably be in awe of the 30-year-old writing this post right now. She’d probably be thrilled that we actually made it this far and not figuring out which relative to ask for money this month because she asked so-and-so last month.

I’ve come a long way, and for that and nothing else,

I am a Lucky girl.

A List Of Things I Know for Sure

You all know how much I love Oprah. She’s got this thing called, “What I Know for Sure.”

Over the past few days, even a couple of weeks, a lot of things have become very, very clear.

One of the things that keeps hitting me over the head is, new job. New job. New job.

Thing two is I’m totally voting for Obama. These things are tied together.

Thing three is nothing on this planet belongs to us. We are borrowing and sharing from and with the rest of humanity. We are borrowing from the future inhabitants of the world, we are sharing with those of us alive at the same time. Nothing belongs to us, because anything we have can be taken from us at any moment. So there’s no need to be greedy, or stingy, or so protective of what we have, because you’ll learn the lesson the hard way. Keep on doing what you are doing if you fall into that category.

Thinking this way this last week, wondering if I’d even have a job this week when others were laid off, it makes me want to give more. It’s not mine anyway. Whatever I do have in me, it’s time to give. When we do that, we are opening up opportunities for others and in turn, opening up more opportunities for ourselves. Hell, when my car almost broke down and I had to fork over a couple hundred dollars to fix, I just said, God this all belongs to you, I’ve been through enough, I just want my car to run and thank you that I didn’t break down on the road this weekend somewhere between Brooklyn and Maryland.

Back to the point…

The company I work for was sold.

Fine. We knew that was coming.

But we got sold to a smaller company that has not so great benefits, will make us pay more for our share of health insurance (some folks with families will be paying $1000 a month, like who has that and other bills too?).

Oh, the kicker?

A 7.5% decrease in all of our salaries. Yes folks, so here’s why I’m voting for Obama.

Republicans would argue that the government takes money from hard-working people who earned it to give to folks who don’t deserve it.

Well, in this competitive market, a COMPANY, not the government basically said, you make too much and for this company to grow, yeah we have to take almost 8 percent of your income that you did earn, and on top of that make you pay even more for healthcare… don’t worry, we will grow now because thanks to how awesome you all are, we’ll see profits down the line.

I sir, call bullshit. Please vote. Please take someone to vote. Do not believe this trickle down shit. Big companies are only going to look out for themselves. Period.

This is what companies and these businesspeople the Republicans want to give bigger tax breaks do, they fuck other people so they can keep their OUR money. We cannot let this happen.

Shit is so real. So I’m on the grind looking. This is downright scary.

I feel horrible for the pregnant woman on my job who basically said, with the new plan, she’s basically going to have to foot the entire bill for her pregnancy. She’s in a panic. And I don’t blame her.

So even working people, with damn company insurance, really need help. This ain’t no game.

Now that I’m done with the really bad news, the other thing I know for sure is that seeing my vision come to life fills me with joy. I’m determined to keep going.

I had the photo shoot for my tee-shirt line in Brooklyn, NY this weekend with fabulous, beautiful, hard-working talented friends.

I learned, when you let people in on your dreams and let them take a part of it, it not only lifts you up, but makes you accountable to really not give up and make it happen.

Why? Because these people believed in you enough to give up their time, their energy and sweat because they believe the dream too. Your real friends and loved ones are invested.

We were up at the crack of dawn, and I was doing every menial job possible, but I didn’t care. I loved every minute. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of my friends who helped me. I can’t stop looking at the photos I took and video. I’m going nuts waiting for the photos  my professional photographer homie took. They are going to be insane.

Even just seeing how the shirts looked on other people filled me with pride. My models were beautiful, they were just being themselves, and from the photos I did see, they were just amazing. AMAZING!!!

I learned I do want to work for myself, and provide others with opportunities. I don’t want someone to evaluate me every year and give me their opinion of how I work, whether I suck or whether I’m awesome, then toss me a few pennies or not toss me any pennies. I want to give somebody a job so they can be independent, and feel good about themselves.

I’ll let my customers tell me, and I’ll tweek my product and services until they are happy and I get the value of those products and services. That is the American way. Not this world I’m living in right now.

I don’t want to be at the mercy of some large company that has the audacity to assess my value and then say, “you make too much.” Or, “You should be happy you have a job.”

Those are the options now?

Yall better wake up. I’m totally awake. Bright eyed. I got comfortable. I did.

If I didn’t get my promotion a few months ago, yall, with this cut, I would have been making a little over what I made when I first started at my job five years ago. That’s how real this situation is. My second year into my job, I had to take a second job. So taking a nearly 8 percent cut ain’t no joke. NO JOKE.

The next thing I know for sure is I’m developing feelings for the older gent.

He is supportive, kind, caring, funny and when I was having these crappy days, he was the first person I wanted to see.

One of my friends just suggested going speed dating, and I kind of don’t want to go. I don’t feel like I’m ready for a serious relationship with him right now, but I’m happy where we are. I think of him often.

So these are the things I know. These are the things I know.

What do you know for sure?

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