29tolife

Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for the category “money”

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.

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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?

Tired But Inspired: A Quick Conference Wrap Up

Apple’s Eyes Studio/freedigitalphotos.net

So I went to a fabulous leadership conference held at Columbia University by an excellent group of NY-based go-getters called Rising Affluent.

There were a number of speakers and panel presentations that were geared toward inspiring folks to step their game up either in their current profession, or if they want to completely change directions and do something else.

No matter what you were there for, there were a number of recurring themes that popped up throughout the day that stuck with me and was totally worth the price of admission, and then some.

I met wonderful people who were highly intelligent, driven and just downright interesting, from a variety of backgrounds. It was repeated throughout the day that it takes a special kind of person to get up early and spend an entire Saturday talking business and self-improvement. So the folks who showed up did have something special about them and we all had a common goal.

Even the wildly successful people leading the panels and keynote speakers were personable, fun, and brutally honest about their challenges and setbacks.

So, I’m going to quickly breakdown some of the most valuable themes that I’ve still been thinking about in terms of my career and small business. My brain has been going full throttle, and I’ve been scribbling new ideas all weekend long. It’s time for some new vision boards. It’s going to take me no time at all to fill them up after getting so much info and inspiration this weekend.

Honesty: You shouldn’t be fudging your credentials or your skill set. Pump up what you know, learn more about what you don’t know, or have people on your team who know what you don’t know well to help propel you, your project, business or mission forward.

Connection to community: How is what you are doing connecting to the greater good? What are you doing to help others either through your professional life, or in your personal life just to feed your soul and serve others? Derek Fleming, who is the director of business development for the Marcus Samuelsson Group  said keeping the community, culture and residents of Harlem in mind at all times was crucial as he and his partners brought fine dining restaurant Red Rooster into the rapidly evolving (i.e. gentrifying) neighborhood.

Networking: This one was huge, well because it was a networking event. Don’t look to gain something from everyone you meet, what do YOU have to offer them?

Sponsors: This one was a funny one, because the joke was to find a powerful, older, white man (the folks who are usually in power) to align yourself with and mentor you. But it doesn’t always have to be an older, powerful, white man. You just have to align yourself with people who are where you want to be and get them to like you so much, that they want to bring you along for the ride to the top.

Support: You need a support system of like-minded people who will say, “yes you can do this and how can I help you?” These people can be family, friends and mentors. Some of these people may even help you raise funds for your endeavors and you shouldn’t overlook that even if you want to do everything on your own. Author and global spokesperson for LinkedIn, Lindsey Pollak said “It takes a village to be successful.” And sometimes that village has to include a life/career coach and or therapist. Get the support you need professionally, mentally, spiritually and for your health and fitness.

Hard work: You can smooze all you want to and make friends with the big boys, but you have to be a hard worker, you have to be knowledgeable, prepared and confident in order for everything to truly come together. Fleming said if you’ve put in the time, the hard work, the research and you are over prepared, no one can deny you when your opportunities do arrive.

Patience: It’s not all going to happen right away. I was particularly impressed with panelist Tricia Lee Riley, the owner of Polish Bar. She was grinding for years with makeup giant MAC, and then it still took her six years to get from business plan to opening her first Polish Bar store. That entire time, she was grinding, planning and saving and sacrificing to make her dream happen.

Risk: Sometimes you have to leave a comfortable situation to go for whatever it is that is pulling and tugging at your heart. Demetria L. Lucas of the Belle in Brooklyn blog/book fame walked away from a full-time glamorous gig with Essence Magazine to write her own destiny as a writer, t.v. personality, advice columnist and life coach. Riley probably could have stayed with MAC, continuing to build their brand and make it better, but she knew it was time to do her own thing and she did it.

The last that really resonated with me is to take my side hustle seriously and not to apologize for it. It hit me like a ton of bricks with Pollak gave this advice to a person asking her a question.

She said to stop saying, “I do this but I do this too. Say I do this and this.”

I was totally doing that all the time. I was downplaying my small business because it hasn’t officially launched yet, and well because it’s scary. It’s time to own it, after all I’m putting so much time and effort into it. Why not?

So I’m retraining myself to say AND!

I’m a journalist AND tee-shirt designer launching a website devoted to women’s empowerment. Whoo hoo!

Love it.

Now, I need a nap.

Meet Estrogena, The Pink Incredible Hulkstress

On this blog, I celebrate the ups and downs of turning 30.

I tell myself and I tell you that this is an age of discovery and an age of the beginning of accepting yourself for who you are, for real.

I talk about trying not to make yourself crazy if you aren’t married yet. Or if you are married, it’s not a big deal if you haven’t cranked out kids yet, or if you haven’t cranked out a brother or sister for the kid you already have.

I keep this theme of you are enough, and it all is timing. It’s better to be where you are then where you think you are supposed to be and totally unhappy.

Well today, I don’t feel that way.

Today, I feel like I should be married to a great man who protects me and helps me pay my bills, like the huge, expensive car repairs I’m staring down the barrel of over the next several weeks, because well I don’t have nearly $2,000 just lying around.

I would have it if I didn’t pay an ever growing rent alone, or put gas in my car, or eat or survive.

I love my independence, but the shit is expensive.

While I say this, I know better. My married sister always tells me, that yes, financially your husband helps you out, but more often than not, your bills are bigger. You have two cars that break down, you have a much larger home, that requires more resources to operate. Your money is gone to handle business whether you are single or with someone, so there isn’t much of a difference, but having their support is what matters and makes you feel better.

I’m sure my married and divorced readers can attest to my sister’s wisdom.

It’s not just about the money.

Going through this time of separation from my local friends, it would be nice to have someone to hold me and say it’s ok, you’ve got me, or that they will come around, or whatever.

I cried myself to sleep last night, because I wanted to stop loving someone. It’s been a year, for crying out loud.

But why did he have to recently say he still loved me?

Why did those words keep ringing in my head?

Since he said those tragic, beautiful, hopeful, dreadful words, why did I shut myself off from men who were either just as good-looking as him, who definitely had more money and more assets and better careers?

Why do those exact words, coming from him, mean more to me than the combined incomes, good looks and success of all of those other men combined?

Because I guess I hate myself equally as much as I love him. I’d have to hate myself to go through such torture.

But what does him still loving me mean anyway? What would be different this time?

What set me off? Why am I so emotionally unstable today?

My car repairs, and being a stupid Pandora by doing what I said I wouldn’t do.

Go on Facebook to look at who wished him a happy birthday. (I already know. I should have de-friended him a long time ago. I couldn’t do it, and neither did he. If he did first, I would have been mad. So round and round we go.)

Not only did one bitch wish him a happy birthday, she went on about how glad she was to celebrate with him and how they would have to finish their conversation later. And ended with a damn smiley face.

Smiley face.

It mocked me.

It taunted me.

This chick probably still dots her i’s with hearts.

I need to stop. I use smiley faces too.

But see? See how ridiculous one can become because of stupid feelings?

Feelings  make normally very rational women, turn into her worst enemy…

A hormonal, estrogen rage-induced, emotional nut bag.

Think a pink incredible Hulk with a weave, skirt, painted fingernails and toenails, ripping an encyclopedia in half with just her kuckles.  I’ll name her, Estrogena. The Hulk is so scared of pissing her off, he’s not even on Facebook. He deleted his account when he still didn’t change his relationship status a day after they became official.

A year later, with all the progress, all the fasting and praying, and bad mistake making, and enlightenment and business-starting and promotions; all the feeling stronger in my faith, all the relearning to love me, all the going to Zumba, all went out the window in one moment.

None of these amazing things I accomplished by my own strength and intellect mattered.

Facebook. One wall post that could have meant absolutely nothing, or absolutely everything on top of  an enormous bill for car repairs, and having to acquiesce to another year of living in this apartment, paying more than I think it’s worth, having to put off said car repairs for two weeks, winging it, praying the wheels won’t literally fall off my car (as the repair man warned) between now and then.  Finally, contemplating having to give up one or both vacations I had been looking forward to in order to be fiscally responsible, pushed me to my breaking point.

I told a dear friend I’m at the point I may go back to trans fats, heavily drinking and mindless sex with worthless men.

Then, I said I’d write.

Then work out, then take a shower and pray and cry while I’m in it and let the water and my tears become one indistinguishable rush of liquid on my face.

So here I am, writing.

Today, being 30, independent, alone, momentarily emotionally unstable and being fully aware if it, ain’t shit.

Smiley face.

Rent Is Too Damn High: Are You For Real (Estate)?

Stuart Miles/freedigitalimages.net

We’ve all heard about women marrying folks they didn’t love in order to get a green card.

Now that I’ve gotten the terms for my upcoming lease renewal, I’m almost ready to jump the broom so I can split the rent or mortgage with someone who will give me penis on the regular. But of course marriage is not that simple, but this is the one time where I feel like being an independent woman is a burden.

The reality and the pressure of being 30 that I bragged about not quite feeling yet, I’m totally feeling in the regard to home ownership. One of my dearest friends has owned her beautiful home since the age of 26. She wavers between loving her place and hating having to pay for it and the hassles that come with trying to refinance and haggle for better interest rates. I’ve long been jealous of her, and she’s often told me not to be and that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and she’d gladly trade places. She even offered a house swap for a few months, where we pay each other’s bills.

My friend makes significantly more than me, but being a single woman, she can easily share the sentiment that handling all these bills alone is tough and stressful.

Honestly, I thought I would be out of my apartment by now. Especially two years ago when I was happily apartment hunting with my fiance in the suburbs of Chicago, eager to split the bills. It was one of the parts of marriage we both looked forward to most.

I actually cussed my ex last year when I had to sign my new lease and pay a whopping additional $80 a month to stay. I was literally cussing him and blaming him for the rent increase even though he had nothing to do with it and could not hear me. But my point was, if things didn’t fall apart, we would have been in marital bliss, splitting the bills and spending our disposable income on fun trips and furnishing this great home.

As for my place, yes, I got in on a fantastic deal nearly six years ago, and some would argue my new proposed rent would be closer to market value.

I still don’t care. I’m paying too much to live here. (And no, I’m not going to get a roommate. This is a non-negotiable)

Here’s why.

My community isn’t horrible, but it isn’t utopia.

There are occasional crimes that occur. I have heard gunshots twice in the time I’ve been here, and there are so many damn children and for some reason they love to congregate in front of my building.

The other problem is since I live in a mixed community of young professionals, families, older people and other folks of varying socioeconomic backgrounds,  I’ve overheard people who I presume to be on government assistance paying hundreds of dollars less than me to live in larger apartments with more bedrooms.

I’m sorry, but middle class Americans trying to rise are the main ones who get jerked and taxed to death and then are deemed ineligible for social assistance because we make too much, because we aren’t in complete poverty. And I’m not saying that those in complete poverty should not get help, because they should, but let’s face it. Most middle class folks are one paycheck away from poverty themselves between all of the rising fees they have to pay for groceries and gas and RENT!!!

I drive a 12-year-old car and I don’t have cable people. I’m trying, I’ve been sacrificing!!!

So I feel the sting every time lease renewal season comes around.

And every time, I reassess my situation and every year I think about what a pain in the ass it would be to move.

Then I think  if I move to a nicer, more expensive apartment community, what will happen to me if the rent increases while living there? Yes, I wrote yesterday about getting a raise, so I shouldn’t care about the increase or the increase shouldn’t hurt as badly. But damn it raise or not, I’m not a fan.

Honestly, over the last six years from what I’ve paid in rent, I could have had about 75 percent of the least expensive condos in my area already paid off by now. And that hurts.

So why didn’t I buy sooner? Well, I spent the last five years getting out of debt and trying to improve my credit while working my way hope getting small incremental raises (keep in mind I chose journalism as a career, so I didn’t get an amazing salary out of school like my other friends who chose other, more lucrative professions).

I have to get my ish together and join the ranks of the homeowners. Fixing my own plumbing, electric and all of that stuff scares me. But what scares me most are property taxes. They are no joke.

And as a woman who spent the earlier part of her 20s moving around the country, buying a home will truly signify that I’ve planted roots…for the next 30 years (or 15 if I want to pay a whole lot more money a month).

It had to happen some time, so now I’ve got to get it in gear and for real.

I need to get with a great program that helps first time home buyers and I’ve got to save, save, save and sacrifice to accumulate a half way decent down payment.

I can’t go nuts and be unrealistic about what I can and cannot afford, but I refuse to buy a hell hole I have to keep dumping money in just to improve.

There’s also no point in me buying a house, house with a lawn and such.

A gal like me needs a simple, modest condo.

So let the games begin. 30. It’s so real (estate).

Take it away Luther…A house is not a home, but an apartment ain’t truly yours either.

What A Difference A Day (and A Raise) Makes

I’m happy to say, that yesterday it was announced I got a promotion at my gig.

This is great news because I have been toiling for a very long time and to get recognition for my hard work, I’m thrilled. And to see and feel positive, real effects after advocating for myself is just a wonderful feeling.

I haven’t gotten my first check just yet in this brave new world. I assume my new position April 1, but this move has already opened a whole new world of possibilities for me in my mind.

I can handle my finances better. Have more breathing room. Be able to save more. Kick more in the ol retirement fund.The timing is fantastic because I made my final car payment about two weeks ago. Mo money! Mo money!

So now that I’ve been given this new blessing and responsibility, it’s my turn to prove to God that I won’t waste it. Or be reckless.

That said, I do have a wish list of frivolous things I feel I deserve.

I want to finally get my Louis Vuitton, but I just may take a baby step (be responsible) and get a lovely Michael Kors bag I’ve been eyeing to celebrate this accomplishment.

I’m also strongly considering re joining a gym of some sort (A brand spanking new LA Fitness opened in my neighborhood) or take some cross fit classes (they seem interesting). I let go my membership a few years ago to save money, and I think this is an investment in my health.

I don’t care what anyone says, having more money in your pocket does provide freedom and access. Getting a promotion does make you want to work harder and you feel more pleasant at work.

I want to take small trips, and go to the spa quarterly.

I also want to start saving to buy a small house or condo. I guess I am 30 now and I need not play around with this any longer.

I couldn’t find the version I wanted of this song, so because I love New Orleans and New Orleans music, shout out to the New Orleans Hustlers Brass Band. I totally want to dance with an open umbrella…

Post Navigation