The Dog Ate My Wallet

The Dog Ate My Wallet

Personal Finance in a World of Excuses


Life on the Dole

I know you all must be wondering, what has Erin been up to for the last 6 ½ weeks? How is the job hunt going? Maybe she’s already working again? And since she’s obviously not blogging, what is she doing with her time?

Well, to be honest, I’m playing a lot of Marvel Puzzle Quest. It’s free on Steam, and it’s a match 3 game, the type of game I am really quite addicted to, with a little be of strategy involved. So yeah, that’s my biggest time suck. In fact, I’m only writing this right now because I need to take a break from that game for a little bit while my characters regain health and my account regains healing packs.

But my time off has not just been fun and games. I’ve actually been pretty productive. I bought C and I dental insurance. I spent the over an hour needed on the phone to switch Pop Tart’s Medicaid plan to the group that uses the same clinics and physicians we do. I’ve made medical appointments.

I finished Infections and Inequalities by Paul Farmer- a book I’ve been reading since 2008. I finished Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I’ve read and critiqued a manuscript written by a friend of mine.

I have taken the dogs to the dog park 2-3 times per week. (Not today though, because Junebug’s not feeling well.) I’ve been exercising.

Pop Tart is not going to the after school program currently (it is one where you only pay for the hours the kids are actually there, so this saves us money), so I get to help her with homework every afternoon and enjoy time with her.

Last week, I did our taxes.  That took an entire afternoon in and of itself. We refinanced the house at the beginning of the year and the loan was sold about 6 weeks later, have the rental property, our investments through Prosper; I had two different employers and unemployment. C attended two different schools. And, oh yeah, we adopted a child. Luckily, I stashed most of the paperwork, as it came in, in the same place, separate from all other paperwork. There was only one statement I needed to search for (and it turned out to be for $0.40 in interest), and the rest I had or could pull up online. The most difficult part was actually getting the property taxes for the rental property because we pay those ourselves, and the website I use to get that information is really picky about search terms.

I can’t complain too much, though. Our refund pretty much matched the adoption credit exactly (it is a couple hundred over), and we got to claim the whole adoption credit due to adopting an older child from foster care. So it’s a pretty substantial amount of money for an afternoon of paperwork.


And, of course, there is the job hunt. I have to have at least three job contacts per week for unemployment purposes. On average, I apply for 4-5 jobs a week. At the start, I had about a 20% call back rate for phone interviews. That’s gone down a bit but I am okay with that right now, because I am 3 interviews deep into a 4 interview process for a position I would LOVE. But it’s been going slow. It is the top choice of all the jobs I have applied for, so I am glad I have not had to worry about turning down offers for positions that were moving faster. (I applied for this particular position back in December.)

I should hear this week if I am advancing to the 4th and final interview. I have to keep reminding myself that the hiring manager for the position just got back in the office today after being gone for two weeks, and I am not likely to hear until tomorrow at the soonest.


That’s life in a nutshell. I spend a lot of time sitting on the bed with two puppies sleeping next to me (which really, isn’t a bad way to spend the day). And if anyone want to be friends on Steam, let me know.


The Financial Side of Losing My Job


Way back in April of 2013 (you know, when I was posting regularly here), I wrote about the Financial Side of My Layoff. Sadly, only 8 months later, I am writing about the financial side of losing my job, again.  While being in a job for 6 months and then being told you are not the right fit is a huge blow to the ego (or at least it is for me), financially, I am actually very lucky that it is happening so soon after my previous layoff.

Why? I really did have a great severance package.

First, my old company paid for Cobra for C and I for a year. We did not lose that coverage when I started working again (so we spent 6 months double covered). This means that we still have that Cobra coverage through the end of this May. (Pop Tart will continue to be covered by Medicaid until she has graduated high school, so I do not need to worry about coverage for her.)

Second, I had a 6 month severance package, and only spent 2 months out of work. That equated to 4 months of double pay, which ended only 3 months ago. We have not spent that money. It went into savings and has stayed there. If I had gone a year in this current job, I can almost guarantee that money would have been spent. But it has not been, so it is available to us now.

Going in to this job loss, I knew we would be financially okay, but until I ran the exact numbers this morning, I had not realized exactly how “okay” that would be. And while I am not the huge advocate of passive income that other personal finance blogs are, I do have to say, that does play a part.

When I am working, our normal monthly budget comes out to about $6,650. But that includes quite a bit of money that goes directly into savings each month. Taking out the money that goes to savings, we cut down to $5,325 each month. (And this is literally just taking out the money that gets funneled straight to savings. It is not paring down any other part of our budget.)

Passive income wise, we have $575/month in rent from the roommate, $750/month rent from the condo, and $400/month from the state (from adopting Pop Tart). This puts us at $1,725 in passive income each month, taking the expenses we need to cover down to $3,600.

I will be eligible for unemployment. Since I was on unemployment as recently as June, I have a very good idea of what I will be getting. It should be in the neighborhood of $600/week- which comes out to $2,600/month. Which means we only have a gap of $1,000/month that we need to fill from savings.

Still, we can reduce that $1,000. J currently owes us some money and is paying us back at the rate of $200/month. We are overpaying on our mortgage and could reduce that by $300/month. We are also overpaying on my student loans by $40/month. We can cut eating out and allowance spending by $175/month. That is $715 in cuts, meaning we could have only a $285/month gap between income and outgo.

But remember what I said about having savings from the double pay? We have over $25,000 in liquid savings. That means that even at the $1,000/month gap, we have over 2 years before we have to worry.

Considering I have already had one phone interview and have 2 more scheduled, I am doubtful I will be off even the two months I was last time, let alone for 2 years.

That means that for now, we will not be cutting back the extra payments on the mortgage and student loans. But we will cut back our allowance and eating out spending, and J is repaying us $200/month, so our gap really will be less than $1,000/month.

And when all is said and done, we will still have a healthy savings balance and have maintained our lifestyle. No drastic measures for us. It is amazing what a healthy emergency fund can do.


Back in the Unemployment Line

There are times when I wish I blogged anonymously, and the last few weeks are one of them. As I hinted in the previous post, I am leaving my current position. Friday is my last day. I have known this since before Christmas, but today was the first chance I had to tell all of my staff at the same time (due to holiday vacations), so I have needed to keep somewhat silent about it.

I am not exactly leaving by choice, unless you call not fighting the issue “choice”. Still, I am resigning in lieu of termination. This allows me to say I quit but collect unemployment. And I am not being fired, per se. It was decided by the people who hired me (who knew that I did not have a research administration background), that they feel the person in my position really needs a research administration background. And therefore, we are calling this a bad fit, going our separate ways.

I do not necessarily agree with their assessment, but what I do know is that the work I was doing cannot go forward without the confidence and trust of that management oversight group. I did not have their confidence. So regardless of the reason why, that is my failing.

Telling my staff today was the hardest part. I have very much enjoyed working with these ladies, and I did not want them to believe my going was a reflection on them or a signal that this pilot program was going anywhere. The management oversight group is still dedicated to the project, and very much wants it to succeed.

On many levels, this is more a blow to my ego than anything else. But I have sent my resume out and already gotten some responses, so career wise, this position was perhaps an interlude, and being let go is just a push back out into the current.


Four Years of Concentrated Debt Payoff, and I am Further from Being Done than When I Started

Yesterday was my 4th anniversary with the Women in Red Racers, the debt payoff board that first got me interested in personal finance. Per the Hallmark site, the traditional gift is fruit or flowers, while the modern gift is appliances. I could use a new stove or dishwasher, if anyone felt so inclined. ;) (Here are my 2nd (post #1365) and 3rd  (post #1959)anniversary posts.)

This is a slightly modified version of my anniversary post from that board. There may be some new information in this post that you weren’t aware of. I promise that there will be more forthcoming when I can speak more freely about the situation.


When you look at our debt, 2013 seems almost like a failure. We paid off less than $2,000, after paying off almost $24,500 in year one, $12,775 in year 2, and another $25,000 in year 3. There is a part of me that struggles with this. I look at my student loan balance and at my savings account balance and think, I could be (non-mortgage) debt free with just a few transfers of cash. I could be done with this NOW.

Instead, I don’t think we’re still even on the original 5 year plan. At the current rate of pay down, it will be 2018 or 2019 before my student loan is paid off. That’s another 5 years from now, putting us on a 9 year plan. Ugh.

Do I honestly think it will be that long before the undergraduate student loan is paid off? No. But if 2013 has taught me anything, it is that my emotional need to be debt free cannot take priority over our very real financial need for a strong emergency fund.

2013 was a year. I will give it that. After paying off my graduate loans in December 2012, we decimated savings in order to refinance our house (which I don’t regret). We finally got our foster care license. I received a lay-off notice. Our daughter was placed with us April 30. My last day at work was May 3. I got a very generous severance package and took two months off to bond with my daughter. Then in July, I started a new job and had 4 months of double pay, thanks to the severance, and rebuilt our savings. A week before Thanksgiving, we officially adopted our daughter, paying all legal fees in cash.

We talked about paying off the debt, but decided to save for a down payment for a larger house. We have a condo out of state to sell that we should clear over $50k on, and that combined with our current savings gives us a very nice down payment. The plan was to find a place closer to my new work location, making my commute a little less awful.

But then, a few weeks ago, I learned I would not be staying in this job. (You can read about that over on my YM Off Topic thread.) Because we have a lot of liquid savings, we’re in fine shape for me to take some time finding a new position. As the sole breadwinner for the family, I hate being out of work, but it is so nice to know that I don’t have to jump at the first thing that comes along. And also that, if I turn out to be wrong about what the right next job is (as I was this time), we’re still in decent shape, financially.

C is still in school. He should be done at the end of summer. We’re also considering adopting a 2nd child. We’ll likely move on that process after he is done with school.

We did take on new debt in 2013, which I am not racing. We got new windows on a one year SAC deal. They will be paid off next summer with no interest paid. We have continued our trend of not paying any credit card interest.

So that is 2013 in a nutshell. It was a crazy year. Debt payoff went not so great. Work situation has also been not so great (though I officially won’t lose my current job until Jan 10, so 2104). Life wise, it’s been great. We are so blessed to have our daughter in our lives, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

So Happy Anniversary, WIR Racers. Thank you for putting up with me through the ups and downs. Thank you for not holding me to artificial timelines. I know I’ve been a little distant this year. I cannot promise that will change, but I want you to know how much I appreciate you being here for me whenever I do have the time. And I promise to stick it out, as long as it takes.


BHB Blog Swap: A Thanksgiving Memory

Today, I am participating in a blog swap sponsored by Bloggers Helping Bloggers. I am thrilled to present this Thanksgiving memory from The Debt Princess herself.

Thanksgiving, in my childhood years, meant a big family packed tight into a house with lots of food and fun times with cousins I didn’t see very often.

That changed in high school thanks to my Contemporary American History class. During this class, we studied the song, Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie. The song and history attached to it provided me a link to my father. We spoke about history rarely, it was a favorite topic of my father’s and a dreaded class that I always did poorly in school.

The song, set on Thanksgiving day is a Cincinnati tradition. (If it’s a tradition anywhere else in the US, I don’t know about it so for now, it’s a Cincinnati tradition). Every Thanksgiving at 12 noon, Alice’s Restaurant is played in it’s entirety on the radio. Every Thanksgiving at 12 noon, I would call my father and we would listen to it together.

My father passed away in 2000 and that year, as well as a couple there after where it was just too difficult to listen to the song. Gradually it became easier to do and the tradition returned. The past two years however, I have shared this tradition with my children.

My oldest son is a history buff (something he clearly did not get from me). He also enjoys discussing and debating social injustice, war and music. Alice’s Restaurant fits into everything that he enjoys and now he also enjoys this Thanksgiving tradition.

Thanksgiving has changed since I was a little girl. There’s no longer a house packed full of cousins I rarely see or my father to talk to while we listen to the radio. There is, however the opportunity to continue a tradition with my children who can, hopefully share it with their own someday too.

A Thanksgiving Day tradition that began thanks to a high school history teacher, my father’s love for history and my desire to connect with him.

Jessica Streit is a single-mom, teacher, serial debtor and the owner of the blog, The Debt Princess. She shares her struggles with debt, the lessons she’s learned in her journey towards financial freedom and the many ways she has learned how to live a fabulous life on less.


The Financial Side of Becoming Parents

In my two previous posts I talked about the costs of adopting our daughter. But those are one-time costs, we now have the full time costs of having a child, so our budget has to change. Now, you might argue, somewhat rightly, that these changes actually took place 6 months ago when our daughter was placed with us. That is both true and untrue, partly because of the nature of being a foster parent.

At that time, we did increase our monthly budget for groceries and eating out. We also started tracking some expenses, like haircuts, new clothes, or shoes, in the miscellaneous category for tracking purposes, but because we could not be certain the placement was going to be permanent, we did not add a specific “kid” category to our budget.

In addition, there are a number of programs out there to help foster parents pay for things for foster children. When we sent Pop Tart to gymnastics camp for a week this summer, we didn’t have to pay for it. One of the local support organization took care of that for us. Once the adoption is final, we will no longer be eligible for those programs.

So what changes have we made? Our grocery budget went up by $150/month. Considering our budget had been at $135/person, that’s a slightly higher increase than we necessarily needed, but it helps account for the “startup” costs of getting school friendly snacks, additional toiletries, etc. Plus, we’re eating at home a bit more often right now due to schedules, anyway.

At the same time, we increased our eating out budget by $50/month, to take into account paying for one more meal. Given that a number of places we like to go do not have kids menus, this really only covers eating out roughly 3 times per month.

We also added two categories. The first is “Kid Expenses” at $230/month. This covers new clothes, after-school care, day camps, etc. This is a best guess amount, and we accept that it may need to be upped as time goes on. But based on current spending, that’s what we have.

We also added a “Family Activities” category at $150/month. This is for things like water park season passes for all of us, membership to the aquarium or zoo, and general whole family outings that we would not likely be taking part in if it weren’t for having Pop Tart in our lives.

Where is this “extra” $580/month coming from? You might remember that at the end of last year and early this year, we paid off my graduate student loans and refinanced our mortgage. Those two things cut our monthly committed expenses by $1,050. Now, some of that money has been committed elsewhere, but it created plenty of room in our budget.

If you listened to the Stacking Benjamins “Live from FinCon” podcast featuring J Money of Budgets Are Sexy, you may have heard him talk about his Baby Cost Tracker and think I am leaving out some important categories.

Because we are adopting a 10 year old, I get to skip the diapers and formula stage. But J Money said his two biggest areas of cost were day care and medical expenses. I mentioned above that after school care is covered in our $230/month “Kid expenses” category and you may be wondering how we can get away with that.

First, remember, Pop Tart is 10 and in school all day, so we only have to pay for after school care. We are beyond lucky to have an after school program run by our city that only charges $4.75/hour (can you get a baby sitter that cheap) AND you only pay for the hours you use. Besides the great price, the only pay for the hours you use works well for us because C’s school schedule allows him to pull her out early some days, or not send her to the program at all on Fridays. But if there is an activity they are doing that she wants to stay for, it’s not a big deal. We purchase time in 20 hour blocks and the city just auto-bills us when we are close to running out of time.

Right now, Pop Tart is in the program around 5 hours/week, so we’re paying about $95 every 4 weeks for after school care. And yes, we know exactly how lucky we are.

The other big expense J Money talked about was medical coverage. One of the big differences between his situation and ours is that all of our coverage is through my employer. It will cost me $50 pre-tax/month to add Pop Tart to my insurance coverage. Since I am also changing my number of deductions from 2 to 3 on my W4, I expect that to come out mostly as a wash, but we will see.

And if it was the case that I would have to pay substantially to add Pop Tart to my policy, I could choose not to, and she would still have medical coverage.

One of the benefits of adopting an older child from foster care is that in my state, you qualify for adoption support. I mentioned that in the last post regarding them reimbursing up to $1,500 in our adoption expenses. In addition to this, Pop Tart will continue to be covered via Medicaid until she is 18 and out of high school. I could choose to leave that as her primary coverage, but for my own convenience, I will be adding her to my policy and leaving the Medicaid as secondary coverage. However, it means we won’t have co-pays or be responsible for deductibles for Pop Tart, so our medical expenses will pretty much top out at $50/month pre-tax.

You might also be asking about college savings. We missed 10 years of saving for college. That seems kind of scary. And it is, and it isn’t. First, there’s a good chance Pop Tart will not choose to go to college right away. And I am okay with that. I am not certain I believe in college for 18 year olds to begin with, so if she decided college is not right for her, at least not right away, then C and I will be fine with that.

That does not mean we won’t save for college, or to be able to assist her with getting started in adult life, it just means I am not as paranoid about it as I might otherwise be. But, in addition to the medical coverage, part of adoption assistance is that the state will continue to pay us $400/month until Pop Tart is 18 and out of high school. Since our budget was set to absorb adding a child without a monthly stipend, this money is all bonus. That $400/month will be divided up between saving for college and major travel (like a family trip to Europe).

Adding a child to your family is not inexpensive. I am certain there will be other costs that pop up here and there that are not included in my current budget calculations. But this was something C and I planned for, and something we keep talking about and discussing. Having a child in our lives has brought a million changes, but luckily, one thing it is not changing, is our financial ability to live the life we want and save for the things that are important to us.


The Financial Side of Our Adoption

Back in March 2013, I wrote about the financial side of our decision to adopt. Now, almost 20 months later, I’m here to write about the financial side of our actual adoption and where we go from here.

Our daughter has been with us for 6 months now, and we will be finalizing the adoption in November. We are very excited.

We are adopting from foster care, having gone through an agency. If you read the previous article, you will know that our agency costs were $5,000. In addition, we have to pay lawyer fees for the adoption. In our case, those are around $1,025. That is a total cost of $6,025 for the adoption.

Our daughter was placed with us right as I was getting laid off from my prior job, and my new one does not have adoption fee reimbursement, so it would seem that the whole amount would be on us. But, it is not.

Because we are adopting an older child, we qualify for adoption assistance. The state will reimburse us up to $1,500 in legal fees and agency fees toward the adoption. That takes our costs down to $4,525.

Now, because we were foster parents, the state sent us a stipend each month toward caring for our daughter and reimbursed some transportation costs for things they asked us to do (like keep her in her old school to finish out the last school year, even though we lived in a different county). We were financially prepared to take on a child and would have kept her in the other school anyway, for continuity purposes, so the money we got from the state for that I consider extra that can be put toward adoption costs.

We will have received around $3,400 in stipend and $1,300 in mileage reimbursement by the time we adopt, meaning that $4,525 is covered, with about $175 to spare. (Which all went toward buying us season passes to the water park.)

So, by adopting through foster care, and by being prepared to absorb a child into our budget, our adoption will essentially be free.


The Small Stuff Matters


“Don’t sweat the small stuff” has become a mantra for a lot of people. I don’t necessarily disagree with the sentiment, but I’m here today to say that sometimes it helps to pay attention to the little things.

This is a lesson I am learning from being a parent. (Who knew having kids was such an education?) Because our daughter (formerly referred to as SP- small person, henceforth referred to as Pop Tart) comes to us from foster care, and therefore, an unstable earlier life, she has some issues. C and I have chosen a few of the bigger issues to really focus on helping her work through.

Last night, after Pop Tart had fallen asleep, I walked into our room, feeling a little discouraged about the lack of progress on one of the big goals we had been working on. But as I was communicating my disappointment about that, all the little successes we have noticed recently also came to mind. Yes, our progress on this one big issue is slow, to the point of feeling like we have gone backwards, but there are so many other areas, little areas where we haven’t necessarily been focusing our energies, where there is marked improvement.

And in talking to C, listing the small successes gave us both some renewed energy around the big goals. It reminds us that even though we aren’t seeing much movement on the big goal, we are still moving forward, and moving forward consistently.


This realization matters in your money goals, too. Sometimes we’re so busy working toward a big goal, like saving enough money for a down payment on a house, that we don’t notice all the little successes we are having at the same time. In our case, we bought both of our first two homes with no money down, but we know that we won’t be able to do that again. Also, we would like to keep our current home as a rental property once we do move. That means we need a lot of liquid cash on hand for a down payment- over six figures for a 20% down payment on some of the less expensive houses in the neighborhoods we’re looking at. (Goal being to reduce my commute from 3 hours a day.) It takes a long time to get that kind of cash saved, and the amount does not seem to be moving up quickly. It gets discouraging.

And yet, when I look at our budget, I realize that we are making good changes, permanent changes that will help us not just save the money for our down payment, but also continue to serve us long term. There were the big things at the end of last year/start of this year, paying off my graduate student loans and refinancing the house. But we also changed our Netflix subscription to get rid of the physical DVDs. It’s not a lot of money, $10/month, but why pay $10/month for something we’re not using. We also just cut our cable TV for a savings of over $100/month.

We have a new budget that takes into account child care expenses. My new job has upped my retirement savings by a few percentage points. We have the money to pay for C to finish out his degree without taking out student loans.

The ticker toward the big goal might be moving slowly, and sometimes it is easy to get discouraged about that. But if you take the time to look at the small changes you have made, it might just remind you that you are on the right path and give you back the energy you need.

Maybe you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, but don’t forget to take credit for it, either.


Just Because You Are Paranoid Does Not Mean Someone Is Not Out to Get You

This is what my life has felt like in the last two weeks, but in a good way

Just for the record, I am not paranoid; no one is after me, and I won’t even get to watch the 3rd season of Homeland until it is out on Netflix. That said, this post is about the juxtaposition of perception and reality.

There are days when I feel like I’m a fraud, like I can’t do any of the things I say I can. I feel like I know the words to say but cannot actually follow up on them, and wonder how it is I got to my current position. These days don’t happen all the time, but they also aren’t completely uncommon, especially in a new job.

I’ve only been in my position a little over 3 months and there are times when it is still scary, despite the fact that I think I am doing good work. But I held myself up as experienced with certain types of issues in the interview process (and it was the truth) that sometimes I wonder if I just managed to spin correctly, that I didn’t really learn what I say I learned from those experiences, that I can’t actually translate them into new action. My doubts are always focused on my strengths.

And I know, because I read about these things, that these kinds of thoughts are more common among women than men. So in that sense, you could consider these thoughts “normal”, even if they are not accurate.

This week, in my regular meeting with my boss, he gave me some feedback based on my first quarter on the job from the team I have been working with (the management oversight team, not my staff). Their biggest concern was that I seemed too confident. They worried that I did not fully understand what I was talking about, that I was afraid to ask for help, or that perhaps I did not know enough to know when to ask for help. They were afraid that I might think I could stop learning and understanding the process.

It seems like an exact replica of my own fears and doubts. Except it was not. You see, they have no concerns about my skills when it comes to Lean or Continuous Process Improvement (my strengths, and the reason I was hired into this position), their concerns all focus around one process the team I am leading is doing- a process I have never said was a strength, one where I admitted from the beginning that I had no experience with.

And this throws me off, because I don’t feel like I have ever held myself up as knowing more about this process than I do. I talk with my staff, the ones doing the work, all the time and ask them a ton of questions. When I present information to the group about this process, the information has been vetted and confirmed by my staff, people who are experts in what they do. I have confidence in what they tell me, so I have confidence in what I present to the group.

I did speech and debate in both high school and college. I have learned to be a confident presenter and speaker. Even when I am very nervous, I have the training not to appear so. I always thought that was a good thing- and to most people it seems to be. It is only this small group of people who are nervous, and they are nervous about only one thing.

After my boss presented the feedback to me, I had two questions for him. (And I would suggest to everyone who gets feedback to ask questions afterwards, even if it’s not immediate, send an email for follow up the next day. But ask questions to make sure you understand what was presented to you.)

My first question: Does this concern they are expressing extend to both of the processes my team is working on (and I am overseeing) or just one?

My second question: I have been brought in to lead a Shared Services team. Right now, we only have two processes, but the plan is to expand that, possibly as soon as two months down the road. I am expected to become an expert in every process my team takes on?

I’ll be honest, I knew (or at least hoped I knew) the answers to both of these questions before I asked them. My point in asking them was to clarify that the feedback was coming from the perspective I thought it was, and also to give my boss a view of the feedback from my perspective.

The answers, for those of you who are wondering, is that the fear is only around one of the processes we are doing, and that no, I am not expected to become an expert in all the processes we take on. I need to be able to lead diverse teams, but I don’t necessarily need to be able to do the work of all the teams.

The process that there is fear around is the most personal to the members of the management oversight team. The other process they have no concerns about, even though I have as little experience with it as I do the first. They have fewer concerns about it because few of them have ever taken part in that process themselves, whereas being the worker bees on the first process is likely what got them to their management level positions.

They are, for the most part, subject matter experts on the first process, and have handed it over to me, an admitted non-expert (and not just that, no real experience with it what so ever before this job), and they are having doubts and fears. Which is completely expected.

So how do I respond to this feedback? Do I shoe less confidence in myself, in my team, and the information I am presenting? No, because I have confidence in all of those things.

I think for me, the answer is going to be to make more visible to the team my ongoing learning- what classes I am taking to understand the work, the training I am getting with my team, etc. I am a fast learner, and I really have been given a number of great opportunities to learn about this process, but maybe they aren’t seeing everything that has been provided.

This is a process their careers have been built on. Mine has not. Nothing is going to change that, no matter how much I learn. The fear they are experiencing is a normal part of change. And the need for change management alongside continuous process improvement is one of the things I held myself up as experience in. It is one of the things I am good at.

And so I know, from a customer perspective (and they are my customers) there is only one thing that will truly alleviate their fear- success.


Trappings of Wealth


My friend Jana used to have a feature called “Money Tune Tuesday” that I loved. This post is inspired by that series, by Kim at Eyes on the Dollar’s recent post Does a Million Dollars Make You Rich and  the fact that Pentatonix (who I’ve been obsessed with since the Sing-Off) yesterday released the video of their cover of Royals (by Lorde).

One of my favorite parts of this song is the list of the trappings of the wealthy- jet planes, islands, tigers on gold leashes, but also ball gowns, blood stains and trashed hotel rooms. And I think that’s an interesting thought experiment- what to me, are the trappings of success?

To be clear, I know very well that being “rich” isn’t all about money. I also know that I’d rather have a few million in my retirement savings than a house worth a few million. I am not thinking here about the practical or realistic side of being rich. But instead, what about the fantasy? What do we imagine rich people who don’t have to worry about earning their own money or retirement plans (think the Hilton, Gates, or Rockefeller families) have? Which of those things would we want for ourselves (besides not having to worry about whether or not social security will still exist)?

I know that for many of us working toward the practical, the fantasy is hard to come up with. I think of things and immediately toss them out on the theory of “I would never need that.” But setting aside need, setting aside what I would really do, going, in some ways, back to my childhood to what I thought being rich meant.

Here are my fantasy trappings of wealth:

  • A house with an indoor pool and a hedge maze
  • Live in staff (butler, cook, groundskeeper)
  • Flying first class (even in my fantasies, I can’t bring myself to a private jet)
  • Traveling when/where I want
  • Custom made clothing
  • Building a lifesize version of Stonehenge
  • And hiring my favorite musicians to play my parties


What are your fantasy trappings of wealth?