By Patricia Seidel
Leaving home wasn’t hard. I would miss them, but I wasn’t sorry to leave my family or friends, I wasn’t scared of the future, I was simply focused on my goal, my dream. I had been watching everyone around change...
By: Pamela J. Sams
Who doesn’t enjoy getting lost in a good fantasy? It’s a fun and relaxing mental vacation, and it can even serve as a motivator to go after desired goals. The problem occurs when we confuse fantasy for reality and end up either accidentally or deliberately sabotaging their lives. The financial ruin that can result from living in a fantasy world is particularly difficult to come back from, especially when the underlying cause is not acknowledged or even recognized. Women who take stock of whether they are living in reality vs. fantasy when it comes to financial matters have taken the first step on a path toward prosperity.
So, how can you tell whether your financial expectations are realistic? Here are some key points to consider when determining whether you’re walking the line between living in reality vs. fantasy.
Read Your Financial Barometer
People who have been accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle may find it difficult to adjust to a more frugal existence when it is needed. Expenses that were viewed as trivial before suddenly have a greater impact on the budget. Getting a weekly mani-pedi, picking up that adorable designer dress on a whim, or dashing off for a weekend getaway, buying that new car, lawn mower, or enjoying a regular poker night with the guys might have been routine and not worth consulting the checkbook. Such actions under a tightened budget, however, could empty the piggy bank in a hurry.
On the flip side, even those who have lived frugally all along may not be making wise financial decisions. Choices such as buying the smaller package of coffee because its price is lower than the larger package doesn’t make sense if buying the larger package is cheaper per ounce. It’s just as easy to be fooled by the fantasy of savings if you don’t do your homework and just go on what a “Sale!” sign declares.
Keeping Up Appearances
The mani-pedi, designer dresses or guys night out, denote one of the major contributors to living in fantasy. Commercials on TV and online, print ads in magazines and billboards, and even competitiveness among friends and co-workers all encourage people to feel they’re not beautiful or stylish enough unless they purchase the latest designer item. But of course, believing that it’s imperative to “keep up” with others is all a ruse and the biggest fantasy of all – one that far too many fall for and suffer from as a result.
Claim Responsibility and Accountability
A major hurdle to overcome from the start is the practice of budgeting. Some people never had to concern themselves with limiting their expenses. Others never bothered consulting budgets since they weren’t the breadwinners or because the other spouse managed the finances of the household, and they therefore never felt it necessary to track all those nickels and dimes. It’s funny that some women who would never dream of dieting without tracking every single calorie have no qualms spending without tracking their expenditures; and some men can give you their work out reps in a few second, couldn’t tell you how much they spent on simple things. And women of modest means often distribute their limited funds in ways that they think (fantasize) will meet their needs by paying some debts and ignoring others, but they are only prolonging their financial struggle.
Trim expenses to a comfortable, manageable level. Suggested approximate levels to aim for include the following:
- 5-10% for savings: Set it aside, and don’t touch it. At some point, you will need it.
- 30-35% for housing, including utilities and furniture (in the past, 25% was recommended and is still an ideal to shoot for – but take care to be realistic about your expectations)
- 20% on food, including dining out (Tip: cook delicious, healthy meals at home more often)
- 20% on transportation
- 5% each on medical, clothing, debt, and entertainment costs. And if you’re looking for a place to cut more, remember that reducing entertainment costs doesn’t have to mean reducing entertainment itself. Just find less expensive ways to amuse yourself.
Getting your budget in balance not only improves your financial health, but also your physical health and beauty. Think about it: harnessing your finances and keeping them in check will translate to fewer sleepless nights tossing and turning with the fears that come with financial worries. Getting a realistic handle on your finances might be just as beneficial as a week at the spa!
The reality is, even the wealthiest men and women should have their fingers on the pulse of their financial health at all times. The way to make your money work effectively for you is to know where your money comes from, how much it is, where it is, where it’s going, and what it’s doing for you. Living in financial reality means you rule your finances, not the other way around.
By: Esther Boykin
Despite the recent surge in conversations about vulnerability, we still live in an age of uber-independence. We celebrate those who seem to have reached success by lifting themselves up by their bootstraps despite that the fact that those same people would happily acknowledge that others helped them along the way. We might even shy away from moments of vulnerability as if they will make us appear weak or, even worse, needy.
With these cultural messages that make independence seem like the highest achievement, it may seem counterintuitive to profess your need for another person. But healthy relationships are not built on two independent people simply sharing space with one another. The key to a loving, emotionally close relationship is for two interdependent people to learn how to come together to share a life. But how do you create interdependence? There are some simple ways to start.
Interdependence is not the same as being needy.
I’m sure your first reaction is, “I’m not needy,” or “I don’t want him/her to think I’m needy.” But what I am suggesting is not about being helpless or clingy. Too often we use the term “needy” interchangeably with “needing someone,” but the difference between the two is significant. Being needy suggests that you’re desperate for the other person to take care of you. Needy people feel unable to care for themselves and, even more importantly, they don’t feel they have something to offer their partner in return. That’s not the basis for a strong relationship. Instead, it sets up a power imbalance and can lead to one person feeling valued only for what they can give or do rather than for the emotional support and connection two partners share.
But needing someone in your life is not a desperate plea for financial support or to be rescued emotionally. It is a natural part of the human experience, one that begins when we are infants and continues for the rest of our lives. There is no denying that people need other people and that it’s a valuable and empowering experience when two people understand their self-worth. Unlike our need for our parents as children, adults need to build relationships in which the give and take of support and compassion is reciprocal.
Develop your independence.
When we consider that being interdependent with our significant other means mutual love and support, it makes sense that being independent is the first step. To develop interdependence in your relationship, you must first be your own person and value your ability to care for yourself. The goal is to be able to give and receive support, love, and encouragement from one another. This can only be accomplished by independently developing your own sense of self-worth and interests. Even in relationships where one person may carry the bulk of the financial responsibility or one of you acts as the primary caregiver for your kids or home, it is still important to know that you are capable of doing these things on your own. By recognizing and continually strengthening your individual abilities, you ensure that your need for one another is based on a healthy emotional connection rather than external obligations.
Be brave and say the words.
Just as much as we need to be self-sufficient and capable of meeting our own basic needs, we need to be loved and have reliable social support. Unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles to emotional closeness is our own unwillingness to ask for it. It can be scary to wear your heart on your sleeve, yet the only way to find someone who will truly care for our affections is to make them available. Trust in the human desire for connection and tell your partner just how much you need them. This should not translate into, “I need you to take the dog to the vet,” or “I need you to pay my parking ticket.” Instead, try saying, “I had a really stressful day, and I need to spend time with you,” or “You are so funny; I need that kind of laughter in my life.” Be clear that what you need most is to be a vital part of your partner’s life and for them to want to be a part of yours. It is that kind of mutual connection that can take your relationship from good to amazing.