Managing personal finances can be a struggle. It can also be one of the most empowering exercises you can do for yourself. However, for The Lady in the Black, managing her finances is a continuing saga of both. She compiles a list of her top 5 financial confessions.
Warning: This post contains lots of swearing. Like lots. You’ve been warned.
There are lots of competent and capable personal finance bloggers who admit to the occasional “whoopsies” financial mistake. That’s cool. I respect that.
But at age 47, The Lady in the Black has a long history of financial mistakes that exceed a little “whoopsies.” Worse yet, there are some I simply can’t stop from happening. Am I feeling a little defeatist and down? Perhaps. Am I thinking that maybe any progress I make will be destroyed by my own financial incompetence? Maybe. Am I sick and tired of sucking at the same damn things? For sure.
If you think this post is for you, it’s not. I’m writing (and publishing) this post for one reason. I want to end this cycle of financial dysfunction.
I’m hoping that by writing about it (with little to no filters) that I might just arrive at something that I can use to improve myself.
If, by some miracle, my readers have some suggestions, great. Send them my way. If, by some coincidence, my readers struggle with some of the same issues, well….shit. I’m sorry. That sucks.
In short, I need to own my own shit and figure out how to move forward. The following is a list of my top 5 financial confessions.
The Lady’s Financial Bullshit List
B.S. #1: I can never figure out my cash flow.
For some people, money just floats in and out of their lives.
For others, every dime is accounted for and given a job.
For me, managing my personal finances is like a math problem that I know I should be smart enough to figure out but NEVER CAN!
I spent decades being a full-time salaried employee with a stable, timely paycheck. Back then, my problem was not having a handle on what needed to be paid and/or when the bills were due. I tried so many different tracking systems but never found the one that made my cash flow in and out smooth. It should also be noted that I never could save a dime either. Stable income, poor organization.
I’ve also spent years as a freelancer. The problem there was compounded as my income was both variable in terms of amount and in timing. Again, I tried to create elaborate systems but could never figure it out. As a result, my debt increased. Oh, and I also never saved a dime. Variable income, poor organization.
The result of both of these divergent situations was that I hated paying bills. I hated managing money. In fact, I really hated money in general. However, when I found myself with a face full of rock bottom, I knew I had to do something.
One thing I did was to fully automate my finances. And instantly, I was in love. Finally, I found the organization I craved. I didn’t have to figure out when to pay bills every month. I didn’t have to write checks and dig for stamps. I didn’t have to do much more than check to see if everything was clicking along. I was paying bills and saving money like crazy. I even began investing! And for a whole year, I had the financial bliss I always hoped for. I had finally cracked the code!
Except I didn’t.
About 3 months ago, I experienced a “hiccup” in my smoothly operating money machine. I had to dig into my savings to cover my rent. I thought “sure, whatever. The holidays threw things off. No worries. Gosh, I’m glad I have that money set aside. I’ll just pay it back.” But I didn’t because the same thing happened for the next 2 months (including this month.)
Today, I’m staring down a “pay or vacate” letter from the rental company and two $40 overdraft charges.
I’m back to square one trying to spot the error in my equation.
I get that my income as a freelancer is variable but how can something work for 11 months and then suddenly crap out? Am I working less? Am I not tracking properly? Am I spending more than I realize? Am I trying to save too much? Did I make changes that work break my system? Am I investing too aggressively? Did using a credit card for the first time in a decade throw off my spending habits? Did increases in rent and health insurance break me?
The answer is “yes”….to all of those questions–which leads me to my next steaming pile of personal crap.
B.S. #2: I don’t have my priorities in order.
For most people on the front end of their personal finance journey, the elimination of debt is priority one.
For others, it might be to save enough for an emergency fund.
Both of those tasks are easy to prioritize although they may take a significant length of time to achieve success. They are easy to focus on and then you can proceed onto the next step.
Maybe that’s the problem. I’m not really a “step” kinda gal when it comes to new adventures, even financial ones.
You see, my job is a creative one. I get paid to figure things out in new, compelling ways. I’m conditioned to think outside the box and use my imagination. While I fully appreciate logic and sequence, I profit far more heavily from my right brain than my left.
I’m a “let’s try to juggle all this new stuff because it’s fun” kinda Lady.
Sure, I started with a focus on debt reduction. Then, I quickly dove into automating my finances, designated savings accounts, tax filing modifications, ETF investing, individual stock investing, credit score improvement, net worth tracking, tracking dividends, responsible credit card use, estimated taxes, college saving, high-interest CDs, money mapping, personal finance blogging and a bunch of other stuff I can’t even remember right now. Oh, and all of that in under 2 years.
If you are thinking that all might have been too much, I’d be forced to agree.
It’s very easy to become distracted by the shiny new possibilities that proper money management (and the education thereof) can bring. But distraction, by its very definition, is a loss of focus.
Essentially, I need to figure my shit out. I need to re-evaluate what’s important to me at this time and take things one step at a time.
And sadly, and SO BORING, is addressing my biggest weakness, taxes. UGH. (I can’t even.)
B.S. #3: I’m fricking lazy.
It’s a new year and the joy of the holidays are behind me.
It’s Girl Scout cookie season and The Kid and I are busy.
I’m focusing on my health and fitness.
I found a great guy and am investing time in building a relationship with him.
The market is down.
My friends and family are far away and I miss them.
They shifted my accounts at work to so I need to spend more time there.
Taxes are coming up and I have lots of organizing to do.
My car is in the shop.
The carpets need cleaning.
I have a side project.
My friend just tweeted.
Blah, blah, blah.
Any sound familiar? These are all just excuses for slacking off on my personal finances–and I frickin’ know it. I FRICKIN’ KNOW IT.
I have learned that staying on top of your finances is an ongoing process that takes time and energy. The same precious time and energy that everything in my life is clammoring for.
The simple fact is that as you grow and change so does your money. While a certain amount of “set it and forget it” tactics are possible, your money will eventually want require your undivided time and attention. I updated my budget to reflect changes at the new year. I took HOURS. Tracking my payments needs to be done daily.
Keeping my money machine operating smoothly takes time that sometimes I just don’t want to give it.
I JUST wrote a note to my financial advisor that I’m “giving up” on my ROTH IRA contributions because my recurring payments have been returned (costing me fees) 3 times. Am I giving up too soon? Maybe. Should I maybe take the time to figure out if I can afford it first. Definitely.
In fact, now that I write all this, it’s not that I’m lazy. I’m just a busy, working professional single mom who values her downtime and quality of life. Is that more self-excusing bullshit?
Fuck. Maybe. DAMN IT.
B.S. #4: I assumed my income was enough.
I get paid well. I make more money now than I ever had before. But I also live in own of the most expensive areas of the country.
I thought I was making enough money. I’m not.
I himmed and hawed for months about “raising my rates” at my current freelance gig. It’s a sweet gig and I CAN’T mess it up. It’s the one thing that has truly enabled any financial success I’ve experienced in the last 2 years. (Well, that and my own resolve to stop sucking at money management.) I was being a pussy be not asking for what I am due.
But, guess what guys. I wrote that request just today. I asked for a 20% increase. Is that a lot? Did I ask for too much? Will they laugh me down? You know what? I frickin’ don’t know and don’t care.
I’ll wait to see what they counter with next week. In the meantime, I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I make “the right amount” of money because there is always change. Things get more expensive and “savings” can be a greedy little bastard to feed.
More money equals more freedom to me and while I tolerate being a corporate loser I refuse to be a slave.
B.S. #5: I forget my own power.
This is a big one. I’m not sure where you fall out on the whole “theory of abundance” or “self-fulfilling destiny” or the “Universe giving you what you need” but I gotta say I was a huge skeptic. However, over and over again, I witnessed myself having a power to alter the Universe with the power of my thoughts.
And it started happening more when I switched my world view from pessimism to optimism.
A simple thought or idea would simply manifest itself in a most unusual yet undeniable way, and usually in fairly quick order, too.
So, why aren’t sitting pretty, sitting in a long fitted black gown and tiara and declaring myself the Queen of my domain? Because I forget. I forget my own power. I forget that small changes can radiate out to big changes. I forget that I am in charge of my life.
So, how can I remind myself? Hmmm. Well, it might come down to some additional gratitude exercise and surrounding myself with positive people. It might mean pulling out my old vision board, or better yet, building a new one. It might mean to stop procrastinating and stop beating myself.
It might mean reminding myself that I am a plain old human woman with supernatural superpowers.
I don’t know. But writing that makes me feel a bit better. I wonder if it helps you.
Maybe I’ll develop a mantra.
Own your shit. Believe in magic.
Nah. How about Don’t Be a Drag, Just Be A Queen?
(OK, not mine but I like it.)