Friday, February 10, 2012

Humoring J Money

  1. What was the last thing you purchased? Groceries... how exciting is that?!
  2. How about the last thing you returned? I don't even remember it's been so long since I did. I used to be returning/exchanging some dumb unnecessary purchase every week. That's being a smart/frugal shopper for you!
  3. How much is in your wallet/purse right now? $140 and some change.
  4. What would you do with an extra $100 in cash? Put it in my cash savings envelope... sometimes I like to just hold a stack of cash... fantasizing that one day I'll have [the legally earned version of] this.
  5. What’s your favorite album right now? Don't have a favorite album right now as I'm mostly listening to NPR or podcasts. All Things Considered - yeah!!
  6. **EXTRA CREDIT** Who was the last person you kissed? It was my dog. I got a lot of tongue. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Paralyzed by Fear

I have been struggling with fear. I have been experiencing panic attacks. This is all related to my work, and it is completely irrational.
I’m working in a new area and I thought that I was feeling adrift because I don’t know what I'm doing. I have kept putting obstacles in my own way and it seemed to be the easiest thing to write off my anxiety to my own lack of knowledge and laziness (I even blogged about it!). “If I only do some research and get a bit more knowledge, I’ll be OK.” “If I only complete this other project and focus, I’ll be OK.” I’ve struggled to do either of these things. It is more logical and more palatable to call myself lazy than it is to call myself fearful.
I’ve been operating under the assumption that there is this whole new topic I need to learn and once I get it, everything will become clear. The truth is that there is nothing of such significance for me to learn. There is no clarity to come. I know what the work is and I can do it. I have done far bigger and scarier things in my career, and I have delivered results I would not have imagined I could possibly deliver. I have been anxious about projects, I’ve been stressed, and I’ve been nervous about certain situations, but I have never been so completely paralyzed by fear. Why is this happening to me? This is clearly going to be an evolving conversation.
I’ve worked hard over the last number of years and having never had much ambition, suddenly found I actually do have the desire to progress. I am a step below senior management and I want to get there. I am so close yet have never felt so far away from it. The reality of my financial situation and desire to be debt free with replenished retirement funds and savings has put extreme focus on my income, plus the need to increase it. I am ashamed to admit there is a small amount of ego and “I deserve it” in the equation, but the bigger truth is this is just about money and making more of it.
I try desperately not to lose sight of the fact that had I not been moved into this new position, due to the state of the economy and reality of the business I was in, it was more likely that I would lose my income completely (job elimination) than it was for me to move up. I am unbelievably fortunate and grateful to be given this new opportunity, and yet I can’t sleep at night.
My fear seems to be stemming from the perception (real or not) that I have gone backwards. I don’t find this work particularly challenging. I don’t really find it interesting. I am not seeing the path to progression here. That said, the only obstacle to me succeeding is my own anxiety.
For some reason, I have completely lost confidence in my ability to do [what I consider to be] a lesser job. I am comparing myself to others in the group and coming up with nothing but an inferiority complex. For the first time ever, I actually feel that I am not good enough.
I seem to be trapped in a vicious circle. I want to show everyone how good I still am but with every opportunity I panic and end up feeling even more like a failure. I get angry and frustrated because I know I’m better than that and I visualize how things will play out next time. I can’t do anything with that amount of pressure but panic again.  
I keep repeating that this is completely irrational. I am my only barrier to success. The overwhelming pressure to perform is only coming from me. I am getting nothing but support and positive feedback from my boss, and her boss, and her boss… Yet, four times in the last few weeks I have experienced a panic attack in the most innocuous of meetings or on conference calls to the point where I can't breathe and I can't speak. Fortunately, through pretending to have a coughing fit or pretending I am otherwise sick, I have managed to cover it up.  
What is the worst that can happen on a conference call or in a meeting?
  • I need to defer to someone else or admit I need to find out the answer and get back to the group.
That's all! Nobody is going to point and laugh. I know how to describe my position and the objectives of our team. I know the current status of all my current projects. There is no logical reason that I should be intimidated or frightened to speak on any of these topics.
What is the worst that can happen if this position does not lead me to the next level?
  • I stay employed and keep my income, medical insurance, benefits etc. 
  • I learn additional skills that can be applied to future opportunities
  • I gain a broader perspective on the world
There is no conclusion or solution to end with. It’s a jumble because I still can’t make sense of it or figure out how to overcome. I am just trying to dig through the problem and hope to get through my work day without a panic attack.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


It's beginning to look a lot like my favorite time of year. Obviously that isn't Christmas. ;) 

No, it's the beginning of March, which means annual increase and bonus time! That extra $100+ in my bi-weekly paycheck and a bit fat chunk of money means bumper spending time!!!! This time last year I had the best intentions in the world. The bonus would mean I could pay off a small chunk of my AMEX balance (which was around $24K at the time if I recall) but instead, I found myself running to the Apple Store with Platinum in hand before the payment had even hit my bank account. I remember still feeling GOOD about it all though. I had a new laptop, iPad, software, digital camera, etc. etc. and I'd got it all WITHOUT going into more debt!!! The bonus had completely cancelled out all my new purchases!!! Woohoo!!!!!  

I can't imagine I was ever that dumb.

So, March 2012 is around the corner, and the increase and bonus are again on their way. This time, I'm sending 50% of the bonus to my 401(k). Two reasons: 

1. The bonus is very heavily taxed so the 401(k) contribution halves the taxable gross (I would prefer to send even more but my company only allows contributions up to 50%).
2. I had to liquidate my 401(k) last summer to pay the initial chunk of money to AMEX (see ($40,028.05)) and my goal is to make the full $17,000 contribution this year.

As for the annual increase, I'll be upping my bi-weekly 401(k) contributions from 8% to 12%.

Once my 401(k) gets paid, the rest will be going to my debt. I'm not sure how big the bonus will be yet so I don't know how much will be remaining, but I hope to at least be able to bring my credit card balance below $10,000. I will also be settling a small loan I have with a family member. 

I must admit I've never been more excited to receive a bonus in my life.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Happy Saturday

There is no better way for me to start a Saturday morning than with a cup of coffee and my financial spreadsheets! I love putting my financial house in order before getting on with the day. There may come a time when I am debt free and slightly less fanatical, but I can't ever imagine starting another weekend with my head firmly buried in the financial sand like I used to.

I'm also making an attempt at my very first side hustle, so it's an exciting day! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Net Worth Update

$(8979.98) is my net worth for this month:

Debt: $(11,875)
Savings: $531.00
Retirement: $2,364.02

Just looking at those numbers makes me think "pitiful". That is until I give it some context:

December 31: $(12,006.89) net worth
November 30: $(15,361.68) net worth

I only started fanatically tracking it in November but trust me, the numbers for the preceding months were significantly worse!

So, instead of thinking "pitiful", I'm saying "AWESOME!!!" My net worth is below $(10,000) for the first time in roughly 3 1/2 years! 

It's a big pat on the back for today and some serious motivation to keep going. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Own Worst Enemy

I've been a little down this past few days and can only attribute it to my job. I moved into a new role recently (not by choice) and I feel somewhat adrift. I was moved into a growth opportunity and away from what I'm convinced would have been an eventual lay-off so I am very grateful, but I've been having trouble getting settled and up to speed. 

A lightbulb suddenly went off today and I realized my problem is not the new job. My problem is... laziness!!! I know exactly what I need to do to improve my situation but for some reason I'm not getting down to it. It's the same as when I complain that I'm out of shape but I'd rather sleep an extra half hour than get up and work out in a morning.

Laziness with my finances was just one of the many reasons I got into debt and it's now the single biggest obstacle to the issues I'm feeling towards my new job. I hope that now I've identified the problem I can start working on a fix. Just like I did with my credit card debt.