Taking Control in a Crisis

I think taking control in a crisis goes back to what I wrote in here recently about prioritizing your essential activities and letting fall away everything that doesn’t reinforce your immediate goals.

While indoors you can as I’ve written plan out the goals you want to achieve once back outside like usual.

The financial toll can be hard to weather right now. I’m not a CFP so can’t give specific advice about finances.

What I can say is that while living indoors it might conversely be easier to achieve some goals that you had put off.

Maybe you wanted to live more frugally before the pandemic. This is a great opportunity to edit your spending and change your habits.

A friend told me that it could be common that people living through this crisis feel like we have no control over what’s happening.

I’ll end here by saying that each of us can only manage what’s within our control.

What’s outside of our control we need to let it be. To focus on what we can control.

To this end I’ve started up a new 90-day action plan using the Changeology 5-step method for achieving goals.

My long-term goal is to live in a 2-bedroom apartment. To use the second room as an art studio.

To do this I’m using the Danica Patrick tactic listed in her book Pretty Intense: I’m doing one healthy thing. Then I’ll do the next healthy thing.

Feeling like you have control can be as simple as yes compartmentalizing your weekly habits.

Focusing on the here-and-now reality can help you weather this crisis.

While keeping in the back of your mind your long-term goal.

Again I will refer readers to the other useful book: Atomic Habits.

Making small incremental consistent changes to our behavior can pay off.

I will report back in 3 months the outcome of my latest Changeology action plan.

Having an Emergency Fund

The greatest thing working to your financial advantage is this:

When you collect SSI or SSDI there’s no rush to get a job. There’s no reason to take any old job that comes along first.

This is because you already have income coming in in the form of SSI or SSDI.

While you collect these government benefits you can read the information I’ve given in the blog entries in the Career category of this blog.

See if any of what I’ve written makes sense to you as being a viable strategy for finding your dream job.

The government allows people who collect these benefits to have something like $3,000 total in a savings account and what’s called a burial account.

Having this money in an FDIC-insured bank account can be your first version of an emergency fund.

Once years ago when I did a public speaking engagement a person didn’t know what an emergency fund was. They thought that someone else gave you this money.

When they asked me: “Who gives you an emergency fund? Where does the money come from?” I was stunned.

Stunned because the person looked like they were older than I was.

Your car needs a new muffler. You go into a hospital for an operation. You lose your job. You have to move into a new apartment.

An emergency fund gives you the ready cash to pay for these things when they happen.

Though I’m no fan of Suze Orman (in one of her DVDs she reduced an audience member to tears) I agree with her on this advice:

Saving up 8 months of living expenses in your emergency fund makes the best sense.

In New York, Los Angeles, even in Boston and other high-cost cities:

If you live in one of these places I say: have at least $20,000 saved in your emergency fund.

In fact, if you ask me you should have tons of money in an emergency fund.

I don’t go by the common advice to have only 3 to 6 months of living expenses saved in an emergency fund.

The higher this amount of money is the better.

In the coming Money Monday blog entry I’m going to talk about having an:

It’s My Money and I’ll Do What I Want With It Fund.

Karen Ramsay was the original financial planner who wrote a book decades ago about budgeting in money to fund your passions in life.

More on this coming up.

Saying Goodbye to SSI or SSDI

Disclaimer: I understand that a lot of people can’t hold a job and need to collect SSI or SSDI.

Yet even in this scenario the definition of a “job” can be expanded to doing volunteer work or singing in a choir or playing guitar in a band. Doing whatever gives you joy.

On the other hand:

It’s possible to go down the path of finding the job you love, earning a livable salary from it, and renting or owning your own home.

Last week I had an experience that illuminated a hidden truth.

People with disabilities are told we’re “courageous” for battling what goes on.

The truth would be harder for the able-ist folk to understand:

A lot of people with disabilities simply think that what we want to do is possible.

We expect that we can get out of life the things we want. Just like non-disabled people.

Faced with naysayers who tell us these things can’t be done:

We plot and plan how to get what we know it’s our right to have.

I have met a person who I like to think thought: “Why can’t I?”

You and I and everyone facing a challenge shouldn’t be deterred.

One person who wasn’t deterred I have had the honor and privilege of meeting.

This was a person who wanted to get a professional job even though they used a service dog. And they got their dream job. The dog goes with them to meetings.

You and I and everyone should be thinking: “What if?” and “Why not?”

As a fortune cookie stated:

The best angle from which to approach a problem is the TRYangle.

SSDI gives a person a 9-month Trial Work Period (TWP) during which you can still collect government benefits.

SSI benefits are reduced by a dollar for every dollar you earn.

Collecting government benefits and holding a job is sometimes possible too.

My stance is that I’m rooting for those of us who want to get a job they’d love doing.

The reality that a person can use their service dog on a job is the greatest inspiration.

In the coming Money Monday blog entry I’m going to talk about building up a cushion of cash that will enable you to take the leap into finding your dream job.

Having this emergency fund will help you weather any financial disasters that happen when you’re employed.


The Art of Money

Bari Tessler has published a book to buy: The Art of Money: a Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness.

As an author Tessler has a generous and compassionate voice. As a Financial Therapist Tessler has revolutionized how to approach dealing with money matters.

On her website she talks about calling an emergency fund a Peace of Mind fund instead. In her book she tells readers to rename expense categories in our budgets to reflect our values. For instance Mortgage becomes Home Sweet Home.

Tessler’s vision is brilliant. Her insight and information is right-on. I recommend buying this Tessler book and the Vitug book I reviewed too–You Only Live Once. These two books taken together could be the start of creating a solid foundation with our finances.

You can go on the Bari Tessler website to read more.

In the late summer and into and through the fall I’m going to talk here again about career and job strategies. By the fall I’ll have more news about my second recovery book.

You Only Live Once

Forget all the rest and now try the best: You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life by Jason Vitug.

I reviewed the Alexa Von Tobel book Financially Fearless in a blog entry here. Her book seemed okay at the time. Now Vitug’s book is the one truly remarkably visionary personal finance book.

Vitug is not a CFP–certified financial planner–yet his common-sense guide puts other CFP books to shame. Move over Suze Orman. Jason Vitug is here.

His book YOLO should be read and heeded first before even considering reading the other CFP books. For one he tells us to create a spending plan linked to our values and our vision for how we want to live our lives.

When we create this spending plan [a budget] we can spend our extra discretionary income on what reflects our values. This amount doesn’t have to be 10 percent or 30 percent. It can be whatever we want it to be provided: we’ve first paid ourselves first [funded our savings and retirement], paid our expenses, and paid any debt we have.

After we knock off these essentials, Vitug tells us we can buy whatever we want as long as it’s linked to our values and our vision for our life.

The first step is to write down what we value and write down our vision for how we want to live our life. This is something no other financial planner focuses on as the root of how to manage our money.

Now I see why traditional personal finance books and accounting systems fail people. I’ve read them all over the years–no wonder it was hard–no impossible–to stick to those “budgets.”

Think of a budget as a spending plan that allows you to have the kind of life you want. But first–as Vitug prophetically tells us–we must know what we value and what our vision is for our lives.

I checked this book out of the library. You can buy the book if you have the money.

Jason Vitug impresses me to no end. Plus the book is shorter and more easily readable than the others.

By all means, consult with a financial planner and use the other books if that is warranted for your situation.

I for one had a light bulb go off in my head when I read YOLO.

Financially Fearless

I recommend only two personal finances books from the glut of books that so-called financial experts churn out:

Jean Chatzky’s The Difference details what people who are well-off or wealthy financially have in common. One trait: optimism.

The absolute best book I also recommend is Alexa von Tobel’s Financially Fearless. Forget all the rest–try this book because it’s the best.

Tobel is a CFP who gives the viable formula for personal financial success: allocate your funds this way:

50 percent: on essentials like rent or mortgage plus utilities.

20 percent: on savings and retirement.

30 percent: on your own spending on whatever you’d like.

Total: 100 percent of your budget pie.

Trust me: I’ve read nearly all the personal finance books that so-called experts have published  Only Financially Fearless has the only budgeting plan that ever made sense to me: the 50/20/30 allocation of the pie.

Your percentage for each slice of the pie might turn out a little higher or lower and that’s OK. Yet this formula is the most practical and achievable if you ask me.

Start saving early for retirement because the compounding value of the dollars you save will grow like magic over the years. Waiting until later to save for retirement is not the way to go.

Saving whatever you can as consistently as you can as soon in life as you can is the way to go.

You can check both of these books out of the library if you don’t want to buy them.

Living in a high-cost city your essential spending category is most likely going to be higher. That’s OK. Keeping within a modest sliver of these percentages I doubt will make or break a person.