You Have To Play to Win! (Not a Lottery Ad)

There have been a lot of moments lately where I’ve felt like giving up something that I was previously excited about. You may relate- this is fairly common:

Step 1: You think up a great idea for a project, or for some new undertaking- a lifestyle change, a new diet, a new job, a new attitude.

Step 2: You begin this challenge with gusto and verve, ready to go.

Step 3: Progress is fast and furious- you’ve really got something going. What a good idea you have! Go you!

Step 4: Progress halts. Movement is tough. Are you moving backwards?

Step 5: Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe you aren’t the one for the job.

Possibly distraction moves in. Another task takes the place of this new creation. Scrolling Instagram for hours seems like a great idea. Netflix calls loudly. Procrastination ensues, followed by giving up.

BUT: if you quit the game before you’ve played, can you win?

Last month I decided to create a bunch of Budget Planners. I began to sell these budget planners on Amazon, and none really sold. I immediately got discouraged, and stopped making planners entirely for a short while- leaving my project half completed.

Facebook feeds were scrolled. A lot of email got deleted. But then, in a sudden burst of clarity, it became apparent to me that I had to play to win. And I hadn’t really played- I had only started. Even if my books aren’t successful, the steps to playing are clear: continue even when a downward dip sets in. Making the creation that does well isn’t the end game. Putting more out there is the end game. Continuing is the end game. Growing is the end game. And that’s the trick that keeps me playing. If my books do well, great. If not, back in the game. Even if they do well- back in the game. The game continues on. There are many more projects/creations/jobs/mentalities/habits/endeavors/people to play with. And there are many more downward dips ahead- but that’s normal. There are also uphill catapults!

Don’t stop!

 

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The 2 Minute Swim (or How I Learned to Run)

Sometimes I like to brag that I’ve run a half marathon.

This is only half true. I haven’t run a “real one”- one that was timed and had a medal and a finish line and all of that exciting gold stuff, but I’ve run a half marathon on a treadmill. I took pictures of my mileage. As evidence. Okay, maybe that’s not even impressive at all. Whatever. But I did it.

So I can run. I run a lot, sometimes 4-5 times a week, with 30 minutes of running being my bare minimum for a workout with running.

I really like running, actually.

However, during my first running workout- excluding gym class in grade school- I didn’t even run for THREE MINUTES. I’d never run as a workout before because I didn’t really do any kind of workout before. I thought exercise was against the nature of my body. This really meant that I gave up on my running career before it started in order to pursue my fated path of couch potato extraordinaire. Alas, it was not to be.

The first time I whimsically decided to work out, I told myself I would only run for two minutes…and I barely made it! When I got to one minute and 30 seconds, I almost had to stop. But I kept going, and made it to two minutes, and then turned off the treadmill and walked away. For the next few days, I did the same thing: two minutes of running and then walking away. After that, I upped my challenge to three minutes for a week or so, and then to 5!

Suddenly, I was running for 5 minutes straight, and then 10! It probably took me a few months to get to 30 steady minutes of running, but everything came from that first 2 minute run! My success really boiled down to allowing myself to change only 2 minutes of my life.

When I jumped in a pool last month at an Orlando hotel, I tried to swim a bunch of laps, and quickly got exhausted after maybe a quarter of one. I haven’t really tried to swim in years. Actually, I’ve never really swam laps- maybe once. I don’t really know how to swim, for that matter.

And as I took a choking, water-tinged breath in the Olympic sized pool, a vision of my first 2 minute run from long ago popped into my head. I allowed myself some mercy. “Just 2 minutes of laps today!” was my mantra, as I swam a wholehearted 6 feet or so and then gasped for air. But I went back under and swam my 2 minutes- and then another 2, and then another. I don’t know if you’d really call my swimming “laps” or “skilled” for that matter. But there was movement.

And sometimes a little movement is all you need.

How To Never Get Bored In Your Thirties

I’m almost never bored. I feel like there’s always something new to do, and a multitude of things that I’ve been wanting to get to. Sometimes I think I might be bored for a second, but then I realize I’m just not thinking about all the activities and projects and entertainment I want to play around with. Boredom is likely a symptom of poor planning. If you set yourself up to catch boredom in it’s tracks, you can either use the extra time for easygoing, contemplative moments, or put the time towards something you’ve been wanting to do anyway.

Start a list and write down a bunch of things you’d really like to do but never seem to have time for. My list includes:

  • Watch YouTube Videos on new hairstyle/makeup ideas
  • Practice singing (the word practice can easily be replaced by the word ‘start’)
  • Get out that dusty paint set and finally paint!
  • Organize Retirement Account
  • Rush a Broadway show
  • Study Turbo Tax for self-employed individuals so you can fire accountant and do your taxes yourself (hopefully my accountant does not read this blog).
  • Relearn Italian
  • Journal (I have many prompts for this, though freestyle works too)
  • Cook a new recipe from my huge and glorious vegan cookbook
  • Watch tutorials on basic Photoshop techniques

There are many more items on this list. When I’m done with my original To Do list (I’m somewhat of a to do list-aholic) I can look at my long term list and there’s always something big and/or interesting I can be doing that doesn’t include browsing Facebook or Instagram for hours (which does happen and is almost never happy-making).

Here are some other suggestions for stopping listless boredom in its tracks, effortlessly:

  • Start a list of tv shows/movies you want to watch that are currently streaming. When you’re bored, begin!
  • Make a list of people you’ve been wanting to call more regularly and finally call them! You have time!
  • Make a list of books you want to read…and finally start reading them!
  • Start a list of pampering moments you can give to yourself (face masks, hair masks, bath time, anything goes!)

I use and am obsessed with Wunderlist for all my to do list needs… this blog isn’t specifically affiliated with them in any way although I wish it was.

Here’s to never being bored again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Unrequited Love Really Love?

Most of us have felt it. That horrible, gut-wrenching feeling, where we love someone who doesn’t love us back. Some of us have even been in full blown relationships where unrequited love has reared its head. What I’m wondering is: Is this ridiculously maddening kind of unrequited love actually love?

There’s a lot of debate on this subject (google it), but here’s my hunch: it depends. Whether your unrequited love is actually love depends on how well you  know the person you’re deeply in love with- not just how long you have known them for or how much you’ve heard about them, but how much you truly know about who they really are.

When unrequited love occurs in situations where you only know a person on the surface or haven’t known the person for very long, it’s usually not love, but lust or attraction.

A counter thought to this that is more of a paradox: if you feel deep love for someone who does not love you back but you feel joyful simply loving them without receiving their love in return, this is true unconditional love. In this case, the type of love where you feel pain from not having love in return is actually not love, but attachment. Therefore a type of love needing no love in return wouldn’t truly ever be unrequited love because it wouldn’t need to ever be requited. In fact, the object of your love wouldn’t even need to know that you love them for you to reap the benefits of this love. You could simply let the love blossom within yourself and enjoy all its benefits on your own.

 

 

October Fools Month

We turned 3! This blog is officially 3 years old as of October 2nd- my birthday. I turned 33 and the blog turned 3. Lots of 3s going on right now. Which I feel is appropriate for a blog about your 30’s.

In honor of our 3rd year, Jane and I had a discussion about the purpose of the blog and some new things we want to try and play with. So October is kind of going to be April Fools Day – or April Fools Month, really. We’re not going to prank you- necessarily- we’re just going to experiment with different and possibly weird styles and topics.

Some of the changes may be unnoticeable, and some may be out there. Some posts may have exactly the same topics and tones as before. We honestly don’t know exactly what will happen. But we’ve turned off the comments for now so that we can feel as free as possible to bring you our deepest and strangest thoughts and desires without censorship 😉

And this will likely extend throughout November and December as well, so it’ll be more like October Fools Month times 3! But we’re excited to play around and hopefully you’ll like it and will be inspired to try new things too!

For those of you who’ve been with us for all three years, thank you so much! And for those new to following OMGImThirty, we thank you so much for following us and hope you’re having fun!

 

Rebirth! How Beginning Something Can Feel Like Labor Pain

When I first start something uncomfortably new, I have major resistance to it. And not just slight, nervous resistance. Sometimes my body wages an all out down and dirty guns blazing battle to stay the way it was before.

This can manifest as anything from a mild depression to serious nausea or absolute panic. When these kinds of intense feelings arise, I’m easily sidetracked by the feelings and may not even realize they’re arising from the new activity or habit. I simply start dedicating all my mental space to “solving” the bad feeling(s),  instead of working on the new habit- which is precisely what my fear is trying to trick me into doing.

A bunch of alarm bells go off in my mind. When I finally trace the uncomfortable feelings to the new habit, I of course want to quit my new habit and go back to the old way I was doing things. Sometimes quitting a new thing is the right choice- the new habit may not be right for you, or it may not be the right time in your life for that challenge. Other times, staying the course just a little longer allows the feelings to pass and enables you to grow more than you ever thought possible. The hardest trick of all is to know when to continue and when to quit.

When I first started tracking every dollar I spent, using the app Goodbudget (Which I talk about in detail here, I felt vaguely nauseous every day. I felt this unreasonable, irrational panic for what I thought was no reason. I couldn’t figure it out. I’m not the type of person to get panicked or anxious for no reason, so I tried to track down the source of these feelings, and would you believe it took me more than a week to figure out it was my little money app??

So I’m walking around with these unreasonable feelings of depression and nausea and I can’t figure out where they’re coming from until one day I realize they’re stemming from fear and guilt as I write down where I’m spending my money! Once I realized that the panic was coming from my new money habit, I was able to actually relax a bit, the feelings slowly subsided, and now I have zero panic about using Goodbudget to track my spending. Instead, tracking my spending makes me feel empowered, and I’ve been tracking money for over a year now.

There’s a huge range of new habits that can trigger what I called “Labor pains” in the title -since you’re birthing what’s essentially a new version of you into the world. I’ve never been in labor personally so for the sake of experience, I’m going to call these pains growing pains from here on out. Some likely candidates for growing pains (and what have triggered them for me) include a change in exercise habits, dietary habits, spending habits, a relationship or a relationship status, a job or within a job. Also, tracking or attempting to become aware of any personal habits can possibly trigger new growing pains- so journaling or meditating or getting a Fitbit or going to therapy or seeing a new doctor or opening up to someone for the first time may cause strange new feelings to arise- and these feelings can occasionally be confusing or painful or uncomfortable.

It’s up to you to decide whether you want or need to push through these feelings and find out if there’s growth on the other side. It’s a hard call and I respect you immensely whether you take on the challenge or make the conscious decision that it’s not the right new step for you right now.  These kinds of growth challenges in our thirties aren’t at all simple.

I guess that’s why they call this adulthood, kids.

 

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You Don’t Have to Do What Everybody Else Does In Your Thirties

I guess it’s human nature to want to do what’s cool. It’s also human nature to want to feel included. And to figure out what’s best and then go and get it. To get all there is to get out of life. Conquer the world and have it all, you amazing thirty-something you!

As you may have discovered, “having it all” in your thirties, though the cool thing to have, includes a whole lot of things. And a whole lot of expectations. And the word “cool”itself is an extremely loaded word. Sometimes it’s even cool to be “uncool” (let these words play in your head for a moment and see what images of coolness they conjure: hipsters, stoics, romantics, math geeks, solo travelers, basket-weaving majors, parents… Simply labels, but the coolness levels will vary very much depending on who’s reading this.)

Because the thirties are such a loaded decade, we may tend to feel like life failures if we haven’t figured out all the things already. After all, it’s “cool” in your thirties to have figured out your career. Very cool to be financially stable. So cool it’s obvious to get married. To have kids. To buy a house. There are “everybody’s doing it you’renotwhynotwhat’swrongwithyou??” expectations here. Just because you or someone you know defies these expectations doesn’t mean the rules aren’t there.

After all, weren’t our twenties the decade where we figured out who we were? That’s over, that’s done. We already explored all our life choices in our twenties so we now get it together in our thirties. Wrap it up, people! Exploration’s over! The thirties are the decade where you have your shit together already! Right? Right??

Are we excelling in our career? Are we finally married? Do we finally have an adorable baby? Are we able to travel the world? Are we financially independent? Are we pursuing our dreams? Are we in a beautiful home? Do we have a perfectly fit and strong body? Are our morning and night routines down to a beautiful harmonious rhythm? Jeez, there are a lot of expectations in our thirties.

Sometimes I feel better when I cut out the expectations and the chatter. Because I’m allowed to let all of that go. Really, I am. And you are too.

Really?

Realize that you don’t have to do what other people are doing. You don’t have to do what you always thought you would do in your thirties. You don’t have to rush to accomplish a goal that other people expect you to achieve but you maybe don’t believe in or feel like doing yet. You don’t have to feel bad because other people are doing things you thought you would be doing. Or if you are doing a bunch of ‘societally expected’ things and are surrounded by people who aren’t, that’s okay too! You’re where you are and that’s where you should be. You can let it all go. Really. Truly.

Sometimes I realize that I’m asking everyone for opinions on my life and calling it “venting,” when really I’m chattering on as a nervous excuse to continue a negative thought pattern again and again.  I ask friends for opinions on my life and then I worry about disappointing them if I haven’t followed their advice. Which sometimes changes anyway. Sometimes, it’s great to vent, and venting in itself can be very healthy. But venting negativity needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. I have to know when I’m venting for a fantastic release or when I’m venting to reinforce my own bad feelings again and again and again.

I’ve also found that sometimes I need to stop and center myself to think about what I really want. Do I really want to make a ton of money by climbing up a corporate ladder, or am I simply envious of some of my friends who are doing that? Do I really like being super busy, or is it just “cool” to be busy? Do I actually want to travel all the time, or am I simply surrounded by people who love to travel all the time? Do I want to be married because I’m 32 and it’s ‘getting to be about that time already jeeeeeez!!’ or do I want to be married because I’ve found a person I love and actually want to spend the rest of my life with? Once I see cultural expectations for what they are, they’re easier to spot and release. It’s always a case by case basis- some expectations are things that truly make my heart sing. While others- come to think of it- don’t increase my happiness at all.

It’s an amazing release to let go of what you “should” do. And gradually, but also suddenly, what you should do becomes strikingly clear anyway.

 

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Why Do Some People Annoy Me When They’re #Blessed?

I enjoy when other people are happy. Most of the time. However, every once in awhile, someone strikes me as false- like they’re hitting me with Bright Rays Of Sweet Sunshine Happiness…but my gut is bothered by something. And I never really knew what was bothering me before, but recently I think I can hazard a guess. It’s what I call a duality. Or really,  in these cases, it’s a missing duality.

What is a duality? Well, I believe that a lot of times, two opposite things are happening at once to all of us. Usually we only think that one thing on one end of a spectrum can be happening at one time, but this is false. Here are some examples:

  • Dealing with future goals and being in the present moment at the very same time
  • Being happy and being sad at the same time
  • Something being painful but strengthening at the same time
  • Being upset about something but loving yourself anyway, simultaneously
  • Feeling really scared of something and being okay with that same fear all at once

There are many more of these examples, and it’s an interesting topic that I could write at length about…but I’ll keep it short because thinking about a duality is a counterintuitive way of thinking and I don’t want to convolute things. Dualities are paradoxes that aren’t obvious at first- how can two opposite things happen in our minds at the exact same time? But they can and they do.

So when I talk about ‘missing dualities,’ I’m talking about refusing to allow the second/opposite feeling into ourselves. I figured this out because I used to do this all the time- I’d be sad about something, but instead of acknowledging it, even to myself, I’d cover it up, slap on a smile, and not let it out. I’d push on without hearing the feeling at all- I’d just tell it to go away. I’d be #blessed but not actually happy or centered.

Or sometimes I’d be the opposite way- I’d feel anxious about something, and I’d think to myself “this is all there is. I’m always like this. It’s never ending,” and I’d go on and on about how hard things are…without giving one thought to the strengthening and good things happening at the same time.

When I acknowledged the dualities, I could better look at a feeling and know that it wasn’t the whole picture. I could hear my occasional sadness and know that it isn’t me. I could be happy and acknowledge sadness or fear that still occurs.

Dualities are everywhere. Knowing about them started to clear up what used to baffled me. I’m still working on acknowledging dualities and seeing them when they appear in myself. Maybe hearing about them will strike a familiar chord for you too.

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Travel Makes NYC Feel Like Land

I have a list of blog topics that I jot down when ideas strike me but I don’t have time to write an entire OMG post. When I go through this list weeks or months later, a funny thing happens. Old ideas don’t always make sense to me anymore. I forget where my head was at when I made the note. I literally have hundreds of these random topic notes. For example, I have one item labeled “a small concession in your 30s.” I assume this was to be the title of a post, and it’s maybe sorta catchy now, but for the life of me I’m not sure exactly what I was conceding at the time. I have some ideas now of what this could have been, but none of them necessarily sound familiar. There has not been an “ah ha!” moment. 

One of my topic notes is “Travel Makes NYC feel like land.” When I saw it again after what must have been at least a month, I thought I must have meant “travel makes NYC feel like home”..or even, “traveling for work makes NYC feel like home.” Because I feel like I usually enjoy traveling for fun, and less so for work. But even with pleasure travel, I always end up taking myself with me, so if I had any worries before traveling, being away doesn’t necessarily solve them. Being away makes me aware of other things, which in turn does help a lot, but it’s different…if that makes any sense.

But maybe travel does make NYC feel like land. NYC is my place- I was born and raised here. I know the crazies on the subway well. I know the familiar must-do sensation of pushing gently but hardily to get into a crowded train car. I know what it feels like to know my stop has arisen on the subway, even when I’m asleep. I know the feeling of walking along Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side, even in winter, and feeling the warm comfort of staring at $4,000 dresses through crystal glass. I have funny memories of trying to sell rocks in Central Park as a kid and dreamy memories of listening to concerts on the park’s grass while wondering about life. 

I guess sometimes I feel adrift when I travel away from my place, and NYC really does feel like land. My familiarity with New York in addition to getting to be here for awhile helps me feel centered lately. Especially after I’d been traveling for months straight without more than 4 day breaks and suddenly am able stay home for awhile- at least 3 weeks at a time. It takes awhile to clear out the imbalance from all the travel or to even realize it’s there. But I think waking up in my own bed day after day has helped me feel centered when I hadn’t completely recognized that I was off-centered. Having a similar schedule that I can control is similarly appealing. Seeing friends and family when I want to instead of being physically separated from them is very nice. 

I never would have realized that NYC felt like land if I hadn’t traveled away from it so much. I might have been one of the many people who gets tired of the big, bustling city and takes it for granted…its easy to be that way. I get that way with other things and have to manually bring myself back to appreciation. But I was adrift in the open sea and then I finally was able to get back to my land, New York, and grab ahold for a second and say yessssssss… thank you beautiful city!!!! And New York feels like a refuge.

What can I give you guys from this experience? I don’t know- I’m still figuring out the lesson. I’m resting and enjoying for now. Perhaps that there’s a centering you can only find if you go elsewhere and finally return. That’s when you really appreciate your way back to where you began.  

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Is Your Mind Worried About Becoming Jobless and Homeless (or What is Meditation?)

A few mornings ago I didn’t feel like meditating. So I went to Youtube, where I get some of my favorite meditation videos, and typed in ‘Meditation when you don’t feel like meditating.’

What came back were a series of videos about what meditation is. A few of them were created by monks, and were quite interesting. I always love when people talk about what meditation is and is not, because I sometimes get asked this question and I can’t think of the answer exactly- not off the top of my head .

Anyway, this Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, had a 5 minute video that really clarified a lot of things for me about meditation. I’ll summarize his video here.

First, the problem most of us have with meditation is that there are a ton of thoughts racing through our heads as we’re meditating, and we feel like we’ve ‘failed’ if we can’t quiet them.

But, as Mingyur Rinpoche says, and as many of the best meditation teachers say, meditation isn’t about forcing your ‘monkey mind’ to stop.

We are trying to block all thoughts and emotions and to think of absolutely nothing.

But meditation actually isn’t about blocking thoughts and thinking of nothing.

Or can meditation just about blissing out and being peaceful and open? Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I bliss out and be peaceful and open, dammit? What is wrong with me?!

But meditation actually isn’t about doing that anyway, so relax.

Another problem many of us have with meditating is that our minds will start telling us stuff to do during a meditation, such as “I have to call Zach, I have to buy detergent, I can’t be wasting this time- I have to put my expense report together” etc.

But meditation isn’t about following each and every demand of your monkey mind.

So what the heck IS meditation all about then? If meditation isn’t about saying ‘hey GET OUT!’ to your mind and your thoughts… And it’s not about saying ‘okay, yes sir!’ to your mind.. then..?

Meditation is about making friends with your monkey mind.

So what does your mind like and want? AND what do YOU want? These questions need to have the same answer…Because you don’t want to just give your mind what it wants while you miserably follow (i.e I have to miserably think the same depressing thoughts over and over beccause I have NO CHOICE BECAUSE THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENS UGHHHHHHH WHYYYYYYYY.)

But screaming at your mind to STOP THINKING STUPID THOUGHTS GODDAMMIT  JUST STOP IT STOP IT RIGHT NOW doesn’t work either. Your mind doesn’t like being yelled at or told to go away or to stop thinking- and it will sometimes royally disobey and do the exact opposite of what you’re screaming at it about.

So what does your mind like? It likes to have a job. “Without a job your monkey mind thinks it’s jobless and will soon become homeless” -Mingyur Rinpoche

Your mind is always active and wants a job. So when you give a job to your monkey mind, it’s a win-win situation. Your monkey mind is happy because it has a job, and you’re happy because you’re the boss. Your mind is your employee and you are the employer-not the other way around. And in this way, you’re free. You liberate yourself from the monkey mind.

So what does this mean????!!!

Meditation is giving your monkey mind a part- time job.

Just tell your monkey mind, “okay mind, we’re going to meditate, let’s do a job right now, let’s watch our breath.” or “let’s repeat these mantra words.” Don’t give your mind a full-time job…a few minutes a day of meditation is enough.

Also, don’t “punish” your mind if it doesn’t follow the ‘job’ all the time…just simply bring it back to it’s job. Your brain isn’t going to stop thinking just because you’re meditating, but when you give your mind a job and step back, you’ll be able to see those thoughts clearly and let them pass by. Mingyur Rinpoche says it best: In muddy water you can’t see anything, but in still water you can see all the fish swimming around.

So get still. And slowly, slowly, your mind WILL become more peaceful and pliable. And meditation really will bring you to a place where YOU are in charge and are friends with your mind…plus you may start to see some added benefits of newfound love, compassion, and clarity.

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30 Quotes About Being In Your Thirties – the Coloring Book!

When we first started this blog, I was trying to find awesome, inspiring quotes about being in your thirties, but most of the quotes that I found were negative or ended up making fun of being in your thirties.  There are enough of those, so I pored through all the quotes I found and picked out only the best, most motivational, and most interesting.

I put my favorite 30s quotes together in one of our first blog posts titled: 30 Quotes About the Thirties. It’s one of our most popular posts.

Lately, I’ve gotten into the process of making coloring books. So I’m very excited to announce that we made a coloring book with all of the 30 quotes from the blog post! I enjoy these quotes a lot (I hand picked them so I’m biased though) and find coloring to be relaxing and stress-reducing- so I especially enjoy coloring these quotes.

If you like coloring, and/or are trying to find a great birthday present for a friend or family member turning thirty-something, we hope you enjoy these thirties-themed coloring books! We’re excited to have made them for you!

Please share the thirties love and enjoy!

Here’s a link to the 30 Motivational Quotes About Being in Your Thirties Coloring Book on Amazon!

And here’s the Amazon link to the same 30 Motivational Quotes About Being in Your Thirties coloring book with a black background, if you’re into a more mysterious look.

 

Here are a few pages of 30s quotes images from the books. Enjoy!

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Are You One of the 9 to 11% of Americans Who…?

…would report feeling “daily worry and stress without a lot of happiness and enjoyment” in your life? Because according to the long-standing Gallup “U.S. Mood” Poll, 9 to 11 percent of Americans feel that way. Apparently and not surprisingly, the numbers were even higher immediately following the 2016 election, reaching a four-year high of 13.1%.

Personally, I fall into that depressing bucket now. But I’m also dealing with a lot of stress – fights with my boyfriend, anxiety about my career not moving forward fast enough (I’m 35), drinking too much to deal with the stress of uncertainty, and the general fear of Trump and losing access to Obamacare.

I used to be a lot more excited about life and my career in my twenties. The upside of the fact that I’m less happy now is that the happiness in my twenties made me somewhat dreamy and complacent, and so I wasn’t working as hard as I should have at my writing. Now, the fire is lit under my a** and I have been writing a ton more to deal with the anger at myself for not being further ahead.

While I don’t always experience daily stress and worries, because I do have amazing days where I feel recharged and refreshed, I do think I’d put myself in the 9 – 11% bucket of Americans who are struggling to find fulfillment.

So, what do you do if, like me, you realize that you would put yourself in that bucket?

Well, for me it’s all about testing variables to improve. Experimenting with your life. Making small changes and tweaks to see if you feel happier or more fulfilled from them.

Here are some things I’ve done and/or plan to do in the future:

  • Really analyzing my interactions with people to see if they uplift me
  • Trying natural anxiety relief supplements, like Omega 3 pills (heavy on the EPA and less on DHA)
  • Spending less time staring at my phone in public places
  • Writing EVERY DAY to push my career forward
  • Exercising at least once a week (wasn’t doing that before, d’oh!)

Would you put yourself in the 9-11% bucket, and if so, how do you plan to change it?

What the Heck are Fixed Index Annuities? (And are they a good idea for retirement?)

One of the ways I fall asleep at night is by reading nonfiction books. I like these books, don’t get me wrong, but they still don’t totally suck me in and keep me awake like fiction books sometimes do. Usually, as I’m in bed reading my nonfiction book of choice for a few minutes, my eyelids get heavy and I drift off. It’s a very effective, as well as instructive, bedtime routine.

For quite awhile, my nightly book of choice has been Tony Robbins’ Money, Master the Game. I’m a big Tony Robbins fan, as I enjoy his motivational talks and writings, and was extremely excited to see that he’d written a book on finance- one of my favorite topics.

I devoured a lot of the beginning of the book (which got me through quite a lot of bedtimes as the book is 638 pages long). I really enjoyed most of the way Tony Robbins was trying to make finance information accessible to everyone, and he even included interviews with finance experts I loved such as Jack Bogle from Vanguard. A bulk section of the book was concerned with savings accounts and starting a retirement account, as well as the magic of compound interest- I love these subjects. These are some basic money topics to me, but I enjoy being reminded, and many people don’t understand concepts such as compound interest, which Robbins makes easy.

However, somewhere in the last third of the book, I got lost. The subject of Fixed Index Annuities came up and stayed prominent for many, many pages. Robbins was touting how great annuities are, and how the right annuity would bring you retirement income for life. I was extremely confused and started thinking “how have I not heard anything about any kind of annuity from any finance blogger or writer or podcaster ever before?” I was baffled. For years, I’ve listened to the podcasts and read a few of the blogs and books of some quite entertaining and well-known finance professionals including Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Farnoosh Tohlrabi, J. Money, Shannon McLay, Ramit Sethi, Paula Pant, J.D Roth, and more. I couldn’t remember any of them ever suggesting, or even bringing up, annuities.

I actually reread the entire 638 page book (it’s a break from my other favorite bedtime book, The Elegant Universe), and once again attempted to understand Robbins’ take on fixed annuities, but to no avail.

In the back of my mind, I associate annuities with scams. But Tony Robbins was so convincing in his book, even talking about how variable annuities are the actual scams, and fixed annuities are the good ones. So I thought maybe I had missed something. And, in the interest of this blog, and for my own personal pleasure (I have some weird pleasures), I looked everything up, paying special attention to my favorite finance experts and finance news sites, including Forbes and Suze Orman, to see what they had to say.

Basically, without going into the extremely complex and intense detail, my hunch was right. Unbiased (i.e non-commission-based) finance professionals almost never recommend annuities- unless they’re still somehow trying to sell you something…like an annuity. There are very rare circumstances in which SOME annuities would kind of make sense, but those circumstances generally affect people in one of two categories:

  1. If you have an extremely high income and have maxed out both your 401k and IRA and want to try putting tax deferred money elsewhere.
  2. If you are extremely, incredibly risk averse and would rather have complete peace of mind that you will have some money while alive than a good rate of return. Because the odds are against you that you’ll have more money for yourself and for your beneficiaries (spouse, kids, etc) with an annuity than with any other retirement strategies (401ks, IRAs, Roth IRAs, etc).

Otherwise, low cost index funds in IRAs, Roth IRAs, and 401ks are significantly better retirement options, with much better rates of return and way lower fees.

Again, without going into numbingly complex details, the issues with most annuities include:

  • Most people selling them stand to make a major profit off of you, and may not inform you of the other retirement options you have. So there can be quite a bit of shadiness in the annuities business because of the high commissions paid out.
  • Your money is tied up for a very long time, and you will pay major fees if you try to take it out early! These fees can range from 10% up to 20%! So even if you purchase an annuity for $50,000 and in a month you change your mind, you can’t get that money back without getting hit with a ridiculous fee. About $5000 (10%) will already have been removed from your 50k as a commission fee to whoever sold you the annuity! Plus you’ll get hit with that major fee for early withdrawal, so your $50,000 can possibly become only $38,000 in the span of only one month!
  • If you die early, your beneficiaries can get absolutely nothing! The one major benefit of most annuities is a guaranteed monthly income for life, until you die. So if you live a VERY long time, you may somewhat benefit from an annuity. But an annuity is actually a life insurance product, and the companies are banking on you dying earlier rather than later- because if you die early, in most situations, the rest of your payout is their’s to keep! And even if you find an annuity that leaves your money to your beneficiaries (which will of course be pricier to begin with), the beneficiaries will have to pay taxes on all of the interest your money made! So if your original 50K grew to 150K, your beneficiaries will have to pay taxes on the difference- that means paying taxes on the 100K difference!! That’s a huge tax bill!

So, I’m sticking with my classic retirement strategy- the Roth IRA, filled with low cost index funds from Vanguard. I write about Roth IRAs and how to set one up here.  And although I enjoy Tony Robbins’ advice and greatly respect him, I’m not planning on taking any of his advice on annuities.

If you want more information on annuities, here are some of my sources for this article:

The Motley Fool annuity advice

Suze Orman explains annuities

Time Magazine’s advice about annuities

Forbes talks in detail about annuities

Get Rich Slowly shares annuity knowledge

As always, feel free to ask me any questions. I’m just learning about this topic myself, so I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thanks!

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