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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Women In Their 30s Now Having More Babies Than Women in Their 20s

For the first time in over three decades in the US, women in their 30s are having more babies than women in their 20s.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data last Wednesday that the birth rate among women aged 30 to 34 last year was slightly higher than that of women aged 25 to 29. Also according to the data, women are having their first child at age 28 on average. Consider that in 2014, the average age for women having their first child was 26.3 according to the CDC. That seems like a pretty high jump in age to me, considering it’s been only 3 years since 2014!

Experts say that the change is partially due to a reduction in teen pregnancy rates. But that’s only part of the story. A lot of women, including myself, feel it’s okay to have children later. I’m 35, and I want children and haven’t had them yet. I don’t feel societal pressure to have children, only biological. And even that biological pressure is somewhat tempered by knowing many women who have had babies over 40, and the fertility options that new technology brings. I’ve definitely calmed down a bit more in the past year or so, because I know I’m just not ready yet and that it’s better to feel that I have the right partner and financial situation to raise a child than to ‘just do it.’

But, for my own peace of mind, I’ll be making an appointment for fertility diagnostic testing at USC.

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