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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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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What Are Some of the Smallest Baby Step Lifestyle Changes You’ve Made in Your Thirties?

It’s amazing how habits take shape and slowly, incrementally change the structure of our lives. I feel like it’s usually not the big, sweeping ‘grand decisions’ made in bold statements that change our lives (ie most New Years Resolutions, most “I’ll never drink again!” statements, most “no more sugar for life” proclamations, etc), but actually the small changes made in private moments and repeated again and again that actually make a major long term impact.

In the past year, I’ve made a few changes- most of them arbitrarily or unpremeditated. But these particular changes have slowly but surely changed my everyday patterns of thinking and feeling. Here’s a list of the ones the made the biggest impact.

1. Deleting the Facebook app from my phone- I did this in a moment of pain and anguish on election night back in November. I mean, you get it. But I never put the app back, and that in turn has me going on Facebook a whole lot less. Which in turn frees up a lot of my time. Which also in turn really tones down a bad habit I have of comparing myself to others. I still go onto Facebook and read stuff and post things, but the amount of time I spend on the site has decreased immeasurably. Results of deleting Facebook app on my phone: I feel happier and have more time. And I still have Facebook so I don’t even feel any weird “I deleted my profile feel sorry for me” stress or Fear Of Missing Out.

2. Starting to make green smoothies full of vegetables – I’ve made green smoothies on and off for a few years now, but it’s only recently that I followed nutritionist Kimberly Snyder’s basic recipe for her diet staple: the Glowing Green Smoothie. This smoothie is made up of all vegetables with the inclusion of an apple, almond milk or water, and some stevia. She includes a bit more fruit but I’d rather eat that fruit separately. This smoothie is the equivalent of having something like three or four salads before lunch, without all that annoying chewing. The ingredients of my smoothie, if you want to try it, are a head of romaine, either a bunch of celery or a large cucumber, a handful or two of spinach leaves, a handful of cilantro, an apple, half a lemon, stevia to taste, ice, and a bunch of almond milk or water. Results: I put a TON of nutrients in my body before I have time to think about anything or eat a bunch of nonsense food. Therefore my mind feels clearer and my body feels happy.

3. Tracking my spending- I wrote about this in the post How Tracking Money is Like Weighing Yourself and then again in The Anti-Budget Budget In Your Thirties. I began using the app Goodbudget to track each and every dollar I’ve spent. I started this back in June, and it was very painful. I didn’t want to track every dollar because I felt like I knew where every dollar went already, and the whole thing felt tedious and filled me with guilt whenever I spent a penny. However, after about a month and a half it all got a lot smoother and easier. I realized exactly where my money was going each month and that small purchases really add up to way more than I thought. I swear I’ve saved a ton of money simply by writing down my expenditures- because I think about where my money’s going every time I spend it. And I feel more accountable for a purchase if I know I have to write it down and it goes into my monthly total.

All of these small activities have added up to big change in my life. Are there any small changes you’d like to start or have recently begun? Don’t worry about those big, scary changes- concentrate on a little tiny change every day, or even every other day. Don’t underestimate what seem like small tweaks- they add up.

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Lessons From a Fever in Your Thirties

I was traveling for work for the last 25 days, and for most of that time I was well- physically at least. Mentally, I was exhausted at times, from both the amount of travel and the sheer magnitude of people and bustle and noise constantly surrounding me at most shows.

But the mental and the physical are intertwined, and during the last week of my travel, I developed a fever while working in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s funny how illnesses sometimes sneak up on you, and my weakening muscles deceived me into thinking that I had always felt so unsteady. I tried to furtively stretch while still on the work floor, but every tendon in my body ached, and it felt more agonizing by the minute to simply stand up, never mind give infinite presentations and answer the slew of questions coming at me. Plus, my stomach was wrestling with my mind as well- telling me it was utterly starving one minute and then agonizingly full the next- right after I’d eaten only 3 bites of something.

My coworkers said I had The Cleve- a mythological disease known to strike first-timers to the Cleveland area we were in: the airport area of despair. You see, almost everyone who’d worked this particular show fell deathly ill at some point at least one of the years they’d worked it. Why? Who knows. The lighting is yellow and dim- sort of despairing. The convention center used to be a military facility, if that adds anything. I googled whether there was something up with the water supply in the area but my search returned nothing. No offense to any of you who may be from/live in Cleveland. The downtown area seemed awesome, but alas we weren’t ever near there.

Somehow I made it to the end of the work day that day, and with the help of lots of zinc and rest that night was able to make it back to work the next day (sick days are unheard of in my field during a show). Even though my muscles ached less and my stomach was slowly starting to unclench, I ended up taking it extra easy on myself for the remainder of the show…and even into this week. I probably should always be taking care of myself so thoroughly, if not more so.

This week -and last- I put myself to bed earlier and sleep in when I can. I eat and chew extra slowly in case my stomach turns on me. I lie in bed and bask in the sheer bliss of a few moments of extra meditation. Sometimes I’m not even meditating- just staring at the ceiling, feeling smooth sheets underneath me. I drink less- well, I drank less last week anyway. We had a Cleveland bowling onesie costume party one night, and somehow I got through that without touching a sip of alcohol. I allowed myself to go very slow as I packed for the next trip. I ran outside extra carefully this week. I spent a few lovely  moments staring out of the airplane window or watching a movie as opposed to trying to accomplish tasks. I let myself breathe. I give myself room.

And as I do, I feel healthier, but I also feel more loved. I’m taking care of myself as if I love myself and as if I’m treasured. And as I do that, all of those things are true to me.

But you don’t need to be sick to treat yourself with love.

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How to Exercise More Easily in Your Thirties (Or The Things That Don’t Have Labels)

I was never that into exercise classes, or into any kind of collaborative workouts, really. But yoga classes and Pilates classes and Urban Rebounding (aka trampoline classes) sound so cool. Theoretically, workout classes seem like a great idea to me, but I never actually go. Well, it’s rare. Even when classes sound cool, it’s super rare that I can commit to being at a specific class at a specific time. Maybe it’s that certain rebellious streak running through me. Honestly, when I exercise, I just want to be alone.

Running and strength training became two of my favorite exercises around sophomore year of college, when I realized that I really liked the gym when I had headphones on. Before college, the idea of avoiding sports at all costs very much appealed to me, and I had lumped the gym in with ESPN and dodgeball. But running is a solitary sport, and no one can hold me accountable if I don’t run more than a mile (except self-critical me). And strength training is another loner activity most of the time, where I can lift as heavy or as light as I want and people mainly leave me alone save for the occasional ” here’s how to lift better!”

Both running and strength training are very mainstream, acceptable forms of exercises to do, even if not at the gym. But sometimes I don’t feel like going outside and running, or outside to the gym (my gym is 11 blocks away), so I do a “home workout.” These workouts usually consist of body weight strength training exercises (i.e lunges, squats, pushups) and the equivalent of half an hour of jumping jacks spaced out in intervals. When I get into a conversation with someone about working out, and I tell them I didn’t go to the gym today but instead did a “home workout, which includes a lot of jumping jacks,” people usually kind of snicker. Jumping jacks seem to be a weirdly unacceptable exercise to do. They are part of an unlabeled and non-mainstream exercise program that I made up. But that’s okay- it works for me.

Sometimes I feel too tired or too pressed for time to even do my home workout. For awhile, during one or two of the most exhausting auto shows I worked, where I was standing on a hard floor for 9 hours in heels all day, I would solely do my ‘5 minute workout’ every night before bed. All this workout consisted of was a bunch of different ab exercises (sit up variations), and a bunch of push-ups. Sometimes on super-motivated nights, I’d actually do this workout for 10 minutes instead of 5. This may sound like only a little bit of time, but the differences were notable to me. I felt better. And then eventually I’d go back to the gym and run and do hour long home workouts and get back to my irregularly scheduled program.

I guess the main thing about exercise in your thirties, or anytime really, is to do what works for you. I prioritize wanting to go back and work out again, and be consistent with exercising multiple times, so it’s important for me not to hate my workouts and feel like they’re too hard. They just need to be hard enough…or sometimes they just need to be easy. I try to stay kind to myself.

Once I’m actually working out, I find it easier to continue working out. The hardest part is usually starting- which is, coincidentally, the hardest part of doing anything.

And some days I just stretch…I put on music and stretch everything that hurts, and then I make up stretches that have no labels and that I have never done before, or maybe I have once but I’ve forgotten them. All I know is that it helps to let your preferences lead the way. Tell your body: ‘Remember, this is good- this is your favorite. This will be an easy one. We’ve got this.’

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Help! Something is Broken and I Can’t Fix It In My 30’s

Sometimes there’s an easy answer to what’s broken in your life.

The other day I realized my blender was leaking. Gooey green smoothie liquid ran down my wooden countertop and spilled onto the floor. When I lifted my blender jar, I realized that the smoothie was coming directly out of the bottom of the blender and then getting everywhere. I didn’t know what to do, and I had no one around to ask for recommendations. So I googled.

There were a lot of answers to my blender question, but they all required me unscrewing the bottom piece of the blender jar. Alas, for the life of me I couldn’t remove that bottom piece. The sticky sugars from the fruit in the smoothies had gotten it completely stuck. I tried using every ounce of my arm strength, and even used my handy rubber jar opener, but nothing worked.

For this new issue, there were even more Google answers. “Go to the hardware store and grab a wrench,” someone said. “Unscrew your blender jar with the wrench and then put the wrench back on the shelf.”

“It’s even easier than that,” someone else chimed in to the above responder’s comment, “wedge your blender in a doorjam, and hold it tight with the door as you unscrew. But don’t put too much pressure or you’ll crack it.”

That sounded complex.

“Just put your blender jar back in it’s base and turn the jar counterclockwise,” someone else responded, “and voila.”

Voila indeed. I decided to follow that last direction it took me all of 2 seconds and zero effort to unscrew my blender and fix the problem. So easy! My god, what if I had gone all the way to frigging Home Depot to borrow a wrench???!

And the whole blender debacle reminded me of other ceaseless issues that I suddenly solved in seconds. For years it took me almost 20 minutes at a time to pull the damn cap off of my travel contact lens fluid container in order to refill it. I macguyvered my tweezers and my nail file into a tool to jimmy that awful cap off, and even then I usually broke a few nails doing so. For years I hated this task, sometimes just spending lots of money buying new containers of travel contact lens fluid in order to avoid the hassle of refilling my old one.

But then one day I randomly googled “how to remove your contact lens solution cap” and this Youtube video came up entitled: “How to Refill Travel Sized Contact Lens Solution.” It solved all my travel solution problems. You just yank the cap off when it’s open in one fell swoop. Once I figured out that trick, it took me about 5 painless seconds to complete a task that used to take me a full twenty minutes of pain every time.

It’s funny how many broken or painfully annoying things may have easier solutions than we think. By our thirties, a lot of habits have been formed, both good and bad, and sometimes we need to find easier habits than we currently know. An easy, life-changing answer to an everyday annoyance might just be a google away.

On a related note for 30-somethings, what in the world would we do without the internet??

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Can I Put All My Debt on a Zero Interest Credit Card?

The other day a friend of mine was inquiring about paying off credit card debt using a zero interest credit card.

She had moved all of her debt from a high interest credit card to a zero interest credit card and had completely paid off that debt very quickly, which was awesome.  She had two other high interest cards and asked me if she should move the debt from those over to the same zero interest card or if she should open a new zero interest credit card. I had to pause a bit before I considered the answer.

First things first.

A zero interest credit card is a credit card that has zero interest for a certain amount of time, after which the interest rate spikes up, usually higher than a ‘regular’ credit card. If you’re really diligent about paying off a zero interest credit card quickly, you can pay it off before the high interest rate kicks in.

I wrote about these types of cards before in my post: Is a 0% Interest Credit Card Just a Blatant Lie In a Pretty Package?

Zero interest credit cards have their pros and cons, and both are pretty simple. In a nutshell:

Pro: You can pay off debt quicker when you have no interest gathering on the debt while it’s on a zero percent interest credit card.

Con: If you don’t pay off your debt fast enough on aforementioned card, you’ll have a hell of a LOT of interest gathering on that debt. 

So, let’s back to my friend’s question about whether or not she should move multiple balances to the same zero interest card. Here are the facts:

  1. My friend had 3 high interest cards she needed to pay off
  2. She had one zero interest credit card
  3. She had already moved two high interest cards onto the zero interest card and had paid off one card’s debt already. 
  4. In May, the zero interest would turn to VERY HIGH interest, probably around 20+ percent, which is awful. 
  5. She still hadn’t moved the third debt and was wondering if she should move it to the zero percent card or open up a new zero percent card for that last debt.

Here’s my answer, with additional questions, in 3 parts:

  1. Can you beat the balance transfer fee? Some zero percent interest cards have a 3 percent balance transfer fee. If your zero interest card has this fee, you have to calculate whether that 3% is less or more than the interest you will end up paying on the original card before your debt is paid off. For example, if you have $1000 in debt on a card and move it to a zero percent interest card with a 3% balance transfer fee, you’d have to pay $30 to transfer the debt. If you would end up paying less than $30 in interest on the original card before you paid off the $1000, it wouldn’t be worth it. If you had a zero percent interest card with no transfer fee (they do exist), you’re fine and wouldn’t have to make this calculation. If
  2. Can you pay off the second AND third debt by the time the zero percent interest expires? In this case, if she could pay off all debts before May, her interest rate would stay at zero percent and she would get all the pros out of the card with none of the cons.
  3. Can you put all the debt from various, different cards, on one zero percent card?  This was a question I had to ask myself, and then had to google. I wasn’t sure how things worked with putting multiple debts on one zero percent card. Turns out it’s fine. It’s equally fine to put the debts on different zero percent credit cards (you can open multiple at the same time, depending on your credit score and approval, of course.)

One last MAJOR note: Don’t close the original card after the transfer, unless it has an annual fee that you don’t want to pay. Closing older credit cards hurts your credit score. 

So my friend was able to get all her debt from 3 cards on one zero percent credit card, and is on track to pay everything of by May before the interest goes up. This will save her tons of money in interest in the long run.

Hope this helps you guys understand zero percent credit cards a little better, and wasn’t too complicated. If used wisely, AND QUICKLY, zero percent interest cards can be a great tool to help get you out of debt.

 

 

The Beautiful Holidays of Your Thirties

No matter what holidays you celebrate, or where you are right now, I want to take a moment to wish you a happy holiday season and thank you for being here with us. Holidays have meant even more to me in my thirties than they ever have before, because I’m simply so appreciative of the time I get to spend with my friends and family and loved ones. I feel lucky that the holidays are a time when I get to come home, and when the ones I care about are home with me as well.

More than ever, I appreciate the time I have with people who matter to me, and I realize more and more that life is short but beautiful because of the amazing people in my life.

So for a moment let’s slow down the fast paced work clock that ticks constantly at our heels, and allow ourselves to enjoy what we know really matters. Have a wonderful season, enjoy what matters to you in your heart, and lets bring the holidays into our lives as much as we can all year round.

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Charity In Your Thirties

Ten years ago, I saw a movie about Guantanamo Bay that completely incensed me. It was called “The Road To Guantanamo” and it was based on a true story about three Muslims from England who were captured by the US while on their way to wedding in Pakistan. They were mistaken for members of the Taliban and were sent to Guantanamo Bay and tortured for two years. Afterwards they were released without any charges. I was beside myself with outrage and disbelief during and after the film. How did this happen? How could we not know about this?

Then, after a few days, the movie faded from my consciousness. It was never completely gone, and although I still remember my response to it 10 years later, I also remember how helpless I felt to do anything against injustice like that. I told a few people about the movie, but that was it. I don’t even know if they watched it.

Right now, I’m having a similar devastated and equally unuseful feeling in my heart in response to what’s happening in Aleppo, Syria. Reading about children that are being ruthlessly shot on the streets, along with gunned down innocent men and women of all ages, while Syrian citizens reach out for help and to say goodbye on social media channels is horrific to the point that it doesn’t feel real.

The sad truth about what’s happening in Syria is that it’s awful on such a tremendous level that it’s hard to grasp. In Western Aleppo, 70 percent of buildings have been destroyed. Social media messages are going out stating truths that are too horrifying to fathom.

“Abdulla Saleem, 39, a doctor who is living in the bombed out remains of a building, said via WhatsApp, “They are killing everyone. … My friends are doctors, who were providing the only possible medical care to the injured. Now they are butchered. Everyone is dying. I will soon die, too.”

“Where are our supporters?” asked Radhwan Salem, 60. “Believers in humanity, I don’t understand how can the entire world watch this and do nothing. Oh, God, help us.”

As part of the world that is watching, what can I do? What can we do? I received an email recently from Marie Forleo about how horrified she and many other bloggers, authors, and activists including Glennon Doyle Melton, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Brene Brown, Rob Bell and more are feeling about the atrocities in Aleppo. She mentioned how she and they had joined forces with a group called The Compassion Collective. The group has a specific action plan in place to help the citizens in Aleppo:

  • We’re going to purchase and fully equip two ambulances with medicine and medical supplies for 6 months, and enable The White Helmets– 100% VOLUNTEERS- to rescue children and vulnerable people trapped in the rubble;

  • We’ll equip the mobile hospital — which is arriving in Aleppo on Christmas Day — with medicine and supplies for serving the injured;

  • We’re going to help Independent Doctor’s Association fund the planning of the first pediatric hospital in the region; and

  • We’re going to continue to fund the work of the Help Refugees volunteer network devoted to delivering people to safety.

I immediately donated what little I could to the Compassion Collective’s cause, and I shared the information I received from Marie on my Facebook. Hopefully this blogpost will inform you guys about some ways that you can help aid efforts in Aleppo. Don’t feel useless, and don’t think you can’t do anything. Even if you can’t donate any money, which I absolutely understand, simply sharing information  on your social media networks about the Compassion Collective or The White Helmets is helpful. Here are some tweets that are being shared- feel free to copy and repost:

If we’re truly committed to a more loving and just world, we must ACT. http://bit.ly/2hCoOiz @MarieForleo @GilbertLiz @Momastery #Aleppo

 The healing of the world is in our hands. http://bit.ly/2hCoOiz @MarieForleo @GilbertLiz @Momastery @CherylStrayed @BreneBrown #Aleppo

You can also share this article about what anyone can do to help in Syria no matter where they live: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-help-aleppo-syria-what-charities-to-donate-to-2016-12/#contact-your-lawmakers-4

And if you’d like to donate to the Compassion Collective you can Donate directly using this link. 100% of funds received will go directly to aid in Aleppo.

Thanks so much for reading and for being caring and compassionate.

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Syria in 2010

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Syria now

The Feeling of Being In Your Body In Your Thirties

Maybe it’s the meditation. I’ve been practicing for almost two years now so perhaps changes are happening that I don’t even realize. But sometimes, suddenly, in the middle of the day, or late at night, I’m suddenly very aware of the way I’m holding my stomach. My breathe is so shallow it barely reaches below my shoulders, and I’m walking around with an extreme amount of tension. And sometimes, suddenly, I let it all out. Do you ever feel like that?

Do you ever feel, suddenly, amazed to be in your body? I feel like this especially after recovering from being ill or from being hurt in some way- that’s the easiest time to feel it. If you’ve ever had a headache for forever, you might know the grateful feeling after the pain is gone. If you’ve twisted an ankle, or injured your knee, the sudden happiness that comes over you when you start to walk and feel better can be akin to nirvana.

But sometimes I feel this way randomly, without warning. I feel the walls of my apartment- bumpy on my fingertips, the wood floor underneath my feet-cold and indented.  Sometimes when I’m outside I feel a nervous pang as I let my stomach go, realizing I’ve been holding it in for awhile. And then I feel my breathe rush deeply into my entire ribcage.

It’s kind of fascinating and strangely new to feel my body, even though it’s always been there. I’ve already had 32 years with my warm shoulders, my darting eyes, my bony feet. Yet it’s taken this long to scratch the surface of unfurling my numb senses and letting myself be.

Does any of this sound familiar to you guys? Do you also feel you’ve just scratched the surface of “being aware of what your body feels like” or does that not sound familiar? Are these sensations important to you? Have you been working on becoming aware of how you feel in the moment? It’s one of those things that was never a priority for me before, so I’m wondering how others feel about it. Do you feel like awareness is something that’s come to the surface more in your thirties? I definitely do…I wonder if it’s because in our twenties we’re way more consumed outward appearances to others and not nearly as concerned with how we feel within ourselves…

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Unpacking After a Trip In Your Thirties

I just red eyed home after a thirty day work stint in New Orleans, LA, and San Francisco. I feel like the great warm state of California and the incredible city of New Orleans should have left me feeling refreshed but instead I feel in need of a break. A home break, not a travel break.

When I get back to New York after a work trip, I always feel excited and relieved. But I feel especially excited and relieved during the holidays, in December, when my little studio apartment feels like a box of love and light.

This morning, my body kind of ached to stay in my apartment and do nothing. The want was strong for money to just flow to me so I don’t need to travel for it anymore. My unpacked suitcase looked so neat in the corner of my home- I usually unpack right away, but this time I left my bag and slept.

I lit a candle tonight as I unpacked. I removed my items slowly and mechanically from their balled up state. I moved slowly through the evening, my body heavy. I wasted a lot of time attempting to bake a lone sweet potato that didn’t cook through. So I made a mess of things attempting to mash it. This sums up my time in my little bachelorette apartment. The remains of my laundry stayed on the floor as I shoveled sweet potato in my mouth and rushed out the door to see a play.

The evening is cold and bright. Holiday lights sparkle on balconies. My winter boots and puffy jacket are wrinkled from summer storage but they’re so warm and feel so good. I wonder where I put my winter hats.

There’s a lot to do and I need a break. There’s a lot of work ahead. Some good work. And a lot of people ahead. All good. A lot of holidays ahead. And I feel relieved. I feel overwhelmed. I feel dazzled. I feel distinctly New York.

And I have unpacked. I am home. This is what melancholy is to me. And I’m filled with surrender. Im filled with joy.

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That Funny Horrible Feeling In Your Thirties

I know I’m not supposed to write this- I’ve been on an extreme fast from negative information that’ll get me down lately. The negativity has been hard to avoid, but I’ve fastidiously stayed away from news sources and Facebook for the last 3 days. So I don’t really want to contribute to the negative information. I don’t really want to rant here. And I definitely don’t want to fight with anyone. But I’m writing. Something about it.

The other night was awful. Tuesday night. November 8th. It was a shocker that filled me with dread and terror. And disbelief. It’s hard to forget that moment of total disbelief.  I couldn’t really sleep Wednesday night, even though I went through my stages of grief during the day- anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance?- and felt on and off better and talked to good people and went for a nice run and meditated for a lot of the day and listened to some of my favorite positive sources like Esther Hicks talks. I read wonderful, helpful articles like It’s Going To Be Okay by Tim Urban of Wait But Why. I attempted to understand the almost 50 percent of Americans who don’t see things the way I do- well, don’t see this outcome the way I do. In reality, there are definitely way more than 50 percent of Americans who don’t see things the way I do. But I’d always felt like that was okay because it didn’t affect me. This does.

What can I do? I don’t know exactly. I attempt even harder to have compassion for everyone. To find anything I can that is good. I continue to seek goodness where it may be- which I know, deep down, is all over. And to do this, right now I know I must stay centered. Even if I have to close my eyes to do so. Right now, anyway.

I read an article once by Danielle LaPorte, where she was writing about how she went to India to meet the Dalai Lama. Right before she got some monks were brutally murdered…by other monks. It was just an awful tragedy- horrible. She was shaken by it and offered the Dalai Lama her condolences when she got there. What she wrote about his reply and how she felt about it still sticks with me. I think of it now:

“Ah, yes, thank you for your thoughts,” he said. “This is why we practice, for times like these when compassion is so necessary.” He didn’t nod in mutual disdain. He didn’t show any drama. He was soft and…practical.

This is why we practice.

For times like these.

You don’t need to forgive until you need to forgive. You don’t need nerves of steel until you need nerves of steel. You don’t need to call on your reserves of compassion, or fortitude, or faith until you’ve used up everything else.

When we’re healthy and happy we make sure to dance, we hit the court, we pick up the phone to check in, we drop by with something in hand…

We keep standing up to make our art even when we could be predictable pedestrians.

Because the day will most certainly come…that you will be struck down or ground down by life. It can come in tiny tearing heartbreaks five times a day, just walking through your neighborhood. It could come in the name of tragedy that could only happen once in a lifetime.

And you will need to withdraw the insights that you put into your heart’s escrow. And you will need to call on your people— the unseen and the ones right in front of you — to help you meet the day.

You will be interrupted.

You will be called on to expand. 

You will be asked who you are and why you are here.”

So I look for the insights in my hearts escrow. I continue to search for answers. I continue to not know. I continue to hold compassion. And, every day, I continue to practice.

 

 

How to Find the Right Temperature In Your Thirties

New Orleans always finds me in deep thought. I’ve written about this place before. There’s just something about this city that puts me in a deep space of introspection and rawness. Perhaps it’s the old south feel of the city, or the voodoo that’s still practiced as a religion here and there and around the corners of Louisiana. It could be the fact that New Orleans feels full of history and dancing, boozy ghosts (or at least I always like to think of them as dancing and boozy because scary ghosts scare me and are not invited into my space or my blog.)

I was in the shower tonight after a day of work in New Orleans and the water turned freezing cold. Then I turned the nozzle completely the other direction and the water got hot for a second and then cold again. Then I turned the nozzle up north and everything got colder but then burning. I looked closer through my contact lens-less vision at the nozzle and realized that the hot and cold signs were broken and spinning- or actually, they were on a spinning circle that wasn’t stuck to the wall. So knowing which direction was hot and which way was cold was a matter of feeling things out. And to make matters harder, the nozzle would spin infinitely in both directions, turning the water off and then on again without hitting any kind of foreseeable end point.

Eventually I let the nozzle go at the burning hot temperature I liked, and kept things that way, but I started wondering about all of us finding the temperatures we like in life. Perhaps we’ll  be told what direction to go, and try to follow that, but it won’t feel right. Eventually, looking closer through blurry vision, we can realize that something is off. Then we might follow an opposite directional indicator and just as soon realize that way is broken too. We may give up at this point, but if we just feel things out a little more, we might be close to finding what works for us…without shutting the whole thing down.Or, even more amazingly, we’ll continue beyond shutting it all down.

Because if you try long enough, you’ll shut things all down and turn them back on again numerous times before you get to where you want to be.

Just some deep Louisiana thought for the night. Hope it helps you keep on feeling things out.

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Will Male Birth Control Become a Thing In Your Thirties?

Let’s face it- the thirties are a time when we think about babies. If you haven’t had babies yet and want some, you might be thinking, ‘hmm, how old is too old to have babies?’ or ‘when can we get started?’ or ‘when will I find someone to get started with me?’ If you don’t want babies, you may be thinking, ‘wow, all my friends are having babies- how do I hide everyone I know on Facebook?’ or ‘what would happen if I accidentally had a baby? Would it ruin me financially?’ or ‘what’s the best way to stop from ever possibly having a baby? (Besides abstinence, duh).’

Whether you’re female or male, and whether you want kids or not, babies seem to pop up all around you during your thirties. I bet you have at least one friend who recently had a baby and at least 5 Facebook friends who are posting pictures of their little ones right now (I probably have at least 30 proud new parent Facebook friends…and no, I don’t mind. If any of you are reading this, I like it, seriously, post away).

If you’re female and don’t want to have kids- at least at the moment, there are many types of birth control options, including a pill that you annoyingly have to remember to take at the same time every day. This pill, a popular form of birth control, puts the responsibility of avoiding pregnancy squarely on the woman. The same can be said of BC options such as IUDs and Nuvarings, and patches and the like. But soon there might be another option.

I was reading an article just yesterday about a male birth control study done with human males (as opposed to mice males in the past), that used a new form of male birth control in the form of an injection. The injection was given to the males at set 8 week intervals for a certain amount of time, and after a few months, couples relied solely on the injections for birth control. The subjects were followed for about a year, and in that time about 2 in 100 women got pregnant. With regular, correct and careful use of condoms, about 3-5 out of 100 women will get pregnant, so the male birth control injections in this study have proven to be more effective birth control than condoms.

The problems the researchers are still dealing with are the side effects of the injections- some males complained of acne and mild depression…although female birth control methods like the pill can also have side effects- including crazy mood swings and weight gain- and those are out on the market anyway! 75% of the males in the study said they’d continue to use the method despite the side effects, so that’s promising, at least. And it’s nice to know the guys are into it.

As of now, there are bound to be many more studies before this form of male birth control will actually be out and useable. So maybe we won’t all still be in our thirties by then. But technology moves fast and I’m optimistic- so who knows?

If you’re a male reading this, would you take male birth control? Why or why not? If you’re female, do you feel like the burden of birth control rests too squarely on the woman? Or are you perfectly happy to be in charge of birth control?

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