A letter to myself

Have you ever written a letter to yourself? I’ve done it once before. It was the summer after I graduated high school and I was tasked with writing a letter to myself. I was told I would receive the letter in the mail six months later. I could write about anything I wanted. Sure enough, right around Christmas time, my letter was in the mailbox waiting for me. Here’s  a copy of that letter….

Dear Ninja,

I hope you are enjoying college in San Diego. I also hope you are playing lots of tennis and meeting a ton of sweet people, and by sweet people I mean a ton of girls. I also hope that you have at least surfed once by now. Do you miss home at all? Are you still going to church? Are you living a life that you will be proud of 20 years from now? I know that you will be making good decisions, ’cause if you aren’t I’m going to have to come hunt you down and kill you.

Much Love,

Ninja.

p.s. you are sexy

Being that I was a recent high school graduate, I thought the exercise was a little cheesy and didn’t really take it too seriously. My letter lacks true substance and direction. I jotted down a few sentences without putting much thought in to what I was writing.

Yes, my douche-baggery prevented this letter from living up to it’s full potential, but, being the mature ninja I am today (I know I’m not really that mature), I’ve decided it’s time to give this exercise a second chance.

Here’s my plan…

Tonight, I will write a letter to my 10-years-from-now future self and will post it on my blog tomorrow. My only rule is that I actually put some thought in to the letter this time.

It would be awesome if at least a few of you fellow PFers followed suit and wrote to your future selves. It’s an easy and efficient way to share with your readers, not only what is important to you today, but what you hope is important to you 10 years from now. I don’t care if you link back to my article or not. This isn’t about self promotion, it’s about taking a little time to reflect on how far we have come, and how much further we would like to go.

What do you say? Are you in? (if not I’ll feel like a total tool, but that’s okay I guess)

Delay Gratification or Die!

“But mom, I want it now!” Do you remember uttering those words as a kid? I sure do. They were usually followed by a swift backhand to the face delivered by Mom Ninja. While I use to think she just got a sick pleasure out of smacking me, I realized she was actually teaching me an important life lesson: Just because I wanted something right then and there, didn’t mean I’d get it. She was teaching me to delay my urge to “want”.

I don’t think that we have to delay gratification in all aspects of life. If you are hungry, you should probably eat. If you feel fat because you just ate, you should probably run. If you feel tired because you went running, you should probably take a nap. See there are times when immediate gratification pays off, but there are also times when waiting pays back ten fold.

Here are a few areas of my life that I have committed to delay gratification…

Retirement:

Each month I put $674 dollars in to retirement for future me to enjoy. While it would be totally awesome to spend that money on a ton of frivolous expenses now, I decide not to. I have tamed my desire to accumulate stuff, and replaced it with a commitment to providing for my future self and family. I know that contributing to retirement will benefit me far more than wasteful spending ever can. I do my best to live a disciplined life, especially when it comes to securing my future.

Love:

I’ve always taken love seriously. I knew it was something greater than a word. I knew I could not just go around telling every girlfriend I’ve had that I love them. It wasn’t until I met Girl Ninja that I was ready to love someone. I’m glad to say she is the first, and the last, woman I will ever love. (Side note: I am Girl Ninja’s only boyfriend and her first kiss….isn’t that precious!) We made some decisions early in our relationship to delay the immediate benefits of being in love. We did not want to move in together or participate in “adult” activities until we were married. We have both delayed our desire to combine our lives because we believe that our upcoming marriage will be stronger because of our patience. That’s not to say couples that haven’t “waited” suck at delaying gratification or will have a less satisfactory relationship ’cause I don’t think they will. Girl Ninja and I are just weird and have different views…okay?

Peanut Butter and Jelly:

Yeah that’s right. I delay my gratification when it comes to eating a PB&J. We all know the crust is the worst part of a sandwich right? It’s dry, discolored, and doesn’t really provide much benefit to my eating experience. It’s for this reason that I eat the crust first. I get the hard part done so every progressive bite gets that much more tasty. It all comes to a rising climax as I get to the last bite. The best bite. The center of the sandwich. There’s something about the middle of a sandwich that is heavenly. It’s as if god reveals himself to us all through that delicious last bite. Every time I eat a PB&J, I make sure to eat around the edges so I can save the best part for last. Here’s a picture of my sammich from last night…

Discipline is what separates the strong from the weak, the rich from the poor, the smart from the stupid. Maturity is often defined by the willingness to delay gratification. Does your personal and financial life reflect maturity? I sure hope it does!

What are some areas of your life where you have chosen to “wait”? Have you ever delayed gratification for something and wish that you hadn’t? Why do you think so many people struggle with this concept? Is it clever advertising? Media? Jealousy? Do all cultures struggle with this, or is it an American thing?

p.s. on an unrelated note, if you didn’t catch it when I twittered this, check out the funniest Yahoo question ever asked, followed by an even funnier response…

Happy weekend all. Don’t get too crazy 🙂

Financial Puberty

It was 5th grade. I was a young ninja about to embark on an epic journey. A journey in to the unknown. A journey in to the land of cracking voices, armpit hair, and a world where girls towered over their male classmates. That’s right, it was a journey through puberty.

I was 10 years old. Sitting in sex education, with a bunch of 5th grade boys, when my teacher uttered a word I never thought I would hear him say. He said “Class, we are all a bunch of mature men right? Well being that we are all mature I’m going to say a word, and when I say that word I expect each of you to act like adults. Today, we are going to talk about a man’s penis.”

Whoa, hold the phone! Did my teacher really just say the P word!? Surely he didn’t mean to say that….did he? Turns out he did. Not only did he use the P word about a bajillion more times, but we also watched movies, read textbooks, and had discussions about a whole slew of things I knew nothing about…

“Wait, what? What happens to girls every month? Ewwwww.”

The whole idea of puberty, adjusting, and changing was brand spankin’ new to me and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been privy to any of this knowledge before. Fifth grade sex education was my wake up call to adulthood.

Well just like I had an “awakening” to the physical changes I would endure over the course of my life, I have also had a financial awakening. That’s right, I’m going through financial puberty right now and I’m proud to admit it.

All through high school and college I knew nothing about money, nor did I have a desire to learn about it. Sadly, I graduated college not even knowing how to transfer money from my savings account to my checking account. I was financially prepubescent.

But just like I went through sex education in 5th grade, my day of financial education also came. It was after a conversation with a good buddy of mine. He opened my eyes to the beauty of money management, the power of compound interest, and the importance of saving. I began financial puberty in late 2007.

I’m not fully developed just yet, but I am definitely on the right path. Just as puberty lasts a good ten years, I can’t expect to know everything there is about money in just a couple years. It is a continual process. One that I am excited about completing. Hopefully in another five or so years, I will be on the tale end of this financial puberty gig and can put my finances on autopilot and coast through life.

Do you remember going through sex education? How old/what grade were you in when you went through it? Did it make you giggle every time your teacher talked about genitalia (or was I the only one that was that immature)? When did you begin financial puberty? What caused it (a conversation? a book?)

p.s. Please forgive my crazy analogies. I’ve now compared puberty to finances, debt to unicorns, and checking accounts to wiping your butt. I have no idea where these ideas come from. I’m sorry.

Talking finance with Girl Ninja

I have some great news to share with you. Girl Ninja was able to survive a grueling 45 min conversation (with me) about finances last night. I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but Girl Ninja is not the biggest fan of talking about money (I know she’s a freak). She knows that these conversations are important, but it doesn’t necessarily mean she is excited to have them.

I can’t really blame her though. If she wanted to chat my ear off about what happened on the most recent episode of The Bachelor, I probably wouldn’t be that excited either. In fact, I would be quite miserable. So now I sit here trying to think of ways to make finances more appealing to Girl Ninja.

Here’s what I got so far…

1) Sneak Dave Ramsey podcasts in to her iTunes playlist for when she goes running

2) Send her text messages every hour with the latest report on the S&P 500’s performance

3) Crawl underneath her bed, wait for her to fall asleep, and then begin blabbing all of my profound financial knowledge in hopes that she subconsciously retains some of the information.

4) Start telling her that I have a crush on all you female PF bloggers (in hopes that she will become super jealous and start a PF blog of her own).

All pretty good ideas right?

Seriously though, Girl Ninja and I both suck at disusing finances. She is guilty of not really wanting to talk about it (even though she knows it’s important), and I am equally guilty of being a huge PF dork and wanting to overwhelm her with a wealth of information all at one time.

I need to do better. I need to speak “finance” in a way that is appealing, or at least less miserable, for Girl Ninja. I don’t want PF to be something she has to suffer through. It would be unfair of me to demand that she shares my enthusiasm for personal finance, that’s not the way she was wired and I can’t be mad at her for it.

So now I would like to pick your brain and ask you some questions…

  • In your current, or past, relationship did you have a healthy level of communication when it came to money or was one person responsible for the finances?
  • How do/did you go about initiating financial discussions?
  • When you do talk money, what are some areas that you focus on?
  • How do you know how deep to go, so you don’t lose the other persons interest?
  • Anyone out there been on the Girl Ninja side of the relationship, where you really had no desire to talk money?

I’m sure I’m not the only person that has been in this situation so I would love to hear from you all!

F.Y.I. girl ninja is completely debt free, has money in the bank , and a steady job so she’s already got the fundamentals down.

I suck(ed) at life

After I graduated college, I had to face reality. The days of part-time jobs, bunk beds, and sleeping until noon were a thing of the past. It was time to figure out my life. Only problem was, I didn’t know a thing about the “real” world. So I did what I thought was most logical and went through a life coaching program.

Life Coaching. Sounds pretty cheesy right? I agree it does sound a little funny, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you want to learn how to be a good photographer, what’s one of the best ways to learn? That’s right, it’s to be coached by someone that has some mad photography skills. So why would my life be any different than a hobby? A sport? Or a blog? Truth is, it shouldn’t.

I went through a 12 month life coaching program. Every other week, I had a 30 minute phone call with my coach. (It really shouldn’t be called “coaching” though, as my coach didn’t tell me what to do, but instead helped me establish goals and aided me in achieving them.) There were seven different aspects of life that we focused on. They were: Family, Fitness, Faith, Finances, Friends, Focus, and Priorities.

We worked through each module establishing visions and action plans to ensure personal success in each category. I ended up inputting each module in to an excel spreadsheet, and now have my entire life in one single document sitting on my desktop. Below is a snapshot of my Focus module…

As you can see I wrote out my vision of what I want my life to look like, and what steps I need to take to get there. Is anything in that spreadsheet profound? No. We all probably want to have efficient finances, a wonderful marriage, and kids we adore. It’s not the vision that makes life coaching awesome. No, it’s the action plans and accountabilty that really foster growth.

I told my coach each week what I wanted to accomplish and how I was going to accomplish it. Two weeks later when we spoke again, he would ask if I was successful in meeting my goals. It was the accountability (knowing he was going to ask if I met my goals) that motivated me to complete each action plan.

There are a lot of ‘say’ers, but not a lot of ‘do’ers, when it comes to finances. Sure, you want to be rich, you want a large income, and you want to work for yourself, but what are you actually doing to make that happen? Do you have your goals written down somewhere and someone that will help hold you accountable to said goals? If not, your vision doesn’t hold much value.

Have you ever gone through any type of life coaching or mentoring program? Did you benefit from it? If not, what system do you use to foster personal growth? Anyone out there think the life coaching gig is a waste of time?

Clarification:

Life coaching was free as it was part of a ministry of my church.  My coach did it as a volunteer so he wasn’t paid at all. I would never sign up for the infomercially type life coaching programs where they charge you $300 for some CD’s and $50/hr to talk to someone about life.

It’s time to get SOAPy

What’s your favorite kind of soap? Mine is Dove Cucumber and Green Tea. It is probably the most delicious smelling object on the face of this earth. But don’t be fooled, today’s blog title isn’t about hand soap, shampoo, body wash, or any other kind of personal hygiene product. Nope, I’m talking about the type of soap you need to obtain excellent financial hygiene.

Remember how I shared with you, on Friday, my weirdest job? It involved me working in a mental hospital. Part of my daily responsibilities involved documenting my interactions with my patients. The SOAP method is a way to do that. It stands for…

S ubjective information about patient (competence, stability, mood)

O bjective observations acquired by observations, tests, etc

A ssesment of patient’s current situation

P lan to ensure further stability

It’s pretty straightforward right? Every shift I used the SOAP method to write two or three paragraphs about each of my patients. Could you imagine how different our financial situations would be if we applied this simple little tool to our own lives. I’d like to introduce you to Sara. She is a shoe-a-holic that lives a frivolous lifestyle, but doesn’t have the income to back up her expenses. She is surely heading towards financial ruins. Let’s take a look…

Subjective info:

Sara struggled to maintain her composure as she walked in to the Nordstrom shoe section.

Objective info:

She began foaming at the mouth at the sight of Steve Madden boots. She was observed saying “Lay off my shoes woman or I’m gonna have to drop kick you” to another female customer standing near her.

Assessment:

Sara is financially psychotic and suffers from an intense addiction to “cute” shoes.

Plan:

Slap Sara across the face. Teach her about the impact her shoe fetish is having on her overall financial health. Educate through counseling. Slap again if behavior repeats.

That probably wasn’t the best example, but I think you get the point. The SOAP method is a quick and efficient way to not only diagnose a patient, but also establish a game plan for improvement.

Could you imagine how different our financial lives would be if we knew our every move was being monitored? Being that my former patients were in an in-voluntary facility, they didn’t have the luxury of hiding behind their choices. They were observed and documented 24 hours a day/7days a week. Yes it may be a little “big brother-ish”, but it really did help the majority of the patients get better.

While I don’t think observation and regulation should be enforced (everyone has the right to ruin their life if they want) just think how different some people’s financial decisions would be if their financial status was public record. If they couldn’t hide behind the facade of credit cards/mortgages/and car loans. Perhaps then, and only then, we would transition from a society of credit, to a society of stability.

Do you know a “Sara” that needs to take a financial shower and is in some serious need of SOAP? I can think of a few people I’m close to that have stinky financial habits.

My weirdest job’s weirder than your weirdest job

I love Fridays. I also love Friday blog posts because I generally try to make them less financial and more fun. Today, I’m gonna be writing about the weirdest job I have ever had. Afterwards, I hope you’ll share your weirdest job so we can see what PDITF reader has had THE WEIRDEST JOB OF ALL TIME!

Here’s mine…

I graduated college Spring 2007 with a shiny new degree in psychology. I was fascinated by medicine, hospitals, and the world of mental health so I started applying to a ton of hospitals. I interviewed for a summer position at an involuntary psychiatric hospital near my parents home in Washington state. For those that don’t know, “involuntary” means the patient does not want to be in treatment but either the police, the court, or their family felt otherwise. They are literally locked inside a building (24/hrs a day, 7 days a week) as they are considered a danger to themselves and others. I was 21 years old and had no idea what I was getting myself in to.

I was paid $13/hr to monitor the ward and ensure the safety of all the patients. It may sound condescending, and I don’t mean for it to be, but I was essentially a babysitter for mentally sick adults. I made their meals, watched movies with them, counseled them, made art projects with them, changed their clothes when they “messed” themselves, etc. I loved my job. I got to watch people, who were desperately in need of help, get better. I personally can’t think of anything more rewarding than watching a “sick” person become healthy.

Needless to say, I had quite a few “odd experiences” during my three months working at the hospital. During that time I…

… was threatened to be killed (numerous times)

… watched a patient walk in to the bathroom and start taking a shower while fully clothed

… was told I have a green aura that hovers above my head

… watched someone poop in their hand and then proceed to eat it

… received a phone call from a former patient that wanted to know if I would meet him at McDonalds for lunch. (I declined)

… and was hit on by a number of female patients…and one male patient

These are a just few memories that come to mind when I reflect upon my three months as a psychiatric technician. I have more stories, but don’t think they would be appropriate to share here (you might throw up in your mouth if you heard em). It was definitely the weirdest job I’ve ever had, but also the most fulfilling. I’ve learned that weird doesn’t always mean bad, in fact it can often be fun, exciting, and new.

So now that you know my weirdest job, care to share yours? Do you think it trumps mine? If you haven’t had a totally odd ball job, do you know someone that has? Let’s see just how crazy of a work history we can get going in the comment section below!