Economy


As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’m going to say it anyway. I’m enthralled by Tiger Wood’s shenanigans.

I’ve been reading everything about his sordid affairs, shamelessly devouring any article I can get my hands on.

At first I berated myself for such prurient fascination. But then I realized why this guy had my attention.  It’s because, as the Wall Street Journal explained last Saturday, Tiger’s story is “a seismic cultural event.” Ok, maybe that’s overkill. But think about it….

Underneath Tiger’s escapades, is an explicit message from the Emerging Paradigm; a paradigm that exploded into being last year, just about this time.  Remember?

That’s when the global economy plummeted almost overnight. That’s when we learned that no one–or nothing–is too big to fail.  That’s when we witnessed a sudden, swift, and dramatic fall from grace for those living out of integrity.  .    Think Bear Sterns or Bernard Madoff; think a rash of regional banks that made ridiculous loans to people who couldn’t afford them.

In the flash of an eye, those institutions or individuals who were not living in alignment with the highest truth–who were spending more than they had, who were creating products they didn’t understand, who were fudging the rules or blatantly ignoring them—publicly and painfully suffered the consequences.

Enter Tiger Woods, a striking reminder that even though the economic crisis is easing, we are, nonetheless, being ushered into a New Era. And, the #1 rule for thriving in the New Paradigm is this: Lasting success demands a life of Integrity.

The word integrity comes from the Latin root, meaning wholeness or entirety. Integrity demands that our words and deeds consistently reflect our deepest truths, highest aspirations, and most cherished values.

As I see it, this may be Tiger’s true legacy. This is the gift we can take from his gaffes. Each one of us needs to ask ourselves: Where am I living out of integrity? What are the lies I’m telling myself? What truth don’t I want to see?

Powerful questions to ponder.  You can be sure that I plan to ponder them as I step into the New Year. What about you?

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Just as the cherry blossoms were bursting into bloom, Obama was issuing instructions to his cabinet:  cut $100 million from the budget.  Three months later, mission accomplished — $102 million in expenses had been slashed.

When I read this in the Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124882436513388423.html,  my immediate reaction:  “Why hasn’t the media made more of this fact?”   We hear, ad nauseum, about the stimulus (read: spending) packages, dragging the nation deeper into debt.  But what about these recent efforts to save money?  Now, in my mind, that’s news!!

Granted, that $102 billion is a microscopic portion of the general deficit, 0.0006%.  But the real story is how quickly and seamlessly government made those cuts… and the public never even felt the pinch.  If a giant bureaucracy can do that, certainly each one of us can too.

Washington called this program “The $100 Million Savings Challenge.” Imagine if you began your own “$100 (you determine the zero’s) Savings Challenge?”  Imagine if you started today, right now, shaving small amounts from your spending every month.  Then imagine if you took it one step further, and stashed the savings in the bank.  Imagine what that would do for your personal fortune!

There is a saying; “It’s easier to find 500 ways to save $1, than one way to save $500“.  That’s exactly what these government heads did: found all kinds of ways to trim small amounts.  For example, making double-sided photocopies, emailing documents instead of printing them, cutting unused phone lines.  Small.  Simple.  Painless.  Very effective.

I’ve always said, small steps consistently taken create remarkable results. Now what about you? What teeny-tiny cuts can you begin making right now? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Barbara Stanny

The leading authority on women & money
barbara@barbarastanny.com
www.barbarastanny.com

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Note to financial neophytes—don’t let theStart Reading The Wall Street Journal - Now! Wall Street Journal intimidate you.  It’s a fabulous learning tool…and offers some fascinating reading… for everyone, no matter how much, or how little, you know.  http://online.wsj.com/home-page

Sure it’s full of, what may appear to some, as indecipherable gobbly-gook, written in ‘broker-speak.’  But the WSJ is a very powerful resource, so ignore all of that and focus on the following:

1.      Peruse the front page.  Every once in a while there are some great human interest stories about the good, bad, and especially the greedy.  Plus, the side-bar on the left is like “Current Events for Dummies”… a collection of news snippets giving you a speedy update  to the latest news (financial and otherwise).

2.      Glance over the following two sections: Marketplace and Money& Investing.  A quick peek is all you need. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll pick up just by osmosis.

3.      Savor the fourth section (called by different names depending on the day of the week): Personal Journal (Tuesday-Friday); The Journal Report (Monday);  Weekend Journal (Saturday).  This section is loaded with easy-to-read,  often fascinating,  and always useful  tidbits….everything from fashion, sports and personal finance to restaurant, wine and  book reviews.

Let’s take Monday’s WSJ’s Journal Report (theme for this report was “Your Money Matters”).  The front page article was Best Online Tools for Personal Finance, and it was chock full of excellent (and free) website recommendations.

Even if the only thing you do is glance at the Wall Street Journal everyday for 3 months, you’ll be amazed at how much you learn!  Don’t be intimated.  The Wall Street Journal is a great resource, and a must read if you’re serious about upping your personal “financial awareness quotient”!   Try it and report back.
Barbara Stanny
The leading authority on women & money
www.barbarastanny.com

I’ve been in a tizzy ever since Suze Orman changed her tune.  Last month, the ubiquitous financial guru stood before the masses and told them to “listen up”,  stop paying off debt,  and put every extra penny into savings.

credit card debt

Now,  let me make this clear.  I’m a HUGE advocate (borderline obsessive) for adequate savings.  I personally have way more than 10 months (Suze’s barometer) socked away in cash.  But to say to everyone: “only pay the minimum due on your credit card balance and instead make it your top priority to build as much of an emergency cash fund as you can.”  Huh????  That pronouncement made my head spin!!

Then I read my favorite financial columnist (the Web’s favorite too!),  Liz Pulliam Weston,  on msn.com.  Liz did what she always does for me — made sense of what sounds complicated,  or in this case,  crazy.

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Banking/CreditCardSmarts/why-suze-orman-is-wrong-again.aspx?page=1

Liz made a critical distinction Suze apparently overlooked.  Such a severe approach only applies to those in dire straits.  As Liz explained,  the only times when “paying the minimum or,  preferably,  just a bit more is the best of bad options” if:

  • You’ve been or are about to be laid off.
  • You’re on the financial brink.
  • Your accounts have already been frozen.

For everyone else,  Liz advised, “a more balanced approach might be the best course.” As she astutely points out,  it could take years to build up a big bundle in savings.  Dumping repayment plans for a lengthy period leads to unnecessary interest,  damaged credit scores,  and possible victimization by lenders.  Instead,  Liz  wisely suggests:

  • Stay the course. Continue paying down credit card debt,  but look for extra expenses to cut to pad your emergency fund as well.
  • Open an escape hatch.  If all your credit cards are with the same issuer, consider getting a card or two from different issuers so all your credit isn’t in the hands of one lender.
  • Monitoring your accounts.  Many lenders are trimming credit lines with little notice,  so checking your credit limits at least once a month is good practice.”
  • Pushing back.  Card issuers are hoping you accept their changes without a fuss,  but if you have good credit scores (FICOs of 720 or above),  you have some leverage and should be able to get them to rescind their decisions or take your business elsewhere.

Moral of this story: Beware of experts touting one approach for all.  Cookie cutter solutions can be harmful to your financial health!

Who pays?Who hasn’t been effected by the economic crisis?    And now there’s a name for what you may be feeling.   Financial Loss Syndrome (FLS).   My good friend, and financial advisor extraordinaire, Victoria Collins identified this malady in a recent article:

https://www.kellerinvest.com/KELLER/WEB/me.get?WEB.websections.show&SCH3305_312

“FLS is a group of symptoms we observed in clients over the past year.”  Victoria explained. Symptoms include: anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, distorted thinking, vulnerability, insomnia caused by loss—not just loss of money—but of control, identity, even status.

FLS occurs in 6 stages (similar to the well-documented stages of grief):

1.      Denial—like the proverbial ostrich, you hide your head in the sand rather than look at your portfolio. Major feeling: Numbness

2.      Realization—this stage begins the moment you open your statement and realize the damage. Major feelings: pain, fear/terror, embarrassment.

3.      Anger—someone must take the blame…often it’s yourself. And it doesn’t help that the bad guys are getting bailed out.  Major feeling: fury

4.      Bargaining—this stage represents a last grasp at control. You swear you’ll do something, you’re just not sure what. “If  my stocks get to ‘X’, I’ll sell.” Or,  “I’ll stay in the market and buy more.” Major feelings: confusion, fear

5.      Depression—it finally, really hits you: you have no control.  The economy is tanking, taking everybody with it. Major feelings: apathy, lack of motivation, helplessness.

Beware the first 5 stages, warns Victoria. “This is when people make irrational decisions, lock in losses, anything to stop the pain.” Instead, she urges, “focus on what you can control, like making a budget.” Healing begins at Stage Six.

6.      Acceptance—it’s time to face the facts, figure out what you can control (i.e. spending), update your financial situation, then make a plan for the future.  Major feelings: sense of control, renewed confidence.

Being the wise advisor that she is, Victoria declares:  “Panic is not a plan. It doesn’t work.” She recommends a far better plan:

·         Turn off CNBC.

·         Grab a calculator and a yellow pad.

·         Figure out your networth and cashflow.

·         Make an appointment with a good financial planner.

·         And then, relax with a nice glass of wine, and congratulate yourself for taking action based on KNOWLEDGE, not FEAR, IGNORANCE, or HABIT.

Does this sound like you?

“It’s a new year! I’m finally going to tackle my finances.  Yep, I’m really ready to get smart about money. Well…sort of.   I mean, I do want to learn…but it just seems so overwhelming.  Where do I start?”

Start with this article: http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-newsReading up/savings-money-club-comeback-1264.php. Not just because I’m in it! The author, Dana Dratch,  does a fabulous job of explaining how to make  financial education fun! FUN????

Yes, FUN!  Invite some friends, bring some food, and start a Money Club.

“The idea has been around for years,” Dana writes. “A small group of friends, co-workers or, in some cases, complete strangers meet regularly to polish money skills, discuss money challenges and set concrete goals. Don’t confuse money clubs with investment clubs, in which members focus on investing skills and may even make investing decisions as a group or pool their money. “

Dana also interviewed Ginita Wall, the co-founder of www.wife.org (which I believe is the best financial education site on the internet for women) and a major proponent of money clubs. Ginita created the site; www.TheMoneyClub.org, where you can download a  free Leader’s Guide for “individuals interested in starting a club, and a menu of lesson plans for meetings.“

Money clubs are exploding in popularity. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s in a money club…got any tips or advice for the rest of us?

Have the headlines got you spooked?

I Can Do This !! Let me introduce you to my 2    Laws for Financial   Success…In Spite of Fear  (yours and everyone else’s!)…(drum roll please!)…expressly for the faint-hearted and other victims of the current fear mongering.

1.  Stanny’s Law of Resistance—the amount of resistance you experience in any endeavor is directly correlated to the amount of power and pleasure available on the other side.

2.  Stanny’s Law of a Lousy Economy—no matter how bad the economy, there will always be people who are prospering.

The following email demonstrates these laws in action.   The writer, a seminar graduate, ended up in the hospital after the first day of a 2 day seminar!  Even though she was in utter fear and the economy sucked big-time, she tenaciously respected Stanny’s Laws!  Look what happened:

Dear Barbara,

I took your Overcoming Under Earning Workshop last fall.   I am the woman who spent the night (after the first day) hooked to an IV in the emergency room.   My body was physically rebelling the changes that were taking place  in  me emotionally in your workshop!   As crazy as it seemed, I forced myself back for the second day… knowing I had every excuse not to launch deeper into more of my financial  mud pit.

Thank goodness I did… I am very happy to report that despite the economic upheaval of our Country I am better than ever.!!!! Since I saw you I have made some real tangible changes.  First off, I got the courage to go back to court and get a child support adjustment… this was something that I had been avoiding for 9 years… results a 233% increase!!!! Long overdue, obviously.

Even better than that, I finally know my financial future is completely in my hands… and that is incredibly empowering.   I now know that I control my financial future.  (I feel excited just writing this, and even more excited living it!!! )  I am working “smarter not harder“.

I have adjusted my business focus to accommodate the economic environment.  I now do what I had been doing full time, part time, and am working more full time with my internet brokerage company.  The  shift in focus has given me great financial success, as a matter of fact by staying on the course I am on  now, I am estimated to triple my best income  ever within 12 months!!!  Wow, didn’t even know what leverage was about a few years ago.

Just wanted to send you my  success story and express my thanks   for you, and the door that you helped me open in my life!

The moral of this story: never ever let fear or resistance stop you from going for the gold… regardless of what’s happening ‘out there’ or going on ‘in here’ (i.e. your head).  Resistance is simply a clear indication of what you need to do next!!