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Archive for the ‘personal and financial growth’ Category

A College Degree REALLY Matters

Posted by The Lukester on January 11, 2008

JD, at Get Rich Slowly, has an excellent post outlining the correlated advantages of having a college degree: the levels of income and life satisfaction increase with higher level of education. While it’s not 100% certain that the correlation is cause-and-effect (is it really the education?), the argument for getting a degree – the higher the better – is very compelling.

Case in point: I never got a degree. And it has really hurt my options over the years. I’m smart, well-read, enjoy learning, raised middle-class. None of these are prerequisites for higher eduction, but most people simply assume I have a degree and are surprised to discover I do not.

When younger I was able to get good jobs through contacts and friends, but when the job market dried up some and I wasn’t quite so youthful anymore, suddenly I found that doors were closed. I wasn’t finding jobs that I could grow in, my skills suffered and every change meant starting over.

With each effort at finding a job, I could visualize the life cycle of my resume (whether I was referred by a friend or not): the person or the machine would sort though them, putting those with degrees in one pile and those without in another. They’d check through the degree pile first and even though I had years of experience, rarely got a second look.

Why didn’t I get a degree? There are several reasons, but the biggest was that I just wasn’t paying attention! I didn’t realize that having a degree mattered; my parents didn’t drill it in or I didn’t care or know what I wanted to do, I wasn’t focused enough – or all of those. Also at the time (mid-late 70’s) it just didn’t seem as important generally as it does now. I actually DID take some college classes at several schools but never completed a degree.

Whatever the reason, I can tell it’s hurt me. I only recently got a full-time job (it’s been years since I felt I was on a career track), but then only because I started as a temp and they liked me. I’m starting at an “OK” salary but small for the region. I have very little savings and not much equity. A simple piece of paper might have made a huge difference.

Bottom line: if you can possibly swing it, get the damn degree!


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Realistic Budgeting Possible?

Posted by The Lukester on January 10, 2008

Over at Wise Bread, Margaret Garcia-Couoh has a cute and to-the-point post. Titled Realistic Budgeting: The Marriage Saver, she suggests that couples get real about their “little” and/or secret expenses. I certainly have this in my relationship: I often discover empty Ann Taylor bags in the recycling, or a new watch on her dresser. If I ask, these items were always “on sale” or she had been “looking at it for a long time”. Meanwhile, over at the husband camp, I’ve had my share of small (really!) eBay or Amazon purchases (“that first-edition folio edition of The Silmarillion was only forty bucks! How could I resist?!”) and I have various ingenious ways to sneak them into the house looking like they’ve been there for years…

However, I think Garcia-Couoh’s suggestion to be honest isn’t the final answer. Of course, being honest is always a good idea, and is always the preferred approach, but sometimes it’s just better to shift the issue away from the marital hot-bed of argument and not have it be about honesty in the first place.

My suggestion is to budget for those items, but allow them to be un-itemized. In other words, each partner gets an agreed-upon amount of “play” money to spend on that very-important-but-probably-not-approved-by-the-partner stuff.

Think of it as the CIA “black budget” that Congress votes for without knowing its contents, or the petty cash supply many business keep on hand; It’s money to be spent without looking at too closely.

Of course if the marital “black budget” starts to impact the visible budget (“uh, we don’t have enough to keep the heat on – but don’t ask questions about my new Dremel MultiPro Cordless Two-Speed Rotary Tool System w/50 Accessories – I’ve been looking at it a long time and it was on sale!!”) then it’s time to rethink the allocated amounts and even the whole idea.

Sometimes honesty IS the best policy.

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Gratitude Really Makes a Difference with Self-Talk

Posted by The Lukester on December 28, 2007

Over at Molly’s Brother on a Budget, a nice financial/personal growth blog, was a recent post titled How to Eliminate Negative Self-Talk. It included the sage points

1. Stop it
2. Label it
3. Flip it
4. Ignore it
5. Exaggerate it

And I added a sixth, “Thank it,” with the following comment:

I’d like to add one that I’ve not seen elsewhere (i.e., I made it up) that works really well for me:

6. Thank it.

If you’re thinking to yourself after the office holiday party, “You made a total ass of yourself you stupid idiot, freak, worthless …”, try countering with an internal and sincere “thank you”. Keep saying “thank you” (while trying to FEEL it), and look for the part you actually ARE thankful for. In the above example I might sense there is a tiny bit of my internal rant that I can appreciate, without knowing what it is. I keep sending a sincere “thank you” until it emerges more fully. For instance, while I don’t like the words I’m saying (idiot, freak, etc), I DO like that there is a part of me that CARES whether I do well or not. I truly AM thankful for that.

Once I identify a part I CAN be thankful for, I focus on that. Eventually that “good” message (’I care whether or not you do well’) replaces the “bad” one (’you idiot’).

It actually can be a quite profound feeling, to feel sincere gratitude for something that five minutes ago I was cringing about.

Some examples might be: I can sometimes be very angry with my spouse, to the point it becomes internally toxic. By thanking my inner rant, I realize that the sheer fact of my anger tells me I’m a living, passionate human being – and I’m thankful for that. Or I get frustrated with my career path and frequent mistakes. By thanking it instead, I realize that my “wandering” behavior validates and important part of myself that I care deeply about.

Note that this process doesn’t change the outer world: my wife doesn’t change her behavior, I still have career issues, my colleagues might snicker at me. But at least my own mind is in a stance of gratitude rather than resentment or embarrassment, and perhaps that greater sense of acceptance gives me a little more room to make real change.

I want to re-iterate: I have no real evidence that changing self-talk from negative to positive results in concrete change in behavior or in the world. I do know first-hand, however, that making that shift feels a lot better! I could spend the next day feeling guilty and angry about how my weekend went, or I could spend that day with a sense of gratitude and even joy. I know which one I would prefer!

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