On What Joy Means For You

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So what’s more important than $$$, you say? Great question! Parsing the ins and outs of this can be awfully confusing, since so many of the things I value (eating quality food, spending time with my husband and kids, traveling) are all related to the Almighty Dollar. How do I reconcile this with actively rejecting the concept of finding my sense of security in my bottom line? I’m still figuring this out.

One thing I find important is reminding myself that this moment in which I exist is the only “guarantee” I have. I’m not promised a tomorrow. And as a medical student, and now a resident, I have become an expert in delaying gratification, which research shows may actually work against me in some circumstances. I want to believe that the experience of joy is available to all despite our financial situation, and I can tell you the activities that I find most restorative are ones that don’t cost much or any money: walking in the morning with my kids, making healthy food, playing games with my husband, reading books, learning a new skill, building relationships with friends and neighbors, taking care of my patients.

So here we are, at the beginning of our journey to understand our financial life, and I want to pause to ask you and me to take the next few days and really think about all the things in your life that you value that don’t involve money.Writing this post reminded me of one of my favorite articles from the student newspaper at my undergraduate institution written by Humza Chaudhry: “I suggest an exercise. Lie down, wherever you can find the nearest clean place, and look straight up. Be still. You are now dead. Your money doesn’t go with you. Your mom, dad, sisters, brothers, girlfriends, boyfriends and kids have left you ashes to ashes, dust to dust and you are alone with nothing but your own soul, your accomplishments and blunders–and, whether you like it or not, God, but we won’t deal with that now. If you had one more hour to live, what would you do? What if you had a day, week, month or year? What about 10 years? Ask yourself, in the peaceful and still paralysis of death, does that car or job matter now? What does your mother think of you? Will people feel the burden of your loss or will they lose a burden by it? Glory be to the one who gave us all a measured-out life, and by his greatest of names I swear to you that anything you are attached to now, which did not come up within the first 15 seconds of your pseudo-passing from this world is a waste of your time.”

If you had to sit down and write out what your top three values are–things that you want expressed in your daily lifestyle–what would they be?  Am I in denial when I both reject the concept of the supreme importance of money while at the same time devoting a blog to it? I might need your help in maintaining perspective and self-awareness concerning these matters as we continue on. But right now, my joys are calling me and I must go  ❤

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On Being a Dum-Dum

I tried to convince my husband to ghost write posts for this blog since he’s infinitely more likable and funny than I am. He said no. So you’re stuck with me. I want to talk about personal finance here, not because I think the woman I want to be is rich (pursuing wealth is not a life-affirming goal, in my opinion!) but because I’ve made so many financial blunders, and even now in my mid-30s, still have a net worth of negative six figures. Gulp. Even as a doctor I have a difficult time navigating retirement plans (What’s the difference between a 401(a), 401(k), and 403(B)!? What the heck do I do with my retirement account when I switch jobs?), my tax bracket/the tax code/filing my tax returns, and how and where to invest my money (What are stocks and bonds? What’s a mutual fund? And, like, what’s the Dow Jones blah blah blah?). I want to be intentional about my time and money, and part of that equation means I need to understand my own finances. Ya guys wanna go on a journey with me to be more financially literate women? Hurray!!!! I’ll throw in some cute pics of my kids as a bonus, which is what I know y’all come here for anyways.

Probably the most important thing I have done this year concerning money is read a short investment guide written by and for doctors. I realized I didn’t know how much student loan debt I had (I had a nebulous idea of a ballpark figure), how much credit card debt I had, what my assets were, or how much was in any of my four retirement accounts. I got (some of) my affairs in order toute suite! Credit card debt was rapidly paid down and the remainder put on a 0% card. Student loans were put in the RePAYE program which means the government is paying for about half of my interest. A meal plan was made with a ceiling of grocery spending at $150 weekly. An automatic transfer of money to an online savings account every pay period was set up. Etcetera. And yet, despite all these measures, I still only understand about 10-25% of what is discussed on financial forums. Argh.

My goal is to slowly start building a foundation to understand this type of stuff by reading 1 or 2 finance books per year and digesting it. You should, too. Right now I’m working on Andrew Tobias’ The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need. The only other practical money-saving thing I did this week was to bake my own bread and rolls, which was a double win, since I got to feed my kids shade-grown, preservative-free, no additives, organic, ethically-farmed gluten and saved myself ten bucks. Feast your eyes upon this!!

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I am at the beginning of this journey but would love to share what I learn here with you all. I hope you will keep coming back and sharing your successes and setbacks (hard-won knowledge!) in this space–a place I hope empowers women to become financially literate and savvy about how, when, where and why to spend (or save) their money.