Actually, Money CAN Buy You Happiness.

Money can buy you happiness. Let me explain. First, a little background:

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I mean, look. Obviously, I agree with the concept that you can have all the money in the world but if your life is out of balance, chances are: you’re not happy.

But here’s the thing: Money can buy you happiness. Let me explain. First, a little background:

I grew up with the understanding that money was a thing my family didn’t exactly have in spades. I was told, vaguely, that “credit cards are bad” but I didn’t quite understand why. I knew checks might bounce, cards could get declined and that shirt probably wasn’t worth buying unless it came from the clearance rack.

That was about the extent of my knowledge of money.

Fast forward to age 22, when I am graduating from college with $37,000 in school loans and an accepted job offer for $10/hour. I remember sitting at the kitchen table complaining to my dad, “How am I ever going to get ahead?” He shook his head, “Ah Kiddo, someday you’re going to look back and laugh.” And added: “The more ya make, the more you spend.”

Dad was right (on both accounts). Things have changed. And while I do look back at my financial struggles with a part-endearing-part-risible perspective, I can’t help but say to myself: Was all that strife really necessary?! I could’ve and should’ve done things so differently. I was grossly uneducated about what it meant to take on that amount of debt….I just did it because I thought it was what I had to do and from what I could tell, it seemed like there were a lot of other 18-year-olds doing the same so it couldn’t be all that bad? No one told me any different nor did I take the initiative to school myself.

Last year, I drafted a headline of a blog post that I called: “How to Make $100,000 by Age 30.” I knew I probably wouldn’t have the balls to actually publish it. I mostly wrote the headline as a way to motivate myself to actually earn $100,000. I knew that if I didn’t write it exactly right it could come across as bombastic and self-aggrandizing. So I thought I’d instead explain why I wanted to make $100,000+ in the first place:

There are a lot of things I want to do in life. I want to travel the world. I want to learn new languages, take more art classes and maybe learn photography. I want my kitchen to be stocked with food I love. I want to be able to give back more so that other people can achieve their dreams, too! Two things that are true here: these things make me happy (and not just temporarily). And these things are going to cost me.

 

I think the world needs to turn the way we think about money on its head. If we view money as the resource it’s meant to be instead of this evil, ugly thing, we’d collectively be in a better place. Here are 3 things I think could help:

1. We should be learning about money much earlier in life. I know there is a lot of controversy over what’s getting cut from schools right now vs. what should be taught but in my opinion, financial literacy should be at the top of the list and I hardly hear any conversation about the topic at all. Money is a universal language – it’s a thing we’re all going to deal with whether we have a little or a lot of it. It can be an uncomfortable conversation for a lot of people though. In many families, it’s a completely taboo topic to even bring up and I think that’s dangerous.

 

2. No matter how ugly, you’ve gotta take your finances head on! When I was broke (mehhh first 25 years of my life give or take) I believe it was my mentality that was holding me back the most. Money is a bad thing when you don’t have it. Like you view it as this nasty thing that causes all sorts of problems in the world. But when you do have it, money is this beautiful, glorious thing that solves all sorts of problems. Oh, the irony! No matter where you are at financially, face the music. Every single month. Keep a monthly spreadsheet. Download an app. Take a class.

 

3. We need to be wary of our culture of #YOLO. There is a very real challenge in toeing the line between finding debt-free/financial freedom and buying that thing because you are living in a constant #YOLO state of mind. I often ask myself, is it really about living life to its fullest? Or do I want this because someone else has it? Social media makes it easier than ever to compare ourselves to the Jones’. But that is weak and undisciplined – two things that you are not! 🙂 A hard-learned lesson on my end was the idea that no matter how hard I work, if I don’t have the money budgeted, I do not deserve the new shoes or the fancy car or the sweet vacation or even the $5 coffee.

I am not perfect. I’ve made – and continue to make – so many money mistakes….and I am still very much a student of finance. This is a journey and one I am finally enjoying learning about (and now sharing!). I just wish I had forced myself to learn about it back when I only had 89 cents in my checking account…because that’s when I’d argue it matters most.

So, can money buy you complete happiness? No. But it can buy you a lifeline to the things that make you happy. Now all you gotta do is spend it wisely.

How to be Alone

Being alone is a magical thing. It has taught me so much in three major areas of my life: My relationship with myself, my relationships with others and my career. Let’s break it down:

According to a 2014 issue of Science magazine, participants across 11 studies would rather give themselves a mild electric shock than spend 15 minutes alone.

That’s just insanity.

But in some ways, I’m not surprised. For starters, we live in a society that tends to celebrate extrovertism. And to be clear, the state of being alone is different from the feeling of loneliness. Sometimes, they’re linked. But I’m here to declare you can be alone without feeling lonely, bored or sad. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite!

Being alone is a magical thing. It has taught me so much in three major areas of my life: My relationship with myself, my relationships with others and my career. Let’s break it down:

Self-Love

When you’re not afraid to try things solo, you’re building your independence, self-confidence and resilience.

So you want to try that new restaurant? Grab a table for one. Dying to see the latest blockbuster? Hit the theater by yourself. Interested in learning a new skill or hobby? Sign up solo! I think you’ll be surprised by what you might learn about yourself by taking on even the smallest acts of independence. And overcoming the weird looks you may get (but probably won’t), is actually kind of empowering.

In late August – early September 2017, I embarked on a 9-day road trip through Michigan and parts of Canada. When I told friends and family my plans, I received a lot of gasps: “What? But why are you going alone?!” They were worried for my safety (which I appreciate) but I’m glad I didn’t let their reactions influence me. It was a trip of a lifetime. I played trivia with some folks from England, enjoyed poutine and local beers at a dive bar in Montreal and hit the hay in some odd, tiny and ecclectic AirBnbs.

When you head out on your own, you learn to be highly observant and appreciate (and look forward to) the quiet moments.

Without your friends and family by your side, you also get really great at forming your own smart opinions. This is such a rewarding, and oftentimes unforeseen, fringe benefit of “going it alone.”

Need a few ideas? Consider some inspiration from Women’s Day: 25 Things to Do By Yourself.

“So, why are you single?”

Let’s talk about being alone in the sense of being single. Ah, I’ll try to be brief.

I’m in a relationship now but I was kind of always known as the perpetually single girl. And I used to hate being asked, “Why are you single?” Every time, I’d have to suppress my inner sass. My preferred answer was: “Well, because I’m a strong independent woman who believes finding true love with a great partner is a rare thing. Add to that, I value my time and would rather not waste it alongside someone less than mediocre.” But in the interest of not scaring off nice people who I know meant well, I’d usually just shrug and mutter something about how I’m too busy, blah blah blah.

But now I am in a relationship. Shortly after meeting my boyfriend at Christmas this year, my dad remarked, “Huh. Yeah. We were starting to wonder if maybe you were a lesbian.” He was serious, and I thought this was hilarious. I spent most of my 20s alone and partner-less (albeit happy!). I thought my dad’s theory was amusing but I also thought it was interesting insight into how people view those not in a relationship. (i.e. “What’s the deal with her?!”) If you’re reading this and you’ve been single for a while, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.

One thing I know for sure is that if you can’t handle being alone – if you depend on being with someone (or anyone!) – you should not be in a relationship at all. Work on doing things for and with you, and the rest will fall into place in the best way possible.

#CareerGoals

I am not sure if I’ve found professional success because I’ve been single, or I was single because I was focusing on my career – perhaps it’s a little of both. But there’s no denying the fact that being alone meant I was able to focus on the things I really, really wanted and cared about.

Last year, former UW Badger basketball player and current NBA hopeful Bronson Koenig penned a letter to NBA GMs. This excerpt really spoke to me:

“I’m good on all that,” he said. And then he proceeded to tell me something that I wasn’t expecting. He told me that if I really wanted to be successful, that I had to be O.K. with being alone, with staying home and working on my craft to the point of it becoming an obsession.”

-Bronson Koenig, Dear NBA GMs

Of course, when it comes to being alone to the point of obsessing over your career goals, you run the risk of living an unbalanced life. I hope nothing I’ve written has come across as an ode to disowning your friends and family – they’re crucial for success and happiness! But that seems to be obvious to most people.

Stop fussing over what could go wrong or what people might think. Just do it! Jump head first into cold water. Who knows what you might find?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Life Lessons I Learned in my 20s

Peace 20s. ✌ Bring on 30 and beyond.

I’ll be 30 next month. And probably like anyone entering a new decade and saying goodbye to another, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on what the last 10 years have meant for me.

Ten years ago, I was 19 going on 20. Things were pretty ugly back then. My stepdad had passed away the summer prior. Our house was getting auctioned off. My mom lost custody of my youngest siblings. My family life was in total turmoil. It was so distracting, it was nearly impossible to see past the fog and into a more optimistic future.

That year, I tattooed the word “hope” in white ink on my wrist. Because that’s what I held on to at that time: hope that things would get better. When I look down at my faded tattoo today, I’m reminded of what life felt like at 19 and, although I had fun in my late teens and early 20s, I’m much more grateful to be turning 30.

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And things did get better. Along the way, I learned a lot (as we all do!). Here are just five lessons that made multiple cameos throughout my 20s:

  1. Listen more.
    Why is listening so hard? I mean, seriously…WHY. My 20s taught me that it takes real skill (that too many people lack) to look someone in the eye while thoughtfully listening to the words coming out of their mouth. When people demonstrate terrible listening skills, it says a lot of bad things about them: They’re either insecure, self-important or boorish or all of the above.

    Likewise, I learned that most people love to hear themselves talk. But the real talent lies in the skill of listening. I think I undermined this 10 years ago. I wish I had realized the class, professionalism and intelligence that come with closing your mouth and using your ears. I’ve had to re-learn this again and again with my on-camera role. It’s my job to help my interviewee tell their story; not to interject with my own insights every two seconds.When I’m sitting around a conference room table at work, I try hard not to blurt out my opinion first. Hear what everyone else has to say. And then share your opinion if you feel moved to. I am still in practice but I know that listening never makes you look stupid. You do run that risk though when you run your mouth. 😕

  2. Hand out (genuine) compliments more.
    People don’t verbalize compliments enough. And that is a very strange thing to me.When I was probably 22, I remember sitting in a meeting with an influential and talented director-level colleague. This woman is one of the smartest people I’ve worked with even to this day. Our small group was discussing the topic of giving feedback to one another and she made a comment that the further along she’s gotten in her career, the fewer compliments she has received. “People expect me to be good all the time,” she assessed. This was odd to me because I thought everything this woman said was practically genius. And I thought to myself, “Why is it that I’ve never told her this?” Well because, I probably assumed everyone told her how smart she was. But that’s silly – why are we sometimes so scared to tell people what makes them great?

    I think compliments – when authentic – are important, whether it’s your sister or your CEO. (Did I mention you’ve gotta be genuine about it?)

  3. Don’t get into relationships that just don’t feel right.
    I probably could’ve written an entire article about relationship-themed mistakes I’ve made but in the spirit of not doubling my wine intake while I type this, I’ll include this teeeeny tinnyyyy flaw I repeated more than once in my 20s: Getting into relationships that did not feel right.

    Perhaps you too are familiar with the drill: You see potential in someone but despite your internal voice screaming: “This should not be a thing,” you continue the thing anyway. The worst is when you swear you won’t get into anything without it feeling 100%…and you do it again. On one hand, you definitely learn from every failed relationship but in general, this is not fair to either party. Wait it out. That whole “when you know, you know” thing is just a cliche way of saying “trust your instincts.”

  4. It’s never too late to start.
    It seems like the message we get these days is: If you didn’t start the sport or hobby by age 3, you’re outta luck. And that is beyond frustrating. My parents did not enter me in any dance recitals or band lessons. (I was lucky to get to be on my elementary school’s basketball team.) So by the time I reached adulthood, I was certainly not an expert at any given thing. I was, what most would deem, of average talent. And in my teens and even early 20s, I think I let that way of thinking intimidate me.

    Until one day, I decided to embrace a sport I’ve always been obsessed with but had zero experience in: gymnastics. I found a gym in Madison that admits adults, regardless of experience level, and I went for it. That was 2012. I still go to class every week. I’ll clearly never make an Olympic team but I’ve found something that makes me very happy every Monday night. (Hobbies coming down the pike include: learning French, piano and knitting. Stay tuned 🙂 )

  5. (Most) people don’t change.
    I was hopelessly optimistic about this one for a very long time. And I hate to end my dissertation here on something so gloomy but it is, by and large, the truth. People are who they are at their core. “When people show you their true colors, let them” are words of wisdom worth remembering.

Everyone glamorizes the whole being in your 20s thing. I’ve found it humorous (ok, maybe even borderline aggravating) just how many people have brought up my impending birthday with sorrow and sympathy. i.e. “Are you going to miss your 20s?” You mean, am I going to miss being broke, insecure and in a state of perpetual confusion? No, no I am not going to miss that but I’m grateful I went through it. My 20s were full of good times but I’ll make sure to make more good memories in my 30s (and continue learning hard lessons, obviously).

Peace 20s. ✌ Bring on 30 and beyond.

M.

What I’ve Learned From 13 Jobs in 13 Years

Work work work work work 🎶

There’s a lot I have yet to figure out about life but here’s one thing I know with absolute certainty: having as many varied experiences as you possibly can is a major and direct contributor to personal and professional growth. It is so much of what determines how quickly (or conversely, how slowly) one develops.

Many of the jobs I’ve held seem, at least on the surface, rather unremarkable. Others truly put the “odd” in “odd jobs.” Each – while diverse in the skill-set required – has impacted me in a pretty profound way. First, the super quick rundown:

Skipping the years I spent baby-sitting, my first “big kid” job was as a cashier for Piggly “Shop the Pig!” Wiggly. (I can still recite a handful of PLUs. Bananas: #4011) In high school and early college, I also was a waitress at a few different restaurants. (And subsequently, was quickly made aware of how sucky my multitasking skills were.) Then my dad, who worked at Oscar Mayer for 13 years scored me a stint as an assembly line worker in the factory’s ham slice department. He told me this job would teach me to stay in college. He was right. That same summer, I also worked the p.m. shift as a retail associate at Hollister at West Towne Mall. (Not sure which environment I hated more: 40 degree, smoked ham-smelling basement vs. the “So Cal” cologne-infused teen dungeon.)

Later, my lifelong obsession with gymnastics would draw me to a kids center near my hometown where I worked as a gymnastics assistant. On campus at UW-Oshkosh I worked as a journalism assistant as well as a phonathon caller, where yes, I called and convinced alumni to fork over some cash. (i.e. “I totally understand $50 won’t do but how bout a tax-deductible $5 gift to the UWO annual fund? Every dollar counts!”) And then there was the summer I was an MMA Ring Girl. (It wasn’t as interesting as it sounds but…$$$) I was also a bartender at a couple different golf courses as well as a bar in downtown Oshkosh. And then post-college, came all my recent stuff AKA social media consultant, marketing strategist, TV host and producer, etc.

And now for the analysis.

The thing is, in my early 20s, I was pretty insecure about how many jobs I had already held for my age. I had to defend my ADD-inducing resume at almost every interview I had. Working consistently at the same place for multiple years seemed to be the idyllic route – decided by my peers, my employers and by society. There is something to admire about that, for sure, but as you’ve probably guessed, I’m here to tout the opposite 🙂

For starters, working this many various jobs throws you head first into a lot of weird, wacky, frustrating, challenging, stressful, exhausting and rewarding situations. You’ve gotta buckle up, adapt quickly and brush off the stress when you show up for your waitressing shift, and the only two other scheduled waitresses called in that day and it’s Mother’s Day and you have the ginormous patio all by yourself and oh my God, you just spilt the entire pitcher of ice cold water on THE MOM and it’s MOTHER’S DAY. Shit. She’ll give you a good tip though because she pities you. Not all is lost.

When you work a lot of jobs, you’re never anywhere for too long. This means you’re always the new girl in a foreign land, which is translation for: learn how to have thick skin, especially when the veteran lady line workers at Oscar Mayer gave you major side eye when you stack up 3 feet of ham because sweet jesus, the bubble packages on the line MOVE SO DAMN FAST. Next thing you know, they’re shutting down the entire line because “COLLEGE GIRL CAN’T KEEP UP.” And because you’ve learned how to adapt well in previous roles, you’re able to shamelessly retort, “My dad is the maintenance guy here…just FYI” any time those nasty ol’ ladies get real out of line. Works like a charm!

Working this many jobs as a teen and through my 20s, also helped me weed through what I was looking for in a career and in the team I wanted to surround myself with. I mean, let’s be honest, you don’t have to hold a lot of jobs to know that terrible bosses are a dime a dozen. I’ve certainly got a real vivid depiction of “Manager I Don’t Ever Wanna Be” but unlike a lot of other professionals (so it seems) I’ve also had the good fortune of working for some amazing people. And as much as I learned from the bad eggs, I also eagerly consumed every ounce of leadership lore that I could from the really great ones.

And these are just paid gigs we’re talking about. If job-jumping has you feeling uneasy, there are umpteen other ways to take in a variety of experiences like volunteering, travel and classes, just to name a few. However you decide to weave in and out of your own lane, I think these experiences will make you more sophic, open-minded and perceptive of the big picture.

Speaking of the big picture, here it is: The more people, places and positions you experience, the better you’ll be for it.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think below.