Regifting is a fine and noble art. Here’s how to do it the right way. Read More...

It’s bound to happen at some point: you receive a perfectly fine gift — that you hate.

As a society, we used to look down on regifting, but today it’s becoming increasingly common.

You don’t want to blatant or awful about your regifting, though. It’s important that you at least attempt to be classy about it.

If you want to get rid of something and you know just the person for it, regifting gives you the chance to make someone else happy and save a little bit of money in the bargain.

First of all: be gracious whenever you receive something.

Whenever you receive something, you should express gratitude. Even if you hate the item. “It’s the thought that counts” is a cliche, but it’s also true.

Someone gave you something. You can be nice and adult about it, even if secretly you plan to return it or regift it.

In some cases, you might just be stuck with the thing. I have some items that I’ve received that I know I have to keep. In those situations, I make sure I put it on display when I know the giver is coming. Or I wear it for them to see me using it.

No matter what, it’s vital to be a gracious gift recipient.

Don’t regift to the original giver.

If you’re going to be a regifting powerhouse, you need to get your shit organized. You can’t give an item to the original giver, so that means you have to know who gave it to you in the first place.

Keep track of who gives you what. List what you got, when you got it, and who gave it to you. This is important if you’re going to do this right.

It’s not just about avoiding a major faux pas by regifting to the person who gave it to you in the first place. You also have to avoid giving the gift to anyone in the same social circle.

If your sister gave you something you don’t like, you can’t turn around and give it to your mom two years later. Everyone will remember that it was a gift to you from your sister.

Family dinners just got even more awkward.

The same goes for friend circles and coworkers. Keep track of where your gifts come from so your regifting is to people who aren’t going to recognize the item.

Make sure the item is in tip-top shape.

Let’s keep it classy, people. It should go without saying that you only regift items that are in their original packaging, or that look brand new and unused.

If the item has been opened or used, that’s a no-no. Only used a tiny bit of that lotion? It’s off the menu for regifting.

While you’re at it, check the expiration date on packaged treats before you regift. I don’t like those big holiday-themed tins of popcorn, either, and I’m happy to pass them on. But before I do, I double-check the expiration date. You want your food gifts to be well within date.

Also, avoid regifting anything that has been on prominent display in your home. Because it’s obviously been used, and someone’s probably seen it.

Make sure the gift matches the new recipient.

The point of any gift is to make sure that it matches the person receiving it. Regifting is no good if you don’t put thought into it. I’ve opened things, expressed my gratitude, and then thought, “Actually, this would be perfect for…”

I make a note of it (an actual, written note, so I don’t forget) and then regift, after removing all the evidence. The idea is to make sure the gift is personal in some way. You have to at least put some thought into it.

If you think you will regift something (and even if you don’t know that you will), it makes sense to remove all indications that it was originally a gift to you. Search for notes and tags, and remove them.

Also, for good measure, use completely different wrapping paper. If the gift came in a bag, don’t use the same bag. The least you can do is spend a buck for a fresh bag and new tissue paper to spruce it up. There’s no reason to regift the wrapper on top of the gift.

Consider using it for a white elephant exchange.

Maybe you aren’t sure who to regift to, but you know that a white elephant is coming up. When you head to an office party or some other event, chances are a silly gift exchange will be involved. Regifting on one of these occasions can make a lot of sense — and save you the trouble of figuring out something to bring.

However, you still have to be careful and follow good regifting practice. This means you don’t bring the thing if someone at the exchange gave it to you. The same rules about social circles and regifting to the giver apply when you head to a white elephant exchange.

This is why I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping a list of who, when, and where as it relates to regifting. You can’t be a baller regifter — even for a white elephant exchange — if you aren’t organized about it.

Items made for regifting.

There are some things that are perfect for regifting. They are the sort of all-purpose gifts that people love to see, and that are easy to personalize in some way — even if it’s with nothing more than a fancy bow in the new recipient’s favorite color.

If you get the following items, consider them prime candidates for serving double-duty down the road:

  • Gift cards: Don’t shop at that store? No problem. Just find a new gift card holder and pass it along to someone who will use it. Double-check to ensure it isn’t personalized and make sure of the balance.
  • Lotions and soaps: As long as you haven’t opened these items, they are perfect. They are personal. They are pretty. Most of us love to get them. It’s easy to repackage these items attractively and send them on to new owners.
  • Alcohol: Not really a whiskey fan? No problem! Tie a bow around that bottle’s neck and regift to someone who is. Bottles of wine, six-packs of craft beer, and other items are perfect for regifting as long as they are still sealed.
  • Candles: Scented candles are great for regifting. As long as they are still wrapped and sealed, and haven’t been used even once, they are great as gifts. That goes for anything that involves scents, like warmers, fancy diffusers (with oil), and similar items.
  • Certain types of clothing: If you haven’t worn it and the tags are still on, and you are sure about the size of the next recipient, it’s ok to pass things on. Scarves, cute socks, slippers, gloves, and fashionable hats are all perfect items for regifting. Don’t regift clothing items that are extremely unique, or that you aren’t sure about sizes.
  • Gift baskets: Make sure nothing in the gift basket is expired and then pass it along. Another pro tip? If you have multiple gift baskets, and they have some things you like, you can mix and match. Open the baskets, take what you will eat, and then create a new basket with the rest of the items. Use one of the baskets you already have, and get new cellophane and ribbon to pretty up the package.
  • Perfumes and colognes: As long as you haven’t opened the bottle and it’s in the original packaging, these can be great gifts. Watch out, though: once you unwrap the plastic, it’s considered used. You may never use it, but with the plastic broken, it’s unregiftable. But aftershave, eau de toilette, perfume, and cologne all make great regifts.
  • Small appliances and gadgets: Toaster ovens, blenders, handheld mini-games, and other small appliances and gadgets are great for regifting. As always, make sure the items are in their original packaging and remain unused.
  • Toys, games, and puzzles: These types of gifts are perfect for passing along to someone who wants to use them, as long as you haven’t opened the packaging and tried them out.
  • Novelties: As long as it’s an appropriate circumstance, novelty items like cans of unicorn meat make great items for regifting. Just make sure you give them in the correct context so you don’t end up offending someone.

These are the items you should not regift.

Just as some gifts are made for regifting, others items should never be passed along to someone else. Here are things you need to either return to the store, or just suck it up and keep:

  • Anything personalized: If it’s personalized to your name, don’t regift it. You’d think it goes without saying, but, alas, somewhere some idiot is giving someone named Sharon something personalized for “Samantha.” The only time you want to do something like this is if you’re hoping that someone will break up with you.
  • Old technology: New gadgets are fun. Weird nostalgia items are fun. Old technology, like a car GPS unit or handheld PDA, are lame. Do not regift the old tech you have sitting around the house. Just don’t.
  • Jewelry: Sure it’s shiny and comes in a lovely presentation box. But whoever gave it to you probably wants you to wear it. Yeah, that costume jewelry my son bought me for my birthday is hideous. But I wear it anyway. The same goes for that clunky brooch from your mom. You just suck it up and wear. No getting rid of it until the relationship is over.
  • Artwork: The first thing my brother looks for when he walks in my house is a piece of traditional Mexican artwork he gifted me after returning from two years living abroad. Luckily, it’s a cool piece and I love it, so it’s prominently displayed in my front room. Sadly, not all artwork is so nice. But you have to keep it anyway. Whoever gave it to you probably picked it out special, and probably spent a pretty big chunk of change. You need to keep it and at least try to bring it out when they are around.
  • Opened anything: Whether you’ve used it or not, if the seal is broken, it’s off limits. No regifting anything, from Blu-rays to perfume to food, that has been opened and looked at. No matter how good or new it looks, if it’s been opened, and was originally in a package, it shouldn’t be regifted.
  • Distinctive, unique items: Try to avoid regifting items that are distinct and unique. That really, um, interesting sweater? Nope. Regifting is about the non-descript, especially when it comes to clothing.
  • Something universally hated: Unless you’re headed to a white elephant party and you’re expected to bring something hated and awful, don’t regift. If it’s just a horrible present all around, smile, thank the giver, and never speak of it again.

 You can always return it to the store.

If there is no way to regift the thing, consider taking it back to the store. Even if you don’t have a gift receipt, you might at least be able to get some sort of store credit so you can buy something you actually want.

When you can’t get a refund or store credit, consider donating the item. You get karma points for doing good, plus you might get a tax deduction if you itemize. No shame in that game.

Regifting is an art. It needs to be done with care and attention. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be done at all.

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Don’t try to convince me that being single is something I need to “fix.” I’m single right now — and loving it. Read More...

“Are you dating anyone?”

“Who is that guy? Are you together?”

“When do you think you’ll be ready to get married again?”

“I know just the guy for you …”

“Can I set you up?”

And, my personal favorite: “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone.”

I’m not worried. I’m really not.

In our society, we tend to treat being single like a disease. Everyone’s got a cure. And if there isn’t an immediate solution to the problem, your acquaintances are quick to assure you that someone will come along.

We view being part of a couple as normal. If you’re not in a couple, you must be terribly sad and lonely – and dying to find someone to couple with.

There’s nothing wrong with being in a relationship with someone you love and trust. A good partnership is nothing to sneeze at.

However, it’s also ok to be single and loving it.

Being single ≠ being lonely.

The biggest myth that comes with being single is the idea that you must be lonely all the time. In my case, it’s relatively impossible to be truly alone because I live with a teenager.

But it is possible to miss the company of adults.

However, just because sometimes I like adult interaction, it doesn’t mean I’m a lonely person.

In fact, it’s hard for me to be lonely because I:

  • am involved in the community, so there’s almost always something going on
  • have great friends who meet me for lunch, go to movies with me, help me with what needs doing, and are willing to hang out with me at home or in other places
  • spend time with my family.

The good news about being single is that it doesn’t have to mean you don’t hang out with people. You can still go out and enjoy time with family and friends.

On top of that, I actually like being alone sometimes. I go to movies by myself. I enjoy a lunch date with just me, myself, and I.

And heaven help you if I’m deep into a book and you try to spend the evening with me. The thicker the plot, the less I want you around.

There’s so much happening in my life as a single person that it’s practically impossible for me to feel lonely. I can’t imagine trying to manage it all and have to manage a boyfriend or husband on top of it.

It’s possible to be fulfilled in many different ways. Being part of a couple and being a parent are ways to enjoy life. Being single doesn’t preclude you from doing interesting and important things. Look for activities that give you purpose and people who you enjoy being around, and there’s no reason you can’t be fulfilled as a person.

Being single is so much more convenient.

The more people involved in a decision, the more complicated things get. I like my ex-husband a lot. We get along great, and we still enjoy fun family vacations. However, I can’t help but notice that things are simpler with only one adult involved.

From grocery shopping to travel, the only person I really have to consult before making a decision is me. Sure, I sometimes get my son involved. But in the end, I’m the mom and the adult. What I say goes. When there’s another adult involved, s/he gets equal say.

Since I like to have my own way, I find it convenient to be single right now.

Perhaps down the road my desire for a more constant and consistent companion will outweigh my desire for doing things my way, but right now single is good for me.

I like it.

Could being single actually lead to better health?

For years, conventional wisdom (and some studies) tell us that marriage is the way to be healthy as people. But is that really the case?

There is new evidence floating around that indicates it’s possible to be healthier as a single person than as a married person. This is especially true if you are in a bad marriage. (My marriage was not bad or abusive. However, I do find that, after more than 13 years of marriage, I enjoy being single.)

Some research indicates that you might be happier and healthier single than in a bad marriage — especially if you are a woman. In some cases, though, being single might be healthier than being married, no matter how good things are.

I have a feeling it depends on who you are, how comfortable you are with yourself and being alone, and the kinds of things you get up to as a single person.

In my case, I have a little more time to exercise, since I have my own schedule. I don’t have to try to work around someone else. I also have more time to do things that relax me, and that I enjoy, and I don’t have the stress of trying to incorporate another person on a daily basis. Being able to exercise, plan meals, and have me time on my schedule contributes to health and happiness.

For now, I like it.

Being single isn’t for everyone.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s awful to be a part of a couple. It isn’t. Many people enjoy being with someone they see as a soulmate. They like the partnership and the companionship. They like sharing life with someone who “gets” them.

They like raising their human children and/or animal children, or they just enjoy the peace of having one other person. They go through hard times together and become stronger and closer.

And some folks, no matter how much they enjoy doing things alone, and even if they are comfortable in their own skin, just like to have someone to share the day with. There’s nothing wrong with this.

I enjoy the connections I have with other people. I’m glad I have them. But I don’t feel the need for a grand romance, or for someone to be there Every. Single. Day. in a more quiet way.

If you’re looking for a companion, or happy with your life partner, that’s no problem at all. It’s a good thing. As long as it’s a mostly happy, healthy relationship.

But it’s also ok to be in a happy, healthy relationship with only yourself.

What do you think? Do you prefer to be in a couple or single? And does it change depending on where you’re at in life?

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Yelling out your boss’s name while getting busy with bae? Your friends know you’ll cancel on them? Your job is taking over your life. Read More...

I know people who work 60 or 70 hours a week at a job they don’t care for, all to fund a lifestyle they don’t get to enjoy.

That’s complete bullshit.

At some point, it makes sense to take a step back and ask why you’re doing all this. It also makes sense to figure out if you really want your job to take over your life.

If you’re not happy about the way things are going, and you wish you had more time, take a look at what you do for work.

Do the following apply to you? There’s a good chance your job is taking over your life — and not in a good way:

  1. Your family begs to see you more often. Are you always gone? When little Jimmy wants you to come to the band concert and little Tiffany wishes you had seen her score a goal at her last soccer game, you know you’re missing out on your life.
  2. You talk about work ALL THE TIME. Do you find yourself talking about work things, even when you’re not at work? That one time this month you got to throw back a couple beers with friends, and you talk about WORK.
  3. You check your email “one last time” before bed. Not only that, but your “quick check” turns into 45 minutes of doing extra work because you want to “get a jump” on tomorrow.
  4. You’re worried you’ll get fired for not doing enough. Even though you’re working so much, you’re still worried about losing your job. You think that if you leave before someone else, you could be let go.
  5. Even during your breaks, you’re trying to get work done. Lunch is a time to relax and recharge for the rest of the day. If you’re working through lunch all the time, your job is taking over your life.
  6. The vacation days just keep adding upDo you have a lot of vacation days you aren’t using? Most Americans don’t use their vacation days, and if you don’t, you might be missing out.
  7. You work on your vacation days. Maybe you take your vacation days (or at least some of them), but do work in the hotel room. Your job is taking over your life when you don’t actually manage to relax because you work even during your downtime.
  8. You’ve given up some of your favorite hobbiesDid you just realize you don’t have time to play tennis with your buddy? What other hobbies have you given up? If you put off the things you enjoy because of work, that’s a sure sign your job owns you.
  9. You’re sure the big promotion will fix all your problems. Giving up nights and weekends because you’re sure if you can get a big promotion all your problems will go away? That’s a dangerous road. The promotion won’t fix it, and you’ll still be too busy to enjoy life.
  10. You’re not actually getting much done at work, but you still have to be there. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you must go in to work and clock your hours, even if it’s not very productive work.
  11. Each time you cross something off the list, the list gets longer. The never-ending to-do list can be a big sign that work is taking over your life.
  12. You think about work when you should be paying attention to other things. Is work intruding in the bedroom? I’m sure bae wants you to be thinking about the TPS report and yelling out your boss’s name while you’re getting busy.
  13. It’s hard to enjoy the weekend because you’re already worried about Monday. Does your worry about the upcoming week ruin your weekend fun? That’s assuming, of course, you aren’t just working through the weekend.
  14. Your friends stop asking you to come out because they already know the answer is no. Or they know you will just cancel at the last minute.
  15. You want to “start living” and can hardly wait for retirement. If your plan is to “start living” in 20 years when you’re done working, your job is taking over your life.

Strive for better work-life balance.

If your job is taking over your life, it’s time to strive for better work-life balance.

Figure out what really matters to you in life. If you work so much to earn money, and you don’t actually have time to enjoy it, that’s a major red flag.

We all need money to pay the bills and, you know, EAT. But at the same time, there’s so much more to life than working and surviving. If you feel like work keeps you from having nights to yourself, or weekends to enjoy fun, it might be time to look for a new job.

On top of that, it’s hard to be happy when you are stressed at the thought of losing your job. If you feel like your survival hinges on working overtime and checking your email while on vacation, there’s a very good chance that your mental and emotional health are in a fragile state. That’s a lot of stress to deal with on a regular basis.

Even if you can’t just up and get a new job, it might be time to start looking. Think about the kind of job that will allow you to live your life today — or at least allow you some time to be with the people you love — and figure out how to get that job.

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You need to invest your money for the future. But don’t forget to invest in your actual life. Read More...

We make investments all the time, but they don’t always have to do with money.

The way you use your time and energy is important to developing the kind of life you want. For the most part, I have a kick-ass life. And most of that is due to the non-money investments I make.

If you’re looking to level up, here are a few non-money investments you should make. Some of them might even lead to a higher income down the road.

1. Learning.

One of the best things you can do is keep learning. This doesn’t mean being a perpetual college student. There are plenty of ways to learn that don’t involve going to college.

My favorite way to keep learning is to read a lot of books. Even fiction can provide you with insights and lessons.

There are plenty of places online to learn new things. Read something you don’t agree with to learn the other side. Take a course in something you don’t know a lot about. All of that can be done online.

I also find you can learn from mistakes and failure. Get out there and fail big time. Just make sure you pay attention to the lesson.

Take what you learn and apply it to your life. Whether it’s a new system that helps you be more productive, or whether it’s information about child development that helps you connect better with your nieces and nephews, learning is a great way to make non-money investments in your life.

2. Self-care.

A couple weeks ago, I was swamped. I had too much to do and felt stressed out. One of the items on my calendar was a mani/pedi. “I think I’m going to cancel,” I told a friend.

Instead of backing me up, he told me to go through with the appointment. “Self-care is an important part of staying well emotionally and physically,” he pointed out.

I try to take time for self-care regularly. This includes relaxing at home, reading for pleasure, and, yes, going to the spa a couple times a month to have my nails done.

My work is better when I take care of myself. I’m more productive when I make time to enjoy myself. And, most importantly of all, my relationship with my son is better when I’m in a healthy state of mind.

You don’t have to get a facial every month or a massage every week (although that sounds AMAZING) to engage in self-care. The important thing is to take time for yourself, doing something that you consider a pleasure.

3. Networking.

Networking is one of those non-money investments that can pay off financially down the road.

Getting to know people in your community and in your career field is an important part of moving forward and improving your life.

Networking can help you meet interesting people that you can learn from. It can also help you get an “in” with folks who can help you find a new job, start a business venture, or do any number of things.

I attended a charity benefit not too long ago and I saw a kid, just graduated from college, working it. His parents had brought him long for the express purpose of meeting a couple of attending luminaries and for networking with the cream of the business crop.

As an introvert, networking can be difficult. I know. I just spent an hour at a party, hiding, before getting back out there and smiling and visiting and making connections for the county political organization I head.

Invest the time it takes to learn how to network effectively. It will help you in ways you can’t even begin to fathom.

4. Personal relationships.

I’m not talking about collecting tons of friends. You don’t need a wide social circle to make meaningful personal connections. While I go to a lot of events and am involved in my community, I have a surprisingly small number of deep personal connections.

And I’m just fine with that.

However, the personal relationships I do have are very meaningful, and I like that. Most of us, as humans, have the desire for personal connections.

Good personal relationships enrich your life and provide you with needed emotional support.

Invest in your personal relationships. One of the most important relationships I invest in is the one I have with my son. I also value other relationships in my life. These relationships take time and effort to maintain. It’s worth it.

These relationships take time and effort to maintain. It’s worth it.

5. Health.

Your health is pretty much everything. You can’t enjoy life when your health sucks. I spent five weeks basically sick with everything that was going around at the time.

It was Not Fun.

An investment in your health today pays dividends in the future. You will be better able to meet your goals, and you will have fewer healthcare expenses.

You can benefit from healthy habits today as well. I have more energy when I eat right and exercise. I’m more productive. I make better decisions. My mood is better, and that helps my relationships.

Good health can fuel all sorts of ventures, including those that can make you money down the road.

Pay attention to your health and you will come out ahead in life.

This includes your mental and emotional health as well as your physical health. You might be surprised at how much good it can do to visit with a counselor or therapist on a regular basis to maintain good mental and emotional health.

Don’t forget about your spiritual health. I’m not religious, but there are many things I find edifying and refreshing in my experience as a human, akin to spiritual experiences. If you are religious, nurture your spiritual side and work on your relationship with the divine. It will be good for you in the long run.

What are some of the non-money investments you make in your own life? How do they benefit you?

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Stop believing investing myths. The truth is that you can probably start investing today and build wealth for future. Read More...

You know you need to invest.

It’s time to get off your assets and put them to work.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths surrounding investing. It’s easy to be intimidated by investing when you think about the jargon and you’re concerned about what the stock market is doing.

Before you assume that investing just isn’t for you, get the full story. Here are five investing myths keeping you from leveling up with your money:

1. I need a lot of money to get started.

It’s a good thing this is bullshit. You can totally invest even when you’re broke AF.

First, you can open an investment account with many brokers with $0. Many brokers will let you invest between $50 and $100 a month if you sign up for an automatic investing account.

There are even startups, like Acorns, that allow you to invest your pocket change. Use dollar-cost averaging to start investing consistently. Eventually, you’ll want to boost the amount you invest each month. But the important thing is to start investing early.

2. I don’t have enough assets to get help investing.

Many of us feel more comfortable when we have someone to help us make investing choices. Sadly, there are money managers that do require you to have a lot of assets before they will even look at you.

But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

Thinking that you need a human person dedicated to your investment management is one of the biggest investing myths. Get over it and embrace the technology available to us.

The rise of robo-advisors can be a great help to anyone with few assets and a desire for a little direction. You won’t get personalized help from robo-advisors, but you will get an idea of how to start, and someone else to guide you.

If you want a little more personalized direction, but don’t have the asset count for someone to straight manage things for you, consider a fee-only financial planner. At the very least, one of these folks will help you create a map for the future for a flat fee.

3. I need to understand how to pick stocks.

Honestly, you shouldn’t go anywhere near stock picking until you have a little experience with investing.

When you start investing, it makes more sense to start with index mutual funds and ETFs. These are groups of investments that have something in common. Personally, I prefer all-market index funds that follow everything publicly traded on U.S. exchanges. I also like S&P 500 funds because they offer access to a wide swath of the market.

Index funds and ETFs allow you take advantage of overall market performance rather than relying on your ability to get it right with a few individual stocks. Over time, the market generally goes up; it’s never gone negative in any 25-year period.

Start with funds. Learn a little. Get your feet wet. If you still want to pick stocks later, use not-for-retirement money to experiment.

4. I have to know how to “win.”

Do you have a competitive nature? If so, you might be tempted to think that you have to beat the market.

While it’s fun to think you can outperform the market, it’s foolhardy to focus on such a goal. Investing myths lead you to believe that it’s not worth it unless you’re “winning” against someone.

The truth is that you don’t need to be better than anyone. You just need to focus on your own goals. Stop worrying about how your friends invest. Don’t tie your self-worth to whether or not your portfolio does better than the market.

You don’t need a portfolio that’s bigger than someone else’s.

What you need is a plan to meet your personal financial goals.

Rather than obsessing over whether or not you are “winning,” look at whether or not you are going to hit your personal milestones. Perform a retirement assessment. How much do you need to retire? How much should you set aside (perhaps in index funds!) each month to reach that goal?

As long as you are on track to meet your goals, it doesn’t matter whether you beat the market — or your co-worker — at investing.

The worst thing you can do in any financial situation is compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to you and move forward.

5. I’m going to lose everything if the market crashes.

We all remember the market crash of 2008 and 2009.

It’s one of the reasons many of us are afraid to invest today. One of the most persistent investing myths is that you will lose everything during a market crash.

Do you know what I did when things looked ugly at the beginning of 2009?

I bought more shares of my favorite index funds.

For the most part, you only lock in your losses when you sell low. I stayed the course during the last couple of market events and even added to my portfolio. You get more bang for your buck when you buy during the dips.

While you’re young, you can afford to let it ride when you go through these crashes. As you get closer to retirement, you can consider moving some of your assets out of stocks and into bonds and/or cash. That way, your portfolio is somewhat protected close to the time you will actually need to start using that money.

But, for now, chances are that you can get through whatever the market throws at you.

There will always be down markets, bear markets, and crashes. Don’t react with panic and unload when you will guarantee losses.

Bottom line: investing is your best bet.

If you want to build long-term wealth, you need to get over the investing myths. Investing is your best bet for building financial independence in the future.

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Dating can be exhausting, especially if you aren’t ready. Don’t jump back into the pool out of desperation. Read More...

“You’ll find someone else.”

How many times have you heard that when a relationship comes to an end?

All sorts of well-meaning people expressed the conviction that I could easily find someone to replace my ex-husband after he asked for the divorce.

I didn’t feel like I was ready to date, though. It took several months for me to feel ready to accept an invitation to go out or to sign up for a dating website.

Dating’s not that easy.

Figuring out if you’re ready to date isn’t as easy as your mom wants you to believe. (“Can’t you just find a nice man?”)

Sometimes letting your friends set you up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Plus, what happens when you’ve been out of the game for a while? The hardest thing for me was trying to decide if I was ready brave the world of online dating. Internet dating was barely a thing when I got married.

Even if you don’t go the online route and decide to stick to IRL dating options, you can easily feel overwhelmed, depending on how long you’ve been out of the dating pool. Flirting, pickup lines, deciding who pays – all of these things change over time.

Before you can feel ready to date, you need to get the lay of the land.

Are you ready to be you?

Over the last year, I’ve learned the value of owning my shit. Getting to know the single me was a big part of getting ready to date again. If you aren’t sure who you are, you might not be ready to start dating again.

I’m much more straightforward now than I was when I was younger. As a 20-something trying to find someone to marry, there were times I didn’t fully express myself. After all, I lived in a culture that didn’t particularly value female outspokenness or independence.

Today, even though I know my opinions and lifestyle disqualify me from being “dateable” to a large portion of the single population where I live, I make it a point to be me. It’s exhausting to try to meet others’ expectations of what I “should” be just to get a date.

It’s easier to just be me and not fuss too much if someone doesn’t like who that is.

The nice thing about knowing who are and being comfortable with you is that you don’t feel like you have to always be going on dates. If you love yourself, and you’re comfortable alone, you don’t need to date out of desperation. You can date when you’re ready – and you can say no to those that don’t interest you.

Why do you want to date?

Part of knowing you’re ready to date is understanding the reasons behind your desire to get out there.

When first decided I was ready to date, it was because I thought it would be good to meet interesting people and build new connections. It took me a while to decide I wanted to dip my toe in those waters, but once I felt ready, I went in with purpose.

My interest in dating right now has nothing to do with finding a life partner. And, because I own most of my shit now, I’m upfront about that. I know exactly why I date:

  • Get to know new people
  • Build connections
  • Enjoy new experiences

I’m not even opposed to the idea of building a relationship with someone I meet through dating. However, I’m not interested in a long-term relationship right now. That could change, and perhaps someone I meet will prompt that change.

Before you get ready to date, you need to know your goals.

It’s ok if you are dating in the hopes of finding someone to share your life with. In fact, that’s why most people decide to start dating. They hope to find a soulmate. Or at least someone to share part of the journey with.

If you have kids, you need to know whether or not you hope to find someone willing to help you raise them. I have a relatively independent 14-year-old, and my ex and I coparent well. I don’t really feel the need to bring someone else into the mix to help with kid things.

We all have our own reasons for dating, and you need to know your own objectives before you get started.

Are you emotionally ready to date?

Even if you know your goals, think you’re ready for the “rules,” and you know yourself, you need to make sure you are ready, emotionally, to get back into the dating pool.

Dating can take an emotional toll on you. Even if you aren’t looking for something serious, you are still investing time and energy into someone. It might only be for an evening, or through a series of texts, but it’s still emotional energy expended. And, if you get close enough to go on more dates and get to know each other better, the emotional energy needed increases.

You have to be ready for the emotional aspects of dating. Gauge your own emotional readiness before you begin.

Are you able to come in without dragging all of your baggage? We all have baggage. But is yours under control? Are you able to separate what happened in the past from the possibilities of the present and the future?

After I went on a couple of dates initially, I realized I wasn’t really ready after all. I felt too busy and not ready to make the time. I dialed back my efforts and took a little more time to get right with myself and my schedule.

If you get out there and realize that maybe the time isn’t right after all, there’s nothing wrong with deactivating your dating account and telling your friends you don’t want to be set up.

There’s no one way to figure out if you’re ready to date again. The best you can do is figure out where you stand, what you want out of the situation, and make sure you’re ready to give it your best shot.

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Stop hiding from your financial situation. Own that shit. Then work to make improvements. Read More...

Lately, I’m not sure what’s going on with my money. Ever since getting back from three months of travel, I just haven’t felt like I have the time to sit down and see what’s going on.

This isn’t a healthy state of financial affairs.

I need to get real about my finances again.

Are your finances in shambles?

The first step to getting real with your finances is figuring out if they are in shambles. While my financial situation isn’t dire, I’m not exactly on top of money like I usually am.

You need to be brutally honest about where you are with your finances. In my case, the fact that my bills are largely paid automatically means that I don’t have a huge issue with missing payments.

However, I haven’t been tracking my spending like I usually do. Instead, I’m just sort of moving money around when I think I need to spend more. It’s a different approach than usual, and there are days that I feel like maybe I’m blowing through my monthly income faster than I should be.

If you’re keeping is real with your finances, you need to acknowledge your shortcomings. Have you been missing bill payments? Are you uncomfortable with your debt level? Do you spend without thinking about your purchases?

Look at your money situation and honestly acknowledge where you are. You can’t improve moving forward if you don’t know where you’re starting.

Evaluate your money goals.

Now that the new year approaches, it’s common to talk about setting goals. It’s an annual theme. And that includes goals about money. Once you know where you stand, you probably want to set goals that help you fix your financial problems or help you improve the situation for the future.

As you get real with your finances, it’s important to evaluate whether or not your goals make sense — and are realistic.

If you have a bunch of debt, it might not be practical to expect to pay it off in a few months. Maybe you can’t immediately max out your retirement account. There’s nothing wrong with this. Instead, the important thing is to make progress. Take a look at where you stand, where you want to be, and a realistic timeframe.

I know that I need to reconcile all my accounts for the last three months. I also need to review my own financial priorities and make adjustments since my new job. It’s a huge undertaking. I either need to suck it up and take a whole day to make it happen or I need to carve out smaller chunks of time over the course of a week.

Either way, I need to get real about my finances and about getting back on track.

Are you honest with your partner?

Let’s not forget that you need to keep it real with your finances when it comes to your life partner. In recent years, there are have been stories about financial infidelity, and the serious problems it causes over time.

No, this doesn’t mean that you need to combine your finances. In fact, I probably won’t combine finances with someone else again. However, I still need to be honest about my finances if I get with a potential partner.

I have a friend who keeps her finances separate from her husband’s. They don’t get into each other’s business. But they do generally keep each other updated about potential issues. You need to be honest about anything that could affect your relationship or the joint portions of your finances.

This might mean fessing up about your debt or admitting to your crappy credit score. It’s not the end of the world. But if you decide you want to buy a home together or if your debt could potentially put strain on your household finances, you need to be real about that.

It’s not easy, but it needs to be done.

When to keep your finances to yourself.

Keeping it real with your finances doesn’t mean that you go around telling everyone your money business. If you’re cool with that, there’s no shame in that game. However, don’t feel like you need to be completely transparent all the time.

I’m not someone who shares income reports. I don’t give exact numbers related to my student loan debt; I just say that I have it and don’t plan on paying it off early.

Even when you’re in a relationship you don’t need to share everything about your finances. I already know that I’m not telling someone about everything in my money life. I stay on top of my bills. I can afford what I spend my money on. I don’t have major issues that will sabotage any joint financial effort.

And that’s all anyone needs to know.

My parents don’t need to know exactly what I make. My friends don’t need to know my exact credit score. It just isn’t necessary.

There’s no reason to brag about your money, but you also don’t need to be ashamed to talk about some of your deals or address important issues.

As long as you own your financial situation to yourself and move forward to do what’s right with your money, you should be fine.

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The dream of FWB is alive and well. But does this no-strings-attached thing really work? It can, but not without a few ground rules. Read More...

Is a “friends with benefits” arrangement really possible? Can you really pull it off? I kind of tried it earlier this year, and it went OK.

But here’s the thing: while we might dream of the friends with benefits situation, I’m not entirely sure how sustainable it is over time.

Bring sexual benefits into a friendship.

According to the latest Singles in America survey from, 46% of Americans have had a “friends with benefits” relationship. This represents something of a leveling off of a trend that had been on the rise. In 2012, the number jumped from 20% to 47%, and since then, it’s been relatively stable.

It can be fun to bring these types of benefits into a friendship, especially if you’ve been experiencing something of a drought, but haven’t found someone you want to commit to. Looking for “the one” is time-consuming and sometimes difficult. A friend with benefits can be one way to meet your physical desires without a long-term commitment or the rigors of a full-on romantic relationship.

In some cases, you might discover that you and your friend plus plus are actually turning into soulmates. That can be an interesting and beneficial development that can lead to a long-term romantic or life partnership.

Of course, there are downsides to the friends with benefits model. First of all, there is the chance that one of you will decide that they want to be more than friends with a side dish of sex. The other person might not return those feelings and that can be very painful for everyone involved.

It can even ruin the friendship. It’s unfortunate because most of us don’t decide to become friends with benefits intending for the friendship to end.

Does a friends-with-benefits arrangement ever end well?

I’m still friends with every ex I’ve ever had, including the guy that asked me for a divorce. I think that’s a pretty good track record. We were able to move from romantically involved to being friends.

Does that translate well in a friends with benefits situation?

I guess it depends on who you are, and who your friend is, and the way you interact with each other. But eventually, that relationship is likely to end. At least the benefits part. Here are some of the reasons that the benefits might disappear:

  • One of you finds someone else: At some point, one of you might end up finding a romantic partner. Unless you are all about the open relationship (and your new partner agrees), it might be time to cut the benefits out of your friends with benefits relationships.
  • The sex just sort of peters out: You might also reach the point where the sex peters out. Maybe you just don’t do the benefits thing that much because the friend things become uppermost.
  • One of you starts to do develop romantic feelings: One of the realities of sex is that it can lead to a deeper connection and feelings of love. Even though different parts of the brain are involved with sexual desire and love, there is overlap, according to a study from Concordia University. Once that happens, you might want to stop the benefits if you aren’t interested in leveling up your relationship.

This last possibility is very interesting, mainly because of the way habits form in the brain. Science Daily wrote an article about the Concordia study, quoting one of the authors, James G. Pfaus:

Love and sexual desire activate different areas of the striatum. The area activated by sexual desire is usually activated by things that are inherently pleasurable, such as sex or food. The area activated by love is involved in the process of conditioning by which things paired with reward or pleasure are given inherent value. That is, as feelings of sexual desire develop into love, they are processed in a different place in the striatum.

Somewhat surprisingly, this area of the striatum is also the part of the brain that associated with drug addiction. Pfaus explains there is good reason for this. “Love is actually a habit that is formed from sexual desire as desire is rewarded. It works the same way in the brain as when people become addicted to drugs.”

What you think of as casual sex over time can become something else if done enough. This is why friends with benefits can end up being more complicated than a couple of hook-ups or a one-night stand.

Can you maintain your friendship?

Ultimately, if maintaining the friendship is important to both of you, it will work out in the end. But it might require a little extra effort on your part.

Even though I don’t often fall into gender stereotypes, I might in a friends-with-benefits situation. According to an article on Psychology Today, women are more likely to focus on the friendship part while men are more focused on the benefits part. This is probably part of why I don’t have much of a problem moving forward. To me, the connection between us is important and vital, and that friendship matters more than anything else we might have done (or contemplated doing).

Hey, I’m not a man, so I’d love to hear a male perspective on this. Leave a comment or join the conversation in our #Adulting community on Facebook.)

At any rate, I did have someone I’ve known for a long time tell me, after our hook-up experience, that our friendship is strong enough to deal with this. And we’ve actually been in touch more often via personal messages since the *ahem* incident. Of course, it probably helps that he lives on a different continent.

Proximity probably has a lot to do with maintaining a friendship after a friends with benefits. In fact, before you embark on this type of adventure, it makes sense to carefully consider how often you will see your buddy, and how close you live to each other. Seeing each other all the time after the benefits fizzle out probably doesn’t help the cause.

Follow these rules in your FWB situation.

Setting some ground rules can help you be better friends with benefits. And by “better,” I mean getting through it without losing your friend when you lose the benefits. Here are some ideas for ground rules to follow:

  1. Communicate like adults: Seriously. Talk about your goals for this relationship. Be open about what you like and what you don’t. Ima repeat that. Be open. This only works if you’re both honest. And if you feel yourself developing romantic feelings, mention it ASAP. Say you want to pull back to avoid hurting the friendship and see if your sex buddy agrees. If s/he doesn’t, that’s still a sign that you need to change things up.
  2. Don’t act like a couple: Don’t see each other Every. Single. Day. Don’t act like a couple. Remind yourself that you’re not dating. Unless you want to become a “real” couple, you need to make sure you’re not acting like it. This includes bringing your sex buddy around to family and friend events that s/he normally wouldn’t be at.
  3. Remember that you’re non-exclusive: You can’t get upset when your buddy goes out with someone else. The whole point is that you’re non-exclusive. If someone starts getting jealous, it’s probably time to ax the benefits and see if you can salvage the friendship. And, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: PROTECTION. Make sure you’re properly protected because who knows what else is going on there with your sex buddy.
  4. Keep it off social media: For reals. It’s a Very Bad Idea to share things about your friends with benefits relationship on social media. Going through a breakup on social media is hard enough. Leave the “it’s complicated” status update and other info off. You and your sex buddy should be careful about who knows what’s going on.
  5. Don’t worry about sleeping over: One of the great things about FWB is that you don’t have to sleep over. Or cuddle. Or do any of those things that build emotional intimacy beyond sex. Establish ground rules and don’t expect anything that goes past that. Be careful, though, that you don’t get too attached to the situation. Otherwise, you might be really devastated when it’s over.

The whole point of FWB is to satisfy something that’s missing without making things overly complicated. It’s a fine line to walk, and not everyone can.

Have you been successful with FWB? What worked for you?

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Just because everyone’s in love with entrepreneurship right now, it doesn’t mean you need to feel bad about your real job. There’s no shame in that game. Read More...

The only way to be truly free is to start your own business and quit the 9-to-5 grind.

Have you heard that before?

It’s become a common theme in recent years. In some circles, the idea that you must become an entrepreneur with the goal of quitting your traditional job is so prevalent that there’s a patina of shame attached to having a real job.

I love working from home. I wouldn’t give it up. I haven’t had a real job in more than a decade — and wouldn’t trade a second of it. But that doesn’t mean that my path is right for everyone.

Before you decide that you need to do everything in your power to build a business that allows you to escape the rat race, stop and think about whether or not it’s really the way for you to go.

If you decide a traditional career is the right path for you, don’t let someone else shame you into quitting your real job.

What if you like your real job?

There are plenty of people who like their jobs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Most of us just want to feel like we’re doing something meaningful and that we’re appreciated. If you have a job that lets you do that, and you like it, there’s no reason to give it up for a freelance lifestyle or the uncertainty of trying to establish a company from scratch.

Take a look at your career. Do you like what you do? If you don’t, can you retrain to do something that you like better? Do you feel like you’re moving forward? If so, there’s no shame in having that real job. Stick to it, and be proud of what you do.

The 9-to-5 lifestyle has perks.

Entrepreneurs and lifestyle business gurus might not believe it, but there are perks associated with a 9-to-5 lifestyle.

First of all, it’s hard to underestimate the joy of a great benefits package. Health insurance, when not subsidized by your employer, can be quite expensive. I know. I spent 10 years paying for my own health insurance. Now, my new employer, Student Loan Hero, offers a monthly stipend for health and wellness. It’s not quite the same thing, but it’s a total upgrade from my previous complete lack of benefits.

Plus, when you contribute to an employer’s retirement plan, there is a chance that you will end up with a match. Now that’s a perk. Free money, growing in a tax-advantaged account.

Another perk of a real job is the fact that you can clock out and leave your work at work, rather than bringing it home all the time. I know folks who just want to turn it off, enjoying family, relaxation, and friends when they get home from work. That’s harder to do when you have your own business. In fact, I have to make myself step away from the work. There are days I find myself daydreaming about a real job and what it would be like to just clock out.

Depending on your employer, you might receive other perks, like:

  • Paid time off for vacation and sick days
  • Child care stipend
  • Gym membership or discount
  • Access to company car and/or phone

Enjoying the perks of a regular job is nothing to be ashamed of. If you like it, prefer the convenience, and just like knowing what’s going on and when it’s happening, stick with the job. Don’t feel like you have to give all that up to meet someone else’s idea of what you “should” do in order to achieve financial freedom.

Understand the dark side of self-employment.

There's No Shame in Having a Real Job

Before you make your decision, make sure you consider the dark side of self-employment. I love working from home. I value the freedom and flexibility too much. But there are times that it can be stressful, and I dream of simpler times.

When you’re self-employed, everything’s on you. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. You need to be on top of your game and work even when you don’t feel like it. There’s no calling in sick when you’re on your own.

You might also be at the mercy of a client if you are in a position where you need the money. I remember times when I put up with all sorts of shit from clients. I needed the money. Today, I don’t have that issue. But it took some time to get here. If you’re going to be self-employed, you need to be prepared to work hard and sometimes do stuff you don’t want to do.

Finances can get dicey as well. You’re in charge of your taxes, including both ends of the payroll tax. Income isn’t always the same each month, so you have to be able to plan for down months. From putting together your own benefits package to figuring your taxes, you need to be ready. Don’t forget about the overhead that comes if you get an office offsite and if you hire someone to work for you as you expand.

While there is no way I would give up my situation, there are times I struggle. Go in with your eyes open if you decide to ditch the real job and join those of us in our alternate reality.

Don’t let anyone tell you they have the ONE solution.

There’s nothing wrong with being self-employed and ditching the world of traditional employment. However, there’s also nothing wrong with sticking with your real job if it works well for your situation and lifestyle. As long as you are careful to plan for the future and save up, a real job can be one way to ensure that you meet your needs.

Figure out what works best for you, whether you just want a side gig for a little extra cash while maintaining your day job, or whether you hope to eventually move on from the daily grind.

But don’t make your decision based on feelings of shame that you aren’t doing what you’re “supposed” to do.

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Leave your worries behind and start meditating. It’s like a vacation for your mind. Read More...

Are you struggling with stress? Do you wish you had time to slow down and relax?

A few years ago, I was in the same boat: overwhelmed, worried, concerned that I didn’t have enough time to just sit.

That’s when I started meditating.

You don’t need a lot of time to start meditating; you don’t even need to do it every day. Begin a meditation practice, and you might be surprised at the benefits.

Here’s why you should start meditating.

Meditation seems like it’s some feel-good fluff. And there are some “masters” and “gurus” out there that peddle plenty of feel-good fluff as part of their meditation programs.

I’m not into all that. I like meditation because it comes with real benefits for your body and mind.

First of all, you can lower your stress levels, which in turn impacts other areas of your life, particularly your heart. Studies indicate that meditation might help lower your blood pressure and reduce your likelihood of stroke and heart attack.

Your emotional and mental health can be positively impacted as well. Meditation can calm you, allowing you to deal with unexpected events in a more positive manner — and improve your mood, which helps you in your interactions with your partner, friends, and children.

Meditation can even change your brain structure in beneficial ways. It might even help stave off the impacts of aging on the brain. Enhanced cognition and attention can help you boost your productivity and improve your ability to focus on your goals.

A few weeks ago, I got out of the practice of meditating. I felt too busy. One day skipped turned into another day skipped. I didn’t even realize I was skipping until Harlan brought up my stress levels, associated with my recent illness. “Are you meditating?”

After honestly considering his question, I discovered that I needed to start meditating again. So I picked up my practice. Here’s how I got back into it — and how you can start your own meditation practice:

Start with short periods of time.

Slow Down. Breathe. Start Meditating.

When we think of meditation, we picture someone sitting cross-legged for hours at a time, humming. That’s not practical. No one is going to just carve out an hour of the day out of nowhere.

Instead, start meditating for much shorter periods of time. I like a five-minute meditation for anytime I feel like I’m flagging during the day. There’s nothing wrong with meditating for five minutes each day. You could even break it out into three five-minute sessions. Other people I know start the day with a five-minute meditation and then re-focus throughout the day with a one- or two-minute meditation every couple of hours.

If you want to increase the amount of meditating you do each day, do so gradually.

I like to start the day with a moving meditation while I run through the yoga poses that make up the sun salutation. I usually set aside 20 minutes for meditation partway through the day, and then I use a guided meditation to help me fall asleep at night.

Figure out what works for you, and stick with that. The important thing is to get started — no matter how much time you spend meditating each day.

Use guided meditation to stay focused.

I get distracted by my thoughts all the time. So, even though I’ve been meditating for years, I still use guided meditations. You can find guided meditations for lengths of time ranging from five minutes to two or three hours.

I’ve tried all sorts of things: finger meditating, meditation balls, focusing on my breath, using mantras. None of it keeps me focused like a guided meditation. Don’t feel like you have to be able to sit there on your own and become one with the universe to be successful. Swallow your pride and make use of YouTube or a meditation app on your phone to find guided help.

Adopt any position you want.

My favorite position for meditation? Corpse.

Really, it’s just lying down. And I like it. When I’m meditating during the day, I lay on my back, palms facing up. At bedtime, I just lay on my side. It’s about comfort.

You can meditate sitting on a chair, standing up, or laying down. Figure out what’s most comfortable for you, and just go for it. There’s no one “right” way to meditate.

Figure out what's most comfortable for you, and just go for it. There's no one "right" way to meditate.Click To Tweet

Meditate while moving.

Slow Down. Breathe. Start Meditating.

Did you know you can meditate while moving? There are walking meditations. Sometimes I turn my lap swimming into a swimming meditation. I start my morning by meditating while doing yoga.

You can enter a mindful state while doing any number of activities, from coloring to playing music (both of which come with a bevy of benefits). Don’t assume you have to shut yourself away in a room for effective meditation.

Mindfulness is key.

Effective meditation is all about mindfulness. The idea is to connect to the present, and let thoughts and worries about the past or the future go. Whatever you need to do in order to achieve that state of mind is totally acceptable.

And, as with all things, it takes practice. It can be challenging at first, but as you begin to see the results of your meditation efforts, you’ll be hooked, and likely look for ways to take your practice to the next level.

Are you starting meditation? How do you make time? What are your best tips for effective meditation?

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