Be Jealous But Do Not Stay Jealous

My best friend is a guy that I’ve known for close to 35 years now.  We met when we were just 5 years old, and here we are about to both hit 40 this year.

He’s a great guy and probably the closest thing I will ever have to a brother.  We’ve shared a lot of happiness and a lot of not so happy times together.  Rarely have I been jealous of him, but I found myself jealous of him after a recent conversation.

We started talking about work, and he told me that he had someone contact him with serious interest about a job.  He wasn’t looking, but they found him on LinkedIn.  He told me that it was $25,000 more per year than he makes now, and then he told me what the total salary would be.  So, he basically told me what he was making now.

Both numbers are higher than what I currently make, and my first instinct was a pang of jealousy.  His current salary is about 10% more than what I make, which would put his new salary (if the job worked out) quite a bit higher.

After we got off the phone, I held the jealousy for a few minutes, and then as I started thinking about it, the jealousy started to fade, and within a few minutes, it was gone.

See, I realized a few things as I thought about them:

  • He’s worked hard – My buddy and I both did well in school throughout the years.  We both studied hard through high school, finished with honors.  We both attended college, and we both have Master’s degrees.  I know that his success is well deserved.
  • He’s sacrificed in order to get where he is – My friend has changed jobs a few times over the years, and the main reason he’s left almost every job is that he has had to travel quite extensively.  He would often travel 50-75% of the time.  He’s expressed sadness about missing chunks of times from his family.  As both of us each have two kids (his are 5 and 3, mine are 4 and 2), he knows that this time is precious.  I’ve never had to travel for my job.  His current job has actually given him a local presence, but it’s been a long road to find that.
  • He works more – While there are times that I have to work after hours, I’m pretty lucky in that I work 8-9 hours per day, 5 days a week. My friend has said that it’s not uncommon for him to work 2-3 hours per night after his kids go to sleep, in addition to the 8-9 hours he puts in.  His hourly rate, if you do the math, probably works out to slightly less, whereas I get more time to spend with my wife or on hobbies.
  • His potential opportunity is just that – The potential job that he has is no sure thing.  I don’t think he’s even had a face to face interview yet.  A lot could happen in the mean time.  They might not actually like him.  He might not like them.  They might tell him he has to to go back to traveling.  I could have been getting jealous over something that may never, in fact, come to pass.  Seems kind of silly, really.
  • It’s not worth being jealous – Above all, one thing that I’ve learned is that being mb-201403babyjealous just isn’t worth it.  You don’t get any further ahead being jealous, in fact all you do is get extra stress and less self-esteem.  I’ve learned that there’s always someone that is potentially worthy of your jealousy, whether it be money, relationships, family.  If you let it consume you, you’ll end up looking more at what others have than what you have.  And what you have shouldn’t be taken for granted.

In the end, I was able to let it go pretty easily.  He’s my friend.  I’m happy for him.  We’ve taken turns in our lives with various things that have come our way.  In other words, I’m pretty sure at various points, he’s been jealous of me for one reason or another.

Quite honestly, jealousy has never stood in the way of our friendship, because what usually ends up happening is that we realize that being happy for each other, supporting each other, and using the successes (and failures) as learning and motivational opportunities for each other has kept our friendship strong, and will continue to do so.

Long story short: Being jealous is OK.  Accept the feelings.  Process them.  Then, move on, because if you stay jealous, that will put your relationships, your self-esteem, and your happiness at risk.  And I’m pretty sure that whatever you might be jealous about, it’s not worth all that in the end.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why You Need To Tackle A Difficult Task Today

Difficult tasks.  We all hate them. We dread them.  We look at them and think of any way to get around them.

Why?

Because they’re difficult, of course!

But that has to stop, and if you’ve been putting off a difficult task for any length of time, then putting it off has to stop today!

The reason is simple.

A difficult task will not get any easier as time passes.  Instead, it will only get more and more difficult.

Think about it from a financial perspective.  If you have a credit card bill of $6,000, chancesmb-201403checkbook are for most people, the idea of coming up with a plan to pay this off is pretty difficult.  It’s probably very overwhelming.

So, if you don’t tackle it, and just make the minimum payment, where does this get you?

The answer is simple.

Nowhere!

That’s right, you will get absolutely nowhere by not tackling your problem.  In fact, the reality of the situation is that you’ll likely end up in a worse situation.  You might add to the balance.  Even if you don’t, the stress of having it hang over your head will cause you angst and grief.

It won’t work out for you.  Your debt won’t get paid down by itself.  A plan won’t appear out of thin air.  You’re not going to win the lottery and have it magically go away.  Sorry, these things are not the solution to your problem.

The solution is simple.

Get started today.  That’s right, today.  Not tomorrow, today.

Find a difficult task, identify it, and get to work.

Does this mean that you’ll have the task completed tomorrow?  No.  There’ s very little chance of that happening, and in most cases, if you’re that quick, chances are you didn’t really tackle the difficult task you have out there.

But, if you get started today, you will start making progress.  In many cases, getting started is the hard part, because with something that’s large and difficult and overwhelming, you don’t even know where to start!

Getting started is simple.

  1. Write down the task – Whatever it is, just write down what the task is.  Keep it high level.  Just a few words.  This step alone can start pulling the focus in tighter.
  2. Write down the goal – If you accomplish the task, what do you want to end up with after having it done?  This step helps you visualize the completion of the problem.
  3. Write down what you need to do – Just start writing down steps.  They don’t even have to be in order.  You can go back and re-order them later if you need to.  This step will start breaking your task down into meaningful achievements.
  4. Estimate how long your steps will take – Whether it’s a small task that will take a few days, and you just need to estimate your time by hours, or a large task that will take months to complete, putting some dates and times will really reign it in for you.
  5. Re-organize everything – Now, you’ve got a plan laid out, so go back and re-organize it.  Write it down again with things in order.  Chances are, as you’re writing it down, you’ll come up with some further refinements.  Now you’ve got the hang of it.
  6. Marvel at your plan – Look how easy that was. You started off with something big and overwhelming, you identified the problem, identified the goal, and started working through steps to get to the end goal.
  7. Get working – After you take a few minutes to bask in the glory, stop basking.  Take a look at your list of things to do, and get started on the first one.  You’re on your way.

This may be rather oversimplified, but I bet that if you really take a look at something you don’t want to do because it’s too hard, too overwhelming, or will take too much time, this will get you going down the right road.  The steps here may not be the exact ones you follow, but one thing I can guarantee is that if you don’t at least start somewhere, you will get nothing done, and your difficult task will just sit there, getting more and more difficult.

So, what do you say?  Let’s get started today.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Switching Gyms

I’ve been doing pretty well with my exercise.  It’s been about six months since I joined a gym.  I pretty much stick to cardio and I don’t do anything that intense.  I’m not in it to get ripped or run a marathon.  I just want to stay in shape, keep my weight at a comfortable level, and stay active.

Which is why I’m thinking about switching gyms.

I joined my gym as it was one of the only ones around that fit some of my needs: Cardio, Reasonable Price, Good Location, Early Morning Hours.

I’ve been happy where I’m at, but I just found out that a new gym is opening that I think will meet my needs even more.  Planet Fitness is coming.  Yes, they of the “I lift things up and put them down” hilarious commercials.

Looking at my list

Cardio

I do a mix of cardio machines.  The treadmill, the elliptical, and the bike are my big three, though I’ll do a stair machine every once in a while.  My current gym has 31 total machines.  I can always get on any kind that I want, though at least 10% of the machines seem to be ‘out of order’ at any one time.

Planet Fitness is opening and will have around 100 machines.  I stopped into the sales Find the right gym and right exercise program for you.office and while the gym space is under construction, they have aisles of cardio.  It’s their main focus, so it would be good.  I’ve read reviews of other locations all part of the same franchise, and everybody is happy with the quality and durability.  It seems like it’d be a step up to go Planet Fitness.

Reasonable Price

Right now, I’m a little over halfway through a $99 for 6 months deal, which works out to $16.50 per month.  There are no signup or annual fees.  My current gym changes their promos all the time, so if I were to renew when my membership expires, I’d probably pay $75 for another four months, or $18.75.

Planet Fitness is pretty slick.  They charge $10 per month.  There is normally a $29 startup fee, but they are knocking it down to $1 as part of the pre-grand opening.  They also charge $29 per year as an administrative fee, but they’re not charging that until June 2015, as they’d waive the first year.  Even with the $29 fee, a year averages to just under $11 per month.  So, I’d be saving money.

Location

My current gym is a 2 mile drive from my house.  Planet Fitness would be 2.5 miles.  An extra mile round trip per day? I think I could stomach that.

Hours

I get up and am there at opening time, which is 5:30.  With Planet Fitness, that would never happen, as it’s open 24 hours a day.  Other locations show that they may cut this back, but even when they do, they usually stay open 24 hours on the weekdays and scale back on the weekends, which is fine.  I’m an early bird and I like the 24 hour thing.  There are times where if I wake up early, I’d love get up and go.  With Planet Fitness, I could.

Am I Going To Do It?

I think I’m going to do it.  The only thing holding me back is that I’m paid up until July, so if I signed up, I’d have about 6-8 weeks of overlapping membership, as I have to sign up by April 30 to take advantage of the cost breaks I outlined above.  Still, I think that it would pay for itself with the cost savings it would present.

I think a gym like Planet Fitness is great.  They cater to people who are looking to get in shape, not bodybuilders or those looking for advanced workouts.  That pretty much defines my goals and objectives to a tee, and if I can get that and save a few bucks a month, it seems like a no-brainer.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

9 Things Your Yard Needs For A Great Spring

Spring is here!  Not only are you ready to enjoy the nice weather, but your yard is ready and waiting.  With a few steps, you can get your yard looking great for the spring season, with the added benefit that a great spring will set the stage for your yard to deliver a fantastic summer season as well.

  1. Clean out your bushes, planting beds, and vegetable gardens – If your planting areas have filled up with leaves blown around from the fall and winter, you want to clean these out.  Loosen up the soil or mulch in these areas, especially you were in areas where the snow packed everything down.
  2. Trim back grasses and perennial plants – If you have ornamental grasses or perennial plants that died off, you might want to trim them back.  Do a little research based on the plants you have to follow the recommended pruning method.  In some cases, spring is just fine to trim as long as it hasn’t started growing yet.  With some plants, fall might be better, so if you’re not sure, check.
  3. Inspect your trees, bushes and other plantings – Look for signs of disease, damage, or overgrowth.  If you have plantings which need to be trimmed or removed altogether, now is the time to start planning.  If you need to get trees trimmed, do some research and consult an expert tree trimmer to make sure that you get the mb-201404springtrimming done during the proper time of year, as trimming some things at the wrong time can make them prone to damage. With bushes, I find it’s best to wait until after they go through their spring growth period, at which point you can shape them as you wish.
  4. Mulch where needed – We mulch our planting beds every two years or so.  You want to have about two inches depth of mulch.  One trick I learned from an expert is that after you spread your mulch, give it a firm press with a rake or other tool.  This simple task will help keep the mulch firmly in place during winds or rainstorms.
  5. Rake your grass – Our grass looks like someone took a nap on it all winter.  Well, the snow sort of did.  Once the ground is a little less squishy, go out and gently rake your grass.  It will pull out the dead grass, while loosening things up for the root system to start doing its work of providing a great lawn.
  6. Fertilize your grass – In early spring (around now) you should put down a fertilizer, preferrably one that will keep crabgrass from growing (note: if you put any grass seed down, do not use this within six weeks of putting down the seed as it will stifle the growth of new seed).  Around Memorial Day, you should put down some Weed & Feed.
  7. Get your work areas ready – Chances are your garage or shed are ‘winter ready’.  Get your winter tools back in the back, and get your summer tools out and ready to go.
  8. Get your tools ready – Even though you might not need to cut your grass just yet, now is the time to get your equipment ready.  Get your mower out, change the oil, and maybe even the spark plug, sharpen the blade, and make sure everything is running smoothly.  Get your other tools ready as well, including any other yard equipment such as edgers, trimmers, or gardening tools that may have gotten damaged last year.
  9. Nip bugs in the bud – If your yard is prone to bugs, you can start work now to minimize where they are.  We have a few spots that are prone to underground yellowjackets, and I’ve learned that spraying some ‘Delta Dust’ in late fall and early spring will often cripple the hibernating queens.  I also keep an eye out for the formation of wasp nests around the eaves of our house, as it’s much easier to shut down a nest while it’s early in the building process versus once it’s established.

These are some simple yet effective methods to set your yard for a great spring and a fantastic outdoor season.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

I Have High Cholesterol. Or Do I?

For many years, I’ve had cholesterol readings around or above 200, which is the number that most will say is the threshold that crosses you into the ‘danger zone’.

It’s something that bothers me, but it’s not my top priority.

I’ve had two reports run in the last six months, one for an annual physical and the other for a life insurance qualification test.  Here are the general results.

Overall Cholesterol
November 2013: 219
January 2014: 213
Suggested Range: 70-199

LDL (aka the ‘bad’ type)
November 2013: 162
January 2014: 156
Suggested Range: 50-129

HDL (aka the ‘good’ type)
November 2013: 43January 2014: 45
Suggested Range: 40-90

Triglycerides (the ‘plaque’ enabler)November 2013: 66
January 2014: 58
Suggested Range: 30-149

So, looking at these, here are the takeaways:

  • My cholesterol is above 200.  Not good.
  • My LDL levels, the ‘bad’ stuff, is above the recommended threshold.  Also not good.
  • My HDL levels are within acceptable range.  This is good.
  • My triglycerides are on the low end of the range.  This is very good.

Now cholesterol is often associated with heart disease.  There is a correlation between higher cholesterol and plaque formation in arteries.

But here are some interesting things:

  • Triglycerides are thought to be the enablers to let plaque start forming on the walls of arteries.  My interpretation, after reading through a lot of medical studies, is that it sort of acts like glue.  The higher triglyceride levels will lead to more opportunity for plaque formation, which leads to heart attacks and strokes.  But, if you have less triglycerides, there is less ‘glue’
  • Triglycerides also play a role in how bad the LDL is for you.  High LDL and high triglycerides tend to mean that the LDL particles are smaller in size and greater in number.  In non-scientific speak, this basically means that you’ve got lots and lots of these ‘bad’ things going around.  Since triglyceride levels are higher, you have more glue, so even though the LDL particle are small, they start getting stuck.  This equates to plaque buildup, which leads to greater chances of heart disease.
  • However, low levels of triglycerides not only provide less ‘glue’, but for some reason it means that the LDL particles themselves tend to be bigger.  So, you have a lot less LDL particles, but they happen to be bigger.
  • What does this mean?  Essentially, I have less ‘glue’, there are less overall particles to stick to the glue, and the particles are big enough that they tend not to stick.

The bottom line, my cholesterol readings indicate that while I have a high level of LDL, which is leading to a higher than normal overall reading, it does not tend to put me at risk of increased heart disease.  Simply put, the LDL itself isn’t bad, it’s when it forms plaque that it turns bad, and my readings seem to show that the LDL is not plaque forming.

It’s Not Just Me

Note: I am *not* a doctor :)

Note: I am *not* a doctor :)

You might think that I’m grasping at straws, but my life insurance company doesn’t think so.  They got my readings, and still qualified me for the ‘best health’ plan.  Now, from what I’ve read about the life insurance industry, they tend to be a pretty conservative bunch.  They don’t take a lot of chances.  So, if there was any risk that my numbers were of greater than average concern, they certainly would have called me and told me that I didn’t qualify for the best rates.

So, I have some validation.

I Do Have A Plan

This doesn’t mean that I’m unconcerned.  I am.  I would love to cross below the 200 mark and stay there, both with the LDL and the overall number (though I realized they are 100% correlated in my case).  I plan to get tested regularly.  If my triglyceride levels do start rising with the other numbers staying the same, I would start getting very concerned.

But, staying watchful is good.   Exercising is good.  Eating more nuts and more fish is good.  Eating less margarine and fats is good.  These are things I’ve slowly incorporated and will continue.

What I won’t do right now is consider any type of medication.  The medical profession used to recommend various medications as a matter of course.  They’ve recently started revising this, with the understanding that not all levels above 200 come out to the same level of risk and the same health issues.  I’ve spoken with my doctor and he agrees: Monitor but don’t treat.  The drugs that they prescribe often work, but just like any medication, there are risks of side effects.   I’m of the personal opinion that I don’t want to take on the risk of side effects unless I’m certain that it’s worth the risk.

From everything I know, I’m not there.  My doctor’s not there.  I hope I never am.

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Allocationg Our 2013 Tax Refund

We got our tax refund information a couple of weeks back.  I spent some time coming up with some proposed allocations, and my wife was more than happy with what I came up with, so I thought I’d give a brief rundown on the categories which we’re allocating this year.

The Three Sources of Our Refund

We get our refund from three different sources

  • Federal Refund – Self-explanatory
  • State Refund – Again, shouldn’t require any detail
  • Side Income Allocation – When we make money from our side hustles, the sales of stock, the cashing in of savings bonds, or other areas where I know we’ll pay taxes but there is no withholding, we set aside 25% in an earmarked fund within our money market accounts.  If we were ever in a position to have to pay estimated taxes, this would be the source, but for now, it’s a nice way to get a ‘refund’….and earn interest on it along the way!

So, here are the categories for which we are distributing the money this year:

  • New Car – Eventually we’ll get a new car (new to us, anyways), so we stick a few hundred bucks toward that
  • Car / Camper Repairs – I like to have $1,000 set aside to cover any repairs.  My car needed about $1,300 in repairs last year, and I project that we need new tires on our camper this year, so we’re putting a few hundred bucks into this to bring it close to ‘fully’ funded.
  • Roof Payback – As I alluded to above, our money market fund is broken down (via a spreadsheet) into multiple allocations.  One of those was the roof that we got installed last year.  As it cost about $2,000 more than I’d budgeted, we essentially ran a negative balance, which is fine because there are always other funds running positive balances.  We are about $600 away from fully paying that off, so we’ll do so with a portion of our refund.
  • General Home Fund – Everything for the ‘around the house’ fund went to re-stock the roof fund, so not only do I want to bring the balance to $0, but start adding money to it so we can do improvements or start saving toward whatever major project comes next (hopefully in a few years)
  • New Mantel – Normally, I don’t get very specific, but this year, I decided to get somewhat detailed. My wife has been asking to have a mantel installed above our fireplace since we moved in.  Now that it’s been seven years, I figure I can’t use the ‘maybe next year’ brush-off too much longer, so I’m specifically putting aside a small sum toward this.
  • Kids Rooms – Our youngest will be ready to move into a big girl room, and we’re looking at doing some re-shuffling of rooms.  This would require painting three rooms, new bedding, some new draperies and the like.  I am setting aside several hundred dollars to help offset this work.
  • Preschool – Our oldest will be heading to kindergarten this fall, but our youngest will have two years.  We’ll set aside a few hundred bucks to cover the cost of preschool.mb-201403stacks
  • Kids Activities – This is the one that sold my wife.  As our kids are getting older, they are getting more interested in things that have costs associated (e.g. T-ball for my son, swimming lessons for both, dance lessons for my daughter), and rather then complain about the costs each time one of these comes up, I wanted to set some money aside.
  • Gifts – We fund our Christmas fund, and also a ‘Month of May’ fund throughout the year so that when the gift needs arise (May has multiple birthdays and Mother’s Day, so I started saving for this a few years ago to spread out the cost), it’s already paid for.  Just a token amount to each fund.
  • Maintenance – Just last week, I referenced a few items that would need some routine work done this year.  $100 each toward getting the snowblower, lawn mower, and HVAC system looked at will help cover these costs.
  • Anniversary Trip – My wife and I try to take a small in-state trip for our anniversary every two years, and I set aside a couple hundred dollars to cover some of the costs.
  • Fun Money – My wife and I each get a little bit of money to spend as we want.  With kids at the age of 4 and 2, I expect that it won’t be long before we have to throw a little bit their way, huh?

So, there you have it.  As you can see, it’s nothing exciting, but it all helps to fund expenses that we have that I don’t really include in our monthly budget.

What are you doing with your refund check(s) this year?

Copyright 2014 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.