Happy New Year!

BarcelonaHappy New Year to all you beautiful people! I cannot believe that it is 2017 already.  It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me so I wanted to give you an update on the ending of 2016 and what I’ve been up to. With all its ups and downs, 2016 ended on a high note with a trip to Barcelona, Spain where I got to ring in the New Year  with fireworks on the beach among old and new friends. In this post I want to share some of my reflections on this past year and some key takeaways.

Sometimes we have to let go

Whether it’s a relationship or a business idea, this one is never easy. Last year I had to make a difficult decision to let go of a relationship and the person I loved very much. As much as I loved him I had to realize that long-term we were not compatible. It’s so easy to sometimes get lost in the now and not think about the future. But we must always stay true to ourselves and our values because love is not enough. Losing a person is hard and very painful but losing ourselves is much worse in the long run.

I also had to let go of a business idea I was in love with. This one was also hard because it was my first stab at entrepreneurship. Just as the person loving a business is not enough, it has to be feasible and viable in the long run. I had to be honest with myself and recognize that the ideas was not very feasible and let it go. The best part about both of these is that I’ve learned so much in the process. We only lose when we don’t learn anything.

When we make emotional decisions we pay the price

It took me almost a year to find my current job after I left my last one because I hated it so much. There is nothing wrong with making changes but doing so without having a plan is not the best idea. I learned this the hard way. I know that I have an addictive personality so it’s hard for me to sometimes stay with an uncomfortable feeling. It’s easier just to get out. This can backfire without a plan. Creating a plan can take some time, but having one can save more than just money, it can save you piece of mind. Take this from this not at all perfect MoneyGirl. As many strides as I have made towards financial security and peace, sometimes I find myself going through certain lessons more than once. Hey, it’s all part of the journey.

Relationships matter above everything else

Over and over again I recognize the power of relationships. At the end of the day it’s not your fancy car or watch or bank account that will help you with your goals, problems, sadness, career aspirations etc it will be your relationships with people. And I’m not talking about 2,000 Facebook friends or 10,000 followers on Instagram. I’m talking about true, meaningful, deep relationships with REAL people. I try to live by the principle: people first, money second, then things. Last year was very hard emotionally, and it were my friends who have helped me get through it.

Patience is a necessary evil

This one is never easy for me and kind of goes back to takeaway number two. Patience is extremely important for all areas of our lives. Whether it’s financial goals, relationships, career aspirations, all of those things take time.  I’ll be the first to admit, I struggle with this one. Maybe because I was never a patient kid to begin with, I was fast and furious lol or because my parents weren’t really there to help me learn the importance of it and help develop the necessary mental muscle. All of that is irrelevant to my 29-year old self, because at the end of the day we have to teach ourselves what our parents didn’t teach us or life will teach us.

We don’t have to live our lives according to tradition or other people

I went to Barcelona for Christmas and New Year’s celebration to spend the holidays with friends and to make new friends.  This is not a typical way to spend the holidays, but I know that I’m not a typical person. For a while I tried so hard to change my family dynamics and to make it work. Holidays were stressful and full of emotional roller-coasters. And then I realized that instead of fighting I can let go and do my thing. Life is too short to hate the holidays. So I did just that and went to Spain. I am working on a travel guide from my trip so stay tuned.

I hope this new year brings new beginnings and new experiences to all of us! I am certainly looking forward to a great year!

Cheers,

Olia

Money Cannot Buy Happiness (After a Certain Point)

BlackbirdThe first part of this post’s title may sound cliché, yet somehow most of us still try to buy happiness with money or get it through material things purchased with money.  And this attempt to buy happiness inevitably fails no matter how hard we try.  It is true that increase in income raises our level of day-to-day contentment and life satisfaction, but only up to a certain amount:

“The magic income: $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.” WSJ

And even though we have these statistics, some of us still believe that more money will bring us more happiness. And we keep chasing it harder and harder.  A few years ago I also thought this was true until I realized that the more things I bought, the more unhappy I became. I was shopping almost every day and every new thing was exciting and thrilling but only for a few seconds. Underneath all this pursuit of happiness through material things was a really sad girl who was lonely, broken and dissatisfied with herself and her life. I hoped that all those nice things, clothes and makeup would cover up and hide how unhappy I really felt inside. But they didn’t.  I was over my head in debt and I was very lonely.  I was also very insecure. I thought that without my shoes, dresses, nice things, expensive makeup, blonde hair, and perfect tan, people would not like me. I judged myself and I judged others. I set these unrealistic expectations for myself and nothing was good enough. I always wanted more.  For the longest time I thought my only value was in how I looked.

There finally came a point when I realized that the things I was buying  and the image I was portraying will never fix how I felt inside. I realized that I really needed to make some changes in my life. I also got sick and tired of being broke but looking like I had it all (think 30,000 millionaires in Dallas). So I decided to get out of debt and  get rid of all the anxiety I was feeling from having it. This was a good first step. I definitely felt better once I paid off all those credit cards. The next step was to figure out what happiness really meant for me. I had to figure out what was it that I really wanted since the material things weren’t doing it for me. This task took some retrospection and a lot of emotional work.

What I discovered was that I really wanted things that couldn’t be bought. I missed  real and meaningful relationships  and experiences with other people. I missed having those by not having them with my family. I also realized that my life lacked meaning and purpose. I was going to church but I wasn’t really buying into what was “sold” to me so I wanted to discover what spirituality really meant for me. I’m still figuring it out, but I know so far as it’s not about religious rituals and facades, it’s very personal and unique to each and one of us. Lastly I realized that I am the happiest when I am doing the things I love. For me this includes:

  • Doing anything outdoors ( I love nature and being around it really makes me happy)
  • Spending time with my dogs ( Their constant never-ending happiness is really contagious)
  • Playing sports with friends and making new friends while playing sports ( It’s a win-win)
  • Visiting new places ( travel is one of my biggest passions and really makes me happy)
  • Learning new things ( I really enjoy learning, I always have maybe that’s why I went all the way for an MBA)

There’s so many more things on my list that have nothing to do with material stuff. I might have to write a post about that 🙂 Your list might differ from mine and  I’d love to hear about some of the non-material things that make you happy. One thing I have learned for myself  is that true happiness comes from having meaningful relationships with others, doing work that we are passionate about and enjoy, helping others, and contributing to the world. I am much happier now that I have some of those and working on the others.  After all, this kind of happiness is priceless and can NEVER be bought.

Yours truly,

OMG

Why Give?

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” ~ Zig ZiglarThere are so many articles, books and businesses helping people make more money. And then there are tons of businesses and advertising companies helping people spend their money. There are also many companies out there helping people save money, partially this blog as well. However, I have found that there aren’t nearly as many resources helping people understand why it’ also important to GIVE some of your money away. Religious organizations of course make it very easy to make people do it, they simply say: “God told us that we must tide, it is his written in his word” However, when I was going to church, I found very little explanation given about why we should do that and more importantly where does that money go. On top of that, I have met many religious leaders who live and spend so excessively that it makes one wonder: How did they pay for all this? Since this isn’t a post about religion and everything that I think is wrong with it, I want to share my views on why as a spiritual not necessarily religious woman, I find that I receive so much in return when I give away money, things,  my skills or  simply my time.

  • The very first thing that motivates me to give away money, time, clothing, and other items is realizing how much better I have it than some people in US and then most of the people in the rest of the world. First, I have my health. Volunteering at Children’s hospital and seeing so many sick children makes me appreciate it even more. Second,  56% of Americans live on more than $50 per day, which is way more than 7% of the rest of the World according to a PEW study. If any of you have ever visited a developing country you would have noticed how much better off we are here in US. It is truly the best country in the World due to the high standard of living alone. But it’s also something that makes me more grateful and eager to help those who are less fortunate.
  • I’ve learned that giving doesn’t always have to mean giving away money. In fact, sometimes giving money to a person directly is actually not in their best interest. For example: if you give money to a homeless person, there is a high likelihood that they might spend it on alcohol or drugs. Or if you give to a “charitable” organization that you don’t really know much about, there’s really no way of telling what happens to the money. I found that when giving money directly it really helps (as with most things money-related) to do some research.
  • By giving away money, my time, clothes, or other things I feel a great sense of fulfillment knowing that this time, clothing, personal items, talent or whatever else has helped make someone else’s life better somehow. No purchase has ever made feel the same way and no purchase can ever do that.
  • I also found that giving locally and to a cause that we care about brings much more satisfaction, rather than just giving for the sake of it. I really care about women’s health, equality, safety and well-being, so I take most of my clothing and used items to The Genesis Women’s Shelter. They  provide shelter, counseling, and experts services to battered women and children. I am also a finance nerd, so I teach Financial Empowerment courses to women mostly from low-income households at WINGS center of Dallas.

I do realize that sometimes it’s not easy to give, especially when we’re struggling with money, have debt to pay off, don’t have a job, have a sickness in the family or a load of other reasons.  I do still think that it’s important to find a way to give that makes sense for you. If it’s not money, give your time. If time is an issue, give away some stuff you’re not using. I do believe that when we give, others give to us in ways we can’t imagine, it definitely has worked like that for me.  I want to share some great quotes I like on giving to close this post:

“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”Brian Tracy

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Charles Dickens

“We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill       

I would love to hear some of your ideas and comments on how you find ways to give back and help others.

XOXO,

OliatheMoneyGirl