home, money, Washington

This just in: Managing the heavy task of home buying

DC's iconic row homes
DC’s iconic row homes

Yesterday I dipped one tiny toe into the whirling, swirling pool of buying real estate. A one-hour info session and I was already overwhelmed by all of the terms and considerations. So I did what I do whenever I’m overwhelmed—I breathe and take copious notes. I remind myself that when it comes to these giant life decisions that I’m just beginning to contemplate, I don’t need to do anything right this minute except pay attention, ask questions, and learn.

Once I accepted that I have all the time I need to make this choice, I started to relax. I went into student mode, a place where I’m very comfortable, and told myself that thousands of people buy and sell real estate every day. There are plenty of ways to get educated and experts with good hearts and minds who want to help. Many hands make light the load, especially when it comes to preparing to buy a home. And I believe in that old adage of real estate that when the buyer is ready, the right seller will appear.

creative, creativity, innovation, invention, money

Inspired: Lessons from Ryan Grepper and the COOLEST Cooler Kickstarter


Have you ever thought of posting a project to Kickstarter? Inventor Ryan Grepper and his COOLEST Cooler have quite a few lessons for us about perseverance, timing, and content. Ryan’s first COOLEST campaign in December 2013 wasn’t successfully funded. His revamped campaign that launched this month was successful and funded at 13,676% of its goal! I studied Ryan’s two campaigns and this is what I learned that I will apply to my own Kickstarter projects. I hope these insights help you, too!

1.) Timing matters
Ryan’s first campaign for his cooler was timed to hit around Christmas time. Few people are thinking about coolers during the winter months. Timing his new campaign in July, prime time for summer products, worked much better. Also, holiday time is an expensive time of year for people with gift giving and this impacted his ability to raise the needed funds.

2.) Keep the total as low as possible
Ryan wanted to raise $125,000 the first time. His second campaign had a total of $50,000. Consider how much you really need to do a project, not how much you’d like to have.

3.) Get to the point
On Kickstarter, get to the “what” as soon as possible in the description. Explain the product clearly and succinctly with features prominently placed as soon as possible in the description. Put the detail further down in the write up.

4.) Have clear rewards
It’s common for Kickstater giving levels to have different rewards. Make sure those rewards are clear and listed early on in the general description.

5.) Have FAQs and answers
Think of likely FAQs that people may have about the campaign and answer them on your page.

6.) Be conscious of giving levels
Think carefully about the number of giving levels you have and the range of the options. Kickstarter’s community is filled with people who can give modest amounts of money so make sure to have plenty of opportunities for support at the low and mid-tier giving levels.

7.) Keep shipping simple
Many people, myself included, feel cheated when it comes to online shipping. The original COOLEST campaign had complicated language concerning international shipping. In the second campaign, that language is cleaned up and that seemed to have an impact on the number of international supporters.

8.) Don’t give up. Learn and revamp!
I love that Ryan didn’t give up on his idea nor on the Kickstarter campaign just because the first time wasn’t successful. He asked a lot of questions, reflected on his experience, learned, and tried again. After all, you can’t beat someone who doesn’t give up!

Congrats to Ryan and his COOLEST team! Have you run a successful Kickstarter? What advice do you have for readers?

apartment, finance, housing, money, New York, New York City, real estate

Inspired: My New York State of Mind

From Pinterest
From Pinterest

I love New York, right down to my bones. However, housing prices are out of control. It is time to completely disrupt real estate here to spur creativity, innovation, and a rebirth of art and culture. New York is losing its edge because the people with edge can’t afford sky-high rents and the ridiculous hurdles to getting an apartment. That’s why my latest projects, still in the very preliminary stages, are two tiny drops in what I hope will be a sea change for this city that I love so much. They’re ideas to encourage and support the boldest, most creative people in their pursuits to do well and do good right here in the Big Apple by making housing much more affordable and easier to attain. More details soon…

business, money, writer, writing

Inspired: I’m officially a Staff Writer for Wise Bread

personal-finance-blog-logoWise Bread is a site that celebrates living well on a budget and I’m overjoyed to announce that I’m officially a staff writer for this site that I have long loved and admired. I’ll be posting a few times a week on a wide range of topics including food, travel, technology, personal finance, design, and career. My first post “How to Spend Less on Everything in 2014” is now live. I hope you’ll check it out.

Frugal living is how I make my freelance life work. Its principles pervade how I eat, where I travel, what I do, and how I think about money. It’s about saving, spending on things that matter, and smartly using the fuel of money to fund a life we love. It’s about eliminating wasteful habits and expenditures that are draining our bank accounts and limiting our freedom. I’m excited to share the journey with you!


money, Second Step, wealth, work

Beautiful: How to Be Wealthy

From Pinterest

“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.” ~ Vicki Robin

Wealth is the ability to make a living while we make a life. I was on my way to a client meeting last week and I took a stroll down 47th Street, Jeweler’s Row. Sparkly baubles in every window caught my eye. Plenty of shop owners were out on the street, trying to entice me to come inside and take a look around. I just smiled, waved, and moved on. I have all the wealth I need, no bling required.

I’m not rich. Far from it. I still have to be careful with my money as I always have to have a stash set aside in case I have a slow month, a client who doesn’t pay on time, or a sizable unexpected expense. Being a business owner is a balancing act financially, emotionally, and mentally. It’s also an amazing gift to have the freedom of place and space.

On Friday morning, Phin and I took a long trot through Central Park, over to the Met, and then up 5th Avenue. The weather was perfect and we both needed an extra dose of fresh air. As I visited the street artists who set up shop outside the Met, I realized how lucky I am. A little over a year ago, I would have spent my mornings rushing through Phin’s walk, rushing through my morning routine, rushing to the train, and then rushing into my very grey office to work that lacked inspiration.

On most mornings now I take a long walk early in the morning without my watch, and return home to work in a sun-filled apartment with trees outside my window and Pandora playing my favorite music. This isn’t to say my work life is perfect. I hustle, pitch, and work very late most evenings. I sometimes have to do work I don’t necessarily like to make it possible to do other work that I love. For example, I spent 9 hours on PowerPoint yesterday for a client project due this week, but today I’ll be working on the final rewrites for the next draft of my first full-length play. That is balance.

What I do have is enough: enough work I love and enough time to appreciate just how lucky I am to have made this leap. I live in a great apartment in a great neighborhood in a great city (with a great little dog). I get to see my friends and family much more than I ever have before. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. My life, exactly as it is right now, is enough. I am wealthy.

choices, decision-making, dreams, money, time

Beautiful: When It Comes to Dreams, Knowledge and Heart Are More Important Than Money

3c80a0916199a692da2f1c3a572eb9a0“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Money takes its lead from the heart and the mind. If we have true passion to do something, that kind of passion that refuses to take no for an answer, then somehow we will find a way to afford that dream. We will sacrifice for it. We will compromise and make certain concessions in other areas of our life in order to see it through. We will make the time for it. We will find a way to make the money to fuel it.

When we consider how to spend our time, we should put the logistics aside. They are important, but they are secondary. Our focus should be what we care about and why it matters. The “how it will get done” details will flow from there.

dreams, fear, finance, financing, money

Leap: The Most Important Purpose of Money

From Pinterest

“The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.” ~ John Maynard Keynes, British economist

Money – what we earn, what we save, what we spend, and what we give away – is always a bridge between what we have now and what we will have in the future. It’s just energy. It ebbs and flows.

This perspective helped me to think of money as a much less terrifying force. I used to be petrified of it. Afraid I’d never have enough. Afraid that my pursuit of it, no matter how noble my path, might consume me if I didn’t remain on constant watch.

Now I see it for what it is – fuel that gets me from where I am now to where I want to be next. In this way it’s become a very selfless entity – something that shows up when I need it, allows me to use it to the best of my ability, and then happily changes hands without even so much as a glance back at me over its shoulder.

It feels good to no longer see it as a foe, but rather as an ally.

choices, decision-making, money, time

Beginning: How to Make a Living While Making a Life

For a long time I’ve defined that I make a living as a product developer and I make a life by writing and teaching yoga. My dual-life can get exhausting, and more than that, I think it’s wasteful. And I hate waste of any kind. But this dual-life, in the short-term, is the safe road. It helps me to hedge my bets without really make any bets at all. I’m having a tough time letting go.

As we begin to turn our attention toward the end of the year, I begin considering resolutions as a means of focusing my efforts for the turning of the calendar page. In 2012, my big ask of myself is that I figure out a way to bridge my worlds, turning how I make a living and how I make a life into one and the same.

One of the very happy side effects of meditation is how the mind becomes capable of time travel. Even now at the age of 35, I can imagine myself as a very old woman. And in that older me state, I can play out scenarios. If I don’t jump into Compass Yoga with both feet in 2012, I will regret not giving it my all. If I just play it safe, keep my head down, and find a way in the short term to be content with this dual-life, I’ll look back at 35 year old me and ask, “What were you so afraid of? Now time has passed you by. It’s too late. The window has closed.

For over a year now, I’ve weighed the choice that scares me against the one that feels safer. Maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong. The Hero’s Journey is about choosing between two options that are equals, not between one good choice and one bad choice.

Perhaps these lofty life decisions are decisions in which we choose the fear we can live with over the fear we can’t live with. Faced with the choice of fearing the leap and fearing that my life’s purpose has passed me by, I’ll leap. Now the trick lies in helping my younger self understand that this is the reality of the career choice I’m wrestling with.

Time is often equated with money, but the two have relatively little in common. Money is replaceable – we can find a way to earn money through all sorts of avenues. We cannot buy time. We have no way of making up for it; we have no way of re-earning it. Once spent, it is spent for good.

In the coming months, I will make it a point to remember that how we spend our time is the greatest choice we make because time is the most precious resource we have. It is irreplaceable.

business, change, money, New York City

Beginning: Advice for Occupy Wall Street Protesters – You Need to Occupy the Banks’ Balance Sheets and Strategic Plans

Occupy Wall Street Protesters in New York. Credit: CNBC

I knew this would happen.

The company that owns Zuccotti Park also owns the office building where I work. On Friday, about 40 protestors made their way to our front door. I’m not sure if they know the company I work for is housed there. Once they make the connection, I’m sure the protestors will be a daily occurrence at our door.

The protestors are spending a lot time and effort occupying different areas all over the country. Say “Occupy Wall Street” and every American knows what you’re talking about. The movement they have built on a shoestring is very impressive. Their digital megaphone is stretching across the globe, and here is a sad and sorry truth: banks, the target of many of these protests, hear the protestors but they aren’t really listening. They don’t have to and they won’t, at least not to conventional communication.

The only way to get through to banks is via money – it’s the only language they understand or even want to understand. Protestors, you need to talk with your wallets. Banks only respond to outcries that are framed in the form of federal regulation or an impact to their bottom line. They actually don’t care that you’re losing your home, struggling to pay your student loans, and barely scraping up funds to put food on the table. Individually, there are a lot of people within banks who care and feel paralyzed by the organizations they work for. I work for a bank and I spend a good deal of my time trying to get us to behave better. Most of the people I work with are living in fear that their job is the next on the chopping block. The banks themselves, as their own living, breathing entities, sadly are not the people who occupy the desks in their offices. They are another beast entirely.

Protestors if you want more than public sympathy and a chance to be heard, if you care more about actually creating change than you do about news coverage – and I 100% believe you do – then you’ve got two choices to change the banks’ tune toward your message:

1.) Go Occupy Washington, the local offices of your representatives, and the lobbyists who get their attention by hitting them in their fundraising efforts. They can put federal legislation in place to make the banks change the way they do business. What gets regulated gets done.

2.) Stop supporting banks with your spending and savings. My sister, Weez, reminded me that Bank of America reversed the debit card fee they had planned to charge in response to the Durbin Amendment because so many people closed their accounts or threatened to do so if the fee was charged. Take your business to local credit unions, online banks like ING Direct who have more transparent practices and policies, and community financial development institutions (CFDIs). Cut the spending on your credit cards and stop buying their products and services. Your wallet is your microphone.

These two methods are the only kind of occupy movement – essentially occupying the banks’ balance sheets and strategic plans – that will truly be heard loud and clear.

economy, money, passion

Beginning: Passion, Planning, and Promoting in This Wild Economy

Welcome to Saturday’s wrap-up, take 2! Thanks for your thoughts, ideas, and encouragement this week. Here’s how it played out:

Make all the plans you want and be prepared to throw them out the window. If this wild ride on the economy slide has taught us anything it’s that flexibility, liquidity, and creativity are tools we need to not only survive but thrive. Need a helping hand to get a handle on it all? Check out my posts about planning and free online sources and courses to get a base understanding of how our economy works.

A few weeks ago, Howard Schultz of Starbucks announced that he had challenged his team to figure out how to make Starbucks a jobs creator beyond their own barista counter. To up the challenge, he also wanted to give Starbucks customers a way to get in on the action. This has prompted similar discussions at other companies. President Obama is right – We Can’t Wait. Sparked by the growing need to bring Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street together, I wrote a post this week on the need to take matters into our own collective hands and become job creators.

Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to most people. We covet humility to such an extent that we’re reluctant to trumpet the good work we’re doing as well as the good work we’d like to do for fear of coming off as attention hogs. Trouble is we can’t find our pack if we don’t howl. Ditch guilt and sing out loud. This week I launched my first Hire Me page on this site and the following day received word that Compass Yoga is now fully incorporated. We’re off to the wellness races – join us!

Wrapping up the week, my thoughts turned to a post on the role of passion in creating the lives we want thanks to a quote by David Hume. Now is the time to encourage and reward new ways of being and thinking in schools, in communities, in our families, in business, and in our government. Reason is overrated; we can and will do better. The best beat for your life can be found in your own soul – use it.

Hope you all had a good week and enjoy a candy-eating, costume-donning, and snowy(!) Halloween.