Thursday, November 10, 2011

When Do We Get to Have Fun?

I was talking to some friends who didn't understand what getting into debt meant. They told me they had debt, but that it wasn't so bad. Debt, no matter how many leagues under the sea, can be crushing. If it isn't, then you're one of the lucky few. Generally, debt will throw you a curve ball and knock your socks off. Even if you don't get into trouble with your debt, do you really love paying all that interest which compounds over the course of the debt's life?

For those of you who are finding it difficult to do everything the Financial Genie has offered here and wondering when you might start feeling lighter and more relaxed about your situation, consider the story of the tortoise and the hare. The slow tortoise plodded along while the hare slept, ate, slept some more and malingered his almost certain win. Malingerers do that, they plump themselves up, over confident that whatever needs to be done will get done...eventually.

This means that while the interest is climbing out of sight, the vagueness has made you sleepy. No one wants to actually get up off the couch and go find all those statements and begin the work. So another nap. Meanwhile, the calls and mail from creditors keep coming in.

But the Financial Genie can guarantee that the fun begins when one commits to taking the action of tearing up the cards AND closing the accounts, of contacting the creditors with a payment plan - however small - and ensuring the daily income and cash flow are recorded with accuracy.

Slow? Tedious? Time consuming? Sometimes it can be. But the alternative is worse.

So the Financial Genie has an offer to make. You do the mundane work, and in a very short while you'll be enjoying a modicum of prosperity. You'll be sitting in the driver's seat and enjoying no more phone conversations with creditors AND you will have more money available to you than ever before.

It really doesn't matter if they've socked you with added interest. They'll see you're making every effort. You're just not taking the path of the boisterous, arrogant hare, but the path of the slow, steady, unassuming tortoise who has outwitted that lazy, old hare.

"Life begins each morning...Each morning is the open door to a new world - new vistas, new aims, new tryings." ~ Leigh Hodges

Sunday, November 6, 2011

One Giant Dumpling of Positive Expectation

I was watching my life turning from color to black and white film.
In and of itself, that wasn’t such a bad thing. But the characters in the film were bad and mean spirited.

I chose to throw out the film, start over and cast new actors.
I drew the lines and boundaries, I blocked each act and knew it was going to work. And this time it did.

Everyone knew their lines. Everyone performed with such precision, it was as if I had expected it to be that way.

So here's your great big dumpling of positive expectation:


Someone once told me she never expects anything to go well because she knows it won't. I could hardly hear her words. I've always believed that if you expect something to go well, it will. And in my case it usually has, sometimes even better.

"But," you say, "that's not realistic."

You right. But I don't care about reality. I can recreate my reality in a second just by changing my thinking of a thing. Good? Bad? Something in the middle? I no longer disaster plan because to do so means to stay in the problem. Back in the old days when I was a worrier, the things I worried about never materialized. So I wasted energy. That, and worrying about anything brings on physical maladies.

We could pound our chests for years and rue the day we took out unsecured debt. Or we could become grownups and take the bull by the horns and not retreat from our responsibilities. There's a short window of time when making these financial changes is uncomfortable. It may mean you'll have to cut out certain unnecessary things, the X Box, the movie dates, the dinners out. But eventually because you're working toward solvency, things will start to return.

At the end of an interview, the host said to Harrison Ford, "May the Force be with you," to which Harrison Ford replied, "Force yourself."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

You Are Not Alone ~ A Case Study

Among my many friends, one stands out as having the worst time of it, the it being difficulty paying off debt and student loans. The following is a brief description of what she went through.

Shelley's existence, if it can be called that, is a dramatic study in frustration and poverty. She's about to graduate from Columbia University in New York where she's given her life to a post doctoral program in clinical psychology. Every effort to pay for this degree has been thwarted. All she has to show for her efforts are calluses on her knuckles from knocking on so many doors.

She survives on a $1.44 bagel she buys from the "Hot and Crusty." When she treats herself, she buys a hot dog from the vendor, but puts up with men lurking nearby who steal furtive glances as she squeezes out the mustard and eats her hot dog.

In search of a summer job to pay the rent and light bill, she attacks department stores like Attila the Hun. But all her attempts are shrouded in failure. With only $18.00 to her name, she hears of an agency that will buy fertile ovum for $3,000. This sounds intriguing and worth investigating. But at 41, she discovers she's too old to qualify.

Finally, on a late Thursday evening, a bit of fortune comes her way. Talbots is hiring and the lady likes her. She accepts the application and asks for references. Shelley gives her a few names, but when Talbots calls and asks one of the references if he is Dr. Albert Schein, he says no and hangs up, thinking it's a sales call.

Shelley does not suffer from any apparent mental or physical handicaps. But after two years of duking it out with the fates, she begins to worry about her sanity. There is nowhere to turn unless it's the Park which makes her feel uncomfortable. That leaves her with the steady din of New York traffic and treeless streets. Still, she does have one friend who calls to tell her it might be fun this year to exchange birthday gifts. "This year," she tells Shelley, "I'm going to send you a beach umbrella."

Shelley, who by now has run out of panic buttons, stifles laughter. A beach umbrella?? Her slightly frayed neurotransmitters search to make the connection. Of course, what cardboard box on the street would be complete without a beach umbrella.

By now, she's developed a strange batch of schizo-affective symptoms in combination with a dark sense of humor. She's crumbling before her own image and tells herself she is one with everything, every panhandler, every homeless person, every mendicant. But, she's also one with Donald Trump.

Still, it is her lack of hostility and excessive composure that scares me. She's spending too much time in her 400 square foot studio staring at her beautiful long red hair and threatening to sell it because there's a market for red hair in China.

Her student loans are inching their way skyward and the calls keep coming in.
The student loans are exorbitant and she simply cannot pay them. She knows she will be paying for at least ten or fifteen more years.

Fast forward this case study and you'll see Shelley's picture looks radically different. Her student loans took 10 years to pay off. Did she mind? Not at all. Her goals and dreams were riding sidesaddle along with her debts. Only she reached her dreams long before the student loans were paid off. She now owns a business and is financially prosperous.

What did Shelley do that worked so well? She got out of debt on her timetable.

"Slow motion gets you there faster" ~ Hoagy Carmichael

Monday, October 31, 2011

Finding Happiness Despite Debt

There comes a time when you just get sick and tired of keeping numbers, phoning the creditors, writing down the phone conversation you had with them and paying off the debt ever so slowly.

You wake up one morning and life still hasn't gotten you where you want to go. You find yourself in the middle of the wreckage of your life or to be more concise, a bad dream. No matter what words you use to describe it, it really is a pain to go through all of this. You've gone this far, and now think you'd like to coast for awhile. You think 'I can just do a little more shopping than I actually have the money for and maybe I don't really need to look at the numbers and write them down daily and maybe that old credit card I put in the freezer can be thawed and I'll get it and .....'


It does get tiresome. You haven't arrived at the point when all the statements have zero balances. I'll give you that, having been there. But despite the children wanting a new iPAD, you needing new golf clubs, the oven burning everything, I'm going to tell you to keep on keeping your numbers daily and going to the mailbox daily and opening the mail daily. And communicating regularly with your creditors.

Just don't give up.

Some of you might not have this exact problem, but when you were using credit cards, all the things you did before didn't exactly work for you the way you'd hoped. Right? So you might as well stick it out and get to the end of all this chaos.

If you want to feel good, you can.

If you don't want to feel good, you can.

So here you are paying off the debt slowly, thinking to yourself, 'Well isn't this just a tea cup ride.' I get that. I would wake up with vertigo so bad I couldn't walk. And each time the phone range, I'd get another migraine. Now is the precise time to keep your chin up because it will payoff. And better than you think.

Here's what I would suggest. If you're feeling agitated and you're outdoors, go indoors. Go anywhere else than where you are. Meet a friend at a coffee shop. Vent if you must, but consider that you may be on the threshold of something wonderful and it may just be around the corner. You're being treated to life doing what life does. And your role now is to have fun. You're allowed. You're worthy of it. You're doing a helluva job getting out of debt and becoming a very bright light to your loved ones who need to see you getting out of debt, even if you're whining and pouting.

Going without an iPad is precisely the right thing to do. Your children love being with YOU! That's an entire Universe better than an iPad. Doing things together will transform your family life into something you could never have imagined.

This is it. It isn't the next lifetime. It's now. Go for broke. Play, laugh, enjoy yourself and be happy. Truly happy, not just ho-hum happy. But giddy happy. Putting a smile on your face has proven at the cellular level to make you happy. So keep smiling. Sounds trite? Sure, but smile anyway.

"Your life is supposed to feel good to you, and you are meant to feel happiness in your life - and you are meant to satisfy your dreams." ~ Abraham-Hicks

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Getting Out of Debt On Your Timetable

Many readers may find these solutions overwhelming.

Overwhelming? Is that not what your debt is?

Some may say, "But my situation isn't that bad" and then go on to describe exactly how bad their situation actually is.

Of course I'm not in your exact situation. I can't be in anyone's exact situation. That's why I've discussed the underearner as well as the compulsive shopper. That's why I say the amount of your debt is not the issue. Donald Trump once owed over 9.2 billion dollars to 99 banks. In the middle of a dark and rainy night, he ran 15 blocks ( the limo was not available) to make phone calls to all his creditors from another's creditor's conference room where he confirmed he was good for the debt and would pay it off in due time, and it wouldn't take a millenium. In the book, he said his big mistake was promising to always pay the interest, then advised to never promise anything. The Financial Genie agrees with that sound advice.

All of us at one point or another, made a decision to take out unsecured debt and then we purchased lots of things and the things became more things and those things had baby things. And now we're screeching like banshees about how bad things have become.

This book is about debt and offers a way to get out without giving in to your creditors. You're going to be doing things on your timetable and in a way that's convenient for you. We are not about to tell you to obey the orders of the creditors. They are not managing us. We are the drivers of this locomotive and as such will come up with inspiring solutions, at which point we get to say I did it without caving. We did it because it felt good to act like a professional business person doing business with creditors.

You are the solution dealing with the problem, which will over time nest itself somewhere in a cabinet drawer out of sight and soon out of mind. Payments will be made. Offers of 50% off the debt will come in. My advice is not to accept that offer, but thank them for the kind offer and continue to make your regular payments. Why? Because you will have to file a 1099 form at the end of the year which means the 50% they discounted you is counted by the IRS as income. So don't do it. Unless you want to pay more in taxes. In this instance, the call is yours.

Continue to pay what you can and steadily and slowly over time your life will start to improve. Just how will it improve? The old way of shopping for all the schlock you thought you couldn't live without is going the way of the Edsel automobile, a good idea at the time, but not a very good purchase. You'll find more time to spend on the important elements of your life, your hobbies, your vocation, your job, fun playing with family and friends, going to the games, going to the mountains or the beach and taking time away from everything. Now you get to be CEO of celebrations, in charge of all the fun.

The Financial Genie believes this is the party planet. I know. I know, the Genie gone wild. Don't you want to relax and play and have fun and be happy and free? Freedom, remember that? That's how I felt when I graduated from high school and went to the beach with my classmates, alone without parents, the radio blaring in the VW. Suntanned, happy and joyously free.

This is when you might consider writing your own Mission Statement or Declaration of Independence, a template of how you'd like your life to be going forward.

"For a while, the only evidence of your financial progress will be your improved emotional state of being, and if you will let that be enough - taking no score of financial progress - the financial improvement will show up." ~ Abraham - Hicks

The Single K and Other Things You Didn't Know

The Single K is a 401K for single self employed people who cannot establish a 401K because of their self employment. This little known Single K or Individual 401K has great tax implications. There are any number of financial institutions that will not charge a fee to establish your Single K. This means that your Single K will have a manager and the amount you fund will be invested in quality investments. Your tax liability will be reduced as you will be able to take a tax deduction on both your personal income as well as the business's income.

There will come a time when you have more cash flow and can't decide what to do with it. The Single K may be an ideal fit for you and your money to rest safely while earning and giving you and your business a tax break. This qualifies it for no-brainer status.

There's also a little known item I learned while paying off my car. I was sending in the amount I owed every month two to three weeks earlier than the due date. This meant that the daily interest was reduced and more was going to the principle which brought the final payment date closer.

There are numerous benefits to seeing money as a friend, not an enemy. Ridiculous, you say. Maybe not. We all live in a yellow submarine - of sorts - and when we go to our neighborhood Ace Hardware store or to our local restaurant, dry cleaners, shoe repair or nail salon, we are in essence sharing and spreading the wealth. This is what many of the good money managers know. Money abhors a vacuum. The labor done by those who bring us the service also brings us the opportunity to spend money. Okay now I'm not talking about compulsively spending the money. What I'm saying is, spending money is a good thing, especially for those of us who used to be underearners.

When you're taking care of yourself in this way, the Universe sees a means to bring more. The Law of the Vacuum is in effect. Cleaning out your closet to get rid of something usually brings with it a new wardrobe. With money, it's the same. Did it please you to spend the money at the dry cleaners? Did you enjoy some rare fine dining and give the waiter a decent tip? If it gives you pleasure, there's more to come. But if you hoard the money and feel ripped off every time you spend money, the joy of spending it is reduced to the degree that you dislike doing it. Money has to flow. Like a giant river, it must do that. And it will always come back. Always!

I used to hate paying taxes. I walked into the accountant's office in fear and trepidation. With little money to pay the IRS, I was in a state of apoplexy about what to do. Numb might be the perfect word to describe me back in those days. But that was then and this is now. Today I say,"I get to pay taxes." More importantly, behind those words are some values I have about the country, state and city I live in. It helps to reevaluate the good things that happen to us as a result of some forward thinking state politicians and board members in charge of municipalities. If you live in this mind set, you'll notice a big change in how you look at your life and everything will take on a rosier glow, including your finances.

I have a friend who was out of work for ten months. But he wasn't all that upset about it. He was paying down the debt and was well on his way toward being debt free. What happened next may surprise you.

After he was fired from the awful job he'd been doing for ten years, he took his family on vacation for a month all over the United States. He instinctively knew he'd get a job when he got back and he had trust that God would provide for him and his family. That he had a prudent reserve helped to a degree. When he returned from his much needed adventure, he was adamant that he was not going to take just any job. He would consider his options long and hard and wait until the perfect fit came his way. And in short order it did. He didn't agonize. He didn't pound his chest. He didn't race all over applying for work. He waited. And then, because he was allowing all that good to come his way, he got the best job he ever had, describing it as his professional home.

Sweet might be the word to describe my emotional state today. The IRS is no longer the enemy. If you think a thing is going to be hard or difficult, you may be right. If you think a thing will go smoothly, you may be right.

Choices. You always have choices.

"Financial abundance does not occur in one's life because of hard work or good luck or favoritism - financial abundance is simply the Universe's response to consistent thoughts and feelings of abundance." ~ Abraham - Hicks

Friday, October 28, 2011

Imagine Your Life

When you imagine how you'd like your life to be, while acknowledging and appreciating where you are in the present, there's less to worry about.

Imagine what it would feel like if you walked to the mailbox and there were no more credit card bills. Imagine what not having a $43,000 balance due would feel like. Imagination can be potent when you realize you no longer have to duke it out in the ring with creditors about late fees, interest rates, or being sent to collections. That show is over. And it didn't win any awards!

Visualizing this in a quiet moment, eyes shut, drowning out sound and picturing in your mind how this would feel is an awesome experience. Living life with no credit cards means having more money available. Never mind the naysayers. You can rent a car, you can pay for a cruise and you can buy a house without a credit card or score.

Since 1997, I've been credit-card-free and my life has become a whole lot simpler. Over the top simpler. I haven't looked at my credit report for over four years. Life is simple. Life is good. Life is not complicated or full of chaos or crises. The first time I walked into a store and paid cash was a watershed moment. I felt it viscerally. Now when I go into a store and pay cash, I look around to see if there may be anything else I want and pay for that with cash. As the ads say, cash is king! Incurring new debt is not even on the radar. It has blown away in the icy winds of a nor'easter. Think you might like to buy a house or car and pay for them in full with cash? You may even be able to do that sooner than you think.

Eventually, you may even have more cash reserves than you had contemplated and, if you're like me, you may find it difficult to know what to do with so much cash! Trust me, this is a problem lots of people would like to have. Be aware that our dearly departed credit card companies will still offer you new cards along with rewards to make you come back. But the best reward is living without plastic. Can you imagine that?

Try imagining more about how your life would look. Are there trips you'd like to take, classes, new home furnishings? I've always wanted to create an endowment for the arts and just recently started a seed fund. Remember earlier I mentioned the "Gracious Living Fund?" Well, now is the time for that. Start putting aside a sum of money for such things. Want to sail in the Greek Isles? Take classes at the Cordon Bleu in Paris? Go scale Mount Everest? Anything is possible. Soon things will begin to look up and your life will morph into something wonderful. Visualizing a change of career or meeting someone wonderful may be in your vision. Keep doing the imagining and watch what happens. It may turn out light years better than you could have imagined. I know because I quit a job I really loved in order to work for myself and there is no going back for me.

Here's a promise from the Financial Genie. If you stick to these simple and easy principles, you will succeed and be prosperous and have unimaginable abundance in your life. And by that I mean abundance in all areas or your life. Get ready for some fun, more play, more laughter, happiness and freedom. It's out there waiting for you.

Abundance expands proportionately to meet desires. ~ Abraham-Hicks

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There's Always Another Way

We all think we can do this alone. But this is not true. At some point, you might think that getting out of debt is easy. That all you have to do is just start paying it off. But there's more to it than numbers. For example, you suddenly hear that a family member who lives far away has a serious illness and you have no money to fly up to see her. Since you closed out all your credit cards, you think, "I'm just going to have to get another credit card." That's when you cave and start using unsecured debt again.

By now you're thinking the Financial Genie has got it all wrong. And thinking all is lost, you give in.

Before you go out and hit the credit card campus, you do have several options. One such is to call one of your buddies, the smart one who admires you for what you're doing to get out of debt, the one you call to bookend as described earlier. Don't rush to judgement, as you may well be able to use your prudent reserve in the interim. Another possibility is to sell something you really don't need or use any longer. Collateralizing something of value that someone else wants is a way to get some money for real emergencies. This is not the time to get deeper into debt.

Support can come from a financial advisor, a friend, a mentor or therapist. You want to choose people who are themselves solvent and not using unsecured debt, someone who is financially healthy. This does not mean you can borrow from them, but rather use them as support, the kind of support that understands you as you tell your story. If all you can find is someone who listens well, you're going to feel much better about what you're going through. Some support may come from family. Mainly, you're looking to talk it out and gain some insight. You're not going to borrow money. There are also online, phone and face to face support groups as well. One such is Debtor's Anonymous which deals directly with these issues.

A word of caution about getting help from your employer. It happened to me when I was having car problems. The repair costs were out of this world. I was talking to someone about this at work when my boss walked past. He brought me into his office and offered to help me out financially. I thanked him but told him I don't borrow money. He was understanding and kind and said, "Well, it's there if you need it." I did not take him up on his offer because it's never a good idea to owe your boss money. They have power over you as the employee anyway. But when you owe them money, that power grows incrementally and you're also seen as someone who doesn't know how to handle personal finances. That and I really didn't want to use unsecured debt. Though I was building up my prudent reserve, it hadn't grown to the amount I needed to pay for the repairs.

Money can be used as power in other areas. In a marriage or partnership, when one is not working and the other one is paying for everything, there is the danger that power and control will come into play. Money issues can be deal breakers. If you're solvent, not using unsecured debt and earning money that is yours, there's really not a problem. But, if only one person is working, and the other is not or is earning very little, this can cause problems down the road. These are issues that can be easily resolved as long as the partners can come to some agreement. This is not to say that once in awhile when one or the other is out of work and needs financial support while they're actively looking for work, that the other partner can't help them out. It does mean that even in difficult times, using unsecured debt will throw you a curve ball.

Staying the course, riding it out and getting support for those emergencies or protracted unemployment, will help keep you on the right track. Just know that you're investing in you and you are important.

To avoid vagueness, try a little clarity. Look at your numbers daily. ~ The Financial Genie

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Are Not Your Debt

For many of us, debt is worn like a shield, our armor against the cold winds of Fate. But debt is actually nothing, a whisper of nothing, an illusion. Granted we do owe people, companies and agencies. But this is all it is. When paying our bills, we suit up in our new uniform of being a responsible grown up and play again. The good news is, there is no debtor's prison, and the debt police - unless you refuse to file with the IRS - are not banging on your door. More than likely you have a prison of your own, making your mind a dangerous place to be.

But you are not your debt. You're so much more. You, your life and family, your dreams and goals and accomplishments are just many facets of who you really are and beneath all of those things is the spirit and energy of you. Your debt is just one of those niggling things you need to take care of. Do not make more of it than you already have. After a few months - the length of time it takes runs the gamut - you will begin to see improvement. But give it time. If you owe in the six figures, it will take time. Same for those who have debt in the five figures or less. Time takes time. And with just a little effort, you'll start seeing changes, making life a whole lot easier.

A word about your net worth. You are also not your net worth. Though we do live in a culture that values the net worth. In truth, those numbers don't have as much meaning for most of us as one believes. Still, this is a little exercise to do for yourself to gain more clarity about your numbers.

Add up all the debt you have. This would include the car and house as well, even though they are secured debt. Then add up your cash balances, savings, investments, the house if it's paid for, art, jewelry, household items, boats, and other recreational items you own outright. Take the larger number and subtract the smaller number and you have your net worth.

How does it look? A better question to ask is how do you feel about what you see?

If the net worth is in the minus column, then a year or so down the road, tally these numbers again. In my case, my net worth was on the plus side by exactly the same amount years earlier my debt amounted to.

The main thing is not to worry. Worrying doesn't pay down the debt. It just adds years to your life and causes aches and pains. The United States Government doesn't worry. The Federal Reserve isn't worried about your debt. Your neighbor isn't worried and your friends aren't worried - maybe because they have their own debt worries. Still, you can relax. If you're paying the debt off and communicating with your creditors, you have permission to exhale.

I'll conclude with the subject of meditation. Meditating, whether you're sitting in your lazy boy and staring out the window or sitting in a yogic position and chanting softly, is an important exercise in mindfulness. I know, I know. Those hippy days are over. But now we're calling it mindfulness and it really does work. Do some research for yourself or go to a yoga ashram and see how you feel when you leave. We all lead lives of quiet desperation and need to calm down and become more centered. It's such an easy fifteen minute exercise and softens the mind so it stops ruining your day. If thoughts are racing while you attempt to do this exercise, simply thank the thoughts and watch them as they leave your mind, rather the way you might watch a movie in a theater. Eventually, the ease of sitting comfortably and relaxing will come naturally to you. It sure will get you where you want to go faster.

"Sometimes I just sits and thinks. And sometimes I just sits." ~ Anonymous

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Red Tide of Debt

It's time to consider what debt does to us.

The hardship of paying unusually high interest rates may make you sick, damage your relationship with your spouse and, if allowed to go untreated, may mean foreclosure, bankruptcy and/or homelessness.

To put it simply, the tears have still not dried on my eyes, even though it's only been a year since I got out of debt, closed my accounts, torn up my credit cards and vowed never to use any unsecured debt. Still, the fear exists that there's not enough love, not enough money, not enough food, not enough work. After long and painful years communicating with creditors, seeing added penalties, late charges and extremely high interest rates, the stress just grew. Money does have an energy all its own. But it builds muscle when we give it power over our lives. Much like the red tide that washes over the shoreline, killing fish, birds and marine mammals, the red ink of debt can annihilate us.

But there are things we can do while we are slowly getting out of debt. And one such way is to do just that: GET OUT OF DEBT S-L-O-W-L-Y. The reason for this is simple. Well beneath the pyramid of debt lies the truth. We have overshopped or underearned because it felt good and for the time being we needed something outside ourselves to make us feel good. The inside wasn't feeling so hot.

It's one thing to get out of debt by filing bankruptcy. But that usually ends up being just another quick fix. So is credit counseling which builds another debt as they charge exorbitant fees. And, before you know it, you're back doing what you've always done. By paying down the debt slowly, you will hopefully take a look at why you've allowed this to happen on a deeper level. Once armed with this new information, you'll be getting out of debt sooner. There's more to it than just the numbers.

So how do we know what it is and how to stop it from happening again?

You may consider seeing a therapist to pick up the missed stitches of your life. Your perspective on money may be skewed. Do you see it as evil? Are the rich seen as merely bourgeois and greedy? You may have had parents who fought about money all the time. There are plenty of reasons why you've gotten yourself into debt. And there could be reasons that are not of your doing.

Money as rocks? Beads and shells? Money as barter for time and services? As paper or precious metals? Money can be symbolic of a lot of things in other cultures. But the one culture that counts is you. How do you see it? Do you see it flowing away from you. Or is it the steady stream of Niagra Falls, always more where it came from? There are many questions to ask ourselves to help get rid of the poverty consciousness, or, conversely, the consciousness of entitlement we may still hold onto.

The economy, through its upturns and downturns, may be an excuse for why you're in the straits you're in. But in the worst of times I made more money than I ever did in the best of economic times. So it's really not about the economy. Straight up, whatever got you into debt can be turned around in no time at all.

It isn't voodoo. You can still get out of debt.

"Money is spiritual" ~ Anonymous

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Best Kept Secret

Now it's time to reduce the stress in your life.

Buzz words such as keep it simple, don't worry, be happy, are worthwhile. But nothing in your travels down the path of removing debt will ever be as beneficial as: ta..da....


You've come pretty far already, if only from reading these chapters. But the next best thing you can do for yourself is to get rid of the worry. And you do that by starting a prudent reserve. This is for the times in your life when stuff happens you hadn't counted on. The roof needs repairs. The dog has to have surgery. A child breaks a leg. The car has a boo-boo. Then the fridge, the water main, the air conditioner. Any number of things that you had not counted on can greet you on a seemingly perfect day. This is not the time to disaster plan, but to go to your prudent reserve and take the money out and use it for those emergencies.

Now you can exhale.

"But, how do I create a prudent reserve when I can barely afford food?"

That, dear reader, is simply by setting aside once a week (or monthly if you prefer) a small amount of money. If you don't have $5 a week to set aside, set aside $2. If you don't have that, put away $1.00. The point is to start and then keep putting it into your account as a side dish. Deduct this amount from your balance, and put it on the left side of your check register marking it PR. That's when something magical happens - my version is the Universe sees you really mean business and wants to help you. But there's some truth to the adage that money makes money. By the end of six months adding $10 per week, you now have $240. This is not money to be used for anything but emergencies. It can be well more than the $10 I suggest, just make sure it fits into your monthly spending account.

That's it. The best kept secret I wished I'd known about 40 years ago.

"You can't get sick enough to help sick people get better. You cannot get poor enough to help poor people thrive. It's only in your thriving that you have anything to offer anyone." Abraham -Hicks

Friday, October 21, 2011


Okay. We're at the starting gate. Ready. Set. Push off.

After a month, your vision will improve as you put down your numbers daily and then add up what they total. Subtracting what you spend each month from your monthly income will show what you have left over to pay the creditors. If you have nothing, the creditors will have to wait just a few oh, say 2 months or several weeks depending on your situation. Remember, you're doing the right thing for yourself, your family and even the local economy.

Another point to remember is this is not to self punish, nor is it a means to live below the poverty level. If there's enough money for you to enjoy a massage, go to a movie, rent a DVD, or take a day trip to the Bahamas, put that into your spending account. If there isn't, just know the time will come. And for the duration, if the creditors don't get their money, this doesn't mean the downfall of civilization as we know it. There will be no pestilence or famine upon the earth. Just keep writing your numbers, going to work, and if it helps, say the prayer beads. You'll notice shortly because you're not paying huge amounts to the creditors - also known as usury - you will start to enjoy more money coming in. For those who haven't heard the term, usury is an exorbitant and unconscionable rate of interest charged the borrower for the use of money. Check your state's laws regarding the interest limits on credit cards.

So you're keeping your numbers and now you want to know how much to pay your creditors to keep them from calling and threatening you.

Here's the much awaited for nifty, thrifty formula that will keep things clear. We want clarity and no more vagueness. We want to see the written numbers so we can come clean and get healthier financially.

Gather all your numbers together: credit card debt, personal loans and the IRS debt if any. Seeing an enormous amount of debt should not trouble you because you're taking action. $35,000. is no more troubling than the person who owes $10,000, or $99 B for billion.

Proceeding with our formula, take one more look at your spending account to see if it is fitting your lifestyle and not limiting it.

1. List all the creditors and total the amount owed all of them.

2.To see what you will be paying each creditor, divide the total debt into each individual creditor's amount: Creditor's amount divided by Total Debt will give you the percentage of that particular creditor's share.

3. Next multiply the creditor's percentage by the total amount you have available (after all your necessary expenses have been paid). The total percentages should equal 100% and the total of payments to each creditor should total what you had available to pay them.

4. If some creditors only get $5.00, write a check for five dollars. The creditors will cash that check and will consider it a good faith amount. They're just not telling you that.

5. Now you can communicate with your creditors and tell them the amount you have available to send them. You may also want to say that when your financial situation improves, you will be calling them to advise them of that and of any changes to the amount you will be sending them. Keep it simple. Don't argue. They might try to dissuade you, but keep on track and thank them for their patience and follow up with a letter regarding the phone conversation. If you don't want to talk on the phone with them, use the mail. Good manners whether by phone or mail helps.

Pretty simple. "But wait they'll never accept a check for $5.00." Yes, they will. And if they don't, send it anyway. This little bit of taking charge will add up to feeling really good about taking charge over your finances and not allowing others to tell you what they will or won't accept.

"But they're taking me to court." No they aren't. It's not in their interest to take you to court unless they're a scam. You're paying them religiously and on time, and your record keeping is perfect. That, and the judge who looks at your paperwork will throw it out of court. "But I can't ever get out of debt with such a small amount." Yes you can and will. Because over time, the smaller debts will get paid off leaving more for you to pay off the larger amounts. You're communicating with them. You're sending them a check and we're not talking about debtor's prison here and we're not talking about your life which hopefully you've already started to enjoy.

Then later - after some time has passed - you'll gather up enough strength to ask that they remove all interest.

"What...?" That's right. I was never interested in them lowering my interest. I wanted it REMOVED. And after a few months that's exactly what they did. Remember the story I told earlier about the IRS? That's exactly what the IRS did. And they forgave $2800.

There's something magical about integrity and honesty and being forthright. Those values seem hard to find these days. But those are the very values that are having a comeback. From political leaders to stars and athletes, we see little in our media that highlights integrity and honesty. For everyday workers and citizens, we have an opportunity to show ourselves and our children that we can persevere and overcome debt. Wouldn't it be great to have a show titled I GOT OUT OF DEBT NOW YOU CAN TOO, CONGRESS as they zoom in on your life and the behemoth in Washington, D.C.?

That's the nuts and bolts of getting out of debt. Being honest. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Taking action and having fun in the meantime. My debt - while I was communicating with and paying the creditors from 1997 until 2010 - was on the back burner. It did not gain prominence in my mind nor did it affect my sleep. What happened was that my life blossomed into a wonderful professional life working for a three billion dollar company where my coworkers showed me things, like how to take a vacation once a month. And when I wanted to take another week's vacation than I had coming, the President of the Company cheerfully explained, "This is your job, not your life. Go and have a wonderful vacation." I was astounded by that bit of sound advice.

From them, I also learned how important it was to keep a prudent reserve. I didn't have a 3 million dollar prudent reserve, but I was able to put aside $248. a month toward my reserve account. I also had a category in my spending account titled FUN and another one called GRACIOUS LIVING. There were times when I didn't have the money to put into one or the other, but they grew over time into what would become seed money for an endowment.

You've done some soul searching and taken some action steps toward getting out of debt. It's a great feeling. Now lift your right arm up in the air, pull it just above your right shoulder and go up and down with your hand, giving yourself pats on the shoulder. You deserve it.

"I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says "Anytime there's a deficit of more than 3% of the GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election." ~ Warren Buffett

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Underearning, Overshopping and Keeping the Numbers

Oh, the thrill of it all. Opening the mail, realizing you owe trillions and having no desire to deal with it at all.

The it I'm speaking of is in your head. Thinking there's no way out can lead to drinking or gambling or compulsive shopping or getting under the covers and not leaving the house for a week, or overworking until you have the first symptoms of a stroke or whatever the fix is, the fix that doesn't.

I know this because I did all of those things. Well, maybe not the drinking or gambling.

A word about shopping. This is the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the tip is a monster almost as large as a continent that needs to be dealt with in a healthy way. Not the usual way that just doesn't work for you anymore. And what I mean by "dealt with" is to stop compulsively shopping and see what happens. It may lead to a short trip to a counselor or a support group. But there is hope and one clear remedy for getting out of debt is to not debt any longer. That would mean not shopping in the unconscious way you've been doing for years. And if you don't think you're a compulsive shopper, look in your closet. The closet will speak volumes about what's going on.

Underearning ~

The underearning dis-ease is more subtle. We can't open the closet to find proof we're underearners. I'm the poster child of underearning which led me to a very dark place in the woods alone with only my car, dog and computer. I'm tempted to describe my feelings back then. Just so you know...that was a time I choose to forget. Underearning is so insidious it creeps around you and suddenly while you're giving away or selling some of your most cherished possessions, you don't know why you got into so much debt...except maybe because you are working hard at two maybe three jobs or one in which you do the work of three people. Or maybe it's because you said yes to working for an attorney for $6.00 an hour as I did.

There's a wonderful book called Earn What You Deserve by Jerrold Mundis. He's written a lot of books and this may be the best of them. If you go to work and you don't calculate the time spent there and the time preparing to go there and the gas money it takes to go there and the clothes you have to buy to go there, and the time change that should be configured, you may be an underearner. The horrible truth is that if you are an underearner, you're at risk because your income will not be sufficient and you'll be inclined to create more debt.

Many people are at a loss to figure out how to stop the underearning. Here are a few concrete ways to stop the crazy underearning, the spell you're under telling you to get a job, any job.

1. Your B Job: Take a job you might like, one you're skilled at and can enjoy and do that at the going rate which you can find usually on If you're good at sales, I suggest you not take a sales job unless they pay you the commissions and you are paid weekly or biweekly. You're no longer a victim. You have to take a stand and ask for what you're worth.

2. Your A Job: This is the best work you can do. Something you've wanted to do for ages, maybe since you were a child and already knew, but the seeds were sewn and everyone, especially parents, told you no. No, you will not be a dancer, actress or engineer. These people didn't know better and should have supported your dreams. It's sad, but so what. That was then and today is a new day. So while you're pursuing your A Job, calling connections, getting business cards made, finding a mentor or a Business Coach, you have a check coming in.

As underearners, our worldview is somewhat skewed. Use the metaphor of Niagra Falls. You're standing there waiting for your share of water (money) with nothing more than a teaspoon while the Falls are offering you all of it - and more where that comes from. It's an anorexic way of seeing money. Money is a neutral thing. Like Niagra Falls, it's energy. Watch it come in. Watch it flow out. Money needs to move. If you focus on money coming in, it will. But it can't and won't if you're hoarding it or fearful you'll be destitute if you spend it.

Here's another point about money. It likes you. It really likes you. But you put up the stop sign. Just try putting up the stop sign at Niagra Falls. That's exactly what you're doing when you tell yourself countless times a day "I just don't have enough money." Try telling a new story of your relationship to money. It might go like this: Money is wonderful. I love money. I love what money does for me and what I can do with a lot of money. Money is merely a symbol of the value I give it. And right now, I'm happy to spend money doing what I love doing, having fun, spending time with my family and friends and going places for pleasure."

It's that or pulling the covers up over your head.

Going from underearning to prosperity is the simplest thing to do. You simply take a look at what your old beliefs have been about money and change what you want those beliefs to be. Your putting a new frame around the picture. When I had an 18 year old dog and an 18 year old car with problems, I hit the panic button. I usually got angry at the car repairman and vehemently told him, he better not do more than is necessary, making another enemy in the process. "Oh, no, here she comes again," I could hear him mutter. Later, when I got that my thinking was not exactly ideal, I told myself, "Relax, this is what the prudent reserve is for" and wrote the check with enthusiasm. A week later, a check came in the mail which was twice the amount I'd paid for the car repair.

It's up to you. Look at money through a dimly lit mirror or see it in the bright light of truth.

The Numbers ~

Important little item, those numbers. This is where the pedal hits the metal.

Each day, write down all your numbers in a little notebook and record each penny you spend and each penny you bring in. Do that for a month and draft a plan for the following month based on the monthly outflow. This is pretty standard in most budgets, but get used to calling it a Financial Spending Account as the word "budget" has a limiting interpretation. Make it your other professional job. Get all your ducks in a row and have at the top of your list your rent or mortgage expense followed by all the utilities, food, gasoline and car insurance. There's no need to have a tv or internet if you're so far down and out that you can't see the light of day. There are libraries for that. And use of their computers is free. I had to use library computers for eight months until I could afford one.

Everything else on your spending sheet is gravy: clothes, haircuts, nails, taxis, dues, magazines, tv, massage. There will be another notebook separate from your usual monthly expenses. Here you will list the amounts owed your creditors, both personal and bank credit cards and/or the IRS. List the current interest rate, how much you've been paying and what the original amount was when you took out the loan. You won't have to deal with this until you have formulated how much you have available AFTER your monthly living expenses have been paid. The debt column(s) will get their time in the light of day once you determine how much is available to pay each creditor. It's a real simple formula, one you will recognize as the answer you've been looking for.

Record your numbers daily and by month's end you will have a better idea of how much you actually have to spend on the debt. For many of us, creditors were the first to pay, leaving us with no money left over for necessities. You won't be doing that again. Remember? It's on your timetable.

You are a warrior in the war against debt.

"To gain clarity, get rid of the fog and vagueness about your finances." ~ The Financial Genie

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Slipping and Sliding and Going to the Mailbox

Walking to the mailbox can strike fear in all but the most fearless. Why is this?

There is an awful, even debilitating, thing going on inside our reptilian brain that says, oh no, there's probably really bad news in the mailbox. I should probably move, or maybe just throw away the mail.

Stop the presses.

There's nothing inside the mailbox that can hurt you. Open the mailbox, pull the letters out and see what's inside them. Too many times there has been an unexpected windfall I had not counted on. And once, in 2006, I had the experience of opening up a statement from the IRS....

Here's what happened.

In 1995 I had been considered "non collectable status." But in 2000, I called and told them I could pay $25. Five years later, after religiously making payments of $25 each month, I called them again and asked if there was anyway they could help as I was not moving forward but backward. The gentleman told me to write them a letter asking to remove the penalties and interest. I did that and heard nothing back. I continued with the $25 payments, but the penalties and interest continued. Six months later, I went to the mailbox, opened their statement and found the balance for 1998 was not there. I called and this time a woman said, "It's been paid in full."


"Okay," I said softly, afraid she'd find that was a mistake. What the IRS had done was forgive $2800. The remaining balance owed was for 1995 and was only $350. That December I got a Christmas bonus for exactly that amount and paid off the delinquent taxes owed.

Why do these things happen? I believe such miracles happen because when one is honest, forthright and willing to pay even the smallest amount and on time and communicates with the creditor or IRS, they no longer bare their incisors and are willing to help you out. Again, they aren't the enemy.

As for slipping and sliding around with the Financial Genie's formula for getting out of debt, you can lie to some of the people all the time and you can lie to all the people some of the time, but you can't fool them. When you face the reality of debt and what it's done to you and your family, you'll knuckle down and get blisteringly honest with everyone.

So many people thought they could handle the debt themselves, and I was one of them. But the debt just grew until I put both arms up in the air and surrendered. Surrendered my inability to pay, my feeling worthless, my shame and sadness that I just couldn't figure this out. Then I started praying like I was driving to New Jersey. And that's when everything changed. That's when people, places and things showed up on the horizon to help me get out of debt.

A word about professionals. I don't generalize to the entire population of lawyers and Certified Public Accountants, but I can tell you as the debt started climbing, I was told by one attorney that I should file bankruptcy and later told by a CPA that I should forget about the IRS, that they would forget about me. I found that incredulous and knew I would never forget about my debt. I sought credit counseling, but they couldn't help me. I didn't earn enough. So I said my prayers and one day, the miracle happened and I was off on the same journey you're hopefully going to embrace.

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." ~ Woody Allen

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Communicating With Creditors

And there was music and there were beautiful roses...

Today is just like any other day in this beautiful world. And it's beautiful because communicating with your creditors will be easy. It will flow and you will get to be the CEO of You, Inc. acting on your behalf and that of your family...even if it's only a dog or two.

Imagine that you are looking for a job. You have spent hours in your search, typing up resumes and sending them out and nothing comes in. Then you see a job for a credit counselor in the collections department of a large corporation. You apply, go for the interview and voila, they hire you. You aren't sure this is the right fit, but hey, it'll mean a paycheck....if only you didn't have to deal with all those deadbeats!!

The folks we are talking about answering the phone are us. They have mouths to feed, bills to pay and need the work. Just like you. Just like me. So remember this when you clutch your chest and take a dive into the deep end of the pool. These aren't boogeymen answering the phones. They don't have horns on their heads and they don't have sharp pointy teeth. All they're doing is reading a script.

But so will you.

The best thing I can tell you in communicating is that the people you speak to are not the enemy. Neither are you. Be polite and explain your situation. But use good judgement when describing what has happened. You don't need to tell them anything personal unless you feel it's necessary. But above all else do not promise anything on the first phone call. In fact, never promise a thing.

Here is a script I always used in dealing with the creditor:

You: Hi, my name is _____ and I'm calling about my account. The number of the account is _______. I want to say up front that I acknowledge my indebtedness to ABC Corporation and at this time my financial status is unclear. I want to let you know that I plan on paying off the debt. I would like you to close the account as I will no longer be using the card. But I would also like to ask for a moratorium for (one month, three months or six months) as I am in an unstable situation...(again you can choose to disclose the situation or not - mine was due to Hurricane Katrina and Wilma). I am seeking counsel on what course to take and how much I will be able to pay in the interim, while I get my life back together. I appreciate your patience and I will be in touch with you in one week to advise you of my plans.

Creditor: "Oh no, Sir we can't possibly give you a moratorium at this time. We understand everyone has bumps in the road, but we can't possibly let you pay whatever you feel like paying. And if we don't have a check from you in the amount of ___ by next Tuesday, we'll be forced to take action."

Okay, so maybe their teeth are a little pointy.

You: I understand and want you to know I plan on paying off the debt but the most important thing right now is making the mortgage payment/or rent, paying the utilities, buying food and gas and paying for car insurance. Please understand that I want exactly the same thing your company wants - the debt to be paid off. So we're on the same page. In the meantime, please bear with me until I can get back in touch with you. If I don't have a roof over my head and pay my utilities and buy food, I will not be able to pay off the debt. I am good for the debt. But I need to find a job (or whatever need you have to take care of) first and will be calling you back within the week.

For now it doesn't matter what they say, because you'll just go back to your script and re-read it like the happy little parrot you are. Even if that feels're driving it home and being a force of nature!!
That you're taking the reins, is a huge step. You are in control, calm and the debt whisperer.

They may ask you to take money from your 401K or borrow money from somewhere else. (But you don't take out unsecured debt, remember?) So you simply say a firm no. They can threaten you all they want, but my experience has been they don't want to send you to outside collections, because they'll make pennies on the dollar. They may talk crazy like the one creditor I had who asked me to get money from my Mother. I told them she was in a nursing home, had dementia and had no money - all true. Then I said, POLITELY, I am going to end this conversation. Five years later, I was able to finish paying off the debt.

Just remember that these people need to put food on their table, dress their kids for school and are not the enemy. You are also doing a job, a rather large job of getting out of debt. And the best news? YOU WILL!!

It's important that you write down the date, time and name of the person you spoke to, the conversation highlights, the tone of the conversation and the outcome; this may help you if you ever go to court. You probably won't need to, but it's a good idea to keep good records. You can if you want, write a letter to them confirming any agreement you've made and file this away. Eventually you will have a stack of these alongside your statements that are in a file named ON THE BACK BURNER.

And now for more good news. Go and enjoy your week. This is going to be a smooth flight, not a bumpy one. Enjoy yourself and don't think about the debt.

"I LOVE money." (what the Financial Genie told the drive thru teller when she grabbed the cash out of the drawer)

"If there is no enemy within, there can be no enemy without." Anonymous

Cautionary Note: I am not a Financial Planner, Financial Advisor or Certified Public Accountant. I am The Financial Genie sharing my experiences with the readers who, like me, have been faced with shame, disgrace and multiple threats from creditors and decided to turn my life around. I take no responsibility for those who fall on hard times. I do not advise. I make suggestions that worked for me and many others.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The First Day

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth...and the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.And God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night.

And the evening and the morning were the first day.

The great news is that dividing the light from darkness is exactly what you will be doing when you take yourself out of debt and walk into the light of prosperity.

What took God such a long time to accomplish - an entire week - will be as easy as walking down a garden path in summer.

Though the first few weeks are going to feel different - notice I said "feel," rather than be - you will not have to do as much work and create the wheel over and over again. This time will be the last time. You also will not have to pay someone for help in consolidating your debt by going deeper into debt.

The Financial Genie grants you three wishes:

1. You will find relief.

2. It will be easier than creating heaven and earth.

3. You will become solvent, no matter how much money is in question.

Three things. That's all it takes.

No biggie. And no worries.

But...yes ...there is one tiny hurdle or down side - or what is masked as a down side. You will need to do three things.

1. Tear up your credit cards for good and close your accounts with those credit cards.

2. Make a commitment to never use any unsecured debt again. By unsecured debt I mean anything that is not collateralized such as a car or house...and yes, this includes personal loans. They will have to be collateralized.

3. If you want to take things a step further, you might want to consider reading up on everything you can about debt and its implications along with several books that discuss prosperity in all its many forms.

This is what your first day creating financial freedom is about. Nothing more. Here at the Financial Genie we will be keeping things simple because the Financial Genie likes simplicity. And this means we'll be keeping the first day of the Financial Genie's information short.

We invite you to have fun with all of this.

Fun? Remember fun? You more than likely have been losing sleep, having back pain or migraines with all the financial problems you've been encountering. But things are going to improve because you are the engine of this locomotive. Take heart and trust that things will get better. It took awhile to get where you are. And it will take awhile to get solvent.

A word about bookending.

If you need a new fridge, or some other expensive item that you know you probably don't have enough money to purchase, or the roof has a leak, or you have an important presentation to make and you're feeling insecure or you're going for an important interview or asking for a raise, make sure that you bookend. This means to call someone before your presentation to get support. After the event, call the person back to let them know how you did or how you feel about how it went. Everyone needs support in making such decisions, then hearing the kudos afterward.

Quote for today: "The world is awash in money." ~ Ted Turner