• I Matter

    How to Be Important When You’re Not

    (3 Minute Read)

    Am I important? Do I matter? Will anyone notice when I am gone? Why am I even here?

    The concepts of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and so on continue their decades long rise to premiere importance in our culture at every level. Everyone wants their children to grow up with high self-worth. People want to feel good about themselves. Yet, we don’t.

    A quick Google search on “Self Worth” will turn up a barrage of information. Articles on how to measure self-worth and to how not to appear. You can also read why girls have less, why boys struggle, and how anyone can get more self worth. Indeed it appears as though everyone wants more and they are willing to pay for it. Americans spend millions in a market area geared toward improving self.

    Some articles go so far as to say the words, “Statistics show…” then spew numbers as high as 95% of American’s struggle with self-worth. Of course they never cite a statistical study with actual data. Yet, we have to look no further than our bathroom mirrors to know these figures are closer to home than we would like to admit. So what’s up with our self-worth problems?

    Yes, part of the problem subsists in the criteria by which we measure our self-worth. Yes, part of the problem lies in our past experiences. Yes, part of the problem rests in the fabric of our culture and social norms. There are countless articles you can read on these topics. This is different.

    Sitting in my chair one evening, feeling especially worthless at the time, I pondered the answers to those exact questions above. Coming up void of any satisfactory answers I heard the alert sound for a text on my phone. Being occupied with nothing more than self-absorbance I took a look to see what it was. This photo showed up with a note attached reading something like, “Cleaning out mom’s house and came across this. The Big Red Apple! Memories.” It was from a good friend of mine from grade school.

    IMatter

    My frown turned upward to a smile and then a giggle, like a grade school little girl. For you see, the Big Red Apple wasn’t any ‘ole car. It was the car her mom drove when we were young. They lived four doors down the street and our moms would rotate taking us to school. When it was her turn I would wait at the door; patient yet eager for that big red car to peek from the corner of their garage and putter up the hill to my house. When I jumped inside, Mama Faye, as I called her, always seemed to be smiling. We would giggle all the way to school. In fact, I giggled so much when I was with my friend at Mama Faye’s house we still laugh about the first time I spent the night. As Faye tells it, “We were lying in bed listening to you giggling late at night. Lawrence said, “Either me or her are going to the shed, cause I can’t sleep with that going on.””

    I don’t know what happened to the Big Red Apple. It wasn’t the car that mattered. In fact I thought it was a four door. Mama Faye is now in an assisted living home struggling at times with her mind. To my knowledge she never did anything people would find worthy of fame or grandiose in any way. No accolades or trophies here. Most would say Mama Faye is an ordinary lady. They would be right, almost.

    In a world where so many seek to tear us down; a world where we return the favor and tear down others in turn, Mama Faye matters. She made a difference in this world, oh yes she did. In a way most of us fail. She brought a smile to my face every time I saw her. She still does in fact; I giggle, she snorts. It’s the difference that makes the difference. It is what matters. She will be missed, guaranteed.

    “Do not despise little things: a lantern can do what the sun can never do – shine at night.” –Unknown

    Maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned with doing big things in life. If we are honest, most all of us are ordinary. Get the simple little things right; smile, be positive, encourage others, and we may find “I matter“, more than we ever thought possible. Simple actions leading to a rich life indeed. We might find ourselves shining when night falls all around us.

    Share some little thing you have done in the comments and give everyone some ideas on what they can do for others so they too can say, “I matter.” You might even want to share this article and start an “I matter” movement.

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  • Is Race Real

    Is Race Real? Get the Simple Living Rich Life Answer

    “I don’t fancy colors of the face, I’m always attracted to colors of the brain.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

    Is race real? The simple answer is no, but keep reading. After all, who wants to be one of those people who jumps to conclusions without reading the whole article?

    The basic genetic mechanisms controlling skin color are in effect the same as those controlling eye color, hair color, height or any other physical feature.

    The beauty of these mechanisms is they are reliant on many individual genes. You might think of these genes as types of tools in your garage such as wrenches. Wrenches come in many different types: adjustable or fixed sizes, some open ended, others closed. Then there are hammers: sledge hammers, claw hammers, and ball peen hammers. The complexity created by these tools or genes allows each of us to appear as an individual. Even siblings have hundreds to thousands of changes between their genes. Yet, all humans remain >99.9% identical genetically. Chew on that for a minute. We are all pretty much the same, yet we are all individuals at the same time. This is pretty cool stuff. No wonder individuality is pivotal to our culture, religious beliefs, society, and civil liberties.

    There is little room if any to draw clear lines to create what we call races in this complex system. Scientist work long hours to obtain what we call clean data. Small standard deviations, those tiny error bars on graphs; priceless. Trying to separate people into race groups produces broad fuzzy categories at best. In short, terrible science.

    To counter, here is some outstanding science when it comes to race:

    Deborah and Zakariyya were the children of Henrietta Lacks; a poor black woman who suffered incomprehensible pain and agony from cervical cancer. Scientists took Henrietta’s cancer cells without her consent, for research purposes. Those cells, known to scientist as HeLa, have been a cornerstone tool in molecular biology and cancer research ever since.

    Yet, the family of Henrietta was left in a state of fog, never understanding or knowing what had happened to their mother and her cells. What were they? Was a part of her still alive? Was her soul still locked in those cells? Why did all the financial and medical benefit their mothers cells provided go to others, yet they had no medical insurance or money themselves? After decades of unanswered questions, Christoph, then a postdoctoral fellow provided some answers. He invited them to his laboratory to have their first ever look at their mothers cells.

    If the only molecular biology anyone ever learned was what Christoph Langauer taught Deborah and Zakariyya Lacks the issues of race would disappear. Here is a snippet of their conversation as recorded in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:

    “If those our mother’s cells,” he said (Zakariyya), “how come they ain’t black even though she was black?”

    “Under the microscope, cells don’t have color,” Christoph told him. “They all look the same—they’re just clear until we put color on them with a dye. You can’t tell what color a person is from their cells.”

    The young scientist ended the visit by presenting a picture of their mothers cells dyed with many different colors using a lab technique he had invented as a gift.

    We would solve so many of our world’s problems if we only knew this to be true, “When you look close we are all the same; just clear.”

    Is race real? The simple answer is no, not in terms of science.

    Race, like beauty is only skin deep.

    To lead simple rich lives is to live in light of this these truths.

    So why do we still bother with race at all in science? In short, because until we can locate genetic differences that predispose us to disease and develop tests to determine what individuals have them, imprecise clues to heritage are the best predictive tool.

    This is not the best example for many reasons, but it illustrates the point. Let’s say your child has a fever, and blood tests show she is anemic. If you checked the box besides “African” on the race question in your paperwork a doctor would be right in placing the possibility of Sickle Cell Anemia on her list of causes to investigate further. If however, you checked “White/Caucasian” the likelihood of Sickle Cell being the cause of your child’s symptoms is significantly lower.

    This idea that heritage is predictive of disease would hold true for scores of other medical conditions. If however, we knew and could look at a person’s DNA for those genetic changes which cause disease rather than having the patient check a box related to some vague category of inheritance we would be well on our way to individualized medical care and a higher standard of excellence. Not to mention we could do away with those silly boxes on our paperwork and what a happy day that will be.

    For now, this mythical pigeon holing of humanity continues to plague us.

    Is race real? Yes, and the solution is simple, but not easy. The problems race has caused run deep and wide. We all know our cities, towns, places of employment, prisons and schools all reflect problems linked to race.

    In watching the movie Hidden Figures, based on a true story of three black women working for NASA in the 1960’s, I could not help but wonder, “Where might we be today if we but recognized the scientific fact Christoph taught?” How many talents, ideas, and how much potential for good has been lost because we dismiss people because of the level of melanin their genes produce?

    If only we could see, much like the countless tears shed over race, we are all just clear.

    Then and only then will the answer to the question, “Is race real?” be a simple and an easy, “No.”

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  • Real man

    The Greatest Gift a Mother-in-law Can Give

    Mother-in-laws get a bad rap all too often. They’re pushy, nosy, insulting, high maintenance types. In my case nothing could be further from the truth. She has been gone for over a year now. I miss her. Grief is hard. She was the best in so many ways.

    She bought me gifts sometimes. The first I remember; cheetah print underwear. We returned from shopping and my future husband inquired what we bought. When told about the underwear his reply was, “No she didn’t. I know my mother.” Well, he did not know her as well as he thought.

    It was my birthday. I lived alone on a graduate school stipend. That is below poverty income for those who don’t know. While I had plenty of underwear my mother-in-law often had not in life. She insisted I have nice new underwear. That’s how she was.

    I don’t remember too many other gifts she gave me after that first one. I am sure they were all nice and things I loved. It’s that none rings as loud and clear through the years as the best one; a real man.

    You see, I have a problem with men; always have and I am certain I always will. So much so my own mother thought I was not marriage material. In fact, it is my problem with men that has kept me from writing a blog post since October. That is when all the harassment and sexual abuse stories began lighting up the news and social media wires with a fierceness never before seen.

    It has been hard not to question the integrity of all men. Even those who aren’t what popular media would call abusive have become hard for me to handle. So, I have decided to focus on my man. The man my mother-in-law gave me. He has none of the traits and behaviors hailed as negative all around me. If you have a real man, please focus on him and encourage him to continue being the man he is. We need them all.

    There is one more request I have. I don’t have children. If you do, could you please do us a favor and teach them the following:

    1. There are no women’s or men’s careers. If you are woman and you dig auto mechanics go for it. If you are a man and love to decorate houses, do it.
    2. There is no “place” for a woman or a man. A woman’s place is no more in the kitchen than a man’s is in the garage. Please do not limit your children by placing them in restricted locations in life. I have to throw in here that my parents both did an excellent job with this one. In the kitchen, I am as comfortable baking cookies as I am soldering a new fuse link on the mother board of the refrigerator. I can identify more tools than kitchen gadgets for sure.
    3. Men do not babysit their own offspring. I’m sorry you don’t.
    4. Men do not need hobbies or “me time” any more than women do. I can’t think of one woman I know who fishes, golfs, or plays soccer on the weekends while her husband is at home with the kids.
    5. No one is above cleaning up after themselves. In other words, if you dirty it, you are not above cleaning it. If you drive the car you are not above changing the oil.
    6. Learn how to cook healthy meals. No matter what your gender you will need to eat for the rest of your life. This is a scientific fact.
    7. Women are not objects, slaves, or lower than men. Men are not smarter, more able to handle stress, better leaders or any of the other awful stigmas we have in our culture.

    When I see a real man like my husband who respects me, comes to me for advice and answers, participates in the basic care and domestic necessities of our lives together, and serves as a true partner, I see the best gift my mother-in-law ever gave me.

    A real man who is a teammate in this game of life is one who makes Simple living Rich life easy to live.

    Thank you Carla.

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  • What Every Driver Ought to Know But Doesn’t

    Last Saturday was tough; sunny skies with highs in the low 70’s. I wanted to be out on the trail with my horse and husband. But no, instead I found myself an hour away from home in a little place called Town Creek Alabama in driving school. I must admit, on the drive home I was thinking, while scanning for speed limit signs, this had been a total waste of time.

    Over the next few days many of the driving lessons I had learned in the class began to run through my mind again and again. Only this time each fact came coupled with a valuable life lesson. The instructors first words in particular kept ringing through, “Driving is the most difficult task you will ever do.” He kept repeating this over and over so it stuck.

    But why? The answer lies at the root of what it takes to live a simple rich life. That’s right the most difficult act leads to a simple rich life. I said simple, not easy.

    Here I’ll share a few facts that led me to the ultimate reason why driving is the most difficult thing you will ever do:

    1. The law does not give right of way, rather it requires a driver to yield the right of way to another. How interesting, while our culture submerges us in individual rights, where everything is a moral right, complete with a barrage of entitlements, our traffic laws do not give rights at all. No, quite the opposite, they require drivers to yield the right to proceed to others. Talk about turning your entitlement mentality on its head. Now, what if all our laws carried this “you first” mentality? What a different world it would be.
    2. The majority of alcohol related accidents happen between 12 midnight and 6:00AM. Yes mom, you were right, not much good happens after midnight.
    3. In spite of overwhelming evidence you are better off in a crash when wearing a seat belt. Yet, many do not. As class members who admitted to not wearing a seat belt gave their reasons I gleaned two life lessons. First, no matter how clear the warning, some people will refuse to heed solid advice. Second, some people fail to act on what is in their best interest because, well, they can’t. What you ask? They can’t put a seat belt on? Why would anyone not be able to put a seat belt on? The sheepish man at the rear of the class explained, “I know I should wear my seat belt, but I can’t. My best buddy in Iraq died because he was wearing a seat belt.” “Enough said,” replied the instructor. I made a note to myself never to judge actions of others, no matter how senseless they seem.
    4. Some people don’t care. One guy was in driving school for the 7th time. Another girl was attempting to sleep through the entire class. As the instructor said, “Some people just like to drive fast.” Lesson learned, some people are not interested in improving themselves, in doing right, or in keeping themselves from hurting others. This is out of my control. All I can do is wear my seat belt, and not assume others will do the right thing while driving.
    5. Ignorance is no excuse for violating the law; neither is your desire to drive fast. I as well as several others in the class failed to recognize the school zone signs on a four lane divided highway. Even so, there we sat.
    6. When on a road with a median the opposing traffic is not required to stop for a funeral procession. You may however, pull over out of courtesy. In the south most do pull over. This is another lesson to take to heart. Sometimes a person should show some common courtesy and respect for others, even when no one demands or calls for such. A simple act, but a powerful one for those traveling on the other side. Indeed, “slowing down” to consider those on the “other side” of most everything in life is a good idea. Grief is no exception.
    7. Road rage is rarely the result of a single act. In most all cases there are several incidents and circumstances building on each other before the situation escalates to a road rage scenario. This is true in most all instances of rage, behind the wheel or not. Understanding this principle can help in diffusing a loved one, coworker, or even a stranger. Knowing the rage has little to do with you or what you did, but is rather a culmination of prior happenings, can keep you from jumping in on the fight. Recognizing this tendency in yourself can keep you from lighting off on someone you care for due to no fault of their own.

    The driving class summed up using these three words: Recognize, Understand, Act. A life of thoughtfulness and respect for others is summed up in the same; a life that is simple yet rich.

    So, why is driving the most difficult task we do in life?  What is the most important driving lesson ever? Here is my conclusion:

    “Driving is the most difficult thing we do in life. Why? Because it forces us to take others into consideration; their choices, desires, weaknesses, and their faults. No other task in life demands such selflessness for the sake of your own safety.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD

    Thank you officer.

    I wish I had known this at 15. I figure the next best is to write about it and tell others so they can share with their friends and young drivers to make the roads and the world a safer place.
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  • Fixed Costs 300x300

    Fixed Costs: The #1 Reason You Never Have Enough Money

    (8 minute read)

    Does your paycheck have a leak? Like most, you don’t consider yourself lavish, you might even think you’re fiscally responsible, but your financial boat is always on the verge of sinking and you have no idea why. If so, what you need is to find that missing cash, and plug up those leaks. The most likely source of your leaks: fixed costs.

    The term fixed costs is often reserved for business accounting and defined as costs, such as rent, that are constant whatever the quantity of goods or services produced. However, individuals also have fixed costs. We don’t often think about our personal finances in terms of fixed and variable costs, but we should.

    In personal finance, fixed costs are those expenses which come in the form of a recurring bill. The bill comes no matter our income, or our desire for tickets to a show, or some nice chocolate. To put this in simple terms, too many recurring bills and you don’t have money for that summer trip to the beach your friends invited you to join.

    To put it another way, every fixed cost you add punches another hole in your fun money boat. “Hurray, another phone bill,” said no one, ever.

    Fixed costs are like an anchor on your bank account.

    They don’t flex. Nor do they give. Job loss, sickness, or your washing machine breaks, the bills keep coming. It’s like they don’t even care what you are going through; cold-blooded cash suckers.

    “Fixed costs put your expenses out of your control. For example, if I don’t want an apple, I don’t purchase the apple. I’m in control. However, if I subscribe to an apple-a-day delivery service, I have to spend money on the apple even if I don’t want it. I’m not in control.” – Clayton Daniel, Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle

    Clayton Daniel in Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle suggests keeping fixed costs to 40% and debt to 10% of income. Half of total income going to fixed cost and debt is more than our personal target has been. We have had a maximum fixed cost and debt percentage of less than 35% and have decreased this steadily over 20 plus years together to a current level of 8%. The lower your fixed cost percentage the more freedom you have.

    So what can you do to reduce fixed costs? First, you need to figure out what they are.

    To calculate fixed costs follow these 3 simple steps:

    • Step 1, and this is painful, but you must do it. Look at your paycheck, or if you are self-employed get out your accounting files. Now, let’s find the after tax income. Besides taxes, be sure to subtract any 401K contributions, medical flex plan contributions, or any other amount that is not deposited into your bank account. Yes, the government loves fixed costs. It hurts.
    • Step 2, make a list of all your fixed costs, their amount, and frequency. Now, calculate the total amount of your fixed cost per pay period. For example, if you get paid bi-weekly, figure the yearly cost, then divide by 26 (because there are 52 weeks in a year). Here’s an example chart for someone paid bi-weekly to help get you started:

    • Step 3, subtract your fixed costs total from step 2 from your actual take home income calculated in step 1.

    Example: (take home income) $1000 – (fixed costs) $68.85 = $931.15

    This is the amount of money per paycheck you have remaining to spend. It is critical to realize this is the money under your control. You have relinquished control of the rest in one way or another. To further calculate the percentage your fixed costs are of your income, divide your fixed costs by your take home income, then multiply by 100.

    Example: ((fixed costs) $68.85 / (take home income) $1000) x 100 = 7%

    The good news is there are many fixed costs you can regain some control over with a little effort and sacrifice.

    Eliminate or reduce these 9 fixed costs:

    1. Vet Checkups. Before you start the nasty comment know that I am an avid animal lover. I live on a farm remember? My point here is caring for animal’s costs money. Sometimes they cost a great deal of money. If you don’t have the financial ability to care for an animal’s basic needs and some emergency care wait until you do to bring one home. If you want an animal then add the fixed cost of their care to your calculations above. Also, add in some emergency cost to your rainy day fund.
    2. Gym memberships. If you go to the gym congratulations; keep your membership. Yet, most people with gym memberships had good intentions when they signed up but they no longer use the gym. Don’t feel guilty there are plenty of ways to get in shape and exercise without a gym membership. As my Grandpa used to say, “Walking ain’t crowded.” I would add to that, neither is biking, hiking, or jumping rope in your living room to Michael Jackson songs.
    3. Insurance. While you would not want to cut your insurance coverage entirely it often pays to get an update on your policy. Consider for example, could you afford a higher deductible, get away with less of a life insurance policy, or save money with another company? Could you get by with an older or less valuable vehicle?
    4. License fees. By the same token, you cannot eliminate license fees. But, what you can do is reduce them. Like insurance, license fees are generally linked to the value of your vehicle. This value will go down with time. Therefore, you can potentially lower this fixed cost via two ways. One, sell a more valuable vehicle and purchase a less valuable one. In other words, ditch a BMW and get an Accord. Two, you can hold on to your vehicle for longer. The longer you make your vehicle last the lower the fees will get.
    5. Utilities. The simple act of turning the AC thermostat up or your heat down by 2 degrees can save a tremendous amount of cash. Also, remembering if you leave a room and turn the light off you can always turn it back on if you decide to return. Leaving electric items on such as televisions, computers, and ceiling fans when you no longer plan to be in the area is a waste. In addition, if you have the opportunity to replace such items as windows, HVAC, doors etc. make sure to get a more energy efficient model.
    6. Paid television. No one needs television, period. While you need a place to live and by law you must have some insurance if you own a car or house, you do not need television. This is a want, not a need; know the difference. Besides, you’ll have more time for what’s important.
    7. Subscriptions. This is a big one, as often yesterday’s obsession is long ago forgotten. This includes magazine subscriptions which you now consider junk mail, electronic book subscriptions, and music subscriptions be it online or satellite. Special delivery services, online shopping memberships, and unused apps fill out the list. Too often we keep the payments going long after our interest or use has waned. Take the time to cancel them.
    8. Rent. If you rent it is likely you live in a location with a large rental market. If you have tried everything else and your fixed cost are still too high you might need to consider a downgrade in your living quarters. Remember, moving cost money too, so factor in moving expenses, and fees that may incur.
    9. Debt. We’re going to include debt here even though we hope one day you are debt free and the bills stop coming. Nevertheless, while they remain, they continue to leak money out of your pockets.

    Mortgage. Your mortgage payment should be no more than 25% of the figure you calculated in step 1 of the exercise above (determining your actual take home income). If it is, you are going to have a difficult time at best making ends meet. No fun for you. Consider also that if 25% is the actual payment on your mortgage it is likely you cannot afford to make any additional principle payments which by default means you are anchored to this debt for the full term of your mortgage (15 or 30 years). Unless you sell your home and move into one more affordable, or have an opportunity to refinance at a lower interest rate enabling you to make extra principle payments you could be slapped with this fixed cost every month for a good chunk of the rest of your life.

    Credit card debt. Also known as consumer debt; the cancer of personal finance. This high interest, highly addictive form of fixed cost is the worst. It is a must go.

    Car payments. Many Americans have come to accept a car payment as a permanent fixed cost. Nonsense, eliminate a car payment as soon as possible. Start moving in this direction by calculating the maximum car payment you can sustain. Now go buy a car with a lower payment than this figure. But wait, the trick is to make the maximum car payment possible only now you take the difference and put it in your savings account marked “new car fund.”

    For example, if you can sustain a car payment of $250/month but can easily get by with vehicle that has a $175/month payment, pay the $175 each month but make sure to deposit the remaining difference of $75/month into your “new car fund” savings account. Now, while you may not have enough cash in your account to completely pay for your next new car when the time comes you will most certainly have a much larger down payment to offer. This in turn, will enable you to save even more money into your “new car fund” account and eventually you will have enough to pay cash for a car outright. Of course you will continue to deposit into your “new car fund” on a monthly basis so that you never have to make a car payment again.

    To sum it up, calculate your fixed cost as a percentage of your take home income. To reduce your fixed costs and help fund more of what you want out of life, search through the list of possible cuts and find a place to start. Keep in mind this is by no means an exhaustive list of possible fixed costs draining your finances. Be sure to look for opportunities to cut them wherever possible.

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