Creating Your Own Finance Strategy (Part One)

via GIPHY - Throwing away money hurts at one point or another.

If you're someone who's been in the working world and not been affected by the recessions of 2008 or the post-pandemic economic state - consider yourself very fortunate.  The past 15 years have proven that very few of us not born into wealth can afford to live frivolously all of the time. In other words, if you have to go to work for a living (or to live by a certain standard), you're not immune.  It doesn't matter if you perform on a stage, sports arena, or even have one of the "safe" jobs like an engineer or registered nurse.  Even if you managed to invent and patent that "next big thing" that changes our world as we know it, you could still find yourself in a situation once the glory has faded.

For the past couple of decades, I've been all about taking advantage of money opportunities that I'm legally entitled to - as well as those that may require a little extra legwork.  That latter part mostly refers to instilling the services of someone who can see loopholes and work things in my favor.  Sometimes, it takes quite a bit of networking (as well as developing a decent rapport) to reach this point.  However, when it comes to reaching a certain level, the effort is certainly worth it.

The Art of the Hustle (My Humble Story)

Nope, I'm not going to share the latest side hustle that you probably know about already.  Also, not every hustle is meant for everyone or congruent with every living situation.  Often you need a greater return than a few hundred bucks a month, which may not be consistent if there's no opportunity available at the moment.  What I'm speaking of is making a reasonable plan for a frugal living AND finding ways to generate income.

Back in the day, I was a career clerical temp whose typing skills were under 40 words per minute.  One would think this alone is the perfect reason to return to college but this didn't come until much later.  While I hated some of the breaks in between assignments, I learned to take advantage of complimentary software training.  Once I was willing to be tested in accounting/bookkeeping basics, MS Office, and other proprietary software, I not only got more money but I could pick and choose my assignments.

Although I was eventually able to live on my own (and I reside in L.A., mind you) I still did things like clip coupons, buy work clothes from off-price retailers and department store clearance sales.  The one thing that got me teased by some co-workers was brown-bagging it to work.  Some days I brought a house sandwich that costs less than $2, cheese and crackers, or my diet go-to instant brown rice and salsa.  While those giggly-butt co-workers stressed out over needing $50 or $100 right before payday, I was stacking and willing to move up.

Using Business Resources

I started this whole thing under an SBDC, which stands for small business development center and can be found in most major cities.  They work with the Small Business Administration and while many operate differently, most offer free or low-cost business operations training.  There are also one-on-one consultations with someone who has knowledge of a certain industry or protocol.

The first one I dealt with was part of a non-profit organization based in a local church.  After many personnel changes, they began using Americorps volunteers who got the ball rolling for many aspiring entrepreneurs.  While attending workshops after a long day with the public school system was hardly my idea of a good time, it paid off nicely.  I got grants and some services discounted that helped me launch.

When Life Happens

Although it took a minute to find my money groove, I found a somewhat comfortable space where I wasn't a miser nor did I flaunt what I had.  Because travel to work was short and I lived near major bus/train lines, I never bought a new car nor had more insurance than I needed.  Also, I still took time to shop frugally at the supermarket and saved trips to Whole Paycheck Foods for special occasions.

Even after dealing with bad engagements/living situations, evil bosses, and office divas, there was one obstacle that slowed everything at once.  Cancer.  Though I was told early on mine was manageable and to this day I've never been given a window (expected time to live) to this day, getting a serious illness without insurance (medical and disability, in my case) placed a different spin on things.

By this time, I had an IRA, few stock shares, and enjoyed dividend payments...I was broke.  Not instant noodles broke but somewhere between fried bologna sandwiches and MC Hammer broke.  The pricey duplex I learned to love was a distant rental memory by the time my hair grew back from chemo.  Working jobs I hated for years allowed me to receive SSDI after a short waiting period (and without a lawyer).

Although being a boomerang adult isn't easy, it gives one time to think and possibly plan.  Over time, I began to plan my re-entry to work and being on my own again.  While there were baby steps, like passing the math requirement for my degree, I found myself making some progress towards independence.

Then it happened.  The big c returned after nearly eight years of remission.

Rebounding During Uncertain Times

It was during the pandemic when everything was 'hurry up and wait'. My nerves are shot because there are several family issues within my immediate unit.  I'm beating myself up for not getting married to someone with a good job instead of building up someone else who didn't have my back during the first round of my illness.

So with a little meditation and some prayer, I was able to neutralize some of the bad feelings and convert them into productivity.  Not the best in the consistency department but when balancing infusion sessions, dr. appointments, and a little recreation, it was a step in the right direction.  This summer will mark one year and I plan to celebrate by continuing my (government-sponsored) education.

If you've read this far, thank you for listening but I hope my message reaches anyone who feels complacent in their current life or thinks the impossible will never happen to them.  Before I sign off, here are some cold realities women from the past and present have conquered once the initial pain was gone.

1. No matter how much you spend on renting a home, it's not yours.  I've only met a handful of people that were able to decorate as they like and in many cases, it wasn't worth the time or money.  While owning a home isn't ideal for everyone, it may help to cut corners by choosing a less-exciting neighborhood or a roommate.

2. Speaking of roommates, if your once-loving relationship has turned strictly platonic (and has been that way for a while), be prepared for the worst.  While I was never physically abandoned, being emotionally abandoned was almost as bad.  Use the dating stage to gauge how well your partner handles stressful situations of people that are close to them.

3. Never scrape the bottom of a toilet bowl for change.  While there's nothing wrong with being thrifty or in a position where $5 always makes a difference, some people may use your financial status against you.  Bosses, online companies, so-called friends, and others may pressure you to do something that will make you uncomfortable (or worse, go to jail) because they know you can use the money. Don't take the bait.

4. Watch out for scams. The president "gave away" a bunch of money so people quit their jobs or those laid off may not be able to match what they had previously.  Now, instead of robbing people upfront, some sketchy individuals are stealing IDs and more.  Women and minorities are the most likely targets because some individuals (even if it's a woman who's part of a minority) assume these people are the most vulnerable or ignorant.

Stay tuned for Part Two!