Money and Life Lessons at 40

 In General

I celebrated my 40th birthday in May. Over the last five weeks, I shared money and life lessons from the first four decades of my life. I’ve compiled them here. You can follow me on FacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn for future tips.

I’ve learned to make decisions based on limited information. When I moved to the Bay Area in 2012, I hadn’t secured an apartment. I decided to ship my ancient Honda Accord in case I’d need one in the suburbs. I ended up living in SF where I didn’t need a car, plus the car broke down due to extensive rust damage. But I wasn’t upset since I made the best decision possible based on available information.

Planning ahead makes it easier to take big risks. I took a leap of faith in 2012. After years of dreaming about the west coast, I bought a one-way ticket, pared down my belongings to 13 boxes, and arrived in San Francisco without an apartment or a job. Being a planner by nature, I had saved a cash cushion, which relieved a lot of pressure.

My cat, Zoe, reminds me to live in the present. If she’s tired, she’ll nap. If she’s hungry for breakfast, she’ll knock things onto my head until I wake up. She doesn’t stress about the past or the future. She focuses on what she can control.

Although I tend to be frugal, I’ve learned that it can be wise to pay for expert help. I invest in a marketing coach and personal trainer, for example. They hold me accountable, and my business and health have improved tremendously. In terms of personal finance, although you can find plenty of information about taxes, RSUs, and stock options online, at a certain point you likely will benefit from a professional tailoring advice to your your situation.

“You only get one mind and one body. And it’s got to last a lifetime.” Warren Buffett’s wisdom extends beyond investing. I used to be able to get away with skimping on sleep and eating unhealthfully. But bad habits caught up to me in my 30s. Now I realize how important it is to take care of my physical and mental health. I was fortunate to meet Mr. Buffett in May 2009 when I was a student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Americans would rather talk about anything other than money, according to a 2018 survey by Capital Group. Many women have told me that they were raised to treat money as an impolite topic. Talking about money is empowering, however. Stacey Abrams is a prominent public figure who speaks frankly about money. To get more comfortable with your money, read sites like TheBalance.com, or interview Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professionals for customized advice.

Comedian Carol Burnett has endured many hardships: childhood poverty, alcoholic parents, and the death of her youngest daughter. I saw Carol Burnett perform in Oakland. The entire show was a Q&A with the audience. An aspiring actress asked for advice on dealing with rejection, and Ms. Burnett responded with this gem. My psychologist friend described this as “reframing”. It’s a great lesson from a comedy icon who’s still working at age 86 while standing in high heels for a 90-minute set.

More wisdom from Warren Buffett: “It’s very important to surround yourself with people who are better than you are. You’re going to move in the direction of the people you associate with.” Somehow I figured this out from a young age, always surrounding myself with smart and ethical people.

I was so focused on my career that I let eight years pass before going on an international trip. I visited friends in Japan in the fall of 2018. I’m so glad I fulfilled a dream to see the controlled chaos of Tokyo, and the beautiful serenity of Kyoto.

Spend money on what’s important to you. I grew up idolizing Olympic legends like Jackie Joyner Kersee and Flo Jo. Going to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens was a dream come true. I’m “holding” the Olympic flame here.

Major life changes can be exciting but also stressful. The stress often comes when there’s a gap between your expectations and your reality. One of the tools that helps me is meditation. Just five minutes of meditation in the morning helps quiet my mind. Paying attention to the present moment becomes easier. And I avoid falling into old habits of thinking 20 steps ahead, which helps reduce stress. There are several apps to help you get started, including One-Moment Meditation.

Investing in your career development is worth it. When I graduated college in 2001, I thought I’d never set foot in a classroom again. I’ve since gotten an MBA and the CFP designation, and my next goal is the EA (IRS Enrolled Agent) to deepen my tax knowledge. For Superstar Women, organizations like Advancing Women Executives are great resources for career development. And if you can get your company to pay for it, all the better!

When you hear “family”, maybe the traditional image of a married couple with 2 kids comes to mind. I’ve come to realize that you can create your own version of family and community, however. Being an aunt is a big part of my life. Best of all, I can give my nieces back and go home to my cat and quiet apartment.

Time is precious. When you were a broke 22 year old, you had no money but plenty of time. You didn’t mind getting a U-Haul and rounding up friends to help you move. But at 40, it’s the opposite: you have more money, and way less time. Outsource where you can. For example, when I don’t have time for meal prep, I’ll stock up some healthy meal kits from Good Eggs. I dislike shopping for clothes, so I’m checking out Stitch Fix.

I adore my cat, Zoe. Pets are important family members, and caring for them can be expensive. I budget for Zoe’s cat sitter, Uncle Jay Cat Sits, as part of my vacation budget. My clients who have dogs budget for overnight care or dog walkers with services like Rover.com. And while Zoe is in good health, I set aside a monthly amount for vet bills in case of an emergency.

 

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