Where has Miel gone?

I’ve been missing in action from writing for the last several months. My blog, Vicarious Nomad, first started out as Where in the World is Miel, and these days it seems you should changed to Where in the World has Miel gone? Not specifically due to dropping off the edge of the earth to some remote locale (though there has been a fair amount of travel), but rather just a whole lot of life going on.

miel clark olivia jan 2015

To sum things up, try this one for size for a summary of seven months in a blurb. Gave birth at home to my dear sweet Clark. Ran several family businesses (while nursing) and increased the profits on both businesses several times over (Olivia Beach Camp Cabins and District Media). Tandemly sold our place in DC and bought a sweet bungalow in a fabulous location in Portland, Oregon (just 1.2 miles from my sis Darcy). If that wasn’t enough, then land my dream job as the new Executive Director of Green Empowerment. Add in travel (with my new born) to Oregon, the Bay Area, New Orleans, Tahoe, and Kenya to top it off.

So you can see that there has been just a bit going on in my life. Looking at my travel and schedule this spring I don’t see that decreasing any, but I do see the need and desire to partner with Darcy in authentically sharing about our finances and what that looks like as we seek our own versions of sustainable family finances.

After nearly nine years of finance blogging, on and off, there is perhaps more than ever to share with readers about what it takes to keep a family in balance, how we prioritize our finances is really how we prioritize our lives, and so much more.

Thanks in advance for reading, commenting, sharing with others. It helps inspire us to continue to share our stories. Thought I’d share a few fun pics of us this holiday season as well.

cronin bash 2014    zoo lights 2014

Cheers,

Miel

Reflections on Our 5th Year Blogiversary

Miel and Darcy Go Ducks Jan 12, 2015

Go Ducks!

Wow. I can hardly believe that we launched this blog five years ago. It frankly feels like an eternity ago. So much has happened…so many dreams have come true, as well as disappointments and recurring financial frustrations.

I blogged like a madwoman for the first several years. Miel was already a successful blogger (earning $2k per month at the time) and had convinced me when I started that I needed to write a post every day in order to be taken seriously and have any earning potential. So, I diligently cranked out twenty posts a month writing almost every evening. I was determined to prove that I could be a professional blogger, and I do think that some of my best posts were published before I ever had many readers (We have 418 posts and another 80 in draft form!)…I still need to find a way to share our archive better…here are my favorite dozen posts from the first year.

Looking back I have no idea how I managed it to create/maintain such creative stamina (blogging really does take a lot of creative juice). Especially during a time when I was out the door at seven in the morning to bus/bike to office and up on my laptop late several nights a week blogging. Kevin thought I was crazy, and his doubtfulness has been a source contention/frustration (he’s only ever read a handful of posts).

Yet, for as much as I’ve written, I feel like it’s taken me five years to truly find my voice. In my first year I blogged under the alias “Green Mama” and was honestly terrified of criticism. I started off declaring my desire to save up $7500 for a family trip to Denmark fearing that people would label me an elitist for having such a frivolous financial goal. Then we unexpectedly inherited what felt like a shitload of money and I seriously questioned whether I could continue to write for a blog where I no longer felt like my readers might not relate me once I wasn’t a so-called struggling working mama (all the struggle does continue, just in a slightly different income bracket with a few family businesses to manage on top of it all!). Next we somehow manifested our dream beach cabins, and then I planned my exodus from full time public service to become a Certified Mama Bliss Life Coach. Yet, lately we’ve gone to feeling nearly broke and sharing about our family finances has continues to require some serious “courage in action” (one of my favorite mantras that I use as I publish a post or send an important email).

In revamping our blog, Miel began writing together with me (yay!) and we went out on a limb and shared literally every Money Story we could recall in an effort to clear our subconscious from the money baggage we all carry. And yet, I’ll speak for Miel as well, we’ve both struggled to fully share our current money stories. It’s partly because our lives have been moving at such a fast pace in recent months (Miel moved across the country and landed her dream job, and I’ve been busy launching my coaching practice, and we’ve taken on fully managing our beach cabins…) Our lives seem to be happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up, let alone post blogs in a timely manner.

And, yet, Miel and I are ready to really dig deep in order to finally bring ourselves (and this blog) into our full blossoming potential. Here’s our plan:

  • Divulge Our Net Worth – Miel was one of the first financial bloggers to start sharing her net worth publicly (nine years ago). Money is still taboo in our socio-economic circles, and she was in fact very bold to publish her private finances. I remember having conversations with close friends/family who were aghast that Miel would both share her net worth and her desire to become a millionaire. In starting this blog, I had several conversations with Miel about how essentially “there was no way in hell” and Kevin and I would share our net worth publicly. Yet, I’ve come to realize that I/we need to be fully conscious of our finances in order to create our future financial dreams. So, we will both start posting our net worth every quarter.
  • Be Truly Authentic About Our Finances – Just knowing/sharing our net worth is not going to help us reach our financial dreams though. We’ve come to realize after being truly honest in sharing our money stories that it somehow feels harder to be authentic about our current financial stories. It’s partly because we each face frustrations at different levels (This past fall we dealt with fraud, Miel getting her stuff stolen, bouncing the cabin bank account, plus the expense of Miel’s maternity leave/move, trying to afford a nanny, oh and Miel’s new dream job meant a 50% pay cut). So, our lives are simply filled with blog fodder, but we’ve both felt challenged by how to share our stories when they feel so raw and personal. So far we’ve tried to be a resource to our readers, but in truth generic and impersonal advice is just that, generic and impersonal. We hope that by being truly authentic we’ll finally be able to connect at a deep level with you, our readers (Please, people can you finally show us some love and start to comment?!).
  • Hold Each Other Accountable – But we’ve come to agree that sharing our net worth and the complicated feelings is the only way to hold each other accountable. It’s really helpful to have a look-alike to mirror your desires and fears, and we indeed to push each other into full bloom.
  • Manifesting Our Dreams – We’re also going to go out on a limb and start sharing about our next financial dreams and the steps we’re each taking to manifest them. While we are starting with different lifestyles/finances, we still have very similar dreams (like retiring part time in Hawaii). Even though we may face some critics, we are excited to fully embrace our ability to create the reality we envision for ourselves.
  • Giving Back – Miel and I are both very passionate about giving back, both locally and internationally. I’ve been a Rotarian for three years now, and Miel followed suit not long after (We’re very excited now that we can attend the same weekly meetings in the Pearl). She’s now a two-time Paul Harris Fellow (which I’m admittedly a little jealous about, and plan to catch up as soon as I can…). When I was working at the City, I was donating to five organizations I think do great work: Rotary International, Friends of Trees, Oregon Environmental Council, Mackenzie River Trust, and International Medical Corps (where Miel used to work). I also started my own Kiva Experiment when we received our inheritance. Recently I gave a spare $20 to Green Empowerment, since I couldn’t help but support Miel’s new amazing work. Plus, we’ve been tithing to our church, Grace Memorial Episcopal, for several years (although in December we did suspend our donation until we can afford it again). In the end Miel and I truly believe that our work and our money will make the world a better place.
  • Divesting From Carbon & Becoming Carbon Neutral – As long time readers know, I’m actually more passionate about environmental sustainability than finances (Part of my challenge initially was that I focused more on sustainable family lifestyle post than on actual finances…but I digress again). So, for as much as I’m excited to finally embrace our finances (as a means to creating our dreams), I’m also still deeply passionate about doing everything we can to slow global warming. In first launching this blog, we did a lot of home/family sustainability projects, but I’ve kind of plateaued. Just last week the founder of 350.org came to talk to our Portland Pearl Rotary Club. While I had organized a community event (planting natives at a park that I helped create), I’ve mostly been an on/off online activist lately. So, when he talked about the need to divest from carbon, it really resonated with me as the obvious next step for me to take action on. I’ve also had the desire to become carbon neutral for a long time (I blogged early on about calculating our carbon footprint). Every time I made a pot of Portland Coffee Roasters and see the carbon neutral label, it gives me a big smile. Also, Miel’s nonprofit, Green Empowerment, made the same commitment to lead the carbon shift. I saved this goal for last, because I know it’s the most long term goal. But we are in this for the long haul. Five years has felt like a blip, and we’re excited to walk our talk by making these commitments.

So, whether this is the first post you’re reading of ours or you’ve been following us for years, we’re happy you’re here with us. We look forward to engaging our readers with truly authentic posts that will bring us all closer and closer to our financial dreams. 🙂 🙂

Happy Blogging!

Darcy (and Miel)

PS A side note: I do still feel shame around the fact that date this blog has earned very little, and was told long ago that blog that doesn’t earn money is either a hobby or a charity. Meanwhile I didn’t want to “sell my soul” by writing posts to please an advertiser. So, we are finally ready to start partnering with sponsors who resonate with our message and simply want to support us in reaching our readers.

Invest in Retirement or Pay for College? How About Both?

7cd5aed6674a46eab97e53c3da70960fOne problem that every parent faces is whether to invest for their retirement or pay for their children’s college.

On the one hand, the cost of college is reaching unprecedented levels. Outstanding student debt recently exceeded $1 trillion so helping out your children with college tuition helps prevent them from going into crippling debt.

On the other hand, your children have their entire lives to pay back student loans while you have a more limited timeline to invest for retirement.

Today we’ll review the advantages of each option and propose a third approach to retirement and college savings.

Advantages of Helping Pay for your Children’s College

There was once a time where a student could work his way through college. Today that is becoming less and less realistic for the 20+ million college students in the United States, even for students who work full-time while going to school.

Students who graduate with large amounts of debt typically end up being forced to hold off on life events like getting married, moving out of their parents’ house, or buying a home. It can lead to additional stress and poor credit scores.

The biggest advantage of helping pay for your children’s college education is that upon graduation they will have a low-level or non-existent student loan debt. This will give them more freedom and flexibility, not to mention stability, in their post-grad life. They will be more likely to take calculated risks such as starting a business, and will likely have a lower level of stress because they don’t have massive student loan debt in the back of their mind.

The advantages of helping pay for your children’s college education is extremely visible and will likely result in gratitude from your children – and who doesn’t need more of that?

Advantages of Investing for Retirement

The advantages of investing for retirement are not as visible in the short-term. Saving and investing for retirement does have an advantage over saving for a child’s college education, though: unlike college, retirement can’t be funded on loans.

Choosing to forgo retirement savings could result in not having enough for those long years of your life. Many people help their children with college with the belief that they will be able to “catch up” later on, but the problem with this logic is that a dollar invested today is worth more than a dollar invested 20 years from now. Compound interest makes money invested today more valuable, making it important – and easier – to save for retirement now instead of playing the catch-up game later on.

Is it Possible to both Pay for College and Invest for Retirement?

You don’t have to think of these two important options as an either-or, but before you start a college fund of any kind, you should make sure you are on track for eventual retirement.

Use a retirement calculator, learn retirement annuity basics, and find out how money manager fees differ. This will ensure that you are knowledgeable about the retirement process and prepared for what’s ahead. Only then should you consider saving for your children’s college educations.

If you do have additional income that can be diverted to save for your children’s college accounts, consider looking into a tax-advantaged 529 plan. Because these accounts are treated favorably from a tax perspective, you will be able to save more than if you simply put money into a savings or individual investment account. Plus, there are hundreds of unique ways your child can save money in college including:

  • Community colleges
  • Keeping a Steady job
  • Applying to small, local scholarships
  • FAFSA
  • Purchasing Used Textbooks
  • Strict Budgeting

Regardless of how much you decide to contribute towards your children’s college tuition, retirement planning is a necessity that can’t be overlooked.

Repairing Your Credit in 2015

With the calendar flipping over into a new year, resolutions are on everybody’s mind. Maybe you’ve resolved to pay off all of your debt this year. Maybe you are determined to get rid of those bad money habits that landed you in hot water in the first place. It’s important, though, when figuring out plans for the coming year to remember to focus as much on building something as on breaking old things down.

So, in this post, we’re going to talk about the things that you can do to repair your credit rating.

#1. Start at the Beginning

Before you can take action, you have to know where you’re starting. Getting your hands on a copy of your credit report is the best way to do that. You’re entilted to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every twelve months. What better time to get yours than during the start of a new year?

#2. Fix Any Mistakes

Go over each of those credit reports with the finest of fine toothed combs. There is no such thing as a “minor” mistake when it comes to your credit report. Dispute every single detail that is not 100% accurate. The credit bureaus allow you to do most of this through their websites. They will check into each dispute and if they cannot prove that what they have on record is the truth, that item will be taken off of your report.

Be patient with this. It can take a few months to get these blemishes erased. The credit agencies have 30 days to act on a dispute, then there’s a 30 day wait for the information to be proven and then they have up to 30 days to correct the information on your record. It won’t happen in just a few hours.

#3. Take Out a Secured Credit Card

If you’ve just paid off a ton of debt you’re probably reluctant to take on anything new. And, if you have a history of only paying minimums or maxing out cards, you aren’t yet ready for an unsecured credit line.

A secured credit line is one that you open up with some sort of collateral, typically cash. They are typically granted in smaller amounts–most start at around $300. You pay the bank your $300 and they give you a card with a $300 limit. You then use that card like you would any credit card: paying for things and then paying off the balance. If you default, the bank simply keeps the money you gave them as collateral. It’s sort of like a gift card except that your payment history gets reported to the credit bureaus. Secured lines of credit are great ways to teach yourself new and responsible habits while also building up a positive payment history on your credit report.

#4. Work with Bad Credit Financers For Bigger Things

You don’t want to take on a lot of debt, but after successfully managing your secured credit card(s) for six months or so, you will probably feel ready to take on a larger type of debt. A good way to do this is to buy a car. The best way to do this is to work with a “middle man” who helps people with bad or sketchy credit get auto loans. One such “middleman”, Consumer Portfolio Services, buys automobile contracts from dealerships and retailers and then “sells” them to people whose credit will get them turned away at a regular bank. You then take the loan from CPS (or whoever) and they report your positive payment history to the credit bureaus.

If you manage to go a year without any major slip ups–missing payments, only paying the bare minimums, defaulting on a credit line, congratulations! You’re on your way to having positive and solid credit for good!

Forex Brokers are Available – Which One is Right for You?

If you’re just getting started in the world of Forex, you probably know the choice of Forex brokers ahead is one of the biggest initial decisions you’re going to have to make. With so many choices available, how are you going to select the right one? These tips can help.

  • Look Carefully At Account Details: No matter which broker you choose, reading the fine print is an absolute must, because different accounts come with different strings attached. Pay careful attention to factors like the leverage and the margin, as both can work in your favor while you’re trading. Commissions and spreads also have to be included in your decision making process. Don’t forget to factor in the initial deposit required as well because it can differ quite a bit from broker to broker.
  • Currency Pairs: Lots of currencies are out there for trading, and the reality of trading Forex is that if you’re holding it, someone is willing to trade. Unfortunately, not all brokers offer the pairs that traders want, so if you want something outside of what’s traditionally offered, you may have to do a bit of additional searching.
  • Premium Services: Not all brokers have the same level of service available to potential customers. Charting, news feeds, and market commentary can make you more successful, but you’re going to have to look around to find an individual who offers them.

When You Do Choose a Forex Broker

If you’ve managed to narrow your list down to two or three brokers, congratulations! The next best step for you to take is to open a few demo accounts. Learn more about what the broker has to offer you, and explore their customer service while you’re at it. You’re going to find a connection that is certainly worth having in the process, and then you’ll know which broker is perfect for you.