Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Life Skills for the Almost 30 - Getting Re-acquainted with Books


I was a voracious reader. Then I became a hungry reader. Then a reader. Now I’m a light-snacker when it comes to the literature department. I don’t know what happened. I hate that books cannot bring me the comfort it used to give me --- but nowadays, there just isn’t enough time and, sad to say, not enough memory space in my noggin to focus on a lengthy story. Some of my friends would say, “See? Even the bookworm that you are can’t read anymore.” But dear frigates, I will not go gentle into the good night.

Reading only looks like it’s a luxury, but it might just be more than necessary. Your brain cells are degenerating. Old neural connections you haven’t used since your last Soc Sci exam in college are fading fast. The other day, I found myself just grasping for the word we use to describe frivolous behaviour. It took me a full minute of rummaging through my noodle bag to access the right word --- Levity. Then yesterday, my cousin Gabriel asked me to help him with his Filipino homework about Pamatlig. What the eff are Pamatligs?

As engrossing as the Vampire Diaries and 100 Days are, every Almost-30 must find time to switch off the boob tube and read. It doesn’t matter if it’s on your Ipad or Ipod or your Tab or an actual, tangible book. Find time to read something that stimulates your brain, so that automatically disqualifies the Twilight series. Read books that can revive old neurons and then books to occupy the yet-empty dendrites and axons inside your pretty head. Read and give yourself a fighting chance against Alzheimer’s (it’s a scientific fact). Read and avoid becoming a righteous, one-track mind curmudgeon who insists that’s not the way things are done back in the good old days.

Then, there is the other kind of books I never learned to love. The Balanced Book.

I have to say, that even if I know the basics of accounting, and could apply it fairly well at work, I struggle applying it in my personal life. Old habits, coping mechanisms, childhood traumas, projected and displaced emotions --- these are excuses a lot of us hold on to when we know we are about to blow our budget once again. But sooner or later, it becomes exhausting to always struggle with money. Especially when you know if you were only wiser and less impulsive, you’d be sipping caipirinhas in Brazil by now if you wanted to. That’s why I choose my 29th year as the last year I would ever make myself feel like I’m 14 again and couldn’t afford to buy myself a clue.

Wiser friends have given me the following bits of financial literacy wisdom and are worth sharing:

-         Choose your minimum and maximum standard of living by keeping tabs on what you actually need and what you just want. Maybe you had to tighten your belt one time or lived hand to mouth at one point in your life. Make the best thing you were hoping for during those desperate times your minimum standard. Then tally your current resources and responsibilities (i.e. combined household income, bills, etc.) and allow only up to 10-50% above that level and make that your maximum standard. Excesses go to your Travel Piggy Bank for more meaningful results.
-         Pay yourself first – and it doesn’t mean the new Jim Butcher book or another pair of Toms. A separate savings account inaccessible by debit cards will do nicely.
-         Keep a notebook where you track all your expenses so you’ll know where your money went and could serve as monitoring tool to aid you in prioritization and allocation of resources.

Hopefully, when you’ve hurdled the Almost-30 bump, you’d have the ability to stand on your own two feet and grow gracefully from there on.

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