slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.


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to my future child, from your millennial mother.

To my dear future chubby-cheeks:

Lately, your future mother has been hearing a lot of noise about how her narcissistic generation needs to get over feeling like we’re anything special.

You see, a few years before you were born, I attended a Citizens League discussion titled “The Looming Intergenerational War”. The purpose of the dialogue: can entitled, liberal Millennials, ignored and indifferent GenXers, and social security-hogging Boomers sit in the same room without feeling the need to rip into each other for perceived affronts to their dignity and lifestyle? (Am I perhaps being hyperbolic, you ask? Pffft. As my child you should realize that I am never sarcastic. Ever.)

Say nothing about the conflict in Afghanistan: as I write this letter to you, my Millennial comrades and I are currently locked in a brutal socioeconomic fight to the death with our Boomer parents and even our GenXer older cousins. Why, you ask? Mainly because many major news outlets, politicians, and the Twitterverse have trumpeted in no uncertain terms that we are, in fact, at war. How can I possibly look at your grandparents now – my sworn enemies – without being moved to openly weep at the cruel fate that has placed us at opposite ends of the cultural battle field?

Future baby, here is the supposed plight of my Perez-loving soldiers in arms: our older coworkers call us lazy because we refuse to put in our time at the bottom of the employee food chain – after all, we’ve been so used to receiving trophies and accolades for our mediocre work that we now scoff at positions we deem “below us”. They say we whine incessantly (and unjustifiably) about Boomers leaving us to inherit a bleak economic future, even as we’re simultaneously instructed to get our s#!t together because Lord knows we won’t have social security to fall back on when we contemplate retirement. (Someday you and I will have an enlightening conversation about what that s-word means. Today is not that day.) We are looked down upon for being coddled, for having everything from grades to smartphones that we don’t deserve, for being unmotivated. Sometimes, we aren’t even called Millennials or Generation Y – our hugely inflated egos are more likely characterized by the moniker Generation Me.

Okay…seriously though, baby. I want you to know that, regardless of our age and generation – Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, what have you – very few of us today actually believe this crap.

Grandma and grandpa are not perfect (despite what they might tell you), but both your uncle and I will strongly assert that they brought us up in the best and most loving way they knew how. If my mom and dad have ever told me I’m good at something, it’s because I legitimately am. Listen baby, your momma is fully aware that she’s a hot mess when it comes to math and science. My pride has been kicked down a notch on more than one occasion regarding my (lack of) athletic and artistic abilities. So why is it such a complete and utter travesty that I’ve ever been encouraged for being good at something, like possessing a knack for written communication, or having talent with a musical instrument, or being able to think critically and objectively?

What’s more, some of the best praise I have ever received has come to me in the form of criticism. A story (and you’ll probably hear this one often, baby, so listen up): when I was a freshman in college, I pulled an all-nighter to write a large research paper for one class and a one-page literary response for another. Both were deplorable examples of scholarly work. However, when I received a check-minus on the one-page response (the symbolic equivalent of “at least you strung some letters together on a piece of paper…”), I was indignant and felt I had been misunderstood. I went to my professor’s office to plead my case and prove that my argument was clearly articulated and supported by textual evidence. He replied, “No, it wasn’t. You were wrong. I know what you’re capable of producing, and I will always expect more of you.” I thank God for that professor, and for the lasting impact he’s had on my self-esteem, because he was right: I can do better. Remember this, baby: regardless of your strengths, you should never assume you have learned all you could learn. We can all, always, do better.

Generational war is largely a myth, child of mine. Your generation will struggle to find its place in the world when you grow up, just as my generation is currently working to build a successful future that we can claim as our own. Rest assured that your grandparent’s generation, and generations of ancestors before them, has done the same. History can give us context for our decisions, but the only person responsible for your life is you.

Someday, baby, you will grow up and leave me. I can’t promise I’ll be the coolest mom in the world, and I can’t promise I’ll always do everything right by you, but I swear that I’ll raise you the best way I know how, just like your grandparents raised me. I will help you to recognize and to grow your talents, because without them, you won’t know how to establish your place in this huge world. And I will encourage you to surround yourself with people who are more talented in other ways than you, and who will give it to you straight when you need a slice of humble pie. You are not perfect, baby, and while you should be bold in the knowledge of your strengths, you must never forget to be vulnerable and open in your weaknesses.

And most of all, baby, I vow that you will always know that you’re special…because to me, you already are.

With love,

Your mother*

*Nope, I’m not currently pregnant. Hope we’re all on the same hypothetical page here.


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oh queen anne, my queen anne

I found this table at an antique store in Rosemount, and I’m currently coveting it like mad.

It’s an expandable Queen Anne.

It comes with 6 black, high top chairs that only match the table if you have a vaguely eclectic aesthetic taste.

And the fantastic textile on the chairs pulls the look of the entire set together in a surprising way.

It’s all very hipster vintage. I can picture it sitting elegantly in my future dining room with a rug underfoot – maybe bright red? – and a vase of freshly cut flowers. My gut was telling me to impulse-buy the hell out of that table and chairs.

And then reason stepped in.

The summer before my senior year of college I landed an internship that required me to become baseline financially literate. I read a couple of different books to build up my minimal financial knowledge, but the one that most caught my attention was All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi. The authors’s recommendation for navigating your financial life is simple — get your money in balance. They advocate the 50/30/20 plan, the breakdown of which is explained by this nifty pie chart:

[image credit: here.]

Being a single girl without a mortgage, children or even a dog, and (thanks entirely to my very selfless parents) living a debt-free lifestyle, it’s been relatively easy to stick with the 50/30/20 plan. In all honestly, though, I’m more ready to give credit to my own ignorance for that success than I am to thank my limited financial understanding.

Proof in point: instead of pouncing on that dining set from the antique store, I made myself walk away so I could sleep on my decision. I also decided to balance my monthly spending plan (which I haven’t done since…July, maybe?…) and see how much money I have left to play around with.

To date, I’m in the red $66.14. And I don’t get paid for another 4 days.

I don’t know about you, but when I think about spending money I get tripped up on the scientific difference between a “want” and a “need”.

Here is a list of things I DESPERATELY NEED that would probably only qualify as wants if I was cold-hearted and had absolutely no material desires.

  • The hipster vintage dining room set of my hipster vintage dreams
  • Every piece of clothing that J Crew and Banana Republic has ever manufactured in the history of ever
  • A vacation to Scotland to be with my ginger-haired brethren
  • The new iPhone 5 because I am privileged and think my iPhone 3 is a waste of technology
  • A sassy pair of brown leather boots

Here is a list of the things that I actually do need in my life.

  • A completely new set of tires for my car
  • Enough cash to pay for upcoming birthday, wedding and holiday gifts
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Food from the actual grocery store
  • A check to pay back my mom after having freeloaded on her auto insurance policy and cell phone plan for the last four months

How do you find a balance between addressing your priorities and indulging in your precious life to its fullest? How do you go about making sure that your money provides you with the opportunity to choose, rather than with the limitations of choice? Some days, I think I may be starting to get it. Other days I realize that I really have no idea.

I still want the table and chairs.

con amor,

shan

UPDATE: Yep…I bought the table and chairs. That happened.

[Additional photo credit: My kickass instagram skillz.]


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interesting. mclovin appears to be more successful than i.

Some rare days, I’m quite productive. Earlier this week I went to work and contributed my thoughts and talents to the greater Thrivent good, and then I went home to drop off my dry cleaning, go grocery shopping, clean my room, and pay a dental bill. And then I rewarded myself for showing some initiative by watched the Bachelorette.

First, if you would like to understand why I watch this show, I will refer you to this post as it explains my feelings about the entire Bachelor(ette) franchise. And let’s not fool ourselves by pretending you don’t “occasionally” watch guilty pleasure trashy TV.

To acquaint the audience with the contestants on the Bachelorette (and undoubtedly force them into a subtle yet undeniable emotional connection to one contestant over another), the show’s producers regularly flash the name and age of each contestant being interviewed during their regular video diary session. At the beginning of the season, when viewers are still trying in vain to recognize any of the multitudes of faces on the show, the producers also display the occupation of each contestant.

This season of the Bachelorette introduced us to “One F” Jef Holm, who is vying for backwoods hoodrat Bachelorette Emily Maynard’s heart with a powerful hipster combination of skinny jeans, skateboard skills and a killer bouffant. A few years ago Jef founded his own social enterprise, People Water, which provides clean water to one person in need for every bottle of People Water sold. Jef is 27 and actively working to change the world.

basically true love. their individually perfect hair alone screams chemistry. [image credit: here.]

I find this depressing. Some days it’s very difficult for me to do simple things like brush my teeth or change out of my pajamas or crawl out of bed to eat lunch. But I have the rest of my life ahead of me to make a name for myself and my pajamas are more comfortable than business casual anyway.

Apparently, however, there are many people – I’m looking at you One F Jef – who get off on achieving big at a young age. And to them I say, with only the smallest amount of envy: hats off.  

5 notably accomplished young people:

  • Tatum O’Neil is the youngest person ever to win a competitive Academy Award, having received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1974 at the age of 10. By the time she was 23, O’Neil had been involved with 8 film productions.
  • Blaise Pascal discovered Pascal’s Theorem in 1639, at the age of 16. When he was 23, Pascal was busy conducting experiments with barrels to establish Pascal’s Law, also known as the principle of transmission of fluid-pressure.
  • William “Willie” Johnston is the youngest American to receive a Medal of Honor, earning the award in 1862 when he was cited as the only drummer boy to bring his instrument off the battlefield during the Seven Days Battles. Johnston was 11 at the time of the citation and 13 when he was presented with the Medal.
  • Joan of Arc played a folkloric role in aiding the French army to victory during the 1428-29 siege of Orléans, when she was about 17. This historic triumph paved the way for the July 1429 coronation of Charles VII. Two years later, at the age of 19, Joan was burned at the stake for heresy.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart“penned” his first musical composition, Andante in C for Keyboard, in early 1761, when he was 5. The piece was notated by his father, given his youth. At the age of 23, Mozart had composed over 300 of his eventual 626 musical works.

    one badass french peasant. [image credit: here.]

5 people whose accomplishments at the age of 23 represent the stuff my dreams are made of:

  • Orson Welles directed, narrated and starred in the infamous radio broadcast War of the Worlds, terrifying millions of listeners and landing him the cover of the May 9th, 1938 edition of Time – 3 days after his 23rd birthday.
  • Alexander Pope published one of his earliest poems, An Essay on Criticism, at the age of 23. The poem includes two still-famous lines: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, and “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. Behind Shakespeare and Tennyson, Pope is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
  • Jane Austen had written initial or final drafts of three novels by the time she was 23 – including her two arguably most famous works, Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811) and Pride and Prejudice (published in 1813).
  • Jack Nicklaus is a professional golfer who won his first Masters Tournament in 1963 at the age of 23. Nicklaus holds the record for the most Masters won (claiming victory a total of six times) and for being the oldest winner of a Masters when he was 46.
  • Isabella I of Castille ascended to the Spanish throne of Castile and León in 1474 when she was 23. Along with her husband, Fedinand II, Isabella would go down in history for completing the reconquistaof the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim kingdoms collectively known as Al-Andalus and for financing Christopher Colombus’ famous 1492 voyage.

    just convincin’ our terrified citizenry that aliens are attacking. nbd. [image credit: here.]

And for your pleasure, here are 10 modern-day 23 year olds who are more famous than you and I will ever be:

  1. Julianne Hough, dancer… and country music singer? And actress? Really Wikipedia? (born July 20th, 1988)
  2. Princess Beatrice of York, royal and first female in the line of succession…but fifth overall for the crown (born August 8th, 1988)
  3. Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley…er, actor (born August 24th, 1988)
  4. Candice Swanepoel, Victoria’s Secret model, like whatevs (born October 20th, 1988)
  5. Emma Stone, my personal favorite young actress(born November 6th, 1988 – one day before me, which puts my life in dismal perspective)
  6. Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore (born December 27th, 1988)
  7. Elizabeth Olsen, actress and apparently related to the more famous Olsen twins (born February 16th 1989)
  8. Chord Overstreet, trouty-mouth Gleek (born February 17th, 1989)
  9. Chris Brown, singer on many peoples’ shit list (born May 5th, 1989)
  10. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, only known as McLovin (born June 20th, 1989)

23-year-old, cute, spunky redhead — emma or shannon? you decide. [image credit: here.]

con amor,

shan


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how you know you’re getting old

As I mentioned in a previous post, last week Kat and I were volunteer teachers for JA In a Day at Monticello High School.

Our topic: Careers with Purpose. Our audience: 9th graders.

It took us a while to figure out that the students were dressed up for Decades Day – I’m sad to say that I briefly thought wearing tiger-print baggy pants and a flight suit was potentially a rural Minnesota thing – but it soon became apparent that the 9th graders were more interested in the shenanigans of the afternoon than they were in talking about their life’s noble purpose. While they might have found some value in our time with them, they didn’t care enough to be fully engaged…

…that is, until we attempted to connect our lesson with celebrities.

This is how you know you’re getting old: when none of the kids who are a decade younger than you have ever heard of the following philanthropic public personalities –

Bono.

Or U2 at all, for that matter.

Princess Diana.

Bill Gates.

And only one of the students knew the singing group behind the song Bills Bills Bills (Destiny’s Child):

Still, we wanted the teenagers to understand that you can serve a higher personal calling outside of your career through volunteering your time and resources to a cause that you’re passionate about. This is important stuff. So Kat asked if any of the students knew Miley Cyrus.

The 9th graders flipped. Duh they know who Miley Cyrus is. Miley Cyrus is the best of course. They love Miley Cyrus.

yeah.

The slubs are beginning to find that very few things in life age you more than a younger person who is totally disconnected from your generation’s cherished culture.

Just to get the kids back on the straight and narrow, we forced them to watch a video of U2 performing Beautiful Day live in concert. One day they will understand.

con amor,

shan

dear post-graduate: welcome to the real world.

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Today I am officially 61.25% of the way through my year-long fellowship with Thrivent. In honor of this totally arbitrary event I’ve decided to list the top 6 things that I’ve learned during these past 226 days.

1.  Never go to the grocery store at 8:30 at night with the intention of cooking an elaborate meal for 2.This is especially important if you don’t know how to cook in the first place. Nora and I once had fantasies of making King Ranch Chicken when all the other slubs were gone for the night, and after ambling through the grocery store and googling “How do I cook chicken” we finally ate our meal at 10:30. By that time neither of us was really hungry. Extremely late dinners must be the secret to staying European skinny. Meanwhile, the slubs’ secret is laziness.

it seemed like such a good idea at 8:30…

2.  Do not recycle milk or egg cartons. If you do the City of Minneapolis will get mad at you, leave you a snooty note and refuse to take your recyclables for at least a week. Then everything will pile up and your neighbors will find out just how much you like wine and refried beans.

the city of minneapolis would like to point out that “milk cartons” and “egg cartons” are nowhere on this list.

3.  Spend money on the things you value, and scrimp on the things that aren’t important.

  • Things that I value: meals with friends, date nights, and high-quality jeans.
  • Things the slubs value: good wine, supplies and decorations for themed house parties, an assortment of quality cheeses, bridal magazines, celebratory outings, Netflix, expensive mousetraps.

4.  Speaking of mice, don’t use those crappy spring-loaded traps to catch rodent visitors. I encountered a mouse scrambling off our countertop on my birthday, and our attempt to catch her turned into a completely epic disaster. We used an old-fashioned trap, like the one they have in the Tom and Jerry cartoon, and soon enough the mouse was caught – by the foot. It then tried to escape for its life through a crack between our counter and the wall and got irreversibly stuck, and we couldn’t do anything about it for the next two days. It was gruesome. We have since bought a large and expensive trap, complete with a portico and a dial to tell you if the mouse has been caught. Before poor Michelle Bachman the mouse went to mousey heaven she must have told all her rodent friends to stay the hell away from the animal-haters at the slub house, because we haven’t seen any critters since.

avoid.

5.  If you are sad, happy, angry, stressed, loopy, cranky, bored, napping, cooking, doing your makeup, or cleaning, you should be watching one of the following slub-recommended shows:

  • 30 Rock
  • Arrested Development
  • Downton Abbey
  • The Bachelor
  • New Girl
  • Dance Moms

    YES.

MORE YES.

6.  Driving in Minneapolis requires you to be a hypocrite. You will harshly criticize everyone else’s parking job but will leave your own car parked crooked to the curb and call it a day. You’ll shout profanities at everyone that speeds past you in traffic but will cut people off to make it home faster. You will judge people who blow through red lights but have had your own fair share of close calls. You will fear the possibility of other drivers scraping against your stationary car on the street but will show no mercy when you’re squeezing past moving cars in Uptown. You’ll swear you’re a good driver but in reality become more aggressive every time you’re forced to take 94.

What a thrilling 61.25% of the year it has been. Just yesterday I threw my puffy jacket into the dryer with three tennis balls to keep it from looking like a Michelin Man costume when it was dry – I had no idea that was even possible. The slubs are learning new things every day! Just imagine what excitement the remaining 38.75% of the year will bring…

con amor,

shan


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a+d+u+l+t = ?

Fun fact: I’ve developed a socially painful white girl swagger.

I’ve always loved Minneapolis, although to be truthful I’ve just always loved big cities. Having been born and raised on the outskirts of two major metropolitan areas, I’ve come to associate suburbia with my stereotypically American dream to settle down and start a family. Minneapolis, meanwhile, represents the beginning of my untethered young adulthood – big, noisy, sexy, skyscrapers and happy hour and high heels clicking down the skyway. Granted all types of people (most of whom live in suburbia, like my dad) work and play in Minneapolis, so my vision of the city may be selectively blind. Still, when the sun sets and I venture out into the electric city glow after work, my white girl swagger comes out in full force. I really can’t control it. Living and working in Minneapolis straight up makes me feel like a cool adult.

…aaaaaand this is why.

This past weekend, the slubs gathered together at Kat’s house to commune with good friends and appreciate our mutual slubiness. In between bites of strawberries dripping with chocolate fondue we clucked like hens about work and school. In a natural progression the conversation slipped into questions about the future, and we asked each other: what’s your plan for next year?

Inherent in that question is the assumption that everyone would have already mapped out their lives for the next few years. We’re all adults here – that’s what adults do. The white girl swagger is proof.

Out to coffee with my mother and a few good friends last night, the question came up again. It’s entertaining and cathartic to hash out the details of past events, and if you’ve got a flare for storytelling, the past is your jam. But the future: that’s what everyone is really interested in. There’s a reason Americans are chronically more stressed than our European neighbors. We have a constant, persistent need to know what’s next, and we push ourselves and each other to figure out the answer.

As American youth, our transition from childhood into adulthood isn’t necessarily marked by a standard ritual event. If I were required to hunt a fearsome beast to prove my maturity, the best I could capture in suburbia would be a bunny or a squirrel. Even graduating from college or getting your first job isn’t a universal indicator for every American teenager that he or she is now an adult. Let’s take off our rose-tinted glasses: not everyone has access to higher education. Many children spend their sacred younger years working to support their families.

Still, at a certain time, society at large has begun to assume that my generation is now part of the adult masses. And we perpetuate the idea: I can tell anyone I meet that I work for a financial company in downtown Minneapolis and pass as mature.

But what really makes us adults? Is it the coffee we drink? The people in our network? The neighborhood we live in? The furniture we bought at Ikea? The bills we pay? When we get married, buy a car or a house, have a baby, does that mean we’re officially adults? Perhaps it’s the salary we make, or the type of employment we have, or the degrees we hang on our wall. Maybe it’s in the answer to the all-imposing future question: I have a plan, I’ve worked it out. Stand aside – I’m on my way.

What makes us adults? Try typing the question into Google. You’ll return a mess of jumbled information and very few answers. This is the best thing I’ve found, for all my brief internet searching:

 “Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” – Margaret Atwood

If you’re an adult, please share with the slubs and our readers how you got there. For all my white girl swagger, I think I may still be trying to figure it out.

con amor,

shan


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let’s talk greenbacks.

Two summers ago I read a book by Barbara Stanny called “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart about Their Money”.

In chapter one of her book Ms. Stanny recalls how, on her twenty-first birthday, her parents revealed to her the trust fund established in her name. “‘You’re a very rich girl, Barbara,’” her father explains at the breakfast table. Stanny goes on to recount: “‘ You’ll never have to worry,’ I remember my dad saying that morning. It was the only advice my parents ever gave me about money. ‘Don’t worry.’”

At 21, my experience with financial management was a bit different than Stanny’s. Shockingly enough I wasn’t handed a trust fund document the morning of my twenty-first (although I did climb Mt. Sinai that morning, arguably as cool as any other birthday celebration). Far from neglecting to give me money advice, my parents have tried to instill within me the type of financial wisdom that I’m sure many children my age have received from their own parents. My mother taught me how to use and balance a check book. My father periodically discussed the fate of his stocks and the nature of his retirement account. I was given an allowance as a child and encouraged to handle it wisely. I was gently required to get a job when I was 16 and from then on began to pay for more and more of my expenses, like clothing, entertainment and gas.

When I was a senior at St. Olaf, my father instructed me to personally handle taking out a few student loans to pay for that year of college. I was in and out of the Financial Aid Office so often for a span of two weeks that the advisors began to remember my name and could recall my specific case without the prompting of their notes. It was an incredibly frustrating process, but I learned more about student loans in those two weeks than I had ever learned before. And then, after graduating, my parents informed me that I would thereafter be more or less financially independent.

I am a blessed child. My mom and dad have given me every comfort I could have asked for, and more – very, very few children in this world are nearly as lucky as I have been. Still, like Ms. Stanny (and probably like many of you), I’m finding that it’s a struggle to own my financial stability.

Money is a taboo topic, and yet it makes the world go ‘round. There seems to be a direct correlation between wealth and prosperity, between poverty and difficulty. Like Kat mentioned in a previous post, poverty isn’t simply a lack of financial capital; poverty is very much also a lack of opportunity. To evade poverty, to provide for ourselves and our families, to do and experience the things we enjoy, we find employment in part to reap the monetary rewards. And yet, as a society, we are notoriously stupid with our financial lives.

My experience with Thrivent has opened my eyes to this reality. Part of the beauty of our organization is our commitment to the concept of education. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to tell people that you can provide a learning experience for them based on financial wisdom and best practices; often, we require scare tactics to get us to listen. The facts detailing the ways Americans spend their money provide no shortage of shocks to the system. For example, did you know that…

  • …77% of the workforce surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2010 was living paycheck to paycheck?
  • …according to a 2010 Harris report, 34% of Americans are completely without retirement savings – even though we spend, on average, 20 years in retirement?
  • …in October of 2011, Americans owed $2,457.5 billion total in outstanding consumer credit?

So if our money situation is so universally bad, why do we as a people tend to ignore our financial wellbeing?

Part of my job at Thrivent is to promote a financial literacy program on college campuses. We instruct our student leaders to educate their peers on being wise with their finances now, especially because they’re young and have a lifetime to cultivate the right money habits and make decisions that will secure their financial future. It sounds boring, but it’s vitally important. I know the wisdom of my own advice – I’ve taken major steps, like creating a checking account separate from my parents’, maxing out my 401k match, and establishing an automatic payment for my monthly rent. But I still don’t have my own credit card. I don’t save nearly as much as I could each month for major expenses that will be coming fast down the pipeline: graduate school, a mortgage, a family. I’m lucky if I balance my checkbook bi-monthly. I don’t know what my account balance is half the time – I just know it’s above zero. I’m pretty much a walking hypocrite.

Very few people like to deal with their finances. Like so many things in our life we assume that, if we don’t pay attention to it, perhaps our financial problems will just go away. We spend money that we don’t have in order to obtain the standard of living we think we deserve.

So, is there a solution to our ignorance? I’d like to think so. But the point of this post isn’t to provide you with the answers—it’s to kick-start your own search.

Here are some resources I’ve used to help me begin my own journey to financial wisdom. Who knows – they might prove useful to you too…

smartypig! so cute. so financially wise.

con amor,

shan