Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Four Traits of Highly Adaptable People

If there's anything that's true in this life, it's that nothing is static.  Things change.  The good comes and goes along with the bad.  No one is immune from this, but some people seem to be able to adapt to changes better than others.  What makes these adaptable people more successful at riding the waves of change life throws our way?

1.  They're accepting of change.

This may seem simple or obvious, but it can be a difficult hurdle to jump.  We can get comfortable and cozy in the way things are, and when change gets thrown our way, either forced upon us without choice or presented in the form of an opportunity, we shut down.  We'd  rather stay in the comfy, cozy place we've familiarized ourselves with than embrace the change full on.

But that's what adaptable people do.  They accept change as a part of life.  You know how the first part of fixing a problem is recognizing it exists?  The first part of adapting well to change is accepting that it exists, and will inevitably be a part of all of our lives.

2.  They're aware and self-correct.

Change sometimes comes at us like a wrecking ball.  It's sudden, and there's no stopping it.  But sometimes it's more stealthy, sneaking up on us slowly and without announcement until one day we wake up and don't know how we got into the situation we find ourselves in.

Adaptable people are aware of these subtle changes, and adjust their behavior and decisions along the way to conform to the world that's morphing before them.  Self-correction can be used for bigger changes, as well.  When life changes, sometimes we have to be willing to adjust our goals and vision of the future.

3.  They let go of the old to make way for the new.

When we're adjusting our vision of the future, it can be difficult to let go of our previous plans and expectations.  Even adaptable people go through a mourning process for broken dreams.  But where they excel is letting go, even if it's difficult.  They know that the process is difficult, but by releasing their old hopes and expectations they are making way for a future that has the potential to be even brighter and better.

4.  They view pain as an opportunity for growth.

There's a story about a group of arborists who tried to grow trees inside a greenhouse in order to protect them from the wind.  The trees they grew were weak and not very tall.  After studying, they concluded that the trees needed the wind to train them to be strong.  They needed the resistance to enable them to grow to their full potential.

Whether they know this analogy or not, adaptable people understand the principle behind this story.  There is pain in life.  There are troubles.  There is turbulence.  But without all these things, we could not grow to our fullest potential.  We could not become everything we're capable of being.  Adaptable people experience unpleasantness like the rest of us, but where others become mired down with misery, adaptable people ask, "What can I learn from what I've been through?"  

The next time you find yourself confronted by an unpleasant change, feel it.  Don't deny it.  Be aware of what's happening around you, and look for the opportunities for growth, and even better changes coming down the line.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Seasonal Side Hustles

Recently, I've been meeting a lot of people who hustle.  It's not uncommon to find them in the personal finance community online, but these are people I've been meeting in real life.  And they're making their side hustles work in a big way.

Not only are they side-hustling, but they're unique in that they only do it for a season.  Some of them even go as far as to cut hours at their regular job at times of the year when other people are trying to pick them up.  They aren't cutting them because they don't need the money; they're cutting them because they've found a way to be lucrative independent of a boss.

The Christmas Cookie Shed

In particular, there is one woman I've met who works two jobs to stay afloat.  During most of the year things are a struggle, but during the Christmas season, when most are trying hard to keep their bank accounts in the positive, she's having her best time of year financially.

She cuts her hours at the grocery store and bakes up some of the best Christmas cookies you've ever tasted.  And then she sells them.  And makes a lot of money. Business has been so good that in recent years she's bought a decked-out shed to sell her product out of.  It's on the back of her lot, which abuts an alleyway, and everyone  in the neighborhood comes to savor her version of holiday cheer.

The Sporting Events Vendor

My city is a huge sports city.  We have die-hard fans for hockey, baseball, and American football.  We're also a city of bridges thanks to the three rivers that form our geography.  During sports events, some bridges will be shut down to allow for the flood of pedestrian traffic that overwhelms our walkways as devout fans make their way to the game.

Recently I met one man who has a permit to sit near the bridge.  There, he sells the perfect foods for drunken passerbys.  He sells it at quite the mark-up, but it's still a ton cheaper than anything you could buy inside the stadium.  His profits more than cover the cost of the permit, and even compensate him quite well for his time.  Many of the games are either on the weekend or after business hours are over, so he doesn't have to give up his 9-5 to cash in on this opportunity.

The Additional Storefront That Makes Them Wealthy

In one of the city neighborhoods that we frequent, there is a coffee shop close to tourist attractions.  Next to that coffee shop is an ice cream shop.  They are both owned by the same family, and the ice cream shop is only open during summer months.

I can't lie; the ice cream is priced kind of high.  But the tourists and lack of other cold treats in the area make this shop quite profitable.  The coffee shop is how they pay their rent, but the ice cream shop is what makes them wealthy, even if it is only open for a season.  

If you're sick of hustling, look at seasonal options.  While they may not last twelve months, the opportunity for profit may just outpace the hustles that you're working so hard at year round.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Hand-Me-Downs Help Skyrocket My Savings Rate

When you hear the phrase "hand-me-downs," images of your sister's old clothes probably pop into you head.  Depending on her taste, that may be a very good or very, very bad mental picture.

But in my adult life, I use hand-me-downs all the time.  Granted, some of it is for my children's clothing, but some of it is for grown-up stuff, too.  By evaluating what I'm not picky about, my budget breathes a little easier, and I have a ton more money to sock into savings than if I bought everything new.


This is probably the one that has saved us the most money.  Since my husband and I have lived together, the only piece of furniture we've had that's brand new and ours is a little kids' table for our children to color and eat on.  Even that was a gift.

But the dresser in our bedroom?  Something my sibling's roommate left behind when they moved.  The desk that our keyboard sits on?  Just a little memento from my brother-in-law's childhood days.  And then recently, we had the biggest haul to date.  Some of my longest, dearest, family friends were moving.  And they were downsizing.  They passed along a sofa, a chair, end tables, bookshelves, a hutch, a china cabinet, a dining room table and chairs, and more stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting before they left.  We got rid of our old couch, that had admittedly been getting progressively uncomfortable as it ripped at the seams, and gained storage.  Storage equals sanity in our ever tiny apartment.  This all easily could have cost us upwards of $5,000 had we gone out and bought it ourselves, as it's really nice stuff.

And I'm so grateful for that really nice stuff.  It's awesome to have it.  But it's not something I'd buy myself at this point in my life.  That $5,000 is something I feel compelled to save rather than spend, because I simply don't care if the sofa matches the little kid desk that our piano sits on.


I love getting hand-me-downs from my friends.  Whenever we clean closet, we trade.  I'm actually happier rifling through a bag of gently-used clothes than rifling through clothes racks at the mall.  It's free.  There's no tricks with mirrors at the mall.  There's no pressure; if I don't like something or it doesn't fit I pass it on without feeling bad about myself as the clothes were purchased for my friend, and the size doesn't reflect what I think I should be; it reflects what they are/were.

On top of all that I tend to gravitate towards pieces that are more classic so I can  keep them for longer periods of time. Swapping with friends allows me to find those pieces, but also not feel any guilt if I like something that's a little edgier.  Worst case scenario, it goes out of style and I pass it on next season.  No money lost is a weight off my shoulders.

My oldest child has never wanted for clothes.  We spend so, so little on them.  Between older cousins and friends, we actually have to pick stuff to pass along, not because we don't like them, but because their dresser is so full.  It's a great problem to have. So our clothing budget is nearly a non-existent entity.


My sibling's latest car was a hand-me-down from one of our parents. The history is known, the mileage was reasonable, and the price was unbeatable.  They still had to pay for it, but they got more than a fair deal because they were willing to get something used.

I've never bought a new car myself, though I do purchase used.  The depreciation on vehicles within minutes of owning a brand new car is outrageous.  The status symbol just isn't worth the price tag to me.  

Evaluating what's not important to me has allowed me to allocate a larger portion of my income towards savings.  The things that I don't mind taking in gently used are things that either come to me at a much lower cost or even free, so I have that much more money to sock away towards my financial goals.

What are areas where you don't mind taking hand-me-downs?  How has it helped your savings rate?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Setting intentions for the year - 2014 review and 2015 goals

I set big goals. I thoroughly enjoy working towards something, even if I don't always make it or life throws curveballs. I am in quite a different position to what I was expecting this time last year and while I cannot disclose my exact financial position at this time and I am not sure I will ever be able to, I have managed to create a life I love, doing what I love with a lot of flexibility.

2014 review
November 2013 I set some HUGE goals for 2014, based on my life at the time, the flexibility I had (meaning more time to work). January 2014 my life was flipped and changed drastically. A lot of my free time was ripped away and I suddenly had a very time consuming, high priority event/project/task. I can't describe it as I will not disclose what it is. Needless to say, it took a lot of time and energy, it still does. It changed everything for me. I didn't get to double my share portfolio, help set up a life skills centre in Ainslie Village, finish our furniture, commit to training properly or stick to a proper eating plan. There were quite a few times in 2014 I was pretty low or struggling but I had great support.

Despite that, 2014 was an amazing and my life better than I ever could have imagined and I did manage to do a lot.

I set out to do 104 speaking gigs and had quite a few lined up. In the first part of last year I had to pull out of a bunch of them and put public speaking out of my mind for a while. In the last few months I did a lot of speaking, but it was not about blogging or finances, it was about homelessness and domestic violence. I spoke at the Canberra Community Sleepout (the link is to a Facebook video of some of my speech), at numerous events for Anti Poverty Week and honestly, this meant so much more to me than any speaking I have ever done before.

I was to publish 2 more books. I have the contracts, but the emotional toll of the January events and the ongoing impact that had in my life meant this didn't get done and my publisher is kind of breathing down my neck at me now. They will be out this year.

Buy a house (and save $70k for a house deposit). Last year my landlord decided she wanted to move back in so I had to move earlier than I planned and a few other disruptions, some more legal fees and other issues saw savings slow right down, but we are now in a house we can be long term and I have the option of buying. We have not felt this settled in a very, very long time.

What did I do?
I did get to FinCon14 thanks to the wonderful community. The gorgeous Crystal happened to email me one day and it was clear in my response I wasn't ok. She asked a couple of questions and I blurted everything out. Clearly I needed to get it off my chest. What she did next and how people reacted shocked me and I was so touched. She wrote this post and got me to FinCon with the help of other friends. I cannot thank them enough. New Orleans was on my bucket list and I had the best time. FinCon is my absolute favourite conference. I presented 2 Plutus Awards there this year too and was ecstatic my friend Maria won Best International Personal Finance Blog.

I did do The Color Run, I did buy 2 more sites to expand my income. I set up a company and family trust. We took a couple of family holidays and have more booked this year, I did the CEO Sleepout and Community Sleepout, I outsourced more and focused on being the best mum I can be.

I also got to be part of Human Brochure, a social media tourism campaign. Because of it I got to hold one of the Australian Flags to fly above Parliament House, get set on fire at Questacon, go on exclusive tours and events, took my daughters to the ballet for the first time (which they LOVED) and the best bit, I met so many wonderful people who have been a great support and there's a great group of us that hang out a fair bit and have helped each other move homes, get through break ups and more. The friends I have made are the best part.

Extra achievements/experiences
2014 saw quite a few other changes and events.
- Finalist for Rising Woman Of Spirit 2014
- Finalist for Young Australian Of The Year 2015, (ACT)
- I became a member of the board for the Early Morning Centre which is a homeless centre here in Canberra where people can get meals and help anonymously
- I now manage Hands Across Canberra (another charity) part time and had the opportunity to be involved in their annual lunch.
- The Community Sleepout I was involved with things like their TV ad (I am at the 6 second mark), flyers, speaking at it, promoting it across my platforms and my team raised a few thousand which was great. There's more on these achievements here.
- July 4th at The U.S. Embassy here in Canberra. I have always wanted to go so it was pretty awesome to not only be invited but to be media and go behind the scenes so to speak, meet the chef they flew in from New Orleans etc.

With my parents - Joanne and Mark Travers, at the Australian Of The Year Awards in November. Photo credit Canebrra Times and more on the winners here. Patty Mills won Young Australian for ACT.

Random bonus
I finally got a boarder. Something I have ummed and aahhhed about for ages. I am in a 4 bedroom home again which is designed almost like 2 x 2bedroom homes joined by a kitchen, perfect for each of us to have our own space and my girls not to be too intrusive in someones life. My friends unit flooded while he was overseas. He needed to get all his gear out and the place had to be gutted. My family and a few friends moved all his stuff to my place for him and I said he could stay here while things got sorted. We had previously discussed him renting a room and it made more sense for him to just stay living here instead of moving all his gear again, so he has. It has been an adjustment having another adult in my space after being on my own for so long but he is one of the best people I have ever shared a house with, only equalled by my bestie when I was 18/19.

HUGE announcement
After much deliberation, at the end of 2014 I finally decided to change my name back to Travers. I posted about why here. In a nutshell, I am not an Ofiu, I am a Travers. I won't keep his name. I held myself back because of it.

This was a candid snap from Ladina Photography. We were both part of Human Brochure. I just sat on the lounge here and she happened to get this pic. This is not the high res version, it wasn't a photo shoot. We were checking out the Presidential Suite at The Hyatt. 

I am literally in awe of the outstanding year I had. I cannot even fit all of it in a post and this only scrapes the surface.

2015 Goals

Sitting here, looking back on 2014, I am in a bit of shock. I knew it was a rollercoaster year of ups and downs (I have only really shared the positive here), but it also felt like a 'set up' year. By that I mean that 2014 was a year many things were set up or put in place for 2015 and beyond. I am absolutely buzzing with excitement over 2015. 

My 2015 started off perfectly. I went to a NYE party and not long after I got home (about 2 am), this happened.

My 5 year old daughter woke up, rushed out to me, gave me a huge hug and fell asleep in my arms. This was the most perfect moment and exactly what 2015 is about to me - my family.

I decided instead of setting big goals this year, as I am pretty content with my life, I am setting intentions and a guide. I picked some words to guide me for the year and I know what direction I want to head in.

Family first, no matter what. My daughters are the most important part of my life and this year we are taking more family holidays, doing a new family sport, spending a lot of time together and I am focused on their interests. 
On top of this they are learning more about cooking, sewing and other life skills. We are also establishing ourselves in our new home, painting rooms and making this a type of sanctuary for us to relax in.

Abundance in everything - family, time, wealth, spirituality, life. You may have noticed I have a few staff writers across my sites now. I am outsourcing more to give me more time with my family, but still allow me to grow my business and maintain an income. This year is about having an abundant mindset, not an "I want to be rich" or "I want $xxxxxxxxxxx". Instead it is appreciation for what we have and an open mind to accept more to enable us to give more.

I love the work I have been able to do to help the community. I reviewed my life, my skills, my passions and how I can combine it all. The last 3 months where I was heavily involved in the not for profit community sector here in Canberra, speaking, fundraising, raising awareness and things like that made me feel more like me, more passionate, satisfied and it truly felt like that is what I should be doing. So I am. I am actively looking at ways to incorporate more of that in my life. 

So instead of my usual hard and fast, SMART goals, I am easing back, going with the flow and following my heart more this year. I've learnt goals are crucial to get you where you want to be and I still have daily to do tasks, mini goals for each week, projects I am working on, but I am also aware you need to be flexible.

What are your goals, intentions or guides this year?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How Culture Effects Our Money Habits

There's a psychological "game" out there called the ultimatum test.  The administrator gets two subjects.  They meet independently of each other, but both know the rules going in.  There will be $100.  The first subject decides how much they want to keep and how much they want to offer the other person.  The second subject then accepts the offer or rejects it.  If they reject it, neither party gets anything.

Previously, this test had only been administered to those from western culture.  A vast majority of the time, the first subject would offer a 50/50 split.  Why?  Because they didn't want to take less than half themselves, and if they were too greedy, the other party would reject the offer because they felt like they were getting snubbed.  Somehow the first subject tended to know that the second would feel that way.  They didn't want to screw the other one over and lose everything.

In 1995, however, an anthropology student went rogue.  He took the test to another culture.  There's a fascinating article about it here, but it is kind of long, so I'll sum it up for you.

The student, Joe Henrich, was doing graduate work among the Machiguenga people in Peru.  His curiosity got the best of him.  He wanted to see what happened when the Machiguenga played the ultimatum game. What happened was something completely different than what had happened in the western world. The first subject would offer a terrible split, keeping most of the money for themselves.  The second subject more often than not accepted.  Their thought process?  "Why would you turn away some money just so you could get back at the other person and get no money?"

Henrich had a hard time getting a job in anthropology after that test.  It was too invasive for the mainstream in the field.  Now he works in economics and psychology.  He has taken the test on the road, and gotten varied results at each of the different places he has run the experiment.

Notably, when he visited gift-giving cultures the split would often favor the second subject.  In these cultures, gifts are used to gain fealty or other obligations.  So when the second subject saw the large offer in front of them, they would often reject it, not wanting to be indebted to the first.

Our culture greatly influences our views on money.  Honestly, if I took the test I'd probably take the path of the Machiguenga, but I'd also be disappointed and likely hold a little grudge against the first subject once I found out who they were.  I'm not really proud of that, but it's the truth.

Additional ways culture effects our view on money are endless.  We keep up with the Joneses, often pushing us into debt.  We're more likely to feel uncomfortable negotiating, especially if we're women.  We tend to spend more on ourselves and invest less in our communities as individualism is rampant.  Western cultures also tend to have more of a short-term orientation as we place more value on the here and now than family honor and social obligations.  But these habits aren't inherent.  They're ingrained in us by the cultures we are raised in.  Recognizing the bad aspects of this concept can help us do some self-examination and change our monetary habits for the better.

What would you do if given the ultimatum test?  What ways has culture shaped your money habits, for the good and the bad?