Net Worth Week 61 – PRIDE Edition

Gentle Readers,
I have not yet been able to coordinate with my roommate about removing the box spring, so my new bed is still gigantic. My back feels like it is slowly getting better, maybe. I’m monitoring it.
The gig continues to go back and forth on what we should expect. At this moment, according to one set of instructions, we have one more week on this gig, but according to another set of instructions, we probably have a few more months. How’s that for planning your life?  I’m just going to keep showing up and trying to get hours in until they take them away from us.
My trip to my love was short, but good. It was my first venture on Spirit and I was very pleased. I don’t need much when I’m visiting her and am able to be down to one personal item – at least when it is not winter.  I’ve also looked up the cost of rental cars for the first time, and I learned that the cost for renting a small car for 3 days is less than the cost of a cab from the airport to her place. I must sign up for driver’s ed and become comfortable driving. We could explore so much more if I could drive us.
June is Pride month. I don’t know if it is Pulse haunting me, or the general scary world news, or the fact that my girlfriend is over one thousand miles away from me, but I’m not really interested in going to any of the events around PRIDE this year. Pride did not used to be such a corporate, white-washed event. It used to be queer joy, queer anger, and queer liberation. I’m trying to make space in my time and mind to attend a potluck or something with other queer folk. My heart is not there, but perhaps being in a queer space would do me enormous good…

This week’s net worth numbers

6/2/2017 6/9/2017
 Joy 1107 1107
 Travel 1  1
 Down Payment 19 19
 Retirement 21 21
 Health 45 45
 Moving 285 285
 EF 11 11
Business 1004 1004
Life 1809  455
 IRA  13166  13191
 Brokerage 703  703
 Rewards Card 2 -3215 -2873
 CC (largest) 0  0
 CC (longest) 0  0
 Rewards Card 0  (106) CR
SL 1 -104924 -104780
 SL 2 -46226 -46161
 Earnest -4893 -4427
 Net Worth -141086 -141292
 Percentage Change -.26% -.15%

Are you doing anything to learn more about PRIDE or attending any events in your area?

If It’s Good Enough for Obama, It’s Good Enough For Me: How I Chose To Resist

Gentle Readers,

You know I feel strongly about making the world a better place. You know that I am not in favor of our current POTUS. There are so many things he stands for that I find abhorrent. However, one person can only do so much, and I prefer to focus my efforts into things I can actually impact. I cannot do a damn thing about Russian interference. I cannot stop climate change. I cannot protect NAFTA. I cannot make them hold a hearing for Merrick Garland.

My advocacy must lay elsewhere if it is to have an impact

For advocacy to be most effective, it should focus on asking the right person to do or not do something specific that is within their power to do or not do. Unless your advocacy is more broadly about making a conversation happen. Changing narratives is important, but it cannot be the only thing done. I am glad that there are people staging protests and using their voices in that way, but it is not the route for me.

My tactics are different. I do not have much available time, and I must use it effectively.

I know that the election was decided by a very small margin of voters. I also know that many potential voters wanted to vote, but were disenfranchised. Either by someone’s intent, or through inability to secure the proper documentation. The very inability to secure the proper documentation is because of how we set up our system. I think it is intentional. Many countries automatically register everyone to vote, or use ink on a finger as proof that you’ve already voted, etc. Our system is not the only way, nor is it an effective way if you want more of the electorate to vote.

One of my many internships was working at a nonprofit that considered itself a homeless shelter without walls. We did not have beds for people, but we acted as a hub in that community to enable people to access the multiple services they all needed. Most of our clients had been through homelessness and many other complicating factors. To access services provided by the city and state, they needed to prove who they were. Many homeless individuals lose their birth certificates and other documentation because they are very far down in the hierarchy of needs.

Part of my job included contacting the office of vital records on a client’s behalf. I would fill out the paperwork and get our treasurer to write a check for ten dollars. None of our clients had ten dollars to spare for something that was not urgent for survival. Within seven to ten business days, that man would have a birth certificate. Then we would help him get an ID. Another process that can be hard for people to navigate. The forms can be confusing even if your language skills are more “advanced” than others. The forms also required patience and the ability to prove where you lived. Not always easy for someone. People who’ve been homeless don’t often have utilities in their name.

Without an ID, people cannot vote. As seen above, even without government agencies and officials intentionally disenfranchising people, ie felons and former felons in some jurisdictions, the processes to navigate having the paperwork can be impenetrable. If a person uses a mobility aid, and the bus system only comes by once an hour when it works properly, that person may not be able to make it to the DMV during the appointed time. Having nonprofits who can literally arrange transportation for people who do not have access to personal vehicles can literally be the difference between a citizen being allowed to vote in elections that impact their bus service and not being allowed to vote.

How I chose to resist

Knowing all this, I have followed President Obama’s lead and will focus my energies on voter enfranchisement work. He is a politician, and rightly focused on anti-gerrymandering work, but I don’t have the political knowledge or resources to impact these efforts. I know more about how government works than the average American, but not enough about the systems and processes and political machinations to be able to successfully work in that arena.

I don’t have the capacity to volunteer in a nonprofit at this time, but I do have the internet and the ability to research.

I looked at the states with the most voting restrictions. Then I narrowed that list to those states that had the closest elections in 2016. I chose to narrow in this manner because I do not have unlimited funds. If I were rich, I would have expanded my list and worked on all states with significant voting restrictions.

The states with the most voting restrictions that had the closest elections in 2016 were Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

I then searched for organizations in those states doing voter registration or anti-gerrymandering work. I found https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/, http://www.nonprofitvote.org/, and http://www.blueprintnc.org/. All of these organizations are focused on nonpartisan civic engagement.

If the organization I interned at still existed, I would love to donate to an organization like that. Especially if they allowed me to direct it to enfranchisement efforts.

This is the concrete action I have chosen to take. It is okay if you have chosen something else. I just needed a discrete problem to focus on because of how my brain works. I cannot solve all problems. I know advocacy works. I saw it when all of the phone calls, town halls, letters to Congress and berating our Legislators resulted in the Affordable Care Act living to see another day.

I cannot do everything, but I can do this one thing.

How do you engage in resistance? Do you have a nonprofit you wished I more folks donated to?

 

Trump’s First Executive Order and Your Mortgage

Gentle Readers,

You remember when I learned last summer that changes in FHA Mortgage Guidance would alter my ability to acquire a mortgage. My debt to income ratio has not improved significantly in the past 6 months, as anticipated. I did not think I would be able to pay off $45000, commonly referred to as SL2.

One of Trump’s first acts as the new President of the United States was to make mortgages harder to acquire for middle class folks.

The previous administration had a policy that Trump’s Administration blocked immediately upon assuming office. The policy was on track to reduce the cost of mortgages slightly for many home buyers. The policy was not yet in effect, but was imminently going to impact folks.

What policy are we talking about?

HUD sent a letter suspending the 0.25 % point premium rate cut for FHA-backed loans.  Nearly 20% of mortgages are FHA-backed. The beauty of the FHA is that their criteria make it accessible for more people to access capital necessary to buy a home and enjoy the tax benefits of home ownership. Their most-touted benefit is the significantly lower down-payment. As low as 3.5% of the purchase price. Homes in my high COL area regularly go for over $400,000. A standard 20% down payment is $80,000. A 3.5% down payment is $14,000. It is not hard to see why so many Americans need the help afforded by FHA.

How big is this impact?

Frankly, not big at all. The cut Obama attempted to enact would have saved homeowners with a $400,000 mortgage $58 per month.  Not insignificant, but not overwhelming for most people shopping for a mortgage.

The housing market in parts of the country, mine included, have been on fire lately. The prices are sky-rocketing. Some folks look at high prices and want in. It is unclear if this action will throw water on the housing bubble, but it might.

The most fascinating part for me is that Trump has re-made the fortune he was gifted by understanding the benefits our tax code gives to real estate. Having learned every trick in the book, is he going to encourage the IRS to re-write the book? May the US end a half-century long policy of encouraging home ownership through the tax code? If they did, would that be a bad thing necessarily?

A lot remains to be seen, but I think these tea leaves are impossible to read just yet.

Would you be happy to amend US tax code and move away from a home ownership model?

 

Why I Still Give As I’m Getting Out of Debt

Gentle Readers,

It is true that I am pursuing financial independence, and that I am beginning far behind the starting line to the tune of negative $146,000. I am working my behind off and pursuing many strategies to change my situation. However, I still donate time and money to good causes. Some folks in the PF sphere will think me mad, and that’s okay by me. Everyone is allowed their own priorities.

I donate and give gifts to people and causes who do not directly benefit me. I do this for many reasons. The main one being that I want the world to be better. It would break my heart to know that I spent the next five years so focused on my own financial situation and ignored the world around me. If I can make the world even slightly better as I’m going, I will. Future me will be grateful, I’m sure.

When a young couple I know recently had a child, I checked in after the birth to see what they were missing now that they know what this baby in particular was lacking.  Then I mailed it to them. I also sent them a meal of their choice. They are growing accustomed to being parents and starting to learn some of the true costs. I am a practical woman and usually give practical gifts. I love adorable baby clothes and items, but babies need rash ointment. I can give that.

When I learned a friend had lost his job in a way that will preclude him getting similar employment, I stopped mowing my own lawn and paid him to do it instead. I also began asking around to see if I knew of any opportunities for him.

When people I admire and respect run for local office, I donate. Currently, a teacher from high school is running and so is a woman I met at a gala a few years ago. I do not live in their jurisdictions, but I care that they have excellent, respectable leadership. Neither of these people are running out of hubris. They are running because they have concrete ways they want to improve their community. Local politics matters so much to our daily lives. I give them money. I want America to be better.

I could get out of debt faster if I focused solely on my debt, but that is not how I want to live my life. I want to consistently work on improving the world while also improving my own financially life. I choose both. I’ll get there more slowly, but the view is worth it.

Do you make money choices that are financially irresponsible but right for you?

Labor Day Matters

Gentle Readers,

Today is the Labor Day holiday in the United States. This is the first time since I finished graduate school that I have it as a paid holiday. I am a contingent worker and have very few actually enforceable labor rights even though I am a professional worker. The only reason I am being paid for this holiday now is because I am working on a project for the Federal Government. This gig is still contingent, and, when their systems are malfunctioning, I am denied the ability to work a full forty hours. I can and will be let go with an hour’s notice once the project ends. There will be no warning and no severance.

Labor Day was created at the end of the 19th Century as a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” via Department of Labor.

The History of the US Labor Movement in Brief

The history of labor relations between the owners and the workers has been violent and contentious in the US. Many people were killed for demanding an 8 hour day, safe working conditions, the end of child-labor, Social Security, Medicare, and sufficient time off. The State very often sided with the owners of capital. Over the bodies of workers.

In 1911, we saw the deadliest industrial accident in US history at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The death toll was so high because the doors had been blocked to prevent workers from taking unscheduled breaks. Labor leaders Francis Perkins saw some of the workers jump to their deaths from the high windows. It lived with her for the rest of her life. She began working even harder to improve factory conditions. Her labor work led her to meeting and impressing Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He later appointed her as the very first Secretary of Labor. They worked together to create The New Deal. Perkins was pragmatic in all things and her story matters greatly to the history of our country. Leaders today would do well to learn about her style and ability to compromise.

Many of the advances in corporate bottom-lines are due to automation and more efficient workers, due in part to technological advances. The gains are not trickling-down to the laborers. The C-Suite has grown in size and earning capacity. When Reagan broke the unions in the 1980s, he made it possible for owners to succeed at the very expense of laborers. This is the fulcrum for the decline of the middle-class in many sections of our country. The good union jobs went away or the factory closed and the workers have not been able to adapt to the new labor market. Whole regions have experienced brain-drain as the young flee after college to find a sustainable employment environment.

Right now, there is a moment across the US for a $15 hour minimum-wage. Some companies (Walmart) and cities are making changes on their own to try and forego new regulations. In many cities, it is impossible for a person making minimum wage to afford even a 1 bedroom apartment while working full-time. It is unsustainable.

Direct actions and protests like the Occupy Wall Street, Fight for Fifteen, and anti-WTO groups will continue. Fights at the Supreme Court regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act and employer-based health coverage will continue.

As for me, I’m grateful for people who fought to allow women to work, who sought non-discrimination protections for LGBTQIA people, and who gave me a cause of action if my employer is risking my life. There’s still a ways to go, but thank you.

How are you spending your Labor Days?

 

Why I Started My Own Small Business

Gentle Readers,

There are many reasons I decided to start my own small business two years ago. These reasons are still compelling to me even though I have been working full-time on top of my business, and started the business in a niche I did not yet fully understand. I am a queer woman and the professional world wanted to wipe that off of me.

Like many young professional women, I don’t necessarily fit in many work settings. I have worked for small businesses, fast food, county government, local nonprofits, national nonprofits, retail, and a variety of temping opportunities, first as an admin and now as a professional. I fit in maybe one of those work environments, and that organization no longer exists.

A little over two years ago, the female editor in chief of the NY Times was fired for daring to ask why she was being paid less than the male editor who occupied the role before you. Fired for asking why.

Work environments were not designed with women in mind because sexism said they didn’t have to be.

Most women I know contort themselves to fit in to work environments. We ignore the subtle and not-so-subtle sexism. We ignore clients hitting on us when we are not free to leave their vicinity. We ignore that desks are built with the average-sized man in mind, and are not comfortable for our bodies. We beg to have office buildings not burn us in winter and freeze us in summer since we are more likely dressed for the actual weather and not insistent (conditioned into) on wearing a three-piece suit regardless of the appropriateness to the season.

We read the articles telling us that we are considered harsh if we act confidently. We read the articles that bemoan our poor negotiating skills right next to the articles that say we are not appropriately ladylike when we negotiate well.

We are chided for our very voices with new concepts like vocal fry and commanded to talk in masculine normative methods of expression. EVEN when it is proven that women’s general style is more collaborative and more effective.

We contort ourselves. Many of us have extra things to contort. Our colleagues ask about boyfriends we aren’t interested in having. Our preferred styles of dressing can be read as unprofessional on a body read as femme, but would be fine on a body read as masculine. Our bodies themselves are not read as belonging in public due to disability. Our relationship styles may not value marriage or monogamy the way the government and dominant culture would prefer.

We can contort all of these things and still not succeed. We can still be fired for daring to simply ask about our pay rate.

I opened my own small business to avoid these controls on my personality and dress-code.

Two years ago, I was fed up with my gig-centered work-life and my inability to get hired for a career-based job in my profession. I had applied for so many things. I had contorted. I was not getting what I wanted.

So I decided to create it.

I am creating a space that focuses on a niche in my profession and allows me to serve my community through it. I am creating a space where I own the keys to the door, and set the dress code. I am still a professional, but my fantastic dyke hair is fine with my supervisor as she is me. She still makes me wear the pearls when it is required, but she never tells me to grow my hair out. She never requires me to wear heals. She never tells me to dress like a lady. She knows that I am a human and that being a good human is the true goal.

I am creating a space where I do not have to say yes to potential clients that I find distasteful to work with. I can focus on serving the LGBT community. I can serve my community competently, because I know from personal experience some of what they are facing and I know where to research the specific problems that impact us.

I am creating an environment where I do not have to punch in. Eventually, I will not have to be there to “get my 40,” but rather must get the work done in a timely manner for my clients. I work better after 10 am, and can set most appointments after that. I adapt my work life to me. Should I decide to have a family in the future, I can schedule my life and career together far more easily. I am creating this because I am dissatisfied with the work environments available to me.

I don’t want to just show up. I want my work to reflect my values. I am creating that work.

What made you start your own business?

Ways To Be An Ally

Gentle Readers,

You know that the LGBT community has suffered an incredible loss in the past week. We are grieving. Each in our way. We know that other people are grieving, too, but that some allies are afraid they’ll somehow mourn incorrectly. You can not mourn human life incorrectly unless you harm someone. I was asked to write what allies can do. This is my attempt.

There are many correlations between LGBT communities and the Financial Freedom community. We are all non-conformists who question everything. I hope that more FIRE folks can question things outside of financial decisions.

Be careful with your words. 

To me, this is the most important advice in all realms. If we are mindful with our language and thoughts, we’ll have been careful with other peoples’ hearts and lives. We will make fewer assumptions.

  1. Stop assuming that people are straight and cisgender. There are so many ways to be and you assuming otherwise often means that your friends do not feel comfortable telling you about their real life. One easy fix is changing your check-in language to “Are you seeing anyone? What are they like?” No gender was assumed. And you just might find out about his hot new boyfriend.
  2. Believe LGBTQ people when we tell you what our worlds are like. Especially when our world sounds alien to you. If we tell you that we have a gender outside of the binary, use google to look up the definitions. Here’s a primer available for free. Don’t ask us to explain the intersections of our lives to you. Learn from other allies and google. There are numerous nonprofits and university sources available for free online happy to explain things. It can be exhausting for us to explain the terms to you, because you have so many levels of learning to do. Do that with non-impacted folks.
  3. Ask us how we are doing during this trying time. So many of our families have rejected us, and maybe we need to know that you are thinking of us. We may not feel like talking, but your support will be appreciated.
  4. Stop insulting men by comparing them to women. So much of homophobia is wrapped up in idea that gay men are insufficiently masculine and gay women are insufficiently feminine. So much of homophobia is rooted in a hatred of things deemed feminine. I read a piece recently where a blogger said that the worst thing that could happen would be a for a girl to beat him in a race. Imagine what it is like for girls to know that men feel this way. Do better. Consider women to be people – worthy of being in competition with.
  5. Stop telling children to “man up.” Allow all children the freedom to express the full range of human emotions. Don’t tell them that crying is for girls or sissies. Crying is for humans. Joy is for humans.
  6. Stop devaluing femininity.
  7. Stop worrying about who is in the bathroom stall near you. People just want to pee. Get the hell over it.
  8. Learn about “toxic masculinity.” So much of violence in our society is rooted in the ideas about what a man is owed, whether respect, access to sex, access to money, or something else. You know before the headline is finished that the killer is a man 98% of the time. This statistic has stayed the same throughout most of history. This is revelatory. Something about how we raise and treat men causes some men to be very bad in ways that very few women are. We must begin to understand this. We must begin to change this.
  9. Learn about the link between toxic masculinity and domestic violence, and domestic terrorism, and mass shootings.
  10. Read female writers.  Read queer writers. Read “Exile & Pride.” Read writers who are different from you. Try to begin learning what assumptions underlie your life.
  11. Learn about other communities in the US.
    1. Stop mocking the South. All of the US has issues and it is lazy thinking to scape-goat an area of the country. Stop.
    2. Stop referring to “Fly over” states. Learn their names. Learn their value to the US. Learn their cultures.
    3. Stop assuming that LGBT people are safe in cities or safe in gay meccas. We are not. 75% of hate crimes in most cities are against LGBT people.
    4. Learn about other people’s religions.
    5. Learn about other people’s sexualities and gender identities.
  12. Know that you cannot remove queers from the world. We have been part of the environment since the dawn of man. Learn to live with us.
  13. Stop accepting hateful rhetoric against queer folk. Literally, stop listening when someone is telling lies about us. Tell them why you are stopping. Be “rude” in confronting them. Stand up against your people so that maybe they do not kill my people, maybe they’ll stop writing laws against my people, and maybe they’ll let us live.
  14. Don’t take personal offense if an LGBTQ person does not want your prayer – so many of your religions have been used to bludgeon us. At times, to death. If you are praying to comfort us, you may want to consider our actual experiences with people using praying as a weapon to “pray the gay away” and how it would make you feel if strangers prayed about the way you experienced sex and intimacy.
  15. Stop attending homophobic movies and churches. Seriously. Don’t support things with your time and heart and money that tear other groups down.
  16. Learn about LGBTQ history. Learn about the cases that told us that we were perverted. Read about Alan Turing and all the other queer inventors and historical figures who were tortured by their countries. Learn about how the US government responded to HIV when it was a “gay disease” – they literally left us to die. Learn about laws that precluded us from adopting children. Learn that even today 40% of homeless youth are homeless because their straight parents rejected them for being LGBT.
  17. Fight back against the rhetoric rising against Latinx folks in this country. It is significant that this US citizen attacked an LGBT club on Latin night. Rhetoric leads to hatred. Hatred with access to guns can lead to mass-murder. Demonizing a group of people will not help you, and can lead to their deaths and suffering.
  18. Stop assuming that your choices are natural. Your choices are constrained by your assumptions. Every human feels normal. Every human chooses differently. It is not normal to be straight, it is just common.
  19. Please call your governors and representatives and tell them that you believe in worker protections for LGBT people – we can literally be fired just for being gay in over half of these United States.

Our hurts are deep and complicated. The most important thing to remember is that we can treat one another with dignity. There is enough dignity to go around.

Pulse was created by a sister who loved her brother and wanted to honor him after his death from HIV. That is radical love. She took her sorrow and served a community in love out of it. Use your sorrow for good when you can.

There is a gofundme to help the victims of this horrific attack, if you can, please join me in supporting them monetarily. https://www.gofundme.com/pulsevictimsfund

In solidarity,

ZJ

Stonewall Reverberates at Pulse

Gentle Readers,

Today we mourn the 50+ lives taken senselessly. They were our brothers and sisters. They were queer, transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and so many other things. They were predominantly people of color. They were celebrating Pride. This is terrifying and heartbreaking. If you have queer people in your family, please check in on them today and this week. Encourage them to talk to grief counselors, even if they were not in the zone of danger this time. Our hearts are broken. We know it could be us next.

The Stonewall Riots are why we celebrate Pride in June. The history of persecuting queers who were visible is long and violent in our country and throughout the world. There were laws prohibiting homosexuality in public in most of the United States. Folks were subjected to mental and physical torture to “cure’ them. People were murdered. People were harassed by law enforcement and the law for being “deviant.” Deviance included women not wearing enough “feminine” articles of clothing. They were harassed for being different and not conforming to that era’s strict constraint of appropriate gendered behavior. Business that catered to LGBT folks were routinely raided and the people subjected to violence of all natures at the hands of the state and ordinary citizens. The laws were part of the problem. Beatings and sexual assaults at the hands of police were common. There are differing accounts of what precisely occurred on the night of Judy Garland’s funeral. Law enforcement raided the Stonewall Inn, again. And someone struck back. Some accounts credit a transgender woman with throwing the first punch or bottle. Some accounts credit a butch woman. Other accounts credit a drag queen.

But someone who refused to live according to dominant culture’s ideas for them struck. And others joined. The riot involved violence, but also group unity in public. There had been secret societies before – don’t think the LGBT liberation movement started at the end of the 1960s. They shouted about gay liberation. They faced their persecutors. The cops eventually sought refuge in the Stonewall Inn. The riot cops came. The queers did not leave. They stood and fought as a group. This happened over multiple days. They sought liberation from police brutality, unjust laws, and a strict society that told them to conform to ridiculous notions of what it means to be a human. What it means to have worth. We are still working on liberation.

We’ve had marriage equality for a year now, but have seen a growth of anti-transgender laws in particular. We are not free. There are other freedoms we seek. We do not have workplace protections in many states. We do not have the privilege of peeing safely in many places. We still have queer kids being abandoned by their families. We still struggle for gender non-conforming people to have the dignity inherent in their bodies protected. We still struggle to not be murdered for our very existence.

If you can, please donate https://www.gofundme.com/pulsevictimsfund. Over fifty families will need help with their grief at this tragedy. 

In solidarity,

ZJ

Immediate Rewards are Rare in Finance and Activism

Gentle Readers,

I used some of my time off to go through old writings, and I was surprised at how many are still pertinent to my life and ideas. I know that I’ve grown, but the same core ideas matter to me. So much that has applied to my activism directly relates to my finances. I will be sharing the interesting ones.

Clearly this is in the past, before marriage equality was the law of the land.

Today, I was collecting signatures in support of the End Racial Profiling Act with my former job. One of the women I spoke with had a sign saying she was from Oklahoma and to ask her why she came. I asked.

“Because I have grandchildren. I want them to have breathable air. I want them to be employed. I want them to marry whomever they please.”

I asked this grandmother for a hug and thanked her.

These are simple things to want.

It is rare to experience immediate rewards in activism, but if you look around, the reward may already be visible. We never got ERPA passed, but community was built. Hearts were lifted. Hugs were given. These moments stay with us. We now have nationwide marriage equality, but there are more steps to take towards equity.

I don’t have financial freedom yet, but I know that I am on the journey. When I look around at my current situation and how it has changed because I’m on a journey to freedom, I can see the rewards. I can see my comfort and resilience grow. I can see that my inclination to put up with nonsense diminishes as my ability to support myself increases.

Have you noticed the tiny rewards on the way to freedom?