What I Learned About Life & Money From Binge-Watching The Revenant.


I’m here.

I’ll be right here.

But you don’t give up.

You hear me?

As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight.

You breathe, keep breathing.

Shallow breath that accompanies overwhelming grief, is as heavy as glass-jagged ice that packs arteries deep in earth’s wilderness.

Cut channels form and wind through an eternity of generations and flow with cold-spilled blood of friends now enemies, lost loves and soulful regrets which claw at a mind that yearns for redemption so a soul may continue the travails toward final peace.

Air thick and pliable as cold Plasticine moves like strands of bloated snakes. They steal their way into capillaries of the lungs and search for a moment to expand. The moves are stealth. The slither is in sync. The grief strands share a common goal – to suffocate a target from the inside out.

The plan is to pierce frequently, bleed out the spirit.

And for a time, they conquer. For as long as pain and anger are your focus, they thrive.

The compound shocks from an attack, betrayal in plain sight, and the overwhelming hunger for resolution, will consume you.

Thoughts of the world as it was before the massacre is a futile mind game. An incomplete circle eternally agape.

I traversed through harsh terrain of loss, deceit, bad decisions, and denial.

You have, too.

We’ve all lost someone special. There are people in your light who are now dark.  Even when people from the past fade into the reflection in a cold white mirror, you still see, feel them beckoning.


All the while you hear the words in solemn tone –

“I got the best of you.”

“Nothing is gonna bring you back.”

revenant bear

I opened up, exposed myself. I invited a cunning, powerful creature to slash and crunch down on every part of me, inside and out, with mighty teeth.

And after all the black pitch that sticks and stirs inside: From love, lust, and abandonment. A toxic burden to carry.

I was left for dead.

It’s through a frozen spray of loss and anger, that an entity larger and darker than yourself emerges from a gut-wrenching torpor. A suffocating shadow that seeks to overwhelm and absorb everything happy, anything good that you felt once.

Who you were before.

It will relentlessly follow until you consciously decide to let it go. And only then, as a revenant, you’ll understand death, a long, sterile absence, and return to the surface.

All you can do through this time is exist,  wait it through. Go through the motions. Eventually, one by one, frozen limbs will tingle with the warmth of survival. The urge to break free from a blood carcass calls. It whispers, then roars in your ears to get up. Continue your life’s mission.

The greatest obstacle I observe within me as I emerge?

Scars never heal.

Something inside is rotted.

A spark in the mind still remains, but it’s nowhere what it was before the…

revenant bear three

In the sweeping 2015 epic “The Revenant” Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a seasoned hunter and trapper guide for a rogue band of men seeking pelts through a harsh 1823 winter travail within boundaries of unchartered U.S. territories. Hugh Glass survives one of the most brutal, mesmerizing grizzly attacks ever created on film.

In a physical state near death, mentally alert but helpless, Glass witnesses a fellow trapper under his commission, John Fitzgerald, fatally stab his son Hawk. Years earlier, Glass lost his Pawnee Indian wife and vowed to always protect his half-Pawnee offspring.

This time he failed. The heartbroken hunter is left for dead (he wasn’t). Alone.

The entire movie is the searing trek of the main character from point A to point Z through hostile Indian territory, searing pain, frigid weather and harsh wilderness all for one reason.


The mission to find Fitzgerald and take him out drives Glass to survive overwhelming odds until a final bloody conclusion.


Fresh, cold air reaches my lungs because I am ready to allow it. The engagement with the nature of beasts I was no match against still hurts.

I won’t deny that truth.

Yet on the exhale I see clear. In a robust-to-fade puff of smoke, I know.

I am not gone.

I am damaged. I always will be.

After all, the long, extended sharp claws and front teeth of grizzlies with purpose, those marks never heal.

But I am still alive.

I believe it to be true.

And there is still pain. Lots of pain.

Much of a mourning continues.

As a dark spirit stirs and fades.

I emerge from a frozen cocoon, I used as a hiding place.

A place of comfort  I found to work things through.

I hear a voice emerge from inside what shielded me for months.

And in a message, there is the snap of power. Something bigger is telling me so. It absorbed the greatest punches so I didn’t need to, the rough stuff I couldn’t fight on my own.

Whatever it was, the energy it conjured, recently granted me permission to bust free.

Go forward with the rest of the journey.

There are missions and miles left, risks that need tackling, half-spirals that require a full spin before I fade into the mist of memory.

So, I am slower. Less steady. That’s fine.

Hey, cut me some slack. I’ve had several run-ins with human and corporate grizzlies over the past half decade. Swift, sharp claws (and they knew how to use them).

They’ve no doubt, left deep impressions. There are scars not healed. It feels like parts of my spirit is gone and I feel the pain from every second of it.

Good or bad. I like to leave an impression, too.

So I fight.

Do you?

For people I love and cherish, I hope there’s a spirit of charity, and most, important – loyalty. Because there’s just so little loyalty around these days.

Oh, there’s loyalty to things that in the long-run, don’t matter for shit. A company that every day is looking for ways to replace you and along the way asks for more and more until you’re spiritually broken.

An ego that thrives on empty calories as it feeds off emotional Cheetos, caloric platitudes which mean nothing except to the mirror that holds a gaze and is willing to stick its greasy, cheesy hands in places an ego doesn’t belong.

For the Fitzgeralds of this world (watch the movie), those who feign love, act like they care, lie. For people who stick knives in what you care about and all you can do is stand by helplessly?

For them?

I have zero expectations or hope.

The essence of invisible spirit that guides the cadence of the world, knows what to do with the blackness inside them.

But you, the keeper of the hate, or the past, must release it to the universe and let it work its power.

You must let the anger roll over, smash, so an entity, a spirit with cred in the cosmos, can absorb that energy and ostensibly do what’s required. Or not.

Either way.

It’s not in puny, human hands.

It’s not up to us.

It’s not in the black spirit of revenge or ‘get-even-itis’ you can live or die peacefully.

It’s when the dark ghost is cast, that your next move, a clear path, begins to expose itself.

Remember – The Fitzgeralds thrive on the sorrow they create.

So what did I learn from the movie “The Revenant?”


I think you can pick up a bit of wisdom, too.

Random Thoughts:

Flee from your Fitzgeralds

The ones who are cunning enough to create an illusion, a facade of care, friendship, alliance, love, a  false penchant for your mission. Sooner or later they expose themselves in an ultimate, final act of betrayal.

Those people exist but you don’t want to believe it.

Well, believe it.

Or you’re going to lose someone or something very important to you.

You cannot survive engagement with an army of Fitzgeralds. If you seek to live a long fulfilling existence, anyway. You won’t make it.

I’ve had 3 Fitzs in 7 years, so I’m not saying it’s easy. Even the best of hunters miscalculate. What I’m saying is your gut, your internal clock, will go off alarmingly and warn –

This person isn’t right. I don’t belong here. Someone is gonna die, and it’s most likely me!

revenant hawk

Spoiler: Fitzergald (Tom Hardy) kills Hawk

At that point, you must flee. Don’t fight unless necessary. Just go. Disappear.

Close them out.

Make a list today from inside out. Go with your intuition. Who in your life is cancerous? Who is setting you up for the kill? I bet you have five Fitzgeralds on paper already. Right off the bat.

Now move. Let these people go. Release them to their purpose.

I didn’t let go. I paid the price. So did Glass.

Steven Hendel, writer for and creator of one my favorite websites, http://www.theemotionmachine.com, penned a recent article titled How To Improve Your Intuition: Learn to Take Your “Gut Feelings” Seriously, that will help you detect the Fitzgeralds who roam through the wilderness you call life.

Discover the Fitzgeralds lurking in your financial mistakes

The enemy of money hides in plain sight and usually has to do with a positive pattern you break to appease another, not yourself. Recently, I broke my own rule about taking on a big mortgage mostly to make somebody else happy, which is a critical error I’m paying for and need to unwind. I had a Fitzgerald in my life unleash a treacherous moment in my net worth that I’m certain will take me back a year at the least.

When you make big financial decisions, make certain to keep a level head. Don’t allow emotions to creep in and overwhelm your fiscal status.

Again, get a gut check. Ask others for their honest opinions. Consult outside, objective sources and you’ll stand a greater chance of survival.

Forgive yourself for trusting Fitzgeralds but never forgive them for their egregious behavior

Cut yourself some slack, after all, you’ve been mauled.

When witness to a crime of the heart, especially when it’s yours, timelines, memories get muddied and overpowered by emotion.

Remember -These entities have a track record of deceit. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Let yourself feel the sorrow, allow the darkness to consume you. It’ll be easier to release them that way.

So, forgive yourself for being human and trusting. Continue to trust the right people, however.

Over time you’ll get proficient at detecting and avoiding the Fitzgeralds.

Remain vigilant.

After the chase, after the amazing focus to survive, energy high on retribution, Glass confronts Fitzgerald in a bloody fight to the end, but it’s not what you think.

Glass could have but didn’t kill his foe.

Weary, he looked up from his anger and observed Fitzgerald’s future.

Glass realized.

“Revenge is in God’s hands, not mine.”

look up

“Go ahead. Get your revenge. But you’re never gonna get your boy back.”

Ironically, the first honest words uttered by the enemy.

A bloodied Fitzgerald (yet alive), is released to rushing waters only to join his fate, his death, at the hands of Indians on the other side of an icy creek. Earlier on, Glass had saved a Pawnee chief’s daughter from a marauding group of French trappers who repeatedly raped and beat her. And now, the hero was about to have his vengeance at the hands of those he assisted.

At that moment, the universe was ready to close the circle. Glass was smart enough to listen, observe, and release the object of his hate to its proper destiny.

We all must do the same.

Cast out your Fitzgeralds. Allow their pasts to catch up to their presents and black out their futures. Their dark spirits will destroy them soon enough. These entities wind up following a path you do not want nor should you admire.

Cast the revenge shadow to a great power. That energy knows where to go. What’s death to you is light and absorbed by another to maintain balance of a world’s turn.

It’s merely a matter of time.

And all you need to do?

Live your life.

That’s it!

Wait outside the tree line. Observe.

As you stare into a cold mist that hangs heavy in a blue steel sky.

See again the light of those who give you peace.

Learn to appreciate the lesson.

The true love of people who care will capture your attention again, will never stop shining.

As for the Fitzgeralds?

Well, they’re already dead.

A revenant life is not one of fulfillment.

There’s a point when that anger must be unchained.

And only you will know the moment it must occur.

It’ll fall upon what drives you inside.

At that release, so will your heart be free.

But first, you will wander through a brutal wilderness.

As you must be lost to be found.

revenge is not

What is a revenant?

A person who has returned, especially from the dead or a long absence.

Through a period, you’ve been there.

It’s time to emerge.

And breathe. 

Just keep breathing.


10 Resolutions in ’16: Simple Steps to Your Financial Best.

Most likely money is at the top of your resolution list – Whether it’s to increase savings, pay down debts, find a new job, purchase a house or auto, financial aspirations abound in January.

Resolutions start strong. Unfortunately, as the novelty of a new year fades, so does motivation to stick to a list.

happy new year vintage

What if I told you that financial goals don’t need to be onerous to make an impact to your bottom line.

Millstones, as I call them, lead to milestones. You’ll be empowered, less frustrated if you keep your financial improvement list simple.

Here are ten ideas to consider for 2016.

Finally ditch the brick and mortar bank. An unusual event occurred after the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates by a quarter-point after seven years of holding steadfast to a zero interest rate policy. Several banks were quick to increase lending rates to creditworthy customers but kept deposit rates unchanged.

Historically, deposit rates on savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and money markets tend to correlate with changes in federal funds rates. Not this time. Savers lose again. In 2016 take a stand. Transfer your emergency cash or savings to a virtual bank. Online banks are FDIC-insured and with less overhead costs, offer attractive yields compared to a bank with physical bank locations. Several offer ATM fee rebates, too. Check out Nerdwallet’s list of top high-yield online savings accounts.

Keep an eye out for yet another refinancing opportunity. I know – Most financial ‘pundits’ are claiming higher interest rates in 2016. I see a sluggish economy ahead. Since mortgage rates are driven by demand and moves in the ten-year Treasury rate, don’t be surprised if 2016 provides another chance to refinance your home mortgage. A decision to refinance should be based on additional monthly savings and how long it will take to breakeven after closing costs. An easy-to-use refinancing calculator is available at www.zillow.com.

Initiate a balance transfer. According to Nerdwallet, the average American household carries $15,355 in credit card debt. Be proactive in 2016 and move your high-interest debt to a balance transfer credit card. If your household credit card balances are $5,000 or greater, consider reducing retirement contributions to the company match and direct additional cash to paying off credit card debt.

Use smartphone applications to save on purchases and track spending. Make technology your financial partner in 2016. Use the Mint app to track financial activity, Shopkick to browse products and find deals at major retailers. Download Ibotta, an Android and IPhone app that allows users to unlock rebates to earn cash on purchases.  

Buy off-season. Maintain an ‘off-kilter’ sense of finance. Purchase holiday décor and greeting cards after the respective season. Think Christmas cards in January. Shop for real estate during winter, summer items in the fall, and so on. Thepeacefulmom.com has thoroughly researched and lists by month the best times to buy everything.

Do a better job protecting your identity. Avoid public Wi-Fi to access secure information or shop, password protect your electronic devices and check your credit card statements monthly for suspicious activity. Place a freeze on your credit files with the three major credit bureaus. Before applying for credit a freeze can be removed easily using a password or PIN. There may fees to initiate security freezes. However, costs are nominal ($5-$10) and worth it to protect against identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission offers a FAQ  page to make it easier to understand how credit freezes work.

Check your credit report. Every January make it a habit to check your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com. Examine your report closely for discrepancies and rectify promptly with the credit reporting agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlines common credit report errors to identify.

Curb your impulses. Make 2016 the year of the wait. Before a purchase of greater than $50, delay for 7 days. If you still want the item or service after the wait period, move forward. Holding off will reduce impulse spending and allow you to think before spending. Seven days has been an effective time frame from my experiences with people I counsel. If super-ambitious, wait 14 days. If you can’t wait days, at least give the decision 24 hours.

Purchase a shredder. Simple identify theft solutions remain effective. Shredding documents should be an ongoing exercise. Shredders are inexpensive. Invest in a micro-cut shredder for maximum security protection. I’m shocked by the number of times I’m told that shredding seems unnecessary. Throwing intact personal documents, bills, statements in the trash is asking for trouble.

Develop a money principle. Dig deep. Early in the year is a great opportunity to develop or fine-tune a money philosophy. Keep your thoughts short. Make them passionate. Consider how money fits positively in your life and what you can do to reach goals, control spending, reduce debts or earn a higher income this year.

Financial resolutions are strongest when simple. Consider these 10 small steps to financial enrichment and live a fiscally healthy new year.



4 Sweet Money Lessons – Straight From The Toaster.


As featured at http://www.nerdwallet.com. 

Pop Tarts almost killed me.

pop tart gun

The foundation of Mom’s parenting philosophy was the use of food to pacify me. Pop Tarts, either hot from the toaster or “raw,” as I called them, straight out of the box, were my favorite. My reward for good behavior was delectable, grape and occasionally iced.

Three boxes a week for seven years. Do the math. No wonder I have a permanent roll of fat around my belly.

The iconic Kellogg’s toaster happiness is turning 51 with no signs that its 32-year streak of increasing annual sales is in danger. And my ability to discover money messages in unusual places continues as well.

Money lessons arise like the fruity-sweet smoke of a hot toaster with a pastry left in just a little too long.

Here are four random thoughts that will help you add a healthy balance (pun intended) to your financial health.

1. Finances don’t need to be so serious all the time

It’s OK when money is sweet and replete with empty calories — in moderation. For example, I buy a scratch-off lottery ticket on occasion just for fun. The odds of winning are not a factor in my decision. The thrill and anticipation of the remote chance of winning is worth $2. The ROF (return on fantasy) is a bargain. Pop Tarts and other sweet foods were considered a staple in my childhood household. That’s not a good idea. It’s OK to splurge; I encourage it as long as spending limits are established and monitored.

2. Patience has rewards

Did you know Kellogg’s was sued for damages after a Pop Tart caught fire in a toaster? Boxes now carry a warning about fire risk in a toaster. Those things can get hot. As a kid, most of the time I wouldn’t wait and forged right ahead — I’d take a piping-hot mouthful of fruit filling without worrying about the repercussions.

The length of time people hold onto stocks has been falling rapidly since the 1960s and now stands at roughly six months. Investing, especially in stocks, is a long-term discipline. If your holding period is three years or less, then you’re not investing, you’re gambling. Prepare to be burned. Work with a professional to understand your underlying motivations for investing and try to match your life goals or benchmarks with the appropriate financial vehicles. You’re more apt to enjoy the cool sweetness of being a successful — or at least a levelheaded — steward of money.

3. Variety isn’t diversification

Pop Tarts come in 25 flavors. Over the years, Kellogg’s has experimented with different shapes, offbeat themes (like Ice-Cream Shoppe flavors), even a Pop Tart variety that was split down the middle with two separate flavors in one pastry. Most of those variations lasted only a couple of years. The original flavors like grape, strawberry and brown sugar-cinnamon have endured.

The financial services industry is, for the most part, a “popped-up” marketing machine, full of air and seeking to create products that promise diversification but often fail to do so. Costly hedge funds, and inverse products that promise protection in down markets, are not necessary to achieve diversification or enhanced returns. If you’re seeking true diversification from stocks, consider guaranteed investments like U.S. Treasury securities and cash, which are part of a lean and levelheaded diversified portfolio.

4. Icing is fun, but it’s not everything

The first frosted Pop Tarts debuted in 1967 when Kellogg’s discovered that icing could withstand the heat of a toaster. The foundational concept of this legendary confection remains basic: sweet filling surrounded by a plain, pre-baked, flaky pastry crust. Yet the simple brilliance of a Pop Tart has endured for decades.

When managing finances, the least complicated rules are still worth following. Saving at least 10% of your income annually, monitoring spending, keeping credit card and other unsecured debt levels to a minimum, establishing an emergency cash reserve and investing to reach longer-term goals — these never go out of style or lose appeal.

Sure, it’s fine to add a sweet kick to money basics. For example, taking calculated risks like investing a portion of your assets in emerging-markets stocks and bonds, placing money in sectors or asset classes that have recently underperformed, and investing in learning new skills to increase your value in the workplace can top your basics off nicely.

As with Pop Tarts or any sweet treats, moderation is important. It’s the same with your money behavior. You shouldn’t pursue either extreme deprivation or all-out splurging.

Wealth is built in moderation.

I blacked out from eating three boxes of Pop Tarts during a 1970s Saturday morning cartoon block. I’m not proud of that experience, but I am wiser for it.

groovy ghoulies

Just like the advertising campaign claims they’re “crazy good,” so can you be by following the lessons straight from a beloved toaster pastry.

Going “Double-Zero” – Five Steps To Greater Happiness & Wealth.


I remember her.

How she looked then.

this is 1972


It took me almost as long to write this blog post; the lingering sorrow of inner-circle loss is torpor for the soul. I never get used to it no matter how many times people depart on their own or I’m motivated to head out of Dodge.

Writing about this topic resurrects mourning and at the same time, casts a different light on tenebrous memories. Surrounded by the spirits of those who are gone steels my judgment, sharpens my perspective and allows me to effectively face my own weaknesses and all-too humanity.

Human losses define my Phase 2; the new, improved and clear headed iteration of me. Sharp edges cut clean to acceptance. Free of shackles.

All human connections good or bad, add richness to life. Although the bad ones fill volumes of lesson books with razor-bladed pages. Bleed and turn, bleed more.

Healthy relationships that turn black are worse.

cancer cells

Unfortunately, life suspended in a cancerous relationship soup, sucks away enough energy to prevent the spirit from moving on, growing. Self-worth fades to the grated pallor of steel. Perspective flash freezes like moisture in a high mid-winter sky.

You’re heavy, stuck and falling.

But there’s only so much pain a person can take. Everybody has a trigger, a breaking point. Something happens that jolts an awakening. Could be as subtle as a recurring, inner whisper. A word. An action. Or as dramatic as a crash and burn (I’m Italian; we add drama to our rigatoni).

By the time that happens, healing has begun. Before you know it the circle will begin again. A new connection, a stronger chain, a weaker link. The leaded steamroller of life moves forward – flesh, blood and emotions in its wake.

I look up to the clouds often. I breathe in the vast universe to revitalize my small world. Let’s say I focus higher to stay closer to the ground, especially when I lose those I care about.

In the past, blinded by my ego and overtaken by the egos of others, the sky meant nothing. Looking back, I’m not sure what happened to replenish my appreciation of simple things. It’s all a big blur. Ironically, I’m grateful how I mistakenly granted admittance to my inner circle to the wrong people, organizations and feelings because they all lead me to where I am today.

The friendship that began in 1972, between T and me, has created several of my deepest pauses of reflection. Months, years, years beyond years do that.

She was my dearest crush in fourth grade. I awkwardly stumbled through many juvenile affairs of the heart then – most of them hidden behind painful shyness, a lack of self-confidence driven by sappy daydreams of holding hands walking home from school.

On Friday nights, I pounded away – creating love notes on a baby-blue & white typewriter to school girls who would never care to read them. I barely recall their names but I never forget hers.

Rosso typewriter

She filtered simple, daily life experiences through a happiness prism which I found interesting at such a young age. I was an eternal fatalist. I saw the worst in everything first. I went directly to the worst-case scenario.

T was diplomatic to a fault. I was jealous of her consistently positive (occasionally cloying) perceptions of the world around her. Even when diagnosed with advanced breast cancer that upbeat perspective rarely waned. I waned. When she told me, all I had for her was silence.

“Hey, I’m not dead, yet.”

I admired her nature. She was restive, I was restless. She was a healthy distraction from my parent’s invidious marriage. Everybody wanted to be her friend.

I wouldn’t call T a frequent gambler although she had a strange passion for roulette. That’s it. Roulette. When I was 14 my parents bought me a roulette set (made by Kenner Toys, I think) for Christmas. We spun the silver disc inside that black, plastic wheel for hours. The thrill of hitting chosen numbers or black or red captured our attention.

The excitement was greater for T as she consistently played zero or double-zero. It was the deep green color that stood out in a sea of dark on a felt “table.” It felt different for her. She basked in the beauty of rare moments (like hitting the zeroes). Every time she hit it, which seemed often, I would get pissed off.

Personally, I rarely played the green zone. I think the odds of hitting zero or double-zero are like a bazillion to ten. I sought stronger probabilities.

Not T.

“I like the feeling I get when I hit double-zero.”

I so wanted a to feel like that look on T’s face when that little silver ball hit 00. Or when she beat breast cancer the first time in 1994. That smile. Post-brace face. Unforgettable. A grin born from the positive attitude which defined every part of her.

I asked her why and how she believed the impossible was possible.

She said – “because I make room for it.”

That was it.

She made room: In other words, there was a place in T’s mind and heart that created space for the impossible to be possible.

Her life was defined by double-zero.

double zero wheel

Making room.

So in honor of T’s life and eternal life, I made it my mission to make room.

Go double-zero.

I started finding and cutting away my definition of cancer: Connections with people who drained my energy, fed off anger and frankly no longer fit into the positive life I was finally beginning to cultivate.

It’s not that they were bad; just bad for me.

I began to understand what she had been trying to tell me for decades.

And now, so should you.

Random Thoughts:

1). Double-zero creates space to breathe. It redefines the sky you’ve ignored. It allows you to fill your present with positive people and increased productivity as mental fatigue diminishes.

2). With double-zero you land less on black. There’s white space created for activities that fill in the hole. Great room to undertake those projects which fulfill you. The more you hit on 00, the faster your spin lands on inner peace. And it happens more often than it could in Roulette.

3). Double-zero is a clean slate. You’re open to new lessons; it’s a creator of second chances. The rebirth of a stronger inner circle.

4). Double-zero is not just a burning bridge. It’s using the intense light and heat from the fire to blind you from who and what you removed. It’s scorched earth. It’s the adult version of “you’re dead to me.” It’s cutting out, going cold turkey on cancerous people, situations, subjects, so you can live. No. Thrive. Never go back. Once you hit 00, take your sanity and cash out.

Double-zero isn’t forgiveness. Oh no. It’s inflamed forbearance. An internal act of defiance that transmits a clear, outward message to those who are unethical, untrustworthy and unwilling to to exhibit loyalties to love, silence, commitment and grace.

5). Someone is about to 00 you. Be ready. We have all been and will continue to be double-zeroed by others. It’s OK. Time to self-reflect. Most likely, you initiated 00, motivated the spin. Own it, burn it, move on.

Naturally, T would say I’m perceiving double-zero all wrong.

Damn my negativity.


Here are additional random thoughts T would place a stamp of approval on if she could.

 A). Double-zero is making that call you’re hesitant to make. The one that makes you a target, open to hurt. Vulnerable. It’s also the one that may positively change your life forever.

B). Double-zero is a complete awareness of who you are. And the great value you bring to the table. It’s destroying what society tells you is success and re-defining it outside the cubicle, middle management and others who “just don’t get you.”

C). Double-zero fuels you to fight another day. Positive energy is contagious. You’ll attract light, warmth and peace. Over time, you’ll be addicted to 00. Odds will be in your favor.

D). Double-zero is making radical changes to your finances. It’s shrinking to grow. It’s working on taking more in and having less go out. It’s freedom from debilitating debts to pursue what you love, not what you do to pay a big mortgage.

E). Double-zero is taking a stand. Recognizing and believing in the possibilities which can come from saying no more often, pursuing interests that fulfill your soul and again, cutting deep and away from all who choke off positive flow. You’ll look up at the sky more often.

Teresa, if your energy is still here, if your afterburn is around me – I feel it.

Thank you.

Rest well.

In your death, I found a secret of a life.

And I think others will, too.




Five Money Lessons Straight from the Frown of Grumpy Cat.


Oh c’mon – You know Grumpy Cat.

You live in a hole? GOOD. Stay there.

That’s just something Grumpy would lament.

grumpy cat - floating

The “lovably hate-able” feline with the permanent scowl on her face due to a physical shortcoming, an underbite, has been an internet smash and much, much more.

Grumpy aka “Tardar Sauce” became a meme a couple of years ago and gained worldwide popularity by well, being grumpy and commenting  a straightforward “NO” to everything (and I mean everything), in sight.

Grumpy Cat isn’t just famous worldwide; she’s also a money maker.

Grumpy Cat Saving Money


Grumpy has brought in an astounding $100 million in revenue from merchandise (Grumpy has her own coffee – Grumppuccino), appearances, television shows.

Why is she so popular?

Perhaps Grumpy says no to all the things we wish we could. We like her spirit – she’s got spunk!

Yes, she’s cute too.

grumpy cat - so cute disgusting

I began to think about how Grumpy can help us improve our finances.

Can we learn from this irascible cat?

I think so.

Random Thoughts (Oh, this crap again?)

1). Understand your true money personality. Grumpy is finest when telling it “like it is.” The people who are good with money work with professionals to understand and minimize their money weaknesses and expand on their strengths. If you’re an over spender, admit it.  Make small changes that can lead to big results.

2). Debt can be irritating. If total monthly debt (including mortgage) exceeds 32% of your monthly gross income, then 2015 is a good time to knock 2% off. One improvement you can make right away is to cut your holiday gift budget by 10%. The last week of December total how much you spent for gifts this year and work to come in 10% less next year. Less debt means less grumpy. Use your debit card and cash more than credit, next year.

3). Saying “no” more often can lead to wealth. We all know Grumpy’s favorite answer to everything is always a resounding “NO.” Identify the ways saying “YES” hurt you, financially. For example, say “NO” to lending money to friends and family. As the economy improves, 2015 is the year to say “YES” to a new job. How do you know what your skills command in an improving marketplace? Get your resume together; keep your eyes open for opportunities to expand your paycheck.

4). Get unimpressed with things that can separate you from your cash. It takes quite a bit to impress Grumpy Cat. She’s always seeking to be unimpressed with well, everything. Do you really need to spend on the latest technology or smartphone or can it wait? If you’re looking to make a large purchase don’t be swayed by savvy sales pitches. Wait two weeks before you buy any item that costs more than $50. See if you can live without it. You may be surprised to discover that you’re unimpressed too and don’t need to spend the cash.

5). It’s ok not to care about what your neighbor is buying. I can picture Grumpy Cat staring out the front window of her home, saying no to new cars, new furniture and other stuff she doesn’t need because one thing we know about Grumpy: She just doesn’t care. Perhaps you care too much about impressing others and it’s costing you in the form of excessive credit card interest rate fees by spending more than you earn.

So, we all can’t be worth millions like Grumpy Cat.

That’s fine.

However, the characteristics that make her appealing are contagious.

Having a little Grumpy Cat inside can make us smarter with money decisions.

And that’s a “YES,” any day.

Aren’t you glad?

Grumpy Cat - happy I don't care



7 Smart Money Habits For College Freshmen.


As featured in Nerdwallet & CS Monitor.

There’s a lot of financial temptation surrounding college students: credit card offers, the availability of student loans, the excitement of being on your own and in control of your spending money.

college freshmen

Freshman year can be a whirlwind of activity. But make some time for one more lesson: Form smart money habits. If you give it a little thought now, you can jumpstart a successful long-term relationship with money—and not end up crushed under a mountain of student loan or credit card debt.

The positive habits you set this year will remain with you long after you’ve earned your cap and gown. I’ve coached many students on how to be savvy with their money and maximize the financial potential of the college years. Here are seven of the most successful ideas.

Random Thoughts:

1. Assume one year’s worth of student loan debt and no more. No matter what.

The average student loan is now $33,000, which makes the class of 2014 the most indebted class in history. Do what you can to stick to one year’s worth of debt, even if it means attending a community college first or working for two years before beginning classes.

It’s radical thinking for some; you may believe this suggestion too austere. But the last thing you want is to be saddled with heavy debt burdens. The college graduate unemployment rate is currently 8.5% and the underemployment rate (new grads who are jobless, hunting for employment or working part-time) stands at 16.8%, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

2. Begin a social media strategy.

And I don’t mean Instagram. Using a social media outlet such as LinkedIn, where you can connect to thought leaders, managers and prospective employers, can pay off down the road when you’re job hunting. Post articles daily—three sentences of poignant commentary reflecting your thoughts and a passion to share knowledge. Set a goal of acquiring 600 LinkedIn contacts by the time you graduate.

Drunk on toilet Not a good pic for social media.

Also use your first year as an opportunity to “clean up” personal social media accounts like Facebook, which is increasingly under scrutiny by human resources departments.

3. Watch your credit.

Take out no more than one credit card to obtain and strengthen a credit score. When I was in college, credit card providers were everywhere. I signed up for two cards and needed to work a couple of jobs to pay off the debt. Don’t do it. Based on recent legislation, credit card vendors are no longer omnipresent on campuses.

There are many attractive cards available to college students. Most likely, you’ll need a co-signer, as you won’t have full-time income. There should be a limit placed on the card, anywhere from a $500 to $1,000 maximum. The lender will most likely place strict limits on your available credit without you asking for it, but inquire anyway.

4. Consider a Roth IRA.

Believe it or not, it’s not too early to begin saving for retirement; think of all the time you have to benefit from investment appreciation. It’s OK to start small; remember, you’re trying to create a lifelong savings habit. Earnings from a part-time job are perfect for funding a Roth IRA.

For 2014, the contribution limit is $5,500, and at retirement, the money is available tax-free. Also, contributions (which are made with after-tax dollars) can be withdrawn at any time before retirement, without penalty.

5. Don’t get carried away with school spirit.

In college, I needed to own every T-shirt, sweatshirt, pen, mug—you name it, all emblazoned with the school logo. I spent hundreds of dollars on stuff I didn’t need due to my out-of-control school spirit. Limit your enthusiasm to two wearable items a year.

6. Begin a budgeting behavior.

Heck, not even an actual budget; I know how busy you’re going to be. A budget mindset is enough. Be aware of your spending habits. Understand once you run out of cash, you’re out. Do not go to the credit card for relief.

And keep a conversation going with your folks. The most successful students have parents who jointly review spending with their kids on a monthly basis. It takes less than 10 minutes to discover the expenditures with the greatest impact on cash flow.

7. Study one money tip each day or week.

It’s not that difficult. Pick any financial topic. Read one article in the business section of a local newspaper daily before you hit the books. One graduate I know read about one basic investing topic weekly at www.investor.gov. She developed a great intuitive sense about stocks, bonds, money markets—enough to ask smart questions that allowed her to maximize her 401(k) savings when she landed a job.

There’s a lot to learn as a freshman; enjoying your college experience to the fullest is important.

Just keep your money in mind, and think about how the actions you take today can either set you on the path to financial success or leave you lost in the woods.

Have Kids? 4 Ways to Save Money: 4 Ways Dave Ramsey gets it Wrong.


“Money is more than money, sometimes it’s memory.”

I’ll never forget the March day in 1973 when the birthday gift from my parents – a new lime-green Schwinn 10-speed with a prism-like banana seat (complete with black double-stripe down the middle) was stolen from outside the Brooklyn neighborhood toy store – Cheap Charlie’s.

green schwinn

I believed I did all the right things to ensure my prized possession was secured tightly to a small tree.  It was in my line of sight; no matter where I was, even checking out stacks of Hasbro Colorforms’ boxes at the back of my favorite five and dime, I could glance out the large plate glass windows and observe some part of the bike’s beautiful, clean lines.

Padlock checked twice. Pulled on the lock again, just to be sure I wasn’t fooling myself that the bike was secure.

It wasn’t enough to keep this new birthday purchase from disappearing.

Looked up from the new GI Joe Adventure Team play sets and in less than two minutes the bike was history. I bolted out the front door, looked around, up and down Avenue U as fast as my head could turn and eyes would dart.

mummy tomb My favorite!!

Nothing.  How did the bastard get away so quickly? Oh yeah, he was on wheels.

How do I now tell my parents the expensive gift that surprised me three hours earlier was now history?

Recently, Dave Ramsey or his people (he’s big time, he has people), wrote an article that rubbed me the wrong way. Usually, I agree with the information that Dave provides however, this piece (link below) inspired the line about money linked to memory.

10 Ways We Waste Money On Our Kids.

The Ramsey article was the catalyst to re-live a painful life episode from over forty years ago.

What happened after the incident was memorable, too.  In a good way.

And I’ll never forget.

Back to Dave’s article: Used bikes, no hamsters as pets – Made me grateful to not be a kid or grandchild under the Ramsey roof.

Is there a balanced approach here so rodents can still scurry through colorful Habittrail tubes in happy homes?

I think so.

habitrail I bet Dave would hate Habittrail (too expensive).

Let’s break it down.

Here are 4 ways to save and 4 areas where Dave Ramsey is way off the mark.

 Random Thoughts:

1). Go used or reused. I don’t believe our money has achieved the maximum return on thrift stores or consignment shops.

Thankfully, the stigma of shopping at a Salvation Army is dying; perhaps it’s the disappointing economic recovery where much of the middle class feels like the Great Recession never ended. Recently, my daughter and I went shopping for a winter week-long trip to New York City and found some astounding cold weather wear deals at a neighborhood place that sells gently-used teen clothing. Check out www.thethriftshopper.com for a national thrift store directory and a shoppers’ forum where all topics thrift are discussed.

2). Arts and crafts fun not boring. Crafting dollars still go a long way and what a method to engage your child in a family creative endeavor. I know it sounds old school, however some of the best returns on memory I have with my daughter is the Halloween and autumn-related crafts we did at home. We finished multiple joint projects including fall wreaths and small sentiments for family and it was short on cost, long on satisfaction. Sign up for Pinterest and investigate fall craft ideas. I was floored by the number of inexpensive DIY Halloween projects.

3). Get tricky. When I was a kid I drove my mother crazy because I was only interested in popular name brands of food. I was a sucker for television advertising. For example, I would only eat the bacon with the Indian head profile complete with full headdress, on the front of the package – can’t recall the name now. Of course, it was the most expensive and as a single parent household, mom was on a tight budget. I still remember catching her placing a less popular bacon in an old package of the brand I liked.  Come to think of it, I think she did this often. I recall on occasion my Lucky Charms not having as many marshmallows. Oh the shame! She was attempting to trick me. As I age I realize I’m fine with tricking children. Buy the Frosted Flakes, keep the box and replace with the generic brand to save money. Today, less expensive brands are tough to tell apart from the premium ones. Try it.

4). Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Visit local venues first. This time of year many autumn fairs pop up at farms, places of worship and even retail parking lots. Peruse the local fair festival guides in community impact newspapers and take inexpensive journeys.  It’s a great time to have children select and prepare fresh vegetables and fruits available from local vendors.

The stuff Dave Ramsey is saying is a waste may not be to you because money is not just a medium of exchange, it purchases long-term lessons and memories of places and people long gone.

So, despite what the Ramsey group says:

1). Get, or if you can, adopt a pet. The hamster or whatever suits your family. My hamster Benjy lived five years. Yes, five years! And he taught me great responsibility and love. He brought happiness and accomplishment to my life as a nine-year old. I thought he’d live forever. I taught him tricks. He chased my mother around our tiny Brooklyn walk-up (an added bonus). Dave says no Benjy. I’m sorry, this advice is wrong.

2). Say yes to movie tickets. Ok, you don’t want your six-year old to see The Equalizer, I get it. Although my father took me to The Godfather when it first hit theatres and Sonny getting converted into human Swiss cheese at the tollbooth affected me for years, there is a bonding experience between parents and children at the movies. So, you sit through Little Fluffy Bunny Finds a Carrot or whatever kids’ flick is playing. Take your children to the movies. Splurge on the overpriced candy and popcorn.

3). Yes to electronic games, too. My friend Jordan Shapiro, professor, teacher, author, contributor to Forbes and modern-day Socrates would advise you that electronic games can teach children much about life and ignite cognitive development. There are many ways to save here – plenty of gaming systems available used and in great condition, especially at pawn shops. I spent hours with my Batman coloring books; I agree crayons have a place in kids’ rooms, however, I don’t see how electronic games are a waste of money.

4). Buy the kid a new bike for gosh sakes. There’s nothing like the thrill of a new bike for a kid. All the adventures ahead – the feelings of freedom. Nothing but priceless. My head is reeling thinking about the places I went on two wheels.

Ah, so you’re wondering how I had so many great adventures when my bike was stolen the same day I got it.

Well, when I called my father from the kitchen Trimline phone crying hysterically, he immediately left work in the middle of the day (which only happened twice during my childhood),  and drove me to Frank’s Schwinn Shop on East 6th Street and bought me an identical replacement.

He said it wasn’t my fault.

On his deathbed, while he lapsed in and out of a coma, I whispered in my dad’s ear, reminded him about how I was grateful for him. And that damn bike episode. How it changed my life. He was there for me through a traumatic event.

It’s unfortunate when financial types become so successful they forget what money is truly all about. It’s “eat your vegetables, don’t have fun.”

No it isn’t.

“Money is more than money, sometimes it’s memory.”

So screw that advice.

remember moments