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Happy You Year!!!

How far into the new year do we stop saying Happy New Year? While you think about it, here is cheers to a Happy You Year!!! Yes, Happy You Year because it is obvious that we are in a new year; aren’t we?! Why Happy You Year instead of Happy New Year? Very intentional! The difference is not only in the word choice but the intent behind it. I remember watching a Super Soul Sunday interview on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) where Oprah interviewed Dr. Brene Brown about two of her books which I was inspired to read after watching it. One of the questions Oprah asked her was with regards to gratitude and joy vs Happiness. Herewith a picture from Google to give a basic concept. With this, I, therefore, say Cheers to a Joyful You Year!

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At the beginning of the year is when some (not all) people set New Year resolutions. Some people believe improvement is fluid and the start of a new year is like the start of a new day. Let us, therefore, be reminded that we can have daily, weekly and monthly resolutions/goals; we don’t have to wait for the new year. According to a recent  Huffington Post article, the number one most common new year resolution is to lose weight. Surprisingly, financial management, getting out of debt and savings wasn't among the six listed. Here's an article by Forbes Business about Americans with regards to financial standing; 34% have nothing saved and 69% have saved less than $1000.

In the times gone by, my goals have always been along the lines of improving health and spirituality. As last month was winding down, I was thinking of which additional area I could set goals for including improving on previously set goals because I believe there’s always room for improvement even after meeting a goal. When I listened to the interview with Dr. Liliane Mofor-Abongwa, I got an ah-ha moment.

With the passing of this new tax bill, I’m not quite sure how it will affect me. I’ve researched and read conflicting information about it; I have talked to people versed on the subject from the political, financial and tax preparation points of view but there are still some gray areas. Amidst all that, I’m still going ahead with setting financial goals. When I listened to the interview with Dr. Liliane Mofor Abongwa, too many light bulbs we illuminated. I had some knowledge about financial management from reading the book by Dave Ramsey titled Complete Guide to Money but I wasn’t practicing it to the best of my ability. Watching/listening to this interview was a wake-up call. That kind of wake-up where they throw water on you while in bed (as seen in movies).

Growing up, I constantly heard my Dad use the word “budget.” He would say, I haven’t budgeted for that, it’s not an emergency so it can wait. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it but that did not always work. I did get the things I needed but the things I wanted had to wait. Fast forward to when I first opened my own bank account here in the US in 2006 and got my first credit card in 2009. I have not been the type to live above my means but I was not into saving either. I have never maxed out my credit card which I mostly used for textbooks, car repairs, flight tickets and occasionally some shoes (hehe).

Before reading that book, I had been of the understanding that you needed a credit card to build credit which is incomplete information. I thought that paying the minimum was how you build credit. Another thing I learned is that, having a credit card and how you manage it helps lenders know the risk with approving you for a loan in instances of buying a car, house, getting a school loan etc and that determines how high/low the interest rate will be. But without a credit card, that can still be determined by if you pay your bills on time like a phone bill, car note/insurance, rents...etc After I read the book, I shared some of the info with friends and classmates. I bought a copy for my Dad so he could see other ways of shopping smartly for big-ticket items like purchasing a car at a bargain without a care note, getting the best out of Mortgage and paying off ParentPlus School Loans; my Dad does not have a credit card, he considers it a scam.

Prior to becoming an Occupational Therapist in April 2016, I was a residential counselor/assistant for individuals with disabilities from 2011-2016, worked in retail as a customer service/sale associate from 2006-2011. I wanted to be able to properly manage my finances which is what prompted me to read the book by Dave Ramsey mentioned above. I was overwhelmed with information; one of the many things I got to understand is to make sure not to carry over a balance on your credit card and if possible do not use it.

Back in September of 2015, before I came across the book mentioned above,  a friend had sent me a savings challenge where it was required to save an increment of $5 per week for 1 year. When I saw how much I saved over a year, I was astonished because it was the first time I actively and intentionally saved. Below is a pic of what she sent me. Check out Google for other savings challenges at your comfort level. I encourage you to start somewhere and hang in there! Remember health and wealth are connected. Check out the interview with Dr. Mofor (Link above) to see how.

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Just when I was getting too excited about a new job, I received that school loan letter reminding me of my six months grace period coming to an end. Boy, that amount made my heart skip a few beats then followed by some irregular beats then… talking about irregular heartbeat! My healthcare providers you know what I mean?! I started with the minimum payment then the following year I did the income-based repayment plan. Sometime last year I decided to figure out ways to pay it off in less time. That way I would pay less interest because if I go along with their suggested payment plan, I’ll be paying way more than what I borrowed.

During the time I was trying to figure out how to go about that, I came across ninotswalk blog post on how she paid off medical school loan debt in four years and why she cut up her credit card. After I read those blog posts and a few others on her site, I contacted her. We went to the same boarding school; Saker Baptist College Limbe, (not classmates, she was ahead of me). That even motivated me more because I personally knew someone who paid of their school loan. Yes, I have read other stories of how people paid off their school loans but the impact after reading her story was different.

Now over to you; what are you focusing on improving during the days, weeks, months ahead? Be more specific such as, I’ll drink X amount of water per day, I’ll exercise X number of time per week for X minutes, I’ll have X minutes of silence per day, I’ll save $X per week or per paycheck, I’ll read X number of books this year, I’ll draw closer to God by doing XYZ, I’ll listen more, I’ll seek first to understand, I’ll work on developing a growth mindset by...etc. See previous blog posts for insights on the latter.

It is said, it takes about 21-30 days to form a habit. Write the specific habit you will like to change or improve on and paste it where you can see it first thing when you wake up from the bed and before you go to sleep. Progress is slow but has to be intentional, it won’t happen overnight. Remember this,“if at first, you don’t succeed, try try again” ~ Thomas H. Palmer. We should be open to the idea that there will setbacks but we shouldn’t camp there.

Share your thoughts on what you will be improving on in the comment section below! I’m here to learn!

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