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Personal Finance Chops

Two fellow bloggers I know attended FinCon 2012, late last week. Hi, Donna! Hola, Karawynn! The Financial Blogger Conference. Ok, not just bloggers, but mostly. I’m dying to get the blow by blow from them on who’s who, and what went down in Colorado. (*Nudge*Nudge*) I might even buy them coffee to get it. Ahem. Until then, I’m not going to let my lack of attendence keep me from using FinCon as fodder for my own round of self-inventory.

Who needs a conference, when you’ve got this kind of inspiration?

Donna, god love her, treats me like a real writer. We meet. Partake in a little Corporate Dining. We talk frugal hacks. Church sales. Chicken food. Jam makings. Busy lives and the experience of being a writer. Her’s being oh so much more vast than mine. It always goes on too long. It’s always enjoyable. She encouraged me to attend FinCon. Even clued me into a giveaway contest for free tickets. Which I did absolutely nothing about, because what the heck business do I have going to a conference for “financial professionals” and/or “authors”?

Never mind that the timing and expense weren’t really in the cards at the tail end of my summer, I fall into neither of the two quoted titles. In my opinion. Technically, yes. I am blogger (like I am Robot). And also yes, I write about money. A lot. Ad nauseum. Still, I question (strongly) whether it’s the place for me. Do I have the chops to attend such an event? I look at attendees like Ramit from the oh-so humbly named I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and think NO. (Sidebar: Ramit is by all accounts a swell guy.) I’d make no such boisterous claims. I might tell you how to deal with your picky dog or offer a comparison on what we should all be hoarding in our cupboards. But, get rich? No. Not even slowly. Nor will I tell you what to invest in, what stocks to buy, or even how much to contribute to your 401k. Well, I might have a recommendation there.

In truth I balk at my inclusion in their ranks. Not for their classification, but for my own. I’ve got an IRA. Not a ROTH. Half the Jewish gentlemen are represented. Of course, it makes me uncomfortable to check on it too often. I make my automated contributions, and avoid more than quarterly balance peeks. I’ve only the most limited interest in mutual funds, ETFs, annuities, options, the NASDAQ or the S&P of any number. That’s the finance. And with my attitude and lack of interest, I should be blackballed from any event with finance in the title, wherein I’d be expected to have a clue. Certainly, not invited!

I tend to be about the personal. The world where dogs, gardens, chickens, and grocery spending collide. We are defying categorization here at Dogs or Dollars. I’ve got a big fat emergency fund (to go along with my big fat mortgage). I rally against the two income requirement. And I know the only way to shed the yoke of my Corporate Masters once and for all is via an uber frugal lifestyle. Preferably, one that’s still enjoyable. With dogs. And chickens.

Frugality. There it is. I’d rather chit chat with Donna (or really anybody, Sorry Donna) about the price per pound of my half cow and why that is or is not a good deal, than talk retirement saving. Any day of the week. Retirement savings is important. It’s also a big intangible I can’t control. I can nickel and dime myself for the next 30 years, and still not have it be there when I need it. If I invest in the wrong thing. If I turn it over to a shady (or just inexperienced) ‘money manager’. While my chicken wrangling skills will still net me eggs and compost, regardless of the reports I read or who I trust.

From looking at the list of FinCon attendees, the long and varied list, I’m sure these hangups are my own. The words ‘thrift’ and ‘frugality’ are represented in many a blog name. They are dwarfed by occurrences of the F Word (finance), but I’ve no doubt I’d be welcomed along with everybody else. Even if, I got a lot of ‘Dogs or what?’ and couldn’t expect to have meaningful discussions about fostering or raw feeding. Around here, those are the topics that keep people coming back.

Finance, scary. Backyard eggs, not so much. So, I save for retirement. Absolutely. But, I invest in my Urban Homestead Infrastructure. My indoor/outdoor clothes drying facilities. My massive stash of canning jars. My knowledge of which local thrift stores are better than others. I continue to wittle away at my gargantuan grocery budget. All within my grasp. My frugal skills arsenal. And I consider my breed of “personal finance” a little different. As far as I know, it’s one without a conference.

How do you balance the personal and the finance in your own life?
Do you tend to sway more one direction than another?

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I think most of us are more like you; dealing with the daily dollar, rather than the big picture. Let’s face it… “high” finance is boring and unpredictable. There’s no way to prepare for everything, and any number of circumstances could hack at a person’s personal wealth, even when they did everything right. I do think everyone should think about investing, and actually do it when they can, but I can’t see the benefit of doing it anything but long-term, where a quarterly glance at income statements is sufficient. Day-to-day spending is controllable, easy to calculate, and impossible to ignore for any period of time. It’s also where we define our values (even if some people refuse to believe it). I think there’s nothing wrong with your approach. There’s no “one size” way to do it, and as long as you’re doing something, you’re doing more than a lot of folks.


Thanks for the validation Jenny! Boring, unpredictable, and hacking potential. Yes, yes, and yes. I do wonder how many of us feel that way? You either have no knowledge of it or just enough to be terrified and avoid. It is one of those cases where doing something, anything is hopefully enough.


what a gorgeous picture!

I find the overall world of finance to be baffling and depressing. As we have accrued more money over the years I have forced myself to get more into it. But the more enjoyable, controllable aspects of money are definitely the day to day frugality. We do have a financial guy, and he is a big help.


Those two boys are offer a ridiculous love fest everyday. Peas and carrots.

I’ve contemplated getting a ‘financial guy’ or gal, but can’t imagine the interview process there. My questions would include ‘Are you really a blithering idiot?’ and ‘Will you loose all my money?’. Not sure that would go over too well.


Personal frugal finances I have a pretty good handle on, but when it comes to REAL investments I shy away. I’ve seen too many people lose it all on what was supposedly sound advice. For example:

Someone in my family invested $400,000 in blue chip stocks on the advise of his financial advisor and lost it all. Every cent.
I was told in 2000 by an investment counselor that there was NO WAY the dotcom industry could/would fall. A-huh. Glad I didn’t listen to him.
My mother hounded my husband not to put his retirement in anything but the safe G funds even though they didn’t get big returns. His friends made fun of him until they lost all of their assets. They didn’t say much after that.
When I put my money into safe CDs and IRAs in 2007, people laughed again and said I was making a mistake, but just a year later they looked at me as if I were wise. I’m not, I just play it safe.
So….I don’t trust financial advisors who want to play with my money. I don’t think they always know. I handle it all myself.


CDs and IRAs all the way! I get the same kind of lectures from coworkers. Take risk while you are young! Maximize your return! I’d rather keep my money, thankyouverymuch. Sounds like you’ve got a good track record with that.


I think it’s important to have your PF blog be personal for sure. People don’t want to read the same stuff about investing all of the time, because you’re right, it’s unpredictable anyway ! I love reading your blog, and getting some tips on how to be a bit more frugal along the way ! (And see dogs and chicken photos :P)


Its the dogs and chickens that everybody likes. Don’t think I don’t know it. 😉

Donna Freedman

1. You *are* a real writer.
2. The daily dollars add up to our finances, whether High or Humdrum. (You’ll note that’s the topic of my MSN Money gig: wise use of available funds and living intentionally, rather than which stocks to buy.)
3. You should totally go to FinCon next year.
4. Until then, you should totally enter my FinCon giveaway this week. Just FYI: The drawing is a day early, at 9 p.m. Sunday.

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