Finicky Financial Advice

money blogI’ve signed up for many blogs and Facebook groups about money, business & investing in the last 5 years. Suze Orman, the Budgetnista, my banks’ newsletters…

I’ve saturated my brain space with such things at this point and I’ve learned a lot along the way. What’s challenging, however, is the fact that I’ve hit a wall. Some of this may just be lil’ ole’ me having zero willpower to implement new financial patterns, but I’ve brain stormed what’s not right (saying “wrong” sounds wrong) about the advice I’m seeing populate my many newsfeeds, pages and inboxes.

1 – The rags to riches story is tired.  A lot of advice starts from the assumption that you’re poor. Setting aside all the debates that argue that many poor people actually think they’re middle class, these “she used to have $12 in her bank account and now she has $1 Million” stories have grown old. I don’t want to be a millionaire and I definitely don’t have $12 in my bank account. I’m looking for tips on how to improve from okay to great, not how to save myself from destitution. The lessons aren’t the same, so the inspirational story loses impact, because the practical steps to make a change aren’t replicable.  

2 – Entrepreneurship is hard.  I appreciate the messaging around being a business owner and acting as one’s own boss, but actually doing it is not easy. Dare I say, it’s less fun than showing up at a “day job,” which could be totally boring, but not nerve wracking. Investing your savings in a business venture that’s supposed to grant financial freedom is a pipe dream. If it’s really yours, as a successful business will be, you are duty bound to making that business succeed, keeping up its reputation and growing its reach. To my mind, that’s the exact opposite of freedom, if you’re doing it right. It’s a huge emotional and time commitment that I don’t think many people are truly prepared for.

IMG_20160220_0811343 – Save money when you spend. Coupon clipping, deal seeking, promotion pimping shoppers still spend money. Yet, I find that many blogs don’t promote less consumption, just lower costs of consumption. And while I’m a good capitalist like the next woman with ten fingers and ten toes, I have to say that this is exactly the type of mind set that keeps sweatshops in business. If you don’t want to spend money, don’t shop. But, if you need/want to, I think it should be done with a conscience and awareness about the supply chain the purchase comes from. Even if we can’t afford to get out of the trap of supporting cheap(er) labor, we should be aware that we’re doing it and make efforts to ensure that our financial situation improves such that we can lessen the habit.

4 – Why do I have homework? Many blogs and books give you lessons, but I’ve found that many newsletters and groups are dishing out homework too. I’ve seen everything from accountability partners to daily tasks for financial wellness. I have the attention span of a fly when it comes to things that aren’t about work, school or family, so these reminders convert to spam and spam into trash. And there’s a vicious cycle of mass deletions.

5 – Everything on stocks sucks. I haven’t read anything good about stocks yet. I suppose it’s pretty plain that there’s no good “how to” guide for stock market and bond investing, but it just feels like all the books and blogs seem to say 1) keep your money in for at least 10 years, 2) don’t pull out when everyone else is and don’t invest when/where everyone else is, 3) invest in what you use and 4) only invest money you can afford to lose. Anything else?… If not, let’s not keep printing big books and articles that add other fancy pants words around these basic lessons.

6 – The charity and tax nexus are non-starters. Last but not least, there are 2 issues that very rarely show up in these advice columns. How to manage income and taxes to net more AND how to integrate philanthropy into a budget. Better yet, if I can find anything on how charitable spending can help lower taxable income, I’ll be sure to send the author home made chocolate chip cookies. Sure, maybe we all should hire a financial planner to figure this out for our individual situation… maybe… but can I just get some basic principles? just one article? one book? or one measly little blog post? Or nahh…

That said, for those of you who want to troll the wealth of financial baggage I’ve accumulated over the years, please check out the list below. It’s chocked full of useful info, but it’s not what I’m looking for anymore. To help me get past this money advice rut, share resources that worked for you in the comments section.

Sharing (even sharing frustrations) is caring!

Suze Orman’s book

The Live Richer Challenge

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

Modest Money

My Wife Quit Her Job

Missing Shopping List

IMG-20131026-00003Everybody asks what I’m going to miss most about India. My reply? “I need to leave India to find out. Check back in in about six months!” I’m pretty sure that I’ll see my friends again, so I’m reluctant to say that I’ll miss them. I’m also fairly confident that I’ll satisfy my food fixes by going to far flung holes in the wall in Forest Hills Queens, Juba City California, Edison New Jersey or Houston Texas. (I have to admit, though, I’d never tried South Indian food ’til I came here and I suspect that I will miss masala dosas terribly.) My best guess on the saudades front is that I will miss the shopping.

I’d hate to sound like a predatory buyer, but now I understand why merchants were sailing across the seas, battling ocean monsters and scurvy, to get here. Rock bottom prices baby! Not that there aren’t draw backs. The finishing isn’t usually all that great on the lower priced items and the higher priced items are priced too high for the value of clean edges. Yet and still, it all works out about right in the end. And I should know – I’m at the end.

I never reveal my shopping secrets, but since I’m leaving Delhi soon I’m feeling philanthropic. Find here a list of vendors and stores I recommend. I think their prices are fair for what they’re offering – not so low that you wonder if slaves are doing the work and not so high that you wonder if everything is made of gold leaf. No matter if you live in Delhi or if you plan to tour, I think you’ll be satisfied with your purchases and your pockets.

IMG-20131026-00004

Naveen and his guys came over after work on a weekday to show me books and books and upholstery fabric. I have to admit that I didn’t love  most of the patterns, but also said that I was welcome to get my own fabric and his staff would handle to labor of re-upholstering. Did Ms. Instant Gratification go fabric hunting? Of course not! I went with one of his crushed velvet black fabric and had my victorian chairs restored to their fabtastic glory for just about $50 – including the fabric.  It was well worth the spend and I think anyone using his services will find professionalism and customer satisfaction to be on high!

IMG-20131026-00016

Here’s the ole Delhi bait & switch! The shop is both a cell phone repair shop AND a framing shop. Since I don’t have a personal cell phone I haven’t needed to use their “Cell Net” services, but I have gotten the vast majority of my certificates and art work framed there. Since this isn’t their primary business, don’t expect to find the most innovative of framing options.  But if you want a simple, solid colored frame – no matter the size of glass – I think you’ll find their prices and turn around time to be really good. And while there are other framers I’ve tried in Sarojini Nagar market, for example, that are competitively priced – Hauz Khas market is a much nicer market. There’s not as much hustle and haggle, so I prefer Guptas. As a secondary option, I’d suggest the framer in Vasant Vihar’s C Block market. I’ve gotten really great work from them too and the man who runs that shop also gives deep discounts for repeat customers.

f1 10Yes lord, I love my jewels. It’s hard to come to Delhi and walk away without bling. I was a humble costume jewelry connoiseur before Delhi did me in. My loyalties have always been to Mr. Mogha in Le Meridien hotel. Every expat knows Mr. Mogha and his sons. And while I have cheated on Mr. Mogha while traveling to other cities, in Delhi I believe his designs, variety, and prices are the best – by far. Almost every piece of gold jewelry I’ve bought in India has come from them and I have yet to complain! Not to mention, these guys are not the hard sell types. They won’t talk you into anything and they won’t pressure you to buy. They know their stuff and they can actually explain to you what you’re getting and why it’s priced as such. Oh and they always give coffee or chai with every visit. I’m going to miss these guys a lot!

ametrine

Raj is to Mumbai what Mr. Mogha is to Delhi. He was recommended to me when I went to stay with colleagues in Mumbai for two weeks. I wasn’t disappointed. Frankly, I find Mumbai’s styles to be much more modern and innovative than Delhi’s. Delhi tends to be more Mughal style and diamond heavy. Mumbai designers play with gems and textures much more. That’s what I loved about Raj’s collection. Last time I went in we scored a gold plated corral encrusted 2 inch thick bangle and my diamond engagement ring!  I’ve got my mind’s eye on a silver and uncut sapphire necklace that’s been haunting my dreams – maybe I should have got it while I was in town. But, he ships! Phew, that could have been bad.

f1 11

Shobha ben is actually on her way to my house right now. I’m not kidding! I met her and her son at the famous crafts market – Dilli Haat – and I frequented their stall so much that she asked if I’d let her bring things to my house to show friends. Of course, that made perfect sense since it would save me the taxi rides to and fro. She’s got tapestries and table runners made of old saris, but my favorites are the hand stitched blankets. I plan to buy a million – or maybe just four – before I leave. And since she’s willing to come to me, there’s no reason to let her leave without lightening her load.

IMG-20131026-00012

If there’s one thing Delhi’s got a lot of it’s tea shops. So, far be it for me to try to convince you to switch loyalties. But, if you haven’t yet found a tea home for yourself, I would suggest the Asia Tea House in Sunder Nagar market. I’ve really enjoyed their varieties and their packaging! They’ll pack any tea in a decorative box – hand painted or Rani covered – within just minutes. The teas range from black to white and everything in between. They even have organically grown varieties! Oh and they’ve also got cute accessories, like an elephant topped tea spoon. Yup, I’ve been in that place one too many times. Can you tell?

Now that I’ve dished all my dirt, I’m going to get ready to make my last round at these places. Shopping (and eating) is an age old Indian pastime. I will surely miss all the adventures I’ve had in discovering my faves and picking up some goodies along the way.
You never know, maybe the allure will bring me back for more.

You never know.