#burningdebt with The Dollar Dad: Jump start your emergency fund, now!

Saving shouldn’t be a tradeoff.

I am determined now more than ever to pay off my debts and start my emergency fund.

I had my two cars break down on my fixed budget. I had no idea where or when I could get the money to repair them.

My bank accounts were at a total loss for words. And an emergency fund is the only solution I came to after nearly a month’s researching.

I concluded an emergency fund is

a reserve of funds only used for unforeseen expenses that were not originally budgeted. It is estimated as at least one month’s income.

Of course, it should be more. But this is my beginner’s base.

Start with automatic saving

I had to sit down with the misses and determined what our monthly income and expenses cost us. Once I got the figures, I decided to place $50 each pay period aside.

It’s not much, but something is better than nothing. Capital One has been a life saver. They allowed me to open two separate accounts.

FOR FREE to boot!

One for my emergency fund and another for Anastasia (my daughter). I started an automatic transfer from my main bank account with Huntington Bank into my Capital One accounts.

Automatic withdraws are the way to go. Set up the amount you want to save and forget about it. So easy with the Capital One mobile app.

I started to budget with the transfer in mind. Before I knew it, I racked up a few hundred dollars.

Jump start with the 50/20/30 rule

Mint.com detailed a simple, effective plan for anyone to start saving. The post is geared toward millennials, but I think they touched the wallets of others too.

I couldn’t have said it better myself:

“…staying close to the core concept of this budgeting system, you’re guaranteed to gain financial ground, rather than lose it.”

They broke down our savings plan into 3 categories: essentials, savings and personal. In that order.

I gathered what my household income was, and I dedicated 50 percent on essentials like transportation seeand housing. This means gas, rent, electric bills and other bills I would have regardless of lifestyle.

Next, I took 20 percent of my income for savings needs. Well, almost. I decided on a set amount as stated earlier rather than a percentage just until I get the savings rolling.

And the last 30 percent is for your personal needs, like the movie you wanted to see or the takeout I ordered last night.

The key is to not confuse the categories. You and I both know your cable bill should not be in the essentials category.

Slashing unnecessary expenses

Speaking of cable, my bill is absolutely ridiculous. There are way too many streaming options (Roku, Amazon Firebox, Amazon Firestick, etc.) to continue to pay some outrageous price for stations I don’t watch.

This expense was an easy one to spot. But some others might not be as apparent. Pay close attention to your expenses and where you can cut because they will gnaw at your saving efforts.

With the 50/20/30 rule, savings is already integrated into the strategy. I’m using my savings to slowing pay off debt and using a portion of my personal budget to do the same.

Whatever works for you.

Start your emergency fund now before you are consumed with debt.

#burningdebt

 

 

 

Dads have custody rights too

Your ex is moving states away with the beautiful child you both made. You work yourself into a complete frenzy.

Go after them.

Wait.

Call the police for kidnapping.

Seriously?

My coworker confessed this. But his story is all too familiar.  He is one of many parents who is ripped from their children during divorces or breakups.

Family courts replace the happy home our families once had.

You’re frustrated and helpless after grueling custody battles. All this legal stuff becomes fuzzier. Summons this, and petition that. Arraignment is set.

There’s a clear perception around custody. Mothers have natural rights to the children. They possess most, if not all, of the physical and legal custody.

As it is clear women possess much more patience than their male counterparts. It comes with the maternal instinct, women intuition and the like.

Dads are granted custodial rights through the courts. But socially, we are still at a disadvantage. We shrink this by becoming familiar with the process and knowing your legal rights.

The Split

I could feel my co-worker’s pain. The sadness filled my heart from the way he mopped about after his ex-wife moved. I know the look. He misses his son.

Moms automatically get sole custody of the children during the earlier years. This has been in the back of our minds since the beginning of time.

Whenever the mother and father split, she historically got the kids. The kids rarely get to see us and the distance grows. Resentment, also.

Our kids suffer throughout the entire ordeal. Meanwhile, the courts usually appoint custody and visitation.

This custody thing is a big issue.

Paternal rights in Michigan

Presently in Michigan, gender isn’t a factor in deciding custody of a child or visitation.

And most importantly, for your paternal rights!

Married dads have it a little easier than their unwed counterparts when it comes to gaining any custody.

Its assumed since you’re married, YOU ARE THE FATHER! (Maury Povich voice)

Unwed dads have 2 ways to establish paternity:

A voluntary affidavit of parentage

or

An involuntary court order

More legal jargon. Either you will willingly be a father or summoned to be.

Legal and physical custody are separate rights. Legal custody grants the custodial parent permission to make legal decisions for the child.

But physical custody is just as it looks. Where is the child majority of the time? Sometimes, they are looked at as one in the same.

This should not be. While the dad has joint physical custody, he might not be able to make any legal decision for his child.

Most decisions about the welfare of your child are left up to the mother. This would mean she had sole custody.

And you wonder why your kid doesn’t know you.

There should always be an agreement of joint custody, unless one or both the parents are deemed as unfit parents.

If this arrangement can’t be met, you’ll be just like my coworker.

Sad, lost and confused. I’m talking about the kids of course.

Importance of print and web publishing for bloggers

I know it can be a little intimidating, but learning these programs are a must for bloggers. And you know what I’m talking about.

The meme that make us literally laugh out loud. Or the free e-book you keep reading.

The dimensions perfectly fit your phone or computer. The colors and fonts force you to continue reading.

All we have is our content. So, we have to make it as informative and striking as possible. And don’t forget to link all that tailored material back your site.

I read somewhere (I cant think for the life of me where) an infographic explaining how you should add a post and correctly market it.

I had to quickly learn people need visuals. Shortly after, the Adobe Creative Suite and other comparable publishing programs became my best friend.

Memes or quotes are shared to thousands of people. These images are thoughtful, artistic and funny.  Bold colors. Eye-catching fonts. Crisp lines and edges.

I had many programs available at my fingertips in college. But the my blanket of arrogance kept me from learning. Or being receptive to all the possibilities.

Let the designers do that type of stuff. I will just write. Write so well no one will need visuals.

How ignorant of me?

These aspects hit home for me. I would like to become a technical writer, and blogging is giving me the practice I missed out on in college.

I told myself, if I was serious about technical writing and blogging, I would have to learn to edit different documents, not just words. If I had sizing requirements for a particular item in a manual I was constructing, I could size it myself instead of calling for a designer.

We need these skills!

A couple tips about publishing your post

  • Have an image

No one wants to see a post with no picture. You should be able to visually represent your post with at least one photo, even if you have to edit it yourself. Sites like PicMonkey make it very easy to edit photos. No Photoshop skills necessary. You need those images to market your site, posts and skills on social networking sites to drive traffic to your site. That is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

  • Make sure your content is compatible with many devices

I hate pulling up a site, and I need some special plugin to see it. This is not user friendly. Put yourself in the shoes of the user. You came on the site to check it out. You wouldn’t want pesky adds stopping you from viewing the content you originally came to the site to see. Neither does the user.

Pennies count,

The Dollar Dad

Brother, why are we financially illiterate?

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The long road traveled to financial freedom

I was slightly relieved when I read the Prudential study, “African American Financial Experience 2015-2016.” Here are key points from the research I was thoroughly proud of as a black man:

  • African Americans graded themselves all above 50% in areas of managing household expenses, managing money, managing debt, and life insurance protection.
  • 59% of African Americans consider themselves move knowledgeable and better prepared in financial situations than their parents.

I’m not sure the demographic of the survey, but I see my brothers struggling with the same issues every day in my community.

I work as a tax preparer, and I’ve heard horrible stories about the different financial situations from my clients.

And it’s always my brothers. Afraid to even file their taxes. Apprehensive about which debtor with garnish their tax refund or how much they own to Uncle Sam.

Men are providers. But if we are not knowledgeable about financial situations, we can’t really provide for ourselves or families.

But this is a long winded problem for us. Gaining this knowledge isn’t difficult, but society has essentially locked us out of higher education and employment.

Why?

Reading and writing levels among my brothers are lower than any other ethnic group of color. The graduation rates from K-12 are also lower than most. These are essential skills my brothers need to remain competitive in the workforce.

No education means exclusion from higher paying careers and positions. I want to highlight the lack of financial education.

I know Prudential says otherwise, but they are not here in the inner cities. They don’t see the black man handing over every cent he has earned to support another community except his own.

So many of us are behind schedule. Financial literacy is an important aspect of fatherhood. Being able to simply manage incoming money and outgoing expenses.

It creates a solid foundation which fathers can use to achieve other goals for himself and family.

Please, dads, be conscious of what you spend and how you spend it to be a true provider for your family.

Pennies count,

The Dollar Dad

The aftermath of masculinity

What’s left after black men are enslaved brainwashed and reprogrammed?

A void.

A hollow void like a computer with no code. See, like with a functionless computer, the man cannot function in this world without masculinity. At least not outside himself.

Brave manly face for society. Like a grand performance in front of thousands. But these performances evoke emotion.

But our men lack that. We’ve let our careers slip through our fingers. We’ve even let our women, all women, measure us on this unfair masculinity scale. Ultimately become some penniless, emotionless robot who only has feelings or saves funds when prompt to have them.

I’m taking a piece of power back. There should be no relationship, platonic or not, where men are always at the mercy of debt or their emotions.

My grandfather passed.

Can I mourn him? Or do I busy myself with funeral planning and cost to suppress the pain of loss?

My daughter was born on this exact day at this exact time.

Can I be overjoyed? Can I have separation anxiety anytime she leaves my arms?

Or do I ignore my unborn daughter’s mom for months then when the baby is born, I stay gone for years so my child can my makeup who I am instead of her knowing who I am?

Logically, it seems like men who don’t feel can’t feel the good emotions either. Can’t use what’s not there sort of speak. I guess the good part about the way society depicts masculinity is the bad stuff can be brushed under the rug.

You don’t have permission to cry because you are a man. Or men don’t feel weakness. Oh and my favorite little boy doesn’t cry

Who comes up with this stuff anyways?

Not healthy. Doable though. But doable is what got our brothers flooding prisons.  Being the ass end of political brutality. Wanting to keep paperless trials because no asset could ever be in his name because of numerous debts.

This masculinity scale lacks emotional health.

 

Becoming a dad, not just a father

I begged the heavens and the cosmos to give me a little girl. A little, precious girl to teach her about the world and men.

Self-worth and confidence. I was convinced women need men and vice versa. And there are some lessons only a dad can give.

Men have a way of tearing down intrinsic values in women. Not my daughter. I’m fully aware even if she isn’t yet.

But this was different. So many emotions ran through me. The typical missing dad story is not mine.

My dad has always been in my life. And I had two moms. But sometimes, people tried to downplay my feelings about my fatherhood-son relationship.

It never seemed like my story was enough to matter to anyone. Now, I’m a dad. And all those emotions I let people suppress have to be dealt with.

Not like I’ve been reeling from my emotions since my daughter was born. But there has been certain feelings I can’t shake.

Expectations

I just knew I would be speaking fluent German to my little one. We would have a language all our own.

I knew I would have all the time in the world to make sure your was well-rounded. Single handedly.

You expect everything to go smooth. But you are up at 2 a.m. feeding the newborn. Running to the store to get more formula.

The only thing you can think about while at work is holding your newbie. I know I couldn’t wait to get home to hold her until we both passed out.

Where’s the time?

Financial responsibilities

I thought I would graduate, land a full-time writing gig and have the free time to spend with the little one.

I mapped all types of budgets with my wife just to make sure will met all our obligations.

Nothing will go according to your plan guys, but be flexible enough to change.  I thought things were spiraling out of control.

Not until I let my guard down and embraced change, could I happily move on. No, like really move on.

No grudges or no regrets. Accepting life for the choices I made and those I made with my wife. Learn you are a good dad.

Even if you can’t provide everything you thought of. If the spouse or loved ones don’t tell you, I will.

As long as your little one doesn’t lack necessities and has your consistency, they will be fine.

Pennies count,

The Dollar Dad

 

 

Bag of bones

I don’t get to write poetry enough. It’s a side of myself that evokes feelings I never considered.

From time to time, I will share a little piece that I’ve worked on or in the works of finishing.

I’m no Edgar Allen Poe, but I think this is a great outlet. You should try it.

Don’t get caught up in the technicalities of which types of poem. Whether its follows the iambic pentameter or if its a ballad.

All you need to do is write and be expressive.

The inner me
Hates he.
I mean him
or any version.
The inner me hums,
pulsates,
whenever he is questioned,
threatened or wounded.
He pieces together.
What’s left of himself?
He sheds what he doesn’t need,
never thinking
about his former self again.
No lessons taught,
No good will bought,
No love lost.

He drags
what’s left of himself.
Bag of bones.
Hollow,
Yet hard as steel
Please find the nearest steel mill.
He needs a break.
Toss the bag.
No one will notice
Someone else will tend to the waste.
Empty arms,
he feels
the heaviness with nothing there
the void,
that in between feeling
of togetherness.
But his arms are so tired,
pulling his body and soul
into one entity.
Instead walking aimlessly,
dragging those bones.
The fiber of his being.
Soul barely intact.
Confused about what stability is.
These aren’t his bones.
Days’ travel to give his brother
A leg up.

Pennies count,

The Dollar Dad

Goal of maxing out 1st 401K

After years of searching and waiting, my wife landed a career. Not just a job.

You know, the ones that come with health benefit and retirement options. Of course, as soon as my wife got the news, she came running to me.

I’m the numbers guy. She was just as excited as I was after our conversation about what our options should be. textgram_1491612532

Ooh, retirement options?

The position came at a great time, considering my wife is $75,000 in debt for her education. I also I have a hefty student loan debt of about $35,000.

Yikes!

Anyway, I’m subscribed to investopedia.com. And they flood my email with all sorts of tips and tools. But I saw articles about 401k options and I had to share.

Employers and HR personnel confuse people with percentages and dates of enrollment. Not to mention all the tax codes attached to retirement saving plans.

There should definitely should be more education about what these new employees are signing. Most of them (like myself) are happy to make concrete plans for our futures.

Like I explained to the misses, we can contribute up to $18,000 into the 401K in 2016. Right now, she contributes 5% of her gross pay (not net pay because it is pre-taxed contributions) into her 401(k) account.

Time. Time. Time.

When you are years (many years) away from retirement, time is your friend. Your money will sit in an account and collect interest.

The higher the amount in the account, the larger the return on your initial investment will be.

And what ever you do, DO NOT withdraw from your 401(k) . Regular federal and states taxes will be taken out of your withdrawal.

Us young bucks who are under 59½ years old will be taxed an additional 10%.

Are you serious?

Fidelity gave a good example if you decided to withdraw early from your retirement account. And by early, I mean withdrawing before the age of 59½.

The potential result: Cashing out $50,000 in 401(k) savings may leave just $35,000 in cash after 20% withholding and a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

In this example, you would lose $15,000 if you withdrew early from your 401(k).

No thanks.

We wanted to take full advantage of my wife’s 401(k) plan. She also has an option to max out the matching after some time with the company.

Sweet!

I promise to keep you posted about how the saving goes. We have about $1,100 invested and only $16,900 to go.

It’s a goal. Don’t pressure yourselves.

Pennies count,

The Dollar Dad

TBR: Inspiration calls

It’s so cool when book reviewers or v-bloggers make lists of books they want to read or to be read (TBR). It gives me hope of reading the next mind-capturing novel. I’m a bookie at heart.

But I feel like I make up excuses why I can’t enjoy reading. I remember my family making fun of me because I was the only kid who chose reading over the outdoors.

BooksBeautyAmeriie and ChapterStackss put me back in that place of nostalgia. Your mind races as you read and try to visualize those words. Especially if the writing is vividly done.

Their YouTube channels were the highlight of my long, graveyard shifts. But they gave me some confidence to tell people what I think about a book.

I’m always eager to share what I’ve read. But my wife could care less. She pretends to listen, but I know books aren’t her cup of tea. I read her an essay from 2005 The Best American Essays. 

It was absolutely beautiful, but she wasn’t interested. I’ll get to that a little later.

Being inspired again

At least that’s how I felt when I bought these two books. I have no idea why I was drawn to them.

I searched for books that were related to fatherhood but took the form of prose. Essays in particular. I wanted stories of dads, whether he was absent or thhome every night for dinner.

Picked this one up at Barnes & Nobles. I know its a little outdated. It was on sale because of that.

Bouns! 

I used to write prose just for fun. Nowadays, I have to drag the piece out. The essays I read so far are crafted to explore varies topics like death and class.

man-in-the-moon-front-coverThis time around, I looked for something. Something to inspire me to dip deep into my into my fatherhood. And I stumbled upon this anthology, Man in the Moon: Essays on Fathers and fatherhood. 

I’m in heaven. This is a breath of fresh air. I’ve been in this sci-fi genre kick for years it seems like. But nonfiction has caught my attention and it’s here to stay.

I would like to share my thoughts on each of these anthologies. Specifically, I want to convey my favorite essays from each and tell you why.

I hope you explore the complexities of fatherhood and its pressures with me. I’ll also give recommendations for buying/reading these books.

Pennies count,

The Dollar Dad

Bye bye English literature, hello blogsphere

Sorting through dozens of books. Each one had its own purpose. I was going read this one or use this for my dissertation. I had every intention of researching and authoring my dissertation about women gender roles in the Victorian home.

Instead, I donated majority of my collection. I needed to downside anyway, I guess.

I would travel to different conferences lecturing about gender roles and their unspoken expectations. Placing my audience within the confounds of a Victorian home. Only using the time period as an avenue to explain the absurd expectations of women in the home.

And to top it off, my best friend presented his thesis at a conference a few weeks ago. I am a little jealous. I have to admit. Super proud of him though. But I always thought that would be me.

Specifically, I thought I would be using Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own to construct my thesis. These books were apart of who I thought I would become. NOT, and for good reason.

It simply was not in my destiny. Life moves on and so should I. I’m at a point in my life where I want to embrace my natural talents versus development talents.

For me, I worked hard to develop my writing skills. All the way through my journalism degree. But finances are who I am. Kinda in the middle of a career change without the actual career. I just begin to loath everything related to journalism. Deadlines, editors, etc.

Then, I began to think. Think about who I was, what I liked and my natural skills. One thing immediately stuck with me: finance. I love giving advice about personal finance, and I have been on a vendetta to raise my credit score.

Reading and research and compiling all of the information I possibly could to educate myself and hopefully assist someone else in the process.

Pennies count,

The Dollar Dad