Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Book Review: "Manhood" by Terry Crews

Funny, poignant, heartfelt and touching. These are not the adjectives I expected to walk away with before I began reading Terry Crews’ “Manhood.” Seemingly on a whim my wife picked up this book for me about a month or so ago and I let it sit on the shelf for some time. I knew of Terry Crews as an actor and beyond that not much else. Crews’ book is an amazing read and admittedly once I started I couldn’t put it down.

Crews walks us through his life, from being born in Flint, Michigan, to growing up with an alcoholic and abusive father, to his path walking on at a college football program to being a journeyman in the NFL, to his humble beginnings in Hollywood and beyond. Crews walks the reader through all of the ups and downs of his life and he had me engaged and wanting to read more and more with each page.

I especially wish a book like this had been written (and that I would have had the foresight to read) when I was a teenager. This is because Crews goes beyond making this book an informative biography. He gives an in depth and poignant looks at some of the most incredible issues that plague so many of our lives. From cyclical generational abuse to the pains, struggles and complications of addiction, Terry Crews was unbelievably profound and as I said before, I could not put this book down.

I’ll come back to my point in the last paragraph that I wish I had read a book like this when I was a teenager. This is because Crews is, on the surface, what most men point to as an alpha male. From his physicality to his presence walking into a room, through every step of his life it seemed as if determination and gusto carried him to success. And beneath it all addiction was the slowly boiling pot of water that nearly destroyed his life every step of the way.

Previous versions of myself would hang onto the fact that I wish I had read something like this earlier in life, so that I could see a voice, an advocate, a symbol, of someone in Crews’ position standing up to challenge the cultural expectations of masculinity, and that I wish I had a role model like that when I was growing up. But at this stage in my life I am grateful that his voice talking about these issues exists at all. Mainly because it goes beyond an alpha male standing up saying “I have feelings too.” This book was about a man of God admitting that successful paths in life are not even close to being well manicured and carved trails. Crews explored on a personal level the devastating impacts that generational abuse can capture and destroy the lives they are apart of, but that they don’t have to continue on to the next generation, and that abuse can stop and end with the person in the mirror.

He talks about forgiveness, faith, love, pain and everything in between. Words written in this raving review pale in comparison to the messages Terry Crews explored and provided insight into for, “Manhood.” And I for one, believe that every male that can, should read this book for the awesome perspective Crews gives about what it means to be a male in our society. I for one am thankful that Crews wrote this book and I hope he has many more planned in the pipeline.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My Quarter End: Q1 2015

Now this feels pretty good, being back in the groove and writing about another thrilling quarter end. So let’s go through a few of the technical numbers and then dive into the details. As of March 31st, 2015 my household net worth stands at $441,437.20 and my mutual funds have been earning an average annualized return of 17%.

Having not reported my net worth since the end of 2013, and to see the first quarter of 2015 start off with an increase of almost one hundred and ten thousand dollars absolutely humbles me and collectively blows my mind. You see, since finding out we were pregnant last fall we re-prioritized a lot of our financial goals and tactics. The biggest of which was increasing our cash positions through our emergency fund and creating a baby account.

Our baby account was made to provide a little cushion for our upcoming bundle of joy. We wanted to be able to make any baby related purchases such as clothes, bedding, cloth diaper service and allthingsyouapparentlyneedforababythatihadnoclueievenneeded without skipping a beat. Thankfully our years of living on a budget and working together through our finances prepped us to seamlessly put a target number on our goal, squeeze a few current month budgets by coming under in categories like groceries and entertainment, and before we knew it our baby account was fully funded.

So we've spent the better part of this current year funneling our disposable income into our taxable brokerage account. All the while we have continued to max out our employers’ matches through our 401ks. To me all of this, especially since 2013, has been slow and steady and to be perfectly honest since I had gone on an extended hiatus from writing this blog, I didn't really compare or even look at the quarterly numbers during 2014.

So I’m left wondering what made us leap over $100k in just a handful of quarters? In truth, half came from an increased of appraised value from the piece of real estate I own in name in California, and the other half from increased contributions and growth from our mutual fund investments.

To me the last year was pretty much clockwork. We continued to live debt free, regularly invested in our assortment of mutual funds, beefed up our cash savings accounts and watched every dollar through our monthly budgets so that not even a penny would slip by us.

I actually feel kind of crazy writing this. There were no magic tricks, no salary increases that bumped us a tax bracket, no wild and crazy bonuses and no secrets of investing that only a financial analyst has top secret access to. We've simply been slow and steady telling each and every penny where to go each and every paycheck….THAT’S…..IT!!

For this quarterly review I will hold off on making any market predictions or a financial summary of the state of the US. Primarily because I want to have time to gather up some awesome Yellen jokes, but mainly because, and I know this may be sacrilegious for a finance blogger to write, but simply put, I just haven’t been paying attention.

I know, I know, how can a guy who works in finance, and who (is getting back into) writing a personal financial blog not pay attention to the overall health of the global economy and the US market? To be frank, I just haven’t. Day and in day out I do my very best at work, and lately, especially over the last few months, I have been living, breathing and LOVING the idea of becoming a dad. My wife and I have completed a month of birthing classes and are ramping up our home exercises in preparation for the due date. Everything, financially speaking, is on cruise control. We have our monthly budgets for the rest of 2015 filled out, and while we expect variables to hit us and our best laid plans to always be fluid given the volatility of having a new family member (and that I will take 4 months of unpaid leave from work, more on that later), I feel like we have our financial ducks in a row and can concentrate fully and solely on this new chapter called parenthood that our lives will be turning to in just a few months. So it’s great to be back writing and I can’t wait to share more as 2015 unfolds.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

My Return

461 days….

That’s how long it has taken me to realize how much of an asshole I have been for not continuing to write in this blog. It’s definitely not been for lack of thoughts or a shortage of topics. The truth is I let a few miniscule circumstances and technicalities open the door for my laziness to step up to the forefront and take over the joy I received day in and day out from this blog.

Well that is no more…

It blows my mind that it has been almost a year and a half since my last entry. So much life has happened, there have been so many changes and yet so much remains the same. I am still working in the financial industry and loving Chicago. My wife and I are still living the debt free life as we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary late last month. And our mutual fund investments are continuing to outpace my expectations.

As for the changes, well, there’s been quite a few after nearly a year and a half, but there really is only one change that takes the cake and stands out above all the rest. In less than two months, I will become more than just a (sporadic) blogger and (self proclaimed) personal financial wizard. (Hopefully) By the end of May, I will become a father as my wife and I will welcome our first baby to our little family. Here’s a picture of our little one that will hopefully make you go AWWWWW!

Now we are holding back the gender of our baby from family and friends. Clothing wise we want tons of vibrant and bright colors that are gender neutral from our loved ones, so that if baby number two ends up being a different gender, then the hand me downs would be just fine to pass from one child to the next. (You see me working there?!)

Needless to say I am excited and unbelievably stoked for this next phase of life. I’ll dive more into this and many other topics in later posts, but for now I wanted to share that I missed you all, I’m sorry for being an asshole, and I hope you still find the musings of this semi-astute North Sider, at the very least interesting. Oh, and to a very awesome reader of my peculiar musings out in Charlotte, thank you for giving me just what I needed at just the right time :)