Whether I am playing the video games, the trading card game or other RPGs, there comes a time when my naturally formed team needs direction and training. This usually involves determining my team’s strategy and replacing the pokémon that doesn’t quite fit. I am currently playing Ultra Sun and I determined that my lycanrock needs to be replaced. Her low defenses cause her to faint before she does any damage. Luckily there are many pokémon of different types and species that can fill her position on the team.
In Part I, I discussed that in June 2017 a sludge wave hit my financial pokémon team when our rent checks were stolen. While recovering from the damage, I learned I misunderstood my team’s strategy. I needed to replace my servine, nicknamed Income, with a Checking pokémon to strengthen my team. That meant I had to replace my system of different bank accounts made up Income. Just like the multiples of pokémon, there are also numerous types and species of financial accounts. This is how I found the ones that worked best for my team.
It was a clear Christmas Eve Eve night at my parents’ house in Montana. I stepped outside to look at the stars. I could hear the clock begin chiming in the cold silence as I stood there, admiring the universe. I had been stressing about my current state of debt and needed a minute to remember what a small part of the universe my debt really was. I was concerned about my debt from the last 12 years, the new debt we started our marriage with and the possible debt that could result from starting our family. The ninth and final chime of the hour rang and was followed by a most peculiar sound, the sound of chains. I looked down and saw a delmise with a note attached to its handle.
Ace Trainer Tojo, there’s no need to fear.
If you are patient three ghosts will appear.
They’ll show you some stories, parts of your life.
We know that it’s debt that fills you with strife.
When I looked up from the note, delmise had disappeared. I went inside to show my husband. “What does this mean?” I asked. He read the note and passed it to my sister. “Sounds like you’re going to be busy tonight,” he said. “We’ll just be hanging out, so join us when you’re done,” declared my sister. “Have fun.”
After watching them play a round of cards, I moved to the couch and stared out the window at the mountains anticipating what tonight would bring. What would happen? What would I see? Would there be snacks? I would soon find out.
June 2017 started off like every other month. By the first Monday, I knew something was off because my rent check yet to clear. This was unusual and my fiancé, at the time, called the landlord’s office. They told him to not worry and check again on Friday. On Wednesday, we received an e-mail notifying us our rent was late. However, I saw earlier that morning that my rent check cleared. After some odor sleuthing, we discovered our rent checks were stolen out of the mail and deposited.
The following two months were powdered with fraud claims paperwork, collecting documents and signatures, taking time off work to deal with it all and a wailmer of waiting. The landlord’s office understood what happened and was very helpful, but we still owed them June’s rent. We borrowed it from our wedding account and returned it once we got our money back from the bank at the end of July. This annoying adventure became known as "June’s sludge wave" because of all the financial sludge that needed to be cleaned up after it hit. It was a muked up mess. I did some soul searching and exploration while cleaning, which eventually led me to restructure my financial pokémon team.
In Part I, I look at the damage the sludge wave caused and what I realized about how my team strategy.
Over the years I have defeated almost every region’s Elite Four with my starter pokémon as team captain*. We ended each game together, just as we started it, until the more recent games. In Omega Ruby, I deposited my swampert into the pc early during the game. In Sun, a traded incineroar has become my team captain*. What changed?
Well, recently I noticed a phenomenon I refer to as starter pokémon syndrome. It’s when I blindly make my starter pokémon team captain without researching other possible options. I would make the decision based only on loyalty to my starter pokémon, and not use other research to validate my decision was best for my team.
Starter pokémon syndrome also happens in real life too. Take my starter bank, for example. Over 16 years I blindly opened two checking accounts, two savings accounts, and a credit card. Once I realized what was happening, I was able to research a better option to make my financial pokémon team stronger.
The final piece of advice my cross-country coach gave me before he passed was, “Start your 401k as soon as can and put in as much as you can.” It was my first year in college and it made no sense to me. He tried to explain it to me. I caught that involved working and retirement. I did my best to follow his advice and keep an eye out for it. The first and only time I have encountered the possibility of starting a 401k at work was five years ago. Their business manual mentioned they would pay into one after working there for 6 months, but I never met that requirement.
At the time, I missed the moral of his advice. Time is an important aspect of life and younger people need to catch as much of it while it’s abundant. Time becomes rarer as we age and that’s why older people value it so much. Time is a useful tool that us younger folk need to realize we have available to us. Like how time helps timer balls catch pokémon, it also helps our finances by using rollout, leech seed, pin missile, return and stockpile.
Tuesday, I had an eye doctor’s appointment to get a new prescription for contacts. I left after explaining to the receptionist, the doctor, the contacts person and the glasses person that I could not afford their recommendations. I felt awful because I felt like I had say “no” to my health because I couldn’t afford to say “yes.” I felt like I was trapped in a sand tomb, paralyzed and I could only splash about.
So, I came home and started writing about my experience and feelings. I wouldn’t say I was crying as I typed, but having a Finneon near might have been helpful. After granbulling for about a page and a half, I had to return to work and try not to be so gloomy.
It was at work that I noticed this feeling didn’t have to do with only my doctor’s appointment. At first, I ran out of good moves when I had to stop using my credit card PP, causing me to splash around. Then, I became paralyzed as I started looking deeper into what we have spent and still need to spend on our wedding. Finally, I was trapped in the sand tomb when I wanted a new contacts prescription, but everything I was being recommended would cost me three to four times what I was expecting to afford.
I found myself on a Marengo Plateau.
In Pokémon, a trainer travels collecting and training pokémon to battle other trainers. In most of the regions, trainers compete in a league of eight gyms to receive badges. Each badge grants the trainer a new license for using moves outside of battle and encourages their high-level pokémon to listen to them. Once they have all eight badges, they can then battle the Elite Four for a chance to enter the hall of fame. After earning their spot in the hall of fame, the league registers the trainer and their Pokémon and the credits begin.
In order to complete this journey, trainers must build a pokémon team of six pokémon. The strategy of building a pokémon team becomes important to the team’s success. The possibilities seem endless with over 800 known pokémon species and numerous differences between individuals within each species. Trainers develop their teams in different ways, but all of them do so to win.
The same is true for personal finances. We use a financial management structure made of tools to help us manage our money. I call this structure our Financial Pokémon Team. We build our financial pokémon teams with a strategy that allows us to pay our bills, make purchases, afford trips and save for the future. Having a financial management structure is as important to our personal finances as having a pokémon team is to playing Pokémon.
As a trainer, I like to always have a good set of poké balls with me. I never know when I’ll need to grab one to catch an unknown pokémon and help make my team stronger. Once I catch a pokémon, I learn all about them by battling with them and by entering their info in my pokédex. Then when I encounter them again in battle, I understand how to defeat them and how they may hold me back.
I feel that a common struggle with personal finance is that fear and anxiety act like unknown Pokémon. Fears of not knowing how much debt someone has or needing to cut back can hold people back. Once we enter them in our "feardex", we start to understand how they hold us back. We just need to have the poké balls to stand up and catch our fears so we can make them our own.
Budgets are like pokémon. They are great tools to help us through our journey and reach our goals. This four-part series takes a look at my budgeting history and my journey to finding my current budget.
In part one, I shared my experiences of how my budgeting developed over the decade before moving to New York City.
In part two, I shared the challenging battles from my first year living in New York City and my wins and losses.
In part three, I shared my process for breeding my new budget.
In part four, I count up through my budget’s biggest level-milestones as we have been training together. These milestones highlight the moments in my budget’s training when I noticed it become stronger or demonstrate its strength.
I always thought being a grown-up would be amazing! But now that I am one, I realize it’s hard. Growing up is universally hard for people of all ages. Every stage of life has their hardships. I hear every day how someone can’t lift that or eat this anymore. Children have to learn to walk, talk, use the big kid potty and eventually do homework.
What I find makes growing up so hard for me is the never-ending challenge to improve my life. Navigating a career, starting a family and keeping myself healthy are just a few of my everyday challenges. Personal finances are a big enough challenge for me, they get their own sentence, blog and section in my RSS reader.
I do not claim to be an expert with personal finances. If you have seen my net worth, you may have noticed there is a lot of regeneration to be done, and I am working on it. As with being an Ace Trainer, I know that in order to improve, I don’t need to be afraid of losing. I just need to learn from the winners and figure out what works for me.