Is There A Time in Your Life When You Finally Get It…

I share with you this article that I stumbled upon that I truly enjoyed.

… when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out…ENOUGH!

Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on.

Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.

You realize it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon.
You realize that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you… and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.
You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are… and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.
You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself… and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval.
You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.
You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself… and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.
You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties… and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.
You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.
You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to question the doctrines and values you’ve grown up with, or should never have bought into to begin with.
You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix.
You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the very foundation upon which you must build a life.
You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing.
You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.
You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes.
You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.
You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.
You learn that your body really is your temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drink more water, and take more time to exercise.
You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.
You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you believe you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working hard for and that wishing for something to
happen is different than working hard toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance.
You also learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.
You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.
You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom, realizing that a positive attitude is a choice you make every morning when you wake up.
You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people… and you learn not to always take it personally.
You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening.
You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.
You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.
You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than your heart’s desire.
You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can and are extremely thankful for all the blessings in your life.

Author Unknown

Originally posted 2009-01-24 00:15:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Beginning Investors Guide and Considerations

Investing can be intimidating and confusing. For people who’s wholely unfamiliar, the slight thought could be scary and give a headache. It’s like stepping in a foreign land where people speak a different tongue, and one would be in deep trouble if nature happens and bathroom is nowhere to be found.

I was like that. But I was not ready to run away. So I “paid” the market to learn.

After 3 years, I am still no expert. I learned a few things from experience and much magazines reading, news studying, and internet browsing. I put together today’s post as a stepping stone for you who are beginning to invest or still thinking about it. Hopefully it will give you a sense of direction.

Why invest? And getting ready

Investing is for people looking to grow their money beyond the rate of high yield saving account and certificate of deposit. If you feel saving is not enough and too slow to lead you to financial freedom, it will do you well to learn to invest your money. As the saying goes, “Make your money work for you.”

Before you start investing, it will be good to pay off debt with high interest rate, especially ones with doublt digit rate and/or are not tax-deductible. Doing so basically means you make a rate of return equivalent to as if you invest the amount of the debt. Additionally, how can you invest with a clear mind when debt is nagging you constantly.

Once the debt is paid off, saving up a comfortable amount of money is the second line of duty. By “comfortable” I mean an amount of money that will allow you to stay cool in case of emergency (ie. loss of job, doctor visits, urgent car fix…). More on this later under risk tolerance.

Investing is not…

… a get-rich-quick scheme. If that’s what you are looking for, you are looking at the wrong place. It’s important that we get this clear.

Know your time horizon

You must know the amount of time you can keep your money invested in the market. Anything less than 5 years is not enough to ride out the turbulance of the market. It is the general concensus to assume your money to grow 11% on average in stock market, but remember that 11% is an average taken over couple decades. Correct me if I’m wrong.

I would suggest to only consider investing when you have at least a 5 years horizon. Time is your best friend and greatest asset in investing. The more time you have, the more time the money can grow. The more time you have, the better hedge you have against the turbulance in the market.

What about short-term trading? Day trading?

If you can only invest in less time than that, I suggest to choose either cash account or short-term bonds. If you plan to buy a house in a year or two, keep the downpayment money in cash saving. Obviously, you don’t want to lose that money. But I can’t stop you if you want to do otherwise. It is your choice.

If you want to trade short-term or even day trade anyways, first assure that you have the time and effort available to do homeworks:

  • study and understand the balance sheet, income statement, cash flow, and other stats
  • read news about the market sector and undertand its flow and future
  • learn the structure and behaviors of the management of the company
  • learn as much else about the company as possible (if you cannot make sense of the business, forget it)

Again, I don’t suggest doing this because it’s not easy, and it’s more dangerous than it is fun.. But I am not here to stop you, nor can I. I did it at the beginning myself to learn NOT to do it anymore. I paid to learn a lesson that I think is worth every penny. Short-term/day trading is more like gambling. Sure you can hit a jackpot, but you can lose it all just as easily. Plus, you will have “a lot of fun” entering your transactions at tax time.

Know your risk tolerance

Can you stand to see your money fluctuate a lot? Will you sell everything out of panic when you see your portfolio down 20%? You should select investment relative to your risk tolerance.

If you are not very risk tolerant, your portfolio should contain more stable investments that fluctuate less (ie. blue-chip companies and bonds). If you don’t give a darn about the money you are investing, you can bet on riskier investment vehicles. With greater risk, comes possibility for greater gain, and loss.

Your risk tolerance is closely related to how emotionally you are attached to the money you are investing. If you invest money that is of great importance like the fund for an engagement ring, consider yourself divorced. Go create your online dating account before dropping the money.

What I’m saying is that your chance of losing money is much higher due to panic caused by your emotion. This is why it is important to have saving for emergency before you plunge into the market. You don’t want to be forced to sell at a loss because you need to feed your dog.

Basically, the more you can emotionally detach yourself from your money, the better.

Allocation and Diversification

To lower the risk in investing, you diversify. Simply put, don’t bet it all on ONE thing.

Spread your money into different piles. That’s diversification.
Deciding how big each pile is. That’s allocation.

Once you know where to diversify, you decide an allocation that fits your risk tolerance. Your allocation should also change over time. For example, if you observe instability in domestic stocks for the near future, you will want to re-allocate bigger amount to bonds or foreign market. As you approach retirement when you cannot afford to lose your money, you will want to allocate to bonds or even cash.

Watch the expense

If you trade stocks, most brokerage account costs you each transaction, though I know that Zecco offers free trade (I use TDAmeritrade). Assuming otherwise, transaction cost can greatly lower your rate of return, especially if you day trade. If it costs you $10 to buy $1000 of stocks, you automatically lost 1% up front. Another reason to invest long-term.

This is also true for funds. You need to pay attention to its expense ratio. Don’t just look at the rate of return. Your true gain is the rate of return minus the expense ratio minus tax rate. Remember that.

The Simplest Way – Index Fund

Since I talked about cost, it would be blasphemous if I don’t mention index fund. An index fund simply traces a specific index in the market. If you bought an index fund that traces the S&P500, you would have made 11% annually for past few decades. If I further explain, it will becomes insulting to your intelligence.

The greatest benefit of index funds is their low expense ratio, versus traditional mutual funds or privately managed funds. You can have an entire portfolio of index fund, which keeps the cost low. And because they are already diversified, it saves you the tedious job of picking individual stocks and at the same time, provides you with safer and more stable growth than individual stocks.

If you go with index fund, all that needs to be done is to contribute regularly and control your portfolio’s allocation on intervals (quarterly or yearly). Doing so is enough to maintain a steady growth. It’s as simple and easy as it gets! Oh, and Vanguard has been wonderful.

Special accounts for retirement and college fund

Just a reminder… If you are investing for your retirement, you can open an IRA or Roth IRA account that provides tax benefits. Same goes for college fund, whether for you children or yourself, there are 529 plans available that differ by state, each with its own pluses and minues.

Some words of wisdom

Don’t be greedy because it can only be harmful. Don’t try to time the market because it’s a fool’s job. You can never catch the top nor can you catch the bottom.

Understand that a huge part of the market is based on speculation, and speculation is based on human emotion. Human emotion is never a predictable thing in itself and most fickle in nature. Conversely, how can you accurately predict the market? Especially when experts with advanced analysis tools have failed to do so.

Three key points

  • pick solid investment
  • diversify and allocate
  • invest long-term

With that, I’m done. But don’t just take my words and because this is only a quick guide for beginner.
Go study, read, try, and learn from your own experience.
Go build your own intuition of the market.

Let me know how you are doing later.

Originally posted 2008-02-28 23:32:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Awareness and Zen

Today I share with you an understanding of awareness in terms of Zen, which differs from the way I talked about awareness before.

First of all, awareness exists in all of us. One does not have to create or implement awareness per se because it is alwas there, always a part of us. Then how come we have not all become Zen masters?

What happened is that all the cultural, societal, and environmental conditioning that happened during our youth stopped us from being aware more and more so as we grow up. We live in an age and era where we are trained and told to be driven by emotions and thoughts. Emotions and thoughts exactly the things that cloud and bury our awareness. What we need to do is to stop buying into such culture to uncover the awareness that has always been there.

Awareness is above and separate from what our thoughts and feelings. It is about seeing the truth, unclouded and without the intrusion of thoughts. You can think of awareness as a silent observer with a third-person perspective.

Thoughts distort reality and prohibit us from seeing thing as it is. Seeing things with a pessimistic point of view is a distortion of reality. Seeing things with a optimistic point of view is also a distortion of reality. Thoughts are always subjective because they are based on one’s perspective. Awareness — the silent observer within each of us — allows us to be aware of our thoughts, and then we will start to see things as they are.

Sadness is just sadness. Pain is just pain. Happiness is just happiness. Passion is just passion. But we do not experience life like that. We label those experience as “good” and “bad” with subjective thoughts. We think that being sad is bad and being happy is good, even though we all know that is not always true. What hurts now may become beneficial for us later, and what gives us pleasure now may induce pain later.

There is no need to suppress sadness or try to avoid it. Same for pain. Same for happiness. When you are sad, you are just sad. Likewise, when you are happy, you are just happy. There is no need to perpetually drown in the sadness, nor there is any need to try to capture and retain the sense of happiness. There is no need to worry about how this happiness will eventually disappear. There is no need to punch people in the face when you are angry. You just need to feel and experience the emotions fully, without suppression, without dramatization. Fully experiencing is a silent act.

It is the same for our thoughts. There is no need to suppress thoughts. Instead, when you are aware, you simply see the thoughts that linger in your mind purely as they are, and hence you see the truth within yourself.

Put in other words, awareness is simply being. When we see a beautiful sunset, we can simply watch and be in the moment of watching sunset. That is simply being. When we try to capture the sunset, that is not simply being. When we exclaim, “what a beautiful sunset!”, it is not simply being, but I am not saying you cannot say such things :)

I am not saying we should be emotionless and heartless because we are humans after all. Living in society, we cannot be without attachments and therefore emotions and feelings. What we can achieve is being aware of our thoughts and emotions, and emotions being just bodily sensations in the most basic levels. When we see our thoughts, then we see thing as it is. Awareness is inside all of us. But for most of us, it is like a mirror cover with a thick layer of dirt as we grow up. We will need to uncover it to once again to use it in life.

The more you practice awareness, the more time you can sustain it. You will shift in and our of being aware as you practice. Ideally, enlightenment is when you are aware 100% of the time in life, but it’s very difficult to reach that level. Going back to the mirror analogy, the process of practicing awareness is like polishing the mirror. Englightenment is the moment when you becomes the mirror. When you are the mirror, there is also no mirror. This is the basic principle of oneness, void, emptiness, connectedness in Zen and Buddhism.

You must understand, however, that awareness is not a silver bullet. It does not solve all your problems. It does not take away pain and sadness. In fact, if defined through common subjective point of view, it makes living experience MORE painful because you are no longer running away from emotions. What it allows is, to provide you with a sense of peace and calmness in situations to allow you to make the best judgement and decisions. It does not provide right or wrong answer, but it most probably allow you to make choices to move in directions that is more desirable to your being. It is also through awareness that this peace and calmness allow you to find a sense of joy, which not the same as happiness, in life. Joy is the ability to appreicate and find wonder in each moment.

It is important to specify that that awareness does not solve your problems because people often turn to Zen when they run into obstacles in life and would like to “try out” Zen as a solution, an answer to their problems. By seeking Zen as a solution and trying to “find” awareness in order to be rid of the pain and suffering, they have already fail the fundamental concept of Zen and awareness. The action of trying to “find” awareness in itself already defies the essense of awareness or Zen. It is not an object or a destination to be reached because it is already a part of you. The notion of removing pain and suffering is also defiant to the concept awareness because pain and suffering is a part of life as long as you are alive. You simply have to be aware of your pain and suffering, and any other thoughts and emotions. Just being aware of and experiencing those things as they are untainted by thoughts. You simply be.

Awareness is simple and straightforward, but it is not easy. It is difficult because each and everyone of us grew up years under life conditions that put us in varying degree of unaware state. It is difficult because it is not easy to simply be, under the scope of modern society. It is difficult because it could take any amount of time to for people to regain awareness. It may takes years, or even a lifetime because everyone goes through different experience in life. This difficulty turns a lot of people away and not follow through with Zen. Additionally, Zen is indescribable and can only be experienced, which makes it incomprehensible despite all the Zen writings available out there. What I am doing here is sharing with you my experience, the best I can describe in words.

With that said, let me try to provide an example of awareness in a personal finance scenario. Let’s say a stock for which you own a lot of shares is dropping. You will likely begin to feel a panic. Maybe you will quickly sell all the shares because of the panic. However, if you maintain awareness, you are aware of the panic sensation and aware of the fright of loss. You simply be aware and and experience them, knowing that they are just emotions. With that, you keep your calmness and analyze if the prospect of the stock is really that bad, then you should sell the stocks, or if it’s only temporary and you can wait it out.

Now let’s move on to a different scenario that concerns personal relationship. In fact, this is a personal example based on my own recent experience. A person who I consider important to me has decided to give up on our relationship. Honestly speaking, it is the last thing I want to happen between us, but it did after a conversation. As I am only human, it is most unpleasant, and I felt sad. Additionally, thoughts like what could have been done and doubts about the real causes inevitably torment me. However, I do my best to be aware of those thoughts and the feeling of sadness. I simply am aware of them. That allows me to see that she has made a decision to the best of her ability based on her situations, and that I have offered the best of myself throughout the time together. That is simply how it is. She has chosen a different path. I feel the same way toward her before this happens and wish that whatever happens, she is happy.

It is not that I do not think anymore. It is not that I am not sad anymore. It is that… When I am sad, I am fully sad. When I am angry, I am fully angry. When I am happy, I am fully happy. Emotions are emotions and thoughts are just thoughts. They are all parts of my experience. I am not to suppress them. I am not to avoid them. I identify and acknowledge them as they happen. I simply experience them and be. It is a moment in my life like any other ones, and as I experience and be in the moment, life continues as I remain in peace. In a sense, being aware has indirectly helped me come to terms or let go of the life events faster.

Zen is simply being aware. Awareness is simply being. That’s why simply being lets you find joy and peace in each moment.

That is how I understand awareness and Zen now.

Originally posted 2007-11-28 01:36:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Perfectly Misanthropic

Woohoo, I got my facebook vanity URL with the username that I always use. Now, to do the complete opposite to what social network means, I write this post. I am feeling devious. My blood is boiling. Nevermind, that’s exaggeration. But could be something that you can adopt and it will make your life much simpler, easier.

Let’s say we become misanthropes. Woot! What? You don’t want to be a hater? Well, let’s assume a misanthrope who is harmless to others, so more like an anti-social-ist… not anti-socialist. There’re already plenty of anti-socialists, defenders of democracy… er, moving on.

Anyways, let’s see how it can work to our advantage.

No need to pull words out of your @## with people.
No “strangers” weddings to attend.
No birthday and holidy gifts/cards to buy.
No peer pressure that demands purchase of the fashionable Capri Pants, or crocs (yuck!).
No siblings, relatives, friends who can demand a 0% interest “loan”, which doesn’t even guarantee they will remember you when you die.
No need to be nice, sweet, politically correct.
No more running around like chicken with head to make yourself feel important.

More time and space to relax, check!
Much much less mental and emotional stress, check!
Less detrimental factors (food, drink, late night) to health, check!
Money save, check!

Now, is not being misanthropic an excellent idea?

There are moments when I feel misanthropic where it’s perfect because you realize Earth would be so awesome without us… Don’t you have such moments? I do. Don’t lie, I know you do too. Guess that’s why I love the comic Pearls Before Swine. I see “the Rat” in me.

Okay okay, that is a bit nuts and over board, but we can realize some meanings and truth about the idea. Just that it is unnecessary to take it to extreme to be completely misanthropic.

Perhaps it means for us to re-define who friends are.
Perhaps it is nice for us to meditate on the meaning of connecting with one another. (and all these social networks)
Perhaps it illustrates the importance to be conscious of who, what, and where we are spending our resources.
Perhaps it tells us we each need space to be still, discover, learn, and be responsible to the self better before anything.

Or, perhaps nobody gives a damn.
That it does not mean anything.
That people just want their drama.
But I got my Facebook vanity URL, ha!
And I am going to bed.

Originally posted 2009-06-13 00:39:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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