May Passive Income Report

Summer is in full swing and I’m itching to get into my passive income report. This is the time of year that my kids and I have a little more flexibility time-wise and somehow I end up slacking off a bit more than I intend to. The combination of warm weather, longer days, and freedom are fertile grounds for some financial analysis—and some daydreaming about the future. But enough sitting poolside, let’s get into the hard numbers.

American Express Card

American Express did not disappoint in May. This month I earned an amazing rewards payment of $83.20. This month my spending could have been lower at $1,403.87 since most of my charges were at the grocery store. I’m going to have to tackle those coupons once and for all. As I’ve said before, American Express Blue Card is the best card for groceries as it gives you 6% back on groceries (up to $6,000 per year and 1% thereafter). Logistically, if you’re trying to stick to a budget of $500.00 or less per month on groceries, this is a great card for that. As usual, I’ll shamelessly include a link below for the card which gives both you and me a bonus if you are approved. As a side note, the card does have a yearly fee of around $95.00. Amex is well worth it though if you spend over $1500 on groceries per year. It also gives 3% back on gas and streaming such as Netflix and 1% on everything else.

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved!

http://refer.amex.us/ANDREPiddJ?xl=cp15

TAB Bank

If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I’m very wishy-washy about TAB Bank. During 2020 they lowered my interest rate twice and now it hovers just above 1%. Well, May was once again an epic fail as I forgot to deposit money into the account. TAB requires one deposit and 15 debit card transactions over $5.00. This month I made an abysmal 42 cents. I’ll blame my forgetfulness on the chaos that occurs as summer looms. Okay, on to the next.

Dividends

Ah, for the love of dividends! I have two accounts—a regular investment account and a Roth IRA. I’ll list below the stock, ticker symbol, the number of shares and the dividend I earned this month. Combined, my dividends earned me $

Regular Account:

AT&T (T) 60 shares $31.20

Verizon (VZ) 15 shares $9.41

American Express (AXP) 10 shares $4.30

Enterprise Products (EPD) 12 shares $5.40

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) $.27

Green Plains Partners (GPP) 200 shares $24.00

Realty Income (O) 60 shares $9.40

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) 100 shares $17.75

Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC) 531shares $5.31

LTC Properties (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

Invesco S&P 500 High Div Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $5.70

That brings my regular account to $114.64 in monthly dividends.

Roth Ira

General Mills (GIS) 10 shares $5.10

AT&T (T) 6 shares $3.12

Enterprise Products (EPD) 50 shares $22.50

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) 3 shares $.27

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) 6 shares $1.07

AbbVie Inc (ABBV) 5 shares $6.50

Stag Industrial Inc. (STAG) 10 shares $1.21

Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC) 68 shares $.68

LTC Properties (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

My Roth IRA earned $39.35

Combining all of my passive income I earned a total of $237.61 during May. Not too bad when you consider that this is pure income that I can either roll over into more stocks or keep aside and use to keep my expenses low.

Let me know how you’re doing financially and if you have any suggestions for a high interest savings account!

Have a great week.

April Passive Income Report

Here it is June 1, and I realize I forgot April! Spring just whooshes. I don’t know if you feel the same way but I notice that spring typically presents me with unusual challenges and this year has been no different. Most of my slowing has been due to a certain lack of prioritizing on my part, but I suppose that this is the time of year that everyone gets a little more revved up and people and activities seem to come out of the woodwork. Well, enough about that. Let’s get to my monthly report.

American Express Card

During April I made a whopping $96.26 in rewards cash. During that statement period we had some residual vacation expenses, but the overall bill was not horrendous at $1,463.00. American Express pays 6% cashback on groceries and 3% on gas so you can see how those points added up as we brought food to our cabin for our stay and we drove over three hours each way.

If you’d like to apply for the American Express Card you can go to this referral link:

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved!

http://refer.amex.us/ANDREPV3An?XLINK=MYCP

Right now American Express has a special referral package that I’ll post below. (I copied and pasted this directly from the AMEX website.)

Each friend can earn:

$150 back after they spend $3,000 in purchases on their new Blue Cash PreferredĀ® Card in their first 6 months of Card Membership. They can also earn 20% back on purchases on Amazon.com made with the Blue Cash PreferredĀ® Card in the first 6 months, up to $200 back. The cash back will be in the form of statement credits. Your friend will be able to choose from all available American Express Personal and Business Card offers. You can receive your referral bonus no matter what Card your friend is approved for.

  • I should note that there is a yearly fee of $100 for the Blue Cash Preferred American Express card. However, their offer more than makes up for that fee because of the $150 back on $3,000 in purchases (which you’ll also get 6% cash back on groceries, 3% on gas or streaming services like Netflix, and 1% back on everything else.)

TAB Bank

I’ve been waffling a lot when it comes to my TAB Bank account. After they lowered the interest rate twice in 2020, I lost heart. The original interest rate was around 4% provided you made a deposit monthly and had 15 transactions during that month. During April I resumed using the card and I made the required deposit and I was pleasantly surprised with the resulting $12.40 interest earnings. My account hovers around $10,000 and that money is set aside in that account for emergency funds as well as year-end tax bills. I’ve said before in other posts that there are other banks that offer a higher interest rate and I am still considering opening up another account. However, I don’t like to be spread too thin and as I make my way through this journey of getting control of our spending, saving, and earning. As of yet, I haven’t felt comfortable enough to sit down and make that move but when I do, I’ll let you know.

Dividend Interest

In the month of April I earned $108.64 in dividends in my regular account and $3.38 in my Roth Ira account for a total of $112.02. Here is the breakdown:

Regular Account:

Global X Super Dividend ETF (DIV) 3 shares .27

Realty Income (O) 40 shares $9.40

Preferred Apartment Communities, Inc. (APTS) 100 shares $17.50

LTC Properties, Inc., (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

B&G Foods, Inc., (BGS) 100 shares $33.25

Invesco S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $6.32

New Residential Investment Corp. (NRZ) 200 shares $40.00

Roth Ira Account:

Global X Super Dividend ETF (DIV) 3 shares .27

LTC Properties, Inc., (LTC) 10 shares $1.90

Stag Industrial, Inc. (STAG) 10 shares $1.21

Total Combined Income

Combining Interest income, credit card cashback, and dividend income, I made a total of $220.68. My hope is that I can take this monthly passive income and continue to invest in the stock market. I’d like to grow our savings in a thoughtful way, however, and as I learn and consider my options, I’ll continue to write about it.

Have a great week,

Andrea

Let’s Talk About That…Or, No Let’s Not

Each year, around this time, I struggle with the same problem. It rears it’s ugly head. I flounder, I flop. In previous years I’ve given in and compromised. Each year it’s the same old thing. Worst of all, I talk about it, whine about it, and generally drive those closest to me to the brink of insanity.

Let me explain.

In a previous life, I was a teacher. I taught for 6 years, not long, and when I had my first child, I left teaching to stay at home with him. The decision was not difficult for me.

The truth is that I’d never loved teaching the way I wished I did. I wasn’t that person who jumped out of bed to ”go to school.” I wasn’t born to teach and, even more honestly, I counted the minutes and the days before weekends, and holidays, and of course, summer. Some days I had a hard time staying energized, and at the end of the day, literally and figuratively, I felt tapped out.

The only real thing I loved was organizing my planner with an extra sharp pencil. Yes, there were kids I liked and times that weren’t a drag. The consistent paycheck was great and the regimentation made life pretty straightforward: Get up, Drive to Work, Follow the Organized Planner, Go Home, and yes, Repeat.

Did I say how much I wish I loved it?

Right before summer, I start to think about the next school year and I think about whether or not I will go back. For some unknown reason, I feel that I should suck it up and get back into the real world. Since I’ve been home with my kids (15 years now) I have continued to work in the school system in some capacity for most of that time. I’ve worked ‘lunch duty,’ I’ve been a sub, I’ve worked as a paraeducator, and a crossing guard. I even worked outside of school as a tutor. This pressure to return is not just coming from me—I know that those around me wonder ‘what my plans are.’ I feel them eye me as they mention ”what they did when they had kids, and, oh, yeah, they were working then.”

I feel that my husband and I are doing just fine financially—and as I’ve said, I have continued to make money in various ways, but since my income is low as of yet, and because it doesn’t have the cache of a title, an approved application process, and involve clocking in and clocking out, I’m not truly legit. Basically, it seems that you’re not Real unless you’re walking out the door in the morning wearing click-clacky heels and you’ve got every dinner loaded in the crockpot. Some variation of bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan. Cooking and bacon—it figures.

And each year I say to myself and those closest to me that it is the last year. That I need a break. After years of child rearing and school-related work, I just want some quiet time to rethink the next chapter. Or even more ridiculously, to take a breath and enjoy this last 15 years. If I mention selling on eBay or writing articles (both of which I also do) I am met with the kind of blank stare that says oh so clearly how far around the bend I’ve gone.

The truth also, to be fair to myself, is that I’ve been almost solely responsible for my kids while my husband has worked—and while I feel both guilty and grateful that he has provided for us, I also have been doing more than my share without any breaks or time off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this at all (though I’ve had my moments).

What is the solution? How do I resolve this?

The funny thing is, after all this talk about it, after all these years and thousands of circular discussions, I finally got the best advice. Finally, good advice! It came from my mom, of course—and, it is this: Just Don’t Talk About It. Simply declare the subject, “not up for discussion.”

This may be that thing that I don’t really ever resolve. It may be that one aspect of myself that I’m uncomfortable with. Like a little aberration underneath the skin, sometimes it hurts, but mostly it’s just there, a reminder that you are not perfect, but you are human. You make mistakes and errors along the way. You may not be who you think you are—maybe you’re a little less. Maybe your reluctance to face yourself prevents you from seeing the goodness of who you really are. No matter, you must accept who you are in order to thrive.

It’s not up for discussion.

So, let’s not talk about it.

What about you? Is there a problem that you’ve had that is best solved by not discussing it?

Sometimes You Lose Your Cool

Okay, instead of the word ‘cool’ in the title, I wanted to use a different word that starts with ‘sh’ and could be replaced by the poop emoji.

I decided against that in case my dad reads this. Or my kids. Or even my mom who curses like a sailor. It just seems a little coarse. But, you can translate in your head and use any word you want because it made sense to me to use a stronger word in my mind. For some reason, using the word ”sh” word seemed to lighten the mood ever so slightly.

The truth is that today I lost my cool. Since I’m probably not the only one who loses it from time to time, I thought I would rethink my actions (while typing, of course), rework my perspective, and hopefully rewire my mind a bit so that next time….ah, next time, ugh.

Oh those feelings things.

I kind of like it when people refer to them as The Feels, as if they are lovable relatives that stay in your amazing guest house that you and your spouse, child, friend (pick one, or more, it really doesn’t matter) built together from a Home Depot shed and filled with creative and adorable upcycled items. The Feels stay in a cozy shed/home with a solar chandelier and wake to fresh eggs from your home flock of free range hens.

My Feels today were more like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Definitely don’t Airbnb those Feels if you did build a really cool shed-house.

It was in the shower where my feels came to a head and then started to level off. My mind was mired in the negative and at the peak of my anguish I really wondered if I could possibly NOT feel. The word ‘absent’ presented itself in a romantic, Edwardian way. Could I skirt around the edges of life, perhaps in an elegant dress and hat, and absent myself from those annoying everyday confrontations that led me to Lose My Poop Emoji?

As much as it sounded appealing and even possible in that moment, I realized I was alone in a very small room and so the idea of becoming invisible was pretty farfetched once I ran into the general population. After meditating on the soap for a duration, I realized that In all practicality there are better ways of dealing with The Feels besides locking them inside the discount shed that looks great on YouTube but in real life keeps Aunt Darla and Uncle Jim from coming to your house to visit. We all know that, while Uncle Jim was game, Aunt Darla put her foot down at the outdoor shower.

The First Better Way: Assume It’s Not About You

Don’t take it personally. Whatever you find yourself in conflict with, whether it is another person or a frustrating situation, remember that it is very likely not personal. This is actually a really tough one to understand. I think its commonly said, and we all understand ”what it means” but we really don’t know how to wrap our head around it and often we really don’t believe that it is true. It is such an immense challenge to recognize that other people, even those really close to us, can see life through a completely different lens. It is often devastating—even if just for a short while—that another person does not make the effort to communicate with you or understand you. By nature we are built to connect with others. When that connection breaks down—even momentarily—we panic. Anger is a way of forcing engagement. Experts warn that it is this disconnect that causes extremes of behavior, such as mass shootings, suicide, or violence.

I am not an expert on this, but the articles I have read on the subject often point out that having empathy with someone else, even while you are having a difficult time emotionally, can help bridge that communication gap. Taking a moment to pause and really listen to what is being said, before responding, can prevent a tense communication from becoming a complete blow-out.

On the reverse side of this, is my own two-cents. Maybe having a little less empathy is warranted. Some of us extra-feels people need more boundaries, not less. Taking an interaction less personally may mean refusing to take on the emotional tenor of your friend, partner, or the cranky guy next door. You don’t have to cater to everyone’s emotional needs or bend over backwards to appease the loudest voice in the room. You also don’t have to be the one to insist on the ‘right’ perspective when butting heads with another. In those cases, a little bit of ”absenting” may be a solid choice.

The Second Better Way: Notice What is Going Well

Something I learned when I was teaching elementary school and relearned over and over as a parent is to Notice what is going well. I think (and this is my opinion) that other people want positive feedback. We are social after all. Kids just want to please their parents and peers. Eventually they internalize these feelings and it strengthens them to choose healthy pursuits and essentially, ‘stay out of trouble.’

But, even as an adult, who doesn’t shine under a compliment? By the same token, a rebuke diminishes even the hardest among us. That’s not to say it’s good to be a pushover, but I’ve often noticed how good I feel—how good it feels to me—to notice the good. Wow. It is so mindbogglingly easy to only see the negative.

How many times do I catch myself seeing that one thing that my daughter didn’t do, meanwhile many, many things that are great manage to pass right by unnoticed as if they, by their mere positivity, are unworthy of my acknowledgment.

This is where not only those around me lose out, but so do I. I miss those amazing things—the excellence in the everyday feats—to instead focus on one dish or a dirty sock. Really? We have so much room for improvement here. We must see the incredible that is in front of us and stop, just stop, trying to control the minutia. Maybe your spouse never mows the lawn, but does make dinner every Sunday. Or maybe your son is not so diligent with homework but he senses your defeat and quietly goes on to assemble the chicken gate that was giving you trouble (true story). Maybe your daughter is so sensitive but she is also so fair and caring. Maybe your mom listens patiently to ‘what you just said to so-and-so’ and she says straightforwardly that what you said was harsh and that you overreacted…and then you write this blog post because you suddenly see that you are temporarily blinded and you have sorting out to do.

Include yourself in this too and remember your own positive contributions and traits. This little blip doesn’t mean that all of your good traits go unnoticed.

A Third Better Way : Give yourself an out.

Or, an ‘outing.’ Exercise is considered the best medicine for calming the beast. Taking a walk, looking at a beautiful view, hiking in nature are all great ways to recharge and see that life is not all that bad. This is, of course, assuming you can get up and leave for a good 20+ minutes. But, even if you can only jog over to the restroom to escape you might prevent an anger eruption. Taking a break gives you control over the situation. If you’re at work, you may have to talk to other people along the way—you may ending up smiling and engaging in a more positive interaction. This boosts your confidence and changes the anger cycle. I think it’s like a tally, in a sense, you score a couple positive points and then the losing side starts to fall apart. The losing part being the part of you that was losing it, if you get my gist.

Finally, if you do lose it get back on the horse quickly and do a Big Erase. When my kids were little we started a thing called ‘the do-over.’ It is so great. A do-over lets you just stop and say, ‘can I have a do-over.’ It’s like the game etch-a-sketch in that you simple erase and start anew.

A do-over acknowledges your humanity, that you are fallible, and that you value and recognize the importance of being civil and above all, kind.

I will leave you with this quote by James Baldwin:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Have a Great Week

March Passive Income Report

Another month has passed and I’m a little behind in posting my passive income report. This month my family and I finally took a vacation to the snow, and though there was little snow to be found, the small cabin and mountain surroundings were a nice respite from the day-to-day grind that we love so much. We haven’t traveled as a family in so long, and everything was surprisingly expensive—particularly if you buy ordinary items at a mountain liquor store—next time I’ll be more prepared! We are generally so frugal that paying for a trip seemed exorbitantly expensive, yet somehow really necessary. No matter what angle I looked at it, I was glad that I am fortunate to have real income beginning to trickle in.

So without further ado, let’s get into it.

American Express

This month I made $56.27 in cash back. It was another heavy-use month on my dark blue card. It was a bit more spending than I’d like, but the beginning of the year is often an expensive time for us as we pay the bulk of our insurances during the first three or four months of the year. That cashback is such a nice bonus. You know I love the American Express card with its 6% back on groceries!

Tab Bank

Right now, my ultra high-interest savings account at Tab Bank is not so ultra-high. This month I made a grand total of .44 cents but there is an explanation. For one, I have not been spending on that card, nor have I been depositing money into the account as is necessary for the higher savings rate. Tab requires a monthly deposit and 15 debit card purchases of $5.00 or more to sink in that high-interest rate. Now, the thing is, during this part of the year I am using some of my savings to pay off insurance and federal, state, and property taxes so this is not the time that I’ll avail myself of the higher rate. Unfortunately, their interest rate has dropped as well—when I signed on with Tab over a year ago, the interest rate was 3%. It’s dropped to a little over 1% which is still good, but a bit of a disappointment. I’ve spoken before about searching for another bank with a higher rate, and they are out there, but right now I’m organizing my accounts and mulling over whether I’d like to put more cash into the stock market—or at the very least have it in my stock account ready for use in the event of a significant drop. I’m quickly seeing how lucrative the stock market can be, at the same time, we all know the dual nature of the stock market and the potential for havoc that it can bring.

Dividend Interest

This month I made a good bit on dividends and it really helps give me some perspective on why I am investing and how grateful I feel to have taken the initial risk to get this far. Below is a list of my regular account, along with the number of shares of stock I own, and the dividend payment for this month.

Wells Fargo Bank (WFC) 10 shares $1.00

Pfizer (PFE) 15 shares $5.85

Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) 10 shares $10.53

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) 3 Shares $.28

3M (MMM) 20 shares $29.60

McDonalds (MCD) 45 shares $58.05

Monmouth Real Estate Investment Corp. (MNR) 10 shares $1.80

Newell Brands (NWL) 356 shares $81.88

Realty Income (O) 40 shares $9.83

Unilever (UL) 10 shares $5.14

Flowers Foods (FLO) 30 shares $6.00

Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD) 5 shares $2.51

STAG Industrial, Inc. (STAG) 10 shares $1.21

LTC Properties Inc. (LTC) 10 shares 1.90

Kohls Corporation 10 shares $2.50

LTC Properties, Inc (LTC) 10 shares $1.90 

Invesco S&P 500 High Div Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) 50 shares $7.05

The total income from dividends in my regular account was $223.47.

Below are the dividends I earned in my Roth IRA account:

Wells Fargo Bank (WFC) 85 shares $8.50

3M (MMM) 10 shares $14.80

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) 3 shares .28

Newell Brands (NWL) 101 shares $23.23

The total earnings in March for my Roth IRA account was $ 49.92

My March totals are as follows:

American Express Cash Back: $56.57

Tab Bank: .44

Dividends: $223.47 and $49.42

For a Grand Total of: $329.90

To say that I am shocked by this amount is a real understatement. I never thought that I could change my income so drastically by the simple choices I make. I also need to emphasize that I am not a financial expert in any way—just a regular 53-year-old looking out for my family and our financial future. There are definitely other ways of approaching your retirement and other ways to invest, but I always love hearing how other people are doing it—especially the exact details. Give me numbers! In that way, I feel that I want to share how my investments are working for me.

Have a great week,

Andrea

February Passive Income Report

Most of February was spent preparing our taxes for the accountant. Honestly, this is the time of year when I walk through life with my head in the sand. We were audited by the IRS a number of years ago—combine that with a usually hefty tax bill and you can guess our stress level is really high.

This month I did not make significant gains in bank interest, mainly because this is also the time of year when I use our savings to pay property taxes and car and home insurance. The rest of the year I put money into our savings account in preparation for those expenditures. In addition to that, my savings account continues to have an annoying lowering of interest. As of this writing the interest rate is at an all-time low of 1.5 percent. I opened the account with a 3% interest rate. At the moment I am considering changing banks in order to get a higher rate. A number of other factors have made me question the use of my savings account as well. For one, I am no longer spending as much on non-essentials. My savings account requires using the debit card 15 times or more during the month in order to qualify for the interest rate. Not surprisingly, this has made me question whether I am simply ”spending the interest” to capture the interest. Not so smart really. At this point I have not had time to ‘do the math’ so I am not putting more money into that account, nor am I using the debit card enough to get that interest. Now that my taxes are done, I intend on taking a look at my finances and make a decision. Part of me is holding back because I have my eye on the stock market as a ‘richer’ investment and I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be wiser to hold more of my savings in stock instead of playing it safe and keeping it in a savings account. Right now, I’m undecided, but as you’ll see by my dividend income for February, the possibility that stocks hold is tempting—and real.

Dividend Income

70 Shares B & G Foods (BGS) $33.25

15 Shares Verizon (VZ) $6.28

60 Shares At&T (ATT) $31.20

10 Shares American Express (AXP) $4.30

4 Shares Enterprise Products (EPD) $1.80

3 Shares Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) $.30

Green Plains Partners (GPP) $24.00

100 Shares Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT) $17.75

40 Shares Realty Income (O) $9.38

531 Shares Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC) $5.31

10 Shares LTC Properties Inc. (LTC) $1.90

50 Shares Invesco S&P 500 High Div Low Volatility ETF (SPHD) $7.26

Total is $133.57

Roth IRA Account

10 Shares General Mills (GIS) $5.20

50 Shares Enterprise Products (EPD) $22.5

3 Shares Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) $.3

10 Shares Tanger Factory Outlets (SKT) $1.07

5 Shares Abbvie Inc. (ABBV) $6.5

10 Shares Stag Industrial Inc. (STAG) $1.21

68 Shares Diversified Healthcare Trust (DHC)$.68

10 Shares LTC Properties Inc. (LTC) $1.90

Total IRA Account: $39.3

You can see that the more dividend stocks I accrue, the more money flows into my account. Even if you were to simply reinvest the dividend income, we can see that incrementally the account would go up. Add to that any extra cash that you put aside from your job or side gig and you can slowly get the momentum rolling. It does beg the question: How much do I need to put in a savings account and how much can I trust in the stock market? This is an individual question and definitely one that needs heavy thought.

So, February also gave me credit card points in the form of cash. American Express is my favorite because of that amazing 6% cashback on groceries. This month I earned $85.88 and my bill was just over $1000.00.

I have been more mindful of my spending, however, and the next time I sit down for an extended period to do my bookkeeping, I plan on looking at my spending—particularly my American Express statements.

As 2021 gains speed, it’s important to remember we’re not done with this marathon—it’s not good to get overly confident. I think we have a long ways to go and we need to keep ourselves in reserves so that we can end strong.

Have a great week,

Andrea

Lost Your Motivation? Ask Why.

Ah, well, here we are. Short winter days and a lack of motivation.

How do I get it back?

Maybe a better question is why did it leave?

Last year around this time I was gung ho for eBay. I wanted to grow my store and make it to the big time. Over the year I slowly crept up towards that goal. But, it wasn’t the money—though, don’t get me wrong, that is important—it was the joy.

The freakin’ joy of it. I loved eBay. I loved hunting for free things to sell on eBay. I mean, I was on fire and I couldn’t get enough. It was honestly a bit scary at times. I was obsessed. I went out at night in pajamas with a head lamp in search of late night freebies. I dragged the kids all over town from one free pile to the next (just one more, I promise!). I yearned for higher sales and more inventory. I couldn’t wait to organize it all. To me, it was a magical world that I couldn’t believe existed. Even cleaning shoes was met with excitement. Cleaning shoes! The sultry smell of leather cleaner! I love stuffed animals, or ‘plush’ as they are referred to, particularly photographing them as their eyes looked into mine. Shipping plush was even more fun as I made my kids laugh when I wished the furry creature—aloud—”goodbye and good luck in your new home.”

It was somewhat maniacal.

I miss it.

What happened? Did I just lose interest?

Maybe not. No, it wasn’t just that. It isn’t that. My lack of motivation comes from a number of sources. I had to sit and think about it but before long, the reasons shone just like sun on a mirror. There was more than just burnout to blame. There were Reasons. The Reasons were holding me back.

Before I get too far, I want to add that I watched an interview on YouTube with Rachel Hollis. In that video she describes her personal success. She explains how ‘finding out the ‘why’ behind a problem is so important towards moving past and around a problem.

This message stuck with me. When confronted with my own inertia I idly wondered why I was feeling this way, but it actually took a bigger, unlikelier event to provoke me to follow that advice, which was, ironically, the only piece of concrete advice I knew of.

The Big Event was one that everyone else met with giddy glee: the reopening of school.

School was opening back up. There was a date this time. March 15. This was real.

A cold chill ran through me. It’s time to go back. The words sunk in like a low, dark whisper. I’m an oddball. Everyone wants this but me.

Is the truth darker? I have loved this year. This quiet year of low expectations and sleeping in and my kids at home, sometimes driving me nuts, but full of color, movement, life. Yes, there have been moments of paranoia, fear, and the contemplation of my own and my loved ones’ death. Mortality. I have been lucky up until now. I have not been touched by a real event. I am lucky also, because I’m not prone to anxiety. I am also lucky to live in a small town where I can avoid the problem almost entirely.

But, along with those negatives, there has been a relaxing of rules. Do you remember the animals coming out of hiding in the beginning as towns shut down? Inside, I felt this freedom from the bustle of ordinary life.

How far do I go with this. I hate school. I am an adult with two kids and school, to me, is something to get through. I was a teacher before my kids and I agreed by the nod of my head that we’d be better together at home. I worked part-time at the school down the street up until the Coronavirus. I didn’t miss a minute of that campus the entire year of 2020.

Not one minute.

This is not to say that I didn’t appreciate the human element inside the institutional construction and structured minutiae of the school. There is something appealing and cheery about a school. Yes, I’ll say yes to that. But, there is something forlornly industrial and cold about it as well.

My home is cheerier by far.

When that announcement came I had a decision to make. It wasn’t obvious on the surface, but there was now Choice. I’d been getting unemployment for a number of months because of my work at the school. It was fair. I was now at home teaching my kids and unwilling to leave them high and dry all day. It was and still is the right thing to do in most cases. But, that will be ending and though we opted to continue the remainder of the year virtually—at home—I could technically apply for a job at the school.

The icy claws of a job I hate, but one that has provided me with so much. The sharp teeth of payback. That sad and dismal decision.

The truth is that I should have picked another career path long ago. In 1985, there seemed to be little to choose from. I remember meeting my old roommate. We were both around 30, single, and living in a house with an older woman. I was astonished to learn that my roommate had a horticultural degree. If only I’d known there was such an option! Ah, the life I would have led. Or art. I didn’t think that was a ”marketable skill.” I would have loved to learn art. I almost jumped over to Humanities but I was on the last year of my B.A. in math. Too late. I was fed on ”available jobs.” Math teachers get hired. End of sentence. Period.

In the end I became an elementary school teacher. I like kids. Probably more accurately, I relate to their excitement over almost everything. But, as a teacher you are required to hold down the fort—be the iron fist in the velvet glove. It wasn’t me.

Guilt.

There is an element of guilt to my lack of motivation. I feel conflicted and torn between the eccentric lifestyle that suits me and the conventional career that has provided for me. Had I not been a teacher, I would never have been able to buy my home.

So, when do you let go of fear and guilt?

Logically, the answer could be when you are able to do that financially. At the same time, how do your really know where you could be financially without taking the risk?

In the end, I realized that my answer was with me and my family. It was different in 1985—I needed to prepare myself for the world. But, now my family created a push and shove. My husband, wasn’t too keen on this ”eBay” stuff. My accumulation of sales items was starting to ‘show’ around the house. My motivation was dropping as he came home and looked around the house. It got worse at one point, when he wanted to actually get rid of my things. My immediate response was dismal. I felt attacked and even worse, not encouraged. He did like the sales though and once in a while he asked me to sell things for him. My own optimism was catching. He could see me jump out of bed in the morning to check Facebook Marketplace and eBay. I told him I was high on life.

He heard me. But, it took a while for him to come around. My mood dipped during those points and that conflict between conventional and unconventional career reared up and threatened to swallow me. I wondered if I should get rid of everything and go back to teaching. I started to winnow down my own belongings like an anorexic loses weight. It felt like my joy was falling off like dead leaves.

Amazingly, the opening of the school ended up being the key, the answer, to my dilemma. My kids were staying home the rest of the year because we had chosen ‘distance learning’ when the school district had requested a choice on this back in November. As I honed in to ‘why’ of my dilemma, I drew a mental picture of how my options would look if I did go back to work. I even asked my 11-year-old daughter and she said, surprised, ”you won’t be home?” Immediately she said she wanted me at home.

Unlike me, she didn’t equivocate. It was such a relief.

It’s where I belong. It’s where I can contribute the most. It’s where I’m happy.

My motivation has slowly been coming back. I see my reasoning clearly again: working from home allows me the freedom I need to do the unpaid work that is most important. I spent most of February slowly cleaning and organizing—I understand my husband’s perspective. Really, who wants to come home to chaos? He encourages me in his own quiet way. But, in all honesty, I don’t need to please everyone on every level. It’s time for me to follow this path and see where it leads.

There’s an inkling, a hunch, that I may know what I’m doing after all.

Have a great week,

Andrea

Passive Income Report January 2021

Welcome 2021!

January went swoosh. I mean, wow. The time just flies by.

I’ve got my monthly passive income report all set to look through with virtual paperclips and cliff notes. This year I hope to get all 12 months posted—and I’d like to take a look at a yearly report for 2020 in the near future.

But let’s get away from my lofty goals and get into it.

Dividends

Dividends are my favorite. Stocks in general are such a boon to savers—how else can you increase your savings by so much? While the stock market is rambunctious at times, if you hold on for the ride, you’re sure to be rewarded. Dividend stocks are considered less risky by experts because historically dividends are an option that strong companies select as a way to pay their shareholders. Research has shown that dividend stocks tend to remain more stable over the long run. Payout and stability! This month I made a total of $105.78 from dividends. This amount includes stocks from both my regular stock account and my Roth IRA. Here’s how January stacked up:

Global X SuperDividend US ETF (DIV) 6 shares .60

STAG Industrial Inc. (STAG) 10 Shares $1.20

Realty Income (O) 40 Shares $9.38

Preferred Apartment Real Estate Investment Trust Company (APTS) 100 Shares $17.50

LTC Properties Inc. (LTC) 20 Shares $3.80

General Mills (GIS) 10 Shares $5.10

Invesco S&P 500 High Dividend Low Volatility ETF(SPHD) 50 Shares $7.47

B & G Foods (BGS)70 Shares $33.25

Verizon (VZ) 15 Shares $6.28

AT&T (T) 60 shares $31.20

American Express Card

After having continual difficulty trying to access my Bank of America Visa card account, I really appreciate my American Express Card. Everything about it works seamlessly—it’s like butter, as they say. Plus, it gives me a heck of a lot of cashback bonuses. This month I received $45.23 in cash back. Remember, the American Express Card pays me a huge 6% back on grocery purchases—this is by far my largest expenditure and so, for me, this card really helps me save cash. You may be wondering what my credit card balance was. I just paid the bill and it was a little over $1100. It seems a little more than I’d like to pay so I will be doing a little reining in when it comes to my spending. Our income is seasonal and the winter time is by far the worst time for us. Not only do we make less money but we also spend more when we pay off our taxes, home and car insurance, and property taxes.

Bank Interest

This month I earned an abysmal .63 in interest. It’s not entirely my fault—but, I could have stuck to my guns and gotten a better interest payment if I’d simply followed my banks protocol of one deposit and 15 transactions. The thing is, that this is the time of year where I need to reconnect with my saved cash in order to pay off taxes, property taxes, and insurance. Once that is accomplished, my focus for the remainder of the year is saving for next years taxes and insurance and gaining interest along the way. It’s not a total loss.

Besides passive earnings, this month brought some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I was able to purchase 5 more shares of VZ stock at a relatively low price of $54.28 per share. Verizon is a solid company with good recommendations from a number of sources including the Motley Fool. I own a bit of VZ now, but as I was looking over my portfolio, I noticed it was in the red. I quickly looked it up and found that VZ has dropped a bit, but that they have big plans and a definite ‘buy’ from reasonable sources. Verizon also has a good dividend, 4.62% and that’s good enough for me.

The bad news is that I may be shopping around for a new favorite high-interest account. Tab Bank, my trusty savings friend continues to lower their interest rate. I’ve just been informed that it is now lowering the interest rate to 1.5%. Looks like I’ll be heading out of that establishment and onto another.

In similiar news—-my main brick and mortar bank pulled an oddball ”fast one” on me. After depositing a check into the ATM, I found out that my deposit was not immediately placed into my account. I received a phone call from the bank manager and he told me that it was ‘bank policy’ to place a hold on a check that was larger than my normal deposit. Hmmm. Interesting. Personally, I did not like that the management has the ability to randomly make a spot check on my account. Although, I do understand that given the current Covid circumstances, banks are probably having to be more vigilant.

Still, the combination of banks—one lowering their interest rate and the other placing a hold on my check makes me wonder if it isn’t us—the consumers—who need to be more vigilant.

Have a great week,

Andrea

Things I Learned From Selling On eBay and Facebook Marketplace That You Can Apply to Almost Anything.

I’ve been happily selling on eBay for over a year now. Of course, the grass is always greener, so recently I decided to follow a friends suggestion (more like constant prompting) and try my hand on Facebook Marketplace. Within the blink of an eye I sold two things that we had laying around the house—a sled and a small side table—each for $15.

I was, well, sold.

Suddenly, the sun seemed a bit brighter and I was seeing small ‘saleables’ everywhere. Despite my eagerness, however, I held myself a bit in check because I’d learned from eBay that it’s pretty easy to get crazy excited and then find yourself in a mad mess. Like, how do you get rid of four bulky printers that you picked up for free? But, before I go off on a tangent, let me just start…

No. 1

No. 1

Start Small. By this, I mean literally and figuratively. I’ve learned the hard way that starting big is great if you’re really energetic, extremely gung-ho, or simply have a lot of time on your hands, but for most people the best thing to do is start small and get those first few attempts really, really, right.

I began with Facebook Marketplace by selling a small side table that I had owned and used for a number of years. It was lightweight and easy to clean and I knew all of its flaws since I’d owned it for so long. I scrubbed it down and let it dry in the sun. Then I moved it around to find the best place to take a photo. It turned out that my driveway, in front of my garage door, was the best spot. My daughter and I (she’s our tech-savvy 11-year-old) decided to try posting the entire ad just using my cellphone—this was also something new. My computer has gotten a bit slow and cranky in the past year and I wanted to streamline the process—I use the phone for photographs, so why not just attempt the whole process that way?

By focusing on one easy-to-move table I was able to concentrate on taking the photos and uploading a decent ad. You can see that if I were lining myself up with a lot of heavy items that took up space and required constant moving it could get really confusing—or even worse, I could have got into some bad habits and made a lot of mistakes. Think if I had moved a large desk to the backyard only to find out that the water heater does not make the best backdrop? If you start small you’ll avoid a lot of beginner errors that may sour you to the whole process. Plus you’ll save your back.

For the same reason, I also suggest—whether you’re selling on eBay or any other platform–to start with something physically manageable, easy to move, and/or something easy to ship if you’re mailing it out. If you get the processes down pat in the beginning, you’ll handle larger, more challenging items in stride.

A little over a month ago I sold a Ronco Rotisserie oven on eBay. This thing was massive. The shipping alone was close to $50 and it took me over an hour to wrap the parts and box it up so that nothing broke along the way. I had to drive the package to the next town over for shipping which took another half hour each way. Luckily the sale was worth it, but if all of that had occurred when I first started selling I probably would have been a quivering mess.

But the story gets even crazier because a week or so later, the buyer emailed me to let me know the oven was missing an important part. Oh, no! I had no idea because this had not been mine to begin with. Still, I’d been selling a while and was determined to solve the problem. I quickly looked on eBay for the part and noted the price and gave my buyer a refund for more than double that. I wrote an apology to them, letting them know that I did see that they could purchase the part on eBay and that I was giving them a refund so they could adequately pay for a new part and an additional amount for the inconvenience. I still made a small profit and in the end, the buyer got a heck of a deal. Best of all, they wrote very nice feedback, thanking me for my generous resolution. I hope they’re eating rotisserie as we speak!

If that had happened to me in the beginning I know I would have probably given up selling with the assumption that eBay was one big giant racket. I wouldn’t have had the benefit of success behind me and I would have concluded that other sellers had ”some special skill” that I didn’t.

So, trust me—you’ve got all the skills you need, just take one step at a time and start small.

No. 2

Have a Plan. I began selling my own things on Facebook Marketplace so it wasn’t hard for me to breeze past the ”planning portion” of the endeavor. Still, in the back of my mind, I wanted to sell ”other stuff.” I spent a couple of weeks mulling it over—I was so happy selling on eBay that I wanted to expand. My dad used to clean and sell used appliances. Those memories stuck with me and I knew I wanted to sell furniture. I decided to focus on small furniture items that I could carry in the trunk of my Honda Accord. I liked the idea of tables with drawers or bookshelves—things that are small but versatile. Though I wanted to go full swing and maybe redo the furniture by sanding it and painting it, I decided that it would be better to start simply by selling items as-is and use that as a selling point—there are a lot of people who want to paint something themselves and give it their own special touch. Not to mention, that I found it extremely difficult to decide on a color that would appeal to the greatest number of people!

Without realizing it, I was forming a plan. Since I was going to focus on Curb Alert finds, I wasn’t running amok by spending my own money and I’d decided that if I couldn’t sell an item, I would be able to put it out for free—or in the worst case scenario, break it down and put it in the trash.

Additionally, since I was dealing in exclusively small furniture, it would be easy to store things in my garage or on the side of my house for a month or so—long enough to try to sell it or move it along if it doesn’t find a new owner.

I’d run the idea through my mind and there was now a memorable well-worn trail there. It was basically the beginning of a map of the job territory. I had also learned from selling on eBay that, while it is good to be highly optimistic about your new business, it’s also a fact that not all things sell and some things sit around for a while before a buyer comes along. I certainly didn’t want to become known as the neighborhood junk lady.

Your plan needs to be complete. You need to know how your going to get items, how you’re going to photograph, list, store, sell, and keep track of your income for tax purposes. Moreover, it’s important to have a plan set in place for each item before it gets put into the trunk of your car. What are you going to do if it doesn’t sell and how long are you going to give it the benefit of the doubt if you don’t get any bites? Some items are different than others. Picking up a refrigerator is going to be more of a commitment than grabbing a bunch of books. You’ll have to take this into account and spend a contemplative moment before you impulsively load up.

Planning ahead and creating a process for handling each step streamlines your business. You won’t pick up everything to sell and you won’t waste time waffling about whether or not you ”should try that new thing.” You’ll find yourself making less mistakes, having more time, and enjoying yourself more.

No. 3

Strategize. It’s one thing to plan, it’s another to plan your planning—I call that strategizing.

Strategizing your business is creating a plan or process for scaling up. It is a plan for how you want to proceed once you reach your goals. You may have heard of the term metacognition which is defined as the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes. Strategizing your business is similar. It involves a knowledge of your current business structure, your goals, and a step-by-step process for creating new goals as you achieve the old ones.

If you have a good sense of your business as it is now, you’ll be able to decide how, and if, you will expand.

Selling on Facebook Marketplace gave me a really good sense of how I wanted to move forward. In truth, because there were so many boundaries on what I sold (size, cost, weight, etc.) I quickly fell into a very specific niche. Part of me wanted to spread into refinishing furniture, but overall, I realized that this is not my skill set, nor does it fit in with my more casual and less detail-oriented personality. I was quickly able to let that notion go. I liked telling people in the description of each item what I think could be done with a piece. Doing the work myself would have put on the pressure and the more I sold, the more I realized how nervous I would be if someone was coming to pick up something I had determined was ‘finished.’ I know I would have seen every flaw rather than felt a pride in my work.

Once I determined the ”physical” structure or foundation of my business, I realized how much fun I was having. To put it lightly, I was obsessed. I realized that I wanted to keep this up, to keep searching for ”finds” and to include this in my reselling business plan that had just been eBay up until a month ago.

But, that’s not all.

I realized that I was not losing interest in reselling and I could see from how quickly things sold that were definite possibilities out there.

This gave me pause.

I decided to look into other selling venues and as my earnings increased, I started to tentatively make financial goals. As I worked away, I could begin to predict what might happen if I sold on other outlets, such as Poshmark and Mercari, or increased my inventory.

Finally, I began to see that I needed a daily structure—I couldn’t just think about selling all day. I have two kids, a husband and 3 dogs. I wanted to be able to drop things for a few hours a day and walk the dogs, catch up on other tasks, play with my kids, or even just read a book for a while. This all takes strategizing.

The thought finally occurred to me: it’s probably a good idea to take a day off to plan. Most of us resist taking time off, especially to (pffft, what?) plan. The idea here though is that you strategize. You’re thinking ahead—what do you want from your business? What are your goals and what steps do you need to take to reach the next goal? I think it’s worth it to think about how much you’d like to earn weekly, monthly, and yearly. On the other hand, if you’re just in it for a little extra income and for the fun of it, you may find that a more relaxed attitude is a better approach.

In the beginning, I was simply selling one item. But, as I leveled up to more items, I went so slowly that I didn’t really think beyond the excitement of finding out if something would sell. As I progressed, I reached little milestones—a dollar amount, for example, that was a bit of a surprise. At that point I had to think am I moving into this? Is this a possibility?

Perhaps most importantly, when you do take that day to strategize, think about what you need to do or create to make this fit in with the rest of your life. Don’t leave yourself out of it—make your breaks and enjoyment an integral part of your life plan.

No. 4

Keep Track of Your Numbers. This one is so easy to neglect in the beginning. You think that a few stamps, new ink for the printer, or the new cellphone you got to take photos with are unimportant. You’re caught up in the excitement of the moment and you just don’t keep track. Maybe you think to yourself, ”I’ll deal with it later.”

When later comes along you don’t remember the details.

Maybe you see that those tools you purchased, the paper you needed, everything you bought actually adds up. And, that’s how money works. it really does add up one penny at a time.

One of the worst things that can happen as you become happily successful is you get audited by the IRS.

My husband and I were audited when he started his commercial fishing business. He worked for about two years and I struggled to learn his bookkeeping. He didn’t have the time to sit down and explain each part or receipt to me and often I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare our taxes.

We did our taxes yearly and then one day, that awful letter came in the mail. It was such a blow. Running your own business is exciting, exhausting—and costly. You need to get all of the tax breaks that you can in order to survive. If you are not keeping accurate records you will have to recreate everything for the IRS. I had to do this for two and a half years of our business and it took weeks to get everything together into a cohesive document. Tension i our home was through the roof and of course, as the bookkeeper I felt personally responsible. I had two young kids in tow and not enough mental bandwidth—or time—to think through it all.

In the end, we somehow managed. Our taxes were accurate and we were not fined excessively. Later I was able to laugh at the whole ordeal—I started to tell people it was not big deal, but when the IRS is done with you, you’ve essentially gone through a Business 101 class.

Now I keep everything in binders. I’d like to get comfortable with spreadsheets and bookkeeping software, but I’m not there yet. I like the tactile feel of paper and I can picture handing my binders off to the IRS so they can make copies. One thing I really try not to do is put things off or assume I’ll remember something. I keep a notebook with notes for each check I write. I keep all receipts—I print them up when I buy online. Most importantly, I try to question each expenditure. Did I use have to drive to get something? Did I purchase a cleaner or tool that I am using for my business? These are all things that are deductible. Running a business can be quite costly—and it does not come with the security that a regular job does. Trying to earn an income without taking deductions is foolhardy at best.

Not all small businesses survive: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years.

Keeping track of your finances is the surest way to succeed.

No. 5

Take Risks. Ahhh…okay, it’s kinda cliche. But, really, where would we be without taking chances? Taking chances is what life is all about—without a forward momentum we cannot succeed.

I look back on my first eBay item: The Aquasana Water Filter. I remember how it sat on the high shelf of my desk and the day it sold. I was so excited. I can practically feel the dry plastic shrink wrap and the panic of ”now what do I do.”

But, that day—the day I picked up the filter and decided to take a chance and sell was important for me. It was happening at the end of a long depressing winter—one in which we were very low in funds and though we are not poor by any means, it frankly felt like we were. I didn’t like that feeling. I didn’t like having no control. Moreover, I didn’t believe that this was who I was–someone who traipsed along in life and allowed myself to feel lost. My image of myself was much stronger, much smarter, but that year had been a repeat of all the years before, only worse.

The first risk—a wispy thought in my head, ”just try it” was what led me out of that weak hole and into a whole world of excitement.

It took a few sales and lots of failures for me to learn the ropes, but by following the 5 steps outlined above, I was able to ratchet up slowly while taking challenges in stride. I know one thing though—without taking the chance, I’d be nowhere.

On that scary thought,

Have a Great Week!

Andrea

Passive Income Report November

I love my passive income, so each month it is a joy to add up the incremental ways I’m gaining on my finances just by the choices I’ve made.

So, without further ado, let me begin.

American Express

If you’ve been reading, you know that American Express is my favorite credit card. Each month I try to stay within my means, but no matter what, American Express surprises me with the rewards I accrue. The phenomenal 6% back on groceries is where this card really pays off for me. During November, I made a total of $115.58 in rewards.

TAB Bank

I found out about the TAB bank Kasasa checking account while reading Kiplinger’s Magazine last year. I was initially hesitant to use an online bank, but at the time, they were offering an astounding 4% interest rate on your account of up to $20,000.00. I literally could not believe it was true.

Tentatively, I opened an account and slowly I started depositing money into my account. The bank account has a few requirements, such as a monthly deposit and 15 debit card transactions. I was so enamored of my American Express at the time that I couldn’t see the utility of another account—despite the interest rate. But, logically, I knew that I had to earn money on my savings as well as my spending. The money in this savings account has a job to begin with—this is money that I put away all year so that I can pay our property taxes and insurance, etc., at the end of the year.

In the beginning of this year, Tab Bank had a series of interest rate reductions. They now offer a much lower 2% rate, which is still nothing to scoff at, however, I have considered moving my money again if a higher interest rate finds me. For now, I’m pretty happy with TAB. This month I received $31.29 in interest.

Dividends

This month I received a total of $96.94 from dividends.

By stock, I received:

$6.28 from Verizon

$31.20 From AT&T

$4.30 From American Express

.30 From DIV ETF

$1.78 from Enterprise Products

$24.00 from Grand Plains Partners

$9.36 from Realty Income

$5.31 from Diversified Healthcare Trust

$4.85 from Unilever

$1.90 from LTC Properties Inc.

$7.66 from SPHD

November was not an epic month to buy stock because the prices were so high, but I did take a chance and purchased 15 shares of Pfizer when the news of a viable vaccine came out. I also bought 10 shares of Kohls, just on a hunch that Kohls may stick around—and continue paying out the amazing 7.3% dividend that I was able to capture.

Well, let’s tally before I go. So, all told I made a solid $243.81. I’m definitely excited by this and I hope that I can take that cash and continue to keep it growing.

Have a great week!

Andrea

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