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In chemistry, a catalyst is something that triggers a reaction — but the nature of the reaction itself depends on having the right elements in place to respond to the catalyst.

What brought to mind that tattered remnant of high school chemistry was thinking back on buying my first house.

I’ll explain how I got from home-buying to chemistry — and, in the process, hopefully share some pointers about what elements should be in place when you buy a home and what catalysts might trigger you to react to those elements.

The chemistry of home-buying

The reason I’m talking about home-buying in terms of chemistry is that there is more to buying a home than pure dollars and cents. Don’t get me wrong. The financials are important, and I’ve written a fair amount about some of the financial aspects of home-buying. However, what is equally important is your personal outlook.

Generally, the elements of your personal situation fall into place bit by bit over time, and you might not really notice how they are developing. It can take a catalyst to set everything in motion.

In my case, the catalyst was simple: Our landlord tried to raise our rent by $50. That doesn’t sound like much today; but at the time, it was 12.5 percent of the rent we were paying previously. More than that, it was a catalyst to us. We realized that renting meant being subject to that unpredictability every year when the lease term ended.

Once that catalyst sparked the idea of buying a home, all the right elements were in place for us to follow through on our decision. My career was progressing well, I had gotten married and we planned to have kids, and we had family roots in the area. If it hadn’t been for that catalyst, though, I’m not sure how long it would have taken for it to occur to us to buy a house. So, we have our landlord to thank.

Here’s how the chemistry of home-buying might come together for you.

How to know if it is time to buy a house

Here are some of the right elements for buying a home:

  • Career stability. This does not necessarily mean that you plan on staying in the same job, but that you have in-demand skills and that there is a healthy job market for those skills within commuting distance of the house you plan to buy.
  • Commitment to your area. It could come down to the weather, family and friends, arts and entertainment, or all of the above, but you need to figure out where you want to be for the long haul. It’s okay to be restless when you are young, but it is better if you aren’t that way after you buy a house.
  • Clarity about your household. It might take several years before you start to have clarity on what your household will look like in the future: Will you marry? Do you expect to have kids? Will elderly parents come live with you at some point? The more clarity you have about the size of your household in the years ahead, the easier it is to know what kind of home to buy, though it is always wise to make choices that build in a little flexibility as well.
  • Knowing yourself. Life plans and personal tastes take a while to evolve. Don’t rush into home-buying unless you have a good handle on what you want for the long term.
  • Affordability. This is an entirely different area of discussion; but if the dollars and cents don’t add up, not all the elements for buying a home are in place.

Catalysts can help you decide

Given the right elements, what can trigger you to act on them? Here are some possibilities:

  • A jump in rents. As I mentioned, that did it for us. It changes the current comparison between renting and owning costs, and makes you think about stabilizing your housing expense for the future.
  • Low mortgage rates. You should look at today’s mortgage rates as an opportunity that might not always be there. If home-buying is in your future, you might want to accelerate the timing to take advantage.
  • A change in household. Getting married or having a baby might mean you have to find a bigger place anyway, so you might think about doing that by buying.
  • A strong raise in pay. A meaningful bump-up — beyond the standard annual cost-of-living type of adjustment — could not only give you the financial means to buy a home, but it might also be a sign that your career is well enough on track for you to make that kind of commitment.

In short, besides the math of affordability, buying a home comes down to the chemistry of your personal situation. Perhaps if we had known so much was riding on math and chemistry, we all would have paid more attention in high school.


For the first time in several years, at the beginning of 2014, I shared my personal and financial plans for the year. I had navigated away from sharing personal data on Consumerism Commentary, leaving an opening for Naked With Cash. Over the course of the past two years, eleven readers shared their financial goals and progress with monthly updates, much like I had done from 2003 to 2011.

I wanted to share my financial and personal goals for 2014 because I had gotten away from some of the more personal aspects of life while business need prevented me from sharing some of the details, like income and net worth. It was time to regain some control, so in 2014, I shared more than just my financial goals, but peered into my life for some thoughts on personal development in addition to some new business goals.

My first goal for the year was to grow my consultancy business. I started the year off with a bang, with a few bloggers who were looking to grow their websites — to generate income. I am not interested in marketing myself in this sort of fashion, but I let the community know I was available. I may have taken the wrong approach — rather than setting a high value on my time as a “blog business coach” and pricing my time at a rate commensurate with the fact that I grew a website into a multi-million dollar business in a very competitive environment, I presented myself as someone who would be willing to work with anyone’s budget.

One particular client lasted only two sessions, until he realized that the type of coaching I was offering was not what he wanted. And then he never paid the invoice. And then I ran into him at a conference. And he said he wished he had listened to my advice in the first place. People don’t seem to want to talk about the big picture and look at their overall approach to their business — they just want a checklist. That wasn’t what I was interested in providing, so I moved on. I decided to focus on other areas of my life.

So in terms of income for 2014, my primary source has been writing for Consumerism Commentary. Since I sold the website in 2011, I’ve moved from an employee of the company that purchased the site, writing and advising on a variety of matters, to a paid-by-word freelancer with a responsibility for writing several articles a month plus a flat monthly fee for managing the website’s editorial system. And as the company’s budget for the website continued to shrink, I wrote less. Because I had committed to the second series of Naked With Cash, those four posts a month became the bulk of what Consumerism Commentary had to offer readers in 2014. Unfortunately, several of the Naked With Cash participants and experts did not match my commitment for whatever reason, and for me, the series was a big let-down this year.

That’s the main reason I’m not bringing it back in the beginning of 2015.

Another goal in 2014 was to explore forming a nonprofit organization. I’ve made some progress. I put together an initial board of directors (or trustees) and we’ve had a few meetings. I’ve formed the business entity, registered with the State of New Jersey, and successfully applied for 501(c)3 status. The mission, at least for now, is to support the development of young people into financially capable human beings through effective behavioral education, behavior modeling and reinforcement, and advocating for industry responsibility.

Here’s the issue: we can all agree that financial literacy is a problem in the United States. And as more and more newly-graduated adults find themselves starting their “real lives” in more debt they could possibly handle, there must be some type of education that could be provided to all children of a certain age in this country so they can avoid making poor choices with money and see financial success much sooner.

That theory has been proving wrong. Curricula in financial literacy aren’t ineffective. They have an effect, but it’s not a positive effect. Children who have the “benefit” of financial literacy in their education actually perform worse when managing their own money as adults. There have been a number of studies that come to this conclusion, but other studies conclude that even at best, financial literacy education doesn’t improve financial conditions later in life.

So the goal of my nonprofit is to take another path, recognizing that people don’t learn financial behaviors from courses in school or class trips to a bank. Children learn financial behavior from their role models. And the children at the most risk for future financial distress don’t have positive role models. How do you get positive role models into communities where that might not exist in a family setting? One possibility is working with organizations that all ready provide role models, like Big Brothers Big Sisters. Any other attempt to introduce community-acceptable role models into low socio-economic status neighborhoods might be too much of a challenge.

There is a long path ahead for this nonprofit idea. I’ve also concluded that I have no interest in spending the rest of my life fundraising, so that is one concern. But in the coming year, I’ll explore this further.

At the end of last year, I set aside some money as a donation to my alma mater. I strongly feel that my college education played an important role in forming my identity as an adult, even if like many people my degree and course of study aren’t related to what I do today professionally. I mixed my passion for personal finance with my undergraduate major in music education and came up with an interesting solution. Because I believe that degrees that require internships can be somewhat unfair for students who can’t afford to spend a semester working for free, I took the first step in establishing an annual stipend for an internship. This way, a student who has an opportunity who work with one of the best arts organizations, most of which are located in expensive cities, doesn’t have to worry as much about how they’re going to pay their bills during that internship period.

My interaction with the university also provided me with an interesting opportunity. Last year, I visited my undergraduate college’s new entrepreneurial program and gave a talk to a number of students, sharing my experiences as an “accidental entrepreneur.” My story was significantly different than those of the typical business leaders invited by the university, so it may have helped the students think a little differently about their potential path as, well, mostly start-up founders.

This past year, I continued my personal training and improved my nutrition. This year, I’ve seen some physical improvements. This hard work, working with a personal trainer three times a week and changing the way I eat, is starting to pay off. I thought I would have seen results faster, but I’ll take what I can get.

I wanted to spent more time this year focusing on my personal relationships. When I wrote these goals, it was just a few weeks after a long-term, long-distance relationship ended. It was a couple of months before I entered a new, even longer-distance relationship. I spent a lot of time traveling this year. And I found myself really needing to be the best partner I could be. We’re very happy together, but distance in a relationship can be very painful. Besides a romantic relationship, there are other people in my life, friends and family.

When I set these goals at the end of last year, I intended to do a better job maintaining some of those relationships. Balancing that has been difficult as I try to spend as much time as possible with my girlfriend, as time with her is too rare.

With whatever time I had left for myself, I intended to spend the year working with photography. I did, and my skills are ever improving. I even sold a print of a photograph of San Francisco’s AT&T Park before even trying to sell prints. I still spend most of my effort on portraiture, and you can see some of my work here (and buy prints if you are so inclined). I don’t intend to make a living from photography, mostly because I would hate to do wedding photography, and that’s where the money is. But it has provided me a nice artistic outlet.

I have also begun volunteering with a local nonprofit organization that runs a drum and bugle corps — a highly competitive marching band consisting of only brass, percussion, and color guard that places very high performance demands on the young people who participate. I’m getting back to my roots in music just a little bit.

Financially, my struggle this year was to live off of income from working rather than income from my investments. I barely made it. I’ve depleted my cash-based savings, but I’ve managed to leave my investments alone. The investments come from income before selling my business and proceeds from the sale of that business. I’ve only withdrawn from those accounts for taxes, for sales broker fees (for the sale of the business), and for legal fees. Since inception, the account has grown over 25% even taking those withdrawals into account. I’m in a position where I can just live off the income from the investments for the rest of my life, and starting in January 2015, I may need to begin living partly off these investments.

Some of my friends can’t understand why I haven’t been doing this already. I’m successful, financially independent, yet I’m continuing to work and live mostly like I did several years ago when my business was first starting to grow. I haven’t figured this part of my life out yet. Maybe that will be a goal for next year.


New Year’s resolutions have become so cliché that the process of making them has become a joke. People settle for mundane goals for the year like “losing weight,” “quitting smoking,” and “getting out of debt.” These are great goals, of course, but most who think about these only when the calendar changes soon forget their plans, continue their lives as before, and lament their failure when they reflect as next year approaches.

Part of the problem is that these goals are not specific enough for anyone to take seriously. Gurus and bloggers are pushing forward the idea that goals need to be “SMART” — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based — as if it’s a new concept. This is a helpful way to look at your resolutions if you want to approach your life as a project manager. A better approach is to realize that time moves very fast, and with busy lives it’s better to make modest goals and focus on each small step that moves you in the right direction.

New year hatThe most popular New Year’s resolutions are tiresome. It’s no wonder people don’t keep them. Few people can be passionate about losing weight or getting out of debt, and even if they are, it will take a lot of work to change the behaviors (or medical conditions) that caused the circumstances needing improvement. These can be multi-year goals, and if your entire success relies on completion within 365 days (366 in a leap year) you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Here are some different ways at looking at financial resolutions that are not only achievable within the year but are more interesting than what many may typically resolve to do. While there are twelve listed here, you’re more likely suited for success if you focus on just one. The year will be over before you know it, but your resolutions should always be aligned with long-term goals for yourself or your personal mission statement.

1. Spend money on things that are important.

Your spending habits reveal what is important to you. If you spend more money buying video games for yourself than you spend on activities with your significant other, you have decided on some level that you favor your time with a computer game more than the one you love. The higher value each dollar has to you, with the importance of one dollar related to your level of disposable income, the bigger the importance of whatever you choose to spend that dollar on.

Look where your money goes. You may need to track your spending if you’re not sure. You’ve defined what’s important to you by your expenses. Your shelter (rent or mortgage) and food are obviously important and form the basis of your expenses, but beyond that, you can rate how important any activity is to you by comparing your level of spending. If you don’t like what you see, resolve to spend your extra money — after you cover necessary expenses and saving — on the things you want to be important to you.

2. Create something every month.

FoodThe culture in this country is one of consumption. We consume food, media, and resources. In order to consume, we spend money. This year, change your role in society. Become a creator rather than just a consumer. You can create something that other people consume or something that you consume yourself.

  • Cook more often than you prepare frozen meals and dine out.
  • Create your own adventures instead of watching movies and television.
  • Write in a journal rather than reading a best-selling novel.
  • Engage your mind creatively, taking photographs, making art, or performing music.

3. Learn a new skill.

This could be the year you focus on trying new things. The best new skills to learn would be those that are related to your interests and passions. Here are a few examples, but think about the things that make you happy and decide on a skill that enhances your attitude.

  • If you’ve had a favorite vacation destination in mind in a foreign country, start learning the language and culture.
  • If you like running but haven’t taken this type of exercise seriously yet, train yourself for a 5K race.
  • Learn how to play the piano.

Many new skills can take more than a year to learn. Don’t consider your year a failure if you don’t complete your mission to learn something new. Keep taking small steps that move your life in the right direction, and whether you complete your goal within one year is less important.

4. Earn money from your hobby.

Coin CollectionConsumerism Commentary started as a hobby, but after a while, it became apparent that writing could also be a business that generated income. In some cases, though, turning a hobby into a business can turn an enjoyable activity into a chore. Turning your hobby into a business is not the best option for everyone, so this has to be a personal decision. If you like collecting coins, do you want to be a coin dealer? If you’re particularly skilled at photography, do you want to market yourself and compete with professional photographers?

Not everyone wants to start a business, but keeping your activities small can keep the business aspect of your hobby to a minimum. Strike the right balance between hobby and business so you still gain a maximum amount of pleasure and satisfaction from the activities you enjoy.

5. Start a blog to track your finances.

I have first-hand experience about how helpful it has been to publicly track my own finances. This is a great way to maintain focus on any goal. By making your progress public, you are holding yourself accountable for your success. And if your goals are interesting to others, even strangers, they can join you in your quest and offer support — and more often, criticism — when you need it. Draw some inspiration from Naked With Cash as well as how I tracked my finances from 2003 through 2011.

Rather than using a blog to track your success, allow the blog to be your success. Start a website using WordPress or Tumblr and write anonymously about the financial issues in your life. You don’t need to be a great writer, but if you continue, your writing will improve. Don’t be concerned about building an audience or earning money. Writing for its own sake helps clarify financial issues, particularly when you read what you’ve written over a period of time.

Tracking your finances in software like Mint.com or Quicken isn’t always enough. When you look at your finances with the intent of writing about them, your brain performs at least a minimum amount of analysis, and this is a step further than most people take with their finances.

6. Support local businesses.

The 3/50 Project is an initiative that encourages consumers to spend $50 among three local businesses each month. Keeping your money local helps improve the economy in the community where you live, and it helps you build relationships with your neighbors near you and across your town. Similarly, as much as I don’t like the real motivation behind American Express’s Small Business Saturday, many mom-and-pop business do in fact see benefits to encouraging AmEx customers to enter their stores.

Following an initiative can provide extra motivation for achieving a goal, but you can do this without an initiative as well. Supporting local businesses is a possible resolution that most people don’t consider. Usually, people resolve to save money, and that could mean shopping online or visiting big-box or warehouse stores. Spending money in these locations does not help a community thrive — at least, not directly.

The same is true about local community banks and credit unions. By moving your money away from big banks, you are taking a financial action that is more beneficial in the area where you live. This is a simple, achievable resolution for the new year.

7. Sell or give away your stuff.

ClothingThis could be the year you focus on decluttering your life. When I moved into my current apartment a few years ago, I seemed to have so much space available. I fell into the typical habit of expanding the way I live to fit into my new environment. If you look around your living space, you can probably find a number of things you don’t need. Here are just a few suggestions of where to start:

  • Look through your closet and give away the clothes you no longer wear.
  • Sell your old games, electronics, movies, and books on eBay or Amazon.com.
  • Organize your papers and shred old documents you no longer need to keep.

This sounds like a good weekend project rather than a New Year’s resolution, so to make this worthwhile, consider running through this process on the first Sunday of each month. Each time, you’ll find more to eliminate. If unchecked, “stuff” can take over your life. If you have so much it’s burdensome, your possessions can own you rather than the other way around. Reduce and eliminate your dependency on things that take up space.

8. Spend more time with activities that make you happy.

I mentioned above that you can determine what’s most important to you by following the money. The same thing is true about time. If you were to analyze every waking minute of my day, you’d see that I spend most of my time working on my business and most of the rest of that time with my girlfriend. Or that’s what I’d like to believe. I, for one, spend a good portion of time entertaining myself with movies and television. Productivity nerds would fairly criticize me, but I do find value in resting my brain by allowing a local grumpy doctor solve medical mysteries so I don’t need to or by watching a clever con game unfold.

But buy spending my time this way, I’ve traded my enjoyment in creativity, like photography and music, for sitting in front of a television. Decide what’s important to you and schedule time to dedicate to those activities. I’m not a fan of keeping a schedule, but when you can schedule activities you enjoy rather than scheduling corporate meetings, you will end the year happier and more fulfilled.

And the reason we make resolutions at all is because we are unhappy with something in our lives. If we can spend more time on enjoyable activities, we won’t be nearly as unhappy.

9. Volunteer with an organization that matches your values.

Until the government decides to offer a tax deduction for volunteer work, this potential resolution won’t have a direct effect on your finances, but it could inspire you in ways that do affect your money. The first step is creating a mission statement for your life. In fact, defining your mission can be a complete resolution itself for the year, as defining a meaningful mission requires thoughtful self-reflection that goes beyond the confines of a lunch break at work.

Once you have an accounting of your values and life goals, it’s easier to determine what organizations share your view of the world. Spending time with these organizations and the people who share your philosophies can be rewarding. Often, the reward is through personal satisfaction and pride but there can be a financial aspect, as well. You may decide that you want to use your wealth to improve life for a community, or you may decide that you would like to motivate yourself harder to build your own wealth to help you complete your life’s mission.

10. Be happy with what you have.

The drive to want more for ourselves creates motivation to move forward, to earn more money, and to improve our financial habits. When there’s a mission behind this drive, a purpose in life, it makes that motivation more meaningful. Your should also stop wanting for a moment to consider that if you are reading this article, you were most likely lucky to be born in a situation or community where wealth-building, education, and even sanitation are possible. The “pursuit of happiness,” along with life and liberty, concerned the founders of the United States, but happiness is easily within reach.

Resolve to consider all the positive things in your life: your family, your wealth (no matter how bad your financial situation is, it could be worse), your friends. Consider the opportunities you’ve been given that helped you achieve what you have so far as well as the work you’ve put into shaping your life.

11. Don’t settle for low-quality relationships.

Unfortunately, there are often people in your life who bring you down. You don’t want to surround yourself with yes men, but if you look at your extended circle of friends, chances are you have a few with whom spending time makes you feel good and a few who often dampen your mood. While you don’t want to eliminate relationships with people from whom you can receive kind criticism, it is beneficial to reduce time with people who consistently have a negative attitude.

I’ve discovered this over a long period of time. I’ve always held onto friendships, regardless of the quality, because I believed that every close connection was as important as another. Perhaps I grew up, or perhaps I just had less time to spend with people. Perhaps there have been a few events where I had placed faith in a friend and had been disappointed, and another friend advised me I shouldn’t have such “high” expectations for my relationships. There are enough great people in the world not to have to settle for mediocre people in your life. If you feel you are consistently lowering your expectations, it may be time to spend time with others — as long as you are doing as much as possible to be a good person, yourself, in your inter-personal relationships.

This is the age of Facebook. People brag about how many “friends” they have, and it’s more of a thrill of collection than an enjoyment of real connections. Resolve to enhance the quality of your relationships rather than quantity. Although this goes against most “networking” advice for professionals who want to advance their career, it’s an approach for people who want to advance their life.

12. Let go of your grudges.

Just like it will benefit you to reduce your exposure to people with negative attitudes, consider expelling the negative feelings you’re harboring towards others. I don’t believe that positivity in itself brings about wealth — you can’t increase your bank account by just thinking about how nice it would be to have a bigger bank account, regardless of what New Age aficionados tell you — but letting go of thoughts that prevent you from accepting opportunities and greeting the world optimistically will help put you in a better position to take advantage of good things that come your way.

The above resolutions are not specific. You can use them — or better, just one or two — to guide your thoughts and attitude for the coming year, or you can use them to create a basis for measurable targets that come December 31 you can say you reached. Some tie directly into your finances, and others are related laterally. All of them can help you go beyond the typical neglected resolutions like “losing weight” and “saving money.”

Do something worthwhile and meaningful with your self this coming year..

Photos: L. Marie, Ancient Art, LizMarie_AK


The last time I shared my personal goals and plans with Consumerism Commentary readers was at the very beginning of 2011. I went so far to declare that 2011 would be the year that everything changes, a subtle homage to a television program called Torchwood. Anyway, I was right; in 2011, my life changed, but not as dramatically as one might expect with the events that transpired throughout the year.

My goals for that year focused on my business income, net worth, and investments, as well as savings and charity. After all, this is a site where I discuss financial issues, so the goals I shared included that aspect of my life. I also wrote about my health and hobbies, two important parts of my life, as well. I didn’t share information about my personal relationships, as I thought that might have been a little too personal for this site — and that most Consumerism Commentary readers wouldn’t be interested in hearing about that anyway.

For reference, my net worth at the beginning of 2011 was $538,223 plus the undefined value of Consumerism Commentary at the time. By the end of the year I sold this website, and I’ve avoided being specific about my net worth because the company that purchased the website and business wasn’t interested in publicizing the amount of the sale.

It is now three years later. I’m financially independent, though I continue to work, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Except for investments, I’m leaving much of my nest egg alone. I plan to continue to live off income rather than my savings until I get tired of that approach to living. With that in mind, I can share some of my financial plans — and plans for the non-financial aspects of my life — for this coming year.

1. Grow my consultancy business.

I am offering my time as a private consultant to two types of clients. The first type includes other bloggers who are looking to take their websites to the next level. The ideal client of this type is passionate about a topic, is willing to put a lot of work into their projects, and has all the traits of strong leadership. In order to make myself available, I’m only taking a few clients this year, and I’m highly selective about who I choose to work with. And the choice isn’t about money; I’m not looking to maximize my income from other bloggers, I’m just looking to ensure the people I work with have as much as my availability as possible. You can read more about my blog business coaching and mentoring at lukelandes.com.

This coming year, I also plan to work with at least one corporate client on a formal basis, advising on optimizing their relationships with the broader blogging community through content partnerships and social media.

2. Explore forming a non-profit organization.

At a conference last summer, I accidentally announced that the “next act” of my life involved starting a non-profit organization. I felt obligated to explore that idea after thousands of people heard me make that declaration live, but I didn’t lie. I feel strongly about the importance of non-profit organizations, particularly in the financial industry.

Since the summer, I began exploring what it would take to set up a non-profit organization. Creating an organization from out of nothing is surprisingly easy. But to build the organization into something that does everything I want it to do at a high level of achievement, including fundraising without paying a shady company to handle that side of the business and representing the organization publicly, requires a dedication that can consume the rest of my life on a full-time basis.

What I need to determine this coming year is if the time I have to dedicate to this endeavor is better spent creating a new organization that tackles the issue of financial literacy in a manner not explored by other organization in a search for effectiveness. The other option is to join the board of directors of another organization, keeping me involved in decisions on a different level. I also don’t want to leave behind my passion for the arts, and it would be great to be involved with an arts organization at a deeper level.

3. Determine the best use of my donation to my undergraduate university.

I set aside some money this year that I will contribute to my alma mater. I’ve written about this issue, most recently asking whether colleges and universities are worthwhile charity recipients in the first place. I want to be very careful about how the money I donate is used, particularly because I feel the money should be used to create opportunities for students who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to have them.

A representative from the development department of the university has been in touch with me, and among the two of us and the head of the academic department I’m targeting, we’re going to come up with a plan that makes sense for everyone.

4. Take advantage of investment and business opportunities.

A friend of mine has approached me with an investment opportunity in a spin-off of his current business. The prospects are exciting. It’s not exactly a business I’m passionate about, but it could prove to be a good opportunity, with major shared profits down the road, if the business plan comes to fruition. If the business does not begin picking up speed quickly though, I could lose most of my investment. There’s a lot of risk, but an almost unlimited upside after a few years.

I thankfully have advisers I can turn to when I have opportunities like these. They can help me analyze the business plan and work out the details. Because this is a friend, I’m also concerned about the emotional repercussions of business disagreements. But he and I both have a similar experience when it comes to relationships. Our best working relationships have always been with people who have been friends first, business partners later. Still, I wouldn’t do anything without considering opinions of experts without an emotional attachment.

I’m also working closely with several other bloggers who have been through the same sales process I’ve been through, and we’re planning some new projects for this year. I’m excited about these plans and I’m looking forward to sharing the details with readers and other colleagues once there’s something concrete in place.

5. Continue my personal training and improve my nutrition.

I’ve now had a personal trainer for more than six months. But with a lot of travel and personnel changes at the gym, I often didn’t have the three sessions a week I was looking for. The last few months, my schedule has been more-or-less locked in with a new trainer, and it’s going well. I’m not sure I’ve seen the progress I’d like to see, although I am in much better shape than I was when I started.

One missing piece right now is my nutrition. I still don’t like cooking, much less cooking for just myself. More and more, I want to be as healthy as possible, so I have a strong personal incentive to work on this piece of my health puzzle.

6. Build my personal relationships.

I haven’t written much about my personal relationships on Consumerism Commentary. While I’ve always been forthcoming with my financial details, at least until this website became a major part of my financial situation, I’ve been reluctant to share much about my romantic relationships — well, relationship. Not long ago, I ended a long-term, long-distance relationship, that spanned nearly the entire history of Consumerism Commentary.

And except for four or so months during the darkest period of my life almost twelve years ago, I’ve never been single as an adult. I seem to have maintained only long-term relationships. And having been single for about six weeks, it’s not a situation that particularly suits me.

I have the flexibility to travel and see friends living across the country. One of my plans for the new year involve taking advantage of that flexibility. It’s hard to make a plan that involves building relationships because it depends on the involvement of other people, but I’ll at least be open to new experiences.

7. Continue working with photography.

Over the last few years, I’ve derived a lot of pleasure from taking photography classes and working with a photography teacher on a one-on-one basis. Portraiture seems to be my favorite type of photography. I enjoy working with the subjects, models or otherwise, and developing and printing in the darkroom is very satisfying. I plan to continue portraiture photography in the new year.

I’m not limiting myself to portraiture, though. I am planning to develop a series of photographs for a gallery, but I have a long way to go. I’m slowly building confidence in my photographic skills. I recognize that this will never be a profitable endeavor for me. Everyone with a smartphone is a photographer these days, and it makes it harder for professional photographers to justify their existence.

Like usual for me, this is a lot to contemplate for the year. I’m still young, at least in my opinion, and there’s a lot I want to do with my life. You’ll notice that nowhere above are there any “S.M.A.R.T. goals.” I am frequently examining my life, but I have no interest in turning my passions into a series of metrics. These are guidelines for traveling on the path of my life, designed to keep me moving in the right direction.

What are your plans for the coming year? Do you have any resolutions or goals?


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