Archive for May, 2008

Will We Ever Learn When it Comes to Mortgage Lending?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I spent most of 1991 restructuring loans and trying to get people to make payments. No, I wasn’t in the collections department, I was a private banker and dealing with the wealthiest depositors of the bank. In the soaring real estate market of the late 80s banks had begun offering unsecured lines of credit to developers and when the market turned many of these clients stopped paying. When it was clear the market hadn’t just stalled banks scrambled to tighten up loose lending practices agreeing never to relax credit policies again. But, as memories became fuzzier these safeguards were stripped away.

Now that we’ve come full circle lenders are once again reigning in lending policies. Loans we could have gotten approved yesterday evaporate into thin air today. Loan programs are “retired” (a nice word for canceled), and unused portions of home equity lines of credit are frozen. No Documentation loans have all but gone away except for the self employed, and Stated Income has virtually disappeared as well. Short sales and foreclosures are growing and meanwhile values keep dropping.

What can we learn from this? There is no such thing as a sure bet in any investment. Look at the Dot-Com bust of 2000. How many of us had way too much money in tech stocks? Didn’t we see our portfolios drop by 50 percent? Afterward we all said we had to get back to balanced investing. No more heavy betting in just one industry. Yet, even after this red flag the same sort of thinking prevailed when it came to the real estate market. There was a mad frenzy to buy, buy, buy, before you were priced out of the market which caused prices to surge even further. Suddenly everybody was a real estate investor.

So here’s some advice. Calm down. If you don’t have to sell just live your life and keep debt to a minimum. The fewer homes there are on the market right now the better. Values will eventually begin to rise again. If you’re looking to buy – buy. Prices are down and rates are low so don’t wait trying to time the bottom of the market. That never works. And last, if you do buy now realize that your self-worth is not dependent upon the size of your home. Don’t fall prey to buying more house than you can afford. It’s not the size of your house that counts - but the size of your life.

How to Be Healthy Wealthy and Wise

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

I’ve come across a lot of articles recently that say good health is tied into the cycles of the sun, or what are known as circadian rhythms. Could it be old Ben Franklin was on to something?

For a long time I’ve been trying to get to bed earlier so that I’ll get up earlier. I really enjoy that quiet time in the morning before there are many cars on the road. I love the stillness and banter of birds at the feeder on my deck. I find I do my best writing and thinking at that time too. An hour can slip by before I notice. It’s a time ripe with endless possibilities as the day awaits stretched ahead of us.

The problem I have is that I go to bed too darn late every night and miss many an awe-inspiring morning. I’m either staying up late to finish an article, watching that hilarious rerun of Seinfeld I’ve seen at least 5x but can’t turn-off, or just checking my email - for the 100th time. In any case, all these critical can’t be missed distractions prevent me from bounding out of bed when the sun rises.

From what I’ve read, artificial light from lamps, televisions and computers cuts into sleep time interfering with our sleep patterns which creates a state of perpetual jet lag. (To read more about this check out Mercola.com) When you think about this it makes sense. After all what is jet lag? It’s when our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, is not synchronized to the time where we’ve traveled. Our biological clock depends on the cues of light and dark to regulate not only sleep but a host of hormones that affect our health. Lack of sleep is also known to be a contributing factor to obesity. One study even showed that workers on prolonged night shift duty had a higher incidence of cancer.

A few weeks ago I managed to get to bed and be up early for 5 consecutive days. I felt better than I had in a long time and got everything accomplished on my to do list energetically and with ease. I thought finally I’d licked the burning the midnight oil habit forever. On the 5th day I had an obligation that kept me out well past my new 10 pm bedtime. In the morning I forced myself out of the bed at sunrise anyway but felt like a zombie all day. There’s nothing like lack of sleep to make you cranky and a mental dullard. The next day I slept a little later and went to bed a little later until after a few days I was back to my old routine of staying up until midnight. But, the memory of how exhilarated I felt at getting up with the sun stayed with me.

I have a number of very good friends who are natural early risers. And, while their eyeballs roll to the back of their heads at around 9:30 pm, I have to admit they are among the most productive people I know. Their houses are always spic and span; you’ll never find a dirty dish in their sink, and the best part is they get up and exercise every morning no matter what even on vacation – and that I truly admire.

In light of all this I’m planning to try my ‘early to bed and early to rise’ experiment again. This time I want it to stick, so I’m going for 30 days - since it takes that long to change a habit. I want to use that time to meditate and exercise and write before I have to start the work day. No more wasting time on self-sabotaging distractions. So, I’m apologizing in advance to anyone who’s with me when my eyeballs roll to the back of my head at 9:30 pm.

Too Many Obligations – So Little Time

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

“There is no question that people in the Western world can become consumed by work, travel, family and all kinds of demands and distractions. This is true for so many of us that we can often find ourselves unnecessarily irritable at the mention of another demand. Even when we plan to slow down, we can still become drawn into activities because we are habituated to doing so.” Science of Mind Magazine, May 2008 p.46

You know, I AM irritable these days.

Stress is one of those things that creeps-up on you little by little. At the time you join a new club or volunteer organization you have great intentions and your enthusiasm is high. You’re not thinking about how rushing to another meeting a few times a month will affect you. But, after adding layer upon layer of new responsibilities and commitments to our lives the pressure to meet them all puts a big squeeze on the time we have to just be.

When my Toastmasters group approached me to be the secretary I said no. We all have but 24 hours a day and just 7 days a week, so shouldn’t we be focusing on the pursuits that support the vision of our lives we’re working to create? Years ago I would have felt it impossible to say no to taking on the position of secretary, but not anymore.

This got me thinking about an aunt who always said, “Why not?” when asked by family to join them in an outing. She was always ready and willing to visit family, or when she was younger to entertain family in her home. She seemed to enjoy her life. Why is that? I think it was because she wasn’t so over committed and pressed for time that in between commitments all she wanted to do was be alone so she could decompress.

At times I don’t even want to answer the phone. I feel stretched too thin. Phone calls are stressful because in sales they’re never ending - plus many clients haven’t a clue of how that one last call at 9:30 pm could possibly push you over the edge. For parents it may be one more request by a child, or cleaning the counters of crumbs – again or finding dishes in the sink – again. In any case, downtime which is so underrated in our society is quite necessary and healthy. Without enough downtime I tend to go to the other extreme by pushing away all commitments even ones that might be fun.

That being said I’m thinking a lot more these days about the commitments I’ve taken on. Part of maturing is learning to say no. I think it’s healthy to disengage from activities that no longer contribute to creating the life you desire. Sometimes in order to ‘keep on keeping on’ we have to move on.

Living in the Past Can Make You Crazy

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Every day is like the film Ground Hog Day for Jill Price, a woman with an astonishing memory for the details of her life since she was a child. Diane Sawyer interviewed her last night on the ABC program 20/20. Price is able to remember everything that ever happened down to the dates and she’s written a book, The Woman Who Can’t Forget. She compares the phenomenon to having a “split screen” in her head. Her memory captures her daily life as if on video tape, while at the same time memories of her past are playing in complete detail on the other screen. Price says this continual reliving of past events and emotions makes it hard for her to move on with her life.

This got me thinking about a recent unpleasant incident that brought back a flood of memories from childhood I’d tried very hard to forget. I think there’s a point in your life when you mature when you have to let go of old resentments and unhappiness. This incident though opened the vault where I’d stored my ‘video tapes’ and they all came back in full alive again. I recognized that the ‘freshness’ of the pain I felt at reliving these memories meant that I hadn’t dealt with these emotions, merely suppressed them for several decades.

After this I spent several weeks meditating on forgiving and forgetting. What I focused on was that each of us has their issues that we take with us into adulthood that at times cause us to react just as we did when we were children. During times when we feel threatened we don’t think; we just strike back reflexively. What I needed to learn was to detach from the ‘strike’ and not take it personally. So often the reason we carry our past wounds with us is because we’ve taken it as a personal attack. Separating who we truly are at our core - where all is always well - from the outward personality that believes it has suffered an affront and wears it like a badge of honor is the answer. After working on this issue I do feel that I’ve made strides toward putting the past behind me – again.

As a friend of mine said, “I forgave some people from my past that I’d blamed for certain things and I feel lighter, as if something lifted from me.” And, it’s true. When we forgive we do feel lighter – and free. Free of the ‘kicked in the stomach feeling’ those memories had us reliving because of our attachment to blaming and resentment of others. When you stop and think about it blaming someone for something long after the event occurred is absurd. After all you’re the one that’s suffering right now in the present, and it’s likely that the other person hasn’t thought about you in years.

Moving on and forgiveness is also something we ought to apply to ourselves more often. Some past decisions still float up to haunt me once in a while such as not finishing graduate work in media studies after all the effort it took to quit my job to go back to school, and then going back into banking again. The emotions I still feel over this decision make it evident that I haven’t forgiven myself. The only answer is to either take action and correct the situation, or get over it and accept what is which is another work in progress I’m tackling.

But, this brings me to the realization I had after watching the segment on 20/20 of why the saying, ‘forgive and forget’ exists in the first place. If you’ve truly forgiven – you have to forget otherwise you’ll live with a split screen in your head just like Jill Price. Instead we can choose to learn from our past and grow more conscious so that we do things differently in the present like Murray’s character did in Ground Hog Day.

Unplugging From Materialism is No Easy Task.

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Pure Divine Love is no meek priest OR tight banker. It will smash all your windows. And only then throw in the holy gifts. Hafiz, I Heard God Laughing

Since my last post I received an email and one comment regarding selling my house that I wanted to address since both had to do with “letting go of stuff.” Here are the excerpts:

“One question you could perhaps ask yourself is - If the market were strong today would I definitely sell? Is it just the fact that the market is down - or is it really that you do not want to give up living in the house? I am in the middle of reading Eckhart Tolle’s book that Oprah has been doing the online class for (A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose). It’s really thought provoking.”

&

“I think that your dream was a clear sign that you need to let go of the house and move on to your passion. Trust that things will fall into place to support that choice, which I hear is the one you want to make.

Actually, what you are teaching others is to not make “stuff” the focus of their world because it doesn’t feed the soul. The house that you have become attached to is actually “stuff” too. It is weighing you down with responsibility and making you very unhappy. My advice is to let it go, sell it, get out from under it. There really is no right timing–follow your heart–your passion!”

First, thank you both very much for your insights. I agree that my dream was a clear sign to make the career change.

It’s also true that I’ve become attached to this house. I can go on living here as long as I stay in my current job where my earning potential is greater – and that’s what is weighing me down. Originally, I’d planned on selling after my prepayment penalty expired, and I’d finished the renovations. But, when the market stalled in 2006 I decided to wait to see if it would pick up again and that’s why I’m still here, plus by then I’d developed another attachment - making a profit on the sale. So, the slow market does play a factor in my reluctance to sell right now. If the market were appreciating this decision would be far less difficult. Now, I’m hoping to break even – a new attachment.

I’m almost finished reading A New Earth. I’m finding it much easier to read than The Power of Now. I haven’t done all the online sessions with Oprah and Eckhart, but the ones I did view answered many questions. His explanation of how our egos need to create attachments and identities to stay ‘alive’ is really an eye-opener. I’m working on peeling away the layers of attachment I’ve developed. It’s not an overnight process. Knowing your attached is the first step; detaching takes getting used to.

Over the years I’ve read books by various authors on the topic of awakening from the illusion of the ego, but understanding something intellectually and living it are two different things. It takes mindfulness and a deep spiritual maturity. The first big detachment I experienced was leaving a private banking career to go back to school. It took me years to detach enough to make that decision. The greatest tool I found to date is meditation. Without it I don’t think I could have detached from the identity of my former career. All I can say is that I still have a long, long way to go, but I view each day as an opportunity to try again.

To smashing windows!

P.S. This house has 35 windows if you count the garage.