Stop Sucking at Money


Last time it was about Love, and this time it’s about Money.

There are so many ways to suck at money, and by suck, I mean you are so bad at this particular skill, it regularly gets in the way of everything else.

A friend of mine was looking for work and was so daunted, actually haunted, by the idea of how much she needed to earn, it almost paralyzed her efforts. It felt impossible for her to earn enough. She’d need to be someone else to survive: Superwoman.

It’s common to freeze up

about money when it feels

out of hand.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Almost everyone panics about money at some point. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have the skills to understand money in concrete terms. We don’t separate the numbers from our emotions. Numbers are facts, but we attach them to anxiety around our self worth, rage at grand injustices, or blissful denial about the future.

First let’s take an inventory. Then, I’ll tell how my friend found great relief with a small effort to stop sucking.

Oh, the many ways one might suck at money. Let’s break it down. Ask yourself, at which of these do I suck at so badly it gets in my way?

  • Understanding my expenses
  • Paying down debt
  • Spending less than I bring in
  • Bringing in more than I need
  • Getting a raise
  • Saving for planned expenses
  • Saving ahead for surprise expenses
  • Spending money wisely
  • Feeling generous
  • Planning for future financial needs
  • Talking rationally about money

It’s a long list. You probably don’t suck at all of them, but even if you do, taken one at a time, each can be brought up to non-suck status through small steps.

That would be the first small step: pick the one you suck at most, one that also gets in the way. That’s key. It’s okay to suck at something that doesn’t matter. Pick one that matters a lot!

My friend couldn’t imagine a job that would pay enough, because she sucked at the first thing up there—she didn’t understand her expenses. She didn’t know the one number that would help her wrangle her anxiety: her monthly nut. So she didn’t really know what she had to earn to break even with her expenses.

An accurate way to look at your monthly nut can take a day or two of categorizing expenses across all your credit card and bank statements, and it’s a great way to get honest with your spending, especially if you want to make changes.

She took a faster path to sanity. It took less than an hour.

All her spending eventually comes out of one checking account, so to calculate her monthly nut, all she had to do was look at total withdrawals from each bank statement for 6 months, add them up, and divided by 6.

The result? Her monthly nut. A real number, not a vague anxiety ridden idea, and as it turns out a number she could hit without being Superwoman.

Knowing her real expenses, her monthly nut, she was much less anxious.

Just last week she got a job offer, negotiating with the confidence she’d have enough to meet her needs.

Not all skills at not-sucking are as quick to solve, but sometimes we get stuck because we are missing some of the facts.

I’m putting together a step-by-step guide to help you make progress on this stuff, and I need to learn a bit more about what you need. If you want to learn more about it, sign up on my First Alerts list.


Is a Fixer-Upper a Good Choice for Your First Home?


Finding your first home is exciting and challenging. A fixer-upper could be a great way to get
into a better neighborhood for less money, or could pay off by giving you a better home or
property to sell. Before you jump in, weigh the factors relating to purchasing a fixer-upper to
ensure you don’t get in over your head.

Understanding steps

Buying your first home can be complex, and buying a fixer-upper can add to the difficulty. Begin
the home buying process by establishing a realistic budget. For the most part, you should look
at homes that cost less than 2 to 3 times your annual income, and a mortgage payment totalling
28 percent or less of your monthly gross income. You will also need to produce a down
payment for your home, and lenders typically require 20 percent of the purchase price. Do
some research to know what is available in your area and in your price range. For example, the
average listing price for a fixer-upper home in San Francisco is $1.34M. Note that many buyers
have a fantasy of “flipping” fixer-uppers. This could be a realistic expectation if you make
repairs yourself or purchase in a neighborhood with rising home values, and is one of the
factors in deciding on your budget for purchase.

You should then get prequalified and pre-approved for a mortgage. Talk to a lender on the
phone for prequalification, or use an online prequalification calculator for a snapshot of what you
can afford. Pre-approval is more involved, and Time suggests exploring lenders to get the best
rates, closing costs and terms. For pre-approval, you will need to provide proof of your income,
assets, employment, and identity. Lenders will also check your credit history. If you have
complications such as a divorce, bankruptcy, lawsuits, or are self-employed, the process can be
lengthy. Once you complete the pre-approval process, you can start serious house-hunting.
Financing a fixer-upper can be even more complicated. If you can afford to make repairs out of
your own budget, that’s terrific. However, after managing a down payment, moving costs, and
other fees, many homeowners are strapped. If you need help funding renovations, one option is
to apply for a FHA 203(k) loan. These mortgages are backed by the Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD), which can make lenders more inclined to provide funding even
if the property offers insufficient collateral for the loan.

Fixing your fixer-upper

As This Old House explains, the most economical way to bring your fixer-upper up to speed is
by making repairs yourself. You should carefully evaluate your abilities, since many repairs
require specialized skills. If your property needs structural repairs and you want to live onsite,
you’ll need to resolve those issues first. Most handyman-types may do fine with a handful of
simple and cosmetic changes, such as painting and installing cabinets, but structural
renovations often require a professional.
You should evaluate what tools are in your toolbox as well. You can rent tools or you can
purchase your own power tools and equipment. This could include drills, sanders, jigsaws,
sawhorses, ladders, and the like. If you do decide to buy tools for your DIY work, ensure you
invest in quality equipment since tools like a well-made drill keep you working more efficiently
for longer periods of time. Whether you rent or own, remember to include tools in your budget.
You may need to hire help for more advanced repairs. Unless you have a relative who is a
contractor, this could mean substantial expense as well as a lengthy renovation process. And
some professionals point out you can run into unforeseen issues and costs when opening walls
or tearing up floors. Living elsewhere during renovations can also eat up your budget. All these
factors can end your dream of purchasing a fixer-upper as an investment property, so weigh
potential costs carefully.

Is a fixer-upper for you?

Weigh your circumstances thoughtfully. Ask yourself if you have the skills or financial position
to make a fixer-upper work for you. In the right situation, a fixer-upper can be a terrific first
home. Or it can be the opportunity to make some money to help you buy your dream home.

The real estate deficiency facing San Francisco

An in-depth and serious look at the real estate deficiency facing San Francisco and the many layers of complexity involved in this ever evolving market.

Where San Francisco’s housing is & how it’s changing

Check out this video from the San Francisco planning department explaining why housing is expensive, and what they are doing about it.

Announcing my new mobile device app

I’m excited to announce my new mobile device app for anyone interested in the San Francisco Bay Area Real Estate market. It’s great to step my business up to the next level and to be able to reach and help more people.

If you are thinking about buying the first step is to start window shopping and filtering out your likes and dislikes. The second step is to start touring homes. So download my new app and email or call me for more info on any address.

Just text BHHS112788 to 87778 to receive a message with a link to download on you mobile device or go to

If you are thinking about selling, this is a great simple way to see what those homes around you are selling for. Here’s a tip! When looking to value a home we generally use 6 properties to determine the market. These six properties should be similar in style, size and condition to the property we are trying to determine market value for.  If you’d like to start looking at the market around you download my new app today and/or send me a message for a free personalized market analysis of your property.