Finances, barely-an-adult style(Part 3)


Welcome back for the third and final post in this odd 3 part blog trilogy. I’ll break down the distinction between gambling and investing, as well as insurance and overall risk tolerance as you get older.

Let’s start with how investing and gambling are different, and why it’s important to know which of the two you’re doing. Let’s get 1 important myth out of the way, investing is not risky if done right. If you take the average of the entire western stock market over all recorded stocks history, it has done nothing but go straight up. In the short-term stocks bounce up and down, but over a lifetime they’ve never lost out.

So how do we do investing properly? Well, investing can be done in a few different ways, like the three little bears, there are three vastly different ways to “invest” your money. Let’s start with the most boring but safest way, over diversification, being so diversified that you’re barely affected by the sways of the market at all. But what’s diversification mean? As the most basic kind of example, to be diversified means to spread your money around everywhere, to own shares of companies in different industries. So let’s say you own 1 share of a car company, a cosmetics company, a treasure hunting band, an ostrich farm, google (of course), and a hand full of others. Say we develop some new form of transportation, like teleportation or hover boards, and suddenly no one is buying cars. Your share in that car company will be worth less than before, but since you have your money spread around, it’s only a small loss. The draw back of this however is that if suddenly electric cars become all the rage and your car company shares are worth a lot more than before, you’ll get a lot less money in return because your money is spread out instead of all in the car industry.

So that’s the “too boring” sort of investment strategy, jumping ahead to the “too exciting” side of investing, this is where a lot of people destroy themselves financially. This is the opposite of spreading your money around, this is putting very cent you have in to just a few companies. Putting all your eggs in one basket. To help explain why this is a bad thing, I have 2 specific stories of people I know who shall remain nameless but have great lessons to share with others looking to invest. The first was a thrill seeker who was so close to the finish line only to get greedy and stumble that it hurts my soul just thinking about it. He was around 45, when he got the idea to invest in a gold mining operation. It’s one of those high-risk deals where they go out on a limb and hunt for gold that may or may not be there, if they struck gold he’d be rich. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be telling you about it if they DID strike gold, so as you can imagine the opposite happened and they went bankrupt without warning and he lost every cent he had saved up. All of his savings from the age of 20 til then were thrown to the wind.

The second story is of a man who wasn’t quite as old, but had a considerable amount of savings saved up in a retirement plan. He had no experience with stocks, and being smarter than the average bear, he decided to take all of that money out and invest it in a handful of companies, he didn’t put all of his eggs in one basket, but he didn’t diversify enough to keep himself safe if he picked a bad company or two. Which unfortunately he did, one of them went under and dragged a large chunk of his money down with them. He is a smart man and did diversify a little, but when you gamble instead of invest, you have to accept that some of your choices will just come down to luck.

So finally, bringing it back down to the three bears, let’s talk about safe investing that’s also interesting and profitable. A mixed portfolio of investments can take any number of strategies, it can get very complicated and almost overwhelming at times. Which is why I like an approach I’ve heard referred to as the hull and satellite approach. Where the majority of your money is in your ship, safe inside the hull. For this large portion I personally have my ship managed by a representative at my bank in the form of medium risk mutual funds. Where as the satellite, the risk-taking portion of your portfolio, is a smaller chunk that you can play with. Hunting down companies you have a good feeling about, or have just always wanted to own, like google. (Am I making it too obvious that I want to own google shares one day?) This, among other strategies, helps keep you safe while also taking a little risk here and there.

Moving on now to insurance and how your risk tolerance should curve over time. So, let’s start with kids…. Do you have any? If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need to be paying high end life insurance that pays out millions if you die. You’ll be dead, you won’t need it. And that there is the basics of how risk tolerance should curve off over time. Firstly, I’ll say that you should have insurance, just about every kind you can get a hold of. Especially travel insurance in case you get stuck paying expensive medical bills in a foreign country because god decided to pick on you while you were abroad. But just insurance in general, the fees are a pain, and you can easily make a case for how much money you’d save by being cheap on which insurances you get and which you don’t. But just like an emergency fund, it’s not there for days when your math works out right, it’s there for that cat dying, toe stubbing, everything goes to hell day. Because just a hand full of accidents happening at the same time can utterly destroy your life without the right insurance.

The amount you get however is where risk tolerance comes in to play. How much risk you’re able to tolerate without financially screwing yourself over. To put it simply, the younger you are, the higher your tolerance should be. The older you get, the lower it should be. This plays a role in both insurance and investing, when you’re young you should be investing with a lot of risk, but as you get older and you’re getting closer to the goal you should be looking for safer and safer places to put your money. If a poor stock pick takes out all of your money when you’re 25, it’s not a huge deal, you have the rest of your working life to get it back. If the same happens to you at 55….. you’re basically looking at a retirement of eating only rice and potatoes, because those are the only things you’ll be able to afford to buy. And insurance works the same way, if you have no children, no responsibilities, and no debt then there really isn’t a need for a huge insurance package that’s going to cost you a tonne of money, and is only going to make your cat rich if you die young.(And don’t think your cat isn’t on your will, those creatures are crafty, they’ll find a way on there) Where as if you have children and a spouse you’re leaving behind who will have trouble without you there to help, it’s best to have a much higher insurance package so they’ll be able to handle life without you.(Morbid, but a good point)

That was the basics on risk tolerance, how to know if you’re gambling while investing, and a chat about insurance. So as a break down for adulthood finances we have;

1. Budget
2. Emergency fund
3. Compound interest and investing
4. Insurance and risk

As an overview I personally think that’s pretty good.(But of course I would say that, I wrote it) Keep these in mind as you go on with life and hopefully you’ll be just fine. As a closing little thought to leave you with. If you spend less than you make, invest the difference, while keeping your butt insured, you’ll turn out just fine.

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Finances, barely-an-adult style(Part 2)


In the last post we talked about budgeting, having an emergency fund, then how compound interest works as a basic principle and how it’s like growing an apple tree instead of having to plant and grow carrots every year. And how compound interest is a huge reason some people end up on the streets, while others end up rich.

(Check out the last post here: )

This time around we’ll be looking at investing, because this is where compound interest REALLY takes off. I’ll explain what a stock, bond, and dividend is and how they can help not only the rich, but the average person earn some serious money without actually having to work for it. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you have to have money to make money”, right? Well, I was surprised just how true that statement is….

Let’s start with why you should care, what compound interest and investing have in common and how that turns your little stash of money in to a respectable hill of gold. Compound interest is an occurrence that happens when you earn money on the money you previously earned from interest, and when you invest it’s the same thing, if you leave the amount of money you earned from investing in your account you can then earn money off of that amount on top of what you earned before.

Let’s do a bit of math, assuming your ROI(Return on investment) is 10% a year, which is a bit high but the math is simpler using 10s. If you can only afford to stash away 1000 dollars every year in to an investment account(just 20 dollars a week), you’ll be earning 100 dollars your first year off of that investment, followed by 210 the next, followed by 331 the next, followed by 464 the next, followed by, followed by, followed by…. As you can imagine it keeps growing til you hit a couple of major milestones that ramp up and multiply. The first being what I call the point of take off, when your money is earning as much as you’re able to put in to it every year. So when your earning 1000 dollars every year it’s like having 2 people now putting money in to your account every year. The next milestone, which now comes faster than the last is when your account is earning 2000 per year and it’s like having 3 people putting money away. The milestones at this point happen faster and faster and suddenly you’ll find yourself in your mid 40s and your pile of money is earning more money on it’s own than you could afford to put in to it. Your money is growing on it’s own, and it’s out earning you. That is compound interest, that is the effect of stashing away just 20 dollars a week in to an investment account.

Ok, we’ll talk about the bare basics and explain how investing works. An investing account will be made up of stocks and bonds, and you’ll earn money by selling/holding those, while also being paid dividends. Sounds like a lot right? Give me a second to explain.

Starting with stocks, a stock is a tiny portion of a company that you buy and hold on to. Typically each share isn’t a big percentage of the company, but if you had enough money you could buy up enough stocks to influence major business decisions, though most people will just hold on to them long enough to sell them again for more money than they originally paid for them. Here’s an example; say you bought 1 share of google when its price was 900 dollars a share, you see they release some new product and the company as a result is bigger and more valuable so it’s share price increases to 1000 dollars a share, if you sell your share now you’ll have earned 100 dollars off the difference. This is generally how money is made from stocks, you buy up portions of companies, and then sell them later down the road when the company is worth more than back when you bought it.

Moving on to bonds, a bond is basically a loan you personally give out that you’ll be paid back on when it matures, or reaches a certain amount of time as agreed upon. Here’s an example; My mother bought 1000 dollars worth of Canadian bonds(loaning money to the government) that matured in 10 years, when she was allowed to cash them in for the agreed amount. Typically bonds don’t earn as much money as stocks do, but they’re also far less risky as well. Their advantage being that you don’t have to try and predict the future like you do with stocks.

Finally, what are dividends? Well, when a company earns money, they can do a few different things with it. They can use that money to reinvest in the company by buying more supplies, hiring more employees, spending it on marketing, etc. Or they can share the money out with the share holders, which is what a dividend is. It’s a portion of how much that company earned, that’s given to you as a person who owns some stock in the company. The more shares you own, the more money you’ll be given in dividends. So If you owned 1 share of google and I owned 2, and their dividend was 20 dollars, you’d be given 20 dollars and I’d be given 40. So buying and holding on to companies that pay out dividends is another way to earn money as an investor.

When you begin your investment journey however, I suggest jumping in to mutual funds. A mutual fund is a managed set of stocks/bonds set up by a bank to generate a desired type of return. So if you go to your bank and ask to start a mutual fund investment account, you’ll be met with fees(usually a % of the total amount in your account) but you won’t have the initial headache of learning how investing works. Paying someone else to manage your money means you’re going to see smaller earnings, but you’ll have a qualified expert in your corner. Later in life, as you learn more about investments, you can branch out to making your own stock picks and such, but I suggest you get started at your bank with a managed fund. Whatever it is you decide to do, just get started today. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll hit that point of take off where your money starts to sky rocket off without you.

In the next post I’ll talk about the basics of risk. When you’re investing, how do you know what’s gambling and what’s actually investing? And staying on theme I’ll also mention insurance and how your risk tolerance should curve off as you get older. Knowing where it’s ok to play with a little risk and where it isn’t, is the key to keeping yourself out of trouble. But that will have to wait for next time.

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Finances, barely-an-adult style(Part 1)


Welcome to adulthood. Among all of the other things you were suddenly supposed to be knowledgeable about, is finances. You know, the ins and outs of money; stocks, retirement funds, insurance, budgeting, separated funds (retirement, freedom, vacation, etc), high vs low interest savings accounts, ROIs, and whatever the hell a dividend is…. We were never taught these things in school, but we’re expected to suddenly know all about them as an adult, like magic it was supposed to pop in to your head when your turned 20. Only… I think there was some premium I was supposed to pay to get that bit of DLC, or a box I forgot to check off on some form in high school that requested I get let in to the class that taught this stuff.

Well, for all of you that missed the memo as well, here are the absolute basic on finances. And I mean absolute basics, if I told you everything now, I wouldn’t be able to drag it out and make a blog trilogy out of this. Let’s look at the must haves for surviving on your own; an overall budget, an emergency fund, and how compound interest works. (for either investing, or a savings account)

So firstly, let’s talk budgeting, these things are super important and a real game changer if you’re just doing it all in your head at the moment. A budget is how you track and account for how much money is coming in to your pocket, and how much money is going out of it. (bills, rent, food, gas, insurance, everything) The reason you need to have a budget written down on paper is so you won’t be surprised when you suddenly run out of money. A budget consists of 2 lists; all of the money you’re earning on a monthly basis, and all of the money you’re losing on a monthly basis. The money coming in is probably just your main job and if you do something else on the side, like selling drugs. Your money being lost side needs to include EVERYTHING, every little thing you’re commonly spending money on monthly. Here are the common ones: gas, food, electricity, cable, internet, phone, rent, car insurance, life insurance, etc. Write each item out and average how much each is per month(note that electrical will change throughout the year the most), this makes up the expenses side of your budget. To be safe about it, and so you don’t tell everyone you ended up homeless by reading the A2A blog, subtract 10% off your income total(or multiply it by 0.9) and then add 10% to your expenses total(or multiply it by 1.1). This will give you a nice buffer to prevent any expenses or the random sick day you didn’t account for from dragging you to the streets.

If your income total is higher than your expenses total, congratz you’re building wealth, if your expenses side is higher than your income you need to reduce the amount of bills you’re paying or get a better job. Cancelling your cable bill or reducing your bills to a lower quality for cheaper is the better option, finding a job usually takes time where as those should be changed by your next bill.

Secondly we have your emergency fund, the only thing (other than your parents or a rich friend) that’s really keeping you from the streets. Go to your bank, ask to open up a savings account where you can stash an emergency fund, and start tucking money away. It doesn’t matter how fast, just keep putting money in on a regular basis and never ever touch it. Seriously, don’t touch it. That money is there when everything goes to absolute hell, when you lose your job, your car breaks down, AND your cat dies. If you’re day isn’t that bad, you’re not in enough trouble to need to dip in to your emergency fund. Typically you’ll need at least 3 months of expenses tucked away in there, the most you’ll want is about 6 months or so, beyond 6 months and you’re just becoming a hoarder. It doesn’t matter how broke you are either, putting any amount in this emergency fund per month is better than nothing. Remember it’s the only place you can turn when the poop hits those whirling metal blades. Quick math for those who say they’re too broke for an emergency fund, 20 dollars a week(2 hours work-ish) stuffed away in your emergency fund turns in to 1040 by the end of the year. That’s enough to deal with the occasional car trouble at least, it’s far better than the alternative of having to resort to credit cards or a payday loan. The companies behind those are bottom feeders who are looking to prey on you when you’re at your worst, recognize them for what they are and do everything you can to avoid having to deal with them. Have an emergency fund in case you end up dealing with a “Job losing, car braking, cat dying” kind of day.

 And finally, we have compound interest, this is the cool stuff. Depending on who it favors… If you’re in debt then compound interest will destroy you, if you’re above zero it is one part to the secret of getting and staying rich. That’s no exaggeration, there’s an illustration out there(try to find it using google) with two rivers, one pulling you down a cliff and the other to a paradise style lake. Once you’re caught up in the current it’s hard to fight it and get in the other river….

So what is compound interest? Well, let’s look at the tiny example of having a savings account with a 1% interest rate. So if you put 100 dollars in this savings account and leave it there, the bank you have the account with will pay you that 1% for keeping your money in the bank. They do this because they get paid partially for holding on to money, and so they pay you to encourage you to keep your money in the bank instead of pulling it out. 1% of 100 dollars is 1 dollar, obviously, and it isn’t much right? Well prepare to have your mind BLOWN! That 1 dollar the bank gave you, is now 1 more dollar that you’re being paid interest on. So the next time you’re paid interest it’s 1 dollar and 1 cent. Crazy right? You earned an extra penny for doing nothing. So now you have 102.01$ in he bank, until the next time set of interest payments come around and you’re paid 1.0201$ instead of the 1.01. So now you’re making 2 pennys every interest payment instead of just 1. And this slowly increasing set of moneys builds momentum, and the longer it grows the faster it ramps up until it gets to the point where you’re earning some actually noticeable amount of money just for holding your money in the bank.

I know that sounds like a really pitiful amount, and it is. But let me ask you, would you rather plant, water, and harvest a huge field of crops every single year, or would you rather plant apple trees? The apple trees will take longer to set up, but after they’ve grown, all you have to do is collect your apples when they’re fully grown. As you watch all your neighbours work their fields all year round, you just have to go out once a year and collect the harvest. The apple trees sound pretty great huh? Even though you won’t see a return in the first few years, you’ll eventually be rewarded with a great field of low work fruits.

This being said, the flip side of compound interest looks like a hole that seems to just keep getting deeper. When you’re in debt you have to deal with interest as well, but instead of the bank paying you, you pay the bank more money. And when you’re already below zero, that means tagging on more money to how much you owe….

I’ll go further in to how compound interest can help the average person become rich or turn even the most hard working homeless. I’ll also explain investing in general terms. But for now, keep an eye out for part 2 of “Finances, barely-an-adult style”.

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Should we fear failure?


To begin with, at time of writing, google defines failure as a lack of success or the omission of expected or required results. This being google, obviously they’re not allowed to define it with something like “You done fucked up”, “ ya dropped the ball”, or even “fubar”. Any way to describe not succeeding at something though basically means the same thing, you didn’t get/achieve something you wanted to.

So where does this fear of failure come from? Is it a lack of confidence, a fear of doing without the thing you wanted, a fear of being laughed at for failure, a fear of missing out on other the other things we could be doing with our time, or is it a fear of the consequences?

Well, lets have a look at self confidence first, one of the reasons we fear failure is because we don’t believe we’re capable of getting/achieving what we want. Self image can be crippling in some cases, thoughts of your capabilities sink in and you begin to worry. But, unless it’s something that has literally never been done before on the planet, you know the thing you want is possible. If it’s  possible you just have to rise to the challenge, which just takes time and determination. It’s important to take stock, if the guy sitting next to you can do it, you can too. You just need to find out what the person has/knows, and go out and get/learn that thing to put you on even footing.

Fear of doing without the thing you want to get/achieve has to be the most confusing line of reasoning you’ll ever convince yourself of. The guy who sees an attractive girl but can’t build up the nerve to talk to her because she might turn him down. The person who wouldn’t dream of applying for the job they want because they might get turned down. Whether you do or don’t, you still won’t. You won’t get/achieve the thing you desire, and you’ll still be without. Making this the most confusing line of thought, and even weirder is it’s actually really common…. Not trying to get the thing you want, because… you don’t want to do without the thing you want….. (riiiiiiggghhhhttt……)

Fear of being laughed at or made fun of for trying to achieve your goals but failing at them. This ones a bit of a soul search really, is the approval of idiots really worth living without the things you want to get/achieve? I say idiots because that’s exactly what they are, little minded idiots, anyone who does not encourage or better those around them is worthless to you and society as a whole. That might sound a little harsh, there are critical people all over the world, we all know someone who gets a kick out of other peoples pain and vulnerabilities. Well, that person is an ass, if you ignore them they will go away and if you were to fast-forward in to the future(on average) you’d find they without goals of their own will be left behind by life. So to repeat the question, is looking cool in front of them really worth sacrificing your own personal growth?

FOMO, or a fear of missing out, makes a lot of sense spoken out loud. Everyone can understand not doing X thing because you might miss out on Y. The fear and realization that saying yes to 1 thing effectively means saying no to a world of possibilities. Prior to making a decision or commitment to do something, you have the world open to you and you can literally do anything. If you were to pick 1 specific goal and really commit to it, you might miss out on something else that could be more advantageous to you later. This leaves you never trying to get/achieve what you want in fear of not wanting it after putting the effort in, because you missed out on some other big opportunity, and in comparison what you got/achieved is less. Again, spoken aloud this makes a lot of sense, in practice this could leave you wasting literal years of your life and missing out on countless things because you were too worried about “what ifs”. I saw a great quote on a fortune cookie that relates to this one, “Many a misstep were made by standing still”.

Finally, and most obviously, is the fear of facing the consequences of failure. Now out of all of the reasons for fearing failure, this one makes the most sense of course. But… most of the consequences we imagine tend to be all in our head. Some of course aren’t, some things can be life threatening or may cause harm to others, which aren’t the kinds of things I’m talking about. I’m more talking about fears with what we’d consider earth shattering consequences that don’t affect our health, or that of others. Here’s an example of a fear of consequences that seem justifiable, if you can’t deal with your job any more and try to jump jobs to something else. Some people have the reasonable fear of the new job not working out and being left jobless. Which would be bad, but you could have gotten a second job on the weekends prior to the swap and left the second job once you found yourself grounded firmly I the new one. This would protect you from being incomeless if the new job fell through, removing any actual worry. I think you can guess where I’m going with this, but all “consequences” we’re afraid of can just about all be mitigated with some proper planning.

So, should we fear failure? Personally, I think I’d rather have a list of things I’ve failed at than a list of things I was too afraid to even try. The person who does not try, has already failed.

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Why you need to be journaling


I’ll get straight to the point on this one, you should be journaling. It’s far too easy to let life flow from day to day, to get caught in that flow and let it drift you to where ever you’re end up. It’s not like if you don’t journal you’ll end up homeless thinking to yourself, “If only I’d journaled! How foolish was I?!” But there are some obvious benefits to journaling and some of them will definitely affect your life in positive ways. I’ll list them out and explain one of the reasons I began A2A while I’m at it.

To begin with, and most obviously, journaling forces you to sit down and think back on your day/week. It’s really easy to get home from school/work and just wipe it from your mind, like it was some sort of bad dream that you can forget about now that you’re home. But it’s important to sit down and think about what you went through that day, taking the time to think about what you could have done differently. When you sit down at the end of a long week, instead of distracting yourself with television, you could be sitting down with a piece of paper, writing down all the things you noticed about the week. Were you unhappy, were you hungry at work everyday, was there something you did wrong, did you not put aside enough leisure time for yourself, or was your week perfect? Sitting down and writing things down can give you something to reflect back on to help you make better decisions about the next week coming up.

Journaling can help from day to day as well, taking time and writing down the events of the day forces you to rethink them in a different frame of mind than you had when you were going through them. For example, if you and a co-worker had a fight over something that day you’d probably only remember the frustration you felt in the moment, unless you go back and think about why the fight happened. Some people dump the problems they had at work on their friends or their significant other as a way of rehashing the events of the day and getting them out in the open. You can do the same thing by journaling, and by writing them to yourself you’re not burdening the people around you with your emotional baggage. It may sound harsh, but unless you have a therapist for a friend, they likely don’t want to listen to every problem you have. Instead I find it’s best to write down your thoughts, get them out of your head and think about what might have really been going on. In the moment you might have just felt your co-worker was being an ass, but maybe if you go back and think about it with a clear mind you’d remember hearing about their mother being sick. That co-worker might be dealing with a huge amount of pain, and while misdirected rage is never right, you can imagine how you’d handle being given the news of your loved one potentially dying. For this reason, it’s extremely important to rethink situations to get the full scope of what might be going on in the background.

And to the efforts of long-term goals, journaling can help you there too. Having a report/check in on your daily life can be something you can use to look back on the year and what became of it. Did you complete your goal for lent? Was it really important to you if you didn’t? Did you make the most of the summer while it was here? Do you wish you’d gone to the beach more? Do you wish you’d partied more? I bet you wish you’d spent your time more responsibly, maybe you wish you’d spent more time with your friends and less time in front of the TV. Or heck, maybe you wish you’d caught up on all of your favorite shows instead of working so much. You do you, but journaling helps you at least realize you’re doing you, and not just going along with the motions. Journaling gives you a tool at the end of the year to use as a guide for what you want next year to look more like.

As I promised though, I’ll talk a little about one of the reasons I started A2A. Gold star for you if you were able to guess, I’ve spent… way too much time drifting. Take it from someone who knows, there’s nothing you’ll regret more than wasting time. Sure, you might regret being stupid and buying a big fancy car you can’t afford, but when you get older you’ll regret the amount of hours you had to work to pay for that car, not the money itself. So with A2A existing as a sort of online journal, I’m partly doing this as a way to keep my thoughts and habits in check, at the end of this year I can look back and say I did everything I’d like to have done. Or if not that, at least I can look back and decide on what needs to change for next year. I might look back and notice my finances are slipping, that I gained weight, that I haven’t put enough time aside for friends and family, or maybe I’ll see some other trend I could work on fixing. Maybe I’ll look back and discover my life needs more memes…… ya, that’s probably it…. I just need to set aside more time spent scrolling Facebook memes and then my life would be perfect.

A word of advice though, if you’re journaling on a digital format where you can delete entries, delete negative entries after they’ve becomes too old for it to be useful. I spent 9 months travelling across Canada, I made a journal entry whenever I felt a rush of emotions or the need to tell someone something without having anyone to tell it to. I had two folders, one I called the ramblings of a sociopath and the other was labelled sunshine and rainbows. You can guess which folder the bad day entries went in to…. I got my negative thoughts out of my head and on to my laptop and went on with my days. After the experience was over, I reviewed those entries and wrote down everything I thought was important, and then I deleted the ramblings of a sociopath. So to this day, as my memories of the experience fade, the only thing I have to look back on are pictures of all the people I met and the good times that I thought were so good I committed them to paper(code?). Learn what you can from your bad entries, but don’t let them outstay their welcome.

To wrap this up though, journaling is a great way to get your thoughts out of your head and on to paper. To help you cleanse your day and give it a place to rest rather than on your shoulders. To help you look back on situations in a different light, in order to help you make better decisions about your life in the future. Over all, journaling is a great tool to help you better your life and I suggest that everyone do it.

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