Coronavirus

Okay, I’m jumping on the bandwagon. It’s just inescapable.

I’m inundated everyday on the news about the coronavirus and its spread all over Japan. Everyday, new cases are reported. The worrying thing is that it’s affecting even those who had no direct contact with people from China’s Wuhan province.

There’s a lack of masks in Japan and all around the world. People are stocking up on alcohol gels and sprays. I worry about the medical professionals who have to deal with this on a daily basis. Japan already has a lack of doctors, but this crisis is going to overwork an already over-burdened system.

No more masks.

Yikes. It’s enough to make a person crazy.

Surprisingly, though, I’m not panicking–even if I have hypochondriac tendencies. I just don’t want to get sick and be incapacitated again. I think this has something to do with my bout with the flu last month. I hate feeling unwell. And the worse thing is the recovery process–trying to get back up again.

However, I’ve adopted the stance that if I get sick, I get sick. In my line of work, I am in contact with a lot of germy children armed with all kinds of bacteria and viruses. In one week, I’m in charge of close to 100 kids–so multiply that by the people they come in contact with. Think about that. It’s a miracle that I’m not sick every week.

With that said, I do my best to stay healthy–physically and mentally. Recently, I’ve upped my intake of vitamin C and fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m getting more sleep and relaxing as much as I can.

Orange overload.

Mentally–I’ve turned off the news. I don’t want to be hearing about it every day. There’s just no point. Maybe during the weekends when I’m not so busy, I’ll turn it on just to get an update. I’m also reading stuff that makes me happy or keeps me in a positive mood.

I don’t want to waste precious time and energy worrying about something I can’t control.

But, I am worried about the overall effect the coronavirus has on the Japanese and the global economy. Right now, it’s hard to tell because we’re still in the thick of it, but I’m guessing the impact will be huge. For Japan, the loss of inbound Chinese tourists have already created a loss of income for many businesses. Plus, the country has pinned a lot of their hopes on the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. I hope this coronavirus pandemic dies down before the start of the games, but it’s not looking good.

I’m also concerned about the spread of this disease to the developing world. Right now, much of the news is coming from the first world–the silver lining is that these countries have the resources to deal with this epidemic. However, when we move into the less developed world, we’re talking about poor people who are already struggling to meet their basic needs. This is just going to break them.

Like everyone else, I just want this to be over. But we’re still in it for a couple of months. Experts are claiming the peak will be in April–which means we still have a few more weeks of hysteria hitting the airwaves.

Not Star Wars, VIRUS Wars

Anyways, I hope everyone stays healthy and safe.

Changes

I’ve been messing around with the layout of the website and I can’t stop. I’m fascinated by all of the things I can do. I didn’t realize that working on a blog can be so fun. I feel like I’m working like a professional web designer. I know I’m not, but the feeling is there. I’m enjoying myself immensely. I do apologize if it looks messy and disorganized. I think it’s all part of the process.

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Still, though, that shouldn’t distract me from the whole purpose of writing this blog post. It’s work related so it has a lot to do with finances.

I had my contract meeting with the bosses last week and needless to say, there really wasn’t anything new to report–not with them anyways. I had low expectations going in. I asked for things that I knew they had no power to grant me. Is this true, though? I wonder.

However, there’s been some rumblings from my co-workers. People have left the company because of some dissatisfaction with the way we’re being run. We, as in the teachers. I’m not allowed to say much about how the company is run because I signed the contract stating that I am not allowed to share information about company proceedings–yada yada, but I think I’m allowed to express my feelings on a blog that nobody really reads.

And there you have it. Changes–I really feel like it’s time for me to change careers. I’m going to be forty this year and I have really nothing to show for it in terms of achievements with this company. I’m still part-time, but that’s the only thing that I really like about my job. I don’t want all the extra responsibilities with being full-time and in higher positions. I don’t want more of my precious time tied up working for someone else.

More and more, I’m feeling the pull to become free. But I feel stuck and can’t leave just yet.

When I did my ask at the meeting, my manager came back at me and and told me straight up that there’s nothing he could do. It’s just the nature of the job. Fair enough. But then he goes to to add that if that was something that I felt really strongly about, then maybe I should think about finding a different job.

Bam.

After ten years of good service to the company, this is what I am told.

Imagine my surprise to be told I should leave instead…

He does have a point, though. I acknowledge that. This is why I knew beforehand that the answer was going to be no.

What bothers me about the whole exchange was the swiftness of the reply. He didn’t even acknowledge that there might be options to think about. He could have said something about talking to the higher ups and see if someone could look into it. He didn’t even think there was a problem. It was just I was wrong for asking and I need to shut up or leave if I really didn’t like it.

Eventually, I will, though. But not at the moment. I’ve already planned my year on the income I will be getting from this job. I need to hang on a couple more years to be on more financially safe footing and then I’ll leave really. Plus, I’m also working on a lot of side hustles to help me get there.

In the end, this is a good slap to the face to remind me that I need to shake myself out of the rut I’ve dug myself into the last few years. I’ve been complacent so I need to really get my act together.

I’m choosing to stay for now. The company is very lucky to have me as an employee. I do good work and make my students, their parents, and the school staff happy and satisfied.

With that said, I’ve got my eye on the future and I need to press on doubly hard towards the goal of working for myself.

More Tax Filing: US Version

In case I haven’t made it obvious, 2020 seems to be dominated so far by the issue of taxes.

If you’ve read through my previous post, God bless you, you poor soul.

And a very heartfelt thank you.

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I don’t know if I helped anyone with that post, but I just wanted to get it out of me, kind of like a purging of something bad that had been building up in my body.

My post was just a jumbled mess–but it’s out there. Hopefully, someone will find it useful when they are filing their own Japanese taxes.

This time around, though, I’m about to tackle my US taxes. As a US citizen, I am required by law to file taxes even though I earn an income from a foreign entity based outside of the United States. Other countries don’t require their citizens to do that.

(Oh, the unfairness and absurdity of it all!)

The good(?) news is that I only need to file and not pay taxes because I don’t really make that much money.

However, just filing costs US expats a lot of money.

(Oh, the unfairness and absurdity of it all!)

For 2018, US citizens who earned an income above $103,000 (I think) needed to pay taxes on the income they earned above that threshold. If you earn less than that, you don’t need to pay taxes if you qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. You also have to prove that you were not in the US when you earned this income–the Bonafide Resident test.

I qualify for both, but my real issue is whether I should file these taxes on my own or use a service to do this.

Last year, I used the services of a company that specializes in US expatriate tax filing. It cost me about $1600. Through my own fault, I let myself neglect this very important part of being a US national. Since I wanted to take responsibility for that mistake, I knew I had to bite the bullet and just pay that amount.

At that point, it was worth it. I really needed to get caught up with my filings for the last three years. I’d attempted to do it all online, but it was all confusing. I couldn’t make the forms fit the information I had. The whole healthcare coverage part of the forms was difficult to figure out because I had Japanese coverage, not US healthcare. I also had to file the FATCA and the FBAR. I also had so many questions about how to fill out the investing part of the tax forms.

I was overwhelmed and needed help and I thought paying the company $1600 was worth it for my peace of mind.

This year, though, now that I am all caught up, I am debating whether I should try to do this all on my own. I think I can figure it out. Plus, if I use the same company to do my taxes this year, it’s going to cost me at least $350–for one year’s worth of filing.

That price is making me hesitate. Last year, I feel like I got a bargain because they helped me out with the last three, almost four years of tax filing. It seemed really worth it.

Now that I only have to do one, I’m debating whether it’s worth it to pay that $350. I looked at other companies and this seems to be the standard price. If that’s the case, might as well stick with the same company. I thought they did a good job and was satisfied with the work they did last year.

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Photo by Just Name on Pexels.com

To be honest, I’m leaning towards paying someone else to do my US taxes again this year. After my experience with my Japanese taxes, I think I’m done trying to do things on my own. I need professional help and I’m definitely not an accountant. Plus, there seems to be changes in the US tax laws that went into effect last year. I don’t know enough about it to attempt to do it on my own.

I think the compromise would be to pay for the services this year and attempt it next time. I’ll need to figure it out eventually, so I can always try to do it on my own next year.

All in all, it’s a pain in the ass.

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*I am not a tax expert so please check out the IRS website if you are a US Expat trying to figure out your tax filing. This is only an anecdote and a personal account on a blog.

Procrastination, Filing Japanese Taxes Edition

I finally got my Japanese taxes done. I am exhausted. I feel like I have accomplished a lot that I am ready to just retire and not do anything else anymore.

Man, it was such an ordeal.

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Normally, I wouldn’t be stressing over my taxes so much, but this year, I had to do something different because I had a new income source from my rental property. I’ve been putting off writing about how I acquired it, but I will eventually write about it some day when I’m not so busy. I think I should write about it–but I think it needs a post of its own. It’s quite long, so I want to give it some proper thought and preparation.

And this is exactly why getting my taxes done this year was such a pain in the ass. I think because I wanted to do it “properly,” that waiting for perfection caused me to procrastinate so much I had to rush it in the end.

I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t breaking any rules when it came to filing my taxes–which I think is a fair enough assessment. I don’t want to get into trouble with the law and pay taxes properly if I need to–look at the Ghosn case right now.

So I thought I should get a tax accountant to look at my finances–after all, I don’t know how to go about filing taxes from rental income. I can do it with my regular employment income fine, but I am out of my league on this. Plus everything is in Japanese, so I want to make sure that I don’t make a mistake. But then I needed to find that perfect tax accountant who would help me. So that means I need to research. I went to the Hokkaido CPA association. They gave me a 30-minute consultation. Nothing got accomplished. It just solidified the need to really make sure I needed a professional to help me with this.

But at least I got this first step done.

A few months go by. I get busy with work and life.

November comes along. Holy crap, I need to get my butt in gear. I research again and read about paying taxes on rental income. Okay it’s too complicated. I need professional help.

December rolls by and now I am really panicking. Let me go to my local City Office and see if they can recommend an accountant. They don’t do that, but they told me I needed to go to the Sapporo one. They should be able to deal with it there. Also, I found out that the rules are changing for the new year, so I’m better off waiting until the new year. Plus, I have ’til March, so there’s time.

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Oh, good. They gave me permission to procrastinate. So I do–it was the New Year’s anyway so I might as well take it easy. Then I get sick and plans fall apart.

Two weeks into the new year, I call the same Hokkaido CPA association for another consultation. What I really want is to find a professional to do this for me–I don’t think I can do this on my own. I go in only to be told the same thing: I need to go to the Sapporo City Tax office suggested by my local one. But, I need to wait for my company wage earning statement before I can do anything else.

Crap. That means I have to wait until that comes in then. So I wait two weeks.

Finally!!!

All my documents are ready, and I head to the City Tax Office, South Area. I get there and there are fifty people ahead of me. Fine, no problem. I can wait. And then I come to find out that I flipping forgot one of my files in the printer. I had scanned it earlier in the day so that I would have a copy at home to refer to. I forgot to take it out and put it back into my bag.

Great. So now I give up–they can’t help me because I needed that document. I trekked all the way here so I didn’t want to go home yet. So I go back to the receptionist and told them I wanted to consult with some one about this. The man was nice enough to answer my questions. He then showed me the forms I need to fill out–all in Japanese. I think I understood what he was saying enough to believe I could do it on my own.

Well, I got home and looked at the documents again. Everything the man had said disappeared from my mind. I completely forgot what he said.

At this point, I am done. I just give up.

I’l try again tomorrow and just have them do this for me.

I took an earlier train and got there at 9:10, right when they opened. Already, though,  about twenty people were in the room waiting to be seen. I talked to the receptionist and showed him the forms for the real estate part of the taxes. He told me to fill out the forms by myself before I saw one of the CPAs.

Huh?!

I told him I couldn’t.

He asked me why, and I said I didn’t know how to. It was my first time. He looked a little crestfallen then he told me wait by the tables. He went to get another person, this time a young lady to help me fill out the forms.

At this point, I was incredulous. I wanted to cry. I didn’t want to fill out the forms!

I went in that morning fully expecting someone else to do all this for me. I was just going to wait and then magically, it would be done.

Nope. I had to do it all by myself, but at least the lady who helped me out was very patient. She basically told me what to calculate and where in the forms to fill it in. It took a while to get going because my limited Japanese was unhelpful and I didn’t know what questions to ask. And she was also busy helping other people besides me. It took about an hour to do everything. When she told me we were done, I made sure to ask her that they will check everything, right? Because I didn’t know what I was doing and that I want to make sure that I did everything I could to the best of my abilities. I didn’t want to go to jail. And she said basically yes, if anything happened they would send me something in the mail. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. I said yes, of course.

Then I went to wait at the line and pressed the wrong button at the number dispenser. There were two, one was blue and it said there were thirty other people waiting. The other was red, with three people waiting. I saw the kanji for building, tatemono, so I was sure this red one was mine. I was waiting for twenty minutes when I realized that maybe I made a mistake. I got up, asked one of the other receptionist if I had the right number. She said yes, so I thought I was okay.

It wasn’t.

When they called my number, it was clear that I didn’t have the materials. I was meant to wait with the other thirty people.

Luckily, they squeezed me into the other group. Through my mistake, I was able to skip thirty other people before me. But in my defense, I did ask the lady if I was in the right line.

When I got through, the lady who helped me basically inputed my info into the e-tax system. That was it. There were a couple times she needed help and the real tax professional came and guided her through it, as well. I don’t think she was a pro. She was just there for data entry, I think. Which meant I could have done all this by myself–at home, in the comfort of my living room.

But I needed to know how to calculate all this real estate income and where to fill it in.

So the moral of this very long story is that I cannot procrastinate and wait for perfection if I want anything done. I just need to do it and deal with the consequences when it comes up. In the end, I rushed everything and wasn’t even sure if I did it correctly.

Scream

Next time, though, I really want to get a tax professional to do everything for me–and I’ll do it even earlier and not wait so long.

Now on to my US taxes. Sigh.

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Sabbaticals and Mini-Retirements

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2020 is the year of the Rat. This was our nengajo, or Japanese New Year’s card we sent to everyone.

Happy New Year!

This is my first post of 2020 and it seems fitting after a long absence.

I’d like to say that I really did take a sabbatical/mini-retirement during this time, but it’s not and I’d be lying.

Instead, from the last two weeks of December and the first week of January, my school was closed and we had no lessons. This is our scheduled winter break–one I was looking forward to for a long time. Ostensibly, this is supposed to be “paid” vacation for the teachers–but it’s not really. I don’t want to get into the details right now because that’s not the point of this post, but I’ll explain how I’m paid in a later blog.

To explain my post title: Basically, I had winter break, which made me think about mini-retirements.

Originally, I had a lot of plans for my winter break. Because I had time off from work, I had planned to catch up on my books and podcasts. There were also things I needed to do financially, like update accounts and organize files.

Whelp, those plans had to change when the flu virus that had been incubating in my body finally surfaced and knocked me out. It happened right at the start of my break.

I did my best to recover from the flu. For some reason, the drugs I got from the doctor did nothing to help me recover quickly. Instead, I had to take it easy for two weeks. I did things that I loved like reading novels and watching some movies. In fact, I re-read the entire Harry Potter series. Yep, that’s The Philosopher’s Stone to The Deathly Hallows.

Because I wanted to unplug from any type of stress–and that included blogging and writing (anything where I had to be productive, really), I decided to just drop everything. I didn’t listen to podcasts or read anything related to business/personal finance. I didn’t do any planning or goal setting for the year (which is what I normally would be doing at this time of the year).

I wasn’t productive, efficient, or motivated at all.

And you know what, that’s okay.

I think it’s good once in a while to do stuff like this. My husband and I didn’t go anywhere, even though I really wanted to. Because I was sick with the flu and didn’t want to spread it to other people, we stayed home and spent our time quietly reading and talking. For some reason, too, my eyes started hurting when I stared too long at any screen–laptop, TV, iPhone–which meant I was able to unplug and detox from the internet or social media. I appreciated this more than anything else.

In all that time, I realized that I really do want more freedom in my life. I enjoyed the three weeks of not being able to work–to just do the things that I wanted to do. This was mostly relaxing and not thinking too hard about how to make money or increase productivity and cut non-essentials in my life. (Granted, though, I spent most of my break trying to recover the strength I lost by battling the flu and a never-ending cold.)

This led me to think about the possibility of  maybe taking a longer break. Maybe half a year? Maybe even a full year of not working–essentially, a mini-retirement. I would love to do that, but at this point I don’t think I can because I don’t have the money or the freedom to do so. I still need the income from my job to pay for rent, food, and utilities. I also still need to keep saving for old-age retirement.

But someday, I really want to take time off work for a long period.

And that has kick-started my motivation again to work even harder to achieve financial independence.

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I dream of the time I can really have a full year to travel and visit family all over the world. If not that, then maybe indulge in a hobby for a month–like driving throughout Japan and just photographing aspects of the culture.

Sometimes you don’t need a fancy vacation to re-charge.

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Catching Up

It’s funny how work always gets in the way of the things I want to do.

The last few weeks have been very busy for me. As an English teacher here in Japan, I had to prepare for our special Christmas lessons at school as well as other End-of-Year activities. I think every educator knows that preparation is key when you’re in the teaching field. It’s not the actual day or event that matters, it’s the hours spent making sure you plan for the lesson and also the things that can go wrong.

And believe me, things went wrong. Because our Christmas lessons were so far beyond our normal classes, I missed a couple of steps that I was supposed to do. My kids went through personality changes when their parents became involved. Angels became devils and vice versa. Time management went out the window. Discipline was non-existent.

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Holy cow, it was such a madhouse at the school.

But at least everyone had fun. That’s the main point.

I was also fully prepared to accept that no matter how much you plan and prepare for things, there are always uncertainties to be unaccounted for.

It’s just a factor of life. You just have to lean into these uncertainties.

With that said, I am now free to enjoy the next few weeks of my winter break. I will be spending most of the time catching up on blogs, books, and podcasts. I also need to get into this Christmas/Holiday spirit. Ironically, I’ve had to put it in the back of my mind. I was on full work mode (no fun until I finish!) and didn’t even think about the holiday spirit as I was prepping for our Christmas lessons.

So on the last day of work, when I said good-bye to my last student, I cracked open a bottle of champagne…

is what I would like to say, but I ended up crashing in bed. I was just exhausted.

That’s one more thing I need to catch up on. I need to rest and get some proper sleep. I don’t think I can face the long winter months without properly resting, especially since we will not be getting as much sunlight as I hope.

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I’m also going to take the time to really think about next year and what I want to do. I went to an information session for the PhD program and had to re-think a few things after learning some new stuff about what it’s going to involve. I also have a new tax situation to think about. I am also worried about my husband and his work situation.

Now that I have time, I wanted to take this opportunity to just dive into these issues without the distraction of work. I am lucky that my job allows me this–I am always grateful for the mid-year breaks we get from teaching. It gives us time to focus on things that don’t have to involve work. In that sense, it’s a vacation.

And of course, I also hope to do something fun, like travel and visit places I haven’t been to before. I’m also ready to enjoy the holiday food and drinks–but I really hope that I won’t over-indulge because that will be another issue I have to deal with in the New Year.

Anyway, work is done! Hooray!

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Black Friday, Japan

Things that make you go, hmm…

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Flyer I picked up from a department store

Last week was Thanksgiving in the US, but I live here in Japan and there was hardly any mention of the holiday except from fellow Americans.

However, the big thing that was on people’s minds was Black Friday–which made me go, “Huh?”

Black Friday is such an American thing: Lining up at Walmart, people getting trampled just so they can score the biggest deals. Big shopping carts filled with stuff, pushed by people who just don’t care if they run over your feet. Lines and lines at the registers. Shoppers getting caught up in the rush of spending piles and piles of money.

At least that’s what I recall from the news. I never got caught up in all that craziness–I think. I don’t recall ever getting up so early in the morning just so I can be there when the store opens and be the first one to grab that big-screen TV.

I don’t think I was stupid enough to do that, but I’m not really sure. I was a spender in my youth.

In any case, Black Friday became such a catch word here. I don’t know if it’s just me, but everywhere you looked, there were lots of shopping malls and retail stores advertising their sales for the weekend. Not just Friday, but up to Sunday. And of course, this wasn’t limited to just the actual physical shops–online retailers in Japan were just as guilty capitalizing on this sales gimmick.

And that’s what it really is. It’s all a gimmick to get people into the stores to go buy stuff that they don’t need–all in the name of trying to save money.

I did ask some of my Japanese friends and co-workers what was the meaning behind Black Friday. None of them could tell me why it was so-called. All they said was that they saw it on TV and on the flyers from the shops.

And that’s when you realize the power of advertising–and the consumerist mindset that US influence has on all over the world. Because the idea, and even just the wording, of Black Friday is a big thing in America, a lot of international companies have used it as a way to sell goods.

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None of the more valuable concept of giving thanks transferred over? I mean, that was the basis for it, wasn’t it? Black Friday always happens after the Thanksgiving Holiday, but in Japan, that particular event hasn’t taken hold among the people.

Christmas, though, has been a big part of more modern Japanese culture. Even though this country is mostly Buddhist, the commercial aspect of Christmas has been so popular. People buy Christmas presents for each other. Cake and fried chicken usually experience their biggest booms during this year. Bookings for hotel and restaurant reservations increase. And all this in a country that isn’t even remotely religious, or have ties to Christianity.

I have to shake my head at all this. Like I said, I’m thankful for my very quiet lifestyle. I am so glad I’ve given up the mindless consumption. I like the purposeful intention I have in my daily life. I enjoy the freedom of spending my time and money the way I want to–with friends and family, or just by myself in quiet introspection. I enjoy sitting in the warmth and comfort of my own home–away from the crowds of crazy shoppers.

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Five Things I’m Grateful For This Thanksgiving

Today is Thursday, November 28, 2019 in Japan. In the US, it is celebrated as Thanksgiving. In that spirit, I wanted to write about things that I’m grateful for.

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I’ve written before how gratitude is my superpower. But I wanted to re-visit it today.

It only seems fitting.

So here are five things that I’m grateful for this season:

Knowledge

I am grateful that my eyes are opened to this idea of financial independence. I’ve been able  to read a lot of books, blogs, and articles about it. I’ve also been listening to podcasts. All this has made realize that I don’t have to pursue a consumerist lifestyle, that I can focus on doing the things I want to do so that I can have financial freedom. The community of like-minded people is growing, but there are people still out there who are stuck in the default mode of work, spend, and repeat. I’m so glad that I’ve seen the light.

Security

I’m forever grateful that I live in the first world, where I am living in safety and don’t have to worry about a lot of things. I can buy food whenever I want and not have to worry about where and how to get it. I have a home to protect me against the elements. I can always find a job. I have easy access to healthcare and medicine. I don’t have to defend myself against violence from other people. I don’t have to flee or protect myself from an authoritative government.

These are things we take for granted when you live in the developed world. But when you think about it carefully, billions of people around the world are struggling to meet these basic needs.

It kind of makes you feel really small for complaining about traffic or not getting paid more.

Health

I am grateful that I’m healthy. I can move and walk on my own, not confined to a wheelchair. I have no major disease to battle with. This alone makes me appreciate how lucky I am. I have drawn the genetic lottery by being born into a family with healthy genes and a mother who is a nurse. She made sure that her children all had healthy habits.

I can only imagine the daily struggle sick people go through. I’m including mental health here, too. My husband is one of those people. I see what he goes through and I sympathize and support as much as I can. 

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Friends and Family

I am grateful for the family and friends I have. Without them, I would not be the person I am today. I’m always thankful for their love and support. I live with the knowledge that if I have any kind of problems, there is always someone I can call or talk to. When things get rough, somebody is always there to give me encouragement. When something good happens, I always have someone to share it with. 

I realize that not a lot of people are as lucky as I am. Some people don’t have good relationships with their families, and this makes me so sad. It also makes me appreciate the bond I have with my siblings and my family. Though my friends are also far away, I love getting the occasional text from them that says they are still thinking of me, despite their busy lives.

Resilience

I am grateful for my ability to be resilient. If I can be proud of anything, it’s my ability to handle difficult situations and rise above it. I’ve lived through a lot of rough times, but here I am, still standing. I think I can weather any hardship. This skill also allows me to think of ways to solve problems and not to give up easily when things get tough. 

Of course, this did not happen overnight. It took years and experience to develop this ability. I wish more people would be able to do so. The best thing anyone can do when faced with a tough situation is to face the problem head on instead of running away from it by turning to self-destructive behaviors. 

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So there you have it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Rushing the Process

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So I just hung up the phone with my nephew.

Or more like: I just switched off Facetime with Baby Boy.

Baby Boy is in college, in his second year of the University of Connecticut’s Business Program. He texted me this weekend, out of the blue, exclaiming that Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad was one of the best books he’s ever read.

I’m so proud. He’s already thinking long-term and thinking about financial independence and being serious with money, productivity, and life.

However, as the conversation went along, he suddenly says that he doesn’t think him getting the business degree he’s currently working on was worth it.

Wait, what?!

Oh, crap.

He goes on to explain that his friends who are the same age as him are already running their own businesses and making $40,000 in profits. They’re doing drop shipping and FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) type of hustles.

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He says he wants to do the same thing. Or if not, create his own business.

While I understand his desire to start a business and get started running, I wonder whether swapping or giving up the business program is a good idea. Unfortunately, nobody in our family has ever owned a business–we all went the traditional education and employment route.

I’m not sure what to say.

He sees his friends already running businesses and making a lot of money and he becomes impatient. He wants to do the same thing because he thinks it’s easy. He hasn’t seen the work that they’ve put into running the business. But at the same time, Baby Boy says his friends are also in college and had to stop because they had to focus on their studies.

I feel like he is rushing the process. Because he’s growing up in the instant, snap-your-fingers-and-it’s-there-type of world, he thinks that making a profit with your business is immediate. I’ve told him that it takes time, that he’s in school to learn how to go about achieving his dream. Since he’s only taking the intro classes so far, he says he already knows what they’re teaching him.

Maybe that’s it–he thinks he’s learned enough and doesn’t need more information. While I understand the passion and motivation to get started, I worry whether he can sustain it for the long-term. He needs to learn the patience and to endure the suck when the bad times come–because it’s not always going to be good. What will he do then?

I did tell him that he can always go back to school and get a degree at a later point in his life if he changes his mind about the business. His immediate answer was that he was going to be behind. We then talked about him maybe switching majors or taking more interesting classes that will keep him in school and not become bored.

Building a profitable and sustainable business takes time, and that’s something he needs to learn. Getting an education takes time. Saving and investing takes time.

There is a natural process for all this. You cannot rush it.

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Which is weird because he says he knows what investing is like–that you need a set it and forget it mentality. Because he started working part-time he’s earning an income and actually started a retirement account. To become a millionaire and grow wealth, you need time.

I feel like he’s on the right path, at 19 he’s already starting to invest. It’s not much, but at least it will give him such a massive head start in life.

Now he just needs to stick to the plan and wait.

But I guess that is the hardest thing to do in this world for a teen-ager bursting with dreams.

Again, it’s all a learning process.

In any case, Baby Boy needs to be mentored along the right path. I’m happy to be here and help him along.

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Point Cards and Stamp Cards in Japan

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I am at Fujiya, our local cake place, choosing which cake to eat for dessert tonight. I make my choice and take out the money for this purchase.

The lady pauses for a moment before she rings up my order. She seemed to be waiting for something.

And then, “Do you have your point card?”

Oh! Whoops! With an embarrassed laugh, I whip it out of my wallet.

“Of course, I do.”

She knows I have one, of course, since we live right next door and we often come here, too. We’ve known each other for years. Usually, I’m vigilant about these things, but I forgot about it today.

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If you live in Japan, most stores will have members cards, point cards, or stamp cards for customers. Now, it only really makes sense to get one of these things if you frequent the store enough, or make purchases that will give you cash back on huge amounts: think furniture or electronics.

Other than that, there’s no point collecting these cards because it will just make a mess in your wallet.

Some things to think about:

Do you frequent the store often?

I guess this one is common sense. If you don’t go to the store often enough, you won’t be needing a card. Think about grocery stores, coffee shops, book stores, drug stores, and even convenience stores. Basically, any place that you’ll be visiting at least once a week.

I know there are many kinds of each store, but that also requires a decision on its own. Do you get a point card for all the drug stores, or just get it for the one you use most often?

For example, there are four major convenience stores in Hokkaido: Lawson, Seven-Eleven, Seicomart, and Family Mart. I only have a point card for Lawson because their Ponta card is also used at Geo for video rentals and the gas station Shell. I can accumulate and use points that way. Even though I do go to the other convenient stores, I don’t really need their cards.

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If you teach at a coffee shop other than Starbucks, you might want to think about getting the coffee shop’s stamp card if they have one because you’ll be there often enough. You’ll usually get a discount on the coffee price, or get a free coffee once you complete the card.

If you don’t go frequently, are you thinking of making a big purchase?

Think expensive electronics and furniture. I have all three of the point cards for the major electronic shops in Japan: BicCamera, Yodobashi Camera, Yamada Denki, and K’s Denki. I just think it’s worth it. These stores usually give you ¥1 or 1 point per ¥100 you spend. If you make a purchase that is over ¥10,000, you’ll get ¥100 in credits for your next purchase.

More often than not, they’ll have promotions that will give you more than 1%, sometimes up to 20%. I keep a lookout for these deals whenever I’m thinking of buying any type of appliance. Our DVD player/TV recorder broke down last month. We ended up buying a Blue Ray recorder for ¥45,000. They had a 10% point campaign so we got ¥4,500 worth of points–that’s quite a tidy sum of money!

Plus, you can use your card anywhere in Japan.

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Is it free? Are there any fees?

Be careful with this one, especially for department stores because they tend to be pushing their credit cards on customers all the time, which requires an annual free. Some grocery stores operate the same way. In general, though, most stores don’t require you to pay them to use points.

If you find out find out about the fees, just say no to these cards. Why pay the extra money to get the “discounts”? There’s no point. (See what I did there? Wink, wink.)

What do you get for completing the stamps?

So point cards are fairly simple. You get points that equate to ¥1, but stamp cards are different. It can mean a discount on your next order, if it’s a restaurant. Either that or a free drink, a side dish, or a free meal. I use the stamp card regularly at the coffee shop because every time I fill up the card, I get a free coffee.

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We used to have a stamp card for the Fujiya next door. For every ¥500 you get a stamp. So two pieces of cake earned us a stamp all the time. Once you fill up your stamp card, you can exchange them for a ¥500 coupon or stuff like cushions, mugs, or bags. If you like getting things, that’s another reason to get the card.

How are the points/stamps earned and used?

Again, be careful with this one. Most stores are upfront; you can use the points to discount your purchase. Some aren’t as straightforward. For the Tsuruha Drug Store point card, you need to earn 500 points first, and then they’ll print out a coupon for you to use in the future. So if you have 320 points earned, you cannot use it to get ¥320 yen. You have to keep spending money at the store to keep earning points and get to 500.

Are you a vigilant person?

By this, I mean, are you going to actually use your points? Because sometimes these points will expire–just like airline miles. Most of the time, stamp cards have a one year span for use. Same with point cards.

Some people like to save their points until they’ve accumulated big chunks and then spend it. Some people are the opposite, they’ll spend the points, no matter how small it is on the next purchase at the same store.

I think both are good, but you just need to be on top of these things.

Also, be aware that sometimes, having a point card for the store means you’ll be spending more money than you need to–just to earn points/stamps. In that way, it’s not really much of a discount. You’d be better served by not spending your money in the first place. But, if you need to make the purchase, it makes sense to accumulate points.

Are there any equivalent store apps?

You can tell I’m not very tech savvy. But most of the stores have their own apps that you can use to earn points, get discounts, or get special deals. These things are always an option instead of having the physical card in your wallet. However, these apps, especially if they’re Japanese stores, won’t always be available to be downloaded in your home country’s iTunes/Google Play store. Since my account is linked to the US App store, I can’t download any of the Japan-specific stores, unfortunately.

 

 

You can see from the above photo that there is no downloadable version of BicCamera for the US App store. They have a Uniqlo app, though, but not the Japanese version.

That’s it in a nutshell. I think there’s some merit to using point cards, especially in places where you often go. You probably won’t be able to escape the store clerks asking you every where you go, anyway, so think about it.

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