Well, that didn’t turn out as expected…

So, you might have noticed that 31 Days To Your Financial Future suddenly derailed around Day 25, without explanation.

So here’s what happened.

On the 23rd, I found myself hit with some sudden back pain. I didn’t think much of it, and just chalked it up to too much time spent hunched over the computer working on that blog series. The next day, that back pain turned into stomach pain, which was unusual but still not too alarming — my wife had just gotten over a stomach flu, so I figured I was catching that.

By the 25th, the stomach pain was markedly worse, and I started vomiting…and couldn’t stop. My wife took me to the emergency room, where the pain continued to get worse and worse. I was admitted to the hospital around 7 p.m., in the absolute worst pain I’ve ever been in my life, despite the dilaudid my nurses were pumping into me every hour.

The cause of all this? My gallbladder was full of gallstones and had gone gangrenous. If I’d been too stubborn and waited to seek medical attention, I likely would have started going septic. Thankfully, we took action before that happened.

I had surgery to remove my gallbladder around 2 p.m. on the 26th, got to come home the next day, and I’ve been recovering ever since. The first few days I spent mostly in bed, but I’m getting stronger again every day. I had a follow-up with the surgeon yesterday, and everything’s healing fine, but it’s been a tough week.

So, that’s where everything stands right now. My goal is to continue and finish 31 Days To Your Financial Future over the next few blog posts, although I’m not entirely sure when those posts will come out.

Of course, this being a finance blog, I expect I’ll have a lot of new material to talk about in the coming weeks. You see, I don’t have health insurance. We paid $1400 to the surgeon yesterday out of pocket (and managed to settle for about $200 less than originally charged).

My wife and I are still waiting somewhat anxiously for the medical bills to come in from the hospital and anesthesiologist, but I expect we will suddenly find ourselves several thousand more dollars in debt. Neither of us have dealt with medical debt before, so we’ll be doing a lot of reading and learning about our options. The important thing is that we aren’t going to panic over it — whatever happens is something that can be dealt with, simply because my wife and I are smart people who make smart decisions about money.

At this point, we simply have to wait until all the bills come in before we can get a good visual of how much we owe (and to whom) and how we’ll approach repaying that.

Posted in Our Personal Finance

Day 25 – Follow Up With A Professional Contact

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In one of our first post in this series, we talked about the importance of developing a professional network full of remarkable people. It’s been 20 days since then, which makes this a great time to follow up with contacts you’ve met recently — or even reconnect with ones you made years ago.

Professional relationships can be harder to keep alive than personal relationships — you may not see these people for weeks or months at a time, so staying relevant is a challenge. On the other hand, since your relationship is strictly a professional one, you aren’t saddled with the emotional pressure that comes with personal relationships, so it’s easier to be yourself.

Today, I want you to reach out to a professional contact and reconnect with them.

Ways to reconnect

One of the easiest ways to reconnect with a personal contact is to send a simple email. Mention that you were thinking about them, ask a question about a project they were working on, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them with their current projects. If you want to open up to a broader conversation, you might end your email with a request for a Skype or Google Hangouts session or phone call.

A phone call, or even a handwritten note can serve the same purpose. Some entrepreneurs I know of send out birthday or Christmas cards to their professional contacts. The trick to this sort of message is to make sure it’s genuine and heartfelt — you want to send this person a note that is a genuine communication from you, not some formulaic spam that you blast out to all of your contacts.

Although it limits you to local contacts, asking someone to meet up for coffee or lunch is a great way to build a relationship. Depending on the contact, this can either be something where you each pay your own way, or you can offer to pick up the tab yourself, if you have the room in your budget.

If you’re like me and have a lot more online contacts than local contacts, you can couple these in-person meetings with travel. If you’re heading somewhere that passes through an area close to where one of your contacts lives, give them an early heads-up and see if you can set up a meeting.

I did this a while back — on a trip back from Illinois, I stopped in Nashville, TN to have lunch with a writer I’d met online. I was passing through Nashville anyway on my way home, so the trip only took me a few miles out of my way, and it was an opportunity to develop an online relationship into something more substantial. I was later able to develop that relationship into an editing gig for a poetry book.

Plan follow-ups in advance

Since professional contacts tend to people you interact with only infrequently, it’s easy to forget about them. A forgotten relationship is one that doesn’t bring any value to you or to your associate. Instead, take a proactive approach to follow-ups.

Recently, I’ve been taking steps to actively cultivate my professional network. When I meet someone, I add their contact details and some notes about where and how we met to Evernote, and any other details I know about them. If I have one available, I add their picture, too, so I can put a face to the name. I glance through these contacts about once a week or so.

After I have an interaction with one of these people, I set a reminder to myself to follow up with them in two or three weeks. If I haven’t from them since our last meeting, those reminders are a way to encourage myself to reach out and make contact again. Then I make some new notes, and rinse and repeat. This is especially helpful for contacts that I may not see again for months — when we reconnect again, I can glance over my notes and refresh myself with everything I know about this person.

Don’t try to get something out of every meeting

Try not to come into these meetings with an ulterior motive or agenda. No one wants to have coffee with a friend who always asks for a favor every time they get together. Instead, focus on your contact — what are they working on? What are they trying to achieve? Be a good listener, and engage yourself with their aspirations.

People are always more interested in those who are interested in them.

Some contacts are more valuable than others

Obviously, some contacts are going to be more integral to your goals than others. If you’re trying to land a job with a prestigious firm, then a contact who actively works with that firm is going to be far more valuable than someone you met at a conference six months ago.

If one of your contacts is more valuable in this way, prioritize them in your follow-ups. Make extra effort to set up meetings with them (without being pushy about it), and ask them to introduce you to other people they think you should meet. At the same time, don’t neglect the rest of your network just to focus on one person — you may be missing valuable opportunities.

Tomorrow: Forgive Yourself For Financial Mistakes

Over the next two days, we’ll be covering two of the most important aspects of a strong financial life: forgiving your mistakes, and celebrating your victories. Everyone screws up now and then. It’s important to not let those mistakes discourage you. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about forgiving yourself.

Is there someone you need to follow-up with soon?

How actively do you try to develop your professional network? Do you have any tips or tricks to share about following up with contacts? Tell us in the comments!

Posted in 31 Days To Your Financial Future

Day 24 – Talk To Someone At Your Bank or Credit Union

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In Saturday’s post about investing, I talked about the importance of properly checking out the brokers and advisers handling your investments. Today, I want to cover something similar — getting to know the people who work at the local branch of the bank or credit union you use.

These days, you don’t really have to step foot into a bank. You can check your accounts online, you can have your paycheck direct-deposited, you can apply for loans online, you can get your statements emailed to you, and you can even deposit a check by taking a photo of it with your smart phone.

Those features are great and have removed some annoying or time-consuming barriers to accessing and managing your money, but an unfortunate side-effect of this is that we’ve fallen out of touch with the people who are handling our money every single day.

As a child, I remember tagging along with my father to our credit union. My father came in every week to do some small piece of financial business, whether it be making a loan payment or withdrawing cash, and every clerk there knew him by name and face. When my father needed to do some business at the bank, he already knew who he needed to talk to — there was none of that uncertainty that comes with talking to a total stranger about an important or sensitive topic.

Today’s task is a simple one. Go into the local branch of your bank or credit union, and make a transaction or ask a question. Read more ›

Posted in 31 Days To Your Financial Future

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