Monday, November 2, 2015

25 Things You Should Know How To Do Before You Turn 25

Today officially marks my quarter life-crisis, and I can only hope my next quarter decade can compare to my life so far. Too often I see bucket-list articles with amazing adventures on them, wondering how those people got to be so lucky. It's easy to compare your mediocre life to the one you see of others your age and get jealous, but the truth is even I'm jealous of the life it appears I'm living on social media. Too often people post about their adorable kid or dog, but how often do they post the pile of poo that seems to always be in that one corner of the house? People post about all the amazing vacations they are taking, but how often are they posting about the balance of their student loans? While you're buying the newest Apple product, sitting near the beach with a Margarita, or shopping on Michigan Avenue, it's pretty evident that the phrase "Money can't buy happiness" is complete bull, however these are some of the major successes I've accomplished in my life, which I'd like to think mean more than the number of likes I get on my instagram photos.

25 Things to Know Before Turning 25

1. How to set up your own health insurance. Maybe this is number one since open enrollment for my company started Friday, but this is something that I did for the first time when I got married and I'm sure many of my friends are in a similar situation. Not only have I gotten burned by not realizing a flexible spending account is use it or lose it, AND learned the hard way the difference between asking if a doctors takes your insurance versus being in-network, I've seen not understanding the basics can cost you thousands. Before I was married I was on my parent's health insurance, and my knowledge was that I had to carry a card to the doctors- this was a reality check for me that hopefully you can learn from this warning.

2. How to do laundry. Hopefully this task can be checked off from college- but one of my friends regularly would forget to add detergent to their laundry, and would question why their "clean" clothes smelled like heated up sweat. PS Tide Pods are still my go-to in fact to avoid this- I think all young 20 year olds can agree that all laundry we do is set to the Cold cycle, but there are actually reasons for the other cycle options you can now explore.

3. How to keep in touch. Most of my friends and family members have moved at least once, and many of the one's I'm closest to are far away. You've probably discovered the hard way, about how easy it is to lose touch with people that used to be so important to you. It's as easy as setting an alarm in your phone every Saturday to text an old friend or a family member just to see how they're doing.

4. How to save your money. Saving Accounts will maybe get you .01% return on your money. That means for every $100 you save, you'll get a penny. But let's say you did the same thing invested in the stock market, assuming a pretty conservative 5% increase, you'll notice a $50 difference over 5 years. This may not seem a lot, but the limit for an IRA each year is around $5500, so multiply that $100 initial investment by 55 instead, you'll get nearly $3,000 more. If you keep this money in for longer than 5 years, the power of compounding interest will be even more evident.

Below is from Andy Kiersz at Business Insider showing the difference of saving at 25 vs. 35. I'm the Blue Line, Emily, and my friend Dave doesn't start saving until he's more established at 35. We both contribute $200 a month, and assuming a 6% rate of return. Once we both retire, I would have contributed $96,000 over 40 years, and David would have contributed $72,000 over 30 years.
 saving at 25 vs saving at 35 continued saving prettier

So even though I only started 10 years earlier, I will have almost twice as much as Dave in retirement.

This same graph shows how much you need to save each month to reach $1 million dollars at age 65. Not so hard to be a millionaire if we start now....

monthly savings chart new

5. How to house hunt. Whether you want to buy right now or not, it's good to be informed. Many places in the country, it's not economically a good idea to buy a house ever for various reasons, and it's good to learn about the real estate in your area. Even if you're not ready for a house in the foreseeable future and have decided to rent, there are many good questions you should know to ask- including parking restrictions, pet rules, what utilities are included, etc...

6. How to master one dish. As someone who has lived alone for many years and finally mastered the concept of grocery shopping and cooking for one, a great skill to have is how to cook one great meal. I recommend stuffed shells or chili- which are both relatively easy, crowd pleasers, and reheat well.

7. How to take care of your car. Although I'll admit I will never be changing my own oil, knowing how to jump-start a car and change a flat has come in handy multiple times.

8. How to find good deals shopping. My new obsession is Poshmark where I can buy new and gently used clothing, and sell things that I have no use for. I really wish I found out about this before I was married, or I wouldn't have 5 nice white dresses I will probably never wear again. (This is mostly female clothes and accessories, but there are a few male postings). I've gotten a few Nike shorts with tags on them for $10. Install the app and sign Up with code PSIJS and get $5 off your first order!

9. How to give back. From starving kids, dogs that are going to be killed in a shelter, to medical research- I find it hard to believe that there's not one cause that you can get behind.

10.  How to ask for a raise. No different than you used to study for a test in school, you should research salary negotiation tips. These tips are great if you've been at the same job for a year+, or are looking to switch jobs and negotiate a new starting salary.

11. How to check your body. As a former athlete, annual physical check-ups were required so I always knew if my heart rate and blood pressure was normal. Although things like going to the Dentist and Doctor seem like a no brainier, it's hard to make time for those things. Knowing when something is right without having to go to the doctor will save you money, and worry from searching conditions on WebMD.

12. How to dress yourself properly. This isn't a problem just for toddlers- I'm still surprised how many men don't know how to correctly tie their tie, and women who don't realize the importance of wearing their actual bra size. This goes into knowing what's appropriate for a job interview, so make sure you've got a good idea of the difference between business professional vs. business casual attire.

13. How to be an awesome aunt or uncle. If you're like the majority of my friends and can not yet answer if they're responsible enough to care for another human every remaining second of their lives, then pick a niece, nephew, cousin, or neighbor and spend some time (and money for real bonus points) making a kid happy.

14. How to tell if you're happy in a relationship, or just afraid of being alone. With engagements happening basically every weekend at this age of our lives, it's easy to feel like you need to settle down. While there's nothing wrong with settling down, there is something wrong with settling, and 25 is a pretty good age to meet mature people who's goals align with yours.

15. How to break up in person. Although it seems like an obvious no-brainer, none of my break-ups have been in person. Although not always possible due to distance, most of my break-ups have simply because I was mad, left, and then broke up with them. Not only is this not really respectful, it's not the best way to have closure and sometimes leads you to opening doors that should have remained closed.

16. How to vote. Hopefully you realize that the real world is an intimidating place, and the things you used to learn about in Government class in high school are actually extremely relevant to you and your loved ones. Maybe you always thought you were a Republican because your family was, but now it's time to realize what you actually believe. Take this really easy quiz and it'll show you which candidate your views align with.

17. How to check your credit score. You get a FREE copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies annually from or call at 1-877-322-8228. If you haven't had it checked this year, call now and check for any errors so you can dispute them within 30 days of receiving your report.

18. How to set up a retirement account. There's a huge difference between Roth and Traditional, and you could be missing out of thousands of dollars the company WANTS to give you by not understanding the company's 401k match. There's thousands of cheap websites to set up IRAs with easy investment strategies that have been created based on what year you'll retire.

19. How to say no. I used to always make plans, only to cancel them last minute when I realized I had too much on my plate. I also always gave people the benefit of the doubt, and would treat them how I'd like to be treated. The past few years especially I've realized how damaging it is to allow toxic individuals to take up your time and energy. If people are not taking your life in a happier, positive direction, you don't owe it to anyone to keep them in your life, no matter who they are to you.

20. How to throw a party. Whether it's as simple as a fantasy draft, or as elaborate as a wedding, it's a good idea to start learning some basic etiquette rules on sending invitations and planning, while also making sure guests are having a good time.

21. How to be a good guest. As someone who threw a wedding, I now understand the importance of being a good guest. Returning RSVPs on time and not getting completely sloshed for fancier events, or just showing up on time and not only talking to those you know- not only will you save your friends from a headache, you'll actually enjoy the event a lot more as well.

22. How to budget and pay your bills. Now that you probably have multiple credit cards and loans, it's a good idea to find a way to get organized. I input my data on and it allows me to receive text notifications when I have a bill coming up, or have unusual spending in a certain category like food or shopping. I also recommend this book by Dave Ramsey for some finance tips. I love his views on saving and debt; smartest $14 bucks you'll ever spend.

23. How to stay in shape. I'm part of the 95% of the world that the only six pack I'll ever have is in the fridge, but I've realized the importance of maintaining my fitness after my athletic career ended. One of my old teammates (who has the other kind of six pack) pointed me in the direction of a great challenging but time efficient workouts, along with a shake I now take at breakfast and my life has dramatically changed for the better. Not only is it easier to wake up, but it's easier to go to bed- and I'm getting some of my athlete tone back. Be on the lookout for some Retired Athlete Workout Blog posts in the future, or feel free to e-mail me  if you'd like to join one of our monthly Accountability/Challenge Groups!

24. How to clean. I've touched on laundry already, but just general things that either your dorm or a roommate took care of. I've learned the hard way it's much easier to complete these tasks in moderation instead of letting everything pile up (quite literally) and trying to tackle it at once. Not only learning which cleaners are used for what, but hopefully the number of working professional clothes you have now rival your sweat collection- and having some sort of organization for that.

25. How to embrace growing up. When I was 18, the iPhone was first introduced, and I thought this was the coolest thing ever. This phone topped all other phones, and had so many cool features. Now after seeing the iPhone 6, this iPhone 6 seems like a complete joke, and that's pretty spot on to how I see my 18 year-old self now. Most people after they turn 21 don't really see aging as something that is good. Certain experiences like going to college, being awesome at a sport, or the feeling of starting a new romance may never happen again, leading to a feeling of it's all downhill from here. The truth is aging is not like it. You get to find new things to be good at and different ways to spend your time rather than clinging desperately onto the glory days. You may not be able to afford a trip to the Olympics, or even Europe for that matter, but hopefully you can enjoy the upgrades you've had in life so far.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Athletes and Eating Disorders- Retired Athlete Problems

Throughout my athletic career I'd go straight to practice from class, quickly changing in a bathroom or in the car so I wouldn't be late. When I was 15, my volleyball club would track our weight and body fat percentages on a weekly basis before practice, which means Mondays were extra tight on time. One Monday traffic was particularly bad, and I ran into the bathroom to change in the farthest handicapped stall and saw some poor sick girl puking in the toilet. I felt for her, because coming to practice sick was a pretty regular occurrence. You were expected to be praticing unless you were contageious, and even then you'd have to sit on the side and watch. I quickly changed, weighed in, and went on with practice. I was about 10-20% heavier than the rest of my slender team, so needless to say this wasn't one of my favorite activities, but figured as long as my volleyball skills were also 10-20% better than those smaller than me, the two would cancel out and I'd be okay.

After practice I went up to my friend, and asked how she was feeling and asked how long she'd been sick since she was looking extra rough. When she replied "About 2 years" my heart sank, and in that moment looking into her sad and empty eyes, I knew she was suffering much more than just the flu. Remember, I was 15 years old, and if I could go back in time and tell her all the right things to say, I would have. But all I did was give her a hug and said I'm sorry, and spent the rest of the year looking around wondering who else was suffering silently.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) reports that about 5-10% of women are diagnosed with some form of an eating disorder, and suggests 19-30% of female college students could be diagnosed with one. How the media portrays beauty is not helping, and athletes participating in weight-class sports (like wrestling, rowing, horse-racing) and aesthetic sports (gymnastics, swimming, volleyball) have significantly higher rates of diagnosed eating disorders than non-weight dependent sports. From these two categories, 33% of male athletes are impacted by eating disorders, and up to 62% of females exhibit these habits according to NEDA. In sports where uniforms are revealing- like track, gymnastics, and volleyball the fact that people are watching in these body hugging outfits are not ignored. I'd like to think of myself as a confident individual, in fact I can proudly say I won't wear makeup for dates, class, work etc... but you better believe if we were playing on ESPNU I'd be throwing on some eyeliner and blush, just because the world is mean.

Throughout my athletic career I've had coaches get on me about my weight, and when I worked my ass off (literally) to lose the weight, was then questioned if I was doing it healthy. I've had coaches comment on what my teammates were eating, while these same teammates a few weeks later would be ordering food at team meals just to throw it away without the coaches noticing. 

Reading articles of athletes who suffer from eating disorders often blame something a coach has said, or the pressures mentioned before. They blame being told their body fat percentages and having it compared with teammates, and it's easy to blame coaches for putting so much emphasis on tracking athlete's weight. However I don't blame the coaches. Should they be more aware on the impact of their words? Probably. But no different than offering a silent hug when I was 15, when I'd witness a teammate throwing out food, or even bragging about how much weight they'd loss, I'd always be at a loss for words in my 20s. Why should coaches be responsible for MY friends? Why do I allow my teammates to hide these things from my teammates and coaches, while others discuss their issues while never confronting the individual. 

Teammates are supposed to be there for you and hold you accountable. I would get on my teammate if they skipped a summer workout, but why is it not as easy for me to get on them about skipping a meal? If someone's physical injury is preventing them from performing I have no issues telling them to go in early for rehab to get it taken care of, but I never considered my teammate's mental injury and telling them to go in and get help. It was my teammates, not my coaches, who I count on to have my back. My teammates are the ones I'm still in contact with today, and there's no reason for a teammate to sit silently and watch a teammate in pain. 

Early Warning Signs of Eating Disorders in Athletes
  • More frequent muscle strains, sprains, or fractures
  • Perfectionism
  • Preoccupation with one's food or other's foods
  • Frequent Weighing
  • Excess Exercising/Training more than the coach recommends
  • Avoidance of water or excessive water intake
  • Increased Isolation
  • Issues in School or Personal life
All I can encourage is to approach your teammate or athlete in a private, non-judgmental way and let them know you care and want to help. Katherine Beals, an associate professor of nutrition at Ball State University who also was a competitive athlete for 20 years has seen disordered eating firsthand in both teammates and competitors. Although directed at professionals, her book Disordered Eating Among Athletes : A Comprehensive Guide for Health Professionals is an easy read and goes way deeper than what was briefly touched on here. As long as the media continues to encourage athletes to look like the girl on the left vs. the right, we still have a long way to go. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Why I Don't Miss Playing a Sport- The 10 Perks of Quitting a Sport

It's easy to look back at your glory days and remember times of laughter, winning, and no real-world responsibilities. Next time you look at your bank account and want to cry, just remember that those days weren't always that great.

Perks of Being a Retired Athlete

1. You're never sore. Sure, if you lift some weights, or sleep funny you may feel it the next day, but nothing can compare to being sore in places you didn't know existed after two-a-days. I don't have to think twice when I raise my arms to wash my hair or collapse when I sit on the toilet ever again.

2.You'll lost weight. All those days of telling yourself muscle weighs more than fat are actually proven to be true, and you can compare weight with non-athletes like normal without having to "round" your weight by 5-25 lbs.

3. This.

4.  Free time. Growing up playing a sport you, and all your non-athlete friends are pretty accustomed to never making solid plans. I can't really give much advice since I've yet to do anything productive with this time other than discover netflix, but I'll save that for later... 

5. No more Ice Baths. I will never forget the first 30 seconds slowly submerging yourself down into the ice bath. Even the toughest athletes have met their match vs. these guys, and it's nice to know the only standing body's of water in my future are hot tubs, warm baths, or oceans. I'll also include no more ice packs here, which means no more leaking in your car, bed, or class.

6. No more punishments. Sure, my credit score my get a ding if I pay a bill late- but that does not compare to the sinking feeling of the unknown when your coach tells you to get on the line. For this same reason is why you can now finally celebrate Tequila Tuesdays, Wine Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays, Fireball Fridays, etc... without fear of repercussion. 

7. You can date. With the amount of time you're either in the gym or out of town, you're basically a magnet for people who are emotionally unavailable or cheaters.

8. You can have a job. A definite double edge sword on this one, but sometimes it's nice to have an option to do something other than ask your parents to fund your Chipotle habit. And in the real world there are no "optional" meetings, practices, summer workouts you aren't paid for.

9. You can watch television. I feel like a whole new world has opened now that I can watch series of shows, netflix, live sporting events, etc... You can even watch the news and be able to pretend you are concerned about wordly-issues or who's running for President. 

10. Unbreakable bonds. Although these people were your teammates by fate, over time these are the people who have proved to be there through the ups and the downs, spending nearly waking moment together. Whether it's because they've seen you at your worst, grew to appreciate their sense of humor, or simply don't judge how much food you eat in a single sitting, they are officially your people for the rest of your life.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Suicide Prevention Month: Athletes and Suicide

As September comes to a close, so does Suicide Awareness Month, but should be in the spotlight year round.Sports, athletes, and poor mental health at first glance may seem like a game of "one of these things does not belong", as usually athletes appear to be stronger than an average person in both body and mind, but these people are often at higher risks at suicide due to added personal and external pressure athletes face.

Athlete and Suicide Facts

The facts, however, show that athletes are not immune to mental health issues. Just looking at a recent study of NCAA Athletes shows that the annual rate of suicide for male athletes was 1.35 per 100,000, and for female athletes it was 0.37 per 100,000. Among black athletes, the annual rate was 1.22 per 100,000, and among white athletes, the rate was 0.87 per 100,000 students. The highest rate of suicide occurred in football, with a rate of 2.25 instances of suicide per 100,000 athletes, which is partially explained by the result of head trauma. 

Generalizing these numbers, it's about 2 suicides per 200,000 athletes a year. A low estimate are that there are 460,000 NCAA Athletes competing each year. This means every year there will be approximately 4 student athletes who commit suicide each year. Over the 9 year study, there were 477 student-athlete deaths, and suicide represented 35 of these deaths, and the leading preventable cause of death during this time. This study doesn't include high school athletes or professional athletes, where in that case the number would likely be tripled. 

Preventable Disease

Often athletes are put on pedestals, basically local heroes, leading it to be difficult to accept their own personal struggles when everything would lead it to appear they are living the dream. However like mentioned previously, these deaths can be avoided with increased awareness, and removing the stigma of mental health. Nobody looks down on athletes when they have a ligament tear and have to take care of themselves or go to extra rehab, however as long as the cloud over mental health issues remain, student-athletes will not get the help they need as they try to ignore their problems.  

Photo credit ESPNW

The recent ivy league freshman, Madison Holleran, who committed suicide last year wrote in her note to her family, "I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out, and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in" and friends and family spoke how in the months leading up to her death she often spoke of her unhappiness and pressure she felt, and often discussed transferring. 

 A football player at Ohio State University wrote in his final note to his mother that his "head was messed up", and a former Chicago Bears safety's lone message in his note was requesting his brain be studied for possible damage. Shortly before junior Seau's death as well, he made a comment to his friends and family that he wanted his brain to go to science for the study of concussive injuries. 

What you can do

The goal of Suicide Prevention month is to help raise awareness and get others educated. When talking to teammates, friends, or family members try to pay attention. Usually they aren't looking for a fix, rather just looking to feel validated and not have their feelings minimized. Often those that appear to have so much going right for them feel guilty complaining and don't understand what they are feeling, and often there are "red flags" that survivor's family and friends only realize when it's too late.

Many schools require an ECG to prevent this sudden and preventable disease, but data shows the number of student athletes' death caused by cardiovascular disease is in fact lower than the amount of student athletes who commit suicide every year. It's pretty routine to have concussion screening to help prepare for a concussion, why not a similar mandatory screening for mental health at the beginning of the season as well? Once depression is treated as a real mental illness rather than a sign of weakness, these suicides will continue to happen. Some of the world's most influential, strong, and powerful leaders have suffered with depression, including Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and Beethoven.

Depression in Athletes Quick Facts

Who Suffers from Depression?

  • 20 Million People in US
  • People with family history of depression
  • 10% of those are under 18
  • Women are impacted twice as much as men

Symptoms of Depression

  • Constant sense of fatigue
  • Increased desire to sleep
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of appetite, changes in weight
  • Irritability
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low self-confidence
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
Causes of Depression in Athletes
  • Genetic Predispositions
  • Injury
  • Over Training
  • Pressure by Coaches, teammates, self
  • Lack of Time
  • Feeling Overwhelmed

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Home, (bitter) Sweet, Home: Why visiting your old school sucks

My old university will always be home to me; however unlike past visits where I felt as if I was returning home, this time I left with a different feeling. This feeling can only be described as touring your childhood home where you no longer live, and feelings of nostalgia and sadness for days that once were follow you everywhere.

Every step I took on this campus was familiar. I knew exactly how long it would take to walk from the Pit to the Old Well, and the fastest route to get to Student Health. Memories of people watching in the quad, lunch dates with teammates, and even a few familiar teachers that most likely have no clue who you are anymore.

While I people watched this time, the feeling was different. It was as if myself and all my memories were just ghosts, as people were now living their own lives and making new memories. It was a feeling of returning to a childhood home, now inhabited by strangers as you notice all the changes that they have made. With every new turn on campus, a new memory would be brought back. Visiting my freshman dorm where more time was spent laughing than sleeping, the old weight room where probably just as many tears were shed as sweat. I couldn't help but feel jealous that these people still have time to write chapter of their book, and mine and all of my friends books were already complete.

I try to go back and visit a few times a year, so maybe I've always felt this way and it's now just hitting me my last friends' still remaining will also be graduating in May, but I think the hopeful thing is I can look back and have no regrets. Thinking about the things I regretted at the time, like not getting enough sleep before weights or not having the best luck dating, are things now have turned into all of my friends' favorite memories and things we can laugh at.

The first time I visited Carolina after I graduated it felt like I still belonged, and as if my new "home" was just a place I was visiting. I looked around and my family was still there, and everything was how I left it. The next few times the changes were evident, but I still felt at home. At my first alumni even this past weekend, I felt old, out of date, and like I was a true visitor, intruding on these students in a place that I no longer belonged.

Carolina will always be home, the people I met there will always be family, but things are different. Who would have thought that tripping over bricks or dodging scooters in the crosswalk would be things I would miss, but it's become evident that the beautiful campus isn't what made my experience what it was, rather all the people I made my memories with. It serves as a good reminder that going through the motions is never the answer, and although one chapter is over, another one is always beginning.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Beginning of the Year Advice for Athletes - Retired Athlete Problems

Well into Year 2 of the "real world" and year three of being a retired athlete, certain aspects of my college career are becoming more clear to things that I don't necessarily regret, but I wish I valued more at the time. As the new school year has recently started, although I can't go back, I think it'd be cool to help others value their once in a lifetime experience.

The main thing I've reflected on is that cherish the relationships you will make, and the opportunity to make friends. Looking back, all of my summers were spent at the Volleyball house. The friendships and memories I made with my teammates far surpassed any bonds made just on the court, plus being able to split rent 7 ways is a pretty nice hook-up too. These girls will always be my friends, however I do question how many nights we spent too tired to make plans or just watching Netflix that we could have been exploring different houses, meeting new people, and making even more bonds. Being an athlete it's really hard to make friends. Usually any attempt at plans will be met with "I can't, I have practice," but unlike the rest of the population, this won't deter other athletes from making future plans, rather they'll probably quickly understand when you have weights, meetings, and practice and will quickly find a time that does work. My introvert tendencies paired with my genuine laziness prevented me from making many friends outside the volleyball team, and although luckily for me they were all I really needed, I do think I would have liked to branch out more when everyone's eager to make friends.

This brings me to my next point- it's hard to make friends in the real world. If you're like any of my class, many of us traveled to attend college, and many will travel again after college either back home or to new parts of the country for the next steps. This means you're thrown back into the "making friends" stage of life, and unlike sports where friendships are naturally made- you've got to work at them. Having athletics as a common bond is something that shouldn't be taken lightly- as people in the "real world" may have all these crazy and confusing interests. Some that I have stumbled upon include reading, cooking, or even playing sports just for "fun." This means it's time to start evolving some other interests and hobbies, something that looking back could have easily been done in college.

Finally, the common theme in most of my posts, is to enjoy your time fully. My freshman year I was miserable- benched, with no friends, in a new state, recently dumped, and looking to transfer. Six years later I look back on my "miserable" time and can't help but think how lucky I was, and even my worse day there, wasn't so bad. This year is when my freshman my senior year, have become seniors themselves. I don't feel like my glory years were that far in the past, and I think everyone can vouch how quickly four years truly does pass. You may not be able to control your relationship statuses, how often you see your family, or your playing time in college, but you can control your happiness, and I challenge you to be happy and enjoy every minute of the sometimes miserable ride.