The Simple Dollar
I am really looking forward to the day where we move into the country. I dream about it, in fact.
I don’t really loathe where we currently live, but recent construction has taken away the nice view that I used to have out of my office window.
I like to think about wandering in the woods every day, enjoying a great view whenever I want it, collecting mushrooms in the spring…
It’s a vision that I daydream about. ( Continue… )
I won’t bore you with a long list of things in this world that I consider “right” and that I consider “wrong.”
It’s simple enough to say that everyone has a slightly different list and that my own sense of “right” and “wrong” isn’t too far away from what you might call “normal.”
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For me, as for a lot of people, having this internal list of “right” and “wrong” puts a lot of things in life into a grey area. Some aspects of something are “right,” while other aspects are “wrong,” so we’re stuck trying to figure out the right choice when it comes to that grey area.
For example, let’s say your wife finds a receipt for a gift that you bought for her. She doesn’t know precisely what it is, but she’s suspicious and she asks you about it. You want to maintain a surprise for her, but is it the right thing to tell her a little white lie about it? ( Continue… )
If financial independence were easy, everyone would be financially independent.
On the other hand, if financial independence were impossible, no one would be financially independent.
I try very hard to keep those two things in mind every single day.
It’s not hard to explain why financial independence is a good thing. It frees you from having to worry about your employment. It frees you to do whatever you want with your time. It frees you from having to make hard choices.
It’s not easy to get there, though. It’s hard.
Short term desires are very loud. It might be great fun to buy that thing you want right now – and you have the cash to do it! – but every step that you take towards something you want immediately is a step away from financial independence.
Society, as well as the people around you, constantly encourages you to spend, spend, spend. Advertisers don’t make ads for fun. They make them because they work. People are constantly convinced that they need more, more, more and they use their hard-earned money to grab for their latest desire.
Every step away from financial independence requires another step to get back to where you were.If you spend twenty bucks foolishly, you’ve got to make twenty more and not spend it just to get back to where you were before, not having made any progress. Every step back just increases the length of your journey.
All of this can be overcome, but it’s not an easy road.
You have to constantly compare the long term to the short term. Is the urgent desire of today worth walking away from the dream of tomorrow? It might not seem like spending a few bucks today turns you away from that dream, but that’s exactly what it does.
You have to not be guided by the urges and whispers of society. You can’t constantly indulge in the latest treats if you want to get ahead. Instead, you have to make careful choices about the rare occasions when you’ll accept a step or two backward on your journey.
You have to judge every purchase and every decision. Is this item I want right now worth the step back it would require on my financial journey? If I spend $100 today, that drops my net worth by $100… so I have to earn and save $100 just to get back here.
This is not an easy road. It’s a road with pleasures and rewards, but it’s also a road of personal challenge and commitment. The reward at the end is financial freedom.
Do you want it?
Think about it for a second.
Could you walk into your workplace Monday morning, look at your boss, and hand in your letter of resignation? Could you do this without entering into an absolute financial apocalypse at home?
It’s a dream a lot of us have.
It’s something I actually did in February 2008, not because I disliked my boss or coworkers or even the interesting parts of my job, but because I felt like I was becoming the father I didn’t want to be and because I was really frustrated with bureaucracy. ( Continue… )
Let me run you through my schedule for today, just using a simple example.
I wake up at 6 AM to shower and make sure the kids have everything they need for school. At 6:45, I wake them up and get them started on their day with breakfast and a hug before they head off to school. By about 7:45, they’re on the bus, so I devote a couple hours to writing while my mind is still sharp.
I have a teleconference for personal finance writers at 10:30, so that book-ends my writing session, and I follow that with a working lunch at noon.
From 1 to 2, I have another short window for writing, then I squeeze in some exercise before my children start arriving home, at which point I take two of them to taekwondo practice (making sure, somewhere in there, that their uniforms are clean) and one of them to piano practice. ( Continue… )
When I was in high school, my father’s employer launched a 401(k) program. He’d been there for twenty five years (off and on) at that time and was getting fairly close to his retirement, so it wasn’t a huge deal for him.
Still, my father has always been pretty careful with his money. Aside from their mortgage, my parents have never been in significant debt, even during periods of unemployment. They put money directly from their pay into a credit union every pay period and treated it as an emergency fund, saved up for major expenses like Christmas, and completely avoided the desire to spend to “keep up with the Joneses.”
Naturally, he wanted to know more, so when his company held some informative meetings in the evening about utilizing the new 401(k) program, he attended.
He also took me along.
I was about fifteen at the time and, quite honestly, the idea of retirement was about the furthest thing from my mind. There were really two things I took away from that whole experience.
One, saving for retirement was important and it should be started as early as possible. I can’t tell you how many times my old man said that he wished the program had been around when he started working there. If it had been, my parents would be doing really well right now.
The other thing is a bit more troubling. Based on the attendance at the sign-up meeting, my father commented that at least half of his coworkers didn’t bother to sign up at all. This included a few of his closest work pals. ( Continue… )
Old routines are hard to break.
It took me almost five years of alternating between “good” and “bad” behavior to finally curb my bad media buying habits, particularly books.
See, the problem is that I’m an avid reader and I also view reading as a very worthwhile and valuable hobby. That belief is really easily transposed onto the desire to buy books and have them around, because a bookshelf full of books is just a wonderful thing that I love to see.
To me, even now, a bookshelf with books on it shouts out with the possibility of all of those books and the stories and ideas contained within. A book to me is like a pair of magic glasses that lets me see the world in a new way; a bookshelf is like a collection of those glasses. ( Continue… )
Our whole family had a great time. The park is really thoughtfully designed, putting rides that only adults and older kids can go on very close to young children’s rides, allowing our family to split up very nicely as needed and meet each other at ride exits.
While there is one area full of additional priced “carnival games,” I didn’t feel as though the park was excessive in additional costs. Once we were in there, we really didn’t spend too much more money.
Here are five ways we kept it cheap without reducing the fun. ( Continue… )
I want to tell you about a guy I know that I’ll call Jeff.
Jeff is in his middle years. He’s one of those guys who just naturally makes people feel comfortable around him, with a bit of slight deprecation and a great smile always at the ready. He tries really hard to remember your name even if you’ve only met him once.
Jeff is always clean and presentable, but he’s usually underdressed for every occasion. He’s the guy who’s wearing the most casual clothing in the room. He’ll show up for a wedding in older jeans and either a decent t-shirt or the one button-up shirt he has in his closet.
Everyone likes Jeff, though a lot of people had just assumed that he was relatively poor. He lives alone in a pretty small house and, although he owns a car, it was about ten years old and no one could remember him ever driving it, since he usually rides around on his bicycle even in the coldest months.
Jeff is just a comfortable person to be around. You don’t feel self-conscious around him in either a positive or a negative way.
A while back, I was talking to Jeff about what he did for a living because, frankly, I didn’t know.
“I mostly rebuild bicycles these days,” he told me.
I was surprised there was money in that. He said there wasn’t, really, but that he did it because he liked doing it. He liked taking rusty old bicycles, fixing them up into working order, and selling them at a low rate to college students in the area. He mostly did it via word of mouth and Craigslist. ( Continue… )
The savings account at your local bank probably earns around 0.5% interest right now. Even the best national banks at the moment earn only around 0.85% in interest.
By comparison, rates on CDs look pretty good. You can find five year CDs with rates around 1.80% if you search around.
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A quick note for new readers: A CD is short for a “certificate of deposit,” which is essentially a special type of savings offered by a bank. It usually offers a better interest rate than a normal savings account, but you have to agree to not take your money out for a certain period of time – the term – or else you’re faced with a stiff penalty.
If you have $1,000 in the bank, 0.85% annual interest will leave you with $1,043.29 after five years, whereas a five-year CD at 1.8% will give you $1,093.30 after five years. That’s $50 more for every $1,000 you invest and they’re both equally stable. ( Continue… )