While the contractors were working to replace the siding on our new home last summer, they discovered a termite infestation outside the bathroom.
Further investigation revealed that the floor under the tub was not only wet and damp, but had actually completely rotted. So, we hired somebody to repair the damage. On the first day he was here, I went into the bathroom barefoot. Oops. I stepped on a shard of glass tile. That splinter was stuck in my foot for weeks.
At first, it didn’t really affect normal activity. If I wore sneakers and socks, I barely felt it. But if I wore sandals, I got a sharp stabbing pain in the side of my left foot. If I tried to run, the same thing happened. And forget about going to the gym!
Now, the obvious response here is, “Why didn’t you remove the sliver from your foot?” Great question!
On the very first night, Kim did try to remove the sliver, and we thought she got it. But the next morning when I took Tally for a walk, I realized the sliver was still there. But I didn’t do anything about it. I lived with it for weeks, a constant source of low-grade irritation.
This, my friends, is a perfect example of a couple of things.
Overcoming fear is one part of living life without regret. You do that by being open to new people and new experiences, and by acting even when you’re afraid. Another aspect of a rewarding life is learning to find happiness in your daily existence — and building upon that happiness to construct a meaningful life.
Today, in the second part of this limited series on mastering your life, I want to share what I’ve learned about how to be happy.
More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “All knowledge and every pursuit aims at…the highest of all good achievable by action.” And what is that good? “Both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that it is happiness, and identify living well with being happy.”
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle said that happiness is “the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
To some extent, a good life requires good fortune. Happenstance can undermine the well-being of even the most virtuous person. But Aristotle held that ultimately happiness isn’t a product of chance. You can allow misfortune to crush you, or you can choose to bear the blows of fate with “nobility and greatness of soul”. Although fate may play a role in your affairs, Aristotle believed that in the end, happiness depends...
Generally speaking, we focus almost exclusively on the financial side of the things. This week, I’m going to shift gears and share some of the things I’ve learned about overcoming fear, finding happiness, and achieving personal freedom. (Don’t worry. We’ll get back to the hard-core financial talk very soon.)
In December’s discussion of wealth habits, I talked about what T. Harv Eker calls “financial blueprints”. Actually, I talk about them all of the time. Understanding your money blueprint is a vital part of changing your relationship with money.
Our blueprints are created through lifelong exposure to money messages received from people around us, especially our family and friends, and from our country’s culture and mass media. Eker says the unfortunate truth is that most of us have faulty blueprints that prevent us from building wealth.
“When the subconscious mind must choose between deeply rooted emotions and logic, emotions will almost always win,” writes Eker.
He says that most of us are motivated by fear, especially when it comes to money. We don’t call it fear, though. We say we’re motivated by security. Eker notes — correctly — that fear and security are essentially two sides of the same coin. The tough truth is that money...
Happy blogiversary! Twelve years ago today, I launched a humble little blog about personal finance — this blog, Get Rich Slowly. It was meant as a way for me to share the things I was learning as I dug out of debt. It turned into so much more.
For the next couple of weeks, I’m on the road in the southeastern U.S., speaking to people about personal finance and meeting with readers.
This morning, for instance, I spoke to the 76 people attending Camp FI in Spring Grove, Virginia. My topic? No surprise: The importance of having purpose in your life. As you can see, I am a PowerPoint genius…
If you’ve spent any time reading my material, you know that I believe
For this presentation, I added a new twist. You see, a lot of folks who are interested in money tend to pick things like “getting out of debt” and “becoming financially independent” as their purpose or mission. But I think these are poor...
Today we’re going to explore the six stages of financial freedom. First, though, I want to introduce you to my friends Mac and Pam.
They’re also a couple of nerds. I mean, look at them!
Maybe because they’re such nerds, Mac and Pam have always put an emphasis on saving. But they don’t just pinch pennies. They’ve optimized their lives to boost their income and their happiness. They’re well on their way to financial independence. In many ways, they epitomize the ideals espoused by my Money Boss philosophy.The Money Boss Method in Real Life
When Pam was in her final year of med school, for instance, Mac worked as a research tech at a neuroscience lab. He brought home only $18,000 but they were careful to avoid living paycheck to paycheck.
“We would pay the rent,” Mac says, “we would put money into savings, and we’d still have money left over at the end of the month. We made choices not to buy the little things that could have killed our future.”
After med school, Mac and Pam moved to Portland. While Pam did her pathology residency at Oregon Health & Science University, Mac taught high-school science. At that time, their salaries were similar.
When their first...
Old habits die hard.
When you get to be a middle-aged man like me, you have forty-nine years of learned behavior to guide your actions and decisions — even when you know your choices aren’t necessarily for the best. Our mental blueprints (including our money blueprints) are deeply ingrained and tough to change.
Don’t worry. I haven’t turned into a spendthrift or anything. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how certain parts of my past continue to affect me, sometimes in huge and annoying ways. For instance, I fight an ongoing battle against a scarcity mindset. I haven’t been able to master the abundance mindset.
I’ve been reluctant to talk about scarcity and abundance because the terms have been co-opted by “Law of Attraction” types who use them to encourage magical thinking. I hate the New Age-y approach to these concepts. I want to discuss them from a psychological perspective.
Today I want to introduce you to the Crossover Point, that magical place where you have enough saved that you can live off your investment returns. To start, let’s talk about one of my money heroes, billionaire Warren Buffett.
Buffett wasn’t always a billionaire. He started from scratch, just like you and me. Here he is in 1948 — when he had less than $10,000 to his name:
What a dork!
Buffett began making money when he was six years old. He’d buy packs of chewing gum for three cents each, then go door to door selling them for a nickel. (He refused to sell individual sticks; you had to buy an entire pack of Doublemint or nothing.)
“He could hold those pennies, weighty and solid, in his palm,” writes Alice Schroeder in her excellent Buffett biography. “They became the first few snowflakes in a snowball of money to come.”
From chewing gum, Buffett graduated to soda pop. He sold bottles of Coca-Cola to his neighbors in Omaha, and he even peddled his wares to sunbathers while vacationing at Lake Okoboji in Iowa. Buffett sold used golf balls. He hawked peanuts and popcorn at University of Omaha football games.
All the while, he kept score. He deposited his pennies and nickels in the bank and kept track of his savings in a passbook.
At a young age, Buffett began to...
One thing that I’ve taken to heart is debt reduction. In my case, student loans. I refinanced a while back to get a lower rate and have been paying almost triple the monthly minimum to accelerate payoff. The goal was to finish the loan payments a few months before we buy our first home (which we are currently in the middle of saving for our 20% down).
But I’ve encountered a sort of catch-22. As the individual loans get rolled off when they get paid, it’s been hurting my credit score because my average age of credit is dropping. (I’m 27 years old.) This is exactly what I don’t need before applying for a mortgage.
I’m wondering if I should slow down my loans repayments to keep my credit score high when I apply for a mortgage, which will probably be in a year or two.
This question is outside my area of expertise. As you all know by now, I’m good at the Big Picture stuff, at addressing issues of mindset and behavior. But when it comes to nitty-gritty details of personal finance, I have to ask the experts, just like you would.
I cringe when I remember learning to drive. At fifteen-years-old, I was impatient, full of nervous energy, and so short that I could barely reach the steering wheel. (Which is still kind of a problem, but I digress.)
My parents were backseat driving, of course, instructing me on how to drive the rural, dirt road just outside our neighborhood. “Let off the brake,” they said, and the car began to coast, slowly. Cool, I can handle this, I thought. “Hit the gas,” they said. Chaos ensued.
I swerved into the other lane, and when I yanked the steering wheel to straighten out, the car jerked in the other direction and I almost hit a fence post. My parents shouted. I screamed. All of us were terrified. I felt completely frazzled and out of control. It was like the car had a mind of its own.
For many of us, managing money feels something like this. We try to make a budget and set some limits for our spending, but our financial situation always seems to have a mind of its own: your bank account overdrafts, you get a pay cut at work, your vet bill is considerably higher than you expected.
But just as when you were learning to drive, developing a sense that you’re in control can make a huge...
I’ve done some pretty dumb things with money. Maybe you have too. What I’ve come to realize is that those dumb actions were controlled by my money blueprint. And maybe you’ll agree with me that how our money blueprints affect the way we think and act toward money is a key factor in achieving financial freedom.
Most people know that they should be saving more. And they’re well aware that they should be spending less. The average person knows that credit cards are rigged against consumers. We know this stuff, so why do so many people struggle to make ends meet (let alone save for early retirement or other goals)? How can we learn to be smarter with money?
The emerging field of behavioral economics can give us some insight.Two Lines and Two Minds
In Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow, he describes two systems in the brain responsible for thought. They are called, unoriginally, “System 1” and “System 2”. (Evidently, Nobel Laureate economists aren’t the most creative when it comes to naming things.)
My friend Craig is an architect. A couple of years ago, he took me on a tour of his company’s offices. “The cool thing about this building,” he told me, “is that it’s especially resilient.” I could tell from the way he said it that the word resilient meant something a little different to him than it did to me.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“In architecture, resilience describes a structure’s ability to return to its original state after a disturbance,” Craig explained. “Say strong winds cause a skyscraper to sway or an earthquake shakes a house. If they’re resilient, those buildings move with the outside forces but then return to normal when things calm down.”
“Ah,” I said. “When I talk about personal finance, I preach resilience.”
“Sure,” he said. “Resilience is a good thing, both in buildings and in people.”
Twelve years ago, when I was still struggling with money, my finances were not resilient. I had no savings, and I was living paycheck to paycheck on $50,000 a year. When even small things went wrong, such as car trouble, I found myself in crisis mode. How would I pay to fix the problem? How could I meet my other financial responsibilities?
When I began to turn things around, one of my first actions was to set aside a small ($500) emergency fund to cope...
Three thousand years ago, there lived a great hero named Ulysses (or Odysseus, if you prefer), king of Ithaca, champion of the Trojan War, and, it turns out, pioneer of personal finance.
Ulysses wrestled Ajax, retrieved the body of Achilles (the hero shot in his heel), and devised the clever Trojan horse, which allowed the Greek army to infiltrate Troy and end the decade-long struggle.
When the conflict was over, Ulysses spent another ten years desperately trying to sail home to Ithaca. He visited the lotus-eaters, was captured by (and escaped from) the cyclops, evaded both cannibals and the witch-god Circe. He slipped past the six-headed monster Scylla and the whirlpool called Charybdis. After all these troubles (and more!), Ulysses reached Ithaca and regained his throne.
Ulysses was mighty. He was tough, both mentally and physically. But he was only human.
Like anyone, he was subject to temptation. He was deceitful. He was rash. He sometimes shirked responsibility. (He and his men wasted an entire year on Circe’s island “feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and wine”.) Most of all, Ulysses was proud. Immodest. Boastful.
Fortunately, Ulysses was also self-aware.
In an episode combining both his strength and weakness of character, Ulysses decides he wants to hear the seductive song of the Sirens. Foolish, yes, and he knows it. Because he realizes he’s...
At Get Rich Slowly, my goal is to help you make the best possible decisions with your income and spending. Having said that, we’re all human. We all mistakes. We all do dumb things with money. And I feel like April Fools’ Day is the perfect time to talk about some of the stupid things we’ve done in the past.
Let me give you an example (or three) from my own life.
To begin, I’ll retell a classic tale of my financial foolishness, one that has delighted my readers for over a decade. It’s all about how I paid $1500 for a “free” Frisbee.The Not-So-Free Frisbee
On the first day of college, I opened my first bank account. The gym was filled with registration tables, not just for classes and clubs, but also for banks and credit cards. Since I was receiving a small stipend to cover living expenses, I needed a checking account.
The two banks vying for attention used different methods to attract students to their tables. A small local bank had a sign that promised “free checking”. A large national bank gave away a Frisbee to anyone who opened an account. The choice seemed easy: I wanted the Frisbee.
I signed up for my checking account, deposited my money, and got my free Frisbee. I spent the afternoon on the quad tossing the disc back and forth with my roommates. When...
As you spend less and earn more, you’ll begin to earn a profit and save more money. Maybe at first you’ll have a few dollars per month in surplus. Eventually, however, you’ll find that you’re saving 10%, 20%, or even 50% of your everything you earn.
The average person spends his surplus on whatever wants come to mind. Instead of using the money to get ahead, he stays in the same place. Or, worse, he falls behind by taking on debt. A smart money manager puts her profit to use by investing for the future.
At first, you’ll pursue short-term goals.
After your near-term wants and needs are satisfied, it’s time to look farther into the future, toward retirement and Financial Independence. You know what that means, right? It’s time to invest in the stock market!
Investing doesn’t have to be difficult. If you keep things simple, you can invest yourself and receive reasonable returns — all...
Over the past decade, I’ve attended a variety of camps and conferences to speak to people about money. Most of these events are money-related, but every once in a while I’m asked to speak at a non-financial function.
In 2011, for instance, I was on a panel at the International Game Developers Association summit, which is a conference for videogame designers. (How perfect for nerdy ol’ me!) My colleagues and I spent an hour discussing the “gamification” of personal finance — learning to manage money using techniques more commonly associated with games.
Think of your favorite games — especially video games. What makes them fun? What makes you want to play again? How can these elements be extracted from game design and used in real life? In this case, for promoting smart personal finance? Over the past few years, I’ve seen this idea discussed a few times, but nobody’s ever really taken the time to explore the idea at length. Until now.
Today, former GRS staff writer Kristin Wong released her first book, Get Money, which is all about applying game-playing principles to money management. “This book gamifies personal finance so that you’re motivated to take control of your money,” Wong writes. “Most books have chapters, but being more action-oriented this book has ‘levels’ that you must ‘beat’.”
I love this concept, and I love this book.
Like any good modern money manual,...
Whenever you make a choice, there’s a cost.
By choosing to buy one item, you pass on the opportunity to purchase other items. By choosing to do one thing, you pass on the opportunity to spend your time on anything else. Opportunity cost is what we give up in order to have the thing we choose.
Let’s look at an example.
Imagine you own a delivery company. You have $10,000 to spend on new equipment. You could buy a new truck to add to the fleet, but then you wouldn’t be able to replace the ten-year-old computers in the main office. But if you buy new computers, you won’t have as many trucks available to make deliveries. No matter which option you choose, something is lost. That’s opportunity cost in action.
While this concept is applied constantly in business, it’s often overlooked in personal finance.
When you use money for one thing, that money can’t be used for anything else. If you purchase a home with a $1500 monthly mortgage payment, for instance, you can’t use that money to travel or to fund your retirement.
Opportunity costs are neither good nor bad. They’re simply the price you pay to have what you choose. The problem comes when the choices you make aren’t intentional — when you make them out of reflex or habit.
Every time you spend money, there’s an opportunity cost...
Happy birthday to me! Today I turn 49. Here’s a photo from my third birthday. (I’m tucked just behind Mom, opening a present.)
To celebrate my 49th birthday, I want to share 49 nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up during my time on this Earth. These are things I’ve found to be true for me — and, I believe, for most other people. (But, as always, remember that each of us is different. What works for me may not work for you.)
For obvious reasons, some of these notions overlap with the core tenets of the Get Rich Slowly philosophy. Plus, long-time readers will recognize this as an update to an article I’ve shared before on my birthday.
Some of the ideas that follow are original to me. Some aren’t. When I’ve borrowed something, I’ve done my best to cite my source. (And I’ve tried to cite the oldest source I can find. Lots of folks borrow ideas from each other. There’s nothing new under the sun and all that.)
Here are 49 principles I’ve found to be true during my 49 years on this planet:
Note: Today’s post is a little different. It’s a letter to a young friend, who asked to remain anonymous. She’s 21 and just landed her first job. Now that she’s bringing home a regular income, she wanted advice on what to do with her money. Here’s my response.
First up, I think it’s awesome that you asked me for advice. That took guts! Plus, it’s a sign that you’re already making good decisions. You’re being proactive, taking charge of your own life. I like that.
Like you, my parents didn’t teach me how to handle money very well. They did their best, but it’s tough to teach what you don’t know. I’ve had to figure a lot of this stuff out on my own, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way.
You’ll make mistakes with money too, I’m sure. They key is to not let these mistakes compound. Don’t let one mistake lead to another mistake. When something goes wrong, pause. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic. Call me for advice, or ask somebody else who seems to have things figured out. Okay?
I have so much I want to share with you, but I’m going to hold back. I don’t want to overwhelm you with stuff that you don’t need to know right now. Do me a favor, though, and read that book I mailed you: I Will Teach You to Be Rich. There’s a lot of good info in there. Some of it won’t apply...
There’s no question that frugality is an important part of personal finance — you can’t outearn dumb spending — but trying to get rich by pinching pennies is like trying to win a car race by conserving gas. If you want to reach the finish line fast, you can’t be shy with the accelerator!
Today I want to explore a better way to boost your savings. Let’s talk about how you can earn more money. Whether you’re self-employed or working for somebody else, your income is determined by three factors:
If you want to earn more money, you have to become more valuable in the job marketplace — and demonstrate that value for the market to see. Let’s look at how to make that happen.The More You Learn, the More You Earn
In the United States, education has a greater impact on work-life earnings than any other demographic factor. Your age, race, gender, and location all influence what you earn, but nothing matters more than what you know. That’s great...
I had lunch with Sabino yesterday. He’s my accountant — but he’s also my friend (and a loyal Get Rich Slowly reader).
I told Sabino about how our house has been a money pit over the nine months since we bought it. I told him how much fun I’ve been having with Get Rich Slowly since I bought it back, and about how much work it has turned out to be to get the site renovated.
Sabino told me about his businesses (he doesn’t just own the accounting firm, but bits and pieces of several other companies too) and about his kids (who, to the surprise of both of us, are all teenagers now). He’s worked hard all of his life to give his family a solid future, and now — at age 48 — all of his dreams seem to be coming true.
I’ve shared Sabino’s story several times in the past. But for those who are unfamiliar, here’s a synopsis.
Sabino’s family moved to the United States when he was ten years old. They were poor and didn’t speak English. But from an early age, Sabino wanted to be part of the American Dream. He learned English, worked hard, and put himself through college.
After Sabino got married, he and his wife Kim set financial goals. Their chief aim was for Kim to stay home and raise a family. So, while our friends were buying new homes and new cars, Sabino and Kim rented a mobile home in the country...