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2018-01-21T00:47:17.946Z
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This month is “back to basics” month at Get Rich Slowly, and this week we turned our attention to you and your work. Yesterday we explored landing your dream job. On Thursday, ESI Money shared tips for making more while growing your career. (And this coming Monday, I’ll give tips for negotiating your salary.)

In today’s installment of GRS Theater, we’re going to enjoy another educational film designed for high school students in the post-WWII era. This ten-minute video was put out by Coronet Films in 1948. In “You and Your Work”, a young worker learns the value of a positive attitude. Why loathe your life as a shoe salesman when you can learn to love it instead?

High-school student Frank Taylor wants to earn some spending cash, so he takes a job as a shoe salesman. The job is okay at first, but gradually Frank grows tired of it. Plus, the pay sucks: “That wouldn’t buy many of the things I wanted. The shoe business was no good!” After Frank is fired at the shoe store, he goes to his high-school guidance counselor for help.

You and Your Work argues that there’s no such thing as a dull job. What’s important is the worker’s attitude. Frank wants a glamorous, interesting job — like an architect — but his counselor points out that even architects get bored with their work. And even teachers, chemists, and fishermen can be proud of what they...

In 1987, Marsha Sinetar published Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow, a popular book about finding your dream job based on your passions. She urged readers to “follow their own hearts to the work of their dreams”.

Sinetar is a proponent of what she calls Right Livelihood: Doing your best at what you do best.

“Each of us, no matter how ordinary we consider our talents, wants and needs to use them. Right Livelihood is the natural expression of this need,” she wrote. “When we consciously choose to do work we enjoy, not only can we get things done, we can get them done well and be intrinsically rewarded for the effort. Money and security cease to be our only payments.”

“Do what you love” sounds like a great idea — who wouldn’t want a dream job that was both fun and paid the bills? — but as many people have pointed out over the past thirty years, it’s generally poor career advice. When folks cling to the belief that they’ll have no trouble if they do what they love, they run the risk of not being able to make ends meet.

One obvious problem is that not everything you enjoy doing can generate a reliable source of income. I like videogames, for instance, but I’ll never make big bucks playing Hearthstone. It’d be foolish...

This is a guest post from ESI of ESI Money, a blog about achieving financial independence through earning, saving, and investing (“E”, “S”, and “I” — get it?). It’s written by an early-50s retiree who achieved financial independence, shares what’s worked for him, and details how others can implement those ideas in their own lives. (Note: ESI is also the owner of Rockstar Finance, the leading curation site for top personal finance articles.)

You’ve heard it a million times before: To build wealth, you have to spend less than you earn. It’s a great piece of advice — one of my favorites, actually. Too often, however, people take this to mean simply “control your spending”.

While your spending is certainly part of the equation, there’s an equally-important component: your earning.

Here’s what I think a lot of people miss: It’s easier to spend less than you earn when you earn more. It’s also easier to reach your financial goals. From my experience, the best way for most people to earn more is to grow their careers. Today I want to show you five ways to grow your career so that you make more money and enjoy greater job satisfaction.

The Case for Career Growth

I know, I can hear the collective groan.

For myriad reasons, many people dislike advice about growing their careers. It’s probably because so many hate their jobs.

I get it. I’ve been there myself.

But I also understand that there’s...

Holy cats! That was an interesting 72 hours.

For the past three days, I’ve been fighting a terrible cold. Or maybe the flu. I’m not sure which. It hasn’t been fun.

On Sunday, while I was in Florida attending an early-retirement retreat, I woke with crap in my lungs. All day, I was coughing and sneezing and hacking. I still felt relatively strong, though, so I made sure to get in my four-mile training run. (I made two goals involving running this year: I want to run at least one mile every day and I want to run a half marathon at the end of March.)

On Monday morning, I felt worse. Still, I rolled out of bed and tromped the one mile I had scheduled for myself. It was a l-o-n-g mile, let me tell you. I was wheezing and gasping the entire ten minutes.

The six-hour flight home to Portland on Monday afternoon was miserable. I hate flying when I’m sick, and I know how much that sucks for other passengers. I huddled next to the window and tried not to breathe too deeply. Breathing too deeply rattled the crap in my lungs and sent me into fits of coughing, so I mainly zoned out and made an effort to take shallow breaths.

“You sound terrible,” Kim said when she picked me up from the airport. That night, she made me sleep in the guest room.

I spent all yesterday fighting a high fever. I tried to write an article, but it...

As part of back to basics month, let’s use today to explore how you can get out of debt without gimmicks or games.

After twelve years of reading and writing about money, I’ve come to believe that debt reduction ought to be a side effect and not a goal. Getting out of debt is a target, not a habit. And, as we’ve been discussing recently, good goals are built around actions instead of numbers. If you restructure your life so that you’re spending less than you earn, you will get out of debt. It’s a natural side effect.

Having said that, I realize that a lot of GRS readers are struggling to get to square one. Getting out of debt is their goal and primary obsession. That’s okay.

Before you can begin repaying your debt, you must be earning a profit. Unless your income exceeds your expenses, your debt is actually increasing. If you’re continuing to add debt, or if you’re only able to make minimum payments, you must first find ways to spend less and earn more until you have a positive “saving rate”. (Both businesses and people earn profits. But when individuals earn a personal profit, we call it “savings”.)

After you’re earning a personal profit, you...

This guest post from the Frugal Jerk is part of the “money stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all stages of financial maturity. Today, the Frugal Jerk — who has asked to remain anonymous for now — shares the first half of his story about going from internet entrepreneur to busted and broke.

You might know me. I’m a blogger and entrepreneur. I’ve had tens of thousands of customers during the last decade, so it’s very possible that you’ve purchased something from me in the past.

I’ve been read by millions of readers on my own sites and I’ve appeared as a guest writer on popular websites you’ve surely heard of. I’ve also been featured in New York Times bestselling books that may sit on your shelf. At my peak, my income was $300,000 per year. By many accounts I would be considered successful. But I’ve made many dumb mistakes with money.

We’re not going to bury the lede: At a certain point, because of a perfect storm of mistakes and problems, the smartest move was to foreclose my home. This move may have even saved my life. This is that story.

What’s interesting about all of this is that I grew up fairly poor and conservative with money. If...

Earlier this week, I encouraged readers to become proactive by developing an internal locus of control. In that article, I wrote:

You are the boss of you. You don’t need anybody’s permission to get out of debt or to buy a house or to ask for a raise. And nobody’s going to come to you out of the blue to explain investing or health insurance or your credit card contract. Take charge yourself.

“I get it,” you might be thinking. “Self-reliance is great. But how do I change? How do I get from where I am to becoming a more self-reliant person?”

In today’s installment of GRS Theater, we’re going to look at another fun educational film nearly seventy years ago. This short video (targeted at teenagers) aims to help viewers become more proactive.

“If you’re not self-reliant, you’ll never do any more than just ‘get by’,” says the narrator.

I love how in his desk, Mr. Carson, the French teacher, just happens to have a typewritten card with the four steps to self-reliance. “Learning to be self-reliant takes time…and hard work,” he says, handing young Allen the list.

Here are Mr. Carson’s steps, with a bit of elaboration.

  1. Assume responsibility. Take the blame for things that are your fault; look after your own work; plan your own time; depend on yourself to get things done.
  2. Be informed. If you don’t know some vital piece of information, find it out. Ask. Get the facts you need to make...

I’m in Florida for ten days to attend a couple of weekend early retirement retreats. At Camp FI, about 50 or 60 people gather for three days of what Mr. Money Mustache calls “crazy rich people talk” — real estate investing, travel hacking, gift card arbitrage, 70% saving rates, and the rewards of frugality and thrift.

One afternoon, the conversation turned to clothing. Given that so many people in the room had a net worth of more than a million dollars, a surprising number of us still bought our clothes at thrift stores.

Cheapskate Millionaires

“I can’t bring myself to pay more than ten dollars for a t-shirt,” one guy said. We all nodded in agreement.

“I don’t pay anything for t-shirts,” said another fellow. “I travel a lot for work. When I go to conferences, I often come home with three or five or ten t-shirts. There’s no point in ever paying for them.” Throughout the weekend, I noticed that a lot of us wore t-shirts we’d picked up for free. (Because we’re money nerds, Choose FI t-shirts were prominent.)

“But what about quality clothes?” asked one woman. “I get why we’re all so cheap on the everyday stuff. But sometimes, I want clothing that looks good, that I can go out in.”

“I’m a long-time thrift store shopper,” I said, “and it’s taken some effort to allow myself to shop in regular stores. For quality stuff, I think it’s...

For today’s edition of “back to basics” month at Get Rich Slowly, we’re going to talk about credit scores. What is a credit score? Why should you care?

As you go about your life, you leave a trail of transactions. You take out a mortgage, you buy a new car, you use your credit card to buy new clothes and your debit car to purchase groceries.

Every month, your creditors — the companies to which you owe money — send info about your recent activity to a variety of credit reporting agencies (commonly referred to as credit bureaus). Each agency collects this info into a file called a credit report.

Your credit report is a history of how well you’ve managed your credit. It contains info about where you’ve lived, how much you’ve borrowed, and whether you tend to pay your bills on time. It also notes if you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy.

The credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — sell your credit report to other businesses so they can decide whether to lend you money, sell you insurance, rent you a home, or give you a job.

Credit reports may be boring, but they’re vitally important because they provide the basis for your credit score.

How to Get Your Free Credit Report
The U.S. government has mandated that consumers be allowed to view their credit reports from each of the three major reporting agencies once every year. This is easy to do via the free

From time to time, I make podcast appearances. Last week, for instance, I recorded three episodes for various shows — including a l-o-n-g discussion with Joe Saul-Sehy from Stacking Benjamins about the pros and cons of the new Star Wars movie. (Our discussion starts at 56:13 and lasts for half an hour!)

The afternoon before I flew out to Florida, I sat down to chat with Steve Chen from NewRetirement.

For those of you unfamiliar, NewRetirement is a retirement planning tool. It’s not just a calculator, but a sophisticated forecaster to help you plan your future. I have no financial stake in the company — not yet, anyhow — I just like it. I think most retirement calculators suck. The NewRetirement tool is one of a handful I like.

Anyhow, over the past year, I’ve had a chance to get to know NewRetirement founder Steve Chen. I like and respect him. He’s doing good work and his heart is in the right place. When he asked me to be the first guest on his first podcast, I was eager to do so. We talked about purpose and happiness (Surprise!)

Steve and I had planned to talk about the pros and cons of early retirement, but, as sometimes happens, our talk strayed to other (equally interesting) topics.

I don’t have space to quote the entire transcript. (You can find that here.) Instead,...

This is a guest post by former Get Rich Slowly staff writer Donna Freedman, a veteran personal finance journalist — and one of my favorite writers. Since leaving GRS, Donna has published two books: Your Playbook for Tough Times and Your Playbook for Tough Times, volume two. These are both excellent handbooks for folks trying to make ends meet under difficult circumstances.

Frugalists aren’t averse to spending. They’re just canny about how they buy, or whether they buy at all.

That’s a tough sell, so to speak, in a country where we’re persistently pressured to keep up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians). Flash sales, one-click shopping apps, deal websites, and near-weekly sales at brick and mortar stores make it soooo easy to buy.

Haul photos on social media, hot deals shared by friends, clothing or cosmetics worn by favorite celebrities, that bling your sister-in-law sported at Christmas – spending triggers, every one of them.

It’s tempting to believe that next purchase will be the one that makes you finally, truly happy. Except that it probably won’t, thanks to what sociologists call the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation” – our tendency to adjust back to previous levels of happiness after a spike in glee.

J.D.’s note: You might have seen this concept referred to as “lifestyle inflation” at GRS and other money blogs.

Maybe that initial joy is caused...

A few weeks ago, I cataloged the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people. Based on my reading (and personal experience), I compiled a list of 61 habits that foster wealth and success.

While writing that article, I found one critical difference was mentioned again and again. Every author and expert on the subject shared some form of the following. Generally speaking: Successful people believe they control their destiny and unsuccessful people do not.

In Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, for instance, T. Harv Eker lists seventeen ways the financial blueprints of the rich differ from those of the poor and middle-class. Number one on his list?

Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.”

This message comes up time and again when discussing the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t. Successful people are proactive, they take responsibility for their future, they have an internal locus of control. Unsuccessful people believe they are victims of fate or circumstance.

Let’s look at why many folks feel like they’re not in control of their lives — and how it’s possible to learn to be proactive (even if you’re old like me and set in your ways).

Permission and Control

As children, we’re conditioned to ask permission whenever we want to do something. You need permission...

It’s back to basics month at Get Rich Slowly! Today, we’re going to take a l-o-n-g look at how to use credit cards wisely. Believe it or not, credit cards can be a useful tool — so long as you don’t fall into debt.

For a long time, I thought credit cards were evil. Starting in college, I abused credit cards. As a result, I ended up deep in debt. Those two decades of debt sucked, and they led me to believe that credit cards were dangerous.

Well, credit cards are dangerous — but they’re not evil. Credit cards are a tool. Like any other tool, credit cards can be used to build or to destroy. Just as you’d treat a chainsaw with respect, you need to be careful with credit to avoid hurting yourself. If you use credit cards wisely, they can actually give you a financial edge!

Because this is a long article, I’ve create a table of contents so that you can jump to the section you need. (Or, you can read the entire thing, of course.)

Table of Contents

  1. How credit cards work
  2. Why use a credit card?
  3. Essential credit card skills
  4. How to use credit cards wisely
  5. How to choose a credit card
  6. How to dispute credit card charges
  7. How to cancel a credit card

How Credit...

This guest post from Kamie is the first in the newly-revived “money stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all stages of financial maturity. Today, Kamie shares her resolution to break her shopping habit in 2018.

Two weeks ago, just before Christmas, I found a New York Times article about somebody who went a year without shopping.

“Why would anyone do that?” I thought to myself — but I kept reading. The author had some compelling reasons for her experiment:

  • It made her more mindful of her “wants”.
  • It forced her to use things she already owned.
  • It helped her appreciate the things she had — and the things she was given.
  • And, surprisingly, it freed up tons of her time.

I read the article, thought it was interesting, and went on with my day. Later that evening, though, I started thinking about the article again. I thought about how much I shop and how much time and effort I put into it. Could I possibly go a year with no shopping?

My Background

You see, I worked in high-end retail for a very long time. I went to school for fashion merchandising and was in retail management as soon as I graduated. Everything in my life revolved around fashion and shopping! Working at Nordstrom was...

Long-time readers know that I love old instructional films — the kind of thing we older folks used to watch in high school. (“Play it backwards!”)

Because the previous owners of Get Rich Slowly “unpublished” all of the old films I once shared, I get the joy of sharing them again with a new audience. Today, we start with a gem: “Your Thrift Habits“, a film designed to teach teenagers how to budget.

Produced in 1948 by Coronet Instructional Films, this 10-minute short is filled with great advice — and it’s fun to watch too.

“Your Thrift Habits” highlights some important aspects of budgeting and thrift:

  • “If you can do without extravagances, you can save regularly.”
  • Be aware of your budget-breakers and try to avoid them. In the film, Jack’s budget-breakers are movies, candy, and peach super-delights. Yours might be Starbucks or iTunes. In the past, comic books were my budget-breaker.
  • “Buying cheap, unsatisfactory products is never thrifty.” When you can afford it, purchase quality.
  • Sometimes you’ll have to make choices. In “Your Thrift Habits”, Jack chooses to attend a football game, which delays his savings plan by one week. The key is that he chooses this course of action and accepts the consequences.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you fall behind. Jack falls behind once or twice, but he doesn’t give up. He keeps saving.
  • “When you save for a specific goal or purpose, it’s easier if you have a visual reminder.” Tracking your progress can spur success.
  • Money management gets...

Ah, the new year. A perfect time to set goals and work to adopt new habits.

Heeding my own advice, this year I’m setting goals based on effort not outcome. (After nearly fifty years on this planet, I’ve come to recognize that while outcomes are influenced by effort, there are other factors involved. But I am wholly in control of my effort.)

That said, here are my goals for 2018:

  • I will run at least one mile every day. I like to exercise. Unfortunately, I make tons of excuses to avoid exercise. But running a mile per day is easy. It’s something that takes less than ten minutes. I can do it every day — even when I’m sick. Might get tough when traveling, but I think I can make it work. (As I mentioned the other day, a handful of us money bloggers are planning to run a half-marathon here in Portland at the end of March.)
  • I will eat at least three servings of plants every day. One serving might be an apple or a cup of fruit cocktail or some asparagus with dinner. Starches like rice and potatoes do not count toward this goal. (Normally, I’m lucky to eat three servings of plants per week, so this is a big goal.)
  • I will drink fewer than 500 servings of alcohol. Here’s a frank admission: I’m worried that I drink too much. No surprise to long-time readers, who have seen the development of my love for beer and wine. And...

My life isn’t the only one filled with flux lately. Many of my family and friends are experiencing Big Life Events (BLEs). Some are suffering serious illness. Others are switching careers. A few are leaving long-term relationships. And a couple are simply experiencing a mid-life crisis.

As often happens, these BLEs are prompting the people I know to evaluate their circumstances (financial and otherwise), and to re-evaluate their priorities.

Resets due to BLEs can make people feel panicked.

My girlfriend Kim, for instance, has been fretting that at age 45 she doesn’t have enough saved for retirement. She hangs out with me and at early retirement gatherings and comes away feeling inadequate, like she doesn’t measure up to the rest of us.

Or there’s my friend Joel who’s facing a BLE and desperately wants financial advice — but is afraid to ask for it. He’s embarrassed by his past decisions and his present circumstances. He’s afraid to look foolish.

Here’s my message to people like Kim and Joel: Start where you are. Don’t fret about your past, and don’t worry about how others are doing. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

How to Start Where You Are

In a nutshell: By diligently applying four simple rules, you can move from being at the mercy of money to being a master of money.

In 2004, Jesse and Julie Mecham were twenty-year-old newlyweds trying to make ends meet. They lived in the 300-square-foot basement of a sixty-year-old home. He was pursuing a master’s degree in accounting, while she was finishing a bachelor’s degree in social work. Plus, they were planning for their fist child.

The Mechams felt flat broke.

But because Jesse was (and still is) a self-proclaimed “numbers nerd”, he decided to create a spreadsheet to budget for every day of the year. The couple steadfastly stuck to their budget, and something surprising happened. Despite their meager circumstances, they no longer felt desperate about money. They paid their bills and still had a little left over for a couple of date nights each month.

Later, while brainstorming ways to earn extra money, Jesse wondered if other people would be interested in his budgeting method, which involved four simple rules. He started teaching others these rules and sharing his spreadsheet. In time, that spreadsheet morphed into a piece of software called You Need a Budget [my review].

Today, You Need a Budget is one of the most highly-regarded personal finance apps available. (Seriously. Everyone who uses it seems to love it. Its users are die-hards.)

In his recent book — also called You Need a...

In the spirit of getting back to basics this month at Get Rich Slowly, I’m planning to publish a series of articles about the most important numbers in personal finance. Let’s start by looking at how to calculate your net worth.

To measure the value of a business, companies talk about equity or “book value”. Jargon, right? In personal finance, equity is known as net worth. It’s exactly the same thing but on a personal level. Your net worth is an important number because it reveals how much the business of you is worth at the moment.

Still clear as mud? Maybe this definition of net worth from Wait But Why will make more sense:

“What would happen if you sold everything you own, liquidated any investments you have, paid off all of your debts, and withdrew whatever cash you have in bank accounts? You’d be standing on the street naked, with nowhere to go, holding a bunch of cash, and people would be looking at you. And whatever cash you were holding would be your net worth.”

At its core, your net worth represents how much wealth you’ve accumulated until this very moment. In the classic book Your Money or Your Life, Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin write, “[Your net worth] is what you currently have to show for your lifetime income; the rest is memories and illusions.” Ouch. That’s a little harsh, but it’s true.

How...

Some people, I suppose, do what’s “right” — and do it all of the time. It just comes naturally. They eat healthfully, exercise, keep the house clean, and never speak ill of others. They avoid debt, invest wisely, make productive use of their time, and never drink too much wine. I’m sure these perfect people exist. But I don’t know any.

The rest of us are fallible. We generally know what’s right, but we don’t always do it. We make mistakes. We choose short-term pleasure over long-term gain. We’re strong in some areas of life but weak in others. We have lofty goals, but we frequently fall short of achieving them.

Take me, for example.

I know what it takes to be and stay fit. I enjoy being fit. When I’m in good shape, I feel better both physically and mentally. But, for whatever reason, I find it difficult to remain fit for more than a couple of years.

Back to Fitness

In the past, my fitness has always faded as a result of too many videogames and too much cake. (Well, metaphorical cake. I used to eat tons of candy and cookies and salty snacks.) More recently, cake isn’t the issue. My nemesis is beer. I like beer, but beer isn’t kind to my belly.

As we start 2018, I’ve come to believe that it’s time for me to get “back to basics” with fitness. This year, I’m going to focus on some simple goals that I know will improve my fitness. Seriously: These...