I decided to skip my latest Annual Expenses post for today and share a little excitement instead. I previously mentioned that my employer let a number of people go recently. That’s not the exciting part, of course. But I had the opportunity to recommend one of my former colleagues to a hiring manager and I was happy to do so. He is a great salesman and a great man as well. And over the weekend, I was thrilled to learn that he wound up taking that job!
It took him less than a month and given how specialized our
field is, that’s not bad at all. And while his new opportunity is with a fairly
unproven company from the standpoint of people who do what we do, I came away from
my conversation with the hiring manager very impressed. The business model is
fairly open ended compared to that of my employer and I believe it offers a ton
of opportunity. I’m just so happy for my former coworker and his family! I
think he is going to absolutely kill it out there. My employer didn’t have the
right opportunity in his territory but I really don’t believe it was his fault.
I know he worked his ass off nonstop and left no stone unturned. I’m looking
forward to hearing how it goes for him in the coming months.
This kind of stuff is what life is really all about in my
opinion. I was actually feeling pretty down for most of the weekend. But that’s
because I was focused on myself and my own problems. A little perspective goes
a long way. In this case, I’m not unemployed with a family to support and am in
very little danger of losing my job right now. In fact, I just closed a deal
that more than doubled my previous best and I have exceeded my previous best
quarter’s total in just July alone. Plus, my side business is doing better and
better. But all those good things, and many more going on in my life still aren’t
enough to keep my spirits up all the time. However, hearing awesome news from
someone else is a game changer and in this case, it may have saved my weekend.
As an added bonus, I talked to another of my friends over
the weekend and learned he made a big move with his business last week. I’m
really proud of him for taking a shot at making a business out of doing something
he is truly passionate about and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how
that goes as well.
Here’s hoping we can all get some great news like this in
the week ahead. Have a great Monday!
I’ve been thinking about doing some car posts lately and I
certainly will soon. But I’ve been watching Scotty’s videos for years and I
promise you, the man is legit. In fact, he knows a hell of a lot more about
cars than I do. And to top it all off, he is damn entertaining. So I figured
the most effective post I could write is one that directs people to him. Check
out his channel now and thank me later. That’s all for today. Have a wonderful
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” – Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
Lately I’ve noticed a new trend in the media that I would
like to address. In most areas of life, it is generally accepted that you have
to walk before you can run. You don’t just walk into the gym one day, throw
four plates on each side of the bar, and start deadlifting it repeatedly. You
have to start with a much more manageable amount of weight and train your body
to handle more and more through sustained effort over time. And 405 is more
than many people will ever deadlift in their lives so there is the crucial
element of being realistic as well.
But with personal finance, there seems to be a backlash
against that concept. If anyone dares to repeat the totally valid, if tired,
advice that people replace $5 coffee drinks with $.10 ones they can make at
home and enjoy just as much, they’re met with ridicule or even the vicious
personal attacks that have sadly become commonplace in a world where so many
people seem to in an ongoing competition to be more outraged by seemingly
innocuous things than anyone else. Chase Bank, a bank I have mixed feelings
about at best, was crucified for posting simple, actionable advice of that sort
– advice that could help a lot of struggling people. And its CEO, again, a man
I have very mixed feelings about, has become a political punching bag for some
people who appear to have made it to adulthood without learning basic economics
at any point along the way.
The theme of these attacks seems to be that people in
general don’t make enough money, so giving them any financial advice that
doesn’t involve being paid more money (by someone else) is condescending and
insulting. In other words, it’s all someone else’s fault. It’s time for a
reality check. No one on this earth is entitled to anything. And no, this is
not political. I have to say that because the word “entitled” has been infused
with bullshit political implications to such an extent that its mere utterance
has become almost a war cry. In most of the world, people live in a reality
where if they themselves don’t make something happen, it won’t. The fact that
we live in the relative comfort of an incredibly prosperous place where life is
incredibly easy does not change this reality. We’re all adults here. The days
of someone else being responsible for us should have ended long ago.
If you want something, you have to earn it. If you want
someone to pay you a lot of money, you have to give them a reason to do so.
This typically involves using the infrastructure and resources of their
existing business to make them more money, some of which can subsequently be
paid to you. And outside of some very lucky folks, no one is exempt from this.
If the board of directors didn’t think Jamie Dimon was creating more value than
what he is being paid, I can assure you they would not be paying it to him.
If you don’t accept that concept, it’s going to be very
difficult for you to have a successful career. Even if you start your own
business, which is very difficult to do without experience, capital, or both, I
can’t see a path to prosperity for you if you don’t believe everything has to
be earned. It is imperative that many of us stop blaming our problems on others
and start taking an honest look in the mirror and changing the things that are
holding us back. It’s the only way anything is going to improve.
To that end, no, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you
can’t afford a $5 cup of coffee. Even a few of those per week could cause you
to pay a bill late and fall into a cycle of paying interest, late fees, etc,
that could become very difficult to get out of. And it doesn’t stop with the
paycheck to paycheck crowd. I very rarely buy a $5 cup of coffee. It is simply
too easy to enjoy not just drinking great coffee, but making it, at home – and
at quite literally 2% of the cost. This isn’t to say I never get coffee from a
coffee shop, because I occasionally do. But usually I’m meeting with a
customer, a friend, a date, etc, and the coffee itself isn’t the real reason
I’m there. Buying the coffee is just an expense I have to incur in order to
spend time in a particular place for a particular purpose. I’m already wealthier
than most people and I’m only in my early thirties, but I didn’t get here by
ignoring reality. In fact, I doubt almost anyone who is highly successful got
there by enjoying luxuries before they could afford them. The only way to
change reality is by first accepting it.
This is so much more than just coffee. No one is literally
saying that cutting out a coffee shop habit is going to make you a millionaire.
It is just an example of a very important concept that can be applied to many
different areas. The same applies to a restaurant meal, which if made even a
once a week routine, could easily turn into a $100 per month premium over
equivalent food that could be made and eaten at home. I’ve seen people using
Uber when they could drive to the same places and turning $10 worth of parking
and gas into a $50 round trip in the process. Again, even at once a week, this
costs over $100 a month over and above what it would cost to get the exact same
thing done. It all adds up – and usually pretty quickly.
I think most of the outcry over this very valid and
legitimate advice amounts to some bad actors trying to score points by telling
people they don’t actually have to deal with reality. It’s easy to make people
feel good telling them things like that. But it does them absolutely no favors.
Some people see a $5 cup of coffee, a $15 restaurant bill, etc, and don’t
realize what they represent. These are examples of doing things in wildly
inefficient ways and especially when you’re first starting out, expenses like
these can be the inches that make up the difference between winning and losing.
How important are the inches? Just look at the quote I
opened the post with. If you spend less than you earn over a sustained period of
time, even by just a little, you will build assets and life will get easier. If
you spend more than you earn, you’re doing the exact opposite. The average
person in this country has roughly $10k of credit card debt. Most of them
didn’t rack that up overnight. It usually happens when someone is living at or
close to the edge and gets hit with the inevitable unexpected expenses. If they
can’t cover them with either excess income or savings, then the only option is
to borrow. Too many people turn to credit cards, one of the worst forms of
borrowing. It’s so easy. Almost anyone who can fog a mirror can get a credit
card. And if you just pay a little bit each month towards the ever increasing
balance, you can have pretty much whatever you want.
But there is always a cost. In this case, it is that as the
interest grows, it becomes an expense of its own that does nothing for you and
increases each month unless you pay down the principal. Instead of living on
the edge, you’re now beyond it and gradually burying yourself deeper and deeper.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first. But over time, the situation will not
only get more and more difficult to dig out of; it will deprive you of
opportunities you won’t even know you’re missing out on. Those opportunities
come in many different forms, but the theme is the same. If you have money, you
can use it to make more. The more you have, the easier life gets. That, in
essence, is the American Dream – work, save, invest, prosper. What a tragedy
that marketing departments, and another kind of enablers with political
motivations, successfully turn so many people away from it before they even
know what they’re passing on by taking the path of least resistance.
But those people don’t control you. Only one person on this
earth does. You get to choose where you get your information, how you process
it, and how to proceed from there. This is both a privilege and a
responsibility, so take it seriously. The quality of your life depends on it.
If anyone is trying to feed you sugar – something that tastes sweet in the
short term but seems just a little too good to be true, ignore them. The
sweetness is gone as soon as you swallow; but the fat ass you’ll develop over
time is going to be with you much longer than that. Whether we’re talking about
food or finance, you want to be taking advice from the same people: the ones
who give you the tough love that doesn’t feel so good in the moment, but keeps
you on the path of true progress. They’re usually the same people who are
succeeding in their own lives – and these days, sometimes being demonized for
that very success. They can help you get there as well. In fact, paying it forward
is something many of them enjoy doing very much. But in order to benefit, you
have to ignore the yes men (and women) who peddle easy answers that never
deliver results. And then you have to listen to the proper advice and work your
ass off carrying it out.
At the end of the day, it’s about who you want to be. Mr Micawber was a tragic character in David Copperfield. He realized his folly, but not until it was too late. Don’t let that happen to you. You can join the masses of lazy people telling lies, pointing fingers, and bitching because they haven’t been handed the results they want in life. Or, you can admit you don’t know what you don’t know (there is power in that, NOT shame), learn what it takes to actually succeed, and then get to work. The latter will get you results. The former will keep you from getting any further than you already have. Reject that. Learn, grow, and live a better life. It all starts with taking responsibility for yourself.
Happy Monday, everyone! Here is the latest post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, you can check it out here. I’ve been going into detail on one category each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $1200 on gifts. Of course, the bare minimum spending in this category would be nothing at all and a reasonable minimum would be maybe $200. But this is one of those areas that I’ve let get out of hand on purpose because I believe it gives me a very good happiness return on my dollar. Some of what I do in this area is pretty traditional and some of it is a little different.
I do give out birthday gifts to the people I’m close to. But
those usually aren’t anything crazy – maybe $50 or so. And I’ve actually moved
in the direction of taking people out to their favorite restaurants,
activities, etc, more than giving out gifts for those occasions now. The other
routine time I give out gifts is at Christmas – also pretty typical. But I’d
say I spend no more than a total of $500 a year on those two types of gifts.
And sure, every now and again I get invited to a wedding. My standard gift is
$100 and while I do not bring dates to these things because it tends to give
them the wrong idea about how seriously I’m taking things, if I did, my gift
would be $200 instead. And if it were someone really close to me, it would be
significantly more. But I don’t get invited to all that many weddings. And no,
I’m not complaining about that.
Where do I spend the rest? Sometimes I like to surprise
people with random things out of the blue. A girl I was dating for a while had
a car with steel wheels and those horrible plastic hub caps and at some point,
she lost one of them. So one day, I made a replacement appear. One of my
favorite coworkers says a certain phrase in a hilarious way all the time so one
day I bought her a coffee mug with that printed on it and had it sent to her. I
find that these types of gifts, while not very expensive, tend to really
brighten the recipient’s day. It’s nice to know someone was thinking of you
even though it wasn’t a special occasion.
My favorite types of gifts to give out are also spontaneous,
but often more expensive. Every now and again, something crappy happens to
someone I care about. Maybe someone with a family to feed winds up in the
hospital and I’m able to pay a few bills for him since he hasn’t been able to
work and money will probably be tight for a while. Or maybe some asshole hits a
friend’s parked car without doing the right thing, causing damage that falls
right into that sweet spot the insurance industry has calculated so carefully –
you know, expensive enough that a claim could be filed (likely resulting in a
hefty premium increase), but barely above the deductible so that very little
would actually be paid out. Most people are savvy enough to not make a claim in
that situation by now, particularly with insurance premiums being as ridiculous
as they are. But a lot of people also don’t have a grand or so laying around to
replace a bumper, which means the damage goes unfixed. But I do. And if I can
right that wrong for someone, it can go a long way to restoring a little faith
in humanity – even if I have precious little of that myself.
The key with this kind of gift, however, is creativity. You
see, I only do these kinds of things for people who would never let me if I
asked. So often, this involves getting others close to these people involved.
But if it’s possible to do these things totally anonymously, those are my
favorite gift giving opportunities of all. Because the most important element
of any gift isn’t being thanked for it; it’s making someone else’s life just a
little bit better. And that tends to be infectious. And that’s why I don’t
police this spending category too much.
Another week is almost behind us! Over the last few years, I’ve decided that one of the best ways to determine whether you’re living a life of significance is to pay attention to that. Do your days drag on in the seemingly endless pursuit of weekends that seem to melt through your fingers almost as soon as they arrive? Or do the weeks fly by to the point where you often forget what day it even is? Living in the latter category has been very satisfying for me while the former was often terrible.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my will lately – or rather,
my current lack of one. In addition to distributing my assets when I die, it
will need to unwind my business activities in a way that is as minimally
disruptive to my business partners as possible. I really need to get on this.
But this same line of thinking also leads me somewhere else. Somewhere most
finance blogs never quite seem to reach.
Saving and investing is all well and good, but what happens
if I die before I’m ever able to enjoy the fruits of any of that? Other people
have their own aspirations in life and while they may be happy to inherit my
money, it’s also quite possible that it may be disruptive to them in the long
run. After all, I firmly believe that struggle is what leads to personal growth
of all kinds. Money typically reduces the degree of struggle in life and I
would much rather help facilitate growth than stunt it. I have a lot of figuring
out to do in this area. But it is far from a foregone conclusion that my money
will do more good for people who didn’t earn it than it could for me while I’m
The people in life matter to me more than anything. This is
why I went to Austin this weekend to visit a friend who was there for a
conference. We go back about a decade at this point and it’s always a thrill to
see him. My career has taken me all over the United States since I met him,
while his has taken him all over the world. It’s a wonderful thing to bring all
of our experiences together against the backdrop of reminiscing about the past,
and usually in some novel new place.
This time, we had just enough time to get to an old favorite
– The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas – to
enjoy some of the best bbq on our planet along with the restaurant’s BYOB
policy. If you’re ever in the Austin area, I highly recommend you pick up a six
pack or three and give it a try. It’s a three to five hour undertaking once
wait time is considered, but that’s why you need to do it with good friends.
You drink in both the beer and some good company in their covered outside area
while you wait for your buzzer to go off, then go inside to enjoy some
incredible bbq when it does. It’s not a terribly cheap date, although the BYOB
policy balances things out a little since alcohol is usually marked up quite high
Is it economical to drive 150+ one way miles to see a friend
for an afternoon and then back in the same day? No, not particularly. But life
is about so much more than being economical. I’ll remember this particular
afternoon fondly for some time to come – maybe years. And that is worth so much
more than the money it cost me. So why am I writing this post? I just want to
remind the people like me, who may be a little too careful for their own good
at times, that you can’t take it with you. Don’t forget to drink in the moments
along the way. Most of the time, you can accomplish that without spending much
money. But don’t pass up truly special opportunities just because you can’t.
I’m pretty sick of the superhero trend in Hollywood. But over the last decade or so, one particular franchise was the exception to that. Ok, two if you count Deadpool; but I would argue that those movies offer much more than just another superhero series. Anyway, when I saw The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, I went in expecting a crescendo from a trilogy that had started off strong with Batman Begins, and then taken a giant leap forward from there with The Dark Knight. Sadly, I came away bitterly disappointed. However, while there is no denying that the movie was a step backwards from the Dark Knight, and possibly from Batman Begins as well, a subsequent viewing convinced me that my initial expectations for it had been unreasonable and left me feeling that it was a much worse movie than it actually was. Today I believe it was an overall solid movie with moderate plot problems that relied excessively on Michael Bay-esque large scale destruction in a flailing effort to emerge from the giant shadow its predecessor cast over it. And also, that it has more to say than I had given it credit for at first.
Early in the movie, as he squares off with Batman for the
first time, Bane tells Batman that “Peace has cost you your strength; victory
has defeated you.” He then proceeds to toy with his clearly overmatched
opponent until he gets bored and finishes the fight, pounding Batman until his
mask literally breaks and finally, lifting him over his head and cracking him over
his knee. Unrealistic? Yes. Brutal, visceral entertainment that culminates with
shuddering on the part of any audience member who has ever dealt with back
pain? Also yes. But the red meat of the fight is in Bane’s quote. It would
appear that life has been pretty comfortable for the caped crusader since the
events of The Dark Knight. But that comfort costs him the ass kicking of a
lifetime at the hands of Bane.
Fast forward to the near the end of the movie – before the
plot REALLY falls apart – to Batman’s second fight with Bane. This time, the
preparation has been anything but comfortable; in fact, it nearly broke him.
But as a result, he has come back much stronger than he was at the beginning of
the movie. Admittedly, he gets a little lucky in this fight when Bane’s mask,
which appears to be necessary for him to breathe, breaks. One does wonder how
that never happened in the first fight, given that Batman landed several
uncontested punches to Bane’s face in that one as well. But Hollywood magic
aside, Batman soundly defeats Bane in their rematch, if not quite as
dramatically as Bane won the first fight. This is not an uncommon lesson in
stories, but I chose this as an example because I love the way Bane articulated
Life has a way of putting us in uncomfortable situations.
But with the proper mindset and work ethic, we can turn these difficult
circumstances into gifts for our future selves. Growing up, I mostly lived with
scarce resources. This discomfort led me to learn everything I could about
money so I would never have to face those conditions again and today, it looks
very unlikely that I ever will. Fast forward to my MMA training. Early on, I
distinctly remember having my ass handed to me many times by smaller, physically
weaker men who had gone through countless hours of hell learning their
techniques. Going through that myself made me a much more capable fighter –
both physically and mentally. Later in life, I lost my wife in an excruciating
manner. I have heard plenty of people say that a divorce is significantly more
difficult to get through than the death of a spouse and while I acknowledge I
have only experienced the former, I would still tend to believe that is true.
It was a severe, complicated form of pain and it went on for the better part of
a year. But that terrible sequence of events motivated me to reevaluate
everything about my life and change most of it, and I am now immeasurably
better off for having gone through it.
But when life isn’t putting us on our asses, sometimes that
can be more problematic. Just like Batman, if we aren’t challenged, we atrophy.
Recently I was reminded of this when I began the process of learning to fly. I
challenge myself as often as possible whether it be in the gym, in doing a very
difficult job, in learning how to run my side business on the fly, in reading
about new things daily, practicing Spanish and German, etc. But I have been working
on most of those things for a long time now and while I’m certainly not an
expert in any of them, I’m far from that day one ass kicking experience in all
of them. I may be improving, but nothing is forcing me outside of my comfort
zone. But being handed the controls to a small airplane fixed that. Within
seconds, it became very obvious to me that I knew absolutely nothing in that
context. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced for a while.
Part of being older and wiser is being excited and thankful
for that feeling and that is how I feel now. There is a profound happiness in
admitting your beginner status because it means you’re in the best position to
learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Life puts us there fairly
often, but I don’t think that’s quite enough. I believe we should continuously
be actively looking for opportunities to be humbled. If something is too easy,
then it simply isn’t enough of a challenge to facilitate the dramatic growth we
should be seeking out each and every day. So today, I encourage each and every
one of you to go find something that will knock you on your ass. Then, work at
it. Stick with it and get better. I believe that is the best way to grow.
Happy Monday, everyone! Here is the latest post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, you can check it out here. I’ve been going into detail on one category each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $2800 on gas. This is largely because I drive a ton for work and for my other business activities. However, if I drove a typical number of miles in a year, I believe I could reasonably cut this expense down to about $1200. Are you spending more than that? Here are some ways you can improve the situation, form most effective to least.
1. Drive a fuel efficient
Yes, this one is pretty obvious. But it’s the biggest reason
most people overspend on gas. How many pickup truck owners do you know who do
almost nothing but drive to work in them? How many SUV owners do you know who
rarely have more than one or two passengers? These people are spending a
fortune owning these vehicles – in many more ways than simply filling their gas
tanks. I’ve been without my truck for almost two years now and guess what? I’ve
managed to find ways to get by without it in most cases and when that hasn’t
been possible, well, that’s why Uhaul and their ilk exist. Even some home improvement
stores have trucks available to rent now. Renting a truck even ten times a year
is much, much cheaper than owning one. So my advice is to think long and hard
about why you’re driving what you are and whether you really need a vehicle
that size. If you can’t get at least 30mpg on the highway and there isn’t a
very good, consistent reason for it, you’re wasting a lot of money. In my case,
I get roughly 30mpg on AVERAGE and drive a car with just shy of 300hp.
Automotive technology has come a long way and compromise isn’t nearly as
painful as it was years ago.
2. Keep your driving
There are lots of ways to do this. Carpool, combine multiple
trips into single ones with multiple stops, skip going to things you didn’t
really want to do anyway, etc.
3. Maintain your
There is a good chance a poorly maintained vehicle will get correspondingly poor gas mileage. This is one way that a fair portion of your maintenance costs will literally pay for themselves. And that’s not to mention the money you’ll save in depreciation since a car that’s maintained ages more gracefully and is worth more money. Here is a post I wrote about basic vehicle maintenance.
4. Drive gently. If
you’re adventurous, try some hypermiling techniques.
I’m not going to go into the extreme stuff here, although
you should know there are people who can get literally double the EPA rating
out of some cars. You can improve your gas mileage quite a bit just by accelerating
gently, maintaining a good following distance, minimizing brake use (which is
strongly related to following distance), etc. Driving your car like you’re on
an imaginary race track isn’t going to save you much time anyway since you will
still have to deal with the same (often horribly timed) stoplights and idiots
going the speed limit in the left lane that everyone else does. And besides,
any time saved will get eaten up pretty quickly when some revenue generator
asshole traffic cop lights you up or you get into an accident. Driving
aggressively really isn’t worth it and it has a devastating effect on your gas
5. Buy the cheapest
gas you can find.
I wrote a post with some more tips about this recently so
check it out here if you missed it. Gas is the ultimate commodity item and yes,
provided you’re doing an apples to apples comparison in terms of octane rating,
it’s the same no matter what station you buy it from. I can’t believe how many
people swear by the opposite. If you don’t believe me, drive by your local
distribution center (likely in the middle of nowhere) and check out how many
different logos are on the sides of the tankers – which are all lined up to be
loaded with the EXACT SAME GAS.
6. Use credit card
rewards to your advantage.
There are multiple credit cards that pay 3% on gas.
Additionally, “category cards” like Chase Freedom occasionally pay 5%. This is
free money, people. But if you don’t want it, no problem. That’s just more for
7. Go to your
furthest away destination first.
While you’re planning your multiple errand trip after
reading point number two above, consider this. Cars run most efficiently when
they’re fully warmed up and this takes some time, depending on your climate.
This is why if you live in a place with hellish winters, your winter gas
mileage is substantially worse than in the summer time; it takes cars longer to
warm up. Anyway, if you drive to your first destination a few miles away, then
a few more miles, then a few more, etc, and turn your car off each time, it may
never get fully warmed up and you may be losing tons of gas mileage. Contrast
this with driving twenty miles to the furthest destination, completely warming
up your engine in the process, then making your way back towards home. You want
to be driving the highest possible percentage of your miles with your car
running as efficiently as possible. Another way to plan out your trips is to
avoid rush hour like the plague. Stop and go driving is bad for both your gas
mileage and your car’s longevity. Few of us live in a perfect world, but most
of us still have some options available that can make a big difference with
things like this.
8. Regardless of
climate, DO NOT leave your car “warming up” in your driveway.
I don’t know what they were doing thirty years ago because I’m
not that damn old. But I do know that today’s cars are designed to run right
away and also that idling is bad for them and should be kept to a minimum. I
know it gets inhumanely cold in some places – for example, Wisconsin. But if
you punish your car for that by leaving it sitting idling, you’re going to take
a ton of life out of it in the long term and waste a ton of gas in the short.
Happy Friday, folks! As most of you probably know, employers often do their firing on Fridays. Recently, mine followed that same philosophy, firing over twenty percent of our sales force and some office employees as well. We all knew it was coming; or at least we should have. There were ample signals from management in both words and actions. And even if there hadn’t been, it’s common knowledge that revenue in most of our industry collapsed late last year and has not improved ever since and our “numbers” have reflected that. Simply put, it wasn’t if, but when. But here comes the plot twist. In spite of almost certainly having been “on the list” at one time, yours truly not only survived, but wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about whether he would. There are two reasons for this.
First, since being personally warned that attrition was coming, I’ve been able to produce literally the best numbers of my young career in spite of the state of the market. I’ve gone from somewhere in the lower middle of our division to one of the company’s top performers in the entire world. How did I do it? Sure, I started pushing myself a little harder. But mostly, I kept doing exactly the same thing. I had always been working diligently to develop my new territory – even when the results weren’t reflecting it. It takes about two years to do that successfully and my employer is well aware of that. Had management pulled the plug early, they would have been making an extraordinarily expensive mistake. But economic stress often forces companies to make decisions from a very short term perspective. Luckily for all involved, my territory has absolutely exploded with production over the last couple of months to the point where the mere notion of me being fired would be absurd. At this point, it’s all I can do to keep up with the business I have. If the market recovers even a little bit, look out.
But there is another, more important reason for my lack of
trepidation over my job – I don’t need it anymore. The minute my boss broke the
news to me, the wheels in my head were already turning. He did me a solid by
giving me a warning. But nonetheless, before the conversation was even over, I
had mapped out my plan. A key part of it was to replace employment income
altogether in my life. I have always harbored a healthy hatred of authority;
and alliteration aside, I don’t take that word choice lightly. After spending
my life watching reliance on employers result in devastating consequences for
so many people and finally having it threaten me as well, it was time to act.
My real estate business was only in its early stages at the time. But no
matter. I decided it would be paying all of my expenses by the end of the year
and began ramping it up aggressively. And today, it appears that goal is going
to be accomplished ahead of schedule. Admittedly, the fact that I keep my
expenses low means that wasn’t as high a bar to clear as it may sound like. But
still, success is sweet.
Make no mistake, I still want my employment income. I want
to see my real estate business cover the bills and then some for at least a
year or two before I take the plunge. So the plan is to kick ass in both areas
for the time being and see where it takes me. However, to commemorate the
occasion, I must admit I’ve adopted a rather expensive new hobby – flying. This
is the first thing in my life I can think of that I’ve done without any plan or
goal in mind, but instead, simply because I enjoy it. I am taking lessons and
hope to have my private pilot’s license by around the end of this year. From
there, we’ll see what happens. As long as I’m enjoying myself, I’m happy. But
if I can’t keep an awful lot of money flowing in, I won’t be able to afford to
fly as much. So that should keep me hungry for a while.
The moral of the story? Believe in yourself. If someone
doubts you, be thankful. It’s just more fuel for your fire. If you know you
have a good hand and someone bets against you, be happy. The size of your
payday just increased. And if times get tough in your life, get excited. This
rough patch may be exactly what you needed to convince you to take things to
the next level. Happy Friday, folks! Have a wonderful weekend!
My job involves a lot of driving. How much? Over the last three years of doing it, I’ve put on well over 100k miles. So I know a thing or two about this stuff. Today I’m going to throw out some random tips that I use to make life on the road a little safer, more efficient, and generally better.
Take care of your
vehicle and it will take care of you.
This is an easy one. I’ve written about basic maintenance before. Whether you do it yourself or you have it done at a shop you trust, make sure it gets done.
I’ve read about hypermiling techniques that allow people to
get some pretty insane gas mileage. A lot of it isn’t necessarily practical for
every day driving but the most important concept is; drive gently. Accelerate
gradually, maintain plenty of following distance, and avoid abrupt braking. Not
only will you save gas, your car will last longer and you will be much less
likely to get into an accident. This can easily save you thousands of dollars over
the life of a car.
Google Maps is pretty
I don’t even use the in car GPS systems anymore because
Google Maps is way better. In addition to basic navigation, it allows you to
search for gas stations and see many of their prices on the fly. It doesn’t
have prices for every station, but it at least gives you a good idea of what
area you’re likely to find the best prices in. And for anyone who doesn’t know,
no matter where you buy your gas, it is exactly the same stuff. I talk to oil
industry people all the time and that has been confirmed time and time again.
So this is a commodity item and that means price wins.
But my favorite Google Maps feature is definitely the speed
trap notifications. It isn’t a perfect system, but it is more effective than a
traditional radar/laser detector in my opinion for two reasons. One, the range
is much better. You can see speed traps miles away on the map. Two, there are
far fewer false positives – a huge problem with even the best detectors. But
the system is only as good as the data it has so please, let’s all be good
citizens and put the word out whenever a revenue generation agent police
officer is spotted trying to ruin someone’s day. Disclaimer: I support police
most of the time and believe they provide a valuable service. But in this
particular area, I believe Google is providing a much more valuable service
than they are. To report a speed trap, click the little plus button on the
right side of the screen in Google Maps. We need as many people doing this as
I tried an app called
Upside and well, not everything works out.
The app supposedly pays a rebate whenever you buy gas. But
you have to take a picture of your receipt every time and that’s a pain – even if
the pump isn’t out of receipt paper, which is often the case. And in my
experience, after the teaser rate on the first fill up, it was almost always
one cent per gallon. Also, usually only the more expensive gas stations in the
area were available on the app. A one cent per gallon rebate isn’t worth much
if you’re paying ten cents more per gallon to begin with. There was also a
restaurant option available that paid much better, but the selection was atrocious.
I did, however, use that to buy enough chicken sandwiches at Burger King, which
are surprisingly decent now, to get over the $10 cash out threshold and make
the whole thing at least pay off a little.
As usual, Costco
If you can get your gas there, you will likely save at least
ten cents a gallon versus the next cheapest station in the area.
Speaking of gas, if
you’re getting less than 3% back on it, you’re leaving money on the table.
AAA is a pretty worthwhile
service if you drive long distances often.
Peace of mind is worth a lot when you’re in a strange place.
If something happens, it’s nice to know you’re a phone call away from getting
help and that in many cases, you won’t even have to pay for it. In a lot of
places, especially in the more rural areas, the tow truck business is quite a
racket. With AAA, even if you do end up having to pay, you will at least be
dealing with one of the more reputable options in the area (or at least one
that likely doesn’t want to risk losing its AAA business by pissing off
customers) without having to do the research on your own.
If Discount Tire is
available where you live, you’d be a fool not to buy your tires from them. And
yes, I know that my favorite store sells tires. Even Costco isn’t the best at
These guys have the tire business down to a science. They
have great selection, the best prices, and great service. They check/correct
your pressure whenever you want and free rotation is included with your tires.
But the best part is their warranty. 99% of the time I am not a warranty
advocate. But Discount Tire is an exception. For about twenty bucks a tire,
they will repair or replace any tire you have any issue with during the
warranty period. This is all fresh in my mind because on a recent trip to the
oil country, it was so hot that one of my tires exploded as I was driving.
Thankfully, I wasn’t far from the nearest town when it happened. I did have to
wait a day for the specific tire I had to get there (to be fair, they did have
another option available, but I didn’t want mismatched tires so I opted to
wait), but given how far out in the middle of nowhere oil country is, that was
actually impressive in my opinion. And rather than having to pay $200+ for a
replacement tire (high performance, 18 inch, low profile tires are expensive
anywhere you go; Discount Tire’s price is still easily the best), I only had to
pay the twenty bucks to renew the warranty on the tire that was being replaced
for free. With tire prices being what they are these days, and with roads being
as bad as they are in many places, this warranty is a no brainer and has
already paid off more than double for me with about half the life of the three
remaining tires left to go.
Have a great Wednesday, folks! And be safe out there!
Happy Monday, everyone! Here is the latest post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, you can check it out here. I’ve been going into detail on one category each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $2100 on fun activities. This is really a category I could cut down as much as necessary if I had to. Like most of my spending categories, I don’t have a particular target in mind; I simply make sure that if I’m spending money on something, there is a good reason.
This category includes most of what I spend on dating. And
the reason I’m able to spend so little in that normally very expensive area is
that over the years, I’ve learned that trying to impress women by spending
money has consistently gotten me exactly the opposite of the outcome I was
looking for. Yes, I should have known this long before I did, but I had that
same single mother upbringing that has proven so disastrous to a huge portion
of my generation and it has taken a ton of constant, ongoing work to deprogram
the many erroneous lessons I didn’t even realize I was learning over the years.
I’m not trying to disparage the efforts of my mother or any other single mother,
many of which are nothing short of Herculean. However, from my own life and
from observing our society at large, it appears painfully obvious to me that a
boy needs a strong, consistent father figure in his life and if there isn’t one,
he is likely to make more than a few missteps in the process of figuring things
out on his own. But that topic could be an entire series of posts all by itself.
For now, I’ll just say that trying to buy your way into a woman’s heart (or
into any other part of her) is not an effective method.
Anyway, if I want to have fun, I have fun. But here is the
important point. In my life, almost everything has a purpose. So with the free
time I have available, I want to enjoy myself but I also want to better myself
in at least some way in the process. For example, a lot of my “fun” activities
are physical activities like weight lifting, tennis, basketball, swimming,
hiking, etc. Most of these benefit my health and fitness level, benefit my mind
as I improve a skill set, and also happen to cost me little or no money. I also
enjoy reading, cooking, volunteering, and learning to fix things like cars,
electronics, plumbing, and so forth. I’ve found that personal growth is what
makes me happy and thus, I tend to have fun while learning and increasing my
capabilities in various areas. In general, if you can find ways to enjoy
yourself while also creating value, you will be able to have fun without
spending much money.
Even most social interaction doesn’t have to be expensive.
Sure, I go out for drinks, to museums, and various other attractions like most
people do. But those tend to be more special occasion activities and with most
of my friends, our most common activities are hanging out, grilling, going to
the beach, playing some pool, etc. We will occasionally have a roller coaster
day that will cost us each a hundred bucks or so or go to a football game and
drop more than that. But these are every now and again type activities and as a
result, they are special treats when we do them. Contrast that with the people
who spray money like a fire hose everywhere they go and then go home to worry
about how they’re going to pay their bills. Are they having any more fun than
my friends and I are? I doubt it. Spending money can be required for particular
activities, but it isn’t required for meaningful interaction. It’s all about
deciding what is really important to you – the activity itself or the people
you’re doing it with. If you have the right people involved, it really doesn’t
matter what the activity is.
It’s important to have fun in your life. That I will not
dispute. But spending a lot of money usually isn’t what gets you there. It’s
all about figuring out what you truly enjoy and making that the focus. And if
your focus is on spending money, you’re going to live a very stressful life
because you can outspend absolutely any income. In my experience, stress is
pretty near the opposite of fun.