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clean living

Lifestyle

Crowdsourcing Experience

There are advantages to writing a personal finance blog that go beyond the love of writing and meeting new people. Few things in life bring as much pleasure as sharing knowledge gleaned over decades of experience. Stories are the best. Sharing stories with friends is a time honored pleasure handed down to us through countless generations.

The old adage about the teacher learning more than the student applies in blog writing as well as in formalized education settings. Additional research and looking at a situation considering perspectives wider than just your own is an eye opening experience.

The constant search for a story idea and angle is hard, yet rewarding, work. Topics I would never think of digging deeper into eventually reach the front burner. Unexpected paths are taken. I always have a plan. It never ends up the way I anticipate. Stories have a habit of taking on a life of their own. (At least I started with good intentions.)




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Buy A Car at an Awesome Price (From the Dealer)!

One moment please. I need to wipe a tear from my left eye. <sniff>

There, I am better now.

Regular readers probably were wondering what happened to me yesterday. I normally publish on Friday and there wasn’t a whisper of evidence a certain accountant was anywhere to be found. I have a good excuse for my behavior: my oldest daughter bought her first car.

The process of buying her first car took time. She was working at it for 6 – 8 months. Dad didn’t do it for her either. I only gave advice; so like dad. She did all the work searching for a car and my job was to shoot down the idea. In the past I bought all my cars from the bank or credit union. Unfortunately, most financial institutions no longer mess around with selling their repossessed vehicles anymore, electing to move the assets at auction.

Unless you have a dealer’s license you can’t buy cars at auction. The effort to get and keep such a license is not worth it if you only buy a vehicle every 10-15 years.




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Get There Before You Arrive

How long does it take to crawl out a hole you dug? How long to formulate a plan? Execute it? Reach your goal? Financial independence (FI) is a goal most people have. Some want it bad at a young age and work toward that goal. Others wait until Father Time ticks closer to the traditional retirement age. Still others get a wakeup call when their body fails in some way.

Before this blog I was a tax Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) for the Dave Ramsey organization. His story resonated with me. I agreed with Ramsey that debt is the acid which destroys the vessel that holds it. Ramsey is fanatical against any kind of debt; I am a bit more moderate in the faith. Still, debt is a problem for many people.

Before FI can be achieved debt first needs to either be eliminated or seriously curtailed for most people. The Ramsey plan is to eliminate all debt and invest in actively managed mutual funds offered by a financial advisor. If you read that last sentence carefully you will begin to understand why I could no longer in good conscious be a Dave Ramsey ELP. Ramsey’s philosophy is right on so many levels and wrong on so many more.

Debt in and of itself is not bad. It’s just a thing. Too much debt is the real issue. Credit card and similar high interest debt is caustic, no doubt. A home mortgage can make all the sense in the world. Even a small, short-term business loan is a positive in many instances. A blanket faith in no debt is something I don’t subscribe to. When very wealthy people borrow for a home or investment it is frequently the right choice. Borrowing $10,000 for working capital in your business instead of selling a profitable income producing investment I will argue is a good call, especially when you consider the tax consequences.




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Embrace Failure

Show me a successful person and I’ll show you someone with deep seated pain. Pain is a powerful motivator. Few can reach lofty heights and keep pushing without underlying pain driving them forward.

Steve Jobs said you have to be “. . . insane to do this. . . ” when he discussed why he worked so hard to achieve so much because “. . . it hurts so much.” He expanded the insanity to include all successful people. It doesn’t matter what it is you are the best in. Being the best and marching forward after attaining the top is an exercise in pain regardless the field.

Some are satisfied with “good enough”. They are the lucky ones. Normal people attain a certain level of success and sit back and enjoy it. You see these people everywhere. They are the upper middle class people lucky enough to have reached the level of “having it” or “made it” without the grinding pain from earlier in life driving them on.

Then there are the people we see in the news on a regular basis. These are the business leaders and entertainers who never are satisfied with their performance even when they have reached so high they have cut new ground. They climbed to the top of the mountain and started building the mountain higher. What drives these people? And are you one of them?




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The Knuckle Dragging Neanderthal Meets Uber and Airbnb

Tax Collector? They opened an office for me when I visited Florida!

Earlier this year Mrs. Accountant and I attended Camp Mustache in Gainesville, Florida. We were offered a ride to the Camp, but we also had several additional days planned around the event. Renting a car in such a situation is expensive since the car would just sit there for days while my wallet was financially abused.

My youngest daughter rolled her eyes when I mentioned I needed the phone number to the Gainesville taxi service. She grabbed my phone and started working on it. This is an unusual event for anyone who knows me. I use my phone as a phone. Period. I don’t care about, nor do I want to know about any of the other things smart phone can do. I make my own breakfast, thank you.

In a few minutes my daughter completed her assault on my virgin phone. She added an app to my phone. (To this day I have no idea what an app is. Whenever the kids talk about apps I joke that we are living on The Planet of the Apps.)

I told her it was nice of her to put an app on my phone, but I’ll never use it. Another eye roll. “Here, dad,” she said pointing to the Uber icon now conveniently located in the middle of my screen. “All you do is touch the icon and tell the phone where you want to go.”

Huh?

Well, my fingers don’t work well with all the small letters and stuff on a phone so I have made a habit of avoiding the issue. Now I find out I can talk to my phone and it responds. Awesome!

I know, I know. You readers are rolling your eyes like my daughter. This stuff has probably been around for a long time. Somehow I missed it. I refuse to blame my stubbornness on “missing it” even though it is probably the reason why.




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Tough Times Make You Rich

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. held their annual meeting this past weekend. Warren Buffett noted some of his failures over the previous decades (missing Amazon, for example) and Charlie Munger added Google as a big miss. Both men agreed they’d continue missing many opportunities in the future. Buffett and Munger made it clear they learn more from their mistakes than from their successes. They felt winning was a poor teacher as it fooled people into thinking they were right.

Steve Jobs had some Syrian blood and was raised by adoptive parents. Armed with only this information it would be hard to imagine a path that would lead to Jobs creating a company which would become the largest on the planet by the time of his early death at age 56. The odds were stacked against Jobs, yet he rose above the travails and changed the world.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa. His parents divorced when he was nine. It would be hard to see a path for this young boy where PayPal would be part of his future followed by SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City and a growing list of additional companies.

Tough times. We hear about them all the time. Rarely is found a successful person who doesn’t have baggage in the closet. Show me someone who never had problems and I’ll show you someone who is mediocre. The exceptions are exceedingly rare.

Yet, most people have hard luck stories in their past. Why does a difficult time in life, especially early on, define so many successful people? And why do people with the odds stacked in their favor frequently end up average at best?


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Your Garbage is Killing Me

Dreams are what make life worth living. As the years stack up we can look back at our lives and see the progression as life moves toward where we are today. Mistakes of yesteryear lose the edge of anxiety while still providing plenty of experience to draw from. What seemed like a good idea back then is painfully obvious today.

And then there are the things which blindside us. A perfect plan executed with precision yields the results we want before life throws one of the curve balls we hear so much about. Today’s story is about a man, me, who did everything right in this instance and still took a swift foot to the crotch.

So the record is straight, it’s your fault. Well, not exactly your fault unless you live in NE Wisconsin, but still your fault because you did it in your own community. Shame on you for acting the way you do. The worst part is you hurt neighbors and friends and now it will be your turn to stand still with feet slightly apart as the community takes a running start as they drive their foot home.

You’re not going to like what I have to say, but you must hear it. This is important. Your happiness is at stake.




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Sleep Yourself Rich

Tax season is over. The long days and endless weeks are finally at an end. It’s time for a nap.

In my younger days I also ran long stretches with limited sleep. Farming is intense during spring planting and autumn harvesting; college was late night studying or visiting with friends; and now taxes provide me with twelve weeks of unrelenting work each year.

Society idolizes people who run with limited amounts of sleep. It is a badge of honor to pound your mind and body mercilessly and do it with lack of sleep.

As tax season clawed toward the finish line my performance was no longer acceptable. The amount of work I completed was down and concerns over accuracy started to pop up. Nobody can perform at peak while fighting fatigue and lack of sleep. Nobody.

I call these bursts of hyper activity “marathon runs”. Tax season is my current annual marathon run. It appeals to me because I have manic depression and I learned a long time ago autumn is a bad time and springtime is power time. It was a natural fit. The disease doesn’t always cooperate, but I have learned to control it enough to use it to my benefit.

Yet, the risks of long hours without sleep are a real problem. Lack of sleep is a leading cause of transportation accidents. Even if you read the news poorly you have heard stories of airline pilots, ship captains, train conductors and barges in catastrophic disasters due to lack of sleep. Doctors frequently perform surgery in the morning for a reason. Only emergency surgery is performed later in the day.




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