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The Worldview of the Financially Independent

IMG_20170112_134557What started as a grand idea has morphed into a changed worldview. For decades I focused on the local community in my practice. I would speak for various organizations around the area, rarely traveling more than 50 miles. And I was happy with that.

My speaking engagements and traveling expanded during the 1990s when I entered the securities field. As memory serves, every presentation I have given outside the State of Wisconsin was for something related to securities. Until two year ago.

Two years ago I had this brainstorm to expand an area of my practice that had been an itch I had to scratch. It went horribly wrong and changed my life in ways I never expected. It was a simple idea. Swoop in on a personal finance conference, dazzle them with my usual charm, and sell an idea. It didn’t go according to plan.

My idea was accepted in a modified form. The problem arrived when I was offered an opportunity to expand my worldview like never before. Remember, I am an old farm boy from the backwoods of Wisconsin. This shit doesn’t happen around here. I was totally unprepared.

The result was this blog and a shout out by Mr. Money Mustache. I had to write this blog; I had no choice. The idea was on the back burner for years. Now I had to push forward with the project. People wanted to hear what I had to say.

And then there was the growing demand for my services and requests to speak to more groups. As I started to attend these events and communicating with many people in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community, I started to build friendships. I missed these people when they were not around.


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Dealing with Jealous People

4482714827_491d395f7e_bReaders of this blog are committed to financial discipline. They save a large portion of their money and invest it wisely in index funds and real estate. Whatever is left after investing they consider spending . . . maybe.

Before long the value of the index funds grow significantly and the investment properties gain more equity while throwing off a steady stream of passive income. People begin to notice. You, one of the mentioned readers, drive a less than fancy car and have a modest home or apartment. People also notice you brown bag lunch at work and rarely party with the crowd. Instead of the bar scene you invite friends over for a cookout and a few cold ones.

Everyone around you notices how much less stress you seem to have compared to them. You make it look easy. And you have money. Of course, you do. Because you don’t spend every penny you earn. It starts with one person feeling resentment and spreads like a bad rash. For the first time you feel the sting of jealousy. People you care about and admire now have turned against you because you are clearly no longer like them. You lack the fancy house, expensive car and endless nights of fine dining. And how dare you live without cable TV. Is there something wrong with you?


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The Gift of Karma and the Art of Pay It Forward

endlessknot03dI settled back with a good book on a quiet New Year’s Eve back in the early days of my accounting practice. Mrs. Accountant goes to bed early and was already tucked in. We rarely party or go out on New Year’s Eve. To us it is just another day.

My tax office back then was the remodeled basement so I was always close to work. Since the accounting part of my business was many years into the future, there wasn’t much to do around the holidays except enjoy some great reading. A few preparations for the upcoming tax season were as far as they could go.

Cable did not enter our house back then and network television did not interest me. The World Wide Web was just coming into existence and wasn’t a household phrase yet. Internet service was America Online accessed by dial-up. There were fewer distractions to drag a guy away from a good book in those days.

I was reading one of Will Durant’s Story of Civilization books that New Year’s Eve as memory serves. (I consider Will Durant one of the best writers to have ever live. His 11 volume Story of Civilization series is some of the best writing on human history ever.) My cup of tea was on the table next to my recliner where I was reading.

I lived in town for a few years back then to establish my practice. The living room had a bay window looking out toward the street. It was my custom to keep the curtains open so I could see if anything was happening outside.

A blood-curdling scream pulled my eyes from my book. Out the bay window I saw a woman falling from the passenger side of a car! She fell hard. The car sped off.


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Lifestyle

Silent Night




stars-821611_960_720The year is 1991. Mrs. Accountant and I had a foster child that year. On Christmas morning I was to take him to his mother for a day. We got up early and dressed for the chilly morn. I lived in town at the time. His mother lived in apartments near the Valley Fair Mall, the first mall in America.

The mall is gone now, replaced by a variety of shops, a gas station, and a movie theater. The apartments still stand. As I drove down Memorial Drive we rounded the curve toward the apartments. The road was dead quiet. No cars anywhere. It felt peaceful. A major highway completely empty. It only happens once per year on Christmas morning. I stopped the car in the middle of the road and watched a lone snowflake land on the glass and melt. I leaned forward and looked up at the early morning sky out the windshield. The hair on my skin rose with gooseflesh.

“Where is everyone,” asked my foster child, a huge young man from a family with more issues than I care to remember.

“They are sleeping,” I said in barely a whisper. “Resting. But not for long. They are exhausted from all the running and spending. Resting for a day. Tomorrow they will be back, crazed as ever, credit card in hand.” I turned to my foster child, “Never be like them.”Continue reading

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Black Pride Meets White Privilege

text-1442218_960_720There is something wrong with this community. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. My experiences and worldview didn’t allow me to see the problem. Then it hit me. The personal finance conferences I attend and even the readers of this blog are predominantly white. I felt the issue was so huge I had to write about encouraging minorities, especially the black community, to join our group. Fearful I might come across as a dick, I delayed and delayed. I started writing this post and then threw it away. It was all wrong. How can a white guy from a very white community reach out to the black community?

Then I got the wake up call. I published Overreacting Solves Nothing, where I attempt to calm the crowd after Trump won the election. A few days ago I was called out by a reader. SKG writes, “Easy for you to say not to overreact, you’re white. It’s a whole different story for people of color.” The gauntlet has been tossed and at the risk of coming across as a dick I have to reach out to this massive group of people filled with great pride in their heritage.

As white as the community I live in is, I still have a few black clients. I don’t call them black either; I call them clients. There are more Hispanic people in my community and, as a result, I have more Hispanic clients. Minorities never bothered me. My biggest problem with non-white clients is that sometimes I can’t understand them. Most Hispanics speak English just fine, but some have a strong dialect which I have to concentrate on to understand. When they see me struggle they revert to using Hispanic words because it is clearer for them.


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Celebrate ‘Buy Nothing Day’




bnd1-friday-25nov2016The day after Thanksgiving in the States is called Black Friday, as if anyone doesn’t already know that. What you might not know is that it is also Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day started in Canada (how un-American) in 1992 and has grown into an international movement against overconsumption. The idea is one day of no spending should lead to a lifetime of responsible personal finance which should ease pressure on natural resource demand and pollution. It has been a slow start.

If you print it they will spend. The non-stop growth of fiat money, created by central banks at the click of a button (I know it involves more than that, but a longer description would interrupt the flow of my story) gets spent. The money supply growth of the last decade has not generated a massive wave to new consumption and inflation because most of the newly created money is sitting bank vaults and central banks around the world to prop up balance sheets. Siphoning off the excess cash once it is unleashed has a high likelihood of being very painful. Before this happens you must hone your financial muscles to protect yourself.

Self control is the only tool you have in self protection. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. If you hold a hammer in your hand do you automatically hit something? Okay, bad example.

Buy Nothing Day is a great idea to get us thinking, but it is a stupid idea in practice. Staying home and not spending on one day of the year is meaningless. It’s like those “Don’t Buy Gas on Friday” slogans, as if not buying gas on Friday will stick it to OPEC and Exxon. It doesn’t. You just fill up on Thursday and drive all the more. You want to stick it to OPEC and Exxon? Ride a fucking bike. Want to send a message on overconsumption? Then spend less all year round.Continue reading

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Lifestyle

So Much to be Thankful For




happy-thanksgiving-greetingWe live in strange times. One day—and for most of us only one day—we take time to give thanks as we gather with family, enjoy an awesome meal, and watch football (in America; I don’t know what the rest of the world does on their Thanksgiving festival). Then the next day we kick the shit out of our neighbor so we can save a hundred dollars on a flat screen. I‘m beginning to wonder how thankful we really are.

Feelings of gratitude and expressions of thanksgiving should not be relegated to one day per year. We live in the best of times where we should feel thankful non-stop. People in times past found the expression of gratitude an admirable trait. People actually worked hard to remember to feel thankful for the gifts life has bestowed upon them. And we have it so much better today!

In my short 52 years of life the world has changed so much and for the better. One gift I still can’t get over is the one you are using right now: the internet. I have the largest library ever collected at my fingertips; I have the ultimate communication tool. Has it ever been easier to communicate with people with shared interests from around the world? Never! I think of all the people I would never have met or known all because of this awesome gift called the internet. And the World Wide Web didn’t exist 25 years ago.Continue reading

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Wants Become Obligations




This is not the meaning of Christmas.

The holiday season is fast approaching and the best laid plans of financial independence and early retirement are left for discussion another day. Normally frugal people can lose their senses when the holidays roll around. One day they are giving thanks and the next they are trampling their neighbor to get a deal on a flat screen over at Wally World. And this is supposed to make us happy?

Wants are a harsh mistress. Once you satiate your wants, new wants fill the void. It is a forever hungry beast. Wants satisfied are not the end; they are the beginning of a long slog through financial hell. Once you buy something you need to take care of it. You need a place to store you newly owned junk, ah, I mean, stuff. You now must spend more to protect your pile of garbage.  A home or car needs insurance lest something happen which could cause you to lose your slavery, sorry, belongings. Room is made in the home or stuff is put into storage to make way for the new round of crap purchased on the credit card so you can keep wasting your hard earned money on interest. Once you own stuff, stuff owns you. It becomes an obligation and obligations cost money.Continue reading

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