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Lifestyle

Increase Your Success at Anything with Warren Buffett’s “20-Slot” Rule

Charlie Munger

The best way to learn is by studying the best. Experience has value as long as it also has a foundation in knowledge. Reinventing the wheel again and again is a fool’s errand and not conducive to personal development.

Studying the best takes many forms. Working for someone at the top of their game is the best way to learn, but the opportunities to do so are limited. Formalized education communicates facts without always presenting the best in your selected field. The number one way to learn from the masters is to study them through intense research of their work. The greatest minds are available like never before. YouTube videos of their speeches and books and news articles on their practices give us massive quantities of material to learn from.

Today we will focus on a simple story shared by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s friend and right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway.




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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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Lifestyle

Sex, Porn and Addiction: The Killers of Financial Independence

586746403_1280x719Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin provides a multitude of services to the poor in my community. Everything from help with medical, job search services, to the iconic Goodwill thrift store are there to benefit the poor. Another program is the Financial Information and Service Center, otherwise known as FISC. FISC provides personalized counseling in financial matters: bankruptcy, student loans, budgeting, credit card debt, and delinquent taxes.

Every year FISC calls me in to speak to their group. Counselors from around Wisconsin come to hear my message. Sometimes it is an informal presentation more along the lines of an inquisition (Q&A session). Other times we fill a large room and food is catered. A few of the counselors are clients as a result.

The FISC counselors are not tax professionals or even trained in tax matters. For their worst cases they refer their client to my firm. And so it was this past week. A man in his mid 30s had serious tax problems. When no one else can help there is always me. I take a limited number of impossible cases each year. These people have limited funds for my services so I charge a very low fee or just do it pro bono.


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Overreacting Solves Nothing




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Chicken Little and her children.

Chicken Little is in true form this week as the election in the States surprised many. The headlines this morning on CNBC echo and increasing level of alarm: Anti-Trump Portland Protest Turns Into a Riot; Op-Ed: I’m not worried about a US recession, I’m worried about another Great Depression; Trump’s enemies are already paying the price; Donald Trump tweets about unfair protests — then has second thoughts; An ‘ugly period’ for the market is drawing near: Saxo Bank economist.

I haven’t seen such overreacting since, well, I don’t know when. There is certainly a lot not to like about Trump, but overreacting will not make it better. The stock market is rallying on higher interest rates. Financials are doing well while much of the market is down. Overall we saw a nice rally and it might, or might not, be overdone. Over at CNBC again we hear: Cramer warns the rally is ‘getting out of hand’ —better deals found in the trash. Really! Yeah, the market will pull back at some point and there is no reason for stocks to be higher due to a guy winning an election who hasn’t even started his first day on the job.

Interest rates rising rapidly bear watching and could be a problem for housing and the economy as a whole, but as of now the SKY IS NOT FALLING! There are reasons for concern. Unless you are a white man there has been vitriol spewed toward you from the President-elect over the past few years.

Overreacting solves nothing. Rioting certainly doesn’t. Playing into the hand of violence never works. Taking a proactive approach is the only solution. The people most shocked are the ones who worked so hard campaigning for another candidate. I get it. I’ve worked hard for a long period to watch a project utterly fail. But it wasn’t the end. I learned a lot throughout the process. You need to focus your efforts, using what you learned to facilitate change.

People make America great. The guy with the second highest tally of votes won the Electoral College and the election. It isn’t the first time it has happened. And I bet you have experience working with people of less than the highest caliber. We all have. As frustrating as it can be at times, we need to engage our Stoic training. Complaining and whining is not allowed!Continue reading

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Why Keep Working?




img_20161103_233136It had to happen sometime and now was that time. As soon as traffic reached a certain level someone would finally say what was on everyone’s mind: Why are you doing it, Mr. Accountant? If you are so damn rich, why do you bust your ass running a tax practice and writing more copy than Stephen King on meth? The answer seems so simple to me, but I have seen this sickness before.

My buddy, Pete, over at Mr. Money Mustache faced similar comments in the past. Now that the guy publishes around two times a month no one is talking, but they all wish he did write more. (Way to go guys!) Recent comments on The Wealthy Accountant have now touched on the subject. The comments are very polite and not derogatory by any means. That is not always the case. The comment in question casts doubt on all personal finance bloggers claiming to have made it. There was doubt the bloggers are really retired. Between the lines you can read “the blogger needs the blog to pay bills”. There were also a few comments protesting the need for a side hustle. I want to set the record straight.

I have no problem as apologist for the “retire early” community of bloggers. I have met many of these fine people and find them to be genuine. There is no fraud, folks. You don’t go into blogging for the money! First you spend a year or more writing your tail off and then only a microscopic number actually turn a profit or any revenue at all. Even fewer make real money. Real world, dear readers. The people writing these blogs are doing it to share their experiences. No more. If it doesn’t hit big it does not mean back to the cubicle; it means, see ya in Tahiti. They are really retired and travel the hell out of the planet.Continue reading

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Lifestyle

Entertainment Overload




img_20161101_133227After lifting a set at the gym I pace back and forth gathering my thoughts, focusing on the next set. As I look around the gym all the other people are staring at the TVs plastered along the wall or playing on their cell phone. At the traffic light I take a deep breath and relax. I look over at the car next to me and notice the driver is texting. At the office I always have books on taxes and finance at arm’s length. My free time is filled with learning. During the lunch hour the office is dead quiet as everyone checks their personal email or Facebook.

The above scenes are common. I am certain you have experienced the same thing and more. Our society has devolved into information overload. As a society we can’t sit still for a moment unless we are distracted by some form of mass media. I wonder what Blaise Pascal would think of modern society. Pascal once said, “All of humanities problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”  Hell, people can’t stand twenty seconds without checking their smartphone at a crowded party. There are people who actually admit to pollsters they have checked their email during sex. What the fuck is the matter with people!

The More We Get the More We Want

The problem only grows. The more we satisfy this inane hunger the more it demands. Our attention spans continue to shrink. If my math skills were really bad and I applied a straight line to our collective attention span over time, at some point in the very near future our collective attention span would be negative. In other words, we would be distracted to some other pretty light before we even satisfied the first impulse. Oops! Sorry. We already crossed that point.

The lust for another distraction is pervasive. What ever happened to quiet time? Do we take naps anymore? Probably not. The same people willing to interrupt sex for a quick check on the email also check their email overnight. It’s the first thing they do in the morning. Before the emails are finished it is off to check the news and check out some videos and Facebook. How many emails did you respond to? Yeah. Thought so. Too busy moving on to the next distraction.Continue reading

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Priming the Pump

old-water-pump-11288192674wwep

When I was a young boy growing up on the family farm we had three sections to the farm: the homestead, Newhouse place, and “up by the other place”. Yeah, we really called it “up by the other place”. We were sophisticated hillbillies, I tell ya.

Up by the other place there was a well with an old style pump you worked by hand. Toward the end of our farming days the pump was fitted with an electric motor, but that doesn’t help with our story.

The old well pump up by the other place was a job I hated. Feeding the animals was okay, but getting the tank filled with water was a chore. And a lesson. That old well taught me more about life and success than any seminar or college class I ever attended. The lesson was so simple. It amazes me to this day more people do not understand the lesson of the pump.

The Investment

That old well was deep. Getting water out of that darn thing prit’ near (yes, I am writing this way intentionally) killed me every day I went over there. The only saving grace is water from wells so deep is ice cold and sweet. There is no water in the world that tastes as good or refreshed as well. Getting the water is the issue.

The job was simple. You started pumping the long handle vigorously, up and down, up and down, up and down. You put your whole body into it. In the summer sweat would pour down my face as I gave it all I had. After several minutes I wanted to quit or at least take a break. But that is a mistake. It takes a long time to get the water flowing. With each pump of the handle the water works a bit higher, but if you stop it goes all the way back down and you have to start all over again.


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Get Ready for Suicide Season




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Bipolar is not a life of extremes as this drawing illustrates. Bipolar is learning to live along the edges, struggling to control the overwhelming flood of emotions.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and 3rd among young adults. The issue is too serious to let slip by without an honest discussion. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41,149 people committed suicide in the United States in 2013, 12.6 per 100,000. The suicide epidemic crosses all age groups and racial barriers, however, young adults (2.5%) made a suicide plan at a higher rate than older adults (1.35% for middle aged adults and .6% for older adults). People of mixed race have the highest rate of suicide while blacks have the lowest. All this is according to the CDC.

Statistics are cold and not what I want to talk about today. The story I want to share is about depression and more to the point, Seasonal Affective Disorder. It might seem like a strange topic for a personal finance blog until you consider socio-economic status does not insulate you from depression, suicidal thoughts, or actually killing yourself. Wealth is not a prescription for awesome mental health. Wealthy people may seek help because they have the money to pay for treatment or might have a stronger support group, but financial independence is not an elixir that cures depression or prevents suicide.

Confessions

This is a hard article for me to write. Most people have a hard time understanding what I am about to say, especially if they know me or have seen me in a business setting. I suffer from manic-depression and came this close to being one of the statistics listed above. For a long time I could not understand why I felt the way I did when my life was so good. My marriage is great, I have two wonderful (and moral) daughters, a successful business, and financial independence. Drugs are not a part of my family. So why the deep bouts of depression?Continue reading

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