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wealth building

Lifestyle, Small Business, Taxes and Investing

Why Trade Wars Never Work

An old nemesis has returned to the United States and other nations around the planet: protectionism. These leaders, and the voters who bought their snake oil, falsely believe protecting their borders by building walls, taxing imports, claiming currency manipulation and threatening to dissolve trade agreements will bring jobs back home. They’re wrong.

What these well-intentioned people forget are the lessons of history. They forget about The Tariff Act of 1930, also known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the one piece of legislation that hastened, accelerated and prolonged The Great Depression. People forget about the jobs created that did not exist before due to current trade agreements and the lower prices consumers paid for goods and services.

The misguided perception that jobs will be created for nations with trade deficits by preventing trade does not work. And we are dangerously close to poking the sleeping giant again. Once a trade war begins it is hard to stop the cascading effects. The damage is swift and painful with few options available less painful. Best to leave the sleeping beast where she is. But politicians sometimes have an agenda we all pay the price for.

But why do trade barriers cause job loss? If the U.S. has a massive trade imbalance, curtailing imports should bring the jobs home to create those products, right? It’s not that simple. Today we will explore why curtailing trade destroys jobs in all countries involved. Open trade is beneficial to everyone.




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Thriving on Minimum Wage

Minimum wage to riches.

Complaints about wages are rampant in the current news. The common wisdom is wages are too low for people to save for retirement or even pay for basic needs. Today I will dispel this common wisdom and prove 1.) Minimum wage, while not very much, is more than enough to live on; 2.) You can get a pay increase even if the boss refuses to pay you more than the minimum wage; and 3.) Early retirement is possible even at minimum wage and in fact you are more motivated to reach early retirement goals when you are locked at the lowest pay scale allowed by law.

I know I’m coming across as a dick to many people. But I’m right and you know it. I can and will deliver on all three points above in one short blog post. The problem with reaching these goals is you and your spending habits.

My dad grew up on a farm and started his own agriculture repair business back in the early 80s. He noticed his employees were no better off regardless what he paid them. Some were paid very well and still were flat broke.

I see the same thing in my practice among employees and clients. With a larger group to sample, my data is conclusive: Income is not the problem, spending is. Where you live has nothing to do with it. Nothing! Living in a high-cost area of the country usually means minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage. Since a few will refuse to believe me, I also included point #2. If you are so underpaid you should be excited to know I can guarantee you a pay increase on a regular basis. That means minimum wage will be history for you, my friend, and your employer can’t do a damn thing about it.

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Early Retirement, Lifestyle, Small Business

What the Wealthy Accountant Owns and Why

In my last post I discussed how difficult it is for personal finance bloggers to find fresh material. There are a few areas where fresh material is always available: spending reports, net worth reports, and investment reports. My spending is boringly low so I rarely share those numbers. Net worth reports are fun to watch as people go from zero to millionaire; afterwards it becomes bragging and tends to discourage those starting out.

Even though we all have a timeline where we reduced/eliminated debt and built our net worth, each personal story is a marker along the road to financial independence. Readers love these stories because it provides a framework as they reach for their financial goals.

Killing debt is hardest once the habit is established. It seems impossible for those buried in debt to see any light at the end of the tunnel. Hell, they think the tunnel is a bottomless pit. And it can be if they don’t crucify their old habits! Dear Debt is an awesome example of a young woman breaking up with debt and getting her life back. She said it better than I ever could because I didn’t dig the hole as deep in my younger days. And not because I am smarter. I just had fewer opportunities to be stupid. (Note: You are not stupid, Melanie!)

Net worth reports are great for illustrating how fast a nest egg can grow. When you start it looks so small at first. Debt is gone and you amassed a whopping $10,000. Big deal. Well, it is a big deal! Financial independence is gained one dollar at a time. Watching others further along in the process is motivating for some. Here is another young woman well on her way to financial independence at the ripe old age of 26. She will reach FI sooner than she plans. It’s how it works. And here is a blogger who planned on reaching FI in 1500 days and showed up early. How rude! They should have made an appointment first.




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Frugal Living, Lifestyle

They Said It First . . . and Better

The hardest part of writing a personal finance blog is finding fresh material. Most things have been said before and better. All the important points have been regurgitated onto the screen thousands of times before. If a PF blogger wants to make a difference she needs to find something to add to the already large heap of material available.

The trick to wealth is a very short story: save half your income, invest in index funds, avoid debt like the plague. Everything else is opinion. Everything else is nothing more than ways to spend less and learning to live on half your income without feeling cheated so you stay the course. The real trick is to get readers to apply the simple message.

Then the truth hits home. Even brilliant new ideas come crashing to earth as the blogger reads the PF universe. The new idea was said before and without a doubt, better. It is a sinking feeling when it happens. You pour your soul out onto the page only to discover weeks or months after publication another PF blogger already wrote the story. You feel like a hack.

You keep writing, keep hunting for the elusive fresh story. It’s new to you so it does not matter. Your story, your writing, is a journey of discovery; a story you can’t keep inside; a story you must tell. So, several times a week you sit in your chair and push your index finger (in honor of index funds) down your throat until you ralph up another classic. And you hope and pray it all makes a difference for at least one person. Otherwise you are only wasting your time.

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Stop Working for Money

Have you ever wondered why Elon Musk keeps pushing so hard? A hundred million from PayPal wasn’t enough, I guess. Building the greatest all-electric car is not enough for Musk, either. He also wants to fundamentally change the way humans see the world by starting a company called SpaceX. As I write, Musk promised to take two people to the other side of the moon and back next year! Talk about pushing yourself.

Before you start thinking Musk is a slacker, he also has this thing he manages called Solar City. If you want to build the greatest electric car ever you may as well figure out a way to fuel the darn thing for next to nothing. Right?

You would think running three large companies at the leading edge of technology would be enough for a 45 year old man with plenty of money to kick back and spend the rest of his life gloating. If you think that you don’t know Elon very well. He wants to put mankind on Mars in the next decade and send the species even further into space. His dreams never stop flowing and he makes them real against all odds. Just one great feat of Musk’s would make anyone’s career complete. So why does he do it? Why does Musk keep dreaming and then putting those dreams into action?




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Small Business, Taxes and Investing

Get a $100,000 Gift from the IRS Using Cost Segregation

In the past I shared ideas that saved you $10,000 or more per year. I also shared numerous other ways to reduce your tax burden by smaller amounts. And, of course, retirement accounts and the Health Savings Account provide plenty of tax reducing power, too.

That is all small change compared to what I share today. Today the gloves come off. Today you will learn how to peal massive amounts off your tax bill. I am talking about taking six figures and more from the IRS and putting it into your pocket legally. No jail required.

This program applies to investment properties and businesses with a building. All other can safely skip today’s post. Or you can read it and share it with someone who owns rental properties or a commercial building. You will make a lifelong friend if you do.

What is Cost Segregation?

The risk I take is getting too technical. You don’t need to understand all the deep tax terms to use this strategy so I will avoid technical jargon as much as possible.

The first thing you need to know is that cost segregation only works on buildings with an original cost basis (purchase price, plus additions) of $250,000 or more. Residential income properties, commercial properties, additions and build-outs all work. This does not include the value of the land. Example: You but a property for $450,000. Land value usually comes in around 20% of the purchase price. Therefore, $360,000 is for the building. Cost segregation works on the building portion of a property only. Also note, the higher the value of the property, the more tax benefits cost segregation provides.

The IRS says you have to depreciate a residential rental property over 27.5 years and commercial property over 39 years. This means you put a lot of money down upfront without a tax benefit.

The IRS says you can use cost segregation to separate the components of the building for faster depreciation. A typical building under cost segregation may have about half the value reclassified as 5-year property, 20-25% as 7-year property, and the remainder as either 27.5- or 39-year property.

Pictures around this post show some illustrations of tax savings with cost segregation.

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Leaving a Legacy Without Destroying Your Children

Reaching financial independence requires a consistent set of skills and persistence. The habits that allowed you to amass a sizable nest egg don’t die just because you pass some arbitrary border. Education, job, and family life consume all your time in the beginning.

After college it is time to earn a living. After finding a job it is time to climb the ladder, all the while saving a massive percent of your income to reach your financial goals.

Family is a priority. A significant other and children take time and money. You increase your saving and investing skills. Raising a family is expensive only if you don’t know how to shop. You hit the rummage sales and thrift shops for kid’s clothing, toys, height chair, car seat and other stuff the youngsters will grow out of quickly. Later you sell the kid’s stuff for about what you paid for it at a rummage sale of your own, passing the same opportunity you had to another young couple.

And then it happens. Your hard work, intelligent spending and diligent saving pay off. You reached financial independence earlier than planned. Now you have another problem you never gave much thought to before: your legacy. If you reach financial independence early, how large will your net worth grow before you leave this world?

Thinking about your legacy when you are still in the building stages is hard. It requires looking into the eyes of the possible: early death. What happens if you die while the kiddos are still minors? A plan is needed. Even if the kids are grown, a plan of succession is necessary. And what if kids are not part of the picture? Then what happens to your legacy? Let’s explore the possibilities.

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Medical Tourism: Save 90% on Healthcare and Get a Free Vacation

Even if you read the news poorly you know healthcare costs in the U.S. are astronomical. The U.S. healthcare system is more than double the cost of the world’s second costliest health care system in the U.K. And what do we get for all this extra money we pay for healthcare? Subpar performance. The U.S. currently ranks 37 according to the World Health Organization, right behind Costa Rica and ahead of Slovenia. Pathetic.

Medical issues are the one area of life that can destroy early retirement plans or any illusion of financial independence. To make it worse, health insurance is now required in the United States and it isn’t cheap. For American citizens, you are forced to participate in this inadequate health care system by financially supporting it to your maximum potential.

To add salt to the wound, many medical procedures are not covered. Weight-loss programs, cosmetic surgery, teeth whitening and hair transplants are not deductible expenses on U.S. tax returns, nor is it covered by most insurance. If your insurance does not pay for it, it comes out of your pocket. Many deductible medical expenses are not routinely covered by insurance. Eyeglasses and Lasik surgery come to mind.

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