Monthly Archives: August 2018

Financial Reading: Start with Fundamentals

Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to be Rich was a good read. It took about two days to finish, but I was committed, and Sethi’s style is pretty unconventional, as far as finance books go. I don’t think most finance books would go that quickly for me. A month ago, I decided to start reading more, and since I’ve become fairly consumed with why we don’t learn how to harness money, I thought IWTYTBR would be a good jump-off. I wasn’t disappointed.

Background: I paid off most of my egregious debt with a steady seven-year run of side gigs. I’m sure I could have done it in 3-4 years, but there were many bad behaviors that I needed to continue for a while, apparently. So, just less than two years ago, on a whim, I started to teach myself about investing. That’s an entirely different and much longer story, so I’ll cover that elsewhere. I don’t have it all figured out, but as with most things, you have to jump in and learn as you go to really make progress. Regardless of your income level, if you haven’t yet opened a brokerage account, you really shouldn’t wait. Even if you want to start with “safe” investments, you can easily start with $50, which is less than your last bar bill. Don’t wait, and don’t be afraid. If you are only putting your money in a bank, you’re making a mistake. Awesomely enough, my first main investment contact/spectator partner is a former student, which is pretty fucking cool.

Sethi’s book is accessible. Check out his website and social media presence if you are unsure, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Most of us who aren’t “in the know” regarding certain industries are often crippled by analysis paralysis, which is pig Latin for scared and/or lazy. Systems approaches don’t really work super-well for me, but I do appreciate the “6-Week Program That Works” that Sethi sets up throughout the book. The real value, in my opinion, is how Sethi breaks down what a lot of people think are complex financial concepts. Here’s a hint: they’re not complex. No, you won’t come out ready to test for a Series 7, but it’s nice to know that there are authors out there willing to buck the system that often presents as elitist–to help the “little guy” understand how investment really works. I think a huge shift has happened in the last fifteen years, and at this point, there really isn’t a reason to not be at least micro-investing. Check out Acorns to know more, or if you’re ready to start actually investing, head to Robinhood  to get started with the least amount of commitment possible.

If you’re the type that posts or retweets things like, “Public school didn’t prepare me to manage finances,” this is a perfect book for you. That’s not a dig, by the way. The whole time I was in school–first as a student and later as a teacher–there was always at least one elective course in finance, and I learned how to balance a check book in math class. I know not everywhere is like that, so think of this as a great introduction into adult financial math. You should be investing. You know you should be investing. The best way is just to start. By the way, that retirement plan you have through work? It’s probably not going to be enough, if you’re honest with yourself.

Finally, check out Ramit Sethi’s blog of the same name here. It’s the best free place to see how you might start taking control of your financial future, which is exactly what any solid advisor wants for you.

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August

It’s a little over a quarter of a mile to the fishing dock at the south end of Lake Willastein. Sometimes I’m amazed that we didn’t even know the lake was there when we drove here to scout where we were going to live two years ago. Maumelle was nothing more than two rows of trees and a labyrinth of unfamiliar French names for streets then. Everywhere new looks so foreign at first, and then, later, you can’t remember how strange it once was.

I woke on my own, a few minutes before any alarms. I pulled on a shirt and some athletic shorts and pretended to stretch as I walked down the stairs. Casey was in her usual position at the base of the stairs–she always leaves the bed sometime during our nightly unwind with light-hearted shows. She didn’t stir this morning as I walked by her. She must be dreaming, I thought as I peered around the corner and listened to her breath slowly and rhythmically. In the kitchen I quietly made coffee for two, then grabbed Casey’s leash and two baggies. She sometimes needs more than two baggies, but I was hedging my bets today. When I walked to the door and slipped on a pair of flip flops, she drowsily got out of bed wagging her tail, hit her favorite Yoga pose, and we were off.

I understand why people get up early in Arkansas. I don’t know what the temperature is already, but the sun is high enough to make you take notice. It was right around 7:15–one of my favorite times. Nobody is out yet, and those that are haven’t left themselves enough time to appreciate anything around them. They’re already in grim task mode.

We crossed the street from the entrance to the Villas, and started toward the lake. Casey was already fully awake, and pulling against the leash in her typical erratic fashion. She has never really walked calmly; I suspect that at least one of the 57 varieties is some kind of cattle dog. She doesn’t really belong on a lead; she belongs on acres of land, and I’m reminded of this by how quickly she noiselessly speeds off to chase a squirrel when her collar is not attached. This never fails to make me think of a small cabin on a decent stretch of land, steamy coffee on a frosty morning, and some terrier-lab mix zooming back and forth in the frame, like some sort of cartoon. One day.

There are a few runners at the lake, and I look down at my waist, knowing that I am two weeks’ honest effort away from looking like I should look, and feeling like I should feel, but I forgive myself and say, “Hell, at least we’re walking! Normally we’d still be in bed.” And just like that, any pre-effort guilt I had vanishes…at least until a septuagenarian shuffles by and says, “Beautiful pup!” and continues on his healthy arc toward the western side of the lake.

The dock is a nice checkpoint. Casey has a soft pant by now, and I’m pleased that I have exerted the effort to walk anywhere at all. One of my favorite things to do is pause at the end of the dock (after I make sure there aren’t any lures or hooks left on the platform), and just watch the water for a minute. Something tells me that I am close to understanding when I am still, there. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. I must be just out of sight of it. Around the corner, maybe.

Casey has already started zig-zagging back to the path, so this one will be a shorter walk, but it counts. After all, we could still be in bed. It’s time to head back and begin the day. For some of us, anyway.

Give me a New Routine…or ten

Started clearing out the cobwebs this past week. I finally read a couple of books not related to passing an exam or certification, and I now have some small momentum going. What I’m looking for: something new to try. My creative output is lower than it should be–the ideas are still there, but I need to upend my patterns to see if I can harness the spark.

Quite a few of you out there have some routines or patterns that work for you for whatever it is that you create, and I’d like it very much if you would share (with anyone who reads this) what works for you, or what inspires you to keep going in those long hours.

I think that creative communities are essential in sustaining and encouraging quality content. Since I left education, I am deficient in that energy–one of the more interesting side effects of teaching is what the teacher gets from the kids–and boy, do I miss that energy. I also think that social media has leveled out right now, at least for the moment. I used to find all kinds of stuff online that would get the creativity flowing, but that was probably almost a decade ago. I think the most popular platforms are in a kind of stasis, and I am working to consume less until I create more.

So, Hi, artists and photographers and writers and anybody else who is doing something more than just working the day job. If you could take a minute to drop a line or two and share what works with you, it would really mean a lot to me. Also, I apologize in advance for those I tag, but I feel like the things you create are really wonderful, and I would love any insight into your process. If you don’t have a process, but you’ve come across something that really pumps you up, please share that as well.

Thank you!