DICKSSPORTINGGOODS-Gift-Card-300x190Enter for your chance to win a $100 Dick’s Sporting Good’s Gift Card through one of my partner websites!  You can earn multiple entries by subscribing to their newsletter, liking on Facebook, and Retweeting.

Visit Pro Game Changer by Friday, April 18 for your chance to win.

Now the real question – why am I promoting someone else’s giveaway?!  Well, there’s much more to it than me being a nice guy, I’m actually starting to explore additional ways to make money.  That’s right, I’ve now taken on some weekend work by helping a friend rebuild their website and developing a retail strategy.

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I got my haircut on Sunday as my hairdo was starting to get a bit unkempt, and also because gray hairs are more easily seen with longer hair.  It was a haircut just as I’ve had the last couple of years, and even with the same person, but this time she decided to cut off a little more than just my hair.

That’s right, my stylist nearly Mike Tysoned me – you know, the same Mike Tyson who bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear?!  Ok, so it wasn’t so bad that an equivalent bite would require a “spit” to clear the mouth of said flesh, but it was enough to make me squeamish every time the scissors approached my ears again.

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And Our Next Car is…

March 17, 2014 — 7 Comments

We bought a car!  If you read my last post, you knew our requirements were a car with good gas mileage that’s big enough for our dog, and that can handle snow.

My wife researched for weeks, so we had our choices narrowed down to a few different CUV’s and SUV’s.  The highest car on the list was the Subaru Outback because it hits up to 30 mpg on the highway and has all wheel drive, but we were also considering other midsize SUV’s.  After we found a couple of good options in Oklahoma City, we decided to go up on Saturday to check them out.

We started by visiting a Subaru dealership where we previously found a used Outback with 49k miles.  After we parked, a timid young guy approached us – definitely not taking the “salesman” approach as he talked under his breath and didn’t seem to know much about the car.  After telling us there was another couple already looking at the 2010 Outback, we agree to take a new Outback for a drive.

I know what you’re thinking – he talked us into buying a new car and we financed it!  Not quite; when we learned our salesman was on his third day of car sales, my doubts turned from him to the car.  It just didn’t have the driving feeling that I was used to, and I learned later it’s probably due to the Outback’s transmission. Continue Reading…

Time to Test Ourselves!

March 10, 2014 — 10 Comments

Now that we’re getting back into the swing of things with jobs and not vacationing nine months a year (poor us), it’s time to really test ourselves against the money rules I always push.  Primarily, how much car can you afford and how much house you can afford.

That’s right, we’re about to experience two major “reintegration” expenses as we buy a second car and eventually buy our next house.  Before we left for the trip, we sold my car so we only have my wife’s Toyota 4Runner which now has 170,000 miles on it.  We also sold our house in New Orleans, and we’re currently posting up at a relative’s old house in a small town in Oklahoma.  As much as we actually enjoy the simple life, we’re quickly getting pushed back into the real world as my recent promotion requires us to move to Austin or Dallas.

Our Next Car Purchase

Time to test ourselves

This is what happens when you buy a Subaru, you pick up hitch hiking dogs…

We have some basic requirements for our next car based on the things we like to do.  Basically, we want a great road tripping car with good gas mileage.  It needs to be big enough for our large dog to ride around with us (Lucy), and we want an all wheel drive to handle Colorado winters (for visiting and someday living there).

If you knew that my wife’s from Boulder, you can probably guess what car she wants… just think about it, what’s the state car of Colorado… that hippies drive (no offense, Susan)… and that you always see dogs in… Oh yes, she wants a Subaru Outback!  I fought it for a long time because I considered driving around in a station wagon as “giving up on life”, but I think she has actually convinced me that it’s the right direction.

You know, they look pretty cool now, they have great gas mileage (21 city, 29 highway), and they’re perfect for pets.  That’s right, I’m justifying it now because she’ll win in the end. Continue Reading…

His tenure at his company was approaching 35 years, and a well funded retirement and pension were just around the corner.  He sacrificed for the company, and they paid him for it.  It wasn’t just him who enjoyed this relationship, his wife also worked for the same company for 25 years and was looking forward to her pension as retirement was just around the corner.

Outsourced

It’s all fun and games (or a tv show) until your job is outsourced!

However, this match made in heaven was about to end abruptly.  It all started when my former employer was brought in to the company to help implement some systematic improvements to make their warehouses better (consulting lingo).  As a consulting firm usually does, they continued finding work for the company while looking for areas to expand their presence and increase sales.

They soon found the answer:  outsource the IT department to my firm; who, in turn would decrease costs by outsourcing the jobs to India.  It’s a common model many companies have used the last decade.

Bob was a Director in the IT department.  Now that the entire department was outsourced to my firm, his employer changed and so did the benefits he would receive during retirement.  That’s right, he and his wife would no longer get the pensions they were ready to start collecting on because now they worked for a new company.

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Let’s face it, school doesn’t do the best job of setting us up for success in life.  I’m not mad or blaming anyone, but if you’re expecting to succeed based only on what you learn in K-12, or even add in college, don’t expect Bill Gates to call anytime soon.

After I started working at Accenture, these things became readily apparent.  Gone were the days that “being a good student” was enough for success.  My bosses didn’t pass down assignments with clear rules and most of the time even if I did have direction it was quite unclear!  After I read Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Gatto says it’s a quasi-conspiracy because the powers that be want to keep us working class people in line.  I don’t quite believe that far yet (who knows, as I continue to grow my hair longer and wear more tie-die, I may move more that direction), but I do believe there are a lot of real world things school does a horrible job of teaching.

Anyway, enough talk, here are the five things I never learned in school:

1. How to Assess Myself
2. Take Action
3. Question Authority
4. Manage Money
5. That I’m More Than a Consumer

1. How to Assess Myself

No, I’m not talking about the kind of assessing of myself that I do after a long hike during tick season (too far?), I’m talking about determining if the work I do every day is really worth a damn.  School teaches us to be dependent on constant feedback and grading from our teachers to assess how well we’ve done; we never get the chance to grade ourselves.

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That’s right, you’ll never be the person you wish to be – I’ll bet you money on it.  It may sound a little mean at first, but it’s only reality, right?

You'll Never be the Person You Wish to be

We thought it’d be cool to be a “Yogi”… until we traveled to SE Asia and realized the only people who do yoga are from Western cultures!

In Self Reliance, Emerson wrote, “The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood shed with them.”

We give up, we settle, and we change.  When I was young, my ambitions were to become President of the United States or at least procure another formidable political position.  As a teenager, my focus went towards the Air Force Academy and flying  jets.  After changing my mind and by not pursuing a path to the Academy, I decided I’d go into the corporate world and someday become a big CEO.

Have I disassembled my bridge to the moon so I could start building my wood shed?  Possibly.  Have I given up the dreams of my youth in pursuit of a more realistic living?  Maybe.  Have I changed since I was a kid?  Definitely.

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Is Getting Rich the Answer?

February 3, 2014 — 6 Comments

You know what I’m talking about when I say that, right?  We always talk about nice it would be to get rich – then we’d be happy, or then we’d finally do what we want, whether it’s quit the job you hate, travel the world, or pursue what makes you happy.  Getting rich must be the answer.

However, as the old saying goes, wish and one hand poop in the other and see which one gets filled first!

After I sent out the post about how Drake’s rich father handles money, another reader emailed me his story.  Basically, he’s rich now because he recently sold a business for millions, and now he’s trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life.  Here’s what he said – let’s break down each paragraph:

I have it pretty good and it’s hard to bitch about a job and work environment that you created but it definitely makes me ponder what I would want to do differently next time.  I know these things for certain:  I hate  commuting, but I don’t like  working from home all the time; I hate sitting in front of a computer all day, I like working out at lunch, I like being creative and building a real product, I like selling at first but hate the repetition of doing it over and over again.

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Check out this great story from a reader, Drake, on how his rich father handles money.  Sometimes we like to think all rich people are driving around in brand new BMW’s and Mercedes… when in fact, most of those new cars are driven by people who can’t even afford them!  Here’s the story:

How rich people handle money

Does this look like the kind of car a decamillionaire would drive? Well guess what, it is!

I’m not personally wealthy, but my dad is moderately affluent and I’ve learned the power of frugality and living below one’s means from him over the years. He’s been driving Japanese econoboxes and minivans for as long as I can remember. He’s driven 3 cars in his lifetime (all of which he wrote a check for in full at the time of purchase except for his very first car which he financed) – an ’84 Toyota Camry, a ’95 Nisan Quest, and an ’06 Honda Pilot. That’s it. He write checks for cars in full and drives them until they break down.

Currently he’s 55 and will pull in, oh I don’t know, anywhere from $550k to $700k per year (AGI – federal income tax takes a hefty $150k-$200k of that each year. I’ve seen the checks to the U.S. Treasury!) or so and yet he spends maybe $6k-$7k per month on total living expenses in a relatively low cost of living area (Texas). As a result his overall net worth is between $5M and $10M and yet he doesn’t harbor any notions of ever driving a luxury car. In fact, he doesn’t even consider himself to be wealthy. If someone were to ask him what social class he’d consider himself to be in he’d probably say “middle class” and then begrudgingly add “upper middle” as a qualifier if pressed. Continue Reading…

Hello, Master

January 20, 2014 — 12 Comments
Elephant Village, Laos

Driving my queen around in Laos – she’s not the “Master” I’m referring to though!

After ten months of unpaid leave from my company while we traveled the world, I knew it would be somewhat difficult to go back to my regular job.  We rode elephants in Laos, pet tigers in Thailand, feared for our life in Jordan, and watched the mesmerizing Northern Lights in Iceland.  We pushed ourselves beyond our previous limits when we hiked a mountain in Malaysia and visited 4 tiny villages in the remote mountains of Nepal as we trekked for 65 kilometers over four days.  We saw each other every day, and almost every minute – with the number of times we were apart for more than an hour easily countable on two hands.  We put every ounce of trust and faith in each other’s hands as we set out as a team to explore the world.

Our days were no longer defined by fighting through the week just to have two days to do what we wanted on the weekends – which are usually filled with doing chores we don’t want to do anyway!  Instead, we did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and we were more active than we’d ever been before.  Our time wasn’t filled with lazy days on the beach, but instead of near constant motion of traveling to new cities, finding our home for the next few days, exploring the major sites, and at the same time planning our next destinations. Continue Reading…