It’s Halloween and the Dow is at a breathtaking 23,377 roughly 100 points off of the all-time high reached earlier this month. Yes, I’m a little spooked at these heights and so are some of my friends I’ve been talking to recently. None of us participating these conversations are stock brokers or financial advisers; just motley fools that can’t believe our good fortune and trying not to screw it up. We’ve read FIRE blogs, watched CNBC, and heard the low cost index and diversify advice so many times prior; but we still get acrophobia. And why wouldn’t we? My crew is filled with cynical forty-something Gen Xers who experienced the euphoria of dot com fever in our 20’s , purchased homes with little or no skin in the game in our 30’s, and watch it crash and burn. . . twice. We don’t need investment advice; we need group therapy. Continue reading “The Stock Market Is High, Don’t Get Spooked!”
It’s springtime again and like many people we have been working in the yard, flowerbeds, and garden. Working around the house recently got me thinking about the many ways we have saved money over the years on landscaping and other items in the yard. We first started reducing our costs when our house was being built. Our builder helped us put a little more of the budget towards the house by letting us do some hard labor, like building site clean up. Mrs. R and I used to come over to the house on nights and weekends to sweep up construction dust and throw bricks, scraps of wood, and other random trash laying around the property into a big gooseneck trailer. We also did all of the landscaping. Here’s a list of money saving ideas in the yard we have used over the years. Continue reading “7 Frugal Landscaping Ideas for the FI Community”
It is possible these days to stay perpetually distracted, which may be why some people talk about the need to “be present”. I like this idea of being present and focusing on my wife and kids when we are together. It’s unfortunate how easy it is for me to get distracted with trivial things and not give the people I love my full attention. Another area where some of us are lacking presence is in our personal finances. Even after consuming financial advice books, seminars, and radio programs some people continue to live in a financial illusion. So a different perspective might be helpful, and Mesa Verde seems like a good place to start. Much of my youth was spent in the Southwestern United States and I was fascinated by the history of the Anasazi people, also called the Ancestral Puebloans. They lived in the area now known as the four corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Mesa Verde in Southwestern Colorado was home to a large number of Ancestral Puebloans for approximately 700 years, from about AD 600 to 1300. According to the National Parks Service, “sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended”.
Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to visit Mesa Verde when I was a kid, but Mrs. R and I took our children to see it once. It’s a rare treasure that in my mind rivals the pyramids of Egypt, and far too many Americans take it for granted. Seeing the structures built into the side of the cliffs by these ancient people is an amazing spectacle. If you allow yourself to imagine the men, women, boys, and girls who once lived there, your mind will start to be Continue reading “FI On A Green Table”
When I was a kid I loved watching the show Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous. The host, Robin Leach, took viewers on open house tours of some of the world’s wealthiest estates. It was fun to gawk at and then talk about the elegantly decorated mansions with guest houses larger than most American’s homes, and garages full of luxury sports cars. At the end of each show Robin would say his signature catchphrase, “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” while enjoying someone else’s yacht, swimming pool, or Learjet and then send viewers back to their average and anonymous reality. The show highlighted a very small percentage of society and a lifestyle that very few people will ever know. It was successful in part because it highlighted beautiful places and luxury products, but more than anything it played on people’s emotional fantasies of living in stress free self indulgent luxury and the narcissistic desire to be special. The reality is that the television show was primarily an advertising vehicle for the travel industry, similar to the currently popular The Bachelor television franchise. Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous highlighted beautiful travel destinations around the world and created the illusion that being rich and famous is like being on a permanent vacation. The show was an early form of reality television that presented an overproduced faux version of real life.
“champagne wishes and caviar dreams”
I think most people don’t actually want to be famous, but most want to feel significant and accepted. Some people choose to live an inflated lifestyle by spending money on things that visually communicate to others and give the impression that they are a person who possesses wealth and status. Even though many people can’t afford to buy designer, luxury, and lifestyle brands they will because they want to enjoy nice things, but also to be seen by their peers as having achieved a level of success and status. There are people in every community who actually have some wealth and they live a life that lets everybody around them know that they have money. Typically these people are not on the same level as what was featured on Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, but their wealth appears to be greater than the majority of people living around them. The reality is that some of these people are also living an inflated lifestyle built on credit that is at risk of being upended. However, even truly wealthy people who don’t have debt issues can fall into the envy trap. Continue reading “Lifestyles of the Rich and Incognito”
Becoming financially independent is a lot like washing your hair. You become conscious that you need to do something (“my hair is dirty”), reach for a proven solution (shampoo), apply that solution to your personal situation (lather up your hair with shampoo), evaluate if the solution is working (rinse), and do it again if a successful outcome is achieved (repeat). People learn to wash their hair when they are children and have done it so many times that they don’t give it much thought. Having clean hair is a part of a person’s lifestyle, it is something they value, and they routinely use proven solutions to achieve the desired result. The same is true for people who become or are on their way to becoming financially independent.
Mrs. R. and I have developed a lifestyle that has led to us becoming financially independent but we didn’t initially set out with that goal in mind. Initially we were focused on paying down debt and saving for a down payment on a house. Then when we had our first child our goals changed to include Mrs. R becoming a stay at home mom. Several years later, after the birth of our second child, our goals changed again to include earning more money. More money coming into our lives led to other goals like paying off the house, maxing out tax deferred retirement savings, increasing our other non-tax deferred investing, taking more vacations, and giving back to our local community. We have been married for almost twenty years and like all people a lot of stuff happened during that time which can make it challenging to share our experiences with other people in order to help them with their specific situation. So we have identified six steps that we have come to realize we have used and continue to use to help guide our financial life. Admittedly, “steps” is probably the wrong term because they are more like a framework or broad categories that contain within them more specific actionable solutions. Over time we will explore these areas on this site and discuss the details and our experiences. First I think it would be good to layout the six step framework for our readers.