November 29, 2011

years of accumulated fitness

Posted in money at 6:55 pm by weiszguy

Now I’m the last one to harp on physical fitness, but this quote really spoke to me.

I’m finding that years of accumulated fitness are — literally — money in the bank.

Over the last few years I’ve started to see more and more of my peers spending money — lots of money — fixing their health. They are not necessarily in terrible shape, but few of them are as active as I am. They suffer from knee problems. Back problems. Shoulder problems. Digestive problems. Prostrate problems. Osteoporosis. Insomnia. Arthritis. Diabetes. Memory loss. Cancer.

Looking for help, they invest in prescription drugs, medications, hormones, supplements, complicated tests, scans, chiropractor visits, podiatrist visits, procedures, body replacements, surgeries, chemo and radiation. Not to mention expensive health care insurance.

I’m 6’0″, 280 lbs, and 39 years old. Maybe I’ll start thinking about this.

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January 31, 2011

create your own extended warranty

Posted in budget, investing, saving, stuff I think about tagged at 7:32 pm by weiszguy

Extended warranties are almost always a bad idea.  An extended warranty is the protection plan offered to you when you buy some gadget or other.  Relative to the cost of the gadget, the extended warranty is pretty expensive, and you almost never get the opportunity to take advantage of it.

In other words, your gadget almost never breaks in the period of time covered by the extended warranty.  It may break early on, due to a manufacturing defect, in which case the plain vanilla warranty that comes standard will cover the repair.  Or it may break due to old age, which will be after the extended warranty period is expired.  Result?  You gave the company a bunch more of your money and didn’t get anything for it.

The problem is, declining the extended warranty makes you nervous.  What if it does break during the extended period?  Won’t you be upset you didn’t buy the warrant?

Try this.  Next time you are offered an extended warranty, ask what the cost is, but then decline the plan.  When you get home, take that amount of money and set it aside in your own “extended warranty” fund.  Do this every time you are offered a plan.  Eventually that fund will be really big, because you won’t ever need it.  You’ll save yourself the expense, you’ll earn interest, and if you ever do have a covered accident, you’ll have plenty of money to just buy yourself a new one.  Beauty, eh?

January 11, 2011

go ahead – gloat

Posted in human nature, money, movies tagged , , at 5:34 am by weiszguy

The natural human instinct is to gloat.

You win a game of foosball, you gloat over your opponent. You get beat, you expect the winner to gloat.

You find a duffel bag with $1 million in small, unmarked bills, you can’t keep it to yourself. You buy things. You treat your friends. You take your closest friend, in strictest confidence, to the back closet where you stashed the loot – just to show it off.

You get a big promotion, you sell a manuscript, your son scores the winning touchdown. You gloat.

It’s also the reason there are so many movies and books where the bad guy has the good guy at gunpoint and says, “Since you’re going to die anyway, I might as well tell you everything…” And then he ties up all the loose ends in the story. The bad guy needs to good guy to understand exactly why he is going to lose, exactly why the bad guy is so brilliant.

Try it sometime. Next time you run into incredible good luck, or achieve some big accomplishment, try not to tell anyone. Try to keep it to yourself.

January 10, 2011

200 year plan

Posted in inheritance, money tagged at 9:47 am by weiszguy

A while back I wrote about a five-year plan. Recently I’ve been challenged to take a bit longer view – I’ve started working on the 200 year plan. Whoa! Why 200 years? I’ll be long dead, and so will my children and grandchildren. In fact, I expect seven to eight generations will be following me in the next 200 years.

What will life be like in 2211? Will it be as different from 2011 as 2011 is from 1811? Will we finally have Jetson-style flying cars? Will we fly faster than light? Will my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren still be suffering from the common cold? What will that eighth generation look like? How many people will be members of that generation? And more importantly, why should I put together a 200 year plan that proposes to teach that generation anything? What can I possibly teach somebody who won’t be born until after my name is long forgotten? What can someone 200 years ago teach me today?

200 year from now technology will be completely different; national boundaries will be different; moral, ethical, and cultural norms will be different. Even the world’s major religions, while they will probably still be around, will be very different. About the only thing that will be unchanged is human nature, which has been constant for millennia.

Humans will always be looking for happiness. We will always try to make the world better for ourselves and for our children (although maybe not for someone else’s children). We will always have the need to explore and invent. We will always feel the effects of love and hate, friendship and betrayal, birth and death.

Given the constantly changing state of the world, and the unchanging state of human nature, I’d like my progeny to know it’s not all about money. In fact, looking at a 200 year time line, money is almost useless, unless it is used to further human development and understanding. Money can’t buy love, friendship, or eternal life, but it can ease hunger, search for cures for incurable diseases, and establish colonies in outer space.

If you’re reading this in the 23rd century — Hi! I can’t tell you how to communicate with your “computers” or how to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. But I can tell you to seek the things money can’t buy, and to use your money to help others seek the things money can’t buy.

September 8, 2009

Monopoly fans!

Posted in investing, money tagged , , at 8:18 pm by weiszguy

Monopoly on steroids!  I played countless hours of Monopoly growing up.  I had most of the numbers on most of the cards memorized.  But now that I’ve grown up, I see a lot of deficiencies in the game.  It doesn’t emulate real property investing very well.  Looks like that’s about to change.

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/09/07/googles-monopoly-the-board-game-not-antitrust/

August 28, 2009

forget elephants, Amazon never forgets

Posted in money tagged at 8:20 pm by weiszguy

I was messing around in my Amazon account today.  I can browse all my Amazon orders back to 2003.  I don’t know if that’s impressive… or scary.

May 17, 2009

good friends

Posted in debt, giving, money tagged at 8:08 am by weiszguy

We had some trouble paying the mortgage this month.  No, really.  I don’t mean that we didn’t have the money, I mean that the mortgage company rejected electronic payments from my bank — three times!  The first time I tried to pay was well before May 1st.  The second time I tried to pay was on May 1st.  The third time I tried to pay was at the beginning of this week, but still in time to arrive at the mortgage company before the May 16th deadline.  And all three times the payment was rejected.

To make a long story short, the payments were being rejected because my mortgage is going through the modification process.  And while that’s happening, all mortgage payments must be in certified funds.  For some reason, electronic money knocking on your electronic door isn’t good enough.

I guess this story isn’t getting much shorter.

My bank is an online only bank (INGDirect).  Normally that’s not a problem.  But this time it was a problem because I couldn’t get a cashiers check and send it to the mortgage company in time for the late payment deadline.

So, I called a friend and asked him for enough money to make my mortgage payment.  I would deposit his check in my local bank, which would write me a cashiers check for the amount, which I could overnight to the mortgage company, and then write my friend a normal check from my online bank to pay him back.

My point is, isn’t that a great friend?  How many people do you know who would loan that much money on just your promise that you could pay it back?

I wound up paying the mortgage company with a check-by-phone, which they previously told me couldn’t be done.  So I didn’t need my friend’s check.  But man, I’ll do anything for him and his family now.  Thanks guys!

February 12, 2009

encouragement to save a few pennies

Posted in money, saving, spending tagged at 8:40 am by weiszguy

If you’re discouraged because you can never seem to save enough money, or if you’re tired of everybody telling you how you can save a few pennies and retire rich, Trent has an interesting analogy you should check out.  It helped me.

January 27, 2009

I killed my dog

Posted in money, parenting, pets tagged at 10:52 am by weiszguy

Sunday was a horrible, no good, very bad day.

I was driving away from my house about 8:30 in the morning when my dog, my stupid dog, ran in front of the car and I ran over him.  He limped back to the house, we canceled all our plans and took him to the animal emergency room an hour and a half away.

To make a long story short, it would have cost a couple thousand dollars to patch him up.

I had my wife and all four kids with me (11, 10, 8, 6) and we had to decide whether to go ahead or to put him down.  Again, to make a long story short, there was no way I could pay that kind of money, so we had a long, long, session of trying to figure out where to get the money, and ended up deciding to put him down.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

The kids were hysterical – I can’t think of a better word.  Screaming, bawling, sobbing – for a long time.  The exam room we were in had a box of Kleenex – we used the whole box.  I would try to offer a word of comfort or encouragement, only to have the screaming start up again.

I had to get the kids out of there.  We gave the vet our decision and went out for lunch (because we were 1½ hours away from home).  When we came back, they had a clay impression of his paw for us.

The kids bawled the entire rest of the day.  I tucked them into bed sobbing.

I never ever want to go through that again.

Sunday was a horrible, no good, very bad day.

January 23, 2009

now or later

Posted in abortion, money tagged at 9:51 am by weiszguy

President Obama will reverse an order to ban federal funds for foreign groups that provide abortion. Or, to put it positively, Obama will allow federal money to go to foreign groups that provide abortion.

If we put aside for a moment the sanctity of human life, the soul of the aborted baby, and the right to a physical life here on earth that no government can either bestow or revoke, I think this makes a lot of sense.

It’s an Us vs. Them world.  Obama is the leader of Us, and so it’s in his, and our, best interest to limit the number of future combatants that are being born.  The more of Them we can get rid of now, the fewer the foreign problems 20 years down the road.  In software development, the cost to fix a late stage bug is many, many times more than the cost to fix a bug discovered early in the process.  Similarly, this executive order seems an exceptional, frugal, and efficient use of funds.

January 22, 2009

don’t be so tight

Posted in giving, money, politics, stuff I think about tagged , , at 11:28 am by weiszguy

Here’s an article from Arthur Brooks about giving patterns among people across the political spectrum

People who said they were “very conservative” gave 4.5% of their income to charity, on average; “conservatives” gave 3.6%; “moderates” gave 3%; “liberals” gave 1.5%; and “very liberal” folks gave 1.2%.

The central point of this article is that conservatives give more of their income to charity than liberals do.  But although I’m proud that conservatives outgive liberals in general, I’m still a little appalled by the low numbers.  The most generous group in this survey still only gives 4.5% of their income.  There’s no reason this number shouldn’t be twice as big.  10% is not just a conveniently round number that happens to be espoused by most religions, it’s a significantly large enough portion of your income that you’ll probably have to give something up in order to give that much.  You’re telling the charity you’re concerned enough about their mission to delay a little of your own gratification.  Giving 10% is a stretching exercise that will help you focus on needs outside of yourself, help you learn satisfaction with what you have, and chip away at the greedy portions of your heart and soul.

Economists measure the “income elasticity of giving” to predict how much people change their giving in response to a particular percentage change in their income. It turns out the response in 2008 was dramatically different for left and right. For instance, a 10% decrease in family income for a conservative was associated with a 10% decrease in giving. The same income decrease for a liberal family led to a 16% giving drop. In other words, if this relationship continues to hold, the recession will almost certainly exacerbate the giving differences between left and right.

It stands to reason that when your income goes down, your giving (as a dollar amount) should also go down.  But giving a proportionately smaller amount of money just because you’re making less just sounds greedy.  Being generous and giving profusely doesn’t seem like an option to me. As human beings, we have a moral obligation to help those around us.  There is absolutely nothing to be gained by holding on to every last dime, except possibly some temporary material comforts and the smug satisfaction of an overly inflated bank account.

January 21, 2009

Fred Thompson dressed in sarcasm

Posted in credit cards, debt, money, spending tagged , , at 10:39 am by weiszguy

Here is Fred Thompson explaining how the bailout works.

It’s a little bit dated (he mentions the holiday season, and the “President-elect”) but I absolutely love the sarcasm.  I laughed all the way through it.  Best eight minutes of my day.

January 20, 2009

mcdonalds

Posted in addiction, parenting, spending, weird tagged at 7:45 pm by weiszguy

I hate McDonald’s.  I like McDonald’s.  I hate myself for liking McDonald’s.

McDonald’s food is bested by just about every fast food joint out there.  You name it, they have better food than McDonald’s.  Plus, the food is bad for your body.  And the expense is bad for your wallet.  Yet, every time I drive by one, I think, “Ooh, there’s a McDonald’s.  Maybe I should just grab Big Mac.”

Why do I do this?  Is it because they put addictive drugs in their food?  Is it because my mother ate too many Big Macs while I was in the womb?  Is it because they have a team of crack marketers who are actually really, really good at what they do?  Whatever the reason, I hope it isn’t my fault.

December 10, 2008

getting rich will be painful

Posted in money tagged , at 8:30 pm by weiszguy

A number of points in this interview suprised me.  I think there’s probably a lot of truth to what he says.

  • Trying to get rich will cost you a lot of heartache, and will require you and those around you to sacrifice a lot.
  • Unless you’re willing to make that sacrifice, you shouldn’t even try.
  • Most people shouldn’t even try.
  • Having a great idea is irrelevant.  Any idea will work if it’s well executed
  • You will fail.  Over and over again.  It’s a 100% certainty.
  • If you can’t look your friends and family in the eye and ask them for money you’re going to lose, you’ve already lost.
  • When negotiating, don’t be “willing to walk away” – just walk away.

I’ve personally failed in business once already.  So I gave up.  I suppose I may have given up too soon.

November 15, 2008

a touching moment

Posted in money, spending tagged at 5:19 pm by weiszguy

My eyes started to tear up this morning when I pulled into the gas station.  I saw a sign I never thought I’d see again, a sign that said “$1.96”

I filled my entire tank for $30.  The last time that happened, it was E85 (which doesn’t go as far as gasoline), and it was only half a tank.

Depression, de-shmression.  Give me cheap gas anyday.

September 16, 2008

I got a job!

Posted in career, money tagged , at 6:43 pm by weiszguy

I started my new job yesterday.  I’m pretty excited about it for a number of reasons:

  • My new company does what my old company did, so I already know what I’m doing.  The learning curve is almost flat.
  • My period of umemployment was extremely short – less than two weeks from the time I got the layoff announcement until the job offer came in.  I’ve never had such a short job search.
  • My new company is publicly traded.  I realize, of course, that layoffs and bankruptcies can occur at public companies as well as private, but the public companies have an additional layer of accountability.  It’s hard to hide blemishes with the public rifling through your books.
  • Opportunities for advancement.  In a large, dynamic (two terms which, apparently, are NOT mutually exclusive) company, there are always new things happening, new clients coming on board, new projects starting up.  I don’t want to be a consultant forever, and the future looks bright.
On a sadder note, the business unit I’m part of is based in Houston, and they are still cleaning up from hurricane Ike.  100% of the zip code our office is in is without electricity.  We hope to be fully operational by the end of the week, but much of that will depend on the electric company.

September 4, 2008

unemployment

Posted in budget, money tagged at 7:45 pm by weiszguy

If you’re looking for more information about my unemployment, please see the article I wrote for the Greenhorn Valley View.  Also, you can see all my columns and articles here.

July 29, 2008

vonage rocks

Posted in communication, money, technology tagged , at 8:33 pm by weiszguy

A while back we dropped our traditional land line and signed up with Vonage.  http://www.vonage.com  We got a phone number in our area code, but it was a long distance call for our neighbors.  They didn’t like that.

Today I called Vonage to see about getting a new number, one that would be a local call for our neighbors.  I talked to two customer service reps, and both of them were extremely courteous and helpful.  At no point in the call did I hear, “Why didn’t you think of that when you first signed up?”  (And honestly, that would have been my first question if I was them.)  Also, they waived the Change Number Fee, without me even asking them to do it.

When is the last time you spoke with a courteous CSR who voluntarily waived a fee?  Good job, Vonage.  Keep up the good work.

July 11, 2008

defining “paycheck-to-paycheck”

Posted in money, saving, spending tagged , at 4:27 pm by weiszguy

There has been much written on the concept of living paycheck-to-paycheck, and the noble cause of trying to escape that rat race.  Here’s a good article, in case you want to read up.

My question is, what does “paycheck-to-paycheck” mean?  Is there anybody who doesn’t live paycheck-to-paycheck?  If a person’s checking account is low on the day before payday, is he living paycheck-to-paycheck?  How large would his checking account balance have to be on the day before payday to NOT be living paycheck-to-paycheck?

I suppose I’m only talking about people who hold down jobs to pay their bills.  Someone who lives on a trust fund or endowment, for example, doesn’t depend on a paycheck to pay their bills.  On the other hand, such a person still cannot spend without regard to their checking account balance.  It’s just that deposits into their checking account come from a different source.  Maybe I’m talking about them, after all.  So does a trust fund baby also live paycheck-to-paycheck?

bucket o' money

bucket o' money

I use a bucket system for managing my money.  Every time I get paid, I put a predetermined amount of money in each bucket.  My buckets are labled, “Auto Insurance”, “Household”, and “Medical”, for example.  After distributing to these buckets, any leftover money goes into a bucket called “Available” to be used for other expenses, like food and gas.  Every time I have to spend some money, I look for an appropriate bucket, and if none can be found, I use the “Available” bucket.

My “Available” bucket is usually pretty empty.  So empty that we often put off buying food until the next payday.  Sometimes we forgo car trips because we only have enough gas for a couple errands.  Occasionally, I even pay the cell phone bill a little late, for lack of funds.  And when the next paycheck arrives, we breath a big sigh of relief, because now we have more money to do things with.

That last paragraph sounds exactly like someone who is living paycheck-to-paycheck, if I understand the term correctly.  At the risk of puffing up with pride (and please don’t take this as pridefull), I can tell you that our checking account has thousands of dollars in it, even at times when we put off purchase decisions due to lack of funds.  Most of that money is sitting safely in other buckets, waiting patiently for the day we’ll need it.  It’s just that there isn’t much in the “Available” bucket.

All in all I think this is a good system – voluntary deprivity, I call it.  (Not to be confused with depravity, which is a very, very different thing.)  I even wrote a newspaper article about it. By creating individual buckets for individual goals, I’m meeting those goals on a limited income, but also tricking myself into not spending much because it always seems like I don’t have much left.

So, what do you think?  Is that paycheck-to-paycheck?  If so, is paycheck-to-paycheck bad?

June 6, 2008

what is a dollar worth?

Posted in money, parenting tagged , at 6:34 pm by weiszguy

A very interesting article on MSN today.  Apparently, a dollar looks different to children in poor families than it does to children in wealthy families.

To the scions of the überwealthy, a dollar will look like a fraction of a down payment on a zippy new Alfa Romeo. To those on the other end of the spectrum, it’s a defense against an avalanche of bills.

They also have different ideas about how much money you should have, or how much you can have.

There’s already a belief system in place from kids who are poor or middle class that they feel like you shouldn’t have more money than you need, whereas the wealthier kids are saying you can make as much money as you want: ‘Look at my dad.’

April 29, 2008

why I hate dogs

Posted in money, spending tagged , at 6:05 pm by weiszguy

poop

Our dog poops in the basement.  We can’t get him to stop.  Tonight we were gone for less than an hour, but when we came home – a nice present on the floor.  He knows where he’s supposed to go, and normally he does a good job.  But more often than should be, he doesn’t wait to go out.

pee

Our dog pees on me whenever I come home.  He really misses us, so whenever we return from being gone he goes nuts, jumping, barking, licking, running around.  Which is all good.  But when he gets to me, for some reason his pee-pee muscle just relaxes.  Never fails.  Every time.  But only for me, not for the rest of the family.

barking

Our dog barks uncontrollably whenever anybody who isn’t a member of our immediate family comes over.  This includes good friends of ours, frequent visitors, and especially the meter reader.  We can’t get him to stop.  For a while our daughter’s friends were afraid to come over because of the dog.  And God forbid another animal walk by the window.

shedding

Our dog is losing his hair.  Or so it seems.  We have dog hair on the floor, on the couch, on our coats, on the table.  You don’t have to find too many of these hairs in your food before you start to wonder how sanitary it all is.

bolting

Our dog likes to bolt.  If we leave the door open a split second too long, he’s gone.  And he doesn’t want to come back.  We can call his name, offer treats, offer car rides.  No luck.  The neighbors have a horse and the dog likes to get in the horse’s pen and yap his head off.  The horse is starting to get annoyed.  I fully expected the dog to get a horse shoe to the head one of these days.

expensive

Our dog costs a lot of money.  We have to feed him, groom him, provide bed and bedding, get his shots, and buy him chew toys.  We were thinking of fencing the back yard, mainly to help with the bolting problem, but that was going to cost a couple thousand dollars.  I was going along with the plan for a while, then one day I woke up and said, “That much money for a stupid little dog?!”

Face it, dogs don’t bring that much value to our lives.  Sheep dogs?  Sure.  Guard dogs?  Sure.  Lap dogs?  Are you out of your freakin’ mind?  I know I was.

April 1, 2008

no, really, I’m a professional

Posted in money, newspaper tagged , at 8:01 pm by weiszguy

Congratulate me, I am now a paid writer.  Yesterday I got my first check for writing the column in the Greenhorn Valley View.  (You do know I write a column, right?  Check it out at: http://moneycolumn.wordpress.com/)

As paychecks go, I’ve had bigger.  But it’s actually kind of fun to look at.   I’m staring at it right now wondering if I should frame it or take the family out for pizza.

February 18, 2008

they did it again!

Posted in communication, money tagged , at 1:00 pm by weiszguy

I got another call today, identical to this one: https://weiszguy.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/automotive-telemarketing/

Because they had the chutzpah to make the same call twice, I’m no longer going to hide their name: Pueblo Dodge.

February 14, 2008

moneycolumn

Posted in money, newspaper, opinion column at 11:25 am by weiszguy

I’ve decided to move all my newspaper columns over to a new blog: http://moneycolumn.wordpress.com/

This week’s column is already posted there. If you go there and subscribe to the feed, you’ll be able to read the column every week, for free, without ever visiting the blog or the newspaper’s website again.

This blog (https://weiszguy.wordpress.com/) will remain as a bucket for my brain puking. I’ll probably talk about a whole gamut of topics: personal finance, productivity, homeschooling, things that strike me as really odd or really interesting. You will never find lolcats on this blog. I have some dignity.

February 7, 2008

invest or prepay?

Posted in debt, investing, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 5:10 am by weiszguy

Invest or prepay your mortgage?  If you have a little extra money, would it be better to invest that money or make extra payments on your mortgage?  It is an age-old question, one that has been asked by people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  But in all that time nobody has been able to come up with the answer.  The reason this is such a difficult question is because the answer depends on so much more than math.

If we considered only the math, we would be tempted to invest all our money and hold onto the mortgage as long as possible.  If you have a mortgage at 6%, you would effectively earn 6% if you made extra payments.  But consider that the stock market has returned an average of 10% per year for the past seventy years.  Clearly, making 10% is better than making 6%.

But maybe it’s not so clear.  Do you know how much the stock market will return this year?  Will it be 10%?  Probably not.  It could be anywhere from -20% to 20%, which is an awful big swing.  Your mortgage, on the other hand, is guaranteed to return 6%, if that’s your rate.  Which one causes you to sleep better?  You also need to consider your gut.  Which would make you feel better: owning a big pile of money, or NOT owning a big pile of debt?

If you are like me, having a big pile of money may be too much temptation to bear.  If you have a big pile of money, and you spend it, your return wasn’t so great after all.  But a mortgage locks up any extra money you send in.  The only way to get that money back out is with a messy and expensive second mortgage.  And the only people with second mortgages are those who have forgotten how painful the first one was!

In the end, it’s a deeply personal decision.  Your situation is very different from your neighbor’s, and your decision needs to be tailored for your situation.  But if you consider the math and your gut, and be disciplined with whatever decision you make, it will be hard to go wrong in the end.

This column originally appeared in the February 6, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

January 31, 2008

what’s in your wallet?

Posted in credit cards, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged , at 8:00 pm by weiszguy

I went on an archaeological dig recently – through my wallet.  I got out my toothbrush and dental pick and began sifting through the hardened layers of sediment.  I discovered things I haven’t see in a very long time.  And I discovered a little about myself.

Apparently, I like to stuff things into my wallet.  I must be hoping they’ll magically – what?  What am I hoping they’ll magically do?  Disappear?  File themselves into folders for easy searching?  Find a mate and multiply?  Whatever I was hoping would happen with all that stuff, it hasn’t.  Well, maybe the multiply part.  Where does all this junk come from anyway?

I have credit cards, debit cards, grocery store rewards cards, a book store rewards card, library cards, and gas station cards.  I have six frequent diner cards – for restaurants I haven’t been to in years.  I have pictures of my kids – from when they were babies.  I’ve got receipts from McDonald’s from before Christmas; a receipt for a bottle of soda; a receipt for a handful of screws from the hardware store.

I didn’t find any pictures of dead presidents in my wallet.  I’d like the presidents to take up permanent residency there, yet all the receipts seem to imply the presidents are wandering nomads, looking for a place to call home, but not content to dwell long in my back pocket.  It’s too bad, too.  With a little spring cleaning and a fresh coat of paint, my wallet would make a lovely home.  They could have parties, invite their friends, maybe some of them could stay a while.  Maybe big brother Ben would stop in and say hi.

But no, there’s too much crud.  Too much dust, parched paper, and other archaeological detritus for men of their caliber.  I guess I’ll have to be content digging through the evidence of the past.

This post originally appeared in the January 27, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

January 24, 2008

recession

Posted in career, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged , , at 5:16 pm by weiszguy

Haven’t you heard?  There’s a recession going on.  Well, technically, it’s still a little early to call it a recession.  To officially be called a recession, our Gross Domestic Product must decline for two successive quarters.  But that’s not much comfort to the people today who are worried about job loss, declining sales, or even business failure.  If recession is on your radar, what can you do prepare?  How do you plan to withstand it’s impact?

Obviously, if you are worried about your income being reduced for any reason, you should immediately put yourself on a financial diet.  Spend as little as you possibly can.  Try to build up a short term cache of cash you can use to even out dips in your income stream.  With any luck, the recession will be over before your cache runs dry.

You should also dust off your networking skills.  What industries seem to be unaffected by the present downturn?  Who do you know in those industries?  Give ’em a buzz.  The worst that can happen is you’ll get reacquainted with an old friend.  And don’t forget to be on the lookout for other people who are affected by the recession.  If there is any way you can help somebody else, their gratitude may be invaluable down the road.

Is there any way to take advantage of a recession?  If you aren’t worried about any sort of income loss, you might be in a position to make a little money.  You’ve heard the saying, “Buy low, sell high,” right?  Stock markets around the globe suffered huge losses this week, with drops as high as 10% in just a few days.  If you believe, as I do, that the markets are fundamentally sound, then this may be a great time to buy.  If you do buy in now, just be prepared for further declines before the climb back up.

So stow the sails, batten the hatches, and keep your eyes on the horizon.  I’ll see you on the other side.

This article originally appeared in the  January 23, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

January 16, 2008

volutary deprivity

Posted in money, newspaper, opinion column, saving, spending tagged , at 6:03 pm by weiszguy

I know something about you.  I know you don’t have enough money left at the end of the month.  There are things you wish you could do, but you don’t have the funds to do them.  If you had just a bit more money, everything would be fine.  This is true whoever you are, whatever your income.

Think about it.  No matter how much money you make, it isn’t enough.  If you make $20,000 a year, don’t you wish you made $30,000?  If you make $200,000 a year, don’t you wish you made $300,000?  This is a near-universal experience.  But rather than whine and moan about it, I wonder if there’s a way we can use this to our advantage?

Let’s say you’d like to be saving 10% of your income, but you haven’t started yet because you don’t know how you’d get by without that money.  Things are so tight right now – there’s no possible way you could survive on less.  But we just established that ALL income levels feel inadequate.  If you earned 10% less than you earned right now, would that really feel any different than what you make now?  Yes, your checkbook would notice, but would you feel any different?  My guess is you’d only notice the difference for a week or two.

Try this experiment.  The next time you get a paycheck, put 10% away somewhere – anywhere, under the mattress if you want – it doesn’t matter.  Then try to make the rest last until your next paycheck.  If you’re like me, just the thought of 10% less scares you to death, but I bet you’ll make it to the next check without much difficulty.  If you’re successful, you’ll be living on less, AND you’ll be saving up for a rainy day.  And you’re doing it EVEN THOUGH you don’t have enough!

This post originally appeared in the January 16, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

January 14, 2008

the ultimate gift

Posted in giving, inheritance, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 6:14 pm by weiszguy

There are certain character traits that are extremely important in life.  Traits like a strong work ethic, understanding the value of a dollar, and the importance of generosity and hospitality, for instance.  These qualities are far more important than skills like the ability to understand math or the ability to start a new business.  People who are nearing the end of their lives don’t want to pass on the knowledge of starting businesses, they want to pass on the knowledge of being a better human.  Skills are important, of course.  They are the tools that can help us reach our goals.  It’s just that our goals should be more others-oriented than self-oriented.  The goal should be to make the world a better place, not to start a business, but starting a business may be a valid method of achieving the goal.

I just read The Ultimate Gift, by Jim Stovall.  In it, a wealthy cattle-baron has just passed away and in his will he lays out a plan of action for developing strong character qualities in his grand-nephew.  The nephew isn’t excited about the plan, but as the book progresses he becomes a better person as he submits himself to his uncle’s plan.  The uncle has the nephew perform twelve month-long tasks, each task teaching him a new, and highly valuable, quality.  The nephew learns lessons about work, money, friends, and the thirst for knowledge, to name a few.  By the end of the year, the nephew has become a new person, having been transformed by the hard lessons he has learned.  Because he has learned all these lessons, he earns the ultimate gift, control of a $1 billion charitable trust.

Here’s the thing, I don’t have a $1 billion trust to leave my progeny.  And even if I did, I’m a long way from leaving it to them in a will.  But I desperately desire my offspring to understand and internalize all these lessons just like the nephew in the book.  How do I instill a strong work ethic in my children?  How do I get them to crave spending time with people and giving themselves away?  How do I instill any of these desirable character traits?

December 30, 2007

choosing stocks

Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged , , at 8:47 pm by weiszguy

There are thousands of publicly traded companies.  If you want to get into stock market investing, or if you’re looking to improve your performance in the stock market, how do you know which stocks to buy?  Any one stock has dozens of indicators that each tell you a little piece of how that company is doing.  Over the decades many theories of investing have been put forward in an attempt to make sense of all the stock market data that is available.  One particular theory that makes a lot of sense to me is value investing, which looks for stocks that are currently trading for less than the value they should have.

The Little Book that Beats the Market, by Joel Greenblatt, attempts to make value investing extremely easy by turning certain measures of a stock’s performance into a formula.  The book lays out the formula by which any investor can find good companies that are priced low.  In order to find good companies, we look at the stock’s earnings.  The formula lists all stocks in order of earnings, assigning a numerical rank to each one.  In order to find companies that are priced low, we look at a stock’s price-to-earnings ratio.  A lower ratio indicates a better bargain.  The formula again lists all stocks in order of price-to-earnings ratio, assigning a numerical rank to each one.  The formula then adds the two rankings of all the stocks and lists them in a master ranking.  Those with the lowest ranking are the best companies at the lowest price.

There are of course, many, many other measures of a stock’s performance.  And companies with star power, like Microsoft or Coca-Cola, won’t be found on this list.  But sometimes having too many things to look at prevents us from taking any action at all, and narrowing our field down to earnings and price-to-earnings ratio can help to focus on the things that really matter.

This article originally appeared in the December 26, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

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