Investing is soooooo boring, zzz…

Man, do I hear this a lot.  If you aren’t a numbers person, or just don’t give a hoot about finances, well, I have some very tough news for you: You’re going to have to care, because your livelihood depends on it.

You see, we live in a world that has an economy.  Economies work by the exchanging of goods and services for other goods and services.  Those goods and services cost money to make or offer. Time is money… yada yada  All basic stuff, right?  Economics 101.  The problem is, this bores most people.  Most people want to sing and dance and climb mountains and play guitar and ride motorcycles… at least that’s what I want to do.  I used to only think about money when I needed it the most.  Now that I have a nice cushy job, I don’t worry about my income source. I’m very fortunate to have this job, however, I realize my job may not last forever, so I need to continue to keep my skill set up to date.  I also realize that every hour I am working at my job, I’m trading my life energy for monetary compensation.  This is outlined in a book called ‘Your Money or Your Life” Like most financial bloggers and finance people in general, they will tell you that this book changed their lives.  You’ll need to go buy a used copy or better yet, borrow that book from your local library or through Amazon’s book lending service, or even Open Library.

So now that you understand the very basic concept of trading your time (and skillz) for money, you need to figure out how to use that money.  Will you buy a $4 Starbucks orange mocca cappuccino every day, and a meal at a fast food restaurant cause you didn’t want to brown bag it at work, or spend $50 a weekend at the pub?  It adds up.  If you aren’t consciously adding it up yourself, you’ll quickly find that your debit card is on fire with all the swipes.  Ouch. You worked hard to earn that money! Does it add that much more value and opportunity to your life when you buy all these consumables? Think hard about that, and what sacrifices you can make each day with your spending habits.  You’ll be surprised at how it adds up. You will be smiling ear to ear when you see how big your bank account is.  You won’t stress over money and beams of light will coming shooting from your smile. Now that you’ve saved so much money, what the heck are you going to do next with this hard earned cash?  What I’m about to tell you, may change your life.

Investing.  Each dollar bill that comes into your life is either spent, saved, or invested.  If you spend the money, you will need to work to gain more money.  If you save the money, you will have to work less, because you can live off the saved money.  If you invest the money, you will never have to work again (if you don’t want to), because that money is now making money for you.  That’s it.  That’s what investing is.  Your money, makes money for you.  You maybe saying “You’ve caught my attention Mr. Penny Wiser, and I just got a little excited about investing. Now how to I start investing?”

There is good investing, and there is bad investing.  Most people will agree with me that good investing is contributing to low-fee index funds in your 401k, 403b, SEP-IRA, Simple IRA, target retirement plans in your RothIRA, and low-fee index funds in taxable accounts. If I’ve already lost you, you should google/wikipedia each of these items.  These are all retirement plans.  If you are not saving for retirement and think retirement  will just happen magically, you will be in for a rude awakening and may risk having to eat cat food when you are older. Ok, I exaggerate a little when I say you’ll eat cat food, but what I really mean is, you don’t want to work until you are 65-70. Bad investing is incredibly easy to do, and it includes buying funds in your retirement plan that have high fees (also known as expense ratios), picking individual stocks, letting financial advisers gamble with your money, buying too many stocks and not enough bonds, the list goes on. When it comes to making money on investments, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If some financial adviser is telling you they can guarantee a return of 10%+ every year on your investments guaranteed, they are lying to you and are no better than used car salesmen who try to milk you for what you are worth. You should be averaging a return of 7% annually on your investments every year (which includes 3% inflation) over the long-term. Some years your investments will return -10%, some years they will return +20%.  These should average out to 7% if you purchase index funds that mirror average market returns. The key to good investing is buying and holding the shares.  Do not panic when the market crashes, just don’t go peeking into your investments.  Let time and the economy heal itself. If you don’t have a retirement plan at your work (401k, 403b), then you should call Vanguard yesterday and open a free account for a RothIRA.  For the year 2013 and 2014 you can contribute a max of $5500 to your RothIRA.  Make it a goal to try to max this out each year.  If you are only earning $20k a year and find this impossible, just remember, the money you invest now will pay you more money later.  Think of it as creating your own employer that you will be able to get money for free from in the future.  Remember, you have to start somewhere, regardless of how small the amount is.  Invest early and invest often. Don’t get frustrated and compare yourself to your peers if they share how much money they are making or investing.


I hope this simple post got you a little excited about investing.  I know I get excited knowing that the money I invest is making money for me while I sleep.  All without me having to do anything.  If you have any questions or need any advice, please feel free to chime in the comment section.



What’s your outlook on life?  Are you someone who always sees the glass half empty or half full?  Research has shown how kick-ass life can be in the shoes of an optimist. But that’s not to say people who are pessimistic are going about their lives in the wrong way; they just see life through a different lens. For example, pessimists maybe more in-tune with their surroundings and bodies and will be able to sense if something is wrong, whereas this may fly over an optimist’s head.  “The optimist needs the caution of the pessimist, and the pessimist needs the drive of the optimist. For well-balanced health, the middle road is the ideal way to go.”

So what the hell does this post have to do with ‘Cattitude’ and a picture of the famous Grumpy Cat? Your attitude in life determines your outcome.  It’s as simple as that. I think of people who have a bad or defeatist attitudes as having ‘cattitudes.’ I’ve never been a cat person.  I think they are bi-polar creatures that want what they want, when they want it. There’s no middle ground for cats from what I can tell, it’s either on or off. I’m sure cat lovers will tell me I’m horribly wrong and cats are wonderful creatures.  I think cats can provide a lot of value and fulfillment to peoples lives, they are just too temperamental for me.   Dogs on the other hand, are incredible, sometimes stupid, but loyal, friendly, and always by your side.  If we were to anthropomorphize cats and dogs, cats would be pessimists and dogs would be optimists.


If you are always seeing the negative in life or complaining, opportunity is not going to come knock at your door.  It may also mean that you are first in line to get the kick to the curb if your employer decides to lay people off.  That’s not to say the workplace should be filled with optimists.  It could be extremely annoying to be around people who smile all day long.  Hell, I’m an optimist, but I don’t smile every chance I get. Entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature because they understand they have to pave their own way and tune out the noise and naysayers who say they can’t succeed.  Even Bill Gates describes himself as an ‘Impatient Optimist.’

So how does this relate to money?  Your level of cattitude may very well determine your pay scale, whether or not you can secure a job, and whether or not you will keep your job.  It will also determine how you budget and plan for a future of financial independence.  If you say to yourself “Penny Wiser, there’s no way I can become FI in 10 or even 20 years! You are full of shit and too idealistic!” well then, it may very well not happen for you. Your level of cattitude is just too damn high. The shockingly simple math behind financial independence probably will surprise you, just as it did me when I ran my own numbers. If you hate math but want to FI because your job sucks or you have bigger dreams for your life that may or may not involve employment, then you may need to find a friend that will sit down with you and run the numbers.   There can be many factors you can and cannot control that determine your ability to become FI, such as the job market, your pay grade, your education/skill level, and your ability to save/budget. If you work a minimum wage job, it may take a lot longer for you to become FI than if you were making 80k per year, but you can still become FI.  You must remember that at the end of the day, you are the only person responsible for your own life.  If you don’t like to think about budgets and spend however you damn well please, well be prepared to work a 9-5 until you’re 65 unless you have a windfall such as an inheritance or win the lottery.  I don’t need to tell you what your odds of that happening are.  Maybe you are OK with a 9-5 until you are 65 because you enjoy your work so much. Maybe you are so good at your job that you can bounce between employers over the years to remain happy.  FI is about having options, whether or not you are employed.  I encourage you to listen to a fantastic interview between Mad Fientist and Jlcollinsnh about FI and how this pursuit is well worth your time. You can listen here.

I’ll begin to dive more into the actual numbers and how FI is achievable in future posts. Do you think FI is up your alley, or are you OK to work for an employer (or for yourself) for the majority of your adult life years? Chime in the comments below.

Frugality, schmugality

Frugal. Fruuuugal. What a fun word to say!  It almost sounds like you are speaking a Scandinavian language when you say it aloud. I can hear in my head the Swedish chef stating something along the lines of “borge booorga froogal noodles!”


While as fun as it is to say the word, it is not quite so fun for some people to practice frugality or even understand its true meaning or origins. One of the most misunderstood words in personal finance is the word ‘frugal.’ Let’s set the record straight with a simple Google search.

adjective: frugal
sparing or economical with regard to money or food.
“he led a remarkably frugal existence”
synonyms: thrifty, economical, careful, cautious, prudent, provident, unwasteful, sparing, scrimping; More

And according to Wiki: In behavioral science, frugality has been defined as the tendency to acquire goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourceful use of already owned economic goods and services, to achieve a longer term goal.[5]

So what this means is a person who is frugal is living a lifestyle with intent, purpose, and discipline in regards to their consumption. This doesn’t just apply to money, this applies to all inefficient areas of one’s life that can be made more efficient.  The frugal individual makes a conscious effort to determine how much value a good/service they purchase will add to their lives and those around them.  While some people may understand the true meaning of the word, others may turn their noses up and think frugal means cheap. I would be willing to put money on the table that if you asked your grandparents what frugal meant and what your friends think frugal meant, you would receive very different answers.  Frugal does not mean cheap.  Nada, nope, not a chance. An individual who is cheap is usually referred to as someone who places a higher value on hoarding their money for themselves, rather than spending on another person(s). People who are cheap are selfish and non-charitable, for whatever reason they justify in their own heads. People that try to save money for themselves at the expense of someone else receiving money for their good or service. The most classic example: People that don’t tip their waiters/waitresses at restaurants are cheap.

I started my second blog post with the topic of frugality because of how important it is to understand what currency and money is.  If you don’t understand the role money plays in your life, then it may very well spiral out of control.  Frugality and money should be taught at an early age, so children have a firm understanding of how this currency comes and goes in our lives.  In some households, children are given an allowance either for work they performed or work they didn’t do at all.  If I could meet any parents that gave an allowance to their children without requiring them to work, I would grab their hand and slap it.  Those parents have successfully trained their children to think entitlements are OK.  They will begin living the rest of their lives thinking that money should be given to them. Not a great way to build a society, huh? Fortunately, I was raised in a household where I received my weekly allowance for the chores that I did.  Thanks Mom and Dad.  I began to understand the value behind the currency.  If I use my body to perform these tasks for these adults, I will receive a piece of paper  or two that allows me to go by toys! Toys are all children think about.  What children don’t think about, is that it is not the toy that provides the happiness, it’s their imagination that lives vicariously through that toy.  I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about children getting all of these elaborate Christmas presents from their parents, only for their parents to find out the children are playing with the boxes that the toys came in.  This is the power of the imagination and this doesn’t cost any money!  I’m not saying you should just go get your kid a cardboard box for Christmas, however, what I’m trying to get at is that money used for material items provides a temporary high, only to go away shortly. Once a child understands how to use money, they are ready for the real world that involve real transactions.  They will understand that debt is bad and it means you have to work even harder to pay back the person/institution that loaned the money PLUS interest.  A lot of adults don’t even understand this concept.


Let’s talk about frugality in history.  Benjamin Franklin, the man, the myth, the legend.  He’s on every $100 that has come into and left your hands in your life. This man knew the value of money and the hard work it took to earn it.  He reminds us that spending money on material possessions will only bring us temporary pleasure. “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and triples that want another way.”  This was a common theme with the Puritans as well as guiding principles of the Amish. Lifestyles before the industrial revolution were very humble, simplistic, and non-materialistic.  People were able to live their lives on very little and still able to achieve happy lives.  If you have ever traveled to 3rd world countries, you will also notice people tend to be incredible warm, happy, and giving of their time and little money that they have.  It is not to say these people don’t endure hardships, death or loss, rather these people are able to enjoy the simplicity of life through love, laughter, and relationships.

I'd get coffee with this guy.

I’d get coffee with this guy.

While frugality is an admirable quality that every sensible human being should strive for, there can be frugal overdrive.  How do you know you are in frugal overdrive (F.O.)?  For starters, if you are denying yourself meals to meet your monthly budget or driving your car until the tires look like this then you have gone F.O. It’s not healthy for you and it is not healthy for your loved ones and friends.  Being F.O. only hinders your quality of life and is not sustainable.

I encourage you to think more about what frugal means to you and how it applies to your life.  Are you frugal, a spendthrift, or somewhere in between?  Think about things that you can begin cutting out of your life, and determine if those sacrifices decrease your quality of life and happiness.  If it makes you unhappy, then don’t do it.  If you realize you are still happy while you begin to cut things out of your life, then you are becoming more frugal, and saving your money for more important things in your life.  Always remember to be penny wise and never pound foolish, meaning, don’t save all of your money only to spend it all at once.  I’ll talk about the many ways you can save, invest, and eventually give away this money in future posts, so stay tuned!

So it begins…

A journey must start somewhere and at sometime, whether you are young or old. This blog is a means to help put into writing my personal life/thoughts/views and how it relates to my financial life, all the ups, downs and  in-betweens. I’m hoping to use this blog as a means to develop my writing style as I’ve never touted myself to be a great writer. Fear not, you’ll get to make fun of me in the comments. 🙂 I hope that readers of this blog will help me along the way by offering their advice and personal stories as well as other bloggers welcoming me into their community.

Make no mistakes, at its core this blog will be about money. Other areas of discussion will include family/friends/relationships, lifestyle choices, values, consumerism/anti-consumerism, work, hobbies, etc.  Money, whatever it means to you, is a part of our lives. We earn it, spend it, keep it, crave it… sounds like a Daft Punk song? You get the idea.  For some of us, it consumes our thoughts from the moment we awake, for better or for worse. Money maybe something you have never had problems with, or money maybe something you’ve always had problems with.  Money maybe something you have too much of (please shoot me an email, I’d be happy to assist you with that problem), or it maybe something you can never quite accumulate enough of.  Whatever your relationship is with money, there is always room for improvement, as with many other areas of our lives.  I’d like to give a personal disclaimer and mantra that money should never control your life, rather, you should be in control of your money.  It takes discipline and hard work, but the rewards are huge in the short and long term.  Money is a powerful force that can make good or make bad in your relationships, marriage, and your well-being in general.  If you learn to control how money comes and goes in your life, you will find that other areas of your life will improve for the better.  You also will begin to see that money spending and saving habits will become an auto-pilot feature in your life, lending you more time to invest in your loved ones and your personal hobbies and interests. I’m simply writing this blog as a means to share my journey with friends and internet strangers, hoping for encouragement and conversation along the way. I hope you can become penny wiser, not just by reading this blog and my musings, but by investing in knowledge for your own financial journey that will reward you tenfold as the years go by.

Another intent of this blog is to track my personal goal of becoming F.I., or, financially independent.  Sounds pretty fancy, huh?  Well, it is pretty fancy, and what this essentially means is that you no longer rely on an employer for income, rather, you rely on what you have already paid yourself through your savings and investments. Mark my words, everyone becomes financially independent at some point in their lives.  If your parents or grandparents have retired, they are financially independent.  Their income stream comes from a pension, investments, social security or a windfall. There are countless books and blogs on FI, reaching FI, and even a subreddit for FI. At first glance, FI may seem like a daunting task, but when it boils down to it, it’s about discipline. It’s about saving your money now, so you can use it in a mindful manner tomorrow.  Remember the old saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned?” That remains true today, even in 2013. The purpose of FI is not to just quit the job either you like or dislike, but it’s about having options in your life.  It’s not about retiring early, sitting on your ass on a beach somewhere.  That sounds extremely boring to me and I think my brain would atrophy into Jell-O if I did that for more than a day or two.  FI allows you to do whatever you dreamed of in life all the way from when you were a little squirt until your current age.  You can pursue your art, music, reading comics, building a house, volunteering for charities, travel the world… the list goes on and on. You do this all without having to worry about money, layoffs, downsizing, a recession.  Now some people may say, “Well, I happen to love my job! Why would I ever want to retire?  I’d prefer to continue my job and spend my money in the present however I damn well please!” By all means, do what makes you happy.  That’s what all of this is about.  Achieving personal happiness, whether that’s through your work, or through building a tower out of 1.6 million matches. Do what makes you happy in life! As long as you aren’t hurting or being mean in the process.

There’s a small but growing movement among young people to ditch the idea of over spending and buying needless shit that fills our homes and complicates our lives, relationships and marriages. I can see it in Atlanta where I live – people wanting to move into the city into smaller homes and acquire less possessions, investing in their community and personal experiences through travel. People don’t want to waste their lives in an hour long commute – that’s an hour or two of their lives they will never get back, not to mention to hair-pulling traffic one must deal with.  I like to think of this as history repeating itself; a small but powerful few of our generation idealizing our grandparents who had few possessions during war times but prospered in their happiness and their relationships. Our grandparents also stuck to their marriages through thick and thin because they believed in many guiding values and principles that many couples don’t agree on today. As you probably already know, finances and children are the number one cause for divorce.  There are other factors such as religion, career, etc, but money and kids are the most important.  I hope to dive into these topics in more detail in future posts.

Time and time again, studies have shown that material possessions does not make one happier; happiness comes from life experiences, positive relationships with family and friends, and most importantly, love. Don’t believe me? Read for yourself.  The best things in life are free, and this ideology has stood the test of time.

I also encourage you to read and subscribe to all the blogs on the right side of this blog.  These guys/gals have been tremendously influential in my decision to become a super saver/investor.  Their humor and real life stories are priceless, and the fact they are offering their advice for free is invaluable.

So what’s your relationship with money?  Good, bad, neutral?  Feel free to chime in below in the comment section. I do ask for a civil, yet lively conversation.  I will exercise my authority as owner of this blog by deleting any comments  that are mean or hateful.  Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle