House-Sitting – The Ultimate Side Hustle

It’s the middle of the week sometime in mid-February and we’re halfway through another invigorating house-sitting session.  Yup, we’ve recently stumbled upon the Holy Grail of perfect side gigs.  House-sitting checks off all the boxes that are important to us: Potential for inconvenient locales, waking up to momentary terror upon realizing you’re not in your own bed, picking up dog poop, and possibly getting $25/day.

That’s right, this cash cow is paying us a whopping $25/day, assuming the people we’re house sitting for remember to leave us cash.  So far we are 1 for 2 in terms of actually getting paid but when you’re making margins like this it still pays to play the game.  Usually you house sit for people you know so if they don’t remember to pay you it’s kind of awkward to have to rough them up. We’re navigating these waters but we’re no experts, yet.

If you’re thinking you might just weasel your way in and undercut us by offering our clients your services for only $20/day you’re in for a real day of disappointment because we aren’t in the business of giving out our clients contact information. Partly, we keep our clients close to the vest for privacy reasons, but also because we want this sweet bread for ourselves.

Side Note: This $25/day means you’re not just getting paid for the time you’re actually in the house.  You’re getting paid ‘ROUND THE DAMN CLOCK. You’re not just making $1.0416/hr when you’re cleaning up dog poop but you’re making that in the middle of the night and while you’re at work! If the dog pees on the bed while you’re sleeping?  Hey, you’re getting paid anyway.  If the dog doesn’t pee on the bed and you get a semi-ok night of sleeping in someone else’s home? Boom, still paid.  It’s what we call a win-win situation.

If you want to get into this action yourself here’s the steps:

1) Find a person, preferably one you know, who has a house.

2) Wait for them to go on a trip.

3) Sit in their house while they’re gone and feed their pet.

4) Collect that money.

Now, there are several stipulations.  First of all, they have to invite you to sit in their house.  You can’t just show up while they’re gone.  Second, they have to be going on a trip.  You can’t just knock on their door and tell them to be gone by morning and also leave you some cash.  People frown on this type of hardball when it comes to house-sitting.  Third, they probably have to have a pet.  Most people won’t pay you to sit in their empty house, but try to find this type of client if possible.  Usually you have to feed a dog and pet it.  This is where the work comes in.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself knowing that even while I type this I’m earning slightly more than 1 U.S. cent for every minute that passes.  Granted I’m really earning slightly more than 1/2 U.S. cent for every minute, because my wife gets the other 1/2 cent, but we share our finances so I basically am getting rich just sitting here.

Our new side empire is going to come in real handy for us since we’ve recently watched our overall portfolio fall by more than $25,000 since the start of February.  I’m not even worried about that because I’ve currently got a faucet that slowly drips and endless stream of pennies.  I go to work with my glass empty and when I get home it’s nearly half full, of pennies.

If you’d like to get in on the house sitting bandwagon I wish you all the best and I’m here to answer any questions you may have. That is unless you’re in Portland, this market’s taken.

 

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The Power of Tracking…A Personal Capital Story

For the life of me I can’t figure out why people aren’t excited about investing money.  I know, right?  It seems like a no brainer.  But similar to some people not enjoying a fun swing at the park, some people don’t get any joy out of saving and investing their hard-earned money.

One reason, I believe, is because they aren’t tracking their investments.  They have money in their checking account that they can physically see and they may throw a few dollars into their savings account but it’s pretty much just a checking account so why bother?  What these people are missing is a way to easily track their investments.

Enter: Personal Capital. (Or Mint, or any other number of online account trackers.  We use Personal Capital as it seems to be the most thorough and has fun graphs to look at.)

With Personal Capital you can track all your expenses, income, investments and cash.  You can easily see exactly where you stand financially, as well as where you were at any given point along the way.  I think one reason people don’t like investing is because they don’t physically see where that money goes so it feels like throwing money away with the hopes of getting slightly more money in return thirty years down the line.  That’s a tough sell.

I remember when I got promoted to store manager and started making a salary for the first time.  I was making $40,000/year, which to someone used to making $12/hr, $40,000 felt like an exorbitant amount.   I’ve always been a saver at heart but when I got my first few paychecks and could pay my end of rent and groceries I had no idea what to do with the remaining money.

“What things should I buy?” was the question I asked myself.  It’s not that I wanted a bunch of nick-knacks that I previously had been unable to grab a hold of, I just didn’t know what to do with the extra few hundred dollars I had.

It wasn’t until several years later that I started dating my eventual wife, and we got to the point where we combined finances, that we both started specifically saving our money.  We had listened to a few financial podcasts that talked about the glories of finance trackers like Mint and later Personal Capital.  I’m not big on technology or adding things to my life so I didn’t think much of them.  Luckily my wife is better at that sort of thing.  She set us up with Mint first and later Personal Capital.

I don’t use Mint anymore because Personal Capital seems to be a little more in-depth.  But either one is great.  I think my wife still used both, but you only really need one.  Basically you just input your bank information, investment accounts etc. so that you can see all of your financial comings and goings in one easy to use app.  Set up is a bit of a pain but once you’re done you just have to go to one place to see your entire net worth.

The power of this is now when we invest our money into our 401K or IRA or even an after tax account we physically see our net worth going up.  It doesn’t feel like we’re just throwing money out the window with the hopes of seeing a few more dollars in thirty or so years.  We can watch our money grow in front of our eyes.

Over the last few years we’ve been pleasantly surprised how our money continues to climb, even when we aren’t able to contribute more.  Sometimes it feels like we aren’t making any progress but then we can look back and see where we were in say September of 2017 and we’re blown away at the progress we’ve made.  This motivates us to add more fuel to the fire, so to speak.

Granted we’ve been enjoying one of the biggest bull markets in history so we are well aware that we’ll see the day where we have to watch our net worth decrease instead of increase.  When those days come, instead of panicking, we plan to double down and invest even more because, hey, stocks are on sale! This is the theory anyway.  It’s one thing to have a plan of attack when the bear market comes, it’s another thing to actually stick to the plan.

If we weren’t tracking our investments we’d have probably given up long ago.  At the very least we would have decreased the amount we were contributing and instead opted to buy things that sound fun now.  Being able to see the power of compounding interest at work is, at least for me, motivating enough to keep me saving.

It doesn’t matter where you are financially, I recommend getting Personal Capital or some other wealth tracker.  Many people are so far in debt that they prefer to not even know their exact numbers.  This is nonsense.  Your net worth is the same whether you track it or not so by just ignoring the reality you aren’t helping yourself.  It’s like having a fire in your house and just closing the door to that room.  Eventually your whole house is going to burn down if you just ignore the fire.   At least if you track your wealth you can start to make a plan to get yourself out of the hole you’re in.

Eliminating debt and building wealth is like a snowball.  It starts small with insignificant contributions.  It feels like there’s no point in having $300 in your 401K or paying off $300 of debt when you can instead buy a guitar or some new furniture or do some retail therapy, but if you keep at it you’ll find that number climbing faster than you can add to it.

The other benefit of tracking your finances is seeing how much seemingly insignificant decisions add up.  Whether you contribute a few dollars to an investment account or whether you spend a few dollars on things that don’t add to your overall happiness.  Just because you ignore it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.  Having an app that tracks your spending can be a real eye-opener because it lays out exactly how much you’ve spent on entertainment or dining out or what have you.  It can be a punch to the gut but a necessary punch if you want to get your finances on track.  If you find you’re spending $400/month on drinks at the bar you’re more likely to go less often than if you mindlessly spend $30 here and $30 there.

People get the wrong idea about my views on money.  I’m not at all against spending money on things that add value to your life.  If you love horses, by all means, spend your extra money on horses.  If you like guitars, buy yourself a guitar, or two. Just don’t buy ten guitars that essentially do the same thing if you’re one of those people who complain that you don’t have enough money to invest.  The rule of diminishing returns is always in play.  If you like guitars the first nice one you buy is probably going to bring you a lot of joy.  If you keep buying more the added joy is less and less.

Key Takeaway:  Get yourself the Personal Capital app and track your spending and investments.  It’s free and it only takes a few minutes to set everything up.  You’re in charge of driving your own financial car.  At least click on the map to see where you’re going.  Personal Capital is your map.

disclaimer: For some reason I get no money or collectible trading cards for talking about the benefits of Personal Capital.  I just think it’s a great, free, product that can help people make a better life for themselves.  

Payroll Taxes for an LLC Taxed as an S-Corp…wait come back

If you need to take a minute to fan yourself off and slow your heart rate after reading that riveting title, I don’t blame you.  Taxes are sexy AF and none more titillating than payroll taxes.  I have an announcement:  I have recently filed my payroll taxes for 2017.  Please, please sit, you’re far too kind.  Why is everyone clapping so vigorously? Really it’s nothing. Well, ok. One more round of applause won’t hurt.

Ahem. Having an LLC taxed as an S-Corp has given me many opportunities to file various tax forms and even more opportunities to say things like ‘Wait, what?’ when my tax lady informs me of all the forms that need be filled. Sue is her name, in case you thought I was making her up.

Going forward I plan on doing my own taxes, but being as this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of paying both employee and employer side of things, I figured I should let a professional guide the way.

Some of the basics of my tax situation are this:

I’m the proud owner of a consulting business.  It’s an LLC and I am the company’s only employee. Since the inception of the business in June, the business has earned roughly $30,000 of which I paid myself roughly $12,000, and was graciously given $18,000 via distributions.  This should put me semi-safely in what is known as “reasonable compensation” level.  A good rule of thumb for avoiding the curious eyes of the IRS is to pay yourself half in salary and half in distributions.  I’ve never been good at rules, or math,  so I’m paying myself slightly less than half but my tax lady, again Sue, says it’s still within safe harbor so, fingers crossed.

I have to pay myself a “reasonable amount” because I only have to pay the 15.3% FICA tax on my salary, not on any distributions.  The distributions are still subject to state and federal taxes but they avoid that initial 15.3% whammy.  The IRS made a stipulation that you have to pay yourself a reasonable amount because otherwise everyone with an S-Corp would pay themselves $0 and take their full earnings as a distribution. Again, salary gets hit with a 15.3% tax whereas a distribution does not.

As an employee and employer of my LLC, I am fortunate enough to pay the FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tax for both employee and employer.  I also don’t have to deal with office-related drama nearly as often as companies with more than one employee, although oddly enough I’m not completely immune.  This FICA tax comes out to 15.3%, total; 7.65% is from employee and 7.65% is from employer.  Those are broken down as 6.2% per side for Social Security and 2.45% for Medicare. Once you earn above $128,400 you no longer have to pay the Social Security portion of the FICA tax but you’re still on the hook for the 2.9% Medicare tax.  If you earn more than $200,000 you’re hit with an additional .9% Medicare tax.  I haven’t worried too much about this additional Medicare tax in a similar way that I haven’t worried how many pounds per square inch of force would be exuded on my eyeballs if I found myself 1500 meters below the surface of the ocean.  Both of these have answers but neither applies to me.

Additionally I had the pleasure of paying the FUTA (Federal Unemployment Tax Act) tax.  FUTA tax is paid by the employer and comes out to a max of 6% of the first $7,000 you pay an employee, or $420.  However, you can receive a tax credit of up to 5.4% if you sweet talk the government, or if you know you can receive a tax credit and fulfill the stipulations like filing your quarterly taxes on time.  This puts the minimum FUTA tax you can pay at $42, assuming you paid an employee $7,000 or more.

If you’re a swell guy, then you have quarterly FUTA tax liabilities which you need to make deposits on by the 31st of the month following the end of the quarter.  For example: Quarter one ends March 31st, you need to pay the FUTA tax by April 31st.  At the end of the year you file Form 940.  I put a hyper-link over “Form 940” because bloggers do this.  If you’re mad enough to click on the link to see a tax form then we have little in common.  Still, I wanted you to have the option.

If I was a plain LLC taxed as an LLC I would have to pay 15.3% on the roughly $30k to this FICA tax which would amount to $4590.  Because I’m an LLC taxed as an S-Corp and I paid myself a reasonable wage of $2000/month my FICA tax came out to $1836 saving me $2754 in taxes right off the bat.

The remaining $18,000 my company earned is still subject to Federal and State taxes but avoids the FICA tax.  The downside is if I kept this up for the next thirty years, I would get payments based on earning $12,000 not $30,000 once I reach Social Security age.

I should be getting my W-2 from my previous employer in the next few days.  At that point I’ll get my taxes done for the year.  I’m curious to find out the total I will end up paying in taxes after maxing out my solo 401K as well as my IRA.  My main point of curiosity is if it was worth the tax savings to have so much tied up in pre-tax accounts.  It may have been smarter for me to not contribute quite as much to pre-tax accounts and instead fund my after tax accounts since my tax bracket is already pretty low.  We will find out.  There has to be a logical tipping point where it’s wise to just take the taxes out vs. saving them in pre-tax accounts.  My wife and I are filing jointly so that adds a wrinkle into the mix.

I will do another post once I get the final tally in.  I mean, I’ll do other posts in general but specifically I will do another tax related post once I get the final tally in.  I’m not going on hiatus or anything.

My tax lady’s name is Sue, by the way.

Wealth Through Less

What makes someone wealthy?  Speaking in terms of dollar dollar bills a wealthy person seems to be someone who earns substantially more than us, no matter how much we earn.  When I was younger I thought a wealthy person was someone who earns six figures.  If you ask someone who currently earns low six figures, they probably don’t feel wealthy.  Once you earn six figures that starts to just feel average and wealthy is someone who earns high six figures, or even seven figures.

This can go on and on indefinitely.  Players in the NFL who earn $12 million a year may not feel wealthy because Tom Brady earns $30 million.  Tom Brady can look at Floyd Mayweather, who earns $100 million for one boxing match, and not feel wealthy. Floyd Mayweather can look at any number of successful businessmen and women who earn in the billions and not feel wealthy.

It doesn’t really matter how much money you earn, wealthy will often times feel just out of reach.  Granted if you ask most multimillionaires if they are wealthy my guess is they would say yes, but if you asked if they are satisfied with their wealth I’m guessing far fewer would say yes to that.

If we’re always looking up at someone who is even wealthier than us, we’ll never be content with what we have.  Have you heard the statistics that if you earn more than $32,400/year then you’re in the top 1% of worldwide earners?  That doesn’t feel wealthy, but to most of the world it is.

It doesn’t matter if we earn $30,000/year or $30 million per year, if our desires outpace our income then we’ll always be left needing more.  It’s good to look ahead and use someone more successful than yourself as a goal to reach, a reason to stay motivated. The important part is to check in and ask if you’re happy along the way.  If you aren’t happy it’s really important to spend some time asking why.

Lately I’ve been practicing being more content with the things I have.  I want a nicer electric guitar.  I want a nicer vehicle.  I want to take nicer vacations.  Sometimes I even want to live not above a garage.  These aren’t bad in of themselves but if you aren’t satisfied with what you have, you won’t be satisfied with the next purchase either.  If I chose to spend my money on a $60,000 car I would feel happy for a while.  But eventually I would start looking at $90,000 cars and wishing my stupid $60,000 car could do all the things the $90,000 car could do.  As it is now I am completely content with my $5000 car.  To me, a $60,000 car sounds stressful.  As it is I would only be mildly annoyed if someone were to pee right on my car in broad daylight.  If my car was fancy I would just be really put off by such a behavior.  For many people the thought of “If I just had a nicer car, then I would finally be content,” is hard to shake.

We know that’s a lie.  I mean, if you didn’t know, well, it’s a lie.  Now you know.  Having things will never bring lasting happiness. Unless that thing is an in-home masseuse.  I assume that brings lasting happiness.  Assuming you don’t have an in-home 24/7 massage therapist it’s important to practice being content.  In the long run, practicing being content will get you miles further down the road to happiness than any amount of shiny, new, expensive toys.

That’s not to say all expensive purchases are bad.  But we just need to be smart about what we choose to actually pull the trigger on.  When I was fifteen, and just a real dummy, I spent an entire summer working for this guy who harvested rocks from mountains.  It was a terrible job.  I would wake up at 5:00am and drive an hour and a half into the mountains and get paid around $9/hr to bust my ass all day.  It was miserable.  At the end of the summer I bought a $2000 Taylor 412ce acoustic electric guitar. It was and is beautiful.  I still have that guitar today.  It was a great purchase for me, although I would have preferred an easier method of earning that money.  Looking back I probably should have invested it but at the time I thought buying that guitar made the most sense.  Either way, I’m happy I didn’t blow the money on something dumb that I didn’t truly value.  That guitar still brings me joy long after the hardships of that job are gone.

Now, I constantly see really cool acoustic guitars that I want to own.  If I allowed my urges to get the better of me and gave in and bought a few of them I wouldn’t be nearly as happy with them as I am with my original nice guitar.  The law of diminishing returns basically says the first guitar will bring me the most joy.  Each additional guitar brings less and less joy until eventually I’d hardly get a ping of excitement.  Unfortunately, each additional guitar still costs just as much or more than the first one that brought me all that lasting joy.

If we constantly want bigger, shinier, more, than we won’t ever feel wealthy.  If we practice being content and thankful for everything we may not always feel wealthy, but we won’t feel like we’re lacking.

They say happiness increases with income up until about $75,000/year.  After that the additional money doesn’t buy you anything that will make you happier in the long run.  I don’t know who they are, and to be honest I don’t trust these “They” people.  But I think they’re on to something here.

If you have enough money to buy basically whatever food you want, a reasonable shelter, and have loved ones in your life to share the days with and you’re still not content you need to start doing some Wim Hof breathing, like right now.

You don’t always have to be bubbly happy but practice being content.  Reach to earn more so that you can buy more freedom to enjoy life, not more stuff.

The things you own end up owning you.

-Tyler Durden

Be content with less and use your money to buy back your time.

Amen.

Single-Car Blues

My wife and I have shared one car for almost an entire year.  It’s been pretty easy, I like it.  Sure I have to wake up at 5:30am in order to make coffee and get my mind-brain going so that I can drop her off at work at 7am.  I’m never sure where that hour and a half goes but I think there is a snooze button in there somewhere and it takes about 20 minutes for me to drive her to work. We also sit in bed and have coffee for about 20 minutes. I guess the time makes sense.  After I drop her off I come back home and get ready for my job. Hours pass, like they do, and I find myself picking her back up from work.

We do this four days per week. Now that I think about it it really isn’t all that easy or convenient, but we do it.  We do it partly because we don’t really have room for a second car at our apartment but mostly we do it because we don’t want to pay for things on two cars.

Our car is a 2009 Honda Fit with a reconstructed title.  It’s not fancy and looks even less fancy than most Honda Fits when it’s filled to the brim with my various construction tools.  I get a small amount of joy every time I pull up to the construction site with my Mario Kart inspired periwinkle chick magnet. If only I had this ride back in my single days. At work I’m constantly surrounded by enormous trucks, each bigger than the last.  My car usually goes up to about their bumpers.

They say things like “Nice go-kart.  Do they make it for boys?” and I say things like “You need to be done installing millwork by Friday.”  It’s a fun relationship we have.  I don’t mind being lightly teased for my car choice because I know my paychecks are going to things like retirement accounts and their paychecks are going to things like paying for their huge truck.

The older I get the less embarrassed I am for doing things differently than most people. Partly I’m less embarrassed because I’m becoming more like my father.  He loves to embarrass himself with his outfit choices while simultaneously being the only one in the room not even slightly embarrassed by the way he wears his pants.  I’m starting to see the allure in this mode of thinking.  The other reason I don’t mind being different than most people is because most people are morons, especially in the construction industry.

My wife has it easier because she’s a nurse and nurses tend to be surrounded by coworkers who are more sophisticated than your average construction worker so she doesn’t catch as much flack. Still, she is not immune to people wanting to lend a helping hand to get us out of our dire life situation.

The other day one of my wife’s coworker pulled her aside and told her she knew of a friend who was selling a car for $500 and she thought we’d be interested.  Her coworker had watched as I dropped my wife off every day for a year and assumed no normal people with 500 spare dollars would choose to live this way.

I don’t know why it surprised me, but it did.  My emotions were conflicted. I was proud that we were living so frugally that my humble and destitute wife was thought to be in such need that a car of $500 was our ceiling and only hope.  I was also a little indignant because we could afford a car 100x that expensive if we wanted to be stupid people.  We both have steady jobs, we live far below our means, and I eat cup-o-noodle soup several times per week.  Is it really that strange of a life choice to purposely function on a single nonfancy reliable car?

Her coworker also may have overheard Jill talking about how we live above a garage and Jill packs a lunch most of the time. Ok, never mind. I am starting to see why this lady thought it was her civic duty to let us in on the chance to purchase a $500 car.

I told her she should let her coworker know that while we don’t want to spend money on a second car we are always taking food donations, no dishes that can be described as a casserole though.  Shoot man, people want to give to those less fortunate and apparently having only one car qualifies us.  Who am I to take away their good deed by admitting we just don’t want a second car?

Fun Fact: Did you know some families not only have two cars but actually have more cars than they have people who can drive?  HA! I didn’t believe it either but it’s true.  I once knew a guy who owned three cars and complained that there just wasn’t room at the end of the month to invest. He didn’t even live above a garage.  Some people.

 

 

 

Kombucha- Necter of the Gods

This article is about Kombucha, in case that wasn’t clear from the title.  If you’re holding out hope that this is secretly about how to maximize your pre-tax retirement accounts and think the title was just to throw off any would be readers, it is not.  It’s really about kombucha with very little financial advice.  Consider opening a 529 Account if you have children to help save for their college education.  There, that is the only financial advice I’ll be giving.  Now, onto the topic at hand.

My wife has recently started making kombucha from scratch.  Well, her coworker gave her a scoby and we put it in a jar and added some water, Black tea, sugar, ginger and berries and maybe other things.  I’m not sure if that counts as making it from scratch or not.  Point is, she made kombucha and it’s awesome.

Fun Fact: Scoby is an acronym for: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.  So really it should be scobay or scby.  Makes no sense that ‘of’ gets to make it into the acronym but the word ‘and’ is left out. I don’t make the rules.

Not only does homemade kombucha not cost us $4 per glass, or however much grocery stores charge these days, but it’s way better. Disclaimer:  I have no idea what the alcohol content is.  I’m guessing it’s pretty minimal so I don’t count it as breaking my ill-advised ‘no alcohol’ rule. It’s actually dovetailed nicely into my sabbatical from drinking.  The kombucha gives me just enough of that bubbly goodness to keep me complacently sober but without any of the negatives of drinking traditional alcohol. It’s made my self-imposed cleanse much easier to stomach.

If you think I’m going to gloss over the fact that kombucha has made my drinking cleanse easier to STOMACH than you are sorely mistaken.  Ha! Based on my new-found inability to avoid making puns I think I’m ready to be a dad.

If you’re interested in taking a break from alcohol, or if you just want a healthier gut, I would recommend brewing yourself some kombucha. You can always buy it from the store too if you enjoy being poor. It’s good for your gut health and does a surprisingly good job at negating the crave for the devil’s juice.

Here’s a quick recipe for my wife’s Kombucha.

1) Get a scoby.  These are available on amazon.com or if you have any cool friends. You can also just buy a kombucha starter pack.

2) Look up directions online for how to make your own kombucha

3) Follow those directions and brew your kombucha.  You don’t have to follow the directions too closely.  Be a little wild and adventurous won’t ya?

4) Wait 7-9 days until Kombucha is ready.

5) Raise arms in victory.

Side note: It’s better to not get a kit that lets you pour the kombucha on tap because the bacteria can get in the small creavaces and can be really hard to clean. If you’re a glutton for punishment and/or have a Q-tip sponsorship feel free to use a jar with a tap.

New Year: Get your sh*t together

Ah January, New Year, new you etc. People are resoluting things, the NFL playoffs are in full swing, and your 401k starts over. Life is good.  For many people the fact that their 401k starts over is as meaningless as the fact that it’s crunch time in New England and Thomas Brady has to lead another comeback if the boys in blue want to keep the dream alive for one more week.

The truth is, neither of those things should be ignored.  Tom Brady can be childish but he’s the greatest of all-time and we need to appreciate him and his Uggs while he’s still playing.  Also, you should really call HR and ask about your 401k contributions.  If your employer matches some you should at least be contributing that amount.  You should shoot to max out your 401k if you want to reach financial independence sometime before the Browns win the pennant.  Get it? Browns. Pennant. Ha.  They’ll never win that.

It doesn’t matter how much you earn, it matters how much you save.  If all you saved all year was just your 401k contributions you’d still find yourself miles ahead of the next poor sap sucker who still doesn’t bother with retirement planning.  You don’t start thinking about cooking your Thanksgiving turkey at 3pm for a 4pm dinner and you don’t start planning your retirement once you’re ready to stop working. Start both of those much earlier.  Actually, don’t cook turkey at all.  Nobody likes turkey, it’s dry and has to be drenched in gravy and mashed potatoes just to be tolerable.  I wish the pilgrims ate tacos.

Starting with the new year is a great time to get your financial life in order.  Make a plan to contribute more to retirement accounts.  Set up an IRA account and look into getting an HSA (Health Savings Account).  Talk with an accountant about reducing your tax liability.  Contributing to your retirement will save you money in taxes now and will set you up to be able to choose the lifestyle you want, later.

I don’t know why it is but humans seem to be able to make sweeping changes at the start of a new year.  There’s no reason you can’t set up a Vanguard Roth IRA, or cut back on sugar, in September but we seem to wait until the new year.  Well, it just so happens we are in the new year so it’s time to get your sh*t together.

Giving up – A year without drinking

This post if about giving up alcohol, in case you couldn’t stand the suspense.

Over the past 6-months, or so, I gave up my nightly drinking of beer routine in order to pursue my dream of becoming a nightly whiskey drinker.  It’s worked out surprisingly well.  Historically, I have not been great at sticking to things but I was able to stave of my beer cravings by replacing them with whiskey and soda water.

I did this because I was starting to get a beer-belly and, being a minimalist at heart, I don’t enjoy having lots of extra things, a beer-belly being one of them.  What spurred me into action was my niece told me to stop sticking out my belly.  On the outside I laughed and told her I planned on forgetting her Christmas present but on the inside I said “I’m not sticking out my belly, this is where my belly just is.  It just exists right here.”

Having nieces who are college age twins is great because they will give you loads of unsolicited life advice. They are almost always wrong, but they keep me and my wife young.  I mean, we are young.  Just not THAT young so, their advice is fun.  They say stuff like “You’re starting to lose your hair,” or “You should shave your beard, it makes you look homeless” or “You guys should take us to the melting pot for our birthday,” or “Honda Fit’s are not cool cars.”  Normally their advice is fun and not steeped in any life experience so I get a real kick out of it.  In this case though, they were right.  I needed a strategy for getting slim enough to not have to take shit from a 19-year-old.

My strategy for limiting my beer consumption was to buy real cheap beer.  I started buying Kirkland Light, from your friends at Costco, to be exact.  For beer lovers like myself it is hard, HARDDDD to say no to an imperial stout.  So dark, so full, just get in my mouth, etc.  It’s like not even kind of hard to say no to a Kirkland Light, especially if my other option is whiskey.  So, for the last six months or so I stopped drinking beer, for the most part. I kept Kirkland Light in my fridge. I wouldn’t buy better beer if I had the Kirkland Light because I’m cheap and I for sure didn’t want to drink 48 Kirkland Lights.  I also started intermittent fasting and my belly has shrank back to an appropriate level for a 31-year-old wannabe minimalist beer lover.

Life is confusing.  I had kicked my beer habit.  What they don’t tell you about consistency is it’s only admirable if you consistently do something good.  Consistently save half your paycheck?  Woah, you’re awesome, here’s a button or something.  Run a marathon? Woah here’s a sticker that says 26.2! Run half a marathon? Here’s a sticker that says you didn’t complete a real marathon, 13.1! But try consistently drinking at least one or two whiskeys a night and suddenly your consistency isn’t as admirable and your wife thinks you drink too much.

Granted, it’s easy to know how many beers you’ve had.  When you make whiskey drinks at home you can just load that sucker up with that confidence water and after two drinks you’re dancing to Aretha Franklin Pandora station wondering why more people don’t pay you to entertain them.

Enter 2018 and New Year’s Resolutions!  I don’t do those.  But, I did decide to take a few days off drinking just to reset my body, or because my wife was like “You should take a few days off drinking.” It was one of those, I’m foggy on the details.  So I consistently didn’t drink from January 1st-January 6th.  Overall during that time I felt great.  I had more energy throughout the day and was still able to fall asleep at night.  I had less fun during the hours of 6pm-9pm, if I’m being completely honest, bout let’s gloss over that.

On the evening of January 6th we go to our friends house for some games and drinking.  I let my hair down and end up having a few drinks.  I wasn’t being super embarrassing but after taking so many hours off of drinking the alcohol hit me differently. I didn’t try to fight anyone, or tell anyone that we should be best friends, I just got really tired and slurred a few words.  Also, it was the first time I met some new friends who are awesome people so, two points for a great first impression by me.

The next day I was hung over and a little embarrassed.  I usually do pretty good in social drinking circles.  I’m not the Steph Curry of drinking in public but I do pretty well.  It was an off night.  I felt gross the next day and really started to think about why I drink.  What the pros and cons are.

I started drinking nightly to self-medicate when I had a particularly stressful job.  I no longer worked at that job but I still drank just about every night; mostly to celebrate the fact that I didn’t still work at that awful job.  During my week of not drinking I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would.  After my not so great showing in my one social setting so far this year, I decided to make a change.  I poured out the remaining whiskey I had, which was more than half the bottle.  For a frugal person, like me, that felt really wasteful.  I also felt good because I knew in order to resume my whiskey habit I would have to drive back to the store and re-buy a new container of whiskey.  I’m too frugal and/or lazy to do that so…

I am giving up drinking for the rest of 2018.  Boom. Keyboard drop.  

I’m now typing on a new keyboard since I dropped my last one and it’s not working quite right.  Now, you may be thinking: “I bet he won’t make it the whole year.” To that I say, I bet you’re right. However, I’m still going to try.  My goal is to get to the point where I no longer think about it.  I don’t like being controlled.  Ironically, I also don’t like having hard and fast blanket rules set against me IE no alcohol. So I kind of have to pick the lesser of two evils on this one.   Alcohol is a habit for me.  I am addicted to it.  Not physically, but mentally.  I didn’t want to get to the point where alcohol was both a mental and physical addiction.

It’s scary because some days are made for a nice porter.  God made dark beer for the cold nights and light beer for the summer days.   I have enjoyed trying to push my own boundaries somewhat over the last year or two and have found happiness in stoicism and being content with being uncomfortable.  I look at this challenge as a personal mountain I need to climb.  I do tend to start climbing dumb mountains and realize halfway up that I don’t want to be on that mountain at all.  This may very well turn out to be that type of thing.  No promises.

Here’s to a year, more or less, of not drinking.  I still refuse to be 100% accountable for my words and actions.

Disclaimer: I’m prone to making sweeping changes and not sticking to them so take this with a grain of salt.  I reserve the right to have a drink if I’m on vacation somewhere or for any other dumb reason I can manage to come up with.  I’m not doing this for a sticker and I won’t put a 13.1 sticker on my car if I make it to June and give up.  If you would like to join me for a portion of the adventure I will accept your application to be on team, got to think of a name, we’ll deal with that later.

Cheers.  (Get it. Because, I can’t drink. Huh? Ha.)

 

My First Multi-Day Fast

Hello friends, It is currently 5pm ish on Wednesday, January 3rd and I have been surviving off water and coffee since the evening of January 1st. I realize this is not a particularly amazing feat as many people have done far longer multi-day fasts. Matter of fact this is pretty much the minimal amount of fasting time that can pass and still be called a multi-day fast.  I just thought I would check in and write down my thoughts on the subject while I’m experiencing all the gut wrenching hunger and daydreams of greasy Cheeseburgers, pizza and ice cream.

Just kidding I’m really not experiencing too many food cravings right now and I’m surprised how not horrible I feel.

Here’s how I feel. I feel surprisingly great.  I might be a little delirious, but I don’t think so.   I am hungry and food sounds good but no better than it normally sounds at around dinner time after eaten lunch and worked all day.  I have good energy levels and am even about to go hit the gym to see how I perform.  6-months ago I could never imagine doing a multi-day fast.  Eff-word, that.

Since practicing intermittent fasting for the last several months I’ve noticed I can go longer without eating.  It’s not much of an issue. I like the mental training.  When I am able to block out the feeling of hunger it gives me some sort of mental win for the day.  This is coming from a person who constantly had crashes if I didn’t get food in me every few hours, my entire life.  I’m not stringent on any sort of diet. I still eat sandwiches, burritos and ice cream and really whatever else I want.  I’ve changed two things.  I’ve cut back on beer (replaced it with whiskey, need to cut back on that too) and I’ve started restricting my eating to anytime after 12pm up until I go to bed.

I’ve always wanted to try a multi-day fast, or even a full 24-hour fast, so yesterday when it was late afternoon and I still hadn’t eaten from the previous night, and I felt fine, I thought it was as good of a time as any to give it a go. I think I’m currently at about hour 45 or so of my fast but I didn’t check the time of my last meal on New Year’s Day.

Some people will say I’m not really fasting because I put a little cream in my coffee. Fine.  I’m not trying to get a bumper sticker for my efforts.

Why am I doing a multi-day fast?  I listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast pretty often and he’s had several guests on including Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Dom D’Agostino, and a few others I can’t remember exactly who (probably on account of being so delirious from not eating) who talk about the benefits of fasting.  I’ll attach a link to the episode with Dom.  He talks in the episode about fasting in general and setting his personal record in deadlift while he’d been fasting for an entire week.  He was still fasting when he set his record.  Crazy.  I’ll also attach a quick 14-minute video of Dr. Rhonda Patrick explaining intermittent fasting and time restricted eating. She’s pretty hardcore.  She says you can’t even have coffee if you want to technically be fasting.  Eh, what does she know? Just kidding she knows more about telomeres than I know, just total.  Her view of fasting is pretty scientific as far as either you are doing it 100% or you’re not doing it.  There is no 99% fasting.  I’m not that hardcore, mostly because I wouldn’t actually stick with it, if I was.  I am able to stick with coffee and cream in the morning and not eat until lunch and I like it.

I’ve talked a couple different times about intermittent fasting but I’m pretty blown away by it.  I was never overweight but my belt that I’ve owned for probably 15 years is on the last hole.  I’m normally between the 3rd and 4th hole and have even been on the 5th hole.  I cut back on beer and started intermittent fasting a few months ago and I’m just watching my body transform without me changing too much else.  I know so many people who have trouble losing weight, especially around the belly, and I just want to run over to their house and force them to restrict their eating window. You don’t have to do intermittent fasting by skipping breakfast but I find it easier than trying to be done eating at 5pm.

Again I’m not even being a strict faster.  I totally cheat and have cream in my coffee. I wish I would have taken a before picture.  The results aren’t that stunning because I was never hugely overweight but 4 belt sizes on a guy who has always worked out and stayed in relatively good shape is pretty surprising.

Energy levels are good right now. I don’t feel the need to eat.  I’m going to the gym to see how that goes.  Wish me luck.

Watch Rhonda’s video here.

 

 

Where to invest if you only have $100

A friend of mine recently posed this scenario: I want to give my friend’s baby $100 and let it sit until the kid turns 18.  Where should I invest?

This was a fun question because many people would get started investing if they knew where to go but they don’t have the minimum requirements for the major players like Vanguard.  Enter Charles Schwab SWPPX.  Unlike Vanguard, Charles Schwab SWPPX follows the S&P 500 and the minimum contribution is only $100 where most Vanguard funds you need at least $3000 to start.  You can find a few Vanguard funds with only $1000 minimum requirement but most funds start at $3000.

I’m not hating on Vanguard, all our investments are through them, but if you only have $100 to start investing I’d recommend Charles Schwab SWPPX.  The expense ratio for this fund is .09%.  That’s .09%, not 9%.  That’s 9 cents for every $100 invested per year.

That’s it.  Short and sweet.