The Best Financial Independence, Retire Early Articles of the Week (#5)

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I know it sounds cliche, but how is it already December? Much of the Spring/Summer felt like it was going slow, but the last couple of months have been a blur. We just got through a 10-day span where we had a social commitment every day. By December 4th, we had finished our holiday parties for the year.

People are asking our kids about our holiday decorations and I'm thinking, "Is the Thanksgiving gravy in my fridge still good?" (Probably not.)

Any spare time has been spent trying to close out tasks for the end of the year. Some of them are financial such as investing in Coverdells, Roth IRAs, and 529 plans. Others are catching up on all the clutter that have swamped us.

Let's get to the articles that cover financial independence:

  • Tawcan's Ten Tips for Millennials

    Listicles (articles based on lists) are popular for a reason, but this one is full of more substance than most. It includes some of my favorite advice, "Think long-term."

  • Retire by 40 shares his November financial update

    I'm a bit of a voyeur and I love looking at stuff like this. If you want to be financially independent one of the best steps is to track it like Joe does. Accountability for the win. This report has a unique spin because it has a new "Can Mrs. RB40 Retire?" section

I'm going to keep this short because I want to move on to writing a more substantive article for tomorrow or Wednesday. I've had something that I felt I needed to share for some time, but I've been scared to. It is a little out of character with regard to spending and financial independence. It's time to come clean with it.

There's a hint in this article, but don't kill yourself trying to figure it out. It will likely only make sense after the fact. There are just too many dots to connect to get it.

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Last updated on December 6, 2016.

The Best Financial Independence, Retire Early Articles of the Week (#4)

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Today's article is going to be a little housekeeping and catching-up on the last week. There should be something for everyone here.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I read a lot of great articles about gratitude from bloggers all over the United States. I was very tempted to write my own, but then felt like I didn't have much to add. It's a fine line to walk to say how thankful you are and not look like you are flaunting your good fortune in everyone's face. (We'll cover luck in a little bit.) For example in some 44 states a majority of football fans hate Tom Brady mostly because he seems to have it all, success, fame, fortune, super-model wife, etc.

I used to write about all the best Black Friday deals. This year, I didn't feel there was anything "post-worthy." Maybe it's because the sales are typically very cheap computers and cheap televisions. I feel like we have so many of those things. Amazon had a $33 tablet, but our Amazon tablet mostly gathers dust. It's nothing against Amazon. It's more than I only have 2 eyes and limited time for media consumption.

I ended up buying an Echo Dot for $40 that included a $10 Amazon gift card by purchasing through Amazon's Alexa voice service. I don't really know what I'm going to do with it as I already own three Alexa devices (an Echo, an Echo Dot, and a Tap).

If you scored some great Black Friday deals, I'd love to read about them... please leave a comment below.

Let's move to Cyber Monday, shall we?

We spent a ton of money on a local restaurant network gift card. Why? They gave perks (and more value) that were worth about 50% of what we spent. When we go to a fancy dinner we often choose this restaurant network as they are top of the line. It's like buying one-percenter luxury at fifteen-percenter prices.

Here are some of the best deals I've seen:

  • Get this Instant Pot for $49. I reviewed Instant Pot here and it is GREAT. My version is a little different than the $49 one that is on sale. The $49 one does everything that we've done with it, so you might as well save some money. It's usually a tremendous deal to get one of these for under $75.
  • Get $50 or $100 off StraightTalk cell phone service. I was with StraightTalk for a long time and loved it. It uses the AT&T network and in my area it is great. I moved to Cricket (also AT&T) to save myself $10 a month. My wife stuck with Straight Talk (she's busy). We'll take advantage of this deal which will probably put it close to Cricket's pricing. I remember when I used to pay $120/mo. to Sprint for just one phone. If only we could do this with the cable TV/Internet monopolies
  • Get this Boogie Board for $14. It's a writing/drawing tablet that is hard to explain unless you've used one. I got one in March and played very close to the retail price of $30. I literally just sent an email to mother to ask if she wanted one as she was in the market back then.
  • Upgrade your wireless. It's time move on from the 802.11N routers that don't cover the house very well and don't deliver the full speed of your internet connection. For $68 (there's a $20 coupon on the page that will be applied on checkout you can get a top rated 802.11ac router. Last year, I found a great deal to upgrade, but it was still $90.

Like last week, I'm going to present only one FIRE article that you should read. The role of luck in early retirement by Justin at Root of Good is great. If you need more convincing, here's a teaser of the conclusion:

"In reality, our relative success of retiring in our 30’s came from a combination of lucky starts in life, smart choices along the way, and persistent effort throughout."

Finally, I'll take advantage of the free-form nature of this type of article to reflect on actor Ron Glass like many have already done.

Thank you for making me a believer.

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Posted on November 28, 2016.

Reviewing My Monthly Income Challenge (October 2016 Edition)

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Several months ago, I challenged you to Take the Monthly Income Challenge with me. The idea was simple: come up with some way to make more money in a month. It really doesn't matter how much, the important thing was to start it and track it. From there you can look how to grow it each month.

We're now 4 or 5 months in and few took to the challenge. I feel that it is 100% my fault. I need to get my new website design with fewer ads up and I need to jump into a time machine and do it a couple of years ago. I've dropped the ball as non-Lazy Man and Money "stuff" takes up 80% of my waking hours.

I did enjoy the story of a reader who commented about how he makes money with Magic, The Gathering on the side. It's certainly not typical.

Let's battle through this and move forward. I've been making income through websites, freelance work, and gig economy stuff (dog sitting mostly) for years now, so it is a little easier for me to make extra money on the side. If you worked a long day as a salaried employee to come home to a family it would be difficult to say, "Oh, just drive an Uber for a few hours." Maybe being an Uber driver works in your situation. Maybe it doesn't. The idea is to explore what you can do on the side to earn some money. My wife sells a lot of our discarded stuff on Ebay. That's a great way to earn a few extra bucks... and it is environmentally friendly.

(All this said, I don't know if anyone has an easy path to make extra money. I feel like they already would, right? It's especially difficult to grow this kind of income. While I'm not salaried, I've got a 2 and a 4 year old, our real estate “empire”, and frivilous lawsuits to work on... all before I consider working on Lazy Man and Money or dog sitting... my two main sources of income)

Each month, I try to come out with some kind of plan for what I'm going to do to push forward for the next month. However, before we get to that let's review last month's results:

Last Month's Monthly Income Challenge

The Month's Good

September was one of my biggest month's with dog sitting. It was second to July. I attribute it to the holidays: Labor Day and the Fourth of July. However, October topped them all... significantly. I'm going to call it the "Red/Bear" effect. A family who rescues racing greyhounds went on vacation and trusted our family with their care.

It was eye-opening to see Red, who is around 7 years old, hobble like he's 15. He had flashes of play where he could hold his own with the younger dogs. It's one thing to read about racing greyhounds, but another to experience it.

Sorry for the downer, but let me make up to you with the "Bear" story. One morning I woke up to this email at 8:30AM (I've edited it some to protect the dog owner's privacy):

Hi. My name is [redacted] I am a Naval Officer at [redacted] and our dog sitter bailed on us at last minute. We are leaving for Germany at 1030 and have two dachshund/chihuahua mix dogs. They are pee pad trained but will go out side and use the bathroom if taken. I can provide the pee pads and the dog food that we have at the house. Trying to see if you could help us out. I will be back from Germany on the 31st in the evening.

We've never accepted dogs this small. Our fence has spaces in it and we like to give the bigger dogs freedom to roam in the yard.

I showed my wife the request and she nodded saying only, "Take them. We'll figure it out." I've always had the River Tam view when it comes to the military, "You've always taken care of me. My turn."

With the clock ticking to their flight I called the owner and said we'd be happy to help in any way we can. He brought the two dogs by and went on his flight. We've had 80+ different dogs at our house and I've never seen two dogs more afraid. I don't think they left their crate for the first 8 hours. In the next 8 hours, they ventured out to hide under a table. After the first day, they were burrowing under my blanket to sit in my lap or sleep with me at night. It was a complete 180. A month later my 4 year old still asks if "the peanuts" are coming back. My affectionate name for them stuck.

I realize that this may seem exploitative. I was at the local animal hospital recently and talked with a technician who was curious about my dog sitting. She asked my rates and said, "My rate is nearly twice yours. Maybe you make it up volume?" I flashed to one of my favorite movies, "Say Anything" and Jim Courts line, "Taking care of people isn't a growth enterprise, Mr Sims. I hope you write that down in your report, I'd like your bosses to read it." (Unfortunately, Jim wasn't on the level, but I am.)

I think I do make it up in "volume"... but dogs are not "volume." They are on the mental level of a 2 year old child (at least) and I believe they should be treated the same way.

Sorry, that got a WAY off-track from a typical income challenge report. To get us back on track, these events and others added up to a record-breaking dog sitting month.

Turning the attention to blog income, it got a strong rebound. I can't say that I did much to earn it... I just do my best to write the best content I can. I have a bit of a Superman complex about it. If you like what I write, the best way to tell you do is to leave a comment.

My focus is on writing things you want to read (and comment on) and getting the new design live.

The Month's Bad

Things went so well in October, I'll fabricate something bad. Blog income wasn't as high as I'd like it to be or as high as it was earlier this year. It's a work in progress, but as I mentioned in the last report, "When you lose 70% of your time, it's normal to have an adjustment period, right?"

The Month's Results

Last month, I wrote, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the 'bad' was much, much longer than the 'good.'

This month the opposite is true. The Ying has Yanged.

In monetary terms that translated to a gain of a shade more than 10% for the month. Those gains are after a big loss though, so it perspective/relativity is important to factor in.

I need to put this into a graph. I'll push that until next month, because otherwise, I'll never get this published. November is almost over and I'm scrambling to catch up on October. That should speak volumes.

This Month's Monthly Income Challenge Plan

I wave the white flag. I have a bunch of plans, but I never know what world event is going to deep-six them... #Honesty. November is waning and it doesn't have too many non-holiday days in it.

I'll focus on getting the new design live. It will likely spill into December. We'll tackle it then.

What's Working for You?

Let me know in the comments. I'm particularly interested in people who have some kind of side gig such as Fiverr, Uber, or anything like that to grow their income.

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Posted on November 21, 2016.

The Best Financial Independence, Retire Early Articles of the Week (#3)

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This is the third installment of great Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) articles of the week.

Typically, I like to say a few personal things in this space. This website isn't just money, but it covers a variety of interests of mine such as health and technology. And if I have something that I really feel is worth sharing, I'll write it. So when I say, watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on the CW, I mean it.

However, I feel I should write a few words about the election stuff of the last couple of weeks. First, I'd like to reflect on what I wrote 4 years ago:

"I think regular Lazy Man and Money readers know I'm not one to side with any political party. That's one of the reasons why I don't write about politics in this space. I believe in voting for the person, not the political party. Most of the time I just hope I'm not in a situation of voting for Kang or Kodos, but far too often it feels like I am.

... According to the [a tool mentioned in the article above], Romney winning will net me a cool $3,500 more than Obama. So you might think I'd be a Romney person. Well, due to Romney's history of support of MLM/pyramid schemes, I have decided he isn't the person I want to see as President. I estimate that these scams cost consumers around $20 billion dollars a year. (If there is reader interest, I could explain the calculation in more detail.) That's the equivalent damage of a hurricane Sandy every two and half years (using the $50 billion damage estimates I've seen)... and few people seem to care."

Now, I don't view everything through an MLM/Pyramid Scheme lens. However, I think it is a view into someone intelligence and integrity. If they are aligning themselves with such companies it tells me that they either A) aren't intelligent enough to understand the scheme and/or B) are willing to take the money anyway. It becomes very easy for me to eliminate a candidate that doesn't have intelligence and integrity.

The current President-elect has even stronger ties to profiting from such schemes... plus one or more other alleged other ones.

So these last two weeks, I've been absorbing anything and everything I can that is related to politics. It's wildly interesting to me. The articles are never-ending. I can't imagine I'd be reading the same kinds of things if Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio won the election. I don't we'd be having conversations about how to unite the country to the extent we're having it now.

Today's "list" of FIRE articles is actually just one. I think it's an important topic in these times and it focuses deeply on financial issues:

Our Next Life writes, How Subsidies Make Early Retirement Possible, Even Without Obamacare.

The article extends beyond just early retirement. It explains that so many things are subsidized and very few people realize it. When you think about it, nearly every American qualifies for some subsidizing, but we give it different names to make us feel good about it. The Affordable Care Act is really no different. Here's a quote that's worth focusing on:

"Drawing the line here, saying 'No, this ACA subsidy is bad, but all the others are fine,' is arbitrary, and ignores how much of our lives are subsidized in reality, especially for the rich. (Consider: Tesla drivers literally pay nothing toward maintaining the roads that they use every day, because roads are funded by gas taxes. Guess who drives the least fuel-efficient cars on the road and therefore pays the most to maintain them? People who are forced to drive old cars because they can’t afford new ones. The poor subsidize the rich in more ways than most of us can imagine.)"

At the end of the day, Americans of all kinds receive different "hand-outs" and subsidies. That's not a bad thing and no candidate wanted to see them going away.

She ends by asking the question, "Do you think you’ve ultimately been a good investment?" I have an answer to that, but the details are part of a guest post for another website. When it's up and posted, we may revisit that question.

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Posted on November 20, 2016.

The Best Financial Independence, Retire Early Articles of the Week (#2)

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Last week I started a new series of rounding up some of my favorite Financial Independence, Retire Early articles of the week (#1). My hope is to make it a regular Friday feature.

However, before we dig into the links, I'm going to take a deep breath to reflect on the week. It started off with a bang as MLMs got eviscerated in a once in a generation way. We have a new President-elect and for the first time in my life (at least as far as I can remember), the vote was a surprise.

In equally shocking news, the Count beat out Cookie Monster in my son's class. He explained that the Count is smart and can count while Cookie Monster just wants to eat cookies. I score that as a small win for STEM and a small loss for the sugar industry.

We cap it off with Veteran's Day. My wife is observing it with a real veteran, which is so cool. There's never a bad day to donate to the USO, but this is a particularly good day. Like Columbus Day, I'm always confused about the status of this holiday. My kids don't have school/day care. My wife doesn't have work. However, the stock market is open and stores seem to have normal hours.

Now let's get to the articles:

  • Hire my son!

    Go Curry Cracker wants to hire out his son for some baby modeling. I wrote a tax person about this years ago. The reason why? A person can only contribute earned income to a Roth IRA. That income would never be taxed and have decades to compound.

    Let's run some numbers. Let's say my 4 year old son earned $4000 somehow and put it in a Roth IRA. The money earns 7% a year for 65 years (69 will be the new 65 for him). However, we'll adjust it to just 4% to account for a 3% inflation rate. He'd have over $50,000 in today's dollars to withdraw. That's not a bad deal, right?

    The only problem is figuring out how that income can be legitimately earned. That's where the baby modeling idea comes into play.

  • Root of Good's October 2016uUpdate

    Justin's monthly reports are extremely detailed and I always learn something. What caught my eye this month is that he pays $35 for broadband internet service and that's not even a bundled rate with a TV. I pay $65 with the bundle and it would be $80 without. Damn you Cox!

  • WalletHacks covers passive income

    Jim gives a detailed explanation of how money works. I can imagine this being the foundation of a book. There aren't any secrets or "get rich quick" stuff, just some universal tips. This is the kind of stuff that I'd love see taught in school.

  • That's a wrap for today. Did you have any favorite financial independent articles this week?

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    Posted on November 11, 2016.

The Best Financial Independence, Retire Early Articles of the Week (#1)

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Years ago, I wrote weekly round-up where I highlighted articles from friends in the blogosphere. Each of those friends have moved on from blogging to do different things. Some became great BBQ chefs and others became real estate moguls.

Over the last 6 months, I've noticed there are a lot of new bloggers interested in financial independence and retiring early (aka FIRE). That brings me back to my roots as my original goal for this blog was to explore ways to retire at the same time as my wife. She's eligible to retire with her military pension at age 43. I didn't want to be working another 22 years after her.

Every week, I'm going to highlight some of my favorite articles from some of these great blogs. So let's dig in:

  • Tawcan's Guest Post via Physician on Fire
  • Why not kick this off with a double FIRE bloggers? FIRE blogger Physician on Fire posted a guest post from Tawcan. This gives you a great introduction to two FIRE bloggers. I recommend adding Adding Tawcan to your daily reads.

  • The Power of a Low Income in Early Retirement
  • This comes from Our Next Life who is one of my new favorite bloggers in the last few months. She can get into the weeds with some complex financial topics at times. I'm envious of her ability to use graphs and images to walk readers though the math and concepts.

    This article focuses on the advantages of keeping a low income in early retirement. Typically one thinks of low-income negatively, but under the right circumstances it can be positive.

  • How to Fund Your Early Retirement
  • Interested in learning how to retire early? Of course, who isn't?!?! Joe from Retire by 40 gives a detailed article about how he's funding his early retirement. My favorite tip in this article is how he plans to withdraw contributions from his Roth IRA. Those contributions can be withdrawn penalty-free.

This should be enough reading for a Sunday. If you're looking for more, regular readers of Lazy Man and Money may appreciate tonight's episode of John Oliver.

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Financial Independence

Posted on November 6, 2016.

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