A clear line

Hello, my friends. I hope this new year is treating you well. It's been excellent for me so far. Soon I need to announce the 2023 Ecuador chautauqua about money and meaning, but before I do I'll give a brief update on what I've been up to.

Deciding to extend my sabbatical from Get Rich Slowly indefinitely has been liberating. The moment I committed to this, it was as if a heavy load were lifted from my back. I'm able to pursue other passions now without regret. I don't feel guilty. I don't feel like I need to give myself "permission". I just do what I want, and it's awesome.

Isn't this what financial independence is supposed to be?

Continue Reading A clear line

2023: The year of me

Last night, for the third Wednesday in a row, I ventured to the Whiteside Theater in downtown Corvallis to watch an old movie. Two weeks ago, it was National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Last week, it was It's a Wonderful Life. And yesterday was Star Wars. The place was packed! So fun to watch a favorite film in an old theater with a couple of hundred other fans.

I've also been watching many movies at home lately. I finally have the time. According to Letterboxd, I've seen seventeen films in December. I watched nine in November. I enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of cinema. (I highly recommend Letterboxd, by the way. I've been using it to log my film watching for two years, and I can no longer imagine not using it.)

The films I've watched in 2022

My days have been busy, too.

Continue Reading 2023: The year of me

A values-driven life

Hello, friends. Just a quick note to let you all know that my life, at last, seems to be settling. A full two months after the death of my mother, the fog has lifted and I find that I'm motivated to pursue productive pursuits once more.

I spent much of the past several weeks doing some serious soul-searching. It's clear to me (and to Kim) that above all else, I need to make 2023 the year of me.

2023 — The Year of Me

More than a decade ago, I got into the habit of theming my years and months. It was fun! It was also fruitful. Whenever I decided to devote a span of time to one thing, I had great results, whether it was with fitness or writing or dating. This habit of theming lasted for a couple of years, then fell by the wayside.

Well, I've spent too long putting myself second. Or third. Or ninth. Starting yesterday, my aim is to put myself first for the next year (or more).

This is tough for me. It seems selfish. It seems wrong. But the truth is I've been allowing other things to interfere with my pursuit of physical and mental health for too long. I've been making excuses. No more! For the foreseeable future, J.D. is job one. Let the age of selfishness commence!

Continue Reading A values-driven life

A man of no ambition

A memory came to me this morning while I was walking the dog, a memory of those days when I was fresh out of college and just beginning to work for my father at the box factory.

A salesman had come knocking on our door. This was strange since the box factory was (and still is) located in a rural area. But somehow this guy had found us and he was there to make his pitch: He was a salesman who trained salesmen. (And, presumably, saleswomen although this wasn't part of the spiel in 1992.)

Dad, amused, introduced this fellow to me. "This is J.D.," Dad said. "He's our salesman. Talk to him." So, this guy sat down with me in a back room of the shabby trailer house that served as company HQ. (This was the very trailer house I'd grown up in. And trust me when I say it was a pit, a sty. It was just as bad as you're imagining. Maybe worse.)

"How would you like to make more money?" the salesman who trained salesmen said to me. He was an older gentleman dressed in a brown corduroy suit.

"I'd love it," I said. Despite my father's nepotism in hiring me, I wasn't paid much: $16,500 per year and no commissions — about $35,500 in 2022 dollars.

"Let me show you what I can do for you," the salesman said, smiling. That's my over-riding memory of this conversation: the guy's permagrin. It never went away. Even when he was resting, he had that shit-eating grin on his face.

Continue Reading A man of no ambition

Sabbatical

My mother died Monday night. She was 74.

Earlier this week, I began writing a memorial for her. I know I haven't talked much about Mom here at Get Rich Slowly, but she probably played the biggest role in molding me into the person I am today. After writing 2500 words, I realized I have a lot to process. And maybe Get Rich Slowly isn't the place to publish a tribute to her. I don't know.

[My mother when she was probably 15 years old]

Continue Reading Sabbatical

Why I bought a NEW car

I am 53 years old. Never in my life have I allowed myself to buy a car I truly love...until now. This is the story of how I allowed myself to make a huge purchase just for the joy of it. And it wasn't even a purchase I'd intended to make. Let me explain.

During the peak of the pandemic (early July 2020), I paid $35,990 for a used 2019 Mini Countryman SE All4. The Countryman — which I call a "Maxi Cooper" — isn't a bad car, but I regretted buying it almost immediately. I'd intended to replace my 2004 Mini Cooper with a newer version of the same model, but allowed myself to be talked into a compact SUV.

For two years, I drove the Maxi Cooper and tolerated it. It wasn't a bad car by any means, but it was a bad car for me. I'm not an SUV guy. I'm a small-car guy.

Last month, I took the Maxi Cooper for an oil change. While I was waiting, the dealer offered to buy it back from me. I wasn't expecting that.

As you probably know, the used-car market in the U.S. has been crazy for a couple of years. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, prices on used vehicles are up 55% since July 2020. Prices for new vehicles have also increased during that time, but by only 18%.

Because I write about money, I'm aware that used-car prices are high, but I hadn't considered that I might sell the car I purchased only two years ago. I'm the sort of person who buys a car and keeps it for a decade or more. But when the Mini dealer told me they'd pay $33,000 for a car I'd bought 26 months earlier, I was intrigued.

I contacted one of my buddies, a former car salesman. "What am I missing here, Jeremy?" I asked. "This seems like a pretty good deal."

"It's not just a good deal," Jeremy said. "It's a miracle. It's as if you leased that car for $115 per month. You should take the offer. Now. Before they change their mind."

Before you read my story, you might want to read this similar story from Liz at Frugalwoods: Why we bought a NEW car. Here's a relevant excerpt:

"In normal economic times – or rather, in past economic times – used cars were remarkably cheaper than new cars, which made the depreciation on new cars astronomical. In other words, new cars would lose a tremendous amount of their value as soon as they were no longer new.

"Used cars, on the other hand, had a much more gradual depreciation curve, which meant you could buy a used car for a reasonable price and then, if needed, re-sell that used car at a reasonable loss. Currently, thanks to supply chain issues, a shortage of computer chips and inflation, used cars are no longer a deal."

Continue Reading Why I bought a NEW car

How self-centered shopping has made me happier with the things I buy

I've changed the way I shop over the past few years. And although the shift has been subtle, I've found that I'm much happier with the things I buy.

In the past, my approach to shopping was simple. If I wanted a new thneed, I would go to a store (or, with the advent of the internet, a website) and choose from the available thneeds. I'd look at the store's selection (or the website's selection) and pick the one best suited for me.

If the thneed I wanted was particularly expensive or important, I might expand my search to multiple stores or multiple websites. But usually, I stuck with the first store I visited.

The key point here is that I allowed the places I shopped to impose limits on the thneeds available to me. I think of this approach as "store-centered shopping". Whatever the store has in stock defines my universe of options.

Now that I'm older, I've flipped the script. Instead of allowing the marketplace to define which thneeds are available to me, I decide exactly what I want before I begin my search. I put myself and my needs first. Once I know what I want, I take the time to locate it. What I want is almost always out there somewhere — if I'm patient enough to track it down.

I think of this approach "self-centered shopping". I'm putting me first, and that's a Good Thing. In fact, that's an Excellent Thing! This method consistently leads to greater satisfaction with the things I buy. Instead of picking up cheap, mass-market thneeds, I'm buying thneeds that feel as if they were specifically made for me.

Let me give you a concrete example.

Continue Reading How self-centered shopping has made me happier with the things I buy

Who coined the term FI/RE (financially-independent, retired early)?

It's always fun to unearth some esoteric piece of personal-finance history. I know there are only a few nerds out there who care (hello, Grant Sabatier!), but those of us who care really care.

Two years ago, I published an article exploring the history of financial independence in which I noted that the earliest reference I can find to the notion of financial independence comes from an 1872 book called Money and How to Make It by H. L. Reade. And it wasn't until the 1950s that the concept of early retirement (at least in the sense we mean it today) gained traction. But despite my research, I still have questions, such as: What's the source of the modern FIRE movement?

Who Coined the Term FIRE?

Recently at The Retire Early Home Page — a site so old that it existed (and still exists) at the dawn of the web — John P. Greaney answered the question: Who coined the term FIRE?

Continue Reading Who coined the term FI/RE (financially-independent, retired early)?

What I learned at Fincon 2022

It's Sunday morning as I write this, and my weeklong adventure at Fincon 2022 in Orlando has come to an end. I'm exhausted.

As has become customary, I didn't actually attend any workshops or keynotes or breakout sessions here at Fincon. Instead, I spent the entire week connecting with friends:

  • I enjoyed chatting with Rob Berger about how he's managed to grow his excellent YouTube channel from 0 to 63,000 subscribers in two years. He now makes more than he used to earn with his blog (and he made plenty with his blog). He does this by putting his audience first and only promoting a handful of products that he actually uses and endorses. Love it.
  • Rocky Lalvani from Richer Soul told me about Marisa Peer and the biggest disease affecting humanity. As a guy who has struggled plenty with his mental health, I like Peer's message: "I am enough." (This is now the lockscreen on my phone!)
  • Donna Freedman told me all about her frugal adventures in Anchorage, Alaska. Donna is just as funny and resourceful in person as she is in her GRS articles (and those at her own site). I have high hopes that she and I can reach some sort of arrangement to feature her writing here regularly again — but we forgot to discuss this because we were talking about gardening and education and moose.
  • I talked with Carl Jensen about podcasting, friends, and home remodeling. He suggested something crazy but cool: What if he and Pete (a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache) were to fly out to Oregon for a week to help me remodel my bathroom? I like this idea. Carl says he's serious about it, so it's just a matter of getting MMM on board. I suspect I can lure him to Oregon with promises of bikes and beer.
  • Yesterday, I had a delightful conversation with Tanja Hester. I've never told her this, but I always feel like she's a female J.D. (or that I'm a male Tanja). Some examples: she's nerdy af, plagued by ADHD, and loves great writing. And we're both competitive pedants (as that sentence illustrates). Tanja and I are both notebook nerds. She showed me hers. I showed her mine. For years, I've been using the Hobonichi Techo planner (because I love the A6 size), but Tanja convinced me to test out the Jibun Techo from Kokuyo next year. Next time, I want us to compare notes on our computer-based writing workflows.

Not everything has been unicorns and roses, though.

Continue Reading What I learned at Fincon 2022

Call for reader questions and stories!

This week I'm in Orlando for Fincon, the annual gathering of folks who work at the intersection of money and media. As a result, I haven't had time to do all of the things I normally do during a week. I haven't been reading or writing about money. Instead, I've done a lot of chatting with colleagues.

We've been coming together at Fincon since 2011. At first, we were nearly all strangers to each other. Today, many of these people are my closest friends — but they're friends I see in person only once or twice each year. I value every moment I get to spend with them.

On Tuesday, for instance, a group of us booked a private VIP tour through the Disney theme parks. We had a blast. I mean, look at this wretched hive of scum and villainy...

Our tour group at Disney

Chatting with other money nerds this week has given me additional clarity about the future direction of Get Rich Slowly — on the web, on YouTube, and in the email newsletter.

You see, most money bloggers (and podcasters and YouTube creators) are in it for the money. That's fine. I have no problem with that. But that's not me.

Yes, I would very much like to earn income from the work that I do, but I'm in the fortunate position that I don't need to earn that income today. I had a windfall from the site thirteen years ago, which allows me to pursue this as a passion project (at least for a time).

Instead, I can focus on making Get Rich Slowly meaningful to me and useful to you. I can ignore the financial side of things while I work to build a resource that helps people master their money — and their lives. While I might not earn anything from the site today (or next week or even next year), I have faith that if I provide value, then eventually I'll discover a way to make money in a way that doesn't compromise my values.

Continue Reading Call for reader questions and stories!

Designing my life, part one: Building a compass

Last week, I raved about the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. These two Standford design professors have taken design principles and applied them to helping people figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

After advocating Designing Your Life to several friends, two of them suggested that we work through the book's exercises together. One of those friends is Kim, my long-term girlfriend. The other is Craig, a college classmate. I thought it might be fun to share some of these exercises as we complete them over the next couple of months.

Because I want to respect the intellectual property of the authors, I'm not going to describe the exercises exactly. Instead, I'll provide a vague overview and then discuss my own answers. (And, when it makes sense, I'll also include answers from my friends.)

With that out of the way, let's dive in! Let's see what happens as I begin the process of designing my life.

Continue Reading Designing my life, part one: Building a compass

Marijuana and me

This article is difficult to write. It's an admission that I failed. And it's not like I failed once, but failed repeatedly over the course of several years. And it's not that I really failed failed, you know. It's that I failed myself. I failed to live up to my own expectations.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

Goody Two-Shoes

I grew up Mormon. Among other things, this meant that nobody in my family consumed recreational drugs of any kind. Mormons have a strict prohibition against such indulgences. And, as most folks know, they even take their stricture against "strong drink" to mean that caffeine is forbidden.

So, my parents didn't drink alcohol or coffee. They didn't smoke cigarettes. They didn't do anything that led to altered states. Hell, my father even hated television because he considered it a "plug-in drug". For much of my childhood, we didn't have a TV. When we did have a TV, access was often restricted.

My parents left the Mormon church when I was a freshman in high school. We returned to the local Mennonite congregation in which my father was raised. Mennonites aren't quite so restrictive with mind-altering substance as Mormons are — they love their coffee! — but they're close.

In high school, I was never tempted by alcohol. I had friends who would drink, but it never appealed to me. Plus, it was against the rules.

Also in high school, I had friends who discovered marijuana. While I was ambivalent about booze, I was actively opposed to pot. I believed it was evil. Plus, it was illegal. As a rule follower, there was no way I would touch the stuff. And when I was with friends who did get stoned, I'd read them the riot act. (I once chewed out my best friend Sparky because he had the gall to get stoned while we were waiting in line to buy tickets for a Tears for Fears concert.)

Essentially, I started life as a Goody Two-Shoes. I refused to do anything illegal or immoral, and I condemned others for choosing anything that I wouldn't choose. I was a self-righteous young man who couldn't see that there's no single Right Answer to life.

Continue Reading Marijuana and me

Designing your life

I am obsessed with the film Everything Everywhere All at Once. From the moment I saw the trailer, I knew the movie was meant for me. I was right. The film's bizarre blend of action, philosophy, science fiction, taxes, and juvenile humor feels specifically targeted to me and my brain.

For those unfamiliar, here's a quick plot synopsis.

Evelyn and Waymond Wang own a laundromat. Their business is failing, their marriage is fracturing, and so is their relationship with Joy, their daughter. During a meeting with the IRS, Evelyn is visited by a version of her husband from a parallel universe. He says that the multiverse — all of the many parallel universes — is under attack from an evil being named Jobu Tupaki, and Evelyn is the only one who can save it. The rest of the film is about Evelyn overcoming her skepticism and discovering her true power (and Waymond's).

This trailer pretty much nails the mood and theme of the film. If this preview intrigues you, you'll probably like it:

Everything Everywhere All at Once is strange. Very strange. It starts mundane and boring, descends into madness, then ultimately ties everything together in some magical ways. Some people hate it. They can't finish watching it. That's too bad, because if you abandon the film during the boring part or the strange part, you never get to the magical part. The tedium and the madness are all part of the journey.

Continue Reading Designing your life

Come out to Plutus Voices Portland tomorrow (August 17th)!

This is just a quick (and temporary) note for folks in the Portland area. Tomorrow night (Wednesday, August 17th) from 6:30 to 9:00, the free Plutus Voices gathering will take place at TaborSpace. The topic will be pursuing financial independence on a low income.

Here's how the Plutus Voices website describes its aims:

Plutus Voices is a series of networking and learning events from the financial media and beyond. The series brings attention to speakers and topics that are crucial to success with financial literacy, capability, and empowerment through blogging and podcasting.

Continue Reading Come out to Plutus Voices Portland tomorrow (August 17th)!

Life is not a game

This is a guest post from Michael Laurence. Previously at Get Rich Slowly, Michael has shared his thoughts on investment risk and what happens when more money makes you miserable.

You hear the phrase "the game of life" all the time.

There are books on Amazon instructing us on how to win at the "game of life". Hell, Milton Bradley's "The Game of Life" from 1860 — still sold today — was the first popular board game in the United States.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-o8Spa4isQ

In the Real World, the game of life's rules and criteria for success are vague and never explicitly stated. But we all know what they are. To win, you need:

  • money (or, more accurately, conspicuous consumption)
  • physical attractiveness
  • kids who go to great schools and are athletically successful
  • and so on

"The game of life" has become more than a metaphor. Many people — obsessed with their status, career, or where their kids go to school — have internalized this idea and literally view their life not as something to enjoy, but as a competition to be won.

This is a tragedy. Life is not a game.

Continue Reading Life is not a game

Learning to dance: How couples can have constructive conversations about money

Today, the Get Rich Slowly summer of books concludes with an excerpt from Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away from Julien and Kiersten Saunders. Julien and Kiersten are the power couple behind the rich & Regular blog and YouTube channel.

The following excerpt from Cashing Out (published by Portfolio/Penguin) is used with permission. Copyright © 2022 by Rich & Regular LLC. This passage has been edited to be more readable on the web.

Dr. Sue Johnson is a clinical psychologist who specializes in emotionally focused therapy. She says that when couples fight (regardless of the topic), they're doing a dance. One partner makes a move, and the other one responds accordingly. She insists the dance is always the problem — not you, not me, not us — and not the topic.

By focusing on the dance, we can shift our focus and look at our interaction patterns whenever there's an issue. The rhythm of one person responding to the other person's moves is what ultimately. defines the dance, and our ability to instinctively know when to reach and and grab the other's hand for a spin requires what Dr. Johnson calls emotional attunement.

If the conflict is the dance itself, think of your emotions as the music. Being emotionally attuned means you can both hear the same song, or at the very least can acknowledge that yours isn't the only song playing. In other words, it's not enough to just go through the moves together if one of you is grooving to Barry White and the other is swinging to Barry Manilow.

When you've been in a pattern of avoiding conversations with your partner about money, it's as if you've both been attending a silent disco. Everyone's dancing, but you can't hear any music. If you want to get attuned, it's important to understand what unresolved money arguments sound like, emotionally speaking.

Continue Reading Learning to dance: How couples can have constructive conversations about money

The power of non-monetary investments

The Get Rich Slowly summer of books continues! Today's excerpt comes from Jordan Grumet, better known in the FIRE world as Doc G, host of the Earn & Invest Podcast. When he's not talking about money, Jordan is a real-life hospice doc. His new book, Taking Stock, offers lessons from the dying to the living.

The following is from Taking Stock by Jordan Grumet with permission from Ulysses Press. Copyright © 2022 by Jordan Grumet. This passage has been edited to be more readable on the web.

I used to have a patient who was an undertaker. We had many conversations about philosophy and practicality, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that one must gain profound insights from being engaged in such a unique business. As I was often fond of saying: When the undertaker speaks, you should really listen.

Those of us who have made death and dying our business may seem unlikely investment advisers, but because both the undertaker and myself have spent extensive time in close proximity to mortality, we’ve been given unique insight into what’s really worth investing in. What investing tips could someone in my line of business have gleaned from dealing with death and dying? Believe it or not, a few quickly come to mind.

These tips weren't learned by accompanying the wealthy through this difficult journey — although the wealthy have much to teach. These tips weren't siphoned off of the personal books of those who had little interest left in hiding their secret ingredients to success. These are simple, straightforward bits of knowledge gained from walking down this lonely path with those reluctant to be making the journey.

And believe it or not, most of what I learned about investing has nothing to do with money.

Continue Reading The power of non-monetary investments

How to make better decisions

Howdy, friends. Sorry for the long lapse between posts. After returning from a brief summer vacation, the GRS database had imploded. Again. We patched things up this morning and can now resume publishing. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share excerpts from three recent money books.

The following is from Buy This, Not That by Sam Dogen with permission from Portfolio, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Kansei Incorporated.

Please note that I've edited this passage slightly to (a) be more readable on the web and (b) fit within the publisher's word-count limitations. Ready? Let's dive in!

Life is rarely black-and-white, yet we need to make definitive choices all the time.

  • Rent this house or buy that apartment?
  • Invest in a growth stock or an index fund?
  • Live in San Francisco or Raleigh?
  • Join a start-up or work at an established firm?

These choices all involve an expense of time and capital. Each choice brings risk and reward. The problem is that most of the time we don't have enough information to confidently choose this or that. My approach helps you overcome this information gap.

You do this by thinking in probabilities instead of in binary terms, where it's an all-or-nothing proposition. If you start thinking in probabilities instead of absolutes, you'll develop a stronger analytical mindset to make more winning decisions over time. You'll also be able to make more winning decisions on risks that others never dare take.

Continue Reading How to make better decisions

Cool projects from some of my friends

Hello, friends! I have a lot to say, and I've done a lot of work on Get Rich Slowly during the past three weeks, but most of my efforts aren't yet ready for public consumption.

  • The site de-design is 95% complete, but that final five percent is fiddly. I could be ready to launch the new layout tomorrow — or it might be two weeks. It's tough to say. If you're curious, though, you can check out my current progress here. But be warned that the site isn't fully functional. (For fun, I mocked up this very post in the new format so you can see the difference.)
  • I have several long articles in the works — quality! the internet is dying! the sunk-cost fallacy! — but nothing that's wholly finished. And with my attention more focused on the de-design and Real Life than on writing, it'll probably be a while before anything is complete enough to publish.

Still, I thought it'd be fun to stop in with a J. Money-esque stream-of-consciousness post to share a some cool projects from some of my friends.

Speaking of J. Money, let's start there.

Continue Reading Cool projects from some of my friends

How rising mortgage rates affect home-buying power

Interest rates on home mortgages are rising rapidly across the United States, which seems to be slowing most housing markets. (Some, like the market here in Corvallis, have been less affected. Give it time.)

The average mortgage rate for a 30-year loan was about 3.0% at the start of the year; today, it's at 6.245% — even for somebody with an excellent credit score over 800.

Current mortgage rates

Kim and I are fortunate that we bought our home in 2021 instead of waiting until 2022. Mortgage rates weren't actually a factor during our deliberations last year; the historically low rates were simply an added bonus for buying when we did.

When we purchased our home last August, we took out a $480,000 mortgage at 2.625%. We didn't hit the precise bottom of the mortgage market (that was early January 2021, when we might have had a loan for 2.5%), but we came close.

Here's a chart from the Federal Reserve that shows mortgage rates from the past 2.5 years.

Recent mortgage rate trends

And here's a chart that shows mortgage rates for the past 50+ years:

Historical mortgage rate trends

Mortgage rates have hovered at historic lows since the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And rates fell even further during the COVID pandemic. (These low rates are partly responsible for the blazing-hot housing market of the past two years.)

What do these rising mortgage rates mean to actual home buyers? Let's use our situation as a representative example.

Continue Reading How rising mortgage rates affect home-buying power

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