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Questioning a Conventional Retirement

When I was first out of college, I thought I had it all figured out. I’d go get myself a decent job, live well below my means, and retire as early as humanly possible. This preliminary plan suited me just fine right up until I actually got a job. Once the initial shock of “People pay me to do stuff!” wore off, the drudgery of your average 9-5 lifestyle began to set in. I quickly began to realize that if I stepped away from my desk for a month, a year, or many years, I could come right back and there would be more work to do. I was more or less a cog in an extraordinarily productive and efficient machine (I worked in the finance industry a few years ago, at the time it seemed like it), but a cog I was. A few years in, the stock market collapsed along with the housing market, and pretty much all of my investments began to bleed.

Thus, my questioning of a conventional retirement began.

I began to think that relying only on investments to power you through your golden years (or earlier, depending on who you ask) was a concept fraught with financial risk. To generate income you’d have to defeat inflation, to defeat inflation you would need to take risk, and if the winds of change blew the wrong way…’d be in trouble. This meant that in order to have a truly secure retirement, you would need a seriously large nest egg. You would need enough that no matter what the financial markets threw at you, you could weather the storm. I can see why people come up with figures well over a million dollars to accomplish that.

Instead, my view of retirement has taken a rather sharp change over the past few years. Now that I’m officially self employed, I wake up and sit down at my own office chair everyday, and while working for yourself isn’t glamorous or easy, it leaves a lot open for creativity. I still save money each month in my IRA, but I don’t really ever plan on truly retiring. Instead, I’m going to keep building on what I have, brainstorming to come up with different sources of income. Being left to my own means takes away the safety net of having a secure job, so diversity is your friend. Besides, if you enjoy what you do when you get up for work each day, does it really count as work at all?


Fitocracy, and Making Fitness Fun

All too often, we find fitness coinciding right along side finance in terms of importance. Health is wealth, so they say, and examples of this are all around you. Not taking care of your body physically often results in expensive and sometimes catastrophic consequences down the line, and so you’ll often read about Personal Finance bloggers embarking on a quest to make themselves more fit and, in the process, save money along the way.

In that vein, I recently stumbled across a fitness site still in beta stages called Fitocracy. The concept is pretty straightforward: You group up with your friends and record your fitness achievements. There are also a slew of achievements, quests, and levels that create a system you’re probably already familiar with if you’ve played popular MMOs like World of Warcraft or RPGs like Final Fantasy. Presently I signed up along with my oldest brother, and keeping an eye on eachothers fitness activities is actually a powerful motivator. Certainly rivalry could be at play, but being able to track your progress and be constantly rewarded makes the usual drudgery of exercise well..interesting!

Just remember that your achievements and progress are based on the honor system, so don’t cheat.

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Dealing With Fear in Everyday Finance

I used to think people that were workaholics were just really crazy. I mean, who wants to work 12 hour days so they can have a nice BMW and a big house that they can’t really enjoy, right? Not me, to be sure, but there are plenty of reasons people work their tails off that are a lot more noble. Supporting your family, for example, may require long hours and grueling work, and while it sucks to be placed into that scenario, nothing is going to make you stop and give it up. You just keep on keeping on, hopefully with an exit strategy in mind for the day that you get things under control or bring your expenses down enough that a soul-sucking work-life balance is no longer a required part of your existence.

For me, working more is for something I have been doing for reasons that are far more pragmatic. My roof is getting looked at tomorrow, as I suspect there may be a small leak in the flashings (I never knew what that term meant until I bought a house) around the chimney. After purchasing my house my emergency fund isn’t where I’d like it to be. This triggers a sort of fear waterfall. What if I don’t have enough to fix it? What if the small leak turns out to be catastrophically bad and the whole roof needs to be replaced? Where is the money going to come from if the emergency fund can’t cover it?


I know it isn’t rational to think this way, but fear, as they say, is a powerful motivator. I’ll do whatever I have to do and we’ll get the problem resolved. As such, I find myself working harder and hitting the ground running a lot more often when the pressure gets turned up. I strive for security, much as I’m sure we all do, and I’m willing to put in extra hours to get it. My situation is even easier than most, as we have a small, modest house and only one car, so I’d wager that fear is amplified when you have the fate of more people or more assets hanging in the balance. Ultimately, the goal should be sleeping well at night, knowing that while you can’t possibly cover every financial catastrophe the universe may have in store for you, you’ll feel better knowing that most are under control.

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New Years Resolution Help: Make More Money

Of all the goals we set for the coming year, there are some that have become understandably cliche. Losing weight, for example, is something that a large number of people would like to do going into a new year (and something we’re historically terrible at). Making more money than the previous year, is also a common aim, although with the rough economic conditions that can be even more difficult than in previous years. Still, despite the recent backlash against the wealthy, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to earn more money (Assuming that you’re using it to increase your financial security instead of inflating your lifestyle). Here are some easy ways to start the New Year with more money in your pocket:

Find a Productive Hobby


While I have always described myself as an avid gamer, I’ll be the first one to admit that it does nothing to bring in more money. Professional gamers often play for 12+ hours a day, and I think the novelty would wear off for me pretty quickly if I was clocking those hours. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of hobbies out there that can make money. Crafts are a pretty common answer, and I have dabbled with my own crafty hobby that you can view here at Fiverr. I make a handful of coasters each month for a little bit of extra spending money. Easy and fun! If you’re short of ideas, JD over at Get Rich Slowly had a great post about finding hobbies that can also make you money.

Earn Rewards

If your goal is to earn more spending money, then rewards programs are a great place to start. The process can be slow, but everyone from MyPoints to Bing have setup their own programs where you can rack up points for viewing ads, shopping, or checking out new search engine features. Personally I set one day a year to cash in my points, and that has gotten me everything from a free hotel stay to 5 trips to the movies. It is quick, easy, and fun! If you’re a responsible credit card user, take a look at your provider’s rewards programs and choose the one that gives you the most bang for your buck.

Donate yourself to Science

Ok, that might sound a little extreme, and the prospect here always terrified me a bit, but many people make extra money by volunteering for medical research. This sounds scary on the surface, but often times are very tame and can net you a decent amount of cash. Once again, Get Rich Slowly has proven to be a good resource here, and you can check out an article on making money via medical research.

If you happen to have some of your own unusual ways to bring in some extra cash, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll add it to the list!

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New Years Resolutions: Have Any?

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p>Like most rational people, I tend to view New Years Resolutions with a healthy dose of skepticism. At first, when the new year rolls on, we’re filled with a sense of euphoria. Suddenly it feels like the old year has been washed away, and the door opens to a whole new world of possibilities. THIS year will be the one where you lose that extra weight, start a business, keep up with the maintenance on your house, and..well the list goes on.

Then reality sets back in.


Unfortunately, after a few weeks that run in exactly the same pattern as December, you decide that your best bet is to keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone. The grandiose visions of the New Year fade quickly, and things get put on the backburner. This doesn’t have to be the case, though, if you set yourself some challenging but attainable goals. Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Avoid Big, Nebulous Numbers

Let’s face it: We all would like to have more money to work with. Personal finance is often about making sure you’re bringing in more than you’re putting back out, but having a larger income makes balancing the equation oh so much easier. Shy away from flat, vague statements like “I want to earn $50k next year.” When you actually sit down to work through that goal, you’ll find it a bit overwhelming, and having no clear path to success makes failure a whole lot easier.

2. Update Your Progress

Tired of missing your goals? Set quarterly progress marks instead, and run through a specific plan to make it happen. By dividing your progress into trackable chunks, you can get a whole lot more done.

3. Face Failure

Despite all the bad news you read about resolutions falling by the wayside, don’t let yourself become a statistic. If you miss a goal, don’t be afraid to sit down and examine what happened that caused you to fall short. Then redouble your efforts with a newfound knowledge of how to succeed next time.

No one said that ringing in the New Year was gonna be easy, did they?