Money, It’s a Gas

In a perfect world, folks would have a clear idea of their finances. We’d all face up to our money – or lack of it – regularly and dispassionately. But the world is not like that. We’re not like that.

Money creates enormous roadblocks in people’s lives. Too little of it is an obvious problem, but too much can be destructive as well. It’s part of my journey to figure out how to place money in its proper place in our lives, in my life to start, and hopefully others thereafter.

A few thoughts: One, there are way too many people in America who live from payday to payday. Secondly, way too few people have any kind (let’s underline that) any kind of savings. Thirdly, most of these people have no plan to change either of these predicaments. Hope and, well, more hope is their preferred tactic.

This will not work.

On the basis that the way you think is more important than anything, we need to find a new way of thinking about spending, saving, debt, rainy days and the most important element, our incomes. My thinking is to create recurrent income separate from your wages or salary, growing the passive income to eventually supplant whatever you make from your job. That’s what I’m doing.

But you need not follow my plan to the end to make a difference. Creating even a small amount of recurrent income can make a lifetime of difference, and here’s an illustration:

I Tweeted earlier that in the next forty years I’ll spend more than $30,000 dollars on electricity. That figure will be way under, because I simply multiplied my current bill by 480 months. Inflation, increased energy costs and who knows what else will almost certainly make that much, much higher.

Now imagine if you created $65 per month of recurrent income for yourself. You would never have to worry about paying the electricity bill ever again, which would be a relief to many. And the money from your salary that would otherwise go to paying the electricity bill could be used for something else. Saving for emergencies for example, reducing the principal on your mortgage or adding to whatever retirement arrangements you have.

$65 dollars per month, $30,000 dollars overall, and that’s before compounding. Small change, big outcome.

Just a Little More

What just happened.
What just happened.

How is your year going so far? June, here we are, beginning week twenty-three of 2014. The summer solstice is in three weeks. Independence Day here in the US in a month. My yearly dental check-up is in eight weeks. Slowing time isn’t an option, so onwards we march.

Time has my attention of late because there seems to little of it. I suffer the usual human dilemma, which is that life happens while we’re planning other things. Planning is in my blood, and, I’m guessing, in yours too. We tend to overlook the immediate while contemplating the future. Being in the moment doesn’t come naturally. Keeping still and observant requires lots of energy and perseverance. Ironic, eh?

I am wrong about there being a lack of time. There’s infinite time, at least for our purposes. Time does have a direction, however, which makes life like those sushi restaurants in Tokyo with the conveyor belt that runs endlessly right in front of you. Spot some gorgeous fatty tuna and you’d better grab it while you can.

A little more available time would mean doing more of the stuff I have planned. My plans currently revolve around creating ways of making income disproportionate to the amount of time spent. In my own case, I spend eleven hours a night at my job. It’s a linear relationship between hours and dollars. The smarter way to occupy one’s day is to create multiples of dollars for each hour worked…ideally, multiples of recurrent dollars. Let’s call it an asymmetrical paycheck.

This makes the whole idea circular – I need more hours to work at creating more hours.

Simplicity tells me that the way to make this happen is to eat the elephant one bite at a time. (Awful metaphor. I certainly don’t advocate eating elephants. They’re too tough. Kidding.)

One hour at a time. Small efforts, consistently. One customer at a time. Conscious leverage.

 

Affirmations

Looking to build something?
Looking to build something?

 

In July of 2001, when I first moved from Sydney to Seattle, I figured the time was ripe for some self-improvement. I had the time to read and digest new ideas, and a new life ahead to contemplate.

I bought books and tapes. Dr Wayne Dyer and Anthony Robbins became my companions. Before bed I’d read their words of wisdom. On long walks I’d listen to their tapes. At the gym, they’d work out with me. These guys were in my head.

But that’s as far as they went. I didn’t notice my bank balance increase. There weren’t more women hitting on me. Things just seemed…well, more or less the same. Being analytical, it seemed clear that I was missing something, that I was the weak link in this beautifully narrated pathway to success. Just what was it that I wasn’t doing?

The continual doubt that I couldn’t shake was that the gurus’ version of the world didn’t match my version. In their world, you dream, tell yourself stories, convince yourself you deserve more than this, and tell everyone about it. In my world, you set goals, work towards them, sacrifice, work harder, deal with failure, try different paths, adapt to change, use your intelligence, seek guidance from experts, strive to be the best, and work some more.

Now, whenever I look at the self-help books in the bookstore, or hear someone tell me that “…affirmations have changed my life…” I’m skeptical. I’m happy for that person, if it gives them what they need. Good-oh.

My life, however, is different. The way to make things happen, better things, is to work at them. Be smart. Create good habits. Do the right thing. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Focus. Understand that doing a little every day is a more certain way than any other of moving towards your goal. Yes, there will be moments of setback, just as there will be quantum leaps forward. It’s not a single-speed universe. The only secret is to keep moving.

In essence, this is an argument for logic against emotion. There are minimum requirements in life. Feed, clothe and house yourself. Provide for your family. Plan for your future. Not always will you accomplish these by doing everything your way. Sometimes it will require sacrifice, especially of your need for self-expression.

Once you’re up and running with the essentials of life, that’s the time to indulge yourself. Then you can tell yourself that “it’s my time.” Until then, keeping paying the bills before they’re due, and save for a rainy day. Utility companies don’t accept good intentions, and life without electricity blows.

It’s All Going to Hell!

Really, the day the earth tilted.
Really, the day the earth tilted.

 

No, it probably isn’t.

I’m fond of toying with the following aphorism:

[important]In your life, things are never as good as they seem. But things are never as bad as they seem either.[/important]

 

It keeps me buoyant if matters look grim, and in check when everything’s hunky-dory. It falls neatly into the philosophy of “change is coming, for better or worse”, which can be either cock-eyed optimism or self-defeatist gloom depending upon your mood.

The key, in my opinion, is understanding that we never know what’s around the corner. Although our minds fool us into thinking we are aware of all the inputs to our lives, there is no way that’s possible. Imagine that your life is like floating down a river in one of those big inflatable tubes. You can see where you’ve been recently, and more or less where you’re going. But the water all around you hides rocks and currents and eddies and pools and fish and all kinds of things, things over which you have no control.

Only your attitude towards the river and its surprises – good and bad – is within your control. Everything else will be as it will be. Be reassured that around the next bend is something you never thought of, despite all your planning and dreaming. How that affects you is entirely determined by how you look at it, not by the thing itself.

No, the the ocean liner isn’t actually falling off the earth, despite the evidence.