Painting, part two

Well, as much as I hate painting it’s almost done. The last real room is complete and the rest is touch up and some exterior.

The blue accent wall was a color that we picked on the third visit to Home Depot.  The first color was too minty.  Then we went back and got it darkened.  It was worse.

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So we went the next day to Homegoods, grabbed some new drapes (in a totally different color that we started with) and we started the process all over again.  I think it looks great – got some finishing touches to do such as pictures.

Wow – might even like this house just in time to sell it 🙂

I love painting….

Today will be short. Just wanted everyone to know that I absolutely hate painting. I mean I really, really, hate it but alas, it must be done.
So last night we learned to test a color before spending $100 on 2 gallons and finding out that not only did I labor painting it but we need to repaint because the color is abhorrent.
The new color is wonderful.
I must say though, as I try to find the positive in it, the results will look pretty good.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

Today, I was on my way home and I stopped at Target.  I noticed a car, with the driver sitting in it, waiting in one of the handicapped parking spaces.  It made me think.  The person in the car (presumption, I know) is thinking that they are not breaking the law because they are standing, not parking.  While this may be true, the handicapped person that needs the spot can’t park there. So although the consequence of this isn’t immediately known (it may never be) there could be a consequence to it.  The person waiting can do this. Don’t “wait” in handicapped spots.

Last night I was reading an article on CNBC  titled “Do you really need $2.5 Million for a good retirement?”  and thinking about the numbers.  “Would I make it?” “Do I need it?” Etc. and then(I don’t think so but I am not an expert.) We all know the good parts are the comments so I started reading them.  Basic back and forth, yes, no, “it’s about spending” and “better to do it that way” etc.  Then came Eric.  Eric professed that you didn’t need that kind of money at all.  His grandparents were doing just great on no savings and $2,500 a month Social Security.  Their house was paid off.  They had no debt.  They took 2 vacations a year – one to Europe, one to South America.  They got their groceries from their church’s food bank.  WAIT.  BACK UP.  They got their groceries from where? Yes, you read that right.  So when people called Eric out his response was “well, they qualified based on income.  They had to apply and were accepted.”  He went on to say that it was about “managing your money”.  I was floored – not only that he didn’t think this was wrong but that Eric had no qualms bragging about it.  I wonder if his grandparents tell the church about the vacations?  Have some self respect. His grandparents can take the food.

One of the greatest rights we have as Americans is the right to free speech.  You can legally say just anything you want as long as it doesn’t cause physical injury or hysteria – Think of the cliche “fire!!”.  Whether there are consequences to your words is a different matter.

I am sure there are a few University of Oklahoma students that will tell you:

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Cutting the cheese

Sunday I spent some quality time with my daughter making homemade mozzarella cheese.
It was something we were going to do the previous weekend but things didn’t work out and we didn’t end up doing it.
Anyway – what fun we had. Good old Daddy/daughter bonding.
Unfortunately, the cheese didn’t quite turn out as tasty as we had hoped. A little bland and it made a squeezing sound as we chewed.
Good thing the point of the adventure was the bonding time.
Anyone know a good recipe we can try?

Anniversary Day

March 9.  The date has been stuck in my head for the past few days.  I finally realized why. March 9, 1993 is when I ran away from home.  19 years old, a year out of high school (which I barely graduated), working for the company my dad owned.  I was doing a whole lot of nothing.  Hanging out with friends, some partying, etc.  I needed to make a change but just wasn’t sure what to do.  I could go off to college, but pretty sure I would simply fail out.  I could literally run away, but what would I do for money?  I hadn’t really had to fend for myself yet in life.

I had actually made the decision about a year earlier.  There was a guy who kept telling me I was wanted.  I was smart – had scored well on aptitude tests.  He was offering me a lot of money, relative to an 18 year old.  He was the Navy recruiter. He was showing me a way of life that would be pretty exciting and would be full of adventure.  So I joined the Delayed Entry Program.

March 9 was the day I shipped to boot camp.

I won’t go into my specific Navy experiences but will give the two most important lessons I learned in the Navy.

Lesson One.  There are times when you are very fearful but must simply have faith and leap.    At the same time, the person that pushes you off really has your best interest in mind. 

My original ship date was about a week earlier.  As I said earlier, I had been working for my dad installing telephone systems.  The night before I was to ship to boot camp the Navy put us all up in a hotel.  My friends came to give me a final send off.  It was great.

The next morning when we were required to swear in a second time, I refused.  I was terrified that I was making a big mistake.  The leap into the unknown.  I said no.  The Senior Chief at the MEPS station called my dad, who came racing to MEPS to “help”.  Ultimately they gave me a week to “think about it” and sent me home.

I’ll never forget the conversation in the truck on the way home.
“So what are you gonna do now?” my dad asked.

“Go to school.”  I half thought of a plan.

“How are you going to pay for that?”

“Work for you.” I answered.

A hearty laugh, followed by “Nope.  You gave them your word and backed out.  I don’t have people working for me like that.”

And so the conversation went on for a bit – with my decision being made.  I called the senior chief back, shipped out a week later and never looked back.

The second lesson I learned in the Navy had a bit of fear in it again, but more importantly was to think through big decisions ahead of time. 

In “A” school they had us fill out a dream sheet.  I put down Naval Air Station Bermuda, being half funny.

I ended up doing very well in my “A” School – graduated number one.  So when time for orders came around I got to pick first.  The school administration had written all the available orders on the board before class and then covered it up.  They called us all in and explained that I would pick first and then they would go down the list in order of grades.  They then uncovered the board.

My family had come to see my graduation so my Mom, Dad, brother and sister, in addition to my class, my instructors, and the school administrators were all stunned to hear me pick Helicopter Mine Countermeasures 14 (HM14) homeported at Naval Air Station, Norfolk, VA.  About 200 miles from home.  The Chief asks me if I am sure and I reply yes.

They were stunned because I left Naval Air Station, Barbers Point, Hawaii on the board – I was later informed that this set of orders was specifically “gotten” for me.

The basic explanation was I freaked out – Hadn’t thought about what I would do, and when I saw Hawaii I could only think of my brother saying how expensive it was when he had gone.  “How would an E-2 live in such an expensive place?”
“What will I do to get home?”  “How will I see my friends?”  All questions that came to mind but I hadn’t thought through.  Answers like “they provide everything you need to live” and “I’ll make new friends” never crossed my mind.  Fear did.

So there you have it.  What I did on March 9 was run away to the Navy and I certainly learned a few things.  It took me 21 years to finally reach Hawaii and, quite honestly, I can’t get it out of my mind now.

The Mystery Safe

imageAfter we moved into the pre-foreclosure we bought a few years ago (a full rehab house, must say) we found a wall safe in the master bedroom.  We have never opened the safe.  It’s contents are a mystery.

We are almost finished with the rehab and about 2 months away from listing the house.  All ready to get outta here and move into our next adventure/dream house.  (Below is a pic from the master bedroom’s balcony in the new place – so excited)


Anyway, back to the safe.  Part of me wants to have an “Al Capone’s Safe Opening Party” and see just what treasures lie in the wall.  Who has a safe and doesn’t fill it with gold, some jewels (hopefully big diamonds), a few stock certificates, a great Swiss timepiece (I would LOVE a nice Patek Philippe, even an old one) and good of fashioned cash? Isn’t the rule if you have a safe you have to fill it?  Hopefully the last owner just simply forgot to clean it out before he left.

The party would be fabulous.  We could make it a gangster theme.  Serve great drinks, some wonderful appetizers, and have a suspense countdown.  Everyone gathers around at the precise time and…..Uh, honey – do you know the combination?

See?  Therein lies our problem.  We don’t have the combination.  The safe would require someone with great skills.  Or a torch.  Or both.  I believe it would be a big, giant, PITA to get open.  And I’ve had to witness a safe being opened before.  It makes a big mess.  Leaves an unusable safe.  We’d have a big hole in the wall that I would have to repair before moving.  All for, uh – what’s in the safe again?

So, the question for today:  Do we risk it and have a giant party, open the safe (or have it opened) and see or do we risk it, move on without opening it, always wonder what treasure we left behind?

Maybe we could set up a reality TV show with ABC and air the party!

Tell me what you think we should do.

NoW-FoB – An Acronym you’ll want to remember

So as I said in the about me page, I am diligently saving for retirement.  I had been saving (on and off) since I was about 26 but got wiped out at 35 when I got divorced.  I had to basically start over again. One of the struggles I have always had in life was money.  I make a good living but was never able to save much outside of my retirement.  It seemed my expenses always matched up or exceeded my income.  I never had more than a few thousand dollars saved and always had debt.

A few years after my divorce I met the woman of my dreams.  We’ve been together ever since.  The interesting part was I knew she was the one the minute we shook hands.  There was just something about her.  This was confirmed when shortly thereafter we began to discuss our retirement dreams – to rent a place in a far off city for a few months, explore, and move on.  This would also include a sailboat.  I had never met anyone with the same dream.  We are looking forward to retirement and meeting her has made the goal of retiring relatively soon that much more intense.

Back to the money.  As I said, my expenses always met or exceeded my income.  If I got a bonus, I spent it on a “hard earned toy” and I was always waiting for the next pay raise.

After lots of self-reflection, reading, and very hard work, I was able to save up some money in a taxable account.  The amazing thing about saving is like a marathon, the hardest part is starting out but once you get going you just never want to stop.

Later, we were discussing how we could get to our goals quicker.  As many of you know, there are as many different investment strategies as there are advisors, all with the desire to maximize returns.  One afternoon it finally dawned on me. We could only maximize returns so much.  What we really needed to do was contribute more to the accounts.  The only way to do this was to review our spending and expenses and identify where we could cut.  To do this effectively, we had to prioritize our spending.

I came up with the acronym NoW-FoB.   It stands for Need or Want; Forward or Backward. This may sound a bit silly, but we have significantly cut our spending by simply asking ourselves these questions before any expenditure:

“Do I need to spend this or do I want to spend this?” (“Do I need this item or want this item?”

 “Will this expenditure move me forward or backward in the journey to my financial goals?”

Many times I find that suddenly what I thought I needed I really just wanted, and after realizing that it would result in going backwards, I would save the money.

Don’t get me wrong, I still spend on wants, just not quite as lavishly – and I am ok with that because I have trained myself to understand that it is all in the name of delayed gratification.  The end goal of a sunset on the sailboat of retirement will be available sooner because I chose not to buy that lunch, those shoes, or that watch.

Be Nice to People

In 2004 I was at the Jacksonville, FL airport second in line, waiting for my rental car.  The man in front of me was well dressed; power suit, nice leather briefcase, etc.  From all appearances he had IT.  The power, prestige.  People did what he wanted.  As I stood, thinking about the work I had to do and where I was headed once I got my car, I could hear his conversation with the clerk.  It wasn’t a nice one.  The man was shouting.

“I want my car and I want it now!”  He exclaimed.

“Sir, your reservation was cancelled.  I have provided you with the cancellation confirmation.  The only car I have available at this time is a subcompact.  Please let me know if you would like it.”

“Dammit, I want my car!  Not some subcompact!” he shouted back (I omitted the vulgarities)

“Sir, I have provided you with the cancellation number.  I don’t have any other cars.  You are free to try one of the other rental car companies but I don’t think they have any available.”

This conversation went back and forth until he begrudgingly accepted a subcompact and stormed off.

I walked up to the counter, smiled, and as nice as I could I said:

“Some people, huh?”

The clerk smiled back and asked “How would you like a free double upgrade to an SUV?”

Be nice to people.

(I’m still convinced his secretary probably cancelled his reservations just to spite him”

“Big Hat, No Cattle” – A Goodbye to Thomas J. Stanley

So I read that on Sunday, March 1 Thomas J. Stanley was killed in a car accident. Many of you may not know who Mr. Stanley was, but I certainly do – and I owe him a lot.

Mr. Stanley co-authored the book “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” with William D. Danko. The book was a life changing read for me.

I had struggled with money my whole life. My problem wasn’t not making enough money. Mine was, like many others, spending too much, on the wrong things, for the wrong reasons. I was the guy who thought that having an expensive car, big house, or fancy things meant you had money. Mr. Stanley taught me it really meant you just spent a lot of it.

Mr. Stanley helped me understand that there is a big difference between making a lot of money, spending a lot of money, and having a lot of money. He also taught me that having a lot of money isn’t a goal itself, it isn’t a position to be demonstrative of, but that it is a goal that allows someone to be at peace, live with less stress and is attainable. It is more the result of living a reasonable financial life.

He showed that the overwhelming majority of wealthy people in the US don’t appear wealthy. He further demonstrated that many folks who appear wealthy are really just in debt. This is where the “big hat, no cattle” saying came from.

I won’t review the whole book here. You’ll have to go get it for yourself and read it, quick I must add.

So, a hearty thank you to Mr. Stanley for writing a book that changed my life and, I am sure, the life of many others. Because of you, Mr. Stanley, I now drive a Subaru, am diligently packing away the money for retirement, and don’t feel the need to show others that I might actually have some money

My you rest in peace and peace to your family.

Day 1 – The Blog and the Decision

So the goal is to write one blog post every day.  It’ll be a potpourri of thoughts, ideas, unsolicited advice, etc.  I enjoy Attention Deficit Disorder and you will surely see it in my topics.  Like I used to tell my mom: “Try watching TV in the Sears Electronics department with every TV on a different station.”

I’d like to keep this blog positive and productive.  No complaining, whining, etc.

My advice for the day:  Don’t make a decision until you absolutely have to.  Keep your options open.  I used to decide if I wanted a job in an attempt to decide if I should apply for it.  That mentality can cost you.

There was a specific position I wanted at my employer and it was generally thought I would get it.  When a group of similar positions were announced, I decided not to apply because the one I wanted was not listed.  A month later I found out they had filled the position I was waiting for.  They used the list that was created from the first announcement and picked from it.  (The strategy was within the hiring guidelines, although I still think it is poor transparency)

The lesson – I lost out on a position because I made the decision not to take a job by not applying – a job I hadn’t even been offered.