Topy Popy

The best car insurance companies of 2019

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Car insurance really comes down to one thing.

Getting the best quote from a good company.

I’m going to show you the same process that saved me $2,088 per year with only a few hours worth of work.

Before we jump into the process and exact scripts that I used, I’m going to break down the best car insurance companies out there.

By the end of this article:

  • You’ll know which companies to trust and which to avoid.
  • You’ll know which kind of car insurance we skip to lower our bills. And the kind that we max out on.
  • You’ll know the script to negotiate with any car insurance company to get them to lower their quote.

The best auto insurance providers

There’s an awful lot of car insurance companies out there. We’ve gone through over 50 and narrowed them down to our top 16 companies:

How did we pick these 16 companies? We looked at several factors.

User experience

When it comes to user experience, I mostly looked at the websites and mobile apps. Every company in our list except for Erie Insurance has a decent mobile app. Geico, Allstate, and American Family had very impressive reviews, and are clear standouts. I’ve included all the App Store reviews below. What I care most about is the ability to show proof of insurance via an app on my iPhone. All of the companies listed except for Erie offer this feature. None of the apps have terrible reviews.

Claims process

JD Power does a good job rating customer satisfaction when it comes to the claims process. If an accident does happen, the claims process needs to be smooth. I’d personally rather pay a little more and ensure that I won’t deal with a bunch of headache in the event of an accident.

Financial solvency

AM Best is one of the five independent agencies that rate the financial strength of insurance companies. If a company isn’t A-rated and financially strong, I chopped them from the list. There are enough options to not mess around with anything less than an insurance company that has a great financial foundation.

Customer satisfaction

Consumer Reports has customer satisfaction scores, but I take them with a grain of salt. While Consumer Reports says that their scores come from 23,000 subscribers, we don’t really know how many responses each company had and how reliable the score is. But it is better than nothing.

Location / availability

All of the biggest insurance companies are national. That doesn’t make them the best. Just the biggest. There are a few that are limited to certain states, like American Family, Auto-Owners, Erie Insurance, and Auto Club, so keep that in mind when considering them.

Some companies are only available in a couple of states. I cut most of them from our list of recommended companies.

Lastly, USAA is the most highly recommended, but only available to active, retired, and honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. military along with their families. For the rest of us, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

The ratings for our top 16 car insurance companies

Here are all the ratings and satisfaction scores for our top 16 insurance companies:


J.D. Power claims satisfaction score

AM Best financial rating

Consumer Reports reader score

Avg app rating































State Farm





American Family





Auto-Owner’s Insurance










Amica Mutual





Erie Insurance





The Hartford





Liberty Mutual










Auto Club Group





All of these companies have good or great ratings across these categories, which is why we’ve included them on our list.

How car insurance works

When you get a car insurance quote, the insurance company is going to ask you how much coverage you want on all sorts of stuff.

It even seems like car insurance companies have deliberately tried to make this as confusing as possible:

  • Different parts of your policy cover different stuff
  • Some stuff is optional
  • Some stuff isn’t optional in other states
  • Some items overlap, so it’s really easy to be “over-insured”

Bear with me. Once we’ve gone through the different components of a car insurance policy, the quote process is going to be a lot easier.

And you’ll avoid getting tricked by car insurance companies that want you to pay for more insurance than you really need.

Liability coverage

Liability coverage covers damage you cause to people and property.

There are two types.

Bodily injury liability coverage: Covers medical expenses for the people who get injured in the accident you cause.

Property damage liability coverage: Covers the other person’s vehicle or other property that gets damaged in the accident you cause.

It actually gets a bit more complicated than this. There are other types of liability coverage that you can add. For now, let’s focus on the main two types.

When you get your core liability coverage, your insurance company will ask you how much coverage you want. The higher your coverage, the more money your insurance company will be willing to pay out during a serious accident.

Think of it like this.

Let’s say you wreck a Toyota Corolla, which is worth about $20,000. If you have a $100,000 property liability coverage, no big deal. Your insurance company will completely replace the car.

Now let’s say you wreck a Ferrari that costs $250,000, and have that same property liability coverage of $100,000. In this case, your insurance policy will only pay up to $100,000. You’re on the hook for the other $150,000.

Remember one simple rule for liability coverage: Larger numbers are better.

The higher your liability coverage, the more your insurance company is willing to pay before they leave you hanging.

Car insurance companies use some fancy notation for this liability coverage. It looks like this: $100,000/$300,000/$100,000.

In plain language, that means:

  • $100,000 bodily injury payout per person.
  • $300,000 bodily injury payout per accident. This caps the bodily injury coverage, regardless of how many people are in the accident.
  • $100,000 property damage payout per accident.

Remember our liability coverage rule — higher numbers are better. That will cover you across a larger range of accidents.

So how much liability coverage is enough?

Think of insurance like this: It’s there to keep you out of financial catastrophe during a serious accident. You want as much as you can possibly get. If an accident is bad enough, you could easily hit the limits of your coverage. That’s not a position anyone wants to be in.

Yes, higher liability coverage will raise the cost of your insurance policy. First, we’ll show you a few items to skip, which will compensate. Second, we’ve got scripts further down for you to negotiate your costs and get them down even further. Between those two things, you should have no problem getting more liability coverage without having to raise the price of your plan.

I personally went with $100,000/$300,000/$100,000. I did do some research on averages and found that most folks end up with $100,000/$300,000/$50,000. For me, that’s too low. 

Vehicle coverage

All of that liability coverage you need to pay for doesn’t protect your own vehicle. That’s where collision and comprehension coverage come into play.

  • Collision Coverage: Covers your vehicle in an accident with another vehicle or object. 
  • Comprehension Coverage: Covers your vehicle from weather, theft, etc.

Protecting your vehicle is required if you have a lease or are financing your vehicle. If you own it, then it comes down to comparing the value of your car to the risk of not covering it. Make this decision based on how old the car is and whether you’re planning on replacing it soon.

Covering your vehicle works a bit differently than the liability coverage. Instead of picking the amount of coverage you want, you’ll pick the size of your deductible.

Deductibles for car insurance work just like medical deductibles. It’s the amount that you have to pay before your coverage kicks in. Let’s say you have a $1,000 deductible. In an accident, you’d pay the first $1,000, and then the insurance company would cover everything else.

I use two guidelines when picking my car insurance deductible:

  • If you get in accidents regularly or don’t have much cash on hand, get a lower deductible.
  • If you rarely get in accidents and can easily cover the whole deductible, get a higher deductible.

The higher your deductible, the lower the cost of your policy. While a higher deductible saves you money today, don’t pick a deductible that you wouldn’t be able to pay at any given moment. A $2,500 deductible means that you’d need the ability to pay $2,500 without warning in order to replace your car during a bad accident.

Underinsured / uninsured motorist bodily and property damage

Underinsured / uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage covers you and your passengers in the event that someone causes an accident but doesn’t have proper coverage.

Underinsured / uninsured motorist property damage coverage is the same thing, but covers your property if the other driver is at fault and doesn’t have adequate coverage.

Wait a second, isn’t all this stuff already covered?

By getting coverage for my vehicle, it’s covered regardless of who causes the accident. I also have health insurance, so I’ve got my medical bills covered too.

Why double up on everything by also getting underinsured motorist coverage?

That is an excellent question. If we have good health insurance and can afford the deductible for our vehicle, we don’t see a reason to get this extra coverage. 

Some states do require this on your policy. In that case, we get the minimum that we’re required to. The main downside to this approach is that we’ll have to pay our deductible even if we’re not at fault and the other person is underinsured or uninsured. 

When we’re in other states, we skip this altogether.

Personal injury protection

Personal injury protection (PIP) covers medical expenses for you and your passengers’ medical bills, regardless of who is responsible for causing the accident. It could also cover lost wages.

Is it worth it?

We don’t use this ourselves. Since it overlaps with our health insurance, we don’t see a reason to get it. In our case, we’d be paying for the same insurance twice. If our health insurance was weak or we regularly had passengers without health insurance, maybe it would make sense.

Depending on your state, it’ll either be required, an option, or not an option at all. If we found ourselves in a state where it’s required, we’d get the bare minimum amount.

These are the states that require personal injury protection: District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.


Extras could include roadside assistance, rental car coverage, a glass deductible, and so forth.

As a general rule, extras are a waste of time with car insurance.

Take roadside assistance as an example. It can be a lifesaver, but the benefits are better and it tends to be cheaper by going with a dedicated service like AAA or checking your credit card perks.

Now, if you know that you’d take full advantage of one of these extras, it could make sense to add it to your policy. We’d only add one if we knew with certainty that we’d be taking advantage of it. If we’re not sure, we skip them.

Our rules for which coverage to get

We covered a lot of ground just now, so let’s recap the rules that we use for getting coverage:

  • Liability coverage = Get as much as possible.
  • Deductible = Keep this low if you have regular accidents or don’t have cash on hand to cover a higher deductible. Otherwise, get a higher deductible.
  • Underinsured motorist bodily and property damage = Skip this unless it’s required by the state you’re living in.
  • Personal injury protection = Skip this unless it’s required by the state you’re living in.
  • Extras = Skip these too.

The 4-step process to get the best car insurance policy

Now that you know how car insurance works, it’s time to get your policy. With 4 easy steps, you’ll have your policy by the end of today:

  1. Start with our list of insurance companies.
  2. Get quotes from at least 5 insurance companies.
  3. Negotiate with your top choices.
  4. Pick your winning policy.

I’ll walk you through each of these steps and show you the quotes that I got.

This is the exact process that I used to get my car insurance policy. In fact, I saved $2,088/year by going through this exact process. I wish that I had done this years ago based on how much money I just saved with a few hours of work.

Step1: Start with this list of insurance companies

Based on customer satisfaction with the claims process, overall consumer reviews, and the financial health of the company, any of these companies are worth considering:

That’s 16 options.

A few of these won’t be available to you. Not every insurance carrier is available in every state. And USAA is only available to active, retired, and honorably separated officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. military, or their families.

If you want to be extra thorough, it is a good idea to figure out the coverage requirements in your state. Then you’ll know why an insurance company is forcing you to get PIP coverage, for example.

Step 2: Get quotes from at least 5 insurance companies

“5 quotes? Really? Not just one?”

We’re completely serious: Get at LEAST 5 quotes. If you really want to get the best insurance policy, you’ll want to get a quote from all 16 companies in our list.

Here’s the thing about car insurance policies.

Once you’ve filtered for legitimate companies that have good claims processes and consumer satisfaction scores, the policies are all the same. The only difference is price.

So it’s all about getting the best quote for the policy that you want.

And there’s a wide range of quotes that you’ll get.

Here’s the policy I got quotes on:

  • Liability coverage: $100,000 / $300,000 / $100,000
  • Personal injury protection coverage: Not needed
  • Collision deductible: $1,000
  • Comprehension deductible: $1,000
  • Underinsured motorist property damage coverage: None
  • Extras: Decline all

After spending several hours requesting quotes from every company on this list, I got quotes that ranged from $1,000/year to $4,600/year. That’s a huge range. If I had picked the wrong company, done one quote, and went with it, I could have been spending an extra $3,600/year for nothing.

By requesting 5 quotes, you could save yourself thousands of dollars per year.

Step 3: Negotiate with your top choices

Here are all the quotes that I received, along with all the ratings:


J.D. Power claims satisfaction score

AM Best financial rating

Consumer Reports reader score

Avg app rating





































State Farm






American Family





Auto-Owner’s Insurance











Amica Mutual






Erie Insurance





The Hartford





Liberty Mutual












Auto Club Group





For the companies that are missing quotes, coverage either wasn’t available to me or I wasn’t able to finish the quote process.

At this point, we have some possible winners and several clear losers.

I immediately cut out the most expensive quotes. Even when their agents tried to call or email me, I just ignored them. Their quotes were too high for me to expect they could get anywhere close to the other companies.

There were also a few companies that pissed me off during the quote process. Things didn’t load right or I had trouble getting the quote I wanted. I cut those out too.

That got my list down to 7.

To see if any of them could get closer to the best quote, I started calling them.

I started with Amica and Travelers. I told them that I was getting quotes for around $530-$550 for 6 months, from both Progressive and Esurance. Neither of them could beat the $530, but they both came down to about $650, which gives me more options so I’m not making my decision purely off price.

Use this script for negotiating care insurance:

ACME INSURANCE: Hello, Acme Insurance. How may I help you today?

YOU: I’d like to negotiate a policy. [Other insurance company] is offering to insure me for $XXX less for [coverage]. I’d like to know if there’s a better deal from you, please.

Wait for their response. Negotiating with this technique is much harder to do with car insurance companies than banks — but it is possible. If they’re stubborn and try to shoot you down, keep pressing at it. Don’t make it easy for them to say no.

ACME INSURANCE: Sorry, but our rates are fixed at this time and we can’t change it due to [some BS excuse about why they can’t give you a lower rate].

YOU: Well, I’ve been a good driver for X years now and would love a lower rate. What else can you do to help me?

ACME INSURANCE: Hmm, one second. I see that you’re a really good customer. I’m going to check with my supervisor. Can you hold for a second?


I was able to check with my supervisor and can lower that policy by X%. Does that work?

You’ll have the most leverage by already having a lower quote from another company. Depending on how good that quote is, other companies may or may not be able to match it. IF they do, you’ll have more options on the final company that you pick.

Step 4: Pick your winning policy

Here’s how I narrowed my policy. First, I was left with 4 great options:

  • Progressive
  • Travelers
  • Esurance
  • Amica

My previous insurance provider was Progressive, which probably has something to do with why their quote was so low. I have been happy with them, although I haven’t had to deal with any claims.

And Amica has awesome customer satisfaction ratings.

That’s enough for me to cut Travelers and Esurance from my list, leaving me with 2 options: Progressive versus Amica.

I decided to stick with Progressive since they gave me the best rate and I have been with them for years.

I should note that my previous policy with Progressive was $1,600 for 6 months. Even though I went through this entire process only to keep my current provider, I was able to still save $2,088/year.

Go through your top 3-5 choices after you’ve negotiated. Then pick a winner that has the best combination of a great price and good customer satisfaction scores.

The best car insurance companies of 2019 is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

State of the blog (and: Introducing Apex Money!)

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Okay, enough with the navel gazing! I’ve been very introspective around here lately. While that was necessary (and cathartic), it’s time to get back to work, to turn our attention to money once more.

Before we begin, though, let’s talk about some changes to my workflow. Mainly, these will affect me, but they’ll indirectly affect GRS readers too.

Refining Get Rich Slowly

As most of you have gathered by now, I’m going to shift how I approach my writing schedule. As in: I’m not going to stick to a schedule. I’m not going to feel pressured to publish. Instead, I’m going to write what I want, when I want. I think we’ll all like the results.

As part of this change, I’m going to be less frenetic, less scattered about my writing. For instance:

  • Normally, I have several articles going at once. I “parallel” process. But we all know that multi-tasking doesn’t work, right? I’m going to shift to “serial” processing my articles. I’m going to focus on one piece at a time. I’ll still read and collect info about other subjects, but when I start writing something, I’ll keep writing that piece until it’s done.
  • This change will also allow me to do deeper dives into subjects. For instance, I’ve been interested lately in mortgages for retirees (especially for early retirees). I’m doing preliminary research on an article right now. When it comes time to actually write the piece, I hope to interview brokers and other experts. When I do deep dives, there may be longer lulls between publish dates.
  • To compensate, Tom (who handles the business side of GRS) and I are exploring other ways to provide material as my publishing pace decreases. That means featuring more guest authors. It may mean bringing on staff writers. And it may mean partnerships with other, established sites. (For instance, we’ve been talking to NerdWallet about republishing one of their articles each week.)

I’ve thought a lot about these changes. I’ve talked them over with people in Real Life. This new approach feels much healthier than my old one. (And, in fact, it’s pretty much how I was doing things at Money Boss before I re-purchased GRS.)

I’m also going to make sure I set aside time every week for fitness and friends. Since moving two years ago, I’ve let both of these parts of my life atrophy. That’s no good. By making them priorities once more, I think I’ll be happier and more productive.

And here’s one final change to my work life: Although it might seem to go against everything I’ve written lately, I’m partnering on a new site: Apex Money, which curates top money stories every day.

Introducing Apex Money

As some of you know, I’ve long longed to create an “aggregation site” that collects the best articles about money. When I re-purchased Get Rich Slowly eighteen months ago, I kind of thought that’s what I’d do here. But I didn’t.

Instead, I implemented the “spare change” section on the home page, which is continuously updated with links to interesting money stories I find from all over. Then, in my weekly email, I pick a handful of these links (usually three to five) as my favorites from the past seven days. Newsletter subscribers love it.

Well, when Rockstar Finance — a popular curation site — went dormant recently, my buddy Jim from Wallet Hacks asked if I’d like to collaborate with him on something similar.

The birth of Apex Money, pt. 1   The birth of Apex Money, pt. 2

This seemed like a no-brainer.

Jim and I have partnered together many times in the past (most notably on the Personal Finance Hour, a proto-podcast we hosted for most of 2009). With him handling the tech side of things and me focused on content, we’re playing to our strengths. Besides, I’m already doing most of this work already!

So, we tested the concept privately to see if it’d work for us. After ten days worth of curation, I feel confident that I can do this without getting overwhelmed. It takes me an extra 15-20 minutes per day to write each Apex Money post. More importantly, it’s fun. I’m having a great time whipping these up. There’s no pressure.

Note: Jim and I aren’t the only ones with this idea. Zach from the excellent Four Pillar Freedom just started his own curation site: Collecting Wisdom. I’ve subscribed already.

Anyhow: If you’d like to get a daily dose of top-quality financial advice, you should bookmark Apex Money. (Or, if you prefer, subscribe to our email newsletter.)

Don’t feel obligated, though. All of the money links I bookmark show up in the “spare change” section here at Get Rich Slowly. The best each day make it to Apex Money. Then the best each week make it to the GRS Insider that I send each Friday.

In the meantime, stick around Get Rich Slowly as we continue to master our money (and our lives) together. It’s great to have you along for the ride.

The post State of the blog (and: Introducing Apex Money!) appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

Questions About Car Repairs, 401(k) Early Withdrawals, Frozen Grapes, and More!

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What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Early withdrawal from 401(k)?
2. Relationship strain renting to children
3. Reclaiming frugality
4. How target retirement fund works
5. Food spending question
6. Buying rental houses as investments?
7. When to replace a car?
8. 529 and financial aid
9. How to record “triggers”
10. Debt repayment book recommendation
11. Frozen grapes
12. Things never slow down

Although my home is fairly elevated compared to the countryside around it, it’s actually at a bit of a local low point, such that whenever you go on a walk from my house, you have to walk up a 2-3% grade for the first quarter of a mile or so.

When I first moved here, I actually viewed this as a negative. I would start walking at a brisk pace and I’d notice that, particularly on a hot day, I could feel the difference in that incline versus walking on the flat ground that used to be near our apartment. I’d think, “I’ve only walked a quarter mile, I shouldn’t feel a thing,” but I could actually tell there was more impact on me than just walking on flat ground.

Now, I kind of relish it. I know that the last quarter mile of any long walk is going to be slightly downhill to go home, so that often encourages me to push myself to walk even farther.

It’s a silly little thing, but it actually makes a difference. I think if I lived at the top of a hill or in a local high spot, I’d probably go on shorter walks on average.

Just some thoughts on motivating myself that I couldn’t really figure out how to turn into any sort of article. On with the questions.

Q1: Early withdrawal from 401(k)?

Is there any way to get access to 401(k) money in an emergency? Wife needs surgery that we can’t afford because insurance won’t approve. HR says that we can’t borrow from it. Any way we can get that money?
– Doug

You can withdraw money early from your 401(k), but if you do so, not only do you have to pay income tax on that withdrawal, you have to pay an additional 10% penalty.

Let’s say you and your wife with no kids make $60,000 a year. If you withdraw $10,000, you’ll be charged 12% federal income tax on that withdrawal, plus an additional 10% penalty, plus any state income taxes. That $10,000 immediately turns into only $7,800, and that’s if you live in a state without income taxes. If you make more, your income tax rate is even higher and thus you are able to pocket even less. Not only that, you’re down $10,000 in retirement savings, an amount that would definitely grow quite a lot between now and retirement.

What’s my point? 401(k) withdrawals should be the absolute last resort. My recommendation to you would be to find someone you trust and have them go through everything in your finances with you, helping you see if there are any blind spots you’re missing out on, before cleaning out your 401(k).

At the very least, you should be negotiating hard regarding the cost of this procedure. Get ahold of the doctor(s) and hospital where this procedure will be performed and start talking about payments and payment plans now. Make it clear that you’re on limited resources but that you want to make this work. They will work with you – it’s far better for them to work with you than to not work with you because not working with you means that it’s likely they don’t get paid.

Q2: Relationship strain renting to children

My significant other and I are retired. We bought a house in a new location where my oldest son, wife and baby (with another on the way) live. We bought a house much larger than we needed with the understanding that they would pay rent, help us with yard work and some house upkeep. They have been late with rent a couple times and I offered to waive the late fee the first time if they would sit down and take a judgment-free look at their basic finances in an attempt to help them get a handle on their spending. They declined and paid the late fee. I’ve also had to remind them to do the things they promised they’d do before we bought this place. They do them begrudgingly, but only after I remind them. It’s putting a strain on our relationship, but I don’t know how to fix it without doing real damage to our relationship (or jeopardizing getting to see my grandson). I’d appreciate your thoughts.
– Andrea

The issue is clear: you’re trying to simultaneously have a landlord-renter relationship with your child while also having a parent-child-grandchild familial relationship. The thing is, virtually no one has warm feelings for their landlord. No one feels great about writing a check to someone; it’s just something that has to be done.

In your situation, there is often some sense that the strength of the familial relationship can “make up” for less-than-stellar behavior in the landlord-renter relationship. If you’re renting from mom and dad, is it really a big deal if we’re late with the rent? They know what’s going on. Of course, if the parents are looking at this from more of a landlord perspective, which you are, then it’s not good.

So, what’s the solution? The best solution is to avoid such financial relationships with family members, especially ones you want to maintain a great relationship with. My advice would be to figure out a way to end the landlord-renter situation, because I think there’s a good likelihood, given these earlier signs, that it’s going to blow up and seriously strain the parent-child relationship.

How should you go about doing that? There are a lot of options here, but they’re ones you should discuss with your partner before making a move. One clear option is to sell the house and have each of you move to something that works well individually, so that you’re no longer the landlord. Another option would be to just end the landlord-renter arrangement and have them live there without rent for a certain period. Maybe you simply say, “You’re no longer renters, but we’re going to sell the house in X months and move to something smaller,” giving them time to get their situation in order and find a new place to live.

I don’t think there’s a good way to make a simultaneous landlord-renter arrangement and a parent-child arrangement work over the long term unless everyone is incredibly responsible and are the perfect renters and the perfect landlords. Financial relationships strain personal relationships.

Q3: Reclaiming frugality

When I was in college and during the first few years of my career I was super frugal and careful with my money but then I got my student loans paid off and got a better paying job and it feels like money leaks left and right on all kinds of small and big things. I don’t think twice about buying the expensive versions of food at the store or grabbing a Starbucks coffee when I go to Target. But when I step back and look at the bigger picture, I see how much financial opportunity is vanishing, and for what? How can I reclaim that frugality I used to have?
– Amy

Many people are nudged to frugality through scarcity. In other words, when there’s not much money in their bank account, it becomes a lot more imperative to be careful with every dollar.

One strategy you might want to consider is to simply dump your credit cards and start using only your debit card for purchases, then move to paying yourself first by moving money out of your checking account and into other accounts, like a Roth IRA or an investment account. This will leave a much smaller pool in your checking account and, since you’re relying on just your debit card and thus the money actually in your checking account, you’re forced to be more careful.

Personally, I find it really powerful to look through credit card statements when I receive them. Unnecessary purchases that didn’t bring me any lasting joy hit me like a punch in the gut and they help build my resolve to avoid them. I’ve somewhat built up a sense that, if a purchase isn’t going to be remembered fondly a few days from now (at least), then it’s not worth throwing the money at it unless it’s a genuine need.

Q4: How target retirement fund works

Can you explain how a target retirement fund works? The investment guy at work tried to explain it to me, but I got lost. Tried to Google it and a lot of the stuff I found might as well have been written in Greek.
– Mary

When you put money into your retirement account (401(k) or 403(b) or Roth IRA or whatever account you have), you have choices as to what to invest it in. Stocks, bonds, real estate, money markets – there are a lot of options.

Each of those options has a certain balance of risk and reward. Some of them have more risk of losing money in the short term but can also potentially grow very fast in a year or two. Other investments rarely lose money, but only grow at a slow rate.

When you’re far away from retirement, it’s a good idea to have more of the risky investments because you really don’t care about the losses in the short term. You’re not taking that money out any time soon! So you’ll probably have more money in something with more risk, like stocks, and less money in something with little risk, like money markets.

When you get close to retirement, that shifts. You don’t want as many of those risky investments. You still want some, to be sure – retirement is a long time – but you’re also going to start taking money out of the account soon. So, at that point, you want more balance.

For example, my approach is that the money I’m going to take out in the next ten years should be in something less risky and the money that I intend to last longer than that should be in something more risky.

So, when I hit ten years from retirement, some of my retirement money is going to start sliding into something less aggressive. I’ll move a little of my money from stocks and real estate (more risky) into bonds and money markets (less risky), and most of my contributions at that point will go into bonds and money markets.

When I retire, I’ll basically keep things that way – the money I expect to withdraw in the next ten years will be in something low risk, and the rest will be in something with more risk.

A “target retirement fund” does essentially this exact thing automatically. It assumes you’re retiring in the year in the name of the fund – like “Target Retirement 2045” assumes you’re retiring in the year 2045. Within the fund, when you’re far from that year, it’s invested pretty aggressively, with lots of stocks and real estate. When you get close to that year, it gradually shifts the investments into less risky things, so you don’t lose a lot of money when you’re close to retirement or actually in retirement.

Different specific “target retirement” funds do this whole thing a little differently in terms of the specifics, but they all follow that same general philosophy.

Hope that helps!

Q5: Food spending question

How much should a single person be spending on food each month? I have been watching my food spending and I am spending about $450 a month. I eat out about 2x or 3x a week and include that cost in the number. Is this a good number? I don’t know how to tell.
– Emily

The best data I have on this is the USDA Food Plan Cost of Food reports that the USDA publishes each month. In the most recent report, it estimates that a single adult female between the ages of 19 and 50 should be spending between $166.40 (thrifty plan) and $330.40 (liberal plan) on food each month. So, by that standard, your spending is pretty high.

By my back of the envelope math, that food spending adds up to about $5 on average per meal, which seems quite high to me. While I definitely spend that much when eating out, most of our family meals at home are in the $1 to $2 range.

So, I think that your food spending is on the high side. Without knowing more about your food spending, it’s hard for me to figure out how to cut it down. In general, planning your meals in advance based on the grocery store flyer and then making a grocery list based on that meal plan is a really helpful strategy for us in terms of keeping our food costs down.

Q6: Buying rental houses as investments?

My uncle owns about a dozen rental houses in the town where I grew up. He has a part time handyman that he hires to keep them fixed up. He has the money from this go into a savings account at the bank and he uses the money to pay mortgages and insurance and then save for more houses and eventually an apartment building. He says this is his retirement. Does this actually work?
– Derek

It can, but there are a lot of risks involved. For this to work, he has to have a lot of reliable renters who aren’t doing any real damage to the properties outside of normal wear and tear and his “property manager” is probably coming pretty cheap, too.

If he’s not keeping those houses filled with people who consistently pay rent and don’t damage the properties, he’s probably going to find himself with monthly shortfalls.

This kind of thing is a balancing act that he has to pay attention to for it to continue to earn money. If he raises the rent too much, he won’t have renters who can pay. If he lowers it too much, he won’t have enough revenue even if the houses are all full.

I guess my point is that buying rental properties, renting them out, and building on that by buying more rental properties can work as a business albeit with some risk, but I don’t really see it as a retirement plan, which is much more passive. A rental property business requires a lot of time and sweat equity.

Q7: When to replace a car?

My 2012 Corolla has 220K miles on it and runs well. However last oil change the shop I take it to for work said that there was brake work probably coming up on it. It also sometimes makes an odd noise when starting it which probably means the starter is starting to fail. Is it time to replace it? How do you know when it’s time?
– Anne

The moment I start to feel like a vehicle isn’t fully reliable, I take it to my trusted mechanic and have him look over the things that are giving me a worry when he has a few free minutes. If he indicates that things are still good, I trust him and keep driving; if he indicates that there are some things that need fixing, I trade it in.

That gut feeling doesn’t come from just one repair or one failed battery. It usually comes when the car has more than 150K miles on it (at least) and is showing multiple little issues and giving me an overall sense that it’s not in good shape. It’s more of a gut feeling than anything.

The key piece in this equation is a mechanic that you trust or a shop that you trust. It sounds like you have one. Then, if you’re not feeling confident in your car anymore, and it sounds like you might not be, take it in there and ask them to look over all of the little things that are worrying you. If they tell you it’s fine, then keep driving it; if they point to several needed repairs, move on. It’s that easy.

Q8: 529 and financial aid

Does the money in a 529 plan adversely affect financial aid that a student receives? I am getting conflicting answers as I research this.
– Marine

The short answer is yes, but the impact is less than the value of the 529. If you have $X in your 529, then the impact on your student aid is going to be substantially less than $X.

This makes sense, in a way. Financial aid programs don’t want to give financial aid to students who can already cover much of their college education with money from their 529. At the same time, they don’t want to strictly penalize students for 529 savings.

The way it effectively ends up working is that students often end up having to use a lot of their 529 money for the first year, then when they apply for financial aid the second year, their 529 balance is much lower and the impact on financial aid is much less, so they don’t need nearly as much 529 money the second year, and so on.

Q9: How to record “triggers”

Came across your great review of Triggers while searching online for info about the book. Wondering if you could share how you actually track your trigger scores. Do you just use a spreadsheet?
– Manny

Personally, I found it more valuable to actually write them down physically rather than record them in a spreadsheet.

What I’ve been doing is making a new table every month in a grid-paper notebook. I make a list of the triggers I’m tracking on the left side, describing each in just a few words, then I make columns to the right of the triggers, 28-31 of them depending on the days in the month.

Below this table, I usually write a longer description of each trigger, written out in question form. “Did I do my best to control my hobby spending?” “Did I do my best to improve my fitness for taekwondo?” Things like that. In the actual table, I usually use a much shorter description – “hobby spending” and “taekwondo fitness.”

When I actually score myself at the end of the day, I look at the full question and write it in the space above.

At the end of the month, I manually average the scores and look for patterns. Again, I find that doing this with pen and paper is more meaningful and powerful and helps me to see things and think about things that I might not have otherwise noticed.

Q10: Debt repayment book recommendation

Looking for a good book on helping get out of debt. Do NOT want Dave Ramsey and his preaching!
– David

Dave Ramsey’s style is definitely a polarizing one. He has a pretty strong coaching style and often uses Christian themes. For some, that’s a huge help; for others, it’s a giant turnoff. Here are a few good books on debt payoff not authored by Dave Ramsey that are pretty solid.

How to Be Debt Free by Avery Breyer is a very solid book on debt repayment strategies that offers a plan that’s pretty similar to Dave Ramsey’s “baby steps” (honestly, most debt repayment strategies look more or less the same in the end) but without the aggressive Christian coaching style.

Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide To Financial Freedom by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is another solid book on the same topic. She uses a somewhat similar coaching style to Ramsey but somewhat less aggressive and without the strong Christian overtones, so if you like to be nudged fairly hard without the religious theming, this is probably a good choice.

I almost always recommend Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin because it was the book that really launched our debt payoff and financial turnaround. It’s not strictly about debt repayment (though that’s a part of it); it’s more about reorienting your life so that debt elimination and further financial success are inevitable.

Q11: Frozen grapes

Tip if you find grapes on sale at the store: they freeze really really well like tomatoes. Just rinse them and spread them out on a baking sheet and pop them in the freezer. 2 hours later, you can put them in a bag. They thaw really well and are actually kind of fun to eat frozen.
– Karen

We do this! This is a great way to use a surplus of grapes. They make for great bite-sized “popsicles” on a hot summer day.

My favorite trick is to use them as “ice cubes” in drinks. Instead of tossing several ice cubes into a drink you want to keep cold, instead use several frozen grapes as the “ice cubes.” They’ll keep the drink cold, won’t water down the drink, absorb a bit of the drink’s flavor as they thaw, and provide a nice little snack when the drink is finished.

I also like grabbing a few out of the freezer after doing something outside on a really hot day. It’s a great “cool down” to let the icy grapes thaw slowly in your mouth and then chew them up when they’re partially thawed.

Q12: Things never slow down

I have this big list of frugal projects I want to do but I keep telling myself I will do them when things slow down a bit but then things never slow down. It feels like I’m always riding this giant wave of more important things to do than doing personal cost cutting.
– Jenny

As far as I can tell, this is called “modern life.” Our lives are filled with more distractions and responsibilities than we realize, and they slowly fill up all available time so that it feels like there’s never any time for what we want to do. People have jobs that constantly demand their attention, smartphones that constantly demand their attention, and on and on and on…

The only solution I’ve found to this problem is to just eliminate things from your life that don’t bring you value, even if it seems like you’re “supposed” to have it in modern life. If things feel “important” to you and you don’t feel like you have the time for it in your life, something has to give or else you’re going to find yourself becoming more and more dissatisfied with your life.

So, what is it? What needs to give? For me, I largely gave up video games and computer games unless I’m playing them socially. The same is true with television; I basically don’t watch it unless it’s a social exercise, either. Why? I realized I got little value out of doing those things alone; the solo activities I get value out of include cooking and reading and writing.

This is a big reason why I write about time management sometimes on The Simple Dollar. With so many time demands on us, it’s easy to feel like we should be doing financially responsible things but we just don’t have the time. Usually, the core issue is misuse of time. We use our time on things that aren’t really important to us but feel urgent and then don’t have time for the things that we realize really are important to us when we step back and look at the bigger picture.

Got any questions? The best way to ask is to follow me on Facebook and ask questions directly there. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

The post Questions About Car Repairs, 401(k) Early Withdrawals, Frozen Grapes, and More! appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

The best travel credit cards of 2019

sourced from:

I’m not a travel points hacker.

Some people love that stuff. I am not one of those people.

I want to get a few cards, have a few simple rules on when to use each, maximize my points with minimum effort, and get back to living my Rich Life. I have zero interest in trying to maximize every cent from any given point I earn.

So I’m not going to teach you how to point hack your way to 300 nights/year worth of free hotel rooms by using 38 different cards.

What I can promise you is that by the end of this post, you’ll have a simple rewards machine that racks up points for you while giving you a ton of perks. All without having to think about it.

It all comes down to picking the right 2-3 cards for you. You should pick one solid card in each of these categories:

  1. General travel credit card
  2. Airline credit card
  3. Hotel credit card (optional)

Before we go any further, I assume you travel at least once per year or aspire to.

If you hate traveling, don’t get a travel credit card. All the points and perks are designed around folks that travel regularly. If you don’t travel, you’re better off getting a cash back credit card.

I’m also going to assume that you’ve already made the commitment to choose a travel rewards card over a cash back card. We go into detail on the difference between the two in our review of the best rewards credit card. Basically, get a travel rewards card if you want to maximize the value of your rewards program. And if you want to maximize simplicity, get a cash back card.

Travel credit cards do take a bit more effort, and in return you’ll get a ton of amazing perks while traveling.

Let’s start with the best travel cards and how we selected them.

The best travel cards

These are the best travel credit cards:

When selecting cards, we used these factors:

Bonus value

Just about every card offers a bonus of some kind. Some point hackers will cycle through cards quickly to rack up bonuses. If that’s how they want to spend their time, all the power to them.

It is NOT how I want to spend my time. I have more important things to do than chase credit card bonuses. For the cards that you sign up for, make sure to get the bonus. Then move on to more important things.

In the long term, the exact bonus is a minor benefit. I never choose a card based on the bonus. Also keep in mind that the values of each “point” are slightly different depending on the card. That means a card offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus isn’t necessarily better than a card offering a 50,000 bonus. Don’t let it worry you that much.

Points system

Depending on the travel card, the points system either matters a lot or it’s a minor consideration.

For your general travel card that serves as the hub of your points machine, the majority of the value comes from the card’s point system. So pay very close attention. You want a points system that aligns with your spending so you get as many bonus points as possible.

For airline and hotel cards that are more about the perks, the point system is a smaller consideration.


To get a decent travel credit card, you’ll need to accept a $95 annual fee at least. You’ll easily make this up with value of the points.

The really nice perks don’t open up until the annual fee hits $450. All the “high roller” cards with amazing perks are in this range.

For travel cards, annual fees are standard. It’s the price we pay to get more points and sweet perks.

Make sure to get travel cards that don’t have foreign transaction fees. These fees will add 1-3% to the total cost of any traveling that you do. That’s ridiculous, since there are plenty of amazing travel cards that don’t have any foreign transaction fees. Don’t accept this fee on any card.


Perks are where the travel credit cards really shine. Especially at the higher tiers, the primary selling point is the extra perks you get.

Lounge access, free hotel nights, companion fares, Uber credits, the list goes on.

Perks are the main reason to consider multiple travel credit cards. And the perks are awesome enough that it’s worth getting 2-3 cards in order to stack a bunch of perks.

Convenience factors

For travel credit cards, there are two convenience factors to watch for:

  1. Keep credit cards within the same bank as your other accounts when possible. Having several dozen bank logins gets to be a real pain. So if you’re trying to decide between two cards, choosing the card at the bank you already use keeps things simple.
  2. Try to avoid getting only American Express cards. Some places don’t accept them, especially internationally. You want at least one solid Visa or Mastercard as a backup.

Each of these will depend on your specific circumstances.

Bank reputation

It’s no secret that we hate big banks at I Will Teach You to Be Rich, especially Bank of America and Wells Fargo. For decades, they have aggressively charged their customers ridiculous fees and have been involved in multiple scandals.

Their reputation is so bad that I didn’t even consider their cards.

Chase tends to be the exception. While it’s a big bank, it has a much better reputation than its peers. Some of our favorite cards are from Chase.

General travel credit cards

My main recommendation: start with one general travel credit card.

This will be your primary spending card that you rack up the most points on. Consider it the “hub” of your points systems. Most of your points will sit on this card until you’re ready to spend them.

I prioritize my “general” card for most of my spending so that I have as much flexibility as possible with my points. Maybe I want to blow hundreds of thousands of points on a stay at the St. Regis. Or maybe I want a specific first-class seat on a Cathay Pacific flight. I could also string together a few flights for an “around-the-world” trip.

Whatever the goal, I strongly prefer having a points program “hub” that allows me to transfer points into other programs so I have complete flexibility.

Before considering specific cards for airlines or hotels, get one all-purpose card.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The best overall travel credit card

  • “Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named “”Best Premium Travel Credit Card”” for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Go get this card. Seriously, it’s amazing.

If you’re looking for the single “best” travel credit card and don’t want to put any more thought into it, get this card and be done with it.

It has great points categories with 3X on all travel and restaurants, a travel statement credit, another credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, no foreign transaction fees, and one of the most flexible point transfer programs out there.

The major downside is the $450 annual fee. If you make over $100,000 per year, get the card. With the $300 travel credit, the annual fee is really just $150.

Also, keep an eye on the airline partners that are part of the Chase points program. They include British Airways, Flying Blue, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, United, Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus, and Iberia. The Chase travel portal lets you book flights on any airline, but those are the only miles programs that you can transfer your Chase points into. If you primarily fly Delta, it’s worth considering the American Express Platinum to make your point redemption on flights easier.

If the annual fee is a stretch for you, consider our next recommendation instead.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The best travel card with an annual fee that’s less than $100

  • “Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel”

The Sapphire Preferred is very similar to the Sapphire Reserve, with two main differences:

  1. You’ll collect fewer points and won’t have as many perks
  2. The annual fee is $95 instead of $450

2X points on all travel and restaurants is still amazing. Plus there’s no foreign transaction fees. And you still get access to the same flexible points program.

American Express Platinum

The best travel card for going all-out on perks

  • “Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.”

If you want to be the VIP and maximize your perks, get the Amex Platinum.

You get Uber statement credits, airline statement credits, and 5X points on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel. It also has access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which I use for room upgrades, late checkouts, and free spa treatments.

The standout perk is getting access to the Centurion and American Express airport lounges. They’re super nice. The downside is that they’re only in 18 airports. So if you happen to fly through one of these airports regularly, this alone makes the card worth it. It also gets you access to Delta lounges. While there is Lufthansa lounge access, it’s only from Munich and Frankfurt.

If I flew Delta as my primary airline, I’d get the American Express Platinum so I could easily transfer my American Express points to Delta miles and redeem them as international flights.

Airline travel cards

After you’ve gotten comfortable with your general travel credit card, it’s time to add a level to your points system.

A dedicated airline card gets you a bunch of perks not available on any other cards. A few of them are easily worth the cost of having an extra credit card.

I resisted this for years. I liked the simplicity of only having to manage a single card. After I finally got an airline card, I wish I had done it years earlier.

Every airline has a slightly different set of perks. Hopefully your primary airline gives you the perks that you care most about. For me, I love priority boarding and lounge access. The perks tend to include:

  • Free checked bags
  • Priority boarding
  • Companion fares (a second ticket on the same flight for a crazy low price)
  • Lounge access or discounts on lounge passes
  • Extra points when booking directly through the airline
  • Miles boosts or extra qualifying miles for program tiers

We won’t be using the airline card to maximize miles. Sure, we’ll get a few extra miles but that’s not our primary goal. Our goal is to get extra perks when we do fly.

How to pick the right airline credit card

Before we pick a card, we first need to pick our primary airline. I recommend committing to one of these three airlines as your primary airline:

  1. United
  2. Delta
  3. American Airlines

Why only these three?

When managing airline miles, you also want an airline that’s part of one of the three major airline networks:

  • Star Alliance (United)
  • Oneworld (American Airlines)
  • SkyTeam (Delta)

Each network has a dozen or so different airline members. For networks within the same airline, it’s easy to book flights across the network and use your airline miles. Flights on partner airlines also usually accrue miles that end up on your main miles program.

Why does any of this matter?

When you want to redeem your miles, you’ll want to use them on international flights. Unless you absolutely need to, avoid spending miles on domestic flights. You’ll get more value from your points on international flights. Plus you get a sweet international trip out of the deal.

And if you’re flying internationally, your options will be confined to the airlines in the same network as your primary miles program. For example, I can’t easily use my United miles to book a ticket on a British Airways flight, since they’re part of different networks.

This is why I never considered the JetBlue or Southwest Airlines miles programs or their credit cards. I know folks who absolutely love both airlines, but not having international flight partners is a deal breaker for me.

Alaska Airlines is the major main exception to all this.

While they’re not part of any of the airline networks, they do have a lot of airlines that they’ve partnered with, like British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and more. So if there’s a specific airline you really want, check their partner list. It is possible they’ve put together a network themselves.

So how do we pick between United, Delta, and American Airlines?

Honestly, you won’t have much choice in the matter unless you happen to live next to a major airport with a ton of airlines. 

Most airports have 1-2 dominant airlines.

I happen to live in Seattle, so United is my best choice out of the three.

Why should you prioritize the largest airline at your airport? I do it in order to get the most direct flights possible. I’ll do anything for a direct flight. To me, every extra layover is another chance for something to go horribly wrong.

Years ago, I was traveling between Denver, CO, and Richmond, VA, regularly on Delta. All my flights went through Cincinnati, one of the major hubs for Delta.

On two trips back-to-back, I got delayed overnight. The first was a massive blizzard that hit Denver, the second was a plane malfunction on the last flight of the night. I almost got stranded for the third time in a row when my first flight was delayed and I missed my connection. I sprinted through several terminals and outran several other passengers for the same flight, managing to grab the last seat on the last flight.

Since then, I only consider flights with the fewest connections possible.

That’s why I pick the airline with the most flights out of my home airport. If you want to use another, go for it. Just pick one airline to prioritize over all the others.

Once you pick your primary airline, then it’s time to pick your card. Each airline tends to have 2-3 credit card options. The higher the annual fee you accept, the more perks you’ll get.

Remember that we’re not using our airline credit card to optimize points. We’ll get a few extra points when booking our flights with that card, but that’ll pale in comparison to all the points our general travel card generates. We want the card that’ll give us the best perks.

If the annual fee is worth the perks for you, get the card.

Here are your options.

United Explorer Card

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

A solid entry-level perks card for United flyers.

You’ll get your first bag checked free, priority boarding, and 2 lounge passes per year. There’s also a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit if your primary card doesn’t already have it.

I find that the 2 lounge passes per year is more than enough for most folks. While it’s nice to have lounge access at your home airport, it’s not a game changer since we control when we get to the airport for our first flight. We really need lounge access when getting stuck with 3+ hour layovers on bigger international trips. I did have to wait in Montreal for 8 hours when coming back to the U.S. from Brussels. I sure wish I had lounge access then.

Two passes to the United lounge is enough to cover most traveling for a year. 

United MileagePlus Club Card

  • United Club℠ membership – up to a $550 value per year
  • Free first and second checked bags – a savings of up to $280 per roundtrip when you use your United MileagePlus® Club Card to purchase your ticket.
  • Enjoy Premier Access® travel services to ease your way through the airport with priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
  • Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees

This is the “VIP” United card at a $450 annual fee. Overall, it’s very similar to its $95/year Explorer Card counterpart, with one major upgrade: full access to United lounges.

If you travel a lot and want a reliable lounge as a United traveler, get this card.

You’ll also get 2 free checked bags. If you regularly check luggage, you’ll quickly cover the cost of the card.

If the United lounge access and second bag check are worth $450/year to you, upgrade to this card. If not, stick with the Explorer Card.

Gold Delta SkyMiles

  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms Apply.

A good entry-level Delta card at $95/year. You’ll get three main perks:

  • First checked bag free
  • Priority boarding
  • Delta Sky Club access for $29/person for you and up to 2 guests. While this isn’t as nice as the 2 free passes per year on the United card, it’s a great rate in a pinch. If you and your family get stranded, you’ll be able to hide out in the Delta lounge without handing over your first-born in payment

The perks aren’t epic but they include all the standard stuff at this tier. The card is definitely a great deal at $95/year.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles

This is the “in-betweener” card for Delta travelers at $195/year.

  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases. Miles don’t expire.
  • Check your first bag for free and save up to $60 on a round trip Delta flight.
  • Find room for your carry-on and settle into your seat sooner with Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding. 
  • Enjoy 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with the American Express Delta Card.
  • $195 Annual Fee. Terms Apply.

It’s almost identical to the Gold Delta SkyMiles with the addition of an annual companion fare. In other words, someone can travel with you basically for free. You’ll have to pay taxes, the flight must be domestic, and you get your first companion fare after your first card renewal.

The vast majority of domestic flights exceed $100, so as long as you do one domestic trip per year with someone else, you’ll easily come out ahead on this card.

If you’re a Delta flyer and you’re planning on signing up with the Gold Delta SkyMiles card, you should get the Platinum Delta SkyMiles instead. It’s a better deal.

Delta Reserve Credit Card

  • Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Enjoy a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card.
  • Enter Delta Sky Club® at no cost and bring up to two guests for an exclusive rate of $29 per person per visit.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights -that’s a savings of up to $240 per round trip for a family of four.
  • $450 Annual Fee. Terms Apply.

The “VIP” Delta card at $450/year.

This includes everything from the Platinum Delta SkyMiles, with a few extras:

  • Full Delta Sky Club access for you, $29/person for up to 2 guests
  • A miles boost when you spend $30,000 within any given calendar year. You’ll receive 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles
  • Upgrade priority

Like the other airline cards, the major advantage is full access to the airline’s lounge. If that’s worth the $450/year fee to you, get the card. If not, get the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card instead.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights

Pretty standard offering for American Airlines flyers. For a $95 annual fee, you’ll get the first checked bag for free, “preferred” boarding, 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants, and a flight discount.

The flight discount is pretty nice. As long as you average $1,700 per month in credit card spending, you’ll hit the $20,000 milestone each year. Then you’ll get a discount that more than covers your annual fee.

The 2X miles on restaurants and gas stations is nice too in case your general travel card doesn’t give 2X points or more on these spending categories.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Similar set of VIP perks as the other airlines for an annual fee of $450:

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation

Unfortunately, the Executive World Elite does lose a few perks that the Platinum Select World Elite has. The 2X miles at gas stations and restaurants along with the $125 flight discount aren’t available on this card. That’s lame. But that’s the cost of getting American Airlines lounge access.

Like the other airline cards, only get this card if lounge access is worth the $450 annual fee to you. Otherwise get the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard if American Airlines is your primary airline.

How to use your airline card

Since this is the second credit card that we have, we’ll want to follow a few simple rules to get the most out of it.

  1. Set up a few monthly subscriptions on the card so there’s always active charges on the account. This will keep the bank from marking your account as inactive in case you go a long time without using it. A Netflix subscription is perfect.
  2. Set up automatic payments. Since you won’t be using the card heavily, it’ll be easy to forget about it. The last thing we ever want is to miss a credit card payment. We’ll get screwed on fees and it’ll ruin our credit score for years. Automatic payments ensure that this won’t happen.
  3. When booking a flight on your primary airline, use the card to book the flight. All the airline cards give more points when booking directly through them.

That’s it, you’ll now get great perks while flying.

Hotel travel cards

In general, I’m not a huge fan of hotel travel cards for one reason.

I almost never stay in the same hotel twice.

Even when I return to a city, I almost always try a different hotel. Or I grab an Airbnb that I’ve never used before.

When I travel, even for work, I love trying new things. New neighborhoods, new food, new everything. One of my favorite things is discovering something amazing that I never knew existed.

One of the ways that I get my “new” fix is by trying new hotels. Occasionally, I’ll find a hotel that completely blows my mind, like The Peninsula Beijing or 1 Hotel Central Park. In those cases, I love going back. But it doesn’t happen often.

Where airlines only have a few options and you don’t lose that much flexibility by prioritizing a single airline, you’ll lose a ton of flexibility by only staying in one hotel chain. And the hotels I tend to love are unique, small chains. I have no personal interest in staying at dozens of Marriotts across the world.

But maybe you’re in a different situation. Maybe you travel for business all the time and stay at the same hotels. Or maybe you prefer the consistency from staying at the same hotel chain.

In that case, you should have a hotel credit card.

The choice will be pretty simple too: get the card for the hotel chain that you want to use.

If you’re not sure or have flexibility, go with one of the Marriott Bonvoy cards. You get access to W, St. Regis, and The Ritz-Carlton hotels, which are all super nice. And it includes tons of perks. If I was going to get a hotel card myself, I’d get this one.

Marriott Bonvoy does have several different cards. There are two that you should focus on.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase

For a $95 annual fee, you’ll get:

  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • An additional Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
  • Earn 6X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 6,900 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year
  • Path to Gold Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
  • 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points and get Free Night Stays faster.

The free night award is the most straightforward benefit on this card, and easily covers the $95 annual fee.

Otherwise, think of this card as a booster to climbing up the rewards tiers at Marriott. Here’s how many nights you need to spend in Marriott hotels per year to qualify for the different tiers:

  • Member = 0 nights
  • Silver Elite = 10 nights
  • Gold Elite = 25 nights
  • Platinum Elite = 50 nights
  • Titanium Elite = 75 nights
  • Ambassador Elite = 100 nights and $20,000 in annual spending

The higher you go up the tiers, the more perks you get. Everything from bonus points during your stay, faster internet, late checkout, welcome gifts, and room upgrades. The higher your tier, the more perks you get.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card starts you at Silver Elite status, which includes 10% bonus on points during your stay along with priority late checkout. And with the 15 Elite Night credits, you have a headstart on hitting the higher tiers that have increasingly better perks.

That makes it a lot easier to hit whichever status tier that you’re going for.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express

For a $450 annual fee, you get these perks:

  • Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
  • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

With the statement credits, the annual fee comes down to $150.

To be honest, the whole point of hotel cards is to rack up perks. And you’ll already have a general travel card at this point anyway. So if you’re going to take the step to get a hotel card too, you should grab the premium cards with higher annual fees. As long as you use your statement credits and annual free nights, you’ll easily get your money back on this card.

Plus you get free Gold Elite Status, which unlocks a ton of perks.

If I was staying at Marriott hotels frequently, I’d get this card just for the Gold Status. That includes 25% bonus points during stays, room upgrades, and 2pm late checkout.

Getting Marriott Gold Elite Status for free is huge. If I stayed at Marriott hotels even a few times a year, I’d get this card.

Other hotel credit cards

If you want to use other hotel chains, these are the major options to consider.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card

  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express after you use your new Card to make $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, enjoy a free Weekend Night Reward within your first year and every year after renewal.
  • Earn 14X Hilton Bonus Points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 7X Bonus Points for eligible purchases: on flights booked directly with airlines or, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies & at U.S. restaurants.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy up to $250 in Hilton Resort Credits on your Card each anniversary year, when you stay at participating resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Enjoy complimentary Diamond status with your Hilton Honors Aspire Card.
  • $450 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

This is the primo Hilton credit card.

It’s a fantastic deal for two reasons.

First, the $250 resort credit knocks the annual cost of this card down to $200. Then the free night per year easily takes care of the rest. As long as you stay at a Hilton hotel once per year, you basically get the card for free. 

Second, you also get Diamond status, which is Hilton’s highest rewards tier. It’s the only card that gives status at the highest tier for any hotel membership program. You’ll get:

  • Free room upgrades
  • 5th night free on reservations
  • Late checkout
  • Welcome gifts
  • Complimentary breakfast

In other words, getting the Hilton Honors Credit Card gets you all the perks that come with Diamond Status, and it’s basically free once you factor in the statement credit and free night.

If you enjoy Hilton hotels and want to load up on as many perks as possible without the least amount of effort, this is a fantastic way to do it. There’s no hotel status tier to manage. Just book your hotel and walk in like a baller. Then rack up points to splurge on Hilton properties around the world.

This card’s good enough that even I’m considering staying at more Hilton hotels.

The World of Hyatt Credit Card

  • Earn 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.
  • Free nights start at 5,000 points
  • Receive 1 free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort after your Cardmember anniversary
  • Earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year
  • Get automatic World of Hyatt Elite status and 5 qualifying night credits every year as long as your account is open
  • Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status everytime you spend $5,000 on your card
  • Earn 9 points total for Hyatt stays – 4 Bonus Points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member
  • Earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships

Comparable hotel card to the other options. You’ll get a free night each year, free status in the middle of the hotel membership tiers, night credits to get higher tiers, and tons of bonus points when staying at Hyatt hotels.

There’s nothing that makes this card superior to the other hotel credit cards. But it’s a great option if you prefer Hyatt hotels.

The best travel credit cards of 2019 is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

New York Times Book Review

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Well, The New York Times just reviewed my book.


10 years ago, when my first edition was coming out, I asked my friend at the Times how to get my book reviewed. He came back and said,

“It’s not gonna happen.”

I laughed. The unspoken message was clear:

“You’re not important enough.”

Truthfully, they were right. I was a nobody. Even though I had an audience and some media hits, for the personal finance media-industrial complex, I was a newbie. A rookie. Not battle-tested against the many self-development “gurus” who come and go every other year.

10 years later, it’s hard to deny that the impact that the I Will Teach You To Be Rich philosophy has had.

Millions of people have now read about spending extravagantly on the things you love. You routinely hear people talking about Big Wins, Conscious Spending, and Invisible Scripts. You see people proudly posting the amazing experiences they paid for — vacations, amazing dinners, paying off debt years ahead of schedule — using the techniques in my book. Many have started their own businesses using our courses.

I’m grateful for this book review. I take it as one more sign this Rich Life movement is touching lives and growing every day.

My life has changed a lot over the past 10 years, too. I got married. I grew my business with the help of an amazing team. I learned what really matters to me.

What I’m most proud of is that I did it MY WAY. I stayed true to IWT principles. I still read every email and DM you send me (and I respond to as many as I can).

I still believe money can be FUN. I know you can use it to say YES instead of worrying about all the things you should say NO to.

I still prohibit anyone with credit card debt from joining our flagship program, a decision that has personally cost me millions of dollars.

And because of that trust, I get hear about the stories and things people really care about: earning more, how to handle our parents getting older, love & money.

Paul B. Brown, the Times reviewer, did a fine job. He likes my concept of Big Wins and Conscious Spending. He also likes how I push people to be specific about what their Rich Life really is. He doesn’t love some of the the tone of the book.

Times Square, NYC

I think that’s a fair critique. My tone isn’t for everyone.

The more I’ve been writing about money and business and psychology, the more I’ve realized one thing:

People crave the truth.

They don’t want random tips on how to choose a bank or credit card. They want to know the exact credit cards that I use and how I squeeze every perk out of them (page 36).

They don’t want some random expert to tell them to “cut back on their spending.” They want to know the exact percentages of what they should be spending (page 140).

They don’t want someone telling you to “have the conversation” with your partner about money. They want to know exactly what to say — down to the exact words to use — to get financially aligned when you’re dating or married (page 292).

The world wants you to be vanilla. They want to polish off your edges, making you sound like everyone else…and the minute you do it, they abandon you.

I refuse to become vanilla.

Ironically, the more I told the truth — the more I ignored the usual “top 5 tips” — the more people wanted to read my philosophies.

For example, I was advised to delete my references to the similarities between food and finances (page 6). Apparently, it’s now taboo in America to suggest people might want to lose weight. I refused. After going on my fitness journey, I now believe even more strongly that you can take control of your food and your money.

(Funny enough, when I posted an Instagram story about my fitness/food, I showed exactly what I eat — down to the gram. It was my most popular story ever.)

I’ve been advised to make my writing more vanilla. To fit into the mainstream. To give “5 tips on saving money by turning your oven light off.” No thanks. This means lots of media orgs won’t cover my material. So be it.

Sometimes, I put that pressure on myself. I remember when I sat down to write new edition of my book, I was working on the new section on crypto. It’d been a long time since I wrote a book. After I wrote for 6 hours, I sat back, re-read it, and tore it up. It was shit. I was equivocating, vacillating…not taking a stand. I sounded like everybody else and I hated my own writing.

When I was young, I could write whatever I wanted. I was fearless. (I was also abrasive, which unnecessarily antagonized some people. That was a mistake. Nobody should ever put down a potentially life-changing book because one line offends them. That was my fault. And I fixed it in the new edition of the book.)

Now, I found myself scared to be that honest. It’s easy when you’re in your mid-20s. Now, I have employees, a wife, readers who scour every single thing I say for errors. I have a lot more to lose.

But I realized, the reason the first book did so well was that I took a stand. Agree or not, you knew exactly where I stood. In life, having a point of view is the most rare thing of all.

(And, of course, you need to be right. For the people who bought my book in March 2009 and followed it, they’re financially set for life.)

So I tore up my first pass at crypto and wrote it again. I fought back against my own urge to be vanilla. This time, I called it like I saw it (page 256). When you read it, you’ll know exactly where I stand.

Through that process, it solidified my belief that facts matter.

Psychology matters.

Specifics matter.

When you write these things, you don’t please anyone. Some people don’t like it. That’s fine.

But even as doors close, new ones open. For example, I’ve become more open about my own finances and my relationship.

On the Tim Ferriss podcast, I talked about the process of signing a prenup and the challenging conversations I had with my wife — including seeing a therapist. We struggled to find answers. Money is taboo. Love and money is even more shadowy. Once we figured it out, I went on Tim’s show to share exactly what happened (with Cass’s blessing)…because nobody else talks about this publicly.

An entire new generation of people in relationships leaned in and started listening.

On my latest Instagram story, I showed you exactly how I travel, down to the specific details. An entirely new group of people who’ve never dreamed of traveling like that leaned in and started watching.

Facts matter.

Psychology matters.

Specifics matter.

This is why I’m grateful for my book to get reviewed in the New York Times.

But truthfully, I’m most proud of growing IWT my way.

No gatekeepers. No intermediaries. Just you and me.

Long ago, I made the decision to go directly to you instead of praying the media would cover me. Through my email newsletter, my blog, my Instagram and Twitter. On book tour and events I throw.

And my podcast interviews, where I can go into detail for hours. (You can hear me going into more detail about the truth of money and psychology on podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Podcast, The Minimalists, Matt D’Avella, Farnoosh Torabi, Noah Kagan, Jordan Harbinger, and James Altucher.)

Ironically, the more I focus on you, the more the media wants to cover me. Today, I’m grateful for the recognition in the New York Times.

But all I’ve ever wanted is to focus on my readers.

Thanks for reading and for being a part of the IWT community.


New York Times Book Review is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

Why “follow your passion” is bad advice

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When I sat down to take my AP Computer Science exam at the end of high school, I knew it would be bad. As a class, we had no idea what we were doing for the entire year. Our teacher was in his last year of teaching and had already given up on us.

We entered the gym hopeless, a ragtag bunch made up of students who really just wanted to avoid taking statistics. The test began, and immediately three boys in the first row put their heads down for a nap.

I stared blankly at the first free-response question:

“Recorded sound often begins with silence. Write the method trimSilenceFromBeginning that removes the silence from the beginning of a song.”

If Spotify were trying to get free labor from high school students in a hot gym, pencils scratching desperately, they were out of luck. I gave each question a half-hearted attempt, then passed the rest of the time writing sonnets in iambic pentameter. (At least they were computer science related!)

To my utter lack of surprise, I received the lowest possible score.

Based on this experience, I could have easily concluded that coding wasn’t for me. Maybe I didn’t have a “logical” brain since it just didn’t click with me. Maybe instead I should major in something that came easily to me, like psychology or English. I could have left computer science to someone who was naturally good at it, writing open source software in her free time and geeking out over dependency injection.

But I didn’t.

Today, I am a software engineer because I didn’t just “follow my passion“. I made it happen.

Woman Studying

Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Advice

There are two theories about following your passion when choosing a carrer.

  • The “fixed” theory of passion posits that for every individual there are core passions that are set at birth. These natural inclinations are just waiting to be discovered. This is the one we trumpet from graduation podiums, encouraging young people to “follow your dreams!” and “do what you love!”
  • On the other hand, the “growth” theory posits that passions are cultivated over time. This idea is that passions are nurtured, watered by continuous work.

It might be slightly less inspirational shouted from the rooftops — “Do whatever. If you work hard, you will like it eventually!” — but the growth theory is great news for those of us who fail something the first time. Rather than waiting around for passion to show up, we can take matters into our own hands and make our own passion.

In a paper entitled “Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It?”, researches shared five studies that examined the difference between people who subscribe to the fixed theory versus the growth theory of interest. They found that people who believe that interests are fixed are more likely to:

  • Lose interest more quickly in areas outside their existing interests.
  • Anticipate that there will be “boundless motivation” when following a passion.
  • Give up more easily on a new interest if it becomes difficult.

One study had students read papers that explained that passions are either “fixed” or “grown”, and then they were asked to watch a video on Stephen Hawking’s theory about black holes. Students from both groups reported fascination with black holes after watching the engaging and accessible video.

Then the researchers presented the participants with a gritty, technical article about black holes. Even though they had just said that they were fascinated by the topic, students who were exposed to the “fixed theory” reported a larger drop in interest.

Essentially, when students read that interests were fixed, they were more likely to give up on a new interest when it got difficult.

These studies show that typical advice about always doing what you love has led us astray. You won’t always love what you do. No career will offer boundless joy.

An animal lover working in a zoo still has tedious clean up to do, and a rockstar will eventually tire of the long stretches on the road while on tour. A software engineer will spend countless days tracking down a complex bug that ends up being their own stupid typo (ask me how I know).

If we expect that our work will always provide boundless motivation, we will be disillusioned when difficulty strikes. The authors of the paper put it perfectly: “Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.”

Coding Together

Grow and Develop Mastery

The problem is that we’ve conflated cause and effect. We believed that mastery springs from discovered passions. The truth is that we grow passionate in the process of achieving mastery. Passions aren’t found; they’re developed.

This is good news for students picking a major, grads deciding their future, and anyone who doesn’t quite feel like their career is the right fit. In fact, another study found that people who believe that passions can be developed over time “grow to fit their vocations better over time”.

In high school, I didn’t take the failed test score as confirmation that coding just wasn’t for me. I took it as a challenge. Even though every page of my Learning Java textbook sent me straight to sleep, I knew that I could learn it if I tried (and found a better book).

After graduating from university, I applied for a software engineering job. Slowly, day by day, I get a little better. My contributions increase, and with more mastery, I gain more autonomy and respect. Coding went from something for the nerdy student cloistered in the back of the classroom to something for me.

You won’t just stumble into your dream career, nor wake up one day with the sure knowledge of your occupational destiny. But with effort and incremental progress, you will develop mastery in your field and in turn, grow your passion.

The post Why “follow your passion” is bad advice appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

Free and Inexpensive Things to Do While Vacationing in Colorado

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As I mentioned in other recent articles, my family and I recently spent almost two weeks vacationing in various parts of Colorado. We mostly spent the time camping, with a few days staying in a cabin owned by a family friend.

As is usual on our family vacations, we were able to explore a wide variety of free and low cost activities, some of them good and some of them not so good. Here are twelve things we did on our vacation that I would describe as either “free” or “low cost” that we all enjoyed. I chose four from each of the three general areas that we stayed in during the trip.

One great money-saving tip for a Colorado trip: get a Safeway card. Safeway is the predominant grocery store chain in Colorado and they have, at least as of this writing, a very good customer loyalty program that’s extremely easy to sign up for (they literally just handed me one without any need to sign up, as the cashier pointed out that I would save about $6 with the card) and results in quite a few additional discounts. As most of our meals were prepared at campsites or at the cabin, we were able to use the Safeway card for quite a few discounts on groceries and other items. Of course, now we have a Safeway card that we will likely not use again as there are no Safeways in our area, but it definitely saved us money throughout Colorado. So, if you’re camping and need supplies and stop at a Safeway, don’t be afraid to take advantage of any Safeway Club deals they have and simply ask for a card when checking out because you’re new to the area.

Northern Colorado – Steamboat Springs Area

The first portion of our vacation involved staying in a cabin owned by a family friend with several extended family members near Steamboat Springs in northern Colorado. As such, almost all of our meals were just prepared at the cabin and many of our excursions were to natural landmarks near the cabin and near Steamboat Springs. Here are the highlights.

Steamboat Lake State Park cost $8 for a daily pass and offered access to a bunch of gorgeous hiking trails, including a challenging one to the top of Hahn’s Peak (~12,000 feet, which most of our family ascended) and many more of all kinds of difficult levels, a nice beach area, some great birdwatching, a bunch of geocaches… it’s just a really nice park to explore.

Movies on the Mountain is something we just missed due to other activities, but we saw it ongoing and it’s a pretty nice free way to end a day with your family. In Gondola Square in Steamboat Springs on Saturday evenings, they project a family-friendly movie and feed the audio through the park’s sound system. Just bring a blanket, kick back, and wind down after an active day with your family.

Fish Creek Falls and Uranium Mine is a small handful of gorgeous trails near Steamboat Springs that require a $5/car day use pass. Our family did a very flat and easy quarter mile paved walk to a wonderful view of the Fish Creek Falls, a hilly gravel-covered quarter mile walk down to the base of the Falls for another wonderful view, and a more challenging (I’d describe it as easy except for the several hundred foot elevation change) trail to an abandoned uranium mine with an amazing overlook of the area. We were just getting used to the elevation change at the time (going from the roughly 1,000 feet above sea level where we live to the 8,000 feet above sea level that these trails are on) and the incline of the uranium mine trail was a challenge, but I think it would have been much easier later in our vacation when we were more acclimated.

Yampa River Botanic Park is a free six acre botanical garden in Steamboat Springs that part of our family visited. It’s separated into about fifty smaller gardens, each with their own theme and focus represented by different plants and flowers, different arrangements, sculptures, and decorations. It’s a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a leisurely stroll through beautiful gardens.

Central Colorado – Colorado Springs Area

The middle portion of our vacation involved camping in a campground near Colorado Springs with my wife’s sister and her family. We visited the top of Pike’s Peak, which was enjoyable but doesn’t really qualify as “free” or “inexpensive,” so I’m excluding that part. Instead, here are four free and low cost things we found to do in the Colorado Springs area that we enjoyed.

Garden of the Gods is a gorgeous park owned by the city of Colorado Springs and completely free to visit. The park consists of walking trails that wind through a wide variety of natural red sandstone formations as well as a truly well done visitors center with maps, exhibits, and other information.

We spent a large portion of a day simply wandering the paths at Garden of the Gods and were actually chased away early by an incoming storm or else we likely would have spent at least another hour on the site. The natural rock formations are wonderful to explore. If you do one thing in Colorado Springs, this is it.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space is an open space near the Garden of the Gods that offers incredible views of the distinctive red rocks and hillsides in the area and amazing rock formations. I didn’t get to do this myself, but other members of my family did it and thoroughly enjoyed it. The views on the easy Contemplative Trail are incredible.

Penrose Heritage Museum is another wonderful free offering in the Colorado Springs area, one that I only got to taste briefly because we were running very late and it was about to close.

The museum features an enormous collection of artifacts of all kinds from the Pikes Peak area collected by the Penrose family over the years and bequeathed to a free-to-the-public museum. This includes a bunch of vintage cars that once raced to the top of Pikes Peak, materials from the construction of the Pikes Peak Highway, and many other exhibits that I would have loved to wander through for hours.

US Olympic and Paralympic Training Center is the most expensive item on this list, as tours cost $10 per person. However, I did want to mention it here because the center is completely self-funded through tours (and sponsorships) and doesn’t rely on public money and it made an enormous impact on my oldest son, who ranked it as perhaps the best thing he did on our entire trip and kept bringing it up afterwards.

The tour takes you through a very impressive athletic facility designed to help national team members in various sports perform well at their individual sports at upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games. Our tour was led by two-time Paralympian Tyler Carter and we spotted several Olympian and Paralympian athletes training, including watching Brittany Reinbolt (bobsledder) lifting weights (she’s amazingly strong) and an unidentified male gymnast doing casual backflips and leaps as part of his warmup, which caused my son to have a great deal of appreciation for the athleticism of gymnasts that he didn’t really have from watching it on television (he didn’t disdain gymnastics; it’s just not something that ever crossed his mind up to that point).

Southwest Colorado – Mesa Verde National Park

During the final portion of our vacation, our immediate family camped in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado. We largely stayed inside Mesa Verde during this portion of the trip, so what follows is focused entirely on what’s available inside of the park.

At Mesa Verde, much of the park is completely available with a park admission, which is $25 for a vehicle and is good for seven days, or with a National Parks pass, which normally costs $80 for an annual pass that is good at all national parks but there are various discounts available (including the wonderful Every Kid in a Park program, which gives a free year-long National Parks pass to the families of fourth graders, which we happened to miss out on this year because of age gaps between our children).

Mesa Verde is most well known for the cave dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people, constructed under amazing conditions between 800 and 1,200 years ago. You can see most of the dwellings in the park at a distance for free and some of the more worn-down ones up close for free; tours of some of the cave dwellings are available at a very reasonable price. I strongly encourage people to avoid the more expensive “package” tours sold outside of the park and instead sign up for the much less expensive individual tours of specific dwellings led by park rangers and sold within the park. These tours are kind of necessary because the better-preserved cliff dwellings are fragile and the rangers do a good job of keeping people from exploring the dwellings and doing things like chipping off bits of rock as a “souvenir” (which wouldn’t take too long to completely destroy the cliff dwellings).

What follows are our family’s four favorite things from the park, three of which were free upon entering the park and one of which is a low cost cave dwelling tour.

The Far View Sites are the ruins of several Ancestral Pueblo villages along a roughly 1.25 mile look trail that’s an easy walk. Our favorite part of this was the “Coyote Village” area, where you could actually walk through the ruins of an Ancestral Pueblo village at your own pace. The ruins here predate the cliff dwellings. This is a nice way to incorporate a nice walk through the terrain of the area with examination of Ancestral Pueblo ruins.

Sun Temple is perhaps the “mystery” of Mesa Verde and it generated a ton of conversation in our family. Sun Temple is a temple constructed sometime in the 1200s, late in the period of the Ancestral Pueblos, and it uses some very different architecture than the earlier villages and ceremonial structures. The building just looks different, even at a glance, as though people from other cultures may have come to the area and been involved in the design.

We spent a lot of time here, even though it was in the evening hours, and had a lot of conversations about what went on here. We had already learned why the Ancestral Pueblos left the area, likely as this was being constructed. Why? What role did this temple play? Why does it look so different than the other structures? There’s a lot to think about here beyond simply admiring the building.

Cliff Palace is an amazingly well-preserved cave dwelling that you can see pretty well from a distance, but you can tour directly with a park ranger at a cost of $5 per person. Our family of five did this tour and it was perhaps the highlight of our time at Mesa Verde.

The ranger led us down a series of stone steps and then up a ten foot sturdy ladder to the ruins. We spent an hour down there, with the ranger answering questions and explaining various features of the Palace. Afterwards, we exited the ruins by climbing three short ladders and going up another flight or two of stone stairs. The ruins are stunning and provide a wonderful example of the sophisticated architecture and planning of the Ancestral Pueblo people.

Knife’s Edge Trail and Prater Ridge Trail were two interconnected trails that my family and I hiked on the last day of our stay at Mesa Verde, near the Morefield Campground where we were camped. The Knife’s Edge Trail is an easy two mile one way hike that takes you out with some amazing views of the nearby Montezuma Valley. The Prater Ridge Trail is an easy-to-moderate hike with varying lengths (depending on which loops you take) that takes you up on top of a ridge and offers great views of various parts of the park.

Final Thoughts

Although this vacation was very long (thirteen days in all), it turned out to be a very inexpensive vacation, with a very low cost per day for our travels. There were several reasons for this.

First of all, our activities were loaded with low-cost and free options. We intentionally aimed for low-cost activities most of the time, aside from one or two specific things (Pike’s Peak was probably our only really expensive activity). The list above merely includes the low-cost activities that we really liked, but we did lots of things that were less memorable and enjoyable that were also low cost. For the most part, we went into the trip with the assumption that we could have a wonderful trip without opening our wallet for tourist activities constantly, and that was certainly borne out.

Second, we camped for most of the trip and stayed at a friend’s cabin for the rest. The cost of a campsite at a campground is low and it’s pretty easy to prepare your own food at a campground.

Third, most of our activities were very “picnic-able,” meaning that it made a lot of sense to just pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the area. Many of our lunches were picnic lunches, which meant that we ate a simple breakfast at the campsite or cabin, a picnic lunch, and dinner at the campsite or cabin most days. Our restaurant meals were very rare on the entire trip.

As I noted earlier, most of our food acquisition on this vacation was at Safeway, where we basically went in with a meal plan and a shopping list in hand.

The end result is that this was a thirteen day long summer vacation that really didn’t dent our wallets too badly.

If you’re considering a vacation in Colorado in the future, I hope you use some of these strategies and visit some of these locations for some low cost entertainment and a low cost overall trip. Good luck!

The post Free and Inexpensive Things to Do While Vacationing in Colorado appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Identity economics: Who are you? And how does it affect your spending?

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MTG card“Who are you?” my cousin Duane asked me on Saturday afternoon. We’d spent the day playing nerd games together and were taking a break for pizza.

“What?” I said. I wasn’t expecting a philosophical question over supper.

“I don’t think you know who you are,” Duane said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I don’t think you know who you are,” he repeated. “You write about money and frugality, yet you spend $200 on dinner.” Duane was referring to the fancy meal we’d had in May at a Michelin-star restaurant in France. I knew it had been bugging him, but he hadn’t said anything about it until now. (And that meal cost $267.41 for the two of us, not $200.)

“You paid $1900 for your used pickup, but you don’t wash it. It’s filthy. You buy new clothes that you don’t need, but you leave your old clothes on the floor so that your cats pee on them.” It’s true. Kim and I have a cat that will, from time to time, pee on my clothes.

“You say you don’t like attention, that you don’t want to be a celebrity, yet you’re always taking on new work that puts you in the spotlight. You’re thinking of doing a course for Audible, for instance, and you’re talking about doing more speaking gigs — even though you hate speaking gigs,” Duane said.

All of these things were true. I couldn’t argue.

“Who are you?” Duane asked. Well, that’s a mighty fine question, Duane. That’s a mighty fine question.

A Digression

In 1862, French novelist Victor Hugo published Les Miserables, one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. Long and sprawling and full of digressions (just like Get Rich Slowly!), the book explores the many facets of human nature: the good and bad, the humorous and poignant, the ordinary and sublime.

Les Miserables wasn’t popular with critics when it was released, but everybody else loved it. It sold well when it was published and continues to sell well more than 150 years later. The book has inspired several several film and television adaptations. And, of course, it’s the source of one of the most successful stage musicals of all time.

Turns out PBS recently aired a new six-part Les Miserables miniseries written by the always-awesome Andrew Davies. It’s on my watch list.

Although Les Miserables contains a ginormous cast of characters, two stand at the heart of the story:

  • Jean Valjean is the novel’s protagonist. Arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s seven starving children, he spends nineteen years in prison (five for the original crime, fourteen more for various misdeeds). Upon parole, he assumes the identity of Monsieur Madeleine. As Madeleine, he builds two factories, becomes rich, and is appointed mayor of a small seaside town. Valjean is a good man who occasionally finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
  • Javert is the novel’s antagonist. (It’s not right to call him a villain. Nothing about him is villanous.) Born in prison to deplorable parents, he grows up to become a prison guard — then police inspector. Javert is obsessed with upholding the law, which includes pursuing and punishing Valjean for his past misdeeds. His worldview is shattered when he realizes that not all laws are moral, that sometimes the moral course is not the lawful one.

What’s fascinating — mind-blowing, actually — is that Victor Hugo based both Valjean and Javert on the exact same real-life person. They’re both loosely modelled on Eugène François Vidocq, a French criminal turned criminalist. (You should open that link in a separate tab for later reading. Vidocq’s life is fascinating. Among other things, he’s regarded as the first-ever private detective and the “father” of modern criminology.)

That’s right: Both the protagonist and the antagonist of Les Miserables were inspired by the same man. And, even more mind-blowing? Vidocq was also the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. (Go read that article!)

Who Am I?

The amazing thing (to me) is that Jean Valjean himself is two people! He is Jean Valjean, yes, but he spends years posing as Monsieur Madeleine. As the latter, he’s a wealthy factory owner, he’s mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. He is a force for good in his small world. He is, at once, both Valjean and Madeleine, just as Vidocq is at once both Valjean and Javert.

In a 2012 New Yorker piece praising “the persistent greatness” of Les Miserables, Adam Gopnik wrote, “Hugo believed in, relished, luxuriated in, contradiction — he thought that we show ourselves most truly when we are seemingly most opposed to our double natures.”

When I posted about this on Facebook in April, John from ESI Money observed that this adds a whole new meaning to the song “Who Am I?” from the musical.

“Who am I?” Valjean sings as he’s forced to reveal his identity in order to save an innocent man. “Who am I? I’m Jean Valjean!”

Yes, that’s true — but Jean Valjean is also police inspector Javert.

True story: I’m a devoted fan of musical theater, and “Who Am I?” is one of my favorite songs from any show. It induces frisson — it gives me goosebumps — every time I hear it. Every time.

What I like about this clever bit of character creation from Victor Hugo is how it highlights our inherent dual natures. We, as humans, are inconsistent. We are complex creatures. At the same time, we can be both good and bad. I truly believe that most of us do what is right most of the time — but each of us also sometimes makes poor choices. We do things that seem to go against who we say we are and what we believe.

In Valjean and Javert, we get to see human nature dramatized in two men forever at odds, just as we are each forever at odds with ourselves.

Me, Myself, and I

As I was walking the dog this morning, I found myself meditating on my own personal duality. I am at once the hardest working person I know…and the laziest. I am the smartest person I know…and the stupidest. I am the kindest person I know…and the meanest.

Recently, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with my seeming inability to “do the right thing”. I know that there are certain actions I could take (and should take) to improve my health, to build this website, to maintain relationships with my friends. Yet I do not do these things. I actively avoid them.

Why is this?

Here’s an example. I could solve a whole host of problems if I were to get regular aerobic exercise. Over the past year, I’ve done a fine job of strength training, but for some reason I’ve become allergic to sweat. I do whatever I can to avoid running or biking or otherwise increasing my heart rate.

It’s not that I can’t do these things. I know I can. And I like them. I’ve run half marathons (and walked a full marathon). I’ve completed a century ride — one-hundred miserable miles on a hot and windy summer day. I did Crossfit for five years. I’m capable of strenuous exercise, and I know it.

But I’m not doing that exercise right now. I’m avoiding it.

Three months ago, as the sun started to show its face here in Portland, I wheeled my bicycle from the bottom of the hill to the back office. I wanted to make it easy to hop in the saddle and go. But you know what? I’ve ridden the thing exactly once this year. The bike is just sitting there, pleading with me to ride it.

My Bicycle, Resting Unused

The same goes with the website. You all know that I can crank out an article a day. I did it for three years between 2006 and 2009. I did it for the first three months of 2018. When I put my mind to it, I can write well without sacrificing quality.

Yet, for some reason, it’s tough for me to publish even once a week lately. My mind is elsewhere. I have no inspiration. This wouldn’t be so bad if I were at least handling other site maintenance chores, but I’m not. The site redesign is nearly finished, but it isn’t live because there are still things I need to do. I’m not processing guest articles. I’m not posting to social media.

I’ve no doubt that some of this malaise stems from my chronic depression. But I also know the best way to shake the self-loathing is to actually do something, you know?

Which leads me to fundamental question I find myself facing: If I know what is right, why don’t I do it?

I have no answer.

Impossible Expectations

This year, as every year, my depression and anxiety became especially strong during the spring. What’s different about this year is that I sought out a therapist.

A few weeks ago, she asked me about my writing. We hadn’t talked about it before. “What does success look like for you when it comes to your work?” she asked.

“Success means publishing three articles per week,” I said.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because then I’m giving my readers lots of material. I’m helping them. When I give them a lot of material, they want to come back more often. When I publish more material, more people find the site by search. When I publish more material, I make more money.”

“So, you want to publish three times per week?”

“I guess so,” I said. I thought about it a little. “But I hate the pressure that pace puts on me.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because I don’t enjoy it. I don’t do great work under time pressure like that. I want to take my time. If I decide to write an article on, say, the history of retirement, then I want to read a book on the subject. Maybe two or three. I want to think deeply about it. Then, I want to take the time to write the best article out there about the history of retirement.”

“You realize you’ve just told me two very different things, right?” my therapist said. “You’ve set up contradictory goals for yourself. Plus, you’re asking yourself to be the best. That’s a tall order. No wonder you’re stressed. You have impossible expectations for yourself.”

When I think about it, my therapist is right. I do have impossible expectations for myself — on a lot of things. I have contradictory goals. It’s as if there’s a Jean Valjean inside of me and an Inspector Javert. And they want different things. Neither is wrong — but they can’t both have their way.

But to which do I yield? Am I Valjean or Javert?

At the end of the session, I lamented my dual nature. “I tell other people to be proactive,” I said, “to take charge of their own lives, but I have a hard time doing that myself.”

“Do you think that makes you a hypocrite?” my therapist asked.

“No,” I said without hesitation.

“Good,” she said.

“I think it makes me human,” I said. “I write about the things I struggle with personally. When I started writing about money and getting out of debt, that’s because I needed to get out of debt. Now, when I write about tracking spending or having a sense of purpose, that’s because I need these things.”

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. - Walt Whitman

Mindful Spending

So, this is all very interesting on a philosophical level, but what does it have to do with personal finance? Lots, actually.

We make our purchasing decisions based on who we are and who we want to be. If we’re not clear on who we are and who we want to be, our choices tend to be arbitrary. They’re spontaneous and not based on anything other than immediate desire.

When you’re clear on who you are and what you want, it’s much easier to practice mindful spending, to be deliberate about the things you buy and own. If you identify as fitness-conscious, for instance, you’ll be much less likely to be tempted by cookies and snacks in the grocery store. If, like me at the moment, you identify as a “lapsed” fitness junkie, well then it’s much easier to succumb to temptation.

Who we want to be also affects how we spend. In fact, I suspect that much wasted spending — not just for me, but for everybody — is what I’d call “aspirational”. It’s not based on our actual habits and actions but on what we wish we did.

Take my bike, for example. I bought it last year but have ridden it only three times in fifteen months. Like I mentioned earlier, it simply sits there, pleading with me to ride it.

I have a good friend who once decided he’d like to learn woodworking. His father had always built and repaired things around the house, and my friend aspired to do the same — even though he had never done so in 35 years of life. He bought a stack of woodworking books, then acquired several expensive tools. He never used them. These were aspirational purchases, based on somebody he wanted to be, not the person he was.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of folks do this sort of thing with cookbooks. They want to try new recipes and new cuisines, so they gradually fill a shelf with cooking manuals — cooking manuals that they seldom use.

It’s because of this relationship between money and identity that I’m so insistent that GRS readers write a personal mission statement. When you’re clear on your purpose, it’s much easier to make sure your spending is aligned with your values, that your financial decisions are based on who you are instead of some idealized version of who you want to be.

Identity Economics

Identity Economics

In their fascinating (if dry and academic) book Identity Economics, George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton explore how our identities shape our work, wages, and well-being.

“In every social context,” the authors write, “people have a notion of who they are, which is associated with beliefs about how they and others are supposed to behave. These notions…play important roles in how economies work.” Our identities determine how we earn a living and how we spend our money.

Akerloff and Kranton say that large portions of our identities are shaped by the environment:

Identity, norms, and social categories may appear to be abstract concepts, but their reality is both powerful and easy to see. Norms are particularly clear when people hold an ideal of who they should be and how they should act.

Here’s an example: Many folks who discover the early retirement movement do so through the awesome work of Mr. Money Mustache. He has a strong voice and a popular website. Over the past few years, he’s accumulated a passionate army of followers who call themselves Mustachians.

When a person identifies himself as Mustachian, he subscribes to a certain set of values, to particular ways of working with money. Driving is frowned upon. A high saving rate is encouraged. Thrift is a prized virtue. This is identity economics in action.

Akerloff and Kranton are careful to note that our personal identities are not static. They change. Our larger identities change slowly over time, but we can also shift roles rapidly in daily life.

The latter is easiest to see. “Over the course of a day,” they write, “a woman may see herself as a mother at home and a professional at work.” I’d add that she might see herself as an athlete in her running group, a civic leader as a member of the city council, and a Mustachian when she’s hanging with her financial friends online.

Each of these is a different identity — or perhaps a different facet of her overall identity. And each affects how she works, saves, and spends.

People change over their lifetimes too. From the book:

People often make decisions that come back to haunt them. We overeat, we smoke, we spend too much, and we regret it. [This is due to] time inconsistency. People have different selves at different points in their lives. The new self could regret the decisions made by the old self…

Sometimes these transitions are anticipated, and people plan accordingly. But often, people only imperfectly anticipate who they will later become.

Look at my own life over the past decade. Who I am today is drastically different than who I was ten years ago. And twenty years ago. Sure, the core J.D. remains the same — once a nerd, always a nerd! — but my values, which are constantly evolving, have morphed and my day-to-day life is sometimes unrecognizable.

During the past ten years, much about my personal identity (and my resulting financial choices) has changed:

  • I deliberately chose to purchase a small home in “the country”.
  • I drink beer. I drink coffee. I ride a motorcycle. All of these actions are new.
  • I lost fifty pounds through years of exercise and healthy eating. Then I gained back forty of those pounds through years of neglect.
  • I sold Get Rich Slowly — then I bought it back.

These changes, large and small, all affect how I manage my money and how I spend my time. As my identity changes, so do my financial habits.

Related reading: In a strange coincidence, The Guardian published an article on a similar subject last Saturday: “Are you really the ‘real’ you?” This piece, which is terrific and well worth reading, looks at how some people change their lives entirely — and why.

Order and Light

At the end of the Les Miserables, after Jean Valjean frees Javert instead of killing him, the police inspector faces an existential crisis. Victor Hugo writes:

He saw before him two roads, both equally straight; but he saw two; and that terrified him — him, who who had never in his life known but one straight line. And, bitter anguish, these two roads were contradictory. One of these two straight lines excluded the other. Which of the two was the true one? His condition was inexpressible.

Inspector Javert’s moral certitude proves to be his undoing. Like many folks who are certain they know what is real and what is right, Javert spends years ignoring evidence that controverts his beliefs. He thinks he knows the truth but in reality is blind to it.

When, at last, Javert recognizes that he’s been in error all this time, that things are not as black and white as he believed them to be, it’s too much for him to bear. Rather than face a world filled with ambiguity and uncertainty, he takes his own life. He jumps in the river and drowns.

Before he kills himself, though, Javert has a sort of revelation. He realizes that Jean Valjean and his alter-ego, Monsieur Madeleine, may have seemed like two different people, but they were one all along. They were two sides of the same person. Valjean was both criminal and hero.

It’s all well and good to want to be a fixed, constant person, to have an identity that never changes. But that’s not how healthy people work. Healthy people learn and adapt and grow. Who you are today is not the same as who you’ll be tomorrow — or who you were yesterday.

As you change, your values will change too. Your goals will change. Your spending will change. What you want to do for work will change. And, yes, there will be many times when you are internally conflicted, when like Javert you are faced with two parallel roads, both of which are “true”.

Summing Up

Who am I? That’s a great question.

I’m a guy who writes about money and frugality, but I’m also a man who is willing to — once in a lifetime — spend $267.41 to experience a Michelin-star restaurant in rural France. That’s a clear example of mindful spending: I planned the meal weeks in advance and looked forward to it with great anticipation.

I’m a guy who can’t bring himself to purchase a new car, so I buy a 25-year-old pickup for $1900. And I don’t wash it. I value the vehicle but see no sense in spending the time, money, and energy to clean something that will never look pretty.

I’m a guy who buys new clothes from time to time — don’t we all? — but who, yes, is careless enough to leave them on the bedroom floor even though I know my cat likes to pee on them. (Stupid cat!)

I’m a guy who hates public speaking and who doesn’t want to be the center of attention, yet who has a deep desire to teach people about personal finance. (Especially the personal side of it all.) This leads me to do things that seem incongruent with what I say I want. I take on months-long projects that stress me out. I agree to fly across the world to talk to people. (Just yesterday, Paula Pant and I had a conversation about how the hassle of attending events is worth it for the friends we make.)

Who am I? I’m J.D. Roth.

The post Identity economics: Who are you? And how does it affect your spending? appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

17 Practical Ways To Manage Entrepreneurial Stress

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The ugly symptoms of entrepreneurial stress.

Poor sleep habits, anxiety, weight changes and health issues to name just a few.

But it does not have to be like that!

You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful.

17 Top Tips For Avoiding Stress and Anxiety As An Entrepreneur

entrepreneur stress

Entrepreneurial stress causes smart people to do stupid things.

Putting a brave face on things, even when they are on the edge of bankruptcy.

I should know, I was one of them…

My Personal Route Map For Handling Entrepreneurial Stress

# 1 Keep perfectionism in check

Perfectionism is exhausting!


A start-up entrepreneur gets stressed about the wrong font on a business card…

Or that their website is not perfect.

Sure, if you are Apple or Google, the correct font matters but for most of us, the priority should be to get our minimum viable product (MVP) to market ASAP.

Get some perspective, determine what matters for your business and focus on that, rather than stressing over trivial things.

Of course you should do your best – but don’t let perfectionism hinder your progress.

Striving for excellence feels wonderful because you’re trying your very best. Perfectionism feels terrible because your work is somehow never quite good enough. Perfectionism has nothing to do with what perfection actually looks like, but has everything to do with the elusive idea of “enough.”

Recommended reading:

Ready, Fire, Aim ~ Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat

# 2 Action beats anxiety.

‘Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily’

A surprising statistic which I imagine is much worse for entrepreneurs.

Anxiety and stress make even the most talented entrepreneurs unresourceful.

But there is a solution…

When the whole world is against you, don’t go and hide –  take ACTION.

Action beats Anxiety!

It is remarkable how much impact taking action has on your mental state.

There is no need to hide or escape…

After all, that is what cowards do and you are not a coward!

Action beats Entrepreneurial Stress

No 1 entrepreneur stress tip

Related: Anxiety Defeats Creativity – Creativity Defeats Anxiety

# 3 Invest in staff

Seriously, get help!

Stop doing $10 tasks or even the $100 tasks.

Your job is to concentrate on the $1000+ tasks and the bigger picture.

If you want to build a successful and sustainable business you must delegate.

Stop handling the simple tasks that you had to do in the beginning and hire talent.

Don’t be cheap when hiring.

It is always better to pay more for an exceptional member of staff than to pay average for an average member of staff.

Paying more for talent in the short term will improve your mental state in the long term.

If you hire staff, allow them to do they work they were hired to do. Stop being a control freak!

If you find yourself saying to yourself, that it is easier to do a task yourself, than show someone else how to do that task – hire a business coach!

Repeat after me: you cannot do it all, and you do not need to do it all.

Entrepreneurs who micromanage every detail of their business will end up spreading themselves too thin. Taking time-consuming $10 and $100 tasks off your plate, will allow you to target the things that really matter.

Recommended Reading:

Environment Matters: Create a Healthier and More Productive Home Office

Hiring a Virtual Assistant

# 4 Make a To-Do List

Overwhelm is common.

Make a list of everything that needs to be done and prioritize each task.

Can any of these tasks that can be delegated?

Are there any tasks that you could avoid or delete?

It is remarkable how many things take up space in our heads that are not that important or don’t even need doing.

Recommended Tool: Commit to your 3 most important tasks each day

Often when an entrepreneur makes a To-Do list they discover:

a) Things are not as bad as they thought.

b) They can see the end of their worries

If something is really bothering you – Write it down!

Never underestimate the serenity that comes from writing down what’s bothering you, or getting the issues that are on your mind off of your chest. This can be an important outlet for emotions and will help you get clarity.

# 5 Batch your work

Have specific times to do emails, make phone calls, and do focused work.

Don’t multi-task.

“The man who chases two rabbits, catches none”

Maximize your magic time…

Most people have a period of the day when they are at their most productive.

Record when you are your most productive and make that the time when you focus on your top priorities.

It may also be, that some tasks are best done at certain times of the day. In my case for example, any activities that include physical activity such as site meetings or exercise are best done in the mornings, but writing on the other hand, is best done in the evenings.


a) If you have issues keeping focused you may want to investigate the Pomodoro Technique.

This is a time management method that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, usually 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Of course there is an App for this!

b) RescueTime – a tool that helps you understand your daily habits – allowing you to focus and be more productive.

# 6 Set Boundaries

In addition to having a To-Do list, have a Not To Do list.

Learn the power of saying N0.

This is a powerful lesson from Warren Buffett:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

And saying NO can also include saying NO to customers!

Create your own personal set of Life Rules – your own  personal philosophy of life.

Use these rules as your guiding principles in everything you do and stop worrying about what others think. You will spend less time ‘thinking’ and agonizing over a response because you and your closest friends know your position on the important things in life!

Want some inspiration for creating your own set of life rules?

Check out this post from my good friend Craig Ballantyne

I especially like his No 6 rule:

I do not engage in confrontations with anyone, in-person or online. This is a waste of time and energy. If I have caused harm, I apologize and fix the situation. And then I take a deep breath, relax, breathe out, and re-focus my efforts back on my work and goals.

You may already have a set of rules in your head that you follow, but I encourage you to put them in writing.

A set of rules for every aspect of your life – HEALTH, FAMILY, BUSINESS and FINANCIAL.

With this set of rules it is so much easier to set boundaries.

Best thing, is your staff and social circle will be aware of your rules, values and boundaries, meaning conflicts are less likely to happen.

# 7 Know When To Say I’ve Done Enough

Sometimes the best thing you can do is rest, stop for a while or even go in an entirely different direction.

Yes, action beats anxiety but sometimes the action you need to take is to make the decision to restructure your business, lay staff off or even close the business.

Most successful entrepreneurs has experienced a business failure – it comes with the territory.

Dust yourself down and start again.

Entrepreneur Stress

# 8 Don’t Borrow Money From Family.

Entrepreneurs often borrow money from family, or fund their business with home equity.

I had not thought much about this before writing this article but while doing research I found a number of articles suggesting you should not borrow from family. After all, it’s stressful enough to start and run a business without the added worry of losing your house or leaving family members in financial ruin.

I am in two minds about this, especially if you offer those family members some equity in your business in exchange for the cash. I can imagine that if you borrow money externally and go on to great success, some family members may be annoyed that they did not get a chance to share in that success.

I would say that as long as you are transparent and ensure your friends and family understand the risk, then borrowing startup capital from family is fine. However it is important to explain that should they want the money back, it may not be easily available. Explaining that is usually enough to scare away most potential family investors.

One of my first sales mentors gave me this tip.

He said, “Barry, never sell anything to friends, relatives or neighbors!”

I was young and struggled to understand what that meant, especially if you offered a good product and a good solution that benefited your friends, relatives or neighbors.

But time has shown me the dynamics of these situations can often be problematic and stressful.

So perhaps there is some merit in this advice after all?

# 9 Trust your team

Closely related to # 3 Invest in staff

Early on in my entrepreneurial career I ran a contracting business, building home extensions etc. It was a successful business, but it was slowly killing me and I had health issues.

All because I did not trust my team.

Or more accurately, I had not learned to delegate.

I recall one vacation when I promised my family I would switch off and had over the reigns to Gerry C – the company General Manager.

We enjoyed a 14 day vacation and when I got back I had a debrief with Gerry…

Everything had went swimmingly in my absence.

When I asked if there had been any issues, there had indeed been one. Gerry explained the ‘problem’ and what he had done about it. Interestingly Gerry approach to the problem was entirely different to what I would have done. Indeed, I doubt I would have thought of his approach.

But remarkably and most importantly the client was happy and they had settled their invoice.

Lesson Learned!

Even though I referred to Gerry C as my General Manager I rarely let him do that job. Almost every decision had to be run by me first.

This is no way to run a business.

Repeat after me: you cannot do it all, and you do not need to do it all.

entrepreneur stress than entrepreneur success

# 10 Take a Break

Work life balance is essential.

You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful. It’s natural to look back and mythologize the long nights and manic moments of genius, but success isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart.

~Andrew Wilkinson, founder of MetaLab

Do not neglect holidays, vacations and family time.

That is a PRICE you should not pay.

Even if it is only a few hours, take time to unwind and relax with family and friends.

Better still, make time to help others

If you are struggling, stop feeling sorry for yourself and go out and help someone. Add value to the world. Turn your moping into mentoring and help someone climb the ladder in your world. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make everyone around you better.

Craig Ballantyne

# 11 Exercise Regularly — Sweat it out.

It is a know fact that exercise will burn away the stress hormones that create anxiety.

Exercise tires your muscles, reducing excess energy and tension.

Exercise releases endorphins in your brain which can improve overall mood.

Ten years ago, I and a number of friends had the good fortune to spend a week on Necker Island with everyone’s favorite entrepreneur – Richard Branson.

no entrepreneurial stress in Necker Island

Richard Branson must be the worlds coolest and most relaxed entrepreneur.

He is also very fit!

He plays tennis (very competitively) and starts each day with a walk around his island.

He is also an accomplished swimmer!

Vishen Lakhiani who was part of our group in 2009 recently returned to Necker Island and wrote a superb article about swimming with Richard Branson – it is a seriously good read with important lessons for entrepreneurs:

Things A Swimming Lesson From Richard Branson Taught Me About Leadership

By comparison, I was one of the least fit people on the Island!

I had just sold a business and was comfortable financially but I knew I wasn’t performing at my best and there was still plenty of stress in my life despite the financial success!

I am not saying Necker Island fixed me – but over time and through the company I have kept, my fitness has improved considerably and stress is something I rarely experience these days.

Indeed, exercise is virtually guaranteed to eliminate any stress should it ever happen.

While I may not be as cool as Mr Branson, daily exercise has made me a much happier and chilled person.

A far cry from the stressed entrepreneur I once was.

The only regret?

Why did it take me so long to make the connection between Stress and Exercise?

High-intensity cardio, or even just taking a brisk walk, is a great way to release endorphins and give yourself an instant pick-me-up.

Next time you feel stressed go for a hike, walk in a park, or Hit The Gym!

Or better still, make exercise part of your daily routine and avoid stress in the first place.

avoid entrepeneurial stress

# 12 Do a values and beliefs audit

Closely related to # 6 Set Boundaries

Give yourself permission to let go of values and beliefs that no longer serve you.

This is a big subject and a personal one.

Suffice to say, that most of us still carry around beliefs and values that we obtained years ago, often as a child.

Values related to family and money in particular.

Of course many of these values are admirable and those who shared them came from a good place.

However, have you ever asked yourself does this belief still serve me?

Often the stress and ‘shame’ we experience as entrepreneurs relates back to our past.

For many years I carried ‘shame’ and stress related to the collapse of a business I started as a young entrepreneur.

These days however, I look at it quite differently, almost to the point of being proud of the experience and the lessons learned.

Don’t let old values and beliefs related to money, stress you out as an entrepreneur.

Cast them aside in the same way that you no longer believe in Santa Claus.

The same principles apply to relationships…

Do the people in your life assist you or hamper you?

Does the site of a “so called friend” make you feel empty and uninspired?

Reflect on any relationships that draw energy away from you and start distancing yourself from them.

Accept fewer invitations to social gatherings etc.

Or be ruthless about it and disconnect completely!

# 13 Don’t Do Regret and Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

Regret can seriously damage your mental health.

Regret turns to guilt, disappointment, frustration and stress about the past.

But we can’t change the past …

Let go. Why do you cling to pain? There is nothing you can do about the wrongs of yesterday. It is not yours to judge. Why hold on to the very thing which keeps you from hope and love?

~ Leo Buscaglia

Almost always this ‘regret’ is as a result of our values and beliefs.

You cannot undo the past but you can change what they mean to you.

You cannot go back an undo that bad financial decision – but you can ask yourself what have you learned from that experience? After all, successful entrepreneurs think differently and there is always a positive to be found.

You cannot go back and recapture that family time – but you can ask your family for forgiveness and more importantly, FORGIVE yourself.

You were doing the best you could do!

Forgive yourself!

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

More incredible wisdom from Craig Ballantyne

Stop putting yourself through the emotional roller coaster of comparison. Yes, some people are richer, smarter, prettier and fitter than you. Get over it. We’re all dead in the end. So start living your life now.

Focus on your journey, be OK with imperfection and don’t knock others down.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

# 14 Break Down the Problem

When you have a problem, break that problem down into manageable parts.

• What are the issues?

• List all the possible solutions you can think of.

• Evaluate those solutions.

• Select an option or options. (and document)

• Agree on contingencies, monitoring, and evaluation.

# 15 Become a Stoic Entrepreneur.

Stoicism teaches how to keep a calm and rational mind no matter what happens to you and it helps you understand and focus on what you can control and not worry about and accept what you can’t control

~ Jonas Salzgeber

More than any other philosophy, I have found Stoicism offers the best philosophy for overcoming the stresses of being an entrepreneur. The best antidote for entrepreneur stress!

Entrepreneur Stress

This article is not about Stoicism – I will leave that for another day.

What I will say though – is that this philosophy has made the occasional stress of entrepreneurship much easier to cope with. It has taught me to focus on what I can control and not too worry about what I can’t control.

Stoicism has brought me contentment and peace of mind – I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Peace of mind is that mental condition in which you have accepted the worst.

Lin Yutang

Recommended reading:

What Is Stoicism? [One of the best articles online related to Stoicism]

Distinguish between good, bad, and indifferent things. The only good is virtue – living by wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline. The only bad is vice – folly, injustice, cowardice, and intemperance. Everything else is indifferent and does ultimately not matter for a happy life.

6 Ways Stoicism Can Help Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur being able to practice misfortune makes you stronger in the face of adversity; flipping obstacles upside down turns problems into opportunities; and remembering how small you are keeps your ego manageable and in perspective.

The Obstacle Is the Way ~ The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Ego Is the Enemy


You are not growing unless you are failing.

Mistakes happen on the easy side of life.

# 16 Find your Zen state.

Overcome Entrepreneurial Stress

Getting rid of non-essential mental baggage is crucial to stay focused, motivated and productive.

It is also essential for reaching a Zen state.

I appreciate this will appear woo-woo to some of you.

That is not my intention.

Being in a Zen state means different things to different people.

Finding your Zen basically means finding your sense of balance, allowing you to feel in harmony with the world around you. It’s a way of quieting your mind and your body.

It is also the best way I know to eliminate entrepreneur stress!

For me, being in a Zen state has been about being calm and slowing down.

That is when I am my most creative.

Being a stoic entrepreneur has made it easier to reach a Zen state.

But is the Stoic path is not for you, many people find Meditation is great at creating a Zen state.

YouTube offers a lot of Guided Meditations such as this guided sleep meditation which claims to help reduce your feelings of anxiety and prepare you for a great day ahead. Or try this 20 Minute Mindfulness Meditation.

Consider having Regular Massages for Entrepreneurial Stress

Perhaps the best way a stressed entrepreneur can  fast track a Zen State!

Regular massage increase mental clarity, reduce mental stress, promotes better sleep, induces mental relaxation, calms temper, and enhances capacity for calm thinking. It also releases large amounts of endorphins into the bloodstream.

The mind, which before massage is in a perturbed, restless, vacillating, and even despondent state, becomes calm, quiet, peaceful, and subdued after massage. In fact, the wearied and worried mind has been converted into a mind restful, placid, and refreshed.

~ Dr. Dowse

Recommended reading:

=> Be calmer, more creative, more joyful, and less worried as an entrepreneur through the power of meditation

=> Why Meditation is Good for Entrepreneurs

=> Meet The Zentrepreneur: A New And Emerging Breed Of Entrepreneur.

=> 25 Entrepreneurs Share Their Stress-Busting Secrets

=> 33 Quotes About Life, Purpose, and Success

# 17 Pay attention to your body’s stress signals

Entrepreneurs often find it difficult to differentiate between private and business life.

The ensuing stress manifests itself in many different ways.

Symptoms like:

a) Poor sleep habits

b) Appetite and weight changes.

c) Throbbing headaches,

d) Sore and tense muscles,

e) Feeling edgy and irritable,

f) Things you used to find fun, no longer excite you.

g) Acne

Entrepreneurial stress wrecks lives.

It damages your businesses, it damages your relationships and it makes you ill!

Recognize the symptoms before it is too late.

Entrepreneurial Stress – Some tough love!

Know that you alone, are responsible for who, what, and where you are in life.

Your stress – your choice!

Nobody makes your decisions for you.

The life you lead is because of your choices.

How you take care of your health, is up to you.

The friends you choose, is up to you.

The stress you experience is a result of your choices and what those choices mean to you.

You can choose to be a stress-free entrepreneur.

That is my sincere hope for you.

Being an entrepreneur is about making the world a better place.

That is easier to do as a STRESS FREE entrepreneur!

Be a stress free entrepreneur!

Entrepreneurial Stress solutions

Author Bio:
“BarryBarry Dunlop is a lifelong Entrepreneur, Angel Investor and business coach for entrepreneurs who launched his first Internet Business in 1998. Follow Barry on Instagram

The post 17 Practical Ways To Manage Entrepreneurial Stress appeared first on How To Make Money Online.

Inspiration from Brittany Packnett, Marcus Aurelius, Simon Sinek, and More

sourced from:

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.

1. Simon Sinek on passion versus stress

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stressed; working hard for something we love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek

It feels good to work hard on something that you love and really care a lot about. It’s even better when you’re paid to do it and there aren’t other elements making it less enjoyable.

It feels bad to be made to work hard on something you don’t care about at all because of professional pressure and the need for a paycheck. Call it stress or something else, but it’s not pleasant or joyful.

It’s worth noting here that very few people love deadlines. Often, they don’t care that much about them, so they can sometimes transform things we love into things we don’t care about because we’re forced up against a deadline.

2. Brittany Packnett on building your confidence and discovering it in others

From the description:

“Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows,” says educator and activist Brittany Packnett. In an inspiring talk, she shares three ways to crack the code of confidence — and her dream for a world where revolutionary confidence helps turn our most ambitious dreams into reality.

Those “three ways to crack the code” are permission, community, and curiosity. In simplest terms, reflect on when you’ve been confident in the past, find a group of people you feel safe being confident around, and use that confidence at first to follow your own curiosity through self-learning.

This hits upon something I’ve found that’s very true with my own kids. One of the best confidence builders I’ve found for them is to encourage them to seek out answers for their own questions. I always encourage them to ask lots of questions, but when they want answers, I often don’t give them tidy packaged answers. Rather, I encourage them to go find the answer and report back. I give them permission to go out on their own, a community in which they feel engaged, and the curiosity to go do it.

That mix creates confidence, and I often see that confidence spreading out into other aspects of their life. They’re not afraid to try things. They’re not afraid to be leaders with their friends. It’s something that’s really beautiful to behold.

This talk really cinched something I’ve always felt, that my encouragement for them to go out there and seek answers to their questions and report back was a confidence builder. I felt that it was there, but I didn’t really put it together until I heard this talk.

3. Tim Kreider on the sanest people

“The sanest people, I think, are those happily unafflicted with ambition — whether for power, wealth, fame or achievement — who want only to work at some useful job, to love someone and to live in a nice place with some wind chimes on the porch.” – Tim Kreider

There was a point in the history of The Simple Dollar where I had some opportunities on the table to turn the thing into what you might call a small media empire. At the time, I had a couple of virtual assistants helping me run the site, an ad agency wanted to partner with me, and there were a few additional deals floating around that would have made me a ton of money, including a multifaceted deal with a pretty large entertainment conglomerate. Yep, Trent Hamm would have been on your television and your magazine aisle.

Here’s the thing – had I jumped on board with those deals, I would have found myself doing a lot of things I was just not very interested in doing with my time. I would have been spending a lot of time managing people, negotiating deals, and so on. I actually talked seriously with some people I trust about hiring a business manager and an agent.

I just realized I didn’t want any of that. What I really wanted more than anything was to have a useful job where I actually helped people, a family that I loved and a bunch of good friends, and a nice home to go home to.

So I said no to almost all of it aside from a book deal that I largely regretted. I eventually sold the site with an arrangement me that allowed me to stick around and do what I love, which was write.

That quote sums up how I feel about the whole thing now. Sure, I would probably have more than enough money in the bank to retire now and I’d probably have some lifestyle accoutrements that would be really nice, but I would have missed a lot of my kids growing up and I would probably not have a strong marriage.

I think… no, I know I made the right choice for me.

4. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

You might think “this is just an autobiography of a stand-up comic,” and you’d be right, but like every really worthwhile autobiography, it manages to say a whole lot more than just the simple recounting of the details of one person’s life.

In the 1970s, Steve Martin became the most popular stand-up comedian on Earth. In 1981, he walked away from it forever. This book has a dual nature, then; it explains how he was able to come from a modest background to be an incredibly successful stand-up comedian, and it also deals with why he walked away from it.

The issues he goes into are ones that we all deal with. How do I get better at something? (Practice, practice, practice, seems to be the answer.) What really matters in my life? What’s worth giving up and what isn’t?

Martin’s gift as a writer is on full display here, because as he’s tackling those questions in his own life, he’s also effectively asking you those questions about your own life. If you want to get really good at something, here’s how you do it, but it’s going to require sacrifices. Are you willing to make those sacrifices? What’s actually important to you? How important is your integrity? How important is your family?

I couldn’t put it down and it left me thinking a lot afterwards.

5. Henry David Thoreau on time and money

“The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.” ― Henry David Thoreau

In this quote, Thoreau was basically laying down the groundwork for my own personal finance philosophy, which is pretty similar to that embodied in the seminal personal finance book Your Money or Your Life.

The truth is that everything you buy with your money was, in the end, bought with the hours of your life, and there are really only so many hours we each have in our lives. How do you want to spend those hours? Do you want to spend them so you can then use the money you earn on forgettable things? I think that’s a waste of a life.

Use your life’s energy earning money so that you can spend it on things that really mean something to you. If you’re not sure, bank it for later and use it to buy freedom.

6. Alice

Recently, my youngest child participated in a weeklong summer program centered around Alice, which is a simple 3D modeling tool and scripting language that you can use to tell digital stories.

At the end of the week, he gave us a demonstration of what he’d learned, starting with a few simple things that were clearly oriented around learning how to use the software and culminating with this great animated story about the friendship between a dragon and a ghost, culminating in the revelation that the ghost was actually the ghost of the dragon’s mother.

Not only was this story impressive (and his use of the medium and the tools to tell it), but his sister immediately grabbed onto the software and started creating things of her own. She’s now in the midst of creating something absurdly elaborate – all I can really tell is that it involves a flock of birds and it’s quite long.

We currently have just one family computer and the two of them have been taking turns (with varying levels of cooperation, as one might expect from siblings) working on various stories.

It’s amazing to see a tool like this unlock both their creative and logical natures. (It also makes me want to make an Alice story as well.)

7. Binging with Babish

Binging with Babish is a Youtube cooking channel that features two distinct types of videos – “Basics with Babish,” which are basic kitchen technique tutorials, and “Binging with Babish,” which is kind of the “main” show in which the host shows how to make some kind of dish that has some degree of pop cultural relevance.

For me, this channel not only hits on an interest of mine (home food preparation), but I love that over the course of the history of the channel, you can see the evolution in Babish’s presentation skills and the quality of the information provided. The early videos are definitely good, but he’s really in a groove in the later videos, melding useful and entertaining almost perfectly.

A great example of this is the recent “Basics with Babish” on coffee:

The video does a great job of presenting the basics of making coffee at home, mixing a breezy tone with his guest, a lot of useful information for someone new to home coffee preparation, and keeping it in a relatively short video. There’s a ton of info that’s just set up perfectly for people to jump off into more specific topics if they’re interested while still communicating what you need to know and still being entertaining.

On the other hand, this episode of “Binging with Babish” where he tries to make eggs Florentine from “Frasier” is great (and actually works really well – I used this as a guide to make eggs Florentine one morning for fun, and I made the English muffins multiple times):

This is a very information-rich walkthrough with lots of useful videos and just enough humor to keep it entertaining without detracting from what’s being made. Perfect.

I am really careful with the Youtube channels I subscribe to so that my Youtube subscriptions page is always loaded with stuff I want to see, and Babish’s videos are always a welcome presence there.

8. Marcus Aurelius on your thoughts and your life

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

Perhaps the single biggest revelation I had during the last ten years is that I have a ton of control over what I think about, and what I think about ends up shaping how I feel about a lot of things, how I react to things, and what I choose to do in life.

An example: if I spend my time thinking negative thoughts about working out, it’s not going to be long before I’m simply completely uninterested in working out and I’m going to stop any sort of workout routine. Rather, if I catch myself thinking negative thoughts about it, I intentionally kill them and start thinking positive thoughts instead. “This will feel good. This will make me healthier. This will be fun. Remember how much you enjoyed that workout a few weeks ago? What did you do during that? Let’s recreate it!” Thinking thoughts like that intentionally gets me more excited about exercising, makes it go better, and makes me feel better about it afterwards, and eventually I don’t really have those negative thoughts any more.

This is true for everything. You have so much power over what you choose to think about things, and if you choose to think negative thoughts about the better but more challenging things in life, things will go poorly. Save your negative thoughts for the things that actually harm you and then let them fly, but give positive thoughts to the good things in life, like the person who’s nice to you even when you feel grumpy. That person is awesome. Think about how awesome that person is.

9. The Avett Brothers – Tiny Desk Concert

From the description:

With all due respect to its terrific albums and kinetic, frenetic live shows, if The Avett Brothers could put on a three-song acoustic concert at every workplace in America, the band would be a world-beating colossus. For proof, listen to this performance in the NPR Music offices.

The Avett Brothers are one of my favorite musical acts of all time. NPR’s series of “Tiny Desk Concerts,” where a musical act performs in the corner of a rather small office at NPR, is one of my favorite things to listen to. How did I somehow not know that the Avett Brothers had done one of these?

This is an excellent sampling of their earlier music which is very bluegrass/Americana oriented, rather than the somewhat more pop-friendly sound of their later stuff. They came off as so scruffy and passionate back then. I could listen to all of it hundreds of times and it would never grow old.

10. A.R. Moxon on the unjust person

“‘Meet me in the middle,’ says the unjust man. You take a step towards him, he takes a step back. ‘Meet me in the middle,’ says the unjust man.” – A.R. Moxon

I think, in some part of our lives, we’re all the unjust man, and in other parts of our lives, we’re all the person taken advantage of by the unjust man.

The thing is, I don’t think many of us recognize we’re being the unjust one. We feel like we’re merely sticking to our guns and simply aren’t seeing that others are trying to cooperate with us.

Similarly, it can be incredibly frustrating when people in our lives (or people whose choices affect our lives) are the unjust one. We feel like we’re compromising and cooperating, and they don’t care and just take and take and take.

The only solution to this is communication. Open your ears and you might hear more communication and conversation than you think you do.

11. Timery

So, let’s back up for a bit here. In about 2015, I got really into time tracking. I wanted to get a clear sense of how I was spending my time at a scale beyond just a day or two. I could usually tell if a single day was productive or not and have a good idea of what was unproductive and productive about the last day or two, but in terms of larger trends and a bigger picture, I was pretty blind.

I started using Toggl as a time tracking tool and stuck with it for a couple of months really well. There were a number of things I really liked about Toggl, but the actual use of it when I just wanted to tap a button to track my time was always really awkward. It felt like I had to tap several times to do anything, and that meant it kind of got in the way of being productive. It was that lack of ease of use that got in the way.

Well, Timery is basically an extremely well designed free app and widget that sits on top of your Toggl data and makes tracking your time really easy. I’ve jumped back into time tracking over the last few weeks mostly because Timery makes it easy to do what I want to do – do all of the setup, then after that, I mostly just tap once on my phone when I want to track something different. It’s great, and the data is already useful. It kind of slaps me in the face with how I use my time poorly, much like a credit card statement can sometimes do when your spending is all out of whack.

12. Catherine Wallace on parenting

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” – Catherine M. Wallace

There are few things I enjoy more than my children telling me something about their lives: something they care about, something they made, something they accomplished. The thing is, if they’re telling me about it, it’s not small to them.

This isn’t just true for other kids. Most of the time, aside from a small minority of people who just talk all the time about whatever comes to mind, people who are talking to you about things are bringing them up because they care about them, and at the very least acknowledging that is a huge part of building trust with other people. You don’t have to love what the other person is talking about. You just have to recognize that it is important to them. If you do, you’ll build a connection rapidly.

The things I consider unimportant are regularly things other people consider important, and vice versa. If I just act like those things are unimportant, I’m effectively telling them that they’re unimportant, too, or at least that I view the things they care about as unimportant.

If you want to build a deep relationship with anyone, keep that in mind.

The post Inspiration from Brittany Packnett, Marcus Aurelius, Simon Sinek, and More appeared first on The Simple Dollar.