Archive for the ‘business’ Category

waves

Waves

painting by Sergey Gusev

Well looky here. Little ol’ jlcollinsnh is growing up a bit. With this post you’ll notice three big changes. We could have done them separately, but just seemed to make sense to plunge ahead. Before we get into all that, let me start with some well deserved “Thank You” shout outs. Truly, with my near total lack of technical skill, none of this would have been possible without the help of giants.

My pal Mr. Money Mustache weighed in with a list of the features that make the MMM site sing.

jlcollinsnh reader Mark T. offered technical support and a list of ideas that helped guide the path.

Sean over at Renewable Wealth, in the nicest possible way, said “…your current design makes my eyes bleed.” While tough to hear, his comment opened my own eyes. And caused me to take a closer look at his site. What I found was what I called then a “stark elegance.” It became the template of what we’ve tried to achieve here now.

But the real heavy lifting was done by The Mad Fientist. He trekked down from his secret Vermont lair to the lavish jlcollinsnh World Headquarters where, for little more than Indian Lamb Curry, Dark Chocolate and a few bottles of French Wine, he began the laborious process of elevating the blog to the next level.

Here are the three big changes:

1. jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com has become jlcollinsnh.com and is now hosted by DreamHost. In my ignorance, I don’t fully yet appreciate the vast importance of this change. But I am convinced it will provide greater flexibility, growth potential and even the possibility of generating revenue. That last is important in that this new hosting is now also costing me money!

2. The blog design is, obviously, all new. Hopefully you’ll agree that we’ve hit the “stark elegance” target we set.

3. We’ve added a new set of features intended to enhance your experience here as a reader:

    • A search function.
    • A list of “Most Viewed Posts.”
    • Expanded “Categories,” section.  I’ll be integrating more as time permits and trying to do a better job of allocating posts into them.
    • A far more user-friendly and accessible “Archives.”
    • A “You Might Also Like…” feature under each post offering further reading suggestions.
    • The chance to edit your comment after you’ve hit the ‘publish’ button. We’ve all noticed some little mistake after we hit “publish” and it was too late.
    • We’ve made it easier to subscribe to the comments and have created a feature to allow you to subscribe to them on any given post, even if you choose not to comment yourself.
    • It is also now easier to subscribe to the blog itself. If you haven’t already, I certainly hope you will now. It’s FREE and when you do each time I get around to putting up a new post, a sometimes admittedly unpredictable event, you’ll be among the first to know.

Now as cool as I hope you agree this all is, it might seem to you it all looks a bit unfinished. Well, it is. And that’s intentional. It’s where you come in. So, shamelessly borrowing the idea from Mr. Money Mustache, I am pleased to announce the first ever

jlcollinsnh

-Logo Design-

-Tag Line-

and

-Name-

Contest

I figure it worked well for MMM and the readers here at jlcollinsnh are at least as talented. Many of you are, in fact, the same.

Clearly the ultra-simple logo now displayed needs an upgrade. It should be in keeping with the goal of “stark elegance” while at the same time adding a bit of panache and color.

The tag line, “Business – Life – Money” fit when I launched the blog almost two years ago. Now not so much. With the new design a new tag is needed, and it is especially important. After all, jlcollinsnh is not exactly a clear descriptive title. The Tag Line carries that load all by its lonesome.

Several people have suggested that the blog needs a new and more descriptive name. I thought long and hard about this and in the end am to stay with jlcollinsnh. Here’s why:

— Arnold Schwarzenegger. I remember reading years ago that when Arnold was first trying to break into the movies all the big shot Hollywood poobahs were telling him he had to change his name. Nobody with an unpronounceable, un-spellable, polysyllabic name like that could possibly be a movie star. He told them they’d learn to spell and pronounce it soon enough. They did. I’ve always admired that.

— Over the last 21 months the name jlcollinsnh has earned a surprising level of brand equity. I,m inclined to build on that, not throw it away.

— Very few financial blog titles impress me. Mr. Money Mustache, The Mad Fientist, 101 Centavos and a small handful of others are brilliant. But most are simply derivative. I’ve always figured if someday I stumbled on an idea that matches that sort of brilliance, maybe I’d change. But so far, all the ideas I’ve had or heard don’t measure up. But maybe, one of you has the perfect solution. We’ll see.

There is no prize other than the fun and satisfaction of seeing your work featured as an integral part of this blog, with your name mentioned and a link to your website if you so choose.

Winners will be chosen by a secret panel of close jlcollinsnh advisors and subject to our whims and bad taste. If your submission doesn’t make the cut, clearly the short coming will be ours. Oh, and by submitting something you agree to allow me unlimited use of it both here on the blog and with anything associated with it.

If that last doesn’t discourage you, we look forward to seeing what you come up with!

consignment gallery

Our local upscale consignment shop, er, I mean Gallery

Imagine you could have a business selling stuff you didn’t own.

Imagine you had no manufacturing costs.

Imagine you had no cost of goods sold.

Imagine you could stock your store with inventory that didn’t cost you a dime unless and until it sold.

Imagine you could be guaranteed a hefty profit margin.

Imagine you had no shipping costs.

Imagine you could have this stuff delivered free to your door.

Imagine you could have this delivery made with no obligation and with the complete freedom to say, “Ah, no thanks.”

Imagine you never had to run a sale to move unwanted merchandise.

Imagine you could have it removed for free if it didn’t sell, and on your time-table.

Imagine you could just give it away if the owners declined to retrieve it when you told them to.

You’ve just imagined a consignment shop. Near as I can tell, the best business model ever.

As regular readers already know, point #8 in My Plan for 2013 is selling the house. With any luck at all, by May we’ll be settling into our new and more cosy deluxe apartment in the sky. In addition to allowing us to move on to the next phase of our lives, it give me the delicious opportunity to indulge on a large-scale in one of my very favorite things: Getting rid of stuff.

I love getting rid of stuff. Each item going out the door feels like a burden lifted. Moving provides an unloading opportunity like no other. But this unloading can be surprisingly difficult and time-consuming.

But because we already run a pretty lean ship, even the things we won’t be taking with us play a currently useful role in showing the house to its best advantage. That means I don’t want to unload anything until the house is sold. Not only sold, but past inspections and any financing or other contingencies that might cause a buyer to pull out. And, of course, that means when the time comes the selling window will be small.

It’s never too soon to explore options (and I’ll have another post shortly on some of the others) and that got me over to our local consignment store this past Sunday to check it out.  I’ve been to lots of these places before and this one is the cleanest, nicest and best organized I’ve come across. It’s not a “Shop,” it’s a “Gallery.” Heh!

They tend to carry quality stuff and it is displayed as well as any retail store you might visit. If you are a buyer, let’s say looking for a dining room set (something I’ll happen to have for sale shortly — Just saying), you’ve got a couple of options.

You could buy new. It’s easy. And it’s very expensive.

You could buy used. It’s far cheaper, but can require a lot of running around.

Buying used you might search Craig’s List. Look at the pictures. Make a list of those that appeal to you. Set up appointments. Drive around town looking at them. Hopefully find one you like and then drive back to negotiate for it. You might get a killer bargain. More likely, at least in my experience, you’ll be dealing with folks who have a highly inflated idea of what it’s worth.

Or you could mosey on over to the consignment shop and see 8 to 12 sets all in one place. They’ll all be priced realistically by professionals without any pesky emotional (…remember, sob, Grandma used to sit right there each Thanksgiving before she died back in ’78…) attachments to the things. If you didn’t see what you wanted, you could stop by in another week or so and check out the new inventory.

If I were a buyer, I’d certainly take a look at Craig’s. I’d review the ads in case the perfect set was sitting there. But I’d also visit the consignment place. It’s every bit as easy as any retail store, just cheaper.

As a seller, it’s a tougher call. But, not surprisingly, the consignment store folks have come up with some strong reasons to use them. Saves me the trouble. Here’s the case our local place makes, in their own words, directly from their website:

Why use a consignment gallery?

  1. Avoid the hassle of placing newspaper ads and having strangers walk through your home.
  2. Garage sales bring low prices and a limited number of shoppers for a short time.
  3. Auctions cannot guarantee reasonable prices.
  4. Consignment Gallery in Bedford and Amherst offer excellent visibility in high traffic locations, 7 days a week.
  5. With over 20,000 square feet we are the largest consignment business in the area for pre-owned furniture and decorative accessories.
  6. We provide you with a simple agreement form which lists your items and prices.
  7. We have the experience to price and attractively display your consignments.
  8. Consignment Gallery has established a reputation for integrity and customer service.

Compelling stuff. But it comes with a price:

1. I have to get the stuff there. For small things, no problem. But for my Wing Chairs and Dining Room set arrangements need to be made.

2. They gave me the cards of two reliable guys that will cart the furniture over there, but that’s an added cost of sale to me.

3. I’ll still need to take pictures to send them, just to confirm that they’d be interested in accepting my consignment.

4. Even if they like the pictures, they reserve the right to reject the items upon arrival and inspection. More risk to me.

5. Their commission is 35% on items priced over $30. It’s 50% on items under $30.

6. They decide what the price will be and it might be lower than I want (especially after commissions and what with Grandma having sat at that table each Thanksgiving ’till she died in ’78 and all).

7. They want the inventory to turn over. That’s far more profitable for them than squeezing out the best price on my stuff for me. One cost they do have is rent for the floor space and nothing wastes that money like stagnate inventory.

8. After 30 days the price automatically comes down 10%.

9. After 60 days you can agree to another 10% reduction or collect your things.

10. If the items don’t sell, I’ll have to pay to retrieve them or agree just to donate them; which the store will arrange.

Like I said, it is a great business model. For them. And maybe for me.

Let’s look at some numbers. Let’s say my dining room set is worth, as I think it is, about $500. If it sells at the full price in the shop, I’ll net 65% of that or $325. Less whatever it costs me to get it there. So anything I can get above $325 is found money.

But I’ll need to sell quickly when the time comes.

Here’s my plan. When I’m ready, I’ll put it on Craig’s List at around $375 for a few days. If somebody recognizes it as the screaming bargain it is, they’ll get a deal and I’ll pocket a bit of extra dosh. If not, the consignment shop will get the biz. Sometimes a hammer won’t do and you need a nail-gun.

VITA, income taxes and the IRS

Posted: January 11, 2013 in business, Life, Money

IRS

I wasn’t planning to do it again this year, but in the end I signed up.  If I had been planning better, the work for my re-certification would be mostly done by now.  But I’ve yet to begin.  Too much traveling and playing.  I knew this of course.  It is the reason I wasn’t planning to re-up.  But the new guy running our local program reached out, assured me there would still be time when I returned from Europe.  Assured me the need was critical.  He didn’t assure me that the IRS would be any less rigorous in its demands.  We both know better than that.  Still, this past Tuesday evening I showed up for the first orientation meeting and met everybody else.  They are all further along than I.

Assuming I catch up, once again I’ll be working with our regional VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program preparing tax returns for our local poor and immigrant population.  It will be my third season.  It is gratifying work, even if the training ahead in the next couple of weeks is daunting.

 VITA_IncomeTaxAssistance_logo_w150

The work, and the training the IRS requires for certification, has given me an inside look. What virtually every volunteer agrees on is, the tax code is far too complex.

The tax code is complex precisely because it provides goodies for everyone.

The rich (and the thrifty but not so rich) get the favorable treatment of capital gains, dividends and tax-free municipal bonds. Not to mention the specific tax breaks for specific industries. This being the reason our corporate tax rate at 30% is one of the highest in the world but the effective corporate tax rate is only 12%, one of the very lowest.

The middle class get deductions for IRAs, 401ks, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, children and dependents.

The poor also get exemptions for children and dependents, along with the child tax credit and earned income tax credit. Tax credits are especially beneficial things.  Most deductions reduce your tax liability only to the extent you have a tax liability.  Then they become worthless.  Tax credits can provide refund dollars in excess of taxes withheld and beyond any tax liability.  That is, if you owe $500 in taxes and have a $1000 tax credit, not only is your tax liability wiped out, the government will give you the remaining $500.  The take away here is, even if you are sure you don’t owe any tax it can be worth it to file.

I use the term ‘goodies’ above in this sense:

The core reason for income taxes is to raise revenue to operate the government and it’s services.  But congress was quick to realize that once in place the federal income tax could also be used as a tool for social engineering. This is done by providing incentives in the form of deductions for certain behaviors.

    • You want more people to have kids? Child tax credits and exemptions.
    • You want more people to own homes and the social stability that provides? Deductible mortgage interest & RE taxes.
    • You want people to invest and grow the economy? Preferred rates on dividends and capital gains.
    • You want people to give to charity? Charitable deductions.

These incentives, what I call goodies, are not about keeping your own money. They are not about raising revenue. They are about doling it out to those who behave in a “proper” way.

In the world of VITA volunteers I hear little talk about the tax system being “unfair” but lots of conversation about it being far too complex. Indeed, as I prepare returns for folks I frequently ponder how insane it is to expect the average taxpayer to wade thru it.  I guess that’s why the IRS support VITA programs.

Most all volunteers (regardless of political leanings), myself included, favor some version of a simpler, flatter tax that sweeps away deductions in favor of lower rates. Don’t hold your breath, and even if it were to happen it won’t last. Congress would promptly begin creating new goodies to influence social behaviors, reward supporters and to garner influence.

Of course PAID tax preparers like our complex system just fine.  I feel about them much the same as I do about Financial Advisors.  Better to learn to do your own taxes or seek out the free help offered by your local VITA.  Volunteers are well-trained, each return is double checked and the work is respected by the IRS.  Oh, and it’s free.

It may surprise you, but I also give high marks to the IRS:

  • The training they provide is excellent.
  • The focus of this training is accuracy.
  • The IRS is not out to screw anybody, indeed a regular refrain is our obligation as preparers to seek out every deduction, credit and benefit to which the taxpayer has a legal right.
  • They have done an excellent job in taking a nightmare tax code and reducing it to a series of simple forms that actually make sense.   At least after some training.
  • They are very focused on weeding out tax cheats. Since cheats are taking money out of the pockets of all their fellow taxpayers, including me, this is as it should be.
  • and for those of us warped enough to enjoy playing with taxes, it’s fun!

vita uncle sam

If this kind of work appeals to you I’d encourage you to check into it.  As our site leader used to say, if nothing else it will give you some great insights and stories.  But be aware, sometimes there is not a lot in the way of appreciation from your clients. I’ve had people bitch at me throughout the entire process. That’s tough to take at any time.  But when you are providing a free service it is especially grating. I conclude that one of the reasons some, certainly not all but some, people are poor is a lack of basic social graces.  Dealing with it is good Zen practice.

That said, I’ve also had many very appreciative clients.  Knowing you’ve helped someone with what might have otherwise been an overwhelming task and spared them from the clutches of store-front paid tax preparers is a great feeling.

The work has also given me a greater insight into and sympathy with the working poor.  The sheer industriousness of some of our clients is inspirational.  Their stories, both spoken and as revealed in their taxes, are compelling. After a time, it’s not hard to tell who is on their way out of poverty and who will be spending their life mired in it.

Of course, the training also provides insights into my own taxes and possible strategies.  Since I’m now retired, I can enjoy what Mr. Money Mustache has called “the lovely low taxes of early retirement.”  Let’s take a look.

Over the years Mrs. jlcollinsnh and I have built up a nice stash in our retirement accounts.  As we all know, these accounts are not tax-free, they are tax deferred.  Big difference.  And the IRS requires that we begin withdrawals and paying taxes on them once we turn age 70.  We could just wait, but tax rates are low now.  We’d like to get these accounts shifted in to Roth IRAs at the lowest cost possible.  Roths earn tax-free, withdrawals are tax-free and they can be passed to heirs tax free.  A pretty good deal.

Since we’re married we file as “Married Filing Jointly,” the most attractive filing status.  (The government rewards marriage. See above.)  This means we can have income of up to $70,700 and still be in only the 15% tax bracket.  But it gets better:

  • $70,700 income
  • $11,900 standard deduction
  • $11,400 exemptions.  ($3800 x 3 for the two of us and our child.)
  • $94,000 total.

This means we can have up to 94k in income and still pay only a 15% marginal tax rate.  So here’s what we do:

Take my wife’s income (she still works) and add our taxable interest and dividends.  Subtract that total from 94k.  Shift that remaining amount from regular IRAs into our Roths.  Pay only 15%.  That’s a deal I can live with.  Plus I understand our government can use the money right now.

Serving with VITA helps my community and it helps me.  I’ll be challenged, learning and having fun doing this again this year.  Looking forward to it.  Just wish I had the re-certification behind me!

Addendum:

We like clear and simple around here. My pal femmefrugality just put up a post that gives the clearest and simplest explanation of the Earned Income Credit I’ve yet to read:  The Earned Income Credit: Why it’s not cool to hate on poor people

The EIC is one many of our VITA clients qualify for, as they are for the most part the working poor. It is designed to encourage people to take virtually any job they can rather than reverting to welfare. I’ve seen it make a huge percentage difference in the annual income of folks who need it most.

But, of course, people being people there are those who will try to game the system. A few years back our local VITA site uncovered this scam:

As FF points out in her post the EIC benefit increases based on the number of children claimed as dependents, but the maximum is three. A local minister gathered his flock together. Those people with more than three children “loaned” the extras to those with fewer children. Everybody got the maximum EIC. Very clever. Very illegal.

 

Back in the day Louis Rukeyser hosted a PBS program called Wall Street Week each Friday evening.  It was an end of the week ritual watching it for me.

Rukeyser

Louis Rukeyser

He’d open with a commentary on the follies and foibles of the previous market week and then turn to a rotating panel of three Wall Street gurus for their take.  Two of my favorites were Abby Joseph Cohen, a relentless Bull, and Marty Zweig, who was always relentlessly and deeply “worried about this market.”

Each guest was impeccably credentialled and Rukeyser made it a point to deftly schedule those who would each week present opposing views as to the market’s condition and direction.  Sometimes one would even prove right.

His commentaries, questions and comments were always delivered with a wink, a smile and with great good humor. Tragically, he passed away in 2006 and the current generation of investors is left without his insights and wisdom.

The key thing his program and its parade of guests taught me is that, at any given time, some expert is predicting any possible future that could conceivably happen.  Since all bases are covered, someone is bound to be right.  When they are, their good luck will be interpreted as wisdom and insight.  If their prediction happened to be dramatic enough, it could also lead to fame and fortune.

Every January Rukeyser would have each of his guests predict the market’s high, low and ending point for the year.  I forget his exact line, but after the predictions were in he’d say something like, “…with the understanding that even these experts could be wrong, there you have it.”  And he’d wink into the camera.

Come the following December he’d salute those who’d come closest and chide the goats.

In that spirit, here are my market predictions for the S&P (which incidentally closed 2012 up around 13% at 1426) in 2013:

High:  1825

Low:  1312

Dec 31, 2013 close: 1754

Clearly, I’m very bullish.  Here’s why:

Since the Spring of 2009 we have been on a slow, grinding climb back from the brink.  Corporations have cut expenses to the bone and accumulated formidable amounts of cash.  Balance sheets are exceptionally clean.  I expect the pace of recovery to begin to accelerate and as the market senses that stock price will continue to build on the 13%+ increase they posted in 2012.  But most importantly, the news, gurus and commentators are filled all with gloom.

Now, don’t take any of this too seriously.  My crystal ball is just as cloudy as everybody else’s. I’m certainly not changing my investment allocation and strategy based on this and you shouldn’t either.  As Mr. Rukeyser would gleefully point out, even I can be wrong.  As I’d point out, I most often am.  We’ll see come next New Year’s Eve.

If you want to join me in this silliness, post your high, low and close predictions in the comments below and come year end we’ll, in the best Rukeyser fashion, honor those closest and jeer those most far off.

Even if I turn out to be spot on, it won’t get me interviewed on MSNBC.  Not dramatic enough.  But then, that’s not my ambition.  If it is yours, however, here’s how:

Step 1: Make a prediction for a huge short-term swing. Up or down doesn’t matter.  But down is easier and might get you more play if you’re right.
Step 2: Document the time and date you made it.
Step 3: When it doesn’t happen wait a bit.
Step 4: Repeat Steps 1-3 until one day you’re right.
Step 5: Issue Press Release: Market Plunges!!!, just as (insert your name here) recently predicted.
Step 6: Clear your schedule for media interviews.
Step 7: Send me my 15% agent’s fee of your new-found wealth.

Be sure not to issue your press release until events prove you right.

Oh, and keep in mind that once your Guru status is established you’ll be expected to be able to repeat it.  For months, maybe years, everything you say will be noted.  Each misstep will be gleefully documented until you slip from view humiliated and discredited.  But also rich if you’ve played your moment in the sun well.

Here are 14 Spectacularly wrong predictions that should serve to keep us all humble.

2013 new year

May this New Year bring you Health, Wealth and Happiness!

That’s both a Wish and a Prediction I truly hope I got right!

Addendum:  Per Smedley’s suggestion in his comment below, we now have a prize for winning the Rukeyser Memorial Market Prediction Contest 2013.  The chance to have a guest post right here telling us how and why you’re so smart!

Remember you need to predict the S&P: High, Low and Close for the year in you’re comment below.  Then somebody is going to have to remind me about this in December.  :)

“If you reach for a star, you might not get one.  But you won’t come up with a hand full of mud either”

— Leo Burnett

“Never be haughty to the humble.  Never be humble to the haughty.”

— Jefferson Davis

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world:  the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

“Lack of money is the root of all evil.”

–G.B. Shaw

“The tide is high but I’m holding on.”

–Blondie

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”

– Will Rogers.

 “But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”

“Gather the flowers, but spare the buds.”

Andrew Marvell

“Learn to drink coffee without sugar.”

“You’re better off missing a bus or an airplane once in a while than getting there too early all the time.”

“Don’t expect too much from the company you work for, even if it’s a good company.”

–Andy Rooney

“If you would take, you must first give.  This is the beginning of intelligence.”

— Tao Te King

“Being able to do something well is one of life’s great joys.”

— Frank Tyger

“It’s hubris to think that the way we see things is everything there is.”

Lisa Randall

“The sweaty players in the game of life always have more fun than the supercilious spectators.”

— William Feather

“We are all imbued with the love of praise.”

— Henry Fielding

“I have never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy as a cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

— Thomas Jefferson

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” 

— Khalil Gibran

“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.”

Mae West

“No one agrees with other people’s opinions, they merely agree with their own opinion expressed by somebody else.”

— Sydney Tremayne

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

— Henry Ford

“Consider the mosquito.  He sings at his work and he keeps everlastingly at it.  The only way to stop him is to kill him.”

— JT Fisher


“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Mark Twain

“Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.”

— Marilyn Monroe

“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” 

— Coco Chanel

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”

“If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.”

 “Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”

— Ben Franklin

“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.” 

–Terry Pratchett


“He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

“Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I shall not put.”

Winston Churchill

“But there’s also no doubt that many people, with fewer advantages than you, have overcome them to achieve much greater things”

— Mr. Money Mustache

“One of the greatest follies of our culture is the notion that possessions depict financial progress in your life.”

— Shilpan

“Why would I want to spend all my money on ‘stuff’ when I don’t even own my own time yet?”

Dividend Mantra

“I don’t think anything is ever quite the same to us after we are dead.”

— Don Marquis

“Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” 

— Eleanor Roosevelt

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” 

Katharine Hepburn

“The purpose in life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

“It ain’t too hard to get along with somebody else’s troubles.”

–Steve Goodman

“In misfortune, which friend remains a friend?”

–Euripides

“Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy.”

Groucho Marx

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

–Isaac Asimov

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”

– John Allen Paulos.

“Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment.” 

— Ralph Marston

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

— Kurt Vonnegut


“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” 

Anais Nin

“In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.”

— Shing Xiong.

“To be without some things you want is an indispensable part of t happiness.”

— Bertrand Russell

Oh, and I think I’ve turned a worthy phrase or two:

Spend less than you earn – invest the surplus – avoid debt

You own the things you own and they in turn own you.

If your lifestyle matches or, god forbid exceeds, your income you are no more than a gilded slave.

As individuals we only have one obligation to society:  

To make sure we, and our children, are not a burden to others.                           

 Do you have your own favorites?  Maybe even turned a couple yourself?  Please share in the comments….

In 1974 my dad died.  I was 23.

(Didn’t expect the Happy Birthday post to begin there, I’ll bet!)

He never had much interest in kids so our relationship didn’t really begin to develop until I was in college and could relate to him as an adult.  Of course, by then I had my own circle of interest and a very busy life.  Looking back, I never really got to know him.  It is a lasting regret.

I know the basics of course.  He was born in 1911 in Duluth, MN.  His father was a lawyer.  His mother died when he was two.  His step mother evidently didn’t care for him.  He was sent to boarding school in the winters and to his Aunt Jessie and Uncle Ben’s farm in the summers.

He took his degree in Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin and his first job was selling for 7-Up.  My mother was a school teacher when they met and since she wanted to keep working they married in secret.  In those days only single women could be teachers.

Her father had a business as a manufacturers’ rep.  Her brother, my Uncle Linton, and my dad took it over.  They were very good at what they did and earned a handsome living for many years.  But dad, like many men of his generation, was a smoker.  By the time I got to college his health and, by extension, his business were failing rapidly.

My daughter and I have had a much closer relationship.  She knows far more about me, what I believe and why.  But now in college she, too, has her own circle of interest and a very busy life.  So a couple of years ago I began writing some letters to her.  Life lessons if you will.  Things I wanted her to know that she might not be yet ready or interested in hearing just yet.

Then last year I retired….

 ….leaving behind my business friends and colleagues, and wondering how best to stay in touch with them.

Those two goals in mind, the blog idea occurred.

I had never read a blog.  I had never seen one.  I barely knew such things existed.  But I asked around and got pointed to WordPress.

Poking about, I managed to cobble together the format you see here and I started writing.  June 2, 2011 The Monk and the Minister appeared.  My first post.  I sent the link to my friends and family.  The name jlcollinsnh was chosen so they’d know it was me.

Over the next month I posted 17 more before disappearing to Ecuador for the summer.  The blog went dark until I returned with the appropriately named Lazy Days in late October.  Since then I’ve published about two posts a week as ideas and interest come.

Today jlcollinsnh is one year old.  The blog, that is.  It seems it is customary on this august occasion for bloggers to post a review of the year just past.  So, here goes….

As of last week:

  • 50 posts, an average of just about one per week.
  • 41,752 total page views, a little more than 800 per week.
  • 928 page views on my single busiest day.
  • 66 subscribers, although I’ve come to learn regular readers have other ways of accessing it too.
  • 502 comments.

But then, last Saturday, everything changed.

an early present from MMM

Mr. Money Mustache published my guest post on his far more popular site.  What I thought was going to be just a bit more work for me turned out to be a huge gift to this modest little blog.

In just the past week:

  • Just 1 more post.
  • 31,852 more page views.
  • 6811 page views last Sunday alone, the busiest day.
  • 110 additional subscribers.
  • 267 additional comments.

It has been nothing short of breathtaking.  So now, on the blog’s one year anniversary, here’s where the totals stand:

  • 52 posts, including this one
  • 73,604 page views.
  • 6811 page views on the busiest day.
  • 176 subscribers.
  • 769 comments.

But what really made my day is the incredible warmth and kind words in those comments.  Boy howdy.

So a big “Thank You!” to all my loyal readers and an equally big “Welcome!” to all of you who have found your way here this past week.

With out you, this blogging thing would just be so much talking to myself.

Here’s what I learned along the way:

I picked the wrong name.

While jlcollinsnh works fine for letting friends and family know it’s me, it really doesn’t properly brand the blog as what it is.  Most have descriptive titles that help potential readers know what to expect.  But I’ve grown fond of it.  It’s not going to change.

I picked the wrong category (s).

Business – Life – Money, works fine in describing what I cover here.  Although, given the posts, it should be:  Money — Life — Business.  Successful blogs seem more focused.  But I like the freedom to range about my topics.  That’s not going to change either.

There’s no money in it.

The good news is that it costs nothing other than time and effort to do this.

I did just learn that some of you may be seeing ads here.  They never appear on my version.  WordPress tells me they place these and it provides revenue to them.  That, in turn, provides their hosting service to me for free.  Works for me; hope they aren’t a distraction for you.

But, there might be a book in it.

I’ve always wanted to write a book but have never had the discipline to sit still and crank out the chapters.  The blog has provided the structure, and the response from readers like you the motivation, to write.  Slowly the material is accumulating.  The next step will be to organize it and give it a rewrite so it flows.  We’ll see…

There could be money in it.

But not much.  I’m only just beginning to learn there are ways to monetize it, but it seems the amounts are minimal without a far, far larger audience.

I could be doing far more to build the audience.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, lifehacker, reddit, yakezie are all apparently venues that would drive traffic, but I do none.

So far what readership the blog has, has grown organically.

With a big boost from MMM.

A few weeks ago I received a private email from Mr. Money Mustache.  He runs one of my very favorite blogs.  Indeed, I have often thought that if I had had access to such wisdom at the start of my financial journey I’d have gotten far further far faster.

But, alas, when I started the internet was yet to be and computers filled buildings that took up entire city blocks. ILLIAC was one of the first and while at the University of Illinois I took a course that allowed access to it.  After watching it being programmed with laboriously prepared punch cards to perform simple calculations I remember walking out thinking:  “Clearly this is a technology without a future.”

One of the many reasons I’m not Bill Gates.

ILLIAC

Anyway, in his email Mr. MM said several very kind things.  Of them all,

“skilled with swear words”

brought the biggest smile to my face.

After the butter, he proposed that I write a guest post and he gave me some guidelines.  Basically, he was looking for a geezer perspective. Since I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he does over there I agreed.

Oh, and access to his huge audience played a role.

The post is titled:

It has Never Been About Retirement

I hope you’ll check it out.  While you’re there, take some time to poke around MMM.  Great stuff, well worth reading.

I do.