fear of money


If I was going to search deep within my (financial) soul I’d admit that most of my money decisions are based on fear. Fear’s a negative word, and I don’t think that in this case my decision making is always a negative process.  I am often quite happy with the result.  A great example has been my investing philosophy.  A little more than a year ago I got nervous about the direction the market was headed.  I took about a third of my retirement accounts’ total out of the market and put it into cash.  Good fear, right?  That chunk of my retirement savings would have been wiped out.

But after a year, I’ve only redeployed about a quarter of that third. You could make the argument – and I do, to myself – that holding onto cash is a defensive position.  Nothing about the current propped-up-through-stimulus-and-bailout money situation of the US economy should encourage a reasonable investor to get back in…should it?  Yet again and again we’ve seen these market drops come back.  So some of my reluctance is fear-based.

I’ve written about the reasons why I don’t talk about real estate investing. I said I don’t like “investing” in a primary residence, I don’t much about real estate or the business of real estate, and that the New York market – where I lived until recently – was too competitive.  I should have added that it usually seems like BIG chunks of money are needed for real estate investing.  Fear of investing in big chunks keeps me diversified in the stock market (index funds, right?) and keeps me afraid of real estate.

Fear of wasting money is good, certainly – but at least as far as investing goes, some fear and uncertainty are necessary to have any sort of reward. I’ve always dreaded a doomsday that seems unlikely to come – a final day with money and then a penniless dawn.  It could happen, of course – but with the ability to make more money (which I have) and good health (which I hope to continue to have) and a supportive family, it seems that I won’t face that doomsday.  So the fear is something more than trivial but also less than a doomsday event.

Does Warren Buffet fear loss? Probably not at this point – he’s old enough and seemingly content enough to be free of financial fear.  Does Bernie Madoff?  I guess now he will face his own doomsday now, and learn whether that fear should have been stronger.  How do you control fear of money?  Here are the things I try to do:

  1. Remember that money is infinite. YOU may not have infinite amounts of money, but there is a lot of it out there, if you can just figure out how to get it.
  2. You cannot anticipate every disaster, but you only need to anticipate one success. If you invest in a property, a billion things can go wrong – title problems, a fire, a sewage plant groundbreaking the day after you close, etc. etc.  You can’t prepare for everything.  Try to aim for success, not dodge failure.
  3. Fear comes from you. Fear is not an externally-caused reaction.  Sure, we all get a jolt of adrenaline when we’re jumped by a cave bear, but you can control fear.  It’s not like being poked with a stick, where you have a reaction determined by nerves and muscle reflexes.  Fear is neurons firing off in your brain, and you can control your thoughts – they are the only thing in the world you CAN control.
  4. Doomsday may come, true… but let fear of that day go. I do sometimes worry about all of my index funds and various other investments going to zero… but as I’ve often told my friends and family, if my retirement portfolio, invested in index funds that span the US market, goes to nil we’ve got bigger problems that worrying about retirement.  We’ll be reverting to a currency based on canned foods and shotgun shells.  Worry about your 401(k)’s fees, or your consumer debt with 21% interest rates – things you can do something about.  Don’t worry about the end of the world.  If the aliens come, you’re not prepared anyway.

Fear of money – worrying about its scarcity, or its disappearance – can cripple you from making more and even more importantly from enjoying life.

Photo by DownTown Pictures

linklings, michael jackson passed away edition

michael jackson signatureI had to mention Michael Jackson.  Flexo will explain why. It is one of those watershed pop-culture moments, whether you like him or not.  I am a fan of Elvis, and 32 years after his death people are still mooney about him.  I liked Thriller – who didn’t.  He was around even before that, with albums like Off The Wall.  I remember vividly skating around the rollerskating rink in my hometown while Rock With You droned on.  It was one of those not-quite-fast, not-quite-slow songs where you wondered whether you should do singles skating or try and get a girl to hold hands while you stumbled around the rink.  Good times, whatever else you can say about the guy, I guess.  A few links for the weekend:

Poor Money Choices Ruined My Parents’ Life:  Yikes.  Not much positive here, except that she overcame her parents’ poor choices.

Start A Side Business in the Lazy Days of Summer:  Some excellent advice on starting a side hustle…and Why Everybody Needs A Side Hustle

And a few interesting links from some blogs I haven’t linked to as often…

  • What’s Wrong with The Millionaire Next Door:  Interesting take on a book I like, a lot.  I agree that it’s dry and drifts off into uninteresting areas – too much time wasted on the question of cars, for example.  Yet I find it’s a good book in terms of thinking about what a millionaire looks like, rather than what we might THINK a millionaire looks like.
  • Emergency: This Book Could Save Your Life (Neil Strauss) – Review
  • Two More Virtues of Owning a DogI’m not a dog person, but I’m always willing to listen to someone else’s opinion… I wouldn’t own a dog since that, on top of two toddlers, would seem like a terrible burden, but I understand why other people might enjoy having a dog.
  • 3 Things that Could Cost You Your Dream House: It never hurts to be vigilant. Pay attention to the details.
  • DIY: Getting Dirty with Square Foot Gardening: I aspire to gardening but we got to Florida a bit too late for planting anything this year, unfortunately.

Photo by Alan Light

time travel writing

One of the things that you can – quite selfishly – enjoy about writing a blog is that it serves as an online diary for your own thoughts, hopes, opinions and ideas over time. When I started writing this blog two years ago (June 29, 2007, to be exact) I had no idea that the market was going to go belly-up for a while, that we would manage to sell our house for a (small) profit in the worst real estate environment in decades, and that I was going to be living in Florida with not one but two children.

Some of my articles about life in Jersey are strange to go back and look at:

I have kept a journal, on and off, for about 13 years now. I can learn a lot about myself today by going back and looking at what was important to me years ago.  The blog serves the same purpose.  Emails do, too.  Writing freezes a minute in time, and by helping us understand where we came from it can often tell us where we are going.  Even pictures and videos capture your thoughts – what you took pictures of can tell a lot about what you were thinking.

I find one aspect of writing reassuring above all else. If I look back on my writing and journals and all of these records, several themes emerged (and again, I’m going back maybe 13 years in total).  A few of them were:

  • I didn’t like – and don’t – working the 9 to 5 corporate employee lifestyle.
  • I used to love, but grew sick of, business travel and travel in general.  Some joy disappeared after September 11th.
  • I was tired of cold weather, long commutes and high costs of living – life in the Northeast.  I dreamed almost constantly of warmer weather – for health, for the sun, for the lifestyle.
  • Success and increasing salary (in my corporate life) and rising consulting fees (in my contracting life) didn’t make me feel happier or that life was getting easier.
  • I like reading, a lot, and have not done enough of it.  As the internet grew, my real reading dropped off.
  • Getting married was a big change for someone like me who had clung to bachelorhood, but it was a minor change compared to having children.  People without children get sick of hearing this – I know I did – but everything about how I perceived the world changed when I had kids.  Not always positively, either – dangers that you hadn’t considered before you had children creep into your thoughts.

I made changes in all of these areas. I can see how I led myself there.  That’s a neat thing to see. If you don’t write, get started.  Even if you just keep a day planner, try to put some thoughts down every day (or three).  Nobody will ever understand you as well as you understand yourself, and keeping a record of how your thoughts evolve over time will become more and more fascinating the longer you write them down.

when financial behavior becomes set in stone


Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? Have you ever used a coupon? Have you ever incurred non-mortgage debt? If you haven’t ever, will you ever, just to try it? Just to see where it takes you?

I have some financial behavior that is set in stone. You do, too, I bet.  Me?  I hate debt of any sort. I can’t stand seeing money spent on “fancy” cars, even though I’ve owned several nice new mid-range cars. On the other hand, I am careless about spending money on eating out. I can spend money on big-ticket items if I think they benefit health or quality of living, but I agonize over spending smaller amounts on items I might not “need” – think “new shoes”, for example.

Most behavior is learned. Some is not. I know where I got the idea that money spent on “going out” was money well spent. I know where I got the idea that any money spent on books was money well spent, too. I also know why I think ANY debt is awful, and why I get antsy about buying expensive (but hopefully good quality clothes). Most of these behaviors were learned at a young age, and they fit in with the world view I developed as an adolescent and voila – now these money behaviors are part of what define me.

I often wonder if I will ever apply for a $300,000 small business loan, or splash out on a BMW. It’s easier to imagine the loan than the car, I guess. I drive an almost 10-year-old Pontiac because I just don’t care about cars. It has an air conditioner and a CD player, and it makes – for an old car – acceptable mileage. The loan? If I was suddenly struck by inspiration to start a coffee shop or a hardware store or something like that, maybe… but it would be so out of my normal financial behavior that even writing that seems odd to me.

Without being too specific, I spent some time a few days ago listening to a radio show from a political commentator whose political views were 180 degrees from my own. I was stunned by what I perceived as the commentator’s completely insane view of reality. Imagine trying to listen to someone try to convince you that the sky is pink. I wondered whether there was some truth in what he said, and whether I could ever pull some of that truth out and live with it. I doubt I could, in the same way that I can’t imagine suddenly strolling into an Audi dealership, ready to buy. Some behaviors and thought patterns are hard to change – for better or for worse.

photo by Q U E E F

linklings, a brief lack of excess stuff edition

One of the best things about moving is that it thins out your possessions. Our neighbors had a yard sale and asked if we needed to sell anything. After moving, not really! Almost everything we didn’t need any longer already went to charity, friends, family, was sold or (unfortunately) was thrown out. We’ve found that even after shedding all those things we still have more than enough stuff. Toys, particularly.

Is the 401(k) Broken? I’m Not So Sure: The 401(k) is not really broken, in and of itself – it’s simply the whole system that’s struggling. The move from defined benefit to defined contribution savings was good for employers but a disaster for employees.

SEP IRA: Self-Employed Retirement Plans: And on the same topic, SEP IRAs – something I know very little about but should probably study, since I’d be eligible for one now.

What’s Your Excuse?: Amusing, but oh too familiar…

Retired at 31: An Early Retirement Story: Always interesting to read about other people’s paths to retirement.

The Path To Contentment: I had similar feelings about flying after 9/11. Not fear, per se, but the experience went from tedious to downright tortuous. I lost any enjoyment for business travel I had after 9/11.

Did TurboTax Mis-calculate My Recovery Rebate Credit?: Disturbing question about TurboTax. Those of us who use it count on it to calculate numbers correctly.

Who Should Know How Much a Pastor Makes?: I would imagine if I donated money to a pastor’s salary I’d like to get that information if I asked for it, but I don’t think it would need to be a matter of public record.

How To Be A Millionaire? Start Thinking Like One!: I’ve written about this many times, and I would like to think I have this mindset, but honestly I’d rather go for a bike ride or watch the waves crash on the beach than hammer away at making millions.  I just haven’t found my perfect work yet.

New Cash Back Program from Bing: I spent 5 minutes on Bing – I don’t have much patience for “the latest innovation from Microsoft”, which hasn’t really innovated since they stole the concept for Windows from Apple – but offering cash back on search might be the only way to beat Google. Might.

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks: I have to agree with Hunter. I don’t care much for Facebook. I have never visited MySpace except once to register “brip blap” so nobody would swipe it. I would guess that 99% of my “social networking” has taken place on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Do you belong in NYC? Take the test: I loved NYC, but to me that means Manhattan. Once I was living in the burbs and working in NYC, I switched pretty quickly from loving it to hating it. Ask me again in two or three years, but so far moving to a warmer, less expensive, less crowded area on the ocean has been a fantastic upgrade.

but on the other hand, How I Save $8,535 Per Year By Not Having A Car: One of the things I love about the NYC area is public transportation. Being able to avoid car ownership was one of my favorite things about life in Moscow and New York. Cars are – to me, at least – headaches waiting to happen.

On Spending Consciously: That’s a great way to phrase it: spending consciously. I feel that I’ve mastered this to a certain level, but once in a while I do wake up and think “wait a minute – did I just buy THAT?”

Everything You Want To Know About Universal Health Care: From my perspective, a simple solution exists – expand Medicare to anyone who wants in (on a means-tested premium rate), but allow anyone who wants private health care to keep it.

the four(ty) hour workweek


After reading Timothy Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek I was struck by what I viewed as one of his main concepts: work is something to be avoided. The book explains how to set up a business that (largely) runs itself. His idea is to have a passive (for lack of a better word) income stream and then use that stream to back away from work altogether in favor of visiting new parts of the world, learning new things and enjoying what he calls “mini-retirements.” His point that far too many of us hammer away at difficult jobs with long hours during the best years of our lives simply to grasp at “freedom” once we are too old to enjoy it.

I have written many posts about my desire to generate “passive income” or “alternative income.” After reading Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” I spent years wondering whether I, too, could ever achieve financial freedom. I’ve worked my way through a steady progression of what I’d loosely lump together as “financial freedom” books: Your Money or Your Life is one of the best examples. What Ferriss’ book helped me realize is that based on my recent “mini-retirement,” I am in no way ready for the four hour workweek. If you don’t have a sense of what you want to do with the other 164 hours of the week a mini-retirement can be long and unproductive.

Curmudgeon, a frequent contributor to brip blap, wrote this a year ago:

As young adults, we try on various persona, defined by our behaviors and job roles. Not surprisingly, some fit better than others. Hopefully, we gravitate into the roles that fit, gaining an understanding of our own preferences and character in doing so. In doing so, we’ll likely find that we don’t have a true taste for large and fancy homes, luxury automobiles, fine clothes, and corporate ladder-climbing. But many people engage in these behaviors, perhaps because others around them do so, or because of some ill-conceived notions of the meaning of success and belonging.

link: guest post: who am I?

Focusing on lists and goals and “things we’d like to achieve” can be a trap. You may think that “trekking across the Gobi on camel back” is a more admirable and exciting goal than “re-read the Lord of the Rings at least one more time,” and you may tell others (and yourself) that you want to do the former.  What you really want, though, is to do something else – because that’s who you really are. You need to understand who you are before you can set goals – I didn’t think this in the past but now I do.

Maybe you want a four-hour workweek so you can “play” at writing a book (which is hard work). Maybe you want financial freedom not because you want just enough income to live a moderate existence, but so you can quit your corporate job and concentrate on making “big money” doing something else so you can buy a Mercedes.  Maybe you want financial freedom to sit on a couch and complete watching every episode of Doctor Who ever made. Just be honest about what you want.  I suspect that dreaming about a fancy car means you are really looking for some other sort of meaning in your life, but for all I know some people might be truly passionate about cars – learning about them, driving them and owning them.  I’d like to have an ocean view home – which doesn’t come cheap – but I don’t need that home to be 4000 square feet.

I often dream of “freedom” – but now that I’ve had freedom for the last half year, I’ve started dreaming more of meaningful or interesting work; for lack of a better word, let’s call this a “purpose.” I have fooled myself for a long time into thinking I want free time to do what I really “want to do” but I don’t want free time – I want my time occupied. I think too many people confuse freedom with indolence and that’s why they can’t achieve it – freedom isn’t achieved by lazy people (unless they have the good fortune to inherit it). Laziness may actually guarantee that you’ll work very hard – you’ll just be working hard at something you don’t want to do. Someone who buys a book with a guy swinging in a hammock (as Ferriss’ book does) hoping to find a shortcut will soon realize that a lot of hard work is needed to get to that hammock. I doubt that Ferriss spends his days watching Flintstones reruns.

Ferriss’ idea of work, or purpose, or whatever you would like to call it would simply be learning and traveling. For someone else it might be accounting, or animal husbandry, or selling custom t-shirts.  Nobody really wants a four-hour workweek.  They want a forty-hour income off four hours of effort, so the other 36 hours can be spent doing what they would do if income was no issue.

photo by Jesse Wagstaff

fourth marketplace money appearance

I’ve appeared on Tess Vigeland’s Marketplace Money show a few times along with Lynnae of being frugal and Jim of Bargaineering for the “bloggers’ roundtable” segment. This was another fun segment to tape with Tess, Lynnae and Jim.

The episode ran today.   This one was particularly fun for me since I had to visit the Jacksonville studio rather than the Manhattan studio.  We covered a lot of ground – even more than you hear on the show, but you’ll get the best parts of what we spoke about. You can listen here.  Chime in here or at the Marketplace site if you liked it!

Additionally you can download the program (hat tip to Jim, who pointed out that our segment starts at 20:57). There is also a transcript of the show.

Previous appearances of the “bloggers’ roundtable” can be found here:

Photo by David Jones

linklings, finally, again

I doubt they have been sorely missed, since link roundups are not always the most exciting parts of a blog’s weekly schedule, but I am finally back into the swing of roundups. Roundups are a little tougher than regular posts, simply because they do have to be created “real time” – you can’t create them weeks in advance. But I do appreciate being included in other blog’s roundups and I therefore feel I owe it to do the same.

I made a bad mistake in yesterday’s post -I should have thought that one out a bit more before posting it.  That’s what you get for writing too quickly, before researching.

Our recent move has been a slight disappointment in one sense – I haven’t found that grocery store prices are much lower than they were in New Jersey. Prices are a little lower here and there, but not enough to reduce our bills any significant amount.  I thought they might have been a bit lower.  That’s really the only negative, so far.  Otherwise, the change in our daily lifestyle – nice weather, pleasant surroundings, good public services (parks and libraries) couldn’t make for a more dramatic change.

Time sensitive contest: » Win a $100 Home Depot Gift Card for Father’s Day!

We’re Moving: Another one of The Money Writers gets ready to flee New Jersey…

How To Do a Mid-Year Financial Checkup – Things to Think About This Summer and Seven Ways to Save Money on Your Summer Family Trip:  I don’t know about everyone else, but I can’t concentrate much on personal finance once summer comes.  I am easily distracted by biking, wandering around outdoors and lazy evenings.  I guess I’ll have to get over that now that I’m in Florida, won’t I?

Alternative Income Streams – June 2009:  As always, interesting to take a peek at other people’s finances…

The Prepaid Funeral: Advantages & Disadvantages:  And yikes, back down to earth.  I have wondered about whether planning your own funeral is something we should do just as seriously as making a will or buying insurance.

Extreme Saving When You Are Young: How Much Is Too Much?:   You have to live your life.  Save 15%, 20% of your income but after that, please, spend.   Just don’t spend it on “stuff” – spend it on a nice house, a life-altering trip overseas, your education, your kids.  Don’t buy an iPhone or a Wii.

The One Thing that Makes a Winning Resume:  I need to update mine.  My resume is not nearly “punchy” enough.  I have a lot of accomplishments in it that are weakly described as “led implementation of…” etc.

Can Stock Trading Software Make You Money? versus Stock Market Technical Analysis – Loads Of Bull Crap And Bear Crap.  If you want to judge for yourself, try 4 FREE Videos for INO TV by clicking here. That’s an affiliate link, by the way. INO’s an interesting site, particularly if you’re a blogger or interested in stock trading.

Readers Share Lending Club Returns:  I have been a proponent of P2P lending for a while and Prosper (where I was a writer for their blog) and Lending Club in particular.  I’m not sure where P2P lending is going, but I think they are a definite investing niche for investors who want to diversify.

And finally, another great article from one of my favorite blogs: How to spend very little money.  I can’t say I always think the same way – I do spend money on things.  I bought a bike trailer for my kids, for example.

will people change?


One of the questions we discussed at the latest Marketplace Money segment interview I did with Jim from bargaineering.com and Lynnae from beingfrugal.net was whether this crisis would make people change their money habits. I offered up my opinion that if the Great Depression didn’t permanently change habits for the long term (and it didn’t – just for one generation) – why would the Great Recession?

I’d like to think that people (including myself) are responsive enough to negative stimuli to stop certain behaviors.  Eat too many Doritos?  Get fat.  Therefore, don’t eat Doritos.  Short term tasty gain is outweighed by increased clothing costs, health costs, unattractiveness opportunity costs, etc.  Yet you don’t see people laying off Doritos.

I’m sure that all the statistics bear out the fact that in the short term people are massively increasing their savings and paying more attention to their retirement savings, practicing frugality and laying off the Wii purchases. Well and good.  Will that behavior still be the norm in 2011?  Check back with me then if I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.  I think within one or two years we’ll be back to the same insane treadmill, and we’ll be inflating the next bubble.  Dot coms and real estate are played out, so maybe it will be biotech… green energy… whatever it is, someone will pump it up and reality will deflate it.

If you think people are capable of change, just look around at the five people closest to you. I am willing to bet at least two of them have terrible habits that they will not (or cannot) change.  You can’t blame us.  I have horrendous fears of the future, for example.  It’s a part of my nature by this point in my life.  I can’t stop worrying about the future any more than I could forget how to ride a bike.  But the same thing is true of personal finance.  If you think that the crisis is going to permanently change spending habits, I have a bridge that runs from Manhattan to Brooklyn to sell to you.

I believe in the human race – it’s a fundamental part of my theology. I think humans are basically good and strive to improve, and that the race – as a whole – is moving toward a more (but never completely) perfect state.  I’d like to think that this crisis is the starting point for the evolution of a “new thought” in money – people will be more frugal, reject consumerism, support sustainable manufacturing, etc. and etc. ad nauseum.  Will they?  I doubt it.  I know from my own experience that wishing for change, and embracing that change short-term, are a long way from living the change long-term.  It’s possible – but, I think, not likely.

a change I didn’t expect


When you move from New Jersey to Florida, you’d expect a few changes:  better weather, a reduced variety of food choices and a lot less traffic. What I found to my surprise, in my first week, has nothing to do with the geographical change, though.  I could have found the same difference if I had moved from one neighborhood to another almost anywhere, given the right conditions.

I was living in a townhouse community in Jersey. Almost everyone there that I knew worked in finance or IT on Wall Street or some offshoot.  A few people worked in health care (some nurses, some pharmaceutical salesmen), but the overwhelming majority of my neighbors were employees of big multinationals.  The community wasn’t filled with insanely rich people by any means – but it was filled with a lot of well-to-do upper middle class types.

The community I live in now is a bit different. First of all, it’s standalone homes, not townhouses.  It’s an old community and not a new development built by a mega-construction firm.  A golf course runs through it, and it’s a 10-minute bike to the beach.  I’ve been to the beach three times in the last week, equaling my total for the last five years.  The houses are large and expensive.

I attended a neighborhood party and I was struck by something that might not have been obvious to me before I started thinking so much about wealthbuilding:  every family had at least one business owner (i.e. someone who was not an employee) as the apparent “big” breadwinner.  The types of businesses were different – they ranged from blue-collar business owners to high-end luxury service provider business owners – but none of them were employees. Not one.

You can’t draw much of a lesson from a guy who’s making observations about his neighbors in two different locations – it’s not a wide sample – but it’s still an interesting mix. When the crisis hit, my neighborhood in Jersey was hit hard.  Many of my neighbors were laid off, or, like me, saw their lucrative consulting gigs dry up.  Even before the crisis, many of us were over-leveraged and had bought the best house we could have with a northeastern middle manager’s salary.

I’m not trying to say that the business owners aren’t suffering, too. House prices fell, and the business owners’ businesses have suffered.  But they were better off before (I assume that, since they had bigger, nicer houses, etc.)  and – to my brief observation – they certainly seem much better prepared to weather the crisis than the ex-employees do.  I may be way off – everyone may just be in debt up to their ears.  It doesn’t seem like that’s the case, though, and I am impressed, once again, that you can be comfortable as an employee – but it’s unlikely you’ll ever be rich.

the gigging life

Gigging, not to be confused with jigging, is an American South and Midwest practice of hunting suckers, flounder or frogs with a gig, or similar multi-pronged spear. A gig can refer to any long pole which has been tipped with a multi-pronged spear.

Over the last week and a half I have done a lot of driving. Most people in the US would laugh at what I call “a lot of driving”.  I’ve driven about 18 hours of long-distance driving, including one 12-hour stretch shared with my dad (Bubelah, Little Buddy and Pumpkin flew).  I lived in Moscow and then Manhattan for a stretch of over eight years, and never owned a car during that time.  I drove a car once in a while on a business trip, but for the most part I was car-less.  During the course of the drive from the DC area to Jacksonville (which, if you’ve never driven I-95 on that stretch, is a featureless blur of trees and little else) with my dad, I had some time to consider what moving means.  I had some more time to consider it once we arrived, but since the family showed up it’s been a blur.

Our move went well. Our house closing occurred flawlessly.  Our movers were fantastic.  One piece of furniture was slightly damaged, but otherwise we had no problems.  The movers disassembled everything in Jersey and reassembled everything in Florida.  They were fast, efficient and came in slightly under budget.  My one piece of advice if you hire full service movers:  hire a mover who will send an estimator to your house.  Our estimator was very close to actual.

Our new house is slightly larger but much older than our townhouse in Jersey was. Older fixtures take some getting used to – I’ve been living in a never-before-lived-in house for the last four-plus years, and that newness is a real plus.  The wear and tear on an older house is a minus.

Living in a house – instead of a townhouse – has been a slight adjustment. I was surprised at the level I enjoyed having a yard again.  Our yard backs up on a golf course – the flag on the fourth hole is just behind the palm tree at the back of our yard.  The kids love having a yard, though, and I do, too.  I think there is a deep yearning in most Americans (and Russians, I guess, since I can only really speak for the nationalities of my wife and myself) for property.  I never thought I wanted it, but now that I have a little patch of land that is mine – even temporarily, as a renter – I love it.  The fact that it’s a patch of land bordered by magnolias, palm trees and a grapefruit tree make it more pleasant.

The negatives to moving? Cost – it’s expensive to move.  Even if you forget the big ticket items like movers, all of the little expenses are a pain – $35 here to reconnect cable, $10 there to buy new cleaning supplies, etc.  You can spend a lot in small doses.  Inevitably you have expenses that you wouldn’t have if you stayed put.  Another negative is the more intangible sense of disconnection.  It can take a while to feel settled in a new environment.

The overwhelming positive, though, is simply a sense of making a change and hoping that the change is for the better. Feeling in control of your life is a powerful sensation.  If you feel buffeted by events, it’s hard to maintain a positive outlook.  Making a change – even if it’s something as relatively small as a change in location – gives you a sense of control.

I spent yesterday (Wednesday) taping my latest interview for Marketplace Money – the first time I didn’t do it in their New York studio.   It was a good reminder that even though I’ve shifted locations, many things will remain the same.  Just not the weather…