the poetry of less

I suppose the craze for minimalism and simplicity has taken over the national consciousness:  it’s even poetry now (if, in fact, you think that poetry impinges on the national consciousness):

From Kay Ryan, America’s poet laureate*:

Meaning: once
You’ve swept
the shelves
of spoons
and plates
you kept
for guests,
it gets harder
not to also
simplify the larder,
not to dismiss
rooms, not to
divest yourself
of all the chairs
but one, not
to test what
singleness can bear,
once you’ve begun.

I have my dad to thank for this – he’s an excellent source of eclectic references that he finds all around the internet (and from his whimsical interest in some things that were called “bookes” back in the 20th century, I think).

I haven’t been a big proponent of minimalism or frugality on this blog.  I’m much more concerned – at least in practice – with the idea of making more money rather than saving it.  But three things have happened to me – some recently, some over the last few years – that have made me turn more and more often to the idea of minimalism/frugality.

1.  Peace of mind.

This one is tied almost completely to the type of person you are.  I know plenty of people who love their things.  I’m not saying that in the dismissive sense of “oh she loves her TV.”  No, some people enjoy the warmth that is created by a house full of books, or a house full of pictures or cozy decor.  I get it, I do, and I love it in small doses.  That having been said, it’s not for me.  I like openness and clean spaces.  I spent about a year deeply interested in feng shui, and although I couldn’t say my house is completely aligned with the principles of feng shui, I have found that some of the ideas made me feel…well…better.  Having a clear space that “flows” makes me feel more peaceful, and that makes me feel better spiritually, mentally and physically.  I believe most Americans suffer from clutter:  I haven’t seen many people with houses that aren’t cluttered, and I’d argue that the clutter tends to depress.  I’m sure it doesn’t all of the time – but my own feeling is that fewer things tend to promote a calmer environment.

2.  Simplicity.

I spent today clearing out my inbox.  There’s a metaphor there for almost all of your life; there are many, many things we need to do, want to do and have to do, and how we prioritize them and get them done makes a large difference in our lives.  My normal desire is to keep things moving along as efficiently as possible:  if something needs to be done, do it, if it has to be done, do it at once, and if I want to do it I should create goals and tasks to make it happen as soon as possible.  Sadly, my inclination is in no way reflected in my behavior; I’ll spend five days avoiding an unpleasant “need to do” task, for example.  I like to think that avoiding the unpleasant tasks will help me avoid conflict, but it doesn’t – it makes one conflict (the unpleasant task) into two:  the task and the avoidance of the task.  Minimalism – at least in terms of what it means to me regarding task and goal management – means keeping a short to-do list.  If you have something to do, do it.  Don’t sit on it and wait; there is nothing in the world that is improved by waiting.  I’m sure someone will prove me wrong, but I think learning to accomplish things as quickly as you can will make you a happier – and simpler – person.

3.  Being green.

I have written about this before, but there are significant  conflicts between being environmentally conscious, frugal, healthy and making life convenient – i.e. stress free – in many ways.  Each one of these aspects matter.  I know, for example, that paper towels are bad.  They create waste.  They aren’t frugal.  Yet they are invaluable for health (and before you naysay that, think: little kids).  They make life convenient: Bubelah and I might have spent hours and hours washing rags and countless more hours (and dollars) buying detergent and doing laundry.  I almost think – despite how loathsome it sounds to me to say this – that parents of small kids deserve a pass for a few years on the environmental question.  Even as I write that it looks ridiculous, but in my case it was the truth.  I do my best to be green, but when it came to wiping poopy butts?  I overused the wipes.  I admit it.

But as I’ve grown to admire simplicity more and more I’ve realized that a lot of it is tied into the concept of environmentalism.  Not just the standard “greenness” that’s derided by many, but the simple approach:  can I avoid buying things I don’t really need?  If I can wipe the countertops with a bit of vinegar and water, is it really so hard to avoid “green” cleaning sprays?  If we can buy things in bulk and cut down on packaging, who’s hurt?  And so on.


Really I just want to be simple and free of clutter – is that so wrong?  If it happens to intersect with other trends like concern for the environment and frugality – and I believe right now they are just trends and won’t be remembered once times are better – is that wrong, either?  I’ve found that nothing makes me happier than simple, with the one possible exception of the online/computer world (where I relish the challenge of dealing with complex technical challenges).  Simple’s more than frugality, or minimalism or even being green.  It just means adjusting yourself to what makes you – and the people who have to live with you – just happy enough to get on with their lives without interference.

It seems like a good way to live.  As I try to continue to search for defining principles for my own life in terms of wealth, career, family, spirituality and plain old living, cutting out the unnecessary seems like a good place to start – across the board.

*Note:  I hope Ms. Ryan doesn’t mind, but I reprinted the poem in its entirety, since I thought it would lose some punch if I didn’t.  You can buy a collection of her works here: The Best of It: New and Selected Poems.

3 Strategies to Increase Your Lifetime Earning Potential

Life is all about choices. One of the areas in life that the effects of the choices you make will quite possibly be some of the most pronounced is when it comes to income – making moola! Sure, we all know that determining to be a sidewalk artist is quite different than setting out on the career path to be a Doctor and choices made while one is young often have long lasting effects BUT are there different things that we can do at any age to improve our lifetime earning potential? I say yes. Here are 3 different strategies that if executed properly will almost always lead to an increase in your lifetime earning potential:

#1 Start a Business

Uh-oh. I can already hear the excuses starting to roll in: “Starting a business is just so risky!” Well, entrepreneurial risk might not be all that much riskier than employment risk – especially if you go about it in a way that minimizes risk (i.e. continuing to work your “day job” and starting your business on the side). “Starting a business just costs so much money!” Well, maybe if you are starting a company that manufactures things and needs a large warehouse and lots of expensive materials BUT it doesn’t have to. Many companies can be started with very little startup capital. Starting a business is a great strategy for potentially increasing your lifetime earning potential significantly. Don’t let excuses stand in your way.

#2 Load Up on Degrees and Credentials

We have all heard the oft bandied about stat that people with a college degree will make somewhere close to $1,000,000 more than their counterparts without a college degree but setting aside whether that is accurate or not the Wall Street Journal recently published an article highlighting the fact that college graduates are much more likely to KEEP their job in tough economic times than those without a college degree. How’s that for an increase in lifetime earning potential? Increased future earning potential studies aside for just one moment – no matter whether you are an entrepreneur who is your own boss or someone looking for a job – having credentials and degrees is one sure fire way to at least get your foot in the door. Degrees and credentials alone won’t earn the money for you but they may just earn you that interview with a potential employer or that business meeting with that potential investor in your business. Quiz! Answer quickly – if I am introduced to you as “Joel Ohman is a Certified Financial Planner™ with an MBA… blah blah” do you think differently about me (and what I might be about to say/write) than if I were simply introduced as “Joel Ohman is a computer nerd that owns a website … blah blah” ? Chances are that learning my credentials and advanced degree certainly won’t impress you or cause you to believe anything I say carte blanche but it will at least likely cause you to want to give me the time of day and potentially listen to what I might have to say in the areas of business, financial planning, etc. … right? … maybe? … is anyone still there? guys? 🙂

#3 Get Some Specialized Training

It’s pretty common sense that as your career progresses you should have the mindset of always wanting to be learning new things (yes, “Mr. I’m-still-learning-how-to-use-the-fax-machine”, I’m looking at you) but to take it a step further be sure and attempt to learn some kind of specialized skill set that will see an increased demand in the future. Easier said than done? Maybe, but a lot of things you can spot coming if you just pay attention. If your company is making the switch to a new computer system then be sure that you are soon seen as one of the experts in the new system. If you notice that your bosses, managers, and other superiors all have taken certain classes and you haven’t then – sign up for those classes!

What do YOU Think?

What are some other ways that one can increase their lifetime earning potential? About the Author: Joel Ohman is a CFP® and serial entrepreneur. In addition to the car insurance website mentioned earlier he also has been spending time lately working on a website with information on finding the best business credit cards. He is a first time writer at Brip Blap and recommends that you check out the recent post by Steve titled “How to Develop Good Habits”.

knowledge versus credentials, and links

A few links below got me thinking.  I’ve written about this before, but it’s amazing how much our society – particularly corporate society – values credentials, versus knowledge. I have done enough phone interviews with clients to realize that they are far more interested in my credentials than what I actually know.  They want to know that I worked for a Big 4 firm, or have a master’s degree.  Very seldom am I asked about specific technical knowledge.  I can only recall one call, about five years ago, when a client quizzed me on an accounting standard.

That’s fine, of course:  most companies like to use your work history as “shorthand” for knowledge. A certain body of knowledge can be assumed based on the company.  Or can it?  Credentials can be misleading.  I know CPAs who don’t know thing one about taxes, for example, but many people would assume that having “CPA” tagged after your name means you are up-to-date and knowledgeable about taxes.  And I’ve ridden my master’s degree for years, even though it’s a body of knowledge frozen in time in the early 90s; there have been huge changes in the field of accounting since I got my imitation sheepskin.

But until the day comes when someone with no college degree but an impressive volume of self-taught knowledge can get a good white-collar job – or even get in the door for an interview – having a few “good names” on your resume will make a big difference.

Are there Alternatives to College Careers?: Of course there are. I’m always surprised at how dismissive people can be of careers that don’t require a college degree, especially considering the cost of a degree these days (see The Educated Indentured Servant).  But as I said above, even if I worked my way through thousands of hours of self-taught education (books, online resources and even free TV lectures, etc.) on accounting, I doubt I could get in the door for an interview in a corporate accounting department.

The Incredible Value of the Local Library (A Visual Tour) versus Books. If you read both articles, you’ll notice there is a big gap out there between people who love libraries and frequent them often, and those who simply never go to one because so much free information is available online. My suspicion is that the people who value libraries the most are parents of small children. Before I had kids, I had probably been to a library three times in ten years. Nowadays, though, it’s not out of the question for me to go two to three times a week.

should I take a pay cut?

While discussing consulting rates with two companies recently, I was forced to face an interesting question – when times are bad should I be willing to accept reduced rates? Should  people who work for salaries be willing to accept pay cuts for new jobs – or even worse, pay cuts in their current job?  Could you justify making 75% (or less) of what you once made, just to keep making money? Or is it better to grit your teeth and keep searching for – at least – pay equal to your previous position?

This question first of all depends on whether you’re in a position to weather a long downturn. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, this question is answered with a resounding “yes, take the pay cut, just keep money coming in.” If you have some money set aside, you may be able to hold out longer for a better rate.

But what about taking that lower rate when you move on to the next job? Do you think the excuse that “it was just a filler” will work? Do you think the next company will bump you back up? When you’re working as a consultant or freelancer that might be the case – rates do fluctuate a bit. If you’re working for a salary, though, it’s going to be harder to justify returning to the salary you had before you took a cut.

And what about titles, or responsibilities? Does it appeal to you to work your way back up the line? For most people it is not desirable if avoidable. Nobody wants to be the 40-year old supervised by a 23-year old.

It’s not always easy. I know plenty of people who, for one reason or another, have had to make the decision to scale back in their careers, either salary-wise or responsibility-wise (or both). People do it out of fear or desperation or sometimes simply out of a desire to work, no matter what the level.

Many people may see this as an analytical question: should you accept an X% reduction in pay during economic hard times? I think this is a question that can only be answered by the individual in each case – finding a balance between pride and the need to work. Can you be effective knowing you’re working as hard (or harder) for less? Can you make do? In the end, it’s not something a career blog or a coach can help you with; you need to know whether you can handle the reduction, and live with the consequences.

TGI Fridays and the customer, and links


When I used to travel in Europe for business on a monthly basis, I spent a LOT of time at TGI Fridays.  I know most people might dismiss it as a crass American chain, but I’ll defend it:  I had to eat a lot of foreign food.  I might spend 3-4 nights a week eating with clients and occasionally had some great meals.  Portugal?  No complaints.  Poland?  Eh.  So sometimes I chose to head off to TGI Fridays for dinner.  They always had a friendly bar, sports and wings – an obsession of mine for years.

But one city in particular had a great TGIFs: Budapest. I spent a lot of time there, mostly because when I went on the town I couldn’t manage the language or the food,  and because the people who worked at the TGIFs were so nice.

After going there frequently on several business trips over several years, the manager gave me a VIP card – basically a card that gave me free appetizers and drinks at any TGIFs in most European cities.   They made me feel wanted, which is a real gift to the traveling expat (and in my case, a former actual expat).

It doesn’t take much to feel like you’re at home. Usually kindness is enough.  I’m not silly enough to think that a corporation wanted to make me feel at home, but that manager in Budapest did.  I think that businesses underestimate the need of people to feel connected – or just to “belong” – and when you can make that connection happen, your business is going to take off.  Even though I may not be the biggest fan of the food at TGI Friday’s, since my time in Europe I’ve always been one of the biggest fans of their attitude towards customers – which is what, I imagine, they want.

On to links:

$1 Gold Coin Update: That’s some aggressive financial planning – far past what I manage.

Do We Have a Right to Line Dry Our Clothes?: I agree. We dry some clothes – jeans, etc. – on a rack inside the house. Beach wear and towels get rack-dried, too. Our HOA also prohibits line drying, and it’s one of those common-sense things to me: backyard, fine, frontyard, no.

U.S. Poverty Rate Reaches 15-Year High: Nice recession we got going here.

You Can’t Beat Index Mutual Funds: I agree, and you know why? Not even because they generally beat professionally managed funds – but because if you don’t bother to do extensive and exhaustive research on the stocks you buy, you’re better off grabbing the large-market average. I don’t put that kind of time into studying, so I buy the “hedge bet” of index funds. An astute investor, who studied companies carefully, would focus on single companies – but I don’t have that kind of discipline. But then again, there the contrarian view.

Pilaf: To really slash your grocery budget: Amusing – yet something I’m considering attempting. Variety is pleasurable, but not necessary every day.

And a few more…

Attribution Some rights reserved by ** Maurice **

how to deal with a financial crisis

Watching the market these days you can be forgiven for a case of the heebie-jeebies. I’ve had them for a while now. You have two choices in dealing with downturns like this: either assume it’s the end of the world and time to start buying canned beets and bullets, or accept the conventional wisdom that this is a downturn like every other downturn in economic history. If you believe that, you believe that things are going to turn around eventually, be it six months or six years.

Great Depression
photo credit: Koshyk (traveling)

Here are 7 mistakes I’m not going to make in this crisis:

  1. Listening to pundits. I was watching a series of comments by guys working at firms that have a hand in this crisis – brokers, bankers, candlestick makers. Remember this: brokers win if you buy OR if you sell. They don’t care if you gain or lose, just that you move your positions a lot. Don’t be fooled by guys telling you it’s time to get out – they get the same commissions when you sell that they do when you buy.
  2. Stopping 401(k) contributions or withdrawing from retirement accounts. That money’s set aside, tax advantaged, and already “in there.” I’m not a financial adviser, but I’ll tell you this – I’ve upped my 401(k) contribution rate. That is the easiest method of averaging out purchase price on funds that I know of (other than Sharebuilder). I’m going to keep putting money in my 401(k)’s S&P 500 index fund. Why not? Tax free investments in a cheap fund? Sign me up. It may not be forever – I’ve expressed my doubts – but at least so far it looks like the best bet out there.
  3. Doubling down on my job. You may think now is the time to concentrate on your job and cling to it like grim death. Wrong. Now is the time to network, expand your skills and polish your resume. Now is the time when you have to be prepared – more than ever – to make a move to a new job or even a new career. I’ll give you an example – I’ve been attending seminars on emerging accounting issues to increase my consulting “cred,” and at the same time I’ve been looking into the requirements for a complete career change. I’m also making sure that I keep up my contacts, even as 50% of them are laid off.
  4. Neglecting my health. Market goes up, being healthy pays off. Market goes down, being healthy pays off. I’ve been neglecting my health recently. My weight is up, fitness is down and my eating habits are terrible. Any time is a good time to focus on health, though, and I will be doing just that. Your health is an asset, just like an IRA or a house: protect it.
  5. Taking on excessive risk OR being overly conservative. If you think now is the time that you can throw money in penny stocks and become the Buffet of Pennies – OR if you think it’s time to stuff euros in a sock in your closet – pull yourself together. As I said above, if you think this is the final economic crisis in the US – the beginning of the Road Warrior years – yank everything out. If you think you’re a lucky, lucky investor, plow your money into speculative junk equity. If you’re STILL convinced that the broader market will recover someday, do this: stick to the investment plan you had a month ago!
  6. Giving up on positive thinking. If you are like me, you are getting killed by negativity these days. I worked in the New York financial services sector as a consultant. “I told you this was going to happen” is not something people wanted to hear from their governance consultants these days. Even if you don’t expect the best, try to promote the best.
  7. Assuming my opinion doesn’t matter. Again and again you’re going to hear from political candidates what they will do and what they will fix. Let me tell you a secret that no candidate wants you to realize: they are terrified YOU will hold them accountable, and half (or 90%) of their election strategy is hoping you don’t. And a second dirty secret is this: your Congressman/woman is assuming you will vote for them once they are incumbent, because they are. But you know what? Your opinion matters. They are citizens, with one vote, just like you.

Mistakes? I’m sure I’ll make plenty. But I am trying my best in this crisis to realize that the biggest mistake I can make is changing my core beliefs in how to behave, how to invest and how to live. If more of us take charge of what we can control, we’ll be able to devote more of our attention to controlling our economy.

the kickoff, a reflection and links

I’ll turn this post upside down from its usual order:  links, then some thoughts.


 Could Your Lack Of Money Be Your Own Fault?: Yep. Almost always. With a few exceptions (medical care, for example), most of our spending choices are just that: choices.

Relocating To Save Money On Housing: We did it. We found that we couldn’t even afford a small townhouse in a terrible school district for a half-million dollar mortgage – and property taxes upward of $1000 per month. We picked up and moved to save money on housing, but one cautionary note: there will always be unexpected expenses. I didn’t expect to be paying so much for pest control – which is a must – which we never paid for in New Jersey.

7 Ways to Invest Your Time (besides commenting on blogs): Mostly of interest to other bloggers, but I’ve thought of doing this, for this reason: I’d rather see replies made via Twitter or Facebook or even on other people’s blogs for one good reason (then other people see it, and you can encourage wider conversations) and one selfish reason (other people see it and become aware of my blog).

Do You Have A Job?: An amusing cartoon in this post, which leads in some ways into this post, Should You Work for a Bad Company?:  At first blush, I’d say no, although “bad company” is hard to quantify.  The Big 4, for example, seem to me to be “bad companies” but then again, they provided me with the skills and “street cred,” so to speak, so maybe it is worth it.

We Used A 30-Year Mortgage To Buy Our Home:  I understand you might get a better rate on a 15-year mortgage, but if you have the ability to prepay on a 30 it seems like a safer choice to me – you have the option to make it a 15 year mortgage, effectively, but you can also drop back payments if necessary.

And via Funny about Money I’ve come across a new blog that I like, Simple Life in France. It’s ironic that I like the blog because I liked France less than any other country I visited in Europe (except perhaps Belgium – but I’ve visited France a dozen times and Belgium once, so France loses). I couldn’t stand "magical, beautiful Paris," didn’t like the food, didn’t appreciate the sneers and glares when I tried as hard as I could to speak in my broken high-school French and really disliked the airports, train stations, streets and other dirty public places. In fact, the one thing – the ONE thing – I loved about France was the non-Parisian food of Provence. I ate several times at a charming little restaurant near my office with some French friends, and had a good time (and great food) every time. It always made me suspect that if I got out of Paris more than I did I might have enjoyed France a bit more. This blog made me think, again, that might be true. It looks idyllic.

Bundle Rolls Out New Features: Now You Can Track Your Own Spending and Create a Budget

NFL Sunday Ticket for $350 a Season? Really?!?!

Techniques for Thrifty Home Transformation

Virtual Brokers Review

 Health Savings Account Guide

Are Municipal Bonds the Next Bubble?


Other thoughts

I have probably made reference once or twice to the fact that I’m a big fan of Peter King, who writes for Sports Illustrated.  His “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, or MMQB, is one of my favorite weekly reads.  I am a big NFL fan, but that’s not the only reason – King manages to make his writing compelling regardless of the subject.  He often digresses into discussions on travel, coffee, books, charities and a million other subjects.  I enjoy that writing just as much as his football writing.

So here’s a short video clip of King discussing how his MMQB came into being.  I think he makes a couple of interesting points about the superiority (although he doesn’t use that word) of internet writing over traditional paper publishing:  the immediacy and the lack of restrictions on length.


Why I didn’t post on 9/11

And on a final sad note – perhaps not in the way you’d think – 9/11 came and went for me with only a morning of somber reflection, and then I moved on with my day.  I’ve written about 9/11 each year I’ve been writing this blog, until now.

2009:  and once again, forced to reflect on that day

2008: dark days behind us, brighter days ahead

2007:  dark day


It’s hard to believe, but each year the date comes and goes a little easier.  I still remember, but this was the first year I didn’t feel moved to put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking) to get some of my thoughts on paper.  I was sad, and reflective, but not as much so.  I’ve been living away from New York City for almost a year and a half now, and in many ways that distance probably has done more than the passage of time to make it feel less like a open wound.  Next year – the tenth anniversary of the attacks – will probably be pushed in our faces because of the attention we pay to anniversaries in multiples of 10, but it will simply be one year further on.But anyway, no post this year on 9/11.  Maybe it’s better that way.  If you feel so inclined, go back and read my 2007 post – probably the best one I’ve written on the subject.  And let’s hope that like so many other terrible events that happen in our lives, the lives of people we know or even in the lives of people around the world, that we can heal and move on, without ever actually forgetting that those events occurred.

how kids (can) make you poor

Raising a child can cost up to $250,000 – and that’s from a study done almost 20 years ago. That’s only the cost through high school – college is another problem entirely, unless you don’t plan on paying for your child’s education (and I don’t). Having a kid is expensive. Having a second is less expensive – hand-me-downs and shared costs can reduce the individual costs – but a larger family is going to cost a fortune. The simple fact is that you won’t become AS rich with kids.

I’ve seen the question of children play out a dozen different ways with friends and in my own life. My parents had kids (my brother and me) when they were barely out of their teenage years. I have friends who waited until they were almost 40 to have kids. One couple fervently and frequently insisted they would never have kids – and show no signs of changing their minds. In each case, the decision to have a child (or children) was deeply personal, and made for a number of reasons – but seldom considering the cost. The simple fact is that you’ll be better off financially without kids. Kids are expensive.

It’s a potentially sensitive topic … and most people don’t want to have that conversation. “Kids bring so much joy into your life!” “Kids are their own reward!” I’m biased – the cliches are all true. My son’s a supernova of energy, creative and amazingly verbal. My daughter’s charming and almost impossibly cheerful. They are joys. But to be realistic, I have to admit that because of them I will not be as wealthy as I could have been. I regret nothing, but I also understand that I’m going to have to work harder accumulating wealth than I would have without children.

So how do we plan to compensate? If you have kids, how can you avoid spending more than you need to? It’s not the nature of my blog to talk about ways to save money on Cheerios by buying the store brand – although you should. But I do have a few “big ideas”:

  1. I’m not paying for my kid’s PRIVATE college education. If Little Buddy or Pumpkin want to attend a private school, they’d better develop tennis skills or become world-class scholars. I’m not paying for Pumpkin to attend an Ivy. I’ll help, but if they can’t pay for a private college, they can go to a public university, just like Mama and Papa did. We did just fine.
  2. We will readjust our lives around their education early on, though. We moved to Florida to escape crappy public schools in Jersey, and made sure we landed in a school district considered one of the best in the state.
  3. I will strive to teach independence. This sounds stupid, but I have seen so many of my colleagues in corporate America talking about their mid-20 (or even mid-30) year old children living at home. I know I can talk big now, but I left home at 18 and my children will too. If  they can’t afford a home, I’ll tell them to move to a cheaper locale. An unmarried 35-year-old living with their parents needs to experience life.
  4. We will resist consumerism. A couple of years ago, one of my neighbors bought one of those big car-battery powered cars – with a working FM radio – for their daughters. Little Buddy loved it. I was tempted to get him one. He didn’t, and doesn’t, need it. I have fallen victim again and again to the urge to buy toys. Sometimes it makes sense: I bought him a farm set that he plays with daily.  Sometimes I fail: I have bought a half dozen balls (football, baseball, soccer) and he is utterly indifferent to all of them that don’t have Spiderman on them. But I see a sickness in most parents around me: the need to buy distractions. I struggle to remind myself that learning to pretend my wooden blocks were race cars taught me to IMAGINE things. My parents would have done me a disservice by buying me Leapfrog, or whatever the 70s equivalent was.  Learning how to live with less – at least as far as toys – is a gift, not a burden.

But none of these cost-saving ideas can compensate for the fact that a childless couple (or a single person) will simply be much better off than a couple with kids. I won’t recommend one choice or the other, because it’s such a personal choice. But don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: in the short term, having kids is no big deal. You can afford formula, diapers, baby clothes. But in the long run, having kids will change your career choices, affect your ability to save and limit your choices about almost everything. Make sure you’re comfortable with the long-term cost before you take the leap.

when is enough enough, and links

Here’s a tough question:  when do you look at your industry or profession and admit it’s on a downward slope? I’ve worked with a number of people from the Midwest, for example, who realized that the jobs were gone and they weren’t coming back, so they relocated.  I’ve worked with people who worked in a certain industry and realized it was a dying industry, and moved on.  I’ve worked with people who were in declining job functions, in which their roles were increasingly outsourced, sent overseas or made redundant because technological efficiencies allowed one worker to do to the work of two.

One of the toughest things to judge in a career is when this point has been reached (or passed).  I felt it once, on Wall Street, when I – along with a lot of other consultants – realized that at least in the short term the fat days were over.  Trying to identify the point at which increased effort is no longer a benefit, but simply effort ejected out the window, is a tough exercise.

On to the links:

  • Do Your Kids Have Too Many Toys?: Yes, they do. A few good tips about reducing that ugly number.
  • Ignore Your Personal Finance Guru: I’ve mentioned before that I really “woke up” about personal finance when I read Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, but I’d hardly recommend it as a good personal finance primer. It’s got some insights, but anyone who follows a personal finance guru lockstep is just begging for disaster.
  • Why the Long Term Growth of the Economy is Not Relevant to Investing
  • An Ode to My Son’s Piggy Bank: Good lessons on teaching kids about money. My family’s headed in the right direction on this subject, but we still have plenty of work to do.
  • Scraping by on $110,000?: FAM’s got the right idea here: 110K is a lot of money in small-town Mississippi (where I grew up). It’s nothing in New York City. I lived in both places, and one of the things I often lamented about was that the cost of living was not proportionately higher, it was exponentially higher in NYC. Sure, I got to live in NYC, but spending $3000 a month on a tiny apartment means that 110K salary is not “rich.” There should be a cost-of-living adjustment for taxes (or a fair tax…)
  • Don’t Like That Political Ad? Click On It.: Hah. Funny idea.
  • Money Smarts Changes: Well, having changed the blog name and adding an author and then dropping him, yes, I’d say there be some changes a-brewin’.

A few more good posts: