2017 Challenges

I don’t really feel passionate about making change* this year. I know that doesn’t really roll off the tongue for a wannabe self improvement blogger. Maybe I’m getting a little soft, or maybe I do not have quite as much discontent that needs to be addressed. But for some reason, I don’t have the strong internal desire to make drastic life change this year. Similarly to how I felt the previous six months, I’m prepping for a lot of new commitment and life change as-is. I certainly have plenty of minor goals and things I want to accomplish, but I’m not really looking to make a ton of personal lifestyle changes. The upcoming activities of life will be sufficient for me to scratch the itch of progress.

I enjoy thinking through personal goals while trying to design the next few months and years of my life. I also enjoy the end of a year and prospecting of a new one. I often think through five to six key areas of life and brainstorm where I want to make progress. However, this year, I’m moving to a less complex set of goals, challenges, and resolutions. This year will be conceptually much simpler than many before it. I won’t be making lots of different major changes- I’ll only be working toward one or two big ones. I prefer to think of it as focused. Instead of doing lots of different life experiments and making incremental change, we will simply be working through a few major goals with focus. I think an apt example would be someone working five different jobs to make ends meet. While possibly commendable, sometimes it may make more sense to work a single job and concentrate one’s efforts there. With that in mind, the focus of this year will simply be renovating our home and making our family relationships stronger. Continue reading 2017 Challenges

It’s Finished

I remember thinking six months ago about how simple my life would be right now. I was about to enter one of the most exciting and challenging six month stretches of my life. I was switching jobs into a new industry after working with my previous employer for 10 years. I was finishing my my doctoral program. We were getting our house ready to sell and searching for a new one. We even bought a new (to us) car and traveled for several weeks.

The anticipation and stress was intriguing but I enjoyed the challenge. I remember thinking, “Oh, how simple life will be when this phase of life finishes.” Well, it’s finished. But, life doesn’t really feel like it has slowed down very much. I seem to have a pretty consistent level of stress despite the excitement in and around my life. My brain likes to think ahead and anticipate changes or challenges if the current set of stressors are not enough. I finished my 12th and final year of college. We sold our house and bought a fancy (*soon to be) new one. I moved into the field of financial planning full time and have learned a lot! We returned our electric car and reverted back to gasoline. I’ve even switched from coffee to espresso. I’ve settled in after traveling quite a bit and kids are a few months older than they were before. 2016 was a fun year. (Picture: My awesome parents at my graduation) Continue reading It’s Finished

The Broke Millionaire Athlete in Us All

We’ve all read that crazy teaser of a story about the rich millionaire athlete that made a fortune only to blow it all and be completely broke a few years after they finish playing their tysonsport of choice. The Mike Tysons of the world who earn $300 Million just to end up bankrupt one year into “retirement”. There is something sadistic and intriguing about the unwise financial choices others make. It certainly becomes story-worthy when the numbers are in the millions.

However, as much as we prefer not to admit it, we all have a little broke millionaire athlete in us. In fact, we tend to make the same money mistakes without the media spotlight or the spectacular meltdowns of well known celebrities. So, why are we just like the millionaire athletes that go broke? Do we make the same money mistakes as the ultra rich? Continue reading The Broke Millionaire Athlete in Us All

My Experiments: Adding 30Lbs of Muscle in One Year

I am extremely fascinated by how the human body works. I thoroughly enjoy self-experimentation and breaking misconceptions we have about our own predispositions. When I was growing up, I was always on the small side. I had a very late birthday and typically was one of the smallest people in the entire school. When I finished high school I weighed about 125Lbs at 5’9” or so. I remember specifically choosing my competitive sports based on the biological makeup of my body. I learned early on that tackle football was a no-go, but wrestling and running (Cross Country & Track) were sports that are competitive even for individuals on the lighter side of the high school scale.

gymWhen I began college I quickly embraced the delicious, all-you-can-eat buffets of my college’s dining hall. I had plenty of free time to workout and eat lots of tasty food. I quickly gained fifteen pounds my first semester and finished my first year at about 145. I actually grew a few inches in college so, despite adding several pounds, I still remained on the skinnier side. The next several years I stayed approximately the same weight. It would fluctuate by a few pounds here or there but I can certainly wear the exact same clothes I wore my freshmen year now.

I assumed I would pretty much always be a relatively small guy. My family actually has people of many different sizes, but the average would be approximately the American normal. I’m not sure what my “natural” weight is but over the last ten years I’ve found it difficult to really change my BMI. The lose weight vs gain weight debate is also interesting. The irony of both weight loss and weight gain is that many of the principles and mechanics are quite similar. Although we all have different basel metabolic rates, there are certainly basic equations that guide our consumption to mass ratio. I certainly learned quite a bit about losing weight while wrestling competitively, but I’ve always found it much harder for me to build and maintain muscle mass. Continue reading My Experiments: Adding 30Lbs of Muscle in One Year

How to Start a Financial Blog

Personal finance is just that- Personal. There are many different paths that lead to the end goal of true financial freedom. I’ve certainly learned a lot from countless other bloggers who have shared their struggles and victories learning firsthand how to effectively use our money wisely. Everyone has a personal finance story to tell.

cash flowHow do you start a blog? Why start? How do you make money from blogging? I’ve been asked repeatedly about the steps to creating a successful blog. I’ve also been asked about the unique aspects about writing in the space of personal finance. Although Simple Economist covers many different topics, the underlying principles are all based on helping individuals achieve efficiency in the decisions we make. Personal finance is certainly one of the areas where we have plenty of room to grow even after reading and studying the topic for years. Continue reading How to Start a Financial Blog

(Early) Retirement Planning in One Picture

Can I retire when I’m 40? 50? Never? How much do I actually need to be saving? Retirement planning can get really complicated. In fact, it is often complicated enough that people tend to put it off or not do it at all. Is there a simple way to get an idea if we are on track? There are hundreds of complicated formulas that can be used to answer these questions. In actuality, it is pretty easy to get a quick idea of where you stand financially.

Financial planning has become a complex industry. Comprehensive planning takes into account plenty of different variables such as longevity, taxes, distributions, government programs and estate issues. Inevitably, when we try to predict the future we are required to make lots of different assumptions. However, sometimes it is nice to take a step back and look at the basics to see if we are really on track.

Retirment in One PictureThe Snapshot
So, what can you fit into a simple graphic that will give people the information they need to know if they are moving toward financial independence? A simple graph that illustrates the time it takes to reach financial independence based on your saving and spending rates. The chart above explains the amount of time it takes to retire (or become financially independent) at different savings rates. Simply find the amount you currently save and see how many years you need to work until you can retire. Or, find when you want to retire and see how many more years it will take of work to reach that goal. If you already have substantial savings, subtract out the number of years you can already cover with the amount you have saved.

Continue reading (Early) Retirement Planning in One Picture

The Bliss Point of Personal Consumption

On a scale of 1 to 10, how good are you at extracting maximum satisfaction from each dollar you spend? How well do you perform when you measure yourself? If you were to spend $100, what would give you the most joy? Take a few moments to brainstorm: What in your monthly spending gives you the most joy? The least? What spending is mindless and what is mindful?

old cokeHave you ever had a drink that was too sweet? In the book Sugar, Salt, Fat, researchers discuss the exact amount of sugar it takes to make people crave sodas. Too little sugar and the individuals prefer sweeter; however, too much sugar makes people sick. There is a point where the joy of consumption is maximized- the Bliss Point. It’s a Goldilocks’ dilemma. What about alcohol? There is a point where alcohol makes you feel a buzz, but if you consume too much you are guaranteed to feel terrible. Money works in the same way. Consuming too little leaves us feeling deprived, yet consuming too much leaves us feeling gluttonous and overindulgent. The quicker you can examine yourself and determine your personal bliss point, the greater satisfaction you will be able to experience. Continue reading The Bliss Point of Personal Consumption

Getting What We Don’t Deserve

We are pretty lucky. Our lives are filled with abundance and we should be thankful and grateful. We received a pretty lucky historic roll of the dice. Sure, many of us work very hard. We often take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to us. We define our obstacles and overcome them. But overall, there are so many blessings out of our control; we just need to sit back and be thankful for life and the opportunities presented before us.

medium_2915376577We hear a lot more stories about bad stuff happening to good people. We hear about tragedy, sickness, war, conflict, famine (especially on the international scale). We rarely step back and give appreciation to the fact that we are very fortunate people. If you read the Simple Economist, or any other blog for that matter, you are a member of the elite group of people who has received an overabundance of good fortune and luck in life. We have options, we have freedoms, and we have our health (at least enough to enjoy reading on the internet). We are pretty lucky. Continue reading Getting What We Don’t Deserve

A New Edition To The Simple Economist Family

It has been a pretty incredible week. We added a new member of the family on Thursday and we were able to come home from the hospital this weekend. It has been a fun few days adjusting from a single little one running around to having two. It has been a blast. Our little lady seems to be getting along with her new baby brother so far. Everyone is healthy and we couldn’t ask for more!

baby jamesHere is our little Baby James. His two favorite hobbies are eating and sleeping and he is pretty good at both. It will be interesting to see how adding a new one effects the financial picture but most of that impact will be much further down the road. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how much I enjoy spending time with my kids. If there is anything that can motivate me to financial independence (faster), it would be the ability to spend even more time with my growing family! I’m looking forward to seeing him grow up and I’m really enjoying watching our two year old girl learn tons of new things every day.

The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (2014 Edition)

I spend quite a bit of time reading. Most of what I do for work, research, writing, and academia all involve massive amounts of reading. If you throw in my parenting and religious interests, I certainly spend a large portion of the average day reading content in various forms. I really enjoy reading plenty of other blogs and online sources, but when I really want to delve into a subject, I actually still prefer long form books. I tend to focus primarily on non-fiction, but I always enjoy throwing in a popular novel or two into the mix.

My methodology is pretty simple when it comes to finding new material. Anytime I hear about a new book, my first response is to find it on Amazon and send over the sample to my Kindle. I rarely have time to jump straight into a book when I first learn about it. So, samples are a great reminder tool, as well as a nice little addition to keep a running list of my current interests. I think most of the books I’ve read this year have been personal recommendations or ones I’ve seen recurring on blogs or other feeds that I follow.

I’ve discussed my all time favorite books in the past and also a handful of books that have changed my life. I’m always looking to add to my list, and books remain one of my favorite ways to learn. So, without further ado, here are five (or more) of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I’ve also included some bonus ones at the end and some on my reading list. Do you have any books you think I should read next year? I’m always looking for things to add to my list.

vagabondingVagabonding – Ralf Potts
If there is a book I would recommend to anyone that is considering traveling overseas, it would surely be Potts’ classic. It is also a pretty good resource to encourage people to expand their horizons through a broader international perspective. I really wish I had been given this book when I was in my early teens. Although I already had a penchant for traveling, many of the logistical tips and overall insight would have been perspective changing on what to expect when traveling. The book talks about travel through the eyes of someone who wants to spend more than an hour or two at the tourist traps on a journey overseas. It also includes a lot of insight about the nature of things you can learn and experience when you travel with time and flexibility. I enjoyed the book so much, I actually ended up getting the audio book from Tim Ferris’ book club so I could share the audio with my wife. I could realistically add this to my favorite books of all time. Continue reading The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (2014 Edition)