Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Book Review: "Secrets of Closing the Sale" by Zig Ziglar



I feel like I’ve said this often, but this time I really mean it. Zig Ziglar’s “Closing the Sale,” is definitively the best book I have read this year. Dare I say it may even rival Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover.” In fact, during an interview that I had earlier today, I actually said to my interview when asked what is the last great book I read, I mentioned this book, along with the fact that this should be required reading in every high school across the country.

Admittedly this is the first Zig Ziglar book that I have ever read, and I can assure you that it will not be my last. In fact I informed my wife after finishing a rented copy from the library, that we will immediately buy this book and I plan to read it upon arrival 10 times in a row, much like I did with Ramsey’s “TMM.”

Ziglar offers straightforward yet life changing advice throughout every single page. And this book will benefit your life whether you call yourself a salesman or not. He addressed and caused me to reflect on my attitude, approach and ability to help others with products/services that I am truly passionate about. Or in my case to keep the momentum going and not get discouraged as I am seeking to make the transition from my day job to my dream job.

Ziglar is a great writer and from the introduction offers a stunningly relatable approach. I truly felt, whether reading on the bus, on a train, or on the patio at work, like I was sitting in my living room and having a friendly fireside chat with my best friend of 30 years. Ziglar is engaging, thought provoking and painfully relatable J.


Having read this book only once I will refrain my summarizing any of his points, mainly out of the fact that there is no possible way I could do them justice. Ziglar has an eloquence, sophistication and down to earth feel that I sincerely have never read before in my life. I will say though that I put some of his suggestions and approaches to work already and have received excellent results. This past weekend my wife and I were in New Carlisle, Indiana helping out her family’s company, and just about every suggestion of Zig’s panned out for me. The only drawback is that I read the material for the first time and have not had decades to master it. But hopefully I soon will. So if you can’t tell from my subtleness, yes I highly recommend Zig Ziglar’s “Secrets” to anyone with a pulse!

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Scary Meeting with a Financial Advisor



In my pursuit of learning more about possible new professions, I recently met with a financial advisor at an investment firm that I applied to work at. I wanted to get a ground’s eye view of how the firm trains their financial advisors, if advisors at this firm are encouraged to peddle certain investments/products and take in a sales pitch from the viewpoint of a potential customer.

What I learned is that even for a specialty investment firm, that there sure is a lot of generic and scary financial advice out there. As a starter I handed the financial advisor my entire financial playbook. Our savings, brokerage and retirement accounts, as well as my partial real estate holdings were front and center along with our monthly cash flow (aka our budget) and I sought for the advisor to inform me of what I was doing right and what holes, from his perspective, exist in my game plan.

On the positive side he said that I am ahead of the game when it comes to others in my age range. He informed me to keep doing what I’ve been doing and continue to funnel money for retirement through our 401ks and our Roth IRAs. He liked our insurance setup and reiterated that we keep doing what we’ve been doing.

On the negative side (from his perspective), there were some interesting points in which I will happily refute right here and now:

**Please note that quotes from the financial advisor are loosely paraphrased for comedic effect, he was actually very cordial and professional during our meeting. Na├»ve in buying into “sophisticated” investing myths, but cordial and professional**

“You are a wildly aggressive kind of investing strategy guy.”

The advisor pretty much conveyed that my investing strategy, spreading evenly across 4 types of mutual funds, was the equivalent of parachuting out of an airplane without a parachute. He was a little too eager to recommend a mix of bonds, commodities and alternative investments into my portfolio. No sir, I will happily keep those types of investments out of my portfolio for as long as I live. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it probably until the day I die, I spread my investment across aggressive, growth, growth & income and international mutual funds. I only invest in mutual funds that have been around for at least 10 years and have average annualized returns of at least 12% since inception. Every share of a mutual fund that I buy I plan to hold for at least 5 years. In doing this I am buying historically proven and time tested mutual funds with fund managers that have a clue about what they are doing and I am maximizing growth over long periods of time. Bonds at their best do a little better than inflation. I invest to keep ahead of inflation, not keep pace with it. In my point of view why would I hold a bond for ten years while it earns 6%, when that money could have been in a good growth stock mutual fund making 12%.

And as for commodities and alternative investments, internally when he was presenting I just shook my head. There’s a lot of smart ways to have a diverse portfolio, and there are a lot of stupid ways to have a diverse portfolio. Wheat, oil and foreign currencies in the name of stable diversification is just plain stupid. Look at gold for instance. At its height over ten years ago following 9/11 it traded at $1,920 an ounce. Today, following a decade of our country being at war in the Middle East, the dot com bubble bursting and the 2008 market drop, gold is trading at around $1,320 an ounce. Ouch!

“You’re too susceptible to big market drops.”

No dude, I’m not. I’m debt free, have an emergency fund and my cost of living stands in the low twenty thousands per year. I have long term disability and term life insurance. If disaster were to strike our household we would not need to touch our investments and between our emergency fund, disability payouts or term life payout, could maintain our lifestyle.

And the short sightedness of this argument also really grinded my gears. A scenario of the 2008 market drop was painted and the advisor relayed that with my investing style that I would lose all of my money. I did inform him that I would only lose my money if I sold. He awkwardly paused for about a minute. But I can’t entirely blame him. He’s on the front lines and in a position where his clients need to be talked off building ledges during market drops. I believe with everything within me that when money is invested consistently and often in proven and stress tested places, that 5, 10 and 15+ year periods of time will make money. So no I didn’t care about the drop in ’08. If anything I saw it as an opportunity to buy even more awesome mutual funds at incredible prices. Seriously, why would I care about a 50% market drop in one year when after 30 years my mutual fund returns an average annualized return of 12%? It’s all about perspective and unfortunately, this financial advisor was really short sighted in reacting to day to day market conditions.

“We can save you fees if you switch brokers.”

In all honesty I really enjoy the service, attention and selection that my current broker offers. There’s a mountain full of load and no load mutual funds that meet my investing criteria. And whenever I have questions, EVERY single time I phone my broker the customer service rep. that takes my call is always courteous, sounding genuinely happy to be doing their job and a pleasure to speak with. Now with all of that going for them, why the flip would I care about shaving a percent or two off fees to jeopardize my current business relationship and its smooth operation? I have one mutual fund that is earning close to 40% average annualized returns, and switching brokers to shave a point or two truly doesn’t interest me because of the quality of service and selection that I currently get.

“You can make even more money in your brokerage account by borrowing out of it.”

There are a lot of really stupid things you can do with your investments, and this little “tactic” is called a margin loan, and it’s one of the dumbest things one can do with an investment account. A margin loan basically works like this. Say you hold securities that value $100,000. You can have the option to borrow up to ½ of that value to either invest more in securities or buy real estate. But beware, because if the market turns, literally within days, within a certain negative range, the broker will call your note right then and there and redeem your holdings to pay the balance. So with this “tactic” you pay interest, leave yourself susceptible to sharp downturns which would result in having your shares sold as the market heads downward. This is not a recipe for success and if ANYONE suggests to you that you do this, you have every right to toss (their business) right out the door.

Conclusion


I will add that during our meeting I nodded along and was not belligerent. When prompted I told the advisor that I understood the points he was making. The way I viewed it was that I walked into his “home,” to get the honest outside perspective of my financial health. And my conclusion is that it is scary out there to hear the perspectives and viewpoints of advisors at well-respected firms whom at the end of the day are managing other people’s money. I walked away with the reinforcement that it is so important for us to be intentional and make all of our investment decisions for ourselves. Yes it’s ok, even biblical, to gather counsel but never give your keys to someone in a slick suit using $20 words to describe a 20 cent concept.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Working Hesitancy


I…just…can’t…bring…myself…to…do…it…L For those new to the show recently I’ve been posting a fair amount on my hunt to change directions in my career. Thankfully the phone has been ringing, emails have been returned and I’ve been on what feels like a marathon of interviews the last few weeks, but have yet to find that perfect fit. And to keep the old ego in check, I will add that a few managers I interviewed with more than likely felt the same way about me. I feel like I’m trying to balance two full-time jobs, working my current role and scanning and searching for new roles. And one tangible option that is before me also terrifies my soul: quitting the day job to hunt full-time for my dream job.

Mathematically it makes sense. Currently after our household breaks down monthly expenses, we live off one income and save/invest the rest. And even then we still net roughly $500 - $600 in disposable income on just one salary. We also have our emergency fund in place and low six figures in investable assets. So why in the world does pushing pause for a few months scare the life out of me?

A longer pause than expected

I voiced this concern to my wife last week, and then realized how stupid it sounded as soon as I said it, “What if for the next 40 years all I do is apply and get rejected and no one wants to hire me?” While it seems unlikely that I could go the rest of my life without drawing another paycheck due to a general lack of interest from employers, the idea of willfully stepping away from the workforce gets me choked up inside (not in the good way). We have been on an awesome financially plan over the last few years and I dreadfully feel that by using my walkaway power with my current employer that I will put a dent on our goals and momentum. Right now the 401k is building every month through contributions, we are keeping our options open to move and increase our rent as well as purchase a car and I feel that if my paychecks stop that I will put a delay on our goals. Plus there is no guaranty as to how long my paycheck sleep off would last. Yes these are the things that run through my mind and yes, at times, it is scary in there even for me.

Pay Scales

Another what if that trips me up is the what if concerning pay rates. Our goals and projections for reaching goals are based on what we currently earn. What if I take such a severe cut in pay that it hurts our abilities to travel the way we want, eat the way we want, to have a kid in the backdrop of financial security the way we want and **GASP** it takes me longer than expected to reach one million dollars in net worth.

I shared this concern with my wife, coupled with the concern that I am being greedy and just want a paycheck for financial goals as opposed to career fulfillment. She reassured me that my concern for our family’s financial well-being is just one of the many reasons that she feels I am a great husband and that I will be a great father.

Career Contentment

This is probably the biggest of the three. My biggest fear is leaving the dock and in due time being in the exact same rut that I find myself in today: Doing work that does not harness all of my skills and personality. Even more so, I’m looking to do work that I believe in with my heart and soul and is a mission and not just a job.

At one time in my life I would have looked at these fears, become paralyzed and stayed exactly where I was while convincing myself that everything was not as bad as I made it out to be. What I find interesting is that at this point in my life, while the fears still exist, that I am continuing to search and put myself out there to find the new direction that my career will take. That means regular check-ins with recruiters, participating in networking (yuck!) and regularly checking and following up with job boards at companies I am interested in and networking (yuck! yuck!) like crazy to get referrals in. “Trudge On” has become my motto, and even though I am hesitant on causing a disruption to our household’s current cash flow, I still like I am moving in the right direction one day at a time.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Motor City Example


This week is somewhat of a monumental day in the world of public debt. The city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday, which is this country’s largest ever municipal bankruptcy filing. The facts and figures are astounding to boot: $18 Billion in liabilities, a population decline of 300,000 people from 2000 to 2012, and expenditures that exceeded income by $100 million every year since 2008. Needless to say owners *cough* suckers *cough* of this debt, as well as city workers and retirees for that matter, are up in arms over what may result in reductions or even cuts to benefits.

I could use this as an opportunity to issue a strongly worded message that says things along the lines of: Socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money, Government and Union leaders can’t do math, this is the road that liberal leadership ends at, etc. But I will refrain from saying such mean things.

Instead I kind of want to focus on two points lumped into one. I recently traveled out to Detroit for the first time in my life a few weeks back to lend a hand for my wife's family company in a marketing effort. And what I walked away with was the impression that the people I met whom make up the Detroit area have an unbelievable amount of perseverance and are some of the best Michiganders I have probably ever met (aside from those in the Southwest corner of the Mitt). They are entrepreneurs, incredibly hard workers, innovators and genuinely good and wholesome people.

I had my misguided perceptions of what the Detroit area would be like, and I was happy to be proven wrong. With the US auto industry having gone through what it has gone through over the last 60 years, and Detroit being at the center of it all, it was inspiring to see a city and its people not letting perceptions dictate their outlook. With that said it is a shame that city leadership has brought that place to bankruptcy. As the population fled, tax revenues dropped and demands/needs (reader’s choice) for benefits increased, the city’s leadership failed to live within their means. And this bankruptcy filing is the result of decades upon decades of mismanagement.

So let this topic, as it spreads throughout the media over the next few days, serve as a talking point on the difference between a 401k and a pension, as well as the need for each household out there to get their own personal finances in order. With a 401k, if the entity you work for files bankruptcy, your 401k money is yours and you don’t lose a penny. A 401k is not on a company’s balance sheet and you own every red cent. A pension on the other hand is an asset of the entity. If the entity goes down, so does your pension.

In my current work situation my employer offers a pension. But like Social (in)Security I don’t count on a penny of that pension making it into my pocket at retirement. Although (certain) private companies are more stable than government entities (see Detroit) and others in the private sector, the truth of the matter is anything can happen to my employer’s financial stability over the coming decades. So I have taken the well calculated and careful risk of saving and investing for retirement through a 401k and a ROTH IRA. Should Social (in)Security and pension checks make their way into my mailbox when I turn 70, then great, I will have extra money to give away. But relying solely on outside entities for retirement security exposes one to incredible amounts of risk in a loss or cut of expected benefits, unfortunately like many might be facing following Detroit’s bankruptcy filing.

My best advice, do the exact opposite of what government entities do. Get out and stay out of debt, and live below your means. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Interviewing Marathon

It has been about six years since I’ve last felt this way, but man, it is exhausting looking for a full time job. I am still with my current employer and for the better part of the last week my lunch breaks and after work extracurricular activities have been filled with meetings, appointments and interviews as I am looking to transition out of my current role. Ideally my goal is to get to a point where I can work as a financial advisor, but there are a lot of sharks out there whom make the process of becoming a suce$$ful financial advisor sound way too easy and assume that every applicant is after a sizable paycheck as opposed to being on a crusade to change household personal finances forever. Perhaps if I was fresh out of college with no work experience I might have fallen for some of these traps, but thankfully I’ve been able to weed out a lot of those sharks during the interview process.

But a few avenues and doors have opened as a result of my extensively detailed search. At the risk of jinxing anything, 2 firms in particular enthusiastically stand at my opportunistic door step.  One is for a large wealth management firm doing similar work to what I am doing now, with the kicker of having a track to become a portfolio manager. Which in turn would require me to earn the FINRA Series 7 (to become a stockbroker) and 66 (to be certified to be an investment advisor) licenses!  The other opportunity is for a reputable and well known Midwestern regional bank in which I would be tracked to become a financial advisor after learning the ins and outs of the company as a personal banker.

Both opportunities are engaging and lucrative, and I don’t mean that in a monetary kind of way! Although I am still very much in the early stages with both of these opportunities (interview with one and early informative talks with the other) I feel great about my future career. I feel like for the first time in my life I am taking ownership of my career and where I want to go and spend my time. Even if both turn me down or don’t feel that a business relationship would be a good fit, I am ecstatic to have found a vocation to pursue after with vigor and to be taking charge of my own career path.  


In essence I am learning that life after financial peace is whatever I want it to be. Through therapy I have brought a lot of healing and forgiveness to my life. With intention I try my best to be connected with my wife and have a strong, healthy and transparent marriage (as a matter of fact, I am taking my wife out for a date night tonight at a French restaurant paid for out of our date night envelope…planned spontaneity truly is the best kind of spontaneity J). And now that I have the money thing figured out I have been able to throw more attention and care towards where I want to be vocationally. I don’t know where I will specifically end up or the precise path I will take to get there, but in the last week the ride has been growing in fun with each passing day.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My (Unintentionally Successful) Adventure in Networking


For anyone who even remotely knows me, brace yourself because I am about to put you at risk of a massive stroke with this coming line…Are you ready, because here it is, something anyone who knows me even the slightest bit would never expect me to say.

I had a successful networking meeting recently, and I liked it!

In my pursuit of changing career tracks and possibly becoming a financial advisor I decided to meet with one at a firm that I have a great deal of respect for. This firm in particular in my book, has excellent street cred in regards to empowering its clients and not pushing them into financial products that would bring them harm.

So I picked a random branch near my day job office and also at random picked a financial advisor with that firm to meet with. I picked his brain and threw every question that I could think of at him. What were the struggles you faced going from a salary job to one based on commission? What are the biggest fears and common mistakes that your clients make? Here’s my story, if you were me would you pursue the path to become a financial advisor? What are the hardest aspects of taking and passing specific security license exams? How is the firm’s training program? Is there pressure to push the firm’s credit products onto your clients?

For the sake of keeping this particular post to a reasonable length I will stop there. But it was incredible to meet with someone working in a career that I have been considering for the last four years, and that same person is doing it at a firm that I highly respect and would love to work for. I was incredibly humbled and thoroughly grateful that this financial advisor took time out of his day to meet with me and talk about his career.

Now in general I am a bit of a snob when it comes to formal networking events. I am not a fan of these happy hour type events where I walk away with ten pounds of business cards received from a room full of people simply looking for an angle on how they can use you. If you can’t tell I find formal networking events to be high pressure and those active participants come across as slimy and scummy. But this one in particular was different.

I did my best to get as much information as I could out of the financial advisor  while relaying that I was genuinely interested in learning as much as I could about his experiences and his day to day. I would like to point out that I relayed that I was genuinely interested because I actually was and still am very interested.

By the end of our meeting I was taken by surprise when the financial advisor, after having given me excellent insight and suggestions for how to most effectively transition to become a financial advisor, conveyed that he was more than willing to offer a recommendation and help me find a way to join his firm if I was interested.

So maybe in the right context, when there is genuine interest by both participants: one to share and one to learn, that maybe, just maybe, networking is not the tool of the devil :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Emotional Interview




So it should come as no surprise to the “From 0 to one million” faithful that I have been contemplating pursuing a career change. But a pivotal moment in this contemplation happened today. While I have been scanning through open positions at financial firms here in the Chicago area and working with a recruiting firm, one particular role kept popping up that both horrified and delighted me: becoming a personal financial advisor.

Ultimately the idea of being solely responsible for running my own business, from sales and marketing to implementation and everything that comes with financial advising is both daunting and incredibly appetizing to me. Specifically the prospects going from a base salary to solely commission does keep me up at night. But at this point, our household is debt free, we live off one income and save/invest the other and we don’t have kids. So with the encouragement from my wife I applied for a few financial advising positions currently recruited for and today I had a very moving interview.

Let me clarify what I mean by moving: during the interview my eyes welled with tears and I nearly cried in front of the interviewer. Allow me to explain. In context any sales and marketing role requires a ton of effort, a lot of pavement pounding and fortitude like no other. A lot of the conversation in this first interview was to clarify exactly what the firm is looking for in this role. And the point was crystal clear to me that before advising takes place, before getting individuals and families into mutual funds and helping them fight the debt monster, the sales and marketing side would be first and foremost the most crucial element. We talked about the kind of hours that those successful in the role put in. Notably, the interviewer said this (loosely paraphrased), “There’s two things crucial to this role that are entirely countercultural. First we are taught to not talk to strangers. And secondly we are taught not to talk about money. This career brings those taboos together.”

And in that moment I flashed to my own journey through debt, and for that matter with money as a whole. I thought about feeling like a rat on a wheel before I had a financial game plan. I thought about how desperate I felt, feeling unable to ever marry my now wife and buy a house. I then thought about the focus and intensity that we poured into our personal finances over the last four years and how big of a change in position we have had. I thought about the families and individuals that took part in FPU sessions that I facilitated. I thought about the empowerment and feeling of strength that I, and many of my FPU friends have when we finally put together a game plan that works.

And I thought about the early and long hours that I put into my current job. And how much more motivating, freeing and fulfilling it would be to put those hours into work that matters. That I would jump at the chance if presented to me, to go from my day job to my dream job: trying to convince people to live below their means, pay off debt, put the right kinds of insurance in place and implement a solid investing strategy. Yea, I could handle the rejection that comes with cold calling and going to countless networking events, because it would be work that matters to me and a vocation that I could pour my heart and soul into day in and day out.


Wanting to walk in a career like this, and being so certain of it, is one of the many reasons why I welled up with tears during my interview. And in a much more business casual way than I am writing here, I said exactly that to the interviewer. And as I just told my wife about 20 minutes ago, I don’t have to have all of the answers and have everything figured out. Whether with this firm, another, or whether I start my own boutique shop, we are in a strong enough position to allow us to follow our dreams and make our passions a reality. So no, I don’t know if I will get a call back for another round of interviewing or which of the others in the pipeline will pan out, but I do know it’s time to start doing work that matters.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Marital Benefits


This might end up being an explosively charged post here at From 0 to one million, so let me jump right in. The gay marriage debate has taken this country by storm over the last few months. I personally have friends on both extremes of the spectrum that is known as popular opinion. Some were basking in absolute glee and delight regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA and other friends firmly believe that the Court’s decision single handedly has put America on a fast track to Armageddon.

I know what you are thinking and yes, I agree that I do hang out with some very interestingly cool people.
Nonetheless the Court’s decision has led to a myriad of questions and concerns regarding implementation of these rulings across this country. At its core though, at least from my lens because this is after all a personal finance blog, lies the technical driving force behind the gay marriage movement: Federal Benefits.

So I will highlight a few of the notable federal benefits that my wife and I, as a married couple in this country, currently have at our disposal. And of course at the end of this post I will have a witty and questionably snarky remark to tie everything together J. Please note that this is a general overview and certainly not meant to cover the comprehensiveness that is our country’s ridiculously and dizzyingly intricate tax laws and benefits. So enjoy!

Social Security

Throughout my working life, without my consent, the federal government taxes my income to be earmarked for social(ist) programs. One of these is Social (In)security. So after being automatically taxed on these social(ist) programs my entire working lifetime at the age of 67 I would be able to file for Social (in)Security payments, and would receive these payments from the government without penalty as long as I do not earn over $15,120 in annual earned income.

The central idea in this program is that the government has implemented a forced and automatic retirement savings program on its citizens.

Now I won’t get into the brouhaha that is this flawed system and I will try to stay on point. As a married person when I die my allotted Social Security payment doesn’t die with me. My wife, whether she worked during her lifetime or not, would be eligible during the remainder of her life to receive up to one-half of the amount being paid to me through Social (in)Security. In addition to that if we have children under the age of 18 and I am not anywhere near “eligible” retirement age my wife could still receive a form of benefit payments.

My Take

While Social (in)Security is a “kind” gesture from D.C., I’d rather rely on myself. After having beaten debt bloody with a steel pipe, my wife and I have been each putting 6% of our gross income away for retirement, and in a few years we will take this amount up to 15%. We are currently on pace to have over six million dollars in retirement accounts by the age of 60. I don’t plan on Social (in)Security to provide for my family’s needs after I am gone and I certainly don’t want my wife looking to the government for help financially after I am gone and our earned income years are behind us.

 Tax Credits and IRAs

Now here are some legal marriage benefits that are worth reaping. A married couple with a child under the age of 17 can claim a tax credit worth up to $1,000 as of this year for each child. This also includes stepchildren and adopted children. Now I am all about tax benefits. I personally use every pre-tax program I have access to including participating in my 401k, saving in a health savings account, buying monthly transit passes and buying dental and medical insurances. And we also make annual charitable contributions to certified charitable organizations. So you better believe as soon as we bring a child into our home we will be claiming this credit.

In addition a non-income earning spouse can be eligible to open and contribute to an IRA. So if instead of being D.I.N.K.S (double income no kids) we were S.I.N.K.S (single income no kids), and I were a house husband and my wife brought home the bacon, with her income we could set aside funds to open a ROTH IRA in my name and make contributions to it. This is one benefit that definitely resonates with me and is absolutely one that EVERY married couple should participate in if it fits their situation.

As of this year, whether traditional or ROTH, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually into an IRA. So if only one spouse earns an income your household can still contribute up to $11,000 a year towards a ROTH. And whether you are straight or gay, I am pretty confident that you will agree with me that tax free growth on an investment is pretty sweet. Which leads me to:

Estate and Property Taxes

So here’s the heavy hitter when it comes to federal marriage benefits. Current federal tax law cites that an unlimited deduction is in place for estate and gift taxes when one spouse inherits estate from another. So if say, an imaginary couple (J) were to be debt free before 30 and save and invest at least $2,000 for the next 30 years earning an average annualized return of 12%, by age 60 they would have over ten million dollars in investments. And by the age of 75 that snowball would be so large that if I typed it here you wouldn’t believe me so I’ll just leave that open ended JJJJ! Nonetheless when one spouse in that imaginary coupled died, that decamillionaire household would be able to transfer assets from the deceased spouse to the remaining spouse tax free. Let me type that again. Spouses can inherit the other spouse’s unlimited assets free and clear! And on the transactional side when selling a primary residence, a married couple can reap the benefits of up to $500,000 on capital gains tax free.

The Witty Conclusion?

At the end of the day it is absolutely vital to be aware of the benefits and exclusions that we are able to make use of as taxpayers. But none of what I’ve covered today defines marriage. Contrary to popular belief, when I proposed to my wife I wasn’t nervous because I was hoping she would say yes to the chance of selling our primary residence one day to reap a $500,000 tax free gain. I was nervous because I was (and still am very much so) in love with her and wanted to spend my life with her. From career changes and career moves to building our family to growing in faith to adventures in travel and debt busting and everything in between, I wanted to live my life with her, and I was nervous because I really wanted her to reciprocate the love I had (and still have) for her.

Some of the components that define our marriage include love, devotion, honesty, patience and understanding. A piece of paper with a government seal doesn’t automatically infuse any of these things into a marriage. There are straight and gay couples that are shining examples of healthy and happy marriages. And there are straight and gay couples that are just the opposite and can pen “How to” books on what not to do in a marriage. But what single handedly broke my heart from the Court’s decision was hearing interviews and reading editorials that made the point to say that these rulings made people feel loved and validated.

My friends, the US federal government should never make you feel loved or validated. That’s not their job and that’s not why they exist. Instead that love, validation and support should be coming from friends and family and the love created between yourself and your partner. And if it helps, hopefully the encouraging words of a faint voice in the blogosphere will encourage you on as well.

 Matthew 19:12
Acts 8:26-40

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Evolving Ambitions

So I’m faced with a bit of a convenient conundrum as this particular summer continues on. Within the next month and a half our household will have our travel account fully funded for the remainder of 2013. Which brings the question what’s next? The obvious answer is to re-establish saving to pay cash for our first home as the top dog of priorities when it comes to our disposable income and steadily invest for retirement, but beyond that we’ve really had to ask ourselves that elusive question of “What’s next?”

Our 2013 travels will have taken us to Hawaii, Charleston – South Carolina, Fayetteville - Arkansas, Shelbyville - Illinois, Nashville, Detroit, France, Germany, Spain and Los Angeles. And looking beyond travel has really caused me to look introspectively at what I want out of the next phase in life. Defining this was a lot easier in my debt busting days. It was crystal clear and concise to build an emergency fund and run like hell to get out of debt.

But on this side, the side of debt freedom, I’m finding that my picture of freedom is a lot more abstract and can be whatever I want it to be. But I fear that left to my own devices that I have been dragging my feet on the next goals that I want to achieve. While the monumental marathon goal of paying cash for a home is on the horizon, I have really been racking my brain for what it is that I want to achieve/do/get in the interim. Here are a few items I came up with.

Dance Lessons

Anyone who knows me will be all too familiar to know of my impeccable inability to be in rhythm. I’ve had two left feet for all of my life and it’s about time I did something about it. So with the help and encouragement of my wife (whom is NOT rhythmically challenged and to whom I publicly want to apologize to on this post for taking the art that is dance out of your life) I plan to enroll and attend group dance classes. Apart from being able to move in rhythm without tripping over myself or my partner, a loftier goal is to be able to competently dance samba and merengue.

Car Purchase

It’s getting close to that time for my 10 year carless reign to come to an end. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but when my wife and I decide that it is finally time to buy a car we plan to spend no more than $5,000 on a used car and have the cash readily available in a simple savings account. Weekend road trips and large grocery trips in which we are not constrained by the size of our rollie-cart are luxuries more than anything as they also bring along the added costs of monthly parking, gas, insurance and maintenance. But when all is said and done the overall luxury of having a car in Chicago should have an absorbable impact on our disposable income by several hundred dollars.

Career

I’ve hinted in previous posts that I have been looking to redirect my career path. Truth be told when I got out of college I kind of just “went with it” without aiming. So in the midst of internal assessment about where I want to be in life I have been giving a ton of thought and consideration to how I want to move in my career. I have had a few interviews with a few investment firms doing the same kind of work I do now but when I honestly assess the situation, a move into doing something similar just doesn’t light a fire under me. Our household is in a position where one income provider can take a pay cut or even fall off the income generating map and our house can still operate under the same cost of living that we have now. So with that information as a backdrop I have been considering a few career paths without annual pay and title being a driving factor. While I don’t want to jinx any plans in the pipeline, there are a few firms that are recruiting for their investment advisor training programs, and fingers crossed maybe it might lead to something.


When my journey out of debt started my main focus was money. I was paying attention to every dollar that I came into for debt payoff. Once my debts were done we moved onto my wife’s. Now that hers have been done for a year and we dusted off our suitcases the focus has shifted into personal growth and development and a small luxury. I did not envision that when money was no longer a factor that I would be assessing my vocation and self-improvement this much. Those are just a few of what have been a revamp of goals that I am setting for myself over the next few years. So ultimately one could argue that my picture of freedom from debt looks more fluid on the dance floor, rolling in a “new” gently used car, and a career path that resonates with who I am.