How to prosper during the coming depression, Money

 

There are two huge problems that come to mind when I think about the average American and money, we own a lot of debt and most people could not write a check for a $500 emergency bill if they needed to. We have a bad habit of looking at what we make in a month and figuring out how to spend most of it or more if we can. Currently, being unemployed sounds like a dream come true with a $600 bonus given to unemployment recipients on top of what the state is handing out however as I write this on May 13, 2020 that bonus is drying up in July. After that good luck paying your bills.

I have hopes that this virus gives the average American a wake up call on their personal finances and last month 2.1 trillion dollars was put into savings accounts, something that hasn’t happened since 1981. When it matters Americans will save money but when it counts you quickly learned its not enough to cover what is to come. Back in 2009, people squeezed their wallets and cut out all the things they realized they didn’t need. Vacations were cancelled, kids were pulled out of over priced prep schools, cars were sold or handed back to the bank, less people ate out for meals, the coffee pot had the dust cleaned off of it, cable service was cancelled, and the latest fashion trends were traded for the years prior. People know how to save money, but when the situation is going to be worse than 2009 with little chance of a bail out for the little guy how far are people willing to go to save a buck?

Considering the interest rates that people have on their debts compared to the interest earned on savings accounts we should talk about debt first. If you are looking for a more comprehensive approach to paying off debt check out The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. To sum up the easiest path to getting out of debt, pay off your small bills first. Dump everything you can into getting rid of those debts and move up to bigger items over time. Pay off the credit cards and hospital bills that have been killing your credit. Get the debt collectors off of your back until you have the car and house left, if you have payments on those, then work on the car balance. The quicker the better. If you have a manageable house payment, I would suggest only making the payment during the depression instead of paying it off. The monthly payment won’t go up while the cost of other items will during that time. With your other debts out of the way you now have cash to buy the things you need while keeping a roof over your head.

Cut down your monthly bills as much as you can. I know that during the stay at home orders everyone is watching more television, and if you are smart you pay for internet and a few streaming services which is a hell of a lot cheaper than cable TV. At this point you may want to consider which service you enjoy watching the most and cutting out the rest. How much Hulu, Disney plus, Amazon prime, YouTube red, Netflix, or google plus can you really watch? What shows do you enjoy, who offers the most content and get rid of the rest. Let’s face it, the Mandalorian was the only good show on Disney plus unlike the Star Wars movies they have been making the last couple of years. Cut the rest of the crap out of your budget and start spending more time doing other things besides sitting on the couch.

Cancel your gym membership, you haven’t gone since January and your new years resolutions disappeared along with the rest of your plans for 2020.

Put your Keurig right where it belongs, in the trash. Each box of those stupid pod things only gives you twelve cups of coffee. A bag of coffee will give you 12 pots of coffee with 8 cups in each. Do the math you are getting screwed and NO the coffee does Not taste better.

Say goodbye to Starbucks and Biggby coffee. Have they ever made your coffee how you like it? Stop handing your money over to people who can not spell your name right.

Most of the clothes I own I bought at second hand stores. You would be surprised how many new clothes are tossed to your local goodwill and salvation army thrift stores because they don’t fit correctly or they are out of fashion. You can find name brand items for a fraction of the retail cost.

Just because there is a sale, or some kind of deal, at a store doesn’t mean you have to buy that item. There was one black Friday when a co-worker posted the $1000 television they bought for $300. They bragged about saving $700 until another co-worker commented that they saved $300 by not buying a TV that they didn’t need. You can argue amongst yourselves who was the smarter of the two but at the end of the day the second co-worker still had $300 in their bank account.

Cook at home. Don’t tell me you don’t know how to cook. The instructions are on the box. Cooking is like sex; you only get better at it with the more you practice.

So now you are saving money and maybe you have a bit sitting in the bank. What do you do with it?

There are several options available to you. Personally, I like the Ron Swanson approach and have a bit stashed away in gold and silver. Can you make money on buying precious metals, sure. It’s simple math. Buy low and sell high. It’s like any other commodity. The point isn’t to make money though it is to protect your wealth against inflation. Precious metals can be traded anywhere and keep their value. Money on the other hand fluctuates and tends to lose its value when the economy goes into turmoil. Precious metals tend to do better when things are rough. It is never a bad idea to have a bit stashed away in case an emergency comes up.

US savings bonds, don’t expect these to mature during your lifetime with a current interest rate of 0. With a national debt of 25 trillion dollars coming up by the end of this year I doubt any of those will be paid out in several decades if at all.

Stocks, the stock market is the one pyramid scheme that came up with the best sales pitch of the last 100 years. It’s like Amway except when you are about to cash out the market tanks and you are stuck working until 70 years old because all of your savings disappeared while corporations were bailed out. This happens like clock work every ten years.

Savings accounts, I started a savings account for my new born daughter a few months ago. I put $100 in there to start out and three months later I received a statement that her new balance due to interest was $100.01. The current interest rates for savings accounts is under 1%. At this point what is the difference between having cash at home you can access at any time and money in the bank that doesn’t gain any value, while they are loaning your money out to other people I might add?

It is important to have assets. Pay off the house. Own land. Find things that increase in value instead of depreciating over time. When you drive that new car off the lot it immediately loses value. That signed copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas sitting in the case at the book shop will continue to gain value over the years. The days that a man enjoys owning a boat is the day he buys it and the day he finally sells it. If you have a hobby besides beanie babies take advantage of the knowledge you have. It is not hard to find things that are overlooked at estate sales and build a collection of wealth under people’s noses. Recently I bought a copy of A Cook’s Tour by the late Anthony Bourdain. I later found out that the $3 first edition hard cover copy was signed by the author. A book that regularly sells for $250 on eBay. I could flip it and take that money to do other things but Bourdain isn’t exactly losing any popularity these days. I think it’s a safer bet to sit on it and wait until I need that money and cash it in later for what will still be more than $3.

To summarize my savings advice, keep money in the bank if you don’t like having access to it and like having other people make money from it except for you. Gold and Silver are safe bets for long term security of your wealth. Invest in things that you know will increase in value over time, except Beanie Babies. Buy land.

Book list:

Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

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How to prosper during the coming Depression, transportation

 

Most Americans own some form of automobile, however only a small percentage know how to maintain them. If you are looking to keep your ride on the road and save some money along the way I highly suggest buying a Chilton auto repair manual for the year, make, and model of the vehicle you own. There are two schools of thought when it comes to not doing your car repairs, it’s too complicated or let the professionals handle it.

I bought a 2006 Toyota Corolla back in 2008 and I have only taken it to the dealership one time after it was purchased. This was for the “free” oil change that came with the vehicle. There are several reasons why I will never take it back there, for anything. The Corolla came with a 250 point inspection that insured it was in like new condition when I drove it off the lots but when I took it there for the oil change three months later the mechanics continued to pile on a list of things it needed besides the oil change. At one point a woman carried the air filter into the waiting room and said it needed to be replaced. The filter was still white except for a maple tree seed, one of those annoying helicopter like blades that fall to the ground every spring, and told me it was clogged. I took the tree seed out of the filter and told her to put it back in. once they started to add things to the oil change, I was done with that place. Either they never did the inspection before selling the vehicle or they were trying to rip me off. I’m not saying that every place is like that but I have heard other horror stories about $90-120 oil changes at those quick lube places from unsuspecting customers who didn’t know better. It has never cost me more than $30 to do my own oil change at home and it takes less than 15 minutes. Sure, it’s dirty and you have to crawl under the car but at least you know the job is done, what it cost, and that it was done right.

Granted there are things you can not do on your own. Changing tires needs to be done by a professional. The exhaust system, unless you know how to weld, should be done by a professional. Things like, replacing a headlight, changing the air filter, replacing the battery, checking tire pressure, topping off coolant, even replacing your own brake pads can be done at home if you know how to do it. That is where the Chilton’s manual comes in, showing you step by step how to work on your own car so that you aren’t paying somebody $50 an hour to do it for you and charging you extra for the parts that you can get from your local Auto Zone.

Don’t have tools? Instead of buying what you will need brand new for a premium look for these things at garage sales and estate sales in your area. There was a time when people worked on there own cars and it was a common practice. Many of those tools have a life span that will outlive us and can be handed down for several generations. Craftsman, Mac, and Milwaukee tools are top of the line and come at a high cost brand new. To find these at a discount is a steal when they come along.

Junk yards are a gamble and you have to be careful of what you are buying if your try to buy used parts for your vehicle. There will be times when you don’t have an option, especially if you have an older car, but often there are new parts still sitting in a warehouse somewhere waiting to have the dust brushed off them.

Spend a little extra to increase the life of your vehicle. When I change my oil I put full synthetic in instead of the cheaper generic brand options on the shelf. I find that the engine runs smoother and studies have shown that it increases the life span of the motor. You can decide to do this if you want but I don’t plan to have another car payment for a long time to come.

Protecting your investment is important. There are a few, simple ways to make sure your vehicle is never broken into. The common sense approach is to make sure there is nothing valuable left in the car that can be seen from people walking past. Keep your car clean and boring and nobody will think to smash a window to steal that phone, GPS map, or change in the cup holder. What they can’t see they won’t know about. Add an NRA sticker to the back of the car regardless if you are a member or not. Thieves will think you are a gun owner and will be less likely to brake into it. Of course, the next step to freak people out is to leave old copies of magazines like Guns and Ammo in the back seat to make thieves think you are a gun nut. At the end of the day always make sure your car is locked. At the first apartment complex I lived in it was common to walk outside at 6am and find most of the cars with their doors open and everything removed from the glove box and cupholders. Some thieves will simply check the door handle to see if it is unlocked and then go to work removing everything and throwing it into a bag.

So, you don’t own a car. If you are one of those people who use public transportation you can save money by ride a bike or walking to work. I know this is frowned upon by a good portion of our society but think of the benefits that come from these practices. You don’t have to fit in working out because you are doing it twice everyday going to work. The cost of good shoes or a bike is a fraction of what you will pay in a year for bus or train fare. Don’t talk to me about Uber, it is the Keurig of public transportation. It will cost you more per trip than just transporting yourself from point A to point B.

If you own a bike take the time to learn how to do your own maintenance. Purchase a flat tire kit for a few dollars. Wear a helmet. Unlike the rest of the body the brain does not heal when it is damaged. For the sake of your own sanity buy a kryptonite lock. I have seen too many bikes stolen in my home town because people either ran inside a place for a split second only to find their bike gone when they walked out. Even chains and padlocks don’t work. spend the money on the one time purchase of a lock that bolt cutters can not remove.

Overall, not having a car will save you more money in the long run, that is true. Freedom of mobility comes at a cost and if you want the option of getting out of a bad situation quickly it will pay to own a car. Owning a car also helps if you were to lose your job and future employment is only available at a farther distance than you are accustomed to. When you increase your availability, you become more employable. A common question asked at job interviews is “do you have reliable transportation?”

 

 

 

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Golden: part 5

The first evening started when Sam arrived at Walden after work. Sam had a dark complexion, jet black hair, and big brown eyes. He was on the chubby side and was enjoying civilian life after a stint in the armed forces either in the Army or Marines, I don’t remember which. He was a busy guy working several part time jobs, starting his own company, and also working on Nick’s television project. I was in the downstairs recreation room setting up for the meeting of the minds when Sam and Nick started talking in the hallway.
“This guy,” Nick said. “he thought I owned the park. It’s hilarious. I have him wrapped around my finger. He doesn’t know.” Sam snickered at my ignorance. “Let’s get this started I have a feeling we are going to get a ton of stuff done tonight.”
Should I have thought any differently about the situation? I was given the impression that Nick was well to do, the house was his, the land around it was part of the property. Had I really read into things so wrong?
I tried to brush the comments aside. I was stuck here. There was no option to go home. I had to ride it out until my flight in five days. We went over the first draft script for the pilot episode. There wasn’t a layout for the first season. Character profiles had not been written up. Other parts of the world we were creating had not been written out, just general descriptions that left a lot of interpretation. The only thing that had been thought out was the opening scene and even that we went back and forth on with constant changes and Nick, always a day later, deciding that what was set in stone was not good enough and we were starting over. This was a running problem with the show. We would have our starting point and then after hours of work the pilot would be scrapped and we were back at square one.
The initial script, written by Nick, was rough. There was some good dialogue, the relationships between certain characters were being established and it looked like changes could be made with the rewriting of different scenes without changing some of the other aspects of the script.
That first night went late, with an audio recorder documenting the whole thing. We decided how many episodes there should be, the length of each show, and knew there should be a grand finale leading up to season two. Nick and Sam went to be and I prepared for the morning ahead.
I woke up early, likely still feeling jet lag and my internal clock being four hours ahead. With my old job I would go to work at 7am and I was still on that clock. Nick and Sam slept while I jumped in the shower. For five minutes I adjusted the temperature and the water never turned hot. It was ice cold and I jumped in wanting to clean up for the first time since my flight. I scrubbed down and jumped out after a few minutes shivering and wanting to warm up as soon as possible.
Upstairs I made coffee and drank half the pot while running around the recreation room with post it notes naming episodes and looking over notes from the night before. I had a list of characters on the left-hand side and ran the episode titles across the top. The middle section was the events that would take place. There were details about the show that I had to ignore. Some of the characters had biblical names that nobody, especially a good Christian, would ever name their kid. It would be like a German naming their child Adolf after WWII or trying to wear a small mustache with greased over hair. The symbolism was fine but the names were not needed to portray it. Once I had the first season laid out, I sat down with my laptop and worked on the script.
I rewrote the opening scene, something that had some confusing elements to it and played around with the interactions of certain characters. I added a love interest that I would later write a profile for. There were other things that I added and subtracted and for some reason there was this idea that was supposed to be overlooking all of it about something that happened a hundred years before. Tying everything together wasn’t easy and in the end it never worked.
When Nick woke up, it was almost noon, he woke in to find the season laid out, a script sent to his email and half a pot of coffee upstairs. He didn’t say much and we left for breakfast at Gilbert’s on Main St.
The morning routine consisted of Nick reading that day’s newspaper, playing on his iPad and parking his car in a no parking zone in front of the deli. It had been dropped off that morning and supposedly fixed. We ate outside on the patio and watched the six figure cars drive by.
“This show works out, and it will, I have the utmost confidence that everyone will be interested in this, you will be driving one of those in a few years. When this is picked up, I’m going to make sure you are one of the writers. How does that sound?”
“That sounds nice,” I replied. I had already done my homework. I knew that when companies bought projects like this it was all or nothing. They would do with the script and characters as they please, they brought in their own writers, and in the end the person who created had little or no say in the project itself. I didn’t tell Nick that I knew this.
As we went to leave there was a puddle under the car and Nick spotted it right away. I crawled on my hands and knees and touched the oily liquid, the red tinted smudge on my hands told me again what it was.
“Your transmission is leaking,” I said seeing a look of fury on his face.
“that fucking cocksucker! He told me this was fixed. I’m going to ream that son of a bitch. I want this shit fixed today.” People looked around as the flurry of words escaped his mouth. We hopped in the car and drove back to Walden to wait for the car to be picked up again.
“If there is anything you want to see you can take the mountain bike.” Nick was being the optimist, I think. We were miles away from anything and Seattle was a ride over a bridge. I hung out at the house and worked on the project. I should have been working on my next book but decided it was best to keep those projects completely separate. I worked on the character profiles and we would have much to talk about that coming night. This was day two in Bellevue and we were already ahead of schedule. Little did I know that everything would change in the near future.
I roamed out in the woods by myself, traveling the trail and finding deer tracks and other signs of life in the middle of town. My phone had been sending me notifications all day about pushed likes on Tinder because I forgot to turn off the app while out of town. Apparently, I was a hot commodity on the West Coast. The only good thing about it was knowing that if things in Kalamazoo continued to go downhill, I had the option of starting over somewhere else where women actually wanted to meet me. This was a complete change of pace from the back and forth messaging with the sudden disappearance of the people I was talking to and never having a date from the app. Everyone had on their profiles that they weren’t looking to “hook up” and that included me, but when it came to meeting people, they fled like they had gone into witness protection. Seattle appeared to be the exact opposite.
While driving through town I never saw the hot Asian women that Sam had been talking about. Everyone looked the same. Thin, long straight hair with the same cut, t-shirts and jeans, it was like they were being mass produced in a factory. If that was what Sam was into then he was in heaven. I saw this kind of thing everyday in a college town and I had no interest in hearing about where to get the perfect latte, how long they have been a vegetarian, or what social justice groups they were a part of. Everyone dressed to impress, flashing their name brand clothes and having their hair styled every couple of days even if it was to make it appear messed up, but professionally messed up. Even the local Goodwill had outrageous prices for the simplest of things and people ran around trying not to be seen or noticed as they shopped and tried to find those rare name brand clothes with the tags still on. It wasn’t about getting the deal it was about finding something for a fraction of the cost and still being able to say you bought it at the mall. If you are not rich, try to look rich. In other words, fake it until you make it.
It was becoming obvious that that was Nick’s philosophy. There were many things about him that I was led to believe were true. He was a successful businessman, and at one time that was true. He didn’t own the house we were staying in, instead he managed the property for an investor from China who bought it for the rent money. The car, while it appeared to be a future classic, had the usual problems of any lemon. The world of Seattle was something that Nick and many others could hide in. Hustling their way along until they had that much sought-after break and could cash in for a little while until it was time to score again. Seattle was a city of junkies waiting for that next fix of cold hard cash. I hoped that after leaving here I wouldn’t have to go to rehab.

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Adventures in Cooking: Part 8

So, let’s step back for a moment and rewind to how I ended up working in a kitchen to begin with. My first two and a half years in college was helped with a job working security, also known as paid to do homework. It paid better than the $5.15 an hour I was making at the local Meijer to retrieve carts and I could do homework on the job while I sat in a guard shack on 2nd and 3rd shift. My last semester at KVCC left me with a question of whether to pay for tuition for the coming semester or pay my rent. Because living out of a car didn’t appeal to me, I chose to pay rent and didn’t go back to school for a while. Classes were becoming more expensive, and while I had been making extra money working for the school paper it was enough to pay tuition but not for the books, supplies, and lab cost that were hidden fees beyond the tuition itself.
Once that choice had been made I started asking myself what kind of job I could do and make a decent living? The options were few and one of the places I guarded had gotten to know me over the past two years. When a job was posted, I applied for it and had an interview a week or two later. I put in my noticed with guardian guard service and started in the closed in smelly hell hole that was Charles River.
The company raised and bred lab rats for various companies and zoos around the country. When you have a snake or bird that is depending on clean food you buy a sterile rat to feed them and make sure they don’t die in front of a group of kids from a local school on a field trip. Local pharmaceutical companies also bought these animals for testing. I didn’t lean either way on the subject. What where people supposed to do? Test on humans and end up killing people? I had been guarding the building from animal rights activist and rabid raccoons for two years. If I had a problem with what they were doing I would have left already.
Charles River was a long building surrounded by barb wire fencing and contained ten rooms where the rats were bred and raised. In each of those ten rooms were 40,000 rats in various states of development. That is the rat shit of 40,000 rats in one room. The majority of the shift was cleaning up shit and feeding the little biters. There was this myth that they had bred the biting instinct out of the rats but that turned out to be pure bullshit. I must have been bitten 10-12 times during my 90 days and I can remember every single one. It was always the new mom rats, pissed off that you were checking to make sure they weren’t eating their babies. The ones who did I was happy to toss their ass into the loading room where they were gassed before disposal. It’s a bit harsh I know but what did you want for Casey Anthony or that bitch that drowned her kids in the bathtub?
From the first day to the last I was miserable. The room smelled like shit. You smelled like shit. When you woke up in the morning your breath still smelled like shit. You think the world is bad because Obama or Trump is president, spend the majority of your waking hours with a room filled with rats and then come to me for complaints. I never went anywhere worried that, you guessed it, I smelled like shit. The paychecks kept coming and I deposited those things at the drive through where the teller could see me sitting in the car far far away. I shopped for my groceries on the weekend in the middle of the night. I didn’t hang out with friends and let the money continue to roll in. I had a feeling that after my 90 days were up, I was going to be gone.
And I was right. I was called to the head manager’s office on day 90 and sat down from her across the desk. The HR lady came in with her and I waited. I had talked to these ladies for more than two years as they arrived in the morning and when they left at night. They appeared confused and hesitant then they dropped the news. “we are laying you off.” The manager said. “we’re not firing you, we just don’t need you right now.”
“So, when do I come back.” I crossed my fingers and waited for those fateful words.
“We’ll let you know.”
A grin grew on my face and I stood up, shook their hands which left them with a confused look on their faces and went to my car happy that I would never have to come back ever again. It was literally the shittiest job I ever had.
I went home and slept, man did it feel good. I cleaned my clothes, bed sheets, and showered a few times a day. This went on for a week. After that I had no plans. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My dream was to go into the comic book industry but the market had taken a dump and 70% of the comic shops across the country had closed. The comic book companies had stopped hiring new talent keep the old guys who had been doing it for 20-30 years. I had not talents that I could think of, no special skills, and the lack of self esteem didn’t help one bit. I was one sad SOB with no clue what to do.
I paid my rent for the next month early and gave myself time to figure things out. That turned into selling my comics and action figures on Ebay.com. Don’t give me any shit they are a collector item. I didn’t go out much and only checked my mail once a week. I was in a state the Japanese refer to as Hikikomori. It is most common with young men that have lost their way and no longer want to be a part of society. My bank account dwindled over time and eventually I would have to find a job.
I ran into Rob at the local comic shop and he stopped by with his friend Nate to hang out. We drank beer shared stories about when we worked at Meijer together.
“What are you doing now?” rob asked.
“You’re looking at it,” I said sitting in my living room hanging out with them.
“You need a job?” Nate asked.
“Ya.”
“Olga’s is hiring. You’ll be a dishwasher but it pays and it’s easy as hell.”
“Where do I apply?” I asked thinking I needed to go online.
“You just walk in, they ask you for a few things and then you start working.”
The next day I drove to the mall. It was the first time I had driven in a few days and after five minutes I was in the dish room cleaning plates off and figuring out how to fill the trays to load into the high-pressure washer. Literally, anybody could get this job. After being bit, smelling like shit, and closing myself off form society this was a dream come true. I felt like Bill Murray in What About Bob? Making baby steps out of the hole I had found myself in.
When I hear people complain about their jobs and whine about how tough or boring it is, I think of those rats and try not to slap the shit out of them. People love to bitch and when its about stupid shit stay back because stupid is contagious.
Charles River no longer exist, or at least the building I was in doesn’t exist. Most of the jobs from my youth no longer exist. Baggers are a thing of the past. The rat factory is closed down. I haven’t seen a truck or security guard from Guardian guard service in a decade, they likely are not around anymore. Comics are no longer drawn by hand, instead done on a computer. Layouts are done on a computer instead of gluing stories onto master sheets. My daughter will not know what I am talking about when I tell her about these things. These jobs are gone, a footnote in history to be forgotten like the cobbler and blacksmith. I have seen stories where robots are cooking meals and matching the quality of a chef. I call BS but who am I to argue. When you take the human element away from certain jobs than what is the point? You can say that you are saving cost but have you accounted for the cost of interaction? How do people meet, fall in love, argue, share ideas, or flirt if you take away the means for those things to take place? At what point are we so isolated that the majority of people end up like me 2 years ago going through their own Hikikomori with no job to draw them out. At what point do we start investing in ourselves instead of the bottom line? When the line hits bottom where do we go from there?
To be continued…

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Liar, Liar, pants on F.I.R.E.

If you are one of the people who are surfing the internet looking for information on how to retire early then you have found articles and websites dedicated to the F.I.R.E. movement, Financially Independent Retire Early. Most of these stories feature people who saved a good portion of their income and had enough after a certain period of time to leave their jobs and tour the world or live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere while typing their financial manifestoes.
The biggest lie these websites love to pass along is that anyone can do this. This is the same mentality that had Mitt Romney telling reporters that he thought middle class started at $250,000. The people who have accomplished this goal are in the upper middle class and those who do something similar under that threshold are referred to as bums, no debt but living in poverty.
The other aspect of these stories that people tend to overlook is the obvious advantage that these people have over the majority of the population, inherited wealth, no student loan debt, six figure salaries, or households with two six figure incomes. The message is always the same afterwards, anyone can do this. Not everyone is like you.
I fall into the category of people who make around $35,000 a year. I have good benefits and no debt except for a laptop and a house. The laptop will be paid off in a few months. I am on schedule to pay off the house in 5-6 years, but when it comes to savings there is about $10,000 in various accounts and other assets far from what would be needed to retire early. On my income, the odds of having enough to retire even at 65 is about 1 in a bazillion. The sad reality is that 52% of Americans don’t have enough in savings to pay an unexpected $500 bill and only 62% of the population that can work does work. That means 38% of working age individuals are either retired, disabled, unemployed, or choose not to work. Translate the numbers into what it really means and most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with no future in sight.
Is early retirement truly feasible for the average American, no. to say otherwise is to feed hope to those that are already seeking answers to a better life. Does this mean that Americans shouldn’t try to better their situations and live a more meaningful life, no. There are resources available to live a financially secure life even on a lower income. It takes some work, but if one really tries hard enough, they can get out of debt and take control of their lives where others have failed. Dave Ramsey has his famous book Total Money Makeover that is very effective if one follows the principles in it.
Stressed caused by finances can cause people to make bad choices and spiral further into debt instead of climbing out. So, making changes to better one’s situation or finding a solution to that feeling of hopelessness is important. This article isn’t saying there isn’t something to learn from these people that retired early, good for them. What I am saying is that here and there we can find things to take from their experiences to make our lives better. For example, Mr. Money Mustache was able to retire early, at the age of 30. While this is impossible for most of us, what we can learn is how he is able to live on only $25,000 a year with a household of 4. He rides a bike to work and other places around town. His house is paid off, something most of us neglect doing because payments are “low.” He eats at home most days and the wife and him rarely go out for drinks or dinner.
While it may appear appropriate to blame others for our situation, there is one thing we all can take away from these stories, the responsibility of our personal situations comes down to us and how we handle it. We should, under no circumstances, wait for some financial messiah to come save us. We are the masters of our own choices and when we eat out, buy some luxury item we can’t afford or buy a house that is out of our price range we are the ones who put ourselves in that situation. We can’t blame the realtor for telling us we can afford it, or the car salesman for telling us that a seven-year payment plan is really good for an automobile. We are the ones who should know better. Let’s face it, if we really wanted to stick it to the man we would live frugally and watch as the stock market took a big dump in everyone’s portfolios and laugh as people in three pieces suits applied for part time jobs at the local Starbucks and asked if they have benefits for new employees.

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