Prairie Investors Do It Better

If you haven’t visited Winnipeg, Manitoba, well, put it on your list of places to go. Smack dab in the geographical middle of nowhere, some 450 miles…

If you haven’t visited Winnipeg, Manitoba, well, put it on your list of places to go. Smack dab in the geographical middle of nowhere, some 450 miles (735 km) north of Minneapolis, flatter than the proverbial pancake, the 8th largest Canadian city is the antithesis of La La Land; gritty and real, its people genuine and down-to-earth.

And the sky! Oh man, the immense prairie sky is reason enough to visit. Perennially blue, sometimes painted with light, fluffy clouds, home to sunshine more than 300 days each year, the sky is truly Awesome with a capital ‘A’; it’s size, it’s scope evoking a sense of wonder, mystery, and boundless freedom.

That’s what I experienced when visiting last weekend. Walking about town, I couldn’t stop myself from repeatedly looking up, marveling at nature’s deep blue canvas. And as I daydreamed, I wondered how the Winnipeg sky affected people. I mean, is the sky’s awesomeness related to the sense of humility typical among prairie folks? Does it transmit power to its residents in the form of industriousness, creativity and ambition, all characteristics unusually common in North America’s bread basket region?

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Billionaire Peg

For short, locals call Winnipeg ‘the Peg’. And its here, in the Peg, where an unassuming billionaire named Bruce Flatt was born and raised. You probably haven’t heard of Flatt. Outside of corporate Canada and America, few investors know the name.

But if you are familiar with Flatt, the CEO of Brookfield Asset Management (TSE:BAM.a) (NYSE:BAM), then you know that his investing acumen has been favorably compared to that of Warren Buffett. Not least because, since 2002, BAM shareholders have taken comfort in average annual returns of 19%! Phenomenal.

The extraordinarily refreshing thing about Flatt, which may have to do with living his formative years under the great Prairie sky, is that he’s not looking to make headlines or go for rides to St. Barts with the cool kids on their $50 million private jets. In fact, the guy is so self-assured that he often takes the subway to his office whereas financial peers are driving their Bentley or being chauffeured.

Despite his being a member of the billionaire club, like Buffett, Flatt sees no need to accumulate stuff, to artificially inflate his sense of worth by surrounding him self with expensive toys. Whereas Buffett has lived in the same stucco house in Omaha since 1957, Flatt lives in a modest two-story brick house in Toronto.

As for his office? Given that he runs a $38 Billion (USD) company, you might be thinking corner office with all the trimmings. But you’d be wrong. Instead, Flatt is content with a cubicle set near a window. Well then, surely the office is outfitted with expensive art work, like so many other wealthy corporations? Nope. None. Unless you count a cartoon showing white sheep heading toward a cliff as a lone black sheep moves in the opposite direction.

Smart, humble, determined, focused, Buffett and Flatt both know who they are. They’ve done the inner work. They know their values. And they act in accordance with their values, not wasting time or money running with crowds or building an image. Nah, with these two, what you see is what you get. How refreshing.

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Humble Investors Rock

We learn best by doing. And we can learn faster, with fewer mistakes, by learning the ways of exceptional investors. So, without further ado, let’s check in with the man called Flatt and consider his wisdom.

  • Long Investment Horizon

Every successful investor has a long-term outlook, including Flatt. Here’s a quote, “We’d rather earn a 12% – 15% net return over twenty years than a 25% return over three.”

What Flatt is getting at is that the 12% – 15% return is sustainable over a long time period whereas 25% returns are not. He’s not investing for the short term, looking to make a killing fast. He’s well aware that the turtle wins the race. And the race is a marathon, not a sprint.

  • Positive Perspective

When global financial markets were tanking in 2007-2009, Flatt acknowledged the difficulties ahead. At the same time, he was looking ahead to opportunities for the next 25-60 years.

Then he went ahead and started investing in infrastructure plays – pipelines, wireless towers, power generation, alternative energy, ports and toll roads – areas where he saw tremendous long term growth, based on a tea leaf reading predicting upward global productivity and growth. So far, his reading is proving to be prescient.

For us non-billionaires, the takeaway here is to not get caught up in doom and gloom when markets fall. Rather, focus on your next opportunity; focus on moving forward.

  • Buy On Sale

Buffett said,

“Price is what you pay; value is what you get. Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”

Excellent investors patiently wait for buying opportunities; they buy quality companies on sale. Flatt has taken a page from Buffett’s playbook in this regard.

He bought Australian construction and real estate giant Multiplex at a bargain price once it was teetering on bankruptcy; purchased a significant piece of infrastructure behemoth Babcock and Brown when it was in bankruptcy; in 2010, acquired 26% ownership of bankrupt mall operator General Growth for a tidy $2.6 billion (USD) which, today, has generated more than $10 billion (USD) profit for BAM.

While the non-billionaires among us don’t have this kind of pocket change lying around, we can wait for stock market opportunities in the form of share price pullbacks among quality companies. Instead of being fearful when stock prices drop, shift perspective and recognize opportunity.

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Blue Sky Ahead

Confident enough to follow your instincts, sensibly maintaining healthy skepticism about crowd behavior, wise enough to live in accordance with your values, understanding that simply because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it, perceptive enough to recognize opportunity where others lock into fear … these are a few worthy traits of excellent investors. Traits that Flatt and Buffett possess. Traits that you too may develop, with or without exposure to a colossal prairie blue sky, although Flatt [Manitoba] and Buffett [Nebraska] certainly make the case for a Prairie advantage!

 

 

Happiness Is A Hairy Dog

At the ripe old age of thirty, thinking it may be time to bring a dog into my life, I visited a reputable dog breeder in White Rock, British Columbia, whose Chocolate Labrador had recently given birth to eleven tiny pups. After watching and interacting with these playful, pure souls for about ten minutes, I then did exactly what the books, and experienced dog owners, tell you not to do: I made a totally emotion based decision, telling the breeder that I would take puppy number four, who I named Kayla.

As I would soon learn, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. Jam-packed with phenomenal energy, Kayla was wild, didn’t listen, and ate everything. And if you have ever been around a Labrador Retriever, you know what I mean when I say ‘everything’. Oh, sure, like many Labs she would eat food til’ she vomited, like the time Kayla ate a tray of twelve warm muffins still in their paper liners, or somehow lifted the secure lid covering her kibble and scarfed the morsels down in dog record beating time until she heaved it all back up.

But being the free eater that she was, Kayla saw no reason to limit herself to what we usually think of as edible food. It was autumn, getting chilly, and I had bought a new jacket with a leather collar. On arriving home in late afternoon, the jacket, price tag and all, was left on the living room sofa. I was going out for the evening and would hang the jacket in the front hall closet the next day.

That was the plan. And the plan failed. Because when I returned, Kayla had consumed the entire collar! Upset at first, I quickly calmed when I looked at her. Sad eyes, tail between her legs, sitting still, it was as if she was trying to tell me, ‘hey man, you know, um, the collar, well, uh, I just couldn’t stop myself it was so darn tasty! But if you bring home another jacket with a tempting collar, I promise not to eat it because, I gotta tell you, I’m not feeling so hot right now’. For the next twenty-four hours, Kayla alternated between farting and pooping until the collar had completely exited.

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Wagging Tails Light Up Our Life

Dogs are Amazing creatures. Truly. Do the research and you’ll come up with something like this:

  • Healthy Heart. Dog people walk more, have lower blood pressure, and healthier hearts.
  • Feel Good Hormone. Petting a dog releases chill out, stress reducing, relaxation hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. Flush the pharmaceuticals; petting a dog is more effective and has only positive side effects.
  • Connect The Humans. Dogs help you connect with other people. Go for a walk or to a dog park, and you’re more likely to start chatting with a fellow dog person than if you were not accompanied by your four-legged friend. Connections are good. Connections feed our soul.
  • Mood Booster. According to Web MD, dog folks are less lonely and visit health care practitioners less often because dogs contribute to your life’s meaning and sense of belonging.
  • Increased Immunity. Dogs shed hair and bring a whole bunch of dirt into the house. This is a good thing! Because contrary to the mass neuroses infecting millions of hygiene overkill Purell users, exposure to dirt builds healthy immunity.

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Dogs Make You Rich

Yes, they cost money, dogs do. They’re not an investment on which you’ll see any direct financial return. Obviously. But dogs contribute to your wealth in so many other ways.

For anyone who has been blessed to include a dog in their life, you know all this. And you know that whatever caregiving challenges your dog presents (i.e., eating your clothes), they make up for it a thousand times over by repeatedly asking you to play, wagging their tail in appreciation, coming to your side when you call their name, watching movies with you, treating you as if you belong to the canine world, treating you as if you are the most important person ever.

And all this makes you feel good. And feeling good contributes to your balanced health. And when we’re emotionally and spiritually healthy, we make wise financial decisions, we get our financial house in order by taking care of our needs, satisfying today’s wants only when we may afford to so, and investing for the future.


Curated Dog Quotes Intended To Elicit Smiles, Chuckles and Balanced Perspective

Car Rides. “Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” Dave Barry

Giving Heart. “A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about?” John Grogan

Happy Tails. “The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.” Anonymous

Hungry Dog. “A well-trained dog will make no attempt to share your lunch. He will just make you feel so guilty that you cannot enjoy it.” Anonymous

Staying Balanced. “In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.” Dereke Bruce

Feeling Rich. “No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.” Loius Sabin

Best Friend. “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

Good Person. My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog thinks I am.” Anonymous

 

Money & Marriage: Troublesome Mix

Holding top spot on the chart tracking Things-That-Couples-Fight-About? Money.

No matter how much you have or don’t have, money triggers disagreement between couples. Why? Well, let’s introduce this issue by saying that everyone has their our own approach to spending, saving and investing money. And it’s rare for two people to consistently be on the same page with their money thoughts and feelings.

But here’s the thing: it’s never just about money. It’s deeper than that. It’s complicated and thorny and knotty and tricky and just plain tough.

Below the surface, sowing the seeds for argument, is the issue we all have to face one day (no, not the one where you question why and how you morphed into your parent): what does money mean to you?

  • Does money represent Safety? Power? Love? Control? Success? Freedom? Prestige? Generosity?
  • What did you learn from your parents (our typical role models for managing money), how do you emulate their saving and spending patterns, and have you questioned why you emulate them at all?
  • Do you share money decisions with your partner? If yes, do both of you have a fair and equal say regarding money decisions? If not, you absolutely have to look into this because, unless your partner sports wings (hint: heavenly angel), resentment is growing.
  • As for the person earning less money, is their self-esteem taking a hit; feeling as though they don’t measure up because they’re not contributing enough dough to the relationship? And maybe not receiving enough respect for other contributions and accomplishments?

Potentially, it’s a minefield, this whole money and relationships business! But do not fret, for all is not lost for those who read on.

Communication and Flexibility

Okay, so you love each other, maybe you’re even nuts about each other (good for you!) but when it comes to finances, there is close to zero compatibility. What do you do?

Talk to each other. Open up. Reveal your hopes and dreams and fears and debts and assets. In a relaxed, peaceful way because, hey, this is your partner and you love her/him, and there’s no place for anxiety where two healthy adults are discussing what is the best way forward for both of them.

When you’re talking, expect to compromise, to take one or two or three for the team because that’s what teammates do for each other. They understand that money management is a joint responsibility, recognize the pressure that their partner is under, empathize with the particular emotional money-related baggage carried by their partner, and help out where possible. The bonus of working together? Disagreements are kept to a minimum, and you’ll respect each other that much more.

No Two Ways About It: Budgets Are Not Sexy

Sexy, shmexy. So it’s not your idea of fun. Okay, got it. Opinion noted. Now, forget about judging the process and acknowledge that drafting a family budget is The Most Effective Way To Track Your Money.

And when you track your money, you are soooooo much more likely to reduce frivolous spending, contribute to savings, achieve your financial goals and … (drum roll please) minimize money related disagreements thereby making for a more loving and peaceful relationship and life.

I mean, if you both want to retire at, say, age 55, and move to Peru because you do not want to live another day without sipping their unbelievably delicious, delectable coffee then, budget-wise, what do you have to do to make this happen?

If you want to buy a home, top up your investment accounts, save for the kids education costs, pay off the mortgage … again, figure out what needs to be done and structure the budget to make goals a reality.

As the architect of your life, you are much more likely to build according to plan when you actually have a plan, i.e, a budget. And you review the plan once or twice each year, adjusting as necessary to account for life changes. The alternative, which rarely works out well, is something called ‘a hope and prayer’. I don’t recommend this.

For those who get a headache just thinking about the task of drafting a budget, well, technology to the rescue! There are a whole bunch of money management programs that smooth the process. For starters, take a look at Mint and Learnvest.

Whether you rely on this kind of program or not, the point is for you to do whatever you need to get that budget in place, to ensure your plans turn into reality according to your schedule.

Two Becomes One

In a healthy relationship, there is no more ‘yours’ or ‘mine’ when it comes to money matters. When you hitch your wagon to another, you sign up for the assets and the debts.

As a team, you’re building together for a common future. And if you don’t accept this line of thinking, um, well, money issues will definitely be an ongoing source of stress. Because by not accepting the team concept, you’re going at it alone and, last time I checked, marriage was exclusively a team game. The go-it-alone approach? That’s just a sign of deeper issues, starting with lack of respect and trust that will ultimately corrode your relationship.

Shhhh! It’s Secret

Referring back to the ‘Marriage Is A Team Game’ line of thinking, don’t hide money issues from your partner. Don’t keep a secret credit card or make large purchases without telling your partner. In the wider world, that kind of behavior is called deception and it’s not looked upon kindly. Because if you intentionally deceive your partner, then it’s not about money, it’s about trust, and lack of trust is not healthy for any relationship.

That said, no one cares to be micro-managed. In this regard, you may want to agree upon a dollar amount that would activate the I-should-tell-my-partner-about-this purchase-because-I-love-my-partner. For example, both of you agree to make a point of telling the other when making a purchase costing more than $100, or whatever dollar amount suits you. And this sort of behavior has the added bonus of reinforcing trust and respect, and making life peaceful and loving for the long haul.

Thrifty Couples Are Happier

It’s not about the money or being a miser. Rather, it’s about what you value. If you value relationships, friends, giving effort, and purpose, then you walk hand in hand with happiness. And if you value loading up your existence with material stuff, then the worse off you’ll be as far as happiness goes.

Of course, this notion of value I’m spouting is from a bygone era. It doesn’t have to be but that seems to be the general direction of things.

Fact is, we live in a society that elevates a corporate culture promoting product cycles lasting maybe six months, one where we consumers are encouraged to buy the latest model, the biggest home, the most luxurious car, and spare no expense because (hello banks and lending companies!) you have the option of borrowing money and going further into debt.

Stuff. It’s a powerful draw for most of us. The mere wanting of stuff is enough to turn some of us into bobbleheads; bouncing around excitedly, our mind shut off from any other thoughts, like the inevitable weight we’ll feel under the burden of credit card debt or home line of credit debt, and the gloomy pessimism we experience when our financial hole gets deeper and deeper. Most importantly, the damage that excessive consumption and resulting debt does to meaningful relationships.

The thing is, the so-called Disney created ‘American Dream’, it’s not about having everything you want. Nope. It’s about achieving self-sufficiency, knowing that you do not have to rely on someone else for your livelihood. And the more you spend, the more you consume, the less likely you will ever know this kind of freedom or happiness, the kind that thrifty couples know really well.

Manufacturing Trouble

Sure, potentially, money and relationships present a minefield of trouble. But it doesn’t have to be this way. And it won’t be this way if you’re willing to put in the effort to understand the source of your own feelings about money, and to respect, trust and engage in an ongoing, open dialogue with your partner. Do this and eventually money will lose the top spot on the Things-That-Couples-Fight-About chart.


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Enter Buddha

Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

 

 

Omar’s Rooftop Yoga

It is Saturday, 9:30 in the morning. I’m wearing yoga shorts, t-shirt and sandals. Together with my wife, we make our way to the 4th floor rooftop of a non-glitzy West Hollywood hotel tucked into a quiet neighborhood. Once outside, the world falls into place. Gigantic blue sky, sunshine, comfortable temperature of 70 degrees (21C), warm gentle wind, and birds singing their songs.

After removing our sandals and unrolling mats, we join eight other yoga devotees, each of whom are lying face up toward the heavens, smiling. Smiling because this is as good as it gets. This is life at its indulgent finest. This is complete and total inner peace amidst external tranquility.

Settling in, body feeling heavy, feeling like I could return to restful slumber, the instructor appears. The yogi. The Omar.

The Omar

If you can, try to imagine a mix between Eddie Murphy, the comedian, and Buddha. The result would be Omar, former New Yorker, now plying his craft in L.A.

Omar is not only an amazing yoga instructor but also the funniest yogi I’ve met. He had me laughing so hard at some points during class that I had to stop posing and simply let the side-splitting laughs run their course. And I’m not talking little chuckles here. No, it was more like face contortions, body convulsions, stop, please stop, kind of laughter.

But it wasn’t like Omar was bent on doing a stand up routine. First and foremost, he’s a yogi imparting his teaching of yoga. It’s just that, while leading us through poses, he shared his gift of humor. Humor is part of his nature. And thankfully for all of us, he chose to share.

Now, if Omar had led the class similar to other yogis, providing good instruction, tossing in spiritual sayings, my experience would have still been enjoyable. But the fact that Omar generously added another dimension of himself, one not strictly associated with teaching yoga, made the class memorable. And after class, I told him of my appreciation for his efforts, for his being, for sharing his humour with all of us … because this was my way of giving back what I could to Omar. And he was gracious enough to accept my gift.

Every Choice Has Consequences

I’m super thankful for Omar choosing to share his gifts for teaching and humor. And I also recognize that I would not have met Omar if I didn’t make certain financial choices for myself.

If I didn’t spend moderately and within my budget, consistently contribute to savings, and wisely invest my money, I would not have been fortunate enough to travel to California and enjoy a vacation.

The thing is, this vacation was planned well in advance, and I made a fair calculation as to how much I was willing to spend.

To remain within my spending parameters:

  • Points accumulated on a credit card were used to pay for airline tickets (except that payment of taxes, which was a few hundred dollars, came out of my pocket as the credit card companies don’t allow points to be used to pay for taxes);
  • The least expensive rental car was reserved because smaller cars are less expensive and require less gas and there’s no reason for me to rent anything other than a small car;
  • We ate at restaurants a couple of times but for the most part bought food for snacks and meals at Trader Joes because it gets tiresome and needlessly expensive going to restaurants;
  • We stayed at moderately priced but pleasant hotels for the three days, two nights we were in Palm Springs …

(okay, I know what you’re thinking … Palm Springs? Really? Why? I’m not interested in shopping or getting a facelift, and I don’t golf – it’s not really a sport … it’s mind numbingly boring … golf courses are horrible for the environment, a ridiculous drain on water reserves – oops, excuse my mini anti-golf rant. Okay, here’s the thing about Palm Springs that I focused on: the scenery. Stunningly beautiful, magnificent scenery with the mountains, desert flora, and spectacular hiking trails!)

  • img_3091While spending a few nights in Joshua Tree National Park (https://www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm), we camped, not because it cost less but moreso because it was absolutely amazing to camp in the midst of the Mohave Desert’s unbelievable beauty and stare wondrously at a night time sky overflowing with stars.

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Shape Your Life

Following the Middle Way, balancing spending against saving and investing, I put myself in a position where I could enjoy a fantastic get away. Consciously choosing to exercise discipline when it comes to spending, saving and investing, and knowing I was saving for a specific goal, I reaped the reward: memorable experiences with people, and feeling awed by Mother Nature’s extraordinary artistry.

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Day Trading: How To Lose Your Money

A website banner advertisement on the front page of a major online news site read: ‘Free Day Trading eBook – The Complete Guide to Day Trading’. I clicked on the ad, curious as to how exactly ‘Day Trading’ was being peddled this time, and was greeted by the following screaming headline: ‘THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR FINANCIAL FREEDOM’.

Manure For Sale

Talk about selling a big ole’ stinky pile of manure! Let’s get this straight right off: if it smells like manure, it is manure. Day Trading will NOT lead you anywhere close to financial freedom. In fact, the gigantic, overwhelming, stupendous odds are that you will lose money, time and again, if you try your hand at Day Trading.

Why? Because Day Trading is gambling, buying and selling securities on the same day, placing bets as to which securities will go up, which fall down, during a time period lasting anywhere from milliseconds to seconds to minutes to several hours. And just like casino gambling, the odds are hugely stacked against you. Oh, sure, you might garner a win here and there, enough to keep your hopes up, convince your self that you should stay in the game. But eventually, losses will far outstrip gains.

And despite what Manure Salesmen tell you, a Process, a Strategic Game Plan, will not help. ‘Naturally’, these folks say, ‘you’d be a fool not to have a Process before you start trading, you know, because a Process allows you to succeed no matter what the market conditions. A Process moves the odds in your favor so it’s not about dumb luck, it’s not gambling. Rather, it’s a proven method that leads to your success!

A Process? Strategic Game Plan? More and more and more Manure! 99% of those who stay at day trading long enough will lose all of their money. Ah, but what if I’m in the 1%, you ask? Well, if you want to take on those odds, go for it, roll the dice, knowing that you will most likely, almost definitely, probably certainly, lose.

Sure, there exist a tiny percentage of people who consistently make money at Day Trading. But let me tell you something about these folks: typically, they work for large financial institutions; trained in the field of finance and have years of work experience; use other people’s money; have access to company specific and market moving news before the public; and benefit from computers programmed with the most current analytical software designed to make trading decisions every millisecond based on a thorough review of fluctuating prices, incoming orders, and financial news.

As for go-it-alone individuals, they have limited technological resources, bet with their own money, are less skilled, and are prone to let negative biases and emotions interfere with rational decision-making. The result? Risk of loss is much, much higher.

Who Makes Money

Manure Men, predators, scam artists, who pitch ‘Read my book! Attend my seminar! Sign up for my online course guaranteed to make you rich!’ – these are the ones who make money. And they do so off the backs of vulnerable people who fall for the pitch delivered by people lacking a conscience, blind to ideas of ethical right and wrong, all too willing to sell a Brooklyn Bridge or two to anyone who comes calling.

But hey, we live in a world of buyer beware, right? Besides, as Manure Men will tell you, ‘I did so incredibly well at Day Trading that I felt compelled to share my secret because I want everyone to be rich like me.’

When I hear baloney like this, I laugh and cry at the same time. I laugh because the claim is so absolutely false and ludicrous. And I cry because vulnerable people believe it, then end up losing money, maybe even their life savings.

Why People Willingly Step in Piles of Manure

What’s the hook, the angle, the catch that keeps drawing in more customers? It’s a multi-layered lure.

Part 1

Independence. Ditch your 9 to 5 job and work at home on your own schedule but within market hours.

Part 2

Easy Money. On the surface, this is how Day Trading is sold. ‘I became rich day trading – you can too!’ Driven by greed, seduced by the fantasy of fast, easy money, time and again new victims buy into the program only to lose their shirt.

Part 3

Thrill Seeking. The forces that light up the human mind when playing a slot machine, buying a lottery ticket, or sitting down at a Las Vegas table to play Texas Hold’em, are the same forces operating for Day Traders.

There’s an adrenaline rush, an instant feedback from trading (whether win or lose) that satisfies the appetite for instant gratification. Buy and hold a stock for a few months or years? How boring is that!


unknownEnter Buddha

The goal is not to achieve wealth as soon as possible because to arrive all at once would be self-defeating. The goal is to grow – be it material, spiritual, psychological and emotional growth – and in the process experience all that life has to offer.

Be An Investor NOT a Day Trader

Day Trading is not Investing. Do your self a favor: don’t even consider Day Trading. Ever.

Unlike Day Trading, investing is not about entertainment. Investing is boring. It should be boring. Because investing is about:

  • Diligently and wisely putting money to work for you.
  • Accepting a level of risk that allows you to sleep well.
  • Understanding your investments. And if you don’t understand the investment, then don’t invest.
  • Knowing the associated costs, whether these are transaction fees, account fees, fund management fees, and tax treatment of income, dividends or capital gains.
  • Diversifying your holdings to minimize risk and reduce volatility.

Invest in YOU

If financial management is not your occupation, and you’re not really interested in managing your investments, then hire a Robo-Advisor or Financial Advisor. What’s most important is to invest in YOU!

Whatever your strengths, your passions, invest time and effort in developing your self further, going deeper, because bringing value to your self, your family, your community, is a worthwhile endeavour.

 

 

How Media Influences You

No matter who or what is your source of information, how do you know whether the information is accurate or trustworthy? And even if you discard the information as bunk, how do you know that the information you have read, watched, or listened to has not somehow seeped into your subconscious thereby influencing your decision-making without you even knowing?

The Business of Imagery

Within moments of logging onto the Internet, flipping through a magazine, or leaving home and entering an urban village brimming with signs, signs, everywhere signs, we are inundated with images. All these signs, all these images, they’re ‘normal’, just the way things happen to be in our world. And we don’t often think twice about it.

I mean, we know that the underlying purpose of images, particularly when used in advertisements, is to grab your attention, and ultimately sell products or services. But what else do we know, or don’t we know, about the way in which marketing employs images to connect not just with our pocketbook but our heart? Because it’s the emotional connection that advertisers want with consumers; the emotional connection that forms an attachment between consumer and product / service; the emotional connection that seduces us to buy, buy, BUY!

Image Maker Take #1: Don’t Follow The Bus

I can’t seem to get away from it. Nearly every day that I drive, I find myself behind a city bus transporting the image of a beautiful woman with glowing skin shilling for a dermatologist. Having seen the image so many times, I started thinking about its purpose.

The image exists to tell me, the viewer, the consumer, maybe eventually the sucker, that my skin is deficient. And the solution to my deficient skin? Retain the services of this particular dermatologist and I too may be blessed with glowing skin just like the woman in the ad.

And wrinkle / blemish free skin is not the only promise. Oh no. In this case, the effects of beauty are more than skin deep. Below the surface, what is being promised is that glowing skin will transform me into a beautiful person, someone whom others envy, someone who will be liked and loved by more people. With glowing skin, I will no longer feel anxious about my appearance. As a result, I will be happy and life will be good. So you see, that’s the real promise of the ad: happiness.

Image Maker Take #2: What Price Thy Vacation

The back cover ad on an internationally distributed magazine shows an athletic man wearing nothing but a swim suit, a pretty woman decked out in a small, colorful bikini, and two cute kids, a boy and a girl, all of whom are shown to be smiling and running on a golden sand beach fronting turquoise colored ocean water.

The ostensible purpose of this image? To sell vacations somewhere in the Caribbean or Mexico or the Mediterranean or Hawaii or Spain or any other destination that may be packaged and sold as a dream getaway.

And like the bus ad, the underlying message is meant to trigger anxiety, i.e., my life is deficient because I am not half-naked playing on a beach. Gee, the people in the ad seem to be having so much fun. I want to have fun too. Sign me up!

The image is designed to have me compare my life to the fantasy portrayed in the ad. And I will find my life lacking. And I will be envious; I will want the fantasy to become my reality. And if I’m primed to suspend reality for long enough, I’ll decide that, for the price of vacationing in an Eden like hotspot, I will be transformed into someone just like the models in the ad. Then I will be fulfilled, happy, life will be good. As a bonus, my ego will be stroked when friends and family envy me because I have (temporarily) escaped the doldrums that is their life.

Agh! It Works!

Advertisements may useful by informing people of their choices. It’s a medium for spreading messages that we may not otherwise hear, and that may be to our benefit.

But here’s what we may not be considering: ads tell us that we’re not good enough. That if we have this or that product or service then we will be better, our life will be better. And reality just doesn’t play out that way.

The financial industry, including financial media, often promotes a similar message: if we become richer, if we retire early, and are then able to devote our life exclusively to play or leisure (as opposed to purpose) then we will be happy and fulfilled.

Money: The Source of True Happiness.

Hah! Quite the subtitle, yes?! Alright, backing up here, let me be clear: the subtitle is drivel, hooey, nonsense.

But that’s not what media would have you believe. I mean, does a day go by where one publication or another does not publish a mindless article about who is now the richest person in the world? How much money a superstar pro athlete is being paid for playing catch or bouncing a ball? Telling readers about all the expensive cars and homes and jewellery and clothes owned by this or that celebrity?

Why do we need to know who has what stuff? Well, we don’t. But the thing is, we live in a consumer society. If you stop buying as much stuff, and corporations sell less, then the wheels of our system grind down. So, to grease those wheels, illusory need is manufactured.

This is done through publicity that makes the 99% feel deficient for not having enough money nor enough stuff. And savvy media knows that effective publicity is tied to a story, preferably told by a well- known person who offers an image that aligns with the product/service being sold. And people see this well-known person and, presumably, say to themself, well, if its good enough for so- and-so celebrity then it’s certainly good enough for me. Human see, Human do.

Let’s say a luxury car maker placed an ad that said: ‘Buy the X car because it’s a solid, reliable car.’ That’s it. That’s the sell. How many cars do you think would be sold? Other than me, I’m guessing not too many consumers would even consider the car. Why? Because the ad doesn’t tell a story and the message is not delivered by someone whose face is on television or film. With no story delivered by an attractive pitch person, why would I buy the car? Why would I feel that owning the X car would fill a psychological/emotional emptiness in me?

Just take a look at the recent Mercedes ad placed during this year’s Super Bowl. Background music for the ad was the song, Born To Be Wild, and it starred (now ads have ‘stars’!) Peter Fonda, 1960s counterculture icon, who was in the 1969 film, Easy Rider (to sum up the film ever so briefly, the script followed two rebel motorcycle riders through the American South).

The message that was sold through the story? Aging Baby Boomers don’t ride bikes anymore, they drive a Mercedes. So if you’re a Boomer in your 60s or 70s with excess dough, and you want the cool, rebel image (i.e., fantasy) of Peter Fonda in this particular ad, then get yourself a cool, rebel car, a Mercedes. Then you’ll be happy and fulfilled and your friends will envy you.

Living The Good Life

Believe it or not, my intention is not to be cynical in this post. Rather, if you don’t already have your eyes open, I’m trying to give you a little nudge in that direction. Trying to get you to think about the stuff that you buy; the services you pay for; the resulting benefits you receive; why you buy what you buy; and who or what is influencing your decisions. Then maybe you’ll assess what belongs in your life and what doesn’t; and hugely important, what’s holding you back from feeling free and unencumbered.

Because I can tell you this: in itself, having enough money, being rich, being able to buy, and buying, STUFF, will not bring about feelings of peace and freedom. The human animal just doesn’t operate this way. I mean, when we buy something or pay for a service we want, sure, desire is fulfilled but only for a moment. When that moment passes, new desires arise. And on and on it goes, where it stops … it doesn’t.

Same as when you earn lots of money. Your portfolio grows, you feel good watching the numbers go up, but this too is momentary, there is no lasting satisfaction no matter how high the number climbs. And your search for freedom remains never ending until you realize that ‘The Good Life’ is a state of mind, a perspective, it’s being grateful for every moment that you’re walking this planet. And doubly grateful if you’re fortunate enough to have family and friends in your life, a rewarding occupation, hobbies you enjoy, and peace. Huge bonus points if you’ve brought a dog (I’m partial to dogs but any other non-human creature is just fine, more than fine) into your pack.

So when financial media repeats the same stories, tirelessly yakking about how to save for retirement, how to retire young, how to become a millionaire … basically, why you should worry about your financial situation until the day you die, well, tune it out. Money is an ongoing concern, you know that and you don’t need to be told repeatedly. Because you’re a member of the BuddhaMoney community who knows that when you increase savings, are wise about spending, and pay down debt (i.e., The Middle Way, the balanced approach to money) then you can feel good about turning your focus to all the other parts of life that matter.

 

 

Money Rules For Women

My fifteen-year young daughter (‘SmartyPants’) is brainy, enterprising, kind and compassionate. She cares for her family, friends, thirty-seven chickens, eight goats, four cats, two dogs, and one parakeet. Elected president of the poultry chapter of her local 4-H club (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4-H) for the past two years, SmartyPants knows her calling is to be a Veterinarian, her love for animals is so deep.

 

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Like many girls / women, SmartyPants is a Giver, a Nurturer, often putting the concerns of others ahead of her own. All of which is wonderful and amazing and beautiful and I’m super proud of her. Still, with a nod to one of the 4-H mottos, To Make The Best Better, I’m supporting her to become better in the sense of Balance.

In other words, I’m encouraging SmartyPants to take care of her self, to cherish her self, to give time to her self, as much as she does for others. And part of taking care of her self includes learning to take care of money.


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Enter Buddha

Self-care is not the same as being selfish. Rather, caring for your self is positive, constructive, makes you stronger, and gives you more energy that you may share with others. If your energy is depleted because you have given it away, what use are you to others, and to your self?


Venus Is Her Name

Okay, I’m definitely not going to wade too deep into the arena of gender differences; I’ll leave the heavy psychological lifting to the folks who think women are from Venus, men from Mars. My planetary domain, as you know by now, is money. So, I’ll stick to what I know and talk about the unique financial concerns facing women.

  1. Permission To Look Out For Your Self

In the event of an emergency, airline flight attendants give instructions to place the oxygen mask on our self before helping the child sitting next to us. Upon hearing this announcement, the frightened parent responds, ‘No! I have to take care of my child first!’

Sure, I get the selflessness that comes from love. But what happens if the parent passes out before they are able to assist the child?

I know, I’m repeating what I said to SmartyPants, about taking care of your self first, but it bears repeating. In the context of finances, if you’re faced with the dilemma of paying for your child’s non-essential items or retirement, choose retirement. Same with paying for your children’s education or saving for retirement, choose retirement if you don’t have enough money to contribute to both.

Your children can work, they may apply for scholarships or other financial aid. No such aid is available for retirees with inadequate savings. And if that doesn’t persuade you, think about this: guess who becomes financially responsible for your retirement years if you haven’t saved enough? Right, your kids.

  1. Longer Life

Women typically live longer than men. So … women need more money. The challenge is complicated by the fact that women generally earn less than men (the usual statistics show women earning about 75-80% of what men earn for doing the same or comparable work. Why? Gender bias, plain and simple – and irrational and harmful and hurtful and foolish and backward and …).

Still, take up the challenge by making saving a numero uno priority. Because your future self will thank you for wisely funding your retirement, and providing your self with financial security.

  1. Be The Change

The more money you have, the more you may give to others. Consider that at most income levels, woman championed homes (i.e., women who earn more than their husband and enjoy fairness and respect in their relationship, and women who are single, divorced and widowed) make more charitable donations than homes where men make the financial decisions. Meaning? Meaning that more women earning more money and taking responsibility for making financial decisions results in more sharing of wealth and, ideally, a more just and equitable world.

  1. Take The Reins

You love your spouse, your partner. Excellent! But this is no reason to stick your head in the sand and charge him/her with exclusive money management responsibilities.

Here’s the thing: a whole lot of women are comfortable with paying bills and making decisions about household expenditures. Good! Everyone (that includes you too, guys) should have at least basic knowledge (although more is better in this instance) of budgeting and saving.

But then along comes this, this, this … way of thinking that says, when it comes to investments, that’s a guy thing or … what do I know about investing or … I don’t have time for managing investments. Effectively (and unfortunately), this type of thinking strips women of control over their financial destiny.

This way of thinking has got to go. Take off the blinders and, if not manage your investments then, at a minimum, learn and educate your self about investing so you may know what’s going on and may take a seat at the table when it comes to planning your financial future.

Yes, yes, I know, investing can be intimidating, it can be boring, it can be this and that. Alright, now, get over it. Because the earlier you start investing, the more likely you will be walking the path to financial freedom. The earlier you adopt a laser focus on building wealth for the long run, and recognize that it is not your patriotic obligation to spend money needlessly, the more your savings will grow and the wealthier you will become.

  1. Set Goals

Let’s say you want to buy a new home but can’t afford to do so today. Okay, how long will it take you to save enough for a down payment, and what changes will you make to your saving, spending and investing to help your self reach this goal?

Goals help to motivate us. Goals help us to not buy that new pair of pants because even though you look amazing in them, you have lots of pants and really don’t need another pair. AND, it’s better that you forgo the expense and put the money towards saving for your goal. Because your goal, buying a home, is your priority.

  1. Ask And You Shall Receive

My wife and I were walking through Carmel Market, a Tel Aviv bazaar jam packed with merchants selling everything from jewelry to linens to spices, clothing, electronics, flowers, appliances, fruit … you name it, the market sells it. And there were a million different scents in the air, and so many people, and it was loud and festive and incredible fun. For the kids, I was on a mission to buy t-shirts emblazoned with the Coca Cola logo in Hebrew script. Because they asked for it and thought it looked cool. So who am I to argue about taste?

coke

I approach the merchant and ask the price for 3 shirts.

“100 shekels,” he says.

This works out to about $26 USD, which seemed like a decent price for three shirts. Still, this is the Middle East. They negotiate here. For everything. It’s just the way it is. And they expect you to negotiate too.

“75,” I counter (about $20 USD).

After more posturing and gamesmanship, we agree to 90 shekels. Was it worth it, to bargain for a price reduction of less than $3? Yes! Because it’s a game, and it’s a marketplace with buyers and seller, each vying for the best possible price, and why should I pay more than necessary? The merchant knows his cost, he knows his lowest price where he will still make a profit. And he knows the game better than most buyers. So it’s up to me to ask for a price lower than advertised. If I don’t ask, I won’t get.

In North America too, we are better off if we learn to negotiate, especially when we don’t like the price of what’s being offered. Of course, we don’t have bazaars, and retail stores place a bland price tag on merchandise and we robotically pay the list price. But we can negotiate matters in life; because it’s a matter of advocating for your self. And advocating for your self is akin to taking care of your self.

Want a lower price on that new car, expensive shoes, luxury handbag? Ask for it. Demand it (in a kind, respectful, BuddhaMoney sort of way).

More importantly, advocate for your self when it comes to your personal value. In this regard, employers or clients, should ALWAYS pay full price for your goods/services. If you’re an underpaid employee, if the guy working next to you, doing the same job as you, is making 10% more, then you deserve a raise. But you’re employer may not even think about giving you a raise if you don’t ask for it. I mean, if you don’t fairly value your self, is it realistic to expect others to do so?

And if your goal is a financially secure life, then you have to ask for what’s fair to you. You can’t settle for less to please other people because you’ll be harming your self. It’s about putting your self first because you matter.

  1. Vulnerability Is A Strength

There are soooo many resources available to assist with any and every aspect of money management. If you prefer to learn on your own, well, of course BuddhaMoney is here to assist! That said, do an online search for whatever it is you’re looking for and a slew of websites will pop up. For human guidance, consider consulting with an experienced and competent CPA or certified financial planner who is able to review your financial situation and provide direction. However you go about your learning process, know that educating your self is self-empowerment. Self-empowerment leads to more knowledge that leads to more effective decision-making, and greater wealth.

SmartyPants Rules

SmartyPants is an amazing girl. And I have no doubt she will grow into an amazing woman, as will so many more girls of her generation. These are girls who will continue to be true to their inner nature, to compassionately care for others, and also know when it’s important to place them self first, and be comfortable doing so.

 

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Blissful Money Rules

Last week, my 27 year-old Niece called me.

“Hey! BuddhaMoneyLama, I have a problem I’d like to talk about.”

“Sure, kiddo.”

“Well, with my new job, I’m finally making decent money. I mean, after paying for rent, food, utilities and other necessities, I actually have money left over.”

“Too much money? This is a problem?”

“Ha ha, you’re so funny. The problem is that I don’t know what to do with my money. No one ever taught me and I feel like I don’t even know the basics.

“So you called me? Such a sweetheart!”

“Can you help?

“Are you kidding? BuddhaMoneyLama lives for these situations!”

“So, where do we start?”

“Where would you like to start?”

“That’s the thing; I don’t know. All I know is that I want to buy a house one day. But I don’t know how to get myself to a place where I’ll have enough money to afford a down payment and all the other costs that go along with home ownership.”

“How about we start with talking about the Blissful Money Rules.”

“Uh, okay?”

“These are Rules that you absolutely, positively, unequivocally need to know to empower yourself, and get your self walking on the path toward home ownership and greater wealth.”


Blissful Money Rule #1 … What’s The Plan, Stan?

Some folks prefer to surf on a hope and a prayer when it comes to money issues. Not BuddhaMoney. Instead, we favor creating a detailed plan for your self. Because a Money Plan plots your best path for taking control of spending and saving. Do this and you’re halfway to reaching your financial goals.

“I’ve never written a Money Plan. Help?”

“What do you say we walk this path together, step by step.”

  • Goals. Write them down. When you know what your goals are, saving is easier. For you, dear Niece, your medium term goal is to buy a home. Keep this in mind every day when you’re spending money. Because every dollar you spend somewhere else is a dollar that’s not saved toward your dream home.
  • Expenses. Once you know your goals, write down all of your expenses and figure out which ones may be reduced or cut out altogether. And the beauty of cutting spending? Reduced expenditures automatically translates into more money in your pocket. Obvious? Sure. But some folks need to be reminded, to stay focused on their goals.

Here are some examples for you to chew on:

Cable. Cut the cord. Who needs to pay for cable? Really, who needs television at all? For all those who haven’t completely abandoned television, there’s Netflix at about $10/month, and other free and inexpensive viewing services available online.

Cell Phone. Check out discount carriers and do not sign up for a large data plan. If you need some data, go for the minimum. Because you just don’t NEED to be constantly surfing the web on your phone. It’s a bad habit for too many of us. Your time would be better spent daydreaming or, Buddha forbid, reading a book, or tuning out and just being quiet. You’ll be amazed at how quiet time recharges energy and lifts spirits.

Home and Car Insurance. Shop around and compare prices. All the insurance companies offer the same coverage but prices may vary a fair bit. Be sure you’re not overpaying.

Coffee/Tea. Drop $5/day getting your coffee on the outside, multiply by 365 days, and that’s $1,825/year. Yikes! Is it worth it?

Fuel. Fill up your gas tank once a week at $50/pop and that’s $2600/year – compared to paying nothing for riding a bike to get around town (other than initial bike cost) or much less for car sharing or public transit.

Restaurants. Watch this one. It’s too easy to drop big dollars when eating out. Allow yourself a certain amount each month and stick to your budget.

  • Track Money Flow. Once you’ve listed all of your expenses, and considered what to eliminate and what to reduce, it sure helps if you track your spending. Do this the old-fashioned way using pen and paper, a journal is a good idea, or use an app of your choice; here’s a few worth checking out:

https://www.levelmoney.com

https://www.mint.com

http://www.dollarbird.co

  • Bottom Line. Really, it comes down to a matter of priorities. If purchasing a new home is your priority then you’ll start making a habit of cutting spending.

Blissful Money Rule #2 … Save, Save, Minimize Spending, and Save Some More

You’ve heard it so often that maybe you’ve tuned out. Well, BuddhaMoney is here to tune you back in: save your money. Make saving a habit. Because you need savings to achieve financial freedom.

How much should you save? Calculate savings as a percentage of your net your income, after deducting expenses. Ballpark number for savings: 10%. If you can save more, good for you; you’ll achieve your goals that much sooner.

And once you commit to a percentage, stick with it! No creative rationalizing (i.e., but I really need to drop five grand on a vacation to Mexico and I swear I’ll make up the lost savings soon), and no inventive, trivial justifications (i.e., it was a once in a lifetime sale and, really, the more I spent, the more I saved).

Of course, if you spend less than you earn, then staying disciplined about savings is that much easier. If you spend more than you earn, well, you’ve got work to do because at this rate there will not be any savings, and financial freedom is a fantasy.

No matter what you earn, you can save when you cut down expenses. Sure, you may have to ditch old habits and establish new ones, but it will be well worth it. Every step closer you walk toward your savings goal or eliminating debt will feel, well, quite excellent, and will reinforce your desire to continue saving, largely because you’ll know that you’re taking control of your finances and your life. And that feels right and it feels good.


Blissful Money Rule #3 … You Do NOT Want Debt

The blissful truth: there’s no freedom in carrying debt. And your goal should be financial freedom, which translates into minimal money related stress and headaches.

That said, not all debt is created equally.

Mortgage debt for example, serves a worthwhile purpose. Homes cost a fair chunk of change, and few people are able to pay all cash for their home. So, you borrow from a financial institution. Okay, this is all good as long as you can afford the mortgage payments. Because as long as you have the mortgage, yes, you’re building equity. Kudos. But you’re also paying interest. Drag on your savings. So, before you sign up with your friendly neighborhood banker for that big ticket mortgage, draft your self a mortgage repayment plan, and be sure this is a plan you can follow through on.

As for credit cards, the goal is to NEVER pay a cent of interest for credit cards. If you cannot afford to pay the balance owing each month in full, then don’t use a card. Carry interest and you’ll be paying an annualized rate of close to 30%. Robbery? Yes. Legal? Yes. Why do you think Visa (NYSE: V) and Mastercard (NYSE: MA) are massive companies each with a stock market value north of $100 Billion? Charging interest is a wonderful game to play when you’re the lender.

So what do you do? Toss all credit cards from your wallet except one. Suggest keeping a Visa or Mastercard as these are accepted by most every merchant. Use the card only when necessary (other than Sweden, most countries remain on board with coin and paper currency – http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/10/imagining-a-cashless-world).


Blissful Money Rule #4 … Invest Your Dough

Don’t leave your savings in a bank account earning practically nothing. Invest your money. When you invest, your money is going to work, not you. This is what you want. The more you can afford to invest the better. And, similar to being disciplined about savings, be disciplined about building your investments. Set aside a certain amount each month that makes its way directly to the investment account.

Here’s a nut and bolts illustration that may whet your investing appetite: if you invest $10,000 at a 5% annual return, you will earn $500 in one year. In year 2, the $10,500 will generate $525, for a grand total after two years of 11,025. After 20 years, the $10k turns into $26,532.98. This is the power of compounding returns and a long-term investment horizon.


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Enter Buddha

The second Noble Truth teaches that trishna (thirst or craving)  causes stress or suffering. Wanting to own a home, wanting to be financially secure is perfectly fine and good. The challenge is to avoid clinging to these wants such that wants become obsessive cravings and we forget what’s important: to be grateful for our life, for who is in our life, and for what we have.


Blissful Money Rule #5 … It’s All About You

Here, I’m talking about stepping up and taking responsibility. No one will walk the path for you (although BuddhaMoney sure will guide you in the right direction). It’s your decision whether or not to empower yourself, take control of your finances, and eventually achieve financial freedom.

 

 

Happiness = Your Favorite Cheese

There’s this store in Vancouver, British Columbia, called Les Amis Du Fromage. In English, the store name translates to ‘Friends of Cheese’. Hmmm, okay, not much marketing pop there. Alright then, good for the owners who chose to use the French language on this one.

Besides, the way I see it, all cheese stores should have a French name. Because the French know cheese. They love cheese. They are extraordinary cheese makers. And happy cheese eaters, often serving at least three kinds of cow, sheep, goat, or buffalo cheese after the main course and before dessert.

My worldview on naming cheese stores aside, some thirty years ago, Les Amis Du Fromage saw fit to bring more than 550 different kinds of cheese wheels (known as ‘truckles’) to Vancouver. And what happened? The locals surveyed, tested, and sampled each of the truckles before giving a thumbs up and an encouraging, ‘bring it on cheese maven dudes!’ … or words to that effect.

Cheesemonger’s Delight

When you enter the store, competing aromas invade your nose whether you like it or not. If not, if cheesy smells don’t do it for you, then your brain revolts. And it’s not a pretty sight. Eyes water, nose throws a tantrum, limbs sometimes flail, and you exit as fast as you can, gasping for cheese-free air and renouncing any sort of friendship you may have had with cheese.

But if you secretly or proudly identify as a cheesemonger, then this little shop of cheese may as well be heaven.

Nostrils flaring to allow for maximum air flow, you excitedly distinguish the many scents: grassy, nutty, barnyard, yeasty, fruity, earthy, floral, gamey, musty, funky, ripe, buttery, creamy, rustic, etc. Then you buy your favorites. Then you drive or cycle or walk home. Fast. You unwrap the cheese. You admire its appearance. You take hold of it. You smell it. You put it in your mouth. You savor every morsel. And throughout the process, your cheese hormones (oh yeah, these exist) are exploding with pleasure.

Ms. Cheese Lover Goes Shopping

Personally, I don’t know much about cheese. And I knew even less before I met my cheese loving wife. On our first date, she starts asking me whether I like cheese and before I could reply she’s off on a passionate rant about the wonders of cheese.

Cheese? I’m sitting there thinking, who gets excited about cheese? And since she can’t claim French ancestry, I was at a loss to understand her fascination. Well, since it was evident that Ms. Cheese Lover had a host of other delectable attributes, I interpreted the cheese spiel as a character aberration. One which may or may not have contributed to our eventual marriage. And yes, among other food, cheese was served at the reception, as if you had to ask!

Ms. Cheese Lover brings home two or three different cheeses every few weeks. Each cheese is individually wrapped in paper that probably cost more than the half-pound basic cheddar you buy in the grocery aisle, the kind that I grew up on. And the wrapping paper has a price sticker on it. The first time I read the stickers, I could feel my arteries clogging.

‘Sixty bucks for cheese? Are you kidding me?’ I would mutter to myself because I didn’t want to offend Ms. Cheese Lover. But after a few months of seeing how much cheese was piling up in the fridge, and knowing the cost, I couldn’t hold back:

“What’s wrong with store bought cheddar?”

“What?”

“Cheddar.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it.”

“Then why don’t you buy it instead of all this other cheese?”

“Because I’m a cheese adventurer!”

“It’s an expensive adventure.”

“It’s super delicious cheese.”

“We may have to take out a loan to cover the cost.”

“Oh?”

“Have you compared prices?”

“Yes, dear, I am aware of the prices.”

“Then you know the cheese you buy is silly expensive?”

“Cheese is a hobby for me. You know that. Anyway, I thought you were developing a taste for good cheese?”

“Maybe. But that doesn’t matter. What matters most is the cost.”

“Is that so?”


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Enter Buddha

Neither our words nor our manner of communication should be impolite. Nor should either be intended to sow disharmony. Rather, speech should be kind and respectful, used to promote harmony and goodwill.


I messed up. Clearly. I mean, who am I to tell Ms. Cheese Lover that she’s spending too much money on cheese? If I was concerned about the expense, and I was, then I should have remembered what Right Speech is all about. If I did, then I would have engaged my wife in calm, polite discussion.

Honor Thy Big Cheese

‘Is That So?’ she said. And that’s all it took to knock sense into my in-the-moment-frustrated-money-centric-male-brain. With raised eyebrows and a heart perpetually churning compassion, with those three words Ms. Cheese Lover was telling me to think before I speak.

Here’s my thinking: Ms. Cheese Lover is cost conscious. She does not spend money without first considering whether an expense aligns with her values, and our values. That’s just who she is and who she was long before we met. As for her cheese habit, it’s an ‘extra’ ordinary expense, falling outside her usual spending boundaries.

That’s okay. Because the thing is, tasting different kinds of cheese is fun for her. And she’s not breaking our bank. We can afford her cheese indulgence. And if it gets to be too much, we’ll cut back somewhere else.

Tracking The Money Flow

And that wouldn’t be difficult to do. Because we know our money flows: how much comes in and how much goes out. Tracking incoming and outgoing money gives us a clear picture of the state of our current finances. In turn, knowing our financial situation at any given time makes it easier to decide where we can spend a bit extra or where we need to cut back.

This knowing the state of our finances contributes to maintaining our calm (ahem, not always but, hey, we’re human). And contributes to our happiness, because happiness and its foundation, psychological/spiritual balance, doesn’t just come from pinching every last penny, and forsaking treats and delights.

Ms. Cheese Lover likes cheese? Good! Go crazy, indulge, become a cheese expert, as long as the cost is within her means.

Maybe your thing is live concerts, perfume, travel, sports, shoes, theatre, stamp collecting, cars, music, cooking … the list is as long as you want it to be. And if occasionally indulging your wants leads to achieving financial wealth six months, one year or five years later, well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Happiness For No Reason Brings Wealth

There are two kinds of happiness.

The first is known as Worldly Happiness. This means that our happiness is dependent upon circumstances, such as experiencing pleasure of the senses (think anticipating, tasting, smelling cheese, or anything else that turns your crank), connecting with others, or personal achievement. These all make us feel good, and bring us happiness. Excellent!

But what about the times when life is not going according plan? What about the times when Ms. Cheese Lover is not in her milieu with cheese? (please excuse the French; the thing is, it just goes so well with cheese). Which is, um, well, ah, oh … most of the time?

Well, fortunate for Ms. Cheese Lover and her spouse (that would be me), she seems to inhabit this rare place, the second kind of happiness we’ll call Happiness-For-No-Reason.

This means that her happiness is not dependent on circumstances (right, you know what I’m going to say) i.e., not dependent on the presence of cheese).

And when happiness is not conditional, when we accept what comes our way in life, be it joy, sorrow, celebration or loss, then we begin to know true freedom.

We see people for who they are and drop our expectations. We accept life for what it is, knowing that all events are temporary, that we are temporary, just passing through, with a definite beginning an end.

And how does Happiness-For-No-Reason help our finances?

It lets us look at life, including our finances and our financial goals, through a perspective that says: absolutely go for it, go for everything that you want, give it your all, and while you’re doing that, enjoy the ride. Because that’s where you’ll experience happiness and achieve wealth, in the ride.