Ride Your Way To Wealth

Ride Demon (new name for my 11-year old son) recently bought a hoverboard. If you’re asking, ‘what’s a hoverboard’, well, know that you’re not alone. Because that was my immediate response when Ride Demon excitedly told me of his intended purchase. And my ignorance was cause for him to look at me as if I were from Mars. Or just really, really old and out of touch. I told him to go with the Mars theory.

Then Ride Demon proceeded to tell me all about hoverboards, starting with: they’re soooo much fun, move fast, and carving the streets on a board is awesome. It’s kind of like an electronic skateboard but wayyyyy more cool because they’re battery powered, come with Bluetooth speakers to play music while riding, and are controlled by body motion. Meaning, you lean slightly forward or backward to slow down or speed up, and steer right or left by placing more weight on one foot or the other.

After learning everything I always wanted to know about hoverboards, I asked Ride Demon about the cost (a few hundred dollars).

“I have it covered.”

“Oh?”

“I’m not asking you to pay.” (interpretation: it’s my money and I can do what I want).

“Okay.”

“I know it’s a lot but I’ve been saving my money for a long time and this is something I want.” (interpretation: I’d like to buy this without your opinions and analysis, Dad).

“Absolutely, your call.”

“And I’ve done all the research (the kid knows me; this would have been my next question), and this is the best board for the best price.”

“Totally trust you. Go for it.”

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Money Can’t Love Buy But It Can Buy Experience

So Ride Demon buys the board. And he’s having a blast. The added bonus is that a friend of his is into hoverboard riding as well. So the two boys venture out daily, doing their thing, no helicopter parents around to tell them to slow down or be careful.

Whether he’ll remain interested for a few days, weeks or months, who knows. And whether the expensive price tag was worth it, well, that’s a matter of judgment and perspective.

The way I see it, the kid is learning about money management. On his own, he reviews his bank balance, tally’s up the expense and consequent hit to his savings account, and makes the executive decision to forge onward with the purchase.

Sure, he gets a kick out of watching his balance grow. But, really, the three digit number only gives back so much in the excitement department. Ride Demon calculated that riding the board throughout the summer is worth a whole lot more than any squishy feeling he might get from hanging tight to money.

And I, the Dad in this equation, encourage the kid to jump through these mental hoops. To weigh the costs and benefits to any purchase. And when he makes a mistake, regrets a purchase, all the better. Because he’s learning, and what better time to learn than when you’re a kid, when life is generally free and easy (little does he know!), without financial responsibility, and no money mistake will end in any sort of enduring hardship.

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Self-Balancing

There’s another name for a hoverboard: self-balancing scooter. Yet, while the board does its best to facilitate balance, it won’t work unless you find your own center of gravity, bring your own balance to the board.

Ride Demon was a natural. He quickly learned how to stay upright and comfortably navigate. And as I watched him savoring one sweet ride after another, I’m thinking I’d like to try. So he lets me have a go at it. I step on, shake and wobble for a few seconds, then fall off. Again and again. It’s not as simple as it looks.

Neither is money management for many of us (you knew that, eventually, I was going to bring this around to more talk about money!). I mean, even when someone like Yours Truly passes on a wealth of knowledge (ahem), and you absorb that knowledge, decision making may nonetheless start from a place of discomfort (‘is this the right investment for me? Am I spending too much?) and end with a sense of uncertainty (‘I sure hope the investment works out because I really don’t want to lose money’; ‘it was fun going out for dinner four times this month but now I may not be able to pay off my credit card balance in full’).

So what do you do? Well, this is where I’m going to deliver one of those ‘sounds easy in theory but challenging to implement’ notions. You get comfortable with discomfort; you cozy up to uncertainty. You do your research, acquire information needed for wise decision-making, then make your call. And you do so with conviction knowing that the future is inherently uncertain. And if it works out, good! If not, that’s okay, you learn from it, adjust, and move forward. Not so different than life.

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Kid Rules

I love being around kids. We adults can learn so much from them. When Ride Demon falls down and scrapes his knee, bangs his elbow good, he doesn’t hesitate to get right back up, place himself in the proverbial saddle and get back to carving the streets. He seems to have an innate sense of balance, one that keeps it all in healthy perspective, one that doesn’t harshly self-judge, one that’s accepting, that exudes spirited enjoyment of life.

Now, all that said, the kid doesn’t have money issues and adult responsibilities. Okay, fair enough. But since you and I do, it’s even more important to find and embrace a healthy balanced perspective on money, and all other facets of life. Because it’s when we’re in balance that we’re healthy, wealthy, and just plain old feeling groovy about this gift of life.

 

 

 

 

 

You Can Have It All

I’m of the view that I can learn from anyone. In this sense, we are all each other’s teacher.

As for money matters, sure, I know a fair bit about finance and investing. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m done with learning more. Because when it comes to learning, less is NOT more. Nope. More is more. And my plan is to keep on thirsting for knowledge, to continue growing, until my departure date from this planet we call home.

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If You Want It, Here It Is, You Can Have It

My 17-year old son tells me that he’s terrible at managing money.

My 26-year old niece says she doesn’t even know where to start when it comes to investing.

My 42-year old friend complains about mortgage debt and making ends meet.

My 47-year old friend fears for his financial future, knowing he has contributed way too little to his retirement account yet remains unwilling to reduce borrowing and spending.

My 59-year old relative, who has crazy long longevity in her family, plans to continue working into her 80s despite a decent sized nest egg because she’s concerned she’ll run out of money before she runs out of breath.

My 81-year old Uncle, who lost any sense of purpose after his wife passed way, does little with his days but review his substantial investment accounts, the size of which seems to be the only support for his sense of self.

Whew! Not a content bunch, at least on the financial front. And these are some of the folks I learn from, with my primary takeaway being this: freedom is often a perspective, an outlook. And this includes financial freedom.

Because, the thing is, if you want financial freedom, you can have it. But not in the conventional way of thinking, i.e., not by earning or inheriting a gazillion dollars. Rather, through adjusting your relationship to money, by empowering your self through learning about money matters, by tweaking the way you manage money, this is how you achieve financial freedom.

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Money Troubles: Two Sources

1. I Want It!

When did so many of us so-called adults revert to an adolescent mindset? A sense of entitlement, a demanding, impulsive neediness to have what we want when we want it?

A long, long time ago (say, when Elvis first popularized hip gyrations), credit was virtually non-existent. So if you didn’t have the money to buy stuff, well, you didn’t buy it.

The obvious upside of this sort of system was no debt. The perceived downside was you either didn’t get stuff or your possession of stuff was delayed until you could save enough dough.

Then along came credit. And people feeling it was their ‘born in America right’ to possess material things that they cannot afford. And lenders, in business for the purpose of earning bucks from lending, were all too happy to lend.

As for the deep dark debt holes being dug by Ms. and Mr. Consumer, well, that was the lender’s business only if they didn’t get repaid. Otherwise,  Consumer would bear the burden and the strain and the stress of debt.

And why shouldn’t they? I mean, presuming Consumer is of the age of majority, presuming Consumer has been wearing big boy / big girl pants for some time, isn’t it Consumer’s responsibility to manage their finances?

It’s not like Consumer is being forced to borrow money, to max out several credit cards, to finance a luxury car or take out a McMansion home mortgage. So in the end, if Consumer is voluntarily taking on debt, then Consumer alone is responsible for that debt, and all its attendant headaches.

… Stop Wanting! 

You know a simple, entirely effective way to eliminate debt, to prevent that pulsating ulcer from ever happening?

For the single purpose of your financial health and resulting freedom, turn the clock back to the 1950s. Pretend credit does not exist. Pay all cash for each and every purchase, whenever possible, except for your home. And even then, borrow only the absolute minimum. And be certain you can and will repay the mortgage within the contractually agreed upon timeframe.

And recognize that not having the money means you cannot afford the purchase. And that’s okay. There’s no need to keep up with the Jones because the Jones are dead. This is 2017, not 1950. Once you stop wanting what you cannot afford, an amazing thing happens. The leaky boat that is your financial house soon repairs itself. Clouds disperse revealing blue sky, sunshine, and calm waters. Your sense of freedom expands, and life is good.


2. Greed Sucks

You can’t have it all and pay for it later. Thinking otherwise defines greed. Inherently, greed is destructive. It will mess with your moral compass. Blow up relationships. Leave you empty.

So how do you quiet your wants so they’re reasonable and not obsessively focused on Self?

Give some away. Really. Giving away money or possessions has the effect of taming the greed monster. In effect, you become more of a Giver, rather than a Taker. And once you start down the Giving path, here’s what happens:

  • Compassion. Prioritizing the needs of others ahead of your own wants not only reduces selfish desire, but also contributes to you seeing how much you already have, and caring for others.
  • Generosity. When you realize how fortunate you are to have what you have, in terms of the people in your life and material goods, then you become grateful. The natural outflow of a heart filled with gratitude is generosity. Generosity subdues greed. And inner peace and contentment then thrive.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it your self; see what happens. And if you’re so inclined, you might want to think about the following:

  • Regular Giving. Determine how much money, stuff and/or time you will give away, and when you will make your gifts, i.e., monthly, annually, etc.
  • Others First. Give to others before giving to your self.
  • Plan. Take time to devise a thoughtful giving plan.
  • Voluntary. Giving comes from inside you, not from social pressure. Be driven by issues close to your heart, issues that engage and excite you, whatever those may be.
  • Happy. Generosity brings happiness to you and the recipient just as surely as miserliness brings misery.

Yours For The Taking

All those people I mentioned in the second paragraph, if they take on the perspective that learning is a never-ending process, and if they are patient and kind to them self, then financial freedom is waiting for them. Because through giving to others and our Self, we’re all allowed to take freedom and feel good about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

The Value of Indulging

In 2003, I owned a Dell computer that ran on the Microsoft Windows operating system. Checking my inbox one day, I noticed an email from a good friend. The email had an attachment. My friend being a trusted source, I didn’t hesitate to open the attachment. But what I didn’t consider was that my friend’s computer had been hijacked; and that some anonymous, insidious, multi-tentacled digital bug was forwarding diabolical emails to all addresses listed under his Contacts.

Not so pleasantly infected, my hard drive crashed. And I went into full on panic mode, thinking I lost a mountain of vital information and my very survival was at risk (such is the mindset of a workaholic, stressed out, caffeinated, unbalanced, ego driven male species … that was me, back then).

Once panic subsided, slightly, I hurried to find someone who knew way more about computers than me, hoping that my prized data could be retrieved and rehabilitated. The computer repair guy recovered some but not all of the data, and I recovered some but not all of my mental balance. On his way out, computer repair guy made an off hand comment: ‘have you considered buying an Apple computer?’

At the time, Apple was teeny, tiny potatoes on the desktop / laptop scene, claiming less than 3% global market share. Apple products weren’t trendy, didn’t have mass appeal, and the iPhone wasn’t even a twinkle in Steve Jobs eye. However, the benefit to me, a consumer, of Apple’s minimal market share was that the vast majority (we’re talking 95-99% depending on your source) of viruses targeted Windows based operating systems, not Macs.

The following weekend, I went out and bought a Mac desktop. And in the ensuing 13 years, I’ve gone through a few more Mac computers, not once having fallen prey to a predatory virus. Of course, I also don’t open email attachments unless I absolutely, positively know the source.

Price is What You Pay … Value is What You Get

My current MacBook Pro laptop cost about $1,800, including extended warranty. Not small change, I know. But I don’t judge whether to buy a product based solely on price. No question, price matters, price is a hugely important factor. But its not the only factor that goes into my decision-making.

Value also matters big time. And from my perspective, the MacBook gives excellent value measured by security, reliability, durability, functionality, apps such as iBook, iPhoto, iTunes, and stunning design. So all these factors go into my decision to pay the hefty up front cost. That said, keep in mind that ‘value’ is personal, i.e., you decide what matters to you aside from price.

I’m now into my sixth year with this laptop. And I plan on keeping it until the last drop of juice runs out. Why not? The way I see it, the longer I own this laptop, the more value I squeeze for my money. I don’t need or want the bells and whistles on a ‘new and improved’ version when the current model works just fine.

Blinded By The Light

Aside from rationalizing purchases (and lack of purchases) on economic grounds, I have to admit (because it’s true) that, on an emotional level, I enjoy Apple products. The simplicity of design and ease of use fits with me. So, sure, I could choose to spend way less dough on a competitor’s brand that would satisfy my practical needs.

But you know what? As long as I’m not creating financial hardship for myself or going into debt, and as long as I’m making thoughtful purchase decisions and not losing bodily control and drooling over shiny stuff, I figure it’s okay to open up my wallet from time to time and indulge, treat myself to a luxury.

I mean, it’s not like I’m a consumer programmed Apple groupie, traveling to their shareholder meetings or marketing events introducing new products. And I don’t venture on an annual pilgrimage to worship at Apple’s flagship New York City store on Fifth Avenue, the one that’s open 24/7/365 (http://www.apple.com/retail/fifthavenue/).

Think about that: the store is always open. Who is shopping for electronic goods at 3:00 am? And why, according to knowledgeable employees whom I happened to chat with, is the store just as busy at 3:00 in the morning as it is at 3:00 in the afternoon? I don’t know, maybe you wake from a bad dream and instead of soothing yourself in the wee hours with a blanket, you seek solace among shiny aluminum machines within the confines of a brightly lit, busy retail store?


Enter Buddha

One may prefer to snuggle up under a cozy blanket while another chooses to brush up against a metallic machine. Both are fine. We do not judge.


Right, right, I know, I’m still learning to accept that we are creatures of social programming, too often grasping at whatever we think will soothe our existential angst. Okay, look, judgment aside (because judgment does nothing but fill the mind with negativity), the fact is that Apple astutely saw an opening in the marketplace and people responded.

Though I don’t have a teenage crush on Apple products, consumers whose eyes bug out at the thought of being inside an Apple store, among like-minded devotees, smelling, touching, listening to these precious products, these consumers LOVE their Apple.

Consumption, What’s Your Function?

And Apple loves them back. Because they are the ones who upgrade every new product cycle. They are the ones that make Apple one of the most profitable companies on this planet, earning so much money the company doesn’t know what to do with it (at last count, Apple was sitting on a cash pile of about $240 Billion!). These are the consumers that feel less satisfied with their iPhone 6 because the iPhone 7 was just released. Never mind that the iPhone 6 is as amazing today as it was a year or so ago. The thing is, the 6 is now out of date, out of fashion, yesterday’s news and, well, you gotta keep up, you gotta stay current, you gotta have the latest gadget because … because???

My point is not to trash Apple devotees. If you want to stay current in the product game, well, that’s your call. There is no scorecard, no better or worse, for buying stuff. You do what you decide is best for you. That said, what I’m trying to do is get you to think about what is best for you, and the value you are getting, if any, from staying at the forefront of the electronics product game. In a broader sense, think about what ‘value’ means to you, and whether each purchase you make (computers, clothes, gym membership, travel, whatever it may be – since the use of Apple is only for illustrative purposes) is fulfilling your idea of ‘value’.


Chewy Bit

I bought an iPhone 5c three years ago. And for two of those years, I resisted hounding from my consumption happy teenage son to upgrade, to start living in the year 2016 as he would say. But a few weeks ago I caved, upgrading to an iPhone 6. Not because the 5c didn’t serve my purposes. In fact, it was just fine. The reason I upgraded was because the 6 cost me nothing in exchange for agreeing to lock into a two-year plan. The added bonus? My new plan is less expensive then the previous plan.

How did I pay less for a so-called ‘premium’ (‘premium’ phone is marketing jargon for, we will charge you more for the newest model phone because we can) phone on a new plan? Bargaining. You can negotiate with all the phone companies. They are fiercely competitive with each other, they want your business, and are generally willing to toss in incentives to get and keep your business. If one phone company doesn’t offer you a satisfactory deal, tell them you will walk down the road to their competitor. And be willing to do so. The downside: time and effort researching and contacting different telecom companies. The upside: lower phone bills, more money in your pocket.


Mindful Consumption

A consumer oriented economy encourages us to consume (nothing like stating the obvious). Like most of us, when making a purchase, the endorphins fire and I experience a sense of pleasure and control whether I’m buying a new car, a shiny toaster, even a meditation cushion. This feeling, however, is nothing more than a temporary adrenaline kick and it does pass.

Okay, so the squishy feelings pass. That’s all good. There’s nothing wrong with buying stuff that’s useful, and why not enjoy the adrenaline while it flows. What matters here is the perspective that you bring to your buying decisions, i.e., knowing that while the act of consumption may be a pleasure filled activity, it does not, it cannot, bring any sort of genuine or lasting satisfaction.

Once you’re aware of the limited benefit of consumption, and have knowledge of the social pressure to consume and adorn yourself and your home with status elevating STUFF, you set the stage for a little look-see inside yourself. Meaning, you’re able to bring a whole lot of wisdom to the consumer aisles. Before buying stuff, you’re asking yourself questions that matter, examining your personal values, and considering the costs and benefits of each purchase.

When this happens, when you reflect on yourself like this, your values inform your buying decisions. And the beauty of walking through this process is that peace of mind and clarity follow simply because you have considered who you are, thought about your needs and wants, and thoughtfully determined whether the stuff you want to buy is a good fit for you.


Return of the Buddha 

The Middle Way avoids the extreme of overindulgence or reliance upon pleasure for perfect happiness. In a consumer society, stuff may claim to offer permanent happiness. We may think, if we can only get enough of it we will be happy. The marketing pitch, whether through advertisement, movies or other misleading portrayals, can be intoxicating.

If we fall for the delusion that sensual pleasure, i.e., seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, thinking, whatever it may be, is going to provide lasting happiness, then we are lost because lasting happiness is an inside job. Healthy, happy people find a Middle Way, their own Middle Way, that speaks to Balance, and are grateful for what they have.


 

Avoiding Holiday Debt Hangover

Why Give Gifts During the Holidays?

Yes, we live in a consumer society. Our economy would screech to a halt if, en masse, we did not heed the marketing call of the multi-tentacled beast known as … Retail Store.

And, once called, how may we possibly resist? Especially during Christmukkah (this year, 2016, Christmas and Hanukkah overlap so, to the dismay of purists, and the delight of Retail Store, the two holidays are teaming up in an effort to generate a power boost for the economy. My sense, call me naïve, is that conspiring corporate minds are behind the scheme).

The question is not how may we resist but why would we resist? My Buddha, there are gifts to be gotten! Family members, friends, co-workers, teachers, and endless others are counting on us. Because, because, because … this is what we do for others, and what we require of our self. For religious or secular reasons, or simply because gift giving during these holidays is our custom, we do not pause to question. And what’s wrong with that? Gift giving is a self less act. An act of kindness, generosity and goodwill. At this time of year, aren’t we entitled to simply buy without restraint, and take a break from psychoanalyzing our motives?

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Enter Buddha

Be conscious of, and understand, your actions. Know the reasons for doing what you do. Once there is understanding, you free your self of your own, and others, expectations.


Holiday Hangover

Okay, here’s what I’m getting at: do you know how much you spend during the holidays? Can you afford all the gifts? If you answer yes, and your finances will not be worse for wear come the New Year, then good for you. But if you’re in the ‘no’ camp, or say something along the lines of, ‘that’s what credit cards are for’, then I’m here to ask you to please REMOVE YOUR HEAD FROM THE SAND at your earliest convenience.

Kindness, generosity and goodwill must extend to your Self as well as others (for those who interpret my words as meaning you should buy your self gifts, hang in there, I’m about to explain myself better). This means not spending what you cannot afford. Why? Because breaking your budget means you’ll be visited by the Angel of Suffering not too long after the pretty lights come down or the last latke is eaten (lat-ke. Noun. Potato pancake fried in way too much oil, heavily salted, yummy taste, eat too many and arteries revolt).

And to be perfectly clear, if you have to make purchases using a credit card, knowing you will not be able to pay the balance in full by the due date, then this puts you in the ranks of Cannot Afford.

Not having enough money to buy all the gifts that you want is not an issue. Rather, the issue arises when you pretend to be in the Can Afford ranks. Because when you don’t celebrate the holidays within your financial means, the merry season is bound to end gloomy. What happens then? Suffering. And this suffering typically lasts a whole lot longer than a spiked eggnog high.

Once we’ve come down from the toasty endorphin rush that accompanies buying Stuff, and are confronted with the cold reality of a large bill that must be paid in full by the due date otherwise we’ll be charged interest at the prevailing rate as set out in the government approved Credit Card Mafioso Humungous Interest Charge the Sucker Law, we kinda feel … awful.

Our self-esteem takes a hit. We get anxious. Maybe we fall into panic once we’re past the denial stage and admit to our self that our debt has gone up. Again. And we don’t know when or how we’re going to pay it off. And we feel anything but jolly and free. No, just the opposite. Debt is prison.

Middle Way

Buy now, pay later. That’s what we’re sold on, not just during the holidays but all throughout the year. Sure, spending, consuming, benefits Retail Store and the general economy, but is it good for you?

I’m not going to get into what the holidays are all about, because that would be veering too far off the BuddhaMoney path. But I can tell you this: even if the primary purpose of the holidays is gift giving, this has to be done within budgetary constraints. Your budget. And your budget cannot include borrowing to buy gifts. It cannot include falling into debt. Because you will do too much damage to your self.

Think about it this way: when you borrow, you are taking what is not yours. You are taking from your future self; throwing the shackles of debt on to your future self. Why would you do that? Because it’s the holidays and you’ve told your self a story that supports your feeling of entitlement to buy what you want? Because you’ll punt the issue a month down the road, and let future self worry about debt and the accompanying ulcer? Because spending money you don’t have is ‘normal’ during the holidays? Because everyone you know carries debt?

Listen, anyone who cares about you would never accept a gift knowing it would cause you harm. That’s what debt is, financial and spiritual harm. But if we’re not spending money on gifts during the holidays, or giving what we feel are inadequate gifts, what should we do?


Enter Buddha

You are loved for who you are. Knowing how to touch the heart of another, and be touched, is the true gift. Your possessions, your roles, your achievements, your presents, are not you; these are but props, not evidence of your worth.


Hmmm. If you cannot afford to participate in Retail Store mania, give the gift of your self, your time and positive energy. Now there’s an idea. Maybe even priceless. Or, you do what you need to limit spending within a pre-set budget. Doing so avoids the holiday hangover, the terrible stress that comes part and parcel with debt. And just maybe the holidays will be that much more enjoyable this time around.

Enter the Buddha

Here’s what I’m thinking: continue with yesterday’s stream because there’s a whole lot more to say on this issue of money and happiness.

So, I left off posing the question, is happiness a pipe dream? I’m going to hedge here and say ‘maybe’. Really, it depends on you. It depends on whether or not you understand that money is a tool meant to serve you, not an object to which you become a servant. Continue reading “Enter the Buddha”

The Money Journey

This blog is about money. Investing money, saving money, spending money. And happiness. – Happiness?

This blog is about money. Investing money, saving money, spending money. And happiness.

Happiness?

I like to think of happiness as the pleasant payoff that comes about from experiencing emotional, psychological, and spiritual contentment. I’ll talk more about this shortly.

For now, it’s worth your while to toss around the idea that, more than net worth, it is our thoughts, perspective, and emotional connection to money that tie into our balance of mind, and set the stage for happiness. Continue reading “The Money Journey”