Cars Are Terrible Investments

Here’s what one journalist wrote about Tesla cars: ‘Tesla fans are crazy advocates. They attach deep emotional significance to the car. They’re not just paying for a mode of transportation, they’re paying for a slice of the future.’

Yup. There’s a whole lot of wildly passionate car lovers out there. People whose emotions drive them to buy a cool, fast or stylish car. People who see their car as a reflection of them self, an object that reinforces their self-image. People who want a visible status symbol broadcasting to others that they’ve arrived, have dough, care about the environment, or lean left or right in the political sense.

Then there are the folks who don’t get caught up in the hype. These people don’t quite understand why others form an emotional bond to a 4,000-pound hunk of steel, aluminum, glass and rubber.

They see cars as utilitarian objects, the purpose of which is to efficiently transport you from A to B, from home to the office, school, the grocery store, kids soccer games. And just like the dreamy car lovers, the emotionally-detached-from-cars types let the world know who they are through choosing a car based on safety ratings, fuel efficiency, and price.

Still, no matter who you are or what your reason is for owning a car, be it a luxury or economy model, cars are terrible, horrible, no good investments.

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Virtually Guaranteed To Lose Money

Question: Name an investment that loses 25% of its value immediately upon purchase, and even more value down the road?

Answer: Your Car.

As soon as you sign the transfer papers for that $30,000 car, its resale value drops about $7,500. Because a car is what’s known as a depreciating asset, meaning it loses big value, fast. Own a collector’s classic that has held or exceeded its original sticker price? That’s all fine and good, and your car would be an exception. But for the overwhelming majority of owners, cars are a non-stop money burn.

Question: Aside from a lower resale value, will I incur other car ownership costs?

Answer: Oh ya, a whole lot more!

We’re talking annual insurance payments, licensing and registration, repairs not covered by warranty, and ordinary maintenance costs including gas (or electricity), new tires, brake pads, etc.

Question: How else will I lose money from car ownership?

Answer: Finance your purchase.

Look, if you don’t have enough money to buy the car, then don’t buy it. Think about it: if you borrow funds for the purchase, just like taking out any other loan, you pay interest. So if you’re paying interest for, say, five years, you’ve not only shelled out 30k, you not only incur ongoing expenses, but you also pay even MORE than the sticker price thanks to interest payments.

Question: What’s even worse than financing your purchase?

Answer: Leasing.

Leasing is renting. You’re renting the car for several years. At the end of the lease term, you have zero equity in the car. Yes, when the lease expires you’ll have the option to purchase the car but don’t expect to get any sort of deal. You’ll be paying full price. And usually, you’ll end up paying more for the car than if you had purchased it at the outset.

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So What Do You Do?

Cars are expensive. Cars are money pits. But a bicycle, scooter, or hoverboard doesn’t suit your needs. So what do you do?

Ideally, make an all cash purchase of a used vehicle sporting high resale value. And keep the car forever.

By not shelling out for a new car every three to five years (and remember that the resale price of your old car will not even come close to paying for new wheels), you’ll save serious dough that may be put toward saving and investing. That’s the beauty of cutting expenses: more money in your pocket, more financial stability, more freedom today and down the road.

If an all cash purchase isn’t possible, then hold your breath and go the financing route.

Borrow the least amount necessary and no more. Don’t get sucked into the ‘low monthly payments’ sell job. Fact is, with any sort of financing you’ll end up increasing the bottom line price for your car. And work out the money details before you commit to the buy, i.e., know what you can afford, and know that you will pay off the loan within a fixed time period.

Finally, do your best to negotiate cost downward. Because in the car sales business there’s a few things you absolutely need to know:

  1. You can always negotiate on price. And if the dealership refuses, then take your business elsewhere. That said, they all negotiate. It’s part of the game. But the onus is on you to insist on a better deal.
  1. Car dealerships are not in the business of losing money. Keep this in mind when they’re tossing sales pitches your way. You know, stuff like ‘$2,000 cash back offer!’ or ‘employee discount available for a limited time!’.

The usual nonsense where dealerships try to make you believe (‘make believe’ being the key phrase) that you’ll get the car for less than dealer cost. The thing is, dealerships are profiting on every sale. And they should. I mean, if they didn’t turn a profit, then they wouldn’t be in business for long. But instead of fattening their profits, you should be looking to minimize their take by driving the best bargain possible.

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Pad Path To Wealth By Keeping Emotions in Check

Car ownership is a lifestyle choice. And it would be wise to make choices that do not hamstring your finances, negatively affect your way of living, or interfere with your financial goals. With more money in your pocket, those leisurely Sunday drives will have you smiling.

 

Avocado Toast Ruining Retirement

Avocado is a pear shaped, alligator skinned nutritional powerhouse, a veritable stand-in for your one-a-day multivitamin. Humble, ordinary, unassuming, The Avocado is packed with protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, zero sodium and a teeny amount of sugar (0.7 grams per 100 grams of avocado); boasts more potassium than the mighty banana; is high in antioxidants such as Lutein and Zeaxanthin, both beneficial to eye health; is loaded with heart healthy fatty acids such as Oleic Acid; and is chock-full of other vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, vitamins C, B6, B12, A, D, E, K, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. [big thanks to healthambition.com for providing the link to The Avocado – yes, minor plug here, bit of a positive energy exchange, with no money changing hands].

As extraordinary as this fruit is, spread avocado on toast and you better buckle up. Prepare your self to enter the fifth dimension. A dimension above and beyond sustenance and dietary needs. A dimension indifferent to price, but focused only on what is hip, trendy, and fashionable.

 

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YOU PAID HOW MUCH?

A super food if there ever was one, in the USA average cost for one avocado is about $1.30 (USD). As for Canada, land of minimal corporate competition and resulting higher prices, you’re looking at about $2.25 (CAD) per avocado.

But … once the green on the inside avocado is slathered on a piece of toast, gussied up to induce maximum salivation, and served at a stylish cafe/restaurant, the price rockets to $7 (USD). Sure, bread adds to the total cost and the bread is pricier when artisanal. Still, bread doesn’t add much since you could buy a whole loaf of most breads, artisanal or not, for $7 or less. Assuming a conservative estimate of 15 slices per loaf, that works out to about $0.47 per slice.

Tallying up the numbers, we’re looking at $1.30 for the avocado and no more than a buck for two slices of toast. Grand total cost: $2.30, but that’s only if you dare to toast your bread at home then mash up the avocado on the toast.

Yet, people are more than willing, to fork over more than 3x cost for avocado on toast. Why?

Maybe the following online review of a certain café will give a glimpse of the what’s important for the I-Don’t-Care-What-It-Costs-Because-I-Love-It-And-Toast-Is-Way-Cool crowd:

Their avocado toast is amazing. A clever balance of soft and crispy textures that appeals to both sweet and savory taste palates.”

Okay. Whatever gets your eyes and stomach dancing, I suppose. Although, I can’t help but think that when you pay that much money for simple food requiring so little preparation, you have to rationalize cost somehow.

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Hold The Toast and Choose to Salivate Over Your Growing Wealth

The preceding paragraph was completely judgmental. But not in the way you may think. I’m not judging the ways in which people spend their money. It’s their money to do with as they wish.

What I am judging is the choice to make a habit of dropping $7 on toast. Because small discretionary purchases add up. Just like the $5 specialty coffee adds up when you’re a regular customer. And if purchases like these are part of your budget, you should be aware of the downside. You should know that this sort of spending cuts into savings, and lessens the odds of financial freedom today and down the road.

This is the spiel I gave to my 26 year old Toronto dwelling niece. And she shot back,

‘I like going to cafes. I like getting my coffee on the outside. And if I indulge in avocado on toast now and then, I’m okay with that too. Besides, it’s not like I’ll ever be able to afford a house in this city so this is what my friends and I spend our money on.’

Have you done the math? Coffee $5/day, 30 days/month x 12 = $1800. Add in trendy toast, say twice/week for 52 weeks working out to about $730. Total bill: more than $2,500 per year.

‘Sure, I get it. That’s a fair bit of money. Still, you know much the average home costs here. Almost one million! Trust me, abstaining from toast and coffee is not enough for me to accumulate a down payment.’

She’s right. But the thing is, it’s not just about the toast, avocado and coffee bill. Rather, it’s about a way of thinking, it’s about perspective and goals.

As for perspective, if you’re only thinking about the here and now, not the future, then odds are savings is not a priority. And if indulging now is the priority then, without a doubt, large purchases, such as a home, will not happen. As well, current debt, such as student loans or credit card debt, will not be paid down, and financial strain will weigh heavy on your shoulders.

But if you have one eye toward the future, if one of your goals is to become financially independent and free, then it makes sense to sacrifice some small pleasures.

These sacrifices yield immediate results in the form of increased savings. Savings may be invested. Investments grow. And, eventually, you just may have enough for that down payment. And your future self will thank you for your foresight, for your balanced approach to life.

As for avocado on toast? No need to fret; you can still indulge. But at home. With you and your friends taking turns at the toaster, spreading on the avocado, and making coffee. Try it. You never know, this way may be even be more fun.


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Enter Buddha

Ordinarily, our minds impatiently grumble about that which has not happened. Instead, learn to be patient. Express gratitude for that which has already happened, and patience for that which will happen.

 

Powerful Women Pay A Price

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) Chief Operating Officer, wrote a book titled, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. The crux of the book’s message is that equal treatment of genders remains a far way off. To remedy this problem, argues Sandberg, more women need to be in powerful positions.

It isn’t that all women need to be political, financial or business leaders. Rather, the message is that women, in general, would benefit from more women in leadership positions; leaders who would give voice to women’s needs and concerns thereby resulting in more equitable regard for all women.

But hey, I’m a guy. Best to get some back up here from an extraordinary woman, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, who said:

When it comes to thinking about women in powerful positions, we are too often blinded by the daggers of the mind, infected by the malignant mind bugs that mire us in the prejudices of the past.

We need a 21st century mentality for women’s economic participation. We need to flush away the flotsam of ingrained gender inequality.”

Courage and Smarts

Certainly, many women today have taken hold the reins and then some. A few random examples include: Ginni Rometty, IBM Chief Executive Officer (NYSE:IBM); Indra Nooyi, Pepsi Chief Executive Officer (NYSE:PEP); Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Janet Yellen, USA Federal Reserve Chair; Jody Wilson-Raybould, Attorney General of Canada; and Abigail Johnson, Fidelity Investments USA Chief Executive Officer.

These women are to be admired for a host of reasons, not the least of which is overcoming bias inherent in a societal system built by, and favoring, men.

As importantly, they may be looked upon as positive role models, as people contributing to refashioning a society blinking less and less when a woman rises to the top, be it in business, politics, finance, law, media, medicine or any other industry.

And owing to the courage and smarts of this sort of exceptional woman, my teenage daughter is growing up in a society where arbitrary, destructive, gender barriers continue to be pushed aside by determined, forward thinking, progressive, not-stuck-in-the-Pleistocene-era women and men. For this I am grateful. For a kinder, gentler world, we will all benefit.

Cost Of Breaking Glass Ceiling

Yet, is there a downside cost to women climbing a stairway to the corner office?

While shattering of the metaphorical glass ceiling becomes more commonplace, and some women achieve wealth and/or power during their ascent, career success may come at the expense of marriage.

According to results of a study undertaken by psychology researchers Dr. Brian Lewis (University of California in Los Angeles) and Stephanie L. Brown (University of Michigan), published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, many men tolerate, accept, even embrace women participating in the economy on a more equal basis. However, when it comes to wading into the marriage market, men of all stripes show a marked preference for less accomplished women.

The theory goes like this: men’s preference for less dominant women is “rooted in the evolutionary drive to pass on genes to the next generation.”

Meaning, a long time ago, thy creature known as knuckle dragging man possessed limited resources. Not wanting to dedicate sparse means to another man’s child, he sought a submissive woman, one whose behaviour he could “exert some kind of influence” over in order to reduce the threat of paternal uncertainty. Um … to restate that in street lingo, a woman whom HE could control, who would not be seduced by some other hairy, grunting dude.

And as a result of man’s historical preference for obedient women, successive generations of males inherited genes encoding attraction to compliant women.

Evolution Interruptus

So, the more women achieve, the less desirable they become?

If the study’s findings are accurate then, not unlike fruit flies, man is biologically programmed to behave a certain way, including seeking control of his mate. If so, then vanity and insecurity may no longer be held responsible for man’s general avoidance of more accomplished women since, at least in a romantic context, evolution may have passed him by.

 

Should You Trust Your Bank?

My 25-year young niece (let’s call her Millennial Woman) is employed full time earning a reasonable income. Being a savvy saver, she’s now taken the first step to becoming an investor by opening an investment account with her friendly neighborhood bank. Why did she choose Friendly Neighborhood Bank? I asked the same question.

Millennial Woman (WM). “Well, I have my bank account with them so I thought it would be convenient to have my investments there too.”

BuddhaMoney (BM). “And the bank suggested what for your investments?”

MW. “The person I dealt with was super nice and said my money should go into a Balanced Mutual Fund.”

BM. “Why a Balanced Fund?”

MW. “I don’t know exactly but the bank said it was suitable for me given my age and risk tolerance.”

BM. “Hmmm. As for the Balanced Fund, is it managed by Friendly Neighborhood Bank.”

MW. “Yes, how did you know?”

BM. “Call it a wild guess. Did the bank suggest any other investment options?”

MW. “No, but it seemed fine and, like I said, the bank person was so nice.”

BM. (silently) Oy.

Banks Are In The Trust BUSINESS

TD Bank is the 10th largest bank in the USA (NYSE:TD), 2nd largest in Canada (TSE:TD), and ranks number 13 globally. Here’s what Bharat Masrani, CEO of TD Bank, recently said:

“TD is in the trust business. We know we must earn our customers’ trust before we earn their business.”

https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/03/13/report-that-td-bank-employees-broke-law-doesnt-reflect-workplace-culture-ceo-says.html

Masrani is absolutely correct. People deposit their money with financial institutions they believe are trustworthy.

From what I gather, Millennial Woman agreed to open an investment account with Friendly Neighborhood Bank, and follow the financial adviser’s advice to place her funds in an investment product managed by Friendly Neighborhood Bank, because the financial adviser came across as ‘nice’. And ‘nice’ translated to trustworthy.

Look, here’s the thing you have to recognize: first and foremost, banking is a Business. A huge business with tremendous profits at stake [in December, 2016, TD reported quarterly profit of $2.3 Billion (CAD); in January, 2017, Wells Fargo – the largest American bank – reported quarterly profit of $5.3 Billion (USD)]

In business (I’ll state the obvious here), you’re selling services and/or products. And when you’re selling something to the public, the odds of closing the sale are a whole lot higher when you put on a smiley face and make nice with the buyer (i.e., you, the potential bank customer, are the buyer).

So when you’re saying that the salesperson (i.e., financial advisor) is ‘nice’, I’m saying: that’s all fine and good and yes most, if not all, of us would prefer to interact with kind, respectful people. But when it comes to deciding how best to manage your money, really, the salesperson must be offering something more than a pleasant disposition, an attractive face, or a free pen! The salesperson absolutely must convince you why Friendly Neighborhood Bank is the best place for your money to grow.

Banks Are In The Sales, Sales, SALES BUSINESS!

The above quote from Bharat Masrani? It was given in response to media stories detailing TD Bank’s aggressive sales tactics at its Canadian based branches.

Should I be shaking my head, waving a finger, or judging TD Bank for allegedly aggressive sales tactics that are nevertheless within ethical boundaries? Nope. I mean, come on, banks are in the Sales Business! You want to be successful at sales, well, you’ve got to step up and SELL (i.e., persuade, convince, coax, sway, influence, cajole …).

And as a potential customer, my responsibility is to know who I’m dealing with and what is their objective (SALES!). My responsibility is to know that one of the prime mandates of business is growth, and growth comes both from attracting more customers and selling more products and services to existing customers.

Not so coincidentally, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) was recently subject to similar charges as those levelled against TD Bank. The difference being that Wells Fargo was found to have gone a step further, crossing the ethical/legal line of permitted sales practices and subsequently having their knuckles rapped by financial regulators.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/it-goes-beyond-wells-fargo-concerns-grow-over-sales-tactics-in-banking-industry/2016/09/16/d83bf4c0-7b73-11e6-beac-57a4a412e93a_story.html?utm_term=.114a4f895a41

Let me be clear here: banks crossing ethical/legal lines should be held accountable and the public should be protected from predatory practices. That said, there’s nothing offside about driving employees hard for the purpose of increasing sales and thereby increasing the bottom line. It happens, and it will continue to happen, and blathering and complaining about a bank’s behavior won’t do much but raise the complainer’s blood pressure.

So … as a consumer, my best line of defense is educating myself about the workings of the financial industry. Because the old saying, ‘knowledge is power’ rings true. And I’m a HUGE fan of self-empowerment.


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Enter Buddha

Unconditionally trust your Self, advocate for your Self, know when to place your Self first.


Trust, But Not Blindly

What could Millennial Woman have done differently?

  • Before meeting with Friendly Neighborhood Bank, research the competition. Learn about the offerings of other financial institutions. With this knowledge in hand, MW would be in a strong position to determine whether Friendly Neighborhood Bank is truly offering the best solutions for her.
  • Recognize that, while an effective salesperson will make you feel good about your self in the moment, employees of Friendly Neighborhood Bank are not in the business of making friends. They are in the business of sales. So put your ego aside and don’t be flattered by the salesperson’s fawning attention. This is a part of their job that assists with closing the deal with a potential customer.
  • Knowing you are dealing with a salesperson, ask questions. For example, given that there exist thousands of mutual funds offered by hundreds if not thousands of mutual fund companies, why should MW buy a mutual fund sold by Friendly Neighborhood Bank? Is there a conflict of interest here? (short answer: yes, of course there is; banks push their own products not because their products are necessarily best for you, the consumer, but because this is more lucrative for them because they earn management fees from their own Funds).
  • Ask not only why you should buy a particular mutual fund, but why you should buy a mutual fund at all? This doesn’t mean that you should not buy a mutual fund, but you should explore the investment universe, and especially consider Index Funds, which typically carry a much lower management fee and perform as well or better than an actively managed mutual fund.
  • Ask why you even need a financial adviser when a Robo-Advisor may perform better for your portfolio.
  • At the end of the meeting, do not commit one way or the other. Simply say that you will think about the information you have been given and will contact Friendly Neighborhood Bank shortly to let them know of your decision. This avoids you being pressured into making an impulsive decision, and gives you time to conduct as much research as necessary to determine which financial institution and which investment products best suit your needs.

Caring For Your Self

As for MW, she’s one amazing person who’s excited and nervous about  entering the world of investing. And she’s agreed to think about what I’m saying here in this post, and to take time to process how this all applies to her situation. Because while she’s still holding fast to her opinion that the financial advisor at Friendly Neighborhood Bank is nice, she also recognizes that her financial future is best cared for when she’s fully informed of all options, and by making decisions that are best for her financial health.

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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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?

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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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