Michael on October 14th, 2010
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I was recently profiled on Live Solid’s Facebook page in a segment called “Financial Myths Debunked”. I offer some tips on what I believe are common financial misconceptions and how to avoid them. Check it out!

You may not know that I also have a Facebook page, click here to friend me.

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Michael on September 13th, 2010
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1. No, everyone is NOT doing it.

2. Because it will, eventually, catch up with you.

3. You find greater happiness from little things – especially when you’re not trying to one-up what you did yesterday.

4. Financially stretched = emotionally stressed.

5. The Jones’ are about to run out of money. Why keep up with them?

6. Hey – did you hear? There’s a recession out there. It isn’t cool to spend money you don’t have anymore.

7. Once you take control, you can spend on the things you enjoy and, since you can afford them, you’ll enjoy them even more.

8. Savings give you options. Who doesn’t like having choices?

9. It’s kind of fun to have a bank account with more digits before the decimal point than after it.

10.  If you spend less when you make more, you can spend more when you make less.

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Michael on September 7th, 2010
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You hopefully have many choices to consider when contemplating your response to the question, “What was the best financial move you’ve made so far?”

For me, it’s easy.

You: Haven’t made too many good financial moves, buddy?

Actually, plenty. It’s just that ,as I near completion on my manuscript of book number two, I’ve contemplated this exact question.

You: Hey, that’s cheating.

Hey, it’s my blog.

You: Point taken.

I’ve concluded my best financial move to date has been my decision to keep cars for very long periods of time.

You: How long?

I drove my first car for over seven years before it died. My second car just passed 100,000 miles this last weekend and is over nine years old.  So, here I am in my late thirties and I’m still on my second car.

You: With a piece of crap car.

To some people, perhaps–which is why having cars for a very long time is my best financial strategy – not necessarily yours.  But having no car payment during 9 of the last 14 years has allowed me to spend more in other areas of my life where I value such spending while still permitting me to save substantially for my future.

What’s been your best financial move so far?  Please comment below. Your worst financial move? Take the poll to the upper right.

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Michael on August 30th, 2010
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More than two years ago I posted Your Problem Isn’t Starbucks, emphasizing the importance of Saving Strategy # 5: Major on the major, minor on the minor.  Working with Ode Magazine, I created a video further illustrating the importance of the strategy. I think you’ll find it simultaneously liberating and motivational.  Am I right?

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Michael on August 23rd, 2010
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I’m quickly approaching the completion my second book: The Savings Solution.  While the book is almost all new content, I am revising some of my favorite and relevant blog posts and including them as sidebars.  One such sidebar follows. Although adapted from a post I wrote back in December, 2007 it is as relevant to my life today as it was then.

I welcome any and all thoughts!

Before I had children, I traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan several times a year to attend University of Michigan football games . Unfortunately, the quantity of my Michigan visits plummeted when I became a father.[1]

Nonetheless, my wife and very young daughter did manage a visit to Michigan in 2006. And, yes, our visit was timed around a certain football game. But this story isn’t about football.

You: What’s it about?

The zoo.

You: The zoo?

The day after the football game, we caught up with some old friends at the Detroit Zoo.

You: You have friends who live at the zoo?

No, we met at the zoo.

You: So you were living at the zoo when you met?

No—no one was living at the zoo.

You: Then how did you meet at the zoo?

We didn’t meet at the zoo. We met in college.

You: But you said you met at the zoo.

We agreed to meet at the zoo, but the zoo is not where we met–originally.

You: Why didn’t you just say so?

I have no idea. My head hurts.

Anyway, we walked with our friends around the zoo with our respective young children in tow. Together, we enjoyed the weather, animals, and conversation. It was a wonderful afternoon. Suddenly, my friend commented, “Michael, you can always tell whoe the non-members of the zoo are.”

“How so?” I asked, quite curiously.

“By their stress level,” he replied. “They’re trying to see every exhibit before the zoo closes or their kids melt down. Non-members fly all the way from the zebras to the koala bears. They may slow down to see the giraffes along the way, but don’t think they the time to actually stop. Non-members are trying to get their money’s worth as quickly as possible.”

He’s right–I had been there.

You: Because you once lived at the zoo?


You: Just kidding.

While joining a museum or zoo far from home will seldom make financial sense, joining local organizations can have enormous benefits–monetary and otherwise.

An example is my local children’s museum. Admission is $6.00 per person. Like most children’s museums, they also charge for kids. As such, when my wife and I took our oldest daughter, our total cost was $18. The first time we visited, we probably looked like the crazy zoo people my friend had described. Despite our toddler’s satisfaction from playing with shapes in the first room, we quickly moved her from one exhibit to another.[2]

Furthermore, at $18, it was pricey for only 45 minutes of entertainment before naptime. Consequently, we didn’t return to our children’s museum for a while after our initial visit. Several months later, my wife informed me she had purchased a family membership at the children’s museum.

You: So the person wearing the pants in your family is—

None of your business.[3] Since members can visit the museum at no additional charge, our $60 annual family membership means:

  • We stress less during our visits. It doesn’t matter what our daughter does at the museum or if she’s totally disinterested in an exhibit where we had to plead with her to share the last time. Sometimes we arrive only an hour before the museum closes. Since we’re not trying to get our money’s worth out of every visit, each trip is a pleasure.
  • We visit much more frequently. Instead of being concerned about the admission cost, membership means we go whenever we feel like it. We discovered the museum is a perfect rainy or cold day activity. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get out of the house and burn some toddler energy.
  • We increase our tax deductions and lower the tax we owe, since a children’s museum membership is tax deductible. So our true cost to join was less than the $60 we paid.
  • We support an important organization in our community. Members are the lifeblood of most non-profits.

For these reasons, we’re members of several similar local organizations. While memberships first appear to be expenses, they actually save us money and allow us to do more. That’s a fiscally responsible behavior. On the other hand, deciding never to do things solely because of money can make you feel cheap, if not downright unhappy.

I’m convinced my friend at the zoo had it right.

You: But you said you didn’t have a friend living at the zoo!

He doesn’t live there!

[1] I realize some may interpret my use of “unfortunately” in the sentence above as written proof of my immaturity. I disagree. I see it as an explicit recognition of life’s tradeoffs. You can still make the “right” decisions yet be somewhat disappointed by what you feel compelled to give up. In conclusion, GO BLUE!

[2] Makes you wonder if a child’s attention span is really short because her brain isn’t fully developed or if other factors are at play.

[3] Or the subject of a future book. Stay tuned.

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Michael on August 16th, 2010
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Here’s my next video on debt management. I hope you enjoy it?

You: Is the volume going to be a problem again?

That depends.

You: On?

On whether you want to hear it.

You: Of course I want to hear it!

Good. Then just increase the volume.  But keep in mind – in a work setting, far better for a video’s volume to be set too soft than too loud.  Especially when we’re talking about debt.

Enjoy and please let me know what you think.  Like videos? Want more? Podcasts instead? What topics?

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Michael on August 9th, 2010
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I’m a bit skeptical of the quality and impact comprehensive online-only financial planning can make, but the thought has enough merit to have garnered several million dollars in venture capital investment and prominent Wall Street Journal coverage. Take a look at the WSJ article and share your thoughts. One of the key reasons I went to the educational model was because I felt too many people who needed the advice couldn’t afford (or wouldn’t choose to pay for) it. Has the Great Recession changed your attitude about or ability to pay for such comprehensive advice?  Would you ever do so via one of the models discussed?

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Michael on August 2nd, 2010
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I recently recorded a video on financial responsibility for Ode Magazine. Please take a few minutes to watch the video below and let me know your thoughts (only the first commenter gets to complain about the low volume, please). =)

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I just heard about Chelsea Clinton’s upcoming wedding.

You: It was announced some time ago.

Well, somehow I missed getting an invitation.

You: Yeah, me too. Are you surprised?

Not at first, since I don’t know Chelsea Clinton. Or Bill. Or Hillary.

You: You don’t know who they are?

I know who they are – but I don’t know them personally.

You: Me too.  So why did you come to believe you’d be invited to a wedding you only just learned about?

I thought everyone was going to be invited.

You: That’s ridiculous.

I know that now. So I had to do some research. Turns out that the expected $3 to $5 million cost is only going to cover about 500 invited guests.

You: That’s like $1,000 a plate!

No, on the high end, it’s actually about $10,000 a plate.

You: Oh my.

If that had been the cost per person at my wedding, I’d still be single.

You: C’mon Michael, we know you love your family.

No doubt, but we didn’t spend anywhere near $20,000 on our wedding. As such, either my wife or I couldn’t have attended, let alone any of our guests. Of course I would have selected my wife to attend rather than myself, but I am not sure how well the first dance would have gone over.

#    #     #

I realize I didn’t need any security at my wedding, but $600,000 for air conditioning? I got married in July in Florida, yet still “negotiated” no separate AC charge.

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Michael on July 12th, 2010
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A few weeks ago, I put a poll up on this site (you can still see it to the right) asking the question How do you feel about how much tax you pay?

While it’s admittedly a non-scientific poll, the same could be said about the voting for the final roster spot on Major League Baseball’s all-star team.

You: But at least there were millions of votes.

True, but not necessarily millions of voters.

You: Point taken.

Remember, no one knows you’re a dog on the Internet.  Anyway, the results were a bit surprising, as more than three-quarters fell voted “My tax burden is too high.”

You: Why did that surprise you?

With half of all Americans paying no income taxes, I thought I’d see more people happy with their tax burden.  True, it’s a small non-scientific sample.  Aside from the aforementioned caveats, why do you think the results are as they are?  Have you voted yet?

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