Retirement Lessons: Rolled From A Rock.

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A version of this post appeared on MarketWatch.

“How much does your money weigh?”

If people want to engage me and discuss retirement planning, the request I have is for them to take time and think back to their first memories around money. I want them to re-engage with how their views formed in the past, shape their present actions and motivations.

We undertake journeys together – back to the genesis of financial and investment philosophies.

I maintain a passion for client stories. Money plays a significant role in each; it’s a larger-than-life character in the human chapters of life.

Many of the conversations are emotional fire starters; over time, the discussions, although relevant, share commonalities. There are the ones you never forget, too.

I had someone share how adult money attitudes were shaped by spending much of his childhood summers exploring a neighborhood historic cemetery.

So, when I encountered a retiree who learned about handling finances from a rock, well, I anxiously listened.

He said – “everything I learned financially for me began with a rock.”

rock

You see, this 69 year-old gentleman is the seventh and youngest child of a large family from Oklahoma. At 10, he discovered quiet and space and off a rural route. A wooded, gravelly patch cordoned off less than a mile from the homestead.

A perfect (and creative) location to secure his valuables from prying siblings. Over time it became a sanctuary from the vestiges of conflicts that erupt among large families.

From pre-teen to teen, an elaborate system was devised. A natural roadmap outlined on a napkin and changed often to throw off those who may become a bit curious. It was a plan which marked how valuables including baseball trading cards, cash and coins would be secured underneath a labyrinth of various-sized rocks. On a regular schedule, the hiding rocks were changed up, covered or replaced by holes under several dead trees. On numerous occasions, items were lost. Eaten.

Dug up and carried off by small animals.

He employed cigar boxes, plastic sandwich bags with yellow paper covered wire to secure them, empty Wonder Bread wrappers printed with the memorable red, yellow and blue balloons.

I couldn’t imagine what was learned from all this effort. Well, I had ideas, however, I never heard of anything like this before in over two decades helping others make financial decisions.

As we met a few times, I began to understand how weathered rocks forged this man’s money behavior. How he rolled along through retirement remembering back so many years. The cold weather, the dirty hands, the lost treasures formed invaluable habits.

So, what were the lessons learned?

Random Thoughts:

Dig deep into your financial foundation on a regular basis. Lift the rock, move earth, start digging. Get dirty, expose what’s been hidden. Before financial planning, it’s time to expose the deepest fears about retirement.  If frozen by fear, your outlook will suffer; you won’t take actions (even small ones) to get you to retirement; you’ll feel hopeless.

The mind has a tendency to head straight for worst-case scenarios which most of the time, are far from reality. I find when people begin exposing what makes them anxious about retirement and progressively talk openly with those they trust, practical habits are started and forged. Stress is reduced. Make a list of what you fear the most about saving for and living in retirement. Move one rock at a time. Work with a financial professional to create a goals-based, fear-minimizing game plan.

Focus on what weighs heavy on your retirement budget. For the majority of people I counsel, fixed expenses are like boulders which press hard on their abilities to enjoy retirement. I’m not going to make it sound easy to lighten up. It isn’t. It takes some tough decisions. It could mean selling a family homestead to downsize, taking inventory of material possessions to gift, sell or donate.

My greatest friend, mentor and best-selling author James Altucher and his wife Claudia recently dug through and discarded almost every physical item they own – family photos, furniture, clothing. Rows of green plastic garbage bags out to the curb for trash pickup (I saw the photos). Ok, I’m not advising to go to this extreme: I was shocked myself. However, the lesson here is to devise a strategy that works for you to minimize overhead expenses; a liquidation and downsizing mindset is empowering. It allows you to take great control over cash flow, relieves the pressure of big fixed costs throughout retirement.

Move mental rocks and check on things. Let’s face it: Many people think of their company retirement plans as dark, mysterious holes. They may salary defer the maximum contribution yet still have little knowledge about available investment choices, how money is currently allocated or they fail to rebalance holdings on a scheduled basis. In other words, to be an active saver is admirable however, once earnings are syphoned into retirement plans, many of us grow passive about digging into them and shifting the location of financial treasure. The money is buried so deep under the rock, it’s forgotten. It might as well be lost.

A company retirement account is most likely your greatest liquid asset, so it makes sense to check on its progress. Make a point to dig under the surface at least annually. Compare your current allocations to choices provided by your employer and examine how investments are divided. Sell down what’s done the best and reallocate proceeds into underperforming asset classes.

For example, in 2014 U.S. or domestic-based large-company stocks and bonds were outperformers. The majority of financial “pundits” were touting how in 2015, domestic-based stocks would continue a winning run. So far, it’s apparent that international stocks are improving due to favorable valuations and aggressive action by the European Central Bank to purchase bonds, much like our Federal Reserve has done in the past.

Get your hands dirty and expose yourself to uncomfortable conditions. I partner with several retirees who refuse to undertake actions that temporarily feel unpleasant. For a few, avoiding proper estate planning (who really wants to deal with their own mortality?), failing to embrace healthy lifestyle choices like annual health physicals, and transferring potential devastating financial risks though the use of insurance, has led to family stress and negative outcomes for retirement portfolios.

A roadmap based on maintenance of health, proper estate planning and use of insurance where it’s needed, can make a tremendous positive impact on the quality of retirement.

Through the years, this gentleman who learned so much from rocks and dirt as a child, started to understand how keeping the location of his buried treasure so secret, was not such a terrific idea. He began to comprehend how secrecy may lead to great loss. He has a trusted partner, his wife, who keeps him accountable for fitness goals, regular meetings with his financial advisor (me), his board-certified estate planner and a physician for annual head-to-toe checkups.

Recently, one of his grandsons, knowing the well-told story of the rocks, began to do some digging at the same location near the homestead (still in the family). After months of work he unearthed a plastic bag. In it was a 1955 Topps Baseball Box made of tin with 10 trading cards inside including one of legendary player Ernie Banks.

There are lessons right in front of all of us. Some we can trip over (literally).

If we dig deep and often, potential dangers can be uncovered, avoided; treasures can be revealed.

The graveled road of retirement can be a blessing or a curse.

A lesson is to unearth early on what concerns you the most and expose them to bright lights from trusted professionals and loved ones.

Your retirement path will be a challenge, but like a rock, you can weather it and remain structurally intact for decades.

And keep rolling…

rolling rock

 

 

Stop Thinking Now – 3 Ways to Shut Down and Live Again.

Originally posted on Random Thoughts of a Money Muse:

“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die” — and find that there is no death,” Eckert Tolle.

Reliving the past is draining. After I recall memories of the past to write a blog in my present, I can feel brain cells dying. I can sleep for two hours. The world loses color like I’m living in a black & white movie. Everything becomes one dimensional. The spirit and gift of the present-gone.

Focusing on the future and where you want to be is exhausting. And then when the future becomes the present you can’t enjoy it and you’re edgy-ready to focus on the future again. It’s the fucking hamster wheel of our nature but then sooner or later the hamster dies and the mate in your Habitrail feeds off your carcass.

It’s time for you to live in the present. Shake off the…

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What I Learned From My Teen Daughter’s First Job.

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As featured in MarketWatch (well, not this “bluer” version). 

My daughter at 16 decided she wanted a part-time job. This isn’t a topic we discussed in the past so it made me curious as to her motivations.

A new adventure for daughter.

Self-reflection for dad.

Shit, I’m getting old.

There’s a comforting thought.

dad grave

I recalled my first job delivering “New York’s Picture Newspaper,” The Daily News, at 14 years-old. The route was one of the largest in my Brooklyn neighborhood. The lessons were indispensable and are still with me today.

Selling, customer service, handling complaints, the discipline to wake before 5am including weekends, to make sure papers were delivered before morning coffee, and the financial reward I earned sacrificing hours of my weekend to collect payment from subscribers. It was a challenge, yet I remember how the job fostered feelings of well-being through a rough childhood.

paper boy

I asked people face-to-face and through social media about their first jobs as teenagers.

The positive responses were overwhelming. People couldn’t wait to share. The exhilaration was contagious. Many were vocal about how the qualities they developed working as teens, were unequivocally linked to prosperity, financial and otherwise, as adults.

So, you have a teen child or grandchild who wants to work.

It’s a bittersweet moment. You’re proud; yet there’s something strangely sad about the milestone. Perhaps your teen is embracing maturity with gusto, motivated to take on new responsibilities and taking a big step to adulthood, to independence, which makes you feel vulnerable, uncomfortable.

Yea, old.

Ok, those were my issues.

As the dust settled it was down to a stack of employer paperwork; decisions needed to be made about take-home pay (you mean I can’t spend it all?). It was a chance to work closely together and set the foundation for financial strategies that would last a daughter’s lifetime.

What did we do?

What can you try?

Random Thoughts.

Celebrate the transition from payout to paycheck. Most likely, there’s been a long-standing allowance agreement at home. Sure, you taught the basics of save, share and spend early on, helping your child formulate a simple yet impressionable strategy of monetary discipline. It’s time to re-visit the discussion. The anticipation of sweat equity adds another dimension to save, share and spend.

We had a “big picture” talk, exploring options on how to allocate her take-home pay. I was there for the genesis of her financial philosophies. What an honor. My daughter’s respect for money she would soon earn was a welcomed surprise. I never was privy to this side of her. I wanted to celebrate this accomplishment; we selected an informal setting – it comfortable for her to share deeper thoughts around save, share and spend. I sought to guide the conversation, provide reinforcement for good ideas and create positive memories around how dad was proud of her transition from payout to paycheck.

Initiate the “Level 2, Triple S” protocol. My daughter thought I was referring to a new superhero (she knows what a big Marvel fan I am). No, it’s how save, share and spend grow super in proportion. It’s the “Triple S, Level 2” rite of passage. As a child, allocating an allowance or cash for chores, was important. With a job, parents and kids make allocation decisions with greater impact.

Oh, there’s another interested party looking to share in your child’s success: It’s the IRS and taxes are now a consideration. As an employee, your child will be asked to complete a W4 form to indicate the correct amount of tax to be withheld from each paycheck. For 2015, a dependent youth doesn’t require a tax return filed if earnings do not exceed $6,300, the standard deduction amount. In our case, we felt comfortable writing “EXEMPT” on line 7 of the W4; as a dependent she will most likely not exceed $6,000 in earnings for 2015. If you believe your teen will earn more than the standard deduction, then enter 1 on Line B of the form.

Begin a Custodial Roth IRA. Working leads to new investment vehicle opportunities. We plan to fund a Custodial Roth IRA and have decided on a savings allocation of 30% each pay period to be directed into the Roth as a contribution. For 2015, the maximum that can be placed in an IRA is $5,500. Even invested conservatively, the $1,500 we plan to deposit, compounded annually at 4%  has the potential to be worth over $11,000 tax-free when my teen reaches 67 years-old. Time is her greatest ally and part-time employment provides the opportunity to jumpstart her full-time retirement.

Start a cash-flow discovery exercise. As my girl has more money to spend, we plan to emphasize budgeting. It’s crucial she maximizes what’s left of her paycheck after taxes and savings. My daughter’s two biggest expenses – clothing and music downloads will be monitored using a free Smartphone budgeting application she selected.

Set aside 20 minutes each weekend to complete a “cash flow discovery” exercise to review expenditures. After all, having a pay check is exciting. Some kids get carried away and go through what I call an “independence splurge” where spending increases along with the first paychecks. Ironically, I’ve observed most of the spending is done at a teen’s place of employment as employer discounts are considered a “benefit.”

As a parent or grandparent, what have you lost and found again? At the celebration, I shared my early work memories good and bad. I opened up about the time I got fired from Stern’s Department Store. Not my proudest moment. My teen helps me re-live the best of my work habits and reminds me of why I’ve been motivated to succeed for so many years.

And teens?

Your family finds your initiative admirable; also, they’re observing how you handle multiple responsibilities outside of home and school.

Your work efforts are forging their confidence in you to handle future fiscal responsibilities.

The disciplines that begin as a working teen will sharpen and live on in you for many generations.

The financial seeds planted today have the potential to grow large.

And you just may need to take care of dad’s adult diaper bill.

Be prepared.

guy in diaper

 

 

Living Lessons From Dead Kittens.

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Kittens were flying.

flying Kittens

Not in the joyful verse of a storybook tale read aloud to wind down the kids before sleep.

Distant from a place of precious fluff balls, gossamer wings; where white feathers lullaby children.

Just the opposite.

This memory jumps right from the pages of a magazine I loved almost as much as Mad.

Terror Tales.

terror tales

Bone-chilling cries.

A skyscraper wall of piercing sound – decibels of feline sirens carried three city-blocks deep, two buildings high.

I remember. Straight up at 2:10am, my nightmares, which are frequent due to a three-year horrific fight with a former employer, increasingly begin with flying, howling kittens. Fur matted in life fluids. The more kittens, the stronger the images, the stronger I cold-sweat the bed.

1975 – Drowned out pop melodies of summer booming from open windows; 70’s tunes played from Panasonic hand held radios from behind shadows, dingy shades that framed pre-WW2 tenement pane glass.

“Brandy, you’re a fine girl…”

City traffic fumes rise high and hang heavy in humidity. Inhaling them is a compromise. A choice to swelter through a New York August behind closed windows, or fool yourself into believing a blast furnace of urban air is a refreshing alternative.

I enjoyed the confluence of odors; after years they smelled like home – auto exhaust, hot tar, ethnic cooking; easier on eyes and nostrils compared to the rank of cigarettes and beer that destroyed oxygen within our small apartment.

I swear the lead-based wall paint would emit a strange odor when the worst of summer heat arrived. The walls were coated in poison. I was doomed. At night, I’d dream how the shiny white lead chips that always pooled at the baseboards, would come alive, enter my bed and eat my skin. I didn’t sleep much as a kid.

“What a good wife you would be…”

The strong signal from Music Radio 77 WABC-AM drowned out. Harry Harrison’s legendary airwave trademark phrases fade to black; overwhelmed by shrill feline vocal daggers which ricocheted off concrete, found its human auditory target, and penetrated my skull.

Urban dwellers fortunate enough to enjoy white noise and chilled air of window air-conditioning units were spared of the sounds of people living and dying in a restless city.

window AC

I hated them; all comfortable in their icy luxury.

And there was the laughter.

It was out of place. Insane.

No way in hell should giggling immediately shadow the screams. Horror squares in happy round holes just don’t fit. In psycho movies – sure, but not real life.

I approached the red brick and banged-up aluminum doors of single-car garages in rows that bordered the Brooklyn apartment complex I called home. The panic noises I’ll never forget, grew louder. It sounded like babies being tortured. And that disturbing chuckling.

insane laughter

I needed to understand what was happening. My mind screamed “run.” My legs moved ahead. Faster than the upper part of my body. Labored but steadily onward.

I was close enough to observe three pre-teen boys on a garage roof. A kitten in each hand; six small lives gripped by the mid-section, writhing desperately to break free.

The ringleader of the demon trio, I recognized immediately. That ruddy complexion, dark eyes closer to his ears than the middle of his face, the unkempt hair. No surprise it was the neighborhood terrorist, a bully to all: V. He made so much of an impression on me that today all bullies I encounter lose their identities and take on bloated, blotchy Vinny face.

He and two other soulless boys in unison were raising helpless animals above their heads and like taking jump shots with basketballs, were propelling tiny bodies into the air. I took solace in the fact that cats land on their paws. I imagined them a bit shaken, possibly injured, but still able to flee from the scene quicker than these pudgy kids could catch them.

Wishful thinking.

It was a cowardly method for a frightened brain to work through the disgusting activity unfolding before my eyes. I despised the fear that gripped me more than I hated the thugs.

Deep breaths.

I felt my speeding heart squeeze through the veins inside my ears; t temporarily blocked all other input. I needed to see the kittens. In my head, I was already cycling through save-and-escape plans; my goal was to grab as many of the injured I could carry and then run like the wind. Anywhere. Just away. How can I get this done without getting my ass kicked?

I couldn’t move faster. I tried.  I was disappointed by sludgy footfalls. As I turned the corner, as I came upon the asphalt alley between long rows of garage doors, there stood a fourth culprit.

I was shocked to see a thug at ground level. Right below where the three other boys were up and into the driveway.

I didn’t recognize number four; I thought I knew all the assholes in my Brooklyn neighborhood.

Tall, sinewy. I remember the definition in his biceps that popped his veins.

A devil in red Ked sneakers.

Kitten three released – fly in the sky.

Damn the fate of gravity.

Tiny legs, paws flailing.

I was far enough from the action remain noticed but close enough to take in the fiendish plan unfolding.

Red Ked gripped a wooden bat.

In a pro-baseball player stance, he swung with full force at kittens “pitched” to him from 8 feet above.

bloddy bat

The home run kitten-head balls were the worst.

There was living sound one second, deadly silence the next. Mid scream. Then nothing.

And again – laughter. The serious side-splitting kind.

The swing-and-miss felines dazed by a rough asphalt landing, failed to hit pavement and flee. They sort of dragged themselves off, walking with an unsteady gait. Definitely not fast enough. Much different than I imagined.

I observed the keen sweat beads on Vinny’s face as he maintained visual contact on the shaky cat balls.

Close to ripe for another pitch.

I prayed for a strike-out afternoon.

I stood unnoticed. In front of a garage – door open. Empty, dark. I sauntered into the black to gather my wits. I needed to think fast. I glanced upon an abandoned tire iron in a back corner. Upright against a cinder block wall, begging me for my attention. Not sure how I noticed it in the darkness but there it was. Calling me.

I grabbed for it hard. I held on to it like it was a lifeguard and I was about to go under for a third time.

As I accepted what I needed to do.

From dark to light.

Firm stride onward.

Closer now to red Keds, I’m able to observe how his sneakers were white at one time. Sick to my stomach. He looked at me then.

I was the next fat pitch.

No matter what I was in a strikeout zone.

No matter what.

Secure in a place where dead kittens don’t interrupt the summer, my life and ultimately my dreams (nightmares).

Looking Glass pop stuck in my head. An endless musical loop that refused to stop.

“He came on a summer’s day. Bringin’ gifts from far away.”

Surprise. Your turn to be the ball, red Keds.

Here’s your gift.

red ked

Random Thoughts.

At one time, any time, you’re at risk of becoming a dead kitten. Something bigger and menacing will swing at you, long to crush your skull, ruin what’s left of your existence.

For three years I’ve been hit repeatedly by a large corporate red Ked, a former employer spinning outright lies, bashing my reputation, attempting to take me out and away from the profession I love.

Oh, I’m staggering, my gait a bit shaky, but I won’t be tossed in front of high-paid legal bullies for another chance at a feeding frenzy. They took much from me, already. Money, family, physical and mental health. But I’m still here. And I have found my weapons.

Ready to strike. My turn to swing.

It’s these incidents, the events that position me next in line behind the next dead kitten, that ultimately define how quickly I escape and survive (thrive). Unfortunately, I know Louisville Sluggers continue to lurk; bullies are like that. Life is good. Then they come out of nowhere just to fuck with you. Dryer lint can catch on fire and take the house down with it. I heard that.

Whatever swings with murder in its eyes, will eventually tire and move on because it can’t kill me. What stays after the hit sharpens my resolve, clarifies me and steels my purpose. And I’m not sure what energy stays exactly, but I’m glad for it. Like a warm, comforting shadow. Bullies and dead kittens show up right before defining moments.

It’s all about tire irons. The strongest arsenal, the most effective weapons I possess reveal themselves deep in black corners. Just when I think I’m a sitting duck, an obliterated feline, I accept and allow what’s about to happen as if I chose it. At that point, I am a clear thinker. A fighter.

Many people look for hope in light. Not sure I get it. I’ve learned that you must venture and stumble through darkness to discover what’s good. The universe reveals itself and nurtures me when I accept my fate and understand deeply that what I’m experiencing, as painful as it may be, needed to occur.

It couldn’t have happened any other way.

Looking back, those challenging episodes have formed a perspective I’ve used to help others make their way through red Ked moments.

Death is only the beginning. A music legend once told me that death is only the beginning. Near death, too. And before he passed, he told me again. I’m thinking in life we face several deaths. Illness, divorce, loss of inner circle relationships. And the beat goes on. Then stops. Then continues. The beating is the same, the sound is different.

Before nightfall I sit in the backyard, my dog Rosie next to me. I ponder who and what I lost up to then. I sort of feel like Michael Corleone at the end of Godfather III. Alone. Thinking in my last scene I should fall out of my chair. Dead. Rosie’s hot breath yapping in my cold face.

What an embarrassing way to go for Michael.

dead michael

Except I don’t drop. I’m fortunate to remember that with each liability, every loss, I gain a greater asset.

And I’m at peace. Finally.

Dead kittens are also dead presidents. How many times have I bloodied my net worth with a bat? Oh, many. I’ve loaned money to relatives who didn’t care if my credit went bust (never again), I worked for one of the worst penny stock chop shops and had my father purchase stock I knew would go bust (sorry dad), just to collect a commission, I have over-purchased shit I didn’t need, spent extravagantly at restaurants, too much wine. All dead money that taught me valuable living lessons.

“Hey asshole, what do you think you’re going to do with that thing?”

And as kittens were falling, I kicked red Ked in the shin. Before another word, he went down. I remember one furball jump in panic over his face, her back paws scratching deep into red Ked forehead (score).

I then slammed the iron down hard on his right shoulder.

RK lost his grip on the bat.

I wanted to hit him again.

I wanted him dead.

For all the kittens.

Past, present and future.

I grabbed his weapon and ran.

Directly to my Cousin Louis’ apartment 9 blocks away. He was NYPD. Built like Sly Stallone.

When I’m asleep and I see dead kittens, I know something big and life-changing is clawing at me.

Another lesson up at bat.

From the blood.

The music plays in my head.

And they disappear.

At least for now.

I hit the snooze.

“I know what you look like and I’ll see you before long.”

Ben Nichols.

This Old Death.

kittens with angel wings

An Extended Warranty: Do You Really Need One?

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As featured in USA Today for NerdWallet. 

It seems you can’t buy anything without escaping that awkward encounter just when you think your transaction is concluded.

“You can buy an extended warranty for an additional ____ dollars. Wouldn’t you like to protect your purchase?”

It feels like a wallet violation.

At least buy me dinner first.

It’s enough to keep me out of brick & mortar stores forever.

cash register

I’m not sure why I consistently feel bad saying no, and I teach financial discipline for a living. I want to feel good about what I spend money on, not guilty. It feels wrong to leave my purchase exposed to who knows what. Most of the time I politely say no and quickly move on.

Extended warranties have become a profit center for businesses, especially retailers. The peace of mind can be costly. For example, on average, an extended warranty can add an additional 10% to 25% to the purchase price of an item. There’s no doubt they’re considered a formidable driver of revenue.

When you think of the most common extended warranty, you may think of those for cars. However, they’re now offered on almost every consumer durable you buy. Recently, a good friend was offered an extended warranty for $14 on a $75 football from a national sporting goods chain. Of course he was wise enough to turn it down.

So, how do you determine when it’s smart to consider an extended warranty?

1. If replacing the item would lead to financial strain, transfer the risk.

Regardless of the cost of the product or service, an extended warranty should be considered if repairs or replacement could drain emergency cash reserves or increase your credit card debt. You don’t need to decide on an extended warranty right away. You’ll have a period of time, usually 30 days from the date of the transaction, to add coverage. Review what is covered under the standard warranty; for example, most services and goods will carry some form of protection or replacement for at least a year. If a major repair or replacement has the potential to place your household balance sheet in jeopardy, then it makes sense to transfer the risk to the manufacturer and pay for protection.

2. The bigger the purchase, the greater the consideration.

Durable goods like refrigerators, televisions, dishwashers, washers and dryers all come with standard warranties. Extended protection may not be required, as these items don’t break down frequently. However, before you say no, it’s best to investigate objective sources for repair histories for brands you’re seeking to purchase. Examine ratings on a website like www.consumerreports.org. Rarely do durables break down during the warranty period, according to Consumer Reports.

3. Forget the warranty; remember your savings account.

Instead of a warranty, consider directing money you would have spent into your emergency savings or money market account. Think of it as a cash bolster to handle repairs. In the case of a $250 warranty, add $21 a month to your budget.

4. Don’t get caught in the moment.

You may think that spending an additional 10% to 25% is no big deal after spending hundreds of dollars on something you want. Your brain will consider the purchase of an extended warranty small when compared to the greater cost of the item. As consumers we have a difficult time maintaining a rational head when it comes to additional expenditures for big purchases. Take time to step back and weigh the pros and cons. Examine the extended coverage as a stand-alone expense and the odds of using it.

5. Buy with your weaknesses in mind.

I purchase extended warranties for all portable electronics including laptops and smartphones if they cover accidental damage. I know my weaknesses; I tend to be clumsy with computers and cellphones. Make sure to examine how many instances are covered (plans will have limits) and the specifics for accident coverage. Understand your faults and use extended warranties when it protects your purchases against them.

6. How much is that item used?

Extended warranties can be useful for durable used items like automobiles and appliances. To cover your automobile, compare the costs of a dealer warranty to an independent organization like www.carchex.com, which offers several tiers of coverage (Titanium being the most inclusive). Home warranties that cover aging heating and air-conditioning systems can be worth the cost. It’s important to understand that standard maintenance is not included nor is full replacement. However, to keep appliances in operation longer and avoid the potential of frequent costly repairs, the expense of an extended warranty should be investigated.

7. Sometimes, extended warranties just don’t make sense.

Like my friend who was offered an extended warranty to protect against a flattened football, there are occasions when you’ll wonder how retailers have the nerve to sell coverage. If the purchase is $100 or less, take the chance with the manufacturer’s warranty and don’t worry about paying for an extended agreement.

In the frenzy of shopping, it’s easy to relent and say yes to aggressive salespeople.

When it comes to extended warranty purchases, don’t rush. Make the decision after reviewing the facts in the comfort of home, not in a pressured situation like checking out at a register with a line of shoppers behind you.

Many believe that extended warranties provide peace of mind.

How much is peace of mind truly costing you?

 

God Knows Where You Belong (Even When You Don’t).

Richard Rosso:

Every year, it was an adventure I looked forward to. A chance to escape the urban filth, the smell of incinerated used Kotex pads, the endless mounds of dog shit. A daddy/son adventure.

To upstate New York.

Originally posted on Random Thoughts of a Money Muse:

September 1970: “Shut the fuck up back there!”

Image

It was a cavernous black-on-black metal beast out of Detroit. A 1969 Cadillac Convertible with slick leather seats. With each turn, lane change, interchange between brake and acceleration, my little body was slung from side to side in the backseat (we weren’t fans of seatbelts back then) like an amusement ride just for me.

Every year, it was an adventure I looked forward to. A chance to escape the urban filth, the smell of incinerated used Kotex pads, the endless mounds of dog shit. A daddy/son adventure.

To upstate New York.

Where trees survived in packs and the air smelled sweet. The Catskills, specifically. The plan was always the same: First, the Catskill Game Farm (now gone), then Carson City (gone too), and last, a small retail establishment named “Roy’s,” which only sold stuffed animals.

Hundreds of them. I’ll never forget behind the front plate-glass window sat…

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Going “Double-Zero” – Five Steps To Greater Happiness & Wealth.

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I remember her.

How she looked then.

this is 1972

Funny.

It took me almost as long to write this blog post; the lingering sorrow of inner-circle loss is torpor for the soul. I never get used to it no matter how many times people depart on their own or I’m motivated to head out of Dodge.

Writing about this topic resurrects mourning and at the same time, casts a different light on tenebrous memories. Surrounded by the spirits of those who are gone steels my judgment, sharpens my perspective and allows me to effectively face my own weaknesses and all-too humanity.

Human losses define my Phase 2; the new, improved and clear headed iteration of me. Sharp edges cut clean to acceptance. Free of shackles.

All human connections good or bad, add richness to life. Although the bad ones fill volumes of lesson books with razor-bladed pages. Bleed and turn, bleed more.

Healthy relationships that turn black are worse.

cancer cells

Unfortunately, life suspended in a cancerous relationship soup, sucks away enough energy to prevent the spirit from moving on, growing. Self-worth fades to the grated pallor of steel. Perspective flash freezes like moisture in a high mid-winter sky.

You’re heavy, stuck and falling.

But there’s only so much pain a person can take. Everybody has a trigger, a breaking point. Something happens that jolts an awakening. Could be as subtle as a recurring, inner whisper. A word. An action. Or as dramatic as a crash and burn (I’m Italian; we add drama to our rigatoni).

By the time that happens, healing has begun. Before you know it the circle will begin again. A new connection, a stronger chain, a weaker link. The leaded steamroller of life moves forward – flesh, blood and emotions in its wake.

I look up to the clouds often. I breathe in the vast universe to revitalize my small world. Let’s say I focus higher to stay closer to the ground, especially when I lose those I care about.

In the past, blinded by my ego and overtaken by the egos of others, the sky meant nothing. Looking back, I’m not sure what happened to replenish my appreciation of simple things. It’s all a big blur. Ironically, I’m grateful how I mistakenly granted admittance to my inner circle to the wrong people, organizations and feelings because they all lead me to where I am today.

The friendship that began in 1972, between T and me, has created several of my deepest pauses of reflection. Months, years, years beyond years do that.

She was my dearest crush in fourth grade. I awkwardly stumbled through many juvenile affairs of the heart then – most of them hidden behind painful shyness, a lack of self-confidence driven by sappy daydreams of holding hands walking home from school.

On Friday nights, I pounded away – creating love notes on a baby-blue & white typewriter to school girls who would never care to read them. I barely recall their names but I never forget hers.

Rosso typewriter

She filtered simple, daily life experiences through a happiness prism which I found interesting at such a young age. I was an eternal fatalist. I saw the worst in everything first. I went directly to the worst-case scenario.

T was diplomatic to a fault. I was jealous of her consistently positive (occasionally cloying) perceptions of the world around her. Even when diagnosed with advanced breast cancer that upbeat perspective rarely waned. I waned. When she told me, all I had for her was silence.

“Hey, I’m not dead, yet.”

I admired her nature. She was restive, I was restless. She was a healthy distraction from my parent’s invidious marriage. Everybody wanted to be her friend.

I wouldn’t call T a frequent gambler although she had a strange passion for roulette. That’s it. Roulette. When I was 14 my parents bought me a roulette set (made by Kenner Toys, I think) for Christmas. We spun the silver disc inside that black, plastic wheel for hours. The thrill of hitting chosen numbers or black or red captured our attention.

The excitement was greater for T as she consistently played zero or double-zero. It was the deep green color that stood out in a sea of dark on a felt “table.” It felt different for her. She basked in the beauty of rare moments (like hitting the zeroes). Every time she hit it, which seemed often, I would get pissed off.

Personally, I rarely played the green zone. I think the odds of hitting zero or double-zero are like a bazillion to ten. I sought stronger probabilities.

Not T.

“I like the feeling I get when I hit double-zero.”

I so wanted a to feel like that look on T’s face when that little silver ball hit 00. Or when she beat breast cancer the first time in 1994. That smile. Post-brace face. Unforgettable. A grin born from the positive attitude which defined every part of her.

I asked her why and how she believed the impossible was possible.

She said – “because I make room for it.”

That was it.

She made room: In other words, there was a place in T’s mind and heart that created space for the impossible to be possible.

Her life was defined by double-zero.

double zero wheel

Making room.

So in honor of T’s life and eternal life, I made it my mission to make room.

Go double-zero.

I started finding and cutting away my definition of cancer: Connections with people who drained my energy, fed off anger and frankly no longer fit into the positive life I was finally beginning to cultivate.

It’s not that they were bad; just bad for me.

I began to understand what she had been trying to tell me for decades.

And now, so should you.

Random Thoughts:

1). Double-zero creates space to breathe. It redefines the sky you’ve ignored. It allows you to fill your present with positive people and increased productivity as mental fatigue diminishes.

2). With double-zero you land less on black. There’s white space created for activities that fill in the hole. Great room to undertake those projects which fulfill you. The more you hit on 00, the faster your spin lands on inner peace. And it happens more often than it could in Roulette.

3). Double-zero is a clean slate. You’re open to new lessons; it’s a creator of second chances. The rebirth of a stronger inner circle.

4). Double-zero is not just a burning bridge. It’s using the intense light and heat from the fire to blind you from who and what you removed. It’s scorched earth. It’s the adult version of “you’re dead to me.” It’s cutting out, going cold turkey on cancerous people, situations, subjects, so you can live. No. Thrive. Never go back. Once you hit 00, take your sanity and cash out.

Double-zero isn’t forgiveness. Oh no. It’s inflamed forbearance. An internal act of defiance that transmits a clear, outward message to those who are unethical, untrustworthy and unwilling to to exhibit loyalties to love, silence, commitment and grace.

5). Someone is about to 00 you. Be ready. We have all been and will continue to be double-zeroed by others. It’s OK. Time to self-reflect. Most likely, you initiated 00, motivated the spin. Own it, burn it, move on.

Naturally, T would say I’m perceiving double-zero all wrong.

Damn my negativity.

negativity

Here are additional random thoughts T would place a stamp of approval on if she could.

 A). Double-zero is making that call you’re hesitant to make. The one that makes you a target, open to hurt. Vulnerable. It’s also the one that may positively change your life forever.

B). Double-zero is a complete awareness of who you are. And the great value you bring to the table. It’s destroying what society tells you is success and re-defining it outside the cubicle, middle management and others who “just don’t get you.”

C). Double-zero fuels you to fight another day. Positive energy is contagious. You’ll attract light, warmth and peace. Over time, you’ll be addicted to 00. Odds will be in your favor.

D). Double-zero is making radical changes to your finances. It’s shrinking to grow. It’s working on taking more in and having less go out. It’s freedom from debilitating debts to pursue what you love, not what you do to pay a big mortgage.

E). Double-zero is taking a stand. Recognizing and believing in the possibilities which can come from saying no more often, pursuing interests that fulfill your soul and again, cutting deep and away from all who choke off positive flow. You’ll look up at the sky more often.

Teresa, if your energy is still here, if your afterburn is around me – I feel it.

Thank you.

Rest well.

In your death, I found a secret of a life.

And I think others will, too.