All posts by tonyf1118@yahoo.com

Embracing Abundance

Many gurus in the plethora of books that I have read in what I call the “Change Your Way of Thinking/Improve Your Life/Become Wealthy” genre of books challenge my way of thinking.  I do not merely call them self-help books because many of the books that I read would not be catalogued with those, but in personal finance or some other category altogether.

Yes, I am the middle aged Midwesterner author of the Middle Class Guy, and have previously been a middle class baby, a middle class kid, a middle class teenager and a middle class young man before reaching my mid-forties.  If I do not think in terms of scarcity, seeking safety and trying to preserve what little that my family has, how else am I supposed to think?

How is it that my younger brother, who was raised in the same home by the same parents as me and my sister thinks so differently than we do?  How is it that he can comprehend the notion of Abundance better than our sister can, and she comprehends it better than I can?

There may be a number of reasons why, including that my father did not really hit his stride in making a good income until my younger siblings were coming of age, and when I was in my younger years, there was a higher amount of scarcity in our family.

Perhaps it is because of the abundance of lecturing by my Great Depression-era grandfathers, who always preached frugality and saving up for a rainy day and striving to achieve a pension and a healthy Nest Egg.  They always preached security over thinking big and rolling the dice.

Perhaps it is because we, ourselves, have been scraping by for over nineteen years since my wife and I jointly decided that she could become a stay-at-home Mom.

Having been a Middle Class Guy for so long, I fear losing my job and thus causing my family to rapidly drop out of Middle Class America. I have seen it happen to others, and it may in fact be my second greatest fear, after fearing for my family’s physical safety and health.

Although I realize that the world is a place of abundance, it just feels like I am, like so many others, constantly struggling to make ends meet, providing for my family, doing my best to put my children through college with minimal debt, and all while Paying Myself First and trying to build some retirement savings.  When you commonly have more money going out than in your bank account, it does not feel like the world is a place of abundance.

When everyone that we know can purchase new vehicles, go on great vacations several times per year, and purchase all the latest gadgets, but we can’t, it does not feel like a world of abundance, either.

It has taken me years to realize that it is not a shame that we struggle to keep up with the Joneses, it is more a testament to my wife and I that we are able to send our children to the same schools and participate in many of the same activities as the Joneses’ children, even though most other families in our circle are in a higher income bracket.  I am not assuming that they are based upon their higher amounts of consumption than us (with the exception of our grocery shopping and eating habits), but due to the fact that many, if not all of them, are two full-time income families in professional positions.

The other women that my wife associates with who are also stay-at-home Moms with breadwinner husbands tend to be married to doctors, dentists, financiers or business owners.  There are not a lot of stay-at-home Moms in the northwest suburbs whose husbands are government workers unless they are department heads.



 

Earlier this year, I purchased and read abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.

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The authors write that humanity is now entering a period of radical transformation in which technology has the potential to significantly lift the basic standards of everyone on the planet.

They believe that, within a generation, we will be able to provide goods and services once reserved for the wealthy few to the unwashed masses of the world.

I do not buy that at all and believe basically the opposite.  From what I have witnessed and read over the past few years, the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen year after year.  I do not believe for a New York minute that the Internet and other technology will lift those in poverty out of it.  I do believe, of course, that those who master and control the Internet and other technology will become multimillionaires if not billionaires.

It is true that mobile phone penetration is growing exponentially and that even people in primitive areas and third world countries can now access better information than the president did just twenty years ago.  However, the notion that wealth and abundance will come their way does not make sense to me.

Even though I really liked this book, I do not accept the authors’ basic premise that technology including an abundance of instantaneous, low-cost communications and information will help transform the poorest of the poor into an emerging market force.

The authors ask us to imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and nonpolluting, ubiquitous energy.

Call me a cynic, but I doubt that technological advances will help humanity achieve this Utopian dream.  I think it more probable that the rich will keep getting richer, the poor will keep getting poorer, and the middle class will continue shrinking and struggling.  That is, if Kim Jong-un does not start World War Three.


Diamandis and Kotler are ever-optimistic, writing that the billion people on the bottom of the economic ladder in the world will be pulled up via technology, noting that with their cellphones, they have access to more information than the President of the U.S. had fifteen years ago.

They write that improvements in education, energy delivery and information dissemination will help those at the lower rungs rise up to enjoy better standards of living, which is an uplifting and perhaps overoptimistic viewpoint in my humble opinion.

“Humanity,” they write early on, “is now entering a period of radical transformation in which technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standards of living for every man, woman and child on the planet.”  Oh, how I wish I could write and publish feel-good pie-in-the-sky lines like that.  That’s the kind of shit that sells books!

Their theory is that this instant access to any and all information and one’s fingertips have empowered do-it-yourself innovators to achieve startling advances with few resources and little manpower, so the power will be shifted to those of us utilizing high tech gadgets rather than relying on those big, bad old corporations.


This is not meant as a book review.  If you want one, you can find dozens of them.

What it is meant as, is an urging for the Middle Class Guy and you, too, to think of embracing the concept of abundance.  When our time, our funds, our ability to be creative at work and at home, when everything we do seems to be controlled by the notion of scarcity, how is it that we are to believe that these things can be made abundant?

I, for one, do not have the ability to double my income in a month if need be by working twice as many hours or working twice as hard.  I realize that there are many good things about being a government employee with a so-called “steady” job; however there are also many things not to like about it.

I cannot take off this coming Monday (August 21st, 2017) to watch the solar eclipse with my wife and son before he heads back to college.  I have been scheduled for a meeting by somebody else for that exact time, although the meeting could be just as well held some other time of day or on Tuesday instead.

I cannot afford to watch my daughter march down Main Street U.S.A. this December with her high school marching band.  My wife and son are going to go, but we cannot afford for me to go, too.  I cannot afford many things that I want and need, so how am I supposed to feel that life is abundant?

True, I am typing this for your reading pleasure or perhaps displeasure on a laptop in my backyard, utilizing technology that did not exist in my younger years.  I may even have realized some small amount of income from your purchase and reading of this, so score one for the notion of abundance although I would need to sell many thousands more to realize my notion of the word.

I am working at overcoming my innate Middle Class Guy notion that that  the harder guys like you and we work the more money we’ll make. I was taught and shown by example that labor and effort is equated with financial success.

I have preached and demonstrated this to my children.  However, I am coming to realize that this is why we, like most people, aren’t rich. We’re following an outdated model of success and over the past few years, I have become confounded when I reached middle age with little money to show for over twenty years of hard work.

Unlike my younger brother, who knows that creative thinking is the highest paid skill in the world. Independent, creative thinking is the most valuable asset anyone can acquire.

So while I have joined the masses in trying to figure out how to put our kids through college and retire on half of what we can barely exist on now, those who are building something for the future and doing what they are best at are living in abundance, controlling their own schedules, creating multiple income flows and generally enjoying their lives more than I am.

This sets off a psychological domino effect, because once a person thinks and lives at this level of abundance, they know even greater levels of success are possible through the vehicle of creative thought.

Most of us were told as kids that if we paid attention in school, did our homework every night, studied for tests, got good grades and went to a respectable college or university, our success was virtually guaranteed.

The reality is few of us who follow this formula ever get rich. We survive, and some become the most successful people in their families. But great wealth is rarely achieved by people who follow this model. The rich eventually figure out that training your mind to find solutions to difficult problems is the real secret to making money.

The good news is this is possible for anyone who conditions their mind to think this way, and then transforms thought into action, one of the things that I often write about to urge myself and my readers to do more than just think about and plan on doing something.

Anyhow, the notion of abundance is something that I am going to strive to better recognize and adopt as my own in the coming year.  Enough writing about what you and I are going to accomplish this coming year.

Time to do it!

Light a Fire Under My Ass

At some point, I allowed some small measure of complacency to set in.

It’s perfectly natural.  I have been at the same job, doing the same type of thing day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.  As an economic developer, I report to several levels of supervisors, a commission that reviews my efforts and progress in public monthly, and a Mayor and Village Board.

Despite all that and despite always adopting some new program or technology to “improve things,” “become more efficient” and “business-friendly,” I had grown fairly settled and complacent in my position.

That was all abruptly and unexpectedly changed about two months ago in early June when my boss and I were informed at the same time that I was going to be transferred from the department and boss where I had been doing my thing for the past dozen years, to a different department under new and inexperienced leadership who also happen to be totally unfamiliar with economic development.

So, pick your cliché.  My Cheese Was Moved.  The Only Constant is Change.  The More Things Change, The More Things Stay the Same.

Image result for light a fire under my ass
Source: thirteenc.blogspot.com

Among other things related to my sudden and anxiety-inducing change, one thing that it has done is lit a fire under my ass in three ways that come to mind.

First and foremost, it has forced me to step up my game at work.  This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it has forced me out of my comfort zone, which was not very comfortable to begin with, into a far more uncomfortable zone.

Every expenditure, every meeting out of the office, every trade show, the details of my meetings with potential businesses and developers, the advertisements that I choose to purchase and much more is closely scrutinized now.  My former boss trusted me enough, as he should, to handle these things properly without looking over my shoulder at everything that I did.  That is no longer the case.

Also, my new boss is not asking but commanding me to embrace the latest technology, and I am doing my best to accept and embrace it.  Not only will that make me look better in the eyes of the Powers That Be in my place of work, but I will probably add those projects to my resume to make me look like I am on top of the latest economic development technology and not stuck in the dinosaur age.

I am also helping to hasten the demise of human economic developers, as we now put nearly every piece of information that I have on our website so that even the most novice intern can access much of the same information that have been the nuts and bolts of my position.

Speaking of my resume, this transfer to an inexperienced Assistant Administrator fourteen years my junior who started as an intern a mere eight years ago has forced me to confront the notion that my career path has stalled and plateaued in my mid-forties.

I suppose that I am neither the first nor the last middle aged Middle Class Guy to find his career path permanently remain on the fourth or fifth step out of seven or eight.  When I took this position in 2005, I was still moving up the career ladder, having worked for the past three years at a far inferior community and doing much less pure economic development activities than I do now.

This leads to my second thought about lighting a fire under my ass. Before this transfer, I had been close to accepting that I am destined to remain with this employer at this position for eight and a half more years, until the end of 2025, at which time I would reach the age of double nickels and be eligible to begin collecting somewhere around $6,600 or $6,700 per month from IMRF.

One becomes pension-eligible thru IMRF at the age of double nickels.

Mind you, I am not saying that I would “retire.”  I am simply saying that my chains of municipal servitude would be removed, and I would be free to pimp myself out as a consultant, a contract economic developer, a director of a public-private partnership, or a freelance writer/driver/task doer/volunteer/tutor/whatever.  One of the millions or tens of millions of gig economy hustlers, with the benefit of knowing that a lower middle class income would be automatically deposited in my checking account on the first of every month.

I no longer feel that way.  There is no reason that a forty-six or forty-seven-year-old with seventeen years of stressful and highly productive economic development experience should not be able to get hired for a new position.  I am, basically, at the top of my abilities when it comes to economic development and could greatly help a community in the next phase of technology- and entrepreneurial-driven economic development.

I have not applied for a new position for a few years now, and the last two that I applied for I ultimately turned down.  One because the longer hours and longer commute would have added about two hours to my average workday and the other because I did not like the town, itself, or my would-be boss, who had forced out a few previous employees over political squabbles.

Being relatively content with my boss and the community that I work for, I elected to remain where I am in both cases.

Now, I am considering applying for another position in another area community and will be keeping my eyes open and ears to the ground in the coming year for new opportunities.

The third way that the fire is being lit under my ass is related to this post.  I have written on several occasions that I have a goal of adding three more titles to the never-ending barrage of self-published eBooks.  These books will mostly be comprised of these posts, although edited more carefully and my frequent references to being blog posts removed.

Unless you have a high-powered corporate position like my uncle had or are a highly successful self-employed professional like my brother, or a successful doctor or trader, chances are that you will never achieve a significant measure of wealth just by collecting your bi-weekly paycheck.  I know that I won’t.  We are challenged just keeping up from month to month, sometimes having four thousand more go out of our account than in like last month.

The third thing as related to this post is that, like many others and possibly you, too, I need to start making some income above and beyond what is deposited in our checking account on alternate Fridays, on the same Fridays during the school year when my wife works part-time, and the forty dollars here and sixty dollars there from sales of my long-ago published eBook.

If I am not able to light a fire the first two ways, by thriving under the new regime at work or by getting a better job and new start in another community, I plan on greatly increasing my income and moving a little closer to being able to make my family’s ends meet a little better by utilizing one of my talents, my writing ability.

Pink Floyd is one of my favorite all-time bands.  I say “one” because other times it is the Doors, other times it may be Depeche Mode, other days it is Kermit Ruffins or Louis Armstrong.

Image result for remember when you were young you shone like the sun

The first line in one of my favorite all-time songs, Shine on You Crazy Diamond, is “Remember when you were young…you shone like the sun.”

Well, I shone pretty bright in my younger days, including my first few years in the economic development field.  I was working in high-growth areas in a high-growth time, and thought nothing of helping to site a multi-billion dollar corporation in a multi-million dollar office building in my early thirties.

Somewhere along the way, after many hardships, losses of loved ones, injuries, family issues and more meetings than anyone could count, the fire in my belly died out.  It would be hard to pinpoint an exact date and time, but the closest that I can come to is when my father passed away five years ago this month.  For many months after that, I just went through the motions.  I know that that is not fair and that I should count myself lucky for having had such a great father for as long as I did, but if you want to read truth about Yours Truly Middle Class Guy, that is when the passion for my work and some other things may have left for good.

So here we are, approaching a new year with new goals and Resolutions to be made and, hopefully, not broken.

I recently read “How to Light a Fire Under Your Butt” by Jane Hwangbo, who dispensed some advice including to start “teeny-weeny.”

When people say, start small, they usually mean things like, “Call a friend and invite them to have a coffee with you.” Sound exhausting?

She urges you to start even smaller. Let’s make it a goal to put your pants on. You did it.

Decide that you’re going to stretch your body out for five minutes. Do it, and be proud.

Hwangbo writes that we’re battling something we’ve all experienced. We’ve lost confidence in our ability to do what we want to do.  Don’t stress, it happens all the time. So pick an activity that depends on no one else for you to do it, takes minimal time, and do it a T. Put those pants on like you’ve never put them on before! Repeat until you feel like upping the stakes.

A general rule: she found that “Fake it until you make it,” is bad policy. The problem is, you’re always there, noticing that you’re faking it. Faking it wipes out genuine self-confidence. Your spark will blow out at the first sign of trouble.

In his blog post titled “How to Light a Fire Under Your Ass,” Chris McCombs wrote that if you’re not willing to be brutally honest with yourself about your situation and see it for what it is and if you’re not willing to face your fear, pain, and desire, and if you’re not willing to jump in headfirst and get dirty, then your chances of creating big MEANINGFUL changes in your life are dubious at best.

You see, if there’s not enough fear, pain, or desire—your reason “why” won’t be big enough.

And if your “why” isn’t big enough, it’ll be hard to get out there and relentlessly do what needs to be done.

If we are not being honest with ourselves, there’s a good chance that we will not be able to even find our “whys” in the first place, much less know what we need to do to reach it.

Both of these points apply to Yours Truly Middle Class Guy, who had become too complacent and less than honest with myself about my situation.  I have played it safe for too long and have not really jumped in headfirst to get dirty until putting my thoughts, ideas and things that I have learned from others out here for anyone in the world to see.

Do these apply to you too?

If you answered Yes, let us both agree now to do our best and not to quit.  Forget perfection.  Decide what your number one intention is for the new year and then choose one small baby step that you can take towards it today… Not tomorrow or next week, but TODAY!

Even the tiniest of steps can create powerful momentum. As Zig Ziglar said: “Do it, and then you will feel motivated to do it.

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Source: Quotefancy

Let us both turn the burner up a little higher under our asses, put ourselves out there a little more and strive to achieve more this coming year.

Only $6 In, But $10 Out

Forty years ago, at the age of six going on seven, I may have had a month when I spent $10 while only taking in $6.  Probably a little less because I think that my allowance was only around fifty cents per week back then when my father started giving me some spending money every Saturday.

More like thirty-seven or thirty-eight years ago when I was nine or ten.  That is about when I used to walk myself down to the local convenience store directly upon receiving my allowance and then purchasing packages of baseball cards for a quarter, a Snickers bar or M&Ms for roughly the same price and sometimes both.

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As I have previously shared, I am middle aged in addition to being a Middle Class Guy.

In July of 2017, many years after spending a few dollars on baseball cards and candy back in the late seventies, the $6 in and $10 out must be multiplied by a thousand.

Yes, that’s right.  For all the advice that I dispense about Paying Yourself First and saving for a rainy day and striving to build a Nest Egg, Yours Truly and company spent four thousand more in July than we took in.  I figured that would be the case, considering some whopping expenses that we incurred while taking in less than in many other months.

This will not be an accounting of every dollar spent, but an explanation of how that came to be while at the same time reiterating that the financial goals that I have set for myself and my family have not been taken back one iota.


On the income side, the report is cut and dry.  My wife only works during the school year and only a few hours per week during that time, thus I am the only one in the family who made an income this past July.

I did not sell any eBooks, having only one actually published and without a cover, at that.  I have done absolutely no marketing of it, so I am always amazed when ten or fifteen people purchase it in a month.

It is one of my preliminary 2018 goals and Resolutions to publish three eBooks, and I count the one that I blithely placed on Amazon about eight years ago without a cover because I did not know how to make one or want to pay somebody to do it for me.  Add the fact that it is somewhat of an expose and I did not want anyone to know that I wrote it, so that will have to suffice as my explanation of why it sells so poorly that nobody purchased one last month.

I obviously have to do something to change that, but change is hard for a middle aged Middle Class Guy like me.  I am just riding out the next five months of this year, but have ultra-high expectations for the New Year.  Many more posts on that to come.

On the expenditure side, we continued spending like it was a month when my wife was working and I sold a hundred copies of my eBook. We have had many months when ten grand left our account, but only a few over the last few years when only six grand went in.

Also, I use the phrase “left our account” because I do not think of all the money as having been “spent.”  Spending makes me think of purchasing something or paying bills, but does not necessarily include investing.

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More money flowed out than in last month. Source: ranchovisions.wordpress.com

Speaking of investing, even though I realized that more money, or energy, was flowing out than in, that did not stop me from continuing investing.  Actually, the opposite.  Before I paid my bills during July, I made sure to Pay Myself First and also automatically sent $400 to our daughter’s 529 account on the first of the month, same as every month.

Upon the two July paydays, I Paid Myself First, sending $300 each time to one of the two funds in my T. Rowe Price Roth IRA account.  $300 went to the Blue Chip Growth fund on the 21st and $300 went to the Capital Appreciation fund on August 4th.

Roth IRA   (Middle Class Guy)

Account Name Account Number Available Shares1 Available Balances1
Blue Chip Growth – Roth IRA XXXXXXX 168.435 $15,275.37

Confirmation Number: XXXXX Trade Date: 07/21/2017

Investment Amount: $300.00

Account Name Account Number Available Shares1 Available Balances1
Capital Appreciation – Roth IRA XXXXXX 493.595 $14,230.34

Confirmation Number: XXXXX Trade Date: 08/04/2017

Investment Amount: $300.00

I plan to continue writing, and when I write someday about my retirement plan and savings, July was yet another month out of my three and a half working decades that I contributed to them.  As you can see, my combined IRA account is still under $30,000.  I only started systematically sending money to them last year after reading about Paying Myself First in several books and blog posts.

Our daughter’s college account has much more than this in it, largely because I have set up automatic investments into it for most of her life and they have grown quite a bit.


Like many middle class families, we have a mortgage on our home.  We also have that amount automatically drawn on the first of every month, and the amount is about $700, so between that and our daughter’s 529 account, every time that I wake up on the first of the month there is $1,100 less in our account than when I went to sleep.

Being a resident of Crook County, Illinois and not utilizing an escrow account, I must pony up to the Treasurer twice per year and have done so for the sixteen years that we have resided in our home.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our property is taxed at one Benjamin per week.  Since Crook County imposes the first installment of 55% of the estimated annual tax, our first installment in the spring was higher than last month’s payment.

However, I did have to stroke a check for $2,324 in the last week of the month, so that equates to about a quarter of the money that went out.  That total number was more like $9,600 than $10,000, so the property tax payment accounted for 24% of the funds that left our account if you want to look at it percentage-wise.

There have been several articles over the past year or so about how many families could not easily come up with $500 or $1,000 or $2,000 for unexpected expenses.  Although I do not find it humorous that so many families would struggle with this, I do find humor in the notion that I cannot recall ever having had a month without at least $500 in “unexpected” expenses for going on a few years now.

In keeping up with this, we had about exactly $500 in unexpected expenses last month.  Even though property taxes take a big and painful chunk of our funds twice per year, it is hardly unexpected.  The fact that we also had to pay half of our $1,000 annual premium in homeowners insurance last month also took a sizable bite out of our funds, it was also expected.

What was not expected was that some of our gutters would fall off during a sizable hurricane-like storm with about six inches of rain in one day, and hail to boot.

I am not sure if I should count that as “unexpected,” considering that we have lived in our house since ten days before 9/11 and have never had our gutters repaired or replaced.

Unexpected price of gutter repairs?  $300, which is not bad at all.

The other $200 could be considered unexpected.  The driver side window of my beater Subaru was shattered, either by the storm or by vandals or by an errant baseball from the field across the street.

I will never know what actually broke it, but it had to be repaired nonetheless.

After hearing the Gerber Collision and Glass jingle on the radio about a million times, I actually called them and it worked out great. I should have called them before the local mechanic, who said that he would price out a replacement but did not get back to me throughout a whole day.

I drove my old Subaru for a few days with a taped up driver-side window.

Meanwhile, I was driving with my window taped up and couldn’t see a thing.  Not to mention having to explain to a dozen people why my beater car was even more sketchy for a few days without a window.

The guy from Gerber came to my place of work to replace the car window.

Final bill, $176 for a new window.  Gerber even came out to my Village Hall to replace it while I was at work.  Now that’s service!

Vehicle: 1998 Subaru Legacy 4 Door Station Wagon
VIN: XXXXXX  Odometer: 128600
License: XXXXXX IL  Install Date: 7/25/2017
Install Time: 12:49 PM  Installer: MAR

Qty Part Number Description Price Total
1.0 FD20268GTNN Door-(5 Hole,Front,Left,Solar Controlled) $70.05 $70.05
1.0 100 FLAT 100 FLAT LABOR LABOR (Flat Rate) $100.00 $100.00
Subtotal:
Tax:
Less Adj.:
Less Prepayments:
Card:
$170.05
$5.95
$0.00
$0.00
$176.00

Looking over the statement today, I also saw that I paid $1,100 to my credit card, much of which could be attributed to a short, three-day trip that I took my family on to Milwaukee and then the Starved Rock area in Illinois.  It’s not exactly like going to Hawaii or the Bahamas, but our car rental, hotel, meals out, zip-lining and other activities added up to close to a grand.  That’s life in 2017.

Wise financial experts will advise for you to spend less than you make.  I do not think any of them would advise you to spend $10,000 in a month when you only take home $6,000.  Just using crude math, if we kept that pace up, the $7,000 or so that we currently have in our bank account would be depleted within the next two months.

I would not advise it either, and will conclude this with three thoughts about it.

First of all, we do not do this every month.  The last time that I posted about our cash flow, we had three thousand more in than out back in May.  I hope that this will be the case for this month, although we must start paying private college tuition once again after a two month reprieve in June and July.

Secondly, a one month period of time is not the ideal measurement of our family’s cash flow.  Some quarters are even more or less profitable and more or less expensive than others.  The best measure for a middle aged Middle Class Guy like me and my family is over the course of a calendar year.

Third and finally for this particular post, I need to make more money. I mean now!  I suppose that 2018 would be as good a time as any to find some way to add more to the income side, since the expenditure side shows no signs of slowing.  At this point, it takes a consistent eight to twelve thousand to feed the beast of our suburban middle class lifestyle, which is very hard to do on basically my income alone, which does not quite reach that level.

I have expressed my desire to crack into the top twenty percent, but must also consider the prospect that we should stop spending like we are already in it, when we are not.

CEO of Myself

Greetings from the CEO.

The CEO of the Middle Class Guy blog, that is.

I feel that as CEO, it is high time that I address my readers since, as a privately-held entity, the Middle Class Guy blog does not have any shareholders.

Before you think that I am beginning to suffer from delusions of grandeur, I am also the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Technology Officer, the Creative Director and the only writer on staff.

Why this blog looks so funky and relies on a “free” WordPress layout with almost no pizzazz?  Blame the Chief Technology Officer.

Think that the last few posts are lacking in creativity?  Blame the Creative Director.

Think that this blog is losing more time and money than it is worth? Me too!  Let’s blame the CFO for overestimating future revenue growth.

If you do not care for the writing, perhaps I should fire that one writer on staff and outsource future posts to freelancers on Fiverr and in China, Mexico and India.

If the editing sucks, well…

As CEO, I have not yet hired or assigned an editor, never mind a chauffeur, private chef and masseuse.  What you see typed is a direct manifestation of the writer’s thoughts, sent to his fingers by electronic impulses via the nervous system and, viola!  Blog posts.

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Source: www.lorenzanoandyannes.com

I never imagined becoming CEO of such a vast media empire, yet here I am, CEO of the Middle Class Guy blog with ad revenues of over a dollar, books to be released in ’18.

 

 


But seriously, folks.

As a very avid reader of books, magazines, newspapers, trade publications and more blogs than you could imagine, it always makes me chuckle when I see someone bill themselves as CEO, even if it is only of a blog with a few readers.

The first few times that I saw someone listed as a CEO in my LinkedIn feed, I thought to myself, Wow!  I am reading the thoughts, ideas and advice from someone who has clawed their way to the top. Upon further inspection, I realized that these were all self-proclaimed CEOs of their own one-man and one-woman shops, much as I am CEO of my own but without the lofty title.

Since I am obviously not on my way to becoming a real-life CEO of an actual company, or even CEO of my own family unit (I am fairly high up in the organization, however), I should build up my mini media efforts into an actual incorporated business.

I have read dozens of books by acclaimed financial gurus from the Rich Dad Robert Kiyosaki to Suze Orman, from Dave Ramsey to Napoleon Hill, who all advise to incorporate yourself for tax and liability purposes.

After all, should I increase my $1,000 or so in annual income from eBook sales to $10,000 or $20,000, wouldn’t it make more sense for me to pay corporate income taxes on a mere $10,000 or $20,000, while deducting writing-related expenses, rather than just tacking that income onto my own for full-time work?

As CEO, I could always pay myself a stipend at the end of the year or quarterly in order to invest and pay some bills.  Perhaps even a holiday bonus, if the Chief Financial Officer would allow it.

As CEO, I can decide when and where and if to even work on these, although I do set some fairly difficult goals for myself.  Also, as CEO of this floundering venture, I feel confident in driving my staff to be more profitable in 2018 than this year.

With ad revenues for this blog at approximately one dollar and eBook sale revenues hovering around a few hundred bucks, I would be surprised if sales decreased.

So although I spend my work days toiling at the behest of others, and am also generally directed in what to do once I arrive home, when it comes to this blog, I am founder, President and CEO.Image result for CEO of myself

The CEO of Myself.  

 

 

 

Babes, Beneficiaries and Business Deals

Sorry.  I might end the Middle Class Guy blog because I am about to become part of the mega-wealthy class.  A one percenter.

I never realized that I had a long-lost relative in Africa and could inherit millions of dollars if I only transfer a few hundred or a few thousand into a new account, send the routing number to the estate administrator, and then help them transfer my newfound wealth to a local bank here in the Chicago area.

Upon checking my spam filter, I even found that I have many such long-lost relatives as well as random people who would share their massive wealth with me.

Are you skeptical?  The past three days alone, look at these too-good-to-be-true offers from Mr. Kabo Uago, Miss Samira Kipkalya Kones and Mrs Elina Banneth.  I had never heard of any of the three before in my life, however all three of them are set to make me rich by varying degrees.  Just read their emails below:


To demonstrate how generous I am, I have kept the three email addresses in their correspondences, and I invite you to claim the millions that were meant for me.  If I cannot make it from being a regular Middle Class Guy to a fabulously wealthy beneficiary, perhaps you can take advantage of these generous offers.

After all, wouldn’t you want to help poor Ms. Kipkalya Kones against her evil stepmother or the poor Ms. Banneth who is writing from the hospital?

And to think that all this time, these daily offers of massive wealth have been sitting in my spam filter.  I cringe when I think of how many lost opportunities to become a wealthy beneficiary have passed me by.
I get several offers to transfer funds per day in my spam folder.

I also never realized what a Ladies’ Man I must be.  Even though I am a middle aged and Middle Class Guy family man who has been married for twenty-one years, I have somehow been attracting the attention of hot ladies with exotic names who want to meet me.

Don’t believe me again?

Well, shame on you.  They also email me on a daily basis.  Beauties like Nastya, who emailed me a few days ago:
Hi! How are you?
My name is Anastasia (or shortly Nastya), and I’d love to know your name.
Do you visit this site oftentimes? I was hoping to talk to you in chat once but you left all of a sudden. Could you write me your address or send me a letter some day?

I believe we have a lot in common and talking to you will be much pleasure for me. My email garecudae@gmx.com

Looking forward to getting your letter,
Anastasia

I received another correspondence over the weekend from a young lady named Ksenia, an exotic name although I am not sure how to pronounce it:
Hi. How have you been? What is your name? Where are you from?
My name is Ksenia. I actually like to chat with you. What do you think about it?

I hope that in the near future we will talk with you, how you consider?  I’ll wait for your letter with impatience and expect that it will be soon.

Have a wonderful day.
My email ershiryaeva1976@rambler.ru

Best wishes Ksenia
Last week, Olga propositioned me but did not even leave an email address or phone number to contact her at:
Hi! You got me very interested. I would really like to know you closer! I want to communicate with you and learn about your interests, hobbies.
I hope for mutual understanding and possible reciprocity.

Actually, I would like to meet and talk with an interesting and nice man!

Olga

Well, even if I did decide to share things about my interests and hobbies with this possibly Russian lady, I would not know how to. Perhaps she will contact me again soon.
As was the cases with those looking to share their wealth with me, I have left Ksenia’s and Nastya’s email addresses if you wish to contact them.  Who knows, perhaps they would be interested in you, too.

If I decide to forgo becoming a wealthy beneficiary or meeting a hot Russian babe whose interest I have somehow piqued without realizing it, I can always seek my fortune by participating in one of the many secret business deals that come my way.

Is it because I sometimes write about making money that these potential business deals and insider stock tips continue coming my way, or is it just that I get so many emails, that they have found their way into my in-box by some other means?
I guess that I will never know.
Anyway, even though I have never met or heard of anyone named Verna Larsen in my life, she lets me in on insider tips of stocks that are set to go up tenfold in short amounts of time:

Haven’t heard from me in a while right? That’s because I’m not one to waste your time.  Whenever I do email you, it’s because I’ve got something good. Really good.

My good friend who works at the big VC out in NY invited me for a bite yesterday. Nothing unusual, we always eat lunch together right?

However yesterday he gave me a really amazing piece of information and I want to share that with you.

The place he works at is basically injecting more or less 50 mill into this small American company that’s in the cannabis business. Apparently, they’ve got some really amazing distribution and even better technologies.

Anyway… to make a long story longer he said the value they are coming in at is right around 1.20 a share and that this announcement will be made public some time in the next few days.

Given that the shares are at just 12 cents right now, do you have any idea what’s going to happen when the announcement is out?

Yep, you guessed right… It’s going to jump up 10 times, literally overnight.

The cannabis company is: Bella tora Inc.  You can buy it if you type E C G R in your brokerage account.

Feel free to tell only your closest friends about this. I really have no clue when the next time I get a tip will be.

Take care,
Verna Larsen

Like Ms. Larsen, Carmelo Nichols cuts right to the chase and recognizes that I do not have time to waste with nonsense:

I won’t waste your time with nonsense. I’ll get right to it…

One of my best friends who happens to be employed at the largest firm in new york told me that I should really consider buying a specific stock today.

Without going into specifics he told me that it’s going to at least quadruple in price this week.

It’s a small company that’s basically trading at rock bottom prices, and after digging a bit more into it I think that they are about to make a really massive announcement any day now.

If you can get in at between 7 and 10 cents in the next few minutes I really recommend you jump on it quickly. It’s trading under the symbol q,s,m,g (just the letters without the commas). Type this in your account to buy it.

Don’t waste any more time because before the day is over I think it will be much, much higher so now is your chance.

Best Wishes,
Carmelo Nichols
The funny thing is, I looked up Quest Management, QSMG, and saw that it is currently trading at 6.6 cents per share as of August 7th after having traded for $510 per share eleven months ago, on September 19th of 2016.  Sounds like a company going out of business to me, but could you imagine if it returned to even half of what it was eleven months ago?
You could purchase 1,000 shares of this dog for $66 tomorrow, and if it returned to $250 per share, you would have a cool quarter mil. Come to think of it, I might just donate $66 to this cause and think of it as a donation, or my potential key to future prosperity.
Likewise, Bellatora Inc., which is also trading over the counter (meaning too low for any actual exchange to waste time on), is going for 7 cents per share but is in the marijuana and vaping business, something that has a lot of growth potential.
Perhaps I will take Carmelo’s hot tip and risk another $70 for another thousand shares of Bellatora.
Good thing that you read this, because I am willing to share these hot insider stock tips with you, too.  Just think, we may both be able to turn $140 into hundreds of thousands if things go our way.  Just make sure to erase any records of where you heard this insider stock tip or you may have to spend some time at Club Fed like Martha Stewart.
Image result for martha stewart club fed
Martha had to do some time at Club Fed. Source: CBS News
I get more hot tips like this from time to time, mostly since I wrote a few posts about stocks and mutual funds that I have purchased. Other tipsters in my in-box include Demetrius Mayer, Jordan Olson and John Dailey.  I have never heard of any of them, however, they are all willing to help me become wealthy.
So, if the Middle Class Guy blog suddenly stops for no apparent reason, don’t be too alarmed.
I’ll probably be enjoying my newfound wealth with Ksenia or Olga on my arm.
Image result for girls on each arm
Source: Don’tPanicOnline.com
Maybe one of them on each.

 

A Benjamin A Week

I am taxed a Benjamin Per Week for living in my home.Image result for a benjamin

Of course, I pay way more than that in taxes, when you factor in income taxes at over $10,000 per year, thousands per year paid in sales taxes and taxes imposed on utilities, cell phones, motor fuel and the like.

The $100, or Benjamin, per week that I am taxed is on my older, post-war middle class split level ranch in the older section of an extremely middle class northwest suburban community somewhere around thirty or so miles outside of Chi-Raq.

Image result for crook county illinois

The second installment of our property taxes were due to the Treasurer of Crook County (often referred to as Cook County by some) on the first of August.  I paid ours about a week earlier, after receiving my second paycheck of July on the 21st.

After paying it and seeing that we paid just a wee bit over $5,200 in property taxes this year, it dawned on me that we pay almost exactly $100 per week for the privilege of living in our little house in our modest lower middle class neighborhood.

I went to the very helpful Cook County Property Tax Portal, which provides a wealth of information even if you do not have your PIN number handy.  I happen to have ours memorized, having checked on it several times per year for the sixteen years that we have “owned” our house.

Below is the last five years of our property tax history per the website:

TAX BILLED AMOUNTS & TAX HISTORY

2016: $5,233.86
Paid in Full
2015: $5,290.06
Payment History
2014: $5,213.93
Payment History
2013: $5,061.93
Payment History
2012: $5,783.60
Payment History

When you add up the past four years, we have paid $20,799.78, which incredibly comes out to $99.9989 per week, or twenty-two cents under an exact hundred per week for the past four years. Adding our 2012 payment of nearly $5,800, our five year total amounts to $26,583.38, which over the course of two hundred and sixty weeks amounts to $102.24 per week.

It is worth mentioning that our property taxes were set to be about $400 higher, or about $5,600 this year based on a valuation of $230,000 by the County Assessor.  However, my wife did a little research and successfully appealed our assessed value, lowering it to about $200,000 even though we would not sell our home for a penny under $240,000.  Homes in our neighborhood are currently selling for more than that, perhaps up to $270,000, but those homes have new floors and fixtures better than what we have.

The “Zestimate” for our home on Zillow is $235,000 although for some reason it lists our home as having two bedrooms rather than the three that we have.  Oh well, I would not sell it for a priced based on a Zestimate, anyway.

OFF MARKET  Zestimate®: $235,771
Rent Zestimate®: $1,800 /mo
Is That A Lot?
Whether or not you consider $100 per week or $5,200 per year of property taxes to be a lot depends entirely on where you live and what type of home you have.
I have relatives who pay much more than that, and others who pay far less.
For an example of more, consider the property taxes paid by my aunt and uncle.  This particular uncle, the only one who I consider my true uncle although he is related to me through marriage, married my father’s sister, rather than by blood.  I have an uncle related by blood who I am not close with at all.
Below are the property taxes that they have paid to Crook County over the past five years, over three Benjamins per week during that time span:
TAX BILLED AMOUNTS
& TAX HISTORY

2016: $17,901.08
Paid in Full
2015: $15,221.51
Payment History
2014: $15,091.20
Payment History
2013: $16,070.17
Payment History
2012: $15,948.74
Payment History

Of course, they have a beautiful house in a fantastic neighborhood. My uncle’s income over the years as a financial executive for a software firm allows him to easily pay these taxes while also traveling extensively, grocery shopping at Whole Foods and even higher end, smaller grocers, taking his daughters (my cousins) on multi-week European vacations, purchasing condominiums in Florida and Michigan and generally purchasing whatever they want to without blinking an eye.

Even though our family is very close with theirs, they have long surpassed being even upper middle class and have attained upper class status.  I happen to have been told what my uncle’s income is, approximately, and according to this September 2016 article on Investopedia, it actually exceeds the $465,000 that it took to be a one percenter in 2014 by statistical data provided by the IRS.

He fell short by more than half of the $1.26 million income that the Washington Center for Equitable Growth estimated it took to be a one percenter that same year, and that number seems more reasonable to me.  Even though $465,000 is a Hell of a high income to a Middle Class Guy like me, I know enough people who are close to that to know that, although wealthy, they are not one percenters.

By the way, if you called my aunt and uncle one percenters or even members of the upper class, my former hippie aunt and uncle would hate you very much and never forgive you.  They are very liberal, very laissez faire, but my uncle also worked like a dog for many years to attain the wealth and success that he has.

My brother is a self-employed attorney and even employs several paralegals to keep the paperwork at his practice moving.  He purchased a nice house within DuPage County about eight years ago, but has since moved out of state and rents the house out.

Take a look at the high property taxes that he pays on his rental house, nearly ten thousand dollars or almost two Benjamins per week.

Installment Base Tax Amount Penalty * Total Paid Date
First Due: 6/1/2017 $4,938.80 $0.00 $4,938.80 5/26/2017
Second Due: 9/1/2017 $4,938.80 $0.00 $4,938.80
Total Base Tax (without penalties) $9,877.60

My best friend was deeded his family house about eight or so years ago due to a confluence of reasons that I will not detail.

His home is valued at $462,000 by the Cook County Assessor, however comparable houses in his neighborhood sell for fifty percent or more higher than that.   Some go for over a million, but those are bigger and nicer than his.

The “Zestimate” on my best friend’s house more closely reflects the potential selling price should he and his wife want to sell the home.

OFF MARKET  Zestimate®: $627,554
Rent Zestimate®: $4,311 /mo
When I once remarked to him how great it must be to live mortgage free, he reminded me that he pays about a thousand per month in property taxes in addition to all the other upkeep costs, which you can see is an accurate statement.
TAX BILLED AMOUNTS
& TAX HISTORY
2016: $11,689.45
Paid in Full
2015: $12,836.52
Payment History
2014: $11,545.00
Payment History
2013: $11,252.42
Payment History
2012: $12,006.66
Payment History

Moving on to a co-worker who I have worked with for over twelve years.  She and her husband both have had six-figure municipal jobs for quite a few years, and purchased a new construction home in a Kane County, Illinois city about fifteen years ago.

On the days when I pay my property tax bill at the local Chase Bank, I always complain to her and anyone else who will listen to me about writing that huge check to the Crook County Treasurer.  My co-worker has very little sympathy, however, reminding me that like my best friend, she too pays about a thousand per month for the privilege of living in their spacious home near the Fox River.

By the way, the Net Taxable Value is actually more like one-third of the property value.  Kane County, like nearly every other in Illinois with the exception of Crook County, considers taxable value to be one-third of the estimated home value.

Also, you can view the tax history going back for ten years on the Kane County Treasurer’s website, which is pretty cool.

Tax History

Year Base Tax Due Net Taxable Value
Current Year 11,828.68 121,875
2015 11,964.38 118,274
2014 11,730.72 114,255
2013 11,075.90 112,253
2012 10,474.12 113,653
2011 9,996.38 119,797
2010 9,849.84 127,916
2009 9,641.02 139,442
2008 9,708.54 145,315
2007 9,037.12 136,841

As you can see, compared to my aunt and uncle’s home, my brother’s rental house and my best friend’s house, and my colleague’s home, my property taxes of one Benjamin per week do not seem so bad.

It’s Lower Out of State
On the flip side, my sister owns a beautiful home in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, just a few blocks off of St. Charles Avenue and about two blocks away from the Tulane and Loyola campuses.
There are many upper middle class and higher residents in her neighborhood, nearly completely white even though New Orleans is fifty-eight percent African American, and there are more BMWs, Mercedes, Land Rovers and Porsches on the street than Fords, Chevys and Toyotas.
My sister, her husband and their two daughters moved to NOLA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to take jobs in the rebuilding school system and they were able to purchase their house for under $240,000 back in 2007.
Spending that kind of money to move to a city decimated by a hurricane and rife with crime sounded crazy to me at the time and for a few years after they moved there.  However, after having stayed with them a few times and witnessing their upper middle class lifestyle first hand, I know praise them as geniuses for purchasing their home when prices bottomed out.
Image result for uptown new orleans homes for sale
An Uptown NOLA home comparable to my sister’s.
Last time I stayed with my sister, she and her husband were talking about how their property taxes had been raised a bit.  She referred to it as the millage rate being raised, a term that I was not familiar with, so I asked and she told me that is another term used for property tax rate.  Being the nosy parker that I am, I asked how much their taxes are.
“Almost three thousand dollars,” my sister told me.
“What!” I exclaimed.
She asked me if that was high, having been a renter up until the time that she purchased that home, and never having had to pay property taxes in Illinois, let alone in the Chicago area.  I never told her what ours are before, either, and apparently neither had our brother.
“That’s very low,” I told her.  “Mine are nearly twice that, and our home is only assessed around two hundred grand.”
She proceeded to tell me that her home was reassessed at around $450,000, but that most comparable houses in her neighborhood were selling for over $500,000 and up.
Again, even though I do not consider a “Zestimate” to be as accurate as an appraisal, my sister’s home’s is estimated to be worth nearly $600,000 by Zillow.
OFF MARKET Zestimate®:$559,291
Rent Zestimate®: $2,635 /mo
Being a teacher and her husband also employed in the field of education as a consultant, she was more upset by how low her property taxes are, explaining that that is why the public schools in New Orleans “suck” compared to the public schools that we send our children to in the northwest burbs.
I told her to count her blessings, since her children have both been admitted to the top public school in the City and that if she owned a home with a $500,000 value by us, she would be paying nearly a thousand per month in property taxes.
My wife’s father purchased a beautiful home in a resort area in Arizona after having toiled and worked in New Jersey, California, Michigan and Wisconsin for many decades.
He now lives with his wife in a beautiful Arizona-style home with an open concept and an outdoor pool with a lovely veranda.
Image result for lake havasu city houses
My father-in-law’s home in Lake Havasu looks like this, but a little nicer.
Although it is just him, his wife and their chihuahua, their house is around 2,200 square feet with modern fixtures and good-sized rooms.
Since I often talk about finances and was pontificating on my own desire to retire out of State someday when we visited them there, I asked what his property taxes are.
Comparable to my sister’s, he pays about half of what we do, or a Grant every week if you will.  Like New Orleans, the school system in Lake Havasu City and most parts of Arizona suck.  Sorry, Arizona and Louisiana readers, but you know it’s true.
Where he lives is a mixture of mostly retirees from cold weather places in the Midwest and blue collar and working class locals whose livings are tied to the tourism business.  It is miles away from any real industry and there are no lawns to maintain in the area.  Thus, requests for increases in school funding are not embraced and the requests typically fall short of adoption.
Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Tennessee
Looking at houses outside of Illinois, I am often shocked at how low the property tax bills are.
True, comparable jobs in those states typically pay less than in Illinois, a die-hard Union-heavy blue state, and many of those jobs likely do not even exist in most parts of those states.
But that does not keep me from looking around at “retirement” homes or even homes that could be a second home for us.  No, I am not in the second home market, but it does not hurt to dream.
On a whim, I searched for homes in Lexington, Kentucky as an example.  Friends of ours’ son goes to the University of Kentucky and his father speaks highly of Lexington and often tells me that I would love the area.
Today, August 6th, 2017, a beautiful 2,222 square foot four bedroom home with two and a half baths at 1030 Elmdorf Drive for $162,000.  The taxes on it have been $1,946 for the past three years, less than half of ours.
1030 Elmdorf Drive in Lexington, KY
Looking for homes in other nearby states like Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri and Ohio, I find that they all have tax rates lower than Illinois’, and some by quite a large amount.
The Balance.com recently rated Illinois property taxes the second highest of the fifty states based on home value, coming in slightly ahead of New Jersey once again.  Interestingly, Wisconsin was not very far behind.

The Worst States for Property Taxes

The Tax Foundation found that homeowners in these states paid the most in property taxes:

  1. New Jersey – 2.38 percent
  2. Illinois – 2.32 percent
  3. New Hampshire – 2.15 percent
  4. Connecticut – 1.98 percent
  5. Wisconsin – 1.96 percent
  6. Texas – 1.90 percent
  7. Nebraska – 1.84 percent
  8. Michigan – 1.78 percent
  9. Vermont – 1.71 percent
  10. Rhode Island – 1.67 percent

This chart is pretty spot on in our case.  If you value our home at about $225,000 and then multiply it by the above 2.32 percent, you get a property tax of nearly exactly $5,200.  I suppose that if we lived in Jersey, it would be $5,300.

Whether you consider paying $5,200 per year in property taxes to be a lot or a little depends on many things, some of which include where you live, how high or low of an income you have, whether you value strong public schools or not, whether you live in a urban, suburban or rural area, and more.

When I think about it, that amount it is about just right for us.  Of course, I would rather pay less, but I understand that we live in a highly taxed area with strong schools.  Heck, most of the public school teachers and administrators in our children’s school district make six figure salaries.

Plus, Illinois has the most units of local government in any State of the fifty, so if you grow up around here, high taxes are just a part of life, like a lot of political corruption and high crime in Chi-Raq.  They are nearly immutable Laws of Nature.

When your property tax bill includes districts like the mosquito abatement district, Township, library, park district, forest preserves, public health department, community college district and more, it is no wonder that the bill comes out so high.

While perusing some of the Ninja, Samurai and Zen blogs last week, I came across a post by Mike on Ninja Budgeter that describes how he found an extra $718 by discovering some extra funds in his mortgage escrow account in which he had been paying his property taxes.

Not being a fan of escrow accounts, myself, my wife and I waived escrow when we purchased our home ten days before 9/11. so I stroke checks to the County Treasurer twice per year when property taxes come due.

Mike the Ninja Budgeter writes that three years ago when they first bought their home, their mortgage provider offered them an option regarding their property taxes. Normally they would pay the property tax ourselves with saved money, like we do, and he thinks theirs amounts to around $1,500 per year in Canadian money, which equates to about a mere $1,200 per year in U.S. currency.

1,500.00 Canadian Dollars
CAD = 0.7883 USD
1,182.45 US Dollars
USD = 1.2686 CAD

I have not commented on his or anyone else’s blog post, but if I did, I would tell Mike the Ninja Budgeter to count his blessings.

After all, he only has to pay a Benjamin per month for property taxes, not a Benjamin per week like I do, two Benjamins per week like my brother, best friend and co-worker do, or three Benjamins per week like my aunt and uncle do.

 

 

 

F*ck the Middle Class

That’s right!  You heard me!

I said F*ck the Middle Class!

Now that I got your attention…

Besides what the current President, big corporations like Facebook, Apple and Google (or FAG if you prefer) are doing with your personal information day after day, the health care industry, Wall Street, nearly every politician and the top twenty percenters (a group that I aspire to) are doing to the Middle Class, I say f*ck it.

They’re killing the Middle Class while feasting on our hard-earned and heavily taxed income.

The idea came to me a few months ago while reading about several profanity-laced self-help books including F*ck Feelings  by father and daughter Michael and Sarah Bennett.  The elder Bennett is a psychiatrist and American Psychiatric Association distinguished fellow and his daughter is a comedy writer.

Image result for bullshit

According to a fall 2015 review in The Atlantic, the Bennetts provide a tough-love, irreverent take on “life’s impossible problems.” The crux of their approach is that life is hard and negative emotions are part of it. The key is to see your “bullshit wishes” for just what they are (bullshit), and instead to pursue real, achievable goals.

Stop trying to forgive your bad parents, they advise. Jerks are capable of having as many kids as anyone else—at least until men’s rights conventions come equipped with free vasectomy booths. If you happen to be the child of a jerk, that’s just another obstacle to overcome.

In fact, stop trying to free yourself of all anger and hate. In all likelihood you’re doing a really awesome job, the Bennetts argue, despite all the shitty things that happen to you.

Oh, and a word on shit: “Profanity is a source of comfort, clarity, and strength,” they write. “It helps to express anger without blame, to be tough in the face of pain.”

Another such book is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.  At its core, Manson’s book is about finding what’s truly important to you and letting go of everything else. In the same way that he encourages limiting exposure to mindless distractions such as social media, television and technology, he encourages limiting concern over things that have little to no meaning or value in your life.Image result for the subtle art of not giving a f*ck

In a December 2016 review on the Psychology Today website, Jennifer Haupt writes that according to Manson, caring less can actually lead to more happiness. It’s all about the choices we make about what to care about. He uses his own life as an example. “I was a big party guy in my twenties, and kind of a playboy as well,” he explains. “I adopted a lot of values and goals that were fairly superficial and, in many cases, self-destructive. They looked cool and sounded sexy on the surface, but underneath there was no real meaning going on, just a lot of escapism. My life was about racking up these checklists of ‘cool’ stuff I had done.”

According to Manson, some of the most common things people care way too much about include:

  1. Impressing other people
  2. Being right all the time
  3. Being “successful”
  4. Being pleasant and polite
  5. Being happy
  6. Feeling good all the time
  7. Being “perfect”
  8. Feeling secure and certain

I am certainly Guilty as Charged on the above, with a possible exception of #7.  I am not anywhere near perfect, I know it, and I do not pretend to be or aspire to be.

The only perfect person that I have ever known is Mary Poppins, and she was Practically Perfect in Every Way.

Image result for practically perfect in every way

Do I strive to be pleasant and polite?  Check.

Try to be happy?  Check.  Who doesn’t try to be happy?

Trying to impress other people?  Trying to be right all the time?  Trying to become “successful”?  Check, check and check.

I also strive to feel good, maybe not all the time, but as much of the time as I can.  I have also spent many years pursuing security and certainty for myself and on behalf of my family.  Any Middle Class Guy would.

Here’s the good news/bad news: You are always choosing what to value more, moment by moment. And, according to Manson, that’s how change happens — slowly, moment by moment, with every choice you make.

Like many other books that I have read in what I call the “Change Your Way of Thinking/Become Wealthy/Improve Your Life” genre, Manson calls for action, not just writing like I am doing now or thinking about or saying that you are going to do something.

The final step in choosing to give up caring about the things that don’t really matter and changing your values is to take action. “You will fail a number of times—and that’s fine,” Manson says. “The point is to keep doing it until your behaviors line up with your new values.”

The third such book that I refer to is Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop.  By the way, Gary John sounds cool and when paired with the last name Bishop either sounds like a serial killer, a country music star  or an author of a profanity-laced self-help book.Image may contain: one or more people and text

Bishop keeps his Facebook page up to date with occasional helpful thoughts on how to unfu*k yourself but mostly urging readers to purchase this book in its various formats.

I read some excerpts from it, and much like the other two, it contains much of the standard self-help fare, with the notable difference of numerous expletives.  Truths like whining because you were born trying to get to first base while others were born already on third base does not get you anywhere and only by taking action can you make things happen is hardly ground-breaking advice.

Bishop writes that the world does not owe you anything, a simple and common sense notion, yet one that took me over forty years to actually learn.  I did think that I was owed not only a good living but an opportunity to become wealthy just by being a hard worker, honest, smart and nice.  In reality, you do not need any of those four attributes to become wealthy, and some may even hinder it.  I know many wealthy individuals who are not and do not strive to be “nice.” Most work smarter rather than harder.

I would not go so far as to say that Nice Guys Finish Last, but sometimes that old adage does prove true.

Bishop wants the reader to adopt the attitude that “You can do this” and “I am what I do.”  Again, it is not talk or planning that makes one successful, it is actually doing.  Life can deal some hard blows, and I have certainly had my share, but it is ultimately up to me and you to bring ourselves up to a better place.  Nobody is going to do it for us.

One of the chapters, “I Am Not My Thoughts, I Am What I Do” embodies this idea, and hits me where it hurts.  I am always thinking about what I want to do, like creating several high-quality, good-selling eBooks based upon my blog posts and other unique ideas.  I think about it all the time, yet I have not taken any concrete steps toward attaining that goal.

It will be an important Resolution for 2018, along with several others that are equally important.

After all, I am a Middle Class Guy and have been on the straight middle class path since my birth around Thanksgiving back in 1970. I would like to take the next step into becoming a digital entrepreneur like the Samurais, Ninjas and Zenmasters that I follow and launch myself into the upper middle class or top twenty percent realm.

All told, when I do plan the publishing of eBooks and the greater amount of marketing and promoting this blog, along with re-upping with Google AdSense to generate some advertising income, perhaps I will published some profanity-laced titles in the desperate attempt to attract interest to the books.

After all, to stand out among the hundreds of thousands of self-published eBooks for sale on Amazon is not easy.  In my last post, I pontificated on adopting some Eastern warrior and philosophical names.

Possibilities titles in that vein may include Middle Class Zen, Middle Class Ninja and Middle Class Samurai.

Now I am thinking of something even more attention grabbing than that, although I would have to go through and update one of my upcoming eBooks by sprinkling in a smattering of curse words.

The title is simple…

F*ck The Middle Class!

Samurais, Ninjas and Zen

I learn a lot from Samurais, Ninjas and Zen.  We all know what Samurais and Ninjas are from cartoons and movies.

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My notion of Zen was not so strong until I read up on it a bit in preparation for this post.

Perhaps I should rename this blog Middle Class Samurai or Middle Class Ninja or Middle Class Zen.  The first two words conjure up images of honorable, well-disciplined warriors, while the third conjures up images of serenity and wisdom to me.  I would like to be thought of as any of those even though I am none of them.  If you call yourself a Ninja, however, who in the blogosphere or eBookosphere is to say that you’re not?

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A Zen Master

The Samurais, Ninjas and Zen Masters that I learn from are all bloggers. In particular, the blogs with Eastern warrior and philosopher names that I read include the following:

My favorite of the bunch is Financial Samurai, which I subscribe to and read many of Sam Dogen’s posts.  He makes over $200,000 per year in passive investments and by writing, and shares a lot of details on his investments and his interesting philosophies on many things.

If you want to follow a Samurai, Ninja or Zen writer, Financial Samurai is my top recommendation.  He is somewhat of a hero to me in many ways. If I ever start my own financial blog, it would be most like that one, but without the descriptions of generating the great amount of wealth and freedom that the Financial Samurai has. Remember, I would be a Middle Class Samurai and still doing my best to support my family and make ends meet.

Leo Babauta is the author and creator of Zen Habits, which I started reading a few months ago.  His posts go well beyond money and interest me with topics about things like mindfulness, resiliency, coping with change, coping with anxiety, human connections and other topics that relate to Yours Truly Middle Class Guy and you as well.

Ninja Trader is not a blog, but a trading platform.  Prior to becoming a successful up-and-coming owner of his own law firm, my brother spent about seven or eight years as a trader.  He traded for two fairly large outfits in Chicago, one of which only traded futures contracts.

While trying to describe and demonstrate to me his own proprietary method of entering into complex spreads involving multiple futures contracts, he downloaded Ninja Trader onto my PC.  He had recently been laid off and we were talking about going into trading together as partners.

Maybe I woulda coulda and shoulda, but I did not.  It was in the depths of the Recession in December 2010, I had a stay-at-home wife and two young children, and I was not ready to leave behind the solid job that I still have (although it does not always feel solid) for the monumental risk of funding our own trading firm with the paltry amount of reserves that we had.

Nobody knows the future, and you cannot go back and redo the past, but I sometimes wonder what might have become of a joint trading venture with my brother.  Perhaps we both would have become wealthy Jewish men instead of one wealthy man and one Middle Class Guy.  Perhaps we would not be speaking to one another now.  Neither of us will ever know.Image result for ninja traderAnyhow, all these years later and Ninja Trader still sends me emails every week or two to sign up for the platform or about its latest improvements, one of the thousand or so that make their way into my in-box every single week of the year.

The other sites listed, and I am sure that you can find more should you seek them, offer advice on budgeting, investing, frugality and other financial topics that are of interest to me.

I seriously might enter the fray and add yet another blog voice about money and budgeting.

What do you think of the name The Ninja Middle Class Zenmaster?

I hate it too.

 

 

 

The Urge to Purge

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As a long-time economic development professional, I have accumulated many many files.  Did I say many?  How many?

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Hundreds upon hundreds of files pertaining to both completed and never-built projects, ownership records of development sites, information from county and State agencies, road agencies, marketing initiatives, planning documents, specific business projects that I have been involved with, shopping centers in the town, grant applications, trade industry documents, budget documents, newsletters that I have written, Chamber of Commerce information and so on and so forth.  A recounting of all my files is boring for me, let alone you.

Suffice it to say that over the years as my mental and physical workspace becomes cluttered with non-actionable but potentially relevant for some future time, I file it away.  Sometimes physically but also digitally so that they do not cloud other categories in my organizational system or projects that I am currently working on.

Because the papers that come across my desk are so voluminous, I have implemented a filing system in my drawers and on my shelves.  A day rarely goes by that I do not have to reference at least one of these files.

My Recent Move

I have recently been transferred to a new office with a new boss after having had the same office and the same boss for the past twelve years.

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Having to move my stuff to another location was stressful, but also provided a golden opportunity to weed out obsolete files, and weed them out I did.  I filled my former department’s full-size recycle bin about three times, but still moved ten times that amount to my new office.

There were quite a few files that I mulled over for a while but ultimately decided to keep.  These are the ones that I could anticipate possibly needing again sometime in the future if I got rid of them.

If the rest of this year passes and they just sit taking up space in my drawers, I will feel the urge to purge them.

Purge In the New Year

For the past few years, I have spent the first few work days of the New Year purging crap from my office.  Cleaning house and disposing of these files keeps them from going stale and becoming a burden.

These past few years, I kept some of the files thinking that I would get rid of them the next New Year, but did not.

This coming New Year, in my continuing effort to not only be a better me, but to become more organized in both my personal and work life, I am planning a big Purge Day in early January.

Just last month, I was transferred from a boss in his mid-sixties who is heavily dependent on paper reports to a Millennial boss who believes that anything we have printed on paper should be digitized.  My own belief is that it lies somewhere in the gray area in between.  I digitize what I can, but feel that many such files will be forgotten as soon as they are converted to pixels.  I may not remember what I called them or where I put them.  Perhaps locating those previously digitized reports and files would be another good goal for this coming year.

My personal Purge Day is in early January and this time I will document how many files I am moving along, both at home and at work.  Chances are if I have not referenced a particular file for the past two or three years, I will not want or need to reference it this coming year either and all that it is doing is taking up valuable space.

I’m not talking about some of my key files, like the Downtown Plan that I recently spent a year-plus working on creating for my community, files on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts in the town, Economic Development Commission packets going back over the years, the file on our Town Center Redevelopment project or my files on the two business parks that I help develop.

No, I am talking about files on resident surveys that were done ten years ago, a defunct marketing plan, building plans and marketing materials for shopping centers that were never constructed, water and sewer line maps that have since been digitized and other things that are just taking up space as time marches on, waiting for no one.

I am going to do it at home to, and after spending a few days working on it (after all, I still have a job to do at work) I am going to have the three piles – one for the trash bin, one for the recycle bin and one for the shredder.

It may not get me to the point of feeling like I have attained a highly organized life at home and at work, but it will certainly move me closer to that goal.  Becoming organized is not necessarily an end point in my case, but a continuous journey.

I feel the Urge to Purge this stuff in the New Year, and am looking forward to doing it and sharing the details here.

 

 

Taking It As It Comes

Besides being a Middle Class Guy, I am also middle aged.

Although Jim Morrison died before I turned the age of one, his lyrics and songwriting while leading the Doors remains just about my favorite music of all-time.  The only reason that I write “just about” is that, depending on my mood any given day, my favorite may be Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Depeche Mode, Jane’s Addiction, Louis Armstrong or any one of a wide variety of musical stars of yesteryear.

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The Doors song “Take it As it Comes” has been running through my head of late considering the way things have been going during my second full week of working for a new department.

To quickly recap for any new readers, I have been transferred to another department at my place of work and assigned to a young, thirty-two-year-old boss after having been hired by a very wise and experienced boss who is turning sixty-four this fall.

My new department and boss move fast.  We go from one thing to another, much like firemen or policemen responding to calls, although nothing that we do is actually as urgent as a fire or crime in progress.

We are mostly reacting to external stimuli such as requests or orders from elected officials, deadlines imposed by others for public meetings and responding to actual emergencies throughout our community.  I now work within the Administration Department in my community, thus some actual emergencies actually do arise and require a response from my colleagues.

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My specialty and job description revolves around economic development, the field that I have toiled in for the past seventeen years, since Y2K.

For those of us who have spent more than ten years surviving in this competitive business, we recognize that success is not necessarily accomplished by running from one petty thing to another, but by consistently pursuing excellence, consistency and ethics in one’s actions.

That is not the case in what we now do.

While identifying my daily work over the seventeen years that I have been in this field, I have identified three activities that you or I can be engaged in.

The first is doing predefined work, checking off tasks and accomplishments from your actions list and calendar.  We are completing work that we had previously identified as needing to be done, or managing our workflow and managing our time well.

In my case, this involves preparing for and doing well in scheduled meetings, making phone calls, returning emails, writing reports, attending trade shows and Chamber of Commerce functions and the like.

Even if the calls, meetings and emails do not go great or accomplish what you want them to, you are still able to check them off your list.

The second method, which has also proven to be useful in my experience is to define your work.  This entails placing things into their respective categories as they come in.  For me, as it does for many a Middle Class Guy, this includes email messages pouring in, phone calls pouring in and people leaving me voice mails, would-be business owners dropping in unannounced who demand immediate and complete attention, elected and appointed officials calling or dropping in unannounced who also demand immediate and complete attention, actual mail showing up including many bills, colleagues requesting things of me, and my new, young and eager boss dropping in my office about a dozen times per day telling me to do something while I am knee-deep in something else.

I am not a complainer, but it can become difficult to juggle all these things.

Thus, defining your work has you break down things into actionable steps. Some requests can be put to the side for next week or some other day.  If the Mayor wants something done, that takes precedent over any other activity.  If a salesperson calls me when I am in the middle of something, I won’t even bother (sorry salespeople).

A good portion of this method of defining your work consists of identifying things that need to get done sometime, but not right away. You are constantly adding to all of your lists as you go along.

In my never-ending quest to become more organized both at home and at my place of work, I have used a combination of the above two methods for years.  When people ask me how I keep track of all that I do and can jump from one thing to another at a moment’s notice, I like to say that “I just make this look easy, but it isn’t.”

Taking It As It Comes

These days, with my new department and new boss, it seems as if the planning and organizing aspects of our work might as well get tossed out the window.

Even though I still created a well-defined list of many things to accomplish this week, I had even more tasks that I could not have even imagined while driving to work on Monday morning thrown my way.

Being a person who is striving hard to be a “team player” in my new department and fit in and be adaptable, I am starting to adopt a new philosophy when it comes to my job.

Even though I have never actually worked in a restaurant in my entire life, I tell my wife in the morning that I am going into work with the same philosophy as a server at a local eatery.  I do not know how many customers will come in that day, I do not know exactly what tables my boss will want me to cover, and I do not know who I will be dealing with any given day.

If I am at my place of work to serve others including commercial and industrial brokers, existing and prospective business owners, elected and appointed officials, other colleagues, my boss and a myriad of others, I might as well consider myself a waiter and them my customers.

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I am a server of economic development services.

I may make more money than most servers, maybe even two or three servers combined, but I do the same thing that they do.  Customers and bosses order economic-development related services from me, and I serve up what they ordered.

My menu includes things like information on any and every property in my community, information on taxes and fees, Zoning information, the purchasing and creation of many advertisements, the creation of marketing materials, the writing of Memos and reports, providing the location of infrastructure, demographic and traffic information, managing social media, information on the availability or lack thereof of financial incentives, assistance with providing a workforce for companies, and so on and so forth.  Any service that a good economic developer would put on a menu, I have it!

Every day that I am at my new department brings unsuspected and unforeseen surprises, and I have to either choose to engage in it immediately or put it off for later.  Unfortunately for me, most of these surprises are directives from my new boss.  Thus, since they are of the utmost importance to him, they must be for me, too, whether they serve the furtherance of economic development in our community or not.  In most cases, they do not.  When it comes to my performance review and job security, they do serve an important purpose.

When we jump from one imaginary crisis to another, we are deciding by default that these things are more important than whatever else it was that we were doing at the time.

I am going to try to fight it some, but in the meantime I am learning to do what Jim Morrison implores us to do in the song and “Go With the Flow” and “Take it easy, baby. Take it as it comes.”

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