Wednesday, April 5, 2017

3,000th Post

Time flies when you are having fun.

This is my 3,000th post on this blog.   Maybe it is a time to reflect on where I started from and where I am going.   

I started this blog nearly ten years ago, on November 12, 2008, just after the election as the economy was melting down.   You may not remember this (most people who were there, conveniently choose to forget!) but at the time, the economy was in free-fall.  George Bush signed the bailout bill because if he didn't, the entire economy would have collapsed.   Barack Obama was elected President because people wanted an end to laissez-faire economics and deregulation of the banks.  We all saw where that got us.

The economy bottomed out in February/March of 2009, right after Obama was inaugurated.   And until about March 1 of this year, it has been on a steady, if not spectacular course, improving each quarter, with some setbacks.   Unemployment is down, inflation is down, interest rates are low, the market is at record highs.  Expect this to change, as interest rates rise, tight employment markets mean higher wages, and inflation to skyrocket - destroying the savings of most elderly Americans.

The fun is about to begin!  But we lived through this, too, in the late 1970's, and managed to survive.

But getting back to our roots here, I realized, over time, that the reason why the economy melted down had less to do with regulations and government (or lack thereof) and with my own personal decisions.   I realized that a lot of people were blaming political parties, the Left, the Right, the 1%'ers, the welfare recipients, or whatever, and neglecting to look at their own actions.

Americans, as a whole and as individuals, borrowed a lot of money back in the 2000's, and could ill-afford to pay it back.   President "W" Bush told us that consumption was a patriotic duty after 9/11 and many people took him at his word.   And he said this because it meant more profits for companies, as people leveraged themselves further and further into debt.  Maybe he should have told us to buy savings bonds instead!

I realized, in my personal life, that while I had done a lot of things right (saved money, invested in my 401(k), invested in Real Estate - and got out when it went mad) I also made a lot of the same mistakes my friends did.   I refinanced my house to pay off credit card debt.  I blew tons of money on hobby cars.  I over-improved my home with weekend projects from the big-box store, all financed on credit cards.   I spent too much at restaurants, and didn't shop on price at the grocery store.   I had a lot of bad financial habits that were masked by the booming economy and my high income at the time. 

Funny thing, though, like many people in Washington, I desperately wanted to get off the merry-go-round.   After 9/11, the Anthrax attack, and the sniper attacks, Washington DC was no longer a fun place to live.   And it seemed that the "rat race" would never end, either.  I just wanted to unplug from it and do something else.   We were able to sell our house and move away, but in a short period of time, the rat race caught up with us again.

Rather than sell it all and learn to live on less, we just bought new stuff, convinced the money we made in Real Estate was a never-ending bottomless purse.   It was pretty deep, but not bottomless.   And it was fun - for a while - to have a vacation home and boats and cars and whatnot, until of course, the maintenance and cost of these things started to add up.   To top it off, I was getting older and I was losing interest in writing Patents.   I didn't want to be one of those old guys I see in the business, struggling in their later years taking on any old case.   I wanted out.

And it appeared to me we could get out.   By spending less and saving more and cutting back on "toys" we could work less and have more fun.   It took nearly a decade, from when I started this blog, to get here.   At first, I thought that merely cutting spending would allow us to keep all our toys.   And that worked for a while, but I realized that the toys were costing a lot more than I thought.   Working so you can have a jet-ski, or a boat, or a fancy car, is really just silly, if you think about it.  Work sucks, which is why you get paid to do it.  Why squander that on something transitory?   Use work to build wealth - something that will last longer than the end of the workday.  Most people, including myself, did the opposite.

So, along the way, I found myself finding new layers of the onion to peel.   Cutting back on living expenses was a start.  Shopping around insurance and other overhead costs helped.   Getting rid of our vacation home, boats, and fleet of cars really cut things back.   And suddenly, not only did I no longer need to make $100,000 a year just to keep my head above water, but I could live on a whole lot less, if I needed to.

And I could cut that back even further, if I wanted to, and I suspect I may just do that, in the future.

Along the way, I discontinued the blog for a while.   It seemed I had said all I wanted to say.   But then I found new ways of cutting expenses and new topics to cover.   And now that I didn't have to work, well, I had more time on my hands to write.  And I realize that really, I still have a very high overhead lifestyle, or at least, I could cut more in some areas without really "sacrificing" much.

Will I write another 3,000 blog entries?  I doubt it.   But I may go though and edit and maybe republish some of them over time.   We'll see where it goes!