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Archive for May, 2008

Vital things to know that the college grad did not learn at college

Friday, May 30th, 2008

As I have progressed from college, to post college, to whatever the this next stage is, there are quite a few things that Ive picked up that I thought “man, they sure don’t teach that in college, or high school, or anywhere.”  Things that would have been good to know YEARS ago.

1) Start saving for retirement yesterday
I don’t care how old you are, the earlier you start, the better off you will be.  I wish I had started when I got my first paper route.  I would have a huge amount saved if I had been putting away even 5-10% of what I was making.  The lovely thing I like to call “compound interest” is your friend. Trust me.

2) Go to work.  On time.
I skipped a lot of classes in college…and Im hardly abnormal in that regard.  The problem is, for many people, that attitude can carry over into the good ol real world.  I was lucky in that I have been working fulltime (hmmm is that lucky?) during college so I didn’t exactly hit a wall when I came into the real world, but its a shock for some.

3) You need health insurance
The one point in my life when I didn’t have affordable health insurance is when I had a bad accident and racked up a ton of medical bills.  Health insurance (at least catastrophic) is not just about being healthy: accidents happen, and trust me, you don’t want tens of thousands in medical bills.

4) Get enough sleep
Ok I know, cramming for exams, playing video games until early hours and falling asleep in class is part of college for most people, but that kind of thing does not work out well in the business world.  Staying up late playing around makes for a miserable work day the next day, and the next day, and the next day.  Seriously, even one night of not sleeping can really wreck a week when you cant take a nap at 2 PM.

5) Dont rack up debt
One of the most common themes is the idea of “well Ill buy this now, and then pay for it when I have a job after college.”  Thats the kind of thinking that has gotten the majority of us in America in debt.  This seems to continue after graduation too… “I will buy this now and pay it back when I get my bonus.”  Don’t.  In fact, heres a little trick: think about how many hours of work (post taxes) it will take you to pay for something.  That really puts it in perspective.

Think rate cuts are to help you? Think again.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I want to have one million dollars. One million dollars is a lot of money. Many Americans would love to have $1 million sitting in their bank and brokerage accounts. A lot of Americans do have a million dollars…but many more do not.

Yet, do Americans really love money? For many, as soon as we get money in our hands, we spend it like it is on fire on some new toy, or on some new experience that, for a short while, distracts and entertains us. So, do we love money, or do we love what money enables us to possess and experience? It is probably more the latter, though you could debate that for hours.

Regardless, note what money gives us – freedom, opportunities, security, flexibility, and power – stems not from money’s quantity, but from its quality. It matters not how much money we possess or how impressive the rate at which we bring it home if our money steadily decreases in value over time.

So, is $1 million really a lot of money? It depends – how fast is the dollar decreasing in value? There’s one simple way to tell: price inflation. As consumer prices increase, a dollar buys less than it used to. Thanks to America’s average annual inflation rate of 2.7% over the past seven years, $1 million in 2000 was worth only $829,864 by the end of 2007. In 2008, inflation has jumped to 4.1%, degrading the dollar faster still.

What is causing price inflation today? It’s a two-fold problem. First, through deficit spending, the U.S. Congress spends today hundreds of billions of tax dollars borrowed from our future. This acceleration of future tax dollars into the present increases the supply of dollars sloshing around our economy in 2008, increasing demand for – and prices of – goods and services.

Second, the Federal Reserve swells the U.S. money supply with credit. By lowering short-term interest rates – as it has consistently over the past few months – the Fed encourages banks to loan money to borrowers looking to spend their future earnings today. The result is more dollars sloshing around the economy, further driving up prices of goods and services.

How can we stop the Federal government’s willful degradation of the U.S. dollar? Vote. Write. Call. Demand that your elected officials in Washington, D.C. practice sound fiscal and monetary policy: a balanced Federal budget each year; a lower Federal debt outstanding; and inflation-fighting (e.g., higher) short-term interest rates.

But aren’t they lowering rates to help us?

Unless you are the owner of a bank, the answer is no. Its a major misnomer that just because the fed lowers rates, the banks will lower rates. This just doesn’t hold: in times like these there is no promise that banks will lower their rates. They reap the reward of lower fed rates while keeping rates steady or even raising rates to help themselves out of the hole they dug themselves with bad lending practices.

Think rate cuts are to help you? Think again.

Renting out my house – how Ive been doing it

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

As you all know there has been all sorts of stuff going on lately.  I thought about writing about the crazy tornado that came through here, less than three blocks away this week but I will wait on that until we go take some pictures today.   In the meantime, there has been an ongoing effort to rent out my house.  Its been quite an experience, thats for sure.  Here is a collection of things I have learned:

1) If you go with a management company it may be easier on you but it may not be worth it.
The absolute cheapest I could find was 9% of rent per month, they hold $400 for “possible maintenance”  regardless of the fact that I will be doing all of the maintenance and they hold renter’s deposit for the entirety.  Considering I am renting my house out for about $1250 per month, add in the “bank charge” and that is approximately $115 per month in rent lost.  Now lets add $120 for lost interest on the $1650 they are holding.  That comes out to $1500 loss per year.  That was a lot for me to swallow.

2) Nothing is a done deal until its actually in writing
I have had 3 different renters so far that have been “sure” only to have things come up.  Nothing is a done deal until it really is a done deal.

3) Try to find people you know
The easiest tenants to find are those that you know need a place.  In my case I have been  attempting to go through my brother to get his friends into the house.   The jury is still out but hopefully the guys that are interested work out.

3) Advertise Advertise Advertise
I underestimated  what it would take to get people into my house…I figured “its a college town and my house is better than most” which is absolutely true…the problem is that most students are going through management companies so none know about my house. Sign out front, ads in the paper, ads on facebook, ads at the college, the list goes on and on.  If you’re not into the “property scene” you are facing bigger hurdles.

5) Keeping your house in showable condition is tough
Especially when there are people living in it.  Its a constant job to keep things in the proper condition.

Anyone else been through trying to do this?  Any additional tips? Thoughts?

My car got wrecked – how I am dealing with it

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

While driving with Lauren to go see a property management company about my house someone turned out in front of me.  Here is what happened:

car wreck 350Z
Here is how I handled it and I think so far its been very effective:

1) Call the police
I called the police right away since it was substantial.  Even in a wreck where there is not substantial damage it is still a good idea to get a police report because this will be vital later on as far as determining insurance coverage.  If it the other persons fault, such as in my case, you need to establish that the other party is officially the one at fault.

2) Call your insurance agent
As it turns out State Farm wants you to deal more directly with the other persons insurance but if you have an insurance agent that actually gets on top of things for you, you want to get them involved early on.  Insurance agents know how to deal with other insurance agents.

3) Take pictures of the damage
Having your own set of pictures is essential in case some sort of dispute comes up later.

4) Get the other drivers information
In this case I got it from police.

5) Call the other persons insurance
I called Esurance and sure enough he had reported the accident but he didn’t say it was his fault or give them any of my information.  My insurance had also not called them yet.  I got all of the correct information in to them and got them to set me up with a rental car.

This is as far as I have gotten, currently they are inspecting the damage and I am waiting to hear what they have to say.  I will, of course, add as things come.

Overwhelmed? Work got you stressed? Ive got solutions

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

If you are like me, when you get stressed its very hard to concentrate.  I have some sort of self destructive feedback loop where when I am stressed I am less able to be productive and get things done, and so I get more stressed.  Under pressure I do quite well, but when it is looming things that are sort of “distance” or “gradual” stressers I am terrible.

Lately I have been completely overwhelmed.  I am the technical lead on huge project at work and I have been working 12 hour+ days and traveling. Oh yeah and theres those little things of trying to rent out my house, selling Laurens house, selling my car, and trying to sleep at night…oh and still making sure I give you all decent content.  Here is what I have started doing to try and cope with everything at once.

1) Exercise
This is by far the most important thing.  I historically have been in really good shape and Ive really been slipping since I started this new job.  It was easy to get up and go work out when I worked 8 hour days and didnt have to be into work until 9 or 10.  Plus a lot of times if I got into work late I could go lift on my lunch break or take an afternoon break to do it.  The thing is,  exercise doesn’t just affect how good of shape Im in physically, but mentally as well so I have started exercising again and I feel much better.  Not only do I feel better and less stressed but I am much more alert now and I am sleeping better.

2) Focus on one thing at a time
When it comes to individual tasks, I am great at getting things done.  When you line them up into a whole set of tasks, I am basically paralyzed.  So whats the trick?  Thats right, separate them out and focus on them one at a time.

3) Be positive
I sort of cringed even writing “be positive” because its so cliche but I think its important.  Nothing pisses me off more than when people take a “this will never work” “life is terrible” kind of attitude.  If I had that attitude I honestly would cease to function completely.  Its difficult enough for me to focus on a wide variety of tasks or get motivated when Im overwhelmed as it is, if I had a negetive attitude I would not be able to do anything.  I also like the feeling of getting things over with, its a load off your back.

4) Find a way to relax
I haven’t been able to do this in a while, but something that has historically helped me is just sitting in a hot tub and listening to music.  Another thing is playing guitar.  Im sure everyone has their own thing that is their own preferred method, but if you don’t have one, find one.

5) Eat better
Its one of the tenants of personal training and fitness: eating better and more often (6 meals vs 3) increases your energy (and helps you lose weight incidentally) and makes you feel better overall.

Anyone else have any good methods they use?

Dont let your personal life hurt your professional life aka the Bill Clinton, Tom Cruise, Russel Crowe syndrome top 5

Monday, May 19th, 2008

I was having a conversation recently with a coworker of mine about how your professional life has such a major impact on your personal life but it kind of got me thinking, how about the other way around?  What are some things that have the ability to hurt your career that stem from your personal life? Think its completely separate? Well, back and relax, I am going to hand you a big steaming pile of context.  Here are some personal things that can rough up your career.

1) Living a truely deviant lifestyle and/or crime
Everyone has the ability to choose what they want to do with their lives and hey, more power to you.  But there are things that go too far, particularly if you want to have a successful career.  If you are spending time in jail, doing illegal things, or are even too far out on the fringe of social normals, like or not but your career will suffer.  “Uh boss, yeah I can’t make it into work for the next 30 days, I am uh well, there was an unexpected…uh, Im in jail.”  Yeah thats gonna go over like a porcupine in a balloon factory.  This is also the part where affairs, and other improprieties can really nail you.  Don’t believe me?  Ask our last president.

2) Taking care of personal things at work
So everyone makes a personal call at work every once in a while, its unavoidable.  Some people do more than that, much more.   Do not be one of those people, you will at some point run into something. At best, have some awkward moments.  At worst case you could be fired.  An example is, I never write any blog entries at work, aside from being unethical, it could also get me in trouble.  I will occaisonally post from work as far as just pressing the post button, but that is as far as it goes.

3) Myspace/Facebook
I know someone that I work with that I can promise you if senior management saw this person’s myspace page this person would be fired on the spot.  Yes I know its a place for self expression but guess what, its public domain.  If your employer or someone researching you finds this, its completely fair game for making judgments on character. And yes,they can discriminate based on what they find on your page.  You created a public record of yourself and things they could never ask you in an interview they are now finding out based on you offering it up.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t be proud of who you are, but think of recent cases of teachers being fired for drunk pics on their myspace pages.

4) Expressing views/beliefs in office
Bringing your personal views out in the office can cause a ton of tension and a lot of bitterness.  These parts of your personal life should stay way away from the office.  I like to count Tom Cruise in this category because though he wasn’t necessarily expressing his views on set, he make such a scene off camera that his studio dumped him.  Ouch.

Bucking the trend:
Office Romance – This one is obvious why there could be some serious problems having an office romance but considering Lauren and I met at work, I can’t really tell other people not to do it.  I will say if things hadn’t worked out between us it could have been very difficult.  If you are going to pursue someone that you work with make sure that it is really someone you are interested in for the long term, I think that is generally the litmus test.  In my case, I think wife counts as long term 🙂

Saving Money and Gas: tips 20-40 (of 50!)

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Some more tips and tomorrow, the final 10.

– Don’t idle your car engine to warm up.  This even includes new turbo models. It warms up best and most safely by driving immediately but without accelerating rapidly. For colder areas like my previous homeland of Winnipeg, use a block heater with timer, cold engines can use up to 50% more fuel for short trips.

– Keep a fuel consumption log to compare your mileage and track compared to what your car is supposed to get.

– If you have to run errands and you live in a hot climate, do them early in the morning or later at night to avoid use of AC.

– When buying a car, avoid the sunroof, they create drag

– Park your car in shady or covered areas. You will need less AC and there will be less evaporation of gas.

– Use a solar car cooling device while parked.

– Instead of driving to some far off store (like a far away mall) order things online.  A trip from Fort collins to Denver might cost me $50 in gas when its all said and done

– Leave for work earlier and come home earlier.  This will help avoid rush hour where you are stop and go wasting gas.

– If you have a long commute, look to bring your work closer to you…or move closer to your work…or see if you can work from home a couple days a week.

– Get your own accurate (digital) pressure gauge. They are cheap and more reliable than those crappy 80s ones.

– Watch out for faulty oxygen sensors, if yours is faulty you can improve your mileage by up to 40%!

– If you have a huge load of things you are carrying for a long distance, try to balance the weight more to the front to avoid lifting the front of the car and increasing air drag

– If you are shopping for a new car, buy a lighter color, it will reduce cooling needs

– If you are not getting a new car but have a dark interior, add lighter colored seat covers

– Buy a motorcycle or scooter and use it during the summer (or year round if you live somewhere warm)

– For short distances, ride your bike, its good exercise and saves gas

– Opt for manual transmission over automatic transmission when car buying

– Dont fill up when the gas truck is pumping fuel into the tanks.  A lot of times any dirt and junk in the tanks will get stirred up and

– The bigger your car, the more you should slow things down. Rolling resistance increases linearly with speed but air resistance increases exponentially with speed. Twice the speed = 4 times the air resistance.

– Get a gas card and save a bunch over time

Saving Money and Gas: tips 11-20

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Buy gasoline during coolest time of day
Early morning or late evening is best. During these times gasoline is densest. Keep in mind – gas pumps measure volumes of gasoline, not densities of fuel concentration. You are charged according to “volume of measurement”.

Buy a fuel efficient car
Ok, obvious

Have the right kind of tires for the right season
Too deep of treads in summer will rob you of some gas milage

Tighten the gas cap
Gas will evaporate from your car’s tank if it can.

Dont top off your tank

The additional gas will probably just seep out.

Clean or buy a new air filter regularly

Take your racks off the top
This will reduce drag.  Not using your ski rack?  Take it off

Carpool

Another obvious one, but perhaps the most effective…and least used

Combine trips
If you have multiple errands to run, do them all at once and figure out the best route.  This will save you a ton of time too.

If gas prices are steady, fill up when you’re almost empty

This will save the weight of the gas, but be careful, don’t wait until exactly empty, there could be crud at the bottom of your tank you dont want getting sucked up and clogger your fuel filter.

Gas and Money Saving tips 1-10 (of 50!)

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

So I have a massive list of tips I’ve compiled going from the obvious to the not-quite-so-obvious. So here to start things off, is 1-10.

1) Don’t speed
When you speed not only does your drag increase (thinks back to my mechanical engineering classes that I mostly slept through). Not only that, but at higher RPMs even in high gears you are burning a lot more fuel. If you’re on the highway, slowing down from 85 to 70 depending on your car can decrease your fuel consumption by over 20%. I am terrible about this. Im working on it.

2) Dont accelerate too hard
Once again, high RPMs = large amounts of gas being burned. Im also terrible at this. I am also working on this. 😉

3) De-Junk-ify your car
The more the car weighs the more fuel it uses. Only bring stuff you really need. Like golf clubs.

4) Turn that A/C off (or use less)
When the air conditioner is on it puts extra load on the engine forcing more fuel to be used (by about 20%). Roll down the windows, after all, being in touch with with the cool breeze is nicer anyway, right? Edit: rate of diminishing return, drag gets worse as you speed up so above low speeds, roll the windows up and switch to AC.

5) Long trip? Cruise control it up
Avoid accelerating and decelerating if possible. See #2.

6) Waiting on a Train? How about at Sonic? Turn the car off
Save some otherwise wasted fuel.

7) Keep your tires inflated
My cousin and I just did a test on this on his Lumina and it really does save you several MPG if they are properly inflated…in his case from low to slightly high, 3 MPG, no joke. On my Z thats $.57 per gallon!

8) Buy the lowest grade (octane) of gasoline that you can (safely)
Check your owner’s manual for this information. IF you’re not pinging, you’re good to go.

9) Pay cash at places that charge extra for credit cards

10) Get gas from places like Walmart and King Soopers that are offering loss leader deals
You can often get gas for a lot cheaper. I am saving about 20 cents a gallon at Kings by my house. Sweet.

Fight your enemy – Consumerism

Monday, May 12th, 2008


Consumerism. Its an odd word. According to wikipedia “Consumerism is the equating of personal happiness with the purchasing of material possessions and consumption.
The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Karl Marx and Thorstein Veblen.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not fan of Karl Marx, quite the opposite. At best he was a fierce idealist set in flawed theory, at worst…well I won’t go there. But he did have one thing right, but for the wrong reasons. Consumption. The problem with consumption is not consumption in and of itself, it is the effects of consumption.

If you live in the United States of America, one reason you may feel challenged to pull ahead financially is that America’s culture is heavily focused on the consumption of goods and services by individuals and families. While consumption may help grow America’s mammoth $13.1 trillion economy, it can also hurt the long-term wealth of the average American family. Why doesn’t America’s culture focus on more fiscally responsible behavior like saving and investing? Because America’s powerful media and entertainment industry keeps American culture centered on the consumption of products and services by offering and providing advertising and other marketing solutions to America’s best and brightest marketers. It is the combined power of the industry and the marketers that keeps you and your family focused on spending your money on goods and services in the here and now instead of doing what is best for you and your family in the long run – building wealth by saving and investing.

Every day of your life in the United States, companies attempt to attract and hold your attention for just a few seconds so that they can tell you about their product or service, or simply make your mind aware of their brands. Such attempts are known as marketing, the process of moving you closer – mentally and physically – to the purchase of a company’s products and services. Hundreds of thousands of companies throughout the country and from around the world spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on marketing. Each of these companies is desperate to tell you about the products and services it has ready to sell to you. Unfortunately for them, you are yet another busy American whose attention span is scattered and unfocused as you go about your day dealing with all kinds of personal issues related to living your life. Even worse for them, hundreds of thousands of other companies are also marketing to you, further distracting and dividing your attention. No doubt, a fierce corporate battle rages every single day for a piece of your mind.

To whom do all these companies pay their billions of dollars to get your attention? America’s media and entertainment industry. Companies pay media and entertainment stalwarts such as ABC, AMC, CNN, CBS, Clear Channel, Conde Nast, Discovery, DoubleClick, Dow Jones, ESPN, Forbes, Fox, Gannett, Google, HARPO, Liberty Media, Live Nation, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Miramax, MTV, NASCAR, NBC Universal, The New York Times, Playboy, Six Flags, Time Warner, US News and World Report, Walt Disney, and Yahoo! for access to your attention. The media and entertainment companies control the access to your attention because you demonstrate an interest in what they have to say or show you by reading their magazine, watching their cable channel, seeing their movie, listening to their radio station, watching their TV show, reading their newspaper, or attending their concert or other live event.

Free content: no such thing

In the jargon of the industry, media and entertainment companies design, develop, and distribute “content” that they hope you will value or enjoy. Content can be almost anything: a sitcom like Friends, a local news segment, a medical drama like E.R., a game show like Wheel of Fortune, an article on a current event in Time magazine, an editorial piece in the Wall Street Journal, a pictorial of the Grand Canyon in National Geographic magazine, or whatever. The media and entertainment companies know you value or enjoy their content when you continue to watch it, read it, listen to it, and/or pay for it. The content attracts and holds your attention as long as you continue to value or enjoy it.

While media and entertainment companies produce their content for your interest or entertainment, they do not view you as their customer. Instead, media and entertainment companies view the marketer – the company that seeks to send a commercial message to your brain – as its customer. After all, it is the marketer, not you, who pays the big bucks to the media and entertainment companies. You generally get the benefit of the content for free. Alas, the content is free to you only because the content is a means to an end – access to your scarce time and attention. Such access is what a marketer is paying for when it buys advertising or other marketing solutions that integrate into the media and entertainment company’s content.

Ultimately, the business of the media and entertainment industry is to attract and capture marketing dollars from companies seeking to deliver a marketing message to you, the viewer, reader, or listener of the industry’s content. As you watch, read, or hear the industry’s content, you receive messages making you aware that the marketer’s product or service exists. These messages further encourage you to dig into your pocket, pull out your cash or credit card, and then exchange your money (or, in the case of a credit card, the bank’s money) for the marketer’s product or service. It is in this way that America’s media-drenched culture helps to separate you from your money, hurting you and your family’s ability to build wealth and financial freedom over the long term.

“Better, faster, more attractive, stronger, more manly, more feminine…”

The media and entertainment industry is not evil. The industry is a business just like any other. Chances are you know someone who works in the media and entertainment industry. Employees working in the industry are not evil either. They are just doing their jobs. What makes getting ahead in America so difficult is that, on the whole, the media and entertainment industry’s employees are damn good at their jobs. They know how to attract your attention, hold it, and then deliver a marketing message to your brain that compels you to believe that you need a certain product or service to make you feel more attractive, more confident, more smart, more happy, more safe, more successful, more popular, more relaxed, more productive, or more fulfilled.

Once you believe the product or service will do for you what the marketer says it will do, you are likely to go out and exchange your hard-earned money (or, the money you borrowed from a bank by means of a credit card or installment loan) for the marketer’s product or service. Clearly, the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves are very powerful and persuasive forces in America’s culture. Both know how to manipulate us by appealing to our weaknesses and insecurities as human beings. We are all at risk of falling susceptible to their skills and tactics. Nearly every day, many Americans fall for them hook, line, and sinker.

Life Is Always Great in the imaginary world of consumption…

A real problem with living in America is that the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves are able to use their collective power of communication and persuasion to set the standard of what is “normal” in the minds of most Americans. Unfortunately, the normal they portray does not represent reality – that day-to-day life experience of most Americans. Instead, the “normal” foisted upon Americans by way of mass media channels such TV, radio, and magazines is only normal in the land of make believe, that faraway imaginary place known as La-La Land.

For example, do you really believe that…

* …the characters on the sitcom Friends can really afford the huge apartments they share in New York City working at the jobs that they do?

* …buying and owning a new Ford truck – “Built Ford Tough.” – will make you more manly and more respected by your friends and family?

* …drinking Bud Light beer will make sexy, young women give you come-hither looks while they strut around you in teeny-weeny bikinis? (damnit!)

If you can honestly answer “Yes!” to any of these questions, check yourself – there is a harsh reality out there for you. Back here in reality, buying and owning a new Ford truck will not make you more manly or more respected by others. Most people will not even notice a) that you drive a truck, b) what brand it is, or c) whatever beguiling effect it may have on you. If they do notice, they probably do not really care. After all, your new Ford truck is just another truck out of millions on American roads today.

…But, Reality Is Where You Build or Destroy Your Wealth

In reality, buying and owning a new Ford truck will simply get you a truck to drive. Unfortunately, it also gives you many negatives:

* a large decline in resale value after you drive the truck off the dealer’s lot

* interest charges and other fees you must pay on the financing you used to buy the truck

* insurance premiums you must pay to cover liabilities and other risks you might incur while you drive the truck

* gasoline or diesel prices you must pay to power the truck’s engine

* maintenance and repair costs you must pay the Ford dealer or a service garage to keep the truck going down the road

So, according to your external influences you get more manly and more respect from others by buying and owning a new Ford truck. In reality, you get a new truck worth less than the price you paid, plus the opportunity to spend thousands of dollars more on interest, insurance, fuel, and maintenance services.

The media pumps you up and makes you feel good emotionally. Reality delivers you the “real deal” and transfers your hard-earned cash (or, the cash you borrowed from banks) into the bank accounts of those who sold you their products or services. Had you not bought and owned the truck in the first place, all the cash you spent on the truck would instead be increasing your wealth as your savings and investments grow over time. When it comes to building wealth for you and your family, you are much better off keeping your head focused on reality than allowing the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves to whisk you away to La-La Land where you – and your wallet – are far more vulnerable.

Fight consumption, get ahead in the world

Clearly, the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves are powerful, pervasive, and persuasive forces in America’s culture that can have a negative impact on your wealth. The question for you becomes, “How do I protect my wealth from these powerful forces?” The answer is clear: take the voluntary actions needed to prevent these forces from wielding their persuasive powers over you in the first place. After all, the industry and the marketers do not have power over you unless you give them that power. Believe it or not, you are 100% in control. The real challenge is your willingness and ability to control yourself.

Just because the media and entertainment industry exists does not mean that you must heed its siren call of “buy! buy! buy!”. Life in America provides innumerable opportunities to avoid the industry’s strident efforts to numb your critical thinking skills and influence your spending behaviors to the detriment of your long-term wealth. To uncover – or rediscover – these opportunities in America, you can freely choose to opt out of the “normal” American life built, portrayed, and sustained by the media and entertainment industry.

There are many simple ways to exert your control over the media and entertainment industry and the marketers it serves. For example:

* Go for a walk or a hike with your dog

* Spend time sharing personal aspirations and goals with your family

* Share a picnic lunch with your spouse or partner in a beautiful park in your city

* Take a cooking or painting class at a local community college

* Invite several friends over to your home for dinner and lively conversation about matters important to our world
(NOTE: the private – yet so desperately public – lives of Hollywood celebrities do not count as matters important to our world)

* Write and share your personal views on a special interest blog or forum online

* Read a book on how to wisely invest your savings

* Teach yourself a software program to improve your personal productivity

* Exchange long emails with a friend or family member living overseas

In other words, go out into America and do things that do not rely on the media and entertainment industry. Do things that tend to enhance your practical knowledge, your marketable skills, and your personal relationships and experiences. These concerted actions on your part can improve the quality of your life and, as you will soon discover, the lives of others. Where you can improve the lives of others is where you will establish and grow your wealth over time, right here in reality. After all, it is in America, not La-La Land, that you should be looking to get ahead in America.