Endless Nights of Fun with Friends for $3.75


Finding money in your budget for investing is tough, particularly when you are young.  Unfortunately, that is exactly the time that you should be investing since a) you need to start building up a wealth cushion to protect you from Mr. Murphy and b) every dollar you put away now will be worth something like $500 when you retire, versus each dollar being worth about $4 if you start saving and investing at 45 when you have a larger income.  Think about that – the $2000 you sink in an IRA when you are twenty years old could be worth $1 Million when you are 65 – enough to pay you $50,000 per year without ever touching the principal.  The trouble is scraping together $2000 when you are twenty.

Probably the thing that makes saving money the most difficult when you are young – other than the fact that you probably don’t make a whole lot – is that a lot of the social scene at 20 centers around going out to places and spending money.  Going to movies, going to clubs, and as you get older, drinking a lot of alcohol at $5 per drink.  (A liquor license costs a bar something like $100,000 per year.  Imagine how much money the bars are making off of you twenty-somethings each Friday and Saturday night to cover this hefty tax.)

One thing I discovered in college, however, was that one of the best ways to socialize was to simply have some friends over.  We would invite a couple over, make some tea (for some reason we drank a lot of tea), and pull out the cards.  Rather than being at a loud club unable to hear each other talk, paying $10 at the door, $40 each for drinks, and $10 for parking, we were having a great time with great conversations for almost free.

One of the reasons was the purchase of a little book called “Official Rules for Playing Cards” by the US Playing Card Company.  The book only cost about $1.50 back in the 1990’s because the company was more interested in selling cards than they were in selling books.  The book has rules for over 250 great games, including Canasta, Rummy, Bridge, Pinochle, and even poker.

I couldn’t find that particular book for sale anymore, but I found the Bicycle Official Rules for Card Games for $2.75.  I’m sure that it is the same book since the US Playing Card Company bought the Bicycle Card brand several years ago (they make almost all of the cards made in the world, I think).  Just buy the book and a pack of cards from the dollar store (ok, maybe three or four packs so you can play canasta) and you’ll be ready for a lot of fun.  All for something like $3.75.

I know what some of you are thinking – playing cards sounds kind of lame.  Just try it once or twice with some good friends and I think you’ll find yourself laughing and having a great time.  A much better time than you had last weekend at the bar without the cover charge and the chance at a DUI when the liquor gets the better of your judgement.  Then take that $100 you would have spent at the bars and send it into your mutual fund or your IRA account.  Just do this about twice a month and you’ll have that $2,000 socked away, growing tax-deferred before you know it.  And if you really need to drink to have fun, pick up a twelve pack of beer for about $10 to drink while you’re playing.  It will still be a lot cheaper.

What do you do for fun that doesn’t cost a lot?

Please contact me via vtsioriginal@yahoo.com or leave a comment.

Follow me on Twitter to get news about new articles and find out what I’m investing in.  @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

Love your Job or Leave It


I have a secret, I love my job.  I love going in on Mondays because I have the whole week ahead to try to make progress on my projects.  I get kind of sad on Fridays when I didn’t get as much done as I wanted.  It isn’t that I hate weekends, or don’t like to be around my family.  It is just that I really like what I do.

I am a rocket scientist, literally.  I think it is fun to think up things that don’t exist and then work towards building them.  I love seeing things through from a problem to be solved to something that actually flies or controls something or otherwise does something that nothing else has ever done before.  I love to look through data from a test and discover something that no one else knows.  I even like planning out projects, trying to take the big problems and break them down into little steps and little challenges that can be solved.

You may be thinking that I just love my job because it is a cool job, which is true.  But I have people around me in very similar jobs who hate their jobs.  They are always talking about Friday and can’t wait to hit the road at the end of the day.  The thing that kills me is when I give someone else a problem to solve because I just don’t have the time in the day to work on it only to have them do a lackluster job on it.  These are things that I would love to do – why wouldn’t someone jump into this with both feet?

Then again, I’ve met people who work other jobs that I would think were boring, but they are having the time of their lives doing them.  I’ve met janitors who are always smiling and whistling.  Perhaps they like having the same sort of routine each night and not having the pressure of making a lot of big decisions.  Maybe they like to be left alone and enjoy the solitude that comes from empty cubicles and darkened hallways.

The fact is, we’re all different and like different things.  Some people would love to be policemen, or air traffic controllers, or truck drivers.  Others would think it was boring or stressful.  Some people could care less about the work but love the people around them.

The fact is that we spend far too much of our time working to be doing something we truly hate.  But then again, people are only going to pay you if you are meeting some need they have, not doing something you want to do.  No one can make a living lying in a beach chair no matter how much you love doing it.  The trick is finding something you love to do that also meets a need.

It is not always even necessary to leave a job to find another you like better.  Many companies need a lot of different things done.  Often if you do a good job and simply ask you may get a chance to do something different with the same company.  Just remember to be patient but persistent.

Sometimes you have the power to make a better job for yourself without even changing positions.  Maybe you like planning but you are involved in day-to-day operations.  Maybe you can develop plans to make the day-to-day operations run smoother.

Another thing people do is to be involved with after work activities.  Someone who never moves beyond an entry line job may be in charge of a church group or a civic organization and get to shape the group exactly as they would like.

Everyone should find something they like to do.  What is your passion?

Do you love your job?  What do you love about it?

Please contact me via vtsioriginal@yahoo.com or leave a comment.

Follow me on Twitter to get news about new articles and find out what I’m investing in.  @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

It’s (Past) Time to Switch to the Fair Tax


It’s tax time again.  Once again people are gathering receipts, getting their 1099’s together, and either spending their weekends with TurboTax or going to an accountant to have their taxes prepared.  It is likely that most people are spending something like $400 on tax prep fees and/or between ten and twenty hours pulling together the paperwork and filling out forms.  Some have payments due and will need to find the money to write a big check.  Others will be getting a refund, which sounds great until you realize that you have made an interest free loan to the government.  Given that refunds are going out later this year due to the uncertainty at the end of the year, that means the government is keeping your money an extra month or two, still interest free.

The saddest thing is that it doesn’t need to be this way.  If the current income tax (and Payroll taxes) were replaced with a national sales tax, all of the hassle surrounding the filing of taxes would be eliminated.  April 15th would just be another day in the Spring.  You wouldn’t need to set up special tax-deferred retirement accounts and worry if you’d made your yearly contribution.  You wouldn’t need to launder your prescription money through Health Flexible spending accounts and be accused of being a meth maker because you were buying a bunch of cold medicine to avoid losing your remaining balance.  You wouldn’t need to worry if selling a stock would trigger taxes, or buy special windows or appliances to save on taxes.  And finally, you would never need to worry about the IRS or need to keep seven years of receipts handy just in case they call you in for an audit.

The answer is the Fair Tax.  Here’s how it works:

1.  The income and the payroll taxes would be eliminated, meaning that you would receive your entire paycheck.  There would be no need to worry about taxes, fill out W2’s, or track anything for tax purposes.  Without all of these taxes, your paycheck would be at least 25% bigger.

2.  Anytime you buy any new goods or services, a sales tax would be charged.  In order to keep collecting the same revenue as the government currently does, this sales tax would be about 23%.  This sounds hefty, but again your paycheck would be 25% bigger, so you should be saving at least $1000 per year on a $50,000 salary.  If you didn’t spend your entire paycheck, you would save even more.

3.  Unlike the VAT which is being pushed by some to use in addition to the income tax to generate more revenue, goods would only be charged when sold retail to the consumer.  This means that companies could lower the amount they charge since they would not be paying corporate taxes on their income and they would also not need to pay for all of the tax planning they do.  They wouldn’t need to pay for the big HR department to handle tax collections from their workers, meanig they could hire more people to actually make things!  This savings would be passed along to the consumer, in part, meaning that the price of goods would fall.  It is speculated that much of the 23% tax would be offset by the reduction in the cost of goods due to the savings created.

4.  To prevent a regressive tax system, a “prefund” would be sent out at the start of the year.  This would reduce or eliminate the taxes paid on the first dollars of each person’s spending.  For example, if each individual received a $5,000 prefund and the Fair Tax were 20%, no one would be paying taxes on the first $25,000 of their income (because any sales taxes collected would be offset by the $5000 prefund they received).  By setting the prefund appropriately, no one would be paying taxes at all on necessities – it would just be the spending beyond that.  The poor would not pay taxes, nor would people who live modestly and invest for their future while they were building up wealth.

There are a lot of advantages to this system besides not needing to fill out paperwork.  Because it is a sales tax and would be harder to dodge than an income tax, there would be less cheating which means lower taxes for everyone.  Even drug dealers and prostitutes would be paying taxes when they spent their money.  So  would people being paid under-the-table.

Also, it rewards saving and penalizes spending.  Because a society of savers is able to take care of themselves better than a society of spenders, this would make the nation better able to weather downturns in the economy.  It would also mean a lot more investment since investment returns would not be taxed until they were spent, so there would be a lot more innovation and jobs.

If you would like to never worry about keeping track of your income and no longer be in fear that the IRS will come knocking, support the Fair Tax today.  Like this post and share it with as many people as you can.  Tweet about it (#FairTaxNow), put it on your FaceBook wall and talk to all of your friends about it.  Go to the Fair Tax website and learn more.  If you are a blogger, please copy and reblog this post on your site or write your own post about it.  Finally, call, write, and email your representatives and let them know that you want the Fair Tax.  This will be a difficult change to make because people in general are fearful of change and politicians like the current tax system since it lets them reward their special interest groups.  Once people learn the facts, however, they’ll see that it would be a much better system.  Let’s change things this year and let 2012 be the last year you need to file income taxes!

Any concerns about the Fair Tax?  Any ideas on how we could get it enacted?

Please contact me via vtsioriginal@yahoo.com or leave a comment.

Follow me on Twitter to get news about new articles and find out what I’m investing in.  @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.