Investools Workshop

investools

I recently spent a weekend at an Investools Workshop, a two day program (eight hours a day) of learning about stocks, options, and investing. There was a lot of up-selling and sales pitch in there as well, but let me assure you, this was some solid training about how to invest. I was quite impressed and I learned a lot from this program. The most important thing I learned, though, wasn’t the trick of how to invest smart. Rather, it was the principle of money management.

Here’s what it comes down to: I don’t let someone else run my life. Similarly, I shouldn’t let someone else run my money.

Now, on the theological side, yes, God runs my life and my finances. Let’s accept that as being the case and leave it be. ((I believe wholeheartedly that God wants us to live our lives, and that he wants us to be good stewards of what he has given us. We don’t do that by sitting around doing nothing, or giving our talents to other people rather than cultivating them.))

The traditional method, as I was taught it, is to give your money to MetLife or some other mutual fund company. They invest it and make it grow, and they send you statements about how your money is doing. Until you start nearing retirement, you should probably just toss these in a drawer and forget about them because they don’t matter. You don’t lose or make any money until you sell your stocks, and you don’t sell until you retire, so forget’about’it. Let MetLife take care of your money and everything will be just fine.

As I have come to realize, though, MetLife et. al. sucks at managing money. I saw this myself before I first heard about Investools at the Get Motivated seminar. They just aren’t that good at managing money, and Investools clued me in about the “why.” The reason MetLife et. al. suck at managing money and subsequently lose tons of it as the stock market plummets (while others are still raking it in) is because they’re too big. There are a lot of restrictions on how much and how fast they can trade, so when things start too crash, they can’t react quick enough. When the market starts to go up, they can’t invest in time. In general, they’re sluggish and so they lose.

Five years ago, individuals didn’t have the tools needed to invest easily by themselves. Now they do, and the best toolset from what I have seen is pictured/linked above. It really gives you a lot of analyses you can’t get elsewhere, and without it I don’t think I could invest nearly as well. Right now I’m just working with fake money, but my confidence is growing as my analyses (with the help of the tools provided by Wealth Magazine) are proven correct.

If I rely on MetLife (and then pay them all the fees they’ll charge me over the years), we’re simply not going to have enough to retire. And it’s not just about retiring and Living The Good Life for our final years. I also have to take into consideration the declining health of the age’d. My goal since I was nine years old was to be a good husband and a good father, and part of that is making sure we’re not a burden to our kids. Being out of money but needing healthcare for another twenty years would suck for them, and I don’t want to do that to them. We’ll prepare early.

I don’t know how this will all work out, but I know this much: we need to at least be responsible enough to look after our own finances. We can’t just dump money in a mutual fund’s lap and assume they’ll take care of us. Therefore I’ll manage our finances myself, and Investools has given me what I need to do that.

Much Ado About Money

There are two reasons I haven’t written about money or our personal finances before. First, I felt like I was gloating, though I wasn’t. It’s just that we’re in a good place financially, and while I’d like to share some tips and my steps for how we got here, I felt like it was improper. Second, I haven’t written about money because I didn’t have all that much to say. I can list my steps, but that’s about it.

My first draft, written months ago on this topic, was long and annoying. I hated it, so I never published it. I’m not even rewriting it now–instead, I have some new things to say, and they might actually be worthwhile.

Here’s the bottom line: April and I do quite well financially, and we do that despite making less money than most everyone we know. Well, maybe not “everyone,” but we make less than a lot of people, especially those I work with. ((To clarify, I’m not saying we “do better” than everyone, either. Part of my perception is that we define comfort differently, so the sort of lifestyle that is nice to us is “unacceptable” to others. I tend to think those others might need to reevaluate their priorities, but that’s neither here nor there. All I’m trying to say is, we feel pretty comfortable with our current life, and I know a lot of people who make more money but are less comfortable. My implication throughout the series is that this is because they don’t manage their money well.)) I suspect we will continue to do quite well, and while we probably won’t be winning any hypothetical contests, we’re alright. Others will have more than us, but we’re reasonably comfortable, and that’s worth something.

I’m learning how to invest and manage our money, and we’ve got a solid financial plan for the next ten years or so. As I start to think and talk more about finances, though, I keep having advice thrown at me. This advice is well meaning, but it’s also annoying, and I want to address that too.

So it’s now Financials Week here at SilverPen Pub. Feel free to tune out if you want (I’m sure April will, since she has to hear about this stuff all the time), but I’d really encourage you to join the discussion. Share what works for you, and let me know if there’s something more you’d like to hear about.

Stay tuned to read more about investing, Mint.com, Dave Ramsey, and what works for us.

Why do you want to be published?

I was reading a discussion on Writerface the other day where the poster wondered about getting published. He was having quite an ordeal, having received numerous rejection letters and the like, and as I read through the forum thread I received confirmation that everyone deals with the same issues. It has always been difficult to get published, but with the current state of the economy and the decline of print media in general, publishers are even more hesitant to put work into print, especially for untested authors.

Being the sort of Internet-junkie I am, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why people want to get published so much. Yeah, I fancy myself an author, or at least I will do once I finally finish writing a book, but I’m doing it because I like to write. As I read through the forum, the fight to be published was portrayed as a fierce struggle, but for what?

Why do people want to be published? I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who not only intends to self-publish but who gives his work away for free online, so my thoughts are probably more cynical than accurate, but I could only come up with the following two reasons.

1) For the money

Shakespeare got to get paid, son, and I recognize that. I also recognize that publishing companies have far greater marketing capabilities than an individual, and one shouldn’t expect any marking from a Print-on-Demand (POD) Publisher. It’s hard to get your name out there and get noticed, and having a real publisher pick up your book and print/advertise it makes a huge difference.

But I can’t help but notice all the independent online businesses that are doing pretty damn well, and in particular I look at webcomic artists for a lot of my business inspiration. They put their work online for free, sell art and merchandise, and I read a great many who make a living off it. But even if you don’t make a living from the work, you can at least supplement your income. They do their own advertising, their own work, and most of the webcomics I read have visitor counts in the tens of thousands every day.

2) For the recognition

Maybe it’s just gratifying for a publisher to select you for publication. I could see feeling like you’ve really made it as an author when someone gives you the external feedback of publication + money, and that pat on the head would go a long way towards legitimizing one’s work. After being published, you can be secure in knowing that you don’t just think you’re a good writer. You’re good enough that someone else was willing to pay you for it and stake their own name, money, and time on your writing.

Part of me can’t help but point out that you can get that same recognition by working independently, if that’s what you really want, but seriously… if that’s your motivation, you should probably close your laptop and stop turning out crap just to make people like you. Write what you want because you want to write it. Communicate something you’re passionate about, and if it’s good, people will read it. If it’s not, well, at least you tried, I guess. Maybe learn to write better?

Recognition will come if you deserve it.

There’s no Rhyme or Reason, or is there?

Part of me can see the following logic. You wrote this because you want to communicate something, so you want that to get to the most people possible, and a publishing company can do that a lot better/easier/faster than self-publishing. Most self-published work gets read by only a few dozen people due to lack of advertisement, so if you really want to get your words out there, you have to go through a publishing company. Self-publishing, either through POD or on the Internet, just makes your message part of the noise, and you’ll get lost in it.

That’s a valid argument, but I don’t think it’s true. There are more books published in a single year now than in all of history, so being in print doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get noticed. Obviously, advertising makes a huge difference (do you really think Twilight would have been a hit if it had been POD published with no marketing?), but there are plenty of examples of run-away-hits (such as The Shack, apparently) that spread due to word-of-mouth.

You can’t account for what Makes It and what doesn’t, so I’m inclined to think that good work will be rewarded. If what you write happens to be good and liked by people, you’ll get noticed regardless of where you are or how you’re publishing. Just make sure you’re enjoying yourself along the way and the rest will fall into line.

God’s Blessing and Well-Made Plans

I just got a call from Doug, our landlord, to inform me that our apartment has been rented. This was one of the main concerns about buying a house; I mean, there’s the stress of things breaking and my having to fix them, or of the cost, the mortgage, longer commute to work, etc. But because we bought a house much sooner than we had anticipated (due to finding pretty much the perfect house), we still had a rental obligation.

Essentially, we were facing paying a mortgage in addition to rent for the next 4-10 months, or until the apartment was rented. Our lease isn’t up until the end of May, 2009, but we figured that it would be rented by January, 2009 at the latest (end of the fall semester). We’d hoped, of course, for a September rental, but that was a long shot.

But now it’s done, and that’ll save us well over $400/month. o/

The Check

There is something blessedly comforting
In the check that comes at the end of a meal.
True, it is one you must pay; its inevitability
Absolute.

        Yet even so,
        With all its monetary requirements,
        There it still sits.

Never a flutter
        of anger,
Never a cloud
        of concealed hate.

The bill has no soul, much like that
    which satisfies it.

        The check never changes-
                it rarely surprises.

Rather, it waits,
    Peacefully dozing,
                Until settled and one leaves.

Yes, there is a comfort
        In that which never changes,
                Even if it costs.