Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. J.D.’s non-financial writing can be found at More Than Money, where he recently wrote about how to be happy.

As part of the Get Rich Slowly course (out this Tuesday!), I interviewed 18 of my favorite financial experts (and non-financial experts). Combined, these interviews comprise over eight hours of audio and more than 200 pages of written transcripts, all of which will be available as part of the package.

For instance, I had a fantastic 40-minute conversation with my friend Gretchen Rubin, author of the best-selling The Happiness Project and its follow-up, Happier at Home. (She also has a great blog where she writes about happiness and personal development.) Here are some excerpts from that conversation. (It was tough to trim this. The entire interview is great!)

J.D. Roth A lot of times people think that pursuing money itself, pursuing wealth, will make them happy. And yet from what I found, that’s not necessarily true. It’s not the money, itself, that makes you happy. It’s the things you can do with the money obviously. And maybe it’s the same kind of thing that you’re arguing with the direct pursuit of happiness and indirect pursuit of happiness.

Gretchen Rubin Well, the thing about money is that money, itself, does not buy happiness. But money buys many, many things that do contribute mightily to happiness if you spend it wisely. So money –  one of the biggest luxuries that money can buy is the freedom not to have to think about money all the time –

J.D. Exactly.

Gretchen – which is a tremendous luxury.

J.D. It’s a safety net, a security point.

Gretchen Yeah. A feeling of security, a feeling of being able to give to others, a feeling of being able to help. If your child needs extra lessons in something, you can pay for that. If you want to have a party, you can have a party. You can buy towels without waiting for them to go on sale. You can take better care of your health. You can join a gym that’s a little bit more expensive and that it’s so much more convenient. But then you’ll go. But I mean if you’re buying your 50th pair of leather boots, that’s not a wise choice.

And I also think — and I bet you’ve seen this — is that money affects happiness much more in the negative. It’s like health in that way. When you don’t have your good health and you don’t have money, you feel very dragged out. Then when you have it, it’s very easy to take it for granted and not think about how much the absence of it would affect you. And so it’s something that is like it weighs down more than it boosts up, I think.

J.D. I think that’s an interesting insight. One of the things that I’ve seen in the research is that money can buy happiness up to a certain point. And then once people have a certain amount of money or a certain amount of material comfort, that additional money only brings on a marginal increase in happiness, so –

Gretchen Yeah, but it’s true that as people get wealthier they do get happier.

J.D. Yeah, absolutely.

Gretchen And one of the things that I really — there’s sort of a figure. I don’t know, I should trace it back. But there’s of a figure like, “After $75,000 there’s no difference in happiness.” And you know this is obviously not true because $75,000 represents such — that’s a meaningless number in a way. Because I live in New York City and $75,000 means one thing. But my grandparents lived in North Butte, Nebraska. $75,000 has been a lot different then. I have two kids; you have 12 kids; you have no kids. I want a horse; you want a turtle. I like to rent movies; you like to collect modern art. I have two elderly parents with a lot of health issues. Your parents are young and strong.

I mean there’s just so many ways in which that money, just it’s like — that’s like saying that the best height to be is five feet, six inches. That’s the happiest place to be. Well, do you play basketball? Are you a jockey? There’s so many factors that go into it for an individual. It might be true on a statistical level. But it doesn’t really help you, as an individual, to know what’s statistically true in that framework.

J.D. Well, I think what’s most important, actually, is relative wealth and –

Gretchen Yes, absolutely. That’s — you put your finger on it.

J.D. Yeah, so how much money do you have compared to your neighbor, compared to your friends, compared to your family? And beyond that, more than just relative wealth. It’s what are your expectations and how does your reality fit those expectations. So if you don’t have a — I know people who don’t have a lot of money. And yet they’re happy as can be, even though their friends are wealthy, because their expectations are lower and they don’t want a lot. They’re happy with what they have, and it’s a choice they make.

Gretchen Yeah. I have a friend — two friends who are married. And they said that they deliberately constructed their life so that at any point if they wanted to work for the government that it wouldn’t affect their lifestyle. They wouldn’t have to move to a different house or go to — have to send their kids to different schools.

They always wanted to feel free, because they’re very dedicated to government services, so they go in and out of government all they time. And they said they didn’t want to — because a lot of times — and this is your point about expectations — you build yourself into a certain income. You make choices that mean that you have to earn a certain amount of money. And if you made different choices you would feel much freer not to make that amount of money.

So I thought that that showed a lot of forethought on that — on their side that they realized, “Well, we’ve gotta construct it so we won’t feel trapped in the private sector, because we don’t want to feel trapped. We want to feel like we can always make the other choice.” You know because with government jobs, it’s like sometimes it’s the right time, sometimes it’s the wrong time. You bounce around a lot. And so they just always wanted to preserve that option.

J.D. I think that’s so smart. One of the things that I’ve come to realize over the past few years — we always hear the advice that in order to prepare for retirement and to make sure that you’ve got a buffer, you should save 10 percent of your income or 20 percent of your income. And I’m not going to say that it’s bad to save 10 or 20 percent of your income. But it’s better to save even more, which can be difficult for some people. But if you can save 50 percent of your income, you create this huge gap between what you need or want and what you actually have available, and that allows you so much more freedom.

Gretchen Yeah. That’s the thing is I think one of things that money can represent to people is freedom. And that’s part of why it’s — money, what — there’s this wonderful Gertrude Stein line where she says, “Money is money, and everyone has to decide sooner or later whether money is money. And they always decide that money is money.” And then it’s like money is money.

J.D. It’s a tool. So in writing about happiness, you discovered that a lot of the — what you were writing about was actually related to habits. So your next book is going to be about habits. And I find it interesting that you say that “Habits are the inevitable architecture of everyday life and a significant element of happiness.” So what do you mean by that?

Gretchen Well, you know it’s interesting. When they do research on habits, it’s something like 40, 45 percent of our everyday life is governed by habits. So, clearly, they’re important for happiness just because they’re happening all the time. That’s the way work is ’cause it’s why you spend so much of your time at work. Of course it’s going to affect your happiness.

But also, as I was looking at people and people who are happier and people who are less happy, and also when I would talk to people about what their happiness challenges were, I would see, over and over, that people who had habits that worked for them were happier. And people who had habits that didn’t fit, were not working for them, or when they were really struggling to make or break a habit, it was a serious happiness issue for them.

And I began to see that if you can get a grip on your habits, then you’re much better able to construct a life that is going to support your happiness. Because like with savings — perfect that you just mentioned –  it’s a perfect example. That’s something that you can either automatically do it and it takes no effort, no thought. It just runs, just happens. Or you can be deciding every time or trying to make yourself do it and, more or less, succeeding or failing. And so I became very — and I was so puzzled by some things about habits that no one else seemed to be — couldn’t notice or be concerned with.

J.D. Like what?

Gretchen Like there’s this assumption — when you read all the habit stuff, there’s kind of an assumption that everyone has more or less the same aptitude to form habits. And that’s just clearly not true. If we could just look around at people in our life, that’s just not true.

J.D. I can look at myself.

Gretchen And there’s — yeah, and there seems to be also an assumption that people have the same attitude towards habits. Well, I love habits and embrace them, but I have friends who fear them and resist them. So they have a whole different attitude towards habits.

And then there are things where people at some point in their life they will easily have a habit. And then, at some times, they won’t be able to form they won’t be able to form the very same habit. Like a friend of mine who said, “When I was in high school I was on the track team. I never missed a track practice. Why can’t I go running on my own now?” Same person, same habit. Why not?

And then also, a lot of them do — people like, “Oh, I really should go to a spin class,” but they can’t make themselves go. But you’re like, “Well, you don’t really want to go to that class, so I sort of see why you don’t.”

But then there are people who are like, “I love going for a walk with my dog after work. I look forward to it with pleasure. I enjoy it. I look back on it. It’s good for me. It’s fun. Why can’t I make myself go for a walk with my dog?” I’m like, “Why can’t you?” So that you know there seem to be all these big mysteries of habits, and I just became determined to try to plum the mysteries and figure it out for myself, so.

J.D. I’m eager to read this book. It sounds like it starts — well, the happiness stuff and the habit stuff kind of is related to the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his concept of flow. And I’m not going to get into that here, but I find his work on flow just so fascinating because it — he talks about building purpose and meaning and finding happiness and how habit can help us do that.

Gretchen Yeah. Well you know flow is interesting because flow is sort of — when you’re in flow, you’re neither happy nor sad because you’re not really — you’re really so outside yourself. It’s interesting. It’s a very — it’s related to happiness, but it’s not the same thing as happiness.

J.D. Oh, that’s an interesting insight, too, because to me, in my head I equate the two, and I’m going to have to go back and read the book. I really like it. So it sounds to me as if, when you’re talking about habit, you’re kind of talking about routine. Are habit and routine the same thing, or are there differences?

Gretchen Well, I think a routine is a series of habits. So you have your morning routine which is your series of habits. And then some people will be like, “Well, what’s a ritual?” A ritual is a habit that has a transcendent meaning. So for most people brushing their teeth doesn’t have a transcendent meaning. But if you say a prayer of thanksgiving for your teeth as you’re brushing your teeth, then that could become a ritual. Or something — or hand washing, or something like that could from being a habit to a ritual.

So what I try to do is lay out 21 strategies that I’ve identified that people can employ to make or break a habit. Because maybe for you, three of those strategies would work, and for somebody else a different three would work. Because you’re different from me; we have different challenges, different personalities, different things work for us. You’re a night person; I’m a morning person. There’s a million things that you kind of have to take into account as you’re thinking about it.

J.D. I think that’s so smart too. My main motto at Get Rich Slowly was always do what works for you.

Gretchen Yes.

J.D. And by that, I meant there’s no one right way to accomplish any task. You have to — I feel like too many people in the financial world try to lay down these laws and say, “This is the one right way to get out of debt,” or “This is the one right way to do a budget.” And it’s just not so.

Gretchen Well –

J.D. There are — there’s more than one way to accomplish anything.

Gretchen No. And I think it’s so true. There’s like this impulse to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution. And I think that this is why a lot of people don’t succeed is they’re like, “Oh, well. I know that the way to exercise is to do it first thing in the morning.”

And it’s like, well, that doesn’t work for you if you’re a night person. Morning people, that would work for them, but it’s not going to work for you because you can barely get up at 9:00 a.m. right now to get ready for work. There’s no way you’re going to get up at 8:00 and go for a run. It’s just not realistic at all. So why are you wasting your time. So you might feel like, “I can’t for the habit of exercising.”

But, in fact, if you tried to go after work, even though a lot of people say, “Oh, that’s terrible. It’ll interfere with your sleep and you won’t do blah, blah, blah,” well, you know it might work for you. And so I think you’re exactly right. The first thing to do is to start with self-knowledge. To say, “What kind of person am I? What’s worked for me in the past? When have I failed in the past? What sounds appealing to me? What sounds doable to me?

As much as I’d like to share more — that’s just one-quarter of the interview — I need to stop things there. Next Sunday, I’ll share another excerpt from a Get Rich Slowly interview. Whom would you like to hear from? Jean Chatzky? Ramit Sethi? Tess Vigeland? Adam Baker? Mr. Money Mustache? Cast your vote in the comments!

This article is about Books, Choices, Psychology

There are 7 comments on this post.

Did you enjoy reading this article? You can receive free full-text articles from Get Rich Slowly in your email inbox daily by entering your email below. Along with this daily subscription, you’ll also receive personal finance advice selected by our Network financial experts. Also become a Facebook fan or follow us on Twitter.

Part of an effective financial strategy includes maximizing your earnings while balancing your need for liquidity; and a certificate of deposit, or CD, is one way to accomplish that goal. Just like with a high-yield savings account, you will want to stay informed on the best CD rates and terms available at each bank.

The tool we created to monitor the rates of more than 500 financial institutions (banks, credit unions, savings banks, and savings and loan associations) also displays the top 50 highest rates for CDs. Again, these are weekly rate updates designed to help you find the best rates for the type of account you are interested in, the specific term you seek, as well as the amount you would like to deposit.

I used to monitor these rates by hand, but it quickly became an enormous task. I hope you will find this tool useful, and I encourage you to add your comment below so others can benefit by your experience as they conduct their research.

TermRateAPYMin. To Earn APYDetails
5 year2.25%2.27%$5,000Share Certificate - contact Melrose CU for opening paperwork - Must be a member
5 year2.25%$1,000Term CD - Apply online
5 year2.23%2.25%$060 Month Online CD
5 year2.22%2.24%$1,500Yield Pledge CD
5 year2.13%2.15%$1,00060 Month CD
5 year2.08%2.10%$500Tiered interest rate - between $500 and $25,000 - must be a member and reside in Texas, Colorado or Utah - apply online - Rate collected within: 78203 (TX)
5 year2.08%2.10%$500Apply online - located in New York
5 year2.08%2.10%$500Open online - Maximum deposit amount $1,000,000
5 year2.05%$5,000Certificate of Deposit Accounts, New York Branch - for CD 5 years and above
5 year2.03%2.05%$50060 Month CD - Less than $100,000 - Rate collected within: 10025 (NY)
5 year2.01%2.05%$1,000
5 year2.00%2.02%$10,000eCD rates for online account only
5 year2.00%2.02%$1,000Term Share Certificate - 60 Months (1825 days) - Must be a member - County of Los Angeles, CA
5 year2.00%2.01%$1,00060 Month CD - Located in Avon, MA
5 year1.98%2.00%$50060 Month Regular CD - Rate collected within: Northern CA
5 year1.98%2.00%$5,000Callable Relationship - 60 Month with 1 year lock. Rate collected within AL.
5 year2.00%$10,000Rate available with active checking account - membership is available nationwide - may become a member and open account online - contact credit union for details - credit union located in Wisconsin
5 year1.99%2.00%$500Central New York market area only
5 year1.98%2.00%$50060 Month Regular CD - Rate collected within:Jacksonville, FL
5 year1.98%2.00%$50060 Month Regular CD - Rate collected within: Birmingham, AL
5 year1.98%2.00%$1,0005 Year CD Tier $1,000-$2,499
5 year1.93%1.95%$2,500
5 year1.92%1.94%$2,500Limited to New York and Florida market area
5 year1.90%$50060 Month CD - Rates may vary based on location - Rate collected within: NY
5 year1.85%$50060 Month CD - for balances in Tier $0-$9,999
5 year1.79%$1,00060 month CD - Limited to Brooksville, KY market area
5 year1.75%1.77%$1,000
5 year1.74%1.75%$500Rate collected within: 08034 (NJ)
5 year1.75%1.75%$2,500
5 year1.75%$500Apply online - Rate collected within: Adams County, Ohio
5 year1.73%1.75%$1,000Apply at a branch
5 year1.74%1.75%$50060 Month CD - Apply Online
5 year1.70%1.71%$50060 Month CD - Tier $500 - $4,999
5 year1.70%1.71%$1,000
5 year1.65%1.66%$1,000
5 year1.64%1.65%$1,00060 month CD
5 year1.60%1.61%$500Membership is limited to employees of the air transportation industry, as well as those who live or work in select counties of the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, metro area
5 year1.59%1.60%$100High-Yield CD - Apply online
5 year1.60%$2,50060 month CD - Traditional Term Certificate - Available in Pennsylvania and Ohio market area - Rate collected within: 15222 (PA)
5 year1.54%1.55%$1,00060 Month CD - Rates may vary based on location
5 year1.50%1.51%$1,00060 Month CD - Limited to local Nebraska market area
5 year1.50%1.51%$10,000
5 year1.50%1.51%$1,00060 Month CD Tier $1,000 - $9,999 - Apply online or at branch
5 year1.50%1.51%$1,000Money Market Certificates - membership is open to U.S. military
5 year1.50%1.51%$1,00060 Month CD
5 year1.50%1.51%$5005 Year CD - Must be a member of O Bee Credit Union
5 year1.49%1.50%$500
5 year1.49%1.50%$500Apply at a branch - New York
5 year1.49%1.50%$1,00060 month term-Balances of $1,000-$89,999-Account must be opened in branch. Accounts are available within: WA, OR, ID, UT, AZ, NV, TX and NM
5 year1.50%$2,500Nationwide - apply online

Rates / APY terms above are current as of the date indicated. These quotes are from banks, credit unions and thrifts, some of which have paid for a link to their website. Bank, thrift and credit union deposits are insured by the FDIC or NCUA. Contact the bank for the terms and conditions that may apply to you. Rates are subject to change without notice and may not be the same at all branches.

Current Certificate of Deposit Rates

A certificate of deposit (CD) is considered a time deposit because it is not a liquid asset that can be accessed on demand. Instead, the amounts deposited into a CD are expected to remain untouched for a specific period of time. (In general, the longer the term, the higher the interest rate for a CD.) Historically, interest rates for CDs have been higher than for high-yield online savings accounts, and both types of accounts are generally FDIC-insured. There is usually a penalty if you withdraw your funds before the end of the term.

Interest rates are a moving target, though, so it is important to stay on top of the latest developments and think through how you will use a CD in your overall financial plan. There are a few different strategies to be aware of too: A CD ladder can help you maintain a relatively constant income no matter how current CD rates fluctuate. A parallel CD strategy can help you maintain some accessibility to your funds during the term. If you need to learn how to shop for CDs, read Richard Barrington’s post – but do shop for the best CD rates. In fact, you might want to bookmark this page just to make it easier.

An online account is arguably one of the most convenient ways to manage CDs, and most of these banks say they can offer a better rate structure because they aren’t brick-and-mortar institutions. Here are some of the best I have found:

GE Capital Bank CDs

GE Capital Bank requires a $500 minimum deposit and there are no monthly fees or transaction fees at all. You can link an external account and transfer funds – or send a domestic wire transfer or check – to open the account. GE offers a 10-day CD Rate Guarantee in case rates go up just after you open your account too. Interest is compounded daily and applied monthly, and deposits are FDIC-insured. Of note, GE Capital Bank tied for “Best Savings Account” by Money Magazine in 2013.

GE Capital Bank CD Rates
Term APY Minimum
6 months 0.70% $500
9 months 0.70% $500
12 months 1.05% $500
18 months 1.05% $500
24 months 1.15% $500
30 months 1.15% $500
36 months 1.30% $500
48 months 1.65% $500
60 months 2.10% $500
72 months 2.15% $500
Savings account: 0.90% Rates as of April 17, 2014

Barclays Online CDs .

Barclays is a large, international bank that has been in business for more than 300 years! There is no minimum balance to open a CD and there are no hidden monthly maintenance fees. They even offer a CD calculator to help you decide how best to manage your portfolio. Interest is compounded daily and deposits are FDIC-insured. Of note, Barclays also tied for “Best Savings Account” by Money Magazine in 2013.

Barclays CD Rates
Term APY Minimum
3 months 0.35% $0
6 months 0.55% $0
9 months 0.60% $0
12 months 0.80% $0
18 months 0.85% $0
24 months 1.15% $0
36 months 1.35% $0
48 months 1.70% $0
60 months 2.25% $0
Savings account: 0.90% Rates as of April 17, 2014

Ally High-Yield Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Ally Bank’s CDs offer no minimum deposit to open and no monthly maintenance fees. Ally Bank also offers the Ally Ten Day Best Rate Guarantee. Interest is compounded daily and deposits are FDIC-insured. In MoneyRates’ “Best Savings Accounts for 2014,” Ally Bank was awarded first place for consistently offering high rates for an entire year. Money Magazine also gave Ally Bank the top slot for “Best Online Bank” in both 2012 and 2013. Accounts are accessible 24/7 over an award-winning-mobile-banking application as well.

Ally Bank CD Rates
Term APY Minimum
3 months 0.30% $0
6 months 0.61% $0
9 months 0.64% $0
12 months 0.99% $0
18 months 0.94% $0
36 months 1.20% $0
60 months 1.60% $0
Savings account: 0.87% Rates as of April 17, 2014

Bank5 Connect CDs

Bank5 Connect offers a CD with a $500 minimum deposit and no monthly maintenance fees. Bank5Connect says its competitive rates are possible because it operates online, but certainly the degree to which your deposits are insured is also important. Bank5 Connect CDs are insured to their full amount (FDIC-insured to $250,000 and DIF-insured for over $250,000).

Bank5 Connect CD Rates
Term APY Minimum
6 months 0.85% $500
12 months 1.00% $500
18 months 1.05% $500
24 months (Investment CD) 1.20% $500
36 months 1.30% $500
Savings account: 0.90% Rates as of April 17, 2014

CIT Bank Jumbo CDs

If you can commit to a larger minimum deposit, CIT Bank seems prepared to make it worth your while. The CIT Bank jumbo CDs with a $100,000 minimum deposit and no monthly maintenance fees also compound interest daily. CIT Bank lets you manage your accounts online (24/7 access via the Internet) and provides online statements. CIT Bank was founded in 1908 by Henry Ittleson to provide financing for businesses. Throughout the 20th century, CIT expanded its product lines (including CDs, IRAs, and custodial accounts) to consumers and many business sectors and small businesses. Deposits are FDIC-insured.

CIT Bank Jumbo CD Rates
Term APY Minimum
24 months 1.25% $100,000
36 months 1.40% $100,000
48 months 1.80% $100,000
60 months 2.30% $100,000
Savings account: 0.95% Rates as of April 17, 2014

EverBank Yield Pledge CD

EverBank made a commitment to always be in the top 5 percent of competitive accounts, so their rates should be attractive no matter when you shop. There is a $1,500 minimum to open an account, but there are no account fees. Interest is compounded daily and deposits are FDIC-insured.

EverBank CD Rates
Term APY Minimum
3 months 0.33% $1500
6 months 0.35% $1500
9 months 0.35% $1500
12 months 0.70% $1500
18 months 0.70% $1500
24 months 0.90% $1500
30 months 0.99% $1500
36 months 1.26% $1500
48 months 1.73% $1500
60 months 2.20% $1500
Money Market account: 0.86%** Rates as of April 17, 2014

**For first-time account holders, Everbank’s Yield Pledge Money Market Account offers a new account bonus rate of 1.10 percent for the first six months, a first year APY currently at 0.86 percent for account balances up to $50,000 and an ongoing APY of 0.61 percent APY. (Rate as of April 17, 2014.)

Capital One 360 CDs

Capital One 360 CDs offer standard term lengths with no minimum deposit required. You can decide when to receive the interest earned (monthly, annually, or at the end of the term) and receive automatic renewal reminders. Interest is compounded daily and deposits are FDIC-insured.

Capital One 360 CD Rates
Term APY Minimum
6 months 0.40% $0
9 months 0.40% $0
12 months 0.40% $0
18 months 0.40% $0
24 months 0.40% $0
30 months 0.70% $0
36 months 0.70% $0
48 months 0.70% $0
60 months 0.90% $0
Savings account: 0.75% Rates as of April 17, 2014

Have you been able to find CD rates that rival these? If so, please add a comment below. Don’t forget to include the details: name of the bank, state, rate, when you opened the account with this rate, and whether you can open the account online or must appear in person.

We’ve been discussing the value of time a lot lately. For me, it’s been an appropriate topic. Lately, my work-life balance has been out of control. There are a few reasons for this:

  • I’ve been giving into time-sucks.

  • I’m struggling to organize a few new writing gigs into my schedule.

  • I don’t give myself any breathing room.

The result of my poor time management? One, I’ve been working a lot at night. Long after my boyfriend and cats have gone to bed, I’m up typing. Two, I’ve possibly been missing out on more work. Because my schedule is so stretched, I haven’t had time to take on other gigs. If I was more efficient with my time, I might be able to earn more. There are a handful of other irks, but these are the two that bother me most. Ultimately, I want to feel like I have more control of my time so that I can, as J.D. said, spend it on the things that matter most to me.

I am getting better, though. Here are a few tactics I’ve adopted that have helped me learn to better manage my time.

Tackling the tough stuff first

One simple time-management tip has made a huge difference in my day: Get the tough stuff over with and done.

If there’s something on my daily to-do list that I dread, I try to make sure it’s the first thing I tackle. Sometimes this isn’t that easy. But when that dreadful item is crossed off my list, the rest of my day is cake. I work more efficiently knowing that I don’t have to deal with that item.

Here’s an example: Sometimes I really don’t enjoy video editing because it’s excruciatingly meticulous and time-consuming and technical. When it’s on my to-do list, I often dread it for the entire day. But I’ve found that getting it out of the way in the morning helps me get it done faster so I can really focus on the rest of my work in the afternoon.

Finding my optimal times

There’s some work I do better in the morning and some I do better later in the day. I first noticed this when I was a technical writer. For some reason, in the morning, I struggled to communicate. If I had to guess, it probably had something to do with my being half-asleep. At any rate, when I had to write instruction manuals, I knew I might as well get the technical stuff (spec lists, spreadsheets etc.) out of the way in the morning. I saved the writing for the afternoon, when I was lucid. Years later, my brain seems to work the same way. I tackle analytical tasks in the morning and I save thoughtful, intuitive tasks, like writing, for the afternoon.

Letting go of what I can’t control

J.D. recently wrote about the basics of investing wisely. This sentence in particular stood out to me: “Ignore the news and ignore your fund.” Around that same time, Warren Buffett’s annual letter was released, and it echoed the same sentiment:

“With my two small investments, I thought only of what the properties would produce and cared not at all about their daily valuations. Games are won by players who focus on the playing field — not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard. If you can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays without looking at stock prices, give it a try on weekdays.”

While I can control how much I decide to invest, I can’t control (nor do I have much knowledge about) the daily valuations of the market. Yet, I’d check my investments every single day, throughout the day. I didn’t realize it at first, but this took up a lot of my time.

I’ve been learning to let go of the things I can’t control — things like the stock market. I should instead spend that time on areas of my finances that I can control — like getting my work done so I can earn a living. That’s a pretty important one.

Letting go of obsessions and bad habits

On a similar note, I had to let go of some obsessions that became time-sucks. These time-sucks included:

  • Checking the stats of my blog
  • Monitoring my budget throughout the day
  • Refreshing my email
  • Checking my phone for new notifications

It’s good to stay on top of this stuff. But there’s a difference between staying on top of it and becoming obsessed with it.

And then there are bad habits. Part of the reason I left Facebook is that I found myself mindlessly browsing it for hours on end, not really enjoying the experience very much. It just became a habit that ate up a lot of my time. The Internet makes it easier to develop mindless habits like this. Sometimes I find myself typing in the first few letters of a website into my browser without even realizing what I’m doing, I’m on auto-pilot and, half an hour later, I have no idea what I’ve been doing or what I’ve read/looked at. Meanwhile, I could have been using my time productively.

Stepping away from work

Earlier this year, I decided to fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions and I signed up to volunteer at my local library. Over the past few months, however, my work schedule has become a bit overwhelming. But I vowed to offer my time at the library, so I want to stick with it. Here’s what’s interesting, though: I get more work done on my volunteer day than any other day of the weekWhat’s up with that?

I could be wrong, but I think this happens because I step away from work, and when I come back to it, my mind is clear and focused. During the week, I put a lot of pressure on myself and try to cram way too much into one day. I’m a workaholic, and I rarely take breaks. As you can imagine, I’m often stressed. After my volunteer realization, I started doing a couple of things differently:

  • I take breaks every hour: I go for a small walk, call my mother, or even just go outside to breathe and bask in the daylight.
  • If I’m stuck, I move on: This sort of goes against the “get the tough stuff out of the way” solution. But if I’m truly stuck on a problem — I don’t know how to start an article, for example — then I save it for tomorrow. For me, it’s better to work on something that I know I can get through than to spend hours dwelling on my problem.

Basically, I’ve learned the importance of giving yourself breathing room. When we make a budget that has zero room for fun or small indulgences, that budget often fails. For me, it’s the same way with time management. I tell myself I’m going to cram a bunch of stuff into one day and, when I don’t accomplish it all, I feel like I’ve failed. It’s important to make time for breaks.

Overall, I want to learn to manage my time so I can spend it more fruitfully. Like money, when my time goes unmanaged, I usually don’t spend it wisely. I want to spend my time on what matters the most to me, and that means learning to be in control of it.

What about you – How do you manage your time effectively? Have any of these methods worked for you?

Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. J.D.’s non-financial writing can be found at More Than Money, where he recently wrote about how to be happy.

“How would you like to write an Unconventional Guide?” my friend Chris Guillebeau asked me last spring. As long-time readers know, I’ve joined Chris to travel across the U.S. by train, travel across Norway by train, and produce the first three editions of the World Domination Summit conference here in Portland. When he’s not traveling or dominating the world, Chris publishes a series of guides on subjects ranging from art to law, from entrepreneurship to publishing.

“What kind of guide would I write?” I asked.

“A guide about money,” Chris said — as if there could be no other possible answer.

“What would we call it?” I asked.

“How about Get Rich Slowly?” Chris said.

“No way. I don’t think the folks who own the blog would like that,” I said. “I doubt they could stop us since you can’t copyright a name, but I’d rather not make them angry.”

“Well then, how about Master Your Money?” Chris said.

I thought for a moment. I was reluctant. I’d retired from Get Rich Slowly (the blog) a few months before and was enjoying all of the free time. But something about having a specific goal appealed to me. How hard could it be to produce a guide about money?

“I like it. I’ll do it,” I said, “but I can’t start until I return from Ecuador at the end of September.”

“No problem,” Chris said. “You should be finished by Christmas.”

A writer’s life
I didn’t meet that Christmas goal. Not even close. You see, I had too much to say but couldn’t find a way to say it.

When I came back from South America, I spent two weeks performing a braindump. I sat at my computer and brainstormed everything I wanted to share with readers. There was a lot — enough for three books. I tried to mold this mountain of words into some sort of recognizable shape, but it was no use.

After three weeks of work, I’d written maybe 20,000 words but felt like I’d gotten nowhere.

The writing process
Early in the writing process. Isn’t it ugly?

In mid-October, I flew to St. Louis to attend Fincon. Mixing with a couple of hundred other financial writers sent my brain spiraling in new directions. Talking with my colleagues made me reconsider what I was trying to do with Master Your Money. I went back to the drawing board.

When I returned to Portland, I spent a crazy week cooped inside my office. I wrote without ceasing. When Kim came home from work every night, I’d greet her with non-stop talk. She laughed. “This is funny,” she said. “You should see the difference between how you are now and how you were two weeks ago.” The difference was I felt energized. I was no longer suffering from writer’s block. My writing had purpose and direction.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong direction.

At the end of October, I met with Chris and showed him what I’d written. Over Thai food, he leafed through the pages. “Hmmm,” he said, and I knew that wasn’t good. “This is interesting stuff, but it’s not what I had in mind. This is about fear and freedom. It’s about happiness. I thought you were going to write about money. Besides, these sections are too short. The guide reads like a blog.”

I’d written 50,000 words of great material, but they were the wrong 50,000 words.

Note: Die-hard readers know that I didn’t just abandon the stuff about fear, happiness, and freedom. Instead, I’m using it as source material this year at More Than Money. Every Monday, I’m publishing one piece of this abandoned version of the guide. Last month, I finished the section on overcoming fear. Now we’ve begun exploring what it means to be happy.

So, I went back for a third stab at Master Your Money. I still thought maybe I could finish by Christmas. But I didn’t. Again, I lost my way. I couldn’t find anything to latch onto, no central theme. What did that mean, master your money? It seemed so vague.

On the day after Thanksgiving, I met Chris in a coffee shop. “It’s not going well,” I confessed. I showed him my outline. He nodded.

“What’s this bit?” he asked, pointing to a section where I described how I’d decided to manage my personal finances as if I were running a business. “I like it. Why don’t you focus on writing about how to be the chief financial officer of your own life?”

That simple suggestion was all I needed. For a fourth time, I started to write Master Your Money. This time, no problem. The words didn’t flow out of me unimpeded, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to say and how to say it. I knew I’d found the angle that had been missing for months.

More than words
Master Your MoneyAfter a few weeks of writing on this fourth iteration of Master Your Money, it became clear that I wouldn’t be finished until spring. “No problem,” Chris said. “We’ll shift things around. But maybe you should start working on the other parts of the course too.”

“Course?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Master Your Money should be an entire course, not just a single guide. We can call the guide How to Become CFO of Your Own Life or something similar. But with a name like Master Your Money, we want to provide even more. For instance, you’ll probably want to record some interviews with top financial writers and experts.”

For the next two months, I interspersed writing with recording. Although I’d become accustomed to being interviewed, I hadn’t yet mastered the art of interviewing others. But I figured it out. Before long, I found that I enjoyed conducting interviews more than I liked writing!

I recorded interviews with some of my favorite finance folks, including:

  • Jean Chatzky, whose books helped me start digging out of debt
  • Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project
  • Liz Weston, one of the country’s most popular financial columnists
  • Ramit Sethi, the mastermind behind the book (and blog) I Will Teach You to Be Rich
  • Adam Baker, former Get Rich Slowly staff writer and a good friend
  • Mr. Money Mustache, whose polarizing ideas and personality have had a tremendous impact on my philosophical development

In the end, I’d accumulated 18 interviews totaling over eight hours of audio!

“Great,” Chris said. “Let’s do more. When people buy the course, let’s give them a weekly email to remind them of all the different things they can do to master their money.”

Back to the office I went. I created a list of 52 topics that I thought were crucial for anyone wanting to take control of their finances. I researched. I wrote. I edited. I scheduled these emails to go out every Monday for an entire year.

“Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on the course,” Chris said the next time we met. “You need to create some tools for people to use. We want to give them a sort of money toolbox.” More time in front of the computer! This time I researched data on saving and spending, best practices for negotiating salary increases, complex formulas for retirement and investing.

Ready for launch
After I’d finished with the spreadsheets and handouts, I met with Chris again. He looked them over. He looked at the list of email topics. He looked at the interviews. He paged through the guide, which we were now calling Be Your Own CFO.

“It all looks great,” he said. “But I don’t like the name. We shouldn’t call it Master Your Money. We should call the course Get Rich Slowly. That’s what it’s all about.”

I’d long ago surrendered to his ideas for this course. I’m a writer. I produce content. Chris has proven time and again that he’s a marketing genius. I trust him. So, I approached the company that owns Get Rich Slowly (the blog). I told them about the course that we’d created. I explained that we planned to launch it as Master Your Money, unless…How would they feel about us using the name Get Rich Slowly?

To my surprise, they agreed. In fact, they thought it was a good idea, a way to cross-promote.

Now, after nearly a year of work, my Get Rich Slowly course is ready to launch. Next Tuesday morning, it will be released as one of Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides. The course will contain a 120-page guide describing how to Be Your Own CFO, 18 audio interviews with transcripts, 52 weeks of action-packed emails, and a variety of tools in a sort of “money toolbox”.


“I can’t believe I’m finished,” I told Kim the other day. “It’s so much! I never would have started if I’d known it would take this much work.”

“Well, you know what they say,” she replied. “If you want to eat an elephant, you’ve got to do it one bite at a time.”

And that’s how I created the Get Rich Slowly course — one bite at a time.

Be Your Own CFO
The finished product. Isn’t it pretty?

Next Page »

See Archives