Learning to dance: How couples can have constructive conversations about money

Today, the Get Rich Slowly summer of books concludes with an excerpt from Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away from Julien and Kiersten Saunders. Julien and Kiersten are the power couple behind the rich & Regular blog and YouTube channel.

The following excerpt from Cashing Out (published by Portfolio/Penguin) is used with permission. Copyright © 2022 by Rich & Regular LLC. This passage has been edited to be more readable on the web.

Dr. Sue Johnson is a clinical psychologist who specializes in emotionally focused therapy. She says that when couples fight (regardless of the topic), they're doing a dance. One partner makes a move, and the other one responds accordingly. She insists the dance is always the problem — not you, not me, not us — and not the topic.

By focusing on the dance, we can shift our focus and look at our interaction patterns whenever there's an issue. The rhythm of one person responding to the other person's moves is what ultimately. defines the dance, and our ability to instinctively know when to reach and and grab the other's hand for a spin requires what Dr. Johnson calls emotional attunement.

If the conflict is the dance itself, think of your emotions as the music. Being emotionally attuned means you can both hear the same song, or at the very least can acknowledge that yours isn't the only song playing. In other words, it's not enough to just go through the moves together if one of you is grooving to Barry White and the other is swinging to Barry Manilow.

When you've been in a pattern of avoiding conversations with your partner about money, it's as if you've both been attending a silent disco. Everyone's dancing, but you can't hear any music. If you want to get attuned, it's important to understand what unresolved money arguments sound like, emotionally speaking.

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More about...Relationships

The power of non-monetary investments

The Get Rich Slowly summer of books continues! Today's excerpt comes from Jordan Grumet, better known in the FIRE world as Doc G, host of the Earn & Invest Podcast. When he's not talking about money, Jordan is a real-life hospice doc. His new book, Taking Stock, offers lessons from the dying to the living.

The following is from Taking Stock by Jordan Grumet with permission from Ulysses Press. Copyright © 2022 by Jordan Grumet. This passage has been edited to be more readable on the web.

I used to have a patient who was an undertaker. We had many conversations about philosophy and practicality, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that one must gain profound insights from being engaged in such a unique business. As I was often fond of saying: When the undertaker speaks, you should really listen.

Those of us who have made death and dying our business may seem unlikely investment advisers, but because both the undertaker and myself have spent extensive time in close proximity to mortality, we’ve been given unique insight into what’s really worth investing in. What investing tips could someone in my line of business have gleaned from dealing with death and dying? Believe it or not, a few quickly come to mind.

These tips weren't learned by accompanying the wealthy through this difficult journey — although the wealthy have much to teach. These tips weren't siphoned off of the personal books of those who had little interest left in hiding their secret ingredients to success. These are simple, straightforward bits of knowledge gained from walking down this lonely path with those reluctant to be making the journey.

And believe it or not, most of what I learned about investing has nothing to do with money.

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More about...Planning

How to make better decisions

Howdy, friends. Sorry for the long lapse between posts. After returning from a brief summer vacation, the GRS database had imploded. Again. We patched things up this morning and can now resume publishing. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share excerpts from three recent money books.

The following is from Buy This, Not That by Sam Dogen with permission from Portfolio, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Kansei Incorporated.

Please note that I've edited this passage slightly to (a) be more readable on the web and (b) fit within the publisher's word-count limitations. Ready? Let's dive in!

Life is rarely black-and-white, yet we need to make definitive choices all the time.

  • Rent this house or buy that apartment?
  • Invest in a growth stock or an index fund?
  • Live in San Francisco or Raleigh?
  • Join a start-up or work at an established firm?

These choices all involve an expense of time and capital. Each choice brings risk and reward. The problem is that most of the time we don't have enough information to confidently choose this or that. My approach helps you overcome this information gap.

You do this by thinking in probabilities instead of in binary terms, where it's an all-or-nothing proposition. If you start thinking in probabilities instead of absolutes, you'll develop a stronger analytical mindset to make more winning decisions over time. You'll also be able to make more winning decisions on risks that others never dare take.

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More about...Books

Cool projects from some of my friends

Hello, friends! I have a lot to say, and I've done a lot of work on Get Rich Slowly during the past three weeks, but most of my efforts aren't yet ready for public consumption.

  • The site de-design is 95% complete, but that final five percent is fiddly. I could be ready to launch the new layout tomorrow — or it might be two weeks. It's tough to say. If you're curious, though, you can check out my current progress here. But be warned that the site isn't fully functional. (For fun, I mocked up this very post in the new format so you can see the difference.)
  • I have several long articles in the works — quality! the internet is dying! the sunk-cost fallacy! — but nothing that's wholly finished. And with my attention more focused on the de-design and Real Life than on writing, it'll probably be a while before anything is complete enough to publish.

Still, I thought it'd be fun to stop in with a J. Money-esque stream-of-consciousness post to share a some cool projects from some of my friends.

Speaking of J. Money, let's start there.

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More about...Uncategorized

How rising mortgage rates affect home-buying power

Interest rates on home mortgages are rising rapidly across the United States, which seems to be slowing most housing markets. (Some, like the market here in Corvallis, have been less affected. Give it time.)

The average mortgage rate for a 30-year loan was about 3.0% at the start of the year; today, it's at 6.245% — even for somebody with an excellent credit score over 800.

Current mortgage rates

Kim and I are fortunate that we bought our home in 2021 instead of waiting until 2022. Mortgage rates weren't actually a factor during our deliberations last year; the historically low rates were simply an added bonus for buying when we did.

When we purchased our home last August, we took out a $480,000 mortgage at 2.625%. We didn't hit the precise bottom of the mortgage market (that was early January 2021, when we might have had a loan for 2.5%), but we came close.

Here's a chart from the Federal Reserve that shows mortgage rates from the past 2.5 years.

Recent mortgage rate trends

And here's a chart that shows mortgage rates for the past 50+ years:

Historical mortgage rate trends

Mortgage rates have hovered at historic lows since the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And rates fell even further during the COVID pandemic. (These low rates are partly responsible for the blazing-hot housing market of the past two years.)

What do these rising mortgage rates mean to actual home buyers? Let's use our situation as a representative example.

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More about...Home & Garden, Economics

Growing up poor (and how it messed with my mind)

Hey, folks. We have/had a good discussion going here, but something happened to nearly all of the comments. I'm not sure what the issue is. They're still in the database, but they don't appear on the site. We'll work to solve the problem.

Update: Holy cats! It's not only the comments on this article. It's the comments on every article on the site. They're all gone. I can see them in the database, but they're no longer tied to their posts. They're just here hanging in the ether. I have zero clue what happened. May be time for a database restore.

A couple of weekends ago, Kim and I enjoyed a short vacation on the Oregon Coast. She's been taking foraging classes, and she had an early morning workshop on harvesting sea vegetables one Sunday. Rather than wake in the middle of the night to drive out, we rented a small place in Tillamook and took the dog for an adventure. (The dog loves the coast.)

We let Tally lead us on a walk through town one rainy afternoon. Coming home, we cut through a trailer park. "We're in the poor part of town," Kim said.

"Yep," I said. "But look at that trailer house right there. That is almost exactly like the one I grew up in." Here's the trailer I grew up in:

the actual trailer house I grew up in

We stopped to look at the trailer. I pointed out the tiny windows and the sagging roof. "It's small," Kim said, frowning.

"Yes," I said. "Yes it is." The trailer was a beat-up 1970-era single-wide. Nothing about it looked appealing. I could imagine the inside: shag carpet, thin wood paneling on the walls, faded linoleum, colors like Avocado and Harvest Gold on every surface.

If you've been watching Stranger Things season four, as we have, the trailer houses in that show remind me of ours too. Look at this mobile home from Stranger Things; it's very, very similar to the one my parents owned:

Trailer house from Stranger Things season four

Everything about that image feels like my childhood to me. (Well, except for the demonic tentacles wrapped around the house and car...)

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More about...Money Mindset, Psychology, Relationships

The economic well-being of average Americans

Last month, the Federal Reserve released a new report: Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021 [PDF]. This annual survey gauges American financial health and attitudes. The 2021 edition was conducted last November.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Seventy-eight percent of adults were either doing okay or living comfortably financially, the highest share with this level of financial well-being since the survey began in 2013.
  • Fifteen percent of adults with income less than $50,000 struggled to pay their bills because of varying monthly income.
  • Fifteen percent of workers said they were in a different job than twelve months earlier. Just over six in ten people who changed jobs said their new job was better overall, compared with one in ten who said that it was worse.
  • Sixty-eight percent of adults said they would cover a $400 emergency expense exclusively using cash or its equivalent, up from 50 percent who would pay this way when the survey began in 2013. (Note that this survey is the original source of this oft-quoted statistic.)
  • Six percent of adults did not have a bank account. Eleven percent of adults with a bank account paid an overdraft fee in the previous twelve months.

These little nuggets of info are interesting, sure, but what I find even more interesting are the charts and graphs documenting long-term trends.

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More about...Economics

Scambaiters: Meet the modern-day heroes who scam scammers

Both my ex-wife (Kris) and my current girlfriend (Kim) tell me I get too worked up about things sometimes. "You over-react," they both tell me. Maybe so. I prefer to think of myself as passionate.

One of the things I'm passionate about is scammers. I hate them. Scammers are evil, evil people who prey on the most vulnerable members of society. They take advantage of social constructs in order to manipulate people into parting with their hard-earned money.

No surprise then that one of my favorite sub-genres of YouTube videos is "scammers getting scammed". Scambaiters are modern-day heroes. As much as I despise scammers, I think scambatiers deserve high praise.

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More about...Money Basics

I lost money in crypto so that you don’t have to!

One morning just over ten years ago, I had an interesting conversation at the Crossfit gym. I was "rolling out" — using a foam roller to break up tissue — with the usual group of guys, when one of my buddies brought up this new thing called Bitcoin.

"Bitcoin is digital money," he said. "But it's completely private and not tied to a government."

"How does that work?" I asked. From the very first moment I heard about cryptocurrency, it didn't seem to make any sense. My friend tried to explain. We all chatted about it for a few minutes, and then we lifted heavy weights and/or sweated extensively and/or both of the above.

When I got home, I googled Bitcoin. Nothing I read made any sense to me. I checked the price. My memory is that Bitcoin was selling for $7 or $8 at the time.

Over the past decade, I've been bombarded with info about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. I've made an effort to self-educate, to learn why people consider crypto valuable and why they think it's the future of money. To this day, I still haven't found an explainer that has actually explained things well enough for me to truly understand.

This 21-minute video from Slidebean has been most effective at helping me grasp the basics of the blockchain and cryptocurrency, but it still didn't convince me that this stuff was valuable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sseN7eYMtOc

Despite all of this, I've found myself gradually being worn down over time. So many people endorse cryptocurrency, including people who seem to be savvy and smart. Kim's brother, for instance, is a huge advocate of cryptocurrency. He and his wife have netted tens of thousands of dollars by dabbling in cryptocurrency. (They bought a new SUV with profits from one transaction.)

So, last fall, I succumbed to the mania.

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More about...Investing

One thing leads to another

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and well wishes during the past two weeks. I appreciate them. We've been tying up loose ends related to Duane's life and death, and we're nearly finished with everything.

  • Duane's memorial service is this Sunday. I've been collecting photos from family members, and have put together a slide show of memories. After the memorial service is over, the final loose end will be his financial accounts. We're prepped to handle those, however, and are just waiting on the death certificate.
  • One of my rooms downstairs is filled with Duane's collections of ancient coins and Magic: The Gathering cards. The coins are a mystery to me. I watched as he collected them over the years, but I never bothered to learn anything about them. Why would I? Now, I wish I'd paid attention. The cards, on the other hand, I can handle. There are many of them — my guess is a minimum of 168,000 cards and perhaps twice that number — and they're largely unorganized, which means I have months of work ahead of me in order to sell them. But I understand the game and I understand collectibles, so this is all within my ken. It's just a lot of work.
  • Kim and I have decided not to adopt any more of Duane's fish. This was a difficult decision. Duane very much wanted me to take his fish, especially the nineteen Mbuna cichlids. And there's a part of me that wants to have them. They'd be fun. It would honor his memory. But I also know that the fish would be a hassle, that they don't fit with our long-term plans. So, if nobody else in the family wants them we'll donate the fish to a pet store, then sell or donate the fish equipment.

Things have been complicated slightly because I got sick. Duane's extended family was passing around a nasty cold for much of April, and I managed to catch it the day after he died. It laid me low for several days. (And now, at this very moment, Kim is home sick from work with the same cold.) Fortunately, it's not COVID.

Things have also been complicated because my mother's health issues have recently reached a sort of crisis.

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More about...Administration