GRS Insider #92: Racism is not a political issue. Racism is a MORAL issue.

Yesterday, as I do most Fridays, I sent the GRS Insider to folks who subscribe to the Get Rich Slowly email list.

The email was unusual. It was more like a blog post than a simple summary of recent articles. I've had several people request a version they can share with other people, so -- this one time only -- I've created a stand-alone web version.

Parts of this have been edited slightly to account for the transition from email to web.

If you've been reading me for any length of time — or if you know me in person — you know that I hate conflict. I hate hate hate it. Some people seem to thrive on it. Not me. I shirk from it.

This is one reason I've steadfastly kept my financial writing politically neutral. I don't want conflict.

It helps that I'm neither liberal nor conservative. I'm some strange mix of the two. But mostly it's because I think financial advice is important for everyone regardless of political persuasion. It's rare that I take a stand on something political.

Because of who I am and what I believe, Get Rich Slowly will never become a political platform. (It'll touch on politics occasionally, but politics will never be a driving force at the site.)

That said, I'm mad as hell about not only the recent bout of racism in the U.S., but also the long history of racism that underpins our society. Something's gotta give. The current protests are 100% justified and they're not acts of terrorism. They're a call for action. What sort of action? I have no idea. I don't have solutions. But the problem is plain as day and it must be addressed. We, as a nation, must — at long last — deal with our history instead of sweeping it under the rug.

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January 2018: By the Numbers

I've been waiting a year for this day!

At the start of 2017, because I was worried about lifestyle inflation, I began tracking my expenses for the first time in years. Using a rusty copy of Quicken 2007, I resumed updating the same budget database I've been using since February 2004.

After three months of tracking every penny I earned and spent, I had enough data to draw a conclusion: As much as Kim and I loved where we lived, our fancy neighborhood was costing us a small fortune. Our mortgage-free condo took more than $1000 per month to maintain (between HOA, insurance, and taxes). Meanwhile, I was forking out $500+ per month for groceries (and Kim was spending some too!) and $500+ per month for restaurants.

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Linchpin habits: Minimum effort for maximum results

A few weeks ago, I set a few goals for 2018, one of which was to run at least one mile every single day. Last week, that goal got derailed when I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor ordered me not to run for at least ten days -- perhaps longer.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that I'm doing well with my other goals. I'm eating more plants. I'm reading for pleasure. And my alcohol consumption is way down.

You see, I had started to worry about my drinking. Over the past few years, alcohol has become a larger and larger part of my life. At the start of the year, I resolved to drink fewer than 500 servings of alcohol in 2018, which averages to about 10 drinks a week. This seems like an awful lot to some people, but trust me: It's a sharp reduction. It's less than half what I drank in 2017.

So far, so good. Through 23 days, I've consumed 22 alcoholic beverages (including eleven days with zero drinks). That puts me on pace for 350 drinks in 2018.

How have I managed to make such a drastic shift to my drinking habits? In reality, I've made only one change: I've stopped drinking beer.

I didn't realize it when I made my vow to give up beer for ninety days, but drinking beer is -- for me -- a "linchpin habit". Changing this linchpin habit has had a positive ripple effect throughout my entire life.

Beer taster platter in northern California

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More on the value of negotiating

Earlier today, I shared some tips on salary negotiation. Learning to negotiate your salary is one of the best ways to boost your income -- not just in the present, but over the course of your entire career. In fact, one 2010 study found that failing to negotiate on your initial salary can mean missing out on over half a million dollars in your lifetime.

But negotiation is a skill that can be used for more than seeking a higher salary. In the words of master negotiator Herb Cohen, "You can negotiate anything."

For a variety of reasons, a lot of folks in the U.S. hate haggling. They don't want to negotiate. If you're one of these people, that's fine. But you have to understand that by failing to negotiate, you're paying more than you need to.

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My 2017 year-end review

Hello, and welcome to 2018!

What a long, strange year was 2017. And what a perfect example of just how tough it can be to predict where life will take you.

Twelve months ago, Kim and I were firmly ensconced in our penthouse condo in southeast Portland. We had recently returned from our 15-month RV trip across the United States. After a long stretch struggling to re-acclimate to every day life, both of us had developed routines. She was working regularly at several local dental practices, while I had found my groove writing at Money Boss.

Hard at work with MMM in the condo

When I sat down to do my 2016 year-end review, I found that I'd earned $4233.36 in revenue from blogging. My goal for 2017 was to triple revenue. I also wanted to write 120 articles -- about one every three days. Lastly, I intended to track every penny I earned and spent during the year, and to report about my financial habits for everyone to see.

As regular readers know, things didn't go as planned.

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Earning millions of air miles by renting a new car every day

J.J. and the Hertz staff

I'm relatively new to the world of travel hacking, the practice of accumulating credit-card miles and points to get free flights, hotels, car rentals, and more.

That said, I know many folks who consider travel hacking a hobby, and use their skills to earn big rewards. It's fun to listen to stories of the crazy things they sometimes do to earn points!

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Anthony Bourdain’s money diary

Anthony Bourdain

I'm a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. The dude loves life and lives hard -- and shares it all (good and bad) candidly. Often in the evening, as Kim and I eat dinner, we'll watch an episode of Parts Unknown, which is ostensibly about travel and food but actually about the human condition. It's great stuff.

As part of their excellent Money Diaries series ("interesting people talking candidly about money"), robo-advisor Wealthsimple interviewed Bourdain about his relationship with money.

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Ask the readers: Where do you get your money information?

As I slowly bring Get Rich Slowly back to life, I intend to revive some of the regular features from the old days. On Sundays, for instance, I used to highlight a reader story. And on Fridays I (or a GRS reader) asked you a question.

Since I haven't even been back on the job a week, there's not much of an audience here yet. I'm fine with that. I'm taking the long view. Until I get a few questions from you guys -- for right now, send them to user jdroth at Money Boss -- I'll come up with some of my own.

Here's the first.

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A Home Owner’s Guide to Refinancing Your Mortgage

mortgage loan refinancing

Low mortgage rates unleashed a massive wave of refinancing that was a windfall for millions of consumers, but what will happen once those unusually low mortgage rates are gone? Will refinancing mortgage loans effectively be sidelined as a financial resource for home owners?

While the opportunity to lower your interest rate may be the most compelling reason to refinance, it is just one of several. Refinancing can accomplish different things for different people, and the more you are aware of what refinancing can do, the more likely you are to be able to use it to your advantage.

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