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Field notes from a (sometimes) simple life.

What do they have in common?

Photo by kerry rawlinson on Unsplash

Frugality isn’t the whole path to solid personal finances, but it’s an essential foundation.

However, it’s easy to go overboard with too much of a good thing.

You might say that frugality is like salt.

Every dish benefits from a pinch, but you can quickly overdo it. Before you know it, the meal is unpleasant, and you come away in need of refreshment.

So how do you recognize appropriately frugal habits in your own life? How do you draw the line between reasonable and grateful stewardship on the one hand and Scrooge-like scrimping on the other?

From personal experience, below…


But anyone can try it and see.

Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash

I always took umbrage at being called an “introvert,” until I understood what it actually means.

It’s not a matter of fearing or disliking or being awkward around people. It’s just a deep-seated preference for the inner life over the outer.

But growing up in an American culture that glorifies a distinctly bubbly brand of extraversion, I couldn’t help feeling like a bit of a square peg in a round hole.

Something innate in my being just didn’t mesh with what most around me seemed to prefer and exemplify and strive for.

Solitary diligence was my natural state.

That proclivity…


Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Options open up all sorts of great ways to very safely coax more returns out of your investments, or even just spare cash.

Ignore the course-slinging hucksters, ignore the occasionally lucky but degenerate speculators, and you’re left with an incredible tool in your financial toolbox.

Even as an avowed financial minimalist who loathes complexity, I think they’re swell.

The only problem is most folks don’t find options all that intuitive.

Everyone gets that we make money when stocks go up and lose money when they go down (short-sellers notwithstanding). That much is common knowledge. …


My twenty-first birthday was a sloppy parade of inebriated embarrassments. Never one to party as a teenager, something about a first night of state-sanctioned intoxication was too enticing to refuse. In defense of my dignity, it stopped short of a one-man reenactment of The Hangover, but it’s for the better that smartphones weren’t yet common.

So, you might wonder, did I overindulge because I didn’t know what I was getting into? Could I attribute that unflattering evening— and the ensuing headache — to sheer ignorance?

I could have drawn on my chemistry classes to tell you ethanol’s density relative to…


For better or worse, we’re in a golden age of productivity advice. We’ve never known more about the tactics, habits, and even mindset behind good work.

There’s research galore on all the above. There’s also — and perhaps with more popular influence— a mountain of casual advice and quasi-memes around squeezing more out of your day.

That’s all well and good, but when the latter turn into axioms and imperatives, and you scold yourself for falling short, then it’s worth thinking twice.

Here are four productivity “truths” that, I’d argue, are anything but.

Or should you…? (Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash)

Wake up early, but only if you want to

According to just about every pop-psychology productivity…


INVESTING

A simple way to get the cash flow you want from the stocks you have.

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

I like dividends. A lot.

And odds are you do, too.

It’s a beautiful thing to collect “thank-you” checks just for believing in a business. That’s about as passive as it gets.

The thing is, really passive income usually means really low returns…at least at first. Sure, they’ll snowball into something massive over a few decades, but that’s a long time.

You might want to cover your bills, your rent/mortgage, even your entire lifestyle with dividends long before you’re old(er) and gray(er).

You know, enjoy the cash flow while you’re still young enough to. Now there’s a novel idea!

For…


INVESTING

They’re not even hard to find.

We all know regular dividend-payers won’t net you 1,000% returns over the next few years. But does steady cash flow mean giving up growth? Does solid growth mean you’re in for a wild ride? Certainly not.

Right now, there are companies under your nose that have:

  • Raised dividends steadily for 10+ years
  • Grown EPS by double-digit percentages for 5+ years
  • And outperformed the S&P 500 in 2021 to date

Best of all, we’re not talking obscure companies. Nope, we’re talking huge, obvious ones that anybody can find.

And below are 4 of my favorites.

I’m not a financial professional. This…


PERSONAL FINANCE

From simple to sophisticated, here’s how I’m putting my money to work.

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

It’s critical to have a savings account for life’s goals and surprises.

If you want steady progress toward financial independence, then the bare minimum is a healthy emergency fund in an FDIC-insured account.

But if you’ve got a lot more spare cash, then it’s depressing to watch it gather darn near zero percent interest.

Even my relatively high-yield Ally account pays a paltry 0.50% right now. That would return just $500/year if I deposited a hundred grand.

Thanks, but no thanks!

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to put part of that stockpile to more productive use.

Below are my…


HUMOR

Feel free to leverage this at your earliest convenience.

As an undergrad, I minored in French. But when I leaped from a liberal-arts background into B2B sales, I soon picked up a third language: Businessese.

Whether it’s a distinct language versus a socioeconomic dialect of English is an ongoing debate. For the (blissfully) ignorant, it’s confusing all the same.

If you’re trying to finagle a cushy white-collar job offer, then speaking business-ese like a native is critical.

But fear not. I, the Ambrose Bierce of corporate America, will have you conversant in no time.

Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash

Leverage

Noun; verb

Business-ese speakers leverage “leverage” where the rest of us use “use.” Finance folks…


Just what is “too good to be true”?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

By June 2019, just under half of all Americans already had a side hustle.

That number has most likely skyrocketed during months of pandemic-related lockdowns. Whether scrambling to replace lost income or just trying to build something during extended time alone, bootstrapping side projects has never been more commonplace.

Or more online.

Thanks to the web’s endless scale and potentially huge profit margins (and inherent social distancing), practically all of us at least think about cooking up some of that tasty online side income.

But for every bunch of good apples, there are more than a few bad ones. You…

Erik Bassett

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