Financial Stupidity

This article just begged for a commentary: Scraping By On $500,000 A Year: Why It’s So Hard For High Income Earners To Escape The Rat Race.

Bask in the glorious title of this piece, and distill it down to its essentials: how to earn half a million a year and still be broke. Now, the author himself is not complaining about the situation, per se. Rather, he is merely documenting how it happens. But the collected financial ignorance in this piece is staggering to contemplate.

Look at the balance sheet:

FS-500K-Student-Loan

Let’s point out some obvious ones, shall we? If you make half a million a year, why do you have car payments to the tune of $10,000/year? If you’re complaining about not saving, not feeling “above average” why are you taking $18,000 worth of vacations every year? If your earnings are $500,000/year, what are you doing buying a $1.5 million home? $18,000 to the college alumni? What? And $32,000/yearly in student loan debt (this presumes near to $300k balance)? That’s nuts.

But let’s imagine someone is in this pickle. What do you do to get out of the rat race?

Easy. Sell the home, if you’ve some decent equity (the scenario above presumes $300k equity). Roll down to a cheaper place, rent for a while. Yes, if this is New York, that means Manhattan is off the table. Too bad. Roll the equity straight into the student loans. Now, no more student loans. $32k yearly savings. Stop taking the vacations for a couple years. $18k savings. Pay off the cars, or drive cheaper cars. $10k/savings. Kill donations to the alumni until you’re in a better situation. $18k/savings. That’s +$78k/year straight into the bank, plus whatever this family saved by dropping down a bit in their home (let’s give them 1/3 savings of $20k yearly). Take some smaller slices off of food spending and other smaller stuff, and this family is then easily banking over $100,000 per year.

Do that for around 10 years, and they have over $1 million in the bank, plus accumulated retirement savings. They can move to any less-expensive part of the country, buy a mansion in cash, continue to practice law (at, perhaps, a slightly lower pay scale) and live like kings.

This is one reason why I don’t trust a lot of these so-called experts, because they are so incredibly stupid in very basic life matters. What I posted above is not rocket science, it is not something beyond the reach of a man with pretty average intelligence and education.

Why, then, are so many highly-paid people so financially illiterate?

It boggles the mind. There was a time in my 20s when I was relatively stupid with money. I say relatively because, I think, even at my worst I was less stupid than most. But for a time, I had car payments, and occasionally carried modest credit card balances (never do this, by the way, but it was at least less than $1,500), and I got myself into a mortgage when I shouldn’t have, which ended rather badly due in part to Florida’s ongoing insurance nightmares.

Eventually, I realized all of this was stupid. I got rid of the bad house, sold the nice car and bought a shitbox for a while, paid off all credit card debt, partly by selling off some valuables, and then started working on the one remaining mortgage (the one that didn’t have a flood insurance nightmare chasing after it).

In the meantime, I took a daytime contracting job in addition to my consulting business and my DJ business. I effectively work 2 1/2 jobs these days. I’ve taken exactly one vacation in my entire adult life, and that was on the cheap. My wife’s family had accumulated a boatload of airline miles, and we cashed them in for a free trip to Germany, where my wife had a number of friends we were able to stay with for a little over a week. The whole thing, for both of us, cost less than $2,500.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live entirely spartan either. Eventually the shitbox I kept for a few years, while I was paying down debt, became rather unserviceable. That was okay. For a $4,000 crappy car, it gave me three years of life. And I still got $2,500 when I sold the thing. For $500/year, I could get to where I needed to go. Once in a better situation, I allowed myself the modest luxury of a newer Ford Mustang with the 5.0 V8 motor in it. Still an inexpensive vehicle compared to what most folks in my line of work are driving around. But fun.

Have fun and enjoy luxuries now and then. But don’t live beyond your means. I have the title to that Mustang. No payments. No interest. No loans.

In a few years, the last remaining mortgage will be paid off, if things hold true a little longer. And then I can probably relax a little, and go back to working two sources of income, instead of three.

I’m no special genius or anything. It’s not really hard to do. It’s very basic math, and a little bit of self control, nothing more. And it’s really disturbing that so many folks have neither.

Here is some wisdom:

This is the goal: a position of “fuck you.”

If you make half a million dollars a year, this position is absurdly easy to achieve. If you’re like the rest of us working stiffs, it’s not as easy, but with some self discipline and working some multiple streams of income, you can still make it happen. And believe me, every bit of debt that you shed feels better than anything you could buy with that money. Your nice new car? It doesn’t feel as good as not having the payments.

Trust me on that. I’ve been in both places.

New PC Build

Browsing around Liberty’s Torch, as I often do, I am reminded of something in my own life. Francis discusses those who don’t look very far and those who do. And he references Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Oddly enough, this is a book I’ve never read, something I ought to rectify one of these days. My reading list is always long, and always growing faster than I can read. But perhaps this merits skipping a few, because I am told that my view of computing is much like the view expressed in the book.

I like to understand things, and get into the nitty-gritty. Nothing frustrates me more than being helpless, not understanding what is going on, having to rely on someone else not merely to do a thing, but to understand that thing.

You see, when you know something well enough, but contract it out to another because you do not have the time to deal with it, you know what a fair price for the work might be. You are not ripped off or taken advantage of.

For example, I know how to change the oil in my car, but I often pay someone else to do it, because I don’t have the time. Nonetheless, knowing how to do it means I am not ripped off, and if I do have the time, I can do it myself.

Although I must say, I find working with machines to be quite therapeutic most of the time. Even when they frustrate me, I am, paradoxically, enjoying myself. My wife would say that when I am cursing at the machine the most, I am also the happiest.

Lately, I decided to build a new computer. It’s about time, as the last new build was back in 2011, and for me, that is a very long time. I’ve been building my own machines since the mid-90s, when I put together a bizarre 486-based system out of leftover parts from my father’s computers.

Since then, I’d usually do a new build every 2 or 3 years, with small refreshes in between (usually a GPU or RAM upgrade). Recently, the release of AMD’s Ryzen CPU gave me the motivation to finally upgrade again, the prospect of building a relatively inexpensive, well-performing 8 core/16 thread machine finally making it worth the price.

Only this time, the build was smooth as butter. No problems. In a way, it was almost disappointing. I say almost, in case the computing gods are in a mischievous mood. There were no logic problems to solve. The build was easy, the OS installed with the first attempt (that’s a rarity), and given how fast SSDs are these days, the whole machine was fully up and running in a couple of hours.

Still, it was fun, and I enjoyed it. I often wonder why so many people seem almost afraid of learning how things work, how to work on them, or understand them. I see people afraid of changing a tire, or utterly flabbergasted by the simplest of computer issues. They don’t know how to wire an outlet in their home, or install a ceiling fan.

They’ve no clue how to do much of anything, really, and many of them are, paradoxically, proud of their ignorance. I’ve met people who laugh about being unable to balance their checkbooks. It’s utterly bizarre. Fixing things, building things, doing things… these are not the tasks of the anointed, I suppose.

They are romantics, I guess. The world is just supposed to work they way they want it to… because.

Either way, I had fun. Enjoy some pics of the build, if you like computer pr0n:

boxesryzenheatsinkvideo1videofin2

desktop

 

Competitive Morality Explained

In one of the shares on Facebook, I discovered this little gem:

This is a great refutation of the idea that the person holding the gun to someone’s head, and demanding that the wealth be redistributed from one person to another, is somehow morally superior to everyone else.

Charity is something that most people realize has an intrinsic moral character to it. But when the government uses coercion to redistributed from Peter to Paul, the charitable character of the transaction is utterly lost.

Peter has no choice. He must pay Paul. And without the choice, how can Peter claim he has done charitable works? And the agent who holds the gun cannot claim to be charitable either, for it is not his wealth that is being given. He is taking from someone else.

The government sucks the charity out of everything. It deprives us of the satisfaction of having helped another out of our free will. And, furthermore, the government doesn’t like us freely giving without their interference. The government wants a monopoly on this. Why else would they trumpet moral superiority while simultaneously screwing the poor?

When a BBQ event wanted to donate their leftover food, excellent first class BBQ cooking, to the poor, what did hte government do?

It demanded that the food be destroyed.

Similar things happen all the time. Churches are fined for allowing the homeless to sleep on church property. Soup kitchens are kicked out of parks in Miami, because the locals (mostly Democrats!) don’t like the poor hanging around the park to get a bowl of soup.

No. The only charity that is to be allowed is the kind that isn’t charity in the first place. All they want is your wealth, so they can grab a slice of the redistribution for themselves. Graft, bribes, selling off baby parts for Lamborghinis, whatever.

And the Left calls this charity. They call this helping their fellow man.

Pull the other one.

Competitive Morality

Virtue signalling is a topic that both fascinates and horrifies. We all know how this game is played by now, and if for some reason any of my readers do not, let me assure you that you won’t remain in the dark for long.

Moral trumpeters are legion.

For them, it is an arcane ritual, designed to alleviate them of guilt, of a peculiar form of original political sin. It also gives them hierarchy to compete against. The person who takes the most wealth from one person and gives it to another is the pinnacle of proper Progressivism, the greatest of their moral agents.

Who the wealth is taken from, and who it is given to, doesn’t really matter from any moral perspective (it matters in other ways), so long as the wealth is taken. You might take millions from a man who cured cancer, and give it to a bunch of barbarian slavers in the Third World, but all is good because the millions were taken.

The middleman gets all the credit, of course. Lesser Progressives must bow to his superior morality, that he managed to steal more from one to bribe another to do his political bidding. The taxpayer is insulted for not giving more of his wealth to the government. There is no gratitude. The media is most moral, and the guy living in the sticks least moral, for no matter what he might do for the poor, no one is there to see it, therefore it isn’t moral.

If a person helps another, and the cameras aren’t there to record it, it is as if it never happened.

Competitive morality requires that you trumpet your moral achievements to the world. Stephen Colbert shows us how it is to be done:

colbert

 

Here Stephen Colbert is telling us that we are not Christians, and do not follow Christ, if we don’t want to give our earnings to the government. This is designed to wound a genuine Christian, by calling him a poor follower of Christ, and elevate himself as a superior agent of morality at the same time.

Mr. Colbert would be well-advised to read Matthew 6:2:

Therefore when you give your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Stephen Colbert and his ilk are revealed for what they are: hypocritical trumpeters of their charity.

So long as one man in the world has less than another, men like Stephen Colbert will find cause to call us selfish and uncharitable for not giving all of our wealth to the government, to spend as it sees fit.

Those same people say that churches don’t do enough to help the poor. This meme is a great illustration:

678c51e51f211ee02ebd4a58fdfb3b7a

Give all your money to government, and not churches, because it is better at helping people. Right.

These people know that charity and taxation are not the same thing, and yet they continue to make these insinuations, continue to trumpet their moral superiority. “I’m better than you,” says the liberal. Sometimes they imply that they are more moral in sarcastic, passive-aggressive fashion. “I worked for Greenpeace, did you?”

My first instinct would be to say “no, I prefer to donate my time and money to the parents of kids with cancer in my hometown, because charity starts at home.” But that’s actually a bad reply. It’s a form of trumpeting your own charity right back at them. More importantly, it doesn’t work.

That is their heresy, not ours. We’ve no need for that sort of thing. Instead, explain how their charity really isn’t charity. If you’re taking someone else’s money, grabbing a cut for yourself, and passing along some of it to another in exchange for his vote, you’re no Mother Theresa. You’re an asshole.

The Clinton Foundation was more interested in ensuring Chelsea Clinton’s dress fit right than whatever was going on in Haiti. Whenever massive amounts of money are moved from place to place, these people get a slice of it. They can also determine who it goes to, and under what conditions.

Obama, for example, was very dead set against securing the border or stopping illegal Mexican immigration. But he was all for ending the Cuban refugee wet foot-dry foot policy. Why? Cubans didn’t get the “Hispanics have to vote Democrat” memo. If Cubans were reliable Democrats, Obama would have taken the whole damned country, if he could’ve gotten away with it.

The Leftist motto is rob from everyone who makes money, and give to the most gullible poor slobs they can con into voting for them.

They are King John, not Robin Hood.

And they want to con the Christian man into going along with it by working at his conscience. If we could translate their insinuations, their passive-aggression, it would result in something like this:

Just look at you. I bet you have a car and a nice home. I bet you have savings and valuables. I bet you sometimes spend money on things you want rather than things you need.

 

You haven’t given every last cent to the poor. You prioritize your own family, friends, and community over the people I want to give money to, and that’s selfish.

 

You are a bad Christian, and a bad man. You are immoral. I am better than you. And because I am better than you, you must obey me. You must give me your wealth, to dispense to whomever I see fit to give it to.

 

Because if you don’t, I will continue to make you feel bad for being successful. I will make you look selfish in front of your friends. I will chip away at the foundations of your faith. I will insult you and make fun of you. I will turn the media against you. You will be the butt of all jokes.

This is the message people like Stephen Colbert are sending to us. They presume themselves to be your moral superiors, your intellectual superiors, your betters in all things. They look down upon you while ripping you off for all they can steal.

So the next time one of them calls you immoral, or trumpets their own morality, you must answer as Rhett Butler did: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.

Tyranny from the Bench

Francis at Liberty’s Torch provides us with some illumination: The Anarcho-Tyranny Chronicles.

Judicial Tyranny is, of course, nothing new. The courts have long found excuses to rule on things which the Constitution grants them no power over. The most recent, of course, being gay marriage. Now, wherever you stand on the matter of gays getting married, it is factual to say that the Constitution is absolutely silent on the matter. There is nothing in it which grants or denies the act.

Therefore the Supreme Court should not be able to rule on it.

There have been many other such instances, such as abortion, education, etc… and always, it seems, the courts rule on these matters anyway. But Francis explains how this can lead to a sort of twisted judicial tyranny, or, as he puts it, anarcho-tyranny.

If you’ve been a Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch for a goodly while now, you’re probably familiar with the late Sam Francis’s coinage anarcho-tyranny. For those who haven’t yet made the acquaintance of this useful term, here’s the original formulation:

 

“What we have in this country today, then, is both anarchy (the failure of the state to enforce the laws) and, at the same time, tyranny – the enforcement of laws by the state for oppressive purposes; the criminalization of the law-abiding and innocent through exorbitant taxation, bureaucratic regulation, the invasion of privacy, and the engineering of social institutions, such as the family and local schools; the imposition of thought control through “sensitivity training” and multiculturalist curricula, “hate crime” laws, gun-control laws that punish or disarm otherwise law-abiding citizens but have no impact on violent criminals who get guns illegally, and a vast labyrinth of other measures. In a word, anarcho-tyranny. [From the essay Synthesizing Tyranny, written shortly before Francis’s death.]”

The longer I live, the more I come to view anarcho-tyranny as the terminal state toward which all governments tend as they mature and degenerate.

This is essentially the state in which we live today. Think about it, the state will tax you, the state will regulate you, the state even consider disarming you. You are punished by being lawful. You may utter a word that offends someone, and for this you may be fired, or your privileges taken away from you, or otherwise ostracized for this. No laws have been broken, but this is allowed because it is deemed private.

Yet the criminal may get away with less punishment from the state because of his race, or religion, or because someone makes an excuse for his behavior. Consider that each state has arcane and difficult-to-navigate firearm restrictions. I’ve a 32 round magazine for my Ruger P95. That mag is perfectly legal in my home state of Florida. If I were to cross into New York bearing it with me, I could be arrested for a felony even if I didn’t know better.

Meanwhile, the guy who stole my friend’s car and drove it into a ditch didn’t even serve jail time for the offense.

Now, consider the concept of justice here. What society-at-large is telling us, regardless of the source of justice, is that carrying a 32 round mag, even if you don’t have the firearm it goes with on your person, is objectively worse than stealing a car and crashing it into a ditch. It is saying that the person who says a bad word should suffer more than the person who breaks into your home.

Just as Leftists dream of redistributing the wealth, they also want to redistribute the justice. The law-abiding white guy in the suburbs must pay the price of his entire livelihood for, say, calling a woman fat. The criminal with a record as long as my arm, meanwhile, must be forgiven his crimes — even if he charges a police officer and tries to kill him.

It’s okay for Black Lives Matter protesters to set their own city on fire. It’s not okay for me to own a means of defending myself.

But I digress. Francis was talking about a much more specific miscarriage of justice, a case where the courts have divorced themselves utterly from the purpose of their existence:

James Madison, often called “the father of the Constitution,” regarded the courts as “the least dangerous branch” of government. The widespread belief is that that was because the courts were allowed no enforcement arm, apart from the bailiffs allowed for keeping order during a court proceeding. However, this reverses cause and effect. The courts were allowed no enforcement arm because of the danger they would otherwise pose, as is well established by English history.

 

The great majority of judges in pre-Industrial Revolution England, from which much of our legal tradition derives, were not government employees, neither elected nor appointed nor hired. They commanded deference on the basis of their personal qualities and their willingness to sit as judges; in other words, from popular respect for their wisdom and diligence. If you’ve heard the term “circuit judge” and have wondered about its provenance, it comes from the time when a judge would routinely “ride a circuit:” i.e., he would regularly travel a known route from place to place, hearing such cases as were presented to him in each place and ruling on them according to the “common law,” another American inheritance from England.

 

To make this a workable living, a judge needed to be known and respected in each of the stops along his circuit. A judge’s enforcement arm was the willingness of the commoners whose cases he heard to enforce his rulings. Thus, he had to have a reputation for fairly and consistently applying both the common law and what precedents might exist for its enforcement. For a judge to become known as capricious or arbitrary – e.g., for promoting his personal views over the common law as English commoners knew it – would spell the end of his career.

Amazing to think of, right? A judge who rode from town to town, dealing justice based primarily on his own reputation, not any appointment from up on high. The king did not command him thusly, he did the thing on his own.

Ironically, an equivalent does exist in modern American jurisprudence: arbitration. Have you ever seen those bizarre court shows on TV? You know, Judge Judy and the like? Before entering the “courtroom”, the parties sign an agreement to abide by Judy’s arbitration. She’s not really a judge anymore (she used to be).

But she is, in essence, a circuit judge of the old style, albeit with a heavy does of entertainment to go along with it. I imagine, however, it may have been similar in old England. Perhaps that was a form of entertainment for the villagers as well, their equivalent of Jerry Springer, or something. The circuit judge would ride into town, and people would line up to hear the arbitration, and perhaps laugh at the loser if he was particularly stupid.

Point being, though, that Americans are accustomed to thinking of judges in a sort of top-down manner. As deriving authority from the government, and not from popular reputation. Thus can a miscarriage of justice happen. What the King wants is usually not what the commoner wants, regardless of what is actually just.

England’s problems with “star chambers” and the like came about because of courts whose authority descended from the Crown – i.e., whose enforcement arm was the force commanded by the King. Common-law judges posed no such problems, precisely because they had no enforcement power of their own. Indeed, it was often the role of a common-law judge to prevent a lynching or other variety of mob “justice:” something only a very well known, well respected jurist could do by force of character.

 

Even though American judges are government employees, the essence of the English common-law judicial system – that the court have no enforcement arm of its own – was largely preserved by the Founding Fathers. The courts’ authority is essentially one of popular consensus concerning the probity and wisdom of the courts: i.e., that the courts are assessing the laws faithfully rather than whimsically or capriciously.

 

But by innumerable capricious judgments: both failures to uphold the black-letter law and usurpations of jurisdiction that in no way belong to them, the courts have destroyed that consensus. Where, then, do we stand?

Today, we stand in a strange place. I remember some time ago that a woman was on the news for having ordered a coffee from McDonalds, and then spilling all of it over ah… shall we say, a very sensitive area.

There were lawsuits, and media talking heads discussing it. At a high level, the assumption was that the woman would gain a respectable settlement, at least several hundred thousand dollars, for her pain and suffering.

The consensus on the street was that this woman was a fucking idiot, pardon my French, and that if you order hot coffee, putting it between your legs is the height of folly. This was common sense, as distinguished from the sensibility of the aristocracy. The working stiffs were irritated, because everyone thought McDonalds would lower the temperature of their coffee, and that now their drinks would be cold by the time they got to work, the extra temperature being useful for keeping it warm long enough to get to the office.

High courts and commoners can no longer even agree on what justice is, much less how it might best be applied.

The term “court of public opinion” is interesting here, too. For these days, there’s an entirely different court which may preside over you. Not the respected justice, travelling from place-to-place, ruling on matters according to the will of the people. No. This is different. This is government, media, and entertainment celebrities agreeing on what justice is, and what it ought to be, and then telling you that if you do not comply with it, they will sic their hordes of Social Justice Warriors on you. They call it a court of public opinion, but it’s really a court of aristocratic opinion.

We don’t have much of a lower court anymore, for even the lower courts are starting to act like high courts.

This is, as Francis put it, part of a much larger cycle:

Why, right where we are today, of course: enmeshed in a steadily deteriorating, ever more anarcho-tyrannical context. At the moment, the only escape is to even less desirable places. That might change; developments in space flight and workable space habitats are ongoing, and it’s impossible to say if or when they’ll mature. But the cycle itself appears to be embedded in human nature. If that’s the case, then no matter where men go, the cycle will go with them.

And there you have it. I wish there were viable starships and space habitats today. I’d be off this rock in a heartbeat. Let the Communists and Islamists eat each other. I want out.

But, failing an escape route… we will have to fight.

%d bloggers like this: