Monday, October 17, 2016

Your Purchases Can't Buy You Class

Another Monday, another post chock-full of middle class goodness.

The notion that our economic class is defined, not by our income or our wealth, but by our purchases, is fairly prevalent. If you own a house, or a second car, and take the family on a vacation now and again, maybe that means you're middle class. If you rent and take the bus and don't get time away from work, maybe you're not. Middle class people wear certain types of clothes. They eat certain types of food.

This purchase-defined class structure has a historical basis, and it's been portrayed predictably, and inaccurately, throughout the years in television and in movies.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Middle Class & Income by Location

Sad Cayenne doesn't think she's in the middle class.
As we're in an election year, the two major party candidates are talking about how we need to improve things for the middle class. It makes sense. There's a great deal of mythology about the middle class in America, and it's a deep well for politicians to draw from. It doesn't hurt that we still don't have a consistent definition of what it even means to be middle class, despite the efforts of this little blog.

Nonetheless, the middle class exists, even if we can't agree on how to define it, and, somehow, everyone thinks they're middle class. While I like the idea of defining the middle class in terms of household income quintiles, most of us can agree that the middle class is a relative term, not an absolute one. To be in the middle, you need something on either side.

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's Not Going to Stop

It's Not Going to Stop
Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite director. All his movies are perfect, and if you disagree with me, that's your right and your opinion. But you are wrong. My favorite of his movies is Magnolia (though Boogie Nights makes it a tough NSFW). It's a tear inducing drama about a web of human heartache from which its characters try to escape.

The movie illustrates, in painful and beautiful detail, the problems that we humans bring upon ourselves over and over, like addicts. We want to quit, but we can't. Part inherited, part self-inflicted, the story rings true because I think, most of us have a story like that. The thing we want to quit; the way we need to improve, and we try, but we can't seem to make happen. We viewers identify with the poor characters, because we, too, try hard, and fail, and wonder to ourselves lying in bed at night, what is wrong with us?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Early Retirement, and Where Our Property Taxes Go

Early Retirement, and Where Our Property Taxes Go
Last week we got our property tax bill. And just like every year, I was strangely excited to open it. I know this means I'm an odd duck, but there's a part of me that likes seeing how my tax dollars support the local government. It makes me feel connected to my city.

Plus, there's the fact that our property taxes benefit from a cap: they can only increase 5% each year no matter what happens to property values. But there's no limit on how much they can fall. So when we purchased our home in 2010, our property tax bill was a preposterously low $872. They continued to fall each year until 2013, hitting a low of $762, as the assessments seemed to lag behind the property value trends. Then, as property values in Arizona fully recovered, our tax bills only increased 5% each year. So, somehow, our taxes are lower now than they were at the depth of the real estate crisis of 2009 and 2010, even though our home is worth double what it was back then. Ain't local government grand?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Always Be Frontloading?

Quick apology for the hiatus. We have a new puppy, Cayenne, who is adorable and is pictured there on the right, but also wakes us up four times a night to go outside and pee, and who needs constant supervision all day, and has already given us two scares with the vet. So we're sleep deprived in the Done by Forty household, and all our attention is going to the pup, and to life, and to sneaking in short naps to stay sane. But back to the blog...

As you've surely found out by now, we've stolen all the ideas we use for financial independence. The concept itself we got from Mr. Money Mustache. We learned how to invest in index funds from Jim Collins. We learned that living with our parents well into our forties was okay from Joe and O.G at Stacking Benjamins. So, I borrow from the real experts. But what do you expect? I majored in English, not Finance.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Early Retirement Isn't for You

Early Retirement Isn't for You
*from CubaGallery at Flickr Creative Commons
A lot of good bloggers are getting featured in mainstream news outlets these days. Which is good, I think. Even if the comments aren't positive, the narrative of someone like the Mad Fientist or the 1500 Days clan on a major outlet needs to be shared. Right?

I figure with how little the average worker even thinks about retirement, let alone actually saves for it, these outlier stories have value. They show another way to approach retirement, to approach work, money, life...all of it. 

The thing that drives me a little crazy is the ignorant vitriol in the comments section. Why bother to spew negativity if you're not going to spend even a little time reading up on these people you're criticizing?

Monday, August 22, 2016

House Lust

House Lust
Back in June, we decided to take out a mortgage on our paid-off home. Why would we do such a thing? Opportunity costs. Paying off the low interest debt on our mortgage gave us a guaranteed return, though not as good of a return as we expect to get in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. Any dollar you put towards one goal can't also be put towards something else, and all that. So we're investing the funds...mostly.

But that's just the sensible, personal finance reason that I'm obligated to state on the blog.

Another reason, the real reason, was that we wanted to buy another house. One in Tempe, close to our friends' new house, with visions of us walking with our future children over to our buddies' place for board games and beverages. If we couldn't use our wealth to buy the kind of life we imagined for us and our family, what's the point?

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Privileged

The Privileged
I'm a fan of Marketplace, the NPR program on finance and economics. But I especially love Marketplace Weekend, their Saturday show that takes a look at personal finance. I loved it back when Tess Vigeland hosted, and it seems even better now with Lizzie O'Leary.

This week's show had a segment on one of the uniquely modern career dilemmas: work-life balance. I'm sure we're all too familiar with this problem today's worker deals with daily, trying to find the happy medium between career, and everything else we label as life.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Writing it Down

Writing it Down
Writing is hard right now, especially in the mornings when I remember stuff all over again. But I am trying to keep up with good habits. I figure you're always reinforcing some sort of habit, no matter what you're doing...or avoiding doing. It's all building a routine.

So I might as well reinforce something healthy, like brushing my teeth and showering, shopping for food and cooking our own meals, or taking walks with the family, instead of drinking too many beers, wasting time on the internet, watching too much television, or playing hours of Fifa on the PlayStation.