Race After Technology. Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

Race After Technology. Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, by Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University.

Publisher Polity writes: From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity.

Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of technology, designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice in the architecture of everyday life.

This illuminating guide provides conceptual tools for decoding tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold but also the ones we ourselves manufacture.

Hyphen-Labs, NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism (NSAF)

The subtitle of the book, Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, openly refers to Michelle Alexander‘s 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (check out two interviews with the civil rights advocate on NPR and WNYC) which investigates how the war on drugs and the increasing imprisonment of black and brown men in the U.S. constitute a new incarnation of the kind of negative stereotypes and caste-like system enforced by the Jim Crow laws in the south of the country before the civil rights movement. But what then is the New Jim Code?

The New Jim Code is a series of techno-mediated mechanisms that replicate or even aggravate social divisions, inequities and hierarchies. More or less openly and consciously. Their allure of being scientific, neutral and objective makes it difficult for civil rights advocates and ordinary citizens to challenge their discriminatory designs and hold the individuals and institutions behind them accountable.

The content of Race After Technology concerns each and everyone of us. No matter our skin colour, gender, sexual orientation or socio-cultural background, we can all enjoy the writings of a scholar who casts such a critical, witty and penetrating eye over the social dimensions of technology.

Whether Benjamin denounces the glitches in an otherwise benign system that hide systemic racism, exposes the troubling niche approach that claims to tailor experiences but delivers stereotypical containment and misrepresentation, questions the empathy woven into the marketing of VR, navigates between technologies that fail to see Blackness and technologies that single out Black people and expose them to racial surveillance, she never loses sights of what is at stake: the technological “solutions” that claim to fix complex social problems don’t work. They might even do more harm than good.

What makes Benjamin’s approach so invaluable is the way she never isolates technology from its societal context, history and culture. Technical design, she reminds us, is built on social norms, ideologies and practices that tend to reinforce white privilege.

The first 4 chapters of the book dissect the New Jim Code. The last one goes even further by delineating the different types of “abolitionist tools” necessary to build solidarity and “coutercode” tech-mediated inequities. She does so by highlighting the work of practitioners, scholars, activists, artists, film makers and students who are demystifying technology and challenging the production and deployment of the New Jim Code.

If you can’t get a copy of the book, you might be interested in the video recording of Black Skin, White Masks: Racism, Vulnerability & Refuting Black Pathology, a talk Ruha Benjamin gave a couple of weeks ago.

ODB, Digital Defense Playbook

Data for Black Lives (image)

Related stories: Algorithms of Oppression. How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, Curatorial Activism. Fighting sexism, racism, homo/lesbophobia and western-centrism one exhibition at a time, Drones, pirates, everyday racism. An interview with graphic designer Ruben Pater, “Universalization is a colonialist heritage.” An interview with video game curator Isabelle Arvers, Artists explore the ethical aspects of commercial DNA ancestry testing, The Museum of NonHumanity, The House That Herman Built, etc.

Photo on the homepage: March on Washington. Civil rights supporters carry placards at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Warren K. Leffler (digital file: cph ppmsca 03128.)

from Finance https://we-make-money-not-art.com/race-after-technology-abolitionist-tools-for-the-new-jim-code/

Elvis has left the building … but the show must go on!

Elvis has left the building … but the show must go on!

Post image for Elvis has left the building … but the show must go on!

One random Wednesday morning, I was checking my spam email folder and came across an interesting message. It was from a guy saying he worked at “Soapbox, a Motley Fool company.” He said that he checked out some of my writing, liked my positive vibe, and wanted to talk about an “opportunity to become the new face/voice of a blog they recently purchased.”

This didn’t seem like a typical spammy email, so I hit reply to see if it was legit. It turns out that one of my heroes, the legendary J. Money, had decided to start working on another project and recommended me as a candidate for taking over this blog.

Whoa! I was shocked. A million thoughts rushed to my head …

  • Why me? There are a thousand other people out there with more finance knowledge and better writing skills.
  • Who could ever replace J. Money? And what kind of idiot would even try?
  • Isn’t the Motley Fool a website that gives stock advice to already rich people?
  • *Note to self* I should check my spam folder more often … I wonder what other messages I’ve missed there over the years?!

I set up a call with J$ to chat about it more, and that’s when I stumbled down the rabbit hole. This was an opportunity I never saw coming.

The Budgets team, and my new “boss” at work

The guys who own this blog are hilarious. I can see why J. Money stuck around so long and is continuing to build new projects with them. They are a small team of smart, funny, and laid-back people. And the decision to bring me on as a new writer was long and well thought out.

I had a bunch of video calls with them before committing to this gig. And the more I learned about the people and their vision, the more excited I got.

Here are a few reasons I’m excited to be joining the Budgets team:

Reaching more people: This blog isn’t a “business” for them, it’s a community. Their mission is to help everyone become smarter, happier and richer. I’m 100% on board with this.

Drinking on the job is encouraged: My new “boss” recommended that I drink beer while writing blog posts. True story — he even sent me a care package of local craft beers and a Soapbox-branded pint glass to use! (photo below)

Freedom to be myself: I assumed the Budgets team would have a rule guide for what I write about, when to post, topics to avoid, etc. … Nope! They’ve given me complete freedom to figure it all out myself. I get to be me every day, and I’ve never had a job like that before.

J. Money is a phone call away: J$ may not be blogging here daily anymore, but he is lurking in the background of every post, making sure that I don’t screw up. He is (and forever will be) emotionally connected to this blog … Which means I get to use him as a free mentor and pick his brain any time I want!

Fun culture: I learned that the Motley Fool company has an average employee tenure of ~9 years! That’s how fun and happy the people are who work there, and I get to be a team member. (Even the most fun companies, like Google, only keep employees for an average of 3-4 years.)

Long-term approach: I’m impressed with the way everyone on the Budgets team solves problems. They approach projects and decisions with a long-term outlook, kind of like a mature investment strategy 🙂

pint glass with soapbox logo

Blog schedule going forward

I know you’re used to getting a post every weekday, but it’s gonna take a while for me to ramp up to that crazy level!

For now, new posts from me will come a few times a week … Mondays and Fridays to start with, and we’ll share a bunch of guest posts and other announcements when we have them. Also, J might be popping in later this month to talk about his withdrawal symptoms after leaving the blog and update us on his new projects.

If you’re a personal finance blogger or have a cool money story that you think will help others, please send it our way. Don’t be shy — everyone benefits when we share our stories! My new “work email” is joel (at) soapbox (dot) com. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Monday, and have a kickass week!

– Joel

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/elvis-has-left-the-building-but-the-show-must-go-on/

The Clearing. How to live together once sea levels rise and global economy collapses

Mainstream media like to tell us how people are getting ready for a post-collapse future. Some buy properties in New Zealand, some go all bunker bliss, others believe that all they should do is escape and colonise another planet (because humans have such a great track records when it comes to colonisation.) Details differ but the spirit is the same: everyone for themselves! Survival of the fittest! Or rather the richest.

Another possibility, albeit a less headline-grabbing one, is that we’ll do what we’ve always done throughout our evolution: we will keep on being a social species, we will cooperate and learn from each other.

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

Artists Alex Hartley and Tom James have experimented with the collaborative doomsday scenario. Back in 2017, they built a geodesic dome on the grounds of Compton Verney, an 18th-century country mansion in England. Then they invited members of the public as well as various experts to join them and learn together how we can survive in a world that global warming, economic collapse and political unrest have made alien.

Most of the workshops organised in and around the dome involved learning again the kind of skills that modernity has rendered obsolete: making booze or coca-cola, filtering water, harnessing wind power for electricity, making a foxhole radio, foraging for something edible, finding your way by looking at the night sky, etc. A couple of workshops however, had more ambitious objectives: rebuilding democracy or living and dying.

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

The artists wrote a report in the spirit of the project. It was typed on MS Word; printed out and photocopied by hand; and bound in covers made from discarded cardboard boxes. They’ve recently scanned the publication and made it available online for free. From what i could see and read, the low-tech, low-cost, high-collaborative post apocalyptic option is far more enjoyable than the lavish bunker ones.

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing. A Report from the Future, 2017

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing. A Report from the Future, 2017

Alex Hartley‘s work destabilises ideas of both iconic architecture and nature by exploring our understanding of utopian ideologies. Tom James creates artworks and publications that aim to change the way people think about the structures, places and ideas around them. I recently got in touch with them to know more about The Clearing:

Hi Tom and Alex! I’ve been encountering more articles and podcasts about preppers and bunker buildings than usual over these past few weeks. They suggest that in order to survive you need to be a hoarder, be afraid and be very selfish. The Clearing offers an entirely different vision of survival. Could you tell us what the project might or might not have in common with these doomsday bunkers in terms of way of thinking about the future?

TJ: From the start, I think we were both really conscious of this understanding of ‘survival’, and wanting to explore the other side of it. There are so many preppers on youtube, always hench guys in full camouflage and wrap-around sunglasses, squatting in a forest and talking in a deep voice about knives or something, into a go- pro. And that whole thing is just so lonely and depressing – imagine actually surviving, on your own, in such a bitter way?

What’s always been interesting to both of us is the other side of the end of the world – could it actually be a chance to live in a simpler, slower way? Could it be good? Chopping wood and building a cob oven and keeping chickens – with other people – is far more enjoyable than sitting on the sofa scrolling through instagram.

AH: I’m assuming the preppers are hugely disappointed that society hasn’t collapsed, like a doomsday cult when their long awaited deathdate passes. The Clearing was always ‘pretend’ – but all the things it did achieve came through the community it built, and the collective learning and endeavour that took place there.

Apart from the geodesic dome, what or who were your guides and inspirations for The Clearing?

TJ: For me, the one big inspiration was Ursula le Guin. Her book Always Coming Home totally changed my life – it’s about a community who live in a valley in what is now California, thousands of years in the future, after some kind of unmentioned apocalypse. It’s this incredible study of their whole (imagined) lives, including their stories and dances and what they eat and what they wear, all told in their words. And it’s good! Really slow and soft and peaceful. It’s the only ‘collapse’ book I’ve ever read where I’d like to live in the community. And I just wanted to carry that feeling into the project, really.

I also think Alex’s work itself was a big inspiration – I remember very vividly standing on the banks of a canal in London in January 2012, looking through the door of the knackered little dome he’d built for his show at Victoria Miro, and seeing this thing that was scruffy and foreboding, and at the same time warm and inviting and soft. That duality about the future really inspired me in all the work I’ve done since – and was what made me get in touch with him and suggest working together for The Clearing in the first place.

AH: Photos of the late 60’s hippy community of Drop City have been pinned on my studio walls for many years. The domes themselves manage to be magically both futuristic and nostalgic at the same time and they seem to carry so much hope for an alternative future. The Drop City story is well enough known that the photos resonate a great melancholy. I always hoped that we could convey some of this naive optimism into The Clearing.

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

The Clearing is a wonderful experiment and it looks rather nice. It is less grandiose than the gallery and parkland of Compton Verney though. Was there ever any suggestion that it needed to be glammed up in any way?

AH: We were always very surprised that Compton Verney were happy for the whole encampment around The Clearing to be such a mess. Stores and piles of materials, outbuildings and space for experiments were crucial elements of the work. We would tidy up regularly, but in truth the contrast between the manicured stately home and our much less certain, imperfect structure was the best part of its location. There was some initial discussion about the effect on wedding venue bookings…

TJ: At one point a happy couple actually did come and stand in front of The Clearing in their wedding outfits, during one of our workshops. I suppose it made for a nice apocalyptic shot for their album.

We were very lucky in that the curator Penny Sexton was amazing from the start, in terms of protecting it, and carving out a space for this weird, scruffy thing. We were also lucky that this guy called Nick Molyneux from Historic England was at the interview – he was really into the project, and told us about the history of stately homes installing their own hermit in a cave in their grounds, as a curious folly for their guests to peer at. So there was this real precedent for living in the grounds in this way.

And ultimately, Compton Verney really wanted a ‘talking point’ in their landscape – and what else is there to talk about at the moment but, as Helen Nisbet puts it, ‘the end of this world and the beginning of the next’?

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

I was reading an interview with you and you said “We’ve tried to create a place for people to come to learn how to live in the collapsing world that we think is coming our way.” Are you familiar with the field of collapsologie the “applied and transdisciplinary science of collapse”? It grew quite popular in France but I haven’t heard about that concept (at least not in the “French sense”) being debated so much in the UK. How invigorating and empowering (i wish i could find a synonym to that word!) is your vision of the collapse?

TJ: The thing about ‘collapse’ is that it’s easy to think about it when you’ve got a full belly and gas and wifi – but hard to imagine what it might actually feel like. Even when you’re reading all these things in the Guardian about sea-level rise and extinction and mass migration, on the next page it’s still tennis and luxury watches and Cara Delevinge. It’s impossible to get outside of the world. So I suppose that’s what we were trying to do, to let people step outside the world and feel what a different way of living might feel like, with all the different emotions that entails.

AH: All this seems so much closer now. I’m sure The Clearing would take a very different direction in a post Covid world. I’d not heard of ‘collapsologie’ (or Cara Delevinge), but a large proportion of both of our work involves imagining how we might live in and occupy a world with radically changed priorities. I try to hold onto the possibility that this collapse doesn’t have to be entirely dystopian.

TJ: This is the way you have to see it! That’s the big lesson from The Clearing – you need other people, and you need to make it happen for yourselves. I read a thing somewhere translated from French once, which I’ve never been able to find again, called ‘Another End of The World Is Possible’. And that’s just it – don’t believe the apocalypse porn! Don’t let them tell you it’s going to be like The Road! It’s also going to be a chance to build a new, better, slower world in the ruins of the old. It’s not like there’s going to be much else to do, anyway.

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

The Clearing also involved a series of workshops around themes as diverse as soap, rebuilding democracy, growing food, keeping chicken, building a toilet or how to die in the future. Now that we’ve had 2 full months of living a life we were not prepared for, do you feel that there are workshops in there that make more sense than others in the current circumstances? Or new workshops that should be organised because you might now have realised that new problems have emerged during this pandemic?

AH: Self-sufficiency for me – or self-reliance. Definitely how to survive in your own company.

TJ: I think this links to the last question in a way – we’ve all still got running water, there’s still food coming into the shops (from whichever mysterious place it comes from) so we’re not quite in the collapse yet. But what it’s shown we do need is better ways to come together and talk and agree to act – and to avoid going down the route of stockpiling and hoarding. The Rebuilding Democracy workshop is really the most valid, I think.

The really interesting thing about this pandemic is that it’s shown that all the things we were told were facts of life (austerity, cuts, long lines of toxic cars with one person in them, cheap flights to weekend break destinations) were all actually choices – and that the government, and by extension society, can make different choices if we think it’s necessary.

I think what we really need now is workshops on community organising and local power, so we can carry on these discussions, and make sure we put alternatives in people’s heads and in their hands. I don’t want to go back to normal, normal was shit.

The Clearing was located in a park. Could a similar project be implemented in urban areas? Do you need this distance from the crowd? Wouldn’t you have access to more resources in a city?

AH: The question of where to make The Clearing was always a huge one for us both – some of this revolved around where we could find the production budget, but also how ‘real’ to make the experience. The first dome I made in 2010 went to Occupy after its initial incarnation as part of an artwork. It immediately created a hierarchy of architecture amongst the soaking-wet tents (it rained non-stop and the dome was waterproof). It was intended to be used as a group meeting space, but quickly became a shelter/drug taking space – underlining separate issues but undermining the solidarity of the Occupy camp. Undoubtedly the project could be much more ‘real’ in an urban setting, but it could also so easily lose any experimental nature and quickly become social support.

TJ: I think it needs to happen in the city! It would be a lot harder, of course. It’s much easier to build a vision of the future in the countryside – you have fuel, water, space, and it’s easier to get rid of your compost toilet, etc etc. But at the same time, it’s probably more urgent to try to build it in a city. At the start of the pandemic, I think the thing I was most worried about was people losing faith in ‘society’ and starting to steal food, etc. If you can help people in a city to believe in each other, to rely on each other and build structures we might need – for instance, turning food waste into cooking gas, and cooking communally – it would probably be a lot more useful long term.

Apologies for the probably very stupid question but why did you call it The Clearing?

TJ: No such thing as a stupid question. It’s partly because that’s what it is – a clearing in the woods – and partly from a book by Wendell Berry, called ‘Clearing’. It’s a book of poems about a piece of land, and staying where you are, and the power of that, and it just moved me. His poems are very much like the ones the people write in Always Coming Home, to be honest.

Alex Hartley and Tom James, The Clearing, 2017

What is the state of The Clearing dome now? Who looks after it?

TJ: It was only ever going to be in Compton Verney’s landscape for three years. We both wanted it to be useful afterwards, so we organised an open call to give it away to someone who wanted it, provided they had the land for it, the people to take it down, and a non-commerical use for it (no glamping). In the end Compton Verney were keen it stayed in the local area, so it went to a branch of the scouts in Coventry, to use on their campsite. Hopefully it will still be there in a few years, rotting into the landscape, becoming something completely different.

AH: I went up for to disassemble the structures with the scout volunteers, and to explain how it rebuild it. We got the dome down and loaded into a truck in an impressive two days. We’re so distanced from the building experience by modern house building techniques, that making a decent size shelter with only hand-tools and a few ladders is a super satisfying collective achievement.

Have you heard from the caretakers or from the participants to the workshops since the coronavirus lockdown?

TJ: Yes a few of them – lots of people are thinking about it, now that we’re all outside the world in some way. I think quite a few people who couldn’t really imagine ‘the future’ before are now seeing The Clearing in a slightly different light. There were also quite a few people asking to do some sort of on-line reading group with the book we made, which, as we only made 500, was quite difficult. Hence the idea to scan it and put it online. Hopefully it will be helpful or useful or interesting, in some way.

Thanks Alex and Tom!

from Finance https://we-make-money-not-art.com/the-clearing-how-to-live-together-once-sea-levels-rise-and-global-economy-collapses/

Farewell, my friends!

Farewell, my friends!

bye bye

Well this is The Day, my friends!!

12 years, 3 months and 17 days since writing my first post here, and now it’s time to say farewell! Eek!

We sure had fun though, didn’t we??? And got a lot OLDER in the process? Lol… I started this blog in my 20s and ended in my 40s! With kids and a mortgage and a dog! 🙂

But what a ride… and I’ve subtly changed in a number of other ways too throughout the years. Since starting this blog, I’ve:

  • Started tracking my net worth, now going on 146 months in a row!
  • Started waking up at 5 am for a better start to each day
  • Stopped working nights and weekends for a better work/life balance!
  • Stopped mindless shopping whenever I’m bored
  • Stopped complaining so much
  • Stopped cursing like a sailor
  • Became a minimalist
  • Become a daddy (!!!)
  • Became a millionaire
  • Became a podcaster (and then not a podcaster 😂)
  • Became an experimenter
  • Became an indexer
  • Became a curator
  • Became a consultant
  • Became an eager learner
  • Became an eager giver
  • Became much more *aware* of things
  • Became much more confident in things!
  • Became extremely THANKFUL
  • And overall just became much more content and happy with what I’ve got

All this from starting a blog!!

And that makes no mention of how drastically it’s changed my career, and even more so, my overall circle of friends here too – the best outcome of all 🙂

So first and foremost – if you’ve ever wanted to start a project you’re passionate about, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF POSSIBILITIES – START IT TODAY!! You just never know how it can go on to transform your life!

And secondly, I have to send y’all a HUGE THANKS again for not only supporting me throughout the years, but for also TEACHING me along the way as half the things I learned (and wrote about) came directly from you.

SO THANK YOU! And if you’ll allow me to be cheeky one last time, I’d love to re-offer you this gift circa 2008 for all your patronage over the years! Lol… I heard it looks great on fridges! 😉

sexy saver certificate[Click to blow up/print]

Needless to say my life has improved exponentially because of y’all, and it’s been fun to watch the growth of this blog more specifically too.

From the first day it was featured in a major media outlet (MSN Money! After telling me they can only share my stuff if I start punctuating properly and stop all my swearing! Haha…) to the time where being anonymous was finally “accepted” and landed me in the pages of Forbes 😉

It hasn’t always been rainbows, but I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome! Here are some fun facts as it stands today:

  • Total number of posts published: 2,829 (full archives here)
  • Total number of comments left: 129,338!!
  • Total number of page views: 30,000,000+
  • Total number of industry awards won: 12
  • Total number of times we switched writing schedules: 6
  • Total number of time I *missed* writing on one of those writing schedules: 0!!!
  • Number of *other* projects that spawned from this site: 10+

Here were some of my favorite projects, if you’re curious 😉

And this doesn’t account for all the opportunities we’ve *turned down* over the years as well. Such as speaking gigs, or TV roles or even book offers! Perhaps one day we’ll take advantage of them, but from day one I’ve been perfectly fine “just” being a blogger and enjoying our community here, so no regrets whatsoever 🙂 Even if it meant less clout or $$$.

And then of course there’s everything I learned about MONEY over the decade! Which as you can imagine is a lot!

I never came across that magical bullet, but what a difference changing your mindset can make in the end… Here are my biggest takeaways from writing and thinking about this money stuff non-stop:

#1. Once you learn this stuff it stays with you forever! You might fall down every now and then and need to brush yourself off, but once you know this stuff it sticks with you.

#2. You have to really WANT IT bad enough though. Saving money isn’t that complicated, but getting motivated to do so is a whole other story… If you don’t care enough to make it a priority you won’t make it far!

#3. Work on the parts that EXCITE you first. Doesn’t matter if it’s paying off debt or investing more, or trying to ramp up your income exponentially. If it increases your net worth and keeps you interested, roll with it!! You do your best work when you’re excited!

#4. Don’t be afraid to change your mind though. You have to adapt when things no longer make sense as the world – and your dreams – are constantly changing. If you don’t change along with it you get stuck in a past version of yourself.

#5. Don’t worry about maximizing every single dollar either. Each one serves its own purpose and it’s okay to let some work harder than others. They’re each bringing something to the table whether it’s more income or better peace of mind!

#6. Get a good grasp on your expenses! The less you spend now, the less you need to save later. It also helps you get better at being mindful.

#7. Realize that everything takes TIME! And it’ll get boring along the way! But that’s okay! Let compounding work its magic and derive your joy from elsewhere as you wait! 😉

#8. The first $100,000 is the hardest. After that, the $$$ snowballs with much less effort 👍

#9. Allow yourself to splurge every now and then! All saving and no spending makes Jack a dull boy!!!

#10. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all have our obstacles to cross, but the difference between you and everyone else is that you’re not HIDING from them 🙂 You know what they are and are actively confronting them!

#11. Don’t forget to LIVE along the way. There were so many years I was consumed with hustling and making *more* that I ended up ignoring most other areas of my life. There’s a time for ramping things up but there’s also a time for LIVING YOUR LIFE and not becoming obsessive. It takes a while to balance, but don’t ever forget that there’s more to life than just money 🙂

#12. And lastly, and probably the biggest change for me over the past 12 years, I realized the point of all this stuff is *FREEDOM*! Not becoming a millionaire! Which is ironic as I’ve finally become one when I no longer care as much, lol… Of course you’ll still need a decent chunk of change to live your best life, but the end goal with all this stuff is to craft your ideal *lifestyle* – not see how much you can amass before you die. There are loads of people with tons of money in this world, but if you look closely they’re not all that happy! Or content! So the challenge is to convert this money you earn into peace and happiness without constantly wanting “more” all the time.


And that’s 12 years of living and breathing this stuff! It all comes down to a handful of bullet points! Haha…

But what a ride it’s been 🙂 And I’m so SO happy to have shared this experience with you.

If you’ve learned even just one thing from me over the years, I hope you’ll pass it forward so others can find their epiphanies too! There’s a sea of starfish out there but even just helping *one* changes a life for the better!

Remember the Starfish Story by Loren Eisley? I’m gonna re-post it here just because it’s so damn good 😉 Cheesy, but good!!

The Starfish Story

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…

“I made a difference for that one.”

And that’s really the best part about blogs here. One by one we share our ideas and collectively we get better for it 🙂

I love all y’all so very much, and I thank you for everything you’ve done for me over the years. PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH, OKAY??

Here’s everywhere you can reach me:

[And don’t forget – this blog continues on without me! 5 AM Joel‘s got the torch and excited to keep the good word flowing!]

Yours in finance forever,

j. money signature

PS: Here are some additional fun facts you might not know about the blog 😉

  • It was almost called SavingIsSexy.com, but it was taken!
  • For the first 6 months I blogged under “J. Savings”
  • I didn’t even have a budget when I started the blog, lol…
  • We have a theme song – which of course is a rap! 😉
  • There was only one blog post I ever regretted publishing and quickly took it down (it was a guest post that caused personal attacks)
  • And then lastly, here’s what the blog looked like in 2008… Really not that different from today 😉

blog archive


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from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/farewell-my-friends/

Ask Me Anything!

Ask Me Anything!

ask me anything

Hey guys!!

Tomorrow’s my last day here!!

If there was anything you ever wanted to ask me, now’s your shot! 🙂 Can be about money, biz, love, life, kids, mohawks – whatev!

If I can legally (and consciously) answer you, I will 😉

Drop your questions down below in the comments or via email, and I’ll answer each and every one of them and then come back to this post here and add up the Q&As so everyone can see… If you’d rather ask something  in *private*, that’s cool too – just give me the heads up and I’ll keep it on the low 👍

1-2-3 Go!


[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/ask-me-anything/

“My financial journey began when my father passed away 1.5 yrs ago”

“My financial journey began when my father passed away 1.5 yrs ago”

father daughter

Morning, fam!

So we got this entry into our giveaway-palooza last week (winners listed here btw), and after reading it I couldn’t help but pry a little and share her story 😉

Here’s her original note below, followed by my peppering of questions which led to a bunch of great tips and resources from Kylee.

Hope this helps you along your own journey!


Good morning, and congratulations on your upcoming ventures! As a newish reader of your blog (I found you in late 2019 after listening to your interview with Scott and Mindy on BiggerPockets Money), I am bummed you are leaving. However, 5am Joel is awesome, so I look forward to his new regime as well as continuing to follow your new path!

I am writing to “bid” on The Money Tree book.

A little about me – my financial journey began just over 1.5 yrs ago after my father passed away. Outside of being the best guy and the light in every room, he was also the financial dude/planner in he and my Mom’s relationship. Thankfully he had a will and medical proxy… but that was it.

We had to figure out allll of the other details (bills, HELOCs, mortgages, passwords, savings, retirement accounts, transferring banking information, and so much more). MAJOR shout out to the creators of legacy binders – as soon as you posted that blog post I was all in, and forwarded the email to no less than 10 other friends 😂

Anywho, in all of our initial work after his passing (“Hey SIRI – what’s a HELOC?”), I began becoming very interested in expanding my knowledge in everything personal finance and FI.

In the last 6 mos I have read 3 finance books, downloaded and started my legacy binder, listened to several finance/money podcasts on a weekly basis, and started a budget and spending tracker (woo!).

I believe that expanding my knowledge through reading is one of the best steps I can be taking right now, and “The Money Tree” sounds to be written from the perspective of someone also going through a money journey starting from a similar place.

– Kylee S.


I of course had to start with asking her what those books and podcasts were!, and then we moved into more of her life and finances before and after the unfortunate dad event…

Really cool of her to open up here as she did – thanks so much Kylee!

What were the 3 books you devoured? Would you recommend them?

  1. The Richest Man in Babylon, George S Clason (This was gifted to me by my Aunt after graduating high school… and sat on my bookshelf for 10 years after 🤪. When nearly every finance podcast I listened to recommended this book, it seemed like it was time to dust it off. Great ‘in-between the lines’ life lessons, but also a little slow of a read for me.)
  2. Your Money or Your Life, Vicki Robin (I read the updated edition, and this was my favorite of the three books. I felt it was more aligned with my ultimate vision of where I’d like my financial future to go – asking the question, “How can I be more intentional about my finances to help me live a more joyful and full life?”)
  3. The Simple Path to Wealth, JL Collins (I have enjoyed listening to the author on podcasts, and enjoy the “simple-to-understand” principles outlined in his book on how to increase your wealth, save your money, and lead the life you want to lead.)

What are your favorite podcasts so far you’re consuming?

In our quest to figure out what we should do with my parents HELOC (in late 2018 the interest rates were increasing pretty quickly), I stumbled across the Bigger Pockets Money podcast with Mindy and Scott. Thanks to at least 2hrs of drive time a day with my job at that time**, I quickly consumed their content and slowly began to feel more empowered in this crazy money world!

BP Money is definitely my money podcast of choice, but I’ve also enjoyed Nerdwallet’s SmartMoney and ChooseFI.

**While I’m no longer commuting nearly this much thanks to a new job (and also thanks to COVID), I have found that morning walks with our Husky make for fantastic podcast listening time!

husky dog

What was your financial life like 1.5 years ago before the chaos happened? 

Looking back to late 2018 before my Dad passed, I was fortunate to be working in a fast-paced sales career and mostly debt-free outside of some outstanding financing on a furniture purchase.

The major changes that have happened since then are:

#1. I save now!

  • 2018: I was putting in 6% of my annual earnings into my 401K to capitalize on the maximum company match of up to 3%, but no more. I would save maybe $50-100 after tax per month into my USAA Savings Acct.
  • 2020: In 2019, I doubled my contributions to 12% (15% with my employer match), and in 2020 I will be able to max out my 401K savings, which is capped at $19,500 for 2020. Between my 401K and a high-yield savings account I opened with Vio Bank (seemed to consistently have the highest APY among competitors), my goal is to save or invest at least 30% of my money for 2020. More on this below…

#2. I budget now!

  • 2018: I didn’t know Budgets Were Sexy until listening to episode #103 of BP Money 😂. But really, I was spending with very little concern for where my money was going outside of being able to pay my rent, bills, and credit cards off monthly.
  • 2020: I started tracking my spending in April 2019, and found/made a budget spreadsheet (highly recommend those found on budgetsaresexy.com) that works for me in January 2020. In 2020 my overall budget categories are set to be 45% needs (taxes, rent, health, insurance, groceries, etc.), 25% wants (eating out, shopping, traveling, gifts, etc.) and 30% savings. I will have hit these goals (or exceeded in savings) four of the first five months of this year! Despite the horrors that COVID has brought to the world, it has helped curve some of my frivolous spending, and hopefully the habits are here to stay!

#3. I commute less!

We all know the old saying – time is money, so when I started commuting and driving less in 2020, I really started recognizing the value of my time, and how much more I could get done (and sleep, ha!). In fact… in 2019 I estimate I drove an average of 2hrs a day, 4 days a week, with the exception of 2 weeks of vacation. That comes out to 400 HOURS spent in my car in 2019. Oof. Cheers to a 2020 with more of that time back!

What do you think would have happened if your father never passed away when he did? Do you think you would have eventually caught on to this money goodness or it would have been a long shot?

If my Dad were still around, I’m not sure I would have been forced to dive into personal finance as quickly and fiercely as I did. I like to think, or hope, that we would’ve taken the time to sit down with him and learn more from his life lessons.

He had a Master’s in Business, was an entrepreneur and small business owner his entire life, and had also worked philanthropically in many capacities over the years. I know he would have loved to have walked us through more of the “ins-and-outs” of the family finances to prepare us, but if there’s anything to show you that you’re not in control like you may think, it’s a major life event like sudden illness/death.

I believe eventually I would’ve come around to this money goodness – but at a much slower pace, and perhaps with less intentionality (this may be a made up word).

Any tips for others going through a loss in their lives too? And how loved ones like us can help along the way? (I never know what to say or do :()

Every experience with loss is personal, and felt in vastly different ways. And the way someone is experiencing grief can change from day-to-day… and that’s okay!

If I could go back to give myself a few tips in the days and months immediately following our loss, they would include:

  • Give yourself grace. Grace to feel how you want to feel (experience those emotions!), and to do (or not do) what you want.
  • Acknowledge any feelings of “guilt”, but also rationalize them. Sometimes I would feel guilty for having fun or being joyous in the wake of my Dad’s death, but the second I asked myself why I felt that way, or if he would want me to enjoy that moment, it often helped to shift my perspective.
  • Accept help, and recognize the well-meaning intentions of others. Take the meals, the offers to walk your dog, to mow the lawn, to go on walks with a friend, etc. There are people in your life who love you and want to support you.

On that note… a few things that I learned through my own loss that will shift the way I am there for others in the future include:

  • Rather than asking blanket questions of how you can help, dive into action that doesn’t require any “extra” from the person grieving. Some good examples include, “We would like to bring your family a meal this week – is there a day or time that is available and convenient for you?” or “Our dogs (or kids) go to the same daycare, can I take care of pickup this week?”
  • Acknowledge that talking about loss is hard, and communicate extra. One of the best things a friend asked me while we were on a walk together was, “Sometimes I’m not sure the right things to ask or say, but I want to be there for you. Would you like to talk about your Dad, or talk about something to get your mind off of things?”
  • Utilizing the word “today” In your questions can make a big difference. For example:
    • How are you? Not good, my Dad died, thanks for asking.
    • How are you today? Sad, but feeling slightly more motivated -might make a sandwich. Thanks for asking!

Lastly, what advice do you have for people still going through their lives not paying attention to their finances?! What would you have done differently if you could go back in time?

#1. Make a budget, and track your expenses. But start small! If you’ve never even heard the word “budget”, an intense categorized Excel spreadsheet may not be for you. The longer you practice tracking, the easier it will become to find the “ah-ha” moments, and to tweak your tracker to work for you. Also consider online trackers like Personal Capital, YNAB, etc. if you like things to be automated for you.

#2. Talk to your community! I found so many great processes and ideas simply by asking trusted* friends and family “Do you budget? How do you make saving a priority? What credit cards do you like/get the most back from?”

*Before jumping into these questions, it may be a good idea to tell your friend about your own personal finance journey, and ask if they’d be open to discussing.

#3. Educate yourself through blogs, podcasts, google, etc. Odds are you’ll find a few you like, subscribe to them, and learn a ton along the way!


Thanks again, Kylee 🙂 Here’s to continued success!

// Book links above are Amazon affiliate links


[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/my-financial-journey-began-when-my-father-passed-away-1-5-yrs-ago/

How I Built and Sold My Amazon FBA Business For 7 Figures

How I Built and Sold My Amazon FBA Business For 7 Figures

jon elder

[Morning y’all! Recently found out that a former personal finance blogger sold his Amazon FBA business for roughly $5,000,000 (!) after starting it only 5 years ago (!!), so if you’ve ever been interested in running an FBA, this post is for you! From Jon Elder who now helps others manage their Amazon businesses over at BlackLabelAdvisor.com.]


It is such an honor to write my story for J. Money! He helped me out immensely when I ran a blog back in the day, and graciously advised me on how to gain more readers. Happy to share my tips and story to his audience now!

In 2014, I was working at my corporate job and wanted more out of life. I wanted something of my own.  In a sense, I wanted financial freedom. 

This is where my Amazon FBA business was born. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was on my computer researching business ideas and everyone kept talking about this new opportunity called FBA (“Fulfillment By Amazon”).

At the time, I had always assumed that everything on Amazon.com was sold by, well, Amazon.  WRONG!  As it turned out, the vast majority of items sold on Amazon are sold by small businesses run by everyone from young entrepreneurs to families!

In comes the golf brush. Yes, that’s right, a golf brush. My idea was that this could be a test run at the business and see where it went. After some digging, I realized that there were very few golf brush sellers on Amazon so I immediately went to work finding a supplier overseas. After some negotiating, product testing, and landing my preferred factory, I placed my first order and had it shipped by airplane to an Amazon warehouse where it would be sold to my first customer!

In my head, I assumed it would take weeks, maybe months for my product to be found I was dead wrong! Within hours, I made my first sale and I was floored. I drove home way too fast, and excitedly shared the news with my wife. “Someone just bought a golf brush from me, can you believe it?!”

golf brush example

[Not the brush I sold, gut a good example of one]

This ignited a passion in my gut like you wouldn’t believe. I knew I was onto something with this business. As the sales grew, I expanded the color offerings and soon became the #1 seller of golf brushes on Amazon! It was surreal to see the “#1 seller” badge on our golf brush listing.

As time went on (while also working at my corporate job), I moonlighted at this and started expanding into new products and categories on Amazon. Since I wasn’t paying myself any money yet, all the profits continued to be funneled back into the business so I could buy larger and larger purchase orders to keep up with my ever expanding sales.

Two years go by and I was swamped. Between a baby in the house, moving to a new state, starting a new job, and running a booming Amazon business, there never seemed to be enough time in the day. This is when I was at a crossroads. Continue this hectic lifestyle or go ALL IN? For me, the choice was easy. I gave my employer my two week notice and focused all my energy on the Amazon business.

Boy, what a good decision that was! With my newfound time, I was able to dedicate sections of my time to R&D, launch new products quicker, and ensure each product listing was optimized for maximum exposure. Soon, I was doing millions in revenue each year. I still look back on these numbers and am shocked.  The business was booming and sales grew at 100% year over year.

growth story

So, what were some keys to this success?

Unlike many fake Amazon gurus out there, my strategy was very different than what you see online these days. When I thought about a product, I asked myself, “am I turning this category on its head and delivering excellence to the customer?”

This was the driving force that lead to product innovation and setting my products apart from the competition. Nothing average. Be the best. It seems simple but it takes a lot of hard work and is worth it.  Once you see raving reviews come in, you realize you made a difference in someone’s life!

The second element that truly set my business apart from millions of others is customer service. From the very beginning, I modeled my customer service after Zappos. If you’re not aware, their customer service staff go above and beyond to make your day, even if it means a cost to them financially. They get it.  They know that if they take a hit with one order but hook you for life, they will make a killing on you over the years.

So, this is how I ran my business. Even down to questionable customers who I knew were most likely scamming me. I went out of my way to make them happy. Maybe I made them feel guilty? Who knows.  But as time went on, I’d like to believe some of my customers shared my products with their friends and family or on social media because of the A+ experience they had with me.

My Amazon FBA journey took a good turn in 2019 when I started to think about selling my business. I think every business owner thinks about the end goal. For me, it was to build up a strong business, create an attractive asset, and sell to someone for a pretty penny. I did just that and sold for $5 Million to a private buyer.

So, there you have it. I started with zero sales in 2014. Grew it to over $10 million in sales within 5 years, and sold the business for 7 figures. It’s a beautiful story and one that can be repeated if you put the customer first and are willing to spend the time to make your product truly the best.

Questions? Happy to answer them below!


I took him up on that last line there and peppered him with a half a dozen questions after being enthralled by his story here 😉 I’ve known John for almost a decade now and had no idea he was building stuff outside the personal finance blogging world!

Here’s our Q&A:

This was great, man! I’m sure it wasn’t ALL rainbows and sunshine though – what were some of the challenges of running the biz?

Forecasting inventory needs each month was ALWAYS a challenge. The biggest challenge of all was knowing what to order, and how much, over the Spring to ensure stock levels for Prime Day over summer, and then what to purchase over summer for Black Friday and Christmas sales. Tracking daily sales and looking at historical trends, and then adding a % for all future orders was key to my success.

Challenge #2: There is always a hungry competitor trying to take away your sales, so staying on top of innovation is huge. The goal is to make your product the VERY best in your category so you maintain your sales when other competitors enter your space. This takes consistent time to refine a product and add elements to truly make it shine.

Challenge #3: Expanding product lines is a real challenge because sometimes a launch can be a flop so great care is needed before spending money on a new idea. Thanks to various software programs and the ability to buy smaller test orders, anyone can overcome this.

What does Amazon charge as far as fees?

This is going to depend on your product category. Amazon has something called a referral fee that is charged just for using their platform. This could be as low as 8% or as high as 20%. The vast majority of product categories are in the 8-15% range.

Amazon also charges FBA and storage fees for using their warehouse and packing/shipping services. These fees will depend on the size and weight of your product. Someone has to pay for those little robots at the Amazon warehouses!

Can you give an idea of your profit vs revenue #’s in general? I know with online products you obviously keep a majority, if not all of it, but obviously $10 Million in revenue is different than $10 Million in profit! (Though still just as sexy sounding!)

Yes, the profit number for any business is a much less sexy number, unfortunately, because that is the revenue number minus product costs, shipping, Amazon fees, software expenses, taxes, and advertising.

For example, in 2018 with a little over $6 million in revenue, the net profit after ALL expenses for my biz was $1.2 million, roughly 20% net profit. Not many businesses exists with this high of a net profit these days! It’s quite extraordinary 🙂

Is there anything that *can’t* be sold on Amazon? Drugs for example? Haha…

LOL, you can’t sell booze, sculptures, cars, and drugs!

Check out this post for more: What Can’t You Sell on Amazon?

Lastly, how can others get started with FBA if they’re interested? Any books, courses, articles, podcasts, etc you’d recommend?

I love seeing others experience the same success as I did, so I do one-on-one consulting options for people just getting started. I hold your hand and walk you through sourcing, shipping, listing optimization, all the way to your first sale! You can find me over at www.blacklabeladvisor.com or email me at jonelder [at] blacklabeladvisor [dot] com.

If you’re not ready to launch quite yet and want to get more familiar with the Amazon FBA universe, I’d recommend The Rock Your Brand Podcast. You can also learn more about the FBA program directly on Amazon here: https://sell.amazon.com/fulfillment-by-amazon.html

Thanks for taking the time, Jon!

For 70+ more business ideas, check out our Side Hustle Series.


[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/how-i-built-and-sold-my-amazon-fba-business-for-7-figures/

The Lifetime-Net Worth-Simulator

The Lifetime-Net Worth-Simulator

Happy Memorial Day everyone!!

While you’re out reflecting and celebrating today, let me suggest another fun (and FREE) activity to include for your enjoyment: Filling out this Lifetime-Net Worth-Simulator!

From a new blogger on the scene, Money Is a Solved Problem, who wants to help in his own way of giving you freedom 🙂 And considering it’s only his 2nd post on the blog, I’d say he’s off to a great start!

liftetime net worth spreadsheet

[Download spreadsheet here (Excel)]

The currency is currently set to Euros (€) as lives in Sweden, but as he notes, “If you do not like € replace it with $. If you are living in 2950 when both do not exist anymore, replace them with your currency. I hope Excel is still a thing in 2950.” Lol….

But here’s why I like this compared to others – it shows the FULL CYCLE of your money and not just to your *retirement date*! Even though that latter half is the part most of us don’t want to see as it has our money going in the OPPOSITE direction, haha…

But since that’s the circle of life, it helps to give you a better overall picture of things 🙂

It can also help you with the following according to him by playing around with the variables a little:

  • How powerful compound interest can be
  • How inflation can eat up your savings!
  • How your income, expenses and annual investment returns affect your long term worth
  • That you can amass a lot of money working at a normal job and keeping expenses low
  • That you need a very high income if you want to become a billionaire 😉
  • And overall how NOT to run out of money when you’re older

Here’s the link to his full blog post on it to learn more: The Lifetime-Net Worth-Simulator
And then here’s the direct download link again to it: Simulator Spreadsheet

Let me know if it gives you any epiphanies!! 🙂

PS: to put things in even more perspective, pair this with your Lifetime Wealth Ratio!


[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/lifetime-net-worth-simulator/

Getting my wife on board with the FIRE lifestyle

Getting my wife on board with the FIRE lifestyle

a couple looks at the horizon

[Happy Friday! Please enjoy more backstory on our man Joel who will be taking over the blog here shortly! See you back on Monday for one last week of hanging out together! :)]


It’s a common question in the personal finance community … “How can I get my partner on board with Financial Independence?”

Tough to answer, because everyone’s relationship is a little different. But, the more we all share our stories and ideas, the more we can help others develop stronger financial plans with their partners!

So today I’m going to share some of my personal stories, and I want to hear yours, too!

Getting my wife on board with FI

First, it’s a bit unfair to say “I brought her” on board with FIRE. Because the truth is, my wife and I built our financial plan together. Even though I was responsible for 95% of the technical details and spreadsheet stuff, it’s our plan, our journey, and our life.

I didn’t realize this until years into our relationship … The biggest mental step I took in getting my wife on board was to de-board my own boat first. Like getting off my single kayak before jumping into a double kayak.

The beginning: Our first finance conversation …

About nine years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) had just graduated from college. She ran home one day and announced, “I got a job! Woo hoo!”

Since I was an idiot back then with tunnel vision (still am today sometimes), I ruined the mood immediately by hounding her with a series of money questions … “How much are they paying you? What benefits do they offer? 401(k)? Think we can afford a house soon?”  To me, this was important stuff! We lived in Hawaii after all, and things ain’t so cheap out there.

My poor girlfriend started hyperventilating. We were on completely different pages financially. This was her first full-time job out of college and she hadn’t thought about all the “grown-up stuff” that I had been dealing with for years.

After a nice long fight and avoiding the topic for a few weeks, we finally sat down and talked about where we went wrong …

I learned these lessons pretty quickly:

  1. If she’s excited about something, I should get excited about it, too. Extinguishing her enthusiasm only teaches her to extinguish my enthusiasm in return. She will never be excited about money if I don’t show excitement about the things that are important to her.
  2. I learned that our financial journey would be a loooooong road. No sense in rushing things or pushing her into conversations she wasn’t ready for. We had the rest of our lives together to figure it all out. Awww, how sweet 😉
  3. I started to recognize that she could teach me things, too. She’s incredibly savvy, and I needed to be more like her in more ways.

Stronger as a team

As we kept dating, I started to realize that my girlfriend kicked ass in areas that I was never good at. She was very thrifty, always good at negotiating, and passionate about sustainability. She taught me how to reduce-reuse-recycle and helped curb some of my dumb spending habits.

The more I appreciated and learned about her cool strengths, the more she took an interest in mine. We found that teamwork makes us so much stronger than working as individuals.

I would ask her, “Hey, can you help me find a good deal on a surfboard?” She would save me hundreds of dollars in bargaining.

In return, she would ask me things like, “Hey can you help me with my tax return?” Or, “What is a Roth IRA? Should I set one up?”

Admitting our weaknesses to each other bonded us tighter. I learned that coming from different financial backgrounds wasn’t a bad thing. It was a good thing! Because we each had our own financial strengths.

Celebrating the 1st of every month! (Passive paychecks)

My career was in sales, so I used to get paid monthly commission checks. Some small, some big. My wife and I would always go out and celebrate when a big paycheck came in. This is common — many people celebrate work paydays.

But for me, it always felt bittersweet. On the one hand, I always want to celebrate when money comes into my life! But on the other hand, the blood/sweat/tears behind each paycheck was slowly killing me. Whenever we celebrated a payday, I couldn’t help but feel sad about the hundreds or thousands of non-refundable hours of my life I traded to earn that money.

So about five years ago, we made a change.

I bought a small rental property in Texas in 2015. When the first rent check came in, we yielded a few hundred dollars in profit. Not a huge amount, but the fact that we didn’t have to work for it was awesome. The next month brought another rent check. And the next month, and the next, etc. Soon enough, my wife and I started to celebrate the 1st of every month. 

Monthly celebrations brought several benefits

  1. My wife got more excited about passive income instead of earned income. She saw firsthand the power of income-producing assets. She wanted more of them!
  2. It got us talking about money more regularly. Every month, we check in with each other, make sure we’re still happy with our plans, and modify anything if needed.
  3. Celebration became a regular part of our life. Whether we have a good month or bad month, money is always a positive topic and celebrated in our household. 🙂

A big “ah-ha” moment for my wife

One day my wife and I were talking about her work. She was a part-time substitute teacher back then, considering moving to a full-time position.

I didn’t want to push her to work more if she didn’t want to, but at the same time, I was very excited about the extra potential income. Any extra income from her would go straight into our investments and make a huge difference for us later in life.

Since my wife isn’t really money-motivated, I needed a way to encourage her to work without saying it’s for “money.” So I eventually blurted out a statement that was a defining moment in our relationship. I said, “For every week that you work now, you are shaving 2 weeks off of us having to work later in life.”

Something just clicked when I said that. Just the thought of her being able to buy us time together later in life was a big motivator for her. She doesn’t care about the money — her motivation has always been about TIME.

Still figuring it all out!

It’s been a fun journey, but it’s far from over. My wife and I don’t have kids yet, don’t know when we will officially be “FI,” or even which city we want to live in when we’re older. Our money discussions and decisions will continue until we die.

But the hard part is mostly over, and I’m lucky to have such a patient and dedicated partner in life.

For those out there struggling to talk with their partner about finances, keep searching for ways to break through and get on the same page. The more we all share our stories, the more we can help each other get to better places in our relationships.

Soooo … How did you get your partner on board with FIRE? Any defining moments, or was it easy from the get-go?

*Top pic by Cody Black


[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

from Finance https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/getting-my-wife-on-board-with-the-fire-lifestyle/

Back Water: What should be classified as “wilderness” in a post-industrial world?

Meadownlands, an ecosystem of wetlands, a few miles to the west of New York City, used to be associated with vast and often unregulated landfills, polluting industries and other unbridled environmental abuses. The Meadowlands are located in New Jersey, the small but densely-populated state that counts the most Superfund sites in the US.

Jon Cohrs, Back Water (trailer)

Artist Jon Cohrs first started canoeing through the area a few years ago as he was investigating the artificial flavouring industry in Northern New Jersey. At some point, his interest broadened and the project turned into a film about how the local landscape is slowly recovering from decades of toxic industrial assaults. It might seem almost impossible but in spite of all the chemical contaminants in soil and water, the Meadowlands is inhabited by many species of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and of course fungi and plant species.

The area, which started to recover in the late 2000s following the decline in manufacturing and a number of programs to restore and preserve ecosystems, offered the artist the perfect backdrop for a reflection on the changing nature of wilderness.

Jon Cohrs, Back Water, 2020

Jon Cohrs, Back Water, 2020

Jon Cohrs, Back Water, 2020

Cohrs asked a cook, a writer, a hunter, a lawyer, a sound engineer and a cameraman to accompany him on a canoe trip along the Hackensack river. The expedition lasted 10 days. They canoed the post-industrial waterway, camped in the Meadowlands (which involved sleeping on top of an old dump buried under vegetation and a perhaps not so impermeable liner) and battled against uncooperative weather.

The film, however, is not about their adventures but about the strange hybridity of wilderness and industrialisation that never seems to welcome these seven human beings. Despite the ubiquitous signs of modern life, despite the power lines, the highways, the factories and all the garbage floating around, the group felt very isolated from the modern world. The only people they met along the journey were a series of overweight police officers and intimidating men asking them more or less politely to go away because they were too close to a gas pipeline, trespassing on “private” property or simply because a canoe trip in this almost post-apocalyptic nature looked rather odd and suspicious.

Jon Cohrs, Back Water, 2020

Jon Cohrs, Back Water, 2020

With its quiet pace, its not very stunning landscape views and its heavy clouds of smoke that might or might not indicate that the methane created by decomposing garbage is burning off, Back Water manages to encapsulate all the drama and dilemmas of the Anthropocene in a film. One moment the group is set to visit a site contaminated by a manufacturer of Agent Orange. Next, they are freeing turtles from a cage probably installed by poachers.

The alienation is at our doorstep. It is both enticing and deeply troubling.

Jon Cohrs, Back Water, 2020

The film is out on Apple TV, Amazon Prime and Vimeo.

Related stories: The Spice Trade Expedition – In pursuit of artificial flavoring, From animal sensors to Monet as a painter of the anthropocene. 9 things i learnt on the opening day of the HYBRID MATTERs symposium and HYBRID MATTERs exhibition: when biological and technological entities escape our control and transform the planet.

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