Categories
Personal Security

Gremlins?

Remember when I wrote about the strange advertising issue I experienced recently? A friend of mine in another section of the country reminded me of another incident that happened several weeks ago. I want to share that incident with you today because this is becoming rather creepy.

As many of you know, I search out random subjects on the Internet for sport. I’ve done this for decades; whenever something pops in my head I reach for my computer and look it up. Maybe I do this since I grew up before the Internet was a thing and felt starved for information. I don’t know, but this is just something I do on a daily basis.

Several weeks back (a couple of months, maybe?) I was reminded of a high-profile criminal case in my area. I fired up my favorite search engine to refresh myself of the details.

I could find nothing.

I thought I was going insane. I remembered the case like it was yesterday; why wasn’t anything related to the incident showing up in my search results? Have I lost my touch? While I was digging, an old friend, who lives in a different geographical region than I do, happened to send me a message. I shared my frustration at my inability to locate anything on the incident. While I was venting, my friend ran a search on the subject.

The information I was seeking appeared on the first page of my friend’s results.

We were using the exact same search terms. We were using the exact same search engine. My friend pulled up the information easily but nothing relevant appeared in my results. We thought it curious, so I fired up the DuckDuckGo search engine and repeated the query.

I found what I was searching for on the very first page.

When my friend reminded me of that earlier incident, I realized that there may be something going on with my searches on this particular search engine in particular. For the past couple of weeks, I have ran troubleshooting procedures on my internet connection multiple times because when I would search for particular topics, the results page frequently wouldn’t load; if it did load and I clicked on a result, sometimes the link I clicked on wouldn’t load. Many times the results it displayed were completely irrelevant to my particular search.

Curious, I fired up Tor Browser to mask my location and identity a bit and typed in the queries that had been giving me issues.

The results appeared. I didn’t have a single issue clicking on the links or anything. I was able to locate the information I had been searching for without a single problem.

I don’t know what’s going on. I may be over-reacting. But I am starting to wonder if, for some mysterious reason, I’ve been shadow-banned on a particular search engine when I search out particular subjects. When combined with the strange advertising issue (which has yet to reappear since my Katie discussed it in front of our devices), I am beginning to wander if there is more happening in the background than I realize.

Over-reacting or no, I have started using Tor more and more for my everyday Internet searches. I don’t know what’s going on but I am starting to grow concerned.

If you are experiencing a similar issue, you may want to consider using DuckDuckGo as your search engine to see if that resolves your issue. If you are feeling paranoid (like I’m starting to become), you may want to consider installing the Tor Browser to obscure your searches a bit more. It isn’t perfect but it’s better than nothing.

And if you are experiencing a similar issue or have in the past, please let me know in the comments of this post. I would like to find out if this is an isolated occurrence.

NOTE: This bit of information is for the curious.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Business Economy Finances Investments Security

The Man Behind the Curtain

I generally take my dogs outside around the same time in the mornings. And each weekday morning, for a number of years, my dogs have decided to bark towards a neighbor’s yard across the field.

I’ve looked each morning, scolding them, because I saw nothing of importance. I thought they were just barking at the wind so I told them to hush and be still.

Today as I sat on my stoop I happened to be examining the clouds in the distance when the dogs started their routine cacophony. Out of habit, I turned my eyes toward the yard…

…but this time I noticed something different.

Just beyond and to the right of that particular yard happens to be the entrance of one of our local water treatment plants. Moving around that entrance was a worker, opening the gates for the day.

Had my eyes followed their normal routine I would have never spotted him. He was far enough out of my normal focus that he would have remained unseen. Yet by changing my routine, changing the focus of where my eyes habitually go that man came into view.

I’ve spent this past decade scolding my pets for barking at that hour and in that direction. I spent this past decade scolding my pets for barking at nothing.

But they weren’t barking at nothing. They just saw something that I didn’t.

The same thing happened to me after Katie became an adult a few years ago. To settle the lost feeling I felt, I began to change my routine. I took a job, I read new books, I researched articles that I’d never thought to research in the past. I even started college.

I changed the focus of my mind as a result of those actions. And when I changed my focus I began to see things about our society that had previously passed unnoticed. During my research, I stumbled upon something that has shattered me.

Remember when I launched my grand goal to demonstrate that even the poorest among the poor could become wealthy? Remember even earlier, when I preached that we all just needed to live within our means? Remember when I announced that anyone could change their circumstances if they only worked hard enough?

I was convinced, completely convinced, that each and every one of those statements were true. I devoted my entire past life to proving the veracity of my beliefs. I spent this last decade, even longer, preaching those beliefs to you.

But when I shifted my focus I realized that I was wrong. There were things happening in the distance that I had not seen from my viewpoint because I had failed to shift the direction of my focus.

When my eyes finally traveled the right path they revealed to me a truth I found horrifying. A truth that I didn’t want to admit. I tried to turn away, tried to do the “business as usual” routine but I couldn’t. Once I spotted the truth, I was so disgusted that I could not look away.

My daughters must believe that I suffered some sort of mental breakdown over these past few months. I know some of my friends do. Because I went from chasing it “all” to where I stand today.

I quit my job and I lied to you when I did it. I lied to everyone. I told you I had enough coming in from my book royalties to surivive but the reality is a bit different. I was so horrified, so frightened that I couldn’t even process what was happening. So instead of revealing that I’d quit my job to supplement my income with my savings, I lied to everyone and inflated my income. I desperately needed to think, and in order to think I needed to remove the pressure that would have been placed upon me if I had revealed the truth. I needed to not only process what I had uncovered, but to make a decision about what to do with my discovery.

That lie is the reason I have not completed the book I promised to complete. That lie stuck in my throat and the words refused to come. I do not regret that lie but it is time to come clean. While it was a matter of mental survival at that point, I find the burden of that lie to be unbearable. It is time to explain my actions and accept the consequences of my misdeed.

When I began to change my focus to study the wealthy, the nature of business, and the stock market, I realized that the game has been rigged. Despite my father’s assertion that I could be anything I wanted to be, despite the fact that I have heard time and again that I can change my circumstances if I try hard enough and do enough work, the fact is that these statements are false.

I have been lied to my whole entire life. I am horrified and heartbroken and more than a bit embarrassed at the fact that I’ve preached those lies to the entire world my whole entire life. And I am not the only one who has been lied to. I suspect you’ve been lied to as well.

That is why the tone of my posts have changed. That’s also why I have been more than a bit erratic, because the pain I feel is so raw right now that I’ve yet to calm down. I am so upset, so furious at the truth I’ve discovered that I want to destroy it all. I have become the cat who has noticed the vase and I want so desperately to knock it down and see it shatter.

We are not poor because we choose to be. We do not struggle because we choose to struggle. If we pare our expenses to the bone, as I have, there is only so far down they can go. While frugality does help, it is not the solution to the problem.

The reason that we are poor and scared and broke is not because we’ve not done enough to improve our circumstances. The reason we are poor and scared and broke is because we have been brainwashed into believing that we are somehow wrong.

Want to score a date with the right person? Get the cosmetic surgery, have the hair colored, get the right cut and style and you will be good enough for them to notice you.

Want to score the right job, the job that will allow you to pay all of your bills with money to spare? Get the degree, buy the wardrobe, speak and act in a certain way and your path will be golden. You’ll never have to worry about money again. Don’t worry about the debt you’ll incur as you do this; you’ll be able to pay it all off with ease once you earn your fortune.

Want to live like “normal” people live? Buy the six-figure house and the $50,000 car. Go out to eat at the fancy places. Wear the little boutique clothing. Watch your labels! Work the job, get the promotions, raise the kids, clean the house. Buy the tablets and the gadgets and the stuff. The person with the most toys wins. Anyone else is a failure.

Do you know why we’ve been taught to believe these things? We have been taught to believe these things because they keep us quiet. It is hard to protest against something when it’s our own damn fault we’re in our mess, isn’t it?

But it isn’t our fault. You see, when we spend our lives pursuing these things and believing those beliefs, our focus is so great that we miss the man operating just outside our line of vision. Just as I missed seeing that man open those gates each morning, we miss seeing the truth of what is happening.

We have been led to believe the things we believe not because they benefit us or are even true. We’ve been led to believe these things because they inspire us to take actions that keep that man behind the curtain in power. With each and every one of these actions, we work to make him richer and give him more control. From behind that curtain, he is using us in a plan that I can barely comprehend.

Let me explain.

Check into the names of the stuff you buy every day and you will discover that those brands are owned by corporations. Those corporations are owned by other corporations, which in turn are frequently owned by even another corporation and so forth. Like tiny little nesting dolls, this chain of corporate confusion is being used to funnel the money you give them to a very dark purpose.

It’s hard to track. I barely scratched the surface during my research but if you look closely you will start to see it. Companies take over other companies by buying up their stock; if one corporation buys below a certain number of shares they don’t even have to report the specifics. So if the person in charge of one corporation buys several other corporations, then uses those corporations to buy some more corporations, he can ultimately use all of the corporations in that chain to buy stock below the limit of what they have to report, in a method that is not only completely legal, but obfuscated to a degree that we don’t have a clue about what is happening.

It is by that method that a unknown number of people are trying to take over the world.

All of the money from all of those corporations is being funneled up the chain to one or more people who are so rich that they aren’t just after the money now. Their primary goal is to corner the markets to consolidate their power. They are currently using the funds to influence our politicians through lobbyists, campaign donations, back-scratching, and other methods of control.

~

I know that I sound like a conspiracy fanatic. This is why I went off the deep end for a time. I didn’t want to believe what I had uncovered during my research. I certainly didn’t want to be labeled a nutcase, so I tried to keep the knowledge to myself and just go on with my life but I can’t.

I can’t. I tried and I’m sorry but I can’t.

Because in this case to keep silent would be wrong. To keep silent would be to allow them to continue to grow their power until they manage to conquer the entire world. I don’t know what their plans are once they accomplish this but what little I discovered has left me terrified.

I don’t know how to fix this. It’s so far beyond my comprehension that I don’t have a clue. All I know is this. Every single dollar we use, every single purchase we make to the corporations in question is being used to fund their actions. And they have hidden their tracks very well.

This is why the rich have become so much richer these past few years. They are draining us, sucking us dry as they move to shift the pieces into place. This is why I began to beg of you to become more thoughtful with your purchases. This is why I have been acting erratic and have altered the course of my life.

I feel as if I’ve stumbled off a cliff and gone into freefall.

I hope you understand my actions a bit more now. And if you have any idea about how to handle this, I would appreciate it if you would let me know because, to be blunt, I am scared completely shitless.

Have I gone completely insane?


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Life Security

Are We Being Watched?

I was born in an age where many people could not afford a telephone. An age where the Middle Class splurged for a Party Line (a single phone line shared between multiple households). One was considered wealthy if they could afford a phone at all, and only the “truly rich” could afford a private line or a long-distance phone call.

Such was the era that I grew up in that I didn’t even realize that computers were real until I started middle school. The only time I ever saw them was on television, so I dismissed them as fantasy.

Perhaps this is why I continue to be so fascinated by the machines today. I am astounded by the fact that a device as small as the palm of my hand can be used to connect with what seems to be a limitless amount of knowledge and information. I doubt that this is something that I will ever take for granted.

I have watched computers grow from keyboard-shaped devices that you connected to a television to becoming devices that are part of the television. They are even an integral part of automobiles, microwaves, air conditioners, thermostats, and innumerable other devices scattered around the average home. More and more of these computing devices have now gained the ability to connect to the Internet. They have even coined a new term for the phenomena, the “Internet of Things (IoT).”

While I am amazed at how far computers have come, I wonder about the long-term repercussions of having an entire home filled with devices that can “phone home” for updates and transmit “usage statistics.” Have we finally entered the age prophesied by George Orwell in his famous book 1984 or am I so old that I am just becoming paranoid?

My questioning began after my daughter and I discussed some items we would like to buy. Shortly after we had that conversation, I went online to do something and noticed that the ads were eerily related to that conversation.

I had never, not once, ever searched for the items in question.

How could a random website on the internet–multiple websites, actually (since the ads were repeated in various places) know that my daughter and I had been discussing this topic, a topic that had never occurred to me to be interested in prior to my daughter mentioning it to me?

No one else was in the room. My computer has neither microphone nor camera installed. The television is an older hand-me-down from my daughter, so it’s incapable of connecting to the Internet. My iPad was on the table as we had that discussion, however. And my iPad uses WiFi to connect to the Internet.

My daughter and I conducted an experiment after that event. She had noticed the same thing happening to her when she talked about things around her smartphone and was curious as well. We turned up some music, placed our gadgets by the speaker, and huddled in the bathroom to formulate our plan.

Sure enough, the topic we chose to discuss appeared in ads on both of our devices in the days after that. My daughter was so astounded that she began discussing the suspected eavesdropping in front of the devices in question.

After that, the ads stopped.

Was something or someone listening in to our conversations? Did they realize that we were suspicious of them after my kid mentioned the fact, or was it all a big coincidence that advertising related to our private conversations stopped appearing when the kid talked about it in front of the devices?

I don’t know, but it has made me more than concerned.

It is common knowledge that Google earns money through advertising. Microsoft began to follow that trend by forcing users to watch ads if they wanted to play their games without a subscription. Even Ubuntu Linux offered Amazon advertising based upon your searches in the Unity Dash for a time. In an era of devices set up to respond on “Hey Siri,” “OK Google,” and “Alexa, order this for me,” is it a stretch of the imagination to wonder if these devices are listening in more than they claim?

When you add the NSA to the picture things become even darker. Edward Snowden fled to Russia after he revealed that our government was collecting frightening amounts of information. Microsoft and other major companies actively aided the US government through a thing called Prism. While Apple was one of the holdouts when Steve Jobs was still alive, they now admit to the fact that they analyze the photos you upload to the Cloud. They claim that it is to help stop child abuse. In light of my recent experience with their devices, I am beginning to wonder if images are all they are scanning.

Businesses exist for the sole purpose of making money. They make this money by encouraging us to buy the things they want to sell. To encourage us to buy, they promote their products and services through advertising.

What would stop Microsoft from profiting from this? What would stop any company from profiting from this? Who would know if Microsoft sold our private information to advertisers? We can’t exactly go through the source code of Windows to find out if they’re harvesting it. What would stop Apple from doing the same now that Steve Jobs is gone? We already know that Google and Amazon do this with their devices. That is what they were designed for, after all. Watch the ads they display of people using their devices to order stuff online and that fact becomes obvious.

And what if all of this goes deeper than simple marketing? Is there a chance that the police will show up at our doors if one of our devices overhears us discussing something considered illegal? A woman has already been investigated by police after she searched for a pressure cooker online. Is that going to become our reality?

Should we be worried, even if we feel that we have nothing to hide? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Edit:

Another question occurred to me after I published this post. If the government is collecting information on us, could it be that they are secretly repaying their information sources in the form of tax breaks? Inquiring minds would like to know.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Minimalism Retirement

How Minimalism Can Help You Achieve Financial Freedom

In 2011 I broke free of wage slavery for my very first time. My book royalties had reached the point where I could live on them without the need for a job, so I quit it to achieve my goal of being a stay-at-home single mother.

I enjoyed that life for several years but I found myself too close to the problem when my royalties dipped. After struggling for a bit I went back to work to regroup for another attempt.

What I don’t discuss much on this blog is the fact that I would have never been able to make that first leap if it hadn’t been for minimalism. If I had not actively pared down my possessions and my spending, I would have never been able to quit my job to stay home with my daughter at all.

In hindsight, I realize now that my pursuit of minimalism was behind my ability to take summers off to stay with my daughter for several years previous to achieving that goal. By limiting my purchases and my household expenses, I was easily able to conserve enough money to support us for several months each year.

In light of that fact, I must confess that I haven’t given minimalism the credit it deserves in my success. Even now I apply minimalist practices to my life as I prepare for my next, hopefully permanent attempt to achieve financial freedom.

Anyone can do what I’m doing. While your individual circumstances may be different, the act of reducing what you own and spend can make a massive change in your life. If you add a passive income source into the formula, you have the secret to attaining complete financial freedom.

How to Attain Financial Freedom

  • Look at your life right now. Chances are you have stuff you rarely (if ever) use, rooms that stay empty the majority of the day, and a vehicle or two you rarely (if ever) drive. Eliminate them. If you can sell the items for extra cash, use that money to pay down any debt you may have and build up an emergency savings account. Don’t worry about investing at the moment; right now we’re just trying to reduce the amount of space you need and how much money you need to survive.
  • If your home isn’t paid for (or the payments extremely low), consider moving to a smaller home as close to your job and basic shopping (such as a grocery; Wal-Mart delivers these days) as possible. If you own your home, consider renting it out to develop a passive income stream. Use caution if you owe a mortgage on the property. Unless you can rent the property for more than the mortgage payment (and have enough set aside to cover any down-time between tenants as well as some basic repairs), you may end up struggling financially whenever your tenants move out. If you can manage it however, that passive income will take you closer to freedom.

I need to note here that this was the primary way that my daughter and I managed to minimize our expenses. By ruthlessly minimizing our possessions, we transitioned from needing a two-bedroom home down to a one-bedroom, slashing our housing expense immensely. I shopped around until I located a rental in town that was extremely cheap to maximize the savings. It wasn’t in the prettiest area of town but since we don’t own the things that thieves like to steal (and we keep to ourselves), no one ever bothers us. We managed to cut our housing expense in half (more, considering that local rents have went up a bit since we moved here) as a result.

By eliminating our excess possessions we also eliminated the need of having to rent a self-storage unit as well, which saved us a few dollars more each month. We also benefit from lower utility bills year-round since it costs significantly less to heat and cool a smaller home than a larger one.

  • As a result of selecting a smaller home that was close enough to stores that offered the essentials like food, we were able to eventually eliminate our next largest expense: our vehicle. We both walk to work, hitching rides with coworkers and friends occasionally when the need arises but for the most part we can easily walk wherever we need to go. At first, however, we simply settled upon a nice older van that we purchased for cash, since financing a vehicle can almost double the price you pay for it if you aren’t careful. This allowed us to gradually transition to a life that didn’t require a vehicle for our daily needs.
  • Limit your exposure to advertising. Advertising is designed to make you feel insecure if you don’t spend your money buying the stuff they want you to buy. Traditional television programming is filled with advertising so the fastest (and easiest) way to drastically cut down on the advertising you are exposed to on a daily basis is to eliminate it. If you enjoy watching shows and movies, consider investing in a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. Since many modern televisions allow you internet access, you can continue using it while limiting your exposure to ads that are designed to make you feel insufficient. I noticed an immediate change years ago when I cancelled our cable television subscription. My children asked for things less frequently and I personally noted a desire to purchase less within days of cutting the cord.

There are other ways to cut expenses but those are the ones that will save you the most money. If you wish to learn how to lower your expenses even more, I urge you to read my book The Shoestring Girl. It goes into detail about how I manage to live on $500 or less a month.

Once you have pared down your finances to the point where you know how much money you need to live on each month, proceed to the next section.

  • Develop a passive income stream. The Internet has created an immense opportunity for those who decide they want to escape the rat race of wage slavery. You can share affiliate links (like I do on this blog occasionally) to promote products and services that you believe in. You can develop your own products to market and sell on a website. There is a huge demand for steamy romance novels currently, so if you enjoy fantasizing about that, you could turn those fantasies into a passive income stream by publishing them online. I have a number of friends who have become quite wealthy doing just that. In fact, I have explored that option personally. While I am much more comfortable sharing my personal experiences to help others, you may find that writing romance novels both enjoyable and lucrative. If so, I highly recommend it. My friends report that they receive thousands of dollars a month in book royalties from their romance novels, and E. L. James became very wealthy simply by converting a piece of Twilight fanfiction into a book series.

For those who have no interest in writing books or internet marketing, don’t worry. There are things you can do to develop passive income streams as well. The most lucrative of those is in real estate. You can purchase inexpensive homes (mobile homes, even) to start out. Clean them up and rent them out. You’ll have to go around once a month to inspect your properties and collect the rent but that is a lot less work than having to show up each day at a 9-5. There are many books available that will help guide you through the process.

You can also invest in dividend-paying stocks as well as bonds. Both of these provide a somewhat stable income stream (no form of passive income is perfect). I am currently investing in dividend stocks as an additional passive income source for when I decide that I am ready to reduce or eliminate working at a public job again.

I highly advise you to create at least two passive income streams before you decide to quit your day job. Things can happen that will cause your passive income to drop, if not disappear. Everett Bogue discovered this the hard way and ended up stranded in Japan. He was forced to sell his laptop for air fare back to the states. I would link to that story but it is old news and has faded from the internet. He is currently working two jobs to survive.  I experienced this personally when my book royalties dropped to the point where I felt the need to return to a public job. If I had been smart back then, I would have heeded the warning his experience provided and adjusted my life accordingly. I could have easily invested enough money back then to have eliminated the need to go back to working at a public job. I didn’t, so I am paying the price of that mistake now.

  • Eliminate your debt. Every debt you eliminate will take the amount you need to live on even lower. While a credit card can benefit you if used wisely (pay off the balance each month), credit as a general rule is verboten. You want to spend your money enjoying your life, not funding the excess of the bankers. The only possible exceptions to this rule would be to finance rental property or to invest in a class that will teach you how to grow your passive income further. Use extreme caution before making these decisions.
  • Build up an emergency fund. You need to have several months’ worth of expenses saved away in an easily accessible interest-bearing account in the event your passive income takes a slight dip or another emergency arises. In hindsight, this was one thing I did right. I stashed away my excess money each month when my book royalties were high. That enabled me to survive for quite a while as my royalties began to drop.
  • Develop your passive income stream to the point where it will more than cover your normal expenses before you decide to stop working. This way you can invest the excess into dividend-paying stocks, bonds, or another form of passive income source such as real estate. This way, even if your current passive income remains stable (or drops a bit), your passive income will continue to increase over time.
  • Once you have created an emergency fund, paid down or eliminated your debt, reduced your expenses as low as you comfortably can, and developed a passive income stream that more than covers them you can safely make the leap. You can reduce the amount of hours you work gradually or eliminate working entirely.

Even now, by following these precepts, I am able to work only part-time instead of getting a full-time job. My monthly expenses are lower than ever now that my daughter has become my room-mate, so we have taken advantage of the situation by investing our excess money and using the time gained to our advantage. Katie enjoys eating out and spending money a bit more than I do, so she has opted to work full-time since she likes to keep busy. She still manages to set money aside each month into her savings as well as attend college full-time by paying as she goes. Like her mother, she has an aversion to debt.

I have money left over from my part-time paycheck every month. I combine that with my (once again) growing book royalties to invest in dividend stocks. I use the extra time I have available to go to college as well, take care of my home, and to write posts like this one that will hopefully help others achieve their own financial freedom.

If you found this post informative, please take a moment to share it with a friend. You may help them realize that they don’t have to be trapped in the chains of wage slavery forever. They too can achieve financial freedom if they want.

If you have already achieved financial freedom (or are working towards that goal), please share your story in the comments below. We all benefit when we share our knowledge.

If you have a blog of your own, consider writing a piece about this post. Do you agree with these steps, or do you feel that something is missing? Be honest in your comments. This will help others learn from our beliefs and experiences. If you feel that my experiences will help your readers, let me know so that we can arrange an interview. If you feel that your personal experiences may benefit my readers, email me as well because I would love to interview you. You can reach me at annie at annienygma dot com.

Have a great day,
Annie

Categories
Finances Retirement

Repeating My Way to Freedom

I just calculated the dividends I will receive over the next 12 months. I have finally topped the $250 mark.

In order to consider myself financially free I need to have $6,000 a year minimum in passive income, or $500 a month.

I am halfway to my one month’s goal, even with the sizeable investment I’ve made in one non-dividend paying stock.

I am 1/24th of the way to achieving my goal of freedom.

All I have to do is repeat that feat 23 more times and I will be free. While I won’t quit working at that point (I won’t feel safe unless I have considerably more than I need to live on coming in to avoid what happened with my book royalties), things will start moving a bit faster now. My dividend payouts are becoming large enough now to actually move the needle when I reinvest.

You truly can become financially free through dividend investing. I am seeing evidence of that in my own investment account. All you have to do is drop your expenses as low as they can go, build a small emergency fund (so you’re never tempted to sell your stock), and invest every penny you can afford to spare into dividend stocks.

Each and every month you simply repeat your actions, rolling over your dividends until you eventually gain your freedom.

Anyone can do this. All it takes is a bit of patience and a willingness to learn. The speed of your results will be based upon how much you need to live on and how much you can invest each month, but this is completely do-able. If I can do this while earning around $700 a month income between my public job and my book royalties, the average person who makes a lot more than me can do even better.

It just depends on one thing:

How badly do you want your freedom?

Categories
Finances Retirement

Social Security is Not Enough

A coworker is being forcefully retired at work.

At over 70 years of age, he has worked for my bosses now for 40-plus years.

Tears were shining in his eyes as he told me the news. He has one month’s notice before his last day.

“But you’ve got Social Security, right?” I asked, casting about for a way to console him.

“It’s not enough,” he sighed, visibly shrinking. “It’s not enough to take care of me and my wife. That’s why I’ve kept working.”

I didn’t know what to say. What could I say?

I listened to him talk instead.

Years ago my friend bought into the lie.

My friend had believed that Social Security would take care of him when it came time for him to retire.

But they lied. They’d lied to him, and now it was too late.

My friend faces a frightening future as a result of his trust.

I don’t know what is going to happen to him. I don’t know if he will be able to find another job at his advanced age. I don’t know if he’ll be able to pare down his expenses to compensate for the lost income.

And there’s nothing I can do to save him.

I closed my eyes in silent prayer as he left the room. I prayed that he would find a way through this.

I also made a vow to myself.

That is not going to be me. That is not going to be my future. I’ve seen the writing on the wall; if I don’t do something to build up my passive income I’ll share the same fate as my friend.

I’ve got to keep trying.

I’ve got 21 years before I reach the age of 70 in order to make my goal a reality. I will do whatever it takes to avoid his fate.

And while I’m at it, I am going to continue shouting from the rooftops about the dangers of relying on the Government to provide for you.

Hopefully people will start to listen.

Categories
Economy Finances Security

The Importance of a Financial Buffer

The United States government shut down the other day. Regardless of your personal beliefs on the issue, one thing that we can all agree on is that the pay suspension for many Federal workers is causing many families to suffer. So many people the world over live from paycheck to paycheck; even a delay in the receipt of their income can be devastating.

The fear of financial insolvency has colored the choices I’ve made for decades. It’s one of the primary reasons that I favored low-wage, “disposable” jobs in industries such as fast food as a single mom. I selected those positions because I knew that if I lost one job that I would be able to secure another position within a matter of days.

It is much better to have financial security than it is to have a higher paycheck.

As I grew older and wiser I realized that job security wasn’t enough. It’s obviously not enough for the Federal workers currently suffering the political fallout from the current situation in Washington and it’s not enough for anyone with a family depending upon them. Things happen. A kid can become ill, forcing a parent to stay home and provide care, a car can break down making it impossible to go to work, a refrigerator can die, or the heat in your home can fail in the dead of winter. You can even become ill or injured, forcing you to take time off of work in order to heal.

This is why I began the practice of keeping a financial buffer.

My current buffer would provide three month’s of comfortable living in the event of an unforeseen disaster; five months in a pinch. Even with my determination to invest every penny I can I’ve still managed to continue increasing the amount of money I keep stashed in my emergency fund.

Everyone needs to keep a financial buffer. With our current political situation, this buffer would have allowed these families to continue providing for their families for the duration of the Government Shutdown with minimal disruption. It wouldn’t be fun, but it would be a helluva lot better than facing homelessness or food insecurity.

I don’t care how little money you make; if you don’t have a buffer of safety stashed away in a bank account or a lockbox at home you are taking a foolish, downright stupid chance with your financial security. Shit happens. When it does, your paycheck is usually the first thing you lose. Unless you want to live in a cave like Daniel Suelo you need to keep a stash of cash just to survive.

It’s not fair but that’s just how it is.

So suck it up Buttercup and face reality. It is not the world’s job to support you. Most people won’t even care if you lose your paycheck, they’ll just offer platitudes and go on with their day. It’s up to you to support yourself and your family; to do that you need to keep some cash on hand in the event that the unthinkable happens.

You can start out by saving your spare change. Instead of tossing your pennies on the ground, put those suckers in a jar at home. Roll them occasionally and stick them into a bank account you won’t touch, or convert them to cash and stash it in a lockbox at home or a safety deposit box at the bank. Put it somewhere you won’t be tempted to touch it when you stumble upon a sale of your favorite whatsit.

Instead of blowing money on a tattoo or getting your hair professionally done or a fancy manicure, take that money and stash it away. What’s more important to you? Is it more important to keep up with the Jones’ or is it more important to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly?

I don’t know about you but I prefer to eat any day.

You can splurge on the extras once you know you’ve gotten a buffer built up and will be safe in the event you go to work one day and discover your job has closed. It is much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your finances.

***

Do something good today. Share this post on social media. You share cat photos all of the time; this post could be the wakeup call someone needs to prevent a financial disaster. Help your buddies help themselves for a change. Thanks for caring!

Categories
Finances Security

A Pillow for your Bank Account

It’s happened to all of us. We spend more than we anticipate, a hacker steals our card info, even a mistake at the bank can lead to overdrafts. Just the other day a mistake at a local bank caused the accounts of several personal friends to appear overdrawn due to an accidental double-posting of charges.

Keeping a financial cushion in your checking account can help immensely. It can not only help prevent overdraft fees (without paying for another service), it can give you needed funds while you sort out the issue.

I keep a minimum of $500 in my checking account for this purpose. I never allow my balance to go below this amount. That way, if I ever do make a mistake while budgeting I know that I won’t have to pay outrageous overdraft fees. I call this my pillow since it cushions me if I fall.

It isn’t always easy to build up a financial cushion, especially when you don’t make a lot of money. I limit how much I spend each month so that I have a little left over to add to my padding. In time I plan to build my cushion to $1,000, the amount I kept in reserve for years but since times were lean a few years back I am still working towards that goal.

It may sound insane to some of you. You may be thinking “How can I save $500? I can barely pay my bills as it is!” but I promise you that it is possible. You may not be able to eat out as much or splurge on those little extras but you can do this. If I can build up $500 while earning minimum wage at a part-time job then you can do it no matter what your story may be.

More importantly, you should. My local bank charges almost $40 in overdraft fees per charge; a single mistake can cost you hundreds of dollars in fees if you use your bank card routinely.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Several years ago an attorney I hired cashed their check a week earlier than agreed. While there was enough in the account to cover it my balance was wiped out. I ended up owing over $250 in overdraft fees alone, on top of my other charges (which my bank thankfully paid). It took a while to climb out of that hole.

Ever since then I have insisted upon keeping a pillow of cash in my checking account on top of my regular savings. I refuse to be that stupid ever again.

How much of a cushion do you keep in your bank account? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Security

Pissed off and starting over

I just had a bit of a battle here. Somehow hackers managed to get back in and contaminated a bunch of my files.

Rather than risk endangering you I deleted it all. It just wasn’t worth it. You are much more important than this stupid page.

As a result I am going to have to ask you to resubscribe. I’m sorry, but it was the only way to make sure you were kept safe from the hackers.

Peace, Annie

Categories
Finances Security

Money

Unless you live in the woods you will need some amount of money to survive. There will always be property taxes, groceries and whatnot in our lives—all with hands out waiting for their share of our income.

Where does your money come from? Chances are you only have a single source. It could be a job or a pension, but it is a single source nevertheless. What would happen to you if that single source of income disappeared? How would you live?

I’m going to be blunt here: income sources can leave. It doesn’t matter that you have been on the job for 20 years or were so messed up in that accident that there is no way you will get better and get off of disability.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve qualified for Social Security ages ago. Sometimes for inexplicable reasons the income that we count upon goes away.

It may not go away forever, but a disappearance for a few weeks can be disastrous to so many of us who live on low incomes and thus is the reason for this post.

Having multiple sources of income is smart. They may not be big sources of income but the fact that they are income can really come in handy if you lose your job or the bank that held your savings goes under.

There are ways of earning money that are as different as snowflakes in winter so don’t panic and think I’m telling you to endanger your government check by taking a part-time job. Just consider how much safer your life would be if you had something, anything as a teeny tiny safety net in case something happened to your primary source of income.

Look around your home for ideas. If you love animals perhaps you can look in the local online classifieds for people needing a pet sitter while they go out of town. VCI in Paducah, Kentucky is a wonderful source if you live in the area.

Do you like children? You could babysit for a neighbor occasionally.  If you enjoy crafts perhaps you could sell some of your creations for a few dollars on Etsy? Gardeners can sell extra produce on a small table in their front yard or even alongside a busy road for extra cash.

Clean a house or look online for people needed short-term assistance. These jobs generally pay cash and you can pick and choose what you prefer to do. If you have a talent for fixing hoosie-whatsits perhaps you can place a small ad in a free online classified announcing your skill. I have a friend who made extra money by running an unofficial taxi service for friends and neighbors—not only did he make enough money to more than keep the maintenance up on his van but it enabled him to go out and explore places with the Amish that otherwise he would have never seen!

If you have a mower perhaps you can mow small lawns for extra money, or rent the mower out to others who don’t have one? If you have wireless internet you could share the connection with your neighbors in exchange for a portion of the bill! You may make enough money from this to pay your internet bill entirely—thus getting your internet for free!

If you have reduced the amount of stuff you own to save storage expense perhaps you find yourself with an empty storage building or even an empty corner in the garage. You can rent out this space and allow others to store stuff there!

You could bake homemade bread, labor-intensive foods like lasagna or even dog treats and sell the finished product. Of course on a bigger operation there are rules and regulations to follow but we’re talking occasional agreements among people you know and not necessarily a business-type arrangement.

If you know about antiques or a certain item you collect perhaps you can make extra money selling some. Yard sales and thrift shops are known for good deals so perhaps if you stumble upon something at a gorgeously low price you can mark it up a bit and resell it.

If you prefer to make money online there are places like Mylot, KGBMTurk and others that pay money for doing certain things. If you like to write sites like Helium, Associated Content, Factoidz  and others will allow you to make money on your creations. In fact, some sites will pay you to post videos and slideshows!

Blogging can give you a way to express thoughts and ideas in a form that can earn you some income as well. Adding Google Adsense to the blog or even Adbrite can earn you a little money for doing something you may do anyway—keep a journal.

You don’t have to do any of these suggestions. In fact I’m confident that if you look around you will find something that is uniquely perfect for you and your living situation. The trick to a happy life is not to just live simply and frugally but to be confident that no matter what–money is going to be there to provide what we need. Depending upon a single income source—no matter how reliable it is supposed to be—is a recipe for disaster.

Please look around your lives and see what you can do to earn an extra dollar or two. You don’t have to kill yourself but make a small goal to just make a couple of extra dollars this month. Stash that extra income in an online savings account or even in a jar somewhere until it builds up where you can do something with it. Save a little of it for the future, but enjoy some of it now—you earned it!

Having sources for extra income may seem silly if you are used to making big money but a little money is a lot better than no money at all in the event that something stops your regular income source!

With this said you may wonder what I do for extra money. Well, I write online for various websites, most of which don’t give me any credit but pay well nevertheless. I am working on increasing my Associated Content library, the articles I have at Factoidz and making this blog and my simplicity blog useful to others to increase traffic. Besides that I have a diploma in computer repair so I promote a small computer repair business and pick up odd jobs doing strange things on occasion. I’ve even started a book on simplicity and frugality that I plan to market at a later date!

It may seem like I’m doing a lot but honestly I’m not. When I get an idea for something to write about I decide where to stick it that is most appropriate and there it goes. Since computer work largely involves waiting on computers I can work on other things here while waiting for them to do their thing!

I have lived on a single source of income in the past and struggled when that income disappeared. No matter how small or large that income may be it hurts! I don’t want that to happen to you.