Invest in Assets

It does not matter how much money you make; it matters what you do with it. If you want to get ahead financially, you have to spend less than you earn and invest the difference in assets.

When you think of assets, you think primarily of money. This is good, but it isn’t enough. You are not only spending money. You are also spending time and effort. Everything has a cost, and where you put your time, money and effort will determine how much of a return you get. So, put your time, money and effort into those things that make your life better, reduce obstacles and give you new opportunities. Put your money into assets.

What are assets? Assets are anything that decreases your expenses and increases your income. They can also be something that stores wealth without losing it. If it becomes less valuable over time, it isn’t an asset. If it doesn’t make you any money and only increases your expenses (time, money, effort), it isn’t an asset.

If you are renting a house that is $1,000 per month and you can buy a house that ends up being $800, then by buying a house you’ve saved $200 per month.

If you rent that same house out for $1,000 and pay $800 for mortgage and maintenance, then you have $200 more money coming in each month.

If you get a new skill that lets you earn $10,000 more per year, then the time, effort and money that you spent on obtaining that skill paid off. That skill is an asset.

If you put money in an IRA that grows at 6% annually on average, then that is an asset that stores wealth and builds it.

If you move to an identical apartment 30 minutes closer to where you work, then the proximity of your apartment has produced a savings in time.

Assets are important because assets make your life better. So, look around and start to think “what is it that I could do to make my life better, reduce my expense of time, money and energy AND increase the time, money and energy that I have.”

By thinking this way, you will be more open to spotting opportunities that can increase the quality of your life.

Take Advantage of Free Education

Do you want free education? I know that there is recurring talk in the political realm about the debate over whether higher education should be free or not, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about the free education that is all around you that you could take advantage of, but that you pass by.

When I was in high school, I was offered the chance to go to a technical school to learn a trade. I planned to go to college, but I saw something good in learning a trade so that I would have employment before I went to college. I went to a vocational technical school while I was in high school, aside from my college prep classes, and learned how to repair computers. That technical training in my junior and senior years gave me a very early start into the computer field. I would eventually complete an undergrad in information technology and then go on to attain an MBA, but I know that I made my career entrance a lot earlier. The vocational education gave me the ability to become a computer technician at the age of 17, and start gaining experience (and income). I did not have to wait until I graduated from college.

Additionally, when I was in high school, I was offered the chance to take college classes at significantly reduced rates (I believe a few were free, and others were nearly free). I chose to take the classes, and they were credits that I did not need to pay so much more for when I went to college.

You might be thinking… “that’s high school. I’m not in high school anymore.”

Well, continue on.

Not long after high school had ended, I was offered the chance to teach a class on computer repair. I wasn’t going to get paid. I was going to have someone help me prepare for the class so that I would know how to format a lesson and teach the content. I decided to do it. It cost me some time, but I learned how to teach in an academic setting. It gave me knowledge and experience for later opportunities when I would teach for local colleges.

Just a few years after high school, I got into real estate investing. As I did so, I found that I needed to learn about wiring receptacles. How did I find out how? I initially got a book from my local library on the basics of home wiring. I read the instructions and looked at the wiring layout and followed what I read.

At another time, when I wanted to learn how to drive a manual vehicle (I needed to buy a truck and I found an affordable one that was not an automatic) I went onto the Internet and looked up “how to drive a manual vehicle.” It might sound ridiculous, but it worked. I bough the vehicle and I knew just enough to get the vehicle home. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but once it was home I had the ability to get better, and in short order I learned to drive with no issue.

Then, I worked for an employer who offered a very small amount of money for workplace training (it was less than $500 per year) but I figured I would take advantage of it and get a certification in my career field.

At another employer, I was offered a larger annual sum for education. It wasn’t enough that I could go get a degree (I had two degrees, and didn’t really want anymore) but it was enough that I could learn a new skill. Looking around, I realized that one of my biggest challenges and expenses as a real estate investor was HVAC work. Since the EPA requires certifications to be allowed to buy refrigerant, and since HVAC services are expensive, I figured I would dramatically benefit my own investing by getting the certification. My employer was paying, but I would reap significant benefits from it.

Lastly, I will mention that most times I go dancing (many of the dances are free) I find that there is a free lesson taught. If you wanted to learn to dance, you could very likely look for places in your area where dances are held and find out which ones are at no cost and which ones have lessons. While I’m primarily self-taught, I did learn quite a few things from the free lessons before dances.

As you read all of this, consider how much opportunity I would have passed if I never decided to take advantage of the free education that was available.

What kind of education are you passing up? Are you in high school and able to benefit from learning a trade before you go to college? Are you working for an employer who offers tuition or education reimbursement? Is someone else willing to apprentice you?

Free education is all around. You only need to start looking and as time passes you will find more and more opportunities. If you have never thought of how much you could benefit by learning without paying, hopefully this has given you a different perspective.

How to Overcome Procrastination

If you’re reading this, it is because you want something else in life. You want more wealth or more fitness or a better social life. You want things that you do not have. You might be sitting in a cube right now and thinking “there must be more to life than this, right?”

What prevents you from achieving the goals you have set for yourself is discipline. You do not do enough of the things that yield results. I know I have often thought that if there was one thing in my life that I could have, it would be that: more discipline. If I could change myself to be less… I’ll describe it as “human” and more “robotic”… then I would be able to set a good goal and work towards it. When I set that goal, I could then start working on achieving that goal, having discipline. Also, having discipline, I would work on it until it is achieved. That isn’t what it is like to be human.

Being human means that we have to deal with the emotions of “I don’t want to” or “I want to do something else.”

How do you overcome the conflict between what you want to do and what you should do. It isn’t easy, but it is straightforward. On the other hand, sometimes it is complicated, but it isn’t hard. Keep reading, and you will understand.

The answer is to keep reinventing the way that you approach your procrastination or your lack of discipline or your need for variety or your need for the lack of variety. You keep throwing yourself at the problem, because, then, you learn more about how you work and about what it is that you can do to address your problem.

So, what you do is that you have to find out how to manage your own emotions. You have to find out what makes you choose between the short-term and the long-term. I don’t mean some kind of book learning or theoretical learning. I mean what is the underlying deep cause of why you like to do the emotional things. Here are some examples to jog your mind.

Do you choose to do things that are routine?

Do you choose to do things at random?

Is there an emotion that you most often pursue?

In my own case, I found that I had a difficult time sitting down to blog. I have a lot of ideas. I wanted to do it. I enjoy it a lot when I’m doing it. I love writing. However, the sitting down part is difficult. Nothing special here, right? That’s just every normal human.

So, what I did was that I started to look at the things that I do in life. I cleaned my house, I went for a walk, I paid bills, I would work on my books, I would play video games, I would exercise, I would call my mother, I would pray, and so on.

I also found that when I got into an activity, such as writing, or dancing, or playing video games, that I would tend to stay in that activity. I also found that I became less productive at whatever I was doing the longer that I did it. So, sit me down in front of a television with a show I want to watch, and I’ll watch the show in entirety. That’s not productive. However, sit me down in front of the computer and let me start writing, and I will write. That is productive. The question is, how do I get more of the productive activities, and how do I prevent the unproductive activities from taking too much time and reducing my motivation for other things?

What I did to address this was to get a computer timer. It is actually called “Free Timer” but I have no association with the software, nor am I recommending it. I would set the timer for 10 minutes and pick a song that I found relaxing that would play at the end of the timer.

All of the sudden, I was able to take my need for methodical behavior and add randomness to it. I would clean my house for approximately 10 minutes and then I would go exercise for 10 minutes. Then I would go video game. Then I would pay bills. Then I would call my mother. Then I would go out for a short walk. Then I would write 10 minutes on my blog. Then I would watch 10 minutes of a show I wanted to watch. Then I would prepare food for my lunch at work tomorrow.

Not only was I not getting bored and not having trouble starting a task, but I was also learning to not procrastinate, because I was always starting a new task. How often do I use this? A lot. It is a “reset” for me. When I get off track, I “reset.”

So, this is a “gimmick” if you want to consider it, which means that it might not work for you if your mind works differently. However, you should consider giving it a try. It will teach you a lot about your own mind and how you motivate yourself and how you prioritize your own tasks. But, most of all, it will make it so that you create a pattern in your own mind where you can start tasks that you do not want to. When your mind finds that it is not painful to start a task, then it will apply that to other tasks, because you will already be active.

When I use this technique, I always aim to do what I want to do, but I choose something that is easy. So, if I want to work on a difficult section of one of my books, I aim to use this technique, and then I, for the first 10 minutes, go do something easier such as go clean my house. Then I play video games for 10 minutes. Then I read my book, because I’m already moving and having no trouble starting and doing something for 10 minutes.

What happens? When I’ve gotten into an activity that I am enjoying, I find that I don’t want to stop. That actually creates a second emotion in the mind. That emotion is the desire to continue. I find that after I have gone 10 minutes writing a blog entry, and have to stop in the middle (this also helps with never having writer’s block) that I am very interested to come back to it. So, I am creating in my own mind an intense desire to do something that I was having trouble doing.

In short, you do not have to “not like” the things that you “don’t like.” You actually can start to “like” the things that you “don’t like” if you keep trying to find a way to act on them.

My own belief is that desire, or the lack thereof, is artificial. If you can change the emotion that you experience in your mind, or prevent your mind from engaging in the conflict of “do I want to or do I not want to?” then you can start to add in those activities that you are having a harder time doing.

Investing in Residential Real Estate

“Real Estate has made more wealth for more people than any other investment vehicle.”

That is the claim, anyway. I’ve heard it quoted over and over. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but it doesn’t matter, because the substance here is even better than the sizzle. Real Estate investing is something that is relatively accessible compared to other investments. It requires no specialized education. It does not require advanced skills or talents. It does not have to involve a lot of money and it does not have to involve a lot of time, depending on how you invest. If you are careful and move slowly, you have a good chance of doing well. It is also a favored asset in terms of financing, which means that banks will lend money to you on the easier end of the difficulty scale so that you can buy a house and rehab it for rent or resale. By contrast, banks are less likely to lend to you to start a small business. If you want to engage a bank to lend you money to start to speculate in the stock market, good luck.

Real Estate investing is something that can be done while a person works a full-time job. Just as you can manage to find the time to buy a house to live in while you are employed full-time, you can also find the time to buy a house to invest in. This benefit to real estate investing should not be overlooked, because you can size your investment difficulty to the time and capital (money) requirements that you have. In other words, you don’t have to make your life miserable and work all of the time just to invest in real estate.

I started to invest in real estate when I changed employers. I decided that my 90 minute commute for the former employer was something I would never do again, and started to look for housing next to where I was hired. Admittedly, I was considering renting an apartment. I wasn’t looking to own. When I looked for apartments for rent, there were not very many in the area in which I was searching, and there were zero that I both wanted and could afford. With such limited options, I decided to look for a place that I could purchase.

Ultimately, I decided to buy a two unit duplex where I would live on the top floor and rent the bottom. The top floor was in very poor condition. The bottom floor was acceptable. That made where I wanted to live an easy choice. Renting the superior unit was easier, and by occupying the unit that needed a lot of work, I could pace myself. My investing got off to a rocky start, but it quickly became something that I learned how to do and how to succeed at.

When you think of investing in real estate, you probably think of rent. That was about all I thought about when I started. However, it did not take very long, but real estate investing had more benefits than I originally considered.


Yes, there was rent. That first rent check was the first time that I collected any significant income that was not a function of my employer. Knowing that I had other income was a great feeling, and it meant that I was less dependent upon my employer. Subsequent properties, each producing rent, would only add to that.


Even though I was living in half of the structure, my monthly rent was paying most of the mortgage, and the mortgage was going down by an increasing amount each month. That is called amortization. The loan balance goes down and there is less interest that the bank can charge. Since the mortgage payment stayed the same, there was more and more money going to pay down the loan (principal) each month.


Beyond rent and amortization, I found over time that the property also increased in value year after year, though slowly. This is referred to as appreciation. That first property appreciated modestly, but after 5 years I found it was worth about 11% more than I paid for it. After 10 years, it was about 25%. In reality, it did only slightly better than inflation, but this was just one of the benefits of investing.


Next, there was depreciation. When I did my taxes, I was allowed to write off a percentage of the value of the property. This meant that I paid less in income taxes. What I also discovered is that if the depreciation pushed my rental property to have no profit, on paper, then I would actually be able to take the rental loss (up to $25,000 at that time) off of my income. So, my own wages, in effect, were reduced somewhat for tax purposes. I paid less in taxes because of my real estate, and that was ultimately due to depreciation.


The next thing that I gained from real estate investing was experience. Before I started to invest, I had never used a table saw. I never snaked a sewer. I did not know how to unlock siding. I gave no though to downspouts and water drainage. I didn’t even really own any tools. Also, I never had applied for a loan, I did not think anything about the value of a credit score and I had never had to itemize on my taxes. By investing in real estate, I learned a lot about home repairs, legal expectations, finances and a lot of other things, too.


Finally, there were opportunities that came from learning so much from over a decade of real estate investment. I got into real estate to make extra income. It accomplished that, and grew slowly over time as I continued to invest. However, beyond everything else just discussed, I started teaching dance for a local college. Then the thought came to me that I could surely also teach real estate, which I did. Furthermore, the writing that you are now reading can be traced back to real estate. While I write about many topics, I got into writing because I initially wanted to write about real estate, since it was so interesting to me. Both teaching and writing are two things that I love to do, and they can be traced back to the experiences that I gained from investing in real estate. Even the dancing that I just mentioned was a function of real estate, but that’s a subject for another time.

Real Estate investing offers a lot of benefits. This was an example of how to buy and hold, but there is also the option of rehabbing and selling, also called flipping. I have also done this, though it is not my preferred method of investing as it is a high intensity activity, which is more like a business than an investment. There are other less common ways to profit from real estate, but between buy and sell and buy and hold you have the majority of what people do in real estate.

If you would like to learn more about real estate investing, keep reading, or check out the videos and books on the topic.

Reclaiming Your Time and Creating Success

In this age of social media, it is easy to think that you need to be plugged in and aware of what is going on around you all of the time. Many people feel the need to check their social media feeds constantly, for fear that they may be missing out on something. You can pull up Facebook and see creative solutions for life problems. You can see new products and new services that people are offering. You can read online news and keep up on current events. You can always be listening to music. Is it good to do all of this?

I will admit that I have experienced the draw of being plugged in all the time. I work in information technology. I have a smartphone and I use it for my career, for my personal life and for my own business. However, I know that being plugged in all of the time is not a good thing. I force myself to turn the electronic devices off completely for at least 2 hours each day. There had been times before this that I would find myself staying up late and being tired for work, or of finding that I had no energy because I was spending so much time with technology.

What I would recommend is to set aside time everyday to unplug. If you find that you never exercise, or have trouble keeping your house clean, or do not get to bed at a reasonable hour, or are not spending time with friends and family or that you are not accomplishing anything in life, then you should find a time to let your mind relax. Your mind should not always be engaged. If your mind is always engaged, you are preventing your mind from discovering solutions to the challenges that you face. If you have never tried this, take a long walk outside and just look around. Don’t go for any specific reason. What will happen? Your mind will start to have idle time with which it can start to think. It will start to wander into the areas that matter most to you or that are limiting you. It will start to evaluate or create options for you to have success in your life.

It is a very unwise thing to spend all of your time time with technology, listening to music, watching television, reading social media updates, devouring the news or anything else that requires you to be constantly engaged. Those things benefit you very little, and they get in the way of the good things that your mind could assist you with if only you took the time to allow your mind to idle. Once your mind idles, it creates solutions. Once your mind has solutions, you will gain excitement and energy to pursue them.

Learning How to Dance

It was by accident that I learned how to dance. I was posting an apartment for rent on Craigslist one evening and feeling really bored. So, I decided to click on the services section just to see if there was anything else out there that would interest me. In doing so, I stumbled upon an ad posted by a woman who was offering dance lessons out of her house. The price was very good, and so I contacted her and setup a first lesson.

When I met my instructor for the first time, she asked me “what do you want to do?” and I replied “I want to learn how to dance.” That sounds simple enough, right? I had never danced before, and I had no perspective on what dancing was. Sure, I had been to weddings and school dances and other places where there was dancing. A few times, I even went out and… did… something. I never watched dancing. I didn’t know anything about dancing. I just “wanted to learn how to dance” because I saw an ad on craigslist.

Background story aside, here is where things become interesting. My new instructor asked me “what do you want to learn?” and I replied “I want to learn how to dance.” That might sound like it is the same thing, but continue on and you will see that it betrays something very useful that tragically frustrates so many people who dance and who attempt to learn.

When I said “I want to learn how to dance” she did not reply “ok, I’ll teach you how to dance.” She said “ok, I will teach you how to dance Bronze Level American Ballroom Style Cha-Cha.” I was excited to begin. I wanted to know how to dance. She showed me a step pattern on the floor and I began to practice it with her. My first and only private instructor was excellent. There are many good instructors out there in my city, but this one was uniquely a perfect fit for me. For the first two or three lessons, she showed me a pattern and I learned it. After that, I found a ballroom dance website with instructions on patterns and I started taking a list of things I wanted to learn. She merely practiced the pattern with me. I ended up learning a massive number of step patterns very quickly.

My lessons were efficient, but they were also unique. I was very clear that I was not interested in doing anything perfectly—a statement that is anathema to most instructors. She knew what I wanted. I didn’t want to waste time doing something “perfect” because “perfect” might not be “perfect” to someone else. I was interested in finding out how much I needed to learn and I was interested in learning enough to make it so that I could understand any step I saw someone else do, so that I could decide if I wanted to learn it and do it myself. I had asked her “how much is there to learn?” and she said “a lot.” It was very clear to me that no one, not even Google, would definitively tell me “how much” there was to learn. I needed to get a feel for it on my own.

I took lessons from this ballroom instructor for somewhere around 12 months, but only had regular lessons for about 6 months. I started social dancing after about 2 months of lessons. I was not good at it, but I was devouring new patterns everywhere. It took only about 6 months, but I realized that what I was learning was “what” to dance. I began to realize that I wasn’t learning “how” to dance.

I took introductory lessons in all of the American ballroom dances. I danced at ballroom events. Everyone told me I was so good. I knew I was terrible. I knew a lot of steps, but I knew I did not know how to dance. Then, I went to a salsa club, and did not know how to dance. Nothing I knew translated to salsa. I did not even know how to dance cha-cha. I had learned to dance American Ballroom cha-cha and I couldn’t even dance cha-cha in a club setting, because it was different. Since I did not know enough to dance, I learned LA style salsa and bachata. I taught myself to dance the club version of cha-cha. Then I saw a couple dancing Argentine Tango. I knew all of these ballroom styles. I knew the patterns for Latin club dances. I still could not dance Argentine Tango. So, I learned Argentine Tango. Then I went to a West Coast Swing dance. I didn’t know how to do that. Don’t even get me started on the country and modern line dancing. The story goes on and on just like this.

After many iterations, I ended up at a nightclub, but not to dance. I was just watching and socializing. It hit me. I didn’t learn “how” to dance. I couldn’t ask anyone at that nightclub to dance. I knew how to dance Argentine Tango, Foxtrot, Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Swing and many more dances, but I didn’t know “how” to dance. I only had learned “what” to dance. The “what” of my learning was admittedly deeper, broader, faster and less expensive than a great many who had gone before me, but I found it kind of impressive that it was just dust on the scales.

In future posts, I will share more about how I learned “how” to dance, and in the free videos linked on this site and (if you wish) the paid content on Udemy, you will see how learning to dance from the top down rather from the bottom up will make you a far better dancer than most, and in much less time.

Practical Advice is Hard to Find

It is very hard to find good information. It is not hard to find people who mean well and want to help. It is not hard to find people who have been successful. It is not hard to find opinions. What is hard to find is good information that is useful and can answer the question of “How do I…?”

Some information is person specific. If you find yourself wanting to start a business and ask a business owner how they got started—hoping to glean some useful information that might point you in the right direction—you might hear a story that you know was unique to the business owner’s life circumstances. If you discover only that the business owner inherited their business or that their employer wanted to retire and asked them to buy it, you cannot really plan to replicate what they did. This kind of information is not bad, but it is not useful.

Other information is too general. Look up “how to start a business” online and you will find advice such as “get an idea, make a business plan and talk to a bank.” That, also, is not the kind of targeted information that you need.

I am willing to speculate that the kind of answer to “how do I start a business” is more along the lines of “how do I generate an idea for a business product or service when I don’t have any ideas?” than it is “how do I incorporate?” Yes, incorporation should be considered, but the real question of “how do I start a business?” is concerned with the major actions that enable discovery of a marketable product or service, the production of that product or service and the profitability and control of that product or service.

To give two more examples of focused questions, it probably also is something like “how do I look at my own life to determine what kind of idea I can turn into a real product or service that I, with my own skills, abilities, finances and connections, can make profitable?” Another real world question would be “how do I find the resources and information that I need to be successful in my business?” These are the kinds of real world questions that you would want to focus on, because to answer these would be to discover the real answers to “how do I start a business?”

The reason for this blog, and for the books, videos and other content that I have produced, is that I have searched intensely for information throughout my life. I have found many answers, but I have also spent a lot of time searching. What I hope to share are the answers and the how-to of searching for the information you need, so that you will not have to search as much, and for as long, as I have.

The questions are always different, but the method is always similar. When I ask “How do I…?” what I really want to know is

  1. How broad is the topic and how do I focus on what I need to know? (i.e. in dance, how much do I really need to learn?)
  2. What are the major areas that concern this pursuit? (i.e. in real estate, how to screen tenants, how to price units, how to determine what to do to a property and what not to so that it is profitable)
  3. Where do I find the resources, people and information necessary to help me answer the question? (i.e. instructors, agents, advisors, contractors, associations, books, etc.)
  4. What changes do I need to make in my life to enable me to pursue something?

Using these four previous questions as a rough guide, here are some of the questions that I have answered for myself:

“How do I build a good life for myself?”
“How do I learn to invest in real estate?”
“How do I make new friends?”
“How do I get a job in my field?”
“How do I climb the corporate ladder?”
“How do I learn to dance?”
“How do I overcome social anxiety?”
“How do I eat to lose weight and control my weight?”
“How do I find good information for my health?”
“How do I overcome weaknesses in my life?”
“What kind of business could I get into?”
“How should I think in order to find the best answers to problems?”
“How can I find answers to problems when I need them?”

There have been so many times throughout my life that I have gone in search of good information and found my resources lacking. I did not have someone who could give me good advice and I could not find the information readily available. I hate to say that I reinvented the wheel, but sometimes, when you cannot find what you are looking for, you need to reinvent the wheel. So, whether you ultimately come to this site for how to select high quality tenants, how to build wealth or how to dance anywhere, I hope that you will see not only information that is focused enough to answer your question of “How do I…?” but also delivered in a way that respects your time. Respect for the amount of time it takes to learn something is very important to me, and I try not to duplicate content or to add filler.