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3 Steps I Took to Reach Financial Independence by Age 32

Once I digested that it was only a number I decided to do what I always did. I try lots of things, grow my business and expand my sources of income, much of it passive. 

You see, I learned the most important step of all: It’s the journey that matters, not the destination. And I had the best mate in the world along for the ride.

It was that day when I was a 32 year old man that I learned to live life for the first time. Live, for Real. 

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Finding Under-Valued Stocks

Jack Bogle gave us the index fund. Warren Buffett has said most people should put their money into index funds.Personal finance bloggers—especially in the FIRE* community—spout “index fund” like it’s a nervous tick. And you might have noticed this blog has the same nervous tick.Some are worried about all this index fund investing. The concern is index funds will control so much of the market that it will lose its efficiency. I remember the same concerns in the 1990s when I was a stock broker about mutual funds in general, most of which were actively managed.Index funds will not break the market any more than actively managed mutual funds did. For one, there will still be plenty of people investing in individual stocks. And the hedge fund guys will do their share providing liquidity.

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A Non-Political Look at Income Inequality and the Wealth Gap

Frequently we look for political solutions to income inequality and the wealth gap. While the issues can be improved slightly from political action, there are two additional ways to close the wealth gap and level income.

Politics is the messiest way to fix these problems and history offers ample warning for those who seek answers from this source. One need not look further than Mao’s China or Stalin’s Russia to see how abysmal political leveling can be. North Korea is a modern example of how not to level the playing field. 

Let’s turn our attention to the second way income inequality can be reduced. Walter Scheidel in his book The Great Leveler provides what he calls the “Four Horsemen” of leveling: war, revolution, collapse and plague. Historically these four horsemen have been the leading cause of leveling income and wealth. 

Once again this is not a comforting thought. You can read Scheidel’s work for an in-depth review of his research. The record is clear, however; it takes great dislocation, pain, suffering and death for income and wealth to level naturally.

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The Coming Collapse of China

When the Western economic world collapsed in 2008 there was only one beacon of light: China.

For decades China has grown at nose-bleed speeds and looked like an unstoppable economic miracle. Now the foundations of that miracle are exposed and the house of cards is in peril. Shadow banks and ghost cities are only the tip of the ice berg.

Speculation over the years of fudged official economic numbers coming out of Beijing is starting to haunt the government there. As 2018 came to a close the government reported the slowest growth in 28 years. This was still a bit north of 6%.

Unfortunately, these slower growth numbers are probably a wildly exaggerated lie. Recently, a former chief economist for the Agricultural Bank of China mentioned a report that two recent studies show China’s economy growing at a mere 1.67% and another showing the economy actually declined.

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The Anatomy of Wealth

My grandfather always had a saying that has stuck with me: Never take off the pile. Granddad was an old farm boy living the dream in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin. He lost the farm in the farm crisis of the early 1980s and then rebuilt his fortune doing nothing more than saving a serious portion of all his income. Most money was only deposited in bank accounts. And he still managed to re-grow his liquid net worth well into the seven figures starting over from an old age.

The corpus of your investments, that original seed money, is sacred. If you never touch the sacred you will always be safe! The income stream keeps growing larger with time. Dividends reinvest to earn more dividends. You don’t need a pension when you have one far safer.

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Is Staying Fully Invested in the Market the Right Move?

Most of the time the stock market is climbing north. Interspersed between bull markets are those times when rookie investors act as if the sky is falling.

Long bull markets turn normally intelligent investors into casino gamblers; they even use gambling terminology: we’re due for a bear market or as they say at the casino, “Red is due after 8 black spins” at the roulette wheel; as if the ball has a memory. The odds of it coming up red are the same as it was last spin, in case you were wondering.

Of course, long moves in the stock market sets off our sixth sense that this can’t last forever. Before long you’re not fully invested (a religious mantra of many investing circles) which smacks of market timing.

This brings up a good question: Should you always be 100% invested in the market?

If only it were as simple as a yes or no answer.

The truth is many people should NOT be fully invested in the market and some people SHOULD be and it has nothing to do with market timing. The trick is to know when to be fully invested and if not, by how much.

It boils down to your personal situation: where you are on your journey to financial independence, how close to retirement you are (or if you are in retirement), spending habits and viable alternative investments.

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The History of Polarized Politics in the U.S. and Money

In recent times we were told the U.S. was caput because  a womanizer like Clinton was president. Did anyone take the time to research Franklin and Jefferson? Caput! I think not!

Then Bush was a sign of the End Days. Nope! President George W. Bush proved to have human failing, but we did fine.

President Obama was the worst. I had clients who came into my office saying their life;s mission was to prevent Obama from getting a second term. What a waste of time! The economy grew, the stock market was up and America and the world did great after a serious economic debacle.

And now we have the hated President Trump. Many tears have been shed. The Supreme Court is forever tainted (unless you read few history books where you’ll discover it was always tainted). I’m not a fan of Trump. I disagree with many of his policies. But not all! An honest person will find issues where agreement exists. Who doesn’t like lower taxes? We can debate who gets how much and the fairness of taxes, but com’on! I also agree with more infrastructure spending. I’m against tariffs which are nothing more than a tax on consumers. Call it a quasi value added tax, if you will.

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