Book report: “The Total Money Makeover”

What is the absolute best gift one could give for a Birthday/Christmas/Wedding present?

Is it a hand made trinket from your children? “Surprise, surprise, a coupon for some fries; that was really very thoughtful you guys“.

Is it some tool that is needed, but not in the affordable range?

Is it a lavish meal at a fancy restaurant?

I believe that the best gift you can give anyone is a financial education.

Now you’re probably thinking: “I don’t want to spend time in school or with a financial advisor“. And I agree, you don’t need to waste your time like that.

I’ve made several posts through the years regarding money, and capitalism in general. And most likely, you did not read any of them. I don’t blame you because I understand that talking about these topics is not an easy subject. More couples break up and/or get a divorce simply because of financial matters than any other reason.

Many people don’t like hearing good advice from people who are close to them; yet at the same time, they are willing to hear advice from a total stranger (even though it’s the exact same advice). It’s a paradox fueled by stubbornness that drives even the most educated folks crazy.

When I was growing up, I watched my own father spend so much money on “get rich quick” ideas yet sadly he never put any effort into any of them. Had he tried even ONE method, maybe my parents would not have lived paycheck-to-paycheck.

This post is NOT about “get rich quick schemes”. Read this sentence as many times as needed before going any further. Go ahead, I’ll wait….


Recently I did a book report on another “financial education” book, and quite frankly, it was a let-down. Today’s book report is not at all like that one.

What everyone needs are simple ideas that work. Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover” addresses this and he’s formed these steps perfectly.

  • Make a written monthly budget
  • Save up a $1,000 emergency fund
  • The debt snowball
  • Finish the emergency fund
  • Maximize retirement investing
  • College funding
  • Pay off the home mortgage
  • Build wealth like crazy

A written monthly budget – This needs to be established not just so that you know where your money is going, but also so you can tell it where to go at the beginning of the month. I’ve been using a spreadsheet to track our major expenses, but this method is flawed – it only shows where your money went AFTER it’s gone. It does not have any power to direct the money to the proper bills or accounts. Sure, a tracking sheet is better than nothing, but only by a small margin. And if you’re married, you and your spouse have to agree on the budget, because it doesn’t work if you’re pulling in opposite directions.

Save up a $1,000 emergency fund – Because everyone needs to have a fund to handle life’s little emergencies. But don’t kid yourself and borrow from this fund, thinking that you’ll repay it later. You won’t. People are lazy and this fund is intended for true emergencies only.

The debt snowball – This is my favorite method of paying down debts, but I’ll admit, we’ve been doing it slightly different; and of course, we have slightly different (worse) results. In our case, my wife & I have been making slightly-larger-than-minimum payments on all of our debts. This method has gotten the debts under control, but is very slow at paying them *OFF*. I’m switching to Dave’s method of paying off the smallest debt first, then rolling that payment onto the next debt (in addition to that original payment), to pay off debts quickly. I’ve already looked at next month’s payments and we should be able to totally eliminate several of our smallest debts. This will go a long way in getting the snowball rolling. On average, this step takes about 2 years to complete.

Finish the emergency fund – After your debts are paid off, you need to fill up the emergency fund fully. Take the $1,000 that you already have and add to it until you have between 3 & 6 months worth of living expenses saved away.

Maximize retirement investing – Dave recommends a combination of mutual funds that are a safe and easy way to earn 12% over the long term. My wife and I are very close to retirement age and currently have very little retirement money, so I’m not certain how effective this step will be for us. For younger folks (anything under age 50), I’d say this is a great strategy.

College funding – My wife’s children are grown and so is my son, so putting away for college seems like a step we can skip. Or we could use this step to set up college accounts for the grandchildren’s education.

Pay off the home mortgage – This is the really big one. Everyone assumes that having a home mortgage is just part of life, but it’s not. We (as consumers) have been conditioned to think this way by those who profit from us. Dave says a home mortgage is the only debt he won’t argue against, but he does have some simple guidelines: Get a 15 year loan and do not get a payment that is more than 25% of your monthly take-home income. I personally think after you’ve paid off your debts, you should “Debt Snowball” your home mortgage in the same manner. Why not?

Build wealth like crazy – Dave says there are only 3 reasons to build wealth: To have fun with it, to invest, and to give it away. We all like to have fun, so that’s a given. Investing your money (to make more money) is how you make your money work FOR you (instead of the other way around), and giving it away (directly and indirectly) helps others succeed in life.

This is only a summary of this book. If this subject interests you (and it should!), I’d suggest you get a copy of the book and give it a read. I went through my copy a 2nd time with a highlighter so I could quickly find the really important ideas at a glance.

Dave is a Christian and has inserted small Bible quotes along with the user testimonials throughout his book. I’m not a Christian but I am curious to hear what Dave (and Christians in general) might say about Deuteronomy 15: 1-6, which says :

15:1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
15:2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD's release.
15:3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
15:4 Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
15:5 Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
15:6 For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

It seems obvious (at least to me) that if debts were forgiven after 7 years, our entire outlook on money, debt, and personal finances would be changed completely. But that’s a discussion for another post….

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Investment Illiteracy

My parents met in Santa Monica, California, in the late 1950s. Back then, having a “Vegas wedding” was the ‘thing to do’, so to pay for their wedding, they both decided to sell the (few) stocks that they had. And I’ve often wondered how much money they missed out on, had they held those stocks instead of selling them.

My dad said he had 10 shares in Standard Oil and my mom had 10 shares in what she described as “some dumb little calculator company in Texas”…. (Texas Instruments)

Finding historical data on stock prices & splits is very difficult, especially before the early 1970s.

Mom’s initial investment of 10 shares at (guessing) $1 per share, would have split at least 6 times (2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2) giving her a total of 960 shares. At today’s share price of $141.09, that’s a total of $135,446.40.

Dad’s initial investment of of 10 shares at (guessing) $1 per share, would have split 4 times (2 each time), giving him a total of 160 shares. At today’s share price of $16.86, that’s a total of $2697.60.

Of course, I’m not one to bad talk about investment strategies. When I worked at Alldata, the “old timers” who had been around for years, were granted “stock options”, that we could exercise for the price of $1 per share. I had 400 shares that were mine for the asking. Then Alldata was acquired by Autozone and our stock options were converted to AZO stocks at a rate of 4-to-1, meaning I now had 100 AZO shares for the asking. I exercised my options back in 2001 and immediately sold them; netting me almost $10,000. Had I held on to them, today’s share price of $1,176,99 would have netted me $117,699.

Of course, most of this is just speculation. At the time of purchase, no one knows for certain what a company’s stock is going to do or how it will perform in the long run.

The stock market is just a form of legalized gambling for rich people.

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How flat is flat enough?

When all this pandemic crap started, one of the things you heard often was “We need to flatten the curve!“, meaning the number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 had to be controlled. It’s referring to a graph and the “spike” that always appears when something that is being counted goes up unexpectantly.

So here we are, 6+ months into the pandemic and the tag line “Flatten the curve” is not being plastered across the news as much (or at all) as it was in the beginning. Maybe there is something in the actual data that will help explain this.

Looking at the Center for Disease Control’s web site, we find a handy list of the number of deaths attributed to Covid-19. (Thank you Google for finding this in less time that it takes to type in 3 words into my search bar). Don’t just trust me and what I’m saying here, go to the CDC’s web site and look this up for yourself. HERE is the link I used.

Looking at the data, we see 204,613 deaths attributed to Covid-19, out of a total of 2,226,473 deaths listed. That’s just over a 9% death rate when you compare the two.

The CDC web site lists the number of deaths by the week in which they occurred. Here is that data:

Week endingAll deaths involving Covid-19Deaths from all causes
Total Deaths204,6132,226,473

Now let’s convert this data to a graph. The red line is the total number of deaths that they tracked and the blue line is the number of Covid-19 deaths:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the “first wave” of Covid deaths had spiked in early April and a second, smaller wave had occurred at the beginning of August.

Looks pretty flat to me.

Meanwhile, the total number of deaths (not counting Covid deaths) has continued to meander along in the 50,000-60,000 range (if you don’t count the last 2 weeks of data, because those numbers have not been finished being counted yet).

Let me say that again: 50-to-60- THOUSAND deaths EACH WEEK attributed to something other than Covid-19.


I’m reminded of a bit that the late Bill Hicks used to do. Where is the “Pro-life” movement now? Certainly not jumping up and down about this statistic.

A quick Google search finds lots of other numbers to compare:

  • If you compare the number of deaths in the USA (219K) compared to total number of cases (8.12M) it’s 2.50%.
  • If we compare the number of California deaths (16,955) to the total number of California cases (876K) we find it’s 1.94%.
  • If we compare the number of worldwide deaths (1.11M) to the worldwide number of cases (39.6M) it’s 2.81%

Everyone is panicking about the Covid death rate, yet the CDC web site also attributes 480,317 deaths annually to smoking related issues. This means over 25% of the deaths in America are caused by smoking, yet people are not having panic attacks over this. Why not? They should! Emphysema is a lousy way to die, just ask both of my parents…. Oops, too late.

How many deaths happen each year because of other, preventable things? Nearly 1.25 million people are killed in car accidents each year. Yet we are not trying to outlaw cars.

In 2018, there were 48,344 recorded suicides. At least we have a phone hotline for them, woopie doo, that’s helpful…. not. At the same time, mental health is not regarded as a priority, even worse, it’s looked down upon by many folks as a sign of weakness within that person. If we can’t get physical health care for everyone, we sure as hell won’t get mental health care.

And let’s not forget about the non-death related problems in the world…. Those graphs are never ending…. But I digress…..

Like everything in life, you should PUT YOUR EFFORTS WHERE THEY ARE MOST EFFECTIVE. In other words, worry about the important stuff and don’t sweat the small stuff.

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One of my favorite sayings

There are a few tried and true statements that people use often. Many people use them even thought they don’t fully understand it. At times I’ll point out their error and they will reply “I know”, which only further underscores that they DON’T know.

This is “cognitive dissonance”.

Here are some recent examples that should make you stop and smack your head….


A hair campaign that features a woman with her hair covered. Seriously, how stupid are they? Especially considering the head covering in question is part of a religion that is misogynistic to it’s very core. Yeah, that’s promoting female empowerment.



Of course, finding the “truth” would be very inconvenient for many folks. And we can’t have that, now can we?



Leaving his date in a sinking car after he drunkenly crashed it.

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With Hypocrisy and Cognitive Dissonance for All

Have you ever seen a problem, clear as a summer day; yet others around you are totally blind to it? Sometimes the examples are so blatant, they write themselves….

A Facebook friend posted this picture:

Yet no mention of the words that are clearly etched into the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

And no mention of the millions of immigrants that came here and built this country, one brick at a time. I guess we can close the doors now, since this country is perfect and no longer needs cheap labor. (/sarcasm)

And then there’s an old friend of mine who’s an avid pro-life Christian, but also endorses killing protestors. (Wish I had gotten a screen shot of that conversation)

And then one night, I stumbled upon the movie “Behind The Curve“, which discusses The Flat Earth Society and shows some of the experiments they performed to “prove” the Earth was flat. I especially liked the experiments that showed there IS a curve, but they did not want to accept what they themselves had just shown. I think everyone should watch this movie, just for the entertainment value.

And sometimes other folks write the memes for you…..

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A magic trick is no fun when you know how it works

Through the years, I have figured out many things. Unfortunately, this is a guaranteed way to make me loose interest in them.

My wife & I used to play the game “Candy Crush” and she was much better than I. Her scores were routinely around 130,000 while I struggled to get past 85,000. Then one day, I downloaded a “crack” on my computer and ran the game with this installed. My first score was 6.9 million points, and being the good husband that I am, I posted it to Facebook. Knowing that I had somehow cheated, she didn’t talk to me for an hour. Then she asked how I did it, which I gladly obliged in showing her. I haven’t played that game since. 

Image result for candy crush meme

Remember when you were a kid and getting money was amazing? Whether you earned it, your grandfather pulled a quarter out of your ear, or you just stumbled upon some cash in the street, just getting some money would light up your eyes! But now I understand that our currency is not backed by anything tangible and the only reason why it has any value is because everyone agrees to accept it as payment. 

Image result for bank meme

Having a savings account at a bank used to be fun. You’d save up your loose change and take it to be deposited into your account. A little book tracked your money and you kept it in your bedroom, safely tucked away in your sock drawer. Then you learned that the federal reserve loans out currency with interest built in, plus the bank uses “fractional reserve lending practices” to expand the amount of money that they can loan out. It’s free money for them and indentured servitude for all of us. 

The best bank memes :) Memedroid

Our government used to build weapons to fight war. Now we invent wars in order to sell weapons. As a humanitarian and an anti-capitalist, this burns me to my very core. Yet, so many people think this outlook is perfectly acceptable. 

Image result for invent war to sell weapons meme

The stock market used to seem exciting, from the opening bell to all the people scurrying about on the floor. Now I know stocks have no direct bearing on how a company works and the entire system is just a form of legalized gambling. 

Image result for stock market meme

The church was mysterious and spooky, representing something supernatural. After reading the Bible and examining exactly what it says, I realize that it’s just a book written by primitive men who were trying to control other people. 

Image result for church meme

Our government is fully corrupt and that’s the way they like it.

Pin by T Marshall on Truth (With images) | Government, Political corruption

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Treat me like ME !!

Here I sit, once again wondering how the hell it is that (apparently) I can do nothing right in your eyes. Nothing. Not even pack my own lunch bag (based on yesterday’s argument) and at the same time, if I point out any mistake YOU make, then somehow I’m yet again, an asshole. It’s a double standard that you employ to wrongfully increase your stubbornness.

How is it that you & I have such terrible communication skills yet this doesn’t happen at my work with my co-workers? I try to explain to you how everyDAMNthing is not my fault, but you won’t hear any of it. Nope, you shut down and storm out of the room, oddly berating yourself. Where the hell did you pick that trick up from?, because it wasn’t from me.

It’s not the first time you’ve done that over the years, but for you, there’s no looking back into your past, to see what has influenced your life long before I arrived. Nope, Norman Rockwell must have painted your past….

I’m NOT your dad; I won’t stop providing for my family.

I’m NOT your first ex-husband; I have a job and I take care of my family.

I’m NOT your second ex-husband; I don’t need meat & potatoes for dinner at 6 PM sharp every night. (Tonight, 08/31/2020, was a great example of this. You got pissed off at me and turned your anger into obsessing over making dinner. We sat down to eat at EXACTLY 6:01 PM.)

I’m NOT the abusive guy you once dated; If you expect me to hit you then you don’t know me at all.

I’m NOT your brother; I won’t abandon my kids then have more kids later in life to make up for it.

I’m NOT your boss; I don’t expect you to do everyone else’s jobs.

I’m NOT going to leave a job 1/2 done; I’m not your nephew working on our kitchen cabinets.

I’m NOT a neurotic mess of nerves that shivers at the sound of a firecracker; I’m not the dog.

I’m NOT a priss that sits on my ass all day; I’m not the cat.

And I’m sure as hell NOT your child, I don’t need you to tell me how to pack my own lunch. It’s leftovers, it’s always leftovers. And if it’s not leftovers, I guarantee you I won’t starve.

Your life is full of problems that you ignore until they pile up and spill over. Sure, I’m on that list too, but I don’t deserve 100% of your anger.

I was not there at the beginning of these events in your life, and I can’t change most of them. I’m here, now, and have been for nearly 20 years. And if that’s not enough for you, then I can’t help you.

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Terms and conditions may vary

So many people say they are defending Capitalism (because Socialism is bad), but what they are really defending is commerce. And yet it’s possible for commerce to exist within a socialist country; in fact, it would thrive! But the nay-sayers won’t look beyond their own presuppositions to see how the world might be better off if they just stop defending the upper class.

I’ve talked before of how an economy should work. But how many people can see it for what it currently is, how it currently operates? And how many of those can see a better way?

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Book report – “Debt-Free Living”

My son bought me this book (along with a few others) after I had put it on my Amazon wish list. Many people have to be pretty good at balancing their finances, not because they have so much spare cash, but because they don’t have any to spare. I’ve been one of those people since my first marriage.

I did not know that this book was written from a “Christian perspective”, but I thought I’d give it a read nonetheless. It’s somewhat interesting to see how a Christian applies the Bible to issues of money. And since I’m an atheist, I think it’s also borderline comical. Think about it – the almighty creator of the universe, the one who made everything, needs your tithing! Sure he does…….

But let’s continue and see what kind of financial advice that can be gleaned from these pages.

The author relays several stories of how he counselled others (usually young couples) with their financial issues, creating a plan to deal with creditors & overdue bills, and of course get them back on track to tithing to the church. Afterall, that’s how you make things right in the world and win back God’s favor towards you. Nevermind that you can employ these same basic financial principles and get out of debt even faster, if you weren’t giving away a portion of your income right off the top.

And what are these simple, yet apparently blessed, steps to living debt free?

  • Accept responsibility for your life choices
  • Establish a realistic budget
  • Live within your means
  • Don’t get in debt
  • And of course – pay a good chunk of your income to the church!

The stories he uses seem to be from the original publication date of this book – 1960. Sure, the stories are quaint, and I love going back in time, to see how folks were financially strapped because they had an extra $4K in bills that their income as a successful attorney just could not cover. One such story even included a budget worksheet with before and after numbers.

The author also includes a handy list of biblical quotes that pertain to money & finances, but he doesn’t discuss all of them, especially the most important one: Deuteronomy 15: 1-6, which says :

15:1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
15:2 And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the LORD's release.
15:3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;
15:4 Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:
15:5 Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
15:6 For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

In other words, debts are to be forgiven after 7 years. Unless you’re not a friend of mine.

Call your home mortgage company and see what they say about that verse. I’m certain that they will be a business first and NOT a Christian. I also believe this is true for the author of this book, which is why he quietly side-stepped this very important verse. Of course, this assumes that most Christians lead a good Christian life, which from my perspective, they don’t.

In the end, the first 4 financial ideals (listed above) are simple, yet solid advice that everyone should follow. Most of today’s budgets are much higher on both sides of the equation, but the principles are the same.

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NOW do you see the violence inherent in the system?

The comedian Robin Williams once said (when talking about mankind): “If we can’t fuck it, we’ll kill it”. And that (unfortunately) is too often true.

The best robin williams memes :) Memedroid

Sex & violence are 2 base, carnal emotions. The military perpetuates the killing and the advertisers use sex to sell us everything. And we, humans, keep falling for this ruse time and time again.

Hunters take out their aggression on innocent animals that can’t fight back. Easy to kill when you have a gun or other technology in your favor. Killing for “sport” is the most cowardly thing I’ve ever seen. Try that without a weapon, hand-to-paw fighting and lets see how you fair. I bet back in the stone age, no one was overweight.

Demise of Trophy Hunting in Africa | Big Cat Rescue

Murders happen because one person does not value other person’s life. Much like the hunter, the murderer uses advanced weapons to take a life that he has no right to.

Everything else that feeds into this equation is secondary.

But we can change, and we MUST change, if we want to continue to exist. It is possible to be better than your base emotions. And it is up to each one of us to say “I am better than that“. Each one of us needs to stop thinking about only ourselves and start thinking about everyone else.

Stop. Trying. To. Fuck. Everyone. Over.

It’s a small planet and we need to all get along.

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