10 Resolutions in ’16: Simple Steps to Your Financial Best.

Most likely money is at the top of your resolution list – Whether it’s to increase savings, pay down debts, find a new job, purchase a house or auto, financial aspirations abound in January.

Resolutions start strong. Unfortunately, as the novelty of a new year fades, so does motivation to stick to a list.

happy new year vintage

What if I told you that financial goals don’t need to be onerous to make an impact to your bottom line.

Millstones, as I call them, lead to milestones. You’ll be empowered, less frustrated if you keep your financial improvement list simple.

Here are ten ideas to consider for 2016.

Finally ditch the brick and mortar bank. An unusual event occurred after the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates by a quarter-point after seven years of holding steadfast to a zero interest rate policy. Several banks were quick to increase lending rates to creditworthy customers but kept deposit rates unchanged.

Historically, deposit rates on savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and money markets tend to correlate with changes in federal funds rates. Not this time. Savers lose again. In 2016 take a stand. Transfer your emergency cash or savings to a virtual bank. Online banks are FDIC-insured and with less overhead costs, offer attractive yields compared to a bank with physical bank locations. Several offer ATM fee rebates, too. Check out Nerdwallet’s list of top high-yield online savings accounts.

Keep an eye out for yet another refinancing opportunity. I know – Most financial ‘pundits’ are claiming higher interest rates in 2016. I see a sluggish economy ahead. Since mortgage rates are driven by demand and moves in the ten-year Treasury rate, don’t be surprised if 2016 provides another chance to refinance your home mortgage. A decision to refinance should be based on additional monthly savings and how long it will take to breakeven after closing costs. An easy-to-use refinancing calculator is available at www.zillow.com.

Initiate a balance transfer. According to Nerdwallet, the average American household carries $15,355 in credit card debt. Be proactive in 2016 and move your high-interest debt to a balance transfer credit card. If your household credit card balances are $5,000 or greater, consider reducing retirement contributions to the company match and direct additional cash to paying off credit card debt.

Use smartphone applications to save on purchases and track spending. Make technology your financial partner in 2016. Use the Mint app to track financial activity, Shopkick to browse products and find deals at major retailers. Download Ibotta, an Android and IPhone app that allows users to unlock rebates to earn cash on purchases.  

Buy off-season. Maintain an ‘off-kilter’ sense of finance. Purchase holiday décor and greeting cards after the respective season. Think Christmas cards in January. Shop for real estate during winter, summer items in the fall, and so on. Thepeacefulmom.com has thoroughly researched and lists by month the best times to buy everything.

Do a better job protecting your identity. Avoid public Wi-Fi to access secure information or shop, password protect your electronic devices and check your credit card statements monthly for suspicious activity. Place a freeze on your credit files with the three major credit bureaus. Before applying for credit a freeze can be removed easily using a password or PIN. There may fees to initiate security freezes. However, costs are nominal ($5-$10) and worth it to protect against identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission offers a FAQ  page to make it easier to understand how credit freezes work.

Check your credit report. Every January make it a habit to check your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com. Examine your report closely for discrepancies and rectify promptly with the credit reporting agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau outlines common credit report errors to identify.

Curb your impulses. Make 2016 the year of the wait. Before a purchase of greater than $50, delay for 7 days. If you still want the item or service after the wait period, move forward. Holding off will reduce impulse spending and allow you to think before spending. Seven days has been an effective time frame from my experiences with people I counsel. If super-ambitious, wait 14 days. If you can’t wait days, at least give the decision 24 hours.

Purchase a shredder. Simple identify theft solutions remain effective. Shredding documents should be an ongoing exercise. Shredders are inexpensive. Invest in a micro-cut shredder for maximum security protection. I’m shocked by the number of times I’m told that shredding seems unnecessary. Throwing intact personal documents, bills, statements in the trash is asking for trouble.

Develop a money principle. Dig deep. Early in the year is a great opportunity to develop or fine-tune a money philosophy. Keep your thoughts short. Make them passionate. Consider how money fits positively in your life and what you can do to reach goals, control spending, reduce debts or earn a higher income this year.

Financial resolutions are strongest when simple. Consider these 10 small steps to financial enrichment and live a fiscally healthy new year.



Lending Money Can Be Dangerous To Your Wealth – 5 Ways To Protect Yourself.

Most of us have done it.

Don’t deny it.

I can see the scowl on your face when I ask the question.

How did lending money work out for you?

I understand the grimace.

grimace No, not THIS GRIMACE!

You’ve paid the price.

Lost money, lost friends, bad blood between family members.

What steps can you take to prevent falling into what I call the “kindness trap.”

Most likely, you don’t enjoy lending money to anyone. Admit it.

You do it because you care.

Deep down you know there’s a great chance the experience ends badly. But you’re willing to take the risk because you’re in DENIAL.

When you know the odds are close to 100% that lending money to friends and family is dangerous to your wealth. And you’ll never SEE IT AGAIN.

Here are steps to do it wisely (or not at all).

Random Thoughts:

1). Just say no – There’s nothing wrong with saying it: I do not lend money to friends or family.  Explain how you value the relationship too much to jeopardize it.

2). Consider it a gift right out of the gate. To keep the peace, I always think of loaned money as gifted money. It prevents hard feelings for people I care about.

3). Know your limits. Set a dollar threshold for lending. For example, establish a maximum. A client of mine has a steadfast rule: I will only lend up to $300. No more. So if I don’t get paid back, my finances won’t take a big hit.

4). Make it official. There should be a written agreement (term of loan, interest rate). Every month the IRS publishes an Index of Applicable Federal Rates that you can use to set your interest rate for the loan.  Ask your borrower to disclose his or her credit score. No. Demand it.

5). Multiple loans are a no-no. Don’t make it a habit of lending money. Never have more than one outstanding loan in existence at once. And be selective.  You don’t want to make lending money a habit.

And after lenders are stiffed once, they’re most like to treat their loans as expensive lessons they dare not repeat.

Neither should you.

Never forget what you paid in blood, in cash to learn it.

blood money

The Premarital Lovin’ Laws – Consider the Money Strings Before the Rings.

There are many challenges to consider when it comes to taking a big step like marriage; conflicting money philosophies can wreak havoc on a relationship.

bad marriage

You don’t need be money twins about financial matters, just hold similar core values. If the relationship with money varies dramatically from your beau’s, you can rest assured conflict will eventually tarnish the bliss.

You may scoff at these overtures; some may appear radical. However, before the rings, discuss the strings. Money strings are the beginning of good or bad threads you’re going to bring to a marriage tapestry.

Here are a few money smart steps to consider:

1). In Lieu of a Wedding Throw a Debt-Relief Gathering – How romantic to slay one of the financial beasts of a successful long-term commitment. Forgo a wedding reception – throw a party for a quarter of the expense. On average U.S. couples spend more than $25,000 on a wedding. If you’re saddled with revolving debt like auto loans and credit cards, then it may be best to use gifts to pay them off or pay down debt dramatically. Throw a nifty party and focus monetary gifts on debt.

Create a written promise to each other that out-of-control debt monsters shall never arise from the dead.

debt monster

2). Create a Personalized Series of Make-or-Break Rules – If you’re serious, well then either the matrimony activities continue, are postponed or cease entirely based on jointly-held money rules.

Be specific when you create them. Here are examples:

If our individual credit scores are less than 700 (based on Fair Isaacs) then marriage needs to be postponed until scores are at least at or above the national average of 723. Marginal credit scores can mean more interest paid on loans including mortgage alternatives. Examine and follow steps to increase your scores on www.myfico.com and re-visit this commitment in six months.

I shall provide proof of my good money habits before the marriage commitment is made. Get ready for money vulnerability – break out your budget history, open the Quicken, outwardly show that you’re taking health care insurance and disability coverage at work. Divulge your liabilities (of the financial kind). Too much debt, lack of insurance and absence of discipline may encourage you to reconsider a marriage at this time.

If individual monthly debts are greater than 25% of our gross monthly incomes, then marriage needs to be postponed until debts fall below set thresholds. I know. I’m taking all the heart out of this, and that’s exactly the point.

As a famous Godfather once lamented: “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.”


3). Write out your Personal Money Philosophy and Share it with your Future Partner – If you’ve never formally considered a money philosophy it’s an opportune time to think it through. And you do have one; your money DNA has been with you since youth. It was formed by your parents, friends, and other outside influences. Share the details of this exercise with your partner, yet work on this project alone.

The end result is a couple of sentences that spell out sincere reflection about your ongoing relationship with money.

Here are a few shared with me:

I’ve been afraid of debt for a long time and feel compelled to pay off debts quickly. My parents taught me to not dig a hole I can’t climb out of and I’ve always been that way.”

“I always make sure to have money in an emergency fund.?

“I try to save at least 5% of my salary in my 401K.”

These statements don’t need to be pretty, they need to be real and reflect values about finances.

Consider fun yet money awareness exercises with your financial partners like the card “game” available at www.moneyhabitudes.com. What an eye-opener when it comes to disclosing and understanding couples’ money personalities.

4). Consider Money Vows at the Wedding – Really want to shake things up? How about a money promise as a tie that binds? I’m not kidding! Here are examples from couples who incorporated money messages in their vows:

“I promise to never make a big purchase without you.”

“I promise to never hide a financial mistake from you.”

“I hope for mutual respect and open communication if money issues arise in our marriage.”

death wise

Well, you get the point.

It all seems romantic to me, but then I’m a money guy.

What rules and tips can you create today around  a successful money and marriage partnership?

The Bullies Around (Inside) You – How to Defeat Them.

“The biggest bully I ever faced was underneath my own skin.” Johnny Cash.

Paulie Greco appeared. In the schoolyard. I saw him. Rising like a demon above cracked concrete. I couldn’t focus on anything else after that. For hours. Through the massive, thick Brooklyn public school windows behind heavy-gauge steel grating, I could still see him. I couldn’t stop seeing him. Waiting. I couldn’t stop feeling the ice, the fear coursing through veins I didn’t even realize I had inside my body, my head. Until they started throbbing. 2:15pm. He’d been out there. Since noon. High noon.

I remember shaking uncontrollably at my desk the closer the small, black super-ticky clock hand inched moved towards 3. My heart beat heavy in both ears. I wondered how I was going to lose blood, teeth. My spleen. I heard somewhere you could live without a spleen. That oddly seemed to calm me. Would I be able to walk? Please god not the face was all I could think. Thinking positively – Perhaps a good pummeling would work off some of the belly fat I carried around thanks to Drake’s cakes, Yodels to be specific.


Oh Yodels – the unnatural perfect food.

I didn’t do anything to him. In fact, I stayed far from him. I was always aware of his space so I could purposely avoid it.  He hated me because I was fat, I wore green corduroy pants in the summer (thanks mom), I was diverting the attention of a puerto-rican beauty in spandex pants who didn’t give him the time of day – she liked my brains over his brawn. I was friends with his girlfriend (the damn cute girls always liked to be friends with me because I was, non-threatening, funny troll-like figure). I had bigger pimples, maybe. For one reason, many reasons, every reason, this guy hated my guts.

All I knew?  I was dead soon. No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks. Rest In Peace. In a dirt-blood pile. Smashed behind a city school. 


America’s favorite bully then in rerun form – Butch from The Little Rascals.

There he was – leaning against a shaky schoolyard fence. Greasy dark hair. Black leather jacket with chains (as I think about it, looked stupid in June). He’d deftly bounce off the chain link, then shuffle – from one foot to the other. Right. Left. Right. Left. Rocking. Like a psycho planning a pounce on chubby prey. I’m sure he noticed me through the smudgy glass and steel-cage monster panes of glass. I know, at the least, he smelled me. My fear. I think it made him rock faster.

3pm was here. I couldn’t feel my legs, not sure how I rose from the desk…Numb.

I walked slow. To the bulls-eye. Not sure of my fate.

Random Thoughts:

1). External bullies never go away. Throughout your entire life they’ll re-appear. Even those who were once close friends can turn. Corporate masters like to bully too. Because they can. Shareholders, Boards of Directors encourage it (mostly by demanding greater results). Bullies hate the truth, however. They diminish in power once they know you’re not afraid and you possess the strength of the truth. But you’ll need to shiver in the ice water, feel the cold of loss, first. Today, many companies can pay less in wages, avoid raises, ask more out of you, work you out of a position for others less skilled, because they have the power. As the economy slowly improves, their ability to bully and scare will diminish. Be patient. Stay true to your cause. You shall prevail in finding greater more lucrative ventures.

2). Get to know your inner bullies. The bullies who push against you from within. They do stick around you until death. You know them. You’ve faced them. The ones who constantly, mentally pummel you. Telling you you’re going to fail, fall, falter. The ones who nag at you. Encourage you to flee. It’ll take some strong self-analysis to understand your interbullies as I call them, but if you remain aware, you’ll face your internal Paulies head on. You may stumble short term; oh, they’ll rock you, shuffle you up, but you will win, eventually. It’s inevitable. The more you fight them, the greater understanding you’ll have of their crude methods to shake you. Your mind begins to grow smarter than your interbullies. It’ll take time but it will happen. Don’t give up. You’ll surprise them when you least expect it.

3). Don’t be bullied to be stupid with money. There’s a lot out there to taunt you to overspend or misuse credit. Stand your ground. Stick to a budget. The less you spend the more empowered you will become. The more secure you will become in your future. A bully should possess a negative net worth. Not you.

4). Discover your reinforcements. Seek and then never forget what/who supports you. Understand the need to train for battle. Friends (some you never knew you had), exercise, a good diet, sleep, deep breaths,  meditation, reading, heartfelt discussion, all need to be employed as you fight the bullies around you. It’s ok to wallow in Yodels a bit (if you can find them); too many will weaken your body and spirit. Know when to shut down the devil’s food (which is a devil’s food).

I couldn’t feel anything. The larger Paulie grew in my line of sight, the more steadfast my pace. I wanted to flee in the other direction. I kept walking. Straight. Closer.

I recall closing my eyes briefly. I wasn’t going to run. I didn’t do anything wrong. If I got beat so be it. With all the adrenaline running through me I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have felt a thing. So it appeared to be an opportune time for a thrashing. I just wanted one good shot. One good kick. One surprise that would shake him.

I stopped near the rocking bully. He stopped rocking. About seven feet from him. I tried to move in but couldn’t. Frozen. He moved towards me.

He spoke. Rough Brooklyn. Mostly hoodlum. Mumbled.

“You talk to my girlfriend?”

“Yea,” I said. What was I going to say? “She’s in my homeroom class.”

“I know people. I’m related to gangsters. You understand that?”

I knew that.

“I know people too. I hang out at Torragrossa’s Funeral Home. I watch them embalm dead people after school. You think my mother could get a discount if you kill me?”

I continued before he could say another word:

“You’ll need to realize I won’t die so easy though. If I can take you with me, I will,” I said. No reason why. Anger perhaps. All I know is I meant it at the time.

I had nothing to lose.

At that moment his girlfriend, my friend, ran up (reinforcements) and screamed at him not to touch me or it was over between them. He backed off.

A few weeks later I found out that he was a bit scared of me after that incident. It wasn’t his girlfriend’s threats. It was the fact that I watched the embalming process. It was a bit of information he wasn’t expecting. It was a surprise. A shock.

Bullies hate surprises. Shocks. The truth.


And apparently the embalming process.

Who knew?


When Fear Turns to Strength – 4 Ways to Stand for What you Believe.

“She may never come out of this Richard, but she may. You never know.”

Some doctor at Coney Island Hospital blurted these meaningless words at me. Advised me how this time around, this attempt to take her life was most likely, going to be successful. Or not.

Mom really did it this time, that I did realize. Now in a coma. I saved her. Just in time. At least I thought I did. Obviously, to the doc anyway, my “just in time,” was not timely enough. Or was it? I couldn’t tell from his words.

And I was scared. She was hooked to a respirator. Last time she tried to take her own life, mom was home the next day, following a stomach pumping. This felt different. Or didn’t.

It looked bad. And at ten years old I was scared. Shaken. Perhaps this doctor was right. Or not. The system told him she was dead, already. I should just deal with the fact.

I was afraid to be alone. I wasn’t prepared for this. It was then, the feeling was born. The feeling of ice water in my veins. The flow of dread. Helplessness. It pooled in my gut. Got colder. Coldest.  Froze me from the inside out. I needed to break free or remain under cold forever. I had a choice. Believe in the worthless words from an uncaring doctor. Or fight. For her. For another. For the others who also heard the same careless words.

I stood. Looked straight at the doctor, in the eyes, and said -“she will make it.”

He didn’t know what he was talking about. He didn’t understand the fight in her. Frankly, he could care less. I could tell. She was a number. Job security. A check mark in a box. I was thinking he was going to pick up a Quarter Pounder  & a Shamrock Shake on the way home and eat in front of some late night TV show circa 1974. Perhaps the late, late, late show on CBS. And the next day his routine will start over again. Another day of dispassion, lack of empathy. But at least he would get paid. Because that’s what it was about, wasn’t it?

I found a way to warm, melt the ice that night in March, 1974. I spoke my mind. I provided information the doctor wouldn’t/couldn’t know, I stood my ground. I turned fear into strength. I re-focused. Away from the cold and towards the heat. Just long enough to focus again on what was important. Her life. Her survival. Not my fear.

He turned. Walked. He adequately delivered his line. To keep his job.

Many of the people you deal with daily. Your boss, your spouse, friends, YOU. All believe you’ll buckle under – allow the system to overwhelm. Until you feel nothing. Until you’re spiritually broken. Just working to pay the bills. No waves. Afraid to stand for a higher calling. For others. Scared to make things better. Not bothering to try. Because it could mean danger to you and yours. And when you stand, sometimes you’ll fall under the weight of the decision; the consequence will overwhelm you. Until you re-focus on why you made the gutsy decision in the first place. But you’ll need to feel it first. It’s just the way it is.

The ice water.

ice water

Random Thoughts:

1). First understand: There’s a switch inside your brain. Maybe deeper than that. A beacon, a light, buried under the ice. Takes a lot to turn it on – the switch to warmth  comes from faith and fight. A passion for what you believe, because you know it’s the right thing. For others.

You are privileged. Many never have the guts to stand and fight. Because they can’t stand. Because they’ve lost the faith in their strength. They allow the ice to cover them, sink them. They won’t speak their mind or take action even though they know it’s the right thing to do. They’ll just document and report. They convince themselves with lame self-righteousness, how they’re good people. But they’re not. They’re spineless, nameless cogs in wheels of bureaucracy. They lie to themselves. They lie for others. Don’t sell your soul. Because under the ice you’ll be dead. 

2). Be selfless. Through selfless acts, following a passion with others in mind, you will indeed win. They’ll be battles, resistance in the short run. On occasion, a Goliath, a monster will attempt to crush you. The system lives to break you. Temporarily, you’re down but you’re not out because your focus is on stirring up change,for the better of others. In turn, good things will happen for you.

3). Realize it’s all a test. Almost every time you take a stand, your resolve is going to be tested. You’ll feel sick inside. You’ll doubt your past actions. You’ll regret the decisions. Because the system feels comfortable once you’re in it. It fools you. It makes you think it’s good to be dead. It wants you back. It wants you to surrender.

4). The system wants you to fail. It doesn’t want you to save, watch credit, live below your means. The American system entices you to overspend, consume. We are now all paying for those actions.

I don’t regularly attend church. Today I did. Up on a screen, above the Pastor, I read these words. I found a pen. Wrote them down.

“Jesus sees a man unafraid to push the accepted limits in order to bring about needed change.”

For some reason I needed those words, today. I closed my eyes. I could feel the ice melting again.

Mom was alive again.

She made it.

So will I.

Because I believe.

And will always push the limits.

For others.

Duel – Chase Yourself to Sanity in Five Quick Lessons.

David Mann rolled over. He was late. Again. Third day this week and it was only Wednesday. Different day. Same shit. The wife of 13 years was already downstairs. Busy. For hours. Occupied with the twins as usual. And it was always about the goddamn kids. And why did they need two anyway? Because God decided to play David another shit card, that’s why. And now all she does is bitch and complain when all he’s doing is trying to is scratch out a living. Paying on a mortgage too big for his shrinking paycheck. And the wife wanted another baby? Perhaps a girl this time. No fucking way, David thought. Not going to happen.

She never understood his hours, his increasing time away from home. His work grew longer – like a slow, barely noticeable pull on his favorite indulgence – banana Turkish taffy. Sooner or later something was gonna give. Snap.  He told her deadpan, seriously, how he hated driving hours to see customers and spending time away from the family. Naturally, it was the nature of his business, especially in the face of rising financial obligations, the boys. Five years ago, his excuse was valid. Today, he was best to not say to use the same excuse and she knew not to ask. They both knew the truth…

bonamo banana

David’s favorite candy. He liked to smell the wrapper. Had stacks of them in the glove compartment.

David Mann loved being away from 101 Sycamore Street. As much as possible. He just couldn’t admit it outwardly. Or inside, to himself. Best to go with the flow until death came. Good fucking riddance. Inside – relief at the thought. He was glad to be out of the house as much as possible. David was 45, felt 95. Thinking about how his father died at 45, he mustered a smile. Sweet relief. Coming soon? He wondered. Deep down he prayed. Checking out wouldn’t be so bad right now. At least his next trips would be his last. Off to Grayson’s Funeral Parlor, then Peaceful Rest Cemetery. No more long commutes, no more kids, no more wife, no more clanging of pots and pans holding meals he never had time to enjoy, anyway.

Right now, ironically, Emily Mann (formerly Anderson) was taking out her frustrations on the man-sized breakfast of a frying pan. Or the lime-green enamel stove top. Or both. He thought her especially loud this morning; deep down resentment festered when he slept in. After all, the missus was stuck with two whiny, living alarm clocks. With wheat-colored bangs. Twenty-four hours a day. They jolted her from slumber, religiously at 6:30. Never failed. So now, the frying pan, today, was the chosen weapon of pent-up hatred for a marriage that just died away, leaving what David called “scatters.” Like the bones of carcasses he counted along Highway 57 through his numerous business trips that took him deep in the desert. 

The trips were so tedious, like his life, his job. It all just fit together. There was AM talk radio, thank god, but most of the time, the babbling hosts weren’t entertaining enough to keep him awake, capture his attention for long. David would pull over, roll down the car windows. Full. Allow the heat of the desert to press and swirl around him in a dry-warm death dance. The faster he went, the tighter the grip. Heat and cold he still felt. Barely. The breeze felt good. And not much felt good lately. At times he felt the heat was a devil. Wrapping him. Suffocating…

David started this crazy game over a year ago. He’d catch a quick glimpse of death from the open window of his red Plymouth Valiant Signet and then along the way, through the dust and gravel of his life, his travels, he’d count. Count again. And again. Count the carcasses as he passed. Carcasses of friends he never saw again, people who died away. Carcasses.

What was left of living creatures after trucks, cars, weather and scavenger birds were done: The “scatters.” Traces of what was full of life once – never truly disappear. Scatters. He remembered how he smiled to himself when he thought up this word. It amused him. He laughed the more he thought of it. Looking around he was glad other drivers didn’t catch the insane guy, chuckling to himself, hair flying in the wind, sweat on brow. Dripping on his new Ray Bans. It was rare for him to spend money on himself. The guilt was too much. With the wife. The boys. Most of the time he did without. Penance.

A pissed-off wife’s alarm clock – a frying pan. Better than the goddamn so called “state-of-the-art” Panasonic alarm clock she picked up at Erickson’s 5 & 10, he figured. Shook his head. Cobwebs fell away. 

At least Mrs. Mann gave up waking him for anything. Everything.  A long time ago. David managed to focus. The first time of the day. Certain to be fleeting.

Thank god for small things, he thought.

And the fucking new alarm clock never went off?  At least he wasn’t sure. He thought he set it correctly, but David realized his efforts in the dark were clumsy at best. He’d been up all night. Exhausted. Trying to pull a miracle out of the hat to save one of his biggest and most reliable customer accounts.

He was notified yesterday, after 11 years of working together, that Bill Johnson of Johnson Electrical Circuits was ready to jump ship. For an overseas supplier. The death call came from central office.  Tough break. Same product – 20% cheaper. Stinking Japs. What was going on? What the hell happened to the competitive nature of the United States? Sad.

And the wife. Picking up this new-fangled Jap alarm clock with the clicking numbers, lights, bells, whistles he couldn’t operate. Hate began to rise up. She knows I’m losing clients to these bastards but spends my money on their shit. Perfect.


David Mann left the house at 10 that Thursday morning. Flew out. Barely a goodbye. His mind already setting into motion how he was going to lose about 30% of his pay, perhaps his job. And he was scared. Sweating. And it wasn’t even 70 degrees outside.

Time to hit the road. Same shit. Different day. Again. Rinse, repeat…

And now this goddamn truck is gonna mess up my day too? Why are you driving so goddamn slow! I’m going to be late. Are you counting the scatters? That’s my game! Scatters…

Wait…Now you’re on my ass? Did I piss you off? Great. Another wife. In a truck yet.

duel car truck


Steven Spielberg was(is) a genius. Early on in his career, in the 70’s, he managed to monitor and then document on film, the human condition. His strength was to show stories behind the stories. Turn stuff inside out until nerves were exposed. Then he danced on them. Until you couldn’t take it anymore. 

In November 1971, in an ABC-TV Movie of the Week, Spielberg visually spun a story. On a $450,000 budget. Completed in 13 days. Popular for over 41 years, he tells a tale of a middle-aged electronics salesman traveling in a Plymouth with a motor the size of a scooter, tortured, chased relentlessly by a faceless driver of a 1955 Peterbilt 281 Tanker monster along miles of a two-lane winding highway through a California desert.

The movie is popular, still. It frightens. Still. Why?

Because we’re all David Mann….

We are all “scatters.”

Random Thoughts:

1). Demons chase you. Rise up. When you least expect it. When you’re at a breaking point. When you’ve been kicked. You’re kicked again. At times you’ll be driving the wrong car, carrying the wrong thoughts and that monster truck, the demons will follow you. For miles. For years. Through the heat. How will you shake them off? What takes you to the breaking point. Write it out.

2). Scatters. How many carcasses have you counted? What scares you enough to wish those scatters whole again? Are they remnants of the dead you created? Do they follow you? When you stare out a window what do you see? When you stare into a mirror – what then? What are you driving today? A Plymouth or a Peterbilt? Are you being chased or are you chasing? What’s your test for the day? The week? The month? A lifetime?

3). Demons can be chased. And killed. Or at the least, set free. Establish your boundaries, turn the tables. The demons always believe they have the upper hand. Unfortunately, you’ll need to be tested to determine if this is indeed, true. The demons are overconfident. They can even play nice with others. But not you. To you, they’re deadly. They laugh in their hubris. At your fear. How will you turn the tables, surprise your demons today? Like David Mann did. And for a moment, moments, the trucker, the demon, held the upper hand. The stronger he became. The demon. Until his strength, his speed, overtook him. Right off a cliff. David Mann needed to take drastic action. Play the demon’s own strength against him. How will you turn your demons’ strengths into weaknesses, today?

4). Money demons exist. You’ve acquired them by watching your parent’s relationship with credit, debt, saving, investments. My parents were horrible with money. I observed their financial demons. Lack of life insurance, living only for today, not thinking of tomorrow. No wills, no estate planning. Those demons came for me. I fought them. Hated them. Have you inherited your family’s money demons?

5). What will lead you home? Is it something spiritual? Where’s your safe house? Find it. Live in it. Read it. Use it. Never turn what leads you home into scatters.

duel truck over cliff revised

Never forget…

The outwardly weaker being. David Mann. Won the “Duel.” 

His demon was outmaneuvered. Off the edge.

By a Plymouth.

Turned to.


And a new day had begun.

Strong Ghosts – 5 Ways to Conquer Them.

“And now you’re a ghost
I walk right through.”
Sky Ferreira
sky F
Sky is ok in my book. I think she understands the human condition.
Think about how many times people in your life walk through, then out of your life. It’s astonishingly easy. Even those you thought were closest can reduce to mist in a moment. They may say goodbye (or not) and what’s worse an electronic footprint, most likely, radiates within a device you carry with you daily. A digital photo, a text, the cold tone of an e-mail.
Words scorch into your brain and never disappear (even when you delete them). A techno-ghost of sorts. No matter how many times you read the words your mind stumbles upon the apparitions. The people. You were able to touch them, love them, kiss them. Then the last time you saw them, if you knew it was the very last time, perhaps you would have done it all different. Whatever it was. Maybe then..
They wouldn’t have decided, using thumbs and a tiny keyboard, to vaporize or dissolve you. It’s easier than ever today to turn yourself into nothing or transform another into an ectoplasmatic goo puddle.
Ponder those times you’ve walked through others. The ghost circle is now complete. C’mon. You’ve done it. We all have. You held the upper hand on several occasions. You turned souls into dust. It’s fine. It’s what makes you human. Severing the mortal thread (not coil) with another is as old as time. It’s never pleasant. Ok, on occasion it’s pleasant. Admit it. You really enjoyed vaporizing the bastard.
How many have you “ghosted?”
Then there is one. That damn ghost. The strong one. The one you walk along. The invisible one you trip over. The one who slides in from a dark corner of thought, of memory, and causes you to stumble. To shake. Repeatedly. You. You. You, You gave the ghost permission to stick around. You didn’t complete the fade-out process. Because you weren’t ready to release the ghost that holds power over you. You walk around it. Never through it.You respect the presence. The strong one is still here. But not here. The strong one mocks you. Still.
The ghost who holds power over you. 
Still lingers. Waits. 
You can’t walk through. You’re not ready.
Sorry Sky. 
It feels too good to stumble. To succumb.
Time to change all that. Now.
Kill Ghost
Here comes the strong ghost. Teach it a lesson.
Random Thoughts:
1). Recognize what motivates the strong ghost. What empowers it. For me, it’s a song, a picture, a gift received. I’ve removed the powerful triggers from my life. I’m no longer feeding the strong ghost. She’s starving to death.
2). Fight the strong ghost with a stronger presence. The more active you are, the weaker the strong ghost becomes. Activity, accomplishment, sweat, pain, solace, love, peace, all work to slay the strong ghost.
3). Prevent the ghosts of bad financial decisions. Bad investments with too-good-to-be-true return promises, overextending credit cards, lending money to others (who most likely won’t pay it back), feed the strong ghost.
4). Allow the strong ghost to have its way. Let the strong ghost absorb you. Invite it in. Sooner or later, you’ll be so sick of it, it will disappear out of pure disgust for its presence. Too much attention will force your mind to expel the strong ghost. You’ll reach a saturation point.
5).  Recognize the signs of a strong ghost that waits in the wings. There is a person or addiction, or behavior you can currently classify as a potential strong ghost. It’ll be something you’ll recognize. Something that sparks you, inspires you. Makes your heart beat faster. Strong ghosts disguise themselves in chains of enlightenment. Respect the power and understand how the presence may be fleeting. You’ll learn to appreciate the moment more or recognize when the ghost has the power to be evil, debilitating.
There are many souls that cross your path. Many are innocent.
Then there are the ones. The strong ones. The ones that linger.
The ones that make you thankful to be alive.
And can take your life away.
In a moment’s notice. 
When you least expect it. 
And you’re going to love every minute of it. 
strong ghost

What Are Your Shackles? Understand the Ties that Bind.

1974: Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn New York. 1AM.

Your father wants to see you, he’s really hurting,” the man in the white coat said.

“He’s not my father. He tried to kill me tonight.”

“Now, there’s no reason to be ashamed, he has a problem.”

“Yes, he’s an addict who has bad aim with big kitchen knives.” Bob just missed my sleeping face and there was a pillow at home with a chef’s knife still sticking out of it to prove it.  I craved to stick it in a doctor that night.

“Your mother even says you’re the son.”

“My mother is nuts, too.”

I never witnessed anyone in real life in a straitjacket before. I didn’t believe there were such things as real padded rooms either, except for what I saw on on Looney Tunes cartoons. I loved what happened on my tiny black and white TV screen because it wasn’t supposed to be real. It was a wonderful rabbit-eared escape that kept me sane.

To this day I don’t understand the popularity of reality programming. I watch TV to escape all semblance of reality. At the time of this writing I’m reading how sit-coms are making a strong comeback. Thank God. Haven’t we all had enough reality for one lifetime? And the real cruel game God plays on us now is we all live much longer. He’s like the cat who toys with the mouse before he rips its head off. I can’t spend 80 years obsessing over Kim Kardashian’s ass and be healthy. Can you?

How far from reality can you go on a bottle of wine?

There I was-God’s mouse in a cage. Locked in a padded room (I heard the heavy strength of the door as it closed tight behind me). Alone with the asshole who tried to kill me a couple of hours earlier. He was sitting at the edge of a long steel table. Secured in a straitjacket. Rocking back and forth. I remember the room was cold. Super cold. Like morgue cold.

I remember this man. After many decades. And not because he tried to kill me. Mom’s boyfriend number 30, or something like that. I recall how incredibly tragic he was. Didn’t seem to mind being restrained. What was another chain, another demon, I guess? He was overrun, overpowered by the chains. Alcoholic, drug addict, bad hair, a greasy ducktail from the 50’s, and fortunately for me, bad aim with a chef’s knife.

He begged me to move closer. I did. Through his tears, through his repeated apologies, his bouts of anger, this boy toy was a curiousity to me. I wanted to understand how he ticked so I wouldn’t tick the same. His clock was way off from the rest of the world, the functioning people. In this room, his clock appeared oddly at home. Calm. Like his clock found the proper wall. Or off-the-wall. His eyes were dull. For a moment, I thought I could see demons floating in his pupils. Perhaps that’s what it means to have that “crazed look.”

Is this crazy enough for you? I’ve been there.

Never forget: We’re all shackled. We’re always three bad actions from insane. Granted, some people are shackled more than others. Some indeed require to be chained more than others. It keeps the rest of us alive and safe. Yet without shackles, you’re not alive. You’re not human. And God has already decided you’re going to live longer. Great huh.

Random Thoughts:

1). Know what shackles you.  Let’s face it. We have them. We own them. Several were created by others because we allowed it. Many were created in our own minds and have no basis in today, the now. Because kids called me fat in grade school, in my mind I’m still fat. No matter what. I have a fat shackle. Frequently, I’m amazed, as I observe myself, others, how as society we fail to have a solid grip on the chains that bind us. List them. After all, you’ve been living with them a long time now. Feel the weight of them. In your head. Around your wrists. Strangling you.

2).  What are your shackles made of? Understand the compositions. Some shackles will be thicker and harder to break than others. Like addictions for example. Identify and prioritize which shackles to work on cutting first. And don’t be shocked to see how long it takes to completely sever the bad shackles. And don’t be shocked to grasp how the chains are never truly broken. You will need to be aware of them the rest of your life. And as you know, you’re probably going to live to be 100.

3). What shackles your ability to gain wealth? Bad money habits most likely were passed on through your observations of others’ chains. How did your parents handle money? What is your very first money memory? How has early money behavior affected your current situation? It’s never too late to change it up. Cut the mental shackles that prevent you from becoming financially independent. Since you’re going to live a long time, it doesn’t matter if you’re 40, or 50. Just start cutting. Now.

4). Not all shackles are bad. Positive chains like saving, not misusing credit, studying, writing, exercising, sleeping are all healthy. List the good shackles too. Learn to make them stronger. Every day. Over time they will be thicker and stronger than your weaker links.

5). What’s your padded cell made of? Is it really so bad to be locked away? Where do you go to recharge? What do you do to recharge? Sharpen your saw. Love the quiet. Don’t be afraid to be alone with yourself. Still. You need the padded cell more than ever.

“I’m sorry I tried to kill you,” padded Bob said.

I shattered his nose. Hit him perfect. Apology accepted.

On occasion, I understand broken shackles can be fun.

No matter how long you live.