Let’s face it, this hasn’t been much of a year for people – as economic distortions are popping out all over the place.

One example, from my own family:  My son (G II) up in Seattle can make more driving for an online ride-sharing program than he can working as an EMT and even some paramedics don’t make what a busy rider-sharer in a “hot market” can make.

Extremes like this – where people pay for convenience – are intrinsic to economic bubbles.  It was so during the late 1920’s, too:  People would pay for their pleasures and it was almost as though people put on a peculiar set of “blinders” and couldn’t see the distortions of Reality as they appeared.  Instead, they went to great lengths to convince themselves that “This is the NEW normal.”

Bad news is?  Most things eventually revert to historical norms.

So with that as our starting mantra (There is nothing new under the Sun, as Ecclesiastes reassures) that we offer some useful ways to work on personal growth this weekend in some areas that might pay dividends of a non-financial type.  Like by remaining free and alive, for instance…

  • Perform a personal year-end audit.

Every year in December I go through the books and consider our net worth closely.  Just a simple balance sheet:  Assets minus Liabilities results in Owner’s Equity.

On the one side is the current market value of every asset (or billable item) own.  On the other, every debt associated with each line.

So a few lines might be:

House market price minus sales costs equals home value.

Home value minus what you owe on it results in Home Equity.

The family car is a lot easier:

Worth of car is sold to third party.  Less what you owe.  That results in Owner’s Equity.

Do that for Everything – and even if you don’t remember how much all that stuff charged on credits cards might have actually cost, don’t forget to jot down all your credit card debts as well.

When you’re done, write it down so you can compare the figures next year.  If the number next year is lower, with sufficient detail lines written down today, you will be able to trouble-shootize your financial condition next year.

  • Find 4 Ways to Reduce Operating Costs

Now that you know where all the money went at the macro level, it’s time to drill down into specific bills.

Let’s take the power bills: Do you have a plan to swap out all your lighting from CFL to LED?  Do you have motion timers in rooms where lights tend to be left on all the time?  Can you set the water heater a few degrees colder?  Dial-back thermostat on the heat system for nighttime?

Even here at Uretopia, we go through this exercise.  That leads to thought problems like:  “If we cut down trees X, Y, and Z to increase the amount of solar hitting the panels, is that worth $*** per month of enjoyment of the shade for us and the animals around here?”  ( I play Paul Bunyan, Elaine plays Princess of Carbon Sequestration in what follows…)

  • Get – and Keep – Yourself “Audit Proof”

I can’t say enough good things about our middle-upper class Fujitsu sheet scanner.  It allows us to scan every single document that we write a check for that may be business related.

Then, when comes time to fill out tax filings, EVERYTHING is a click away.

Weekends like this are when I go through and make sure all the bills that haven’t been filed have been assigned to the right “digital bins” so, for example, our structure looks something like this:

And it goes on.

Under Vendors, for example, we have sub folders for things like the Garbage, the Water, the phones, the satcoms, the…well, you got it, right?

We scan 100 percent of everything that comes in and back everything up.  Plus there’s a box that lives in the storage building holding the physical copies.

Taxes are like driving the speed limit:  If you’re honest and don’t push the limit, there’s nothing to fear.  And if you have your proof of everything…there’s no debating as long as you’re not writing off that vacation cruise as a business expense…unless you have a more risk-loving tax advisor than we do…

  • Prepare to Die

Like we’re going to live forever, right?  This is the time of the year when the annual will updates are done.  Who’s in, who’s out, different portions and allocations, remembrances and whatevers.

But, there’s a lot more than just a will.  Some time with a financial advisor to try and sort things out so when you pass, you won’t be passing on an insurmountable amount of work.

Here’s the thing:  Trusts are a useful way to avoid going through probate, but, if not done just so, they may result in taxable into to the heirs.  So, find someone who knows the rules in the state you live in.

Do your “Dead Letter” update, as well.  This is something we covered in the Peoplenomics side of things a number of years back.  Idea is that there is a ton of “wishes” that don’t go into a Will.  Things like “A toast at my wake” and “Toast to my parents” and emotional items like that.  “See that so-and-so gets such and such.”

We have an upcoming Peoplenomics report on how to pass on the “keys to the business” if you haven’t retired.  This is where we outline how to disperse passwords and business account signons to trustworthy people and the step-by-step process to close down things like your FB and PayPal and bank accounts and trading accounts and… well, you know, stuff that isn’t in a “will” per se.

  • Prepare to Live a Lot Longer

Elaine and I both have doctor appointments in the next couple of weeks.  We will be getting things like our pneumonia shots and such because we have kicked around things that could be high risk health issues.  (I’m debating the shingles shot, for example).

Weight and fitness matter, so make a year end entry so you can look at it next year.

  • Plan an Adventure

One of ours is to head out West and visit the Chaco Culture national Historical Park.

  • Plan a New Skill

I want to do a garden that Elaine doesn’t have to end up saving.

  • Make a Kick-Ass Meal 

You have today, tomorrow, and Monday.

I’m thinking a slow crockpot stew that we can munch on,…

So with that, the last, but, to me, the most useful of all our tips to think about today:

  • 3 Things to Make Your Life Better Next Year

How to get the laundry done in half the time?  How to only really cook 2 days a week?  Go out to dinner X times per month?  Hell, this is your list… make up what makes you happy.

But then just remember it’s the doing  that matters.

Write when you get rich,


Rebranding Retirement
Year-End Pseudo-Normal