How to Control (and Minimize) Negative Emotions

Stoicism has gotten a bad rap.

These days, when people think “stoic,” they think “emotionless.” “Indifferent to pleasure and pain” is now literally a definition of the word “stoic.”

That’s not what the Stoics were going for.

For the Stoics, the goal is not to avoid all emotion. It is to minimize negative emotion. I can see where people get confused, though.

I am often accused (usually jokingly, but often enough to take the hint) of being emotionless.

I disagree with this assessment. I feel plenty of emotions. I just try not to dwell on negative emotions.

And I try not to act on them, either. Continue reading “How to Control (and Minimize) Negative Emotions”

Why You Should Ask Why

Gretchen Rubin wrote a book on forming habits called Better Than Before.

There are a few other good books on habits (I recommend Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit), but Rubin’s big innovation was identifying different personality types. Some habit-building techniques work for some people, but there are very few universal approaches that work for everyone. Rubin divides her readers into four groups and then provides tips specific to each group.

Under Rubin’s framework, I am a Questioner.

“Questioners question all expectations, and they respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense. They’re motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. They wake up and think, ‘What needs to get done today, and why?’ They decide for themselves whether a course of action is a good idea, and they resist doing anything that seems to lack sound purpose.”

Beyond habit-building, this is a pretty good view into my permanent mindset. I ask “Why?” about pretty much everything, and if the answer is any variation of “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” then I’m out.

Continue reading “Why You Should Ask Why”

Everything You Need to Know About the New Republican Tax Plan

A lot of people in the personal finance space tune out politics and recommend that their readers do the same. I don’t agree with this approach. I follow politics closely and stay up to date on policy proposals and all sorts of nerdy wonkery.

That said, when approaching topics for this blog, I make sure that every article has a takeaway that you can use to directly improve your life. That rule helps me stay focused on helping people with my writing rather than just writing about areas of my own interest. This also means I usually don’t discuss policy proposals making their way through Congress.

In the case of the current tax overhaul, I decided that it is worth discussing here. Continue reading “Everything You Need to Know About the New Republican Tax Plan”

When Clickbait Kills

Some articles have been making the rounds on Facebook about a new study on the effects of flu shots on pregnant women. The headlines are bold:

Miscarriages Linked to Flu Vaccine

Annual Flu Shots Linked to Increased Risk of Miscarriage

Alarming Study Links Flu Shot with Early Miscarriage

Could Flu Shots Lead to Miscarriage?

Continue reading “When Clickbait Kills”

Getting Better Results in Less Time

Today I want to explore a quick tool called an 80/20 analysis that can help you achieve better results in a shorter period of time.

The 80/20 analysis is based on the Pareto Principle. This principle was named for Vilfredo Pareto, who found in the late 1800s that 80% of land in Italy was owned by 20% of Italians in the same way that 80% of the peas produced in his garden came from 20% of the peapods. This finding was one of many analyzing inequality and examining how the few end up with so much in our economies.

From this and similar findings of the tilting of economic benefits, Pareto decided that democracy was an illusion and a ruling class would always emerge from the 20%.

In modern parlance, this extreme conclusion has been ignored and the Pareto Principle has become more of a rule of thumb applied to a wide range of areas.

While my interest in politics and economics would push me to examine the implications for modern income inequality and the policy proposals to address it, this blog is about providing tools and information that is helpful to individuals.

So instead, we’ll be looking at the modern version.

(Don’t worry. I’ve found other excuses to talk about bigger issues of politics and economics.)

Continue reading “Getting Better Results in Less Time”

When is More Money Worth Your Time?

If you want to make or save more money, you’re going to need to spend your time.

Side hustles and in-depth investment strategies take time. Cutting coupons and comparison shopping take time.

Most methods for making more money or for saving more money cost you time.

When is that exchange worth it?

Continue reading “When is More Money Worth Your Time?”

Why We Need To Fail More

Much of the research that I read and write about is geared towards achieving more success.

We work on time management and productivity so that we can accomplish more. We study investing and personal finance so that we can be more successful with our money.

There is a major focus on success in our culture and not much attention paid to failure.

But maybe that’s wrong.

Maybe we should be failing more.

Continue reading “Why We Need To Fail More”

The Productivity Benefits of Letting Your Mind Wander

When I started making a concerted effort to be more productive, I knew I had to make better use of my time.

One of the early steps in this process was adding podcasts and audio books to my day. Previously, while walking to the subway or around the neighborhood, I would have just let my mind wander. I replaced this lost time with extra learning.

The extra knowledge helped. I felt more productive on my walks. But I started feeling more overwhelmed with the work I had on my plate the rest of the time. It felt like I was actually getting less done.

According to the research, I probably was.

I had lost the benefits of letting my mind wander.

Continue reading “The Productivity Benefits of Letting Your Mind Wander”

How to Succeed in the Modern Economy

Neil Irwin of the New York Times published a very interesting article on rising income inequality in America earlier this week.

The article was published by the Upshot, a team of wonks over at the Times who write nerdy, in depth, data driven policy articles. My favorite type of article.

The article took a nuanced look at the evolution of corporate culture and the rise of income inequality. It is worth a read in its own right.

But today I want to pull out just one piece of that story. A part of the story that struck me because it is a drum that I keep beating.

We are living and working in a fundamentally different economy than our parents.

Continue reading “How to Succeed in the Modern Economy”

Don’t Bank on the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Every conversation that I have had discussing the benefits of buying versus renting has eventually turned to the Mortgage Interest Deduction.

(What? Doesn’t everyone have those conversations? Just me?)

If you itemize deductions on your tax return, the Mortgage Interest Deduction allows you to deduct the interest that you pay on your mortgage from your income. This ultimately lowers your taxes and, in turn, your cost of home ownership.

This perk is often mentioned to me as a key reason for buying a home rather than renting.

There are a number of reasons why I disagree with this approach, but today I want to explore one in particular.

The Mortgage Interest Deduction could be gone soon.

Continue reading “Don’t Bank on the Mortgage Interest Deduction”