Thursday, September 29, 2011


Not long ago someone asked me what would be my top desired investments based on my In The Trenches experiences?  This list is provided for discussion purposes only as I do not consider or purport myself near the level I could be and have had so many ups and downs that might lead some to coronary problems. I am often more of an observer and reader and am happy to pass on the observations I have made when my opinion has been asked. Opinions are free, everybody has one.

Here they are in order, but, I'm saving #1 until last.

2.  Pay off debt.  What?  Why would I put that as an investment?  Because of the interest that will ultimately be paid and a step to financial freedom.  The quickest way to keep money and be able to invest in something is to be free of debt.  Not only does it put more money in your pocket each month but the freedom allows one to come and go, change jobs, and make other financial decisions and risks without the overhead to consider.

3.  Food storage plan.  Whether this involves shelves in the garage, planting a garden or vegetables, or raising ones own meat all can save money, provide flexibility, and make one less dependant on the fluctuating grocery store prices.  It is also a good way for those to begin saving who have had difficulty in the past.  It's so easy to spend that $5 bill you have set aside but not as easy to trade a case of refried beans even though the value of the second may be more than the first.

4.  Real Estate.  This was the top investment of everyone I have known who has done well over the long term.  Now with prices down there are plenty of good deals to choose from and investing in real estate now may save someone else from going through foreclosure while still increasing ones own balance sheet.  A win/win deal can double the benefit.  Most people think of residential property when the words real estate are mentioned and that is included but also there is timberland, agricultural land, and rental properties.

5.  Agriculture and livestock.  This is the only investment that reproduces on it's own sometimes 10 to 20 fold in a year.  Some projects can be done in as small a space as your own backyard.  Start small and reasonably so you can learn everything there is to know.  Because these are living creatures they deserve all the love and care we can give them.  Our efforts therefore need to be made with that as our top goal, not greed and potential profit. I have raised cows, birds, goats, and horses.  A friend of mine had a very successful income from a pair of dogs. Another has raised many varieties of tomato plants and still another sells flowers and dahlia bulbs. My biggest mistakes came from not knowing or trying to move ahead too quickly.

6.  Precious metals.  The easiest way to start is with one ounce silver rounds available at any coin shop.  I began buying in the depth of our hardship with 1 per month.  It was a small goal but one I was able to keep.  If absolutely necessary I could cash it in but because of the hassle of a trip to the city the temptation was not as great as keeping cash around the house.  BUT, now is NOT the time.  Prices are high.  Let the speculators take whatever hit that may occur.

I have written blog posts on each of these topics so check the side bar if any have peaked your interest.  There are heading under investments, food storage, real estate, etc.

And, now the most important and #1 investment:

1. Yourself, your family, and the causes you believe in.  In the end, when all is said and done this will really be all that matters.  Even if you are never able to achieve many financial goals it is your friends, family, and community who will remember the investments you made in them. This is the fullness of wisdom.  In this I speak not of buying any pleasure or gift that one may desire at the moment or indulging every fleeting whim.

If a person loves music support it with an instrument or lessons.  My friend loves quilting so she invests in fabric and makes beautiful items for her home and family.  For some it will be books, education, sports, or other activities to use their talents or advance their skills.  Even showing up to a teenagers football game and giving them a pat on the back is an investment in their future and well being.  As I reflect on my childhood I remember those who always gave me a smile, made the best pies, and the lady who took the time to teach me to knit.

Another variation of this is to use money saved to start ones own business venture.  Rather than taking on a big debt for an untried idea when starting small and learning along the way you won't be as apt to get in over your head.

Many contribute to churches, the needy, animal shelters, or other causes close to their heart.  These things are what ultimately give a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Life is short.  Live it the best we can and invest wisely with both time and money.  When we do this we cannot lose on our investment.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How long will the American Economic Crisis last?

My apologies:  after this was posted I realized that a chunk had accidentally been deleted so the story was incomplete.  I am putting the missing piece in bold for a couple days so that those who received the original via subscription can easily spot it.  Here is the corrected version,:

Last winter I had a discussion regarding the Economic Crisis and how long we could expect it to last.  My friend is high level in the business world and was optimistic that large businesses were accumulating capital and soon would be in a position to begin spending on development, recovery, and expansion.  He estimated at that time that it would take only a few months more to see the beginnings of improvement.

I responded by pointing out that when I last checked that the number of households on food stamps was 20 million plus and that it would take substantially longer for any improvement to reach them and until it did there would be a continual drain on the system.

Since that time I have heard and seen similar conversations everywhere I turn.  This is such an important and talked about subject that the Gallup Poll does a daily summary  of the economic outlook and posts it on their website along with other statistics such as satisfaction with what the president is doing, unemployment rate, and consumer spending.  Some of these numbers are based on specific facts and some of them are based on perception and/or opinion.

What is interesting is that perception can have just as much impact as the facts.  We have often witnessed the stock market go up and down like a yo yo not because of any specific event but because somebody said something and everyone was encouraged and/or got scared. 

Come on...  is that really any good way to run a country's economy?  Does that even make any sense?  Especially when we, the American people have no control over someone else's optimism or their sour mood.  I have seen more strategic betting at the horse races where at least a person contemplating a bet may have studied the genetics, confirmation, jockey record, trainer, health, and record of the horse.  And, we know that there is no sure thing in a horse race and most people who consistently play the ponies end up broke despite the bragging they do about the days they may have won.

When the discussion of the American Economy comes up I think that often it is not what is going on in the national spectrum that really matters to those having the conversation.  Many times the real underlying questions are:

How is this going to affect ME?
How long will I have to hold on?
I'm scarred.  Is it going to get better?

These are the questions I wanted to address today because I think that is the one that people are most often REALLY asking.

As I pondered this post I remembered an experience that makes the point that I wanted to share.

Most people in the city take the fact that they can flush the toilet and everything will go away for granted.  It is very cool but we don't often think about it.  I lived for 20 years in a rural community and things were not that way.  Most of the homes did not have a community waste disposal service, they had private septics.  Some of our readers will know what I'm talking about but for those who don't I will give a brief explanation.  (yes, this is an interesting story so please bear with me).

A private septic system usually has a main holding tank where all the waste products go including water from the sinks, washing machine, and the toilets.  When the tank reaches certain levels the overflow goes into pipes referred to as a drain field.  These pipes have holes so that the excess liquid will be safely disbursed two to three feet under the ground.  Especially in a dry summer a person can spot where the drain field is because the grass is greener.  Someone from the city might comment on the nice grass and someone from the rural area will knowingly nod their heads and smile.

Part of the maintenance on a septic system is to have it pumped occasionally.  There are certain environmentally safe things that one can do to delay this but at some point it will need to be done and is often evidenced by the tub draining slowly or toilet failing to flush properly or the leeching of stuff onto the ground around the tank.  When a person buys a home in a rural area this is one of the first systems they ask for an inspection of to insure it is in working order.

Stick with me here...I know that some of you are blown away by now and mentally making weird noises to yourself.  I was raised in the suburbs so I know exactly what your mind is going through as mine did the same thing when it was first explained to me.

The day came when it was evident that the septic needed repairing in the home where I lived.  With dread the task was approached.  The septic pumper was called but before he could do his job the lid of the tank had to be uncovered.  It was located right under a mess.  Three big men and 5'3" me stood around all looking at the unpleasant task.  To lighten the mood I said something to the effect of "Okay, which of you is man enough to handle this?"  They all looked at one another sheepishly, looked down, avoided my eye, and nobody moved.  I looked around at each of them and my thought at that moment was "Oh, you have got to be kidding".  After continuing to wait a couple more moments I turned into my chloric side and told them all to stand back and get out of my way.  No, it probably was not my nicest tone of voice.

My anger fueled my shovel and I approached the task with zest.  My farm coat, boots, gloves, and shovel handle all were a mess but the job got done and I marched in to get cleaned up.  The septic was pumped and re-covered and the drain field was fixed.  We were back in business.

So is the American Economic crisis.  Many are standing around the mess waiting and watching and blaming to see who is going to get in and do the dirty work.  The ideas may sound good on t.v. but talk doesn't accomplish anything. Nothing will get better unless action follows.  This may mean becoming unpopular and making tough decisons but though elections may be a popularity contest strong leadership seldom is.

The crisis will end and things will get better when each of us "man up" and start digging no matter how unpleasant the task is.  We start with the things that effect our own families and our debts are the equivalent of the mucky mess of the septic.  We may get dirty, we may get grossed out, and we may get tired but it is the digging that is going to get the systems flowing and working properly again.

If you don't know where to start or have been working on things and don't know where to go next keep asking, keep learning, keep on keeping on. 

And, IF once we all, or at least the majority of us, get going in the right direction I would say 5 years.  That would be the first two for restructuring and clean-up, the next two in recovery, and the 5th year to begin building and investing again.  Of course it will vary by family.  It seems like an awful long time but we have a lot of work to do.   In the end we can be a stronger and better nation then we have been before.  The adults of this generation have the task, responsibility, and the opportunity to make a lasting and positive change.  We just need to get In The Trenches.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thought for the day

"When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
... Rest, if you must - BUT DON'T YOU QUIT!"


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get free advertising with VISTAPRINT

With the change of economic circumstances many have turned toward side jobs to supplement or replace their income.  But the big question arises about how to get the word out about your business or service without spending a lot of money.

The readers of In The Trenches know that I do not have advertising as part of the blog format because why would I encourage cutting back and at the same time placing ads to encourage one to buy?  I discovered Vistaprint from a recommendation from my son to help provide the tools for promoting the book.  I have had so much fun and am so pleased with the company that I wanted to pass on the information to you so that it might help promote your business, community work, or blog.

Here are some of the things I have ordered for FREE:

Business Cards


Vistaprint has brochures, stationary, hats, rubber stamps, preprinted checks, and there are hundreds of styles to choose from or use your own logos and photos. So far I have been very pleased at their selection and service. Of course they are in this to make money but they have a generous free and sample program to get you started. As your needs and business grow they can be a helpful resource. They also do web hosting and mailing services. I spent and enjoyed an entire afternoon just browsing through their products and designs and tonight found that you can also make caricatures....sounds fun.
Next on In The Trenches...When will this economic crisis be over?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How goes the battle?

After a long break from writing I'm picking up the computer again and will start posting.  I want to thank everyone who continued to check in, read the old posts, and pass the word along about the free online copy of In The Trenches.  Although I have no way of knowing how many have actually read the book because I didn't install an accurate counter I do know that a minimum of 3,500 have checked in.  It's a good start and all the more impressive since I have not touched the blog since I have made it available.

Today I began with a few small changes to the site including the copy of the new book cover. An artist friend of mine graciously added some zip to the logo.  The content is the same.  So for those of you who purchased the original copy on Amazon you truly have a very limited edition.

I am messing around with the colors and styles of the blog so if you stop in and find a pink background one of these days...oops.  Now I'm trying to remember how to use all these buttons that allow me to to all this amazing stuff but I have forgotten how to use.

Other changes include the addition in the side bar that shows the readers top choice favorite posts.  The posts for the ERE book have been very popular and Jacob is doing an amazing job at selling his book.  And, there is good reason for that.  These tools are what America needs RIGHT NOW to not only survive but prosper.  The resources, opportunities, and freedom we have in this country are just too much to fail unless we ourselves do not take the plow and move forward.  I have also been following Joe's posts at Personal Finance By The Book and he has taken his writing to an entirely new level.  It will challenge us all and for those who are Christians it will enable the most important element of God's blessings on our efforts.

I would love to hear how things are going with those of you who are in the battle.  What changes have you made to your financial management and how are they working out for you? Are you seeing improvement or at least holding down the fort?  What good and fun things have come out of these times?  Please feel free to post your comments or email me at inthetrenches at live (.) com.  I am also on facebook but do more reading than writing. 

In the coming days I will write about our garage sale extravganzas, the people I meet on my bus rides, how a living room was furnished for a price you would not believe, and of course will jump on my soap box as the mood strikes.  I encourage you to sign up for and email subscription so that you are aware when new items are posted.