How Do You Harness Uncertainty?

Any day now, I’ll be out of the worst part of IRS collections.   Any day now, I’ll be done and the IRS will acknowledge that my total outstanding liability is under $25,000.   And any day, I’ll be no longer subject to weekly calls with a revenue officer hunting down my status.  I’ve come a long way.  I started out owing over $91,000 just to them.  So there’s some pride there.  My number say I owe $23,900.  Their numbers will undoubtedly be different by a smidgen, but I continue to pay weekly to them to get that debt out of my hair.

The uncertainty though is hard to contend with.  Look, the bottom line is that they are gonna put me on some type of payment plan.  Most likely it’ll be $500 a month, far, far less than what I’ve been paying.   That will be a relief, cash flow wise.   I’ll be able to breathe a little and relax.

But it’s not known.  It could be another month of the same old ‘report to the revenue officer.’  It could be that my 2005 returns are wanting, and they want more info that I’ll have a hard time supplying.   It could be that they are gonna say I owe more.  Anything is possible.

Tom Petty says that the waiting is the hardest part.

Dealing with the weight is a wait and a distraction I don’t know–quite how to process.  On the one hand, it’ll either be good news or no news.

But the waiting is the hardest part.

I am mentally having a hard time with it.  I know that one of the biggest joys of my life is coming in about 6 months when I write that final “F-off” check to the IRS.  I want that to happen this year, in 2009, in the heart of the recession.   But the distraction of the maybe is something that the linear part of me can’t deal with.  I’m having a difficult time focusing on my lists & tasks.

I know–a little bit–what it’s like to have a loved one with a grim prognosis.   The uncertainty kills.  It’s part of the reason why mortgage brokers got so much money.  They bore the burdens of financial uncertainty along with their clients.  I’ll let you all know what happens, it’ll be sometime in July that the finish line will honestly and actually be in sight.  That I’ll be able to dash for it, and get the merciless evil that is the IRS out of our life.

Then I’ll work on the rest of my debt.

Miles to go, but I see the path at least.

More later.  Cutting some videos for thesis blogs.

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

Delusional.  That’s how I’ve been for a while.  2008 was probably the first year I used the shovel to dig out of my hole and not dig deeper.  It happened out of necessity, really.  Living with the IRS and the specter of having them levy you at all times will do that. But I was still treading water.

How could that be?  I was making good money.  But I was trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it.  Never was gonna happen.  The drowning feeling, the mystery surrounded me for years.   I had plenty o good moments.  And last year, I cut my debt from 6 figures to 5 figures.   (Presently, including EVERYTHING, ~$80k  and we’re gonna have a full & final accounting shortly).

I’ll tell you:

  1. No Accounting: To this day I have no clue where my money went.  I would mindlessly buy $20 worth of nothing at Target and then go home.  I had no coherent plan (still in its nascient form).  I would put stuff on the debit card.  Solition:  A “no exceptions” cash only policy.
  2. Trying to do too much/not having patience: I tried hard to pay it all all at once.  I moved the hell out of the needle on the IRS, but everything else was chewing me up.  My cash position bit.  I wanted to pay all of everything.  I knew–last year at least–that the problem was acute.  I didn’t have a way to pay it.  Solution:  (see paragraph)
  3. Not declaring victory. It’s gruelling paying off debt, being cash starved.  Last year, I paid off a bunch through surrender of retirement and other means.  I moved my net worth, too, even considering the tax penalties and bloodbath that was the market.   But I didn’t celebrate, say  when I hit milestones.   (The big one that’s coming is this: IRS < 25k).   Solution:  Figure out a reward, and feel good about it.
  4. Denying Reality: I do have ability.  I can sell.  I can help.   I have had 35,000 months more than once.   But, I would double count my months and pipeline and not be finely in tune with what I was making, had made and was about to make.   This meant that I always thought that a massive payment-to-debt was a day or two away.  It never came, and I continued to tread water.  Solution: Read The Simple Dollar and then go get Your Money Or Your Life.   Even 1/2 way through it it’s UH-MAY-ZING what a difference it makes.

Solution to #2:  I had a bunch of debts that weren’t going anywhere.  I let them be.  So, I had a $1200 credit card balance that was lingering for months.  Initially, I went to a revenue system.  4% of my top line revenue went to that payment.  That was a big help.  If I got a $1,000 check?  4%, baby.  $3,000 check?  4%, baby.   That was the first technique that pulled me out, because honestly, if you got whacked by 4% you’re probably not gonna feel it.

The second way I solved the problem was something I learned from @philiphodgen.  Daily payments.  Take debt divide by 100.   I just started initiating that one with a $4700 debt.  I’m 12 days in, and I’m doing 3% gross revenue and 47.00 a day.  I’m held more accountable to this than I had been in the past.  It’s a blast seeing that my debt is going down quickly.

I’ll move on from money tomorrow,

Play To Your Strengths. (Grokking Marcus Buckingham)

We all have weaknesses.  Everyone.  Some people lack the acuity to know what they are, but for those of you that write & read blogs, you’re probably self aware enough to understand what a weakness you have.  A couple of mine are: focusing on one thing for a long time (ADD) and  organization.  They hurt me sometimes and they come in pairs.

Not looking for help on those atm, kthanks.  Trying to make peace with my wiring.

Point is there are so many qualities that, done right and without a limit make someone really spectacular.  Consider:

  • Getting things done FAST.
  • Being totally ACCURATE
  • Being CHEAP
  • Being Luxurious
  • Being flexible.
  • Being  focused.

In many cases all desirable traits.  But fast fights accurate.  Cheap fights luxurious.   Flexible and focused get into tussles.  Yet we want–or managers want to have ALL those qualities.  To be some sort of shamman of everything.

Now, I believe that people who get their biases are better.  DiSC profiles and their ilk are useful for understanding–not overcoming–the way you’re wired.  Being wired to do things a certain way isn’t bad.  Having a skill or bias isn’t bad.

Trying to be more of something your not is a surefire path to insanity though.  Trying to get someone that needs to (in their soul) do things 100% accurately to speed up some is dumb.  Putting them in a position (editor) where accuracy is the only currency that is valued is a big damm win.   Feeling bad about how your wired is dumb.  Usually.  You might be a sociopath and–of  course–it’s 100% fine to feel bad about that.  But, since you’re a sociopath it’s unlikely that you will.

I digress tonight.

The real thing is that we loathe most our weaknesses of character when they appear in others.  We admire most the things we wish we had.  But we gotta make peace with that and try to figure out what we do right & do it right & play up to that strength.

Be world class at what you’re wired for.  Make big gains in what comes naturally, and get a bit better at what doesn’t.  But don’t beat yourself up for being a pitbull or a golden retriever.  They’re both useful dogs.

Bullying People Is A Distraction: False Courage and a Monday Mea Culpa.

First, a friend passed this along to me.  DiSC-InspirationalPattern Click it to make it all big and such. I think.  I do

Al Pacino’s character in “A Scent of A Woman.” had one of the coolest speeches ever.  He was a ruthless dude, a poet’s soul that barked order’s at the world to obscure his mediocrity.  I know the type.

This speech, and another one where he talks to Charlie and says “It’s all right Charlie. You break my heart son. All my life I’ve stood up to everyone and everything because it made me feel *important*. You do it… because you mean it. You’ve got integrity Charlie. I don’t know whether to shoot you or adopt ya.”.

This above one was the more famous.  About 2/3 of the way through, he says that he knew the right path.  (Start at 4:30) “I have come to the crossroads.  I always knew…what the right path was….but I never took it.”

Amen, brother.  It’s hard.  Right now, it’s hard.  It’s gonna be hard later.

False courage is easy.  People are mostly sheep.  They are mostly afraid.  Notice this?  Any employee of a coproration hasn’t had to do what I do to make a living.  They just have to get sheered.  Over…and over.  Statement of fact.   I’m tougher.  I don’t have that thing in your soul that makes other people’s insanity tolerable (sometimes I generate my own).

Part of me does that.  I will–and do–stand up to anyone.  It’s easy.  It’s easy to pick a fight and it’s easy to pressure morons and liars into doing your bidding.  What they say in the Fight club is true: it’s tough to get someone to fight you.  People back down and wither.  You put pressure on an individual, and they buckle.   You win, you get your way.  But that’s not courage.

But it’s a DISC-D ruse/distraction.  Deal is, bullying people is a distraction.  It’s always easy.    It’s false courage.  It’s stupid.  Even the IRS Agents don’t like my jabs.  Nobody does.  Easy to be a loud dog.  Harder to pick your bullets.

Honesty, Mortgage Brokers, Subprime

Really digging into “Your Money Or Your Life” right now.  It’s a different personal finance book.  It really engages your mind; it’s got nine steps, and all of them take some personal commitment.  But when done, all of the nine steps make you accurate, honest and meticulous.

The first step is figuring out your lifetime income along with your net worth.  REALLY figuring it out, no guesses, get tax forms from the IRS figuring it out.  And it takes time.

Honesty is something that’s come up lately a lot.  I’m not perfect yet.  I want to be better, and get as close to honesty as I can.  Nobody does things perfectly–not me, nobody.  I’m certainly more honest than I was a year ago, and more than I was five year ago.

But most of the lying that we do is lying to ourselves.  I have been a good income earner most of my life.  Had a couple rough years (2001, 2006), but since I started working, I’ve not had that part of the equation be a fail.  I have failed in other areas–and it’s knowing this that allows me to be free from it.  I overspent on advertising.  I never really understood where business was coming from.

When you have a lapse in integrity, it’s important to man up.  To fix it PLUS one.  I had a recent dealing with Infusionsoft that is like that. The salesperson, Lou Caporaletti was lazy.  He offered me a favor that didn’t appear to be within his authority.  He overcharged my credit card.  This was an error, but he acted entitled, like I was doing him a favor when I wanted to be put right.  I didn’t ask for the favor.  He offered, I accepted.  When I wanted to hold him to it, he excused himself from telling the truth by saying, “Hey, it’s not like I was making money on the deal.”

Not a bad guy, but he made a mistake that he refused to correct.  I get 100 hits a day on CRM Reviews, and my Infusionsoft review, when it comes, will be tempered by this horrific experience and the fact hat he felt comfortable doing this.  But, I digress.  He wasn’t dishonest, he was lazy.  He made a promise he didn’t have authority to make, and when it went awry, he didn’t fix it.  The net effect is still dishonesty.

That said, I am seeking myself, and I reamain optimistic about the use of Infusionsoft.  It was built with a lot of care, and I’ll have it set up in a week or so, and let you know how I fare.

Your Mortgage Broker Didn’t Lie: He Just Didn’t Look Things Up

That’s how most lies are.  They are told for the sake of expedience.  People want to appease one another, end tension and get through the conversation.  They say any old thing, lacking precision.  We do that to ourselves.  For years, I didn’t worry about my looming IRS and other financial issues because I can earn money.  (Not as much as I think, my top line is OK but I piss away too much to earn it, and don’t do that math–If I earn $160k and spend 40k to get there, I forget the 40k and think of the 160k).

The lending industry was like that.  Most of the time, the lender just wanted to figure out what the initial rate was, where it capped, and that was it.  They wouldn’t familiarize themselves with the terms, so they’d pitch a deal with reasonably good intentions, the only problem is was that they are lazy, and didn’t bother to look too much up.

The net effect of not being meticulous is dishonesty.  People make mistakes, but not finding the information, not possessing it is the same thing as lying about it. I don’t know if it’s as bad as trying to defraud someone or not.  It’s just not a standard for me.

What Are You Lying To Yourself About?

Iliarliarposter spent my 20′s earning–and spending–a lot of money.

I earned money from being a Real estate agent, and I spent money on nothing.  I had the ostrich head in sand problem for a long time.  Have played at this, but never DONE it.

I’m not unusual.  I have some cash in the bank, but when you take the IRS, the people I borrowed from to bail myself out of the IRS, and everything else, my net worth is -89,000.   That’s negative.  I’m 89,000 in the hole, and happy that I’m not in jail.  In the last 9 years, I’ve only had 2 years that were under six figures.   The bulk of the damage, the state and IRS tax bill that was once $170,000 is now down to $25,000.  It’ll get knocked out. And it’ll make a good story.

I honestly believed it to be less till recently.   I had made a $25,000 clerical error.  A GIGO problem.  A spreadsheet that I worked on had bad data.  But it was interesting, I think.

I hid this stuff from people.  Mostly myself.  I knew how to earn money, and I paid some lip service to frugality, but it was a ruse.  I didn’t care, I figured I’d be a millionaire soon.  Phil Hodgen, International Tax Lawyer (and good friend) says, that the “second you don’t need a Mercedes anymore is when you’ll get one.”   The dissipation of every bit of money I had on stupid schemes that would get me out of the last failed plan was kind of how I lived.  I was grasping for whatever.  When we got rid of the real estate and moved into a dive, things changed, our focus changed some.  Hopefully it’s not too late.

I didn’t spend a lot of money on advertising, I pissed it away on restaurants, shiny tech gadgets, clothing for my wife.  Oh, yeah, and rental properties that were a Bad Idea for anyone to own, that I didn’t care about.  The whole time, I hated my job.  There’s plenty to like to being a Realtor, I just didn’t have the passion for it.

Anyway, I lied to myself for a long time.  See, I had income.  Things are fine, I’m still a smart kid.  I made money, so I can’t be failing.   I’ll fix it later.  Who cares, everyone has these problems.  Thing is, they are preventable.

In the long run we’re all dead.  That’s what Keynes said.  But the thing is, how we lived matters.  I can’t endure the stress of it.  Deal is: I had all the means to have a good pile of wealth now.  Somehow, my ego never let me feel this.  I always find some excuse, some reason that everything was still OK.

It’s not OK.  The debt is suffocating.  I’ve taken it from $150ish (realmoney) to $89.  Now it’s time to home stretch this thing and get this smoked forever.  It’s all survivable, and it’s all a distraction.  You can’t operate with debt, not like you can in reality.  Think about this:  At 10% (my average interest) I’m paying $9,000 a year, or $750/month to debt.

Think about that.  That’s before I do anything, I gotta pony that money up.

It’s fixable, though.  I’m earning at a good clip.

I’m pretty sure at this point that there aren’t going to be any other ‘surprises’.  I honestly had believed that the debt was down below $20k.   And it’ not, and so this thing is going in a google doc.  that google doc is gonna get iframed into the sidebar.  And I’ll be updating it once a month.  All the component parts of the debt will get added in.    I’ll do this tomorrow.

I want to be transparent for selfish reasons.  I’m not bragging.  I’m currently doing pretty well.  I collected up all my debts and spreadsheeted ‘em.  I’m going to get rid of them one by one as fast as I can.  The first goal is a $4800 loan that costs $200 a month and is at a ghastly 14% interest.    I can do it.

Here are some personal finance bloggers:

The Simple Dollar – more consumerist than I’d like to be, but better than I am.

Five Cent Nickel – opinionated.  Tough.  And good.