Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Dividend mapping: The craziest thing I never did

Dividend Mapping: Stupid or brilliant?

dividend-mapping2Just for fun I thought I’d share an investing concept I dreamed up quite a while back. I never actually pursued the idea because it didn’t make sense on a number of levels. In fact it was pretty dumb once I thought about it a little.

Allow me to explain.

The whole concept of pretirement is built upon the idea that once passive investments generate enough money to pay for your monthly bills, you’re financially independent. Thus, you enter into a rarely discussed era of life: pretirement. As you age and become less able to work (thereby making your risk of financial problems higher), you then enter traditional retirement, adding in your Social Security, your personal retirement funds and Medicare to give you the security you need later in life.

OK, that’s straightforward enough, right?

Now let’s talk about investing. Every investor at one point or another has heard the advice about choosing stocks to invest in by looking in your own refrigerator (or looking around your own house, etc.) The idea is pretty simple: If you are a pretty typical person, then it’s fair to say that there are a lot of other people making the same buying choices as you. Therefore the companies who make the products that fill your own home are the ones you should invest in. Classically this advice has pointed investors toward companies like Proctor & Gamble, PepsiCo or General Mills.

Dividend Mapping (a term I just made up), takes this idea a little farther.

Here’s how it would work. I’ll use my own bills as an example (with some rounding to clean it up for you. Also, this is just my share of the bills. If you want the real number with both my wife and I included, just double it.)

1. Make a list of your ongoing monthly bills with the amounts you pay.

  • Food $175
  • Seattle PUD $50
  • Seattle City Light $50
  • Gas bill – PG&E $50
  • Comcast $32
  • Cell Phones $10*
  • Car Insurance $130
  • Life Insurance $45
  • Property Taxes $220
  • Homeowner’s Insurance $25

Total: $787

2. Re-jigger your list to organize it by company. So for me:

  • Food: N/A $175
  • Seattle PUD $50
  • Seattle City Light $50
  • Gas bill – PG&E $50
  • Comcast $32
  • AirVoice Wireless $10
  • Allstate Insurance (Car, Life, Homeowner’s) $420

3. Now, see if I can “map” investments to each line item:

Only three of my core bills are publicly traded, PG&E, Comcast and Allstate. Let’s ignore the rest for now and see if I can use dividend mapping to pay those bills.

  • PG&E: I need $50 of income per month, or $600 per year.
  • Comcast: I need $32 of income per month or $384 per year.
  • Allstate: I need $420 of income per month or $5,040 per year. (Actually what I need is a lower insurance bill, but that’s a story for another day, although this certainly does illustrate how buying too much house can kill you.)

OK? Now let’s dividend-map these three:

  • PG&E pays a respectable yield of 3.94%, so I’d need to own $15,000 in PG&E stock. Actually this is pretty doable.
  • Comcast pays a dividend of 1.77%, so I’d need to own $22,000 in Comcast stock. Kind of a lot of money to throw at Comcast, but possible.
  • Allstate pays a dividend of 1.95%, so I’d need to own a whopping $258,000 in Allstate stock — that’s almost as much as my entire pretirement fund. (Are you beginning to see why I never pursued this wacky idea?)

So here’s why I like this idea and why I spent so many late night hours so long ago thinking so deeply about this.

  • There’s a poetic symmetry to the concept of essentially having a company pay for its own expense. If my Comcast dividend pays for my TV and internet, I’m likely to hate them (and the bill) a lot less.
  • It makes investing, and the concept of dividend investing, easier to understand.
  • It allows (in theory, but not really in practice for the most part) you to pick off your bills one at a time. For example, I rather like the idea of suggesting to a person on a tight budget, “As soon as you accumulate $22,000 in Comcast stock, you can order cable.”
  • The companies that you send money to each month are likely pretty decent investment opportunities for the reasons explained above. And by staying on top of your dividend map mix over the years, you would adjust to changing times. For example, I just dropped AT&T as my cell phone company. Had I been dividend map investing, I would have also liquidated my AT&T stock at the same time and moved it to my new provider, if possible. In this way, you would also theoretically be following the herd, so to speak, as customers move and adjust with the marketplace.
  • Because it does take a fair amount of money to generate the income to pay for some of these bills, this concept is great for getting you focused on your monthly expenses. Suddenly saving $5 or $10 on a monthly bill matters!

Reasons this idea is terrible:

  • The main reason I never seriously pursued this concept was one of the reasons shown by my Allstate example. Because the yield is so low relatively speaking, my money could be performing better by not using this gimmick. Who cares if there is no poetic symmetry? I need to maximize my entire fund if this is going to work.
  • The other reason made clear by my Allstate example is that it could trick you into being over-allocated into certain stocks. If I put that much (impossible in my case, but you get the idea) into Allstate, I could be very vulnerable if Allstate fell into trouble.
  • This idea could trick you into buying really poor companies just because you happen to be their customer. It could be doubly painful to be paying a company money each month on top of watching their share of your portfolio collapse.
  • Not every company is public. Utilities obviously make up a big portion of the bills we all pay each month and not every company is on the stock market, especially publicly owned utilities.
  • Some line items aren’t that simple. I’m mainly thinking of food here, but there could be others. Who do I invest in to cover my food budget? The grocery store chain? The food manufacturers?
  • It leaves out some great buys. Apple has been a great growth stock in recent years, but you would have totally missed out on it if you’d only been dividend mapping. Had you moved to AT&T because of the iPhone, that could have made both of them good buys (see the variations section.)
  • Because bills do go up, you’re not necessarily keeping up with inflation unless you’re getting stock growth or leaving some dividends in to reinvest. Depending on your strategy, this could mean you’d need to keep an extra margin invested beyond what I’ve shown here. (Plus I’m leaving out taxes and fees for these examples to keep things simple.)

Variations to consider:

Like I said, even though this idea is stupid on its face, there may be some redeeming factors to some parts of the concept, such as investing in companies that you use every day. Therefore there are a few variations to think about:

  • Buying a sector vs. individual stocks. Perhaps buying a set of food stocks, mutual fund style, instead of just a single stock could bring the yields you need as well as simplicity and safety desired.
  • Buying bonds as a proxy for your utility stocks could make some sense if you were in love with the dividend mapping concept.
  • Buying a supplier to your company could be an option if your company is private or is just not investment-worthy. For example, AirVoice Wireless uses the AT&T network. Therefore I could look at how much AT&T I’d need to cover my $10/month AirVoice bill ($2,500).
  • Buying a similar company. Perhaps I could find another insurance company to substitute for my Allstate stock.
  • Keep the mapping, but forget all the perfect symmetry nonsense. Just keep it really simple and focus strictly on the investment and ignore everything else. The idea here is really about attacking one expense at a time. So maybe you start with your smallest bill. In my case, maybe it’s my $10/month cell phone bill. Let’s say I found a company that offered a yield of 5%. I take my $2,500 in hand and buy in. Now one of my bills is gone! Then I start saving for the next bill. It’s not as pretty as the pure dividend mapping, but it’s still mapping dividend income to a specific expense.

The last point is probably the best one for people just beginning to think about financial freedom. By picking your bills off one at a time in this fashion, your goals will seem more attainable than ever. Invest until your smallest bill is covered. Then invest until the second bill is covered. And so on. I’d especially love to see young people try this approach as they gradually move toward financial freedom.

So there you have it: An entire post dedicated to something I’ve never done and don’t recommend. Aren’t you glad I didn’t waste your time?

You can give me a piece of your mind in the comments! 

My quest for a lower cell phone bill

How we saved $120 on our monthly cell phone bill

iphonexAt some point in the year 2007 I was kicking back watching a flickering image on a bulky CRT television when a breathtaking commercial appeared on the screen.

It was for a product called an “iPhone” and after viewing the ad I unfortunately spent the rest of the evening in the hospital seeking medical help for my four-hour erection.

For years I’d heard that Apple was developing a phone, but that alone didn’t prepare me for watching two fingers zoom in on a digital map. Life would never be the same. My once-amazing Motorola Razr blinked at me softly in the same way a pet might look at its owner before taking one sad, final drive to the vet.

Fortunately for my little Razr, I had at least enough willpower to hold off on buying that first generation iPhone. I’ve been around Apple products for long enough to know that they always hold back some must-have features for later generations. I also have been well aware how overpriced they can be. So I held off as long as I could while the days of my T-Mobile contract ticked down.

When the iPhone 3 was announced, I knew it was time. I was out of contract finally and the latest iPhone awaited. My wife and I hopped into her car to head to the AT&T store to surrender to the irresistible siren call of unlimited data and a full internet experience on a portable device.

With shiny new phones iPhones in hand, mine in black, hers in white, we proudly strode back to her car, excited to try out the new device. I literally watched the dot on the digital map as it moved in real-time all the way home. I spent days ruining my vision discovering new apps and exploring the world through this magical device.

My love for my iPhone waned when Apple pushed out the 4.0 iOS update to my phone, rendering it nearly useless. It devoured the battery within minutes of standby and it would take 3-4 seconds for a character to appear on-screen after being touched. The phone was basically dead. And we were furious that Apple would screw over their own customers like that.

So we trudged down to the AT&T store and bought new phones. We were allowed to retain our unlimited data package if we signed a new contract. Still angry with Apple, I got a new Android phone and my wife got a new Windows phone. And things were OK. I mean it bugged us how much our family plan cost, but what are you going to do, right?

Well, when I finally left my crappy corporate job last year to get ready for Pretired Baby, we wanted to tighten up our finances everywhere we could, but we still had quite a bit of time left on our two-year contract. It didn’t seem we had much choice but to wait.

Our perspective changed, however, when my wife recently got a new job. A job that came with an employer-paid brand-new iPhone. I decided to take the plunge and go for the cheapest possible cell phone plan I could.

Unlike when I was working as a big-shot, always-on, digital marketing genius, I no longer needed to have absolutely reliable cell phone data. I needed a smart phone, yes. I conduct most of my consulting work via email and my clients demand near-instant responses. And, let’s be honest: Once you’ve had a taste of life with a smartphone there is no going back.

I also needed to be able to make reliable outbound cell phone calls when needed now that we have no home phone line. With a baby in the house, 911 access is critical.

What I no longer needed was “unlimited data.” Nor do I need unlimited texting or a large number of minutes.

So in summary, my requirements:

  • Some sort of data package
  • Ability to make outbound calls reliably
  • Cost as low as possible
  • And I didn’t want to buy a new device

After doing quite a bit of research on the various options out there, I decided to try something pretty radical: Combine a very cheap monthly cell plan with a “free” mobile internet device. All of this built on a foundation of Google Voice.

Here’s how it works.

Everything you need for a $10 per month smartphone plan

Everything you need for a $10 per month smartphone plan

  • I transferred my phone number to GoogleVoice and make all my calls through that now.
  • I signed up for a $10/month prepaid plan from AirVoice Wireless. This plan comes with 250 minutes for 30 days of service. You can set it up with an auto-replenish so it essentially acts as a contract plan (with no contract).
  • Combine that package with a Freedom Spot Photon 4G Mobile Hotspot (Black)*, a small WiFi box that becomes my data package. The FreedomPop deal is interesting. I paid $95.99 for the device and get 500MB per month at no additional cost. I justified this purchase because I actually have long-needed a way to have cheap, handy WiFi available when I use my laptop or iPad in client meetings.

It took a few weeks to get everything dialed in and I have it working OK now, although I’m still tweaking the set-up all the time. It’s important to note that if it’s absolutely critical that you have reliable phone service, this set-up is not for you. It’s also not for anyone who doesn’t have the time or stubbornness to make it work.

Critical apps to make a lower cell phone bill possible

I needed a few Android Apps for this to function well. Here’s what I’m using right now:

  • Google Voice App – You make the majority of your adjustments to Google Voice actually through the web-based system, but you’ll still want to get the App. I think the App is actually better for iPhone than for Android for whatever reason. With Android, you can set it up so the phone asks you if you want to make a call with Google Voice or via the cell phone. I find it a little hacky. However, I’m currently doing all texting via the Google Voice App and it works pretty well.
  • Groove IP – This app substitutes for the Google Voice App for making and receiving calls. I first tried TalkaTone based on some opinion I read online, but the voice quality was terrible (a lot of delays and cross-talk) and the interface was very poorly designed. Groove IP felt almost like any other phone and the voice quality has been outstanding. Unfortunately there are some problems (see below).
  • WiFi Priority – This app is allows you to set WiFi priority dynamically so that the phone connects to various WiFi signals in the order you determine. This is important so I don’t use up my FreedomPop data allocation while I’m at home. It also saves me from having to constantly adjust settings on the phone or remember to turn off the FreedomPop. Occasionally it doesn’t switch correctly and I have to manually connect. Not sure what’s causing that, but it definitely is not 100% reliable.
  • Group Ringtones – Not strictly necessary to this structure, but a nice enhancement, Group Ringtones lets you adjust ringtones based on who is calling — but group based, not individually based. My main use for this has been to set up a spam contact group so that I didn’t have to deal with all the spam calls that I started getting on my new AirVoice number (more below).

Now this set-up only works because of one important fact that cell phone providers don’t want you to think about: You have WiFi available almost anywhere you need your phone these days. Think about the two places most people will be using their phone: 1) Home 2) Work. In both places most will have WiFi available. That leaves a very small number of available hours where you have no WiFi. Those are the only times where it may make sense to pay for a data plan.

The Savings

Our bill to the bloodsuckers at AT&T was $130/month. Since my wife’s phone is now completely covered by work, her half was taken care of. That left my $65. Plus we had a cancellation fee to the dicks at AT&T and that was $346.

So expenses were $462 to get set up: the cost of the FreedomPop, a Google Voice activation fee, plus the AT&T cancellation fee. I also bought a few apps to make the system run smoothly, maybe $6 total. And, of course there is the $10/month AirVoice expense. So we should break even in 3-4 months, about three months ahead of our contract expiration so the total savings will be around $340 by breaking our contract early. Ongoing, we will have another $120/month in our pockets. If we took my wife’s surprise free phone service out of the mix, the savings would be just my half — just $55/month. I’d have to wait a full six months to break even, about when my contract would be up. But since we did have the free phone from her work, it made sense to try this a little earlier than I otherwise would have.

The problems

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. I’ve been testing this set-up for a month or so and it’s not without its pitfalls. To be fair to all of the companies involved, they weren’t designed for this. This hack is pretty extreme and is, in fact, pretty shaky. So shaky that once I reach the break-even point in a few months, I’m going to probably give it up for something a little more expensive. Issues I’ve found are:

  • The FreedomPop is the weakest link in the chain. Hey, it’s free, what do you expect? Most importantly, the coverage map is extremely limited. This was my concern before I bought it but not being able to find any info out there I decided to give it a try. What I found is whenever I leave the main urban core, the signal disappears. This is not a worry from the perspective of making an emergency call since that’s what the AirVoice is for. However, this renders the map function useless (kinda important when you’re on the road) as well as any other data. No texting anyone that you’ll be late, no checking email, no looking up an address. No checking traffic reports.
  • I’ve been experiencing a lot of crashes with the Groove IP app. They’ve been so random it’s been hard to figure out what’s causing them. Also annoying is that I sprung for the paid app, but the free version had actually been much more stable. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I’m hoping for an update soon.
  • My phone has dropped a lot of calls, apparently because of a “feature” that turns off the WiFi when the screen goes black. I was able to change that setting but unfortunately that in turn causes poor battery life.
  • It’s fairly slow reconnecting to Google Voice as I switch between networks. In fact Groove IP often won’t connect to Google Voice at all until I restart the phone. Sometimes I have to restart the FreedomPop as well (or instead of). In general maintaining a reliable connection to Google Voice just isn’t happening. I’ve never spent more time restarting and checking things. I’m constantly checking for the Groove IP icon to make sure I’m connected (in itself problematic as that indicator is not always reliable.
  • Once I got a new AirVoice number, I started getting spam calls almost immediately. I quickly learned to never answer that number unless I recognized the caller, but occasionally I forget and answer it on instinct. Apparently having a prepaid number labels you as a poor person because the calls I’ve been getting and in-app ads are for things like immigration services and debt reduction services.

So, in short, I’m going to keep testing and saving for awhile longer, but I need more reliability than I’m getting. I know I can get some minimal data for at least $35/month at AirVoice, but $10 sounds so much better! I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I continue my quest to lower my cell phone bill. Other alternatives are Republic Wireless,* which looks VERY appealing and is exactly what the industry needs, but I don’t particularly want to buy a new phone, when my current one works great. Other good options include payLo by Virgin Mobile*, Net 10 Wireless*, Straight Talk Wireless* or PagePlus. Since these are no-contract plans, I may give a few of them a go and let you know how they work out.

The really good news is that Google Voice combined with cheap monthly data options (and the spread of public WiFi) are quickly dismantling the cell phone providers’ overpriced billing structures. I fully expect the average price for a monthly cell phone bill to drop to $20-$30 in 2-3 years.

The only thing I know for sure right now is I’ll never be trapped in another two-year contract again.

UPDATE 8/23/13: Still using this configuration but things have smoothed out quite a bit. The FreedomPop is still the weak link in the set-up so reliable incoming phone access outside the main urban area is nonexistent. However, the GrooveIP software has been working a bit better lately. My main complain right now when I stay within the city core is the switching between my home WiFi and the FreedomPop. It takes awhile to find the connection and sometimes the GrooveIP seems to just give up even though the WiFi is connected. I’ve missed a few calls after returning home from an outing because the GrooveIP lost its connection when I came into the house (as the phone correctly switched the higher-priority WiFi), but it never connected again. Therefore I frequently have to connect manually just to make sure it’s ready to receive calls. Once in awhile I’ll have to do a full reboot of the phone to clear everything out to get it to connect up properly. So, overall, still pretty sketchy, but it’s easy to see that as the technology catches up, this will be the default for all phones. I’m going to give it awhile longer before I seek out a more reliable data connection, but I’ll be keeping my Google Voice foundation for the foreseeable future.  

Update 10/4/13: Good overview of using Google Voice via a computer here. If that would work for your lifestyle, that will get  you to $0 per month!

Update 1/31/14: Be sure to head over and see the update to this story: The latest on my quest to reduce my cell phone bill

*Affiliate link

Wow, TWO Liebster award nominations?

Great early-stage accolades for Pretired.org

liebster-awardWhen I started this here little blog, it was a personal endeavor.

Sure, I felt the urge to share my triumphs and mistakes as I learned how to escape the death trap of mindless spending and emotionally draining corporate work.

But mostly I wanted to keep my mind sharp as I moved into stay-at-home dad mode with my now 11-month-old son and I imagined guiding my teenage nephews toward a wise path on their own financial journeys (even though they’ll likely never read this site).

Now barely five months into this project I have to acknowledge it’s not as personal an endeavor as I had imagined. I’m sharing this journey with now thousands of people each month, thoughtful comments keep pouring in and I can no longer pretend to be an anonymous diarist hiding in a dark corner of the internet.

This became dramatically apparent when I received not one, but TWO Liebster Blog Awards. This award is somewhat modeled on the old chain letter concept (you older folks will know what I’m talking about). The main differences being that it’s not annoying and is actually quite an honor to be noticed by your peers.

The first nomination came from Andrew at Living Rich Cheaply, who nominated me back on June 11. The second came just a short time later on June 20 when I was nominated by E.M. at Journey to Saving.

Now the great part about this award is once one has been nominated you are then supposed to nominate five others to receive this award (like a chain letter, see?). Be sure to read to the very end to see my nominations.

The other fun thing about this award is that I get to ask my nominees 11 questions about themselves. And, of course that means I have to answer the questions from those that nominated me. Since there are two nominations, I have to answer 22 questions! Hope you like reading about Pretired Nick!

As a final fun part of the award, I also get to list 11 random facts about myself. Let’s get that out of the way first:

11 Random Facts about Pretired Nick

  1. I actually go by “Nicholas” in the real world most of the time.
  2. I love to garden, but I’m not very good at it.
  3. I have almost no fear of death, but I’m deathly afraid of becoming old and frail.nick_paper_small
  4. I hate, hate, hate having a messy desk. The perfect desk to me has a keyboard, a monitor, speakers and a mouse. That’s it.
  5. My desk looks like a hoarder lives here right now.
  6. I have visited almost every state in the U.S.
  7. When I was two years old I was photographed at a dog show by a young newswire photographer. That picture ran on the front page of newspapers nationwide. People from all over the country sent my mom cut-outs in the mail.
  8. Years later in a weird coincidence I would end up working with that same photographer at a newspaper, although I didn’t know it at the time. (Found out it was the same guy years later after he had passed away.)
  9. I have a weird genetic disorder that prevents me from burping properly.
  10. I went skydiving for my 30th birthday. Loved it.
  11. My favorite book is 1984. My second favorite is Guns, Germs and Steel.

11 Questions from Living Rich Cheaply

  1. What would you do if you won a million dollars?
    This is a hard question and perhaps deserving of its own post one of these days. For sure I’d solidify my financial position so I could make my freedom even more secure. Then I’d probably ensure all my family was out of debt as well. If there was anything left after that, I’d probably start buying condos in exotic locations to rent out as vacation properties. 
  2. What is must see TV for you?
    These days it’s been Mad Men. It’s such a soap opera, but I love it. 
  3. If you could live in another country for a year, where would it be?
    Well, if it’s for just a year, it’d be somewhere in Europe. In many ways I feel like a European who was born on the wrong continent. Right now if I had to narrow it down, it’d probably be Spain, mainly because of weather.
  4. If you could time travel, where…I mean when would you go?
    I’m a big history buff so it’d be tough to choose just one time to visit in the past. However, if I was allowed to go forward as well, naturally I’d skip to the future so I can see what happens. Skipping 500 years or so forward would be pretty amazing. Just gotta watch out for Morlocks. 
  5. Why did you start blogging?
    I guess I more or less covered that above. 
  6. What would you love to learn to do?
    Create music. I’m obsessed with great music and I feel like I have music inside me that wants to come out. Fortunately technology is making it easier to create music without having actual musical training. Check out Audacity and Soundation for example. I used to love the music tools from Aviary before they killed them off. There’s a real opening for a cool offering that democratizes music creation. (“Real” musicians hate this kind of thing, of course.) 
  7. What is the best advice someone has given you?
    To never carry a credit card balance. I think the first time I was given that advice was when I was in high school and it’s never failed me. I’ve learned to just wait (most of the time anyway) for what I want instead of becoming overburdened with debt. That alone has saved me from a life of misery. 
  8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
    As an introvert, I’m completely jealous of people who can just talk to anyone about anything. Like most introverts, I’d love to switch teams.
  9. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
    I always wanted to be a writer. I used to write little stories and dreamed of being a novelist. Later I became a journalist and got pretty sick of writing. It’s only now just becoming enjoyable again.
  10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    I have no idea. My problem, though, isn’t an inability to come up with a dream, it’s difficulty narrowing it down. I’m fortunate to be in a place where nearly anything is possible. But it’d almost be easier if my options were narrowed! 
  11. What is your favorite movie?
    V for Vendetta.

11 Questions from Journey to Saving

  1. Why did you start blogging, what topic do you blog about, and why do you blog about it?
    See above for the “why”. I write about freedom — from brain-deadening corporate work and from the trap of debt. I believe that if people can get off the treadmill it brings the whole society to a better place. Less environmental waste, less stress on people and families, less drug use and crime. That said, I do love capitalism, but I believe it makes a better servant than a master. 
  2. What is your favorite place to vacation in?
    That’s a tough one. I have seen a fair amount of the world, but there’s so much more I want to see. I always feel at home whenever I travel to Europe, but the place I’ve been to the most is Mexico. Our strategy for vacations has been to alternate a restful, beach-style vacation with an exhausting (expensive) cultural vacation. Now that I’m semi-pretired and we have a baby, we may need to change our vacation approach. 
  3. Do you have any pets?
    We just have one cat right now. 
  4. What is your favorite meal to eat? Care to share a recipe?
    My favorite meal is anything I can eat on the beach. I once had the most amazing fresh seafood cooked simply in foil on the beach near Manzanita, Mexico. Wish I had the recipe for that! But anything tastes better when your toes are in sand.   
  5. Do you enjoy doing household tasks like laundry, cleaning the dishes, and vacuuming?
    I actually do enjoy cleaning for the most part, but apparently not that much because it’s often easy to find other things to do. 
  6. What is your favorite scent? (Can be perfume, flowers, food, etc.)
    My favorite scent is the smell of burning driftwood. Wood that has been saturated with seawater gives off the most wonderful aroma when it’s burned. 
  7. What do you hope to have accomplished in ten years?
    As long as my son is happy, curious and creative, I’ll feel like a winner. 
  8. Are you happy with your job right now? Why or why not?
    I just do a little bit of consulting right now along with my Daddy duties. I’m definitely happy with my situation, although I’m very, very busy. But my last job (hopefully ever!) was so horrible that it makes anything else seem great in comparison. 
  9. If you could be in one profession/industry, what would it be?
    I think I was really born to be a musician, but I grew up without learning music. It’s one of those things that is hard to become great at once you’re an adult so it’s fairly tragic that my parents didn’t prioritize that for me. 
  10. How likely would you be to return a wallet with a load of cash in it if you found it randomly on the street with contact info contained inside?
    Of course. I’d feel way too guilty to keep it.
  11. What are your plans to market your blog and get more readers?
    Can’t really say I have plans right now. I wasn’t really planning on trying to build a proper web site when I started out. But, now, since I’ve been lucky enough to gather a decent following, I may have to start thinking about it. 

Now, without further ado, here are my nominations for the Liebster Award!

  1. Your Daily Finance
  2. The Financial Economist
  3. Hello Suckers…
  4. My Financial Independence Journey
  5. Cash Rebel (OK, technically, Cash Rebel has more than 200 Twitter followers, but it’s barely over, so I’m letting it slide.)

11 Questions for my nominees:

  1. There must have been that moment that made you decide to write a blog. What was that turning point that made you decide to buy a domain and start blogging?
  2. If you could give advice to a teenager right now, what would it be?
  3. When you look back on your life, what was the most frightening moment?
  4. Did you ever get in trouble in school? What for?
  5. Beach or mountains?
  6. Authority figures: Follow or fight?
  7. What is the secret to inner peace?
  8. What music makes you feel invincible?
  9. If you could have dinner with three people who are now dead, who would you choose?
  10. If money was no object, what would you do?
  11. If I say the word “freedom”, what comes to mind?

Rules for the Liebster Award:

  • Only up-and-coming Blogs with less than 200 Twitter followers can be nominated for the Liebster Award.
  • The award must be passed down to other blogs in the same category as your blog.
  • When nominated, you must post 11 random facts about yourself
  • After writing 11 random facts, answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Come up with 11 questions of your own for your nominees.
  • Nominate 5 other bloggers for the award, link to them, and let them know you nominated them by commenting on one of their posts.
  • Do not nominate the person who nominated you.

I think that’s it! Thanks again to the sites that nominated me! And congratulations to my five picks. You’re doing great work!

Chemicals in dryer sheets? — Not for us!

Concerned about chemicals in dryer sheets, we try an alternative

It’s been a quiet few days blog-wise here at Pretired.org World Headquarters. Unfortunately that’s because I’ve been incredibly busy lately. Between my part-time consulting gig, my basement project, dealing with the sale of my fourplex and a teething baby there hasn’t been much time for reading or writing. But since it’s nice, quiet holiday week, I thought I’d drop a quick post just to keep the site alive. (Although weirdly the site traffic has kept increasing even though I haven’t written in a few days. Go figure — maybe I should write less since that apparently makes the site grow!) 

PurEcoSheet - no more chemicals in dryer sheets for us!

PurEcoSheet – no more chemicals in dryer sheets for us!

When I became a semi-pretired stay-at-home Dad one of the biggest adjustments was spending a lot more quality time in the laundry room. Despite their small size, babies generate a LOT of laundry. And the tonnage increased recently when we dropped our overpriced diaper service for diapers we wash ourselves at home. (Yes, I still owe you a post on how the wash-at-home diapers work.)

Even before the diaper piles started growing, we (mostly my wife) started looking around for ways to eliminate toxic chemicals from our home. We’d been concerned about chemicals in dryer sheets for some time, but hadn’t done much about it besides buying the “greener” version at the store. That is until Pretired Baby came along.

Now regular dryer sheets really aren’t that expensive, but anytime you’re using a product for a matter of minutes before it hits the trash, it’s super annoying. And, of course, regular dryer sheets work by depositing a waxy, positively-charged coating to your clothes. This keeps them from sticking together and can also leave a fakey “fresh” smell behind. Do we know what these chemicals are doing to our health? No, we do not. And, of course, by far the worst thing about dryer sheets is you’re always just about out of them at the worst times. You know you are too busy to get to the store when you start using dryer sheets a second time hoping maybe there’s a little bit of coating left on it.

I’d never even considered that there might be an alternative out there, but fortunately there is one.

They’re called PurEcoSheets, and they’re a reusable, chemical-free dryer sheet. No more chemicals in dryer sheets for us! Read more about the PurEcoSheet Reusable Chemical-Free Dryer Sheets on Amazon (yes, that is an affiliate link).

When you see them, the first thing you think is “no way this is going to work!” Weird thing is they DO work. So far I haven’t really noticed any difference in any type of clothing. Even towels come out basically static-free. I’m sure if you were washing a couple fleece jackets, you might need a bit more power and I could see needing an occasional dryer sheet in the heart of winter, but overall, we’re loving the product and it should pay for itself in a few months.

They basically work just like regular dryer sheets, except they’re reusable. You simply toss both of them in to the dryer with your clothes and that’s it. You can just leave them in your dryer so they’re all set for the next load, or you can wash them with your laundry and move them to the dryer at the same time.

So far we’re pretty happy with them. If I come across any disadvantages or issues, I’ll post an update here. I’ll be very interested to see how well they work when we get some dry, winter weather. But if they can’t keep up with the static at that point, we still have some old dryer sheets to use up!

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