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Are You Paying a Sucker Tax?

It may surprise you that most taxes and fees people pay are voluntary.

By Brad Beckstrom.

Did you know the sales tax rate in the city of Chicago as of Jan 2017 is 10.25%. The 10.25 percent rate includes sales taxes assessed by the state, county, city, and local transit agency.

I felt like that was high compared to taxes where I live, until I took a closer look. The state of Virginia has a 5.63% sales tax, then Arlington County adds an additional 1.07%. Not too bad until you look at the personal property tax of up to 5% that you pay every year on personal vehicles including cars, trucks, boats, RVs etc. for as long as you own them. You pay the tax even if you’re leasing them, based on assessed value determined by the state. This is separate from property tax on real estate which in my county in Virginia is about 1% of home value annually.

I’ve always thought that kind of sucked until I took it look at the total tax burden by state. The folks over at Wallethub put together this cool sortable chart, with tax burden by state based on personal taxes, property taxes, sales, and excise taxes as a percentage of income. That’s where things really get interesting. As it turns out, Virginia is ranked 40th in total tax burden. That means people in 39 states may have it worse than we do when it comes to state tax burdens. See how your state ranks. Read more…

Perfecting the 4 Hour Workday

By Brad Beckstrom

What if you could wrap up your work each day by noon? Would it improve your life? Would you have more time for family, friends, exercise, and other pursuits? If you could work just four hours a day, would you ever need to really retire?  These are some of the questions I had in 2007 after reading Tim Ferriss’s book “The 4-hour Work Week.” The book isn’t about working 4 hours a week, it’s about taking control of your workday, and your life, so that you’re focused on the part of your work that you really love.

Failing at the 4 hour workweek

I’ve yet to pull off the four hour workweek, but after 10 years of working at it, and about 5 years of writing about it, I’ve gotten to a place I’d like to call the 4 hour (workday). The idea was pretty simple. If I’m able to eliminate, commuting, needless meetings, the office, and other time killers, I’d already be part of the way there. Staying focused and eliminating distractions like breaking news, social media, and email could get me there.

So, I’ve done it. I’ve gotten to a schedule where I can start my morning’s early and be done right around lunchtime. I’ve realized that if more people could create four hour workdays, our working life, retirement, and even our education would look different.

3 Boxes Read more…

Living like a Lightweight.

By Brad Beckstrom

You still hear it occasionally. “That guy’s a lightweight.” When I was a kid, it may have meant you couldn’t hold your own on the playground. In college, this term was often used to describe someone who was a sloppy drunk or couldn’t hold their liquor. In business or politics, lightweight may be used to describe someone who can’t take a little heat, or bails out when the going gets tough. Today the word lightweight implies something very different. If you’re a lightweight who can compete or dominate above your weight class, then you have something. If you’re talking about a boxer like Roberto Duran, a legend like Bruce Lee, or the UFC fighter Conor McGregor then lightweight can take on a whole new meeting.

Look at any sport in the racing world, “lightweight” is the hottest thing going. Carbon fiber tubing is used to make incredibly fast racing boats to compete in the America’s Cup, and superlight racing bikes that weigh as little as 13 pounds. In a competitive world, lightweight can have great advantages.

If you’re not a professional athlete, or in the market for a $9,000 bicycle, you can still live like a lightweight. Let’s apply this term in three areas: Health, Life, and Work.

Health, Physical and Mental.

There’s a memorable scene from the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The movie is about Joe Cross who lost 100 pounds juicing. You hear stories all the time about people losing tremendous amounts of weight. What Joe did differently is he that he visually demonstrated how much weight he’d lost by carrying around six professional bowling balls to represent the weight. This really clicked with people and helped him kick start the green juice trend. Most of us could not imagine carrying around even one or two bowling balls all the time.

The bowling balls Joe carried around are a great metaphor. Think of all the excess stuff we carry around, garages and closets full of stuff we don’t use, those extra pounds, guilt and regret about things that happened in the past, huge SUVs to haul all this around, while sitting in traffic. It’s time to start looking at the benefits of becoming a lightweight. Read more…

Finding Clarity in Simplicity. How to stop reacting and focus on what’s in your control.

By Brad Beckstrom

Have you noticed a big drop off in any part of your life?

I’ve been noticing a real drop off in the number of (non political) blog posts I’ve been seeing since November of 2016. At first I thought it was the election, the holidays etc. People have been distracted. I figured at some point we would stop discussing politics and get back to talking about anything but that. Well, the drop off has continued. You see, I don’t follow any political blogs or news publications in my feed reader. So, a lot of the blogs I do follow have dropped off, from maybe a post a week to less than one post per month. This is across a wide variety of blogs I follow, personal finance, photography, financial independence, minimalism, small business, creative writing etc. What’s going on? I feel like I already know the answer because my own writing has dropped off at about the same level, from once a week to once a month. It has a lot to do with many people, including myself, being totally distracted by all of the stuff outside of their circle of control.

The Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control

A circle of concern is simply a big circle with all of the things you’re concerned about scribbled inside of it. Inside of that circle is a circle of control. The circle of control is things that you have direct control over, what you read, where you live, what you eat, essentially your actions and thoughts.

image credit Jamesclear.com

Focusing inside versus outside the circle of control

Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits series, said that people with a large circle of concern become reactive. Read more…

Tap into the power of habit. How to design your ideal day then duplicate it.

The working world has changed. The traditional thirty-year career, company loyalty, great health plans, company cars, and pension plans are all but gone. More people are working from home, pursuing side gigs. They are taking a more entrepreneurial approach to work. Entrepreneurial adventures have become the new pension plan.

There’s some great news here. For those of us who are stubborn, who refuse to live life by someone else’s rules, who are comfortable with uncertainty, lies opportunity. If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 55: if you can do these things, you can redesign your life to take advantage of the current uncertain environment.

Reinvention, one day at a time

Yeah, that sounds easy, just redesign your life. No problem, right? As anybody who’s tried it knows, completely reinventing yourself is extremely hard. I’m recommending a different approach. In his book The Four Hour Workweek Tim Ferris talked about designing your week so that there were only four hours of work (that you didn’t enjoy). A lot of people misunderstood the title of the book to think that this meant only working four hours a week and sitting on the beach of the rest of the time. The book’s cover even had a guy on the beach in a hammock! The book’s actual premise is that If you’re doing something you really love then that is not work. Make no mistake, you will be doing something. A lot of something, often for less than you’d make in a traditional commuter/cubicle job. This doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job, it means redesigning your entire workday to eliminate the distractions and poor use of time that are getting in the way of your perfect day.

Let’s look at a slightly different approach. Instead of trying to figure out what type of lifestyle, business, or new invention would be needed to support a four hour workweek, we should start smaller. Let’s start by simply designing a perfect day. Read more…