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The Greatest Story Ever Sold 💵

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how money mistakes are temporary. My main argument was that unlike other kinds of mistakes, money mistakes rarely have permanent consequences.

I'll return to that in this post, but first let's consider a few things that have happened this month:

  • We've all been hearing about NFTs, also known as "non-fungible tokens," also known as digital art that can be reproduced over and over but sells for a ton of money. The NBA has sold $230 million on these intangible "items." An artist sold one for $69 million the other day, and I'm sure that record will be broken soon.
  • The price of a single Bitcoin, another modern invention, has risen to more than $60,000. Like NFTs, Bitcoin is also completely digital. There is no such thing as "a Bitcoin" you can carry in your pocket or store in your safe deposit box at the bank. Everyone who trades Bitcoin or other digital currencies simply accepts that it exists.
  • The U.S. government has passed a law enacting a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Put another way, the U.S. government has printed $1.9 trillion more dollars. This was on top of another $2 trillion they printed last March. And presumably there's more where that came from!

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Money Mistakes Are Temporary

A common TV trope features someone who's down on their luck and forced to borrow from someone with questionable moral scruples: a loan shark, the Mafia, a representative from Wells Fargo.

As fate would have it, they fall further and further behind, until they're in an even greater bind. Soon they're being pursued by the loan shark, who threatens to break their legs, or by Wells Fargo, which forces them to remain on hold for hours. The rest of the story unfolds as the protagonist desperately tries to resolve their dilemma. What will they do? How will they get the money? 

"Getting the money" makes for a good plot foundation, since money is something that everyone wants. And when you don't have it, it becomes all that you think about.

But what if you didn't have to "get the money"? What if you just decided to not care?

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Coming April 7, 2020 – THE MONEY TREE: Finding the Fortune in Your Own Backyard

Big news today! I wrote a new book! It's called THE MONEY TREE, and it comes out April 7th. 💰🌳⁠

I'm very excited to share this sneak peek of my first *full-length story* that will be published in the U.S. and Canada in April. Yes, it's fiction! Something I've never done before, but I got inspired and started outlining and ended up making something that I really like.⁠

The subtitle is "A Story About Finding the Fortune in Your Own Backyard." We decided to be as literal as possible with the cover. 😀

The Money Tree_front cover

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How Much Is Your Time Worth? This Free Tool Will Show You

How Much Is Your Time Worth? This Free Tool Will Show You Deciding how you value your time can help you make decisions. But how do you really know what your time is worth?

It’s partly a hypothetical question, because you don’t always get to choose how much money you'll make or how much free time you'll have.

And it’s partly a practical question, because sometimes you do get to choose. Life is all about making choices, some of which are exclusive and limit us from other opportunities.

A free tool guides you to your own answer of "How much is your time worth" in both hypothetical and practical scenarios.

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The Emotional Balance Sheet

CarlRichards-EBS I often enjoy the personal finance columns by Carl Richards. In a recent one, he explains how to create an “emotional balance sheet” to quantify (or at least tally) your non-financial assets.

Carl tells the story of how he and his wife Cori made the choice for her to become a full-time mom, despite the fact that the family would lose more than $1 million in earnings over the next twenty years.

He’s quick to point out that the moral of the story isn’t “all mothers should stay home with their children”—which is good, since presumably many readers would make different choices. The lesson is a) to be clear about your intentions, and b) learn to value non-financial assets.

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You Don’t Have to Be Uncomfortable to Have an Authentic Travel Experience


When I went to Burma several years ago I stayed in a nice guest house for about $35 a night. The rate included free Wifi and a large banana pancake for breakfast. Mmmmmm.

After I came home, I talked with someone who had also been there. "How much did you pay?" he asked.

"Oh... about $30-40 a night," I said. I may also have mentioned the delicious banana pancake. Mmmmmm.

"That’s crazy!" He said. "You got ripped off... there are places you can stay for just $10 or less."

I didn’t know how to respond. Was I “ripped off?” Well, I guess I could have paid less... but I was happy with the experience, so for me the rate was a great value.

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An Honest Conversation About Debt in America

"Debt is publicly enforced and highly stigmatized, but is almost always privately experienced."

After filing for bankruptcy herself, photographer Brittany M. Powell is traveling across America to interview other people struggling with unexpected debt. I love this multifaceted, non-judgmental project (originally on Kickstarter -- now closed after a successful end).

Debt Portrait #28, Detroit, MI 2014 88a282cf5ab0f7c6-DebtRamon-4578 Through the camera, Powell is starting a conversation about debt—something many people experience alone but never talk about because of the shame and stigma that can be attached to it. How does debt effect us and our daily lives? Are people as alone in this struggle as much as they feel?

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What Does It Mean to Be Rich?

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When you’re a kid, you don’t have much concept of what true wealth is—so you tend to relate it to experiences, or at least I did. In my case, I understood wealth in the context of fast-food restaurants. I used to eat at my favorite restaurants, McDonald’s and Burger King, as often as I could.

I’m writing from the W Hong Kong, where I just arrived after beginning my latest Round-the-World trip. The W here has one of the best hotel breakfast buffets in all of Asia, which for all practical purposes means all of the world.

My breakfast is comped, thanks to my elite status with Starwood. As best I can tell, it costs approximately 10x what a meal at McDonald’s would. But if it wasn’t comped, I’d gladly pay. It’s so good! And I’m having so much fun waking up early, drinking unlimited macchiatos, and thinking about the world.

The lesson? Well, I’m jet-lagged, so you might have to wade through the muddle. But aside from not eating fast food, I think the lesson is to figure out what makes you feel rich—and it’s best if such a thing is somewhat obtainable.

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Checking Your Bank Accounts Will Not Make More Money

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Seems obvious, right? We wouldn’t expect that driving past the gym will make us any healthier.

But when it comes to money, those of us who are self-employed tend to spend a lot of time on activities that do nothing to help the bottom line, either directly or indirectly.

I don’t just mean “administrative work,” because some administrative work has to be done even if it’s not particularly exciting. You still need to do customer service, update outdated info, and so on.

No, I mean the tendency we have to log-in just to see something. I’ll just check one more time... says the addict.

So here’s an idea: the next time you feel like checking website stats or bank account numbers, hold off a moment. First, do something that matters. Do something that will actually increase or improve whatever metrics you’re tracking. Then, go ahead and check them—because that’s human nature. But make yourself work for it first. Make yourself earn it.

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How Much Does It Cost to Visit Every Country in the World?

I’ve mentioned a few times that going to every country in the world wasn’t as expensive as most people initially think. But how much did it really cost?

The short answer is that I’m not 100% sure of the precise figure. I didn’t tally up every expense associated with ten-and-a-half years of travel, and I didn't save all the receipts. Much of the travel (perhaps one-third) was done in cooperation with other work and commitments. The whole time I was living in West Africa, for example, I was visiting a bunch of new countries, but usually in my capacity as an aid worker for a charity.

Even during the time when I was focused mainly on going to countries for no good reason, it wasn't a business project. It wasn't something I needed to account for or get reimbursed. It was a personal challenge that I would have pursued regardless of the cost.

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