Pandemic Reading List 2020

SEE 2021 list.

More of an end of year wrap up, but I thought I’d revive my reading list blogs. If nothing else, perhaps it might encourage others to READ MORE. Here is a list of the books I’ve read this year plus the few stragglers from 2019 and a short opinion of each book. No particular order (I’ll try to follow the order in the photo).

The Lacuna, B Kingsolver. (not pictured) Historical fiction covering the 30s – 50s in Mexico and America. EXCELLENT READ. The main character is a man who has a Mexican mother and an American father and his life moving between the two countries and cultures. It is a timely read RIGHT NOW since it echoes our current history so disturbingly. The first part of the book centers on the main character’s (Harrison Shepherd) life in Mexico. It is very interesting because he ends up being a cook for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo! So the reader gets a LOT of historical information about these two artists as well as Mexico during the Communist era in the 40s. The Riveras were close friends of the Trotskys and Shepherd is portrayed as Trotsky’s typist as well as the household cook. Then Shepherd returns to the US to be a writer and settles in Asheville NC. Kingsolver intersperses a little Appalachian history in this section, which is interesting. Then as the story moves towards the 50s, it explores the McCarthy era of accusing everyone of being a Communist. VERY jarring to see the clear correlations of that era and NOW. It’s like T**** took the historical records of that time and just replayed them. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. TRUER WORDS were never spoken. The old white men who are currently fucking up this country are same ones who REMEMBER the McCarthy era and are using it as a template. I HIGHLY recommend this book – especially for Americans. Sometimes you need to be reminded that bad things have happened and they will happen again without vigilance.

The Aviator’s Wife, M Benjamin. I’m about halfway through this one. It is historical fiction revolving around Anne Morrow, the wife of Charles Lindbergh. It’s a good read; the characters are strong and the pace is decent.

Reading Lolita in Tehran, A Nafisi. This book is excellent. It begins with Dr Nafisi describing her underground reading group for females from her classes at Uni. Which is fine, it’s mildly interesting. She also gives a lot of literary analysis of various books such as Lolita, etc. BUT about halfway through, she goes into full memoir and describes Iran before and during the Islamic takeover. This is very eye opening and VERY RELEVANT to the bullshit we’ve just seen in the US. We are much closer to a religious regime here than most would like to admit. She also describes the war with Iraq, which was eight years long. Then Dr Nafisi circles back to her group of women and shares more of their stories. The best part of the book is definitely the memories of Iran pre-Ayatollah. Overall, this book is sad and about loss – of friends, of liberty, of her country. Dr Nafisi finally leaves Iran with her family to come to the US after enduring 17 years of Islamic rule in Iran. I think every American should read it and see that YES the unthinkable CAN happen. Iranians really did not realise that the Republic of Islam was taking over. It’s the frog in the pot scenario, which is also happening here. We may have beaten back the hillbillies THIS YEAR, but they are here to stay and we should NOT forget about their hateful desire to control this country and everyone in it. Sharia laws are not just for Islam, you know.

Full Throttle, J Hill. Short story collection by Joe Hill. EXCELLENT. He definitely has his daddy’s writing gene!

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, D Sijie. Historical fiction novella. It’s about two boys sent for “reeducation” during the Chinese Revolution. An engaging, short read in which you’ll learn something about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Recommend.

Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2, T Wilbur. Picked this up for fun, it’s chain restaurant recipes deciphered for the home cook. Fun!

The Girl on the Train, P Hawkins. I saw the movie a while back and thought I’d read the novel to compare. The novel is SO much better, of course. It delves deeply into the protagonist’s alcoholism. It’s also in an English setting. Very good read.

Halfway to Each Other, S Pohlman. I picked this one up because it’s about a family who moves to Italy for a year and I thought I might glean some info about doing that. Eh, not so much. It’s a memoir of a rich uber Christian family who takes a year OFF and goes to Italy. They are quintessential asshole Americans who barge into Italy without bothering to learn a single word of Italian. Ugh. I learned that Italy is pretty lax with their immigration documents, tho, which I already knew. It was not really worth the read.

Dark Places, G Flynn. Yes, this is the author of Sharp Objects, which was a mini series that blazed with Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, and Gone Girl, another good movie AND book. I’ve not read Sharp Objects yet, it’s in the stack. Anyway, this is Flynn’s third book and it’s a great character study, but a bit slow. It’s a decent read.

And the Trees Crept In, D Curtagich. This is a YA novel to the core. The most interesting thing about it is the unique typesetting. Otherwise, it is slow and repetitive. Read if you like YA.

Red Scarf Girl, L Jiang. This is a memoir from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, written by a woman who lived it. It is stark and very sad. The brainwashing of young people during the Revolution was really horrible. Read if you want to learn about how countries can be taken over by fascists. A cautionary tale.

The Space Between Us, T Umrigar. This is a memoir about growing up in India when the castes were very much enforced. The woman who wrote this grew up when the caste system was being dismantled, so her views were different than her parents and family. Interesting if you like learning about other cultures, as I do.

What Happened, H R Clinton. I read Hillary’s memoir Hard Choices and I enjoy her style of writing. This is about the loss in 2016 and I found it to be heartbreakingly honest and infuriating as well. Everyone should read this book. She does not pull punches about how she was treated, nor about the mistakes she made in the campaign. Highly recommend.

The Book of Gutsy Women, H R Clinton & C Clinton. (not pictured) This is a collection of women chosen by Hillary and Chelsea as examples of strong, brave women throughout history. They each chime in on how that particular woman helped shape who they are. I have to say, my respect for Hillary (and Chelsea, too) has grown immensely since reading her books. Highly recommend.

The Testaments, M Atwood. The wrap up of the Handmaid’s Tale and the fall of Gilead. It was ok. I dunno, since we’re living a nascent Gilead right now, it didn’t do much for me. It’s good to have an ending to the saga, tho. Which is sort of the issue I have with the show of the same name. They need to wrap it up, June has already done WAY more than I think would be possible under a regime such as that. If you want an ending, read this book. It’s still Atwood, so the writing is excellent.

Southern Heirloom Cooking, N J M Haydel & H McQueen. Another fun little cookbook I picked up at Goodwill. I like to get anything with old Southern recipes in it. This is a family recipe collection and VERY familiar!

The Art of Cuisine, Toulouse-Latrec and M Joyant. YES, THAT Toulouse-Latrec! This is a cookbook he wrote in ’66 that was translated by Joyant in ’66. The copy I have is a first edition with library dust jacket. It is full of sketches and illustrations by Toulouse-Latrec, which I LOVE. The recipes? Eh, a bit weird for me. LOL They ate a lot of stews back then in France.

Flight or Fright, edited by S King and B Vincent. This is a collection of airplane related horror stories edited by Stephen King. These stories are from various authors. Entertaining!

Two graphic novels: Starve Vol 1&2, a chef based story that is suspiciously close to Bourdain. I liked it a lot!
Screwed, a fun romp with a Frankenstein feel.

Gwendy’s Button Box, S King & R Chizmar. A short novella with a twisty story. Loved it!

If It Bleeds, S King. This is another short story collection from King. Excellent as always. He is a MASTER of the short story.

The Tiger’s Wife, T Obreht. A Chinese fictional novel written by an author originally from Belgrade. It is a first novel and very well written. She weaves a lovely tale with ancient legends and spirit animals.

Song of the Jade Lily, K Manning. This is a historical novel as well as contemporary. She weaves the story of her family (1939) with the current life of one of the main characters (2006). I love me some historical fiction and I loves me some Chinese history. Lovely book!

The Mind of the South, W J Cash. Abandoned. It was just too dated and dry for me.

The Happiness Project, G Rubin. Abandoned. It’s 2020 with a fucking pandemic. Just NO. Too pollyanna for the current times.

The Institute, S King. I’ve read a lot of King this year! This one links to Black House and Hearts in Atlantis via the children used as Breakers. King as his prolific, wonderful self.

Geisha, A Life, M Iwasaki. RE-READ. I have the updated paperback of this book, but forgot about it, so I got the first edition hardback again by accident. It’s a good read and a good memoir of being a geisha (geiko) in Kyoto during post-war Japan.

SEE 2021 list.

Dear Hillbillies

I’ve not had much to say about T**** and the election. It’s been said by, well, EVERYONE and I didn’t feel I had much to add. For straight up good info and commentary, I recommend Jim Wright ( This is more of an open letter to all hillbillies out there who are going to vote for that lying, cheating, misogynistic, racist, fascist piece of shit.

First, let me explain my definition of hillbilly. I grew up in hillbilly E TN, so I know the typical definition. MY definition is much wider and includes anyone anywhere who is militantly ignorant, backwards and generally hateful to any people that are not just like they are. So, pretty much that encompasses MAGAts and the whole of the wacked out conservative Christian right.

Now that we are all clear on my definition of hillbilly, let me tell you why I have such a high level of contempt for them. I got into it with my asshole hillbilly neighbor and he got seriously butthurt. The best way to piss off a hillbilly is to call them one! He planted his T**** sign in his yard in response to my Biden/Ossoff signs and I called him a hillbilly on FB. He then sent me a threatening text (“Who the fuck you calling hillbilly?”) so I promptly blocked him from my phone and all media. Then he got another T**** sign and put it facing our house right on the lot line. SO mature.

He then left Nick a whiny VM wanting to know why I was being so mean and if we could “fix this thing”. Nick texted him back, explaining – not apologizing for – our contempt for people who vote for that piece of trash and that if he (neighbor) wants to vote for more hate, division and fascism, he should expect some push back from the rest of us. All the hillbilly could say to that was “Oh, I guess we disagree.” CLASSIC. Yeah, no, we disagree about football, this is far beyond a disagreement.

Why is it that MAGAts cheer when T**** trashes people and they wear Fuck Your Feelings T shirts, but get totally butthurt and whiny when you turn it back on them?

I have NOTHING but contempt for anyone who STILL thinks that fatass moron is good for the US. Clearly you are militantly ignorant and don’t give a fuck about anyone but yourself. These are the things that you think are fine and dandy if you vote for four more years of this shit:

– Immigrants in cages, with babies taken from mothers and women being sterilized without their consent
– Police shooting black people while they sleep in their beds and get no punishment
– Police shooting black people for walking, standing, driving, whatever with no punishment
– LGBTQ+ rights being stripped
– Women’s control over their own bodies stripped (undoing Roe v Wade)
– Putting a hard core conservative Christian on the SCOTUS (Under His Eye)
– White supremacists being supported and called “good people”
– Gun toting teenagers who shoot people are held up as good examples
– Allowing the pandemic to continue on and on when the rest of the world is mostly done because they actually had leadership, unlike here
– National debt has increased by $6.6 TRILLION (with a T)

Graph of T**** debt compared to other presidents and the forecast:


My contempt for hillbillies runs very deep. These are the people that supported Hitler’s Nazi regime. These are the people who will gleefully cheer as this country burns. They take pleasure from watching others suffer. They shit on everything good. They hate ME and ALL my friends, since none of us are “straight”. They don’t believe in science. They are fine with black people being shot in the fucking face for existing. They are fine with people in cages and forced sterilization. SOUND FAMILIAR? It should, this is Nazi Germany happening right in front of our faces. The Handmaid’s Tale is not far from happening if the crazed Christians like the SCOTUS nominee Amy C Barrett get control. Gilead is the goal of these crazy people. Do not doubt that. But hey, hillbillies, it’s FINE as long as the jackboot is on someone else’s neck, right? RIGHT?

So piss off, hillbillies. You are scum. I hope there are enough of us left to stop you from destroying the US. If not, I’ve got my passport, which I can hopefully use one day when the fucking pandemic calms down. T**** has fucked that up, too.

NONE of this is acceptable. I will call out the fucking hillbillies at every opportunity. And, hey, here’s a handy form for you to fill out if you feel butthurt about any of this (you’ll have to write in FB, this is an old form):

Please fill out this form to report your Butthurt!

Gratitude and Motivation

We had our weekly gab session last night. It’s a thing we do every weekend, usually on Fridays, but we started drinking too much, so we decided to stop the Friday thing and have a gab another time. This week, it was last night. It’s like an after action report, we talk about the week and anything else that is on our minds.

Anyway, we were talking about money and how grateful we are that we got assistance for the pandemic. I am particularly grateful that I got into the system, since SO many of my hospitality friends got zip. Thanks to the pandemic money, we not only made it through, but we managed to get money into savings and this helped us rebound from the pub losses as well as keep us afloat for the couple of months neither of us had work. This incident has proven that universal basic income WILL WORK. If people have basic income covered, then they have the ability to SAVE and create longterm wealth. For the first time in decades, people have savings! OH, but the rich fucks call that ‘milking the system’ or being lazy. Yeah, that’s easy to say when you’ve never NOT had a fat savings account.

We strongly believe that universal healthcare and universal base income is the way to create a healthy populace and economy. It’s unfortunate that this country is controlled by rich fuckers and their corporations. This will be the end of the US as a republic. If you don’t have a passport, GET ONE.

But this post isn’t about the fucking government, there’s plenty of that shit all over the internet. This post is about personal gratitude and motivation.

We are grateful to have the cushion of savings and wealth of investments. We firmly believe that anyone can have these things – you do NOT have to be rich. We are certainly not rich by any measurement, but we have created wealth from what little we had. I’m trying to teach my niece how to manage money and it’s not going well. She has been raised by poor people and she is deeply steeped in the ways of poor people. She and her husband do not balance their accounts, they spend until it’s gone and live paycheck to paycheck. MOST people live like this because money management is not taught by schools or parents. Nick and I have taught ourselves how to manage money and save and invest. It’s not difficult! But you do have to stay on top of it and it requires effort and motivation. Which brings me to the motivation part of this post.

Every single thing one does is sparked by motivation. It’s the core of how we operate. The trick is to tap into that well of motivation and stay tapped in to get what you want. It requires effort to stay motivated, trust me, I know. The issue with my niece is not the money, it’s the motivation. She and her husband are not motivated by the carrot of wealth because they truly believe that it is not something they can ever have. They believe that money will always be finite and that’s that. LOTS of people think that way. Hell, I’d say MOST people think that way. I’ve even seen well off people with the attitude that money is finite and you’d best hoard it or it’ll get away. That is not the truth, I wrote about this in another post recently.

Motivation to get out of debt and create wealth is necessary to do the work. You simply must commit to the mundane tasks of logging your spending (we recommend using Quicken) and being in control of your money. Once you know where your money is going, then you can fix it, right? Seems pretty simple. But it doesn’t matter how simple it is if there’s no motivation to do the work.

We have been motivated to start over after the pub debacle. So we did bankruptcy to erase the pub debts and started over. We have zero debts and we control 100% of our money. That’s all you need to start creating wealth – well, that and motivation! We are motivated to create wealth because we are middle aged and we’d like to have a large cushion of wealth for our later years. I don’t say retirement, because retirement is not something that any of us beyond the fucking boomers will ever get. We’ll work until we die. But our motivation is to have enough wealth built up so that we can at least eat the fancy cat food, yanno? ;)

Our conversation last night was about what we want to do now that the pub is off the table. YES we’d love to work for ourselves, but that is not going to happen. Nick’s boss is going to give them raises and bonuses as business comes back this year, so that mess is a little more palatable, at least. We were sitting downstairs with all the games going and I told Nick about MY personal motivation to get every possible game that we have working for MomoCon next year. I am FIERCELY motivated to bring a shit ton of games to Momo to a) show them we have great games and we’re improving our selection and b) ensure that WE will be THE vintage gaming vendor for that convention. I want my beach head. They already treat us great, they pay us, give us unlimited passes and they give us a con room, too. I love them for that. But I want them to feel like we are really working for it and deserve all they are doing for us. I’m sick of sitting around while there are 10 games waiting to be finished. With this year off, I feel that if we roll up on Momo with the same selection we had in 2019, that is just lame. There’s no excuse for us to not have new games with a whole year off.

The issue, of course, is that Nick must do the majority of the work on the games. I can do arts and crafts (cabinet refurbing) but he must get the damn things working. And he’s been fighting a deep depression. I have too, but not as bad as his. So I have to have enough motivation for both of us. I think I do! But it’s tough to keep oneself up while dragging along another. But I’ll do my damn best. Because we have GOT to get motivated and get working. I want that beach head at Momo. Period. I gave the biggest motivational speech I’ve ever given last night. I hope it worked. It seemed to. Nick was certainly moved by it, so I hope that I can kindle his motivation to get this game business back on track. ::fingers crossed::

In closing, the whole point of this post is to perhaps prod you a little bit to find your own gratitude for what you have and your motivation to get past this fucking year and DO something. Just keep swimming! :)

Greek Okra and Tomato Casserole


Greek Okra and Tomatoes

I learned this recipe from a Greek mom years ago. I've not made it in forever! But my neighbor gifted me some okra yesterday, so I decided to break out an oldie but a goodie! You can make this without the feta, but I think it's needed to further cut the heavy tomatoes.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine greek
Keyword braised okra and tomatoes, greek okra, okra, tomatoes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Author misangela


  • 1 lb fresh okra (about 4 cups cut), cut 1/4" on bias
  • 1 16oz can crushed tomatoes or whole, crushed by hand
  • 1 small white onion, diced (about 1/2-2/3 cup)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (about 1.5 Tbl) More, if desired! This is a garlic forward dish.
  • 1/3 cup EVOO plus some for finishing
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice, 1 Tbl reserved 1 large or 2 small; about 2Tbl juice
  • S/P to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried to taste
  • 2 tsp L&P worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 Tbl crumbled feta optional


  • Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  • Mix together all ingredients and pour into a casserole dish sprayed with food release (PAM).
  • Sprinkle feta on top of casserole.
  • Bake for 1.5 hours and check for doneness of veg. This may take 2 hours, depending on your casserole dish depth. You are looking for all the veg to be soft and cooked through.
  • Add reserved lemon juice and a couple of turns of EVOO to casserole after you take it out of the oven.
  • Check for seasoning and serve.


I served this with meatballs and it was perfect. It would be great with dolmathes as well. 
This casserole is a little tricky to get the tomatoes balanced. Try to get the flavours of the oregano, L&P, lemon juice and S/P very close before you cook. If you're using feta, check seasoning with that since it adds some salt. 
If your casserole dish is a flat square one, the cooking time will be less. I was using a deep oblong dish, so it took a full 2 hrs. This is a braise, so don't rush it. 
The tomatoes and lemon juice should cut the slime of the okra nicely. What you should end up with is a thick casserole, but not slimy. I think this is one of the best ways to prepare okra aside from the Southern way of frying it. 

What I’ve Learned About Money

I was just commenting to a friend the other day about money and what I’ve learned about it over the last decade or so. He was lamenting about “not doing anything about his dreams” and not understanding why he isn’t doing the things he’s dreamed of. My comment was that his problem is MONEY. Not too little (in his case), but the attitude that it is zero sum and if you lose it, you’ll NEVER make more. That belief will KILL YOU, homes. Being insecure about money when you have stacks of it is DEFINITELY an American societal issue. And it makes me sad that people with plenty are still unhappy because they are afraid to spend it. That is one seriously fucked up way to live.

This is an attitude that is all too common in our society: zero sum. It’s what makes billionaires hoard money like it will help them in the afterlife or something. It’s the core value of rich people who make it their business to keep poor people in their place and to pay out as little as they possibly can for any reason. Poor people are taught that there’s never enough and they had best just get used to it. It’s ALL LIES.

Money is not a zero sum. You can make it, lose it, and make it again.

I know this FOR A FACT, since we’ve done this twice in the last decade or so. We made money, bought a house, lost our ass on the house, bankrupted out, made money again, lost our ass in the pub debacle, bankrupted out and have made the money back again. All in the space of about 10 years.

SO I know of what I speak.

We’ve come to understand that there are tools in plain sight, that anyone can use to gain and manage wealth. You don’t have to be rich to have your money work for you! Investing, using IRAs properly and yes, bankrupting out of untenable situations are all tools that rich people use with impunity, yet are LOATHE to educate poor people how to use and actually work to keep basic knowledge out of the hands of the very people it could benefit the most.

Let’s first look at bankruptcy. My family would DIE before they’d bankrupt. They’d lose everything to pay a silly bill rather than use the tool of bankruptcy to stop the losses and get back on their feet. It is preached to the [poor] masses that bankruptcy is The Last Resort™ and should NEVER be used. THAT IS A LIE. Bankruptcy is a legal tool put in place to allow people (and corporations, of course) to stop losses and get out of an untenable, unrecoverable situation. Be it a deal gone bad, or medical debt, or just bad money management. Whatever, it’s there to give everyone – not just the rich – relief of debts and a chance to start over. The poor are taught that you must ALWAYS pay your debtors, even if the debts outstrip your ability to pay. The poor hear things like, “But what about your creditors? HUH? What about THEM?” To that I say: FUCK ‘EM. 9 times out of 10 these poor, innocent creditors are huge megacorporations with trillions under their control and a flock of millionaire executives who could not possibly care less about your $5000 credit card. Same for medical debt. This should not exist in the first place! People are paying $1000s per month for shitty insurance with a $10k deductible that they cannot afford to pay out! Where is the sense in that? Medical debt is NEVER a reason to lose your whole worth. Just bankrupt out.

What happens with bankruptcy? Well, it’s not instant death, poverty, destruction, starvation and ostracization from society, as you’ve been taught. It is a simple and painless bunch of paperwork. You have a choice of which to do: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Chapter 7 is the clean slate. Zero debts left to pay, you can keep certain items, it depends on their financial status. Chapter 13 is a repayment plan that works for the creditors, NOT YOU. Chapter 13 is for suckers. You get all the credit knocks AND still have debts to pay. I do not recommend it.

You go to a bankruptcy lawyer, which will cost you around $2k (as of 2020). Some will finance even that for you. You provide all your debts, your bank accounts, etc. They do an audit of your accounts then they issue the request for bankruptcy to the Federal Court of your area. You have to then go to court and affirm that all your shit is true to the judge. Then they issue the decree and finalize the bankruptcy. (Side note: thanks to the 2020 pandemic, NOW is a great time to do a bankruptcy. You don’t even have to go to court. They call you on the phone! SO EASY.) That is it. Your debts are erased and you are free to start building your credit again. You’ll have credit card offers (and car buying offers) all over the place. Yes it will be “on your credit” for 7-10 years (credit scores are a whole ‘nother RANT I have, suffice it to say they are BULLSHIT), but other than purchasing real estate, there is little issue with it.

After getting out from under Maplehurst, which was 60% under water, our credit was back and better than before in TWO YEARS. Believe it. That’s how we had about $60k empty credit cards ready for the pub. Those cards are what we had to get out from under AFTER the pub failed. And we did. The $100k or so from the 401k was liquid, so while it is gone, it didn’t affect our credit, just our net worth.

Now, let’s move on to investments. Poor people are taught that investing in the market(s) is for rich people only. In the past, it has been difficult to do any investing without a broker and a fat nest egg. BUT since the advent of the internet and the ability to get information easily, that no longer applies. Investment companies such as e*Trade are geared for the small investor who just wants to make his small nest egg work for him.

The rules for investing still apply: don’t buy on margin, don’t dally with penny stocks, don’t “day trade” and fuck around with your stocks constantly. For the small investor, buying and holding is the way to grow your wealth. Nick is VERY good at this! This is why our [relatively] small $20k account has bloomed into about $50k in less than a year [after the Apple split, they got up to over $60k!!]. By being very strategic with the stocks we buy and even more strategic about our ratios of which stocks get more $$, we’ve made about 40-50% on our investments this year. Our IRA is in an index fund which has done well, but we don’t mess with the IRA that much. It was the $24k we had left after the pub, and it’s not liquid, so we tend to leave it alone. More on IRAs in a second.

You can start up an investment account with just a few grand. Generally, $5k is the entry level. I STRONGLY encourage EVERYONE to save up that $5k and get started with investing no matter your age. E*Trade is who we use and they have really strong support for n00bs. Like all things, investing does require some learning and some research to decide which companies you’d like to invest with, but for the beginner, a good index fund should get you going and e*Trade is very helpful with all that.

Now about those IRAs/401ks. Everyone is told continuously that having an 401k or IRA is paramount for retirement. Well, we disagree. 401ks/IRAs are only as good as the company that manages them. And, sure, a company match is nice, but again, if the 401k is only making 3%, you’d be better off with your own IRA that YOU manage, so you can make more returns. Nick’s company 401k never made more than 3% the whole 20 years he had it and when the crash happened, their management company lost over 50% of their value. We called it our 201k. After 20 years, when the company closed, Nick’s 401k was only worth about $116k with a full company match. That is pathetic. So after the pub wiped out the funding except about $24k, we had to roll it into another retirement account because of the ROBS program we used to finance the pub. We set up a simple IRA that we manage. We have it invested into the USAA index fund, which is a good one and we pretty much leave it alone. Why put money into a black hole when we can instead put spare money into investments or high yield savings and we can pull it any time we want to?

The issue with 401k and IRAs is that you can’t get to that money. There are steep penalties for taking it out. So basically, it’s a trap for poor people. The only people who really benefit from 401ks and IRAs are the companies that run them – which is why 401ks are notoriously low earners. Why would the 401k company want to make YOUR sorry ass money, when they can use your money to work for THEM? It’s FAR more beneficial for the average joe to put money into an investment account for the long term. Stocks will make money. Not every day, of course and there are “corrections” (read: crashes), but OVERALL, your money will do more for you with investing than an IRA if you buy and hold some good, solid earning stocks. You can get your money OUT of investments if you need it and if you manage them correctly, you might be able to eat the high end cat food when you’re old! The way the economy is set up currently, if you are not in the upper echelons of earners ($1M and up), you’ll never retire anyway. We know this, so we are trying to make our money work for us as much as we possibly can while we’re making it.

We heavily invest in Apple (which just had a 4 to 1 split and we are VERY HAPPY) and other tech stocks. Our IRA is in the USAA Nasdaq index fund, which is a consistent earner. We’ve brought the remnants of the pub mess, that lost 80% of our net worth, back to about 80% of what it was in a year. We did this by using the tools that the rich use every day. We bankrupted out of all that credit card debt from the pub (you can keep your investments and IRAs with Chapter 7 BTW) and used our investment fund wisely. That is precisely what rich people do and it works.

We are also looking into a high yield savings account. We’ve got about $5k that could be making us more than shitty credit union savings rates. We were looking at money markets, but found that Smarty Pig has a high yield savings account that will make us more so I think we’re going to use that. High yield funds usually require a certain balance to get the best rates, so it’s not something we’d recommend instead of investing, but rather in addition to.

Those of us on the lower end of the earnings grid have the same tools as the rich, we’re just not taught how to use them. This is done 100% on purpose. It serves the rich to keep the poor where they are and to keep upward mobility as tamped down as possible. If more people start to move up, that leaves less for the rich to divvy up amongst themselves.

A great example of lack of knowledge keeping people down is my father. He was brought up dirt poor. He was proud to tell people that he was a millionaire in the 80s. He was a subdivision developer in the 70s and 80s in addition to owning a bunch of chain restaurants. But due to lack of knowledge, he never invested his money. He put it in low yield CDs. Long story short: my parents were broke LONG before he died. They ran through the money that had been sitting, making maybe 1-2% for decades and were broke by their mid-60s. If my father had been educated in investing, those millions he made could have been working for him for decades! He’d have had plenty of money for retirement and my brother wouldn’t have had to give up his whole life to support the parents. My brother got a shitty county schools job (after the construction industry collapse) and he has paid the bills for years. He has zero savings and nothing to fall back on. All they have is their 15 acres of land, a huge house in disrepair and a stack of bills. My brother will never retire unless he comes to his senses and sells that fucking albatross of a house and land. And he’ll never do that.

So next time you look at your bills and feel that you’ll never get them paid off, perhaps think about using these tools to help yourself. What if you can get out from under all those bills and start over? Would that give you new hope? Could you start over and do better?

Think about it. And never be afraid to use the tools that everyone else uses to benefit yourself. Life’s too short to be a slave to creditors. Make a clean start. Despite the frowns that you’ll get from rich people, starting fresh is a game changer. Do it if you need to.

Ignore the societal pressure to remain exactly where you are.

Money is not finite. You can always make more. The trick is managing it to your benefit. Never let fear of losing it keep you from your dreams.

We are proof that you can reach for your dreams! If you fail, well, so what? Just make more money and try for the next dream. Life’s short. LIVE IT.