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This Ain’t Brain Surgery

John W. Pinkerton


I guess I've always been an odd duck about salaries and money in general. When I taught, I knew very well that my efforts were worth more money than I was being paid, but money wasn't the point. Between my wife and myself, we did a good job of managing our incomes. When I retired, I became an artist. I like making money from art, but that ain't the point. I usually charge about half what other artists would charge for the same work. That works for me because it moves all those damned paintings out of my house, and then we have a little lagniappe.

By the way managing money ain't brain surgery.  It's not even foot surgery.

Rule No. 1: Don't complain about not making the salary you think you deserve.  Do your job and hope for the best.  The school district in which I worked for 35 years didn't have much of a tax base and therefore really didn't have the money to pay me more than it did.  During my last couple of years, I suddenly got a pretty nice local raise as librarian.  I've never known who suggested that.  I know it wasn't the superintendent because when I mentioned it to him, he was pretty huffy.  That really wasn't a surprise.  Several of my superintendents hated my guts.  Back at you, Bubba.

Rule No. 2: Take the two nickels you made this week and invest one of the nickels.    You'll never miss that nickel.  You'll do fine with your investments if you don't panic.

Somewhere around my 35th year on earth, a local fellow came by and asked me if I wanted to give him some money to invest in a weird mutual fund which has since been rolled over to less weird investments.  As the local fellow spoke, suddenly it dawned on me that I might need a little extra cash in my old age.  Up until that moment most of my investments had been in beer, gas, and bad habits.    I never missed the money we invested.  I never panicked when the stock market bottomed out.  Holy crap, interest is magical.  I even did more investing in other funds.

Rule No. 3: Don't buy stuff you don't need and if you just must have a new gadget, wait until you can pay cash for it.  I haven't had many different cars in my lifetime, but when I do buy one, I pay cash.  What is the difference between saving money for a purchase and making payments to a car company?  No interest and you truly own the car.  We do that with all major purchases.

Rule No. 4: If you do buy stuff you don't need, buy stuff which will increase in value, not decrease, or at least won't lose value.  A few years ago, Linda and I became collectors.  We decided to collect art glass.  Glass doesn't change.  It gets older but it doesn't deteriorate, and if you learn what you're doing, you'll be able to get your money back if you need it, and, besides, quality never goes out of style.

Rule No. 5: Be generous with your money.  Karma counts.  On the other hand, don't be overly generous.  If you bankrupt yourself with your generosity, you won't be able to help anyone including yourself.  By the way, making a personal loan to a friend or relative is a misnomer---that's a gift.

Rule No. 6: If you can save money by doing a project yourself, go for it.  About 40 years ago, I became a seer and saw that if I didn't purchase the house I was presently renting for $75 a month, I'd soon be paying over $500 a month.  The approaching oil boom made me purchase the home quickly…and embarrassingly cheap.  I worked on it every summer for years.  Nice house.  That Thoreau advised against becoming a servant to a house.  Good advice.  If you're renting, you're giving your money away.

Rule No. 7: In retirement you'll need to find something to do.  Choose something that will at least pay for itself.  I decided on art and pick up a few bucks from time to time.  At least the sales pay for the canvas, and paint and brushes and trips to my galleries.  Mainly it gives me something to do and a day in the studio is a day not driving Linda nuts.

Rule No. 8: Consistency is important.  Linda and I are still living the same lifestyle we lived when we were first married.  If my lifestyle was good enough when I was twenty-six, it should be good enough when I’m seventy-six. Growing up, my parents were good about having a consistent lifestyle which seemed not to depend on their financial situation.  At times we were well to do; other times pretty broke, but we always had a meal on the table.  I was taking notes---“Meal on table”---really important.  We still have meals at our table but occasionally eat out.

Now, you might be thinking, “I bet he got a big inheritance.”  Wrong.  Linda did get a modest inheritance from her dad's estate; my dad left me a ball point pen.  Yahoo!

I did have one advantage: no kids.  In our old age I guess we'll have to depend on the kindness of strangers, but they probably won't want money.

I guess the basic principle of economics is. “Waste not, want not.”