Valentine and Marriage: A Survival Guide

Rodney: Me and my wife used to be really happy together?

Friend: Really…what happened?

Rodney: We got married.

 Joke by Rodney Dangerfield

All jokes aside, Valentines Day is coming up and many people are expecting some type of recognition including my significant other. It is a day to celebrate love. I am not talking about sexual love. I am talking about caring love. As social creatures we all need caring love. We can’t survive without it. It is as basic as water. It is one of the pillars for human survival. We all need water, food, shelter, and love. And that caring love is what I receive from my wife and I return it in a mutual symbiosis.

How I met my wife?

I was in the college library running towards the elevator. The doors were closing. I put my foot in the door, entered, and saw the most beautiful thing ever, an empty elevator because I hate uncomfortable elevator silences with other people in it. Once inside I look out and see a pretty girl sitting at the end of the library. She had dark curly hair, a button nose, rosy cheeks, and full lips. She suddenly looks up and we lock eyes as the elevator doors closed. I wanted to leave the elevator and go to her but I just continued to stare at her eyes as the doors closed shut. Is she the one? Is this love? The moment passes and I think to myself …Wow, wow, wow!….now I have this elevator all to myself.

The next day I go to the library at the same time in the hopes of seeing her again. There she was, immersed in her studies. My mind was spinning. How should I approach? Should I do a direct approach and “grab her by the …um…ok…how do I say it in…um…hand.”

No, that won’t work. I should say something better. Say something witty.

I played with different pick up lines in my head that I could use:

Are you trying to trip me? Because I am falling for you.

Your name must be cholesterol because my blood pressure is rising.

I like empty elevators.

Crap! No….none of that will work. Think, think fast…

“Umm…is anybody sitting here?” I asked in a matter-of-fact manner. Smooth right. Yeah, I thought so at the time. She said,”No, go ahead.” I sat down. I pretended to study thinking of something else to say.

I have to say something really cool now. Something that will make her smile. Something that will make her feel like there was some magical, cosmic connection between us.

I blurted out “What are you studying?”

She smiled and says “A book for my history class.” Yes! She smiled. I am so good at this.

I need to close this thing before I say something even more brilliant and then she will think I am too good for her.

“Would you like to go out sometime,” I say with a smile. I would just like to add that there wasn’t an an ounce of desperation in my voice. Trust me. OK, maybe just a little.

Her cheeks turn deep red and shyly said,”OK.”

And the rest is history. We exchange phone numbers. I get up and head to the elevator. It was empty again. My life is good.

How we stayed together for 13 years?

Now I could answer this question with something cliche and mushy like saying “love” has kept us together all this time. But that is a cop out to what marriage really is and that is “work.” A marriage needs to be “worked on” and “love” by itself is not enough to keep a marriage together. I am leaving “love” out of the equation to get to the more practical side of a long lasting marriage. It is time to get SERIOUS.

Warning: There were several puns and jokes thus far but from this point onwards–not so much.

Know your Roles

Marriages usually fall apart when partners do not have defined roles. For example, my duties at home is to pay the bills, take out the garbage, clean the gutters, I will stop here because I don’t want to take too many gigabytes but you get the point. My wife has her role duties as well. I usually don’t interfere with her duties and she doesn’t interfere with mine. We each have our domains and respect each other’s contributions.

Respect Pact: Don’t call me stupid.

When we first got married we made a pact. The pact stated that we would not call each other demeaning names, especially names insulting the intelligence of either. This includes names such as stupid, idiot, dumb, moron, etc. Have we called each other demeaning names since the pact? I am definitely guilty here and so is she. We are not perfect. But we have NEVER called each other names that insult our intelligence. I have never called my wife stupid or anything similar and she hasn’t in return.

Communicate with the “I” method

All couples argue and get into fights sometimes. How is it handled after? Knowing the correct way of communicating an issue is of most importance. I was fortunate to learn this early on and shared it with my wife. In order to solve the problem it is best to use the “I” method instead of the “you” method. By the way, this method is also good to use in a workplace setting as well.

Examples of “I” method:                                      

I feel like you are ignoring me.

I am disappointed about how you said that.

Examples of “you” method:

You go out all the time.

You always say such things!

Notice that if you start your sentence with “you” it will sound more accusatory and it will automatically escalate conflict. However, if you start with “I feel” or “I think” it starts with the person saying it and it leaves an element of continued dialogue rather than a fight about “you did this” and “you did that.”

Logical arguments for not leaving your spouse.

For those logical fanatics. Below are two rational arguments for keeping a marriage together. Love is not included in these arguments but they are valid still.

The Novelty in Perpetual Error Argument

All marriages have what is known as the “honeymoon” period when everything is exciting and new. Then it wears off. Then one partner begins to seek that novelty and begin a relationship with another partner. There is excitement in this new relationship and leaves the other partner for this new relationship. Then the excitement wears off and they seek somebody new again. It becomes a perpetual cycle of cheating for seeking that “excited” feeling. The argument follows, why cheat at all or seek a new partner at all if ends up being the same, perpetually the same. It wouldn’t matter what partner the person ends up with, the “honeymoon” period will always end. And it will not matter how handsome, beautiful, if they are a movie star (look at the divorce rate for famous actors), rich, or famous the other person is. If there is one thing for sure, the “honeymoon” period will always end so there is no sense of leaving your partner only to experience the same scenario. You are better off staying.

The Wealth Argument

When you separate with your spouse, in most cases, you are losing half of your wealth. Not just money wealth, intellectual wealth is also lost as well. Remember all the role duties your spouse did, now you have to do them. Just imagine half of what you have suddenly vanishing. In closing, unless there is a prenup, expect to lose half your wealth and start doing all of your former spouse’ duties, therefore it is in everybody’s best interest wealth-wise to stay together. If there is a person outside your marriage with more wealth and you are interested in that person romantically, STOP. Before you act, apply the Novelty in Perpetual Error Argument and return to your spouse and be happy.

I know what your thinking. How dare you talk about wealth in relationships when love should be the focus? I know…..I know..kinda of douche-like and cold….so  I will end it by saying one thing.

I love my wife.

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How I Lost $8000 Dollars?!!!

20170118_114923I lost $8000 dollars. It could have been prevented. I could have avoided it. I didn’t. It happened. And surprisingly, I don’t feel that bad about it. Am I losing sleep over it? No, I’m not. Am I banging my head against the wall? Not even. And its not because I think $8000 is a small amount. Both vehicles that I currently drive are worth less than that. I could have used that money to fund my children’s education, to buy a better car, a nice vacation, to invest, many other things. But now that money is gone….and you know what? I probably won’t miss it.

Now you may be saying to yourself….”What the heck is wrong with you? It’s $8000 freaking dollars guy!” My response. I shrug my shoulders and respond, “Oh, well. Life goes on.” Trust me, I have a valid reason. And I would be willing to bet that if you were in my shoes you would feel the same way. I talked to somebody who lost that much money in the same manner and guess what? They did it on purpose. I, at least attempted not to lose it even though my efforts in hindsight where “blinded efforts.” That other person lost about $7500 and they did it on purpose! If you think I am crazy for not feeling “that bad” about losing $8000, now imagine somebody losing $7500 on purpose. In fact, they planned on losing that money. They planned it! So don’t call me crazy now.

Now let me explain. I have a rental property (we can call it “Ignored”) that always leases out fast. In the first week of October the tenants moved out and my wife and I did the make-ready lightning fast. I did a glance over and started doing light touch-up on the place and my wife did some light cleaning on the kitchen only. We finished in one day. Placed it for lease right away and narrowly focused on the remodel of the other home I had just purchased (we can call it “Sponge”). Sponge consumed all my time due to the fact that it was an extensive remodel. My days were filled with my daily routine, the addition of trips to home improvement shops, placing light fixtures, trim, and other decorative features on Sponge. My work days would be ending at 9 pm every day.

October passed. Like a leaf, November blew away. December left like a souped up sleigh. And now we are in January and finally I began to wonder…Why the heck hasn’t Ignored been leased? Ignored has been leased out for about $2000-$2200 before and 4 months have passed with no takers. Four months without a tenant is a loss of $8000! I go back to Ignored, and this time do a thorough walk through and what do I see? Mold. Grimy mold is on the bathroom tiles and also notice that the bottom trim is filthy all over the house. Sponge had consumed so much of my life that I overlooked many obvious defects that would have deterred any potential renters. In all my years I have never lost that many months on a rental. Now I lost 4 months. I lost $8000. And that doesn’t include the loss of mortgage, insurance, and taxes paid for those months.

The next day I scrub that mold to oblivion and paint that trim like a classical painter. That same week the property was leased. Problem solved. I blamed myself for allowing Sponge to consume my life. It cost me a lot of money. But that still doesn’t answer the question. Why don’t I feel that bad about losing that money?

I never had it. I never touched it. It was never in my account. It was phantom money. Money that I very likely could have had had I done the right thing from the start. But since I didn’t it never came. My investor friend has a place in Florida that he rents out for $1500 and he decided not to lease it out to anybody for 5 months because he wanted to stay in it on his trip there for 7 days. He lost $7500. He could have stayed in a hotel instead and used the difference to spend on his vacation. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was losing money because we talked about it. But he was OK with it. He never had it. He never touched it. It was never in his account. It was phantom money.

That being said. If that money was in my shoe box and then by mistake placed in the recycling bin, and the recycling bin had been picked up, I would be cursing like when you are barefoot and step on a Lego in the middle of night. Then I would probably curl up in the fetal position at night wondering and whispering to myself over and over again…. where is it? Why? Why? And the mental anguish of losing it would bother me for days…until time would eventually heal the pain. Yes, I lost $8000. Will I do a better job to prevent such a loss in the future? You bet. Do I feel bad about it?…Now that I think about it…a little bit more now….

Dear Deer; Don’t Die Doe

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I have avoided deer all my life. They have made me swerve on the highway, drive extra slow on residential streets, and avoided a street altogether when walking my dog. Yesterday on Halloween I discovered a dead deer on the recently purchased property. It appeared to have died of internal injuries. What are the chances?

I almost became a little paranoid. Somebody must have dumped it here. One of the neighbors? Teenage jerks? My mother-in-law? Clowns?…Anything was possible? I inspected to see if there was a trail of blood or folded blades of grass, evidence of dragging. I found none.

The more likely scenario is that the deer just fell dead in the flower bed in the front lawn from a collision with a car or a metal fence. Oh dear! Poor deer! I call the city for a pick up but the city denies my request because the property is a few blocks beyond the city boundary. I call the county and they tell me they can only pick up if it is on the street and creating a road hazard. I’m screwed for deer life.

Should I pack it up myself in a black plastic sheet and haul it to the dump? The neighbors would think I am a mass murderer! It would look very suspicious that’s for sure. As I am writing this, the deer is still lying dead in the front lawn, bloated and smelly. I need to call an animal removing company because a mortuary definitely won’t pick it up. There are many doe’s and don’ts  when it comes to wild animal removal. I need to do the right thing.

UPDATE

Well….the day I wrote the above article towards the evening I checked on that deer. Only the head and neck was left! The vultures have eaten most of it. I cancelled the animal removal company and decided to wait the next day. The next evening I see this:

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I got out a black plastic bag, placed the remainder there, and put it in the trash. Problem solved! Thank you nature.

Bought a Bargain Property: Now What?

We have recently purchased a property at a very good price at $330,000. There are three choices we could make and they are driving us a little crazy. My wife and I have been talking about the choices and we have decided to put the decision off for a few weeks. But we will have to decide within the next few months and again the indecision on our part is driving us nuts. Tough choice to make.

The Situation

The deal was found out of sheer curiosity. The market in my neighborhood is hot and most homes sell within 30 days. I noticed that there was one home that had passed 100 days on the market. I wanted to know why and quickly set up an appointment to go see it. The home was fundamentally sound but everything was out of date. It had original worn cabinets, stained concrete flooring that was not conventionally appealing, and the areas with carpet was worn and stained. They priced it well for the condition at a reasonable $425,000. Why didn’t it sell at that price I have no idea but buyers did not want to touch it. I did but at a lower price. The roof, HVAC, and water heater were less than 5 years old. The foundation was sound.  When I negotiated it down to $330,000 it became a treasure. It was pure luck my offer got accepted. Now we have some choices to make.

The Choices

Choice A is to flip the property. Remodeled comparables in the same neighborhood are selling for about $500,000-$550,000. I can budget holding costs and a remodeling budget of $70,000 bringing my total cost to $400,000. If it sells at its market value after the remodel the profit margin would be between $80,000-$130,000 after all expenses!!! It is definitely tempting to just flip it and make a quick profit.

Choice B is to keep it as a rental. Since it was already bought at a bargain price we would have instant equity now and into the future adding to my net worth. The property can lease out for a range of $2700-$3000 once the remodel is finished. However, by keeping it I will have to swallow all the repair costs..that means I will have to be paying off the line of credit I am using for repairs in the foreseeable future. The rent will cover that costs along with the mortgage but I will not be getting that much passive income.

Choice C is to move in to the property and lease out our current home. The house feeds to the same schools my kids go to, has a floor plan that works for us, and is similar in square footage to our current house. If I flip it right away the profits will be taxed as ordinary income. However if we live in it for 2 years the profit becomes tax free.  The government allows homeowners to keep up to $250,000 in gains for individuals and $500,000 for married couples if they live in a house at least 2 years. By being patient we can flip it in 2 years and not pay taxes on the gain. If we like it enough we can just stay there. But again, similar to keeping it as rental, we would have to continue to pay the $70,000 loan for repair costs until we can re coop it back if we sell in 2 years or for a longer period of time if we decide to stay longer.

All three choices have positives and negatives. The ones that make more sense to me at this point is choice A and choice C more so than choice B. My wife and I will be discussing some more in the upcoming days. What a predicament?  What would you do?