My dearest son Mason,

After my last post, I started thinking about how broke I used to be, and how much better our future looks because I have a better job. It also got me thinking about all the terrible financial decisions I’ve made in my life. However, it’s not what you think. Saying that I’ve made terrible financial decisions makes it seem like I was sitting at a desk and trying to decide where to put my money. I wasn’t sitting at a desk. I wasn’t making large, risky decisions. I wasn’t making decisions at all. I was eating fast food everyday. I was buying t-shirts off the internet. I was spending money I knew I’d never get back out of a piece of crap Suburban. Let me explain.

When you’re poor, every little decision has a big impact on your monthly budget. When I say poor, I mean making minimum wage. Let’s say that you are making $10 every hour and you work 40 hours per work. That’s $400 a week and $1600 every month. Trust me, I know this analogy pretty well. By the time you pay for a car payment and insurance, rent and food and gas, you’ve basically got nothing left. By the time 30 days in a month go by, you’ve spent many nights going to the movies, buying food at restaurants or buying clothes. So if you find yourself with $200 left over at the end of the month, you make the quick decision to spend $50 of it because its been about a month since you’ve bought something for yourself. That’s essentially the worst financial decision you can make in that situation. You’re savings account is $200, and you’re spending 25% of your savings.

It’s hard to explain how hard it is to save money when you’re broke. No matter how much money I made from the time I was 16 to 26, I stayed broke. Not to mention, I lied to myself constantly. When I got paid on Friday, I’d figure out how much money I needed to last me until my next paycheck. That’s how I rationalized spending $20 at the movies on Friday night. Then Saturday night, I’d go out to dinner or do some other activity and spend $20 more. Then two weeks would go by, and I’d be down to $50 left. I’d get paid again, and that’s how I lived for 10 years. I always thought I would be working, and I’d always get a paycheck. I never even attempted to save money. I was such an idiot.

Things got worse. As my friends spent money, I spent money I didn’t have. I got a credit card, and then I maxed it out. Then I called and got the limit raised. Then I maxed it out again. I made minimum payments on that credit card for a decade. Financially speaking, there isn’t anything more shameful or pitiful. How stupid and absentminded could I be? Now that I’m 32, I’m not shameless or prideful. I can admit that I’m still paying that credit card, and others, off. It’s terrible. I’ve increased my income more than three-fold. I’m making tons of money at my new job, and it is great. You know what I’m doing with the majority of my paychecks? Paying off more than $15,000 in credit card debt.

No matter how big my paycheck gets, it all disappears. Eventually, I’ll catch up with my debt, and I can start saving money. However, for the time being, I’m working 65 hours a week and spending nights away from you and your mom just so I can transfer most of my paycheck into a black hole. Instead of having $15,000 in my savings account to do magical things with, I have no money in my checking or savings and my balance on my credit cards is getting smaller. It’s extremely anticlimactic and depressing. You should avoid it at all cost. Basically, I’m trying to make this blog post as anticlimactic and depressing as possible so you’ll come to realize how anticlimactic and depressing it is paying off credit card debt. Let this be your first warning. Avoid it at all costs. Don’t open a credit card for emergencies. That’s ignorant. Your first step should be to hoard $1,000 as an emergency fund. Don’t buy things on credit cards because you think you’ll get cash back or frequent flyer miles. That’s possible to do, but it comes much later. That’s not something to get into immediately. It takes discipline and cash.

Your second step should fly right by. The second step is to snowball your debt. Seeing that you don’t have any debt yet, it should be really easy to fly right by this step. However, for the sake of other readers out there, let’s say that there is some debt. Maybe it is some credit card debt or student loans. The debt snowball is accomplished like this. You pay off the smallest credit card with the highest interest rate first. If there is a $2500 card, a $5000 card and a $10,000 student loan – pay off the $2500 card first, then the $5000 card and then the student loan.

The third step is to grow your emergency fund to 6-months of living expenses. Back in 2009 and 2010, I was collecting unemployment. I got laid off, and times were rough. I had no emergency fund, and I continued to live my life on credit cards. If you are single or married or have a kid or don’t, you need money to pay your bills. If your monthly bills are $1000, you need $6000 in reserves, etc.

These first three steps are crucial. It’ll be the difference between being broke when you’re trying to get married or buy a house and actually having money to spend on the most important things in your life.

That’s enough for now. I just saw that I started this post a long time ago and never published it. I’m really going to try harder to post more often.

Love,

Dad

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Hey Mason!

It is December 18th, 2015, and it’s been a fast year! I usually say that every year, but the last three months have flown by. At the beginning of this year, I was working at Minco like always. Things were pretty uneasy. I didn’t know what was going to become of my legal situation. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to purchase a firearm or get my concealed weapon permit back. I applied to a couple of jobs, one at NDT and one at Alpha, and I waited. Then, I waited. After a couple of months, I waited some more. I was really getting stressed out about my finances. I wasn’t making very much money at Minco, but I had finally finished my degree. I was also waiting very impatiently to get my degree in the mail. I was waiting very impatiently to get my rights back, and I was waiting very impatiently to get a better job! All three things were weighing heavy on my shoulders. All I could do was go to work everyday and wait.

Finally, after six months or so, I received my bachelor degree in business management! Your mother was more excited than I was haha. I’m happy that I got it, but I was more concerned about proving I had a degree. Nobody ever tells you if you need proof or not. When filling out an employment application, the job might require a four year degree…how would they know? I had no idea at the time. Next, I would FINALLY get the go ahead for my new job at NDT. I ended up taking you and your mother down for the Fourth of July this year just to hang out with JR. He got me the job, and that pretty much counted as my first day. Dude, that job was stressful, but not in the way you might think. The job was easy. It really was. The problem was that it was 100% travel. The job was located in Tampa, and we were living in Tallahassee. I would drive down Monday morning and drive home Friday evening. It was easy to do that, but I missed you and your mother terribly. Don’t tell your mother, but I cried myself to sleep one night I was in Tampa by myself. You had just turned one year old, and I was afraid I was going to miss your first steps. You didn’t like it because you had fun with me, but it was hardest on your mother. Honestly, she didn’t deserve it. I felt bad for making her take care of you by herself. She “understood” like she always did, but she wanted me home more than she wanted the money. During my two deployments, she suffered through me being out of town long enough. From day one, I started looking for other jobs in Tallahassee. I took the job because it paid three times as much as I was making at Minco. However, we decided that I would go back to working at Minco if it meant I got to see you guys every night.

In some kind of dream-come-true scenario, a job I applied for in January finally became available in August. I planned the interview for a Monday before I had to drive down for work for the week. I went in and interviewed at Alpha. After just a couple of days, my buddy (again I had a buddy get me a job) called to offer me the job. I’ll never forget. Your mother and I were on vacation with her parents. We were camping out in their pull behind camper at Little Ocmulgee State Park in Georgia. I felt such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew that the rest of the year was going to be very different. I’ve been at Alpha for four months now, and it is really turning out good.

Next, I aimed for getting my Concealed Weapon License back. My mandatory waiting period had expired, but I was still nervous that I was going to get denied. I called on November 16th to setup an appointment. I went in a couple of days later to get my fingerprints taken and to pay the fee. By November 30th, I had been approved, and they had mailed my license out! Again, I felt like a weight had been lifted off me. I never carried concealed without a license, and it had been five years since I had my license taken. I’ve always had a pistol in close proximity to me, but it feels good to be able to carry concealed again. I never leave home without it. I’m still super happy about getting my CWL back because it really makes me feel like a citizen again.

Lastly, I wanted to get my own Federal Firearms License. Every since working at the indoor shooting range, I wanted to do things my own way. Obviously, I don’t work there anymore, and I’m still not on speaking terms with my dad. I got in really good with an awesome guy named Lee, and he let me take the wheel of his FFL. I ordered some parts and sold some guns to friends, but I really couldn’t do exactly what I wanted. I’ve wanted my own FFL for years. I didn’t want to apply for one until I had my CWL because I was afraid of getting denied. Well, I’ve had my CWL for two weeks now, and I just finished filling out the paperwork for the FFL today. The first half of this year was really stressful, and there was no end in sight. I had no idea what the end of 2015 could possibly have in store. Even this past summer, I didn’t know how long I was going to have to stick it out at NDT. It was a great job with great people, but the travel was very hard. I stayed mission oriented the entire time. I did the best job I could no matter what I was doing – Minco, NDT or Alpha. When the going got tough, I had already prepared myself mentally. I played scenarios out in my mind constantly, and even though I had no idea what was in store for me – I was never surprised when something happened.

In the last few months, things have accelerated faster than I ever could have imagined. Alpha is going great. I’m getting paid well. I haven’t done a fence job for KLD in about a year. Now, all of a sudden, I’ve got three jobs lined up in a months time. One for your mom’s uncle Mitch, one for a buddy, one for a buddy’s boss. I’m creating another company all together and applying for an FFL. I’ve got three really great things going at one time. Just four short months ago, I was travelling to Tampa and back weekly with no idea what was going to happen in the coming weeks. Your mother thinks that you are our good-luck charm. I think you are too. Anyway, I’m not totally enraged at how terrible this year was like I was in 2012 and 2013 (and prior years).

I want to wish you a merry Christmas! Your mother and I are so extremely happy about you. We went to your Christmas play today that daycare put on. I felt such an unusual happiness come over me. I was so proud to be a dad and see your little face – just like I am everyday – but this time it really hit me. It wasn’t just babysitting a kid on the weekends or giving you a bath or taking you around town. It was your first Christmas play, the first time you were in a school type function with teachers and classmates, etc. I felt like a dad. It reminded me a lot of the feelings I got when you were born. A moment that slows down time and really makes you realize what’s happening.

You don’t just jump immediately into being a dad overnight. This was one of those moments that made me feel like I had accomplished something great. It felt like a milestone – like graduating high school or boot camp. Moments that make you feel proud of yourself are rare. I’ve only had a couple that I can remember. It’s very hard to explain, and you won’t know the feeling until you’ve accomplished something great. Moments that make you feel proud of your son – that was a first for me today. It really made me smile.

Love,

Dad

November 22nd, 2015

Dear Mason,

Holy crap, time flies. Thanksgiving is in a few days. You’re getting so big! You make your mother and me so happy! You are definitely hard to keep up with, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I hope you have enjoy reading these blog posts. Writing them helps me clear my head. It helps me stay on the right path and relieve stress at the same time. I probably won’t be so stressed if I’d write more often. 

A lot has happened since my last post. I don’t see how’s it’s possibly been since early March, but the date doesn’t lie. I applied for a couple of jobs that I thought were promising around that time. I was working at Minco for $12 an hour at the time. As much as I liked working there, I couldn’t support this family on that. However, I was very grateful for the job. I learned a lot about cars and trucks. I’ll have those skills to help me with my hobbies for the rest of my life. This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for that job. It saved me twice – before and after the indoor shooting range. Let me tell you a story about the importance of endurance. 

When I got back from Iraq in 2008, I didn’t have much direction in life. However, that wasn’t anything new. I was basically an idiot. I bought a CTS-V with my deployment money. I rented a house. I starting working part-time at Precision Motorsports and collecting the G.I. Bill. It wasn’t long before I was broke again. Because I didn’t plan for my future at all, I fell on hard times. Again. 

In December of 2008, right around the very end of the year, I got laid off. The economy was getting bad, and I started collecting unemployment. It was $275 a week. I had a hard time paying my car payment and paying my rent. I sold the CTS-V of which I paid $21,000 for $13,000. I sold a couple of my guns to pay my rent. I started working, apparently for free, at a place called Centurion Tactical. That’s another story entirely. The owner of Centurion got arrested later, and I was only there for a couple months. A few months after that, I got arrested and that ended up getting me kicked out of the Marine Corps counterintelligence “DEP” program. That’s yet another story for another day. 

So as you can probably see, 2009 was a super shitty year for me. I did have one saving grace that year. I married your mother. It was “fairy tale,” and your mother and I were very lucky to have such a nice wedding. However, that didn’t change the fact that I was unemployed and on pre-trial release. I continued to go to community college and finally graduated from that stupid place. The GI Bill and unemployment was the only thing that saved me. Without that, I have no idea what I would have done. 

In 2010, my lawyer screwed me. I was put on probation for four years and committed to 180 Sheriff work camp days. I mean, I got royally fucked. So I had to start doing that crap too. I was still talking to my dad at this point, and I came up with the idea of an indoor shooting range. I was writing a business plan for the indoor shooting range pretty much the entire year that year. While that was getting off the ground, I managed to get my first real job in years. I worked full-time for a lawn care company before I got deployed in 2007. So in 2010, I started working for Minco, and that pretty much changed my life for the better. 

I can’t explain how much fun I had at Minco. I learned so much about working on cars and trucks. I was very thankful to get that opportunity. After only about a year and a half of making $12 an hour, I made a giant mistake. I left Minco to work with my dad at the indoor range for $10 an hour. I had been working on getting the indoor shooting range up and running since mid-2009. It was now Black Friday 2011 and my first official day working at the range. It was our grand opening. It was exciting at first. Then, it started to get frustrating. 

I wouldn’t find out how much of a disaster things were until later. The tension between my father and I got worse and worse. My mother told me at one point, Dad didn’t talk to her for about two weeks. He said he felt “alienated” and everybody was against him. What a piece of shit. I walked out on everything I had done – the planning, the writing, the arguing, the designing, the future, the investment. I walked out on my own business idea and on my own father on October 27th, 2013. I haven’t talked to him since. 

Luckily, I walked right back into Minco. I didn’t plan it, but because I had worked hard there previously, the boss was happy to have me back. At this point in time, my endurance was running out. Let me explain. It’s now the end of 2013, and I’ve been completely broke since 2008. I’ve slowly sold most of my stuff. I had nothing but a motorcycle for a long period of time. I had been to jail, probation officer meetings for two years, Sheriff work camp days for two years. I was yet to graduate, but at this point in time, I didn’t see the fucking point. I was mentally ready to give up. 

The year 2014 rolls around. I was working at Minco at age 30, and I think that’s what made me spiral. Just the fact that I was 30 years old and had a kid on the way made me feel like a piece of shit for making $12 an hour. Nothing was making me happy. I’d go to the gym and work and class, and when I got in bed, I’d cry myself to sleep in my head. If it wasn’t for you, and obviously your mother, I wouldn’t be here today. Those were dark days, Mason. I didn’t know how much endurance I truly had. Nobody ever knows. The only thing you can do is keep at it. No matter how bad things seem, they could always be worse. And even if things get worse and worse for so many years that you think you just can’t take it anymore, that you just can’t go on for one more second, stick to it for one more second and prove yourself wrong. Count to ten. Get rid of everything in your mind. Start from scratch on a new plan of attack. Don’t ever give up on yourself, but more importantly, don’t ever fucking give up on the people that love and need you. That includes your future wife, your future son, your future brothers or sisters, your future adopted brothers in the Marine Corps. You may want to quit, but you can’t. Ever. 

I kept working the dead end job at Minco until July of this year. I kept going to night classes until right around the time you were born. I later graduated with a business management degree. I finally got an awesome, well paying job. It’s Thanksgiving 2015, and your mother and I, as of last paycheck, are finally sleeping good at night because we aren’t worried about money. We are far from rich, but at least we have more than $-29 in our checking account. 

Endurance is the mental and physical stamina that is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. For example, enduring pain during a conditioning march in order to improve stamina is crucial in the development of leadership.

Endurance is the mental and physical stamina that is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. It’s ironically the last of the 14 Marine Corps leadership traits. It takes more than just endurance to be a great leader, but you cannot be a great leader without great endurance. 

Love,

Dad

Read this first – – – -> What History Says About Ted Cruz’s Chances (by CNN’s Julian Zelizer)

The article above is an opinion post that a friend of mine just sent me. The article is written by a liberal CNN columnist. Read the article first, and then read my comments below:

A couple of things I notice when reading an article like this.

1. The author is a CNN liberal who wrote a book about Lyndon Johnson. That should give you an idea about his mindset. Coincidentally, this article compares Cruz’s campaign to Barry Goldwater’s campaign against Johnson 50 years ago. So he’s somewhat of a subject matter expert on LBJ’s political campaign. He fails to mention Johnson ran in 1960 against JFK and lost, then became JFK’s vice president for two years. Then, he ran for president again in 1965-69 as the “incumbent” and won.

2. He wrote this article in haste. Rumors started only a day ago that Cruz was filing for a run on Monday. Cruz’s announcement comes out in 12 hours, and he wanted to put this article out first. 5:00pm on a Sunday. It’s Julian’s and CNN’s way of damage control. Nothing more – nothing less. They are trying to persuade the low information voter.

3. The CNN author states “Cruz will test the conventional wisdom that Goldwater’s strategy was and remains a failure…Johnson defeated Goldwater in a landslide election that brought in huge liberal Democratic majorities.” Again, he fails to mention he lost the 1961 election, and why 1965 was such a landslide. He became JFK’s Vice President. JFK had a huge approval rating but was assassinated.

gallup poll approval rating
So Johnson became President for two years and then ran a reelection on JFK’s coat tails. That’s hardly comparable to a potential Hillary Clinton v. Ted Cruz battle in 2016.
4. He says stuff like, “Barring any dramatic changes in the coming months, Democrats will also have a very strong and seasoned nominee in Hillary Clinton.” I think that this is just hilarious. Hillary Clinton is in the same boat as Harry Reid, John McCain, Bill Clinton, and Mitt Romney – the are old news. So old in fact, they can’t even keep up with social media.

Where other experts like Rush Limbaugh suggest that if the Democratic Party wanted Clinton, they would have nominated her two terms ago against Obama. He also suggests that the White House is behind the email scandal leak. Obama is essentially throwing her under the bus to setup a different nominee. Probably Elizabeth Warren.

5. “Cruz is also not just someone who defends extremism, but a politician who can easily be tied to the congressional obstructionism that has turned off so much of the electorate. The Republican Party has been dragged down by the kind of politics that voters have observed in Washington. In 2014 congressional approval ratings plummeted to 14%…” He fails to define “congressional obstructionism” and how Cruz is guilty of it. Because of his filibuster in the Senate? What about all the liberal filibusters over the years? They don’t count as ‘congressional obstructionism?’

He doesn’t mention the Democrat’s approval rating either- just Congress’ approval rating as a whole. He just outright calls Cruz an extremist. He says the reason the GOP has been dragged down is because of his filibuster. He filibustered because the Republicans won’t stand up to the Democrats. The GOP is dividing, which is obvious from Glen Beck’s recent statements.
6.  “The kind of scorched earth, always say no to anything politics has not done well in terms of the favorability ratings. There have been few practitioners of this style of legislative politics as prominent as Cruz. Monday, Cruz will bask in the spotlight of his announcement. But Republicans are going to have to really think hard about whether they want to put all of their electoral eggs in this volatile basket which, at least based on the history, has a very slim chance of winning.”

Get bent Julian Zelizer. The more scared liberals get of a legitimate threat, the more lies they spread. Ted Cruz doesn’t “always say no to anything” any more than any other Senator or Representative in Congress in the last 20 years. If you think Ted Cruz is “basking in the spotlight” like Hollywood liberal celebrities, you’re an idiot. Not everybody that wants to run for President is power happy.

I’m more Republican than Democrat, and I don’t have to “really think hard” about the electoral college votes. Instead of voting for the only candidate that I think has a chance of winning the presidency, I’m going to vote for the presidential candidate that best suits me – – RAND PAUL. Ted Cruz is a close second.  🙂

DON’T TREAD ON ME.

February 16, 2015

Dear Mason,

Today is your mother’s birthday. I’m sitting in the hospital right this second with her and you. Mommy brought you to the ER because you had a 100.2 degree fever. You’ve got a bad, croopy cough and you’re wheezing a little, and they won’t let you leave just yet. That’s a story for a different day though. This is a great opportunity to write Lesson 4. I haven’t had a lot of time to write these. Why? Because I’ve been working seven days a week. Why? Because your mother and I are broke.

Let me tell you how I got to be broke at age 30 (and your mother at age 28 today, HBD!). When I was a kid, I didn’t pay attention to the way things worked. I didn’t pay for things at stores because my parents did it for me. I was just a kid. When we went grocery shopping, bought gas, or did anything that required money, us kids were just out of the loop. It was grown-up stuff, and my parents were old fashioned. Well, we never transitioned. I got older and older, and I never got a money talk. My parents never told me how things work. Come to find out, they were broke when they got married – and then still when they had me.

So – I just started wingin’ it. When I turned 15, I started bugging my parents to drive. I got my learner’s permit immediately, and started driving my parents from here to there. I didn’t buy gas because I didn’t have a job yet. I didn’t pay for the car payment or the insurance either. I didn’t know those things existed. I didn’t know how much car payments or insurance even costed. I just drove.

When I turned 16, a couple of things changed. I started taking the family minivan and driving to places by myself. It was super exciting at first, but then it leveled off a little. It turned normal and boring quick. I started really becoming independent, and my parents weren’t there to put gas in the tank. So, I got my first job. It was at Super Lube on Capital Circle, and I was making about $5.15 an hour. It was minimum wage, but gas was about $1.25 a gallon at the time. Gas was about the only thing I needed to pay for. The family minivan was already paid off. So when I got my first couple of pay checks, I didn’t have any idea what I needed to do with them. I just spent them on gas and bought “things”. I bought a paintball gun. I bought a new mountain bike at the Tallahassee Mall. My only bill was gas, and I had that well taken care of with a part time job. I just spent the rest because I had no idea I needed to stock pile cash for the future. I was a 16-year-old with no guidance. If you’re 16 reading this, please realize you’re a dumbass. Why? Because you’re going to be exactly like I was when I was 16. Please don’t make the same mistakes I did.

I changed jobs a couple times in high school. I worked at a place called Turtle’s Music with my best friend Sam. I put stickers on CD’s for $6.00 an hour. Then I got a job at Proctor GMC, Hummer, Cadillac when it existed. DCT in high school helped me and Kyle (friend from high school) get jobs there. For some stupid reason they hired two people for the same job and didn’t tell us. We ‘helped’ each other out changing oil on cars. The other guy was a 50-year-old black man, and we didn’t realize we were auditioning for the same job. I got fired shortly after. Kyle worked as a helper to a service writer. He just pulled cars around. He got fired (or quit) shortly after me. Come to find out, his dad owned Golden Corral! After that, we both started waiting tables at GC, and that’s where we both still were working when we joined the Marine Corps. It was a good high school job, and I made cash tips.

From job to job, nothing changed. I didn’t figure anything out. I didn’t know what was going on. For years and years and years, I never saw the big picture. I didn’t save any of my money. I wasn’t career oriented, but no high school kid was. Right? Having crappy jobs and making almost no money wasn’t the worst part. I started 9th grade/high school with $0 in my bank account. (I didn’t have a bank account.) I started cashing pay checks at Publix. By the time I graduated high school four years later, all the money I had to my name was in my pocket – and that was it. Maybe $200. Four years of working, and I had $200 to show for it. All the toys I bought were heavily used at this point. I made probably $10,000 or $12,000 in those couple of years, but where in the hell did that money go? Well, I’ll tell you.

My first car was a 1979 Chevy Camaro Z-28. My dad bought it for me as a surprise. It was $3,000 at a used car lot. I don’t want to hate on my dad too much at this point in the story, but we lived in a half-million dollar house at the time. Seacoast had $1 million in sales annually, and he probably made over $100,000 a year. He had just ordered a brand new Chevy Suburban from the dealership. He could have gotten me a nicer car! Haha. Anyway, I never paid for my first several cars – all Camaros. After somebody (an off-duty police officer) hit me in that car, I got a 1988 Chevy Camaro IROC-Z convertible. It was a horrible decision on Dad’s part. He got $7,000 from the insurance and paid $2,700 for this piece of crap. After it lived in the shop for months, we had over $9,000 in it. I didn’t pay for the new radiator. I didn’t pay for the new tires. I didn’t pay for the new exhaust. I didn’t pay for any of it – and I only briefly overheard how much those things costed to fix.

The first car I was personally responsible for was a 1998 Chevy Camaro V6. It was a great car when I got it. But I would soon turn it into a piece of crap. I found it for sale in the newspaper, and I started working on Dad about it. I had been driving a white Ford F-100 for working with Dad, I think. Anyway, I didn’t have any money, I was 17, and I convinced dad that I could get a loan. I convinced him that I could pay for the car payment, which was probably $150 a month, and the insurance, which was probably about the same for a driver like me. Plus gas. So now I was making $600 or $700 a month, and now I owed more than half of it in bills each month. Horrible mistake on my part. Honestly though, was it more my fault or my dumbass Dad’s for letting me do it?? What smart business man lets their kid get a car loan he can’t afford at all? So if I tell you know about something – this is why.

Regardless, I currently work at Minco Auto & Truck Accessories. My boss here is Louis. He’s five years older than me. He owns the property, the business, everything. Anyway, when he turned 16, he bought his first truck, a Ford Ranger, in cash. He saved up enough money from working at a car race shop. I’m not sure what year it was, but from his stories, it was $10,000. So here you’ve got too completely different kids. One that drug his Dad to the bank and had him co-sign on a $9,500 loan for a car with over 100,000 miles on it, and one that worked from age 14 to save money to buy a new truck. Have you ever heard of a 16-year-old in high school that bought his own truck in cash? Are any of your friends doing that? Are any of your friend’s parents buying them vehicles with no strings attached? Because I see it at Minco on a weekly basis.

This story gets more retarded. When my Dad was 16 (1973?), he walked into the Dodge dealership and bought a new Dodge Dart Sport in cash. He worked for himself for two years doing odd jobs for neighbors. He drove a dump truck at age 15. He told me he saved his money, and after he had enough, he went in and spent $3,000 on a new 1973 Dodge Dart Sport. He’s told me the story a dozen times, but it just doesn’t make any sense. My Dad loved his kids back then. He says, “I wanted you guys to have things – things that I didn’t have when I was a kid” because he grew up poor in 1970’s Crawfordville, Florida. If he knew what he was doing, why in the hell would he subject his oldest kid to almost $10,000 in debt when he was 17? What’s the life lesson there? I don’t understand why he didn’t either A) buy a car in cash and make me pay him back or B) make me save money and do without a car until I could buy one in cash. I wouldn’t find out the answer to this until 2013.

Anyway, I ended up getting that car taken away from me because of speeding tickets too. Dad sold it and paid the loan off. I had probably a dozen speeding tickets at that point. I wasn’t responsible enough for a car because I didn’t have to work to get it. I just nagged Dad and the bank gave it to me. I made some payments, was probably late on my payments here and there – and then it was gone as quickly as it arrived.

The moral of the story is that there is a point to having a job. It isn’t just something to do after school. It isn’t just so you can go to the mall or to the movies. It isn’t so you can buy toys. Having a job is about being independent. Having a job is about financial security. Financial security keeps you safe from all types of things. It buys you lawyers, doctors, car mechanics, and people to fix your house after a hurricane. It buys you guns and ammo, food, water and transportation (see my future post about surviving the zombie apocalypse). Everything in life revolves around having money. You want to invest in new business ideas, you have to pay for college books, you have to pay for health insurance. Everything requires money.

From a young age, my parents would teach me that money doesn’t buy happiness. They would say I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. My dad said he hated his job (travelling salesman), and that I needed to go to college so I didn’t have to have his job when I was his age. They said that I should find a hobby that makes me happy, and figure out how I could turn it into a paying job. All lies. Quite possibly the worst advice you could possibly give a teenager.

If I could send my 16 year old self a message, it would sound something like this:

Stop being a dumbass, and think about what you’re doing. You’re taking the rest of your life in your own hands right now. You are at a point in your life where things are transitioning. You are transitioning from being a student to being a member of the American workforce, and you don’t realize that your decisions today effect the rest of your life.

To get a good idea of what you want to be when you grow up – find a mentor. Find somebody that looks like they have things figured out. If you think working at a hospital is an awesome idea – find somebody working at a Hospital to shadow. If you think being a police officer or a lawyer is awesome, find somebody that can answer questions. Ask them questions. Anything and everything you can think of. When you are 30 years old, how much money do you want to be making? $20,000 – $30,000 – $40,000 – $50,000 a year? Do you think its easy to have a wife and kid and own a house making $20,000 a year? Do you think city cops make $50,000 a year? Think again.

If you don’t graduate from high school with good grades, it starts a habit you’ll be in the rest of your life. If you don’t go to college, be prepared to work low wage jobs for a long time. If you get a degree in something retarded, be prepared to find work far from your major. Talk to college grads, talk to as many coaches and teachers and friends and family about their experiences in the job market. See what people are doing and what they’ve learned. You aren’t going to get a job with the City or the State or the CIA or FBI – you aren’t going to be the CEO of a big company – by dropping out of college and working at Burger King. You have to work for it. You have to get an entry level job and work your way up the ladder.

Money buys you happiness. It buys you piece of mind. It buys you a home and food on the table. It buys your baby new clothes and toys. It buys happiness. You can’t be anything you want when you grow up. When I was growing up, all I cared about was racing. I cared about racing my Camaro. How many kids grow up to be professional race car drivers? That’s ridiculous.

My father should have made me work at a lawn care company all through high school and then open my own company after I graduated with a business degree. He should have made me work for a plumber or electrician or a construction company here in town. The work is not glamorous. The work sucks. I worked construction and lawn care for years while I was in the Marine Corps Reserves. However, that’s how you become your own boss. The owner of Tallahassee Landscaping owns a $350,000 boat. The owner of RH Masonry here in town has a different brand new $60,000 truck every month, and several $20,000 four-wheelers. The owners of every construction company in town are millionaires. They all have very expensive pick-up trucks and Corvettes. The owner of M Electric and W Plumbing all have brand new houses, brand new cars and have tons of money in the bank. Not to mention they are their own boss.

How did they get this way?

1. They’ve been in the same industry for 25 years. They know everything there is to know about their business.

2. They didn’t blow their money as soon as they got it.

3. They eventually started their own company instead of working for somebody else their whole life.

4. They put in long hard hours and were smart about their business decisions and money.

A famous pirate once said, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Famous — as in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Anyway, you’ll either grow up working for the man, or you’ll be the man. Getting a job in high school should help teach you about responsibility. Taking responsibility isn’t the easiest thing to teach or learn. It sucks because its hard. It should also teach you about being financially responsible and conservative. Dave Ramsey has some Baby Steps that I’ll introduce to you at a later date. Basically, he says that you have to crawl before you can walk. Save up some money and buy a cheap car. Save up some more money, and buy a nicer car. It helps if you don’t care what other people think about you (being in a trashy car). Always have money to fall back on. Always pay for things in cash because you’ll be servant to the lender if you don’t. Banks get rich by taking people’s money. They call it interest. It’s the price you pay for borrowing money from people for things you can’t afford.

I hope this shows you the importance of money. The entire world revolves around it. I always heard when I was growing up that money can’t buy happiness. That’s a freaking lie. Ever seen someone frown on a jet ski?

Don’t be like me. Don’t move from job to job for 15 years. Don’t look for a job that you think would be super fun. You’ll regret it. High school is the time to be thinking about how much money you want to be making in 10 years and go after it. Don’t think you can be an astronaut or a lawyer or a doctor. That’s not realistic. If you get good grades in school and are very book smart, then it’s realistic. But if you’re like me, you’re street smart. Be a leader. Be decisive. Be responsible and hold yourself to a standard. Some parents hold their kids to a straight A grade standard. I’m going to hold you to a high financial responsibility standard.

I wish my parents would have done that for me.

Love,

Dad

November 29, 2014

Dear Mason,

Let this be a lesson in and of itself. My last note to you was 6 weeks ago. Time flies, my boy. It really, really flies.

I wrote Carpe Diem on the wall in your nursery. The Latin phrase is from a poem written by Horace. It is part of the longer phrase “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero”, which can be translated as “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow.” The ode says that the future is unforeseen and that one should not leave to chance future happenings, but rather one should do all one can today to make one’s future better. The phrase “carpe diem” is often used differently in contemporary popular culture, to justify reckless behaviour (YOLO, you only live once). The meaning of “carpe diem” as used by Horace is not to ignore the future, but rather not to trust that everything is going to fall into place for you. Take action for the future today.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve even come close to seizing all my days in my life. I’ve often felt like a failure in life, as a Marine, as a college student, in the hobbies I play with on the weekend. Life’s hard. However, seize the day might as well translate as seize your life. You are alive every day. Make the most out of your day – short term goal. Make the most out of your life – long term goal. It’s never too late to start something. If you find yourself thinking non-stop about something, it doesn’t matter if you’re 30 years old. Go after it. It’s never too early to start something. If you’re feeling like a fat-ass because you’ve sat on the couch all weekend playing video games, don’t tell yourself you’re going to workout Monday morning – go work out right this very second. I can’t count the times I’ve gone for a run or a bike ride at 1 a.m. I’ve woken up at 4 a.m. miserable because I was lazy for a long time and gone for a long walk or run or bike ride.

The secret to seizing your days is to never give up. If you’ve been super busy for several weeks, make the best of your time. There’s always enough time in the day. People that say there isn’t enough time in a day don’t work the entire 24 hours to prove themselves right. People that don’t seize the day are people that watch TV every night of the week instead of cleaning their house and then complain that they couldn’t get anything accomplished all weekend because they were cleaning.

If you end up like me, you won’t know what you want to do with your life until you’re much older. That’s why it’s important to remember it’s never too late to start. However, you’ve got to think about it. You’ve got to plan. You’ve got to realize that you can’t wake up one day and just seize the day. There’s a fine line between Carpe Diem and just #Yolo. “You only live once” is blowing off your homework and going to the beach all weekend. Carpe Diem is doing your homework in the car on the way to the beach and working out when you get there as opposed to drinking beer all day and being lazy. It’s fun, but in the long run, it’s a waste of a day.

One problem I’ve encountered with seizing my days is the herd mentality. It’s hard to be a one man band. You need to find like-minded individuals and become friends. If you get a group of friends that’s very inactive, it’s going to be hard to go on hikes or runs or bike rides. If all they want to do is drink and party on Friday night, and sleep all day on a beautiful Saturday – forget them. The world is way too big to sleep in on Saturday.

Either way, never give up on seizing your days. You’ll only get so many.

October 14th, 2014

Dear Mason,

I’m not sure where you’re going to go to school yet. I’m not sure if we are going to still be in this house in 5 years. I do know one thing though. Where ever we live when you go to Elementary School is where we are going to live for 13 years. That’s probably not possible, but it’s what I wish had happened to me.

I was born and grew up at 164 Teal Lane. I loved the neighborhood. I loved the house. I loved my school, Buck Lake Elementary. However, when I was 12, my parents moved to 408 Meridian Ride. It changed my schools, and it changed my life.

I started kindergarten at Buck Lake the first year it was opened. I had Mrs. Carmichael that first year, and I started making friends. One of which was Carl Johnson. He and his mother taught me how to cuss cause they were kinda trashy. I remember getting in my first fight. I won as far as kindergarten fights go. In first grade, I think I had Mrs. Spivey. It was a pretty uneventful year. I don’t remember shit about it.

In second grade, I had Mrs. Roberts. I remember having a crush on a girl named Leah or Amy or something. I’m pretty sure I failed second grade and had to go to summer school. I have no idea why. I remember making waffles in summer school.

In third grade, I had Mr. Heron. He was awesome. He had a huge mustache. I remember playing smear the queer a lot and learning to type on a computer some. He showed us what all his computer could do. We didn’t know what to think. The computers in the media center were all square Macs but we could play Oregon Trail. I got tested for ARC that year, and they found out I was “gifted.” That’s where you took a test with the guidance counselor, and they send you to the Academic Resource Center every Tuesday. ARC was fun because you got to waste time taking stupid classes like hot air balloons, how to build model houses, computer music programming and general liberal, hippy art shit. I thought it was pretty boring, but I got to leave school once a week.

In fourth grade, I had Mrs. Edison. She liked me a lot, and I did good in her class. It’s weird how I can remember several things about 3rd grade and 5th grade but nothing about 4th. In fifth grade, I had Mrs. Folis. That was my favorite year. I learned not to procrastinate when it came to investing. I learned how to run a business, and I learned that sometimes your shareholders just like to eat snow cones instead of doing actual business. I also met Sam Jaks and Sean Gallagher for the first time. Friends for life.

In fifth grade, we had a snow cone machine in our closet. At the end of the day on every Tuesday, we would roll our little machine to our classroom door and sell snow cones to the school. Everybody had a little job. I was the treasurer. I counted all the money. I made change. I was the cashier sometimes. I made deposit slips. At the beginning of the year, our teacher told us to bring in $20. It was our choice if we wanted to invest in the business. I really wanted to, I just always forgot. We sold snow cones all year and at the end of the year, everybody that had put in $20 got a one hundred dollar bill. I was so pissed at myself.

Selling snow comes and being the class treasurer was the best memory of fifth grade. I loved being the senior in school too. Swift Creek Middle had just opened that year, and lots of my friends were going to go there. It was right next door. I remember the road didn’t even extend past Buck Lake yet. They bulldozed a road all the way to Swift Creek to build the school. It’s so incredible how different it is now.

Anyway, I didn’t get to go to school with all my friends. Half of them went to Swift Creek. The other half went to Cobb. I, on the other hand, went to North Florida Christian for sixth grade because my parents hated me. I didn’t know anybody. I had Mrs. Worrell and she sucked. I had no friends. Plus I had bible class and had to go to Chapel on Wednesdays. Fucking kill me. White socks weren’t allowed. PE was stupid. Troy Smith picked on me. He was a real redneck and his daddy drank beer. Worst year of my life.

Seventh grade was marginally better. My mother could tell how bad it was for me, and I moved to Raa Middle School. Home of the Martin Luther King Jr. Street African-Americans. What I mean by that is there was a lot of black people. Going to Buck Lake and NFC was a lot different than Raa. Raa is literally right next to MLK Jr. Street. I made some friends and joined band, but the school sucked. Michael Hanselman got in my face that year. He wanted to fight me during PE because I was wearing black socks, and I was a prep and needed to have my ass beat. I could have easily beat him, but I was afraid of getting in trouble. I had also never punched anybody. I wanted to punch him, but never did because I was too indecisive. I had taken Rex Kwon Doe for a couple years in elementary school. I just wasn’t a fighter at all. I didn’t know what to do because it was so awkward. I wasn’t scared, I was embarrassed because I didn’t like all the attention on me. Hindsight is 20/20. Now at age 30, I realize I should have killed him and buried him under the pitcher’s mound of the kick ball field. But seriously, I’ve always regretted how I handled that situation.

Never be indecisive. Be professional and have a plan to kill everyone you meet. There are millions of bad guys in this world. You don’t have time and won’t have the opportunity to meet and get to know everyone first. You have to immediately try and figure out what kind of people you’re dealing with. Don’t ever get snuck up on. Always be aware of your surroundings.

Kids will try and jump you. Kids will pick on you. Kids will try and fight you. Kids will pretend to be your friend and be overly nice just to play tricks on you. You need to outsmart them. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s not. Trust your instincts. In 30 years of life, I’ve never punched anyone in the face, and I’ve never gotten punched in the face. Get punched. It makes you a man.

I failed 7th grade math. I was ill-prepared for pre-algebra coming from Buck Lake and NFC. I tried and failed but I didn’t ask for help and I didn’t do my homework. Summer school math was stupid. It wasn’t even the pre-algebra I did all year. It was adding and subtracting, and I literally got done hours before all the other dumbass kids each day. My advice to you is graduate every grade at all cost. Being stuck in the retard class all summer really, really sucks. All your friends are doing stuff and sleeping in and you’re going to retard class every day of summer.

Eighth grade was better. It was good to be senior again, but I didn’t have near as many friends. I was friends with the SUPER nerds in band because they were the only ones that let me in their group. I had horrible clothes and horrible hair. Thanks, Mom. I played the trombone. It was an embarrassing year. I had every single class plus home room with the hottest girl in school, Brenna Wommack. She was super nice, but I never said a word to her. If only I would have had Chuck Taylor’s on.

She never would have “dated” me. I was an awkward kid out of her friend zone. She went to elementary school with Thomas Wilde. That’s who she dated. But I always regret not having more friends in middle school. I’ve always regretted not having more fun and taking more chances. I don’t think I spoke to a girl at all 6th, 7th and 8th grade. Dumb girls. Shena Frith had the biggest boobs in 8th grade, and I barely had the courage to ask her to sign my yearbook. She asked me what my name was when she signed my yearbook. At the end of 8th grade, she didn’t know my name. For God’s sake, do SOMETHING in three years to get people to at least remember your name. I apparently didn’t.

Love Dad.