Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Riddle

Okay, here's a riddle we used to ask when we were kids. I'll give you the answer on Monday, but in the meantime, think about it. Do the math if you want. Here goes.

Which choice would you rather take:

A. A hundred dollars a day for thirty days.
B. A penny today, two cents tomorrow, four cents the day after that, doubling every day for thirty days?

Tune in Monday for the exciting conclusion!

Friday, January 21, 2005

My Lot In Life

Back when I first started this blog, I wrote a post about my past history. At the time, I felt it was a little to long to put up, and I really didn't know if anyone would care, so I saved it and set it aside.

I've decided to go back and add it here. If you're curious, you can go have a look. If not, that's cool, too. I'm sure I'll post something less personal and more helpfull soon.

In the meantime, I want those who read it to know that I'm not posting this so that anybody will feel sorry for me, or to try and evoke pity. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you've probably got a story in your own life that's even tougher (In fact, I probably still know a quarter of the people who read this blog, and in a lot of your cases, I know you've had it tougher).

I'm only posting it so everybody's clear on the fact that you and I are in the same boat. The circumstance we're in now is a mix of bad luck and bad decisions, mixed with a sprinkling of good luck and good decisions.

So now that I'm trying to open up the door for a little more of the latter couple, and push those first couple aside, I thought you'd be interested in what got me here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Stupid Things I'm Doing

Since I spend so much time trying to sound smart, I thought you might be interested in knowing some of the stupid things I'm doing this year to try to help me, financially.

I am trying these stupid things so I will be able to say, for sure, whether they help me or not.

I am trying to win contests. I am not paying for any contests--I do not have the money for that. However, I am entering lots of free contests. I am entering contests on radio station websites. I am entering contests on cable network websites. I am finding out about obscure contests on sites like

I am using daily for all my search needs. I also enter their daily "Pick 7" and "Instant Win" contests.

Today, I entered a contest at for appliances, one at for a trip to New York and a cooking set, one at to win an Easyshare camera to replace the one I lost that belonged to my company.

At the end of the year, I will tabulate how much I profited off of contests compared with how much I profited off of doing actual work, and share my uncensored results with you, that you may know which endeavors are more profitable for yourself.

How do I expect the results to come out? Well, let's just say that in five years of offering the prize, it looks like has only had to pay out "Pick 7" winners twice.

So I will be keeping my day job.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Multiplier -- More on Cardio

Cardio gives you one other advantage besides the calories you burn while you're exercising and the good you're doing your heart. It's a little something fitness trainers refer to as "The Multiplier."

Based on how much activity you do, your body burns more or less calories throughout the entire rest of the day. Literally, the fit get fitter and the slow get slower. I know, it's not fair. It sounds like a way to make sure the rich get richer, the beautiful stay beautiful, and the powerful stay in power.

Well, like most rules of life, it seems unfair until you start making it work for you instead of against you.

How many more calories can you burn?

If you were to stay in bed all day long, your body would still have to do a certain amount of work to keep your blood flowing and keep you breathing and fire off a brain synapse of thought once in a while. This minimum number of calories your body burns in a day is called you "Basal Metabolic Rate," or BMR.

Based on how much activity you participate in, this number only goes up. How much?

It's 20% more even if you live in a cubicle all day and don't exercise.

If you get some exercise in a couple of times a week, or have a job that keeps you moving around a little, it's 37.5% more.

If you have a pretty strenuous job, or are doing some tougher exercise 3-5 times a week, it's 55% more.

If you're exercising hard six or seven days a week for a couple of hours, of have a job that can make you sweat every day, you can improve on your BMR by as much as 72.5%.

And if exercise is your life--you tote barges and lift bales all day, or maybe are a pro wrestler--you could burn 80-90% more than you would staying home.

All of this adds up to a couple of options, both of which are terrific. First, you could keep eating what you're eating, and increase your activity level, and that alone would be enough to slow down, stop, or reverse any weight gain you're experiencing. And, exercising combined with a more sensible diet can speed your growth phenomenally.

For example, let's say you're eating 2,500 calories a day and gaining a pound a week. If you cut back to 2,000 calories a day, the weight gain should stop (It takes 3,500 calories to make a pound of fat. 500 calories X 7 days = 3,500 calories). However, if you increased your amount of exercise from minimal to 3-5 times a week, you would actually burn an extra 583 calories a day, which means you'd also start to lose a pound week.

So tell Jack he doesn't have to worry so much about what that little counter on the gym treadmill says. First off, it's wrong, and second off, it's not so much about how many calories you burn at the gym as it is about the multiplier.

But if he wants to put out more sandwiches that are under 300 calories, that's not a problem.

Monday, January 17, 2005

My Heart Will Go On - Cardio

When most people fear exercise, it's cardio they're afraid of. They imagine running in the cold of morning or prancing around to Richard Simmons and they wince and reach for the Cheetos.

But no matter what amount of weight you can lift or how many sit-ups you can do, if you want to bring those ripped muscles and washboard abs out from under that insulating layer of fat that hides them, sooner or later you're going to have to resort to cardio.

Dave Barry once said the only rule for exercise is that it can't accomplish anything. You can, for example, drive three miles to the gym to run three miles, and that would be exercise. You cannot, however, run to the gym, because that would accomplish something.

The real goal of these types of exercise is two-fold. The first is to burn calories.

And I've got good news for those of who want to burn calories, but don't think you can keep up a cardio pace--the calorie count of what you burn is only a factor of distance. In other words, if you walk a mile or run a mile, you'll burn more or less the same number of calories. It's physics, really--it takes the same amount of energy to move a mass (in this case, your body) a certain distance.

So why do people bother to run? Well, first of all, the guy who ran burned the same number of calories faster. While it may have taken you an hour to saunter that mile, by running you could do it in 10 minutes. If you still run for the whole hour, imagine how many more calories you could burn.

The other reason is your heart. Your heart is a muscle, and just like every other organ in your body, it gets stronger if you use it and weaker if you don't. Since they haven't yet invented a pull-up machine for your heart, the only choice we're left with is trying to make it beat faster once in a while.

It's counterintuitive, I know. Every other object we encounter gets weaker with use. The more you play with it, the more likely it will break down. Our body is not this way. Exercise is the process of consistently pushing the body far enough to strain it without actually damaging it. Amazingly, this wear will cause our body to build up strength rather than break down.

With cardio, the way we set that boundary between strain and damage is with your heart rate. Based on your age, you should do cardio at 75-80% of your maximum heart rate (There are calculators for this).

What kind of exercise should you do? Well, that depends on you. Some people really dig running. I enjoyed cycling for a while. These may be too redundant for you, and you need the variety you could get from playing a sport like raquetball or basketball.

I happen to like aerobics. I really did spend this morning prancing around to Richard Simmons. It's easily self-adjusting--if it's getting difficult, you just don't prance as hard. If it's too easy--well, you know.

So get your heart rate going now. Because as tough as it is to get your heart going with cardio, it beats the alternative.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sunday Book Review: Millionaire Next Door

Let's pretend there's two kinds of millionaires. The first kind are what are called "leveraged" millionaires. These are the Donald Trumps--the guys who live off borrowed money. These are the guys we always see filing bankruptcy on the news, but who still manage to live in the big houses and ride in the limos.

The second kind are the "equity" millionaires. These are the ones who have scrimped and saved to get where they are. They've cut corners, clipped coupons, driven used cars, and in the process managed to get far enough ahead of the game that their net worth has seven digits to the left of the decimal point.

Now, let's say you're going to do a study on millionaires. And the way you decide to get them to let you study them is to offer them some money to fill out a survey. Which type of millionaire do you think is the most likely to respond?

The Millionaire Next Door isn't so much a "How-To" book as it is a "How-Dunnit." Millionaires were interviewed about their spending habits, lending habits, and other M.O.'s. The results?

Surprising facts like this: The average millionaire lives below their means. The average millionaire drives a used car. Actually, a used economy car. The average millionaire hasn't made a house payment in 15 years.

This book has become the bible of the suburban millionaire-to-be. Nearly every beginners finance book will reference this book.

Is this book entertaining?

Nope. Not in the slightest. It's actually kind of boring.

But that is perhaps the book's biggest insight. The everyman's road to wealth isn't about glitz, glamour, pizzaz or funny stories. It's about doing certain things consistently, month in and month out, until powerful ideas like compound interest and dollar cost averaging work for you instead of against you.

After reading references to this book in every other book in the world, you're going to have to crack it open eventually, so you may as well get it over with and learn it all right from the start.