Updated on 09.03.09

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: 400 By 40 Edition

Trent Hamm

Over the last week, I’ve been working on a “400 by 40” list – a list of fairly simple things I’d like to do before my fortieth birthday (big thanks to Vicky for suggesting the idea). It’s been fun making the list, actually – I started it in a composition notebook and just jot down ideas as they come to me. They’re not big goals at all, just little things.

What I’ve realized while making the list is that so many of the things involve other people. “Do X with Y” is an extremely common entry. “Play Agricola with Joe.” “Read ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ to my kids.” And so on.

In the end, it reveals how important the people around me really are in my life. At most, 10% of the items on the list are solitary ones, and even some of those could easily become social.

Here are my ten favorite personal finance articles I read in the past week.

Brand Loyalty and the Financial Crisis – Will We Return When Things Get Better? I think that trusted brands have actually increased in value, but the loyalty of a customer is much shorter than it once was. People have been bitten by so many brands that have produced a poor product or given poor customer support that they’re much less likely to trust a new brand. Instead, they tend to lean even more on the “old reliables” – ones that consistently treat them well. A few brands are gold – but there’s little loyalty to the rest. (@ wsj wallet)

Are You a Success Junkie? Is success addictive? If you achieve one thing and feel that rush of success, I do think it pushes you even harder to repeat it and feel that rush again. When people say that success breeds success, that may be what they’re talking about, at least in part. (@ brip blap)

What Is Your Curiosity Quotient? If I had to name one essential personality trait that I would want for a new worker in the information economy, I would point towards curiosity. The more curiosity a person has, the more likely they are to dig in deep on a particular subject or problem and perhaps come up with a really exciting solution. (@ pick the brain)

The Art of Changing Easily and Gracefully Changing an ingrained part of your nature (like shyness or a propensity to spend without thinking) is very difficult. While I don’t believe that anything can make ground-breaking change easy, these ideas certainly help people move in the right direction. (@ dumb little man)

Labor Day and the American Dream It’s an absolute falsehood that you need a college education to get a good paying job. There are LOTS of good jobs out there that pay well without a college degree, but those programs aren’t funded by marketing budgets fueled with $10,000 tuition bills. Electricians and plumbers of the world unite! (@ wsj)

12 Critical Things Your Family Needs to Know If your family can’t easily find this information about you, then you’re not doing your duty for them. They’ll HAVE to be able to find this when you pass on. If not, they’re going to be put in a bad situation. (@ free money finance)

The Paradox of Empty Storefronts Whenever I’m in a dying small town and I see lots of empty store fronts, I often wonder why the owners of those stores don’t just drop the rent through the floor to get businesses in there, make the town appear to be thriving, and at least make a LITTLE money. This is a great discussion of the pros and cons of that idea. (@ megan mcardle)

Who Gets to Decide What You Want? “Once again, it seems to come down to a personal decision. If you decide what you want (instead of letting someone else decide for you) perhaps you could choose the things that would actually bring you and your loved ones the satisfaction you can live with.” Indeed. (@ seth godin)

How to Set Priorities Do FIRST what you want to do LEAST. This is why I usually start my days by doing email and approving comments, which are the two regular tasks I have to do that I enjoy the least. Once they’re done, I feel good, like I’ve already been productive, and it helps me to get started on my other, more enjoyable, and more intellectually challenging tasks with a more fulfilled nature. (@ soul shelter)

Working Vacations Rule? I sometimes work on vacation in much the same way Jonathan does. If I have an idea, even if I’m on vacation, I’ll pull out that notepad and write it down. Why? If I DON’T, it sticks in my head and distracts my thoughts. My mind gets entangled in the idea. If I just stop, pull out that pad for ten minutes, and get a framework of my thoughts down on paper, it’s easier for me to just let it go. (@ jonathan fields)

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  1. b says:

    “At most, 10% of the items on the list are solitary ones, and even some of those could easily become social.”

    But why would you want them to? It seems like a poor idea to try to eliminate all of the solitary times in your life — times when you are able to commune with yourself. It is extremely hard to become aware of your true nature, goals, and desires when you are constantly in group settings.

    I realize that you describe yourself as a shy person and that you try to push yourself to interact socially — and this is an admirable goal. However, moving to the opposite extreme — where everything must be a group activity (a group being more than one person) carries with it its own problems and dangers.

    For example, for someone who reads as much as you seem to, it is curious that there would not be at least 40 books that you would love to read…

  2. Pieces says:

    Thanks for the links. I especially appreciated the article about jobs without a college education. I have a son who will not succeed in college and I can use the encouragement that he can still have a fulfilling and successful career.

    I also loved the post on priorities. I guess it means I need to clean the toilets first thing this morning. :)

  3. Bill in Houston says:

    Really? $770 a month?

    My wife and I spend about $350 a month, and I’m including sundries like laundry detergent, Windex, bug spray, envelopes, and the like. Our grocery-only purchases last week were $48 and change. Of course we didn’t buy meat that week (we buy in bulk), but I can’t see our expenses topping $700 a month unless we had two perpetually hungry teenagers.

  4. Marsha says:

    “400 by 40” list? What’s the purpose of making or keeping such a list? I can understand making daily or weekly lists – maybe even monthly lists. But when you start getting more than a dozen or so items on a list, it’s not a helpful tool – you’d have to put things into groups or sublists. It seems like it would take a huge amount of time to compile such a list and transform it into a workable reference tool. JMO. And I’m a list-maker.

  5. Bill in Houston says:

    I am half tempted to do a 500 by 50 list. Now that I’m married there are a bunch of things I want to do with my wife. We’ve done some (buy a house, climb pyramids in a jungle, made wills), but there is so much else.

    Some of the things will be petty, like learn how to make a joint cut, but some will be big, like visit all fifty states.

    By the way, I turn 50 at the end of 2010 so I need to get cracking. I still have fourteen states to go, too.

  6. Bill in Houston says:

    @ #4, Marsha:

    He means a bucket list, or something similar. That’s the impression I get.

  7. What a great idea! My top goal is to be cubicle-free by 40. Everything else flows from that.

    @Bill in Houston, We want to visit all 50 states too. In our version, we putter around in an RV and fill in the map on the back as we go. Get going on those last 14 states!

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