I Don’t Know Diddly Squat

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I endeavor to provide factual information and advice on this blog.

But I’m human.

My memory isn’t perfect.

And I have biases too. I want certain ideas and lifestyle choices to win, so to speak. And though I don’t knowingly withhold information that might tarnish the appeal of my ideas and lifestyle choices, it doesn’t mean my ideas and lifestyle choices are hunky-dory. After all, I might suffer from extreme confirmation bias; that is, I might not see the downside of my ideas and lifestyle choices because I only read, watch, and listen to people who share my worldview.

To be an honorable blogger, then, I think it’s important to remind my readers at least once a year that I’m fallible. And that’s what I aim to do now. Over the past year, I made at least three glaring mistakes. Here they are.

One. In April, I had a post about two awesome benefits of being income poor. One of the benefits pertained to the capital gains tax, which I totally misinterpreted. I thought that if you were in the 15 percent income tax bracket or lower (i.e., your adjusted gross income was less than $75,300), any capital gain you made from selling a stock would be completely tax free. But thanks to Matt over at Maximize Your Money, I quickly learned otherwise. For tax purposes, your capital gain sits on top of your adjusted gross income. The part of the the capital gain that brings you up to the income limit of the 15 percent income tax bracket has a zero percent capital gains tax. So if you had an adjusted gross income of $50K, and you had a $100K capital gain from selling a stock, the first $25,299 of that capital gain would be taxed at zero percent and the rest ($74,701) would be taxed at 15 percent. I mistakenly believed that the entire $100K capital gain would be subject to the zero percent capital gains tax. Ouch.

Two. In June, I was interviewed by Joshua Sheets for his Radical Personal Finance podcast. Joshua originally brought me on his show to discuss my idea for a Junior IRA. But as the interview advanced, he became more interested in how Mrs. Groovy and I used geoarbitrage to accelerate our progress toward financial independence. So Joshua asked me how much it cost to live in New York in 2006, the year we left for North Carolina. And I told Joshua that our monthly expenses were between $6,500 and $6,800. But right after the interview, Mrs. Groovy pointed out I was wrong. I confused our monthly take-home pay with our monthly expenses. Our monthly take-home pay was between $6,500 and $6,800. Our monthly expenses were actually between $4,500 and $4,800.

Three. Finally, in August, I had a post that offered 10 reasons why one shouldn’t get a bachelor’s degree. Two of my 10 reasons, however, were political in nature and had nothing to do with the value of obtaining a BA. But because I’m a recovering political junkie, I didn’t see this. James over at Retirement Savvy had to step in and kindly point out that these two reasons had no place in a personal finance blog. So thank you, James. I was being an ass and I needed someone to give me an etiquette lesson.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to my posts, I think it’s wise to go Ronald Reagan on me: trust, but verify. Take what I write and compare it to your knowledge and experiences. Do I have my facts right? Is my advice applicable? Or is my advice so dependent on my peculiar circumstances that it has no value to you or anyone else? And if I’m wrong, if my logic falls short, by all means call me out. I’m much more concerned about getting it right than being right.

Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. Have a glorious weekend. Make whoopie with your significant other. And if that ain’t gonna happen, at least go for a walk with your significant other and hold his or her hand.

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40 Comments

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Brian. Maybe you’re on to something. Perhaps we could start a side-hustle in which we provide fact-checking services to wary bloggers?

  1. Don’t be hard on yourself Mr. Groovy. This is one of the great things I love about the PF community. We’re all learning a bit as we go along! There’s nothing wrong with that!

    The great thing too, we all have our areas of expertise. You’ve done the geoarbitrage. If I got questions about that, you’re the man I’m coming too. And you’ve got way more life experience than me, so if I need to know how the world works, you’re the man I’m coming to also!

    And if you need any advice from a young whippersnapper, let me know. πŸ™‚

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, FP. So true about the PF community. As long as you’re up front with them, they’ve got your back. And thanks for graciously offering whippersnapper consulting services. It’s a great resource I’m sure I’ll turn to often.

  2. Glad to see someone ‘fessing up, we need more of that in ‘Merica these days…..

    As for me, I’ve never made a mistake in my life. (Hey, with Clinton &/or Trump heading for presidency, we Americans can now say anything we want, it no longer has to be true…..right?)

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Love your sense of humor, Fritz. Here’s one for you. Last week Mrs. G and I went to see the movie “Sully.” And as I was watching it, I was thinking to myself that I’d much rather meet and take a picture with Sullenberger than either Clinton or Trump. I wonder how many Americans feel the same way.

  3. Wait, so Everything I Read On The Internet isn’t true? Shut the front door!
    It’s your blog. You’re entitled to your opinions and we enjoy reading them. It’s up to us to decide if we agree and if we don’t, if we think it will make for a productive discussion. Thanks for giving us food for thought.

    • Mr. Groovy

      LOL! Love it, Julie. To paraphrase the famous New York Sun editorial: “Yes, Virginia, there are scoundrels and knaves on the Internet.”

  4. I think “trust but verify” should apply to everything we read, especially on the internet. We’re all human and subject to a number of biases we’re often not even aware of. But good for you making a point of setting things right.

  5. Mr. AE: “Hey Honey, Mr Groovy says we should make whoopie this weekend.”

    Mrs. AE: “Who is Mr Groovy?”

    Mr. AE: “Internet genius, never wrong.”

    Mrs. AE: “You’re unbelievable.”

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hahahahahahahahaha! You made my weekend, Mr. AE. This is definitely going into my comments hall of fame. And if it’s any help, just have Mrs. AE read four or five of our posts. She’ll see I’m a genius.

  6. Yea I disagree with anyone who is against a bachelor’s because if you’re 20 something it’s very difficult without a degree.

    Call centers in Omaha now want a 2 year or 4 year degree. I mean really, it just is so weird.

    Anyway don’t call yourself names, stop being so hard on yourself seriously, and hello we’re all learning in the blogosphere! =)

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Lila. You’re absolutely right. And I hate that so many companies use the BA as a screening device. The only reason I was promoted to program manager at my erstwhile job was because a previous candidate–who was qualified for the job and well-liked–lacked a BA. Meh.

  7. You may have been wrong but you fessed up which is more than I can say for some people!! Besides, that RPF podcast is how I found you guys so at least one good thing came out of your flubbed numbers… πŸ™‚

    Last night I made s little boo boo of my own. Our company has reached a tentative agreement with our union and it is due to be voted on by the 31st. If we vote yes, we will all receive bonuses based on our past 3 years pay sometime within the next 90 days. I have been contributing to my 401K gradually hoping not to max out until December so I can get my full company match of 9.3%. This bonus will put me over so I won’t get the full amount. I was under the assumption that, like many companies, we only get matched the months we contribute. I have told so many people this over the pat few months!! Last night, I found out I WAS WRONG! If we max out, no matter what month, we still continue to get the company match of 9.3% of our earnings regardless that we are no longer able to contribute. Argh! All this time wasted trying to balance my 401K to the end of the year and now include the maybe bonus (could be paid in 2017 for all I know) just to find out it was all wasted time.

    Sorry for the rant but I had to share! You are not alone, my friend, you are not alone.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Love the rant, Miss Mazuma. And that’s so interesting about your company’s 401K. At my company it was just the opposite. The company match stopped once you stopped contributing. I found this out when I started taking advantage of the plus-50 catch up. I would hit the $18,000 contribution in October and use the last six paychecks to contribute the $6,000 catch up. But once I was in the catch up phase the company match stopped. So I got penalized for being a prodigious saver. The infamy!

      • Yes!! That is exactly what I thought was going to happen. That’s what usually happens. No contribution = no match. I am so thankful that is not the case…though a little miffed I’ve taken so long to try to balance my contributions for nothing! Whatevs – full steam ahead in 2017!! πŸ™‚

        • Mr. Groovy

          You have a very enlightened company, Miss M. I definitely lost out on $500 or $600 annually because my company followed the no contribution/no match rule. But that’s the way it goes. No one ever said being a saver was going to be painless. Sorry to hear all your contribution balancing was for naught. But it worked out in the end, and like you said, “full steam ahead in 2017!” I like your style, Miss Mazuma.

  8. I hope that learning your mistake on the relative taxation on capital gains happened early enough before FIRE that you won’t be terribly impacted by it.

    I do think it is okay to have political ideas on blogs (I do it), but also helpful to learn more about our own blind-spots and biases. Anything that can make us more thoughtful, careful humans is good to me.

    • Mr. Groovy

      It’s such a quandary. Politics on a personal finance blog is verboten–and for good reason. But politics affects our ability to save (i.e, the government is a very expensive good we are forced to buy) and earn (i.e., licenses and regulations make acquiring a trade or starting a business difficult). So what to do? I’m with you, ZJ. Politics can’t be completely avoided on a personal finance blog, and as long as it’s approached with a “malice toward none” attitude, it can generate some very thoughtful and worthwhile discussions.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, MMM. Wasn’t sure about “geoarbitrage” myself. In fact, when Mrs. Groovy was proofreading the original post, she was convinced it wasn’t a real thing. But we googled it and found that it was popularized by Tim Ferriss of Four Hour Workweek fame.

  9. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right? It’s a good reminder to take everything with a grain of salt as a reader.

    As a writer, don’t worry so much about being perfect. Your readers will point out your mistakes and you can fix them later!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Appreciate it, Jon. Like you said, the personal finance community is a very understanding lot. They point out your errors, you fix them, and everybody’s still friends. If only others communities could be so cool.

  10. Mr. Groovy

    Hey, Amber Tree. It’s funny how words or phrases leave the cultural landscape. Diddly squat was a common phrase in my youth. In fact, a remember a rockabilly band in the late 70s called Robert Gordon and Link Wray that had a version of this phrase in the song Red Hot. They used doodly squat rather than diddly squat, but both mean the same thing. Here’s the YouTube link:

    My Gal is Red Hot

    • Mr. Groovy

      Absolutely, James. Mrs. Groovy and I did indeed have a tremendous year. But a large part of that has to do with our community. Everyday I learn something from my follow bloggers. And when I screw up, I know they got my back–especially this really cool dude out in Arizona. Perhaps you know him? He’s saved me numerous times from ethical and logical errors. Couldn’t blog without him.

  11. My first net worth calculation had a huge mistake, but a comment alerted me to my error. And thankfully, it was a good error.

    It’s just one of those truths about life that we all make mistakes. Thanks for making us all feel a little better about not being perfect πŸ™‚

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Harmony. Thank you for your kind words. I hear you about net worth. It’s not a straight forward calculation. Do you include the equity in your home? How about the value of a pension or Social Security. I include home equity but exclude my pension and future Social Security. Better to err on the low side, I guess.

  12. Well, I’m just sorry I missed this before the weekend was over! πŸ˜‰

    We all make mistakes. I have too – and my fellow pf bloggers have kindly pointed them out in a dm on twitter. I am deeply grateful to be involved in a community that is kind, understanding and helpful (especially when I screw up!).

    • Mr. Groovy

      No worries, Amanda. Always appreciate hearing from you. And I totally agree with you on your take of our community. Not a finer bunch on the internet. Always helpful, never discouraging.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Can’t imagine you with whopper mistakes. But as you pointed out, “trust, but verify” is a blogger’s most trusted companion. Thanks for for stopping by, FS.

  13. I actually like that you throw your opinions in with facts. It makes this blog more uniquely you. But I’m also someone who likes to see all sides of an argument, so take that for what it’s worth πŸ™‚

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Kate. I appreciate that. I’m with you. The only way to make a blog unique is to sprinkle it with your opinions. The key is how you do it. If you do it with malice, you will rightfully be scorned. If you do it with humility, you will build a community.

  14. Mr. Groovy

    Agreed! Agreed!! Agreed!!! Great comment, Ms. DOF. I am a recovering political junkie, so I got to catch myself from time to time. I think it’s okay to wade in on government because government has a big say on one’s ability to build wealth. So talking about the how government hinders competition (i.e., crony capitalism) or retards saving (i.e., wasteful spending, public servant sloth, and failure to enact my Junior IRA) is fair game. Being a shill for either the Republicans or the Democrats is way, way, way out of bounds.

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