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What's a Sparklefish?

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

What’s a Sparklefish?

I know something about boats. I don’t know everything about boats. To quantify within a range boundary… more than Dave Letterman’s man on the street, but less than Captains Nemo, Ahab, Cook, or Crunch. After a few years of study, I’d suggest that the main theme is expense. Boats, it turns out, cost money to buy. Once purchased, they cost even more money to own. If, after acknowledging this fact, you are still dead set on introducing one into your life, you must

purchase one. This means you’ll need to procure a bunch of money, then find an inexhaustible wellspring of it that showers forth an Eden-like rapture of resources for you to bask in while petting your chained tiger on the boat of your choice.

This isn’t really about the boat, or the money. It’s a viewpoint change that starts with small dopamine triggers when you save a few shekels. We’re all monkeys, and slaves to the monkey part of our brain. Bacon or pullups? –Don’t ask the monkey, he’s an idiot and you’ll die of heart disease. Whiskey, rock and roll, and monster trucks or buckwheat smoothies and Enya? See what I mean? The trick is to get the monkey to like saving money. That’s what happened to Gollum, (who by the way went overboard and made it super weird –something you shouldn’t do).

If you’re a single hermit with no friends, this is easy, but then again your monkey is probably a psychotropic mess, barely conscious and drooling in the corner while Mr. Spock rules your boring brain. If you’re like the rest of us, and surrounded by a loving family and adoring friends you will need to adjust their monkey as well. Trust me, you’ll all love it.

If you ask most folks if they want a million dollars, they’ll say yes. What they really mean is that they want to spend a million dollars. This is literally the opposite of having that sum. I know, right? So there are two ways to get there, you can make more, or save more. Most of us don’t have a lot of wiggle room on making more. We’ve already got a job, we have a shoebox full of baseball cards that will be worth millions in 50 years, and a side hustle means you never see your kids, which rules that out.[1]

You need to spend less. Most people spend all their money on houses and cars, but yell at their kids for leaving the door open and leaving the lights on. Damn kids. Anyway, most of us live in way more house than we need or than what gives us any pleasure. We work on it, we cut the grass, we remodel it like a beaver constantly fretting about its dam, and we pay people to insure it, pay taxes on it, and various other fees that make us sad. This is all in an effort to keep our X-Box dry and give us a place to lie drooling and unconscious for 1/3 of every day. I’d even go so far as to say that most of us pay money to take vacations far away from our houses, because all of these things make our monkey bored and tired.

“But Useless, you don’t get it! My house is a store of value!”

Yes, it is. But the rate of return is bad, and you addictively check Zillow every Saturday to see what it is worth, but that doesn’t matter because you’re unhappy and can’t really sell it because you’d just buy another one.

Cars: I love cars. I read about cars, rebuild motors, and have had hot rods, off-roaders, you name it.

Your car is making you poor, destroying your dreams, and exists only to convince your monkey that his status is high and that you are a superior monkey to the others in the tribe. At face value, it is a machine that probably transports you, alone, to work

every day and back. The other one is probably an SUV of some sort that makes your monkey feel adventurous while you transport kids to various activities, affording them plenty of time to spill yogurt in the back of it while destroying the seats and headliner. You liked it for 1 week when you bought it, but now just pay a few hundred bucks a month for insurance, the same for gas, five hundred to a thousand (or more) for payments, and various other “gotchas” along the way.

Cars and houses are the two big things. Change them, and you’ll start to accumulate money. Start with cars, that’s the easy one.

Enter: Sparklefish. This car is worth about $220k and growing. Tell your monkey to calm down, I’m about to talk math –it’ll be short.[2]

I had a car that cost about $28k. 9 years ago, I sold it and started driving the ‘fish. My monkey brain immediately started to love it, as the gas and insurance bill dropped by half while the car payment evaporated. The $30k I would have paid into the previous car instead is the seed of your burgeoning fortune. The money you were spending to make you poorer now goes into a saving mechanism, about $800 at a time, every month. 8 years later, you’re up by around $200 thousand dollars.[3] –Bing it, you’ll be amazed. It’s like sorcery.

You’ve now started to train your monkey. Every fill up will make that little maniac happy. Your friends will mock you, and you will relish their derision, using humorous deflection to incorporate this “quirk” as part of your magnetic personality. Your monkey thinks that they’re all gonna laugh at you. This isn’t true. You’re the only one who is different. It’s like a mobile conversation piece, and you’ll never again fret about chips, washing, minor damage, etc… Even if it burned to the ground, your stress level would remain somewhere around zero in the comfortable knowledge that you can write a check for a replacement in about 24 hours.

Once your monkey is drunk on free money, you’ll want more. Great! Sell the other expensive black hole and get some cheap conveyance to transport your kids to and from

Soccercrosseketball. They won’t even notice, because they’ll be distracted trying to dig a gummi bear out of the armrest of whatever they’re riding in. Your monkey will be easy to convince, but your special lady friend (If you have a special man friend, insert that here. L/M as appropriate dear reader) might express anguish at the thought of trading in their expensive money hole for a cheaper, smaller money hole. This is the part where you can’t be a jerk. Smile. Show the other person how much money is growing, for free, in the account you’ve established.[4] Your special L/M friend will see right through your ruse and grow annoyed at your attempt to take their car, which they think lends them status and importance with their fellow monkeys. They’re not crazy or a jerk, they’re a monkey like you. Give them time to come around, and keep showing them the amazing money you’re building up. If the stock market goes down, that’s good. You’re getting all that stock at a discount, and you won’t need the money for quite a while. You’re a genius, and your monkey is a dominant silverback idolized by his monkey friends.

The next step to getting some money is your house. Remember the house? We talked about cars (bad) and house (also bad). This one is pretty simple, but is a nuanced complicated compromise involving school districts, taxes, blah blah blah….. It’s simple. Houses tend to work out not because they go up in value (they don’t, at least not more than inflation on average), but because you have to live in something, and if you didn’t buy a house you’d be renting. (We’re leaving rental properties out of this, which are ok, I’ve had several –they’re just not central to this idea, and are harder to pull off than stocks, which you can buy even if you’re a monkey).

If you have a huge expensive house (generally more than 3-400 square feet/person), go buy or rent a smaller and cheaper one. If you really love your neighbors, Jake and Marsha, or your kids’ school district is the only one with Cello lessons in mandarin, reflect on your own upbringing and ask if that really mattered. If it is that important, than be happy, stop reading and stop trying to chase money. You’re spending it all and you won’t have a bunch. That’s ok. I’m just asking you to be logical. Your boys can share a bedroom. Your girls can share a bedroom. They’ll be fine and maybe it’ll make them a more compassionate and fun adult. Smaller houses are cheaper, cost less to heat and cool, are better for the turtle-penguin-owls, and will supercharge your Gollum-monkey. Take your special L/M friend out to dinner. It won’t matter, because you’re now saving waaay more than you’re spending. If you take the “Cars” part of this tome to heart, you’ll have a few kilobucks rolling around in the account on year 1. If you do the same on the “house” part, you’ll have double that.

It happens fast! You stopped yelling at your kids about the lights, your crappy cars are a hilarious conversation piece, and your now-smaller house is surrounded by great neighbors you like just as much as Jake and Marsha and whats-her-name on McMansion circle. The kid next door is a great friend to your middle daughter, and the little league guys are still asking you to umpire next Saturday and wondering how in the heck that guy from accounting is buying a YACHT!

[1] Except real estate. Getting other people to give you money for very little effort is a good idea. (Don’t be pedantic about “very little effort” –you know what I mean). [2] Sparklefish is a 4 cylinder accord with a stick shift. My kids named her after a sticker that their kindergarten teacher would put on schoolwork reflecting it’s relative degree of awesomeness. Redfish was bad, Greenfish was good, and Sparklefish was unadulterated bliss. Better than a rocket-powered bacon truck. Go find your sparklefish. [3] For the doubting Toms among you, rate of return was a reasonable 10% in a blended stock market portfolio of growth stocks, ETFs, and REITs. S&P average over the last century or so has been 8-10%. It ain’t the money, it’s the time. [4] Go establish an account. Internet it. It’s super easy. Ameritrade, Schwab, Big Bob’s discount stock emporium, whatever. Just open an account and get going. If you don’t know what to buy, VTI is a ticker for the Vanguard total stock market index. While you get started, your money will begin growing. It’s amazing.

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