Bucket List Item Complete! – Start a business

I’ve been doing some research on publishing the book I’m writing and several sources suggested starting my own publishing company. Since “start a business” is item #11 on my life bucket list, I decided to knock that one out now. Thinking of starting your own? Here are my occasionally U.S.-centric steps for doing so.

Come up with a good reason to start a company.

Credibility

Publishing a book under a distinct company name and not just an author name gives a more assertive air about the thing, a sniff of credibilityIt signals to the market that people invested money and time in this endeavor. It’s professional.

I also really like the idea of approaching distributors and printers as a company and not as an individual. I’m not an author begging you to take my books. I’m a serious business selling books. See? I’m wearing a different hat.

Wearing my publisher hat.

Switching hats makes it easier to brag. For instance, the “press kit” is something you send to distributors and buyers who are interested in your book/story. Most of the this kit is supposed to be in the third person, which I love. It doesn’t feel as gross that way.

Here’s the draft press kit my publisher (me) put together if you’re bored and looking for more crap to read on the internet.

Credit card points

Another big bonus – when you make a company, you can obtain a corporate credit card to exploit those perks. And you can open a checking account. The business can pay for the expenses of the business.

Tax stuff maybe?

Maybe there is some shield of liability and tax benefits of operating under a company name. Your business is separate from you. You have a social security number while your company has a federal employer identification number. Different numbers so the government treats you like you’re different entities.

For this to actually matter, you need to jump through the hoops, pay yourself a salary and differentiate between that and profit from the business. Probably only worth the hassle if you’re making a meaningful amount of money first.

After you’ve convinced yourself of the why, you have to figure out the how.

Decide what type of company you want to create. 

A limited liability company? A partnership? An S-Corporation? A conglomerate? A cabal? Some of those aren’t officially recognized by the government.

I used to be a lawyer. Emphasis on used to. I’m not giving you any type of legal advice. Do your own research. This is what I decided works for me at this particular time.

I chose an LLC.

Decide where you want to start your company.

It’s all very state specific. You can set up a “virtual office” in a state if you want to maximize your taxable benefits. Everyone recommends the state of Wyoming for its low fees and business taxes. I chose the state on my driver’s license. I may regret that choice later, but I can change it if it becomes necessary.

Spoon and cherry in Minneapolis. It’s really hard finding pictures for posts.

Fill out a lot of paperwork, understand and comply with all the bureaucracy.

You’ll need to register with the state of your choice and pay some filing fees. You’ll maybe need articles of organization, an operating agreement, minutes, meetings or resolutions for opening bank accounts and such and you’ll need to make a capital contribution to fund the company. The details depend on the type of company you chose.

I used to corporate lawyer and did this kind of stuff regularly, but I still took a shortcut and paid someone to do some of this for me — mynewcompany.com*. I may drop it in the future, but the checklists, prompts, customer service and agent for service of process made this worth the money for me.

Total: $260.20.

Design a logo for your company.

I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on my to-do list. Artsy stuff is not my forte, so I’ll probably hire someone to do it for me.

Set up a company website.

I just added it to my existing website account and bought the domain and privacy protection. It’s a real company. I call it The Power of Publishing LLC.

Cost: $23.87

Apply for a federal taxpayer number.

Go to IRS.gov and apply for a federal EIN. Super simple.

*Shrugs* I like egg salad.

Open a business credit card and get some of those miles you were so excited about when contemplating this venture.

I just googled until I found a corporate credit card that offered a good cash back amount and no annual fee. No affiliate link. Do your own googling.

Open a bank account.

Go to a bank and tell them you want to open a corporate bank account. You’ll need the company’s federal tax number and you may need written resolutions from the company authorizing the opening.

Get some accounting software and keep track of your expenses and income for the business.

This was my accountant’s suggestion. I went with something called Gnucash because it’s free and ideal for small businesses with only one person. I don’t love it, but I think that’s because I hate tracking my expenses in general.

Put your business expenses on your credit card and funnel any profits to your business bank account. Update regularly.

My best godfather impression.

Cross off bucket list item and cheer.

Whooooo!


*Affiliate link. I used it before I realized I could recommend it. Hopefully that makes it less icky.

Waran and thicut waran recipes (spinach dahl)

You get two recipes today! The first one — full disclosure — I don’t actually like that much, but it was the staplest staple of my family’s diet when I was a kid. It’s a good protein source, I think. More importantly, you need the first dish to make the second dish that is so delicious you’ll startle yourself when you try it for the first time. We call it waran and thicut waran. Other people call it dahl and spinach dahl

First Dish – plain waran

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of pigeon peas
  • 1/4 tsp of turmeric
  • salt to taste

Directions

1. Soak the pigeon peas in water for 2-4 hours. This lessens the cooking time considerably.

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dry pigeon peas

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pigeon peas after soaking for a couple of hours

2. Add three cups of water and the turmeric and cook on the stove in a pot for another hour.

3. Alternatively, you can just cook it in a pressure cooker and skip step one. The pressure cooker is an enchanted vessel that will cook the pigeon peas in a mere 20 minutes.

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cooked pigeon peas

4. Add some salt to taste. Skip this step if you’re making the second dish. Don’t oversalt.

5. Mix the cooked pigeon peas well. Mom uses this medieval looking device. It’s called a mixer thing. You put the handle between the palms of your hands and rub your hands back and forth.

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mixing cooked pigeon peas

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Mixer thing

6. Eat with rice and whatever other bhaji (cooked vegetable) you’ve made.

Second dish – spinach waran

Ingredients

  • The waran from the first recipe
  • One bunch of spinach
  • One medium-sized onion
  • One medium-sized tomato
  • A few garlic cloves

Spices

  • 1/2 tsp each of
    • cumin seeds
    • mustard seeds
    • garam masala
    • cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of turmeric
  • 8-10 pieces of cocum (or kokum)
  • salt to taste (we put in one tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar

cocum

Directions

1. Dice the onions, garlic and tomatoes.

2. Pour some oil in a large pot on stove over medium heat.

3. Add in the cumin and mustard seeds.

4. Let cook until the mustard seeds start making a popping noise.

5. Add in the diced onions and garlic.

6. Let cook until the onions are translucent.

7. Add in the diced tomatoes.

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cooked onions and tomatoes and garlic

8. Let cook for a few minutes.

9. Add the turmeric, garam masala and cayenne pepper.

10. Chop the spinach and then wash it. It’s easier to wash after it’s chopped.

11. Add the spinach to your large pot.

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spinach added

12. Let the spinach cook for a few minutes.

13. Wash the cocum. I know, I thought this was kind of a weird step too.

14. Add in the washed cocum, the brown sugar, salt, one to two cups of water (depending on how thick you like it) and the cooked pigeon peas.

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cooked pigeon peas and water added

15. Let cook for 10-15 minutes.

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cooked thicut waran

16. Eat with rice.

17. Startle yourself with the deliciousness.

Acceptable deviations

  1. You can use tamarind if you don’t have cocum.
  2. You can use lemon juice if you don’t have tamarind.
  3. Add pretty much any vegetable you want to make this heartier. Cauliflower, drumsticks, carrots, etc.

The Importance of Financial Literacy

I’ve been bumming myself out lately reading about poverty. Combine that with the occasional tidbits that slip into my attention regarding the priorities of the current political regime and I am seriously on edge. I mean, I’m not worried about me personally. I’m confident, barring something catastrophic, that I will be fine. Financial literacy is a powerful buffer against the chaos and uncertainty that is life.

Found on a train in Sydney. Did I use this picture already?

I may have mentioned a time or two that I adore the book Your Money or Your Life. One of the authors, Vicki Robin, quotes her coauthor, Joe Dominguez, as saying:

“In the Great Depression there was 25% unemployment. That means 75% of the people were employed. Would you have been one of them?”

Yes, I believe I would have been. And, as you’re the type of person who reads blogs written by people who preach about financial independence, I think you’ll be fine too. We’re both probably in the top 75%, right?

The people that I’m worried about are the ones on the bottom of the heap in terms of luck and economic situation. So much of the suckiness of poverty comes from people who prey on desperation and stupidity.

Credit Card: Friend or Foe?

An example of using financial literacy to your advantage is the mighty credit card. Personally, I use credit cards for everything I can. They are one of life’s perks if you understand what you’re doing.

My credit card is a good friend. He follows me around, vouching for me, reassuring the merchant — “She’s good for it. Put it on my tab.” As long as I pay my credit card friend back in full the first time he asks, our relationship stays solid. I don’t make him look like a fool in front of the shopkeeper and he provides me a short-term, zero percent interest loan.

I went to the midnight premiere of the second X-Files movie back in 2008. This has nothing to do with anything. Just a happy interlude to lighten the moment.

He also protects me. If I have a dispute with said merchant, he will put the payment on hold while he investigates. He’s biased toward me and often rules in my favor.

He provides fraud protection. If someone steals my purse, he’ll go look for the thief. He shuts down the account and sets me up with another one while he’s looking. Try asking cash to do that.

If you’re really smart, you can even convince your credit card friend to give you airline miles and cash back.

Credit cards make money from the merchant every time you swipe. That’s all the money they earn from me. Make that all the money they earn from you and that’s a big step toward financial independence. You know this.

Credit cards: good.

Unless the details suck. The devil is in the details.

Credit cards for those with no or bad credit: Here’s a piece of plastic that looks and works like a credit card. You pay your credit card “friend” money to take it home, say $100 for activation and origination fees, and he’ll bill it as a cash advance. You’ll also pay an account maintenance fee each month to use the credit card. It’s called fee harvesting and it’s VERY profitable.

There’s also a fee for going over your tiny credit limit. I think that one’s reasonable though.

Financial literacy!

Be a lender and not a borrower. Make compound interest work for you and not against you. Understand the fine print. Think about the offer in plain English. Here are some more examples that make me sad.

Rent-to-own furniture stores: You pay a small amount of money each week for several months. By the time you own the furniture, you’ll have paid four times what it was worth new. If you miss a payment, they take it back and won’t give you any credit for the money you’ve already paid.

Predatory land contracts: Here’s this uninhabitable house that needs extensive work and that this dude bought for like $10k. If you give this dude money, he’ll let you live in it and make all the repairs. He’ll be the owner on paper, but you’ll make monthly payments to him so that, in thirty years, you’ll own the house outright. You’ll pay many many times what the house is actually worth because the interest payments are really high.

Don’t worry about that though. You won’t be able to make the expensive repairs and keep up with the monthly payments, so the dude will kick you out soon enough.

Predatory loan officers: You borrow money at a crazy high rate of interest, maybe for some much needed repairs on the house you have equity in. The loan has a ridiculous prepayment penalty though so you can’t pay it back early and avoid the interest even if you wanted to.

I went to see Mulder jam in Baltimore in 2017. A few days ago actually. Again, nothing to do with this article. I just wanted to give you something pretty to look at.

The plain English thing works even if you’re not in poverty and just contemplating an “opportunity.”

Pyramid schemes: You give an organization some money and go recruit people to also give the organization money. If you recruit enough people, the organization will give you back a bit of the money that you’ve given them.

Investment advisors: You pay someone money to guess which companies will do well in the future. You give them their fee no matter how their guesses pan out.

Things you should look for

  1. Fees. You will pay fees for being financially illiterate, for being poor. Fees suck. I use Vanguard for my investing to minimize fees. That’s just an aside.
  2. Prepayment penalty. Run. Run for the freaking hills.
  3. Mandatory arbitration clauses can take away a lot of your power.
  4. I’m sure there are more.

Thriftygal’s Book Reviews – February 2017

More book reviews! I’m sorry if you don’t care about the book reviews.

I read a bunch of Chetan Bhagat’s books while in Kuwait because that’s what my cousin had on her bookshelf. He’s a popular modern author in India. I get why people like him. His books are easy and quick reads populated with characters that feel real. Maybe some of the characters are real. I can’t tell.

Half Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat

Guy from a lower class meets and falls in love with a rich girl. She loves him too, but after he pushes her too hard to sleep with him, she flees and marries a rich guy she’s known since childhood. They meet years later and she’s divorced and sick.

The author is a character in the book. That’s why I can’t tell if this story is real or not.

One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat

A beautiful and brilliant girl from New Delhi gets a job at an investment bank in New York. She meets a boy and falls in love. He’s insecure with her success and dumps her. It’s her first love so she’s understandably devastated. She copes by transferring to the Hong Kong office where she begins an affair with a married man. Realizing that it will never lead anywhere, she breaks it off and transfers to the London office.

Her mom has been badgering her for basically the entire book to get married, so she agrees to an arranged marriage. At the wedding both her exes show up and try to win her back. She chooses nobody (including the guy she’s supposed to marry) and I cheered. It was kind of like that episode of 90210 where Kelly chooses “herself” over Brandon and Dylan.

Cute, but unrealistic.

Revolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat

Boy tries to make something of himself navigating the typical system of corruption in India. He also loves a girl. Girl loves (and is with) boy’s best friend who is smart and honest and trying to fight the corruption in India. Girl cheats on honest boy with our protagonist. I won’t tell you the ending.

Five point someone by Chetan Bhagat

A boy and his two college friends and their adventures in the most prestigious college in India. Five point someone refers to their grade point average. It’s out of ten, so it’s rubbish. Adventures abound.

The Old Man and his God by Sudha Murty

Short snapshots of different people the author has met throughout life. Some are wonderful people. Some are crap people. Tis life.

Why we get fat and what to do about it by Gary Taubes

Carbs basically.

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

The author was a live-in nanny in the early 80s in London. This book is a collection of her letters that she sent back home to her sister. I love the stories she recounts and the mundane details she brings alive. Here’s an example.

(MK is the mother of the kids she nannied.)

MK: (on phone) Have you nicked the Halliwell’s?
Me: No.
MK: The video card?
Me: No.
MK: What about the big stripey towel?
Me: No
MK: The one with the green, blue, and red stripes.
Me: No.
MK: I can see it, in your room, right now, hanging on a chair.
Me: (pause) OK, I’ve got the towel but not the rest.

Fast and fun read. Loved it.
On Writing by Stephen King

Oh man. I haven’t read much of Stephen King to be honest. But this book! This book! I just want to take it to bed and learn all its secrets. I’ll tell it all mine too. It’s a fabulous treatise on writing and I wish I had read it years ago. My only sadness came when he told me not to watch television and mentioned Judge Judy by name! Sniffle.

Best of all, he basically gave me permission to read as much as my heart desires and write everyday for the fun of it. Not that I needed his permission, but I appreciate it.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

I read this in the dentist’s office. Super short book, but kind of a painful one to read. He gives spacey, new agey, vague advice….that I found myself thinking about after I read it. The only thing that matters is NOW. This moment. Keep reminding yourself of that.

“Knowing that what is cannot be undone — because it already is — you say yes to what is or accept what isn’t. Then you do what you have to do, whatever the situation requires.”

And

“…a stoic philosopher in Greece who, when he was told that his son had died in an accident, replied ‘I knew that he was not immortal.'”

Love those stoics!

$2.00 a day by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

Great book on the realities of poverty through stories of real people. The working poor are trying. They want to work. The problem is it’s really hard to get a full time job making minimum wage and it’s impossible to live on part-time minimum wages. Most people try working two part-time jobs, but logistically that’s hard to coordinate with two demanding employers requiring flexible schedules. They’re also not getting benefits or overtime, even though they’re constantly working.

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin

Industries the poor utilize often lead them into financial ruin because of their predatory practices. Payday loans, car title loans, subprime mortgages, check cashers, pawn shops and their exorbitant interest rates suck whatever they can out of those in poverty. The prepayment penalties made me shudder.

It’s also a story of the organizations trying to help the poor by loaning them money at reasonable rates and trying to get the legislative branch to care and regulate.

The problem is a combination of financial illiteracy and outright fraud against people who can least afford it. Kind of a bummer of a read. Books about poverty are almost always bummers to read. I can’t think of any that I’ve read that weren’t.

The enemy of happiness is entitlement

Don’t go around thinking the world owes you anything. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

That’s a badly mangled version of a quote often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain that I mutter to myself at least three times a day.

Entitlement is the single worst trait in a human being. Expecting a certain behavior or a certain outcome or a certain situation doesn’t increase your happiness level any. In fact, entitlement will only bring you grief when the Universe decides to take back whatever it lent you.

Everything you have is only on loan to you. Your house, your car, your money and all your worldly possessions. Your hair, your cells, your time, your burrito. Everything. The Universe is letting you borrow it all.

That’s nice of the Universe, eh?

The trick is finding happiness and appreciation with what you have instead of lusting over what you want. Focus on the good.

When I was working as a lawyer, I had a list to remind myself to try to enjoy the freaking journey and not just countdown to retirement.

Things I’m going to miss when I’m retired, so appreciate it now, you idiot

  1. Payday twice a month is REALLY fun.
  2. It’s nice having my own office.
  3. And a secretary. I like asking her to scan and fax stuff.
  4. I get to wear nice dresses everyday.
  5. Oh, the occasional free tickets to professional games are nice.
  6. There are a lot of really smart people here to interact with.
  7. I’m not a bum. I’m working. A real job.

Unfortunately and fortunately, we acclimate. We get used to everything. It’s wonderful because you can get used to a lot of bad stuff and still keep living. It’s kind of sucky because you get used to the good stuff too and start to get bored.

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I made this.

Gratitude is the answer. Feel grateful for everything you have while you have it. It’s how you hop off the hedonistic treadmill and inhale the scent of the roses.

A sense of entitlement is the opposite of grit. When life gets bumpy, an entitled person feels shocked and angry, dwelling on the unfairness of it all. A gritty person gets back up and tries something else.

Think about what you can control and what you can’t.

Axis of control

Category one include anything I possess exactly zero control over. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west each day. No matter what I do, that won’t change. And that’s okay! Because the world is too full of things. I’d go mad if I had control over everything. Or I’d grow madder anyway.

I try not to waste my precious time and energy worrying about anything that falls into this category.

Category two includes things I have complete control over. My attitude. How I spend cash. Trying to find an activity that delights me.

Category three includes things I have some control over. How much I succeed at the activity that delights me. How much money I make. The way I position myself for the inevitable bad.

Life is going to suck occasionally. I don’t have control over what or when the suckiness comes, but I can give myself cushion. Having money gives you options and slightly more control than not having money. Work on the things you can control so you’re not flattened by the things you can’t control.

And when you do get what you want? Practice something called negative visualizations. Picture the loss of the thing while you still have it.

When you’re done picturing the loss and realize you still have it, you can celebrate. It’s like the relief you feel when you wake up from a bad dream. Phew! I don’t really have a big exam in a class I forgot to attend. Phew! I still have [whatever you pretended you lost for a moment.]

Do this and when you do eventually lose that thing, you’ll be slightly more prepared for it.

Theoretically.

Entitlement breeds unhappiness. Gratitude breeds happiness.

Ideas stolen from stoicism

The first rule about fight club is not to talk about fight club. But everyone talks about fight club. I picked up this jabbering wisdom from a book on stoicism. It’s a life philosophy based on tranquility. One of the basic tenets urges you not to talk about your conversion to stoicism; just live a stoic life.

But everyone talks about fight club.

I dig it. It perfectly encapsulates what I personally mean when I say that I’m striving for joy. My version of happy.

“We will, out of the blue, feel delighted to be the person we are, living the life we are living, in the universe we happen to inhabit.”

Yes! The happiness that surprises me. I didn’t know how to phrase it.

Lots of good ideas in this philosophy.

More gems from stoicism

  1. “Not needing wealth is more valuable than wealth itself.”
  2. “Stoics value their freedom, and they are therefore reluctant to do anything that will give others power over them. But if we seek social status, we give other people power over us: We have to do things calculated to make them admire us.”
  3. “A stoic who disparages wealth might become wealthier than those individuals whose principal goals is its acquisition.” Because a stoic has single-mindedness and self-discipline (grit!).
  4. “For most people, experiencing delight requires a change in circumstances; they might, for example, have to acquire a new consumer gadget. Stoics, in contrast, can experience delight without any such change; because they practice negative visualization.”
  5. “Seek friends who share our values and learn from how they live their life.” I’m really starting to think that good friends are the point of life.