The Investment Game

Who wants to invest money in this stock market?  I know what you're thinking,  "Ed?  Are you seriously going to give investing advice?"

    No, not really.  I'm never giving anyone ANY advice when it comes to investing so don't start calling me E.F. Hutton.  You weren't going to anyway?  Right. I thought so.

    The strategy I've been told works by the wealthy folks I've had the pleasure of meeting, is about compounding interest over time.  It's interesting how things come together.  As you start establishing yourself as a person who's able to wear many hats, you find yourself around like minded people.

    The military is similar because as you advance in rank, you find yourself around veterans who have achieved success in their fields.  Well actually, that's just life.  It doesn't matter which path you choose, right?  As you stick to it and become an expert or authority, you will find others who have pursued a similar path to find similar success.

    The point of this post is to highlight that when you are working for yourself, you have to invest in your own retirement.  You need to be thinking long term.  When I started trucking at 21, retirement was a long way off.  If you started at 21 like me, you're not going to be touching that money for 30, 40, or even 50 years.  That's the beauty of compounding interest and mutual funds.
    The earlier you start, the more you'll have when you aren't able to work anymore.  In fact, if you start in your teens, you can put minimal money away every year and by the time you are 30, provided you've picked the right funds and management, you don't ever have to put in another dime.  The money will grow throughout the long time period between when you started and retirement.

    The earlier, the better, when it comes to mutual funds and IRAs.  As an employee, you can contribute to a 401K, and you can also do so as a small business owner.  You can contribute to an IRA, a SEP IRA, an HSA, and a solo 401K, and there are Roth versions of the IRA and the 401K so that you won't pay taxes on the money when you retire.

    The good ole IRS has set up their system to allow you to pick how you set up a retirement plan.  You should tailor your plan to maximize saving money both for yourself and your business.  What most people don't understand is that the IRS wants US citizens to work in this country thereby generating revenue, paying taxes, and both taking and putting back into the system. 

    They don't want to tax you to death, because then people wont support the system.  This system has flaws, and I'm not interested in getting into this here, but for the purpose of this blog, I'll just say that you should know what is taxed, and what is not taxed so that you can navigate the system with some success.

    A good accountant can help you with the taxes, but unless you can afford a financial adviser, you'll be your own financial adviser.  When you're investing in your retirement, it may be that you can't afford not to have a financial adviser, but the important thing is to put something away regardless of how you do it. 

Oh Yeah!

Honesty Is The Only Policy

I haven't gotten to where I am in life with lies and deceit.  When you are keeping a record of your duty status as a truck driver, you have to be as close to accurate as possible, yet mistakes do happen.  If you write a log entry incorrectly, you can correct it still be legal so long as you are honest about your entry.  Where people run into problems is with openly fraudulent entries on the log. 

I've brought up the log and the legal hours of service (HOS) before, but what people need to understand is that the system was created by bureaucrats in response to a supposed desire by society to control the people who operate large machinery in public.

In many cases this is a reasonable concern, however the foundation for why these drivers need to be controlled is shifting and has shifted over time.  In the past truckers might drive when fatigued because of pressure from the customer or their company dispatcher.  The trucker might drive tired because of the opportunity to make more money.  The trucker was completely free to do as he or she pleased until the log book and hours of service was created.

Even then, the penalties for log book violations were weak.  The log book became known as the comic book.  The issue became that drivers were able to safely drive their trucks for 20 hours a day, but now the law was restricting them to 10 hours and then an 8 hour sleeper break.  Since there's 24 hours in a day, they could drive 16 hours in a 24 hour period.

The real problems are that companies have too much control over the industry forcing people to work while tired, and that the drivers who are coming into trucking have little to no understanding of how the trucking industry actually works.  These people go to trucking school and are able to gain entry with relatively no barriers.

Since trucking companies are self insured and can be their own trucking school, they get all the new drivers that come into trucking.  As such they have a controlling function and a deciding force in who is behind the wheel of that 40 ton vehicle riding next to you and your family on your way to work and school.

There should be a better process and more oversight over who is allowed to come into trucking.  Because trucking companies have negotiated ownership over trucking students and new hires in the trucking field, they have done what most companies do: thresh out a better bottom line.  This has been accomplished by removing any and all opposition to the company itself and forcing anyone who works for the company to comply with all company policy or be faced with unemployment.

That would be fine except these drivers are having their pay cut to pad the pockets of the company's CEO and affiliated officers which is removing any incentive for someone who actually wants to behave professionally and safely to want to fill the driver's seat.  There are many people like myself who have dealt with these companies and come out on top, so far, but it hasn't been easy. 

The point here is that while you may come into trucking and honestly be a proficient capable safe operator, your first barrier to success is the trucking company that trained and hired you.  They want you to get from point A to point B for as little money as you're willing to work for and they won't take no for an answer.

You've got to maintain your honest character and proceed to work your way up and out of that company to become an owner if that's your goal.  Regardless of your goal, staying honest is the only way to go.   Without honesty, trust erodes and nobody likes a liar. 

You want to be the person that people like, trust, and depend on to get the job done.  It's harder than it sounds, but it's vital to running a trucking business.

You Will Pay

Nothing is in your house that wasn't somehow or another placed on a truck at one time or another.  When it was placed on this truck, the truck owner was paid.  The truck owner set a rate that he or she felt was reasonable.  This rate was based on a few things such as fuel prices, maintenance costs, driver pay, and the competition's rates.  There is a value here that goes into the price of freight which is not easily calculated:  The pay to the driver to make driver's quality of life worthwhile.

As the lives of drivers are being inundated with electronic recorders, constant surveillance from the Department of Transportation, and local law enforcement, there is another factor which has crept into the lives of truck drivers:  lack of parking.

While the daily hours a driver is allowed to work is being cut short so that he or she will be safer behind the wheel, the places they can park are becoming fewer and fewer.  It really doesn't matter why this is happening so much because the parking lots and unused strips of local roads where trucks aren't allowed are many in number.

When I first came out here almost 20 years ago, trucks could practically park anywhere in the country so long as the truck could fit and be able to navigate in and out of the parking lot.  This made it possible to park somewhere other than a truck stop to take in the local sights or enjoy whatever the local area had to offer.  It's normal for a new business in a remote area or even in the suburbs to allow truck parking.  I see it all the time when a business is starting out.  Trucks bring in business.  And then, just like clockwork, as the business starts to do better, they erect truck parking bans around the property.

Truck drivers who enjoy their lives, charge less money for their service.  The more enjoyable the job, the less money needs to change hands.  Parking lot owners complain about the cost to repair light poles, pick up garbage, and repair damaged asphalt when they start to ban trucks, but is it really cost effective?  Is it possible that the reason there is a driver shortage is partially because life on the road is becoming more and more daunting?

Perhaps the next time you go to the store to fill your cart with anything, you might think about the prices you pay a little differently knowing that if the truckers were happier, the money in your wallet might go a little further than it does.