Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Buying a Rental Property, pt.3

Wow, if you have never done this, inspect a house you are planning to buy, then get ready for some definite eye opening. Here is modified copy of the email I sent to the seller and his realtor after our home inspection visit:

"Let me start off by saying that after talking it over, we have decided to proceed. But I have to say that both T and I are quite puzzled by the actual condition of the house. I, for one, was amazed by the fact that the only cleaning that had been done was superficial. Dust layered on the ceiling lights and on the cabinet shelves. Dirt crusted in the sliding door frame. It's as though the original plan was to rent it so why fix it up and then when it wasn't renting, let's sell it and just get out from under. But still, missing window screens, cabinet doors that don't fasten, a laundry room that looks to be decimated by mold, torn screens on the patio room, a fire place that doesn't work, windows that don't slide open and don't close completely, carpet stains and tears, broken tile and cracks that indicate leaking in the bathroom, blocked access from the outside to the sink and bathroom water works, no direct connect to the AC, a clearly visible ceiling stain in the hallway, and finally a roof that is so in need of reshingling that the current shingles crumple at the touch. We don't understand how you could think that this house would be saleable? Especially, since you, the seller, are a building contractor.

But this is what we understand the agreement to include: The seller will install new tile counters and tile the floor in the kitchen, repair the broken tile facing and rusted tiles in the shower stall, will re-screen the patio room, clean the back yard, and remove the cabinets, install open shelving, and repaint the laundry room, fix all sliding doors and windows so that they work easily.

Before the escrow can close, these are the concerns that have to be addressed: As pointed out in the Property Inspection Report, the roof has to be reshingled and the flashings need roof mastic, the large crack in the driveway/front walk needs to be repaired, the eaves and the caulking on the facia needs repair, the sprinkler heads need to be cleaned, access to the shower drain needs to be cleared, gas needs to be turned on so the heating and fire place can be checked, the AC needs to be checked by a HUAC contractor and have a direct disconnect installed, an air gap needs to be installed on kitchen sink, the kitchen cabinet latches and shelves need to be repaired, and the missing window screens need to be replaced.

In addition, once escrow has closed, we will arrange to recarpet the entire house, remove the popcorn accoustic from the ceiling, repair, repaint, or replace all interior mouldings, replace the windows with double hung windows, and possibly restructure the interior wall as a see through between the kitchen and the living room."

See what I mean? We had no thought when we first walked through the house that it was going to be a fixer-upper. It seemed livable and clean. All the windows and doors were already open and the walls had been repainted recently. Yes, the laundry room and back yard were in poor condition but the seller agreed to clean them up right away.

Still, if ever we needed to remember the rule that you must see a property personally before you buy it, this was the time

Monday, June 25, 2007

Some sense, cents, scents . . .

Is there really a future in ethanol or hybrid vehicles or lithium powered super bikes? A recent article in the LA Times about the transmogrification of motorcycles got me to thinking about this especially since every once in a while my partner T. gets it in her mind that that's just what she needs to go to work. Sometimes it's a Harley, sometimes a Vespa but either way when she's feeling frugal or adventurous she says she's ready to jump on a bike. And I don't doubt her. I just don't believe her. In my mind if you want to do something you do it. Not doing it means just that. Like when I drive on our California freeways and I see 50 cars with single drivers for every one car in the carpool lane. So while I applaud the creativity of these bike manufacturers for creating a lithium-battery proto-type, I still don't believe that it will have any effect on what people will choose for their transportation in the future.

What's the connection between the green revolution and the world's immigration problems? So we revolutionized the farming techniques and created a jobless, homeless hoard of wanderers who are like flotsam washing up against the shores of richer countries, and cities around the world. Australia, Paris, Jackson, Mississippi - we take away their livelihood, refuse them entry, decry their unwillingness to fit in, and there you have it, the unsolvable problem. Get those emergency funds ready folks. Here they come.

Ads in our restrooms. I wrote about this just the other day. Do you think we are ever going to reach a saturation point (tipping point?) where the advertising agencies finally realize that the real message in TIVO and fast forwarding is that people are really, really, really fed up with the bombardment. Or will that mean that the people in charge have finally come to their senses and decided to base the economy on less instead or more?

What's really up with China? Is China a democracy now? Has economics driven the country to change its politics. They use to be our enemy, The Yellow Peril, are they now US? I can't help but laugh as they become more like us with our gas hogging, over-producing ways. Because from what I understand the majority of the population in China isn't able to afford what the country is producing for the rest of the World's economy while their growing middle class and younger generation of bloggers are creating a tremendous pressure that someone is going to have to deal with. Wait I take that back, it doesn't make me laugh it makes me curious.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Two Dogs in what a place . . .

Back in 1975, I took a long look around at the things I was doing and what I really wanted to be doing and decided a break was what I needed. To think therefore to understand, I moved my small community, a son and a girl friend, to Santa Barbara's East Beach. And it was during this time I composed this piece:

Two Dogs

Brisk paced Passed my place.

I had to squint. The sun was in my face.

The dogs' heads held high

Scarcely slowed barely bowowed

As their tales swept by.

Two dogs out in the sun a daily run.

I began to scribble this to catch the sight just right.

They ran on were gone.

Quickly now black & tan and tan

Were they male&female I couldn't tell?

Whose? Where? Uh oh, there they go ...

Around 1985, I was living in the small beach town of Encinitas and riding my 10 speed to work everyday. It was a nice 20 mile commute each way and it gave me time to think and let go of all the tensions that came from teaching high school students. Times were still changing but the thing was still way up ahead somewhere and I was living frugally sans car, wife, and or other material accompaniments. That's when I wrote this:

Two dogs . . .

In the back of two trucks

Out in front of the laundromat

Put there for safety

And to see that no one fucks

With their owner's stuff,

Bark like crazy, loud at ear height,

Reminding me of Bar bouncers

Out for fun and A good fight.

Bristling and jostling, they shiver the sky

Until closer inspection reveals that

They are just barking goodbye.

Now it's 2007, a new, but getting old fast, millennium and I really would like to say that things are getting better but then when I think about it here's what my imagination has to say:

Two dogs . . .

Some Low level of rage runs through my thoughts

Like black&tan rottweilers barking and snapping and thirsting for blood.

I know I can’t let them loose. It won’t do me no good.

Still, they run, They rage, Seek solace on a page.

Act out, . . .No doubt, . . . I’ll end up in a cage.

But just once wouldn’t it be worth it

To let them all the way out.

Get blood up the snout.

I have to find a punching bag, a tackling dummy, a blocking machine;

A way to vent my spleen.

Just picture it: A meal on wheels made of corporate heads, millionaires’ homesteads, stars and starlets fresh from their magazine spreads.

The growl snarls up and through me

My chest vibrating . . . My voice gone vibrato,

My jaws unclench, saliva flows. God, just to be raving pack of two dogs Finally let go.

Insurance, assurance . . .

Today, I sat down to ruminate over our new whole and term life insurance policies. After much thought and some careful (we thought) research, we chose to buy $100K of whole life and $500K of convertible term. The whole life comes with a guaranteed annual premium and will be completely paid up in 22 years. We will have contributed at that point $49,261 and the benefit amount will be $105,479 guaranteed. This insurance is for my partner T. and assures her that when she dies she will be leaving an inheritance to her son. The term life is also for her son and in her mind guarantees that if anything happens to her before the 20 years is up, her son will receive that death benefit, too. Originally, the plan was for T. to convert the term insurance gradually over to whole life so that sometime before the 20 years ran out she would have $600K of whole life insurance to pass on.

They say you buy insurance for one of two reasons: you love someone or you owe someone. They also say love can make you blind. I love my partner so I worked with her to set this up. But all the way through the process I knew that there were other choices that would provide the same thing and still let us be in better control. Once the insurance company has our money, the only way we can access it is through borrowing against the current cash value. At 8%. Of course the money we contribute is guaranteed to, at the least, double while it is in their care. And that is worth something. But the same $300 a month place in a 4% savings account will reach $168K over the same time period and we could use it if the need arose without any penalty. And if we put it in a long term investment fund like the Vanguard 500, the return might be 10% which would mean its value would compound to $268K. But in order for us to choose either of those two options we would need to have the assurance that our continually growing net worth would be the legacy that she would pass on to her son. Because that's the real key to deciding about whether to buy insurance, isn't it? Do you trust yourself or some insurance company?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Buying a Rental Property, pt.2

So things are moving a pace, Watson. Our lender, a very friendly and hardworking guy, has added a new wrinkle to our tax write-off question. Just as we were about to enter escrow, he suggested to the agent that we would like to roll the approximate non-recurring closing costs into the loan. He figured them at @ $3000. So now a quick calculation at shows us that this will increase the amount of the interest we might pay over the life of the loan to $7200 at 7%. We are just ball parking here because the lender has told us already that he is looking to use a stated income basis for the loan because of our son's credit history. His FICO is 730 but for real estate, especially these days, since he has only about a year of payroll background, the FICO is not as important as it normally is. The question for us though is the value of the tax write-off this year. If we pay the closing costs, we get to claim them now. However, since this property will be a cash flowing entity, the $20 a month interest will decrease our income from the property and so affect out tax basis that way too. Now, I have to think about this property from its other purposes (retirement income, early mortgage reduction value, property appreciation, etc.) point of view.

Today, we meet with the lender. It will be interesting to hear his perspective. I'll get back to you.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Buying a rental property

Well, first things first. Just as things settled down with our rentals (the one that was unrented got rented and renovated right away) we discovered that a our contractor had a nice two bedroom, one bath that he wanted to sell in the worst way. Apparently the rental market had soured him on the whole landlord deal. At the same time, our son's new income is driving him to find some way to create some tax write-offs. So we decided to do the deal with him for our son's benefit.

It's weird though to approach the purchase of a property from this perspective. We want to make the best deal but it's possible that the best deal might not provide the best tax write-off. Since what can be written off is operating expenses,the interest on the loan, the points, the depreciation on the house over the life of the loan (not the property), any repairs and additions to the house, the property management fees, insurance costs, non-recurring closing costs, and the property taxes, we find ourselves doing a rather delicate balancing act.

Normally, we would be looking for the best interest rate in the most stable loan, say 6.75% plus one point for 30 years but our son's age and relatively thin employment history will probably push us into 7.5 or higher territory. Which in this case, on this deal, is good. It means there will be more interest to write off. Also, if a house is in fair shape when we buy it we would usually make the minimum touchup repairs in order to get it quickly back on the market. But in this case, we are actually going to do some major overhauling because it will improve the long term value of the property and write off, write off, write off is our game plan. The same is true of personal property items like a washer and dryer or refrigerator. In the past we might have supplied these, this time we definitely will. Of course, I should explain that it really helps that our son's new job has provided him with plenty of cash to fund the improvements.

Meanwhile, the other aspects of buying a rental seem to be taking a back seat to our driving purpose. Several times my partner, T, has asked me what I think about the deal but when I start talking about the kind of renters we might find and the area that the property is located in, and if there will be cash flow, she has just smiled and then said, "but yeah think of the tax write-offs." "Yeah," I answer.

Some related posts:
To Rent or Sell
Putting the Real in Real Estate

Rent or Sell, part 2

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Taxes . . .

They say death and taxes are the only two things you can’t avoid.

There’s a finality there that is hard to ignore.

A sense of dying already let in the door.

But what if you want to deny this truth?

What if you wanted nothing, and needed less? Would governments be

Satisfied without redress?

Somewhere out there on the edge, where the sky meets the earth, where

Birds fly and the unknown still lies like a sea serpent looking for dinner,

We look to find our salvation.

An eternal spring, a new life form that when wedded with ours will create an

Everlasting, always young, new humankind.

And I wonder, could we do that without changing, rearranging our current

Universe. Or would this change like some domino exhibit collapse us all into

Some black hole that is worse than death and . . . taxes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

to Blogger or wordpress it, that is the . . .

Today, after much searching and reading and getting help from the feedburner forum, I found out what I've suspected all along. As Robert Heinlein pointed out in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, TANSTAAFL. The folks at wordpress do offer the commenting funtionality in a flare but it comes through their paid service at version 1.x or 2.x so this great adventure has now taken another fast curve. Yesterday, I said I'd write more about the differences and similarities of these two blog hosts. So here's a brief list. At blogger, you sign up and get your first template within three clicks. At wordpress, your template is called a theme and when you sign up they assign a default one until you've had a chance to pick a theme. They are real big on themes over there. At blogger, if you need things explained you can go to help and choose the forum or the help center/FAQ but there is really no way to directly contact someone. At wordpress, you can read through the documentation for the whole site if you so choose, or go to the forum or FAQ or contact an administrator who will email you back pretty quickly. At blogger, they have the blogger news and updates, at WP they have the Blog News which is an online magazine with editorials, articles, ads, and all the trimmings and it works like a blog so you can comment on the ongoing events and search for past stuff too. At blogger, you work with your page template (which you can change at will) and you can post and add widgets. At WP, you can work with the presentation of your posts (choosing themes and placing widgets in the side bars or you can work with Pages which you can design and fill with the content that you don't need to change. So far, I haven't seen any upgrades that cost you something at blogger, but as I pointed out above at WP if you are going to make money with your blog they want some too.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blogging, the way its done

Today I'm sort of summing up the things I've learned about my blogs and blogging in general this week. This short and steep learning curve occurred when I realized that I was emailing subscriptions from blogger that were not carrying my comment option. When I went to the forum at blogger for help I was put off by the advice that wanted to refer me to adding beta code to my template. For those of you that don't know, beta means still in the testing mode. So I went to the location of my feed account and asked their forum for help. I was told first of all that (something I'd noticed in passing) that was currently the only hosting/publishing service that allowed that capability with email subscriptions. Apparently about 90% of the commentary received on blogs is spam. Consequently, comments are heavily monitored and difficult to transport. I am not quite sure why a comment that has been moderated is any further concern but this is still the situation.

So the dilemma. I like my blogger blogs; the templates, the ease of use, the familiarty I have developed with the process but I want to publish my blog as an email newsletter and if wordpress is the only way then I figured I would have to try it out.

Wordpress has taken this whole process to another level. Why this is I don't know but I think it probably has to do with starting well after blogger and wanting to be better and different. And it is different, right from the start. Tomorrow I'll spend some time telling you how.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Setting a goal

I've come to the conclusion that looking inward may be the best way to prepare a person to look forward. As a child, I developed into a loner. Whether it was caused by being a service brat who was in a new school every one of my first 7 years or because my parents were of different religious origins, she was Catholic, he Baptist; different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, she was a city bred Italian, he was farm bred Southerner; or because I discovered the world inside books when I started reading at the age of six, doesn't really matter. Whatever the cause, the effect has been to leave me very short sighted when it comes to goal setting. Ask me my goal at any time in my life and the answer would have been the same. To be alone with a good book.

The result is that I've always sought jobs, entertainments, and yes, even friends, that would leave me alone to organize my activities so I could hurry back to my reading. Hurry being the operative word here. I didn't so much plan the future as I did try to control it so I could go back to my books. The odd thing is that this shaped my eventually becoming a teacher of English and it foreshadowed my decision to retire early and go off on my own. The thing is that teaching was never my goal. An occupation that gave me a license to read was. Later, when I discovered how much I really liked teaching, I had already retired so that I could get back to my privacy and my reading.

The point here is that I never really set my goal. It set me. When I look back at the jobs I've had, truck driver, coach, teacher, concession manager, dance teacher, and now computerist, I see how they all were choices that fit my personality and that I gravitated to naturally. But I remember distinctly in every case I pursued or took the job because I wanted to be in control of my time so, you guessed it, I could have more time to read.

So I have this to say to those of you who are about to sit down and list your short term and long term goals, goal setting is a forward looking activity. But a look inside at who you are and what you do with your own time now may serve you very well as you plan for the future.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Lists: More things that I've been thinking about . . .

What is the real truth behind the economics of the velocity of money? Other people's money is really just our own money coming around again, isn't it? Now that the sub-prime lending industry has been acknowledged for the financial boondogle it always was what's going to happen to all those gurus who preached getting rich on no money down? Well, their seminars might go out of favor but the need that drove people to attend them will still need an outlet wont it? Meanwhile, it's now becoming apparent with the convergence at Blackstone that OPM will more than likely coming from China.

Is this one of those emergencies we should be preparing for? The growing transfer of power to China. Last month, after writing a post about Deep Economy by Bill McKibben, I decided to check out the market for reusable shopping bags for our farmer's market. I found five companies that we're ready and willing to fill my need in six to eight weeks. The time it would take their Chinese production facility to deliver my order. So there I was, faced with the same old investing dilemma with a new twist. Now I could choose to save the ecology while exploiting the slave labor market. Ha! Which comes first the world or the people in it?

Ads in our restrooms. I was cruising along being a passenger on a trip to LA when I suddenly realized that the billboard we were passing was animated. Yes, it had changed its message as we drove by. Hmmm, I thought. Technology ain't it grand. But then last night I was perusing my latest edition of the magazine for change AdBusters and came across this disturbing article. It's too far fetched isn't? Governments and corporations file sharing our private info to track us, sell us things, to further control our freedom. To what end, I wonder. Maybe this is a clear signal that that emergency fund should be moved back to its old favorite spot under the mattress.

Some times it helps to make lists

Here are some ideas I've been playing around with in my mind:

Five rules for learning to be more independent. 1) Start with something simple like learning how to make your own bed and wash your own clothes. 2) Read, even if its just your daily dose of blogs. 3) Ride alternative forms of transportation to get to and from work. 4) Pay all your bills first. 5) Work no work, no work work.

Is my brain becoming more and more like a computer?
The other evening just before T. and I climbed into bed for the night, we got into a discussion about what the name of the actress was in a commercial we had just watched. Neither one of us could come up with it. The next morning though the very first thing that popped into my head was her name. As I thought about this situation, it dawned on me that my brain was acting like a computer that by the end of the day had so many programs running that it took forever (or in this case all night) for it to complete a task.

How to retire early by staying frugal.
It just seems ridiculous to me that a person would teach themselves to be frugal and then when they retire that they would slot rattle themselves into a entirely different behavior. Why not just use your frugality to retire from the whole rat race early?

What do you do when the goals of your partner are different than yours?
Wow, this is one that I am just now coming to grips with as we have seemingly reached our first plateau of goals. She keeps talking about The Secret and looking at BMWs in the $50k range while I would rather ride my bike than drive somewhere any day. I keep thinking whoopee, our business is solvent, we own four cash flowing rentals, all our insurance is up to date, we have an emergency fund, we both are busy working on things.

What is a business handshake worth?
If you are in the farm, produce or small farmer's market business, you know what is meant by the business handshake. Deals within deals. Nothing shady, just back scratching. But in the small business world it is usually the only way to make a living. You buy all his oranges now because come strawberry season you want the pick of his crop.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Money Matters

The other day a friend called up to talk about his son's new job. The son is 22 years of age and has been working for the last six months with a real estate company that specializes in the foreclosure market. As you can imagine, business is great what with the bank re-sales averaging 10 a month and the foreclosure listings up to 1500 since January. They can barely keep up. Meanwhile, the son is making a ton of money which is driving him slightly crazy because of how much he is going to have to pay in taxes. His anticipated 1099 salary is $100,000 for the year. Yes, you heard me, the employer has all of his staff on 1099s. If I understand it right that means he gets to write them off as an expense but doesn't have to contribute anything to their social security, etc. Right now that means the kid could be looking at paying out well over 50% of his income in taxes. So far, he has come up with the following strategies to deal with this: He has formed a sole proprietorship and leased a car for his real estate business, and he bought into a rental property with his parents that they are going to let him claim on his income tax this year. He's also spent $6,000 on deductible improvements to the rental property. The big question that seems to be looming on his financial horizon is whether he should buy more rentals or buy his first home?

Lets look at the rental idea first: Because of the unique position he finds himself in, he has ongoing access to a tremendous amount of property listings. And because he still has 6 months in the year to find and make a purchase, he can be patient and select the best option available. An unfortunate aspect of this is that he works in San Diego County where the median home price is currently around $500,000. Rentals, however, should produce cashflow income so his tax situation might get worse instead of better.

In several ways, the situation is similar if he decides to purchase a home. Lot of listings, half a year to make a choice, and an average home price $500,000. However, since the money he will use for the down payment is not tax deductible, the only tax gain he will get is in the interest write off and the property tax benefit. One detracting factor here is that if the real estate market changes or he loses his job he could find himself in the very same boat as his present clients.

I don't find either of these options to be perfect but the fact that the rental property uses other people's money (the renters) to pay the costs has me leaning in that direction.

Meanwhile, I don't think he's done anything about IRA or emergency funds or for that matter long term investing. I told my friend that it is an interesting situation that I am going to have to spend more time thinking and researching about before I can say I really have some good answers.

After thoughts on today's New Clips

Rubert Murdock lives in a dog-eat-dog world where gluttony is a guiding principal. Entropia World tries to create a virtual real world where d-e-d applies and gluttony leads to sure death. In our time, America, through the use of credit cards, the rise, and the real estate go boom has felt free to become gluttonous. We've learned, and appear to be teaching to the rest of the world, how to use one financial ruse after another to defy the reality of our very real dog-eat-dog world. Maybe that's why so many personal finance blogs are stressing that we all better get that emergency fund in shape?

I look at the newspaper . . .

I am an inveterate clip filer. I can't help it. I have newspaper clippings that go back 35 years. There is something about a well written news story, be it just the 5 W's written like it used to be, or today's more "I" oriented perspective. I savor the information that is brought to my eye by my own choice. I usually read a paper from front to back, keeping track of the stories and reading them as I go. It's my version of multi-tasking. What happens though is that over time I end up with a stack of newspaper sections, and sometime magazines, that I have read and bookmarked in my mind but haven't clipped yet.

Yes, I am back and now that I have had some time to think about it Sunday seems to be a good day to sum things up. So here are some more News Clips: Recently, on both the SimpleDollar and GetRichSlowly the discussion has turned to the question of ethical investing. In the LA Times, Tim Rutten tackled this question head on as he reviewed the ongoing status of the Rupert Murdoch acquisition attempt on the Wall Street Journal by purchasing the Dow Jones Co. According to Rutten, any analysis of Murdoch's financial dealings reveals a total disregard for morality and ethics in the name of business success. Fox television, the New York Post, his manipulations of the Chinese investment market, are all examples of making money coming first, cheapening the product coming second, and lowering the moral expectations of the public coming as the natural result. As Rutten points out, "Thus the formerly deviant join the mainstream and the whole social current becomes that much more abrasive and polluted." It strikes me that as true as this may be, just like the recent internet radio rulings by the FCC, this is something which is way outside of my control. I can think it's wrong but so much is wrong in the world of Wall Street that I am stuck with the choice of dropping out or taking advantage. Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what the Rupert Murdoch's of this world want.

Meanwhile, in the virtual world of Entropia Universe, something else seems to be cooking. I have come to really look forward to the cyber research being done by David Sarno. This article takes a look at a game world that could be a personal finance dream for the computer oriented game players among us. Imagine a virtual world where you can earn real money. Wait, you don't have to imagine it. One player featured in this article earns $20,000 a month from virtual real estate holdings, and several other in the article are real time millionaires as a result of their participation. What I really like is the feature that makes the economy of Entropia run on the scarcity principle. The manufacturer "MindArk employs a team of balancing managers to make sure the game's economy stays viable, fair, and entertaining." It an idea that fascinates me. "Why couldn't the real world economy work the same way?", is what I think but what I know is that less is more only works for the few and far between.

Here's an interesting piece of info: On May 8th the LA Times reported that the consumer debt (non-mortgage credit) is rising at an annual rate of 6.7%. On May 16th, they reported that consumer prices rose .4% in April and .6% in March, and in LA prices are up 3.6% from a year ago. The thing is that the fed keeps saying that the news is good because core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, is moderate at .2%. Is this more government obfuscation or what? Inflation is here but just like during the housing boom when the economy was being supported by home owner's equity, it's being obscured by increased credit card use. Whoopee!

This is the last one for today. It's from April 1st's LA Times business section. Here's the heading, The Game of Life stirs concern when it replaces play money with plastic. "To the horror of some the game's biggest fans, the partnership (San Francisco based Visa) is getting rid of cash and replacing it was a branded Visa card." So the march to go paperless goes on. The thing is that there is some credibilty to taking this approach with a version of the game because real life is going this way too. But in real life adults have to learn to really be leary of credit card spending, let's hope that's what happens here.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Part and Parcel, How to Grow a Partnership

To me the art of partnering is simple. First, anticipate the other person's actions and then help them along the way. Say they need to figure out how to finish a job. A partner looks for what needs to be done next and starts on that: The nurse who hands the doctor the correct instrument, the catcher that doesn't let the ball go through, the person who takes the other side of the box to help you lift, all are examples of what I mean. But how do you find that partner or become one yourself.

As I written earlier, my partner and I grew into our partnership. Common interests placed us together and we grew into it from there. But first lets ask ourselves this question. What is the value of a partnership? As a loner, I can tell you that I have wasted a lot of my energy trying to complete projects that didn't get done because being a loner I had no contacts, no connections, no person up the ladder that I could appeal to for help. Because I didn't "need anyone" I let myself believe that the failure of each project was the fault of others who just couldn't see what a great idea they were missing. As I began to think about this though, I realized that the failures were also mine. My individuality might lead to creativity but in order to spread a good idea I needed to change myself or add someone else to the mix.. So a partnership can bring you success.

When I started a side business, I began to look for ways to include someone else. As I look back, I can see that this first attempt was destined to fail. My small business had room for one employee so I decided to include my wife. Blithely, I assumed because we were married we were partners and that she would want to share in the creation of this business. But the contract of marriage didn't include her caring about what I was trying to create. She was glad to help on an hourly basis, or as an assistant but when she came home from her regular (part time job) she was quite content to relax and do her own things rather work with me to grow the business. Eventually, this difference of interests doomed the business and, yes, the marriage. I'd learned that wanting a partner or to be a partner didn't garuntee success.

I could see the value of having a partner but I couldn't see how to get one. I didn't have a boss who would one day walk into my office and say here's your new partner. I was on my own. Then I began to think back to a time when I did have partners. Back to the day when I played sports in college and after, and I remember what had always been the key to my team being successful. I helped everyone else be a better player. In football, I was a great blocker; in basketball, I led in assists; in volleyball, I was a setter; and in dance, I was a leader who learned to follow. In each of these activities, I was a partner.

The value of a partnership is that it can lead to success. To have a partnership, I finally learned, you have to be a partner.