We Are So Grateful!

I want to use this post to thank you for all the help we have received for the past two years.  Some of you have been on campus providing service – building trails, constructing buildings, placing water lines, mucking out stalls, building fences, and so many other dirty jobs.

downloadMany have helped by donating to Robert Morris Foundation, an institution that supports the development of our campus.

Thank you donors for your monetary support. We could not have achieved what we have without you. Every penny helps and we have millions to go before we are done.

To say that we are grateful seems weak and thin compared to how we feel about you.

Monticello College is a monument to you and your belief in all that is good and true and right.

Together we are creating an institution to stand the test of time and to be a beacon of light in a sometimes dark world.



Melt Down To A New Economy

Meltdown: A Free-Market Look At Why The Stock Market Collapsed, The Economy Tanked, And Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse.” That is the title to Thomas Woods’ 2009 book. It is so good I am sad that I didn’t read it when it was first published.

download (1)

Please do not turn away in disinterest…I know this may not be your favorite topic, but the key to financial autonomy in knowledge and proper application…here is where it begins.

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. is an American historian, political analyst, and author.

Woods is a New York Times best-selling author and has published eleven books including the Politically Incorrect Guide To American History, and The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholic Intellectuals and the Progressive Era.

He takes the complicated and contrasting concepts of Keynesian and Austrian economics and simplifies them so even I can understand the differences and proper application of timeless principles.

F.A. Hayek

F.A. Hayek

He walks you through:

  • The basics of Keynesian Economics vs Austrian Economics
  • Historical perspectives regarding numerous so called American economic depressions/recessions and crystalizes the matter for maximum understanding
  • Fractionalization and monetary policy
  • The underground debate of American economic historians
  • How Americans never seem to learn from the past, especially our own past
  • The need for Free Enterprise and an Economic “government-free” mindset

Here are a couple of quotes from his books:

The economist F.A. Hayek won the Nobel Prize is economics in 1974 for a theory of the business cycle that holds great explanatory power — especially in light of the 2008 financial crisis, which so many economists have been at a loss to explain. Hayek’s work, which builds on a theory developed by economist Ludwig von Mises, finds the root of the boom-bust cycle in the central bank. In our case that’s the Federal Reserve Bank System, the very institution that postures as the protector of the economy and the source of relief from business cycles…the Fed…can expand and contract the money in the economy, and can influence the movement of interest rates upward or downward.


Looking at the money supply makes sense when looking for the root of an economy-wide problem. After all, money is the one thing present in all corners of the market, as Lionel Robbins points out in his 1943 book, The Great Depression. “Is it not probable,” he asked, “that disturbances affecting many lines of industry at once will be found to have monetary causes?  

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes

Later Woods talks about the Keynes’s fantasy of a permanent economic boom:

In the short run the result of the central bank’s lowering of the interest rates is the apparent prosperity of the boom period.  Stocks and real estate shoot up. New construction is everywhere, businesses are expanding their capacity, and people are enjoying a high standard of living. But the economy is on a sugar high, and reality inevitably sets in. Some of those investments will prove to be unsustainable and will have to be abandoned, with the resources devoted to them having been partially or completely squandered. 


That is one of the reasons the Fed cannot simply pump more credit into the economy and keep the boom going. Yet the economist John Maynard Keynes–who is oddly back in fashion in Washington (even though his system collapsed in the in the early 1970’s when it couldn’t account for “stagflation”)–proposed exactly this: “The remedy for the boom is not a higher rate of interest but a lower rate of interest! For that may enable the so-called boom to last. The right remedy for the trade cycle is not to be found in abolishing booms and thus keeping us permanently in a semi-slump; but in abolishing slumps and keeping us permanently in a quasi-boom.” 


download (1)I highly recommend this book to all who want to understand what is happening around us economically and the proper and not-so-proper role of government vs free enterprise.

The Industrial Age (1850-1990??) was a time of massive upheaval regarding the manufacture and production of goods worldwide.

It widened the gap between capital and labor, owner and laborer.

In many ways the current collision of the Industrial and Information Ages has disrupted the order and balance of things far beyond anything we can imagine and with the advent of 3-D printing and things like nano-technology, stem-cell research, and the new relationship between manufacturing and advertising/distribution, we are most certainly entering a New Economy.

This new economy can be identified by key words and phrases such as “multiple-streams-of-income,” Network Marketing, Entrepreneurship, non-traditional business, and private retirement planning. Like it or not, the world of business is changing–and to survive–to succeed, we will have to embrace that change.


download (2)P.S. My wife has taken my constant dialog about Free Enterprise, American Economic Independence, and multi-streams-of-income to heart and has started her own company promoting skin care products.  I share it here only to exemplify the New Economy:

Look Ten Years Younger In 2 Minutes:

Instantly Ageless Demo

Click Here For More Information

The Best Opportunities Come In Times Of Maximum Pessimism

downloadThe first half of the 21st Century is a Fourth/First Turning period (See the Fourth Turning by Howe and Strauss).*

This means that the olds ways of doing just about everything are quickly evaporating and being replaced by new ways.

The faster we learn the new ways (or even creating some ourselves) the better for our own personal economy.

One of my mentors from 20 years ago took a class at Stanford in the 1950’s called “Contrary Opinion.”

The point of the class was to show that most people are wrong most of the time. So don’t follow the crowd.

By doing the opposite of what most of the people are doing—especially in the beginning of a period of change— you have a greater chance at success.

Fourth-Turning-Image-300x210Warren Buffett says it a little differently, he says “be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful,” and Sir John Templeton said, “the best opportunities come in times of maximum pessimism.”

This suggests that we should strive to see what is happening around us from a perspective of curiosity and creativity rather than fear and trepidation.

We should operate and make decisions from a pro-active stance rather an reactive one.

This is how fortunes are made, new technologies created, and the world changed for good.

Unfortunately, most Americans are and will continue to persevere in the old ways which serve only to alienate them from the new reality, making them less and less effective.

Dent-Jr.-195x300Take for instance the January 2015 report just put out by forecaster and demographer, Harry Dent.

Gauge Your Real Estate Risks: How to Prepare for the Next Crash                January 2015 — Harry Dent, Editor

This is a MUST read.

I have been following Harry Dent for about 10 years.

He offers insight into where our economy is going based primarily on demographics.

Many people will read this report and be scared out of their skins because they will compare it to where we have been, and the economic tragedies of 2001 and 2008; the housing bubble, the near stock market crash, unemployment etc.

But many people have made fortunes over the past 13 years, just like others did during the Great Depression. The real question we should be asking ourselves is how did they do it?**

I struggle with using Facebook and emailing from my I-phone of which I currently am using about 1% of it’s capacity. I still do not understand the value of Twitter, and the host of other social media platforms….but I acknowledge that to effectively communication—at least to get people’s attention—I must master these tools of the 21st century if I plan to be a success over the next few decades.

The same is true about developing financial freedom and in turn maintaining political freedom. The principles remain the same, but the way that we communicate them and apply them are changing, and we must change with them.


* Other suggested books to read:

The Coming Aristocracy, DeMille

Money: Master the Game – & Simple Steps To Financial Freedom, Robbins

Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens, DeMille & Brooks


**I sent the Dent Report to Strongbrook founder Kris Krohn and President and CEO, Steve Earl.  Below is Steve’s response.

From: Steve Earl <Steve.Earl@strongbrook.com>

Subject: Re: Dent’s Latest Looks Like a Boon for Us

Date:   December 29, 2014 4:48:39 PM MST

To: Shanon Brooks <sb@monticellocollege.org>


Mr. Dent makes some very good points and seems to have some good data to back up his theories.  I agree with most and a little less on others.

Nonetheless, I do believe his thoughts are very accurate in that what he believes the market will do over the coming years gives legitimacy to Strongbrook’s real estate investing strategy, which is two fold.

Number one, we are built on the strategy of creating cash flow through real estate, and because the constant found in real estate is the consistency of rent values, the market can go up or it can go down and the cash flow remains fairly steady.

Number two, when a growth market presents itself, we are able to take advantage of the opportunity, and then move out of it at a strong yet conservative point in the growth cycle.  Additionally, Mr. Dent notes that real estate is very geographic in nature.  Strongbrook has developed its acquisition team to be constantly looking for particular opportunities through out the country and then bring those to its clients.

I agree with Mr. Dent’s thoughts on population growth and how that will affect demand for real estate.  What I don’t know is how accurately things will play out based on his theory.  One thing he doesn’t account for in his hypothesis is the affect immigration may have on US population and demographics.

With the recent change President Obama made to immigration law and how that whole thing may evolve, the US could see a significant increase in population from immigration.  Most of these people are renters, and that will create more demand in the rental market.  Additionally, if these immigrants are granted valid SS#’s, the opportunity for them to get loans and buy homes will impact the single family market and the value of homes.

Having said all of that, if Mr. Dent is 100% right on all accounts, Strongbrook is definitely positioned to help its clients succeed in a very big way over the coming decade.

I hope you all had a great Christmas!  I am looking forward to a huge 2015 and seeing Strongbrook have a significant impact in each of our lives.



Steve Earl

President & CEO

The Strongbrook Group


Do You Follow Clason’s Law?

quote-i-am-the-american-dream-i-am-the-epitome-of-what-the-american-dream-basically-said-it-said-you-whoopi-goldberg-72719As a self-motivated American Dream/Reality promoter and possibly even your counselor and mentor (I only take on this role if you are voluntarily reading my blog on a regular basis), I am getting bold and repetitive about financial autonomy—BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN YOU.


101512bucks-carl-sketch-blog480I believe that you can solve your own problems and crises if you will but seek out financial truth, raise your head above the din of everyday drudgery, and set your determined gaze on that truth.

In a phrase: rather than focusing on The Economy, focus on Personal Economy.

Do you have an economic goal and a financial plan?

Are you actually striving for a specific desired financial end result or are you just getting by?

Will you have a secure and adequate financial base when you decide to retire?

During the winter holiday season, I always take time out to read a few books that have been waiting patiently on my shelf. This season, I am reading a few Industrial Age and Great Depression era biographies, namely: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, and George Eastman.

This period covers about 100 years beginning in the1840’s through the 1940’s. Many people lost all that they had and others did very well during this period. Yes some people did well due to corruption and cheating the system.

Others gained wealth due to being at the right place at the right time, but the majority did well or poorly as a result of following or not following sound principles of finance and whether or not they lived or avoided Clason’s Law (George Clason, Author of Richest Man in Babylon, explains that people stay in financial bondage who strive for a standard of living at or beyond their income, regardless how much they earn).

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

It is fascinating to study these men’s lives. Many started out with much less innate talent or resources than you have now, but they overcame their less than favorable circumstances and not only did very well financially, they left a legacy that we now enjoy.

I wanted to read about these men in depth because for decades I have been influenced by hearsay and public “common knowledge.” I wanted to know for myself who these men were and what they stood for.

I do not agree with every method and every conviction held by these Titans of the Industrial Age, but only after studying their lives and getting into their heads can I now say that I think I understand them at some level and realize that whether I agree or disagree is not the issue.

Intention is the true criteria upon which we should make judgment. Intention means much more to me than passing social morality or legalism.


Henry Ford

Henry Ford

To judge a man by his intention is to look into his heart. We seldom accomplish what we dream of, in fact often we come up miserably short, but that does not change the fact that we were motivated by a beautiful dream. And that we should be judged by our intentions and not our less than perfect manifestation of those intentions.

But I digress.

One of the most basic concepts I discovered in the study of these great men (meaning impactful not necessarily good) is that they saw the world differently than the general population* and clearly understood the proper relationship between four economic realities: Income, Expenses, Assets, and Liabilities.

There is a great distinction between those who follow the Liability Cycle versus those who concentrate on the Asset Cycle.

Let me explain.

The typical middle class American seeks a good job so that they can earn enough income to qualify for as many liabilities (for a Clason’s Law standard of living) as possible, which then obligates all of their income to pay monthly expenses. This creates an impression and feeling of a high standard of living but in reality it expends all income and incurs unsustainable debt.

This is commonly known as the “Rat Race” or the Liability Cycle.

J.P. Morgan

J.P. Morgan

The wealthy or those moving toward wealth employ a different strategy. They begin living substantially under their means or income, then use the resultant savings to purchase assets, which in turn generates passive or residual income.

The increase of income (residual income) covers the monthly expenses, allowing the person to save and invest even more. Still living under their earned income, they are able to purchase even more assets, creating even more residual income and so it goes.

Over time, the residual income from assets exceeds their expenses and they are financially free. Then the residual income exceeds their earned income and they quit their job. This I am calling the Asset Cycle.

The beauty is that any person regardless of their situation or how much damage they have caused themselves financially, can begin applying the Asset Cycle today and in due course, raise themselves out of the nightmare of debt, low self-esteem, and destroyed dreams caused by the Liability Cycle.

Understanding the magic of this process is just one lesson to be learned from studying the Industrial Age and Great Depression eras.


*One of my mentors from 20 years ago took a class at Stanford in the 1950’s called “Contrary Opinion.” The point of the class was to prove that most people are wrong most of the time. So don’t follow the crowd. By doing the opposite of what most of the people are doing, you have a greater chance at success.

These same sentiments are echoed by Warren Buffett – “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful,” and Sir John Templeton – “The best opportunities come in times of maximum pessimism.”


Maybe Forrest Gump Was Right


imagesMost Americans are either ignoring this fact of life hoping it will go away, or facing its eventuality with fear and trembling.

Based on a year’s worth of research, I am certain that 9 out of 10 people reading this blog fit that category.

There is plenty of available data showing the hopelessness of the situation.

Economists speculate on the massive Baby Boomer retirement fall-out they say is sure to come over the next decade.

From numerous reports it appears that the typical bread-winner leaves the workforce at age 65 with around $50,000 in assets —a drop in the retirement bucket especially as many are living longer.

download (1)OK fine, we are facing economic challenges, so what?

Our predecessors faced and overcame challenges for centuries. America has a long and illustrious history of standing up to adversity and coming out on top.

For crying out loud—our ancestors carved a civilization out of the wilderness, populated an unknown land, produced most of the world’s food, most of the technology and single-handedly create a new thing called the middle-class while other nations watched in utter amazement.

How did they do this?

Americans are resilient. Americans are resourceful. We dream big and play big. And what of Yankee Ingenuity, the Puritan Work Ethic, common sense, and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps?

images (1)For two centuries, we provided hope for a life with political freedom, economic prosperity, and an increased standard of living for millions around the globe, but now we are being told that we are finished, beyond hope, and helpless to solve our current crisis.

And some are actually falling for it. I refuse to accept that version of reality.

I refuse to acknowledge that the American Dream can no longer become the American Life.

I refuse to give-in, knuckle under, and forfeit my children’s future.

My version of reality is that there is actually more opportunity now for financial success than at any time in the history of America—if we will embrace it!

Please forgive me if what I write here offends you but seriously, how wimpy are we? Humanity has overcome crises and challenges much greater than the American retirement problem.

Don’t get me wrong, at least in terms of impact, this is a pervasive challenge and has serious national implications not unlike the specter of global domination by the Nazis or the challenges of the Great Depression. And if you are in your 50’s or 60’s this is without a doubt scary and imposing.

But when you remove the emotion and analyze it scientifically, it is simply a matter of understanding the causes of the problem and devising solutions. Ok, so maybe we will have to voluntarily reduce our standard of living for a while or stop going into debt for vacations or the latest fashions. Gasp…we might even have to live within our means…are these things really that hard to understand and implement?

Maybe Forrest Gump was right, “stupid is as stupid does.” Sorry but our choices over the past 3 decades have put us in this position.

Robert Kiyosaki's Cashflow Quadrants

Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow Quadrants

The American retirement problem is nothing more than an issue of perspective.

Look at the Cashflow Quadrants chart—American economic philosophy was founded on the Business and Investor side of the chart or the concept of entrepreneurship.

Americans from the very beginning lived from the perspective and belief that they had to take care of themselves.

They knew their standard of living and financial security rested on their personal ability to plan for the future and to take full responsibility for that future.

But since the Industrial Revolution, our general economic philosophy has shifted to the employee side of the chart. Entrepreneurship is actually shunned by most, or at the very least, misunderstood. We traded common citizen business savvy and investor acumen for the accumulation or “nest egg” mentality, which has morphed over the last 30 years into an existence of life-long debt and dependence on government.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that being an employee alone leads to economic slavery and dependence. Without the basic tenets of business and investing as part of our personal financial strategy, we have no hope of true prosperity and financial security.

So the solution is simple—return to our former philosophy of owning businesses and investing. I know that this might be simple in concept but difficult in application however, this is where our ingenuity, tenacity and hard work come in.

Thousands of Americans have figured this out and you can too if you only have the will and desire to make the necessary changes. If you are serious about changing your situation and are willing to focus and even sacrifice for five to ten years, you can solve the American retirement crisis for yourself and perhaps even share your solutions with friends and family.

While there are undoubtedly dozens of potential fixes to choose from, I have 2 that I recommend as solutions to the American Retirement Crisis.

FF 2.0








But they will only serve as solutions if you actually act on them, so click on these links and investigate the options they provide. If these are not the right actions for you to take fine, BUT TAKE ACTION some how to change your current situation. You are your best chance at a secure financial future.

Being As Responsible As I Can

sobering-reminder-of-our-own-mortalityI have been thinking a lot about my mortality lately. No, I don’t have any premonitions, but Julia and I just updated our Revocable Living Trust and it always makes me think about my life, my relationships, and whether or not I am doing all I can for my family.

My first job right after discharge from the Navy in 1987 was selling pre-need cemetery plots.

I was in South Carolina and after 6 months I became the top salesman for Memorial Gardens Plantation.

This was an eye-opener for me!

I was 26-years-old and boy did I get an education on death and everything related to it. I believed in my product (the pre-need purchase of burial plots and associated items, a 100% need for every human being) and that I was saving families thousands of dollars by making the purchase before the death of a loved one. But what really cemented it for me was the following experience.

6a00d8341bf67c53ef01a3fc5cd987970bOne evening while I was preparing to make my house calls to pre-arranged appointments, a beautiful young woman came into the cemetery office with a baby in her arms.

She was crying and I suddenly realized something terrible had happened and I was witnessing a young widow making funeral arrangements.

I watched in shock as the cemetery director explained to this distraught woman the typical procedures and costs and need for a vault, a casket, the headstone, etc.

His matter-of-fact explanation is not what bothered me. What infuriated me was the way in which he was leading her to purchase the most expensive items, appealing to her loss and love for her husband.

I was so upset that I determined right there that I would work even harder to persuade people make all of these arrangements pre-need, which translated into thousands of dollars in savings, but also having these kinds of arrangements taken care of before the event of death, the survivors would be saved tremendous agony and heart ache. Since that experience, I have always had life insurance, a will, and later an estate plan.

I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination, so my estate is small, but I just feel so much better knowing that Julia and the kids will not have to make a bunch of decisions upon my eventual passing. If they want to be mad about the decisions made, they can be upset with me–the one who is gone, not with each other.

Estate_PlanningDo you have your affairs in order?

Do you have a solid retirement plan in place?

Do you have a current estate plan in place?

Are you willing to take the time and expense to do all of these hard things now while you can for your loved ones, or are you going to leave it to them during their grief?

Estate Planning is an integral part of wealth building.

Without an estate plan, everything you treasure will be left to chance and likely loss.

But these losses are often just the “tip of the iceberg”. The horror stories associated with disagreements over who gets what and when and even how, are what divides families and often destroys relationships for a lifetime.

downloadBy creating an estate plan you control all these decisions, relieving your loved ones of the stress and hardship they would have faced had you not been proactive.

There is one fact of life we all face; death. We know that death is unavoidable, and can happen at anytime and anywhere. Stop and think; you have home owners insurance despite not thinking your home is going to burn down, and car insurance even though you don’t expect to be in an accident.

You insure your home and car in case something does happen. Having a comprehensive estate plan is how you control your estate, and make tough decisions when life’s inevitable events do occur.

In the best selling book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Steven Covey emphasizes the importance of planning. Two of Steven’s habits speak directly to the importance of estate planning.

imagesHabit 1 – “Being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life”. Comprehensive estate planning is all about being proactive.

Habit 2 – “Begin with the end in mind.” Estate planning is about you being in control over how you want your life to “play out,” and how critical decisions will be made when it becomes necessary.

Julia and I just updated our estate plan. It may not be the most enjoyable activity, but Julia feels so much more secure and I feel like I am being as responsible as I can.

 How Much Does Estate-planning Cost? 

I did some digging and found a basic range of family estate planning costs from $1,800 to $6,500 per living trust. Also, you should plan needing to update at least every few years, figure about $300-$500 per update. I am sure there are cheaper and more expensive planning options, but this is what I found.

Who Should Do Your Planning?

I also researched a little on this and found anything from do-it-yourself websites to attorneys who are happy to have you in their office during multiple sessions, as long as you don’t mind all of those billable hours.

For those who have little time and want to get it safely done with as little fuss as possible, we suggest taking at look at Strongbrook’s Estate Planning Program.