Best way to get a higher credit score, long term.

Your credit score is based on a formula that looks at your age, your amount of debt, and your record of paying bills since age 18. In many ways your credit score measures how much you can be trusted with money, so if your score is too low it will make your life difficult, unless you have oodles of cash in the bank and you can buy everything without a loan.

When I turned 40 my credit score was below average, in the low 600’s. I had too much debt as a ratio to my income and my debt was increasing over time. I bought some used Dave Ramsey paperback books on Amazon and read them from cover to cover.

If your credit is poor take a minute to go to Amazon and buy one of Dave’s books as a used paperback. Read the damn thing, and start changing your thinking about money. You’ll spent $6 to get a book that will help you save tens of thousands of dollars in future interest payments!

You can have low debt and great credit even if your income is low, it just takes discipline and time to get there.

I don’t have a credit card to my name, and that one factor alone insures that my debt is decreasing every single month. The only plastic I carry is a debit card, with a couple hundred bucks on it… and I’ve been using debit only for the last six years!

I’ve paid off over $300,000 in debt since I started reading Ramsey’s books. I now teach the class at my church…. my credit score went from low 600’s to 800 plus. I can now qualify for loans at 3% interest, but I don’t need any loans!

When you fix your THINKING your finances will improve. When your finances get better your credit score will get better and you’ll have MORE peace and less stress.

Hope that helps!

Ben Alexander

August 24, 2020

August 23… the ‘Rona and other stuff.

SUNDAY : August 23, 2020

I spent the last few days hanging out with my girlfriend and her kids, but I needed to mow my lawn and take care of some other chores at my house so I came home, mowed my lawn and then rode my Harley down to Ybor city for lunch. Ybor City is the oldest part of Tampa, with several restaurants and bars. Lotsa motorcycle folks hang out in Ybor, so you can always see cool bikes down there.

My Harley is a 2013 Vrod model, 1250cc engine, about 670 pounds. I’ve been riding it all over, but on the highway above 80 mph this motorcycle is too windy. The Harley is more fun on country roads, just cruising along at 60 mph and taking it easy. I bought it used this past Spring, and I don’t regret the purchase. My other bike is a 2014 Honda CB1000r.

Florida is a Covid19 hotspot, but I don’t know anyone here who got sick. I have friends and family up in New Jersey, some of them got symptoms… but I think most Floridians are not as worried about the pandemic as folks in the Northeast. I’m wearing a mask when I’m out and about anyway, until a safe vaccine hits the market.

A bee hit my neck and stung me, but I pulled the stinger out and the pain went away. One of the many hazards that come with going too fast on 2 wheels, I guess. This has never happened to me in 25 years of riding!

Today I was feeling grateful for a bunch of things; thankful that I have love in my life as a 46 year old (non-married) guy, thankful that my finances were not destroyed by the last few months, thankful that my weight is down to 180 lbs, thankful that I haven’t gotten Covid19 (that I know of).

I’m thankful to have a house, and a lawn to mow, even if I sweat my guts out when I’m out mowing it.

My youngest daughter (20 years old) is not living in Pittsburgh year round… and my oldest daughter (22) still lives with me. She’ll be finished her business degree the end of this year… so i might be alone in this 4 bedroom house by this time next year….

I really love my girlfriend, and I love her children… we’ve been dating on and off since the beginning of 2019. She’s not sure about me sometimes. She’s probably right.

I’m not afraid of commitment, I ask her to marry me all the time, but she keeps turning me down. Yesterday I was at her house and her daughter put her foot on my forehead.

I love having a 4 year old in my live, that kid is almost as wacky as me.

This is my life, in a pandemic, in August of 2020.

Ben Alexander

A Moral Imperative

Our team at Tampa Bay Solar comes from a variety of service backgrounds; every military service branch, retired police, and former and current firefighters.

We have put our own safety on the line for our brothers and sisters working with us, regardless of their race or religion. We responded to the call when someone needed help because they were a fellow human being and that was our moral imperative, honor and duty to do so.

Now that we are in the solar business together we are helping bring about clean and green energy across Tampa Bay, which also benefits all of us because the local electric company is now burning LESS coal into the air we all collectively breathe.

As of June 2020 we have installed over 750 solar applications on rooftops within a 150 mile radius of our headquarters in Tampa.

We watched with horror and disgust as George Floyd died underneath the knee of a racist and corrupt police officer. A police officer who was trusted to “serve and protect” all people, not serve as Judge, Jury and Executioner on the streets of Minneapolis.

We didn’t just watch George Floyd die that day, we saw the faces of the hardworking black men on our install crews, being pulled over by a racist cop and fearing for their lives.

We saw the face of our CEO, Steve Rutherford.

We saw our sons, our brothers, our fathers… having to live in a country that we served, but not having equal rights under the “unwritten law” of law enforcement prejudice.

This is a tragic chapter in American History, one in which 120,000 people have died from Covid19 while black men and women have to fear for their lives, even during a routine traffic stop that our white coworkers don’t have to worry about.

We don’t condone the property destruction, riots and arson that have resulted from this current crisis, but we DO support the peaceful protestors who are asking for changes in the law at the local, state, and federal levels.

If a police department has a history of racism and brutality that organization needs brand new leadership, from the top down. Racist cops need to retire, or go into another line of work in which they do not have authoritative discretion over other people.

Police Unions need to STOP making it difficult to fire racist or violent officers.

Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, had 17 complaints for excessive force.

Once a pattern was established officer Chauvin should have been forced out of law enforcement permanently.

Let us also state that many police officers are NOT violent nor are they racist. Most police officers go to work, serve with honor and integrity, and they don’t get any complaints because they are fair and evenhanded, even with suspects who are high on drugs, drunk, or suffer from mental illness.

Police officers have to deal with the most dangerous and violent 1% of our population, and they put themselves in existential danger every single time they do so.

It only takes about 9 months of training to become a police officer in the United States, perhaps that time in training needs to be extended to a 2 year program with additional educational requirements.

Here at Tampa Bay Solar we are proud to employ a diverse team and treat them with the fairness and the respect that all human beings deserve.

Our new headquarters is being built in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood in East Tampa, our goal is to reach out to that community and employ more of our black brothers and sisters.

We also support honorable law enforcement officers who work every day to eradicate racism within the ranks. It starts with good men and women in leadership positions, fighting the good fight.

We pray for our country in these times of hardship and crisis, in the hopes that hearts can be healed and that this current pain can result in positive and lasting change.

The KEY to health.

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Took this pic today, June 6th, 2020. 180 lbs.

Was 200 lbs just a MONTH ago, been using intermittent fasting, daily swimming, weights and rollerblading to slim down.

Goal is to get to 170 and stay there.

I don’t eat until 7PM. Every. Single. Day.

Drink water, tea or coffee during the day.

My low back was really problematic at 200 pounds, at 180 it feels 90% better.

I crashed my motorcycle back in 1995 in Taiwan a few times… so my low back will never be at 100%, but I’ll take 90% improved vs. fat and in pain.

7 days a week.

Don’t eat until 7PM.

Until I hit 170 lbs.

Intermittent fasting also decreases insulin levels and reduces inflammation. Anyone can do it. You just have to have an IRON will.

After I reach 170 I’m planning to experiment to see what it takes to maintain that weight for the rest of my life.

More later.

 

The Rickety Chair.

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This chair might be the oldest object I own.

When my Dad was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s he sat in this chair to do his homework. When my Grandmother passed this chair wound up in my childhood bedroom, me and my brother George did OUR homework in this chair in the 1980’s!

I inherited the chair and took it from New Jersey to Maryland to Florida, where it sits today in the corner of my bedroom. Over the years the wooden supports had come unglued, and the wood stain was faded, so I used some gorilla glue to make it sturdy again then painted it with layers of white and blue paint. I was originally going for solid blue, but the white and the blue layers looked kinda cool so I kept it that way.

The old wooden chair is no longer rickety, and the blue adds some pop to the muted tans and browns in my bedroom.

Seeing the refurbished chair makes me happy every time I walk into my bedroom.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that sit in the corner, rickety and broken, yet we don’t take action to fix them.

When I was 40 years old I realized my finances were a total mess.

From 40 to 43 I read financial fitness books, chopped up ALL my credit cards, paid off a ton of debt and permanently changed my financial habits. Currently I teach the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course at my local church.

I transitioned from operating a failing business to selling for a larger entity (Tampa Bay Solar) and succeeding. My income tripled.

I went through a divorce at 43, which delayed my plan to pay off my mortgage, but I was on the right track.

From 43 to age 46 I began to fix and update my home (see my previous blogs).

Today I have a home that is sale-ready… or I can live here and not worry about fixing stuff because everything is new, from the roof to the entire HVAC to the remodeled bathrooms and kitchen. If I sell this place in the next few years I’m in great shape to get top dollar. It feels great to live in a place that LOOKS great!

So finances were a rickety chair, then a house that needed work… what next?  

Recently I went through a break-up, with a woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with… she didn’t like my ego, and the fact that I was 25 pounds overweight.

She did me a favor, by pointing out my NEXT rickety chair.

Pain can be a catalyst for ACTION.

I cut alcohol out of my life, started fasting until 7PM every single day. Started swimming every morning… even dusted off my roller blades! Been lifting weights as well.

Just after a few weeks I’m already lighter, stronger, and on my way to better health!

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From 46 to 49 my goal is to slim down to 170 pounds and establish the lifetime habits that keep me there. I’m tired of being 25 pounds overweight with a bad back.

Once I get to 170 pounds I’m NEVER going back to fat and slow ever again.

I might get old and slow, but at least I’ll be trim.

Rollerblading actually reduced my back pain, who knew? Something about lateral muscles and developing the core? I don’t know.

Bought a Chirp wheel and use it to stretch a few times each day. Great product!

Spending some time every morning in meditation… my stupid ego has been a BAD thing in my life for far too long. We all need internal work.

In seeking awareness I hope to identify the issue and hopefully eradicate it.

The goal here is to lose 20 pounds of fat and 400 pounds of ugly ego!

Even though I’m single now I’m NOT focused on dating. If I get my health optimal and focus on the growth of Tampa Bay Solar the rest will fall into place.

Put yourself in God’s hands.

God knows about all the rickety chairs in your life, but He won’t fix them, you alone have to take action!

Ben Alexander

May 26th 2020

 

 

Never thought I’d go Harley…

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This past week I got a great trade price on my 650cc Kawasaki Vulcan and picked up a deal on a 2013 (1250cc) Harley-Davidson Nightrod. I know, that name sounds like a porno star who wears black leather… but it is what it is.

I NEVER thought I’d a get a Harley. In general Harley-Davidson cycles tend to be creaky, air cooled, unreliable pieces of junk…. but THIS bike was engineered by Porsche, in a joint venture with HD back in 2001.

Looks like a cruiser, accelerates like a crotch rocket.

I’ve test driven traditional Harley’s and they rode like John Deere tractors from the 1940’s; Slow off the line, no hydraulic clutch, wildly vibrating engine, all “show” but very little “go”.

The Nightrod is altogether different; Brembo brakes, hydraulic clutch, 124 HP engine… all wrapped in a 670 pound frame that feels as tight as anything German I’ve ever ridden or driven. Before I bought this bike I talked with my (German born) mechanic Reinhardt, he told me the Nightrod is popular in Europe because it can run all day on the autobahn!

Europeans love it, that’s a good sign.

When I test drove the Nightrod I was impressed in the first 2 miles, and sold by the end of the test drive. There was nothing wrong with my Vulcan at 650cc’s…. but a 1250cc engine is better, with ample torque all over the rev band, no matter what gear you’re in.

The Vulcan I traded is a great bike for a new rider, but I’ve been on 2 wheels since 1995, and I don’t mind riding a more powerful machine that requires a higher skill level.

BUT…. this bike is a sonic menace from hell. I have to wear earplugs when I take it out. Riding the Nightrod home from the dealership I experienced the same hearing loss as a drunk Motley Crue roadie.

This damn bike rumbles with power.

I feel bad firing it up in my quiet little neighborhood.

I still have my Honda CB1000r, pictured below on the right:

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The Harley is 670 pounds, my 1000cc Honda is only 485 pounds, fully fueled.

The extra 185 pounds on the Harley actually gives it ample road stability and tracking through a curve, it rides like a lead sled and pulls hard all the way up to about 130 mph, but at that point the aerodynamics start oscillating the front wheel in a manner that does NOT inspire confidence.

Cruisers are not designed for triple digit wind resistance.

Even with the long wheelbase and the high weight the Nightrod still corners nicely.

The Harley has a stated top end of 137 mph, but this bike is far more fun below 100 mph.

In contrast the Honda is electronically limited to 145 mph. The engine revs up to 12,000 rpm easily, so the Honda feels lighter but less powerful than the Harley across the gear range.

I could get the Honda reprogrammed to go faster than 145 mph… or I could trade it for a faster crotch rocket?

BTW, I would NEVER go that fast. I’m a law abiding citizen who stays below 55 mph at all times, even when I’m skydiving.

Both cycles have plenty of power, but they feel totally different. It’s always fun to hop from one to the other just to feel a back to back contrast!

Some motorcyclists are “cruiser” guys, some are “crotch rocket” guys… I like being both.

Keeps life fun, albeit a tad dangerous.

Ben Alexander

May 25th 2020

 

 

 

You are the sky.

You are the sky.

Endless, Boundless, Eternal.

There was a You before you were born, there will be a You after you die.

You were created in Love, you will die in Love, you will know Love through eternity.

Your entire life here is just a cloud, passing through on a sunny day.

Your greatest joy, your greatest sorrow… mere raindrops.

Everyone you meet in this lifetime, everyone you’re connected to?

They are a part of this eternity with you.

Nothing is Permanent.

You are the sky.

7 days, 7PM, 170 pounds.

My health has not been as good as it could be.

Every guy my age gains weight, and I lost a little bit by doing some intermittent fasting….

I gotta do something hard core, so for the last week or so I’m doing intermittent fasting until 7PM every night. NO food until 7PM.

Water, coffee only.

I’m 10 pounds down from my 200 a week ago.

I’m hitting this hard, 7 days a week, until I get down to 170.

Let’s see how long it takes.

Ben

May 17.

 

 

1900 square feet of metaphor.

I just had my house repainted last week. This pic was taken a day later:

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Looks snappy now. I had to cut down the rosebushes to make a path for the painters, but they’ll rebound fast with the summer rains. We have lotsa gardens in the back; citrus trees, bananas, veggies, flowers, etc… My youngest Grace has been (unexpectedly) home from college and she’s been busy in our backyard.

My home was built in 1999, I moved in with my wife and daughters in 2003. Girls grew up here, went through a divorce in 2017… and I kept it because I could easily afford the mortgage and I wanted my daughters to still have their childhood home.

After the divorce I remodeled all 3 bathrooms, bought new furniture, put up a new roof, then a 10kW solar array and a solar hot water heater… repainted 40% of the interior, cut down both of the 50 foot palm trees that were leaning towards my house, planted more gardens….

The solar on my roof powers my Chevy Volt, and we’ve got 4,000 watts on tap during a power outage… bring on the zombie apocalypse!

My 20 year old HVAC finally died at the end of 2019, and I knew it was due for replacement…. another 8 grand spent…

During this 3 year period that I’ve been fixing my house I’ve also been reading about relationships, and working on myself as well. I’ve come to peace with the end of my marriage, recognized my role in that, and I’m determined to do things differently in the future.

I have a really clear vision for the rest of my life. I’m determined to live my life as a man of integrity, character, responsibility and purpose. This is a high ideal to meet, but why not strive for high standards?  

I love working in the solar industry, and at 46 years old I have a great shot at doing this until I retire. Solar has become my mission and my passion, and this makes everything just… flow…. in the right direction.

I want to stay healthy and spend time with my friends and family. My parents are in their 70’s, and I love that they live near me in Wesley Chapel so that I can help them out as needed.

I’d like to be married again, but it takes time to find that special person. I might be single for another 10 years, who knows?

I’d like to buy some acreage and build a nicer home…. maybe with a garage big enough for more motorcycles….

I’m not going to settle for someone just to be married. I’m looking for someone who can love me and accept me 100%, just as I’ll do the same for her.

I’ll know her when I find her… but I know these things take time.

Happy Mother’s day y’all!

Ben Alexander

May 10th / 2020

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday, 2020. Oy.

Got up at 4AM this morning. In normal times I’d be going to church, probably hosting dinner tonight… but these are NOT normal times.

Last time I kissed my Mom on the cheek was over a month ago.

I had a solo in the church cantata scheduled for today. Hopefully we’ll get to sing it for the congregation at some point in the future. There are lotsa retired folks at my little church, including my parents… and I’m happy to report that there have been NO Covid19 victims thus far.

My daughters have been home with me the last few weeks, Grace came back from England March 17th, coughing and sick. She got better, I got a very mild dry cough for a few days… and then tested for Covid19 and got back a negative.

My other daughter stayed at her Mother’s house for 2 weeks.

Did me and Grace have it? Did we recover?

No way to tell until the antibody test becomes available.

There seems to be a positive correlation with Covid19 resistance and having O type blood, so I’m glad I have that in my favor. I rarely get colds, flu, etc.

I think one of the reasons NYC and North Jersey have been hit so hard is the prevalence of shared transportation; bus lines, trains, even elevators. One person coughing in an elevator in a 20 story apartment building puts everyone at risk.

Many of the North Jersey infections probably came from the NYC area.

It looks like Philadelphia is going to get hit hard, especially the poverty stricken  neighborhoods like Germantown / North Philly. In the late 1990’s I ran door to door sales crews in some of these rough zip codes… these folks are already struggling with poverty, drug addiction and violent crime, now they have to worry about Covid19 as well.

I’m a numbers guy, and looking at the numbers in Italy, Spain and New York state I’ve concluded that most of the world outside of Europe and North America is engaging in a cover up when it comes to this pandemic.

Nigeria is reporting 30 deaths per day and they have 206 million people….

273 million people in Indonesia, and they only have 400 deaths so far?

Less than 100 deaths in Pakistan with 220 million people in that country?

Mexico did not even shutdown until last week and they only have 233 Covid19 deaths?

I don’t buy it.

All these numbers from authoritarian regimes are bullshit.

In countries like Mexico where they can’t even control their drug cartels how the hell are they going to holdback an invisible virus?

Don’t even get me started on China, their numbers are so wrong we need to go after them for war crimes.

In Spain and Italy they’ve seen about 250 deaths per million people of population. This means that we can predict death rates for other countries; 1.43 billion people in China times 250 = 400,000 deaths.

Even if China totally contained Covid19 they would see 100,000 deaths, at the minimum, not UNDER 4,000, as they’ve reported.

Because the Chinese government was NOT reporting factual data back in January the rest of the planet continued to go about business as usual, probably 3 weeks too long…. a global lockdown on February 1rst would have prevented thousands of needless deaths.

And them there was the Orange Idiot, telling Americans Covid19 was a “democratic hoax” as recently as February.

So what now? We have to work with what we got. Lotsa restaurants won’t weather this. Savings will be destroyed. Marriages will crumble under the stress, homeowners will face foreclosure.

Some folks will be unemployed for a few months or longer.

If you make it through this alive you’ll find a way to pay your bills again.

I just hope and pray that when things get back to normal we don’t see a huge resurgence of deaths.

That’s all I guess.

Ben Alexander

Easter Sunday…………… 2020