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How to Paint Odd Things – Grout


Our house, being built in 1980 has Saltillo tile.  The pluses for this tile are the natural appearance since it’s made from clay and it feels very nice on bare feet.   It has small animal footprints in a few locations.  Finally, it’s very appropriate to Southwestern architecture.  On the negative side, it has very wide grout lines by today’s standards.  The grout that we had originally was a cream color with bright blue and red paint spots from the previous owners.  No amount of cleaning that I did would make the grout look brand new.

A few of the grout lines were a completely different color, since Kurt had to replace some of the tiles and the modern grout was notably darker than the older grout.

I think the part that bothered me the most was the mottled appearance of it. There was no consistency to any part of it.


I read several accounts of people painting their grout with luck, so I thought I’d give it a try.   I am very happy with the results.  It did take several hours – maybe 8 total spread out over multiple days.  I would’ve probably done it in the darker grey color if I could go back in time, but the paint has held up well now over a couple of years.  The hardest part of this job is really the amount of time that needs to be put in.

Supplies Needed:

  1. Sulfamic Acid Cleaner – I used TILELab Brand
  2. Grout colorant and sealer – I used PolyBlend Grout Renew in Delorean Gray
  3. Tile Sealer – I used MIRACLE Sealants Company 511 Impregnator Sealer
  4. Old tooth brush
  5. Lots of damp paper towel

Step 1: Clean the old grout

I had previously tried cleaning the old grout using the time consuming baking soda and vinegar trick.  It did clean it a little, but not to the degree I wanted.  In preparation for painting the grout, I used the Sulfamic Acid Cleaner and followed the directions on the package.  I cleaned the grout in sections that I wanted to paint at a time.  I gave myself one hour chunks of time which translated in me doing cleaning and painting roughly four rows of tile at a time.


Step 2: Paint the grout

I used an old toothbrush to paint the grout using the Grout Renew product.  I made sure to have plenty of damp paper towels ready.  The grout paint does dry relatively quickly, so as soon as I was done painting a section of grout, I would follow up with cleaning off the paint that made it onto the tiles. That cleanup was very easy, as the paint didn’t soak into the tiles at all.  It wipes up easily with the damp towels.


Step 3: Seal the tile

After all of the grout was painted, I used a sealer on the tile.  The Saltillo tile really soaks up the sealer so I could’ve probably went over it multiple times.  Once was fine with me.


In the End

It was totally worth doing, in the end.  The process was relatively time consuming, but as long as it’s done in manageable segments it’s no big deal.  That is, it doesn’t require any special skills and it’s essentially fool-proof.

I did this just over a year ago and it still looks great today.  That sealer absolutely works.

Extend an Electrical Outlet – Followup and Fixes


I extended an exterior electrical outlet in this post, which was also detailed in a YouTube video and was posted to Reddit. I got most of my comments on Reddit and a notable number of them offered up three specific criticisms. They are:

  1. The conduit connecting the two junction boxes need to be supported mid-way
  2. I didn’t leave enough wire poking through in the new junction box
  3. I need to use a GFCI outlet!

That latter one is by far the most serious, so I’ll address that in the most detail, later.

Here’s the video of my response:

Conduit Support

I was unable to find any NEC regulations specifying the support length for liquid-tight conduit, but it’s likely similar to that of flexible metal conduit. Both are flexible, at the very least. The NEC regulations for FMC say that it needs to be supported within 12″ of termination.

Technically, yes, my installation would be in violation of that particular code. There is a total of 16″ between the two termination points:

16" span between termination points

Meh. 16″ is close enough to 12″ when that’s the entire length of the conduit. I could see if this conduit was going to go for a few or a lot more feet… then it would absolutely need to be supported on the standard intervals. For such a short length, though, it’s massive overkill.

It’s kind of like when you are supporting a long length where you have your two offsets from the termination points but also the interval points within the length. Those will almost never perfectly match up, so you’ll end up having one interval that is notably smaller than it needs to be or a slight bit longer. That slight bit doesn’t matter.

Same with this bit. Those 4″ don’t matter.

Longer Wires

That’s a fair cop about the length of my wires in the new junction box. I left maybe 3″ of wire in the box, which is at least half of what it should be. That’s not a safety hazard at all, but it’s absolutely a pain to work with. I decided to make things easier on myself and on any future person working on this box to just extend those wires right now.

I did that by splicing a new 6″ length of wire to each of the hot and neutral wires and connecting them with a wire nut:

Extended wires in the new junction box

That makes it a lot easier to work with when installing the outlet.

Testing GFCI

By far the criticism of the lack of a GFCI outlet was the most serious. It’s very important to have ground fault protection on all exterior outlets since ground faults when working with tools outside aren’t very uncommon. Notably, though, I used two “normal” outlets in the new junction box.

I felt safe with this setup because the circuit itself protected. There is a GFCI outlet at the beginning of the circuit which protects the rest of the circuit, including these two new outlets.

That’s just me saying that without proof, though. Well, I have proof in the form of a GFCI tester.

This works by inserting the tester into an outlet that should be protected against ground faults and verifying that it has power:

Starting a GFCI test

Then I press the Test button and verify that the circuit is tripped and I no longer have power:

Showing the tripped GFCI tester after the trigger

And there we go! This circuit is ground fault protected.

Installing a GFCI Outlet

Well… there is still some valid reasons to use a GFCI outlet in that location. The first is practical — the GFCI outlet that gets tripped whenever there is a fault on any of the exterior outlets is on the other side of the house in one of our bathrooms. That’s kind of a pain. I have occasionally forgotten which outlet is the “master” one and even when I do remember, it’s non-ideal to have to trudge through the entire house just to reset a fault that happened somewhere outside.

The other reason is to just alleviate questions and uncertainty up front. The fact that so many people commented on the lack of a proper outlet shows just how much people expect to see one in that case. When it’s not there, then you can certainly demonstrate that it works with a tester… but it’d be easier all around to just have a GFCI outlet there in the first place. So I installed one.

New GFCI outlet

I don’t have a description of that here since it’s nearly identical to the installation from my original post, and I do show it happening (again) in the video. The only difference from a normal outlet is that it does matter which terminals are which, with respect to top or bottom. With normal outlets, as long as you have the hot and neutral terminals set, then you’re golden. With GFCI outlets, the incoming (“line”) wires must be installed in the top set of terminals while the outgoing (“load”) terminals must be installed in the bottom set of terminals. That’s the only difference.

How To Extend an Exterior Electrical Outlet


Our back patio had one single gang outlet, which wasn’t in a great place and was definitely seeing the effects of time. The grip on the plugs was sloppy at best and only having a single gang outlet made it problematic if multiple tools were needed at once.

I installed a slat wall in front of the outlet that only made things worse. Now, in addition to being an overall bad outlet, it was also far less accessible!


The plan, then, was to extend the outlet to the front of the slat wall, making it far more accessible. Along the way, I’d upgrade it to a double gang outlet to double my ports and use new “professional grade” outlets to hopefully last in good condition for longer.

First Video!

I also made the first video for granworks all about this project! Check it out here:

The Overall Plan

I used this opportunity to finally experiment with flexible “liquid tight” conduit. I looked very easy to work with, but I never had. I also spent quite a lot of time researching how I could attach the conduit to some kind of box in front of the original outlet box before finally realizing that a “lamp holder cover” would work perfectly.

Here’s my collection of tools and parts:


Note the printed out circuit breaker map — that’s absolutely essential. Not pictured is the 12 gauge THHN wire I used for the conduit chase.

The Pre-Ritual

My very first action is something I do on all electrical projects after getting zapped far too many times. I get out my trust multi-meter and verify that the voltage is 120v. Doing it up front tells me that my multi-meter has charged batteries and is working correctly. I then go to the circuit panel and flip the breaker. After that, I go back to the outlet and repeat the test with my multi-meter to ensure that the voltage is now zero.

I do it in that order because I have had cases in the past where my multi-meter had dead batteries and the voltage indicator lights didn’t light up. In that case, I thought the power was dead and the multi-meter seemed to confirm it… but when I actually started work, the resulting jolts informed me that the power was still live!

So now, by verifying the live power beforehand, I can actually trust my multi-meter when it stays that there is no power!

Starting on the Original

I unscrewed the original watertight cover from the single gang box. It wasn’t very watertight anymore — most of what little foam was left just disintegrated. You can see from the picture that it has started to crack in places, too.


The picture doesn’t show how sloppy each of the slots are. It’s not a nice outlet by any stretch of the imagination.

Next up was removing the old outlet from the box, which should have been trivial. Nope. It took maybe five minutes and applying some serious leverage to get it out. The problem is that the screws holding it in were “stuck” in an odd way. They would both spin freely, but would neither advance (like there was no threads) nor would they just slip out (like something was holding them). I finally had to almost rip them out.

Once the outlet was out, I could see just how non-tight the old cover had been. There’s so much dust and cobwebs inside that it wasn’t possible to see which wire was white and which was black at first.


I discovered that the original wiring was 12 gauge, which surprised me because nearly all of the old wiring I discovered in our house to date has invariably been 14 gauge (even though most circuit breakers are 20 amp). Curious.

I spliced on my 12 gauge THHN black, white, and green and then tucked them in place.


I chose a three hole lamp holder cover since once of the holes was already going to be facing roughly in the direction of my new outlet box. That saved having to buy another 90 degree liquid tight connector. The cover came with plugs for the two unused holes, which was handy.

It was very mildly a pain screwing on the new cover if only because the gasket kept obscuring where the bottom screw was supposed to go. It was trivial to attach after finding the right starting point, though.


I had never worked with liquid tight flexible conduit before and was excited to try it out for this project. It exceeded my expectations on ease of use!

The conduit itself can be cut easily with a utility knife (no special saw like with PVC or EMT). The connectors all fit together very similarly to EMT-style compression fittings, so no special tools or glues are needed there, either.


Basically, you start by cutting the conduit to size with a utility knife. Then you unscrew the cap of the connector and slip on the conduit. This leaves a “channel” in the other half of the connector that you can very easily press the conduit into. The cap then screws back on to the connector and in doing so creates a water tight seal. Nice! Really, the only downside to liquid tight conduit is that it’s quite a bit more expensive than PVC or EMT. At my local box stores, 1/2″ PVC runs for about 15 cents a foot, vs 23 cents a foot for EMT and up to 40 cents a foot for liquid tight!

After attaching the first connector, it’s a trivial matter to stuff the wires through the conduit and screw it all into the lamp holder cover.


Yes, after doing this, I regretted getting a “bronzed” cover — a grey cover would have matched a lot better!

The New Double Gang

I got a metallic waterproof outlet box to hold the new outlets, since they were made to accept the water tight gasket covers. Unfortunately, they are designed to be screwed into a wall behind them and I needed to screw them into the sides of my slat wall. That necessitated drilling some holes into the side of the box.


I used galvanized structural screws to make the attachment, since the slat wall wood is pressure treated. Those screws are specifically rated for use in PT lumber.


The box came with three holes — one on each the top; back; and bottom. I plugged the top and bottom and only used the back. You can see in the above photo that I also did screw in a ground screw just to tie all of the grounds and metal together.

I attached the conduit to the new box using a 90 degree connector. It was identical to the other connector. Although… I did have a brief hiccup in that I forgot to slide the connector cap onto the conduit. Oops! That required pulling the wire back out of the box and disconnecting the connector before redoing it all. Not that big of a deal.

I also had a bit of an issue with the length of the conduit. For some reason, I measured it to be a good two inches too long. On one hand, it does cut very easily with a utility knife. On the other hand, the conduit already had the wire in it and I don’t like cutting conduit with wire already there. One option was to back out every part of the conduit; cut it to size; and re-do it all… but I didn’t want to go through that much effort. So I cut the conduit down to size with the wire in situ just being very very careful where I was cutting with respect to the wires. I’m happy to report that I didn’t nick the wires at all!

After connecting the conduit and fishing through the wires, I was able to screw the new box into place. We can finally start seeing hints of what this going to look like in the end.


These next photos are screen caps from the video since I completely spaced on taking photos of the wiring process. No idea what I was thinking (or not thinking).

I typically work in new boxes by splicing on pig tails to the line wires. This gives a lot more flexibility with the outlet placement and also allows outlets to work individually, even if one of the neighboring boxes fails. Boxes wired in serial will also fail in serial. I didn’t do it that way in this case, though, for no particular reason. I had the room; the wire nuts; and enough wire… but just didn’t feel like doing it that way this time around.

In this case, I just cut and stripped the power and neutral wires to size and looped the ground around the ground screw. The ground was then pig tailed with two more since there wasn’t the easy “jumpers” between the outlets for the ground like there is for the other wires.


The outlets were then connected to each other, with black to black and white to white. I always remember which goes to which by the colors. Brass starts with a “b” like “black” so I remember that one and then I guess silver is kind of like white… but in reality, I only ever remember the “brass is black” one and the other must be white. Ground is always ground.

I always get “professional grade” outlets even though they cost a bit more. That’s because it’s trivial to insert a stripped wire into a slot in the back of the outlet and then screw it down tight. This is permanent until it’s unscrewed and then the wire comes out very easily. In the less expensive outlets, you either need to wrap the wire around a screw like you do for the ground wire (which is tedious) or you can insert a stripped wire into a hole, but it’s a one-way operation. I like the flexibility and easy of use of the professional grade outlets enough to justify their higher cost.


Sealing it Up

The outlets aren’t actually screwed in place at this point. Instead, the foam gasket is slipped over them and then the screw goes through the gasket first and then the outlet holes. The screws need to be proud by maybe a 1/4″ or so for later. So in this picture, the outlets are loose still somewhat.


And right now some of you are likely yelling at the screen “why aren’t you using GFCI outlets?!” Well… because I don’t have to. This entire exterior circuit is already GFCI protected so it’s unnecessary to make every single outlet one. I would still do so if these were extremely exposed outlets, but they’re not. They are normally going to be in a waterproof cover and even when not, they are under a patio that is a good 10′ wide. Even the most driving rain doesn’t come close to touching the area where those outlets are. All in all, the extra cost of individual GFCI outlets wasn’t justified in this particular case.

Okay, back to the narrative, already in progress. The cover for the new box has these key-hole slots that fit right over the protruding screws from the previous step.


It was pretty straightforward to fit the cover over the large hole in the slots; push it down into the foam gasket; and slide it over. At this point, I tightened all the screws and everything fit solidly into place.

And that was it! I have a fully extended and upgraded outlet.


Nice! It’s rock solid and the new outlets are much nicer to use than the old one while being far more accessible.

Oh, and one bonus shot of my work area while doing all this. I’m not one of those guys that cleans up as he goes.


Quick Tip: Paint Crisp Edges on Textured Walls


Textured walls are pretty common in new houses as they are easy to finish and look pretty decent.  Painting entire walls is also easy to do.

But what if you have an edge or a corner where two paint colors meet up?  That’s trivial with non-textured walls — just firmly apply a line of painters tape and you’re done.  That doesn’t work with textured walls, though.  Painters tape isn’t flexible enough or sticky enough to completely cover all of the gaps between the bits of texture.  The end result is that even though the tape seems paint-tight, when you pull it up, you see all of the jagged edges of all the paint that slipped under the tape!

There are products that advertise themselves as being fixed for this problem.  The green painter tapes are the most common.  They don’t work, in our experience.  They just cost a lot more and produce the same jagged edges.

Don’t despair!  There is a quick and easy way to create perfectly crisp edges, even on textured surfaces.

Method: Cover the Edge of the Painters Tape with Caulk

edge taped and caulkedStep 1: Apply your painters tape over the top of the existing paint (the side that will stay) and press down as firmly as possible.  Try and work out any air bubbles.  This won’t stop the paint from leaking under on its own, but it will stop the much more viscous caulk from leaking under.

Step 2: Smear a thin layer of latex caulk right over the seam on the side that is to be painted.  Use latex caulk instead of silicone since the latter is tough to clean up afterwards.  Make sure the painters tape seam is completely covered.  Also, make sure that you do this on the to-be-painted side and not the already-painted side.

You’ll want to smooth out the caulk somewhat, but don’t go overboard.  This is a textured wall, after all, and so some irregularities not only look fine, but are necessary.

Step 3: Paint!  Cover over most of the caulk (at least over the seam) using the new paint.

Step 4: Remove the tape quickly. Don’t allow the paint to dry.  You’ll want to remove the painters tape within a few minutes, or else the paint and/or the caulk could completely dry and removing the tape might cause the seam to crack.

That’s it.  When you remove the tape, you’ll see that the caulk prevented the paint from seeping under at all, but the caulk itself didn’t bleed due to how thick it was.  The end result is a perfectly crisp line.

Here’s the above edge both with and without a flash:

crisp edge with flashcrisp edge with no flash

April’s Credo #1: Make It Work For You


aka How I Learned to Love Pink Countertops

It took us an entire year of house hunting before we landed on this particular one.  Our last house was in a standard subdivision with all the “upgrades” – including stainless steal appliances and granite counters.  This house supposedly also has an “upgraded” kitchen (at least according to appraisers).  It also has stainless steal appliances.  And pink counters.  Wait, pink?  Yikes!

Yeah, from the very start (a good 5 years ago) we decided that the kitchen would definitely be redone.  At the bare minimum, the counters obviously had to go!  The kitchen wasn’t the first project on our list though, so it had to wait.  For the next couple of years, I would bemoan the counters to anyone who would listen.  Co-workers, family members and friends all heard about our atrocious pink counters.

During this waiting time period, several things happened.  I became very interested in reducing plastic and garbage consumption. I discovered the plight of workers in foreign countries who produce our clothing for very cheap wages.  I found out about the concept of early retirement.

How do these things relate to our kitchen?  The most obvious is cost.  Redoing a kitchen is expensive.  Even with making cabinets yourself (or at least doing the installation work), you are looking at several thousand dollars.  The idea of postponing a retirement age for a new kitchen seemed ludicrous.  Even more importantly the pink counters are a plastic composite. What would we do with this big plastic monstrosity?  Perhaps they could be donated somewhere and some guy who is comfortable in his skin would be OK putting them in his workshop.  Or most likely they would end up in a landfill.  For what end purpose?  Because I don’t like the color of the counter top material?  That started to strike me as absolutely absurd.  Finally, thinking of our incredible lucky position that we are in to be able to discuss something as trivial as counter top material pushed it over the top.

Even with deciding that they needed to stay, I still had to look at them every day.  Two important things that I did helped me be at least OK with the pink counters which initially were an embarrassment.  1) I did one of Apartment Therapy’s “January Cures” and 2) a friend visited that had only heard about our horrible counter state – not actually seen it for himself.

Doing the cure made me face the kitchen head on.  I cleaned the entire thing from top to bottom.  I donated items that I didn’t use.  I had Kurt create hanging storage for my cooking utensils that were cluttering up drawers.  I oiled hinges and drawer slides.  This gave me an appreciation for the space more than I would have expected.  Prior to this cure, I didn’t cook as often as I would like.  In the end though, I ended up cooking almost every day.

The  outside perspective was surprisingly helpful.  The friend’s comment was that the color was not nearly as bad as we made it out to be.  It might even look good in some ways!  Really?????  Well, I decided to force myself to stop complaining about it.  Instead, I would take the time to admire the depth of color in it while cleaning the kitchen.  I stopped saying anything negative about the kitchen to anyone.

It worked!  Now, I appreciate our counters for what they do for me every day instead of focusing on the one small thing that everyone notices (or what I considered to be shouting as NOT OUR STYLE).  I’m able to create meals every day from breakfast to supper without hating the kitchen.  And, there are some nice benefits to these plastic composite counters.  I don’t have to be careful.  They can get knife cuts and I don’t care.  I can put down hot pans for a few minutes and not worry that they’ll get destroyed.  And – we have a unique kitchen!  It’s not like any other home I’ve ever been to.

Moral of the story?  Maybe just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do something.  Maybe we should live with something for awhile and see how it works.  Maybe by tweaking other elements we can come up with something that works for us.  In the end, living with pink counters won’t save the world, but they will save us money by not having to redo something, save something from the landfill (reuse or keep using), and I didn’t do some intermediate step of installing cheap materials that may have been created by someone not compensated the way they should.

First Woodworking Project: A Doll Bed


I started watching The New Yankee Workshop with the incomparable Norm Abram in the early 2000s. It was the single biggest inspiration for me getting into woodworking as he made it seem like anybody could do it. I was hooked, but didn’t really do anything about it until early 2006.

My first steps into creating a workshop was to get a used Craftsman contractor-style table saw and a 3-1/2 HP Hitachi router. I commandeered as much of the third stall of our garage as I could.

First Workshop

I practiced making mortise and tenon joints using my router and then ripped various boards using my table saw, but I quickly saw that I’d need a first real project to get any true experience.

Too Expensive

It just so happens that we had given our daughter an American Girl doll for Christmas a few months earlier. American Girl dolls are stupidly expensive, but she wanted one more than anything at the time, and so we gave in and got her one. Uh.. Dad, you know that a doll needs a bed, right?

No way we’re going to spend the $100+ on a bed for a doll… but it occurred to me that that might be a good first project.

A Simple Doll Bed

I don’t have very many pictures since this was awhile ago and I was stingy with photos back then. I started by measuring the doll and sketched out a bed that would be proportionate to the doll. I then ordered a few board feet of oak and poplar from the Woodworkers Source to be delivered… even though the store was just a few miles down the road. I didn’t have a truck and didn’t yet know that I could haul quite a bit of lumber in the passthrough of my car, so for awhile, all of my lumber was mailed to me.

I didn’t have a planer yet so all of the lumber needed to be S4S and whatever thickness is arrived was the thickness it was going to be in the project.

Here is the first dry-fit of the bed:

Bare Doll Bed

The four posts are 3/4″ thick poplar that I ripped square on the table saw. The rest is 1/2″ thick oak. I don’t completely remember what the bottom of the bed was. I think it was strips of the oak, but am not sure.

I was inspired by TNYW so I didn’t use any mechanical fasteners (I didn’t even “secure it with a few brads”). I routed mortises into the four posts and then routed out tenons in all four sides. I then cut a groove near the bottom of the front and back and inserted the bottom into that (whatever the bottom was).

As one might expect for a first project, it was not without its mistakes. I made two big ones by this point in the project. The first is shown here:

Mistake in Doll Bed

Yep, I got the sides of my columns confused and ended up routing a mortise into the wrong size. I eventually just filled that in with wood putty and sanded it flush. It was obvious if you looked at it, but if anybody saw it, they didn’t say anything.

The other mistake was in the headboard. In the dry-fit photo, the headboard is actually the smaller side with the flat top. The problem here was that I cut the piece using the wrong dimension and it ended up being too small. I didn’t have any oak pieces left that were big enough and didn’t want to buy new lumber for it, so I found a scrap piece of oak and cut out the curve on it. I made no attempt to grain match or anything so it was quite obvious after it was stained:

Stained Doll Bed

I don’t remember if I made tenons for that top part or if I just friction fitted it and glued it in.

The other notable step that I did before staining it was round over part of the columns. I didn’t want to use dowels since they would be round the entire length and so I just ran the router on all four sides over a length of the piece. I used a stop block on both sides to guarantee that all four were the exact same size.

The bed curtain rails were just some tiny dowels I got from HD and they were secured with staples. I agonized over how to make those rails for quite some time before finally just punting and using what I considered to be a “construction not woodworking” solution. It worked fine.

Our daughter then picked out the fabric for the bed curtains and sheet set and April sewed it all up. The mattress was a piece of foam covered with the fabric and the pillow was stuffed with cotton or something similar.

The final look:

Finished Doll Bed

Lessons Learned

I suppose all that mattered in the end was if my daughter liked it and she absolutely loved it! There were a few times in the years that followed that I suggested making a fancier version of the bed (using new skills I had learned) but she was adamant that she loved it the way it was and didn’t want any changes.

This project convinced me early that I needed a thickness planer since I didn’t want to be at the mercy of whatever thickness lumber I could buy. Years later I found a local source for rough lumber, but even before that, I just bought oak and poplar in 3/4″ thicknesses and planed it down from there.

Making mortise and tenon joints using a router was pretty straightforward and I’ve used that technique many times since. I’m a lot more careful about placement, though. Oh, and that mistake with the headboard really drove in the “measure twice; cut once” mantra.

Can a Post be Critically Important… and Deceptive?


Dave Ramsey is undoubtedly one of the most influential authors in the personal finance and FI/RE communities.  This “snowball” theory for getting out of debt alone is a classic.  One of his most quoted posts was back in 2010 regarding compound interest.  It was called How Teens Can Become Millionaires with the (summarized) following story.


Ben and Arthur are teenagers that want to retire rich at 65.  Ben starts investing early and contributes $2000 a year (only $166/mo!) to an S&P index fund from his 19th birthday to when he turned 26.  He then never invests another penny until he retires.

Arthur takes the more conventional investing route and doesn’t start saving until he is 27.  He contributes the same $2000 a year to an S&P index fund until he retires.

Ben contributes a total of $16,000 in his eight years of investing.  Arthur contributes $78,000 in his 39 years.

Oh, and here’s a super critical bit of information: let’s assume that they earn 12% on their investments.  When each retires at 65, who has more money?

Well, the post wouldn’t be titled “How Teens Can Become Millionaires” if Ben didn’t make out like a bandit.  Indeed, Ben’s $16K investment has grown to $2.3M while Arthur’s $78K has netted “only” $1.5M.

It’s no wonder this is such an influential post as it illustrates very dramatically the power of compound interest (compound growth).  Compound growth is one of the most critically important piece of knowledge for any investor to have and for that, this post deserves it’s accolades.

Yet… I have one serious problem with the post.  I think it’s unnecessarily deceptive.

A Digression

I got to thinking about this post again after a video by Mike and Lauren entitled Why Don’t They Teach This in School?. In no way is my own post a knock on their video. Mike and Lauren are one of the inspirations for this blog! I strongly recommend checking them out. Their point in the video is spot on.

And to his credit, Mike also mentions in the video that he disagrees with Ramsey’s post in his use of a 12% compound interest rate. So yeah, they’re off the hook completely!

The Deception

My core issues with Ramsey’s example is that his use of a 12% compound interest rate creates such unrealistic expectations that the concept of “compound interest” almost comes across as magic. I’ve heard that the rate is irrelevant, since it’s the concept that he’s teaching and that’s independent of any actual amount.

I disagree. Ramsey’s post is titled “How Teens Can Become Millionaires“, so the actual amount in question is crucial to his message. No “millionaire” and his post loses a huge amount of its punch.

Compound Interest 7%
The problem with 12% over 47 years is that it won’t happen. A far more realistic goal is 7%. I believe that there’s only been one (maybe two) times in the history of the stock market where 7% wasn’t easily attainable over any 30 year period.

So let’s use 7% as the compound growth amount but keep all of the other variables the same. When Ben retires, he now has $300K while Arthur has roughly $400K. We’re seeing a $2M reduction in earnings.


$300K or $400K isn’t even close to millionaire territory. At 12%, Ben and Arthur can retire in comfort. At 7%… they better have a backup!

That’s why I consider the use of 12% deceptive. By explicitly referring to getting rich by doing barely anything, Ramsey is creating unreasonably false expectations on the power of compound interest. Knowing that diminishes his otherwise critically important point on the role of compound grown in investing.

Still Powerful!

Just because Ben is more likely to make $300K than $2,300K doesn’t invalidate the power of compound growth. Compound growth lets you double your earnings in only a few years, without doing anything on your part. It’s letting your money work for you, rather than you work for your money.

You can relatively accurately calculate how many years it will take your money to double by dividing 72 by your rate (the “Rule of 72”). That is, at 7%, your money doubles every 10 years (72 / 7 ~= 10). If you did magically get 12%, then it only takes 6 years (72 / 12 = 6).

And this compounds. Your money doubles again in another 10 years, meaning a 4x increase. And again in 10 years, meaning a full 8x increase. Ten years after that is a 16x increase. Powerful stuff indeed.

The only real problem with realistic interest rates is that the years are long enough that you won’t get rich if you only contribute small amounts of money. It does take money to make money. Compound growth isn’t magic!

Lesson learned: invest as much as you can as early and as often as you can. Contribute enough and when it doubles and doubles and doubles, then you’re talking serious amounts of money.

Gotta Start Somewhere


Well, after several years of saying “we should create a blog”, we decided that either it’s time to actually start it up, or just give up on the idea entirely.  You’re seeing that we decided on the former path.

We don’t know what we’re doing.  Neither of us have ever had a public blog of any sort.  The goal is to also have a YouTube channel — that’ll be completely new to us, too.

But that’s sort of the point of granworks.  We go through life jumping headfirst into something and hope that we’ll figure how it works as we go.  Why would this blog be any different?

Who Are “We”?

We are Kurt and April Granroth.  Both software engineers and both working for the same company (even on the same team).  Two kids.  Been married for almost 20 years.  Trying to figure things out as we go.

What’s This Blog About?

It’s going to be an eclectic mix of what interests us.  This will include DIY, Technology, Early Retirement, Investing, Sustainability, Theaters, and anything else that pops up.  Expect posts on woodworking to be followed by figuring out an Arduino and capped by thoughts on compound growth.

A decent amount of the posts will likely be construction related, from DIY projects we’ve completed in the past.  Slightly older and newer posts will be focused on building a home theater.

Going forward?  We’ll see.

Why Subscribe/Follow?

If we had a motto, it would be “if we can do it; so can you.”  More than anything else, we want to show that pretty much anybody can do some pretty cool things.  You don’t need to be a pro to get pro-like results. Hopefully this blog will show how possible it is to do DIY; to configure a kick-ass media system; to retire early… and more.