Running a personal finance blog means that, naturally, I get asked for advice about finances.
I’m by no means a financial advisor, but I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last few years. Most of the advice I’m about the share comes from those experiences.
And here’s the real truth — I’m happier than I’ve ever been. My wife and I run a successful real estate business, providing us with supplemental income. We’re on the path to early retirement, we’re mostly frugal, and I’m not the spending disaster that I once was. I firmly believe the phrase “money can’t buy happiness”, but that doesn’t mean I want to be broke, either.
I haven’t always been good with money. In fact, only a few short years ago, I was terrible with it.
I’m a firm believer that your weaknesses can be turned into strengths with hard, concerted effort. I used to live paycheck-to-paycheck, had student loans, credit card debt, and I was hardly concerned about saving for retirement. All of those things added up to a LOT of financial stress. I couldn’t sleep at night!
And let me tell you, when you can’t sleep at night because of financial stresses, that spills over into literally every other aspect of your life.
Money used to control my life. Now I control it. I learned from my own financial mistakes, but also from the financial advice of others.
“Use your time wisely. Let money work for you, not you for money.”
If you ask my mother, she’ll tell you that even from a young age, I was an entrepreneur. I was always thinking of business ideas and ways to make extra money.
But here’s the problem — it always involved trading my hours for dollars, and then turning my dollars back into hours. For most people, that’s how money works. You’re simply exchanging currency.
So I thought to myself, “If I want to make more money, I’m going to have to work more hours.” And so that’s what I did. I hunkered down, and got to work. I worked myself to death.
And soon I realized something — there just weren’t enough hours in the day to be able to work enough, in order to have the lifestyle I wanted. It just wasn’t working. It wasn’t scalable.
That’s when I had the full-blown revelation that I needed money to work for me, and not me for it.
I started searching for ways to build residual income that came to me, whether I worked a 9-5 or not. And so I began building websites for clients and charged them monthly hosting fees. I started investing money, earning interest. My wife and I purchased rental properties, paying us rent each and every month.
Do these things still require us to work? Sure. Some months, we spend more time on our rentals than others. But most months, we spend no time at all. And that money keeps trickling in regardless.
Earning extra income can completely change your life. You can be free from the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, you can pay off your debt, and more, all by learning how to build passive income.
I think the biggest part about having money work for you is making sure that it’s automated. One thing that’s really helped me to save hundreds, without even thinking about it, is using the Acorns app. Say you purchase something at the grocery store, and the total comes to $5.20. Acorns automatically rounds that amount up to a dollar for you, and invests the other $0.80 — automatically for you. I’m surprised every time I open up my app and find how much money I have just sitting in there, growing automatically for me.
“You don’t have to wait until you’re 67 to retire.”
I’m still in my 20’s. By most people’s standards, I have 40-some-odd years until I retire. And that’s why I hadn’t thought about it more, because it’s so far away.
I honestly didn’t realize that you could retire early. I mean, I guess anything is possible, but I just felt that unless you were independently wealthy, you couldn’t physically couldn’t retire until at least your 50’s, right?
Once I became active in the financial world, however, I encountered this incredible group called FIRE (financial independence, retire early). There were people actually retiring in their 30’s and 40’s! It felt so foreign to me, and I thought to myself, “Wow! How can I do that?”
I quickly fell in love with this group, as well as the mindset. Rather than retirement becoming a dreaded worry of “Will I have enough?”, it was a shout for joy saying, “From here on out, I don’t have to work a single day for the rest of my life.”
If I want to be able to retire early, an active part of that involves checking my net worth frequently to ensure I’m on track. Personal Capital is a tool I’ve been using that takes care of the management for me. As my debts go down, and my investments go up, it automatically tracks this for me so I don’t have to worry about gauging where I’m at.
Retirement should be an exciting time, and not about spending time at home, because your health isn’t good enough to travel or do the things you always dreamed of. I can’t wait to reach retirement, and have a goal in place to do so by the time I’m 35.
“You can afford to travel — without feeling guilty.”
This piece of advice was a bit of a self-discovery, with the help of my wife.
Growing up, I remember seeing friends of ours taking these lavish vacations. Whether it was Cabo, Mexico or Disney World, I longed so badly to be one of those families that got to go on fun trips. But unless we could drive there within 8 hours, my parents told us that it was “too expensive” and we “couldn’t afford it.”
Nothing could be farther than the truth.
Here’s the reality. For my parents, it just wasn’t a priority.
My Dad earned a great, middle-class wage all growing up. We never went without, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be brought up in the home that I was. But sadly, the other necessities of life just took priority over vacations.
It wasn’t until after I married my wife, that we sat down, made a budget, and truly decided what was important to us. And to us, that was vacationing. We now take 3-4 trips per year, on average.
Each and every month, we have a line item for “Vacation”, right next to “Car Insurance” and “Food”. With each and every paycheck, a small amount goes into a dedicated fund that doesn’t get touched, unless it’s for a vacation. Once we have enough, we plan a fun trip.
“Spend less than you earn.”
This should go without saying, right? Then why do so few of us do it.
I remember watching a YouTube video about a guying making $500k/year, and a guy making $38k/year. After 12-months, the guy making $38,000/year actually had more in savings than the person making half a million dollars. It blew my mind.
Wait, what? How?
It all comes down to living below your means. If you make $500,000/year, but spend all $500,000 of it, why does it matter how much money you make? You’re left with a net $0. But if you make $38,000 year, but only spend $30,000 of it, you’re left with $8,000!
The math is surprisingly simple, I get it. But in actuality, it’s hard to do. Because wealthy has nothing to do with how much you make. It’s has everything to do with how much you spend.
Rather than looking at everyone around you buying new cars, going out to eat, and wearing fancy clothes, choose to live on less than you earn, and invest the rest. After only a few short months, you’ll be in such a better financial situation than you were previously.
“Wealth is nothing but a mindset.”
The past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about mindset, and how we limit ourselves, even subconsciously.
Let me tell you a story.
I once went to a seminar (that actually had nothing to do with finance, believe it or not) where the speaker on stage asked everyone in the audience to think of a number. This number was your ideal salary. Not your lavish, high-roller salary where you bathe in gold. Just your “happy salary”, where you feel you could comfortably survive, have enough for the basic necessities of life, and not have to stress too much about finances.
“Does everyone have that number in mind?” the speaker asked?
I thought to myself, “Hmmm. Maybe like…$100k/year? That’s a pretty good wage. That would give me enough to live comfortably and provide for my family. I’d be content with that.”
Everyone in the audience nodded their heads, confirming they had their number.
The announcer then asked, “Is the number in your head the same salary that your mother or father made, at the height of their working career?”
My jaw fell to the floor. $100k is exactly what my Dad made throughout most of his career. Nobody had given me that number. Nobody had forced me to pick that. I had subconsciously chosen a number that was on-par with my parents. I was placing limits on myself, without even knowing it, because that was the highest level of success that my parents had achieved.
The speaker went on to say, “Why do we do this? Why would we ever want to limit our earning capacity? Just because our parents earned $40k or $80k per year, why do we think we can’t do better? What’s stopping us from earning $250k or $500k per year?”
I think many people in the audience were just as shocked as I was.
Positive thinking and adjusting your mindset are so imperative to everything you do. But I think the first step starts with the words we use. Again, one of the subconscious things we do is talk down to ourselves. We use words such as “can’t” or “never” in regards to our success and well-being. Or we think “someday” I’ll be able to do that.
Instead, let’s start using positive personal re-enforcement. Instead of telling yourself, “Someday I’ll do that.”, tell yourself “I am doing that.” If you ever catch yourself saying that you “can’t”, instantly tell yourself that you can.
Positive thinking can help you find another option or route to take. It can help you feel motivated, or keep pushing further, even when you don’t feel like it. It helps you push forward from past mistakes. But most of all, it’ll help you reach your goals and be happier.
The cheapest education we’ll ever obtain is learning from the mistakes of others. What’s some of the best money/financial advice you’ve ever received?