Tag Archives: learning lessons

The Bad Thing About “Following Your Dream”

Whenever I hear someone say they’re trying to live their dream, I wonder, how many people out there have truly reached the point where they can fully pursue their interests?

I know I haven’t fully embraced my passions but over the last two years I’ve certainly gotten better. In two weeks I plan to take the second step towards pursuing “my dream”. The first step I took was this April when I took my 10 day road trip that drove me through Jacksonville, FL.

The second part of this pursuit will take place when I take my second trip there. I plan on leaving in two weeks. The trip will involve a drive from Michigan down to Nashville, TN, then a 2 day visit to Jacksonville, FL. On the way back up I plan on hitting Forsyth Park, Savanna, GA..

The question you might be asking is, why Jacksonville? That’s a very good question. It has more to do with my future than it does with my present. Currently I’m in college. I work nearby and have friends nearby. However somewhere down the road – maybe in 3 years or 10 years – I will move somewhere better.

It’s been a big thing for me to truly feel that the place I’m living in is right for me. I don’t feel most of Michigan is. For starters I like warmer weather. On top of that I’m looking for a city with more social and economic activity – unlike most of Michigan.

Explaining this often takes up a great deal of time. People will criticize my interests and goals. The dream I have certainly isn’t a common one. What should I do then?

What do you think, should I share “my dream” with the world or keep it inside my head?

Do you have a dream that most people around you think is stupid or weird? Feel free to jump into the comments below…

How I Drove 2,300 Miles Without My License (And Why You Shouldn’t) Part 1

You might be thinking this is clickbait. Or is that a typo? No, I really did drive 2,300 miles, without my license, by myself, at 18 years old across the country. Now before I tell you how I ended up in the middle of Kansas, at midnight, with no license I need to give you some background.

In the summer of 2017 I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to become. This was around my 18th birthday in July. As the summer finished and the School year began, I started realizing that I could, if I wanted, take a trip that would give me further knowledge about what was out there.

In December 2017 I decided to follow through. During this time I was working full time as well as doing school full time so there wasn’t a lot of access time for spare planning. But I did manage to put together an incomplete document that would start me on my preparation.

Around Christmas I headed over to Zambia, Africa (I was visiting my family who moved for orphan missions, but more on that in another post). In Zambia I finalized my plans, which were fairly detailed, deciding against the 8,000 mile trip I was originally planning.

My new plan was to head down to Florida, explore, head back up through Louisiana to Texas, explore, and then head home to Michigan. All with a few minor stops along the way. The trip was around the corner. I was so excited!

It was a bittersweet moment for me. My time in Zambia was about over. And, in March 2018, I said goodbye to my family after 3 very special months. This had been a great period to rest, learn, and spend time with the most important people in my world.

I flew back to Lansing by myself, pondering and searching for a single feeling to feel. But there were so many. I felt alone. Even though I was going to live with my Grandma (and what a blessing that is), I was missing the people who had been with me my whole life.

I also felt anxiety. Here I was, 18 years old, with so many life changes like college, work, summer plans, and then my trip, all coming up just around the corner.

But I was also excited. My life had been, for the most part, out of my control up till this moment. And now the pen and paper were finally getting handed to me to write my own story. I thought I was ready.

With these emotions and so many others spreading around in my mind and nervous system, I really was starting to grow up. Not all at once, but slowly.

The plane landed.

I got to Lansing, spent time with friends and Grandma, and after one week it was time to leave. Finally, the moment I had been waiting for had come. Again, I thought I was ready. So, in the first few days of April, I left.

 

Everything Wrong With Making a Lot of Money

Let’s say you get out of college and are starting your first “real” job. You’re a young doctor so you already start out making more than the average person. Or maybe you’re middle aged and making the most money you’ve ever made in your life. Let’s just say you make a lot of money.

Where does the money go? Well most people who make a lot have a lot of expensive education required to get the job in the first place. That means student loans. If you were disciplined enough or lucky enough that your parents payed for you, then you won’t be in the same boat as most people.

Other wise, though, you’ll have student loans to pay on. That’s expense number one. The second big expense is more of an optional thing but most high-payed professionals usually opt in. It’s called lifestyle extravaganza.

Most doctors, lawyers, or well-payed professionals start seeing the bigger paychecks and begin making larger purchases to live up to what other people expect of them. It’s less of need for comfort than a need to impress and fit in with what people expect of them. “I have more income,” they tell themselves. “Why not?”

While most of us would like to think that these people are banking dough(and a lot of them are), most of the time, that’s simply not the case. People who make a lot of money are just like everyone else, they want to fit in.

The problem is they’re missing a valuable opportunity. Having a high income is not only a great thing for lifestyle, it can become a fabulous thing for your finances. Simply keeping your lifestyle low and investing the difference can make huge differences over 10 year timeframes. Still not convinced?

It might be hard to believe but putting off buying that boat today could mean, 10 years down the road, being able to purchase any home you want. Compound interest is simply that powerful.

Not only does making a lot of money come with disadvantages like the expectation of lavish lifestyle and larger student loan debt, it can also turn into a financial blessing if you manage your money well and stay disciplined. Just because you make double as much money as someone doesn’t mean it’s smart to buy a home double as large.

So if you are in the situation of making good money, be weary of the obstacles that stand in your way to having a better future. Realize what your income could turn into – both good and bad. And for students who think more income equals more net worth, be careful…

Why Students Should Work In College

I can tell you why you’re not working hard enough. There are a lot of people who know how to work intelligently, with both work and life in general. They only engage in activities that are precisely planned and efficiently organized. These are often the well-educated people, those who know the best, smartest use of time. But often they spend a lot of it relaxing or enjoying fun activities.

Then there are the hard workers. They’re the people who do the heavy lifting. They end each day both physically and mentally exhausted. These are the people who work 60+ hours per week, striving for some piece of the American dream.

Lastly, but by far the rarest group of them all is the smart-hard worker. This person is someone who not only engages in thoughtful planning, meaningful self-improvement and learning, but also in the daily “grind”, the discipline-filled early mornings, the continuous extension of energy.

By far the last group can achieve the most. Not only do they have the advantages of planning and efficiency, they also spend enough time working that they can begin to get a better grasp of their tasks and gain a larger force of momentum behind them as they get into the swing of things.

One of the best times to make strides towards this happy medium of efficiency (thoughtfulness, planning) and force (work, discipline) is being a student with a job.

Now before you go off and start dismissing this idea as both impractical and stupid, please take this journey with me through my thought process and how I worked 40 to 50 hours per week while going to school full-time (and still spending a little time with family and getting a 3.8 GPA).

First, why work in school? One of the reasons most students work is to both pay for school, and gain valuable work experience in college. I want to add one more reason: better grades. Better grades? Yeah. According to a cnbc.com article there is a correlation between students who work part-time and those who get better grades. The reason this makes sense is that having a job creates a sense of greater responsibility in your life. You not only have a different perspective, but you also have less time to goof off, which makes it easier to get down to business.

I would recommend most students seriously consider working at least 20 hours per week during the semester. Not only will you most likely get better grades, you can also start to see more money coming in to pay expenses.

My challenge: get a job while you’re in school. You might find that you have more confidence, job experience and money.

Should I Invest in Small-Cap or Large-Cap Companies?

If you’re a stock investor you’ve probably asked yourself the question before. While there are many different kinds of stocks, that can be broken down into different categories based on a set of seemingly endless criteria, one of the best ways to set them apart is by market capitalization.

Market capitalization is basically what we mean when we multiply the amount of outstanding shares of a company times the price per share. It’s basically the value that the market is placing on the company at any moment in time.

The two biggest companies Apple and Amazon are inching forward towards reaching $1,000,000,000,000 in market capitalization. Meaning if you multiplied the stock price of either company times the amount of shares of that company, you’d end up with a number just shy of $1Trillion.

This has clearly never happened before but is expected as the market experiences inflation and growth.

So which one is best, small-cap stocks or large-cap stocks? Well there are certainly good individual companies in each category. For example even though apple is a large company, it is a solid investment for appreciation even for an already large company.

What happens is that depending on the economic circumstances and if they’re better for large or small companies each of these asset classes will perform accordingly. Thus, you’ll get periods when large-caps outperform small-caps and vice versa. However, generally in our history, small-cap stocks as a whole have outpaced their large-cap counterparts. The reason? Size.

When you think of a tree, whether an oak, maple or redwood, you can think of the different stages in its life. As a little seed and sapling, trees usually experience either rapid growth when they’re little, or they die off.

The reason there’s so many little trees at the bottom of a forest floor is that most of them don’t survive, but the ones that do usually experience rapid growth. The same is true with companies.

When a company is small it’s just trying to pay the bills, grow revenue and establish credibility that will equate to market share. But often these smaller companies can’t outlast the constant bombardment of competition so they die off.

If you look at the small-capitalization indexes they have tended the out-perform the large-cap indexes like the S&P 500 (an index of the 500 largest companies in the U.S.).

If you’re young and can ride the volatility, go with small cap stocks. If you want to mitigate short-term loss and volatility, large-caps are generally better.

Whichever you choose, good luck.

Disclaimer: The information regarding personal finance found in this blog is not a substitute for professional guidance. By following the guidance in this blog you are doing so at your own risk. This blog is simply the option of one person for informational and educational purposes. Please refer to your personal financial advisor in regards to guidance over your specific situation.

Is It Possible to Become a Billionaire?

When most people think of a Billionaire they think of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or even Elon Musk. But very few people have heard of Bernard Arnault, Amancio Ortega, or Ma Huateng. These people, not as well known as some of the others, have made their way to the list of top 20 billionaires in recent years.

Bernard Arnault made his money by developing a large company that focuses mostly on luxury items and services. He has a large collection of art and is the richest person in France.

Amancio Ortega built is fortune in fashion. He is the sixth richest person on the globe but likes to keep his personal life private.

Ma Huateng has built his fortune around technology, specifically the internet. He funded Tancent, which is the highest valued company in all of Asia.

Each of these men are relatively unknown by the general U.S. population yet remain powerful, wealthy and esteemed in their area of focus. So the question that comes up is, is it possible to repeat their stories or stories like them?

The answer is yes and no. Each of these people, including the whole Forbes list of billionaires, are remarkably smart, hard working and strategic. Most of them have not only worked hard to get where they are, they have also “sacrificed” basic things that a lot of us feel are regular parts of a typical life like regular free social interaction and time with friends.

For example Elon Must was showering at the YMCA and sleeping in the office at one point.

For for all the self-made billionaires there were times where they were working their butt off. But pretty much everyone has worked their butt off right? True, but these men and women were purposeful about what they worked on, and were smart about being efficient, strategic and passion driven.

So, if it wasn’t necessarily working hard that made these self-made billionaires rich, but a set of internal actions, habits and principles, what does that mean for us? Well first that it’s completely possible, but not likely to reach their level of success in a different area of focus.

Secondly each of these people had some degree of luck, but even with the luck, it’s no surprise that any one of them is where they are today. While each of them had luck they also planted the seeds of success and let the work, perseverance, time and their brains help grow it.

One of the main similarities between all these people is 1) their commitment to improvement, 2) their involvement in business or customer satisfaction, and 3) their intelligent decision making multiplied over many times. If you sprinkle a lot of hard work on the seed you can see how it grew into a large tree. All of these things together equal focus. Being focused on achieving their goals and having a great time doing it seems like a big similarity here too.

So if you’re wondering if there’s a certain industry posed to do the best the answer is probably internet technology or AI or something along those lines. But that’s not the right question to ask. You have to find the one thing that makes you intrigued, and draws you in day after day. If you have a big difficulty even thinking about it each day that’s probably not a good sign.

Bill Gates was into computers. Jeff Bezos was into customer satisfaction and was intrigued and excited for the internet. Elon Must is into science yet balances that intrigue with his drive to make something tangible for the future. It’s not so much the industry you’re in, but the culture you have and surround yourself in of discipline, hard work, passion, improvement, learning, integrity and ultimately intense focus.

Should I Have a Credit Card?

Many people have heard of the Dave Ramsey show. He often speaks of how “cash is king,” debt it dumb, and how everyone should stay out of debt. Dave argues that while some people use the credit score for getting loans, getting jobs, and renting an apartment, there are ways to get around using a credit score.

While this argument is technically true, there are a few difficulties to this. First I want to start by saying that I deeply respect Dave Ramsey and the work he does. The vast majority of his advice I agree with, like getting out of consumer debt, investing for retirement, and budgeting carefully.

However, on this key point I disagree. While not having a credit score at all can certainly work for some people, like those who don’t need many loans, and are willing to work around no credit score, there are times when having a credit score can save a lot of time, hassle and opportunities.

Take buying a home. If you don’t have a credit score you have to either buy a home outright for cash, or you have to go get a loan by doing what’s called manual underwriting. This is when the lender audits you through various lenses and metrics without necessarily looking at your credit score.

They might look at your job history, payment history for rent and other bills, your income, assets and possibly references to gain a picture of whether or not you can pay the mortgage every month. While this can certainly work, it is less streamlined, less predictable, and overall more hassle. That’s fine if your willing to go through the process. But for those who would like a relatively predictable, hassle-free and repeatable loan process this might not be the best option.

Now let’s say you want to forget about credit all together. This is definitely an option. However if you want to get another mortgage, or other debt soon after going through manual underwriting, you may wan to reconsider.

As soon as you get your new loan, it will usually be reported to the credit agencies. After a few months you will probably have a credit score, simply because you now have a loan. Even if you never add more debt to the picture, that mortgage will probably be active on your score for months or years after you get the mortgage.

The bottom line is be aware of having a credit score is something you want to do. For some people who want a simple life with practically no debt this might be a good option. For others who either want to use debt for multiple purchases or start investing in real estate as investments, you might want to reconsider…

 

Get Rid of Your Money

Most Americans don’t have very much in savings. Those that do try to protect the amount they have, whether that’s $1,000 or $100,000. But I have a challenge to everyone who thinks stashing money will make you more secure. What if you got rid of your money, what would you do?

If you had $3,246 in the bank one day and $25.47 in the bank the next you’d probably go into panic mode. Your instincts would start kicking in. You’d figure out how to cut spending, eliminate waste from your life, and earn more income to make the difference. In other words, you’d wake up.

What happens when we have chunks of money sitting in the bank is that we convince ourselves that we’re making it, or that we’re safe. This is dangerous.

Instead, realize that the little money you have in the bank, be it $45 or $45,000 still makes you broke. I know to a lot of people $45,000 is a lot of money, but if you want to change the way you think about money, it starts here. Instead of thinking of what you could buy with $45,000, think of what you’d like to buy.

As soon as you realize that the $36,000 car, $5,000 vacation, and the 25 year retirement are on your list, $45,000 doesn’t seem like very much does it?

I personally have a little over $6K in the bank. Currently I’m gearing up for another year of college. With 2.5 to 3 years left I’m beginning to realize that it’s going to be difficult to get through college with no debt, even with lower costs than most, on just $6K. It’s time to up my game.

I’m going to have to start stashing away for college next year, both by working over the summer, taking odd jobs, and even working during the semester. Having perspective on that $6,000 helps me realize that it’s really not a lot of money – that reaching my goals will require a change in mindset.

For everyone who’s out of college and not saving for something that’s just around the corner, consider getting rid of your money. Now I don’t mean you should go and buy a newer car or travel to Europe. But it’s possible that some day you can do those things if you do what I’m going to suggest you do with the money: invest it.

Investing the money you have other than an emergency fund is a great move. Make sure you have enough money for 3 to 6 months of expenses and everything over that needs to get out of there. Put it into retirement accounts, buy real estate, pick an investment that you feel comfortable with and are ready to pull the trigger on. (just make sure to do your research)

So next time you get a $3,000 bonus, inheritance or gift, consider getting rid of it by paying off debts, securing an emergency fund, and finally putting everything else out the door into the world of investing.

Disclaimer: The information regarding personal finance found in this blog is not a substitute for professional guidance. By following the guidance in this blog you are doing so at your own risk. This blog is simply the option of one person for informational and educational purposes. Please refer to your personal financial advisor in regards to guidance over your specific situation.

Is There A Difference Between Being Broke And Poor?

Many people following this blog have probably heard the quote by Mike Todd: “Being broke is a temporary situation. But being poor is a state of mind.” But is that truly the difference between the two? In that case, how do I tell if I’m actually poor or just broke temporarily?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines poor as “lacking material possessions.” So technically being poor could both be temporary or indefinite. Broke, by Webster, is defined as the state of being “penniless”. This, like being poor, could refer to someone who is either poor long-term or a short period of time.

The real question isn’t what poor or broke technically mean, but how the words can impact our dialogue – both internal and external. For me the word broke sounds like I just ran out of money. It sounds different, in my view, from the word poor. Poor sounds like a description of someone’s economic position in the world – more of a long term adjective.

While you can use either one, the word broke seems like a much better description of someone who is working hard in the realm of personal finance but doesn’t have money at the time.

As you go about your daily conversations you will pick up on the dialogue used by people to describe their situation. The people who are truly making strides to improve their situation usually don’t describe themselves as “poor” but see it as temporarily “broke.”

One of the first steps for improving your financial situation is to stop seeing it as a long term situation and start seeing broke as temporary. You don’t want to look back years later and realize you’re been subconsciously programing your mind to hold you down financially.

Here’s a challenge: Stop seeing yourself as poor and start seeing yourself as broke.

 

Should You Cut Your Grass?

I’ve never seen this question as a header in a financial blog. Maybe its because cutting your grass is extremely boring. Or maybe it has seemingly nothing to do with personal finance. Whatever the reason you’re probably wondering why I would open with lawn care(which I have nothing against btw). What’s so important about lawn care?

To be honest, I could have chosen a host of other reoccurring costs most people expend on a regular basis. The point is to use it as an example.

There are three general angles of thought when it comes to money. The first, and probably the most common is that of indifference. “It’s just $5,” people tell themselves. “I deserve this cheeseburger.”

The second perspective is that of scarcity. A lot of extreme savers live this reality. This mentality makes me think of Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s the though process that says, “I need to save as much as possible so that someday I can have a big pile of money.” This mentality values dollar cost over time cost.

For example if you decide to cut your grass instead of having someone else do it. While it might cost $70 to have someone mow your lawn it could free up a couple hours of your time. What if you value your time more than $35 per hour. In that case you’re probably better off paying someone else to mow the lawn.

The third and most logical view is that money is to be spent with priority. You have to know what you value and then spend your money accordingly. This view is the most wholistic because it not only recognizes the dollar costs of buying something but the time costs that you could be saving or losing depending on which option choose.

My point isn’t that you should hire people to do everything for you. On the contrary, my point is to weigh the costs of your decisions and factor in more than just the price tag. Sometimes paying someone to mow your grass might just make sense.