Tag Archives: Life Changes

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…

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…

 

How do Most People get Rich?

What if you had to choose one investment vehicle to get you to riches? What would it be? It’s an intriguing question not only because so many people have done it so many different ways, but because the question deals more with the future than looking at the past.

The vast majority on the Forbes billionaires list have gotten there through owning all or part of their own business. The industries range from technology to finance to fashion and even real estate.

Most of the newer billionaires have done it through technology (like Mark Z., Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos). A good portion of the older billionaires have made it though finance. But even within sectors there is great variation as to how the billionaires made it. For example in the technology sector Jeff Bezos has done it through online retail while Zuckerberg has done it through social media.

Real estate, whether you consider it a business(which it true) or it’s own investment category altogether has also created many wealthy people. One notable difference between billionaires in real estate and millionaires in real estate is that the millionaires have focused primarily on single family and small multifamily homes while the billionaires have purchased scalable, large operation commercial properties. (For example Donald Bren.)

Arguably it’s very difficult to get into these large operations without significant capital. So for the average investor a good place to start is either smaller properties or partnerships. Either way you look at it, real estate as a whole has been a solid investment for both the well-off and the ultra-rich.

If you’re looking to the fastest made billionaires technology businesses are your best bet. If you’re looking for the most stable, predictable, simple and versatile investment, real estate is your best choice. Most of the other investment options including bitcoin, gold, bonds, futures, options and commodities have considerably less stellar track records. However the one similarity between the ultra rich is that they have done so with extreme focus and specialization – becoming experts in their field of influence.

As times change and new technology becomes more mainstream there becomes a great advantage to the person who is willing to pick one thing, just one thing, and focus entirely on it.

From Africa to the U.S.

I made my way back to the US juggling a lot of different thoughts and emotions. As carried myself onto the first plane in Ndola, Zambia I silently said goodbye to Zambia. I stepped on and realized the plane was tiny. Even as a short person the leg room for my bag and feet wasn’t ideal. Eventually I managed to fit myself in.

The next stop was Ethiopia. I got off and waded through the crowds of people who spoke languages I’d probably never heard of. The next boarding was simple enough. This time the plane was ginormous.

After getting myself situated I tried to get some sleep. For some reason my carryon wouldn’t fit above me so I had to fit it in somewhere else. On the flight I took out my phone (which of course was on airplane mode) and began writing notes. I went through all the things I wanted to accomplish in the next week.

My list of things was relatively simple yet most were things I had never done before. The first thing was get new tires and oil for my car. The second was go shopping for everything on my road trip. The third, and probably most important thing was paying taxes for the first time in my life.

I had a week before I wanted to leave for my trip, so there wasn’t a lot of time to sit around. But none of the things on the list took massive amounts of time either, I just had to make sure I didn’t procrastinate.

I woke up just before the plane landed in Frankfurt, Germany. I had just a few hour layover before my flight to Chicago. I got off exhausted and began wandering the relatively empty hallways of the airport looking for my gate number. I finally asked around and got to where I needed to be. There was an hour till boarding started. “Oh boy,” I thought sarcastically, “can’t wait to sit here for an hour.”

I sat down on a bench and felt a trickle running down from my nose. “Even better,” I thought, “a bloody nose.” I snatched out clean-x from my bag. As a kid I used to get bloody noses almost every day but as I got older I got less and less of them. As boarded started I sat there, waiting for the bloody nose to end. Finally it stopped, just in time for me to get in line for boarding.

Fourteen hours later I was in Chicago. Chicago! It felt so good to be in the United States. I went to the bookstore and bought $50 worth of investing books. Anyone who knows me knows my interest and knowledge on the topic of personal finance. I sat and read for half an hour. Before I knew it it was time for my flight home to Lansing, Michigan.

The flight home went quickly. I ate a tiny bag of pretzels given to me by the flight attendant. We landed and I slowly made my way off the plane with my fellow passengers. I descended the escalator in Lansing airport. As I lowered to the ground my grandma appeared waving and smiling.

We greeted each other and talked on our way to pick up the luggage. After locating everything and getting in the car we drove to the nearest restaurant: Chick Fil A. I ate a couple chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. They tasted good. As we sat my Grandma asked me about the roads. “It was like driving on the moon,” I said between mouthfuls of fries. “There would be these massive craters in the middle of the road that we’d occasionally have to go through.” She laughed. “Glad you’re back in Michigan.”

We went home. Now that I was in the US I was beginning to anticipate my next adventure….

Full-blown Independence

Christmas in Zambia was different. We opened presents under a fake tree. But it was homy. The Christmas lights reminded us all of the Christmases back home. We had candy, candy canes, Christmas movies and games. That was enough. Who needs snow when you have the most important people in your life around you?

It was a time where I truly relaxed. In some ways it was painful – making myself slow down. I read books, hung out with family, and got to know the landscape and people of Garneton Zambia.

After about a month we said goodbye to a missionary family who was living nearby. Probably the biggest thing that happened is that we moved. As soon as the family left we moved in and began getting ready for the start of the Zambian school year. My younger siblings were reluctant to be heading back to school but probably also curious about what it would be like.

As my 16 year old brother and 14 year old sister began getting ready for school I realized that by the time our family’s 3 year commitment to stay in Africa was over, they’d both pretty much be done with high school!

I also started planning for a road trip. This trip was something I had been wanting to go on for about a year. Now it was finally about to happen. As soon as I returned to the US I would begin a two week journey across the southern states, touring cities and getting to know the layout of the country. I was ecstatic.

Over the next set of weeks from January 2018 to early march I didn’t honestly do a lot. I helped out with tutoring high schoolers at the orphan school in Garneton once a week. That was pretty much it.

Then our good friends the Leonards came to visit. Of the four of them only the Husband and the son came (the Wife and daughter stayed at home). Mr. Leonard had always been an elder growing up. He watched over me as I grew up and helped give me Christian wisdom as I learned more about the world. He was also a good friend to my father and our whole family.

Mr. Leonard’s son, Dean was my age — 18. Dean had always been a good friend to me and my younger brother. Each of us had slightly different interests but as kids we had all been into playing online and strategy games. Of course in Zambia we didn’t really have the chance to play all together but it was fun talking about the games we had played as kids.

For a week Mr. Leonard was with us. Then he left, leaving his son Dean with my family for a few months. At this point I had a couple week before my time to come home. I began preparing for the trip home and planned what I wanted to accomplished as soon as I got home.

A couple weeks after that I left. The days leading up to the day, March 25th I began writing notes to my whole family. I took pieces of colorful paper and wrote a letter to each one. I made each note personal and remembered to include stories.

The day came. I woke up and went to the kitchen. It was a strange day. I realized that this was it. This was my last day in Zambia for a while. I finished packing the last things and we headed for the door, giving kisses and hugs. It was a sad time but we all knew that we’d keep in touch.

I snuck the pile of notes behind a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. As I got in the car with my parents I can remember my 6 year old brother, standing there on the African ground, looking up at the car. Why did I have to leave? There was so many options and adventures in the US waiting to happen yet there was so much here.

Part of me wanted to stay there and play a card game of monopoly deal with that little guy. I wanted to run around the house with toy swords, fighting like a “bad guy” and a “good guy” are supposed to in imaginary games.

At the airport I said goodbye to my Mom and 16 year old brother. I knew I’d see them when they returned to the US for a quick visit in May. But my Dad was the hardest person to say goodbye to. There was a possibility I wouldn’t see him for many months or possibly years.

As I waved through to them for the last time inside the first checkpoint I realized I was alone. I finally was getting what I had thought I wanted all along: full-blown independence. How did it feel? For the moment it felt… lonely.