Watercooler or coffee pot talk is always rampant at every workplace. You’ll hear various soundbites about literally everything, from who the greatest quarterback of all time is (Tom Brady), to who the best actor is (Denzel Washington). No matter what the topic, everyone will have a different opinion and that’s both good and bad. The good part – you’ll be introduced to tons of different ideas. The bad part – you’ll probably get some TERRIBLE financial advice that is very jaded because no one will share their ACTUAL situation, but rather a hypothetical that is ripe for failure. Heck, someone might even refer you to their “money guy/gal”. Below, I’ll discuss some Wealthy Idiot ideas you can bring to that watercooler/coffee pot to impress your co-workers!
Leveraging debt; creating cash flow
My mindset revolves around cash flow vs. debt. If I can use debt to create more cash flow, it’s a win. If I can increase cash flow without using debt, it’s a double-win.
Debt often catches a nasty stigma in society. Heck, I even wrote an article about it a few days ago. The thing no one tells you is that using debt to create wealth is a tactic that nearly every billionaire has used extensively. This is called ‘leverage’. This is most commonly used to purchase investment properties. As an example, I bought a duplex for $165k and am pending on a single family home for $130k. Combined, I will have invested a total of about $85k in cash in these two properties. For the rest, I’m leveraging mortgages. Clearly I won’t pay the mortgages because my tenants will (through me). This is a perfect example of leveraging debt to create personal wealth. This can compound quickly as I now have 3 doors with rent-paying tenants that could help me raise down payments even quicker for future investment properties with mortgages. This is a win-win-win-win. Okay, too many wins, but you get the point.
Invest early and often
If there is anything you should gather from this article, it’s that you cannot get time back once it’s gone. You will never have the opportunity to go back to that first job after college at 21 and start investing all over. Never. Ever. Instead, you need to make the decision now so your 45 year old self will be satisfied with their decisions and the direction of their investments.
For me, this means maximizing my tax-advantaged space as well as a Roth IRA. Tax-advantaged space for most people is a 401(k), however, an HSA account could also be included in this category as it holds a triple tax advantage (invests tax free, grows tax free, withdraws tax free on eligible expenses), as well as 403(b) and 457(b) accounts. If you start investing at 21, you’ll have a huge advantage compared to someone that doesn’t start until 31. This still applies even if they start with larger contribution amounts; because time is no longer on their side. They have effectively reduced their total time available for their investments to grow which has a significant impact that cannot be undone.
Let’s look at a scenario with two people, Brandy and Bethany.
Brandy: starts working at 21 years old while making $50k per year. She invests 10% of her salary and receives roughly 1.5% pay increases each year for the duration of her career. She never changes her contributions and receives a 5% match on her contributions from her employer. At 62, Brandy has $1.58MM. Keep in mind, Brandy only contributed $5k her first year of work.
Bethany: starts working at 21 years old while making $50k per year. She doesn’t invest at all for the first 10 years of her employment, missing the employer match completely. She receives 1.5% pay increases each year as well. At 31, she decides she is behind the game. She begins putting 20% of her pay into the plan and gets the match. At 62, Bethany has $1.47MM. That’s right, Brandy invested a much smaller amount for a longer period of time without ever increasing her contributions and still beat Bethany. This shows how valuable time is. Wouldn’t it just have been easier to start investing the smaller amount at 21?
Don’t be afraid to jump
As with all things that are unknown, investing can be extremely scary in the beginning. You hear stories of people who lose everything, or those who become swindled by con-artists, and immediately think it’s commonplace and will likely happen to you. Well, it won’t. And again, time is on your side as long as you invest early, so do that… now.
When we built our house in 2015, we decided that we should sell our current home at the time. We did this because the prospect of renting it out seemed daunting and we always heard stories of bad renters. Heck, my own brother had a renter build an unfinished koi pond in his backyard. We let this fear control us, and as a result, we don’t own the home any longer. Today, it’s worth $220k ($55k more than we sold it for), and has a rental value of approximately $1400-1500 a month. By all of my metrics I use for measuring a rental prospect, the property would have been a homerun. I would have known this if I had done my own research and made a well-informed decision. Instead, fear won and we lost. Luckily for us, they never stop selling houses!
Strive for means rather than things
I think the title is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll elaborate anyhow. Everyone has “wants”. I mean, I’m guilty. I would love to have a Porsche 911 GT2 or GT3. Would be an absolute dream come true. So most of my effort probably goes into saving for this car, right? Wrong. The car is, and will always be, a byproduct of my efforts.
I am striving to have the means to buy the car. That doesn’t even mean I will. I want to put my family in a position where a $200k car isn’t out of reach. If I do this, I can confidently say that our financial house is exactly where we want it to be. If I can buy the car, I can likely buy 2-3 more rental properties. If I can buy the car, the rental properties I have are probably very successful. If I can buy the car, my 401(k), 403(b), 457(b), HSA, and Roth IRAs are clearly in order. If I CAN buy the car, it signifies that I have the means necessary. This is different from centering your financial goals around a “thing”. Chase means, not things.
Find a support group
One of the worst things about personal finance is the fact that everyone thinks it’s taboo to talk about. People are sheltered when it comes to money, and because of this, it creates a vacuum of bad ideas. Financial advisors love the fact that people don’t like discussing money with their peers, in fact, it makes their “sales pitch” all the more effective. After all, if you’ve never heard anyone tell you how easy it is to have $2MM in your 401(k), wouldn’t you listen? Most people would, and most people would also end up paying the financial advisor hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees over a 30 year period. Yes, $100k+ in fees. Unacceptable.
For me, I rely on two groups of personal finance-driven individuals. The first group is over at Bogleheads.org. This site is packed with useful investing discussions. One of the biggest things they do is help everyone get out of their own way. By emphasizing how easy investing is, they eliminate the fear factor in a large way. The second group I fall back on is Biggerpockets.com. This site is real estate investing specific, and has proven to be a valuable resource on my rental property journey. Whoever or whatever you choose, make sure you find the support to continue on your investing journey!
Knowing where you stand
We all need goals if we ever want to succeed. Peter Drucker famously said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”, and this absolutely applies to personal finance. You should make sure you are in the driver seat of your own financial future. By knowing what you are doing and understanding the consequences and/or rewards of each of your actions, you’ll be able to adequately track the financial progress throughout your life. This will also allow opportunities for a change of course if anything doesn’t seem quite right. After all, who doesn’t want to save a ship before it sinks?
If you wanted to know what I think about while I shower each day, now you have it. My passion is personal finance and I am constantly thinking about it. I’m always thinking of ways that I can improve our budget, increase our investing income, or further solidify our long-term plan. I understand that personal finance is ever-changing, and that my constant attention to it ensures we keep our eyes on the prize. And if you are reading this, it means you are taking the first step in taking control of your own finances and future. Congratulations, we’re glad to have you here at the Wealthy Idiots.