Jul 312017
 

One of the best thing we can do with our incomes is to deploy it as efficiently as possible. This means spending money on the highest priorities before paying for less important things. In 2015 I created a priorities list detailing how to spend one’s income to maximize financial success. The last time I updated that was chart was last year.

I recently came across another flowchart on the internet created by Reddit user u/atlasvoid. It has a lot more information than mine and is worth a read because there might be something in there that we didn’t think of before. Of course since everyone has different values and priorities, there can never be a once-size-fits-all income allocation flowchart. 🙂 They are only a reference point at best, based on people’s average financial situation. Feel free to move around certain nodes in the flowchart to better suit your own individual circumstances.

Here is the Canadian version. Click the flowchart to make bigger.

 

Click here to download the income flowchart for Americans, created by the same Reddit user.

 

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Random Useless Fact

Some bartender added 1 cent to this customer’s bill in order to make the total come to $69.69

May 152017
 

Different Priorities for People in Different Income Groups

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people from across the income spectrum have different priorities when it comes to their spending. The graph below from npr.org shows average spending patterns for U.S. households in 3 income categories — one just below the poverty line, one at the middle of the income distribution, and finally one at the top of the distribution. 🙂

Here are some interesting notes to take away from this data:

  • Everyone pretty much spends the same ratio of their income on housing, clothing, shoes, and entertainment.
  • Poorer households tend to spend a larger share of their income on home cooked meals and utilities.
  • Richer households allocate a bigger chunk of their spending to education and saving for retirement.

Some expenses are more elastic than others. They take up a bigger piece of the household budget if the household has more access to money. Earning more income is generally a good thing for financial security. But if all new income is being squandered on entertainment then that’s not going to help someone in retirement.

Since my priority is financial independence here is how I like to use the information from the chart. The average person buys a bigger home when he makes a bigger income, as represented by the data. But housing is one of the largest expenses and does not need to be bigger than necessary. By living in my current home for the past 8 years while doubling my income I have effectively reduced my spending on housing by 50% over time. 🙂 I can use these savings to put towards my retirement portfolio so I can reach FI/RE sooner. The same concept can be applied to transportation and gasoline as well. Instead of upgrading to a gas-guzzling luxury SUV, I’m still driving my 10 year old hatchback.

The idea is to keep expenses the same, while increasing income, and investing the difference. 🙂 Of course there are times when it’s appropriate to capitulate to lifestyle inflation. When I start a family I will probably need a larger home and a bigger car. Knowing when to delay gratification, and when to upgrade is a personal decision that everyone is capable of making for themselves in their own way. That’s why personal finance doesn’t start with our money. It actually starts with our personal priorities and values, I think.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

Say what you want about North Korea, but they are better at celebrating Earth Day than any other country.

Apr 062017
 

A New Way to Measure Your Success

There are varying degrees of success and many different ways to define it. For example, in order to be a successful frequent flyer, you will probably need a lot of connections. 😀 And if you’re trying to lose weight, success is all about mind over platter, and winning that Nobelly Prize. 😄

how much do you value your free time?

Financial success is often evaluated in terms of income or wealth. But I often argue that time is our most precious resource. Unlike money, all our days are numbered. So given this reality, perhaps the best way to evaluate our success is to find out how much we value our free time. 🙂 This can be done with the following steps.

  1. Think of an activity that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant to do for you. It also can’t help you gain skills or make you smarter.
  2. Determine the minimum amount of money you would charge to perform that service for 1 hour for a stranger.

This mental exercise will reveal how much you value your time at an hourly rate. 🙂 For example, services I can provide that I neither like nor dislike include slowly folding laundry and walking around town for no reason.

I would have gladly accepted $20/hour to fold laundry 10 years ago. But things have change now. I would not give up my free time for any amount less than $40/hour today, because I can offer valuable skilled labour. Furthermore, I’m 10 years closer to death so there has to be an added premium on the remaining time I have compared to the past me. Due to simple economics, the fewer days I have to live, the more valuable those days are to me.

In a way, $40/hour is an indicator of my level of success in society. Perhaps a doctor or lawyer would value their free time at $120/hour. This wouldn’t be surprising given their place on the social economic ladder. It is not only a measure of their immense human capital compared to mine, but also their financial status.

How the Value of Time is Tied To Success

As self sustaining adults, the value of our free time should be the lowest at the start of our careers. But over time this value should increase to keep up with our growing human capital. Over time our demand for time is increased, and demand for money is reduced because we can earn money easier and more quickly.

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Mar 132017
 

I recently came across an informative and inspiring thread on the financial independence subreddit about additional income streams that people have. Here are some ones I thought could be relevant to people who read this blog.

Ideas for Extra Income

  • Rent your car. Turn a depreciating asset into an income stream. 🙂 “I rent my car out on Turo. It’s the AirBnb of car rentals. I live walking distance from work and rent it out all the time. I rent my Wrangler for about $50/day and have been making around $800/mo in gross margin.” ~plz_callme_swarley
  • Invest in a rental property. “I’ve got two rental properties, both I pay someone else to manage. I made 8k off of one last year and 21k off of the other one in net profit (new roofs are expensive). They’re both paid off and provide a small but steady trickle of income, I’ll probably try to save enough to get 1 more each year for the next 7-8 years.” ~SEJeff
  • Buy profitable blogs and websites. “Bought a few niche websites on Flippa, earning a little over $100 per month. Import some stuff from China and sell it on Amazon as well.” ~jb611
  • Walk other people’s dogs. “Signed up through rover.com but now my clients pay in cash to avoid extra fees. I only have 2 clients because I’m too busy to take on more. I mostly work on lunch break from my job with occasional overnight stays. Make about $300/month….I recommend signing up on Rover.com. The process takes a little effort and you need 2 references – I had my girlfriend write one and a buddy wrote the other. The site isn’t extremely easy to navigate which is partially why my clients pay me under the table now.” ~CalPolyJohn
  • Write online. “I make about $3,000/month editing Wikipedia for pay. I get my clients from https://www.buildersociety.com/, they’re great! I know a lot of other people doing this so if you want in, just start editing Wikipedia, learn the rules, and then all you need is just clients…..I can do a new page in about an afternoon and I charge $500-$1,000. It’s only 3-6 actual jobs/month. If you want to do it, make sure you spend some time editing the Encyclopedia to learn the rules.” ~TaylorSwift2015
  • Become a freelance translator. “Freelance translating (Japanese>English). Brings in $4200/month pre-tax for 50 hours/month of work…Professional (and non-professional) translators usually create profiles on both ProZ and TranslatorsCafe to look for and offer work. People with no real translation background may use a site like Gengo, whose rates are considerably lower (3 to 8 cents/word). Finally, it is also common to Google “Translation agency” and send your resume to as many translation companies as possible (rarely works, but then again you really only need 1 good client to establish yourself).” ~nakoyao
  • Monetize your lifestyle/hobbies. “I rent out my place on AirBnB when I’m travelling ($6300 in 2016). I offer private lessons as a cross-country ski instructor ($1600 this season). I host house(boat) concerts ($1-2000/event). My friend sells the overflow from my vegetable garden at the farmer’s market ($700). I take tourists out fishing/netting/ice fishing/canoeing ($3200 in 2016)” ~Holy_BatLogic
  • Teach English online. “I teach online classes for $20/hr. Just started last month, made $692 in half of February.” ~OzarkCatholic  “There are online tutoring gigs for ESL, you can get 16-20 an hour pretty easily. Check out VIPKids” ~brikky

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Dec 222016
 

Outgrowing The “Middle Class” Label 

Hello high-income earning friends! It’s been a few years since I’ve written about my income from a holistic point of view. So for the sake of transparency I thought I would give everyone an update on my income situation.

My salary is currently closer to $60,000 than it is to $50,000. I won’t disclose the exact figure because I work with people who read this blog. As for my side incomes, they have gone up as well. 🙂 I’m leaving out rental income below because I use the rent to pay my farmland mortgage so it’s basically a wash.

Gross side incomes per year.

  • Part time job – $10,000
  • Dividends – $8,000
  • Interest – $3,000
  • Freelance – $10,000

Total side incomes = $31,000/year

If we put all the numbers together we see that I am making in the rough range of $90,000. Sweet sassy molassy! I believe this means my income is no longer considered middle class anymore. I am now part of the trendy upper middle class. 😉

In any case, I’m earning more than $75K/yr, which is a very important psychological hurdle. According to the Wall Street Journal, the magic income level for maximum satisfaction is $75,000 a year. “As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until [they] hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.”

Retiring Early on a Modest Salary

It’s rare for graphic designers such as myself to ever earn a six figure salary. What this means is that I have to implement a different strategy for FI/RE than someone else who’s a doctor or engineer. To make up for a lower salary, I boost my earnings by moonlighting, and also by increasing my investment returns by taking on more calculated risks. The extra income streams essentially increase my income by $31,000 a year right now and should continue to grow over time. They should also make the eventual transition to retirement easier. And by using leverage to invest in growing companies and other profitable assets like farmland and high yield bonds, my total portfolio has continuously brought high returns since 2009.

This method of choosing individual investments is admittedly more risky than the passive, Boglehead market indexing strategy. But I’ve also been compensated with higher returns, at least so far. I can’t say this plan is guaranteed to work for everyone or that it’s sustainable long term. But I started investing in my early 20s. Today I’m almost 30 years old, and my passive income is about $1500 per month, while my expenses are about $3000. So it’s working out for me. The only issue is I don’t know how my leveraged portfolio will perform in a bear market or recession, which hasn’t been tested yet.

I believe in the next 12 to 24 months it’s very likely that I will be making $100,000 per year including all my income sources. Wow. Never in my wildest childhood dreams did I expect to earn so much. I know six figures isn’t what it used to be but it still feels like a huge amount of money to me.

Many other high income earners claim that they don’t feel $90K or $100K is a lot of money. I don’t know if they’re just being modest, but I certainly do feel much more privileged and happier now than many years ago when I earned only $40K.

16-12-liquid-income-update

I used to believe that you have to be smart to make a lot of money. But apparently I’m living proof that someone with an average intellect can do so as well. I modelled my financial plan based on the brilliant minds that have already figured out the formula for success. All of my investment ideas and strategies can be boiled down to one simple philosophy; Do what other successful people do. 🙂 That’s it!

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